Sunday, January 29, 2012


One of the early Nunavut facts I learned was about ravens. I mean, I've read about ravens being smart, but until you see them in action you can't quite believe how clever they are. A gathering of ravens is called either an unkindness or a conspiracy. Both names work very well.

Let's give you an example. My neighbour across the street is dog-sitting for a friend. So this morning he has the dog tied on out front, a beautiful husky. And the neighbour put some food out for the dog. This, naturally has attracted some of the local ravens.

So as we can see here, the conspiracy is gathering around the dog, who is just sitting back and watching it all unfold.

Next, we have him wandering over to remind some of the ravens they shouldn't be quite so close to him and his food. By the way, the raven were essentially distracting him....

And now we have him chasing after some of the ravens who were making a play for his food while the ravens from the above photo were distracting him.

Sit, repeat.

I took these photos this morning around 11 am and as I write this around 1:30 pm it's still happening. Well, it's evolved. At one point I counted around 20 ravens, which was beginning to drive the dog mad. Even after the food was removed, the ravens still kept at him. There's only four over there now and the dog is curled up in a ball and is ignoring them.

I swear, right now it looks for all the world to be a game of raven chicken. To see which raven can get closest to the dog and not get eaten. They've done everything but land right on top of him.

You want to be careful about anthropomorphizing the behaviour of animals too much. For all I know, the dog and the ravens were play for the last couple of hours. Still, given how hard the dog is working to ignore them right now, it's hard not to view the ravens as dicks.

So there you go, your north lesson for today...

Last Five
1. Bull in a China shop - Barenaked Ladies
2. Susie - Wonderful Grand Band
3. Hunting for witches - Bloc Party*
4. My pet snakes - Jenny and Johnny
5. First love - Adele

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Review: Republic of Doyle, Season 3, episode 3

Well, we all knew going three for three was a bit of a longshot, didn't we?

It wasn't so much a bad episode...there were some good moments. However, it did have several strikes against it, which drops it solidly into the deeply mediocre category.

1. Oh look, the douchebag brother is back.
2. Oh look, the crazy ex-wife who I begged producers to get rid of after season 1 is back.
3. The reason for Tinny still being in town, assuming she's not lying again, is really stupid and awful.
4. The characters have to act beyond stupid to get to some of the funny bits.
5. Way too much going on in this episode. There was, what, four storylines going on at once. Yes, it leant a certain slapstick air to thing, but you could have dropped a storyline or two out of there and things would have worked just fine.

So basically, some clever bits, put together with a mishmash plot featuring the return of some unwanted characters. Not Doyle's finest hour.

I confess to missing the first few minutes due to being on the phone. However, the action pics up quickly after the intro, in which Jakes wakes up deeply hungover and surrounded by pink flamingoes. This leads him to show up at an antique store where he quickly sticks his nose in someone else's business because there is an attractive woman involved. Soon enough, we're off the races (and Jake is off through a plate glass window), trying to find a gold cigarette case and why everyone seems to want it. Including, of course, another murder. I would mock this, but they needed to murder someone this episode to make up for the lack of exploding cars.

In subplot #1, we have Rose being increasingly suspicious as to what Tinny was up to during her time over in Europe.

In subplot #2, we have Jake's ex contacting him to see what suspicious behaviour her new husband, the divorce lawyer, is involved in.

And in subplot #3, which ties into 1 and 2, we have Des being, well, Des. This include the hot med student unfathomably finding him interesting and Tinny being jealous.

Remember a few weeks ago when I said the writers weren't doing Tinny an favours during the first two seasons of the show? They really put the screws to her this episode. Aside from acting like a manipulative bitch most of the episode to both Des and Mal, we then get a piece of crap writing at the end explaining why she didn't leave for London at the end of last season and why she hid from everyone after they came back.

Seriously, it's so bad I almost hope she's lying again, so that the real reason is more interesting than the one given.

So yes, there's lots going on. Christian shows up and continues to be an annoying and uninteresting douchebag. Lesley is still deeply pissed off.

Don't get me wrong, I laughed at parts. And the whole scene involving the dead body, and trying to transport it to the police is funny in a marvelously slapstick kind of way. However, it all hangs on the massive contrivance that Jake, and especially Mal, would be so incredibly stupid as to move a body from a crime scene so that they could transport it to the police station. I mean, that's breath-taking when you think about it. You can only hope the writer is nodding and winking with this scene - "yeah, I know. But just go with it because it's fun" - because the alternative is that he thinks you're as dumb as a pile of rocks.

Even Jake trying to explain things to Lesley after the commercial break feels more like the writers trying to explain to the audience the staggeringly stupid thing they just finished watching. "Hey! It's just Jake being Jake!" Except Mal would have never done that, so it's just awful writing.

By the way, while I still find pissed off Lesley amusing and believable (Jake royally fucked up her life. The only unrealistic thing is that she's still talking to him at all), she really is the world's worst police detective. "She's no Brenda Lee, that's for sure" as Cathy said watching the show, referring to "The Closer".

Then the last two minutes veer into the deep end, with the ex looking like she's sticking around for awhile longer. And then the depressing news that Garrison Steele is returning next week. A character so unlikeable that I'm not sure I can bring myself to watch next week's episode unless someone promises me he's dies horrifically during the show.

sigh Let's just call this mediocre. I have to save some true loathing for next week. And I did laugh at chunks of the show. But clearly a step back from a pretty good start.

Quotes of the Week:

"He's fine, his head absorbed most of the fall." - Mal

"I'm Jake, and this is a senior citizen that I have in my care." - Jake

"I'm trying to prove a point here."
"That you're a dicksmack?" - Mal and Jake. The show's writers are really in love with the word "dicksmack" aren't they?

"I still can't find a Hall & Oates autograph. They're only the best selling duo of all time." - Dez. Ok, I laughed at that because I have a weakness for Hall & Oates.

"Jake, don't be so sookie. It only makes you look worse than you are." - Mal

"Jake, did you do this!?"
"Yes, b'ye. I'm always at that." - Lesley to Jake, after a body goes missing from the morgue. Try not to think too hard how two staggeringly inept criminals managed that feat. Or that they managed to drag it back to the bakery without anyone noticing. Or that no one seems to actually work at the bakery. Don't think of those things at all. The writers thank you.

"If you had anything to do with that, I'll hang you from Cabot Tower." Lesley, still having some anger management issues.

Last Five
1. Crying - TV on the Radio
2. Nobody does it better - Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies*
3. Complicated shadow - Elvis Costello
4. Merchants - Idlers
5. Sleep - The Dandy Warhols

Monday, January 23, 2012

Trying out the new camera

I've been meaning to get a few more photos up on the blog, but the extreme cold we've been having so far this year has kind of killed that idea. I don't like the idea of bring sensitive electronics outside when the temperature is below -30C, which is what we've been getting almost every days for three weeks. Hell, by the time you throw in windchill most days have been hovering around -45C, which doesn't make it easy to manipulate electronics outside. Go ahead, take your gloves off for a few minutes while trying to push buttons. See how they'll feel at the end of it.

It's also mildly annoying because I got a new camera over the holidays. Alas, the Pentax K10 I got several years ago and I never really meshed. My fault, really. I thought I wanted a camera with a bit of weight because I like the feel of it. The problem, of course, is that you then have to drag along a camera with a lot of weight. Also, most of the photos we take are on vacation, so dragging a heavy camera and a bunch of lenses is a real nuisance.

So I decided, to hell with it, did a bunch of research and went with a Luminix FZ150 - it's one of the mega-zoom models of digitals. I'm pretty happy with it so far. The weather in Iqaluit actually "warmed up" on Saturday to around -22C, so here are a few pictures I snapped. These were all taken around 1:30 to 2 pm, for those of you wondering about daylight.

A komatik at sunset...

A quick shot up the bay. I included this one because I also wanted to show off the lens. See the little tower on the island...

This is what it looks like when I up on the zoom. Not bad...

A rare sighting of the majestic snow beast of the Boo.

Been hard to take the little guy outside much this year, with the cold. So he enjoyed the chance to romp outside for about 15 minutes before it got too cold...

Last Five
1. Like a hurricane - Neil Young
2. Radioactive - Kings of Leon
3. Old enough - The Raconteurs
4. Closing time (live) - Leonard Cohen*
5. Within your reach - The Replacements

Saturday, January 21, 2012


Back in 2008 I went to the New York Comic Con and it was one of the great experiences in my life. It's not exactly a shock, but I've been a geek most of my life and I've had a love of comic books since I was seven years old. I'd always read about these magical comic book conventions, but seeing as how I was broke for most of the first 35 years of my life, going to one was never an option.

But in 2008, I got the chance and fell in love with it. I grew up feeling a little more than ashamed of the habit. There's nothing like cracking open a bag of comic books on the way home on the bus, enjoying an issue, and then hearing people laughing at you. I understand comics are a kind of cool thing now, but back in the 80s, not so much. So going to a place where there were tens of thousands of people as happy and eager as I was, well, it was a great experience.

I've been trying to get back ever since. Almost happened in 2010, but money was an issue. Was supposed to happen in 2011, but weirdness with my job situation killed that. I'm hopeful 2012 will be the magic year, but we'll see.

Anyway, one of the things that I got hooked on in 2008 was comic book art. I started a sketch book, but also decided it would be nice to have some art to hang on my wall. This can get to be an expensive habit, so I try to limit to myself to a budget. Because I was planning on buying something in New York, I didn't get anything all year. Then NY fell through, so I figured I wasn't getting anything at all.

Except things happened quickly. First, I fell in love with some of the artwork that Hanie was working on (her Tumblr and Deviantart pages). Hanie and a couple of artists got the clever idea of doing DC superheroines wearing comfortable winter clothing and sweaters, kind of as a rebuttal to some of the costumes the characters were wearing after DC's massive relaunch back in September.

It's, well, cute. But that's fine. I'm kind of going with that theme for the art on my wall. Cathy has to look at it, as well as guests. So I pitched her a few ideas for a commission, she fell in love with one of them and, a few weeks later, this arrived in the mail.

You have to be a fan of Neil Gaiman's Sandman to get it, but it makes me happy. And I'm not the only one, based on what the fine folks at Comics Alliance think as it made their feature Best Art Ever (This Week), which makes me happy.

Hanie, by the way, is phenomenally nice and has prints for sale in her Etsy store. I really think she's a comic artist to keep your eye out for. If you like her work, drop her a line or buy something.

This alone would have made me happy. But a few weeks after I contacted Hanie, I saw a tweet saying an artist whose work I've loved for years was taking some last minute commissions to make a few extra dollars right before Christmas. Ben Templesmith is probably better known for his horror work (30 Days of Night) or the detective series he's working on with Warren Ellis called Fell. His artwork is not, well, cute. But I love it, it was a rare opportunity and I knew the door was going to slam shut quickly because everyone was going to look for a commission given how popular he is.

So I contacted him, he had the time so I pitched him my idea. He liked it and this is now what's hanging on my wall.

Hellboy, in case you were wondering. And a mermaid. I thought a mermaid would be cute, although I did request no nudity with the mermaid. I think Ben did a wonderful job.

By the way, this is the current state of the wall in my office. It's coming along quite nicely, I think.

I know most of you don't get this, or understand why comic book art makes me so happy, but it does. It's a little piece of something I love hanging on my wall, that I can look at when I'm in the office/den. I look at all the pieces and know I have some original artwork, and a story to go along with it, and I smile. Hell, even Cathy likes it, and she's not the biggest comic book fan in the world.

Last Five
1. Square one - Tom Petty*
2. The battle for straight time - A.C. Newman
3. New favourite (live) - Allison Krauss and Union Station
4. Sing your heart out (live) - The Trews
5. Wayfaring stranger - Neko Case

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Review: Republic of Doyle, Season 3, episode 2

Well, the gang's all here for this one. Aside from the regular cast, Tinny make a reappearance, Doyle's ex-wife briefly shows up and Walter makes a much needed return.

Oh, and a brief Doyle ass shot. Man, the CBC censor must really be out of it. Although there was less swearing this week.

Cathy gave me some grief after reading last week's review, saying I laughed a lot at the episode and then seemed to give it a negative review. I thought it was mostly positive, just pointing out that as fun as it was, there was some pretty glaring plot problems.

Keeping that in mind, I went into this week's episode. And I'll say off the top, it was fun. There was probably plot problems, but the sign of a good episode is if you're too busy actually enjoying what's on the screen to not really have the time to go "hey, wait a minute, that makes no sense." And for one hour, Republic of Doyle managed to entertain me enough that I didn't really notice any.

So, in plot one, we have Jake and Mal back to being PIs (hence, the massive reset from the end of last week) doing repo work while Des watches out for them. Except while they're busy bickering, Des manages to get turned into street pizza by a car. Des is ok (well as ok as Des gets), but Jake and Mal, especially Mal, swear revenge. The problem being, after swearing revenge they managed to get sucked into a con man scheme involving what may or may not be a large sum of money.

In Plot 2, Martin Poole returns, looking for Rose's help. Well, more specifically, dragging Rose into the heap of trouble from his latest screw up while guest star Shannon Tweed shows up looking for money he's lost.

In Plot 3, Des manages to figure out that Tinny is back in town, and what's up with that?

I was joking last week that there's a bit of a comedown from special guest star Oscar winner Russell Crowe to Shannon Tweed, known for such movies as Body Chemistry 4 and Indecent Exposure 1, 2 and 3 (although, and this freaked me out, she's also starred in an episode of Murder She Wrote and, wrap your mind around this, voiced a character in SpongeBob Squarepants). But hey, she was fine enough as the gangster chick with the shotgun and a tendency to get whacked in the head. Certainly better than the doofus who was playing the world's stupidest con man...

One of my gripes about Doyle is about how badly handled the women characters are in the show. Not so in this episode. Rose was a lot of fun, showing quite the entertaining temper. Lesley is a lot more interesting this year as a bitter, pissed off and caustic harbinger of Doom. What, you think her predictions that Jake's actions are going to get someone hurt or killed are just idle ramblings? Although considering the cast around Jake have had heart attacks, been shot, regularly kidnapped, hit by cars, nearly blown up from exploding cars (car dealerships in St. John's must love ROD given that one blows up nearly every week) framed for murder raps and god knows what else, I'm not sure how more damage can happen from hanging out with him.

Anyway, Leslie is much more interesting and entertaining being pissed off at Jake than mooning over him.

And Tinny, well, Tinny obviously has a mysterious secret of some sort. And hell, I'm curious. Plus there's the romantic triangle between Des, Tinny and the hot med student...both of whom are completely out of his league. Then again, women on Twitter seem to adore Des, so perhaps rambly doofuses are the new sexy. What do I know.

So yes, a solid and entertaining episode. I would go so far to say Doyle is two for two this season. There was some talk from the cast that it's taken them a season or more to finally relax into the characters and the show. Perhaps the same can be said for the writers. The show is feeling more relaxed and comfortable this season. Not lazy, just like they finally might have broken in the shoes. Here's hoping...

Other Notes:
- Jake and Mal really do work together. The back and forth between them remain the highlight of the show. It must be hard to write in the other characters sometimes, given how well they work together.
- I beg you, more Walter, for the love of God.
- I will give Allan Hawco credit, that must be quite the workout he goes through. The glimpse of ass probably caused blood pressure rates for women (and 10% of men) around Newfoundland to go through the roof.
- Having said that, the scene with naked Jake handcuffed while the cops stood around and laughed at him was pretty funny.

Quotes of the Week:
"It's not my fault you've got your grandmother's arms." - Mal to Jake

"For the record, although I wasn't there, I'm guessing it was Jake's fault." - Jake's ex-wife

"Untie me right now so I can frickin' kill you!" - Rose

"Please utilize any part of my body you find useful." - Smooth talking Des to the hot med student

"I'm a private detective. Danger and intrigue follow me everywhere." - Des

"What's wrong with you?"
"I got hit by a car and I'm on drugs." - Mal and Des

"There's something a lot bigger than that going on."
(Glancing down at a naked and hadcuffed Jake) "Not from where I'm standing." - Jake and Lesley

"Malachy, I know he's your son and all, but seriously, get out while you can." - Lesley

"No wonder you haven't got any friends, you've killed them all." - Lesley

Last Five
1. Real love - David Gray
2. Cloudbursting - Kate Bush*
3. Thousand telephones - Ian Foster Band
4. Family man - Hall & Oates
5. Locked out (live) - Crowded House

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Huh, so....42.

I've never tended to make a big deal over my birthday or the significance of numbers. I've had friends freak over 30. I've read articles about guys being upset when they turned 33 because that's how old Jesus was when he died, and what have they accomplished in their lives (dudes, he was the son of God. Perspective) and, of course, 40 is the one where everyone gangs up on you.

I kind of like the idea of 42, in a purely Douglas Adams sort of way. It is, after all, the meaning of life, the universe and everything. I like the idea that maybe, just maybe, at 42 you've gained enough wisdom (although maybe not the meaning of life) to have a better idea of where you are, and still young enough to enjoy it. I like that thought.

As for the year that was 41, well, another one filled with little twists and turns. I manged four trips this year, which was nice. One to Florida, one to Ottawa for a course, one a combination of Ottawa for our sealift and then to Costa Rica for 10 days. And then a trip back to St. John's to visit family and friends.

That's a good year there, I think. It's not so much a "Oh Christ I need to get out of Iqaluit" so much as that I appreciate travelling and seeing places not home more. For years I could never afford to travel while I watched friends go all over the world. Now I have that opportunity and I enjoy it. Age 42 is showing equal promise for trips. Four are planned, but we'll see. Plans are weird things.

Four was a number that had significance in other ways during the past year. It was also the number of jobs I had.

Seriously. And I managed to have them all in a period of about two months.

I'd also like to mention that the turmoil on the job front had nothing really to do with the quality of my work. I was never fired or anything like that. Life just...happened.

As in the job I had most of last year, that I quite liked, was a contract gig. And then things got a little weird with them and they couldn't renew my contract, even though my immediate bosses were making it quite clear that not renewing my contract was a terribly bad idea. By the way, found that out after Cathy and I completed our biggest spending splurge of the year. As long time readers know, our spending habits tend to go with months of nothing, then followed by expenditures that would fry the brains of lesser people as we prepare to resupply for the winter. Oh, and after we bought a new car.

So yeah, no stress there.

Fortunately one of my co-workers gave me a head's up on some work, so I got a month's contract helping out for the local trade show. While that was going on, I got offered a job with Canada Post. Which was lovely grand. I once worked with the post office for a summer about 23 years ago, so I was looking forward to it. I called it a jobcation.

It's not that working with Canada Post is easy. It isn't. There's a lot of manual work and the amount of abuse staff take from customers is unreal. But most of time with the post office was working in back, so it was just the physical aspect I had to deal with. And after years of dealing with deadlines and lots of mental pressure, just going in every day and dealing with sorting mail and packages, it was relaxing.

Of course, it didn't last.

One week into that job and I get a phone call offering me another one. In-between the trade show and Canada Post I'd gone back to St. John's for a week because the parents were laying serious guilt about not seeing them. It had been nearly two years. But while there I had a chance to interview for a job in Iqaluit. By phone.

Believe it or not, this is not the first time I've been back in St. John's, on vacation, while interviewing for a job in Iqaluit.

Anyway, enough time had gone by that I figured without hearing anything that I figured there was no offer happening. Except a week in the post office job I get a call offering me the new position. Which is in my field, has great benefits and pays well. So onwards to Job #4.

I've been there two months, so here's hoping that's the last of the job drama for awhile.

Other than that, we've been doing well. We're content and life is...progressing. It wasn't a bad year, 41. Could have done with a little less job drama, but it's worked out well so far. And hey, I'm still healthy, Cathy is still healthy and things are well, for the most part, with family and friends. Things could be much worse.

Never got the novel finished thought. That's kind of frustrating. Oh well. Maybe that's what 42 is for...

Last Five
1. My city of ruins - Bruce Springsteen*
2. 99% of us is failure (live) - Matthew Good
3. Nutune - Drive
4. Don't get angry - Blue Rodeo
5. Sexy Sadie - The Beatles

Friday, January 13, 2012

Closing time

Since Cathy and I moved up here more than six years ago, we've had occasion to miss work through...interesting circumstances. Now, by interesting I don't mean, "we're sick and can't go", because that happens. No, I mean circumstances that seem to shut down chunks of the city. Sometimes all of it.

For example, today we woke up around 6:50 with the phone ringing. Not an unusual circumstance as Cathy is the one people call if staff can't make it to school. She then has to find substitutes. Except this morning she was told the school was closed. No reason given. A quick check on the Iqaluit Public Service Announcements on Facebook offered up the reason why:

NOTICE: City of Iqaluit has shut down the city as a result of a water main break (Inuksuk High School). The pipe break has resulted in the city losing more water than we can currently produce. Significant flood from the broken pipe has also occurred. We ask people to remain at home until further notice. We ask that people conserve water and only use water for emergency purposes. Once the pipe has been fixed (unknown time estimate), the City expects to be able to stabilize the situation and begin producing water and resume normal services. City will update residents when new information is available.

Now, we're not in bad shape because our house is on trucked water, our tank was filled yesterday and we're not hard on water use on any given day. As long as we don't do laundry or use the dishwasher and keep showers to a minimum, I suspect we could hold out a week or more in an emergency. I've joked on Twitter that I'm going to start selling off time in our showers in five minute blocks. No takers....yet.

Oh yes, and it's Friday the 13th.

However, a massive water main break does not top the list of odd reasons why things close in Iqaluit. And now, counting down, the weirdest reasons most or all of the city has closed since 2005.

Honourable Mention: Although it was only the post office, and not the entire city, it must be mentioned the chemical spill that closed the place for a day. A package broke open during transit, producing a liquid that caused staff handling the package to feel a burning sensation when breathing and their eyes watering. Staff were sent to hospital and the fire department was called in to examine the package.

Turn out it was a bottle of rice vinegar that had broken. Staff spent months living that one down.

7. Blizzard - Not all that weird, really. And despite where we live, blizzards don't happen all that often. There have been times when the schools have closed and we've looked around and decided they've closed because of the ennui. It happens.

6. Extreme Wind Chill - They won't close the city, but they will close the schools when this happens. In previous years the schools would only close if the wind chill hit -55C. Tell that to your kids when they complain it's too cold to go to school. This year they've "increased" the temperature to only -50C. Schools haven't closed yet, but they've flirted with it. Several days in the last week where the temperatures were around -48C.

5. Busted water main - See above. Also see here, here and here for pictures. CBC's story here and Nunatsiaq's here.

4. Wandering gunman - Has actually happened a couple of times in Iqaluit, although it tends to happen more often in smaller communities. In the communities, everyone hunkers down and stays home. In Iqaluit, they'll just close off large sections of the city.

3. Exploding generators - The City of Iqaluit is powered, if memory serves, by seven generators. So last year, one of those generators was down for repairs and then another one, the most important one, also stopped working. Just in more dramatic fashion. So large chunks of the city were without power. And the power corp was given estimates in days before full power could be restored. So we had rotating power through most of the city. Four hours on, four hours off.

Fortunately, they were able to restore the one down for repairs later that evening and as long as people conserved power, they were able to eke through until the main generator was fixed, several days later.

2. Massive telecommunications failure - There's no fibre optic cable going into Nunavut. So when a satellite a couple of hundred kilometres above the earth decided to have a little hissy fit, Iqaluit residents got a taste of how quickly things can get weird. And be totally out of your control.

With no phone, cell phone or internet, a lot of government offices shut down. Banks closed. Store could only do cash transactions. Interac and credit cards would no longer work. The airport effectively shut down because they used the satellite to communicate with planes (it was argued that was an over-reaction, but few aircraft landed that day, and none of the jets coming from the south). So yes, a jolly bit of madness all the way around.

Again, there was talk that this could last for days, but the managed to get the satellite repaired in about 24 hours. Which was good for me because I had a flight scheduled to visit family in Newfoundland the day satellite service was restored. And because satellite was down, I had no way of communicating with them if I didn't get the flight. SO they would have been very confused waiting for me at the airport.

1. Dump fire - They say the dump is always on fire, to some degree. Well, in the fall of 2010, the degree to which the dump was on fire increased significantly. It increased to the point where there was not only smoke, but quite a lot of fire which could be seen easily from almost anywhere in town.

Which is lovely and all, and most of the time the prevailing wind blew the smoke away from town. But a couple of times the wind blew the smoke into town. To say the smell was unpleasant would be an understatement. But then people had problems breathing. So then the schools closed. And then others complained of breathing problems and that was that. Most offices around town closed and people went home. Except, of course, you could still smell the dump fire just about anywhere in town. Even with our doors and windows closed, and not being in direct line when the smoke blew into town, we could still smell it.

So that was a fun few days. The dump fire eventually died, although I guess it's still probably still simmering away...

And there you have it. What strange new things will happen to close the city? Stay tuned....

Last Five
1. Gatekeeper - Feist
2. The vanishing breed - Robbie Robertson
3. Someday - Tegan & Sara
4. All my own stunts - Arctic Monkeys
5. A hard day's night - The Beatles

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Review: Republic of Doyle, Season 3, episode 1

Contrary to popular belief, I did not resurrect the blog just so I could have a go at Republic of Doyle once a week for a few months. It just happens to be one of the perks.

For those who recall I wasn't exactly wowed with the finale of season 2 of Doyle. It seemed to me a lot of flash and thunder to try and hide just how spectacularly stupid the plot and writing was. Which has always been one of of my beefs with the show. There's clever dialogue, but dear Jesus, some of the character development and plots are enough to make your head explode. Also, Doyle has a tradition (as much tradition as you can have in two seasons) of really bad season premieres. It normally takes a couple of episodes for them to get into a season.

So how will this season start off? You might have heard something about Russell Crowe starring the episode. I swear to God, the only advertising on CBC the last month have been ads for Doyle, Arctic Air and Redemption Inc.

You know wasn't bad. I mean, the ending flopped a bit (the scene in the car between Jake and Mal giving the address to draw out the bad guy....oi) and try not to think too hard about exploding cars not drawing any attention. But really, the best part of the episode tended to be the one-liners and weird character interactions. It's charming, if nothing else.

So when last we left the crew, Jake was being shanghaied into being a cop, Leslie was fired, Mal and Rose went on vacation, Tinny headed over to England and Des was, well, being Des.

Now, six months later, Jake is being an...interesting cop ("You scared a police dog into retirement!"). Mal and Rose took one damn long vacation, not to mention bring back a hell of a lot of rum. Des is going to a fake university (Memorial University's southern campus. All right then). And, in what might be the single greatest story idea in the history of the show, they made Leslie the traffic cop on Prescott and Duckworth Street.

For non-townies, there is no cop there anymore. But there used to be. They got rid of it, oh, 15 years ago, which I always thought was remarkably stupid and short sighted by city council. But seeing Leslie deal with the drivers downtown and screaming at people for "barmping" their horns, that might have been her best moment in the history of the show. Anyway...

Oh yes, and no Tinny. We probably won't be lucky enough for that to last, but enjoy it while you can.

So yes, Jake is up to his usual things, which is causing trouble. Oh, and being assigned to cover a mob guy who has top secret information, conveniently in a big silver brief case handcuffed to him, which might implicate who murdered a federal officer. Meanwhile, Russell Crowe and Alan Doyle and the rest of the Merry Men (literally. They all starred in Robin Hood together) look on ominously. And scheme...

Thus begins the "For the love of God, don't think too hard about this" section of the show. It's Three's Company plotting when you start to. If only one character would show another character a lick of common sense and explain what's going on...but then, the show would have been about 30 minutes long. But yes, lots of fooling around, running around, smacking people in the face - and leg - plus a car chase involving the brief case and the secret discs they contain within.

As I said, entertaining, just for the love of God, don't divert any brainpower to it. That way lies madness.

As for Russell Crowe, well, I don't foresee any major acting awards for this roll. But, you know what, he looked perfectly comfortable as a guy hanging out in St. John's, with his buddies, having a bit of a lark. Which is what this episode was. Nothing wrong with it. Although they clearly spent all their money on blowing up a mini van and getting Crowe to star, which might explain his wardrobe.

And honestly, the guy who played Jimmy really stole the episode from everyone. He was pretty funny.

Oh yes, and that was quite the reset on the show in the last five minutes. Not really a surprise, but really, the last six months of Jake's life as a cop sounded like a lot of fun. More of watching Jake trying to be a cop, at least for a few episodes, would have been entertaining. Instead, back to square one. More or less. I guess we'll see what happens next. Although going from special guest star Russel Crowe to special guest star Shannon Tweed is surely one of the largest swings in acting quality ever seen on Canadian television. But I digress...

And now, the ever popular quotes of the week

"How's the vantage point now?" - Jake hanging Jimmy off the parking garage next to City Hall. Note to non-Newfoundlanders, our city hall really is that ugly.

"If Jake comes over, hide the rum." - Mal, showing good common sense.

"You scared a police dog into retirement!" - Copy guy, as part of the traditional "You're a disgrace to the badge, but we need you" speech required in all cop shows.

"You might be an arsehole and a disgrace to the badge, but I know you would never turn to the darkside." Cop guy, giving the Newfoundland version of the above speech. Also, if you took a shot for every time arse was said in this episode, you were well and truly hammered by the time the final credits rolled.

"You are technically my superior, but if you don't move on I will kick the shit out you." - Leslie, who has some entertaining anger management issues. Also, who knew you could say shit on a CBC show at 9 pm?

"Let's just say if there's corruption on the force, I can't seem to access it." - Jake

"I'm just saying, it's a bit cold. You can get me a sweater if you don't feel like turning up the heat." - Des, actually being amusing and not too annoying. And not scared at all while being grilled by the RNC (who could not have looked more stunned if they tried in this episode. Although the concept that the RNC has snipers and sniper rifles was one that put a cold chill down my spine).

"Nothing funnier than a bayman with a tan." - Jake to Mal

"Does this bag have nuts, because I'm allergic to nuts."
"Hey, me too!" - Des and Jimmy. I have the feeling Des might grow up to become Jimmy.

"You're a tad brighter than your son." - Russell Crowe's character, whose name escapes me.

"I'm half blind and jacked up on whisky and pain killers. Who am I supposed to be pointing this at again?" - Jimmy

"Good to see you again, dicksmack." - Alan Doyle. The CBC censor was apparently passed out from doing shots every time arse was said by this point.

"Do it again and I will douse you in lamp oil and make a tiki torch out of your scrotum." - Crowe. Which is a fairly awesome threat, really.

Anyway, back for more of the madness next week...

Last Five
1. Doesn't have to be this way - Allison Kruass and Union Station
2. Brackett, WI - Bon Iver
3. If there's a rocket tie me to it - Snow Patrol
4. Worried about - Lissie*
5. Katherine kiss me - Franz Ferdinand

Monday, January 09, 2012

Three things

1. You may have noticed there are now five walruses in the header to the blog. Cathy very thoughtfully went and bought me a couple of walruses for Christmas. I know the little guys have had their fans in the past and I've gotten my share of emails asking where they might be able to buy them. Well, I haven't checked since Christmas, but I know before the holidays they had probably a dozen or so of them left at Malikkaat, an excellent local crafts store here in town (what with the walruses, the boots I bought for Cathy and a few other things for family, they did good business off us this season).

They don't have much of a website, but the basic contact information can be found here. They retail for around $150 if you're curious. Sometimes a bit more, depending on how big they are or if they have accessories (like a drum or hockey stick).

2. This story on a couple in their early 20s trying to navigate having a successful relationship while dealing with the fact that they both have Autism spectrum disorder would be a fascinating enough read on it's own. However, it's the correction at the very end of the story that's become the stuff of internet legend in the last few days. Go here to read about what's being called "the best NYT correction ever."

For that matter, read it and be impressed by the lengths the Times goes though to make sure they get the story right. I know the Times has taken a beating in recent years, accused of being "liberal" or some such foolishness. I just consider it to be a great newspaper.

3. I've put this up on Facebook and Twitter already, but this made me laugh. And given the near overwhelming urge to vomit or move to Mars one feels when looking at the Republican presidential debates, I think laughter is a good thing. Ladies and gentlemen, the Canada Party - America, But Better.

Last Five
1. Don't look back into the sun - The Libertines
2. Real world - Rob Thomas
3. Sea of love - Cat Power
4. Tender is the night - Jackson Browne*
5. Here it goes again - OK Go

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Best of the year

Clare complains that every time I do one of these lists, I inevitably lighten his wallet. Oh well...

No top 10 lists this year. I'm afraid I couldn't list 10 TV shows that I loved, or 10 books that I loved and so on and so forth. Instead, this is stuff I consumed this year and stayed with me until the end of the year. Some of it is a bit of a cheat, as it may have come out in previous years (this is especially true with graphic novels, which often reprint older material), but I tried to be as honest as I could with it.

So here we go, some of my favourites from 2011.


Sadly, my offline reading habits have taken quite a beating in recent years. My glorious plans to read Steve Jobs biography, "The Hunger Games" and Neal Stephenson's new book "Reamde" ended with me getting about 50 pages into "Reamde". It's sitting on the table waiting for me to dive back into it.

But here are some books that I did manage to get though and like.

1. Life Itself, Roger Ebert - Not exactly a secret that I'm a huge admirer of Roger Ebert, so his autobiography was going to be something I snapped up. Despite a bit of a sluggish start, and the suspicion that Ebert is keeping some the truly awesome stories to himself as to not humiliate people still alive, it's a fascinating read. It made me wish I not only had a fraction of the man's writing ability, but also his memory, because the details when recalling events decades ago is astonishing.

2. Fables From the Fountain, Various - One of my favourite authors growing up was Arthur C. Clarke and my favourite book was Tales from the White Hart, a collection of tall tales of science. It was marvelous to think of scientist and writers sitting around an English pub trading stories and tall tales. About 50 years later comes this tribute to that book, with a different collection of writers and scientists telling stories of mysterious government facilities and the dangers of sex with dinosaurs. Funny, interesting and occasionally scary stuff.

3. The Wave, Susan Casey - Probably a cheat as I suspect it came out in 2010, but I read the ebook version this year. Alternately a story about surfers chasing the most insane waves in the world, and the greater occurance of rogue waves and the damage they cause, it's a fascinating read about the changes in the world, plus some pretty crazy people.

Graphic Novels
1. Fantastic Four Omnibus: John Byrne, Vol. 1 - I'm not even going to pretend this is for anyone other than me. For one thing, the bloody book is $140 (considerably cheaper on Chapters or Amazon, but still) and it's reprinting stories from 30 years ago. But for pure nostalgia value, it's hard to beat for me. The Fantastic Four was the first super hero comic I collected, and John Byrne's run is a classic. Even at the tender age of 12 I knew I was reading something different than the other comics I bought every month. Thirty years later it still holds up. Crisp, beautiful art and you can see Byrne's determination to drag greater complexity and maturity out of characters that had been stagnant for too long. Lovely stuff.

2. Stumptown, Rucka/Southworth - I'm a sucker for a good PI story and Rucka does them better than nearly anyone else in comics. Following the story of Dex Parios (Dex is short for Dexedrine, which should give you some idea of the character's upbringing) who is a great PI and a generally good person. Except for her crap luck in gambling, lousy taste in men (married) and her knack for getting beaten up a lot. It's a find a missing girl story with lots of meat, set in Portland. It drips atmosphere, menace and fun. It's also damn smart. Oh, and good on Oni Press for putting it together in a beautiful and reasonably priced ($30 US) hardcover.

3. Amelia Rules: The Meaning of Life and Other Stuff, Jimmy Gownley - I love Amelia Rules and have for years. I know it's supposed to be a "tween" book or some such thing. Except it's smarter than just about any other comic I read in the last year. Gownley can get messages across without being preachy and has a better ear for how kids "sound" than anybody else I've read lately. Oh yeah, and he's a phenomenally gifted cartoonist. Don't let the subject matter of a young girl growing up in rural Pennsylvania throw really is one of the best books out there. I'm already counting down to the next book, coming out in August.

4. The Complete Battlefields, Vol. 2, Garth Ennis and artists - War comics are a fleeting breed and nobody writes them better than Ennis. Featuring three stories - Motherland, Happy Valley and The Firefly and His Majesty - Ennis brings out the personalities of the people going through World War 2. Oh yes, there's plenty of action, but really it's the characters who shine.

5. The Complete Milk and Cheese: Dairy Products Gone Bad, Evan Dorkin - Again, not really sure I can recommend this to everyone, but it always makes me laugh when I read it. It is, honest to God, the adventures of a carton of milk and a wedge of cheese ("a carton of hate and a wedge of spite") who go on violent rampages against whatever is annoying writer/artists Evan Dorkin that particularly day. Violently over the top and more than a little demented, it's still quite funny. And I'm willing to bet Milk and Cheese dish out some much needed punishment to some group you probably hate. Also, kudos to Dark Horse comics for putting together a beautiful looking hardcover book at a reasonable ($22 Can) price.

1. Castle - Yes, Nathan Fillon should be filming the sixth season of Firefly now, but sadly he's not. And if he can't be doing that, then there are worse things to be doing that Castle. It entertains week in and week out, despite a silly premise (detective writer trails detective, they solve murders), and sexual chemistry going on too long (four seasons and counting). Because it is fun, the mysteries aren't bad and there's enough chemistry between the leads that you'll forgive the protracted courtship.

2. Fringe - Still the best sci-fi show on TV by a mile. It's not just that the individual stories of the week normally featuring some kind of science going horribly wrong are great, because they are. It's not just that the overall multiple earths story arc is holding together remarkable well, because it is. And it's not just because John Noble and Anna Torv put off acting clinics last year. It's because no show has as much heart, or the ability to break your heart with ease, on air right now.

3. Storage Wars - Everybody needs a bad habit tv program. One that you can't believe you actually sit down and watch this shit. Storage Wars is it for me. It really does say something about America. I'm not sure if it says anything particularly good about America, but it says something. Besides, you would be hard pressed to make up better characters than the ones in the show.

4. The Amazing Race - Because I've loved it for a long time, because I love watching Americans try and deal with the world out there and because nothing made me laugh harder last year than watching a former professional football player lose his shit cheering on a rabbit though a steeple chase course.

5. Sherlock - I'm not sure you can count three episodes totally about 4.5 hours as much of a TV show, but in terms of quality over quantity, then Sherlock wins hands down. Benedict Cumberbatch is the best Sherlock Holmes in many years (certainly better than Robert Downey's) and normally setting Sherlock in a modern setting is a recipe for disaster. But with some hellaciously smart writing and a fantastic and smart sense of humour, the show works. Season 2 is airing on the BBC right now, but not in Canada until May. I'm resisting the urge to download episodes now. I'm holding out so far. Barely.

6. Honourable mentions - Chuck (the last half of season 4 was fantastic, the first half of season 5 was wretched), Person of Interest (when it's good, it's fantastic, when it's not, it's unwatchable), Republic of Doyle (1/3 of the season was great, 1/3 average, 1/3 awful. Figure out some consistency please. Oh, and write the women in the show better).

1. Live at the Royal Albert Hall, Adele - Look, I know some of you are getting tired of Adele, as massively overplayed as she is. But you have to accept the reality that she has the best voice in music right now, that "Rolling in the Deep" may well be on the only song from 2011 still being played on radio (or whatever) in 2031 because it is that damn good. Plus, she's hilarious. This live concert DVD/CD is a gem.

2. El Camino, The Black Key - Considering it feels very much like rock and roll is dying, or at least on commercial radio (good-bye OZ-FM, rock of the rock, hello Top 40), it's nice to see that The Black Key are going to go down with a fight. Plus, they publicly talk about how much Nickelback sucks. Give them your money.

3. Ceremonials, Florence and the Machine - Adele has the best voice in music, but Florence Welch is right up there. But where Adele feels intimate and confessional, Florence feels...cinematic. It feels bigger. Plus, she's a bit more daring in trying different things than Adele. Regardless, a fantastic album.

4. Seeds, Hey Rosetta! - I understand instrumental rock is not everyone's cup of tea. Hell, I can't get into Broken Social Scene at all and Hey Rosetta! gets compared to them from time to time. But whereas I feel BSS feels entirely too much like wankery (look at what awesome musicians we are!) Hey Rosetta! always feels fun. There's an energy there that puts a smile on my face.

5. Lights of Endangered Species, Matthew Good - If you want meticulously crafted rock music by a man who always sounds like he's on the verge of doing some serious harm to himself or someone else, it's hard to beat Matthew Good. It's not his best album, but it's still better than just about anything else that came out of Canada this year.

6. Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, S/T - As long as Noel Gallagher keeps putting out records like this I could honestly give a shit if Oasis puts out another record. "The Death of You and Me" was a better single than anything Oasis has put out in more than 10 years. Considering Liam Gallagher's album with the band Beady Eye left me indifferent, it's no problem to figure out where the talent in the band lay.

7. How to Become Clairvoyant, Robbie Robertson - His last couple of albums, lo those many years ago, made me wonder if he wasn't just done. When I heard he had a new one coming out, I remained pretty skeptical. Until I heard "When the night was young". Then I relaxed. It's not as good as Storyville, but it's in the ballpark. And considering Storyville is one of my all time favourite albums, then that makes this one pretty damn good.

8. Ashes and Fire, Ryan Adams - There's little doubt Adams is a musical genius. His problems included knowing he was a musical genius, being an asshole and not realizing that the world didn't need to hear everything he ever produced. But Ashes and Fire is his first record in years, he's mellowed out considerably and the result is just a finely crafted record that calls back to Gold and Heartbreaker, when he took some time with his craft. As long as he keeps putting out records like this, he can take as much time as he wants.

9. Man of the Year, Sean Panting - I'm always going to like Sean's music unless he screws up totally. Not even close to a screw up, just more excellent pop/rock from one of the best, and most underrated, lyricists in Newfoundland.

10. Bad as me, Tom Waits - Not everything that Waits produces is entirely listenable, but this is just good stomping fun. Cathy hates his voice, but I love it. Unlike other singers whose voices are autotuned into generic trash, Waits is a finely abused instrument of destruction. There's character there. The fact he's also a brilliant lyricist and can craft a song that can make you laugh and break your heart all in 30 seconds, well, those are rare treasures.

I'm holding off for a few weeks. Because of the way Astro Theatres works, there's a ton of movies right now I want to see that haven't made it here yet. So until they stagger into the local theatre over the next month or two, I'll reserve judgement on the movies.

Last Five
1. God only knows - The Beach Boys*
2. Crazy love - Paul Simon
3. National steel - Kathleen Edwards
4. Cry on demand - Ryan Adams
5. You know you're right - Nirvana

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Republican reality show

I really ought to be getting more enjoyment out of the Republican presidential nomination process happening the United States right now. Few countries in the world can match the US for pure political spectacle and the Republican battle is like the cheesiest reality program TLC or A&E could dream up.

Except, of course, you get the cold, hard splash of reality that comes with the realization that one of these idiots could actually be the next most powerful person in the world. Only three of them - Romney, Huntsman and Paul - are fit to hold public office, let alone becomes the next president.

When Michelle Bachman announced she was dropping out this morning, there was great cackling glee on Twitter and other sites. I breathed a sigh of relief. The way the nomination had been going so far is that each of these lunatics have had their moment to spike in the polls and shine in the sun before crashing down to earth. They were getting close to running out of candidates. I was afraid they might loop back and start all over again, giving Bachman that boost she had late last summer.

I truly believe Bachman might be mentally ill. Remember the crazed character Martin Sheen played in The Dead Zone who one day became president and then started a nuclear war? Stick a dress on him and you have Bachman.

Perry had the dubious distinction of making George W. Bush look like a smart man from Texas. Gingrich is the kind of bully you always hated in school, all grown up. And I understand Paul has his following. Andrew Sullivan, who I respect tremendously, endorsed him. Doesn't mean he's right. I think he would be just as destructive as president of the United States as a Perry or a Gingrich, just in different ways.

As for the current favourite of the Christian right, Santorum is the kind of hypocritical and vile bigot that you would hope that if there is an afterlife that he was a very warm, and pointy, future waiting for him when he gets there.

So there you go. Huntsman is a lost cause, despite looking reasonably sane, because he's apparently one more Mormon than Republican can stomach. Oh yes, and he worked for Obama as an ambassador to China, so clearly he's evil.

So we have Mitt Romney. Who will win the nomination. The rest of the process is just smoke and mirrors to feed the political entertainment industry. And then he'll lose. Why? Because he's the John Kerry of the Republican party. A bland man from New England, with too many flip flops in his background, faced with a president with a machine in place, ready and waiting for him, to destroy him in November. And since the religious wing has been desperately trying to find something...anything to replace him, I suspect most of them will stay home and try their luck again in four years, rather than support Romney. I suspect it's easier to hate Obama for another four years than to stomach Romney for the same period of time.

Let's put it this way, in 2008 Obama beat a very hungry Hilary Clinton for the Democratic nomination and John McCain looking for his last shot at glory. At no point can you convince me that Romney is a scarier threat than either of those two. Nobody, outside of his family, loves Romney. He's just kind of...there. Just like Kerry.

Unless the economy goes catastrophically bad, and pray that it doesn't on the off-chance one of the non-Romney/Huntsman lunatics manages to steal the nomination, Obama is going to win this fairly easily.

The rest is political theatre and entertainment. Don't forget, the money isn't just in the candidates, it's also in the process of covering them. Not much money to be made unless it's "The most important election in American history!" It won't be and it's not.

November feels a very, very long ways away...

Last Five
1. Wheat kings - The Tragically Hip
2. The plains/bitter dancer - Fleet Foxes
3. Racing in the streets - Bruce Springsteen
4. Wolves - Josh Ritter
5. Pickin' it up - Hot Hot Heat*

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Waking up

I suppose the simplest thing would have been to just let the blog do the same thing as so many other blogs....just quietly waste away. The number of blogs that have started and died certainly far outnumber the ones still going. And I'm sure there will be a time when this blog will close up shop. But I like to think I'll actually announce it, rather than just stop writing for the blog and have people wonder what's going on.

Plus, there are a few other work situation has...changed, which I may or may not get into. Regardless, I don't think I'm going to be doing as much writing with the current job. So I might as well use the blog as an outlet again. Plus, I'm hoping the new job allows me a little more freedom to discuss political matters, which I haven't had in quite some time.

And finally, this story tweaked a little something in me. I'm not going to claim I was Christopher Hitchens biggest fan. I don't own any of his books, although I read a lot of his articles especially since he was diagnosed with cancer. It was in this story, where Ian McEwan spoke about visiting his friend, watching his mind at work, and desperately trying to finish a piece of G.K. Chesterton before hitting up on the ultimate deadline...

...I'm just saying, if reading that doesn't put all of your excuses about why you're not writing into perspective, then nothing will. The man was half out of his mind with pain, and the other half under the influence of morphine to deal with the pain. And yet he kept writing.

I'm no Hitchens, not even close. The man was a singular intellect and writer. But if he could keep writing while nearly dead, then I have no excuse to pick up writing again. It's just laziness. So onwards.

I'm not going to try and write something every day, but I will try and manage at least three times a week. I'm also going to take another look at my much maligned and abandoned novel. I spoke with a friend of mine about it in October, who is a better writer than I am, and he gave me the succinct advice that was needed - cut the last three to four chapters that aren't working and start all over again, from scratch. That's a massive pain in the ass, because there's some decent stuff in there. But as better writers than I have said, writing is all about murdering your babies. It might be fun, but if it's not working, then it has to go.

Anyway, there will be stuff coming up - what's happened the last four months, a review of the Harry Potter series (I just finished a marathon of all eight movies), my favourite things of 2011 and anything else I can think of.

Last Five
1. Bad reputation - The Hit Girls
2. You wouldn't like me - Tegan and Sara*
3. Can't buy me love - The Beatles
4. Rattling locks - Josh Ritter
5. Does he love you - Rilo Kiley