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My failure to appreciate modern culture

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I was reading today in The Uniter, the U of W student publication, about a local graphic novel — what I called a comic book back in the day — that will be available for sale around the end of February.

It’s called Anne Frank-N-Stein, reporter Melanie Dahling reports, in which Anne Frank apparently builds a monster, and you can read her story here.

Yes, I realize I’m exceptionally old, and that The Man turned me into a pod person long, long ago, and that watching Jon Stewart and Rick Mercer and Walking Dead doesn’t make me a cool and with-it rebel activist.

But as I read the story, I’m thinking, is there nothing which is considered too tasteless?

Changing topics without a segue....

Beyond having no mail come to our home between Dec. 30 and Jan. 8, I have had adventures with a particular piece of mail that did come... twice.

A company in Blumenort sent an important-looking letter sent to a company in Winnipeg, which has twice been delivered to our house.

First time, I just dropped it in the first mailbox I passed, but it was among the mail delivered to our house Jan. 8.

It’s clearly labelled to a specific employee and names the business. While our house shares the same street number as the business, we’re a house, they’re a business; their street name has more than twice as many letters as ours; we share only three of six letters and numbers in our respective postal codes.

The Blumenort business has asked us to put ‘return to sender’ on the letter and try a mailbox again.


I received my first rebuke from a rejected Couchsurfer.

Like so many we get these days, he had just joined, sent out an impersonal mass email, had no profile of his own and no references, and had not read our profile.

I turned him down on that basis — which is all explicit at the top of our own profile.

This is a guy from France who thought he could drive across Canada in winter and sleep in his car. Now someone has told him he can get free lodging by joining CS, and he’s firing off mass emails to all the CS members in the places along his planned route.

He got snotty, and told me that he hopes not everyone who belongs to CS is like me.

I expect someone among the hundreds of CS hosts in Winnipeg will take in a total stranger, but it won’t be us.

Let’s go over this again. There seem to be lots of people telling travellers that they can just sign up for CS, nothing else required, and instantly find a free room and probably dinner. Not at our house.

We signed up after child the elder’s bicycle trip around the U.S., many, many nights spent over eight months with CS hosts, and he’s had much hosting experience before and since.

We joined a community of travellers.

Go on CS and you’ll find a very extensive profile for us, as well as our references from travellers, all positive. Surfers are meant to go through our profile, think about who we are and whether they’ll feel welcome and safe and comfortable, and if they choose to send us a request, then they tell us why they’d like to stay with us. We, in turn, read their extensive profiles, and their references, and decide if they’re a fit, and if their dates and times work for us. And when we’ve hosted such people, it’s been a great experience, and both sides have met in the trust that we already kind of know each other and have been vouched for by lots of other CS members.

Each time I log on, I see that CS has also sent a list of surfers coming to Winnipeg, whom we might invite. Two recently that we might have considered had they sent us a request — one a teacher from Toronto who needed a place for a couple of nights before flying out to his new job with a northern First Nation; the second, a young woman coming from Saskatoon for a conference here. But if they can’t be bothered to go through the Winnipeg hosts and read our profiles, and send a personalized message....

Yes, I’m a grumpy old man, I hear that sometimes.

Oops, countdown clock is ticking madly: it’s about 110 days until outdoor soccer season, when a whole bunch of those spectacular goals in inside soccer get whistled offside outdoors, and I ramp up my annual campaign to have portable toilets at every soccer field. Remember, it’s municipal election year, and if council candidates can’t recognize the #1 priority among people with young families who tend to vote...

Moving along...

I’ve just been invited to the ninth annual Saskatoon Safe Schools Conference.

Meanwhile, we’re approaching on April 21 the ninth anniversary of Safe Schools Manitoba’s having severed all forms of communication with the Free Press.

There’s a conference here in February run by the Canadian Safe School Network, organizers of the Saskatoon conference. Safe Schools Manitoba is a sponsor but not an organizer, so I may be allowed to attend.

Speaking of people who spend our money to finance Safe Schools Manitoba... Education Minister James Allum appears to have tweeted roughly 35 times since being named minister, many of those tweets just providing links to news releases.

Come on, James, it’s not as though each tweet is subject to PST, although each will be subject to Tory scrutiny. I’m sure students and teachers are eager to hear more of your thoughts on all kinds of education-y subjects.

Remember, minister, it’s not just grumpy old people such as I who are on Twitter and other social networks. The occasional young person joins.


Maybe you could start by tweeting the date and time of the public education funding announcement. I gather your staff has briefed you about that.

IMHO, UCYMI, you’re welcome, LOL #educationgroupie

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About Nick Martin

Nick Martin is the old bearded guy at the back of the newsroom, the most experienced reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press, having started his career in Ontario in 1971.

He’s been covering education for the Free Press since the spring of 1997, after decades primarily covering municipal politics, including a four-year stint at the Ontario legislature for the London Free Press.

Nick moved to Manitoba in 1988 with his Winnipeg-born wife, who is a professor at the University of Manitoba. They have two kids, both of whom graduated from Grant Park High School: son Chris and daughter Gillian.

Nick has won a national journalism award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers, two Manitoba Human Rights Journalism awards, and the Ontario Reporters Association investigative award.

Nick is a long-distance runner, having finished and survived 18 marathons and 15 half-marathons and 30-kilometre races, and having (barely) survived 10 years as an outdoor and indoor soccer coach.

Nick became a soccer referee in 2007, delighting in his 60s in outrunning 16-year-olds and keeping his distance from obstreperous coaches and parents.

Nick and his wife have discovered a mutual love for kayaking at their Whiteshell cottage, and are both regulars at the Reh-Fit Centre. They hold season tickets to both the Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Warehouse, and as empty nesters, have rediscovered the joys of an active winter vacation.

A native of Jarrow-on-Tyne, England, Nick is a member of the Toon Army as a Newcastle United supporter, and a proud citizen of Leafs Nation.

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