Do I miss Nevada’s legalized brothels? Just one

Photo: Dainis Gravens on Unsplash

It was 1986 and I was a field producer for a television news magazine. The host, the crew, and I were in Las Vegas chasing down a story on legalized prostitution. Although prostitution was illegal in the city itself, a slew of legalized brothels had set up shop outside the city limits. Was it a good idea? The girls were safe and healthy, the trade was regulated, and legalized brothels paid taxes. Surely a win-win for everybody. Should other North American cities follow the Nevada model and set up their own red-light district?

In addition to academics, sociologists, and other…


The romance of the road always looks better than it really is

Photo: Jeshoots from Pexels

I blame You Tube. What else was I supposed to do in lockdown except look at videos? Lots of videos. I got hooked on van life, you know, videos of people traveling the country in a cargo van or SUV which they’ve converted into a spiffy living space.

Paul used flexible solar panels on the roof of his Toyota to power his mini fridge.

Cool. But what really grabbed my attention were the guys and girls who lived in their CARS either because they had to or because they wanted to. I saw some ingenious set-ups. Paul used flexible solar…


Photo: Pixabay on Pexels

The Darien Scheme, the Civil War and Scotland’s attempts to build a colony in Panama

Blood, sand, and guts. It has the makings of a movie and, in fact, it is.

The story starts in the late 17th century when Spain, Holland and England all wanted colonies they could populate and exploit. Scotland was no exception. Its economy was lagging behind its more powerful neighbor to the south and the Scots wanted to grab their share of New World bounty.

The enterprise was called the Darien Scheme after the home of the proposed colony — the isthmus of Darién (now called the isthmus of Panama), a slender strip of land separating the Atlantic and Pacific…


The Wilhelm Gustloff Photo: Imgur

Operation Hannibal saved millions of German nationals but the cost was steep

Requisitioned by the Reich in a desperate Dunkirk-like evacuation from northern Poland, the German luxury liner Wilhelm Gustloff slips her moorings the night of January 30, 1945 and slides into the black Baltic Sea.

The Gustloff is traveling in convoy with another German liner, the Hansa and two torpedo boats as escort. Their mission is to carry thousands of German nationals away from the advancing Red Army to the relative safety of Kiel or German-occupied Denmark. …


How my brief career in retail display led to a valuable life lesson

Marcus Spiske at Unsplash

Barely 21 and fresh out of art school with a degree in painting (the Rembrandt van Rijn kind not the Benjamin Moore kind) I faced the daunting prospect of finding employment in my mid-sized, midwest, hometown. There wasn’t much call for a fine artist at the time (and yes I should have thought about that four years earlier) so I opted for convention. I would get a job in an arts related field that at least paid me a living wage and in my neck of the…


Politics are tearing my family apart

Photo: Jason Zeis on unsplash

Robert, my American cousin, lives in Florida. I live in British Columbia, Canada. We met in Orlando as kids, lost touch and re-connected while Robert and his wife were driving through the province on their way north to Alaska. We’re both political junkies so we’ve been emailing back and forth for the past 15 years unafraid to voice our opinions. Until now.

We started innocently enough. I told him about our electoral system. Canada’s Prime Minister is elected on the plurality of votes. The Electoral College? What`s that? …


Are restoring cultural icons worth the trouble?

Photo: Stephen Radford on Unsplash

Last April when Notre Dame Cathedral caught fire you’d think the world had ended. The global press couldn’t contain its horror. “Quelle catastrophe,” they said. Repair the roof and rebuild the spire? Of course. No question.

The embers had barely cooled before French billionaire Francois-Henri Pinault pledged $112 million for the restoration followed by similar donations from France’s elite. An international campaign to save the Cathedral reportedly raised another $877 million. Astounding.


A seasonal perspective from your grumpy neighbor

Santa Monica Beach. Photo: John Thomson

I like people. I really do. Preferably in small doses but summertime pushes the limit and stretches my patience.

My summers start innocently enough. I love waking up to the sunshine streaming through the curtains in the early morning. What a great way to start the day, so life-affirming. I put on my happy face and swap my trousers for shorts and dart around the city half-naked like the rest of humanity.

And then the little irritations set in. A badly thrown Frisbee that lands in my potato salad while picnicking at the beach.

An over-eager cyclist who crowds my…


Moy Mell 1934. Photo: Bennett-Loomis Archives

Gavin Arthur tried to turn a hobo camp into a creative utopia

The history books aren’t kind to Chester Arthur, the 21st President of the United States. His ascendancy to the top job was a fluke, the result of the assassination of President James Garfield (Arthur was the V.P. at the time). His term was short. His contribution was minimal and — you might say — dull. But his grandson Chester Arthur III (he changed his name to Gavin in the 1920s) was something else entirely.

Born into wealth and privilege in 1901, Gavin Arthur railed against his aristocratic upbringing and chose to travel the world in search of adventure. A self-admitted…


The Global Movement Finds it Tough Going in the U.S.

Photo: Vidar Mathisen via Unsplash

Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf? Most of America it seems.

“They will turn our country into a socialist utopia,” Republican Senator Tim Scott said about the Democrats at the Republican National Convention. Former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley equated the “socialist left” with “anarchy” and President Trump warned of “a socialist agenda to demolish our cherished destiny.” Ouch.

With the election just around the corner even the Democrats have backed off, jettisoning Bernie in favor of a safe, middle class white guy in case socialist Sanders scares voters away.

C’mon people, get a grip.

The dictionary defines socialism as…

John Thomson

News and current affairs television producer turned writer. Thanks Spell Check. Obsessed with history, politics and human behavior.

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