Archive for February, 2010

Oh Canada

The other week I surprised myself.

I was watching the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, and along with the constant stream of mocking commentary that accompanies any such viewing in our household, I felt a curious welling up of… what?!? National pride?

Yes, the VANOC managed to pull off a show that overcame the intense grinchiness I ususally maintain for that type of production, and actually had me reflecting on what a great place we live in.

Now before any Olympic grinches jump down my throat (I know, I know… I’m also getting a bit tired of hearing about them and we’ve got almost a week left to go) let me explain the real reason for this post. Today in the car, the good old CBC gave me two more reasons to be proud to be Canadian.

First: We’re rolling back libel laws to allow journalists (that includes bloggers, btw) greater freedom and protection when reporting on anything in the public interest.

This actually happened in December (see some details here) but I heard very little about it in the media. Considering how rarely we hear anything positive about state of the media, free speech and democracy, I think this is fantastic news. Basically, anyone reporting on an issue “of public interest” no longer has to meet the near impossible standards of court-endorsed truthiness that they had to under previous interpretations of the law in Canada.

Now, as long as you can prove you did your homework and made an informed assesment that something is true, you can say it in public without threat of prosecution. Here’s hoping this leads to more and better stories about our politicians, police, rich folk… anyone of a class that has been used to hiding from journalists behind the threat of libel suits.

Second: Our track record in foreign affairs isn’t perfect, but at least when we screw up, we do something about it. Ahmad El Maati El Maati, a Toronto truck driver, was arrested in 2001 while in Damascus to attend his wedding. He was later transferred to Egypt, where he spent 26 months in prison. Today I heard this guy describe his experience being tortured. (See video link off this article.)

Am I dismayed that CSIS was playing sleazy with their foreign counterparts? Of course, but that’s what spy agencies do. The more important angle for me in this is that we live in a country where a) this kind of thing actually gets investigated; and b) we actually get to hear the results of the investigation in public.

So for all the crap we may get wrong (inaction on climate change, failing to fund education properly…) this country is still a fan-frickin-tastic place to live. I wonder if anyone at that Iacobucci press conference had their face painted?

Good old sandwiches

Good old sandwiches

On my way out of the grocery store today, I saw a guy rather half heartedly propping up a sandwich board, and kind of snickered to myself about the store’s feeble attempt at marketing. As I got closer, I saw that Liquidation World was closing and their flea-market type stock was on sale up to 90% off their already crap-tacularly low prices. What the hell.

I ended up dropping $12.62 in the store.*  On my way out of the store, I saw sandwich board-dude again. And thought, “that poor schmuck probably doesn’t make $12 an hour.”

I mentally retracted my snicker.

*For those of you who must know, a new litterbox scoop, a treat  for my at-home-sick better half, and a board game version of Banzai!).

A couple of comic quickies

1. Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea


Wow.  Even after a strong recommendation I was surprised how good this was. Guy Delisle has a very Canadian sense of humour and captures the weirdness of travel in a way I really appreciated.

I find autobiography in comics to be a very hit and miss proposition. For some reason, though, (maybe since Delisle was so isolated during his time in North Korea) there’s something about this work that seems very immediate and confessional. As a reader, I share his frustration with never really learning anything about the people of North Korea. It is both amazing and a little terrifying that the state is so completely in control that a foreign visitor living there for months really sees no cracks in the veneer. Highly recommended.

2. Kick-Ass

I’m excited about this for several reasons.

First, although I’m not a huge fan of Mark Millar’s work in the Marvel Universe, this series of his (or mini, whatever it was) got a lot of raves in print. With a few notable exceptions, I think comic writers do their best work in their own sandboxes. Hopefully the tone of Millar’s writing that I found too “mean” for the MU is better suited to his own characters. I can see it working better in film.

Second, although I love all kinds of comics/graphic novels, I can’t read them all. I do manage to see almost every Hollywood adaption of anything remotely comic book related, however. (It’s a holdover from the drought of decent fantasy in cinema when I was a kid). The pattern I’ve noticed is that by and large,  my favorite comic movies come from work I haven’t read. Road to Perdition. Ghost World. And probably the best example – V for Vendetta. All of them great movies made from great comics that might have been on my radar but never made it into my collection.

Finally, I’ve been waiting to enjoy a Nicholas Cage in a movie since, what… Raising Arizona? Now that’s a drought.

Anyhoo… I do loves me a good trailer, and this is at least the third version I’ve seen. It’s probably the most mainstream cut I’ve seen (complete with the gun-glam shots), but it still looks pretty decent, and from what I’ve read the content is going to know people for a loop if they’re expecting Mystery Men: TNG.

As an aside: A typical WASP Ontario boy, I never really “got” the Quebecois swearing through blasphemy thing… until I heard the zinger in that trailer:  “With no power comes no responsibility.”

Delicious sacrilege. Osti, tabarnac!

Reality check (Gratitude revisited)

Reality check (Gratitude revisited)

I’m in a pretty good mood. The new job is looking better and better every day – a definite relief after after leaving a company I really liked.

Today at lunch I was gobsmacked by a picture in the freeps of a massive “clay pie” factory in Haiti. What completely floored me was that this extreme diet was not brought on by the devastation of the recent quake.  Apparently so many Haitians are so poor, and the island so under-resourced, that eating dirt (for all intents and purposes) has become a necessity, and even common. I couldn’t find the pic on so I googled it and the article I found was from 2008.

Wow.  We can spend millions on olympics and “saving” banks, but as a race we can’t be bothered to even keep ourselves fed.  I guess what really makes me mad is that the relative cost of “saving the world” is trivial. This commercial does a great job of illustrating the disparity of spending.

Even if we combined the costs of providing clean water, education, and medical care to the cost of feeding the world, it would still be a small fraction of what gets spent on war or hoarded by the rich.

About the only way to combat knowledge of that kind of injustice is to put it in perspective. Thanks to Nik & Melissa for pointing this one out to me. It’s not exactly a feelgood piece, but it beats the hell out of the feeling Sean Penn left me with.

Sleep well, fellow apes.