News, Stuff, Things & Subscriptions

Have you missed me? (I’ve missed me.)

In the ongoing whirl of readjustment to Ottawa living, my bride getting back to work, and me coaching junior varsity basketball as if it was played on Mount Olympus, my writing routine has been thrashed. I haven’t been a very productive pen monkey. (Chuck Wendig grimaces in violent dismay and arse-kicking encouragement.) The good recent news is that a quite fine (thank you) American website, The Classical, ran a much-revised version of a piece on my Rugby Daddery and the Adventures of Son the Fourth in learning a brand new game. @classical specializes in long-form writing about sports, stuff that goes beyond the stats and standings. This made me happy.

I should have reviewed the film Whiplash, a disturbing, slightly over-the-top examination of a crazed mentor — in this case, a musical rather than an athletic one — and his perhaps equally nutty victim/protegé. I ate it up, loved and hated the thing, and have been thinking about the making of excellence and just exactly where that line is ever since. Yes, this was at the mighty ByTowne. Whiplash is a claustrophobic, in-your-face depiction of an extreme teacher-student connection, and J.K. Simmons is infuriatingly great as the megalomaniacal mentor. Okay. I suppose I just did sort of review it, but also have wanted to get to a Better Read Than Never review of John Feinstein’s The Last Amateurs, and an account of a brilliant human rights lecture by Payam Akhavan, and reflections on not living in China anymore, and more on books I’m eating, and I haven’t said a word about Ferguson or Jian Ghomeshi or the wars we try to forget or the Toronto Raptors…

…and don’t get me started about my stillborn books. (Thanks for not getting me started.)

The posting pace is about to quicken, I hope I hope I hope. Here’s what’s been going on recently here at, especially for you newbies.  If you’re a strange lurker here, WELCOME! The bits below will help explain how all this works:

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Larditude, Ice Cream, and Why You Should Subscribe to My Blog

We’ve been back from China for nearly three months now, and I haven’t put on the weight I was afraid I would. YAAAAYY! It’s neither so easy or so enjoyable to play the amount of outdoor hoops in Canada that I did among the mad-for-basketball masses of young men at every Chinese university. Here in Ottawa, it’s either empty courts, or young kids, or a game with serious Players that I can’t hang with anymore. Mostly, it’s the first two.

We still don’t entirely know which end is up. In our familiar Ottawa home, we’re still finding stuff we’d forgotten we owned, still trying to winnow down our possessions at least a little, and find places for the stuff we have. (The Story of Stuff. Daily.) We’ve cracked open most of the boxes. I have So Many Great Books That I Haven’t Read Yet. Sometimes I’m thrilled. Sometimes it’s maddening.

Meanwhile, once again, I’ve found a bit of retro-writing in my files. Last week, it was a letter I wrote to and for Son the Fourth on his first birthday, and it was good to remember the thrill of his arrival amid the wrangle of his rampant teendom. Today, it was a piece I wrote (and never sold) on the (mock) horror and (pointless) resolution arising from tipping my crappy bathroom scales at a shudder-inducing 200 pounds, distributed greasily over my formerly athletic 5’11” frame. I gave it a quick polish, and posted it over yonder in the “On Second Thought” section, just above my sappy, sentimental birthday letter.

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Happy 500th Birth(day)!

Got some cake? Know where the ice cream is hidden? We won’t bother with the five hundred candles, thanks, but I welcome you to eat your favourite birthy-day-ish things.

I’m trying to quit, so do the festive eating for me. is the site from which I nabbed this low-cal number. Mmm.

 What are we celebrating? I nearly missed it myself, but my recent posting of a quote from the great Paulo Freire, down there on the right in “He Said/She Said”, was the

500th post on!!

Some were short blurts, or quotes from others, but most — as some of you know only too well — were pretty full-bodied pieces that most often run between 800-1400 words. Especially to those of you who’ve digested a pile of ’em, thanks for reading. Thanks for raising a long-stemmed glass of Cherry Garcia, or German Chocolate Cake, or even Redcoat Rations (!) in a toast:

to reading!

to writing!

to everything that goes with it!


* Ice cream counts as part of “everything”, even if I could only manage a McD’s sundae today. But then so do peace, justice, education and clean water. (And basketball.)

The Howdy TOP 10 (as chosen by, well, me!)

“I celebrate myself, and sing myself,

And what I assume you shall assume,

For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you…”

That was Walt Whitman, the famous “Song of Myself”, encouraging me from beyond the beyond not to be shy to tell you what I like, even if it’s me. Alrighty, then.

Even by Chinese standards, I’m a little slow to jump on the New Year’s Look-back train. Still, it was a good excuse to browse through some of my 2012 posts, and enjoy them as a reader. Here are ten posts that might be worthwhile reads for you, too, in reverse chronological order. )Some of them have pictures, my newest baby-step into on-line competence.)

1. February 1. “Not My Brother’s YMCA” starts as a Hong Kong travel piece, and ends in memory of a friend.

2. April 12. “Hessler’s Rivertown is a book review, part of a series I call “Better Read Than Never”, about a young American’s first two years in China. Peter Hessler went on to write two more books on this country, and he’s graceful and good. I reviewed four other books under the “Better Read” rubric last year.

3. May 19. “Why Do Men Love Sports So Much?”   is a lengthy answer to a question that is more important than it may sound. I put it in the “On Second Thought” section, ’cause it’s long and I’ve sweated over it. I should sell it. I should develop it into a book. I think it’s pretty good, but be warned: it’s not a tweet.

4. June 16. NBA Finals: It’s Morning in China” is another long piece, but sits in the “It’s All About Sports” section of the site. It’s a play-by-play, commercial-by-commercial, digression-by-digression log of watching a big NBA game from the other side of the globe. It tells as much about me, and about my views of China, as it does about LeBron. It’s a bit wacky.

5. August 15. “Driving Miss Piggy (Crazy)” is a light-hearted account of my pitched battle with the Chinese language, and some of the collateral damage from it. (Again, apologies to the lovely Ms. Zhu.)

6. September 19. “NINE-EIGHTEEN: Face to (Losing) Face in Asia” is a local glance at a consuming, nervous-making bit of political intrigue in the East.

7. November 17. “Is China Really Upside-Down?” takes a look at childish ideas of geography and global orientation in the light of my lived experience of what makes China deeply the same and profoundly different than my ol’ Canucky home. It got me thinking so much I had to post “Another Thing!” a few days later.

8. November 23. “Afternoon on an Overpass” brought me face to face with injustice and the bitter banalities of every day.

9. November 28. “Old Guy Glory: Still Got It! (One day.)” recounts the stirring and inspiring tale of an old guy showing the youngsters a thing or three. (Well, had fun.) One of these days there’ll be photo evidence. This giddy piece makes a good counterpoint to my recent court misadventures, and my scarred forehead is a fair argument against further foolishness. (But not a persuasive one!)

10. December 8. “Lightning in My Living Room” is my retelling of a remarkable, head-scratching, where in the world is this going evening in Apartment 902, a close encounter of the sectarian kind.

Are these my best? Heck if I know! as they may still say in the valley of the Grand River, back home in corn country. They’re ten I’ll stand by, anyway, which makes it a little easier to sing along with Walt.


Have a Try

I repeatedly get this gentle Chinglish invitation (or request, or bold affirmation: I will have a try!) from my students and friends here. That’s what has been since 2006 — me having my fitful, false-starting, good-intentioning and stubbornly labouring try at getting my writing out there. (There are other ways, and I am even less confident about them, but I have a try along those roads, too.)

Here I am again.

Just a note, in addition to the apology/plea/declaration above, that you can find stuff related particularly to fun ‘n’ games in the “It’s All About Sport!” section to the right. Below that is a recently updated, growing collection of quotes I have loved under “He Said/She Said”, as well as a collection of usually longer pieces, often with a narrow audience in mind, that I call “On Second Thought”. There’s some great stuff in this last category, but it’s a little scarier sort of reading adventure.

Thanks for dropping by. Welcome anytime. Wish you happy every day.



It’s Been a Quiet Day in Dalian

Well, except that there’s a loud-speaking voice carrying into our ninth-floor apartment from the college next door. No doubt, it’s another exercise in, well, exercise and patriotism and precision marching for the young people of Qing Gong Xue Xiao. (This means something like the School of Light Industry, and as far as I can tell it’s where the future barbers, seamstresses and short-order cooks of Dalian come from.) Like all college and university freshmen — though some of these kids look about 15, and may have simply not qualified to get into high school — their first few weeks of school are spent marching, shouting patriotic slogans, and singing team -building songs.

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