Wednesday, May 30, 2007

It's Summer Somewhere, Damn It

A storm is coming. I just opened the window in my room, and by damn I can smell the rain approaching. Mind you, in the last week or so, when -- aside from Sunday -- was there not a storm coming? And it's expected to rain almost continuously right through until about Monday, when with any luck we'll be able to enjoy sunshine rather than, say, sandbagging.

So, yes, all things considered, it's probably a stupid idea to start posting summer songs now. But what the hell! I had said I would, and I am nothing if not intrinsically stubborn very determined.

I assure you -- one day it will stop raining. It has to. I am convinced of this. And when it does, we'll all be able to roll down the windows when we're in our cars -- or open the windows very slightly, if we're on the bus -- and feel like everything is right in the world when this song starts up.

Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra - Gabe's New Joint [site | buy]

Aww, yeah. God, I love this genre. To most everybody else, Nigeria is some place far away where all the spam in their inbox comes from -- but they could produce a billion spammers, for all I care, and still they will never outweigh the good will Nigeria has built up from me for producing Fela Kuti and Afrobeat.

It should be no surprise to anybody that I'm a huge mark for Afrobeat; when you combine 1970s funk, traditional African rhythms, politically supercharged messages (not on this track, granted, because this one's an instrumental) and an ensemble of as many talented people as you can fit on stage, you are absolutely guaranteed my affection. Such is the case here!

Oh, and heads up -- Antibalas is coming to town (!!!), as part of the Jazz Winnipeg Festival. I'll get to the Jazz Winnipeg Festival in a future post, but suffice to say that this year's lineup looks awesome.

Where was I? Ah, yes. No matter how you're riding -- small car, big car, bicycle, bus, truck, go-kart, dune buggy, unicycle, horse -- you are going to feel like the absolute undisputed king of the universe when you are cruising through the city with this song playing. All is right with the world!

And then, inevitably, it'll be such a warm and lovely day that you'll just have to get stuck in traffic somewhere.

Keiichi Suzuki - Super Dry Dance [composer info]

This'll keep you entertained until the light changes.

Dig the faux radio static waxing and waning over the tinny cheerful ditty; doesn't this sound like the perfect background music for a flashback story about a guy getting hit in the face with a beach ball? I don't know how often you would need that kind of background music, unless it's a really good story -- but if such a situation ever arises, here it is!

Christophe Heral - Fun and Mini-Games [source info -- the internet has no idea whatsoever who this man is]

This song is a minute and fifty-four seconds long; I usually do my best to remedy this by listening to it five or six times in a row. That is my lone possible complaint with this track.

This is summer music, yes, but it is also excellent motivation music; this is just one of those songs that makes you feel instantly better at anything you're doing. It is considerably difficult to be simultaneously classy and dangerous -- not that I'm any good at being either, but humour me on this one -- and this slice of majesty combines the two so effortlessly that everyone and everything in its presence is heightened dramatically. Do not play this song during a game of beach volleyball, or I will try to put the ball through your face -- and I'm not even any good at beach volleyball! Such is the power this song harnesses.

Vic Thrill + the Saturn Missile - Hi on Wade [site | buy]

If you're packing up your car for a nice weekend out at the lake (and again I'm back to our magical hypothetical world where it isn't raining on us constantly), my suggestion is to time your music arrangements so that this song, this... beast, starts playing just as you're hitting the highway and speeding up. Just as with the first song I posted today, it won't matter what piece of crap you're driving -- you will feel like a god when this song kicks in.

(But, er, don't go too fast. The above situation is not one you can casually explain to cops as a way of avoiding speeding tickets.)

I had classified the above music as motivation music, and the same tag fits perfectly here as well; this track is far less accessible than the one preceding it (which is a gentler way of saying that I've probably spooked most of you just for posting it), but damned if this song isn't exactly what music would sound like if you could play jet fuel and determination as instruments.

Granted, this is not music for every situation; you would just end up confusing and scaring people if you played it at, say, a social. But if you need something to boost your adrenaline, keep you awake, hurry you up when you're running late, motivate you over an immediate problem, or just generally make you feel like a nigh-invincible conqueror of worlds -- then fire this bad boy up, because it is unquestionably the song for the job.

The Go! Team - Panther Dash [site | buy]

Now, this track could be used as highway music, but to me it always sounds more suited for urban situations; this is downtown hustle-and-bustle music in its purest form, just like Miles Davis' On the Corner would be if I weren't the only person I've ever met who loved that album. (And damn you all for that, while I think of it. That album is gold. Gold, I say! Grr!)

I'm not saying that cop cars plowing through wooden crates in a back alleyway is guaranteed when this song is playing, but I would suggest the probability of such an event happening raises significantly. Just you wait!

I imagine I'll be posting a lot more music as we roll on into the summer; I can assure you, if you were weirded out by these selections (and I wouldn't necessarily blame you), that future tracks will be far easier to fit into more conventional genres. Hooray for music!


Monday, May 28, 2007

Oh Yeah, Hey, the Stanley Cup Finals Begin Tonight

now how the hell did I forget about

The first game starts in twenty minutes, as it turns out, so I'll go quick and dirty with the prediction routine.

I'm happy to see either team win, because neither team is the New Jersey Devils; I had actually been rooting for Buffalo, as you may have been able to tell, but then as we all know they coughed and keeled over dead like a team of Ukyo Tachibanas. Alas.

So while I don't have any particular preference, here's what I suspect is going to happen. Most guesses I've seen, both amateur and professional, peg the Sens as winning in six games -- and while I'm as conformist as the next guy (ba-dum-bum-tssh), I'm going to buck the trend and say Anaheim wins in seven.

And then I'm going to go even further with my predictions and say that Anaheim will be leading by two goals to start the third period of Game 7, Ottawa will score a goal to get within one with plenty of time left, and Anaheim will just barely survive the ensuing barrage of shots and hold on from there to win the Stanley Cup in a coast-to-coast Canadian heartbreaker.

I feel pretty confident about this prediction; this has been exactly the way it's happened the last two years in a row when a Canadian team goes up against a team from the very southern United States in the Stanley Cup Finals. So watch for that.

Yes, the chances of this actually happening now that I've said it are pretty low -- but if this is how it does turn out, oh man, you're going to hear about it!

It's an Okay Song, But Geez

Today marked the second time in a row that I entered a Shoppers Drug Mart to hear the Bangles' "Hazy Shade of Winter" playing as the sound system background music.

I really didn't know what to make of that, except to say that A) Shoppers Drug Mart needs a wider selection of intercom music and B) if it happens a third time in a row I am declaring shenanigans.

With the provincial election over, I think I'll swing back towards some music bloggery for the next little while; the next post or two should contain some suitable listening material for the upcoming summer, unless something particularly outstanding distracts me first.

And now that I think about it -- why "Hazy Shade of Winter"? Seriously, what, would "Walk Like an Egyptian" have cost too much? Did they want a Paul Simon song to hook the soccer-mom demographic, but balked at the idea of actually giving Paul Simon any money? I wonder about these decisions, sometimes.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Jack Reimer, Your Timing is Exceptional

The Progressive Conservatives of Manitoba spent thirty-three campaign days attacking the NDP, hoping that the election would swing their way.

As we all know by now, of course, it didn't.

So one day after the election, the Tories abandoned the strategy of attacking the NDP and have instead gone back to doing what they traditionally do best -- attack each other.

Here's how it shakes down. Hugh McFadyen has been the leader of the PCs for about a year, and despite his almost complete inexperience in this position he held his ground against what we now know as perhaps the most continually popular Manitoba government in history. But he lost one seat in this election, so clearly it's time to fire him. (If you can't follow this logic, you aren't qualified to vote Conservative!)

Yesterday, Jack Reimer -- the recently ousted Conservative MLA for Southdale, who must feel really jazzed about losing his job to some prop from the Breakfast Television set -- appeared on CJOB radio to tell everybody that Hugh McFadyen is a liar who was lying to us.

No, really. I'm not kidding; that was about the extent of his argument, as he announced that McFadyen's promise to bring back the Winnipeg Jets was considered unfulfillable by his own party from the second it left his lips. Reimer claimed that he wouldn't have supported any party, even his own, if it meant public money would be used towards some sports team; this is all kind of a moot point now, of course, but even still. He just wants us to know that. Y'know, about McFadyen being a lying liar who likes to lie, and all.

McFadyen would later defend his position as leader as best he could, given the circumstances -- but the internal march to replace him is on, and right now some of his party allies are intent on being his biggest enemies.

Now, these kind of antics are nothing new, per se; stating that the PCs like to frag their lieutenants when anything goes wrong is about as bold as stating that the Atlantic Ocean is kind of damp sometimes.

But I think that Jack Reimer's timing may have been off on this particular announcement. A little. Somewhat.

Because just this afternoon, two days after the Manitoba election, the announcement was made that Jim Balsillie has plunked down $220 million and bought the Nashville Predators.

Jim Balsillie, whether deserved or not, already has quite the reputation by now as a man who wouldn't hesitate for a second to bring an NHL team up to Canada -- and according to the standing clauses in the Predators' lease agreement, the team could be moved out of Nashville as early as the end of next season if their existing attendance base doesn't pick up dramatically.

Er. Hmm.

Did Hugh McFadyen, or whoever it was that reputedly pushed McFadyen into the Jets announcement, know this was about to happen? I wouldn't doubt it for a second; had the Conservatives won the election (which turns out in retrospect to have been a mighty big 'had'), well, you can see the sort of serendipitous synchronicity this would have stirred up. (I am given to brief bouts of alliteration sometimes.)

Did Jack Reimer know this was about to happen? Well, obviously not -- or he wouldn't have gone on the most popular radio station in Winnipeg to publicly bury his own leader for even pretending that his promise of an NHL team in Winnipeg was anything but instant lies, one day before an NHL team got snapped up by a freewheeling Canadian billionaire rumoured to be looking northward for its next home.

Ah, well. I don't mean to get on Reimer's case, or anything; everybody makes mistakes sometimes! I know people around here can get kind of crazy when the Jets are brought up, and I would sure hate to see a fine gentleman like Jack Reimer lose his job over this.

Hey, wait a s--

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

One Seat (or, the 2007 Manitoba Provincial Election is Finally Over)

That's what all this was about?

At the conclusion of the 2003 Manitoba Provincial Election, the NDP held thirty-five seats; the Progressive Conservatives held twenty, and the professional sadsacks Liberals held but two.

Now, with Election Night 2007 over and the seat tally finalized... the NDP holds thirty-six seats, the Progressive Conservatives hold nineteen and the Liberals again hold but two.

Four years since the last election, one year since the leadership of a major party changed hands, and a full month of the most vicious vitriol in Manitoba politics since people started arguing about pig farms -- all of that was building to a one seat difference from the 2003 election?


Ahem. 'Scuse. One moment.

Okay. Moving along.

I watched the entire CBC coverage of the election; I wasn't writing while I watched it, because -- to put it mildly -- my archaic computer is not very mobile. (I also watched the remainder of the hockey game afterwards; if the sudden flood of mysterious penalties had let the Red Wings win that game, and you were to put forward the notion that Bettman had put the fix in for Detroit, I would have been completely unable to refute your argument. Anyway! Politics!) But from what I remember, here were some of my initial reactions:

-- What the hell was Janet Stewart wearing? Was that a white upside-down Odal rune being used as a shirt collar?
-- When the first ballot counts of the night roll in and one of the candidates in a riding only has a single vote, don't you always feel a little sorry for that guy? Especially since he was probably the guy that cast that vote?
-- I swear, I don't think I recognized even half the interviewers they put out and about into the field today. Then again, I suspect the dude they sent to hold down the Liberal coverage must be really new; he seemed a little unpolished, a little rushed. Not to say that he did a bad job, mind you; he did pretty well. It's just that it's not exactly a ringing endorsement of your qualifications when they send you to the headquarters of the distant third-place party so that you can appear on television a grand total of twice in a two-hour show.
-- Come to think of it... there only were two male reporters in the whole lot. And one was a visible minority. Huh. So much for my chances at ever landing a job like that.
-- They declared an NDP majority within fourty minutes? Geez, that was quick. Thanks for tuning in, folks! Goodnight, everybody!
-- Weren't some of these ridings supposed to be... you know... close? At all? And is Hugh McFadyen even going to be leader at the end of the month?
-- You know, theoretically, a party could win complete control over the entire province without even once leaving Winnipeg city limits. Chew on that one for a minute.
-- Hugh McFadyen opening his concession speech with 'ouch' -- okay, you've got me there, that's pretty funny. I can't argue with that.
-- Did... did Gary Doer just give a shout-out to Tommy Douglas? Why do I feel unsettled just typing that?
-- Oh, man, the panel's relentless ragging on the PC strategist ("So! What went wrong?" "Well, I... it's not that things went wrong, it's just--" "Is Hugh McFadyen out as leader?" "What? No!") just got more and more entertaining as the night went on -- and then, when even Janet Stewart got into the act of subtly mocking him, I nearly shot a piece of pizza through my nose. Bad night to be a Conservative on television!

So, yes. A big night for the NDP, by which is meant a terrible night for the Conservatives and Liberals because neither party accomplished anything and the NDP won a majority basically by default. Manitoba politics! Whee!

I can't wait to see what the final number is for the voter turnout; as previously mentioned my suspicion is that it was low, and it was probably lower than my original lowball prediction because everybody was busy being rained on today.

(Oh -- and yes, I did go check the Value Village today right after I voted; I'm sad to say that I was absolutely, one-hundred-per-cent correct about my previous cynicism.)

My favourite election-related item of interest, however, took place far before any of the ballots were counted; it was the most unlikely of promotional tactics, and to me it was the most impressive.

My job allows for two fifteen-minute breaks and one thirty-minute lunch; I usually eat lunch during the first fifteen-minute break, because that means I can use the thirty minutes of lunch time to head out and play arcade games in a dedicated section of Bourbon Street Billiards.

And in the far corner of that room, behind the X-Man vs. Street Fighter machine that collects most of my change, sits Strikers 1945 II.

Strikers 1945 II, the 1997 sequel to Strikers 1945 (don't ask; video games just work that way sometimes), is a top-down shooter -- commonly referred to as a 'shmup', short for shoot-'em-up. Loosely set in World War II, you can choose one of six different WWII-themed planes and take to the air for a battle against seemingly endless hordes of enemy fighters.

Normally this machine elicits little more than the raise of an eyebrow from me; I'm a longstanding fan of the genre, don't get me wrong, but fighting games always take precedence as far as my spending habits are concerned. (And I only have half an hour, after all.) Today, however, I caught a glimpse of the Strikers 1945 II high-score board -- and guess what I saw?

Well, I'll be damned. That is what I thought to myself. Now that's dedication!

No wonder the NDP ended up winning this election so handily; if their volunteers were willing to go to these lengths, imagine what the candidates must have been up to!

But, I guess that's all over and done with anyway; that's that. The NDP picks up one seat, the PCs lose one seat, and the more things change the more they stay the same. Manitoba politics. Whee.

Bring on the summer!

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Manitoba Provincial Election is Tomorrow (or, Mercifully It's Almost Over)

Can you feel the excitement? Oh, boy! Ha, ha! What fun!

Let's just go ahead and proclaim that the summer officially starts after this election is over and done with; the weather wasn't nearly good enough to justify the May Long Weekend as the start of summer, and quite honestly our carefree days of summer aren't going to show up until we've all successfully banished politics from our collective frontal lobes. (If a federal election is called before September, I say we riot.)

I'm not going to deign to make seat-count or riding-by-riding election predictions, because -- as anybody who has been keeping up with my Stanley Cup predictions can attest to -- I am very bad at predicting things. But I will make one prediction, as regards an area of the election that nobody else has brought up yet: the voter turnout.

Are you ready? Here it comes.

The voter turnout is going to be really bad.

(Yes. Valuable insight. I bet you're glad you dropped by today.)

The 2003 provincial election drew a turnout of 54%, which is just terrible. Then last year's civic election drew a voter turnout of 38%, which is even worse -- and we were lucky to get that many voters. Winnipeg is a city of such overwhelming apathy towards seemingly everything that it's almost impossible to get fourty per cent of Winnipeg to care about anything at any given time except for... er, for... crap, I did name this blog properly. I should be ashamed of myself.

I tend to be an incurable optimist when it comes to things that I should really know better about, but even I'm going to register genuine surprise if this election breaks fifty-five per cent across the province. I'm going to stake my prediction as 52.7% of eligible voters showing up tomorrow, with no better than 45% turnout across the city of Winnipeg. Here's hoping I'm wrong!

(Incidentally -- and of all the ideas -- The CBC will be airing election coverage tomorrow night instead of the hockey game; god bless publicly owned television, because no privately owned station could ever get away with ratings suicide this severe.)

Me? I'm going to go out and vote tomorrow, even though I'm the only person I know in my age group who intends to vote and even though I know full well that my vote is absolutely meaningless in the larger scale. (Yes, it is. I'm not deluded here.) And then on Wednesday it'll all be over, everybody will be miserable for the next four years no matter what the outcome is, and we can all get on with the more important things in life! Like fighting off the multiple oncoming biblical-level plagues of insects!

Happy Victoria Day, tiny and embittered electorate!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Pic and Choose: When Oncoming Politics and Actual Real Life Collide

Oft times my old digital camera rides with me in my backpack and I forget it's even there; most of the time I only remember to grab it when the opportunity presents itself to get, say, amusing pictures of cats.


Ahem. Where was I? Ah, yes.

Today, like every other day (except windier), I made my way to the bus stop early in the morning; it was to be another long bus ride to work, but certainly better than trying to drive downtown and then trying to park downtown.

Anyone passingly acquainted with me knows how poorly I handle mornings; even still, I wasn't so out of it that I didn't notice the pronounced increase in gridlock. Construction ahead, I deduced. (Aren't I bright.) But the noisy congregation of ralliers, not thirty feet away, standing around Progressive Conservative candidate Tara Brousseau? That took me a second longer to parse.

My, but what an image. Spring construction snarling a sea of cranky car commuters, their exhaust dissipating no more slowly than their gas budgets in the wake of another record rise -- and then, way over on the sidelines, barely on anybody's radar, a passing reminder of an upcoming election that precious few electorate will be bothered to acknowledge.

I knew I keep that camera in my backpack for a reason.

So right from the moment I got to the bus stop, this morning, I knew what I was going to do today after work: grab the camera and poke around Pembina Highway a bit, to see what election- and non-election-related sights there might be to see.

And seeing as I go by this building twice a day on the bus, I already had my first shot in mind.

Now, I can figure out what they're trying to get at with that slogan -- but doesn't it really seem weird, the first few times you read it? "For Fort Garry For a Change"; is he usually against Fort Garry?

"Hey, Shaun, you wanna go grab a beer and rail on Fort Garry for a while like we usually do?"
"You know what, guys? I think today I'm going to be for Fort Garry for a change!"

To quote George Carlin -- these are the kinds of thoughts that kept me out of the really good schools.

Oddly enough, I later came across what appeared to be an entire deck of cards that was scattered alongside the southbound lane; it seems as though somebody must have thrown the entire deck from the window of a moving vehicle. I must inform you, whoever you were: this is one game of 52-Card Pick-Up that you have lost badly, and that is why it isn't supposed to be played as a travel game.

I always laugh when I see this bus bench. And then I always feel a little bad about laughing. But never for very long.

Put aside the knowledge that it's a real estate conglomerate; going by this display, doesn't it really seem like Royal LePage would actually be a dating service for people with really low standards? Can I honestly be the only one who gets that vibe from that combination of picture and text? And would this really be any more shameful than those stupid, seemingly unkillable Grapevine Personals television spots?


That is cheeky. That is pure, unmitigated cheek. Well played.

It doesn't show very well from this angle, but they actually put three (!) signs up in front of enemy headquarters; this one visual alone is already more interesting than last night's televised debate was. (Because good lord was that thing a snoozefest. How am I supposed to argue against the notion that this election isn't boring when people have that to work with?)

Yeah, huh. Ouch. I hope you don't have anywhere to be this week.

Sure, this picture displays an unprecedented and disgustingly inflated price for gas with no reasonable explanation for the continued hikes beyond the cheerfully persistent moral bankruptcy of our financial overlords -- but look on the bright side! Two or three months from now, we'll be looking back at this picture fondly!

If couches could talk -- and it's unquestionably for the best that they can't, all things considered -- if couches could talk, I suspect this one would be voicing the symptoms of a major hangover.

"Holy shit that party got crazy last night. Fuck, man. Hey--hey--do you know where my leg went?"





What gets me isn't that the Value Village decisionmakers probably forgot or were unaware what else was going on May 22nd; what gets me isn't even that most of the shoppers have forgotten or are unaware of what's going on May 22nd. No, the rich vein of cynical amusement being tapped right now sources from the knowledge that -- come May 22nd -- the crowds in that Value Village at any time are going to dwarf the traffic that any returning office is going to see the entire day.

Yes, this is just what Manitoba's voting turnout needs. Competition. The representative legitimacy of our political system is going to be undermined by a fire sale at the second-hand store.

Manitoba provincial politics! So inspiring, you'll barely even know they're there!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Oh, You've Gotta Be Kidding Me

I opened up today's Free Press for this? By damn, I think I'm actually dumber just for having read that!

Man, no wonder nobody else my age reads newspapers.

The Blue Meanies (later the New Meanies) - Devil's Tail [buy]

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The NHL Conference Finals Begin Tomorrow; Also, Free Concert Alert

Yeah, so. If you kept an eye on any news outlet, you already know that the Conservative attempt to use the Winnipeg Jets as a campaign platform got dumped on -- and hard -- by pretty much anybody who would have any say in it. So let's shift gears a little and talk about... hockey in other cities! Yeah!

I got pretty much nothing right in my second-round predictions, but I'm still going to make some quick predictions anyway. Because I'm not smart enough to know better. So!

Western Conference

(1) Detroit Red Wings vs. (2) Anaheim Ducks

Hey, first seed versus second seed. How often does that happen?

Detroit's done quite well to make it this far (especially considering that, y'know, they usually don't in this situation), but I really can't imagine how they're getting out of this one alive. Except for randomly shooting pucks at the net as soon as possible, I'm having a hard time thinking of something Detroit does that Anaheim doesn't do better.

Detroit has a great goalie; Anaheim has two, in case one breaks. Detroit is a gritty team; Anaheim is a really gritty team. Detroit has a defenceman nominated for the Norris trophy; Anaheim has two defencemen nominated for the Norris trophy, and the two of them play enough combined minutes that there's almost always at least one of them out on the ice. (Mind you, all the Vezina nominees are out of the playoffs, so award nominations don't necessarily count for much.)

And on top of all that, it turns out that Randy Carlyle is a line-matching grandmaster genius -- as was obvious when he was working his wizardry and shutting down all of Vancouver's lines... in Vancouver.

If Detroit wins this one, I'll be mystified. But, hell, what do I know? I'm the same guy that thought the Sharks were going to score goals, or that the Atlanta Thrashers would accomplish anything.

What I'd Want: Anaheim in five.
What I'll Guess: Anaheim in six.

Eastern Conference

(1) Buffalo Sabres vs. (4) Ottawa Senators

Ooh, this is going to be an awesome series. This is going to be fast, this is probably going to be vicious because these teams hate each other furiously, the neutral zone's going to whirl around like a blender full of bingo balls -- and while I'm not specifically predicting another headhunting session, megabrawl and goalie fight between the two teams, I would not rule out the possibility entirely.

Ultimately, I both hope and believe that Buffalo's taking this one; Buffalo is going to jump all over the inevitable turnovers that seem ingrained into Ottawa's playstyle, and I suspect Ottawa only made it this far because of how completely and dramatically Brodeur suddenly declined for no conceivable reason. ("Well, I've got the puck, I'm way back here, I'll just shoot it in at the net really lightly and... whaaaaaat?")

I suspect that, whatever the Stanley Cup Finals turn out to be, they might seem rather underwhelming after this series.

What I'd Want: Buffalo in seven, and the series gets incredibly nasty and violent by the end of Game Two.
What I'll Guess: Buffalo in six, and the series gets incredibly nasty and violent by the end of Game Four.

Game One of the Eastern Finals happens tomorrow night, so I'm probably not going to see it; I'll be out and about playing video games with dudes and folks. And Game One of the Western Finals happens Friday night, so I'm definitely not going to see it -- and that leads me into the other portion of this post.

Anybody who knows me knows my deep appreciation for things that I receive without paying for. (I am the quintessential Winnipeg big-spender.) There are quite a few long and involved stories about this trait, many of them fond remembrances of my university free-stuff glory years, but suffice it to say that I do not turn down items or events that are offered for the sum of zero dollars.

So when I saw that flyer downtown after work (and it's a hard flyer to miss -- it got put up seemingly everywhere), stuck on a posting board right across the street from the Urban Bakery -- well, who am I to refuse a setup that serendipitous?

Granted, mashups are sort of a bizarre genre exercise -- but, at the very least, they're always good for messing with your friends' heads. This sort of thing is right up my alley (the mashups, I mean, not the messing with heads... although, yeah...), as most bizarre genre exercises are, so I'm figuring I'll have a blast. I'm figuring you will, too, if you get in on it!

Do you have something better lined up for this Friday night than going out and having a grand time, dressing up nice to listen to charmingly weird music? Because I sure don't! And I'm not just saying that because I'm cheerfully self-deprecating about my social life these days!

Now, if anybody needs me, I'll be returning to what I was doing before I wrote this post; it's good to take a brief break now and then from the important business of melting from the heat. God, no wonder crowds love hockey in May.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Now the Campaign Really Starts (or, What the Hell is Going On Here)

Oh, crap. What a way to start week three.

(Hey, who wants to be the first to step up and correctly note that Thomas Steen was a prop here? Anybody? Anyone?)

If you were wondering how the Progressive Conservatives are approaching this election campaign, wonder no longer.

The NDP, so far, have offered little in the way of excitement and grand ideas (except to claim that they were already doing anything the Conservatives promise to do); their platform has been based on offering more of the same (more doctors! More nurses! More football! More Spirited Energ--whoops wait backspace backspace) and hoping Gary Doer's back is strong enough to singlehandedly carry the entire party into power again. Only Gary Doer can prevent us from losing everything! If you don't vote NDP, clearly you must hate Manitoba! Just ask the nurses!

And the Liberal platform, heavy on somewhat misguided policy and light on necessary charisma, has been the political equivalent of an an all-you-can-eat Melba Toast buffet -- theoretically good for you, but way more expensive than it has any right to be and so impossibly dry that you can't help but choke on it.

But the Conservatives? My, oh, my. Theirs has not an platform of educated policy, of sensible governance or of strong leadership; the main Conservative platform so far has been to specifically hammer at as many longstanding Manitoban psychological weaknesses as they can get their hands on. Do Manitobans fear falling behind other provinces in taxation rates? Elect us now or we'll forever be the poorest urchins in all the land! Do Manitobans fear the ongoing rises in crime, both real and perceived? Elect us now or gang members fresh out of prison for the second time will kill you in your own beds!

And today, the Tories targeted the granddaddy of them all -- the biggest, sorest collective psychological wound that modern Winnipeg sports. (Er, no pun intended.) Do Winnipeggers fear their continued decline in cultural relevance, knowing full well that the city's most widespread cultural contributions of the past decade have been a significantly unflattering Weakerthans song and the one time we stranded the Queen out on the river? Elect us now or soon Winnipeg will be known only as that place from an episode of the Simpsons!

Well, you can't say the Conservatives are aiming low, that's for sure. This is big, doubly so because the NDP is now insisting they thought of the idea first; that means it's now a race to see who can hypothetically get a team here the fastest, unwieldy economics of the situation be damned.

It also means that the Liberals picked the wrong day to once again try and make Crocus an election issue; I don't think the timing could have been any worse for the Liberals here without a lower-class Crocus shareholder popping out of a nearby building and yelling at them.

(Boy, look at the picture on that article; Gerrard sure looks like he'd be a barrel of laughs at parties, doesn't he?)

Such is the story of the 2007 Manitoba Provincial Election campaign so far; the two parties with any shot at winning are delving into increasingly more dramatic (and, in some cases, increasingly dumber -- HEY GUYS WHO NEEDS LEGAL AID ANYWAY I MEAN THE POOREST PEOPLE DESERVE JAIL THE MOST AM I RIGHT) stunts to try and get voters to pay attention for even a second, and the party running a distant third is going to remain a distant third because nobody wants to hear some old square yammer about stuff that makes your head hurt.

Don't take any of this to mean that I stand opposed to the Winnipeg Jets, of course. Far from it!

My issue is not with the potential return of the Jets, because I am totally cool with that; I think we've been over that before. No, my current consternation with the collectively careless campaign carnage (I am given to brief bouts of alliteration) runs slightly deeper than that.

See, as you'll recall from your introductory Political Studies courses -- or as I'll recall for you, if you prefer -- the classical understanding of small-C conservatism is to protect the status quo against those unsavoury pie-in-the-sky radicals that would ruin our collective society by making dramatic changes just for the sake of change. And classic small-L liberalism is based on the continued evolution of society to better the lives of the individual, rearranging whatever structures necessary to make incremental progress and keep the existing system from trodding on the common man.

With that in mind, and to recap our current Manitoba setup: the NDP platform is to guard our existing system as-is rather than risk any dramatic changes, and the Conservative platform is to change everything now now now to make things better for individual Manitobans. Oh, and the Liberal platform is to push hard for social justice and environmental rights if it means spending every last dime we have.

I don't even know where to begin with this.

Not to phrase it in a way that makes it completely impossible to answer, but -- just what the hell is wrong with our province? When did M. C. Escher drop by to design our political sphere for us?

I swear, I don't know what they're going to do if this new Jets development doesn't get people interested in the election. If the malaise continues, expect a week four pledge from the NDP to hire five hundred more doctors and a promise from the Conservatives to resurrect the Winnipeg Thunder. And Jon Gerrard will drop by to yak about bicycles or something, meaning everybody in Manitoba will stop paying attention all over again (NHL Playoffs are on, don't you know) and week five will have to be even more over the top and HOW ARE THERE STILL TWO WEEKS LEFT OF THIS

I Got My MPI Rebate Cheque

How nice of them to give me my own money back. I'm touched, really, I am.

They gave back 10% of my yearly payments, which just served to irritate me once I realized that the remaining 90% is still a prohibitively large sum.

I have merits sitting and doing nothing on my driver's licence, I've never had to report an accident, and I drive a 1988 Volvo -- a make of car so unimaginably sturdy and reliable that I can only die in it if somebody gets inside the car and shoots me. Hell, I'm one of the few Winnipeg drivers out there that actually employs turn signals.

And yet, I am a male between the ages of 18 and 25 -- so, for what I paid this past year in car insurance, I could almost have put myself through another half a year of university.

But, hey, it's not like this is discrimination! I mean, just because a government organization is specifically treating me as less competent and imposing harsher financial regulations on me based automatically on my... age... and... gender...

Huh. Well, it's not discrimination! Not when it happens to men!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Spring! The Season of Completely Unrelated Topics

Topic One:

The federal political furor over Shane Doan is absolutely stupid, and everybody involved ought to be ashamed of themselves. But in political stupidity there is endless entertainment, and this case is no exception at all -- because Gilles Duceppe flipping out and blurting out the phrase "FUCKING FRENCH FROGS!!" to a crowd of reporters is comedy gold. My god, that slayed me.

You can imagine my amusement when I got home and began flipping through the channels on television, hitting CTV News right as Gord Leclerc warned about strong language in the upcoming piece; I honestly thought they were just covering themselves against the use of any potential epithets, but within ten seconds was I ever proven dead wrong. I came in expecting a brief, curt reading of supposed slurs from a piece of paper by an even-tempered reporter; instead I was greeted by frothing and hilariously misguided Bloc OUTRAGE, which is funny by itself and doubly funny because they aired it on the six-o'clock news.

I don't remember the exact wording, because A) it wasn't worded exactly to begin with and B) I was too busy laughing, but it was a three second snippet of an angry Gilles Duceppe that went along the lines of:

"An' you 'ave t'is guy, who-- he-- he come and say-- 'FUCKING FRENCH FROGS!!' -- or somet'ing similar!"

My sister intentionally knows very little about politics, but she absolutely adores Gilles Duceppe; she once insisted that he speaks English in the same stumbling, eager way that a puppy would speak if it wanted so desperately to communicate with you that it spontaneously learned your language. That description stuck with me ever since; all things considered, though, right now I'd rather have the puppy.

If I seem condescending, it's because I am sometimes! But I'm not being condescending about the matter because Gilles Duceppe is French; of course not. We live in a civilized and multicultural society, where -- despite what our national leaders would have us believe -- even our hockey players of different backgrounds get along with each other. No, instead, I am being condescending about the matter because this federal 'issue' is idiotic bullshit, and we as a nation would be better spending our time by considering pretty much anything else on the table ever.

Sure, Quebec receives the lion's share of money and attention from the rest of the nation, has almost limitless influence over the outcome of federal politics, has a solid and prosperous economy and is recognized as whatever the hell a 'distinct society' is -- but what good is all that? A hockey player is alleged to have made an offensive remark seventeen months ago and was later cleared by an investigation when only one person in the entire arena claimed to have heard it! This is vitally important! Priorities, damn it!

And to think they say Canadians are obsessed with hockey.

Which reminds me: also in the news, fourty years ago today was the last time that the Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup. It's another hockey-related news item making certain Canadians sad -- but for entirely different reasons.

So between Leafs Nation and the "nation within Canada", there are significant chunks of both English and French Canada upset today. A country divided and united through hockey misery and terrible federal politics -- what could be more Canadian about this arrangement?

Take note, aspiring students -- if you Major in Political Studies, you get an automatic Minor in Drinking Heavily!

Topic Two:

I started my new temp position this past Monday, typing letters and filing files and futzing with the photocopier; once again I find myself working downtown.

Working in a Portage Avenue building means going out and about downtown, at lunch and during breaks, to see the sights and to experience the hustle and bustle and to feel the magic that is the endless excitement of... I'm not fooling you, am I? Well, suffice to say that I like to pop out and see what I can see from time to time.

The onset of spring is always tricky in Manitoba, what with the thermostat fluctuations and the flood watches and the inevitable last surprise winter storm -- but you can always tell that Spring is finally back in Winnipeg to stay when the empty Lucky Lager cans begin popping up around downtown like dandelions.

Spring has sprung, the grass has ris' -- can you see where the beer can is?

Yes, it caught my eye; a single can of Lucky, just chillin' in the little concrete park, all by its lonesome. A party of one! Times like these make me sad that I was never very good at writing proper poetry.

And I had spotted another Lucky can early this morning, one of the black-hulled variety, lying crushed alongside the concrete meridian in the middle of Portage Avenue as I crossed -- but I didn't stop to try to take a picture of that one, obviously, because traffic.

If you happen to be downtown, the outbreak of Lucky cans is a fun thing to keep your eyes open for. They're like demented Easter eggs! Ah, spring.