Tuesday, January 31, 2006

More fun with recut movie trailers.

Remember Shining, the trailer for The Shining that made it out to be a heart-warming comedy? Now here's... SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE! Bwaa-haa-haa!

This, by the way, reminds me of something my friend Lindsay Bernath said to me over the phone the other day: "It's funny if you think of censorship as remixing."

Funny, indeed. When Star Wars fans excised Jar-Jar Binks from The Phantom Menace, it was a technological innovation story; but when companies like Clean Films bowdlerize Hollywood films on DVD, it was all about the perils of censorship.
I see London, I see...

I completely missed this story that CKOI's Marc-Antoine Audette and Sébastien Trudel called Jacques Chirac on Friday and got through to the French president while pretending to be Stephen Harper. (BBC has an English-language story; funny only the Sun chain seems to have picked up on this in English Canada.)

Funny gag, but Michel Vastel asks why Harper talked to the leaders of Mexico, the U.S., England and Australia the day after the election and not Chirac... Interesting selection of world leaders.
Send more... PDA MPs to Ottawa?

In the 2004 election, the NDP doubled its popular vote... In the 2006 election, their caucus size grew by 50%...

Looking at these gains, it's obvious: Time for a name change.

Rabble babblers are suggesting all kinds of new names for the NDP, from the not so serious (Progressive Democratic Alliance) to the plausible (the Progressive Party of Canada).

Perhaps a name change isn't such a bad idea. The NDP, right now, could stand for No Damn Power.

After thinking about the numbers for a week (crunch, crunch), I suddenly realised this about Jack's Orange Revolution: Man, the NDP has no sway in this minority parliament. The Conservatives can pass any legislation that just they and the Bloc approve of. And they can pass any legislation that just they and the Liberals approve of... But even if the entire NDP caucus approves of a Conservative measure, they still need a couple Liberals or Bloc MPs to vote with them for legislation to pass.

Plus: The NDP can't team up with either the Liberals or the Bloc alone to bring down the government on a confidence motion. The Liberals and the Bloc, however, can bring down the government without the NDP's help.

It would have been a hell of a lot different if the NDP had won just two more ridings. That must be killing them.

Can Jack Layton keep the NDP relevant in this situation? The only two things on his side are that: a) Many Canadians think that cooperating with the Bloc means you are a traitor dog; and b) Many Conservatives think that cooperating with the Liberals means you are a traitor dog. Also, I suppose, there's the fact that a strong NDP is bad for the Liberals, thus good for the Conservatives. (So Harper would be wise to let Jack win the occasional concession.)

Still: No Damn Power.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Liberal leadership, or lack thereof.

My colleague Adam Radwanski gave us all a fascinating peek into the world of Paul Martin's Liberals in today's Post. A one-time Young Liberal, Radwanski was chased out of the party because he wouldn't toe the PM PM line:
The final straw came a few weeks later. Still working at Queen's Park, I was asked why I was spreading rumours about Martin's plans for that same convention. It turned out a young Liberal I'd generally been friendly with had been warning senior Martinites that I was claiming they were planning a coup attempt against Chretien.

As it happened, they actually did attempt a coup against Chretien. But I had no advance knowledge of it, and I'd never discussed it with anyone.

When I called the young Liberal to ask why he was making up stories about me, he started crying. The reason was obvious: In the paranoid Martin universe, this was the way to get ahead.

It had all gotten way too weird. That convention was the last event I ever went to as a Liberal.
Read the whole thing; it's really interesting. Makes me think of the old Kissinger quote about student politics being so vicious precisely because the stakes are so small... Paul Martin is kind of the perfect Student Union president, isn't he?

In case you think this is a sore loser article, let me just say this: Radwanski is the token Liberal -- a left-leaning liberal at that -- on the National Post's editorial board. The guy can work constructively alongside conservatives day in and day out. He's a cooperative guy... How ridiculous that a team player like him would have his hat handed to him by the Martinites. No wonder the Liberal party is in such a sorry state right now, a mousetrap ready to snap your puny neck as McKenna sort of put it.

How many other bright, young folks like Radwanski were chased out of the party in their twenties because of the Liberal civil war? How will that affect the party 10-15 years down the line? Team Martin's shortsightedness may continue to haunt the party long after their hero is gone...

In a way, it doesn't really matter who wins the Liberal leadership race that we will hear about ad nauseum for the next forever. What matters is that everyone has their voice heard and the process is fair...
I own that pause.

The New York Times asks, Can a theatre director's work be copyrighted?
Things you may not know about thinkers you thought you knew.

Noam Chomsky on globalization: "For the record, I am in favour of globalization... I agree with th 18th-century economic philosopher Adam Smith...."

Adam Smith on PDAs: "[T]he person so nice with regard to this machine, will not always be found either more scrupulously punctual than other men, or more anxiously concerned upon any other account, to know precisely what time of day it is. What interests him is not so much the attainment of this piece of knowledge, as the perfection of the machine which serves to attain it. How many people ruin themselves by laying out money on trinkets of frivolous utility? What pleases these lovers of toys is not so much the utility, as the aptness of the machines which are fitted to promote it."

Sunday, January 29, 2006

You can't fight Islamism with gay cowboys.

This article is not of the calibre I usually link to... But that headline is just so funny. (Hat tip to Thursday.)

It's official: "You can't fight Islamism with gay cowboys" is the new "You don't make friends with salad."
Israel: No one belongs here more than you.

Does anyone else find the Israeli Ministry of Tourism's slogan a little, um, impolitic?

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Coffee talk.

So, maybe the election was all about Tim Horton's and Starbucks after all... Starbucks, anyway.

In other news, the CBC accidentally put a graphic of the letters HEI with a vertical cursor at the end (yes, it looks like 'Heil') under Harper's name on The National the other night... Very, very weird.

Truth: it remains stranger than fiction.
Post-election blogstravaganza...

Any Toronto bloggers/bloggees going to Let it Bleed's celebration at Fiddlers Green tomorrow night? I've got a cold, but, depending on drippy I am, I may head over...

Gee whiz, we know Stephen Harper hugs his kids. We've seen pictures of him hugging his kids.

And yet, Harper shakes hands with his son and daughter after dropping them off at school one day and the blogosphere goes n u t s.

I would just like to say two things here:

1) When I was Ben's age, I would have had a freakin' ohmygoddadIcantbelieveyouhuggedmeinfrontofallmyfriends! fit if my father hugged me when he dropped me off at school. And that wouldn't have even been in front of dozens of creepy photographers capturing the moment for posterity.

2) Am I the only one who finds it cute when adults shake kids' hands? I've only seen the pictures, but I like to picture it this way:

Rachel: Have a good day, Daddy Prime Minister!
Stevie H., with a shake and a wink: Thank you for your support.
Ben: God Dad, that fat guy with the beard is looking right at us.
Stevie H.: Yeah, that CP guy totally freaks me out. Hey, have a good day at school, sport. Mom and her RCMP detail'll see you at 1500 hours.
Ben: I wish I was, like, invisible.

Blogger Up In Ontario was working as a poll clerk in the exact same Vancouver Centre poll as blogger Sarah Marchildon. We therefore have two independent accounts of the day in a life of a single poll in the 2006 election. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised by this, and yet I am a little. They're everywhere, these bloggers, and I quite like it.

In other news, I never really pull my hair out over alleged low voter turnout, youth or overall, but I nonetheless was pleased to see the official turnout up to 64.9%. And that's before any duplicate names have been discovered. (I, for one, know I was registered to vote in Trinity-Spadina, but would have been marked down as having not shown up because I moved to the Davenport riding -- and, like many others, registered right at my poll on the day of the election.)

More winter elections for everyone!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The first phone call between Bush and Harper.

Optimus Crime imagines...
CBC Arts Watch.

I am endlessly amused by the headline writer over at CBC's online arts portal.

Today's giggler: AOL site features 'gay' music.
Democracy in Action

Wondering why Vancouver Centre was the last riding to report on Monday night? In a hilarious tell-all, Deputy Returning Officer (and blogger) Sarah Marchildon introduces us to temporary Elections Canada employee Keith:
At 9 a.m., Keith ate some pepperoni that ended up giving him bad gas. When he told me about his upset stomach, I asked him if there was anything I could get him.
"A kiss," he replied.
By 10 a.m., my patience was running thin.
"Look," I told him. "We’re here to do a very important job and you’re not taking it seriously. You’re not being very professional."
He thought I was kidding. And then he started asking if he could lay his head on my shoulder so he could take a nap.
By 11 a.m., Keith was telling me how sexy he thought the NDP scrutineer was. Which was creepy considering she was about 40 years younger than he was. His eyes kept following her all over the room. He even named her "swivel hips" because of the way she walked.
"Oh, there goes swivel hips," he’d say every time she left her seat. "Look at her! You could walk like that if you wanted to."
There's much, much more...

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

I, for one, welcome our Conservative overlords.

Generally speaking, I'm pleased. I was hoping for a Conservative minority with the NDP holding the balance of power. Instead, we got a Conservative mini-minority with the NDP, a former shock jock radio host, and one or two Bloc or Liberal renegades holding the balance of power.

That's much more fun!

Oh, and I am super pleased to have come in third in James Bow's Federal Election Pool. (I would have tied for first if I had remembered to put in my early prediction on time.)

Some Tuesday-morning quarterback questions:

- How do Canadians keep electing these freakin' close minority governments? Jokers.
- Will Harper be a Diefenbaker or a Clark?
- Does Michael Ignatieff actually do his own laundry and vacuuming?
- Is Jack going to shave his 'stache? The trimming conditions have been met...
- Why did Paul Martin wait until his resignation speech to show Canada his decent, good-guy side?

And one word of advice to Prime Minister Designate Harper: Keep wearing your glasses. You look kindly in glasses.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Liveblogging from Manoir Chow!

Live from Trinity-Spadina, it's On the Fence's first Election Night. Leave comments below or e-mail me at jkelly@gmail.com. Hot diggity.

1:00AM: Goodnight everybody. I'm gonna catch the Harper speech replay tomorrow morning. Thanks for all your comments and e-mails!

12:55AM: Okay. Let's get Prime Minister Stephen Harper out here. I'm tired.

12:50AM: First Ira Dubinsky sighting of the evening! Congrats Ira. (We were compost monitors together during elementary school in NDG.)

12:49AM: "We will not just oppose, we will propose!" (That's good. Did you write that, Ian?)

12:48AM: I'm getting tired! This liveblogging is no longer making sense! Boooo! Booo!

12:46AM: They're booing Harper! Boooo! Boooo!

12:42AM: What does that mean? And what do you mean your party puts working X, Y & Z at the front of the line? Shouldn't there be no line?

12:38AM: This just in: Canada's Orange Revolution! (Well...)

12:30AM: Here comes Layton. Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Jack say he'd shave his moustache if Olivia won and the NDP increased their seats? Stay tuned!

12:28AM: Duceppe says he'll work with Harper. Meanwhile, on CBC, Kim Campbell says, "Whatever."

12:23AM: Why isn't CBC covering Duceppe's speech? Ridiculous.

12:19PM: Well, if these numbers hold Conservatives (124) + Crazy Talk Show Independent (1) + NDP (29) that's EXACTLY HALF. What the hell? How do Canadians keep doing this? I guess we just like instability. Everyone holds the balance of power!

12:14PM: Bye Paul Martin. (He just said he won't lead the Libs into another election.) I respect you for this.

12:13PM: Did ex-PM PM just say that he likes to make little girls fidget?

12:11PM: Resign! Resign! Resign!

12:10PM: My spouse's name isn't Sheila.

12:09PM: Ex-PM PM: I called Stephen Harper. I congratulated him. My eyebrows thickened to Levyesque proportions.

12:01PM: Here he is. Paul Martin. He kind of looks like Eugene Levy right now.

11:45PM: Olivia Chow wins Trinity-Spadina. Our Trinity-Spadina living room goes wild.

11:32PM: There will be a recount on Radiohead fan Tony Clement's COnservative with in Parry Sound-Muskoka. 21 votes separating Clement and Liberal. There are two colours in my head! What? What is that you try to say?

11:27PM Hot rumour: Apparently Paul Martin is considering NOT conceding. Whaaaa? Is he trying to form a coalition with the NDP as we speak?

11:23PM -- Long lines in Vancouver Centre, so they extended the voting hours. That's what they're saying, anyway. Fry's up with the first polls reporting.

11:22PM -- Everyone agrees: Joe Volpe looks like Alex Trebek.

11:20PM -- Evan Solomon to Ignatieff: What's the first thing you're going to do as an elected MP? Ignatieff: "I'm going to go home and vacuum my home and do my laundry." (Actual quote.)

11:18PM -- Regalcock is fighting back!

11:17PM -- What is going on in Vancouver Centre? It's the only riding not to report any results. (Sarah Marchildon? Is this your doing?)

11:14PM -- Garneau: I'm unemployed. Politics more difficult than astronauting.

11:11PM -- Cabinet Ministers defeated: Saada, Valeri. Frulla, McLellan, Carroll, Ianno, Blondin-Andrew trailing.

11:08PM -- Stronach wins, Frulla loses. And here's your Cabinet Minister break-down from CBC, passed on by Mike Gillis. Only two shots can be taken for sure.

10:54PM -- Press release from Global: "Global Television was the first network out of the election gates tonight, calling a Conservative government at exactly 7:30 p.m. ET to Maritime audiences." Expect CTV to counter with a press release of their own claiming to have called it at 3:00PM ET in Australia.

10:52PM -- Tony Valeri is defeated by the NDP dude. Ha! (Bulte's behind, but it's too close to call.) If those two and Ianno go down, I will be very happy.

10:51PM -- Now Chow's up and Pettigrew's down. Stop! My head is spinning!

10:44PM -- Hot time in Trinity-Spadina tonight. 43.2% for Ianno. 42.4% for Chow with 9.2% reporting.

10:42PM -- "Keith Boag has a creepy ring. It cements his creepiness," says Kate Swoger.

10:41PM -- Ignatieff has been called! He's in.

10:39PM -- Liberal blow out! Regalcock is down in Winnipeg! Landslide Annie slides landward! (What?) Garneau behind the BQ! ("Come on, he's an astronaut!") At least they've still got Carolyn Bennett. (Sorry Kent.)

10:36PM -- Elections Canada has a much better site than the Globe. Surprises: Cutler's behind McGuinty; Pettigrew's leading in Papineau.

10:30PM -- Ten Conservatives in Quebec? As I live and breathe. Ici, c'est le Con. (Paul Martin won his riding.)

10:20PM -- Torontoist's Ali B. writes, "Sarah T. is wrong about Evan Solomon - he is a
smarm-bucket." Sarah T. asks, "Don't you think Ed Broadbent look like Andy Rooney?"

10:18PM -- The Green dream dies.

10:15PM -- The Greens are ahead in a riding? That's cool. Which one?

10:11PM -- Brian Mulroney on CTV. He looks healthy. Healthier than Craig Oliver, in fact. (Jason Rehel reports: Mulroney just made a Ben Mulroney joke. Wah-wah-wah...)

10:08PM -- CBC projects Conservative Minority. Live results at Globe, fyi.

10:05PM -- Paul Martin's trailing the new mom in Lasalle-Emard! The Awesome! (Also, only two polls reporting, admittedly.)

10:00:30 PM -- CTV just called Conservative Minority. That was quick.

9:59PM -- Hi Cameron: Sarah L, Ben E., Rohanna, Jason Rehel, Jason Chow and I say hi.

9:51PM -- Stop nodding Evan Solomon. Stop. Nodding. (On the other hand, Sarah Treleaven says he is cute.)

9:46PM -- Steven Page is going to premiere a new song called "Bull in a China Shop" at NDP HQ tonight. Great.

9:44PM -- Memo to Diana Swain. Re: Incredulous. I don't think that word means what you think it does.

9:41PM -- Other livebloggers this evening include Andrew Coyne and Antonia Zerbisias. They will be similarly boring until 10:00PM EST.

9:38PM -- Keith Boag said harbinger.

9:35PM -- Peter Mackay and Scott Brison, the rivalry that will never die.

9:30PM -- We're live. CTV already has numbers coming in. I guess I'm not allowed to say anything until 10:00p.m.
Voting, Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll.

Hey, remember last election? I just stumbled across my last election day entry and thought I'd repost it with a slight edit...
Campaign Diary, Last Day: Slip it in.

This [evening], I went to the local polling station, marked an X on my ballot, folded it in three and -- under the watchful eyes of two clerks and a scrutineer -- slid it right into the tight slot of the ballot box.

Look: You can be cynical and hate politics and think all the candidates are crooks and think our electoral system is a bunch of garbage. You can think all of these things and still vote.

Just do it. It's a rush. It makes you feel good, like when you pick a piece of garbage off the street or say hello to a stranger in the park or any other number of moments when you connect with your offline community.

I held the long, thin ballot by its very end and pushed it deep into that box until my fingers hit cardboard. Then I let go and it made a satisfying, soft clunk like a watch dropping to the floor off the side of your bed.

I made sweet love to my country today and it felt good.
Whew... Is it hot in here, or is it just Keith Boag?
Heureusement, ici, c'est le Boag.

Hey folks! Liveblogging action will commence a little later than previously thought. Let's say, a little after 9. I mean, otherwise you'll just get a lot of commentary about the cocktail weiners. ("This dijonnaise really doesn't cut the mustard!")

By the way, I'd like to take this moment to thank the eccentrics of Canada. If it weren't for them, apparently there would be no one to work the polls. I swear, every single official dude and dudette at the my polling station was either sporting a non-ironic beard, over-sized glasses, or capris. Each of them was slightly odd-looking or had a strange tic.

Eccentrics, I salute you! Democracy runs smooth because you have nothing better to do!

(To my blogging deputy returning officer friend, I jest. But I'm sure you'll have stories.)
Shot in the dark.

After consulting the star alignments, checking the weather in certain Saskatchewan ridings, and putting on my pair of clairvoyant underwear, I have determined that tomorrow morning, our parliament will look like this:

Cons: 128
Libs: 94
Bloc: 57
NDP: 28
Ind: 1

Frankly, I haven't the foggiest how I came up with that. And I am ready to be surprised.

A reminder: I'll be liveblogging it like Beckham from the Trinity-Spadina living room of Jason Chow this evening. Since we'll be doing a shot every time a cabinet minister goes down, it's possible that my entries will be incoherent by the time the Montreal polls are counted.... Watch this space!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Joining the Liveblogging revolution!

Hey, folks. Starting tomorrow night sometime around 8, I will be liveblogging Election Night 2006, live from the swinging Trinity-Spadina living room of one Jason Chow, television columist for the Ottawa Citizen. Mr. Chow may weigh in from time to time with a bon mot here or there, as will my friend Sarah Treleaven, who last night told me, "I feel about the Liberal Party the same way I feel about men right now."

I'm sitting down with an abacus and graphing paper tonight to figure out my seat prediction for the office pool and will post that tomorrow.

In the meantime, here are four reads for you to consider as you head to the ballot box tomorrow. They have all, in a way, affected my personal vote:

- "Why Paul Martin has to go" by Paul Wells;
- "Far Right" by Andrew Coyne;
- An opinion on the Conservative and NDP platforms by Declan at Crawl Across the Ocean; and
- Democratic Space's final Strategic Voting guide.

Please folks, if you do vote strategically, remember my motto: Be Strategiot, Not An Eedeeot.

Saturday, January 21, 2006


Apparently, if you don't like Leah McLaren's upcoming novel, Toby Young will eat her panties. (Well, that's one interpretation, anyway.)
Toronto: It ain't over until it's over.

As a former resident of Trinity-Spadina, there are few things I would like better than to see Tony Ianno go down in this election as E.P. predicts will happen. But don't count Lazy Tony out. Riding up Ossington on the bus this afternoon, I saw literally dozens of freshly planted Ianno signs on lawn...

As for my current riding, Davenport, where the race is between Liberal Mario Silva and NDPer Gord Perks, my household has now received four flyers that I've seen: Two from Perks, one from Silva, and one from Conservative spoiler Theresa Rodrigues. Perks seems to have a lot of momentum, at least in my part of the huge riding, but Silva's single, cheaply-printed flyer includes a number to call if I need a ride to the polls -- that's the sign of a real electoral machine. This one is going to be close, I think.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Comment ma mère accoucha de moi durant sa campagne électorale.

It's a girl! Bloc candidate for Lasalle-Émard May Chiu gives birth to Tian three days before the election.

Sometimes, I fantasize that I'm the one who invented a certain word. For instance, "beturtlenecked."

This word recently cropped up this week in Xtra!'s editorial Harper's Holy War:
Canada's gay communities have rarely known political leaders to be our champions. But I can't recall another leader who so actively tried to turn religious people against their gay fellow citizens.

It's one thing for Stephen Harper, the nutty rightwing opposition leader, to conduct himself thus. But imagine Stephen Harper, freshly trimmed and beturtlenecked, as our prime minister: goading the faithful, exploiting misunderstandings, fomenting bigotry, shredding the social fabric. It's shameful, reprehensible and menacing.
I first used the word beturtlenecked in the National Post in an interview I conducted with Bernardo Bertolucci in February of 2004:
[M]any of revolutionaries of 1968 were also involved in a few movements that have not aged so well. [Bertolucci's] The Dreamers acknowledges this in the character of Theo, a young, beturtlenecked intellectual who admires Chairman Mao and the Chinese Cultural Revolution and is just waiting for a reason to toss his first Molotov cocktail. In Theo's cinephilic mind, the Long March is a great cinematic event choreographed by a brilliant director.
The next month, I again used the word in a review of Matthew Barney's Cremaster Cycle.

Alas, however, it seems that I was not the first to fashion a word after bespectacled to deal with turtlenecks. A Google search turns up a mere 30 hits for "beturtlenecked" -- but there is single hit that dates to before February, 2004. In a review of Phranc's 1989 album "I Enjoy Being a Girl," The Guardian James Delingpole apparently wrote: "At her best Phranc can easily match both the earthy richness of the beturtlenecked Tracy Chapman and the sweetly innocent tones of Suzanne Vega."

Likewise, an Infomart search turns up a single article that uses the word "beturtlenecked" before I did in its database. In 1998, The Gazette's long-time Quebec City columnist Don MacPherson refered to Andre Caille as " the smooth-talking, beturtlenecked president of Hydro."

So, while I seem not to have been the first to combine "turtleneck" with the prefix be- and the suffix -ed, beturtlenecked is not a common word. We should work together to change that.

Thank you.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Election Shocker!

Chow canvasser helps chow chow.
Liberal desperation...

Dirty tricks? Truly unbelievable antics!
Marry while the marrying's good!

I've been waiting for this story to appear: Gays rush to altar, fearing marriage law at risk.
Gay couples across Canada are rushing to the altar, worried that a possible Conservative government will reverse the legalization of same sex marriages.

Daniel Lockwood and Jason Cass were one couple who got married Wednesday in Toronto.

"We decided Saturday night (to get married) Wednesday afternoon. The election is Monday. We wanted to do it before Monday," Cass said.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper said at the beginning of the election campaign that he would allow a free vote on the issue if the Conservatives form the next government. [On the Fence adds: The Conservative position is that any same-sex couples who have already married before the new proposed "civil union" legislation is enacted will remain married.]

Pastor Mickey Wilson in Edmonton is scheduled to marry five same-sex couples in 10 days.

Toronto's city hall wedding co-ordinator, Louise Code, said there are 10 same-sex marriages booked for Friday.

"We've noticed a considerable surge in same sex weddings that wish to be performed," she said.

Ontario Health Minister George Smitherman and his partner are also considering pushing up their marriage date if Harper becomes prime minister.

"We're concerned that the rights we currently have that are constitutionally guaranteed are put at risk by Mr. Harper," Smitherman said.
The Conservative Party's anti-SSM stance is the main reason why I won't seriously consider casting my vote for them, even if I am rooting for a Conservative minority.

Already it's having negative consequences... Rushing to the altar is never a good idea. Gay and lesbian couples should have the rest of their lives to decide whether or not to get married.

[Some of my thoughts on this issue are over at Tart Cider's blog.]
Papa Harper don't preach.

I found this tidbit at the end of La Presse's account of Harper's last swing through Montreal quite interesting:
Comme d'habitude, M. Harper a terminé son discours par son traditionnel «À la prochaine !».

En matinée, à Toronto, le chef conservateur avait dû expliquer aux journalistes pourquoi, au Québec, il ne conclut pas ses allocutions par «Que Dieu bénisse le Canada!» comme il le fait au Canada anglais.

«Que Dieu bénisse le Canada, ça sonne un peu comme un prêtre, a-t-il offert comme justification. Je suis politicien, pas un prêtre.»
Attempt at an English explanation: See in French, Harper concludes his speeches with, in his best Réné Lévesque impression, "À la prochaine!" (Um, "See you next!" or something. "Until next time!") But in English, he says, "God bless Canada." But in French that would be "Que Dieu bénisse le Canada!" and Harper says sounds a bit like a priest, and he's a politician, not a priest, so he doesn't use it. This was his explanation to journalists, anyway.

Like I said, I much prefer French Harper.
A note of explanation. Un peu d'explication.

Late last year, I told my friend Valérie Bélair-Gagnon that one of my new year's resolutions was to work on my French. She suggested that I start writing one blog entry a week in French, and I decided that would be an excellent idea.

Then, I didn't do it. But VBG, who has been valiantly blogging in both official languages -- her own and English -- on Verstehen for a year and a half now, did not forget my pledge. And she has called me on it.

Alors, chers lecteurs, chères lectrices, l'année commence maintenant. Une fois par semaine je vais essayer d'écrire un "post" en français. Pour le(s) francophone(s) et les francophiles qui lisent cette blogue, je vous invite de me corriger dans les commentaires. Vous êtes mon Bescherelle.

And for my unilingual anglophone readers, I hope you will excuse me this professional development exercise. I will try to post a translation of my weekly French post when I have the time to do so.

Allons-y! Ici, heureusement, c'est le blogue!
Moi, j'ai les Bleus... I've got the Blues.

[English follows.]

Michel Vastel de L'Actualité blogue comme un fou aujourd'hui.

Son dernier article est très intéressant. Là dedans, il décrit la scène chez l'Hôtel Bonaventure Hilton le 10 Décembre, quand Stephen Harper a fait sa première visite à Montreal, et la foule dans le même hôtel ce soir quand il a visité pour la dernière fois de la campagne électorale.
C'est fou ce que deux mois de campagne électorale et la perspective d'une victoire du Parti conservateur peut changer les choses! Ce soir, au même hôtel, j'ai revu tous ces gens dont je signalais l'absence: lobbyistes, baîlleurs de fonds, organisateurs d'occasion. J'en ai vu échanger des cartes d'affaires avec le fidèle sénateur Pierre-Claude Nolin (lui était là le 8décembre et pendant toute la campagne qui a suivi!) pour solliciter un poste de chef de cabinet.

D'autres, qu'on n'a pas vu non plus de toute la campagne, sont réapparus hier soir au Château Champlain. Cela sentait les « bleus du Québec » en appétit de plantureux contrats et de payantes sinécures. Pauvre Stephen Harper! Il va bien vite découvrir qu'il y a autant d'arrivistes chez les bleus que chez les rouges du Québec.

Voilà le côté le plus sordide et décevant des «vieux partis» du Québec...

Quand ça sent la victoire, les professionnels de la politique québécoise apparaissent dans la campagne comme les mouches sur ma ferme quand mon voisin sort ses vaches...
Plus ca change, eh?


L'Actualité's Michel Vastel has been blogging up a storm today.

His most recent post is quite interesting. In it, he describes the scene in the Bonaventure Hilton on December 10th, when Stephen Harper made his first visit to Montreal, versus the packed scene in the Bonaventure Hilton tonight (Jan. 18) when he made his final visit. My lousy translation:
It's crazy what two months of campaigning and the prospect of a Conservative party victory can change things! Tonight, in the same hotel, I saw all those people were conspicuous by their absence before: lobbyists, financial backers, second-hand organizers[?]. I saw them exchanging of business cards with the loyal senator Pierre-Claude-Nolin (who himself was there Dec. 8 and all through the campaign!), hoping to solicit a chief of staff position.

Others, who we didn't see all campaign either, reappeared last night at the Château Champlain, "bleus du Quebec" hungry for abundant contracts and profitable sinecures. Poor Stephen Harper! He will quickly learn that there are as many social climbers/self-seekers among the "blues" as the "reds" in Quebec.

There's the more sordid and disappointing side of the "old parties" in Quebec...

When it smells like victory, the professionals of Québécois politics appear in the campaign like flies on my farm when my neighbour lets his cows out...
Plus ça change, eh?
Actual thing that was said to me tonight.

"Have you ever noticed that Stephen Harper kind of has Karla Homolka eyes?"

This was not said in the context of any "Harper is scary" conversation. It was simply an observation. And, if I am honest with myself, I must say: "Oh my god, you're right."

Just saying. Please do not let this affect your voting in any way.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

And here's another political headline that seems like it should be in The Onion.

Martin attacks Layton for not attacking Harper.
Chairman Meow.

If you're not following the George Galloway meltdown, you must. From Saturday:
THE credibility of George Galloway was looking increasingly strained yesterday after the controversial MP, a contestant in the cult reality show Celebrity Big Brother, was seen by millions of TV viewers pretending to be a cat...

As house contestants bedded down to another night inside the "house", speculation over Mr Galloway's political future was intensifying after a bizarre episode in which the arch critic of the Iraq war crouched on all fours and pretended to be a cat at the feet of actress Rula Lenska.

The Dundee-born Respect MP for Bethnal Green and Bow pretended to drink from Lenska's cupped hands and was stroked behind the ears by the actress.

Mr Galloway's animal impression came after 57-year-old Lenska was asked by the unseen voice of Big Brother to test whether humans could communicate with animals. In another task set by producers, he helped Lenska try to read the mind of a goldfish.
In tonight's episode, Mr. Galloway "danced to Great Balls of Fire wearing an Elvis wig, sideburns and a leather jacket."

Please, please, please do not vote him off, oh housemates! This is too much fun.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Woody Panelling

Hey, all this week in the lead-up to the release of Match Point, we're discussing Woody Allen's oeuvre in the National Post. Editor Ben Errett, critic Chris Knight and I took part in the first popcorn panel on Woody's early, funny films: Bananas, Sleeper, etc.
Maclean's complaints.

This article about raising the voting age to 21 is ridiculous. So much so that it's actually kind of funny. The argument is kind of along the lines of this:

a) There's really low voter turnout with the kids;
b) A lot of the kids really aren't responsible enough to vote;
c) Therefore, we should raise the voting age to 21.

Something tells me that the kids who aren't responsible enough to vote are probably the same kids who aren't voting. Therefore, you'd be raising the voting age in order keep people who aren't voting from voting. It seems like a bit of a waste of time. Plus, of course, there are those 38.7 per cent of Canadians aged 18-21 who actually, you know, exercise their franchise, who you'd be stripping of the right to vote.

The article also notes that, in the United States, "Nixon was a leading supporter of the change south of the border and gushed about the benefits of extending the franchise to 11 million new voters -- many of them barely out of high school. 'You will infuse into this nation some idealism, some courage, some stamina, some high moral purpose,' Nixon said." But it doesn't mention the number one reason that the American voting age was lowered to 18 from 21 in 1971: the Vietnam War. The United States was drafting kids who were young enough to die for their country, but not old enough to vote.

And that's the number 1 reason why the voting age should not be higher than 18. If you're old enough to die for your country, you're old enough to help decide how that country is run.

Anyway, I suspect the Maclean's article was really just one of those reverse psychology things. Like this guy.
Speaking of the Think Twice Coalition...

Who should you believe: actor R.H. Thomson...
In the cultural sector and the arts we have asked all five parties to come up with what they are going to do about certain broadcasting initiatives such as CRTC and Canada Council funding. Four parties have responded with clear answers and one party has not responded and that is the Conservative Party.
...or the largest consortium of artists and arts organizations ever assembled in Canada?:
The Canadian Arts Coalition commends the Bloc Québecois, the Conservative Party of Canada, the Liberal Party of Canada and the New Democratic Party on their commitments to increase funding to the arts through the Canada Council for the Arts.

The Coalition... is united for one purpose: to increase, by $5 dollars per Canadian, funding to the arts delivered through the Canada Council.

In November, the federal government recognized the importance of the arts in the lives of Canadians by announcing that it would invest $306 million in the Canada Council for the Arts – bringing its annual allocation to more than $300 million.

As of January 13, all four major political parties committed to bringing about this increase in funding if elected to government.
Attack of the floating moustache!

Have you seen the new Conservative ad (click on "Jack Talk") attacking the NDP? I actually feel as if this is kind of good news for Dippers, perhaps especially since the ad is misleading which gives it a bit of a news hook. The ad makes it clear that there are ridings where the Conservatives are threatened most by the NDP, not the Liberals. The biggest problem the NDP has is being ignored, not disembodied facial hair...

After coming out strong at the beginning of the campaign and then fading into near irrelevancy, I'm pleased to see the NDP making a comeback here in the end stretch. This tack of talking about "former Liberal voters" switching to the NDP is very clever. It's less defensive than talking about NDP voters who vote for the Liberals out of fear of the Conservatives.

When Layton says that the Liberals need time in "the repair shop," he's speaking my language. (I used the expression "time in the wilderness" back before Christmas.) There are a lot of people out there, I think, that have been voting for a Liberal party that no longer exists.

I wrote earlier in the campaign about a Torontonian who drove me up the wall with his fear of the Conservatives. He has turned out to be the exception rather than the rule (though there are obviously left-leaning people who continue to think like that).

I know two people who voted for Tony Ianno in Trinity-Spadina last election, who are now voting for Olivia Chow. (I've even run into a few lefties who will openly say they'd prefer a Conservative minority to a Liberal one.)

It heartens me that people who used to be scared of Stephen Harper now disagree with him. That's the way I like to see our democracy work.
Choose your Hitler!

Say what you will about the tenets of national socialism, dudes, at least it's an ethos.

Monday, January 16, 2006

I totally agree with Jean Lapierre.

On this, at least:
Growing support for the Conservatives in the province of Quebec is actually "good news," says Transport Minister Jean Lapierre.

Speaking on CTV's Question Period Sunday, Lapierre -- Martin's Quebec lieutenant -- said that anything that will prevent the Bloc from gaining enough support to bring in another referendum on sovereignty is good.
Yes, this has heartened me. Having the Liberal party be synonymous with "federalism" in Quebec, as it was since 1993, was very unhealthy for our country.
Stoning the Liberals?

Paige detects what she thinks may be a subtle appeal to the stoners in the NDP's "Bag ad". I'm not entirely convinced, but perhaps I'm not smoking the right stuff.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Bargain Bin Politics.

Originally uploaded by uncascrooge.
I wouldn't necessarily call this a bad omen, but I was interested to spot William Johnson's biography of Stephen Harper in the "Book Blow Out!" bin at my Loblaw's today while grocery shopping. Other books in the bin included:

- Greatest Ever Pasta;
- The Rise of the Mammals; and
- My First Muppet Dictionary.

This may or may not be a good time to mention that I picked up an autographed copy of Jean Chretien's "Straight from the Heart" for five bucks a few months ago at a closing sale for a used book store on Queen. The Awesome.

Also, what's the deal with people at deli counters? Why don't you decide what you want while you're waiting to be served? There are always these people who finally get to the front and then it's like they've just been given a pop quiz on nuclear physics.

"What kind of coldcuts do I want? I don't know... Can I try the black forest ham?"

You're forty years old and you're unaware of what black forest ham tastes like!?! Have you just renounced your life-long vegetarianism? Did you just convert from Judaism to a more pig-friendly religion? Gah!
Sarah Harmer...

... is campaigning for Marilyn Churley, NDP candidate for Beaches-East York.

Notes Dipper/blogger Optimus Crime: "We're pleased to see Sarah Harmer playing and canvassing for the NDP in Beaches-East York. First, because we think Marilyn Churley is a strong candidate who deserves a seat, and secondly, because we're sick of the fucking Barenaked Ladies being the exclusive soundtrack to our party."

As regular readers know, On the Fence is a big Harmer fan (I came really close to writing 'Harper fan' by accident). I'm a Mountain is an awesome album and it has been on heavy rotation on my iPod Nano of late. Her cover of Dolly Parton's "Will He Be Waiting for Me" is heart-breaking and tunes like "I'm a Mountain" and "Oleander" are the awesome. The Awesome.
Gord Perks responds

Rather than bore my blog readers with another rant about my riding's NDP candidate Gord Perks -- (his Enviro column was back in Eye yesterday, and it cited my favourite technophobe, Neil Postman!) -- I decided to write him an e-mail with my complaints. I was pleased to get a quick response back:
I understand your concern as I shared it myself. After discussions with both my editor and our lawyer, however, I was convinced that it was appropriate to continue writing and publishing during the campaign.

I am not a news reporter but a columnist. Bob Hunter, John Sewell and Michael Valpy all continued to write and publish columns during their campaigns. As well, I am, as you noted, open about the fact that I am campaigning and have repeatedly declared my bias.


Gord Perks
Well, what do you think? The Star's Antonia Zerbisias, The Globe and Mail's Dan Cook and I all agree that Perks should have stopped his Eye column during the campaign. I know what he's doing is legal, but is it ethical? And am I making too big a deal out of this?

I guess my bigger beef is with Eye -- why would they pay an individual candidate to campaign in their pages?

UPDATE: I am reliably informed that, in fact, Michael Valpy went on an unpaid leave of absence from The Globe and Mail the moment he declared he was seeking the nomination for Trinity-Spadina and that his leave of absence continued, unpaid, until after election day. There is a difference, however, insofar as Valpy was a staff reporter at the Globe, while Perks is a freelance columnist.

Does anyone have any information on the John Sewell and Bob Hunter precedents Perks cites?

Click on comments below to read Ian King and Paul Wells' opinion on the subject.

FURTHER UPDATE: For my fellow Davenport residents who have arrived at this blog, I would like to note that this is really a rather esoteric discussion about journalistic ethics -- and there are ethical journalists who disagree with my position. I had a fine chat with a couple of members of the Gord Perks campaign team (who also turned out to be my neighbours) and there are many good reasons to vote for Perks, not least of course is that is he not a Liberal.

I jest. Some of my best friends vote Liberal. Some are even card-carrying ones.

In any case, why not head down to one of the two remaining all-candidates debates and discover the positions of Gord Perks (NDP), Mario Silva (Liberal), Theresa Rodrigues (Conservative), and Mark O'Brien (Green) for yourself? I do believe that you should consider the individual, not just the party when you cast your vote.
Monday, January 16, from 7:30 to 9:30 pm - Davenport-Perth Neighbourhood Centre (1900 Davenport Rd.)

Tuesday, January 17, from 7:00 to 10:00 pm - J. Piccininni Community Recreation Centre (1369 St. Clair Ave. W)
If I get out of work in time, I'll be at the Tuesday debate, as I am still undecided.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

That Ignatieff guy.

Today, in the National Post (sub. req.), Michael Ignatieff writes a really whiny guest column. Part of it is about how the "all-wise, all-knowing" media is being so mean to the Liberals: "[They] have repeatedly attacked the Martin record, while allowing the Harper record to escape the serious scutiny it merits."

This is the very same media, of course, that Conservatives regularly complained was not giving the Liberals enough scrutiny when their party was losing... But that's okay, Ignatieff is certainly entitled to shoot the messenger if he wants. It's a time-honoured tradition in politics and nobody likes the press anyway.

But later in his column, I stumbled across this passage and the Cheerio bits went flying: "It's easy going door to door with this record of social justice and sound financial management. Today's media is hard on the Martin record. Historians of the future will judge it the way they now judge the Pearson record, as a story of social progress achieved in the face of the perils and difficulties of minority government."

How dare he profane the name of Lester B.! The man who brought in the very Canadian flag that Paul Martin took down from his CSL ships!

(Cheap, I know, but we're talking about Pearson, here, the man who should've won Greatest Canadian...)

I like how Ignatieff doesn't even couch his prediction with a "probably" or "likely." I have a few ideas about how historians of the future with judge Paul Martin's record -- probably along with names like Tupper and Meighen and Clark and Campbell -- but I'll leave that to them or go back and go get an MA in history.

By the way, Blood and Belonging. Fine book.
I see...

That Michael Bate has disappeared from the number 3 position of Warren Kinsella's list of Top Ten Jerks.

(Google cache don't know nothin' about no legal agreement...)

Friday, January 13, 2006

Wedge issues?

According to Wonkitties' sorta-secret source, Stephen Harper is a big fan of Star Trek -- the original series, not the new generations. Actually, not so terrilby surprising.

Also according to Rondi, Harper is a similarly big fan of Seinfeld. His favourite line scomes from "the episode where George becomes obsessed by the fact that Jerry's masseuse girlfriend doesn't like him, so he tries extra hard to get her to like him." It is: "Everybody has to like me. I must be liked!"

Fascinating, if true.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Dis-uniting the right?

Hey, have you noticed that Adam Daifallah and Tasha Kheiriddin, co-authors of the thoughtful Rescuing Canada's Right, started out sharing an election blog on Maclean's website -- but now they have divorced into two separate blogs? What does it mean?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Two dirty Duceppian tricks.

1. The first: Saying that Option Canada wasn't a Liberal scandal, but a federal scandal... Whatever. Is anyone really going to buy that when the Conservatives supported the Bloc's call for the auditor general to look into the program? Adds Harper, "Ce n'est pas un crime de promouvoir le fédéralisme au Québec." Good response. (See, regardless of whether you like the Conservatives or not, having another federalist party besides the Liberals get a significant chunk of the vote in Quebec is a good thing for national unity.)

2. The second: Saying, "Il est clair que les partis dirigés de Toronto ou de Calgary ne peuvent pas répondre aux aspirations du Québec." Bah. As empty as anti-American rhetoric. Hopefully not as powerful.
Good news for Harper...

Most of the French media reports so far are focusing on how Duceppe, Martin and Layton "teamed up" against Harper in the debate. See: Martin, Layton et Duceppe se liguent contre Harper lors du débat des chefs:
S'ils ont jeté les yeux sur le débat des chefs politiques retransmis au petit écran, mardi soir, les Québécois n'ont pu que constater que le chef conservateur Stephen Harper était la cible principale des trois autres adversaires qui ont, du coup, fait la démonstration qu'il est désormais un joueur sur l'échiquier politique québécois.
That was a silly strategy, of course, because the Bloc is still the one to beat in Quebec. Aiming everything at Harper just gives his party an air of legitimacy, which is really what the Conservatives have needed in Quebec.

I missed this part, but apparently Harper said: "J'ai besoin de vrais Québécois sein d'une table de cabinet." That's smart, because Quebecers in the four or so ridings that could go Conservative have an added incentive to vote Conservative -- any MP they elect will automatically end up in cabinet if the Conservatives end up in power.
Heureusement, ici, c'est le blogue.

I only caught the last hour and a quarter of the French-language debate. Is it true Martin was all Meeching it up? And accused Layton of wanting to limit abortion? Gaffons!

I'm not drinking tonight, but I am exhausted, so let's just brainstorm in point format, shall we? Le débat:

- Maybe I'm being too hard on Layton, but he keeps saying the darndest things. Like when he suggested that cutting the GST by 2% wouldn't do anything, because stores would hike prices by 2% in response. Whaaaaa?

- And that "conditions gagnantes" line... I don't dig it. I think it's fun when J. Lay appropriates right-wing terminology (ie. Harper is trying to buy your votes with your money), but appropriating sovereigntist rhetoric... It don't work that way. "Vive le Québec libre... Libre de pauvreté!"

- And then, when moderator Sophie Thibault (Thi-boring!) asked Layton why the NDP isn't visible in Quebec when there isn't a campaign on, he was all, "Uh, excuse me? I was on a little show call Tout le monde en parle? Perhaps you've heard of it? Also, like, I was born in Hudson."

- Oh, also when Layton said he would help solve the fiscal imbalance by proposing propositions. That was good.

- Mixing up Harper and Layton like Martin did, that's one thing. "Accidentally" calling Martin Chrétien like Duceppe did: Priceless. Albeit inaccurate.

- All those who made fun of Duceppe's English yesterday, I offer you Stephen Harper. On the other hand, kudos to Harpsichord for ending with that humble little "French isn't my first language" apology in his closing. That was cool -- he did a similar thing yesterday when he apologized for being an android who can only smile out of the left side of his mouth.

- Oh, but you know who spoke the most English in a single phrase? It was Duceppe, trotting out his ol' "Ottawa knows best" line. Heureusement, les anglicismes, c'est le Bloc.

- Harper kept running out of time. Didn't sound good.

- I like how in English, the Liberals are all: "The Bloc is in bed with the Bloc." And in French, the Bloc is all: "Trop souvent, le Parti libéral et le Parti conservateur sont dans le même camp, le camp du 'non', du 'non' aux intérêts du Québec." If the Bloc and the Conservatives are in bed together, and the Liberals and the Conservatives are in the same camp, then the Bloc and the Liberals are in they same camp too! Just, maybe, in different cabins. So, they should totally challenge each other to a food fight at the mess hall tomorrow before crafts time.

- Word of the day: Péréquation. What does it mean? I haven't the foggiest! But darned if I'm going to listen to those weird simultaneous translation dudes. If there was a channel that had simultaneously translated subtitles, I'd watch that.
Cutting Jack some slack.

Okay, Layton had another good moment: When Paul Martin said he would get rid of the notwithstanding clause and Layton immediately pulled out the fact that Martin said he would use the N.C. if the courts forced churches to perform same-sex marriages.

Did Layton know in advance that Paul Martin was going to toss out that entirely new policy? Or is he that whip-smart? And if he is that whip-smart, why didn't he show it through the rest of the debate?

Anyway, here's the NDP War Room on the Notwithstanding Clause surprise:
Paul Martin today claims that he wants to pull the notwithstanding clause from the Constitution.

13 months ago he was ready to use it:

"Oh, yes I would," Martin said Thursday on CBC Radio when asked whether he would use the clause.

"I would look at it if it was a question of affirming a (religious)
right," he said, explaining that it would be used only under extreme circumstances.

-- CanWest News, December 19, 2003
Good job. Except, uh, December 2003 was 25 months ago. (And they wonder why Canadians don't trust the NDP with their finances?)
And on the other hand...

Writes Antonia Z.:
Martin just gave us the money quote of the night: "America is our neighbour; it's not our nation."

Harper desperately waves the flag in defence, even though as Martin said, "I never attacked Mr. Harper's patriotism.'' But he did manage to raise that ugly Harper speech of 1997.

This might be a mortal blow for Harper.
Wha? I'll admit those old Harper quotes are bad, but "America is our neighbour; it's not our nation" is the money quote of the night? I doubt that'll even get in a single story or on any newscast.

Obviously, the money quote of the night was when Duceppe called Martin a "living democratic deficit." That little smurf kills me!

Monday, January 09, 2006

The Notwithstanding claws come out.

Well, looks like Mr. Living Democratic Deficit is on his way out. All hail Prime Minister Beady Eyes!

What to say about that debate? Well, let's do this in point format, because there was beer at my debate party.

- The liveliest stuff was about whether was Quebec was a "nation" or not, an academic debate that sounds like nonsense outside of la belle province.

- Harper wins points for not saying "nation" at all.

- You know what will really turn the tide for you, Paul Martin? Talk about reopening the constitution and altering the Charter that you say Harper wants to alter. That'll really win you the swing votes. NOT! (withstanding clause)

- It's really, really funny to watch Gilles Duceppe with the closed captioning on.

- My Television Producer friend, who was also at the Ottawa Citizen's television columnist Jason Chow's debate-watching party, said that Harper and Layton had the best positions (on the ends), because they always knew what camera to look at for the head-on shots. I wouldn't have noticed that Paul Martin was often looking into the wrong camera if T.P. hadn't kept yelling "Camera B! Camera B!" though, so I'm sure that will have little or no impact. Interesting trivia, mind.

- Poor show for Jack Layton. I understand he was trying to sound calm, measured, and like a valid third "option," but what he said was so contentless and emotionless that it really turned me off. His line about creating "winning conditions" for Canada didn't read well.

- One more thing about Jack Layton. You know how when you say a word over and over eventually it stops making sense. I no longer understand the phrase "working families." Thanks, Jack.

- Okay, two positive things about J.Lay. 1. He sounded good on crime, and 2) I dug it when he said the NDP was going to "get down." Yeah!

- Oh, Gilles Duceppe. Your gestures are so funny!

Okay, I gotta get up early for work, so that's it. To sleep, perchance to dream of a left-leaning party in favour of decentralization.
The Memorial.

Yesterday, right before the city removed it, I visited Jane Creba's memorial outside the Foot Locker on Yonge St. for the first time. Here, the day after another J.C.'s birthday, the 15-year-old girl died, suddenly, stupidly, senselessly. Flowers, teddy bears, a little Grover doll, photos, poems, a binder full of private messages climbed up the store's front window.

I paused and thought as hopeful thoughts as I could.

Here's what struck me most. Someone had written:


on a piece of brown cardboard and stuck it in the window. But the mound of flowers and baseball caps and dolls had grown so high that it covered the bottom of the cardboard sign, and a bouquet obscured part of its message. So it read:


Yes, I thought. The outpouring of love from Jane Creba's family and friends and potential friends had overwhelmed the rage and left a different, more probing, more frustrating question behind.

And I don't know. And I don't expect anyone in the debate tonight to know either. There are no answers, really, for the death of a girl, except to go and pay your respects silently for a few minutes, then get on the subway and head home.
Harper to Canada: Elect me and I'll throw in a set of snow tires!


And they say Jack Layton acts like a used car salesman?
For those who want to believe 2005 was a sub-par year for film...

See Protracted vote lands 'Capote' as top film critics pick.
Capote, a screen biography of writer Truman Capote, has captured the best film award of 2005 by the National Society of Film Critics in the U.S. after a lengthy vote.

It took six ballots for the 57 members to come to a decision on best picture Saturday in New York city. Members of the association, who work for major newspapers and magazines, gather annually at Sardi's Restaurant in Manhattan to debate the year's top films and performances before voting.
Six ballots is unprecedented with the NSFC -- a sign, I'd say, of a pretty good year in film, esp. since none of the other critical darlings (Good Night, and Good Luck; Brokeback Mountain; Munich) were even in the top three.
Title match: Fry vs. Robinson

In an excellent blog post, Sarah Marchildon reports from a heckle- and foreskin-filled Vancouver Centre debate between Liberal Hedy "Burning Crosses" Fry and Dipper Svend "Lord of the Ring" Robinson:
It seems the ring theft is a non-issue. Or at least it's a non-issue for people who vote NDP. There were a few Svend-haters in the room who tried to use the theft against him. Like when Hedy Fry went way over her allotted time after answering a question, Svend joked, "I hope that didn't go into my time."

A guy in the crowd yelled out, "You didn’t serve any!" Then people started heckling the heckler. Like I said, it was lively.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Strange Things Meme -- a break before the final electoral stretch.

The hyphenless Paul Tuns has soberly tagged me in the meme du jour. According to said meme, I am to list five strange things about myself. (Sorry -- none of mine have to do with a sensitive gag reflex.)

1. I ride a unicycle.

2 At my father’s behest, I once took part in a two-man protest against a local cat rescue operation’s fundraising yard sale in Winnipeg. We unicycled back and forth holding signs that said "Yay Dogs" on one side and "Boo Cats" on the other.

3. I have this secret power that my friends and I call Kelly Luck. Lindsay describes it this way: "You have things that don’t actually help you in the long run work out in strange and amusing ways constantly." It’s really hard to explain, but essentially it means that I am inconsequentially lucky.

4. On my CV, I used to list "Ducks" under interests.

5. Instead of writing a end-of-term six-page paper for a Religious Studies class at McGill, I wrote a 45-minute musical called Misogyny: The Musical. It included a song called, "Let’s put the men back in menstruation."

Lindsay suggests I include the time I urinated in a series of wine glasses at a high school party. I decline his suggestion.

The meme dictates that I am to tag five other people. Aiming high, they are:

- Prime Minister Paul Martin;
- Scott Feschuk;
- Valérie Bélair-Gagnon;
- Declan at Crawl Across the Ocean; and
- Rondi at Wonkitties.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Running with the Polls.

I occasionally find myself sympathetic to the idea that we should have a publication ban on polls during election campaigns, though usually my strong support of freedom of the press stops me from openly advocating such a thing. Anyway, pollster Darrell Bricker, commenting on Andrew Coyne's blog, has blasted away my remaining sympathy for banning polls:
[B]anning polls. What? You don't trust people with the truth? Ban them and we'll get parties leaking false polls, people who can afford to do private polls holding on to the results and using them for personal gain, and people who can't be prosecuted (eg Americans) doing them and leaking them on the Internet. That's better? Instead, we should have lots of polls so that the crappy ones become obvious. Information in a democracy is a good thing.
True dat.
This Charming Man.

New British Tory leader David Cameron has excellent taste in music. Discussing his iPod contents on Radio One, he divulged, "Because I'm 39 there's The Smiths, Radiohead, Pulp, Blur - all that quite gloomy music." (Also loaded up: Bob Dylan and lots of reggae.)

Anyway, a Guardian writer, being a Guardian writer, takes Cameron to task on his choice of mp3: "The Tory leader may represent a new tomorrow for the party faithful but in terms of his music he is 10 years behind the times."

What!?! The Smiths and Radiohead are timeless... TIMELESS! Name me one contemporary British band as good as them. Pah.

Besides said Guardian writer (Xan Brooks) conveniently ignores that Cameron digs the Killers, too.

Not that there's any pleasing Guardian writers though. On the Culture Vulture blog, Lindesay Irvine writes: "When Tony Blair... recently professed to a fondness for the Darkness and Coldplay, his musical tastes seemed thoroughly in tune with what we know of his personality - self-consciously sensitive but ideologically neutral, consumer-friendly stuff."

Well, okay. I'd say that's a fair comment.

Anyway, Cameron's love of Radiohead, though it has just raised his estimation in my books, doesn't bode well for his electoral success. The only other conservative politician I know who has openly proclaimed his love of Thom Yorke is Tony Clement. Nuff said.
Fish or cut bait!

For those asking, Ekos has the BQ at 44%, Liberals at 22%, and Conservatives at 20% in Quebec (source: Le Devoir). Andrew Coyne has another poll with Cons at 19% and Libs at 23%. Anyway, the Conservatives seem to be gaining in Quebec at the expense of the Liberals and the Bloc. And the Bloc is under 50%, so my previous comments about eating live cod and being oblique are now moot. Mootish.

Outside QC, I've been interested to stumble across a couple of conservative folks who are going to be strategically voting for the NDP. My buddy the Toronto stockbroker told me at the start of the campaign that he and several of his colleagues plan to do just that. Then, today, right-rescuer Tasha Kheiridden mused that she might vote for Olivia Chow.

Andrew Coyne offers an interesting argument that the Stop Harperites might want to consider voting strategically for the NDP:
[T]he NDP might plead to Liberal voters (and to their own): give us enough seats so that we hold the balance of power. You're wondering whether to vote Liberal to "stop Harper"? You can't stop Harper: the Liberals can't win. But if the Liberals can't keep him from power, the NDP can still keep him in check. Whether the Grits win 92 seats or 96 seats, it makes no difference. But whether the NDP win 24 or 28 seats makes all the difference in the world.
This makes sense to me. If it looks like we're headed towards a Conservative minority, it's much more in the interest of lefties to have a strong NDP holding the balance of power... Otherwise, the Conservatives will have to rely on right-wing Liberals (unlikely) or the Bloc (apparently unpalatable to most outside Quebec) to pass legislation. Or there will be an ugly stalemated parliament and another election shortly thereafter.

Any NDP supporters or fed-up left-Liberals out there who are considering voting Conservative strategically?

In truth, not enough voters grasp how to strategically vote properly -- you gotta know your riding! -- so this is pure wankery. But, well, hey, welcome to the blogosphere, man.
There goes George Galloway's last shred of credibility...

The sitting MP is a contestant on Big Brother for goodness sakes. You can't make this stuff up.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Your Ex-Lover is Dead

A message left at the Irving Layton tribute blog:
January 5, 2006
PincuVing, Irving Rabbenu, my Biscuit Boy, fare-thee-well my love. You knew, and I know you knew, that since that car-wreck of a day in 1995 when you helped me to leave and start my own life, there have been maybe a grand total of 6 days where I did not think of you. This city, our streets, our home, our life together was an extraordinary adventure, and I am glad to have brought you so much happiness, not to mention 'productive joy' for so many years. Thank you for all that you taught me, all that you showed me, and for your unconditional love in which I revelled, grew, and lived so intensely. I know that you know all of this, and more. Bye, love, bye.

What have I learned about Layton over the past few days? He was probably one of the best goddamn high school teachers ever. And maybe that's his biggest legacy.
"I wish I knew how to quit you."


In related news, Dear Liam Lacey -- lighten up, dude! Jay Leno's joke -- "Hey, just a week to go until Elton John's wedding. You know where Elton's honeymooning? Brokeback Mountain." -- isn't homophobic. It's just lame. Like all Leno jokes.

Also, I didn't see it, but I laughed when you wrote that Nathan Lane sang Oklahomo! from Brokeback Mountain: the Musical on David Letterman. That's funny! Why you so grumpy?
The I'm OK, You're OK Corral.

This Friday's Popcorn Panel, in which Tara Ariano, Chris Knight and I make kissy-face about Brokeback Mountain, is behind the Post's subscriber wall. But I link to it anyway, because I wanted to use that line about the I'm OK, You're OK Corral. I'm like that.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Gilles Duceppe et poisson.

Les poissons.
Originally uploaded by uncascrooge.

In this Reuters photo by Christinne Muschi, Duceppe looks remarkably like Jiminy Glick, don't you think?

Oh yeah, and he's pretending to eat a live fish.

See what you can do when you're above 50% in the polls?

Hat tip to Optimus Crime, who's also got some good dirt on Liberals Tony Ianno and Sarmite Bulte.

Dead Poet's Society admits one Irving Layton.

It is sad to be an atheist,
Sadder yet to be one with a limp phallus.

Poet Irving Layton is dead at 93. To be completely honest, which is of course what he'd want, I'm not a huge fan of him or his egotistic, misogynistic poetry. As my grandmother always says, "He was so mean to his wife." (Which one of the five she's talking about, I'm not sure.)

But he did tutor Leonard Cohen -- and for that reason alone he is worthy of our thanks. (Other students of his include Moses Znaimer and Irwin Cotler. Thanks?)

I suppose, to be fair, he's got a few good poems of his own, too. And many more about his dick. ("It amazes me that organs that piss / Can give human beings such perfect bliss.")

If you have an Irving Layton memory you can post it on this tribute blog. One hopes that he didn't outlive all his lovers.

Layton links.

- A couple clever Layton poems posted by a fan in Saskatoon.

- Out of the Woodwork post "Against This Death"

- "To a Young Girl Sunbathing"

- "Death is a name for beauty not in use"

- John_d at THIS Blog posts "There Were No Signs," which admittedly is lovely. But has a bitter aftertaste given that we know Layton didn't ever learn how to love from hating, but learned how to hate and call it love.

- Wonkitties hearts Layton.
Shop talk, blah, blah, blah...

Speaking of A.Z.'s blog, The Zerb has been carefully documenting the Postification of Maclean's under Ken Whyte over the past year... I, for one, am superkeen to hear that Mark Steyn will be writing book reviews; I think the dude's best writings are on arts and culture.

But I'm not sure how the Macchanges are playing in Peoria or, I suppose, Pickering. My Ottawa uncle, the Alliance and now Conservative-voting one, can't stand the magazine's new flashy style and just cancelled his subscription after many, many years. The Svend "Svend him Packing" Robinson cover was the last straw for him: too sensational. My aunt wanted him to keep the subscription, but had issues with the Jack Layton cover and so went along with the uncle. "They made him look like Lenin," she told me. They're thinking of trying the Economist instead.

In addition, a coworker just told me today that she had just cancelled her subscription, though I didn't get the reason why. (Such a helpful observer, I am!)

As a Canadian journalist, of course, I'm terribly interested in what's going over at Maclean's. But as an average media consumer (ie. when I was looking for a mag to buy before getting on the train to Montreal), I was really turned off by the Maccers cover that had a picture of Stephen Lewis, David Suzuki and Bono and the words "Wrong, wrong, wrong" underneath. Surely 80% of Canadians admire at least one of those men... Why would you want to alienate them? I was alienated!

Okay, so I ending up buying that issue. The guy at the cash was glaring at me. The train was coming. I was too embarrassed to buy Stuff.

Technically, I suppose you could say I "consume" Maclean's daily -- or at least whenever Paul Wells (Hi P.W.!) updates his old blog. Am I thinking too old media here? Or am I thinking too new media? Or too me media?

Anyway, so in my random journeys of the past couple of months, I've encountered two people who have cancelled their Maclean's subscriptions, I've purchased an issue with my own money, and I've heard lots of journalists who read the magazine for free at work gabbing about it.

Will Ken Whyte's gambit pay off? What does gambit mean anyway? Stay tuned!
Gord Perks, Continued

Re: This, Antonia Z. sez: "I'm with On the Fence's J. Kelly Nestruck on this one.... Perks should park the column until after the vote."

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Thank you New Yorker...

... for occasionally letting someone actually funny like Jack Handey write a Shouts and Murmurs piece. See: This is no game.
This is no game. You might think this is a game, but, trust me, this is no game.

This is not something where rock beats scissors or paper covers rock or rock wraps itself up in paper and gives itself as a present to scissors. This isn’t anything like that. Or where paper types something on itself and sues scissors.

This isn’t something where you yell “Bingo!” and then it turns out you don’t have bingo after all, and what are the rules again? This isn’t that, my friend.

This isn’t something where you roll the dice and move your battleship around a board and land on a hotel and act like your battleship is having sex with the hotel.

This isn’t tiddlywinks, where you flip your tiddly over another player’s tiddly and an old man winks at you because he thought it was a good move. This isn’t that at all.

This isn’t something where you sink a birdie or hit a badminton birdie or do anything at all with birdies. Look, just forget birdies, O.K.?...
Oh, Handey, you lovable Texan. You made me snot in my beer.
Heureusement, ici, ce n'est pas un pipe.

What kind of ads would you release if your political party was up at about, oh, 53% three weeks before election day? Why, yes! You'd release meaningless ads that will offend no one... Like these two new Bloc Québécois ads!

... Ads shot in soft focus by a director like Éric Canuel, whose films include the Genie-winning Le dernier tunnel, and also the upcoming bilingual comedy Bon Cop, Bad Cop, which we are all very much looking forward to. (No, seriously: It's about a hockey-related murder committed on the Ontario-Quebec border; Patrick Huard and Colm Feore play the French- and English-speaking police who team up to solve the murder.)

... Ads with no actual content, except a pregnant woman and several other Quebecois saying "Heureusement" over and over in front or behind of a ballot box in locations that you would expect to find polling stations, like in the produce aisle of a supermarket and a by a frozen lake.

Okay, well, there's a brief mention of the sponsorship scandal in one and families in the other, but on the whole they're really oblique.

If you're up at 53% in the polls, you might also want to say meaningless thihngs at your press conferences. Like, for instance, "The theme of this election is democracy," which is what Gilles Duceppe told reporters yesterday. Ah! Interesting. This donut is pastry-flavoured!

They say politics replaced religion in Quebec in the 1960s... That's certainly the assumption of these ads, which want you to believe in the Bloc and not ask too many questions about how the party is actually representing Quebec in Ottawa. Gilles Duceppe works in mysterious ways.

Bonus Bloc Bafflegab!

Duceppe was asked why the ads don't mention sovereignty, since that is his party's raison d'etre. His reply: "I mean, are [The Liberals] saying in their ads that they are a federalist party?" No... but that's because it's a federal election. Do I need to explain the difference further?

Oh, never mind. You had me at the pregnant woman... Heureusement. Heureusement. Heureusement. (Scandale des commandites.) Heureusement....

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


In today's Post (free link), actor/new dad Raoul Bhaneja, whose Hamlet (solo) opened tonight in Toronto, dishes on his five favourite melancholy Danes. Keanu Reeves is not one. Richard Burton is: "He's no nancy-boy Hamlet."

And here's something I wasted a good bit of yesterday on: Hamlet -- The Text Adventure.
There is a nasty smell, a number of holes in the ground, graves everywhere, and some cracked headstones lying around. The wall of the palace garden is to the east.
A gravedigger is here.
You can also see a human skull.
An exit leads north.

> talk to gravedigger
"I never wanted to be a gravedigger. I wanted to be a famous actress!"

> look at skull
In an astonishing feat of visual biometrics you recognise the skull as that of your old court jester, alias poor Yorick.

> take skull
Okay. You have taken the skull.
Conservatives campaigning in Ontario... in Quebec.

David Akin blogs again about the "strange symbiosis of Ontario and Quebec voters"... though I prefer to think of it as the Betty and Veronica relationship Quebec and Ontario have.

Monday, January 02, 2006

The Year in Food Allergies on Film

When kids go back to school tomorrow, it will be the first day that Ontario's Sabrina's Law -- an act that requires that school administrators have a plan to protect anaphylactic students -- is in effect. In celebration of this good news, here's my National Post article about the advances made in Hollywood's depiction of people with food alergies in 2005 movies. Sort of.

Hollywood is not usually kind to those who suffer from food allergies. In big-studio comedies, characters who are allergic to nuts or shellfish are almost always pale, near-sighted, socially inept and in constant need of their asthma pumps. They are gawky, likely to stutter and unimportant to the plot. They are disposable dorks who rarely get the girl - and who are even less often the girl to be got.

So a series of mainstream comedies released in 2005 that featured sexy stars as characters with food allergies came like gluten-free manna from heaven to EpiPen carriers everywhere. First up was the rom-com Hitch, which starred Will Smith as a professional "date doctor" who experiences an allergic reaction while wooing Eva Mendes over dinner. Then, in Monster-in-Law, Jennifer Lopez's character is both engaged to Michael Vartan from Alias and has a serious allergy to nuts. Finally, to cap off the year, The Family Stone featured Dermot Mulroney as a character who may not be able to stomach mushrooms, but is more than capable of catching the eye of such classy dames as Sarah Jessica Parker and Claire Danes.

With schools, restaurants and workplaces becoming more and more conscious of the dangers posed by food allergies, the social stigma of living with anaphylaxis has become a more central concern to the estimated 2% of Canadians who have life-threatening allergies. When a 15-year-old Quebec girl died this fall after kissing her boyfriend who had recently eaten a peanut butter snack, it was a tragic reminder of the serious consequences that being shy about or embarrassed by your allergies can have.

Though it featured a nut-allergic character played by an actress who was voted the sexiest woman in the world two years in a row by FHM magazine, most allergy awareness groups ignored the possible positive impact Monster-in-Law might have had and instead focused on the comedy's irresponsible depiction of an anaphylactic reaction. Monster-in-Law, which premiered during Food Allergy Awareness week in May, showed Jane Fonda's character trying to bump off her daughter-in-law-to-be Lopez by lacing a gravy boat with mashed-up nuts; and all that happened to J. Lo was that her lips grew to a comical size. Organizations like the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network lambasted the filmmakers for making light of allergic reactions and potentially inspiring copycat "practical jokes."

While FAAN's reaction was reasonable, Hollywood comedies do routinely make jokes about things that are not funny in real-life: heart attacks, incontinence, footballs in the groin. Filmmakers need not always have allergic reactions lead to tragedy as they do in My Girl; sometimes the best way to broach a serious topic is through humour.

Still, there's no reason why allergies can't be both funny and true. When Smith had his restaurant reaction in Hitch, there was a whole wealth of real-life comic material left unmined. Anyone who's debated whether or not you have to pull down your pants before injecting an EpiPen into your thigh, or has had their limbs twitch involuntarily after being pumped full of adrenaline and Benadryl knows that there's plenty that provokes giggles in this life-or-death situation.

So while allergic film buffs should count their blessings that they were given less demeaning roles in 2005 films, we're still waiting for the moment when sexy and silly combine with verisimilitude. That's the moment when Rachel McAdams turns to Heath Ledger in the middle of a romantic dinner scene and says, "Is that an EpiPen in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?"

Finally, a project to unite Daily Show dorks and musical theatre geeks. (I am both.) Playbill reports:
A new musical about James Watt, U.S. Secretary of the Interior under Ronald Reagan, is being developed by David Javerbaum, five-time Emmy Award winner for "The Daily Show."

Javerbaum, head writer of Comedy Central's current-events show, is a Kleban Award-winner for his work writing musicals, and is the lyricist for the upcoming Broadway-aimed musical Cry-Baby.... Javerbaum told Playbill.com the satiric James Watt show (called Watt?!?) would be a "rock musical" (with music by GrooveLily and Striking 12 composer Brendan Milburn) because a rock sound would be utterly "inappropriate" to the story of conservative Christian Watt.

Javerbaum said the show isn't a smear job — "you like him by the end of it," he's sympathetic and humanized, the writer said.
Worst Year Ever! Part II

Here are another couple of world-weary critics throwing out the idea that 2005 was a bad year for movies. Both in Eye Weekly.

Starting off his end-of-year list, Paul Isaacs writes: "Was there a movie comedy this year as funny as Extras or Curb Your Enthusiasm? A thriller as exciting and idiosyncratic as The Wire or Deadwood? HBO may make the best movies these days (while the BBC offers the best documentaries), but the following films offered plenty of respite during an otherwise subpar year."

In his list, Adam Nayman writes: "What does it say about the past year in film that my top 10 list is rounded out by a legally unreleasable documentary from 2003 and several 2004 festival-circuit standouts? Besides the obvious answer -- that I'm a Snobby McSnobberson -- it suggests the creative atrophy that's paralyzed North American commercial cinema." (I appreciate that Nayman at least realises he's a Snobby McSnobberson.)

Compare and contrast the opening paragraph of Roger Ebert's end-of-the-year list:
How in the world can anyone think it was a bad year for the movies when so many were wonderful, a few were great, a handful were inspiring, and there were scenes so risky you feared the tightrope might break? If none of the year's 10 best had been made, I could name another 10 and no one would wonder at the choices. There were a lot of movies to admire in 2005.
Ebert can be a bit of booster, but I think it's worth noting that a guy who has been reviewing movies since 1967 thinks it was a good year for movies.

As A.J. Liebling famously put it, "Cynicism is often the shamefaced product of inexperience."

To my list of great films of 2005, I must now add Munich and Brokeback Mountain, having been awed by the first and cried my way through the last 20 minutes of the second. Someone also reminded me the other night of It's All Gone Pete Tong, which deserves a mention.