RANTING AND RAVING

Greetings,

I’m in one of those moods today when it comes to this blog. I’ve got approximately four things that are really bothering me today.

TONY BLAIR: I used to really like Tony Blair. I remember seeing him on BBC News feeds before Queen’s, thinking he looked like a man who actually had a sense of what to do to save Britain from itself. He seemed to actually know what he was talking about, what with stylin’ suits and talk of a New Labour.

That was before Iraq.

Now, I actually find Blair’s smug, Bush-lite persona almost insufferable, and his tut-tut attitude today about the global climate change issue rings as hallow as can be. Please Blair. Stop. Just stop. Nobody is listening anymore. You’ve got a few months left – stay quiet and don’t ruin it for Gordon Brown.

SONY CORP: Here’s a question – how many people have a fetish for Sony? All hands, come on! Nobody eh? Meh, I don’t blame you. Sony’s in deep, deep trouble these days – they’ve had the battery recall issue, a mega failure with their re-branded Walkman, and now they’re spending ginormous amounts of cash on commercials for the Playstation 3, which costs in Canadian dollars more than $750. $750 for a gaming system, eh Sony? You think they’d eat their crow a bit and price this sucker down a little for those of us who have bills to pay but long for the high-resolution goodness that is the Ps3.

THE SIMPSONS: Wow guys, bringing back Kang and Kodos – again. How many times is this now for a Treehouse of Horror episode? What, nine times? Jeez, you’d think this joke would get tiresome, but no.

TRAFFIC GOING TO WORK: You know what should be done in Scarborough? Add in another highway. No really, I know this sounds crazy, but driving on McCowan in the mornings and afternoons is just too crazy.

And now, for a random picture…

Aren’t these the best-looking Eurotrash people ever?

In other news…

* Please, do give my buddy Neate props – he’s earned an amazing number of hits on his blog in only six months. Better yet, visit his site.

* I have a suggested list of good movies to watch tomorrow night for Halloween. These are my personal favourites and are by no means a definitive list, but I think they’re perfect horror films for Halloween. In no particular order, they are:

– The Exorcist
– The Omen
– Alien
– Nightmare on Elm Street
– Bram Stoker’s Dracula (the 1992 version)
– Nosferatu (the 1922 version)
– Halloween
– Carrie
– Poltergeist
– The Thing (1982 version)
– Blair Witch Project
– 28 Days Later
– The Grudge (both American and Japanese)
– The Ring (both American and Japanese)

FLICKS AND NEW FIREFOX

Greetings,

I recently saw two sweet new movies that really had an impact on me.

First up, The Prestige.

This film’s directed by Christopher Nolan of Memento and Batman Begins fame, and I have to say, it’s a lot of fun, if not a slight head-trip in that Nolan-esque way of “peeling back the layers” to reveal itself. Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale are their usually excellent selves, as is Scarlett – of course, any movie that has David Bowie, electrical charges and magic in it can’t be wrong.

But the real cinematic revelation is Death Of A President.

Oh my God, this film is incredible. Essentially earning a de facto ban in the U.S. (no major theatre chains will carry it), this film is a mindblowing, terrifying future-history flick with a whole lot of unknown actors, real-life footage and scarily plausible scenarios in the aftermath of President Bush’s assassination on October 19th, 2007.

It’s amazing how this film accomplishes what no conventional documentary could ever do: it asks some terribly difficult questions about terrorism. Is the War on Terror a self-fulfilling prophecy with no discernible goal or end in sight? Do we fear the enemy within enough or risk everything for intangible ideologies in the Middle East? Do you really like the idea of President Cheney? Patriot Act III? The end of democracy as we know it in America? The total annihilation of civil liberties? Does this campaign of fear lead America down a path of no return?

Scary stuff, but incredibly important. Go see this movie, it’s riveting and intense from the get-go.

NEW FIREFOX: If you haven’t downloaded the new Firefox 2.0 browser, please do. It’s a huge, huge improvement over older versions of Firefox, including built-in phishing detectors (which is especially relevant in scary cases like these involving MySpace). It’s far superior to Internet Explorer 7, which is a huge step-up for IE (but still light-years behind open source browsers like Firefox).

FAST TIMES AT BLOGGER HIGH

Greetings,

I’m quite glad it’s Friday. It’s been a very busy week once again. Conference Monday, submitting in a new column, consulting group last night, all been pretty nuts. I’m starting to wonder if I’ll ever have any time left to watch the plethora of sweet movies coming out now (Saw 3, The Prestige, The Departed, et al., all look amazing).

My folks have gotten a new cat. It’s a grey cat (still no name for it) and it’s a kitten – very tiny, very cute. Will post a new picture on here soon.

AMBER MAC: Congrats go out to the brilliant Amber MacArthur for getting Now Toronto’s Best Geek Personality award. She’s about the most informed and intelligent tech journalist in the city – she deserves this. She works a lot with Leo Laporte, who does a podcast with her, available on iTunes, called Inside The Net – worth subscribing to.

Oh, and did I mention she’s a King’s graduate? I’m not surprised, all the brilliant types come from there. Heh.

…PUSH THE LIMITS

Guess what, I walked that entire tower without collapsing.

Greetings,

The last four days have been some of the most intense days of my life for a variety of reasons.

First off, Friday. After writing three articles in three days, we had my office’s Halloween party. It was quite a bit of fun.

Saturday, though, could be considered a bit of a watershed day for me. Two major events occurred that, when looking back on them some years from now, will probably be marked as turning points in my life.

First off, I had a major article published (subscription required) in the Globe’s Focus section. It was a centrepiece on a teacher up north that I wrote about after leaving AOL Canada. It was the toughest, most incredible journalistic experience of my life. I think it’s the piece that will stick with me the longest at this point in my life.

Second, I did that walk up the CN Tower for the United Way. It was 150 floors, 1,776 steps to the Observation Deck of the Tower. I got there at about 7 a.m. Saturday morning. It was easily the most physically demanding event of my life. I sweat out at least two pounds and felt beaten by the end (I don’t quite remember how I made it back to my parked car after the event was over), which took me 52 minutes and 22 seconds. I know that sounds long, but next year I plan to do a lot better. I raised nearly $200 for the United Way. I can’t begin to tell you how amazing it was.

Today, I was at the Everything To Do With Sex show at Exhibition Place. It was pretty illuminating, if not packed with people (and toys, lots and lots of… special toys for adults) and things. They had a dungeon where cameras weren’t allowed, kinky lingerie stores and the like. Not sure if I’d go again though – it felt like it wasn’t very educational at all, mostly about stores hawking their wares. Money was everywhere today, didn’t really feel all that inviting to people who were just there to look, so to speak.

Man, I’m sick of rain. It’s been raining so much my shoes need a tonne of drying.

AFGHANISTAN

Greetings,

I’ve drawn the wrath, in a muted sort of way, from an old friend named Mike from Queen’s, over my comments regarding Afghanistan last week.

As much as I intellectually respect Mike (he was easily one of the smartest guys I knew at Queen’s), he questioned my remarks over calling the invasion cowardly.

Let me be clear (to use a turn of phrase from one of Mike’s favourite leaders): in no way, shape or form do I think our soldiers or Canadians are cowards (just badly underfunded and unable to do the job as effectively). Far from it, which is one of the reasons I want them out of Afghanistan. They deserve to be in a situation that isn’t a) spiraling out of control, b) has full coalition partners, and c) a real chance to do what Canadians do best: build a lasting, meaningful peace.

Let’s face some facts about Afghanistan. The Taliban, that supposedly vanquished force of Islamist fascism, is resurgent and will most likely by this time next year be in a full ground war against NATO “forces” throughout the country. You think Canada’s losing soldiers now? Get ready for a much, much higher body count. Coalition partners lobbing cruise missiles into battlefields that largely did little to nothing to stop the Taliban in the long-term is cowardly and incredibly ineffective. If NATO really wanted this war over, they’d be sending in thousands of troops from all NATO partners to deal with this situation right, not the half-assed, barely concealed efforts to protect the oil pipelines being built in the outlying regions of the country.

Cowardly? Let’s also talk about NATO’s “partners” in this war. The U.S., the U.K. and Canada are bearing the brunt of this war in Afghanistan. All those other NATO nations, such as France, Germany and Italy, aren’t contributing any ground forces of any reasonable number to support their NATO friends. That’s cowardly. You want to win a war like this? You can’t pick and choose when you want to send in troops – you’re either part of NATO or you’re not. Where are these nations now when they were so willing to get involved after 9-11? Has Iraq really soured you that much on fighting the real source of al-Qaeda’s strength – Afghanistan?

Finally, the U.S. may talk a big game when it comes to starting wars. Lord knows they have the most effective military outfit on earth and can pretty much successfully invade any nation they want. Problem is, wars aren’t just about bombs, guns and RPGs; it’s about ideas and building something that can face up to the sources of civil and extra-territorial strife. As far as the world can see, the way America has conducted itself in both Afghanistan and Iraq reeks of moral cowardice. You can’t start a war then complain about getting your hands dirty when dealing with the gruesome aftermath of a conflict. You have a moral obligation to help rebuild a country and to do it quickly and with a broad coalition of partners. The world can safely say America hasn’t done that with either country so far, nor are they truly willing to hand over control of the administrative aspects of the country to NATO or the U.N. fully. If America was truly committed to winning this war for democracy, they would be doing everything to protect and serve the interests of peace before their own national self-interest. Self-interested nations, as with people, aren’t called heroes. They’re called cowards.

MAD CITY

Greetings,

My life has become one constant stream of busy.

Sunday involved an extensive edit of a story I’ve been working on. Yesterday, after a busy day at work, three stories on the go, I went and saw some folks let go from AOL Canada (still miss you guys) and then to a jazz concert at the Old Mill over in the West End of the city.

Today was a media event in Mississauga, limo and all, and then back to work.

Man, my life is crazy. But in a good way. I’d rather be this busy than not.

UNITED WAY: This coming Saturday, I’m going up the CN Tower for the United Way. I’m really excited about this. I haven’t had a chance to do something like this and I’ve wanted to for some time. Wish me luck!

BILL MAHER


Greetings,

In the pantheon of funny folks that dominate political comedy on TV, there’s no comic in my mind better than Bill Maher. Sure, Jon Stewart’s passive-aggressive, self-knowing routine is a riot and Stephen Colbert’s dry, irony-drenched mockcast reached a kind of watershed moment at this year’s White House Press Correspondents Dinner, but there’s no comic more real, more cutting and more square-on-the-target hilarious than Maher.

Why do I like Bill Maher? Here’s a sample of his writing on Salon.com today:

If you think the worst thing Congress doesn’t protect young people from is Mark Foley, wake up and smell the burning planet. The ice caps are cracking, the coral reefs are bleaching, and we’re losing two species an hour. The birds have bird flu, the cows have mad cow, and our poisoned groundwater has turned spinach into a side dish of mass destruction. Our schools are shooting galleries, our beaches are cancer wards, and under George W. Bush — for the first time in 45 years — our country’s infant mortality rate actually went up.

Amen to that, Bill. This motormouth satirist-cum-libertarian activist tells things as it with a kind of gleeful, righteous anger that those among us who wonder how much worse it can get in the United States of America before the other shoe drops long for his words of wisdom. He’s not for everyone by any means, nor does he let anyone or anything go without a parting shot or two, regardless of your ideological position. But you can’t ignore him. Nor should you.

I used to watch his Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher show on ABC before the network unceremoniously dumped him. You see, Bill dared to question the nature of the 9/11 attacks with a line of thought that curiously deviated from the prescribed norm of “outrage” and “mourning.” He called the U.S. response to the attacks as cowardly, which, looking back on it, probably wasn’t too far from the truth. Today, the attacks were not only cowardly, but grossly ineffective – the Taliban have re-grouped and are now resurgent in Afghanistan, killing NATO (and Canadian) soldiers on a regular basis. The insanity of Iraq? Yup, he was pretty much right on with that one too. The grotesque presidency of George W. Bush, a man who seems destined to be the first U.S. President since Richard Nixon to have earned a place in history as beyond redemption or the bounds of forgiveness? Bill nailed that one too, way before Iraq turned into a black hole or thousands of Americans were left homeless and desperate in New Orleans.

In short, Bill nails the truth of a situation before the average person is ready to digest it. He’s a nasty voice who’s ripe and ready for a culture in desperate need of a harsh, pointed response to the lousy start of this all-too-important century.

It’s just too bad he’s only on HBO.

THE KINGSMAN

Greetings,

I was at a King’s event last night at First Canadian Place where Toronto Star
photographer Jim Rankin, BJ’92, did a talk and demonstration on photojournalism.
He showed some great moments in photojournalism, some amazing shots, some of his own great work.

After that, we headed over to the World Press Photo Exhibition in BCE Place. Some amazing photos over the past year, especially shots of the aftermath of Katrina.

RICK MERCER: Woo-hoo! Thank God he’s back. The first episode of the season’s a real doozy. Bob Rae? Skinny-dipping? Um, what?

Oh, and for the record, I really like the idea of Dion as the new leader of the Liberals. If I were a Liberal still, of course.

SPORTSNET: Check out my buddy Neate’s blog post on Sportsnet.ca – he’s rebutting Ian Mendes post from a few weeks back on Ottawa being a bad sports town. It is a bad sports town, no doubt there.

Finally, news about California: I’m heading out to San Francisco and then Monterey on November 11th. I’m really primed for this.

BITS OF BUSINESS

Greetings,

Wow. What a crazy day.

Damn, this is incredibly scary. It’s not even North Korea having a nuke that bothers me. The country has no chance at this point to launch a nuclear attack against South Korea or Japan (a conventional war though, is another matter – North Korea has the fourth largest army in the world). What bothers me is the fact that regime is so corrupt (it was referred to on CBC today as a criminal conspiracy), so desperate, that they could sell nuclear technology to a terrorist cell. It’s within the realm of possibility that Iran is already considering this, if not already done it, but at least Iran’s president came across at the U.N. last month as even statesman-like, not the raving loon he was the year before. Kim Jong-Il may truly be nuts enough to sell nukes to al-Qaeda. God, the mind reels…

More personal news: I got a potentially exciting new gig today and I may be heading out to California on business soon. Will post update soon.

Also, for those let go today at AOL Canada, I’m really sorry.

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: I got the DVDs of Season 1 and 2 recently, and I can’t believe what a loser I was for not paying attention to this series. It’s better than Star Trek (and infinitely better than Andromeda, Kevin Sorbo’s latest bastardization of sci-fi) and so dark and gritty it’s just… so amazing. I’m not even going to touch Season 3 on air now until I get caught up completely. My cousin is an extra in the show on the Human side in the war against the Cylons, just to let everyone know.

SECRETARY: I saw this movie on the weekend. Maggie Gyllenhaal may be the best-kept secret in Hollywood. Those with a very narrow view on what constitutes the line between pain and pleasure should probably avoid this film (or see it to open your eyes up a bit).

SOUTH PARK: I also got South Park: The Hits, Volume 1 this weekend. I love this show so much, mostly because it’s so dirty and over-the-top. It has Red Hot Catholic Love, Trapped in the Closet, et al…the very best.