Saturday, August 30, 2008


For those of you not from Newfoundland, this will not be a big deal. However, those of us who grew up in the 80s, the news that there will be a Wonderful Grand Band DVD set is a pretty big deal. It was a massively popular show in Newfoundland, featuring Greg Malone and Tommy Sexton (Who went on to do CODCO) doing the majority of the comedy and with Ron Hynes, Sandy Morris and the rest of the band doing music.

How big was the show? At its height, whenever an episode aired, something in excess of 70 per cent of the tv sets in Newfoundland were tuned in. When they released an album in 1982 Living in a Fog, it was only outsold by one record in Atlantic Canada that year. You might have heard of it - Michael Jackson's Thriller.

So yeah, they were gods in Newfoundland at that time. The biggest thing going.

So I'm thrilled that a DVD set will be coming out at some point in the future, presumably sometime next year.

However, I have a question. And not to get all Stephen Harper here on arts funding, but did the provincial government really need to give $10,000 towards the project? I mean, if it were a loan or they were becoming a business partner in the project, I'd understand. They'd get their money back. But this is a grant. So other than getting a "Thanks Danny" somewhere on the cover, they're not getting much for the investment.

I understand giving grants to projects where its important, but there's the risk that it won't make any money. But it's an arts project and they have an importance that goes beyond just dollars and cents. Or that by giving that money, a project that otherwise might not get off the ground will and it will have some economic impacts.

But this DVD set is going to make a fortune. I'm not exaggerating. I don't even know the complete costs of getting the transfers done, the packaging finished and the marketing completed. I don't know how much they're going to sell it for. But I know they're going to sell not thousands of copies, but tens of thousands of copies. Hell, hundreds of thousands of copies is not beyond the realm of possiblity. Lots and lots and lots of people are going to get this for Christmas or a birthday or what have you.

If there's every such a thing as a sure bet, that this DVD set is going to make money is one of them. So I don't really understand the province kicking in money. Bank loans? Investors willing to kick in the cash? Then again, arts funding has always been one of those things I haven't always completely understood. I'm not saying it's bad; I'm saying that sometimes the logic and reasoning can be a bit confusing.

Now, if the province wants to kick in money to get Secret Nation put out in an affordable DVD formation (the National Film Board doesn't have a copy for sale for home use, but does for schools, libraries and businesses. Oh, and it's $60. WTF?) I'd be all about that.

In the meantime, I'll be reserving my copy of the Wonderful Grand Band as soon as it comes out. Even with the government funding.

Last Five
1. Army dreamers - Kate Bush
2. What you did to my girl - The Pursuit of Happiness
3. Old time sake - Kathleen Edwards
4. Dragon - Tori Amos
5. Rude awakenings - Dropkick Murphys

Friday, August 29, 2008

It's a fine line...

So I got one out of two right. And hey, I said it was going to be Governor Pawlentry and instead it was Governor Palin. I got that it was a governor whose last name started with 'P'. That's got to count for something. Give me a 1.5 out of 2. I take some comfort that the number of pundits who boldly predicted that she would be the one, instead of just suggesting she had an outside chance, could easily be counted on one hand.

I don't know about this choice and I suspect it's too early to tell, not that that's stopping pundits everywhere from shooting off their mouths. The gambit runs about what you would expect. Those on the right love the fact that she's a woman, pro-life, an NRA member, attractive mother of five who led an anti-corruption campaign. Those on the left point out that not even two years ago she was mayor of a town about the size of Iqaluit, has zero foreign policy experience, is a pro-life "zealot" (opposes abortion in cases of rape and incest), is in the middle of a small corruption flap, is questionably ready to lead should John McCain drop dead in the next four years (distinctly possible) and is this, in fact, little more than a crass attempt to try and lure disgruntled Hillary Clinton supporters to John McCain.

That last point seems to be a main selling point. We'll see if if works. Among the funnier shots was in a comment section of a commentary I read earlier today - "I know Hillary Clinton, I voted for Hillary Clinton. Governor, you're no Hillary Clinton."

It all depends what happen in the next couple of weeks. Running a state of 600,000 people is one thing, trying to survive a US presidential campaign, surely one of the most grueling and fierce challenges on the planet, is something else entirely. Maybe she charms the hell out of everyone and is a game changer. Maybe she bombs, unable to handle the leap to the big times.

My initial opinion? Well, pardon the baseball analogy, but it's like a baseball club in a tight race and they need a fresh arm to get them through the stretch. So they reach into AA league and grab a fresh face with a great arm. If they had left him alone for another couple of years, give him a chance to build up his arm, gets used to professional hitting and develop his pitches, there's little doubt he's going to be a star. But they're desperate now, so into the spotlight he goes.

I like baseball and I've watched enough of it to know that 80 per cent of the time the big league hitters light the rookie up like Christmas eve. And certainly I think that's the case with Palin. She's had an impressive start to her political career, but she's awfully green. And yes, the same could be said about Obama, but he's had 18 months to develop who he is and what he stands for on a national stage. She has two.

The odds are against her. Badly. But every now and then, one of them comes up and throws a no-hitter. Maybe that's Palin. I guess September, and the vice-presidential debate with 30+ year senate vet Joe Biden in October, will tell. But I think they pulled her out of the minors way too soon.

However, I do agree on one point that's cropped up online. What does this pick say about McCain? This story says he met her one time and spoke on the phone with her once before offering her the position last week.

When Obama made his choice, he spent months vetting and meeting all the potential candidates, including campaigning with them. He made a careful, considered choice. McCain picked someone he met once six months ago, which is a bit rash no matter which way you spin in.

Certainly it wouldn't require much of a stretch to view how each man picked his vice-president would be indicative of how he would react as president. I'm an Obama fan, that's true. But even if I wasn't, how McCain made his choice would cause me concern. I suspect I won't be the only one.

As one Republican operative said at the end of the above story - “There is a fine line between clever and stupid.”


Last Five
1. You don't understand - The Raconteurs
2. Slipped jigs - Kelly Russell and the Planks*
3. Blinded by the light (live) - Bruce Springsteen
4. Lion's jaws - Neko Case
5. Black star - Radiohead

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Dorset prints online

Like many bloggers, I'm a Statcounter whore. I probably check entirely too often (about a half dozen times a day) to see how many people are visiting the blog, where they're coming from and so on. I've actually been pretty happy this month because my stats are way up. I have no idea why, but for August an abnormally large number of you are visiting here as opposed to going out and enjoying the sunshine.

I do not know, but I'm glad you're around.

Anyway, without fail the thing that cracks me up is the search engine keywords that run through the blog. I keep threatening to do a best of the week, but always manage to forget. But some of the highlights currently listed include "Brokeback Mountain Bastard" (I get a lot of searches with bastard in them, go figure), "Lyrics for me and you and a dog named Boo" (guess why), "big curling rolls" (not my kind of curling, I suspect), "Colleen Power endorsement" (I endorse Colleen's music whole-heartedly) and "regent resolts" (a bit of a typo. And no, beyond the top 6, I have no idea of the results.)

But the one I've been seeing an awful lot of lately is "Cape Dorset Prints". And hey, I understand that. There's a big demand for them. And regular readers of the blog will know we managed to land a print last year with Jen's help. And if I get home in October, I look forward to seeing it for the first time in its frame. I understand it's huge. In its frame it's about five feet tall. So we're going to need some serious wall space for that one.

However, for those of you searching for your own Dorset print, you will be happy to know that the 2008 collect is available for viewing online.

Our reaction? Well, it's always hard to get a an idea of how good a print is just by looking at them on a laptop screen, but there are a few we'll be curious to take a closer look at. A couple by Kenojuak Ashevak ("Grand Entrance" and "Long Necked Loon"), and a couple by Ningeokuluk Teevee (Cathy likes "The Brothers", I like "Bull Walrus" and we're both interested in "Snow Geese Return").

Will we get one this year? I'm not sure. Last year we saw two we really, really liked and that was such a rare event as we have very different tastes in artwork. For example Cathy's favourite is Monet's "Water Lilies".

My favourite painting is David Blackwood's "Fire Down on the Labrador". (A good friend of mine's father has a signed/numbered print which I have constantly threatened to steal). There's a bit of a void between those two.

So getting another Dorset print depends on if they wow us both when we see them in person in October, which is when the show is normally held in Iqaluit. It also depends on the size. We can't really get another print the size of Teevee's "Owls in Midnight."

You know, if you love art there are a lot worse places in the world to live than here. A lot worse....

Last Five
1. So nice, so smart - Kimya Dawson
2. Let it rain - OK Go
3. Calling Elvis - Dire Straits
4. Long way home - Supertramp
5. Smoke baby - Hawksley Workman*

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Different MUN stories

And now a small diversion from what has been suggested to me as an unhealthy obsession with MUN and the Board of Regents election I give you a post that features not one, but two stories regarding MUN. And in neither case do I shit on them. The first is amusing, the second considerably less so.

Story number one is about how more than 100 students getting ready to attend classes at MUN next week will not find themselves staying in their dorm rooms like they thought, but instead at a Holiday Inn.

Now, when I originally heard about this, I was trying to figure out how much this was going to cost MUN. I figured about 50 rooms for about two weeks at around $100 a room per night is around $70,000. Yes, you might think the hotel would give a discount for a bulk rate. But then, would you give a discount knowing the havoc that 100 freshmen university students are going to cause your hotel? I'm surprised they're not being charged a premium.

And yeah, they're likely all first year. From speaking to some friends on campus, something like 70 per cent of res students are first years. So, 100 17-18 year olds, possibly away from home for the first time, in a hotel for a couple of weeks. What could possibly go wrong?

However, the story also doesn't touch on a couple of other things. First, while I was all set to praise MUN for doing the right thing in putting the students up in a hotel rather than sticking them in a gym somewhere, odds are they're not paying for it. The contractor probably is since they blew the deadline.

Secondly, $70,000 is still a lowball number. The story doesn't explain how they're going to be fed. Will they still eat on campus at the cafeteria or will they be given a per diem of some kind for those few weeks? If so, that ups the costs considerably. And then there's the matter of how they get back and forth from the Holiday Inn to the university. That's not a short walk. It's doable, but not pleasent if the weather is bad. So are they being given bus passes (is there even a direct bus route from the hotel to MUN?) or is a shuttle being hired to ferry students back and forth several times a day? Again, more costs.

Not to mention damage to the hotel. There is no way that many students over that length of time do not damage that hotel. Add another couple of thousand there.

So yeah, those two weeks are easily going to cost more than $100,000, I should think. Can anyone find fault with my math?

The second MUN story is the passing of former president Dr. Leslie Harris. One of the comments in the CBC story is that he's practically the model of what you would want in a university president. It's hard to argue with that point.

I only met him a couple of times and in passing, but he always stuck me as an intelligent man who cared deeply about the issues important to him - the university as a whole, the fisheries and Newfoundland. He was a scholar and a gentleman, the kind not often seen much these days. As such, I mourn his passing and offer my condolences to his family. It's a loss not just to the university but also to the province.

Last Five
1. Who do you think - Interpol
2. Where did you sleep last night? (live) - Nirvana*
3. Good to me - Brendan Benson
4. Universe and U - KT Timstall
5. Run for you life - The Beatles

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Cheer up

We're down to the second last day of summer vacation for Cathy. Oh, she's been in the school on and off since last Friday, but it's been more to help organize the library and tidy up her classroom a bit. She's been able to pick and choose her hours. If she didn't feel like going in until 2 p.m., no one was going to say anything to her.

But Wednesday marks the first official day when she has to be at the school by a specific time and can't leave until a specific time. She doesn't get the kids until Tuesday.

So there is a lingering air of sadness in the Chateau today. Least kids get depressed at the notion of going back to school, take some comfort that teachers aren't in a much better head space during the last days of summer either.

I've tried cheering Cathy up a bit. I found this great story yesterday about an Italian priest wanting to create a beauty contest for nuns. Cathy had the habit of grabbing me and pointing out different kinds of nuns when we were in Italy (think "Punch Buggy" but with nuns). And lord knows there were enough varieties. Not just in shape, size and age, but they kept wearing different habits. If we had thought of it earlier I imagine we would have kept a photo record of them.

But now I'm hearing the priest who was planning the contest is calling it off after getting a lot of grief from his superiors. And nasty emails. Oh well.

So I'm still poking around and trying to find things to cheer her up a bit. If you can think of anything, by all means, post it here. A Happy Cathy is a good thing.

Oh, and this isn't to cheer Cathy up, but more for those addicted to US politics. And even then, only for the hardcore. If you ever wanted to understand what the two campaigns are talking about when it comes to taxes, especially Obama's, then this is likely as clear as you're going to find. It is long, but completely worth it if you not only want to understand his tax policy, but also to read something rare - excellent policy based journalism during an election campaign. I should frame it. This might be the last time I read something like this for awhile.

I haven't been watching the Democratic convention mainly because that many talking heads would likely break Cathy's sanity. But I will try and catch Obama's speech on Thursday. I'm curious to see if he can pull it off, despite all the high expectations.

Last Five
1. Leaving so soon - Keane
2. Just the way you are (live) - Billy Joel and Elton John
3. Everything must go! - The Weakerthans
4. Paranoid monkey blues - Mark Bragg*
5. Live the life you're dreaming of - Sloan

Monday, August 25, 2008

No results

I've read the story in the Telegram yesterday and apparently I've managed to avoid embarrassing myself. My main concern was that I was going to sound like a poor loser, but I think I managed to avoid that. Well, at least so far.

That's because I'm not 100 per cent ready to let the bull go yet. Oh, I have no illusions of getting elected to the Board of Regents this year. That ship has sailed. But I am genuinely curious as to why the results can't be released because of privacy legislation concerns. I've contacted Alumni Affairs and asked for clarification, which they promise they're going to send me. I wouldn't presume to speak for them, but if I can read between the lines it sounds like they might be a bit annoyed as well.

I'll give it until Wednesday or so, just to see if they actually get permission from everyone. But I highly doubt it. Between people away on vacation and not checking their email and people who may genuinely not want the results released for one reason or another I doubt they will get them all to consent.

Now, I'm not prepared to go so far as WJM and attribute this all to a grand Danny conspiracy. I just want someone to explain how an open and free election cannot have the final results reported in public. I'll listen to what they have to say. And if it still doesn't make sense, then I'll contact the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner and get them to look into it.

Why go through all this hassle when it will make no difference at all to the final results? Mainly because I'm curious. But also because I don't think privacy legislation should be used as a reason to not release election results.

By the way, given how much noise was kicked up about the Regents and the presidential search I would certainly hope some enterprising reporter picks up this story and starts asking some questions. Because this is weirdness to me.

Oh, and if I might be a touch bitter for a moment, I read Rex Gibbons and John Hogan's responses to what the Regents should do regarding the presidential search and wanted to hit my head off something solid.

"I wouldn't comment on what the premier should or shouldn't do - that's not my role and that's not the board's role...." - John Hogan.

"I'm not going to comment on it at this stage. I'm going to wait until I'm fully briefed on all the issues, including that one." - Rex Gibbons.

Bravo lads. I can tell right now you'll be fighting for MUN's academic independence from outside interference right to the last.

Last Five
1. Your long journey - Robert Plant and Allison Krauss
2. Faraway land (live) - Allison Krauss and Union Station
3. Crippled inside - Widespread Panic
4. Humble me - Norah Jones*
5. What if - Coldplay

Sunday, August 24, 2008


So by my reckoning today is the third anniversary of our arrival in Iqaluit. Cathy has a year on me my virtue of her year in Rankin Inlet. But yeah, three years ago we hit Iqaluit.

And my first impression? What the hell had I gotten myself into? It was a cold, gray day when we hit town. And there is a bit of culture shock when you first land. But hey, we've adapted quite nicely. I was debating even bothering to mention it today. When we first came up to Iqaluit we were all about the five year plan. We would stay for that long and then evaluate whether or not we were going to stay.

We've pretty much made that decision already to stay beyond five years if the place will have us. Something might come up that makes us leave. But if we have our way, we plan to be here for many years to come.

The other thing that happened today is we attended a celebration of life for one of Cathy's former co-workers. Cathy taught with Liz for more than a year before she was diagnosed with breast cancer. And man, she fought that about as hard as I've ever seen anyone fight cancer. But if there was ever a disease that seemed to be out to get someone, I think it was this bout of cancer. It never seemed to let up or give her a break. And I think in the end, there's only so hard you can fight for so long.

I never knew her that well, but Cathy was close to her and took it hard. Cathy taught Liz's boys for each of the last three years. So it's been rough. But the ceremony today was nice and it was good to see a large crowd show up.

Last Five
1. Miss teen wordpower - The New Pornographers*
2. Honky tonk woman - Rolling Stones
3. Songs of love - Ben Folds
4. Runnin' down a dream - Tom Petty
5. Fly me to the moon (live) - Frank Sinatra

Friday, August 22, 2008

So what happened with the Regents results...

So, why didn't I say more about what happened this morning? Because I needed some time to calm down. I was pretty pissed off this morning. And it had more to do than just losing the Regents election.

It all started with an email from a Telegram reporter wanting to know about the Regents election and its impact on the presidential search at MUN. I responded that until the results were known on Monday it didn't make much sense to talk about it.

That's when he sent me the link to the press release announcing who the winners were.

To put this in some perspective, when I ran and lost in 2005 I did get an email essentially thanking me for running, but that unfortunately I didn't get enough votes to be one of the six representatives on the Regents. This came out before the results were known to the general public

In 2008, I find out I lost by a reporter emailing me a link to a day old press release.

So yeah, I was upset at losing. Because I thought I ran a decent campaign and lots of people were telling me they voted for me and that I stood a real chance. And like anybody who has ever run for anything, you start listening to these people and ignoring your more cynical instincts. You begin to think you have a chance. And then you lose and it really sucks. And this was just for Board of Regents at MUN. If nothing else I have a greater empathy for people like Simon and others who throw their hat into the ring for elected office.

But, you know, they don't find out they've lost through a press release.

So I was very pissed off that happened. So I then did two things. One I'm glad I did, one I strongly suspect I might regret.

The first was that I emailed both Alumni Affairs and MUN communications and expressed by extreme displeasure that this is the way that I, and other candidates, were finding out the results of the election. And that it was pretty unprofessional.

To their credit, they got back to me pretty quick. MUN communications emailed and said they understood why I was mad. The director of Alumni Affairs called me both at work and at home to apologize and explain what happened. Basically, it was a communications glitch on their part. That shouldn't have happened and they were taking steps to make sure it didn't happen again in 2011. An email should have been sent out yesterday to people who didn't get enough votes.

That's fine. Trust me, I understand communications glitches. I accepted the apology. But yeah, if I had put up a post this morning, the blog would still be smoldering I was that mad.

Which brings us to the other thing I did this morning that might have been a mistake...I spoke to the reporter. You don't speak to reporters when you're that mad, I know that. Because you will say something stupid that you will regret. Or you don't make your point as coherently as you might like. But I did it anyway and God only knows what is going to show up in the paper tomorrow. Hopefully nothing too stupid, but I wouldn't count on it. And if it's really stupid, I'll just have to deal with it.

One other curious thing about the election...I know my results and I'll say what they are. I finished 21st out of 39 people running. I got 169 votes. Which, I admit, is a touch disappointing. I was hoping for a bit better. But when I asked for the complete results, they're not giving them out right now. Why? Well, let me quote from the email I received this afternoon.

In the interest of transparency and accountability, we would very much like to publish the results of the election (name of candidates and number of votes) on the Alumni Affairs and Development Website. However, privacy legislation dictates that we need the permission of all candidates involved in order to do so. Therefore, we are requesting that you please notify us no later than Tuesday, August 26th if you are willing to allow us to publish your results.

Is that, or is that not, the strangest bloody thing? You need the permission of all the candidates to put up the results? I mean, if you're running you would think it's a given that the results will be published. I don't understand what privacy legislation has to do with this.

The sad thing is, I almost guarantee you they will not get unanimous consent. Someone will object. The person who finished last. Maybe a politician embarrassed by their numbers. Someone will have a problem. Which is too bad. The results should be published. If you don't want people to know how many votes you got, you shouldn't have run in the first place.

I really hope they will be. But don't be surprised when they're not.

Last Five
1. Now and always - David Gray
2. Trampled rose - Robert Plant and Allison Krauss
3. There goes God (live) - Crowded House*
4. Bleed like me - Garbage
5. Sand in my shoes - Dido

Board of Regents results

Well, at it's most basic, I lost.

If you want to know who won the Board of Regents elections, you can go here.

I'll have more to say about this, possibly later this evening or tomorrow. I've already made one mistake today, and that was talking to a reporter with The Telegram when I wasn't really in the proper mental head space. Putting anything more up on the blog until I'm in the right frame of mind would be a mistake.

However, I will say this. The best part of this whole experience has been everyone who swung by the blog, dropped me an email or signed up for my Facebook page. To see that much support and to realize I have that many friends is tremendous and means the world to me. So if you voted for me, thank you. And I mean that sincerely.

Last Five
1. Man-sized wreath - REM
2. The ghost of you lingers - Spoon
3. New goodbye - Hey Rosetta!
4. What's my age again? - Blink 182
5. Ain't got you - Bruce Springsteen*

Thursday, August 21, 2008

eBay's last legs?

A couple of months back my mom dipped a tentative toe into the whole Internet thing. I think she's got email pretty much figured out and some people at work have got her set up on Facebook. But I remember at the time she was excited about the idea of being about to cruise around for deals on eBay.

I really didn't have the heart to tell her she's at least five years too late for that. Further proof that eBay is going down the tubes can be read here. The story also has a rarity....most people offering up intelligent comments after the story about how eBay is becoming increasingly irrelevant.

Most of my friends are familiar with my near legendary story of needing to make some money so I could buy Cathy and engagement ring. So I sold comics on eBay. One person thought it was very sweet that I sold all my comics to get my girlfriend and engagement ring.

"Oh no," I said. "Not all of them. Just a couple of hundred."

"How many do you have?"

"I'm not sure. Probably around 10,000 or so. I've kind of lost count."

You know, there's only two ways to handle the look you get when you tell someone you have about 10,000 comic books. Either get very depressed that someone is looking at you in a "holy fuck I'm standing next to a crazy person" way, or just get amusement at the reaction.

I tend to go for the later.

Anyway, yeah, I sold about 300 or so comics on eBay and got a very nice engagement ring for Cathy (plus had enough left over for a nice digital camera, but that's besides the point). And really, eBay was the best way to do it. If I sold my comics to the local stores I would have gotten a fraction of the price. The only other option was to go to the Avalon Mall flea market, which can be its own torture test.

So yeah, eBay was great. I used to get a touch annoyed by the shifting fees, the way Canada Post seemed to gouge you and even the increasing Canadian dollar. I remember thinking if only I had started selling a year or two earlier I could have made so much more money. That's when the dollar was trading around 73 cents. A year earlier it had been around 65 cents. So I was losing money.

Yeah, losing money at around 73 cents. Good thing I wasn't trying to sell them now. I would be getting creamed. I like travelling with a high US dollar. I like buying things with a high US dollar. Selling comics with the dollar at par sucks.

Anyway, I haven't had much to do with eBay in ages. Yes, some of it has to do with the Canadian dollar hitting near par and the fact that Canada Post seemed to be really taking advantage of people using eBay (especially in Nunavut). But mostly it was just the absolutely byzantine fee structure that made it almost impossible to make any money selling things. Increasingly it felt like eBay was trying to force out ordinary people just looking to sell a few things and were sucking up stores and bigger companies. And this latest move appears to be, if not the final nail, then certainly one of the last ones.

It's too bad, but maybe this kind of auction site no longer serves a purpose. Or the world is waiting for a better, and easier, auction site to be built and leap to the forefront. I'd like one. If I get home in October (just depends on work now, although a seat sale would be nice as well) I have to deal with a bunch of my comics. It would be nice to be able to throw up a bunch of auctions and sell some of it that way rather than dealing with the local stores or tossing them out.

But I don't know. Looking at that story and eBay, I think trying to deal with them would give me a migraine. Too bad. It was a fun and useful site....while it lasted.

Last Five
All from Figgy Duff Live

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

She's back

So after a month apart, I finally have Cathy back in the apartment. Which is a very good thing. It's nice having the place to myself and all, but it does get a bit lonely after awhile. Now I have a small hurricane blowing through the apartment, with Cathy unpacking everything and trying to find places for all of our stuff. We have, as Cathy frets, a lot of stuff. Or not enough space. Or some combination of both. One more reason that we're going to start poking around for a larger place. Assuming we can find one that lets us have dogs.

Speaking of which, Boo is back as well, although he's quite sedate. It's worrying Cathy a bit, but I figure the combination of a couple of days of travel and a touch of depression at being back in Iqaluit might be doing it to him. I'm not going to over-analyze the dog here or anything, it's just the last couple of months he's been in Newfoundland being spoiled by Cathy's parents (and oh did they spoil him) with lots of walks each days, grass to romp through and critters other than ravens to chase. So yeah, I could see being back here and realizing he's back to his old routines might sap some of the good from him. But I don't anticipate putting him on anti-depressants or anything.

The other news is that our trip to Australia is coming that much closer to reality. Cathy's been dealing with Aeroplan on this and has been showing infinite patience. It takes a lot of phone calls to get from Iqaluit to Sydney. Especially since you can book Aeroplan tickets on Air Canada up to 355 days in advance of the flight, but First Air/Canadian North can be booked 335 days in advance. As you can imagine, that means a lot of extra phone calls and unnecessary complications.

I have no idea why Canadian North/First Air does their seat bookings at a different time than Air Canada other than to make things difficult. And you do have to book these things that far in advanced. The Air Canada seats to Australia disappear quickly, especially since we're flying business class (it's a long flight, we have the points, we're going to use them) And the northern airlines only have two Aeroplan seats per flight. And they disappear very quickly.

Anyway, the long and short of it is that we have the Iqaluit-Ottawa-Vancouver-Sydney portion of the trip locked in. And as of today we have the Sydney-Vancouver-Ottawa portion of the trip locked in. We just have to wait another three weeks or so to lock in the Ottawa to Iqaluit portion. And considering that ticket is probably more expensive than the Ottawa-Sydney trip, it's an important portion. But it's looking very good.

A month in Australia. Italy was fun, but we're really looking forward to Australia. That's the dream trip.

Last Five
1. Freak me out - Weezer
2. Sophomore slump - Fallout Boy
3. The spirit of radio - Rush*
4. Complete control (live) - The Clash
5. In Between Days - Ben Folds

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Punditry and predictions

So, having watched the US presidential election cycle pretty thoroughly since about December last year, I have to say, I’m feeling pretty frustrated. That was a wasted opportunity.

Oh no, I’m not talking about the quality of the candidates and who is running for each party. Relatively speaking, each party landed about the best candidate possible under the circumstances. No, no, no….what I’m talking about is money. Specifically, a wasted chance for me to make some.

Look, I’ve read a lot of news stories and political commentary in the past nine months or so. And as best I can figure, especially with the commentary, there are only three skills that are required - an ability to meet a word count, an ability to hit a deadline and an unsurpassed ability to talk out of your ass. I imagine a fourth, an ability to actually know what you’re talking about would be nice, but not a prerequisite.

Seriously, finding someone who is intelligent, makes interesting points and doesn’t have a large axe to grind is like finding find a chunk of gold while panning in the middle of a very cold, very fast moving river. You’re likely that numb and on the verge of being swept away by banality that when you actually find a chunk of gold you’re kind of in shock.

That there are a lot of hacks out there in the magic land of political commentators is hardly a news flash, although the volume of people who clearly have no idea, who clearly are just making shit up as they go along because it’s a deadline and they have 800 words to fill in the next couple of hours is kind of staggering.

So on the off-chance someone in the US stumbles across this site and doesn’t already a political hack and is willing to pay decent money for an outsider perspective of the US presidential election, well, I’m your man. You can talk to my former editors – I can hit a deadline, I can write a lot and I can write bullshit and make it sound like I’m wise and in the “know.”

Want proof? Here’s my prediction for the vice presidential candidates. Obama is going to pick Joe Biden. McCain is going to pick Tim Pawlenty.

Why? Obama gets two important things with Biden. First, he obviously gets an exceptionally knowledgeable man on foreign affairs and secondly, he gets a professional attack dog. Biden has never shied away from being able to cut people to pieces with particularly memorable quotes. Yes, that makes him a risk to say something wrong (which Biden has done plenty of times in the past), but the pros outweigh the cons. Plus, the Democratic base, which is starting to get a bit skittish, will like Biden. He’s not bland and he’s not afraid to rip Republicans.

Why not some of the others? Bayh is viewed as a bit bland and was a little too gung-ho on the Iraq war, which dampens some of Obama’s attack in that area. Kaine doesn’t have the necessary experience. And yes, Obama might like to pick someone from a state that he wants to put in play, in this case Indiana and Virginia. But as past history shows, a VP candidate is hardly any guarantee to bring that state into play. So why not pick the attack dog with the experience to be able to handle the job (and that job is not VP. I could probably be VP. No, the other job. The job no hope hoes the VP candidate gets for many years.)

As for Hillary, just no. Not going to happen. At all.

As for McCain, well, Pawlenty gives him everything he needs. Someone a bit more familiar with economic issues, is younger, but not so young that he makes McCain look like his grandfather. And most importantly, he’s evangelical, and McCain still needs to suck up to that base because they still have doubts about him.

As for the other possible contenders, well Ridge is pro-choice and the Republican evangelical base just about had a small stroke with McCain floated the idea last week. Lieberman is not only pro-choice, I’m not entirely sure anyone likes him. Republicans don’t trust him because he is, theoretically, a Democrat. Democrats don’t like him because they think he’s a prick.

As for Romney, I’m not sure anyone likes him. Yes, he might bring a few states in play (Michigan, Massachusetts and some of the western states with large Mormon populations), but he’s viewed as smarmy, would change his position at the drop of a dime and would, again, likely alienate some evangelicals.

So, nope, Pawlenty it is.

And for those editors out there, I can easily write another piece explaining how clever I am for being able to predict these choices. If I’m wrong I can do something explaining why each of these two exceptionally intelligent men were wrong to not chose these two people, because I obviously know better.

Huh...guess I have learned something the last nine months from all of those commentators after all.

Last Five
1. Climbing up the walls - Radiohead
2. Please Mr. Postman – The Beatles
3. Mama – My Chemical Romance
4. Hallelujah – Ryan Adams*
5. People of the sky - Sloan

Monday, August 18, 2008

Last call

All right, swear to God, this is the last time I will mention Board of Regents election for, oh, at least a week. Today is the last day to vote. I don't know exactly when the deadline is, but the Alumni website says ballots must be postmarked before 4:30 p.m. NST, August 18, so I think it's a safe bet that you should vote before then, if you haven't already done so.

Remember, the handsome fellow at the very bottom of this page is the one you want to vote for. The one right above the "Vote now" button.

The results will be known around August 25. Win or lose, I'll be sure to let you all know how I did.

This has been an interesting experience. I'm not sure I campaigned this hard that time I ran for the CSU president at MUN. I got my ass kicked, for those who might be curious. I'm hoping for a better result this time. And hey, if nothing else, I got 96 people in my Facebook group, which kind of floors me.

Anyway, thanks again for everybody who voted for me or read through my ramblings on MUN these last few weeks. I appreciate it.

Last Five
1. Extraordinary machine - Fiona Apple*
2. Rock star - Andy Stochansky
3. The return of Pan - The Waterboys
4. Sleep - Kimya Dawson
5. Scar tissue - Red Hot Chili Peppers

Sunday, August 17, 2008


A low key day, with most of it spent tidying the apartment up a bit for Cathy's grand return on Wednesday. But along with cleaning I spent most of the day watching the BBC mini-series Jekyll. I picked up on a bit of a lark when I was in Ottawa last month. I had heard a few good things about it online. I kept trying to watch in on Showcase, but always managed to miss the first episode. Plus, it was a rarity for a BBC was cheap. I mean, I love MI-5, but there's no way in hell I am paying $90 for one season which runs about six episodes. Same problem with Dr. Who. Wouldn't mind picking it up, not prepared to auction off part of my soul to buy the seasons.

But Jekyll was an impulse purchase and a good one. That's a clever little show. Oh, it wobbles pretty badly towards the end, but there's enough "holy fuck, that's clever" moments to redeem it.

The show, for those who have never heard of it, is an update of the Jekyll/Hyde story. Dr. Jackman has a alternate personality that he can barely control. But he's doing his best, with technology and a bit of help. But the usual powerful and secret organization has plans for him and his family.

The best parts are the writing, which is pretty damn smart, assumes the audience is smart and throws in a few genuine "holy shit, never saw that coming moments." The second best part is James Nesbitt who plays both characters and who I hope like hell won a bunch of awards. It also proves you can do the role without getting silly with it (and I'm looking at you League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

The wobbly bits? Well, they're kind of all over the place with Hyde's abilities and they rushed the ending a whole hell of a lot. Plus, and this might mean I have to watch it a second time to make sure I didn't miss something, but there are a few bits that, in retrospect, do not make sense to me. Like Hyde's ability to remember things he shouldn't be able to.

Actually, it's interesting to see how this is done in England compared to how this might have been done in the the United States. Jekyll is six, 55 minutes with no commercial episodes and is done. On the one hand, it's quite the rush. There's not too much wasted time and scene-filling. And it makes for very captivating viewing.

If this were an American production - well, on the major networks and not HBO - then there's a whole season's worth of material and ideas waiting to be fleshed out. Certainly a lot more with the lesbian detectives (it's almost criminal how entertaining they are, and how they are under used), more with the psychiatric nurse who is taking care of him and probably a lot more with the secret organization.

It wouldn't have made for the same kind of compulsive viewing and there would have been a lot more filler scenes, I suspect. But I do wish I could see more of these characters and had things fleshed out a bit more.

Still, not a bad way to spend a Sunday. I recommend watching it if you get the chance.

Last Five
1. Guided by wire - Neko Case
2. Where did you sleep last night?(live) - Nirvana
3. Expecting - The White Stripes
4. Best for the best - Josh Ritter*
5. An cat dubh - U2

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Canadian content

So, the news didn't manage to make me cranky yesterday. And hey, Canada won three medals while I was sleeping last night, so perhaps I can stop reading stories about Canada's medal draught and what this says about us as a country. I'm not sure what it says about us as a country that we're not competitive in a bunch of sports that I've ever never heard or, or only pay attention to every four years. But anyway...

No, my story of the day was this one. The CRTC has given an Alberta-based company approval to create and English, pay-TV channel featuring adult content. And no, I don't mean a channel that features Big Love or the Wire all the time. Think porn, my friends.

Now, ordinarily a porn channel wouldn't cause me to write about it on my blog. But there's the big that caused me to laugh - the channel has to be 50% Canadian Content. To which my first thought was "Oh, so it has to look unbelievably cheap." But that's unfair. technology has come a long way in the recent years. It's much easier now to do things that are cheap that don't look really cheap.

But here's the second thought. And no, it wasn't Newfoundland porn. For that matter, I thought I had read, in of all places the muse that's already happening. No, the first thought was "Dear god, what would Nunavut pornos look like?"

Something involving igloos, if I had to guess. It's really probably best not to dwell on such things. You know, as a rule I support Canadian content. I think it's an important thing to have when sitting on top of the largest cultural generator in the world. I am, however, willing to make an exception for the porn industry.

Although I do take some amusement that the Conservative government, which is cutting cultural program left, right and centre, is ok with a CRTC ruling protecting our home grown porn industry. That's awfully big of them.

Last Five
1. You don't know what love is - The White Stripes*
2. Cherries - Brandon Benson
3. Please please please - Fiona Apple
4. Afraid to fall - John Rouse
5. Brave Marin - Anita Best and Pamela Morgan

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Should have listened

I said I should have stopped looking at news stories earlier today because everything I was reading was managing to depress me or piss me off. But I didn't, and look what happens....the next Harry Potter movie is delayed until July 2009.

There were pretty much only two movies coming out this Christmas I wanted to see. One was the new Jame Bond movie, Quantum of Solace (still not sure about that title, but the trailer is damn impressive), and the new Potter. I'm sure there might be others that I wouldn't mind seeing, but those were the only two I was kind of anxious to see. Now, I'm down to one.

Nice try at a spin job from the Warner's president, though. "Hey, but at least you only have to wait a year for part one of Deathly Hallows." Yes, Part 1. Those kids are going to be 30 before they're finally finished. And at least one of them (my money is on Emma Watson) is going to be in rehab.

sigh.....Anyway, hopefully nothing but good news on Friday.

Last Five
1. Pray for rain (live) - Allison Crowe
2. Just the way you are (live) - Elton John and Billy Joel
3. Eyes on the prize (live) - Bruce Springsteen*
4. I can't remember anything - Chris Picco
5. Evaporated - Ben Folds

I should just stop reading today

You know, I didn't wake up cranky this morning. I woke up cold, because the wind shifted over night, the temperature dropped about 10 C and I had some windows open. But that's about it. Still, it seems every news story I read today is designed to annoy me in some way.

Take this one from VOCM where Education Minister Joan Burke says she's willing to meet with the university anytime over the search for a new president. I think the think that annoys me the most about this story isn't so much Burke, as what passes for news on VOCM. There's one real obvious question to be asked here and either they didn't ask it or didn't think it was important enough to put in the story. That being "Ms. Burke, do you still think you have a veto in anyone the university chooses to bring forward as the next president?" Kind of obvious, really. Not answered, however. Which is frustraing.

Then if we take a quick swing in the world of entertainment, you get this story, where New Line cinemas claims that the reasons the Tolkien family have not received any money from the Lord of the Rings movies is that they haven't made any money. The movie made more than $6 billion worldwide, when you take in box office, DVDs and other merchandise. But New Line is looking people right in the face and saying "Nope, we didn't make any money off these movies."

There's a line in the story that the most creative people in Hollywood are the accountants. No kidding.

And then there's this story, where I had to actually get up from my computer and walk away for a few minutes, I was that upset. The US Department of Homeland Security grabbed Hiu Ng when he went to get a green card matter taken care of. He died more than a year later from untreated cancer because his jailers thought he was faking it. He was frequently denied access to his family or his laywer. He couldn't eat or use the toilet without assistance from fellow inmates. He had problems getting his medication because he couldn't walk to where it was located. They put him in the top bunk. Staff frequently yelled at him to "stop faking!"

Honestly, if you read that story and don't want to punch something when you've finished, then you're not human.

I don't know. I think this is one of these days where I'm just better off not looking at a computer. It seems like a safer bet. At this rate I'm going to start looking for tall buildings in Iqaluit to jump off of. And really, there are limited options around here.

Last Five
1. Narc - Interpol
2. Missing you - Bob Mould
3. Cryer's paradise - Ron Hynes*
4. Yankee skipper - Figgy Duff
5. Cruel April - Sean Panting

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

One week, part 2

No, not another Regents post (although there is a story in the Telegram today talking about the MUN/government racket). One week from today Cathy comes back home. Well, as is typical of most Newfoundlanders, she returns to her other home which is not located in Newfoundland. She's back in Iqaluit.

I think we both like the little break from each other during the summer. This isn't to say our marriage is in trouble or anything silly like that. It's just that we spend a lot of time with each other during the course of the year. And then three weeks with each other pretty much every waking moment while we were in Italy. I suspect she needed a break from me and I could use a break from her.

You hear this a lot from people whose spouses are either working in the offshore or flying out to Alberta. There's this fluctuation between missing them awful when they've been away for a few weeks and not being able to wait for them to leave again (or not being able to wait until they can go again) after they've been home for a couple of weeks.

So I think we're at that point now where the break has been nice, but I miss her a lot and she misses me a lot. So she's looking forward to coming home. And as nice as it's been to have the apartment to myself the last few weeks, I'm looking forward to having her back here.

Plus, given the absolutely terrible weather in St. John's the past couple of weeks, I know she's starting to go mad. I haven't helped any by saying we've been having a pretty nice summer in Iqaluit. Pretty consistently sunny, pretty consistently between 10-15 C. Which, for up here, is pretty comfortable. You know you're in trouble when you're coming here for some nice weather and a break from the cold and damp.

The only downside is that she's also going to be bringing back a very spoiled little dog. Cathy's parents are great and I'm grateful they took care of Boo while we were in Italy. But dear God, did they ever spoil him. He's going to be a handful when he gets back here.

So yeah, one week from today and she's back home. I think I'll start counting the days.

By the way, since we're talking about being apart from one's spouse for work reasons (well, I have to work. She's a teacher enjoying summer vacation), I've always been curious if there will be any long-term societal damage done to Newfoundland over having so much of the province's population in transit to other places for work. Yes, this has happened before, many times before, with (mostly) men having to go away to work. Boston and New York had its share of Newfoundland men go away and send money home to their families, getting home when they could.

But this is different, I think. In recent decades families tended just to pull up stakes and move to Ontario, BC or Alberta. Now, some are still doing that. But you are seeing more incidents where the wife and kids stay home while the husband goes to Alberta for four to six weeks, then coming home for a week or two. And you've got to wonder what that's going to do to families after awhile. For a year, maybe you get through it. But some have been doing this for years now. And what point do things start to breakdown?

I don't know. Sociology was never my strong point. I may well, and this will shock some, be completely fully of shit. But I can't help but think that it might be helping the economy, it's probably not helping people in the province. Not in the long run.

Last Five
1. So here we are - Bloc Party
2. Part one - Band of Horses
3. In that quiet earth - Genesis
4. Calm like you - The Last Shadow Puppets
5. Revolver - Donnas*

Monday, August 11, 2008

One week

So one week let until MUN's Board of Regent elections come to a close. I'm not entirely sure what more I can do at this point. The Facebook page asking people to elect me ticks along and is still picking up the occasional stray member. There are 86 members there now, which is a damn lot more than I ever expected to sign up. I've done a press interview with CBC Radio which I think went pretty well. If you're curious, you can go here and listen to it. The interview ran on Wednesday, August 5. It's the fifth item under that day.

Other than that, I think I might be done. If people want to plug me on their blog, well, that would be great. But I think that has to be something individuals want to do on their own. I don't feel comfortable going around and asking people to do that for me. It just feels....weird. Perhaps one more reason why I wouldn't make a great politician.

It's also interesting to note that Deanne Fleet has withdrawn from the race, meaning there are now 38 people running instead of 39. Still, I imagine a few people voted for her before she withdrew. Votes that are now essentially wasted. She resigned from the Regents during the racket over the government's interference with MUN's presidential hiring process. I'm not sure how I feel about that, to be honest. On the one hand, I admire her for standing up and saying how disgusted she was with how things were being handled by the Regents and wanting nothing to do with that. However, she's obviously someone with high ethics; it would be have been nice to have her on the Board and fighting.

Then again, we have idea what she's been going through the past three years. For all we know this was the straw that broke the camel's back.

As for MUN and the government, either the media have dropped the story or there's a ceasefire between MUN and the government. There hasn't been much reported in the last few days. Nothing more from Education Minister Joan Burke. Nothing more from MUN since the statement from the Board of Regents. So it's hard to know where things stand. But an update on what the government thought of the Regents' remarks, where the hiring process now stands and if the government will continue to play a role would all be questions that would be nice to have answered.

Anyway, if you're a MUN alumni and haven't voted yet, go here.

It occurs to me that I haven't actually said who I am or who you should directly vote for on the blog. Part of that is that I suspect most of the regular readers know who I am anyway. Plus, let's just say I like keeping my name off the blog for personal reasons. People who live and work in Nunavut know that blogging can be a dicey proposition sometimes. However, if you were to vote for that last person on the list of alumni candidates (directly above the "vote now" link), that handsome fellow with the goatee, you would be doing something that would make me happy...

Last Five
1. 29 - Ryan Adams
2. Under the skin - Lindsay Buckingham
3. Tears, tears and more tears - Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint*
4. I guess that's why they call it the blues - Elton John
5. Simple love - Allison Krauss

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Faulty wiring

So it wouldn't be US presidential politics if we didn't have a scandal of some kind at some point. And really, it didn't require much digging online the past few months to hear all the rumours kicking around about John Edwards infidelity.

However, this scandal has made me think a little bit about the mental wiring of people who decide to run for president in the United States. I mean, I was getting a bit of a kick out of John McCain's campaign call Obama elite and out of touch. This from a man whose father and grandfather were admirals, who married a woman worth an estimated $100 million and who apparently owns six houses. Obama, on the other hand, is half black, half white, raised by his single mother and while he didn't grow up in poverty, certainly had a harder go of it than McCain growing up.

But he's elitist.

See, it takes special mental wiring to come up with that argument. Your average person could never make the leap in logic or have the balls to try and make that point. But the people who run for president are about as different from me and you as we are from any microbes that might found on Mars.

Anyone who thinks they are the best qualified person to lead the United States and, by default, be the most powerful person in the world is elitist. They are arrogant. And they simply don't think like other people.

Still, I've know that for awhile about presidential candidates. About different mental wiring. Still, when I look at Edwards and what he did, I think even for a presidential candidate, there's something deeply faulty wiring happening there.

See if you can follow this logic. At the time when he's considered a favourite for the Democratic nomination for president, he decided to have an extra-marital affair with someone who does documentaries (in other words, someone with media connections). He breaks it off, but decides to continue his bid to become president.

Now, this is all kinds of crazy all on its own. These affairs tend to come out regardless. So now he's taking the chance of actually winning the nomination and having this come out while he's the Democratic nominee, which would destroy his party's chances of taking the White House in a year when they're favoured to win. And you know it would. It's practically a given these days that it would.

And then in 2007, after the affair had supposedly ended, his wife announces her cancer has returned. And rather than going "there's no way on earth I'm going to keep running for president, not with my wife fighting cancer and the risk of my affair coming public" he opts to stick with it.

And there is the issue of whether or no the baby is his. He denies it, she denies it. But still. Just imagine if he is the father...if he did have sex and father than child while running for president and his wife is sick with cancer. Well, dear God. That would kind of fry the brain, wouldn't it?

It's not even the affair. Lord knows he's not the first person to have an affair, nor the first politician to do it. But to run for president after having one? To keep running, knowing that ticking time bomb was out there and your wife is deathly ill? Yes, Bill Clinton did something similar back in '92, but at least Hillary wasn't seriously ill.

We will never understand a person like that. Even for presidential politics, that is some deeply, deeply weird shit.

Something to keep in mind when watching all of this happening in the United States. These people aren't normal. They're not "plain folks." They're not just like you and me. Just remember that when you look at Edwards and wonder, "what the hell was he thinking?" because he's just slightly more crazy than the rest of the people who ran for president the last year. Slightly.

Last Five
1. Dirty and true - Hawksley Workman*
2. Jacob's dream - Allison Krauss
3. Come crash - A.C. Newman
4. Trusted - Ben Folds
5. Just the way you are - Diana Krall

Saturday, August 09, 2008

My recent splurge

The longest I think I've ever gone without getting comic books probably came during my nine months in South Korea back in 96/97. And even then, it wasn't a straight dry run. I was slowly losing my mind not having any comics and ended up exchanging some emails with my friend Kirsten. I mentioned having seen Magic: the Gathering cards for sale, written in Korean. And thus was born a quick deal. I got a bunch of comics, and she got some Magic cards for her then boyfriend.

When I got them, it was like drinking cold water at an oasis. In case it's not obvious, I love comic books. I've collected them since I was seven years old and it was rare, until that Korea trip, that I went a week without buying comics. Hell, on weeks when comics were delayed getting into my favourite shop because of weather or holidays, I was noticably gittery and cranky.

I've had to make adaptations living in Nunavut. There's obviously no comic book store and no weekly runs for my fix. Nor do I buy single issues anymore, just collected editions. Still, this was an exceptionally long dry patch, even by my new standards. From the time I came back from New York until this past week, I got just two books.

So I made up for it with this haul, which arrived on Wednesday. I've been happily blowing hours and and hours diving through them.

Yes, that's a lot of books. But I warned Cathy that I was doing it. Plus, she's been having shoe issues in St. John's, so it balances out.

Don't worry, I'm not going to review all of them...unless people are curious about specific books. But I am going to mention my two favourites.

For the comic book geeks out there, I recommend The Immortal Iron Fist: The Seven Capital Cities of Heaven. This is what you get when you have two writers who are almost giddy to see what weird shit they can think up next and have overdosed on kung-fu movies.

The plot is that every 88 years, seven mystical cities align on Earth. There, in the "Heart of Heaven", each city sends its immortal weapons into combat with the champions of the other cities. Along with Iron Fist, there are also champions such as Dog Brother #1, Bride of Nine Spiders, Tiger's Beautiful Daughter, Prince of Orphans and everyone's favourite - Fat Cobra ("Bring me my victory wenches!").

And every time there's a fight, the writers gleefully say what bizarre martial arts move they're using - Whirlwind of Impending Doom, Vaulting Mantis Spine Snap, the Stabbing Newlywed, Hell's Unfurling Hurricane, Mistress of all Agonies, Bastard's Black Heartbreaker.

How can you not love a comic that comes up with all of that? The art is a little erratic, but it's over-the-top fun. I highly recommend it.

The one for non-comic book people would be True Story, Swear to God - Archives, Volume 1. First of all, it's a hell of a deal. The one has 18 issues of the regular series for about $20. Less if you order it online through Chapters. Granted, the comic is in black and white, but still.

As you might gather from the title, this is an autobiographical comic. In the late 90s, writer/artist Tom Beland got a free trip to Disney World in Florida through his newspaper in California. And while waiting at a bus stop on his last night there he met Lily Garcia, a radio personality from Puerto Rico. And from that improbable meeting they ended up falling in love and Beland moved to Puerto Rico to be with her. The book shows the early courtship, the move and Beland getting use to his new life.

Why recommend it? Well, Beland has an appealing cartoon style that works well for the story. It's funny as hell and quite touching. Plus, Beland isn't afraid to make himself look like an asshole in the story. So it does feel very real.

The other recommendation for picking it up? Cathy like it. I can literally count on one hand the number of comic books Cathy will read (Amelia Rules, Runaways, Fables, Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Season Eight and this one), so there you go. It's a comic to give someone in your life who ordinarily wouldn't touch one with a ten-foot pole.

By the way, I'm enjoying all of them so far. I'm taking my time remembering just how good Sandman is and Usagi Yojimbo is it's usual delightful self. But so far, Iron Fist and True Story are the ones I keep picking back up to leaf through. So they must have done something right.

Last Five
1. Hide and seek (live) - Ani DiFranco
2. Father Lucifer (live) - Tori Amos
3. 15 - Rilo Kiley
4. Wonderwall - Ryan Adams*
5. Handshakes - Metric

Friday, August 08, 2008

Still dealing with the fallout

(Note: The words "MUN" and "Board of Regents" are not mentioned beyond this point in the post. You're welcome.)

I'm still dealing with some of the fallout from my temporary brain seizure in Italy last month. The shear volume of paperwork involved in getting your life back in order should, if nothing else, serve as a useful reminder to be more careful in the future.

The latest things taken care of include my bank card. I've been waiting more than two weeks for it to arrive in the mail. I finally got fed up waiting and walked into the local CIBC branch and told them why I needed a new one.

"Oh, they never send those things out through the mail. You have to come in here and get one," I was told.

Of course.

But at least I have a bank card again. I also have a big "Warning! Was stupid and lost a ton of ID and is a prime candidate for identity theft" sticker slapped on my bank account. I imagine it doesn't actually say that, but it might as well.

The next racket was with credit agencies. Again, I need to put warning on my credit just so there aren't any problems. That warning lasts six years, so that's a healthy does of paranoia, right there. I know it needs to be there and I'm glad it is, but the first time my credit card gets frozen because some alert goes off that I'm buying something in Ottawa instead of Iqaluit, I'm going to curse a blue streak. First at the banks and credit agency, and then at myself.

So, in trying to make myself feel a bit better, I managed to accidentally stumble on things far stupider than losing most of your ID in one fell swoop while puttering online. Fortunately I found this article, where this woman searched the "stupid" tag on Flickr and came up with the 10 stupidest pictures on the site. My tops for the stupidest pic has to be the one below.

(h/t to Andrew Sullivan for the link)

It's the sandals holding up the power bar that gets me, every time.

Or I could have been stupid and spent $20 on something like this.

I admit that I don't always get my goatee perfectly aligned, but really, I'm not sure what's stupider....the person who thought this would be a useful invention or the one who ends up buying it.

And finally, at least I was never stupid enough to try and eat this.

By the way, I now officially love the phrase "weapon of cardiovascular mass destruction."

So yes, dumb, but it can always be worse.

Last Five
1. The sharpest thorn - Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint*
2. I will - The Beatles
3. Top yourself - The Raconteurs
4. Streets of sorrow/Burmingham Six - The Pogues
5. Two - Ryan Adams

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Election update

One day soon, I will post about things other than MUN and the Board of Regents, honest.

I forgot to mention here I was interviewed by John Gushue about the Board of Regents election and how I feel about the provincial government interfering in the hiring process of a new president. The interview aired on Wednesday on Radio Noon. It went relatively well, although I always know how long they have when they air these pieces, so I try to cram in as much as I can. So it might sound a bit rushed. Also, my apologies to Dale Kirby. One of the things John wanted to talk about was the Facebook campaign to get me elected and I completely blanked on your name. I remembered it five seconds after the interview was over. But of course, that was too late. So terribly sorry about that.

I didn't hear the interview, but I'm told I sounded like I knew what I was talking about. So that's a pleasant change of pace, I guess.

By the way, if any enterprising reporter wants to talk to me about the Board of Regents election and how the current racket with MUN and the provincial government might be impacting it, drop me a line or give me a call. I seem to have no problem shooting my mouth off about it.

Next, the Facebook campaign is going pretty well. I now have 82 members in the group. As best I can figure there are about a half dozen of the 39 people running for the Board of Regents who have Facebook pages. I have the second most members and I'm gaining quickly on the one with the most.

Now, that might seem like a small amount, but as I said on the Facebook group, it's actually a nice voting block. I have the results of the 2005 Board of Regents election. The person who finished first pulled in 600 votes. But that's not the important number. The top six vote getters go on the Board. And the person who finished 6th pulled about 290 votes.

Taking into account greater interest in this year's election because of the controversy over the hiring of the president, I think at least 350 votes are going to be needed. I polled about 150 in 2005 with no campaign at all. This time I have the blog, Facebook along with some very vocal and supportive friends. So hopefully I come a lot closer, perhaps even over the top.

If you want to vote for me for Board of Regents, then go here. All you need is your name and student number, which should be branded onto your brain. There's now less than two weeks left before the election closes, so please vote and spread the word.

Last Five
1. Lighthouse - Ron Hynes
2. Now I'm 64 - Figgy Duff*
3. Wicked come winter - Matt Mays and El Torpedo
4. Johnny Appleseed - Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros
5. Rumbolt - Figgy Duff

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


And what point does your head start to feel like it's going to explode over all this MUN shit? Honest to God. This is gone beyond silly and into full on retarded.

First, MUN issues these pair of releases. Those releases, among other things contradict large swaths of what the premier and the minister of education have already said.

Because that alone isn't enough controversy, we have this extra bit of craziness, where Deanne Fleet disagreed with parts of the statement. Disagreed to the point that she stepped down as a member of the Board of Regents (she serves on the Board as an elected alumni rep). Which leads to another question. As Fleet is currently running for reelection, will she serve again if she gets enough votes? God only knows.

But hey, good on her for taking a stand and deciding to resign rather than be complicit in what she sees as a distorted version of the truth that some within the Regents are trying to spin. I wonder if she will be the last to walk?

So let's see how it looks right now. The premier certainly appears to have been distorting the truth. The education minister distorted the truth. And the Chair of the Board of Regents appears to have distorted the truth.

Hmmm, what do the three of these people have in common, I wonder?

Anyway, what we have here is a considerable mess. At this point getting anything resembling a straight answer or credible narrative is likely impossible. So let's move forward, shall we? What needs to be done to get things back on track and restore some confidence to things.

1. Education minister Joan Burke needs to resign. She can be shuffled somewhere else or put to the backbenches. But her credibility as education minister has been severely broken.
2. Regents chair Gil Dalton needs to step down. The faith in the ability of the Board of Regents to act independently of the government and in the best interests of the university has been damaged with his actions and Fleet's allegations. A new chairperson is required.
3. The Board of Regents search committee should approach Dr. Campbell and ask him to reconsider his decision to remove himself from consideration of MUN President. Furthermore, an apology from the premier for any damage to his professional reputation over this racket would certainly be an appropriate gesture.
4. In the fall sitting of the legislature an amendment of the Memorial University Act should be made eliminating any possible interference from the current or future provincial governments when it comes to the hiring of presidents.

This is a mess, make no mistake. It's a big one and it's obvious people are lying and not doing very good jobs of covering for it. So let's try and fix this bloody thing and actually get MUN a president before this thing becomes a bigger national joke than it already is, shall we?

Last Five
1. Make a little noise - Joel Plaskett Emergency*
2. One step beyond - Madness
3. If I should fall behind (live) - Bruce Springsteen
4. On a day like today - Keane
5. So called friend - Texas

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

They just keep pulling me back

So here I am swearing that I'm not going to write about MUN today, and what does Premier Williams do? He does this. He finally speaks out after a couple of weeks of controversy regarding the university.

He's also pulling something that seems oddly familiar to me....that is letting the minister take a beating for a few weeks and then he swoops in looking all confused about what the big racket is about. After all, it's just a simple misunderstanding. People are just exaggerating the problem.

Anyway, let us not get into what the Williams government has or has not done in the past. Instead, let's focus on the matter at hand.

So, first point. That MUN's Board of Regents, in fact, suggested to the government that they might want to meet some of the finalists for the job. You know, to have a chat. Talk about how wonderful the province is...that sort of thing.

Well, it's a pretty poor host who invites you over to their house, then starts questioning your competence to hold the job and then publicly says that you're really not the right fit. That ought to woo in future candidates.

Williams gave the names to education minister Joan Burke because he was too busy to meet them. Now, this is all very carefully worded. Government officials met with them, they had a chat, they tried to sell them on the benefits of the province....but boy are they downplaying the word "interviewed". Yes, fiscal responsibility to make sure the best person is in place, legislation that's been in place for decades (never mind hasn't been used since the Smallwood era, I believe), people over-reacting, the minister has done nothing wrong. We haven't infringed on the academic freedom of MUN.

Except the minister and the premier did do something wrong. The minister admits to some kind of interview with candidates and rejecting them, while giving no criteria as to why she felt they were unqualified, while the hiring committee thought they were worthy of being wooed.

So yes, spin away, but I don't believe it and, as much as the premier might like to try and downplay its significance, I think a lot of people do care about the issue. Or if not this specific issue, are perhaps becoming a bit concerned about how the Williams government handles issues like this, or health care.

However, here's the other is long, long past time that the Board of Regents spoke up and clarified exactly what happened. Both what they did and whether or not they believe the government is interfering. And, by the way, I'd like that statement to have all the names of the current Board of Regents. Just so we're clear and there's no perception of conflict of interest, what with the Chair of the Board being a friend of the premier's and appointed by him.

The government's had their say. I have my doubts and questions. However, it is long past time people at the university started saying what's been happening the last few months. I don't think that's an unreasonable request.

Last Five
1. Dejalo - Rilo Kiley
2. Fix me now - Garbage
3. Addicted - Amy Winehouse
4. Island of the honest man - Hot Hot Heat
5. Breathless - Corrine Bailey Rae

Monday, August 04, 2008

Unleash the character assassins

I swear to God, if I had to listen to VOCM on a daily basis I would have stroked out years ago. Just hearing what happens on that station is normally enough to spike my blood pressure 20 points.

I'm not listening to the station but Peter Whittle posted a few highlights from this mornings Open Line show. The attack dogs have been unleashed to rescue the premier and the minister of education. Perhaps they had been unleashed earlier, but this morning it seems the offensive (in more than one ways) has truly begun. Two arguments in particular were offensive to me.

First, that some of the Board of Regents members and people on the presidential hiring committee were university students. They're only 19 years old or so, so what could they possibly know about such important issues? Because obviously all university students are drunken fools.

So, let's see, first plan of attack from the province anonymous hounds - insult students.

Look, unless things have changed, students appointed to the Board of Regents are normally some of the best the university has to offer. It's not just that they're tipping the upper end of the bell curve for grades, they're normally deeply involved in campus life and volunteer lots. These tend to be the people the university likes to drag out and show off as what MUN is capable of producing.

So, no, we're not talking about half-stunned first years who when they're not skipping classes are trying to sneak into the Breezeway. These are smart men and women. Let's try and treat them as such, shall we? Let's try to respect the fact they're volunteering their time, with little compensation, to try and help make the university a better place.

What do they know about hiring a president? Well, it's a certainty they know more than the anonymous caller. I'm also pretty damn sure they know more than the current minister of education.

Furthermore, I've always believed student are radically under-represented on the Board of Regents. Three out of 30? I don't believe that's fair. If I had my say, the Board of Regents break down would look like this:

20% students
20% alumni
20% faculty
20% university administration
20% government appointment

That breakdown ensures a lively debate when it comes to issues regarding the university, with a healthy degree of academic freedom. It'll never happen, but hey, dare to dream.

2. Dr. Eddie Campbell is trying to protect his ass and doesn't really care about students. This is what the anonymous government lackies are saying on VOCM. This, on top of the minister of education publicly saying she doesn't think he's capable of doing the job he's already doing.

How a university president is viewed by students tends to break one of three ways. For the vast majority, it's utter ambivalence. A few will like him, and a decent chunk will hate his guts for some reason or another.

This racket is making a rare event happen. Judging by some of the comments I've seen on Facebook, it's making university students not only like and respect Dr. Campbell, but also feel a bit sorry for him. So kudos to the government for accomplishing that minor miracle.

Dr. Campbell was in an unbelievably difficult position. He's in the running for the president's job, the one he already holds. Now, the provincial government is interfering in the process. It wants to interview the finalists for the job. There's no real chancellor per se, and the chair of the Board of Regents in a Danny Williams appointee. Find me the person who gets to speak for the university to oppose this. The ones who should be talking are either in conflict of interest, absent or compromised.

So what do you do? Find a way out of that where you get to be president, don't compromise the academic independence of the university and don't piss of a premier with a short fuse and long memory for a grudge.

So let's go easy with the public character assassination, all right? I don't know Dr. Campbell. But that's one hell of a situation to be put in.

I've been snarky with the university for not speaking out earlier on this issue. That they cowered, perhaps fearful of the wrath of the premier. That nobody was saying boo until the story broke nationally. But there was no voice to rally around and speak out. A cynic might suggest the government saw that weakness and choose to try and exploit it.

I still think someone should have spoken up on this much sooner. But I do recognize the government put the university in a terribly compromised situation and took advantage of a period of institutional confusion. It's disappointing no one took a stand, but perhaps forgivable.

I promise to try and write about something not MUN related tomorrow.

Last Five
1. Setting sail/Muineira De Frexido - The Chieftains*
2. Most of the time - Lloyd Cole
3. Jacob's ladder (live) - Bruce Springsteen
4. You dress up for Armageddon - The Hives
5. My girl - Chilliwack

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Water, water....

There was a story I read this week from the CBC (on media monitor at work, it's not on their website, frustratingly enough) talking about bottled water use in Nunavut. It was about a scientist puzzled by the amount of bottled water sales in Nunavut. Specifically, he was puzzled and a bit upset with the amount of bottled water bought in the territory. His argument is that Nunvaut has some of the best water in the world, why on earth would people be buying the bottled stuff?

Now, there's some argument to be made against that. Several communities are having some water problems. I recall reading about complaints about the quality of water here in town before I went on vacation....too much copper, I believe. And we prefer to use a Britta filter before drinking the water, just to be on the safe side.

But for the most part, the scientist is right. There really is little need to pop into a store, open a cooler and grab a bottle of water that was likely shipped from god knows where and then flown up here from Ottawa. There are enough other options in the north that bottled water sales should be minimal. And that's before we get into bulk water sales, like the large bottles for coolers and people buying large bottles for home use. However, people up here do it all the time. And while I don't think I've bought a bottle of water in Iqaluit, I'm certainly guilty of hitting the water cooler far quicker than going for a tap.

There's been no shortage of stories about the evils of bottled water. About the environmental impact of creating all that plastic, the fuel costs with shipping water and then all the plastic being tossed away. And I understand all of that. I really do. I understand about trying to convince people to not buy as much of it. It makes sense.

But when we were in Italy, it was very hard to get around buying bottled water. The tap water in some places is ok to drink (surprisingly, Rome water wasn't bad. Florence was supposed to be drinkable, but wasn't). But you have to drink water. I think one day we accidentally didn't drink as much as we should have and paid the price.

And you need lots of water to get by. I figure we were drinking at least four litres per person, per day, if not more. That's a lot to be carrying around with you all day, so you end up buying some when you're out. It's hard to get around buying water, even if you're trying to cut back. It's bloody hot there. Sitting down and doing nothing and you're still sweating out a ton of water. You need to keep hydrating.

So I can understand bottled water in hot climates. Even with public springs, like Rome and Florence had, you're still going to have to buy some bottled water otherwise you're in trouble.

But in Nunavut, not really the same excuse. You're not as likely to get radically dehydrated from the heat. Nor are you ever really far from a decent and clean source of water. So it is kind of silly to be buying it so much.

What's the point of all this rambling? Just a reminder to myself to watch where I'm getting my water and musing to myself that for all the stories saying how we should cut back on bottled water, it's not as easy as we might think it is. Trying to do the right thing rarely is.

Last Five
1. Mr. Feathers - Elvis Costello and the Imposters
2. Hallelujah - Jeff Buckley
3. Right by your side - Eurythmics
4. Take you on a cruise - Interpol
5. Little bones - Tragically Hip

Friday, August 01, 2008

Random MUN thought for this evening

Has any reporter tried to track down in-coming chancellor Rick Hillier and ask what he thinks of the idea of the provincial government vetoing the hiring of a new university president? Because I think that would be a very interesting question to ask him.

For that matter, has anyone tried to speak to John Crosbie, former chancellor and current Lt. Governor of the province what he thinks. Because I think that would be another person who it would be fascinating to hear from.

Just throwing it out there. Because hey, I'm the curious type.

Notes on the day

1. So after mentioning that I hadn't started my Facebook campaign for the Board of Regents, Dale Kirby very nicely goes ahead and starts one for me. So far, so good. When I checked before heading to be last night there was about seven members. As of lunchtime today there are about 35 or so.

Granted, not all of them can vote because they either graduated from another school or are too young to go yet (not that I don't appreciate the support, Kelli), but who knows, maybe I just make a good showing here . But I don't think I'll start writing any acceptance speeches just yet.

By the way, if you want to vote, go here. All you need is your MUN student number. If you're like me, I'm not sure an ice pick to the brain will ever erase that number. It'll probably be the last thing I mutter before I die.

Actually, those would be great last words to confuse people:
Me: (gasping out student number)
Relative #1: What did he say? It sounded like a bunch of numbers.
Relative #2: Maybe it's a secret bank account number. He could have thousands stashed away!
Relative #1: That bastard. I always knew he was holding out on us.

Oh, and I know this is a slightly not nice thing to suggest, but you can vote for up to six people, but you can also only vote for one, if you want.

2. It's nice to see Ed Hollett back in full force from his self-imposed exile. He's been doing the best coverage, either online or offline, of the MUN president fiasco. The two nice finds for today? Dr. Eddy Campbell, MUN's acting president, withdrawing his name from consideration for the presidency while at the same time saying the provincial government has no right to interfere in the hiring process. It's about time someone in the university's administration spoke up. It's a very polite invitation for the government to fuck off, but it's better than what the university has said previous, i.e. nothing whatsoever.

The other find is Jeffrey Simpson's column inviting Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to grow a pair and start standing up to Williams. That the racket over MUN's president is only the latest case of people not standing up to Williams. Maybe people are, but by god I'd like to see it reflected somewhere other than semi-anonymous griping online or on VOCM's open line shows. I'd like to see the government lose a byelection or two. I'd like to see the next opinion polls show at least a sharp drop in support for the government. Something. Anything. Just to cut the hubris of the government down a notch or two.

3. And in something unrelated to MUN or provincial governments, it was entertaining to watch Jon Stewart go up one side of John McCain last night and down the other. He also managed a rare trick; for one brief, shining moment I felt sorry for the Hilton family. I felt sorry for Paris Hilton. Then I hit myself in the head repeatedly and the feeling mercifully went away.

Here's the clip (about 2:20 in). Apparently the Hilton family donated thousands of dollars to the McCain campaign. The maximum amount, actually. And as a way of saying thanks, the McCain campaign crapped on their daughter in a political ad. Granted, it's Paris Hilton, so I don't think many are going to feel sorry for her. Lord knows worse has been done to her, and a lot of it self-inflicted. However, as Stewart rightly noted, it was just a bit "dickish."

Then again, after the calibre of attacks for the past week or so from the McCain camp, "dickish" might be the most polite thing you can say about their campaign.

Last Five
1. For America - Jackson Browne
2. Racing in the streets (live) - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band*
3. Upon a veil of midnight blue - Elvis Costello
4. Put your arms around me - Texas
5. End of the end - Paul McCartney