Saturday, February 28, 2009

More from the House of Plague

So the aggravating thing about this particular stomach bug that I have is that it isn't killing my appetite. Normally when I come down with something like this, I'm nauseous as hell for 24-28 hours, the mere thought of food makes me sick. But not this one. Even though it knows the results of eating anything, I'm actually in a touch of physical pain because I'm so hungry.

I want food, but as soon as I eat anything, well, I'll spare you the details. But I can't hold down anything so bland as crackers and fluids. I've been trying water, 7-Up and I'm now trying Gatorade. Thankfully, regular doses of extra-strength Tylenol seems to be controlling the fever.

Hopefully the worst of this will pass by tomorrow. And at least Cathy seems to be mostly out of the woods, although she's still taking it easy, fearing another relapse.

I'm telling you, when this is all over, I'm going to the Frob and ordering a nice steak. That's about the only good thing about a stomach flu....the meal you treat yourself to afterwards.

Other than that, not much to report. Battlestar Galactica was kind of....odd. One of those episodes where I'm going, "look guys, you do realize you only have a few more shows left to wrap everything up, right?" The other thing I find interesting is that most of these episodes were likely made on the cheap, which means they're saving up their money for something. Here's hoping the last few episodes have some pretty cool action sequences.

Because yes, I do like the drama and the character interaction, but I am shallow...I do like me some pretty explosions as well.

Speaking of which, I shall away. We're going to watch Wanted this evening. Nothing like a couple of hours of pretty, mindless explosions to take your mind off your stomach trying to explode.

Last Five
1. Beginning to get to me - Snow Patrol
2. When you gonna flow? - Hawksley Workman
3. Checkin' up on my baby - Mick Jagger
4. This is the sea - The Waterboys
5. Take what you take - Lily Allen*

Friday, February 27, 2009

House of plague

Whatever is kicking around up here right now has some serious legs. Cathy is still stomach sick and has been since Monday. She was on the mend but had a relapse today. And despite heroic efforts to avoid coming down with whatever she had, it nailed me around lunch time.

So despite wanting to go and see Kate play this evening, that really wasn't an option. I really hope we shake this soon, because it's not fun, especially for Cathy.

So in the meantime, we've done nothing more stressful than watch some women's curling (PEI should have won that game), the ongoing train wreck that is Dollhouse and I'm now waiting for Battlestar Galactica.

And tomorrow, perhaps a blog post that's a bit more interesting.

Last Five
1. Take what you take - Lily Allen
2. Back of my mind - The Pursuit of Happiness
3. Nebraska (live) - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band*
4. One more bite of the apple - Neil Diamond
5. Acrobat - U2

Thursday, February 26, 2009


I recall some writer - I think it was Warren Ellis - explain that his creative writing process consisted of absorbing as much strange information as he could, storing it in the back of his brain and let is smash around a bit until something strange and mutated eventually crept to his frontal lobes.

I always like that description and remains one of the better ones, to me anyway, to explain the creative writing process. As I was trying to figure out what to blog about today, I had one of those small moments where colliding bits of information managed to produce a thought for today's blog post.

The first came from Kerri Breen, the current editor of the Muse. She dropped me a line on Facebook saying she wanted to interview me about trying to write and produce the paper before the internet came into common use.

Then I read this post from Jackie, who seems to be in fine ranting form over the past 24 hours (I sincerely mean that as high praise) talking about how awful her current computer is. And given that the CBC is in "Oh-my-Jesus-we're-all-doomed-Doomed-DOOMED" mode right now, I wouldn't count on the equipment getting better anytime soon. But that's when the idea sparked together and came up with this little epiphany.

I have worked in a lot of newsrooms with just abhorrent computer equipment.

Well, I never said it was a grand, biblical level epiphany. No bushes were burned as this idea came into being.

But honestly, there's something about being a journalist that gets you stuck with just the most awful computers. I recall my time with the Muse when we were use ancient 8088s (Google it and behold the horror). They were named Lenin and Mao and these things were slow, creaky ancient beasts when I joined the paper in 1990. The absolutely barest minimum that would allow news copy to be produced. It could get no worse than this, I thought.

Except when I went to journalism school we were using Mac Classics, which while a step up from the obsolete 8088s, it was only by fractions. But the truest horror was yet to come. That was when I worked with The Telegram as an intern and a summer student.

Reporters there used these....things. These massive, brutish, slow, evil....things. Legend has it The Telegram acquired the computers from a sister newspaper in the United States (Insert your own joke on how many times The Telegram has been passed around over the years in the comments section) when the paper decided they were obsolete and upgraded. That US paper decided the computer were obsolete in 1980. And The Telegram was still using them in 1995.

Gods, the horror. The keyboards were a nightmare. Trying to correct mistakes would have been easier on a typewriter. And the bloody things were huge. A reporter at the time told me, "It's so there's room for the hamsters to spin around on their wheels to power the bloody things." I think he was joking.

The kicker was that they all linked to this central - hard drive, I guess - that was so massive it required it's own room, was surrounded by a half dozen fans at all times in a desperate attempt to keep it cool. I'm not sure if was kept cool so it wouldn't overheat and stop working or so that it wouldn't overheat, explode and take out half the building. Oh, and it used 8-inch floppy discs.

And these were still being used in the mid-90s. Granted, they upgraded less than a year later, but still...

I remember when I joined The Packet in '98 I was using a Mac Classic that was exactly the same type had been desperately obsolete when I was a journalism student in '94. We eventually upgraded to iMacs, but that was a hard fought battle with both sales and head office wondering why we needed fancy, expensive new machines.

"You just need them as typewriters, after all," one sales person said to me. Miraculously, that person is still alive.

There's still a view by some that journalists are little more than glorified typists and why do you need good computers. Which just goes to show the staggering level of ignorance that many in senior management have about what it is exactly that reporters do.

(My all-time favourite quote from my time with The Telegram came from a sales person, complaining that, "all those stories are a waste of perfectly good ad space." The irony of the statement was completely lost on him.)

So is there a point other than reporters often get stuck with really crappy equipment? Just this. I suspect the crap equipment is often a sign of the lack of respect that some organizations have for their reporters. I won't say bad computers is what drove me from the Express back in '05 as we were using perfectly functional iMacs (although we were still using OS 9 and management was resisting mightily the urge to upgrade to OS 10.) But I'm willing to bet if The Express was still an on-going venture and I was still there, I would be using the same iMac. And probably still on OS 9.

And that lack of respect gets to you. I think that, more than the pay and crap hours is what finally wore me down.

By the way, one of the earliest things I did after we moved to Iqaluit, had the bills paid off and were financially secure was to buy a MacBook Pro. Did I need that much computing power? Probably not. But after that many years on bad computers, it's always a nice treat to come home to a well-powered machine.

Anyway, feel free to share your computer related horror stories in the comments section.

Last Five
1. Better than most - A.C. Newman
2. Candle - Drive
3. I don't wanna - The Von Bondies
4. We got the beat - The Go-Go's
5. Bohemian Rhapsody - Queen*

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Saline, exploding office chairs and other assortments

1. We had our second trip to the hospital this year for a saline infusion last night. Boo wasn't the lucky recipient this time, but Cathy. She came down with one of the worst cases of stomach flu I've ever seen and was getting badly dehydrated. So, 1.5 litres of saline, with just a hint of Gravol for flavour, and we were back home.

And surprisingly quickly, really. We got to the hospital about 5:15 and were home by 8:30. Most of that time was spent with Cathy lying down with an IV in her arm. I know people have problems with the way health care is handled in Canada, but honestly, I don't think you could ask much better than that. And, just to make my American friends sick, we walked in, Cathy said her name, they called up her information, told her to take a seat and five minutes later was being looked at.

When she was done, they gave us some free Gravol because we didn't have any. And then we left. No paper work, no insurance claims, no Visa cards needed. Beat that..

2. Just in case you're not feeling paranoid enough at work today, here a story about cheap Chinese office chairs malfunctioning and killing people. The gas canister that allows you to adjust the chair explodes sending shrapnel up your ass.

There's a question as to whether or not this an urban legend, but I must admit I sat a little less uneasily at my desk today after reading this.

3. Because he has so often thrown traffic my way, allow me to throw some his....Clare does an interesting breakdown on how much it costs to travel in Nunavut based on the cost per kilometre of air travel. Not surprisingly, the cost is often at least 10 times more expensive, per kilometre, to travel in the north than down south, if not more.

Yes, there are greater costs associated with having to travel up north. And yes, many of us make extra money that helps to offset these costs. But not everyone does and I can only imagine the pain those people go through financially when they have to travel. For it to cost Clare the better part of $20,000 to fly his family to Manitoba to visit his family is beyond crazy.

4. Geoff Meeker is not just a media blogger with The Telegram, but also a friend. His recent series on the challenges some reporters have when they become famous locally is well worth reading in its entirety. However, I'm linking to part six of the series because I think some reporters in Nunavut might find it interesting/terrifying because it's about Iqaluit. I suspect most have their own horror stories, although hopefully not as bad as the one where the RCMP told a reporter that it might be best if he left town as soon as possible to avoid being murdered.

5. I'm honestly not that invested in this one, but my good friend SRD asked me to promote it on the blog. She's been a good friend over the years and has probably voted for me on any number of silly things over the years, so this is the very least I can do.

CBC is running their Hockeyville contest and one of the final five communities in the running is Harbour Grace. SRD is trying to rally support so that Harbour Grace wins the contest, which comes with all kinds of perks for the winner. Voting runs from February 28 until March 4.

So if you have a moment, make with the clicky on the link and go and vote for Harbour Grace. I guess even a Townie can support that crowd from around the Bay from time to time.

Last Five
1. Night - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
2. New favourite (live) - Allison Krauss and Union Station
3. Crayon and ink (live) - Allison Crowe
4. 99% of us is failure - Matthew Good
5. Five days in May (live) - Blue Rodeo*

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Shatner for PM

Just in case you think this is going to be a blog where I advocate that William Shatner should become the next Prime Minister of Canada, well, you're a bit off base. There's no need for me to lobby on his behalf as the Shat has done it all by himself.

"As Prime Minister I can lead Canada into even greater exploits."

Well, it's not like he could do much worse than the current guy.

Sadly, he's ruling himself out as Governor General, which is a real pity. Shatner as GG would, in fact, be the very definition of awesome. I think world leaders would come to visit Canada more often with Shatner there as GG.

Alas, he's 77 years old now, which is a touch old to be getting elected as prime minister of Canada. But here's the thing, if he had said this even 10 years ago, I honestly wonder what might have happened. The Conservative parties in Canada were in complete disarray. If Shatner returned home and said "I want to lead you", well, they might have just jumped at the chance.

Ahhh, or maybe not. I'm just having fun with the mental image of Shatner in the House of Commons during question period. Either by...responding stilted manner, or by yelling at people in an overly dramatic fashion. You know, it would make a great TV show, when you think about it.

Please come back and lead us, Shatner. If nothing else, you'll make for a more amusing distraction as the world is falling apart than what we have in Ottawa right now.

Last Five
1. O'Sullivan's March - The Chieftains
2. The devil, himself - Colleen Power
3. Side of the road - Ben Folds
4. Get me through December - Allison Krauss
5. Helpless (live) - Neil Young*

Monday, February 23, 2009

A towering loss of sanity

I'm not sure I understand this at all. When I first heard about the idea of putting a massive transmission line through Gros Morne National Park, which also happens to be a UN heritage site, I just laughed. It was such a ludicrous idea that I thought there was no way it would happen. Simply a brain dead idea, it was designed to either be floated out there to see how much people would hate it, or put out by someone genuinely clueless.

Sadly, I've never been to Gros Morne, but I know it's a provincial treasure. People adore that park. It's practically the centre piece of any provincial tourism campaign. The idea of putting through massive transmission towers through the park was so silly I never considered it a serious idea. No politician would risk the political suicide of advocating for it, so I thought no more of it when the idea first sprang to public light a few weeks ago.

But then you read that Premier Williams thinks that maybe it's a good idea and what harm could it do.

Lord knows I've been critical of the premier on this blog. Lots. But this is just weird. So weird that I'm going with one of three options on why on Earth the premier would get behind this idea.

First notion? That this is a trial balloon, just to see how upset people would be with the idea, even after the premier suggests it is a worthwhile idea. Would the borderline cult the premier has rally to him once more or would they back away? Would this be a transmission tower too far?

If that's what it is, fine, but it's still weird the premier would stake his beloved personal popularity on something that anybody with an ounce of political sense is going to be able to figure out will be publicly reviled. There will be massive protests if this thing actually moves beyond the, "seriously, this isn't an early April Fool's Day joke" stage that it currently is in.

Second option? That the premier has actually lost it and doesn't see what the problem is. Which is far more troubling, really. To some extent I almost understand his pig-headed, albeit deeply stupid, logic in trying to rig the Board of Regents and presidency at MUN. He simply believes no one will really care, and hell, he might be right.

But thinking that no one will freak out over this is just a break from reality I can't comprehend. I think if through some freakish twist of fate this ever got approved by Parks Canada people would go in and sabotage the new towers to prevent them from being built.

This is something so stupid I can't comprehend how the premier thinks this is a good idea. It's so stupid that I keep feeling like I'm missing something.

Which is option #3. I really hope I am missing something. I don't mind being wrong and stupid on something (well, I mind a bit) when I don't have all the information, the final cards are played and there's a clear, intelligent strategy in place. I hope that's what's going on here. The alternative is that the premier is having a clear break with reality. Which concerns me a bit more than the notion that I might be wrong about something.

Last Five
1. 5'15 - The Who
2. 'deed I do (live) - Diana Krall
3. Bang bang bang - Tracy Chapman
4. Evidence of me - Sean Panting
5. You've got the look - Prince w/Sheena Easton

Oscar recap

Mixed feelings about last night's Oscar broadcast which, despite my threats that I wouldn't watch it, I did. It was a mixed night, like most of the previous Oscars. Hugh Jackman was charming enough, although the song and dance numbers did nothing for me. But hell, I appreciate them trying something different. And having five previous winners announce the nominees worked as much as it flopped. Plus, it was a massive time eater.

But there was fun stuff. Tina Fey and Steve Martin stole the show ("Do not fall in love with me," Martin admonished a star-struck looking Fey). The tribute to comedies, Kate Winslet and Sean Penn's acceptance speeches, the guy who made a coin disappear and then balance the Oscar on his chin....there were lots of nice little things.

I like to think of this as a trial run. I believe they brought in new people to run the show this year. Hopefully they'll take a look at what worked, what didn't work and make the appropriate adjustments for next year.

As for my predictions, I went 14 for 24. Which is exactly as spectacularly sucky as I would have figured considering I've not seen most of the pictures this year. But hey, I got Best Short Documentary right. So clearly I possess some skills...or at least the ability get something right when I have a one in five chance.

Last Five
1. Drum and bone - Elvis Costello and the Imposters
2. Clever, not beautiful - Hawksley Workman*
3. When you're smiling - Blue Vipers of Brooklyn
4. The battle for straight time - A.C. Newman
5. Father Lucifer (live) - Tori Amos

Saturday, February 21, 2009

2009 Oscar guesses

So here are my Oscar picks. Here's hoping my picks for the winners are slightly more accurate than my picks for the nominations. For that matter, it's not 100 per cent certain how much of the Oscar broadcast we'll watch this year. For the first time in many, many years I've not seen one of the Best Picture nominees. And hell, The Amazing Race is on at the same time and I think I might prefer to watch that, especially considering how good last week's episode was (the bit with the cheese wheels was classic.)

Still, I'll tune in to see if Hugh Jackman can pull of hosting duties and probably mock some of the dresses. But other than making sure WALL-E wins Best Animated Picture, I'm just not that invested.

Anyway, here are my picks, based on what I've read, momentum, advertising campaigns and gut instincts.

Best Picture - Slumdog Millionaire
Best Actor - Mickey Rourke
Best Actress - Kate Winslet
Best Supporting Actor - Heath Ledger
Best Supporting Actress - Viola Davis
Best Animated Feature - WALL-E
Art Direction - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Cinematography - The Dark Knight
Costume Design - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Directing - Danny Boyle
Documentary Feature - Man on Wire
Documentary Short - Smile Pinki
Film Editing - The Dark Knight
Foreign Language Film - Waltz with Bashir
Make-up - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Music (Score) - Slumdog Millionaire
Music (Song) - Down to Earth - Peter Gabriel
Best Short (Animated) - Presto
Best Short (Live Action) - Manon on the Asphalt
Sound Editing - The Dark Knight
Sound Mixing - WALL-E
Visual Effects - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Writing (Adapted) - Slumdog Millionaire
Writing (Original) - Milk

Last Five
1. New world man - Rush
2. Let it rain - OK Go
3. Fire (live) - Allison Crowe
4. detlef schrempf - Band of Horses
5. Conquest - The White Stripes*

Friday, February 20, 2009

5,999 more than I would have thought

1. I said it was a sucky poem....and the world agrees with me. Since Elizabeth Alexander's poem read at Obama's inauguration was released in book form it has sold a whopping 6,000 copies of its 100,000 copy print run. To be honest, I'm mildly surprised it sold that many. Then again, I guess she does have family and friends.

Then again, I don't know. For a poem, or a book of poetry, 6,000 copies might be really respectable numbers.

Yes, it goes without saying that I do not understand the appeal of most poetry and I believe in mocking it and its practitioners whenever possible.

2. Jesus, I can't believe it's been 10 years since Gene Siskel died. Roger Ebert's tribute to him can be read here. I've said it before, but it bears saying at least one more time, Siskel and Ebert were a huge influence on me growing up. I joined the Muse in 1990 because I wanted to be a movie reviewer, just like Siskel and Ebert. The whole trajectory of my life was influenced by the decision one day when I was around 12 to watch the two funny looking men argue so passionately about movies when flipping through the channels.

3. So there was conflicting reports as to whether or not the US was operating Predator attack drones out of Pakistan to attack terrorist targets. So some enterprising reporters used Google Earth to try and determine what as going on. Lo and behold, it worked. Predators are operating out of a military base in Pakistan. I love the internet.

4. I am oddly reassured by Wil Wheaton's declaration that "Watchmen is fucking awesome" and that it was worth the 20 year wait.

5. No need to buy Lotto 6-49 tickets as I'm going to win that $50 million-plus jackpot Saturday night. Just giving you a little head's up so you don't waste your money on a lost cause. It's the kind of public service we like to perform from time to time on this blog.

Last Five
1. Party pit - The Hold Steady
2. Girls on crutches - Hawksley Workman
3. Fifty mission cap - The Tragically Hip*
4. Another tricky day - The Who
5. Poets - The Tragically Hip (Swear to God)

Things I don't understand II

The continuing appeal of Jay Leno.

Tonight is the last night Conan O'Brien is doing his Late Night in New York. He's going off the air and will spend the next three months or so preparing to become the next host of The Tonight Show. Leno's swan song is, I think, towards the end of May. And I'm all in favour of O'Brien taking over The Tonight Show. I don't watch O'Brien as much as I would like because of what time he's on, but he's funny and intelligent and I wish him all the best. Hopefully moving to LA and taking over The Tonight Show won't kill what has made him so charming and fun the last few years.

I only wish that the end of Leno; that he would slink off into retirement and enjoy his ill-gotten millions on motorcycles or whatever. In the fall, NBC is going to air him five nights at a week at 10 pm EST, meaning the network is killing a whole lot of dramas (reality TV normally airs earlier) so that Leno can continue to remain on the airways.

And he's not funny. And he's not really charming or at all interesting. He's bland, safe and comes out the far end of charming and straight into smarmy. The only way he could suck up to his guests more is if he blew them on camera.

And yet he constantly beats David Letterman in the ratings. And yet he gets to destroy a chunk of prime time real estate. Furthermore, much like Celine Dion, I've yet to meet anyone who admits to watching and liking Leno.

So if no one admits to liking him, if most critics say he favours poorly in any comparison to Letterman, how he is not only still on the air, but destroying five hours of prime time TV in the fall?

I do not understand.

Last Five
1. Blinded by the light (live) - Bruce Springsteen
2. Dirty knife - Neko Case
3. I'm your villain - Franz Ferdinand
4. The downward road - The Pursuit of Happiness
5. Steam - Peter Gabriel*

Thursday, February 19, 2009

News of the day

First of all, a party celebrating Newfoundland's "Have" status was always a truly brain dead idea. It felt too unbelievably pathetic to be taken seriously. "Hey, after nearly 60 years of taking money from the rest of the country in transfer payments, we finally don't have to do that this year. Let's party, waste several million dollars and rub it in the faces of the very Canadians who helped up over the years."

Yes, dead clever idea that was. Mercifully, the premier appears to be dropping the idea. Occasionally it is almost reassuring that the premier can recognize a stupid idea and change his mind.

Of course, Elizabeth Marshall remains in the backbenches while Joan Burke continues to make a clusterfuck in the Department of Education, so let's not get all giddy in the head over this.

Next, one of these men is a supernova of charisma; the other a black hole of charisma. I would go as to say he's full of anti-charisma. I'm surprised when they shook hands there wasn't an explosion or something. I can't pull the photo I want from the Star's website, but just go here and look at photo #9 of 21. Quick, just by looking at this picture, see if you can figure out which is which.

Oh, and despite all the hype, the trip to the Byward market and picking up a few things was a pretty cool little thing to do. That's going to get him more bonus points with Canadians than any agreements on boarder security and clean energy.

And this one isn't news, but it did produce an unusually strong reaction with me. I never watched the show Rock Star: INXS, but I read this story about how Canadian J.D. Fortune, who won the contest, was essentially fired from the band and is now living out of his pick-up trying to raise money for a solo album. Oh, and the band might have fired him for his heavy cocaine use.

And my first thought was, "you absolute tool." People would die for a chance like that and by the sounds of it, he completely screwed it up. Go figure, a band who lost their last lead singer because of drugs and slightly weird sexual practices weren't ready to take a chance on the new one going two for two on the bad habits.

No sympathy at all. He's a schmuck and deserves it.

Anyway, that's it for today. Tomorrow, Oscar picks, I think, even though I don't know if I'll even bother watching the show this year.

Last Five
1. Steady, as she goes - The Raconteurs*
2. My Oklahoma home - Bruce Springsteen
3. Young Atlantis - A.C. Newman
4. Knife going in - Tegan and Sara
5. Walking in your footsteps - The Police

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Watching the Watchmen's dignity

It's now a little more than two weeks until Watchmen opens, and I have no earthly idea how this movie is going to play out. None. There's plenty of geek excitement about it, that's for sure. There's already frothing about the changed ending, about whether it will be the worst thing in the history of cinema or, as this guy from Time Magazine seems to believe, a life changing, borderline religious experience. A "miracle". On the other hand, others might find it a simply baffling mess, vastly over-rated, silly or taking itself too seriously.

I'm looking forward to seeing it. I might even hold off and wait to see if I can catch it on IMAX when I'm in Ottawa. And yet, through all of this, I have a sense of unease. And it wasn't until I saw this little blurb, accompanied with the image you will see below, that things began to crystallize a bit for me.

Yeah, a blue Dr. Manhattan condom. And part of me does go, "Well, that's mildly amusing and clever." But couple that with some stuff I've read by some of comics biggest name creators (mostly on Twitter) and you get an overlying sense that a lot of them feel really....bad about this movie. That it might be fine. It might be a great cinematic experience. But they're not entirely sure this movie ever needed to have been made, no matter how good it is. And they're horrified and more than a little embarrassed by the marketing that's gone into it.

Keep in mind these are people who have written Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, Batman, the X-Men and other series that have been turned into massively promoted movies. And these people are looking at the marketing and wincing.

Plus a lot of them feel bad for the guy who wrote the series, Alan Moore. I won't go into the long, convoluted history of Alan Moore and the Watchmen, except to mention these few points.

1. Alan Moore is a genius and no serious discussion of the greatest comic book writers in history can be had without his name being featured prominently.
2. Moore, like most geniuses, is a touch mad. Depending on who you listen to he's either a very sweet man who is misunderstood or a deeply crazy man who worships a snake god.
3. He also has a long running feud with DC comics, who published Watchmen. The feud is deeply complicated and immensely bitter.
4. He also hates Hollywood. He was probably distrustful for many years, but the brutal circumstances surrounding League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is finally what did him in. So on top of being a waste of money, a hideous distortion of the brilliant comic and the film that drove Sean Connery into retirement, it also did serious damage to one of comics' greatest creators.
5. Moore isn't messing around with his hatred either. He famously refused option money for both V for Vendetta and Constantine and told producers to give it to the artists - David Lloyd and Dave Gibbons. It's likely he turned away several million dollars when he did that.

But perhaps most importantly, he honestly doesn't see the need for books or comics to be made into film. I believe someone once famously said to him that some director ruined From Hell, to which Moore responded along the lines, "No, the book is just fine. It's not ruined at all."

And yet, you still get the feeling he would be mortified by all of this in a deeply English way. The toys, the posters, the...condoms. And God knows what else that might come down the pipe.

So yeah, there is a certain rabidness among fans looking forward to this, but I get the feeling among professionals there is deep sympathy for Moore, who believes he's been screwed over by Watchmen. But also, this is an important comic to just about every comic fan. Time Magazine listed it as one of the 100 most important literary works of the 20th century. This isn't just another comic book. If the Daredevil movie sucks, oh well. People are far more protective over Watchmen. I suspect Moore's not alone among comic book professionals in believing this movie should never have been made. That maybe some literary works should just stand on their own and not have to suffer the degradations often involved in translating something from the page to the screen.

By the way, it is a great comic. I don't know that it's my favourite of all time or even my favourite of Moore's work - I'm still quite partial to V for Vendetta - but it is a spectacular comic, especially when you start deconstructing everything Moore and Gibbons were trying to do.

I really do recommend picking it up and, I suspect, it won't be a problem finding a copy over the next few weeks. One of the good things, I guess, about the massive marketing push currently taking place.

Last Five
1. Reason for our lost love - Ron Sexsmith
2. All my life - Foo Fighters
3. Bastard - Ben Folds
4. Pistol of fire - Kings of Leon*
5. I'm gone - Lloyd Cole

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Photos and paintings

Well, here's a first. John Andrews liked a photo I took about six weeks ago of a raven. He liked it so much, in fact, that he used it for "inspiration" (so much better than saying you stole it, John) to try and create a piece of art. I can honestly say I think this is the first time someone has taken one of my photos and try to change it into art. I know John is not completely happy with the final result, but I find it kind of flattering, really.

Besides, ravens are just a bitch to do anything with. They're hard to photograph. It's all that black with hardly any defining features. I swear, that black is deep enough that it distorts the air around the bird, so it feels like when you take the picture, you're only getting a hazy version of the bird. That the real raven is still managing to remain hidden.

So I think John did just fine, even if he called the bird a crow instead of a raven (but in Newfoundland it works better if the bird is a crow instead of a raven). But in case you're curious, here's my picture...

The lights were a little thing I was playing around with. They're the Christmas lights we had in the window, but they're blurred a bit. I like it, but I can understand why John ignored the effect.

And here's John's painting, which I've shamelessly pilfered from his site, but I know he won't mind...;)

Anyway, I like it and think it's a nice job. Good work, John.

Last Five
1. The kissing dance - Kelly Russell and the Planks*
2. Let's spend the night together - The Rolling Stones
3. Trying to pull myself away - Glen Hansard
4. King for a day - Thompson Twins
5. Programmable soda - Tori Amos

Monday, February 16, 2009

My life as a waiter

SRD, being the thoughtful, kind soul that she is mentioned my success rate with restaurants in the comments section of the last post. And I thought to myself, "Nah, I've mentioned that before on the blog." Except I did several keyword searches of the blog and discovered that, in fact, I've not written about my experiences with restaurants.

I'd blame this on the forthcoming senility that sets in when you get near 40, except I suspect this is one of these stories that I've told so many times it's legendary among my circle of friends. You tell the story so many times you forget who you've told the story to.

And if SRD isn't careful I will retell my infamous soccer injury story, including the comment that she sent me shortly afterwards which made me laugh so hard I nearly busted stitches, when I didn't want to hang myself out of frustration.

Anyway, restaurants.

Back around 1989 I was still working as a clerk with Shoppers Drug Mart. This one my first "real" job (delivering newspapers counts, but not really) and I wasn't exactly making a whopping amount of money. I think minimum wage at that time was around $3.25 an hour. I was going to MUN and that amount of money wasn't cutting it. My dad saw an ad in The Telegram for a new Pizza Hut opening on Torbay Road looking for staff and suggested I apply for a waiter position.

I thought there was no chance of getting that job. I was barely 19, had no waiting experience and, my biggest strike, I was a guy. Think about it. How many male waiters do you see when you go out to eat? The majority tend to be women. Also, as I discovered later, people tend to think you're gay if you're a male waiter.

(There's also appears to be a direct correlation between the amount of tips you make and the size of your tits, but I digress.)

Much to my surprise I got the job. And here's the shocker...I loved being a waiter. Well, let's be more specific, I loved the money you made being a waiter. This was in the late 80s, early 90s, before Revenue Canada started coming after waiters. I was claiming on my taxes that I made $300 in tips a year. If I went a week and didn't make that, I was having a shitty week. And this was at a Pizza Hut. What the waiters were making at fine dining establishments I have no idea.

So, for two glorious years I was enjoying my part-time job, making lots of money and had managed to save up enough money to go with my girlfriend at the time to the UK for three weeks. Life was good.

Then life did what it does when things are going good and kicks you in the balls.

The girlfriend and I broke up. We managed to be friendly enough that we decided to go to England together anyway seeing as how the tickets and many of the places we were stay were already booked with deposits. It was a spectacularly stupid idea, but makes perfect sense when you're 21. Then she started seeing someone else, we slept together in Glasgow, things got ugly and by the end of the trip I was very much glad to be heading back to St. John's and get back to my job.

Except the job was gone. It takes a special gift to be able to bankrupt a Pizza Hut, and yet, the owners managed to do just that.

So anyway, a couple of months later I land another waiter job, at a new restaurant called Marconi's. In the exact same building as the Pizza Hut that had just went under. They just changed the decor a bit and voila!

You can see where this one is going. It lasted a year. It was a pretty good year. The tips were even better than Pizza Hut for awhile and it was good Italian food. But one year later, down the crapper she went.

(I blame this on no small part, by the way, for how poorly built the building was. You could fly a kite with the drafts the inside of that place had. At least two other restaurants went bankrupt in that building and the only reason I assume My Brother's Place is still open there is they did significant renovations on the building.)

So now I'm two for two. Shall we go three for three? Yes, lets.

Next up was a 50s-style diner called Hollywood Boulevard. This place lasted less than six months. It was notable for two reasons. One, it had the misfortune of being located in Churchill Square, which is very near the campus of MUN. That meant my friends from the Muse frequently came by for a visit. Since none of them had money, I suspect it was mostly to come and mock the snazzy uniform I had to wear.

That and I made really good milkshakes and banana splits, which is pretty much all any of them could afford.

Secondly, in September of that year I began to lose my mind a bit. At that time I was working 20 hours a week at the restaurant, trying to do my honours degree in History, in a serious relationship with a woman, chief news reporter for the Muse, Arts representative for the Student Council at MUN, and the province's National Executive representative for the Canadian Federation of Students. Oh, and there was a federal election campaign in '93, which just added to things.

I decided I need to start scaling back on some stuff, so I dropped the CFS gig. Except my girlfriend broke up with me (we're really good friends now, but the manner in which that happened is also legendary). Then my honours advisor (Dr. Valerie Burton. Feel free to share the pain in the comments section if you wish) destroyed what was left of my brain that term. Oh, and the restaurant went bankrupt right before Christmas

Let's just say the period between September 93 and April 94 remains one of the stranger periods in my life. It wasn't all bad, but it was deeply weird.

Next up, Italian Italiano. I lasted about six weeks there. I was, literally, the token male on a wait staff of at least 12. I appreciate many restaurant owners are scumbags, but these guys topped it. They had two sized uniforms for waitresses - size 0 and size 1. If you couldn't fit in one, you wouldn't get hired. Plus they constantly attempted to sleep with the waitresses, meaning the turn-over on wait staff was phenomenal. I forget the exact reasons for my departure, probably because they didn't want to sleep with me, but they just cut my hours to zero. A passive-aggressive lay-off.

I did the dance of joy when they went bankrupt several months after I left. Couldn't have happened to more worthy people.

The fifth one was what finally did me in. This was a place called Devon Row. For those in St. John's, it's now Classic Cafe near the Hotel Newfoundland. It was supposed to make lots of money because of the great view of the harbour from the balcony. Except they built a hotel in front of the view. So you occasionally got good views of mostly-naked-except-for-some-strategically-placed-leather gay men waving at you from a hotel room window or the strippers hanging out (literally) on the deck for the strip joint next door. The view of the harbour? Not so much.

I lasted there two weeks and was fired. Apparently it was because I was rude to a customer, but I was never told which customer and what I said. More likely was that the bozo running the place hired too many waiters, business wasn't what he thought because of the aforementioned hotel and I was being paid the most because I had the most experience. So out I went. Also, I was the only male on the wait staff. Sensing a trend?

They, of course, went bankrupt about six months later.

The best part of that work experience came after I was let go. I was downtown with a friend of mine. Ted is a big man. And this was when he was in his prime. He was about 21 years old, 6'3", close on 300 pounds of solid muscle. He was bouncing at bars, playing rugby and, in his spare time, dressing up in armor and doing serious damage to people in the SCA (the Society for Creative Anachronisms). Ted was tragically born in the wrong millennium. He should have been a Viking or crushing people's skulls in the Colosseum.

On this particular night Ted was also hammered, having consumed, and I'm not kidding here, at least sixteen Strongbows. We were downtown hitting bars looking for more because Ted and his friends had finished off the supply of Strongbow available in St. John's liquor stores. We weren't having any luck, leaving Ted in an....irritable mood.

So as were going from bar to bar he asked how the new job was going. I told him and said something along the lines, "If I had my way I'd blow-up that goddamn deck."

Ted bellows "Those fuckers" and then punches a telephone pole which moves when he hits it. "I'll take care of this," he says and begins moving down Duckworth Street to destroy the deck at Devon Row.

Understand, I am absolutely certain he can do this. Ted is phenomenally strong, plus he's drunk and not feeling any pain. I had visions of him destroying the deck, it collapsing on top of him, and then him popping up from underneath the rubble like Bugs Bunny, dusting himself off and going on the hunt for more Strongbow. Because mass destruction is thirsty work.

So this leads to a five minute sitcom scene of me trying to stop Ted from doing this. At best I weigh 180 pounds at this time and I'm trying to stop a 300 pound drunken, enraged, out-of-time Viking with his brain fixated on doing some harm.

I finally managed to convince him to stop and I'm pleased to say at no point did I have to wrap myself around his ankles. But it was touch and go there for awhile.

I think that was the point in which I gave up on waiting tables. Lord knows I thought about it going back when I was starving to death as a reporter. "I could make $30,000 a year waiting tables or I could keep making $19,000 a year, living in Clarenville in a damp basement apartment that I need a roommate for so I can make the rent." To this day, I don't know how I didn't break. Probably my fear that I would work at a sixth restaurant to go bankrupt.

So there you have it, albeit in very long-winded form, my luck with restaurants. Let's not think about the private English academy that I worked for in Korea that went under or that the Express folded 18 months after I left, all right? People at my current place of employment might start to get nervous.

Last Five
1. Long way home - Supertramp
2. The best dies - The Raveonettes
3. When the rivers rise - Spirit of the West
4. Like a star - Corinne Bailey Rae*
5. What a good boy - Barenaked Ladies

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Things I don't understand 1

I don't understand the appeal of chicken wings.

It's part of the chicken of with the least amount of meat and then people go and dip it into fiery sauces and consume them in massive amounts. And I've never gotten it. I remember waiting tables and people coming in to look for the damn things and going "and I want them as hot as you can make them."

Normally, we didn't oblige because it's bad for business when you kill your customers. But one evening four drunks came walking into this place I worked in Churchill Square in St. John's. They came in 10 minutes before closing and demanded the hottest wings we could possible conjure. And seeing as how both myself and the cook wanted to go home and not spend all evening catering to four drunks with an intestinal death wish, he conjured up something evil. I have no idea what it was, but it wasn't simply hot sauce. There was jalapenos and cayenne peppers and some other stuff mixed in there. My eyes were literally watering as I bought it out to the table.

The poor dumb bastard ate about two, maybe three each, and then asked for the rest to be boxed up so they could take them home. That was after they each drank a jug of water.

So yeah, part of me understands that it's a macho bastard thing. And yeah, I know there are more seasonings you can put on wings that just rectal volcano flavours (part of me felt bad about the damage we did to those poor bastards digestive tracks). But I still don't get the fascination people have with wing's night. Wednesday night up here is probably the biggest night of the week because everyone is going out to either the Storehouse or the Legion for wings.

Yeah, I know it's a social thing and an excuse to go drinking. By why not nachos night? Or fries night? Why wings? Can someone explain to me the enduring appeal of wings? Because after 20 years, I'm still not getting it.

Last Five
1. Don't stop - Chilliwack
2. Devils and dust - Bruce Springsteen
3. On a slow night - Metric
4. Shit song - Kate Nash
5. Blackbird - The Beatles

Saturday, February 14, 2009

V-day recap

Not a bad Valentine's Day, although one with a few small frustrations. Cathy got her main gift, which was a single serve coffee maker and a bean grinder. The grinder comes from a curling bonspiel last month. I was already thinking about getting the single serve coffee maker back then and thought this would be a nice thing to go along with it.

So why the single serve coffee maker? Well, I don't drink coffee. You can try your different flavours, varying amounts of sugar and milk and it still tastes like liquid burnt rubber to me. But Cathy generally likes a cup a day. So I figured rather than keep buying her cups of coffee on the way home or trying to use the our regular 10 cup coffee perk, why not get a single serve one?

Cathy likes it quite a bit. Getting up here was surprisingly a bit more challenging than I would have thought. Many places either didn't carry them or were asking just insane amounts for shipping. For example, one place wanted $68 for shipping. Which is easily double the cost of the actual thing.

The rest of the day had its "ooops" moments, though. Cathy spent the day mildly annoyed because what she ordered for me more than two weeks ago still hasn't shown up. I was mildly annoyed because I got a call at 11:30 this morning from the florist letting me know that the Gerber daisies I order about two weeks ago didn't show up so was there something else I would like instead. Which put me in a fine foul mood. I always order flowers weeks in advance so I'm not lining up waiting for an hour for my flowers and this happens.

Still, I just had to remember that I wasn't upset that my gift didn't arrive because I know Cathy tried and something are just beyond her control. Much like she wasn't upset about the lack of flowers. And once you realized that, you get over it and just enjoy the day.

And we did manage to have fun. I made supper for her this evening and we're going out to brunch tomorrow. We celebrated the spirit of the day, if not all the gift giving, flowers and chocolates. So not a bad day, if not all according to plan.

Last Five
1. Your latest trick - Dire Straits*
2. Run baby run - Garbage
3. Resurrection - Robbie Robertson
4. It's sweet - Liz Phair
5. She's got a way - Billy Joel

Friday, February 13, 2009

Headline news

And your winner for the headline of the week (I was going to say day, but it's the best I've seen this week, easily) comes from the Globe and Mail for this story. The headline?

Too early to get excited about premature ejaculation drug

Yeah, that's good. People don't appreciate a good headline nearly enough. Most reporters I know hate writing them. Try summing up your 800 word masterpiece in five words or so (the above headline is actually quite wordy, but worth it) that's catchy, explains your story and will make people want to read it. You'd be surprised how many journalists can't do it. And far too many just fall back on puns when in a jam. My two former editors - and one of them means the world to me - were terrible for puns.

Some newspapers have professional headline writers although I suspect in these hard times for the print media, they're among the first to go, along with political cartoonists.

Anyway, I'm just savoring a well crafted headline.

Oh, and while I'm poking around at the Globe, this story caught my interest, about why Facebook's "25 Random Things about me" meme. I confess to being baffled why it's become so popular. Meme's on Facebook and the rest of the Internet are a dime a dozen, but this one has taken off to the point that mainstream media have noticed and are trying to figure it out.

I received probably a dozen "tags" to do this meme. I even completed a list, but rather than doing something completely random, I tried to tie it together in a rambling sort of way, where each "fact" would tie either directly or somewhat indirectly into the next one. But I never liked it, didn't think it was particularly clever or funny, so I didn't do anything with it. And the tsunami of tags seems to have passed, so I'm content to be one of the few on Facebook to have not taken part in this.

I suspect it also depends on what you use Facebook for. There's a sizable difference between what my 16-year-old cousin in Heart's Desire uses it for (mostly to explain how much she hates being in school, making funny comments on friends' pictures and doing quizzes) and what I use it for. Which is to see how my friends are doing and leave the occasional comment on their status updates. I don't think I've even changed my picture there in about five months, which is 30 years in Facebook time. Uploading photos to Facebook from here is a slow and cumbersome process. I don't read any of the groups I've joined and pretty much given up playing the games available.

I like Facebook. I think it's useful and all. But I'm clearly not the target audience. Nor do I have the time or inclination to play with it as much as others do. Once, that might have bothered me a bit...a social network site that I'm ambivalent towards. These days, well, not quite so much.

Last Five
1. Hard road - Sam Roberts
2. Champions of nothing - Matthew Good*
3. Diamonds in the mine (live) - Lindsay Barr
4. Cod liver oil - Great Big Sea
5. 16 shells from a 30-06 - Tom Waits

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Worthwhile Canadian Initiative

Canadians tends to be, well, a touch cannibalistic. It's hard for us to acknowledge that the country, as a whole, is a pretty good place as we get caught up in our internal melodramas. And there is plenty of melodrama to go around. Whatever is happening with Quebec at the moment; Danny Williams stomping his feet in Newfoundland; Dalton McGuinty grumbling about no one respecting Ontario, and so on and so forth.

And even when there's nice things said about Canada, it tends to be government related propaganda that's never really sat comfortably with most of us. It feels like we're beging buttered up and we wonder what they're really up to.

No, what Canadians crave is outside approval. Every country is probably guilty of this, but Canadians probably a touch more than normal. Which is why when I read this article in Newsweek I actually felt a bit better about things. Oh yes, there are many challenges the country has to face in the months and years to come. However, when Fareed Zakaria explains how Canada is doing compared to the rest of the world, well, I look at things with less doom and gloom. (Oh, and I love his reference to the winner of a best boring headline contest. The winner? "Worthwhile Canadian Initiative")

This isn't to get into an argument over which government put us in the position to weather this storm better than many of our neighbour, by the way (so it's best not to read the comments section of his story). I really don't care much who gets the credit. I'm just glad that whatever forces that have shaped our history over the past decades has put us in a position to handle this crisis better than nearly anybody else.

We're not out of the woods and I don't think the bottom has been reached yet. I'm even cynically wondering if we've spotted the bottom yet. This is not the time to relent and sit back and think things are going to be ok. Hard work and creativity is going to be needed.

However, it's nice not just for an intelligent and respected outsider to point and say "These guys are doing something seriously right over here", but it probably also does ourselves a world of good to stop hyperventilating for a moment and realize that while things aren't great, we're doing a lot better than we think.

Last Five
1. I know you - Sloan
2. The coo coo bird - The Be Good Tanyas
3. Number 1 - Goldfrapp
4. Lord, I'm discouraged - The Hold Steady*
5. Dreams - Fleetwood Mac

Some change in the weather?

Now this story got a big "Ah ha!" moment out of me. The federal government's environment commissioner is questioning the accuracy and efficiency of weather forecasting in Canada, especially when it comes to extreme weather warnings. This story focuses mostly on Toronto, but you get the idea. The report says Environment Canada

"...lacks an effective national approach to verifying the timeliness and accuracy of the 10,000 or so annual warnings of tornadoes, blizzards, major thunderstorms, extreme hot and cold weather and other severe weather."

Remember how I said Environment Canada sucks at predicting bad weather up here? Well, hell, everybody in Iqaluit think Environment Canada sucks at predicting weather up here. Well, now you have a federal commissioner saying they suck at it (and everywhere else) and the Minister agreeing more must be done.

(This report was released a week ago, but it's the first I've heard of it.)

All right, so there's a problem - a federal commissioner says so, the Minister says so and the weather service seems to be looking at it's feet and shuffling them a bit and muttering, "yeah, there could be problems." Granted this seems more focussed on verifying how accurate they were rather than making sure they get it right the first time. Still, it's a start.

Now it would be nice to see some action and improvements. I don't expect miracles to start tomorrow. But if I'm still bitching about the weather service's inability to properly predict bad weather in Iqaluit in two years time, then it's time for people around here to kick up a real racket. Two years is more than enough time to make a serious start on fixing this problem.

We need better weather prediction for severe weather up here before there are deaths.

Last Five (It's my favourite Workman song and my favourite Case song. I can't pick which is best)
1. Turn the page (live) - Bob Seger
2. Here it goes again - OK Go
3. Love is nothing - Liz Phair
4. I wish I was the moon - Neko Case*
5. Autumn's here - Hawksley Workman*

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Pop culture during the plague days

And now, a few pop culture moments from the past few days. As my higher brain functions have been diminished and really, that's when I think you can really appreciate pop culture.

1. Rewatched Kingdom of Heaven on the weekend. The director's cut, which is the only version of the movie you should ever watch. I remember reviewing it for The Express back in 2005 and thinking that it should have been better, but felt oddly, hollow. Like there was massive chunks of it missing that would have added greater depth and subtlety.

Then you watch the director's cut and realize the studio gutted that movie like a fish to focus on all the big action sequences and ignore all the fascinating character drama happening. The movie was released in May of that year. If they had released the director's cut and put it out in December, the movie would have been nominated for a ton of Oscars. Worth hunting down. And, and I can't believe I'm saying this, easily Orlando Bloom's best acting performance.

2. The Closer. I loved the first season of this TV show and have come to adore Kyra Sedgwick in it. We went and bought seasons 2 and 3 and then completely forgot about them. So we did a mini-marathon yesterday and fell in love with the show all over again. Man, she is the very definition of high maintenance, but it's so nice to see a deeply smart character who is three steps ahead of everyone else. Also, the best interrogation room scenes on TV since Homicide was on the air.

3. There have been times I've been deeply frustrated with Battlestar Galactica. One of the jokes about the whole line in the intro where it talks about the Cylons and says "And they have a plan" is "But nobody said it was a good one or that it made much sense."

Which is the problem when you're trying to do a massive, multi-year, enclosed epic storyline. It means you suffer from X-Files syndrome. You get some nice pieces and themes, but the overall arc occasionally makes no sense whatsoever (the reveal that the producers didn't know who the Final Five were until season three is proof of that). The only show I've ever seen pull it off successfully is Babylon 5.

Having said that, the last four episodes have been home runs. A revolt among the Galactica crew, political assassinations, abject despair and really, which side is right? It might be too much to hope the last six episodes can continue at this high level and they can wrap things up in a way that's truly memorable (Babylon 5's final episode, "Sleeping in Light" is quite possible the show's best moment, and most touching). It strikes me as being an almost impossible task, but I hope they pull it off.

4. Fringe - When Walter started hitting the keys on the old typewriter and realized the wonky letter 'Y' was the same as an old, deeply strange manuscript outlining an inevitable and coming soon dimensional war. Which meant he wrote it and completely forgot about it. That was my "Holy shit!" moment in an episode filled with them.

I honestly don't know if they can pull off all the conspiracy stuff and managed to develop a long term arc. Like I said with Galactica, these things are almost impossible to do in network TV. But keep giving me weird science and lots of strange Walter and I'm sticking around for the time being. And hey, if you can finally make Olivia interesting, bonus.

5. Is it shallow of me, in the middle of a massive global economic crisis to grumble just a little bit that Obama's presidential press conference pre-empted both House and Chuck, two of the very few shows I watch on a regular basis? And, for that matter, why did Fox move House to Monday and put it up against Chuck? That's just mean.

6. Speaking of economic problems, this is one of these stories where I genuinely have mixed emotions. On the one hand, you really shouldn't be cheering for companies to go bankrupt in these times. On the other hand, Clear Channel are (and here comes the profanity) a bunch of motherfuckers and the music industry would do well to be rid of them.

So yeah, hmmmm, not quite so torn as a thought, really.

Also trying to find some sympathy upon hearing the company that makes Muzak is going bankrupt......nope, none there either. Guess I'm a cold hearted bastard - watching companies that seemed determined to destroy interesting music die terrible deaths - without any empathy. Ah well...

7. I really hope Watchmen is still playing on IMAX when we got to Ottawa in April. I'll pass up seeing it here in town and waiting the agonizing extra month if it means I can watch it on an IMAX screen.

I wonder if we can get an IMAX in Iqaluit? Probably not, I'm thinking.

And that's all for now...

Last Five
1. Back to me - Kathleen Edwards*
2. Hallucinations - The Raveonettes
3. Money worries - Bedouin Soundclash
4. Imagine - Avril Lavigne
5. The impossible world - Ron Sexsmith

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Mildly incoherent points on a sick day

Day Two in the Penthouse of Plague. I've taken a rare second day sick and Cathy finally conceded defeat. She did up lesson plans for two days and hasn't done anything more strenuous than like on a couch and read a book. I've been play Civilizations, reading Mother Jones and just started watching season 2 of The Closer. This is one of these days where I might have been able to go to work, but I have the sneaking suspicion I would have been there for 15 minutes and blown through my energy reserves for the day.

So, two quick things for today. I mentioned that I have new sketch books. The one I took to New York was just a basic one I picked up from Staples before heading to the con. It was pretty standard and ugly. And there were some people walking around with nice sketch books.

So lo and behold when we were in Italy I found a nice sketch book in a flea market in Florence. It's a bit of an over-sized and, yes, a touchy gaudy. But I thought it was nice to have one for when I go to San Diego.

But here's the thing, a couple of days later we went to Venice. And when wandering around we found this absolutely amazing book maker. I'm blanking on the name of the store, but it was on the Rialto Bridge, this tiny little crook of a place. The leather books are all hand made. The lady who owns the store climbs up the ladder to the second floor (not enough room for stairs) to get more inventory.

And that's when I found this book. I really didn't need it, but it's lovely work and there's something nice about actually talking to the lady who made the book I was buying.

Probably paid too much for it, but I don't care. I'm looking forward to taking it to a con and getting it "christened" next year.

Oh yes, the second point. This story from the Telegram about Dr. Eddy Campbell giving up his job as acting president of MUN to become the actual, full-time president of the University of New Brunswick.

First of all, good for Dr. Campbell. That was a massive insult the provincial government slapped him in the face with last year. There was no way he could stay at MUN. An I'm sure he will do a spectacular and highly professional job leading UNB. And, as an added bonus, he gets to make Joan Burke look that much worse, something I'm sure he would deny, but I imagine must have crossed his mind briefly at least. Not good enough to run MUN, according the Danny Williams' government, but good enough for UNB to confirm unanimously.

Everything going on with MUN's Board of Regents and the presidential selection is an embarrassment to the province and MUN as a post-secondary institution. If there was any decency in provincial politics, somebody owes Dr. Campbell an apology before he goes. And needless to say, Joan Burke's head should roll. But I've been saying that since last summer and he head sadly, but unsurprisingly, remains attached.

Not that that will happen, of course. Because decency and honestly in provincial politics is one of those quaint little outdated concepts that only fools really believe in.

I really would like to believe in it, you know. But every single thing that's happened with MUN over the past year simply makes that impossible.

And now I'm going to go and pass out somewhere for a bit.

Last Five
1. Tangled up in blue - Bob Dylan*
2. Little digger - Liz Phair
3. The night inside me (live) - Jackson Browne
4. If I never see your face again - Maroon 5
5. It's a hard life - Queen

Monday, February 09, 2009

I miss New York

This past weekend was the New York Comic Con, which means I've been feeling a touch wistful. It's not been a year since I was in New York, as this year's NYCC was moved up two months. And let's be honest, if I had to choose one to go to, last year's was the way to go. New York in mid-April is lovely; New York in mid-February is something else entirely.

Still, part of me wishes I could have been there. One of the best times I've had in my life was attending that con last year. Granted, I was in physical pain by the time the con was over from all the walking I had done over those few days, but it was worth it.

For those who care about such things, and want some of the highlights, here are a few websites to go and visit - Newsarama, Comic Book Resources and The Beat. If, like me, you get a kick out of the pictures of people wearing costumes that range from pathetic to marvelous to pretty bizarre, try this Flickr site.

New York won't be the last comic con. I'm already hoping to get to San Diego in 2010. And after that, I'm not sure. I'm thinking either Toronto or back to New York in 2011, although those last two are complete guesses depending on a wide variety of circumstances. But I have the con bug and I want to go and do more.

The other lingering effect from NYCC is that I've gotten hooked on sketches. I've already showed off the sketches I got last year here, here and here. Since then I've bought a few more. I've tried to be a good boy and buy sketches either directly from the artist or through charity auctions. This site has been particularly helpful, and it's nice to just look, which is what I'm doing 99 per cent of the time. Yes, there's a recession on, but you would never say so given the prices some of these pieces go at.

Anyway, here's what I've picked up since New York.

These two are by Colleen Coover. Well, I commissioned her to do one, mentioned I would have commissioned her to do one of Marvel Girl and the Scarlett Witch versus a polar bear, but couldn't really afford it. And lo and behold, she tossed in this quick sketch, which was awfully nice of her. I picked these two characters because she had been drawing them in a very cute and funny back-up strip in the X-Men: First Class series.

This is Power Girl by Amanda Conner. I'm ashamed to admit I bought this straight off eBay and I feel a touch bad about that. However, I've always loved her art and did try and get a commission from her once, but she was booked. If she's at a con I'm attending over the next few years she's at the top of my list.

Ahem This one got me a look or two when it arrived home. It's by Molly Crabapple, one of the best burlesque artists going these days. It's not comic book art, strictly speaking, so why buy it? Well, it was an auction by the Comic Book Legal Defence Fund, which is a good cause. And I put in what I considered to be a very low bid. And yet, here it is.

Let's just say I got a look when it arrived in the mail and leave it at that. I still think it's a lovely piece. And hey, the first three artists are all women.

Fred Hembeck, who is known more for his funny comics than "serious" super hero books. Still, I bought these two pieces he had up for auction and I'm pretty happy with them. They're fun. The characters, in case you don't know, are Batman and Superman in one sketch and Dr. Strange in the other.

So that's the collection so far. As I've said, the bug has bitten, so I'm sure there is more to come.

Last Five
1. All because of you - U2
2. Is that all you got for me? - The Donnas
3. Walk like a man - Bruce Springsteen*
4. D is for dangerous - The Arctic Monkeys
5. One flight down - Norah Jones

Sunday, February 08, 2009

An ill weekend

So, the penthouse is a minor hospital wing this weekend. In a rare event, we've both come down with a head cold at the same time. Normally Cathy gets one and I'll get one a few weeks later. But no, we're both tagged at the same time. Which means sloth and an unwillingness to do much of anything. Although I did manage to get some groceries yesterday. Oh, and I might offer up this small tip to NorthMart...perhaps having more than three cashiers on during a Saturday after government payday is something you might want to consider.

Cathy is also fairing slightly worse than me in that she's sporting a couple of minor black eyes. No, I did not hit her (like I would still be alive to type this if that happened. Either Cathy or her mom would have killed me long before now). No, she came home Friday lunch time and bent down to say hello to a very excited Boo. He proceeded to jump up and whack Cathy in the nose. Hard. Well, hard enough to draw blood and leave Cathy with a ringing headache that lasted more than a day.

I'm debating taking a sick day tomorrow. We'll see how I'm feeling. I still have the lingering resistance to take a sick day I had back when I was a journalist. When you were sick back then, you were really screwing over people who had to make up your workload. I think in the seven years I was working with community papers I might have taken a grand total of four days. Plus there was the lingering fear if you "wasted" a sick day for something as minor as flu, it could come back to haunt you if you got seriously ill later in the year.

I remember when Transcon took over the Express and we all went through an orientation seminar. When it came to sick days we were told we got five a year. I asked if we were allowed to bank the sick days - ie. if we didn't use them in 2002, could we roll them over and use them in 2003. The HR person actually rolled her eyes and laughed at me. "This isn't the government," she said, with a touch of contempt in her voice.

Yes, God forbid a company take care of its employees. Just because I have all these extra sick days doesn't mean I'm going to use them. I know people who have retired with literally hundreds of banked sick days. The could have retired two years early, got a doctors note and burned through the remaining sick days. But they didn't, because that wouldn't be right.

Which, I guess, is a long winded way of saying it's nice to be occasionally treated like an adult and have it assumed that if you're taking a sick day, it's because you genuinely feel like crap and that it's not in your best interest to be at work, especially since it could result in other people feeling like crap.

Hmmm, I actually had something else I wanted to talk about, but I think I'll leave that for another post.

Last Five
1. Win, win - Sean Panting
2. Slow hands - Interpol
3. Julia - The Beatles
4. World keeps turning - Tom Waits
5. Emergency road side assistance - Sean Panting*

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Just trying to hang on

I'm shamelessly robbing this cartoon I saw on Sheena Goodyear's blog, who in turn robbed it from the Shortpacked web cartoon.

I ceased being a print reporter in 2005 and it was a hard decision at the time. I was burnt out, but I hated the notion of giving up. It felt like I was quitting. But 18 months later it looked like a stroke of genius once the Express folded. People asked me if that was why I quit....if I knew what was going to happen to the paper. I'd like to take credit and say that, yes, I'm exactly that clever and that I could see it coming. And while I certainly knew the new management seemed to have an ambivalent attitude towards the long-term survival of the paper, I never would have dreamed they would kill it so quickly after I left.

Just like in much the same way I knew the future of print journalism was going to be shaky as the internet grew to be a more popular way to read news, I never dreamed 3.5 years after I quit being a reporter I'd be watching major US daily newspapers threatened with folding. That I'd be reading stories about how much trouble The New York Times is in. It's thoroughly surreal.

So I do feel bad for print reporters, especially ones like Sheena who are just starting out. Granted they're lucky in some ways that they're young enough and familiar enough with technology that they can adapt. Still, it's a sucky world to be heading out into looking for a reporting job, especially if want to focus on writing as oppose to radio or TV.

I suspect reporting is going to look a lot different in five years time than it does now. I'm not certain what it's going to look like, but as long as it's still good journalism, I'll be happy.

Last Five
1. The glory of the 80s - Tori Amos
2. It takes one to know one - The Donnas
3. Blue happiness - Andrew LeDrew
4. 40 (live) - U2
5. Lovers in a dangerous time - Bruce Cockburn*

Friday, February 06, 2009


I began hearing rumblings about Microsoft Songsmith the other day, but then John Gushue put up a few YouTube links and I thought to myself, "What the fuck is this glorious evil?"

Just start poking around YouTube and type in some of your favourite song title and Microsoft Songsmith. By all accounts, the program is shit at it's original purpose, which is you singing original song and it will create the music for you. But for doing weird shit to classic songs, it's genius.

I don't know, but I think that says something about either about the quality of Microsoft's product or the folks who inhabit the Internet. Either way, it's amusing.

I think this is my favourite so far.

A lot of this really is crap (Even I can't inflict the lounge version of "Running with the devil" by Van Halen on you this early in the morning), but sometimes you can stumble on something that's genius. Anyway, it's an amusing way to kill an hour today if you need it. Although I suspect somewhere Inflatable Elvis is either laughing to kill himself or hunting for sharp objects.

Edit: Here's a pretty amusing Globe and Mail story on the "phenomenon" that's worth reading.

Last Five
1. What makes you happy - Liz Phair*
2. Don't look back in anger (live) - Tori Amos
3. Little room - The White Stripes
4. Halo - Texas
5. Women and men - Josh Rouse

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Origins of the game

I'm happy with my little piece of the internet these days. My traffic numbers are good (although coming down a bit after peaking during the Nunies) and nearly every blog post I put up I get feedback. I'm glad to see people take the time to put up a comment. And that means a lot to me. It's nice to see a conversation taking place on what I'm writing about.

Still, if I want to kill the conversation stone dead, I pretty much just have to mention curling. Most people who come to this blog just don't seem to get it. So I figured maybe if I explain a little bit about where this came from, it might help put things in some perspective.

I think like lots of boys, you follow the sports your father follows or takes part in. My dad, for example, has virtually no interest in hockey. I don't know why, but he doesn't. And nor did I, when I was a kid. Oh sure, I had some hockey cards and I talk about it a bit. But that's mainly because if you were a 10 year old boy and didn't like hockey, well, your life became immeasurably more difficult.

But I never played it. I still can't skate to this day and it doesn't bother me in the slightest.

But my dad loved baseball and so did I. My first heartbreak was produced by the 1979 Montreal Expos, who just couldn't catch the Pittsburgh Pirates for the NL East title that year. And I still do love baseball. But I never really had much in the way of any skill at it, other than shagging around on the field behind our house.

And dad loved car racing. Never picked that up either and I think I'm all right with that.

But he also loved watching curling. No idea why, but he did. Maybe it was the satisfying cracking noise the old corn brooms used to make when they slapped the ice back in the 70s (until the switched over to the much more efficient, but less fun, brooms they use today). Perhaps it was the simple awe that comes with watching something as big as a rock actually curl. Or, more likely, the whole notion of throwing a rock as hard as you can and hitting other rocks and sending them flying was tremendously appealing to both an adult and a 10-year-old kid.

Nothing might have come from it, except when I was in Grade 8 I noticed an ad in the Telegram offering classes for junior curlers at Baly Haly country club. I think my parents were a bit concerned about how much it would cost, but still let me sign up for it. I never really asked much from my parents, so when I did, and it was reasonable, they normally allowed it.

For those not in the know, Baly Haly was, and probably still is, the snobby country club in the east end of St. John's. For decades, it was one of the few places in Newfoundland you could play golf. It was members only and I still find it miraculous that they let a bunch of 12 to 15 year old kids enter their club and beat up their their precious curling ice.

But they did and I went and I took lessons. And much to my shock, I was pretty good at it. For the first time in my life, I found a sport I was not only comfortable playing, but I could see myself conceivably be good at. I was comfortable on the ice. I enjoyed the strategy. I could make good shots.

And I won trophies. Silly now, but a big deal to me when I was a 14. All my friends had trophies and awards for hockey, softball or Sports Day at school. I had nothing. Then I won a couple of curling trophies and I was the happiest person in the world. I even, during my first year, won one for Good Sportsmanship. Of all the awards I've won over the years, I think it remains the most surreal.

(Yes, I still have most of my curling trophies in storage somewhere)

I really wasn't bad at it. From Grade 8 to Grade 12 I won bonspiels, competed in provincial tournaments and had a lot of fun. And once I graduated high school, I dropped it and didn't start curling again until 2005 when I came up here.


At the time it made sense. I started seriously going out with someone in Grade 12 and suddenly curling didn't seem as important. Also, if I wanted to keep playing, I was going to have to pay a club membership fee of, I think, about $400 a year. An unimaginable amount in 1988, especially when I was trying to pay tuition and having to work part time. There wasn't enough time or money to keep at it.

Plus, well, I don't think I was the nicest person to be on the ice with. Embarrassing to admit, but I was, and still am, very competitive when I curl. Back then when I missed a shot it was nothing for me to start cursing (nearly got tossed from a tournament in Stephenville over it), throw my broom or lie on the ice and whack my head. All of which is staggeringly silly and unprofessional.

I think by the time league wrapped up in Grade 12 I'd had enough. If curling was bringing that out in me, time to hang it up. I think it might have been a mistake in retrospect. I wish I'd had a better coach to take me under his wing or that I'd stuck with it. I'm not saying I'd have curled at the Brier or anything, but it would have been interesting.

I'm glad I picked it back up in 2005. Some of those bad habits I had in high school with my level of competitiveness is still there. And I'm pretty sure I pissed off a few people at the club my first year or so here with it. But I'm getting better and I still try to remember to have fun instead of making sure I win.

For the record, and I'm sure I've said this before, it helps having Steph as my Third. I think I'm much more relaxed curling this year, and that's mainly because Steph comes down and chats and random stuff having nothing to do with curling.

Although I think I might start bringing a swear jar and put in a dollar every time I curse on the ice and donate the money to junior curling. But on the upside, it's mostly happy cursing ("Fuck, did you see how much that fucking rock curled. It's fucking buried!") and least I don't throw brooms anymore.

So that's why I love curling. Now you know why I keep writing about it.

Last Five
1. Evil - Interpol*
2. That boy - Lloyd Cole
3. Nightblindness - David Gray
4. House of cards - Radiohead
5. Milk - Garbage

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

You're doing it wrong....again

Yes, there is a certain weariness when it comes to writing about Environment Canada's incompetence and reading about it all the time. Still, there is something remarkable about seeing something so poorly done on a regular basis.

Environment Canada called for a blizzard for Iqaluit today. The call started more than 24 hours ago and they remained steadfast that a blizzard was coming. When I went to bed last night, the last update was for around 10 p.m. and they were saying "Yessir, there's a blizzard coming."

Cathy wakes up at 5:30 this morning, notices a distinct lack of howling winds and mild swaying of the building and looks out the window. Clear as a bell. Checks the Environment Canada website, no blizzard warning. As I write this, several hours later, it is perfectly nice day out. Sunny and cold, much the same way as it has been for days now.

I should have known nothing was going to happen because coming home yesterday for lunch we ran into an older Inuk lady who said she didn't think there was going to be a blizzard because it felt too cold. Lo and behold...

You know, someone should do an Inuit Elder Weather Forecasting website. I would believe their predictions much sooner than Environment Canada's. Plus, I have no doubt they would be right more often. I think I could do a better job sacrificing a siksik and reading its entrails to predict the weather (yes, there are no siksiks in Iqaluit. It's a rant. Roll with me here) than whatever method Environment Canada is using.

Environment Canada can predict cold and sunny with stunning accuracy. Congratulations. Alter that forecast in the slightest and they completely fuck it up more often than not. Understand, I wouldn't be as irate if the weather was miserable here today, but not a blizzard. Then you could go "Oh well, they just missed the intensity of the storm a bit, but it's still not nice out."

It's sunny here today! They missed it completely. This is the equivalent of swinging at the ball before it's left the pitcher's hand. Environment Canada seriously needs to do something to improve it's weather services in this part of the world because it is wretched as it stands. I'd say people will die because of this, except I'm pretty sure they already have. The question is, how many more do you want before you fix things up here.

Because one of these days they're going to predict sunny weather in the morning and a blizzard is going to spring up from "nowhere" and there are going to be people out on the land in serious trouble.

Time to get your act together, kids.

Last Five
1. Milk - Kings of Leon
2. Pride (In the name of love)(live) - U2
3. Hollow - Sean Panting*
4. Home I'll never be - Tom Waits
5. Don't tear me up - Mick Jagger

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Who are these guys?

So the Juno Award nominations came out today and wow am I ever oblivious about the state of the Canadian music industry.

It's not just the sheer volume of crap music like Celine Dion, Nickelback and Hedley that's nominated. It's the sheer volume of acts I've never heard of before in my life that's flooring me. I'm used to this level of obliviousness when looking at the nominees for the East Coast Music Awards, but for the Junos? I look at the Fan Choice Award - which means you should be dealing with a massively popular act, right? - and there's a group called The Lost Fingers. Never heard of them. Album of the year has The Lost Fingers and Sylvian Cossette. Nope.

Artist of the year has City and Colour and Serena Ryder. No clue. New artist of the year is a clean sweep as I've never heard any of those acts.

Now, I'm used to a certain level of obliviousness these day as to what is popular in music. I don't listen to radio stations. I download albums that look like they might be interesting to me after I read enough reviews so that I feel like I've got a handle on what the album is like and then I'll give it a whirl.

But going through the list was baffling because I was sure I listened to some good Canadian music in 2008. Didn't Hawksley Workman have a really good album out? Matt May and El Torpedo produced a rock masterpiece. Ron Sexsmith and Kathleen Edwards had good records out. Not career highlights, but still solid stuff. Am I losing my shit?

But nope, I'm not losing my shit. There they are - in Adult Alternative Album of the Year or Rock Album of the Year. Wedged between the announcements for Country Recording for the Year and Vocal Jazz Album of the Year. They've been tossed into the Juno ghetto of "Music we have categories for, but likely won't announce during the TV broadcast."

I would ordinarily view this as one of I'm certain many to come "Oh my God, I am getting old moments" except Celine Dion is nominated. Odd thing about Dion, I've never met anyone who admits to liking her music. And yet she sells millions and keeps getting Juno nods. So there must be an underground for it somewhere. Celine Dion, the crystal meth of Canadian music. Oddly, they both can have a similar impact on your teeth. Little known fact.

I guess there's two ways to look at the Junos. The first is that I'm apparently completely out of touch with what is popular in Canadian music these days, make my peace with it and continue to live a happy life listening to stuff I actually like as opposed to what the music industry is trying to force down my throat. Or I could go and sample some of the nominees that I haven't heard of before. I might find something I like. Which is always fun.

However, given the volume of known crap there (Nickelback, Hedley, Dion) it's a process that I will explore very carefully.

The Last Five
1. There's an arc - Hey Rosetta!
2. Nashville - Liz Phair
3. Rich kid blues - The Raconteurs
4. Leather (live) - Tori Amos*
5. The piano has been drinking (not me) - Tom Waits

Monday, February 02, 2009

Regents renewal

It's good to see that Newfoundland media are keeping some track of the shenanigans going on with MUN's Board of Regents. Pam Frampton is just the latest to fire off a round at the provincial government's handling of the situation.

I could do another rant against the provincial government and how they've handled this. They're "dismissing" perfectly good Regents and "renewing" the Board, often with people with only the most thinly veiled links to the governing party.

I've always been a touch hesitant to get deeply into the Board of Regents situation. I ran for one of the alumni rep positions last year and lost. And I lost by a wide margin, which I'm all right with. But even back then I had suspicions of something weird going on with the Board of Regents.

MUN Alumni's steadfast refusal to release the complete election results, citing "privacy legislation concerns" was pretty strange to me. A lawyer friend of mine called it "pretty bizarre" and seemed pretty certain privacy legislation didn't cover election results.

Plus, there were plenty of rumours about Confederation Building getting involved with the election, making sure certain "preferred" candidates got large voting bumps. Something that might have showed up if the complete results were released.

I never expressed this theory before because:
A. I don't want to look like a sore loser.
B. It sounded a little too much like a "Tin Foil Hat" conspiracy theory to me. Sure there was a hint of logic around it. There often is around conspiracy theories. Doesn't make them any more true, though.

However, given the Department of Education's bizarre and random purges of the Board of Regents based on the dubious need to "renew" the organization, it doesn't seem quite so crazy now. If they're willing to purge people sitting on the Board for barely a year, is trying to make sure the "right" alumni are elected any more strange?

So, with the provincial government possibly trying to carpet bomb votes for the Alumni elections and outright dismissing Regent members who may disagree with their direction or desires for the university, I think we can agree the whole Regents selection process is deeply broken. It was never great to begin with. The Conservatives certainly aren't the first to stack a board with loyalists. What they are is the first to do it with such a stunning lack of subtlety and grace that there is actually a public outcry.

What's needed is something else. Something where the autonomy of the university is better protected than what it is now. This is just a rough idea and I'm certainly open to alternative suggestions.

Keep the Board of Regents at 30 members. Ten will still be appointed by the provincial government. Ten members are voted on by Memorial University of Newfoundland alumni. The vote totals of this election will be made public at the same time the winners are announced. In fact, I don't think it's a bad idea for Elections Newfoundland and Labrador get involved with the process if it becomes too complicated for Alumni Affairs to handle properly.

Five positions will be held for students attending MUN.

The Final Five will be selected by a panel composed of students, professors and university administrators. Anybody can run for these positions. You do not need to have ever worked or attended MUN to apply. Why? Because sometimes an outsider perspective - someone not so wrapped up in the history, drama and grudges that a university can create - is necessary to offer some clarity and perspective.

Oh, and for a kicker, Board of Regents members cannot be a current member of any political party or have been a member in the past five years.

That's my idea. No chance in hell it's happening with the current education minister and premier in place. But it would be nice to see some future government or political party pick this up and run with it.

And your ideas?

Last Five
1. Until the day is done - R.E.M.
2. City of the dead (live) - The Clash
3. 3 o'clock drunk - Sean Panting*
4. American gangster time - Elvis Costello and The Impostors
5. Steven's last night in town - Ben Folds Five