Rick McGinnis

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Rebuilding a church

Rebuilding a church

I want to tell you a story about a church catching fire. Over 20 years ago, a parish church in the Toronto neighbourhood of Parkdale caught fire and burned down. Holy Family had stood for over ninety years, but by the time the fire was put out nothing was left but the walls. This might have been the end of the story of this church, but the Fathers of ... (Continue reading)

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The media frenzy and the rush to judgement

The media frenzy and the rush to judgement

Media attacked Covington teens at March for Life, bishops and schools piled on There’s an old saying that life is like high school. I have no idea who originally said it, though American musician Frank Zappa is reputed to have elaborated on the idea by saying that “Life is like high school with money.” There was a time, very recently, when real life and high school were once considered very different things – the latter a waiting ... (Continue reading)

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Reflecting on a celebrity’s suicide

Reflecting on a celebrity’s suicide

Anthony Bourdain I’m not normally emotionally affected by the deaths of celebrities, but the sudden death of celebrity chef and TV host Anthony Bourdain last June resonated with me unaccountably. I don’t want to sound cold, but I think it’s difficult to feel real grief for anyone we don’t know personally. Very simply, there’s more than enough grief and heartbreak waiting for us with the death of family and friends, ... (Continue reading)

Crisis at St. Mike’s should force schooling rethink

Crisis at St. Mike’s should force schooling rethink

I have been a lifelong fan of the Beach Boys, but I’ve never been able to understand their 1963 hit single, “Be True To Your School.” That probably says more about me than the Beach Boys, but I think it has a lot to do with my high school, which has been in the news quite a bit lately as I write this column. “Be True To Your School” is ... (Continue reading)

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Didion’s uncomfortable fit in American counterculture

Didion’s uncomfortable fit in American counterculture

Joan Didion I was reading The White Album, Joan Didion’s 1979 collection of essays when I came across a passage describing student unrest at San Francisco State University in 1968. Didion admits that she had missed the really big student protests earlier at Berkeley and Columbia, and that while she was expecting much of the same at SFSU, she was disappointed. “The place simply never seemed serious,” she recalls in ... (Continue reading)

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The importance of the culture wars

The importance of the culture wars

It’s easy to believe that society is falling apart, especially if you spend any time on social media. My liberal friends are certain that the earth is on the verge of an imminent ecological disaster – probably climate change, but they’ll take resource depletion or overpopulation in a pinch. My conservative friends fill their Facebook feeds with stories and memes about the threat of unchecked, invasive immigration, or warnings ... (Continue reading)

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Killing the Kennedy mystique

Killing the Kennedy mystique

There’s a visual shorthand you see in movies and on TV shows that’s meant to let you know you’re in the presence of Roman Catholics, and probably Irish ones. It’s a picture of John F. Kennedy hanging on the wall of someone’s bedroom, dining room or living room, or in some bar, barber shop or police chief’s office. It might be accompanied by a portrait of whatever Pope is ... (Continue reading)

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Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and thinking about the future

Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and thinking about the future

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the release of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, a film widely regarded as one of the best and most important in the history of cinema. I’m not here to dispute this judgment – I’m a big fan of the film, and have been since my brother-in-law took me to see a road show screening during its 10th anniversary. ... (Continue reading)

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The prophetic Tom Wolfe

The prophetic Tom Wolfe

Tom Wolfe (Photo Rick McGinnis) Reading the obituaries for writer Tom Wolfe, who died last month, it’s hard not to think of the overused word “enigmatic,” which seems odd for a man who was neither reclusive nor reticent with his opinions. Wolfe flamboyantly embodied a collection of contradictions that only seem unusual now that his sort of public intellectual seems to be passing from existence. In a ... (Continue reading)

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The cultural impact of the suburbs

The cultural impact of the suburbs

Maybe it’s some remnant of our tribal past, but it’s hard for us to leave behind some impulse to fear and vilify whoever lives one village over, beyond the river or in the next valley. We might think we’re sophisticated, cosmopolitan people, but this nascent tribalism is never far from the surface, and I saw it re-emerge with a roar during recent municipal elections here in Toronto. ... (Continue reading)

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The Gospel of Jordan Peterson

The Gospel of Jordan Peterson

My first glimpse of Jordan Peterson was almost a decade ago, when he appeared on TVO’s current affairs show The Agenda with Steve Paikin alongside my friend, the writer Kathy Shaidle. She was on the show arrayed against a dismal group of evangelical atheists, including then-United Church minster Gretta Vosper – the God-botherer against the God-deniers, a hard hour of media labour that might have made turning down a ... (Continue reading)

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Draining beauty from art

Draining beauty from art

It’s been a long time since we’ve lived through a juicy controversy about art. The last really huge, international scandals that broke across the headlines and inspired debates on TV and in government were at least a generation or more ago, and it’s doubtful that a millennial will recognize names like Karen Finley, Robert Mapplethorpe, Andres Serrano or Chris Ofili. Subsequent furors have diminished in volume, and have been mostly ... (Continue reading)

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The Crown raises questions about British monarchy

The Crown raises questions about British monarchy

If you go by an article published in the UK’s Independent last year, the anti-monarchist movement in that country isn’t very healthy. The story begins with five men handing out pamphlets in Leeds city centre on a rainy Saturday. (The canvasser who has their folding table is late, apparently.) They remain polite in the face of hostility from weekend shoppers with royalist sympathies, and one of the die-hard republicans ... (Continue reading)

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Was Network prescient?

Was Network prescient?

When it was released in 1976, the movie Network was publicized as an “outrageous” comedy, a satire that imagined a worst case dystopia of the near future, based on the dismal precedents being set in the horrid ‘70s. It’s a sign of how far past mere movie satire we’ve gone that it’s been turned into a musical on the London stage, starring Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad fame. The film ... (Continue reading)

Hefner, Weinstein and the culture

Hefner, Weinstein and the culture

The rancid feast that is the news cycle served up a pair of groaning platters recently when the death of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner was quickly followed up by the destruction of the public reputation of Harvey Weinstein, a Hollywood producer and the founder of Miramax studios. Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy and champion of ... (Continue reading)

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