Saturday, May 3, 2008

134th Kentucky Derby

If, like me, you missed the Derby today, here’s “the most exciting two minutes in sports” as they say. Favourite Big Brown won easily and second place Eight Belles, the only filly in the race, collapsed after breaking her front ankles. She was euthanized on the racetrack. It’s reputed that Eight Belles was Hillary Clinton’s pick in the race. Whether Obama was betting on Big Brown is unconfirmed.

More racing excitement here.

One on One: Gerald Scarfe (Part 1)

An interview from earlier this year with the brilliant Gerald Scarfe for the Al Jazerra (English) program “One on One” with host Riz Khan. Below is Scarfe at his malicious best from Pink Floyd’s 1982 film The Wall.

Quartier Macabre

Warning: This video contains some very disturbing images and may not be appropriate for the kiddy winks or the faint of heart.

There, how’s that for a tease? But seriously, the artwork of the conceptual artist “Seven” from the Quartier Macabre collection can be upsetting and visually shocking, at least they strike me that way. The musical accompaniment by the way is a marvellous instrumental version of “When Things Explode” by UNKLE from the album “War Stories.”

Potato Pete: Digging for Demoralization

As the old expression goes, sometimes it’s better to keep your mouth shut and give the impression that you’re stupid than to open it and remove all doubt. This seems to be a lesson that’s utterly lost on our witless Defence Minister. In spite of the fact that efforts by Canadian soldiers working with Afghans on the ground to encourage militants in the war-ravaged province of Kandahar to lay down their weapons has won high praise in the area, Potato Pete has decided to slam the troops in favour of rigidly towing the clueless Harper Party line and dictating that irrespective of circumstances, Canada doesn’t negotiate directly with terrorists. Good luck with that.

Saturday Morning Toons: Tom Slick

From the same folks that brought us the classic “Rocky and Bullwinkle” (Jay Ward Productions), “Tom Slick” was one of my favourite cartoons when I was a kid. Originally, it ran together with “George of the Jungle” and the hilarious “Super Chicken” series. Unsurprisingly, it never enjoyed the enormous commercial success of Hanna-Barbera’s somewhat similar “Wacky Racers” that was on the air at the same time, but it was a world apart in terms of sophistication and satirical bite.

Butt-Ugly Olympic Wear (Made in China)

Brilliant. Given that the Olympics is largely an effort that traffics heavily in the sentiments of national pride, wouldn’t common sense dictate that the contract for Team Canada’s Olympic wear be granted to domestic manufacturers irrespective of whatever minor cost differential is involved? And who approved this preposterous design? Up close, the pattern looks quite intriguing, but the overall effect is busy to say the least, and as the old fuddy on the street says: “loud” — how un-Canadian.

Update: Tu Ly, one of the designers of the HBC Olympic wear thinks it’s “quite funny” that MPs have turned it into a political issue. “I would like to challenge these politicians to give up their cell phones made in China or their TVs, then maybe they’d really be on an even plane.” Um, no. To maintain that position completely fails to acknowledge the symbolic dimension of the enterprise which seems fantastically dim, even for a fashion designer.

War for Oil: McCain’s Latest Gaffe

“My friends, I will have an energy policy that we will be talking about, which will eliminate our dependence on oil from the Middle East that will prevent us from having ever to send our young men and women into conflict again in the Middle East.” — John McCain

More of the “straight talk” that’s going to be the undoing of McCain.

Subsequently, Grandpa Munster said he didn’t mean the U.S. went to war in Iraq five years ago over oil. “No, no, I was talking about that we had fought the Gulf War for several reasons,” he unconvincingly told reporters. McCain now claims that the word “again” has been misconstrued by the press. Uh-huh.

A Very British Cult (Part 3)

In the final part of this short film, the saviour of humanity appears as foretold at Toddington Motorway Services (Junction 11-12 of the M1). Well, sort of...

Friday, May 2, 2008

Backstage at The Colbert Report

This is from April of last year, when John Kerry appeared on the show. Kind of an interesting peek behind the scenes if, like me, you’re a fan.

“You know when I’m character… then I’m an idiot,” Colbert warns the senator, adding “and I’m willfully ignorant about what we’re going to be talking about, so disabuse me of my ignorance.”

Who Should Be Mayor of London?

All will be revealed today. As it stands at the moment, it seems that Conservative Boris Johnson (“twice married, sacked following an affair”) is leading incumbent Labour Mayor Ken Livingstone (“five children from three different women”). Meanwhile, Lib Dem Brian Paddick (“openly gay, many partners”) is pulling up the rear. Stay tuned.

Update: Looks like the Conservative Boris Johnson has defeated “Red Ken”… Not official yet, but the betting shops are paying out, so it’s as good as a done deal. Poor old Gordon Brown really got pasted today right across the board.

Child Abuse, Shirley?

Awwwwww... it’s soooo “cute” and ever so “adorable” isn’t it that this little princess has a supernatural being to guide her a path of righteousness and shepherd her through the valley of the shadow of Death? My heart must be hardening something awful to the cloying wiles of religion because this fizzy sort of infantile indoctrination just strikes me as a creepy form of mind control.

My Tippee cup of cynicism runneth over.

h/t: CC (More stupid in our lives… indeed. Yeah, just what’s called for!)

The Democratic Primary in Seven Minutes

A rapid-fire recap of the campaign to date from the folks at Slate. See how much time you wasted watching CNN over the last six months.

Bill C-10: The Motion Picture

Ah, now here’s the wholesome kind of family entertainment that Charles McVety wants us all to see: an inoffensive story about a boy, his dog, a hockey game, bonnets, and a postal worker!

To learn absolutely nothing about this thrilling new provision of the Income Tax Act from a partisan hack who’s perennially without a clue, be sure to visit “Sandy Crux’s Stephen Harper Booster Society and Glee Club” why don’t you?

Nice Guys Finish First (with Hilarious Update)

Richard Dawkins explains how “selfish genes” can give rise to altruistic, co-operative behaviour, in an attempt to stop his thesis being wildly misinterpreted and exploited by crass opportunists on the extremes of the political spectrum for their own self-serving purposes. Some of the examples given, drawn from sources as disparate as football matches and trench warfare, are quite surprisingly uplifting and positively heartening in nature; qualities not usually associated with Dawkins, at least by his more strident detractors.

Update: And speaking of Richard Dawkins… Sometimes the way in which the truly ironic things in life “reveal” themselves to us might almost be described as miraculous. (In fact, they’re just serendipitous, but you know what I mean…) Hard not to have a few mordant chuckles over the agonizing torments being suffered by the good Christian folk of the right-wing over the esteemed Oxford professor appearing before the “power ascendant” cognoscenti of the Conservative Party of Canada (aka The Fraser Institute) at their vaguely Masonic sounding “Illuminismo series” of lectures.

As BCL notes with glee, for years these poor SoCon rubes have dutifully forked over millions of dollars in contributions to the CPC and all they’ve gotten in return is a “lousy fake abortion bill” and a pantomime motion on gay marriage while the cynical secularists are laughing all the way to the bank with their regressive tax cuts. No wonder they’re so indignant. It must be insulting when your own party not only laughs at you behind your back, but now spits right in your face.

An Irresistible Compulsion to Muzzle

Muzzled Cons

I’m just sayin’…

By the way, doesn’t that cock bear an eerie resemblance to Treasury Board President Vic Toews?

Update: Allow me to expand a little to avoid any possible confusion or misunderstanding here as to who’s who in the zoo…

While Stephen Harper is of course entirely free to implement an inflexible regime of tightly-managed restrictions on his caucus (the potentially destructive “chickens”) when it comes to the way in which they communicate with the electorate, it’s wholly inappropriate to impose a similar standard of politically self-serving circumscription upon the findings or opinions of independent officers of parliament. Such an effort, however well-meaning its intention purports to be or may even perhaps aspire to become, effectively undermines the fundamental autonomy, independence and integrity of such officers whose determinations are bound by the nature of their office to occasionally be at variance with policies and procedures that are necessitated solely or primarily by purely political expediencies of the government of the day.

A Very British Cult (Part 2)

The second coming of Jesus gets revealed in marmite and jam…

Thursday, May 1, 2008

A Very British Cult (Part 1)

A quirky, sometimes amusing little film that, to quote the writer/star Richard Herring, is about “a rubbish cult of which my character is the leader. They are all threatening to rebel and go and join a rival cult that seems to know when Jesus is returning and which has a glossy TV advert which makes their own cult look about as shit as it is.”

Michael Moore on Larry King

Here’s the open and close of his interview from last night with Larry King on CNN in case (like me) you missed it. There are five more parts: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

I know a lot of people dismiss Michael Moore as an extremist, an inflammatory socialist, a rhetorical blowhard, a radical moonbat, or whatever... but I’ve always felt those criticisms were entirely misplaced. Contrary to the ludicrous caricatures and baseless smears routinely trotted out by the malicious, shrieking punditocracy of the Right, he’s one of the most astute political commenters around, a keen observer of the social landscape, and is, I believe, actually quite “mainstream” in his beliefs and opinions (check the latest polls). Moreover, I think he’s a fundamentally decent guy with a sensible moral compass and a wicked sense of humour that “speaks truth to power” as they say. Taking all of those favourable attributes into consideration, I suppose the intensely virulent animosity he typically generates from The Forces of Evil should come as no great surprise.

Hopefully, not an omen…

Via the Silent Patriot: Waters’ biggest prop was an inflatable pig the size of a school bus that emerged while he played a version of “Pigs” from 1977’s capitalism critique, “Animals.”

The pig, which was led above the crowd from lines held on the ground, displayed the words “Don’t be led to the slaughter” and a cartoon of Uncle Sam wielding two bloody cleavers. The other side read “Fear builds walls.”

The underside of the pig simply read “Obama” with a checked ballot box alongside.

As Waters drew the song to a close, flame bursts exploded on the sides of the stage and the swine floated into the night sky. Waters said sadly and comically, “That’s my pig.”

The performance also included speaker towers placed around the outside of the crowd. Smoke machines funneled across the stage and over the audience, thickening the atmosphere.

Note: It seems remains of the pig was found in tatters by two couples who will share the $10,000 reward offered by festival organisers on Waters’ behalf.

Update: I have to say that the symbolism involved here (aside from the pig going astray and ending up in ruins) for anyone familiar with Animal Farm is incredibly bizarre. What an odd choice to promote Obama. Or not... depending on your point of view, I guess.

Amazing Meeting: Penn & Teller

No real reason for this other than it’s kind of interesting (and unusual) to see Teller actually talking; in this case, about “street magic” and the sort of illusions seen on television.

Stephen Harper: On “Negative Advertising”

Above is Harper responding to a documentary filmmaker back in March about the topic of “negative advertising” wherein he equivocates in response to the question concerning whether such ads are effective. After stating that his criterion for the effectiveness of ads is that they be “truthful and relevant to voters” he goes on to provide an example of those that he thinks aren’t: “Let’s say an ad pokes fun of [sic] a leader’s appearance… or his dress or whatever, it may be truthful, but I don’t think many voters would find it relevant to their concerns in terms of casting a ballot.”

So let’s see Mr. Integrity’s principles in action, shall we and ask: Does it make fun of the Liberal leader’s appearance by showing that gormless, shoulder-shrugging picture of Dion that the CPC endlessly recylces?; and, are the allegations about the Liberals hiking the GST to pay for enormous budget-busting promises “truthful” and accurate?

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

“Support the Troops” v. Reality

This is completely astounding, not to mention disgusting.

The Pentagon budget last year was almost half a trillion dollars, the U.S. is paying contractors three-quarters of a billion dollars to build their new mega embassy in Baghdad. Contractors are being paid hundreds of millions of dollars to “rebuild” Iraq — part of that includes constructing new Iraqi military bases and refurbishing old ones. Meanwhile, the rear detachments are forced to scramble as a result of a father’s outrage to make soldiers’ barracks in the United States minimally livable.

Let’s hope the same kind of nonsense isn’t going on here in Canada.

“We let our soldiers down… No excuse.” — Brigadier General Dennis Rogers*

*Rogers is Director of Operations and Facilities for Installation Management Command (the guy who's responsible for maintaining barracks throughout the U.S. Army).

Cool or Creepy?

Hmmm. This is certainly a neat idea that VDOLife has developed, but somehow the thought of the Internet being populated by hordes of nattering “video spokespersons” has the potential to be highly annoying and obtrusive. Besides, some people just aren’t very appealing in life, let alone wandering around one’s computer screen in virtual form. Like this guy, for instance...

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

We’re Number 2!

Don’t expect the city to “try harder” though as the old Avis commercial used to say.

According a survey published in the May issue of MoneySense magazine Victoria ranks second overall among 154 metropolitan Canadian cities as the best place to live. Somewhat amazing considering the average home price is getting close to half a million dollars. Ottawa, where by comparison the average home price is a paltry $250,000, was number one.

p.s. The video is the beach just down from where we live. It’s also a bird sanctuary, as you can tell.

THH22M: Rex Murphy Compilation

I’m trying to increase my “Canadian content”... Apparently, this is important to some folks.

An Amusing Stunt

No big surprise, but that was good for a laugh. I guess we’ll have to get Jimmy Carter and the UN Elections inspectors in to look after things from now on.

MediaCurves Reaction: Wright’s Comments

Not to belabour this tedious Rev. Wright flap, but I always find these “real-time” MediaCurves analyses kind of fascinating to watch. Note how the Republicans’ reactions soar on each question then rapidly plummet with the responses.

Obama Denounces Wright

As countless people suggested yesterday, Obama had no alternative but to condemn his former pastor (who David Gergen called “Dumb, selfish and narcissistic”) in no uncertain terms. Thankfully, it seems that he finally did that today.

“The person I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago.”
— Barrack Obama

Or as Paul Wells facetiously put it “Some bad guy kidnapped my gentle, inoffensive pastor.” Sully’s take on it here: “And today, we found that he can fight back, and take a stand, without calculation and in what is clearly a great amount of personal difficulty and political pain. It’s what anyone should want in a president. It makes me want to see him succeed more than ever.” Some may not be so easily impressed or satisfied however and it could be too late to stop the bleeding.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan…

Perhaps someone has a good theory to explain why, if Afghanistan's intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh warned President Hamid Karzai of the weekend assassination plot against him a month an a half ago, it wasn’t prevented from occurring… You know, short of it being a case of total incompetence.

And speaking of troubles in Afghanistan, now we learn from British PM Gordon Brown the NATO mission is still “critically” short of key troops and equipment. Furthermore, a confidential Foreign and Commonwealth Office paper obtained by The Telegraph, describes a litany of problems and weaknesses in Western attempts to stabilize the country including the admission that efforts to train and support the Afghan police are going badly. Quel surprise!

Anyone care to guess what our government’s reaction to this news which flatly contradicts their version of the situation will be?

Have You Considered Quendelton State University?

A college commercial with a welcome dose of honesty: a straight-from-the-heart advertisement for Quendelton State University.

Monday, April 28, 2008

House of Commons — The Musical

And now for something completely different… The British House of Commons in the form of a musical. I can’t abide musicals as a general rule, but this really tickled me. Cameron’s bit (approx. 5:50 in the video) is especially delightful.

Perhaps some technical wizard out there could do the same thing with our own Question Period. It would certainly beat the heck out of what’s on offer most days.

C.S. TV Commercials

From the movie website: “The Confederate States of America, through the eyes of a faux documentary, takes a look at an America where the South won the Civil War. Supposedly produced by a British broadcasting company, the feature film is presented as a production being shown, controversially, for the first time on television in the States.”

What’s interesting (and weird) about these ads is that they’re based on black stereotypes that were actually used for commercial purposes in the past. Mind you, Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben and Rastus (the Cream of Wheat guy) are still kicking around…

Welcome to Canada

What happens when the Canadian border is moved to the Mojave Desert? The Fox show “Totally Hidden Video” finds out…

Let the CBC Hating Begin!

The “Blogging Tories” may have dumped their search engine, but that won’t be needed to locate the howls of outrage at news of Radio-Canada’s high-flying sales and marketing GM Richard Portelance having claimed nearly $7,500 in expenses from January to June 2007 for meals in upscale eateries. And who could blame them?

Perhaps the meal expenses are par for the course to a certain extent and it’s small potatoes compared to the amount of advertising revenue he secures for the network, but the optics are horrible for someone working on the taxpayers’ dime.

Shut Up Already

If there was any doubt that his self-indulgent, narcissistic attempt at public rehabilitation was a disastrous idea, look no further than here. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed his speech yesterday to the NAACP and thought he was absolutely brilliant (not to mention hilarious) fending off questions at the National Press Club this morning, but in terms of helping the Obama campaign, this is the worst possible development and is certain to be a major factor in what’s now going be a probable loss in Indiana. Fox News & the GOP couldn’t be happier, I’m sure.

Update: Press Club footage

The Stephen Harper Party: “Uninspiring”

According to a new Canadian Press-Harris-Decima survey, fifty-six per cent of respondents said they were worried about a recession, and 55 per cent said they didn’t feel Stephen Harper offered much optimism or inspiration. Slightly over half said they felt the “Conservatives” don’t care about the same issues they do.

Hmmm. Interesting. This is what I said just the other day: “[Harper] needs to learn how to inspire people.”

Update: More completely obvious conclusions ahead of renewed election speculation… Not that most “Conservatives” will likely care what she thinks, but former PM Kim Campbell thinks that Harper needs to stop being a “control freak” (her words) and Harper should “make clear what his party would seek to do on sensitive social issues such as abortion or gay rights if it won a majority.” Meanwhile, in light of the fact that Dion is still a largely unknown commodity in many respects, Nik Nanos has “suggested that the Liberals put out a full package of election campaign proposals to help Canadians understand what Dion stands for.” No kidding.

The Machine That Made Us (Part 6)

I liked this description of the program from the British typography website “Ministry of Type”:

“…for those of you who’ve ever watched the original TV series of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, having Fry present this is just perfect; it’s like a chapter from the Guide itself.”

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Obama on Fox News Sunday (Beginning & End)

Follow the links for parts two and three of the interview. And from the subsequent panel, here’s the unctuous Bill “Wrong About Everything” Kristol with his patronizing remarks:

Yes, it was an eloquent and attractive performance, but pretty substance-free, I would say.

I think if you had Hillary Clinton on — and I hope we do have her on again soon — for 36 minutes, she would give you lots of particular reasons why she should be president of the United States, and John McCain shouldn’t, or even why Barack Obama shouldn’t. And they would have to do with tax policy, and health care, and foreign policy and the like.

You know, he’s too laid back to actually get into these boring details, I guess, so we’re supposed to like him. And he's a likable man. But I really wonder how that wears.

Urgh. Gee, Bill if the interview was “substance-free” whose fault was that… Chris Wallace’s maybe? Man, what a disingenuous creep.

Craig Ferguson at the Correspondents’ Dinner

From last night’s event. Not as funny as Colbert’s infamous performance, but fairly entertaining.

de Adder Sketchbook

Michael de Adder is the award winning editorial cartoonist for the Halifax Daily News. His website is here. The above cartoon was from April 14th.

The Machine That Made Us (Part 4 & 5)

After watching this it’s hard not to be impressed by just how novel (no pun intended) Gutenberg’s invention was, as well as the relentless attention to detail and design involved. For example, he produced eight variations of the letter ‘E’ so that the text could be justified precisely. Accordingly, it’s estimated that nearly a year’s worth of work was required to produce the letters to set the press alone.

Using Anthropomorphism as Propaganda Tool

Yeah, we sure wouldn’t want to do THAT now, would we?

Good grief, don’t these folks ever actually think about what they’re saying? For how many years have we as a society romanticized and, yes, lovingly anthropomorphized the automobile and our whole fossil-fuel based, motorized lifestyle… It seems more than a bit rich to be decrying the environmentalists for indulging in a little of this behaviour themselves to advance their cause.

h/t: The usual suspect.

The Harper Government: Fool Speed Ahead!

In light of the global food shortages and growing doubts about the value of ethanol as a legitimate environmental solution or petroleum alternative, wouldn’t you think the government might take this opportunity to question and/or possibly re-think the whole proposition of food-based biofuels and in particular their commitment to investing $2.2 billion into the production of corn ethanol? Well, apparently not.