Monday, September 18, 2017

TORONTO'S INSANITY OVER BIKES


POLITICIANS NEED TRAINING WHEELS ON THEIR MINDS

It's just before 9 a.m. on Harbord west of Spadina when three tots teeter by my car in shaky control of their bikes.
All legal since they were using Toronto's octopus tangle of bike lanes. Also insane since many parents, including me, would not have let Grade Oners ride on any road without running alongside waving medieval shields.
My son Mark and I are fighting morning traffic to get to the hospital complex on University which might as well be surrounded by a moat due to construction, cyclists, and stupidity.
 I lecture Mark, who knows the speech well, that cyclists should not be allowed to use major streets during rushhour. For that matter, there are some major arteries where bikes should be banned all the time, like the major highways.
Mark has lived and worked in China for years, to the extent he can speak Mandarin and some Cantonese. He points out that some streets in Shanghai, that giant city, are closed to bikes, the Chinese not being nuts about what used to be their major transportation.
At this point, a father drifts by our traffic jam on a big bike with one hand holding the seat of a kid's bike being ridden by a girl who may still be in kindergarten. She is zigzagging along the bike lane.
I see a cruiser coming and vainly try to flag it down. Much as I believe in letting parents raise their own kids without interference by the state, I didn't feel like testifying at a coroner's inquest because the odds were high that she might skid into traffic despite the efforts of the beanpole father wearing farmer's suspenders.
I would have sicced the cop on father-and daughter without misgiving, but I also concede that many cyclists, who have just been reminded again by new cycling laws that they have to act in all ways like vehicles on our roads, routinely don't while cops ignore the scofflaws.
I end up 20 minutes late for a major medical matter involving my wife primarily because cyclists near the city core were buzzing around like demented bees.
I daydreamed recently about a sarcastic column where I complained that cyclists were not obeying the new law that they must stay a metre away from vehicles.
Then I looked at that law again and saw that while the driver has to keep a metre from the bike, the cyclist has no such obligation.
Anyone who spends time driving downtown - since the suburbs, thank heavens, are not infested with this problem - knows it's often close encounters with a berserk culture with cyclists feeling free to push off your car to get a good start at the light or to scream and spit and pound if they feel you've intruded on their politician-annointed space.
What the new rules mean is that in heavy traffic with congested bike lanes, drivers can not pass the cyclist if they are on the outside edge of the lane unless by some miracle he can use part of the opposite lane.
I know from personal experience that it's difficult to predict the future without looking foolish. Some writer fished out predictions I made about city life in a magazine 25 years ago and I didn't do that well. But I predict that in a decade or so, people will look back at this current boom in Toronto bike lanes and think our politicians were rather stupid.
The facts about cars and drivers and insurance and municipal costs don't lie. There are no real facts about cyclists and bikes because the supposed ones are created by activists and anti-car movements. They produce more alternative facts than Trump!
So we spend fortunes constructing roads that will carry heavy loads, and on those roads we move costly machines covered by expensive insurance driven by men and women after difficult tests. Each machine can carry one or two or many people quickly no matter what the weather.
Yet our politicians insist that little cheaper machines that move comparatively slowly as they carry one person without insurance or operator testing over the same expensive asphalt can interfere with commuting and commercial delivery so that all other movements are compromised.
It makes no sense to steal space from cars and trucks and buses and streetcars which carry 99.9 % of the transportation burden of the city. After all, bike paths cost a fraction of roads constructed to withstand traffic.
Then add the crushing fact beyond lousy personal fitness. For too much of the year (remember the joke we get 9 months of cold weather and three months of bad skiing) most of us don't chose to ride in the rain or the snow or the cold and certainly not after 9.
Oh yeah, cyclists will say, just another anti-bike rant.
I have a personal lexicon of bike truths. I've done my share of bike riding in this city beyond bike-a-thons. I remember being forced into a ditch but I caught the truck driver and challenged him to a fight. He went through the light to escape.  I have had a bike stolen and two bikes of sons vanished. One son rode a bike to work for years. Another son has competed in Iron Man races where cycling was part of the endurance.
I have even been in two bike collision as a pedestrian.  I was hit by a cyclist speeding on the sidewalk as I left a downtown King St. restaurant. Since he and his bike were injured and I was only bruised, it didn't leave me with the same bad feeling I get while driving downtown and looking at the uneconomic and silly accommodations our politicians are making for a minority who rip off the taxpayers in the guise of noble healthy transportation.
For 60 hours a week for six months a year, we screw up traffic for a giant majority 24-7. It doesn't compute. Let them stick to lanes, parks, councillors' streets and bikeways far from traffic.






Thursday, September 14, 2017

RYERSON'S UNICORN AMONG HORSES REVIEWS

RYERSONIANS HAVE UNIQUE HISTORY

Often for a writer the subject wilts under examination. Back in the 1970s when I poked around in the history of Ryerson University, I was prepared for disappointment.
But I found more gold than brass.
I had come in 1955 to the crumbling complex on Gould St. After being a campus editor and student president, there had been lecturing and a decade of serving on boards and committees.
When I was commissioned to write its history, I knew nuggets about the past from the pioneers. Yet as I sifted myths, anecdotes, clippings and reports, like panning for gold in the Yukon where I had my first newspaper job, what I gleaned was a grand story about an old downtown square that had been the key nursery in education and culture.
So I produced Ryerson University - A Unicorn Among Horses. The book, for strange reasons, languished as a bowdlerized mess in the archives for years until I resuscitated it this spring.
What fills me with pleasure is not just readers who say they didn't know its rich past, but those who were at the early Ryerson too and savour again those days from reading my pages.
 David Crombie has a Ryerson history as rich as his municipal service as alderman and mayor and his federal service in several major portfolios before being waterfront royal commissioner and troubleshooter and mediator in countless disputes.
Crombie was a Ryerson lecturer, administrator and first chancellor. And he still loves to lunch with colleagues from the old days when it all began.
He wrote me about "your outstanding book. The people and events chronicled by you brought back so many warm memories that I found myself mentally and emotionally reliving those days.
"It also underscored for me the extraordinary role Ryerson has played and indeed continues to play in Ontario's history. Those of us who were lucky enough to be part of it owe a great debt of gratitude. "Your book needs to get around. It's an exciting sometimes rollicking saga about how some ordinary but unorthodox people were given the freedom and opportunity to invent solutions to emerging practical needs and problems in post-secondary education, and in the process created a unique institution dedicated to serving both the market place and the changing needs of community."
My book details how Crombie took over from David Sutherland as director of student services, a position they invented for Canada using an American booklet. Sutherland coined that felicitous term of "unicorn among horses."
He became founding president of Sir Sandford Fleming in Peterborough - Ryerson was the model for the colleges - and married a Ryerson grad, my colleague from the old Tely, Sylvia Sylvie, who went on to become Peterborough mayor and member of the important Ontario Municipal Board.
Sylvia Sutherland wrote on Facebook: "For all the old Ryersonians out there - and there are a lot of us - here is a 'must' read. It is John Downing's history of Ryerson."
After 50 years of writing, after thousands of columns, editorials, books, and articles, I feel comfortable declaring that Ryerson really is one of a kind and its history makes an interesting read.  . 

Friday, September 8, 2017

PRAISING.....ATTACKING.....TTC....BYFORD


TTC CONSTRUCTION LASTS LONGER THAN PYRAMIDS

There I was with my right arm and cane seized inside the subway door when the train left the Bloor/Yonge station with me still on the platform wondering what jerk was closing the doors and whether I would be able to write with my left hand. 
I ripped my arm out of the train's grasp. Only bruises while the cane was not dented, to my amazement. I tried revenge by shouting "asshole" in the open window of the train but I doubt that failure of a TTC employee heard me.
The crowd certainly did!
The little old lady standing beside me said we should complain about this. Which I thought was strange because she hadn't been the one grabbed by the door. She had just been part of the group who had dutifully waited for everyone to get off, only to see the first person trying to get aboard, me, seized immediately as if I had assaulted someone.
The TTC's technical excuse would have been that the train was packed, another one was right behind and it had space,  and despite my size, which means some call me Big John, I had been missed in the crowd by the employee failing to handle the doors.
Oh yes, it was 10.20 a.m. Which prompts me to wonder, again, why the hell the TTC loses so much money when the subway seems jammed no matter when I chose to ride it from Royal York Station because the vapidity of John Tory, 44 brainless councillors, and a clutch-and-grab of inept over-paid senior officials, means that downtown traffic is the worst in North America by every anecdotal or technical survey.
The TTC spends so much on labour costs, maybe three quarters of the budget because of the unions, that it can't afford to put real sensors into the rubber lips of their subway doors, like tens of thousands of elevator doors in this country have always had, so that they won't close on an arm holding a cane.
But back to the minority who ride the subway while being subsidized extravagantly by their fellow taxpayers.
Those of us who know something about transit after decades of observation beyond just riding the damn system think that Andy Byford, the Grand Pooh-Bah as CEO of the TTC, is a good transit man who must be undercut by the incompetents around him.
My belief stems from an incident where I fell on the stairs of the University/College subway station where for some bizarre reason the escalator was removed at the south-east corner of the intersection despite the hundreds who now have to labour up the stairs to the complex of five hospitals.
I was wearing tri-focals, which create a blur around your feet, so I thought I had reached the landing when I was still one step up. Not unusual for too many of us, but still painful. Then one year later, if you can believe it, I fell at exactly the same place, this time doing more damage.
I brooded about this and finally sent Byford an email at 8.30 in the evening, explaining what had happened and adding I had once been such a knowledgeable supporter of the TTC that I was offered a VP post. I received a reply 10 minutes later. Unbelievable! He had officials look into my suggestion that the last step before a landing or the platform have a special strip, like the yellow edge of the main station platform, to aid people who for some reason can't see very well and find the step and landing blur together.
He sent me their report two weeks later. They didn't agree with me and proposed no change, even though St. Michael's Hospital was said to be doing a similar study involving public buildings because of the many falls at curbs and on stairs.
Ironically, I have noticed since that all subway steps are not coloured the same. The stairs at Royal York  are two colours which form bands running the width, the dark one being the outer one, while at the TTC Davisville headquarters, the dark band is the inner one meaning the grey outer edge blends with the platform.
I still think the edge of the last step should be marked, but at least Byford had his people look into it. Council would still be trying to decide what official should be assigned not to do anything helpful, or maybe a change that would cost a few million after several months of study and advice from at least two consultants known to be friendly to important councillors.
In case you were wondering, I did not send an email to Byford complaining about how the subway car tried to make off with my right arm. I reasoned, ironically, that perhaps it was all my fault for trying to fight the crowds and get on the first train to come to an important station at 10.20 a.m.
You know, as far as the TTC is concerned,  rush hour is all the time.
But beware the alternative. If we're not careful, they will be hiring pushers to shove us in the doors like they do in Japan.



Friday, August 11, 2017

DUMP TRUMP AND REVIVE REAL NEWS


ALL TRUMP NEWS ALL THE TIME IS BORING

We will all remember these last months because of the media preoccupation with a liar who has always been a liar since he was in kindergarten.
I want Trump gone because then the newspapers and TV shows may talk about something else than the latest bald-faced lie from Donald Trump who has never told the truth about anything or passed up an opportunity to cheat, whether it was in a charity or a casino.
An astute columnist the other day lamented that the New York Times was writing so much about the U.S. president. The Times is prospering, despite Trump calling it the "failing" Times, but I do wish it could return to broad coverage instead of just shooting down the latest bloated utterings of a man who        has never had an honest thought.
I also blame the media for cheating on its incessant coverage because it's an easy and cheap way to fill pages or consume hours.
The decline in the public view of politics in general, which was never high, can be traced directly to newspapers and TV and radio stations going to 24-7 coverage. The easiest way to provide such coverage is with sports, politics and old movies.
Once upon a time, my duty as a young reporter was to do follows on all the political stories that appeared in the final edition so the first edition the next day would appear to have fresh updates on all the important political stories of the day.
So I do know all the tricks. And I do know, as any experienced journalist does, that most "new-s" stories are 95% old. So you try for a variety of stories instead of just one oldie that is often not a goodie.
We know that all-news radio and TV stations repeat their coverage several times an hour, so after a few hours any listener can practically repeat all the stories verbatim.
It makes me cringe when CNN, still far better than that awful Fox operation, keeps giving as breaking news something that was boring me the previous evening.
The future for real news is bleak because right now newspapers are cutting their staffs, and all the media that steal their stories, ideas and their talking heads from the newspapers become starved for real different news too.
This decline will continue until the newspapers, which are the foundation of all real news reporting, figure out a way to get more money for their content so they can afford to hire more real reporters to give more coverage.
There is this myth that bloggers and the various innovations in social movement actually give us the news. Horseshit! Most bloggers just sift the lint in their belly buttons or their ravings or they just make it up. As for the pretend reporters who are really disguised activists,  send Joe and Jane Canuck off the street to monitor a session of city council or the Legislature and you will watch baffled amateurs drown in confusion.
All you have to do is watch those inane TV interviews where bystanders are quizzed about a fire or an accident or a shooting and it is obvious that it takes experience to figure out what really happened at anything more complex than a parking ticket.
There never was more of a need for journalism schools. There never was more need for the public to realize that most of the stuff on the Internet is garbage - contrived mischievous malicious crap.
Because too many people accept what they read there, it  was possible for Donald Trump to get elected by dumb souls and those who know that sure he lies but maybe he may actually cut their taxes.
Facts no longer matter because Trump and much of the Internet just make up their own versions and try to shout down the legitimate critics who actually know what they are talking about.
But there, I have just fallen into the media trap by taking easy shots at a flatulent target. There are more important issues in Toronto and Ontario and Canada than Trump's latest fake promise.
When I wrote a daily column, it would have been so easy to stretch out the same topic over a few days.  I was ashamed whenever I did it because I was failing my readers. After all, they are quickly bored by politics. When you keep returning to the same topic, it's an easy excuse for them not to pay attention to what are often important and costly issues.
That's what has been happening for months now in the U.S. where the media are preoccupied with the latest nonsense in the White House while important issues are not given the in-depth background examinations that they need and deserve.
Even humour has been affected. The trouble with political jokes, they say, is that they kept getting elected. The trouble with jokes about Trump is that his failings have so infected late-night TV that you switch from Colbert to Fallon to Kimmel and you hear them reciting ad nauseam the latest gaffe to set up their punch line.
The American political system is broken. Trump is just another boil on its skin. Let's lance it and let the poison drain! I want to laugh at someone who can't blunder us into nuclear war!


Thursday, August 10, 2017

GASSING TORONTONIANS


BIG SMOKE SUCKERS

There is a routine media announcement every night about the price of gasoline in Toronto. There should be an ad that runs with it that says "hello there suckers, gassing up your car in T.O is stupid."
On my weekly jaunt to the Kawarthas, to sit on my point on the Trent River and rejuvenate, I routinely pay a nickel or a dime per litre less than the standard price in the Big Smoke. A few days ago I paid .15 cents a litre less than was being charged at the Esso stations closest to my home in Etobicoke.
I mention Esso because I recall many complaints from Imperial Oil fatcat PR chiefs over the years as they explained to the "stupid" newspaper editor that just because the world price of oil had plummeted, our pump prices would stay high because that was the gas that they had bought months before.
I would point out that it was truly miraculous that the price at the pump would never fall months later because then the world price was back up and they could use that as their excuse.
Torontonians like to think that our retail prices are generally lower than out in cottage country because of all the competition and all the stores. Chain operations have kicked that smug argument in the slats but prices are higher in independent shops. But it certainly isn't true when it comes to gasoline.
So my question, dear reader, is why do our the big oil companies continue to steal from the residents of the biggest city in the country when routinely their identical product is sold from their identical gas stations for less whenever you drive outside our fair city?
The answer, of course, is because they can get away with it.
 So much for pretending to be good corporate citizens when they join the national jealousy that loves to screw Hawgtown.

Friday, May 5, 2017

ARCHAIC TORONTO BOOK AWARDS IGNORES PROGRESS


SUCKING UP TO  CANADIAN PUBLISHERS

I have been around so long in journalism that I was called a dinosaur by Peterborough Examiner editors who had asked a visiting British editor who he had been talking to here about newspapers.
He reported the snide comment apologetically. I just laughed, saying hatred of Torontonians is one of Canada's unifying forces.
The comment suggested I didn't know what was going on after five decades of working in every facet of the trade. Of course, if they had been literate, like the Examiner in the days of its editorship by the noted author Robertson Davies, they would have used the word troglodyte.
Please, a caveman, not a beast!
Fortunately for them, Paul Godfrey and the Post didn't get their mitts on the Examiner until after I left as Sun Editor because I had told him I wanted to run the Kawarthas newspapers because then I could live at the cottage instead of in the city being hampered by its council.
I confess that I did start only a few centuries after they suggested, but I did learn to set type and run a press and write a lede in the hot metal days when it was so much more difficult to put print on paper.
I did an ink-stained apprenticeship on a Yukon weekly and in the ancient rooms of the grand old lady of Melinda. I did everything from writing obits to proofreading wedding invitations.
Now the wondrous computer days have transformed printing even as bricks-and-mortar bookstores are disappearing. Amazon stepped out of a comic book and became the most potent marketer ever.
Not that everyone has noticed the self-publishing revolution where even your kid can produce a reasonable comic book as a Grade 5 project.
For example, the Toronto Book Awards is stuck in the past. It began in 1974 just as the innovations in printing and everything else allowed the Toronto Sun to flourish only three years after the death of its goliath godfather, the Telegram, poisoned by its hot metal roots.
The competition for the $17,500 in prizes has just closed for publishers and authors who do things the  old way which unfortunately often needs our taxes in order to subsist.
The new way of self-publishing, which exploded around 2010, is ignored by Toronto council even though books and their technical twins are pouring out from citizen author/publishers.
It is rare for a book not to have an ebook version. More importantly, there have never been more self-published books, and I'm talking about real books, not the vanity press where printers overcharge ego-drunk writers and also insist they buy mounds of their own product.
To add a bit to the Bard's wonderful lines. "All the world's a stage. And all the men and women merely players. They have their exits"...and many of them have stories they would like to tell you first without running a marathon of hurdles from publishers who crave only bestsellers from people who know the game of promotion.
The publishers are fighting the DIYers in cunning fashion, using every trick in their hard-cover book to cripple the self-publishing upstarts.
Their wet dream, I suppose, is of all the iPads and Kindles etc. going up in flames like a certain smart phone so they can go back to making more than the author on a book.
I admit that I have a conflict of interest because I just published a soft-cover book and ebook version. Even though it is filled with anecdotes, facts and observations about downtown Toronto for a century, I couldn't submit it to these awards even though it matches the criteria, that it be "evocative of Toronto."
Even though I have written  books and  countless columns, blogs, features and editorials, even though I have performed in every form of communication, I can't enter these old-fashioned awards because I am guilty of my latest effort being too modern in production and not sanctioned by a publisher.
Other book awards, all the way up to those given in the name of the Governor General, have contrived restrictions on behalf of publishers against self publishing. Why in the case of the G-G awards, only a publisher can enter.
There are other rules too. There's one blocking any ghost-written book . Oh really? Are we pretending all those famous Canadians dash off books in their spare time from trying to dazzle us.
Straight from the Heart was a bestseller for Jean Chretien before he became PM and he's listed as the author but his ghost writer was not a ghost for thousands.
Jack McClelland, the justifiably famous boss of McClelland and Stewart, hired me to ghost write two books. The one supposedly by Nathan Phillips - only Art Eggleton served longer as Toronto mayor -  was called Mayor Of All The People. It was published before the awards existed but would not have been eligible even though it was "evocative of Toronto."
McClelland had me and six others audition to write the memoirs of Kelso Roberts, who was almost premier three times. The others were famous names. I won, I suspect, because I charged less.
June Callwood, an icon in this country, made a healthy living as a ghost writer, as do many friends who are not famous.
My book has interesting details about how the Ryerson square was the incubator and nursery for much of the old city's culture as well as being the capital for education which spun off the university and the colleges - the CAATs as we used to call them.
Yet because I didn't persist in the tedious search for a publisher, because I just said to hell with it and brought out a book like hundreds of others are doing, I'm not eligible for book awards run as if computers never happened and we are still printing newspapers and books like we were decades ago.
I hired a book designer, David Moratto, to turn my revived manuscript into a form that could be  printed and distributed by an American company. I hired another specialist from Toronto, Peter L'Abbe, to produce the ebook. All of this through computers. I have never spoken to anyone at the printer/distributor but just filled out forms. Same with the nitty-gritty like copyright.
I had an old friend, Robert MacBain, as a great guide since he had used Moratto and L'Abbe for the latest of his two books, one of them the fascinating Their Home And Native Land. (It's about Ojibways and Mohawks and other natives who are great successes. We used to call them natives before indigenous became the in term. In our early days as troglodytes, the natives called themselves Indians when MacBain and I interviewed them.)
MacBain and I and the designers, all of us living in Toronto, are not just a tiny cottage industry because self-publishing has become city-sized in culture. The output of the collaborations of the authors, book designers and printers/distributor may be scorned by award bureaucrats but it has become "ubiquitous" in the words of a busy expert, L'Abbe.
The prize in the brawling is the printed book. It's never been easier and cheaper to produce them (and the ebook twins are a breeze to produce and distribute) so the panicked publishers goad the book judges into banning them even as they demand at least six copies of "real" book entries. (Every little bit helps the bottom line.)
It's symbolic of how unhelpful and hostile publishers can be when media veterans with myriad connections like MacBain and me - he has had national posts and his wife Maria Minna was a veteran Liberal MP and cabinet minister - feel we have to go the self publishing route.
The recent million-dollar donation of thousands of old books to Ryerson University is the latest vivid reminder of the fragility of publishers which don't move with the technological times.
The books were printed by Ryerson Press, named after its first editor in 1829, Egerton Ryerson, the founder of the Ontario system of education after whom the university, and my book, are also named.
There was controversy and consternation in 1970 when the United Church sold Ryerson Press to the damn Yankees. For once this social-movement church made the right move because in just a few years the dawn of the computer age started turning the conventional publishing houses into, well, dinosaurs.
Since it's so easy for everyone to produce books these days, stick-in-the-mud publishers never miss a chance to knee-cap the DIY collaborations.
If your industry can be transformed by technology, it will be, as executives of network TV and AM radio could tell  them. At least we will have self-publishers to produce the books about their deaths if publishers persist in the old ways.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

THE FLIP SIDE OF DARWIN AWARD STUPIDITIES


THE ANECDOTES ARE GOOSED TRUTH

My cousin sends along the latest hilarious nominations for the Darwin Awards which are handed out in some mysterious way each year to celebrate the latest deaths by stupid people who cause their own destruction.
It supposedly all started around 1985. I am sure some rewrite man collected all the stupid death stories that trickle out like congealing blood during the year and then regurgitated them in some pretend contest where the winner gets nothing but a grave stone and the runner ups remain just an embarrassing story to be related in shocked whispers at family picnics.
There is now a web site, an annual book, and plenty of copycat versions where the truth is strained to the point of incredibility.
Some of the latest: the guy stealing a pop who pulled the machine over on top of him; the light plane that crashed into another because its occupants wanted to moon the  other plane; the chap who drank gasoline and milk in a weird attempt to get high cheaply, and then blew himself and his sister up when he vomited the concoction into a fireplace.
I love the stories in a cynical way because I know they generally have been embellished and one or two resemble vaguely some of the dumb things that I have done...fortunately with no witnesses.
What drains some of the humour out of the pretend awards is I know all about one of the famous winners from years ago. That victim was not only very nice and very smart but he was surrounded by very nice and very smart people.
He was the lawyer who used to run across the conference room and throw himself against the window 40 storeys or so above Bay St. to illustrate to the gawking articling students at his prestigious law firm that thanks to building codes and smart builders, this was not a dense thing to do.
Except one year during the annual stunt the window broke and he fell to his death.
Wow! Really stupid, right! And thanks to the Darwin Awards ritual, there isn't a nook in the Americas where they haven't heard the story.
Well, let me tell you the other side. The guy was so bright that he was a brilliant engineer as well as being a lawyer. He was so popular and clever that his law firm quickly put him in charge of all the kid lawyers that they hired, and his death occurred during a party that he held to welcome the newcomers.
Did you know his family sued the building and collected? So they had money to go with wonderful memories of a gentleman who stood out from the crowd.
Not that they were hurting for cash. His widow was one of the major municipal official in Canada and then chaired the faculty council of the largest university while presiding later over major municipal agencies.
Nope, not exactly the victim or the family you would associate with the weren't-they-stupid prize, are they?
In the ocean of deliberately false info and careless misinformation that floods the Internet, with the stupid elevating of a congenital liar to be U.S. president, with alternative facts being invented as a notorious expression and then actually invading our language where a fact should be a fact and not a political lie, the Darwin Awards have lost much of their chuckle because they can be as contrived as a standup comedian's monologue.
Next year one of the entries in this supposed competition should be a eulogy for truth, and fewer and fewer of us will laugh.