A tweet, full of sound and fury, signifying…

(January 25, 2017)

It is not entirely a misquote of Polonius, in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, to say “brevity is the soul of (t)wit.” Certainly this vain, false and generally unpleasant character — who uses these words to tell the king and queen their son is “mad” when he is not — would have enjoyed spewing his opinions on Twitter.

Profound ideas can be expressed in few words (as in Japanese haiku), but “profound” is not usually an adjective applied to the transient wisdom of a tweet. It used to be said that “today’s news is tomorrow’s fish wrap.” In comparison, much of what passes for social media today is instead more easily depicted as breaking electronic wind.

We could blame Marshall McLuhan for this problem, as misquoting him to conclude that “the medium is the message” excuses a lack of content in the Twitterverse. But when 140 characters describe the policies and intentions of political leaders, nothing good comes of it.

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The Hand of God

When I travel, I go for local. Every place has its opportunity for iconic experiences.

A recent trip to Nova Scotia meant a spontaneous trip to Peggy’s Cove, when the weather belied the forecast, to catch a glorious sunset and strong winds crashing the waves on rocks that kicked spray on my camera lens.

After the sailing ship tour of Halifax harbour there was steamed lobster on the wharf – disdaining the net, I plunged my arm into the tank and bravely grabbed the feistiest two-pounder for my supper.

On the road to Sydney (with McLobster sandwiches for fuel), the sunny and clear day meant wonderful views of the Bras D’Or Lakes – and picking up a CD, oatcakes and tea at Rita McNeil’s Teahouse in Big Pond.

Collecting stones washed up on the shore at Glace Bay led to bird watching at Dominion Beach early in the morning, after a night of singing local music in a pub marred only by drinking imported Guinness because they ran out of Cape Breton Scotch. Keeping the maritime theme, there was another lobster for supper at the ferry docks in North Sydney (four pounds!) before it was time to trek back to Halifax.

Leaving the coal mines of Sydney and Glace Bay in the early morning fog and rain to drive along the Louisbourg road along the east coast of Cape Breton, I pulled out the CD from Big Pond and drove to the rhythms of Rita and the Men of the Deep, headed for Port Marien and then – the ultimate iconic destination – to Main a Dieu, the Hand of God.

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May We Have Your Attention, Please

Tributes to Ray Bradbury, who died a few days ago at 91, included reference to his refusal to fly or drive.

Challenged that he was afraid of machines, he retorted that his fear was of “boys and their toys,” not the machines themselves.

A few hours after reading this, I found myself marooned in the Toronto airport waiting three more hours than planned for my connecting flight, thanks to mechanical problems.

That length of delay can easily lead to a cancelled flight, so I watched and listened for updates.

The $10 voucher bought a glass of red (not dandelion) wine as compensation for having to troop to the opposite end of the terminal for the new gate.

Thirty minutes before departure, the mechanical PA voice announced a return – en les deux langues officielles – to the original gate, but at 11:45 in the morning – our original departure time and apparently the next day.

With consternation I checked the flight board, only to find the plane still due to take off in half an hour, not tomorrow. So, I hiked the length of the terminal again, went up to the gate personnel, and told them about the faulty announcement.

With an air of condescension only possible from long experience, I was told (in unison) that it was a machine that made the announcement, not a person, as though this was a sufficient and obvious explanation.

Ignoring the implied affront that I could not distinguish a human voice from a mechanical one, I pointed out this was the wrong time and that (should anyone actually be listening to the instructions) it might cause a problem were they to be obeyed. Now with a trace of irritation, the pair repeated that it was a machine, adding that it had been programmed to do things this way. Case closed.

The mellowing effects of the red wine having dissipated, I somewhat tartly observed it was unfortunate that a person could not override the machine and correct the problem. Chagrin starting to dawn on their faces, I then waited to board the apparently repaired aircraft.

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