Hello Tokyo, How You’ve Changed
Globe Trot: Tokyo
Returning to Japan's teeming metropolis after a 60-year absence offers a distilled glimpse of technological progress and the immutable Japanese character
By Charley Gordon
(November 22, 2016) In the busy Asakusa neighbourhood of Tokyo is the Senso-ji Temple, a major attraction.
Thousands of people jam the narrow street leading from the gate to the temple, which is lined with dozens of shops selling just about anything. Not everything sold relates to religion. In fact, there is a store that sells cookies that are made right in front of you by a machine. Japanese, unlike North Americans, don’t eat on the streets but those cookies are a temptation. Hence a sign, in the kind of Japanese English that has always held a peculiar charm:
"This street is not able to eat while walking."
After being away from Japan for 60 years, it was encouraging to see that some things haven’t changed. The Japanese do things their own way, no matter how much Western ...
Horns of a dilemma
Movies: A trumpet player's take on two new brassy biopics
Searching for a proper trumpet movie proves problematic when Hollywood insists on blowing all the false notes in a bid to cook up drama and romantic heroes
by Charles Gordon
Trumpet players hardly every get to have movies made about them — unlike, say, ninjas. As luck would have it, there are two big ones out at the same time, Born to Be Blue, a fictionalized version of Chet Baker’s life, and Miles Ahead, a drama about Miles Davis.
As a trumpet player, woefully amateur but serious about it, I have to say that the real star of Born to Be Blue is not Ethan Hawke, the Hollywood star, who plays Chet, but Kevin Turcotte, the Toronto trumpet player, who plays the music of Chet on the soundtrack. More on that later.
In the jokes that are made about musicians (drummers who slow down, guitarists who play out of tune, unemployable trombonists) the stereotype of the trumpet players is the arrogant show-off. The trumpet ...
Will Ferguson’s Road Trip Rwanda – The Ex-Press
I told someone I was going to hear Will Ferguson talk about his new book Road Trip Rwanda. “How can he be funny about Rwanda?” was the question.
By Charles Gordon
Good question. Without having read the book, I knew the answer, as anyone who has ever written humour should. He would be respectful of Rwanda — especially Rwanda — and he would make jokes about himself.
Indeed, it turned out that way. In Road Trip Rwanda, Ferguson, a multiple Leacock Award winner, portrays himself as a well-meaning goof, eager to learn but not always getting it, friendly but bumbling. The Rwandan people, on the other hand, get a sympathetic portrayal.
It’s the only way to do it. Even Bill Bryson, who can be much more acidic, tends to give the locals the benefit of the doubt. Occasionally a writer doesn’t do that — I think of some stuff Dave Barry wrote about China, where the main joke seemed to be that China wasn’t like America, and therefore weird — and it’s a mistake.
Highway 17, the road not taken — sadly
Travel: Ontario's Highway 17
Highway 17, which is the Trans-Canada Highway in Ontario, is surprisingly untravelled -- mostly because Canadians know other countries better than they know their own.
By Charley Gordon
If you’re tired of the predictable travel articles about beaches in Asia, castles in Europe and gourmet food just about anywhere, this is the travel article for you. It’s about good old Highway 17, the one you can drive for four days and still be in Ontario.
Highway 17, which is the Trans-Canada Highway in Ontario, is surprisingly untravelled. This is not because of the scenery, which is often magnificent, or the road itself, which is well-maintained and easy to drive. It is mostly because Canadians know other countries better than they know their own.
It’s a safe bet that more Torontonians have been to Bangkok than to Sudbury. For them, the north begins around Orillia and ends before North Bay. On their summer travels, they don’t get to ...
Journalists aren’t the trouble with journalism…
But their bosses aren't doing much to help the profession's credibility in the face of increasingly desperate financial woes
By Charley Gordon
There is a sudden push on to convince the public that journalism is a good thing. You can understand why. It has to do with journalists who become senators. It has to do with CBC hosts and art dealers.
Some media organizations, including both union and management, have started an advertising campaign called JournalismIs to help the Canadian public become aware of how important journalism is. Full-page ads, featuring the enlarged half-tone faces of prominent journalists have been showing up in newspapers, with cautionary messages.
“With a few keystrokes you can sample thousands of opinions, afloat in a sea of information,” says one. “But as the volume increases, the accuracy and reliability of professional journalism is essential. Gathering and sorting the facts, weighing and interpreting events, and following the story from ...
Ornette Coleman’s death prompts a dramatic resurrection
Among the people at the bar in 1959 when the jazz revolutionary Ornette Coleman played his historic engagement at the Five Spot in New York was Charley Gordon, then a political science student who would have rather been a trumpet player. He worked that episode into a play, as yet unproduced. Coleman's death this week brought the play out of a desk drawer. This is a scene from A Different Drummer.
A nightclub, jazz playing in the background. Rich and George and a total stranger are sitting at the bar. Rich is drunk, talking to the Total Stranger.
You know the way I am, first thing I notice is the drummer. But I don’t know who this guy his. He’s just driving like crazy. The horn stuff is odd, but I’m just fixating on him. I’m trying to figure out who this drummer is. I’m 20 years-old, right, and I read Downbeat, cover to cover, memorize the fucking thing. But I never heard of this guy, never saw his picture. I know ...
The road to rebellion smells like peppermint
Rebel, rebel, I love you so... and so does everyone else, which means the last bastion of unfiltered anti-authoritarianism is the menthol cigarette, writes Charley Gordon
By Charley Gordon
It’s hard to be a rebel these days because these days you can do anything you want and nobody bothers you. Even doing something as formerly controversial as changing your gender lands you in a warm bath of tolerance and encouragement. Also you can wear anything you want and say anything you want, so long as you do it anonymously on the Internet.
So to be a true rebel you have to do anything you don’t want to do, wear anything you don’t want to wear and say anything you don’t want to say.
Most people don’t see the fun in that. Still, there are people who want to be defiant and need things to defy. Now, this isn’t hard to find in repressive dictatorships, but around these parts most people’s taste in defiance doesn’t run quite that far. Would-be rebels among us would like to ...
Time has come today, and Apple Watch can have tomorrow
Charley Gordon remembers the good old days when timepieces needed winding and tattooed skin was the exclusive reserve of sailors
By Charley Gordon
How to greet the news that the Apple Watch doesn't quite work when fastened onto tattooed skin? Satirical comment is too easy, isn't it, the news equivalent of a batting practice fastball. Here it comes, not too fast, right over the middle of the plate. You can see the seams. How can you not take a swing at it?
But where to start? Point out that the watch is unnecessary. Point out that the tattoo is unnecessary, the two cancelling each other out. Hey, the useless thing I put on my arm is making the useless thing I bought for my wrist useless!
Then there is the rant about First World Problems, always a crowd favourite.
Or move, ever more comfortably, into old fuddyduddyism. In my day, you had to wind your watch and it never talked to you, because it had better manners. As for tattoos, you had to be a sailor.
Each of these is a ...
Can’t anybody here hear this game?
Charley Gordon finds quiet the beauty of the moment amid the constant cacophony of mindless colour commentary
By Charley Gordon
Sports can be nice when nobody is talking. I had that realization a few weeks ago when I watched a professional golf tournament in Florida. My son and I had been given tickets. Not knowing exactly how these things worked, we walked through a gate, followed some people and suddenly were beside the third green, along with a handful of others.
We saw some men walking up to the green and suddenly realized they were well-known golfers (whose names I now forget), along with their caddies. There was no spoken announcement of who they were, no shouts from the crowd. They walked, without fanfare, onto the green, where, I now noticed, two golf balls lay, and got ready to putt.
It was mid-morning and the leaders of this tournament wouldn't tee off for a few hours, so the crowds were thin and a certain calmness prevailed. Part of the calmness was due to the ...