Tuesday, March 31, 2009


So today marks the 60 year anniversary of Newfoundland and Labrador joining Canada. Tomorrow marks the 10th anniversary of the creation of Nunavut. There's going to be a lot of celebration as well as reflection for both and I look forward to reading a lot of it over the next few days. I'm not really sure how much of a milestone 60 years in Canada is, to be honest. I suspect if the current premier wasn't kicking up such a racket about Ottawa it might have passed with little comment. But no, there will be quite a bit of navel gazing happening across the country on this one, I suspect.

Nunavut's 10th is a far more interesting and legitimate anniversary. After 10 years it's fair to look back and see what's been accomplished and what still needs work. What have been the successes and the failures. However, this anniversary hits a little too close to where I work, so as is my standard policy on this blog, I won't be commenting on it. But I do encourage my fellow northern bloggers, those who feel comfortable commenting, what they think of Nunavut over the past 10 years. I think it could be a fascinating discussion.

As for Newfoundland and Labrador, well, there will be no shortage of words written. The Telegram did some nice work this past weekend. As for myself, well, rather than get too long-winded on this, I think I'll just republish something. Craig Westcott of The Business Post asked me, a bunch of other people, a couple of weeks ago to write 200 words on what Confederation has meant for Newfoundland and Labrador. There's nothing like having a small word limit to hurt the brain and make you focus.

It's being published this evening, but I don't think Craig would mind if I put up here what I sent to him. Anyway, my thoughts on 60 years of Confederation.

There are times when I think joining Canada been one of the few signs of maturity and wisdom we've displayed over the past 60 years. It takes a bold gesture to realize that you're better off being part of something greater than yourself rather than to try and flail about miserably on your own for more decades.

Never doubt there were going to be miserable decades to come after 1949 if we stayed on our own, likely run by politicians so inept as to make Smallwood look like a genius. For all the nationalists who like to write the alternate history fantasy about how grand Newfoundland and Labrador would be if it had never joined Canada in 1949, I have a different world in mind that is grimmer and far more likely. Where poverty and corruption, long a part of Newfoundland life when it was an independent nation, continued for the rest of the 20th century.

Are there things that could be better between the rest of Canada and the province? Of course. Like most worthwhile things, it takes time and effort. When you have leaders willing to work to solve problems rather than pick fights to score political points. Perhaps when we elect some of those, it'll be the next sign that we're continuing to grow up.

Last Five
1. Since I don't have you - Guns 'n Roses
2. Missing you - Bob Mould
3. Apres moi - Regina Spektor
4. Extraordinary girl - Green Day
5. No surprises - Radiohead*

Monday, March 30, 2009

Walrus naming

So as we approach the end of March, I'm getting ready to switch over the banner featuring our drunken walruses. We shot the new photo this weekend. In fact, Cathy's getting deeply into it and we ended up doing another "photo spread" of the walruses. We've even been planning out future photo shoots, so the little guys are here to stay. I'm not sure if they're the official mascots of the blog - the guy smashing his face against the keyboard has always been that - but they're now officially part of the blog.

However, it occurs to me that they don't have names. Nor do I have any idea what to call them. Naming things has never been a particular strong point of mine. Cathy and I spent about a week arguing about the dog's name before settling on Boo. And even now, if were to ask us, I suspect neither of us is still completely happy (Cathy still partial to Gandolf). Don't get me wrong, we obviously love the little bugger and he's always going to be Boo, but it was hard trying find a name that fit.

Same thing with the walruses. Which is why I'm throwing it open to the readers of the blog. Post your suggestions for all three walruses (Larry, Curly and Mo is right out) in the comments section. You have until the end of Thursday. Then, I'll put the names up as a poll on the blog and let readers vote on them.

I will even try and find something something to give away as a prize for the winning entry. No idea what, but I'll figure out something. And no, the walruses will not be given away as a prize.

Last Five
1. Heat of the moment - Asia*
2. The cheapest key - Kathleen Edwards
3. Beautiful thing - Andy Stochansky
4. Vol de Terre-Neuve - Colleen Power
5. Fire sign - Mark Bragg

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Off to Toronto

So, no post yesterday. That's partially because I was kind of reaching for something to write about and the only think I could think of, Cathy didn't think was a good idea. And as I already had my doubts about the wisdom of that particular subject, that was that.

And as for today, well, I've managed to secure a trip to Toronto in November.

We played in the finals for the chance to win a trip to Toronto for the Dominion Curling Club Championship. I wasn't skipping on this team, I was shooting second stone. That was nice as there's less pressure then when shooting skip stones. The downside is I had to sweep a lot more than I have at any other time this year. I am hurting today. Apparently there was steam coming off me at various points.

It was close for the first five ends, but we managed to score two in the 6th to open it up to 6-3. And after that we just kept it clean and won the game. I think 7-4 was the final score.

For the record, this is very cool on many levels. We will fly to Toronto in November. Most expenses (plane tickets, hotels, some meals) are covered. We have our own truck and driver to take us where we want. We're getting some freebees like new shirts, jackets, bags and brooms out of this as well. This is also a nice championship because it's for club curlers. So we won't be facing people who curler who compete at the Brier. Hopefully we'll be facing people near our skill level.

But mostly we're just really exciting to be curling at a national event. Outside of the Arctic Winter Games or the Canadian Winter Games, this is the first time Nunavut has competed at a national curling event. I never thought I would get the chance to do something like this, so I'm pretty excited. Our skip, Ed, has been curling for about 40 years and this is his first time at a national championship, so he's beyond pumped.

And we're representing Nunavut, which is also very cool. I've seen the draw schedule and the only downside is that we're not going to play either of the other territories unless we all make it to the play-offs. Which is too bad. We will get to play Newfoundland and Labrador, though.

And also, I clearly need to start going to the gym and getting in some better shape, because if I have to play six or more games I can't be huffing and puffing going up and down the ice. So after Ottawa, it's back to the gym for me.

But it's certainly a good cause.

Last Five
1. Gracie - Ben Folds
2. Santiago de Cuba - The Chieftains*
3. Downtown - Tegan and Sara
4. Song with Rose - Elvis Costello and the Imposters
5. Girl on the wing - The Shins

Friday, March 27, 2009

Solving the economist problem

All right, so I have an idea. The idea came to me after I read my 500th story this month from an economist completely contradicting whatever another economist had said five minutes earlier. It's not a major epiphany or anything. Hell, I suspect most of us have had this idea at one point or another because it's the only sane reaction to have when economists begin speaking.

And that's that they should all die. Or at least shut up. Or even not completely contradict each other, in public, all the fucking time. Don't you think the world would be a better place without economists?

So I have had An Idea.

The idea is this, we build ourselves a big-ass air tight dome. Consider it an economic stimulas package that may or may not be a good thing depending on which economist is on the TV at that moment. And there is only one door. Once we have it built, we round up every economist in the world and put them inside the dome, but with only enough oxygen to survive for about four days.

I think by the time the dome is finished we could put cameras in there and sell the event to pay-for-view (more stimulus!), because the general public are going to start getting pretty blood thirsty about economists. When they're not scaring the shit out of you with their predictions, they're arguing and disagreeing with each other, so you never know if you should be feeling a touch optimistic or looking for a gun to put in your mouth.

Since economists tend to be wrong more often than they're right, you never know which side to believe. They talk out of their ass, using numbers and predictions that 99% of the general public doesn't understand anyway. Besides, you get the feeling it was some annoying economist who got us into this mess in the first place.

Anyway, sorry, off track there for a moment. Economists in an air-tight dome with four days of oxygen. Which should be enough assuming they don't argue with each other. They can't argue about which course is right. Nothing. The more they argue, the more excited they get, the less oxygen they have left to survive.

Now, assuming they haven't killed each other within the first 12 hours, you start letting them letting them out into a two-part private holding area around day two. In the first area, you're one on one with the economist and ask this simple question: "When will the economy recover?" You listen to the answer and then put them in a holding area to wait.

To wait for what? For every other economist in the dome to try and answer the same question. The first one who disagrees with what the other economists have said, the whole lot of them go back into the dome. Just to be fair, you can try again on day 3, but I imagine the result will be the same.

So they're pretty much doomed. Because even with their lives at stake, there's no way that many economists could agree on the colour of the sky, let alone on when the economy is going to recover and what's the right course of action to take.

I'm not saying this a nice thing to do, but wouldn't your world be a happier and less stressful place if there were no economists in it?

Last Five
1. I won't back down - Tom Petty
2. Little know it all - John Rouse
3. Highway girl - The Tragically Hip
4. Waiting on the world to change - John Mayer
5. Call me (live) - Franz Ferdinand*


So I'm still checking out the Comic Art Fans website on a regular basis, although it's mostly to check out all the pretty artwork rather than buy anything. Judging by the prices that some of the pieces of art garner you would never know there was a recession on.

And there's always some nice artwork there by some very well known comic book artists. But I have deeply fallen in love with a piece of artwork that's by an artist - Agnes Garbowska - I've never heard of before until this week. But it's great. It's insanely cute, but I don't care, it's absolutely lovely.

That's Wonder Woman, Supergirl and Zatanna, in case you were wondering, with bunny version of the rest of the Justice League. It's currently up on eBay, but with more than four days left in the auction, it's already more than $125 Canadian, which is well out of my price range. I can't even justify it although it's for a good cause. Karen Ellis, a cartoonist, lost most of her belongings in a fire earlier the year and some of her friends and colleagues are trying to help her out. Like donating cute bunny sketches.

But I just can't pull the trigger. Got to save money for Ottawa next month and Australia in July. However, if one of my many readers out there with spare change burning a hole in their pocket would like to buy me a sketch of Justice League bunnies and give it to me as a way of saying thanks for the many hours of reading pleasure I've given you over the years, I'd be awfully grateful. Plus you'd be helping out an artist in trouble. It's a karmic win-win.

Yeah, I didn't think so. Ah well...

Last Five
1. The ice is getting thinner - Death Cab for Cutie
2. Soap box preacher - Robbie Robertson*
3. Enchantment - Corinne Bailey Rae
4. Saviour - Ron Hynes
5. Gas station sandwich - Sean Panting

Thursday, March 26, 2009


So I've been a bit of a bad blogger lately, not updating every day like I previously have. However, I'm not alone, as it seems we're kind of in the doldrums in the Nunavut blogging community. Or perhaps we're all outside enjoying the extra daylight. I'm not sure.

And really, I've been on a pretty good roll since about September when it comes to posting every day. And I'm ahead of the pace I had last year. I suspect the upcoming adventure in Ottawa in two weeks time will help recharge the batteries.

Anyway, two things to mention today. First, and I know I could probably just check this online, but I figure I've got a readership, let's check with them. Also, it gives me a chance to vent about this.

We had a bit of a large Visa a couple of months ago, mostly due to the fact there were a pair of plane tickets on it. When we got our bill for the past month we noticed we were dinged with $175 in fucking interest, which I thought was a touch strange. Understand, we always pay off our Visa completely and on time every month. Our respective parents drilled that into us from a young age. You don't use the cards unless you have the money to pay them off.

So Cathy called and we were told that we were $10 short in paying off the last Visa. Apparently when I was paying it, I miscalculated or hit a 0 instead of a 1, so we didn't pay it off completely. That means we were billed interest on the entire damn bill, and not the $10 we failed to pay off.

Seriously? I really have to pay $175 in interest on $10? Because that's what Visa is telling me. And if that's true, I suspect Visa is getting another call, a less polite one, from me saying they might want to reconsider that interest amount if they want to keep us as customers.


Oh, and speaking of mistakes, some of you might recall an article I linked to from Vanity Fair about Iceland from earlier this month. Well, there's been a rebuttal of some the facts in that story and, in the interest of fairness, I figured I should link to it.

I gotta say, that people in Iceland don't believe in elves and fairies as much as the article implied is a real source of disappointment for me. That was my favourite part of the story. Nor are they blowing up Range Rovers. Ah well...

Last Five
1. Boys in the band - The Libertines
2. Miss USA - Andy Stochansky
3. Where the white boys dance - The Killers
4. Public pervert - Interpol
5. Eleanor Rigby - The Beatles*

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Watchmen and the Muse

A couple of quick things this evening. I just came back from seeing Watchmen and I'm still kind of processing that. My initial impression is that it is an excellent adaptation, but I'm not sure that makes it a great movie. I think the main problem would be the flashbacks, which work tremendously well in the comic, but I think kind of kill the momentum of the movie. The story is never really propelled forward because so much time is trying to fill in all the characters' back stories.

Alan Moore works that to amazing effect in the comic. I'm not sure how you do it for a movie. Maybe it's not possible. I can understand it no problem because I've read the comic 100 times. But for the average film viewer....

Other likes and dislikes:
1. The opening credit sequence truly is a work of art.
2. The actors for Dr. Manhattan, the Comedian and Rorschach are truly wonderful. The actors for Silk Spectre, Nite Owl and Ozymandias were really awful.
3. Wow, that was a lot more violent than the comic.
4. Insert giant blue penis joke here.
5. Putting Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" as the music for a sex scene was a bad joke batted around the writers room that never should have made it to the big screen.
6. I didn't mind the change in the ending. It wobbled a bit, but mostly held up. Certainly I think audiences would buy it more than the giant squid (read the comic to understand).

I'm sure I'll have more after I process it all. And I'm curious to see what the director's cut looks like after it comes out on DVD.

On a completely unrelated note, I'll point some of you to this guest column on Geoff Meeker's Newfoundland media blog. A week or so ago I had a note show up on Facebook letting me know that the Muse, the student newspaper I worked for back when I was at MUN, held a referendum to try and get their media levy increased, but it failed.

"Typical," I thought at the time, and grumbled a bit about the apathy and general stupidity of the MUN student body. Then I read the guest column that Kerri Breen wrote and realized just how much it hurt. Not just the paper at a financial level, but also the staff at a personal level. When students can't be bothered to vote to increase a levy from $2 a semester to $4 a semester and in return they get 12 copies of a truly excellent piece of student journalism, then I can see how that hurts a lot.

There have been times I've wanted MUN's student body to have a single head so I could smack some sense into it. This would be one of those times.

I hope the Muse tries the levy again in the next academic year. Hopefully they can pull some new tricks out of their bags to convince students of the necessity. Hopefully students can pull their heads out of their ass. Granted, I knew a lot of people with heads up their asses back in the early 90s and I'm willing to bet that 20 years later, not much has changed.

But you can always hope.

Last Five
1. Everything to me - Liz Phair
2. Line of best fit - Death Cab for Cutie
3. Failsafe - The New Pornographers*
4. Bixby Canyon Bridge - Death Cab for Cutie
5. When anger shows - Editors

Monday, March 23, 2009

Just let it die

So I've been watching the slow and steady build of fury towards Greg Gutfeld, the host of a late late night show on Fox News. Gutfeld, as most Canadians now know, said some disparaging things about the Canadian military. Even his "apology" was designed to be mock and generate more attention. While it's nice to see Canadians rallying around their soldiers, this is a tempest in a teapot.

Allow me to make two points that should be really obvious to most people:

1. This is Fox News. If there is a more disreputable, dishonourable and genuinely useless waste of airways then I'm hard pressed to think of one.

2. This is a guy who, on a network filled with some genuinely crazy and despicable "personalities", was considered talented enough to be put on the air at 2 a.m.

So, to sum up, a "satirist" who goes on air at 2 a.m. on one of the worst networks known to mankind says mean about Canada's military and we freak out. Dear God, are we that insecure as a country that we need to worry about whack jobs on whack job networks?

Furthermore, and here's the depressing point, we're giving the idiot publicity. And judging by the fact he's on air at 2 a.m., he clearly needs all the help and publicity he can get because 99.99999% of Americans don't know he even exists. I'd never even heard of him until this racket. So can we just please drop this and move on?


Last Five
1. Just a Tuesday - Amelia Curran
2. Waiting around - Drive
3. Stuck in a moment you can't get out of - U2
4. Born to run (live) - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band*
5. Ancestor's song - Robbie Robertson

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Your weekend recap

Gah, this might be the longest I've gone without posting in a bit. But I spent most of yesterday at the curling club and spent most of today without internet. I think something happened to internet service in Iqaluit as we were without and a nearby unsecured wifi network, that I think is on Qiniq, was also down. Which made for a mildly frustrating.

As for the weekend, well, curling didn't exactly go as planned. We won the first game, but the second one got away from us. And then we had to play another game 20 minutes after losing that. And we were done. First time this year we've been blown out of a game, but we had nothing left in the tanks and the team we were playing were making everything in sight. So no bonspiel glory this time.

As for the prizes, there was actually five plane tickets up for grabs. And I won none of them. Ah well. Four were door prizes, but the fifth was kind of fun. They decided to do a frozen foot draw. The purpose? You take off your sliding shoe and sock, put your bare foot on the ice and then throw your rock. Closest to the button wins a plane ticket. It's much harder than it seems. Most people hogged their rocks or threw them through. It was $10 a shot with all the money going to the food bank. We raised, I think, more than $700. I didn't win the ticket, but I think I was about fourth closest when all was said and done. So not bad.

So it was a good weekend. Next weekend, the play down for the Dominion Club Championship in the fall.

As for the rest, I finally got to see the finale of Battlestar Galactica. I was late getting home Friday and missed it, but one of the players on my team burned a copy of the show for me. My brain is kind of reeling from that. There will be people who nitpick of quibble over some elements of the show, but man, they managed to land that sucker. And that's so hard to do. Far more have failed (X-Files, I'm looking at you) than actually get it right. Tons of cool action, lots of touching scenes (if you weren't getting misty with some of the Adama/Roslin moments, you have no heart) and managed to wrap up most of the major plot points, plus pull a view mind-fuck moments.

I'd consider that a pretty successful conclusion to things.

I'm looking forward to the complete BSG on DVD, which I assume will probably be coming out in time for Christmas. At least Cathy won't have to wonder what to get me this year.

And that's it, really. Nothing else exciting. Today was especially relaxing, just lounging around the apartment, enjoying all the daylight streaming into the place. It's nice to have "spring" here. Not so much for the warmth, as it was about -40C with windchill today, but for the daylight. It makes the place feel warmer.

Last Five
1. I understand - Sloan
2. Rich woman - Robert Plant and Allison Krauss
3. Sketchy Jerome - Colleen Power
4. Bend and break - Keane
5. A common disaster - Cowboy Junkies*

Friday, March 20, 2009

Not too late

The St. Patrick's Day Drunk Dial is still going on. You have until Sunday to call in and leave your best drunken rambling. I still haven't done it myself, which is shocking. I have to try and find time this weekend to do it.

And if you haven't and you're wondering what it's all about, Dups, the man organizing it, managed to get a piece on Global earlier this week. Here it is.

Dups is one of my best friends and I never cease to be in awe of his utter imperviousness to embarrassment.

Last Five
1. Oh Mary - Neil Diamond*
2. When I get home - The Beatles
3. Book of love - Peter Gabriel
4. Better than heaven - Bloc Party
5. Intervention - Arcade Fire

My geekiness is getting in the way of my nerdiness

I'm robbing that subject header straight from Patton Oswalt, in case you're wondering.

So I've signed up for a curling bonspiel this weekend. And I'm trying to relax, just have some fun with it and not get to wrapped up in things. There are prizes, but the only thing I want - Canadian North plane tickets - are a door prize. So it doesn't matter how well, or poorly, we do.

Plus it's a chance to curl with my regular team one more time this season, which will be nice. I have another bonspiel next weekend, but that one is considerably more serious. The winner of that gets to represent Nunavut at a national curling championship in November. It'll be the first time adults (juniors curl in the Canada Winter Games) will represent the territory at a national curling event, so it's a big deal.

But this weekend is just fun. Although there was a moment of panic for the team when we discovered there were 14 teams playing. First, that's a great number, the highest amount we've had all season. However, it means there has to be two draws this evening to make sure all the teams get their first game in.

So there was panic among team members (OK, me) that I might miss the finale of Battlestar Galactica this evening. The finale starts at 9 pm and the second draw at the bonspiel starts at 8:45 pm. Dear God....

Fortunately, we're curling at 6:45, which means we should get off the ice in time for me to bolt home and catch the show. And if you're thinking I must have an excessively patient wife to put up with me rushing off to curling as soon as I get home from work and then rushing back after the game to spend two hours watching a show she neither understands nor cares about, then you would be very correct.

Dear God, let them land this show properly. It's such a hard thing to write a series finale. And this season, while starting off so well, has been really....unimpressive, over the past four episodes.

Curling and Battlestar Galactica this evening. All I need is a big pile of comic books in front of me to seal the deal.

One other thing, completely unrelated to BSG or curling, but its geeky and it both amuses and horrifies me. We're already in the very early planning stages of our 2010 vacation. Yes, we have Ottawa next month and Australia this summer, but it's never to soon to start looking at the next big one. And that one is Costa Rica and San Diego.

We're going to Costa Rica for obvious reasons. San Diego is because I'm hoping to get the massive Comic Con. Cathy wouldn't mind going for a day of people watching and I'm hoping to convince a few friends to come along for the ride. However, trying to prepared for the SDCC is beginning to look scarier and scarier.

This year's show is not until July 23-26. However, four day passes for the show sold out last week, a solid four months before the show. Yesterday, the hotel rooms allocated for the event went on sale. You can get some idea just how awful it was by reading the comments thread here. Let's just say it was a deeply ugly, slow, insane and frustrating affair.

It actually has me worried if we can pull it off next year. If not, we'll have to figure something out.

You know, I wish Hunter S. Thompson had gone to SDCC. That would be a story worth reading.

Last Five
1. Hospital beds - Hey Rosetta!
2. Roly poly - The Little Willies
3. Tears of gold - Ryan Adams*
4. No words - Neil Diamond
5. Here at the right time - Josh Ritter

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Stewart blow back

I was waiting for the backlash to be begin against Jon Stewart and it did, in a very half-assed way, yesterday.

Understand, as much as I love watching the Daily Show, I think there are legitimate criticisms that can be leveled against Stewart and the show. I think you can only hide behind the "we're just a comedy show, we're not real news, we're on Comedy Central" only so long. The show has evolved beyond that point now.

What he does is an odd hybrid and can be confusing. But I think Stewart needs to be taken more seriously, and needs to take the consequences of what he does more seriously. The Daily Show doesn't need to be 60 Minutes, but he does have to recognize its influence and that they operate just as effectively, if not moreso, than many news broadcasts. Yes, that says something about network news, but it doesn't eliminate the argument that they do serious commentary.

It also means I think he has to start doing fewer puff piece interviews. David Letterman did harder interviews with politicians than Stewart during the last US election. And I don't want the show to get all serious and lecturing. I still want the funny. I still want the scathing political and social commentary. But I'd like to hope that after what the show went through in the past few weeks, there is a growing recognition of its importance. It has to keep evolving.

It's hard work to be funny, along with serious and political. But these are talented people. I don't know if they're going to nail it every night, but I like to think they get it right far more often than they miss.

So yeah, there's criticism to be had of the show. But perhaps the first people to launch very public volleys shouldn't be people who Stewart effectively eviscerated.

First up was NBC Universal Chief Executive Jeff Zucker, who is trying to do some desperate damage control to the beleagued CNBC.
"Everybody wants to find a scapegoat. That's human nature," Zucker said during a keynote address at a media industry conference. "But to suggest that the business media or CNBC was responsible for what is going on now is absurd."

Zucker also threw around words like "unfair" and "completely out of line."

I'm all for Zucker going on Stewart to defend himself. He won't, of course, because he would likely get crucified. And look, all business journalists need to do some serious soul searching in the wake of what's happened in the last six months. Standing up and saying that CNBC did a "terrific" job is a little too much like Bush telling FEMA head Michael Brown that he was "doing a heck of a job" after what happened in New Orleans.

Is CNBC completely responsible for what happened? Of course not. Does it deserve it's knuckles rapped hard for its shoddy journalism? Yes. So do a lot of business reporters. CNBC just got in early to avoid the rush.

The other person to take a shot at Stewart today was, hilariously, Tucker Carlson. He's known for being a commentator. He's known for being on the show Crossfire. And he's known for his unfortunate choice in using bowties when on air.

But man, he's famous for Jon Stewart absolutely destroying him, his show and his very existance on CNN back in 2004. Here's a refresher.

If I were Carlson, I would never utter the name "Jon Stewart" ever again, let alone write a thousand odd words about how Stewart is losing it, that people never criticize him and how he's not funny anymore. It's like standing out in a lightening storm and daring the gods to hit you.

Of all the people to whine and criticize Stewart, Tucker Carlson feels he's the best to do it. Dear God.

Of course Stewart is fair game for insightful media criticism. I'm just saying the first two out of the gate shouldn't be people with large axes to grind after they've been made very public fools of. It's just pathetic and it kind of tarnishes any legitimate criticism that might come later.

Last Five
1. Helen Wheels - Paul McCartney
2. This is such a pity - Weezer
3. Lost together - Blue Rodeo*
4. Hell yes - Beck
5. Native side - Ron Hynes

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

It's a magic place

I don't know if it's just the channels I've been watching lately, a sign of just how cheap TV advertising has become during an economic downswing or perhaps they just have lots of money to burn, but I've seen a lot of the Newfoundland Tourism ads this year.

In case you've missed them, here's an example, via YouTube.

Pretty, isn't it?

Here's the thing, I don't actually recognize the place in these ads. It looks like Newfoundland via Narnia. Yes, I've never been to Gros Morne and can't really comment on those ads. But my lovely, and very ethical, wife has been there many times, and she can. Her reaction?
"Where's all the rain? And the fog that obscures all the beautiful views? Did they manage to film that on the one day a year where it's not actually pouring rain with fog in Gros Morne?"

Hell, I barely recognize St. John's in some of the other ads. I feel like I'm in a Talking Heads song watching that ad. "That's not my beautiful city..."

It's too clean, too bright, too....pretty.

I don't mean to disparage Newfoundland and lord knows not my wonderful hometown. And yes, I'm aware that there isn't a tourism marketer in the world that doesn't exaggerate the charms of a place while turning a blind eye to its drawbacks. But watching those ads are deeply weird. It's like someone dipped Newfoundland into magic paint.

Or, like I said, this is an alternate version of Newfoundland. Where it's always bright and sunny (instead of RDF), where all the houses are quaint and have fresh, brightly coloured coats of paint (as opposed to being modern with aluminum siding), where there are lots of small, beautiful children with big smiles on their face running around outside (as opposed to being inside playing video games and being on Facebook. Also, Cathy wants to know where their parents are when they're running next to cliffs), there's no power lines running through a World Heritage Site (didn't think we forgot about that, did you?) and there's no garbage on the streets (there are a lot of sea gulls in St. John's. They are clever and determined).

It's a beautiful place. I'd like to live there. Can someone point me in the direction of the right magic wardrobe that's secretly a portal to take me to this enchanted fairy realm?

Last Five
1. Let's go crazy - Prince*
2. Suede - Tori Amos
3. If I ever lose my faith in you - Sting
4. Vengeance is sleeping - Neko Case
5. The magnificent seven (live) - The Clash

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Your day in religious wackiness

So let's see, first we have the Pope basically advocating murder by going to Africa and saying condoms are a bad idea and people should just practice abstinence instead. Because there aren't a half million studies out there saying abstinence programs are disastrous and never work or anything.

HIV is killing a continent. You fight it with whatever works. If condoms work, you use them. Saying not to is beyond idiocy.

Not that I've ever been a tremendous fan of the Catholic church, but this pope really does suck.

Next up....I enjoyed this header from Warren Ellis' blog - "Canada’s Sense Of Polite Superiority Over The US Suddenly Evaporates", and he then linked to a story about how our federal minister responsible for science is possibly a creationist. Now, Gary Goodyear is saying that of course he believes in evolution. And perhaps he does and this is all just a tempest in a tea pot. And lord knows my alarms went off because I do have the special hatred for creationists.

I really do hope it's nothing but something blown out of proportion. Because really, if it's proven that Canada's science minister is anti-science and a creationist, well, bring on the next federal election and put his face front and centre.

Finally, this is actually a fake christian crazy website (the "Find Sexy Gay Singles in your area" ad might be a tip off. But in a day of religious wackiness, this at least made me laugh.

Do you ever get the feeling that Chinese toy makers are just fucking with us sometimes?

Last Five
1. Start me up - The Rolling Stones*
2. Temptation waits - Garbage
3. That's entertainment - The Jam
4. Cold hearted wind - Ron Sexsmith
5. The gate - Sam Roberts

Monday, March 16, 2009


So I think Cathy deeply confused a Chapters' operator this evening. I suspect as I write this he's telling his co-workers about the deeply confusing phone call he just got.

Here's how it goes.

Back in February we placed a fairly massive Chapters order. It was about 20 books or so. This was due to me getting a lot of Chapters money for my birthday and it being awhile since our last order. So Cathy ordered some of her books, I ordered some graphic novels and we ordered some travel books for Australia. The books were all scheduled to arrive around the 20th of February.

Three of those books arrived very promptly. However, the other 17 were MIA. And by around March 5th Cathy was getting antsy. Chapters tracking information said the books were in Montreal, but it had been saying that for more than 10 days at this point, which is a touch unusual. So she called Chapters to see if they could put a trace on where the books were.

Now, I can't say what happens next is what really happened, but I'd bet money on it. And that is the Chapters operator Cathy was dealing with took one look at our account information, saw how much we spend at Chapters in the run of a year and went "holy crap, let's keep these people happy." So they sent the 17 books that hadn't arrived out yet again. It would be one thing if these were all cheap paperbacks, but at least one of these books was expensive...about $60 (Absolute Batman: The Long Halloween). Yet, Chapters sent it out again without blinking. And they sent it priority post, which is expensive.

So, you know, for a massive, evil small bookstore killing chain, that's a pretty decent response.

Anyway, you can imagine where this is going. On Thursday last week the first box of books finally shows up. Lord knows why it was stuck in Montreal for more than two weeks. I had someone at First Air tell me they had 150,000 pounds of backed up cargo stuck down south waiting to get shipped up. Maybe that box got caught up in that.

Today, the other shoe dropped when the second box of 17 books showed up. For me, this was a mild dilemma. It never was one for Cathy, especially after she checked the Chapters website and discovered you could print a label, attach it to the box and send the books back without any postage cost. However, that was for if you wanted a refund. So to make sure we didn't accidentally get a refund on the books that Chapters never would have come looking for in the first place, she called one of their operators to make sure they didn't accidentally refund us money when we sent back the books.

The operator was that confused he had to put her on hold and see what he had to do because no one had ever called with this kind of request before.

But yes, the books will be sent back over the next day or so. My wife is a more ethical person than me, since I would have been tempted to keep and perhaps resell the books. How many of you would have sent the books back?

Last Five
All from "No Line on the Horizon" - U2

St. Pat's

Just a quick note of reminder - something I should have done on Friday - that the St Patrick's Day Drunk Dial is now taking place and will run until March 23. Just in case you plan on doing some serious partying for the good saint's big day.

Details can be found following the link, but essentially call the toll-free number and leave your drunken ramblings on the machine. If you have the best drunken rambling then you could win a prize. And Dups, the "genius" behind this grand scheme is offering up real prize money this year.

I plan on entering it, although I may not actually be drunk when I call. And I have my call all planned. All I need are the singers.

Most of the calls are put online for people to listen to. When mine is put up, I'll be sure to link to it.

Anyway, go and call now. Drunk people are awaiting your call. And yes I know it's 8 a.m. when I post this. I'm serious when I say "drunk people are waiting for your call." These are my friends running this. I know them. Odds are, they haven't been sober since last Friday and won't be all this week.

Last Five
1. I need you - The Beatles
2. I still haven't found what I'm looking for (live) - U2
3. Hopeless - KT Tunstall
4. Old time sake - Kathleen Edwards
5. October - U2

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Shattered dreams

Yes, as someone born in Newfoundland I obviously would like to see Brad Gushue's team win the Brier. But as a curling fan, my God I would love to see Round Three between Kevin Martin and Glen Howard. I've watched curling since I was a kid and I've seen some great games, but dear God their last two games....this is at a whole new thing altogether. The shots they're making are at a level completely above everyone else.

I really want them to turn off the clocks. Or give them extra time. Because they're perfectly happy to mix it up every single end. They love it. They thrive on it. And it's exciting curling to watch. None of this hit and peel for two or three or four end, waiting for that one mistake to try and get your two points. They're ready, willing and, most importantly, able, to go in there and make a mess with the perfect confidence that they can either get points out of it.

The best part in the game last night, though, wasn't the shot making, although it was awesome. It was Martin's last shot in the 11th end. The weight and line were a touch off...they needed to sweep a bit for weight, but they had to hold off because the rock wasn't curling enough. Finally, it broke at the last minute, a frenzy of sweeping and they carried the rock about a half inch further than Howard's stone. They won the game and don't think they weren't pumped by it. Because they were jumping and cheering.

But the best part was once they knew they had it one of the sweepers, who is miked, screamed "Fuck Yeah!" Which is a bit of an oops. You're not supposed to swear when miked, but dear God, that's a hard thing to do.

But then TSN showed the shot about five more times, fully miked, so the audience all got to hear the sweeper scream "Fuck Yeah!" five more times. Hilarious. But it did capture the moment quite nicely.

So yeah, Go Team Gushue. I just don't think you're going to be Brier champ, not with the way these two teams are playing right now.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the curling spectrum, so far removed from the Brier as that it might as well be in another galaxy, there was my club play-off game on Wednesday. Alas, the last game I'll play with Team Shattered Dreams this year. We lost a hell of a close game and, three days later it's still bugging me slightly.

We were losing 4-3 going into the 8th but I had last rock. The end went pear shaped, but when it came down to last rock, there was still a chance to tie it and send it to an extra end. I had to play a tap back on one of my shots in front. Hit it right into the 8-foot and we go one more. The shot was going down right, I had the sweepers on it and it looked like the rock was going to tap straight back onto an opposing stone on the edge of the 8-foot.

And then I called off the sweepers. I was afraid it was running too straight and it was going to tap it straight past the opposing stone and sail it through the house. However, about 10 feet out from the tap, it broke massively. It tapped back and hit the stone in the 8-foot about an inch on the wrong side. It lay there for second shot.

Frustrating. It was a great game and the guy who beat me gave me great games every time we played him this year. Still, it sucks to end your season by missing a shot by that little.

I am glad I got to curl with Team Shattered Dreams this year. They were fun, they kept me laughing whenever I got frustrating and they really did improve a lot as players as the year went along. I'd happily play with them again next season if they were interested.

And now, because I don't think Steph would mind (it's her camera that took the photo and she sent it to me), a picture of Team Shattered Dreams 08/09. Close guys, but there's always next year.

(Brandon, Stephanie, Craig and Bill)

Curling isn't completely over for me this year. There's the First Air bonspiel next weekend (plane tickets to Ottawa as the door prize if you're in Iqaluit and interested in putting in a team) and there's the club play down for the Dominion Curling Club Championship. There looks like there will be about five or six teams competing for a chance to go to Toronto in November, so that should be fun.

Curling season is close to wrapping up, so for those of you who hate these posts, you're almost in the clear. But it's been a good season for me. I had a lot of fun and I'm sorry to see it draw to a close.

Last Five (I was in a Ron Hynes mood this morning)
1. St. John's Waltz - Ron Hynes*
2. Here lies Lenora Jennings - Ron Hynes
3. Picture of Dorian Grey - Ron Hynes
4. Shine like diamonds - Ron Hynes
5. Tickle Cove Pond - Ron Hynes

Friday, March 13, 2009

Atlantic Blue

Once again, in lieu of events off Newfoundland, where all hope has essentially been given up for finding the missing 16 people, I'm not going to be blogging anything this evening. Regular blogging will resume tomorrow.

Instead, I'll put up the only version of Ron Hynes' "Atlantic Blue" that I can find. It's a bit rough, s it looks like it was recorded by a camera phone. But I think you can get the idea.

And here are the lyrics. I'm sure Hynes would prefer that it would only be a song for the Ocean Ranger, but given what happened on Thursday, the song is appropriate.

What colour is a heartache from a love lost at sea?
What kind of memory never fades but lingers to eternity?
How dark is the light of day the sleepless eyes of mine survey?
Is that you, Atlantic Blue? My heart is as cold as you.

How is one heart chosen to never lie at peace?
What kind of moment remains? Is there not one sweet release?
And who's the stranger at my door,
To haunt my dreams forever more?
Is that you, Atlantic Blue? My heart is as cold as you.

I lie awake in the morning, as the waves wash on the sand,
I hold my hurt at bay, I hold the lives of his children in my hands.

And who's plea will receive no answer?
Who's cry is lost upon the wind?
Who's the voice so familiar,
Whispers my name as the night comes in?
And who's wish never fails to find my broken heart on Valentine's?
Is that you Atlantic Blue? My heart is as cold,
My heart is as cold, my heart is as cold as you.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


There's any number of things I was contemplating blogging about today - curling, Newfoundland tourism ads, a new idea for MUN's Board of Regents and a couple of other things. But this is one of these days where that all seems kind of shallow and silly compared to the real life and death drama that's happening off the coast of Newfoundland.

It's not all despair yet. As I write this 16 people are missing, but they're still searching and there's still hope. Their survival suits can keep them alive for up to 24 hours, even in the North Atlantic. So all is not lost yet, but obviously the odds get grimmer the longer this goes on. It's dark now and the search isn't going to get any easier with no daylight. And with one found alive, but in critical condition, and the other dead, it's just such a mixed bag of emotions. I know I'm not alone feeling that way.

This is one of those days where every single Newfoundlander or Labradorian is thinking about the Ocean Ranger. This is a day where all of us are thinking about what's happening. There's no six degrees of separation going on. Just about everyone knows someone who has a friend of family member working in the off-shore oil industry. I have two friends whose husbands make that trip on a regular basis. I've heard from one on Facebook letting people know her husband is fine. I haven't heard anything from the second one yet. She's not as regular a Facebook user and I don't want to bother her in what I'm sure is a hectic day with people constantly emailing or calling. But I hope her husband is all right. Odds are he is. Hundreds work on the off-shore. Still...

It's not a time for assessing blame yet (although I'd love to get my hands on a couple of the reporters at the lunch time press conference. "How deep is the water where they crashed?" What an asshole question to ask.) or trying to figure out what went wrong. I'm not much of a religious person, but if you believe in God and have a spare moment, a few extra prayers wouldn't go astray.

Last Five
1. We started nothing - The Ting Tings
2. Black wings (live) - Tom Waits
3. It's raining on prom night - Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies
4. It's my fault for being famous - The White Stripes*
5. Rebellion (lies) - The Arcade Fire

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Brier 2012?

Well, holy crap but colour me excited by some news breaking out of the Brier this morning. And no, it's nothing to do with Brad Gushue and the Newfoundland and Labrador team. I'm not sure I'm allowed to watch them curl anymore, really.

No, the exciting news is that Nunavut could be at the Brier by 2012.

Well, it's maybe not quite that easy. But the news is intriguing.

The Canadian Curling Association is looking at creating a two-tier Brier. Basically Pool A and Pool B. Right now there would be about 15 teams interested in curling in the Brier. That would include all 13 provinces and territories, plus Northern Ontario and the CCA is looking at creating a Team Canada, much like women's curling already has.

What would happen is the the bottom one or two teams from a 12 team Pool A would get dropped to Pool B. The winner of Pool B would then get the chance to compete in the next Brier.

Or, put it this way....say Northern Ontario and PEI finished in the bottom two of the 2011 Brier. They would have to compete in Pool B with the Yukon, NWT and Nunavut. And if Nunavut and PEI won, they would get to compete in the 2012 Brier. The other three teams would have to sit it out for a year.

I speak for nobody but myself, but bring this on. I think this way you get the 12 best teams in the country competing in the Brier that's a good thing. It gets all provinces and territories involved, something that currently is not happening. And yes, Nunavut is still developing curling, but right now we're completely exempt from any of the big curling championships. No representation at all. And I don't think that's fair. Nunavut will have been a territory for 10 years on April 1. I don't think it's asking too much to be allowed to have a shot at participating at a national event.

I suspect the other provinces are going to be more squeamish about this. For example, Saskatchewan is having a terrible Brier this year, but have long considered themselves one of the most important curling provinces. Imagine the embarrassment of bring dropped to Pool B or the absolute horror if they didn't win Pool B and didn't make a Brier appearance.

Still, it would make those little, meaningless games at the end of the week, when 1-9 teams play each other have a bit intensity if they know the loser is going to have to force their province to re-qualify to make the Brier the next year.

And look, yes, I'm being selfish here. If I still lived in Newfoundland, there would be no chance in hell I'm ever competing at the Brier. Gushue has that locked for the next 20 years. But, by Nunavut standards, I'm not a bad curler. I'm on a team with some guys who will be competing for the right to take part in the Dominion National Club Championships in November and I think we have a reasonable shot.

But I thought if I lived up here another 20 years, I'd never see a window of opportunity to curl at the Brier. I'm not delusional, by the way. I know you still have to win in Nunavut and I expect the level of curling to get a lot better; the columnist in the linked story above joked a lot of curlers will move to Nunavut. It actually wouldn't surprise me if that happened.

Plus, you're going to see teams in Pool B that are going to curl a lot more than Nunavut teams are going to be able to. I've heard the commentators talk about how hard it is for the NWT/YK team because travel is so expensive for them. Guys, try living here. If a team from Iqaluit wanted to take part in a weekend bonspiel in Ottawa it would cost more than $6,000 in air fare alone to get there.

So no, I don't really expect to see Nunavut at the Brier in 2012. I don't expect to see myself at the Brier ever. But damn, if the door didn't just crack open and allow a little more light into a room that I thought would be pitch black forever.

Last Five
1. Wild horses - The Rolling Stones*
2. Back of my mind - The Pursuit of Happiness
3. Flying down Juniper - Lindsey Buckingham
4. Munich - Editors
5. Walk away - Franz Ferdinand

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Time to grow up

Although I'm not mentioned by name, I'm assuming that I'm one of the Federalist Bloggers Peter Whittle is talking about, as I did go up one side of George Baker and down the other last week. I have no regrets about that. At best I consider George Baker to be a glory seeking relic whose primary goal in making the statements he did last week was to draw some attention to himself because it's been far too long since anyone paid the slightest bit of attention to the senator. It wasn't to help any cause other than him own.

I also found this quote from Peter amusing...
P&P had its share of trollish attacks from the usual suspects for standing up for Mr. Baker's astute observations and comments about the state of federalism here in Newfoundland and Labrador. They resort to smear, misrepresenting positions and intimidation in their crusade against enlightenment and debate.

I don't comment much on Peter's blog, but I do read it from time to time and I know the people who post there. Peter also has some communications experience so he does know how to spin something to make it look as good as possible. So do I. Plus, I'm a former journalist so allow me to de-spin that statement and translate for you.
P&P had its share of annoying people who have had the unmitigated gall to come over here and punch holes in my arguments like a blowtorch through tissue paper. They often resort to logic, facts and relentless pursuit of the truth no matter how often I attempt to duck and weave to the point that I occasionally look like someone just tossed out of the Sundance at 3 in the morning. God damn them and they're pesky logic.

I genuinely feel a bit bad going after Peter like this. He's rarely had an unkind word to say to me, but honest to God, there's only so much martyrdom and self-delusion you can handle before it leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

But let's get to a point here. Yes, I guess I am a federalist. I like to think I'm a fairly realistic federalist. There's a quote from The West Wing I'm fond of which kind of works here - "You respect the office, even if you don't respect the man in the office." I think federalism is marvelous. Trying to get it to work right, however, is far trickier.

I don't like Stephen Harper. I think he's an unfortunately mediocre prime minister in a time when greatness is clearly needed. Equally unfortunate is that I'm not sure there is greatness waiting in the wings to replace him. I'm deeply frustrated with Premier Danny Williams who I think is tragically falling short of his potential. Understand, I thought at one point he could be the greatest premier this province has ever seen.

Now I fear when he leaves the discussion will of failed potential and lost opportunities. I thought it would be harder to find a more slippery premier than Brian Tobin, but Williams could give him masters classes. People look back at Tobin's time in office and tend to go "Jesus, did we ever have the wool pulled over our eyes". I wonder if that's how people are going to look back at Williams.

But far too often people seem to think you have to pick a side. A friend of mine from the United States, who is moving to St. John's, emailed me asked which one she should "cheer for" when the two of them were seriously fighting last year. I think my response was along the lines of "Neither. They're both assholes and a pox on both their houses for behaving like this."

I don't like regional parties and arguments. They're too small. Too...provincial. I don't want to listen to people howling all the time "What have you done for us lately?" I'm tired of listening to people whine about how others have screwed them over and denied them what they believe is their right.

God, it's so 20th century, hell, 19th century that I want to scream. I have a history degree. You're supposed to learn from this shit, adapt, adjust and do better. But far too many people, and Newfoundlanders are not alone in this, would prefer to use history as a shopping list of grievances and scores that have yet to be settled. Of slights that need to be fixed before anything else can be done, no matter how illogical that might be at times.

What do I want? I want provinces to take a serious crack at fixing their own problems. If there's something they're having trouble with, rather than howl about Ottawa and point fingers, I want them to solve their own problems. The easy and lazy way is to blame others far away. The harder, but better, solution is to get smart, get creative, work hard and solve things. Is this going to work 100 per cent of the time? No. I'm not that naive. But far too many times in Newfoundland and Labrador the first reaction isn't too try and fix things or ease the damage, it's to blame others. And I'm tired of it. Exhausted by it.

I want leaders to come together at a national level and work at what's best for the country as a whole...not to just make sure they get the most for their province or, in their most desperately shallow, their district or riding. I want people to work off the radical idea that if you come up with a solution that helps most Canadians, then it's one that will help Ontarians, Albertans, Newfoundlanders and Nunavummiut.

I want smart leaders with vision of the country, not just the small parts they happen to represent.

It's probably a touch simplistic. It's probably a fantasy. But damn it, I think it's what most people want - a stronger, better country for all Canadians. That's a vision worth fighting for.

(To be honest, even that feels too narrow. We should be working towards global issues, but one miracle at a time.)

So please forgive me if I have no patience or sympathy when I hear talk of nationalist rhetoric, regional blocs, decades and centuries old grievances and silly fights between political leaders. We all need to grow up a bit. Then maybe we can start electing some grown-ups in the process.

Last Five
1. Star Witness - Neko Case*
2. Hang down your head (live) - Tom Waits
3. Rip off - Ryan Adams
4. Waiting for nothing - Hot Hot Heat
5. Diamonds on the soles of her shoes - Paul Simon

Monday, March 09, 2009

Gearing up again

Jeez, you go one day without blogging and you get grief. Well, not serious grief but Cathy was looking at me with some astonishment and mild disdain last night when she checked the blog and noticed I hadn't written anything.

"Aren't you going to blog today?"

"No, I don't think so," I said. "I don't really have anything in mind to write about. Besides, traffic numbers plummet on the blog during the weekend (I'm convinced people only read blogs at work) whether I write something or not."

And then I get a "look" like I'm a lazy bastard because I didn't write anything. Gah.

To be honest, I still don't have much to write about today. The flap George Baker started last week seems to have mercifully died down. It also appears to be an otherwise quiet news day, which I'm glad of. There's nothing much happening around town. Hell, I've even calmed down after watching Brad Gushue absolutely gag in that game versus Ontario Saturday night. Dear God, that 10th end. I'm surprised I didn't wake Cathy up with the moaning, the screaming and the banging.

No, not sex. The moaning in despair as I could see the way the end was unfolding, the screaming at one of the silly bastards to make a God damn shot and the banging of my head against the coffee table when Gushue rolled out leaving Ontario an open draw for three to win.

I think Cathy is beginning to despair Brier week more than any other week of the year.

The only other thing of note was that I saw the new Star Trek trailer over the weekend. And I guess mission accomplished with that trailer. I was pretty uninterested in the movie up until now. I believed, and still do, that the best thing for the franchise is to lay fallow for a few years, get a fresh set of brains working on it and reevaluate it for a post-Battlestar Galactica 21st century television landscape. A movie that's basically "James Kirk's Wacky Starfleet Adventures" wasn't what I was looking for.

But hell, take a look for yourself. That's a pretty snazzy trailer.

And for another take on the trailer, read this.

It's still just a trailer, and lord knows those things can lie. Still, there is hope the movie won't completely suck.

Oh, and Watchmen didn't open here this weekend, so no review on that any time soon. Honestly, given the local theatres recent record when it comes to getting new releases, I doubt if it will open here before I get to Ottawa next month. Actually, I'm trying to remember the last movie I saw in the theatres here. It's been awhile. The pickings have been pretty slim.

Last Five
1. Stutter - Andy Stochansky
2. Over my head - Fleetwood Mac
3. Positively 4th Street - Bob Dylan
4. Imagine - Avril Lavigne
5. Navigator - The Pogues*

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Icelandic madness

A couple of days ago I read one of the best pieces of magazine writing in months; Michael Lewis' staggering look at just what the hell went wrong with Iceland. I think most of us got caught up in our own North American drama last fall, what with the Canadian election, the US elections and the massive crash of the economy. Somewhere in the middle of all that there were headlines that as bad as things were here, Iceland went straight to hell in a hand basket.

There's any number of things to recommend the article. It's a very good "economics for dummies" look at what went wrong. It's a fascinating look at Iceland's culture and how that culture created what happened to the country's economy. It's also has the added bonus of occasionally being darkly funny. While the reason why Range Rovers keep accidentally exploding is amusing, this is probably my favourite.
No one thought that Icelanders might have some natural gift for smelting aluminum, and, if anything, the opposite proved true. Alcoa, the biggest aluminum company in the country, encountered two problems peculiar to Iceland when, in 2004, it set about erecting its giant smelting plant. The first was the so-called “hidden people”—or, to put it more plainly, elves—in whom some large number of Icelanders, steeped long and thoroughly in their rich folkloric culture, sincerely believe. Before Alcoa could build its smelter it had to defer to a government expert to scour the enclosed plant site and certify that no elves were on or under it. It was a delicate corporate situation, an Alcoa spokesman told me, because they had to pay hard cash to declare the site elf-free but, as he put it, “we couldn’t as a company be in a position of acknowledging the existence of hidden people.”

But I think in lieu of all the discussions about Newfoundland independence in recent days, it's also worth taking a look for a small reality check. No, Newfoundland and Labrador isn't the same as Iceland. There's a healthy degree of separation between the two, no matter what some people might have thought.

(I recall deeply hating this documentary when it first aired and wrote as much in The Express, which didn't earn me any friends in certain St. John's arts circles. It might be worth rebroadcasting now for the comedic value, but let's not embarrass Moore any more than she managed to do to herself).

Still, there are lessons to learn in this story from the way Iceland has behaved in recent years. For example, whenever outsiders looked at Iceland's economic "miracle" in the middle part of this decade and went "whoa, whoa, whoa...what the hell are you guys doing?" Such criticisms were batted away with a "you're simply jealous of our success."

There was a belief in the innate superiority of Icelandic culture over those of others. It's a very "inter-bred" community. There was an unwillingness to allow outsiders to get involved in their business affairs, plus a very aggressive, one might almost say, macho attitude and belief that they can do anything. One fishing captain seems embarrassed when confronted with how much he had to learn before he believed he was good enough to captain a ship compared to how long he studied before believing he was capable of understanding world financial issues.

So is all of that possible in Newfoundland and Labrador? Well, large chunks of it you would have to stretch pretty hard to make the connection. But a dislike of outsiders questioning the wisdom of what you're doing? A slightly smug belief in the superiority of your culture over others? Not too hard a stretch...

What happened in Iceland couldn't have happened in Newfoundland simply because so much of what went wrong there was because of how badly the banking industry was run. (Food for thought, would an independent Newfoundland and Labrador have its own bank? Because nothing bad has ever happened in our history with locally run banks). That doesn't mean there aren't lessons to be learned from what happened with Iceland. Reading this article should be mandatory in government circles and a good primer for the rest of the province.

Last Five
1. The battle for straight time - A.C. Newman
2. All U can eat - Ben Folds
3. Working class hero - Green Day*
4. Take to the sky - Tori Amos
5. Song to Woody - Bob Dylan

Friday, March 06, 2009

Nuclear options

I wrote yesterday's post on a Truth and Reconciliation commission actually on Wednesday, but I try to spread the posts out a bit. I mention this to put something in perspective. That it was written before I read this story on the Telegram website and, more importantly, the comments section that followed.

Now I try, I really do, not to read the comments section on news stories. I ought to know better. One of these days Cathy is going to come home and find me keeled over on the keyboard of my computer, dead of stroke and the website on the screen is going to be the comments section from the Globe and Mail, the Telegram or CBC. But every now and then I get stupid and read them.

Such was the case with the Baker story. I read the comments because I genuinely felt most of them would be condemning Baker for the massive fool that he is. Instead, sadly and pathetically, the majority were going "right on George!"

Normally I would say that a tiny piece of me died reading those comments. Sadly, after this many years, Newfoundland nationalists have managed to kill off enough tiny pieces of me that I reached some kind of tipping point. The kind where you suddenly realize there's only one solution to the problem and it's not the one I had yesterday of a healthy Truth and Reconciliation purge. No, drastic measures were called for.

Yes, what's called for is the refreshing cleansing of the palate that comes with nuclear fire.

To my friends and family, who are obviously concerned by this recent and dramatic turn of events, no worries. You merely pre-sign a loyalty oath to Canada and you're guaranteed a solid 12 hours warning of the impending nuclear holocaust. And, on the upside, in three or four generations time, once the radiation levels have dropped to acceptable levels, your descendants can have first dibs on where to settle. They might be able to finally afford to buy a house in downtown St. John's. Bonus - no Atlantic Place to ruin the view.

For those of you sneering and doubting this can happen, a discussion earlier this week with my friend Clare on Facebook leads me to believe that within a year or so Arctic Bay missile technology will have advanced enough to enable me to launch a ballistic nuclear missile strike against Newfoundland from here in Iqaluit.

As for the nuclear part...this is Nunavut. There's that much uranium lying around here that I can cobble together enough to do the job, no problem.

I appreciate this seems drastic, but if there are that many people living in Newfoundland and Labrador who think George Baker is talking sense, that bringing on independence from Canada is a good idea, then really, let's just start from scratch and hopefully on the next try we can repopulate the place with halfway sensible people.

The people of my home province are driving me mad. It's come to this...where this is a sane option. Or at least as sane as the stuff I'm reading on news story message boards....

Last Five
1. Mesmerizing - Liz Phair
2. Have you no pride? - The Donnas
3. Missing - Beck
4. For reasons unknown - The Killers
5. A boy and his machine gun - Matthew Good Band*

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Truth and Reconciliation

So I've had an idea.

Stop screaming.

This comes out of my little rant I had yesterday about George Baker. Back in 2002, then Premier Roger Grimes announced the "Commission on Renewing and Strengthening Our Place in Canada." There are different ways to look at this report. Mostly it's collecting dust these days and is probably viewed as a desperate attempt by Grimes to save the Liberals floundering popularity. Lord knows I mocked it as a complete waste of money at the time. I honestly don't know if anything useful came out of the report.

According to the website, however, it was meant to...
"...consult with Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to develop a broad consensus on a vision for the future which will identify ways to achieve prosperity and self-reliance."
But here's the thing, there's some merit to something like what Grimes was trying to achieve, but I think he just went about it wrong. I'm thinking it should be something more along the lines of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

What I propose is this. For one solid year, a commission travels around Newfoundland and Labrador and holds public meetings. And the commissioners have to sit there and listen to it all. Every conspiracy theory, every rant about how Canada screwed us, every slight - no matter how small or based in reality - will be listened to with patience and empathy. No one will be cut off from the mike.

We'll bring people down from Ottawa and the rest of Canada and they can bitch and vent about everything that drives them nuts about our fair province. Our whining. Our constant demands for more money. Our lack of gratitude. All of it.

One solid year of this. No kidding.

And then that...is....it. If it happened before March 31, 2009, you can't bitch about it again. Ever. We all gather at the end of one year and burn every second of tape as a symbolic gesture that we're getting on with our lives.

You've had your emotional purge. Now it's time to grow up and get on with things. No more screaming at slights or throwing temper tantrums. No more Newfoundland Independence foolishness. If a politicians starts wagging his finger at Ottawa and blaming them for things going wrong, you're compelled by law to jump up and scream "I call bullshit on you." Then you can legally drag them behind a shed and smack him or or her with something. Dear God, it all has to end at some point, doesn't it?

Oh, and in return the rest of Canada promises to give up the Newfie jokes.

Newfoundland and Labrador has been part of Canada for 60 years as of March 31. It's been a long and occasionally very rocky adolescence, but every province has to grow up at some point. Sixty is as good an age as any. And honestly, I am so fucking beyond tired of blaming Ottawa for everything. It's what sooky 14-year-olds do with their parents.

So purge and move on. What do you say?

Last Five
1. Meet me by the river's edge - The Gaslight Anthem
2. Hello highway - Matt Mays
3. Party girl (live) - U2*
4. She loves you - The Beatles
5. Englishman in New York - Sting

Things I don't understand III

Why people hate Bono so much.

Yes, the man has a large ego. Perhaps he is too pompous and full of himself. I'm sure he's high maintenance if you have to deal with him on a regular basis. And yes, you can argue that U2 is past their prime. I've listened to "No Line on the Horizon" and while I'm not prepared to pass judgement on it yet, I think early reviewers saying it's their best since "Achtung Baby" and possibly even better than that album are hitting the piss a bit too hard.

Here's what Bono does. Along with his band mates, he's released arguably two of the greatest rock records since 1955 - "The Joshua Tree" and "Achtung Baby". Even their non-classic records are still better than probably 95 per cent of the rock records released since 1980. Their failures, like "Zooaropa" and "Pop" they were at least trying something different.

And when he's not making music all Bono does his use his name and celebrity to meet world leaders and push an agenda to help poor countries. He raises money for charities. Karmicly, he's trying to do good in the world.

What does he not do? He doesn't beat his wife, get arrested for drunk driving, whore out to the tabloid media, create a reality TV show where you can be his new BFF, do stupid amount of drugs and cancel tours because of "exhaustion" or generally behave like a tool.

He and his band mates run a successful business that happens to occasionally produce works of genius and, in his spare time, he tries to make the world a better place.

And for that, you get reviled?

Last Five
1. Mind flood - Sam Roberts
2. White Hot (live) - Red Rider
3. Bang the duldrums - Fall Out Boy
4. Rain down on me - Blue Rodeo*
5. Soul singer in a session band - Bright Eyes

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Baker off the deep end...again

There have been times I've liked George Baker. There have been times I've gotten a good laugh out of George Baker. There have been times I've respected him and times I thought he might have pushed a point too far. And towards the end of his useful political career, when he finally got appointed to a brief stay in cabinet, where I wondered if his spine vanished like a cheap magic trick.

More often than not since he was appointed to the Senate, I've wondered if they've limited the amount of oxygen that gets pumped into the chambers, which would certainly help explain this story. Where he explains just how tragically misused Atlantic Canadians, and Newfoundland and Labrador in particular, have been and that this continued abuse by Ottawa was going to lead to the creation of a separatist party.
"We can't remain in the Confederation in which we're discriminated against and not respected for the great contributions that we make."

Followed by...
"This should be reason enough to . . . have a Bloc Newfoundland and Labrador running in the next federal election if this keeps up. And a real campaign to get them all elected."

You absolute moron. You complete, delusional, blind, dimwitted fool.

Every election - every goddamn election - some group of halfwits gather at a kitchen table and start spouting off after a couple of dozen Black Horse about how Newfoundland and Labrador would be better off if it left Canada. So they go form a separatist party or an independence party or a nationalist party and manage to get two or three victims to run.

And they're lucky if their families vote for them.

Newfoundlanders do not want independence. What crazed maniac would take a look at the economic and political reality of the current world and decrees "Now is the moment we strike for Newfoundland Independence!"

I swear to God, stuff like this is the reason Mainland Canada makes fun of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians at times. And they're right to do so. We make it too easy sometimes.

The young people of the province, who I'm sure Baker is about as in touch with as he is with reality at this point, do not want independence. I don't know what the hell they want, but I'll bet good money it's not freedom from Canada. That's because they're Canadians. Sure they're Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. But they're also, more importantly in many cases, Canadians.

They like being Canadian. They like the options and opportunities that's involved with being Canadian. It's a bigger world out there and I don't know if Baker is deliberately or delusional oblivious to it, but it is. The notion of Newfoundland independence or a (shudder) Block NL dies a tiny bit every second the province remains in Canada. And thank God for it.

Baker proves once again the theory I've always had about Newfoundland nationalism; the best proof against it is to just look at the politicians we keep electing over the years. Most of them are rogues, fools or both.

You know what, I want Baker recalled. He's managed to achieve something I didn't think was possible, but he is likely too stunned to sit in the Canadian Senate.

Last Five
1. Blue House - Blue Rodeo
2. Julia - The Beatles
3. Red confederatres' red confessions - Hey Rosetta!
4. Long time comin' (live) - Bruce Springsteen
5. My my, hey hey (live) - Neil Young*

Different kinds of clever

1. Every now and then I'll read a piece of writing online that will make me pause and admire it. Or I'll find a sentence so eloquently crafted that I can't help but be jealous that someone thought of putting those words in that exact order and wish that I had thought of it first.

I spotted one of those yesterday. Russell Wangersky wrote a lovely tribute to his mother, who died recently of cancer. I can only imagine, and can only hope to continue to imagine, how difficult it is to write something about a parent who had died. But as might be expected, Wangersky does it well. He's rapidly growing into being one of the province's best writers, which probably explains the decision to step back (I'm assuming it was voluntary) as Managing Editor of The Telegram and focus more on commentary writing and take over as head of Creative Publishing.

But in the middle of that tribute he dropped the following line. I defy you to find a sentence that gives you a better mental image of what his mother must have been like.
She was unstoppable, a force of nature, a silver-grey lump of metallic sodium dropped into water and rushing in all kinds of inexplicable impelled directions surrounded by a cloud of blue flame.

I hate him just a little bit for that sentence. But as always, the good ones give you something to strive for.

2. And in a completely unrelated direction, I enjoyed this story of parents who came up with an interesting solution when their 13-year-old son wanted to play a first person shooter video game - Call of Duty. He had to research the Geneva Convention and when playing the game abide by the rules of the convention. Which the kid agreed to and follows. If he doesn't, the parents take away the game.

Two things jumped out at me right away. First, clever idea. And secondly, the parents and the kid must already have a pretty good relationship going for this to work so well in the first place.

Of course, you read the comments section and then all the snark begins. About how you can't do that in the video game, how the parents are awful because they shouldn't be letting him play video games in the first place, and so on and so forth.

You know what? The parents are trying. They could have just let him sit and blow shit up all day with his friends and not care, but at least they're trying something different. And hell, maybe video games might want to consider the option of allowing people to surrender or follow Geneva Convention rules. I'm probably the last person to ask what should be done with video games. I don't play them much, especially first-person shooters. Something about the jerky movements tends to make me nauseous.

Anyway, they're trying, it's kind of clever and something video game companies might want to consider more often.

Last Five
1. Feet in the clouds - Paul McCartney
2. Sulky girl - Elvis Costello
3. Red red red - Fiona Apple
4. God - Tori Amos
5. Sorry Lori - Ron Hynes

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Near misses

I didn't mention this earlier, but then I read News North this morning and was reminded of it...a man died outside of our apartment building a week ago on Sunday.

We were sitting down eating supper when we noticed a lot of flashing lights outside. When we looked out, there was a large crowd, emergency vehicles and one badly banged up snowmobile. The News North story repeats much of what I've heard, so I have no problem mentioning those facts, although I'll omit some of the rumours I've heard. Essentially, the guy on the snowmobile shot across the intersection, apparently trying to get across before the oncoming SUV. He didn't pull it off. And as what often happens when a snowmobile and SUV collide, the snowmobile lost.

The driver also wasn't wearing a helmet.

In the story an RCMP officer says he's astonished more snowmobile/car accidents don't happen each year. So am I. I count myself lucky if I go the winter and manage to only nearly miss two snowmobiles.

If I might brag a moment and risk the gods wrath, I'm not a bad driver. I've been doing this 22 years and I've had two accident, both within six weeks of getting my driver's licence (yes, my father wanted to kill me). I've had one moving violation in that time...failure to come to a complete stop in a mall parking lot. And yes, I'm still pissed off with that one. But I'm always happy to assist the Ottawa police in making their monthly quota. So I like to think I know what I'm doing when I get behind the wheel.

But man, every winter I'm slamming on the brakes or Cathy is yelling at me to watch out and I just barely manage to avoid creaming someone on a snowmobile. The most recent example was in January when I was turning onto Cathy's school parking lot. Out of the corner of my eye I caught some movement and slammed on my breaks. Two seconds later a snowmobile barrelled in front of me and zoomed across the school's parking lot. Because a school parking lot is not going to be a busy place at lunch hour, so feel free to zip along at warp speeds.

And it scares the hell out of me every time. And not because I'm worried about damaging the vehicle or that we might get hurt.

It is because of the utter certainty, in each case where this has happened, that I will kill the person on the snowmobile. They're going to fast, the truck is too solid and, in some cases, like the guy in the accident that I mentioned above, they're not wearing helmets.

And you know what? I guess I'm a self-centred bastard because I don't want to have to try and live with myself if I accidentally kill somebody. It might not be my fault, but that's still going to be hard to live with.

The officials in the story are right. There's a lot more cars kicking around Iqaluit right now. We're probably unique in the arctic for the volume of cars having to interact and play nice with snowmobiles. And I don't know what the solutions are. You would think somebody dying in an accident might provide a jolt to other snowmobile users around town, but I kind of doubt it. Nor am I going to be crazy enough to suggest banning their use within the city limits, because that's not happening. Besides, for some people, these machines are needed because they're hunters and driving through town is their only option. I understand that.

Not all snowmobilers are bad drivers or behave in a reckless manner. It's just a few, but as always, it's enough to make things occasionally very scary. Once, in my more cynical youth, I would have just said this was God's way of thinning out the gene pool. Yeah, I was a big fan of the Darwin Awards for awhile. Not so much any more.

So if any one has any bright ideas on how to avoid killing someone on a snowmobile in Iqaluit, I'm open to it. Because other than more public education, I'm at a loss on what else they can do.

Last Five
1. What - Brendan Benson
2. Angel of Harlem - U2
3. White light - Gorillaz
4. Alphabet Street - Prince
5. Train in vain (live) - The Clash*

Monday, March 02, 2009


I promise this will be the last post on my ongoing stomach flu. I suspect most of you are as tired of reading about it as I am of experiencing it. Feeling better today, although supper time will be the big challenge as I try to eat something other than crackers and toast for the first time since Thursday. I should step on the scales...I've probably lost five or six pounds in the past few days.

The rest of the day has just been spent trying to get back to feeling human. That includes a long, hot shower with every exfoliating product I could find. Cathy's a big fan of them and lo and behold, the damn things work. They're not just over-priced toiletries. Throw in that and a good shave and I'm almost human again.

But honestly, what helps the most right now is just sitting in the apartment, relaxing. Although it's -30C outside today, the sun has some serious pop and has melted the ice around one of the windows, so I'm able to get it open. I appreciate that it's not to everyone's taste, but letting some fresh air into the place, even if it is -30 air, does a nice job of cleansing the place. The apartment had been feeling stale and sick for the past week; which makes sense since myself and Cathy have been sick for a week.

Also, all the plants in the apartment have decided it must be spring and are exploding with growth, which makes me feel better, even if it mildly terrifies Cathy.

So hopefully things will be back to normal. It remains to be seen if I'll get to my swimming lessons tomorrow, but barring complete catastrophic relapse I'll be at curling Wednesday as it is a play-off game.

(And yes, I did watch some of the Women's final last night. I reiterate what I said when Jennifer Jones managed to beat PEI in a tie breaker on Friday...someone needs to put her through a metal detector to find where she has the horseshoe hidden.)

And now, back to reading Usagi Yojimbo and dreaming of what my first real meal will be in a day or two...I'm leaning towards a large steak right now. Although a nice turkey sandwich wouldn't go astray either.

Last Five
1. Love theme from TPOH - The Pursuit of Happiness
2. November rain - Guns 'n Roses
3. Accidents will happen - The Von Bondies
4. Raspberry beret - Prince
5. Fly me to the moon (live) - Frank Sinatra*

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Passed out

Doing slightly better today in the sense that I'm now able to keep fluids down, which is a start. Although last night I got to experience the joy that is passing out. I woke up around midnight, knew something was wrong because I was cold and sweating and tried to make it to the bathroom. Next thing I know Cathy has a cold cloth on the back of my neck and is asking me if I'm all right.

On the upside, I miraculously managed to not do any serious damage other than a bump on my head. Then again, I was told by someone at Canadian Blood Services many years ago that I'm very graceful when I pass out.

Yes, this isn't the first time I've passed out. Not exactly something I'm happy about, but it has happened. I think the first time was when I was 12 and got heat stroke in Florida. The last time was, I think, back in 2005. We were coming back from the Dominican Republic and I think the combination of heat and the very small seats cut off the flow of blood to the brain or something.

And then there was that time at King's where I managed to pass out twice in one evening. That was a fun night.

None of these cases have been alcohol related, though. I don't know if that's a good thing or not.

Anyway, last night was an adventure. Hopefully I'm on the mend, but I doubt if I'm going to have the strength to go to work tomorrow. I haven't eaten anything except for some crackers a piece of toast since Friday. This blog post has taken me the better part of two hours to write because I can't concentrate.

And yes, I know, the blog header needs to be changed. Hopefully tomorrow...

Last Five
1. The river driver - Great Big Sea
2. Let the ass bray (live) - Spirit of the West*
3. If I had $1,000,000 - Barenaked Ladies
4. You wouldn't like me - Tegan and Sara
5. Live and let die - Guns 'n Roses