Sunday, February 28, 2010

James Hope Howard Liveblogs the 2010 Winter Olympics Closing Ceremonies

No tape-delays this time!

I just finished watching the insane Men's Hockey final, which is going to go down as one of those legendary games people bring up for decades to come; good thing we won, because all of our other gold medals would have meant approximately squat if we'd lost this one. I'm not kidding; people would have looked back twenty years from now and gone "friggin' Vancouver". Instead the entire country gets a feel-good moment, and good for everybody involved. (Must be awesome to be out partying in the bigger downtown centres, right now; the footage of the celebrations going on in downtown Toronto right now is quite impressively nuts.)

So! The Closing Ceremonies ought to be a hoot, and if I'm reading this correctly the television coverage should be starting in about an hour. I'm off to the fridge to start pregaming! I'll meet you guys back here in a bit.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Churchill High-Class School: An Alumnus Discusses the Lapdance Heard 'Round the World

Humour me as I open this post with an Ogden Nash quote, from his 1940 compilation The Face is Familiar:

Oh, what a tangled web do parents weave
When they think that their children are naive.

So! Churchill High School is in the news, maybe you've heard about this.

(A disclaimer: this is a really, really long post, so set some time aside if you intend on reading it all at once. And if you are related to me by blood, I would strongly recommend not clicking through the "Read More" link; there will be, shall we say, Mature themes discussed in this post. I'm serious about this, don't do it. MOM IF YOU ARE READING THIS JUST CLOSE THE BROWSER, CLOSE IT RIGHT NOW GO DO SOMETHING ELSE.)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Editors are Our Greatest Herors [sic], or: Good Ol'-Fashioned Ethnic and Religious Distrust, or: Pat Martin May or May Not Be Too White to Talk

If there is one individual in this city who I am quite sure I do not envy, it is whatever poor sucker got roped into moderating and editing the comments on the Winnipeg Free Press website.

Pat Martin is still in the news, you see, which is bad news for everybody. The thing you need to understand about Pat Martin -- and it seems a lot of people don't, but it's really quite obvious when you sit down and consider the available evidence -- Pat Martin's entire political strategy is to apply internet trolling to real life and just blurt shit out to get a reaction.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

"Blood Diamond Lanes" is Such a Great Title, or: Apparently Pat Martin May or May Not Be the Antichrist

First things first:

Uptown Magazine! Your better price advantage!

Inspired by a particularly ridiculous industry request from this past week, my most recent Uptown column offers -- shall we say -- a modest proposal.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Happy Third Annual Louis Riel Day

How time flies! Three years already, holy smokes.

Long-time readers will recall that I had written an Uptown Magazine column for the introduction of Louis Riel Day, then a column the year after that for its second observance. The scheduling just happened to shake out this year that my next column is after Louis Riel Day, so I couldn't really write about it a third time -- but, whatever, two years in a row is still pretty good.

And really long-time readers may even recall as far back as 2007, when I wrote on this very blog about the crucial voting that officially named the stat holiday and established Louis Riel's least depressing legacy yet. It's been a good run so far! (Certainly better than if they had named the thing "Spirited Energy Day" like they had threatened to, I mean. Because, augh.)

So let's celebrate! If you were wondering, yes, I intend to continue my own personal Louis Riel Day tradition: getting good and liquored up and then reading about Manitoba history. But this year is going to be a little different! For the past couple of Louis Riel Days I've been reading secondary sources, but this year my historical research will involve a series of primary documents across a variety of media types. And it's all for the greater good; I created that Manitoba Homecoming 2010 tag specifically for projects like this, so down the line throughout the rest of the year you can expect to see me share a wide selection of hilarious historical Manitoban artifacts with you guys.

But, wait, there's more! Since I'm such a hard worker (and a devastatingly handsome one, at that!), I figured I should get myself a little present -- so I set myself up a Twitter account, finally wandering bleary-eyed into modern civilization for the five or ten minutes before everybody inevitably migrates to Foursquare or whatever. (Of course, the site's servers crashed literally the second after I signed up -- but at least that means people are using it, so I'm not completely behind the times.) I'll have to remember to embed it in the sidebar, once the site is actually working again.

Long-time readers -- who are getting a lot of work today, considering how many times now I've incurred their hypothetical presence -- long-time readers might well be aghast at this news. I know that my previous stance about Twitter was very well defined, and even now I still suspect that the character limit might be rather restrictive to my traditional rambling technique -- so what changed between now and then? Well, Winnipeg Cat happened, basically. I kicked off that project a few months after that column was written, and then one day a little while ago I eventually realized that a Winnipeg Cat entry can only actually contain, at max, maybe seventy characters before it starts to lose its legibility. That's half a tweet. So, if I've managed to pull that off for a few months' worth of entries now, I suppose a hundred and forty characters is probably going to be plenty after all.

(There are FireFox extensions for expanding the character limit, too, as it turns out. It's a strange world we live in.)

So now I've got my bases pretty well covered, I think; anything too long for a Winnipeg Cat, but too short for a satisfying blog post, can be safely farmed out to Twitter for completion's sake. (And at least this way, if I appear to vanish for several weeks at a time, people can check to see whether I'm legitimately dead or just being lazy about posting here.) Bring the noise, new media!

Friday, February 12, 2010

James Howard Tape-Delay Liveblogs the 2010 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremonies

"8:00 PM"

Greetings, sports fans!

Yes, I'm rewinding the recording right now as I speak; the problem with PVR'ing the CTV feed is that the program "Winter Olympics" will be running pretty much nonstop for the next couple weeks. Once I get to the start, though, this is going to be pretty great! And, since it's still a 'live' telecast, it helps out tremendously that the time stamps are still intact. So I get to time everything right as it ran, but with the benefit of skipping commercials! Nice! I wish I could claim I had planned this.

'Live'blogging to follow, after the jump!

Tonight: Tape-Delayed Live Blogging (Because That's Funny)

What ho, gentle readers! Here's what's up.

There's been a whole lot going on in the city, and a lot of it is pretty funny -- not least of which is the delicious, delicious argument going on right now over the proposed police helicopter. (Premier Selinger turns out to have a spine, which I believe is the first we've seen of it so far in his reign. Good time for it to show up!)

But, of course, the big news of the day is that there are about to be Olympics afoot, and the Opening Ceremonies will be their usual big fun deal. I think it would be fun to liveblog them, but there's only one snag; I'll be out of the house until about 11:00 or so tonight.

Curses! Foiled again!

So, that being said, I'll just have to make do. The magic of PVRs means that I'll be able to start the thing from the beginning when I do eventually get home, so I'll be treating you all to a bit of an experiment: live-blogging a tape delay of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games Opening Ceremonies! Yeah! This ought to be a hilarious disaster!

Sure, there are some limitations to be worked out; I'm not sure how exactly I'm going to timestamp the thing, and the nature of recording means that I'll be stuck with the one channel feed throughout. (I've set the recording to CTV, entirely because their show starts first.) And do I fast-forward through the commercials, or go for the authentic experience of tolerating and/or ignoring them in real-time?

Well, we'll just have to find out! I'll see you later, true believers!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Good Little Feature That Keeps On Giving, or: Not Faron Too Well

Have you ever read the M.C. Blackman short story "A Good Little Feature"? It isn't a particularly well-known work, or a particulary well-known author; I remember reading it in grade seven or eight for English class, but of course everybody's reading lists and class experiences are different.

If you've never read it, please feel free to read it here; it starts on page ten, so scroll down to it and have a look. (I have no idea why somebody put it on Google Docs as part of an ESL lesson, but for posterity's sake I'm glad it's there.) It's only a couple of pages long, and it was written in 1966, but I think it's still a meaningful piece that has some potentially valuable lessons for modern life.

The story is a cautionary tale about a newspaper writer who seizes on the meager good fortune of an uneducated, lower-class man in the hopes of turning it into a good human-interest piece. His subject, bewildered and upset by the sudden commotion around him, doesn't appreciate being the centre of attention and would seemingly prefer to be left to his own affairs. Nonetheless, and despite any concerns for his subject's safety, the writer puts the story into the paper -- and soon enough, when the subject of his writing is thrust into the spotlight, very bad things happen to him as a result even though the writer had claimed to help him out.

What made me remember this short story out of the blue after so many years, and why am I bringing it up now? Oh, well, no reason. Just making conversation, I suppose.

Hey, so! I hear Faron Hall is in the news again. Attacked again, huh? Man, that's rough. Good thing we have Gordon Sinclair around to write another column about him, and the entire city's collective news machines all keeping him in the headlines! That'll fix everything!

And did Sinclair write in that column just now that the whole situation reminds him of a story he'd read? Hey, go figure! Man, that's funny how that works.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Kimuras and Keylocks for Christ, or: Why Head Punches and High Fashion Don't Mix

Remember last month when the Winnipeg Police Association wanted paid workout time for police, citing apocryphal stories of super-fit criminals busting out mixed-martial arts moves and wiping the floor with the city's out-of-shape police force? Remember the laughs we had about that? Ahh, those were good times.

But I think that we here in deeply troubled, perpetually violent Winnipeg need to revisit the idea for a moment. No, not the idea of giving police officers paid workout time, that one was stupid. (Like, helicopter stupid. And that's pretty stupid!) Rather, it has become clear to me in the last day or two that we're missing a golden opportunity to help these criminals and turn their lives around, so I'd like to fill you in on these new developments.

Our law enforcement agents and officials shouldn't be complaining about criminals taking up mixed martial arts; if anything, they should be encouraging it! Because it turns out -- according to a recent news story by the New York Times -- that MMA training and competition is, apparently, the newest and hottest way for troubled young men to open their hearts and find the lawd'n'savior Jesus Christ.

I'll give you a moment to read that article in its entirety and then let it sink in a little, because whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat--

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Holy Spurious Speeches, Batman, or: Waugh, Waugh, Wauggggh

February already? My goodness. I'd better get down to business!

Uptown Magazine! Courage now; truth always!

Did you see my column in the most recent issue? Oh my god you have to read my column in the most recent issue. If I'm stabbed to death tomorrow, bury me with this column. It's pretty sweet.

I owe a retroactive debt of gratitude to my good friend Gavin for writing the spiritual antecedent to this piece, but I hope you'll agree I've given it that little extra twist of somethin'-somethin' that makes the exercise worthwhile for local audiences.

Now, there's something to be said for blind luck; deadline schedules meant that I wrote this column a couple of Fridays ago, to be published this past Thursday, and it just so happened that between the creation and the publication of this column the Mayor made a ridiculous spectacle of himself. Totally saved me the trouble of worrying that people might think I was exaggerating! Ha!

Yes, last Tuesday saw the Mayor give his bizarre, rambling, inexplicable State of the City speech -- an event so uncomfortable and ill-advised that nobody has any idea, even a week later, just what in the hell the Mayor was going on about.

It wasn't just that Katz played the victim card like it was the only kind ever included in the deck. (The other levels of government don't give me enough money! The media reported on my personal life! One guy at one event made one sign that called me a mean name! bawwwwwwwwww) That much is par for the course, by this point.

And it wasn't just that he made a specific point of targeting potential rivals in the upcoming election before they've even formally declared themselves as candidates. If that sounds like a strange development, it gets stranger; actual legitimate news reports were written about polls that nobody has ever actually seen the numbers from, so now we're speculating on imaginary results of an undisclosed survey about multiple unconfirmed candidates. You tell me why nobody bothers to vote in this city!

No, the absolute best part of the speech -- the real slam-dunk humdinger of a character note -- was when he dramatically strode away from the podium, wrapped himself up tightly in the dual cloths of dutiful outrage and moral superiority, and totally flat-out lied to the entire city. Just straight-up lied. It was tremendous, oh my word.

Those of you who know me know that I do so hate to belabour a point, but you know who else goes up for his big definitive rabble-rousing speech and launches into a flurry of deliberate mistruths and bafflegab?

Yeah, huh. I don't know why I even tried to write a column about this, in retrospect, when it very obviously writes itself.

I mean, I might have thought that I was being really clever, or whatever, but it's clearly out of my control when the similarities are so pronounced to the point that the Mayor even dresses like the Burgess Meredith Penguin.

He's not even subtle about it, really, is he? Subtlety's a lost art, mind you.

Now, part of the fun at the State of the City address was that the Winnipeg Free Press helpfully contributed videos shot on site, including footage of the media scrum afterwards -- which meant that we got the rare and hilarious opportunity to watch the Mayor weasel furiously about his talking points.

"For whatever the reason, the NDP have decided that they want to take over, take control of City Hall. Along with a left-wing group. [. . .] The NDP have said that, as well as the left-wing--a, uh, a left-wing group as well. And if you aren't aware of that, then you should be."
"Who in the NDP said that? Who do you mean? Like the actual party itself? Or--"
"No! Not the NDP -- members of the NDP, have basically said..."

Oh, man! Good times, right? Good times. But even better was that these videos also gave us, the viewing public, the rare and hilarious opportunity to see how local media reacts when you lie directly to their faces.

And they... don't seem to appreciate it, but at least they're polite enough to not make a big deal about it while the guy's talking.

I'm sure Kives knows that I appreciate his work, so I hope he doesn't think I'm knocking on him or anything, but I swear -- if you can watch those Free Press videos and not get at least a chuckle out of his facial reactions to Katz' half-delusional grousing, you're clearly better disciplined than I am.

You'll kindly note, if you were drawing the wrong conclusions from the above image, that I'm not purporting to speak on behalf of Kives or of anyone else; I threw that sucker together for fun entirely because I thought it was funny, which is pretty well the attitude you have to take if you're going to try and follow politics around here.

Do you know how little actually happens in this political sphere? Manitobans as a collective, and Winnipeggers in particular, are famously timid milquetoasts when it comes to electoral decisions post-WWII; the provincial government has only changed hands between parties twice in my entire lifetime, and Winnipeg hasn't voted a Mayor out of office in literally over half a century.

(That's a li'l bit of interesting trivia for you Homecoming 2010 folks. Good to be back, right? Literally nothing is different from when you left!)

So no matter how little I may think of the Mayor's performance thus far -- and it doesn't help that he's recently been shanking my profession, librarianship, like he asked it for money outside the Health Sciences Centre -- no matter how I might feel about the guy, the overwhelming odds are that he's just going to be re-elected again with an easy majority because that's how this city works.

Partially because we enjoy our complacency very much, yes -- but also in large part, and I will give credit where credit is due, because the man does know how to run a winning campaign.

"Double the assessments! Triple the size of the posters! Quad-rupple the number of campaign buttons! We'll give the voters of this city the kind of campaign that they want! Plenty of girls, and bands, and slogans, and -- lots of HOOOM-LAAA~! But remember -- no politics! Issues... confuse people. So a big smile, a high handshake, and a really catchy campaign song -- that's the way to win an election!"

So what are Jennifer Jones and Fresh I.E. up to these days? We'll find out! That election's just a mere six months away, folks -- and if there's one thing that I know you're looking forward to, it's six more months of this!