‘War Reporter’: Most of the time, blue forms work out great

Dan O’Brien is an Amerikanski poet and playwright. Those are his real professions, because O’Brien’s shit gets published and produced. He has a symbiotic relationship with longtime Canadian war correspondent Paul Watson, who has been through enough already yet suffers ongoing indignities. (He also has only one hand.)

I have no idea where I ran across any kind of description of O’Brien’s War Reporter. Whatever I read was convincing enough for me to fill out a blue form, very much not accompanied by a review. (They’ll use that as an excuse to ixnay your request.) An eternity passed, but, to the credit of the ladies at Collections Development, they bought it.


War Reporter was put out by an artisanal British publisher, which should have been another strike against it as far as those ladies are concerned. (Sometimes they buy British books immediately, as with Morrissey’s Autobiography. Other times they peevishly wait for a year [Unchosen] or roll the dice that the Americans will publish a book [Chapter and Verse].) I am making the blue-form system seem peevish and arbitrary because it is. Still, I’ve got 330-odd successes to my name.

And it is titles like this one that make it worth the intentional humiliation of CDD’s intentionally unusable forms and the ladies’ intentional pettiness. Because this book is almost one of a kind. I have read nonfiction typeset in poetic lines before; it can be done and it is done. I have never quite encountered lightly fictionalized near-verbatim transcripts typeset like poetry. War Reporter, then, is a nonfiction poetry novella. (The Dewey classification is 811.6, American poetry.)

Watson is a war reporter and we are dealing his direct recollections. I had to skip a lot of it. If this kind of treatment is disturbing, imagine being there.

Double-page sample: The War Reporter Paul Watson Goes to Hollywood; The War Reporter Paul Watson’s Cold Open

TPL has four copies of War Reporter. Mine is the only one that has moved. But that may change, especially for the Northern District copy I have, because that branch has a well-used set of new-book shelves with face-front display. (And I unfucked the barcode so you can read the cover.) Somebody’s gonna notice it.

I’ve complained before that the library never boasts about one of its strengths – a great breadth and depth of special-interest or intellectual or artistique titles. While I like to chide the library for not having RoboCop until I blue-formed it (!), my main purpose is to introduce unusual and indeed valuable items to the library’s collection. I do that so other people can enjoy them. The largest public library in the country should also be a place where serious people can read, watch, and listen to serious works (plus RoboCop).

(What about Jack Donovan? That’s going to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. Or a system that processes 835,000 pieces a year can buy 30 more. Up to them, really.)

Library union complains about adding full-time jobs

On the library-union homepage that doesn’t have permanent links or even defined postings, Mo et al. carefully read the library budget. (It passed. TPL got its 2.1% increase. So I don’t know why we’re complaining, but that is a union’s purpose, I guess; see below.) Excerpts:

  • The budget as submitted from the Library Board included a reduction of 6.9 FTEs in the page classification as an “efficiency expenditure reduction.” The budget also included the creation of five permanent FTEs in E‑Services (previously grant-funded).

  • Youth Hub expansion (2 FTEs new)

  • Malvern Digital Innovation Hub (1 FTE new)

Overall, this netted out to a 1.1 FTE increase to the compl[e]ment.

Stated more accurately, the library eliminated 6.9 low-skill, precarious, underpaid page jobs in favour of eight proper full-time career positions. This is a win, not a loss. (The same posting critiques budgetary “sleight-of-hand” by “the Tory administration.” Calling eight new jobs “1.1” jobs is just as bad.)

Then we have this gem:

This will put an enormous pressure on the library to fund future Sunday service and pressure at the bargaining table to find a solution.

How, exactly? The library submits budgets one year at a time and saw its budget increased the last two years. Adding new Sunday hours amounted to a fraction of this year’s 2.1% increase. So where’s the “enormous pressure”? Could it be a figment of Mo’s imagination, i.e., fearmongering?

The library’s labour force is too small for the amount of work involved. Let’s hire more people full-time and pay them well. Let’s! But, while I expect any union to exaggerate, why does the union feel the need to fudge numbers? Its position is already strong.

I told you John Tory was not a library supporter

Local 4948 (sic):


Yeah, I told you that already.

I don’t suppose Mo realizes her union homepage has been hijacked

If one links from Mo’s Local 4948 page to Our Public Library, JavaScript on that latter page hijacks your browser. (Links elided here for obvious reasons.) Actually, it pretends to be “[c]hecking your browser.”

Then you’re hijacked completely and you, the “Chrome” user operating Safari, are induced to fill out a short survey that is actually a scam.

Dear Chrome user, You are today’s lucky visitor

(You lucky vistor, you!)

These are the same people who run a blog without permalinks, still claim in their RSS feed that the library is under threat of privatization (it isn’t), and publish YouTube videos with semi-secret URLs. Also, a pro tip that 4948 should have learned 15 years ago: Don’t make links open in new windows.


One early evening at Jones I returned some items, chatted with my pal, then suddenly realized every single person who worked at the branch was right there behind the desk all at once. Seven of them.

I told them what I saw, and they all gave me exactly the same wry half-smile. We agreed telepathically that I wouldn’t take a picture.

John Tory is not a library supporter

The last mayor we had who actually supported the Toronto Public Library was David Miller, who, even while in office, borrowed books from Runnymede branch and read them on the subway, it was said at the time.

The shocking fact is that John Tory is not a library supporter. The letter I fax-o-grammed to his office this week explains why. (Links added.)

I am writing to ask a simple question. How is it possible that you, an ur-WASP and a child of libraries, ended up as the second mayor in a row who does not support the Toronto Public Library?

I think the facts back up what I’m saying.

  • Last year, you voted against a library budget increase. (Your side thankfully lost.) At issue was a tiny 200 grand earmarked for security guards.

  • In November, you harrumphed about the unremarkable and expected fact that the library does not block porn on its public-access computers. You told the Sun “These are publicly financed computers in publicly financed buildings” – but so are the library’s books, records, and videos, which I didn’t hear you complaining about. “I found it hard to believe… our policies… would allow people to in any way, shape or form look at pornography…. All I can say is I will look into it.”

    And, having surely done that, you came to your senses and understood that no public library can act as a censor of legally available material. (You were probably not told about the library’s real censorship scandal, in which it banned an author outright from its collections.)

Yet after voting to cut the library’s budget and after lambasting its opposition to censorship, you showed up at the opening of Fort York branch [though I don’t remember him there on that day] and appeared at a corporate sponsor’s reading events at the library.

The library is the only city service people actually love. (Why do I feel like I am the first person ever to make that clear to you?) It’s underfunded and stretched, but so is every city service that isn’t the cops. (Yet you voted against paying for library security guards.)

Now the library is asking for a chintzy 1.8% budget increase. Thus far, and to general bafflement, you have managed to position yourself as Not a Library Supporter. I say again that your stance is incomprehensible given your upbringing, which would have been unthinkable without libraries. Reducing public expenditures is all well and good as a principle… except when the sums involved are small and the victim of the budget reduction is the only city service your constituents love.

I submit you do not actually believe in reducing library budgets, nor would you gloss such reductions as a sad necessity. You did not run on a platform of library budget cuts. Nobody at all, even those who did not vote for you, expects you to cut money from the library. So don’t! Vote for the piddling budget increase the library is asking for.

Wait till Mo finds out I agree with her that the library is underfunded.