Sunday, May 31, 2009

Shopping Bill

Every now and then I get an inquiry on how much things cost in Iqaluit. Understand, I'm kind of immune to how much things cost here. I rarely even pay attention to the price of things unless it's outrageously expensive. For example, there are bags of gluten free pretzels at North Mart that have been there for a couple of months. That would be due to the fact they cost $14 a bag. I like pretzels, but not that much.

Still, in order to give people a better idea of what you can expect when you hit the store, I figured I'd put up yesterday's grocery bill. This cost just under $200. Let me know which item freaks you out the most.

Quaker Oats - $4.99
Country Harvest 12 grain bread - $4.95
French bread - $5.29
Country Harvest tortillas - $4.99
Tostitos chips - $5.99
Poppyseed bagels (5) - $5.99
Bananas ($4.39/kg) - $4.70
Blueberries - $4.39
Cherries ($19.99/kg) - $14.79
Fresh mushrooms - $3.35
Mixed peppers (1 red, 1 orange, 1 yellow) - $8.49
Baby spinach - $3.99
Rhubarb ($12.99/kg) - $6.24
Hot house tomatoes (($7.79/kg) - $4.01
Lactancia creamer - $3.79
Low fat sour cream - $3.99
Kraft shredded cheese - $10.59
McCain superfries - $5.99
Lean Cuisine dinner - $5.49
Lean Cuisine dinner - $5.49
My Compliments pizza - $8.99
Delissio pizza - $13.99
Maple Leaf bacon - $8.99
Butterball turkey (4kg) - $29.99
St. Hubert chicken skewers - $17.99

So there you have it. We didn't buy any chicken breasts or ground beef in this lot, which saved us a bit of money. We normally buy a package of 8 chicken breasts for around $30 and a kg of extra lean ground beef normally goes for around $15.

This is hardly the worst in Nunavut. In fact, these are likely the best prices available in Nunavut, and almost certainly we have the best selection. I've seen people from other parts of the territory walk into North Mart (and this was before they added the massive new wall of coolers) and start to weep at the selection.

Anyway, if you wondered what your grocery bill might look like, there you go.

Last Five
1. Drive my car/The word/What you're doing - The Beatles
2. The pretender - Foo Fighters*
3. Not coming home - Maroon 5
4. Oliver's army - Elvis Costello
5. Kalendar - The Pursuit of Happiness

Saturday, May 30, 2009


No, don't worry, I'm not going anywhere. Or, I guess, worry if you want because I'm sticking around and you're stuck with me. This is just an observation.

June is traditionally a transition month in Nunavut. Classes wrap up around the territory, and depending on where you live, that could be happening very soon (I think Arctic Bay and Rankin Inlet are done by around June 10) or several more weeks away (Iqaluit wraps up around June 26. That's the sound of Cathy sobbing in the background, in case you're wondering). Once classes finish, it also tends to be when people leave. A lot of people, if they decide they're moving, do it at the end of the school year. They're either teachers or families with kids in school.

Now, on the upside, those of us sticking around get to hit all the massive yard sales happening. It's almost as good as a sea lift. You go to one of these things and you can buy nearly anything. Food, clothes, books, electronics, snowmobiles, cars...whatever you want. People prefer to sell a lot of the stuff they've acquired up here rather than incur the cost of shipping it back south.

I'm also noticing it's a time of transition for the Nunavut blogging community. Arctic Bay is about the lose its title as the "Capital of Nunavut's blogging community" what with Darcy and Kennie moving. Darcy could be just coming here, but Kennie is definitely leaving Nunavut. I know one other Nunavut blogger is leaving by the end of the summer, but they haven't announced it on their blog yet, so it's not my place to say who it is.

Inflatable Elvis has "retired" and a couple of other blogs have seen a greatly reduced frequency in posting, which leads me to believe they're semi-retired from blogging. And I have a hunch, based on blog posts, that another one is looking at her options outside of Nunavut.

It happens, of course. Blogs dying from lack of interest is certainly not unique to the north. People moving to different parts of the country for work or family reasons is nothing new either. But I guess because Nunavut's population is so small and our blogging community so inter-woven, you tend to notice these things more. I'll miss the voices that disappear and I'll try to follow the ones that move to other parts of Canada.

Still, it has been a nice run the past few years. The Nunavut blogging community has been surprisingly vibrant given the size of the territory's population. So while some are leaving or retiring, I look forward to more new voices, like Amanda showing up and offering their insights.

Of course, with some of the blogs fading away and newer ones stepping into gap, it's just making Clare and I look that much longer in the tooth. Dear God...

Last Five
1. Wonderful (It's Superman) - Andy Stochansky
2. Kite - U2
3. You're so damn hot - OK Go
4. On your way down - Elvis Costello and Allan Toussaint*
5. A bad dream - Keane

Friday, May 29, 2009

Daylight follow-up

So Kennie raised a good point in a previous post about daylight that I completely forgot. I knew it, but somehow it just completely escaped my mind. And that is you can certainly control the amount of daylight entering your home, but it's harder to control the amount of noise entering it.

Iqaluit is different than most of the smaller communities in Nunavut. There is a larger population of southerners living here. Estimates vary, but I imagine the number of non-Inuit living here to be around 40 per cent. So because of that population, coupled with this being a government and business centre, people tend to keep more regular hours. At least during the week.

I'm not saying that come July there won't be plenty of people out wandering around at 2 a.m. playing hockey or doing whatever. Someone collected the garbage from The Snack the other night at 11:30 p.m. and was singing quite loudly while doing it. Lord knows when we were living above the bar at the 6-story we would hear interesting things outside at 2 am. Things happen when it's bright outside for 24 hours.

But I think you get the noise a lot more in the smaller communities. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but in those communities, the Inuit population is normally 90 per cent or more. And the Inuit, until recent years, have never really paid that much attention to time. If it's sunny 24 hours a day, does it matter what "time" it is and what time you're supposed to be in bed? If it's sunny outside and you want to play soccer, go for a walk outside or invite your friend over to play video games, who cares if it's 2 a.m. or 2 p.m. The difference in sunlight is minimal.

So yeah, obviously you need different mechanisms to get to sleep in those places. I suggest earplugs and investing in some kind of alarm clock that can wake you even if you're wearing them. One that vibrates, or flashes strobe lighting or sounds off like an air raid siren until you wake. There's plenty of alarm clocks, I guess it's just a matter of finding the right one.

But yet, just something else to consider when moving north. It's not just the light; it's the escalation in noise that accompanies the light.

I don't understand why so many people find 24 hours of daylight cool. My father has said he'd like to visit during that time of the year. It really can be a pain in the ass to deal with at times.

Last Five
1. Long may your run - Neil Young*
2. Better off as we are - Blue Rodeo
3. A common disaster - Cowboy Junkies
4. A case of you (live) - Diana Krall
5. Line of best fit - Death Cab For Cuties

Thursday, May 28, 2009

So many ways to die

So the Australia planning continues. We've booked the plane tickets via Virgin Blue from Sydney to Cairns. Accomodations in Cairns are locked in, although we haven't pre-booked any of our activities there yet, which is fine. I imagine a day or two of snorkeling, a trip into the jungle and possibly a trip up in a balloon is being considered.

The car is booked for nine days, and we opted to go with Europcar. So this ought to be interesting. Nine days driving on the left-hand side of the road. Oddly, this isn't what worries me. The rental agency says that for a "compact" vehicle rental we'll likely be stuck with a Hyundai Accent or similar. I really, really don't want to die in a Hyundai Accent.

And we've got our accomodations in the Airlie Beach (the Whitsundays) booked. A nice studio apartment for five days. Alas, we're going to have to spend a night somewhere between Cairns and Airlie Beach. It's about a nine hour drive and I'd rather not be booting in down the Bruce Highway racing to make it to Airlie Beach before sunset.

After we finish there, we'll spend a few more days drifting down the coast before arriving in Brisbane on July 31. We'll spend a few days there and then hop on a train to head down to Sydney to conclude things and hopefully run into some old friends. I'm actually pretty pleased with the way the trip is coming together so far. I'm sure there will be more hiccups, but so far, so good.

The one interesting thing about all of this planning is how hyper-aware, and a touch paranoid, you can get about a place. It's not like we're going to visit one of the Stans (Afghanistan and its dangerous neighbouring breathern). In fact, once you exclude the many, many, many forms of wildlife that are available to kill you in horrifically painful ways in Australia, it's a perfectly safe country.

But between reading the Lonely Planet guides, Bill Bryson's funny, entertaining and chipperly terrifying "In a Sunburned Country" and just random news stories that cross the internet tubes, like massive flooding turning parts of New South Wales and Queenland - parts we'll be travelling through in less than two months - into "inland seas", it does make visiting Australia a touch more....interesting.

Interesting is good when you're on vacation. Could stand a few less of the lethal critters, but other than that, I think we're going to the right place for interesting.

Last Five
1. We will still need a song - Hawksley Workman
2. Morning's broken - Lloyd Cole
3. Fox confessor brings the flood - Neko Case
4. When you gonna flower? - Hawksley Workman
5. Help, I'm alive - Metric*

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Fan trailer

So as a guy who has plenty of comic books (somewhere in the background Cathy is muttering "too bloody many comic books") I also tend to keep up on all the news regarding any that might be made into movies.

One of the ones in pre-production right now is Green Lantern. Most of the super hero movies of recent years have come from Marvel Comics and not the other major publisher, DC comics. This is happening, I guess, because they have their heads out of their ass. I mean, if you can get c-level characters like Ghost Rider and Elektra made into movies ahead of something like Wonder Woman, then someone is either selling movie producers one hell of a lot of blow, or someone has their head so far up their ass they can see what they ate for supper.

So if DC's A-list is Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, then their B-list would be characters like the Flash, Aquaman and Green Lantern. I'm not the biggest fan of the character, but if done right it would make an interesting enough movie.

But here's the thing, somewhere in there in the wide world of the internet, a fan (Cathy again: "someone clearly with no life.") decided that Nathan Fillion (Firefly, Castle) would be the best man for the role of Hal Jordan - the test pilot who discovers a ring that lets him do almost anything. So he did what any borderline sane fanboy did and created his own movie trailer to prove the point.

But here's the thing....the trailer is actually awesome. Fillion apparently has seen it and said that he thinks it's awesome. In fact, I'm willing to bet it's better than the trailer that will come out for the eventual movie. It's made entirely from clips of other movies and TV shows, with a bit of digital and audio wizardry thrown in for good measure. It really shouldn't work, but it does.

The thing is, Fillion would actually make a really good Hal Jordan. So would David Boreanaz (Angel, Bones), who actually has done the voice work for Green Lantern in an animated movie. They probably won't go for them as they're too old. Young and pretty appears to be the way they're going. Pity.

Last Five
1. Gift of skrews - Lindsay Buckingham
2. Wake me up - Norah Jones
3. Don't stand so close to me - The Police*
4. Fez (being born) - U2
5. Old yellow bricks - Arctic Monkeys

Down in the dirt

So in an attempt to not be quite so wasteful, we started composting a few weeks back. Cathy popped next door to Arctic Ventures to rent a movie and pick up a few supplies, came back with one of the composters they've had on sale since last August. To be fair, this wasn't completely unexpected. We had been talking about it for ages and hemming and hawing on it. Cathy just went and showed some initiative.

So low and behold, several weeks after we tossed in some dirt - just to get the composting ball rolling - and then added all manner of kitchen scraps, we now have a small pile of dirt. As dirt goes, it's fairly exciting for us. This might indicate a problem with our social life, but nonetheless, we have dirt. Ta da!

Not that we've been lacking in it for the last week or so. As things begin to slowly thaw outside and mud season (which always corresponds with excessive daylight/people slowly going mad season) we've been tracking in copious amounts of dirt from the outside, despite our best foot stomping efforts.

Still, this is good dirt we've produced, or so I'm lead to believe, bursting with all the nutrients that freshly composted soil is supposed to have. The problem is, we have nothing to do with it. We have about 10 plants in the house and that's about all we can handle. These plants are the tough ones. Cathy kills the rest of them with her strange hatred of all house plants. She's already weeded out the weak; these are the hardy survivors, determined to live to spite her.

However, as hardy as they are, none of them are currently in need of high quality dirt. Furthermore, I anticipate having many more pile of composted dirt over the coming months and years. I could toss it out the window, but it seems kind of a waste given all the effort we've gone through to make this high quality dirt.

So does anyone need some dirt, or know of a place I can unload dirt on a regular basis in town?

Last Five
1. Red right ankle - The Decemberists
2. Heart shaped box - Nirvana
3. Sick muse - Metric
4. Bear and the barbed wire - Mark Bragg*
5. Heart of the matter - Don Henley

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Your Hollywood minute

And now in the category of "Well, that's the stupidest Goddamn thing I've heard all day", the Hollywood Reporter is writing that a Buffy the Vampire Slayer remake is being developed without the involvement of Joss Whedon. Furthermore, it would have little to do with the TV series and more to do with the original movie. The movie that bombed horribly....and for good reason. You know you're in trouble when Pee Wee Herman is the best part of the movie (his death scene is pretty funny) and you manage to make both Donald Sutherland and Rutger Hauer boring.

So yeah, bring that on. I'm sure it will work out for you just fine. Fans clearly won't be roaming Hollywood with pitchforks and torches looking for your houses over this. Nope. You're perfectly safe.

Next up, last night was the return of Jon & Kate Plus Eight or, as Zap2it cleverly dubbed it Jon & Kate Plus Hate. We actually missed it, which is a touch weird. I completely forgot about it, which is nothing unusual. I don't mind the show and can sit and watch it when Cathy wants to, but it's not something I actively seek out. However, as you might have guessed, Cathy's a big fan of the show. So I was a bit surprised that she forgot.

Turns out she didn't. She just didn't want to watch. "I like the show to see cute kids running around and how they cope with it. I watch it because its fun. None of this gossip stuff sounds fun." And judging by some of the comments on last night's episode, she sounds spot on in her assessment. It sounds like watching a train wreck with children as causalities.

That could be entertaining to a certain segment of the population, but I suspect it will grow tiring in a big hurry to others. You get the feeling that Jon would be completely thrilled if the show ended tomorrow. If the rest of the season involves watching a marriage disintegrate and seeing eight unhappy kids try to figure out why mommy and daddy don't love each other anymore, he might get his wish.

And finally, I meant to do this ages ago, but with the 2008-09 TV season officially wrapped up, here are my quick takes on the finales of my regular shows, in order of best to worst.

1. Chuck - "Guys, I know kung fu." I was practically screaming at the TV during the last few moments when I realized what was happening saying, "You've got to say the line!" and they did. God bless them. A great season that went out on a high note (Chevy Chase as a bad guy? Check. Scott Bakula as Chuck's dad? Check. A gun fight/wedding disaster from hell with Styx's "Mr. Roboto" as the background music? Oh hell yes) and, thank God, the show has been renewed. The only bad news? It won't be back until after the Winter Olympics in 2010. Which means a 10 month wait. Gah!

2. Fringe - A really solid episode throughout, but the end is what made me go "Holy Christ". Not so much the appearance of Leonard Nimoy as William Bell...that had been leaked weeks beforehand...but the final pull-out shot where you realized Olivia is meeting Bell in the World Trade Center. That was a big "no fucking way!" moment. Fringe is showing off J.J. Abrams love of alternate reality fiction (see the Star Trek movie) and so far it's working.

3. Castle - Another show thankfully picked up. Castle is like a nice update of an 80s sitcom/drama/murder mystery. It's a lot like Moonlighting, and I mean that in a good way. A small cliff hanger at the end, but it's just a fun, pleasant show, week in and week out.

4. The Amazing Race - A good season with good contestants and mostly fun challenges (the cheese wheel challenge is a classic). The only downer was the final challenge was the lame "memory quiz" which went on for too long. There was absolutely no suspense on who was going to win it during the last 20 minutes of the show. A let down after such a fun season.

5. House - I'm wondering if House jumped the shark. I'm not sure if it was Kal Penn's character committing suicide, or the fake out on House and Cuddy sleeping together. But this season has been rocky and the finale with House apparently hallucinating wildly was kind of boring and confusing. I don't mind confusing to an extent. There were element in last year's two-part finale that were confusing. But when it came together ("What's my necklace made of?") it was devastating. Here it was more "what the fuck?" The show desperately needs to get back on track next season.

6. Bones - Has been fun most of the season and has gradually, and mercifully, evolved away from being just another CSI knock-off procedural into something much more fun and touching. However, this episode went completely off the rails. A dream sequence ending that made people, again, go "what the fuck?" for nearly 50 minutes. And then Booth wakes up from a coma, we discover it was all a hallucination (or a bad short story by Brennan) and then gasp he doesn't remember who she is. Just awful. Worse than last year's finale, and I thought that would have been impossible. At least last year they had the writer's strike as an excuse. This year they have none.

And now, for a summer mostly free of TV. And curling. And probably politics come July and August. Thank god I still have Australia to write about.

Last Five
1. The first song - Band of Horses*
2. Sonnet in the dark - The Flash Girls
3. Robinson Crusoe - Chris Picco
4. We are nowhere and it's now - Bright Eyes
5. Calm like you - The Last Shadow Puppets

Monday, May 25, 2009


I don't normally pay too much attention to the Cannes film festival. I'm glad that Up is getting even more positive advance word and I'm looking forward to it. I'm mildly concerned that Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds is getting such mixed reviews. I'm also not pleased to hear most of the movie is going to be subtitled. Perhaps it works fine, but you don't normally go and see a Tarantino film because of the acting and the big action scenes. You go for the fun dialogue. If most of the actors are speaking in French, German and whatever, and the English is subtitled, well, maybe that works, but I have a right to be worried about it.

But the movie that seems to have made the most noise out of there was Lars Von Trier's Antichrist. If you want to get an idea of what the movie is about, read Roger Ebert's reaction to it here and here. Now, I'm not a professional movie critic. Even during my days with The Muse and The Express I considered myself a movie reviewer at best. What's the difference? I consider a movie critic to have a more formal education. It's possible they've studied cinema in university and can speak with historical context and could write scholarly articles on a movie if they so choose.

Movie reviewers are pretty much anyone who wants to blather on at length about a movie. I was fortunate that two newspapers wanted to print my blatherings, giving me an air of legitimacy. But feel free to swing by Rotten Tomaotes to get an idea of what I'm talking about. There are far more reviewers than critics.

So when Ebert defends Von Trier as an important cinematic voice, I honestly do try to give him the benefit of a doubt, because I respect Ebert's opinion very highly. However, the occasions where I have seen Von Trier's movies, such as Dancer in the dark and Dogville I would view it as self-indulgent wankery of the highest order.

So why bring all of this up? Because there's a line in this story, talking about the controversy over the movie, that cracked me up. This is a movie that features:
1. Actress Charlotte Gainsbourg half naked for most of the movie and is shot masturbating on a forest floor.
2. Tortures the character played by Willem Dafoe, including "bashing his genitals with a wooden plank."
3. Oh, and there's another scene where Gainsbourg character "masturbates Dafoe to bring him to a bloody climax before drilling through his leg and bolting it to a millstone."

And there's more, but let's not get too graphic here.

Anyway, when asked the film's producer said they would be releasing a more "Catholic" version of the movie in the US. I assume that means tamer than what was shown at Cannes. And the reason why?

"Otherwise it would be impossible to sell (it) to prudish markets like southern Europe, Asia and the United States, where you can't show a naked man from the front."

And that's about the only way that movie is ever going to get a laugh from me. That statement right there.

I would hardly consider myself prudish. And I have a reasonable decent tolerance level for violence (to quote the wise sage, Bart Simpson, "Lisa, is you don't watch the violence you'll never become desensitized to it.") And I appreciate a good indy movie, when I get the chance to see one. Furthermore, I have no problem watching frontal male nudity, which is hardly shocking in the US anymore. Forgetting Sarah Marshall is one of several recent movies that have had frontal male nudity.

So I think, I think, the reasons why you would have to put a gun to my head to make me watch this movie might lie elsewhere. It could be the male genital whacking, possibly the bit with the drill. It might have to do with all the ponderous christian symbolism that's slathered all over the movie. I'm not sure, but I think that's the point where the movie lost me, not so much Dafoe's dangling man bits.

I shouldn't be too worried, though. I rather doubt this movie will be coming to Iqaluit any time soon. Thank god for small mercies. Still, for the rest of you have been forewarned if it should arrive at your theatre.

Last Five
1. Tell me lies - Fleetwood Mac*
2. What will we do - The Flash Girls
3. Roosterspur bridge - Tori Amos
4. Within your reach - The Replacements
5. Surprise - Sean Panting

Declaring night in the land of 24 hour sunshine

So we're into the leading edges of silly season here in Iqaluit. Sunrise this morning was 2:54 a.m and sunset this evening will be at 10:08 p.m. That means it essentially no longer gets dark in Iqaluit. And yes, I know there are people further north than Iqaluit who have already been experiencing this for weeks, but it's just settling in here right now.

I'm always surprised when people say how great this must be...24 hours of daylight. And I guess it is when compared to the alternative - nearly 24 hours of darkness. However, as I've said before, this much daylight can do as much damage, if not more, than all the cold and darkness. Especially if the stories I've heard about the carnage of this past weekend are true. That would involve a couple of brutal assaults, what sounds like a very disturbing rape (all rape is disturbing, this one went that much extra) and a murder and stand-off with the RCMP.

I've always said to people who ask me about moving to Iqaluit that the city is relatively safe as long as you're not stupid and that most of the bad things that happen, the person tends to know the other person. That offers some small, cold comfort, I guess. But I do wonder if the incidents of weirdness increase in the city as it gets warmer and the daylight ends for 24 hours. I suspect it does.

But I'm also reading from Facebook and on blogs about the trouble in getting to sleep. Or friends from down south asking how we manage. Honestly, and this may feel like jinxing things a bit, but we don't suffer too badly from insomnia because of all the daylight.

Granted, this could be because we have no lives and we're not out partying at midnight and stuff. However, for day to day living, it's pretty simple.

First of all, you absolutely need good curtains/blinds/heavy cloth/tin foil....whatever it takes to block out the light from your windows. We have heavy blinds and curtains in our apartment, but use whatever it takes. Oh, and by the way, it's not enough to have these up just in your bedroom. Some people seem to think that's enough. If you have heavy curtains in your bedroom and it's dark in there, then you will be fine.

However, that doesn't work. If you're sitting in your living room at 11 p.m. with the curtains open and enjoying all that late evening sunlight and then try to go to bed, well, that's not going to work. You've been soaking up all that daylight and your brain is going to be telling you it's about 6 p.m. instead of 11 p.m. That means it's essential to declare night in your apartment. Pull all the curtains closed and turn on lights around the apartment. Pick your own time, but we do it around 9 p.m.

It might seem silly to close curtains and turn on lights when it's still bright outside, but we swear by it. Cathy's normally in bed between 10:30 and 11 p.m., I'm normally in bed between 11:30 and midnight.

Now, if you're up late and off to the bar, a party or whatever, well, yeah, odds are you're going to be out of synch. And obviously this does nothing to drown out the noise from those outside at 3 a.m. playing street hockey or doing other assorted weirdness.

But for day to day living, this is what works for us. We're also lucky to live on the third floor of a secure building, which helps with the noise. You have to declare night in your home a couple of hours before you go to sleep. You do that, you should be fine. Otherwise, well, you're doing laundry at 2 a.m. and noticing the TV options are really crappy.

Last Five
1. Last chance avenue - Ron Hynes*
2. I wanna be loved - Elvis Costello
3. From my own true love - The Decemberists
4. The sun doesn't like you - Norah Jones
5. Summer in the city - Regina Spektor

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Trekking on

So, we went and saw the new Star Trek movie last night...which means we're fully into summer movie season here in Iqaluit. I noticed a poster for Angels and Demons saying it was coming next week. And I find this a bit of a surprise...Wolverine only stayed for one week, but the Hannah Montana movie is now into its second week here. Then again, perhaps not that surprising. When we saw it last Sunday there weren't that many people in the audience for a movie that had only been in town for three days.

Trek, on the other hand, was pretty packed.

Look, it's probably not much of a surprise to discover I liked the movie a lot. It also has a staggering 95 per cent positive review ratio from movie critics according to Rotten Tomatoes. And it's pretty much everything you've likely heard or read before. That the casting for all the characters is spot on (I'm hard pressed to pick a favourite, but Simon Pegg as Scotty won big bonus points with me for his line "You bet yer arse, Cap'n" while running around engineering trying to save the ship). That the action sequences are all top notch and that it is all a tremendous amount of fun.

Here's where I want to tip my hat, though. And that's to Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. They're the guys who dreamed all of this up. They're the writers. And yeah, I'm a writer and I have a bias toward people in the craft, but if you think writing this movie was an easy thing I invite you to take a look at the previous 10 movies and see how many of them really work. Only three of them I would consider to be really good movies (Wrath of Khan, The Voyage Home and First Contact). The rest are mediocre at best or just awful at worst.

Trek movies are not easy to write. You have to make fans happy, but still try and lure in non-fans. Which during the franchises prime was hard. But now, the franchise has been all but dead for years. People are burnt out on it, fans have moved onto other kinds of science fiction, notably Battlestar Galactica and non-fans could not care less about the continuity and intricities that have hamstrung Star Trek for years.

So go ahead and write that. Write a movie that fans love and can lure in and make things simple enough for non-fans to follow. Then make it fun. Not laugh a minute fun, but just the kind of movie where you walk out of the theatre after two hours with a smile on your face.

These guys wrote that movie. Yes, the actors did fine jobs and J.J. Abrams directed a hell of a movie. But there won't be many writers that had harder jobs this year than these two guys. And they did it. They likely won't win any Oscars for it, but tip your hat in their direction. This was a bear to write well, and they did it.

I'm not saying it was perfect. Some of the time travel was a bit wonky and the "red matter" thing was a silly sci-fi macguffin even by Trek's generous standards of science. But they rebooted the franchise for a new generation of people without offending hardcore Trekkers (God love Abrams and his fascination with alternate realities). So mission accomplished.

And now, for the next reboot. I'm blatantly robbing this idea from John Rogers. If they had to go and reboot the Star Trek: The Next Generation franchise, who would you want to see cast? I'm oddly stuck on the idea of Jason Straham as Picard. He's about as French as Patrick Stewart, and the notion of Picard ripping of his shirt, kicking the crap out of alien bad guys in elaborate fight scenes involving motor oil or fire hoses (in space!) and then coming back to the ship, shooting a look at Deanna Troi (played by Megan Fox) and then heading off to to Captain's quarters fills me with mirth.

But what do you think?

Last Five
1. Drink to me, babe - A.C. Newman
2. Call and answer - Barenaked Ladies*
3. So sorry - Feist
4. Make you cry - Jonathan Coulton
5. Smoke you out - The Donnas

Friday, May 22, 2009


This actually came out on Monday and I've been meaning to do something on it since then, but kept putting it off, for whatever reason.

But this is one of my favourite photos of recent weeks. It's simple, poignant and kind of sad. But lord knows it's accurate of the way things are going in the newspaper industry.

This image from the recently deceased Tucson Citizen. It's just the latest casualty of what has been a truly horrific last six months for the newspaper industry.

I'm not a newspaper reporter anymore, and I joke with the reporters I know about this sort of thing. But let me tell you, every paper I see go down like this, it hurts. And I hope the hurting stops at some point. Because this is getting pretty brutal.

Last Five
1. Fever - Neko Case
2. China in your hands - T'Pau*
3. Never let go - Tom Waits
4. Ice age - Hawksley Workman
5. Great DJ - The Ting Tings

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Happy Birthday

So three years ago today, we got an email from the nice lady who runs this place to inform us that three little rodents had been born. And if you think I'm kidding about calling them rodents, well, I think this picture pretty much explains everything.

And eventually they became something slightly cuter.

And then he came up here and promptly took over.

I think we would have a very different life up here without Boo. And we very nearly didn't get him. If Max, my cat, had survived after travelling up here, then it is doubtful we would have went out and got him. I'm not saying I'm glad Max died. I still miss him and caution anyone about bringing pets up here. Not all of them travel well and, as I noticed on a board today, the only full-time vet in town is leaving in a few weeks.

But he's been a good dog. He's got character and a good heart, and that's pretty much what you want in a dog.

For those of you new to the blog and wondering what kind of breed he is, he's a Coton de Tulear. They're an expensive breed, but if you're looking for a dog that's good for people with allergies and is a good size for apartment living, they're hard to beat.

So Happy Birthday, Boo. And here's hoping for a lot more...

Last Five
1. Finest work song - REM
2. Go places - The New Pornographers
3. Two hearts beat as one - U2
4. Metropolis - The Pogues
5. It wasn't me - Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins*

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A letter to MUN's presidential search committee

So back on May 13 MUN's Alumni Association sent out a little email to people saying:
The Presidential Search Committee of Memorial University is looking for public input as it develops a profile that will guide the selection and appointment of the institutions next president.

Which is lovely. After all, I haven't exactly been quiet about MUN, the Board of Regents and the fiasco that has been the presidential search. So I welcome the chance.

And you can tell that Alumni Affairs and the Presidential Search Committee really care about public input, as they sent this email out on May 13 with a deadline of May 21, 2009, a whopping eight days. Oh yes, and there was the Victoria Day weekend in there as well. Clearly this gives the general public lots of time to articulate what they're looking for in a university president.

I swear to God, I wonder if it's a requirement to be a member of MUN's public relations department to be smacked in the head hard enough to suffer a concussion and minor brain damage.

Anyway, I have given this some thought and this is what I've decided to submit to MUN. Should you wish to send your own suggestions to MUN, in the hours you have left, I strongly encourage you to do it. You can go here for more information on what they're looking for and where to send it.

This is what I plan to submit, although I may make a few changes between now and then.

Dear Committee Members;

I would like to take this opportunity to offer suggestions on the qualities need for the Memorial University of Newfoundland's next president. No doubt you are under considerable scrutiny and pressure in your deliberations. I can only hope that after the significant mistakes already made in this process that you can find a candidate that can not only restore the public's confidence, but also reassure the academic world that the university remains one of the finest institutions in the country.

This will not be easy work and I do not envy your task. But never in the history of MUN has it been more important that you select the right person for this job. To do otherwise, to fall prey once more to political interference, risks damaging the university, perhaps irreparably.

What challenges and opportunities will this new president face? He or she will face outside political pressures. This has always been an issue for university presidents, but moreso now than any other time in recent history. The need for a strong president, unafraid to stand up to outside political pressure and defend the best interests of the university has never been more vital. The president is there to represent the interests of students, faculty and staff and it is important that when outside agencies threaten their interests, that the president not only defends them, but is willing to do it vocally. To call attention to the problem if needed.

Universities are places of debate and discussion. Too often in the past issues important to the future of the university have not had the level of public debate needed. Debate is a good thing. The new president should embrace this in all of his or her dealings.

What are the characteristics of the new president? They are many. The courage to stand up for the university. The willingness to do what is right, not merely just expedient. An open-mindedness and curiosity that should come with anyone who works in the service of the university. The compassion to understand that university is often a challenge for students and to make it the best kind of challenge. One where they grow and learn, and not become frustrated and embittered by things such as student loans and housing. The president should be accessible to students, and not a distant figure viewed as someone completely uncaring about student problems and issues.

I should not that this person need not be from Newfoundland. At this point, the best person is needed for the job, not the best Newfoundlander. The university needs the best, regardless of where they were born.

This would not be an easy person to find under the best of circumstances. And given the damage done to the university's reputation in recent years, with political interference, academic fraud issues and lawsuits, the university has never been in a more fragile state. It is crucial to find the right person to fill this position. The right person to make the university a better place, and not a person that is right for an outsider's political agenda.

Find the best person for the job and help start the rejuvenation of a critical institution in Newfoundland. We're all counting on you.

Last Five
1. New York state of mind - Billy Joel
2. At last - Neko Case
3. Sulky girl - Elvis Costello
4. The boulevard of broken dreams - Diana Krall
5. Walter Reed - Michael Penn*

Only ninth?

I've always meant to do a post citing all the search engine results going through my blog in the run of a week. A lot of them are pedestrian. Since I did my Moving to Iqaluit FAQ I get a lot more search results from people looking to move here. And I hope that helps.

The less said about people looking for pictures of naked curlers, the better.

But my favourite search result of recent weeks came at 2:29 pm on May 19. And if you're that person, by all means step forward and take a bow (you live in Iqaluit, after all). Because I have no idea why you would punch "Iqaluit mother fuckers" into a Google search, but you did and it brought to my blog. Plus, it made me laugh.

Oddly, or perhaps thankfully, I'm not the #1 search engine hit when you type in "Iqaluit mother fuckers." I am, in fact only ninth. Kent may be pleased, or mortified, to know that he's #1 for that particular search engine result.

Ummmm, congrats?

Last Five
1. Nineteen forever - Joe Jackson
2. Parts and accessories - John Rouse
3. Upside down - Tori Amos
4. Too much of a good thing - Lloyd Cole
5. True patriot love - Joel Plaskett Emergency*

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

South of the border again

You know, some of the best traffic I've ever had on the blog was when I was writing about the US presidential election last year. And so, in a sad attempt to get back some of that traffic, a couple of things I've noticed in recent days from south of the border.

Just in case you thought Barrack Obama could only hit home run speeches when running for president, just read his commencement address to the graduating class of Notre Dame. I enjoy that people, myself included, still tend to underestimate him or question his wisdom in doing some of the things he does. Give a speech on race relations in the middle of a vicious primary battle. Are you nuts? Accept the nominations for the Democratic party in an open stadium with roman arches in the background? Madness. And yet he's rarely, if ever, had a speech flop, especially if it was a big one where lots of people were paying attention.

So I suspect he knew full well what would happen when he went to Notre Dame. He knew what kind of racket he would kick up and took that opportunity to give a speech not just on the value of public service and working together, but also a eloquent discussion on the values of being pro-choice while working hard towards eliminating the need for abortion whatsoever.

It also helps when you make the argument about the need for intelligent public discourse while sounding very thoughtful and articulate while most of your opponents look like raving lunatics on cable.

I'm sure he's going to screw up massively at some point...all presidents do. But I wonder how deep the Republican party will be buried at that point.

Also interesting to note is Jesee "The Body" Ventura making the rounds. I fully expect to see him on The Daily Show or Colbert at some point this week. Ventura has jumped into the ongoing debate about torture in the United States and has made some good points. Plus, it's not like Ventura's ever been lacking in a good sound bite. I mean, come on:
["Water-boarding] is torture... It's drowning. It gives you the complete sensation that you are drowning. It is no good, because you -- I'll put it to you this way, you give me a water board, Dick Cheney and one hour, and I'll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders."

Ventura, who is an ex-Navy SEAL, was actually waterboarded as part of his training. So he has some idea about what he's talking about. But there have been others on TV talking about what it's like to experience this who have been ex-military. But Ventura knows a soundbite. That one is too good. If you're a journalist and Ventura gives you that, inside your head you're doing the Dance of Joy because that quote is Gold.

And if you want another try this from, of all places, The View, where he crushes deeply annoying Elizabeth Hasselbeck:
"If waterboarding is OK, why don't we let our police do it to suspects so they can learn what they know?" he asked. "If waterboarding is OK, why didn't we waterboard [Timothy] McVeigh and Nichols, the Oklahoma City bombers, to find out if there were more people involved? ... We only seem to waterboard Muslims... Have we waterboarded anyone else? Name me someone else who has been waterboarded."

My only complaint is that I deeply wish Ventura was going around saying this even two years ago, instead of making these observations in the much safer political climate he's in now.

I think that's good for now. I wonder if that will spike the stats any...

Last Five
1. Put your record on (live) - Corinne Bailey Rae*
2. Hold me - Weezer
3. Fancy claps - Wolf Parade
4. I still haven't found what I'm looking for (live) - U2
5. Acid tongue - Jenny Lewis

Monday, May 18, 2009

Pictures and prizes

By the way, in case you thought I was kidding about the mess around Iqaluit right now, here's a quick picture of the view outside my window. There's a bit of fog hanging over the bay right now, so you can't get a good view of all the ice, but trust me, it's out there, there's lots of it, and it goes on for as far as the eye can see.

Boo is also pretty unhappy with the weather. For ages it was too cold to take him out, now it's too wet. A simple 15 minute walk results in him coming home a different colour - from his usual white to a very filthy brown.

Speaking of which, and since this seems to be a picture based post, here's one of the three of us from a couple of weeks ago, when it was colder and not quite so mucky. We went out to take some pictures to send home for Mother's Day. This wasn't the one used, but it's still pretty good. A family portrait, as it were.

And finally, back several months ago I won the Best Blog Post for the Nunies. Which is pretty cool in and of itself, however both Clare and Jen also offered up prizes. Well, this week they both arrived. Clare supplied the hat and Jen the mug. And I think both are pretty snazzy.

And as is always the case, Cathy can pull off the hat much better than me. Just trust me on this.

Anyway, I'm off to enjoy the last few hours of relaxation for this long weekend. It's been nice, even if we haven't done much. A nearly perfect weekend of sloth. Just what the doctor ordered.

Last Five
1. Figure 8 - Sean Panting*
2. Man-sized wreath - REM
3. Set the fire to the third bar - Snow Patrol and Martha Wainwright
4. Evaporated - Ben Folds
5. Trigger happy - Lloyd Cole

Sunday, May 17, 2009


So I finally got a chance to see a summer movie, that being the tremendously awkwardly titled X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

Here's the thing, I think this was a movie that did as well it could given it's severe limitations. Origin movies are tricky business at the best of times. If you're lucky you have a blank slate like Iron Man or Hellboy, where the general public knows nothing about the characters and needs the origin to figure out why they're doing what they're doing. You have a certain freedom to tweak things to still make for an entertaining story.

Even with characters like Batman, Superman or Spider-Man, you still have freedoms. You know certain character beats are going to happen - parents are going to die, Krypton is going to explode, a radioactive spider will bite Peter Parker - but you can still work a fun story after these events happen.

But with Wolverine you know with absolute certainty the following things are going to happen at the end of the movie:
1. He's going to have amnesia and not remember a thing about his life.
2. He's not going to get his revenge against Stryker (because he appears in X-Men 2.
3. He's not going to settle things with his brother Victor (because, as a very different looking Sabertooth he appears in the first X-Men).
4. Things aren't going to end well with the love interest.

And yes, I believe you can tell a good story even if you know how it's all going to end. A favourite writer of mine, J. Michael Straczynski, used to make that point all the time when fans complained he gave too much away in Babylon 5. Just because you see characters in a certain situation doesn't mean you know how they got there. And how they get there is often far more interesting.

So it is possible. It's just that they didn't do it here. Don't get me wrong, it's a fine enough movie. It just could have been better. The pieces were there to make this a top notch movie in the superhero genre. Instead, it's just kind of average. There are enough moments of wasted opportunity there to take away the enjoyment and just make it frustrating.

But that's just from a comic book fan. One of the interesting things about the reaction to the movie has been that genre fans have been frustrated with it (as I am a bit), but women (Cathy's Facebook update after the movie? "Any movie with Hugh Jackman with his shirt off is fine by me) and gay men have loved it. Because there's plenty of buff, good looking guys wearing tight clothes.

So what did I like?
1. The action sequences are fine.
2. Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber are both good in their respective rolls.
3. Deadpool and Gambit were both fun.

What didn't I like?
1. The story was clunky. I wonder if they wouldn't have been better off telling a modern Wolverine story with flashbacks to his origin.
2. They didn't use either Deadpool or Gambit enough. And what they did with Deadpool at the end was a waste.
3. I'm going to roll with the Adamantium bullets causing amnesia, because as a comic book fan, I've rolled with stupider. But I'm saying, for a movie with a $150 million budget, you can come up with something a bit better than that.

So anyway, that's over and done with. It's fine for what it is. Now I just hope they can get onto a real Wolverine story without having to fill in on this cumbersome back story. The rumour mills, if you can believe such things, are saying the Wolverine in Japan story told by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller from the early 80s is likely next. Which would be fine with me. The dirty little secret about Wolverine? There's actually precious few good stories about him in comics. That he's been brutally overused by Marvel in recent years. But that story is one of the first, and one of the best. Ninjas, gangsters, sword fights, honour and much more. It's a great story. It would look fantastic on the big screen. Granted, there aren't as many pretty explosions, but here's hoping they get to make it.

Until then, this is an interesting enough diversion...

Last Five
1. The shadow of your smile - Tony Bennett
2. Ice cream - Sarah McLachlan*
3. Gimme a sign - Ryan Adams
4. Pretty good year - Tori Amos
5. Lost! - Coldplay

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Break out the anti-depressants

I attribute the rather unpleasant weather of recent days as the reason why I haven't posted much. But I do have this little missive. My apologies if it's a touch....I don't know, filled with complaint.

I appreciate it's the 24th of May weekend - never mind that today is actually the 16th - and we live in the arctic, but the persistence of snow falling from the sky is starting to get to me a bit. As for Cathy, well, I feared a trip to pharmacy for anti-depressants was going to be necessary when we ran out to do our errands today.

I understand that snow on the Victoria Day weekend is a long stand tradition no matter where you are in Canada. It's the gods last kick at the can for the winter. As I've probably stated before, one of my favourite things to do for many years on this weekend was to go downtown, find a coffee shop, get a hot beverage, sit in the window and laugh as I saw the snow gently (or not so gently) fall from the sky and think about all the people foolish enough to be out in a camper or tent.

The word "Bastard" is not in the title of this blog just for show, kids.

But there's something about snow falling from the sky and landing on several inches of snow that's been on the ground since October that adds an extra level to the depressing. Or looking out the window and noticing that the bay is still completely frozen solid. The only good news is that for the first time since about October, the temperature briefly popped above freezing. Granted, the snow was still falling, so I don't know how that works, but it did offer up the smallest glimmer of hope.

The other thing about this time of the year is that it is not particularly graceful. I'm not suggesting spring is graceful in any part of Canada outside the west coast. It's just when things start to thaw out, the muck and potholes seem to take over the place for six weeks or so. And really, we're just in the beginning stages of it. Yes, the potholes are huge. But there's still plenty of snow left to melt and more falling from the sky doesn't help.

And the bay still looks frozen solid. No signs of thawing there.

I think it's starting to get to people around town as well. We're into about month number seven of winter and people are just getting done with it. Yes, it's been nice to blast around on snowmobiles and whatnot, but I get the feeling just as many people would be happy to have their ATVs out now instead. Everybody just seems kind of down right now.

Hence the countdowns. Cathy can tell you how many teaching days there are left in the school year (27) and I know how many days are left until we leave for Australia (56). It helps make the blahs a touch more manageable.

Last Five
1. Oh, my love - Jackson Browne*
2. I wanna be your man - The Beatles
3. A thousand suns - Hey Rosetta!
4. Let me live - Queen
5. The city is a drag - Hawksley Workman

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A proportional response

Mongol General: Conan! What is best in life?
Conan: To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.
Mongol General: That is good! That is good.

Al Capone: I want you to get this fuck where he breathes! I want you to find this nancy-boy Eliot Ness, I want him DEAD! I want his family DEAD! I want his house burned to the GROUND! I wanna go there in the middle of the night and I wanna PISS ON HIS ASHES!

Premier Danny Williams: We would legislate them back on the template, which is exactly what we've offered to over 30,000 other public servants...So, there'll be no standby increase, there'll be no shift differential increase, there'll be no educational leave. There will be no additional steps for nurses coming into the system, and there'll be no additional steps for nurses that are already in the system.

So, Happy National Nurses Week, by the way. The premier sends hugs and kisses.

I swear to God, I try to say something nice and the provincial government and this is what I get. I said earlier there was no way the nurses could win this and they had been out-maneuvered. But I guess I underestimated the premier's ability to completely lose his mind anytime someone or some group defies his will.

It's work to rule, you silly bastard. It was the very least they were going to do. It was practically a face saving measure. They don't want to do a full strike because, up until yesterday, they would have lost the public relations battle in the dispute. Instead, the premier comes down on them like the wrath of God (or a cranky gang lord or surly barbarian) and threatens all manner of punishment.

There's an episode early in the first season of The West Wing where President Bartlett is trying to figure out what the merits are of a proportional response when the US is hit with a terrorist attack. He's not entirely convinced of the wisdom of it, even at the end of the episode, but accepts that's the reality of the world and what needs to be done.

A proportionate response to the nurses saying "we're going to refuse overtime and work to rule" isn't "fuck you, we're going to roll everything back we've offered and make you regret you ever thought about becoming a nurse."

Dear God. It looks and sounds awful. It doesn't sound like a premier taking a strong bargaining position and defending the electorate against an unreasonable union. It sounds more like a ranting bully.

How about something more like this:

"Well, it's unfortunate that the nurses are choosing to do this. The deal before them is more than fair, especially in these challenging economic times. Plus, we think there is a real chance with this agreement to address some of the nursing shortages which concern everybody. They are certainly within their rights to take this action. However, I think as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians learn more about what we're offering and the risks being taking with their health and safety, nurses may regret taking this course of action."

And that's a first draft off the top of my head. It could certainly be polished up more to get the point home - that nurses can do this, but how much sympathy are they going to get from the general public? Honestly, they probably were not going to get vast waves of it.

But now, well, the premier is threatening to get medieval on their asses and the open lines and internet message boards are lighting up with sympathy for the nurses in the face of the premier's bullying. So yeah, maybe a strike is back on the table now.

Smooth, Mr. Premier. Very smooth...

Last Five
1. Me just purely - Brendan Benson
2. Gypsy biker - Bruce Springsteen
3. Don't go there - Neil Diamond
4. Failing the Rorschach test - Matthew Good Band
5. Book of love - Peter Gabriel*

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wrong side of the road

So another update on Australia planning because, well, it's only the biggest trip of our life, so these things tend to occupy a bit of your mental space when it's now officially less than two months until we're on our way.

The latest update is that we've taken care of accommodations in Cairns. We debated staying at a Holiday Inn because we thought we spotted a good deal. However, once we bounced around all the different currency exchanges, we found out it wasn't such a great deal after all. Instead, we stumbled across a new looking hostel, found a nice room with an en suite bath and they will pick us up at the airport. The difference was nearly $300 for a six day stay, so that was that.

By the way, we started using Kayak for looking at things like accommodations and whatnot. It's not perfect, but it does save you a lot of time. And it does confirm pretty much what you already know. Barring the occasional fluke all the major travel booking sites - Travelocity, Orbitz, Priceline, Expedia, etc - all end up within a few cents of each other when you're poking around.

You've also got to watch the exchange rates. Some of the sites using Australian dollars, some US dollars and sometimes even Canadian dollars. What looks like a good deal doesn't quite work out that way once you do the exchange rates and take a look at any additional fees.

Next up in the planning is a potential act of madness. We're not particularly happy with the railway running through Queensland. I'm sure they're lovely trains and all, but their lack of frequency and the times they run is what's getting to us. It's kind of limiting where we want to stay and for how long. And yes, we could get the bus. It's how my dad travelled that part of the world when he went.

But consider it a residual hang-over from my time riding on DRL buses in Newfoundland, but I just can't do it. I don't care how comfortable the bus is, I hate riding on them. Loathe it. I can do them in cities for short period of times. But if you want to stick me on one for seven hours or so, I will go mad.

So we're looking at renting a car. I would have thought it would be too expensive and that any agency would crucify us with fees for picking up a car in one city and dropping it off in another. But surprisingly, that's not the case. There's no problem at all with renting a car in Cairns and dropping it off in Brisbane. No extra fees or anything.

The problem is trying to figure out which rental agency to go with. Some of the cheaper ones I haven't heard of before - Europcar and AutoEurope - and then there are the standbys like Avis and Budget, but which are considerably more expensive. I've also discovered it's completely useless to research if they're a reliable rental company or not. The only industry where people hate what you do more than airlines is quite possibly car rentals. I went to one site where you could evaluate the quality of different car rental agencies and rate them from 1 to 10. Excluding companies with less than 10 comments, I think the highest rating was 3. Virtually every comment was a rant filled with profanity explaining how the car company ruined their vacation.

Despite this, we will probably rent a car. I've been told by friends who have driven on the left-hand side of the road that you adapt quickly enough, although freeways can throw you for a bit. Oh, and Cathy is promising to share some of the driving, which is good. A straight shot from Cairns to Brisbane is about 1,700 km. Throw in detours off the beaten track and we'll easily be going over 2,000 km in about eight days. So breaks in driving so I can look around and enjoy the scenery will be nice.

Booking the Whitsundays is next and then after that, we'll see...

Last Five
1. My bionic eyes - Liz Phair
2. Tinker behind the door - Figgy Duff
3. Mystic river - Blue Rodeo
4. Carolina drama - The Raconteurs*
5. Panama (live) - Van Halen

Monday, May 11, 2009

No win for nurses

So, in an attempt to get back to commenting on current affairs, I notice the nurses in Newfoundland are gearing up for a strike. Sad thing is, they're going to lose.

I have great empathy for nurses. It's a damn hard job they do, the stress can often be unreal, they're frequently taken for granted and they're probably not paid enough given how hard they work. I would never want to do that job. So yeah, I think they ought to get a nice deal when negotiating with the provincial government.

But they're going to lose this. Because if that story is right they have the financial issues settled. That means the big issues they are disagreeing with are to pay nurses higher salaries in hard-to-recruit jobs than what colleagues doing the same work earn along with a government demand that nurses positions would be declared vacant two years after the workers are declared permanently disabled.

I gotta tell you, that's not completely unreasonable for me. I understand how it can piss off some nurses, but when 37% of them vote and say they have no problem with that, you're pretty well screwed. You can't convince a significant majority of your union this is a fight worth having. I guarantee you there's no way on earth you sway public opinion on this. You can sway them on money. You can do it on work conditions. You can do it on under-staffing. But if you're picking your fight on the government attempting to alleviate your staffing problems, just not in a way you will lose that every time.

I mean, feel free to go ahead and fight this if you want. Drag everybody out on strike if you feel like. You were out-maneouvered on this issue and you're going to lose it. The absolute best that's going to happen is when you go on strike the provincial government is going to kick you around for a couple of weeks, save some money while you're on strike, make you look bad and then, before public opinion starts to backfire on them, they're going to legislate you back to work and impose the settlement.

So take your nice pay bump and go home. Because honestly, if you go out, there's no way this ends well for you.

Last Five
1. The scientist - Coldplay*
2. True love way - Kings of Leon
3. To the end of the earth - Keane
4. Stumble blind - Drive
5. In the sky - Mark Knopfler

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's day

So in honour of Mother's Day, a story about my mom. This is the story I always think of when I'm trying to come up with a good story about her. I don't know why. Perhaps it's because it's the closest she ever came to killing me. And several members of my family.

And yes, there is the off-chance mom will be reading this. She does pop by the blog from time to time, however she's kind of in the early stages of her internet exploring. I love her, but she still forwards me email jokes, pictures of LOL cats and chain letter threatening terrible things if I don't forward them on to everybody I know. But she's at that stage of things.

So if this upset you, mom, I'm sorry. But you gotta love me, as I'm the only kid you got.

So I'm 12 years old and mom gets together with a couple of family members and decides to go to Florida for two weeks. For whatever reason, dad doesn't come along on this trip. Instead it's me and mom, along with my Aunt Joyce, my Aunt Peggy and three of my cousins - Penny (9), Randy (6) and Adam (I think about 2).

I'm not saying this is an expedition of the damned, but looking back on it, it certainly was a curious mix to march off to Florida. I don't remember much about the trip other than fighting with my cousins, passing out in a flea market in St. Pete's from heat stroke, and mom nearly killing us all.

We were driving from St. Pete's to Orlando in, I think, a station wagon of some kind. This would have been back in 1982, which I'm pretty sure is in the days before mini-vans, so if you wanted to cram a lot of people into one vehicle, a station wagon was the way you were going. Mom was driving and since even at that age I was good at maps, I was navigating.

I was trying to tell mom that she needed to make the next turn-off on the interstate, but she was chatting to one of my aunts. And so the turn-off went zipping on by. That was roughly the point where mom asked "was I supposed to turn there?"

"Yes," I said.

"Where's the next point I can turn around and get back there?"

I consulted the map. "Looks like it's about 20 miles away."

"Oh. Well, that's too long," she said. And then hit the breaks and began backing up the car.

On an interstate. In Florida. For about a half a mile.

I was only 12 years old and I knew something was wrong. Possibly it was Peggy and Joyce screaming they were going to die and questioning mom's sanity that might have had something to do with it.

Miraculously, there was little traffic at that time. I think only one car zipped past us as we were going in reverse. I didn't see the driver's face as he went by, but I can imagine it quite clearly. It was one of complete confusion, mixed with curiosity and terror.

We eventually made it to the right turn-off, where mom calmly put the car in drive and we headed on our merry way. She honestly didn't understand what the big deal was. She was just backing up a little bit, after all. And there wasn't that much traffic.

So there we go, my favourite story about my mother. I mean I have plenty where she was wonderful and did nice things. Or that she's always been proud of me or that I can count on a couple of fingers where she's looked at me and been disappointed in something I did, but never said anything about it, because the look accomplished everything that needed saying. Or that my friends often liked her better than they liked me.

Anyway, happy mother's day. Both to my mom, and all the moms out there.

Last Five
1. Halfway home - TV on the Radio
2. 48 hours - Sean Panting*
3. Pineapple head (live) - Crowded House
4. Drunk again - Mo Berg
5. Piano blink - Hawksley Workman

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Calling Colbert

So by now most people in Nunavut know that Nunatsiaq News got a shout out on the Colbert Report on Thursday night. If not, then you can head over here and take a look at it.

Apparently never one to pass up an opportunity, Iqaluit Mayor Elisapee Sheutiapik invited Stephen Colbert to come up to Iqaluit to learn more about the arctic. And let's be honest, it's a much better idea than that time the mayor invited representatives from PETA to come to Iqaluit to learn more about the place.

But here's the thing...there is literally zero chance of Colbert coming to Nunavut. He rarely travels for the show. This isn't like the Mercer Report, which travels all over Canada. So it's a fun little story, but ultimately you'd figure nothing more would come out of this other than everyone gets some amusement that Nunavut and Nunatsiaq News get a little shout out on a cool program.

Here's the thing, though. If Mohammad won't come to the mountain, there's no reason why the mountain can't come to him. Seriously, if I'm the mayor or the premier, I'm calling Colbert's people and offering to come on his show and talk about Nunavut and its issues. I promise you, 90 per cent of Americans have never heard of Nunavut before. (Fun experiment for all Nunavummiut. Next time you're in the US, tell them you live in Northern Canada. I promise you, most of them will answer "Oh, you live in Toronto?")

So if I'm in the mayor's office or the premier's office, I'm absolutely calling Colbert's people and trying to get on the show. The worst they can say is no. The best they can say is "sure, we'd love to have you" and for about five minutes you get to be on one of the most popular cable shows in the US talking about Nunavut and arctic issues. You can't buy that kind of exposure. Well, you can, but it costs a lot and this is mostly free.

So I hope somebody is making some calls. You don't get gifts like this handed to you very often.

Last Five
1. Not one of us (live) - Peter Gabriel*
2. The sweetest thing - US
3. Honour, riches/Breakwater boys breakdown - Figgy Duff
4. Have you no pride? - The Donnas
5. The good life - Tony Bennett and Billy Joel

Friday, May 08, 2009

Southern planning

So no, Star Trek didn't open in Iqaluit today. Instead, we have 17 Again, A Haunting in Connecticut, I Love You, Man and Knowing. Ah well. And yes, Jen, I know I shouldn't complain because at least we have a movie theatre. And most of the time I would agree. Except it's summer movie season and I want some summer movies, damn it.

With my luck Star Trek will open here just after we go to Australia.

Speaking of which, today was spent at home sick as the head cold just decided to kick the holy hell out of me. I didn't get much sleep again last night and woke up just feeling miserable. So home it was. After much drugs (all legal, I assure you), I slowly started putting together some more pieces for Australia. I've got a quote for the rail pass we're going to use, which actually came in much cheaper than I expected (God bless finally going to a country where we have a favourable exchange rate). Plus we've figured out how long we're going to stay in Cairns (we arrive late on the 16th and leave early on the 22nd) and where we're going to stay (the Holiday Inn, which is a touch bland, but it's affordable). We're just trying to figure out how long we're going to stay in the Whitsundays (I'm leaning towards six days, the other option is three, which just doesn't seem long enough) and whether Fraser Island is a place we want to go. On the pro side it sounds really cool, what with all the beaches. However, as a con, it's not recommended you go in the ocean because of the number of sharks and sea snakes around. And putting Cathy on miles and miles of pristine and lovely beaches and telling her she can't go in the ocean is pretty cruel.

We'd originally thought of doing this as a pretty laid back, unplanned trip. But that's not really an option. This isn't Europe, where if you miss a train, another one comes along in a few hours. There are five trains that run per week from Cairns to Brisbane. And some of them dump you off in the middle of the night. For example, one of the trains would bring us to the stop for Fraser Island at 5:20 am. Not something I'd like to experience if I can help it at all.

But it's been fascinating doing the research, and people have been good enough to send me interesting links. My friend Sara pointed out the Frugal Traveler blog and TripIt, which I've started using.

Oh, and this is sure to get a few people to roll their eyes....did you know Australia has a curling association? And hey, it's winter when we'll be visiting. I've already contacted the association's president to see if I can pick up a game anywhere when I'm there. Mock all you want, but come on, wouldn't it be cool to get a t-shirt or something?

A little more than two months away. Not that we're counting the days or anything...

Last Five
1. A comet appears - The Shins
2. The rhythm of the heat (live) - Peter Gabriel*
3. Shiftless when idle - The Replacements
4. Buletproof - Rilo Kiley
5. Withered heart - Mark Bragg

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Too awesome

The best part of coming down with a head cold right about now is that everyone starts either:

A. Joking that you must have swine flu
B. Actually wonder if you have swine flu.

Guys, it's a cold. I feel no more or less crappy than I do with any other cold that I normally get in the run of a year. I've toughed it out the past couple of days because work has been busy. But I barely have a voice left at this point. Plus, I got home, sat down and have barely moved since. So as I have something like 40 sick days built up, I think I can afford to blow one.

In the meantime, a little something in honour of the Star Trek movie opening tomorrow, which is getting some pretty awesome reviews. Which is fitting, I guess...

Go here if you want to see more.

Unfortunately, it doesn't look like it's opening in Iqaluit. The poster for the "big" movie opening this weekend in Iqaluit is "Knowing" staring Nic Cage, which also came out about two months ago. sigh. There is something a touch depressing reading about a movie that's opening in nearly 4,000 theatres and knowing yours is likely not one of them. Ah well, sometime hopefully in the next week or so, we'll start seeing some of the summer movies. And by summer movies, I mean the cool ones and not this one.

Last Five
1. Mr. Tambourine Man - Bob Dylan
2. Twice as bad as love - Ryan Adams
3. Peacetime - Spirit of the West
4. All U can eat - Ben Folds
5. The show must go on - Queen*

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Twin emails

So those who know me probably realized that I didn't have the most fun day in the world yesterday. I won't elaborate why on the blog, let's just say I hope the worst is over and that today is better.

I guess the nice thing that happened were two out of the blue emails. The first was from the Abbozzo Gallery. Apparently someone on the staff stumbled upon my blog and specifically on a post about how much I love David Blackwood's "Fire Down on the Labrador", my regret that the poster I had of it got destroyed in a move and that I've been unable to find another one. Well, she pointed out that her gallery actually sells that poster, along with another couple of really nice Blackwood posters that I've never seen before. Oh, and they're apparently signed.

So that's deeply tempting. And the prices are pretty reasonable. The only problem would be figuring out what to do with it. Cathy doesn't like Blackwood, and finds that particular print....disturbing. I might buy it and put it up in my office, but I would want to get it framed so I don't run the risk of ruining it like the other one. So maybe I'll check with the local framing dude and see if he can A. frame it and B. how much would it cost. If it's reasonable, maybe I'll treat myself.

The other would have been Adrian du Plessis, who is with Allison Crowe's management team. Normally I wouldn't mention this except it was actually a personal email. Allison is playing in Newfoundland - May 9 in St. John's and May 13 in Corner Brook. They didn't think I would be able to make it, given the distances involves, but figured I might like to go when she was in "townie territory."

First, awfully nice to send me a personal note. Second, I highly recommend going to see Allison if you get the chance. She's a phenomenal singer and, as I've pointed out previously, her rendition of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" is one of the very best of the many, many versions out there.

So yeah, out of the blue, but kind of made me feel good. It's nice when that happens to balance out a stressful day.

Last Five
1. Cuntry boys and city girls - The Fratellis
2. Resurrection - Spirit of the West*
3. Brighter still - Ron Sexsmith
4. Just the way you are (live) - Diana Krall
5. Finer feelings - Spoon

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

The new CKIQ

So I guess the big news around town today is that the local radio station - Raven Rock has switched formats. It's now a "hits" station from its previous classic rock/WTF format.

I'm not kidding about the "What the Fuck?" format either. Raven Rock on the weekends is a deeply weird station that often feels like the music is being programmed by angry dwarfs with a grudge who didn't like any music past 1967, especially if had electric guitars. It remains to be seen if the new format will continue onto the weekend, or if the angry dwarfs will still rule the roost.

I can tell right now that I'm going to get tired of the phrase "The New CKIQ." Please God, let this not be like when the Conservatives kept calling themselves Canada's new government more than a year after they were elected. I think in this case a month will do. After that, you're no longer really that new.

This should actually be interesting. If Raven Rock really is going to be playing more hits, this is going to be the first time we're going to be exposed to what's "popular" on the radio in about five years. That would be around the time when I discovered that listening to my iPod while driving around St. John's was a better option than punching the radio in a desperate attempt to make it play something that didn't suck. Currently, I have no idea what's really popular. I remember being surprised last year when Katy Perry took off with "I kissed a girl". Not because I hated the song, just because it was so utterly....unremarkable. It was a very bland pop song to achieve that level of pop culture dominance.

I kind of miss liking pop music and Top 40...or at least caring passionately about it. There is something about being 12 or 13 years old and listening to American Top 40 on Saturday mornings and yelling at stupid people for not liking your favourite song as much as you, or why on Earth were people putting Duran Duran songs in the Top 10 all the time, when they were all style and no substance. Or even the joy that came with a song that you really, really liked hitting #1. By the way, the song I kind of look back with some sheepish amusement that I was so happy it hit #1? "Africa" by Toto. I really loved that song when I was 13.

I kind of miss liking a really good pop song. I appreciate that comes with being young and discovering music for yourself. I'm not really expecting anything like that with the new CKIQ.

So yes, the new CKIQ might prove to be a shock of cold pop splashed in my face. Although, as I listen right now, that might mean more Nickelback. God help me...

Last Five
1. Do you want to? - Franz Ferdinand
2. She blinded me with science - Thomas Dolby*
3. Dance, dance - Fall Out Boy
4. Under the red sky - Bob Dylan
5. 3 O'clock drunk - Sean Panting

Monday, May 04, 2009


I was talking to my dad for about, oh God, about an hour and a half last night. We're like that...we'll go weeks without talking to each other, engaged in some kind of male version of chicken to see who will call the other first. It inevitably tends to be me, as Cathy starts reminding that I really ought to call him. We can chat for ages once the call starts. It's actually making the phone call that seems to be an issue for us.

Then again, I hate phones, and I suspect I know where I get it from.

Anyway, most of last night's discussion was spent on Australia. I think it must be about six or seven years ago that dad went on one of his epic journeys. One of the benefits of being a letter carrier with about 36 years on the have lots of vacation time. And in this case, he managed to swing it so he got about 12 weeks off. And so began his trip through New Zealand for three weeks, with the remaining nine spent travelling Australia.

So he's not a bad brain to pick for Australia planning, now that we're in the details stage. As it turns out, however, most of his time was spent in southern Australia, before moving on to Ayers Rock and then to Darwin. By the time he hit Cairns, he was in the last few weeks of his trip and was running out of time, plus a touch on the exhausted side.

Still, it was nice to get the reassurance that Cairns is a nice spot. He spent about nine days there (of course, the young Swedish nurses he was hanging out with might have played some role in staying there that long). After Florence last year, we were a touch reluctant in spending a week or so in one spot in case we didn't like it.

The next place he recommended were the Whitsundays, which was funny because I was already deep into research on them as they looked like a really great place to hang out for a few days and maybe do some sea kayaking. And from there he mentioned a couple of other places that might be worth spending a few days at during our long train ride down to Sydney.

But for awhile now the Whitsundays have stuck in my mind. They're beautiful islands, but I was wondering why they were sticking out so much. Then, this morning, I got a little reminder as to why I might have heard of them before. One of the 74-odd islands is Hamilton Island, which got a bit of attention recently for advertising the greatest job in the world. Turns out the finalists are there now, competing for the job.

I thought about putting in an entry, but when I saw the calibre of some of the entries, not to mention the volume, I quickly realized I was doomed.

Funny, everything I've read about the area has said that it's not exactly a hidden gem, that most people know about it and lord knows there's enough backpackers, tourists and rich Aussies kicking around the islands. But hey, I guess you can always want more, although I have no idea where you would put them. Most of the islands are protected with development strictly regulated or outright prohibited.

Oh, and I notice that CTV has sent someone down to follow the sole Canadian contestant in the competition. Go here for more.

So it'll be nice to be able to visit that place. And now at least I know why I was being so drawn to that area. Now we just have to figure out how long to stay there, and where exactly to stay. I figure at least four days, perhaps as many as seven. We'll have to see.

Between five to seven days in Cairns, five or six days in Sydney (with our friends Chris, Lisa and Kitty, who will be meeting us there), four to six days in the Whitsundays, well, we only have 26 days in the country. The time is being allocated quickly.

Last Five
1. Some things are better left unsaid - Hall & Oates
2. Where did you sleep last night (live) - Nirvana*
3. Poor man's grey - Matthew Good
4. Suite 16 - Chris Picco
5. Bargain - The Who

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Family photo

Not much for you this evening. Instead, a photo from a walk this afternoon. I was trying out a new tripod and trying to figure out whether or not to take it to Australia with us. I thought it was kind of nice and figured I would put it up. Besides, it's been awhile since you guys have had a Boo fix.

And tomorrow, something more interesting.

Last Five
1. The night is still young - Billy Joel
2. Every part of me - Sam Roberts
3. Open doors - Josh Ritter
4. Tea - Brendan Benson
5. Blow at high dough - The Tragically Hip

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Enough with the snow already

Cathy's rocking out on Guitar Hero: World Tour and is currently in the groove on a song by Paramore. She's also discovered that Korn is a very angry band. You know, for a woman who really doesn't enjoy "angry" music, she really does love Guitar Hero.

Guitar Hero is pretty much the alternative to doing anything outside this evening. Yes, we live in the arctic and I know snow is not exactly unexpected at this time of the year, but we're getting a little tired of it. It's been snowing for about a week in Iqaluit. And because the temperatures have been hovering around -5C for most of that time, we've been getting the weird effect of lots of snow, combined with lots of melting, which is wrecking the usual havoc on the gravel roads around here. The truck is beginning to make the kinds of noises you generally don't want to hear coming from a mechanical object that you have several thousand dollars invested in.

The snow is also starting to piss off residents around town. Yes, it's nice to go out on the snowmobile and all. But we're entering our seventh month of winter, so people are very much getting into the head space of "enough with all the goddamn snow already!" I'm marginally more zen about it, but only barely. A recent trip out to Ottawa and planning for Australia helps get through the worst of it.

Although I will note that Cathy has begun to count down how many teaching days there are left in the year (assuming you live in Iqaluit). Thirty-seven, in case you were wonder. The spring binkies that comes with being a teacher (and being married to one) officially began today when Cathy look out the window, saw the snow, and demanded an immediate 37 day weekend.

The only other news of note is that I've finally started going back to the gym. This is all part of a general "I need to be in better shape and to lose some weight" that I've been stalling on for ages. But more specifically, I want to be in shape (or at least not grossly out of shape) for the Dominion championship in November. So training officially starts today.

We'll see how often I end up going. I'm aiming for 3-4 days a week. Although there is something to be said about going on weekend afternoons. I was there from 2-3 pm today and there was one other person in the gym with me. Just the way I like it.

Anyway, when I start looking like Hugh Jackman, I'll let you know.

Last Five
1. Jesus gonna be here (live) - Tom Waits
2. Tired eyes - Hey Rosetta!
3. Dirty mouth - Hot Hot Heat*
4. 7 - Prince
5. Climbing the walls - The Might Be Giants

Friday, May 01, 2009

Black humour to get you through the Aporkalypse

So after saying this flu outbreak is perhaps too serious for me to comment on, I end up having a couple of thoughts about it last night that I thought might be worth mentioning.

I'm not saying people aren't taking this possible pandemic seriously. It's pretty obvious that lots of groups and mobilizing very quickly in the hopes of trying to stop this thing before it gets too serious. And they may well be doing a good job, as things at this moment don't appear to be escalating to the dramatic levels that people were predicting earlier the week.

What I find interesting is that people are certainly not afraid to mock this flu. There's a real strain of dark humour going on about it. That could all change in a hurry if more people start getting sick or start dying.

However, I saw images like this one on Ed's blog and this one I saw on Boing Boing yesterday, which is a riff on the infamous Twitter "Fail Whale."

And then there's The Daily Show which has been having a ball. Last night Jon Stewart was gleefully making fun of what the flu is actually called. President Obama is calling it the H1N1 flu, because apparently the pork industry is upset with it being called the Swine flu. So is Israel, because as a nation of mostly Jews, they have issues with pork. They want to call it Mexican Flu which, as you might expect, kind of upsets Mexico.

Stewart's funniest bit was actually earlier the week when the dark observation that Swine flu was now at the very bottom of the list of things that could kill you in Mexico. #1? That would be Bullet Flu. "And yes, it is airborne," Stewart dryly quipped.

Hell, even people on vacation are getting into the act. A plane full of returning Mexican vacationers landed at St. John's. And amid the fear and griping (the guy mad with Mexican tourism who knew about this earlier and didn't tell people was particularly silly) there was this comment from Drew Ennis - "I got a pretty good immune system. The tequila keeps you healthy."

So it seems right now, we have no problem laughing in the face of the flu. Here's hoping we can keep laughing for quite some time.

By the way, one further observation. Lots of people are going around saying "Well, we'll never vacation in Mexico again after this." Well, welcome to the party guys. You're a little late. Cathy and I are going to a place this summer with a wide variety of interesting ways to die, what with the saltwater crocs, sharks, jellyfish, snakes, spiders and lord knows whatever else we're forgetting.

And we decided on that with no problems because, hey, it's Australia. And you can take some precautions for that. It's still a pretty safe country. When we were thinking of going south for a vacation over Easter, we checked Mexico off the list right away. Why? Well, what with Canadians being murdered in their own hotel rooms, or mugged, or being assaulted that kind of dissuaded us a bit. Then there's the rampant corruption, unscrupulous businessman, kidnapping for profit, cops who don't give a damn, drug lords, gang warfare and whatnot, there are whole lots of interesting ways to have very bad things happen to you.

Yes, I know bad things happen all over the world. I know plenty of bad things happen in other Caribbean countries. Bad things happen in Canada. But let's just say the odds seem significantly higher than I'm really comfortable with in Mexico.

I'm sure it's a lovely country. We'd like to visit one day. Tell you what, cut down on the drug lords, corruption, muggings, murders and whatnot and we'll see what we can do. I'll bet the people living there would be awfully grateful as well. You can even have the flu if you want. Trust me, of all the reasons not to visit Mexico, well, to quote Stewart, it's pretty well at the bottom of my list.

Last Five
1. Wake me up when September ends - Green Day
2. Cornflake girl (live) - Tori Amos*
3. Wrecking ball - Interpol
4. Pleas from a cat named virtue - The Weakerthans
5. I could say - Lily Allen