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


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.


"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.


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.


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.




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.


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.


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.


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?!


(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.