Saturday, December 22, 2007

Harper-ism of the Day

And the number three story on Reuters 'Oddly Enough' today is...

Dalai Lama "is not a call girl"

OTTAWA (Reuters) - When Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper tried to explain in a year-end interview why he'd met the Dalai Lama in his Ottawa office, it was clear he wanted to show respect for the exiled Tibetan leader.

Unfortunately, it didn't quite come out that way.

"I met the Dalai Lama in my office but I meet everyone in my office. I don't know why I would sneak off to a hotel room just to meet the Dalai Lama. You know, he's not a call girl," Harper told OMNI television.


I'm tellin' ya - the Liberals don't have to say or do anything from now until the election. They just have to bide their time and let Harper keep hanging himself with his own rope.

By the time he's out he'll have enough gaffes to fill his very own Page-a-Day calender.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Halton Catholic School Board Bans 'The Golden Compass'

The following letter was sent to the editor of The Milton Champion in response to today's front page article.

Dear Editor,

I was dismayed to read of the Halton Catholic School Board’s recent decision to ban Philip Pullman’s award winning books from their school library shelves. While I’m sure they had the best of intentions, I am concerned that by trying to protect their students from ‘atheist indoctrination’, they may be inadvertently promoting someone else’s agenda.

I find it hard to believe it is a coincidence that the Board received its single complaint about Pullman’s books at precisely the same time that the right-wing Catholic League in the U.S. began its email boycott campaign against them. These are the same people who have targeted everything from South Park to Rosie O’Donnell to the infamous ‘chocolate Jesus’ sculpture as being ‘anti-Catholic’. I would not be at all surprised if the complaint originated from either the Catholic League or from someone who had received an email from them.

I would have hoped that most Canadian Catholics were capable of seeing through this kind of reactionary neo-conservatism, but apparently not. At least not in Halton.

I was also shocked to read that the Board made their decision in direct opposition to the recommendations of their own Book Review Committee. What exactly is the point in having such a committee if their recommendations are simply going to be ignored? From what I understand, the committee members were all required to actually read the book. Did all of the trustees do the same, or were they simply reacting to what they had heard about the author and his views?

Ironically, it is precisely this kind of suppression of uncomfortable and controversial ideas that has led Pullman to be so critical of religion in the first place. By banning his books, they have proven his point.

I wonder what will inspire more Halton Catholic students to question their faith: reading ‘The Golden Compass’, or being forbidden to read it.

Your truly,

Jennifer Smith

The Golden Compass

For all the controversy surrounding ‘The Golden Compass’, it is a surprisingly conventional British children’s tale. An orphaned child is raised in comfort by privileged relatives until one day she is taken away by some very, very bad people who hate little children. She then sets off on a quest to rescue her friends and save the world - with a little help from some witches, a cowboy, and an armoured polar bear.

The story is, of course, far more complex, fraught with meaning and metaphor. I don’t know how much detail was left out from the book, but I suspect it wasn’t enough. Not because of any anti-clergy themes that remain, but because the filmmakers just tried to cram too much information into a two-hour movie.

The film presents a fascinating and stunningly beautiful world filled with engaging characters, and I personally enjoyed it. I’m just not sure how many children or adults will have the patience for it.

Three out of five stars.

(You can read Murray's review in today's issue of The Milton Champion, along with news of the Halton Catholic School Board's opinion. More on that later.)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

What's Wrong With This Picture?


The Thought Police are at it again:

The MPAA has rejected the one-sheet for Alex Gibney's documentary "Taxi to the Dark Side," which traces the pattern of torture practice from Afghanistan's Bagram prison to Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo Bay.

The image in question is a news photo of two U.S. soldiers walking away from the camera with a hooded detainee between them.

An MPAA spokesman said: "We treat all films the same. Ads will be seen by all audiences, including children. If the advertising is not suitable for all audiences it will not be approved by the advertising administration."

According to ThinkFilm distribution prexy Mark Urman, the reason given by the Motion Picture Assn. of America for rejecting the poster is the image of the hood, which the MPAA deemed unacceptable in the context of such horror films as "Saw" and "Hostel." "To think that this is not apples and oranges is outrageous," he said. "The change renders the art illogical, without any power or meaning."


So, let me get this straight: showing a prisoner with a hood over his head is a depiction of torture, but actually waterboarding someone is ok? Showing three men quietly walking into the distance might offend passing children, but a naked screaming woman being hung upside down with snot hanging out of her nose is suitable for all ages?

Or is it the American flag being walked over they object to?

I suppose we can rest easy in the knowledge that this is not government censorship per se, as the MPAA is not a government organization but a trade monopoly association to which filmmakers can 'voluntarily' submit their movies and movie posters for ratings and approval. Of course if they choose not to, the MPAA will make damned sure that their movie never sees the light of day.

All of which raises the question, what exactly does the MPAA stand to gain by so blatantly kowtowing to the Bush administration's political agenda? For one thing, they get to keep the government out of the movie censorship business. And they get financially beneficial legislation like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act passed.

Quid pro quo.

For more on the evils of the MPAA, read this excellent article, or go see 'This Film Not Yet Rated'. I think I'll be renting it tonight.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Chalk River: It's All Becoming Clear

What seemed like a suspicious but confusing sequence of events when I posted about Chalk River yesterday has now come sharply into focus, thanks to bloggers at The Galloping Beaver and Politics & Poetry who are much, much better at this than I.

Go read.

What I failed to understand yesterday was this: that AECL has wanted to shut down the NRU reactor at Chalk River (the 50 year-old one) for some time now and replace it with their new Maple 1 and 2 reactors (also at Chalk River). This explains why they have been so reluctant to make the required safety upgrades to the NRU. Why bother if they're just going to mothball it?

The problem? Maple 1 and 2 were supposed to have gone online back in 1999, but cost overruns and bureaucratic bungling put them years behind schedule, and now the CNSC has refused to sign off on them because, frankly, they aren't working properly and nobody can seem to figure out why. One CNSC official described it as "a problem with the reactor physics in the core" - a phrase which caused all the blood to drain from my husband's face (he used to work at the accelerator lab at McMaster University).

Dave at the Beaver put it best:
When the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission demanded a safety upgrade it probably ran afoul of AECL's plans - and the plans of the Harper government to sell off AECL. The CNSC was calling for a fairly expensive upgrade to a reactor AECL would rather not be operating. The same regulator will not issue licenses for the MAPLE reactors until safety concerns with them are rectified.

How do you reassure a prospective buyer that the regulator will not be a problem? Push the regulator out of the way.

Aside from the potential sale of AECL, there is another reason why the government is so anxious to switch over to their new reactors. The NRU reactor uses high-enriched uranium (HEU) which AECL buys from the U.S. and then sells back to them after they're done with it for use in their bomb program. The problem is, not only has the market for nuclear weapons taken a bit of a dive lately, but the U.S. has all but banned the transport and trade of HEU under non-proliferation regulations.

While the Maple 1 and 2 reactors were originally designed to use HEU, and AECL was actually stockpiling the stuff at one point in case their supply was cut off, it now appears that these new reactors will be using low-enriched uranium instead - at least according to AECL's website.

I suspect the odds of the CNSC signing off on these reactors in the next few months just improved significantly. And if they don't, well, Harper can just do another end-run.

Meanwhile, Canadian TV news continues to broadcast the over simplified and inaccurate sound bites spouted by the Conservatives with no attempt at analysis or investigation, while devoting half their newscasts to the Mulroney/Schreiber show.

Oh, look, a bunny...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Chalk River Timeline

I've been trying to untangle the sequence of events that led to the current mess at Chalk River and ran across this interesting tidbit from November 30th - less than a week before the 'isotope crisis' story broke:
Nuclear agency review may trigger privatization

The federal government is launching a strategy review of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. to determine whether the maker of the Candu nuclear reactor needs to be restructured, a move industry observers say will likely lead to a partial privatization of the heavily subsidized Crown corporation.

"It is time to consider whether the existing structure of AECL is appropriate in a changing marketplace," Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn said yesterday.

"This review will give us the information we need to make the right decisions for AECL and the right decisions for Canadians."

Lunn's ministry will lead the review with help from the Department of Finance and "with assistance of outside expertise."

The Toronto Star, citing industry sources, reported in July that the federal government has been in talks to sell the commercial business of AECL and has already held informal meetings with U.S.-based General Electric Co. and France's Areva SA – both of which have expressed an interest in AECL.

This was followed in October by an internal reorganization at AECL, which saw five business groups broken into two distinct divisions – one devoted to commercial reactor sales and the other focused on research and development, and nuclear waste management.


I can hear Naomi Klein chattering in my ear again. I can't quite make out what she's saying yet (shut up, will ya?!), but it doesn't sound good.

Just so we've got this straight, the sequence of events runs something like this:

July 2007 - Conservative government starts investigating the possibility of privatizing AECL.

October 2007 - AECL splits itself into two distinct divisions, presumably to facilitate the sale of it's reactor sales division.

October 25 - The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) announces decision to renew the license for the Dedicated Isotope Facilities at Chalk River, due to expire Nov. 30: "Considering that the DIF is not yet fully operational and that AECL must complete a substantial amount of outstanding commissioning activities before the facility can be declared in service, CNSC staff will carry out enhanced monitoring of the facility throughout the licence period."

November 18 - AECL shuts down Chalk River reactor for scheduled maintenance.

November 29 - Tories announce a review to determine if AECL should be restructured and partially privatized, and in the same breath announce Canada's participation in the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership.

December 4 - AECL announces that it is voluntarily extending the shutdown so that it can comply with safety upgrades required by its license. The CNSC indicates that it would have insisted on having the reactor shut down if AECL had not already done so.

December 5 - All hell breaks loose in the media.

December 12 - Harper pushes through legislation to get Chalk River running again despite the remaining safety issues.

December 13 - Harper slams both AECL and the CNSC, and forbids CNSC lawyers from advising or working on the Chalk River file.


What does it all mean? For starters, I think we can expect an announcement concerning the sale of part or all of AECL to a (probably foreign) corporation within the next couple of months. The government will use words like 'efficiency' and 'accountability', but really it's just a convenient excuse to do what they've been planning all along: privatize Canada's nuclear industry and simultaneously de-fang our regulatory commission so private enterprise can be free to do for nuclear energy what they've been doing for the oil sands out in Alberta.

As for how this all fits into the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, your guess is as good as mine. I'm quite sure the connection will become apparent soon.

(And for the record, I approve of nuclear energy. In principle.)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Nah... it'll be fine. Really.


Ottawa thwarts nuclear watchdog

A Three-Mile-Island-type of nuclear accident could occur at Canada's Chalk River reactor unless a backup power supply system, capable of withstanding natural disasters such as earthquakes, is installed, according to an assessment by the president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

It is “essential” that the safety equipment be installed on two crucial pumps before the reactor, which makes more than half the world's nuclear medicines, is restarted, Linda Keen wrote in a blunt letter to two federal government ministers.

... AECL had shut the reactor for routine maintenance in November and then voluntarily kept it shuttered after discovering it wasn't in compliance with a long-standing CNSC licence condition requiring the backup power system. The equipment, known as motor starters, is designed to ensure pumps continue operating during earthquakes, floods, tornados and fires, among other disasters.


Hmm... water pumps... backup systems... addressing safety concerns before a reactor is re-started... Why am I having flashbacks to "The China Syndrome"?

But Uncle Stevie knows better, of course.

“There will be no nuclear accident,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper asserted in the House of Commons, saying the government has received independent advice indicating there is no safety concern.

“On the contrary, what we do know is that the continuing actions of the Liberal-appointed Nuclear Safety Commission will jeopardize the health and safety and lives of tens of thousands of Canadians. We do have the responsibility to demand that Parliament step in and fix this situation before the health of more people is put in jeopardy.”


Hey, at least he can pronounce 'nuclear'!

And BTW, that 'independent advice' Stevie chose to listen to? That would be from a couple of former employees of AECL which, while technically a Crown Corporation, sounds an awful lot like a private one in it's stated mandate.

I guess we should all just keep our fingers crossed for the next 120 days.

(edit - Garth Turner posted this gem. Thanks, Garth!)


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Get Out of My Head, Naomi Klein!

There was a somewhat cheezy but strangely memorable science fiction movie back in the ‘80s called ‘They Live’. It was about a guy who finds a pair of sunglasses that allows him to see subliminal messages in billboards and magazine ads, as well as the true faces of the yuppies and power elite who turn out to be hideous aliens trying to take over the world.

That’s what I feel like after reading Naomi Klein’s ‘The Shock Doctrine’.

I can’t read or watch the news any more without zeroing in on terms like ‘public/private partnerships’ or asking myself which multinational corporations are going to make a killing this time.

Even watching that ‘Killer Wave’ mini-series last week, I immediately recognized that the likely culprit behind these man-made Tsunamis had to be some mega corporation that stood to profit from providing reconstruction services to devastated coastal communities. Because really, it’s not that big a stretch to go from disaster capitalism to disaster creation, right?

That's not paranoia, right?

Or take this bit of news:

Ottawa's demand for review 'crazy,' Miller says

The "ideology" of the federal Conservatives is needlessly delaying the extension of the Spadina subway north into York Region, Mayor David Miller charged yesterday, accusing the government of demanding a "crazy" financial review of the project.

Last March, Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised $697-million for the $2.1-billion, 8.6-kilometre subway expansion, already approved by the province and by York Region.

But no cheque from Ottawa has been signed, Mr. Miller said, because the federal government is forcing the Toronto Transit Commission to review the project in order to determine whether the private sector could be more involved in a so-called public-private partnership.


There’s that word again: ‘private’. Meaning corporate. Meaning the use of millions of our tax dollars to enrich the shareholders of whatever corporation gave Harper the most money last year so they can sub-contract the job out to the lowest bidder who will pay the lowest wages they can and use the cheapest materials available to do the most half-assed job they can possibly get away with. It’s just like the IMF did in Bolivia when they demanded the privatization of their water system as a condition of…

Grrrr… See? I can’t stop myself. It’s everywhere!

Put on the glasses, man. It'll change your life.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

And Then There Were Two

Australia’s long dark teatime of the soul is finally over.

Prime Minister John Howard - neo-con, monetarist, xenophobe, racist, warmonger, global warming enabler, and all around Bush toady - has lost the election to Kevin Rudd and the Labour Party. Right now it looks like Howard will even lose his own seat.

Goodbye, good riddance, and don’t let the House door hit you in the ass on the way out.

Rudd has his work cut out for him, and has already announced that he’ll be ratifying Kyoto and pulling Australian troops out of Iraq as soon as possible. Good luck to him. Here’s hoping eleven years of Howard’s Friedmanite economic policies don’t take as long to recover from as, say, the Harris experiment in Ontario. The damage to the global environment, Aboriginal treaties, Iraq, and Australia’s international reputation might take even longer to fix.


So, let’s see. Blair is gone, replaced by the much more sensible Gordon Brown. Howard is toast. That leaves… Stephen Harper as Bush’s one and only true and bestest friend.

Any bets on which one goes down next?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Dan In Real Life

A good comic actor makes you laugh. A great one makes you cry. Charlie Chaplin was the all time master, but I can’t think of anyone of this generation who can play the sad clown as convincingly as Steve Carell.

Not only did I fall in love with Dan the lovesick widower, I’ve decided that I want to spend the holidays with his family. The whole clan is charming and raucous and thoroughly into each other’s business in an utterly benign and loving way. And yet somehow they still manage to seem like a real family.

No mine, of course.

The whole movie is infused with the music of Sondre Lerche, a somewhat obscure Swedish songwriter and performer who sounds suspiciously like Rufus Wainwright. The music sets exactly the right tone - sweet, quirky, and completely out of the ordinary.

I laughed. I cried. Four and a half out of five.

(and Murray liked it too!)

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Radio Silence

I wanted to apologize for the lack of posts over the past week or so.

I've recently had every waking thought consumed by simultaneous but unrelated personal problems resulting from
a) a two and a half year old legal nightmare thought to be resolved that has suddenly risen from the dead, and
b) having a teenaged son.

Between the two I can barely sleep, I feel nauseous all the time, and I am seriously considering dropping my amateur status so I can start drinking professionally.

On the bright side, I've lost five pounds.

I've had a bunch of post ideas surface and even made some notes, but I just can't seem to focus long enough to put a coherent thought together. So until my life and my stomach settle down again, here are some random links to interesting articles and blogs I've run across recently:
Brian 'Blue' Lemon on Mark Warner
(I think the Conservatives are running out of Kool-Aid)
The Retailization of Canada
Voter ID
More on Voter ID
Alberta Oil Royalties
Venezuela's oil policy compared to Alberta's
Health Care Myths

Go. Read. Enjoy.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

30 Days of Night

I have seen a lot of vampire movies over the years, and I have to say that the creatures in ’30 Days of Night’ are the scariest vampires I have ever seen.

The filmmakers have combined the pale elegance of the traditional vampire with a brutal, animal ferocity that almost makes them seem more like werewolves. The result is utterly original and absolutely terrifying.

Unfortunately, the humans in ’30 Days of Night’ don’t quite meet the same standard. Most of the supporting cast is strong (particularly Ben Foster in the ‘Renfield’ role), but the two leads are woefully unconvincing as heroes. Josh Hartnett does his level best, and he nearly redeems himself in the end when his character comes up with a surprisingly clever solution to the town’s vampire problem. Sadly, he’s just way out of his depth as an actor.

I’ll give the humans a two and a half stars. The vampires get five.

(Shockingly, Murray hated it.)

Friday, October 26, 2007

U.S. Activists Turned Away. Again.

You may remember the sorry tale of Retired U.S. Army Col. Ann Wright and her peacenik colleague from CodePink being turned away at the Canadian border because their names appeared on an FBI database of dangerous terrorists, pedophiles and peaceful protesters.

This time Wright had a specific invitation from six Canadian Members of Parliament, but when she arrived at the airport in Ottawa they once again refused her entry:
Wright said she is now been banned from Canada for a year because she knowingly failed to bring proper documentation that might have allowed her into Canada despite the convictions.

"I failed to produce proper documentation, which is the court documents about these convictions and a temporary resident permit from a Canadian embassy. They said by my failure to bring those with me I was purposefully flouting the Canadian law," Wright said.

On an attempted visit to Canada in August, Wright and and fellow activist Medea Benjamin learned that their names were in an FBI-maintained database meant to track fugitives, potential terrorists, missing persons and violent felons. They were told they would have to apply for "criminal rehabilitation" and pay $200 (€139) if they ever wanted to visit again.

Canadian Border Services is arguing that they can turn back anybody for any reason they like or no reason at all. This, of course, is true, but it's also a convenient way of skirting certain uncomfortable questions. Specifically, how much more fascist can you get than putting peace protesters on a 'list of undesirables'? And how can the Canadian government justify this ON THE VERY SAME DAY that they are demanding that Maher Arar be removed from the U.S. no-fly list?

And from the Canadian MSM... crickets.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Choice

I never thought I'd agree with anything from the pages of the National Post, but these comments by Don Martin are worth heeding:
Dion's choice: Save the planet, or save his political ass

OTTAWA -- Only fear, driven by unprincipled self-preservation, will keep the Liberals from triggering Canada's third election inside of five years now as the Conservatives drive a new uncompromising agenda forward.

...The inconvenient truth behind his Throne Speech predicament is that Mr. Dion must either vote to save the planet or save his political ass. Half measures, desperate hair-splitting and voting shenanigans by the Liberals only justify public cynicism about his party as a band of quivering opportunists interested in keeping their MP paycheques.

Lest we forget, Kyoto still enjoys sacred cow status in public opinion and it was the Liberals whose MP successfully sponsored a bill last spring forcing the government to draft a plan to meet the Kyoto targets.

To accept the Speech from the Throne as an approved government agenda is to agree one of the party's few policy successes is an unattainable farce. It would deliver a hard, if not fatal, hit on the credibility of a leader whose claim to political integrity and personal honesty are his greatest, if not only, strengths.

... The Liberals cannot become a rollover Opposition for long. At most they have two surrender-monkey acts to perform to keep the government in business before they become a Liberal laughingstock.

For some reason I keep thinking about the movie 'Braveheart'. Throughout the film, Robert the Bruce is advised by his father and the other nobles to continue appeasing the English in return for land and title, assuring him that he cannot possibly beat them in battle.

In the end, Robert and his army turn up at a mock battle with the English where everyone expects him to pay his respects and leave the field. Instead, he takes up the battle cry of William Wallace and leads the Scots to victory and freedom at Bannockburn.

Too bad it's fiction. But wouldn't that be something?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What I'm Watching, Part 2

MORE NEW SHOWS:


Kitchen Nightmares

This show might make you think twice about going out to eat. Grease covered walls, mouldy pesto, rotten food under the stove... and never mind the frozen ravioli and microwaved veggies some of these places try to pass off for $30 a plate. My Gods, I can cook better than some of these chefs!

It's not so much an 'Extreme Makeover' show as an expose of the restaurant industry, making it that much more satisfying to watch Gordon Ramsey lace into some of these bastards. And really - you can never have too much Gordon Ramsey.


Bionic Woman

I’m one of about half a dozen genre fans who don’t watch Battlestar Galactica. No particular reason - I just never got into it and fell too far behind. So I didn’t have a lot of expectations for Bionic Woman, other than having been a fan of the original when I was twelve or so.

I must say, I’m liking it so far. I wasn’t thrilled with Michelle Ryan at first, but she’s definitely grown on me. Miguel Ferrer is outstanding as always. The tech stuff is done just right, and they even managed a subtle, cool upgrade of that electronic ‘nenenene’ sound from the original.

You know the one.


Life

"Are you really Zen?"

"I’m Zen-ish."


Something I’m noticing through this little exercise is that a clever premise will get me to tune in, but great characters, well cast and well written, will get me to come back every week.

Charlie Crews is a great character, and reminds me very much of one of my all time favourites: Larry in ‘The Razor’s Edge’ (the movies, not the book). He is almost magical in his spirituality, and yet he’s still a sensualist in his love for fast cars, casual sex and exotic produce.

Charlie’s police partner and his accountant / roommate make the perfect companions for him as he explores his newfound freedom and the world which he was denied for so long. They interpret this world for him and try to direct him, but most of the time they just sort of get towed along in his wake.

And then there’s the mystery of the murder for which Charlie was unjustly convicted, which ties the episodes together and gives the show a strong centre of gravity.

This might just be my favourite new show of the year.


Torchwood

Not quite as good as Dr. Who, but still a lot of fun with a nice hard edge. Again, though, why is the CBC spending our tax dollars on a BBC show, with an all British/Welsh cast and crew, shot entirely in Wales?


Dirty Sexy Money

As much as I adore Donald Sutherland, he wasn’t quite enough to get me to watch a second episode. It’s not that it’s a bad show - it just didn’t interest me.


Moonlight

I didn’t make it past the first ten minutes. Sorry, but it ain’t no ‘Blood Ties’ and he ain’t no Henry.


Da Kink In My Hair

I’m not a sitcom person, but I might actually come back to this one. I used to live and work in the very same Eglinton Avenue neighbourhood in Toronto where the show is set, so these people are all very familiar to me. At the same time, the world they inhabit and the issues they deal with every day are different enough from mine to keep me interested. It isn’t really a sitcom, either, although there are some very funny moments.

Now if I can just remember to watch it when it’s on.

__________________________


Next time: Returning shows of note.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

What I’m Watching, Part 1

We’re well into the new television season now, so I thought it was about time for me to return to my blog roots and do a little TV Review Roundup.

_______________________


NEW SHOWS:

Chuck

Not bad. It’s funny, quirky, kinda clever - all the usual adjectives. I still haven’t decided if it all adds up to something I want to invest an hour a week in, though. I like Zachary Levi as Chuck. He manages to be just enough of a geek without relying on thick glasses and pocket protectors to hammer the stereotype into the wall. Adam Baldwin could use a little more humour to his character to fill him out a bit (ok, maybe I just miss Jayne), and the hot CIA chick… meh. She just doesn’t do it for me.

The jury’s still out, but I can’t see getting overly upset if I missed an episode or five.


K-Ville

I’m really enjoying this one. New Orleans has always made a fascinating backdrop for all forms of fiction, but setting a television series there post-Katrina is incredibly bold. I remember concerns being raised that the show would back off the social and political issues surrounding Katrina and become just another cop show, but so far they haven’t blinked.

Officers Boulet and Cobb are both strong, complex characters that just keep surprising you. They are unwillingly thrown together in the beginning, but they quickly develop a kind of battlefield camaraderie. Stories of their experiences during the flood are told in flashback and colour everything they do, but the show still manages to be about the present and the very practical problems these cops are forced to deal with every day. The writers deserve a lot of credit for pulling off what has to be a tricky balancing act.

Hell, they even got the Voodoo right.

Now if I could just get that image of Anthony Anderson in the drive-thru window talking about the ‘special sauce’ out of my mind.


Journeyman

This is another keeper, largely on the strength of Kevin McKidd’s lead. I like him, I like his character, and I like his relationship with his wife. I even like the premise of the show. After all, who doesn’t like a good time travelling story? All the comparisons to Quantum Leap have been made, but there are enough differences that I think Journeyman deserves to stand on its own.

Having said that, I’m not sure that a show where the hero gets a different ‘assignment’ helping a different batch of guest stars every week can really stand up in this day and age. It just seems so… eighties.

We’ll see where they go with this, but so far I’m enjoying the trip.


Pushing Daisies

My husband loves this show, and most of the critics seem to agree. I’m trying to love it. I want to love it. I’m still watching it every week hoping it’s going to grow on me, but so far it’s just not happening.

Part of my problem is the whole 'one-touch-alive, two-touches-dead' thing. It’s just seems way too... contrived. I know, I’m the one who likes the show about the time-travelling guy, but that’s just one simple crazy, impossible thing he does. With Pushing Daisies, I feel like I need to consult Hoyle’s to figure out all the rules. Like, why does he have to re-touch someone within exactly one minute? Why not 57 seconds, or 73 heartbeats? And how did he figure out the exact time? And when he goes overtime, is it always the closest person who dies instead? Is there a maximum distance? If there’s no one else around, does he die instead? Or does he just take out an acre of lawn?

I could probably get past the absurd artifice at the heart of the show if that was the only problem, but combined with the pompous voice-over and the Technicolour Tim Burton set design, it’s all just too, too much.


The Tudors

So this is what passes for Canadian Content these days. Really, I’m all for co-pros, but could somebody please explain to me exactly what’s Canadian about The Tudors besides the bankroll and Henry Czerny? Hell, they need a disclaimer in the end credits:

"Absolutely no Canadians were hired in the making of this episode"

My favourite part so far: Thomas Boleyn pimping out both his willing daughters in a blatant bid for power and prestige in the court. Nice.


Cane

My husband hates this show, but then he never did like Jimmy Smits. Which is fine by me. This way, Jimmy and I can have some alone time.

The whole cast of Cane is top-notch, especially Hector Elizondo and Rita Moreno. That, plus the appeal of getting a good look inside a world most of us know nothing about makes it one of my favourite new shows this year. The only potential problem I can see is if they start backing off of the violence and the hard edges on some of the characters. That's about all it would take to turn Cane from being a Cuban ‘Sopranos’ into a Latino ‘Dynasty’.


Kid Nation

This show horrifies me on a number of levels, most of them socio-economic. It started off well, but then instead of just letting these kids work out what sort of society would work best for them, the whole thing has turned into an experiment in hyper-capitalist social engineering.

I did find it interesting that the kids originally got along pretty well, and started out doing whatever jobs that they were best at - like the girl who took charge of the kitchen. But no, that’s not dramatic enough, so the producers divide the kids into competing tribes teams which immediately start taunting and fighting with each other. Then they impose a goddamn class system where the first place team in the competitions gets to be the ‘upper class’ who do no work for high wages, and last place gets to scrub toilets and haul water for next to nothing.

I am anxiously waiting for the proletariat to rise up and smash the bourgeois class structure in a socialist revolution.

And yet. Can’t. Stop. Watching.

__________________


More new shows tomorrow.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Runesmith Costs Zemlak the Election in Halton!

It's 1:30 in the morning, and the race in Halton is ridiculously close.
An hour and a half ago they were only 10 votes apart and Zemlak had pulled ahead, but at this point it looks like Chudleigh might just win by a nose.

Oh! Wait... The Globe & Mail just updated, and it looks like they're declaring Chudleigh the winner by a margin of only 1.5%:



Gee, Gary, I guess you shouldn't have pissed me off with that dumbassed campaign flyer, huh?!

BHAHAHAHAHA!!!!


(And my Green guy came in a strong third! Yay!)

(UPDATE: After all the votes were finally counted, Chudleigh won by only 164 votes. Wow.)

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

More Dirty Pool

I still hadn't made up my mind who to vote for in tomorrow's election. As I explained earlier, I've been going back and forth between the Green candidate and the Liberal guy.

On the one hand, I like the Green candidate as a person much better. On the other hand, I support McGuinty and most of what he's trying to do. On the other hand, the local Liberal candidate came out against MMP for a really dumb reason. On the other hand, the Green candidate said that his party supports consumption taxation rather than income tax. On the other hand...

I found this in my front door today:



At first I thought the NDP candidate had dropped by, until I opened it and saw this:



I actually phoned Gary Zemlak's office to find out if this was for real. Oh yes, they assured me. We just wanted to make sure everyone trying to decide between Liberal and NDP was aware of the potential consequences.

"I see", I said. "So what you're doing is telling people not to vote NDP, not because of their policies, but because it might split the vote and the Liberals might not get in?"

"Well... yeah."

The guy I talked to seemed genuinely baffled by my indignation. He kept saying that he was sorry if I was offended or confused, but parties do this kind of thing all the time during elections.

Sorry, but I don't remember ever seeing anything this blatant.

To top it all off, Gary Zemlak doesn't even like MMP, so as far as I can tell his ideal government would only ever have two parties: his, and the losers.

In any case, these guys have done me a big favour.

I've finally decided who to vote for.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

A Tale of Two Crossings

First there was this:
An American anti-war activist, who was jailed overnight in Surrey, faces a hearing today that could ban her from Canada for two years.

Alison Bodine, 22, believes she was arrested by the Canada Border Services Agency because she was carrying publications opposing Canadian military actions in Afghanistan.

"[Canada's border guards] identified me as a political activist," she said yesterday. "I haven't done anything illegal. I've been a student at UBC for four years and crossed the border dozens of times."

Three weeks later, there’s this:
Two well-respected US peace activists, CODEPINK and Global Exchange cofounder Medea Benjamin and retired US Army Colonel and diplomat Ann Wright, were denied entry into Canada today (Wednesday, October 3). The two women were headed to Toronto to discuss peace and security issues at the invitation of the Toronto Stop the War Coalition. At the Buffalo-Niagara Falls Bridge they were detained, questioned and denied entry. They will hold a press conference on Thursday afternoon in front of the Canadian Embassy in Washington DC to ask the Canadian government to reverse its policy of barring peaceful protesters.

The women were questioned at Canadian customs about their participation in anti-war efforts and informed that they had an FBI file indicating they had been arrested in acts of non-violent civil disobedience.

That whole idea of ‘harmonizing our security’ is starting to sound a little more ominous now, isn’t it?

The exact grounds for Bodine’s arrest are still unclear. Her lawyer actually had to fight to get full disclosure of the charges and evidence against his client, but apart from references to her activities as an anti-war activist, there doesn't appear to be anything specific. More hearings are in the works (check here for updates).

In the case of the women from CodePink, there does appear to be a specific reason for their being turned back:
Benjamin said border agents zeroed in on her conviction for trespassing for trying to deliver an anti-war petition to the U.S. mission to the United Nations on International Women's Day.

She paid a $50 fine.

"It was that conviction that was the grounds for being held and kept out."

Wright, who resigned from a diplomatic career in 2003 in opposition to the Iraq war, said she has paid fines for several misdemeanours, including sitting in front of the White House and attending hearings on Capitol Hill.

"They're payable by fines. I've never spent a day in jail as punishment. Only hours in jail prior to getting a fine."

Officials are doing their very best to write this off as SOP:
An embassy official said Canada has been stopping Americans who've been convicted of crimes for years, regardless of whether they're felonies or misdemeanours.

Many who've been caught driving under the influence, for instance, are surprised when they're turned back, he said.

Someone needs to explain Canadian law to this yutz. This has nothing to do with felonies and misdemeanours, and everything to do with indictable vs. summary offences.

DUI is an indictable offence, meaning you get a criminal record and potential jail time. Trespassing, on the other hand, is a summary offence, and a pretty minor one at that.

It would be like getting turned back from the border because you got a speeding ticket once. That you paid.

What upsets me the most about all this is that we were cool, man. America was supposed to be the ‘land of the free’, but everyone knew that if you really wanted to be free, you came to Canada. We were the good guys.

A year and a half of Harper, and now this is what they think of us:



I’m starting to understand how progressive Americans feel about what’s become of their country.

(H/T, as always, to Alison at Creekside)

Friday, October 5, 2007

Pirates of Sixteen Mile Creek

I think Garth is starting to get a little punchy waiting for an election to be called. He just posted this atop his daily blog post:



You know, I think this may just be the standard around which to rally the troops in his upcoming election campaign.

I can see it now: A giant Jolly Roger flying over his office. Volunteers sporting skull-and-crossbones bandannas. Random cannon fire in the general direction of Chudleigh's office.



Ok, there might be bylaw issues there.


UPDATE: I didn't have any of the big pirate flags left, so I dropped off a little one at Garth's office Friday afternoon. The lady at the desk looked rather alarmed when I handed it to her. I'm guessing she wasn't in on the joke.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Listen To Bob

I’ve always liked Bob Rae.

He’s just a likable guy - intelligent, affable, articulate. I liked him when I voted for him as Premier. I liked him even after he and his former party managed to bankrupt Ontario (ok, c'mon - the recession didn’t help). I really liked him when he ran for the Liberal leadership. I might have even voted for him had I been there.

I especially like what Bob Rae just wrote for the Globe & Mail today:
Why something called the spending power matters

When Stephen Harper was president of the National Citizens Coalition, he signed a manifesto known as the "firewall" letter: Keep the federal government out of Alberta, and let the province run its own affairs.

Whether firewalls or watertight compartments - that the federal government and the provinces live in their own worlds and never the twain shall meet - Canada's leaders have been engaged for generations in an ongoing discussion about who does what.

What's different today is that, for the first time in our history, we have a prime minister and a cabinet talking openly about giving up the game for the federal government.

You may recall my post on this very subject last week, when Stephane Dion warned that this would be an issue in the upcoming Throne Speech. Rae goes into far more detail, and his arguments are dead on.
Whether introduced by Conservatives (progressive or otherwise) or Liberals (in majority or minority governments), our history as a country has been marked by moments of a pan-Canadian vision led by federal governments with the support of Parliament and people.

This is what Mr. Harper wants to end, either by constitutional amendment or federal-provincial agreement. For the first time, we have a national party - the Harper Conservatives - ideologically committed to a fundamentalist misreading of our history and Constitution, and a separatist party only too happy to reduce the Canadian government to a marginal role, just before, in their sad dreams, it disappears altogether.

Go read the whole thing, and then decide if the Liberals shouldn’t just bring these bastards down. Immediately.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Why I Might Vote Green. Or Not.

I really wish we had MMP right now. It would make my decision so much easier.

I’ve been trying to get a handle on the local candidates here in Halton for the upcoming provincial election, and I must say I’m not terribly impressed with the Liberal candidate, Gary Zemlak. There’s nothing really wrong with him exactly. He just strikes me as someone who spouts the party platform without adding a single original thought - unless it's a particularly dumb one.

This impression is somewhat superficial, I’ll admit. It’s based largely on his rather lame, boilerplate website and what little I’ve read in the Champion about his responses at local candidates’ meetings. Like this one about MMP:
Zemlak said the Liberals want to stay away from influencing people’s decision, but added if the government is given the power to appoint people, "you’re asking for trouble."

Sigh.

Mind you, I just finished watching "Meet The Candidates" on our local cable station, and of all the painfully stiff and awkward presentations, Zemlak’s was probably the least stiff and awkward. He actually looked at the camera instead of reading the paper on the desk in front of him in a robot-like monotone. However, he still spent most of the time parroting the Liberal agenda on health care and education with barely a mention of issues specific to Halton.

As for the rest, I would never ever ever vote Conservative even if Chudleigh wasn’t such a dick, and I swore off the provincial NDP after Rae. Besides, Hampton seems to be leading them back to their roots as more of a Union party than a purely Progressive one, and even though I support the idea of labour unions, that really isn’t my thing. I won’t even talk about the Family Coalition guy.

And then there’s the Green Party candidate, Andrew Chlobowski. I like most of his platform, especially his strong and well informed anti-sprawl stance, although I’m convinced that this obsession with a cosmetic pesticide ban is just so much baby-kissing bullshit. Other than that, he sounds like a really interesting guy who’s had a really interesting life:
Andrzej (Andrew) Chlobowski was born in Poland in the historical city of Krakow. He spent his childhood and university years there. He finished his Master’s Degree in physics in 1983 and later started the PhD program in molecular biology. He withdrew from that program when he emigrated from Poland in 1986.

Andrzej’s first adventures into political activism started in his senior years of high school, when he was distributing underground literature in opposition to the ruling communist regime. During a brief period of political freedom in 1980-81, he became a member of the Independent Student Union (a non-communist student organization) at Jagiellonian University in Krakow and was elected to its council. After martial law was declared in Poland in 1981 the student organization was disbanded but Andrew continued his political endeavours by running an underground library.

And he has a pony tail. I approve of men with pony tails. It speaks volumes about their character.

So, what to do?

I actually like Dalton McGuinty and what he’s trying to accomplish, even though he hasn’t always succeeded. And I certainly don’t want to risk John Tory getting in and dragging us back into the horrors of the Harris years.

If we had MMP, I would probably vote for the Liberal Party and the Green candidate. But we don’t have MMP, so I’m left with a real dilemma.

I’ll let you know how I decide. Probably around October 10th. In the meantime I’m gonna get me one of those "Vote for MMP" signs to plant on my front lawn.

Friday, September 28, 2007

3:10 TO YUMA

The Western was once a simple morality tale. White hats fought it out against black hats, and good triumphed over evil.

Times change. Westerns have become studies in moral ambiguity, and the lawless frontier is now seen as a place where good men can loose their way and bad men find redemption. ‘3:10 To Yuma’ is a perfect example of this new trend.

This is as much a road movie as it is a Western, and like all great road movies it involves a journey that transforms the travellers in profound and unexpected ways. The process is fascinating to watch, and Bale and Crowe both put in brilliant performances. And yet, I found myself ultimately unconvinced. Somehow their transformation didn’t seem quite complete enough to make me believe either one would really do what they did in the end.

Still, that’s a relatively minor flaw in what is otherwise an outstanding film. I give it four out of five stars.

(and Murray liked it even more!)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Castrating Federalism

At first glance, this article in the Star just looks like more whining from Dion about Harper and the environment:
Dion fears result of bid to limit federal powers
Ottawa's ability to act on environment would be hurt, Liberal says


OTTAWA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper could make Ottawa helpless to deal with the environment if he goes ahead with plans to limit federal spending power, says Liberal Leader St├ęphane Dion.

Harper's Oct. 16 throne speech is widely expected to include plans to formally limit Ottawa's ability to spend in areas of provincial jurisdiction. The government already telegraphed this plan in the last federal budget.

The trouble is, Dion is right. This latest move by Harper, if it happens, would represent a significant shift in power from the federal government to the provinces that will have profound implications for our country and how it is run.
"There is an interpretation that it would be a straitjacket, where the federal government would not be able to intervene in environmental policies, except on national parks, and we cannot accept that," Dion said in an interview with the Star.

Several years ago, Dion noted, the federal government regarded provincial efforts to save endangered species as too weak, so Ottawa intervened with its own species-at-risk laws.

"I don't want to have an impotent federal government," Dion said.

"I want to have a strong relationship with provinces. I don't want, for instance, Canada to not be able to have both levels of governments working in full respect to each other's roles, when it's time to strengthen our child-care system in Canada, which is so weak."

Opponents of the limits also like to say that if these limits had been in place several decades ago, there would be no such thing as the national medicare system. The Liberal leader wonders, meantime, how Harper's plan would let Ottawa do anything at all on child care.

"If he comes to the point that there is no federal spending power anymore, I don't see how the federal government could play a useful role for child care," he said.

A weakened, decentralized federal government has been a wet dream of Harper’s since his days with the Reform Party. Once again, he is taking his inspiration from the United States where the ideal is to have the federal government control the military, social security, foreign commerce, and very little else. One need only look at the patchwork of laws across their fifty states regarding everything from health care to the death penalty to (yes) environmental law to see what Harper is getting at.

In fact, this goes a long way to explaining his somewhat bizarre actions towards Quebec over the past year. He’s not just trying to buy votes - he’s seducing an unlikely ally, for a dismantled Canadian federalism is the one bed that both Quebec and Alberta can sleep comfortably in together.

Dion knows this better than anyone, of course. Sadly, Harper’s relentless attacks on him have taken their toll. The media and the public have cast him in the role of Chicken Little, and his warnings will likely fall on deaf ears.

At least until the sky falls on us all.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Jen's Addiction

Monday is officially the new Tuesday.

Tuesday nights have always been an issue for me when it comes to my TV habit because I have choir practice that night. Fortunately I have two TVs with VCRs in the house and a husband who knows how to work them, but it’s still a pain in the ass because, for some reason, every year every network decides to schedule all of my favourite shows on Tuesday nights.

I was just looking at the schedule for Monday.

At 8:00 we have ‘Chuck’ which I wanted to check out, and ‘Prison Break’. Ok, so far so good. At 9:00 we have ‘K-Ville’, which I watched last week and thoroughly enjoyed, ‘Dr. Who’, and the mother of all season premieres, ‘Heroes’. Then at 10:00 there’s ‘Journeyman’, the season premiere of ‘Eureka’, and ‘Saving Grace’. And then there’s that Ken Burns ‘War’ documentary that I kinda wanted to check out but I guess I can live without. So none of this would be a serious issue except…

I HAVE TO WORK MONDAY NIGHT!

I don’t know what to do. Do I skip 'Dr. Who' and hope that it gets re-run later in the season? Do I abandon Grace, who I've grown terribly fond of? Do I take a chance that ‘Journeyman’ will be an early casualty that I didn’t want to get invested in anyway?

Maybe I can switch shifts at work. But that would be wrong, wouldn't it?

Hello, my name is Jennifer and I’m a TV addict.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Best. Cover. Ever.

OMFG. I may just have to buy a copy.



Somehow I don't think they're going to be getting that interview any time soon.

Happy Yom Kippur

This one almost made me weep:
In reversal, San Diego mayor pledges support for gay marriage

SAN DIEGO -- San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders abruptly reversed his public opposition to same-sex marriage Wednesday after revealing his adult daughter is gay.

Sanders also signed a City Council resolution supporting a legal fight to overturn California's prohibition on same-sex marriages. He previously opposed the resolution.

He was going to veto it. His party wanted him to veto it. Most of the people who voted for him wanted him to veto it (did I mention he's a Republican?)… and yet, in the end he decided to do the right thing.

Wow.

So, what the fuck is YOUR excuse, Dick?

There is a transcript of Sanders' press conference here.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Parity Blues

For the first time in my memory, the Canadian dollar has hit parity with the U.S. dollar. Border crossing bargain hunters are celebrating, but I suspect they won't be for long.

I know I'm not.

I've been running an online crafts business since 1995 - almost as long as eBay - and the vast majority of my customers pay in U.S. dollars. When I first set up shop, I was getting an extra 35 cents on every dollar, which I worked into greatly discounted shipping rates to the U.S. At one point I remember getting 45% and feeling a little guilty about it.

Then the loonie started taking off. At first I simply absorbed it, but eventually I had to raise my U.S. shipping rates. Then I raised them again. Then I raised my base prices for the first time in a decade. Then I raised my shipping again.

I figure I've lost a couple of grand over the past two years on the exchange alone. More importantly, my sales have dropped for the first time ever this year. Significantly. This may be partly due to my price hikes, which were less than 5% overall, but I suspect that the real problem is that Americans have finally sensed the coming storm and have simply stopped buying non-essentials.

To those who are breaking out the champagne and scouting out car dealerships in Buffalo, let me remind you of a few cold, hard facts:
- Canada has a significant trade surplus. This means that we export far more than we import, especially to the U.S. Since a high dollar is bad for exporters, this makes it bad for the country as a whole.

- U.S. companies doing business in Canada are looking at our rapidly rising labour costs and other local expenses and are packing up and going home. This will include movie and television productions unless cities like Toronto start bending over backwards to keep them here.

- Local manufacturers and retailers are going to be drowned by cheap imports. You think Wal-Mart is a problem now? Just wait.

What can we do? In the larger scheme of things, probably not much, but as a country we can start by unhitching our wagon from the dying horse that is the U.S. economy and start looking far more towards Europe and Asia.

As individuals, I have two words for you:

BUY LOCAL!

Canadian companies, Canadian products, whenever you can. Screw Wal-Mart. Find out which stores are Canadian owned and shop there. Read labels. Buy local produce at the grocery store. It's good for the economy AND good for the environment.

That is all.

Health Trumps Religion

In a rare display of good sense, the Halton Catholic School Board narrowly voted down a motion to ban the new HPV vaccine from their schools. Instead, they have opted to leave the decision up to parents.

Imagine that.
HPV vaccine not a threat, Catholic board deems

BURLINGTON, ONT. AND TORONTO — The debate about the controversial HPV vaccine that has been playing out across the country came to a head Tuesday night after trustees for the Halton Catholic District School Board decided that the Catholic faith was not being "threatened" by allowing the program into their schools.

In a 4-3 vote, the trustees defeated a motion to ban public health officials from administering the vaccine for human papillomavirus, which causes 70 per cent of all cervical cancer and 90 per cent of genital warts, to its students.

"I'm not sure what elements of our Catholicity are being threatened here," said trustee Rev. David Wilhelm. "What the bishops are telling us is that parents have the right and the responsibility to make these decisions for their children and I don't think any of us have the right to take that away, as difficult as that may be.

I know there is a lot of concern about the speed with which this vaccine has been approved, and that concern may or may not be justified. However, that is an entirely separate issue from the asinine arguments being raised by certain members of the Halton and other Catholic school boards - namely, that administering a vaccine for a sexually transmitted virus will somehow encourage their dear darling daughters to have sex before marriage. Because of course they would never, ever do that otherwise.

I have a family member who was infected with HPV. She never developed cervical cancer, but did end up with serious cervical scarring that very nearly cost her her child.

By all means, deal with the medical issues. But don’t you dare bring religion into this.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Et tu, Iggy?

Sometimes I wonder if politics are just too important to be left to politicians.

Dion loyalists charge byelection sabotage

OTTAWA — Michael Ignatieff supporters are sabotaging Liberal efforts in the Outremont byelection in hopes of weakening Liberal Leader Stephane Dion, Dion loyalists say.

A poll in La Presse of Montreal on Friday suggests the NDP may win a historic breakthrough in the riding on Monday. That would be a disaster for Mr. Dion, who personally selected international affairs expert Jocelyn Coulon as the Liberal candidate in what should be a safe seat in downtown Montreal.

Dion loyalists suspect Liberal organizers who support Mr. Ignatieff have been undermining the campaign, hoping that a loss would force Mr. Dion out of the leadership once Liberals realized that he couldn’t deliver seats in Quebec.


I really don’t know what to make of all this. Either it’s true and the Ignatieff camp is stepping up their plans for a coup d’etat, or Dion’s supporters are so insecure that they have become paranoid and delusional.

In either case, I’m sick of it.

I watched the Liberal leadership convention with great interest. I was underwhelmed by Dion’s speech, but I generally liked what he was saying. He is considerably more impressive in person, but the fact remains that he is not the most charismatic person we could have picked to lead the charge. I had hoped that the support of his opponents as part of the so-called 'Dream Team' would produce a solid front line, but apparently that's not happening.

Should charisma matter? Probably not, but it obviously does. Can he win against Harper? I honestly don’t know, but here are a few things to keep in mind as fall approaches and the knives come out:

1) Harper was about as charismatic as a turd on a stick when he first took over the Conservatives, and he still can’t deliver a joke without sounding like he’s reading it off the teleprompter - which he usually is. On the other hand, Chretien almost had too much character, to the point where he had become a caricature. The gravely voice, the outrageous accent - who could possibly take him seriously as a world leader? The Campbell campaign tried to capitalize on that and… well, we all know how that turned out.

I am ashamed to admit that I too got sucked into the ‘election-as-beauty contest’ paradigm that year (plus the whole female Prime Minister thing), and for the first and only time in my life voted for a PC candidate. Stupidest vote I ever cast. I voted for Chretien next time and was proud to do so.

2) People are obsessing over Dion’s personal charms right now because they don’t have any actual Liberal policies to discuss. The party is playing it coy, ostensibly to prevent the Cons from preemptively hijacking their agenda. The wisdom of this strategy is debatable, but to even consider switching leaders at this point would be suicide. If they’re worried about the Liberals being perceived as weak and rudderless, imagine what the perception would be if they pulled their pitcher before the game even got started.

3) Whatever you may think of Stephane Dion and his chances in a federal election, Michael Ignatieff is NOT the answer. If the Liberals do abandon Dion (and I think that would be a huge mistake), I would much rather see Bob Rae or Ken Dryden, or really anybody but Iggy take his place.

Ignatieff may call himself a Liberal, but he certainly doesn't represent the kind of post-Pearson Canadian Liberalism I grew up with. I used to think he was more of a Libertarian, but he's more slippery than that. He changes his tune depending on who he's talking to or which way the wind is blowing, and he never seems to have much to say about economics or social issues. But the fact that his one consistent message has been a downright hawkish support of American foreign policy and overt Canadian militarism is profoundly disturbing. He may have written a belated mea culpa on Iraq claiming that we had all been deceived and misinformed and that he made an understandable "error in judgement", but seriously - how many of you actually believed for one second, even all those years ago, that Bush was really invading Iraq to get rid of WMDs or to free the Iraqi people from tyranny?

Anyone? Bueller?

While allowing Ignatieff to take control and shift the party to the right on foreign policy (and Gods only know what else) might appeal to enough disaffected Conservatives to win an election, I believe it would utterly destroy the Liberal party. To me, that is too high a price to pay, even if it means being rid of Harper.

A similar dilemma is facing the Democratic Party in the U.S. right now, giving rise to the ‘Blue Dog Democrat’ phenomenon. These are conservative Democrats who, despite having a majority in Congress, have caused their party to cave on just about every major vote that has been put to them, from extending the Patriot Act to funding the war in Iraq. Why? Because they feel they have a better chance of winning the next election if they don’t scare off too many conservative voters by being… well, Democrats.

The problem with this approach is, of course, that you end up compromising your values to the point where you become indistinguishable from your opponent. And while nobody wants the Canadian political landscape to divide itself into armed camps the way it has in the U.S., we still need to have clear choices. If the Liberals become nothing more than Conservatives who support gay marriage, what kind of choice is that?

Michael Ignatieff is our Joe Lieberman. Michael Ignatieff is not the solution.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Death Proof

(some spoilers - consider yourself warned)

Dear Quentin,

Just saw the movie. Great idea! Needs a lot of work, though. Here are a few notes:

1) The first act needs to take up somewhat less than the entire first half of the movie. Twenty minutes, maybe half an hour, tops. Seriously. That’s just your set-up. The good stuff comes with Rosario Dawson and her friends. Leave the lap dance but cut the rest in half, at least.

2) Kurt Russell is by far the best thing about ‘Death Proof’. Way more of him, less with the chicks talking.

3) You missed a major money shot. You know, the one with the Kiwi chick flying off the hood of the car? Yeah, that one. They’re driving, they spin out, and then… she’s just not on the hood of the car anymore. Stop trying to be clever - this is Grindhouse. Just show us.

4) What the hell happened to cheerleader girl? They just left her there with the owner of the car and then… what? Nothing? How about a few cuts back to the two of them chatting about, say, popular music, or the porn business, or Greek philosophy or something? That would be funny, and very Russ Meyers.

5) I’m just some chick who works at a video store - why the hell don’t you know all this? You are obviously spending way too much time with Eli Roth. He’s sucking you dry, man.

Yours truly,

A Fan.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Fun and Games at the Department of Public Safety

I know, I’m sorry - I’ve been neglecting you. Unfortunately my obsessive blogging has had to take a back seat this week as I play catch-up after my trip to Maryland. Orders to fill, newsletters to publish, and another show this Saturday have left me with precious little time to write or even cruise the net for stories to entertain you with.

Happily, my sister-in-law dug this one up for me:
Government moving to access personal info, sparking privacy fears

Government agencies are moving to gain access to telephone and internet customers' personal information without first getting a court order, according to a document obtained by CBCNews.ca that is raising privacy issues.

Public Safety Canada and Industry Canada have begun a consultation on how law enforcement and national security agencies can gain lawful access to customers' information. The information would include names, addresses, land and cellphone numbers, as well as additional mobile phone identification, such as a device serial number and a subscriber identity module (SIM) card number.

…Canada's move is in contrast to one by the United States, where last week a federal judge overturned a part of the Patriot Act that allowed the Federal Bureau of Investigation to secretly obtain personal records about customers from internet providers, phone companies, banks, libraries and other businesses without a court's permission.

Speaking on the phone from Paris, Peter Fleischer, global privacy counsel for internet search giant Google Inc., told CBCNews.ca that even in the security-conscious United States, courts have moved to curtail excessive attempts by the government at extracting personal information.

Lovely. Not only are we copying every dumbassed policy the Bush administration has ever instituted in the name of Homeland Security, now we’re trying to implement the shit that even THEY can’t get away with!

Public Safety has been typically reticent about disclosing any details about this particular consultation process. But when confronted, a spokesperson from Day's office promised to have the information posted on their website by Thursday. It took a bit of digging, but I found it. Such as it is.

(H/T to Emu)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

I'm Back!

In case you didn't know, whenever I'm not blogging, selling wood crafts online, working at the video store, writing half a monthly movie review column for the local paper, or publishing genealogical books and newsletters, I sing with a little Renaissance-themed a capella group called Nero's Fiddle.

For money. Really.

The Maryland Renaissance Festival was a tremendous success. Not only did we have a brilliant time and get to reconnect with old friends, but Nero's Fiddle was a GIANORMOUS HIT!!! We actually had fans following us from show to show with all of our venues circled on their little schedule sheets. We had crowds of semi-professional Ren Fest patrons closing their eyes and rocking in their seats as we sang 'Red Is the Rose'. We even got called up to sing a song during Pub Sing. Pub Sing!

(Ok, you have no idea what I'm talking about. But really, it was cool!)

This is the sort of crowd we got to sing for this weekend:



It was stinking hot and humid, my ankles are swollen up thicker than my calves and every article of clothing I packed smells like ass, but I'm totally stoked.

Out of my four or five paying jobs, this one rates way up there.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Blogging Off

Farewell good gentles! I'm off to Maryland for a few days with the wenches of Nero's Fiddle to sing at the Maryland Renaissance Festival. It's our American debut!


(That's me on the left. Now you know.)

And yes, it's three in the morning right now and my ride should be arriving in about... fifteen minutes. Good thing I like long road trips.

I was going to give you a brief post on John Tory's gaffe of the day to chew over while I'm gone. But after reading some of the vitriol being spewed on the subject, I decided I wouldn't want to touch that one with someone else's blog.

You'll just have to find some other way to amuse yourselves.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Another Summit, Another Protest

Here we go again.

World leaders will be meeting in Sydney, Australia this week for the APEC conference, and oh look: a fence.



PM Howard is getting a head start on dismissing the protesters as violent, left-wing loonies who hate progress and have something against making money. Just to drive home the point, authorities have shut down much of Sydney’s business district to protect it from ‘property damage’, turning the area into a ghost town and thus completely screwing downtown business owners out of doing business.

Way to stand up for capitalism, Johnny!

One curious side note to the week’s discussions will be Canada and Australia’s potential inclusion in the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (gee, there’s that ‘Partnership’ word again). Harper is, as usual, staying mute on whether or not Canada is going to be getting involved with this particular little club, but given how much he delights in joining things like this I suspect that the decision is already made.

I should point out that I personally approve of nuclear power - at least in principle. In practice there are still some serious disposal problems that need to be addressed, but when balanced against the safety and environmental issues with coal and gas, the maxing out of our hydro capacity (unless you want to flood more of northern Quebec), and the impracticality of large scale solar or wind generation, I still think nuclear is still our best bet.

[duck]

ANYWAY… From what I've read so far, I have at least three problems with the GNEP:

1) It would force nations that produce uranium (like Canada and Australia) to "repatriate" it and dispose of it, even if it was exported to and used by another country (like, say, the U.S.). Like we don’t have enough problems disposing of our own nuclear waste, now we’d have to take out the Americans’ trash as well.

2) It is a thinly veiled attempt to divide the world into energy haves and have-nots, with developed nations establishing a monopoly on nuclear technology in the name of security:

"The group includes many of the main countries involved in the nuclear fuel cycle, including Russia, China and France. Its broader aim is to eventually secure the entire fuel cycle and confine production and reprocessing to the group, with smaller countries effectively leasing nuclear fuel from the partnership and returning waste to it for reprocessing."

3) It’s an American-led initiative. That can't be good.

Edit: Here's an even better shot of the fences in downtown Sydney. I like the convenient gates.