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Dangerous Associations

There used to be a radio programme here in Canada which was an unabashed and unacknowledged rip-off of a very popular American radio programme. This show used to be broadcast from a different location in Canada every week. The presenter would talk a little about whatever place the broadcast was in and speak about the couple of days he'd just spent there. He always mentioned some popular local hang-out or institution. And then he would leave a pause in his script for a cheer or a burst of applause. Most times he got it. But there occasions when the mention was met by silence. It would appear that the hang-out or institution wasn't as popular locally as the presenter and his team of researchers had been led to believe. Perhaps the people who ran it were deeply, very deeply, unpopular with the locals. But the programme was like something out of that Hans Christian Anderson story, the King's New Clothes; you know the one about the foolish king and the invisible, non-existent, suit of clothes that all the fawning courtiers insisted was a thing of beauty, and then a kid who doesn't know any better announces the king is naked. Anyway, few would publicly criticise this show. I remember a visiting writer in Edmonton agreeing with a member of the public that the show featured some of the finest modern short stories being written in Canada today. I asked him afterwards if he really believed that, as I often found the stories trite, predictable and saccharine. No, he didn't think the stories were that great either, "but what can you say". Recently another visiting writer threw out to an audience at one of his talks that he was looking forward to spending some time while in Edmonton with a well known local author. The local author is a git. I really think folk should be careful risking their own reputation by trying to curry local favour by invoking supposedly popular community institutions. I'd had a lot of time for that visiting writer until he mentioned his new local best buddy. I'd liked him when we chatted a couple of years ago about Afghanistan. 


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