Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Almost-Christmas to All

To You and Yours This Holiday Season from James Howard,
Winnipeg's Favourite Librarian-slash-Columnist-slash-Blogger:

Season's Greetings, one and all! I hope that this holiday season finds you well.

It certainly has been a busy 2009! I offer my congratulations to the city of Winnipeg on its twenty-nine homicides this year -- no more, and no less, than the number of homicides in 2008. In these turbulent times of uncertainty, this continued stability is a testament to the staying power and sticktoitiveness of our One Great City.

(If anybody should be murdered between now and the end of the year, I kindly request that our statisticians and news media agree to bankroll them for next year's tally.)

Slurpee Champions of the World again as well -- well played! It's good to know that our priorities are, as always, in order. Consider my hat off to all for their tireless efforts.

The year was a busy one for me, personally, as well. I completed my Master's degree this past August and returned to Winnipeg to find employment; owing to some insanely fortuitous timing, I landed a temporary full-time position within a week of my arrival. I owe Red River College a debt of gratitude, for offering the opportunity to a wildly untested commodity like me -- and I owe Uptown Magazine my gratitude, as well, for letting me carry on as a columnist during the full year that I wasn't even in the province.

But today is, as it turns out, something of a milestone for me; disbelieving phone conversations with two different levels of government this morning, and a previous provincial bursary that one only finds out about by winning it, have confirmed that my student loans are now officially paid off in full.

So I am, in short, tremendously lucky. I would pretend that the aforementioned triumphs have anything to do with talent or skill, but nope, mostly luck. So the year was a success in many ways -- besides me being single again, but that's really my own fault -- and with my Christmas shopping well behind me I look forward to an enchanting afternoon of public interaction tomorrow.

Tomorrow, as I'm sure you are all aware, is Christmas Eve; I will be working at the fine Library you see above until it closes at noon, and at that point I will be released into the downtown with time to kill and with no real pressing commitments on my hands. Those of you who know me well know that this combination can only end in hilarity, disaster, or both.

So! Tomorrow afternoon I intend to head on down to Portage Place, and just... hang out. Sip a coffee, take some holiday photos, and enjoy the zen-like schadenfreude (I know I use that word often, but in my defense I really enjoy it) of keeping my head while everyone else around me is losing theirs.

Perhaps I'll uncover the true meaning of Christmas! But, then, perhaps not.

So unless I get stabbed to death while I'm there (and I hope I don't; it would throw off the nice twenty-nine figure we earned this year), please feel free to check back in the next little while to find out what Portage Place looks like on the increasingly desperate afternoon of Christmas Eve.

And even if you don't, I'd nonetheless like to thank each and every one of you readers for every time you drop by and humour my efforts. This was a record month and a record year for traffic on this site, and I think that my writing skills might be better now than they've ever been before -- so it's probably all downhill from here. But my promise to you all is that I will do my utmost to remain, as you can tell from the enclosed photograph, one dead sexy beast of a man.

Happy Holidays to all!

Warm regards,

James Howard, Level 4 High Risk Blogger

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Even the Paperclip Knows What's Up

From the Desktop of Sam Katz:

This afternoon Police Chief Keith McCaskill is (finally) expected to brief the public on what good a police helicopter is even supposed to do. In setting the stage for the live feed, however, the Free Press felt fit to drop this snippet of pertinent information on us (emphasis added):

"In Edmonton, police recently debuted their second helicopter, $1.65-million EurocopterEC120B.

Police officials there said the second aircraft means it will be able to increase police surveillance power, as the first chopper isn’t available about 30 per cent of the time.


If you heard testimonials from other customers saying this about anything -- a car, a fridge, a popcorn maker, even a pen -- wouldn't you feel like giving your prospective purchase a little bit more consideration? Or would you honestly just rush right out to buy it, just to make sure nobody gets the chance to convince you otherwise?



Monday, December 21, 2009

Winnipeg: Like Silent Hill, But More Dangerous

Every so often the universe throws you a curveball, with some new idea or concept that you had previously never imagined possible, and the unique horror of this startlingly unpleasant new revelation casts everything you know into doubt and begins to gnaw away at your very sanity.

Freezing fog?

Freezing fog?

That's not--this isn't--

I am consistently amazed by the unique and creative ways that this city can kill people. That isn't a weather condition, that's a horror movie.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The End is the Beginning is the End, or: Black and Blue and Gold All Over

Uptown Magazine! The snack that smiles back!

There are only two weeks left before we find ourselves in 2010, bidding farewell to another decade and then wondering just what the hell happened for everything to go wrong in the last ten years like that. But there's no point dwelling on it for too long, so just enjoy the moment and reflect on your own personal growth in the last decade -- then remember that we're all going to die because an essentially extinct civilization said so, which is the perfectly logical and irrefutable conclusion of my column this week. Hope you like sarcasm!

Speaking of sarcasm, and speaking of catastrophes -- ah, segues -- was anybody else disproportionately, perversely satisfied by the terrible day the Winnipeg Blue Bombers had yesterday? I don't mean to sound like I cherish schadenfreude above all else, but I usually do, so that's definitely how it's going to sound.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Heli You Say

So the city is buying a helicopter, whether we like it or not, and whether we can afford it or not. And we won't find out that second part until the new year, because nobody in charge of the city has any idea how long-term planning works -- but you probably already knew that, if you've visited our downtown any time this millennium.

And as you're probably also already aware, the city's second biggest news story of this week was the death of Zdzislaw Andrzejczak when he was hit by a stolen car and the subsequent arrest of repeat offender Mark Douglas Rogers. Although his mother insists it wasn't him, of course.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Journalism: Not Immune to Temptation

Have you ever read the headline of a news story and thought to yourself, "they couldn't resist writing that"?

They couldn't resist writing that.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Streetz Smarts, or: Kids These Days and Their Devil Music

104.7 Streetz FM officially launched today, after several weeks of initial on-air testing, and good for them.

My predilection for hip-hop is well established by now, I think, so I'll grant that this announcement is right up my alley; I think this is exactly the kind of development that FM radio needs in this city, unless somebody out there can convince me of his or her genuine belief that the city desperately needs another pop-rock station. They even seem willing to pander to my penchant for the oldschool, because I had it on last Friday on my way home from work and they played me some Afrika god damn Bambaataa.

And me listening to the station's test run for half an hour on the way home means that it's already beating HANK FM in the ratings, so I'd describe this as a mutualistic symbiosis. Everybody wins! Great how that works.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Winnipeg Cat, By Popular Demand

Well! My regular traffic multiplied literally tenfold in the last couple of days, which was a little bizarre to watch. You could imagine my surprise to discover that people really, really liked the debut of Winnipeg Cat from a couple of weeks ago; it had debuted to almost complete silence at the time, of course, because nobody actually reads this blog under normal circumstances.

Monday, December 07, 2009

James Howard Clears Out November, Part II

Why so serious?

Yes, we're now a week into December, and as such it is about twenty below outside. I'm quite fine with this! It is Winnipeg, and it is December, and last December this city was a frozen hell. So anything keeping our windchill above minus thirty is fine as far as I'm concerned!

Yeah, how about that weather, look what a great writer I am. On to some actual content!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Headlines Expected to Inform, or: James Howard Complains About the Smallest Things

Consider this an interlude between Part I and Part II of our ongoing series; we'll return to James Howard Closes Out November after these brief messages.

Winnipeg Free Press, you know I love you, but -- I'm not repeating myself, am I? Okay, good -- Winnipeg Free Press, you know I love you, but it would be nice if you would stick to certain English language conventions when you're writing the headlines for your stories.

I don't mean to pick on you guys! You're still the best daily (or mostly-daily) paper we have in the city, and you can take that as you will. (And it's not like there's really much point in doing a string of posts about the Sun, unless I would repost Brodbeck's column or the Sunshine Girl every day and add a perfunctory "YEAHHHH WHAT-EV-ERRRRR" after them.) But you folks at the Free Press, like folks at most newspapers, usually only tend to use certain turns of phrase in a certain way, so if all of a sudden you use them differently it really causes a lot of mental dischord for us gentle readers.

Here are seven unaltered headlines from the Winnipeg Free Press, in chronological order; six of them are used to describe something in the future, and one is used to describe something in the past. Read each one in turn, and see if your brain picks out the interloper on your first readthrough.

See what I mean? See what I mean?

That sequence again, in helpful animated .GIF format:

I'm not trying to cause a stink, and I can't begin to tell you how much I enjoy the word "walloping", but I really would appreciate it in the future if you guys didn't just nonchalantly screw with our understanding of time. You couldn't have written "feared for life"? Or "had life threatened"? The way that headline was written, it had me expecting and anticipating an upcoming scheduled event in which an ex-gangster would be put to death via a ferocious, ferocious walloping -- and honestly I'm actually a little disappointed now, since that isn't the case. Here you guys had my hopes up and everything, like maybe this was the next step of Project DIVIDE -- but, no. Dang.

In conclusion: "expected to" is very important to our future, and I am very disappointed in you.

Now, with that exciting interlude out of the way, we can move on to Part II of our continuing series; it can be expected to (see how that works) show up in the next couple of days. And by that point we'll already be a week deep into December, but hey, I've got to strike while the iron's still... lukewarm!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

James Howard Clears Out November, Part I

Is it seriously December? It can't be December, that's ridiculous. It was minus one yesterday! And there's barely even snow on the ground; hell, it's only snowed twice so far all season, and only half of one snowfall stuck!

Fine, fine. Let's go on the assumption that it's December. Since it's been about a week again since I last dropped in, let's just hammer away at some backlog today; better start clearing out the In bin if we're going to get a fresh start to the next decade.

Is it seriously going to be 2010 next month? fffffffffffffffFFFFFFFF--