Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My brain is fried

Christmas is kind of a mind-numbing time of year for me already, so the addition of a sinus cold and a dreary, slushy city has done me in, thinkin' wise. In the meantime, here's some stuff from smart people:

From Pandagon - Part two of Dennis "Why yes, I am twice-divorced, what does that have to do with the quality of my marital advice?" Prager's piece on wives "submitting" to their husband's sexual "needs" gets taken apart by Jesse. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll hurl. And no, it's not satire, though you'll desperately wish it was.

From Failblog - Step One: Cut a hole in the box. I can't tell if this accidental or not. The facial expressions are priceless, either way.

Tributes to two awesome women that we sadly lost over the holidays: Eartha Kitt and Majel Barrett-Roddenbury (please ignore the terrible Star Trek puns and the fact that they overlook Barrett's role in the original Star Trek pilot, where she played the second-in-command to Captain Christopher Pike, until some network exec noticed that she had a vagina and would, like, menstruate all over the controls, and then probably made some "red alert" crack that he would later repeat over and over again to his wife to the point that she wondered whether to stab or poison him.)

Dinosaurs discuss zombies versus vampires.

Sarah Haskins of Target:Women made my holidays that much brighter with her piece on my absolute least favourite holiday advertisements - "Ladies like shiny things!" aka jewelry ads.

Ah, the meds are wearing off. Back with more later.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Snow survival tips for the uninitiated

So, you're a Wet Coaster, and yet - snow. INCHES of snow. Yes, plural. Which has melted and then frozen again, creating this product called "ice", instead of just melting and going right into the ground where the green grass and flowers grow.

I feel your pain. I too was once brutally exposed to this thing called "winter". Repeatedly. Sometimes on purpose. And yet, I survived. And you can too, if you follow some simple survival tips!

Tip #1: How to walk on an icy sidewalk
This is all about centre of gravity. You need to keep your weight over each foot, eyes on your path,taking small deliberate steps and do not, under any circumstances shuffle your feet. If you are doing it correctly, random passerbys will think you are an elderly man walking through a minefield. They may point and laugh, or perhaps offer to walk you across the street.




Careful. CAREFUL! That's it...


Tip #2: Driving in snow

Don't.

Okay, fine. You may have to get somewhere (work, school, driving random passerbys to the hospital after they point at you, laugh and slip, cracking their tailbones) and the buses are probably a)running late and b)being driven by people who also don't know what do to in the snow.

The weakest of the herd are left to succumb to the cold.

So if you must - go slow. No, slower. No - SLOWER. Theeeeerrrrre. Thaaaaaat's iiiiiiit. Be as gentle on the pedals as a newborn baby...that you step on...

Tip #3: Dressing
In the temperature adjustment system, the people need to present two separate, yet equally important groups: the layers who protect against cold and the accessories that keep in the heat. These are their stories. (dunhk duhnk).

Toques may look dorky, but you know what else looks dorky? WHEN YOUR FROSTBITTEN EARS FALL OFF. Put it on. And the scarf (extra long so it can wrap around your face) and gloves and at least an extra two layers under your jacket. (bomp bomp)

So that's it! Three simple ways to survive the unbearable cold snap MINUS temperature that has afflicted the Garden City, even if it lasts for, like, a whole TWO WEEKS...or more! (duh duh).

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

A tale of three Punishers

One summer, my older brother worked at the local video store, and would come home from late shifts with as many seven-day rentals as we could watch before his next shift, which meant staying up all night with our shared love of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude van Damme, Steven Seagal, and all the other heavy hitters of the “martial arts and/or-guns and/or plot plus lots of explosions” genre of the 80s and 90s.

This is also known as the greatest summer of my life.

It was also the summer that introduced me to the action stylings of one Dolph Lundgren, whose career can be accurately summed up here, or humourously summed up here. And it just so happens that, among my favourites of his many movies is the original Punisher. (Yes, I have more than one favourite Dolph Lundgren movie. Red Scorpion and Universal Soldier are the others, in case you were curious. And I know you were.)

It’s a dark movie - so dark they dye his hair black, which makes the normally blond, blue-eyed Swede look like he has, like, consumption or something. But he’s supposed to be dead inside, anyway (figuratively, not literally) (although a zombie Punisher would just be so much awesome that my head would asplode) so it only adds to the gloomy, morbid atmosphere of the film. Which is essentially about a guy who (spoiler? Maybe? Although you probably know this already if you’re at all interested in the film) takes the law into his own hands after his family is killed by the mob. Literally into his hands, with fists and guns and explosives and swords and knives. And sometimes his feet too. Awesome.

So I was more than a little excited when I was wandering around some European mall in 2004 and saw posters with a dark-haired Thomas Jane and the familiar skull symbol. This excitement was tempered half a second later when I realized that right next to that poster was one with John Travolta (entry #2 in “embarrassing crushes from Floyd’s youth”. Entry #1 can be found in this post). But still, I held out hope, even in the face of the dismal opening and turrrrible reviews. After all, I have liked unpopular, ill-received films in the past.

I finally rented it a few months ago, mostly fueled by the knowledge that a third one was in the works, with every major player (actors, director, writers) from the 2004 version unceremoniously dumped. I needed to know – was it really so bad?

Let me put it this way - if one measures the quality of a movie as being inversely related to how angry it makes me when I so much as think about the fact that it even exists, then the 2004 version of The Punisher is the Worst. Movie. I have ever seen. (I am not even going to link to its IMDB page, out of spite.)

The director, Jonathan Hensleigh, apparently blames this on having only $15 million and 50 days to shoot the movie. The director is an idiot. The problem with this movie is that it forgets the very simple, but necessary, formula of any action/revenge movie:

WBGD<WGDTBG. In plain language: what bad guys do must be exceeded by what gets done to bad guys. If the bad guy kicks a puppy, he should be hit in the face with a bat.If he attempts to rape your best friend and then insults and threatens her, he should be shot. If he kidnaps your daughter, you should slaughter of all his minions, accept his challenge to a knife fight - even though you know he will cheat - and then impale him with a steampipe with such force that it propels him backward into a live generator. It's simple math, people.

(Note – I’m about to get SPOILER-RIFFIC right here. It shouldn’t matter to anyone, though, ‘cause if you’ve seen the movie you won’t care, and if you haven’t seen the movie, do not make my sacrifice in vain by going out to rent it now).

So when the 2004 movie had the Punisher’s ENTIRE EXTENDED FAMILY - down to his second cousins and third aunt twice removed, including young children - BRUTALLY MURDERED ON-SCREEN, it upped the ante significantly in terms of what the bad guys did. Even by action movie standards, these were terrible, terrible men, whose actions went well beyond the comfort zone of what the audience expects. (Aside – and spoiler - Stallone did this with the most recent Rambo – having the bad guys be really, terribly graphically, evil - but then he spends the second half of the movie disposing of them with arrows, a machete and 10 glorious minutes behind a Gatling gun. Again - just do the math.)

So of course, when the Punisher gets hands on a member of the mob family behind this, surely he must exact a terrible, bloody and graphic revenge, right? Right? RIGHT?

Well, only if by “terrible, bloody and graphic revenge” you mean “pretend-tortures him with a popsicle in a scene played for laughs”. And it certainly isn’t what I meant.

Okay, but that guy was just small potatoes, right? And the play-torture was a way to get him to come around to the Punisher’s side, so that the Punisher could get really awesome, gruesome revenge on the real bad guys, right?

Sure, if by “awesome, gruesome revenge” you mean “tricks villainous John Travolta into killing his equally villainous wife and best friend.” Again – no, not what I meant. Tricks the bad guy to kill the other bad guys? Tricks him??!! Dude, this movie is not called The Trickster. It is not called The Manipulator. It is not called The super-dangerous guy who has a lot of guns and righteous anger, but would rather fool people into committing violence than resort to violence himself. Honestly, Dolph Lundgren would have turned in his grave. If he were dead. (Which he isn’t, since he’s currently in pre-production of The Expendables which features a cast that gives me a gore-gasm just reading it: Sly Stallone, Jason Statham and Jet Li.)

Not to mention that, just in case we forgot that these guys had massacred dozens of innocent people right before our eyes, we are reminded of how bad they are halfway through the film when they corner one of the Punisher's neighbors and tear out his facial piercings. Oh no! Shooting children point blank was one thing, but now you've gone and pulled out some guy's nose ring. On purpose!

So when the Punisher drags John Travolta behind his car and sets him on fire in the end, it's just waaaaaay too little, way too late. He should have done something like that to EVERYONE. For Travolta, it should have been even worse. The Punisher should have ripped out Travolta’s still beating heart, and stuck a popsicle in there, and said “I always knew you were cold-hearted” and then beaten him nearly to death with his own heart and then taken the popsicle out and eaten it to keep him cool as he burned Travolta alive, piece by piece, on a bonfire made up of the variously mutilated bodies of all the bad guys who worked for Travolta. And then he should have stabbed him in the eye with the popsicle stick. If that’s too much for you to stomach, Jonathan Hensleigh, than maybe you shouldn’t have made the bad guys do such terrible things. Maybe they could have just threatened his dog and stomped on his azaleas. Then your stupid movie would have made sense.

Man, I am just getting angry all over again.

So it was with a little bit of nervousness that I dragged DD to the theatre last night for Punisher: War Zone. I was hopeful, what with the new cast, including the awesome Ray Stevenson (if you see one new series this year, see Rome), Dominic West (if you see two new series this year, see Rome and The Wire) and Julie Benz, who, strangely enough, plays essentially the same role in this film as in the most recent Rambo (and, if you see three new series this year, see Rome, The Wire, and Dexter). The director, Lexi Alexander (Yes! A woman! Who made a film! Her vagina didn’t get in the way or anything!) was a bit of an unknown factor…

…but not any more. Because the movie? Is flat out awesomeness from start to finish. There are stabbings, and slashings, and explosions, and fisticuffs, and so many bullets that even John Woo is all “What? So many bullets!!”. The bad guys are bad, and they do crazy bad things, and then the Punisher kills them in new and interesting ways, and at the end of the day WBGD<WGDTBG and all is right in my world.

If I had to pick one word to describe my reaction to the film, it would be gleeful. This movie made me so goddamn happy, I just wanted to fly down to L.A. (the city) and give L.A. (the director) a big ole sloppy kiss for bringing some cheer to my holiday season. Unfortunately, with the movie not doing so well at the box office (I guess not that many of us want to start the holiday season with exploding drug-running parkour guys) a sequel is likely out of the question - although if Twilight is any indicator, even surpassing all box office expectations isn’t good enough for a female director to keep her job. Sounds to me like the studio heads need a little...punishment.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The wacky, wonderful world of Canadian politics

I’d been working on a lengthy, verbose and profanity-ridden post about the single most exciting thing to happen in Canadian politics since that time I played touch rugby on the Hill with Peter Mackay, but then I realized that the entire situation, like most things in life, is best summed up by a single moment from The Simpsons:



And then I continued with my regularly-scheduled verbosity, regardless.

I mean, seriously – Harper goes in with the promise of a more open, cooperative Parliament, ready to work on the pressing economic concerns of Canadians, and he follows through how? By proposing to limit the rights of civil servants to strike and women to sue for pay discrimination, and trying to effectively gut his opposition financially*, of course. What, you were expecting actual substantive solutions to an impending crisis?

But what an amazing moment – not only for the unprecedented levels of cooperation between three different parties, but also for the incredible learning opportunity this presents. I am far, far from an expert, but all those years on the Hill taught me a thing or two, and still the nuances of this situation are fascinating, and not just for giant dorks like me.

And, unlike what Harper and the Conservatives are claiming, toppling the government and setting up a coalition in its stead is not at all undemocratic. It’s a very intentional feature of our Parliamentary system, and would feature a government that, with the Green Party’s support, represents the majority of Canadian voters (almost 8.5 million between the four parties, compared to the Tories’ 5.2 million).

Some people may make a big deal about the Bloc having signed on to support a Liberal/NDP government (the term “unholy alliance” being used) but I don’t personally have a problem with this. The Bloc are legitimately elected Members of Parliament, and while I may not support their ultimate goal, they are representing the interests of their constituents, as they should. This is how Parliament works (or is supposed to work), and Harper himself has counted on their support in the past to keep his government going (and to try and form a new one – hey, it’s just like now! Only with the roles reversed! Almost like the shoe is on the other foot! Or the pot calling the kettle so power-hungry that they’ll get into bed with socialists and separatists!)

Predictions? I think Harper will ask the GG to prorogue until January, and that she will take his advice. From what I’ve read, constitutional experts disagree on the most appropriate course of action, and there’s no direct precedent, but I think she’ll want to take a moderate path and give the government a chance to present their budget.

I also think the coalition will take down the government on the budget. The Conservatives are in a bit of a no-win situation here – you simply cannot please everyone with your budget, especially people who are looking for ways to criticize you. Add in a recession and you are screwed (pronounced “scru-ed”). However, Jean can decide to dissolve Parliament, or decide to let the coalition form a government, or she may decide to take all the party leaders into her office for a stern talking to (“Can’t I ever leave you kids alone? I go to Eastern Europe for a week and all hell breaks loose. Now, you all start behaving or I am going TURN THIS COUNTRY AROUND RIGHT NOW.”)

Whatever the outcome, though, it’s nice to see the top headlines a) about Canadian politics, b) interesting, and c) in a “this is history-making and thought-provoking” way, not a “oh man, what are those idiots up to again” way.

*As for the ranting about how the Bloc, Liberals and NDP are being whiny, greedy babies throwing tantrums at being cut out of the public trough: vote subsidies encourage voter turnout, represent voters proportionally and are a progressive way of ensuring a healthy democracy by keeping multiple parties competitive. Not bad for $30M every couple of years, eh?

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Friday Top Five: Favourite Fight Scenes

If you know me/have read this blog for a while, then you know my deep, unabashed love for big, loud, violent movies. (And the shirtless men who often inhabit them...but I'm getting ahead of myself!) So there's no need to ask where I was Wednesday night - obviously, I was at the opening night of Transporter 3.

Which was alright, and far superior to Transporter 2, but not really up to the original's balls-out, non-stop mayhem. But it did get me thinking of some of my favourite fight scenes, and what made them so good.

Overall, I think the main elements of a good fight scene are:
  • The match-up: has to be challenging, yet attainable. If the good guy's clearly much stronger, than there's no suspense. If she/he's clearly outmatched, then there's too much suspension of disbelief required when the good guy triumphs. And QUIT IT with the convenient placed sharp objects. Victory by impalement is SO 1995.
  • Creativity: There are thousands of fight scenes put to film every year, according to a number I just made up. What makes this one different? How is it interesting? Does Jason Statham take his shirt off? are just some of the questions a good fight choreographer should ask.
  • Visuals: It's the ultimate tease: the big set, the powerful stars, the dramatic tension, the impending carnage that you know is about to come to a climax...only to have the moment totally ruined by blurry, shaky camera work and incessant cuts which the director thinks makes his film look "gritty" and "realistic" but actually makes it look "blurry" and incomprehensible" and, in my cause, "nauseating". Instead of a big finish, I am left puking in the bathroom. F*** you, Jason Bourne.
There's plenty more, but my lunch break is almost over, so here they are: five of my favourite fight scenes. Feel free to share your favourite fight scenes in the comments!

5) The Fellowship vs. a bajillion orcs and a cave troll
There's plenty of action in all of the LOTR movies, but this scene to me has a much more immediate and dramatic feel, with the fellowship forced to come together in battle for the first (and (SPOILER) last time), forging bonds of heart and strength and steel against the terrors of the infinite darkness that...juuuuust kidding, I love that cave troll.



4) Nicholas Angel and Danny Butterman vs. the Sanford Neighborhood Watch Alliance
If you haven't seen this movie yet, go. Now. No, seriously, go. I'l wait. [whistles]
If you have, then take a few minutes to enjoy this unparelled scene of gunplay and mindless violence that manages to be both an excellent action scene while parodying action scenes.

(This one can't be embedded - watch here)

3) The Bride vs. the Crazy 88

I knew this was one for me when the media reports first picked up that parts of the film had to be shown in black in white, because there was too much blood. AWESOME. It's 15 minutes of pure, visceral eye-candy, with multiple bad-ass women and 88 wild and crazy guys who get sliced and diced like it's discount day at RonCo.

Check it out here.

2) Neo, Trinity and many, many guns vs. hapless security guys, a SWAT team and various office building architectural features.

My friend Megan and I actually saw The Matrix three times at the Roxy, and the second two times were exclusively for this scene, which we affectionately dubbed "sexy gunfights in leather!". We would even chant it in hushed voices as the scene neared, something I'm sure the other patrons really appreciated.



1) The Transporter - Jason Statham and a vat of oil vs. a dozen bad guys
Cheesy, soft-core innuendo aside - this is actually an excellent scene, with intricate choreography, plenty of creativity, and beautiful shots. Of Jason Statham's toned and oiled-up abs...olute knowledge of martial arts techniques. Er, yeah. That's the ticket!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Top Five

Top news story: Secretary of State Clinton.

Even if I didn't admire her, I'd be happy with this decision - at the very least, it should mean Amy Poehler returning to SNL for guest spots.

Top way to waste time: Assembler.

This simple little game about moving green crates around is addictive. Whoever solves the level with all the round crates, please give me a clue, 'cause I've been stumped all week.

Top embarrassing dad moment:

B.C. NDP house leader and middle-aged white guy Mike Farnworth using the word "bling" during question period. Stay tuned for next week when NDP leader Carole James scolds the Premier with a sassy "Oh no you di'int".

Top source of schadenfreude: Brokers with hands on their faces

Top photo: the one where Floyd finds her soulmate


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Chuck Norris can and should roundhouse-kick himself in the face

I’m not going to link to Townhall, where this was posted, for a number of reasons (not wanting to boost traffic to their particular brand of unabashed pseudo-journalism being, surprisingly, secondary to how goddamn buggy their site was), so if you want to read the whole thing, you’ll have to use your google-fu. But here’s some highlights from Chuck Norris's recent column (yes, he has propelled himself into the realm of conservative punditry thanks only to his resurgent internet fame and cancer-curing tears) on the national backlash after Proposition 8 was passed in California:
There were many of us who passionately opposed Obama, but you don't see us protesting in the streets or crying "unfair." Rather, we are submitting to a democratic process and now asking how we can support "our" president. Just because we don't like the election outcome doesn't give us the right to bully those who oppose us….
And what exactly is this bullying that’s going on? Only the most terrible kind:
You even can find donor blacklists online. The lists include everyone who financially backed Prop. 8 -- even those who gave as little as $46 -- with the obvious objective that these individuals will be bantered and boycotted for doing so.
Yes, refusing to give money to individuals and organizations (and engaging them in a series of witty quips and catchy one-liners? Like, “Hey, if God wanted two men to get married, he would have made Adam and Steve!” “Well, if God wanted me to roundhouse-kick you in the face, he would have given me a foot, and you a face!” “Well, you’ve got me theOOOMPH”) is apparently a form of bullying. I guess I bullied about 17 different homeless people on my way to work, not to mention a Domino's, Subway and bookstore-that's-really-a-front-for-marijuana-dealing.

In his defense, he’s not the only one pushing this particular argument - that protesting Prop 8 is EVEN MORE WORSE UH HUH than initiating, organizing and funding a campaign aimed devaluing and defaming a particular group of people's lives, relationships and families - but in his…opposite of defense, just because lots of people say something doesn’t make him any less of a douchebag for saying it.

Because having your rights taken away by your fellow citizens in a referendum is not the same thing as having the other guy win the presidential election. Repeat after me: An election is not the same thing as a referendum. The former is the process by which citizens choose the representatives who will carry out legislative duties, the latter is, for all intents and purposes, a legally-binding poll of self-selecting individuals. Just because they both involve checking a box doesn’t make them morally equivalent actions. Representatives are chosen by the majority because that's just. Laws aren't chosen by the majority because that's just stupid.

In fact, the whole reason we have elections is so we don’t have to have referendums. We elect people to make laws so that they aren’t enacted by freakin’ popularity contest. The masses, we are not infallible - we’re irrational, prone to knee-jerk reactions and most of us lack the resources, knowledge, or desire to actual educate ourselves on anything beyond the current number of Brangelina’s kids. (Seven, apparently.) Not to mention an inherent flaw in the system, which Chuckie unsurprisingly highlights unironically:

What's wrong with this picture? Lots.

First, there's the obvious inability of the minority to accept the will of the majority.
THE STUPID! IT BURNS! Hey, I know, let’s have a referendum on whether people named “Chuck” can own property. I call shotgun on all the Walker, Texas Ranger blooper reels! Sorry, pal, but it’s the will of the majority! Oh, and also, women*, black people, First Nations, all other visible minorities, non-landowning males, and persons with disabilities, you may start quaking in fear….now.

And then there’s this jem:

I agree with Prison Fellowship's founder, Chuck Colson, who wrote: "This is an outrage. What hypocrisy from those who spend all of their time preaching tolerance to the rest of us! How dare they threaten and attack political opponents? We live in a democratic country, not a banana republic ruled by thugs."
Expressing outrage at people who voted to take away your rights is “hypocritical”? Being upset with business-owners who took your money knowingly and then donated it to a campaign to take away your rights is “hypocritical”? Protesting against a business or institution that contributed hundreds, thousands, or millions to devalue your family and relationships, all the while claiming they were about protecting families and relationships, is “hypocritical”?

I can’t believe the entitlement these people have. “I’m allowed to do whatever I want, say whatever I want, and invest lots of time and money into pushing the agenda that I want, with no repercussions whatsoever! If you complain, or criticize, or push back, you are a hypocrite!”

You know – ‘cause it’s not like the fundies ever boycott or protest anything. Oh wait, but they’re doing it for Jesus**, so it’s okay.

Better start now, Chuck - the line-up for roundhouse-kicks to the face is starting to get pretty long.

*Yes, I know women aren’t technically a minority. That doesn’t stop dudes (and self-hating non-dudes) from continually trying to stomp on women’s rights through popular vote.

**That would be Republican Jesus, of course, not the actual “Love God, judge not, blessed are the poor” Jesus.

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Keith Olbermann on Prop 8

Thanks to Michelle for flagging this - another excellent take on Prop 8, this time by Keith Olbermann.



This whole thing is déjà-vù all over again, eh, my fellow Canucks? You just want to tell the fundies to tilt their heads north and observe our still-stable society which somehow failed to crumble and dissolve into panic and random man-appliance weddings in the street.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Dan Savage vs. Tony Perkins on Anderson Cooper

Sometimes insomnia is it's own reward - yesterday's sleepless night meant I was up to see Dan Savage be his usual awesomeness on The Colbert Report.

He's equally as quick-witted in person as he is on the page - just check out this video of him taking on (heh) Tony Perkins of the insidiously named Family Research Councilwhich I'm not going to link to because it's one of those organizations that uses warm fuzzy words like "Family" "Values" "Life", etc., because "Douchebag fascists who want all up in your bedroom/uterus research council" wouldn't fit on the bumper sticker.

Also - bonus points if you watch the video right to the end, for the "Oh, snap!" moment. My exact word were, "Oh, you just got told, Tony Perkiiiiins!" Leave yours in the coments for double-plus fun.

Off to the races - Liberally

I suppose that a month is a perfectly respectable mourning period, especially when you're announcing that you're not running.

Former premier of New Brunswick and ambassador to Washington Frank McKenna? "Clean up your own goddamn mess - I'm getting too old for this shit."

Former deputy prime minister John Manley? "I am also getting too old for this shit. And by too old, I mean too rich from my many high-paying jobs on boards of directors."

Grassroots phenom Martha Hall-Findley?
"I'm too young for this shit. And by shit, I mean the crushing amounts of personal debt required to finance my previous leadership run, which - although awesome and inspiring to many young people, including an obscure and particularly foul-mouthed blogger - was kinda sorta the opposite of profitable."

Power broker and new MP Gerard Kennedy? "I am also too young and too broke for this shit. And - seeing as my one power-brokering moment was to throw my support behind Dion, thus winning him the previous leadership race - way, way unpopular. Like, atomic wedgie levels of unpopular."

So who does that leave us with? Would you be terribly shocked if I told you...the two frontrunners from the last convention who were overcome at the final stage by the Kennedy-Dion deal?

And some other guy, too...but dude, who are you kidding?


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Thursday, November 06, 2008

From the Archives - What a difference four years makes

Going through the dusty interweb archives and came across a blog entry reaction on the last U.S. election. Hope y'all savour the difference as much as I do.

Now that my mandatory two-week waiting period is up


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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Stupid arguments against electoral reform - Part III - "It doesn't produce stable governments"

Here's fun with semantics - people throw the word stability around a lot when talking about governments, when what they really mean is "majority". See, the fun thing about governments in Canada is that if you're the leader of your party, and you have a majority government, you can do whatever you want.

Legislatively, that is. You pick a cabinet minister, you tell him (or, 29% of the time if you're Harper, her) what bill you want introduced, you have it put on the House schedule, your party members vote for it, in the House and in committee, and ta daaa! Buffalo wings are now the fifth major food group. Of course, the PM has to have been around enough to have stacked the Senate with his appointees, or he can try and persuade opposition senators to his way of thinking, with many buffalo wings.

And this is what people mean by stability. No, not buffalo wings - the ability of a government to pass whatever legislation it wants, with only the threat of losing a future election to rein it in. And of course, the wisdom, foresight and good intentions of government members. So yeah, the threat of losing future elections.

Without this ability, the reasoning goes, the opposition will prevent bills from passing, effectively neutering our virile, manly and turgid governments. And with our current partisan system, it does kinda work that way. The Parliamentary system was conceived as adversarial, with an opposition holding the government accountable (the main vehicle of this being Question Period, or, as it is currently known, recess ("I'm rubber, the Honourable member is glue.." "No, I'M rubber, THAT Honourable member is glue...")).

And, thanks to three consecutive minority governments, we've had approximately 17 elections this millenium, and a 2000% increase in the use of the word "dysfunctional" to describe something other than the Spears family.

While the thought of going to another election in the next year makes me want to vomit (or maybe that's just all the buffalo wings I had), it's hardly a solid argument against proportional representation, for several reasons:

1) The "norm" of majority governments means that the parties aren't inclined to cooperation, preferring instead to engage in political (and, possibly, literal) dick-measuring;
2) If the first-past-the-post system isn't producing majorities, which it is already predisposed to do, then people are really divided on which party to support, then the answer is for the parties to work on not being so sucky, and not rewarding them for their suckiness with an artificial majority;
3) These shitty governments were produced by our current system - using them as examples of the ills of proportional representation is like microwaving tinfoil to prove the evils of the oven;
4) And, similar to Part II of this series, it assumes that "stability" (as defined by the ability of the govern to legislate as they see fit) it always preferable to "instability". Again - if that were the case - then we'd be better off under some form of dictatorship.

So here's the thing - proportional represenation may very well produce more minority governments. But only if that's what the electorate wants. And at the end of the day, that's the whole point of democracy - to get whatever government we want. Not for the government to get whatever it wants.

And maybe - just maybe - if minority governments become the norm, we'll see more groundbreaking policies developed through collaboration, and less "No, YOU'RE glue to infinity plus one nyah nyah nyah nyah boo boo."

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Ice cream and victory

They both taste awesome.

Obamalution


Your thousand words for the day.

And a few more:

Oh please, oh pretty please, with a cherry and chocolate sauce and sprinkles and coconut flakes and peanut butter on top, please let me have a delicious ice cream sundae tonight.

While I'm watching Barack Obama be elected President.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Get your own damn uter...er, coffee

UPDATE - Per the discussion in the comments, here's some info from the National Advocates for Pregnant women on drug use during pregnancy. There's a fact sheet that refers to studies (although it doesn't name them! drat! My search continues!) and many articles that deal with how the "crack baby" myth is used to criminalize poor, and mostly African-American, women.


Back when I tried to keep my raging radical feminism separate from my raging political radicalism, I kept a separate blog called The Fetal Position where I angrily told theocrats, fundies, bitter folks young and old, be-penised or vagina-ed, to keep their grubby, most likely improperly-washed hands off and get their own damn uterus.

It’s also where I wrote this post, about an article from the Washington post detailing a report put out by the CDC in response to the U.S. ranking second to last in infant mortality rates in the developed world (in your face, Latvia!). According to the article, the report advised that all women who had functional ovaries should consider themselves ‘pre-pregnant’, whether they were planning on getting pregnant in the near future or otherwise, and therefore abstain from drinking fun things, eating fun things, doing fun things, or thinking of themselves as human beings entitled to have any enjoyment in their lives.

Of course, if you actually read the report, unlike me, then you would have known that it said a lot of things, including that the general health of women of child-bearing age could be improved. (Or, as John McCain would say, “health”.) But "Study gives detailed overview of complex issue with reasonable, science-based suggestions towards a solution" doesn't make for as catchy a headline as "Forever Pregnant".

Now, the CBC’s not going that far – but nothing exacerbates my Monday morning grouchies quite like two separate “Pregnant women who do X are bad!” stories. Don’t gain weight! Don’t drink coffee! Or else you are a TERRIBLE MOTHER who will probably want to have, like, ONE GLASS OF WINE, and should you suffer the tragedy of a miscarriage it will probably be YOUR FAULT because you went by a Starbucks and you INHALED.

Honestly, these types of reports are double-plus badness – another item on the already weighed-down shoulders of women, whose behaviours during pregnancy seem to be responsible for every possible aspect of their child and its development, from physical appearance, to character, to abilities and more (“damn you, slice of brie my mother had three months into her pregnancy, for preventing me from being a gorgeous, six-foot judo expert and concert pianist who solves crimes on her spare time using her hyper-sensitive sense of smell!”); PLUS another weapon for every self-righteous douchebag out there who gets off on judging a woman’s “morals” by her appearance, since nothing says irresponsible slut like a visibly pregnant woman, right douchebags? (Douchebags: “Nice sweater vest, man-hater.”) Better put her in her place, that uterus-having, life-creating, “I’m a human being with the ability to make decisions about what’s best for me, my body and my family”-thinking incubator.

Now, I’m not saying that research on healthy pregnancies isn’t important – it’s just frustrating that the studies (and the media coverage) focus on taking away stuff from women, rather than giving them stuff, like, say, comprehensive pre-natal health care. Because that would be SOCIALIST, and socialism is EVEN WORSE than having the second-highest infant mortality rate in the developed world. Or something like that.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Things that keep me up at night

I remember watching the results of the last U.S. election and getting that sinking, disbelieving, mind-reeling feeling that comes when mass stupidity is combined with raging hatred and widespread corruption.

For, as much as Canadian election results may frustrate me, I've never doubted their legitimacy. That is - it has never once occurred to me that a Canadian election has been rigged. I may not like our current PM, but I have no doubt he came by the position honestly, and with many sweaters.

Not so in the U.S. And with election day in two freakin' days, it actually keeps me up at night that the Republican party's total disregard for the will of the voters will manifest itself in enough voter purges, campaigns of voter misinformation, fear-mongering and vote rigging as to steal the election once again.

So, here's to you, Canada - at least your politicians are honest.

Well, more honest.

Well, less likely to try and rig elections.

Well, less likely to succeed at rigging elections.

Well, less likely to have the resources, including vast numbers of blindly-partisan assfaces who will commit election fraud.

Well, more likely to have elections when it's cold and there's hockey on.

UPDATE

Nobody in the history of the world has deserved a kick to the box more than this lady.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Fun with Fractions: Cabinet Shuffle Edition

Previous: 7/31=23%
Current: 11/38=29%

Stephen Harper: “Okay, I’ll add more women to my cabinet, but only if I can add almost as many more dudes.”

Had he kept to his previous cabinet size and appointed women instead of men:

11/31=35.5%

Believe it or not, my beef isn’t with Harper on this one (well, not completely). He’s not the one out there trumpeting the increased representation of women in his cabinet. He and his party are very open about their stance on women’s equality, which is that they don’t give a flying prairie oyster about it.

But at the very least, maybe media outlets could do a little math (gasp!) to put things into context. Pretty please?

RELATED POSTS:


Stupid arguments against electoral reform - Part II - "It's too complicated"

Okay, straight up – BC-STV is more complicated than first-past-the-post. There’s rankings, and transfers, and mathematical equations, oh my! But my issue is with the argument that this automatically makes BC-STV a less desirable electoral system.

It’s based on the premise that simple is always preferable to complicated. Now, simplicity may be a virtue when it comes to some things (the instructions that come with IKEA furniture), but it may not be the best course of action in other cases (“Cancer, eh? Chemotherapy is awfully complicated. Here, have a milkshake.”)

The fact is, there are plenty of times in life where we opt for complicated over simple because it gives us better results. It may be something as important as cancer treatments, or as simple as what’s for dinner (“Hmm, pasta with pesto and sautéed vegetables? Naw, I’ll just eat flour out of the bag.”)

But Floyd, some people might say, simple might not always preferable to complicated in every circumstance, but it is when it comes to electoral systems.

And to them, I say – well, why stop at first-past-the-post, then? There are, after all, even simpler systems out there, and by that logic, they are better. After all, with first-past-the-post, there are multiple names on the ballot – wouldn’t it be simpler to just have one? Or, keep the multiple names, but skip the whole “counting” part.

Again, it comes back to the same point – it’s not what’s simpler or more complicated, but what gets the best results. So if someone tells me, “The best results are declining voter turnout, governments elected by less than 40% of voters, millions of people feeling their votes are wasted”, then I tell them I guess they’ll want to stick with first-past-the-post.

But, when someone tells me, “I’m not voting for BC-STV, it’s too complicated!”, my only response is, “I’m voting for BC-STV because first-past-the-post is too simple to produce truly democratic results that accurately reflect the diversity of the electorate.”

And then I direct them to this cartoon which explains BC-STV. Simply.

Related Posts:

Stupid arguments against electoral reform - Part I

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

From the Archives - October Rocks

In honour of my favourite month - a blast from my blogging past.

October Rocks

UPDATE - thanks to Scooter for the heads-up on the current weather conditions in O-town.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Laws of Traffic vs. the Laws of Physics

As I subtly alluded to in a previous post, one of the many things that I am still readjusting to upon my return to Vic City is the complete and utter faith pedestrians have here in the reflexes, attention span and general good-nature of drivers.

Living downtown means I don't do a lot of driving, which is probably a good thing, because years of living in O-town means that I am simply not used to pedestrians taking their lives into their own hands like this. Maybe it's the close proximity to Montreal (where, according to a recent study of my own anecdotal data and third-hand horror stories, being hit by a car while on the sidewalk is the second-leading cause of death, behind only choking on a frozen Joe Louis). Maybe it's the fact that crosswalks were obscured for half the year. Maybe it's the fact that nobody walked anywhere (which was certainly true based on my three years of living in the 'burbs, where DD and I were often the ONLY pedestrians, especially in the ginormous strip mall which was, in all fairness, actually three strip malls in a row, but still, people, do you really need to drive 150m from the Loblaws to the Wal-Mart? Do you? Really? You do? Yeah? ...okay, then.)

And certainly, my few brief months in France left me no more trusting in the driver-pedestrian relationship, either. (Although it did leave me a few pounds heavier and with a good appreciation of grocery store wine and unpasteurized cheeses, so we'll call that one a win.)

Now, let me be clear - it's not that I dispute the legal right-of-way of pedestrians. It's just that I put my faith in the laws of physics over the laws of traffic. The latter gives pedestrians right of way. The former allows me to predict the winner when "metallic structure moving at high velocity" takes on "soft, fleshy object". And this certainly dictates how I pedestrianate...pedestriage...pedest...walk around.

And, again, I do quite a bit of this. And Vic City has crosswalks EVERYWHERE. And when I come to one, I continue to be amazed at the consistency with which even three lanes of traffic will all come to halt when I approach the street. Quite honestly, it freaks me the hell out. How did they know I wanted to cross the street before I even made it to the crosswalk? Who are these people? WHY YOU WATCHING ME?????

So, it's been an adjustment from both sides. Yet even as I continue to get back into the "pedestrians ARE going to step out right in front of you, so you better start braking as soon as you see one, just in case" style of driving, I hope I never slip into that category of pedestrian. After all, I remain a soft, fleshy object.

At least until I save up enough for that custom-made titanium exoskeleton. Then it's jaywalk city, my friends.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Stupid arguments against electoral reform - Part I

We in Soviet Canuckistan like to act all shocked and dismayed at the flawed U.S. system, shaking our heads sadly at the poor dears who, in 2008, elected a president who earned 47.9% of the popular vote, compared to his opponent's 48.4%. Many's the person (my person included) who has sadly and smugly sighed that the U.S. isn't a real democracy.

Well, the joke's on us, and has been on us a long time. At least Bush got 48% of the American people to vote for him. Our current Prime Minister was supported by just over a third of Canadian voters - 37.6% - with voter turnout at an all-time low.

And in all fairness to the man in blue, he's not the only PM to win this way - in fact, he's the norm, not the exception. In 2000, Jean Chrétien earned 3% more of the popular than Stevie this time around, but this gave him his third majority government. Go back to 1951 - 41.4% of the vote meant a majority of seats for Mackenzie King - although his own wasn't among them, having lost in the riding of Prince Albert (shout out to my peeps in P.A.!).

Now, maybe this doesn't bother some people...but it pisses me right the hell off. Like a lot of people, it strikes me as fundamentally undemocratic that the preferences of voters get so distorted through our system. And, on a more basic, kindergarten-esque level - it's just damn unfair.

Now 57% might be enough to elect a a government, but not enough to change the way we elect that government. But here's the thing - in just under seven months, the people of Beautiful British Columbia are getting another crack at changing the way our electoral system works.

I'm going to come right out and say it - I want this. I want it so bad that not only can I taste it, I have entire imaginary meals out of proportional representation topped off with a collaborative politics dessert, and topped with a tall, refreshing glass of increased voter engagement. Mmmm...democraticalicious...

But - and this astonishes and angers me - there's voter turnout sinking like a stone, antagonistic partisan politics that take the 'us vs. them' mentality to new heights of middle school cliqueness, (if middle schoolers took out ads trashing about each other on national TV), with so many orphan voters and wasted votes - and some people are absolutely fine with this. The chance for change is coming soon and they're not going to take it.

After thinking about it a bit (specifically, the time between performances on So You Think You Can Dance Canada), I came to a conclusion about the best, and easiest way, for me explain why electoral reform is so awesome that it makes my heart develop many boners. I'm going to start adding to the list of reasons I've heard against electoral reform, and take each of them, one at a time, out into the back alley, and kick its teeth in.

And by that, I mean, I'm going to carefully and thoroughly examine it for validity, soundness and accuracy...

And then kick its teeth in.

But not until after So You Think You Can Dance Canada.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

There's some terms out there that get so horribly misused I almost want to take out restraining orders on their behalf against the general population. Political correctness, for one (poor dear) Begs the question, for another. And unique, that which is one-of-a-kind, without equal, endlessly saddled with useless superlatives...listen, people, something is either unique or it's not. Your friend is not VERY unique. Your idea is not REALLY unique. Your band's sound is not SORTA unique. And your child is not TOTALLY unique - she's unique, sure, but just like EVERY SINGLE OTHER PERSON IN THE FRAKKIN' WORLD, and I don't care how well she finger paints.

But as much as the use and abuse of such terms tickles my grouchy bone, at least they're ACTUAL terms. Unlike certain other terms which are totally, completely, and without question MADE-UP because actual language doesn't reflect the fantasy world their users have concocted in their head. Sincethese terms have no fixed meaning, sincethey do not refer to an actual, specific thing, they are little better than fancy swears, multi-syllabic slurs that signify an excess of opinion in comparison to actual knowledge. (...don't look at me like that!)

However, as most of these are politically-loaded (the terms that one makes up when one cracks one's knee against that stupid support under one's dining room table for the UMPTEENTH time notwithstanding) the one tiny silver lining on the vomit cloud is that their use, while telling you nothing about the subject in question, tells you plenty about the speaker.

For example: "Partial-birth abortion." means "I somehow believe that women who want abortions wait until the last possible second. Why? I don't know. Maybe pregnancy is really fun? Maybe they just didn't notice? Maybe they were too busy washing their hair and talking about boys? Maybe they want the largest possible fetus to sacrifice to the secret cabal of aborto-feminists that runs the world so that now men have fewer rights than women, even though all the legal, financial and economic evidence points to the opposite? How am I supposed to know? Bitches be crazy."

"Slut." Sars at Tomato Nation says this better than I ever could.

And the one that is currently a hot topic in Vic City,, due to recent events:

"Judicial Activism", which means "I don't like this ruling, but I don't have the basic legal knowledge or intellectual standards to try and understand the judge's decision, therefore I am going to make a values-based argument against what I see as the outcome of that decision - that people are setting up a tent city in Beacon Hill Park - and fan the divisive flames of manufactured outrage, rather than dispute what is essentially a narrow legal decision that a municipal by-law forbidding the erection of temporary shelter in public parks when a)sleeping in public parks is not illegal and b)there is a vast and recognized shortage of shelter beds, violates section seven of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which guarantees life, liberty, and security of the person. Because that would take, uh, effort. And brains. And a desire to be constructive and help solve a difficult, frustrating and tragic problem, rather than complaining that liberal elites and smelly street people are ganging up on me like a bunch of meanies."

FYI, Michael Smyth. Pass it on to your buddy Ian, too...maybe he'll calm down if he knows those "softheaded liberal activists" exist only in his mind...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

We'll always have Lansdowne Park

Oh, Stephane (whose name is spelled with an accent, I know, but I am too lazy to figure out how to provide one). You may not remember me (In fact you probably don't). It was almost 10 years ago now, and hundreds of young women (and men) just like me have come and gone. I, a lowly House of Commons Page, and you, the nebbish yet persistant Quebec lieutenant in Chretien's cabinet who kept me up all night...

...with the Opposition's filibustering of your much-maligned Clarity Act.

Oh, my dear, the memories from all those months around the House. Remember that time when you were on the MP team that played the pages, and we won? That was totally sweet. I scored the first goal and wrote a poem about it that was read into the record and then Peter MacKay, who was totally the handsomest (as in: "only handsome") MP asked me for a copy and...No, no, this is about you. You, who are equally at ease at the head of a federal party as you are hustling along the pitch in your matching green jersey and shorts. Well, maybe not equally.

Now, I wouldn't say this about just any leader of Canadian federal political party but...I like you. I really, truly, like you...as a friend. Well, acquaintance. Well, person who brought you water before your speeches...a couple of times. (And beat you at soccer). But that's not the point! The point is - why am I saying this? Why now, after so many years? Because you dear, sweet, ridiculously intelligent man...it's over. It's really, truly finally over. Who ever thought you'd make it as far as you did? But you just couldn't win over the hearts of Canadians from that tall, dark and sorta-handsome-but-those-dead-eyes-and-that-cold-smile-are-too-freaky-for-him-to-really-pull-it-off man. It's not you, it's them.

Well, it's sorta you.

But don't let that keep you down. Take heart in your many friends - all of whom are now secretly vyying for your job - and enjoy your last stretch as leader. Go for broke in Question Period ("When will the Prime Minister answer the question - what do kittens taste like?"). Play some soccer. I'll even let you win this time.

Adventures in Lotus Land - Of Bottle Returns and Homelessness

Well, Double-Ds and I have been in town for over three months now, and it's been a mostly smooth transition for me back into the Vic City groove...with a few notable exceptions. Many of these have been fermenting in my brain, so expect later posts on them (if I'm not in jail because these freakin' pedestrians DO NOT LOOK BEFORE THEY STEP OUT INTO THE ROAD and with all of the elderly drivers here not to mention the ROWDY TEENAGERS and DRUNKS and PEOPLE WHO TALK ON THEIR PHONES do you really want to PUT YOUR LIFE INTO THE HANDS OF A COMPLETE STANGER'S REFLEXES although thankfully for you mine have been honed by non-stop Rock Band sessions which is seriously THE BEST GAME ON EARTH).

One area that makes us sorely miss O-Town (and Ontario in general) is liquor stores. In the big province, it's still a provincial crown corporation, and boy, is the LCBO a yuppies dream. Big spacious stores, attractive colour schemes, a gift section, free glossy magazine with recipes and pretty pictures. Together with the Beer Store (which is basically every beer-lover's fantasy - a building that's 1/4 open space and 3/4 fridge) they dot the Ontario landscape, beckoning to thirsty people with their size, cleanliness and consistent pricing which includes taxes right on the shelf tag.

A couple of years ago, Ontario also got on the bottle deposit bandwagon - for alcoholic beverages only. Now, this was actually a bit of a pain for the DD and I, because I, as a good little west-coaster, have been recycling since utero, and therefore needed no incentive to keep containers out of the garbage other than the feeling of satisfaction and smug superiority that comes with practicing the three Rs. Still, we dutifully stacked our empty booze holders in the garage, and packed them away with us to the beer store when we when to pick up our next case. There, we would wait in line to return the empty bottles and get the little ticket stub which was immediately put towards purchasing full bottles - thus completing the circle of life.

So it was a bit of a shock when we went to our yuppie wine store in downtown Vic City and, rather than a friendly greeting and recognition of our civic mindfulness, we were awkwardly given a flat and a wine crate and - I kid you not - asked to leave the store to sort them. Yes, leave the store, crouch over on the sidewalk, and rummage through our empties like (and if you are from this city, have been to this city, or know anything about this city then you know how this ends...) street people.

Because it seems that - in all my years away - recycling empties has gone from the noble task of suburbanites and high school sports teams to a dirty thing that only the pariahs of our beautiful city participate in. And, since it's now a task of the "undesirables", the business who must, poor dears, interact with these ruffians have NO OTHER CHOICE than to make the entire process as difficult and humiliating as possible.

And why not? This is, after all, the city which has bravely sought to tackle the tragic, complex and difficult question of homelessness, and the implicated issues of addiction and mental illness, by passing random by-laws which are so blatant and short-sighted as to fall short of being "band-aid" solution - these, my friends, are "little pieces of tissue that guys put on their face when they nick themselves while shaving" solutions. Like the genius one back when I was in high school which a bunch of us learned about while waiting for the crowd to disperse after watching New Year's Eve fireworks downtown and a couple of cops came up to us and told us to stop what we were doing (and we thought they were kidding so they had to repeat themselves that) sitting on the sidewalk was illegal. And, of course, the next big one which was famously struck down just this last week - the "Oh, you have no where to sleep and it's cold and raining? Screw you!" by-law.

Not that I have all the answers (well I do, but it involves people diverting resources for the good of their fellow citizens with noting but the warm fuzzy feeling that comes with being a decent human being in return, which makes me a socialiest/commie/terrorist bastard, I guess), but it's amazing what 2 minutes hunched over a cold sidewalk pawing empty bottles does the ol' empathy gland.

Nerve centre? Cortex? Empathy cortex...yeah, that sounds right.