Saturday, December 31, 2005

Big Brother is Listening

These stickers are showing up on pay phones in the US.


Friday, December 30, 2005

Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe

During World War II, four British children are sent out to the country to spend the war under care of a reclusive relative. The children discover a gateway through a wardrobe into another world called Narnia. There, in a world of centaurs, griffens, and talking animals, the children appear to be the fulfillment of a prophecy that four humans will one day lead an army with the help of Aslan, a lion, to defeat the self-appointed queen of Narnia, a witch.
Based of the classic book by C.S.Lewis, Narnia is not a bad movie, but as I was watching it I kept thinking to myself Lord of the Rings did this better. Indeed, The Lord of the Rings has set a very high standard when it comes to fantasy films, and perhaps comparing anything to the wondrous magic of LotR is unfair.
There's nothing inherently bad in Narnia. The production is uniformly excellent, and the special effects are marvelous. The intergration of CGI characters into live-action elements is perfectly done.
But for me the film never grabbed me.
There's also been some talk about the "Christian" aspects of Narnia. Aslan's death and resurrection parallel Christ's, and I believe that C.S. Lewis was deliberately evoking Christianity in his story. That said, I didn't find that this aspect overwhelmed the story. Clearly, it's there if you want to read that into it, but death and resurrection are so much a part of fantasy and science fiction films (Gandalf and Obi-Wan Kenobi for starters), never mind other myths and religions, that it does not overpower the movie.
Look, this isn't a bad movie. Pay your money, you'll like it. Will you care about it the next day? That's another question.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Surviving the Boxing Day Sale Madness

Surviving the Boxing Day Sale Madness is really very easy.
1. Lock your door.
2. Don't go out.

But seriously folks, I did venture out into the madness. I did find that if you get to the malls around opening time, (8:30 in the case of Mayfair Mall), you do get about an hour or so before the crowds seriously start frothing and foaming at the mouth, and it's not too bad. But you need to know what you want and where you're going. A quick surgical strike.
I hit Eddie Bauer and hit the big time. I bought over $600 worth of clothes for only $190, including a $180 Gore-tex windbreaker for only $45.
Score!

Time To Switch Sides

Okay folks, it's time to switch. Clearly the Republicans are going to stay in power forever. Save yourself some time and change from Blue to Red right now. Here's all you need to know. (Thanks to long time reader Elizabeth for finding this.)

Saturday, December 24, 2005

My Favourite Christmas

As a young tyke of eight, my family moved to Victoria from my birthplace in Montréal. (My parents decided that a place where tanks prowled through the streets at night, soldiers with pointy bayonets manned street corners during the day, terrorists were kidnapping and killing politicians, and civil rights were revoked at the stroke of a Prime Minister's pen was probably not a good place to live. But I digress. And worse, I'm dating myself.)
The one thing I remember most about Montréal was the snow. Every winter, Montréal would be covered in a fluffy white eiderdown that would last from November to April. (Okay, so after six months the novelty was wearing off, even for me.) Winter wasn't winter without snow, and neither was Christmas. Picture postcard time, right? Chestnuts roasting on a bough of holly.
Or something like thatwhenehn we moved, I knew only one thing about Victoria. It doesn't snow here. I was going to experience my first Green Christmas. In fact Victoria averages 1 White Christmas every 25 years.
As Christmas approached, I had a real problem getting into the festive spirit. It just wasn't going to be Christmas without snow on the ground. Before going to bed on Christmas Eve, I took one last look out the living room window.
Green.
And brown.
I trundled off to bed and like all eight year-old kids, spent a good ten minutes sleeping, and the rest of the night wondering what Santa was going to bring us.
Just after four o'clock, I could stand the anticipation no longer, and started my carefully worked out procedure for waking up my parents.
First, I started coughing. Nothing wakes a parefaster thanhan a kid coughing in the middle of the night.
Next, I went to the bathroom, being sure to feign some sort of trouble with the toilet to plausibly explain why I flushed it five times.
Returning to my bedroom, I made sure I knocked over an unbreakable but noisy object. (Again, another sure way to wake up your parents.)
Finally for good measure, I stepped on the cat. (No, not really, but I made you laugh, didn't I?)
After being abused in this way for half an hour, my family finally relented, and they got up. We went to the living room, and, sure enough, the tree was almost buried beneath Santa's gifts, but I was still a little let-down because, after all, Christmas isn't Christmas without snow.
I went to the window to take a peek anyway and -- my eyes must have turned as big as basketballs -- there was six inches of snow on the ground! I couldn't believe it!
A cold front had blown in unexpectedly overnight and was dumping snow on the city. I probably would have kept staring if I hadn't seen some poor guy struggling down the street. My dad realized it was the paper boy and ran out side and gave him five bucks, which was really nice considering we didn't subscribe.
That was my best Christmas ever.
And of course, a day later all the snow was gone.

Friday, December 23, 2005

The Secret Code

After numerous rounds of "We don't even know if Osama is still live," Osama himself decided to send George W. a letter in his own handwriting to let him know he was still in the game. Bush opened the letter and it appeared to contain a coded message: "370HSSV-0773H"

Bush was baffled, so he e-mailed it to Colin Powell. Colin and his aides had no clue either so they sent it to the FBI. No one could solve it so it went to the CIA, on then to the NSA, then to the Secret Service. With no clue as to it's meaning, they eventually asked Canada's RCMP for help.

The RCMP cabled the White House as follows:

"Tell the President he is looking at the message upside down!"

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

And in Other News... The Worst Christmas Singles Ever

Find them here.
And I don't care what it says, I like John Mellencamp's version of I Saw Mama Kissing Santa Claus.

Santa Needs A Drink

We all know that Santa's a big lush at heart.
Here's the proof.

A Picture in Desperate Need of A Caption

Monday, December 19, 2005

Election Watch '06: A Modest Tax Proposal

There's been a lot of talk in this campaign about cutting the GST and/or cutting Income Tax. Which is fairer? Which helps out low and middle income Canadians the most?
Let me offer my own modest tax proposal -- let's scrap income tax and raise the GST.
Now before anyone calls the looney tuner on me, consider these numbers:

Canadian Government Fiscal 2004 Revenue
GST $28,200,000,000
Income Tax $84,800,000,000
Corporate Tax $27,400,000,000

Note that the GST revenue is almost exactly one third the amount of income tax revenue. So scrapping income tax and raising the GST from 7% to 28% would be revenue neutral.
Yes, 28% is a whopping tax to spend on purchases, but on the other hand there would no income tax deductions off my paycheque. For me personally, that's a savings of around $350 a month. Suddenly, my idea doesn't seem so wacky now, does it?

The GST is strictly a voluntary tax. It automatically taxes an individual based on the taxpayer's ability to pay. For instance:
- a rich person might spend $4000 on a wide-screen HD TV. That's $1120 in tax.
- a middle-class person might spend $1500 on an LCD TV. $420 in tax.
- a lower-income person might spend $500 on the last of the tube TVs. $140 in tax.

Clearly, there are some problems with my idea. Low-income Canadians who pay little or no income tax are not going to benefit from this scheme, so some sort of equalizing payment would have to be developed.
And rich people, some of whom will do anything to avoid paying taxes, will undoubtedly try to import goods from other countries to avoid the new GST.

But in fact, higher income earners should love the new GST. The higher the income bracket, the bigger the income tax savings.
And imagine the other savings. Imagine a vastly downsized CCRA, not spending money to track, compile and check tax returns.
No more income tax audits, and no more income tax forms. No more loopholes for smart accountants to exploit.

I think there's something here. Paul, Stephen, Jack... any comments?

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Linus Enjoying Some Sun This Afternoon

Election Watch '06: Debate #1

Caught a bit of last night's debate.
Gilles Duceppe, as usual, was the most polished and made the most sense.
And if he didn't have this totally bizarre fixation on breaking up a perfectly good country, he'd probably make a great Prime Minister.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Election Watch '06: War of the Words

Paul Martin is scoring points in the time-honored tradition of bashing US Presidents during an election campaign. (click here)
Even Stephen Harper had to admit that the US Ambassador's intervention was ill-advised.
But are Martin's tough words mere electioneering? Remember that he couldn't wait to have his picture taken with Bush. And Harper would have had us fighting in Iraq if he had been PM.
It's all games and posturing.
Speaking of which, how ironic it is that the US seems to have no aversion to telling other countries how to behave, up to and including invasion to make their point, yet get very agitated should anyone dare to criticize them.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

And in Other News... Okay, So It's Not Just Me

Feeling a little warmer this year?
British scientists are agreeing with you. 2005 was the second-warmest year on record, and the warmest ever in the Northern Hemisphere.
Thank god we have George W. Bush to assure us that the proven facts about global warming are all in our heads.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Election Watch '06: The Phony Election

I'd love to comment more about the election campaign so far, but there really isn't much to say. All the major parties are trying to bribe us again with our own money.
Yes, Harper is scoring some points with his daily policy announcements, and that has the Liberals on the defensive. But he loses points for those awful TV ads.
The NDP isn't saying much, but they have the best ads.
The Bloc has been running their usual quiet and competent campaign, but they clearly need some help with their goaltender rankings. Have they even feard of Curtis Joseph -- hello?
The Liberals are losing the initiative to the constant Tory policy announcements, going into a reactive instead a proactive mode. But I suspect none of this really matters. The Liberals are smart enough to know when the campaigning really begins.
We're in a period I'm dubbing "the phony campaign." The parties, and the voters, are in cruise mode, not getting into the real grim and gritty electioneering until after New Years. The real campaign will start on January 2. Three weeks of hardcore vote buying. Be prepared for the mud to fly.

Christmas Surprises

I like to get to get my Christmas shopping done early. This year, I'm almost finished. I'm waiting for one last present to arrive from Amazon (hopefully today), and once that's wrapped, I'm done. Finito, baby.
I generally start planning my gift buying in September, and try to have it done in early December. And I also keep a look out all year long for gifts. If I spot a something that's perfect for so-and-so in August, I'll buy it and keep it.
Using this method, one year I found myself finished my Christmas shopping in July.
No, really.
I even had lots of left over wrapping paper and I had everything bundled, wrapped, tagged and packed into a box in my closet a full five months before Christmas.
One unexpected benefit from this was that everyone including me was surprised with what I had given people for Christmas.
As the family gathered and presents were unwrapped, I was just as excited to see what I had given as the recipient. "Hurry up and open it," I'd say, "I can't wait to see what I got you."

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

And in other News... Partners in Crime

Caught this on a sports radio show last night. (SportsTalk, Canada's longest-running radio sports show, now in its 21st year with its original host, Dan Russell. Thus endeth the free plug.) What it was doing on a sports show, I have no idea. It supposedly came off the Internet, but I haven't been able to find it, so I can't even tell you where it took place.
Seems that two police officers got into a bit of an argument while out in their cruiser. The male officer, wanted to stop to get a pop, while his partner, a female officer, did not want to.
They argued.
Then they fought over the steering wheel.
Finally, the male officer TASERed the female officer.
Did I mention that the female officer was driving the cruiser?
The male officer has been charged with assault and could face three months in prison.
Clearly, these two are in love.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Beauty Tips From Moose Jaw

Will Ferguson is a very funny guy.
Wait, scratch that. I assume he's a funny guy -- I really don't know Will Ferguson from Adam.
Okay, scratch that, too. I know Adam and he is a funny guy. And so is Will Ferguson (I assume).
But they aren't the same guy.
Or are they?
Now that I think about it, I've never seen them both in the same place. In fact, I've never seen Will Ferguson anywhere. Could it be that they really are the same guy? Have I inadvertantly stumbled on the biggest conspiracy since Stephen Harper's brain was stolen by aliens?
Sorry. Let me start again.
Will Ferguson may be a very funny guy. But without question, he is a very funny writer. It's not by accident that he's won the Leacock Medal for Humour. (Then again, it might well have been an accident. But no one's admitting anything.)
Which brings me in a surprisingly roundabout way to his recent book Beauty Tips From Moose Jaw, a time-jumbled travelogue across Canada. He starts at a poetry slam here in Victoria, and meanders from West to East, ending in L'anse Aux Meadows, the home of the first Norse settlement in North America. On the way, he retraces his youth in the high North, looks for polar bears near Churchill, tries to find the meaning of Canada with his brother, tries to find the meaning of Quebec with another brother, and even attempts to find the meanings in that strange variation of english that is spoken in Newfoundland.
Ferguson is always funny. (Anyone who rates a book about Canadian Prime Ministers called Bastards and Boneheads gets an 'A' in my book.) And this book is warm and witty embrace of Canadiana, a wonderfully written journey exploring the backwaters and backstreets.
A great read.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

John Lennon and the Button Man

The Button Man was a man that I struck up an acquaintence with when he worked at a local comic shop many years ago. He was middle-aged, I guess maybe he was my age now. He lost his job when the comic shop consolidated its two locations into one, perhaps my first personal experience with "downsizing."
He was also a music fan. We were both big fans of The Who. (In later years, I would buy a few Who items from his collection when he was short of cash, which I kept until I had to sell them because I was short of cash. The circle of life.)
New Wave and Punk were tearing apart the musical strata and the Button Man had starting bringing music buttons into the comic shop before he was let go. The buttons, mostly of Brit new wave Bands (The Selector, The Stranglers, Madness) were popular and selling well, so he continued to order them. He wore a demin jacket that he covered with buttons, and he stood on a downtown street corner. Kids would start talking to him about the buttons and he eventually he would sell them a button or two. He also brought in buttons from older acts, too. All the bands were getting in on the button craze.
He knew I wasn't much into the punk bands, and that I liked some new wave. (The Police were okay -- they might amount to something one of these days.) He knew I preferred some of the older bands, and when he got new buttons from Pink Floyd, The Who, Queen, Rush or The Beatles he always pointed out them to me.
25 years ago this very afternoon, I bought a button from the Button Man. It's a small button, a black and white rendering of an early Beatles promo photo, the four of them in their Brian Epstein suits. I still have it.
It says, "Come Back, Beatles." Hours later, any hope of a Beatles reunion was terminated by five rounds from a madman's gun.

I don't know what's worse about anniversaries of famous deaths.
Is it that yet again we are forced recognize the fact that an amazingly creative talent was stolen from us many years too soon, killed by an explosion of rage and anger, betrayed by the very thing that makes us all human?
Or is it yet another reminder that the years are passing and I am another day closer to facing my own mortality.
Either way, the result is that I am now two years older than John Lennon will ever be. And that leaves me sad.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Snow!

Victoria is recovering from its first snowfall of the year. We received, oh golly, a good centimetre, maybe even a centimetre and a half over the last couple of days.
Frankly, it didn't even cover the grass on the lawn. It wasn't even worth taking a picture of. (And after buying a digital camera last year, believe me that's saying something.)
But on the other hand, as I prepare to hang up the Christmas lights, it does put a small holiday feeling in the air, along with the "bone-chilling" Victoria-cold that most Albertans would quaintly call a "warm front."
The rest of the country may laugh at our silly notions that -2 c, 20 kmh winds and a centimetre of snow constitutes a blizzard, but on the other hand I'm going kayaking on Sunday and riding my bike to work Monday.
Take that, Winnipeg!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Election Watch '06: Is Harper a Bush in Beaver's Clothing?

Is Stephen Harper a neocon of the Bush variety?
Click here for an article exploring the connections between Bush's neocon cronies and Harper and his team.
Thanks to long-time reader Hope for pointing out this story!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Election Watch '06: Harper and the GST

Conservative leader Stephen Harper has announced the first big promise of the campaign, an immediate rollback of the GST to 6%, followed by a further 1% decrease sometime within the next 5 years.
At least Harper hasn't said what many from the right will tell you, that tax cuts such as these will pay for themselves. (BC Premier and noted convicted drunk driver Gordon Campbell said that very thing when, as his first action upon being sworn-in, was to enact a massive tax cut for high-income earners. This was followed by the largest deficit in provincial history and massive service cutbacks. But I digress. And if tax cuts really pay for themselves, Mr. Campbell, why not cut all taxes? It's a win-win! I don't pay any tax and the province somehow magically raises revenue to pay for services! But I digress again.) But making your first big pledge a cut in the hated GST seems like nothing more than a popularity grab.
And that couldback firee. Let's remember which party brought in the GST in the first place. Why, golly, it was those darn Conservatives!
Not that the Liberals are all solid ground here suddenly defending the GST. After all, they were elected in 1993 by saying they were going to repeal the GST outright. Last time I checked, I was still paying it.