Tuesday, December 31, 2013

156 Lines About 26 Letters: Your Local 2013 in Review

This is a thing that I do, sometimes. Once a year, say, give or take. This is a thing that happens.

You and yours have a safe and happy New Year's tonight, and I hope that you will enjoy:

156 Lines About 26 Letters: Your Local 2013 in Review.


A is for Audit, the fire hall brief
that ended both a CAO and a Chief;
though its Arrival took a lengthy vacation,
it blew quite a hole in our Administration.
For how long they'd delayed in hopes we'd forgot it,
one really could not have asked more of the Audit.

B is for Blueprints, doctored when Bought;
in a vast web the home Buyers were caught
when the inspector claiming their plans certified
also went through his own company on the side.
When a conflict of interest inquiry was led,
the inspector in question retired instead.

C is for Centreport, swiftly improving--
just two more years 'til it maybe starts moving!
It straddles two RMs; the Province has banned
the City from simply annexing the land.
In striking a waste plan success was implied,
but they still can't run water on the Rosser side.

D for Delete, as a web owner might;
y'know that "Responsible Winnipeg" site?
A 'grassroots' lobby, council'd later decry it
when its ownership traced back to Katz and Russ Wyatt.
The site's now Deleted -- which is too bad, because
we'll never know what "Another Initiative" was.

E for Employees; the City has many,
but when asked for numbers we can't produce any.
Pressed for an official staffing amount,
Mike Ruta said it'd take two months to count.
Could be in the millions! Could be in the tens!
Awkward for the budgets on which this depen's.

F for Fringe Fest, where this year the plays
most Famously Featured some ass mayonnaise;
each year seems to bring more bizarre escalation
in the struggle for key word-of-mouth motivation.
When scoping out shows, 'tis usually best
to just smile and nod politely at the Fringe Fest.

G is for Gaming Centre; not a casino!
Oh, it may offer blackjack and roulette and Keno
but when First Nations wanted casinos, we'd stated
no more because Winnipeg's too saturated.
True North's 'Gaming Centre', though -- just the right fix!
It's not favouritism, it's just... linguistics.

H is for Harvey, the Smith everpresent,
delighting in making his peers' lives unpleasant
by impishly doling ward allowance treats,
by cheering Joe Chan and by renaming streets.
On t-shirts they print him, in pumpkins they carve he--
most lucky for folks trying to rhyme things with "Harvey".

I for Ignorance of do-gooder whites,
and Infidel Atheist awkward soundbytes;
an IG Field launch that clogged every road,
Inner-city centres left to implode
and that one burst of Swandel wisdom to live by:
"blah blah I me-me I, me-me I I."

J is for Jurors, twelve people in all
who were grabbed around lunchtime at Cityplace mall;
rare statutes allow for sheriffs to so trouble you,
should you be in line at that one A&W.
Only one was needed, so don't be unnerved;
this wasn't how Justice is usually served.

K is for Keyser, who chided the mayor
for bad politics and ethical beha'iour;
despite this, to depose him she found no basis,
largely 'cause Chan filed in all the wrong ways-es.
And with that decision she put down her foot,
rend'ring Joe Chan's case and budget Kaput.

L for the Liberal Leadership race,
marked by internal outrage and disgrace
that a fake Bob Axworthy Twitter should exist;
no one seemed to care, but it hurt, they insist.
When a parody Twitter is the most that folks know,
there's nowhere but up for your party to go.

M for Mayoral, a living Museum
of candidates crowding to make sure you see 'em.
Bowman, Fielding, Havixbeck, Orlikow,
Steeves, Wasylycia-Leis -- and still you know
even more names may yet emerge, in the event
the Mayor's polling stays around twenty percent.

N is for Ninety, our main airport Route,
a most fascinatingly ugly commute
but Nothing, the Commerce Chamber did resolve,
that seven million bucks of fence wouldn't solve!
Their Chamber Way, alas, was proposed in vain,
so we'll still have to see those two blocks of back lane.

O is for Overrun; it's bad advice
to promise a "Guaranteed Maximum Price"
when the claim's accuracy is sorely diminished
by learning the blueprints weren't yet one-third finished.
Our new police HQ still nowhere near done,
thus far it's an $80-million Overrun.

P for the Provincial tax, PST,
a wound self-inflicted by the NDP --
support for the hike perhaps partly impeded
when they couldn't commit to a reason it's needed.
The Public thus far has declared this as folly,
the worst Polling seen by the Party since Pawley.

Q for how Quietly city heads left;
a vanishing Taz left the townsfolk bereft.
We've still no straight answers why Douglas was fired,
or Sheegl paid $240K once "retired";
Winnipeg's elevated to an art
its conspicuous Quiet when top brass depart.

R for Ray Rybachuk, quite the newsmaker;
a Royal-Albert-restaurant-tantrum-taker,
Teasers-chainsawer and associate of hoods,
one day found mysteriously dead in the woods.
His legacy surely will gain second look
should we ever write an Elmore-Leonard-esque book.

S is for Specialty Plates; that's our jam!
With five this year alone, we've been going ham;
one for Goldeyes, one for Fish Futures too,
one that only added "Bienvenue",
one for Curlers, and one for old car buffs.
And look for more next year! These still ain't enuffs.

T is for Target; it's finally here!
That drive to the States always seemed so severe—-
but what's this? Our interest immediately depleted;
CANADIAN prices! Ugh, we feel cheated!
No, sir, this new Target just ain't our scene.
(But it's nice that you folks made this Zellers so clean.)

U is for UFC, Ultimate Fighting;
a pay-per-view coming seemed very exciting
in a place with such loose violence and fashion credos
that sweatpants with TapouT shirts count as tuxedos.
Fans packed the rafters, a full sellout draw,
for what might be the worst card the sport ever saw.

V is the Roman numeral for five
years since Brian Sinclair was last seen alive;
found dead waiting at HSC in '08,
a '13 inquest is an oddly long wait.
And only now they note -- well, isn't that weird! --
their security footage of his death's disappeared.

W, Water, the talk of the town
when the taps began pouring a rainbow of brown --
all hues, tints and shades, a full range of corrosion
from 'lightest of beiges' to 'fecal explosion'.
But if we want people to move here, perhaps
we should be able to offer clear water from taps.

X is the crossing-off of things departed,
a full list won't fit but here's one that I'd started:
Kelekis, Gio's, the Tallest Poppy too,
the Parkade, Arkadash, Boo at the Zoo,
Dalnavert, Paddlewheel, Paddlewheel Queen--
this goes on for twelve lines, but you get what I mean.

Y is for Years, as 140 we turned;
for commemoration the cityfolk Yearned
but our brave leadership instead welcomed the day
by stonewalling quietly 'til it went away.
By 150, perhaps, we might honour our name
with a swelling of pride and not a vague sense of shame.

And Z is for Zombie Walk, this year now laid
to rest if our governments weren't getting paid
for the trouble of people downtown, such a mess --
there's no greater curse in this town than success --
so the route held nary a Zombie in sight,
downtown quite ironically dead on that night.


Happy New Year, everyone!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Manitoba Links Weekly: A Couple of Interesting Polls and Then Just a Whole Bunch of Drinking and Driving in This Post (ManLinkWeek S02E10)

Hello and welcome to Manitoba Links Weekly!

There was no WIPs this Wednesday, because Wednesday was Christmas. So Merry Christmas! Here's a neat local Christmas album I'd put up earlier in the week, if you'd missed it; you're probably all done with Christmas music for the year, but there's always next year, hey? Always next year.

Deck the halls with ManLinkWeek! Let's open with a pair of fascinating year-end polling results:

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Slurpees and Murder Record Club: Unsurprisingly, Lots of Christ in the St. Mary's Academy Christmas Album (JUBILEE!)

Merry almost-Christmas, listeners, and welcome to the Slurpees and Murder Record Club!

Today's lost local Christmas album is vastly more traditional than our most recent installment; it's more in line with last year's Christmastime entry, though twenty years later and with the jump in recording equipment to match.

So get your stockings and your eggnog and your Christ-love if you're into that, because it's time for:

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Manitoba Links Weekly: We Should Send Thunder Bay a Nice Card, Diabetes as Plot Resolution, More Fights Than Points, and Here is Burton Cummings Performing His "The 8 Days of Christmas" (ManLinkWeek S02E09)

The soulfulness in each and every delivery of "Five pounds of hash~!" makes my heart grow three sizes. And that camerawork! I'm so glad that we live in a world where this exists.

Hello and welcome to Manitoba Links Weekly! We've almost made it all the way through 2013; I'd say "let's enjoy it while it lasts", but this year turned vicious on me in every imaginable way, so honestly let's just kill it as quickly as we can.

This week on Winnipeg Internet Pundits we had some fun with that new Tourism Manitoba slogan -- and some fun flag-related follow-up discussion! -- as well as some looking back on top stories of 2013 and looking forward to top stories of 2014. Oh, and some music! That's a thing I've learned how to do on the soundboard now, swap on the fly from music to talk, it was pretty rad. Fine seasonal discussion, fine seasonal music -- a fine show all around, well worth your ear.

Anyway! No time to waste. ManLinkWeek!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Manitoba Links Weekly: Underwhelming Hockey at Discount Prices, I Think I Missed Dim Sum Day, Boot Scootin' Boogie for Keyboards and Drum Set, and I Don't Smoke But I Own a Cheeky Protest Contraband-Cigarettes Shirt Nonetheless (ManLinkWeek S02E08)

Hello and welcome to Manitoba Links Weekly! My word, time flies these days.

This week on Winnipeg Internet Pundits -- ha, that episode title, though -- this week we went into surprising depth on local store and product gift-shopping recommendations, discussed the merits and drawbacks of the hypothetical Unicity II, and expanded on some particular points of the preliminary civic budget. Including this very fine local blog post, which I heartily recommend you check out. Good times!

Oh! Also earlier this week, I added the 92 CITI-FM compilation "Winnipeg's Rock 'N Roll Christmas, Volume II" to the Slurpees and Murder Record Club; it's a two-decade-old rarity well worth your investigation, so give it a spin or two.

And if this post seems a little shorter than usual, it's because I've driven 2,200 kilometers across nine degrees of latitude in the past three days. Y'know, as one does. Release the ManLinkWeek!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Slurpees and Murder Record Club: Ladies and Gentlemen, Prepare Yourselves for 92 CITI-FM's "Winnipeg's Rock 'N Roll Christmas, Volume II"

Happy holidays, you infidel atheists! Welcome to the Slurpees and Murder Record Club; as we draw closer to Christmas Day, I think it's important that we all collectively take the time to appreciate the seasonally appropriate output of local musicians past and present.

In my last post I'd linked to some suitably seasonal material curated as a Manitoba Music playlist, but what I am about to present to you -- what you are about to hear -- has largely escaped detection until now, and really for the past twenty years or so. An oddity, a rarity, a treasure lost to time; it just so happened that I rescued a copy from a thrift store earlier this year, and it further just so happened that it played in exquisitely fine quality. (Believe me, with cassettes, you can't assume anything.)

Behold as I beheld, friends:


Saturday, December 07, 2013

Manitoba Links Weekly: When Everyone is Essential No One Will Be, December is Inevitably List Month, The Most Winnipeggian Present Imaginable, and Here are the Manitoba PCs Arguing for MORE SPECIALTY LICENCE PLATES (ManLinkWeek S02E07)

Earlier this week I compiled a field guide to Manitoba specialty licence plates, nine of which (NINE of which) have been released and promoted by the governing NDP within the last three years. That dropped on Tuesday; on Thursday, the official opposition Progressive Conservatives circulated a press release to argue that -- wait for it -- MANITOBA NEEDS ANOTHER SPECIALTY PLATE. The orange guys brag about nine specialty plates in three years, the blue guys complain it should be ten specialty plates in three years, and I want to light my ballot on fire. There's your provincial politics update. [ via ]

Hello and welcome to Manitoba Links Weekly! This week on Winnipeg Internet Pundits -- yes it was a full show this week, quiet you -- we discussed the City's preliminary budget, its controversial mandatory-unpaid-leave proposal for non-essential employees (more on that in a second), the continued wave of hypothetical Scott Fielding initiatives, and the death of the Montcalm Hotel so that condos may rise in its place. I have a long and fascinating story about working the front desk of a two-and-a-half-star hotel on Christmas Eve, but I'll save that one as its own special beast for some other time.

Right now, it's time for ManLinkWeek! First things first:

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

A Field Guide to the Specialty Licence Plates of the Province of Manitoba

Well, friends, it has come to this.

Following yesterday's surprise, and yet somehow not altogether surprising, announcement of curling specialty plates -- because of course Manitoba is putting out more specialty licence plates -- I was inspired to put together a helpful and timely little collection of specialty-plate info. Because, really, at the rate they've appeared as late, it's only going to get harder to keep track of them all and keep them all straight in one's head. ("We have how many plates about fish?")

I'm reserving the scope of this guide to specialty plates with visual design changes, which leaves out amateur radio operator plates; in researching this post I learned that they're coordinated across the country, indistinguishable from standard plates except by their character sets, and serve a functional rather than purely aesthetic purpose by relaying the operator's call sign. The More You Know!

Limiting my focus to aesthetic changes that received a full promotional blitz from the Province -- news releases, special press conferences, media coverage, the whole kit 'n' kaboodle -- there have been ten specialty licence plates unveiled in the past decade, and you'll see why that's funny in a second.

Please enjoy this field guide to Manitoba specialty licence plates, in chronological order of first appearance:

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Manitoba Links Weekly: It's a Bit Easier Being Green Than it Used to Be, I Hope a Weekly Provencher Facepalm Doesn't Have to Be a Thing, COOKIES, and Here's Brian Pallister Wishing All You Infidel Atheists Out There a Merry Christmas (ManLinkWeek S02E06)

I, uh... appreciate the... effort? I appreciate that you tried. You, uh, hey, you have a good one too.

Hello and welcome to Manitoba Links Weekly!

This week on Winnipeg Internet Pundits was one-third-repeat and two-thirds-new, because it snowed on Wednesday and roads are impassable when y'all keep driving into each other. (I passed four -- four! -- accidents on my way to the University, including one that snarled Pembina southbound for the better part of forever. Manitoba has the nation's lowest rate of winter-tire use, just coincidentally.)

But! In the back two-thirds of said show we covered the fascinatingly close Brandon-Souris byelection and its wildly, historically inaccurate polling -- TWENTY-NINE POINTS LOL -- as well as the very, very exciting University of Winnipeg apartment-tower announcement. Hey, someone's gotta build them, and it's not like the U of W doesn't already have plenty of valuable experience building things around there.

Speaking of radio -- segue! -- remember the CKUW 95.9 mystery show that Scott Price and I had collaborated on earlier this month? We spent an hour on the airwaves gushing over some of our favourite bass performances, and I am pleased to report that the audio of that show is now mirrored here for your listening and downloading pleasure. (Also, I couldn't resist: to honour the death of Winamp, I've listed the ID3 genre as "Primus".)

This concludes our weekly radio preamble; commence the ManLinkWeek! Let's start with a quiet but noteworthy provincial exit:

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Manitoba Links Weekly: Brandon-Souris is the Single Most Important Place in the Country, SureFoot Doesn't Have to Take This Kind of Abuse From You, Oh My God the Hamilton Avenue Flying Pizza Website, and Here's Harvey Smith Beside a Harvey Smith T-Shirt (ManLinkWeek S02E05)

Yo dawg, I heard you like Harvey Smith, so we put a Harvey Smith by your Harvey Smith so you can watch Harvey Smith while you watch Harvey Smith. [ via ]

Hello and welcome to Manitoba Links Weekly! This week on Winnipeg Internet Pundits we talked a seven-million-dollar-fence proposal (no, seriously), the Province's precarious spending-spree tendencies, and an audit call that was struck down and has subsequently become more powerful than you can possibly imagine. Plus other topics! It was a good show, give it a listen.

Ah, but there's by-election business to attend to, isn't there? Prepare yourself for ManLinkWeek!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Manitoba Links Weekly: Greg the Type of Premier, Let's Go Save Some Legions, The Big Little Book of Winnipeg Jokes, and Arcade Fire are Positive Winnipeg is in Saskatchewan (ManLinkWeek S02E04)

I suppose it's up for debate whether or not this is better than Winnipeg being in Ontario, but the gaffe is that little extra bit more galling coming from other Canadians. I'd ask "what do they teach in Montreal schools these days?", but the answer is probably just Habs trivia and how to accept mob bribes. [h/t to Stereogum and, uh, pretty well everyone on Twitter that day ]

Hello and welcome to Manitoba Links Weekly! How're you doing, you look lovely.

This week on Winnipeg Internet Pundits we tackled the provincial throne speech, what it meant (or rather, probably didn't mean) for rapid transit, and the possibility of abolishing the Executive Policy Committee model. The show went well, and I think you'll dig it, so give it a whirl if you'd missed it.

Onward, to ManLinkWeek! Let's lead off with some fine throne-speech content released later in the week:

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Manitoba Links Weekly: Winnipeg Doesn't Look a Day Over 139, Punk Reviews of Churches Makes Me Wish "Winnipeg" Were a Recognized Adjective, Also Featuring Beer and Yelling, and Here's a Harvey Smith T-Shirt (ManLinkWeek S02E03)

Remember how thoroughly I stressed calendar weeks when relaunching this format? Well, this is why. (Hey, the week ain't over yet!) Hello and welcome to Manitoba Links Weekly!

Yes, it's been another big and busy week in local culture and current affairs, so let's start with the brand-synergy segment to cover what I'm leaving out of the post this week. This week's episode of Winnipeg Internet Pundits covered the University of Manitoba Southwood lands' first renderings, the mysterious Provincial rejection of the City's new-home-builds fee proposal, and a delightful interview with Barley Kives about his Stuck in the Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg collaboration with Bryan Scott. (F'real, if you haven't already bought this book by now, I'm assuming it's because you intend to ask for it for Christmas.)

Also! Thank you once again to Scott Price and CKUW 95.9 FM for having me on the airwaves this past Tuesday afternoon; we did a special mystery show about our favourite bassists and bass recordings, and it was a blast and a half. You get me talkin' about music, man, it's hard to get me to stop.

Ah, but enough off-topic rambling out of me; time for on-topic rambling! ManLinkWeek, engage!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Manitoba Links Weekly: Thunderbolt-ly Kives, Nothing Went Well for the Police Service This Week, Maybe Don't Break Election Spending Rules One Day Into Your Mayoral Campaign, and Here's a Harvey Smith Pumpkin (ManLinkWeek S02E02)

You thought I was bluffing with that title, didn't you? You know me better than that, c'mon man. [ via; y'all should follow him, too ]

Good evening, everyone, and Happy Hallowe'en; welcome back to Manitoba Links Weekly! November might yet be just as dramatic as October was, so there's no time to waste; I'm bookending this week's installment with arts and culture, so let's jump right in.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Manitoba Links Weekly: The Election's One Year From Now, Here's a Personnel Update and a Reader's Guide to the Audit, Let's "Get It Done" (ManLinkWeek S02E01)

Hello, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Season Two of Manitoba Links Weekly! Local and provincial matters of interest, seven articles or subjects per installment, one installment each calendar week. And with 52 weeks remaining until the next civic election -- Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014 -- this seems as fine a time as any to dust the format off and get back into the swing of things.

I think you know what the biggest story is, of course:

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Manitoba Public Insurance Vanity Plate Rejection Explanations as Beat Poetry, or: What Made You Think They'd Okay "BIGDINK"

[ The following is a series of direct quotations from the Winnipeg Free Press' full list of Manitoba Public Insurance rejected vanity plates, published on October 11th, 2013. More specifically: this is every single entry under the 'EXPLANATION' column, in order of appearance, arranged and joined by punctuation but otherwise [sic] and unaltered. (I cannot stress that last part enough. This is how someone at MPI types.) ]

[ This blog has conducted a similar experiment previously. Dramatic audio readings are available on request. ]


Saturday, September 21, 2013

(Knock Knock) Housekeeping: Blog List Trades and Cuts for the 2013-2014 Season

Yes, I'm still a-workin' away in secrecy on the project mentioned in the previous post, and no, this post has nothing to do with it. (I know I'd already told you to not assume as such, but humour a brother his redundant additional disclaimers.) Just a wee bit of local-blog movin' and shakin', today, and the unfortunate but necessary business of pruning that which has gone dead.

Let's open with the trades, first, the big moves from one place to another. Beloved local blogger cherenkov of Anybody Want A Peanut? has officially moved operations and is now Derick of Around This Town, aroundthistown.ca. Vanessa Meads of the now-deleted Rose Coloured Beer Goggles has started up VanessaMeads.com, and Patrick Oystryk of the former Stumbling (A)Bordeaux can be found at manitoba matsqui, mbmatsqui.tumblr.com. Best of luck to everyone!

(And don't you worry, true believers -- I'll keep local longform alive by myself if I gotta. FIVE-THOUSAND-WORD POSTS ON OLD LOCAL THINGS ARE THE HILL I WILL DIE ON)

The blog roll to your immediate right, meantime, has become a bit unwieldy as late; in the name of paring down the roster, I made the decision to drop any blogs that haven't been updated since 2012. Bear in mind, it's September; nine months is a pretty generous window, and really, what better time than fall for spring cleaning? (...don't answer that. You get what I mean.)

Anyway, it ended up being kind of a long list after all that, but in fairness a lot of the folks involved are busy with non-blog ventures. (Which shall be indicated in parentheses, as applicable.) Please join me in wishing the best of future endeavours to:

Winnipeg Bus Stories
PolicyFrog (Colin Fast's Urban Compass columns with Metro Winnipeg can be found here)
KOAN SOLDIER (Josh Grummett's work with APTN can be found here)
Brewtinerie.ca (alas, what could have been! Grant Hamilton's Grant's Tomb columns with the Brandon Sun can be found here)
A Day In The Hood (Rae and Ward now RV all across the continent, writing at Freedom at 51)
The FWD: North End Youth Newspaper BLOG
Simple Winnipeg Real Estate (now offline)
Urbiculous (Tessa Vanderhart's news stories with the Winnipeg Sun can be found here; see also Winnipeg Internet Pundits on 101.5 UMFM)
Arsenisms (Scott MacNeil has since migrated to Twitter; thanks again for the vinyl, Scott!)
The Land of Ice and Grain
and The LAngside Times.

Whoof! Quite the list. Nothing has to be permanent, of course; you know I love y'all, you're all welcome back if-slash-when you post something. Holler at me.

There, that's that accomplished; my, that looks cleaner. More room, too! So let me know in the comments below, readers dear, if I'm missing a local blog that you've been really enjoying as late. (Especially since September, as always, means another new draft class of CreCommers; give 'em a look-see, find some new favourites! Ahh, I love September.) Until next time -- good luck and good reading!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

I'm Working on a Super Neat Thing That I'm Keeping Secret for Now, But I Will Definitely Let You Know When It's All Set

The basics of this post are pretty well covered by the heading -- curse my devotion to accurate and descriptive titles! -- but I'll round it out a little for entertainment's sake.

Yes, as is usually the case when I vanish for any longish period of time, I am at present Up To Something -- capital-U capital-T capital-S, Up To Something -- and it would spoil the eventual surprise if I were to wax about it in detail right now.

Now, I can't guarantee you'll be as enthralled by the results as I've been so far; there is a chance, as there always is with my output, that you may find the end product strange or silly or unremarkable. But, man, I'm enjoying it! I am definitely enjoying myself in putting it together, which is usually a reasonably good sign, and I hope that you will enjoy it too upon its eventual release.

(Going forward, you may wonder at each eventual thing I produce: is this the thing he meant? Assume as your starting point, gentle reader, that it is not unless I note otherwise; rest assured that I will make a capital-V capital-B capital-T Very Big Thing of it when I tell you what it is.)

So there's your curiously non-specific progress update: I am working on a thing, and I am quite enjoying working on a thing, and eventually you too will be privy to the thing that I am working on.

Thank you for reading that! Thank you for indulging me. And just so's you don't feel that this post was a wasted click: here is an entirely unrelated but entirely delightful eight-minute compilation of Carl Carmoni footage, sure to brighten your day as surely and as swiftly as it always brightens mine.


Watch this space, true believers; I'll see you around soon!

Sunday, September 01, 2013

The Hemingway Special is My Favourite Mixed Drink; Here's a Step-By-Step Guide to Making One

"Courage," Ernest Hemingway once wrote, "is grace under pressure." And then, of course, he shot himself.

Hello and welcome back to Slurpees and Murder, here on this glorious Labour Day Weekend! Everything's coming together just so: the sun is shining, the Blue Bombers are embarrassing themselves again playing, and we all have our kickin' weekend tunes queued up for the post-game loungearounds. All we're missing is something to drink -- but not for long!

I've put some time into teaching myself how to best mix a Hemingway, and in the spirit of weekend optimization, I'd like to take this opportunity to pass along my findings.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Slurpees and Murder Record Club: She Will Love You and Leave You High and Dry (or, 1987 Just Was Not a Year for Lookin' Good)

Hello, everyone, and welcome to another edition of the Slurpees and Murder Record Club! Are you all set for the long weekend? Not yet, you ain't!

Get ready to kick it like it's 1987:

Monday, August 19, 2013

KEEP CALM AND BLAME FILMON (or: 1999 Was Fourteen Years Ago and You're About to Feel Really Old)

Good morning, readers, and welcome t--BOO!

AHH, OH GOD, AHHHHH--haaaaa ha ha ha ha, oh man, I got you good, you should've seen the look on your face

Yes, today we're taking a look back -- way back -- at everyone's favourite go-to boogeyman, Manitoba's nineteenth Premier, The Honourable Gary Albert Filmon. It is possible, perhaps, that you have forgotten the horrors and atrocities of the Gary Filmon government; it was long enough ago, after all, that much of the story remains only in legend and lore.

The Gary Filmon government, to be perfectly precise, officially ended on October 5th, 1999. So let us take you back:

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Awesome Old Cars, Human-Dinosaur Coexistence, and I Guess Our Premier Only Owns the One Casual Outfit: Here's the Gimli Islendingadagurinn 2013 Parade (56K Modems, Prepare to Die)

And here we are again! It took a little longer than I'd hoped to pull everything together -- always something to be done, y'know how it is -- but a week is a not altogether terrible turnaround, as I'm sure you'd agree if you could see my metaphorical digital cutting room floor of photograph choices.

There was, as always, a whole lot of different stuff packed into the parade; this gallery runs an initial twenty-one megabytes and increases by volume depending on how many images you care to enlarge, so if you have an older internet connection you may wish to towel it down intermittently to keep it from catching fire.

For comparative purposes, should you feel the impulse, the image gallery of last year's parade can be found here.

Onward, then! Much like last year, the Parade escaped with far better weather than the rest of the festival got, and the audience size reflected this appropriately:

Hark! In the distance there you should be able to make out a pace car, which leads the runners and formally kicks off the parade.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

The Last Month Hasn't Really Been Great For Me

If you don't follow me on Twitter, or you haven't been within earshot of me in real life lately, you may have wondered about my disappearance from the online sphere as late. (I mean, besides the eight posts a week on the other blog. Not counting those. You get what I mean.) So I figure I'll give you the short version, because the long version would be significantly more miserable.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Yes, It Was Adorable: Here are Photos of the 2013 Ponemah, MB Canada Day Parade and Celebrations (Warning: Image-Heavy)

Hello, everyone!

I'd hoped to have these pictures up for you a bit sooner -- like, closer to Canada Day, say -- but I've spent all July thus far waylaid by a rather gruesome summer cold, the kind that prevents a man from sleeping or functioning or doing much else save wishing for the sweet embrace of death. However! There've already been a few stray Google searches sniffin' around for them, and I'd hate to disappoint anybody, so please find enclosed a collection of photos from the 2013 Ponemah, Manitoba Canada Day Parade. (You can view the 2012 parade here, for comparative purposes.)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Here are Aerial Photographs of Winnipeg's Trailer Parks, and Gillam, at the End of the 1960s (Warning: Image Heavy)

"The cure for boredom is curiosity," Dorothy Parker once wrote. "There is no cure for curiosity."

All of the images that you are about to see in this post have been scanned from a publication that I rescued, out of curiosity, from the discard table at the NDC Red River College Library:

"Mobile Homes in Metropolitan Winnipeg and the Additional Zone", released by the Metropolitan Corporation of Greater Winnipeg Planning Division in February of 1970. (With old-style thick plastic coil-binding, so you can imagine the fun I had scanning it.)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The 2013 Stanley Cup Finals Begin Tonight

Hey, long time no see! I've been quietly scratching away at some longer-term projects since the last post, but this subject material has its own particular time frame, so let's get right to it. (There's hockey to be watched, after all.)

(1W) Chicago Blackhawks vs. (4E) Boston Bruins

This really does feel like it could be a once-in-a-lifetime clash-of-the-titans affair, which is why I fear it could turn out to be disappointingly anticlimactic. (There've been some real dogs of series thoughout the history of the Finals, and it does look like we're about due.)

On paper, of course, it's fascinating; both groups feature absurdly deep forward corps, twenty-to-thirty-minute hallmark shutdown pairs on defence, a whole bunch of big dudes who will punch you if you try anything, and wildly successful if probably overperforming goaltenders. (Granting that Quick had been the best goaltender going into the last round, and, uh, yeah.)

Both teams are also as healthy and well-rested as could be considered realistically possible this late in the year; both Conference Finals went quickly, Boston's had kind of an easy ride in the last series and a half or so, and (as I'd mentioned last time) Chicago didn't actually seem to start applying themselves until game ten or eleven of the campaign.

One would normally be tempted to take special teams into consideration, but it'll be amazing if there's one god damn power play goal this whole series (however long the series lasts). Both teams have been phenomenal at penalty killing and astonishingly lousy with the man advantage, and we've hit the point in the year when you can only reliably draw a non-offset minor through procedural malarkey. Like, one team would have to specifically put too many men on the ice, and then that extra guy would have to get the puck in his own zone and shoot it out over the boards. That'd be the only way that someone on the extra team doesn't mysteriously also collect a penalty on the play, the way one does this time of year by getting punched at the side of the net or tied up along the boards on a line change.

Also: this time two years ago Boston entered the Stanley Cup Finals with a playoff power-play success rate of one in ten, just barely squeaking the eleven-per-cent mark, and then won the Stanley Cup anyway. So enough about special teams.

The Bruins have just finished dismantling what could have been considered the ideal offence, and the Blackhawks have just finished dismantling what could be considered the ideal defence and goaltending. It's a fun contrast.

Alas, while my loyalties have historically been pretty obvious -- RAY EMERY FOREVER -- I fear that this may indeed come true and bring Boston its second Cup in two years.

It'll be harder to beat the Blackhawks than the Penguins, unquestionably; it couldn't be easier, surely, at any rate. The Penguins' offensive strategy was to stand still, leave Crosby to skate into quadruple coverage, and then go collect the puck out from behind Vokoun or Fleury depending on how badly the game was going; the Pens' top scorers were Brandon Sutter and Chris Kunitz, because the Penguins' only scorers were Brandon Sutter and Chris Kunitz. So Chicago is far better poised to crack the Bruins' blue line, being able to activate defensive rushes and all, but that can only catch a team unawares so many times in a row.

Note that Detroit did as well as they did against the Blackhawks because they were able to shut down Chicago's top forwards, as Boston will surely aim to do (and did with the consensus best forward roster in the world), and because they consistently kept the puck away from Chicago, as Boston's infuriatingly strong faceoff percentage may ensure.

Shutting down forwards bears further mention because, if the previous three rounds are any indication, it's not an option against the Bruins. The top line of Lucic, Krejci and Horton -- and surely any opponent will do its best to shut down the other team's top line at all time -- the top line of Lucic, Krejci and Horton are +13, +14 and +21 through sixteen playoff games, with thirteen, fourteen and twenty-one points respectively. No no, read that again: Nathan Horton is +21 across sixteen playoff games. Which, I mean, excuse me. I beg your pardon. How is that a thing.

I could be wrong -- I hope I'm wrong! -- I wish I were wrong more often -- but I'm going with:

What I'd Want: Chicago in seven, including at least one line brawl.
What I'll Guess: Boston in six, including at least one shutout.

Hockey, everybody! I'll see you back here in a day or two, with some... unique... Winnipeg content. Until then, true believers!

Saturday, June 01, 2013

The NHL Stanley Cup Conference Finals Begin Tonight

Well, hello there, everyone! I've just returned home from the closing ceremonies of the Canadian Library Association 2013 National Conference and Trade Show (henceforth "CLA Conference", because I'm not typing that out again); if you've been wondering about my almost total disappearance for the last four days, that's what I've been up to. Learning all day! Socializing all night! Rising and shining bright and early the next day for more learning! SLEEP IS FOR WORK WEEKS.

I'll be watching the official website for the eventual arrival of the conference slides and other related materials, and then -- hopefully, if things don't get too busy around here -- sharing some photos and impressions and whatnot.

Ah, but there I go, carrying on about unrelated matters when there is pressing business to tackle. Playoff predictions! I've been two-thirds right on them so far this year -- which is sort of an overperformance against previous years, actually -- and it's probably all downhill from here, but I intend to try nonetheless!

Eastern Conference

(1) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (4) Boston Bruins

You know, I think I've finally learned a valuable lesson out of all of this: stop pretending that the Rangers are ever a legitimate contender. (It made for a pretty impressive playoff-time magic trick, though, what with roughly a gazillion dollars suddenly becoming invisible and all.)

Somewhat amazingly, the forward advantage for Pittsburgh isn't as dramatic as you'd initially expect; Boston is as big and nasty as ever, has enough breakout speed reserved to catch the Penguins' defence off-guard, and can put up a whole pile of points in a hurry. (Would you believe that the leading playoff scorer so far this year is David Krejci?) If they were hanging three to five goals a night on Lundqvist, what's to stop them lighting up Vokoun like a Christmas tree? And if the Bruins, who have the goaltending advantage to begin with, manage to chase Vokoun, the Penguins will feel obligated to give franchise goalie Fleury a try, and... yeah, no. That'd end exactly the way you think that'd end.

I can't speak for America, the Boston Marathon bombing still fresh in everyone's minds, but the Penguins are markedly the sentimental favourites up here in the North, and it's certainly plausible that they can advance to the Cup Final if their goaltending holds. Having said that, the consensus among people I've talked to is that A) most everyone in Canada wants Iginla to win a Cup, B) nobody anywhere likes Jeremy Jacobs, and C) the universe is cold and unfair. SO:

What I'd Want: Pittsburgh in seven.
What I'll Guess: Boston in six, and at least one Penguins star is sidelined by a dubious hit sometime during the series.

Western Conference

(1) Chicago Blackhawks vs. (5) Los Angeles Kings

(Yes, I realize that this game has started before I could get home. DON'T TELL ME WHAT'S HAPPENING YET)

Be honest: the way that Game Seven unfolded, you thought the Joel Quenneville Curse was kicking back in, didn't you? I totally did. Those last five or ten minutes of gametime, especially... that one call, had me mentally preparing to watch a man unravel like a yanked sweater thread at the merciless cruelty of the fates that torment him.

What finally did pull Chicago through, despite an excellent shutdown series from Detroit, is their abundance of available firepower; the Hawks' defence core can manufacture additional offence with ease whenever they like, and their forward depth is just gross. So gross. The grossest.

(That said, full credit to Quenneville for adjusting as wisely as he did; that recomposition of the Toews-Kane-Sharp top line and Keith-Seabrook defensive pair for Game 5 turned the series around and saved his season. Probably also his job, too, the way the year's gone for coaches.)

They'll be up against arguably the best defence, and certainly the best goaltending, in the Playoffs to date; that said, however, I don't believe the Kings have enough left in 'em to hold Chicago off. If they'd closed out the Sharks earlier and had the extra few days of rest, it'd be a different story -- but with Chicago no less rested (who haven't even really seemed to start exerting themselves until a week ago, remember) and proving scarily capable of busting defensive schemes open, I think Quick will only be able to hold them off for so long.

What I'd Want: Chicago in seven.
What I'll Guess: Chicago in... ahh, what the heck, let's give 'em seven.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Internet on the Radio: Slurpees and Murder Record Club, a Winnipeg Cat Segment on CJOB, and Winnipeg Internet Pundits (Briefly) Returns This Week

Well, hello there, everyone! My apologies for the unintended two-week absence; it seems like the busyness of summer starts earlier and earlier every year, whether it actually feels like summer yet or not. (It's expected to rain today and right through to the end of the week, because of course it is.) But there's well over an hour's worth of content for you to enjoy in this post, so let's get rolling!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Round Two of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs Begins Tonight

In fact, it's already starting -- don't tell me what happens! -- so I'd better get this on the record tout-suite; if I'm going to get my guesses wrong, I should at least come by it naturally.

Prediction time~!

Western Conference

(1) Chicago Blackhawks vs. (7) Detroit Red Wings

I wasn't thrilled about correctly picking Detroit, but yeah, the writing was on the wall when the Ducks turned out to have an average age of like eighty. I was watching that series the whole time like "Yo, hold up, is that Tony Lydman? F'real? Is that Radek Dvorak? Is that Sheldon Sou--Sheldon Souray's still alive?" When you make Detroit look young, man. Maaaaaaan.

So we get the big Original Six matchup, and a conclusive one at that, given the realignment next season and all. (Unless both teams win their respective conferences and meet in the Stanley Cup Final, but that seems... increasingly unlikely in coming years.) So this is it, this is the big sendoff, aaaaaaaaand it'll probably be super anticlimactic.

It shouldn't be a full sweep, although Chicago did sweep the regular-season series against Detroit; the way that overtimes have been sprouting up this year, it seems reasonable that Detroit could sneak off with a win or two that way. And it's not that a Detroit upset is completely implausible; Detroit is always a threat to swipe some games, Howard can lock it down with the best of them when he's on his game, Datsyuk is still very nearly impossible to contain, and -- in case you had forgotten this particular tidbit -- this is JOEL QUENNEVILLE FACING THE RED WINGS.

But with that said, the Hawks are mad talented, good and rested after a short first round, not unfamiliar with how to beat Detroit, and probably very unlikely to overlook the Wings as a threat to their conference finals berth. Ergo:

What I'd Want: Chicago in five.
What I'll Guess: Chicago in six.

(5) Los Angeles Kings vs. (6) San Jose Sharks

Okay, so, that Vancouver collapse? Phenomenal. Oh my word. That was majestic. Like I'd said, the loser of that series is destined for an offseason shakeup -- not that I guessed the series right whatsoever or anything, but c'mon, like anybody called the Canucks being swept -- and the ignominious fashion in which the Canucks lost, coupled with choking against a team everyone else considers chokers, should mean a pretty wild 'n' woolly offseason.

(I love that the whole Canucks season was framed in terms of goaltending, and then come playoff time the goalies were fine but all of their skaters except Kesler were worthless. Whoops! Slightly different narrative than anticipated.)

ANYWAY. Let's talk about teams that are still playing, for the moment. I was impressed to discover that the Sharks have survived in their current -- not to say "doomed", but -- flawed incarnation long enough to build up a really solid younger core, fully ready to take the reigns when the old b'yes get put out to pasture. Logan Couture in particular isn't just a franchise player, he's the franchise -- but mention must be made as well of Brent Burns, whose transition from offensive D-man to power forward has been so wildly successful as to make Winnipeg fans seethe. He's like Byfuglien if Byfuglien were reliably good. Life ain't fair, man.

The Kings had a rougher time to the second round, but a lot of that may be the Blues being secretly way better than their fate suggests. (And part of it may be Quick giftwrapping and giving away Game 1. But, still.)

It feels like it's going to be a startlingly even series; the Sharks are well-rested, Niemi quietly levelled up when nobody was looking, and (perhaps most importantly) the Sharks suddenly choking in the third round would be way funnier than the Sharks suddenly choking in the second round. On the other hand, the Kings have all of the reigning-champion benefits with none of the usual fatigue, they can never be considered totally out of a game, their defence core is almost insultingly solid, and Jonathan Quick is probably actually a robot. Should be good! If you like lots of checking and don't mind really low goal totals -- San Jose may find it harder to score when the other team's skaters seem to be, y'know, trying -- you should get a real kick out of this one.

What I'd Want: San Jose in four. God, could you imagine? That would feel like the world's tilted off its axis.
What I'll Guess: Los Angeles in... mm, seven.

Eastern Conference

(1) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (7) Ottawa Senators

One of my favourite things in life is being completely wrong about something. (One of my least favourite things is being completely right. I don't know what this says about me.) And if there's one thing that I was extremely happy to be wrong about, it was my original suspicions that the Montreal-Ottawa series would be boring and dispassionate. It's amazing how a grievous facial injury, vengeful sea-mammal-themed insults, a gazillion minutes in fighting majors and the complete implosion of one team can liven up a series!

Pittsburgh, meanwhile, seemed to get caught cruise-controllin' against the Islanders, who put up as courageous and tenacious a fight as anyone could have hoped for until the crushing inevitability of being the Islanders in the playoffs finally caught up to them.

The thing is, the Islanders did as well as they did against the Penguins by leveraging timely bursts of hockey talent -- plus getting to play against Fleury, y'know, there was that -- and the Senators made it to this second round by punching the other team in the mouth until they flipped out and forgot how to play hockey. And I don't mean to oversell the importance of the officiating, because you just know someone'll be like "AWW C'MON WHY DO THE PENGUINS GET SO MANY CALLS THEIR WAY UGH THIS LEAGUE IS RIIIIIIGGED", but I do think the laissez-faire the Sens benefitted from in round one isn't as likely to be there in round two. Let's say Chris Neil (because it's going to be Chris Neil) tries to stir something up after the whistle by jabbing the broken-jawed, concussion-prone, intensely-spotlit face of the franchise; how likely do you think it is that the refs let it slide?

Again, I'm not saying that the League will clamp the rulebook down because it benefits the Penguins; I'm saying it benefits the Penguins that the League will clamp the rulebook down. The NHL is, shall we say, very slightly concerned about how the public perceives its violence, and this series is very likely to be the most closely scrutinized.

Besides, the issue of penalties aside, the Sens' other ticket to round two is that they got to ring up a bunch of goals on a Carey Price that was awful by Carey Price standards. (He'd never given up six goals in a playoff game, until...) The Isles' almost-success came from getting to ring up a bunch of goals on a Marc-Andre Fleury that was... well, that was kind of what we expect from Fleury, actually, but -- anyway, Vokoun exists, and Bylsma is not stupid, and away we go.

What I'd Want: Ottawa in seven, with at least one more line brawl. Although I wouldn't mind Pittsburgh in seven either. Really, just give me seven games of this, y'all can do what you want with the last one.
What I'll Guess: Pittsburgh in... ehh, five.

(4) Boston Bruins vs. (6) New York Rangers

We who watched it unfold in real time, every single one of us, without fail, are all going to tell our grandchildren about that Boston-Toronto game seven someday. That was legendary, and spectacular, and the most Toronto-sports-ian Toronto sports event in what feels like forever (because it kind of was). As I noted on Twitter at the time, I felt bad about laughing, sure, but holy shit did I laugh.


The Iron Sheik basically has the hang of being a Torontonian, it seems like. First the Jose Canseco mayoral bid, now this; if sports doesn't work out for them -- it never seems to, really, does it -- at least Toronto can remain secure in its Twitterverse star power. (You may laugh, but look at how Winnipeg's leadership behaves; they'd kill for that kind of C-to-D-level recognition. Or at least mint a whole lot of keys to the city for it.)

All the more impressive in Boston's game seven comeback victory -- and the reason I'm less inclined to call this round in their favour -- is that they pulled it off after some dismally anemic offence in previous games, and that they pulled it off despite being down to, like, three and a half defencemen left on the roster.

New York required all seven games, too, technically, but I wouldn't really count that last one as a game per se. (It's so perfectly, serendipitously fitting that the Southeast Division died on an unworthy third-seed getting bounced in round one and stinking it up on their way out.) The Rangers are healthier, play a cleaner style, have a captain who's basically a superhero, and are fully capable of winning any given game by potting a single goal and then just figuring it's taken care of.

It'll be competitive right to the last -- certainly more so than that other East series, I'd reckon -- but, unless the Bruins get some bodies back in a hurry, I think the Rangers will ultimately be able to grind this one out.

What I'd Want: New York in seven.
What I'll Guess: Eeeeegh--it's really tempting to still say Boston anyway somehow. But nah, New York in seven.

Playoff hockey! Yay!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Everything Recent is New Again: Harvey Smith Trollface Set Series 1, the NDP History Channel, and Russ Wyatt's Promotional 8x10

Despite what the weather might suggest -- the weather having gone Chaotic Evil for the entire year to date -- we are rapidly approaching the summer, and summer in Manitoba means that political news and current affairs almost completely disappear. Media outlets are left to fill the void with festival coverage and crime stories; fortunately for them, festivals and crime expand almost exponentially in the summer. (The system works!) But City Council winds down to a summer stop, and the Legislature (usually) wraps by cottage season, so regional politics enter almost a reverse hibernation: the warmer it gets, the less movement occurs.

Yes, like most forms of entertainment, political coverage in Manitoba goes into reruns for the summer; here are a few of the episodes that are set to repeat themselves in the weeks to come, accompanied by some relevant images I'd whipped up when they first arose.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Round One of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs Begins Tonight

It's that time of year again! One of the annual traditions we celebrate here at Slurpees and Murder is making predictions for each round, then watching those predictions basically level out to .500 by the time the Cup is awarded each year. (So a lofty bar, as always.)

Yes, even though the Winnipeg Jets fell just short of qualifying -- for some reason -- the chase for the Cup remains as intriguing as ever. So let's jump on into this year's National Hockey League playoffs, starting in the:

Eastern Conference

(1) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (8) New York Islanders

So let's start with the easy one, basically, sure.

Perhaps owing to the shortened, tightened nature of the season, this year saw a lot of really impressive winning- and point-streaks; the Penguins didn't have the most notable streak of the year, but when you're missing the consensus #1 player in the world for long stretches and win three-quarter of the season's games anyway, you are probably doing okay for yourself.

The trade-deadline addition of Iginla suddenly rendered the Penguins Canada's Team -- to the extent that they aren't usually, anyway, I mean -- and while the Penguins aren't necessarily the shoo-in Eastern Conference champions, they can very certainly be counted on to overcome the Islanders.

Fleury has his bad patches -- infamously so! -- but nothing too dramatic this year, to date, and certainly not to such a degree that he risks being outdueled by Nabokov, of all goalies. Besides posing a high risk for Lundqvist Syndrome -- they played him 40 of the 48 games this year, and a thirty-seven-year-old dude's only got so much in the tank -- Nabokov put up not particularly stellar numbers, faced an ass-ton of shots all year, and was one of only four goalies in the League to break the hundred mark for goals-allowed on the year.

(None of the other three made the playoffs. 'SUP PAVELEC)

It'd be a nice story if the Isles did well! That'd be nice for that franchise. But:

What I'd Want: Pittsburgh in six.
What I'll Guess: Pittsburgh in four, because really, who are we kidding.

(2) Montreal Canadiens vs. (7) Ottawa Senators

(Getting it out of the way at the outset: KARLSSON, HOW)

Every first round has a series that turns out to be a total disappointment; this year it'll probably be this one. I mean, I hope I'm wrong, I'm just warnin' you ahead of time.

It may get a little testy and gritty with one or two games to go, perhaps, but on the whole this may very well be some dispassionate, offputtingly gentlemanly hockey we're about to watch. It will be very technically sound, and probably very graceful, and we'll probably have to listen to Don Cherry complain about it at length. Let's manage our expectations, is what I'm getting at.

As far as outcomes--Anderson is having a madcap year, leading the League in goals-against (by a wide margin) and save percentage; I think it's reasonable to suggest that he's most of the reason the Sens made the playoffs, the team's regular season spent running some sort of grievous-injury sweepstakes. Is he enough to hold off Montreal, though? A year or two ago I'd have said yes, but holy crap have you looked at Montreal's stats this season. If Price is even passable in this series -- pretend for the sake of discussion that there's such a thing as being good enough in goal to satisfy Habs fans -- Montreal's depth should successfully outgun Ottawa, though not as easily as the seeding might suggest.

What I'd Want: Montreal in five.
What I'll Guess: Montreal in seven.

(3) Washington Capitals vs. (6) New York Rangers

Under regular circumstances -- well, most circumstances, really -- this'd be the easy pick for the upset, since winning the Southeast is very rarely anything to brag about. A long and storied history of lame ducks, the Southeast. (This is the last of it, and good riddance, I say. CONTROVERSIAL OPINIONS.)

This year, though, as Jets observers were very painfully aware of, the Capitals ended the season absolutely on fire. In the back twenty games of the season -- nearly half, this year, of course -- they went 15-3-2. Which, even taking Southeast opposition into account, is not a half-bad pace to take into the playoffs.

New York didn't do too badly for itself down the stretch either (as Jets observers also couldn't help but notice), but Ovechkin returning to form, or approaching it -- if he's not back to Peak Ovechkin, he's getting there -- is an entertaining force of nature to behold, and since he's not technically a Jets rival any more it's more locally acceptable to appreciate him. Right? The Jets have been stricken from the Southeast entirely, it feels like they've been a Western Conference team for a week now.

Electronic Arts predicts the Rangers to win it all this year, but they also predicted that the SimCity launch would go smoothly. So.

What I'd Want: Winnipeg Jets in five, truthfully, but--New York in seven.
What I'll Guess: Washington in six.

(4) Boston Bruins vs. (5) Toronto Maple Leafs

haaaaaa ha ha ha ha

Okay, this is an important character note about me: I'm a big fan of futility. Maybe it was a side effect of all the Wile E. Coyote cartoons I watched as a kid; maybe it's a product of growing up exposed to the previous Winnipeg Jets' playoff 'runs'; maybe I was just flat-out raised wrong. Those last two may be synonyms. Whatever. Continued, antagonistic futility -- a person or group wanting to beat somebody so badly, and never managing it -- is tremendously entertaining to almost everyone (else) involved, and I for one hope-slash-expect that it continues here.

What I'd Want: Boston in seven, and all seven games are SO HATEFUL.
What I'll Guess: Boston in six. The media coverage will be insufferable, but not as insufferable as if the Leafs win, so, hey.


Western Conference

(1) Chicago Blackhawks vs. (8) Minnesota Wild

I'd alluded to the streaky nature of this season before, and I doubt I need to remind you how Chicago opened the year, because ye gads. Chicago had the #1 seed sewn up in, like, February.

I could go on a bit here about Chicago's qualifications, or try and play up Minnesota to build suspense, but -- well, it'd be a bit of a waste of time, wouldn't it? I'll be the first to publicly recant my dismissiveness if Dany Heatley or whoever suddenly explodes and sinks the Blackhawks, but... yeah. Nah. Chicago should crack Minnesota's defences long enough (or quickly enough, depending on how you look at it) to make round two without too much worry, a victory I will credit to Ray Emery whether he plays or not, because I am goofy like that.

What I'd Want: Chicago in five.
What I'll Guess: Minnesota could steal a one-goal game, I suppose, so yeah, Chicago in five.

(2) Anaheim Mighty Ducks vs. (7) Detroit Red Wings

Like many folks around here, it takes me a minute or two to properly discuss the Ducks because upon their mention I'm just like "YEAH TEEMU" for a couple minutes. Teemu's still the greatest, by the way. If you'd forgotten. (You hadn't.)

Detroit, as everyone can tell, just hasn't been the same since losing Lidstrom -- and what team would be, really -- but as much as I'd like to proclaim the Wings definitively outmatched and reassure myself that Selanne and the Gang have an easy road to round two... it's the Wings, you know? I've been burned by this before. The Wings have veritable oodles of playoff experience to draw on, a similarly grizzled coaching staff to match, and its fair share of gamechanging top-flight talent even still.

"All right, third line! Get out there, shut down Datsyuk!"
"Dats--really? How?"
"...punch him! I don't know, think of something!"

What I'd Want: Anaheim in four.
What I'll Guess: Somehow, despite everything, Detroit in six. DAMMIT DETROIT

(3) Vancouver Canucks vs. (6) San Jose Sharks

Perhaps surprisingly, given all of the dramatic potential outcomes in the East, this is the first-round matchup that I'm most looking forward to--not because of the potential matchups for the advancing team in later rounds, but because of the implications for the team that doesn't advance.

One of these teams is getting BLOWN UP in the offseason. This is it. This is going to be the end of the line for a perennial Western Conference powerhouse, piled high with talent, that somehow still never quite lived up to its playoff expectations; now we just have to find out which one. If you squint at this matchup, you'd swear this could've been a Western final any of the last five years or so. BUT NOT ANY MORE. Ominous chords, thunderclap, et cetera.

But before we get into the inevitable offseason drama, we should at least register a pick for the coming apocalypse one way or the other. Cory Schneider is questionable for the first game, and really for the whole first round; lucky for the Canucks they held onto Luongo, huh? Not on purpose, but you know how these things happen.

This one seriously could go either way, evenly-matched as it is between two wily but aging teams--but I'm going to give the edge to Vancouver here, who have had the better playoff pushes in recent years, and who will have the very rare luxury of going a playoff round without a goaltender crisis. SO:

What I'd Want: Vancouver in seven.
What I'll Guess: Vancouver in six.

(4) St. Louis Blues vs. (5) Los Angeles Kings

Above I'd listed the Montreal/Ottawa series as likely to be the biggest disappointment, but that's because this series is probably going to be exactly what you expect from it: grind-y, defensively sound, generally low-scoring affairs.

That prototypical Western Conference style does tend to make for close series -- uh, last year aside, I mean -- but, as much as we all do like that nice Steen boy around here, the storyline does seem set. One team is defending its Stanley Cup championship without the usual disadvantage of the shortened offseason, with its championship core still largely intact, and having swept the other team last year. The other team's hopes rely on Brian Elliott perpetually failing to remember that he is Brian Elliott. So... yeah.

What I'd Want: Los Angeles in seven.
What I'll Guess: Los Angeles in six.

Playoff hockey! Whoo!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Monday, April 22, 2013

Slurpees and Murder Record Club: Happy Earth Day 1992

Happy Earth Day, one and all, and welcome once again to the Slurpees and Murder Record Club!

After the worst major news week in recent memory -- filled with tax hikes and shootings and bombings and explosions and poisoned letters and attempted train attacks and gah -- it's a nice change of pace to unwind with the annual day of save-the-planet rhetoric, which each year closely follows the annual day of hey-brah-what-if-weed-were-legal rhetoric.

So, in celebration of Earth Day, let us gather around and enjoy a now-twenty-one-year-old local compilation album. One that was also in celebration of Earth Day. Uh... mostly.

Feast your eyes and ears upon:

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Mailing It In: These are Seriously the Winnipeg and Manitoba Postcards Sold Here in 2013 (Plus: Giveaways!) (Warning: Very Image-Heavy)

You've seen me do this before, and you know how often it happens: I think of some idle curiosity offhand, it rattles around my brain for a week or two until it finally just clamps on, and then I have no choice but to pursue it.

Here's what I'd written on Twitter about a week and a half ago:

And they're not, man. I mean, look at that thing, click that and get a load of it. I kept poking around the related Flickr galleries that day in hopes of finding more dignified recent examples, but, well.

Now, this ended up getting a bit of a discussion going, and some folks did insist that they'd seen better ones in the wild -- maybe not archived online, like these trainwrecks, but certainly better ones out there somewhere.

Well, it was possible, of course, that I might be wrong; I have been wrong before. Perhaps the local postcards have improved dramatically since I had last checked a physical store; indeed, perhaps each of our postcards are now world-class works of modern art! The days of embarrassing, sometimes cringeworthy photos and colours and fonts could very well be a thing of the distant past, the industry having advanced to a new and higher standard of grace and refinement.

Oh boy!

So curiosity, as it always does, eventually got the better of me, and off I set to discover what our fair city and fair province have for postcard offerings these days. The Forks is an indisputable tourist destination in Winnipeg -- very likely the indisputable tourist destination in Winnipeg, at least for now in our pre-CMHR era -- and thusly that seemed the best place to begin.

So here we are on the first floor of The Forks, and here is where my earlier bout of postcard-related optimism goes THBPPTH.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Ask James Anything Month: Drama on the High Seas (Thank You For Reading Ask James Anything Month)

Yes, here we are, readers dear; we've made it all the way to the very end of March, our concluding date for the cheerful little experiment we've been calling Ask James Anything Month. So let's round up the last few inquiries and then close up the ol' mailbag!

The Analyst asks:

"Are civic centre-leftists like Brian Mayes and Dan Vandal destroying themselves by joining aboard the failed Katz administration while conservatives like Paula Havixbeck are abandoning ship?"

Well -- if they were, like, left-leftists, then yes, aligning themselves with a poorly-performing right-leaning Mayor would be an ill-advised course of action.

(Describing it as a 'failed administration', however, remains premature, as it would imply that poor performance has ever resulted in anyone being voted out of Winnipeg office.)

But Mayes and Vandal are, as you'd described them, centre-leftists -- and nothing is more quintessentially centre-left than making a show of working accommodatingly with the right. So, no, I think their bases accept (or understand, or however you'd prefer to phrase it) that this is part of the game that must be played; it isn't a stellar association for either of them, but you'd be surprised how an extra five figures in the ol' pay envelope can help a man drown out his cognitive dissonance.

This question also raises the lingering ambiguity of what exactly constitutes civic 'conservatism' in this town, but I fear that is a far stickier topic than I am capable of properly tackling tonight. Another time, perhaps.

unclebob asks posits:

"Since you want to use the ship analogy - Katz is a derelict and abandoned vessel. The law of the sea says anyone can claim it for salvage and use it for what they want.I believe Vandal and others now own the Sammyboat and you should expect it to operate quite differently.
Maybe Paula saw a couple of those Wyatt and Vandal black pirate hats climbing over the side and decided the lifeboat was safer.

Oh. Well. There's an angle.

I wish I had the time to better flesh this out into a proper short story -- well, okay, no I don't, pirate-themed civic-politics fanfiction would be ludicrous even by my standards -- but, for posterity's sake, here are the quick hits:

1) Brian Mayes as the fresh-faced, most freshly-hired crew member aboard the vessel

2) Russ Wyatt filled with pomp and bravado as the newly-named Deputy Captain ("But that's not even a real--" "Quiet, new hire!" "...aye aye, sir.")

3) "Well, gee, Captain Katz, I just wanted to say, I think it's real swell you brought me onboard. I'm really looking forward to helping."
"As well ye should! Let me tell ye something, lad--I've been the Captain of this fine ship for almost a decade now, and never once has she completely sank."
"That's... that's comforting, Captain."

4) Havixbeck had been recently forced to walk the plank ("I've told ye before, boys, if we'd let 'er stay aboard she'd have mutinied anyway") after accusing the Captain's closely-trusted First Mate of suspicious activity below decks.
"But--are you sure the First Mate hadn't done anything, Captain?" Mayes asked.
"Why, of course; he's me most trusted ally!" Captain Katz puffed his chest out, holding a jacket lapel in each hand. "In fact, I ordered an investigation into the matter personally, and the First Mate found everything on the up-and-up!"
"Yes," the First Mate intoned slyly, his hands clasped together at his chest as he appeared behind the Captain. "Nothing... untoward."
Mayes stared, blankly. "But Capt--"
"Zip it, new hire," Vandal hissed quietly. Mayes straightened, falling silent.

5) "I have to ask, though, Captain--"
"Yes, what is it?"
"Did Mad Woman Havixbeck make off with any cargo?"
"What? What cargo?"
"Well--there'd been a chest, sir. Marked 'fiscal responsibility'. It was one of our most sought-after treasures, but... I haven't been able to find it anywhere."
"Oh, that?" the Captain replied. "Well, don't ye worry, lad -- we threw that overboard a long time ago!"
There was a pause, for a second; then, as one, everyone aboard laughed uproariously.
In the distance, a cannon fired.

6) "What? What's that? What's that sound?"
"We've been hit, Captain! Attackers! From the left!"
Looking in the opposite direction, Deputy Captain Wyatt noticed an equally unwelcome sight: Mad Woman Havixbeck, cutlass drawn, gesticulating wildly from atop the bow of the Black Swandel.
"Captain! Attackers from the right as well!"
"Arrr." The Captain stared into the middle distance, hands on his hips, pondering for a moment. "It's a good thing for me I don't understand metaphor."

7) "Don't worry, everyone -- I know it looks real bad now, but our Captain will fight to the last! A Captain always goes down with his ship! Right, sir?"
Captain Katz barely glanced over his shoulder, he and his First Mate loading various items of value into a life raft. The raft, for reasons that nobody had questioned or explained, had 'ARIZONA' written on the side.
"Huh?" he said absently, as he joined the First Mate in the raft. "Oh! Yeah yeah, of course. I'm totally committed to staying."
"Really?" Mayes asked, excitedly.
Captain Katz turned to look at his most recent hire for a brief moment, then shared a look with his First Mate. The two of them broke into laughter.
"Have fun, boy!" the Captain declared triumphantly, cutting the nearest rope with a flourish of his blade. The raft plunged into the waters below with a splash, the two men rowing southbound as quickly as their arms could propel them.
Save for the lapping of the waves and the distant thunder of cannons, there was silence aboard the ship.
"You know," Mayes said, to nobody in particular, "I'd wondered why that had been sitting in the loading zone this whole time."

And then, I don't know, the ship sinks? The ship probably sinks. Kind of wrote myself into a corner on that one.

So, yeah, I don't know, that's really all I'd come up with for that prompt; you can see why I tend to stick to the format I do.

And, finally:

unclebob asks:

"BTW James - on the beautiful woman question - why not make a deal with your twin brother - even if you don't have one but as long as she thinks you do."




In conclusion: thank you all for reading Ask James Anything Month! It has definitely been an interesting experiment. But, tomorrow is another month! Time marches on, I suppose.

Coming up next time on Slurpees and Murder -- I have no idea. I guess we'll see!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Ask James Anything Month: Hopefully Worth the Wait

Whoof, it's been a while, hasn't it? Sorry, everyone! This March has been the most curiously busy of all the Marches I can remember -- which is, by now, getting to be quite a lot of Marches -- so my best of intentions on timely updates took something of a torpedoing.

Well, no sense in dwelling on it! Ask James Anything Month continues to roll, so let's gear up and dive back in.

cherenkov asks:

"Should I buy a motorbike or a snow blower?"

It depends on how much shovellin' area you're dealing with, I'd say, but unless your lawn falls somewhere between 'reasonable' and 'teeny' -- or unless you're really keen on shovelling, like you've worked it into your exercise regimen or something -- I'd lean towards the snow blower. A motorbike would be grand fun, I'm sure, but snowblowing season greatly outweighs motorbiking season around here, and the latter tends to drag obnoxiously into the former -- especially so in a year like the one we're having right now.

In fair weather, prepare for foul, as the saying goes. Thomas Fuller! Quotable dude, that guy.

Anonymous, 2013-03-11 03:45 asks:

"Hey James! Can you tell us... Who (or rather how) talk-bubbles were invented. Y'know, comicbooks & dialogue.
I'm a James too!

Well met, fellow James! Thank you for your question.

From looking into it, I can tell you the how, but I can't tell you the who. There are recorded, surviving uses of the speech bubble -- and its earlier incarnations of speech banderoles or speech scrolls -- dating back to the fifteenth century (!), if not earlier, and as they get closer to the present day you can see the original scroll-shaped format (which made sense in the day, back when people read from scrolls, y'know) widen out to the bubble we accept as convention today.

That said, we live in an era defined by its unparalleled technological ease and its theoretically infinite access to information, and we (can't even handle attribution now. So -- as much as I may wish it were otherwise -- it seems overwhelmingly likely that the original funnypage innovators of centuries past, the first people to say "yeah but what if we rounded it off more like this", are forever lost to time.

On a comics-related side note: I only learned, like, maybe a week ago that the scribblings and strings of symbols used to indicate-but-replace profanity in a speech bubble -- I identify them primarily with Captain Bluebeard and Q*Bert, but I'm sure you have your own defining examples as well -- have a formal technical name, 'grawlixes'. The term was coined by Mort Walker, the original creator of Beetle Bailey and Hi & Lois (and those two properties share a combined universe, incidentally; I always love stuff like that), who wrote a satirical reference manual about comic illustration effects that was then used as a legitimate textbook anyway because the world works in mysterious ways.

I'm'a need to buy this for myself sometime soon, is what I am getting at. Hooray for comics!

Anonymous, 2013-03-11 11:11 asks:

"When you say "the Liberals are drifting dangerously close to Calgary Flames territory," do you mean they are dangerously close to being "Red Hot"?


. . . what


My goodness, that's... yes. That's something! That is most certainly a thing.

I'd never seen that particular video before, but it occurs to me now that each and every major hockey franchise must have at least one video like this lurking around. Right? Some terrible, wonderful, awful, amazing, probably cheesy, usually hilariously-dated promotional footage or music lurking around in their annals. (What, what's so funn--no, no, two Ns. Annals. C'mon, guys.)

So perhaps, similar to SBNation editor Jon Bois' recent bracket of March Madness predictions based on correspondingly-named warships, perhaps for this year's Playoffs (and they're coming fast!) I should try basing my annual prognostications on which franchises have the funniest promo footage behind them.

Having said that, the Flames probably aren't going to make the Playoffs this year, so it's just as well that we all watched that video now. RYEHD HAWT, RYEEEHD HAWT, RYEEEHHHD HAAAWWWT

Anonymous, 2013-03-11 11:15 asks:

"Don't you think, though, that if you had the most beautiful woman in the world draped off you, it would open all kinds of doors and opportunities for you? Tons of other beautiful women would be throwing themselves at you because if you go for it with them, it validates their lofty self-esteem. You'd likely travel the world for free, and never have to pay for a drink again. Bunch of other advantages if you really think about it.

Thanks for your replies, this has been fun!

Thank you, anonymous inquirer!

I'm not saying that I don't see the theoretical strategy behind the second of those two options in the previous post; perhaps if I were a more suave -- suaver? -- holy hell it is 'suaver' -- perhaps if I were a suaver operator and a more singleminded social climber and a less monogamous sort, then yes, using a woman to pick up other women might seem more strategically viable.

Those modifiers taken together, however -- not to put too fine a point on it -- kind of add up to some pretty serious sociopathy, and even taking those into account for the original hypothetical decision I definitely still prefer the "passionate but top-secret romance" angle of Door Number One against whatever this Neil-Gaiman-American-Gods-two-man-con bullshit is that we got going on here.

"Well--I mean, this is nice, but--what about [name of hypothetical beautiful woman in scenario]?"
"Huh? Oh! Oh, no no, it's fine."
"She's fine with you cheating on her?"
"It's not cheating, it--okay, that sounds really bad. I mean, no, it's just, it's not 'cheating' because I'm not actually allowed to sleep with her."
"I, uh--well, see, the rules of the deal--"
"The deal?"
"--were that I can't do anything with her, but I can use her to pick up women like you."
"...what the fuck."
"No, I mea--okay. I swear that sounded less predatory in my head."

Someone back me up on this -- 'suaver' doesn't even sound like a word, does it? Say it aloud. 'Suaver'. 'Suaver'! Ridiculous.

YWGer asks:

"As many of us know, there are a diverse range of comments following online articles, most notably on the websites of CBC Manitoba, the Winnipeg Free Press, and the Winnipeg Sun.

Some people are of the opinion that for an online comment to be valid, it must be mature, moderate, politically correct, and written with passable grammar and spelling. In short, online comments should be dismissed outright if they do not meet these standards and branded as that of 'crazy internet trolls.'

Other people contend that while some comments raise eyebrows given the views advocated, the people who post such opinions nonetheless represent a notable subsection of the Winnipeg and Manitoba population. In essence, to truly have a finger on the pulse of the city and province, one must recognize that these non-PC opinions are shared by many and could also give us a sense of upcoming shifts in public opinion. In short, these opinions are therefore valid and serve a useful purpose.

It seems that the former is often espoused by professional journalists & columnists (and many 'established' bloggers who play Twitter footsie with them). Whereas the latter seems to be championed by a smaller few columnists and the online commenters themselves.

James, what is your opinion on this matter?

Hmm! Hmm. All right, let me try and unpack this one for a moment or two.

I'm not entirely convinced that the quality of commentary can be expressed on a straight line like this, with "socially acceptable and well-written" at one end and "socially unacceptable and poorly-written" on the other; I think you'd need, at the very least, a quadrant graph -- X-axis for opinion palatability, Y-axis for language mechanics -- to begin fleshing out the whole picture of the online-comment universe.

Although then you'd also need separate graphs for named commenters and anonymous commenters, or at least separate colours for the data points of each, but then of course this particular approach also risks conflating subjective analysis with objective analys--aaaaaand, see, now, here I go again.

Okay. Let me start over. The problem as I see it with dividing all online comments into 'valid' and 'invalid' based on the successful ticking of four arbitrary checkboxes is that, relative subjectivity of each box aside, it turns that particular avenue of public discussion into a pass-fail approach rather than a grading approach.

Grading comments and commenters, I can roll with; take a gander at a given thread and you'll find you're able to (again, subjectively) stratify respondents into letter tiers pretty darn effectively. Comments that hit all of the criteria get an A, and comments that hit none of them get an F (or just deleted, y'know, depending), sure, but you have to allow for the inevitable existence of B, C and D comments as well.

Then -- again, subjectively -- one has to decide for oneself how each of the four criteria should be weighed. Are they equal? Is one box more important to check than another? Is a moderate with unspectacular spelling and grammar considered better than, worse than, or equal to a radical with excellent language skills? Is a poorly-argued comment that you happen to agree with considered better than, worse than, or equal to a well-argued comment that you disagree with vehemently?

Then, also -- who gets to make all of these decisions on everyone's behalf? And what steps does that person or group then have to take to properly counterbalance the editorial slant (not to say bias!) of their site? And even then, if one begins to consider how standards will differ across competing outle--aaaaaand, see, now, here I go again.

Okay. Dang. I fear this one may be a smidgen too complicated to tackle in a compilation post; I may have to come back to this idea, after the gimmicked month is over. Still, good topic, though! I'm glad you pitched that one.

Moving on!

The Analyst asks:

"Where does The Winnipeg RAG Review sit within YWGger's dichotomy? After all, it's prone to bashing racist, insane wingnuts, but does so in more in a rough edged, conversationally intolerant manner that might equally offend those with more genteel sensibilities. "

It's... it's not my dichotomy, man. I think you'd have to ask him about it yourself. (And, no, before you ask, I also can't tell you if he's a secret racist.)

And, finally:

Anonymous, 2013-03-15 12:12 asks:

"The most important question of our time: can a slurpy kill a fetus?"

research to this point remains incomplete and inconclusive regarding the potential effects of slurpy on babby

more science is needed

And, on that note -- thank you for reading this most recent installment of Ask James Anything Month! At my current output speed, we've got at least one more round of it before the month is through, so go ahead and Ask James Anything!