Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Disney and media weirdness

A few links for this evening.

1. I've commented before that the science that Disney uses for crowd control was both impressive and terrifying. Now read this article from the New York Times. If you can tell the difference between Disneyland and a James Bond villain's secret lair you're doing better than me. I was fascinated right up until I got to the part where they were talking about creating an arm band that would contain personal information, including your credit card number as a way of speeding up transactions in the park. That's when Disney reminded me that the Happiest Place on Earth can also be a Pretty Fucking Terrifying Place when it wants to be.

2. Much to Cathy's dismay, I'm a fan of the NFL. However, I am not normally a fan of the Philadelphia Eagles at the best of time. But with Michael Vick leading the team this year I've had my ability to even tolerate them tested. On the one hand, the man was convicted of killing dogs. On the other hand, he served a pretty harsh penalty, he's crawling out of bankruptcy and I do believe that people deserve a second chance.

So I'm not cheering for the Eagles and wouldn't want them to win the Super Bowl. But hey, I'd love to see the Eagles and Falcons play for the NFC championship. Vick going back to the home of his old team...that would make for a great game.

However, at no point have I wanted Vick dead...unlike this useless tool. I know I shouldn't rise to the bait of this. Ever since Jon Stewart destroyed any shred of credibility Carlson ever possessed years ago Carlson has flailed about, trying to find some hint of respectability. He's on Fox now, so that should tell your something. There's only two reasons why Carlson would say this: He either genuinely believes Vick should die and is an idiot or that he's saying it just for the attention, which makes him an idiot and and a media whore.

Normally I would ignore this because I think you give power to some thing when you pay attention to it. However, this is so stupid you should feel free to go, "Jesus, how big of a media whore tool is this man?" The answer being, he is quite a sizable one. It's probably been too long since people pointed and laughed at Carlson, so feel free to go and do so today.

3. Meanwhile, on the other end of the respectability and power spectrum, Jon Stewart is receiving so much praise for his action in helping get a bill through the U.S. senate to help first responders to the collapse of the World Trade Centre that the New York Times is comparing him to Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite. Which is, um, a little over the top. I imagine Stewart probably went "are you guys high or what?" when he read that.

There's going to be a lot of talk about Stewart and his role in getting this bill passed. I suspect he would probably just roll his eyes and note that the media needs something to fill all that air time and blowing up his importance is one way to kill time during the slow Christmas season.

Stewart hasn't change with this. He's a gifted satirist, possibly the best of this generation and at the exact right moment, with the exact right cause, he was able to effect change. He could try it again in a month's time and get absolutely nowhere. He probably wouldn't. But it takes a special kind of group of idiots to try and block a bill to help people made sick while trying to save lives during 9/11 right before Christmas. The Republicans were those special kind of idiots. If you weren't outraged by that, then you're not human.

So good on Stewart, but let's not make him a god quite yet.

Last Five
1. Warning sign - Coldplay
2. The laws have changed - The New Pornographers*
3. Tell it to me - Tom Waits
4. Spiders - Editors
5. Ghost of a chance - Ron Sexsmith

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

End of sloth days

Cathy is fearing for my sanity as I head back to work tomorrow. For the past four days we've essentially done nothing other than lounging around the house and watching movies. Today we started a Pixar marathon. It's the first time we've watched Finding Nemo since we came back from Australia, so that was fun and kind of weird. It's also interesting to see how well the movies hold up. Computer animation has come a long way in the past decade, but Toy Story and Monsters Inc. would still be state of the art if released today.

I'm sure we should have, and could have, done more the past few days. I feel mildly bad not having some people over. However, the thought occurs to me that I have not had four days in a row off to do nothing since April. It's just the way things have gone at work. I haven't taken any vacation time since I started my current job other than a day here or there. But even then it was to do things like our sea lift or to do some Christmas shopping in Ottawa.

So yeah, four days of sloth, I needed it more than I thought. It's been needed to recharge the batteries. Cathy's concern is that after four days of sleeping in until 10 am most mornings waking up at 7am tomorrow is going to be particularly brutal. She might be right. But I'm not sure I knew how much I needed some time off. So I'll take a rough morning tomorrow as payment for four days of just relaxing.

Oh, and the sharp-eyed among you may notice I've made a few changes to the blog lists on the sidebar. I killed a couple of dead and spamming blogs and added a few new ones. As always, take a moment to give the new blogs a gander. It's a good blogging community in Nunavut and it's always interesting to have a look at what other people think.

Which reminds me, Clare will be starting to run the Nunies in the next week or so. Check his blog to see the start of nominations and figure out who you might like to vote for. I'm defending champ as Best Blog, but given my output this past year I doubt I'm going to repeat. But you never know...

Last Five
1. The union forever - White Stripes
2. Ancestor's song - Robbie Robertson
3. Ah, me - Amelia Curran*
4. The luxury (live) - Tragically Hip
5. Flower - Liz Phair

Sunday, December 26, 2010


So we're coming out the other side of the Christmas season and I must say, it's one of the better ones we've had in some time. This is our first Christmas actually in the new house (last year we went back to Newfoundland), so we've been enjoying that. Plus, we're not back in Newfoundland. I say this not to insult family and friends who would probably like to see us. However, the reality is when we got back to Iqaluit last January we were dead on our feet. Completely wiped out.

This year, we've spent most of Christmas in our pjs. I am perfectly all right with this. Perhaps we should be out socializing and hitting parties, but I am happy lounging around the house, eating turkey, watching movies and scaring the dog with the toy helicopter that Cathy bought me as a gift.

So yeah, this is a good Christmas. It's getting a big thumbs up from me so far.

We probably also went a bit overboard with the gifts. Last year that wasn't really an option, between having just bought the house, being back in St. John's and me being in-between jobs. It was pretty austere. We kind of made up for things this year, as you can tell.

The only gift I gave Cathy that flopped was a pair of red rubber boots which do not fit. They were bought in Ottawa back in October, so I'm just going to have to eat those. Oh well. You would think I would know better than trying to buy shoes. However, my attempts at buying her clothes were a hit. I recommend Coldwater Creek. The shipping wasn't evil and as a man trying to buy clothes for his wife, they made it pretty painless.

We're still....struggling a bit with Cathy's main gift for me. She went and got me a Bose soundsystem to go with the new TV set. The problem is, it's not playing well with the TV. It's a new Samsung TV and I think the Bose system might be a little older. It works fine with the small TV in our spare room, so the problem isn't that. I think I might need a different cable, so I'm going to try the Source tomorrow, unless someone has a suggestion here that might help. I may even have to resort to trying to call Bose and ask for help. I really like their stuff, actually. We have an iPod dock from them and we each own headphones for our iPods. It's fantastic quality so it's a bit shocking this isn't working easily.

There was one other thing. I'm a big believer in that you should treat yourself to something nice for Christmas. A couple of months ago I contacted Jimmy Gownley of "Amelia Rules!" fame and asked if he had any original art he might be interested in selling. He did. And on Christmas Eve, it arrived. I've already had it framed.

To the right is the cover of the latest "Amelia Rules!" book and I now own the original art used for the cover. Which makes me very happy. I am slowly building a nice wall of comic book art in our den.

Although this article makes me wonder. With more artists switching to using a computer, original art is becoming scarcer.

Anyway, it's been a good Christmas so far, and I still have two days off to enjoy it more. Tomorrow I think we're doing a Pixar marathon. We own all of the movies except for "A Bug's Life". I think that, turkey and chocolate is a good way to spend the day. Better than facing hordes in a mall at a Boxing Day sale...

Last Five
From Surfer Blood's "Astro Coast" and Mumford and Sons "Sigh No More".

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Fairy tale cover

I'm trying to go through the best of lists to see what albums I might have missed so to better prepare my own list, which I should have up in a week or so. Still, 2010 feels like a year where I missed obvious stuff. I mean, I'd heard of Mumford & Sons but for some reason just didn't feel like giving them a try. Until I did. And then started to kick myself for waiting so long.

Same things with Florence + The Machine. No idea how I missed out them for long, then gave them a try. Shortly after wards it was like they were everywhere. I'm not 100% sold on them yet, but damn, that woman has a hell of a voice.

I mention her specifically because I just saw this video on Facebook and felt like sharing it. It's Florence + The Machine with Billy Bragg covering "Fairy Tale of New York". Now, it's not nearly as good as the original, of course. This is too delicate and polite. It's missing the seething anger and sorrow dipped weariness and yearning the original has. But it's pretty enough experiment and worth a listen.

And hey, if nothing else, admire the balls of trying it. Christmas songs are designed to be covered. It's far easier to cover a classic this time of the year rather than create your own. However, few have tried to cover "Fairy Tale" just because it's a song as much about the voices and personalities as it is the lyrics.

Last Five
1. Demons days - Gorillaz
2. Say hello to the angles - Interpol
3. Oh, my love - Jackson Browne
4. You can make him like you - The Hold Steady*
5. Adam's song - Blink 182

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cathy is the cheery Christmas person. She loves her Roger Whittaker because that's what she always listened to when she was growing up and preparing for the Christmas season. So there's cake and cookies and the tackier the Christmas lights and decorations then the happier she is.

I've adjusted over the years. It's not really the Christmas I grew up with, which was more sedate as I got older. Sure, when I was a kid it was Christmas at my grandparents house and all the madness that went along with that much family trying to cram into a small house. But when I hit my teens, all of that seemed to change. I can't put my finger on exactly when or why, but it feels like it did.

I don't know if it's because of that or if I'm a naturally morbid person, but I tend to get enjoyment out of the darker aspects of the season. If I were to pick my three favourite Christmas songs they would be "Fairytale of New York" by the Pogues, "St. Stephen's Day Murders" by the Chieftains and Elvis Costello, with "The Holly and the Ivy" by Pamela Morgan and Anita Best finishing third. Only the last one would be considered cheerful.

Two of my favourite Christmas comic comic books both involve bounty hunters fulfilling contracts to whack Santa Claus ("Lobo Paramilitary Christmas Special" and an issue of "Hitman"). I really don't have a favourite Christmas movie. Cathy and I watch "Love, Actually" and we both like it, but that's about as close to a Christmas as I come. "It's A Wonderful Life" bores the hell out of me.

I mention all of this to put into context the following little video. I've said here many times I'm not a fan of poetry because 99 per cent of it is crap. However, I've always had a fondness for "Nicholas Was..." by Neil Gaiman. He wrote it years ago as a Christmas card to friends and they loved it so much it was published. And actually became a set of Christmas cards, of which I still own a couple. And now some bright folks have made a video of it, which I love.

It's also 100 words long. I've counted.

Merry Christmas all...

39 Degrees North: Christmas Card 2010 from 39 Degrees North on Vimeo.

Last Five
1. Century city (live) - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
2. The next life (live) - Tom Cochrane and Red Rider
3. Star song - Bowling for Soup
4. Moment of surrender - U2
5. Night windows (live) - The Weakerthans

Sunday, December 19, 2010


So the Great Iqaluit Exodus (part of the larger Great Nunavut Exodus) is in full swing this weekend. By all reports the airport was madness the past few days, with people trying to get out of here. Most are heading south, but you'll also find some Inuit trying to get back to their home communities for the holidays. I heard the lines were especially bad on Saturday (all the teachers leaving for the holidays). And considering the flights heading south were a solid hour late leaving today, I suspect the lines were equally bad.

We're not going anywhere this Christmas and honestly, if I had the choice between Nunavut or Newfoundland for Christmas I'll take Nunavut any day of the week. Visiting Newfoundland is just madness. It feels like there's a massive checklist of things to do, places to go and friends and family to see. And if you don't complete that checklist, there's always someone pissed off with you. Yes, some of it is an awful lot of fun. For example, I really do wish I could be home for New Year's at the Smiths and their recently renovated Bond Street home. But that's about it.

I came back from Newfoundland last year absolutely exhausted. At the end of this Christmas season I suspect I'll be perfectly rested and not at all stressed. That'll last about a week if the schedule I have right now holds up, but I'd sooner face all that after a relaxing Christmas than what I would be facing if I were heading south now.

Cathy'll get home next summer. I'm hoping to get home next fall for a week or so. Trust me, it'll be a lot more fun and relaxing for both of us.

With us remaining in Iqaluit, we're settling in. The tree is decorated and the outside of the house is lit up. Here are a few photos. And to give credit where it is due, Cathy put up all the lights.

We are no where close to having the most lights on our house in Iqaluit. There are some truly insane houses around town. However, as we spend more years in town, I suspect we'll eventually reach truly ludicrous levels. Cathy loves Christmas and has the motto that lights should be as tacky as possible.

That's an ill omen, if ever there was one.

Most of our gifts have safely arrived here. I'm still waiting on one piece, but that's not directly Christmas related (well, it's a gift for me that I bought for myself). We'll probably have a few people over for the holidays, but we'll see (Jordan and Steph, for example, assuming his sanity is in tact after the Christmas rush at the post office). There's no real plan, other than relaxing and lounging around. Sounds like a good holidays to me. And with the temperatures remaining unnaturally warm - it's 0C today and forecast to get no colder than -13C between now and Christmas - it should be a pretty stress free few days.

We just have to remember to do all of our laundry and dishes either by Thursday night or early Friday. There will be no water delivery on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Well, there is, but it's $250. I would prefer not to spend that much for water if I can help it.

Last Five
1. Leather (live) - Tori Amos*
2. Viva la Gloria - Green Day
3. Free in the harbour (live) - Stan Rogers
4. The glorious life - Joel Plaskett Emergency
5. All I'm thinkin' about - Bruce Springsteen

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Bon Jovi continues to suck

As I type this, on December 15 it's 0C outside. Normal seasonal high is -19C. And it's going to be above 0 for the next couple of days. So all that stuff I was writing about the other day regarding Omega Blocks and should probably disregard it. I don't think anyone knows what the hell is going on anymore. And when climate scientists are essentially throwing their hands up and going "we have no bloody idea what's happening with you guys" then you should probably just resign yourself to the end of the world.

I'd make a will, but really, who would I leave my stuff to?

(By the way, this is the cue for one of the many lawyers I'm friends with to show up and yell at me that I don't have a will drawn up.)

On to other news. A few months ago I ranted about Bon Jovi being on the short list of acts up for admission to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which I considered  travesty and that anyone who would vote to put them in ahead of Tom Waits needed a swift boot to the head. Well today, my friends, cosmic justice prevailed as Waits was admitted to the Hall and Bon Jovi gets to continue to suck from the outside.

I don't even have a problem with Neil Diamond being admitted. This is a shocking thing to admit, but one of my favourite recordings of the past decade is his "12 Songs". I'll take that over any of his other, cheesier stuff from the 70s any day of the week. It's a fantastic recording and I strongly encourage you to listen to it. Anyone who can make something that fantastic towards the end of his career is all right in my books. Who knows, maybe Bon Jovi might produce something that doesn't suck one day and I'll have to reconsider.

However, I am not holding my breath.

And finally, in the "Yes, Iqaluit is that small" Cathy was out walking the dog this morning and rant into one of the new neighbours who are in the process of moving in just down the street from us. They chatted briefly, with Cathy welcoming him to the neighbourhood. He said thanks and then pointed out our house, saying something along the lines "You live there right? That's Townie Bastard's house."

At which point Cathy sighed and introduced herself as Mrs. Bastard.

You know, it's not every wife who would introduce herself in such a manner.

Anyway, the new arrivals are bloggers as well. So welcome to the neighbourhood, Aida. If you need a cup of sugar, don't hesitate to come on up and knock on the door.

Last Five
1. Sweet illusion - Ryan Adams
2. She's a rainbow - Rolling Stones
3. I make the money, you get the glory - Kathleen Edwards
4. Us of lesser gods - Flogging Molly
5. The naked ride home - Jackson Browne*

Sunday, December 12, 2010

That could have gone better

1. There are days when I'm poking around at the stories of the day that I come across something and I wince. And I wince at things that most other people are probably not thinking about. So when I read this story, about how the RCMP throughly blew the ending of the stand-off in Bay Bulls after managing it so well up to that point, my first thought after going "oh for Christ's sake", was to wonder about the poor comms person caught in this situation - who I'm betting either:

A. Didn't know all the details when putting together the release announcing the guy's capture.
B. Did know, objected stenuously that being vague on the details wasn't going to work and just fess up, but was overruled.
C. Or was told "How can we not look awful in this situation?" and this was the best that could be dreamed up on short notice.

Just brutal. I actually feel kind of bad for that person, whoever it is. It's a "there but for the grace of God..." type of thing.

2. As God as my witness, I thought Columbia House would have died the horrible death that nearly everybody who ever dealt with it at least once has wished on it at least 10 years ago. But no, apparently it only keeled over and died this past week. How it survived this past decade, what with iTunes and torrent sites destroying regular music retailers, I have no idea.

Like many teens of the 80s, who lusted after cheap music and were pretty stupid, I joined Columbia House. And promptly got burned several times. When I could finally escape from them I did so with the solemn vow I would never deal with them again. Yet, I had friends in university who signed up with them and repeatedly got burned.

3. I read story earlier the week explaining why Iqaluit was getting such unusually mild weather the past few months. Naturally, I can't find it now. However, I did find this link which explains what it was. It has the marvelous name of The Omega Block, which sounds like it ought to be a climate change disaster movie staring Charlton Heston. Basically, a big old high pressure system sat over Greenland for weeks on end, which is not unusual with this type of system.

Because of that, we got higher than normal temperatures and Europe got the other end of the stick, which was much colder than normal temperatures. Judging by the weather the past few days in Iqaluit I'm guess it's finally broken up. The temps have been back in the -20C range, which is normal for this time of the year. And a thin film of ice is beginning to show up on the bay. So we're back to normal. I've ever broken out the BFC (Big Fucking Coat). I normally break it out sometime in October. I made it to mid-December. That's something I never thought I'd see.

Last Five
1. Smoke baby - Hawksley Workman
2. Baby Fratelli - The Fratellis
3. 100 oceans - Tori Amos*
4. Our retired explorer (live) - The Weakerthans
5. Supernova - Liz Phair

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Harder than you think

A quote I'm sure I've used in this blog before is that a definition of insanity is to keep doing the exact same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. I keep reminding myself of that every time I check the comments section of the CBC, especially when it comes to polar bear stories. And yet, there must be a hidden history of mental illness somewhere in my family because I catch myself doing it from time to time.

I don't talk about polar bears much because of a previous job, although friends certainly know that all it takes to get me to start hyper-ventilating is to mention our furry friends. I do have some distance from the previous job, so I'm a little more comfortable talking about it. However, I still tend to err on the side of caution.

The thing that drives me nuts about this story's comments section are all the posts going how terrible it was that they had to kill the polar bear and God, couldn't you have found a better way and how terrible people are for living in the bear's habitat.

It makes me want to smack people. A lot.

Polar bears are one of these issues that people think are simple - the climate is changing, polar bears depend on ice, therefore anything or anyone who harms the bears is evil and bad. But it's not that straightforward. Polar bears are complicated and protection of the species is a phenomenally complex issue. And anyone who tells you otherwise, or offers up simple opinions like some of the ones I mentioned above, needs to either educate themselves better or shut up.

That's the maddening thing about polar bears. People think they're experts. But unless you live in the north, unless you really familiarize yourself with all sides of the issue- with what scientists say and what people who live here say - then you probably don't have a clue.

When I worked with the Packet they used to do these fisheries hearings in rural Newfoundland. You'd have a bunch of scientists who would do presentations on their findings about the status of cod stocks. And then fishermen, some with no high school education, would come up and point out that these highly educated people had no clue what they were talking about, and would back that up with their own personal experience.

There was a give and take there. Fisheries science is a bitch of a thing and the knowledge of people who live the fisheries, day in and day out, in invaluable. But there is a tendency for people to discount it because they don't have alphabet soup after their names.

It's not a perfect analogy for what happens with polar bears and the north. I think scientists value local opinions. I just don't think the average person down south does. And that's a mistake. A mistake you can see every time you read the comments section of a CBC story on polar bears that runs down south.

Last Five
1. Pretty in pink - Psychedelic Furs*
2. Man of the hour - Norah Jones
3. So jealous - Tegan and Sara
4. Green grass (live) - Tom Waits
5. Feels so good - Van Halen

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Good-bye to the flea market

I see a long standing St. John's tradition is up and dying with this Christmas season - The Avalon Mall Flea Market. I'm surprised it's taken this long for the powers-that-be to finally kill it.

The flea market has operated out of the Avalon Mall since the late 80s. At first it was just a simple flea market, a place to sell junk during a Sunday afternoon when the mall was closed. But then things began to evolve and escalate. Sunday shopping was brought in so the hours the flea market operated switched from the mornings and afternoon to the evening. And then vendors began to get grumpy over the flea market. First it was the tables obviously selling stolen goods. The people who ran the market did their best to enforce things, but you could see people selling stuff they stole from some of the stores in the mall on a Saturday at the market on a Sunday.

Yeah, they were that brazen. I did a series of stories when I was with the Express about the amount of stolen merchandise running through local flea markets. Actually shut one down in Mount Pearl which was terrible for selling stuff robbed from drug stores (cologne, razor blades, deodorant) and DVDs. The Avalon Mall was never as bad as that one, but there was an element to it. And it got tarnished by association.

I think the final death blow came from stores operating in the mall growing weary of having people come in and compete with them for business and paying a few bucks for a table while they were paying thousands in rent. I imagine HMV and the other movie store were never happy to see tables selling recently released DVDs at 50% what they were selling them for. I know that the framing business in the mall forced Cathy's parents out a couple of years ago (although if you get your framing done from a store in the mall, you're mad. The mark-up is insane).

I suspect that's it for a flea market of this scope. Some mentioned the Village, but I understand they've already rejected it. Besides, part of the appeal of this flea market was the ability to wander around a bit before or after catching a movie. Where ever they go next won't have that. It's too bad, really. It was a nice little community, it was mostly harmless and you could occasionally find some fun things buried in there among the rubble. That's the fun of a good flea market.

I have my own memories of the flea market. For a few years after I left MUN, but before I moved to Clarenville I was a semi-regular at the flea market. It's been noted that I have quite a decent comic book collection. I used to take bit and pieces of it into the mall to sell. Let's just say the post-university years were a bit hard on the pockebook and I needed to make money any way I could.

Also, I was a bit of a merc. It's a term that a few of us who sold comics at the mall used. Because we were hardcore collectors we knew immediately if a comic was worth something or was junk. But not everybody has that skill. It wasn't so much that we took advantage of people who brought their comics into the mall to sell to us...we took advantage of local used bookstores. Several around town sold used comics that they'd dump on shelves or bins. People would come in and sell them to the bookstore for a dime, they would sell them for 50 cents.

So me a few others would hit these stores, often daily, waiting to see if someone was dumb enough to dump something valuable in there. You'd be astonished how often it happened. For the bookstores, they were quite happy to make five times profit off a comic. However, I routinely grabbed comics on a Thursday for 50 cents and sold them at the flea market for $10. I know I sold books there for $50 or more that I bought for a couple of quarters.

On a good day at the flea market I could walk home with $300-$400. And back then, it was money I desperately needed. It kept me going until I could figure out the next step in my life.

So I'll miss the Avalon Mall Flea Market. It was an institution in St. John's for many years and it did all right by me.

Last Five
1. I'll be back - The Beatles
2. Last chance - Maroon 5
3. Wait for love - Josh Ritter
4. First night - The Hold Steady*
5. Magpie to the morning - Neko Case

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Preparing for the bloodbath

I swear the intent of last night's post was not to get people begging me to stay or to get my ego stroked. I was sitting at the computer trying to think of something to blog when Cathy wondered why I was still doing it since I wasn't posting as much and the passion I had for the blog seems to have ebbed. And since I was sitting at the computer, I figured why not toss that out there and see what happens.

The reaction is gratifying. Thank you all of the reaction. My writing has changed over the years, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. I think it's probably a bit more polished, but I think that burning passion has ebbed away a bit. I'm sure Barb can recall times when I was with the Packet and I was working on one of my "So Anyway..." columns that she could hear the keys on the computer being beaten into submission when I was in a particular mood. I do miss the searing contempt I had for politicians back then and knowing I had the platform and ability to make them bleed if I really wanted to.

It's not there these days, or at least it slumbers. Although oddly the notion of the PC leadership campaign is making something stir. There is nothing in politics that can beat an old fashion, cut them until they bleed to death, leadership battle. The battle for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008 between Obama and Clinton was far more interesting than John McCain's doomed attempt to win the presidency months later.

The bloodbath between John Efford and Roger Grimes for the Liberal leadership in 2001 was epic, far better than the 2003 provincial election.

And now, oh yes, we have the makings of another bloodbath. Now that it appears that the 800 pound gorilla that is Gen. Rick Hillier is likely to stay off stage (if he ran, I'm pretty sure everyone would duck and run for cover) we're going to have ourselves a real knockdown, drag out the likes of which we haven't seen in Newfoundland and Labrador in a decade.

The best thing about leadership battles is that they are much more...Shakespearean. Standard elections are all noise and yelling about left and right and the other person is clearly Satan's representative on Earth. Leadership battles have to walk the line of being passionate all the while trying to find to kill your opponent without destroying your political party. It's about slipping poison into a drink rather than Shock and Awe bombings. It's a fine skill and watching the truly gifted work their craft is always a pleasure.

You can already see the early stages of it happening. Take this CBC story. In and of itself, it's pretty unremarkable. However, in a rarity, the comments section is actually fascinating. One of the candidates being mentioned as a premier-in-waiting is Steve Kent.

For those of you not of Newfoundland and Labrador, Kent is a former boy wonder. Was big into volunteering and Scouting, I think he became the youngest mayor in the province's history and then made the leap into provincial politics where he has, well, done virtually nothing. And let's say his leap from municipal politics into provincial was not done smoothly. It's viewed by many that he's Conservative only because he could ride Williams coattails more easily into victory. If Williams were a Liberal, so would Kent. Actually, that's probably true of 90% of the current PC caucus.

The comments section in the CBC story is particularly vicious, with most people raking Kent over the coals and laughing at the notion that he's ready to be premier. Now, there's one of two options being played out here. Either people are genuinely horrified at the notion of Kent being premier and are venting their spleen or agents of the other candidates are already launching their attacks before the campaign even begins.

I think it's the former. For one, the idea that he's a strong enough candidate to warrant this kind of blitz is silly. Secondly, the notion of Premier Kent at this stage is perfectly horrifying. I wouldn't mind seeing him run just to watch him get the crap kicked out of him (there's always been something about Kent that fundamentally annoyed me and I don't know why). But I guess we'll see what happens after he takes his walk through the Christmas lights of Mount Pearl and makes a decision.

The next few months are going to be epic fun. Just don't think too hard that one of these clowns is going to be in charge at the end of all of it. That ruins the fun.

Last Five
1. Refugee - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
2. Blue lips - Regina Spektor
3. Silver and gold (live) - U2
4. Love me do - The Beatles
5. Your bright baby blues (live) - Jackson Browne

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

A post for a stormy night

An assortment for a blustery evening outside. I was debating catching a movie, but with the wind and the snow, I think I'm going to stick close to the house this evening. It's warm and cozy in here. Let's just say Boo isn't getting his 9 pm walk this evening.

1. Cathy is arguing that if I'm only posting one or twice a week that I ought to give up the blog and shut it down, that I should be blogging at least every two days. Thoughts?

2. A story for Ed that might amuse/annoy him - Ketchum Public Relations has added Danny Williams to their Hall of Fame of "Canada’s newsmakers and ranked their communications efforts in terms of skill, colorfulness and effectiveness." They gave him particular praise for how he handled his health issue earlier the year and for his good-bye speech.

3. Speaking of Ed, he handicaps the potential PC leadership contenders. All I can say to that is god help us all with Joan Burke, who did such a disastrous job with the MUN presidential search that if you're an alumni of the university you should want nothing to do with her as premier of the province. I know a lot of smart people who truly loathe Jerome Kennedy. And the notion of Premier Steve Kent, at this stage of the game, is hilarious.

I keep hoping he's wrong about Beth Marshall, about the only one of the candidates listed there who would have a prayer of actually doing a good job of running the province. The rest all have the feel of lambs being fattened for the slaughter when the province's political/cult of personality cycle kicks in and the Liberals take their turn in power in 2015.

4. Completely unrelated to the rest, but I have my new "I hate this commercial, hit mute and will never buy the product and, in fact, if I ever find the ad guy who created it I will do terrible, terrible things to him." It's the Merci chocolates ads. They just rub my last nerve raw.

Last Five
1. You make my dreams - Hall & Oates
2. Jodi Rae - Colleen Power*
3. You got me rocking - Rolling Stones
4. Classic cars - Bright eyes
5. U.S. 41 - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Christmas parade

If you wanted one picture to sum up the week that was in Iqaluit, this is probably it.

Yes, it's a man waiting for the start of Iqaluit's Santa Claus Parade in shorts while drinking a Tim Horton's coffee. Any other year, this man would clearly have been a lunatic from down south somewhere, just off the plane, who didn't know any better. This year, for all I know, he's lived up here 10 years.

By the way, the forecast for the next three days - -1C, 0C, -1C.

So yes, the parade yesterday. The Santa Claus Parade in Iqaluit tends to be a brief affair and the floats aren't necessarily flashy. But it's fun and noisy and there's Santa, so it's a good thing. A few pictures from the event.

(Yes, even Polar Man was there)

Last Five
1. 38 years old - The Tragically Hip
2. Get behind the mule (live) - Tom Waits
3. The promise - Tracy Chapman
4. Them and me - Brendan Benson
5. Private investigations (live) - Dire Straits

Friday, December 03, 2010


Just to give you your update on the apocalypse, the temperature went up to +2C today, and was as high as +3.5C yesterday. To put that in comparison, the normal seasonal high for this time of the year is -16C. Now, if this was a blip, a one or two day thing, you could just write it off as a freak occurrence. Because this kind of thing happens from time to time. A couple of years ago it rained on February 28. Freaky little weather bombs happen.

But we've been going through this for about two months now. Where everyone is waiting for the temperature to bottom out and it hasn't happened. It's gone from amusement to genuine "what the hell is going on?" I don't want to say this has never happened before, but I've yet to encounter anyone in Iqaluit who has any memory of this sort of thing happening.

We're in some of the darkest days of the year right now...we're getting a little more than four hours of direct sunshine and probably around six or so when you throw in civil twilight. For it still to be mild out is....odd. It's also turned Iqaluit into a skating rink. My driveway is essentially a sheet of ice right now. I'm tempted to put on my curling shoes to get to the truck.

Environment Canada is showing the temperatures might snap back to something resembling seasonal norms next week, but we'll see. I also wonder how much damage has been done for this year. The sea ice is already five weeks late in starting to form. Even with a proper cold snap it's going to be six-eight weeks late and may never really form properly.

I understand the Tim Hortons opening in town this week was a big deal and all, but I really think this is a bit of a big deal. You can talk to elders in town who can recall the bay being frozen solid by mid-October and going out on ski-doo or dog teams. Now people are wondering if they're going to have to boat to get to their cabins for Christmas holidays.

Anyway, I'll try and stop harping on it, but is genuinely freaky to me. And pretty much the biggest deal in town right now.

However, if you want some recommended reading, I say give this story a try. It's written by my friend Chris Windeyer and features one of the true characters of Iqaluit - Bryan Pearson. He's been up here forever and has done pretty much everything, although I know him primarily as the guy who runs the cinema. He's much more than that.

He's about as blunt a person as you'll ever meet and Chris does a nice job profiling him. And thank god Up Here gave Chris some leeway with the language he uses in the piece. It wouldn't have been as entertaining if Chris had to clean up what Pearson says and the way he portrays him.

It's a good story...go read it.

Last Five
1. The hunter, the hunted - Matt Mays and El Torpedo
2. Shotgun wedding - Andrew LeDrew
3. Should I stay or should I go (live) - The Clash*
4. Jim Rombolt's tune - Figgy Duff
5. Red is the rose (live) - Nanci Griffith and the Chieftains

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Our House

So now we pause to let Cathy have her "I told you so" moment.

Astonishingly, one year has passed since we moved into our house. For the 10 or so still regular readers of the blog left, you may recall I was not exactly a big fan of the idea of buying a house, this house in particular. I had any number of reasons and, even in retrospect, they were not irrational ones. My concerns, in no particular order, were that I wasn't in love with the house because it didn't have the kind of indefinable "character" I was hoping for, that I wasn't sure we had the money for it, that I was unemployed and it seemed like an insane risk to take while that state of affairs was going on and that we didn't have enough furniture and feared living in a half empty house for months.

Cathy managed to refute those arguments with: You give the house the character you want, we clearly had enough money saved up to make a 20% down payment, I would get a job soon enough, and given out mild packrat ways, we'll fill the house up soon enough.

And she was right on all counts. Granted, I still think it was a huge risk. I had irons in the fire on the job front, but it still months for the right iron to heat up. There was more than a little bit of stress in our lives those first few months. I'm not a big fan of stress and while it's easy to look back now and chuckle at it, I think we would both agree it wasn't the happiest time in our marriage.

However, I guess a little stress (all right, spiking to medium-high stress from time to time) can work out. I'm very happy in our house. After years of apartment living, and hearing that our old apartment building has gone down hill in the last year (noisy dogs, insane tenants, cigarette smoke drifting through the building), I'm doubly glad. Yes, the house still gives me fits and starts. The washing machine breaking was an unwelcome surprise, but I suspect that's just the first of many to come with home ownership.

But we've made the house our own. A spare bedroom has become the library/den that I've always wanted. We have our pictures hanging on the walls. We can look out the window and across the bay. We can drive the dog batshit crazy and let him bark and play without worrying about the neighbours. We have space and can buy things we like if we want without ever having to worry about where on earth we're going to put it.

It's our home; we're happy in it. And in a mere 21 years it will be all ours.

Oh Christ....

Last Five
1. Shatter - Liz Phair
2. Goin' out west (Live) - Tom Waits*
3. Ion Square - Bloc Party
4. Change is good - Pathological Liars
5. Brackett, WI - Bon Iver

Monday, November 29, 2010

The successor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Williams post-mortem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next up....what's next?

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

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Danny Boy

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

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Iqaluit on a rainy Wednesday

So let's see, an update on things.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Deathly Hallows

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Jordan's $1 billion couch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Beatles and iTunes, in perspective

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

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

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

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

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

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

That flaw? Rock Band: The Beatles.

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Four for Tuesday

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that's it for now. More later.

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

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Catching up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Paper flood

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Curling wrap-up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Grumpy bastards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 01, 2010

Taking a joke

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But firing someone. Really?

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

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

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

Sunday, October 31, 2010


So that was a deeply quiet Hallowe'en after all. We had no idea how many kids we were going to get showing up to our house so we bought, in retrospect, silly amounts of candy and chocolate. We ended up getting around 40 kids to our door. Prior to buying all the candy I asked one of our neighbours up the street how many we should anticipate and she figured around 100-150.

So why the discrepancy? Quite simple really, and I'm kicking myself for not thinking about it. She lives near a bunch of townhouses. And not just any townhouses, but one with federal government employees in them. So yeah, she pulled in between 80-100 kids. But I live further down the hill, where the houses are further apart, so we got around 40.

Still, those are small numbers compared to Green Row. That's a section of Iqaluit downtown where there are lots of federal government employees and they're all townhouses. Oh yes, and near the school. I've heard horrifying numbers in excess of 200 kids hitting that place on Hallowe'en. Gah.

So our first Hallowe'en as homeowners was a relatively quiet affair. Well, in terms of kids. Boo lost his mind. Understand, the slightest noise outside can set him off. He's mellowed in the last year or so, but he's still quite the barker when someone knocks on the door. Now imagine that happening 20 or more times in the course of the evening. We had to barricade him in one of the rooms just so he wouldn't scare the crap out of the kids knocking on the door.

He seems quite tired this evening. All barked out, I imagine.

With Hallowe'en over the sprint to Christmas begins. They've already begun to cheat, of course. NorthMart has had Christmas chocolate for sale for weeks and their toy section is growing huge. And I'm pretty sure I saw a Christmas ad on TV this afternoon. Cathy's already ordered most of my gifts and I have her shopping about half done.

Trust me, you want to avoid having to pick up packages in Iqaluit's post office if at all possible in December. Jordon (an Iqaluit blogger and Post Master no less) is one seriously doomed bastard. Send pity his way, just not mail if you can help it.

Last Five
1. Johnny 99 (live) - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
2. I'm gonna find another you - John Mayer
3. Cobwebs - Ryan Adams and the Cardinals
4. Stable song - Death Cab For Cutie
5. Snow is gone (live) - Josh Ritter*

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Cårven Der Pümpkîn

It's Hallowe'en, well, pretty much Hallowe'en. So why not celebrate with the Swedish chef.

I've got to say, the Muppets really have found new life on YouTube. I'm not sure if we really need a new Muppets show, as long as we can get these two minutes bits of fun. I've yet to see one of these YouTube clips that haven't made me laugh out loud.

Last Five
1. Can't get arrested - Lloyd Cole
2. That time - Regina Spektor
3. Mary Jane's last dance (live) - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
4. In my place - Coldplay*
5. Suicide - The Raveonettes

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Four for Thursday

1. The big news of the day in Iqaluit - after 36 days the dump fire is finally out. And there was rejoicing, although I noted a hint of sadness among some reporters on Twitter, who mourned the passing of an easy story on a slow news day.

For those people in Iqaluit who have grown accustom to the oily, burnt rubber smell that occasionally lingered over town, never fear. After all, Tim Hortons is opening up next month, so the smell will be back in no time flat.

2. It's now the October 28 and there is still no snow down on the ground in town. The temperatures are finally starting to dip a little bit below zero. But because it's so cold and dry, whenever the wind picks up you get little dust storms blowing around town. I hit one the other day that was bad enough I had trouble seeing where I was driving. So I never thought I would say this, but I'm kind of wishing for some snow to finally land on the ground, just to cover up the dirt.

Besides, living in the arctic and not have any snow on the ground in November is just plain freaky.

3. The phrase "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone" is one of those completely foreign concepts to politicians.

Westcott was wrong to send that email. It was probably a case of him being frustrated over something, writing the email and then forgetting the cardinal rule of email. If you're not sure, stand up, walk away for five minutes, look at it again, shake your head at it and then hit delete (for example I had a sentence in this post I wasn't sure about, got up, came back, hit delete. Probably for the best). He didn't and he's paying a price now.

By the way, spinning it as a joke was a mistake. The simpler response was "I was in an upset mood and sent an email I shouldn't have. We've all done it, but that's no excuse of the language I used. I apologize."

But for the premier to stand up with a straight face and call it vile is rich considering all the truly vicious things he said over the past seven years (pretty certain Westcott hasn't conducted any interviews where's expressed a desire to have people shot). There was actually a good comment in the story where 'Mark' said, "I know that whenever I find something vile and offensive, my own inclination is to wait over a year and a half to react to it."

It's mock outrage to score political points. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

4. Finally got to see "Red" last night. Mmmmm, digital projection. Very nice. Fun movie as well. Glad to see that someone remembered Bruce Willis is at his most effective as a charming action hero, which is what he is here. If there is a fault, it's that there was not enough Helen Mirren with a Big Fucking Gun shooting people. However, it is set-up for a sequel so there's always the hope of Helen Mirren shooting Big Fucking Guns in "Red 2".

By the way, I'd love to be able to say, "If you liked the movie you really should go and read Warren Ellis graphic novel." Except they have virtually nothing in common. This was action comedy. Ellis book was a grim little four character action piece which also played with a theme he was running with at that time about the unexploded mines and ghosts of the 20th century that were going to haunt the 21st century for some time.

It's still a great book, but if you're expecting to see a whole cast of characters, no. Not so much. If you like that theme, I'd also highly recommend "Global Frequency".

You know how Ellis is a great writer? Because he's left behind so many fantastic ideas that he's simply grown bored with and moved on to the next thing. He could still be writing Global Frequency if he wanted to, that's how rich with ideas that series was. And Red was three issues and done. Others would have stretched that a dozen issues or more. Ellis told it in three and it was just fine.

Last Five
1. Fix you up - Tegan & Sara*
2. Positively 4th Street - Bob Dylan
3. Scenes from an Italian restaurant - Billy Joel
4. Into temptation (live) - Crowded House
5. Desert rose - Sting