Thursday, May 31, 2007

Exposing myths

This is long and it rambles. I apologize in advance. Bear with me.

Apparently this is my week for reading articles about idiots. Now, I don’t think anything can top a scientist and a bunch of ardent believers renting a boat to sail up into the arctic where they hope to find a giant hole that hasn’t been discovered that will lead them to a secret and all powerful civilization that lives on the inside of our planet. Let’s face it, you only get so many of them in a year. Perhaps only once a year.

Sadly, Creationists are a year round joy. I could type “Hollow Earth” into a News Google search on any given day and likely not get any hits. I could type in “Creationist” and sadly get hits all year long.

Creationists are never far from the news and manage to find inventive ways to try and debunk evolution and Darwin every chance they get. Intelligent Design was a clever enough scheme, I must admit. And they managed to get farther than I would have thought. But the tide appears to be changing a bit in America. Science, after being hammered in Bush’s America for most of this decade, is striking back. No more sitting idly back wondering what the fuck people were thinking with this Intelligent Design crap because it was so obviously wrong. People with basic common sense fought back. And while it’s hardly dead in the water, ID has taken a hit. I think we’ve seen the peak of ID. There are always going to be people that will believe it, but it’s starting to ebb back.

The latest trend is that if you can’t get them in church and you can’t get them in school, get them on school trips or family outings. A Creationist Museum has opened near Cincinnati. More than $23 million in private donations have been pumped into it, which contains displays such as a T-Rex munching on grass while Adam and Eve lounge around nearby. You see, animals didn’t eat each other in Eden. They all got along and were friendly. It was only after Eve tempted Adam with the Forbidden Fruit (their “science” suggests it wasn’t an apple, but probably another kind of fruit.). After that, well, all hell broke lose. There was clothing, animal sacrifices and animals eating animals.

Where did the dinosaurs go? Wiped out in the flood (which also created the Grand Canyon). How did animals like polar bears or sloths get into their far flung locations? Accelerated continental drift.

It’s mind blowing, really. How do you mock this? Where do you begin? People have commented and praised my ability to mock things. But where do you start? Where do you begin with people who believe the Earth is 6,000 years old, that dinosaurs were in the Garden of Eden, that the flood wiped them out and can ignore most of the basic tenants of science, but can trot out a theory like “Accelerated Continental Drift.”

We’re dealing with an altered mindset here, folks. I think we’re dealing with a way of thinking that boarders on alien intelligence. And by that I don’t mean superior intelligence or little green men, I mean an intelligence that is incomprehensible to most rational humans. It’s like trying to argue with deer.

There is no nice way to write these people off, unfortunately. They’re either idiots, insane or lying, manipulative bastards. None of the options are good. “Devoutly religious” doesn’t give you a freebie on espousing this kind of damaging crap anymore than it does when you spew hatred towards minorities or other ethnic groups.

Why is it damaging? Why make a big deal out of it? Because it is anti-science. You're making stuff up at this point and lying to people. I seriously wonder if the people that created these buildings actually believe a T-Rex was hanging out with Adam and Eve. It's deceptive, narrow-minded and is trying to encourage people to believe in something that is so obviously false that it is repugnant to me.

It is anti-intelligence at a most basic level.

I like to think in the grand scheme of things I’m fairly open-minded. I may not agree with every opinion, but I will normally fight for your right to have it. We have to be talking some pretty extreme views before I even begin to think that you don’t have the right to express it. It’s a very, very high bar.

For example, if you want to express Neo-Nazi hatred, a belief that the Holocaust didn’t happen and advocate for the extermination of ethnic groups, you’re pressing very, very hard on my “You have the right to have that opinion and argue it in public.”

The opinion you’re expressing has to be, for lack of my eloquent or accurate phrasing – evil before I would oppose you’re right to espouse it. The problem is, it’s frequently hard to define, but you tend to know it when you see it. An opinion that does absolutely no good to anybody, that serves to only harm society and the world in the long run with absolutely no redeeming qualities. The only use your opinion has is to serve as an example of a truly horrific idiotic opinion so that others might learn from you.

As I said, the bar for this kind of thing is high. I might think you’re wrong, but in most cases I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt for a far longer period of time than others might. It’s part of the whole “former journalist” thing. I’m very protective of the right to free speech. You need to be very careful in curbing it.

There is merit in debating issues. I’m pro-choice, but I understand the ethics of the pro-life side. That debate isn’t dead, especially as science continually redefines how old a fetus can be before it survives outside the womb. I’m against the death penalty, but a rational debate on capital punishment is worth having.

An intelligent debate of ideas is a worthwhile thing.

But I can’t do it on Creationism. I just can’t. At best it’s pure idiocy. To believe that a T-Rex was happily nibbling on grass in the garden of Eden while Adam and Eve sat nearby and watched is a level of fantasy fiction that Tolkien couldn’t have come up with. My friend Mike pointed me to this blog which is collecting links refuting just about everything inside the "museum."

I’d also like to get on my high horse and go “Well, it’s just those wacky Americans.” But no, I don’t get to have that pleasure. Because there is a Creationist "museum" opening up in southern Alberta in a few days time.

Look, as tempting as it is to say that the government should step in and do something, they shouldn’t. No, at some point people have to stand up and say “You know what? I call Bullshit. This thing that you’re espousing? It’s Bullshit. There’s no debating with you on this. It is simply idiotic and you need to either read a goddamn book and get a clue or stop this deceptive, manipulative and damaging thing you’re doing.”

Journalists should be destroying these “museums” and the people promoting them as frauds. Not giving “fair coverage” to both sides of the argument. At some point as a journalist, you’re going to confronted with things you know are wrong. Government corruption, lying, cheating, fraud. And yes, you owe it let both sides speak. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t expose them and the bad things they’re doing. You let the facts speak. And guess what? The facts say that Adam didn't have a pet Brontosaurus.

That’s what’s happening with Creationist “museums”. It’s doing harm in the world and should be exposed. Maybe that’s harsh. It’s certainly not funny and tongue-in-cheek. But my patience for this kind of crap is pretty much over and done with. Enough already.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Journey to the centre of the earth

It’s funny, but obvious, that we’ve moved thousands of kilometers and yet managed in some ways to end up in the same place. Yes, our home is an isolated island on the fringes of Canadian awareness, largely irrelevant in the greater political scheme of things, with bad weather and treated horrifically by the airlines. Am I talking about Newfoundland or Baffin Island?

Perhaps that’s why I haven’t been suffering the violent pangs of homesickness you hear Newfoundlanders exiled in Alberta whine about. How can I be homesick? It’s like
I’ve moved to a more northerly version of Newfoundland. Or perhaps what Newfoundland was like decades ago.

Yes, it’s the end of May and there is still a couple of feet of ice in the bay, snow on the hills and ski-doos zipping around. But judging by the forecast here and the ones I’ve been seeing in St. John’s recently, the weather is about the same. That is to say, cold, grey and a touch miserable. Granted, we’re at about 63 degrees north and that kind of thing is expected.

And yes, we get pretty much 24 hours of daylight at this time of the year. My father thinks this would be cool to experience at some point. I’ve tried to tell him the novelty wears off quickly once you go several weeks without a proper night’s sleep, but he still seems enthusiastic.

But it only dawned on me this morning the other thing that my former home and current one has in common – we tend to attract nut jobs off on big adventures.

Newfoundland has a very long history of being on the receiving end of such craziness. The Vikings, English, French, Spaniards and Portuguese were all crazed adventurers in some ways. They went across a vast ocean in technologically dodgy pieces of equipment looking for fortune and glory. Then in the early 20th century we became the launching point when we had people trying to fly non-stop across the Atlantic in a variety of manners. Towards the century, it was all about ballooning across the Atlantic.

And a more recent vintage has seen people trying to sail, paddle or float in a variety of strange way back to Europe.

Heading west is also popular. Terry Fox really got the ball rolling and every year since I’m sure someone has tried to go across Canada for some charity or another in some form of strange way. When I used to work at The Packet, I was in the ideal position to catch them when they were just beginning to grasp what it was they had set out on.

They leave St. John’s full of fire, determination and a hint of giddiness over the grand adventure ahead of them. Give or take a few days, 170 km of the some of the best of Newfoundland’s geography (the hills, wind and fog of the isthmus always takes a toll) and you tend to get them in the “Holy fuck, what am I doing?” part of the trip.

I was in Clarenville for three years. I interviewed a guy who was taking a horse and covered wagon across Canada (I think it was to oppose the gun registry) and a paraplegic biking his way across Canada in a specially designed wheelchair/bike.

(“My God, I had the bike in first gear going down hills in spots,” he told me. “It gets better, right?” “Nope, it actually gets worse,” I told him, with perhaps a bit more glee than I really ought to have.)

And yet, my new home is hardly immune to strange people in search of adventure on the fringes. The history of the Arctic over the past couple of hundred years has been of people searching for the North West Passage or trying to reach the North Pole. The fact that those feats have been accomplished still doesn’t stop people from trying. There are normally a dozen or so expeditions that trying to head to the North Pole from Nunavut (They normally leave from Resolute and not Iqaluit) each year. An environmental group dogsleded from Iqaluit to Igloolik this year – with Richard Branson (he of Virgin Airlines) participating. Jewel performed for the crew at the end of their journey. Others will be sailing or kayaking the North West Passage.

I read the other day of a man who is planning on going swimming at the North Pole in a few weeks. He’s doing it to raise awareness of Climate Change, apparently, and to set some kind of record. Oh look, I just found his home page.

Oh, and then there’s this story.

I appreciate that these fine folks are actually launching from Russia, and not Canada. Nor does it look like they’re ever going to enter Canadian waters (unless the mysterious gateway to the Centre of the Earth is on Ellesmere Island), but it just got my thought process going today. Because I’m sure as I speak there’s someone in Newfoundland, walking, skipping, ridding or towing a 20 pound ball and chain across Newfoundland, the first step of his/her grand Canadian adventure for some charity.

There’s something about being on the fringe of things that more often than not seems to attract the fringe cases.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Dumb question

I've been in a vexed frame of mind the past few days. It's not so much writer's block, but more of a "what the heck do I want to write about?" That could change tomorrow. I could read the Globe and Mail and find six things to blog on. So I'm not that worried. It's just that there's nothing really grabbing me right now.

But I did have a thought and it's related to the post I did on Steve Kent. I did some poking around, but I can't find an answer to my question.

And my question is this: Who is the youngest member of the current provincial Liberal caucus and how old is he or she?

I've been to the Liberals website and to the House of Assembly site, and I can't find any birthdays.

So if anyone know who that youngest MHA is and their age, drop me a line or leave me a comment. Because I suddenly find myself damn curious.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Wrong moves

So it was interesting to read some of the reaction to Steve Kent announcing he was running for the PC's in Mount Pearl North, Waterford Valley or whatever they're calling it these day. Liberals are having a finally tuned sense of outrage that Kent appeared to be a Liberal for the past several years and now, in the last few months, has apparently had a change of heart. He's now not a Liberal, but instead a Danny Williams Tory. They're citing political opportunism.

If it is political opportunism, then Kent is in good company. As in, the history of politics in Newfoundland for decades has been that it is far easier to back an apparent winner than a sure loser. How many people discovered their Liberal stripes when Tobin looked unbeatable? Or when Wells was crowned? Or Peckford?

I honestly don't know the difference between the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party in Newfoundland, and haven't for years. I honestly don't know if most of the sitting MHAs do either. Where's the difference in economic or social policy? I don't know. On taxes? On business development? I haven't seen it.

One party gets a strong leader, gets in power, a bunch of people flock to that party sensing and opportunity, that party begins to outlast it's stay, the opposition gets their own carasimatic leader and the balance shifts. And then we start all over again.

Where's the difference in policy? Got me beat.

So do I blame Kent for being one of the hordes of people who view winning the Conservative nomination being as good as winning the election itself? No. He's just joining a very long line.

But here's the thing, I really thought Kent was smarter than that. Whatever his pros and cons, I thought he had better insight than that. Maybe I'm missing something. But Kent will, in all probability, will win the seat. The combination of Danny's coattails and his own personal popularity will see to that.

And then? Well, maybe he gets a cabinet position. I'm not really sure you need two former Mount Pearl mayors in cabinet (Denine is a parlimentary secretary, as I recall) in cabinet. So maybe he sits in the backbenches. And Dannyworld will only last so much longer. He's not talking about seeking a third term, which means he's probably stepping down in 2009 or so. And all bets are off after that. Maybe the new leader isn't as popular. God knows what happens. Maybe the tide shifts and the Conservatives get turfed.

Honestly, I think I'm disappointed because the bold move was there for Kent. He could have stuck with the Liberals and ran for them in the coming provincial election. It would have been a damn sight harder to win, going against the Danny tide, but I think he could have done it.

And then Kent is part of a new, young wave of Liberals, who can stand up in the House of Assembly and inject some blood into the opposition. And assuming he does his job, he's the presumptive favourite to lead the provincial Liberals into the 2011 election.

But instead, he followed the heard over to the Conservatives. Disappointing, really.

Perhaps this was asked to him at the press conference and I didn't see it or read it, but I'm genuinely curious about the following questions:
1. What are Steve Kent's views on how the economy should be handled in Newfoundland and Labrador.
2. What are his views on matters of social policy?
3. How do they mesh with the current social and economic platforms in the Conservative Party?
4, How do they differ with the ones offered by the Liberal Party? Or for that matter the NDP?

Maybe he does have them thought out. Maybe the Conservatives genuinely do mesh better with his views than the Liberals. If so, good for him and he made the right move.

If not and it's just following the herd...well, that's disappointing.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Around the shore

After a few days hovering around -20 the weather finally became a touch more spring-like today. So rather than spend the day couped up in the apartment, we decided to take a stroll around town and do some window shopping. I was kind of hoping I might spot something nice for my dad for Father's Day. Something really nice would mean being able to roll Father's Day and his birthday into one.

Which might sound cheap or lazy, but really, my folks need so little. And what they might they would freak out if I bought it for them. I've been begging my dad to get a computer. Have offered to buy one for him. Won't let me.

Anyway, I have some time before I officially freak out over what to get him.

I thought I would put up a few pictures of our adventures today. The warmth also meant I could take pictures without worrying about the camera or losing fingers to frostbite. So here are a few pics of our walk along the Iqaluit shoreline today.

At some point I'll start putting more pics up on Flickr and Facebook. It's been an age since I did that, especially on Flickr.

It'll be another 4-6 weeks before these boats will get out on the water.

In the meantime, there's no shortage of ski-doos still being used, even though it's the end of May.

Of course, trying to get out on the sea ice can be a challenge. Sometimes you have to navigate through the peaks of ice.

You know, that's one pretty dirty polar bear, even if he is dead.

Heading out for an afternoon jaunt.

A komitk waiting to be towed.

More boats along the shoreline.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Ah well...

Our good friend Ted (Big Ted to friends) is graduating from MUN shortly with his education degree. Being a smart lad he realized pretty early in that the odds of him getting a teaching job in Newfoundland were slim he decided to start looking elsewhere. We strongly encouraged him to apply in Iqaluit.

Now, the odds of a just graduated teacher getting a job in Iqaluit is still a bit on the long side. It's the most in demand community in Nunavut to get a teaching job. Still, he has skills that would probably be in demand (computers for one thing. The fact that he's a big guy wouldn't hurt his odds) and we were hopeful that he and his lovely fiance might move up here in August.

It would have been nice to have them here. I think they would have enjoyed the community. They certainly would have enjoyed the money. And we would have enjoyed their company. We're fairly solitary people and neither one of us is the quickest at making new friends. We like the friends we have. If/when we leave here, it's looking like we'll move to the Ottawa area if possible because, among other factors, a lot of our friends appear to be settling there.

But alas, it's not to be with Ted. Much to his surprise (but not ours), he started getting hit with offers shortly after sending his resumes out. And really, there's only so long you can hold out. Because the offers can always stop coming.

So instead of coming to the frozen north, they're moving to Vancouver Island. Which we can't really blame them, especially since Ted's fiance is from that part of the world. And, you know, it's warmer. And it has trees.

Ah well. We'll just have to start working on other friends to move up here. You know, they're desperate for computer people, Dups...

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The 24th of May and we want to get away

There's the long standing tradition in Newfoundland of the 24th of May weekend sucking. People bravely venture forth to camp grounds only to get there and find snow on the ground. Or have it snow while they get there. Traditionally the weekend also suckers you in by giving you a nice Friday and then becoming cataclysmicly bad as the weekend progresses.

As was made clear earlier this week, I don't get outdoors people for the most part. I suspect this partially has to do with growing up hearing of people waste a perfectly good long weekend by freezing their ass off in a tent in the middle of nowhere.

Now, the 24th of May weekend has already come and gone. So why am I talking about it now? Because today is, obviously, the 24th of May. And apparently a touch of Newfoundland has come to Nunavut.

Yesterday was quite nice. The temperature hit 0C and it was sunny. In fact, if we weren't warmer than St. John's, we weren't far off the mark. I was starting to feel cocky, figuring that spring might finally be getting ready to happen.

Then I woke up this morning. It was -10C. With windchill it was -20. And there was blowing snow. Someone at work joked they should have gotten a snow day. It wasn't that bad, but really, do you want to look out your window on May 24 and see blowing snow out the window and -20 on your computer screen?

I appreciate that I'm in the Arctic and these things happen. It's supposed to be cold and all that. But there is no getting around the fact that -20 this late in May kind of sucks.

In some ways, the hardest part of dealing with the conditions up here isn't the -50 in February, because much of Canada is cold that month. It isn't the darkness because you actually do adapt. It's this time of the year, when you're getting pretty close to 24 hours of daylight, that place in Ontario are getting temperatures in the high 20s (a friend in Nebraska has been getting those temperatures since late March) and we're still getting temperatures well below 0. And there is plenty of snow on the ground and the bay remains frozen solid.

It just starts to wear you down a bit, I think. Still, I'll manage.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

White Pentax Friends

As I write the White Stripes show in Iqaluit is probably now sold out. After some mucking about with permits, trying to see if they could get a second show (they couldn't) and whether or not to make it all ages, the tickets went on sale this evening at 6 p.m. There was a limit of two tickets per person, kids under 14 have to be accompanied by an adult and they all had to be paid for with cash.

Because of that I imagine it probably took longer than eight minutes to sell out, which is how long it took with the Whitehorse show. But I have no doubt the show is sold out by now. There were only about 300 tickets up for sale, from what I read. Which makes me wonder how many tickets were sold online. I haven't heard when I need to pick mine up, but I assume it will be in the next week or so.

They've also decided to make the show all ages, which I agree with. I did weigh which was likely to be more annoying - a stadium of intoxicated adults or a stadium of teenagers (with the potential to get intoxicated). Ultimately, I sided with the teenagers. I've been getting a shocking number of blank looks when I mention the White Stripes at work. A lot of my co-workers, who are around my age, are oblivious to the band. So it seems cruel to exclude teenagers from what is likely the biggest rock show in years.

The other thing I'm curious about is if they will allow cameras at the show. Given this day and age of 3 MB cell phone cameras it seems foolish to try, but you never know. If they do allow it I might bring the Pentax and grab a few shots. It's probably a touch overkill and I'll have to drag around the camera then for the whole night, but it would be nice to get some good pictures.

Speaking of the Pentax, an odd thing is happening with the camera. Unless I'm going mad, I think it's taking better photos. I know, I's the photographer, not the camera. But while I liked the Pentax there was, about the pictures. I just thought there was something about the camera I hadn't figured out.

But I don't think I'm doing anything different, but I'm getting better photos. Maybe the camera is behaving better now that it's warmer. Or maybe they repaired more than the flash when the camera was in for repairs. I don't know, but I'm very pleased with the results right now.

So you'll likely be seeing more photos on the blog, Flickr or even Facebook in the future.

Oh, I now have 62 friends on Facebook. How the hell did that happen? I would have sworn I didn't have that many friends in the entirety of my life, and yet, there they are and growing by the day. Granted, one of them is a cousin with 230-odd friends, which is just bizarre. And she's only 15. How do you accumulate 230 friends at age 15?

There you go, from the White Stripes to Pentax to Facebook all in one continuous flow. A well done blogging job if I do say so myself.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

On the land

So I finally got "out on the land" recently. Now, to many other northern bloggers this may seem a touch shocking. I've been in town nearly two years now and this was my first really venture into the wilds outside of Iqaluit. If you're in Arctic Bay or Igloolik, you're probably zipping out of town on your ski-doo every weekend.

And I understand that need. If you're in a small town you probably need a ski-doo or ATV so you can get around during or just to give you something to do if you get bored.

You can more easily get away with these things in Iqaluit. If you're from the south, there are just enough things to do in town to keep you entertained, if you're so inclined.

Plus, I don't own a ski-doo nor do I have any intentions of buying one. First, they're a lot of money. Secondly, if there was ever a candidate for a search and rescue operation, I would be it. Honestly, I have no outdoor skills whatsoever. I would get lost with a GPS, breadcrumbs and radar. This is why I like staying indoors and reading. Less chance of dying in the wilderness.

And as I've recently discovered, an awful lot of the geography around town looks the same. I mean really, there's lots of rocks and valleys. Oh yes, and they're covered with snow and ice. If you're going out with a bunch of people, as I did, who know what they're doing, then it's good fun. If I were to try and do it myself, it would be a question of what would get me first - search and rescue or the wolves.

I thought I knew where we were on this trip. A few days later one of my friends sent me a map of our trip from his GPS. I thought we went east. Turns out we went south and west. Not good.

It was a fun time. It was my first time on a ski-doo in about 20 years or more, although I was riding on the back of the ski-doo. Which is probably just as well. There were no fatalities on the trip, but that would have been in doubt if I had been driving. There were snacks, a little hunting, racing up and down valleys and across sea ice.

I was sore, tired, wind-burnt and vaguely ill from all the gas fumes at the end of it. But it was still a good experience. It was nice to see another part of the north I haven't experience yet. It would have been nice to have seen a bit more wildlife, but I guess a caravan of ski-doos might scare away the wildlife.

Would I do it again? Probably, but it's not something I need to do every weekend. If I get invited out again next year, I'll probably go. Although I might take the chance and see if I can beg, borrow or steal a ski-doo. Yes, the risk of dying is there, but nine hours riding shotgun gets old in a hurry.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Boo at one year

So today marks Boo's first birthday. One year ago today we got the e-mail from the breeder, with a picture of our dog. I haven't written much about Boo lately because for the first little while when we got him I wrote an awful lot about him. And while there wasn't a backlash, there was the distinct feeling that people would likely prefer if I shut up about the dog for a bit (much like curling).

For those new to the blog, Boo is a Coton de Tulear, which sounds unbelievably pompous when you tell random strangers what kind of dog he is. We've just shortened it to "He's a Coton." We got him for many reasons, but two of the main selling points for the breed is that he's small (Boo is around 12 pounds) and hypo-allergenic. Which is good, as Cathy is allergic to pet dander.

He's Cathy's dog, and I've always maintained that, much like Max was my cat. And she loves him like crazy. Boo certainly never lacks for love and he's probably one spoiled little dog. I've always been a big dog person myself, but I have to admit he's great company to have around. And Cathy picks on him instead of me when she gets bored, for which I owe the dog a debt of gratitude that can never really be repaid.

So what quirks does he have at one year? Well, he dances on his back legs, which is a touch odd. I think I timed him at 20 seconds once. He freaks out over the new vacuum. He chats with you, not so much with barks, but with a bunch of odd little noises. He's well behaved for the most part, although a touch more vocal than I would like. Then again, I'm spoiled from my father's golden retriever, quite simply the quietest dog I've ever been around.

He's a good boy and I know his "grandparents" are looking forward to having him around the summer when Cathy takes him back to Newfoundland.

And now, a few pictures of Boo from one year ago and today, with a few days in-between. Warning, the following section is probably too insanely cute for words.

Newly born.

About six weeks old.

Shortly after he got him, about 12 weeks old. The shoe is a size 9, for a comparison.

Out on the land with Cathy.

Last December, out for a walk in his coat.

End of January this year with his new hair cut.

Back in March.

He's not always cute, here's the drowned rat look after he gets a bath.

Earlier today. Notice the cat-like habit of getting on top of furniture.

Boo ready for his close up.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Houston, we have a problem

So this is a picture of the book shelf dedicated to holding my graphic novels. When I first moved up here, there was still plenty of room left on the shelf. Understand, that isn't all the graphic novels I own. I have two 75 litre containers in storage that contains the rest. Not to mention 20-odd long boxes filled with single issues.

Yes, I have a problem. This has been previous acknowledged.

Anyway, I’m running out of space on this shelf. I still have other books shelves I can expand onto, but this is being met with a frown from the lovely wife. While she tolerates the habit, she’s quite concerned about it getting out of hand. Especially since she’s wondering about the deal we stuck when moving here.

The deal was pretty simple. I didn’t buy singles of coming books because they quickly eat up too much room. However, I was allowed to buy graphic novels. In fact, as many as I would reasonably like, as long as I didn’t buy singles. The logic being graphic novels can fit on book shelves while singles tend to expand outwards in messy piles. This has been a deal I’ve been gleefully taking advantage of, as you might figure out looking at the shelf.

What’s worse is that now that I’m making decent money for the first time in my life, it’s not that I’m just buying graphic novels, I’m buying pretty, expensive hard cover graphic novels. If you look closely at the picture you will see “Absolute” (DC’s premiere hard cover line) versions of Sandman, The Authority, Planetary and New Frontier. I have a bunch of Marvel “Premiere” hard covers. And I’ve recently discovered the beauty that is Marvel’s “Omnibus” line, which takes 30 or so issues of a classic run and put them into one over-sized hard cover.

I currently have Grant Morrison’s run on X-Men in that format and I’m drooling over the Stan Lee Fantastic Four volumes and the Frank Miller Daredevil volume.

If all of this sounds not only space consuming, but bank account damaging, you would be right. I did a count on how it would cost to buy all the books on the Chapters wish list that are available now. This doesn’t mean all the ones I have book marked that will come out during the summer. It’s a...sizeable, chunk of change. One that even I’m balking at. I mean, I can afford it pretty easily, but it’s still one of those things that makes you think twice.

Funnily enough, even with all of these graphic novels, I rarely write reviews about them. I don’t know why. It’s just one of those things that I’ve always found hard to review. TV, movies, theatre and even music aren’t that hard for me. Books are more of a challenge. Same thing with art. I guess that combination makes it more understandable why I find comics hard to review.

Still, I think I might try. One graphic novel a week, on Sundays. If people find it useful or hate it, let me know. (Oh, and if Marvel or DC or any comic book publish would like to start sending me graphic novel review copies, I will love you forever).

This week’s pick is All-Star Superman. Because I ragged on how terrible All-Star Batman and Robin was, it seems only fair that I take a look at the other All-Star title. And one of the reasons why the Batman title is so terrible is that it suffers so poorly when compared to this one.

The story is by Grant Morrison and the art is by Frank Quietly. Morrison is one of the mad geniuses of comic books. He got his North American start back in the late 80s doing groundbreaking titles like Animal Man (where the lead character discovers his maker, which was Morrison, and the two of them walk around Glasgow talking about art and the nature of existence) and Doom Patrol (which featured a character whit multiple personalities and each personality had a super power. Oh, and there was a painting that ate Paris). Morrison is one of those people you hate if you’re a writer because he has so many good ideas bursting at the seams. He breathes and something clever comes out with the CO2. It’s maddening.

But it works here. One of the taglines for Superman has always been that he’s “The Man of Tomorrow”. And yet, too many of the monthly comic book stories feature Superman battling the villain of the month. There’s rarely a sense of the future in the series.

But this is what the series is. Mad ideas throw out all over the place with Superman right in the middle of them. A scientist’s quest to get a teaspoon of the sun (yes, I know, it’s been done before, but it works in this case) and how Superman fits into it. About the best version of Lois Lane we’ve seen in awhile, including what happens when she gets Superman’s powers for a day. Black Kryptonite from a super-dense “under” universe. The Unknown Superman of 850,000 A.D. He even manages to make Jimmy Olson fun.

And above all it’s tremendous entertaining. You don’t need to have read a Superman comic in the past 20 years to pick up the series and be sucked into it. If you thought last year’s Superman Returns was a tad too dry and serious and filled with its own self-important mythology, then this is the book for you.

Morrison loves Superman, but he also realizes that Superman should be fun. Which is precisely what this is.

I haven’t said much about the art. Quietly is widely respected in the comic book world, but is slow. Still, the art is beautiful. It’s filled with bright colours and Queitly has worked with Morrison long enough to have no problem capturing Morrison’s occasional off-the-wall idea. He also draws fantastic Superman/Clark Kent. Superman is majestic, power and imposing. His Clark Kent is, well, a schlep. He’s a clutz that is continually knocking things over. He doesn’t make eye contact and is stooped over. His suits are baggy and ill-fitting. He stutters. You really could miss the fact they are the same person. Give Quietly credit for managing to draw the character in a way that makes it believable that people could fail to make the connection. Oh, and can still slip in the iconic image or two, like the one on the cover.

It’s a fun, fun book. It collects the first six issues of what I understand will likely be a 12 issue series. It’s out in hard cover right now and at a reasonable price with Chapters (less than $15) and I recommend it highly.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Calvin & Hobbes

I had this lovely blog post all written up about this great Calvin and Hobbes video I had seen recently. It was a two minute student film done by some guy in Italy. I had it bookmarked for the last couple of days, but was just trying to get around to posting it.

So this evening I figured I would do just that. Only when I went to find the embedded YouTube file, it's gone. Bill Waterson filed a copyright complaint and had it pulled from YouTube. Which is completely not surprising, given how protective he's been in the past over his creation. He could have made a fortune selling Hobbes stuff animals or doing Saturday morning cartoons, but never chose to.

Still, I imagine that even with YouTube pulling it, there must be other places online where you can find it. I highly recommend it. Yes, it's in Italian, but it is subtitled. And it's brilliant. I would totally watch that sort of thing if it were to become available on a regular basis.

Anyway, consider it a small Calvin and Hobbes fix in these long dry years since he gave up doing the strip.

Friday, May 18, 2007

One side...

About the funniest thing I’ve seen today is the comic book panel at the end of this post.

It comes from a comic book called All-Star Batman and Robin and it is, by all accounts, just a wretched series. It is startlingly bad if you can believe the reviewers. And the reason for the shock is that the artist is Jim Lee, one of the best in the business. And the writer is Frank Miller.

Miller, for those of you not intimately familiar with comics, is probably one of the three most important comic book creators of the past 25 years. Did you like the Batman movies? Much of the feel came from two of his books – Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One. Oh yeah, and if you liked Sin City and 300, those are his babies as well. Literally, in the case of Sin City, which he co-directed. Oh, and all the good bits in the Daredevil movie came from his run on the series in the 80s.

He’s always been fond of going slightly over the top and producing meaty, chunky dialogue that works great on the page, but doesn’t always translate to screen.

So there was some excitement when Miller announced he was going to write a Batman comic again. I only read the first issue and thought it was fairly pedestrian. Keep in mind, I read that back in the summer of 2005. It’s now approaching the summer of 2007 and the fifth issue of a series that was supposed to come out every six weeks just hit the stands.

So yeah, a few delays. Plus, as the reviewers will tell you in gruesome detail, it’s howlingly bad. Not even so bad it’s funny. Just bad.

Although it’s apparently managed to create one of the most quoted lines in recent comic history with “I’m the goddamned Batman”, which had people swooning on comic message boards with the shock of the terribleness of it.

And now we have the panel below. Understand, it is awful. It’s bizarrely out of character for Wonder Woman (what, you might ask, is Wonder Woman doing in a series called All-Star Batman and Robin? Take a number). Even for Jim Lee, who has certainly never shied away from drawing hyper-sexualized female characters, this is over the top.

And yet I laughed at it. I have female friends who I think will howl in laughter over it and promptly make it the wall paper for their computer. Mireille, I’m thinking of you in particular. You too, Pat.

So relish the horror. And later this weekend I’ll try and recommend some good comics for you to go out and buy.

Copyright DC Comics, 2007

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The blog post of the beast

1. This marks the 666th post on my blog. And in honour of this special occasion, I thought I would look and find something evil to post on the blog. I guess the post I did on Jerry Falwell might have been more appropriate, especially given some of the reaction on his passing, but what’s done is done.

So this is what I got. The bastards canned Veronica Mars. Once again, I bow to the superior wisdom of American network programmers. A pox on every new program the CW introduces in the fall.

Then again, from what I’ve read in stories about the up-fronts, plague-ridden might nicely sum up most of the programming this fall. There’s very, very little that is grabbing my attention.

And I would say a moment’s silence for Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, but no one really cares. Rarely has a show had so many people desperately want to like it, but were unable to find much redeeming about it.

2. Let’s see what else I’ve got. Ummm, tickets have still not gone on sale for the White Stripes in Iqaluit, which is leading to some frustration. The main hold ups appear to be the promoters not getting the permits straightened out and whether or not there will be alcohol served at the event. I’ve already got confirmation that I’m getting tickets, so I’m not quite so freaked out about this as others are in town. Although I suppose the show could be cancelled if things don’t get worked out. It would be idiotic, but for some reason it wouldn’t surprise me all that much.

And to be fair, the show should be all ages. The majority of the band’s fans are probably under-19 and how often are they going to get to an event like this up here. Hell, it ought to be an open air event rather than sticking it in the confines of the Arctic Winter Games complex and its dubious acoustics. But what do I know…

3. Hey, there could be hope for me yet. And who cares if the hair is without pigmentation. That’s also happening to me already.

4. Next up, some Newfoundland stuff. Somebody needs to hang over this. You know, there have been things as a matter of policy that I have disagreed with when it comes to the Williams government. And that’s fine. Time will tell who is going to end up being right.

But this is reprehensible. Swag-gate and the racket with constituency allowances is small stuff compared to this. And I suspect it’s only going to get worse.

5. So Harvey Hodder did the expected and announced today he is not running in the next provincial election. Meanwhile Steve Kent’s Facebook page is inviting people to a very special event at the Hotel Mount Pearl at 11 a.m. on Friday. Gee, I wonder what’s going to happen...

Although there is one thing I do find interesting. Part of Waterford Valley is in St. John’s. After so nicely slagging the capital city over the annexing issue, will that hurt him in that area?

Probably not. I suspect the Tories could run dead animals in most of the St. John’s/Mount Pearl districts and still win. Oddly, that would still make them more useful than most of the current sitting MHAs.

6. This incident makes me antsy. Folks, you’ve got to beat them in the court of public opinion. You’ve got to out-argue them and defend your point of view. Saying the debate is over and comparing it to racism and discrimination is missing the point. Enough people believe that abortion is wrong that you still have to be out there convincing people that a woman’s right to choose is important.

You may never convince all of them, but trying to stifle the debate is the wrong way of going about it. Trying to browbeat the CBC and others who you disagree with strikes me as a very dangerous, and negative thing to do. Especially for a pro-choice organization.

7. And, to end on a positive note, I got my camera back today and it appears to be working. It took about five weeks to get it back after being sent away for repairs. Not too bad, I guess. And now the weather is finally warm enough to use it without worrying about it freezing solid.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Sorry pity words of wisdom this evening. Let's just say that I had an entertain day, but a fairly long one and one I'm still recovering from (no, I didn't get drunk). My brain is just a touch fried and the rest of my body is hurting. I'm hoping I'll be fine tomorrow, but for this evening the brain is not functioning at a capacity high enough for proper blogging.

Tune in tomorrow and hopefully I'll have something entertaining to write about.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A good-bye to the doctor

I honestly wouldn't have thought I would care much about the passing of Dr. Jerry Falwell today. I read the breaking news headline and thought "Huh. Oh well..." and got on with my day.

But there was something about it that kept nagging me in the back of my brain. So I went back and read a couple of his obituaries. Here's one from the Globe and Mail. And I think the challenge for me was to find something good to say about Falwell. If this had happened 15 years ago I think my reaction would have been different. Probably a flippant "good riddance".

But I'm trying to find the good in his life when so much of what he, and his organization stood for, are things that I find abhorrent. He rabidly disliked homosexuals and opposed gay marriage. He was pro-life to the point of making life exceptional difficult for women who would prefer to have a choice. There is certainly enough proof over the years that he also didn't think much of the women's rights movement, with speeches stating that women should obey their husbands.

And he firmly linked a politicians political fortunes in parts of the United States with their religious upbringing. "The Moral Majority" that he helped create can be held accountable for a portion of the problems in the United States right now. Others, doubtlessly, will have another take on that. Falwell himself said he shuddered to think where the US would be without the Moral Majority. I like to think it perhaps would be a more tolerant and less divided place than what it is now.

Did he do good in his life? Doubtlessly he did lots of it. I imagine he impacted the lives of tens of thousands and made their lives better. That he brought comfort and direction to those without either. And those are good things. I just wonder if it balances out what I perceive as the harm his organization and beliefs also did to tens of thousands.

In some ways there is an odd synchronicity to his passing right now. I've read articles in recent months about how the Christian Right in the US is becoming frustrated and fragmented. Like any political trend there are ebbs and flows and certainly the influence of the Christian Right has been at a high for much of the past decade.

But now it seems to be weakening. There's the realization that even though they had a president very much sympathetic to their beliefs and a Congress that leaned the same way, much of what they wanted never happened. The country is still predominantly pro-choice. Many states are questioning capital punishment. Things they saw in Hollywood they disagreed with continue. And with the race for the '08 election already beginning, they haven't managed to find a new candidate to rally around.

Falwell died at the same time the movement he had a hand in creating is giving all the appearance of dying. Whether his death resurrects the movement or just speeds the progress I guess we'll see in the coming months and years.

Although you'll have to forgive me for wishing his movement a speedy progression in joining him in the grave...

Sunday, May 13, 2007


It's Mother's Day, of course, and while I really ought to sing the praises of my mom, I find myself oddly at a bit of a loss for words. I've said a fair bit about my mom of the course of writing this blog, not that she's read any of it because she's not a computer person. But myself and mom have always gotten along. It's a bit easy to be spoiled by that kind of relationship and forget how rare that is. I'm honestly hard pressed to think of how ofter we've fought or argued about anything. And yet, I never got away with murder or was really spoiled.

That's quite the neat trick. I have no earthly idea of how she managed to pull that off. But like most good magicians, you don't reveal how you pulled off the trick.

But the other thing occurring to me this Mother's Day are some of my female friends who are now moms. I was chatting with OM for a couple of hours last night just because it had been awhile and she has a few things going on right now. And I recently exchanged a few e-mail with another friend who is juggling two kids. And I do have others in similar situations.

The thing is, it always amazes watching my friends become parents. Since many of many friends are women, it tends to mean watching them become moms. Now, I'm not going to go telling tales, but I went through university with some of them or bummed around with them in the years afterwards.

And it's not that I doubted they would make great mothers. It's just...I've seen most of these women hammered. I've seen them engage in questionable behaviour. I've seen them silly, funny, crazy and irresponsible.

And now they're moms. Fragile little things look up to them and depend on them. They think their moms are best thing in the world an incapable of making a mistake of doing strange things. And my friends are really good at it.

It's not that I ever doubted they could do it. But it's still strange. To quote from John Rogers, "it's an odd mental hiccup in one's world construct."

Still, to them and my own mom, Happy Mother's Day.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Headline news

Most journalists I know hate writing headlines. It's one of those things that you figure ought to be relatively easy, but isn't. Trying to come up with a few words on top of your story that's not cliche, that hasn't been done to death, but is catchy enough to hook people into wanting to read you story is hard.

The subject matter of your story and the quality of the story isn't what gets most people reading. It's actually whether or not the headline catches their eye and if the photo that goes with the story looks interesting.

(Greg Locke obviously already knows this, but a great photo can make the difference if a person is going to stop and read your story, or skim past it and move on to something else.)

Some journalists leave it to editors to come up with the headline. I believe some of the tabloids in the US actually hire professional headline writers. It's a knack and an under appreciated one.

So that's why when I saw the headline for this story, I had to read the story. And actually, after reading the story I went back and reread the headline again and laughed even harder. That's pure brilliance, my friends. Whoever wrote that headline should get a prize.

And just on the off-chance the story disappears shortly, here are the first few paragraphs:

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- They came from all over the world, poles in hand, and feet ready to inch more than half a mile across a high wire strung over the Han River in a spine-tingling battle of balance, speed and high anxiety.

As part of its annual city festival, the South Korean capital staged Thursday what was billed as the world's first high-wire championship, drawing 18 contestants from nine countries for three days of supreme feats of concentration.

And here is the headline: Skywalkers in Korea Cross Han Solo

(Thanks to Augie for the link.)

Friday, May 11, 2007

Making the man

I had one of those brief surreal moments the other day. I was quickly looking in the mirror before heading to work to make sure there was nothing embarrassing about the way I looked (it's not unheard of me to throw on a shirt and miss a stain or something) and had the mild shock that I didn't look half bad.

Understand, I've never had any illusions about my appearance. I've also thought I looked physically average, which is fine. I'm not bad looking, and obviously there must be something there that helped me land my lovely wife. It's just that there have always been

For example, for most of my life I've been utterly unable to figure out how to dress (that noise you're hearing is the chorus of female friends going "no shit"). Certainly I had limited money to spend on clothes, but I've never been able to figure out what's in style and what matches. I was more than content to wear the same clothes for years on end, as long as it fit. I got somewhat smarter after university by drafting female friends to come along shopping to help me select things. I viewed it as a once a year torture session.

Even as I slowly figured out clothing, there were other challenges. The whole losing hair thing was annoying. Plus, I was putting on weight, which was adding to the clothing challenge.

Now, things are still far from perfect. I'm still hovering around 230 pounds and I'm behind the pound a week schedule. So that needs to get on track. But I think I finally got the hair thing straightened out. I haven't been happy with the cuts I was getting around here, but while in Ottawa I found a nice Italian barber downtown who promptly rid me of most of my hair (including whipping out the ever-popular straight razor for a shave) and I think it's about the best my hair has looked in ages.

I'm also finally figuring out clothing. Cathy still offers up her opinion, but I've got it mostly figured out these days. I even picked up two nice pairs of dress shoes in Ottawa for work (not that anyone will notice. My office is easily once of the most casual places I've ever worked, and I was a journalist for many years) and didn't even blink too much when I saw how much they cost.

So yeah, looking in the mirror, I thought "I actually look half way decent. I might have this looking presentable thing figured out."

The next immediate thought was "Why the hell couldn't I have figured this out when I was 13?" You know, when I was single and utterly perplexed about girls and why they seemed to have no interest in me.


I know it all worked out well in the end. I have Cathy and couldn't be happier. Still, a few more girlfriends and a lot less time single in between 13 and when I met Cathy would have been nice.

There really ought to be a book or something...

Thursday, May 10, 2007


Odd the things that can make one happy. Before we moved up here we bought most of the things we thought we would need to get by. One of them was a vacuum. However, while we bought most of our things new (we were flush with wedding cash) we opted to go second hand on the vacuum. Not really sure why. I think we were on the tale end of a fairly impressive shopping spree at that point and we're starting to feel a touch squeamish about how horrific the impending Visa bill was going to be.

So we dropped $50 or so on the vacuum. And after getting up here we quickly discovered that it sucked. Or, rather, it really didn't suck all that well. This has been a source of displeasure for quite sometime. Perhaps more so in recent months. While Boo doesn't shed much, he is still a dog so there is fur coming off of him.

So Cathy figured that since we will likely never make as much money as we are right now, why not get the vacuum of her dreams (do women dream of vacuums)? So about 10 days ago we ordered a Dyson, apparently the King of Vacuums.

This is worth mentioning for a couple of reasons. For those of you living in the north, you might want to add Costco to your list of businesses that have very reasonable shipping rates. Shipping on the vacuum was less than $30, which is a remarkably good deal. Some items, I believe, actually have free shipping. Yes, membership is still needed to order things, but odds are if you don't have a Costco membership you have a friend or relative who does.

Secondly, the shipping was impressively fast. We got the vacuum less 10 days (or about seven working days) after ordering it. For an item that large, that's impressive. Actually, we've been getting good shipping lately. A Chapters order arrived in a bizarrely quick for days after we placed the order. Who knows. I'd say good things about Canada Post, except it was FedEx that shipped the vacuum.

Anyway, Cathy vacuumed this evening and was quite pleased with all the dirt and grime that came up from the floor and carpet. So I guess it was a good purchase.

Back on Mars

Well, this is promising news. Even though the ratings since the show came back after a hiatus for the brain destroying “Search for the Next Pussycat Doll” were terrible (I think less than three million people were watching), this story says it looks likely the show will be renewed, but with a different format. The show will leap ahead several years with Veronica in the FBI Academy, which sounds like it could be potentially quite interesting.

One of the factors for the show being picked up, apparently, are the mercy killings of “7th Heaven” and “Gilmore Girls”. The CW Network now has big gaping holes to fill in its line-up and a quality show like Veronica Mars will apparently do the trick.

Myself and Cathy consider Veronica Mars to be probably one of the few great shows on TV right now. I include House in that list. Cathy picks Grey’s Anatomy, however she rarely watches it these days because the commercials drive her nuts. So I’m glad to see it looking positive for its renewal.

No word on when season 3 will be out on DVD, but I imagine it will be around the end of August, just in time for the fourth season.

Oh, and just because I'm talking about a show with mainstream appeal, but seemed like it was, at the start, directed at teenage girl, an update on my weight for those who think the blog feels like it is written by one sometimes. As of this morning I'm 229.6 pounds. So hopefully have broken the psychological 230 barrier I will stay on this side of it for a good long time.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The next premier?

There was a little blurb in last Saturday Globe and Mail talking about the possibility of Chief of Defense Staff, Gen. Rick Hiller succeeding Danny Williams as leader of the Conservative party in Newfoundland and then becoming, de facto, the next premier of Newfoundland and Labrador. Although I found it later, Scott Feschuk of Macleans also mentions Hillier's possible future in politics.

I'm sure this rumor has been kicking around in Newfoundland for quite some time, especially given the very public profile Hillier has nationally these days. Rick Mercer made the quip on his show that Hillier was the most powerful Newfoundlander alive, and like many things Mercer says, it's funny and not exactly wrong.

I can't imagine Hillier wanting to go quietly into retirement once his job with the Canadian armed forces is over. I'm sure Ed probably knows how much longer he has in his current position, which I think has a mandatory length of time, but it can't be more than another couple of years since he's already been at the job more than two years.

Then what? Well, he'll probably take some time off, maybe write a book and then, yeah, I could see him entering politics. The timing would work pretty well for him, I should think. And yeah, if he wanted Danny's job, I don't think too many people are going to be able to beat him.

I have my reservations. Granted, he seems like a nice enough guy. He's had one hell of a tough job, trying to fix the mess the Canadian armed forces have been for the past decade or so. And despite the controversy about whether or not Canada should be in Afghanistan, I haven't heard many people say that Canadian forces are doing a bad job over there. In fact, most of what I've read said they've performed with distinction.

A lot of that has to do with the men and women on the ground, of course. But let's not forget, if things were going horrifically then the first people on the media firing squad would be the generals running the show. People might complain about Hillier's public profile and a few of his mistakes, but by all accounts, people seem to like and respect him and the job he's doing. People can also correct me on this, but when people have publicly called the armed forces on some flaw, they've been generally pretty quick to try and fix the problem. Well, quick for the military.

And really, you have to ask, if the man is making a go at organizing an army to help rebuild Afghanistan, how hard could it be to try to fix Newfoundland?

The thing of it is, Hillier is still a little too high profile, still a little too much willing to speak out in public and criticize when he doesn't get his way. And, well, the military is one thing, politics is quite another. I appreciate that in his position, he needs some political skills. But being premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, especially once Williams is done, isn't like being thrown in the deep end. It's being thrown off the edge of the Grand Banks.

I'd like to see someone a touch quieter and more willing to just go and do the work and not pick fights all the time. I've said already that from what I've seen of her, I think Elizabeth Marshall would make an excellent premier, but we shall see how things shape up.

I guess one good thing, though. If Hillier expresses an interest and a groundswell builds up around him as potentially the next premier, it might inspire the knives to come out for Danny. You get the feeling there is more than one frustrated Conservative out there right now with Williams. But few in the caucus have the clout to stand up to him, let alone bump him off. But someone like Hillier, who is well beyond Williams' ability to control or attack, could certainly do the job.

Wouldn't that make an interesting bit of political theatre...

Good jobs. Uh huh...

Ahahahahahahahaha. Funniest thing I’ve read so far this week.

Yes, there is a touch of bitterness with the laughter. But if any recent grad of MUN’s education facility thinks he or she is getting a job teaching in Newfoundland and Labrador except under extraordinary circumstances, then they’re sadly delusional.

By the way, extraordinary circumstances include the following:
1. Mommy and Daddy know a principal.
2. A willingness to work in rural Labrador for the rest of your career.
3. A specialization in a field for which there is a sudden shortage (which can be a crapshoot to predict)
4. A willingness to substitute for the next eight years, or work 1/8 positions for the next several years in the hopes of landing something eventually. Maybe.

Other than that, you might as well start packing your bags for Alberta or the North. Where, oh yes, along with giving teachers a job, actually pay them half decently. If I recall, the salary for teaching in Labrador is hardly wonderful in terms of compensating the challenges they have to face (isolation and challenging students for starters). If you’re going that far north, you might as well go all the way, where at least the money is better.

I really do feel bad for teachers in Newfoundland. It’s one of those positions where the provincial government has them by the short and curlies. If you don’t like how much you’re being paid or the conditions in the classroom or the curriculum, well you can feel free to leave. It’s not like there aren’t about 5,000 teachers waiting in the wings to take your job, so desperate is their need to either stay or return home. It’s one of the prime jobs where people are taken advantage of by their desire to be in Newfoundland.

And such is the desire of many to stay there that they will struggle for years on substandard salaries, eking out an existence. Not to mention I have no idea what it does to their pensions, but I can’t imagine it’s all that good.

So yes, a job fair for all the teaching opportunities in Newfoundland and Labrador. Dead funny, if not quite so bloody sad.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Good-bye Gill

I appreciate the wrongness of criticizing a show that I’ve never watched. I’ve frequently lambasted religious organizations in the U.S. who heap scorn on a movie or TV show without actually taking the time to watch the show and see if it is worthy of their bile. They’ve just read a biased synopsis or saw 10 seconds of clips and that was enough for them to base their decision that it was the most evil thing being created in Hollywood.

However, when I read this story about the Gill Deacon show being canned at the end of this month, I did breathe a little sigh of relief. As I said, I’ve never seen the show. But lord knows I can’t turn on the CBC the past few months without seeing an ad for the program, with that watered down, elevator-ready version of Bonnie Raitt’s “Something to Talk About” (that song is supposed to be bluesy and sexy, not whatever the hell that version is) playing and clips of Deacon asking inane or aggravating questions. “Is this a generation without shame?” is the one that, for whatever reason, really grates on my nerves. I suspect it’s the level of smug superiority that manages to come across ever so well in a three second clip.

So farewell and adieu. Even though I never watched the show, and never will, I’m glad for its removal if for no other reason that I can now watch playoff hockey without having to hit the mute button every time that ad comes on.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Why won't it go away?

The single most depressing story I've read all day was this.

I'm not at the point of wishing her dead, or wishing that she would accidentally kill somebody so they would send her to prison for considerably longer than 45 days. I just wish she would...go away. And not go away in a manner in which we'd still all be subjected to tabloid headlines on what happened to her for the next 20 years (hence the reason why I'm not wishing for an alien abduction. Plus, really, if there was ever a just cause for aliens wiping out life on Planet Earth in a vengeful burst of explosions, Paris Hilton being among them might do it). Just stop existing in the public consciousness. That in one, great sudden burst of intuitive brilliance, everyone in the world would realize what that creature is and then suddenly be revolted at the notion that they had been paying any attention to her.

People who actually spent money on her last album should be willing to make large charitable donations as an attempt at atonement for their sin of hideously bad musical taste. Paparazzi and news editors that followed her would fling themselves into the ocean as an act of contrition. Or join a monastery. Something. Anything.

Normally I do my level best at ignoring that woman. But that headline caught my eye, I became significantly depressed and felt it was either rant about it or throw myself off the nearest tall building. Which, around here, might not do the job.

Besides if there is a just God I will live just long enough to see her ruined. Or to have forgotten she ever existed.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Back in the 80s

I normally don't look back too much when it comes to music. I tend to focus more on getting new music and finding new things to listen to. The idea of people listening to classic rock all the time is kind of bizarre. Listening to the same thing over and over and over again always stuck me as being a terribly boring thing to do. Don't you want to find something new and cool? How many times can you listen to Led Zepplin? Or Queen?

I mean, I like The Beatles and Queen, but if that was the only thing I listened to I would go mad. I need new things. Among the recent records that I've downloaded include Bright Eyes' latest (not bad), Feist (not bad, but I think it will grow on me more) and the Arctic Monkey's (pretty damn good).

It's probably why my iPod is now over 5,500 songs. I just have to keep finding new stuff to add. Granted, some of the music should probably be deleted, but as anyone with a collector mentality will tell you, once you get something, it's awfully hard pressed to part with it. Which also explains the 10,000 comics in storage.

Still, I guess I'm not exempt from wanting to look back occasionally in terms of music. But what I want to find is old 80s stuff, music I grew up with, but have forgotten about. The music that I liked when I was 13 or 14 years old, but were only minor hits. Not the songs that have been played to death like Madonna or Michael Jackson, but the song that got no higher than #28 on the Billboard chart and I simply didn't understand as a 14 year old why more people didn't like it.

That's the stuff I'm in the mood for right now. I spent part of the evening digging around on iTunes looking for that kind of music. It was an interesting venture. I manged to find "Don't Walk Past" by Blue Peter, "Radioactive" by The Firm, and "One Thing Leads to Another" by The Fixx (which reminds me, I need to find 'Red Sky at Night" by the same band).

In some ways, it's almost like discovering new music again. I haven't heard "Radioactive in 20 years at least.

It's not going to be a regular habit, this digging up forgotten 80s memories. But hey, it's been a lazy Sunday so why not indulge in a little nostalgia.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Well, that was a schmozle

Today is Free Comic Book Day. I meant to mention it yesterday so I hope a lot of you went to your friendly neighbourhood comic book store and picked up a few comics.

Sadly, I have no comic book store to hit, so I've chosen to mark the day by reading a recently arrived graphic novel (The Secret Six: Secret Degrees of Devastation, which was quite good) and to go and see Spider-Man 3 at the local cinemas.

We should have known better. Seeing popular movies on opening weekend in Iqaluit can just be a nightmare. I suppose I shouldn't blame just the people up here. I've come close to homicide a few times when I used to review movies with The Express from annoying audience members.

This evening we dealt with one cell phone, two little girls who didn't stop talking throughout the movie right behind us, parents who thought it would be an excellent idea to take a three year old to a two hour, 20 minute, and some kid up front who kept yelling at the movie.

Myself and Cathy were wondering the other day why we hardly go see any movies at the theatre any more. Nothing like a friendly reminder.

To some degree I can understand. The audience was restless because the movie was deeply flawed. Among other things it's about 20 minutes too long, has one villain too many (Venom is completely unnecessary), one subplot too many (the alien black costume) and sags badly in the middle.

I understand the appeal of making Parker a bad guy for a little bit in the middle. And the whole idea of watching a geek like Parker trying to be bad must have seemed like a good idea on paper. And hey, I understand the idea of what would a geek going bad would look like. But that's doesn't make it all that entertaining to watch.

I'm beginning to get an idea why movies like Spider-Man 3 and X-Men 3 haven't worked as well as you might hope. Both movie really hit their stride in the second movies - no longer tied to having to explaining who these people are and what motivates them, it opens open the story options for the director.

But in the case of the third movie, they seem compelled to top what worked in the second. X-Men tried to cram the legendary Phoenix storyline in with the cure storyline. And it managed to feel like too much and not enough at the same time.

Spider-Man 3 tries to cram in Venom's origins, the rise of the Sandman and the ongoing story with the Goblin legacy in one movie. At least X-Men was brief. This movie went on way, way too long.

Are there highlights? Sure. The first fight between Goblin and Spider-Man is top notch. The final fight is entertaining. The stuff with Sandman actually has some nice poignancy. Would that there was more of that and none of the stuff with Venom and the black costume, this movie would have worked a lot better.

And hey, when it comes out on DVD, get yourself a bottle of whiskey and a shot glass. Every time Peter cries or takes off/loses his mask, do a shot. You should be so shit-faced by the half way mark that you likely won't notice the flaws.

Then again, Spider-Man 2 is a tough legacy to live up to. Rotten Tomatoes did their complete list of comic book related movie. Go here to see their take on things.

Considering where Spider-Man 2 ranks in that list, it was probably inevitable there was going to be a letdown. It's just a pity it's as big of one as it is.

By the way, not that what I matters means squat. Take a look at how much it made just on Friday alone.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Growing up in the park

While the first few years of my life were spent bumbling around different parts of the city (Cowan Heights, the centre part of town, Maxse Street) I grew up in an area called Virginia Park. It's in the east end of town and is fairly unremarkable except for two minor claims to fame.

First, it was right next to the Janeway Hospital so you tended to see an above average number of sick kids attending my elementary school (Virginia Park Elementary) because it was convenient for parents with chronically ill children to live some place close to the hospital.

Secondly, it was built on the old Fort Pepperrell dump. Yes, my home was built on top of American garbage. I leave it to you to look for the symbolism in that. But it did occasionally provide amusement as somebody digging a deep hole in their backyard occasional came upon a 1940s fridge or some such thing.

The Park always was a strange idea. About one-third of the area was townhouses. Not everyone who lives in those townhouses were on social assistance or were lower income. In fact, you find a few people who have moved into those homes and have fixed them up quite nice. But let's not hedge our bets here – there were a lot of poor families residing in those houses. Some of them were nice people trying to get by. Some were scum.

The other two-thirds of the Park was filled with fairly solid middle-class homes. None of the houses were too flashy, for the most part (that went to neighbouring Bally Hally estates, which was the snooty area of town until King William went up). It was such an odd mix. I doubt there were many other subdivisions created with this kind of mix.

From ages five to seven I lived in the townhouses. Then we moved to the more middle class area of The Park. I'm not 100 per cent sure why, although I have my suspicions. Part of it was to be closer to the school. I recall my parents getting into a racket with the principal about how far I had to walk home for lunch. Part of it also had to do with the fact that even at age seven, and in a new subdivision, I think my parents were getting concerned about some of the kids on the street I was hanging out with. They were a rough crowd.

But there have always been rough crowds in Virginia Park. The school, a mismatched series of temporary buildings that have now been there for more than 30 years was routinely broken into, vandalized and set on fire more than once. There were "gangs" that operated and certainly you had to watch your step. I remember there used to be a small wood that separated my house and the school and The Plaza – which contained the library, a convenience store, a Mary Browns and a few other places.

The woods were mostly cut down by the late 70s. Partly to make room for a softball field and other recreational facilities (the field and playground was built. The rumoured swimming pool and tennis courts never appeared), but also because of all the drinking and drugs that were being done in the woods. There were also rumours of a sexual assault.

I never had any problems living there, which I attribute to dumb luck and whatever bizarre invisibility field that's protected me from serious harm throughout my life. Perhaps it might have had a touch to do with my parents, who were widely liked. My mom sold cosmetics and, as anyone who has ever met her will testify to, is a charmer. My dad was the mail man in the area, widely respected and liked (skip the joke about what happened to me. You will not even be the 10,000th person to make it in my life). The fact that he had a convertible since 1988 and nobody has ever fucked with it is proof of that. Dad just thinks he's lucky. I think he underestimates his influence.

But I walked out of the Park unscathed. Never was beaten up, never had any lasting psychological damage. It's a rough place, but there are certain rougher in St. John's.

So why this long winded discussion on where I grew up? Because I was chatting with one of my cousins out in Calgary the other night. He also grew up in the Park, but was six years younger than me. His mom, my aunt, still lives there. To call 2006 a terrible year for her would be an understatement. Health problems kept her in hospital for the better part of four months and we wondered sometimes if she was going to make it.

But she did and she's been doing a lot better recently and I know we're all relieved. However, I found out that in the last couple of days someone stole her car, did a little joyride in it, and then left in the Plaza parking lot where they promptly set it on fire. It wasn't destroyed, but did suffer a lot of interior damage.

So this set up is all basically so you can understand why, right now, I was to burn down swaths of the Park in fiery vengeance for this bit of fuckery. I'm not saying that anybody really deserves to have their car stolen and set on fire. And obviously the assholes that did it didn't know, and probably could care less, about the crap year she had. And yes, there are lots of nice, good, hard working people who live in the Park.

But you'll just have to pardon me for wanting to set these assholes on fire right now.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Sinnotts redux

I haven't heard or read anything in Newfoundland media following up on the accusations by the Sinnotts on what happened to them in the Dominican Republic. For those just tuning in, they claimed they were threatened, harassed and forced to part with $1,000 or face time in jail after being unfairly accused of robbing a cell phone and other items. The left the resort early, came back to Newfoundland and promptly told their story to the media.

I was hoping there might be some follow-up, perhaps some witnesses from the resort might come forward and help clear up the story. Interestingly, yesterday I had two anonymous messages left on my previous post on the subject that seem to know a little bit more of what happened there.

I think, but can't be sure, that they are from the same person. It appears to be coming from the same IP, one located in Maryland. If the anonymous person actually witnessed what happened, I'd love to know more. Feel free to respond to this post or e-mail me.

They found my blog by doing a Google search for Dawn Sinnott. When I clicked on the same search I found this site, which is a message board discussing subjects relating to the Dominican Republic.

Several conclusions can be reached for reading the message board. First, that nobody appears to believe the Sinnotts' story, finding too many holes and inconsistencies. Secondly, while they try to backtrack a bit when called on it, there are a few not nice suggestions about Newfoundlanders and what we're like when we go to DR resorts. Apparently, we have a rep. Oh joy...

They are right about one thing though...I suspect we'll never know the complete story of what happened.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Music notes

On the off-chance anyone from Iqaluit is reading the blog and doesn't already know the news, The White Stripes tickets are going on sale in town on Friday morning at 10 a.m. You can get them at DJ Sensations, Raven Rock and the Arctic Winter Games Complex. Also, as of this morning at least, you could still get advance tickets through the White Stripes website. I noticed today the tickets were charged to my Visa, so I'm assuming it works and I'll get the call to pick up our tickets soon.

The other tidbit of White Stripes news that I find amusing is this interview with Jack White where he admits there is little chance this tour will make any money for the band, they just want to do it. He's also apparently fascinated with the word "Yukon."

Once again, good on him. They didn't even want to play Toronto or any of the major centres, but decided to add a couple to just to pay the bills. It's fascinatingly eccentric and I have to admit my respect and admiration for the band for doing something like this has gone up a notch.

On an unrelated musical note, I finally found a music video I liked the other day. I appreciate this might not seem like a big deal, but I' m trying to remember the last time I saw one that I thought was cool or interesting.

Music videos have taken a real hit in the last few years. Part of it is, I'm sure, that I'm older and that the music played on Much Music is not designed to entertain people of my age (God help me for having typed that last sentence). And we don't get Much More Music on cable up here, so I'm not subjected to the more "adult" videos out there.

Which is kind of depressing. I grew up watching music videos. Up until a couple of years ago I still rather quite liked watching them. But with music video stations actually playing fewer of them (MTV is practically a joke in the US) it's kind of hard for me to understand why some musicians might spend millions on them. There was a time if you didn't do a video for a song, you might as well forget selling any records. I imagine it's much easier these days for musicians to get away without producing a flashy, expensive video if they don't want to.

Having said all that, I found the video below by Snow Patrol for the song "Signal Fire"...well, there is no other word for it...adorable. I like Snow Patrol any way, and this is the first song for the Spider-Man 3 soundtrack, so I was going to give it a whirl regardless. But this is a hell of a charming music video.

I've suggested to Cathy she should stage something like this at her school. She declined. Apparently they frown on hanging kids from wires.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Award season

It's awards seasons for journalists. I'd be curious to see Geoff Meeker tackle this one – on how journalists feel about being nominated, and winning, awards. I've experience a different reaction to them. The staff at The Express generally downplayed the worth of awards; the staff of The Packet took them much more seriously.

It's easy to understand both points of view. I've seen some really doozies get nominated for journalism awards. Editorials, stories, columns or pictures that have just left me utterly baffled (I had one colleague I thought was going to have to be tranked, he was so outraged over "that piece of shit hack" columnist winning an award several years ago). And in many cases newspapers just carpet bomb awards categories, figuring you might as well throw something at a category, you never know, the judge might wake up hung-over, decide to look at the nominees and you might get something.

Hell, I judged a CCNA (Canadian Community Newspaper Association) category several years ago and it was blatantly obvious which submission should have won in journalist initiative (or something like that). Hmmmm, should I give it to the paper who sent a reporter and photographer to a northern BC community to explore the impact of the oil industry from a social, economic and environmental perspective and how it might impact their community in the Yukon which was just beginning to develop an oil industry and put it together in a 12 page feature supplement. Or should I give it to the paper that sent their reporter to the court house to look for stories. That's a tough one, let me think about it.

It's those kinds of situations that normally made The Express staff ambivalent. We entered categories, but didn't take victories, or losses, all that seriously.

On the other hand, I remember The Packet taking it very seriously. We were aware of the flaws, however the general public wasn't. "It shows the community what they have," my editor said. "It reminds them they have one of the best little community papers in Canada, let alone Newfoundland." Which, never doubt for a second, is exactly what The Packet is. But because it's based in Clarenville, nobody pays any attention or takes it seriously outside the region. Their loss.

For my part, I have a half dozen or so journalism awards. I think I have six ACNA awards (Atlantic Community Newspaper Association) and one CCNA (for best sports photo, of all things). I really am proud of them, although that pride still feels a touch weird. They're in a box in storage right now. It's always felt strange to hang them up, as if journalists shouldn't care about such things.

But I always did. Sue me. I remember the first time I entered the ACNAs and CCNAs and didn't win a thing, but the Packet won something like 10 that year. I was pissed off even though I had only been with the paper a few months and was rusty as hell. I won three the next year – best business story, best columnist and best feature series. I'm still proud. It meant a lot to me as a beginning journalist. Besides, friends tease you about being an "award winning journalist", which isn't a bad thing to be teased about at all...

Anyway, I note that the ACNA nominations are up now. Even though it's dead, The Express is up for four (Best general interest columnist – Steve Bartlett, Best Specialty Columnist – Kerri Cull, Best Page Design – Mary Urie, Best Investigative Story – Kim Kielly) and The Packet has its usual boatload of seven - General excellence circulation more than 5,000, best advertising program (Bonnie Goodyear), Best Feature Photo (Barbara Dean-Simmons), Best National Editorial (Barbara Dean-Simmons), Best News Story (Kirk Squires), Best Original Advertising Idea (Staff) and Best Photo Essay (Cpl. Lou Penny).

Oh, the Packet also got a Blue Ribbon for excellence at the CCNA for papers with circulation between 4,000 – 6,499, along with nominations for Best Sports Page and Best business story (Barbara Dean-Simmons). The Express received two for Best Headline Writing and Best Coverage of the Arts.

One day Barb really must count up how many of these awards she's won over the past 27 years. I've no doubt she must be the most highly awarded journalist in the province. And its not just in one thing. She's won them for news writing, editorial writing, op-ed pieces, photography, layout and God knows what else. She's must have won dozens of them at this point. Well, enough to keep her warm for the winter if she ever had to start burning all those plaques.

It's probably best not to think what Transcontinental will do with any awards the Express wins. For that matter, I wonder what happened to all the awards the paper has won over the years? Probably packed up and tossed in a storage room somewhere. Sigh...