Tuesday, September 26, 2006

"Boncopmania"

Bon Cop, Bad Cop became the highest grossing Quebec film in history this weekend. But did it really? Adjusting for inflation, it's still behind Seraphim... and Claude Fournier's Deux femmes en or, a softcore porn (from the maple syrup porn era) about two lonely wives. I don't feel that bad that Porky's tops the Canadian box office now knowing that!

Monday, September 25, 2006

London calling.

Yes, it's true what I wrote last week: I am leaving Toronto for London. I'm training it to Montreal on Saturday and then flying to England on Thursday, October 5.

My paternal grandmother was born in Ireland and, last year, I obtained my Irish citizenship. Then, this spring, I received my EU passport and the working privileges that come with it. Originally I got these documents just to annoy to Andrew Coyne, but the temptation to spend some time working overseas has been strong and I've decided to give into it.

Why now? Basically, my thought process is this: I'm 25 years old, unmarried, have three and a half years of newspaper experience under my belt and no mortgage. If I want to work abroad and see the world a bit, now's a good time to do so. It's scary to give up my great job at the National Post, sure, but it will be exciting to do the world travelling I never did in university, meet new people, and see plays that aren't directed by Morris Panych.

Why London? Well, the two things that I love most in the world are theatre and newspapers. London, arguably, is the world capital of both -- when it comes to the English language, anyway. Plus, well, it's LONDON.

And I do hope to use the city as a base to visit a whole host of other countries. One of my two goals for the next two years is to travel to at least eight. Suggestions welcome. (My other goal is to interview Tom Stoppard in person.)

My immediate plan -- and it is a sketchy plan, I must admit -- is this:
- Arrive in London on the 6th.
- Stay at a friend's mother's flat for four days.
- During that four days, find a more permanent place to stay.
- By December, find a job or a steady source of freelance income.

It should be an exciting experience and I'm really looking forward to figuring out things as I go along. I expect to stay a year or two, depending on how things go. If things go really well, of course, I may stay longer. If things go really badly, I'll be back for Christmas!

Now, fair blog readers and friends, if you have any tips or leads on journalism jobs, places to live, places not to live, people I should meet in London, please don't hesitate to send them my way. (My e-mail is jkelly -at - gmail.com, by the way.) I have no family and only a few acquaintances in London and will be thankful for any help.

I have much packing and preparation to do over the next week and a half, so blogging will be light. But I expect to keep up On The Fence in London, if only so my mom will know I'm still alive.

And if anyone in Toronto wants to stop by the Gem on Davenport on Friday night, I will be celebrating my departure from 9 o'clock on.

London, ho!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Burnt Mattress


Burnt mattress
Originally uploaded by uncascrooge.
Check it: My downstairs neighbour's mattress, post-bursting into flames.
The fellow works in construction, came home from a 60-hour work week, drank himself silly and then fell asleep while smoking a cigarette.
I arrived home at 1 a.m., saw the smoke pouring out of the basement and called in an open window. "I'm on the toilet," he called back. He had just extinguished the fire with some water and then, well, I don't know what he was doing on the toilet.
Despite my neighbour's assurances that everything was "cool," I called the fire department. I felt about five as they arrived, lights flashing. Neat-o.
They dragged his smouldering mattress out into the backyard where it briefly ignited again. It was put out for good.
A next-door neighbour brought me a beer and we chatted with a couple of mustachioed firemen while everything was being checked out. (One looked very much like a certain Johnny-Cakes, Sopranos fans take note.)
The whole house was full of smoke, but none of our smoke alarms went off. Great.
Before I went to bed, I snuck out into the back yard one more time to snap this photo. My downstairs neighbour came out for a smoke while I was there and told me about how he spent a month with the Mujahadeen in the Khyber Pass in a previous life as a photographer. Did I want to come down and see the negatives? "Maybe another time," I told him.
L'Affaire Wong.

I received an e-mail the other day asking what I thought of Jan Wong's article last Saturday about the Dawson College shooting. Here is the controversial part so you can judge yourself whether it is worth the furour:
What many outsiders don't realize is how alienating the decades-long linguistic struggle has been in the once-cosmopolitan city. It hasn't just taken a toll on long-time anglophones, it's affected immigrants, too. To be sure, the shootings in all three cases were carried out by mentally disturbed individuals. But what is also true is that in all three cases, the perpetrator was not pure laine, the argot for a “pure” francophone. Elsewhere, to talk of racial “purity” is repugnant. Not in Quebec.

...

It isn't known when [Kimveer] Gill's family arrived in Canada. But he attended English elementary and high schools in Montreal. That means he wasn't a first-generation Canadian. Under the restrictions of Bill 101, the province's infamous language law, that means at least one of his parents must have been educated in English elementary or high schools in Canada. To be sure, Mr. Lepine hated women, Mr. Fabrikant hated his engineering colleagues and Mr. Gill hated everyone. But all of them had been marginalized, in a society that valued pure laine.
As an anglophone who grew up in Montreal, I can personally attest to occasionally having felt alienated by the decades-long linguistic struggle in that still-cosmopolitan city. But the idea that Montreal's language politics are somehow connected with the Dawson College shooting is, well, tenuous at best. Paul Wells does a fine job of skewering the argument, if you can call it an argument.

But Wong is just one of a series of people who have posited theories about the shooting without any proof during the past week and a half. Take Rick Salutin, also in the Globe, for example. Last week, he wrote: "In fact, who knows what part 9/11 and its long, bloody aftermath played at Dawson College." At least, Salutin was clear that he was only pontificating. I wish more people had phrased their concerns about Goth culture, violent video games and Marilyn Manson in a similar way...

Personally, I was most offended by Susan Cole's blinkered article in NOW on Thursday, helpfully headlined "Why do we keep asking why?" Cole's argument -- and again, I hesitate to validate it by calling it an argument -- is that Gill is male and there is an epidemic of male violence and that's why. Duh! "It's called male violence," Cole writes. "Name it. Use the term. That's the beginning of change." Cole, like many other crusaders, is using the Dawson tragedy to advance her agenda, but at least she identifies right away in the headline that she's not truly interested in asking why. She knows why without looking.

Now, why has Wong's spurious theory become an "affaire" in Quebec, while Cole's or Salutin's hasn't? To be honest, when I read Wong's piece last week, I got to the controversial paragraphs, thought them over for a second, shrugged and moved on. I spent more time trying to figure out if one of the students Wong names in the piece was the younger sister of my ex-girlfriend.

The fiery reaction to Wong's article says more about Quebec society than her accusation does. They're really, really touchy about the language laws and charges of racism in Quebec, particularly the nationalists, particularly when the accusations come from outside the province. Personally, I think it's ridiculous that Jean Charest and Stephen Harper have written letters to editor of the Globe complaining or demanding apologies. Sloppy punditry is not worth all this fuss.

The debate over the validity of Quebec's cultural protection laws and its society's inclusiveness or lack thereof will continue ad nauseum. But what a damn shame that this eternal, infernal issue has to overshadow the more solemn contemplation of the sad, nihilistic act that took place at Dawson, and what a damn shame it has to erupt while we're still mourning.

Thanks to Jan Wong for starting up this distracting argument, and more sarcastic thanks to the many Quebec commentators and Charest and Harper for turning it into a completely distracting "affaire."
Fire at 42!

Well that was fun. Folks, don't smoke in bed, okay? I don't care that much if you burn yourself to death, but only if you live alone. It's totally not cool to nearly kill everyone else who lives in your building.

Pictures of smoldering douchebag fellow tenant's mattress to follow.

Also, props to the Toronto Fire Department. That was quick. Right on.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Rae Daze...

Is it true that Bob Rae donated money to NDP candidates in the January 2006 election? You know I don't have any time for the argument that Rae "defected" to the Liberals or whatnot, but this is another matter... If Rae was helping the NDP defeat the Liberals in January, it is a bit rich for him to want to lead the Liberals less than a year later.

I'm not a Liberal, but if I was one it might lead me switch my support to Dion or Kennedy. Maybe Dryden.

Ignatieff, you say? I admire the man, really, but I shudder to think of him as Prime Minister of Canada. He's an ideas man and I really think they should stick to journalism and academia where their big, beautiful ideas (Democracy in Iraq! A constitution signed by Quebec's national assembly!) can't hurt anyone.

UPDATE: Calgary Grit has Rae campaign feedback. His NDP donations were "the result of personal and not political ties." Okay, but the point still stands I think. If I was a left-leaning Liberal, it might lead me to consider another candidate.

Right now, it seems to be that Rae, Dion or (if you believe Calgary Grit's numbers) Kennedy is going to end up leader. The reason being that if Ignatieff doesn't win on the first ballot (which he won't), the left-leaning Libs will coalesce around a single candidate.
Foreign News.

Uh, I went to Blockbuster on St. Clair West last night and they had Ararat displayed in the Foreign section.

In other news, I'm moving to London (England, yes) on Oct. 5. More details to follow.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Dawson College stories...

Disturbed by the events of today, I haven't really been able to get to sleep. So I've been reading some of the first-hand and second-hand accounts of the Dawson College shooting on blogs and LJs. The stories are amazing and the courage or just plain humanity on display is heartening. Read on.

- BlaQueroze: "Today, at around 12:45pm, I was about to leave Alexis Nihon Mall to go back to Dawson College with my friend JV. As soon as I stepped out of the mall to cross the street to get in the Atrium entrance, I hear a bunch of "firecracker" sound and suddenly, I see a man in a long black coat with a mohawk carrying a gun that might resemble a machine gun. I panicked, he was shooting at people who were sitting beside the entrance to the College. I told my friend to run back into the mall. It took awhile for people to realize that there was shooting going on. I ran to the food court of the mall and immediately informed people about what I just saw. By then, several students were near the food court window and observing what is going on. The gunman entered the school and a student was on the street bleeding from the back of his head. Everything happened so quickly, and when you're in that certain moment, there is no time to think. I said I would make a long entry but there is not enough words to justify what has happened."

- You cannot please... : "SO i went to school to get shot today apparently, so this is what happened from my perspective, i went for lunch at alexis nihon and i crossed the street at the entrance where the guy got shot like literally one minute before it happened if i would have went to the bathroom before crossing the street like i was planning to then it could have been me or i would have been right there when it happened, i also made some weird eye contact with a security guard as i passed a sign that said "welcome back students" on the exit door of the mall. SO i literally had time to go one floor up from where they entered and log into a computer and the shots went off
it was like someone was moving a guirder from the construction site behind us, but it was apparently the guy getting shot outside the window i was sitting beside. i was just far enough away that it was the wrong angle to see what was happened but i looked and saw a whole bunch of people gasping and running away so i went to see what was going on and i passed by my teachers office and he was like FUCK!!!! so i stepped in and he told me that someone had been shot so i went to go and look and it was practically right underneath us but a little diagonal like one class or two over. so we thought that it was like a robbery or something that he had been mugged (or the two people had been mugged cause there was a guy and a chick laying on the ground, the guy had blood dripping everywhere and onto the street) so we are all trying to figure out what the hell was happening and my teacher kept saying FUCK and it was awkward so then this guy (Mike from printing) was all like get into the classrooms and lock the doors, i was like trying to get out of the office cause i was alone with the teacher (who called me out on skipping his class yesterday). So we heard in the class next door that they were moving around furniture to block the door and my teacher tried to do the same and i was like..... isn't there a keypad lock on your office.....? so he stopped. n e ways we decided it was probably a bad idea to be up against the windows and i was getting traumatized by the people dying on the street. and then one got up and they parked cars around the guy that was still there so that the paramedics couold work on him safely."

- Freakundercover: "Yes. I am a Dawson College student. Yes. I was in school at that time. Yes. I ran like I've never ran before. Yes. I saw someone got shot in the stomach. Yes. I'm freaked out."

- stylistixs: "i swear, i thought everything was alright.
i thought everyone that i knew got out alright.
apparently not.
oh dear god, please.
joel's apparently fine. he got shot in the arm.
his gf though, was shot in teh stomach."

- Jay from Metroblogging Montreal: "My colleague then spotted a young girl looking for cover in the hallway and ran out to help her. There was another gun shot as he got the student to the ground... he was hit in the shoulder and ran back to the print shop. I have no idea what happened to the student, I don't know if he knows either. He will be fine, I'm no expert on bullet wounds, but it looked like it went straight through."

- Olek: "i have never ran so fast in my life."

- Words and Things: "So we were basically locked into our office while we waited to be evacuated. At one point we heard there was supposedly a gunman on the fourth floor (we're on the fourth floor). It does seem like a shooting happened on the fourth floor, because when we were being evacuated I noticed bloodstains starting near the escalator on the fourth floor. But we never heard any gunshots.
So we waited. We tried to joke around but we were tense. At one point we heard a pounding on the outer door (there's the door to our office and then there's a door to the wing). This was soon after we heard there was a gunman at large on the fourth floor. But whoever it was soon stopped."

- David: "We were told we'd have to exit out Sherbrooke St. instead, and were run to the stopped escalators and told to run down with our hands above our heads. Attack dogs and cops with guns drawn were everywhere. We filed down to the 2nd floor, at gunpoint, and were motioned to run out and hug the left wall. Without noticing I had run past the scene of the crime, and past the mangled corpse of the gunman without even noticing. We ran down the side of the building, and at this point most of the girls were freaking out and a few were sobbing loudly, obviously scared. Things had gotten past the surreal point with me when I saw my first police officer pointing a gun at me; now it was simply intense. Running past the red tape that had been run around the whole college, I was stopped by the French media and gave my account in decent but halting French."

- You cannot please... II: "we got to the end of the hall and they were all yelling things like double back and the stairs are secure! so we got outside and we are all like single file style like when they got out of columbine during that shooting, it was sooooo eerie, and i looked back towards the main entrance on de maissoneuve and there were like swat team members that were like sidestepping along the wall towards the entrance so i ran across atwater where there were like 6 ambulances blocking the intersection and i crossed them and on the other side were like 8 million tv cameras and i was like no this is really like columbine or like some sort of like mass evacuation like 9/11 when everybody was like running away i was like I DONT WANT TO BE ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE ON THE NEWS, and apparently i am even on the news in ottawa let alone montreal... "

- Blork: "It was a strange place to be. A cluster of gawkers around a bunch of emergency vehicles is not unusual – it happens whenever a big fire breaks out. But this was different. There were notebooks, textbooks, and other student paraphenalia scattered about. It was only later, when I realized how much ground the shooter had covered, that I realized the stuff had been dropped by people fleeing the scene during the first few minutes of chaos. Basically that means I was standing a matter of feet from where the shooting had started. What shook me, however, was when I noticed I could still smell cordite (gunpower). That’s when it really sunk in that this was more than just some nut taking a few pot-shots."

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Dawson College.

This is absolutely terrible. Half my high school friends went to CEGEP at Dawson. The people I know who still work or study there, thank God, are fine. Others were not so lucky.

But why? And why do these school shootings keep happening in Montreal: Ecole Polytechnique, Concordia University, now Dawson... It's just absolutely terrible. I am hoping and praying that the victims recover.
Dirty Politics.

One of my pet peeves about modern politics is the way a candidate's past writings and sayings are taken out of context and used to create a furour during a campaign. You know, the way Ignatieff writes a nuanced book about nationalism, but parts are taken out of context and he is denounced as anti-Ukrainian. Anyone who hasn't been talking like a politicians for his/her entire life is deemed unfit for politics. Only those unwavering fools who have held the same political opinions since high school are now eligible to hold higher office.

This week's example of this trend: The way the Ontario Liberals have been going after Cheryl DiNovo, the 56-year-old United Church minister who is running in an Ontario by-election for the NDP. Worried that they're in a tight spot, the Liberals have jumped on comments made by DiNovo -- not during the campaign, but in past sermons like this one.

Here is the "controversial" part:
Now I don’t know about you but I am absolutely appalled by what I see in our newspapers lately so I’m going to rant about it for a moment. Every day we are subject to what I consider a kind of sadistic pornography. Now I know it sells papers but every day we pick up the Star or the National Post or the Globe and we see the picture of Karla Homolka on the front cover. I can only imagine what this does to the families of the victims. I know what it does to me. Here’s what it does to me, trying to follow Christ. What it does is detract from the news on the 8th page in much smaller type and smaller headlines that says things like ‘800 People Have Died Since the Iraqi Elections’ It detracts from headlines on page six that talks about what’s happening in Cuba at the American detention camp in all of our names. It detracts from the news on the fourth page about the horrors of what we have done to our Islamic brothers and sisters. That’s what it does and it allows us to create a scapegoat, remember Jesus was a scapegoat, and just pour all our hatred and frustration on this one woman. How sick is that? What it prevents us from doing mostly is to look in the mirror at our own sinfulness/separateness from God and do something about that.
I did a wedding a couple of weeks back and one of the musicians sat down and told me that a sex offender had just been released from prison and was going to take up residence on her street and she was saying, "I’ve got a twelve year old daughter." And I said to her, "You know that sex offender is probably the least likely person in all of Canada to do anything to your daughter." Karla is the least likely person in all of the world right about now, to do anything to anyone. She going to be dogged by paparazzi everywhere she goes. She’s going to be hunted like a wounded animal. It’s going to be sick. She’s not going to be going anywhere and doin’ nothin’. Who is, meanwhile? The people most likely to abuse children are in the children’s own house, relatives, stepfathers, people they know. The second most likely people to abuse children or to hurt someone are people in positions of respect, that’s right, doctors, priests, ministers, lawyers, people that families turn to and trust. Isn’t it weird that we focus on this one woman’s image and we forget all about that?

"Judge not" said Jesus. He also said, "Blessed are the peacemakers." He also said "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind and soul." And he also said, "Love your enemies." "Love your enemies." What does that look like? It looks like this, "Love your enemies."
Now, I'm not a religious person, but pretty much agree with the sermon.

What she seems to be saying to me are a few things:

One, our media obsession with Karla Homolka and other high-profile sicko creeps is a distraction from bigger problems and injustices in society. Agreed! Her crimes were terrible, the way she got a reduced sentence is also terrible, but should this be front-page news a decade later? She is a "scapegoat" in so far as we project all of our fears of crime and murder and rape onto this one person. She has come to represent more than the crimes she committed with Bernardo; she has come to represent pure evil.

Two, our obsession with anonymous sex offenders grabbing kids off the street distracts us from the more real dangers facing our children. Agreed! The vast majority of kids who are sexually abused are abused by people they know and trust: family members and people in positions of power, like priests and teachers.

Finally, there is DiNovo's Christian message: Love your enemies, no matter how horrible the acts they have committed. That means all enemies, even the most horrible ones like Homolka. That's too much for me, but I have a certain admiration for the sentiment.

This is my summary of this part of a longer sermon. How have Liberal bloggers/strategists summarized it? Jason Cherniak: DiNovo "[c]ompared Karla Holmolka to Jesus." Warren Kinsella: "Homolka is a Christ-like 'scapegoat'?" and DiNovo "STATED THAT KARLA HOMOLKA HAD BEEN "SCAPEGOATED" LIKE CHRIST."

A little out of context, anybody?

(By the way, you can see how much slicker Kinsella is about these things. Cherniak just expresses outrage in a scattershot way and hopes something will stick. He, for instance, notes in mock outrage that DiNovo "thought it was sick that poor Karla will be 'hunted like a wounded animal.'" So, presumably, Cherniak thinks that it mob justice is a great idea? That hunting down criminals after they are released from prison is not sick? Now that's offensive!)

DiNovo's sermon is not exceptional to me. It is not offensive, at least not in the way. It is at worst inelegantly phrased and, yes, prone to a little reflexive anti-Americanism. ("There are more pressing problems in the world than Homolka -- every single one of them caused by America!") It is certainly not something a politician would ever say, of course. Why? Because they know that what wins votes is "Your children are in danger and I will protect them with the harshest laws allowed! Karla Homolka is the devil incarnate!"

Nuance is not allowed in politics. Perhaps that's not always a bad thing. But to insist that everyone who enters politics speak every word as a politician would BEFORE they enter politics -- well it's a recipe for political dynasties, for a permanent bred-from-birth political class, for undemocracy.

That's why I find it so upsetting.

I hope it does backfire -- as Ian Urquhart in The Star believes -- and that voters are getting wise to these dirty tactics... And I hope that the voters in Parkdale vote for the candidate they think is the best, whoever that may be.
Ken Dryden is a front-runner...

... to have his Habs number retired.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Zwicker Man.

Whoa! Rabble.ca is actually giving front-page space to nutjob Barrie Zwicker!?! Quote: "A dozen carefully researched books have exposed the official story of 9/11 to be a terror fraud. Yet the mainstream media have monolithically failed to ask elementary questions about anomalies in this story."

Holy crap... Rabble is "in cahoots" with Zwicker? This almost makes me want to sign the Euston Manifesto! We're talking about a guy who believes Noam Chomsky is an apologist for the CIA!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Crash-ing The Globe and Mail's TIFF blog...

Take a close look at this picture of Paul Haggis and reporter Alex Shimo on Shimo's party blog.

Re: TIFF. Been seeing movies, attending press confs, doing interviews and crashing parties fairly non-stop since Thursday. Here are some of my film fest articles in the Post:

- TIFF FAQ...

- My interview with Nadia Litz, from Monkey Warfare...

- A celebrity scramble...

- A by-the-minute review of Kenneth Branagh's The Magic Flute...
- More reviews by me, Chris Knight, & Vanessa Farquharson.

- Chatter in the lines...

Thursday, September 07, 2006

What a croc!

First Germaine Greer speaks ill of the dead. And now, check out this CBC Arts lede:
The family of the so-called Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, has declined the offer of a state funeral from the Australian government and will hold a private funeral within a week.
The so-called Crocodile Hunter? I don't mind so much when the Mother Corps refers to the "so-called War on Terror," but the so-called Crocodile Hunter? Steve Irwin is the Crocodile Hunter! If you're going to "so-call" nicknames, at least be consistent and add a "so-called" to your section on Michael Jackson: King of Pop.

Blasphemous!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Re: Bon Cop, Bad Cop.

At the very bottom of this story, we learn that Bon Cop, Bad Cop II is on the way. Shooting, hopefully, in Sept/Oct 2007 and released in Summer 2008.

But what will it be called? Mieux Cop, Worse Cop? Bon Cop, Bad Cop: Deux Shit Hits the Fan? Bon Cop, Bad Cop II: Et c'est partie time, excellent?
Re: The Dixie Chicks

Look, if you don't like country music and you went around complaining about how often the radio played Wide Open Spaces in 1998, then why are you digging the Dixies Chicks now just because they dissed Bush? If Dierks Bentley suddenly comes out against the Iraq War, will the Weinsteins suddenly produce a documentary about him?

That said, I kinda like the Dixie Chicks. They were definitely one of my favourite acts on the 1999 Lilith Fair tour.

Oh no! I've said too much!
Re: Blak.

Oh my god, don't drink it! I drank half a bottle today and it nearly killed me. I felt like my head was going to explode!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Ex-PM PM: The Onion model!

Paul Martin in a lab coat has made an uncredited appearance in the photo accompanying this The Onion article: Caltech Physicists Successfully Split The Bill. [h/t Chris Selley]

Given the number of Canucks that work for The Onion, I'd say this is a little inside joke and not random photo wire weirdness...

Friday, September 01, 2006

"The Growing Phenomenon of Internet."

Check out this old Bill Cameron report from The National. The very expression "rec room" in Peter Mansbridge's intro dates it, but it's interesting how many themes remain relevant -- breaking of publication bans, conservative networking, etc.

Dig this explanation of emoticons: "Tilt your head left and you'll see a little smilie face that means, 'I'm kidding.'"

Via Andrew Potter.