Saturday, December 31, 2005

Eye Magazine: Perk-y propaganda?

I came back from holidaying in Montreal to find that my local NDP candidate Gord Perks (Davenport) is still writing his his biweekly Enviro column at Eye weekly. Unlike his last column, fairly inoffensive musings about going door to door, this week's -- "Masquerade Paul" -- is unabashedly partisan.

"[T]he spectacle of Paul Martin's recent exchange with US ambassador David H. Wilkins will forever haunt me as a symbol of everything that's wrong with Canada's electoral politics," Perks writes. "The mind boggles at Paul Martin's gall."

As I mentioned in my last post on Perks and his Eye column, "There's a long-standing tradition that journalists go on hiatus when they decide to run for public office. It is unfair that Perks gets a free page of self-promotion every two weeks in a publication that claims to have 310,000 readers an issue."

During an election that is more than a bit about a little thing called ethics, I'm unimpressed. Liberal Mario Silva, Conservative Theresa Rodrigues, and Green Mark O'Brien should demand equal space -- and find out if Perks is claiming the Eye space he gets every week in as a campaign contribution.

In more cute Gord Perks news...

His campaign is being run by wuvable waccoons!
There are some, unusual, volunteers in the campaign office today. The office is actually closed for the holidays, but as Derek, Andy and I walked by this morning on our way to shopping, Derek called out, "Amy, look!" and pointed at the window. There, nestled quite happily on top of a Gord Perks sign, were two of the fattest raccoons I've ever seen. We ran back to the house and got the camera, and snapped a whole roll of film. They were still there two hours later when we were on our way back home. So I just sent off an email to the info address for the campaign. Not much else I can do. I don't know anyone's phone number, no one should be coming in today because the office is closed for the holidays, and even if I call animal control, there's no way i could let them into the office. So I've done all I can. They were damn cute though.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Deet-deet-dee-deet: RCMP lookin' into that whole income trust thingie.

Says Ralph Goodale:
It's very clear from the comments of the RCMP that they have no information, no evidence, no indication of any wrongdoing on my part and no direct allegation against me personally.
Yeah, you personally. But you are in charge and responsible for a whole goshdarn Finance Department... (Admittedly, according to the Paul Martin precedent, that doesn't mean you actually have to know anything about anything you don't want to know anything about.)

Go on, though:
I'm very anxious to make sure that my reputation for integrity is absolutely vindicated, because that is a very crucial part of who I am and what I stand for -- that's been my modus operandi for over 30 years.
I might be more impressed if Goodale's first priority was finding out what happened on Nov. 23, rather than being anxious about his own butt. I don't believe R.G. leaked information about his income trust announcement to his buddies, but I'm rather perplexed that the circumstantial evidence of a leak is enough for the RCMP to launch an investigation, but apparently not enough for R.G. to admit that there is at least a possibility that someone in his department is a little loose-lipped.

"I think some folks in the opposition have been playing pretty fast and loose with this one," Goodale says. Does that mean he thinks the RCMP is playing fast and loose as well? The first step is admitting that there was a problem...
Okay, I've had enough...

I'm kinda tired of people thinking that the common folk are stupid. Recently, Crawl Across the Ocean's Declan, who usually is very optimistic about the intelligence of "the people", criticized this post by Paul Wells, writing:
It's been years since Marshall McLuhan explained to us the basic concepts here about how what matters is less what is said but more how the message is delivered, and years also since Neil Postman helped explain what kind of message television sends, regardless of what channel you are on, and I think we've all seen enough television ourselves to know instinctively that it's not just some fluke that people refer to television as the 'boob tube' or the 'idiot box'.

Television provides passive entertainment - that's all it does. It doesn't matter what questions the journalists ask, or whether they ask questions at all. Further, it doesn't matter what the leader's say. I've heard lots of people say that you can read how a debate is going better with the sound off and I think that this is probably true.
Whatever. Here, I'm going to say it: A) Too many people have only a cursory understanding of Marshall McLuhan's famous theory. And B) I think Neil Postman is, may he rest in peace, mostly full of shit.

Take, for instance, this hoary old claim about the Kennedy-Nixon debates of 1960:
The Great Debates marked television's grand entrance into presidential politics. They afforded the first real opportunity for voters to see their candidates in competition, and the visual contrast was dramatic. In August, Nixon had seriously injured his knee and spent two weeks in the hospital. By the time of the first debate he was still twenty pounds underweight, his pallor still poor. He arrived at the debate in an ill-fitting shirt, and refused make-up to improve his color and lighten his perpetual "5:00 o'clock shadow." Kennedy, by contrast, had spent early September campaigning in California. He was tan and confident and well-rested. "I had never seen him looking so fit," Nixon later wrote.

In substance, the candidates were much more evenly matched. Indeed, those who heard the first debate on the radio pronounced Nixon the winner. But the 70 million who watched television saw a candidate still sickly and obviously discomforted by Kennedy's smooth delivery and charisma. Those television viewers focused on what they saw, not what they heard. Studies of the audience indicated that, among television viewers, Kennedy was perceived the winner of the first debate by a very large margin.
Hold on a second, here... Isn't it possible that the people who listened to the debates on the radio were older and more likely to live in rural areas and therefore more likely to respond to Nixon's message? And wouldn't the people who watched on TV have been, on the whole, younger and more urban and thus more likely to vote Democrat?

Why must we assume that people are so shallow? Am I being naive here to think that most people actually listen to the content of a politician's message, weigh said content against their own interests, and then come to a decision on who they are going to vote for? Why is this the contrarian position? Why do so many communications theorists and pundits assume that they and only they are able to notice the man behind the curtain and everybody else is a mindless sheep?

Saturday, December 24, 2005

The Post of Christmas Past

It's time to get off the computer and sit by the fire, so here's a seasonally themed post from last year: My account of being a Cannon Doll during the National Ballet of Canada's production of The Nutcracker.
Back in the dressing room, I have many questions for wardrobe assistant Grant Heaps as he shows Siri and me our costumes: Did hockey star Doug Gilmour wear the same pair of clown pants I am now slipping into? And were they cleaned afterward? Really, thoroughly dry-cleaned or, preferably, soaked in bleach?

Being backstage with half-dressed ballerinas isn't quite the titillating thrill I had expected. First of all, there are about 60 children involved in James Kudelka's production. And since it's sometimes hard to tell them apart from petite, flat-chested ballerinas, it's best to play it safe and avert your eyes at all
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you from Montreal...

Friday, December 23, 2005

Well sir, all I can say is if I were a gate I'd be swinging...

Man, the tough issues the greatest minds of our nation have to grapple with: Group sex, partner swapping... How do they do it?

Anyway, what I like best about this court ruling -- aside from the fact that I won't have to hear about L'Orage every year anymore -- is the pictures newspapers are using to illustrate their stories about the legalization of swinger clubs. For instance:

-- CBC News's "Interior of a Montreal swinger club," which is the most banal picture ever, showing a couple of tables made out of barrels and a Dasani water machine that is out of order.

-- From the Edmonton Sun: "Sylvain and Katline, a swinging couple who declined to give their last names, share a kiss yesterday in Montreal in celebration of a Supreme Court ruling that rewrote the definition of indecency." Yes! We can legally have sex with other people in private clubs now! Give me a kiss, honey!

-- CTV's picture of lawyer Robert La Haye isn't particularly funny, but the caption is: "Robert La Haye says 'It's a commercial establishment where people reconvene and practice swapping or swinging, even orgy gang-bangs.'" That sentence is hilarious on so many levels. What I want to know is this: Where do they convene before? Were those places legal? "Okay gang, let's split up. Scooby and Shaggy, you go check out the windmill's cellar. Daphne and I will see what's up in the attic. Then, we'll reconvene for some swapping... or even an orgy gang-bang." And isn't that last term redundant? Are there any gang-bangs that are not orgy gang-bangs? Is there some sort of subtle distinction between orgies and gang-bangs that I'm not catching here?

-- Then there's this one from the Gazette, which is just disturbing: "Swingers cub owner Denis Chesnel (top) and his daughters Brigitte (left) and Valerie applauded the Supreme Court ruling yesterday." Wha... your daughters? Did something else just get legalized here while we weren't paying attention?
Only in Canada...

...could the cost of icebreakers be treated as a serious campaign issue. The Liberals have rebutted Harper's icebreaker plan on their website:
When Mr. Harper announced his defence plan last week, he claimed it would cost $5.3 billion over 5 years. He says today’s commitment is included in the $5.3 billion over 5 years.

The problem is, the cost of three polar-class icebreakers would be at least $3 billion to build, with up to $150 million in annual operating costs.

Mr. Harper stated, "The total cost of the ice breakers and the docking facility will be around $2 billion."

Where does Mr. Harper plan to find another $1 billion?
Oh, snap! I'm totally switching my vote.

You know my position on icebreakers... I always like a good polar-class game of charades.

Hey-o! I'm here every night! Late. On the Internet. Every night. Sigh...

Thursday, December 22, 2005

"I'm Paul Martin!" "No, I'm Paul Martin!

By golly, what a mean thing for Harper to say! What a suggestion, that the Liberals actually would like the PQ to be in power, so that they could play the national unity card! Says Paul Martin:
"I've campaigned alongside the provincial Liberals against the separatists in every single provincial campaign since I have been in Quebec and yet ... Mr. Harper, either out of anger or out of calculation, accused me of hoping for a separatist win...
"Let me say to you that is not within the boundaries of reasonable discourse. As different as our views might be, I would never for a moment suggest that Stephen Harper would prefer for partisan political reasons to see a separatist victory.
"As a Quebecer, as a life-long federalist and as the Prime Minister of Canada, I believe that I am entitled to the same courtesy from Mr. Harper. Frankly, as a matter of basic courtesy, I'd like to hear him say it."

Now wave your arms and go deedly-deedly-doo, deedly-deedly-doo, as we go back in time to... three weeks ago. Paul Martin says:
"We would see him [Mr. Harper] and [Bloc leader] Gilles Duceppe, if they get enough seats, working together to dismantle this country that all of us are so proud of."
Ah... I mean... Oops.

So, on the one hand, you have Harper saying the Liberals would like the PQ to be in power in Quebec, because it would give them a chance to play Captain Canada. (And they love Captain Canada here in Ontario, let me tell you.) On the other hand, you have Martin suggesting that Harper would actively work with the BQ to dismantle the country.

Paul Martin's mouth has got so many sides, he's like a talking hexagon.
Michael Coren endorses the NDP in Oshawa.

"Integrity is the issue now, and Sid [Ryan] is a man I trust and respect, Oshawa and Ottawa will be better places with him around," says the very, very funny and very, very fired conservative radio host. [via Babble.]
The real national unity question: Mittens!

By the way, the Post has started up its National Mitten Registry again.
If you spot a lost mitten in decent condition, please send it to us along with a short note stating where and when you found it, your name and address. We'll photograph it and run a mitten each day in the Arts and Life section. For your trouble, we'll send you an official National Post tote bag. We recommend keeping the Mitten Spotter's Guidelines printed at right in your purse or wallet.

Of course, the National Mitten Registry can only work with your help, so please lend a hand to keep your neighbours' hands warm.


Some clip-'n'-save rules of woolen thumb for your winter of glove spotting.

- Keep your eyes peeled around mailboxes, cash registers, subway turnstiles and anywhere else people tend to be digging around in their pockets. Our research shows these are mitten hot spots.

- Does the found mitt look too gross to touch? Has it been repeatedly run over? Is it submerged in slush? Leave it be!

- Is it propped up on a fence post? Again, leave it be! While we'd like everyone to participate in the National Mitten Registry, the greater goal is recovery.

- While we sympathize with the plight of lost earrings, socks, keys, laptops, umbrellas and pets, they are more than we can handle here at the Mitten Registry offices. Handwear only, please!

- An online gallery of all registered mitts will be maintained at

- Please direct mittens with your coordinates, the mitten's coordinates and your anonymous voting intentions to National Mitten Registry c/o Benjamin Errett, 300-1450 Don Mills Rd., Don Mills, ON, M3B 3R5.
An Actual Conversation That Took Place Between Me and an Intelligent Torontonian who Lives in Cabbagetown This Evening.

Scene: A downtown bar.

Actual Torontonian: I'm not a Liberal supporter.

Me: But you're going to vote for the Liberals?

AT: Yes. The Conservatives are scary.

Me: But in your riding it's a race between the Liberal and NDP candidate. Like everywhere else in Toronto.

AT: Yes.

Me: This is one of the few elections where you can vote NDP and have them really wield power, either in a Liberal or Conservative minority government.

AT: A Conservative minority is scary!

Me: I'm kind of rooting for a Conservative minority with the NDP holding the balance of power, actually.

AT: You're rooting for a Conservative minority!?! Oh that's right, I forgot. You work at the National Post.

Me: Dude, like, in the Arts section. I write about theatre. I think it's important for the Liberals to have time in the wilderness, you know. Come up with someone to replace Paul Martin.

AT: So you want Prime Minister Stephen Harper!?! Scary! He wants to turn the entire country into Alberta. The Conservatives are like the Republican Party of Canada!

Me: I wouldn't say that. They've moved pretty close to the centre. Truthfully, they're closer to the Democratic Party of the North.

AT: Scary!

Me: You find the Democrats scary?

AT: Yes!

Me: So, both the Republicans and the Democrats are scary?

AT: Yes!

Me: You don't find the Paul Martin Liberals scary, then? PM PM waffled on Iraq, he's tried to pretend like the Chaoulli decision never happened and has allowed private healthcare to proliferate, he wants to enact those corporate tax cuts AND increase spending a la George Texas-sized-Deficit Bush...

AT: The Liberals are the lesser of two evils.

Me: But the Liberals have behaved corruptly. There was an elaborate kickback scheme going on in Quebec.

AT: Yeah, corruption happens. It's not nearly as bad as what happens in the United States.

Me: I hate that kind of casual anti-Americanism.

AT: That's not anti-American! It's anti-Republican. If the Conservatives get in, the country could break up!

Me: But support for sovereignty in Quebec has increased under Paul Martin...

AT: It's because Alberta won't share its oil revenues!

Me: Okay, whatever. Look: Just admit you're a Liberal. It's fine. You can vote Liberal, if you want. I'm cool with that. Some of my best friends vote Liberal.

AT: I'm not a Liberal supporter!

Me: You're just going to vote Liberal.

AT: Yes.

Me: In Cabbagetown. Because you're scared of the Conservatives.

AT: Yes.

Me: Waiter!

AT: Waiters are scary!

Note: I may have embellished some of this. But the word 'scary' was used frequently... just like in the newspapers!
Every year is the worst year!

What is it about film journalists that require them to declare each year's crop of movies disappointing in their year-in-review articles? Here's Adam Sternbergh over at CBC Arts discussing the year in film:
Ah, best comedy... [I]t’s impossible to vote against The 40 Year-Old Virgin, which may be my favourite film of the year, period. (What can I say? It was a bleak season.)
I think, in truth, I have heard that every year of my life. "What a lousy year for movies..."

There are years when it rings true, but any year that produces such great movies as The Squid and the Whale (my favourite of the year), C.R.A.Z.Y., Capote, Grizzly Man, the 40-Year-Old Virgin, King Kong, A History of Violence, Horloge Biologique, and Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith can hardly be called bleak. (N.B. I have yet to see Brokeback Mountain, Match Point, Munich or Crash, so my exclusion of them in this list is not meant as a diss.)
As the end of year lists come out, I shall be vigilant for more of this lazy world weariness...

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Christmas comes early.

I'm not sure why, but this blog is currently the number one site when you search for 'sex' on Google's Blog Search. Probably won't last long...

This seems as good a time as any to link to the Sex Party's website. The BC-based political party has candidates running in the Jan. 23 federal election -- and part of its platform is to get the National Post to print the word "fucking."
The True Meaning of Tuesday...
Golden Age night
Nothing says "Happy Holidays" like an old-timey radio show. So, why not come down to the Drake Hotel today for a live performance of Golden Age, a heart-warming tale of senior citizens and horse racing performed by that up-and-coming actor Joe Cobden (who was up for a Quebec Masque for Best Actor on Sunday evening), and written by Joe with the help of yours truly.

In addition to Mr. Cobden's thespianism, the evening will feature the funny-funny of Tim Sims Comedy Award nominee Kathleen Phillips and the music-music of Matt Murphy (star of The Life and Hard Times of Guy Terrifico), Warren Spicer (Plants and Animals, Timber) and Katie Moore (also of Timber, Montreal's "angel-voiced... smart-alec").

Kelly Nestruck (that's me!) will also be participating in the evening by running a jellybean contest. Guess the number of jellybeans and you win... jellybeans!

9 p.m. at the Drake -- pay what you can.

To sum up: Live radio theatre, comedy, music... and you. That's the true meaning of Tuesday night.
One more reason why the New York Post is the awesomest...


[It was, by the way, great. Definitely one of my favourite films of the year.]

Monday, December 19, 2005

Same-sex marriage reality check

We were washing dishes after a pre-Christmas lunch, when my grandmother started telling me what she thought of Stephen Harper. He's the only federal leader who is sticking to his principles, she told me. "Marriage is between a man and a woman," she told me. "That's what a marriage is." Gays and lesbians can have unions, she said, but they can't have the word.

Back in the 1960s, my grandmother was a school nurse. She helped start the sex ed program in what used to be called the Protestant School Board of Greater Montreal. She still has some of the old textbooks. They seem funny and dated now -- I've brought them out to amuse visiting friends. It's easy to forget how revolutionary they were at the time.

When I was going through my first round of sex ed, in grade 5 or maybe 6, my grandmother asked me if I had any questions that weren't being answered at school. I asked her how gay men had sex. She explained the mechanics of it to me matter-of-factly, no trace of judgement in her voice.

My grandmother now lives in Ottawa South. She met Conservative candidate Allan Cutler at the mall and told him she was behind him. The other three members of my family in Ottawa South -- all 60 + -- plan to vote for him as well.

Anyway, my point, and I have a point, is this: All this talk about how Harper's legally-baffling position on same-sex marriage will kill the Conservatives in moderate, tolerant Ontario is a not necessarily based on reality. It killed their chances with me, certainly, but not with my moderate, tolerant Ontario relatives.
Master Debaters!

There's been plenty blogged about the French and English debates last week. So I'll only add this:

On Friday night, I had a bet with Sarah Marchildon that Stephen Harper would say, "Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays." She thought he would just say "Merry Christmas."

She won the bet. (Though Harper did add, "... and a Happy New Year.")

Again, on Friday night, I wondered if Jack Layton would end his closing speech with a long P.C. list of holiday wishes - "Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah, etc." - or just the neutral, "Happy Holidays."

He didn't do either. All he said was Merry Christmas.

My conclusion from Harper and Layton's respective sign-offs? I think we're going to see another Liberal minority and I think we're going to see more NDP MPs sent back to the House of Commons this election.

If you think I'm reading way too much into this, you are absolutely correct. But Layton is doing exactly what the NDP needs him to do: Appear as if he is the confident leader of a mainstream party. The fact that he and his speechwriters didn't "overthink" the seasonal greeting tells me that they are focusing on more important issues -- and that the party's leadership has successfully moved away from the over-sensitive identity politics in which the Left was mired for so long.

As for Harper, this was a brief moment where he could have signalled that the Conservatives aren't "scary", that they can be sensitive and inclusive, that they embrace the multicultural nature of Canada, that they aren't the hidden-agendaed Christian activists they are so often portrayed as in the media... But he and his strategists didn't take advantage of it. A tiny wasted opportunity, but symptomatic of his larger image (and substance) problem and reluctance to play the game.

Friday, December 16, 2005

In which I once again compare something to meeting up with an ex-girfriend.

Fellow Arts & Life reporter Vanessa Farquharson, Fametracker's Tara Ariano and I discuss The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in today's Popcorn Panel. Free link for the kiddies.
Drop the column, Perks.

Gord Perks, the NDP candidate for my riding of Davenport, seems like a nice enough fellow. Since he's the only contender to have left a flyer at my door so far and the Davenport race is really between him and incumbent Liberal Mario Silva, I may very well vote for him.

But Perks really should give up his Enviro column at Eye weekly while the campaign is on. There's a long-standing tradition that journalists go on hiatus when they decide to run for public office. It is unfair that Perks gets a free page of self-promotion every two weeks in a publication that claims to have 310,000 readers an issue. Not that it isn't interesting to get his personal insights into campaigning in my neighbourhood... but he should put this kind of stuff on his own website.

Perks is primarily an environmentalist, not a journalist, so I'll forgive him for not knowing the professional ethics... But why haven't the folks at Eye shelved his column during the campaign?

Peter Kent raised eyebrows for continuing to work as Deputy News Editor at Global after declaring his candidacy... Perks having a prominent column in a local weekly is as worthy of our raised eyebrows.
This has nothing to do with the election.

Cute Overload! (Via Mary Vallis.)

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Your post-debate Conservative talking points... pre-debate

Someone apparently leaked them to this Liberal blogger:
Paul Martin sounded like a professor, trying to ramble on about economic statistics, while Stephen Harper showed he understands that families are working longer, paying more in taxes and finding it harder to save money.
Etc., etc. Ah, the clairvoyant Conservatives. RevMod, does this count as a gaffe -- or sabotage?

Enjoy the French debate, everybody.
Now every time I'm stuck in traffic I think of the Conservatives.

"Honk! Honk!" I don't think that guy was telling my cab driver that he loves Canada.

Anyway, I've already started stopping paying attention to the election, I'm afraid. There are gifts to buy, train tickets to book, end-of-the-year articles to write before I go on vacation...

I haven't updated the blogroll on the left for a while, but if you click on the bloglines link you'll find a list of the blogs I read every day, many of which are going hog wild on the campaign.

A couple quick notes:

- Once again, Quebec's leaders are proving themselves the most amenable to private involvement in health care -- at least once they're out of office. According to Le Devoir (links at Polyscopique), in interviews given for L'annuaire du Québec 2006, both Pierre-Marc Johnson and, a little more surprisingly, Jacques Parizeau "declared themselves favourable to a greater role for the private sector in health care and to the spirit of the Chaoulli ruling." That makes three former PQ leaders -- recall Bouchard and his call for a Lucien, er, lucid Quebec -- who are open to private health care. I think that's all the living ones.

- There are some funny bits over at this fellow's Derision 2006 blog. My favourite to date was Martin pledges 'total ban' on crime:
TORONTO (CNB) – In an bid to combat the violence that has plagued Canada's urban centres in recent months, Liberal Leader Paul Martin promised an outright ban on all crime. "My government will immediately bring forward legislation to ban all forms of crime, both petty and violent," said Martin, speaking to youth in a troubled Toronto neighbourhood. "Our aggressive vision for a safer Canada will leave no doubt in the minds of criminals – in this country, crime is very illegal."

UPDATE: Bernard Landry is alive!!!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

More out-of-context Ignatieff!

From Blood and Belonging:
There were Frenchies hiding in the cemetery, we were sure of that. They were tough Catholic kids and they had slingshots. We all knew they were there, hiding behind the gravestones, waiting to get us. The cemetery was up on the hill above Juliana Road, where we lived, and I knew that I shouldn't ever go there on my bike alone. Everyone at school knew that they pulled kids off their bikes and rode away on their wheels. They were bad kids, it was common knowledge... They were bigger than us, that was all we knew, big ignorant boys who spoke nothing but French and used real ball bearings in their slingshots.
Oh my gawwwd! He hates the Frenchies!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Sunday in the Park with Gollum.

A few select members of the media -- oh, about 150 of us -- got a sneak peek at six scenes from the $27-million Lord of the Rings stage musical yesterday. Here's my report from today's Post (free link). The show opens in previews on Feb. 2 and has its official opening night on March 23.

I must admit to having been a bit confused during much of the event: I haven't read the books or seen the movies. Since this is the biggest, most-expensive theatrical production in Canadian history, I think I better do some homework over the holidays.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Monday election Schadenfreude.

From the bilingual Alter Boys, I learn that during an interview with La Voix de l'Est last week, the cell phone belonging to the Bloc Québécois candidate for Brome-Missisquoi, Christian Ouellet, went off... M. Ouellet's ringtone? O Canada.
M. Ouellet a indiqué que l'appareil venait du Parti québécois et qu'il ne savait pas comment changer la sonnerie. "Il sonne comme ça seulement une fois sur 10. Je ne sais pas pourquoi", a-t-il ajouté.
Liberal conspiracy?
Income Trust leak...

I've been discussing this developing story over here and here on A.Z.'s blog. There is more than enough suspicious activity for the Ontario Securities Commission to launch an investigation. I know the OSC does not usually publicly disclose the existence of an investigation, but they can in certain circumstance and really should in this case, if only to quell the conspiracy theories.

Bloggers all over this include: Stephen Taylor, Angry, and especially , M.K. Braaten, .
Horn Tooting.

It's been a good couple of weeks here at On the Fence. Thanks to links from Warren Kinsella, Paul Wells, the CBAs, and the CBC Blog Report, this blog has seen more traffic in the first 12 days of December than it did all of November -- and November was On the Fence's traffickiest month since it was launched in February 2003.

A couple of linkages I found in my referrer logs recently have really made me proud, however.

First of all, I was tickled pink to discover that Terry Teachout -- the H.L. Mencken biographer and Wall Street Journal drama critic -- has added me to his blogroll. I am an admirer of TT's writings and want to pass on my best wishes for a swift recovery.

Secondly, I was tickled blue and white that a post I wrote was discussed on RDI's Les Coulisses du Pouvoir with Daniel Lessard on Sunday. If you (ie. Mom) want to watch the clip, click on Sunday the 11th on the calendar of archives shows and jump to about 48:42. Bruno Guglielminetti, Les Coulisses' techno correspondent, maintains a blog here.

There's a moment in Jimmy, Marie Brassard's dreamy one-woman show currently on at Toronto's Buddies in Bad Times theatre, where the actress transforms herself into a train speeding down a track, chasing after the play's title character. Using a sound processor to distort her voice to the pitch of a train whistle, she squeals: "JIM-MEEEEEEEE! JIM-MEEEEEEEE!"

I've been haunted by this moment ever since I saw the show last Wednesday night. It echoes in my head in the strangest moments. Although I'd agree with Robert Cushman that Jimmy is more technique than substance, I haven't been so enthralled by anything I've seen in a (Toronto) theatre this fall and thus must recommend the show whole-heartedly.

I've posted my Nov. 30 interview with Brassard here. Here's the start:
Edward Albee once explained the difference between the theatre and film like this: "You can take a deaf person to a movie; you can't take a blind person. You can take a blind person to a play; you can't take a deaf person." ("Except for a critic," the playwright added.)

When you're talking about Marie Brassard's multimedia solo theatre, Albee's aphorism rings particularly true. In shows like Jimmy, The Darkness and Peepshow, the Quebecoise actress, director and writer uses processors and computers to twist and turn her voice into a hundred shapes and dozens of different characters. "It's an amazing tool for an actor," says Brassard over the phone from Berlin, where she is taking part in an electronic music festival. "It's amazing how it feels when you suddenly open your mouth and it's not your voice coming out any more but the voice of somebody else.

"It's a bit like being an etre mutant [mutant creature]. Those machines add some capabilities to the physical possibilities of what acting can be. It's very liberating."

Brassard, who collaborated with fellow theatrical innovator Robert Lepage until forming her own Infrarouge Theatre five years ago, doesn't really believe Albee's pronouncement, however. Mime, after all, is a form of theatre inaccessible to the blind. And, she notes, there's the late Derek Jarman's Blue -- a film that played its soundtrack over an unchanging blue screen.

Still, her own experience makes it seem like Albee was on to something. "When I performed [Jimmy] in Quebec City last year, there was a blind musician who came to see the play," says Brassard, who is bringing Jimmy back to Toronto's Buddies in Bad Times Theatre next week. "He very seldom goes to the theatre and said that he was very, very excited because soundwise there was a lot of material."
You kinda like me! A few of you really like me!

The Canadian Blog Awards results are up... and, uh, it was an honour just to be nominated.

No, seriously, to come in fourth for "Best Media Blog" after Paul Wells, Antonia Zerbisias (who both maintain their blogs as part of their jobs) and Colby Cosh (a true journoblogger pioneer) is very nice.

Thank you very much to those who nominated and voted for me.

Now, a brief note on these Canadian Blog Awards: It is extremely unfortunate that they are run by Robert McClelland of the odious My Blahg. Both right-wing and left-wing bloggers boycotted the CBAs this year because of offensive comments Robert has made; some nominees less vain than I asked to be removed. In short, this year the awards have less validity than ever.

I renew my call for a group of non-partisan bloggers to band together and create a real Canadian Blog Awards. This country's vibrant blogosphere deserves no less.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

2 a.m. election thoughts: Ontario's like Veronica; Quebec's like Betty; and the Conservatives are like Archie, dig?

Okay, here's what I've been wondering much of the week: Why have the Conservatives been putting so much time and energy into campaigning in Quebec, when even the most optimistic CPC staffer would have a heart attack if they won three seats there? It doesn't seem like the most efficient use of resources.

Then it hit me: Ontario voters, who the Conservative Party really need to court, cling to the Liberals in good part because they view the Grits as the only party that preserves national unity. Why they believe this in the wake of Adscam, I'm not entirely sure; I'm kinda with Bernard Lord: "Les libéraux disent qu’ils sont les seuls à pouvoir préserver l’unité nationale. Ils sont comme un pyromane qui dirait, allumettes en main, qu’il est le seul à pouvoir éteindre le feu!"*

Nevertheless, it has become clear that in order for some Ontarians to consider the Conservatives, they need to think that some Quebeckers are considering or, at least, respect the Conservatives.

So, in order for the Conservatives to pick up the crucial seats they need in Ontario, they need to appear to be an actual force in Quebec. Thus, campaigning in Quebec helps with Ontario. When Veronica sees Archie with Betty, suddenly Archie seems like a much more appealing boyfriend prospect.

To word this argument more simply and with less comic-book references: Ontarians will only vote for a truly national party -- and it is in Quebec that they look for proof of a party's nationalness.

Now, are the Conservatives actually making headway in Quebec? Perhaps. Michel Vastel, one of the province's veteran journalists who writes for Le Soleil and blogs for L'Actualité, sums up the second week of the campaign like this:
Tous les observateurs admettent une chose : Stephen Harper est une surprise. Et Paul Martin une déception. Jack Layton une curiosité, et Gilles Duceppe une habitude. (All the observers admit one thing: Stephen Harper is a surprise. And Paul Martin is a deception. Jack Layton is a curiousity, and Gilles Duceppe a habit.)

« La nouveauté c’est que les gens commencent à écouter le chef conservateur », me disait un collègue qui accompagne la tournée de Stephen Harper depuis quelques jours. ("What's new is that people are starting to listen to the Conservative leader," a colleague accompanying Stephen Harper's tour told me a few days ago.)
Well, that's a start anyway. Conservatives who are wringing their hands about the Liberals sneaking ahead in the daily SES polls might find comfort, or at least some motivation, in that and what Vastel reminds his readers of next -- that in 1984, the polls only started moving towards Brian Mulroney's Progressive Conservatives in the third week of the campaign. Writes Vastel, "Il ne tient qu’à Stephen Harper de convaincre les «red tories», les conservateurs modérés, de rentrer au bercail. Comme l’a fait Monsieur Mulroney en 1984…" (All Stephen Harper has to do is convince the Red Tories, the moderate conservatives, to come back to the fold. Like Mr. Mulroney did in 1984.)

No small task, admittedly.

* Translation: "The Liberals say they are the only ones who can preserve national unity. They are like a pyromaniac who says, matches in hand, that he is the only one who can put on the fire." See, all the good zingers are in French.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Speaking of reading for free...

... The New Yorker has put Annie Proulx's short story "Brokeback Mountain" up on its site. The movie based on this O. Henry Award-winning story, directed by Ang Lee and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Heath Ledger, Michelle Williams and, my new celebrity crush, Anne Hathaway, is going to be all over the Oscars.

Also all over the Academy Awards? This Oscar Watch blog, which I have bookmarked at work...

(I must admit to being a Proulx fan, though I was somewhat let down when she stopped calling herself E. Annie Proulx, for obvious reasons.)
Dewey Decimated.

Josh at Torontoist takes me to task for complaining about not being able to find a copy of Ignatieff's Blood and Belonging in any book store.

Apparently, there are these things called 'libraries,' where you can find thousands of books, including B&B, and borrow them for free. Why aren't publishers shutting these places down?
Stephen Harper hearts René Lévesque.

Talk about saying one thing in English and another in French. Last night, Harper said the Conservative party's campaign finance reform policy -- eliminating donations from companies and unions and limiting personal contributions -- was inspired by Lévesque's reforms of 30 years ago. Why isn't he saying that in English, I wonder?

Gotta say, though, I like French Harper better than English Harper.
All this talk of making certain political parties disappear...

... it really makes Gilles Duceppe more of a Pinochet than a Hitler, doesn't it?

Yes, yesterday, Duceppe said that the Conservatives "sont en voie de disparition au Québec." But, he added that those were Jean Lapierre's words, not his own.

I found it strange that Duceppe felt he had to apologize the first time he talked about making the Liberals disappear in Quebec. He didn't apologize this time, however, because, he told Radio Canada, "Je ne vais pas commencer à m'excuser des propos de Jean Lapierre. Imaginez la tâche gigantesque que cela me poserait!" ("I'm not going to start apologizing for things Lapierre says. Imagine the gigantic task that would be.")

Heh, heh... Funny dude, that Duceppe.

UPDATE: Can't find Lapierre saying that the Conservatives were on the read to extinction in Quebec, but here he is in March of 2004 saying the Bloc were an "espèce en voie de disparition" (an endangered species) until the Sponsorship Scandal broke.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Dear theatres of the world:

Before a play begins, always, always, always have an usher remind audience members to turn off their cellphones, or play a recording reminding them to do so. If you do not do this, YOU ARE TO BLAME when a cellphone rings during the performance.

Here's how it is: I am an extremely conscientious theatregoer. I always remember to turn off my cell phone... AND YET, I am willing to bet that even though I am a superconscientious theatregoer, I probably forget to turn off my cellphone once out of every 250 times I go to see theatre if I am not reminded by an usher.

Now, for the sake of argument, let's say the chances of me getting a phone call during the 1.5 to 3 hours during which a play takes place are about 1 in 3.

Even with this conservative estimate, that would mean that my phone will ring during a play about once out of every 750 times I go to the theatre if there is no reminder to turn off cellphones at the start.

Now, let's say that everyone who goes to the theatre is as conscientious as me and as unpopular as me. If everyone in the audience of 750 has a cell phone and there is no announcement, it is virtually guaranteed that a cell phone will go off once during a show...

So, just do it! There's no reason to be embarrassed! Flight attendants still tell airplane passengers not to smoke during the flight... and there hasn't been smoking on a flight for more than a decade!

It is getting to the point where a cell phone ringing during a show is the rule not the exception. If an announcement is made, the offending cellular telephone owner is entirely to blame. But if an announcement is not made, I blame you theatre (cough, Buddies in Bad Times, cough) for not understanding probability. I blame you.

Thank you,

On the Fence
NDP: As seen on TV
Jack Layton and the Video Professor
The Conservative Youth Blog (they voted against a youth wing, but have a youth blog?) notes the striking similarity between Professor Jack Layton and the Video Professor and wonders if Elections Canada should be called in: "[S]ince there are... restrictions that limit how much money registered political parties can spend on campaigning, I think CTV’s Newsnet should be limited as to the number of times they air ads for the Video Professor."

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Award of the state.

Hey! On the Fence got into the second round of the Canadian Blog Awards in two categories: Best Media Blog and Best Blog Post. You may vote once a day until Friday. I won't be offended if you vote for the others... I myself feel weird clicking my name instead of Wells, Cosh, Mirtle, or Zerbisias in the Best Media Blog category. But not too weird to do it, natch. (Oh, you might want to vote for our friends at Torontoist for Best Group Blog, too.)
Conservatives' Quebec ads both insult step-brothers (and/or brothers-in-law) and amuse them.

Who here is totally digging the CPC's colloquial French-language radio attack ads?


Okay, so first there's one going after the Bloquistes, comparing them to a step-brother who's fun to hang out with, but who has his head in the clouds and is useless when you really need his help: "Le Bloc, c'est comme un beau-frère. Quand c'est le temps de chialer et de refaire le monde, il est là. Mais quand vous avez besoin d'aide pour régler un problème ou pour bâtir quelque chose, c'est drôle: il ne peut rien faire pour vous." As a step-brother who has several step-brothers, I'm offended -- but I'm still mighty entertained!

Then, there's one going after the Liberals, comparing them to a lousy lover who keeps you down and steals your money: "Si le Parti Libéral était un homme, passeriez vous encore quatre ans avec lui? Il vous a trompée, trahie, humiliée, il a renié vos compétences, vos aspirations, ce qui vous rend unique. Et avec ses chums, il a pigé dans votre sacoche. C'est le temps de mettre un terme à cette relation malsaine avec les libéraux."

There's a couple of fun TV ads, too.

The first features a woman talking, but you can't hear her. Then a Conservative-logoed microphone appears. Help Quebeckers get their voice back, she says.

The second features a dude bicycling away... but then the camera pulls back to show that the bicycle's front tire is actually in a block of cement. It's a metaphor for the Bloc, toiling away in parliament but not getting anything accomplished.

Here's the kicker: Both the radio ads and the TV ads all end by noting that that these ads were paid for with "l'argent propre" -- clean money.

To which I say, why don't we in English Canada get the zingers, Mr. Harper? You think we don't like the zingers? You think we want fake interviews with fake journalists and a car honking? No! Bring on the zingers! No more two-tier zinging!

And now for your French neologism of the day: Baladodiffusion. It's what we call Podcasting.

UPDATE: Here's an interesting article about that mentions the names of the ad agencies working on the Conservative Party's ads in English and in French. These French ads were done by Republik Advertising + Design, whose clients have included Hydro Québec and Lexus. Würstlingroup did the craptastic English-language ones.
Martin Becomes Electra

"Si Tommy Douglas, ou mon père, ou Lester Pearson avaient dit: 'Je vais vous donner 25 piastres et débrouillez-vous,' on n'aurait pas eu l'assurance-maladie." -- Paul Martin, yesterday, on the subject of his child-care proposal versus Stephen Harper's.

Hold up! Did Junior just put Senior on equal footing with Tommy Douglas (Greatest Canadian) and Lester Pearson (Greatest Canadian #6)? No wonder he could say that the 2004 election was the most important in Canadian history with a straight face...

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

What's that line about history repeating itself first as tragedy, then as comedy?

Thatcher's daughter wins on the reality TV show I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me out of Here!
Plus ça change...

Remember 2004?
When Martin named Jean Lapierre his top man in Quebec in February, the former MP and radio commentator was meant to lead the Liberal push to siphon support from the Bloc.

But Lapierre ended up in battles within his own party after he dismissed the Clarity Act as "useless" and said the law setting ground rules for Quebec sovereignty referendums "wouldn't change a thing."

Some Liberal candidates called on Martin to dump Lapierre, with one accusing the Quebec lieutenant of picking "cockfights" with the Bloc.

Lapierre disappeared from sight during the last few weeks of the campaign and was replaced on the front lines by veteran cabinet ministers Pierre Pettigrew and Stephane Dion.
The cock crows again.
It's not easy being Green.

A Green friend e-mails:
Hey you guys!
The leader of the Green Party of Canada, Jim Harris, is being excluded from participating in the four National Election debates. This is ridiculous seeing as 600,000 Canadians voted Green last election - enough to get them more than one million dollars in funding from the government.

The CBC holds the exclusive rights to leadership debates. It is the CBC board of directors who decides who can participate in debates.

Many voters rely on these debates to hear what their options are. Though many of you may not plan on voting Green, I think you'll all agree that Canadians should have access and knowledge of ALL their democratic options. Consider that the Bloc leader, Gilles Duceppe, will be invited to participate. The Bloc only runs candidates in Quebec. The Green Party runs candidates in all 308 ridings across Canada.

Please go to the CBC website and fill out the webform... You can also go to The Hour website and ask them to bring the topic up on their show or e-mail CTV (,,, with a similar request.
The e-mail's not entirely correct: It's a broadcast consortium that controls the debates, not specifically the CBC.

Regardless, because the televised debates are so important to an election campaign, there should be hard rules about who gets in to the leaders debates and who doesn't. It shouldn't be at the whim of the broadcast networks -- Elections Canada should decide.

For the time being, there's a petition you can sign at the Green Party's website. You might also consider e-mailing your favourite party's leader and asking them to push for the inclusion of the Greens or, at least, for Elections Canada to come up with rules about who is included.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Is it time to stock up on tin foil yet?

You know I've been to four Toronto bookstores now looking for Ignatieff's Blood and Belonging because I want to read the chapters on Ukraine and Quebec, but there's not a single copy anywhere... The one copy at Book City on Bloor has "disappeared" according to the staff. Coincidence?

(Coincidence, I'm sure.)

UPDATE: The Hill Times has an interesting article today about the Etobicoke-Lakeshore debacle. Outgoing Liberal Jean Augustine denies being pushed out and paints the local riding executive as a rogue force obsessed with getting a Ukrainian-Canadian elected. But perhaps the most fun part is this:
Rumours that some Liberal strategists had pushed out Ms. Augustine to make room for Mr. Ignatieff started immediately after the announcement of her retirement and his sudden nomination.

But a source close to the Prime Minister denied having anything to do with helping the man who is being touted as a possible successor to Paul Martin (LaSalle-Émard, Que.).

"You can rest assured that Mr. Ignatieff has no cheerleaders in the team close to the Prime Minister," the source told The Hill Times. "And not many people are ready to lift a finger to facilitate the debut of Mr. Ignatieff in the political arena."
Wow, that's got to make Ignatieff feel welcome in Paul Martin's Liberal party... (Maybe Kinsella should start seeing Ignatieff as an ally in his war against PM PM.)
My eyes!

The Conservatives and where they have a chance in Quebec.

Interesting post by Adam Daifallah...

Just a reminder, NDP considerers: Strategic voting is fine -- but it has to involve actual strategy. Don't fall for the anti-Conservative scaremongering again.
On June 22 [2004], in a campaign stop that was covered by media across the country, Paul Martin stood before a crowd of supporters and said: "There are two parties that could form the next government... If you are thinking of voting NDP, I ask you to think about the implications of your vote. In a race as close as this, you may well help Stephen Harper become prime minister."

Where did he say this? At the New Westminster-Coquitlam campaign office of appointed liberal candidate Dave Haggard.

Yep. New Westminster-Coquitlam. Where the Conservatives beat the NDP candidate by 45 votes. How much you want to bet at least 46 members of this riding believed Martin? I hope they're kicking themselves, because, in this case, a "strategic" vote for the Liberals was a vote for Stephen Harper's Conservatives.
By the way, the NDP was as much to blame for this as the Liberals. This time they have specific examples that they can and should point to. They really need to be clear about how sometimes a vote for the Liberals is a vote for the Conservatives. And, worse, a vote for the Liberals is always a vote for the Liberals.

Friday, December 02, 2005


I totally had December 2 in the First Day Paul Martin Mentions His Father pool! From CP:
The prime minister returned to the health-care issue repeatedly, trying to convince voters that the Conservatives - and Harper's health-care initiatives - pose a serious threat to public medicare.

"I don't want to get emotional about this, but my father was the minister of health for 10 years who brought in the very beginnings of all of this," Martin said.

"We have to deal with wait times, and deal with the provinces, and Stephen Harper has never been there. Now all of a sudden he's going to tell us that the conversion on the road to Damascus has taken place? Give me a break."
I'd like to thank God and my agent...
Nobody Better Lay a Finger on my NDP.

NDP has had a tough time these first days of the election campaign. The Conservatives and Liberals have been getting all the ink -- and Paul Martin has already started trying to poach the Dipper vote. As CalgaryGrit writes, "Jack Layton... continues to get more and more marginalized. The guy has been absolutely invisible; I keep half expecting him to show up campaign rallies wearing a red and white striped shirt and hat."

In case Jack needs a little help, On the Fence would like to pass on a link to The Advertising Slogan - Generator (via This Blog). "Getting Results for People" is okay, I guess, but it sounds a bit like, "Hey, do want me to pick up your essay when I drop by the professor's office?"

Here are some Slogans suggested by the generator:

- We'll Leave The NDP On For You.
- Ask the Man From the NDP.
- Unzip an NDP.
- NDP, Take me Away.
- The Too Good to Hurry NDP.
- For That Deep Down Body NDP.
- NDP Tested, Mother Approved.

Actually, I think "Unzip the NDP" could be a winner. Do it!
Popcorn Panel

Today, in the Post (and free online), chief movie critic Chris Knight, Fametracker's Tara Ariano and I debate Syriana. In it, I dredge up my old argument about political art: "I just don't believe that making fictional movies is an effective way to create social change -- and certainly not an efficient one. I often think of all the filmmakers who made anti-Bush movies in the lead-up to the 2004 election; if they had spent even one-tenth of that time and energy knocking on doors in Pennsylvania instead of preaching to the art-house converted (I'm looking at you, John Sayles), the United States would now have a different president."
You're so predictable.

For those entering the various election pools, check out this timely article about prediction and expert opinion by Louis Menand in the New Yorker.
It is the somewhat gratifying lesson of Philip Tetlock’s new book, "Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know?" (Princeton; $35), that people who make prediction their business — people who appear as experts on television, get quoted in newspaper articles, advise governments and businesses, and participate in punditry roundtables — are no better than the rest of us. When they’re wrong, they’re rarely held accountable, and they rarely admit it, either. They insist that they were just off on timing, or blindsided by an improbable event, or almost right, or wrong for the right reasons. They have the same repertoire of self-justifications that everyone has, and are no more inclined than anyone else to revise their beliefs about the way the world works, or ought to work, just because they made a mistake.
No one is paying you for your gratuitous opinions about other people, but the experts are being paid, and Tetlock claims that the better known and more frequently quoted they are, the less reliable their guesses about the future are likely to be. The accuracy of an expert’s predictions actually has an inverse relationship to his or her self-confidence, renown, and, beyond a certain point, depth of knowledge. People who follow current events by reading the papers and newsmagazines regularly can guess what is likely to happen about as accurately as the specialists whom the papers quote. Our system of expertise is completely inside out: it rewards bad judgments over good ones.
[Thanks for passing along the article, Anders.]

I never know what to do when someone is arguing with you over something they don't know anything about.