Friday, July 30, 2004

Go See Ham & Cheese, Please.

Every so often, I am reminded of just how subjective a movie-watching experience can be. I opened up The Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star today, expecting to find rave reviews of Canadian indy comedy Ham & Cheese, which I watched earlier this week and thought was one of the funniest movies I've seen in the past few years. But no. Leah McLaren (when did she start reviewing movies in The Globe?) gives it a lukewarm review. In the Star, John Terauds doesn't like it one bit.

Well, I guess I'm going to have to go it alone then. As I write in my article in today's Post:
Despite its humble origins, Ham & Cheese is the funniest Canadian movie in recent memory. Aside from its cheaply done titles, the film shows no sign of having been shot on "a bag of chips and a case of beer," as [co-writer and star Mike] Beaver puts it. It is chock full of cameos from some of Canada's top comedians, including former Kids in the Hall members Dave Foley and Scott Thompson, who enthusiastically worked on the film for a fraction of their usual pay. Also appearing on screen are The Daily Show's Samantha Bee and The Bobroom co-star Jennifer Baxter, [co-writer and star Jason] Jones and Beaver's respective successful real-life wives, as well as ubiquitous CanCon stars such as Polly Shannon and Christian Potenza.

Comparisons to Waiting for Guffman, Christopher Guest's mock doc about a small-town theatre troupe, are inevitable, but Ham & Cheese is much darker in tone and has more in common with edgy small-screen comedies like BBC's The Office or HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm...

Anyone who has ever been to a theatre or film audition will recognize Ham & Cheese's two main characters. Richard (Beaver) is an overweight misfit, who moves from small-town Ontario to Toronto to act in collective-creation Fringe plays. Barry (Jones) is a little older, tells jokes that would make The Office's David Brent roll his eyes, and is destroying his marriage in order to pursue his dream. Both characters' ineptitude makes audiences cringe even as they guffaw. "We love uncomfortable moments," Jones says. "They're so interesting to watch. And they're so funny."
Perhaps it's my theatre background that makes me adore this film, but I don't think so... Variety called it a potential cult classic. A film reviewer who saw it at a film festival in the States said it was better than Waiting for Guffman.

I wholeheartedly urge you (you Torontonians, anyway) to go see this film. It's playing at the Royal on College St. for a week and a week only. If the box office is good this weekend, it may roll over into the Carleton Cinema. There are several U.S. distributors waiting to see what happens this weekend -- this long weekend when so many people are going out of town.

So, yes: Go see Ham & Cheese, please! It'll kill me if this movie just dies...

Post-script

Well, at least Eye liked it...
What American Wants: More Balloons.

Don Mischer's Vietnam flashback:
Go balloons, go balloons! Go balloons! I don't see anything happening. Go balloons! Go balloons! Go balloons! Standby confetti. Keep coming, balloons. More balloons. Bring it- balloons, balloons, balloons! We want balloons, tons of them. Bring them down. Let them all come. No confetti. No confetti yet.

No confetti. All right, go balloons, go balloons. We need more balloons. All balloons! All balloons! Keep going! Come on, guys, lets move it. Jesus! We need more balloons. I want all balloons to go, goddammit. Go confetti. Go confetti. More confetti. I want more balloons. What's happening to the balloons? We need more balloons.

We need all of them coming down. Go balloons- balloons? What's happening balloons? There's not enough coming down! All balloons, what the hell! There's nothing falling! What the fuck are you guys doing up there? We want more balloons coming down, more balloons. More balloons. More balloons.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Most Truthful Politican of the Day!

From a CP story about the Premiers' Conference:
Some of the other premiers are less fussy about the conditions attached to federal money.

"I'll take any cash I can get," said Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams.
Congratulations Danny-boy! You are hereby crowned On the Fence's Most Truthful Politician of the Day!
At kitchen tables across the U.S., mothers wonder, “Damn! Was that me he was talkin’ about?”

Tonight, as they celebrate in that hall, somewhere in North America, there is a man. This man is sitting on his couch and he is sceptical. He is sceptical and he is worried. He is worried and then he is cringing a little. He is cringing at the words of a Democratic candidate for Vice President. A candidate who has some fine hair, but is delivering the lamest speech he has ever heard. The man keeps sticking his thumb in front of the candidate's face and imaging that Bill Clinton is up there again being smart and funny and charming. But it's hard to put a thumb in front of the candidate's face and two fingers in one's ears at the same time. Yet, tell the man not to worry: Dope is on the Way.

And when it comes, the man can smoke the dope in his badly-furnished basement apartment. And then, he will perhaps relax for a minute. Because he really needs to relax. Because it looks like the people who are challenging George W. Bush and Dick Cheney for the leadership of the alleged Free World are not articulate, passionate people. Nope. They are kind of boring. And, as previously mentioned, kinda lame. He cannot believe that these are the best the Democrats could come up with. Yes, he is worried because: Dopes are on the Way.

This man is me. And, alas, he doesn’t really smoke dope. Well, there was that time that he was in Vancouver on vacation. But that was one of those, when in Rome, etcetera, etcetera things. Normally, he does not. Especially not tonight, because it is a work night. No, the only thing he has in his house that rhymes with ‘Hope’ is soap. So, maybe he’ll have a shower before he goes to bed, to wash that icky four-more-years-of-that-horrible-Bush-is-on-the-way feeling off of his body, to wash that Dick Cheney right out of his hair. That’s a good idea: Soap is on the way.

After the shower, the man will lie awake in his bed all night trying to sleep. Trying to believe that John Edwards and John Kerry will somehow save the world even though they are about as interesting to watch as spectator Scrabble. Trying to believe that Edwards was right. Trying to believe that, indeed: Hope is on the Way.

Post-script

Here's the full text of John Edwards' speech.
A couple of thoughts of a morning…

Having been away for a while, it’s been hard to keep up with all the shenanigans going on in this crazy, mixed-up world we call home. Here are a couple things that have been bugging me of late, but on which my blog has been silent:

1) Theresa Heinz-Kerry told a reporter to “Shove it” and this is a story? Quoi? How is this interesting what-so-ever? Reporters are annoying. They deserve to be berated by public figures, as far as I’m concerned. You know when people say, “No Comment”? Yeah, that means “Shove it.” And “Shove it,” of course, is a more polite way of saying “Go fuck yourself,” something that an actual elected official by the name of Dick Cheney had no qualms about saying to US Senator Patrick Leahy the other day… (And that’s another non-story, in my estimation. What, were children around? Did Dick grab his crotch when he said it?)

So, puh-leeze. Shove it? Whatevs. That’s only slightly more vulgar than Fiddlesticks, or Jeepers or Fuddleduddle (often misheard)...

I'm convinced that this kind of 'gotcha' journalism is part of why normal people and their significant others (ie. those who pepper their speech with the occasional 'Shove it!') are scared away from politics these days... Come on. Shove it, people.

2) So, Fahrenheit 9/11 has grossed over $100 million dollars (said with a Dr. Evil inflection) in the U.S.? That’s I-N-Credible! Holy Shit! (Damn, there go my chances of becoming a political wife.)

My views on F9/11? A brilliant polemic and masterful film, but more than a little dishonest. Todd Gitlin's got a good piece criticizing it from the left here:
He’s an entertainer (when it suits him) whose brush is so broad, at times, as to coat all evidence and logic with bursts of sensational color. His chief method is the insinuating juxtaposition. Presto, proof by association. Fahrenheit 9/11, his election year release, is like a beer commercial. When you see the gorgeous women drinking the beer, the subterranean layer of your cortex is supposed to think: if I drink, I get.
So, why am I overjoyed about the news of Moore's big box office? Why, because it is a little dose of pure awesome!

F9/11 is the well from which real debate has been wheeled up in buckets. Serious debate about issues! A film about a President and his policies has become the jumping off point for thousands of articles and millions of discussions… How marvellous!

People who DISAGREE with Moore, going to his film and then dissecting his arguments in public! People who AGREE with him doing the same! People like me who can’t make their mind up about anything going and then writing about it on their geeky little blogs!

Does no one else think that it is amazing that a political documentary, the film equivalent of a long opinion piece in Harper’s or Reason, has brought in almost as much money as Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban has? Again: marvellous!

Faith in humanity: restored! Pundits: rejoice!

Monday, July 26, 2004

And now: Serious, Insightful Political Commentary

A truly fine speech from Bill Clinton at the Democratic Convention tonight. The best lines, in my estimation, were:

- They need a divided America, but we don't.
- Strength and wisdom are not opposing values. They go hand in hand.

Too bad about his hair, though. Bet he didn't stop any airport traffic getting that ugly coiffe...

Anyway, I better not comment on a foreign election, lest I get my head bitten off by trolls and/or charged with a crime.
Genuine Internet News: Google Whacked

Google's gone buggy and the Internet is in a panic. The e-scuttlebutt that a MyDoom attack is in progress against Google, Yahoo, Alta-vista and others...

How am I supposed to get any work done with a full-scale assault on search engines going on? I can't believe I have to use Mamma.com. Is this the Internet's 9/11? Er, 7/26?

MOMENTS LATER!: Ah.. Never mind. It's working again.
Oh My Friggin' God!

Whoa! Everybody, come quick...

Get this: Bloggers are covering the Democratic National Convention. With, like, real journalist accreditation. Holy moley!

The starry-eyed Wall Street Journal gushs, "Blogs at the convention! Blogs! Blogs! BLOOOGS!"

Finally, an independent media! Democracy, safe at last! People, interested in politics again!

Yawn. Get over it, folks. Sheesh.

(Perhaps, truly, I am just jealous of Matt Welch.)

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Shatner: Also back and better than ever!

The first track has leaked from William Shatner's upcoming album, produced by Ben Folds. It's Pulp's Common People and it's available over at Teaching the Indie Kids to Dance Again.

I've been looking forward to this ever since I interviewed the Shat himself last year.
The Return of the Bling: Back and better than ever!

Ah, Vancouver! The sweeping majesty of the mountains visible from throughout the city! Everywhere, the soothing smell of the salty sea or the sickly-sweet scent of spliff smoke!   The constant prospect of the whole damn town being sucked into the ocean in the next earthquake!

I had a lovely vacation and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank S.A. Carrie for holding down the fort during my absence. I understand that while I was away someone threatened to hack my blog, an angry flame war erupted in the comments, and my neo-con readership was alienated. All in all, sounds like just another two weeks in the blogosphere. Again, thanks Sean. Despite your protestations to the contrary, I think you are perfectly suited to this little narcissistic medium I call home. Come back anytime.

And now, here I am back in Toronto, a less attractive city than VanCity on the surface, less mythical, more rational. And yet, I was glad to arrive back. I felt a little zap of joy shoot up my spine upon my return. This is shocking for me, because I spend most of my time here in T-dot complaining about how it isn’t Montreal…

I did my very best not to touch a computer for the last two weeks. And I almost succeeded. On July 12, I spent about seven hours in an Internet café, I must admit. But it was in order to file a movie review that I wasn’t able to finish before I left, that’s all. Since then, I have been Internetless and, consequently, I think my budding carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms have faded away… Whew.

Regular readers will recall that I set another goal for myself for the trip, to read two books in English and one in French. Again, I succeeded only partially.

The two books I finished were both by West Coast authors:

1) Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas by Tom Robbins, a Seattleite. This book was funny for the first two thirds and then I became frustrated with it, eventually just yearning for it to be over and done with. It was just so obvious that Robbins’ interest in the book faded two thirds of the way through. He started sticking in more and more sex scenes for his Filipina protagonist to keep his interest. Then, he let his most obnoxious character take over and the rest of the book was basically a monologue about the Bozo-Dogon-Sirius connection (don’t ask) and frog extraterrestrials. Blegh. Robbins is like Douglas Adams, but less funny, more pedantic/preachy, a tad sexist, and tremendously full-of-himself.

2) Hey Nostradamus! by Douglas Coupland, a Vancouverite. A rumination on the aftershocks of tragedy by Mr. Gen X. Much better than I thought it would be. Not as heavy as I thought it would be, either.

One last thing before I take off: Vancouverites should catch The Fantasticks at the Waterfront Theatre before it closes on July 31. I enjoyed this production of Tom Jones (not that one) and Harvey Schmidt’s musical muchly. The Saturday night I was there, the audience was at about one-eighth capacity, a much smaller audience than the show deserves. Fine cast, including the English Suitcase Company's fabulous Kevin Williamson in a scandalously small part. (I haven't seen him on stage since his marvelous touring production of Krapp's Last Tape in 2000.)

Contrary to what The Georgia Straight’s Colin Thomas asserts, the show is not “a coy, dopey, dated show.” Okay, so Sondheim turned fairy tales on their head a million times better in Into the Woods. But, in some ways, The Fantasticks is truer to the form it is playing with and examining. And I feel the earnestness is kept well in check.

Post-script

The Return of the Bling? What does that even mean?

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Thursday Schadenfreude!

In a June interview with a Montréal daily, Stephen Harper was reportedly asked which book a visitor to Stornoway would be most likely to find on his bed-side table. Harper’s answer was, and we quote: “any book.”

A suitably obfuscatory answer; the kind my grandfather would have labelled: ‘bafflegabbery.’ And certainly no less truthful than the PM’s answer to the same question, which consisted of his pulling the name of a random and impressive-sounding theologian out of the air. And don’t try to tell us that Jack Layton reads Jane Jacobs in bed; we all know the good professor’s probably eating graham crackers and getting crumbs in his moustache while squinting at a pulp paperback he bought at Dorval.

But just imagine, if you will, that Harper had been a little less imprecise. If the leader of HM’s Loyal Opposition had, at the moment the question was posed, temporarily removed his political mask in order to let his pores breathe; had dropped the act and dropped his guard. And imagine if he’d just let fly with the truth about what volume sat there that very minute next to his clock-radio. Imagine, if you will, that Stephen Harper had told the whole country that the book on his bed-side table was Tim Allen’s Don’t Stand Too Close To A Naked Man.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

From Neo-Cons to Neo-Liberals
 
Yesterday, I'm afraid, having been spent proofreading my wee Rohanna's Master's thesis, I found myself unable to present the promised Tuesday Schadenfreude. And the opportunity to take a timely crack at reviewing our Mr. Martin's cabinet choices presents itself today, so we'll all have to agree to wait for a Thursday Schadenfreude, instead...
 
So: the cabinet.
 
I think it's pretty safe to say that the Prime Minister's claims to some sort of ascendancy of vision were all but invalidated by both his first six months of obsessive poll-watching, his attendant silence on issues, and his subsequent inability to advance any other agenda than a status-quo one during last month's cynical, ugly political campaign.
 
And it looks like Junior's near-defeat at the hands of the Conservatives (not to mention his resounding defeat in his 'home' province) has done nothing to shake his firm illusion that he is some kind of born leader, however lacklustre his actual capacity for mould-breaking political thought.  
 
Changes to the cabinet, and more importantly the lack thereto, seem to have been the order of the day. The retention of the Neo-Liberal faithful: Goodale, McLellan, Pettigrew, Valeri, etc. deals a decisive blow to any notions that the business-centred small-'l' Liberal agenda could be shaken by the fallout over the 'sponsorship scandal' (a scandal largely the work of a business-centred small-'l' Liberal agenda). While it can be argued that the PM had little choice but to retain Landslide Annie and Ralph 'John Goodman' Goodale given their statuses as the only legitimate Liberal representatives of their respective provinces, assigning 'Manly-Locks' Pettigrew and Mr. Valeri (both of whom barely eked out wins vs. more socialist candidates in their ridings) important portfolios looks an awful lot like an act of Neo-Liberal solidarity on the part of the Junior Martin.
 
And Valeri is a special case. The man who arrogantly suggested that he and the pro-business wing of the party represented the future, whereas Rat Pack stalwart Sheila Copps and the socially responsible Liberal wing should sit down and shut up, has been assigned the role of House Leader. In a minority Parliament, the governing party needs a uniter in the mould of Lester Pearson, not a 'uniter' in the mould of George W. Bush, and Martin's loyalty to the divisive Valeri  therefore has the capacity to end up costing him his job.

For the most telling example of whither Junior's vision for a better Canada, however, we are indebted to John Ibbitson of the Globe and Mail. In his column today, Ibbitson posits that it was a genuine belief in Martin's dedication to ideas that cost Victoria MP David Anderson his long-held environment portfolio. Having criticised the PM's unwillingness to depart, during the election campaign, from tried-and-true issues about which every political party has roughly the same vision (Anderson attempted to convince Martin to go out on the proverbial limb and talk about more unique issues, such as the environment), the only bearded man in the federal cabinet has found himself on the outside looking in. Perhaps, for our Mr. Martin, the truth about his inexceptionality actually did get through. Too bad for Mr. Anderson, however, that the response was not re-examination, but vicious reprisal.

Monday, July 19, 2004

So!
 
Word has reached my little ears that the Neo-Con elite have taken umbrage with something I wrote in this here space, but my source was unwilling or unable to fill me in as to what exactly so galled the apparent legions of Straussians who stop by this diminutive 'blog' on their way to perusing the on-line edition of the Moonie-rag Washington Times.
 
Deduction dictates, however, that since my thoughts on the UNDP rankings barely touched on Israel, since Jeopardy barely registers with Neo-Cons (who despise facts), and since no-one's going to see my disregard for Samuel Pepys as a veiled criticism of Richard Perle, the hackle-raising had something to do with certain aspersions cast on the person of one David Frum.
 
Scanning below, you'll note that I took it upon myself to make sport of the venerable son-of-Barbara's own lighthearted take on Spider-man. And I really must apologise to the injured Right. Because, early on in the post, I ventured to warn New Yorker film critic Anthony Lane about Frum's up-and-coming talents as a reviewer (viz. watch out, Anthony Lane!). In so doing, I clearly misrepresented the portly pundit's critical style. I am hereby correcting my earlier apostrophic caveat to: watch out, David Denby!
 
I trust that, by so doing, I am mending a few fences with my chums over at Hollinger and at the P for the NAC.
 
Tomorrow: Tuesday Schadenfreude!

Thursday, July 15, 2004

This year's UN Development Programme country rankings are out (the rankings begin on page 139 of the report) and, after a decade of pro-business public-spending slashing on the part of our beef-faced Mr. Martin Jr., our snowy thirteen provinces and territories are slotted in right before the Dutch at No. 4. Down four spots, that is, in about the same number of years. The human development index number assigned us (.943) is, mind you, only a few points south of world champion Norway, but by the same token we're an even smaller margin ahead of our intellectually backwards neighbour to the South.

The bottom nineteen nations (and 32 of the bottom 36) are all in Africa (the tragic basket-cases that are Haiti, East Timor and Yemen combine with the military-spending-mad Pakistan to round out the list). Which doesn't, of course, surprise. What is interesting is the advancement of a 'world average' HDI number of .729, or somewhere between the scores of numbers 101: Iran, and 102: the Occupied Palestinian Territories. That, on average, the good folks of our little sphere are living lives roughly equivalent to those 'enjoyed' by legless Nablus olive farmers is a sobering thought.

...More uplifting, perhaps, may be this

...Also, this

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Good news, kids!

Canadian national treasure and squat, balding Jason Alexander look-alike David Frum won't, in fact, be spending his summer reading FHM and Maxim in a deck chair on Hilton Head. Instead, the little man will be taking a stab at the difficult art of the film review.

And watch out, Anthony Lane!, because his first effort is not to be trifled with. Writing in a recent post to his blog (located, where else?, on the web site of the howlingly ignorant National Review), the cheap Canadian careerist ventures the unusual, though admittedly compelling, suggestion that the latest Spider-Man entertainment is no less than 'the great pro-Bush movie of the summer.'

'Consider this,' the one-time George Costanza of the West Wing speculates. 'Spiderman 2 is the story of a hero who is regularly belittled and ridiculed by almost everyone who knows him.' Further indisputable proof of the film's love for B43 is the fact that 'Spiderman nearly dies saving a bank from Doctor Octopus.'

Blammo! The way it all comes together so easily just makes a mockery of other reviewers' waffly attempts to situate the film. Especially when you consider Hollywood's undeniably strong pro-Bush bias and the number of times the President has actually nearly died in the course of saving a bank. Kudos, Mr. F.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

S. A. Carrie brickety-back with you on this (apparently oddly) cloudless Alberta day, eschewing a visit to the rubble of West Edmonton Mall in favour of adding another post to the absent Mr. Nestruck's 'blog.'

Yesterday I promised some ruminations on the subject of the television programme Jeopardy and a case of life imitating art. Viz: author David Foster Wallace penned, some years ago, a short story entitled, I believe, Little Expressionless Animals, which details at length the story of a woman who enjoys an implausibly long stint as a contestant on the set of America's Favourite Answer and Question Game Show.

Having not, for some years, enjoyed regular access to American network television, and thus not regularly apprised of the goings-on in the world of game-shows, I was surprised to read yesterday in the New York Times about a 29-day (and counting?) champion having 'held hostage' the entire cast and crew (the moustache-free Alex Trebek inclusive) of the long-running quiz show en route to racking up the biggest winnings ever reluctantly forked over by Merv Griffin enterprises. While I was aware that the show's producers had raised the money accorded each correct 'question,' I had until yesterday been unaware that they had abandoned the practice of dismissing repeat winners after five days of their beating up on homemakers from Omaha and registered accountants from Boise. Instead of being merely 'invited back,' then, for the great and wonderful Tournament of Champions at season's end, this fellow from the Beehive State has been allowed for a month to make a mockery of the show's contestant selection process.

Just as in the Wallace story, it would seem, the Times' report indicates that, while the esteemed Mr. Trebek is growing a little weary of this prodigiously talented Mormon, the show's ratings have never been higher.

Monday, July 12, 2004

S. A. Carrie here with you for the next two weeks after having been unwittingly press-ganged* into running our Mr. Nestruck's 'web-log.' Never having been a diarist of any stripe (and actually having long held the view that the world would be better off had S. Pepys and his diary been lost in the Great Fire), so I'll ask all six of you readers to bear with me.

To the theatre people whom Mr. N. informs me flock to his 'web-log' in great humming droves: I'm sorry. It's unlikely I'll be able to entertain you since my father's career as a theatrical designer ended years ago and with it any insight into the eating habits of Sharon Pollack. Mr. Nestruck will return with his customarily great-hearted love-letters to the Toronto theatre community in a fortnight.

Tomorrow: Jeopardy and David Foster Wallace as clairvoyant...?

*although I imagine the 'unwittingly' part there may well be a tad redundant; one assumes that a witting/willing individual will have found himself at the 19th century equivalent of a recruiting office long before being beaten about the head and carried onto a British naval vessel. And speaking of press gangs: what on earth possessed some late-eighties British television execs to name a children's show after that most insidious form of military draft?

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Bloggus Interruptus

Okay: I'm off on vacation for two weeks. I'm leaving you in the hands of guest blogger Sean Carrie, a fine chap currently stationed in Edmonton, Alberta. I don't know what to expect, but I'm sure it'll be superb.

(I had hoped to line up a couple of guests, but got a little bogged down in last-minute work.)

Have a good mid-July. I will try my best not to touch a computer until July 24. Wish me luck.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Rock, Paper, Saddam!

Excuse me if you've seen this before. It is funny.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Toronto Fringe: Four More Reviews!

Correspondent Ms. Sans Sharif muses about pigM@ILion, The Hope Slide, Overlords, and The Weir.
Rant Alert!

Argh!!!!! While looking for a couple of links for the post below, I came across this article by some Yahoo! News columnist. It just amazes me that so many journalists are still completely clueless as to how Google works. Writes Yahoo!'s John Leo:
As a test of the state of "Bush the Nazi" rhetoric, I went to Google and typed in "Bush is a Nazi" and got 420,000 hits, well behind "Hitler was a Nazi" (654,000 hits), but then Hitler WAS a Nazi and had a 75-year head start. (Computer searches like this are very crude instruments. They sweep up many references that cannot fairly be listed as slurs. But they do offer a rough idea of the amount of name-calling.)
No, no, no. No they do not, you fucking idiot.

A) Leo did not put quotes around his phrase. If he had, he would find "Bush is a Nazi" actually only occurs 861 times on the Internet;
B) Out of the first ten of those 861 instances, seven of them are Bush defenders critizing people who say things like "Bush is a Nazi";
C) Out of the first ten of those 861 instances, three of them are John Leo himself critizing people who say things like "Bush is a Nazi."

Look, I don't mean to pick on a near-sighted Internet columnist, but, to be honest, someone who writes for a company owned by a search engine should learn how a fucking search engine works. And it's not just this guy. I see this shit all the time in EVERY newspaper. Respectable newspapers. It pisses me off an average of once a week.

Google hits mean nothing. Nothing. Unless you're looking for sometime very, very specific and you fully understand how search engines work. Otherwise: nothing. Nada. Rien. Argh!!!!!

End rant.
Leni is the New Adolf

Did you see the Quote of the Day from today's Globe? It's Jeremy Hinzman, a U.S. soldier seeking refugee status in Canada after refusing to fight in Iraq, offering his thoughts on Fox News:
They don't scare me. They are the Leni Riefenstahl of the American media.
A see a trend emerging here! This is just the latest in a string of Riefenstahl similes. You'll recall that Christopher Hitchens compared Michael Moore to Hitler's propagandist just a couple of weeks ago, as have a million other conservative copycats since.

Is Leni the new Adolf? I mean, as Manitoba Métis Federation president David Chartrand learned the other day, it's no longer kosher to accuse people of being Hitler. But while it's now considered insensitive to use The Fuhrer as a hyperbolic symbol of evil, Rienfenstahl's name can be bandied about at will. (Triumphantly at will?)

Anyway, this isn't the first time, nor will it be the last time, that FOX News and Moore are described with the same adjectives and similes. It seems to me that they are very much two sides of the same coin, part of the polarization of opinion in the States.

I've come across several smart criticisms and a couple of full-on condemnations of Moore's film from bloggers who are ideologically on his side lately. Can anyone point me to any bloggers who are right-wing AND recognize that the news aired on FOX News is ideologically motivated and -- for the most part -- pure bollocks? (Fun as hell to watch too, I should add.)

[Thanks to Philip Akin for passing along the Globe quote.]
Schoooooool's out. For. Summah.

Wait a second... I don't go to school anymore.

Yes, since leaving university, summer just hasn't been as much fun. All this "working" and "writing" and "paying bills" really puts a damper on Bacchanalian revelry.

And yet, for the first time ever, I am about to experience the joys of paid vacation. Yes, starting Saturday I will be in British Columbia for two weeks, tripping hither and thither, but still be getting paid all the while. Ridiculous! But marvelous!

My vacation is going to be a rather ad hoc experience, so if you have any advice on what to do while in B.C. (or have a comfortable couch), please leave comments below or drop me an e-mail at uncascrooge --at-- hotmail.com.

But do it before Friday night. Why? Because my vacation has two rules and two rules only:

1) I must read three books while I am out West, one of which must be in French;
2) I am not allowed to touch a computer from the morning of the 10th to the morning of the 24th.

That's right. For two weeks, I am going to live a pre-Internet existence. I am disconnecting. I am dropping out, tuning out and whatever that last thing is.

And I am scared. It will be difficult. But I am up to the challenge.

But wait! Don't leave yet! There will be at least special guest blogger taking over while I am away. More on that tomorrow.

For the time being, riddle me this: What does one do in Vancouver other than eat granola, smoke pot and exercise fanatically? Cuz I don't really dig any of those things.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

How much is a Pizza?

Optimus Crime makes a good point re: Dan McTeague's $224.09 pizza party. It's such a good point that I've pulled it out of the comments section and hereby post it as a bonafide post:
Bear in mind this is in london, right? $225 Cdn = 91 quid. That's roughly thirty apiece, including the tip.

For comparison's sake, I went to the Pizza Hut UK site.

Cheese garlic bread - 2.49
Caesar Salad - 5.99
Individual pan pizza 5.99
Dessert (cake) 2.99
Drink (soft drink) 2.79
=========
Total p.p.: 19.05

VAT is already included in food, I think, so adding a 15% tip, you'd come to just over 21 pounds per person for a very large but basically fast-food meal with no booze. I would imagine that entertaining another country's muck-a-mucks legitimately calls for something a touch fancier than a Pizza Hut. So, expensive? Sure, but living in London is expensive. I doubt it was all that extravagant a meal.

Love,

Optimuscrime
Diplomatic Apologist
Whew... Good. Glad that's resolved. Now McTeague can get back to doing non-controversial things like asking the Prime Minister to use the notwithstanding clause to override the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

They simply forgot to add: "Not!"

"Gephardt Defeats Edwards!" The NY Post, er, jokes.

Yes... That's it. It was just a joke. Ha, ha! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha... Boy, we really got you. You really thought Gephardt was going to be Kerry's running mate, huh? What a dupe. Hey! Speaking of... Did you know 'gullible' isn't in the dictionary? Take a look. Ha, ha! Fooled you again, sucka! [Pause] Well... Look at the time. Gotta dash. See you later!

As if you needed another reminder: Don't believe everything you read. We're just like you. Only louder.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Toronto Fringe: More shows.

New stuff on the Fringe page: Reviews of Eight Feet Under and Fish And For Dessert from Toronto Fringe correspondent Ms. Sans Sharif.

UPDATE. Two more from Ms. Sharif: Cactus and Looney Bin. My correspondent is being a real Cowgirl Fringant today....
Pizza Party!

What do you if you run a prominent Canadian news blog and it's a slow news day? Why, go through government officials' Travel and Hospitality Expense Reports online, of course!

Today, Bourque discovers that earlier this year Parliamentary Secretary Dan McTeague spent $224.09 to take two people out for pizza in London. Cue short-lived outrage!
Notes from a Theatre Eater

Believe it or not, I have been to see some theatre lately that didn't take place in a badly-ventilated Fringe venue. None of it ended up on the blog, however... So here are a few notes, because if I don't write down what I've seen, I forget what I've seen.

-- Obsidian Theatre's Consecrated Ground has long since closed at Factory theatre -- I went to see its final performance last month. I didn't think much of the play or David Collins' direction, but the show was worth checking out for some fine performances by Nigel Shawn Williams and Kevin Hanchard in particular. [Here's an interesting interview with playwright George Boyd, by the by.]

-- I did trek up to the Stratford Festival, but only caught Anything Goes and Timon of Athens. I saw them while they were still in previews, so it wouldn't be proper to fully critique them. So I'll say simply that I hope that Anything Goes got better and that Timon remained wonderful.

-- Soulpepper's production of Nathan the Wise plays until the end of the month and the play will probably never be mounted again in your lifetime, so you should go see it. It's a German play from 1769 that feels as if it were written yesterday. It's a comedy about Jews, Christians and Muslims fighting and reconciling in Jerusalem. If it had actually been written yesterday, I think I would have hated it. Since it was written 235 years ago, I loved it. This leads to a question: Why is it that I'll tolerate sweetness and ridiculous deus ex machinations in old plays, but not new plays? I have no answer, but I recommend Nathan the Wise whole-heartedly. William Webster, who plays the sage title character, is a faboo actor in a part that I would think is nearly impossible to play. I left feeling tremendously uplifted.

Okay, so that was totally self-indulgent. Why don't I tell you what I ate for breakfast while I'm at it? Cheerios. With 2% milk. Gee whiz, I'm a regular Terry Teachout today...

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Happy Fourth of July

America the Beautiful. (Am I the only one who thinks it was inappropriate for Reuters to have published this photo?) [via OTB]
Election Correction

What are some of the problems facing the federation as of late? Well, there's Western alienation, Quebec separatism, the frustrations of supporters of parties like the NDP and the Greens, yadda yadda... How can we solve these problems in one fell swoop?

Why proportional representation, of course!

Andrew Coyne explains:
In a less distortionary system, the representation of the parties in Parliament would be spread more evenly across the country. There would be more Tories from Ontario and Atlantic Canada, more Liberals from the West, more federalist MPs from Quebec -- and fewer Bloquistes. In short, we would have a Parliament that looked more like Canada, and less like, I don't know, the European Union. Our politics would split more on questions of ideology, and less on regional or linguistic lines.

That, to me, is the clinching argument for moving to some form of proportional representation, along the lines of the hybrid model recently recommended by the Law Reform Commission of Canada. There are other distortions associated with first-past-the-post -- its tendency to discriminate against smaller parties, or the ability of a party to win a majority, not only with fewer than than half the votes, but with fewer votes than its nearest rival -- which is why several of the provinces are looking seriously at reform.

But it's at the federal level that it's most needed. The present system rewards regionalism and grievance-mongering, which is why we now have a Parliament dominated by what are, in essence, three regional parties. We need a system that encourages the growth of national parties, with national visions.
Makes sense to me.

Jack Layton is in favour of some form of proportional representation. So is Stephen Harper. Can we get the Royal Commission started already?

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Toronto Fringe, Day 4

Hey! I'm having a really good Fringe so far. Though I've only seen five shows as of yet, the percentage of rock to schlock has been very encouraging. Hoorah!

Check out my latest Fringe diary entry. Mentions of: The Imponderables, Nazis, Fringe Show, Pilk's Madhouse, insurance companies, The Rumoli Brothers, Michael Healey, Kate Lynch, Richard Greenblatt, The Curse of the Trickster, and the Beach Boys.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Winning Without Grace

Tony Ianno is a real asswipe. John Barber reports.
Happy Canada Day!

I'm not really a nationalist. No, I'm somewhat scared of nationalism, no matter what the stripe.

Still, there's something beautiful about the country I live in. It has a certain natural, confident on-the-fenceness that I like. And, reluctant as I am to say such a sentimental thing, I am truly proud to be a Canadian citizen.

Some words on Canada from a man much wiser than me:
[The lack of a monolithic mythology like other nation-states] is described by most federalists and anti-federalists alike as the failure of Canada. The failure to become like the others. To regularize a monolithic mythology. Some weep before the ever-retreating mirage of the unhyphenated Canadian. Others say its continued existence proves that the country is not real and cannot exist. For me, this failure to conform is in fact our greatest success. A proof of originality which we refuse to grasp as a positive...

The essential characteristic of the Canadian public mythology is its complexity. To the extent that it denies the illusion of simplicity, it is a reasonable facsimile of reality. That makes it a revolutionary reversal of the standard nation-state myth. To accept our reality -- the myth of complexity -- is to live out of step with most other nations. It is an act of non-conformity.

My own sense is that the citizenry accept their non-conformity with some ease. They live it and so it makes sense. The elites, on the other hand, fret at being out of sync with elites in other countries, particularly those in the business and academic communities. But politicians also seem increasingly affected by a need to conform on some level perceived to be higher. It is an emotional or psychological problem. They don't want to feel out of step.
Yeah, it's John Ralston Saul, from Reflections of a Siamese Twin. (I am an unabashed fan of Mr. Saul's.)

Happy Canada Day, my friends. Bonne Fête du Canada, cher(e)s ami(e)s. Cherish our complexity and originality.