Yesterday I was at the Luminato food event in Queen’s Park. As many of the booths were close to the road I was able to observe about three unmarked mini-vans that each had about 4-5 cops inside and these same vans continued to circle the block and passed me numerous times over a two-hour period. Maybe they were looking for subversive Pad Thai?!?

Earlier this week I was in traffic court (yes, I know, the shame, the shame) and had occasion to be sitting next to a plainclothes cop who was reading through what was about a 50 page booklet that seemed to be a manual for all those law enforcers who would be attending the big G20 bash that we’re apparently throwing this week. It was from the ISU and covered a wide range of topics so, of course, I did my best to unobtrusively read over his shoulder. I was able to read about 8 pages before my case was called. Aside from dictates on attire and washroom breaks, there was one part that did catch my eye.

The police obviously have plans to arrest 100’s and 100’s of people – or are prepared to do so. I know that they’ve denied this previously, but they are definitely going to be using the Toronto Film Studios as their “Prisoner Detention Facility”, as it said so in the manual. I took a drive past there the other day and the entire facility has been surrounded by high fencing and all the entrances have double gates, which is standard for most jails. Remember, these sound stages are HUGE and even one could likely accommodate 1,000 people, depending on how they laid out the beds, toilets, etc. I can only imagine what that’s going to be like for the people detained in there. The Somali refugee camps come to mind…

The manual went on to describe procedure for making arrests and it would seem that they’ve set up some kind of assembly line-like process. Officers are directed to take any newly arrested person to a “Prisoner Transport Bus”, which they will have ready and available in multiple locations around the downtown (more evidence of the number of arrests they’re anticipating). These buses, once full, will then transport the detainees to the detention facility where they will be held.

The officers are told not to accompany their prisoners – which is the usual process to maintain chain of custody for any evidence seized or statements made. Without that unbroken chain, that evidence or statement is inadmissible in court. However, they seemed concerned that if individual officers were to accompany their prisoners to the film jail (Little Guantamo?!) there would be chaos there and, more importantly, it would result in officers being taken off the front line to deal with more potential arrestees.

So, to deal with that they have set up a group of officers that was referred to as the “Prisoner Processing Detail”, whose job it will be to receive the prisoner from the arresting officer along with any evidence seized at the time. Some members of this detail seem to be designated to receive bodies, others to take physical evidence and still others will be there with recording equipment to record any statements made. As this ‘detail’ also needs to stay at the front line, yet another detail, the “Prisoner Transfer Detail” will then take the body, the evidence and the statements and will accompany all of these to the film jail, where they will be processed along with the prisoner, who will then get fingerprinted and photographed.

Now, here’s where it starts to get a little future-creepy. Apparently ALL prisoners will have their images scanned though facial recognition software and from what I was able to read they are planning to have multiple vehicles at the original scene that will be equipped with cameras tied into a facial recognition databases so that they can identify any wanted, or other people who are “known to police”, whose images they will be able to capture in the crowds. (As an aside, it’s not widely known, but quite a number of Toronto police cars now have facial recognition cameras inside the cars that photograph people in the back seat to aid in warrant execution and to prevent people from giving false names).

I’m going to be very interested to see how well this all works because the Canada Evidence Act is very clear on what’s necessary for evidence to be admissible in a court of law. That “chain of custody” I referred to earlier must be completely unbroken, documented and signed for every single time it ever changes hands and has to be sealed in evidence bags, also sealed and signed. As soon as that chain is broken – evidence placed on the ground during a scuffle and picked up by someone else or evidence misplaced and later found – will have the effect of rendering that evidence inadmissible and would usually result in an acquittal for the defendant. If this happens here on any kind of scale it would result in a colossal waste of money in the administration of justice as all the costs of arresting, processing, detaining, and then trying these in court will be for nothing.

The rest of the few parts I was able to read over his shoulder dealt with dress codes (uniforms always), bathroom breaks (only in designated facilities), and food (none allowed on your person but there will be food available at designated locations – the revolution will be catered!). Then my case got called and I had to tear myself away (I, of course, beat my ticket!).

Frankly, the whole thing is Orwellian on a scale that sends chills through me. Cameras that scan the crowd that are tied into facial recognition databases, prisoner assembly lines (my term, not theirs) and mass detention facilities all remind me of many movies that I’ve seen that are supposed to predict some kind of post apocalyptic future. Well, apparently, the future is now and it’s unfolding on the streets of our fair city. And I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling quite helpless as we plunge into an extremely costly summit thrust upon a city that doesn’t want it, and all and fueled by the erosion of our privacy and civil liberties. Thank you Mr. Harper. You really know how to throw a party.

God only knows what they have in those black helicopters that are already buzzing overhead and how much of this technology will linger after this debacle is over remains to be seen. It’s like the Patriot Act without an actual act of parliament. What has happened to our cherished notion of civil liberties? The press may have no business in the bedrooms of our nation but the police clearly have their business just about everywhere else.

This is a sad week for our city and our country. I barely recognize our city anymore and anyone who’s been brave enough to venture downtown will tell you of the chill they feel as Toronto the Good begins to resemble Fortress Toronto. In some ways I feel like our city’s being raped. I know that’s a strong word but what else do you call it when something you don’t want to happen is forced upon you with a degree of violence that leaves you feeling helpless, angry and distraught.

I love this city and I want it back. Harpo – take your G20 and G-out of here. It can’t be over soon enough for me…

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The first time I heard the number I thought the news anchor was joking.

But then I realized that news anchors aren’t usually the joking type. And then I heard it again. $1.1 billion. That’s the revised security budget for the upcoming G20/G8 summits that are being held in Toronto and Huntsville next month.

I say revised because there was an initial estimate when this whole affair was first announced and that was $179 million. That’s 600% higher than originally thought and – are you ready for it – that’s not the final number. That they won’t know until everybody goes home. I can’t wait to hear what that number will be.

As I I’ve been writing this I’ve been searching for the right word to express how I feel about that number. Flabbergasted. Dumbfounded. Stunned. But all those words somehow seem inadequate.

$1.1 billion. 4 days.

From the beginning the fact that we were hosting this summit has been met with a fairly tepid response. No one initially seemed too excited about it. And then the details started to come out. A giant fence surrounding a large part of the downtown core. Traffic hell. A huge film studio being turned into a temporary jail for the more unruly of us. A concerted effort to keep protestors as far as away as possible. They were originally going to shunt them to Trinity Bellwoods Park – a good 8 km from the sight of any world leader – but the local NIMBY folks got a hold of it and that location was quickly squelched.

Anybody who has any sense at all will get the heck out of Dodge during that week in order to avoid what could quite possibly be one of the worst disruptions in Toronto’s history. Far, far away. And not to Huntsville. That won’t be much better.

And now this number. $1.1 billion.

You have to put a number like that in perspective. You can build a lot of housing for that kind of money. Transit. Health care. Aboriginals. The list is endless and all are worthy. Now, the law enforcement community is poised to receive their own personal stimulus spending and while if you’re a Police Officer I’m sure you think this is quite appropriate. But nobody else does. Last night on the news they ventured out into the street to interview ordinary Torontonians about their reaction to this number. Most had nothing to say because their jaws dropped so low they couldn’t form intelligent sentences. Several questioned whether the reporter had her numbers right. She did.

So, I’m thinking to myself that their must be a benefit in hosting this summit if the government is going to such lengths to orchestrate it. It’s not going to increase tourism. News coverage outside this country will be somewhat sparse because it’s all pretty boring. There won’t be a bounce like we got from the Olympics (which went on for 18 days with a security budget of less than $900 million – and they had revenue.)

No, unless you’re Stephen Harper, who gets to play host and feel important, this is mostly a lose-lose for Canadians, Torontonians and the taxpayers. Just why are we doing this any ways?

Today we learned that the Toronto Police have used part of that money to purchase 4 sound cannons so that they can deafen any protestors who dare get too close. 1 truck mounted one and 3 hand-held ones. But, as they point out somewhat defensively, they will keep them after the summit to use on the everyday citizens of our fair city. Great. Just what I want my tax dollars spent on. Military deafness.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to spend $1.1 billion over 4 days and it’s not easy. That is an awful lot of money. I’m also very curious to know just how the original estimate of $179 million could have been so wrong and so low? Was it a PR move to placate the opposition or are the feds just plain incompetent? Something is very stinky in Whoville.

I suppose there’s no turning back now. I’m sure that, if asked, most Torontonians would politely suggest that this debacle be held elsewhere. But nobody is asking us. And then I had a thought. Why don’t they take about $20 million of that money and build some kind of meeting facility on Centre Island and hold the summit there? It would be very easy to secure and quite pretty, too. That would probably lop about $600 million off the estimate. But, again, nobody’s asking me.

I don’t really want Toronto turned into an armed camp, replete with soldiers, constant flyovers and disruptions of the highest order. I can already smell the tear gas.

Of course, one of the richer ironies is that one of the main agenda items at the G20 will be how to help the global economy better utilize its resources. I can think of $1.1 billion ideas to float past them.

I’m trying to remember the last time I felt so helpless in the face of such insanity. We have no voice in this, no ability to protest or to democratically subvert this whole mess. So, come June, we will all be good Canadians, suck up the inconvenience and wait out what will likely be the biggest cluster f#*@& we have ever been through.

You can do an awful lot of good for $1.1 billion but sound cannons, barbed wire and an armed camp surely should be low on the list. What kind of country do we want this to be?

O Canada, I’m sad for you today. Stand on guard, indeed…


This week on a boat in the Mediterranean Sea there was a startling development in a war that has been waged for ages. In the moments after the Israelis boarded the Palestinian flotilla everything suddenly changed. As the world watched, a new paradigm for this age old conflict emerged and it soon became clear that there were some new rules afoot. This conflict, which has its roots in biblical times, finally entered the new millennium, and not with a whimper but with a globally resounding bang.

At present, Hamas is the defacto Palestinian government in the West Bank/Gaza and they are very clear about their official stance, which is the elimination of the State of Israel. Well, it would seem that they’ve finally made it to the 21st century.

For decades now Hamas has thrown stones, blown up cars, used guns and employed a variety of other terrorist tactics in order to advance their cause. As a result of these tactics they have been branded as criminals and have become international pariahs, ceding to Israel the posture of victim. As a result, Israel has reaped what Hamas has sowed and gained the official sympathy of many of the worlds developed nations. And, in the process, they gained the one thing that has kept them afloat for the past 60 years and that is the support of the Americans and, more importantly, American aid.

Well, it would seem that Hamas has finally figured out that all those stones and bombs weren’t really helping them at all to advance their cause. Maybe it was from watching the Americans fight their battles with embedded journalists or maybe they just caught up with the times but this time around they very skillfully employed cameras, live streaming internet video, journalists and PR, and this time, they did in one day what they have been unable to do in 60 years of suicide bombers. They got the worlds attention in a way that actually gained them some sympathy.

They used their boats to provoke the Israelis, got in Israel’s face, and then waited for the kind of response they have conditioned Israel to employ. In the past, when Hamas has wrought violence on Israel, the response has been for Israel to use crushing and uncompromising force on Hamas and when the commandos descended from above, the boat people were ready. They were ready live web cams, a well-crafted message, lots of dramatic video for the media, and well-trained spokes-people with just the right spin. And it was all going out live over the Internet, up on You Tube and in posts on Twitter and Facebook.

They succeeded in getting out their message first and before Israel was able to respond they galvanized public opinion against Israel and got many international leaders to strongly condemn Israel. And that includes our Prime Minister, who unfortunately for Netanyahu, was standing right next to him when he did it. A picture tells a thousand words and as the image of Harper and Netanyahu flashed around the world, countries everywhere joined in, perhaps emboldened by Canada’s lead, and in very short order Israel stood alone.

In The Art of War, Sun Tzu said that if you can’t defeat your enemy then go around them. It would seem that Hamas has learned this lesson. For the first time since their inception they have chalked up a victory on the international stage. This was our first war fought on You Tube, Facebook and Twitter and if Israel doesn’t figure out the implications of that very quickly, and adapt just as fast, they run the risk of becoming international pariahs and that’s something that they just can’t afford.

In the 60’s the anti-war protestors had a chant that they would employ whenever the news cameras would show up. They would chant loudly and in unison and they would speak the truth. “The whole world is watching, the whole world is watching”. Yes, they are watching, and if Israel doesn’t adapt soon they’ll be watching a shift in world policy towards them and the biggest threat to their independence since the war of ’48 and nobody will benefit from that kind of mid-east instability. Not Hamas, not Israel and not the thousands of innocent people who will likely be killed in the process.

Hamas finally, or for now, put down their bombs and attacked with spin and streaming live video and, in the process, they succeeded in alienating Israel in the unblinking eyes of a global audience. Suddenly, the old rules no longer apply and trading bullets for web cams seemed to do what they have sought for so long. They have hit Israel where it hurts. By being first out with their message they have adopted a tried and true media strategy. Be first with your message and you set the agenda. As Israel scrambled to defend their actions they came off as defensive and they were forced to respond to the message that Hamas put out there.

Now, I’m sure that Hamas is not used to being in the lead on an issue like this but Im sure that the taste of success they enjoyed in the hours after wont be lost on them. This conflict is far, far from being resolved and I honestly dont know if it will happen in my lifetime. There will likely be more bombs and bullets and I’m sure that more people will die in the name of this conflict but, by using new media, Hamas was able to advance their message and, hopefully, that precedent will have an effect on future strategies by both sides. Hamas doesnt gain from looking like terrorists and Israel doesnt gain by looking like bullies. People died on those boats this week, despite the presence of all those journalists and cameras and that tells you something about the fervor with which this war is being waged. But maybe, just maybe, some lessons will be learned and fewer people will die over a place to call home.

The revolution will be televised and the whole world is watching. Watching indeed…

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When this story broke I posted a piece that suggested that the Bryant affair has disclosed the unfortunate truth that there are two standards of justice afoot in this fine country. Well, it seems that every body has an opinion  on this story and many of my very articulate and very smart colleagues weighed in with their opinions – many disagreeing with me. The following is my response to their various arguments and is partially written from my perspective as a former Criminal Lawyer:


Ok. Ok. The guy was clearly a maniac. Drunk and provocative. And what would I have done? I would have done whatever I had to in order to escape this idiot. All these points are well taken.

However – Bryant’s actions lead directly and causally to his death and in our country, with a very few exceptions, causing the death of another person has various degrees of criminal liability attached to it. It is exceedingly rare to see a situation where someone causes the death of another – intentionally or not – and does not have to answer for it in some forum. While Bryant clearly didn’t murder him there are many other lesser charges that apply when a death is caused without intent. Manslaughter, criminal negligence causing death, dangerous driving causing death, vehicular homicide, etc.

If I understand Bryant’s team correctly they assert that he was trying to defend himself in his efforts to get away from Sheppard and I guess what’s nagging at me is the notion that in 99% of cases like this the policy is to lay the charge and then to let the defendant use self-defence as the justification for the act. What happened here was that the prosecutor usurped the court’s role and made his own unilateral decision that this was, indeed, self-defence and then let Bryant off the hook.

We all know that Bryant wasn’t charged lightly or frivolously. When he was arrested, and after a 24 period where I imagine that phone lines were ablaze with the highest of the higher-ups being consulted, the police laid the charges and then turned it over to the courts for prosecution. They did the right thing as Bryant is causally and directly responsible for this man’s death. The fact that he was justified is exactly why they allow various justifications as legitimate defences. As defences. In court. At a trial. Since when does the Crown decide to allow a defence before a trial or in place of one? The Crown always retains the prerogative to withdraw a charge but it is all highly unusual.

I like Michael Bryant. I liked him as AG and I think he’s a good man. The problem is that the optics here are terrible. In my experience whenever I have defended someone who had a lock solid defence like he did and I tried to put that position to the crown I would be told that was why people had their day in court. Withdraw the charge? Extremely rare and usually only in cases where there is absolutely no reasonable prospect of a successful prosecution.

They say that perception is reality and for many the unfortunate perception here is that Bryant received favourable treatment due to his standing. People need to believe in our justice system and today that faith is little more battered than it was a few days ago. Remember that Bryant’s hands weren’t completely clean. He fled the scene to a hotel and only called the police after the fact. He left a bleeding Sheppard lying at the side of the road and did nothing to assist him.

Did those delays and evasions cost Sheppard his life? We’ll never know now. Why wasn’t he charged with Failing to Remain at the scene of an accident? We’ll never know that either but I do now that if I ever left the scene of a fatal accident and did nothing to help that I would be charged forthwith. No question. That’s how our system works – or is supposed to work. Allegations are made, charges are laid and defences are advanced. That’s the beauty of our adversarial process. Two sides meet, advance their theories and somewhere in the middle the truth will out. And for the most part, it works – when we allow it to.

The trouble here is that there appeared to be no adversaries. Bryant’s lawyers worked along with the Crown to turn over evidence and to shape the case before any trial could be held. That’s not adversarial and it’s a big part of why this result seems so skewed. The public has confidence when they see two sides pitted against each other but when everybody appears to be on the same side nepotic whispers abound and perception once again becomes reality.

This is one of those cases where everybody loses. We’d all like to think that we know how we’d react in extreme circumstances but until it happens to you, you really have no idea. Panic and fear can lead us to make some pretty stupid mistakes and I’m sure that if was me that I would have bolted out of there, too. I have no desire to see Bryant behind bars but I do have a desire to have a justice system that has integrity and is respected by the populace at large. We are all entitled to our day in court. It’s just that now it seems that some people are able to subvert that idea and I think that for that, we are all a little poorer today.

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I swear I feel like a kid on the night before Christmas.

I am so excited I feel giddy. I am filled with anticipation and am feeling positively salivary. Now here’s the embarrassing part – what am I so excited about? It’s a consumer purchase bought several weeks ago and slated for delivery before Friday. A consumer purchase? Salivary?

To better understand my excitement you need to understand that I have always been a bit of a geek. I’ve always been comfortable with technology and over the years I’ve stayed abreast of the amazing developments that have shaped our world and our societal experience. I can be very passionate about technology, but not technology for its own sake. I’m a fan of applied technology – that is how we use it to enhance and better serve our day to day lives.

Over the years there has been an explosion of technological development, some of it ridiculous and some of it life-changing. That’s right, life-changing. I have been thinking of some of the technological developments that I have witnessed that have changed the way I live and interact with the world around me. Here’s a quick list of some of those life-changing technologies, in no particular order, and by no means definitive:

• Cable TV
• Touch-tone phones
• The personal computer
• Modems
• The Internet
• WWW, e-mail
• Cellphones
• My PVR
• iPods
• BlackBerry/iPhone
• Apple TV
• Digital everything
• Bluetooth
• Digital cameras
• Facebook

Each of these technologies has had a profound impact on my ease of living and on the facility with which I interact with the world around me. What an astonishing world we live in.

Recently I was at a concert and found myself shooting live video, posting it live to the Internet, waiting for my friends to watch it and then reading their comments live as they weighed in on the performance. And all that without leaving my seat in the stadium. Astonishing. When I drive now, geosynchronous satellites overhead pinpoint my location with 10 feet, let me know about traffic up ahead of me and warns me if a speed trap is nearby. Amazing.

I think it’s very easy to take all this techno-wizardry for granted. For most of us it’s invisible and we see only the end result and that’s probably the way it should be. But when I think about what these devices are actually able to do it still blows my mind. Satellites. Wireless. Beam me up Scotty.

But it’s when one of the life-changing devices comes down the pipe that I truly get pumped. They don’t come along very often. Sometimes I can see it coming and sometimes it sneaks up on me, blindsiding me when I least expect it. And if there’s any one company that’s been responsible for forever changing our consumer landscape for the better, it’s Apple.

From its inception Apple has got it. They’ve always demonstrated an uncanny ability to redefine various consumer experiences in a way that makes everyone else hurry up and follow. When they first started out they invented the mouse and the graphical interface that later became the mainstay of the Windows experience. Their introduction of the iPod forever changed the way we interact with our music experience. Apple TV redefined the home entertainment experience and the iPhone became the new standard for mobile computing devices. Love them or hate them, these guys got it and they nailed it every time. I should have bought stock.

So imagine my excitement when last February I saw the first online video demo of the upcoming iPad. By the end of that video I was so excited that I was ready to buy. Now, even though I’m a big techno-file I am not what you would call an early adopter. I usually watch as new technologies debut, get their kinks worked out by the marketplace and then get refined in the second generation release. But when I saw the iPad all that logic went out the window.

When I first witnessed the iPad I immediately realized that this device was something in between a notebook and an iPhone – it wasn’t just a big iPhone nor was it a notebook wannabe. The iPad is poised to occupy a new niche in the tech market – it’s a powerful, mobile computing device that provides a superior entertainment experience, makes your world mobile and utilizes an interface that is intuitive and very, very clever. It is going to become the heart and soul of my home entertainment experience and will likely become my daughter’s best friend.

This is so unlike me – to buy a device before it’s even released to the market and then to watch the calendar as I silently count down to D-day (delivery day). But I know this one’s going to be a winner. I have an iTouch and it has been a life-changing device. The iPad promises to pick up where the iTouch left off and then go somewhat further. Now I can hear many of you shaking your heads in disbelief. All this excitement over a small computer? Darn right and it can’t happen soon enough for me. Bring on the change, the evolution is now.

As an adult I don’t treat myself very often. I still love to get new toys although these days the toys I get tend to be much more functional than the train set I was enamoured with in my youth. But still, as adults I think it’s important that we recognize the kid inside of us and go out and buy it a toy. Sure, they’re more expensive now but they’re also much more fun to play with.

So, when the iPad was listed for pre-sale on the Apple web site I was there in a flash, credit card in hand, happy and eager to be one of the iAcolytes. But to make us wait nearly 3 weeks for delivery – well-that’s just mean. I know that the next generation of iPads will be better – they’ll have a video camera, be slimmer and faster but that’s ok. I’ll deal with that when it happens. I’m so certain that this device will hit my life with a wallop that I bought it sight unseen. I can’t remember the last time I did that.

And so now I wait. But with tremendous impatience that is surprising even me. I want my MTV, darn it and I want it now! This device won’t be for everybody but if it’s for you then get ready to have your world rocked. The iPhone is still rocking my world and that’s more than a year later.

So, join me on the technology bandwagon. Embrace change and look forward with the excitement of an explorer discovering the New World. We live in amazing times and don’t ever forget how powerful the forces are that surround our lives every day. We are the citizens of the new millennium and we will see the world changed for us, by us and even, in spite of us. We will bear witness to that change whether we want it or not.

Hyla is quite happy playing by herself.

Hyla is an only child and, as such, she spends a lot of time on her own. Sure, she has lots of friends but when she comes home at the end of a very long school day (7am – 3pm) she can sometimes be alone for a few hours.

As would be the case with many 10 year-olds, Hyla has developed a rich and fully featured fantasy world. Sometimes she is Witch Hyla, her mischievous alter ego. Sometimes she is Good Hyla and, of course, sometimes she is Bad Hyla. But whoever she is on any given day, it’s all her and it’s all in her mind.

I love to watch her play by herself, immersed in a world of make-believe and oblivious to the fact the she is playing on her own. Blocks, dolls, beads, you name it, they all become characters in her narrative and she just loves to bring them out to play.

At first I used to feel guilty that she was playing on her own and I used to jump in every chance I got. But that’s me projecting my own biases on to her. Every time I check in with her as to whether she’s ok, she always looks up with a bemused smile on her face and says, “Of course, Daddy. Why wouldn’t I be?”

I grew up in a house with 2 sisters and 2 parents which meant that I was never alone for long. As I grew up I noticed that I was much happier in the company of others than by myself and tried to limit the amount of time I spent on my own. That’s because it’s what I knew, what I was used to.

As an adult I became a serial monogamist, moving from one relationship to another. As soon as someone was no longer to be a presence in my life I would go out and meet someone new because the alternative, being alone, felt uncomfortable to me. And these relationships would last anywhere from months to years but I always felt as though that I needed that other person to complete me, to make me whole.

About 10 years ago I had occasion to meet someone who told me that until I spent a significant amount of time on my own – which she defined as 2-3 years – I would never be able to have a whole and healthy relationship. I told her that I couldn’t imagine spending that much time by myself and wondered why anybody would ever want to do that willingly.

I then proceeded to jump into a relationship that lasted 6 years and when it ended a funny thing happened. I didn’t jump in with someone new. I just started to hang out with myself. Over the past 4 years I have had one relationship that lasted about 6 months but that’s been it and I began to notice that a wonderful thing was happening. I was starting to become comfortable with my own company and I was starting to get to know who I actually was.

For so very long I would make my choices based on me being the person that I wanted to be. I would do this or that because it suited my self-image. But when you spend a lot of time on your own you start to notice things, like what you like and don’t like. Your good qualities shine a little more brightly because they’re not diffused by another’s energy and the bad ones also stood out more because there was no one there to dilute their effects.

Suddenly, I was being true to myself. I was no longer making choices based on who I wanted to be but, rather, based on who I actually was. And it was exhilarating. Last year when I met the person that I ended up dating for about 6 months I couldn’t help but notice that I was a different man in this relationship than I had ever previously experienced. Because I knew who I was, I knew what I had to offer and I knew whether it would be a good fit for me. I knew what I was willing to change and what I wasn’t. I kept catching myself saying things to her that I had never said to anyone ever before because it was all coming from a place of self-knowledge.

Now, I never chose willingly to be alone for those 3 years. It just worked out that way. But when I started to date this new person I remembered what that person had told me all those years back about being on your own. I couldn’t see it at the time but it certainly turned out to be both prophetic and true.

Did I not want to be alone because that’s what I was used to growing up? I don’t know. But I do know that Hyla has no trouble at all being by herself and for that I admire her greatly. I think that all the time she spend playing on her own will serve her well and it is my hope that in the coming years that very same quality will help her to know herself better – and thus, to know what she really wants.

Today I both know myself and like myself and that has been an immeasurable gift. How freeing it is to be able to make choices based on self-knowledge and how comforting it is to be true to one’s self. I used to look for my next relationship with a kind of hunger, never really feeling whole with one. Now I’m ok either way. Today I enjoy my own company and have come to really like the various traits that comprise my character.

Hyla may spend a lot of time playing by herself but I’m feeling pretty sure that this will serve her well in life. By spending time with yourself you get to know yourself and once that happens, there’s pretty much nothing that you can’t do.

Stand tall, be true, and be honest with yourself about what makes you tick and playing alone will never seem quite so empty again…

“Everyone will be famous for 15 minutes”
Andy Warhol

“Be careful of what you wish for, you might get it”
Colloquial Wisdom

When I was a kid I wasn’t sure of much, but one thing I was sure of was that I wanted to be rich and I wanted to be famous. This twosome, rich and famous, seemed to embody all that I thought I desired in this very early stage in my life. I mean, it just looked like so much fun. Rich. Famous. What’s not to like? Well, as it turns out, both of these acquisitions come with a price, and it’s a steep one.

Rich changes you. Your entire way of interacting with the world around you has changed in scale. Now, this change may or may not be a good thing. Some people do rich very well, and others, not so much. The landscape is littered with lottery winners whose lives have been torn apart after the big win. Divorce. Social alienation. Business failure. No happy dance, there.

But where rich changes you, famous changes everything. Sure, you’ll never have to pay for a cup of coffee again, but welcome to life in the fishbowl. If you have successfully managed to convince the public that you are worthy of their special attention then you better be ready to handle all the other unanticipated, unwanted, and other forms of attention that become part of the deal – like it or not.

And you better be able to stand up to the public scrutiny – often relentless – that is sure to accompany your fame. If you’re found wanting, that same adoring public can turn on you in a New York minute. And a public dismantling of anyone’s life is never a pretty picture. Just ask Tiger.

So, is the fishbowl really worth it?

Some people do fame very well. They have learned how to handle, no, manage, the showbiz machine that has made fame a calculable commodity. They manage the press and, in turn, have their lives left alone. Some, not so much.

Although I’m sure she’s laughing all the way to the bank, ask Kim Kardashian how it feels to have every pound she gains chronicled on the front page of every supermarket tabloid around the world? Ouch is still ouch.

Kim, of course, is one of the new breed – people who are famous just for being famous. The public appetite for worthy icons had grown to such a fever pitch that we are now willing to put some people up on the pedestal just because they’ve managed to catch our attention in some… er… memorable way.

Anybody who stars on The Hills can tell you of the benefits of being in the right place at the right time. Spin-off shows, public recognition and, of course, the merch, the merch, the merch. Just ask Lauren Conrad, now of LC Fashion, about how to do it well and ask Heidi Montag about how to become a caricature of yourself for everyone to see. And those implants seal the deal. Unbelievable what some people think are a good idea.

When I was younger I went through a phase where I was quite enthralled with the idea of being around celebrity. For many years I haunted the Film Festival in the hopes of adding to my ever-burgeoning autograph collection. But after all the screenings and all the parties and all those famous people, I learned a valuable lesson: Don’t meet your heroes; they will only end up disappointing you.

I remember one year I was dating a Publicist whose job it was to babysit a big, big star who was in town for a few days during the Festival. As her official date I was occasioned to spend a great deal of time with her and this big, big star, who I had previously regarded as an amazing acting force. And he is an amazing actor, unfortunately for me he wasn’t a very amazing human being. This publicly heterosexual star stepped off his private jet with his hands stuffed down the front of his 16 year-old male travelling companion’s pants.

And the groping never stopped.

In the limo, at the restaurant (under the table, of course), everywhere the cameras weren’t, and everywhere that I was. The gay thing didn’t faze me (or really surprise me). It was all the child sexual abuse, and his attitude about it, that really got me. Although he was officially 19 years-old, the boy-toy at one point quietly confessed to me that he was really only 16. I have all the time in the world for gay folks; I’m just not that hot on paedophiles.

And now this actor, whom I had previously respected, is ruined for me. I can no longer watch anything with him in it without thinking of that leer on his face as he fondled his freshly pubescent companion. Ruined. And don’t ask me who it is. Let’s just say that year it was one of the Usual Suspects

Don’t ever meet your heroes. Double for rock stars.

There is now a multi-billion dollar industry that has cropped up that is devoted to nothing but keeping us informed on everything that is any small way notable about people who are famous. Shows like ET, Access and a hundred others, and websites like and Perez Hilton and too many magazines to mention, have made the star’s business, their business. And quite a business it is, too. Billions are now spent promoting, chronicling and dissecting every last piece of minutiae that comprise the life of celebrities.

And boy, we can’t get enough.

The other day my 10 year-old daughter nonchalantly told me about the difficult decisions that are currently plaguing Miley Cyrus. Not Hannah Montana – Miley Cyrus, the actress who plays her. Apparently, she’s putting an end to the Hannah Montana juggernaut and is having trouble deciding where to board her horse. I asked Hyla how she knows all of this and the dismissive answer was “the Disney web site, of course!” which, according to Hyla, is quite a reputable news source. “Of course it’s true, Daddy. It’s on the Internet!”

Somewhere along the way, the line between publicity and news got a little blurry. Newscasts now regularly report the doings of celebrities right along with the car crashes and other trials that fill their airwaves. And we are salacious in our appetite for more as insatiable demand creates an abundant supply.

Now, I know the difference between entertainment and news but I’m afraid that my daughter doesn’t as well as I’d like. The big studios have become very adept at marketing their stars like commodities and have learned how to feed this machine quite effectively. They want that line to be blurry, for us to think that someone’s dalliance is, in fact, news. It is not.

We want to emulate celebrities because they seem to have what we don’t – successful, glamorous lives filled with lots of sex with really good looking people. And somehow we’ve acquired the notion that if we do like them, we’ll be like them. We won’t. Ever. And that’s probably a good thing.

A number of years ago I decided to get as far away from the world of celebrities as I could. I deliberately avoided situations where there would be celebrities present and declined invitations to same and feel my life is all the better for it, that I’m a better person for it.

Have you ever been around someone really famous? If so, you’ll be able to attest to how completely stupid normally very together people get when around someone famous and that is something I don’t miss at all. People do some pretty unseemly things to get near celebrities and I don’t want to be around people who bring out my worst qualities. My fawning days are over.

At the end of the day we must remember that these people don’t have superpowers. They are once ordinary people who managed to get our attention somehow. Talent is a great thing to respect but it doesn’t call for the deification of its originator.

I do worry for my daughter, though, who barely owns a single piece of clothing that isn’t branded somehow by Barbie or Hannah or whoever. It makes me so crazy that this is what she looks for in her consumer decisions. Not quality. Certainly not price. But branding. The more High School Musical, the better.

In his Inaugural Address, Lincoln talked about inciting “the better angels of our nature”. My experience has been that most celebrities bring out the worst angels of our nature. Even Tiger has become a repository of derision. I do everything I can to help Hyla see the cynicism behind the dogma she so happily consumes but I fear it will never be enough. At the very least I can teach her to be critical.

Rich would still be nice but, famous? Not so much. I’ll take a life, please. Andy can have his 15 minutes back. I don’t want it.

And we can all hold out hope for the timely emergence of those better angels…