Tuesday, June 30, 2009

You want me to eat seven inches of what?

I try not to buy Entertainment Weekly all that often - I do so no more than two or three times a year, and normally it's for when I'm travelling. EW is very handy disposable travel reading; good for about an hour's worth of distraction if you take your time. But their website is actually pretty good for entertainment news and pop culture references. So I normally hit that every couple of days, just to see if there is anything to amuse me.

And this, well this is the jackpot.


I honestly thought this was a spoof ad that went up online somewhere because, surely God, no company would actually put out an ad with a woman who looks like a sex doll about to go down on a hamburger called a "BK Super Seven Incher." That's a joke, right?

Nope.

And in case you're having a hard time reading the text, it reads: "Fill your desire for something long, juicy and flame-grilled with the NEW BK SUPER SEVEN INCHER. Yearn for more after you taste the mind-blowing burger that comes with a single beef patty, topped with American cheese, crispy onions and the A1 Thick and Hearty Steak Sauce."

Now, you see, I think they're trying to imply something about eating this burger, but given how subtle the ad is, I'm not sure what it is...

Actually, I am a bit disappointed after reading the Gawker article to discover that the ad only ran in Singapore and never in North America. It does lose a touch of it's awesome awfulness knowing it ran in a foreign country where English isn't the primary language.

Still, given the attention this ad has grabbed in recent days, along with stories on how Burger King isn't doing the best financially these days, I suspect the addage that there is no such thing as bad press is somewhat misplaced.

Last Five
1. Muriel - Tom Waits
2. Within you without you/Tomorrow never knows - The Beatles
3. Burn for it - Sloan
4. Hold on, hold on - Neko Case
5. Both hands (live) - Ani Difranco*

It's never going to end

All photos taken between 9 and 9:30 pm down on the beach in Iqaluit on June 29, 2009. Yes, there is still that much ice kicking around. And no, I don't think it's ever going to leave. God knows when the first sea lift boat is going to be able to get in. Normally the first one has arrived by now. If the ice stays like this, it's going to be the middle of July, at the absolute earliest, before that happens.







Last Five
1. Jungle love - Morris Day and the Time
2. Is there a ghost? - Band of Horses*
3. Wet blanket - Metric
4. A little rain (live) - Tom Waits
5. You don't make it easy (live) - Josh Ritter

Monday, June 29, 2009

Wasn't that yesterday?

Oh god, the Internet is trying to make me feel old today. I'm normally pretty good about not angsting over my age and pining for my youth. It doesn't require much of a smack to the head to remember how much I hated my teen years and would prefer to vacation in scenic Iraq rather than relive high school again.

But then you start reading little anniversary stories that come up and you go "Oh holy fuck, really?" I mean, the notion that Thriller is a 27 year old record was a slightly disturbing realization. Which means when I was 12, when it came out, it would be the equivalent of asking me to get excited about an...oh god, Elvis record. It all just comes full circle, doesn't it?

But no, then some bright little bastard at the BBC got a clever idea. What if we went up to a 13 year old kid, swiped his iPod and made him use a Walkman for a week. And why would they do that? Because today is the 30th anniversary of the invention of the Walkman.

Thirty....years. Granted, I don't think I owned a Walkman until I was 15 or so, but still.

The article is actually hilarious, especially the part where it takes him three days to realize that you can take the tape out and flip it around. And that Normal and Metal switches mean different things than he believed. And what's up with those clunky buttons....

Bastards. But funny.

Then there was this story, which came out last week, marking the 20th anniversary of Tim Burton's Batman and the impact it had on the movie industry. It's an interesting read, actually. In terms of how movies are marketed and make money, Batman, Jaws and Star Wars are among the most important of the past 50 years. The article is worth a read just to see how movies have changed because of Batman.

But it was more of less the whole 20 years thing that kind of floored me. I don't think the movie has aged particularly well, and looks just awful compared to Batman Begins and The Dark Knight (if you thought Katie Holmes was bad, she's Meryl Streep compared to Kim Bassinger), but it was such a big deal at the time. It was the rare movie based on a super hero that didn't suck outrageously. It's so easy to find good comic book movies these days it's hard to remember that most were terrible. Up until Batman there had been exactly two - the first two Superman movies.

Plus, there was all the toys and comic books. I was 19 years old at the time with probably a bit too much disposable income that comes from living at home and making good money as a waiter. Plus, I was, and still am, a big old geek. So I bought t-shirts, every Batman related comic book I could think of, toys, you name it. My girlfriend at the time even put up with the madness.

Anyway, crazy times. It's probably best not to dwell on how much I spent on Batman stuff that year.

Do people just notice these strange anniversaries the closer they get to 40 or is it just me?

Last Five
1. Canyon - Mark Bragg
2. Level - The Raconteurs
3. Flash - Queen
4. Buffalo - Kathleen Edwards
5. I drove all night - Cyndi Lauper*

A happy note

I appreciate this hasn't been the most cheerful blog to read in the past month, what with exploding red wine, ice that steadfastly refuses to leave the bay and, oh yes, my impending unemployment. June 2009 will not go down in my persona annuls as a truly spiffy month.

But in an attempt to go out on a high note here, let me recap something that happened yesterday that was actually spectacularly nice. Actually, it was spectacularly nice for Cathy, but one of the many benefits of being married to her means that occasionally I get the spin-offs when something good happens to her.

We were at the Frobisher for brunch yesterday with two of her co-workers. Both are leaving town today - one just for the summer, one more permanently. So we thought one final brunch would be a nice idea.

So we're chowing down and chatting when, towards the end of things, the waitress swings by to remove a few plates. "This is all taken care of," she said.

Despite the volume of university degrees sitting at that table, that took a few moments to process. "No, we haven't paid yet" I believe was one of the responses.

"Yes, but someone who was just paying for their meal up at the cash just paid for all yours. She didn't want to give her name, just said to tell you it was 'for being teachers.'"

SO now the four of us are sitting their with our jaws hanging open. We tried to figure out who it was, but the person had already left. And since Cathy and her two co-workers all teach different grades, there's no way to know who it was who paid for out meals. Completely anonymous. And not cheap, by the way. I figure four buffet lunches at the Frob probably cost in the area of $150.

I don't talk much about teaching on the blog. It falls under the category of "don't talk about work on your blog." And yes, it's not my work, but I certainly have no desire to get Cathy in trouble for things I write here. But I don't think it's a secret that teaching veers into the category of things that certainly has plenty of rewards, but also plenty of frustrations. It's a profession I simply could never do. A couple of people have said I could supply teach in the fall if I don't have anything lined up by then. Cathy, who knows better, just laughs.

So I really am happy when something does a gesture like that. It really did thrill the three of them to have someone doing something that nice. And hell, I was pretty thrilled not to have to pay for lunch. Being married to a teacher does have it's perks, from time to time.

There you go....a nice way to end off June.

Last Five
1. Twilight - U2
2. Come calling - Cowboy Junkies
3. Satin chic - Goldfrapp
4. Elegy for Elsabet - The Weakerthans*
5. Killing the blues - Robert Plant and Allison Krauss

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Letting the wine flow

I mentioned we went out for a BBQ. Which was lovely, but one little act from that BBQ caused us a lot of headaches later in the evening.

Before we headed out we grabbed a bottle of red wine so we could be hospitable guests when sharing the grill. We're not heavy drinkers at all, so most of our booze is stored in a box in the top of a closet. So I reached up, moved aside a bladder of red wine, grabbed a bottle and then headed out the door. This was around 4:30. We got back home around 7 pm, with every intention of heading around around 9 pm to catch a movie.

I was just cuing up a conversation with friends in China via Skype (we're meeting them in Australia next month) so we could go and catch the movie when Cathy started yelling at me that she needed me right now! It seems there was a crisis in the closet. Which I found funny for a few seconds until I scoped at the extent of the damage.

When I shifted the bladder of red wine it must have done something to the stopper. Either at that moment or shortly afterwards the stopper popped off and the red wine began to flow.

All of it. Which amounts to roughly 10 bottles of red wine exploding in your closet.

You know how people react in horror when you spill a drop of red wine on your new shirt or pants? Because red wine is almost impossible to get out, right? Now imagine 10 bottles of it. We have two closets in our bedroom. The wine was in the smaller of the two, but we still kept all of our pants in this closet. Black pants, brown pants, khaki pants, blue pants (jeans)....all manner of pants were doused in red wine. Cathy kept her scrap booking material in that closet, which was soaked in wine.

And, oh yes, there was a suitcase in there where Cathy had put about half of our summer clothes in preparation for the trip to Australia. A good percentage of this got hit by the wine as well. Oh, and there was wine on the walls and the carpet was soaked.

As we were pulling all of this out and sorting all of the clothes it was all we could do not to hit our heads off the wall. If the wine stained all the clothes then we were looking at hundreds, if not more than a thousand dollars worth of clothes. Replacing it would be expensive, but we were also not sure we could do it in the time we have left either up here or in Ottawa.

So yeah, there was stress in the penthouse last night.

So we did triage on the clothing into levels of necessity and how badly they needed to be washed. A quick look online offered up some suggestions. So we treated the first load with Spray and Wash, threw it in the washer with hot water, lots of Tide and some Epsom salts and then prayed.

Lo and behold, the fates favoured us last night. The first load came out of the washer and there were no stains. The same thing happened with the second load. And the third load. We probably annoyed our neighbours running the washer until a little after midnight, but I'm sure they understand. We didn't run the dryer because that really is loud, so we dragged the clothes into the apartment and had it hanging all over the place to dry.

So yes, that's how we spent our Saturday night. Running around in a panic, lengthy thoughts of doom and gloom, followed by enormous relief. The only reason I can think that all that wine came out is that the clothes were still soaked when we threw them in the washer. If the wine had time to dry, I think we were dead. But it was still wet, so we dodged the bullet.

By the way, as loathed as I am to mention this given how annoying the commercials are, we did have a "Sham Wow!" in the apartment and used it on both clothing and the carpet in the closet. And yes, it did work and certainly seemed to absorb a lot of the red wine. So yes, the bloody thing works. Now if someone could kindly shoot the guy making the commercials, that would be awesome.

Anyway, I think I'll be looking forward to going back to work tomorrow. It'll be more relaxing than last night, that's for sure.

Last Five
1. You gonna quit me - Bob Dylan
2. Another one bites the dust - Queen
3. One after 909 - The Beatles
4. Come crash - AC Newman
5. The barricades of heaven (live) - Jackson Browne*

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Macbook away

So I have a rare grumble about Apple which should make all you Mac haters out there happy. Something has gone wrong with my Macbook Pro. And as the thing is barely 18 months old, that's a touch disappointing. Calling Apple support didn't help much either as they essentially ran through a list of things I already tried from their website. So it was agreed that it needed to be sent off for servicing to figure out what's wrong. They don't think it's the hard drive, so I'm hopeful it's all right.

Here's where it gets extra special disappointing, though. I figured I was just sending the computer off to Happy, Magical Mac Land, where the computer would be looked at by Mac Gurus at Mac Central. But there is no centralized magical land in Canada. Unlike the US, where you can take your computer, put it in the mail and have it arrive at some kind of centralized Mac repair place, you have to find the closest Apple certified dealer to where you live, call them, say you're sending the computer and deal with an individual business. And yes, they're Apple certified, but it's not like Apple owns these businesses. If you have problems, you're on your own.

I was originally going to mail the computer to Ottawa, but this was going to cause all kinds of headaches. There was no way the computer was going to get back to me before we went away. That meant it would either sit in a repair shop for a few weeks, or sit at the local post office for a few weeks. Neither option thrilled me.

Fortunately Cathy suggested sending it to St. John's. Cathy's parents can take it into the local repair place, get it fixed, pick it up and then send it back to me a week or so before we arrive back in Iqaluit. Of course, the challenge then was finding a place in town that fixes Macs on warranty. There are a whopping two. One is MUN, which only handles student and faculty repairs. The other is PC Medic. So the computer is off in the mail and hopefully whatever gremlin is taken care of. And about five seconds after I turn on the computer once I get it back it's being plugged into the back-up hard drive.

So yeah, this will be a nuisance for the next couple of weeks. Also, don't expect to see the header on the blog change the next couple of months. I feel more comfortable doing that on my computer as opposed to Cathy's.

****
Other than that, not much to report. We went and hit some of the garage sales this morning. Cathy is happy in that she managed to buy two more tupperware storage units. And, in her deal of the year, found a pair of Baffin winter boots in her size for $5. They normally go for $100 or more. So that's a steal. I managed to find a Guy Fawkes Hallowe'en costume in my size, and snapped that up.

This evening one of Cathy's co-workers invited us up for a barbecue, which we jumped at. We can't really do that in our apartment, so we had our first BBQ in a good long time. And all was right in the world.

When we were leaving her apartment, which is up off the Road to Nowhere, we had a good look at the bay. We got fooled a bit yesterday because the wind was blowing the ice away from the shore. So at high tide there was plenty of water in the inner bay and you could hear the few pieces of ice drifting around in there crackling and melting. And you could easily be fooled into thinking that perhaps the ice was finally giving up the ghost.

But today the wind shifted and all the ice crashed back onshore. And looking over the scope of Frobisher Bay, you couldn't see any patches of open water. I'm sure the ice isn't that thick anymore. And no one has been heading out on their ski-doos for some time now.

Still, it's June 27 and as far as the eye could see - ice.

Kind of depressing, really. Then again, two weeks from today we're leaving on a jet plane and on our way to Australia. We'll tough out the ice.

Last Five
1. I will follow you into the dark - Death Cab For Cutie
2. You are allowed 20 birthdays (comedy) - Patton Oswalt
3. Bullet the blue sky (live) - U2
4. Someone saved my life tonight - Elton John*
5. A day in the life - The Beatles

Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael and Farrah

I guess considering I comment on pop culture things on this blog I should make some reference to the events of yesterday. Although it perhaps says something that I was more upset when the rumours of Jeff Goldblum dying were swirling about there for awhile than upon hearing of the deaths of Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson. I was also just asked outside the post office by a CBC reporter if I wanted to comment on Jackson's death. My reaction was a touch more....vehement than I would have imagined.

Anyway, Fawcett's death truthfully has little impact on me. I was too young to appreciate her in her prime. It was 1976 when she was on Charlie's Angels. I was six years old at the time, living in Newfoundland and we didn't have cable TV. So by the time I became really aware of who she was, she was spoken about more as a person who had been big once, but wasn't any longer and nobody figured she would ever be again. She was a fading sex symbol.

I appreciate she occupies a certain place on the cultural landscape, but at least to me she was kind of always a third string Marilyn Monroe. It's too bad she died, but people die of cancer every day. I feel bad for those people too.

As for Jackson, well, that's certainly a more complicated matter. Jackson was certainly big years before I had ever heard of him, but when Thriller broke in 1982 I was 12 years old. And if ever there was an album designed to be played over and over again when you're 12, Thriller was it. I must have driven my parents nuts, sitting on the front step with friends, listening to the songs on my JVC ghetto blaster.

"Beat it" had a guitar rift that I liked, "Billie Jean" was the kind of pop song you liked at that age because you knew there was more going on in the lyrics than you understood, which was cool. And "Thriller" was the kind of song/video every geek could love, what with werewolves, zombies, Vincent Price and whatnot. I remember taping Friday Night Videos at 2:30 am (because my parents wouldn't let me stay up that late and watch it) on the Betamax so I would see the world premiere of the "Thriller" video.

"The girl is mine" with Paul McCartney sucked, though. Even at 12, I knew that song sucked. But that's all right, you're allowed one complete clunker on that album.

This might seem strange, but there are two other people I think of when I contemplate Jackson's death - Arthur C. Clarke and Princess Diana. Bear with me on this for a minute.

When charges were laid against Clarke for being involved with small boys, that rocked me pretty hard. Clarke was one of the most important authors in my life growing up, along with Stephen King and Isaac Asimov. The notion that he might be a pedophile made it hard for me to look at his writings seriously for many year. There was a taint on them for me. And even though all charges were dismissed and Clarke strongly denied he was anything like that, I'd be lying if I said there wasn't a residual effect to those charges and how I view his legacy.

Now amplify that by a thousand and that's how I view Jackson. Yes, he was a musical genius for decades, but that impact has long since been tainted, for me at any rate, by his strange behaviour and, more importantly, the many allegations that he may have molested young boys. I can never listen to his music and get any kind of enjoyment out of it again because of that. I can work through it with some difficulty with Clarke. That's never happening with Jackson. I'll always believe that if not for who he was and his money, Jackson is in prison or a mental facility for the last 10 of more years.

And where does Princess Diana come in? When Diana died she'd been a joke for years. Whatever good she had done in her life for AIDS charities, landmines and the poor had been overwhelmed by her poor personal decisions and the fact that many people now viewed her as nothing but tabloid fodder. And if she were still alive I have no doubt the tabloid frenzy and poor decisions would have continued unabated.

As hard as it is, I think it was a mercy when she died. "Thank god that's over," I was naive enough to think at the time. It wasn't, of course. It still isn't, in some ways. But it's nowhere near as bad as when she was alive.

Same thing with Jackson. He was a sick and disturbed man and I had no hopes of him becoming any better. There was no more great music going to come out of him. I strongly suspect his children are probably deeply damaged as well by now, although I hope I'm wrong. I think it's a mercy he's dead. I think it would have been a mercy for him to have dropped dead 10 years ago.

That might not be a popular view, but after watching some of the coverage and thinking about it, that's how I feel. So fire away...

Last Five
1. Zooropa - U2
2. Walk on by - Diana Krall
3. Outskirt of town - Blue Vipers of Brooklyn
4. Shut your eyes (live) - Snow Patrol
5. Big love - Fleetwood Mac*

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Swarms of annoyance

I'm having one of these 24 hour periods where it's not one big annoyance that's coming at me to piss me off, but swarms of little ones that's nibbling me to grumpiness. What's doing it to me?

1. Jackie gets hit with a piece of hack and run that's really annoying me. Then again, I had a run-in recently with that same person, so that's probably enhancing things for me.

2. I flipped open my laptop this morning, only to be greeted by a black screen. I'm still trying a few things, but right now I have the fear that this means the computer is going to have to be sent down south to fix whatever glitch this is (this is being written on Cathy's Macbook). It's still under warranty, so it won't cost much, but it is an annoyance.

3. I've also discovered there is no device that allows me to plug my camera into an iPod Touch. I wanted to download photos to the Touch when in Australia, both as a way of backing up pics in case something happens to the camera and as an easy way to share photos on the blog when travelling. But no, that's not happening.

4. My computer at work is so slow today I want to punch it in the head repeatedly.

5. I went to go and book a rental car for August for the couple of days we're in Ottawa. Enterprise, which is the cheapest of the ones in Ottawa airport, wants $125 for a two day rental of an economy car.

6. And, after grumbling about the price, I decide to book it anyway because we need the car, Enterprise's website is glitchy and it won't let me do it.

7. I saw a couple of sketches on eBay that I thought were cute and pretty cheap. When I contacted the buyers about shipping, one asked for $20 US for a sketch with a high bid of $10 (and less than 12 hours left) and the other wanted $50 US for a sketch going for $15 (with about 12 hours left). I've never had a sketch arrive yet where the shipping was more than $10. eBay dealers who try to make up money on their auctions by screwing you on the shipping should occupy a special ring in Dante's inferno.

8. Oh, and the cable at home is doing weird stuff, like not working on any channel higher than 20. I suppose this has something to do with the digital switchover, but seeing as how they're saying not to turn on the new box until July 1, this is could get extra special annoying a big hurry.

And that's it so far. But the day is young. I'm sure there are more annoyances yet to come.

Last Five
1. Jacqueline - Franz Ferdinand*
2. It could happen to you - Blue Rodeo
3. Your protector - Fleet Foxes
4. My heart is a ghetto - Dear Leader
5. Prophets - A.C. Newman

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Saving political cartoonists

Watching newspapers die a death by inches has really hurt. And I could get into any number of reasons why that is and why I hope newspapers survive this continuing onslaught in some form or another.

But even before the worst of it in the past nine months, newspapers were beginning to feel the squeeze and one of the first cuts made were to political cartoonists. That's a pity because a good political cartoonist is worth his (and occasionally her) weight in gold. One image which can cut to the absolute heart of a debate. Which could more effectively skewer a foolish politician more than thousands of biting words from columnists.

However, they've been purged slowly but surely by the number crunchers. I kind of regret having never worked with a great political cartoonist. For both The Packet and The Express we had Peter Pickersgill, who did cartoons for all the community newspapers in Newfoundland and Labrador. And Peter may well be a nice man, but he's not a good political cartoonist. His artwork does nothing for me, it's not funny, particularly cutting nor insightful. It's a pity really.

All the more reason when you see a political cartoon like the one below. Now that's a cartoon that does everything you want - it's simple, well-illustrated, hammers home a point and gets people talking. It's about the recent murder of an abortion doctor.



I'm not even saying I agree with the point this cartoon makes. But by god if you don't have a physical reaction to that cartoon, then there's something wrong. It got more people talking then the initial story about the murder did. Go here for more reaction.

I hope this craft doesn't fade away. I suspect it will adapt and survive, but it's just kind of scary to watch right now. And hey, if any of the recently unemployed political cartoonists want to move to Newfoundland and do them for the local community papers, I suspect you would make a few editors very happy people.

(By the way, h/t to Blog@Newsarama for the cartoon link.)

Last Five
1. My iron lung - Radiohead*
2. Millionaire girlfriend - Jonathan Coulton
3. Born in the USA (live) - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
4. The luckiest - Ben Folds
5. And the cradle will rock - Van Halen

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tim's redux

So the cute little story on the cover of Nunatsiaq last week about Tim Hortons possibly coming to Iqaluit just went national, with the Globe and Mail giving it prominent coverage on their website. As I write, it's the sixth story from the top of the page, right after stories about Iran, the Toronto garbage strike and Ed McMahon's death.

If it was just the story going national I probably wouldn't have mentioned anything about it here. However, like the good masochist that I am, I delved into the comments section of the story. I recommend you not do this for most Globe and Mail stories for the sake of you sanity. Only trained professionals can do this, so don't try it at home.

Most of the comments were actually benign. The guy who wanted to build a rail or road link to Iqaluit to cut back on costs made me sob and laugh at the same time. Then there was the guy who suggested putting baby seal meat breakfast sandwiches on the menu.

Just so we're clear, that person is a dick. However, just so that I'm clear, seal meat breakfast sandwiches (sans the baby part) on Tim's menu:
A. Would likely be the healthiest thing on their menu.
B. Would absolutely be the most popular item on the menu in Iqaluit. By a mile.

There's been some grumbling around town about given the problems with junk food in the north and the resulting health problems. And I understand that, I really do. And I know this answer is a touch simplistic and that junk food is often cheaper than healthy food. But no one is putting a gun to your head and telling you to buy crap. No one is telling you to go to KFC/Pizza Hut and buy supper.

So if you don't like Tim's and think it's unhealthy, then there's an awfully simple solution - make the personal decision not to go there. Your problem is solved. Ta da.

Finally, there was a comment about the environmental havoc a Tim's would wreck on the local landscape with all those coffee cups. This is actually a legitimate beef and something I suspect many people up here temporarily forgot about during that initial giddy rush. Iqaluit has enough issues when it comes to litter as it is without having an armada of Tim's cups added to the mix. I think most readers of this blog can speak of the urban blight in most southern cities that is the Tim's cup carelessly tossed aside and left to wander on its own until it eventually composts in about 2,000 years.

Adding that to up here is not a good thing. If Tims does come here, I hope somebody asks how they're going to address that issue before giving them the business permit, because it's a legitimate issue.

Last Five
1. Go daddy-o - Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
2. PDA - Interpol
3. A hard rain's a-gonna fall - Bob Dylan
4. Sea of no cares (live) - Great Big Sea
5. Nosferatu - Sean Panting*

Monday, June 22, 2009

(insert number) channels and nothing on....

So I've been going through the little mail-out that Iqaluit Cable has sent out to all the households in Iqaluit. Now, first of all, you can tell this is a high class organization when the big roll out for their long awaited and new digital cable service featuring dozens of new channels arrives in your mail box on three photocopied pages as opposed to a high glossy flier.

I'd like to say they were doing their part to protect the environment. I suspect cheapness might be the real cause, but that's just a hunch.

The one good thing about the new packages is that it's pro-rated. So if we want to put a hold on it when we're in Australia, they will. So we won't pay for it while we're away and there's no reconnect fee when we come back. That's something, I guess.

It's actually surprisingly easy to go through and eliminate most of the theme packages. The "time shift" packages, where I can get the same CTV, CBC and US networks, but on a west coast or east coast time zone are easily ignored. Thankfully I don't have to pay for French channels I never watch anymore as that's a theme package. I like news, but I'll be damned if I'll pay $6 a month for Fox News, Bloomberg, BNN, CTV Newsnet and CNBC. At least two of those channels are pure farce. I'll let you figure out which ones.

I like sports as well, but I can get by just fine with TSN and Sportsnet on the regular package, which means no Fox Sports World, ESPN Classic, NFL network, NHL network, Golf TV, etc.

The extra packages we are looking at include "entertainment" (duh) which has Showcase East and West, Comedy Network East and West (I need my Daily Show and Colbert Report), Bravo and Drive-In. We'll probably also get "Places" which has National Geographic, BBC World News (for when I want real news), BBC Canada, Bold and the Military Channel. We're debating "Lifestyle" solely because Spike TV is there, but we'll see. MTV is also in that package, and the notion of paying for a music video channel that doesn't play music videos doesn't settle well.

There are also two movie channel packages. Now, I was honestly looking at the one that also included Lonestar, Dejaview and TV Land because I thought looking at some old TV shows could be amusing. That was until I read the shows those channels actually air.

What sadistic bastard thought that three hours a day of Three's Company was a good idea? It's the single worst television show (outside reality TV) in history and three hours of it a day is a good idea? The program manager for Dejaview needs to be taken out behind the shed for a few hours. Or, worse yet, tie them to a chair and make them watch three hours of Three's Company a day.

TV Land isn't quite as horrific, although the person who put a one hour block of Bizarre on in the middle of the day, right after Lassie, is a pretty disturbed individual as well. And did anybody ever like The Hilarious House of Frightenstein? I thought that show was lame when I was a kid, when my sense of humour wasn't exactly sophisticated.

So yeah, I think if we get a movie channel package, we'll get the one with the Documentary Channel, Independent Film Channel and Showcase Action.

Those are all big "ifs", of course. My rough estimate says if we get Basic, Family and four "Theme" picks, which amounts to about 81 channels or so, it will cost close to $120, taxes and all.

Your entertainment isn't cheap up here, that's for sure.

Last Five
1. Maria's bed - Bruce Springsteen
2. Falling for the first time - Barenaked Ladies
3. Lady Madonna - The Beatles*
4. Ways and means - Snow Patrol
5. The Future (live) - Leonard Cohen

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Festivals

Kenojuak Ashevak while drawing in the litho-sh...Image via Wikipedia

So, let's see, a bunch of little things here for today:

1. We went to the opening of the Kenojuak Ashevak exhibition at the museum (which is also celebrating it's 40th anniversary this year) and she was in attendance. Because I'm an idiot, I forgot to take my camera. Fortunately you can go to Jim's blog or Shelley's as they did manage to remember to bring their cameras. Actually, I strongly considered beating up Jim and stealing all of his camera equipment. But trying to take all that camera equipment and figure out a way to stash one of Kenojuak's pictures under my arms....I just gave up. It was just too complicated.

Seriously, though. If you live in Iqaluit, you simply must to this show. You're crazy if you don't. It's absolutely stunning. Plus there is some of her artwork for sale if you're feeling so inclined.

2. Today is National Aboriginal Day and the start of the Alianait Festival There's the big tent pitched in the school parking lot which will host a lot of the events of the next 10 or so. Again, one of those things to go out and take a look at if you're in town. And lord know we're getting a nice day for it. I'm almost in shock. The weather has been so unimpressive, I was beginning to despair of the notion of spring. However, it's 10C here in town today. We took Boo out for a walk in Sylvia Grinnell Park for an hour or so and then spent an hour picking brambles out of his fur.


3. Today is also the first day of summer, which means it's also the longest day of the year. The sun will set at 11:01 pm and rise again at 2:11 am. Here's a couple of pictures I took last night. The first was at 10 pm and the second one was at 12:45 am. Every year I resolve to go out and shoot some photos during those strange hours at the longest day of the year, but it never works out. But I guess we'll see.



I always feel a touch sad on this day. We've been building for the past six months to the longest day of the year. Now we're on the slow slide back to the shortest day of the year. It's probably silly as we have a couple of months of nice weather to look forward to. Still, there it is.

4. Along with the Nunavut blogging community, I'm also a member of the Newfoundland and Labrador blogging community. And the guy who helps keep things together on that front, Stephen Eli Harris, has picked this blog as his Blog of the Week. Which is nice and I'm always glad to have new traffic directed towards the blog.

I'm actually having a pretty good traffic month after a very substandard April and May. I will never figure out the magic of what can cause a blog's traffic to dip for months on end and then massively spike in another. But as long as you keep showing up for my wit and wisdom, well, who cares. So far this year, 32,500 unique readers have read 40,500 posts. For my small corner of the world, that's not bad.

5. And finally, a Happy Father's Day to my dad. He's actually talking about retiring next year and for the first time I'm almost inclined to believe him. God knows what he'll do with himself, but I'm sure he'll figure something out.

Last Five
1. Phantom limb - The Shins
2. Rag & bone - The White Stripes
3. Mohammed - The Dandy Warhols
4. A day in the life - The Beatles
5. Somebody to love (live) - Queen*






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Saturday, June 20, 2009

How not to be an asshole

I know I should care more about the issue of downloading music off torrent and other websites, but I'm kind of beyond it at this point. And yes, I know there are arguments to be made on both sides of the issue. But it's one of those things where I've heard the debate so much that it's practically background noise to me. It takes a lot to get my attention and to make me care.

And then lo and behold, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) manages to magically find a way to make me go "are you fucking kidding me?"

Such as when a court fines a single mother of four $1.92 million for illegal file sharing of 24 songs. That works out to about $80,000 per song. I can't imagine paying 80 cents for a Richard Marx song, but this woman is going to pay $80,000.

It's insane. The RIAA wants to send a "firm message to downloaders." Given some of the reaction to the story - and granted, Rolling Stone has a pretty immature message board - I don't think so, kids. If anything, this managed to accomplish the rare feat of making people hate record labels more. Impressive, really.

God, it's just vile, it really is.

I went looking for something to wash the bad taste out of my mouth after reading this story. And I found one. Just in case you need one more reason to love Pixar, here you go. They sent someone with a copy of a DVD of Up to house of a girl dying of cancer. She had been holding on just to see that movie, but when she became too sick to see it in the the theatres, they sent someone with the DVD, toys, posters and talked to her about the movie. Then they showed it to her. She died a few hours after seeing it. If that doesn't tug on your heartstrings just a little bit, well...

See, that's how a company can be nice to people, as opposed to being complete assholes and suing single moms for millions.

Last Five
1. Full of grace - Sarah McLachlan
2. Working on a dream - Bruce Springsteen
3. Future reflections - MGMT
4. Everything had changed - Barenaked Ladies
5. Come on Eileen - Dexy's Midnight Runners*

Friday, June 19, 2009

The holiest of holies coming to town?

I can already tell you what everyone is going to be talking about this weekend in Iqaluit. And it's not going to be any of the usual foolishness in Ottawa over near elections and EI reform. It won't be any of the debates that happened in Nunavut's Legislative Assembly. And even while a lot of the chatting might be happening at this weekend's Alianait festival, I imagine they'll be talking about something else. It's not even the exhibition of Kenojuak Ashevak artwork taking place at the museum, even though I'm personally pretty excited about that. I'm hoping she's going to be there so I might get the chance to meet her.

No, no. The big story? Tim Hortons might be coming to town. I rarely drink coffee, so I don't care, although I know some will be dancing in the streets.

For years the lack of Tim's has been one of the great shocks for newcomers when they come to town. It's to the point that when I put together my list of things you're simply going to have to learn to deal with if you want to live in Iqaluit, the lack of Tim Hortons was pretty high up there.

But now, it might be coming here. No longer will people have to line up at the Tim's in Ottawa airport and get a large plastic bag and fill it with boxes of timbits and donuts. No longer will an extra large coffee to sip on the plane flight up be their last taste of Tim's for weeks or months.

If they come here, of course. And if they last. Franchise fast food places have had a shaky history in Iqaluit. There's a KFC/Pizza Hut here and it does all right business, but not over the moon. And frankly, unless they've changed, the actual chicken used by KFC isn't what you would get down south. It's a substitute and not a great one.

Then there was the great Subway fiasco of a couple years ago. The franchise went bankrupt, but not before charging up to $25 for a foot long sub and a complete inability to keep anybody working there for more than 15 minutes.

So we'll see. Tim's sounds like a great idea for here. But Iqaluit isn't exactly lacking in coffee shops. And I suspect staffing will be a challenge. Plus, there will be the issue of how much they're going to charge.

One more thing....Jim (Ooops, John. Sorry) Bird's story, well, it amused me. I'm not ragging on Jim, far from it. He heard the rumour, knew it was a story that would be of deep interest to people in town. And hell, Nunatsiaq News ran in front page. It's just such a, I don't know, cute, odd, adorable, appropriately, weirdly northern story. And a nice touch with the anonymous sources at the end.

Anyway, we shall see. If it happens, I predict Dairy Queen next. You think I joke, but once you see kids drinking slushies outside in -30C weather, you realize I'm serious. They'll line up to get a blizzard here, trust me.

Last Five
1. Radio, radio - Elvis Costello
2. Like lovers do - Lloyd Cole
3. Creepin' in - Norah Jones
4. Breaking us in two - Joe Jackson
5. It's my fault for being famous - The White Stripes*

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I want that picture

One of my guilty online pleasures is that once a month Marvel and DC comics release their previews section. Basically, if you're a store owner this gives you a chance to see what's coming out in two months time and adjust your orders for comic books appropriately. Captain America coming back from the grave? Maybe you bump the numbers up on that one. Notice that a series has just wrapped up its big multi-part, universe shattering crossover? Maybe you cut back on how many issues your order.

However, we living a spoiler culture. It's not enough that the show/movie/comic is coming out in a few days or weeks or months. We want to know everything there is about it now. We are not a patient society, it must be said. I think the beginning part of the 21st century may be known as "The Time of Great Impatience".

Anyway, I digress.

Fans love pouring through these advanced listings, not just of DC and Marvel comics, but also of the literally thousands of other things that come during these Preview catalogues and posts. And I'm as guilty as the next collector geek of doing this. I like seeing what's coming up, even if 99.9 per cent of it I'll never buy. However, when the listings came out earlier this week I found something I wanted. It was this.



Now this is the cover of a series called Wolverine: First Class, which is the, I kid you not, "children friendly" comic series featuring Wolverine and another of the X-Men, Kitty Pryde. I normally have little time for Wolverine comics and there is a ridiculous number of comics he either stars or co-stars in (by my rough count, at least eight) on a monthly basis. However, this issue has two things going for it. One, it's being written by Peter David, an author I like quite a bit. And secondly, I love that cover.

A good cover should catch your attention, give you an idea of what the issue is about and, ideally, make you want to buy the comic. I love this cover. It's the most fun cover of any comic I've seen this year. I want to buy the original art for this cover. Which isn't going to happen because it likely costs thousands of dollars which makes this exactly the kind of thing you don't buy when unemployment is looming at you.

But damn it, I love this thing. It makes me smile every time I look at it and I couldn't even begin to explain to you why. For the record, it's illustrated by Skottie Young, who is quickly becoming one of my favourites. Young is currently illustrating, of all things, an adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz for Marvel Comics (with Eric Shanower writing). If you've been looking at buying a comic book for your kid, I really recommend this. I've only been reading the previews online until the collection comes out, which will probably be early fall. The art is absolutely stunning. A couple of pages to give you an idea. Click on them for a more detailed view.







The first two pages are from issue #3 of the series. The last one is the cover to the last issue - #8 - which is coming out next month. So yeah, on my list of "kid friendly comic books" I'll put this one pretty near the top of the list.

Anyway, this has been a token comic book post. I do buy an awful lot of these things and occasionally I see something that gets me more excited than bashing whatever bit of silliness Premier Williams is engaged in. You'll just have to deal.

Last Five
1. Girl inform me - The Shins
2. Wild honey - U2
3. Last night on earth - U2
4. Joyful girl (live) - Ani DiFranco
5. Frankfurt, I'm sorry (live) - Spirit of the West*

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Sure, I'll be president

As a soon to be unemployed person (and there's apparently a few of us with job issues in Nunavut blogging circles these days), I would like to say if they offered me the job of President of Memorial University of Newfoundland, I could be persuaded to come back to the province to work. I think being president of the university means Cathy could handle working as a substitute teacher for awhile (she actually assures me after the kind of week she's had, she'll be happy to work at Chapters).

I think I would make a pretty good president of the university. I'm reasonably smart, I'd have no problem defending the university against outside agencies pressuring it, I'm alumni and I think I could take the university in the right direction after a few years where there have been some unfortunate wobbles in direction.

So if anyone wants to go and nominate me for the position, I'd certainly be willing to add that to the long list of job offers I've already received cough and give it due consideration. And, as a bonus, no more bugging me to vote for me when Board of Regents election season comes upon us again.

Last Five
1. Mirror in mom's room - Jenny Gear and the Whiskey Kittens
2. Time - Ben Folds
3. Reason to believe (live) - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
4. House where nobody lives (live) - Tom Waits*
5. Southern man - Neil Young

The new Guys?

The big news of the last 24 hours from Newfoundland isn't what I thought it would be. I really thought it was going to be the big Hibernia South announcement. Now, when I hear this kinds of announcements I normally wait for the analysis, because as previous history has shown, the initial spin isn't normally quite as grand as the government has announced.

But the real news is that Premier Danny Williams apparently lost his shit with Randy Simms on VOCM's Open Line show this morning. I mean, way off the deep end. As in "Holy fuck, did the premier forget to take his meds yesterday morning?" kind of deep end. VOCM gets it's fair share of crazies calling; it's one of the reasons why I could never listen to their open line shows. But if someone called sounding like the premier did who wasn't actually the premier, they would have cut him off. Or passed his phone number along to the Waterford and suggested a drop by.

But this isn't even about whether or not the premier is a genius, a madman or dangerously close to both (for the record, I don't disagree with the premier's point that if pulp and paper is dying and the fishery has remained on life support for nearly 20 years, you better milk what's working for you for all it's worth. Just try not to sound like a lunatic while doing it). This is my observation. A few hours after he lost it on air, Geoff Meeker had a transcript of the call up on his blog so everyone could read, along with an analysis. Ed Hollett took a bit longer, but he had two pieces.

So my question is, are Meeker and Hollett the two most important writers in Newfoundland right now? They provide superb, well-researched analysis. They're not afraid to speak truth to power. Meeker the past couple of days has been very good, what with his piece on Williams and just his complete evisceration of Joan Burke earlier the week.

Voices like this are desperately needed in times when elected opposition is weak. And the thing that sets Meeker and Hollett apart from two other important critics - Russell Wangersky and Craig Westcott - is that they can react almost immediately. Wangersky and Westcott wait until the next edition of their papers; Hollett and Meeker can react within moments. And it's not just reaction time. I appreciate sober second thought in writing. However, neither of them irrationally fly off the handle when they write. I also think Ed's writing is under appreciated and mocked too quickly because of his obvious political affiliations. Doesn't mean he's not a good writer. Doesn't mean his research isn't spot on. Doesn't mean he's wrong.

I'm not saying Hollett and Meeker are the gold standard for this kind of thing. That was still Ray Guy in his prime back in the 60s and 70s. But they're the best we have right now. Agree or disagree?

Last Five
1. With a little help from my friends - The Beatles
2. Closing time - Tom Waits*
3. I'm looking through you - The Beatles
4. Vintage clothes - Paul McCartney
5. Don't worry baby - The Novaks

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Who knew Twitter could actually be useful?

I've never really taken Twitter seriously. I suspect that's largely due to me not being the target audience. It was aimed at younger, mobile people. And, sadly, I'm neither of those. I like to consider myself reasonably technologically sophisticated, but I knew signing up for a twitter account would be useless. I can barely managed to keep my Facebook status updated on a regular basis. Finding 140 pithy characters several times a day wasn't going to happen.

Doesn't mean I don't enjoy parts of it. I have a couple of authors like Neil Gaiman and Warren Ellis who I follow on Twitter. But I honestly thought, especially when it exploded in popularity earlier this year, that it was going to be one of those fads that was going to curl up and die within the next two years. Myspace was hot shit a few years ago. Now, it's dying a low death.

However, it's been fascinating watching Twitter try to overthrow a country.

I'm sure there are any number of sites talking about what's happening in Iran. Lord knows it can be overwhelming. I've been using Andrew Sullivan's blog, which has been doing an excellent job of processing all the twitter feeds, emails and other information coming out of Iran. But essentially people are coordinating and passing word about what's happening via Twitter.

Even beyond Twitter, the whole cyber-warefare aspect of this "revolution" is interesting. Denial of Service attacks are being launched on websites both inside and outside of Iran. The government has been trying to shut down internet and cellular connections to try and disrupt things. People are finding away around. One side adapts; the other side counters. It's fascinating to watch.

Also fascinating, although in a much more depressing sense, is how badly CNN is being crucified during all of this. Once upon a time, CNN was the leader when it came to this kind of coverage. If they really were as silent as many are claiming when things blew up, well, that's pretty unforgivable.

I wonder how all of this is going to play out? I hope for the best in Iran, but fear the worst. The protesters have numbers and technology. The opposition has guns and no shame. That's not something that normally works out for the protesters, if Tienanmen Square (20 years ago this month) is any indication. I pray I'm wrong, but I suspect I'm not.

But I think the fall-out is going to go well beyond Iran. It's going to be interesting to see how people view new technologies like Twitter, the usefulness of mainstream media, politics and a whole host of things after all of this settles down.

Last Five
1. Remember you're a girl - Kaiser Chiefs
2. Mother - Tori Amos
3. Be right - Spirit of the West
4. Blossom - Ryan Adams
5. Red right hand - Nick Cage and the Bad Seeds*

Monday, June 15, 2009

White Stripes redux

One of the coolest, and most surreal, experiences we've had living in Iqaluit was when the White Stripes played here in 2007. We obviously don't get many big name acts playing here. You do get the occasional southern band or singer coming through town, but not many.

And I really do understand. I recall hearing bands complain about how expensive it is to play in Newfoundland, and the risks involved. It's easily an extra two days travel is you're going by bus and whatnot. Plus, it's not exactly unheard of for their to be ferry problems. If you're flying in, well, St. John's remains not the cheapest place on the planet to fly to.

But the risks coming here are much higher. If you have to fly in equipment, it's about $4 a kg. Plane tickets are around $1,500. And flights being cancelled for weather or mechanical are, again, not unusual.

So yeah, I really do understand why so many Canadian acts pass on coming here. Which is why it made it so much cooler that the White Stripes did play here. From all accounts, they probably lost money on that tour, but they went ahead and did it anyway. They even shot a music video here.

I liked the White Stripes before, but wasn't exactly a huge fan. They pretty much have a fan for life now.

So why mention something that happened two years ago. Because Jack White was in Toronto the weekend playing with yet another new band - Dead Weather - when he mentioned there was a DVD of the 2007 concert tour coming out. There's not a heck of a lot of information there, but it certainly seems to be focussing on the Canadian dates. Which means we might get to experience the highly improbable situation of seeing Iqaluit in a rock concert/documentary DVD. And a remote chance that I can be spotted among the 600 or so in the Arctic Winter Games Complex.

So yeah, we're buying that one. I always feel kind of cheated buying concert DVDs because I don't have the proper sound system to really apreciate it (out of consideration for my neighbours, who I'm sure would not appreciate me cranking it up). But we'll make an exception for this DVD.

No idea when it's coming out, but I suspect it will make a lovely Christmas gift, if it's out by then.

Last Five
1. Walking the dead - Sam Roberts
2. Shaking the tree (live) - Peter Gabriel*
3. Koko - Goldfrapp
4. Maybe you're right - Barenaked Ladies
5. See you when you're 40 - Dido

Sunday, June 14, 2009

No change in the weather

It's funny, but this year has just felt worse for weather. It seems like it's taken longer for the temperature to go above 0C, that it's been snowing later into June and that the ice in the bay and Sylvia Grinnell River has been lingering longer. If you had asked me to swear on a bible that these things are true, I would have, no problem.

But here's the thing....ever since we moved here I've gone out and taken pictures right around the same weekend in June. It's normally around June 10th, give or take a few days. So out of curiosity, I went and took a look at the pictures I shot those weekends in 2006, 2007, 2008 and this past weekend. And what have I concluded?

That I really need to shoot photos more often because the winter lay-off apparently destroys my photography skills.

But other than that, there doesn't really appear to be too much of a difference in the snow and ice conditions around the area over the past few years.

So, for example, here are some pictures from Sylvia Grinnell and the bay from 2006.





Some pictures from 2007.










From 2008.




And finally, ones taken this weekend.










Yes, there are a lot of photos here, but why not. Anyway, the difference are pretty minor. I suspect it has more to do that after a long winter, it always seems like the ice and snow is lingering long this time around than in previous years. The truth of it is, it doesn't look much worse than in previous years.

Last Five
1. The man who sold the world (live) - Nirvana*
2. Look for me (live) - Neko Case
3. Karma police - Radiohead
4. One great city - The Weakerthans
5. The electric version - The New Pornographers

Friday, June 12, 2009

Things I don't understand IV

Why anybody would think this is a good idea.

I don't pretend to be a rocket surgeon by any stretch of the imagination, but even 20 years ago, at 18, I knew withdrawal and rhythm methods were essentially playing Russian Roulette. Hell, even using condoms and birth control I managed to have a scare with my girlfriend at the time.

And since then, the volume of information about options has grown, even despite the efforts of some (seriously, Alberta, WTF?). I believe sex education is being taught in younger grades, which is good. The first time I encountered it was in a Grade 8 Health class and you could tell the teacher would have preferred to have been dragged out to the back of the school and shot in the head rather than be in the classroom. So better sex education is a good start.

Plus there's the internet for getting information. The birth control options are varied, what with condoms, pills, diaphragms, birth control shots, morning after pills (shouldn't be used as birth control, but at least it's available in case of accidents) and probably other things I'm missing off the top of my head.

Withdrawal was a stupid method of birth control back in the time when fire was a novelity. And I don't care how these scientists are trying to spin it, it's still a stupid method of birth control. Not to mention it does nothing to protect you from STDs.

Is it better than nothing? I honestly don't know. This is right down there with abstinence only education with me. People are going to have sex. Why not teach them how to do it right? Why not tell them that withdrawal is a really stupid thing to do?

Most have probably heard of the Ig Nobel Awards, given out for dubious science each year. I think I have a nominee for this year.

Oh, and one other thing. The story quotes a study that said some people didn't like using condoms because of the "difficulty in using them." If you can't figure out how to use a condom - remove from package, place at tip of penis, unroll until it covers penis. Then insert penis into vagina - then you're far too stupid to be having sex to begin with.

Yeah, I'm not getting this study at all.

Last Five
1. Say you will - Fleetwood Mac
2. Automatic - Weezer
3. Becky, I keep singing - Hey Rosetta!
4. Someday baby - Bob Dylan*
5. Wings of a dove - Madness

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Oh god, not the 80s

There was a moment during our recent trip to Ottawa that I forgot to mention. It was one of our last days in town and we were heading out for supper. As we were driving we came up to a corner where we saw four or five women getting ready to head out on the town....somewhere. They were wearing enough hairspray that the government should have cited them for damaging the environment, bangles and I'm pretty sure there was a hint of neon in there somewhere.

But the kicker was they were wearing skirts and shorts with what could only described as thigh high socks. Something like these, apparently.

Now, I wanted to slow down and properly appreciate this spectacle. Because we live in a fashion null zone in Iqaluit. I was at a meeting recently where a woman excitedly asked another where she bought the very pretty rubber boots she was wearing. I think that might well fall under a "You know you're living in Iqaluit when...." (Zappos, in case you were wondering because I know there are women who read this who care about such things.)

Anyway, I wanted to slow down and observe in much the same way you want to slow down and appreciate a really good car wreck where you no nobody has been hurt. Cathy, on the other hand, sank her fingernails in the my leg and screamed, "for the love of God, drive faster." For the rest of the evening, whenever I tried to bring it up, she just shook her head and said "Nope. Didn't happen. Didn't see it."

Why mention this? Because I understand there's something of an 80s revival happening these days. Granted, I've been mostly oblivious to it up here. Cathy's seen hints of the fashion at school, hence the mental scarring. I've heard the truly awful remake of "Africa" kicking around (but kind of like the remake of "Major Tom", so....) However, up until today I don't think I could appreciate the full level of awful about to be unleashed on us.

It was this story that broke me. There are remakes/sequels in the works for Total Recall (which was bad the first time around), Wall Street (could be all right), Valley Girl (are you fucking kidding me?) and Clash of the Titans (Dear sweet merciful lord).

By the way, Liam Neelson is apparently starring in Titans. He's also rumoured to be starring as John "Hannibal" Smith in an href="http://jam.canoe.ca/Movies/2009/06/09/9735826-wenn-story.html"A-Team remake. Feel free to make a "I pity the fool who has to play B.A. Baracus" joke right here.

I'm also wondering, in all seriousness, if Neelson isn't suffering from some kind of post-traumatic stress after the tragic loss of his wife earlier this year. Because between Titans and the A-Team, I think it's time for his family to stage an intervention.

This is all a long-winded way of saying the 80s are back in full force, that I lived through them the first time and they didn't seem like all that great of an idea back then, and we should all fear for our lives. Or at least move north, where perhaps the worst of the pandemic will pass us by.

But I swear to God, if they try to do a remake of Real Genius, I might have come down there and start slapping people around. I'm just warning you in advance.

Last Five
1. Ugly stories - John Rouse
2. Everlong - Foo Fighters
3. Feet in the clouds - Paul McCartney
4. I'll follow the sun - The Beatles
5. Cautious man - Bruce Springsteen*

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Now hiring

I don't exactly have the Ten Commandments of this blog, but I do have at least Three Commandments. They would be

1. Thou shalt not invoke the name of thy wife in thy blog post unless she giveth her permission first.
2. Thou shalt, whenever possible, walk away from the computer and think before hitting "publish post" on thy blog.
3. Thou shalt not talk about work.

So here I am breaking one of these, just a little bit. And it's the third one.

I suspect a lot of people who read this blog know what it is I do. They're family, friends or just people in town who sussed out who I am and what I do. And that's fine. But I've never talked about it here and I've given extensive reasons in the past why I do not do that.

But perhaps the one aspect most people were not aware of is that I was never hired on a permanent basis. It was always a contract and as of next month, that contract is up and so is my time with my current employer.

Which is fine, I think. Time to move onwards and upwards. We won't be leaving Iqaluit. We like it here and Cathy's position is full-time, permanent and pays well, three things that are certainly hard to find when you want to teach down south.

So what I'm doing now is looking for work. I'm reaching to friends and colleagues here in Iqaluit to see if they know of anything, but I would also be remiss if I didn't use one of the biggest tools at my disposal, my blog.

So if any of my Iqaluit based readers know of someone looking to fill a position where a former reporter/editor/photographer who also happens to have government communications experience might fit in nicely, then by all means drop me a line. I'm thinking communications or policy, but I'm open to other suggestions as well.

Between current commitments and the Australia trip, I won't really be available until mid-August, but it never hurts to get the word out early.

And if nothing else, and I end up with some extra time on my hands at the end of the summer, it'll give me the extra time to finish that book I keep talking about.

So no need to worry. I'm not. We're fine financially and I'm sure it'll all work out in the end...

Last Five
1. Guided by wire - Neko Case
2. Soul - Ian Foster Band
3. Thomas and Nancy - Figgy Duff
4. Hello, my trecherous friends - OK Go
5. Run (live) - Snow Patrol*

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The worst PR person in the world

You know, I defended Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt last week because I really didn't think the racket over leaving a binder at a TV station was her fault. Because, I argued, that's not the Minister's responsibility. It's the responsibility of the aide in charge of knowing where that thing is every waking second of the day. Even while asleep, the aide should be have sporadic dreams wondering where that binder is.

Although I did say that since the Minister hired her there were legitimate questions to be asked about how competent she was to hold that position. And if she wasn't qualified, then you could certainly roast Raitt on that all day long.

Now it turns out that Raitt may have hired the worst PR person in recent history. I mean, I never went to Flack School, but I'm pretty sure the first thing they teach you in PR 101 is to not inflict catastrophic harm on your client/boss/minister. And Jasmine MacDonnell has been a rolling disaster for the minister the last week or so.

Forgetting a binder at a TV outlet and not even notice it's missing for a week is bad. Leaving a digital recorder in the hands of a newspaper reporter for months and not collecting even after they repeatedly told you they had it is insane. I'm actually astonished at the Chronicle Herald's restraint in not listening to that thing sooner and using what was on it.

Then MacDonnell launched a lawsuit to suppress the story...wow. I mean that, wow. It's an idea so breathtakingly stupid you need to step back and savor that one for a minute. I really don't think that idea came from Harper or the Conservatives. They would, I hope, know how awful that would look and how infuriated the press would get. You would think a trained PR professional would have a pretty good idea as well. They're going to use MacDonnell for years in public relations schools as an example of what not to do. Text books will have chapters about her.

Although, amusingly, I note that people on some message boards are accusing MacDonnell of being a Liberal plant out to deliberately sabatage her boss because her dad is reportedly a major fundraiser for the Liberals. Good luck selling that one, kids...

As for Raitt, well, believe it or not, I'm still willing to defend her to an extent. She made those comments in what she thought was a private conversation. And if you think that cabinet minister would never make disparaging comments about a colleague or view a crisis as a political opportunity, then you're crazy. It's embarrassing that it's on tape and out there for public consumption, but she's not exactly unique in her world view and attitude.

No, I'd be inclined to fire her at this point because Raitt had the judgement to hire the worst communications director in the world! She hired someone who managed to make her look like an idiot and then made things exponentially worse within a matter of days.

So no, I'd fire Raitt. Because she hired, and put into a prominent position, a person who lost briefing binders, accidentally taped incriminating conversations, lost the recorder and didn't go and get it and then launched a ridiculous lawsuit which exploded the whole thing like a small A-bomb. I honestly don't want to find out what other rocket scientists she's hired or what kind of judgement she brings to a relatively major file like Natural Resources.

I think now might be a good time to reoffer that resignation, Lisa.

Last Five
1. This life - Bruce Springsteen
2. Magnificent - U2
3. In state - Kathleen Edwards*
4. Revolution - The Beatles
5. Radio free Europe - REM

Monday, June 08, 2009

Ultra package

So the other day I was over on Jim's blog where we were doing a little bit of complaining about how much we hate Northwestel's awful internet service. To live up north means to have to deal with certain quirks and inconveniences. If you can't handle them, then you won't last. But as Jim pointed out in his comments section, the demands on NWTel's internet services have gone up considerably in recent years, but they had apparently done little to improve their level of service.

So a funny thing happened when I went to get my mail today. There was a letter there from NWTel letting me know about changes in my internet service. Granted, it's hard to compare the old service to the new one as the old description is delightfully vague. However, we new have new options, even though they're not up on the site yet. Which says something about your internet provider, I think, but anyway.

So what's the new options for Iqaluit users?

High Speed Iqaluit Lite gets you download speed of up to 512 kbps, upload speed of up to 128 kbps, 2 email addresses (who uses these email addresses anyway?) and a 2GB usage cap. That's $70

High Speed Iqaluit Classic gives you download speed of up to 768 kbps, upload speed of 256 kbps, 2 e-mail addresses and a 5GB usage cap. This is what I currently use, in theory, although I have doubts about the speeds. Oh, but there is one change, the cap has been reduced. It used to be 10GB, but they cut it in half. Nice of them. Unless I say anything, this is what I'll have as of July 1.

High Speed Iqaluit Ultra gets you a whopping 1.5 mbps of download speed, 384 kbps upload speed, 5 useless email addresses and a 10GM cap. Note: although I mention the cost a bit further down, I didn't make clear here how much this option costs. It's $100/month.

Oh, and if you go over the cap, it's $20 for every GB.

It's interesting because I'm wondering if there's been an upgrade of satellite service for Iqaluit. Last week Iqaluit Cable (it's cable, but the signal still comes in via satellite) announced they were switching to digital service and offering up a bunch of new channels. I won't bore people with all the details, but it's about 100 more channels and you can easily spend $150/month if you were to buy the complete package.

So between that and NWTel offering up higher speed internet, for a price of course, they must have found some extra bandwidth somewhere.

I imagine we'll get the Ultra when we come back from Australia. Not much sense spending the extra money when we'll be in Australia. The speed will be nice, but really, the notion of me getting by on a 5GB cap is ludicrous. I'll blow through that in no time at all.

Still, $100/month for internet. And we'll probably be close to $100/month for cable. They do make you pay dearly for your entertainment/information vices up here.

Last Five
1. Backstreets (live) - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
2. Slow motion - David Gray*
3. Kreuzberg - Bloc Party
4. Something/Blue jay way - The Beatles
5. Jet stream - Brendan Benson

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Destruction season

You know, with two weeks until summer, you would hope that the snow might stop falling soon. However, today was not that day, as we had flurries all morning. None of it stuck, of course. Most of it seemed to turn into mist almost as soon as it hit the ground. Still, the sight of snow falling and the bay still frozen can make you a touch depressed after a bit. And 24 hours of daylight can only cheer you up so much when faced with that.

It's also a different kind of season here in town. You've heard of construction season? Well, this is destruction season. We're starting to see bits and pieces of construction around town. There are workers doing stuff on the new RCMP headquarters on Federal Road, a few people on the new Komatiq Building and people working housing units. But this is kind of bits and pieces stuff. These buildings are mostly up already and I assume work stopped on them when it got too cold or when they running low and supplies. With the first sea lift boat arrive, theoretically, in one month's time, I guess they can get going again.

No destruction season is when the start tearing down stuff to make room for the new stuff they're going to build. So far, at least in my neck of the woods, it's been mostly old houses. I stand to be corrected on this, but I'm pretty sure most of the houses are old social housing accommodations. They're decades old and in pretty crap shape. I've never been inside of one, but if the outsides are any indication, I imagine the insides aren't holding out the best. I can't imagine they're holding heat all that well during the middle of winter, let's put it that way.

So down they go. No idea where the occupants will be staying for the next 12 to 18 months until the new units are built, but they're gone. And the houses around our apartment are disappearing pretty quick. Several across from the library disappeared in a day and ones next to the NorthWest Tel building vanished during the course of the week. I thought they were being torn down, but they appear to have been put on the back of trailers and carted away. No idea where, but all that remains is a small pile of rubbish to be cleaned up at some point.

It's interesting watch, but with so much construction happening nearby, I fear this isn't going to be a quiet summer. Yes, we'll be gone for a month, but we'll still be here lots. And with all the hammer and drills and dust, well, I might be ready for another vacation come the end of August.

The transformation of Iqaluit is kind of surreal to watch. We've been here barely four years and in that time we've seen the Anglican church burn down, the Nova Inn be built, the Komatiq restaurant torn down and a new office building put in that spot to replace it. Oh, and most of the plateau subdivision go up, which means dozens of new houses that weren't there until recently.

I've spoken to a few people who come back here after being away for a decade or so and they're always shell shocked. As for people who have been around for a few decades, well, I imagine it's deeply weird watching their home change so much.

Who knows what the place will look like in five years time.

Last Five
1. Three sunrises - U2
2. I'm your villain - Franz Ferdinand
3. The trick is to keep breathing - Garbage*
4. 1962 - Ron Hynes
5. Retirement - Kaiser Chiefs

Friday, June 05, 2009

Suspension of disbelief

So, two things...

First, and intriguing new blog in the Nunavut blogsphere that I only noticed last night even though it's been running for several weeks - Advocatus diaboli. What makes it intriguing is that it's written by Nunatsiaq News editor Jim Bell. Jim has the potential to bring a take on journalism that surpasses even what Megan talks about, a much needed perspective on Nunavut politics that is absent from most blog writing done here and certainly the potential to give an interesting perspective on how Iqaluit has changed.

I've only been here four years and the changes are occasionally shocking to me. Jim's been here more than 20 years, so I'm willing to bet that if Jim doesn't know where the bodies are buried, he at least knows where the ghosts hang out. I look forward to this in particular. I've heard stories about the old Iqaluit from 20 years or so ago. About what The Snack used to be like. About the guy who used to run a business in town that was a front for other, more illicit activity. And one day people had enough, so they went into his store, grabbed him, dragged him out to the airport, stuck a plane ticket in his jacket and shoved him onto the plane with the warning that if he came back, he wouldn't be flying back out in the passenger cabin.

Stuff like that I think people would find interesting. Of course, the challenge for Jim will be to keep up with the blog writing when the demands of the writing that pays the bulls takes hold. But I hope he sticks with it, and I hope he brings an interesting new voice to our online community.

Secondly, Cathy and I saw Angels & Demons last night which, if nothings else, we'll end up buying as a really pretty and well-shot souvenir of our trip to Rome last year. We were constantly nudging each other throughout the movie whispering "we were there!" Or we were in that computer generated facsimile that was up on the screen, as I have my sincere doubts the Vatican allowed filmmakers to shoot in the Sistine Chapel when I wasn't even allowed to use my Pentax SLR in there.

The movie is fine, harmless fluff. The only thing preventing it from being laughed out of the theatre is the anchor presence of Tom Hanks who is playing, as best I can figure, Tom Hanks. Apparently Tom's serious acting days are done. It's not unlike Taken from earlier this year. The material is silly enough to get laughed out of the theatre, but you do have Liam Neelson running around, being scary and kicking ass. If you don't have an actor of that calibre anchoring these pieces of fluff, they just blow away in the wind.

However, Angels & Demons was also a useful reminder of the fickleness of "Willing Suspension of Disbelief." To give an example, in last year's Iron Man the audience was willing to accept that Tony Stark could have a powerful electro-magnetic power source that he built from scraps, implanted it in his chest in a cave in Afghanistan, then build a suit of armor, kill terrorists, come back to American, build a better suit of armor and then fight a giant robot. No problem. People are riding that fun horse for as long as she wants to keep going.

The instant Pepper Potts has to run anywhere in those five inch stilettos, people started to laugh and question the realism of it.

Like I said, willing suspension of disbelief is a fickle beast.

So in Angels & Demons I'm willing to accept a Vatican conspiracy involving a resurgent Illuminati. I'm willing to believe in the creation of anti-matter which is stolen and is being used as a potential bomb to wipe out the Vatican and half of Rome. I'll even take weird symbols being planted all over the place point to the next clue. Sure, all right.

But the moment you tell me you can get from one end of Rome to the other in 10 minutes, you lost me. I'm laughing at you, not with you, right there.

Perhaps you have had to visit Rome to actually appreciate that fact, and that's what the film makers are counting on. But trust me when I say you can't get from one end of the block to the other in Rome in less than 10 minutes, I'm not exaggerating by much.

All of the running around the Vatican doesn't make much sense either. I'm not really believing you can get from one place to another in the Vatican in five minutes. There are some floors I'm willing to bet you can't get off of in five minutes.

When we were at the Vatican, we were trying to find the museum, but took a wrong turn. So we ended up on one side of the Vatican, the museum was at the furthest point away on the other. We had 10 minutes to get there or we would miss our tour and be out a considerable amount of money. We did it....barely. We were hot, tired, sweating profusely and our feet were killing us.

Everybody in the movie is a fresh as a daisy after all that running.

So maybe others didn't have a problem with that aspect of the movie. But for us, well, our eyes were rolling just a bit. The whole time clock thing might add to the suspense of the movie, but trying to get the audience to believe that the characters can do the things they do in that time frame might do more harm than good to the movie.

Last Five
1. Stadium love - Metric*
2. Oh my God, whatever, etc - Ryan Adams
3. Long time comin' - Bruce Springsteen
4. Silent all these years - Tori Amos
5. Here comes a regular - The Replacements