Monday, January 31, 2005

You have the right to die.

Colby Cosh makes a good point -- how exactly did Marcel Tremblay "spark debate on the right-to-die issue"?
Forget Stroumboulopoulos.

Wells alerts the world to the relaunched CBC Arts website, which wants to be the next Salon or Slate or Something and describes itself as "a new online magazine covering ideas and trends in arts, media and entertainment."
Personally, I find this a much better way to spend our tax dollars than, say, The Hour, but I'm one of those folks who doesn't really watch teevee. Not out of cultural elitism -- it's just that I can't figure out how to be home at a certain time every week anymore. (Hey: Since the CBC is (mostly) government-funded, why doesn't it make its content available online for free download by Canadian citizens? Also, why isn't Da Vinci's Inquest available to rent at my local video store? I'd watch it then.)

Among the writers showcased on CBC.ca/Arts website -- which really needs a catchier name, preferably sans slashess or @s -- is Katrina Onstad, the Post's old movie reviewer who has been much-missed (see her Childstar review here), and Liz Hodgson, a former Post intern. Alec Scott, who edits the theatre stuff in Toronto Life, looks to be the theatre guy and has an article about the degayification of gay theatre in Canada that ain't so bad. (Though, in listing all the queer playwrights being produced this year, he neglects to mention that Winnipeg is currently midway through an entire friggin' festival dedicated to Michel Tremblay.)

Anyway, so far there isn't a heck of a lot of content up and the design's a little off, but it's promising...

Sunday, January 30, 2005

How we lost World War II

Doug Saunders' column in this Saturday's Globe and Mail was absolutely mind-blowing. It completely shattered the way I think about the Second World War:
[F]rom the gates of Auschwitz, you can see why the notion of "winning" the Second World War has a somewhat limited audience at times. We can celebrate it in Canada, because our soldiers did their work, and those who survived went home and life went on as usual. They can celebrate it in Russia, because they were the only unmitigated victors, at least by the standards of the time.

But over here, where the whole thing got started, and where its worst atrocities took place, things begin to get a bit scrambled. From here, it doesn't seem to make much sense at all. It wasn't a war for human rights; otherwise, they would have made the camps a priority. And it couldn't have been a war for freedom; that was given away with the wave of a hand. There was every reason to fight and there is no reason to believe that we could have done any better -- but six decades later, it might be time to stop calling it a victory.
I strongly urge you to read the whole thing.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Additional casting by J. Kelly Nestruck

In the fall of 2003, a few days after I interviewed Canadian actor, writer and director Don McKellar for the first time, I went to interview American indie actor Eric Stoltz (Pulp Fiction, etc.) about a miniseries he was in called Out of Order. So, Stoltz started talking about what a fan of Canadian actors and filmmakers he is and...
For the second time in the interview the American actor, who splits his time between New York, Los Angeles and his New Mexico ranch, brings up Canadian filmmaking, this time citing his favourite actors. "I like Molly Parker and Don McKellar. I'm a big fan of the film scene up here."

But Stoltz does have one beef with his northern neighbours. "They rarely seem to hire American actors," he complains. "We hire Canadian actors all the time ... probably because Canadian actors are a lot nicer than American actors."

When I tell Stoltz that I was interviewing McKellar the day before (that story ran in Monday's paper), he perks up and perches on the end of his chair. "Were you really? What a coincidence. Gee." He inquires about McKellar's latest projects and so I tell him about the Canadian actor and director's movie called Child Star which will begin filming in November.

"Put it in your article: Eric Stoltz would love to be in Don McKellar's new film," Stoltz instructs me.

All right, will do. If McKellar or any other Canadians would like to see an audition tape, they can tune in to a repeat of the first episode of Out of Order tomorrow night.
Anyway, long story short, Childstar -- Don McKellar second feature as director -- opens in Toronto and Vancouver tomorrow and has a cameo by Stoltz in it. McKellar's producer Jennifer Jonas spotted my Stoltz interview and passed it on to McKellar, who called him up and offered him the part of the titular child star's father.
My latest interview with McKellar about this and other Childstar-related things is online for free at the National Post website:
"Once I thought about it, I realized that Eric was genetically the perfect father to Mark Rendall, who plays the kid, with Jennifer Jason Leigh, because Mark has red hair and sort of Jennifer's face," recalls McKellar. "If you see them together, it's really a perfect family. It's one of the best genetic casting coups of all time that you -- you, sir -- engineered."
Anyway, in case you were wondering, this is a pretty unusual thing to happen in journalism. Thank god Stoltz does a good job and doesn't ruin the movie or anything. If that had happened, I wouldn't be shamelessly bragging about it...
Welcome to the Real World, [The Star] said to me...

Is it unusual for a judge presiding over a public commission of inquiry to talk to the media? Does the use of terms like "small-town cheap" in interviews or musing on the political ramifications of a commission constitute a "a reasonable apprehension of bias" so crippling that a new commissioner must take over? Does Chretien, despite having other reasons for wanting to put the commission in a "deep freeze", have a point?

What's normal in these things? What's not? I really don't know.

The Toronto Star tries to answer these questions today in an article headlined In 'real world,' judges talk. It's perhaps not the most useful article that could have been written on the subject, but it does contain this doozie of a quote from our Prime Minister Paul Martin, who may turn out to be just as quotable as his predecessor:
"It's totally inappropriate for me to comment on legal proceedings that are in front of the commission," Martin told reporters in Fredericton, where the Liberal caucus is meeting this week. "But one thing is very clear. We created the commission."
This is stripping things down to the Cartesian basics: The commission exists. We created it. I am the Prime Minister. I was elected. I was elected to be the Prime Minister. We created the commission to get to the bottom of this.

Great. Thanks, Paul Martin, once again, for your valuable insight into a pressing political matter.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Breaking Old Dutch News!

The West wants in? Well, baby, the West got in! Or, at least, the primary Western Canadian chip company got into the Toronto market.

Just got this e-mail from the fine customer care folks at Old Dutch Foods Canada
Hi There:
 
Thank you for the e-mail.  Please find a list following that shows some of the retailers that carry our products in Toronto. 

Walker's Line Convenience 3505 Upper Middle Road.
The Fuel Station 335 Jarvis St.
Super Queen Market  596 Queen St. W.
Lady York Foods   2939 Dufferin St.
Lakeshore Meats  3829 Lakeshore Blvd W.
Jay's Grocery   362 Gerard St. E.
Hometown Convenience  2371 Weston Road
IGA    1304 Kings St. W.
Bay St. Video     1172 Bay St.
Bemco Wholesale     52 Samor Rd
Atlanta Variety      368 Church St.
 
I hope this helps.  If you still have problems finding our products, you can now order online at www.olddutchfoods.ca. Choose the Canadian destination and then choose Old Dutch Store.

Regards,
Belinda Simms
Consumer Care Representative
Yes!!!
Annals of Funny Press Releases, Part MCLVII

Speaking of regalcock.ca, a colleague passes this press release on, drawing particular attention to the phrase "pressure pumping":
Attention Business And Energy Editors:
BJ Services Announces Declaration of Dividend

HOUSTON, Jan. 26 /CNW/ -- BJ Services Company announced today that its Board of Directors has approved a quarterly cash dividend in the amount of $.08 per share, payable April 15, 2005 to shareholders of record at the close of business on March 15, 2005.
BJ Services Company is a leading provider of pressure pumping and other oilfield services to the petroleum industry.
The BJ Services Company website atwww.bjservices.com (suitable for work) elaborates on the company's core services, which include "stimulation, downhole tools and coiled tubing services worldwide."

This is me in Grade 9, baby. This is me in Grade 9.

Ode to Old Dutch Chips


OldDutch
Originally uploaded by uncascrooge.
Oh, Old Dutch! How tasty are your chips?
So tasty. So tasty indeed.
And they come in a box!
What else comes in a box?
Cheerios.
Rings.
Sorrow and mischief for mankind.
You just never know what you'll find when you open a box.
What was I saying?
Oh yes. Old Dutch chips (esp. Bar-B-Q) I love you so.

---------------

So, I'm leaving Winnipeg tomorrow morning. But my reportage from the city's Michel Tremblay festival is free online forever. (Or 7 days.)
I regret having written about the weather in the lede. How trite.
See you back in Hogtown.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Dispatch from Winnipeg.

My TremblayFest reportage in the Post is online and free. Saints above!
Pundits Gone Wild.

How many more columnists and journalists can Warren Kinsella declare war on this week? I count Norman Spectator, Paul Wells, Isabelle Rodrigue and John Ivison just in the past few blog posts of his. Certainly, this ain't how you win a war. Or maybe it is. Diversion.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Holy Smokes!

The news here in Winnipeg is that inmates at the Headingley Correctional Centre have had their bibles confiscated, because too many of them have been ripping out pages to roll cigarettes.

I think the main reason this is on the front page of the Winnipeg Sun and the Winnipeg Free Press is because of the pun potential of this story: Holy smokes, holy rollers, etc. As the Free Press (not online) lede put it this morning, "The Bible is the hottest read at Headlingley jail these days." Ouch...

One inmate named Robert Mayo, who "has been left with only his own personal Bibles he brought in with him," told the Free Press that, "They shouldn't be doing this because the Bible will show (inmates) another path instead of the one they're following now."

Keep in mind, this is a fellow who checked in with a couple of his own personal bibles...
But it's a dry cold...

Greetings from sunny and surprisingly not-so-cold Winnipeg, the Prairie town where this intrepid blogger was born and is now passing a few days at TremblayFest immersing himself in the works of Montreal playwright Michel Tremblay. If all of the productions I see here this weekend are as brilliant as the Hosanna I saw last night at the MTC Warehouse, it will be a weekend of bliss...

So much has changed re: Winnipeg since I was last here some four years ago, not least of all the cost of getting here. Good god, $230 round-trip all taxes and levies included is comparable to what I pay to take the train from Toronto to Montreal and back. When I was a kid, it would cost twice that.

WestJet, by the way, aside from being cheap was also very comfortable, the attendants apologized profusely for being a mere half an hour late (ahem, VIA rail!), and I was able to watch President Bush's inauguration on the little satellite TVs in the back of every seat.

(Say what you will about his policies, Bush the Younger has incredible speechwriters. There were great echoes of Kennedy's "Ask not.." inauguration speech there. Actually, I see a number of parallels between Kennedy and Bush -- especially in the idealism/naivety of their foreign policies.)

Anyway, more on and from the 'Peg later.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire

Life can sometimes feel like an evening of Scrabble with all the vowels missing. Especially on a cold evening in January, when conversation with even the most scintillating of folks is reduced to an endless stream of scarf-muffled consonants.

But there are moments, even in darkest winter, that widen your eyes, quicken your heart and hoodwink your reason like a well-executed magic trick.

Here's one of the moments that I adore: When I'm walking down the street listening to music on my headphones and something in the outside world synchronizes with or complements my private soundtrack exactly. Suddenly, a man's stride perfectly matches the tempo. Or the subway's three-tone door-close salute is in the same key. Or a commuter with three strands of bleached-blonde hair peeking out from under her tuque looks up just at the song's climax and -- dramatic cymbal crash! -- cracks a semi-smile.

These instants of synchronicity are electric and thrill me like, I don't know, the first time I caught a fly ball. Everything aligned right and I don't know how but it's great, just great, and I didn't let it slip through my fingers.

All this to say that my microwave just beeped in time with Franz Ferdinand. It was awesome. If every moment of awesomeness was immediately followed by a warm bowl of soup, life would be too perfect to bear.
Whatever happened to Joe Clark?

Well, now he's the divine embodiment of love.
Your esoteric British humour of the day

This is really funny, but only to those who have a knowledge of both Destiny's Child and 1960s British sitcoms.
http://www.rathergood.com/alf/

Monday, January 17, 2005

Prince Harry, the anti-Fascist

Poor Prince Harry. He's always getting killed by the British press, which seems to be addicted to this good son/bad son storyline. The 20-year-old has lately been razzed for dressing up in a German desert uniform and a swastika arm band at a "colonials and natives" party, which I suppose is the British upper-crust version of the "pimp and ho" parties that have infected college campuses across North America.

Dressing up as a Nazi for a costume party is a pretty banal kind of offensive. The Nazi uniform as envelope-pushing costume is almost as old as the "funny, bumbling Nazi" in comedies. Having been to university Hallowe'en parties where people were "ironically" dressed up in much more immediately offensive costumes -- I recall an acquaintance dressed up as "the sniper's rifle" while the Washington sniper was still at large -- I don't think I would bat an eye at Harry's costume. It's not just the undergraduate arts faculty I was a part of either that revels in such horror-humour either -- Osama bin Laden masks were big sellers everywhere in 2001 and 2002. (Saddam, with spiderhole beard, was more popular this year.)

Of course, Prince Harry is a Prince, so he isn't allow to transgress at a costume party -- which is, of course, the whole point of costume parties and masquerades (the latter, a fine royal tradition) -- the way anonymous theatre students are.

What I like about Prince Harry's costume -- and I'm probably reading way too much into his choice here -- was how it subversively clashed with the theme of "colonials and natives."

Here you have a bunch of Richie and Rhonda Richs hanging out at a birthday party in Wiltshire paying kitschy homage to Britain's imperial past. Prince William is there too, and he's dressed like a friendly, cuddly lion.

But Harry shows up and with this costume, linking Mother England's "friendly" colonial past to one of the most brutal and genocidal regimes of the twentieth century. He draws attention to what monarchists would rather forget: that he is, after all, but just the youngest descendant of a long, long line of dictators. Way to shit all over his blue-blood buddies' ironic detachment.

While he-can-do-no-wrong William is content to play the role of the warm lion at "colonials and natives" parties (literal and otherwise) and play the role of the monarch-in-waiting instead of a real human being in the press, Harry refuses to do so. He is no more than a young man like any young man and he's not going to smile and play polo for the cameras. No, he's going to brawl with photographers who would rather that he fulfill his role of "royal", a role that he didn't ask to play and seems pretty uncomfortable with. In this sense, I think he is the true anti-Fascist of the Royal family.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Whither the Weekly Newsmagazine?

Anthony Wilson-Smith has quit as editor of Maclean's, which is no big surprise. The scuttlebutt over the past coupla months has been that Ken Whyte -- founding editor-in-chief of the National Post -- would be taking the editor position there sometime around February.

Wilson-Smith, the Paul Bunyon of Canadian journalism (he must be like 9 feet tall or something), did some very good things for Maclean's, for instance hiring Paul Wells as the back page columnist. But there's not a lot you can do when you're weathering cuts of $2 million to the editorial budget.

There is a "common wisdom" theory that in the age of 24/7 news on the Internet, the newsmagazine is a relic of an ancient time when people could wait 'til the weekend to read the week's news and horses and buggies filled the streets. I think that's pretty much bunk -- you could say the same thing about newspapers -- but then again I don't read weekly newsmagazines...

In the Toronto Star article, Wilson-Smith says that under his editorship the mag "moved from having a base philosophy of `reading the news here first' to `trying to tell you a little more than you already knew or trying to tell different off-track things.'" Yeah, that's what it seemed like...

Here's hoping Whyte or whoever takes over figures out how to make Maclean's relevant once again. Whether that's by turning it into a general interest magazine, or doing a lot of service journalism and "guides" like their popular University Rankings issue, or -- cross your fingers, but don't hold your breath -- restocking their foreign bureaus (and, for that matter, Canadian bureaus) and outreporting the dailies...

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

No posting today

Oooh, paradox!

No, seriously, I can't think of anything to say about Gilles Duceppe's Western Canada Farewell Tour, because I'm saddened by the news of the passing of The Unicorns.

Monday, January 10, 2005

And in more serious news... The People Choice Awards

And the Favourite People Choice Award Story Lede goes to the Melbourne Herald Sun:
Two controversial films that defied the odds to earn millions at the box office joined a familiar green ogre to take top honours at the 31st Annual People's Choice Awards on yesterday.
(The writer is referring to Shrek 2, The Passion of the Christ, and Fahrenheit 9/11, but not necessarily in that order.)

This is a significant reminder that though it is now very fashionable to denounce and belittle Fahrenheit 9/11 and The Passion of the Christ (actually it has been fashionable to denounce and belittle The Passion of the Christ right from the start), these two films have had a huge impact on the culture. We can try to pretend that they didn't happen, but they did and they're clearly well loved by the same people who voted Julia Roberts as "Crest fans favourite smile."
Averted Scandal at the Canada Wheat Board!

Warren Kinsella recently reported that MP Reginald Alcock (Winnipeg South) almost purchased the domain name www.regalcock.com... The truth is even more shocking.

Further investigation has revealed that the President of the Treasury Board did in fact have his website located at www.regalcock.ca for a good five months, but then decided to change his internet address to www.reg-alcock.ca sometime around October. The last thing the Minister responsible for the Canada Wheat Board posted at www.regalcock.ca was this Joint Statement by President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Paul Martin on Co-operation in the struggle against terrorism on October 10.

I can’t believe the media missed this! During an election year no less! No, they were too distracted by the ol’ www.belinda.com vs. www.belinda.ca business. (Liberal media bias at work or sexist media bias at work? If Conservative, pick the former. If NDP, pick the latter. If Liberal, pat self on back. Again.)

Anyway, On the Fence has sent an e-mail to Minister Alcock’s office asking for an explanation as to what prompted his sudden domain shift. We’ll get back to you soon. (That’s the regal we.)

Friday, January 07, 2005

Dr. Delillo’s House of Horrors

Today, White Noise, a horror movie starring Michael Keaton with the same title as an acclaimed Don Delillo novel, opens across the continent. Last year, Underworld, a vampire/werewolf movie starring Kate Beckinsale with the same title as an acclaimed Don Delillo novel, scared hearts and minds around the world.

Adaptations gone horribly, horribly awry? Or just a terrible Delilliputian coincidence?

If White Noise is a success, can we expect more filmmakers to follow suit? Will we see...

More Horror Movies with the Same Titles as Don Delillo's Books?

Libra
Genre: Teen horrorEnd Zone
Tagline: Before you go to the school dance, don’t forget to check your…. HORRORscope!

Mao II
Genre: Zombie / Hong Kong horror
Tagline: Get out your dunce cap. The Chairman's back.

The Names
Genre: M. Night Shyamalan rip-off
Tagline: Recess is over. Time for Roll Call.

End Zone
Genre: Stephen King horror starring Christopher Walken and directed by David Cronenberg
Tagline: Touch... Down.

Cosmopolis
Genre: Technophobic dystopian horror
Tagline: In the city of the future, everyone is controlled by robots and little computer chips implanted in their brain.

amerIcana
Genre: Left-wing American dystopian horror
Tagline: Are you now or have you ever been DEAD?

Running Dog
Genre: Right-wing American dystopian horror
Tagline: The Berlin Wall has fallen. The other way.

The Body Artist
Genre: Serial killer thriller
Tagline: He wants to make you his masterpiece…

Nightmare on Great Jones Street
Genre: Yet another Freddy movie
Tagline: Soon it’ll be… Great BONES Street!

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Weakly Weekly: Part LXI in a series

What tsunami-related text is on the cover of the print edition of Toronto's Now Magazine this week?
Tsunami Tragedy
- Don't just blame nature
- Death watch as porn
- The West cares, but for how long?
Mother of pearl! Can you not put aside your agenda for one freaking largest-natural-disaster-in-our-lifetime moment?

In other knee-jerk news, this week's auntie.com over at Rabble is a doozie!

Waaaaa! I'm cranky!

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

How hot are les blogues starting to be in Quebec?

Even a striking worker at the SAQ has started one! [Via Verstehen]

Ah, the distinctness of my home province even extends to its blogosphere...
The New Year (Continued)

Is it just me or is everything awfully quiet lately? In the blogosphere particularly.

I suppose we have the tsunami to thank for this. It's as if people have realised that most of what they argue passionately about is rather inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. As long-time Montreal Gazette reporter Hubert Bauch pointed out in his year-end round-up, if same-sex marriage was the most divisive and difficult issue facing Canadians this year, then 2004 was an annus not-so-horribilis.

So, let's talk movies then. How 'bout that?

1) What's up with all these critics (ie. Slate's David Edelstein) listing Hero and House of Flying Daggers side by side on their top ten lists? They were different movies, folks! I, for one, loved Hero, but thought House of Flying Daggers was overlong and a little too ridiculous. Hero was an epic and had something to say, House of Flying Daggers was fluffy and silly.
Can you imagine anyone putting together two English-language films by the same director like that? Lumping Hero and House of Flying Daggers together basically says, "Man, I liked them pretty, colourful Chinese movies!"

2) But wait! David Edelstein is so right about something else: "Any year that produces Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a great one for movies." Agreed!
You know what I'm tired off? Critics whining about how baaaad movies are this year or last year or the year before. Look: You're never going to be young again and it's never going to the seventies again and you're never going to be young in the seventies again. Get over it!

3) I'm linking to Slate for the third time in a row! It's time for the annual Critic v. Critic Movie Club, and it's a real humdinger!

4) The New York Times' A.O. Scott acknowledges it: Sideways is the most overrated movie of the year. This should make some people very happy. But it will make Charles Krauthammer cry.

5) I'll say this here: Angels in America is the most overrated TV movie of the year.
I don't know if Ross of The American Scene would like it more if he saw the stage play instead of the misguided TV movie. (Dale Peck had a good piece comparing the two earlier this year.) But I'll admit that I go through stages of liking and disliking it. In a university seminar back in the day, I argued that it was a play permanently mired in the 1980s and was aging really badly. But then I decided I liked it later on...
I'm undecided and really need to get it out and read it again, especially given my recent shift towards thinking that all agitprop is bad for theatre and bad for politics.

6) I have nothing else to say about movies right now. If you're interested in the state of Canadian journalism, however, I'd direct you to this article by Paul Wells. I'm a little skeptical of his cure, but I have to ruminate on it further before discussing it. And I may never discuss it, because, well, you can figure it out...
Jean Paul The Best

lemieuxWhile visiting family in Ottawa over the holidays, I stopped in at the National Art Gallery to see the Jean Paul Lemieux exhibit. I was unfamiliar with his work, but: Zowie.

People seem to love his funny block-faced people, but that's not what did it for me. It was his landscapes that I fell in love with. All of his horizons are slightly tilted, as if he cocked his head to the side like a dog in order to consider them fully. Or as if he was painting from an airplane swooping down low over the ground.

Anyway, there was a time when I considered landscapes, to use an art historical term, "boring." I found nurture so much more interesting than nature. But in recent years, I've really started to love gazing at forests and farmlands and single, solitary Jack pines. I've come up with the following theory to explain it: Landscapes are mental self-portraits. You see the land the way the painter sees the land. It’s like you are in his head.

When someone is painting something interesting or specific, like a person or a scene, you get distracted by the subject. But landscapes are so banal and inherently bland that you can really focus in how the painter is seeing rather than what she is seeing.

Looking through Jean Paul Lemieux's eyes, I felt we were fairly simpatico as human beings. Judging by the Quebec artist's popularity, a lot of people must relate to his cool, compassionate and slightly cocked mental landscape.

The exhibit Homage to Jean Paul Lemieux -- organized to mark the centenary of his birth -- closed in Ottawa on Saturday, but re-opens at the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec on February 10. As if you needed another reason to visit Quebec City during Carnaval...

And in Theatre news...

- Over at Torontoist, I've posted a list of nine Toronto plays I liked in 2004 -- not the best, just some I felt like noting while going over my notes for the year.

- Also, Kim Cattrall on the London stage playing a paralysed woman who has no feeling beneath her neck? Talk about casting against type...

Monday, January 03, 2005

So this is the new year...

Welcome back to On the Fence after a week and a half of bloggio silence. It was hard to keep away at first. Then less hard. Then I started to imagine how beautiful and productive life could be without a blog.

I could write a novel! thought I.

I could spend more time with my loved ones! thought I further.

And yet, here I am.

Despite having chosen journalism as my vocation, I sometimes wonder: Why? Why all this communication? What is being communicated?

"What do you read, my lord?" asks Polonius. "Words, words, words," replies Hamlet.

Or, as Hawkley Workman puts it, "Words I think are just / a noisy dirty wind, / makes the trouble we get in, / so why do we speak?"

During much of the time I was not blogging, I also wasn’t watching television, listening to the radio or reading the newspaper. I was on a diet from my daily media diet.

I was checking my e-mail, though. And on Boxing Day an e-mail arrived from a friend vacationing on an island in the Indian Ocean. The subject line was "Disaster." She described how she and her mother were on the beach and made it to safety just in time. Her resort survived, but others on lower land nearby were destroyed.

What tsunami? I thought.

I immediately set about getting myself up to date. And then, perusing through the blogs I link to on the left, I was pleased to find that most if not all of them had linked to aid agencies -- like the Canadian Red Cross -– and the South-East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami Blog.

(Sure, this was occasionally accompanied by a little minor sniping about which Canadian politician did or did not respond fast enough, but what do you expect people to do with their anger when there’s really no one to be angry at? In a culture addicted to blame, what do you pin the unblameable on?)

Anyway, the point is this: I’m sometimes very pessimistic and/or cynical about blogs.

And journalism.

And speaking.

And humanity in general.

But sometimes I’m not. And the beginning of a New Year is as good a time as any not to be.

Have a safe and happy 2005!