Monday, June 22, 2015

No complaining

There's a rule in Nunavut - don't complain about the weather. Well, you can, but be very careful about when you choose to do that. Mainly because you don't want to be one of those people who come up from down south and complain about it being -30C in February. It's winter. It's the arctic. It's going to be cold. Suck it up.

Now, when it hit -67C with windchill last February, ok, people complained about that. We've been here for nearly 10 years; that's the coldest single day we've experienced here. Last winter, depending on who you talk to, is the coldest winter in Iqaluit since either the 90s or the 70s. So you were allowed to complain about it being a particularly cold winter.

But, for example, snow in May? No. I understand that snow in May in Toronto would be a sign of the apocaplyse. Snow in May in St. John's would be viewed as karmic punishment of that nice day in July the previous summer. Snow in May in Iqaluit is Tuesday.

Snow in June in Iqaluit also isn't exactly a rarel sight. Snow after Summer Solstice is a bit more unusual. Then we had today, in which we had the full gammut of weather. It was raining this morning, then when I came home at lunch, this was the view from my deck.

This was genuinely unpleasant. It wasn't just the snow, there was also wind gusts abround 50 km/h. It also made people who really don't complain about the weather kinda....snap. There were a lot of unhappy people in town. Not sure why...I've seen snow on July 4, but there was something about this snowfall that pissed people off. Perhaps the long, cold winter. Perhaps images of people down south enjoying sunshine. Perhaps too much snow in recent days. There was not a positive vibe in town today.

But then, because it's been that kind of day, this was the view from my deck five hours later.

Yeah, no snow. Lots of sunshine. Beautiful looking day. Weirdness.

By the way, an hour later it was snowing again. I didn't have the heart to photograph that.

You may notice in the background lots of ice and snow. The bay is still fairly frozen. People were still ski-dooing on it the weekend. Found out this afternoon the first sealift boat isn't scheduled to come in now until July 25 because of ice conditions.

It's just been that kind of year. Can't complain...but let's just say I'm looking forward to a vacation.

Last Five
1. DInner bells - Wolf Parade
2. I get along - The Libertines
3. Wait for me (live) - Hall & Oates*
4. The way it was - The Killers
5. Runaway - Maroon 5

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Last Booth Memorial Post

Earlier this week Heather Barrett, who is a producer with CBC in Newfoundland, did a story about how she was a proud alumni of Booth Memorial. The school is closing and this was her way of saying goodbye. I swear to God, it feels like virtually every family member and friend I have either tagged the story to me, retweeted it or did something to make sure I noticed the story was out there.

Now why would they do that? Well, I may have, from time to time to time, written about my....dislike of my time at Booth Memorial. It is possible, while at the Duke having a beverage that I may have regaled a story or two about why I disliked the school and what I might do to the building should I possess the means, opportunity and a plane ticket to a non-extradition treaty country.

So yes, this was poking me, waving a red cape or whatever else to try and get a reaction out of me.

Funny thing though. I found I couldn't get myself to care overly much. The rant wasn't coming forth. I mean, I had something half-assed brewing where I could have listed something good about my time there, like how I fell in love for the first time at Booth (true), but that much of our initial bonding was over how much we hated the place and couldn't wait to leave (also true).

Now, I thought it might have to do with me not being in a very creative mood on the writing front these last few months. But then my friend Andrew posted something up on Facebook and I had an Eureka moment.

Booth is not the only high school in St. John's closing shortly. Booth's "sister" high school, Bishops, is also closing. Andrew is a Bishops alumni and posted this question: "So. People are all in about Bishops closing. I'm not affected. Is that bad of me?"

Most people said "nope". I added "You graduated 27 years ago. If you were affected I'd be worried."

Boom. There you go.

I graduated Booth 27 years ago. It was a miserable three years, make no mistake. But it was 27-years-ago. I've discovered that as I've gotten older I try and save my hate for truly worthy causes. When I was a younger man, I was indiscriminate in unleashing my hatred around to any number of targets (friends from my time at the muse are nodding their heads reading this and going "Oh hell yes"). But I pick and choose these days. I fine-tune my hate. And really, you have to be pretty spectacularly wretch for me to sustained a three decade level of loathing. Booth just doesn't do it anymore.

I honestly had forgotten that Booth was closing this year. I probably won't think about the place again until I drive by it when transiting from downtown to the Avalon Mall the next time I'm in St. John's. Hell, it's been 10 years, at least, since I gave it my customary middle finger as I drove by.

I'd say good riddance, but I think the more honest answer is, who cares.

I will end on this note. When I was rereading some of my old posts as prep for this post, I hit the section where the principal of Booth back around 2003-2004, tried to get me fired because I wrote a particularly strongly worded column for The Express saying the sooner the school closed the better off humanity would be. I thought it was a bit edgy at the time because of the language I used but really, I was a dude writing a column that said I hated high school. I was soooooo edgy.

At the time I laughed off his attempts to get me fired. It was hysterical that someone tried to get a columnist fired for saying he really hated high school. Also, when you're a columnist you want to be loved or hated, but not ignored. And the efforts that Booth's principal, staff, and students went though to try and make my life difficult after that column ran was mostly pretty amusing.

Ten years or so have given me a slightly different perspective. Imagine, for a moment, that my editor and publisher were more....wussy. Imagine if they had actually listened to this principal and fired me. Over a column saying I hated high school. What kind of dick tries to get someone fired and really, deeply screw up someone's life - because it's not as if newspaper jobs were easy to find even then - over a column? It would have caused me significant economic havoc. Getting another reporter job after getting fired would have been very hard.

That's actually annoying me more right now than my misery from decades ago. Maybe I was a bit of an arsehole for writing it, but it takes an extra special kind of arsehole to try and get someone fired for writing it. Maybe there really is something about that building...

Last Five
1. Magic (live) - Coldplay
2. Arthur's Theme - Rumer*
3. I blame you - Melissa McClelland
4. Under the influence - Elle King
5. All our tomorrows - Ron Sexsmith

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Geek OD

I think I might, possibly, finally have overdosed on geek culture last Wednesday.

It's kind of shocking it never happened before, to be honest. I've been a geek since I was seven; I'm now 45. You would have thought it would have happened at some point sooner. Maybe Tim Burton's first Batman back in the 80s, or when the Avengers came out in 2012. But nope, Wednesday, May 13, 2015. I had a moment at the end of the day, when I was jittery, feeling really weird and had the thought "you know, maybe I ought to take a break. Or at least cut back a bit."

It probably was building for awhile. This has been a pretty geeky year already. TV-wise I'm watching Agents of SHIELD, Agent Carter, The Flash, iZombie, Daredevil and Constantine. I was watching Gotham, but gave up on that hot mess of a show. There was the months of build up leading to Avengers: Age of Ultron. When the gushing reviews of Mad Max: Fury Road starting coming in, that got me happy too (If I could see only three movies this year, it would be Avengers, Mad Max and Star Wars).

I nearly broke earlier the year when Amazon cut off shipping to most remote locations, but magically exempted Iqaluit. Cutting off Iqaluit would have been bad. Others depend on it for food or diapers. I depend on it for graphic novels. So that was stressful. Then there's my escalating Lego habit, which peaked at buying the SHIELD helicarrier....
She is very pretty.

So yeah, this was building for awhile. And there was certainly geek news on Wednesday...the trailer for the new Supergirl TV show, the news of a New Mutants movie...what ultimately broke me was New York Comic Con (NYCC).

NYCC broke a lot of people on Wednesday, and if you need to know why, well, here are a couple of stories. Tickets for the October comic con went on sale on Wednesday. I'd decided months ago that I wanted to go. I've been there twice before - once in 2008, the other time in 2012. They were both fantastic experiences.

But during those years, it was relatively easy to get a pass. In 2008 I actually won a VIP pass through an online contest. In 2012, I bought a four day pass, then a few weeks later they put VIP passes on sale, and you could upgrade. So I called, and was able to get an upgrade from a very polite lady. It still took another 24 hours or so after they went on sale to sell out.

In the last three years, NYCC has gone batshit crazy. For those of you lucky enough to catch Mad Max: Fury Road this weekend, imagine one of those road races  and vehicular carnage taking place online, on a website to get tickets. Death, murder and mayhem were happening on that website.

I knew it was going to be ugly. I was further crippled by living in Nunavut. To call out internet up here third world is frankly insulting to some third world countries. To make matters worse, our internet service provider, Xplornet, has had its collective head up its ass since February. They're switching satellites and services. Which is fine, but they've done it in such a horrific way that I've actually had to complain to the CRTC (Try download speeds that often top out at 0.40 Mps). I've been waiting since the end of March to get a new dish installed and switch to their new service. I doubt it will happen until sometime in June.

So yes, not the best way to try and attack a website to get tickets, especially when half the geeks in the world would be trying at the same time. It's why I enlisted one of my best friends, and my mother-in-law, to try and register as well, from Kingston and Mount Pearl.

I warned them it was going to be bad. They thought I was being melodramatic. If anything, I was underestimating how bad it was going to get. NYCC's servers melted down before tickets went on sale and it got worse from there. I was following on Twitter and chatting with my accomplices on Facebook. I don't think I've read so much concentrated profanity in a short period of time.

My friend Dups, who has a bit of experience with the internet, what with him being CEO of his own web-based company for several years, called it one of the stupidest, worst designed things he'd ever seen. On Twitter, people were losing their minds, as they would get the chance to buy a ticket, only for the site to time-out. Or crash. Or get error messages (a story about it here).

It was geek carnage, my friends. Geeks are friendly folks, unless you do something to fuck up the thing they want. Then there are few things more savage and vicious on the planet. NYCC's twitter stream and Facebook page featured some of the most condensed hate I've seen in a good, long time. And maybe that's silly to many people. And perhaps it should be. But I've been to these cons. They are a blast. It's worth fighting for. And I understand people's disappointment. And in geek fashion, they lash out. Also not helping was scalpers putting tickets on eBay and Stubhub while the NYCC registration carnage was still happening.

So what happened? After 40 minutes of stress, several crash outs Dups managed to land the big fish for me...a 4-day pass at NYCC. I nearly landed a 4-day VIP pass, but the system timed out on me before the purchase could go through, and then the passes sold out.

But I'm going, which is the important thing. A lot aren't. So I'm not complaining. Well, I am. NYCC needs to get their act together. That's two years in a row they were unprepared for the onslaught (here's their response to the mess. And then they had idiot things like demanding you fill out a survey before you could buy the tickets. I was in a such a hurry to try and fill it out before it crashed again I'm pretty sure I'm a 14-year-old girl who likes anime. I'm not the only one. So it was an annoying survey that collected information that was completely useless.

Anyway, I think maybe over the next few months I might want to step back from the geekery a bit. I'm still excited to be going back to New York, and in the weeks leading up to it I'm sure I'll be annoyingly geeky. But maybe between now and Labour Day weekend a short break is in order. A geek cleanse.

It'll be good for the sanity. And probably my long-term health prospects. Cathy's been a saint through my recent geek binge, but I'm sure saints have their limits...

Last Five
1. Love at the end of the world - Sam Roberts
2. The Irish Rover - The Pogues
3. Givin 'em what they love - Janelle Monae*
4. Soul of a man - Beck
5. Velvet snow - Kings of Leon

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Frozen

When you live in a place like Iqaluit you get used to being asked a lot about what it's like to live there. Some of it is genuine curiosity, but I've always thought there is some internal measurement system going on. "Could I handle living in a place like that?"

When I used to update my "Living in Iqaluit FAQ" I wrote there are four main considerations/challenges to living in a place like Iqaluit if you're coming up from down south.

1. Isolation
2. Daylight
3. Lack of southern amenities
4. Cold

We've been in Iqaluit for almost 10 years now. As I frequently tell people, Iqaluit has ways to let you know it's not the place for you. We've been here this long, odds are we're here until we retire 15-18 years from now.

But man, Iqaluit has tested us these last two months. We're not packing up, not even close. But we have questioned the wisdom of moving to the Arctic.

It has been cold in Iqaluit the last two months. Yes, it's the Arctic in winter. It should be cold. There was an incident about eight years ago where it rained for a few days at the end of February. You would have thought the Apocalypse had happened. We're used to cold. Cold is expected. It's nice even.

I've viewed the cold (including wind chill) at three levels. There's cold (0 to -20), Cold (-20 to -45), and Fucking Cold (-45 and colder). We've now entered a new realm. It is known as "What in the name of holy fuck is this" Cold.

As I write this on Friday night, there is an Extreme Cold Warning in effect by Environment Canada. It's -37C with a windchill of -55C (-35F, -67F). Which is fucking cold. The problem is it's been that way most of the week. We've had more Extreme Cold warnings this week than we had all last winter. We've had more in the last two months than the last nine years combined. We had a day a few weeks ago where it went -44C with a windchill of -67C (-47F, -89F). That was, by far, the coldest day I've experienced since we moved here.

I asked on Twitter if anyone can remember a cold snap like this. Because we've only been here 10 years. We are not experts on long-term Iqaluit weather trends. I had a guy who has been here since 1989. This is the longest streak of sustained cold he can recall.

(Btw, if you go, "Huh, so much for climate change" I will smack you. Seriously)

But there's a catch to this that I don't think people understand down south when we hit this kind of sustained level cold. I think people believe "Well, that sucks. It's cold, bundle up or stay indoors until it passes." But when it goes on for months like this, there are all kinds of effects you might not think of. I'm not exaggerating when I say the mental health of people in town is starting to take a serious hit.

Let's look at some of the things that happens with this kind of sustained cold.

1. Things start breaking. Everyone has a horror story at this point. Our car battery died before Christmas. It died while the car was plugged into the house with a block heater and battery blanket going (it has died a couple of times previously, so it was on its last legs). So that was a tow to the garage and a new battery. Or, $550. I've gotten off easy.

Pipes freeze or burst. My next door neighbour had some kind of horror show happen where the truck water guys accidentally flooded his house. He can't live in it for months and the repair bill could push $100,000.

Adding to this is the airlines are seemingly having difficulty running in this cold. So cargo is apparently weeks behind on some orders. So when your car breaks, it's taking a couple of weeks to get the parts in.

Trying to get vital elements of your life repaired when it is bitter cold outside...just a touch stressful.

2. The schools/daycares close when an Extreme Cold Warning is issued. Which makes sense. Yes, people who have been up here a long time have a high tolerance for cold. I saw kids playing hockey on a makeshift outdoor rink when it was -50C. I saw a lunatic biking to work this morning when it was -54C. But you don't want kids standing outside waiting for a bus in it, or having kids walk home in it.

But when schools/daycares close, it leaves parents scrambling. Some bring their kids to work with them, or have to burn sick days to stay home. It's a small town; there are limited options for taking care of kids in situations like this, especially when they go on for days. It causes serious spikes in stress levels.

It also means people are getting pretty frustrated with the schools, which are following the guidelines, but it hasn't stopped people from lashing out. So that means kids, parents, teachers and administrators are all in a pretty foul mood right now.

3. Mercifully I haven't heard of anyone seriously hurt by this cold, but the risk is there. It does not take long for skin to freeze in this if you're not careful. Minutes. I try to walk to the post office and back from my office once a day on my break. Just for some exercise and fresh air. It normally takes 15 minutes. I haven't done it in weeks. Too cold to risk it.

Iqaluit also has, like most cities, a homeless problem. They go to shelters or stay in over-crowded housing or other situations. Again, the stress of trying to stay warm and safe during this level of cold is high.

Iqaluit just isn't a happy place right now. There's too much sustained cold which is generating a lot of stress and unhappiness. You can't stay outside for any length of time without a lot of bundling, which can do weird things to people. It really does feel like people's tempers are quicker. People aren't happy. This can be a rough time of the year, just from the lack of daylight (although it's getting better each day). But the cold is certainly adding to matters.

It also doesn't look like it's going to break anytime soon. The forecasted high (without windchill) for the next week is -28C. I don't think I've seen warmer than -25C since well before Christmas.

Yes, I live here and I choose to live here. And yes, this a freakish event. I wouldn't be surprised if we didn't get a single Extreme Cold Warning at all next winter.

Still, if you talk to someone from Iqaluit in the next couple of weeks, treat them gently. We've all had a rough winter.

Last Five
1. Always look on the bright side of life - Spamalot Cast Recording (seriously) *
2. Love to lover - Florence and the Machine
3. Sentimental tune (live) - Tegan and Sara
4. London burning (live) - The Clash
5. Message in a bottle - The Police (live)

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Best Graphic Novels of 2014: 10-8

So onwards with the list that literally six of you are reading....

10a. Captain Marvel: Higher, Further, Faster, More
10b. Ms. Marvel: No Normal




Yes, I'm cheating already. But these two books are linked. Recently, Marvel Comics noted that there are more than white guys in the world and that some of them might like comic book characters that were more like them. Such as women. Or non-white people. So they're in the middle of a push to diversify some of their line. She-Hulk, Elektra, Black Widow, Ghost Rider (hispanic male). Thor is now a woman. Captain America is black.

This is not gone over well in some narrow minded geek circles, and not all of these books have succeeded. But they've all gotten pretty good critical attention. My two favourite of the bunch are these two books.

This is the second run of Captain Marvel by writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and it's much better than the first. Her first time on the Captain had some iconic moments (punching a dinosaur is always a win), but the writing was a bit erratic, and the art ranged from awful to quirky. She was also handicapped with too many cross-overs that took away momentum.

This time she has a top notch artist with David Lopez who brings a fun, energetic and clean art style to the book. And DeConnick seems like she has a better idea of where she's bringing the story. Sending her into outer space so she's helping people being harassed by pirates and threatened by a galactic empire works much better. Throwing in the Guardians of the Galaxy as guest stars doesn't hurt sales either. The book is much more fun this time around, but just as importantly, much more focussed.

Ms. Marvel is following a tried and true Marvel formula - misunderstood teenager gets super powers and decides to fight crime. It's almost impossible to do it better than Spider-Man. But G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona come pretty damn close. I've read a lot of teenage superhero origins. This is one of the best I've ever seen.

Kamala Khan is a teenage girl in New Jersey, who has a huge heart, but between her strict Muslim parents who are terrified of what impact western culture is going to have on their daughter, and people at school who mock her because she's "different" it can be hard. Then, like you would, she gets super powers (she's technically an Inhuman, if you care about such things). She can change her appearance, heal quickly and grow or shrink in size.

Some wrote this book off as Marvel trying to political correct, which is insane. I'm not the target audience for this book, but you can still see quality from a mile away. It's fun, it's got energy and Khan might be the best new comic book character, and costume design, I've seen in years. As I said, she's got a big heart, but right now she's terrible at being a super hero. Which she should be. I'm just glad to see Alphona back doing comics after Runaways. And Wilson is crafting something special.

Peter Parker's mantra has always been "With Great Power comes Great Responsibility." In a stroke of genius Wilson quotes the Quran as to what drives her. "Whoever kills one person, it is as if they have killed all Mankind and whoever saves one person it is as if he has saved all Mankind." And that's why she chooses to be a hero.

They're both ones to watch. Captain Marvel gets her own movie in 2018. If there's any justice Ms. Marvel won't be far behind.

9. Moon Knight: From the Dead

From the Dead is the kind of book you want to study and rip open the guts of if you want to be a comic book writer or artist. Learn from it and steal it's magic.

Moon Knight is a character Marvel hasn't been able to figure out what to do with for decades, coming off as a poor man's Batman. Even the great Brian Michael Bendis couldn't get a series to last longer than a year, a rare misfire for someone who hasn't had many in the past 15 years. But writer Warren Ellis specializes in taking damaged characters, fixing them up and given them to others to play with.

From the Dead isn't even Top 10 Ellis, really (When you have Transmetropolitan, Planetary, The Authority and Global Frequency on your resume, the bar is set pretty high on new work). It seems deceptively slight. I burned through it pretty quick my first time through. But the second read is when I started paying attention. Ellis is always trying to find new ways to tell a story. This might be the least talky book Ellis has ever written. Instead, he lets artist Declan Shalvey do the heavy lifting.

There are six, stand alone stories in this book. The art is marvelous in all of them, but has a unique feel. Each story sees Ellis and Shalvey trying new techniques. But one has something I've never seen before. Eight people being targeted by a sniper. The way their story is told, and how their deaths are handled is a masterclass in storytelling. Shalvey deserves awards for his work on that story alone.

As for Ellis, as always, he finds the angle to make the story work. And it's a simple one. What kind of man wears a bright white suit (literally, in this case. It's a white three piece suit with a hooded mask) and goes out at night to fight crime when you can see him coming. That he wants his opponents to see him coming. Is he just plain crazy, or is he the kind of crazy you want to run away from very, very quickly?

There are a few answers to that question hinted at here. And like he's done before, Ellis is happy to lay the groundwork and offer hints before moving on. Moon Knight was never a character I cared much for. Six issues was all it took for me to wish Ellis and Shalvey were sticking around.

8. Magneto: Infamous

The best X-Men book of the year is about their greatest villain.

Lord knows there's no shortage of X-books. There was All-New X-Men, Uncanny X-Men, Amazing X-Men, X-Men, and then spin-off books with Nightcrawler and Storm. Plus however many dozen Wolverine books there were. And I read a few of them. But Magneto was top of the class.

Then again, he's always been the most interesting character in that universe. A deeply conflicted man who went through horror as a child, grew up vowing "Never again" only to discover that he had the power to make good on that vow. He's been cast as a villain, a hero, a teacher and now he's just dangerous. Enemies of mutantkind are re-emerging, more dangerous and clever than before. He won't allow that to happen.

The premise is that due to a big crossover that you should in no way care about, his powers are broken. He can no longer throw tanks into orbit with a flick of his finger. Moving the smallest metal thing require effort. And somehow this makes him more dangerous. He can be terrifying using, literally, a paperclip.

There's clever writing going on here. It's a fascinating character study of a man who knows he's far from his glory days, finds dark humour in it, but is still determined to do what he thinks his right, no matter what the body count or his own personal damnation. There's smart story structure. My favourite being the hook in the open few pages, where a Starbuck's employee compares what he does to what Magneto does. And it absolutely works. It even gets reference later in the story in a clever way

Gabriel Walta and Javi Fernandez but provide solid, occasionally very flashy artwork. It's nice stuff. But it's Cullen Bunn's story that sings. I'm looking forward to see where he takes Magneto next.

Last Five
1. Tighten up - The Black Keys
2. Lost together - Blue Rodeo*
3. VCR - The XX
4. Go to sleep - Sarah Harmer
5. Alice Springs - Liz Phair

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Favourite Graphic Novels of 2014, part 1

Part 1 is striking fear into your hearts, isn't it?

I've been thinking for ages that I should do a few Best of 2014 lists. The problem being that the way I listen to music makes it kind of hard for me to judge albums. I kind of throw them on my iPod, hit shuffle and away I go. It can be weeks, or months, before I hear all the songs. If I had to pick some favourites, in no particular order:
- First Aid Kit: Stay Gold
- Amelia Curan: They Promised You Mercy
- You + Me: Rose Ave.
- Gary Clark Jr: Live
- Ryan Adams: Ryan Adams
- Begin Again OST
- Lykke Li:  I Never Learn

And a few others. My favourite movies were simple. Top 3 - Snowpiercer, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy.

Now my favourite graphic novels....that'll take a bit longer.

I went through my shelves. I have 16 series/books I would recommend. Which would make this an epic blog post. So instead I'll break it down into a few posts.

First, the honourable mentions:

1. Letter 44: Escape Velocity

Science fiction and government conspiracies are hardly new grounds to plough. But through in presidential politics and you have something interesting. It makes the honourable list because writer Charles Soule is dropping lots of tantalizing hints of things to come. It doesn't make the Top 10 because Alberto Alburquerque's art leaves me unmoved. Volume 2 comes out in a few months. We'll see how it develops.










2a. Sex Criminals: One Weird Trick
2b. Velvet: Before the Living End

Under most circumstances these would be in my Top 10. However, Image (the publisher) does this marvelous little thing. They offer up the first volume of most of their series for $9.99. Which is ridiculously cheap. But if you wait long enough, and the series is popular enough, they do these very pretty hardcovers. The Sex Criminals hardcover is coming out in March. Velvet isn't announced, but I'm pretty sure it's getting one. So expect to see them on the Best of 2015 list.

For the curious, Sex Criminals is Matt Fraction/Chip Zdarsky's loving story of two people who discover they can stop time when they orgasm so naturally they rob banks until the Sex Police catch on and try to arrest them. It's very funny and sweet, actually.

Velvet's high concept pitch (which Hollywood seem to completely miss the point of when they came knocking) is that the most dangerous person in the British Secret Service isn't all the make agents; it's the secretary sitting by the door of their boss. Imagine Moneypenny circa. 1974 going around and having all the fun. Steve Epting's artwork adds to the fun.

3. Seconds. There was no way that Brian Lee O'Malley was going to catch the lightening in the bottle he had with Scott Pilgrim. However, in almost every way this is a better book. Funnier, less smug, better art, more confident storytelling and a more likeable lead (the problem with Scott Pilgrim is that six books is a long time wanting to punch the lead character in the face). Katie is a hot chef who makes a mistake and wishes she could fix it. And she can, with some magic mushrooms. But then she starts eating more to fix other mistakes. Things go pretty much as you might expect...








4.  The Spectre: Crime and Judgements, The Wrath of God
It's a reprint of the 90s series of John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake. With few exceptions the 90s was a terrible time for comics. This series, even with it's flaws like fridging a female character (a term used for killing women to give male characters something angst over/avenge) in the first book, is still a hidden gem. Not many mainstream 90s super hero comics dealt with AIDS, Wall Street corruption, the genocide in the Balkins, and pollution/climate change.

The title character is literally the Angel of Vengeance, bound to a human host, to comprehend and confront evil. Being bound to an angry dead cop means the instructions get a little messed up. It's also surprisingly spiritual. Throw in Mandrake moody and terrifying art (the only flaw is the frequent fill-ins because he couldn't complete the book monthly for any lengthy stretch) and it really is a nice series. I'm glad DC is digging into the archives and reprinting it, 20 years later.



5. Red Sonja: The Art of Blood and Fire
Yeah. Seriously. The redhead in the chainmail bikini who used to have a terrible, terrible origin (very rapey). Mercifully Gail Simone saw something in there worth saving. The first volume was ok, but I think Simone had to spend a lot of time fixing the character, which made the story drag a bit. This volume is where she cuts loose. Sonja is set up a quest by a mad, dying king to find some of the greatest artists in the world, such as a swordsman, cook, dancer, etc in 30 days. If she does this, he will free thousands of slaves. Of course, nothing is that easy.

But it's not just the action adventure, which is great, but the genuinely twisted humour. The biggest running gag is that perhaps someone who spends all her time in the wild, and killing people, might not smell the best. Plus, no one wants to sleep with her, despite her best efforts. Full of heart and humour, and solid artwork by Walter Geovani, it's one of the most surprising books of 2015.

Next post, books 10-8.

Last Five
1. American Man - Jenn Grant*
2. Boxer - The Gaslight Anthem
3. Murder me Rachel (live) - The National
4. Blue Jay way - The Beatles
5. Daily routine - Animal Collective




Monday, January 26, 2015

Nippy

So it was, in a word, fucking cold in Iqaluit today. It's January in the Arctic so it's not like this is an unsual event. However, it was impressively cold today, which caps off an impressively cold month. It sank to -43C today. With windchill it actually went to -67C at one point during the early morning hours.

Despite all that, it wasn't record breaking cold, as this Nunatsiaq News story says. We've had colder, but by less than two degrees. Which is kind of disappointing, really. If you're going to be that cold, you might as well get the record-setting kind. But alas...

It's the coldest I've experienced in Nunavut. I think the previous lowest was in 2006, when I got -63C with windchill. That was delightful. As I recall, it froze the transmission of our wee little Hyundai Accent. That was a $3,000 cold snap.

Let's put it this way - this morning I let the car run for 15 minutes to warm-up and it was still sluggish. Normally I get to work, park, plug the car in, and then walk over to get a coffee, then walk back to the office. That walking takes about a minute. Today, I parked in front of the QuickStop, then drove the car to my parking spot, plugged it in and sprinted to the door. And even that 15 seconds outside hurt. I think it took less than two minutes for exposed skin to freeze today.

We were lucky today (knock on wood). The heat stayed on. The car is running fine (it probably helps that I replaced the battery last month) and none of the pipes froze. It's the kind of cold that punishes the unprepared and unlucky. More than one car today didn't start today. Of course, I found out that at least a few of them were due to people unplugging the cars in the middle of the night. Which meant the block heater and battery blankets stopped working.

In case you wondered if there's a freezing point for assholes, it's apparently colder than that. Imagine being out in -67C windchill and thinking that unplugging cars is a good idea.

Schools closed and the City of Iqaluit pulled their water and sewage trucks. I have no problems with that. Little kids often don't know better in that cold and big kids are often deeply stupid about that level of cold. And I would feel terrible if someone got frostbite delivering water to me.

So yes, damn cold. January has seen more -50C windchill days in Iqaluit then I think we saw all of last winter. Bitter, bitter stuff. Of course, people in the Kivalliq region were mocking people in Iqaluit complaining about the cold. It's always colder somewhere. And honestly, I would rather face this kind of cold than whatever snow related apocalypse that's getting ready to smash into the Northeast United States and then wander into Atlantic Canada

Anyway, it's supposed to go to -18C on Wednesday. I should go and look for swimsuit...

Last Five
1. Stop the world - The Clash
2. Dreaming - Goldfrapp
3. The laws have changed - The New Pornographers*
4. Lady Madonna (live) - Paul McCartney
5. Erie Canal (live) - Bruce Springsteen