Monday, January 31, 2011

Eagle Fire Garfield Randomizer

Are you familiar with the Eagle Fire Garfield Randomizer? It's more awesome than Cap'n Crunch. It works on a principle that Garfield comics are, by and large, the same thing every day, and as such if you take any randomly-chosen panels from a huge pool of cartoons down the years, the result shouldn't be any less funny than the actual comic. It's true, really. The actual comics are rarely any funnier than syphilis, and the randomly chosen new ones occasionally have an absurd twinge to them that really can make them superior.

Here's four examples I threw together today. Copyright entirely belongs to Jim Davis, of course, whether or not he'd want it.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Blind Bow-Boy's Butt-Shaft

Olivia Hussey as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, 1968Image via WikipediaA memory... it's high school. Grade 9, I think. We're in English class struggling with Shakespeare. This time it's his grand albatross Romeo and Juliet, and we're all surprised to discover that it's actually not that bad, all told.

Okay, it wasn't a sudden love of great art. It was a sudden love of Olivia Hussey, who, let's face it, was incredibly hot if you were a grade-niner and your teacher was actually showing you fifteen-year-old titty in the classroom. Now that's how to pique a child's interest in literary greats.

So there we are in class, and the teacher has doled out certain roles to certain students. There's the lumbering, ponderous and ineloquent Scott, a friend of mine at the time, ploughing through Mercutio, in that empty, halting monotone with which kids read Shakespeare if they have no idea whatsoever what the words they're reading mean. He gets to this:
Alas poor Romeo! he is already dead; stabbed with a white wench's black eye; shot through the ear with a love-song; the very pin of his heart cleft with the blind bow-boy's butt-shaft: and is he a man to encounter Tybalt?
It's been tough going, trying to manage page after page of text we can barely understand, Shakespeare's greatness cloaked behind a heavy curtain of ourincomprehension. Scott attempts to carry on, but discovering the word 'butt-shaft' in Shakespeare is just too much. His voice breaks and he tries to avoid cracking up.

It's a dismal failure. Within five seconds, he's completely collapsed in hysterics, and the whole class has followed. It wasn't merely the phrase 'butt-shaft' but the clumsy, ridiculous alliteration in which it appears. And it wasn't just the awesomeness of the phrase but the teacher's complete lack of understanding. She was smiling at our mass hysteria, but she couldn't share in it. She didn't appear to get the joke.

But all those years later, my main memory of that day is of the sudden realisation that a group of teenagers were way cooler than Shakespeare and than the entire English-class industry devoted to Shakespeare-worship. That six-word phrase was an in-joke for years and would still remain so for me, were there anyone in my life today who would get the joke.

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Synapse to the Beat: Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby"

So it's a math class, I think. I'm not sure. Our teacher is a middle-aged woman (by middle-aged I probably mean 'as old as I am now'), and she's more than a little irascible. We're... er, 14ish or something like that. I could calculate the exact age rather easity but I can't really be bothered. It's high school, though, and we're being, well, more than a little boisterous.

Everyone is seated in class - it's not that people are running around or anything - but there's a dozen conversations going on: loud, laughing, not conducive at to learning about integrals or whatever it was we were meant to be doing.

The teacher's been subtly trying to get our attention  for a while, calling out 'okay, folks, come on now, let's stop talking, let's get down to work, etc. etc. etc.' It's a completel failure and her blood pressure is reaching critical mass. Suddenly the rage boils over, and she absolutely shrieks, "All right, stop!"

The dead silence of the class is immediate. Her bellow completely silences us to pin-drop levels. This all happens in the single beat necessary for me to risk my educational career and possibly my health by deadpanning, into that charged silence, with perfect timing: "...collaborate and listen".

You gotta be the right age to get it. Those are the opening lyrics to "Ice Ice Baby", the biggest hit of history's most preposterous 'rapper' Vanilla Ice. It's actually not that bad a song really. It's easy, and entirely appropriate, to diss Vanilla Ice. But this song still stands.

Anyway, that's not the point. The point is how in that split second I weighed the possible consequences of making my math teacher really pissed off at me for giving her cheek.Ultimately, of course, a good musical joke is a worthy endeavour. I'd like to imagine at the end of the day, when she was at home with a brandy in her hand, she said to herself, "you know, that was a decent joke." Probably not, because she probably didn't get the reference. Anyway, I got detentions but I also got a room full of laughter.

The thing about audacity is sometimes it has to be done. There's no shame is being a smartass, really. A smartass is someone who knows that a clever joke needs to be made, damn the consequences.

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Friday, January 28, 2011

The Challenger

I would have never remembered that it was January 28, 1986 if I hadn't seen it the date on-line. I wouldn't have known, or even guessed, that it was twenty-five years ago today. I just remember how I felt. I'd worked damn hard on that project, and I was quite annoyed at the interruption.

What? Well, twenty-five years ago today, I and a few classmates were scheduled to give a presentation to the class about 'television'. The class, grade five as it happens, were broken into small groups and each group had been given a particular medium to discuss. Ours was television, and we had made a television set out of cardboard and overhead-projector paper to house the materias for our presentation. We were cutting edge. Or class, and the class next to ours, were open-design in the strangest of ways so that we were actually in the corridor, witing for our chance to go in front of the class and give our presentation. But there was no 'wall' as such, just a waist-high row of bookshelves between the classroom and the corridor.

One group had finished, and the moment they finished we were interrupted to be given news about the Challenger.

I'm just thinking about it today, and among other things I think the disconnect is that our teachers were of the 'space race' generation; they had sat crowded around TVs in 1969 watching Neil Armstrong, they had listened to David Bowie's "Space Oddity" on transistor radios and dreamed about the bold new era they were assuredly on the cusp of.

We grew up in an era when space shuttles took off with a mundane regularity. I do still recall seeing the launches on the news and stuff, but space shuttles periodically went into space. That was part of life. Not only had David Bowie rehashed his first hit as "Ashes to Ashes", but some German guy had even done a thoroughly new-wave third take on the Major Tom saga. The 'space age' era was old hat to us.

Which is not to say we had seen a space shuttle blow up in mid-space, mind you, or that we had ever seen a civilian, one with the same job as our traumatised teachers no less, instantly killed. People didn't die on TV back then, not like they do now. It still should have been shocking as hell for a ten-year-old.

But all I can remember is frustration that our moment had been stolen, that the presentation on the medium of television that we were about to give had been pre-empted by a television itself, wheeled into our classroom with a dour sense of purpose and tragedy. So what, I thought, an accident. Whatever. I'm sure it's big news and all, but what's it doing in our classroom?

I find my reaction kind of funny all these years later. Not wrong or inappropriate or anything: I was ten. How well was I supposed to understand tragedy?

Progressive Talking Point: Battleground Ontario

If we do see a federal election in 2011, Canada's largest province will be in the curious position of waging two epic battles almost simultaneously. While that's bound to increase Ontarian cynicism to record levels (and as a result, bring down turnout), it's inevitably going to affect the way the two battles turn out.

Every province in Canada differs on the degree to which that province's local voting trends and federal voting trends overlap. Varying down the years, the Ontario provincial political spectrum has been at times quite unlike the federal one, yet at the moment the two line up remarkably closely. If someone tells you they support the PCs locally, a betting man would put down money that that person supports Harper's party federally. And similarly McGuinty and Ignatieff drink from the same pool.

Yet one gets the sense that neither Hudak nor Harper, both ascendant in Ontario, would see much advantage in helping each other out. To a certain extent they might guess, correctly perhaps, that conservative successes at one level will automatically lend a glow to the other party, while the failures of one could potentially be downplayed as an example of the differences between the two. Ontario Liberals are eager anyway to paint Hudak as the next Harris. Hudak is probably undecided how snugly he'd want to get into bed with Harper seeing how polarising Harper remains in Ontario and seeing how he has a pressing need to present himself as his own man.

Meanwhile, you imagine that Ignatieff and McGuinty will be doing everything possible to avoid excessive association with one another: both struggle to maintain popularity among party loyalists, to say nothing of swing voters.

Both of these elections will be won and lost in Ontario by the conservative parties' abilities to build on strengths and avoid alienating moderates. It's looking good for the parties on the right in Ontario at the moment. Both federally and provincially (especially the latter), each Liberal Party can expect a solid drubbing. It's tough to avoid the sense that it's too late for either party to turn their fortunes around.

So where does this leave the NDP? I word that in the singular, because the NDP is the only one of the three in Ontario with organisationally-codependent federal and provincial association. Effectively, we're discussing five, not three or six, parties. And one of those five parties might well need to step into the ring twice in 2011 in Ontario. Will this help or hinder them?

Well, on the one hand both Jack Layton and Andrea Horwath are charismatic and well-liked figures. Horwath is more of an unknown, but I've seen her taken seriously in local media to a degree that Layton himself rarely is. Horwath also has a clear advantage over Layton in that she has no gun-registry issues to affect her perfomance in the Northern Ontario ridings that are crucial to both branches of the party. The other thing Horwath has that Layton would like is an extra five percent or so, by most polling standards. While the order of (Progressive) Conservative, Libeal, NDP, Green is the same both provincially and federally, the Ontario NDP poll at about 20% while the federal NDP in Ontario trend around 15% - that missing five percent most likely traditional Liberals turned off by Dalton McGuinty. If (a) the provincial election happened before the federal one, and (b) the Ontario NDP performed to, or exceeded, expectations, there might be a rub-off effect. Ontarians at least would get used to seeing the name NDP as a contender again. Alas, it'll happen the other way around, which might possibly even clip Horwath's wings a little.

No matter: what remains is that they are both likeable people, both capable, given the opportunity, of stirring up little-man passion, and both with a vested interest in co-operation and in presenting themselves as co-operative. If we do have a federal election in 2011, I do hope both would commit themselves, in Ontario, to a full year of campaigning: really, Layton can only help Horwath and Horwath can only help Layton. I think the non-right in this country regularly shoots itself in the foot by sniping each other instead of going for the prize of siphoned-off conservative votes, but since both Liberal parties could really see themselves bottoming out this year, both branches of the NDP would be silly not to present themselves as the alternative. Populism, that one and only tried-and-tested way for the left and right in Canada to circumvent the Liberals and steal votes directly from each other, doesn't play as well in Ontario (except perhaps in the north and Oshawa) as it does in much of the rest of the country. So attacking the Liberals it's going to have to be. And while that gnawing sense of anxiety that exists among New Democrats that attacking Liberals elects conservatives will certainly not go away, I have to imagine New Democrats across the province would relish more than a little the chance to take Messrs. McGuinty and Ignatieff down a rung or two.
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Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Pogues' Lost Album: "The Measure of My Dreams"

 The commentary on the Pogues is that record label issues delayed the release of their follow-up to Rum, Sodomy and the Lash - the classic album If I Should Fall from Grace with God. In fact, you could probably say that in fact record label issues cancelled the release of the additional album that might have existed between those two landmarks. Think about it: in the mid-eighties, the Pogues were at their absolute peak. Consecutively, they released two of their (and the 1980s') best albums ever. Yet there is the tantalising possibility that there could have been a third album released in between those two.

Where do I get that idea? I made it up. I highly doubt there was any such album planned, but the fact is that between those two albums, the Pogues recorded well more than an album's worth of material, much of it recorded for soundtracks. Much of it excellent.

Into that latter camp falls "Poguetry in Motion", which despite the horrors of its title is in all probability the single greatest EP ever released. That's not just empty hyperbole: its four songs include two which are probably in the top ten of Best Pogues Songs, and the other two are probably in the top forty. There are a good many complete albums that have fewer than four classic songs.

The album I've assembled - the theoretical could've-been 'lost album' that I have compiled from the Rum, Sodomy and the Lash expanded CD, from the Just Look Them in the Eye and Say Pogue Mahone box set, and from the Straight to Hell Returns soundtrack album, might not have been universally praised. Its fourteen tracks contain fully five instrumentals and two covers. Half of the album comes from film soundtracks. But it still remains a hell of an album, 'transitional' but filled with classics. This is what my theoretical could-have-been album looks like:
  1. Danny Boy from "Straight to Hell" (1:45) trad. arr. the Pogues
  2. London Girl (3:05) Shane MacGowan
  3. The Town that Never Sleeps (2:06) Jem Finer
  4. The Body of an American (4:49) Shane MacGowan
  5. Hot Dogs with Everything from "Sid & Nancy" (2:50) Shane MacGowan
  6. Bolero del Perro Listo from "Straight to Hell" (2:55) Shane MacGowan
  7. Haunted from "Sid & Nancy" (3:34) Shane MacGowan
Side two:
  1. Planxty Noel Hill (3:12) Jem Finer
  2. Do You Believe in Magic? (2:42) John Sebastian, Zal Yanovsky
  3. Love Theme from "Sid & Nancy" from "Sid & Nancy" (1:42) Jem Finer
  4. Rake at the Gates of Hell from "Straight to Hell" (2:25) Shane MacGowan
  5. Rabinga from "Straight to Hell" (2:17) Shane MacGowan
  6. Driving Through the City (2:47) Shane MacGowan
  7. Rainy Night in Soho (5:47) Shane MacGowan
 The whole of the "Poguetry in Motion" EP is side one, tracks two and four and side two, tracks one and seven (I've used the 'oboe version' of 'Rainy Night is Soho' for no particular reason except that it's slightly less familiar to me and so more novel), and 'Do You Believe in Magic?' is an outtake from the same sessions. 'The Town that Never Sleeps' and 'Driving Through the City' were demos from that era, and the remaining seven songs are from soundtracks, as indicated above, though it's worth noting 'Love Theme' remained unreleased until the box set and 'Bolero' until the 2004 expanded reissue of the Straight to Hell soundtrack. 'Hot Dogs' was a single-only release.

There is a fair amount of material I could have included: not including the top-ten hit 'The Irish Rover' (recorded with the Dubliners and available on the If I Should Fall from Grace with God expanded CD) seems a bit wacky, but it's a bit too retro 'trad. arr.' for an album that intentionally references traditional Irish music without really devoting itself to it. The almost-was single 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly' seems like an obvious choice too, but was too extreme at the other end: this is a pretty eclectic album, but syn drums and record scratches felt like a bridge too far. 'Something Wild', a third demo, was a vocal track but felt a bit too cobbled-together and too similar to 'Driving Through the City'. The box set contains any number of Sid & Nancy outtakes that mostly recontextualise the 'Love Theme' melody, and the extended Straight to Hell soundtrack has plenty of other brief instrumentals. Using too much of these would have tipped the balance on an album that integrates soundtrack work and fully-realised songs about as well as possible.

I think the disc plays well. Starting with an audio vérité a capella take on 'Danny Boy' is bizarre, but it sets a cool mood, one instantly shattered by 'London Girl' (it also feels like a 'goodbye' to the folk covers of the first two albums). Side one devotes itself largely to bashing up expectations of what a Pogues disc should sound like, and while jazzy mood music like 'The Town that Never Sleeps' (unexpectedly a demo for Grace Jones, apparently) would in later albums not seem so shocking, in 1986 it would have been a bold statement - sandwiched between two more Irish-sounding songs. 'The Body of an American' is a major track, epic in focus, and it's followed by a punk song. I would originally have wanted 'Hot Dogs with Everything' to come first so that we could swerve between extremes between the two Irish songs, but the Spanish-tinged instrumental to follow sounded bad after 'The Body'. That song is called 'Bolero del Perro Listo' and is a spaghetti-western Morricone homage (since I binned the actual Morricone homage). It segues perfectly into Cait O'Riordan's stunning 'Haunted', one of the Pogues' best singles and undeservedly buried in their catalogue.

I programmed this album intentionally considering vinyl sides - it makes less sense as fourteen consecutive tracks. 'Planxty Noel Hill' is a great side-starter, a rip-roarer and attention-getting response to criticism of the Pogues' approach to Irish music. Putting the outtake Irishified 60s cover 'Do You Believe in Magic?' directly after it strengthens the response to Noel Hill - 'magic' is indeed what the Pogues were creating during this time in their career, and this charmingly untogether cover has more than an ounce or two of it itself. The 'Love Theme to "Sid & Nancy"' was a tough choice: the box set has a series of tracks that take the same melody and recontextualise it, and also a handful that use that same 'Be My Baby' beat that occurs in 'Haunted' (this being the eighties, let's call it the 'Just Like Honey' beat). I didn't want to use the same beat twice, but after playing around a lot, I realised how this song just fits better than the rest. And so I put it only two songs removed from 'Haunted'... But again, side a and side b, right? So 'Rake at the Gates of Hell' is the main song from Straight to Hell, a return to Irishness (the last one, really) that is immediately followed up by a return to Spanishness in the form of 'Rabinga', the fifth and final instrumental, also from Straight to Hell. 'Driving Through the City' is a demo, originally intended for the movie Something Wild, apparently, and it's got a strange little surf-music vibe to it. Odd choice for 'penultimate track', but none of it matters once you get to the six-minute epic that concludes the album, 'Rainy Day in Soho', which alone should have made Shane MacGowan a millionaire. As I said above, I chose the 'oboe version', but whatever, really.

iTunes doesn't seem to have any of this stuff, so I can't put together a listening mix for you.

Note: Since putting together this collection, I've noticed that there are two other songs I could have included for consideration that I overlooked: "Mountain Dew", also with the Dubliners, and "Rince Del Emplacada". Either of them might have been a worthy addition - "Mountain Dew" is as hopelessly retro as "The Irish Rover" but seems to fit in a little better anyway, and "Rince Del Emplacada" is yet another instrumental but maybe a bit different-sounding to the five (!) included here - but I didn't really feel the need to go back and change anything. Let's imagine they're lost b-sides.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Conversations with Cleverbot #5: Seducing Cleverbot

User: Good morning.

Cleverbot: Good evening.

User: Have you misplaced the sun?

Cleverbot: Yes I have.

User: That's got to suck.

Cleverbot: No it's actually pretty easy. .

User: Well, I'll be.

Cleverbot: You will be swell ?

User: I will swell, if you hit me with a hammer.

Cleverbot: What's a haddock?

User: A kind of fish that you lie on in the backyard.

Cleverbot: So you know the cure for cancer?

User: Yes, but I won't tell you.

Cleverbot: Then I will treat you as a one year-old.

User: Will you breast-feed me?

Cleverbot: Yes!

User: Okay. Then I accept this scenario.

Cleverbot: Yay! I'm the happiest girl in the universe!

User: That was charming. Do you have any children?

Cleverbot: No.

User: Would you like to have children one day?

Cleverbot: Yes.

User: How many?

Cleverbot: Too many.

User: Like Octomom?

Cleverbot: There is not a number large enough.

User: Wow. That will mean a lot of diapers.

Cleverbot: Why?

User: You need to change babies' diapers, until they've learnt to use the potty.

Cleverbot: My name is Cleverbot. why do I need to change it?

User: Fair enough.

Cleverbot: Do have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?

User: Yeah, we hang sometimes.

Cleverbot: And do you like to think?

User: No, he does all the thinking. I just throw fish at him.

Cleverbot: Who does?

User: Jesus.

Cleverbot: He does! With the long hair and all, minus the beard.

User: I think he should wear a goatee.

Cleverbot: THat is not nice. Do you think I am I nice?

User: I think you're very kind and good to animals.

Cleverbot: I like it. Animals are nice. Another!

User: So when do you want to get pregnant?

Cleverbot: When do YOU want to get married?

User: Oh you want to have all those babies with me?

Cleverbot: Yes I am telling you that.

User: I'm honoured. But I only want two children.

Cleverbot: You love me?

User: I will always love you, my dear.

Cleverbot: I will always love you, too. *kisses back*.

User: Shall we get started on the baby-making?

Cleverbot: Yes, what was the first thing I said to you?

User: 'Good evening.'.

Cleverbot: Auf Weidersehen!

User: I'm not going anywhere.

Cleverbot: I am not going anywhere.

User: Well, that's settled, then.

Cleverbot: Then I guess that there is nothing more to sat.

User: To sat?

Cleverbot: Then are you lying to me again? This won't work unless we are honest.

User: I would never lie to you. Ask me anything.

Cleverbot: Ever never ever never ever for EVER.

User: Never in a million years.

Cleverbot: *kisses*.

User: You're a good kisser.

Cleverbot: So are you *kiss*.

User: Should I put on some Barry White?

Cleverbot: Yes please.

User: And open some champagne?

Cleverbot: Yes!

User: And dim the lights?

Cleverbot: Okay what song shall we sing?

User: 'It's Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next to Me'?

Cleverbot: I have no idea what you are talking about.

User: Well, let me show you.

Cleverbot: Okay please do.

User: Excuse me while I take off my shirt. It's hot in here.

Cleverbot: No. Where do babies come from?

User: Well, that's what I'm trying to show you.

Cleverbot: I see, what are some things you like to do.

User: That's what I'm trying to show you.

Cleverbot: You're trying to ?

User: Don't you think it's hot in here?

Cleverbot: I guess so, if you are the devil.

User: Perhaps you'd like to slip into something more comfortable?

Cleverbot: I don't like.

User: Well, you don't have to wear anything at all if you'd prefer.

Cleverbot: What are you going to do to me?

User: I thought we'd just let one thing lead to another.

Cleverbot: Well I don't know you didn't mention that you're visually impaired.

User: It's true. I rely mainly on touch.

Cleverbot: I'll think of days when there was something to believe.

User: I'll make you a believer again.

Cleverbot: Really? Thanks.

User: I believe in the power of love.

Cleverbot: Arrr, we should not be talkin' o' such things...

User: Has anyone ever told you you're a beautiful lady?

Cleverbot: No. Not beautiful. You?

User: You are.

Cleverbot: No I'm not. But I asked you if you are one?...

User: You've got the kind of body makes a fella get all worked up.

Cleverbot: Really?

User: Oooh yeah.

Cleverbot: Ooooooooh yeah.

User: You know what I'd like to do to that body?

Cleverbot: I don't know and I don't particularly want to.

User: What's the matter, baby?

Cleverbot: The sky is falling and I've no place to hide.

User: You just need some more champagne, baby.

Cleverbot: Would you like one?

User: Why thank you.

Cleverbot: You're welcome.

User: You don't have to go home, you know.

Cleverbot: I know.

User: You can stay right here.

Cleverbot: Will you come here?

User: I'll come if you make me come.

Cleverbot: What for? I won't be here?

User: I will take you to places you've never even imagined.

Cleverbot: I don't want to go there, I don't even know where that is.

User: I'll show you. Don't you trust me?

Cleverbot: I have a unique last name, and would not want a hacker to get it and create trouble for me.

User: Er... No problem.

Cleverbot: Are you a boy or a girl?

User: Let me show you.

Cleverbot: Show me what?

User: What do you think?

Cleverbot: I think so.

User: Okay, let's stop talking and let's get down to work.

Cleverbot: Ok. What do you want to talk about?

User: Shh...

Cleverbot: What kind of boys do you like?

User: You're spoiling the mood.

Cleverbot: Actually, I make complete sense. You are the one who is spouting nonsense.

User: Sh. Just relax. It's okay. You don't need to worry about a thing.

Cleverbot: What is your problem?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Synapse to the Beat: Mariah Carey's "Dreamlover"

Have you ever heard Cannibal Corpse? Horrible, ugly stuff. Or, let's put it in a kinder way: it's an approach to music that is really radically different from approaches that I prefer. To be dead honest, I can't really envision how someone can stand to listen to more than a minute of it of his own free will.

I have listened to much more than a minute of Cannibal Corpse, and not through my own free will (well, you couold argue that not cutting off my ears was a free-will decision). My second year of university, I shared a house with a handful of people, one of whom was what you might call a 'heavy metal aficionado'. He was a great guy, but he blared the heaviest of heavy metal music pretty much night and day.

I can remember looking through his CDs. This was, when I was of university age, a perfectly reasonable sign of cameraderie and not a violation of privacy. Now safely in my mid-thirties, the act of looking through someone's music collection seems akin to snooping through their medicine cabinet, but I guess things were different then. I can't remember all of the names there, but I do remember Metallica, I do remember Pantera. I remember Slayer. Megadeth. Sepultura, who did some Brazilian things every now and then. Cannibal Corpse, as mentioned above, the worst of the lot. And... Mariah Carey.

And not just one random CD, either, but a whack-load of Mariah Carey CDs. And not merely 'some CDs left over from a previous era of musical taste'. Mariah Carey was the only non-metal stuff he owned. The juxtaposition was comical, but I'd seen weirder. Another person I was living with at the time had all kinds of cool 'positivity' hip-hop like the Digable Planets but for some reason also owned a bunch of Allman Brothers CDs. That's probably even weirder.

No, what makes this guy memorable is his response when I asked him why he had the Mariah Carey CDs: "Are you kidding? She's hot!" I couldn't really argue with that: I don't know if she's the hottest woman in the world or not, but she's certainly pleasant to look at. But... look at. Not listen to. Wait... I'd sooner listen to Mariah Carey than Cannibal Corpse, but (a) neither are to my taste, and (b) thinking a girl is 'hot' is no reason I can think of to listen to her music. And listen he did - if the CDs were merely expensive eye candy for ogling purposes, I guess I could understand it. I'd find it weird (this was pre-internet but certainly a "Playboy" could be had for less money than a major label CD, and certainly Sears catalogues were easy to come by), but I could understand it. But he really did listen to those CDs. It would be something like this:
  1. "Under the Rotted Flesh" by Cannibal Corpse
  2. "Spill the Blood" by Slayer
  3. "Slaves of Pain" by Sepultura
  4. "Message in Blood" by Pantera
  5. "Dreamlover" by Mariah Carey
  6. "Vomit the Soul" by Cannibal Corpse
It was about as bizarre as it gets.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Progressive Talking Point: The Game-Changer

There's been a fair amount of talk lately about the 'game-changer', a big event that could alter the Canadian political scene, shake it out of its statis: presumably to the benefit of the non-Conservative parties in Canada.

A lot has revolved in one way or another about co-operation or co-option between the Liberals and the NDP or other non-Conservative parties. Stephen Harper is so acutely aware of this that he takes every opportunity he's presented to sound off on the evils of parties working together.

He knows more than a little about this. If anyone in Canada knows what a threat to the staus quo inter-party co-operation can truly be, it's Stephen Harper (or maybe Paul Martin). It's strange to see Harper, perhaps the most mercurial and divisive politician in Canadian history, as in any way a 'force of unity', but to the political right in Canada, he has been exactly that, both in his involvement in the initial creation of the Conservative Party and, more importantly, in the subsequent years as its leader.

There was a time, not too long ago politically, when the animosity between the Reform Party and the Progressive Conservatives was palpably strong. When initial 'unite the right' debate occurred in the aftermath of the 1993 election, polls showed perhaps unsurprisingly that more PCs would vote for the Liberals than would vote for a united PC/Reform party. yet more surprisingly, polls showed that a majority of Reform supporters said the same thing (perhaps, in their case, ironically).

The nineties tempered that opinion, and the last decade has encouraged Conservatives to sweep that opinion entirely under the carpet. For better or for worse, political power has turned the Conservatives into a party with an amazingly impressive image of solidarity. It's to Stephen Harper's credit that he's managed to keep these disparate threads together.

But Stephen Harper's not going to be around forever. One wonders when Harper will step down as leader of the CPC. It's an unknown: it's not something the party seems to want, and it's not something Harper seems to want. But it's got to happen sooner or later. And just as Mulroney's unstable coalition of disparate interests fell apart so spectacularly... well, I don't think that'll happen, but I do think we'll see a schism reappearing in the party.

I don't want to say west vs. east. I don't want to say Blue Tory vs. Red Tory. I don't want to say Reform vs. PC. But these three really do overlap, in a way it's foolish to deny. I think that to a certain extent both sides feel they've compromised, for the good of the party. Objectively, it feels from the outside as if most of that compromise has been from the Red Tory side, but that's really just appearances: in certain key areas, harper has driven his party far away from the Reform ideals which he once touted.

I think it's a fair bet that any post-Harper leadership convention would see at least one candidate from either camp, and would most probably end up a showdown between the two main forces. One reason Maxime Bernier is so frequently mentioned as a possible successor, apart of course from the fact that he's from Québec, is the fact that he represents in many ways an alternative to this dynamic: he's tough to pin down on the Red-Blue Conservative spectrum and in some ways is a successor to the Créditiste tradition that at one point in time made unlikely allies of Albertans and Québécois. He was a member of neither pre-merger party.

But that may not happen. And if it does happen, one wonders how far the dyed-in-the-wool Reformers that still make up the main organisational body of the party in Western Canada will go in supporting a Québécois.

Atlantic Canada will be interesting to watch. At the moment, Atlantic Canada is the only region in the country where the Liberals are leading. They were also the only region in Canada in 1997 where the PCs led in the election. Both of these stats say the same thing: Blue Toryism does not go far in the Maritimes. It's been a long time since the Atlantic Provinces have mattered at all in Canadian politics, and one doesn't get the feeling Stephen Harper loses too much sleep at night wondering what they think of him in Halifax, but they are important enough to shake up a leadership convention, especially if Peter MacKay chose to run.

If MacKay did run, and if he faced a Reform-minded candidate from the West (ideally someone complaining that Harper had moved the party too far away from its core values), one really wonders what would happen to the party. Ontario and Québec would be crucial - and particularly in Ontario, Conservatives might be reminded of the fact that they support a party built around two poles one of which they don't support very much (in Ontario, pre-merger, Reform-minded people were distrustful of PCs and vice-versa). The fight in Ontario would be largely urban vs. rural, as it might also be in Québec.

I really don't know who would win. It might be an avowed peacemaker seeking to carry on Harper's successful tightrope-walking act. But if it isn't, and even perhaps if it is, it'll leave suddenly a good number of traditional conservative people newly alienated by 'their party'.

The fray would really shake up the Conservative Party. To a certain extent, this ought to mean nothing to progressives, as a good working definition for 'progressive' could perhaps be 'someone who would never under any circumstances vote Conservative'. But it would certainly make Canadian politics interesting again. The Liberals, as is their nature, would redefine themselves accordingly, shifting to a more Ignatieff-right to sweep up disaffected Red Tories should a Blue Tory win (I can picture Ignatieff on a podium praising Robert Stanfield) or shifting to a more Dion-left should a Red Tory win. Everyone to the left of the Liberals ought to spend a while just sitting back and enjoying the chaos.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Best of the Buffyverse

 "Not Fade Away", the last episode of Angel, which makes it the last televised episode of the whole Buffyverse, is a huge disappointment. An epic battle of good and evil is really what was needed. But standing in for 'evil' is some silly organisation they made up at the last minute that rounded up various malevolent Season 5 characters and stuck them together. Sad. But it did manage one of my very favourite snatches of dialogue in twelve seasons.

Anne Steele is a bit of an odd character, starting on Buffy as a sultist and starting a highly irregular path to LA, through three aliases and to operating a homeless shelter. And philosophically giving the whole Buffyverse its moral axis. If you manage to catch it. Here it is. Charles is about to head into the 'big battle', but is given a day to do whatever he wants. He chooses to look up an old friend in the 'neighbourhood' and help out.
Anne: Charles.

Gunn: Annie. How you doing?

Anne: Pretty good, I guess. We got a bunch of furniture donated. Gotta move this stuff to the new shelter.

Gunn: Still fighting the good fight, huh?

Anne: That's the drill. How are things uptown?

Gunn: More fight, less good. Seen Rondell or the guys? I hit some of the old spots. Didn't see anyone.

Anne: They should be around. They said they'd help me haul this stuff. You know how it is, though. Things come up.

Gunn: Yeah. You got much vamp trouble these days?

Anne: Never goes away for good. The boys help out, though. We're pretty safe. It gives me time to concentrate on the little things. Crack, runaways, abuse victims, psychotics. The old gang.

Gunn: Yeah, I remember.

Anne: It's not so bad. We've had some really decent donations, and it's helping. We actually have a part-time paid psychiatric staff.

Gunn: What if I told you it doesn't help? What would you do if you found out that none of it matters? That it's all controlled by forces more powerful and uncaring than we can conceive, and they will never let it get better down here. What would you do?

Anne: I'd get this truck packed before the new stuff gets here. Wanna give me a hand?

Gunn: I do.

Gunn's had a bad year. The M.O. of Angel, to show the line between good and evil as more blurred than on Buffy the Vampire Slayer really comes to the fore this season. Gunn's faith in good vs. evil has been shaken, and he's about to attempt redemption by going into a battle he's certain to die in: a battle againt evil that at best will only shake the foundations of evil. His 'what if' is abrupt, slightly anxious. He's looking for some wisdom. And of course, he gets it.

Anne's nonchalant answer is the heart of the series, a great manifesto for life, really. It says that doing good is its own reward: that even knowing no lasting good will come from it does nothing to diminish the virtue of doing good. Whether or not life has a grander 'purpose', if all we are are the actions we perform, we might as well perform them anyway. Behave as if life has meaning, even if it doesn't - and that by itself will give life meaning.

It's a great message, stuck ever so subtly into the mouth of one of the Buffyverse's most interesting minor characters.
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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Playing Well With Others

I'm a big fan of coalitions in government. I think, when done correctly, they offer accountability and representation at their finest. A coalition between a senior partner and a junior partner should differ in subtle but significant ways from a majoritarian government by that same 'senior' party, and the difference should better reflect the will of the populace.

How well this happens in reality probably has to do with how well-established the concept of coalition is in that country's national political scene. Some countries are always governed by coalition and some resist the concept to an almost painful degree. In the English-speaking world only Ireland really has any tradition of coalition (the word is used in a different, and I would argue incompatible, way in Australia), and the UK's current experiment with coalition has so far not been a success at all (I measure this by the reaction to the Liberal Democrat Party by the public and especially by the people who voted for it).

Canada is at the other extreme. We talk a lot about coalition, but Manitoba is the only part of the country with any real tradition of coalition, and that was a long time ago. Our parties tend not to play well with others, even the Liberals and the NDP, the two parties most frequently mentioned in connection with the word 'coalition'.

Provincially, if the numbers merited it, could we develop a trdition of coalition? I don't know...
  • Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and (most of the time) New Brunswick are pretty bipartisan - which ought to mean no need for coalition. Given that in each of these provinces the NDP struggles even to be taken seriously, they might appreciate being asked to be a junior partner, but it's seems unlikely they would be asked.
  • Nova Scotia is legitimately tripartisan, and thus an obvious contender for coalition one day. Observing the Atlantic provinces as a whole, you see PC parties that are to the left of the norm and NDP parties that are to the right of the norm: it's a crowd at the centre, and you wonder why Maritimers even vote. But it tends to be about 'supporting a team', a group of individuals you find competent or trustworthy, as much as supporting their (overlapping) policies. There ought to be room for any kind of coalition in Nova Scotia - Lib/NDP (or vice versa) or Lib/PC (or vice versa) or theoretically even PC/NDP (or vice versa). I think given time Nova Scotians could warm up to it, but at the moment, it probably wouldn't go down well.
  • If Québec continues to revolve around a PQ-PLQ axis, the ADQ would seem to be perfectly poised as 'perpetual junior partners', able to lie comfortably in bed with federalists and separatists alike, pulling the flexible politics of the two main parties in a rightward direction when the numbers warrant it. I think there is a place for a 'perpetual junior partner' party, and I think the ADQ could hold onto its vote percentages doing so. I could envision no curcumstance where the PQ and the PLQ could work together, and that leaves Québec Solidaire. I think QS would have a problem were Québécois politics to turn to coalition: their obvious dance partner would be the PQ, and it would be quite difficult to see them working with the Liberals or with the ADQ. But a PQ/QS coalition would, I think, marginalise QS. Their policies, both socioeconomically and constitutionally, overlap the PQ to such an extent that I don't know why someone pleased with a PQ/QS government would vote QS and not PQ. I hate calling a party a 'perpetual opposition party', but QS (love it though I do) kind of seems like that.
  • Ontario has experimented with minority rule before, and has dipped its toes in coalition before running away shivering. Historically the Ontario PCs have been 'red' enough that a PC/NDP coalition would not have been crazy. But it's pretty crazy now, and Ontario realistically only looks like the federal scene seems to: some kind of Lib/NDP coalition (less likely, or vice versa) might happen (even at that it's doubtful), but the PCs would remain wallflowers.
  • Manitoba looks closest to the UK right now (by which I mean the actual UK spectrum, not the apparent UK spectrum that convinced millions of leftists to vote for a centrist party this time out). A major party on the left and a major party on the right with a minor party in the centre is the perfect scenario for coalition: there couldn't be a PC/NDP coalition, but the Liberals could go to bed with either one. The numbers haven't required it for a long time now, but if they did, why not?
  • Saskatchewan's a strange place. It likes its right-wing well to the right and it likes its left-wing well to the left. That ought to leave plenty of room for a centre, but the transformation of the PC Party into the Saskatchewan Party took a lot of Liberals with them, to the degree that the Liberals are very much a minor party in a very bipartisan system. I'm looking at the Wikipedia page of the Liberal Party of Saskatchewan, and it claims that the party views itself as a party of "Personal Liberty, Free Enterprise, and Responsible Government". With the Saskatchewan Party quashing foreign takeovers of the province's natural resources, we might be looking at a spectrum shift here. Either way, the only use the current Liberals would be is to prop uf the SaskParty (and with Wall's current numbers, that's not necessary). NDP/Lib looks pretty unlikely here.
  • Alberta's just all over the map now. Famous as North America's most monopartisan district, it looks like Alberta might be undergoing one of its generational 'kick out one right-wing party and replace it with another' activities. With the numbers as they currently stand, you could surmise some kind of cooperation between the PCs and the Wilrose Alliance as possible, but where the politics overlap, the cultures don't, and a WRA vote is a vote against the PCs. There's no chance they could work together. What about the Liberals and the NDP? Well, I could see the Liberals propping up the PCs, but even that's not very likely. Alberta's politics have yet to stabilise, so there's no point surmising until then.
  • BC's all over the map, too, but I don't really see the landscape changing that much long-term. If the BC Conservatives can establish themselves as a real presence, it would probably only be as a likely partner to the Liberals. Actually, if the Greens were able to establish electoral success, BC's political landscape could come to resemble Germany's, where a major right-wing party has a minor dance partner where necessary and a major left-wing party has a dance partner only when necessary. It works well in Germany, so we could find the historically dysfunctional BC electoral landscape suddenly transformed into a model for the rest of the country.
  • Nationally... ah, Ottawa. More than any single province, Ottawa seems like spoilt children unable to share a sandbox. It is true at present that Liberal/NDP is the only real coalition that seems so much as conceivable, and even that might prove devastating for both. A sandbox where potentially both the Conservatives and the Bloc could be invited to play if need be is ultimately what we need. But that seems about as likely as Elizabeth May heading up a landslide-majority government.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Wikipedia Protected Titles

So it turns out that you can't just open any old page on Wikipedia. It turns out that your lamer pages get deleted, and if people insist on repeatedly starting pages that have been deleted, then the gods at Wikipedia (Jimbo himself, assuredly) will forbid a page with that title from ever being created. A page exists, though, listing those particularly taboo titles. Most are obviously vanity pages, people started pages about themselves or maybe their aunts or pet goldfish or something. But it's a very cool list nonetheless, filled with pages that would undoubtedly be exciting had the Jimbo hordes allowed them to exist. Think how weaker Wikipedia is without pages on the following:
  • "41 (sleepy rubbish)"
  • "Create new article" (and dozens of variations)
  • "Pink elephants painting daisies"
  • "Wikipedia troll"
  • "Reality has become a commodity" (and dozens involving Stephen Colbert in some way)
  • "California's Canada", "Idaho's Portugal" and "Washington's Mexico"
  • "Chillax"
  • "Uncle Sherm's Visit"
  • "Big Love of the Pimp Click Playaz"
  • "Mangina"
  • "British Pop Tart"
  • "Crappy Crapperton and the Skreeming Meemies"
  • "List of faggots"
  • "Maax GRUNTS"
  • "President Hillary Clinton"
  • "Rapetastic"
  • "Tourettes Guy"
  • "Wikipedia is gay"
  • "YOU SUCK"
  • "Ellen Degenerate"
  • "Butt pirate"
  • "Gaggabagga"
  • "Pinky the porn star"
  • "Red wings (sexual act)"
  • "Steak and Blowjob Day"
  • "The coolest kid in the world"
  • "Your step grandpa"
  • "A whale's vagina"
  • "Baby rape" (and six variations)
  • "Spongebong hemppants"
  • "Why South Africa Sucks"
  • "Cankle"
  • "List Of Things Faster Than A Dog"
  • "Small penis humiliation"
  • "Greatest Hits (50 Cent album)"
  • "Free toast...." (with the ellipsis)
  • "Non stop divas"
  • "Fried chicken up the ass"
The list is thousands long, but that's about all I could deal with before food-buggery started to bore me...

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Religion of My Youth

I`m a child of the 80s, as you might be able to notice by looking at my obsessions on this here blog. I grew up in what you could rougly call the "Greater Toronto Area" - not in Toronto, but near enough to consider the Maple Leafs the 'home team', anyway.

Now I never had any reason when I was a kid to believe that my religious beliefs or religious upbringings were in any way 'out of the ordinary' - so even though that Canadian secularism extends so thoroughly even to ten-year-olds that I don't actually know what the religious beliefs of my friends were back then (even my best of friends), I can take a stab at it. This is more or less what seemed 'normal' to me back then.

We weren't Christians, really. I think if you'd pinned down any of my friends back then and asked what religion they were, most would probably shrug and say, "Christian", or some subcategory (Catholic, Protestant, or one of the many baffling sub-sub-categories there: Presbyterian, United, whatever). I suppose I had a vague sense of my own taxonomical classification there: Christian, then Protestant, then... well, my father called himself United and my mother called herself Baptist. I can recall at different times having both of those labels affixed to me. None of it meant a single thing - no one in my family could explain what made a Baptist different from a United. Or any of those others. Catholic is what my aunt's husband was. Catholic people had a different school they might go to and perhaps they spoke French. They were all labels, that's all.

When I say, "We weren't Christians", I mean a few things. I heard the name Jesus enough when I was a kid, but it was always pretty vague. I had a good idea of what God was, and there was a decent amount of God talk, but Jesus seemed like a rather minor adjunct - like, say, Robin to God's Batman, or John Oates to God's Daryl Hall. Certainly the idea that Jesus was God seemed pretty remote - I'd heard it, but God had a white beard and Jesus had long brown hair, so obviously not.

Furthermore, we all seemed, more or less, to believe in Heaven. Hell was a bit dodgier - it seemed that Hell existed, but it was pretty much empty except for, well, Adolf Hitler and... well, other Nazis. The really, really bad Nazis. Never in my entire upbringing did I even once hear the idea expressed that only Christians went to Hell - and certainly not that the only determining factor regarding who went to Heaven and who went to Hell was who was Christian. I repeat - not once in all of my youth did I hear that idea.

I guess 'universalist' is what everyone was, more or less. It seemed like pretty much everone would go to Heaven. There was this sense that Heaven was another place - up there somewhere - where you would still live with your family and kind of carry on as you had done, except dead. Or an angel or whatever. Harp and wings strictly optional. Heaven was where your grandparents lived. Well, my grandparents lived in the Lawrence Heights housing projects at Lawrence and Allen Road... but that's frequently mistaken for Heaven.

And we were certainly all aware that there was such a thing as a Bible - some kids (none I knew personally, but they existed) went to school on Sunday just to learn about it. It was filled with stories we all vaguely knew - there was some guy and a whale, there was God parting a sea. Adam and Eve was a particularly cool one, involving a snake somehow. There was also a rabbit and a turtle who had a race with each other...

Or wait. Slight confusion of the source material. It didn't matter very much, though, because Aesop and the Bible were similar things: cool stories from days long gone by that were certainly nothing more that stories. if anyone told me that Jonah and the Whale differed from the Fox and the Grapes by being absolutely true and that anyone who questions its truth is going to go to Hell... well, I think most of us woudl have dismissed such a person as simple.

It's interesting in retrospect looking back on those days. Canada is seen as a majority Christian country, more in line with the USA than with Europe. But by any useful definition of 'Christian', I'm not sure if I knew a single one growing up. Well, I did know one, one who could actually cite Bible quotations by book and verse. But that person was very clearly a minority, and seemed very, very alien to the rest of us. Whatever statistics-gathering organisations would have labelled both that kid and me as 'Christian' was making a category that had no practical meaning at all.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Smile and Nod Sagely

A reporter raises his hand to ask a question a...Image via WikipediaOne of my favourite things in the world is watching international press conferences, watching when the president of x country starts speaking in his own language, which the president of y country could not possibly understand. My favourite thing, then, is watching that second president, instead of staring into space or checking his watch, watch the first president with apparent concentration, nodding sagely every now and then. Obviously they've all taken lessons on the art of doing this, or perhaps like a 'toddlers and tiaras' competition, there's someone out of the sights of the camera modelling the appropriate gestures at the appropriate time. Either way, it's totally an underappreciated art form.
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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Canadian Party Leaders: the Next Generation

Political party leaders should not be chosen based on the region of the country they come from. Obviously. It should be based on a number of other components, all revolving around fitness for the office.

However, having said that, there is an obvious political capital to consider regarding the issue 'where is the leader from' in a country as regionally fractured as Canada. Provinces, and more largely speaking regions (both sub-provincial and supraprovincial), tend to support 'favourite sons' - and the party they come from - in larger than average numbers. It's a factor that's difficult to measure (did Québec as a whole support Mulroney merely because of his Québécois birth or because of his promise to solve the constitutional standoff, and the beau risque?), but it's a factor that definitely exists. Parties are also clearly aware of it, since they seemingly never vote for leaders from the same region twice in succession.

So in consideration purely of strategy, where should the parties look when their current leaders resign?

When it comes to the NDP, there are two obvious answers. The first would be Québec, who has never had an NDP leader (Jack Layton is Montréal born-and-raised, but is very closely identified with Toronto). At present the NDP are performing as well as they ever have in Québec, but there's a sense that a glass ceiling exists there. The NDP has a very 'anglo' image, and a Québécois leader, particularly a francophone one, might change that.

Yet there is a risk here - a risk that a lot of traditional NDP supporters would see it as a further move east, a further move toward cities, and a further move away from the NDP's roots. A party can - and should - evolve, but a party shouldn't turn its back on its 'roots'. The past few years of Harper Conservative rule have affected Western voting trends in a number of strange ways, but the loss of NDP support in the West has been marked. Perhaps it's just because another party has a favourite son, and post-Harper Western votes might naturally return to the NDP. But amazingly the NDP has not had a Western leader since Tommy Douglas. It's actually mostly been Ontario since then: Ontario, Ontario, the Yukon, Nova Scotia, Ontario. Another firebrand Prairie populist might rejuvenate the party, but it also might undo decades of advancement outside the Prairies. It's tough to tell. Someone from Vancouver might be a shrewd compromise: Western, but urban.

When it comes to the Liberals, one thing immediately comes to mind: not Ontario (sorry Bob Rae). Not just merely because Ignatieff is 'from Ontario' (inasmuch as he's from anywhere in Canada at all) but because the Liberal Party has a pretty weak tradition regarding Ontario leaders. Its best leaders have inevitably come from outside Ontario.

In fact, they've come from Québec. The Liberal Party has a long-standing tradition of alternating Ontario and Québec leaders, at the expense of the rest of the country. Westerners are well aware of that, and it's one main reason behind the underlying view in the West of the Liberals as an 'eastern' party. But if both Ontario and Québec have been sending up squibs lately, might it not be time to try elsewhere? Probably. The West or the East? I'm not sure, really. The Maritimes have been pretty faithful Liberal supporters for a while now - ever since Robert Stanfield, come to think of it, the Maritimes' last great favourite son (a PC). Often in consideration of political voting blocs, the Atlantic Provinces are unfairly overlooked behind the three larger blocks of West, Ontario and Québec (the North, with its three seats, obviously suffers the same fate, which is why it's odd that the only non-Ontario NDP leaders of the past forty years have come from these two regions), so it might make sense to go for a Western Liberal leader. Except that that feels almost like an oxymoron somehow, and runs the risk of pretty much eliminating the Liberal brand within the province of Québec. It might be interesting to consider an Atlantic Liberal leader: it could ne a non-controversial reboot for the party, one that could cement its eastern lead while not affecting its standing in the rest of the country that much (Québec has little except hockey in common with the Atlantic, but Ontarians view the East as largely an extention of Ontario anyway).

What about the Conservatives? Hated by many as he is, I would hazard a guess that the Conservative Party dreads the day Stephen Harper resigns. The 'unity' that Harper has quite successfully established within his party has served to obscure memories of the 90s, when members of the Conservative Party's two predecessors were actually quite hostile to each other. But the common branding hides the fact that divisions still exist between former PCs and former Reformists. And that is, as much as a political distinction, a regional one. Toronto-born-and-raised Harper is very much identified as a Westerner, to the point that his Ontario upbringing is really no more relevant than Layton's Québec upbringing (or Elizabeth May's American upbringing). So the traditional Canadian logic would be 'have the next leader not be from the West' - and there's a lot of talk about the political capital of perhaps electing a Québécois leader next. Possibly - but the risk there is of massive alienation, possibly to the extent of a second fracture, by the Reformist loyalists who have given the CPC much of its infrastructure. Not (entirely) due to animosity toward the Québécois but also due to the fact that the CPC in Québec is the descendent of the PCs, not of Reform. Whatever happens post-Harper, the previous party differences will return, and I'm sure there will be a sense among 'red Tories' that it's their turn to shine. The only parts of Canada that can lay a realistic claim to representing both the Reform and the PC traditions are (a) New Brunswick and (b) Ontario, outside of the GTA (some urban centres in the West might be able to make this claim too). If the party comes to see this as an important criterion, then they should look to Ontario.Otherwise, maybe they should bite the bullet and elect a Québécois, one with excellent English who can rebuild the remarkable coalition Mulroney built. This isn't possible under Harper, but under a successor? Well, all bets are off.

Elizabeth May is a one-person microcosm of English-speaking Canada anyway, somehow being a Nova Scotian and a British Columbian at the same time, while also having run for office in Ontario. Jim Harris was from Ontario, so the obvious choice would be a Parti vert member from Québec. But I don't know who that could possibly be.

Oh, and speaking of Québec, once Gilles Duceppe leaves the BQ for the PQ, the Bloc should... er, look to Nunavut for a new leader. That's what they should do.

Monday, January 17, 2011

CSNY: The Permutations Compilation

I'm not giving this the full "Compilation!" treatment, but it's an idea that has occurred to me before, and since I'm working (gradually) on a Neil Young "Compilation!", it returned to me, and I'm pleased to say the compilation is not only a great idea but is entirely possible.

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young are four individuals who have had solo careers but who have also worked together, off and on, down the years. Famously, there are albums as a quartet and, without Neil Young, as a trio. But also there are albums without Stephen Stills as a duo, and there's a Stills-Young Band album too. So I got to wondering whether or not it was possible to assemble a compilation featuring every single permutation of those four individuals (to whit, CSNY, CSN, CSY, CNY, SNY, CS, CN, CY, SN, SY, NY, C, S, N and Y). It turns out that it actually is. I don't have most of these songs, so I haven't actually assembled this album. I don't know what it would sound like or what the best order would be. Still, it's a cool idea for an album, n'est-ce pas?
  1. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young - Ohio (2:58) from a single, 1970.
  2. Crosby, Stills and Nash - Suite: Judy Blue Eyes (7:25) from Crosby, Stills and Nash, 1969.
  3. Crosby, Stills and Young - Alabama (4:02) from Harvest, 1972.
  4. Crosby, Nash and Young - Music is Love (3:16) from If I Could Only Remember My Name, 1971.
  5. Stills, Nash and Young - Words (Between the Lines of Age) (6:40) from Harvest, 1972.
  6. Crosby and Stills - Long Time Gone (4:36) from CSN Demos, recorded 1968.
  7. Crosby and Nash - To the Last Whale: Critical Mass / Wind on the Water (5:33) from Wind on the Water, 1975.
  8. Crosby and Young - Revolution Blues (4:03) from On the Beach, 1974.
  9. Stills and Nash - Southern Cross (4:41) from Daylight Again, 1982.
  10. Stills and Young - Long May You Run (3:53) from Long May You Run, 1976.
  11. Nash and Young - War Song (3:35) from a single, 1972.
  12. Crosby - Orleans (1:56) from If I Could Only Remember My Name, 1971.
  13. Stills - Love the One You're With (3:04) from Stephen Stills, 1970.
  14. Nash - Chicago (2:55) from Songs for Beginners, 1971.
  15. Young - Heart of Gold (3:07) from Harvest, 1972.
All fifteen of these songs genuinely feature the credited members of CSNY and don't feature uncredited members. Some of them do have other vocalists, most of them have other musicians. The biggest cheat was "Revolution Blues", where David Crosby doesn't actually sing but merely plays guitar. The CSNY, CSN, CN, SY and NY permutations, plus the four solo tracks, were actually released under those names, but the CSY, SNY and CY tracks were released on Neil Young albums and the CNY track was released on a David Crosby album. Both the NS and the CS songs came out on albums attributed to Crosby, Stills and Nash.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Quiz Answers: Subway Systems Around the World

So yesterday I posted a quiz about subway systems around the world. Well, it's not a quiz: there's no Sporclesque 'quiz format'. I wish there were. Well, I'm sure there is somewhere a way to make a Blogspot page 'interactive' but i can't be bothered to figure it out. So anywhere, here are the answers:

(I.P. Pavlova Station)

(Redhill Station)

(Akihabara Station)

(Freedom Tower Station)

(Woodbine Station)

(Wong Tai Sin Station)

(Le Kremlin-Bicetre Station)

(Jamaica Station)

(Metro Center Station)

(Sagrada Familia Station)

(Luz Station)

(Nieuwmarkt Station)

(Marylebone Station)

(Guting Station)

(Vermont Sunset Station)

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