Monday, May 31, 2004

Tell me why
Is it hard to make arrangements with yourself
When you're old enough to repaint, but young enough to sell?

[NOTE: The following blog entry is not about the federal election. I know that this space's coverage of the federal election has been relatively lax (I was going to apologize for this, until I realized that it's my fucking blog and that you guys can vote with your hit count if you don't like it) and I intend to change that in my next two posts, but for now I'm going to prattle on about myself for a while. Besides the original purpose of this blog was to be incredibly self-indulgent, and on this, my one hundredth entry, it seems à propos to stick to that mandate as closely as possible. If you really need a federal election fix, POI is back up. Thanks for your patience, and I promise that I'll go back to unqualified (in every sense of the word) punditry in short order, and that I will come up with some beautiful simile to describe the New Democrats' approach to PSE.]

[ANOTHER NOTE: Most of the following is None of Your Damned Business, which makes it somewhat odd that I'm posting it here. But I am because, as I believe I noted earlier, it's my fucking blog. But the fact that I'm posting it here does not mean that it is suddenly Any of Your Damned Business, it just means that I've decided to post stuff that's None of Your Damned Business.]

Without further ado. . .

[LAST NOTE, I PROMISE: After that last line, I realized that I didn't really know what "ado" meant, so I looked it up. It turns out that it means "bustle" or "fuss", which I found strangely disappointing.]

The entry. . .

You know how, every so often, an event occurs in your life that is of such significance, such monumental importance, that it causes you to take stock of your entire existence? Well, that didn't happen to me tonight. What did happen is that my sandal broke.

"So, Steve," I thought to myself, "here you are - twenty-two years old, still living with your parents, no major declared after four years of University, extremely single (except for Webboard, the true love of your life), and working part-time as a bag boy at Safeway after you failed the cashier test. More immediately, you're standing in the middle of Lion's Park with one sandaled foot and one bare foot. I don't think there are many, if any, definitions of "loser" that would not fit you at this moment."

The sandal's breaking upset me for a few reasons: first, and most immediately, I was in the process of walking to the excellent St. Thomas Street Café to meet my riding's Green candidate (more on this meeting in a later post - for now, suffice it to say that he immediately got on my good side by asking me how long I'd had my blog), and this was going to make that walk (not mention the one back) somewhat more difficult (in the end, I just walked on grass with one sandal and one barefoot where I could, and hopped on one foot over those concrete portions). It also upset me because those were damned good sandals. Most of all, though, I think it upset me because I'd had that very buckle on that very sandal repaired before, and had been warned at that time that if I didn't take better care of it, the buckle wasn't going to last. I blew a second chance.

(Cue the awkward segue. . .)

Indeed, the theme of my life (if a twenty-two year old life, especially one as relatively uneventful as mine, can justifiably be said to have a theme) would seem to be blown second chances. The academic career? Well, a while ago I had to convince my faculty not to kick me out of school just because I was not, technically speaking, maintaining a satisfactory academic standing. Once they let me back in, I took advantage of their generosity by dropping two of my five classes and barely passing the other three. Second chance not totally blown, but not really fully taken advantage of, either. The jobs? Well, there were plenty of summer jobs available in December, and I didn't apply for any. Second chance - plenty available in February, too. Ai-j'en profité? Nope. On the relationship front? Yeah, a few second chances squandered there. . . like, fifty.

It's alarming to me that I, who I think am pretty intelligent, can exhibit such a stunning inability to learn from past mistakes. Second chances are precious enough things - why do I persist in squandering them, especially when I already seem to have gotten more than my share (Stephen Leacock once remarked "I am a great believer in luck, and I find that the harder I work, the more of it I have," but his experience certainly doesn't match mine)?

The people who have accomplished things over the course of human history have done so by learning from past mistakes and taking advantage of their second chances. I haven't yet learned to emulate these people.

But tomorrow I'm getting that sandal fixed.

The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter

After hearing nothing since the writ dropped, two of my candidates returned my e-mails today. First, Conservative incumbent John Williams had a peon e-mail me to request my phone number - apparently, Mr. Williams is one of those irritating people who seems to believe that e-mail is nothing more than a state of the art phone message taking system. I provided my phone number, but reiterated that I would prefer an e-mailed response.

Somewhat more satisfactory was the response from Green candidate Conrad Bitangcol, who acknowledged receipt of my questions, thanked me for asking them, committed to answering them at some point in the next couple of days, and invited me to a weekly discussion group he runs Monday nights at seven. I'll probably go, since, as I've mentioned elsewhere in this space, my life is completely pointless.

Still no word from Liberal candidate Muhummad "Moe" Saeed, despite the fact that he was the first to receive my e-mail. My impression from his literature and media coverage is that he's completely out of his depth in this election, but I shall give him every opportunity to reverse that impression through firsthand contact.

Rounding out the candidate list in Edmonton-St. Albert is New Democrat Mike Melymick, for whom I have not yet been able to procure contact information of any kind. In this I am in good company, though, since the NDP National Office doesn't seem to have any contact information for him either.

In other news, now that I'm employed a haircut is imminent. My Consultant on Such Matters advises me that I should seek to emulate Owen Wilson's character in The Big Bounce. I will probably instead wind up telling the barber to do whatever he wants with it, and end up with something approximating a Caesar, only more bowl-inspired.

Conceivably to come later: a critique of the New Democrats' platform, now that I've managed to download it.


Sunday, May 30, 2004

"One of the first questions new employees often ask is 'How do I do my job?'"

The work is unskilled and monotonous, they can't give me full-time hours, and I haven't made this low an hourly wage during any year beginning with a 2, but I'm employed.

A decree:

Vanessa Thomas and I (who, between the two of us, have more authority over the English language than the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary) have decided that, henceforth, the word "jaded" shall be replaced by the word "poo."

That is all.

Steve "Matur-o-tron" Smith

Later: Eric Kierans - who?

My ninety-sixth entry

The Gauntlet has taken up the cause of saving the U of C Webboard (would The Gateway do the same here?). The editorial is noteworthy mostly because it makes a vague reference to me in the seventh paragraph.

Lightning in six.


Saturday, May 29, 2004

I have this theory that the rain amplifies your pre-existing mood.

Today, that's not a good thing.


Friday, May 28, 2004

Allez les bleus!

This federal election has been interfering with my efforts to recognize the ongoing good work of Alberta's Progressive Conservative backbenchers. Fortunately, that was brought back to the forefront of my mind by today's Saint City News, in which my own MLA, Mary O'Neill, writes a column summarizing the Spring sitting. The most interesting portion of the column is when she blames the Opposition's propensity for asking a large number of questions for preventing a number of private member's bills from making it to first reading - among them, her own bill to make ammolite Alberta's official gemstone.

Also, for you elections junkies, I've been advised by Chris Jones that POI is undergoing some scheduled downtime, and should be back up by Monday morning. In the meantime, just try heroin.

You can say that I've grown bitter, but of this you may be sure:
The rich have got their cameras in the bedrooms of the poor

I was going to use this space to criticized the New Democrats' platform, especially the part about a 10% tuition rollback, but they don't seem to have posted the whole thing online yet, so I'm instead going to impart to you an irrelevant anecdote about my tree-planting days.

The breakdown in camp was about 40% anglo, 40% franco, and 20% other. One of the francophones, we'll call him "Jean-Luc" on account of that being his name, and I spent a good portion of the summer helping each other with our respective second languages. When I thought he had progressed far enough, I decided to introduce him to the venerable joke in which you tell somebody that they have a dickfor on their forehead, and they respond with "What's a dick for?", and then you laugh at them (little known fact: this was a mainstay of Woody Allen's standup routine for years).

Anyway, to say that Jean-Luc "got" this joke would be an understatement. He not only got the joke, he worshipped it. He thought it was the funniest thing that he'd ever heard. The thing is, he wasn't exactly selective in who he told the joke to. The following is very very close to an actual transcript between Jean-Luc and Olivier, a fellow francophone planter (who threatened to kill me with my own shovel if I didn't stop coughing at night, but that's a different story):

Jean-Luc: Hé, Olivier, you 'ave a dickfor on your fore 'ead.
Olivier: Quoi? C'est quoi ça, un "dickfor"?
Jean-Luc: No, no, speak to me in English.
Olivier: Tabernac.

Ah, a barrell of laughs was treeplanting. Next time, if you're lucky, I'll tell you the story about how Jean-François the tree hauler decided to pull a truck out of the mud by tying one end of a rope to the truck's bumper and the other end to a tree, and then cutting the tree down.

In other news: those of you who haven't read Vanessa Thomas' quiz results should do so immediately, because they're great (greatness being measured purely by the number of times I'm mentioned). Apparently, I'm the craziest person Ms. Thomas knows. I'm also half of the cutest couple at University (the other half being, of course, Webboard).

Maybe he was thinking of Normandy

Spencer, being a brothel-creeping Liberal, was at a rally today featuring Paul Martin, where he heard an amusing quote. Needless to say, he immediately went racing home, pausing only to drink an entire glass of straight rye with members of the Ujjal Dosanjh (sp?) campaign team, to relay the quote to me. The quote? "I want to reach out to the hundreds of millions of Canadians..."

In other news, the Conservatives, rather than translate their English slogan ("Demand Better") into French, have wisely gone with "C'est assez" ("That's enough"). Having been a Progressive Conservative at the time of death, I continue to receive Conservative propaganda, e-mailed from "Demand Better / C'est assez". Except that my inbox cuts off the end, so I instead get e-mails from "Demand Better / C'est ass".

Tee hee.


Thursday, May 27, 2004

You can stick your little pins in that voodoo doll,
I've very sorry, Baby, it doesn't look like me at all

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation and I don't always see eye to eye (what with me being a raging pinko and it being full of fanatically fiscally-libertarian bozos), but it does some good work, most recently in pointing out the pointing out the obscene severance pay collected by Ken Nicol and Debby Carlson. The CTF is correct in noting that the MLA severance plan is three times more generous (relative to salary) than most private sector plans, and is correct to be outraged about this. But the article misses the most obvious question of all: why are employees who leave their positions voluntarily receiving any severance at all? This never happens in the private sector, or indeed in any other portion of the public sector (except when the employer wants the employee gone for some reason, such as corporate restructuring or sub-optimal, but not fireably so, performance).

As ludicrously, MLAs who are defeated in re-election bids are *also* entitled to severance. This, too, is dumb. Severance is normally used to terminate an indefinite employment contract (employment contracts of definite duration must generally be bought out in their entirety in the absence of an alternative agreement by the parties). Employees reaching the end of a fixed contract are not entitled to severance - that's why it's called a fixed contact, Stupid. Elected officials in a parliamentary system are a special case, since the "contract" is neither indefinite (they know that their terms of employment will have to be renewed by the electorate at least once every five years) nor fixed (they have no idea when it will have to be renewed). Since they're not fixed, it *may* be logically coherent to pay defeated MLAs severance equal to the amount of additional salary they would have received had their terms lasted the full five years, but certainly no more.

I don't generally oppose pay raises for parliamentarians - a majority of them could be making more money, especially if calculated on an hourly basis, in the private sector (of course, some of them - *cough* Don Getty - use their time in government to boost their private sector earnings potential, by getting themselves some influence to peddle). But a severance system that rewards MLAs who lose re-election bids or who voluntarily leave public life on the basis of years served is unconsciable.

The Almost Redemption of Heather Wallace

Regular readers of this space (get a life) will recall that, several posts back, I charged Heather Wallace with the sin of having loaned me Douglas Coupland's wretched "Girlfriend in a Coma". I am ashamed to admit that I actually requested to borrow it, and that she had in fact warned me of its weaknesses. At the same time, however, she thrust into my hands a copy of Dave Eggers' "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius". I was thinking that it was most aptly named, and would certainly find a spot in the "Favourite Books" section of my Blogger profile, until I hit page 130, and there it was:

"...the unthawing of frozen beef..."


Discount Steve's Guide to Responsible Voting

I just sent an e-mail to Mr. Saeed. It's an e-mail that I also intend to send to the other three candidates in my riding, once I find their e-mail addresses. You should send e-mails to the candidates in your riding, too. This e-mail should include questions about legislative issues about which you care. It should also contain questions asking about the candidate's general approach to the position of MP. It may include questions about his/her record, if you have any such questions. It should not include questions about Executive matters, such as the sponsorship scandal, unless the questions involve legislative issues (such as "what would it take, scandal-wise, for you to vote to bring down the government," or "what should the Public Accounts Committee be doing with regards to the sponsorship scandal?").

Once you've sent these e-mails, await responses. When you get a response, send another e-mail asking for clarification on any point(s) on which you're not clear. Maintain a conversation for the entire campaign, if need be. Come election day, vote for whichever candidate answered your questions in the fashion that was most satisfactory to you. Ignore party affiliation - it's only as relevant as the MP chooses to make it. Do not, under any circumstances, vote for a candidate who does not at least acknowledge receipt of your e-mail - as a general rule, you can take the amount of respect with which a candidate treats your opinion at election time and divide it by ten to determine with how much respect he/she will do so the rest of the time.

Over the next four or so years, monitor your representative's performance. Log inconsistencies between her/his actions and the fashion in which he/she answered your e-mail. Ask her/him about these. If you don't receive a satisfactory answer, expose these contradictions in letters to the editor.

Democracy in Canada is broken only because most voters make poor use of it. Don't be guilty of this.

Here's the e-mail I'm sending candidates:

Dear Mr. Algorithm,

My name is Steve Smith, and I am an undecided voter in the riding of Edmonton-St. Albert. In order to help me make my decision, I would appreciate it if you would answer the following questions at some point before election day. I appreciate that election campaigns are gruelling and busy times, so I understand that long, in depth answers probably aren't possible, but I'd appreciate whatever you can provide.

1. What is the role of a Member of Parliament, in your view?

2. What value do you ascribe to sitting as a member of a caucus? To what extent are you prepared to compromise your personal beliefs or your perception of your constituents' beliefs to maintain the unity of your party's caucus? Under what circumstances would you leave your party's caucus to either sit as an independent or join a different caucus?

3. What action, if any, should Parliament take on recognizing same-sex marriages?

4. What action, if any, should Parliament take on marijuana?

5. What action, if any, should Parliament take on meeting Canada's Kyoto commitments?

6. What action, if any, should Parliament take on structural reform to government, such as Senate reform or electoral reform?

7. If you are elected and are sitting as a backbencher, is there any legislation that you would try to introduce in the form of a private member's bill?

8. Assuming that the present Liberal government remains in office after the election, under what circumstances, if any, would you [Liberal candidate: oppose/Other candidates: support] it on a confidence motion such as a budget?

If there is anything you'd like to add about why I should vote for you, I would appreciate reading it.


Steve Smith

I may change "Algorithm" into the candidate's last name, as appropriate. I haven't decided yet.

You're so vain,
I'll bet you think this entry's about you,
Don't you?

Late night dispatches from Steve's life. . .

1. For those of you who stopped reading Points of Information after I stopped posting on it (come on, there must have been some of you), you may now return. Having finally figured out my username and password, I am able to assure that that House's electronic halls once again ring with my rhetoric. Or something.

2. Those of you who haven't been following the exploits of Four Bad Men are really missing out. With drama, comedy, and allusions to the smell of cold semen, it truly has it all.

3. Mad props to Heather Wallace and Josh Bazin for responding to my sister's inaugural Webboard post.

4. Speaking of my sister ("speaking of my sister" being one thing that you assholes in the comments section should immediately stop doing), she, wanting as she does to be like me in every respect, is looking to start a blog. I trust that when she does, she will take my suggestion and locate it at http://uglylesbiannunwithaboyfriend.blogspot.com.

5. For those of you who have been alarmed at the relatively small volume of news coming out of this space on my quest for a better browser: Mozilla is faster than Advanced Browser, but more inclined to fuck up pages' display.

6. In the never ending debate over whether my sequence a few posts down actually provided an example of exponential growth, Chris Jones and I experienced a clash of the titans a few minutes ago. Jonesie's contention is that, since I did not open the sequence with ellipses, the implication is that 1000 was the first term, and that this constitutes the multiplication of the exponential function with a constant, invalidating any claim it might have to exponential growth. My own contention - supported by M. Mustafa Hirji, after I convinced him to support it - is that where a given series starts cannot possibly be relevant to its behaviour in a given interval.

7. If any of you are planning parties, you really should make a point of inviting both Jones and me.

8. My cat is about to crawl between the Venetian blinds and the window. This means that ultimately she will exit that space, by crawling between two slats in a fashion reminiscent of the birth scene from Alien. Not that I've seen Alien.

9. My house has received its first piece of propaganda of the campaign, from Liberal candidate Muhammad "Moe" Saeed. He gets full marks for the following passage: "Under the leadership of Paul Martin as Finance Minister, Canada became debt-free for the first time in 30 years. Since then, we have enjoyed 7 consecutive surpluses. . . enabling us to pay down the national debt to an [sic] historic $52.3 billion."

10. Yesterday was the tenth consecutive one hundred hit or more day on this blog, despite it being very poorly written and full of factual inaccuracies. To celebrate, I suggest that somebody plan some sort of readership appreciation party. Make sure to invite Jones and me.


Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Wait a minute! Ignore Item #4 of my last post!

It has come to my attention (via some clever logic from yours truly) that data series c *was* exponentially rising. I should never again let the naysayers dissuade me from dissuading me from Truth.

In other news: why is my sister listening to "Seasons in the Sun"?

Your low standards of accuracy make me wretch

So, my entire facade of being well-informed on the issues on which I write has come crashing down in that last post. The fact that you read this blog, dear reader, is proof that your standards of factual accuracy are offensively low. Shape up, Dear Readership.

A partial list of the mistakes made in that last post:

1. The U of C S.U. Executive Cabinet is *not*, in its entirety, against Webboard. The five Executive officers (President and 4 VPs) are, but Exec Cabinet also includes two Commissioners appointed to one month terms by SLC. One of the two currently-appointed ones, Jen, is most emphatically pro-Webboard.

2. It was erroneous of me to pluralize the term "U of C hack". By U of A standards, at least, I am given to believe that Jen is the only *real* hack at the U of C. Actually, I knew this all along; "it might be best to let U of C hacks work this out on their own, to avoid any appearance of highjackery by external forces" just sounded better than "we should screw off and give Jen a chance to fight with Exec for the hearts and minds of the sheep that make up SLC."

3. John Crosbie's conversion was not truly eleventh hour, occurring somewhere around the seven hour and firty-three minute mark.

4. My data series was not exponentially rising, since the exponentially rising portion was multiplied with a constant. However, the function *was* exponential, and it was the only exponential function in the list. On that, at least, I was correct.

It's a lucky thing that I'm difficult to humble.

Baby, you're ranked above NotA
On the preferential ballot of my heart

Some Top Ten lists for the attention span deficient:

Top Ten Calgary-Related News Items About Which I am Angry

2. Flames Win

Beyond the fact that they're the Flames and therefore evil, consider the enviable position in which the NHLPA will find itself heading into the collective bargaining process:

Bettman: We need a salary cap to protect small market teams.
Goodenow: Small-market teams like the Stanley Cup champion Calgary Flames?

Bettman: We need to amend the unrestricted free agency requirements to allow small market teams to keep their veteran stars.
Goodenow: Small-market teams like the Stanley Cup champion Calgary Flames?

Every Oilers fan should be cheering against the Flames just because they're the Flames. The above, though, also explains why every Flames fan should cheer against the Flames.

1. University of Calgary Students' Union Executive Cabinet attempts to shut down the U of C Webboard

A motion will apparently be brought forward to the U of C S.U.'s Students' Legislative Council - with unanimous support from the Executive Cabinet - next Tuesday to eliminate the U of C Webboard, because free speech apparently makes the organization look bad.

President and partisan Liberal Brian West, in supporting the motion, is further proving that the word "Liberal" does not necessarily bear any synonymity (NOTE TO SELF: Before publishing, check to see if "synonymity" is a word and, if it isn't, write strongly worded letter to the editors of OED) to the word "liberal".

Finally, as tempting as it may be for all of us freedom-loving U of A hacks to flood the U of C Webboard with spluttering and barely coherent attacks on the Executive's courage, the leader of the forces of good down there has suggested (quite correctly) that it might be best to let U of C hacks work this out on their own, to avoid any appearance of highjackery by external forces.

Top Ten Newfoundland-Related News Items Towards Which I am Feeling Ambivalent

1. John Crosbie to run for Member of Parliament as a Conservative

First of all, let me say that I love John Crosbie like the angry cod-faced great uncle I never had. We need more wit in the House of Commons, and I can think of few better-poised to provide it than Reformer John. On the other hand, this probably spells one more Conservative seat, residual anger over the closure of the cod fishery notwithstanding, and Conservative seats don't me happy. Moreover, while Crosbie has genuine cred as a defender of democracy (witness his work against Joey Smallwood), he's also every bit the hypocrite and opportunist that the worst of the Mulroney ministers was. Contrast, for example, his recent, vehement, and wholly justified criticism of the Liberal government's rampant patronage with his remarks in his memoir, "No Holds Barred" (which, by the way, should be required reading for every human being):

"I believe in political patronage. Leaders shouldn't be ashamed or embarassed about looking after their supporters. Patronage is a good thing. It's essential to the democratic process. It makes the party system work. We should have more patronage, not less."

Ah, maybe it's just the old Progressive Conservative in me bitter at his eleventh hour conversion to the pro-merger side.

Top Ten Misconceptions That Are Pissing me Off

2. Budgets must be balanced, always; any government to fail to run a balanced budget every year is full of delinquent pinkos

Listen: economists believe in this crazy little thing called the economic cycle. The economic cycle generally spans several fiscal years. I've never heard an economist say that budgets should be balanced every year - that's a line reserved for the politicians. What economists say is that budgets should be balanced over the economic cycle as a whole.

Now, I'm not saying that the federal government should not, at this point, be running a balanced budget - probably it should. The fashion in which balanced budgets have been made the sacred cow of Canadian politics has just been sticking in my craw.

1. "Exponential" is synonymous with "rapid."

Okay, here's a question for all of you journalists in the readership - which of the following data series is growing exponentially?

a. 1, 4, 9, 16. . .
b. 100, 200, 300, 400. . .
c. 1000, 1100, 1210, 1331. . .
d. 1, 16, 81, 225. . .

Seriously. E-mail me your answer and justification at steve.smith@ualberta.ca. Correct answers will be duly noted. Incorrect ones will be publicly ridiculed. Absent ones will be presumed to be incorrect.

Next time I see the word "exponential" or "exponentially" used in what I suspect of being an incorrect fashion, I shall pursue the guilty party relentlessly until she/he prints a retraction or shows me that, contrary to my suspicions, the growth in question was truly exponential.



Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Why Young People don't vote

Most Young People who don't vote don't do so because they don't believe their votes matter, or because they perceive themselves as being too busy to pay attention, or because they're just plain ignorant and apathetic. However, those are the same reasons that most non-Young People who don't vote don't, so they do little to cast light on low voter turnout among Young People. This entry shall focus not on what I perceive to be the factors suppressing the absolute rate of votership among Young People, but rather on those suppressing the rate of votership among Young People relative to the rate of votership among non-Young People.

1. Few changes in government.

Most people my age (22) cannot recall any Prime Minister before Jean Chrétien. As far as we're concerned, the Liberals might as well have been in power since Confederation (as far as most of them are concerned too, actually). In Alberta, even I, more politically conscious at an earlier age than most of my peers, can barely recall Don Getty, and the Conservatives had been in power for a decade before my birth. The concept of a change in government is as foreign to us as to a young Zimbabwean. This must be a factor, but it can't be everything - after all, there have been longer periods of one party dominance in Canadian history (1897-1911, 1935-1957, 1963-1979), and there are plenty of provinces that have undergone changes in government over the last couple of years. Moreover, Zimbabwe's voter turnout is pretty high. No, there must be other factors.

2. The Age of Polling

Polling is more sophisticated than ever before. This means that the results of elections are known - within a single digit number of seats per party - before the polls open. In our minds, the process has become inverted: rather than the results being determined by how people vote on election day, people vote on election day to fulfill the prophecy of the poll. Is it any wonder that voting has less meaning to those of use too young to remember the uncertainty of the 1988 election?

3. A Declining Sense of Duty

Our grandparents' generation - the educated portions of it, anyway - voted as a matter of duty. They conveyed these values to our parents' generation. However, part of our parents' generation rebelled, resulting in some of the authority figures in our generation - parents, teachers, creepy guys outside of bus stations - not conveying to us the importance of voting. This effect would, logically, be amplified through the ages.

4. Young Politicians

Now, I don't know what your sentiments are on Young People who belong to political parties, Dear Readership, but to my recollection they were all doctrinary gazelle scrotums (scrota? Man, if this were a truly credible blog, I'd look that up). When electoral politics throughout our young lives are personified for us as nasal-voiced boys in ironed slacks with an evangelist's passion (for whatever set of beliefs they've purchased for ten dollars a year) and a propensity for wank-suckery, is it any wonder voting isn't "cool" or "hip"?

Let's be clear - despite the comments in the Journal by my Close Personal Acquaintance Melanee Thomas, it's not accurate to say that "Young people want to be engaged, but it has to be something where they can see the results of their actions." Young People don't refrain from voting because they're too busy effecting Real Change - that may be true of a select few deluded activists, who mistakenly believe that voting and direction action are mutually exclusive, but Ms. Thomas's comments provide no explanation for any statistically significant voting behaviour.

If this were a truly credible blog, I'd probably have some sort of witty closing to this entry.


Monday, May 24, 2004


...I'm aware that my entire blog seems to have become bolded, and yes, I'm aware that it's annoying. I'm looking into it.

UPDATE: Voilà, fixed, like a goose shitting in the night. I truly am the cat's ass.

Good sweet Christ, why won't I just shut up about my damned tracking statistics, already?

Earth-shattering news: my hit tracker, which has become the centre of my existence since all of my loved ones were killed in that freak Gravitron accident, is apparently defective. Spencer (who, in unrelated but extremely cool news, is planning on running as an independent in Gordon Campbell's riding in the next provincial election) tells me that he has, on a number of occasions, reached my site through such searches as "roman kotovych penis bean" and "disastrous penis bean", and none of this shows up in my tracker. Given that his reaching of my site through a search for "Brad Pitt having sex with Orlando Bloom while Paul Wells watches" *was* logged, he speculates that "maybe Extreme Tracker is anti-penis bean."

Maybe, Spencer, maybe. One thing is certain: I won't rest until I get to the bottom of this, or at least get tired.

A metre long stream of electoral drool

Things I should have pointed out this morning, but didn't:

1. After reading the Journal's promise of a focus on young voters and non-voters, which includes the statement that "every Wednesday we'll publish content aimed at youth, including cool information about how fans of some of the biggest musical acts feel about important issues," I've decided that low political participation is all the media's fault.

2. The New Democrats have repeatedly said that they will demand action on proportional representation as a condition of their propping up a Liberal minority. If we take this statement at face value and understand it to mean that the New Democrats will vote against a Liberal confidence motion - even a budget reflective of New Democratic values (which rather calls into question the NDs' devotion to ideals over politicking, but this should come as no surprise) - then we may expect a Bloc Québecois that will be very cooperative with the Liberals. The only party that stands to lose more from the advent of PR than the Liberals is the Bloc, and the Liberals could convincingly argue that the Bloc's support of the government is necessary to stave off the threat to both parties. The fact that most of Team Martin in Québec is composed of Québec nationalists, including many former members of the Bloc and a couple of former Bloc MPs.

3. Martin seems intent on duplicating the strategy that Chrétien successfully used against Stockwell Day in 2000. This is risky, because in order for it to work on Stephen Harper, Canadians must be convinced that Harper has a chance at victory. Harper, unlike Day, is a thoughtful and articulate man, with an understanding of relevant policy. It was easy to convince Canadians that they did not want to support Day under any circumstances; most Canadians are less likely to feel the same way about Harper, though they won't want him as Prime Minister. Speaking of Day, though, Paul Wells made an interesting point a couple of weeks ago (of course, none of you need me to tell you that, since you all read him daily, right?): Stockwell Day has been the external affairs critic in every Alliance/Conservative shadow cabinet since Stephen Harper won the leadership. Why aren't the Liberals making hay of this, asking Canadians if they want Day as their Minister of External Affairs? In addition to the fact that Canadians' answer is likely to be "no", it places Harper in the uncomfortable position of having to defend a man for whom he clearly feels nothing but contempt.

4. In Alberta, at least, the Liberals will benefit to an end to Liberal-P.C. vote splitting. Count on it.

Welcome to the Jungle

Well, if the number of signs up in St. Albert urging me to vote for Moe Saeed of "Team Martin" are any indication, Paul Martin today asked Adrienne Clarkson to dissolve Parliament, and the Governor General complied. I imagine that many of you, especially those of you with smaller brains, have been on tenterhooks (whatever the hell those are) awaiting my penetrating insight into this.

Well, I'm not going to tell you for whom you should vote (LENGTHY PARANTHETICAL DEVICE - actually, I will: vote for whichever candidate you think will do the best job of representing your viewpoint as an MP - you have no real power to hold party leaders to account, so don't vote on the basis of which of them you like best. The MP is your representative, and she/he is the one who decides how to vote, so it's on the basis of who would make the best MP that you should decide how to vote. Granted, if you're really naive, you might pull a Mustafa and vote for the Conservative candidate after he/she lies to you about her/his willingness to defy party discipline, but in a representative democracy voting for your preferred representative remains the only tenable fashion in which to proceed), but I am prepared to provide something far less useful: random punditry and observations on the parties' positions going into the campaign.

We shall use, as our source material, the Canwest Global News poll released May 20 (probably available at the University Bookstore for $155). This poll, you will recall from class, places the Liberals at 39% national support, the Conservatives at 31%, the New Democrats at 17%, the Bloc at 11%, and Other (which we can probably assume is mostly the Green Party, though the poll didn't separate Greens out) at 2%. If these are the numbers that come in on the 28, we can expect a Liberal minority (barring some very strange regional voting patterns).

For reference purposes, before we really get into this analysis, here are the poll's regional breakdowns:

British Columbia

Conservatives: 40%
Liberals: 32%
New Democrats: 26%
Other: 3%


Conservatives: 57%
Liberals: 27%
New Democrats: 14%
Other: 2%


Liberals: 35%
New Democrats: 32%
Conservatives: 27%
Other: 7%


Liberals: 42%
Conservatives: 39%
New Democrats: 18%
Other: 2%


Bloc Québecois: 43%
Liberals: 40%
New Democrats: 9%
Conservatives: 7%
Other: 1%

Atlantic Canada

Liberals: 50%
Conservatives: 26%
New Democrats: 20%
Other: 4%

And now, finally, my observations:

1. The poll indicates that the Liberals would fare best in an election in which the main issue was keeping Québec in confederation, drawing 48% of the vote nationally. Unfortunately for the Liberals, the Québec question will be a total non-issue this election, even (especially?) in Québec.

2. The Conservatives will fare best in an election in which scandal and waste are the main issues, drawing 37% of the vote nationally (as opposed to 30% for the Liberals). This is, obviously, why the Conservatives are trying to focus on ad-gate.

3. The New Democrats will fare best in an election in which Health Care and Education are the main issues, in which they'd win 24% of the vote. Accordingly, they are trying to focus on these things.

4. 32% of decided voters said they'd vote Liberal if "getting a change after three Liberal governments in a row" was the election's sole issue. Uh. . . what?

5. Have you noticed that the Conservatives aren't talking much about gay marriage anymore? Here's why: in an election in which gay marriage was the sole issue, 38% would vote Liberal, 31% would vote Conservative, and 21% would vote New Democrat. However, in Alberta 60% would vote Conservative. These statistics mean that while gay marriage is a vote getter for the Conservatives in Alberta, it's a vote loser in the rest of the country combined. The Conservatives aren't about to bring an issue to the forefront that could help them win all of two additional seats while jeopardizing gains in the rest of the country.

6. More bad news for the Conservatives: on the issue of protecting Canadians against terrorism, a favourite theme of the Bush-friendly Blues, the Liberals are beating them 44% to 31%. The Conservatives need to downplay terrorism issues, which runs opposite to their current practise.

7. Traditionally, governing parties are vulnerable during economic downturns, and what the country is going through now is closer to qualifying than anything else during the last decade. Unfortunately for the Conservatives, the Liberals are beating them on this one too by 43% to 31%. If the economy becomes the issue, just like if national security becomes the issue, the Liberals *gain* votes, while the Conservatives remain stagnant.

8. The Conservatives should be fighting this election by focussing on how a decade of Liberal government has resulted in complacency, scandal, and waste - these are the only issues on which they outpoll the Liberals. In other words, the Conservatives need to shy away from all policy issues - conservatism continues to be unfavoured by Canadians.

9. The Liberals, paradoxically, need to convince Canadians that the Conservatives have a chance of winning. Only 29% of Canadians want to see Stephen Harper as Prime Minister, and, as mentioned above, Canadians by and large dislike the Conservatives' approach to policy issues. If Canadians think the Conservatives could actually win, they are likely to flock to the Liberals. If Canadians consider a Liberal victory assured, they are more likely to vote Conservative in order to punish those aspects of the Liberals they dislike, or to bring in a minority government.

10. The New Democrats are the party that has the most to gain from focussing on policy issues. On the gay marriage front, for example, the poll shows that Canadians are likely to abandon the Liberals (whose support shrinks from 39% to 38%) in favour of the New Democrats (whose support increases from 17% to 21%, largely as a result of anti-Liberals outside of Alberta who see no reason that gays shouldn't be allowed to marry). Results are similar on social programs. The New Democrats also have much to gain by jumping on the Conservative bandwagon in attacking the Liberals apparent tiredness.

11. The New Democrats must convince Canadians that a Liberal victory is guaranteed. As soon as left-leaning Canadians think that Stephen Harper might become Prime Minister, a large number of them will foresake the NDs for the Liberals, in order to prevent this from happenning.

12. The re-elections of Anne McLellan and David Kilgour seem almost assured, as almost as many Edmontonians favour the Liberals (40%) as the Conservatives (42%). A victory for Debbie Carlson in Edmonton-Strathcona would also be possible were it not for the local strength of New Democratic candidate Malcolm Azania.

13. Historically, no government has managed to take office without carrying at least one of Ontario or Québec. The Conservatives remain a non-entity in Québec - actually polling *lower* there than the Progressive Conservatives did last election, I might add - and are behind the Liberals in Ontario. There is thus no way that they will form a government.

14. No Liberal government has ever managed a majority without winning at least significant minority of Québec seats (before the Bloc, no Liberal government ever managed a majority without winning a massive majority of Québec seats). The Liberals' gains in Atlantic Canada (at the expense of both the Conservatives and the New Democrats) are unlikely to be enough to offset their losses in Ontario (to both the Conservatives and the New Democrats). Therefore, the Liberals will need to do well in Québec to retain their majority.

15. My preliminary seat predictions, to be revised during the campaign:

Liberal: 152
Conservative: 77
Bloc Québecois: 52
New Democrat: 26
Green: 1

This will allow the Liberals to remain in power by alternately veering to the left and gaining New Democrat/Bloc/Green support and by pandering to Québec nationalists (which Martin has already shown a distressing willingness to do).


Saturday, May 22, 2004

This, I believe, is what they call "rock bottom".

Safeway's computer has just decided that I'm not qualified to work for them as a cashier.

Because what's a blog if not a series of extremely brief posts citing tracking statistics?

Several people seem to have a fetish for "Calgary Flames fans topless," and said fetish seems to be leading them here. Ross, Jake, Nick, Duncan. . . I may have a modelling opportunity for you.


Friday, May 21, 2004

Because threatening children with seventeen inch knives is funny

Somebody arrived here via a search for "Diane Kruger nude scenes in Tory". I really should make it out to that side of campus more.

Mwa ha ha...

Larry Johnsrude of the Journal just called. They're putting together a panel of Young People for the federal election campaign, and on the recommendation of Crazy Mike Hudema (side note: does anybody else find it revealing that he *still* gets more media attention on University issues than either of his successors?) they've added me to it. The purpose of the panel is to figure out why Young People don't vote.

As regular readers of this space already know, and as all of Edmonton is about to find out, Young People don't vote because there's too much emphasis on political parties and because not enough of them read Paul Wells.

Seriously, if any among my readership are Young People who don't vote, please drop me a line telling me why, that I might have some idea what the hell I'm talking about with the Journal.

Crise du Jour

For those of you vultures eager for details about my personal life: I've lost my bathrobe. Really. I have no idea how this works. If you've seen it, please let me know. Thanks.


P.S. It's, uh, green.


Thursday, May 20, 2004

Lyle Oberg: "I'm sorry, I make no apologies."

So a number of you - that number being six - have asked me to clarify my comments regarding my personal life. It's nice to know that you care. I care about you, too, which is why it concerns me that so many of you seem to be suffering from illiteracy and are unable to decipher the meaning of "none of your damned business". Perhaps one of the more technically gifted among you would care to explain to me how I can post an audio file demonstrating the correct pronunciation of the phrase, that all confusion might be eliminated.

On the subject of my personal, life, though:
1. Imagine the worst thing that could possibly happen.
2. Imagine something, oh, about twelve orders of magnitude less than that.
3. Stop imagining anything at all since, as I vaguely recall having mentioned, it's none of your damned business.
4. Have a nice day.

Tomorrow: Eric Kierans.


Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Apocalypse? Now?

So, rather than sleeping last night, I indulged myself by reading Douglas Coupland's "Girlfriend in a Coma", borrowed from Heather on Jen's recommendation. For those who haven't read it (and let me offer you a heartfelt "don't bother" on the question of whether or not you should), I need to point out that it deals, in part, with a quasi-Biblical version of End Times. Between that book and my lack of sleep, this morning Armageddon would not have surprised me (an acquaintance's assurances that she could leave her body at will and would prove it to me by visiting me in incorporeal form within a week was possibly also a factor).

And, lo and/or behold, Armageddon *did* unfold on a number of levels today:

In the world of sports, the Calgary Flames are in the Stanley Cup Finals. What the hell?

In the world of politics, the provincial Tories are suddenly looking like the federal Tories, circa 1980. What the hell?

In my personal life. . . well, none of your damned business. But my personal life has not been immune from this End Times trend.

Anyway, once it became readily apparent that I was not competent to deal with my personal life, I tottered off to work on my epic committee reform deocument.

What about the reserve cord?

Regular readers of this space, bless your twisted little hearts, are no doubt aware of the severe journalistic hard-on I have for Paul Wells (yes, I just used the term "hard-on" on my blog - I shudder to think of how that's going to affect my referrer reports), but he's completely out to lunch on the parachute candidate issue. So, for that matter, is Marc Dumouchel, another of the net's more lucid commentators on Canadian politics. But most out to lunch of all is The Brampton Guardian, which, in a fine piece of apostrophe, asks "At what point, Mr. Martin, will the voters in Brampton--Springdale be allowed to actually decide for themselves who would be the best person to represent them in the House of Commons?"

Uh, June 28, probably.

Let's be very clear on this: ordinary non-partisan citizens should not particularily give a shit how parties decide to select their candidates. If you're a member of the Liberal Party in Brampton-Springdale, *then* you're welcome to be pissed off about this, because you were disenfranchised (though you'd do well to remember that the Liberal Party grassroots could eliminate parachuting if they so chose). But an ordinary voter has no cause for complaint. Why? Because nothing happened that affected her/his choices in the upcoming election.

Sure, Paul Martin decided which candidate would have the abbreviation "Lib" after her name. But he didn't decide that either of the two "good local candidates" to whom the Guardian alludes *wouldn't* be allowed to run. Hell, if either got elected, he/she could probably sit as a member of the Liberal caucus, too, and show the same slavish devotion to Team Martin as would have been expected of her/him if he/she had been elected as the official Liberal candidate. Both have decided not to seek election, and to instead support the Martin choice. That is unfortunate, but any anger over that should be directed at the two non-candidates in question, not towards Paul Martin. Realistically, they probably decided not to run because they knew that no independent candidate would have a chance - an assessment in which they were undoubtedly correct, but blame for that certainly doesn't fall to Martin, being better directed towards Bramptonians themselves.

Yes, democracy in Canada is broken, but it's the *voters* - you and I, though I'd like it noted that I voted P.C. last time, making this pretty much all your fault - who haven't been taking good care of it, and who have been allowing parties to abuse it. And here's a prediction: most of the local Liberals upset about Martin parachuting Dr. Dhalla in will wind up voting for her anyway.

This is what democracy looks like. This is your government. You deserve it.

This is the story of how we begin to remember...

1. Both of the last two days have yielded hit counts of above a hundred, so I will stop punishing you through my silence. Also, I am both a blog addict and a publicity whore, so I really couldn't have stopped even if I wanted to.

2. Because I am such a publicity whore, I am more pleased than puzzled at the fact that somebody, apprently at random, decided to link to this blog in tracking back to a post made on Crescat Sententia.

3. Speaking of my readership doing strange things, I strongly suspect Chris Henderson, of Four Bad Men, of being the one to run a Google search for ' "Steve Smith" "separation of powers" nude '. Chris, on behalf of humanity at large, I'd like to remind you that you are one truly sick bastard.

4. Apparently not everybody shares my opinion on the worthiness of Diane Kruger's face to launch a thousand ships. Well, actually, that's not quite fair - nobody has found this site while running a search for her face, if you know what I mean. Fortunately, the world of pornhounds is apparently an egalitarian one, with somebody using a Yahoo! search for "Survivor Colby penis" as their route to this space.

5. I have run out of shampoo. This leaves me the choice of either
i. buying more shampoo, or
ii. shaving my head.
Option ii sounds cheaper and more convenient. We'll see how I feel about it tomorrow.

6. After this evening's Council meeting, I am now 19-0 in my career for getting appointed to committees by Council: CCRAP (2/2), EAB (2/2), IRB (2/2), GSJS BoD (2/2), AFB (2/2), Audit Comm (2/2), Student Groups (1/1), FARCE (1/1), SCAAB (1/1), Tribune Selection Committee (1/1), DIE Board Selection Committee (1/1), Budget Committee (1/1), and FACRA BoD (1/1). For the benefit of those of you who haven't been paying attention: I'm awesome.

7. I can't remember who it was who said, about the aspirations of his fellow Québecois, that "our desires are simple: we want an independent Québec within a strong Canada", but I'm beginning to understand what he meant.

8. Rant about parachute candidates (not the one you think, either) to follow.


Monday, May 17, 2004

Pearls before swine

You assholes haven't been checking my blog enough lately - after six straight 100+ hit days, neither of the last two even broke ninety. Pick it up, or I'll send you to bed without your Eric Kierans tribute.

UPDATE: The above was not intended to apply to whoever found my blog by running a Yahoo! search for "Pert Boneham". You are always welcome here.


Sunday, May 16, 2004

I don't trust that horse...

As I walk down the street, random strangers often stop and ask me "Steve, I'm considering seeing Troy, but I can't tell if it's an Oscar-calibre epic or a Waterworld-esque failed epic. What should I do?" Well, I'm pleased to report that, having seen the movie, it was neither a waste of thirteen bucks nor of three hours.

Some of this may have to do with the fact that I saw it while seated to the left of legendary film commentator Roman Kotovych, who inserted his own commentary at appropriate intervals (this entry's title is what he had to say as the Trojans were dragging the Trojan Horse into Troy).

Sitting to my left, meanwhile, was Kyle Kawanami, the Students' Union's acknowledged (by this space, anyway) expert on antiquity. Kyle, in fact, has brought with him a copy of Homer's The Iliad, presumably to dissect the movie's every flaw. That Kyle wound up liking it (and frequently elbowing me to shut Roman up) was about the evening's only disappointment.

The plot was a strong point, which tends to be the case in movies adapted from works by the Western world's greatest author. The challenge for director Wolfgang Peterson was to tell the story that Homer provided in an engaging and entertaining fashion. At this, Peterson succeeds, and it's for Best Director that the film deserves an Oscar. The fights were well-choreographed and believable, the scenes flowed smoothly, and the confrontations were epic when they should be.

Additionally, this is a big budget picture that knows what to do with a big budget. From the fleet of a thousand ships launched by Helen's beauty (though, from seeing Diane Kruger's depiction of her, you sort of wonder what all the fuss was about - maybe the thousand ships were just itching to launch anyway, and were ready to use pretty well any excuse), to the numerous scenes in which army faces off against army, to the walled city of Troy itself this is a visually spectacular film, bringing ancient Agean coastal areas as effectively as Peter Jackson brought to life Middle Earth.

Not that there wasn't money wasted, mind you, especially on Brad Pitt's salary. There's one scene in the movie in which the Greeks are storming Troy while their best man, Pitt's Achilles, stands aloof and unparticipating. "Hey," commented Roman, "it's Mustafa!" (Note to non-hacks: "Hey, it's Mustafa!" is a remark that can usually qualify as being devastatingly witty in at least one part of each movie.) Those of you who know Mustafa will know that displaying a wide range of emotions isn't his forte, and the same was true of Pitt. Oh, he had variety, alright - his repertoire included Sultry, Sultry and Amused, Sultry and Tormented, Sultry and Constipated, and what appeared to be his favourite, Sultry and Topless (I need to watch Fight Club again - I was sure that he was actually able to act in that one). Screenwriter David Benioff was also an unfortunate hire, as most of the dialogue is stilted and cliche-ridden (we got the point after the first half dozen speeches about how immortality is only achieved through great deeds, thanks).

Most of the other acting was fine, with the only standout being Peter O'Toole as Priam, King of Troy. Eric Bana as Hector and Brian Cox as Agamemnon were particularily adequate. Orlando Bloom's Paris was a weenie, but Kyle assures me that that's how he should be played. Besides, argues Roman, he was prettier than Helen. Sean Bean as Odysseus is probably also deserving of a mention, as he does a rather good job of providing what little comic relief exists in the film.

Troy will probably be nominated for a best picture Oscar, which it doesn't deserve. While it's an example of cinematic story-telling at its finest, it's not much more than that. It asks no questions of its viewers, nor does it answer any. The movie seems content, à la Tennyson's Light Brigade, to accept that it makes perfect sense for some of the world's greatest men to hack each other to pieces over little to nothing, without bothering to ask why (though this may be a good thing - reworking Troy into a modern anti-war movie would probably yield disasterous results).

If the movie is amoral, most of the characters are immoral, and Peterson resists the temptation to make one side the good guys. On balance, the Trojans generally come across as less vile than the Greeks, though one gets the sense that this is mostly because there are no Greek women close at hand to rape or Greek temples close at hand to plunder.

No review written by somebody who had sat next to Roman would be complete without relaying the following anecdote: ta female Trojan acolyte of Apollo, taken prisoner by the Greeks, puts a knife to Achilles' throat as he sleeps. Achilles dares to go through with it, and proceeds to seduce her. Roman: "All I learned from that scene is that if you put a knife to somebody's throat, you're going to wind up having sex with them."

All in all, very un-Van Helsing-esque. Besides, Kyle liked it.


Saturday, May 15, 2004

Five Degrees Of Separation

This is the shortest I've ever gone between posts, but it has just come to my attention that I am separated from Paul Wells by only five (reciprocal blog link) degrees of separation. Behold:

Wells links reciprocally to Kevin Michael Grace, who links reciprocally to Colby Cosh, who links reciprocally to Sarah Kelly, who links reciprocally to Alex Taylor, who links reciprocally to me. If I could just get Sarah to reciprocate my own link to her, I could have the degrees of separation down to four. Of course, if I could just get Wells to reciprocate, I'd be down to only one.

I'll give you a clue: it's an intrusive and unnecessary federal registry that's a complete waste of money.

It's not that I'm setting out to write about nothing but politics, it's just that the politics keep happenning...I promise to keep it brief, this time.

The big news, of course, is that the Conservative Party's preliminary campaign document has been leaked to the press. In amongst all of the promises for tax cuts and condemnations of the government's referral of the marriage question to the Supreme Court, one item stands out - a promise to create a voter registry of the sort that exists in the United States, in which each voter would be tied to a political party.

Speaking of the marriage question, the Conservatives have staked out the "Pro-Traditional Family" territory, while the Liberals are "Pro-Equal Rights." Frankly, I think politics would be a lot more fun if the parties would agree to define themselves by exclusion, such that the Conservatives self-identified as "Anti-Equal Rights" while the Liberals could be "Anti-Traditional Family." And yes, I feel the same way about the abortion question (for any of you who are wondering, I'm Anti-Life on that one).

I note with some satisfaction that on the front page of today's Edmonton Journal, in what I can only assume is in response to my May 12 entry, is an exposé on the Klein government's use of the Public Affairs Bureau for political purposes (later in Section A, there's also a story on how it has effectively replaced the Legislature with the Tory Caucus, by replacing Legislature standing committees with Standing Policy Committees of the Tory caucus, another injustice on which I was harping long before the Journal started paying attention). Remember, folks, you read it here first. Unless you're one of those lazy bags of puss who didn't read my May 12 entry on account of it being long or containing big words. That's right, Knisely, Sam, I'm looking in your direction. Man, it's a good thing that you both live South of me, so I can look the direction of both of you simultaneously.

Dutiful grandson that I am, I drove my grandmother to the airport this morning. Circumstances were. . . different last time I was there. Ah, well, memories no doubt better left euthanized.

From the Steve Links to People Who Say Nice Things About Him Department, Vanessa Thomas has identified me as the fourth most amusing category of people to hang out with on campus, after 'Geers, Comp Sci students, and rugby players. No word on where pirates fit in. Duncan Taylor, meanwhile, offers the following thoughts in comparing me to Survivor contestant Alicia Calaway:

"Best fight [in Survivor history - S.]: I prefer the Kimmi and Alicia one as the best. "I will always wave my finger in your face'. Way to make friends and influence people. She's like the Steve Smith of survivor. Except she's female. And athletic. And could win an SU Presidential election."

I resent the insinuation that I'm unathletic. Additionally, I'm mildly creeped out by the fact that this represents the fourth straight blog entry in which Duncan's mentioned me.

To close, as any number of Homestar Runner fans seem to be saying these days: "Rock, rock on."


Friday, May 14, 2004

Alas, Poor Joe, We Knew Ye Not Nearly Well Enough

On the eve of his retirement from a distinguished career in public service, the Right Honourable C. Joseph "Joe" Clark identified the negotiation of the failed Charlottetown Accord as his greatest accomplishment. While it's somehow fitting that Clark's self-declared greatest accomplishment was rejected emphatically by Canadians, in even giving it the title he was wrong.

Joe Clark was wrong a lot in his years in politics, especially on the big issues. His "Community of Communities" approach to the Canadian federation can only be described as "wimpy." More recently, he was the only federalist politician to prominantly oppose Jean Chrétien's Clarity Bill, which brought some (though not enough) clarity to the question of Québec seccession.

But he was often right on the day-to-day stuff - the stuff that historians forget. For example, in the budget that brought down his short-lived government, Clark made the first effort to bring the country's mounting government deficit under control - fifteen years before it became fashionable. He also showed a greater openness to the press than the Trudeau government before him ever had, as evidenced by small moves such as providing chairs for the media to sit in while they waited for Cabinet meetings to adjourn. When Canadians had to remove Clark's government in 1980 - and they did, for there was a referendum to be won and a constitution to be patriated, and, to put things in a Will Ferguson sort of a way, these tasks called for a bastard, not a bonehead - they were condemning themselves to decades more of arrogance and politicking, not just because they restored the supremely arrogant Pierre Trudeau to 24 Sussex, but because they forced a leadership confrontation within the Progressive Conservatives that led to Brian Mulroney winning the title.

More significantly, he epitomized the virtues of humility and integrity, qualities which are not abundantly present in politicians. My favourite Clark line, and the one that I always thought summed up his approach to politics, was "I distrust words like vision and grand design. I expect to do no more than move the country forward on some priorities." This quote perfectly contrasted him with his rival Trudeau, who went into politics to save the country. Indeed, comparisons with Trudeau, against whom Clark sparred for eight years before Trudeau's retirement and intermittently after, are both inevitable and revealing. Trudeau had guts. He didn't flinch in the face of violent separatist rioters, power-mad premiers, or unfavourable opinion polls. Clark was perceived as a wimp.

In a way, though, he too had courage in great measure. When delegates at a 1983 party convention gave him a 66% vote of support. Clark, deciding that it wasn't enough to truly claim the confidence of the party, called a leadership convention to decide matters. He was one of the Western world's most outspoken critics of apartheid in South Africa. When Clark, once again Tory leader in 2000, needed to find a seat to get himself elected to the House of Commons, he chose to run in Alliance-dominated Alberta instead of a more PC-friendly maritime province, because that was his home. A practising Catholic, he was the first Prime Minister to marshall a gay pride parade - in Calgary, no less. In a final act of political courage, when the entire Progressive Conservative membership except David Orchard and I was clamouring in favour of accepting a takeover by the Canadian Alliance, Joe was the face of opposition to the merger. When he lost, as he inevitably did, he elected to sit as an independent, scorning the perverse Ottawa value of loyalty to party above all else - an ideal that he spurned once more by stating the obvious, that the Martin-led Liberals were a better fit for Red Tories such as himself than the Harper-led Conservatives.

Clark's critics alleged that this last move was a cynical attempt to win himself a patronage post from the Martin's government. If it was, it worked - Martin offered him a wide selection of diplomatic appointments, and he turned them all down.

On a personal level, I met Joe Clark once, though it was a pretty uneventful meeting. The greater impact he had on me was in being the cause of my joining a political party for the first time in my life.

Joe Clark liked to think of himself as a politician ahead of his time. Sadly, I suspect that he's the sort of politician whose time never truly comes - there will always be a Trudeau or a Mulroney waiting in the wings to make Canadians forget the importance of integrity and humility.

Oh well. Thanks, Joe.

Mayonnaise tastes like naked grandparents

My last entry on Survivor until September, I promise.

Rupert won a million dollars, which was good, but the whole exercise was strangely unsatisfying. I suspect that it was because the voters showed a great lack of appreciation for Survivor history, favouring moments and characters from recent seasons.

For example, the four most popular Survivors were apparently Rupert Boneham, Tom Buchanan, Rob Mariano, and Colby Donaldson. With the exception of Colby, who one can only assume made the grade on appearance alone, all three were contestants who made a signficant impact on All-Stars. Meanwhile, Rudy Boesch, the most popular contestant in Survivor history until Rupert came along, didn't make the grade.

Things were no better in the other categories. For example, the best fight of those options listed was either Alicia vs. Kimmi in the Outback, or Robb vs. Clay in Thailand. The voters, however, opted for the much lamer Rupert vs. Johnny Fairplay incident from the Pearl Islands. The best fight in Survivor history - Susan Hawk vs. Kelly Wigglesworth in Pulau Tiga - wasn't even listed as an option.

Greatest Survivor moment? Rupert stealing the shoes may well have been it, actually, so I really can't complain about this one. Likewise, it's hard to disagree with the selection of Johnny Fairplay as Survivor's greatest villain, but you'd at least have to give consideration to Richard Hatch (on a side note, the nominees inexplicably included the ultra villainous Mariano while including the perfectly innocent Rob Cesternino and Brian the Pron Star).

I'm in no position to dispute the selection of Colby as the Hottest Male Survivor of all time (though I voted for Gervase Peterson), but I sure have some thoughts on Sexiest Female Survivor. The selection of Amber Brkich is an absolute joke, since anybody who remembers Survivor Outback will remember that Amber was consistently overshadowed by Elisabeth Filarski. I happen to disagree with the widely held assessment that Elisabeth was sexier than Amber, but there is no question that a representative vote of true Survivor fans - fans who are familiar with seasons of Survivor other than All-Stars and Pearl Islands - would have seen Amber blown out of the water. All of this is moot, however, since the sexiest female Survivor of all time (and, with the possible exceptions of Helen of Troy and Polish pole-vaulter Monika Pyrek, the sexiest female of all-time) was Colleen Haskell.

Okay, now that I have finished lusting in a very public and undignified manner over Survivor contestants from seven seasons back (to say nothing of Polish pole-vaulters), it's time to move on to non-Survivor news:

1. Adam Knisely has started a blog. Being located at http://www.theinjuredcoast.com gives it all sorts of starting cred in my books.

2. I'm still unemployed, but things are looking up. Because I told them to.

3. I am undecided on my sentiments towards soy-based frozen desserts.

Eric Kierans tribute still to come, but probably not before a Joe Clark tribute. Maybe these should be tribute albums - I'll form an exploratory committee.


Thursday, May 13, 2004

A rebuttal from the Member for Edmonton-Someplace

You know how I was critical of Tory backbenchers a couple of posts ago? Well, I take it all back.

Thanks to Josh Bazin for the link.

Credit where credit is due: Josh tells me that he got the link via Adam Knisely.

Reasons I'm Not Voting Tory, #648

The last post was not about the fitness of the Klein government to govern. This one is.

News reaches us that Health Minister Gary Mar has, over the course of two years, awarded his Executive Assistant of eight years, Kelley Charlebois, a quarter million dollars in untendered government contracts. While Mar notes that government policy is to use the competitive bid process for contracts of $100 000 or more, and while it's possible that none of the individual contracts awarded Charlebois were for amounts that high, that doesn't mean it's okay to automatically direct contracts to your friends and cronies. It's a good thing we have a Public Accounts Committee to. . . aw, fuck.

Further commentary is not to come by reason of lack of necessity - it's getting to the point at which searing criticisms of the government write themselves.

Later: Something having nothing to do with provincial politics. I promise.

Conceivably still to come: The promised Eric Kierans tribute.


Wednesday, May 12, 2004

I guess you call this love, I call it room service

Well, time for my third post of the day. Since I have no life, I figure I might as well spend as much time as possible entertaining the rest of you, who also have no lives, as evidenced by the fact that you're entertained by my blog. The lifeless entertaining the lifeless - kind of like All My Children.

Anyway, before you read on to the meat of the entry - which is, in a stunning burst of originality, me mocking Ralph Klein - you should all mosey electronically over to Marc's Blog read his attempt to get me in a penis measuring contest with a female American soldier. You should read it not because he tried to get me into a penis-measuring contest with a female American soldier, but because, after doing so, he says nice things about me. Also note his description of this blog on his blogroll. I'm going to steal a technique from Krista and reveal the moral of this post: the best way (indeed, possibly the only for those of you who aren't Paul Wells, to make me direct traffic your way is to say nice things about me on your blog.

Anyway, onwards to the Klein-bashing...

In the midst of all of the outrage, most of which can be found in this blog, over the Premier's rapid descent into madness, there is one outrage that is oft-overlooked: that Conservative MLAs on the Legislature's Public Accounts Committee were being fed questions to ask the Premier by the Public Affairs Office. For those of you who haven't heard about it because you were too busy gawking about Klein's own embarassing performance at the committee, the government's Communications Office - the portion of the bureaucracy, technically non-partisan, responsible for communications between the government and its citizenry - provided the Conservative MLAs on the committee with a list of questions that they should ask the Premier in his first appearance before the committee in years.

Now, grant me one paragraph about Separation of Powers before I go back to things that the rest of you care about. Under a parliamentary system, there is no real separation of powers, in that the head of the Executive branch - the Cabinet - is generally a subset, or very close to a subset, of the Legislative branch. While I think this system is manatee stool, let's proceed on the assumption that it isn't. Even in a parliamentary system, there should be a separation between *branches* of government, in that the Premier fills two distinct roles: he is a legislator - generally the legislator responsible for "leading" the Legislature Branch - and also the head of the Executive branch, responsible for implementing (or, for those of you who like linguistics, executing) the legislation that is set by the Legislature (generally at his own request). When the Premier is acting in his Executive capacity, he is totally subservient to the Legislative branch (which he just so happens to have wrapped around his little finger, though this is moot from a structural perspective). Being in charge of the Public Affairs Office is one of the Premier's Executive functions. Being responsible for all government expenditures is also an Executive function, and it was in this capacity that our Premier was appearing before the Public Accounts Committee. Backbench Tory MLAs are in no way part of the Executive branch of government, only the Legislative branch, so they, as members of the committee, were clearly there in their Legislative capacity. To put it crudely (and not precisely accurately, but accurately enough for our purposes), Legislative trumps Executive. Ralph Klein was appearing before the Public Accounts Committee as an Executive member, and was therefore subservient to the Legislature, which was represented in this case by the Public Accounts Committee. So the fact that the Public Affairs Bureau, a body that reports to Klein in his Executive capacity (and which has increasingly been used to justify the government's *legislative* agenda to the public, though that's a different outrage), was telling legislators what questions to ask is utterly outrageous and constitutes a clear attempt by Klein, as head of the Executive branch, to exert control over the Legislative branch (if you want a parallel, try to imagine Liberal members of the Ottawa version of the Public Accounts Comittee asking questions in the Sponsorship Inquiry that were scripted by Alfonso Gagliano's Executive Assistant - this is no less bizarre).

Sadly, that's only the second most outrageous part of this story. After all, Klein deserves to have his hands slapped or cut off or something for even making the attempt, but any Legislative body worth its salt would have just laughed in his face and maybe removed him from office. The *most* outrageous part of this story, and the part for which I cannot blame Klein, is that the Tory MLAs complied! Every damned one of them! Not a single question was asked by a Conservative MLA in the Public Accounts Committee that had its origins somewhere other than the Public Affairs Bureau ("You don't believe me?" excluded, but we've already established that Klein wasn't there in his capacity as an MLA). Now put yourself in the places of these MLAs: you are a representative of the people of the province, sitting on a committee of the province's legislative body responsible for identifying misspending and calling the government to account for it. There have been allegations that the government has been misspending money, and the Premier himself is appearing before your committee (for the first time in a decade) to refute these allegations. It is up to you, the committee, to determine truth. Then, along comes a bureaucrat who works in a department that reports directly to the Premier (who, you'll recall from the last sentence, is appearing before the Committee for the express purpose of defending his departmental expenditures), and suggests to you which questions you should ask. Now, Mr. MLA, I ask you: how much sense does it make for you, the guardians of the public purse, to take these suggestions? The correct answer, as those of you who are not drooling vegetables or Tory MLAs or both have already realized, is as follows: none. None at all. To allow a subordinate of the Premier to script the questions you ask in your attempts at determining whether or not the Premier has overseen misspending is nothing short of a gross and offensive abdication of responsibility. We don't have foxes guarding the henhouse; we have sacks of bloody potatoes guarding the henhouse.

Now, let's talk about elections for a moment. Most Albertans who vote provincially vote for the Tory candidate in their riding. I know for a fact that a number of you, Dear Readers, have histories of voting for Tory candidates in your ridings. Maybe you do so because, in your own little misguided way, you support the Klein government. That's fine (well no, actually it's not, but we won't get into that here). But you don't vote for Klein, unless you live in Calgary-Elbow. You vote for an MLA to represent you. One way that MLA may choose to represent you is to uphold the government on confidence motions, but that's only one. Another, presumably, would be to exercise the legislative role of government oversight - what limited checks and balances exist in the parliamentary system depend on this. Presumably, MLAs who got on the Public Accounts Committee have a special interest in this aspect of their job. And every single damned one of them failed to perform the most basic aspect of it.

This has nothing to do with ideology. It doesn't even have anything to do with the fitness of the Klein government to govern. This is about a certain basic level of competence that ought to be a prerequisite for public service, and how many of our MLAs don't meet it. Any Tory member of the Public Accounts Committee who goes into the re-election campaign unrepentant for the above-noted sins deserves to be defeated on that basis alone, and any voter who votes for one of them is as strong an argument against universal suffrage as I am likely to see in my lifetime. In conclusion: Jesus fuck, people.

Probably coming at some point: A Brief and Poorly-Researched Tribute to Eric Kierans.

The Lowest Common Denominator

Somebody has found my site via a Google search for "Amber Brkich Playboy". I want to assure you, Dear Readership, that while I'm generally prepared to go to any length necessary to boost my hit count, I draw the line at making my blog a haven for pornhounds. Furthermore, breast tit naked nude ass topless Pamela Anderson Britney Spears Jessica Simpson Anna Kournikova.

Thank you.

My boy's gonna turn some heads...

It's possible that all of the pretentious music snobs over at CJSR have a point after all. I was listening to The Bear, which was playing Tom Cochrane's "Big League." Then it ended, and something by a Nickelback clone came on, so I switched over to K-Rock. . . just in time to hear Tom Cochrane's "Big League".

(Not that I'm complaining. I feel quite strongly that the CRTC should mandate every radio station in Canada to play "Big League" at least once per hour.)

(This just in: my sister swears that at one point last summer The Bear, 96X, and the now-defunct Power 92 were all playing the Ataris' perversion of "Boys of Summer" simultaneously.)


Tuesday, May 11, 2004

For Christ's sake, Ralph, get up so I can kick you at some point other than when you're down

This space has managed to secure access to the paper that Premier wrote for Athabasca University on the 1973 Chilean coup by Augusto Pinochet. I'll not subject you to the whole thing, but the opening paragraph gives a pretty good indication of how the rest goes:

"The year was 1973, the date September 11. Although I cannot remember specifically what was happening in the newsroom at CFCN radio and television, it was no doubt a typical day."

It brings to mind Stephen Leacock's opening to his eleven page novel "Gertrude the Governess: or, Simple Seventeen" ("Synopsis of Previous Chapters: There are no Previous Chapters"):

"It was a wild and stormy night on the West coast of Scotland. This, however, is immaterial to the present story, as the scene is not laid in the West of Scotland. For the matter of that, the weather was just as bad on the East coast of Ireland. But the scene of this narrative is laid in the South of England."

At any rate, in addition to releasing this literary gem on an unsuspecting public, Klein clarified his earlier comments and committed to "biting [his] tongue" (Step 1: remove foot). It turns out that his "only purpose in making those remarks was to point out that socialism can often lead to unintended and negative repurcussions in society. Unfortunately, that's what happened in Chile."

While I would agree under normal circumstances, the Americans are presently rather busy in Iraq, and most analysts consider it unlikely that they would orchestrate a coup in Alberta if the latter were to take the clearly communist step of establishing a system of public auto insurance.

He concluded by noting, once again, that what really matters to him is the opinions of ordinary Albertans (as opposed to, you know, Albertans of the Chilean variety):

"If I can walk the street and not get spit on, and not get punched, and not get flipped the bird, and people still call me Ralph, then I feel good."

Yes. Being able to walk amongst your citizenry without fearing their open contempt is very important.

Augusto Pinochet knew that.

I like my cars slow and my women slower

I wonder if I could make my hair look like Tom Cochrane's on the cover of "Mad Mad World". . .

New blogs:

Engineering Councilor, Vice President External of the Engineering Students' Society, and all around pretty good guy (for an Engineer) Gary Wicentowich

Webboard Godfather and aged hack Marc Dumouchel.

To close, if ever you should be inclined to doubt the veracity of Four Bad Men's title, consider the following quote from One Bad Man Chris Henderson: "I like my women like I like my coffee - ground up and in the freezer."

The Jackass rests, your honour.


Sunday, May 09, 2004

Three Gallons of Well-Directed Venom

I saw "Van Helsing" Saturday evening. Now I will review "Van Helsing".

I could make this quick. I could tell you not to see "Van Helsing". I could tell you that "Van Helsing" is probably the worst movie I have seen in my entire life (and bear in mind that I have seen not one but two Pauly Shore movies). I could tell you that watching "Van Helsing" was like watching "Mystery Science Theatre 3000" without the sarcastic remarks. I could tell you that, as I was watching "Van Helsing," I kept expecting Kevin Costner to appear. But if I were to tell you any of these things, you'd probably just go see the damned movie, and I cannot overemphasize how bad an idea that would be.

Before we continue: as with all of my reviews, this one contains spoilers, so don't read it if you don't want to know what happens. However, refraining from reading it would imply that you're planning on seeing it yourself, and if you're doing that you obviously have no respect for my opinion in the first place.

A synopsis: Gabriel Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) is a monster hunter of rather mysterious origins who does his work for the Roman Catholic church. After he successfully vanquishes Mr. Hyde, he is assigned to go to Transylvania to defeat Count Dracula (Richard Roxburgh). It seems that Dracula, after having been murdered centuries ago, made a pact with the devil for everlasting life, and that his father pledged to the Catholic Church that either a member of his family would kill Dracula or no member of said family would ever enter Heaven. Now there are only two members of this family left, siblings Anna (Kate Beckinsale) and Velkan (Will Kemp) Valerious. Oh yes, and apparently there's some business about a strip of parchment bearing a clue of some kind *and* an insigna identical to the one that Van Hesling sports on his ring (if rings with mysterious insignia and parchments with cryptic clues seem a little cliched to you, then, as Bachman Turner Overdrive so eloquently put it, "B-b-b-baby, you ain't seen nothing yet.")

For reasons that are never made entirely clear, Van Helsing asks his fathful sidekick, Friar Carl (David Wenham) to accompany him on this mission. Carl is a bit of a Q to Van Helsing's Bond, and you'll note that 007 always had the brains to leave Q in the lab, where he was most useful. Van Helsing, however, needs Carl with him, because Carl is the only character in this movie with any intelligence at all.

Anyway, Pinky and the Brain find their way to their destination, where they meet Anna (Velkan has just fallen over a cliff into a river in man to man combat with a werewolf). Anna, strangely, is not happy to see them, and orders them killed. Then, just as the villagers are moving in to comply, Dracula's covey (or something) of attractive female vampires moves in to finish off the last member of the Valerious family. Despite ample opportunity to do so, the three of them spent more time engaging in vampiric trash talk and writhing pointlessly about in what Director Stephen Sommers apparently believes is a seductive fashion. By the time they were ready to actually finish poor Anna Van Helsing is able to step in and save the day (with one of Carl's inventions, laced with Holy Water which Carl conveniently found lying around). In the process, he killed a member of the covey (the most attractive one, sadly, reducing by one the already scarce reasons for me to continue watching the movie).

This did nothing to assuage the villagers - as one of them remarked, the vampires normally only killed what they needed (you know, like a pack of Satan-spawned bloodsucking wolves), but they would now kill for vengeance. Anna fast changed their mind, however, mostly just by saying that Van Helsing was the first man in more than a century to kill a vampire. I'm not entirely clear on how this was relevant, but it seemed to do the trick, and Van Helsing's death sentence was commuted to an hour and a half in the company of some of the worst acting ever seen.

Then a werewolf that turned out to be Velkan shows up, resulting in comical encounter full of improbable coincidences (in the interest of minimizing typing, these will simply be called CEFICs on the several dozen occasions on which they occur throughout the remainder of the movie).

It was about at this point that I dozed off, so I'm not entirely sure what happened next. Fortunately, it doesn't matter. When I woke, Van Helsing had managed to locate Dracula (my guess is that Carl suggested that he look him up in a telephone directory), and was engaged. . . well, engaged at not fighting him, despite the fact that killing Dracula was his stated mission. Dracula seemed more than happy to refrain from fighting in favour of chatting, and took the opportunity to make several veiled references to the two of them having met before (like diarrhea left to bake in the sun, the plot thickens). Strangely, despite the fact that learning about his past was Van Helsing's stated motivation for visiting Transylvania, he showed little interest in these references, and decided that it was time to fight after all. After a CEFIC, Van Helsing discovered that Dracula could not be killed by any conventional means, a fact that Anna already knew but had apparently decided to withhold from Van Helsing on the grounds that she was dumber than hyena shit.

While all of this was going on, Dracula's progeny was attacking the village, now without its protectors. Fortunately, they spontaneously exploded in approximate unison (no, this didn't make any more sense in the movie than it does in this review) before having the opportunity doing any real damage. There was also another encounter between Anna and the Covey (which wouldn't be a bad name for a band, really) in which there was more talking than fighting, despite ample opportunities for the vampires to do the audience a favour by ending the movie.

After Van Helsing escaped Dracula, he found himself in the presence of Frankenstein's monster, who informed the hero that he was the key to allowing Dracula's offspring to live (as opposed to exploding at inopportune moments which, in addition to being bad for the old social life, hampers one's ability to serve effectively as minion to Satan's son), and was therefore being pursued by Dracula. It was also disclosed at this point that the Vatican wanted the unfortunate construct killed, despite the fact that Van Helsing said that it wasn't evil. This was what passed for a morality moment in the film, but was resolved rather easily when Van Helsing decided not to kill it, but take it back to Rome, instead. By horse, which Anna assured him would be fine - noting that "nothing is faster than a Transylvanian steed, not even a werewolf."

She apparently forgot about vampires, which is kind of odd, inasmuch as the film's primary antagonist is a vampire. Anyway, a vampire catches up to them, but they dispose of it using the classic "alternate carriage filled with explosives and wooden stakes" trick. Then Anna's lupine brother catches up to them, and Sommers - apparently having exhausted his supply of werewolf killing tricks early in the film - decides to finish him off in a CEFIC by dumping him off a cliff. This upsets Anna - the werewolf having been her brother, and all - which provides the movie's second morality moment - is it okay to kill your girlfriend's brother if he's a werewolf? It turns out that it is, which Anna eventually figured out.

The bad news was that Van Hesling had been bitten, meaning that he was due to become a werewolf himself in short order. Fortunately, Frankenstein's Monster, providing further proof that he wasn't evil, divulged that Dracula had an antidote for lycanthropy, so the carriage was turned around and back to Transylvania our heros go. Upon their return, Carl explains that he's managed to discover that (i) Dracula can only be killed by a werewolf; and (ii) Dracula lives in some icy castle that can only be reached through a mysterious door with a mysterious inscription on it, that is mysteriously missing a piece that happens to correspond exactly in shape and size with that piece of parchment Van Helsing acquired in Rome (How Carl figured this out is never explained, making this scene a little like the end of a detective story in which Holmes identifies the killer without spelling out his reasoning). When that piece is fitted, the code is revealed, and our heroes enter Count Dracula's castle.

The number of CEFICs that ensue are too numerous to mention, and this review is getting so long that even I'm losing interest, so we'll skip straght to the climactic encounter between Van Helsing and Dracula which, shockongly, involves more cheesy dialogue than fighting (in the movie's sole (deliberately) self-deprecating moment, Anna, pinned down by a member of the covey, is asked what she thinks of her impending doom. "I think," remarks Anna as she drives a wooden stake through her assailant's heart, "that if you're going to kill somebody, kill them. Don't just stand there talking to them.). For the benefit of the three or four people left in the theatre who were the least bit interested in the plot, Dracula explained that Van Helsing had been his murderer, and that the ring (remember the ring? No? Neither did anybody else.) that Van Helsing was wearing actually belonged to Dracula. Then Van Helsing turned into a werewolf and proceeded to kick Dracula's ass until clouds obscured the full moon, turning him back into a mortal, an opportunity upon which Dracula capitalized by cutting off combat to engage in more conversation. The he turned back into a werewolf and finished off Dracula. Anna died somehow as well, a fact which the movie may or may not have explained - by this point in the movie, the remaining spectators had been so desensitized to leaps of logic and unexplained events that it really didn't matter.

The movie concluded with Van Helsing and Carl looking up into the sky at Anna's face, which had rather mysteriously appeared in the clouds and was smiling down upon them. Frankenstein's monster was piloting a Tom Sawyer-esque raft into the ocean, for reasons that were not explained. I like to think that he was eaten by sharks.

As for the credits, in which Sommers dedicated the movie to his father, Chris Jones put it best: "I don't know what his father did to deserve this movie, but it must have involved war crimes."

In summary, Van Helsing wasn't funny enough to succeed as a comedy, and was far too stupid to succeed as anything else. In this regard, it is not unlike Carrot Top.

On the upside, about a dozen of us did have an enjoyable half hour long mocking of the movie in the theatre's lobby, so Saturday night was not a complete writeoff. The same cannot be said for Sunday night, when Survivor All-Stars at last came to an end. Let's review, for a moment, the problems with the show:

1. Boston Rob proposing marriage to Amber Brkich [sic] right before the results were announced. Christ, if I'd wanted to see The Bachelor, I would have watched the godammed Bachelor, wouldn't I have, Mariano?
2. Jenna Lewis also got married, which, in isolation, would have been fine, except that. . .
3. Ethan Zohn and Jenna Morasca are also together, and. . .
4. Richard Hatch has also found love with some Argentinian hotel keeper. Frankly, I was expecting the much-vaunted "final twist" to be a giant eighteen person bisexual polygamous marriage of all of the contestents.
5. Possibly the funniest Survivor in Survivor history, Rob Cesternino, was not given a single opportunity to talk the entire reunion.
6. Jerri Manthey *was* given the opportunity to talk, which she used to complain about how Survivor entertained people at the cost of the contestants' friendships, private lives, etc., etc., etc. This would ring somewhat less hollow if Jerri hadn't agreed to be on the show (twice), posed for Playboy after her first appearance, and taken every opportunity to put herself in the public eye.
7. Tom Buchanan (and, to a lesser extent, Alicia Calaway and even Lex van de Berghe) turned the reunion into an episode of the Jerry Springer show (cue audience: "Ru-pert, Ru-pert, Ru-pert!").
8. Richard freakin' Hatch was the voice of reason throughout all of this.
9. Amber Brkich [sic] was, for reasons unknown, invited to award a car to any other contestant. In a move that I hope will dispel those naysayers who say that she rode her fiancée's coattails to victory, she proceeded to ask him to whom she should give the car. Without any explanation, she chose Shii Ann.
And, lest I forget, the greatest travesty of all:
10. Amber Brkich [sic] won Survivor All Stars. That's like Alexander Daigle being named the MVP of the NHL All Star game.

There were some good things, however:

1. Rudy Boesch, when asked what he thought of all the back-stabbing that went on, said that he was glad that he was voted out early, because if he'd been around when all of the scheming started he might have done something that he'd regret. When Jeff interpreted this to mean that even Rudy thought it conceivable that he'd abandon his integrity, Rudy cut in: "No, that's not what I meant. I meant that if I'd been surrounded by all of these back-stabbers, I might have done something to one of them that I'd regret later."

In other news, it looks like Rupert will get a million dollars after all, since viewers were invited to cast votes online to award a second million dollars to one of the contestants, and Rupert is easily the most popular. I considered voting for Rudy out of gratitude for his provision of the reunion show's single bright spot, but was dissuaded by legendary debater Mike Garlough, who sold me on Rupert:

Mike: Steve, Rupert stole shoes. What more do you want?
Steve: Well, Rudy saved the reunion show, and also implicitly threatened Jerri and Jenna Lewis with death.
Mike: Yes, but did either of those events result in Rupert gaining shoes? The greatness of any event is directly proportional to the number of shoes it causes Rupert to gain.

Touché, Mike, touché.

Still, what a waste of a weekend. I need a drink.

Hell, we all need a drink.


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