Sunday, March 25, 2007

I'm all about the 1930s crime fighting

I have written several times of my friend Gregg's radio-show exploits -- the two serials he writes, directs, produces and posts online -- the tales of Canada's geatest crime-fighting superhero, The Red Panda, and the hard-boiled adventures of Black Jack Justice.

I can't recommend these wonderful sagas enough. But now you have an even better reason to tune in -- the most recent Red Panda episode features none other than yours truly.

That's right -- unsatisfied with being interviewed about potholes in The Telegram, doing public lectures, and being interviewed about Nick Hornby novels on TV, I've sold out and whored myself out to that most commercial of media: web-based homages to 1930s radio serials.

That's right. I hear you condemning me for selling out. But wait: don't judge me until you've heard the show. You might think it's all about the money and the glamour, but I truly think I've managed, in that Gemorrah of voice-work, to do something truly avant-garde. Playing the part of the gentle but determined Father Michael, I satirize the legions of American actors with crappy Irish accents by doing just that -- you think Leonardo DiCaprio was abysmal in his Irishness in Gangs of New York? Just listen to my cutting critique of his wanna-be accent in my first few moments in The Red Panda. And it doesn't stop there -- though my part in this episode was recorded last May, see how I presciently affect a Danny Williams impersonation after I get going, so very very timely to our sputtering premier's criticisms of the federal budget.

It may be that my genius is only appreciated years and years from now. But you, gentle readers, can appreciate it now ... listen, and understand, and tell your friends. And take note, when others scoff at my embracing of such a crass, commecialized medium, that in the end I go uncredited. Because for me, it's all about the art.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

George Orwell: Republican schill?

OK, so normally I generally try to ignore everything that comes out of Anne Coulter's mouth, but this one is too mind-bendingly idiotic to let go. While discussing an anonymously-created anti-Hilary attack ad parodying Apple's infamous 1984 homage to Orwell (the "think different" ad in which the woman throws the sledgehammer into the screen displaying Big Brother's face), Coulter stated "That is an amazingly powerful ad. I don't know how anyone can vote for a Democrat again after that." The problem with this evaluation is that it's a pro-Obama ad. I'm not entirely sure why it necessarily follows that a "powerful" ad promoting Barack Obama makes one more inclined to vote republican, but that's just the palate-cleanser -- the massive "Huh?!" comes a few seconds later when Coulter says "I don't know how anyone can vote for a Democrat after reading Orwell's 1984."

Let's all just think about this a moment. Savour the absurdity, if you will.

Who was it again who introduced the Patriot Act? Suspended habeas corpus? Consigned hundreds of people to the purgatory of Guantanamo Bay, or the hell of Abu Gharib, without recourse to representation? Introduced secret wiretaps to keep tabs on the domestic population? Has rolled civil liberties back to pre-1930s levels? Invoked executive privilege more than the last dozen administrations combined?

I don't know about you, but when I reread 1984, it ain't the Dems I think about. But then, I guess as Anne would maintain, we've always been at war with Oceania.

Of course, I know I'm making a mistake in paying any attention to this at all. For her, saying "I don't know how anyone can vote for a Democrat after reading Orwell's 1984" is approximately on the same level as saying "I don't know how anyone can vote for a Democrat after drinking a glass of milk" or "I don't know how anyone can vote for a Democrat after doing the dishes."

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Springtime, for St. John's, and New-ew-foundland!

I may be speaking too soon on that front, given that it was -2 when I got in the car this morning, but at least the feel of spring is in the air. It is perhaps inevitable that there will be more snow before all is said and done; however, winter's back has been broken, I think, and any more blizzards will just be the petulant expression of a season that has overstayed its welcome.

Hear that winter? Get out! Get your lazy ass off our collective couch and go home.

Loving the early Daylight Savings Time. Best idea George W. Bush ever had. Well, the only good idea he's ever had. Quite the epitaph for his legacy.

Anyway, sorry for the long blog hiatus. I'm back and am in fact wearing black. The end is in sight: the last day of exams is less than a month away, and I have that date circled on my calendar. There is much to get through between now and then, of course, but at least I feel more energized than I have since, oh, september. Amazing what a little sun can do.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


In the first year of my PhD, after one of my classes, a classmate of mine who was an exchange student from Wales came up to me

"I'm on to you, Christopher," she said

"What do you mean?" I asked, taken a little aback.

"Next week I'll be doing my first seminar presentation in this course. And I've realized that if I look down at you and you're intently drawing precise, geometric doodles in the margins of your page, it means you're listening very closely to what I'm saying. But if I look down and you're madly writing away, you're not paying any attention at all, and what you're writing has nothing to with anything going on in the class."

Well, she certainly had me figured out. I've never been much of a note taker -- not much of a multitasker, I guess. I find I miss stuff when I'm writing, especially in a seminar class. But it's a nervous habit -- I like to keep my pen moving. And so in any situation when I'm sitting listening but without the particular need to take detailed notes, these abstract geometrical compositions creep up and down my margins, like fractals.

I'm thinking of this because in the last ten minutes of tidying up my office I happened across about a half a dozen half-filled pages on odd pads of paper ... the remnants of various meetings, I'm suspecting. Anyway, a gallery of doodles:

Friday, March 02, 2007

Snow clearing

Sorry for the post lapse. I've been burning the candle at both ends for the last two weeks or so, and, frankly, haven't had much to talk about or report. Just the same-old, same-old ... and a lot of snow.

One of the hardest things to communicate about St. John's in the winter is the sheer magnitude of the snow accumulation. Because of the nature of the city, with its fairly narrow streets, sidewalks basically disappear after the first big snowfall. So do cars parked at the roadside. The ploughs do a very good job of clearing the streets in pretty short order (most of them), but because there's not a lot of space for the snow to go, it gets heaped up in massive berms and inevitably encroaches on the road to the point where some streets are effectively reduced to a single lane. It's a good thing people are generally polite and courteous: driving along any residential street at this time of year involves taking turns with the oncoming traffic through the bottlenecks.

And then comes the snow removal: a slow, systematic process of closing off streets and reclaiming the streets and sidewalks from the snow. A caterpillar digger scoops the snow out and piles it into a dump truck. The results are rather dramatic: whereonce were unruly mountains of snow are now seemingly precisely machined cliffs ending at the sidewalk, perfectly perpendicular to the ground.

My question is: where does the snow go? Where is it carted off to? Is there a snow landfill outside the city? A snow dump? Or is it tossed in the ocean?

Here's my idea: we should find a cliff on the sea north of St. John's and manufacture our own glacier there ... a small but compact glacier formed by the sheer weight of the snow dumped there. Then, in mid-May, when tourists begin showing up looking for icebergs, we shove this glacier off the cliff, thus guaranteeing at least one iceberg per season. Also, I'll finally get to see an iceberg ... it's a source of some bitterness to me that global warming really seems to have kicked in just in time for me to move to Newfoundland, and the only icebergs I get to see are in postwards.