Tuesday, January 31, 2006

In threes

Things come in threes, as the saying goes. And MUN is being hit with quite the triple whammy in the past week. So much so you get the feeling that if MUNÂ’s University relations department could take the week off rather than dealing with the crap that is currently raining down on them, they would.

I'’m trying to recall the last time MUN looked this bad, not just locally, which happens from time to time, but nationally. Universities live and die by reputations. It gets them the students, the prestigious professors and the big grants to do research. By all accounts, MUN is the middle of a massive coronary event.

To recap:

The Supreme Court of Canada rules in favour of Wanda Young using such charming language as the university needed to "get their facts straight before taking a potential career-ending action." Oh, and that the professor, Leslie Bella, acted on "conjecture and speculation."

So the university basically destroyed Young's career and life for years, never owned up to the fact, dragged the case on for years and made her to go the Supreme Court in order to get her life back. If I'm not mistaken, at one point, while waiting for her appeal to be accepted by the Supreme Court, the university went after her for the money they had already paid out to her. Lovely.

By far the worse hit is the spectacularly damning story that Chris O'Neill-Yates is doing for The National. It is a three part series, airing during the CBC's flagship news broadcast. The first part of the story focused on what appears to be massive academic fraud by Dr. Ranjit Kumar Chandra. OÂ’Neill-Yates has found at least 10 academic papers that are "fraudulent or highly suspicious."

If a MUN professor was doing this on his own without the university's knowledge, that would be bad, but not devastating. But this is: MUN has known about it since 1994. For more than a decade they had their suspicions about Chandra, but did nothing for fear of a lawsuit, among other reasons.

Part two aired Tuesday night, focused on what happened to all the money. Because if Chandra got grants for about $1 million dollars to do research, and did very little of it, where did the money go? Apparently to dozens of bank accounts. MUN apparently didn't know what Chandra did with the money or how much he was getting. Part three focuses on how Chandra could have gotten away with academic fraud. What ever happened to peer review?

O'Neill-Yates will win awards for it. The quality of journalism is that good, although I did find part two a little too tabloidish for my liking. Then again, I've never liked ambush interviews, although I understand the need for them sometimes. One other observation; Jack Strawbridge, for most of the interview, looks like he would either prefer to be working in Alert right about now, or strangling the people he has to cover up for at MUN because of their apparent incompetence in not dealing with the situation before it got to this point.

3. Oh, and just for good measure, the Auditor General's report came out today and took a few shots at how the university is run and how accountable its books are. It'll be interesting to see how that plays out in the media over the next few days. In the meantime, MUN's response to the AG is here.

You know, it's the kind of week where I wonder if Dr. Axel Meisen isn't hiding under a bed somewhere. Or, since most of the Chandra stuff occurred under Art May's watch, cursing him pretty heavily.

Maybe it was a good thing I didn't win the Board of Regents election last year after all...

Currently Playing
The Tigers Have Spoken - Neko Case

Three random bits

1. Well, thank Christ that's over and done with. I know I was living in fear he was going to run, but a lot of stories coming out today, before Tobin officially announced, that were stating things in a manner that indicated he wasn't going to run. Leaking to soften the ground, as it were.

Then there was Jeffrey Simpson's spot on, and devastating, assessment of Tobin in the Globe today: "Mr. Tobin's a dead duck in Newfoundland, and it's always nervy to choose someone whose old friends offer warnings."

Yup, that's pretty much right on.

2. I nailed about 75% of my picks with the Oscars, which isn't bad. I should have known better to pick against Judi Dench getting a nomination and I thought hard about whether Howl's Moving Castle would edge out Madagascar, but I obvious leaned the wrong way.

Then again, A Shark's Tale beat out The Polar Express for a nomination last year, and that was just weird.

And Nancy, if you have an Oscar pool, I want in. I've good for it...

3. I've had a couple of people interested recently express interest in wanting to know what Iqaluit is like. And it's not that I don't love the e-mail, but that I should probably do something more on it. I'm noticing that I'm getting a lot of hits from search engines from people looking for information.

So I've begun working on a Iqaluit FAQ in a similar vein to the "How to pitch to an entertainment writer". I'll also permanently link to it. It's also looking like it will be a multi-part post, but hopefully it will be smaller than the entertainment article. Hopefully this will answer most questions.

If you have a question you want answered, then e-mail me at: towniebastard (at) gmail dot com. I'll do my best to answer it.

Playing on iPod
Plans - Death Cab For Cutie

Monday, January 30, 2006

Nominee predictions

It's only hours away as I write this, so by the time some of you read this the picks might already be out. Still, here are my guesses. Take into account I have seen only a few of these movies. I'm basing my guesses on buzz, promotion and gut instinct.

Best Picture
1. Brokeback Mountain
2. Capote
3. Crash
4. Good Night, And Good Luck
5. Munich

Best Director
1. Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain)
2. George Clooney (Good Night, And Good Luck)
3. Paul Haggis (Crash)
4. Stephen Spielberg (Munich)
5. David Cronenberg (A History of Violence)

Best Actor
1. Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Capote)
2. Heath Ledger (Brokeback Mountain)
3. Joaquin Phoenix (Walk The Line)
4. David Strathairn (Good Night, And Good Luck)
5. Ralph Finnes (The Constant Gardner)

Best Actress
1. Reese Witherspoon (Walk The Line)
2. Charlize Theron (North Country)
3. Felicity Huffman (Transamerica)
4. Laura Linney (The Squid and the Whale)
5. Keira Knightley (Pride and Prejudice)

Best Animated Movie
1. Madagascar
2. The Corpse Bride
3. Wallace and Grommit: Curse of the Were-Rabbitt

Best Supporting Actor
1. George Clooney (Syrianna)
2. Jake Gyllenhall (Brokeback Mountain)
3. Bob Hoskins (Mrs. Henderson Presents)
4. Ed Harris (A History of Violence)
5. Paul Giamatti (Cinderella Man)

Best Supporting Actress
1. Michelle Williams (Brokeback Mountain)
2. Scarlett Johansson (Match Point)
3. Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardner)
4. Maria Bello (A History of Violence)
5. Catherine Keener (Capote)

Playing on iPod
Come on, feel the Illinoize - Sufjan Stevens

Run Away!

A very Monty Python sort of day if you're a Liberal supporter. I mean, lots of brave posturing, but when the Conservatives unleash the killer bunny then, well, it's cut and run time.

(It's distinctly possible I have taken the Monty Python and the Holy Grail analogy too far there, but I'm a sucker for a good Python moment.)

In Newfoundland there was no shortage of Liberals running away when faced with leading the party into Armageddon 2007 (ie. The next provincial election). First out of the gate, running in the opposite direction, was Gerry Reid saying that nope, no way was he going to keep leading the party. Then, soon afterwards (in fact, so soon afterwards the CBC didn't need to write a new story for it, but instead just added on to the Reid story) Anna Thistle said in so many words there was no way in hell she was doing it.

What is remarkable is that there is only a week left to declare your intention and only one person is interested and no one from the current caucus looks like they want the job. Wow. What does that say about the one mighty provincial Liberals. When Tobin screws a party, he screws them good.

And, of course, speaking of Tobin...

Paul Martin resigns as Liberal leader and everyone figures they've got the leadership contenders figured out.

Except John Manley quickly bails, citing family reasons.

Except Frank McKenna just bailed, citing personal reasons.

That's two big gun favourites who just said "No" to being Liberal leader.

Groundhog Day is February 2nd. I wonder, will Tobin stick his perfectly quoffed head (there's a lovely bit in the Saturday Globe about Tobin and his hairdresser, but it's members only online) out of his hole in the ground, see his shadow and go scurrying away for six more years.

Or will his winter of being away from politics finally be over and he takes the plunge. I've seen two polls that said he was the second choice after McKenna to be Liberal leader. With McKenna gone, is he now the favourite?

God help us all, but I think we just took a step closer to Prime Minister Tobin today...

Currently Play on My Newly Working iPod
Spamalot - Original Cast Recording

Half an anniversary

Way back when I was a young geek and managed to get my first serious girlfriend, I used to celebrate every monthly anniversary. I used to buy her a red rose on the 20th of every month, I guess at least partially to celebrate my continued amazement that I still had a girlfriend.

That habit ended once that relastionship did and I haven't really bothered with monthly anniversaries ever since. However, since you only get to celebrate six months of wedded bliss once (well, hopefully I'll only get to do it once) I figure, why not.

Mind-blowingly enough, it was six months ago today that myself and Cathy got married. I'm floored by how fast time has been going since we've been up here. I guess when it's this cold, that's not necessarily a bad thing, but it's still kind of freaky how much has happened so fast.

So happy anniversary, babe. The next anniversary, in six months time, will be spent in some place considerably warmer.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

What this theatre needs is...

Since the Oscar nominees will be announced on Tuesday, I'll have my guesses for the nominees up on Monday. I have a pretty good track record for picking the winners, but not so much for the nominees, so we'll see how I do this year.

However, before I get to that, allow me a small rant, because I just saw the box office for this past weekend. Now, I know box office and the quality of the movie have nothing in common, but I still like looking at the figures. I find them interesting for reasons I know not, but I do.

There was no shortage of articles written in 2005 saying what a terrible year it was for the movies. Small forests were decimated to print the articles and landfills will be overflowing with the discarded film from people on Entertainment Tonight or E! Talk Daily saying what a bad year it was.

Now, some people like Roger Ebert have said that is bullshit (alas, I can't find the exact article on Roger's site). That 2005 was still, in terms of money, one of the five best years of all time. Yes, ticket sales are down, but no one in Hollywood is going to be collecting food stamps any time soon.

But it did do one good thing; it caused industry people to reevaluate the movie going experience. Granted, instead of trying to fix things, they blamed a lot of it on Internet piracy which isn't nearly as bad as some in Hollywood like to portray it. But there was talk of better theatres, of trying to crack down on noisy and rude patrons, and of eliminating the annoying adds that delay the actual start time of a movie by about 15 minutes.

But most importantly, there was talk of making better movies. "If we make better films," the studios cried, "they will come!"

I'm all for better movies. Personally, I had no real problem with 2005. I got Sin City, Batman Begins, Serenity, Lord of War and King Kong, just to name a few off the top of my head. Bring on more movies like that and if you can do better, more power to you.

So, better movies. That's the solution for 2006. Do that and all will be better.

So what was the #1 movie at the box office the weekend of Jan. 20-22? Underworld: Evolution.

What was the #1 movie at the box office the weekend of Jan. 27-29? Big Mamma's House 2. Oh, and just for kickers, it had the second highest opening weekend box office in history.

I haven't see either of these movies and normally I disdain people who judge movies who don't bother to see them. However, I did see the first Underworld and I also happened to catch about 30 minutes of Big Mamma's House. I had to stop after 30 minutes because I feared lasting brain damage. As for Underworld, despite the charms of watching Kate Beckinsale run around in skintight pleather for 90 minutes, I ended up yelling at the screen after the movie (the only other time in recent history I've done this was House of Flying Daggers, because the last 15 were so terrible and the rest of the movie was so good that I was furious). I yelled because the trailer looked made the movie look unbelievably fun. Instead, it was incomprehensibly shot garbage.

So yeah, I see no reason to spend money on these films. But apparently others did. Lots of them.

And what lesson will Hollywood take if this trend of utter garbage does well while critically acclaimed movies such as Munich, Syrianna and Good Night, and Good Luck do mediocre to crap box office? Why, to blame internet piracy, of course. And to keep churning out crap.

You know, increasingly I'm beginning to think there is nothing wrong with the movies, it's the people who go and see them. If only there was a mass cinematic enema that could be given to people, that might improve things.

Playing on iTunes
Live Between Us - The Tragically Hip

A gleam of brilliance

I read Ray Guy’s column in The Independent last Sunday about what might happen at Loyola Hearn’s first cabinet meeting. Now, Guy is at a fraction of his peak powers. Back in the day he could make Joey Smallwood crap his pants every time he wrote a column in The Evening Telegram.

He was feared and he was brilliant. There are many pretty good columnists operating in Newfoundland right now, but none of them have the Fear of God reputation that Guy could install in people when he was writing in his prime. It’s a pity, really.

I mean, Russell Wangerski is good, when he's not rambling on about rambling brooks and streams. Craig Westcott is pretty damn good (I know for a fact the premier has cursed on him), but I'm biased because he's a friend. Same thing with Barbara Dean-Simmons in Clarenville. She's a friend, and she's also probably too busy to do it as much as she would like.

Averill Baker had potential, but she keeps hammering away at the same points over and over and over again. Peter Fenwick is well past his prime. I haven't read enough of Bill Rowe, but the first few I did read didn't wow me. I think the last really exceptional columnist in the province was Mark Critch, now that I think on it.

So no, there is no one at Guy's level back in the day. No one that Danny Williams worries about, for example.

Anyway, Guy’s column wasn’t brilliant. Not by any stretch. But you could see the flashes, like this bit:

Mr. Harper: Here’s my big question, Loyola. What’s the first thing to pop into your mind if you have to make a cabinet decision?

Mr. Hearn (After a colleague whispers in his ear): What the Jesus would I do? No, no. I mean, what would Jesus do?

Mr. Harper: Close, Loyola, but wrong. What would George Bush do? There’s not a Canadian, present company included, fit to ask what Jesus would do. George Bush does because he’s got Dick Cheney to tell him. Jesus tells Cheney, Cheney tells Bush, Bush tells Fox News.

Mr. Hearn: Bless us and save us, Stephen. You mean to tell me there’s not a Canadian fit?

Mr. Harper: Too long in the wilderness, my culturally defeatist newfie friend. Too long steeped in Satan-led blasphemy, abomination, idolatry, sodomy ... and that is our Job One. By the way, what’s the report on, er, strange bedfellows in your district?

Mr. Hearn: John Crosbie.

Seriously, not bad at all. Some of the other stuff rambles or falls flat, but there’s enough cleverness in there to remind you why politicians were terrified of him back in the 60s and 70s. It would be nice if there was an equivilent to terrify the politicians of today...

Playing on iTunes
Greatest Hits - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Friday, January 27, 2006

Your job doesn't suck as much as you think

It can always be worse, my friends. Oh yes...

(Courtesy of my good friend Chris Myrick's excellent Asia Pundit. He's also posting some good stuff on Google's decision to block certain information and sites from China.)

Playing on iTunes
Open Heart Symphony - Spirit of the West

Partisan = drug addict?

Yes, I'm posting a lot of political stuff lately. And I appreciate that some of you might not be entertained by all of this considering we've just spent the better part of two months dealing with a federal election.

I just ask you to bear with me a bit. I gotta go where my muse takes me. And this week, I must still have some political issues to work out. I still have stuff written about Ray Guy and Andy Wells I haven't posted yet.

But my friend Mike sent me this link to a fascinating article about what effects being strongly political partisan can have on the brain. Mike, by the way, has got a Phd in biochemistry or something, studied at Harvard and is a senior research chemist. So if the science of this article makes sense to him, then there is probably something to it. It's an American study so Republicans and Democrats were used, but I think we can pretty safely substitute in Canadian political parties.

For those of you who don't want to read the article, I'll quote from what Mike sent to me about what the article's conclusions are:

"There is now scientific evidence that strong political partisans
a) Don't think logically
b) Can't learn from new data, and
c) Have brains that function similarly to those of drug addicts."

Clearly I'm not thinking of anybody in particular. I'm just throwing this out there for general public education.

However, the next time you flip on Newsworld and there are three pundits arguing that the Liberals, Conservatives or NDP is the best party, realize there is apparently not much of a difference between them and crazy, brain-damaged drug addicts.

Playing on iTunes
Open Heart Symphony - Spirit of the West

Thursday, January 26, 2006

A voice in the wilderness

I forgot to mention in my glorious losers post yesterday that someone out there in the vast Canadian wilderness, a tribe of federal PCs still roam the land. Alas, they are not Progressive Conservatives, because I imagine there are all sorts of legal and copyright issues with using that name. No, they are the Progressive Canadian Party of Canada. They got 14,446 votes on Monday which shows they have a bit of work to do before they bump off Stephen Harper and the Conservatives.

I admit, I had visions of a grizzled, scowling Joe Clark thumping across the land, perhaps with a gnarled tree stump as a walking stick and missing an eye, having sacrificed it to the gods for wisdom. And he’s preaching to those who want conservatives, but for whom Stephen Harper scares the bejesus out of them. And he’s telling them their day will come. That there is no need to vote for Harper and his ilk. Just follow him. Follow him and one day soon he will lead them to the Promised Land. Lead them over the Rideau Canal and back onto Parliament Hill.

Yes, it would happen. And Joe would be prime minister once again. And it would be a good thing.

It was a lovely vision. Alas, when I checked out their website I get Tracy Parsons, who is not grizzled, gnarled, nor one-eyed. And is instead an attractive 40-year-old blond mother of two. Kind of disappointing, really. I think she should consider getting Clark back for the ’08 election. And, you know, scruff him up a bit.

It could work. Honest.

Playing on iTunes
Receiver - Sean Panting

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Glorious Losers

People who want a proportional representation system have been quick to point out that if you went by popular vote, the Greens would have had about 14 seats and we would likely not be looking at a minority Conservative government, but a coalition government of the Liberals, NDP and Greens. Some might be upset that's not happening. Others might be thanking whatever gods they worship that didn't happen. I'm not really sure what to think, other than it would likely be pretty groovy, man...

But it wasn't just the Conservatives, Liberals, NDP, Bloc and Greens running on January 23. No, no, there were a whole host of other parties trying to get your vote. They didn't run everywhere and they certainly didn't win anywhere, but let us take a moment to praise and, well, mock a bit, those who tried but fell short. Way, way, way short.

A friend of mine in Alberta wanted to know, just before the election, who the WBP were since they seem to be running in her riding. Well, they're Western Block Party and they're advocates for Western independence from Canada. I'm sure she'll be happy to know that they received a whopping 1,094 votes. Not in one riding. That's the combined number for every riding they ran in.

I shudder to think that there were 1,094 people for whom the Conservatives were entirely too wussy. Actually, if you throw in the Christian Heritage Party, you can add another 28,279 people to that list.

There were more Maxist-Leninist (9,289 votes) than Communists (3,127 votes). The Maxists also managed to narrowly beat out the Marijuana Party (9,275). I suspect vote splitting with the Communists nearly cost them the "irrevelent left-wing protest vote".

I also have friends who fall into the Libertarian spectrum. Alas, they will be disappinted to know the Libertarians made a poor
showing, failing to even beat the Communists with only 3,003 votes.

The First People's Nations party had a decent go in its first time out, getting 1,340 votes. There might be hope for them in the future. There are several predominently native ridings in Canada. If they get their act together, I could see them picking up a seat in the future.

But the biggest loser of the evening was the AACEV Party of Canada, which is an animal rights/environmental party for whom, I assume, the NDP must be the equivilent of Bush Republicans and the Green Party are just too conservative. I'm guessing Stephen Harper would be worse than Satan. Alas, they got 72 votes. But they're hopeful they can beat the WBP in the next election.

The numbers, in all their glory, can be found here.

Playing on iTunes
Santiago - The Chieftains

Today's Liberal leadership round-up

I keep saying I'm done with political stuff for awhile, but then I think of more juicy goodness. I actually jot them down at work so I can remember to blog about them later (remember kids, blogging at work is a bad idea.) And you've got to write this stuff down or you lose it. First rule of writing.


Liberal leadership
1. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, is there a Liberal in the country not thinking about running for the leadership? I've seen at least 20 names batted about. I'm surprised I haven't seen Roger Grimes name mentioned.

2. I know there is this big rush to recruit and slap the crown on Frank McKenna, especially since he's now quit his post as ambassador, to lead the Liberals, but does anyone really know all that much about his current politics? Other than he's bilingual and was a pretty successful premier in New Brunswick, I haven't head much else about what he's actually for. Or heard him doing much debating of public speaking. Oh, and that when he does talk, it seems to piss off Americans.

3. I know John Manley's name is being thrown around and I was actually living with The Fear over that happening. Sure, he was a competent, hell even exceptional, cabinet minister. But let's face it, if he was leader and debated Stephen Harper I would be genuinely worried voter turnout would crash since none of us would be out of our comas in time to vote.

There is hope, though. I read a quip from Manley in The National Post. He said it election night, but I must have missed it: "Some may want a dynamic, charismatic leader -- some others may support me."

I'm not saying it's Robin Williams funny, but that's not bad. There might be hope for him yet.

4. The same article also contains my favourite Brian Tobin quote so far. It's not the bit about "fulfilling his obligations in private life." We all know he's going to come back because "people insisted that he was needed" or some such foolishness. No, it's this quote: "There is no need to rush recklessly ahead (with a leadership contest)."

Yes, for the love of God, don't rush ahead. I mean, the Liberals are talking about a convention before Christmas. The last thing they need to do is elect Tobin and then he heads home for Christmas, spends some time with Jodean and the kids and the next thing you know, the "glow of the Christmas lights" will have him quitting again. Then where will the Liberals be?

It's what he's best at, you know: Making big promises, quitting and screwing over constituents. If you want that in a leader, Tobin's your man.

Playing on iTunes
Santiago - The Chieftains

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

No change in the weather

So how did things go in the North? Well, other than freezing cold (it was about 45 yesterday once you threw in the wind), there was one small change. Instead of three Liberals, there are now two Liberals and one New Democrat. The NDP beat the Liberal junior minister in Western Arctic (the Northwest Territories).

The race was closer in Nunavut than it was last time, but the Liberal still won fairly easily. A few scares early in the evening when the Conservative was ahead, but Nancy Karetak-Lindell eventually pulled away. Results were painfully slow coming in, though. When I went to bed at 12:20 EST I think about 15 polls were in for Nunavut. The polls had been closed almost three hours at that point. I have no idea why, other than to say “It’s the north.” Which is generally what you say when things happen that appear to make little sense.

A favourite moment was when a fluke of what polls were being counted, and their speed (or lack thereof) had the Marijuana Party candidate in third place for about an hour, only 12 votes or so behind the front runner. That was a bit weird. Granted, the vote totals were something like 25 Conservative, 18 Liberal, 13 Marijuana Party.

Actually, the marijuana guy finished ahead of the Green Party. It’s been suggested that what with climate change, Nunavut would be a prime place for the Green Party to make a breakthrough (yes, there is a decided lack of Green up here. Perhaps they might want to rethink that name).

I’m not going into it too much, because it cuts a bit close to my job, but until the party changes its stand on sealing, I don’t see it happening. The candidate up here had to publicly distance himself from the Green’s anti-sealing stand. Guess it didn’t work.

As for the turnout, 53.3% voted in Nunavut. Not great, but still about 10 points higher than last time. So that’s good.

As for what it means for the North, I don’t know yet, but it will be worth watching. It’s the first time in decades the North hasn’t had a representative in government. And arctic sovereignty was a significant plank in the Conservative’s election strategy. More search and rescue, more troops, a naval base near Iqaluit, etc.

Harper has promised a lot, with a limited window to get it all done. With no one in the government caucus to push for Northern issues, it’ll be interesting to see how much of this gets done in a short period of time.

Mostly Harmless…

Eh…so that wasn’t as bad as most people thought. The Conservatives get a small minority, but are held pretty firmly in check by a sizeable Opposition who will let the Conservatives get away with so much, but not too much. For example, they will get away with anti-corruption legislation, more money for the military and some tax breaks. But I highly doubt they will get far messing with social policy, such as abortion or same sex marriage.

Yes, the Liberals aren’t going to want to topple the government for at least a year or more and that does leave them vulnerable to the Conservatives trying to ram some thing through. But again, the Conservatives want to get reelected. This wasn’t a vote from a group of people deeply in love with Harper and the Conservatives. This was a vote from people who felt, for the most part, like they had no choice but to spank the Liberals.

Hardly a ringing endorsement.

Shockingly enough, I haven’t heard of anything boneheaded being said by a Tory winner last night. Perhaps Harper has put subcutunous electrical devices in each one of them. Just before they’re about to say something retarded, they get a small electrical shock. Don’t be surprised if you see lots of Tories twitching and spasming in the coming weeks.

Oh, as for my predictions…they pretty well sucked. But hey, I got the NDP number right.

As for big winner or losers, I’m not sure there were any. The Conservatives won, which makes them a winner. But they certainly didn’t win the number of seats they were hoping for.

The Liberals lost, which makes them losers. But considering some predictions had them with about 60 seats and barely ahead of the BQ for Opposition leaders, they’ve still got to be happy.

The NDP finished fourth, but picked up 11 seats. Still, they were in the low 30s for awhile. I’m sure they were hoping for a few more seats and to be the balance of power.

The one party with nothing to spin, I guess, was the BQ. There was talk of 60 or more seats and a popular vote of better than the magic 50%. But they lost 6% and lost three (nearly four) seats. Good luck spinning that.

Good on them, by the way. It’s nice to see that it wasn’t people embracing sovereignty in Quebec with the early poll numbers, but just being furious with the Liberals. Sovereignty remains where it generally does in Quebec – around 40%.

As for Paul Martin, I’m reminded of a quote I once heard about President Bill Clinton. I’m paraphrasing here, but it was roughly this: “In between the potential of Bill Clinton and the reality of Bill Clinton lies his tragedy. The tragedy of the waste of what should have been.”

I think that works for Martin. He could have been a great prime minister, but it just never happened. There will be lots of articles and books written about that, assessing blame and praise. Let’s just say it didn’t work out for him. But at least he did the smart and classy thing of stepping down right away. I’d say a Liberal leadership convention around November. Too soon to say who will win, but surely McKenna, Tobin and Manley will be running.

A couple of other numbers, although not as impressive.
Percentage of eligible voters who voted in Newfoundland – 56.8%
Percentage of eligible voters who voted in Canada – 64.9%

Better than in 2004, but still kind of pathetic.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Pick a number

So, with mere hours left in this government, it's time to make a prediction on seat numbers. I'm not running this through any site that takes percentage of popular vote and churns out a seat count. This is just pure guesswork on my part.

For Newfoundland:
Conservative - 4 (alas, I don't think Scott Simms is going to hold)
Liberals - 3
NDP - 0
Green - 0

For the rest of Canada:

Conservative - 141
Liberals - 79
Bloc - 59
NDP - 29

Feel free to add your guesses in the feedback section.

Currently Playing On iTunes
Lucky You Are - Colleen Power

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Goodbye West Wing, Hello Tick

I had just finished watching yet another good West Wing where it became obvious how Santos was going to beat Vinnick. All season Santos has been behind and it has looked hopeless. Obviously, the writers were going to drag something out. Some scandal or controversy that would bring him down. And a near nuclear accident in a plant in California, that Vinnick championed, appears to be the thing that's going to decide it.

I'm glad that's how it's going to happen. Throughout this season, West Wing has been running an idealized presidential election, without the smears and mostly on issues. It's been entertaining to watch. And they didn't make nuclear power an easy fall guy. Instead, there were good and bad points about it. Very intelligently written. Not as good as the writing in the first three seasons, but still good stuff.

So naturally, NBC announced the show is done as of May 14. Not a big surprise, I'm sad to say. NBC appears to be run by monkeys this season. So rather than moving the show to a time slot where it might have a chance, they canned it instead. Genuis.

All of this and Commander-in-Chief is still on the air. I tried watching an episode last week involving a U.S. submarine missing in North Korean waters and all I could think was "Didn't West Wing do this back in season three or something and do it about 10 times smarter with a fraction of the melodrama?" Yup.

sigh Never look for fairness or justice in television. It doesn't exist.

The one bit of good news is this story about the Tick cartoon coming to DVD later this year. Perhaps grown men shouldn't like cartoons, but hey, I'm a geek. And one of my all-time favourite cartoons is The Tick. Not the live action show briefly on Fox. That always felt...unnatural. The cartoon, however, is pure genuis. One of the funniest things I've ever seen on TV. I'll be buying this the day it comes out. So should you.


Currently Playing On iTunes
Face And Eyes - Colleen Power

Down With Pants!

For those of you not in the know, and I suspect that would be most of you, today is No Pants Day. Or at least it is according to the people following this site. It's not quite the same as the tradition that some of my friends followed, but close enough

Yeah, you read the last sentence correctly. My friends have (had) the tradition of screaming "Down With Pants!" and this normally meant people would drop their pants. Woe to the poor sod who had a pair of tidy whities on. Or, you know, went commando that day. There would be great mocking for the lame underwear and potential snickering for the lame package.

The origin of this tradition, as best as I'm able to trace it, is Nov. 5, 1993. It was after a Spirit of the West show at the TSC and a group of us decided, suitably fired up by the booze, that it was time to perform our own act of rebellion against a tyranical government (A lot of people at MUN hated Clyde Wells pretty solidly at this point). While we didn't have the explosives to do in the Confederation Building, we did have fireworks. So it was a symbolic gesture of contempt towards the government.

So we go to the hill, hide a bit out of the way while the pyromaniacs (engineers, if I recall) set up the fireworks. One of the party wanted to help with the explosives, even though he was quite drunk. When it was decided that this was a tremendously bad idea, he staggered up to the highway meridian in front of Confederation Building and screamed "Down With Pants!" and then promptly dropped his.

Alas, it was a commando occassion for him (Who shall go nameless on this blog, as he is a Professional these days).

So we're trying to launch fireworks without being caught, we have a pantsless man screaming at Confederation Building while cars honk at him on their way past and we're trying to debate exactly who goes out to the meridian and drags him away,

It all worked out in the end. The pantsless man was successfully removed, the fireworks were launched and no one was caught. A pretty good evening over all. And, of course, "Down With Pants!" became both legend and tradition.
So while January 22 is the wrong day of No Pants Day, I can understand why it wasn't held on November 5. It does get over-shadowed by other events.

So whereever you are today, feel free to go without pants, or drop them to show your contempt of government. Or to show off your underwear.

I won't be, though. It's -41 with windchill in Iqaluit today. That's a bit too nippy to be wandering about without pants.

Currently Playing On iTunes
Red Roses For Me - The Pogues

Good analysis

There are quirks to living up north and this is one of them: From Monday to Friday most of the southern newspapers we get in Iqaluit arrive between 1-2 p.m. This includes The Globe and Mail, The Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa Sun, Toronto Star, Montreal Gazette, National Post and 2 or 3 French papers. Unless there is weather, in which case all bets are off. But normally, this is the case.

But on Saturdays, it's a crap shoot when the papers will arrive. I've seen them there at 1 p.m. There have been other days when they didn't get it until Sunday. People get very testy about this. I mean, I don't know how well the papers sell during the week, but people want their Saturday paper. I know I do. During the week I read most of my news online, but I do like to sit down and spend an hour or two reading the Globe on a Saturday.

Today, it came in at 6:30. sigh

That's why I'm late posting this link. While I might not always agree with him, I felt this analysis by Jeffrey Simpson was pretty well spot on. It's about what went so wrong with the Liberals in the past three years. How you can have a solid economy, good employment figures and a high level of contentment from the population and totally squander it in short order.

It's fascinating stuff and well worth the read even if you're one of those people who normally hate the Globe.

Currently Playing On iTunes
If I Should Fall From Grace With God - The Pogues

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Dr. StrangeHarper: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Not Fear the Tories

So the polls appear to be holding. Barring a miraculous last minute swing in Ontario (not unheard of) the Conservatives are going to win a minority. There appears to be enough last minute shifting and few screw-ups by the Conservatives in the past week to keep them shy of majority territory. Which is what most people want anyway. Just in case Stephen Harper's miraculous transformation into a moderate conservative has a shelf life of about seven weeks (oddly, about the time it takes to run a federal election).

Liberals running in the election have done everything but paint the Conservatives as the anti-Christ. "If you elect the Conservatives, the angel will break the second seal and you can forget about ever catching a cod fish because the seas will have all turned to blood, and the cod, they don't like swimming in blood, b'ye."

I can understand this. If you're a politician and running for election, well, you do everything you can to get elect. It's important to get elected and become a member of the party running the government. You get to decide the direction of the country. And, more importantly, you can access to a whole lot more money to play with than if you're in opposition.

The only Liberals who want the Liberals to be the government are those running to fill the seats. An other Liberal with half a brain should look at this crowd and go "Yeesh. Maybe a break isn't such a bad thing." Purge. Restart.

"Choose Your Canada." Stephen Harper will do terrible things. He will siddle up to the Americans. He will make us just like the Americans. He will cut our beloeved social programs."

Oh please...

Look, Canada is a fundimentally liberal (or Liberal) country. Even the most cursary glance of the party in power for the past 100 years will show that. Canadians don't elect Conservatives; we toss out Liberals. At some point in time, the Liberals get too smug, too corrupt and lose touch with the rest of the country. Welcome to that point in history.

The Liberals have just been horrific for most of the past two years. It's sad really. I think Paul Martin could have made a good prime minister. It's going to be one of those things debated by historians on what went wrong. But the party is adrift. No idea or focus that they can coherently articulate to the rest of the country. Other than "Tories bad. Have some money."

The best thing for the Liberals is to lose this election, go off into a corner, get reorganized and get ready to fight again in two or three years time. Find a new leader. Get a coherent vision.

Because the Tories won't destroy the country. They're going to muck with it, to be sure. But there will be nothing of lasting damage. I honestly don't think they're going to mess with same sex marriage or abortion or with universal health care. It's too controversal and will stir up people way more than they can afford as a minority government. They need to get reelected and there are smart enough people with the Tories to realize people are not voting for them because of their deep love of their party, policies and leader. It's because they've finally hit the tipping point with the Liberals.

Besides, once the Tories win, it will be a miracle if on election night one of their newly minted MPs doesn't say something staggeringly sexist, racist or homophobic. There's no way they go a whole week without it happening.

The honeymoon when Chretien got it was about two years, because people loved him as much as they hated the Mulroney Tories. The honeymoon with Harper is going to be about two weeks. No one hates Martin; it's just that no one understands him anymore.

So don't worry about the Tories. Let the Liberals go off and lick their wounds. They'll get themselves straightened out. Because odds are, the Tories won't really be around long enough to do any serious damage. You can start the clock on them five minutes after the election has been called.

Currently Playing on iTunes
Weezer - Weezer

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Lazy day

This was a day, as my wife charmingly put it, where the little hamster in the wheel inside my head never really got going. I'd argue the point, but she's right. It was a storm day here in Iqaluit. Not a lot of snow, probably only 5 cm or so. But once you throw in sustained winds of around 90 km/h and gusting to well over 100 and then add a windchill of below -30, well, it's enough to shut the place down. Schools closed, government closed, pretty much everywhere closed.

So apparently some part of my brain went "Yipee! No thinking for me today." And so it was. A pretty slothful day of watching TV and reading comic books (I reread the excellent, and highly recommended, "Fables"). Thus, there is not much to report. I had something brewing on the election, but that's for a day where the thought process is a little more focused.

So I shall give you these two new facts about Nunavut and Iqaluit that you may have not known.

1. Technically, Iqaluit is not in the Arctic Ocean. I thought I had my third ocean when I dipped my hand in it back in September, but no. It is, geographically speaking, next to the Atlantic Ocean. However, since Newfoundland is located in the North Atlantic I feel Iqaluit should get the designation of the Very, Very North Atlantic Ocean.

2. All of Nunavut is located in one time zone, that is, Eastern Standard Time. If you look a a map, Iqaluit is actually north of New Brunswick. We should be in Atlantic Time. If you look to the western region of the territory a community such as Kugluktuk should be in Mountain Time. It's a big territory. I'm not 100% certain of the reasons behind it, but I believe it makes it easier for government to function if all the offices operate on the same time, rather than across four time zones.

One last thing, completely unrelated to Nunavut, but I skipped my first curling game in about 18 years last night. There are a number of reasons why I stopped being a Skip. I was too competitive. I tended to curse a lot and generally became a jerk. None of which (well, except for the cursing) are qualities I particularly enjoy.

However, I like to think I've grown up a bit in the last two decades so when all the games were cancelled last night because few people showed up, we had enough for a pick-up game. And I skipped. And my team won. A nice, back-and-forth, fun game against a good team where we won 6-5. I wasn't shooting my best, but I was still happy. I genuinely would have been happy if we lost, the game was that much fun.

I'm not sure I'm ready to be a skip again full-time, but it was nice to see that no bad habits (well, a bit of cursing) reemerged. Of course, that was a scrap game. Let's see if I'm still well behaved if I'm in a competitve bonspiel.

Currently Playing On iTunes
Receiver - Sean Panting

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Tobin watch continues...

For those of you doubting that he's going to make a return engagement to inflict more horror in our lives, two stories of interest today.

The first is, admittedly, a false alarm. But it is proof that the media are paying attention to what he's doing now that the Liberals look sunk. It's the third piece down that refers to Tobin.

But this is the real gem of the day. This story reports the majority of Canadians believe Prime Minister Paul Martin should step down if he loses the election. Among Liberals, the first choice to replace him? Frank McKenna. Second choice...Tobin. And the numbers are close - 20% of Liberals want McKenna, 17% want Tobin.

I think what's scarier is the third choice - Belinda Stronach. She's at 12%. John Manley is at 9%.

The story skims on the details. If you want all the dirt go here.

He's a comin' back, folks. They might be early poll numbers, but I guarentee you he's seen them. And if he's that close to McKenna, he's definitely going to make a run for it. Set your watch on how long it takes after the election before we start to see Tobin make more high profile appearances.

Currently Playing on iTunes
The Return of Pansy Smith and Violet Jones - The Flash Girls

Yes, another quiz

I swore I was going to stop doing these quizes, but I rather like this one. And I actually like the song. WHo knew there was anything actually played on the airways in 2005 that I liked.

Your 2005 Song Is

Beverly Hills by Weezer

"My automobile is a piece of crap
My fashion sense is a little whack
And my friends are just as screwy as me"

You breezed through 2005 in your own funky style!

Thanks to Scotty for the link.

Currently Playing On iTunes
The Return of Pansy Smith and Violet Jones - The Flash Girls

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The day that was...

So, not bad as birthdays go...my parents birthday package arrived so I got a couple of things from them. My parents have long since resigned themselves to not knowing what to get me. And really, there is very little people can buy me these days. There's only so many books, graphic novels and DVDs you can get before it becomes a bit tedious.

It's funny, but I did some digging around today to see whose birthday it was today and what famous events happened on this day in history. But none of that stuff stuck. Instead, it was two stories. First, this one about the NASA probe being launched to Pluto (I know it's been delayed until the 18th, which kind of sucks). But it was the whole idea of it being launched on my birthday and that it wouldn't reach its destination until I was 45. It just hit a nerve with me.

Then there was this piece of joy saying we're all dead and doomed inside 100 years. The bright side is that the only people who will still be alive will be those living in the arctic. So it appears I came here looking for a job and instead managed to find a refuge against global armageddon. How's that for dumb luck? If you're all nice, I'll try and find space for you in the storage room.

And to everyone who wished me a happy birthday, thanks. I (mostly) appreciate it. Except Pat. She's a wench, but she knows it and takes as a compliment. And to answer some of your comments.

1 Sure B'y A birthday is better than the alternative. And while talking to my parents I found out my grandfather is a bit ill and one of my mom's long-time friends (I think everyone in Winterton called her Aunt Louie) passed away on the weekend, I'm more aware of it than normal.

2. Jason Thanks...I hadn't considered that. I remember really liking the character of Kitty Pryde with the X-men because she was the same age I was (12). Now I'm 36 and she's 19 or something. Ah, for a comic book character aging scheme. Then again, it might mean spandex. Nothing good can come from that.

3. Anonymous I apparently have a lot of years on a lot of my friends. I need older friends to badger or something. Oh right, I have Colette.

4. Vicki You know, I've enjoyed my 30s a fair amount, really. No mortgage or kids to speak of, but hey, I was alone most of my 20s. In my 30s I got a wife. And I think most of my older friends will agree I'm much more easy going now than I was 15 years ago when I was with the muse. Granted, I was more entertaining and funny in my bitterness, but there is something kind of pathetic about still being that bitter at my age.

5. Nancy I haven't been feeling that restless, actually. After years of wondering what was going to happen next, about where I was going to settle down and if I was going to find someone, it's nice that I have those answers now. And it's nice that with the current job I can save some money and travel, something I'm envious that my other friends are able to do.

6. Dups Yes, I had my crisis in New York back when I was 30. But tell you what, I figure by the time I hit my 40 crisis, you'll still be in the middle of yet another crisis of some sort. We'll team-up and do a super mega crisis. An Infinite Crisis if you will (Jason will get it). It'll be great. We'll terrify everyone we know.

7. Pat (Wench) Oh yes, what are you, 34 or something. You're not that far behind me, babe. Hope you're stocking up on the hair dye...Oh, and no space in the storage room for you when global armageddon breaks out. You're on your own in Clarenville.

8. Scotty Whole hosts of women have voodoo dolls with my name on it. Tell them to take a number.

9. Colette I think Bora Bora for 40 sounds pretty good. Or perhaps Australia. And I'm not a classic car kind of guy. But I still have a few years to think on it. And really, if I'm still in Iqaluit, a snazzy car will do me no good.

Currently Playing On iTunes
Victrola - Sean Panting

So they say it's your birthday...

So yeah, I'm now 36. The death spiral towards 40 has officially begun. Before today I could just go "Well, I'm in my mid-30s." I'm still there, but now there's no denying I'm closer to 40 than to 30.

And on the off-chance I could shelter my brain from it, well, that's why I have a wife and friends. They shall make sure I won't forget it. Cathy never hesitates to remind me that she is, in fact, considerably younger than I am.

sigh...Hooking up with a younger woman seemed like such a good idea at the time.

Actually, I shall go easy on Cathy. Chapters and Amazon conspired against her and my birthday gift (The Complete Calvin and Hobbes), barring a small miracle, won't arrive in time. And yes, some might consider that karmic justice because one of her Christmas gifts was late in arriving and she teased me hard over it, but she's so genuinely upset that I don't have the heart to tease her about it.

I've never been particularly fond of birthdays, having long since resigned myself to the fact that I'm not going to particularly enjoy the aging process or getting older. I'm going to be a grumpy old man with a stick. And that's ok, really. Just make sure they keep me off the Open Line shows and I'll be fine. I'd just as soon go "ok, today's my birthday. What's next?" but that's not likely to happen.

Still, I'm fairly happy. I've got an amazing, loving wife. I'm liking the new job so far. I've managed to get this far in my life being pretty healthy and that same luck has extended to most of my family and friends. The world domination thing hasn't happened yet, but I still have time.

One of my fomer editors, Barb of the Packet, will be happy to know that I'm no brighter as I get older. I made the quip about the death spiral to 40 to a pair of my female co-workers who were well past that delicate age. I barely escaped the room alive.

A side note: Myself and Barb went to New Bonaventure when The Shipping News was filming there back in 2001. I happend to see Julianne Moore up close and spent the 75 minute drive back to Clarenville gushing about how hot Moore was and that it was hard to believe she was 40. Said editor has just turned 40 and was seriously annoyed that I had my seat belt on because it meant she couldn't hit the brakes and send me through the windshield. She contemplated beating me to death with the Pentax K-1000 she had next to her, but thought it might break and that would be a waste of a good camera.

Instead, she got her revenge by writing a column about my comments in the next Packet. I was hated by every woman over 35 in Clarenville for about a month.

So I suppose with 40 now in sight, I have to start planning the big blow-out. My father went and bought a camero convertible (which he still has) and then promptly fled the province and hid with his sister in Toronto when he turned 40; If I'm still in Iqaluit, I'm fairly safe from most of the evil family and friends. But I'm not sure if I get the mid-life crisis car that way. And furthermore, what kind of mid-life crisis-mobile should it be?

Decisions, decisions...ah well, I still have four more years to figure it out. Plenty of time...

Currently Playing on iTunes
Avalanche - Matthew Good

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Three will be along in a minute

I've been listening to a lot more CBC than normal lately. It's the only radio station I can get at work via streaming audio on the computer. The alternative is to bring in a radio and listen to Iqaluit's Raven Rock. However, while their play list is...charmingly...erratic, I can't listen to commerical radio stations for eight hours or more a day. I'll go mad.

That means CBC. And since a lot of of CBC North is in Inuktuit (which I can't understand, but I'm taking my first class later this week), that means tuning in CBC Newfoundland.

(And to answer the question why don't I get other streaming stations via my computer, they are blocked.)

"On The Go" has been posing the interesting question of why doesn't St. John's have a bus station. It's one of those things that I had never dwelled on before, but it's a good question. We used to have one - the old CN Train Station on Water Street. But once the CN buses stopped running, along with the trains, the building fell into disuse. It is now, of course, The Railway-Coastal Museum.

So if a visitor to the city came up to you and asked where he or she could go about catching a bus to Gander, what would you tell them? Where would you tell them they could catch a bus? Unless you're a regular user of DRL, you probably wouldn't know that you had to go to the Irving in Donovan's to get the bus. Apparently most tourism information on websites or brochures mention little if anything about how to get around the province via bus.

It was also pointed out that we surely must be one of the few capital cities in all of North America that doesn't have a bus depot. And that's just weird.

I'm not saying it's worth having a bus depot just for DRL. I've had my share of bad experiences with DRL. So has Liam. If you've ridden the TCH with DRL at all, I'm willing to bet you've had one as well. Whether or not it just has to do with the joys of bus travel or DRL's increasingly poor reputation, I leave it for you to judge.

I have the feeling that one day I'm going to read in The Telegram or with CBC that DRL just closed operations and the owners will have done a Lorraine Lush. And when they do surface, they will blame the media, the government and any number of other things other than the fact that they seem to run a bit of a half-assed bus service.

Anyway, if you had a depot where DRL could launch from, along with Metrobus and the shuttle buses (okay, most of them are mini-vans) that run out to the Bonavista and Burin Peninsulas, throw in a tourism kiosk and then you might have something. That way you're not dependent on one operator. That way it's not vacant most of the time. Have it paid for by the province and St. John's and throw in some nominal rents to the companies that use it and I think it could work.

St. John's has a bus depot. Tourism operators around the province are a bit happier and it shouldn't cost a fortune. I'm not sure where to put it; Downtown seems obvious, but perhaps somewhere in the centre of town could work as well. It's worth thinking about, at any rate.

Currently playing on iTunes
Tripping Up The Stairs - Spirit Of The West

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Ed getting desperate?

Even if I wasn't following the election closely, I could get a pretty good idea of what party was winning just by checking out Ed and Liam's blogs. Since January 12 Ed has posted 15 times to his blog, Liam six. Both of them are fairly wordy people, but the way I read it is that Liam is increasingly confident his party is going to win, so he's posting less. Ed is sounding increasingly desperate, hence the metric ton of posts in the last two and a half days. Nearly all of the ones from Ed, by the way, having been ripping the Conservatives. Liam's tend to be more "these are the good things I think the Conservatives will do." Liam hasn't been ragging on the Liberals as much in the last few days.

Guess it would be too much like kicking a dead cat or something.

It's an interesting dichotomy.

Although I did find the poll information Ed put up on the site regarding Newfoundland and the rest of Atlantic Canada interesting. Especially in light of Dave Cochrane analysis on "On the Go" yesterday about how the riding races are going. His interpretation, talking to "insider sources" (I'm hit or miss on Dave's inside sources, just for the record. They're right more often than not. But not always, and not enough for me to feel comfortable with to take for granted) the Conservatives are comfortably ahead in the two St. John's ridings and in Avalon.

And with the announcement by Scott Simms about the Gander weather office, the rumours about how tight that race is now are apparently true. I remain highly sceptical about Labrador in play. And, sadly, Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte is not in play, which means Gerry Byrne is going to get back in. I agree with my good friend Craig Westcott about what a tragedy that is.

It should be an interesting last week. At some point I'll have to make my predictions about Newfoundland seat counts and the federal race as a whole. Probably next weekend.

Currently playing on iTunes
Decade - Neil Young

Friday, January 13, 2006

He Lives

So I had pretty much figured out, before going to work this morning, which candidate I was going to vote for. I had it narrowed to the Liberals and the NDP last week. Then I had pretty much decided on the NDP after our first burst of excitement in the local campaign, which happened Tuesday night.

During the candidates’ forum, the NDP candidate Bill Riddell sideswiped Nancy Karetak-Lindell, the Liberal MP, with the information that Revenue Canada was going to start taxing subsidized rent in Iqaluit. It caused a collective freak-out by a lot of people in Iqaluit. Between government and businesses, a lot of the apartments being rented in town are subsidized. Some are subsidized quite a lot.

For example, I estimate about a third of our rent is paid for by the government. That is part of Cathy’s contract. That subsidy is tax-free because Iqaluit is considered a “prescribed zone”. That means the federal government acknowledges “that a natural housing market does not exist, and considers housing subsidies a necessary — and non-taxable — benefit for employees.”

Read this very good story in the Nunatsiaq News about what it would mean in terms of money. Millions would be out of the community. It would have caused a bureaucratic nightmare getting the paperwork straightened out. Not to mention how much money it would have cost individuals. The article states it would be taxed at a rate of about 29 per cent. That would have hit a lot of people very, very hard.

As it stands, the freak-out was unnecessary. By yesterday Revenue Canada was in full damage control mode saying it had been a mistake, that there was never any plan to make people in Iqaluit start to pay tax on the rent subsidy. The CBC (The Nunatsiaq News had already gone to press by the time the problem got cleared up) has the story here.

Of course, more than one person is wondering if Riddell hadn’t brought up the issue, whether it still would have been cleared up or whether people would have been stuck with it and told to deal. It’s a fair point and we’ll never know. But I think it’s safe to say that Karetak-Lindell would have had a hard time winning this seat if a good chunk of Iqaluit, with about 20 per cent of the population of Nunavut, was in revolt over the “tax grab.”

So I was leaning NDP because it was good that Riddell caught it, I’ve liked what I’ve heard him say and he seems pretty energetic considering how late he got into the campaign.

Then I read today’s Globe and Mail and got the chills. It was, in fact, The Fear. It was this story, talking about how the long knives are already being sharpened for Paul Martin. Since it appears very likely, barring a massive screw-up by the Conservatives, the Liberals are about to spend some time in opposition. That means Martin is toast. It’s a matter of does he fall on his sword (cursing on Jean Chretien’s very effective knee-capping of him before he does so) or back up to the wall, only to discover it’s a prop and that there are a couple of hundred pissed of Liberals with pointy knives waiting for him behind it.

And who are some of the Liberals with the knives? Why, potential leadership candidates of course. Just when you thought the matter of the Liberal leadership was over, it’s back.

And you know what that means, don’t you? Oh yes, McKenna is back. And so is Manley. But so is he.


Dear sweet Lord, saints and martyrs preserve us, Tobin is going to come back. You always knew he would. Much like Freddy or Jason, you just can’t kill him. Stakes, holy water, silver bullets and screwing up Newfoundland’s economy didn’t do the trick. I honestly don’t know what will.

But we better find it and we better find it fast.


Liberal leader Brian Tobin.

Opposition leader Brian Tobin.

Prime Minister (shudder) Brian Tobin.

It’s enough to make you vote for Martin and the Liberals. Anything to forestall his return.

Currently playing on iTunes
An Irish Evening - The Chieftains

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Why the excitement?

I do believe I might have a stomach flu brewing so I shall rant now, lest this thing bring me low in the next 24 hours.

So there was much excitement in local media that Newfoundland artists received 18 nominations. Colleen Power, Duane Andrews and the Novaks lead the way with two each. Great Big Sea has apparently finally entered the Anne Murray/Sarah McLachlan territory of becoming too big for the awards because they received one nod for roots-traditional group recording of the year.

You know, if I wasn't feeling so crappy, I'd backtrack over the last five years or so and see how many nominations Newfoundland artists got each of those years. I won't swear by it, but I'm pretty certain this has to be a new low. I'm sure there were years where Great Big Sea almost got that many nominations by themselves.

Are Newfoundland musicians not as good as the rest of Atlantic Canada? Si the quality slipping from the days when GBS and the Irish Descendents dominated? Is the voting rigged because Nova Scotia essentially gets a double vote (Nova Scotia and Cape Breton are considered separate voting regions, which is bullshit)? Or are the awards essentially irrelevent other than a weak publicity tool to promote regional music to the rest of Canada?

I'd have to say the later, really. Because there are a lot of good Newfoundland artists, they just seem to be overlooked, fairly regularly, at the ECMAs. Unless Newfoundland is hosting it. Then we get a few more nods because it looks bad otherwise. And what was the last act that made it big because of the ECMAs? I have no idea.

I'm looking at some of the nominees. And I like to think of myself as reasonably well informed about music, but I really don't know who a lot of them are. I haven't heard of two of the five nominees in the album of the year cateory (Dave Gunning and J.P. Cormier). I've heard of only two of the female artists (Power and Mary Jane Lamond) and so on and so forth.

I understand The Trews. I understand Matt Mays. They both had huge years. They deserve the nominations. As for most of the rest, I literally have not heard these musicians on Newfoundland radio stations, or any mention of them in any national or regional media. I assume they're big in Nova Scotia. But outside of Nova Scotia? Not so much.

(As a side note, it is worth mentioning that most local commercial radio stations suck and barely support Newfoundland artists, let alone play something from the rest of Atlantic Canada. Commercial radio has about 10 years of life expectancy unless they do some radical adjusting. But that's for another time.)

Understand, I'm not saying they're bad. Just that everyone brags of the talent in Newfoundland and we get 18 nominations. Riiiiight Either we're being fed a line about the quality of talent, or the awards might as well be renamed the "Nova Scotia Music Industry Awards with a few scraps for the rest of you."

Anybody in the Newfoundland music industry will tell you, over a few drinks, that the ECMAs are bullshit. That it's all politics and money these days. Maybe Newfoundland musicians are wising up to that and not playing that game anymore. If that's the case, good on them.

But you know what? Let's not go ga-ga over 18 nominations. Let's not think the awards are a great launching showcase anymore, because they're not. And let's not think they're important awards anymore. Because really, I'm getting the same whiff off of them that I get from the Golden Globes.

And I assure you, that's not a pretty smell.

Currentlly playing on iTunes because the latest iPod update has managed to lock up my iPod
Just Like A Vacation - Blue Rodeo

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Tired, so a few links

I know people don't consider curling a hard or tiring game, but if you play 8 ends after not playing for the better part of a month and only three players show up on your team, you really are doing a lot of running around. Plus, I feel a possible bug coming down. So I'm wiped. Rants on the start of the provincial Liberal leadership race, the need for a bus station in St. John's and the general uselessness of the ECMAs will have to wait for another day (like how the fuck is Colleen Power nominated in the Best Folk Recording cateogy? Has anyone on the nominating committee actually listened to Face and Eyes?)


1. My gratutious federal election link comes from England. Or specifially from my favourite writer, Warren Ells, who takes a delightfully obscene shot at Prime Minister Paul Martin. Skip most of the article and just read the last paragraph.

2. I gave up on the Darwin Awards once they became this super trendy thing and when some idiot posted the four boys who died in Pouch Cove ice panning for an award. That struck a little too close to home and the awards were no longer funny to me. Yet, out of curiosity I went to check out the 2005 Award Winners. Of the four, two didn't do anything for me, one was midly groan worthy, but the guy cleaning a chimney with a hand grenade really was the hands down winner.

3. Cows with guns. Do I really need to say more?

Currently playing on iPod
Set Yourself on Fire - Stars

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

No sign of the times

A few weeks ago I mentioned how hard it can be to campaign in the north. Well, how'’s this for hardcore - Conservative candidate David Aglukark was out campaigning at 8 a.m. yesterday at one of the major intersections in Iqaluit. That meant waving at traffic, handing out pamphlets and talking to people.

It was a balmy 25 degrees yesterday (remember, we no longer need to say "minus" here) and he was out in it for a couple of hours.

So yeah, I'm a bit impressed. Even bundled up and use to it, I'm not sure if I would want to stand up on a street corner in that cold for a couple of hours chatting with people and waving at cars.

We're finally starting to see some life in the federal campaign here. The first posters went up this past weekend in Iqaluit. I doubt we're going to see many posters for several reasons. First, the cost of travelling in Nunavut is such that it doesn't leave much money left over to go out and buy posters. Secondly, posters are even more expensive here because you either have to get them made here (expensive) or get them made down south and flown up here (also not cheap). You also have to have them in two languages.

Want some more? Between random blowing snow and the fact you only get about five hours of daylight, it's often hard to see the posters. I suspect they're more susceptible to vandalism here than down south.

So yeah, the big poster campaigns you normally see down south aren't going to happen here. There is a candidate meeting this evening which I wanted to get to, however my stomach is currently suggesting that's not a bright idea. Which means I'm going to have to figure out who to vote for some other way. I've ruled out the Marijuana Party (a little one note) and the Green Party (their stand on the seal hunt pisses me off). I've all but ruled out the Conservative Party candidate because his main plank seems to be to roll back the legislation allowing same sex marriage. I consider that a socially regressive way of looking at things, in violation of human rights and, if it were to happen, would make Canada a laughing stock in the international community.

So it looks like either the Liberals or the NDP. I'm not wildly enthused by what I've seen of either candidate, but maybe something will happen in the last two weeks that will wow me.

Currently playing on iPod
Extraordinary Machine - Fiona Apple

Monday, January 09, 2006

Death to Gushue

Well, not really. I've already cursed him out over e-mail because he sent me this meme - "List 5 offbeat things about yourself." I suppose I ought to be flattered that he was curious as to what 5 things I would come up with. But mainly I dislike memes, which I consider littler better than chain e-mail. I already have put the fear of God into one of my friend's if she sends me another chain e-mail as it is.

Still, I have been tagged and so shall I answer. But this branch of the meme dies with me; I won't forward it to anyone else. And I rather doubt it's bad luck. Enough chain e-mails have died with me that if it was bad luck to do so, I would be dead, so would most of my family and coworkers.

Anyway, these are the five things that I spent about five minutes thinking up:

1. I tend to fidget with things. On my death certificate it will read "“Died because he lost his wedding ring." I don'’t like to wear jewelry and I tend to play with it when I get fidgety or bored. Previously, that meant my pocket or wrist watch. Currently, it'’s my wedding ring. It's unconscious, but it drives Cathy nuts sometimes, especially when I drop it. If I'm not careful, the date on my death certificate is going to be sometime this year.

2. I have at least 10,000 comic books and I've read every one of them. I also know an obscene amount of trivia about them. If it's been published in the past 25 years, odds are I know something about it. I'’m a little embarrassed by how much of my brain power is tied up with this knowledge.

3.I sold comic books to buy my wife'’s engagement ring. No, not all of them. Three hundred of them. And I made so much I had enough left over to buy an expensive digital camera.

4. The first time I got drunk was at age 33. I blame Seamus Heffernan for this. Coming home at 2 in the morning to a girlfriend who thought I was dead in a ditch and gave me the cold shoulder for several days pretty much convinced me not to drink for a good long time.

5. I lied to get my first date with my future wife. I told her I had a pair of complimentary tickets to see Pamela Morgan, Vicki Hynes, Anitia Best and Colleen Power at the Arts and Culture Centre. In fact, I didn't and then had to rush to the ACC and hope and pray they had tickets still for sale. They did. I later told Cathy about this. Apparently, each person gets to lie once in a relationship. I blew mine way too early.

Bonus Fact: I'm frequently late for stuff. I was literally late for my own birth. I was suppose to be born Dec. 21, 1969. I was born more than three weeks later. My mother still grumbles to me about this. And all the castor oil she drank because that's what people told her would get me to come out. Little did she know that being late is apparently a genetic thing with me.

Currently playing on iPod
Back To Me - Kathleen Edwards

Sunday, January 08, 2006

New record

You'll be noticing a small change at the end of posts for the foreseeable future. I used to put the last five songs on my iPod there. From now on, I'll post the album I'm listening to instead.

Why? Because I've been feeling a little detached from the music I've been listening to recently. I put the iPod on shuffle and it's just a wave of music washing over me. Which is nice, but it's a rare thing that I've been excited and energized by the music I've been listening to. It's become just background noise, and I never want music to be that for me.

I think this came to a head when I started looking at various year end lists and discovering I had an abnormally large number of the records on the lists. This was a rare thing for me during my days of listening to commercial radio. Unless a friend recommended a record, I tended to buy stuff that I liked playing in the radio. But once I got my iPod in September, 2004 I rarely listened to commercial radio anymore. For that matter, I think commercial radio is doomed inside 10 years, but that's for another post.

So I had to get new music from somewhere. I don't mind the bit of nostalgia music, but I need new stuff to listen to or else I get very, very bored. Which meant I was reading a lot more critics or finding music people were praising on blogs. That's how I was getting my new music.

Which is a good thing, I think. I have no problems with that. But getting my music that way, no longer paying much attention to popular singles and the iPod's shuffle function, meant I wasn't focusing on individual records that much. I would download a record and it would enter shuffle rotation. I still have stuff I got three months ago that I haven't listened to completely yet.

So I'm going to start listening more to individual records than a random shuffle. Hopefully that will energize me and get me to love some of the stuff I have right now a little more. Because I got to tell you, I've seen some of the stuff that's being released over the next three months and it's pretty grim. I better start loving what I have, because there's nothing good coming for awhile.

Currently playing on iPod
Aha Shake Heartbreak - Kings of Leon

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Just for laughs

So Hatching, Matching and Dispatching was pretty good last night. It still has a few rough spots, such as the shocking fact that Mark McKinney isn't very good in this, but I laughed several times. The "let's make sure he's dead bit", was a bit obvious, but still funny. "You'd need a tutor to make it to retarded" was a lovely zing that I will be robbing and using in the future. Most of the gay wedding stuff was pretty damn funny.

And Johnny Harris's explanation about why gay male sex must feel so good was...fascinating.

Providing they didn't top load the first episode with all the funny stuff which they could do - it's not like there's much of a plot - there is potential here. I said as much when the pilot aired. The problem was the pilot was an hour long and too much unfunny stuff weighed things down. They were throwing stuff up against the wall to see what would stick.

Which is fine on stage; a bit risky in a TV pilot where you've got to wow people or you don't get another chance to make it right.

I'll be curious to hear what the rating are. Friday night is a pretty crappy night to air the show. I wonder how many watched.

Speaking of "throwing things to see what sticks", I understand Revue '05 starts tonight. I always regretted not going to see one of the shows later in its run to what a well paced, funny Revue could be like. Opening night is always long and a very mixed bag. Still, there are some good people involved in the show so hopefully it will be good.

You know, I was chatting briefly about Newfoundland comedy with Ward Pike and I can't help but wonder if most of the really funny people still working, or trying to work, in Newfoundland are stuck in a CBC frame of mind. If you look at Rabbittown (I really don't recommend that you do, just for the record) and then look at HMD, you're going to see a lot of the same people. It's like the CODCO mafia. Or their hand-chosen successors.

I wonder if rather than hoping against hope that the CBC might pick up whatever idea they're planning, they might not do what the George Street TV guys did. I've interviewed them twice and while I might not like the humour of the show (and wonder what on God's green earth Greg Malone is doing there), I do have to admire the way they decided to get their stuff on air. It wasn't waiting and hoping the CBC would get it. It was doing something on the cheap and pitching it to NTV. And it worked. The Comedy Network has picked up George Street TV.

There's enough other funny people kicking around town: Steve Cochrane, Dave Sullivan, Petrina Bromley, Aiden Flynn, Phil Churchill and others. I don't understand why they don't try the George Street TV model. Scrounge up some cash, film something on the cheap, but funny. Then see if NTV picks it up. Or Rogers Cable.

It might work. We might get to see some fresh, Newfoundland comedy on TV. Don't get me wrong, I like HMD and think it's certainly different. But if you can't see the stamp of Mary Walsh all over that, then you're blind.

So on the off-chance any up-and-coming Newfoundland comedians are reading this, give it a shot. Don't wait for the CBC to make it, because you'll be waiting for quite awhile.

Currently playing on iPod
Antics - Interpol

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Minus the redundant

The ever-charming Vicki has made myself and Cathy seem much more heroic than we actually are by living in Iqaluit. Yes, it's cold and yes, there is a distinct lacking of daylight at this time of the year. But really, it can be much colder and darker than this.

Don't believe me? Consider visiting Grise Fiord.

(You know what? I actually do want to visit there someday. If nothing else, I get serious bragging rights with my friends that I have been further north than most of them ever will be.)

Anyway, this is for Vicki, because I think she will appreciate this. We've reached the special level of cold in Iqaluit now. We've reached the cold where residents no longer use the "minus" in front of the temperature. It's just a redundant word. Really, if you're in Cuba, sitting on a beach and someone asks you what's the temperature, the don't say "It's plus-35."

So when I was standing at the NorthMart and overheard someone say, "Yeah, it's 30 today, but it might hit 35 tomorrow" I shouldn't have done a double-take. It wasn't two people talking about some massive tropical high pressure system heroically pushing its way to the Arctic Circle to rescue us; it was two people sparing themselves from having to say the obvious word when they're bundled up in parkas and wind pants.

"Minus-30 with it possibly dipping to Minus-35." That didn't include wind chill, which would have made it closer to 50. -50.


Which, by the way, makes it a really bad time to lose the remote starter to the car. But that's just what we've managed to do. Don't know exactly when or how we managed it, but it's a done deal. So right now we can't hit the remote start and stand in a nice, warm porch waiting for the car to warm up. Nope, now there's trudging out to the car and starting it manually and sitting there waiting for it to warm up.

And you have to warm the car at 35...ooops, I mean -35 otherwise the car screams its displeasure at you.

You know, for years I mocked my mother over remote starters. Everytime she got a new car, the very first thing she did was get a remote starter. I always thought they were a silly, useless gadget. A total waste of money, both in the cost of installing it and how much gas the car burned during warm-up.

Guess I owe my mom an apology. Karmic payback is a bitch sometimes....

Last 5 on iPod
1. Red light - U2 (War)
2. The bagman's gambit - The Decemberists (Picaresque)
3. Sand in my shoes - Dido (Life For Rent)
4. Too many angels - Jackson Browne (Solo Acoustic, Volume 1)
5. If I needed someone - The Beatles (Rubber Soul)

Why Siobhan?

Ed has been merrily ripping away at Loyola Hearn for a couple of days now. Well, months on and off, but it's been a pretty steady go the last few days. I'm on the record that I kind of like Hearn even though he's a Conservative. He helped my in-laws out of a jam last October when they were stranded by Hurricane Wilma. And he's always been good to interview.

But Ed doesn't like him, or the Conservatives, and that's fine.

But here's my thing: why should anyone vote for Siobhan Coady? I mean, yeah, it's a pretty resume and all that. But she seems distinctly lacking a personality. And I get no feeling from her, none at all, that she'll be nothing more than yet another well trained, well heeled Liberal backbencher. Or perhaps minor cabinet minister.

But here's the thing. I'm not sure how much, if at all (I haven't looked through his archives) that Ed has promoted how great Coady is and that people should vote her. Instead, it's been how much Hearn sucks and the Conservatives suck and very little of how great the Liberals are and virtually nothing on why Coady will make a fantastic personalrepresentative for the people of St. John's South. Hearn, if nothing else, is a good constituency man. Will Coady be a good constituency woman?

And correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't that one of your long-standing criticisms of the Conservatives? That all they did was attack the Liberals and that they didn't stand for anything other than ripping the other party. Picking up some bad habits, Ed?

He doesn't have to sell me. I don't live there anymore and can't vote in that riding. But hey, it's a radical idea. You might want to consider it. Because really, the constant, unrelenting, and more than occasionally deceptive attacks on Hearn are getting really, really boring.

Last 5 on iPod
1. Five O'Clock world - Bowling for Soup (Go To The Movies)
2. Who's that girl? - The Eurythmics (Ultimate Collection)
3. I'll cry instead - The Beatles (A Hard Day's Night)
4. Angels would fall - Melissa Etheridge (Greatest Hits)
5. The waiting - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (Greatest Hits)

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Ho hum, more quirkiness...

I was pretty certain, just judging by the commercials on CBC Radio (I get it streaming at work. Large parts of CBC North's programming is in Inuktuitit) that I wasn't going to like Rabbittown. It just sounded dumb and annoying.

Imagine my lack of shock then when Rabbittown turn out to be dumb and annoying.

I'm just so bored of this type of humour. Is this all we're capable of producing in Newfoundland anymore? Let's take some quirky Newfoundland characters, slap on broad accents and put them in odd situations. It was original when Cod on a Stick did it in the early 1970. When the Wonderful Grand Band did it on television in the early 80s it was still good. Hell, I'll even stretch it to CODCO in the early 90s. Well, at least until Andy Jones left. But it got real thin after The Gullages and Dooley Gardens. And unless Hatching, Matching and Dispatching has worked out some of its quirks, then all the controversy in the world won't get it more than six episodes this time around.

I know the people involved in Rabbittown are capable of better than this. I've interviewed a bunch of them when they were working on other stuff. They're smart, talented people. But it's like they all drink the Kool-Aid at some point when it comes to getting a TV show made. It's like they crack open the safe and use the same formula thinking it still has some magic left in it. But it's not so magic anymore.

Mary Walsh complained during HMD that people were upset with what they perceived as stereotyping of Newfoundlanders. I think I was more annoyed at the cliches. It's beginning to feel like all we can produce for television is:
A. Stuff for the CBC that must be
B. A comedy that is
C. Filled with quirky characters and wacky Newfoundland antics.

Or D. If worse comes to worse, a current affairs comedy show.

It's boring and frustrating. I really hope that Adriana Maggs and Sherry White are aspiring to be more than third rate Bernie Stapleton and Amy House knock-off material. Because that's what Rabbittown is.

I normally wish these productions well and hope they can work out the kinks. Because not enough production work is done in Newfoundland. But really, I want Maggs and White to make something good. So let's just kill this and move on, shall well?

I really hope that Above and Beyond, coming out later this year, is better than this. And that it proves that maybe we can produce something in this province other than the usual comedy.

Last 5 on iPod
1. Putnum County - Tom Waits (Nighthawks at the Diner
2. Speak the word - Tracy Chapman (Greatest Hits)
3. Ageless beauty - Stars (Set Yourself on Fire)
4. Backstreets - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (Live:1975-85)
5. If Venice is sinking - Spirit of the West (Faithlift)


This is just about the best blonde joke I've read in awhile. Well worth checking out...

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Earth to Mars

So I ended up blowing the last few days of holiday vacation sitting in front of the TV. I should say "we" since Cathy was there, but really, I'm not sure how much choice she had in the matter.

You see, I got addicted to one of Christmas gifts. And no, it wasn't a video game. It was the DVD of the first season of Veronica Mars.

We blew through all 22 one hour episodes in about five days. And it's only because I was trying to pace myself that I lasted that long. If I had my way, I would have went through them all in about 24 hours. Boy, what a great, great series.

I reviewed the show for The Express when it first premiered back in September 2004. As I recall, I liked it a lot, but had a few problems. One was that the pilot was a massive information dump and that, quite frankly, didn't know how the lead character was still sane. In that one hour we find out she's gossiped and loathed by most of the students at her high school because of a scandal, her boyfriend dumped her, her best friend (and ex's sister) was murdered, that her dad lost his job investigating the murder when he accused a prominent family of killing the best friend, her mom left when things went bad and, oh yeah, she was date raped.

That's a lot of crap to dump on someone in 60 minutes. Less, really, once you add commercials.

But I did like it, I just never got around to watching it. It had a horrible time slot, up against two shows I was devoted to (The Amazing Race and House). Plus, while there were standalone episodes, most of them involved moving the central plot forward - that being Veronica trying to figure out who murdered her best friend. You miss a couple of episodes and you were going to get confused pretty easily.

Not as badly as you do when you miss a few episodes of Lost, but bad enough that I just gave up on the show, with some regret.

But on a lark, I asked for the season on DVD. And was floored. This is great, great stuff. Clever, funny writing. Pretty solid mysteries to be solved (Veronica works for her dad, who is a PI. She does work on the side for him). A fantastic lead character who is smart, likeable, but not without her faults. And hey, look, a father on a TV show who isn't an ass. It also works much better on DVD. You get a much better flow of the story and what's happening if you can watch several back-to-back rather than having to wait a week (or weeks) for the next new show.

There are Buffy the Vampire Slayer elements, to be sure. A perky blond lead, a few guest appearances by some Buffy Alum and the writing has the same zip and zing that the good Buffy's did. But the difference is that Buffy had the odd stinker episode. One that just flopped. If there was one in the first season of Veronica Mars, I didn't see it.

And hey, the best part, I was completely wrong about who the murderer was and I still enjoyed it. It wasn't a cheat when he/she was revealed.

I'm debating whether to try and start watching the second season. It's already nine episodes in, which is a lot of catch-up. Plus, it's up against Lost, one of the other very few shows I make the effort to watch every week. So we'll see. Maybe I'll wait for the second season to come out on DVD as well. But it's going to be hard waiting that long.

Veronica Mars was a very nice Christmas surprise, I must say...

Last 5 on iPod
1. It's only time - Magnetic Fields (I)
2. Embarassment - Madness (Divine Madness)
3. The invisible man - Queen (Platinum Collection)
4. We're not right - David Gray (White Ladder)
5. Long time comin' - Bruce Springsteen (Devils and Dust)