Saturday, December 31, 2005

Last days...

...of 2005, of course. It's been a crazy year for those of us living in Casa Iqaluit. We spent most of the first six months apart, what with Cathy living in Rankin Inlet and me still in St. John's. The only break in that was a trip to the Dominican Republic. Then Cathy gets home and it's massive wedding planning and moving up north time. Then we have the actual wedding (mostly a blur) and followed by moving up north. Then it's several months of unemployment for me before landing a job and, well, it's been a year.

Personally, I think it's been a pretty damn good year. Yeah, there have been downsides - the prolong unemployment streak, not having Cathy with me for six months - but that's far outweighed by the good, such as getting married, having good jobs and for the first time in ages, finally feeling settled.

We don't know how long we're going to be in Iqaluit. There are any number of people who say they planned to come here for a couple of weeks and that was 25 years ago. Maybe we'll be them. Maybe we'll be out of here in five years. I don't know. But at least we're not planning on when to move or what we're going to have to do in a year's time. The worst bit of planning we have right now is if we're going to go to Ottawa for Easter or still trying to get to San Francisco this summer.

Those are nice problems to have.

Internationally, as I mentioned before, it sucked. No other word for it. A pretty terrible year. The only up side was watching George Bush suffer and flounder. But my problem with that is watching one of the great countries flounder around and tear itself apart under inept leadership. And there's three more years of it yet to come. That's unfortunate.

Anyway, here's hope for a better 2006 for all. It will be a quiet New Years for us. We wish we could be at our friend Anne's for her annual Scottish New Year's celebration (mmmm, haggis), but we'll just have to call instead.

Enjoy the fireworks wherever you are and have a drink for us.

To absent friends....cheers.

Last 5 on iPod
1. Love and peace, or else - U2 (How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb)
2. Txalaparta - The Chieftains (Santiago)
3. Jingle jangle - Hot Hot Heat (Elevator)
4. Chin up, cheer up - Ryan Adams (Demolition)
5. When rivers rise - Spirit of the West (Tripping Up The Stairs)

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Best of the best

I was in the middle of putting together some links to sites that were featuring Best Photos of 2005 until John Gushue linked to this wonderful site which is busily putting together a list of the all the Best of the Year lists. Not just photos, but movies, TV, music, etc.

Maybe if I'm feeling motivated I'll add some of my favourite things from 2005. We'll see.

I have to say, of the Best Photo sites, USA Today had the best photos. Also, much to my surprise, no one image grabbed me this year. You can say many things about 2005, but few of them good (I got married, some of my friends got married. The list gets pretty thin for me after that). Hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and lots and lots of death.

When it's a bad year for humanity, it's normally a very good year for photojournalists. By the way, I don't envy them the job. You have to go terrible places and capture the horror of the moment in an image that will grab people. It's not an easy job to do and I can't imagine the toll it takes on their humanity. I hated taking photos of car crashes. I can't imagine going to a place like New Orleans after Katrina and capture some of the images you see on the sites.

Still, I look at them because I've always thought a good photo is worth more than hours of video tape. And because I've never had any formal photo training and I don't have the best equipment, but I still want to know "how the hell did they get that shot?" The shot that makes you stop and call out to a loved one to "come take a look at this" and you marvel at the image. I figure if I stare at it long enough, maybe I'll figure it out.

I think I've taken a few good photos over the years, but nothing like what you will see on some of these sites. It's worth going there and taking a look. I said no one image grabbed me; I didn't say there weren't a lot of excellent photos.

Here's hoping photojournalists have a really crappy 2006.

Last 5 on iPod
1. Get back - The Beatles (Let it Be)
2. Sulky girl - Elvis Costello (The Very Best Of...)
3. It's not a fashion statement, it's a deathwish - My Chemical Romance (Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge)
4. Mohammed's radio - Warren Zevon (A Quiet, Normal Life)
5. Go back to your woods - Robbie Robertson (Storyville)

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

What to do in Thailand...

The other bit of news I received over the Christmas holidays is that my father is going on his Most Excellent Adventure, part 3. I think it was four years ago that he finally lived out a long-time dream and took a month’s vacation and went to Australia. He also went to the Australian Grand Prix. Dad’s a big race car fan, so the fact he was able to get (with a bit of help from me) good seats to watch a Formula One race was a real thrill.

If there was a downside, he concluded, it was that a month really wasn’t long enough to see Australia properly.

Which is why in January 2004, he left for a three month jaunt. The first three weeks were in New Zealand, which he fell in love with. The remaining nine weeks were spent traveling around Australia.

He had a great time, met some wonderful people (Swedish nurses, for example) and got to travel to places I’ve always wanted to go. And he did in his way. Which is to say, he went by himself, with just a backpack. He traveled light and did his own thing.

He talked about doing another trip this winter, but I wasn’t sure if it was going to happen since he seemed to be leaving it awfully last minute. But yeah, he booked it. So on Feb. 3, he’s off to Bangkok, Thailand. His tentative plans include spending some time in the city, working his way south, living on the beach for a bit, making his way to Malaysia and then perhaps to Sumatra. Then back to Bangkok where he might make a quick jaunt to north for a week or so.

It’s all a bit flexible, at this point. Which is fine. Some vacations are ruined by over-planning. “We have to be at this place at this time or else!” Not with dad, apparently.

He’s going for seven weeks. I’m curious, and a bit concerned, about how he’s going to do on this trip. This is essentially his first foray into a non-Western culture. English is going to be spoken there, obviously, but it’s going to be a lot scarcer than in Australia. It’s also going to seem like a strange place. And I’m not exactly thrilled with him going to Sumatra. Still, I think he’ll do fine.

By the way, in case you’re wondering how my father can afford these big trips, well, he’s a letter carrier with 30-odd years of experience. So he gets lots of time off and makes pretty good money.

But more importantly, he’s spending my inheritance. I mean, I’ve ragged on him a bit for not having a will and it’s one of those things people should have. I’m his only child and he’s divorced, so odds are I would be getting it all anyway. But apparently the plan is to spend all the money before he dies.

As the saying goes “I plan on having the last check I write bounce.” This appears to be my dad’s plan. Which, y’know, good on him. Just as long as I don’t have to pay that last check.

Oh, one last thing. This is dad’s travel itinerary: St. John’s-Montreal-Los Angeles (for 24 hours)-Tokyo-Bangkok. Return: Bangkok-Tokyo-Washington D.C.-Toronto-Halifax-St. John’s.

I mention this because it’s a pretty roundabout way of getting there and it’s costing him about $1,700, which includes air fare, taxes, airport fees and lord knows what else.

For me and Cathy to have returned to St. John’s from Iqaluit for Christmas would have cost $2,100. Each. If you look on the map, we’re a wee bit closer than Bangkok.

Airlines suck. Air Canada really sucks, but in general, airlines suck.

Last 5 on iPod
1. Kate - Ben Folds Five (Whatever and Ever, Amen)
2. War - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (Live: 1975-85)
3. Ahead by a century - Tragically Hip (Hipeponymous)
4. Party girl - U2 (Under a Blood Red Sky)
5. Things we said today - The Beatles (A Hard Day's Night)

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

And we're back...

So it was a low key Christmas, but still a pretty nice one. Fortunately after four years (how long we've been going out, plus married) myself and Cathy still very much enjoy one another's company. I know some couples who need to get away from the other every now and then. Not that they don't love each other, they just need to go out for a night with the girls or boys and do things separately a couple of times a week or they get on one another's nerves.

We're not like that. So spending all Boxing Day curled up on the couch watching West Wing and Veronica Mars is a perfectly lovely way to kill a day off.

That, and being on the phone a lot. Many, many phone calls to friends and family. It was nice to hear voices from home. I strongly suspect we'll be home next Christmas.

We both did fine gift wise. Even though we bought a TV set as a joint gift, there was the loophole of stockings to fill, so I suspect we both blew our agreed to budgets. Cathy loved her birthday gift, which was pajamas with feet. I appreciate that this may seem silly to many, but not to all the women who read this blog. Yes, one piece pjs, covered feet and all. Took three hours of hunting online before I found them. But she loves them, so clearly it was worth it.

And both our parents sent tons of stuff. Being away from home has small advantages, one of them is apparently the bounty you get in gifts.

I also got my own Christmas miracle in that both my parents liked their gifts. I bought mom a gold necklace with a small arctic diamond in the shape of a star. You have to know my mom. While a lovely, amazing, generous woman, she is a thorough pain in the ass to buy gifts for and I have told her this. So the fact that she loves her necklace boarders on the miraculous.

My dad isn't nearly as difficult to buy for, but it can still be hard. I got him some MEC clothing plus a sculpture of a hunter in a kayak from a store here in Iqaluit. That seems to have made him happy.

I must say, while not an ideal Christmas, being this far away from people, I've had much worse. I got to spend it with Cathy and I didn't feel like I was running to stand still as I can sometimes with all the family commitments on both sides. I certainly found it relaxing enough...

Last 5 on iPod
1. Shakedown on 8th street - Ryan Adams (Heartbreaker)
2. Ohio - Neil Young (Greatest Hits)
3. Knickerbocker Line/Drowsy Maggie - The Flash Girls (The Return of Violent Jones and Pansy Smith)
4. All the pretty faces - Joel Plaskett Emergency (Truthfully, Truthfully)
5. New Orleans is sinking - Tragically Hip (Live Between Us)

Saturday, December 24, 2005

And a Merry Christmas to all...

Since most people are going to be gone off doing family and friends things for the next couple of days, I doubt if I'll be posting much. Traffic to the blog has been steadily decreasing the last few days anyway. So with that, both myself and Cathy wish all our friends, families and strangers who just happen to stroll by, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. To everyone back home, we obviously wish we could be there. Next year, we promise.

A little science at Christmas

As e-mailed to me earlier this week. Nothing wrong with picking up a little science, even at Christmas...

The biology of reindeer

It is a little known but glaringly obvious fact that Santas reindeer are female. You see reindeer, like caribou and the other tarandus subspecies, do indeed grow antlers. However, while both male and female reindeer grow antlers in the summer each year, male reindeer drop their antlers at the beginning of winter, usually late November to mid-December, but in any event before December 24th. For the rest of the winter, including Christmas, males are antlerless, while female reindeer retain their antlers till after they give birth in the spring. You will note that every single rendition of Santas sleigh with reindeer all hitched up has each one carrying a full set of antlers. Therefore every single one, Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Vixen, and of course Rudpolph – is a girl, and better yet a girl that is pregnant. We should've known. Only women, while pregnant, would be able to drag a fat man in a red velvet suit all around the world in one night and not get lost.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Thought for the day

I hadn't been paying much attention to the whole legality of sex clubs decision made by the Supreme Court of Canada on Wednesday. It's not likely I will ever frequent one, nor is it likely one is going to open up in Iqaluit anytime soon. And I don't particularly care what people do behind closed doors.

However, I could see one opening in St. John's in a few years. I interviewed someone with The Express who ran a Newfoundland swingers site online. The strip clubs in town have become more agressive recently, what with the incident at Bubbles earlier the year. So yeah, it's possible.

But here's the question that hit me today and me wonder: If this hypothetical sex club opened in St. John's and people were doing like they do in Montreal and having sex at this club, but behind closed doors, would they have to go outside for the post-sex cigarette?


Legally, I think they would have to. That could suck, especially in Febraury.

Oh, and for those curious...the third package didn't show up. Which meant some scrabling around Iqaluit today. Curses.

Last 5 on iPod
1. Second hand news - Fleetwood Mac (Greatest Hits)
2. No one but you - Queen (Platinum Collection)
3. Take you on a cruise - Interpol (Antics)
4. Washing of the water - Peter Gabriel (Secret World Live)
5. Witness - Tori Amos (The Beekeeper)

Thursday, December 22, 2005

That was interesting...

Two gifts down, one to go. One day left to go. It's down to the wire, folks. Will I get all of Cathy's gifts before the Post Office closes? Stay tuned.

I haven't mentioned much about the federal election campaign in Nunavut because, really, there hasn't been much of one. There are five candidates. Well, four right now after the NDP candidate backed out of the race for no apparent reason.

But seriously, there are no signs. No one is banging on doors around here. Most of the candidates aren't even located in Iqaluit and I don't think any of them have been here yet. It's an odd, odd campaign. Certainly the oddest I've ever seen. Or not seen at all, as it happens. This article from the Ottawa Citizen actually does a pretty good job explaining how strange federal politics are up north. It seems even more incestuous than Newfoundland politics, which I wasn't sure was possible.

I've haven't really decided who I'm voting for yet. Nobody I've spoken with seems all that impressed with the Liberal candidate although they all seem to think she will win. The Conservative candidate is waaaayyyy to the right, apparently. In a "Makes Stephen Harper look like a communist" sort of way. The NDP just lost their person so that campaign is rocking along. The Green candidate is just getting back to the territory from school down south.

And I have the sneaking suspicion the Marijuana candidate is actually caucusing on my floor in this apartment complex. Oh, and he's facing criminal charges. Guess what over?

Still, it'll be interesting to see what they all make over this little bomb that Harper through into the campaign today. It's too early to gauge reaction in Iqaluit so far. The couple of people I've heard speaking about it are of the "Thank Christ, it's about time someone down South finally clued into how badly needed this is." However, it's worth mentioning they were white.

I'm curious to hear what the Inuit think of the idea. Nunavut is 85 per cent Inuit. It is their land. I'm not sure how far this idea is going if Inuit leaders come out against it. However, considering how much money it could inject into the local economy, unless they want to build it on a hunting ground, then I suspect they will be in favour of it.

Of course, it's an election. No one believes Harper is going to win a majority unless there is a major swing in the New Year. So we'll see how far that promise goes. But right now, I suspect he's got the attention of a lot of people around here.

Last 5 on iPod
1. Always look on the bright side of life - Monty Python's Spamalot (Original Cast Recording)
2. Talk about the passion - REM (Eponymous)
3. A pistol for Paddy Garcia - The Pogues (Rum, Sodomy and the Lash)
4. Cold, cold heart - Norah Jones (Come Away With Me)
5. C'mon, c'mon - The Von Bondies (Rescue Me S/T)

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Longest night of the year

Pardon the rewording of the Bruce Cockburn song, but if you live in the north, today is Hump Day. This is as bad as it gets when it comes to lack of light if you live in Iqaluit. We're at 64 degrees north, so we don't get complete darkness. From now on, each day will give a few more minutes of daylight, as oppose to losing it. If you’re above the Arctic Circle, you’re now half way through the night. In a few days or weeks, you’ll see the sun again.

In Iqaluit the sun rises at 9:22 a.m. and sets at 1:43 p.m. today. You can add about another hour on either side of it being light out, but the sun is beneath the horizon. So you’re averaging about 5-6 hours of daylight right now. Makes you appreciate the “shorter” days in St. John’s a bit more, hmmmm?

I’ve been surprised how well I’ve been handling it. There was a worry when I first got here that I wouldn’t be able to handle that much darkness. I was lucky that The Express was a job that got me out of the office a lot, so I got plenty of sunshine. I was wondering whether or not I’d get SAD (Seasonal Affected Disorder). As I said, it hasn't happpened. I wonder if it's balanced out by the fact that it tends to be sunny a lot in Iqaluit and cloudy a lot in Newfoundland. We might have fewer daylight hours, but we get more sunshine than St. John's. Maybe.

We’re hardly out of the dark yet (no woods to get out of this far above the treeline). The worst of the cold and snow have yet to hit. And it’s only been about a month or so of real, substantial darkness. Ask me how I’m doing at the end of February.

Still, I’ll enjoy the psychological boost that comes with knowing for the next six months, the days only get longer.

Last 5 on iPod
1. Longest night of the year - Bruce Cockburn (Anything, Anytime, Anywhere)
2. On every street - Dire Straits (The Very Best of...)
3. Sonny's dream - The Wonderful Grand Band (Living in a Fog)
4. Cry, baby, cry - The Beatles (The White Album)
5. Hold on my heart - Genesis (Platinum Collection)


Two packages arrived today. One was for Cathy, so thank God I have at least one of the things I ordered. There are two days left and two packages to go. So I’m feeling a bit more hopeful than I was yesterday.

The second package was from Amazon and I ordered it for myself. I always believed you should treat yourself to something for Christmas. Traditionally, I treat myself to some comics I want. One regret I have about not being home right now is that Downtown Comics has their big sale in January (25 per cent off trade paperbacks). I dropped a nice chunk of change there last year, but got some fun stuff, including a nice run of Usagi Yojimbo.

I tend to get comics for myself because, well, no one else will. It’s frequently too difficult to explain to people what I’m looking for. ("Yeah, get me Volume 5 of Usagi Yojimbo. What's it about? Well, it's about a samurai bunny rabbit. Stop laughing...") And, well, those who love me most – my parents and my wife – basically refuse to buy me comics.

Dad never has and I suspect it has more than a little to do with the fact that the majority of my collection has been stored at his house. And really, I have about 10,000 comics. They are housed in about 30 boxes. They do take up a little space. I suspect my mother probably just finds it a bit embarrassing to go into a comic store.

But Cathy only recently told me why she won’t buy comics for me, even if I make it really simple and put a wish list on either Chapters or Amazon: She doesn’t want to “encourage” me.

I’m a 35, soon to be 36, year old male. I’ve collected comics for nearly 30 years. I was open mocked by my peers in junior high and high school. Where other men might have spent money on cars, music, cigarettes, booze or wooing women, I bought comics. I have, in plain sight of attractive women, reached into a bag, pulled out a Batman comic and cracked it open. When I needed to buy an engagement ring for my girlfriend, I sold comics.

“Wow, you sold all your comics to buy an engagement ring?” some woman once said when I told her the story. “No,” Cathy sighed. “He sold about 300 of them. He still has another 10,000 left.”

The woman backed away slowly.

Look, if scaring off attractive women when in my mid-20s and going through an epic dating dry spell, spending tens of thousands of dollars on comics and the scorn and dismay of parents didn’t discourage me, I’m really doubting my wife (which means I’ve already overcome the biggest disincentive of comic buying geeks everywhere and found a woman willing to be with me) not buying me some comics for Christmas isn’t going to do the trick.

Unemployment was the biggest disincentive. I’ve only bought two trade paperbacks in the past four months. Now that I have a job, I’ve got a big backlist to clear out. I can hardly wait…

Last 5 on iPod
1. Use it - The New Pornographers (Twin Cinema)
2. Somebody to love - Queen (Platinum Collection)
3. Even better than the real thing - U2 (Achtung Baby)
4. The mariner's revenge song - The Decemberists (Picaresque)
5. Love me do - The Beatles (Please Please Me)

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

I think I'm in trouble...

Personally, I blame Chapters.

I've been blaming Chapters for stuff for awhile. When one of my favourite bookstores in St. John's closed (the late, lamented Braeyn (sp?) Books). I blamed Chapters. I have occasionally blamed Chapters for being broke when looking at my Visa bill (after the closing of the favourite bookstore, of course).

And I blame them now because my wife's Christmas and birthday gifts are late. But no, I didn't order from them.

I get ahead of myself here, let me explain.

Chapters has a ridiculous, carefree, money-be-damned sort of shipping policy. I mean, how many places give 45 per cent discounts on stuff? And then there's their shipping policy. If you spend more than $39, free shipping. No matter how heavy the book - free shipping. Cathy got me The Complete Far Side for Valentine's Day this year. She ordered it from Rankin Inlet and had it sent to me in St. John's. It weighs about 20 pounds. Free shipping.

At one time I ordered six books and they all arrived expedited post in six different boxes. I have no idea why. It seems kind of silly, really. Why not hold back the books and send them all at once? Why not say free shipping over $39, but if the books are over 20 pounds, there might be a slight fee.

But hey, who am I to complain? Like any good person living in the North, you quickly find the suckers when it comes to shipping and ruthlessly exploit them. One of my co-workers told me she's convinced a friend of hers bankrupt a pet supply store down South when they offered free shipping on dog food.

It's also why when going into the Post Office these days it seems like every third box is from Chapters, Amazon or Future Shop.

My mistake was thinking that most businesses were this kind of crazy with getting things to you promptly. I order the Special Edition of Sin City from Chapters (been wanting that bad boy for awhile). It shipped last Wednesday. It arrived today. Crazy. But hey, it keeps me buying things.

Alas, not everyone does this. I thought they did. I'm very wrong. And I'm about three days away from possibly being very dead.

Because that's how many days the Post Office is left open. That's how many days the last three packages I ordered for Cathy have to arrive.

I ordered these things in November. We've had a bunch of stuff that we ordered after I ordered her gifts arrive from Chapters and Future Shop. I am not happy. The thought of being dead does not make me happy. It's also a toss up as to whether or not she will kill me or if her mom will make a special trip north to do the job.

The far worse option is not death, by the way. It's her having a brave face and making jokes, but being hurt.

And yes, I can buy other things in town. And I have. But, you know, she wanted these things. I ordered them nearly a month ago. C'mon....

I may have to resort to a call to Santa Claus to see if he can figure out what the heck happened to my packages. Because really, Christmas miracles are starting to look really, really good right about now.

Last 5 on iPod
1. Pretty boy heaven - Drive (Blink)
2. North American for life - Matthew Good (White Light Rock and Roll Review)
3. I'm only sleeping - The Beatles (Revolver)
4. Man by the door - The Novaks (The Novaks)
5. I don't want to grow up - Tom Waits (Beautiful Malodies)

Monday, December 19, 2005


One of the perils of flying in the arctic at Christmas time...

Last 5 on iPod
1. Werewolves of London - Warren Zevon (A Quiet, Normal Live)
2. Sweet the sting - Tori Amos (The Beekeeper)
3. Runnin' down a dream - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (Greatest Hits)
4. Holiday - Green Day (American Idiot)
5. His name is Lancelot - Monty Python's Spamalot (Original Cast Recording)


The mass exodus of Iqaluit began last Friday when school ended for the year. School ended at noon. I know for a fact there were teachers on a flight out at 1 p.m. I have learned this lesson, and learned it well; teachers need their Christmas break. If they do not get it, they get cranky and grumpy.

I don''t begrudge the break, by the way. It's a hard job. I can't do it. If my time in Korea taught me nothing else is that I should not be in a classroom with children. Only bad things can happen.

The exodus began on Friday, continued throughout the weekend and will likely continue until this Friday. I met a guy at Cathy's Christmas party Thursday evening (a date of one of her co-workers) who got together with some of his friends and chartered a flight direct to St. John's from Iqaluit. I'm actually curious about how much that cost. You can save hours and not deal with Air Canada. Unless the expense is insane, It's tempting. Considering the number of Newfoundlanders leaving for home this week, I don't know why Air Labrador or Provincial Airlines don't run flights out of here for the next three weeks or so. At least one of those airlines used to run regular service between here and St. John's

Anyway, the point is with the school closed and a good chunk of Cathy's students gone for the holidays, someone has to take care of her class's critters. So behold Minnie the Gecko and Sparky the Mouse.

They're pretty harmless, as critters go. The mouse is just happy to scamper around the cage and the gecko, well, it either sits on a damp sponge or the heating pad. Still, I'm glad they're at the house of the holidays. If nothing else, it prevents Cathy from sneaking out while I'm at working and getting a kitten or something. She knows she can't get a dog (lease agreement), but if she "accidentally" found a kitten, well, what could she have done? Clearly it was meant to be.

Cathy is getting a little antsy for a pet. I truly understand. I wouldn't mind having one as well. But it is an extreme inconvenience, especially during the summer, trying to find someone to care for it. I already lost one cat to air travel. I really don't want to lose a second one. So we shall abide. For now.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The Return of Lankhof, plus some cunning smokers

1. Lankhof manages to squeeze a second column out of his really rather bad first one by doing something on the swarming reaction of Newfoundlanders to his first one.

His reaction: He's not going to apologize and Gosh, I thought Newfies have a sense of humour.

You know, instead of swinging at the sinker pitch every time one of these idiots offers it up and then freaking out about the terrible things they say about us, why don't we call it like it is - especially when they (Lankhof is hardly the first, obviously) site the old "But we thought Newfies had a sense of humour."

And the response is this: We do have a sense of humour. We have given Canada Greg Malone, Tommy Sexton, Andy Jones, Mary Walsh, Cathy Jones, Rick Mercer, Shaun Majumder, Mark Critch and countless others who are drop dead funny, but choose not to get into acting.

We are, in fact, so funny that we have now appointed ourselves the Funny Police. And anytime we read crap that is not only not funny, but also badly written we are going to crackdown on you. We will mock you not for the content, but that you are Not Funny. And a Bad Writer. Because no one can make fun of Newfoundlanders better than ourselves and we will not tolerate second rate hacks trying to do it, and then when we get upset, we're accused of not having a sense of humour.

Mr. Lankhof, your writing and humour are so bad that it wouldn't make it to opening night of the annual Revue show. And everything makes it to opening night of Revue, because they want to see what sticks.

And yours doesn't stick, sir. It just sucks. Which is why you write for the Toronto Sun.

(Ok, cheap shot. But hey, look at who I'm writing about.)

2. I like this story from Friday's Globe because I wonder how many bar owners in St. John's immediately began checking out the price for an old school bus.

I am curious about the wording of the smoking legislation in Newfoundland, but I'm too lazy to look. Would this work in Newfoundland, I wonder? Not that I'm hoping it does. I'm still very much for the ban, but I have to at least be impressed by the cunning and creativity in finding a way around it.

Last 5 on iPod
1. Out of my hands - The Donnas (Gold Medal)
2. Life for rent - Dido (Life For Rent)
3. Least I can do - Ron Sexsmith (Cobblestone Runway)
4. Little earthquakes - Tori Amos (Little Earthquakes)
5. Sledgehammer - Peter Gabriel (Secret World: Live)

Saturday, December 17, 2005


I keep mentioning the V For Vendetta movie because I'm fairly excited about it. I was really disappointed when it didn't come out around November 5. Considering one of the main characters dresses like Guy Fawkes and is trying to blow things up and this was the 400th anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot, the timing was perfect. Coming out on St. Paddy's Day doesn't really have the same impact.

The reason I mention it now is that a new trailer is out for the movie which makes me want to see it even more.

If you want to know why I'm so excited about this comic to movie production, then I can't recommend the graphic novel enough. It was one of those things that when I first read it in the 80s that I knew, knew was going to be a classic. I might have only been 17 or so, but I still could figure out when I was reading something brilliant.

(By the way, if you don't want to order from Chapters, then I highly recommend going to Downtown Comics on Duckworth Street. The store is located near the KFC.)

For those of you rolling your eyes over comic books, all I can say is that this is written by Alan Moore, one of the finest writers - period - of the past 25 years. His Watchmen was recently sited by Time Magazine as one of the 100 greatest books of the 20th Century. I honestly think V For Vendetta is better. Or at least much more important as a political statement.

I mean, just read this article examining whether or not V is a terrorist. It's going to be interesting to see how some of the themes playout given the atmosphere in England and the U.S. these days.

I really, really hope the movie is good. I know there have been changes. Moore has disavowed the movie to the point where he gave up the royalities he would have received from it (he did the same with the in-production Watchmen and Constantine). But still, I hope.

This is one of these "If you trust me on pop culture stuff, trust me on this" moments. Besides, it's subject matter is never going to cease being topical. It is today, what with the latest spying allegations.

Last 5 on iPod
1. Stuck in a moment - U2 (All That You Can't Leave Behind)
2. Champaigne supernova - Oasis (What's the Story, Morning Glory)
3. There must be an angel - Eurythmics (Ultimate Collection)
4. Tara's theme - The Pursuit of Happiness (The Wonderful World of...)
5. Obstacle 1 - Interpol (Turn On The Bright Lights)

Friday, December 16, 2005

Well, that sucks...

John Spencer, who played Leo McGarry on The West Wing, died of a heart attack Friday morning. He was just shy of his 59th birthday.

That's way too young. He was a good actor on one of the finest tv shows of the past decade. Plus, he seemed like a good guy who faced his demons (he was a recovering alcoholic) and beat them back.

I'm trying hard not to think about what the show is going to do for the rest of the season because obviously it's of secondary importance right now. He was an intergral part of the show this season. It's going to be a tangly bit of business to straighten it out.

After the mourning is done, of course.

Last 5 on iPod
1. Maria's bed - Bruce Springsteen (Devils and Dust)
2. The waiting - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (Greatest Hits)
3. Born to run - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (Live:1975-85)
4. Barons of suburbia - Tori Amos (The Beekeeper)
5. Watching the detectives - Elvis Costello (Very Best of...)

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Hackery, not satire

I’d pretty much forgotten about Bill Lankhof's column in the Toronto Sun yesterday (Google News is a wonderful thing). I read it, rolled my eyes and moved on. I’ve gotten to the point that if I get upset every time I read something stunned from a Mainland writer I’d likely drop dead from a stroke. I’m convinced it’s in the manual of Mainland columnists. “When in doubt, hitting a rut or facing diminishing readership, just take a shot at the Newfies. Their outrage and hatred is like rocket fuel. (See Margaret Wente)”

However, this morning I read the story on CBC where they interviewed him. In his defence, this is what Lankhof said: “What I write is pretty much no different to what people might see on your television station when they watch This Hour Has 22 Minutes or Air Farce," he said. "And when you watch that, you can laugh about it or get upset about it.”

And this is when my blood pressure started to go up a bit. And when that happens, there are really only a few options open for me. And since Cathy can get tired of the rants, here we go on the blog again.

What Lankhof wrote isn’t satire. He might think it is, but that’s kind of sad. If you want satire, follow the link I posted yesterday to Rick Mercer’s blog. Most of us have seen him either on The Mercer Report or on 22 Minutes. He is, simply, the country’s best satirist.

And the frustrating, galling and brilliant thing about Mercer is he makes it look easy. The best always do because it looks so effortless for them.

It is, in fact, staggeringly difficult to do what Mercer does. Sit down and try to write something political and funny. Clever and cutting. Irreverent and yet filled with information. Now do it in a way that can be digested in two minutes or less.

Lesser writers (i.e. nearly all of us) can’t do it or can with great difficultly. Mercer does it all the time.

So when I read something is satirical, that’s the standard I look at. “Is it as funny as Mercer?” When I write something that’s satirical, it’s the challenge I set for myself. Is it in the ballpark of Mercer? I can’t get there yet, not even close. But there are times when I write something that I think is within view, and that makes me happy.

To understand what Lankhof is, I’m going to paraphrase something a movie critic once said. And that’s this: Never come out of a bad movie, wonder how that got made and think, ‘My God, I could make something better than that.’ Of course you could. It’s bad. Why not try and make something better than the best movie you’ve ever seen? You’ll likely fail, but in your efforts, you’ll make something that is vastly superior to what you would have made in trying to top a terrible movie.

If you try to make something as good as the Godfather and fail, it will still be much better than succeeding in making something merely better than Deuce Biggalo.

Lankhof is the kind of writer who saw Deuce Biggalo and his idea of trying to bettering it would be to make Deuce Biggalo 2: European Gigolo instead of the Godfather. For Lankhof to even compare what he’s writing to Air Farce or 22 Minutes is ludicrous. Those two shows might not be what they were in their prime, but they’re still miles better than what Lankhof wrote. And judging by his previous columns, writes on a regular basis. He's an insult satirists.

What he produced was hackery, plain and simple. Good satire is funny, clever, cutting and poking fun of convention. It might sting, but you can still recognize a truth in it. What Lankhof wrote was unoriginal 30 years ago. There was no cut or bite to it. It wasn’t funny. It was, in fact, cruel and close to racist.

That Lankhoff thought it was satirical is sad. That he and his editors thought it was of good enough quality to deserve print is even moreso. He was, at best, being a smarmy asshole more than a satirist.

I’m probably just getting worked up for no reason. After all, this is the Toronto Sun. Nobody takes that paper seriously in the journalism community. It has Sunshine Girls, for God’s sake. The only people who read it are rednecks with beer guts and low IQs. The fact he writes for it should tell us all we need to know about him.

So, just in case Lankhof actually reads this, here’s the question: is the previous paragraph satire or me being an unoriginal, stereotyping hack asshole? Because that’s basically what you wrote about Newfoundland.

If you think it is satire, then you might want to reconsider that whole columnist thing and move to Hollywood. I understand Deuce Biggalo 3 needs a writer.

Last 5 on iPod
1. Ahead by a century - Tragically Hip (Hipemonymous)
2. The old main drag - The Pogues (Rum, Sodomy and the Lash)
3. Shine a light - The Wolf Parade (Apologies to the Queen Mary)
4. She - Elvis Costello (The Very Best of...)
5. American dream - Lucinda Williams (Live at the Filmore)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Kids or beer...hmmmmm

When Scott Reid blew himself out of the water last weekend with his whole "beer and popcorn" comment I did a Hop of Joy. Not the full blown Dance of Glee, you understand, but the more subdued Hop. I dislike Reid and generally think he's an arrogant git, but I don't passionately loathe him as I do some others. And while I'm still learning about the whole public relations field, I suspect you might be failing at your job when you become the story, and not the people who sign the cheques.

And oh my has he flopped big time. Do a search for his name in Google News and see what publications are picking up on his gaffe. It's gone international.

But then I read this short profile in the Toronto Star and discovered that he's a comic book fan.

Well, clearly I had to reevaluate the whole character of Reid. I mean, if he nips down to his local comic store in-between bouts of defending his boss and the party from corruption charges, then clearly he can't be all bad, right?

Then I remembered that I've known some real assholes who collect comics. I still get chills when I think about the year or two I spent in the Avalon Mall flea market selling comics.

So, he's still a git.

But I did find this amusing as well. Someone started a website called Kids Not Beer which is a petition against Reid's statements. Alas, I do have to strongly disagree with the site's author on this point:

"No parent, not a single one, in this country would spend money designated for child care, and given to them for that reason, on beer or popcorn."

Um, sadly, this is not the case. There really are parents, and more than a few, that if you gave them money to spend on child care would blow it this way. Or, more accurately, on VLTs, bingo, smokes and beer.

I'm not saying all parents are bad. That would be idiotic. Just as idiotic as saying there wouldn't be parents - very bad ones - who would sooner blow the extra money on themselves than their kids.

Anyway, this is all too ripe for the picking, which is why Rick Mercer skews this without trying hard. His rant is pretty damn funny and points out, probably correctly, that more than one kid wouldn't be here without beer. Furthermore, he's not happy about the bad rap that beer drinkers have been getting in the last few days.

Which is why he's created his own counter-petition, Beer Not Kids.

I've got to admit, I'm kind of torn here. I have no kids, nor plan on having any for many years. Additionally, I don't drink beer. But after careful thought on this crucial issue in the federal campaign I've opted to side with the beer drinkers. While some of my friends have kids, nearly all of them are beer drinkers. And clearly I can not sit back and let Conservatives persecute my beer drinking friends. This is Wrong. I must take a stand.

So if you'll excuse me, I'm off to sign the petition. After all, it's important to get involved.

Last 5 on iPod
1. Mystery hours - The New Pornographers (Mass Romantic)
2. Los Endos - Genesis (Platinum Collection)
3. Murder in the Southlands - Jenny Gear and the Whiskey Kittens (S/T)
4. Crucify - Tori Amos (Little Earthquakes)
5. I guess that's why they call it the blues - Elton John (Greatest Hits)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Conversations with Cathy, part 3


Craig: Ow! Why did you just bop me on the head?

Cathy: (Laughing)

Craig: You just bopped me on the head for no reason. You're not allowed to do that.

Cathy: Sure I am.

Craig:'re not. Crazy ladies are not allowed to bop me on the head for no reason.

Cathy: Sure they are. You forget, I've met most of your female friends. They do it to you all the time.

Craig: (pausing) And most of them are crazy.

Cathy: Precisely. Which means I can bop you on the head whenever I want with no just cause because the precident has been set.

Craig: ....and we've already established you're crazy because you married me.

Cathy: Yup.

Craig: ...bollocks.

Last 5 on iPod
1. Daisy's dead - Spirit of the West (Open Heart Symphony)
2. Leaving on a jet plane - Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies (Have A Ball)
3. House where nobody lives - Tom Waits (VH1 Storytellers)
4. My heart is broken - Ryan Adams and the Cardinals (Jacksonville City Limits)
5. Uncle Sam - Madness (Divine Madness)

Monday, December 12, 2005

Busy week

Yes, I know, I'm hardly alone in this regard. But I have to go and watch the school Christmas show tomorrow. Obviously we don't have any kids there, but this is part of the "Help Keep Cathy Sane" process that I'm working through right now. Between the kids in her class bouncing off the walls because it's the last week of classes and the fact that we're not going home for Christmas this year, well, let's just say I'm giving all the love and support I can to my wonderful wife.

Why are we not going home for Christmas? Well, I can think of about 4,500 reasons (i.e. The cost of two return plane tickets from Iqaluit to St. John's). Add on to it that I've just spent most of the fall sucking off the government tit, as it were, and we really don't have that kind of money to spend right.

Anyway, Wednesday is curling (where I get to gloat about Newfoundland going to the Olympics. No, I did not mean Canada), Thursday is her school's staff Christmas party. And at some point we would like to see the Chronicles of Narnia and Walk The Line. So if my blogging gets a little wonky later this week, do find it in your hearts to cut me a break.

In the meantime, some links of collected over the weekend that might amuse you, my loyal web surfers. I'm getting about 100 hits a day right now. And while I appreciate that's a piddling number compared to most blogs, I'm still kind of flattered that enough people like what I write to swing by and take a look. So thanks.

1. They Live! Oh, this is going to be good once it gets going. One of my favourite animated series was a sick and twisted little cartoon called Sam and Max. I so loved the cartoon that I named my two (now deceased) cats after them. I'm not sure how many will get a kick out of their resurrection, but I do and I will be eagerly checking in to see what happens next.

2. Cathy thinks this is just wrong. I'm not the biggest Winnie the Pooh fan on the planet (I just don't get it), but I'm inclined to agree. But I'm sure we'll all agree that it's not surprising that Disney would mess it up.

3. There's been plenty of articles written about the homosexual subtext between Batman and Robin. Indeed, if you read Fredric Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent you'll probably be convinced there was some seriously weird things happening between the Cape Crusader and the Boy Wonder. Apparently we were looking in the wrong direction.

It's very funny, but seriously weird. I think this guy has too much time on his hands, but it's still pretty damn funny. And no matter how many times myself and other comic book fans like to proclaim that comics have grown up as a medium, man, there are still some seriously crappy comics out there.

4. Some award-winning nature photos. I mention this only for two reasons. One, the winning shot of the owl is amazing. Secondly, the shot of the bear (towards the bottom) is crazy. I don't care if you do have a 200 mm lens. There's no way I get close enough to a bear to get that pic.

Last 5 on iPod
1. Irma - The Magnetic Fields (I)
2. No one quite like you - The Novaks (The Novaks)
3. Lullaby of London - The Pogues (If I Should Fall From Grace With God)
4. Oh Susanna - The Be Good Tanyas (Blue Horse)
5. Sign of the rainbow - Robbie Robertson (Storyville)

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Well I'll be damned...

If you had asked me a week or so ago to assess the chances of Brad Gushue winning the Olympic curling trials I would have been more inclined to side with Jeff Stoughton than take offence to his remark that Gushue had "no chance of winning."

With the exception of Russ Howard, it's a young team. They've been prone to making some rash and poor shot calling in the past during big games. And they really hadn't gotten over the hump against some of the curlers they were going to face at the trials. The raw talent was there. They were going to win a Brier sooner or later. But clearly they weren't ready to represent Canada at the Olympics.

But hey, this is why I don't play ProLine or bet on professional sports...I suck at picking winners. But really, if Howard isn't there, they don't win it. I think Gushue would agree with that. He was a calming influence and steered them out of making some rash, ill-advised shots in the final and I assume he was doing that all week.

And it was a great game. They only missed a few shots and they got two great breaks - Stoughton's draw over-curling in the fourth to let them steal two and Stoughton's Third misreading the line on the takeout in the last end. Sometimes those few centimetres are all you need. I actually do feel bad for the Third. He's going to be haunted by the line call for years.

So congrats to the whole team. Although they had better redefine their definition of pressure. If they faced it before at the World Juniors or at the Brier, it's nothing compared to going to the Olympics. Especially since the men have never won gold. And curlers are always expected to win when playing at the international level. I hope they win gold. If they do, Gushue is going to be considered a god in the province for the rest of his life. If they don't or, worse yet, don't make the medal round, people across Canada are going to bitch about it for years.

Although I think by going to Turin it means he can't compete in the Brier since the provincial playdowns are at the same time he's over there. Small price to pay, though.

Also, Cathy wondered this one, is Howard going to be the oldest Olympic athlete over there? He turns 50 during the games. For that matter, is he the oldest Olympic athlete of all time? Probably not, but I am curious....

Last 5 on iPod
1. Save me - Queen (Platinum Collection
2. To be the one - Ryan Adams (Heartbreaker)
3. That I would be good - Alanis Morissette (Unplugged)
4. Luno - Bloc Party (Silent Alarm)
5. Every day I write the book - Elvis Costello (The Very Best of...)

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Jerry Springer

So how do you unwind after a long day of birthday gift shopping (Cathy's birthday is Dec. 24) and Christmas shopping (Christmas trees are $75 in Iqaluit, btw)? Why, by watching some Jerry Springer on Bravo, of course?

Yeah, Springer on Bravo. Or, more specifically, Jerry Springer, The Opera.

On the off-chance you've never heard of it before and you think I'm pulling your leg, click the link and behold Jerry in all of his glory.

The show has been going on for years, and the reviews have been massively positive. It is also, terrifyingly enough, a great musical, drop dead funny and oddly poignant. Oh, and massively offensive. We estimate the combined total of times the word "fuck" is said in the show must number in the thousands. A drinking game involving doing a shooter every time "fuck" is said would leave you in a coma in less than 10 minutes.

Cathy thought I was mad when I flipped over to it. We thoroughly enjoyed it for two hours. When we weren't laughing, we were normally going "ooohhh" a lot as we saw something that would surely offend anybody with delicate christian sensibilities. "Dip me in chocolate and throw me to the lesbians!" Sure, why not. Sounds good.

Perhaps this isn't something I should really admit, as a heterosexual male, but I really do enjoy good musical theatre. Back in St. John's I thought TaDa! did a great job with both Cabaret and Chicago. I saw Phantom of the Opera in London, England (You can hate Andrew Lloyd Webber all you want, it's was still a good spectacle for its times). Kirsten once showed me video taped stage productions of Sondheim's Into the Woods and Sweeney Todd that floored me. I think it was the first time I realized musicals could be really entertaining.

And while I haven't seen it (but desperately want to), I have Spamalot, the Monty Python musical, on my iPod.

I'm not really sure there is a point to this post, really. Other than perhaps on a very cold December night (-51 with windchill), when it feels like half of Iqaluit is getting ready to leave and go home with family for Christmas that it's nice for two hours, you can be amused from the unlikeliest of source...the musical Redemption of Jerry Springer.

Last 5 on iPod
1. Ways and means - Snow Patrol (Final Straw)
2. Title and registration - Death Cab For Cutie (Transatlanticism
3. Somebody's baby - Jackson Browne - Greatest Hits
4. The red light - Joel Plaskett Emergency (Truthfully, Truthfully)
5. Invisible touch - Genesis (Platinum Collection)

Friday, December 09, 2005

Give Sean a chance

There are two big CD releases going on in St. John's on December 10, if I have my information right. The big one is the craziness at Mile One with the Rex Goudie CD release event. I'm about 3,000 miles away and I'm getting ripples of the madness from here. Crying teenagers, angry parents, line hopping and near rioting. I'm kind of curious as to how long the show is going to be. After you throw in the songs from the record, some of the stuff he did on Canadian Idol and maybe one or two other songs, I'll be surprised if it goes much longer than 60 minutes.

I'm not going to bash the guy. I haven't heard the record yet and the music I've heard him perform so far is harmless enough. And even though he only has a few weeks to do it, I imagine it's going to be the second biggest selling CD from a Newfoundland artist this year (The biggest being Great Big Sea's The Hard and the Easy). All the best to him, I hope he does well and manages to perform the next big trick - selling enough records so that people want to hear another one once the Canadian Idol frenzy dies down.

But there is another release happening tomorrow, and it's probably not getting a fraction of the publicity. Which is a real pity because he's one of the best musicians in the province. Plus, he's doing something really ballsy by releasing two CDs at the same time, something I don't think has ever been done by a Newfoundland artist before, although I stand to be corrected on that. I'm referring to Sean Panting.

I've been a fan of Sean's music for about 15 years. He's got a distinctive voice, can write a catchy tune and is entirely too clever a song writer for his own good. His two solo records - Pop Disaster and Lotusland- are constantly being played in this apartment years after their release. Hell, I still listen to Drive, his old band, regularly. And up until a year or so ago I still had the tape of his first band, Joyful Noise.

No, I'm not stalking him. It just seems that way.

He is one of the great, ever-lasting mysteries of the Newfoundland music scene. I have no idea how he's not bigger and more popular. The fact that I could, on almost any weekend, pay $5 to see either him, Ron Hynes or Colleen Power is tragic. It should be a rare, expensive treat to see these musicians because in a just world they would be massively popular and in demand across Canada. But it's not and I have no idea why.

Do me a favour. If you've ever read my iPod list at the end of one of my posts and thought "Hey, he's got pretty good taste in music" trust me on this and buy these two CDs. If you're buying Goudie's CD, pop over to the Newfoundland music section and grab at least one of these CDs. Receiver is all new rock material. Victorola is an acoustic record with songs from Receiver, Lotus Land and Pop Disaster.

I've heard him perform some of the new songs live already. It's good stuff. This guy deserves a break. How about giving him one.

One last thing, you can also find out more about Sean by reading this article that ran in The Express a week or so ago.

Now go and buy the damn CDs already.

Last 5 on iPod
1. Prime time deliverence - Matthew Good Band (Underdogs)
2. Day old blues - Kings of Leon (Aha Shake Heartbreak)
3. Fix me now - Garbage (Garbage)
4. Leif Erikson - Interpol (Turn on the Bright Lights)
5. Hell's half acre - Robbie Robertson (S/T)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Bring on the hate

Here's one of the odd things about me....there are times when I really enjoy being hated.

Not really by my loved ones or people I respect. But during my time with The Packet and The Express I used to get some doozy letters, e-mails and phone calls. I would get some nice ones. But mostly I got hatred. And generally speaking, I provoked them. I knew when I was writing it that I was going to piss someone off. And I was quite fine with that. An opinion columnist that doesn't really annoy someone every now and then might as well not bother writing one.

With The Packet, the mayor of Clarenville practically gave me a lift to the city limits when I left. And my Reload column with The Express got some beautifully crafted missives of ire. Among the subjects that generated waves of hatred for me were when I said that Lord of the Rings was a great series of movies, but the books were boring crap. When I bashed poetry as a waste of time. And when I made fun of Dr. Who.

That was actually hysterical. The editor of The Whostorian, a local fan newspaper (no, really. And look, he has a blog), ripped me one. When I gently mocked him in another column, he wrote this marvelous, long winded, pseudo-intellectual (lots of big words because, obviously, this means you're smart) tearing me a new one. It was only topped by (I assume) his mom writing a letter ripping me as well. I desperately wanted my mother to write my next column in response, but the editor, alas, vetoed it

I already had a run in with the Whostorian's editor's mom 18 months earlier when she objected to a story I did on a local internet sex group. She called me a "purveyor of filth and an embarrassment to my parents." I hung up the phone before I used language that I would have later regretted.

But none of this matched the ire of when I wrote about the proposal to shut down Booth Memorial a few years ago. I went to Booth. I do not have happy memories of Booth. Many people do not have happy memories of high school. The sensible thing is to get over it and move on with your life.

But I can nurse a grudge like no one's business. Plus, I had a column. So if Booth was going down, then I was going to kick it all the way.

The initial draft was so vengeful the editor wouldn't publish it. So were the second, third and fourth drafts (Moats, barb wire and possibly missiles were mentioned). Finally, we agreed on a draft. I wish I could find it and publish it here, but I can't. However, it was still pretty strongly worded. Good riddance, I said. It's a terrible school and should go. Oh, and if you sell tickets on who gets to swing the wrecking ball first, I got my 20 bucks right here.

And, oh the hatred bubbled forth. Students wrote me letters and e-mail. Some were nicely worded, others had profanity every second word. Teachers despised me (including one, John Green, who I respected a lot. We went for a beer a few months after the column aired and I told him where the hatred came from. I'm not sure he approved of it, but he understood a bit better).

Oh, and the principal tried to have me fired. And when a student tried to burn down the school about a week after the column ran, I think they tried to pin that on me as well.

There were some clever acts of retaliation. Two students wrote in The Telegram that I should come to the dinner theatre they were having at the school and would leave tickets for me at the door (I passed, much to the disgust of members of the Express staff. They may have been right)...and several months later, I was worth the most points in a Booth scavenger hunt. Get your pic taken with me, get 15 points.

So, this long-winded ramble leads up to this CBC story about Booth being on the cutting block again. And guys, seriously, it has to go.

Yes, I have a deep seated hatred of the school. A lot of people do (notably absent among its defenders during the racket were any Booth alumni). And I know some of the current students have pride in the school. I also know some of the teachers fear for their positions should anything happen to the school.

But there are inescapable facts:
1. The school is among the oldest operating in St. John's.
2. Maintenance on the school is a small fortune because of its age.
3. It's inaccessible to disabled students because it's an amalgamation of two older schools. I think there are about 7 stories to the building, despite how it looks from the outside.
4. The student population is declining in St. John's. A high school has to go. Booth is the worst of the lot.

There will be a fight, of course. There always is when a school is recommended for closure. But do everyone a favour and put Booth out of its misery. It's a mercy at this point.

By the way, I still have $20 put aside for tickets on the wrecking ball. Someone let me know when they go on sale, ok?

Last 5 on iPod
1. A boy and his machine gun - Matthew Good Band (Beautiful Midnight)
2. Ugly tellin' lies - Colleen Power (Face and Eyes)
3. The bitch is back - Elton John (Greatest Hits)
4. Greatest day - Bowling For Soup (Goes to the Movies)
5. Midnight, midnight - The Be Good Tanyas (Chinatown)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Give me the cold...

I got home from work, checked my visitor numbers and wondered what the hell happened. Apparently Nancy happpened. Thank you for the kind words and, well, all the traffic. As far as I know, I'm an only child, but I can check with my parents to see if any baskets were left at the orphanage on the way home from the Grace.

Also enjoying comments left by Jason and Colette. Colette gloating about going to the Middle East (I miss the bitch session as well) and Jason talking about adapting to the heat of the region. Just to add to things, Cathy's brother is working in Ghana right now where it is 40 degrees every day. For Christmas, he is apparently heading to Sierra Leone, where it is even warmer (in more than one way). For many reasons, we're questioning his sanity.

You know what, I'll take where I am right now, thank you very much.

I know some people are confused by this; "Why would you take -50 over +50?" And it's not because Africa tends to be a pretty messed up place and it's not because the Middle East is unstable and things have a tendency to blow up.

I just don't like the heat that much. Seriously. My brain shuts down at temperatures of more than 35 degrees. I've now been out in -45 and it's working just fine.

I can physically adapt to cold temperatures. There are any number of defences available to me. I can turn up the heat. I can not go out in the cold. If I do go out, I can wear layers (MEC should just open a store here and get it over with). I can wear the BFWC. Soon I will break out the wind pants and maybe even the CFWBs (Clunky Fucking Winter Boots). It will be cold, but there are any number of ways I can adapt to the cold to keep warm.

As best I can figure, the only way to stay cool in the Middle East and Africa is air conditioning. And you often don't see a lot of that in Africa. Light clothing only helps so much when it's 50 degrees. At that point, you just have to bear it, sweat, be uncomfortable and try to keep yourself hydrated.

Let's put it simply. If you put me outside at -50 in Iqaluit I will be more confortable than Jason will be in Qatar at +50. Because I can dress for it. Jason can just hold out until he can get back to the air conditioning.

I'm sure a blast of warm sun and a beach will be nice at some point next year. But only for a week or so. Give me 52 weeks of it and I'll need ear plugs to keep my brain in my head.

Last 5 on iPod
1. Blow at high dough - Tragically Hip (Live Between Us)
2. Crocodile rock - Elton John (Greatest Hits)
3. Her disappearing theme - Broken Social Scene (To Be You and Me)
4. The lowlands of Holland - Anita Best and Pamela Morgan (The Colour of Amber)
5. I wish I had an evil twin - Magnetic Fields (I)

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Ebert - the man, the myth

It might be a stretch to say that I wouldn't be where I am now without Roger Ebert, but not much of one.

No, I've never met him. However, unlike most celebrities, who I wouldn't care if I met or not, I think I might genuinely get a bit tongue-tied around Ebert. Which is why I loved reading this profile about him. Be warned, it is long. But it's also one of the better articles I've read about him.

I think the first time I saw Ebert, and Gene Siskel, was around 1982 when I was 12 years old. It's not like I was a fanatic about movies at the time, but I liked them well enough. And there was something entertaining about watching a fat guy argue with a bald guy. And they were arguing passionately about movies. And it was mean sometimes. If you ever watched their shows in the 80s, they really went at each other. The article reports they sometimes had to do another take because of the level of venom between the two.

And I thought it was cool enough that, for awhile, the idea of being a movie reviewer when I got older sounded pretty cool. You get paid to watch movies, write about them and maybe argue about them. It should come as no surprise that those part of my teen years were a particular dry patch when it came to getting dates.

Judging by the number of reviewers out there these days, I suspect I wasn't the only one. I think Siskel and Ebert inspired a whole generation of people to want to review movies. Or at least take them more seriously. Not such a bad thing, really.

And I did end up reviewing movies, although I never made as much as they did (read the article...the made a lot), I still got to do it. The whole reason I joined The Muse initially was to write movie reviews. It was only later they conned me into writing news. About 10 years after I left The Muse, I got to do reviews again, this time with The Express.

So the whole journalism racket? At least partially due to Ebert, who I always liked better than Siskel, although I would be hard pressed to figure out why. I suppose I should send him a thank you card, although there were days as a journalist I would have prefered to have sent him poison or something.

I still like Ebert's reviews, although I do agree with the article's author - he has gotten softer in the past few years. There are a lot more three star reviews (although Ebert famously hates the star rating and the thumbs up/down thing). I still have a pretty good feel, from what he writes, whether or not I will like a movie. And really, that's the best you can ask for in a reviewer - is his/her opinions in sync so you know whether or not you will like a movie?

However, I did come out of the article hating Ebert over one thing. And it wasn't the astronomical amounts of money he makes. It's not the awards or that he's generally loved and respected by large numbers of people. Nope. It's that the bastard prints his first goddamn draft. Everything you see at his website is apparently a first draft. And he can bang them out quickly.

I can't write that well if I had five drafts, an army of editors and a month to do it. He does so quickly and on the first try.

Then again, maybe it isn't too late for the poison.

Last 5 on iPod
1. Don't let the sun go down on me - Elton John and Billy Joel (Face to Face: Live)
2. Sunday bloody Sunday - U2 (Under a Blood Red Sky)
3. Looking for the next best thing - Warren Zevon (A Quiet Normal Life)
4. Milk - Garbage (Garbage)
5. Cry on demand - Ryan Adams (Demolition)

Monday, December 05, 2005

Ah, winter...

So today was the big day...not so much for starting work as it was the first really, truly, honestly freezing day since we've moved to Iqaluit. I was beginning to wonder if people were just exaggerating how cold it was suppose to be in Nunavut, although checking with Environment Canada's weather site shows that up until this past weekend, we have been experiencing near historic warm temperatures.

Since early October, the temperature has varied between 0 and -10. There was a couple of days in late November when it rained, albeit briefly. When Cathy was in Rankin Inlet last winter, she had her first five day blizzard in early October. She was getting temperatures, with wind chill, below -60 by early November. And she walked to work in that. Small wonder we shipped up the car and put in a remote starter.

So when we moved to Iqaluit I was expecting to freeze my ass off by mid-October. Didn't happen. I was wearing the same coat I wore in Newfoundland last winter up until Saturday. I could still see open water when I looked out into the harbour. Where was the bitter cold, the massive drifts of snow and the ice?

Ask and ye shall receive. The temperatue today was -25 with winds gusting to 80 km/h, which meant, with wind chill, the temperature was lurking around -45.

It will get colder that this very soon. But after two months of relatively balmy -5 or so temperatures, it is a bit of a shock to the system. That's why we had to break out the BFWCs today - Big Fucking Winter Coats.

Cathy laments that her BFWC cost more than her wedding dress and is ugly. This is true. However, as I have pointed out, while her wedding dress was lovely and had many redemptive qualities, it wasn't going to keep her warm at -50. Perhaps at some point I'll get a picture of the two of us in our BFWCs. We have the same jacket. It's kind of weird, really.

So that's it. Barring another mild spell, it's BFWCs until April. There are other things that come with bitter cold in Iqaluit. I'll write more about that later....

last 5 on iPod
1. Because the night - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (Live: 1975-85)
2. Choctaw Hayride - Alison Krauss and Union Station (Live)
3. Innocent when you dream - Tom Waits (Beautiful Malodies)
4. She's like the swallow - Anita Best and Pamela Morgan (The Colour of Amber)
5. Guardalupe - The Chieftains (Santiago)

Sunday, December 04, 2005


So tomorrow is my first day of work in about 4.5 months. Not only was I unemployed for three months, I had to burn through a month's backlog of vacation with The Express. So here's hoping I remember how to do that whole "work" thing. It's also my longest run of being unemployed since 1996, so I'm glad it's coming to an end, even if it might not be perminent. By the way, thanks to everyone who posted or e-mailed me their congratualtions. I really appreciate it.

It's also going to have an effect on the blog. Obviously, since I'm about to have a lot less spare time on my hands, the amount of blogging might drop a bit. I try to post something everyday, but it was common for me to post three or four things a day if I was in the mood. I think those days are gone, but I will still try and get at least one thing up every day.

Also, and perhaps Ed has advice on this, I'm about to enter a slightly higher profile position. I'm hardly C.J. Cregg from The West Wing, but I will be doing communications work for a government department. It won't take much for an enterprising reporter to do some poking around online and find this blog. That means being more cautious with regards to what I write about in certain fields.

So while I haven't talked a lot about Nunavut politics or the environment, I think you shall find that I will now not be speaking about it at all. This is a casual position. They can dump me pretty easily if they so choose.

Also, it doesn't require much digging online to find people who get into trouble posting things to their blog that employer or educators later find. This story about a 16-year-old girl getting suspended for teasing a classmate on a blog is just one example. In Newfoundland Blue Kaffee has had run-ins with teachers, principals and parents over content on the site, despite their best efforts to explain things.

And least you think, "Craig, it's Iqaluit. That kind of thing won't happen there" it has already. This exerpt from a story that ran in the Nunatsiaq News reports that Penny Cholmondeley, who used to work with Nunavut Tourism, was fired after an anonymous complaint was received about her blog.

This is a small town. It's about 6,500 people. I've worked in small towns before. It doesn't take long for word to spread. Sometimes that can be a good thing. When I worked with The Packet in Clarenville, I had people stop me all the time - getting mail or groceries - to comment on something I wrote. It's nice when they praise you. Not so nice when they feel compelled to call you an asshole in the middle of the cereal aisle.

So yeah, for the next few months, I shall exercise some discretion. I shall still try to be entertaining and I see no reason why I can't comment on federal or Newfoundland politics. But as for Nunavut, I think it's best that I err on the side of caution for a bit.

Last 5 on iPod
1. 'Til I am myself again - Blue Rodeo (Greatest Hits)
2. October - U2 (October)
3. The one that got away - Tom Waits (Small Change)
4. Luno - The Bloc Party (Silent Alarm)
5. Strange days - Matthew Good Band (Beautiful Midnight)

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Three random links

1. Warren Ellis pointed me in the direction of this site and I'm falling deeply in love with it already. It's called Pandora and it's exceptionally clever. I've been feeling lately that I've been running out of new music. I rarely listen to radio stations anymore, so finding new music can be difficult.

What this site does is simple, but brilliant. Type in the name of an artist or song that you like. It will find other songs or artists that are similar that it thinks you might like. I've only punched in a few artists so far - Ryan Adams and Ron Sexsmith - but I like what it's been throwing back at me.

One catch, you do have to register for the site, which is free. But you have to, ummm, distort where you live as it only recognizes people living in the U.S. I suspect there are a lot of people using this site in Beverly Hills, as the only U.S. postal code I know off the top of my head is 90210.

2. I don't know why I find this funny, but anything that mocks Vin Disel can't be all bad. Go here to see the "Top 30 Facts About Vin Disel". My favourite? "When Vin Diesel jumps into a body of water, he doesn't get wet. The water gets Vin instead."

3. My friend Corey sent me this voting link, which was interesting. Answer the questions and it tell you which party and leader you most agree with. I did it and agreed with Stephen Harper on three things, Paul Martin on two and Jack Layton on two. Which is about what I figured. My politics tend to wander all over the spectrum. I would have been surprised to find any one party or leader that I agreed with a lot.

Last 5 opn Pandora
1. Elderly woman behind the counter in a small town - Pearl Jam (Rearview Mirror)
2. Thinking out loud - Ron Sexsmith (Other Songs)
3. Priest and paramedics - Pedro the Lion (Control)
4. Hey girl - The Delays (Faded Seaside Glamor)
5. Michael - Red House Painters (Down Colorful Hill)

It's what's for dinner

Found on the bulletin board at Arctic Ventures today...

I should note, just for the record, that it's not what we're having for dinner this evening. It's probably something we'll never have for dinner. I don't know if walrus is technically seafood, but I suspect Cathy will plead an allergy and say she can't eat it. Still, I thought the poster was...interesting.

I wonder how much nice and fat, well aged walrus goes for up here...

Last 5 on iPod
1. Drowning man - U2 (War)
2. Day of reckoning - Robbie Robertson (Storyville)
3. Captain of a shipwreck - Neil Diamond (12 Songs)
4. Armagideon - The Clash (From Here to Eternity)
5. In your eyese - Peter Gabriel (Secret World Live)

Friday, December 02, 2005

The voice of the people is the voice of dog

I've been watching a lot of the early seasons of The West Wing this past week. It's my last week of unemployment, so I'm relaxing in front of my new tv watching some of the best tv writing ever done. Seriously. Aaron Sorkin, the series creator and writer, is so good in the first two seasons of the show that I want to give up. Good writing, it is said, can inspire the same in others. Unless it's so good that it makes you want to cry. That's what Sorkin did in those first two seasons. It's painfully beautiful writing. I could take the equivilent of writing steroids and not come close to what he did there.

There's a bit in the first season where Josh and Joey are having an arguement and Josh misunderstands something Joey is signing (Joey is a pollster who happens to be deaf. Josh is deputy chief of staff, for those who never watch the show). Instead of "The voice of the people is the voice of God", well, he accidentally turns God into a dog. It's a quick laugh and the writing quickly snaps onto something else.

But I guess four days into the election the people's voice isn't feeling very godly. It is, in fact, giving me a headache, much in the same way a howling dog does.

One good thing about being in Iqaluit is that I don't have to listen VOCM's open line shows. Under the best of circumstances I didn't like them. During elections, I loathe them. They were an insult to any reasonable person's intelligence. Everyone knows the shows become flooded with politicians and their hacks. So why would you bother to listen? I wanted to pitch the radio out the window.

I think I'm beginning to feel the same way about political blogs. In their defence, I guess it's a good thing to be passionate and involved in politics. Too few are. But who are they talking to? Because I honestly don't know. Too many of the Conservative blogs just bash the Liberals, there is nothing good the Liberals can do and anyone who disagrees with them is wrong. And vice versa, of course.

But the level of the debate - it terms of its nastiness, technical jargon, smugness and spin - makes it utterly worthless to anyone who is undecided. Both sides seem determined to do little more than yell at the other. I honestly don't know who they're trying to convince. Because no sane person would read them hoping to get an idea of who to vote for.

I like Ed and Liam, but I don't know how much longer I'll keep reading their blogs. I'm getting a headache. It's not a debate on which party and ideas are best to run's about winning points, dragging up old grudges and having bragging right at the end.

It is, and I say this with respect to the intelligence of both men, boring as hell.

I don't know who I'm voting for yet. I'll figure it out. I've got plenty of time. But I really doubt I'll be finding any answers in the blogosphere. So I think I'll keep watching the West Wing for the next few weeks. Sure, it's U.S. politics and not Canadian. Sure, it's biased. But the writing is stunning, passionate and I never feel like I'm having my intelligence insulted or that I'm being yelled at.

Find me some of that writing in Canada and I'll listen. Until then, the next time I check the blogosphere for answers, I'd best take some asprin first.

Last 5 on iPod
1. The engine driver - The Decemberists (Picaresque)
2. Runaway - Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies (Blow in the Wind)
3. Bottomless pit - Colleen Power (Lucky You Are)
4. Live it up - Bowling For Soup (Goes to the Movies)
5. She's got her ticket - Tracy Chapman (Collection)

More geekdom

When you're a young and budding geek, there are several ways you can go. For awhile it was a toss-up between comic books and model kit building. Then the money dried up (well, the parental supply of money dried up) and I had to pick one. I'm sure my parents would have preferred I picked something other than comics, but I did and there you go.

But lots of kids pick sports cards. Some pick coins. Others become budding philatists.

I never really considered the last three. Always stuck me as kind of boring. There wasn't much to read, not much to look at. But always becareful criticizing someone elses hobby. It's not like I've got the most glamouous hobby in the world. People like collecting things. For the most part, there's nothing wrong with it. It's fun, relaxing, a nice diversion and if you're good at it, a way of making money.

Unless you're collecting human body parts. Then, yeah, there's something significantly wrong with that. And just in case anyone is reading this that actually does that, really, seriously, you should stop that. Now.

Anyway, I'm just saying, cards, coins and stamps never really did it for me. Unless you can magically connect comics to them. Which is why I bought cards with links to comic books for a bit. Until I discovered that cards were still really boring even if you put comic book related stuff on them. However, after reading this story, I might just have to get some of these stamps.

Not entirely sure what I'll do with them once I get them, but that's something you often find with collectors. They want it. Not entirely sure what they'll do with it once they get it, but they still want it. And I want these. They're pretty. Apparently, there's a set based on Marvel characters coming out in 2007. It's a long time away, but I can wait. That's also something you're used to if you collect comics. Waiting.

Last 5 on iPod
1. Our faces split the coast in half - Broken Social Scene (S/T)
2. Refugee - Melissa Etheridge (The Road Less Travelled)
3. John Barbour - Anita Best and Pamela Morgan (The Colour of Amber)
4. The silver dove - Jenny Gear and the Whiskey Kittens (S/T)
5. Bright smile - Josh Ritter (Hello Starling)