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Mob Rule: Part 33
Jack ponders his place in the deck after a long ride on Lyndon B. Johnson's ranch that ends in a rickety shithouse
By John Armstrong
That night we slept in cool, fresh-ironed sheets while coyotes sang a lullaby through the open windows. I woke up with a smile, ready to eat again and go ride a bull, or perhaps just a horse to start with.
I got my wish. After breakfast Lyndon asked if we’d like to ride out with him and see the house he was born in. His wife, whose name really did seem to be ‘Bird” though the hands called her Miz Johnson unfailingly, packed lunches and filled thermoses with water and tea.
Vanessa was experienced with horses but I had some difficulty actually getting up onto the mine, a big bay named Baldy. Not that he lacked for hair; Lyndon said horses with a white patch on their face were commonly called bald-faced.
I’d never actually seen one in the flesh and it was something else entirely to stand beside one. Do you have any ...
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A cartoonist confesses to an Oliver Sacks obsession that has him flexing his mental muscles in way he never thought possible
By Alan King
I have a confession to make. I’ve read just about every word Oliver Sacks ever wrote and, God knows, the man wrote a lot. Yes, I know it sounds like an unhealthy interest in medical literature — borderline OCD. But it’s not like I’ve read all of Sherwin Nolan or Jerome Groopman or Atul Gawande — just Sacks. I read him endlessly, page after fascinating page.
You could think of it as a mental disorder or a ‘cerebral deficit’ if you like. My doctor certainly does. In fact he has a name for it: florid non-sackistic verbo-dysplasia. It’s a rare, somewhat disabling affliction. There are maybe 50 people on the planet who have it and sufferers typically live only on beautiful, faraway tropical islands, hilltop Tuscan villages or have been institutionalized for decades without ever seeing the outside world.
I’m one ...
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Mob Rule: Part 32
Jack drinks in acres of bluebells and the sight of expansive ranch lands as he chows down with Lyndon and Ladybird
By John Armstrong
The trip from Kansas to meet Lyndon in Texas was a long, dusty one. We’d done Missouri just before and I had to admire the way Sydney’s staff had finessed the speech writing. A Missourian who heard me talk in St. Louis, Independence, or Joplin would have had heart stoppage if he’d been at the fundraiser a few nights later in Kansas.
Missouri was a border state during the Civil War, never actually seceding but not quite supporting the federals either, and Missourians fought on both sides of the war or sat it out as best they could, as their consciences dictated. I danced around the state’s complex allegiances as much as the writers could manage, but in Kansas, firmly in the union, we made no bones about glorifying their forefather’s brave stand for truth, liberty, and freedom in the Great Conflict and exalting the ...
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The world famous Burgess Shale Slope offers a visually stunning hike that pays off with a teeming selection of rare invertebrate fossils, sealed into the geological timeline by an underwater avalanche of fine mud
By Alan King
FIELD, B.C, -- Science fiction writer H G Wells didn’t know the half of it. Time travel sometimes takes more than imagination and clever engineering; it can take a lot of nimble, arduous footwork, the kind that gets you up to 7,500 feet above sea level.
Unlike Wells’ lucky Time Traveller who was effortlessly transported millions of years into the future where he met some strange life forms, my son Christopher and I went back half a billion years in the other direction to the Burgess Shale -- an ancient fossil bed where the life forms are even stranger. Its location is a swath of scree 11 km up the side of Mount Wapta, a spectacular hunk of geology looming majestically over Field, British Columbia.
The fossils here are from the Cambrian ...
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Mob Rule: Part 31
The campaign begins to blur into a never-ending series of speeches, hotel rooms and handshakes until Lyndon B. Johnson offers Jack some Texas-style hospitality
By John Armstrong
It was just after ten when the phone rang. Personally, I had no plans to get up ever again unless forcibly removed at gunpoint. We were still in bed with a room service breakfast going cold on a tray; somewhere between the coffee and the first slice of toast it had been jettisoned in favor of more pressing activities.
I stuck a pillow over it and it stopped for second then began ringing again almost immediately. Ignoring it further would just bring someone to knock on the door, so I kissed her one more time and picked it up and was told my presence was required in Bobby and Sydney’s war room. I begged 10 minutes to shower and then had to drag a naked woman halfway to the bathroom before she let me go. I tell you, that kind of thing does wonders for a man’s self-image.
Two floors ...
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Inspired by an extended stay in Penang, The Ex-Press's resident chef cooks up an enticing mix of Asian flavours with Spicy Coconut Sweet Potato Soup
By Louise Crosby
I lived for awhile in Penang, Malaysia, where the mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian cuisines makes for some fantastic eating. The food at roadside stalls, known as hawker food, was so delicious, inexpensive and safe, we hardly ever cooked at home. Compared to our bland Western diet, it was hot, pungent, fragrant, sweet, salty, sour, tangy, an explosion of flavour in the mouth. I loved all that but loved it even more if there was coconut milk involved, its creamy sweetness balancing the heat. Fresh-pressed from the coconuts that grew all around, it took food from heavenly to sublime. Just thinking about it makes me want to go back.
Back here in Canada, I use canned unsweetened coconut milk, which is perfectly fine, adding it to curries and noodle dishes and soups like this Spicy Coconut Sweet Potato Soup from ...
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The Sick Days: Part 18
Covering the events of December 6 at L'École Polytechnique was a formative experience, and one a seasoned reporter now thinks she got all wrong.
By Shelley Page
The moment my editor told me to get to the airport, my stomach fell as though I was on the down slope of a rollercoaster. I stood in the middle of the newsroom, as a few deskers and reporters stared at me expectantly, wondering if I could possibly decline. I think reporters often dread the unknown of a story and the difficulties that lay ahead to nail it down, but I feared I just wasn’t up to the task.
I’d been feeling tired, lupus tired, for days and I was walking like an elderly woman whose joints lacked lubricant.
But the killing in Montreal had begun around 5 p.m., and within 20 minutes, 27 people were shot or stabbed. All the dead were young women; fourteen of them.
How could I not go?
In the Beaches areas apartment I shared with my absentee boyfriend, who worked in Ottawa on ...
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We're making a list, and checking it twice: Celebrating Bill’s many gifts to mark A Very Murray Christmas, airing Dec. 4 on Netflix.
By Chris Lackner
All I really need to know I learned from Bill Murray.
With his Netflix holiday special bowing Dec. 4, I’m reminded of the many gifts the craggy-faced, curmudgeonly comedian has given me.
As a child of the ’80s, most of my friends looked up to action heroes – from Arnie to Sly, Van Damme to Seagal. Not me. I emulated a smartass with a delightfully deadpan delivery. To wish you all A Very Murray Christmas, I’d like to celebrate the many things the actor has taught us:
Sarcasm is mightier than the sword: Male pop icons, from Luke Skywalker to Rocky, were largely men of action. My ultimate boyhood hero was Murray’s Peter Venkman from 1984’s Ghostbusters. The classic Murray character wielded dry sarcasm like a weapon, firing off effortless barbs to overcome adversity, motivate his team – or ...
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Stealing from the Best
Finding his comfort zone halfway between holy roller and Hollywood hack on the campaign trail, Jack suddenly realizes it's not about who you really are, but who people want you to be.
By John Armstrong
It was a good thing I made my move when I did. The next morning we left for California.
We took off in more of the drizzling rain and grey skies that mean spring in Washington and arrived in the hard glare and 70 degrees-plus heat of early May in Los Angeles. The waiting limos took us down palm-lined streets to the hotel and I got right to work pacing the floor and chain-smoking, waiting for Vanessa to arrive.
Bobby and Sydney were in meetings all day in a room reserved for just that purpose and again I was largely unneeded, except when I was briefly trotted out for inspection by men whose names I forgot immediately after Bobby introduced us. I had given up on trying to keep such information in my head. It had become a blur of faces and names and even ...