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Conway Responds To Rosie And Yossarian

Stephen LaRose doesn’t think much of John Conway’s latest column. In his Sept. 12 blog post “Have Some More Haggis, John Conway”, Rosie writes:

John Conway’s analysis of the Scottish independence referendum, philosophically, reads about the same as my attempt to review records by new Canadian bands or artists. Just as every group with two guitarists makes me think of either The Tragically Hip or The Rheostatics, never thinking that newer contemporaries may be a bigger influences, Conway tries to shoehorn his comparing of next week’s groundbreaking vote with the 1995 Quebec sovereignty referendum.

And then there was this comment from Dog Blog reader Yossarian:

Conway never fails to make an overly simplistic argument. This piece was no exception. Stephen is quite correct in his criticism. There are very few similarities between Scotland and Quebec. Quebec is of course a nation within a nation – but a nation that resulted from settling on indigenous land. Quebec has never been an independent polity – as Scotland was for over 300 years.

There was more validity in Stephen’s brief synopsis than there has been in a Conway piece over the last decade.

I still chuckle at his 2011 election piece where he was predicting a Michael Ignatieff majority government.

John offered to write a response, which I said I’d be happy to put on the blog. Here it is.

I enjoyed reading Stephen LaRose’s piece responding to my Scottish referendum article. He focuses on the many differences between Scotland and Quebec, while I focussed on the similarities. LaRose missed one key and fundamental difference of a boring constitutional sort, but that’s for another column.

A big difference LaRose focussed on is the ethnic issue. He presents a picture of Scottish nationalism unblemished by negative ethnic tensions, while he pans the Quebecois sovereigntists’ repeated failures to deal with “the ethnic question” with sensitivity and political effectiveness. True, and many among the sovereigntist popular base are out-and-out xenophobic national chauvinists. But is Scotland a wonderland of ethnic harmony and tolerance? There certainly is no ethnic issue in the current referendum campaign. There is a reason for this, and forgive me for being sociological. Scottish nationalism has no ethnic tensions because Scotland has very little ethnic diversity — 93 per cent of the population is lily white (83 per cent Scottish, the rest Brits and Irish). Most of the other seven per cent come from EU countries. About three or four per cent are non-white.

One thing LaRose is dead on about — the referendum has become a poll on neoliberalism and the dictatorship of business.

I did not enjoy Yossarian’s comments on my “overly simplistic argument.” My argument may be wrong, but it is not simplistic. But what really hurt was the comment, “I still chuckle at his 2011 election piece where he was predicting a Michael Ignatieff majority government.” I was aghast. How could I have been so stupid? I couldn’t remember making the prediction, but if Yossarian said I did, it must be so. Surely Yossarian wouldn’t deliberately misrepresent what I said.

I dug out the offending article and breathed a sigh of relief. I made no such prediction. The title says it all: “Why He’ll Lose: The case against a Harper win: part logic, part wishful thinking”. It was a cri de coeur. My actual prediction? “…another Harper minority government.” I got it wrong, he won a majority, which I lamented in my next column. What in fact did I say about Ignatieff? Commenting on the TV debate I said, “Michael Ignatieff held his own, even looked good a few times, but was so focussed on Harper he neglected to spell out his vision for Canada in captivating terms (of course, the sad fact is he doesn’t have one).”

My advice to Yossarian? Criticize what I actually write, not a fantasy of my words which you concoct.

LaRose sets me up as a straw man and then knocks me down. Fair game in the realm of political commentary and debate. Yossarian invents words that I write and then attacks me for writing the words he has invented. Not fair game.

John Conway


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Sonata Arctica

It probably has something to do with their location in the northern latitudes which results in plenty of frigid winter weather and a grievous shortage of daylight during certain times of the year, but Scandinavia is a real heavy metal hotbed. The preponderance of Norse legends and other myths and stories probably has something to do with it too. But Sweden, Finland and Norway have produced a lot of metal bands over the years.

As it happens, Regina is a bit of a metal hotbed too. And on Saturday Sept. 20 we’re playing host to a band from Finland called Sonata Arctica. The band’s been around since the mid-1990s, and in March they released their eighth studio album called Pariah’s Child.

The concert goes at the Exchange on Saturday. Sharing the bill are two other metal acts Delain (from the Netherlands) and Xandria (Germany). To get the blood flowing here’s the video for Sonata Arctica’s first single off Pariah’s Child called “”The Wolves Die Young”:

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The Sweet Lowdown

Based in Victoria, the Sweet Lowdown are composed of Amanda Blied (guitar), Shanti Bremer (banjo) and Mirian Sonstenes (fiddle). As you can probably guess from their instruments, their passion as musicians is for old-time folk and bluegrass music.

They’ve got a couple of albums to their credit, and have garnered some nomination nods for various awards including Vocal Group of the Year at the 2013 Canadian Folk Music Awards. I’m not sure of the exact release date, but I believe a third album is in the works. And Wednesday Sept. 17 the group is in town to play a show presented by Grassroots Regina.

The gig’s at the SCES Club, and doors are at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15. To give you a sense of what to expect, there’s video from 2013 of the Sweet Lowdown performing an instrumental tune:

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Sunday Matinee: King Kong Escapes

King Kong EscapesBack in 1962 Toho managed to revive their Godzilla film series by pitting the big G against King Kong. Toho had licensed the character from RKO and after the success of King Kong vs. Godzilla Toho wanted to make another King Kong film.

Arthur Rankin Jr. came onto the project as co-producer. The first script was rejected because it wasn’t close enough to Rankin’s King Kong cartoon that he was producing in the States. The rejected script was turned into the Godzilla film Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster by skillfully crossing King Kong’s name out and substituting Godzilla’s name into the script. It’s the only Godzilla movie where lightning revives him and he suddenly develops an “interest” in the only female member of the cast. Toho and Rankin finally agreed on a script and made King Kong Escapes in 1967.
Continue Reading →

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Russell Peters

If you do the math, you’ll find that Russell Peters is celebrating his 25th anniversary as a stand-up comic in 2014. He’s also done some work on TV and in movies, but stand-up is his bread and butter. And what a huge slice of bread and big chunk of butter it is. The business magazine Forbes ranks him as one of the top 10 comedians in terms of earnings.

Peters will be looking to grow his asset base tonight when he hits town for a show at Brandt Centre. Things should get going around 7 p.m., and tickets range from $60.50-$103. To give you a sense of what Peters’ brand of humour is like here’s a clip from a few years ago where he riffs on men and women:


Comments: 2

Shroom City

Shroom CityI came across this crop of mushrooms waiting to be harvested on 21-block Scarth St. when I was out for a walk this afternoon. It wasn’t the only cluster I saw either.

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TIFF ’14 – Day 9: A Taste of Madness

Dan Stevens uses his good looks for evil in The Guest.

Dan Stevens uses his good looks for evil in The Guest.

Early on, my favorite section at TIFF was Midnight Madness. A collection of horror films or gonzo documentaries, it was the place to be if you were a genre fan.

In the last couple of years, the quality of the selection hasn’t been all that solid (Die Cheerleader Die comes to mind). Or could it be the mild thrills of a scary flick couldn’t match the complexity of other TIFF selections.

This year the tide has turned once again. The group is an effective collection of homages (The Editor), new horror (It Follows) and docs about geeky obsessions (Electric Boogaloo, The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films). Here are a couple of more titles for your consideration.

The Guest (USA, 2014): Of all the new generation horror filmmakers (aka “Splatpackers”), Adam Wingard is by far the most interesting. Unlike his peers (Joe Swanberg, Ti West), Wingard movies are thoroughly plotted (courtesy of frequent collaborator Simon Barrett), tremendously amusing riffs on the genre tropes. You’re Next and A Horrible Way to Die are bright spots in a particularly bad decade for terror.

The Guest follows the same trend, with an Eighties-heavy soundtrack to boot. Frequently described as a scary Bourne movie, The Guest take place in a sleepy American town. A family who has recent lost a son in Afghanistan is visited by David (Dan Stevens, Downton Abbey), a soldier who claims to have fought alongside the boy. The grieving mother wastes no time in taking the veteran in and soon David charms everybody in the household… except the sulky teenage daughter (up-and-comer Maika Monroe), who believes something is off.

There is nothing groundbreaking about The Guest, but the material is elevated by a clever script and Stevens and Monroe’s committed performances. Thanks to her work in this flick and It Follows, Maika Monroe is set to become the next Scream Queen, but The Guest’s MVP is Stevens. The former Downton dweller uses his good looks to great effect and has the capacity to go from hilarious to terrifying in the span of seconds. He may have a career outside period pieces after all. Three enhanced prairie dogs.

What We Do in the Shadows (New Zealand, 2014): Jemaine Clement, one half of Flight of the Conchords, co-wrote, co-directed and co-stars in this horror parody that gets a lot of mileage of a premise a thousand times visited. Clement plays one of three vampires who share a flat. Like the polar opposite of Only Lovers Left Alive, the bloodsuckers in Shadows are petty, painfully uninteresting and not all that deep, despite the hundreds of years of experience (they have a chore wheel, for Pete’s sake!)

Clement and frequent collaborator Taika Waititi do a terrific job spoofing the genre without falling in obvious jokes. In fact, the film’s MVP is some guy named Stu, originally little more than an extra, whose character grows to become the silent straight man to a pile of wacky vampires and werewolves. In case you’re wondering, no Bret McKenzie, but Rhys Darby is around for the kicks. Three prairie bats.

That’s it for me folks, I must catch some sleep. Nine days of late nights and early mornings take a toll. See you at the movies.

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Don Giovanni

With music by Mozart and a libretto by Lorenza Da Ponte, this two-act comic opera debuted in Prague in 1789. It’s based on the legend of Don Juan, and involves a series of romantic entanglements where the title character behaves in a less than honourable manner before he ultimately receives a measure of supernatural justice after refusing to mend his licentious  ways.

Today and Sunday at 2 p.m. a performance of Don Giovanni by London’s Royal Opera will be screened at the RPL Theatre. Tickets are $15 Adults, $12 Seniors and Students $10. To give you a sense of what to expect here’s a brief promo piece about the Royal Opera’s production:

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Friday Afternoon Prairie Dog: Stuck

We’ve all been there, little guy.

Have a great weekend everyone!

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Rob Ford Out, Doug Ford In

Breaking news from Twitter:

More herehere, here, here and here.


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Have Some More Haggis, John Conway

John Conway’s analysis of the Scottish independence referendum, philosophically, reads about the same as my attempt to review records by new Canadian bands or artists. Just as every group with two guitarists makes me think of either The Tragically Hip or The Rheostatics, never thinking that newer contemporaries may be a bigger influences, Conway tries to shoehorn his comparing of next week’s groundbreaking vote with the 1995 Quebec sovereignty referendum.

About the only things those two events will have in common is the behaviorism of the leaders. Scotland’s first minister, Alex Salmond, is promising a greener, cleaner, richer Scotland without explaining how it will come about. He’s also promising economic divorce with bed privileges – an independent government that will share the pound sterling with the country to the south (which, economically, isn’t independence at all).

And the No side is led by idiots too busy defending the established political and economic order to a populace that has been ripped off, politically and economically, by that order, and consequently has tuned them out. They’re trying to win the referendum by scaring Scotsmen and Scotswomen. You can reason with a Scotsman (or woman), debate him or her, argue with him or her, or fight with him or her. But you can’t scare a Scotsman. I speak from experience. Mum’s from Kirremuir.

Quebec’s separatist movement has always been inward looking, while Scotland has mostly been an outward-looking society. Scotsmen went to India on business; Scotsmen built the railway systems and mining empires in South America in the 1800s (and introduced soccer in the process), Scotsmen have been involved in Canadian affairs since the days of the fur trade. Maybe that’s why Quebec’s independence movement is more inward-looking (especially now, in the wake of the blunder around the Charter of Values and the PQ’s destruction in the last Quebec election) while the kind of cultural nationalism and fear that’s an integral part of Quebec’s independence movement is absent in the Scottish debate.

If the PQ philosophy on ‘who is a member of our country?’ was prevalent in Scotland, many who are Muslim, east Indian, from the Caribbean, or wherever, wouldn’t be welcome at pro-independence rallies or within the Scotland National Party. Anyone proposing a tartan equivalent of the Charter of Values would be laughed all the way to the Firth of Forth, if not become the recipient a Glasgow Kiss.

Scotland’s referendum brings to mind the Occupy movement, or Canada’s Idle No More activism, in which people who have been made victims by the economic and social policies of the day have their chance to kick the arbiters of the system right in the goolies. Thatcherism – the dismantling of Great Britain’s social safety net, the consolidation of economic power in London, transferring the tax load from an even consumer business split to consumers via consumption and income taxes, and the devil-takes-the-hindmost social mindset – hurt Scotland as much as it’s hurt any other area of the country. It’s just that Scotland’s population, as opposed to, say people in Liverpool or Yorkshire, get their say on whether to stay in a political system that’s permanently rigged against their favor. That’s the message being spread by Glasgow-area MP George Galloway — but the No side has pretty much ignored his (in my opinion, spot-on accurate) analysis.

The No side is trying to defend the indefensible. Most Britons want to see the end of Thatcherism and corporate rule by the establishment – when Thatcher died earlier this year, the song from the Wizard of Oz, ‘Ding, Dong, The Witch Is Dead,’ raced up the pop charts.

The best example comes from former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who in a recent speech in a Glasgow union hall railed on about the benefits of the National Health Service, and warned that the NHS was at risk in the event of Scottish independence. Everybody in that room – everybody who’s paid attention to UK politics in the past while – knows that Cameron’s Tory government is set to dismantle the NHS. There goes that argument.

Possibly the incompetent figure in this whole exercise in the British opposition leader, Ed Millbrand, leader of the Labour Party. Labour is strong in Scotland but the people of Scotland are as non-enamoured with Blair’s Cool Britannia (Thatcherism plus BritPop) as they are with the real deal. But Millbrand is as beholden to Blair’s template as Cameron is to Thatcher’s philosophy.

Austerity – the new name the political right has given Thatcherism – benefits the people at the top. There’s more people at the bottom. The people on the bottom of the economic pile want something different, and that’s why Alex Salmond is given the benefit of the doubt. Underneath the bluster, the deathbed repentances, the … I don’t know, promises to play Andy Stewart on BBC 3? … is the sound of a political establishment encountering a populace who no longer believes their bullshit.

Scotland’s people aren’t so much voting in favor of independence than they are voting against Thatcherism. But the political and economic establishment that dominates Great Britain today would rather destroy the country than question the political and economic value of the system which empowered and economically benefited them – at the expense of people outside of London and the banking community. People like the Scots. On that, I think Mr. Conway and I can agree.

Comments: 3

Daily Aggregation: National Video Game Day

daily-aggregation-21. CITY DISCUSSES TAX INCREASE TO REPAIR ROADS Regina may see an additional one per cent tax increase to get Regina’s deteriorating roads. Council votes on September 22.

2. OSCAR PISTORIUS GETS CONVICTED FOR MANSLAUGHTER The South African man was declared not guilty on murder charges, and obviously, not everyone’s happy about it.

3. DELAYED CANADA AND CHINA INVESTMENT DEAL RATIFIED Despite the Harper government’s insistence on the deal, it’s faced opposition from some of Harper’s own cabinet, the NDP (being the opposition and all) and some First Nation groups. The official announcement comes this afternoon.

4. CANADIAN SEX WORKERS SPEAK OUT ON PROSTITUTION BILL “Why is our ability to consent suddenly revoked when there is money on the bedside table?” says Jean McDonald, director of Maggies, a support service based in Toronto for sex workers, to the Senate committee overlooking the bill. Good question!

5. IAN PAISLEY DEAD AT 88 Northern Ireland’s most polarizing politican passed away Friday.

6. JUSTICE FOR MALALA? The teenage, girl’s education rights activist might get some closure at last. Pakistan’s military claims they’ve arrested 10 Taliban militants responsible for shooting Malala Yousafzai.

7. MORE OIL Statistics Canada says crude oil production jumped from 2012 to 2013 by 6.2 per cent to 200.9 million cubic metres – this kicked crude oil’s value up by 12.6 per cent to $105.9 billion. That’d explain all of the bitumen cars I’ve seen on the rails lately.

8. CAFFEINE FUELED JOURNALISM Not surprisingly, a survey found journalists drink a ridiculous amount of coffee.

It’s National Video Game Day! So, to celebrate, here’s the opening from an amazing game about sky pirates:

Got a favourite game you’d like to share?

Comments: 1

TIFF ’14 – Day 8: Imitation of Life

Stop the presses! Adam Sandler made a watchable movie!

Stop the presses! Adam Sandler made a watchable movie!

Other than a couple of curio media junkets (somehow I’ll participate in both), TIFF is coming to an end. It wasn’t a fantastic year. No title generated so much interest you couldn’t get a ticket. On the other hand, I haven’t run into anything downright horrible, like 2013’s La Ultima Película. Pasolini comes close, but Willem Dafoe redeems the film a bit. Let’s talk movies.

The Cobbler (USA, 2014): Director Tom McCarthy and Adam Sandler have found each other at a crossroads: McCarthy is coming from a (critically, at least) hot streak with titles like Win Win and The Visitor. Audiences seem to have grown tired of Sandler’s schtick and have abandoned him in droves. Predictably, their first venture together is the comedian’s best film in a decade and for McCarthy, a career worst.

The movie revolves around Max (Sandler), a cobbler by trade if not by vocation. He hopes to be liberated of his burden -the repair shop he inherited from his dad- but does nothing to make it happen. His prayers are answered in the form of an old sewing machine: Whenever he fixes someone’s footwear with the antique, Max can adopt the person’s identity. Mildly amusing mishaps ensue. Continue Reading →

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A Night Of Beethoven

In addition to all the great music that will be played Saturday Sept. 20 (a triple shot of Beethoven, no less) there’s also an opportunity to get in a little noshing. That’s because the concert marks the opening night of the Regina Symphony Orchestra’s 105th season, and to celebrate there’s gala receptions before and after the show. The former features champagne and a meal, while the latter will offer up dessert.

As for the concert, the guest artist is pianist Angela Cheng, and the program will include Beethoven’s Overture to the Creatures of “Prometheus”; Piano Concerto No.5, “Emperor” and Symphony No.5.

The champagne starts flowing at 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 20, and the concert will follow at 8 p.m. For ticket info visit the RSO website or call 306-586-9555. And to give you a sense of Cheng’s talent here’s video from 2013 of her playing a piece by Mendelssohn in Switzerland with Pinchas Zukerman (violin) and Amanda Forsyth (cello):

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TIFF ’14 – Day 7: Winnipeg Red

Zoe Saldana's legs and the Ruffaluffalo in a scene of Infinitely Polar Bear.

Zoe Saldana’s legs and the Ruffaluffalo in a scene of Infinitely Polar Bear.

As the herd of journalists and industry people starts to thin a bit, I have now the chance to catch up with some of the festival’s oddest titles. None more strange than The Editor, an hilarious Winnipeg production that’s easily the best Canadian title I’ve seen this year at TIFF. The Editor is an homage to the giallo films Mario Bava and Dario Argento made popular three decades ago. This is not your average parody: Directors (and protagonists) Adam Brooks and Matthew Kennedy know the original material upside down and are savvy enough to mock it the great effect: The terrible ADR, the questionable acting, the hardboiled yet painfully earnest dialogue. The Editor provided me with one of the best times I had at TIFF, and this is a movie starring Paz de la Huerta.

Infinitely Polar Bear (USA, 2014): Mistreated at the last Sundance Film Festival, Infinitely Polar Bear is one of those quirky family indies that once were all the rage and now aren’t cool enough for the Park City crowd. Mark Ruffalo -who is having a very good year- shakes off his trademark lethargy to plays Cameron, a manic-depressive father of two girls. Cam is unable to maintain a job, so his wife (Zoe Saldana) is forced to pursue higher education in another city in order to become the sole provider. Suddenly turned the sole caregiver of two precocious daughters, things don’t completely fall apart, and that could be considered a triumph.

Set in the 70’s, Infinitely Polar Bear has several things going for it. Ruffalo and Saldana are very strong in it, and their struggle for normality feels real. Also, kudos for treating mental illness as something that can’t fully be managed by ingesting handfuls of pills, and favoring character over cuteness when casting the girls. It’s a bit of a stretch to believe someone with Saldana’s looks could fall for a manic outsider, but once you have accepted that, the film can be compelling, if not touching. Infinitely Polar Bear will be distributed by Mongrel, so it’s likely to hit the province. Three bipolar dogs (two happy, one sad).

Teen Lust (Canada, 2014): Movies that don’t live up to their premise are a dime a dozen, but this phenomenon is all too palpable in the Winnipeg-made Teen Lust. In a twist on the traditional storyline “horny teenager wants to get laid”, the subject in question is the son of satanists who is about to be sacrificed to prevent the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. He must be a virgin for the ritual to work.

Motivated by his impending demise, Neil (Jesse Carere, Skins) goes in urgent pursuit of a mate, with the assistance of his ne’er-do-well best friend (former Spy Kid Daryl Sabara) and the girl who is obviously in love with him but he doesn’t notice (seriously, Neil has it coming). Meanwhile, Beelzebub’s entire church is trying to cockblock him.

None of the madcap action that ensues is as amusing as it should. For a swear-happy, Satan-inspired flick, Teen Lust is remarkably tame: This is one of those movies where people have sex with their clothes on. The portrait of women is questionable at best: They exist in two categories: Harpies and sex objects. The Winnipeg-set flick wastes a game Cary Elwes and Kristin Bauer (fresh from the True Blood trainwreck) as head satanists on behalf of decidedly less interesting characters like, uh, Neil. If you settle for mildly amusing while doing the dishes, this movie is for you. One prairie dog volunteering to be sacrificed.

It occurred to me that…

…Elvis Mitchell, curator of the Film Independent series at LACMA and the host of “The Treatment” podcast, is possibly one of the nicest film critics I have ever come across, alongside the lovely Stephanie Zacharek of The Village Voice. After a quick chat about our favorite movies this TIFF, he asked for my card to read some of my stuff. It may just be politeness, but it beats every other critic around.

…unlike with Michael Moore, I had no chance to mention to Ethan Hawke the ridiculous influence of his movies in my life: The Before series, Dead Poets Society and Reality Bites may not be perfect, but I saw them at the right moment and the right circumstances.

Tomorrow, adventures of a gay codebreaker in World War II.

Comments: 4

Rose Cousins

The headliner for this show, which goes at Conexus Arts Centre on Friday Sept. 12, is Jann Arden. There’s probably not too many people in Regina who aren’t at least somewhat familiar with Arden considering that she’s been a solid performer on stages across Canada and around the world for over 20 years now. So I thought I’d shine a bit of light on the back-up act Rose Cousins.

Like Arden, Cousins inhabits the singer-songwriter realm. She hails from Halifax, and has been active as a musician since 2002. Her most recent album, We Have Made A Spark won her Contemporary Singer of the Year at the 2013 Canadian Folk Music Awards and a Juno for Best Solo Roots & Traditional Album of the Year.

Tickets for tomorrow night’s concert are $49.50-$85.50, and the curtain should rise shortly after 8 p.m. To give you a sense of Cousins’ talent, here’s video from 2013 of her performing the song “Stray Birds”:

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Rob Ford Has A Tumour?!?!?!?!

From the Canadian Press:

A Toronto hospital says Mayor Rob Ford has been hospitalized after being given a “working diagnosis of a tumour.” Humber River Hospital says in a statement that Ford attended the hospital earlier Wednesday complaining of abdominal pains that have “persisted for at least three months” but worsened in the last day. It says an examination and investigation has resulted in the “working diagnosis” of a tumour and that he has been admitted “for further investigation to obtain a definitive diagnosis.”

Yikes. I’ll update this post with more links later this evening.

UPDATE Here’s the story in Toronto’s alt paper, Now, here’s the story in The Toronto Star, here’s CBC and here’s The Globe And Mail.

Comments: 2

Daily Aggregation: How To Talk To Women

daily-aggregation-21. MORE CANADIANS ARE STRUGGLING BECAUSE THEY DON’T MAKE ENOUGH MONEY Story here. The problems: “Subdued real wage growth and muted hiring have kept a lid on earnings. Meanwhile, house prices continue to climb and inflation has ticked above the 2-per-cent mark for four months in a row.” And, if you rent in Regina, you might be more desperate because you now pay waaay more than you did five years ago.

2. TUITION: RIGHT THE FUCK OUT OF CONTROL The average university tuition in Canada will be pushing eight grand a year by fall 2017. Another reason why Canadians are struggling financially.

3. HERE WE GO AGAIN? U.S. President Barack Obama is going on teevee to explain why the U.S. is about to attack Iraq again. But this time, no soldiers! Riiiiight. Sarcasm aside, the country has a moral obligation to try to do something, since the United States wrecked Iraq when they invaded on false pretenses (and why aren’t Bush and Cheney in jail?). As for Canadian involvement, well, we’re involved, but it’s not totally clear how involved.

4. THOSE GLASSHOLES Regina’s private sector recycling contractor has been sending recyclable glass to landfills instead of recycling it.


6. BC TEACHERS STRIKE CONTINUES, THINGS TO HAPPEN Read about those things here. I wonder who’s more likely to be unreasonable: teachers or politicians? Hmmm, tough one (not really).

7. “HELP! HELP! I’M BEING OPPRESSED!” Some dude who owns four McDonald’s franchises calls for government to help him hire vulnerable foreign employees, oh I don’t know, possibly to keep his labour costs down, hmmm? Anyway, he wants Albertans to stand with him. Funny how business dudes love the free market when it works in their favour but want government intervention the second there’s a labour shortage that increases their costs.

8. ROB FORD’S FORMER TOP ADVISER, WHO WAS FIRED BY ROB FORD, WRITES A BOOK ABOUT ROB FORD It will be out this fall, maybe before the Oct. 27 Mayoral election, maybe after.

9. TEENS SHOULDN’T SMOKE WEED EVERY DAY It’s linked to problems. In other pot news, guess who hates weed and kills people?

10. BACK PAIN DURING SEX? Yeah, you’re gonna click this link, aren’t you? Dirty little monkey. Anyway: swing with the hips, not the spine.

11. IT’S INTERNET SLOWDOWN DAY, HOORAY? The Internet protests idiotic U.S. ideas about how the Internet should change itself to favour huge telecom corporations.

12. “NUDE MAN BITES POLICE DOG AFTER WILD CAR CHASE” CBC has the headline of the day.

HERE ARE SOME THINGS NOT TO SAY TO WOMEN You could watch this and practice not saying them! You could!

Comments: 12

TIFF ’14 – Day 6: Big Guns

Give me stamina to survive this festival...

Give me stamina to survive this festival…

Star-studded Tuesday: Had interviews with Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo and Steve Carell for Foxcatcher, and J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller for Whiplash. Tatum and Simmons were the highlights (Carell, surprisingly low key). I asked Tatum about what was on his mind while smashing his head against a mirror (the scene is in the Foxcatcher trailer, look it up).
Tatum: Have you ever been in a fight.
Me: Um… yes? (I have, against a 12 year-old Christian Lara. I kicked his ass, but I don’t see how that was relevant. I was also 12, by the way.)
Tatum: Do you remember any of it?
Me: No.
Tatum: It was just like that.
Tatum is cut. He would probably knock me out by breathing on me.

J.K. Simmons was brilliant. The actor -better known for his work as Vern Schillinger in Oz and J. Jonah Jameson in the good Spider-Man movies- is far more easygoing than the characters he plays. An early frontrunner to next year’s Academy Awards, Simmons said he had no problem with musicians recognizing themselves in his character, a tough-as-nails jazz conductor. “The problem is when Oz fans do. That’s more unsettling.”

Enough name dropping. Let’s talk movies.

Maps to the Stars (Canada/Germany, 2014): Even at his most inaccessible (*cough* Cosmopolis *cough*), there is always something interesting in David Cronenberg movies. In the case of Maps to the Stars, it would be the opening fifteen minutes. Cronenberg’s biting satire of Hollywood leaves no room for mercy and the environment he creates is so poisonous, it makes the audience feel uneasy yet curious. Then… nothing. A bunch of recognizable actors (John Cusack, Mia Wasikowska, Robert Pattinson, Julianne Moore) behave badly and make poor life decisions, but it’s nothing Bret Easton Ellis hasn’t done two or three times before.

At the center of Maps to the Stars is the Weiss family. The father (Cusack) is a self-help guru who can’t forge a personal connection with anybody, let alone his children. The mother (Olivia Williams) is a cutthroat agent (is there another kind?). Yet the real moneymaker at the Weiss household is son Benjie, a child star with more bad habits than Lindsay Lohan. Their barely stable relationship is shaken by the arrival of Agatha (Mia Wasikowska), a physically scarred girl who finds a job as the personal assistant of an aging movie star (Julianne Moore).

The plot itself is ridden with Hollywood clichés (struggling to get a part, kids behaving inappropriately, actors’ rampant insecurity), but Cronenberg knows that. His interest lies in the empty souls of the characters. There is no moral here: The filmmaker just want to watch them squirm while pursuing some kind of personal fulfillment they fail to even enjoy. Maps to the Stars is surreal, but not particularly insightful or funny. Doesn’t help much of the film hinges on the Benjie character. The actor, Evan Bird, is too young and too inexperienced to seem jaded and there are scenes he struggles to bring home. Definitely a faux pas for Cronenberg, but a forgivable one. Two coyotes (the prairie dogs are stalling for more money).

Merchants of Doubt (USA, 2014): Remember that conservative argument according to which thousands of American scientists question the existence of global warming? Predictably, turns out to be bollocks (one of the signatures belongs to a “Geri Halliwell”), yet the lie has endured. Merchants of Doubt takes a look at the playbook of professional skeptics, people whose services are bought by corporations in the public eye, once the tobacco pushers, now those looking to prevent public and governmental action on climate change (namely big coal and oil).

Director Robert Kenner (Food, Inc.) puts together an ironclad case against these characters, think tanks and supposedly specialized groups who sell expertise without having any scientific background to back it up. It’s an obscene and aggravating phenomenon that should have your blood boiling. Even though the doc can be a bit dry, makes for necessary viewing. Three and a half Prairie Dogs for Clean Air.

It occurred to me that…

…Toronto is selling the festival as a celebrity bazaar, while the movies don’t have the protagonism of other editions.

The Theory of Everything is getting the most Oscar buzz of all English-speaking films. It’s somewhat surprising, since outside Eddie Redmayne’s performance, there wasn’t anything impressive about it.

…the musical is back! The heart-wrenching The Last Five Years and the Canadian curiosity Bang Bang Baby are leading the charge.

Tomorrow, I’ll be back hanging out with non-famous people.

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The Harder Softer Side

JasmineReimer(Highlight)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         If you like sculpture, you’re definitely in your glory in Regina this month. As I blogged previously, there’s exhibitions on display at the MacKenzie Gallery and Art Gallery of Regina courtesy of Troy Coulterman and Sean Whalley respectively. And on Saturday, Sept. 13 there’s another exhibition of sculpture opening at the Dunlop’s Sherwood Village Gallery location.

The Harder Softer Side features work by former Saskatchewan resident Jasmine Reimer, who is currently enrolled in the MFA program at the University of Guelph.

As you can see from the above photo (the work is called Highlight [2013]), a key part of Reimer’s practice is found household objects. That recalls a tradition in art dating back to Marcel Duchamp’s readymades in the early 20th century which called into question the notion of what, exactly, qualifies as art, and the process we have in our culture of venerating acclaimed works as precious art objects.

Reimer’s sculptures go beyond readymades, though. She’s also in the habit of repurposing the objects and making other interventions that disrupt their functionality and their associated status as commodities in our capitalist economy.

If you’re interested in finding out more about The Harder Softer Side Reimer will be giving an artist talk at the Sherwood Village Gallery on Saturday at 1 p.m. The talk will be followed by a reception, and the exhibition will run until Nov. 26.

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