September 23rd 1968  (Age 52)

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Random Thots is brought to you by Graeme MacKay, Editorial Cartoonist at the Hamilton Spectator, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Website:

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007
McGuinty comes to work

Dalton McGuinty came to the Hamilton Spectator and I joined with others from the  editorial board to listen to what the Premier had to say as the province approaches an election this coming October. Visits like these let me act like I'm some sort of portrait artist. This was the third visit he's made to the Spec in the last 4 or 5 years. You can watch some highlights of the meeting in this nice little video featurette (you can see me earnestly drawing the above sketch at about the 1 minute 8 second mark as columnist Andrew Dreschel throws out a question.) The Premier seems prepared to dump bucket loads of cash on Hamilton, which isn't all that surprising with an election looming. He threw out an intriguing challenge for Hamiltonians: What do you want?

Some interesting notes about today's visit...

  • The Premier did not wear a red tie. It was purplish with a polkadotty type of design. It was loosened, and he was without a jacket, and of course his sleeves were rolled up.
  • Upon asking the Premier his choice of beverage my boss, Kevin Cavanaugh, followed through with a request for water by handing Mr. McGuinty a bottle and saying, "here's some truth serum".
  • The Premier mentioned Randle Reef 3 times during the meeting. Randle Reef is better known as a huge blob of toxic goo in Hamilton harbour. It's one of those perpetual issues of this city that we live with but mostly don't know what to do about. It's interesting how it seems to be on top of mind for Ontario's head honcho.
  • As I shook McGuinty's hand after the meeting wrapped up he said "hey, make me look good."

While I'm name dropping I should do some nation dropping as well. Part of the fun of going to France is bragging about going to France. That's where I'm off to for the weekend. I'll be back in the papers next Wednesday. UPDATE: Here I am in Liseaux, France with friend Christian Hyde and his son Nowe.


Posted at 11:20 pm by Graeme_MacKay
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Monday, May 28, 2007
The Rahimi Family Benefit

Many of you in Hamilton will remember the Afghan refugee killed in January when his car was hit by a train while he was delivering pizza. He had only recently emigrated to Canada and was supplementing his income and re-establishing his career in editorial cartooning.

You might be interested in a very cool fundraiser that will be held Saturday June 23 to raise money for his widow and family of seven children. I plan to do a little cartoon slide show and offer some of my cartoons in exchange for donations. I'll be joined by two Canada's greatest cartoonists, Terry Mosher (Aislin) and Brian Gable of the Globe & Mail at the event at the Pearl Factory. Details are below:

Three outstanding Canadian political cartoonists will headline an art show and fundraiser in honour of one of their colleagues killed in Hamilton Jan. 15.

Terry Mosher, longtime political cartoonist for the Montreal Gazette under his non de plume of Aislin, Brian Gable, of the Globe and Mail, and Graeme MacKay, of The Hamilton Spectator will be on hand Saturday June 23 for a show of the work of Said Shiragha Rahimi, who died before he could stage a show of the political cartoons that made it impossible for him to return to his homeland of Afghanistan. Rahimi was killed when he was hit by a train while delivering pizza to help feed his wife and seven children.

The event is called Cartoons Speak: A Celebration of the Afghani Political Cartoons of the late Said Rahimi. It will be held at The Pearl Company, 16 Steven Street at the east end of King William, 7-10 p.m. Saturday June 23.

Tickets are $30 a piece and are on sale at the front desk of The Spectator, which is one of the sponsors, or from Bill Johnston in the newsroom. (Bill is on vacation until June 11 but can be reached at 905 523-7128 during that time.)

There will also be a second chance to help the family Saturday June 9, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Chapters in the Meadowlands in Ancaster. Buy a book or two at Chapters at that time, mention the Rahimi fundraiser and Chapters will donate 10 per cent of the cost to the fundraiser for the family.

Terry Mosher, longtime cartoonist with the Gazette, has won two National Newspaper Awards and was invested as an officer of the Order of Canada in 2003. Brian Gable, editorial cartoonist for the Globe since 1987, won one national newspaper award for his work with the Regina Leader-Post and three with the Globe. Graeme MacKay has been the editorial cartoonist for the Hamilton Spectator since 1997, and recently won a citation for a cartoon he drew from the United Nations Correspondence Association. They will be joined by independent Hamilton cartoonist Roy Carless.

Said Shiraga Rahimi, 35 when he died, was a talented political cartoonist whose work, while he lived in exile in Iran and Azerbaijan, mocked the fanaticism that had taken hold in his homeland. He came to Canada in 2005 and Hamilton last year and was planning for a show of his cartoons even as he worked to help his children get the education they need to be successful.

There will be cartoons by Rahimi and the others for sale and brief presentations by the cartoonists at the June 23 event. All money raised will go into a trust fund to pay for the education for Rahimi's children.

The exhibition is supported by the Ontario Arts Council and the Immigrant Culture and Art Association.

Posted at 11:12 am by Graeme_MacKay
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Monday, May 14, 2007
Feedback from a school tour

The best kind of feedback an editorial cartoonist can receive is a letter of praise written to the Publisher from a future subscriber:

Posted at 02:32 pm by Graeme_MacKay
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Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Are the politicians in this city out of their minds?!

Don't let the decision makers of Hamilton destroy one of the few architectual icons in the city. In the past I haven't been so kind to our poor City Hall, as this 1998 editorial cartoon illustrates. But over the past few years I've learned to appreciate it better and better despite it being neglected and allowed to fall apart by negligent politicians. It needs upgrades, it needs some scrubbing, surrounding features need to be changed or renovated, but most importantly -- it needs a lot more love by Hamiltonians and its politicians.


Here are my reasons for why we need to save Stan Roscoe's City Hall:

-- Hamilton can't afford a new City Hall. This is a choice between renovating at $69 million, or rebuilding from between $115 to $150 million. The extra amount to rebuild is money the city doesn't have -- that is unless they add it on our already high property taxes which they most certainly will do.

-- We've been down this road before. City Council voted to go with renovations beginning in 2005. Work has already begun and contracts have been made to continue what was decided upon several years ago. There are more important issues to deal with.

-- It was designated as a heritage building on May 9, 2005. That means most, but not all, of the buildings' heritage features will be maintained during a costly renovation. Any decision by council to demolish the building is going to be met with litigation.

-- The elected politicians of Hamilton never received a mandate by voters to tear down City Hall as it was never raised as an issue in the last election. While it might sound hokey, a City Hall is more than just an ediface, it is like a legislature, or a Parliament, or an icon that belongs to the people, not by the politicians who work there on a day to day basis.

-- The replacement will be an on-the-cheap, unstylish monster. Ask yourself this: has there been any civic building constructed in this city over the last 25 years which really stands out as an attractive architectural marvel? Is the 21st century style of the new Federal Building or the Juravinski Addition any better than the 1950's International meets modernist Style of our current City Hall? Have a look at this website to see some of the monsters built in Hamilton over the past 50 years.

-- As a further point to make on a rebuilt City Hall one really has to wonder if such a new structure is going to stimulate development and people friendliness around the building as Mayor Eisenberger suggests. That's highly doubtful given the 5 lane Main Street highway directly in front of City Hall. The only way pedestrian traffic will increase is if the city commits itself to radically altering the flow of vehicular traffic in the area, and that simply isn't going to happen in a place like Hamilton.

-- Is it really in our best interests to demolish a building and fill a landfill up with the refuse at a time when we've been talking about saving the planet and doing our part to reduce, reuse, and recycle? It seems pretty irresponsible to do such a thing with a building that was intended to last several lifetimes, not just a 47 year span.

Admittedly, the building ain't a pretty sight these days. The white marble is blackened, the grey forecourt looks horrendously shabby and the council chambers above the entrance has the appearance of a frat house thanks to interior renovations which ignore how it appears on the outside. Do the necessary restoration to return the once handsome building to what it once was. And finally, never let what represents the heart of this city whither away to resemble an embarassing dump.

Posted at 12:16 am by Graeme_MacKay
Comment (1)  

Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Picking the ripest of the crop

When picking fruit a grower has to know when the time is right to pick. Likewise for cartoonists the trick to drawing a good cartoon is to be timely -- being careful not to get a cartoon out too early and ahead of an anticipated event, and not to get out too late after an issue has passed being part of the public discourse.

Yesterday was one of those days (almost any Monday) when I struggled to decide what topic I was going to draw on and it wasn't until the middle of the afternoon that I began to embark on the subject of Queen Elizabeth's visit to George Bush's White House. When you consider my deadline of 5:00 in the afternoon that's not a lot of time.

When I sat down with the Ed board at 10:30 am yesterday I told them I was considering 1 of 2 options; a cartoon about the election of Nicholas Sarkozy as the new President of France; Or, a cartoon on the news that Hamilton councillor Sam Merulla was considering running as a candidate in the upcoming provincial election -- something he promised in last years' local election he wouldn't run in. Figuring neither of those topics really mattered to Spectator readers I changed course.

Time ticked by and Aha! David Radler was testifying before the Conrad Black trial in Chicago! Throughout the morning and afternoon the news networks were following every minute detail of the event, David Radler looking very tanned, David Radler being sworn in, Conrad Black coldly eyeing his nemesis and alter ego as he took the witness stand -- gripping stuff -- if you're a journalist. Do readers really care all that much about Radler's first day at the Conrad Black trial? I think the jury's out on that, and even they are dosing off.

There was a lot of hemming and hawing by me yesterday before I thought I'd do something on the Queen in the USA. Compared to Sarkozy, Merulla or David Radler does the Queen's visit really matter much to readers? None of them really do, there are just some days when the pickings are slim.

Posted at 09:11 am by Graeme_MacKay
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