Sunday, March 25, 2012

Recent Acquisitions

We haven't been down to the museum in town for a couple of months, I think. There's always lots of nice things there, but it can be expensive walking in there. There's a tendency to walk in with a full wallet and then walk out with it considerably lighter. Bringing your check book is a tremendously bad idea. Trust me.

There are several places in town where you can buy really nice carvings, but the museum consistently offers nice little pieces at quite reasonable prices. Let's put it this way, anytime someone comes in town and expresses and urge to buy a carving, they're steered straight to the museum.

We didn't go there looking for a carving yesterday...we were there for the Pangnirtung Print Collection. Cape Dorset gets all the attention when it comes to prints in Nunavut, but Pangnirtung has a history with prints (and tapestries) and sometimes you can find a nice print at a price that's not as high as what the Dorset ones have reached in recent years.

(I'm not saying the Dorset prints aren't worth the price, by the way. I'm all for artists getting what they can for their work. But I've noticed the spike in prices over the last seven years as their national popularity has spiked.)

We didn't find one we liked, alas. However, as this is why the museum is dangerous, we were poking around and seeing what else was there and fell in love with a carving. Several hundred dollars later, this guy is now in our carvings display.

The artist is Quraq Nugushuituq from Cape Dorset. It's also carved out of quartz, which is a little different. We have a couple of polar bear carvings, but this is the first one that's actually the same colour as the bear.

And because we're showing off a bit, a couple of other acquisitions I've just forgotten to put up on the blog. First, there's the one of a woman in an amunti we bought back in November.

The stone is serpintine and the face is made from caribou antler. The artist is Mosesie Ipeelee from here in town.

And finally, a couple of ookpiks (owls). The one on the left is more of a traditional one. The one on the right, well, someone got the idea of doing a set of ookpiks and dubbing them Angry Ookpiks, and dyed them the same colour as the Angry Birds. They were $30 each, so while it was tempting to go and buy the set, Cathy just settled on the blue one. I suspect, judging by how fast they disappeared (they were advertised on one of the Iqaluit Buy/Swap sites on Facebook) the artist is going to do quite well for herself over the next couple of months.

That's the thing about Iqaluit. It's dead easy for us to resist hitting the bars or eating out. But the sheer volume of art that's routinely dangled in front of you...that's the hard thing to pass up...

Last Five
1. Peace - Weezer
2. Mother - Emmanuel Jai
3. Champagne for my friends - Fall Out Boy
4. Yankee bayonet - The Decemberists*
5. Smoke detector - Rilo Kiley

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Plate madness

Friends of mine on Facebook have already seen this, so my apologies to them. But for the rest of you, this might be of interest. It is also a cautionary tale.

A friend of mine posted a link to an eBay auction earlier this week (he's not the one running it) for a used Nunavut licence plate. Now, if you had asked me how much something like that would go for, I would have said $10...maybe. I would have been off by a considerable amount.

There's less than 30 minutes left as I write this, but allow me to say that $197 for a licence plate is insane (Note: It went for $213. Unreal). I would also like to point out that the plate is almost exactly the same as the plate for the NorthWest Territories. For that matter, $20 in shipping for the licence plate is also batshit crazy, but anyway...

I made the joke after I read that auction - when it was at $110, by the way - that I had a new retirement plan. It involved me taking the day off, going to my tool box for a screwdriver, and then taking a casual stroll around town. You know, for my health and all...

If that plate goes for $200, then aside from P.T. Barnum really being a genius philosopher, I am tempted to go out this evening with a screwdriver. I figure 300 licence plates would be enough to take care of my sealift this summer.

To my knowledge, they're still making them for another couple of months, so they're not really that rare or scarce. But I have to admit, if someone offered me $200 for the plate off the back of our car, I wouldn't sell it. So perhaps there is some truth to the value of the plate. I also have no idea what the licence plate collectors market is like. Maybe it is in demand, but I find $200 a touch insane.

Although I will say this...if this actually becomes a trend, and those plates start getting a couple of hundred dollars, my plate is going to disappear (i.e. it's going to be hung on my wall) and I'll go and get one of the new ones. I'll suffer the ugly one on the car; but having someone steal it (because word is going to get out around town about this) and sell it on eBay would be really annoying...

Last Five
1. Lithium - Nirvana*
2. The Jessica numbers - The New Pornographers
3. Anna...go to him - The Beatles
4. Follow the arrows - Sean Panting
5. Ireland - Tori Amos

Thursday, March 22, 2012

This week's Doyle

See, it is entirely possible to do a solid, entertaining hour of Doyle without going completely off the rails. I think the difference is that this wasn't a silly episode. It had amusing moments and a few laughs, but the writers didn't chase them so desperately that the ran the plot clear off the rails, which they tend to do.

See, playing it straight can be your friend as well.

As is typical of Doyle, especially this season, we have several plots going on. The main plot involves Des father getting paroled from jail, and then promptly getting kidnapped. So the Doyles have to spring into action and figure out what's going on, if he's actually been kidnapped, and try to prevent Des from acting more of a spaz as always.

In plot #2, A retired RNC officer with a connection to Mal's past has been found murdered. Mal is acting vague in a way that fools absolutely no one (I assume they only thing he's worse at, other than being a father, is playing poker). Lesley knows he's hiding something, which is making her...crankier than normal.

Plot #3, we have Kathleen dealing with a sinister man from her past, along with a blue book and some money she possibly stole. Unsurprisingly, this is the least interesting of the plots. Fortunately it's also the one that gets the least amount of screen time.

The Des father plot actually holds up pretty ok. I like that they show his father his basically just an older version of Des - a geeky guy, who is a bit of a savant when it comes to electronics, a clutz and easily distracted. The difference is that he didn't have the Doyles to rescue him, like they did with Des. And lots of nice moments with each of the cast reacting to Des and his situation. Rose and Mal saying he's a good guy, Jake's mildly stunned reaction in realizing how much Des worships him and a lovely little scene with Rose and Tinny, where Rose essentially smacks down all of Tinny's bluster about how she feels about him.

Tinny, for all my bitching and moaning, can be an interesting character if they can ever figure out what to do with her. This episode she mostly worked.

Plus, there were few plot holes. Yes, it was mind blowingly stupid for the crook to take Des back to the spot where he held his dad, but I'll forgive that.

And, you know, for all the times that Jake gets hit in either the balls or the head, it's pretty well assured that he's sterile and probably should be showing the post-concussion symptoms you would see in a veteran NHL enforcer. But I digress...

The Mal subplot has some intrigue, just because it's nice to go back into his past a bit before he became a PI. The show is nearly three years old now. You can reach back into some of their pasts for story ideas. Rose's...checkered...history is a nice example. I hope they play it a bit straight, however. Lesley knows he's full of shit, so it would be nice to see if the rest of the Doyles quickly figure that out as well and Rose in particular, should be chewing his ass out. So a decent set-up for a story to come.

As for #3, Kathleen's whole point in the show seems to be more annoying than Tinny, thereby making her more sympathetic. If ever there was a time for a tragic death in the family, I'm leaning that way with the character. I imagine it's being all set-up for the season finale.

So yes, a good show. Solid, nice juggling of multiple plots, no boneheaded silliness...I could stand to see more of this.

Last Five
1. Scott Pilgrim - Plumtree
2. This is our perfect crime - The Von Bondies
3. Cold hands - Brendan Benson
4. Stop the clocks - Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds
5. Cigarette - Ben Folds Five

Sunday, March 18, 2012

How much is that doggie in the window...

It's a beautiful sunny Sunday in Iqaluit, and Spring is right around the corner. So this is the time of the year where Iqaluit really starts to glow. All that white snow, coupled with plenty of's a nice mix.

Pity it's -37C with windchill today. Just took Boo for a walk. We both decided after five minutes we were done with being outside. It's beautiful outside, it's just much warmer to look at it through a window.

Case in point...

It's also much warmer in the sunspot while lying on a couch than lying on the snow outside.

The downside to being inside is that when certain people are in the mood to pick and poke and comb out some mats there's no where to run.

Although most of our attention is out the front window and looking out the bay, occasionally you do see cool things looking out our back window. Birds other than ravens offer me home that perhaps winter might ease up (let's not get crazy and talk about spring yet) at some point in the next couple of weeks.

This is actually from a week or so ago. I was just surprised to see a hare in town. I'm sure it happens, but it's the first time I've seen one. Most non-avian wildlife give Iqaluit a reasonably wide berth, what with their being so many ways to die and all...

Last Five
1. Hot soft light - The Hold Steady
2. We will rock you - Queen
3. Mary Jane's last dance (live) - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
4. Monster love - Goldfrapp
5. House of smoke and mirrors - Matthew Good*

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Doyle vs. Castle

One of the criticisms of my reviews of Doyle has been "you're taking it too seriously. It's a fluffy, fun show. Relax and just watch it and don't be so critical."

Which I'm not entirely sure how you're supposed to do that and be able to review it, but whatever. But here's the thing...I do watch other mindless TV shows. The show that I tend to compare Doyle to is Castle.

Now I know some people go that's unfair because Castle is a major US network show with a massive budget. However, I think it works for the sake of my argument. Castle's central idea is certainly more preposterous. What's sillier - a private detective solving crime in St. John's or a mystery writer teaming up with a hot detective and together they solve murder cases...and have been doing so for four years and managed to not sleep together despite insane chemistry.

Castle wins the silly sweepstakes on that one.

In terms of the look of the show, Doyle win that too. Castle is the generic New York via Hollywood backlot look that's so common on US network shows. At least Doyle looks pretty and has some character.

Castle, obviously has a better pool of actors to draw on, but Doyle still gets some entertaining guest stars. It was nice seeing Andy Jones as grumpy judge last night. I hope they bring him back from time to time. Any occasion to see Andy Jones on TV is a good one.

But the big difference is in the quality of writing, which shouldn't be a surprise considering I've harped on it so much. But let's compare an episode of Castle from earlier the season with the Doyle one last night. They have similar premises in that one of the lead characters is trapped and unable to run around and solve the mystery, meaning other people have to do it. In Castle's case, he's trapped in a bank in the middle of a robbery, meaning Beckett has to try and solve the mystery and deal with the robbers. In Doyle's case, he's stuck on jury duty trying a case where he's convinced the defendant is innocent, but being sequestered it's a little hard to prove things.

Not precisely the same, but close. But the thing with Castle is that it clicks along so effortlessly. There's some real nice tension, some good humour and a decent mystery. Aspects of it are deeply silly, but even after it's over and you start to nitpick a bit, it still holds together fairly well.

Doyle just isn't the same. I mean, I enjoy the show fine, I guess. I knew the premise is silly from the get go (there's no human way Doyle gets on a jury, but whatever), however I'm biting. Try to solve the mystery while stuck in a jury room. Except they never play fair with the premise. Of course he gets to sneak out, wander around, get in a fight and walk down the street in broad daylight with an escaped criminal (having a character point it out as silly does not absolve you, as a writer, of it being a silly thing to do). Of course he gets caught and thrown off the jury, allowing him time to run around and do the big reveal in court.

Castle effortlessly sucks you into the silliness and you go along for the ride. Doyle feels too often like it's trying to punch you in the face with the silliness. And the hangover, when you realize how stupid stuff was after it ends, is fairly brutal. I'm not sure Advil quite covers it.

Doyle is perfectly average mindless fluff, but Castle is top notch mindless fluff. The difference isn't in the budget, the scenery or even the acting. It's the writing. Until Doyle acknowledges that and works to address it, I think it's going to be stuck that way for me, no matter how much I try to turn off my brain.

Last Five
1. Trojan horse - Bloc Party
2. Sex on fire - Kings of Leon
3. Wonderful - Andy Stochansky
4. I'll wait - Van Halen
5. People got a lotta nerve - Neko Case*

Monday, March 12, 2012

New strategy

So there's a story today announcing that Ke$ha (at about 14 minutes of her 15 of fame) has come out against the seal hunt. If I may, to save you time and brain cells, allow me to sum up the comments section to that story, and any other story involving the seal hunt as we enter March Madness.

"You suck!"
"No, you suck!"

Ta da! I have saved you literally hours of your life. You're welcome.

Look, I grew up in Newfoundland and I live in Nunavut. I have a decent education at this time in hopeless battles. Pick a maritime mammal - seal, polar bear, whale - I live, or lived, in places where people have wanted to kill them for various reasons they consider to be quite reasonable in opposition to nearly everyone else in the western world. That's the sad truth of the matter. It terms of cultural battles, these hunts are hanging on by the skin of their teeth. It's the cute seal with big eyes being slaughter, it's the beautiful polar bear, in danger from climate change, being killed by sports hunters. Or the smart, majestic whale being killed for no good reason.

This is where western culture sits at this point. This has been the fight for public perception over the last 40 years. In terms of public perception, pro-hunt people have lost. Of course they have their supporters. But for most people out there, for whom this isn't a life and death issue, the battle has been played out and won over the years. Those supporting these hunts are not on the winning side.

I'm not even getting into which side is right at this point. I'm just saying which side has lost. Pro-hunt people are backed in a deep, dark corner at this point. Maybe that's not right, and maybe that's not fair, but it is reality.

I had a discussion on Twitter last month with a very smart woman in town who argued that all it will take is really good organization and a really good communications strategy and it's entirely possible to turn around public opinion.

I agree with her on that part, although we're talking the "Hamlet" of communications strategies, all right. I've written a few of the buggers in my day. I can't wait to read the one that completely turns around decades of public perception when it comes to seals, or polar bears or whales. They're going to write books about that one. There will be courses at PR schools dedicated to the awe and wonder of that strategy.

But the one thing we disagreed on was money. She didn't think much would be needed. I argue that metric fuckloads of money is going to be required. Once, in a previous life, I joked that I could take an entire government department's budget, give to a PR company that made tobacco companies look good and you would still lose. Anti-hunt advocates are well funded, smart and they've been doing this for so many years it's like breathing for them. And, oh yes, many of them are zealots. Complain all you want about how they're wrong, or distorting the facts. It's a PR battle. The first casualty in these things is the truth.

So money. Lots of money. For advertising campaigns, social media campaigns, for contingencies I can't even think of right now. Lots and lots of it. Because it's not a one year burst of cash and you've won. Or five years. Or 10. Or 20. It's a willingness to spend as much as needed, for as long as needed. You have to shift a cultural perspective. It's going to take a long, long time. I also have no earthly idea where that money is coming from. That's the other problem with losing the culture wars. People will gladly give money to save polar bears's environment. Not so much with the fundraisers to go and kill them. Last time I checked, government's weren't exactly forking over the millions and millions needed. So yes, things are not going well.

If you need further proof, look at Ke$ha today. Of course she's an ignorant twit, but the fact that her opinion on the seal hunt actually made the news should give you an idea of how things are going. They're not going well. At all. So either figure out the strategy and where the money is coming from and starting fighting back or starting preparing for the terms of surrender. Because time is running out where pro-hunt people are going to have the option of making a choice.

Last Five
1. Cloudbursting - Kate Bush
2. The Curse - Josh Ritter*
3. This year's love - David Gray
4. The hitter - Bruce Springsteen
5. La cienega just smiled - Ryan Adams

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Games, Doyle and licence plates

1. Apologies for the lax posting...but between work, getting caught up in some books and the gym, my evenings have been a bit busy. Plus I'm normally tired when I mean to sit down and start writing.

2. The reading in question was Suzanne Collins' "The Hunger Games". I bought the books for Cathy a couple of Christmases ago and just never got around to reading them myself. I figured with the movie coming out in a couple of weeks, now might be a good time to read them because the movie looks quite good.

Well, I'll say this much for Collins, she knows how to build a body count. I though JK Rowling had quite the serial killer personality, but not many characters manage to survive this series, it must be said. And I enjoy the occasional bleak ending, but Jesus...

I also understand that is mostly meant for teens, especially teen girls, so I'll forgive the whole "which boy will she choose" because I'm obvious not the target audience. But as a role model for young girls...I dunno. Yes, Katniss is strong and looks after her family, but she also spends large chunks of the books hysterical, drugged and manipulated. They're page-turners, but deeply odd. I'm curious if they make the last book into a movie if they'll keep the ending the same. It's pretty bleak for a Hollywood popcorn film.

3. The gym continues to go well. Still maintaining the schedule of five days a week, for at least an hour with a mix of the elliptical and different weight machines. The weight, alas, is not coming off as quickly as I would like, even with the changes in the diet and portion-size. Still, this a two year plan. No one said it would be easy.

4. I did actually sit down and watch Doyle on Wednesday night. Thought about doing a full review, but promptly stayed up to 12:30 finishing one of the Hunger Game books. I watched mainly because Gordon Pinsent was in it. Pinsent is one of the few actors who get an automatic look in whatever they do. I won't always like it, but it gets the benefit of the doubt.

So it was a fun enough episode. The flashback from multiple perspectives worked, although I'm glad they only did it for the first half of the show. If it had been for the entire show, it would have become a nuisance. But it was amusing for the first part of the show. Actually, the bit from Mal's perspective was the most amusing. More Pinsent would have been nice, but I'll just have to settle for watching this instead

There was also actual detective work done and Jake actually went and got a cop to make the big arrest at the end. Well, will wonders never cease. The ending was also certainly poignant, but we are quickly reaching the point where it's idiotic that they're not together.

In other subplots, the Walter/Kathleen romance has potential to be vastly amusing. God, anything with more Walter in it. Jake tells Walter he's his best friend, but we never see the character in the show. And the Des/Tinny relationship continues to drive deep into the waters of the idiotic.

5. The other news out of Nunavut was the announcement that we have new licence plates. Ever since Nunavut split from the Northwest Territories we've had the same polar bear plate - it's iconic and looks kind of awesome. However, because of various weirdness, we can no longe use that licence plate. So there was a competition to see what the new one looks like, which you can see here.

I confess I'm not thrilled with it and the reaction is mixed to say the least. My issue is that it looks like the kitch tourist art you can buy at Arctic Ventures that was inevitably created by someone from Alberta based on what they think the north looks like. I don't know how you can have a licence plate with a polar bear, an inuksuk and northern lights and not feel northern, but this plate manages the trick.

I always thought they should have just adapted something by Kenojuak Ashevak (with her permission, of course). You would have gotten something unique and distinctly northern.

Oh well. Let's just say I'm glad we have the licence plate we do on our car and that we're keeping it when we sell the car many years from now.

Last Five
1. Can't walk away - The Monday Nights
2. Tournament of hearts (live) - The Weakerthans*
3. Map of a city - Ian Foster
4. In traffic - Andrew LeDerew
5. Lake fever - The Tragically Hip

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Big hearts

1. So yes, still around. I think it's safe to say I might have given up writing about the Doyle. I just haven't been enjoying this season and writing week in and week out about how frustrating the show is clearly means it's time for me to move on. Maybe I'll check back at the end of the season to see if things are getting any better for me.

Besides, the new schedule kind of occupies a lot of my time. I'm currently going to the gym five days a week. Tuesdays I curl and Fridays I take as a day of rest. So right now on Wednesday I'm getting home from the gym around 8:45. I could catch Doyle at 9, but a new show, "Nunavut Quest" comes on then on APTN. Watched the first episode this week. Really, a dogsled race across the top of Baffin Island beats Doyle hands down for my entertainment value. I highly recommend hunting it down and taking a look.

2. As has been obvious to those paying attention to the news, we had another crappy week up here. It feels like not that long ago I was writing about a devastating fire up here and this weekend we had another one, burning down a series of townhouse that left dozens homeless. Last year people were relatively lucky, or as lucky as you can be when losing almost least there was no loss of life last year.

We're not so lucky this time. Two people are missing and presumed dead. It's a small town and the rumour mill is going full tilt on what happened, but I won't repeat what I've heard happen. That's up to the RCMP to figure out.

You know, I still get a fair amount of email from people thinking about moving up here. Despite the FAQ, people still want to talk to someone and get a feel for what the place is like. I understand. I always emphasize it's a major commitment; be sure before you take the plunge. And the single question I get asked the most is "We've read all about the crime rate. Will we be safe moving there?"

It would be foolish for me to deny that Iqaluit has problems. It does and there is crime and much of it is so pointless and frustrating that it makes you want to scream sometimes. But I think you can also tell a lot about a community by how it comes together in the face of tragedy. If that's the case, then Iqaluit has one of the biggest hearts of any place I've ever been to. When the mayor has to go and tell people to please stop donating stuff because they have more than they will ever use mere days after the fire, I think that says something.

It's still not over, either. There's a fundraiser tomorrow at the Legion to help out. People have been donating to the Red Cross, or buying gift cards for NorthMart and Arctic Ventures so those left homeless can go and buy what they need. Companies have kicked in plane tickets, free cargo and cash to help out.

There's a good heart here. Maybe it doesn't get to shine as much as we might all wish it would, and that it wouldn't take tragedy for everyone to realize it. But never doubt that it's here.

Last Five
1. Please call me baby - Tom Waits*
2. Win win - Jenny Gear and the Whiskey Kittens
3. Middle of love - Ron Sexsmith
4. Girl - Beck
5. Wake up dead man - U2