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Hate Sports, Love Architecture?

Here is Douglas Cardinal’s proposal for Regina’s domed stadium.

Think about it: it’s Douglas Cardinal’s building that seems to have killed SIFC/FNUC… Maybe if there were another major Cardinal project, it would act like a Flinstones-style bonk on the head and FNUC would go back to being what it was supposed to be. On the other hand, maybe a Cardinal dome would cause untold havoc in Regina’s governance and all our political structures would need to be razed and started over. Heh heh. Either way, I don’t see a downside.

I have no doubt that they’ll cheap out, end up overspending anyway, and we’ll have another architectural blight, the only kind of architecture we seem to get these days. I say if you’re going to throw money away, might as well throw it away on something beautiful.

On a side note, there was a great interview on The Sunday Edition with British comedian, writer and actor Stephen Fry on his recent fact-finding tour of America. One of the things he talked about was architectural ugliness, and how it’s a needless offense to nature, where beauty comes standard in every creation. He said that some tender souls grow up focusing on all the man-made ugliness around them and believing that our whole species is harmful and pointless. Absolutely worth a listen.

Things could be worse, the NDP might have won in 2007 (yes, I’m being snarky …)

On St. Patrick’s Day, the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce will host its State of the Province Address, featuring Brad Wall as guest speaker. (Sask Chamber of Commerce) Which is fine. That’s what the premier is supposed to do, and Lorne Calvert and Roy Romanow did it many times during their terms as premier. But when Brad Wall comes to speak, I can guarantee you that what Brad Wall says to Regina’s business community won’t matter as much as the fact that Brad Wall, leader of the Saskatchewan Party and Premier of Saskatchewan, is saying it.

There’s no way of sugar coating it: the provincial New Democratic Party can do whatever the business community wants — lower taxes, cut services, cut the minimum wage, build a domed stadium with a retractable roof, send the children down the mines — and the business community would still find reason to complain. It’s because of who’s doing it, not because of the message.

A friend of mine, who once took a kamikaze run for the Sask. Party in a suburban riding in the late 1990s, put it to me this way: Regina’s business community and right-of-centre politicians see the NDP like a case of Freudian projection: the business community secretly thinks that they are inadequate, so they subliminate that attitude and project it on the NDP. That’s why people who are supporting the proposed new domed stadium are smearing everybody who’s not on board — whether they’re opposed to it or, like me, have a lot of serious questions about the finances and sustainability of the project — as tree-hugging, pot smoking, Das Kapital-quoting left-wing pinkos. That’s even though the only real organized opposition to it, as of right now, comes from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, an organization about as socially progressive as … well, the Saskatchewan Party.

One thing Brad Wall certainly won’t be quizzed about on St. Patrick’s Day will be how the province will now have to give back as much as $200 million to the potash industry for over-estimating how much royalty money they were to collect in 2008-09. The Leader-Post’s Murray Mandryk, (LP) one of the few remaining voices of reason within the L-P, correctly notes that the province’s last two budgets now belong in the fiction category, and the province’s policy of letting potash companies pay royalties to the province on the honor system, is also now a joke.

So the Premier’s State of the Province address comes about on St. Paddy’s Day, it won’t be green beer that the people will be imbibing, but Sask. Party Kool-Aid. Sure, potash revenue is down, The books are no longer balanced, and there’s less reason than ever since 2007 that the government’s people care capable of minding the shop, but hey. It could be worse. The NDP might get in, and after Roy Romanow and Lorne Calvert doing ugly things like balancing the budget and paying down the accumulated debt, you know how bleak a time that was …

Six In The (Barely) Morning

1 THEY’RE BAAAAAAAAAAAAAACK Federal politicians return from their Harper holiday with a big fat 6000 word throne speech. (CBC)

2 NO PANTS RAMPAGE Nude dude invades mayor’s office, Fiacco said to  unharmed. (CBC)

3 TORIES PLAY PARTISAN POLITICS WITH RIGHTS AGENCY PICK Story here. The three sitting opposition parties don’t like the guy the Tories appointed to run this very divided and troubled funding agency. (Globe And Mail)

4 GAY MARRIAGE: D.C. JOINS 21ST CENTURY Hooray! (Washington Post)

5 WILD TIGER CUB DISCOVERY END IN DEATH AND CENSORSHIP Blah. Here’s an idea, lets not have six billion people elbowing every wild thing on the planet out of the way. Sheesh. (Guardian)

6 THE STUPIDEST SIGNS IN CANADA. Wow. This baffling bunch of no-parking signs is hi-LAWR-iously awful. It should win international awards for badness. (Canada.com)

Pick of the Day: Merle Haggard

I can’t really count myself as a fan of Merle Haggard. It’s not that I dislike him. More that I’ve never really listened to him much. The song I know him best for is “Okie From Muskogee”. I probably first heard it when I was in high school, and he more or less lost me with the first line.

I’ve lived in Saskatchewan all my life. And I must say, it hasn’t been easy. Am I proud to be from, to quote Haggard, a “place where even squares can have a ball”? Not really, no. I’m not a big flag waver either. And couldn’t ever envision myself submitting to being drafted by my government to fight in a war I didn’t believe in.

 I can’t speak to Haggard’s original intention when he wrote “Okie From Muskogee” back at the height of counter-culture insurgency in the late ‘60s when Richard Nixon was in the Whitehouse and the U.S. was fighting a major war in Vietnam and homosexuality was illegal and racism and sexism were legally sanctioned and … well, you get the idea. But after what we’ve been through in the last forty years it totally reads as satire for me.

 Satire on a bunch of narrow-minded people who are having trouble coping with modernity, and are wanting desperately to revert back to a time when life, for them anyway, was a whole lot simpler. With some things we have to deal with now, like Walmart Death Stars and other mega-big box stores, and outsourcing of virtually every job imaginable to low-wage jurisdictions with no leverage to enforce quality environmental standards, I can’t say I’m entirely unsympathetic. But overall I’d much rather see things move forward a hell of a lot faster than they currently are. And the “Okie” segment of our society is definitely holding things back.

 If I had the cash, and tix were available, and it wasn’t at the Casino, I’d totally check this show out. Haggard plays there again tomorrow night too. Here’s video from 1997 of him performing “Today I started Loving You Again” (YouTube)

Four in the Afternoon: Dome Stadium, Closeting Gays and Mediocre TV

Whoops. Was supposed to do a Six in the AM this AM and completely forgot. So, after receiving a chastising e-mail from Whitworth, here I am with my first Four in the Afternoon on the new blog.

1. THE “FEASIBLE” DOME: The consultants announced yesterday that a new covered stadium would be feasible for downtown Regina. And while reps from the city, provincial and federal governments were in attendance, no one would commit any money to the project at this time. In fact, figuring out how to pay for the initial construction has yet to be worked out. Which makes me wonder how they can say it’s “feasible” if they haven’t even worked out if they can pay for it. What did they spend that million bucks working out exactly? Oh yeah, how much it’ll cost. Which, as it turns out is not the $350 million we were all initially told. If we get the non-retractable dome version, the price comes in at $386 million, the retractable dome version is $431 million. And you know what, projects like this never come in under budget. Never. Never. Never. So we’re looking at at least half a billion dollars spent on a sports stadium. And, realistically, much more than that. Do you know how much we could accomplish if the three levels of government and private industry threw that kind of cash into our libraries? Our downtown? Our civic infrastructure? The mind boggles.

Oh, also, some of the ways they’re considering paying for this seems to be using cash from the casinos or from some new lottery. Meanwhile, on CBC this morning, they were talking about how post-secondary students are increasingly suffering from gambling addictions. Great. So we’re going to get a stadium by making students pay for it. Not to mention all the other poor saps who blow their pay cheques in the casinos and on scratch tickets. (Leader Post)

2. “PSST, THEY’RE NEW HERE. DON’T MENTION THE GAYS.” Our Immigration Minister, Jason Kenney, pulled any mention of gay rights from the study guide given out to new immigrants to Canada. Now why would he do that, I wonder? Kenney, by the way, fought hard against gay marriage back in the day. But I’m sure his personal feelings had nothing to do with it. (Globe and Mail)

3. POLLEY TAKES NAME OFF FLICK: When she discovered a short-film she’d made for the Heart and Stroke Foundation to promote women’s heart-health would also be used to promote Becel Margarine, Sarah Polley, the activist/actor/director, announced she’d rather not be associated with it. (Globe and Mail)

4. MORE REPUBLIC OF DOYLE: The CBC is announcing that the makers of CBC series, Republic of Doyle, are cheered to learn their series has been renewed. Good for them. Still, on a lark, I watched an episode of this show last night (on my computer). Wow, did that ever take me back. It reminds me of all those 70s and 80s PI shows like Spencer for Hire or Rockford Files. And I’m not sure if I needed or wanted reminding. My wife thought the show had to be a parody because, she reasoned, the writers couldn’t possibly believe that what they’d made was a high quality program. My wife hasn’t watched nearly as much television as I have. (CBC)

Have We Got a Deal For You?

Through the creative work they do, it’s often been said, society owes a debt to artists. In turn, it now seems that society is going to offer artists an opportunity to owe a debt to it. Today, we received word from the Saskatchewan Arts Board that, in conjunction with the Ministry of Tourism, Parks, Culture & Sport, it was launching the Creative Industries Flexible Loan Program.

More information, including loan applications, can be found on the SAB’s website at www.artsboard.sk.ca under the Creative Industries tab. According to the SAB press release, $1.15 million is being allocated to the program, which is designed to enhance the entrepreneurial and economic capacity of artists and arts organizations by providing them with short-term, low-interest loans of up to $25,000.

Overall, this is pretty consistent with the direction the Saskatchewan government has taken since the 2007 election in focussing on the development of marketing opportunities for artists. That is definitely one way to enhance the financial well-being of the arts sector. But its also true that for years now, public investment in the arts has been stagnant. From the early 90s on, while the number of artists and arts organizations in Saskatchewan mushroomed, and more and more attention was paid to the idea of creativity as an important economic driver in the province, the amount of money that was allocated to the Arts Board to fund the arts remained flat with the consequent result that the “pie” was relentlessly cut into smaller and smaller pieces.

Is a loan program the answer? For a segment of the arts community that already operates in a quasi-business mode, it should help. I’m thinking of craft producers, organizations that are involved in the production of popular theatre and music events, perhaps some commercial cinema. But market viability, which is implicitly required to pay off a loan (with interest), creates a pretty slippery slope that ultimately could dead-end a lot truly innovative and creative work that’s being done by artists and arts organizations in the province that doesn’t find a ready market.

Pick of the Day: Jane’s Walk

This isn’t an actual event, although it will be down the road. But recently I received an email from the organizers of last spring’s Jane Jacobs Walking Tour inviting interested Reginans to consider volunteering to host a tour or help out in some other way at the 2010 event which will be held May 1-2.

Named after the late urban planning expert Jane Jacobs, the walking tours began in Toronto in 2007, and have since spread to dozens of cities, including New York, Vancouver, New Orleans and Calgary. In such books as The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961) Jacobs championed the idea of making cities pedestrian-friendly and not whole-heartedly embracing car culture and the endless expansion of suburban sprawl.

At last year’s event, say organizers, over 400 people participated in 12 tours of different Regina neighbourhoods. Walks can relate to all manner of themes, from architecture and culture to history and business. For more information on the Jane’s Walk concept, visit www.janeswalk.net. To contact local organizers about participating in the 2010 event, send an email to [email protected].

‘Stache Judging: Herbert Putnam

Calling Whitworth out on his ‘stache judging skills.

Badass librarian, badass moustache
Herbert Putnam, Librarian of Congress from 1899 to 1939, definitely knew where all the best moustache books were at

Whitworth’s been bragging about how he’s the ultimate judge of what makes an great moustache.

Well, just like he was wrong when he said the new Stephen King cover was nothing special, I’m going to say he’s wrong here.

I’m defying Whitworth to show me a man who rocks a moustache better than Herbert Putnam, the eighth Librarian of Congress and the man behind the Library of Congress system of classification.

Not only did this fellow rock his ‘stache well, but he embodied everything that makes this facial hair choice so wonderful: he was decisive, and he got shit done.

Godless Liberals Get The Brains

 So a study apparently says that the average liberal is smarter than the average conservative. From the story in the Toronto Star:

“Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist from the London School of Economics and Political Science, says it makes sense biologically. In an article for Social Psychology Quarterly, Kanazawa lays out facts based on U.S. data to support his theory. According to that research, young adults who identify as “not at all religious” had an average IQ of 103 as teens, while those who identified as “very religious” had an average IQ of 97. Similarly, young adults who called themselves “very liberal” had an average IQ of 106 during adolescence, while those who identified themselves as “very conservative” had average IQs of 95.”

For Canadian readers confused by the term, “liberal” basically means “socialist wimp” in the American language.

I wonder if this researcher would get the same results in other countries. Somehow I doubt it. Only in America: where “don’t be smart” is something angry parents say to their kids.

The Death of Capitalism: A grifter’s delight

The always-entertaining Matt Taibbi lays into Wall Street again in his latest missive for Rolling Stone magazine.

Taibbi has been relentless in his criticism of the banking community and his comparisons to the grifters, schemers and con artists are, largely, valid ones.

I’d also like to take the opportunity to respond to reader TS, and TS’s comment on the first TDOC post last week. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I’m sure it will come as no surprise that I don’t exactly agree with you, but I’d love to explore this a bit further. A portion of TS’s criticism:

“In the mean time, it’s a gross over generalization to say capitalism failed. I would argue in fact, we have really just realize its faults.”

TS goes on to say that if better regulation were possible, capitalism would do a better job of accounting for external costs, and therefore capitalism would work, since the true value of a tree left standing, for example, would be known.

It’s true that there have been some halting moves towards this – most notably WalMart’s sustainability index, for example.

But where TS and I differ, I expect, is in our varying levels of confidence that such transformative changes in the way we do business are possible. I suspect that any meaningful reform will be blocked before it truly has a chance to affect the needed changes, and that therefore we are in fact seeing the early stages of the death of capitalism.

To understand how that works, we need to understand a bit about the process of sausage-making in a democracy. These days that’s almost entirely left up to well-connected and well-funded lobbyists, even more so directly south of us. These folks are well paid, each and every day, to monitor political activity, lobby the ‘right’ people and generally have their way with the democratic process.

And this is where the issue of better and ‘smarter’ regulation goes off the rails each and every time. Let’s return again to the issue of Wall Street bankers, since it’s the most instructive example in recent years.

These guys screwed up royally. All the major US investment banks should be broke. They only survive because they were able to engineer a bailout of AIG who was a ‘counterparty’ in a bunch of credit default swaps, and that organization was then able to pay off the policies it wrote – policies covering the most egregious excesses of the US housing bubble.

But rather than face their medicine, these folks then turned around and began actively lobbying against regulations of these sorts of black arts financial instruments and instead tried to pin the blame on the US’s CMHC-like bodies like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Now there’s no arguing these quasi-public institutions caused their own problems – but in this case they were following Wall Street’s lead and were responsible for less than one per cent of the bad mortgages.

But of course the real villans will never be held accountable because of the great sway they hold in the corridors of power.

Without this accountability they’re about to suffer from a powerful case of moral hazard — they now know with absolute certainty that if they make these outrageous bets again and win, they pocket a huge bonus. But if they lose? Well, then the taxpayer is on the hook.

Six In The Morning

Your (week-)daily morning news update and linkapalooza.

1 CANADA SETS MEDAL RECORD I know eh?

2 CHILE HIT BY THREE AFTERSHOCKS The country is in shambles after an Armageddon-class 8.8 magnitude earthquake smote it on Saturday. Sounds like there’s been a wise decision to recognize the difference between looters and quake victims just trying to find urgently-needed provisions, so that’s good. Our thoughts go to the nation’s people. Read more by clicking on this link. (New York Times)

3 ROGUE OVER The Olympics are done and parliament is back Wednesday for the throne speech. There’s a lot to talk about. One really ominous quote in that Toronto Star article is from Ralph Goodale. who says the Conservatives “”want to cripple the fiscal framework. That is a deliberate strategy.” Well, he’s a politician playing politics but he’s also 100 per cent right. Taxes have been cut to a level that doesn’t support spending. It’s called a structural deficit–and the nice thing about structural deficits for government-hating politicians is they give you an excuse to trash spending. bad bad bad stuff. One thing that’s different from a few months ago: it’s not likely we’ll have an election anytime soon. (Toronto Star)

4 SASK GOVERNMENT REACHES TENTATIVE DEAL WITH GOVERNMENT WORKER’S UNION Well, good! (Leader-Post)

5 EBERT SPEAKS?!? Apparently some software wizards have built a program that will let Roger Ebert “talk”using a “voice” rebuilt from samples of his own, pre-cancer surgery voice. I love this! This is news from a world I actually want to live in. (Associated Press/CBC) 

6 MEANWHILE IN U.S. HEALTH CARE Wondering where that’s all at? Here’s a ginormous article you can read. I got three graphs in myself, I’ll have to come back to it later.  Dudes! I’m busy here! (TPM)

FOOTNOTE: This Six In The Morning was written while I was blowing out my ears with the New Pornographers. The superstar mostly-Canadian band (prominent players are Carl Newman, Dan Bejar and honourary Canadian Neko Case) has a new disc coming out this spring, too. Yeehaw!


The New Pornographers – All For Swinging You Around
Download Music Video Code at Roxwel

The Gang’s All Here

What’s that soft dreamy look in Stephen Harper’s face? Is it the satisfaction of having just fleeced me  (and you, and everyone else in Canada) for $4,000 for the Olympics? Is he tasting the delicious mountain air of a province which now has effectively no arts funding? Or is he dreaming that the Olympic bait and switch has worked, and he’ll be back to a new parliament where everyone has forgotten everything, and he can get back to dismantling government? (CBC)

But wait!

Look at that hand! Isn’t that… A gang signal of some sort? That would be illegal in some countries? (Gangscene)

One guess at what he’s saying (and really, what does Stephen Harper ever say?)

Image courtesy of drako666 on Flickr

Pick of the Day: The Wooden Sky

If you check out our Feb. 25 issue, you’ll find a preview of this gig by Emily Zimmerman. I saw the Wooden Sky at a house concert in the Cathedral Area in early August just after the Regina Folk Festival. It was pretty cool. I even wrote about it in a subsequent issue. If our on-line archive was up and running, I could link you to it. But since it isn’t yet, you’ll have to settle for this link to an old Dog Blog post Carey Shaw did showing photos she took at the concert.

The Wooden Sky were originally supposed to play O’Hanlon’s in early February. But the alt-country Toronto septet ended up rescheduling to play two sold-out gigs in Calgary, and since then they’ve been performing throughout Alberta and B.C., including some shows at the Olympics. On their way home to Toronto for Canadian Music Week, I imagine, the Wooden Sky play the Exchange tonight.

As far as Mondays go, not too shabby.

This Week In Dead B-List Celebrity Sons

Boy, what a week for the sons of 70s tv stars. First the beautiful Andrew Koenig (aka Boner from Growing Pains) was found dead in Vancouver (nothing says “I Don’t Believe,” like a Stanley Park suicide during the Olympics.) Now Marie Osmond’s son Michael Blosil has thrown himself off a building in LA. Michael, 18 a student in fashion design, was one of her eight chilluns, (and one of five adoptees, which sort of suggests an Angeline Jolie-style baby-adopting frenzy at some point).  (Examiner.com; NY Times)

Both men had depression, and both deaths are incredibly sad. Depression is a bitch.

This Week at City Hall

Regina City Hall Feb 22, 2010Tuesday, March 2
FINANCE AND ADMINISTRATION COMMITTEE (12:15 pm): Looking at 2010’s Property Tax Exemptions. The total amount the city is foregoing through these exemptions is $2,257,000. The committee will also be considering a recommendation to sell some city-owned land to the Regina Qu’appelle Health Region without going through a public process. Reason for this is the hospital had to give up some staff parking for the new Dewdney Avenue Fire Hall. This land sale will replace the parking they lost.

Wednesday, March 3
EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE (11:45 am): There is nothing on the public agenda for this committee.

Thursday, March 4
ENVIRONMENT ADVISORY COMMITTEE (5 pm): Considering the possibility of holding a “Natural Step” workshop, which seems to be some kind of educational opportunity for organizations hoping to build their sustainable practices. Also looking at request from the Canadian Cancer Society to address the committee about pesticides and a recommendation to move forward on “compare and contrast exercise” covering bylaws relating to water. The committee will also be discussing the Waste Plan and preparing their response to it for when it goes before Public Works Committee on March 16.

As always, you can download reports and agendas on the city website.

Support The Troops Propaganda Is Out Of Control

Just me or is anyone else sickened of the whole “our brave troops serving for us” propaganda coming out of CTV as we head into overtime? What, are we Americans now? And is CTV Fox News?

I understand there can be principled differences on NATO involvement in Afghanistan but this military-boosterism is just propaganda from a brain-dead network.

It’s just disgusting. I’m trying to watch a hockey game here.

UPDATE: I am however pleased we beat the U.S. Even though I feel bad for Ryan Miller.

Pick of the Day

As of today — the final day of the Vancouver Winter Olympics — I’ve watched a grand total of three hours of TV coverage. Feb. 18, I was over at a friend’s and saw the last two periods of the Canada vs Switzerland Mens Ice Hockey game, plus some of the stumblebums in the lower tiers of the Men’s Figure Skating (when did they bring in those extended sleeve-glove things anyway? They look gross).

While I haven’t been watching the Olympics, I have been following them a bit. I lament the amount of trash-talking that goes on in sports these days. Good sportsmanship is hard to find in players, fans, coaches and management. So I was never a fan of the “Own the Podium” smack that some Canadian officials and athletes were talking in the run up to the Olympics.

It’s fine to be enthusiastic. But to pull a Joe Namath and guarantee victory … well, that’s pretty brash. And as host country, a tad ill-mannered. Then when our athletes got off to such a brutal start, it made us look pretty foolish in the world’s eyes. Our climate gives us a natural advantage in the Winter Olympics, sure. But we’re still only a nation of 34 million. And there’s some pretty big countries out there that compete and do well in winter sports.

The low point for the Canadian contingent probably came on Feb. 21 when the Canadian Men’s Ice Hockey team lost to the U.S. 5-3. Since then, Canada has performed tremendously. As I write this, Canada sits third in the medal count at 13 gold, 7 silver and 5 bronze, ahead of countries like Russia, Norway, Korea, France and China, and behind only the United States (9 gold-14 silver-13 bronze) and Germany (10-12-7).

And after getting off to a shaky start due to the tragic death of a Georgian luger in a training run, technical glitches at the opening ceremony, some unseasonably warm weather and early street protests against all the political and economic bullshit that unfortunately accompanies the Olympics now, Vancouver and the rest of Canada have drawn rave reviews for the party we’ve hosted.

That leaves one more bit of unfinished business. It won’t be an easy task. But since getting beat by the U.S. on Feb. 21 the Canadian Men’s Ice Hockey team has looked pretty strong. But the Americans, after squeaking by a tenacious Swiss squad 2-0 in the quarter-final, have also looked impressive. In Friday’s semi-final, they spanked Finland 6-1. If U.S. goalie Ryan Miller stands on his head, as he’s perfectly capable of doing, the U.S. will be tough to beat. If Canada can get to him, though, the gold should be theirs.

Game time is 2 p.m.

Saturday Morning Cartoon

Lotte Reiniger was a brilliant German animator. Her style consisted of taking black silhouette cut-outs and animating them. Her first short film was made in 1919 and in 1926 she made one of the earliest full length animated movies – The Adventures of Prince Achmed (It’s actually the third full length animated movie ever made but the first two are currently considered lost).

BFI has just released an awesome collection of her short films. It’s a shame that it’s only available in England but for those folks out there who have all region capabilities, this DVD is quite the treat.

Here are some examples of her work.

Lotte Reiniger: Cinderella

Lotte Reiniger: Hansel and Gretel

Here’s a making of feature showing Reiniger at work.

Art of Lotte Reiniger

Comment Poo (Updated Again!)

A heads up: Dog Blog’s comments seem to be screwed. People post comments and they’re not appearing. I have no idea why or how to fix it. But we’re on it.

If you have any suggestions to fix this, please write a comment. (Ha! You can’t!)

UPDATE: So it looks like there’s a default setting somewhere that says we have to approve comments. I can approve them but I can’t change the setting to automatic approval. We’ll get this fixed as soon as possible.

UPDATE 2: They work! Open fire! Comment away!