Monday, November 29, 2010

The successor

Depending on what side of the political spectrum you fell on Danny Williams was either a strong and forceful leader or a power mad dictator. The truth, as in most things, probably lies somewhere in-between.

However, there is one thing for sure, there is a pretty massive power vacuum in his absence. Because Williams tolerated little in the dissent in his caucus, and those who did quickly found themselves in exile (see Fabian Manning and Elizabeth Marshall). So there isn't the usual cadre of strong and hungry cabinet ministers waiting in the wings. And thanks to his successful ABC campaign in the last federal election there are no federal MPs to swoop back and take over, like Brian Tobin did back in '96.

If you had asked me before Williams resigned I would have thought Health Minister Jerome Kennedy would be a lock. However, if you really want to screw up a person's political future, making them Health Minister isn't a bad way to start (see Ross Wiseman). I don't have my finger on the pulse of Newfoundland politics like I once used to, but it's my understanding he's not the most popular person in the world right now, and the situation with the doctors is not helping any.

Also, and I believe Dave Cochrane of CBC got this quote from him, where he's not sure if wants to be that guy who follows the guy. So at least he's got the common sense to know that he has nearly impossible shoes to fill, at least as far as the general public of Newfoundland is concerned.

Soon to be Acting Premier Kathy Dunderdale has been mentioned, but she's never really stuck me as a particular heavyweight. Finance Minister Tom Marshall's name has been tossed around, but he doesn't seem particularly enthused about the job or the prospects of filling Danny's shoes.

Manning or Elizabeth Marshall could always come back from the Senate, I suppose, but that's giving up a pretty cushy job to dive back into the bloodbath of Newfoundland and Labrador politics. Pity, I always thought Elizabeth would have made a particularly intelligent premier.

I suspect a dynamic something like this is shaping up something like this - the ones actually smart enough to do the job realize that following Danny Williams into the premier's chair is almost a no-win situation so they're thinking long and hard about it. Sure you get to be premier, but you're never going to match up to the Big Man, and people are always going to remind you of that.

Those not smart enough to curb their ambitions are biding their time to see if they might be able sneak in there some how.

To be blunt, it is a spectacularly uninspiring caucus, filled with political opportunists who are Tories in the same way that many of Brian Tobin's caucus were Liberals. They have no real strong political or ideological beliefs beyond getting elected. They follow whatever cult of personality who happens to be the strongest at the time. Political colours don't really matter that much.

Someone will win, of course. If I had to be money it will probably be Kennedy, especially if Williams subtly lets it be known that he is his preferred successor. That'll seal the deal. And whoever it is will win the election next year, unless they run a campaign so spectacularly bad that goes down in the books.

2015 is the real fight. That's when we'll see which party has managed to land their next cult leader to guide the province. History says the Liberals are due. We'll see.

Last Five
1. Requiem for a dying song - Flogging Molly*
2. I'm so lonesome I could cry - Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies
3. Dead in the water - David Gray
4. Tokyo bicycle - Hawksley Workman
5. The electric co. - U2

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Williams post-mortem

So we've had a day or so to digest Premier Danny Williams resigning. I wanted to hold off a bit just to try and let the decision process. There was a lot of rush to judgment on Thursday and because of that I think there was a lot was a lot of odd reaction. The Globe and Mail cranked out an editorial less than two hours after Williams made his formal announcement. I know in this day and age of instant and constant media you have to react quickly, but my god that's a bit much.
(Danny Williams on the night former Premier Roger Grimes called the election in 2003)

Most of the commentary has a kind of "Greatest Hits" feel about it. "He did this and this and this that was good, he did that and that which was bad" and then a summing up paragraph of what kind of premier he was, depending on what side of the political spectrum the writer fell.

Mainland writers seem impressed with the changes he's made to Newfoundland, but they certainly haven't forgiven him for taking down the Canadian flag during his spat with Paul Martin. I was there the day he ordered that, in the Confederation Building media room. And then I rushed outside to get pictures of the flag being lowered. My small part in Canadian history.
(The removing of the Canadian flag on that very day)

The reaction in Newfoundland has, as expected, been one of massive morning filled with small bursts of joy. I'm surprised there weren't flags being flown at half mast and people weren't wearing armbands. I've had my problems with him as premier, no doubt about that. Despite the list of accomplishments people rattle off, I never thought he lived up to his potential. His government wasn't as open as I had hoped. He had a bit too much of a vicious streak, even for a provincial politician. There's a fine line between being an aggressive negotiator and a bully, and he crossed that line too often for my liking. He honestly could have been a much better premier.

But there is no denying this, he was beloved. Ed Hollett and others can argue about the accuracy of provincial polling, and they might have a point,but there have been few provincial politicians who have been this beloved for this long. Smallwood, perhaps, but he didn't exactly go out on a grace note, what with his desperate, clawing attempts at keeping power.
(Me and Danny, January 2005. Photo copyright Greg Locke)

This is a key thing to Williams. He didn't overstay his welcome. Very few premiers can say that. Lord knows Smallwood couldn't, nor could Peckford. Wells, managed to see the writing on the wall and get out while he could. I'm convinced if Williams had stayed for a third term it would have gotten ugly at some point. People would start grumbling and muttering about over staying his welcome.

Instead, people are actually upset about a politician quitting. That's a rare sight to see.

As for his legacy, that's honestly almost impossible to tell. History needs some time to work on these things. A few hours, a few days after leaving office is no time to judge legacy. On the surface it looks good, but we're going to need a few years to see how things sort themselves out. Will the Lower Churchill deal be a good one or bad? Will the years he spent fighting Ottawa, which boosted his popularity at home, prove damaging in the long run?
(Danny at a press scrum of some kind. You go to enough of these you get desperate for a different photo. This was my attempt.)

In terms of the low bar set by previous premier (Newfoundland has a long and unfortunate history of electing some real idiots to power), Williams would obvious have to be one of the best one's in the province's history, even as we wait to see how this all shakes out.

Next up....what's next?

Last Five
1. Rocket - Goldfrapp
2. Band on the run - Paul McCartney and Wings
3. A rainy night in Soho - The Pogues
4. Bear & the barbed wire - Mark Bragg
5. I'm gone - Lloyd Cole

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Danny Boy

I'll write more about Danny Williams resignation today after I get home from curling. But for right now, a musical tribute to send the Dear Leader off into his retirement.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Iqaluit on a rainy Wednesday

So let's see, an update on things.

1. If you're interested in the fate of Nunavut's curling teams at the Dominion Curling Club Championships in PEI this week, visit this site. You'll see a link there for CurlCast. Click on it and you can see updates of the scores and, with some luck you might catch their game on a webcam they have set up at one of the clubs.

A rough first day, but kind of expected when you're playing Ontario and Saskatchewan, although then men came painfully close to beating Saskatchewan. That one is going to haunt them for a bit, I think.

Oh, and I was fine about not being at the Dominion, even though we lost the championship game by a 1/10 of an inch. Totally fine. Said all the right things, about how it was good that other teams got the chance to experience this championship. That it would be hard to get the time off work. And I mean all of it.

Except today, I really wish I was there playing. Oh well.

2. The weather continues its deep weirdness up here. It went up to +4C today, which tied us with St. John's as the warmest place in Canada. People in Iqaluit have officially given up trying to figure out what the fuck is going on. We were 16 degrees above the seasonal high for this time of year. I'm close to wearing my curling shoes outside to deal with all the ice.

Another bonus, Vancouver is officially losing its mind because it was -7C there today. Yes, I know, karma is a bitch and in February when it's -40C here and +15C there, the tables will be turned and all that jazz. But for right now, I'm enjoying the hell out of it. Allow me to enjoy my shallowness. Vancouver, I mock your wussiness.

3. Iqaluit also has a mayor's race going on as the previous mayor stepped down a few weeks ago. Two of them - Al Hayward and Jim Little - are former town councillors. As town councillors are always complained about, I've been hearing the usual grumbles and complaints about them and what they did when they were on council last time. Then we have Madeleine Redfern, executive director of the Qikiqtani Truth Commission, who I've heard people complain is too serious, which has to be an "Only in Nunavut" complaint if ever there was one.

And then we have an odd one - former NTI president Paul Kaludjak. And by former, I mean, very recently former. As in, NTI is having a special election the same day as the Iqaluit byelection to replace him as they booted him out last month for abusing NTI's credit card to the tune of $50,000.

No one seems to think he has a chance. However, as I believe he's the only one of the four to speak Inuktitut, I wouldn't rule him out quite yet.

Kaludjak would be the strangest candidate, except there is also a byelection for a councillor and one of those - Ed DeVries - has been a candidate for the Marijuana Party, plus a guest of the penal system over illegally possessing some things he might have been espousing during his run in federal politics a few years ago.

So yes, weirdness. But it'll be something to liven up the Christmas season.

4. Completely un-Iqaluit related, but right now I'm reading Tom Rachman's "The Imperfectionists". Have you ever hated a book because it's that god damn good and you wish you had written it and, in fact, you kind of started something along those lines but it will never, ever be this good?

No? Well, it's probably just me. It's still a damn good book, though.

Last Five
1. What Sarah said - Death Cab For Cutie
2. Breaking the girl Red Hot Chilli Peppers
3. Here today (live) - Paul McCartney
4. Shine on, shine on, shine on - Joel Plaskett
5. California - Josh Ritter*

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Deathly Hallows

One of the several nice things about the new digital project at Astro Theatres is that we seem to be getting movies much faster than before. Getting a movie on its opening weekend was normally a once a year rarity. But it's happening a bit more frequently, including getting Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows this weekend.

So how is the next-to-last Potter film? I think it's as good as it can be. The last book was always a bit of a wobbly beast. The monster that scared J.K. Rowling the most was never Voldemort, but an editor. In a novel that had some of the most exciting passages in all of the books, it also had the most deathly boring passages of the series, with Harry, Ron and Hermonine wandering around lost in rural England.

All things considered, the movie does the best it can with the source material. There's some healthy purging of the unending scenes of the characters wandering around looking for horcruxes. It's visually stunning and practically oozing in atmosphere. And the little animation sequence explaining the Deathly Hallows is as clever a thing as we've seen in the movie series so far.

It's also worth mentioning that this is probably the best acted of the bunch. Child actors have a grim track record in entertainment. However Radcliffe, Watson and Grint turn in some of their best work in the movie. They're not the wobbly kids from The Philosopher Stone anymore. If nothing else, spending a decade working with some of the very best of British actors should give you a few tips. I'm not saying they're all going to have stellar post-Potter careers (you can't help but feel Grint is probably doomed), but they have the chance.

But of course there are problems. No matter how much purging you do, there's still an awful lot of wandering around lost. Comparisons have been made to Empire Strikes Back or Two Towers. The movie ends on not exactly a happy note and a cliff hanger of sorts. The one good thing is that unlike the other movies, where the wait was a year or more, at least you'll get to see how things wrap up in about seven months.

Also, and I mention this because I was talking to a friend about coming to see the movie with us last night. He said he hadn't seen the last two movies. I'm not sure this is the friendliest movie in the world to walk into without being pretty thoroughly aware of your Potter lore. The writer and director are assuming you're going to know a lot of things from the past movies. I admire the bravery, actually. To not have to waste five or 10 minutes recapping everything. But if you're coming to Potter cold, or have missed the last few movies, even if you've read the books, it could be a bit much to keep up with.

I like it well enough, although it's not my favourite of the Potter films (the Prisoner of Azkaban is mine) and judging by the Rotten Tomatoes rating, a lot of people feel the same way. At 79% positive, it's in the bottom third of the movies. It's fine and all, a nice place holder, but bring on the meat of part 2.

Last Five
1. Celebration - Kings of Leon
2. From a whisper to a scream - Allen Touissaint
3. Champions of nothing (live) - Matthew Good
4. Stop bringing me down - Ian Foster Band
5. The miracle of childbirth (comedy)* - Patton Oswalt

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Jordan's $1 billion couch

A couple of weeks ago Jordan did this post about his adventures in trying to shop with IKEA. Now, if he had asked anyone in town they would have told him immediately not to bother with IKEA. That they don't give you a quote when dealing with their website, you have to call them. And then they invariably give you some absolutely horrific shipping quote. Simply put, IKEA does not want to do business with people in the arctic. There are plenty of companies who do, but IKEA is not one of them.

However, Jordan didn't know that, so he played the IKEA game. And thank god for it, because IKEA did something to their website so that when he requested a quote for a shipping cost for a sofa, he was told it would cost $1 billion.

No matter what you punched into the website, a new kitchen set or a single lightbulb, the shipping cost was $1 billion.

Now, as a Please Fuck Off and Die type of thing, it was remarkably ballsy and funny for a major company like IKEA to do. When Jordan told me about it, I knew immediately that reporters were going to pick up on the story. If they're going to do a story about a $300 turkey, how the hell can you pass up a $1 billion shipping charge?

And, sure enough, APTN picked up the story. You can see it here. Cathy and I roared, not just because the shipping story is funny (kudos to Wayne for the bit at the airport), but just because Jordan should have his own talk show or something. The cocky little wink to his girlfriend in the story...priceless.

IKEA has already written back and said it was a mistake, they're sorry, that of course the shipping isn't $1 billion. It is, instead, the still quite insane $5,000. I think they should have just stuck with the $1 billion.

I suspect this story is about to go viral. It's hard to predict these things, but Jordan mentioned the Toronto Star is interested in the story, so once they do that and it hits the Canadian Press wire, we're off to the race. That story is going to go to about 50 different countries.

I'd hold out, Jordan. IKEA might just ship you the couch for free to try and curb some of the bad publicity.

Last Five
1. Right here, right now - Fatboy Slim
2. Lucid dreams - Franz Ferdinand
3. Let's dance - David Bowie
4. I'm alright - Kenny Loggins
5. Runnin' out of fools - Neko Case*

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Beatles and iTunes, in perspective

I don't think I've ever pulled a comment from a previous post and displayed in on the front page, but this one was simply too interesting to pass up. It's from, I assume, Bob Hallett with Great Big Sea. Bob's been reading the blog for awhile and pops up from time to time with insights and occasional corrections into my thoughts on music. I found this one, on why the Beatles finally released their catalogue to iTunes yesterday particularly interesting.

The Beatles thing could also be seen as an admission of label failure; keep in mind that they have not avoided iTunes as some Luddite effort to avoid technology.

More, the Beatles' camp did not want to make the huge revenue sacrifice that iTunes forces upon artists and labels. Vis - a band like the Beatles would have made approximately $3.50 a CD. And consumers had to buy a CD to get a given song.

Now fans will just buy the songs; iTunes pays its artists in the neighbourhood of .07 cents a song. A desire on the part of a fan for a copy of a given song, say 'She Loves You', would have previously netted the band $3.50, as the consumer was forced to buy a CD. Now they will make a nickel.

This move is actually a recognition on the band and label's part that everyone who would possibly buy a Beatles' album already has, and that the only sales left are of the shitty low revenue iTunes variety.

That's one of the most intelligent insights into the issue I've read over the past few days. Most have been snarky and making fun of Apple and the Beatles for the tardiness of the announcement. I did too, and if I had been more awake last night, I would have seen the very obviously flaw in the argument.

That flaw? Rock Band: The Beatles.

If they were Luddites who didn't trust the technology, they never would have gotten involved with a project like that. And they got involved relatively early as those games don't exactly take a few weeks to create. Instead, they produced what some would argue is the pinnacle of the Rock Band/Guitar Hero series of games. Those kind of games have apparently taken a big hit in popularity this year, and I wonder if it's not because A. They're over saturated and B. It doesn't get much more fun for many people than playing along with The Beatles. So they got in just in time.

Plus, they've always been pretty protective, and pretty smart, about how they use their catalogue. So if they finally thing they've milked the CDs for all they're worth, then I can see taking the plunge into iTunes.

Now, you can make the argument how much did they lose to torrent downloading over the past decade by not having their music online,, but I'm sure an accountant somewhere has done a cost analysis report on the pros and cons of keeping their music unavailable digitally. Especially since Beatles fans tend to be older and less likely to be using something like torrent.

Anyway, thanks for that, Bob. I appreciate the extra insight.

Last Five
1. Breakdown (live) - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers*
2. Happiness - Goldfrapp
3. Clubland - Elvis Costello
4. Line of best fit - Death Cab For Cutie
5. Happy home - Garbage

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Four for Tuesday

Cathy said to me this evening, "Well, at least you have plenty to write about on the blog." Which is true, but that doesn't mean I'm feeling particularly inspired to write for the blog. Still, a few highlights of the day.

1. Cathy managed to put Nunavut's emergency room to the test this evening by gashing her finger on a knife. It was a deep cut, but didn't require stitches. I kind of insisted she go to the hospital, just to be on the safe side as it was gushing and it hurt quite a bit. Turns out it looked worse than it was, which is good. What's bad is that we spent the better part of two hours at the hospital, which kind of annoyed her a bit. However, I'm of the sooner safe than sorry camp. And hey, at least her tetanus shot is now up to date.

2. I thought I was getting pretty close to past the point where my close friends were having kids, but apparently not. One managed to do a stealth pregnancy (it helps that she lives in Scotland) and I didn't find out until she was about eight months along. And I just found out another pair of friends are having a kid, although this one has a bit more lead time as she's not due until July.

And before anyone asks, still no plans for us. We have the dog. That's doing us just fine for right now.

3. I would be more excited about the Beatles catalogue finally being available on iTunes if I hadn't been already listening to their music on my iPod for the last six years. As someone online pointed out, it's kind of like making a big announcement that grandpa finally got a colour TV. I mean, welcome to the 21st century guys, however you're a little late to the party.

4. Received my last Chapters order before Christmas yesterday. During Christmas I normally get gift cards (parents and wife won't "enable" me by buying me graphic novels. Instead, they give me gift cards, which allow me to buy graphic novels. Your head should feel free to explode at any time). I'm currently burning through Greg Rucka's ominously titled "Queen and Country: The Last Run" at record speed. So far, there are only two problems - at 256 pages it's a little light (although it's packed to the brim) and secondly, it could be the last we see of Tara Chace, the lead character. This would make me sad, because she is awesome. That the BBC or someone else has not done a movie or TV show on Tara is criminal.

And that's it for now. More later.

Last Five
1. Wings (live) - Josh Ritter
2. Pressing lips - The Pursuit of Happiness*
3. All my loving - The Beatles
4. Jealous guy - Yossou N'Dour
5. Pickup truck - Kings of Leon

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Catching up

"Are you ever planning on blogging again?" my wife gently reminded me this afternoon, interrupting my carefully planned day of sloth. Which is a fair point. So let us recap some of the highlights of the past week, shall we?

1. Winter finally arrived, kinda sorta, to Iqaluit. There is snow on the ground and it appears it won't be going anywhere until June or so. Which is fine because mid-November is insanely late for snow to finally settle in. Plus, all the dust was getting tiring to deal with. We're still getting some above zero temperatures, and it actually rained for awhile on Friday. People around town have this "what the fuck is going on" look quite a bit.

The bay, of course, remains unfrozen and today we got a late arriving fuel tanker, which is quite possibly the latest I've seen a ship in Frobisher Bay. Perhaps a coast guard vessel or an ice breaker, but that would be about it. The latest I've seen the bay freeze up would be around the second week of December. We'll see what happens this year.

I don't want to be screaming "Climate Change!" all the time because the simple fact of the matter is we don't know if it is or not. It's certainly unusual weather. I've heard stories from long-time residents of Iqaluit of when the bay would be frozen solid by mid-October 25 years ago. So yeah, it feels like there is something going on, but I really don't want to be screaming that it's happening because I simply don't know. However, it does feel weird.

2. The odd thing about going bald is that I probably get my hair cut more now than when I had a full head of it. Back then if I wanted to go a couple of months without and just go shaggy, well, I could get away with it. But now, after about six weeks my hair starts to get deeply bushy on the side and remains sadly sparse on top. Since there are standing orders among my friends to shoot me if I ever try a comb over, it means going to the barber.

It's best not to think about the $25-30 I spend for a 15 minute trim.

Anyway, my regular barber, Scotty, has been AWOL for the last couple of months but I noticed he was back in the office. Seems he slipped and managed to break his shoulder and collarbone, which is bad given his profession. He was there and I decided to get my hair cut. It's been awhile, so I couldn't recall if the trimmer was set on a two or a three. I went with a two. Which Scotty did with great gusto. A pair of scissors did not touch my head once during the 10 minutes or so I was in there. I suspect the trimmer might be easier on his shoulder than dealing with the scissors.

Let's just call the look scalped and leave it at that shall we. On the upside, I likely won't need to get my hair cut again until the end of January.

3. Work continues to do its best to kill me, which I find oddly pleasing. There are rumours I may be a masochist, but what the hell, there are worse things to be.

Last Five
1. All my lovin' - Me First and Gimmie Gimmies
2. My father's ghost - Ron Hynes*
3. Diamonds and pearls - Prince
4. Working day - Ben Folds and Nick Hornsby
5. Momsong - The Be Good Tanyas

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Paper flood

Cathy's got her Christmas shopping done and I've made a reasonable dent into it so far. I know there are fanatics down south who brag about their Christmas shopping done by mid-October, but we're not quite that crazy. However, we do have to get a head start on it. Despite pleas to shop local, a fair amount of Christmas shopping is still done online. Although the Christmas craft fair is coming up the end of the month, so I suspect we'll grab something there.

The problem is, once your order from certain companies, they start selling you catalogues. Then they sell your mailing information and so a slow trickle of them start coming through. But after five years of living in Nunavut, we're now getting carpet bombed by catalogues. There is rarely a day that goes by without one showing up in our mailbox.

Which would be fine, for the most part. I don't mind the odd one. If for no other reason given the internet speeds we deal with up here it's faster to skim a National Geographic catalogue then trying to poke around their website. However, since September we've received at least three of them. They're not even close to be the worst offender though. LL Bean must have sent us at least 10 since September. And Hammacher Schlemmer has sent at least a half dozen over the same period of time.

There does come a point where you go, "dude, enough already." If we're getting this many, I can only imagine the sheer volume that must be flooding everyone at this point. I realize this is a common complaint, and it's not like we haven't been hit by them before, but wow, they're really coming on strong this year.

Although, curiously, the one catalogue we haven't received this year has been from IKEA. I wonder why that could be?

Last Five
1. The devil is in the details - Matthew Good*
2. It's catchin' on - Joel Plaskett Emergency
3. Everything I've got to - Amelia Curran
4. NARC - Interpol
5. Open arms - Hey Rosetta!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Curling wrap-up

So not dead, merely busy with curling. It was our first major bonspiel of the year and it proved to be a bit bigger than anticipated. Normally we pull in around 12 teams. However, for the first time in years we managed 16 teams for this bonspiel, which is the maximum amount we can handle. Plus there was the usual last minute weirdness that always goes on with these sorts of things.

But by all accounts it was one of the best bonspiels we've pulled off in years. You can read Jordan's account of it over here. While you can, of course. I understand it's blogger's policy to remove the blogs of the recently deceased and Jordan is a dead man walking for putting up those pics of me. Then again, Jordan is working for Canada Post these days, so between the Christmas rush and the usual calm and rational citizenry of Iqaluit during that time of the year, I suspect I'll just have to sit back and let matters run their natural course.

Anyway, a fun time was had by all. And not just by the teams that won (of which my team was one of them), but also by teams who won a game they never expected or even teams that lost all their games, but still had moments of glory. A shot made that they never expected, a couple of ends where they had a good team on the ropes and things were close.

Plus, a bar helped as well. And there were lots of prizes. Alas, I didn't win any of the big ones - the First Air plane tickets or the cargo gift certificates. Actually, most of those prizes went to newer members of the club, which was nice. One of the guys who won 75 kg of cargo was trying to figure out what to do with it when one of his buddies helpfully suggested "You can bring up beer." And suddenly all was right in the world.

So I'm glad it went well and people had a good time.

As for my weekend, a 4-1 record and winner of the C pool (everyone starts off in A, then depending on when you lose, you drop down to B, C or D). We won fairly easily on Friday night, lost on the last rock Saturday morning (should have won the game, but I missed my last two shots), had a scary game against a team of newbies until I figured out their weakness (they couldn't hit), had a another game get scary for a few ends against a skip who was making everything, but then thankfully cooled off and then won the C final against a good team who had a very bad game (also likely helping was that the skip was apparently quite drunk).

For my troubles, a $50 gift card from NorthMart. The rest of the team got gift cards as well. I also later won a door prize of a pair of curling socks. I've yet to determine how they are different than regular black socks, but I'm sure I'll figure it out.

I'm quite proud of the team, really. This is my regular Thursday night league team, but because of a few hiccups, both of our games at the start of the season have been cancelled. So this weekend was our first time curling together. We've clicked pretty quick and I have high hopes for the rest of the season.

So there you go, a curling post. Hope you didn't suffer too much. I'm sure I'll find something about Newfoundland politics to complain about soon enough.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Grumpy bastards

Is there a plague of grumpy bastardness spreading that no one has told me about? As friends of mine will tell you, I can be quite the grumpy bastard when the mood sets, which was actually most of my 20s (well, from 23-31 were the prime grumpy years), but this has been an impressive week so far.

At first I thought it was just Iqaluit, because it felt like every second person was not in a good mood. Granted, teachers just found out the government is offering them a 0% raise over four years along with other freezes and rollbacks. To say they are....unhappy would be an understatement. Haven't met too many happy teachers this week (haven't met too many borderline homicidal teachers this week, to be honest). And that kind of grumpy bomb tossed into a small pool is going to cause some big waves that affect everyone.

So I thought maybe it was that, coupled with being busy at work, plus being stressed out about getting the curling club season off to a smooth start (mixed success on that front) that was causing the grumpiness. Curling actually manage to piss me off so much this morning that I snapped at Cathy for no good reason. I bought her Hawaiian pizza for lunch, along with an apology. So I'm back in her good books. For now.

But it's more than that, I think. I read two separate articles this week about an apparent growing wave of incivility in Canada. I don't have the links handy, but one was about the increasing level of hostility in Newfoundland politics. Now, I think there's a certain amount of blinders going on there as Newfoundland politics have never been particularly polite, but the last few years, with "traitor" being bandied about in certain realms for when you disagree with the premier, then yes, it does seem to be getting a bit nastier.

Another article wondered if the rest of Canada was becoming collectively meaner, with the notion that Rob Ford's election in Toronto was a sign of that. Plus the apparently harsher than normal words out of Ottawa.

Then there's the US, which is crawling out of a particularly nasty election cycle with several clearly deeply crazy people being elected.

So what is it, I wonder? Economic recession blues? Winter? Elections? Christmas? Lunar cycle? Something in the water? Or am I imagining things and people are as grumpy, or as kind, as they've always been.

Last Five
1. Like yesterday - Ryan Adams and the Cardinals
2. A lesson in geography - Ian Foster
3. We've never met - Neko Case*
4. Something - The Beatles
5. Fast car - Tracy Chapman

Monday, November 01, 2010

Taking a joke

There might only be three episodes and no hope for new ones any time soon, but I'm a big fan of the BBC show Sherlock. Well acted, cleverly written and a wonderful example of how you can update old material but not lose the soul and respect of the original source.

I'm writing about Sherlock this evening because there's a line from the pilot that's been rattling around in my head all day. In it Watson turns to a detective with Scotland Yard and asks why he keeps working with Sherlock Holmes, even though he is, by his own admission, a high functioning sociopath.

"Because Sherlock Holmes is a great man. And one day, with some luck, he might even be a good one."

I love that line. In some ways that's the theme of the whole show. Holmes is clearly a great man. A rare genius who sees the world in different ways than other human beings. But that doesn't always make him a good person. That's Watson job, in some ways, is to make Holmes a better man than what he is right now.

The reason that was going through my mind today was the blog post by Geoff Meeker about Pamela Pardy Ghent being fired. Quoting from Meeker here, "Ghent is a founding member of the province’s Rural Secretariat, which was founded in 2004 to give rural communities a voice in the development of social and economic policy at the provincial level. She also sits on the secretariat’s provincial council."

On Facebook yesterday morning she made an off-colour joke regarding the size of the premier's penis. Facebook is not as private as some people think and lord knows there's enough past precedent for people getting in trouble with the things they've said or pictures they've put up. Also not working in her favour was having three "friends" who happened to be Conservative MHAs. One of them ratted her out and a few hours later she got a call from the Deputy Minister with the Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development letting her know her services were no longer required.

I find myself praying that Ghent had a dozen things leading up to this that had given the government cause for firing her. That she was incompetent or had done something truly awful over the past few months. That the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador didn't just have a volunteer on an undermanned board fired because she made a pretty lousy dick joke on Facebook one Sunday morning.

Yeah, it's Facebook and yeah you need to be careful (as a precaution, I'm de-friending Mount Pearl MHA Steve Kent this evening, just in case he rats me out for something), but seriously? That's the type of thing that, if you must, you drop a line to someone and go "do you really want to be making that kind of joke?" and then you go "ooops" and delete it. Because it's Facebook and I think you have to give some people a bit of leeway for the occasional thoughtless remark.

But firing someone. Really?

There may be more to this. I really hope there is. However, the government's slow response to the issue isn't giving me a lot of confidence. It feels very much like something that just blew up in their face when they thought it would be a matter dealt with quickly and quietly. If so, there was some spectacularly bad judgment at play. Right now it's a PR nightmare that's going national because Ghent isn't exactly shy telling her story to anyone who is willing to listen.

Danny Williams may well be a great premier. He may well be the best premier the province has ever had, although that's a pretty shallow pool of talent. But there are times I wonder how good a man he is if he's firing people for jokes on Facebook. Because I really would hope he, or any government cabinet minister, would have better things to do.

Last Five
1. Brandy Alexander - Ron Sexsmith*
2. Metaphor - The Pursuit of Happiness
3. Que' onda geuro - Beck
4. Hands of time - Ron Sexsmith
5. Hero - Regina Spektor