Monday, August 29, 2011

Did It Work?

So it's been a week now. My blog's spent the whole week headlined with a hopelessly out-of-date post about Nycole Turmel, leftover from a previous era of Canadian political history.

It's not that I haven't tried to write about the death of Jack Layton - it's just that everything I wrote sounded trite, insincere, bandwagon-jumping. I might write something some day, once the moment has passed.

Well, the moment is already passing. Today is Monday, the one-week anniversary of his passing and the first weekday after the funeral. A fog has already lifted, that strange feeling that permeated the air last week is already going away. The line in Reverend Hawkes's eulogy, 'Hi Jack, how are we doing?', that mere hours ago had me in tears already seems pretty cheesy. Nycole Turmel is already moving into Stornoway, the Star has a headline with Bob Rae crassly claiming the Liberals can win the 2015 election, and the chalk at City Hall is probably fading away.

But that doesn't mean things are back to normal; I truly believe they aren't. This week was an amazing mix of spontaneous mass emotion and of intelligently crafted calculation: Jack Layton and his team of advisors really did turn this week into a celebration of the New Democratic Party. Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting this week was staged. I don't think anyone in the country could have predicted how much emotion would be spilt over Layton's passing. But while the media has a vested interest in shaping the image of the man we mourn as one of a charismatic uniter of people who wanted to change the tone of politics, few Canadians fell for it. This week was very political, and very partisan. This week really was all about the NDP, or hopefully all about how the idealistic, progressive hopes and dreams of a still-strong majority of Canadians are finding focus in the NDP.

For all the people saying people care about Layton and not his party, I think the message was really pushed out there that you can't separate the man from the party. I mean, think about it: the CN Tower and Niagara Falls were turned the colour of the NDP, not the colour that uniquely belonged to one man. Stephen Lewis got a standing ovation (from the Prime Minister too!) for declaring Layton's letter a 'manifesto of social democracy'. There was no sense in any of the official occassions this week that Jack Layton even existed outside of the confines of the party. All of his pallbearers were party luminaries - would anybody else tie himself to his party so closely?

But there was a reason, and it was not by any means 'vainglorious'. It was all about transferring focus to the party, to build something permanent from the transience of human life. To turn despair at the loss of the principal face of opposition to Harper into hope at the establishment of a vehicle of opposition to Harper. TO make it clear to every Canadian that there is only one way to oppose Harper from here on, and the door ain't red.

Did it work?

Well, it'll be tough to tell. No pollster was crass enough to poll last week on party support: it would have been an ugly move, and it wouldn't have told us anything relevant anyway. Even during this cooldown, though, I have a hunch that the NDP is at first place nationwide as we speak, a place it hasn't been since Broadbent. I bet more Canadians see themselves as NDP supporters than see themselves as Conservative supporters at this unfortunately irrelevant juncture years before the next election. And I bet way more Canadians see themselves as NDP supporters than as supporters of Bob Rae's tired and directionless party, where confusion is currently reigning within its ranks over whether or not it should even continue to exist as an independent entity. As much as the media likes to paint the NDP as a headless chicken, aimlessly flapping its wings, consider the following: as high as the NDP's profile, and goodwill towards the NDP, has risen over the past week, is there a single Canadian who is currently saying, 'I supported the NDP just a few weeks ago, but Jack's death and the national response has suddenly made me a Liberal or Conservative'? Leaderless yes, worried about the future certainly... but no longer committed to the party? That's impossible to imagine. We're living in an NDP Canada at the moment, though who knows how long that will last.

There's a long road ahead, and there are countless forces out there wishing the NDP to failure. But I don't think there's any going back now, and the sooner the Liberals realise this the better. The Liberal-propagated fallacy that Canada exists on a binary red-blue axis with the NDP as a sideshow is permanently dead. If anyone wants to talk about door colours, no-one would pretend anymore that the orange door is somehow a lesser choice. I don't want the Liberals to admit defeat; I want them to stop nipping at the NDP's heels and redefine themselves as a party equally comfortable courting current Tory supporters as current NDP supporters. The NDP have the goodwill right now, they have the monopoly on righteousness and on idealism, and that's incredibly valuable - now all they need is the legitimacy. I'm pretty sure they'll be able to pull it off, but it'll be rocky. People who have held their tongues this past week aren't going to hold them anymore.


I personally believe in the ideology of the NDP. I believe it's the right course for our country, and i believe it stands up to scrutiny. We should fear nothing of being subjected to that scrutiny. We can't meet attacks with indignation anymore; we should take pride in those attacks, because people only attack what they perceive as a threat. And the NDP is a threat now, a very serious one. We can't meet those attacks with indignation, so we'll have to counter them with reason and with poise. Jack Layton was inspiring because his politics were inspiring, and his politics have not died: they remain very much alive in Canada's main party of the opposition. If you believed the media in that oh-so-distant month between Layton's announcement of his illness and his death, the appointment of Nycole Turmel spelt disaster for the party, whereas interim polling suggested it mattered not a whit - people believe in the NDP.

It wasn't just Jack's death that created this belief. But Jack's death has brought it out into the open, in the form of a genuine yearning for the kind of Canada that the NDP is uniquely able to provide.

The Conservatives' spin recently has been amazing. So many of us have started to feel that this country is slipping away from us, being pulled in a different and unwelcome direction. But hey - look around. This is still our country, this is still a worthy place to build our dreams. Canadians haven't become more conservative at all. We'd just lost sight of who we are. Jack's death was a horrible, senseless tragedy, but one that has served to remind us of who we are.

And the only way the moment will pass is if we suddenly, en masse, decide that it's the Conservatives, or the Liberals, or the Bloc, or the Greens, in whom that vision is best manifested. And how likely is that?

So thanks, Jack. It worked.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Top Ten Things Nycole Turmel Could Do to Endear Herself to the Public

So the worst of the 'BQ storm' is over for Nycole Turmel now, I think. People half paying attention have moved onto other things to half pay attention to.

Still, let's face a reality - Turmel's star has definitely risen. Even if Jack Layton really does return, Turmel will still remain in the public eye from now on. So it's 'damage control' mode. Turmel really needs to find some ways to ingratiate herself in the minds of the Canadian public. By which, sad to say, I mean the people in the other nine provinces. And parts of Montréal too.

So in classic David Letterman fashion, let me present the top ten ways Nycole Turmel can endear herself to the nation as a whole...
  • 10. Periodically turn to Bob Rae and call out in a schoolmarmish voice, "You're the weakest link! Goodbye!"
  • 9. Buy at least one housecat for each year of BQ membership and allow yourself to be photographed with them as often as possible. Name the cats after former governers-general.
  • 8. Play at least one musical instrument. Or at least sing. You're party leader now, hon. In Canada, this means you have to sing.
  • 7. Inhale. Hell, light up in Commons. You're a New Democrat after all.
  • 6. Scream, 'Mon pays, ce n'est pas un pays; c'est l'hiver', while jumping in a half-frozen lake on New Year's Day.
  • 5. Prove allegiance to Canada by taking role as acting leader of the country's second largest federalist party.
  • 4. Adopt a brood of children from far-flung corners of the globe. Name them after former governors-general.
  • 3. Lobby the National Assembly to have Bonhomme refitted with a beaver's teeth and tail.
  • 2. Switch seats in Commons every now and then with Elizabeth May. See if anyone notices.
  • 1. Grow a moustache.

Straw Polls and Corn Dogs

Michele Bachmann currently looks like the Republican front-runner, based on... well, based on something called the 'Iowa Straw Poll', which apparently has something to do with eathing corn dogs. Because clearly fifty seperate votes for party leader just isn't enough... Michele Bachmann's ascendancy has to be good news for Stephen Harper, since it stands in such stark constrast to his own 'moderate lunacy'. Harper can get precisely as nuts as his haircut will allow over the next four years and still not even approach Bachmann-like levels of madness.

But the thing is that Bachmann barely even stands out from the crowd amongst Republican hopefuls. Amazing to think that even though there are only two parties in the United States, the best one of those two parties can muster up is this current crop (and after Obama, the best the other party can do is Joe Biden). After a vice-presidential candidate who merely was married to a seperatist, we now have a declared presidential candidate, Rick Perry, who was also apparently one too. Nycole Turmel must be shaking her head at the scant notice paid Rick Perry's previous dalliances with Texan seperation while guitarist for Aerosmith, but the thing is that seperatist dalliances on the right of the spectrum are okay, because they never really mean it. It's the conservative version of post-modernist irony.

It seems funny to think that Americans could even have seperatist movements, given how united they can all stand behind the act of chanting their three-lettered name at sporting events. Yet of course if any two states were likely to have independence movements (excluding states marooned in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, because they all vote Democrat anyway), it makes sense they'd be Texas and Alaska. After all (a) each of them happens to be huge anyway, and I refer not to girth, (b) they both used to belong to other countries anyway, so they know what it's like, and (c) they're not stuck in the middle. Imagine the poor dolt aiming for Kentucky independence who looks at a map and realises he'll be stuck surrounded on all four sides by his sworn enemy.

Ah, but who am I kidding? The sworn enemy isn't Kentucky's neighbours, is it? The sworn enemy is a tiny isolated city stuck between Maryland and Virginia. Or rather, it's that man in the big house downtown. The biggest fear I have regarding 2012 is that a certain amount of Americans will be so driven to defeat Obama at any cost that they'll vote for any old nutbar with a corn dog in her mouth.

Then it won't be so easy to laugh.

Maybe I`m wrong here, though. I mean, who knows what will happen? Election day 2012 is still a long way away (fully a year - a lifetime politically), and after all a 'straw poll' just doesn't sound like it's built to last, does it? If you're really looking for long-term repercussions, you might look into a wood poll next time out. Hell, even an adobe poll would have more staying power. All straw is good for is making fake humans to hang in fields to scare away crows.

Or do I misunderstand? Maybe it's straw like the thing you drink out of - like the GOP has cut different lengths of straw and held them in its hand, and America has just drawn the short one.

You know, the one labelled 'Bachmann'.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Angus Reid Salt Lick

It's always useful to take polls with a grain of salt - and in particular you might want to steal a salt lick from your nearest cow to get through this one. After all, what does Angus Reid have to lose? They know it's years till the next election, by which time any information contained in this reports will be the quaintest of relics. They could use a sample size of precisely 'everyone who was in the men's room at the time', and it will withstand scrutiny, because... well, because who's going to scrutinise it, really?

Yet it's a nice document to look at if you happen to like the NDP. The overall numbers show no change whatsoever in any of the five party's numbers, which is strange as other pollsters are recording jumps and drops of as much as four percent. But it's what's going on at the provincial (or in fact 'regional' level) that intrigues. TO start, their punchline-worthy Alberta numbers show the Conservatives at 75% and the Liberals at 1% (meaning that there are 7400% more Conservatives in Alberta than Liberals), and Ontario has the Tories 18 points ahead of their neck-in-neck rivals. But after that? Well... if you believe Angus Reid, outside of Alberta and Ontario, the NDP are leading everywhere else in the country.


Again, give that salt lick a slurp or two. But yes. Their Québec numbers show a drop from astronomical to merely sky-high (35%), which allows bumps most everywhere else to get masked. But they somehow outperform the Conservatives in BC and in the four Atlantic provinces by a remarkable one percent each (38% to 37% in BC, and 35% to 34% in the Atlantic), and have a not-insignificant four percent lead over the Tories in the Prairie provinces (44% to 40%).

It's tough to know quite what to think of this. After all, you don't figure that 'former Bloc ties' would really fly in the Prairies, for example - especially where seemingly little has been able to. Certainly there's an aspect of Jack-sympathy in the numbers, though who'd have thought that someone who resisted the 'orange wave' in May would subsequently be won over by a health scare. Unless, of course, it's fear for the health of the Liberal Party, a rather undocumented phenomenon that's bound to be happening in certain parts of the country (like hey! Alberta). I can't see 'the NDP are leading in 8 in 10 provinces' as actually being a realistic sentence, largely given that I can't see them leading in PEI or Newfoundland... but then again, perhaps it took stark election results to finally convince those two provinces that one votes NDP to oppose the Conservatives in 2011 (give them a break; they're islands). And also, sadly, I can't see Saskatchewan actually putting the NDP above the Tories - which suggests that NDP numbers must be pretty-damn-good in Manitoba.

Most of these numbers are well within the bounds of statistical error. Swing them a percent or two the other way and magically you've got 'Conservatives leading in every province except Québec!' - a sentence likely to be equally fallacious.

What the numbers currently mean, in all probability, is that no one can really be bothered at the moment to state on a telephone who they presently endorse. And why would they? After all, didn't Harper promise us that a majority would rid us of the pestilence of politics?

Saturday, August 13, 2011


So I took a few weeks off. I'd managed not to keep up with my one-post-a-day promise, and found that I had nothing to say anyway. So it was a nice break to recharge my batteries.

But hey! I've got a new computer now, and I want to play. It's a netbook, and I'm thinking I'll, like, use it on the subway and stuff - giving me more 'downtime' to fill by blogging. That's the theory, anyway.

And yet... what lessons have we learnt from our time away? Well, here's the thing - I went into blogging with this idea that I'd do this big series of one-note blogs that had weekly entries. I had this idea - which is probably more or less right - that they'd perform better (monetarily) if they were more or less consistent in their topics. But I'm not sure I chose them right, started several on whims, and got completely swamped by them. Even doing only one entry a week (which allows you to run a backlog if you have a burst of inspiration) gets to be too much if you have, like, fifteen of these blogs.

Now, this particular blog was also a whim. Its name is perfectly literal - amongst all of my abuses of Blogspot's MO, I'd have a blog that was not updated consistently, and spoke about topics both more random and more personal. Unlike the others, it'd be a real blog.

But then it turned into a kind of catch-all, encompassing stuff that I felt like doing that didn't fit into the very tight constraints of my other active blogs. So I'd put together stuff like lists of my favourite flags or lists of album covers that featured nudity (with time, I'd start another blog for that particular purpose, largely in fact because lists seemed to be taking over this particular blog).

Some of those became relatively successful, to the point that A Proper Blog would consistently, every day, get more pageviews than any of my other blogs. This was funny in that those other blogs were designed to be optimised for maximum pageviews, and this one was designed to be a silly afterthought. But it certainly encouraged me to give this particular blog more attention.

Then, on the 31st of December, 2010, on a sudden whim, I announced that I'd be updating this blog every day.

And for months and months, I followed that, forcing myself into new directions for creativity - which for me also includes 'creative ways to knock off entries that are obviously filler when the need arises'. It was enjoyable, if hard work. But there were two downsides. First, I had to ignore every other blog, leaving them either entirely or mostly stagnant. And as it became obvious that Album Cover Gallery would overtake this blog for daily pageviews (a situation that remains true to this day), I probably should have worked on developing it instead. But I just didn't have the time... and I'd made myself a promise regarding this blog, not that one. The other downside is that this current blog veers so wildly in different directions that Google's algorithms probably just give up trying to make heads or tails out of it. I've subverted my entire 'game plan' regarding Blogspot.

So I'm back working on this blog. But it's still conceptually a work in progress. I know I want to devote more time to other blogs, and that will come at the expense of this blog. So while I like the idea of getting back to daily updates, I'm not making a guarantee. And I think I want to have a good sit-down about this blog and what it ought to be. I kind of think I'd like to use it to focus mostly on politics and on music. Google can deal with two main themes. I'd like it to be mostly rant-style exposition, with less randomness and less 'variety' stuff. But I doenjoy doing the 'variety' stuff - should I be shunting that elsewhere, on yet another Blogspot blog, or five?

I don't know... but I'm back. And determined to figure it out.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Some Awesome Stuff from the Internet

  1. These artfully subtle gifs have been out and about for a while now. But they're lovely.
  2. This one's all over the internet right now - divers looking completely ridiculous as they perform their dives.
  3. Camera Mail is a sweet little experiment involving the people at US Mail.
  4. It's an ad, but Bach being played by a ball rolling down a series of resonant pieces of wood is very, very good indeed.
  5. This kid is three years old, yet he fingerpaints better than I'll ever be able to.
  6. There are few things in life I like more than photos of decrepid old buildings. Here are some in Russia.
  7. Some pictures of weather being absolutely terrifying.

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Dream

So I had a dream the other day. It seems that I was asked, at short notice, to cover a high school music class as a supply teacher. For whatever reason, I felt obliged to accept and didn't really feel as if I could admit to them that I'd never taught a music class and had no idea how to. All I was able to learn about the class is that 'they're working on (some classical piece) by (some classical composer) - a piece I'd never heard of but again pretended I had.

They'd given me short notice. Still, whatever time I had, I wasted a good portion doing something or other. I then realised that I had only a few minutes before class started and I hadn't prepared at all. I decided I needed to go and purchase sheet music for the piece, in case they didn't have it at the school. Scrambling for time, I went to a Dollarama to see if they had it. Of course, Dollarama doesn't carry sheet music, but it turns out they had a series of birthday cards that incorporated snatches of the score for that piece into their designs - quite luckily, one card would focus on part of the French horn part, another on the oboe, etc. I decided that was good enough and picked them up.

By now, I was quite late for class though. I high-tailed it to the school, which was my own high school from back in the day (that's not factually true; it was a place of my own design). So I knew where the music classes were held, but when I got to that part, I found that the students for my class had been locked in some kind of large cage by the principal (who in this drama had been my principal), who had them somehow listening to the kinds of trial CD players they have at CD stores. They seemed quite content, but the principal was obviously quite upset with me. I apologised, and he said, 'well, you'd better make do with the remainder of the time'. I asked what he thought I should do, and he recommended something laughably wrongheaded - something like multiplication drills. But it seemed like a good enough idea to me, so I rubbished the Dollarama birthday cards and unlocked the gate.

The best part about this highly stupid dream is that at that point I said to myself, "Oh God... do I really have to do these stupid multiplication drills now? Of course not; it's only a dream. I could just finish it right here."

And so I did.
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