Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Vindicated. Finally. I can't actually remember the Mulroney government, or anything about the 1993 election, but for the "What's the difference between the PC Party and a pickup truck" joke, so this is really a new experience. I've been waiting. 1997, 2000, 2004; disappointment after disappointment after huge frigging disappointment. My, but doesn't it feel good to have picked the winner for once, without merely-vicarious interest. The results are currently at 124-103-51-29-1, and while that's not the kind of split I would have liked, it's certainly good enough. It's good enough for at least a year and half or more of relative stability, and a great jumping-off point to try for a majority next time around. I'm satisfied enough, and am heartened to think that it might now be possible to improve from an incumbent position. (And my riding didn't go Liberal, at least. Go to hell, Mahoney.) Finally, on the matter of the Liberal leadership, who'd have ever thought it such a squalid little ending? How did Paul Martin go from the presumptive saviour of Canada, to just the member for LaSalle-Emard? One thing I'll be curious to see at some point in the next five or ten years, and if nobody's written one by then I may just take up the project myself: comparative biography of he and George W. Bush. That would be fascinating - portraits of two men who sought the top job for the sake of avenging Dad's failure, but with very different degrees of success. At least he had the decency - though you'd never have guessed it by this past week's frantic flailing - to concede with some dignity and humility. He's already taken up the invincible mantle of Elder Statesman, though, and we certainly won't have him to kick around for much longer. Now, let's get moving, make zero mistakes, and start working on that record that the CPC is going to be running on circa 2008, what?

Monday, January 23, 2006

I know what I'd like to happen tonight, but I'm also realistic. Pace a number of ridiculous projections by some with hopes of a landslide Tory majority, I don't see them taking any more than 140 seats at best, and I'm not confident of that. That's fine, really; it'd ensure demonstration of competence and integrity without quite as much risk of hot-button social issues coming up. This has been a great campaign, and I don't think that Tories could have done any better nor Liberals any worse - even if rumours of taking a dive are true - so Harper had better make this count. On that note, I never thought I'd write this, but Warren Kinsella gives me hope for this country. (His post yesterday, specifically.) Not in that he's been bullish on a Conservative victory since the campaign started, out of sheer spite at the Martinite wing of the Liberal Party - though that certainly helps - but this: I don't fear Harper, and neither should you. This is the greatest country in the world, and I believe - I know - he wants to make it better, just like the rest of us. This is a man who bleeds Pantone 186, but he's still capable of understanding and admitting, as too few of his colleagues running the current campaign are, that political competitors are not evil. The act of challenging the Liberal Party is not heresy, nor inherently suspect, and most certainly not unpatriotic. In the event of a Conservative victory, Warren, I expect, will start sniping immediately; as well he should. But he knows that Liberal claims to power are no more or less legitimate, and that's what makes the system work. It's just refreshing to hear that, sometimes. Misinterpretation to the contrary is just poisonous to the polity as a whole. For that matter, I figured I'd have to wait until tomorrow, at least, to see international commentators with only passing understanding of Canadian politics to overstate the case, and put considerably more weight (for good or ill) on the significance of CPC resurgence than it actually has. Fortunately, Adam Daifallah and Andrew Coyne have both had excellent précis published in the New York Times and Sun today. In case of victory, it'll still be fun to see the Kos types and their ilk in the American left wail and moan over the incipient Bush-lackey-led fascist nightmare they no doubt imagine a Canadian Conservative government would mean. Especially Michael Moore; oh, but it would be sweet to see his endorsement make precisely no difference to the outcome of an election, again. I'm still nervous. Nothing, but nothing, is certain. I have hope, though. I believe that the country is finally able to escape from stagnant Liberal hegemony, and with the exception of last week's damaging digressions into speculation on judicial philosophy, this campaign couldn't have gone better for Tories. I hope that's appreciated by the voters. If it's still possible to paint the country blue, it'll happen tonight. I hope.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

CanWest vs. CanWest: Montreal Gazette, January 15: Fresh from negotiating a $5-billion aid deal in Kelowna, B.C. in November with Prime Minister Paul Martin and the premiers, national aboriginal leaders want natives to vote the Liberals back in on Jan. 23, or at least support New Democrats. The Metis believe their ballots could affect as many as 33 close ridings in the western provinces and up north, where natives are as much as one-quarter of some ridings' population. The Conservatives? Forget it - they don't have any real official support. Global National, January 14: OTTAWA -- The Conservative party will today receive an official endorsement from the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, a group that represents off-reserve natives, sources have told CanWest News Service. Bad timing is one thing - if both stories had been published on the same day, say - but how does one justify a blanket statement like that made by the Gazette a day after one native group has, in fact, officially declared their support for the Conservative platform? Perhaps some editor in the print division of CanWest needs to be paying more attention to what their television colleagues are reporting...

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Erg. This is going to sting, by tomorrow's news cycle: The Conservative Party was not aware that their candidate in the B.C. riding of British Columbia Southern Interior is due to go on trial next month on smuggling charges, and if convicted, he could end up in jail. [...] In July 2004, Zeisman was crossing into British Columbia from the United States, when Canada Customs charged him with attempting to smuggle in a Mercedes-Benz vehicle and 112 containers of alcohol. Zeisman is also accused of lying to Canada Customs about the incident. Zeisman did not explain to CTV News why he didn't tell his own party about the charges, and blamed someone in government for leaking the information. [...] The government knew about the charges, but the Conservative Party admits it didn't check his background with his former employer. Conservative Party Leader Stephen Harper, who signed Zeisman's nomination papers, says he relies on others for such checking. "There is a screening process," Harper said. "My understanding is that it is supposed to look into criminal backgrounds and obviously rely on candidates to be forthcoming with information as well." At best, this lets the Liberals point and say "See, they're no better than us;" that'd still be an advantage at the moment. At worst, this has the potential to sink the whole integrity-competence-wholesomeness trifecta the Tory campaign has managed to establish so far. Zeisman isn't an incumbent, but he is running in a Conservative riding; Jim Gouk won British Columbia Southern Interior by a very slim 680-vote margin last time around. That would make it a targeted riding, and one that it would really hurt to lose. However, that's beside the point: it may be a lost cause now anyway, with this revelation. I doubt it'll happen, but I'd like to see Stephen Harper set an example, and publicly cede the riding. I mean, seriously, an immediate withdrawal, with loud denunciation of Zeisman's ethical lapse. Think about it: this is a teachable moment. If, absent this problematic candidate, the numbers were to stay as good as they are right now, a single seat in BC may not make the difference. Conversely, I suspect holding on to a dead weight has a reasonable chance of collapsing that delicious lead in the national polls. Unless Zeisman has compelling, incontrovertible evidence of his innocence to display to the voters, he's a liability at this point. If the seat were to go NDP, would that be terrible? Is it not better to sacrifice a pawn - and make a none-too-subtle point about what a Tory government would do about shady erstwhile associates - rather than throw the whole damn game? This is the first real challenge of the Conservative campaign so far; up until this point, it's mostly been fun and games while watching the Martinites either lie low, or visibly implode. I hope the key figures in the war room make the right decision, and do it soon. They haven't so far: The Conservatives say despite just finding out about the charges, they will stand by their man and won't pull him out of the race. But they do, indeed, have about eight hours to fix things. Fingers crossed. (Caveat Lector, of course. I figured that this past weekend's headlines speculating on a majority would be the first painful stumble of the campaign, and look how that sunk without a trace. Failing swift, decisive action on the Zeisman front from the party machine, I hope this is lost in the swirl of the prevailing Throw-the-Bums-Out mood in the electorate.) UPDATE, 01/11/06: Good enough, I suppose. It's a shame it took until midmorning to make the decision, though.
I don't have much to say about the debates and attack-ad embarassment that hasn't already been said, and better; Paul Martin & Co. seem increasingly to be at the point of losing their minds. For that matter, Paul Wells also points out something that hadn't even occurred to me, on the "Soldiers. In Our Cities. In Canada" meme - soldiers (and sailors, and airmen too, etc etc) are everywhere in Ottawa. They're on the street, at the bus stop, in the mall, and at your local sub shop; DND facilities dot the city, and the Major-General Pearkes Building, national HQ, is about as close to the centre of the city's infrastructure as is possible. Knowing this, and being well aware of how much of a non-issue it is - Liberals are shamelessly Ottawa-centric, if anything, and should logically be mildly aware of their surroundings - how did the mental calculus behind that ad even make it to approval for the so-called "draft" stage? The backlash from this one is going to be just delicious. Nonetheless, the Liberals can still pull this off. Backing predators into a corner will tend to make them more vicious and unpredictable than usual, after all. But at this point, it's looking like longer and longer odds that we won't have a new PM in two weeks. That said, with Martin's thunder today delightfully being stolen by the Red Book leak, here's something flippant I've wanted to do for a while: analysis of the various parties' campaign design and typography. In the interests of equal time - but mostly because their logos are almost universally hideous - I'll even include the fringe parties. The Contender: Who? The Typeface: Which font dominates? The Colours: Instant subconscious associations, ahoy. The Logo: What do the non-textual parts of their graphic identity say? What It Says: Does the aggregate logo imply anything in itself? Rating: How effective is this as a brand?
The Contender: Bloc Québécois The Typeface: Gill Sans Bold for "Bloc," FF Meta Bold for "Québécois." The Colours: Dark red, dark grey-blue, light blue. The Logo: A smoothly incorporated fleur-de-lys makes this one of the more inherently iconic of federal party logos. What It Says: The Bloc's logo is smooth and modern-looking, skillfully blending two grotesques - a typeface created in 1929 with one of the early 90s - with colours that can't possibly be mistaken to represent anywhere but Quebec. The smooth curve of the fleur-de-lys implies movement and progress, while subtly pointing towards the textual portion of the logo. Excellent and clean. Rating: A-
The Contender: Canadian Action Party The Typeface: Varies. In the official logo submitted to Elections Canada, seen above, the party name appears to be Handel Gothic; I'm not sure, as it's too low-resolution. "Hope" and "Espoir" seem to be in one of the knock-offs of Albertus designed to mimic the typographical quirks added to that font when used in the titles of cult TV classic The Prisoner. On their website, it varies between Arial, in the logo seen in a Flash intro page, and Interstate Condensed. Can we say schizophrenic? The Colours: Bright red and dark blue, in fitting with their delusion of being a nationalist party capable of knocking off both Liberals and Tories. The Logo: A map of Canada. An entire map of Canada, including all the fiddly bits that reproduce poorly at small sizes. What It Says: We cannot be trusted. Between occasional use of Arial (more on that below), and the use of radically over-complex imagery in a logo (a good rule of thumb is that you should be able to draw a memorable logo from memory), this screams amateurism. Albertus - or whatever knockoff in particular that is - should never be used with any kind of optical distortion, and that the Prisoner variant (the lowercase E is clipped, quite distinctively) is in use here just prompts further questions vis-à-vis the CAP's motives, competence, and sense of irony. Paul Hellyer's loons are still Paul Hellyer's loons whether or not he's still with them. Rating: D
The Contender: Christian Heritage Party The Typeface: Custom logotype in the central "C," Arial in the party name. On their website, the party name is in Eurostile Bold Condensed, for no apparent reason. The Colours: Pale maroon, inexplicably. I have no idea what that's in aid of. The Logo:Nice use of negative space with the maple leaf; most party logos aren't so creative with it. The letterform of the C itself, however, is very 60s-70s, à la Eurostile or similar heavily-geometrical gothic faces. What It Says: Some people hate Comic Sans. They're not wrong to, but I hate Arial more. It's not a Microsoft product per se, unlike Comic Sans, but they did popularize it as a crude and cheap-looking alternative to the exquisitely clean-looking and ubiquitous Helvetica. Anyone who knows the difference will usually avoid Arial like the plague, choosing either the former or another face entirely; that it's managed to make it to an official copy submitted to Elections Canada is not a compliment to the CHP's marketing skill or hiring wherewithal. The use of Eurostile in an updated logo is only slightly better, but does nothing to prevent the unconscious admission of being stuck at a particular spot forty years in the past. At least the central logo itself is simple and recognizable. Rating: C
The Contender: Communist Party of Canada The Typeface: None. Impact - a face in similar bad company with Arial as one of Microsoft's awful substitutes for a bold sans serif font included with Windows by default - on their website, but none in the official logo itself. The Colours: In actuality, red, yellow and blue; that it it simply converted to a recognizable B&W version is a credit to the designer. The Logo: A highly stylized conjunction of wheat and a gearwheel superimposed on a maple leaf. What It Says: Honestly? I love this. It's clean, it's simple, it's stylized, and the imagery is immediately recognizable. You don't have to understand a word of English to see the imagery of maple leaf + farming + industry = Canadian communism. That it nods to Russian constructivism in its imagery is likely no accident. They may be evil, but communists certainly do tend to end up with great graphic designers. Rating: A
The Contender: Conservative Party of Canada The Typeface: None in logo itself; Frutiger Bold Italic elsewhere in literature. The Colours: Blue. Solid Tory blue, with all the parliamentary tradition that implies. The Logo: Mobius strip-looking stencil C, still - in my opinion - a bit too close to the CanJet logo. What It Says: Bland and inoffensive; focus-grouped to death, I'm sure. I see this as presenting quiet competence, with a good, timeless mid-century Swiss-inspired typeface. Not very exciting, but that's not the goal, is it? Rating:B+
The Contender: Green Party The Typeface: None; Century Gothic or Avant Garde in their signs. Either way, it's futurist and gothic. The Colours: Green and yellow, more or less healthy-looking. The Logo: Maybe it's supposed to be a sun or sunflower, but to me it always brings to mind the very similar pattern of the BP logo. What It Says: Not much. It's bland, a bit too complex in the particular flares of the sun/sunflower, and doesn't really thematically connect to the party. Neither, for that matter, do their fonts; both imply a very 30s or 70s style of design. (Well, maybe that is intentional.) Rating: C+
The Contender: Liberal Party of Canada The Typeface: Antitle Bold Italic, which offers some delightful quirks with dropped serifs; look at the lowercase B, for example. The Colours: Red. Pure Red. Canadian Red. (Obviously.) The Logo: It reminds me a bit of the Canwest crescent, but makes a nice stand-in for a horizon. What It Says: Slick. Maybe a bit too slick. It shows definite professional influence, and not a little bit of graphical panache. Pace what Warren Kinsella said a little while ago about this election being Tim Horton's-vs.-Starbuck's in terms of values, it might be too hip for the Liberals' own good. Rating: A
The Contender: Libertarian Party The Typeface: Arial. Gah. The Colours: Green. The Logo: Reminds me of an airplane tail's corporate livery, and needless duplication of the maple leaf seems odd. What It Says: Professional graphic designers? Hell, we can do that ourself and save a couple hundred bucks, right? Rating: D
The Contender: Marijuana Party The Typeface: Arial. Gah, again. The Colours: Sickly puce ecru and sage, I suppose meant to bring to mind the funk of pot smoke, grease and sweat that trails after proponents. The Logo: Thankfully simple: Marijuana leaf and a checkmark. Not bad. What It Says: Another evident do-it-yourself effort, but single-issue parties can afford such things, no? Rating: C+
The Contender: Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada The Typeface: Arial. Arial Bold, this time, which isn't really an improvement. The Colours: Too many. Red, maroon, pink, grey, and salmon. The Logo: Too many layers, and the symbolism loses meaning when submerged in borders within borders. Surely they could have managed to come up with something using just the hammer and sickle, or socialist rose, no? What It Says: Like the CAP's, this logo is just too busy. The acrostic of the party acronym is fantastically overkill. I guess the splitters didn't manage to attract any of those sharp designers when they left. Rating: C
The Contender: NDP The Typeface: Futura Extra Bold. The Colours: Orange and green, in what have become their signature colours for no particular reason. The Logo:A fluttering maple leaf in green; a nice touch to imply movement, progress, and environmentalism, to be sure. What It Says: Blunt and humourless, but certainly earnest. The use of a heavy gothic typeface is nice for a party of technocrats. Rating: B+
The Contender: Progressive Canadian Party The Typeface: Gill Sans, maybe. With an awful embossed effect. Sweet Zombie Jesus, people. The Colours: Pale blue and pale red, as befits former Red Tories too fainthearted for the new CPC. The Logo: An outlined maple leaf in the background. What It Says: We've got a copy of Microsoft Word, and nothing else. Rating: D
The Contender: Western Block Party The Typeface: None; sloppy hand-lettering. The Colours: None. The Logo: A map of the west. A badly sketched map of the west. What It Says: We actually scanned the bar napkin we sketched this out on and sent it to Elections Canada; that is, in fact, how useless we are. Rating: D-
The Contender: First Peoples National Party of Canada The Typeface: Papyrus, a calligraphic face inspired by Carolingian letterforms in a faux-Egyptian effect, which is a decidedly odd choice. The Colours: Red, white, orange, yellow, black, and grey. The Logo: Appears to be a mystery-meat navigation aid for a GeoCities-hosted website, circa 1998. One that might involve fantasy literature. With dragons. What It Says: You're not going to vote for us anyway, so why not play up the generic imagery of the Exotic Other, despite it not fitting our particular socioethnic group very well? Rating: B- Much like the Devil gets all the best tunes, it appears that the Liberals and assorted socialists collectively have the best logos. Ominous!

Saturday, January 07, 2006

I went out to vote today by special ballot. I had to go to the local returning office anyway - this year, annoyingly out near the Tunney's Pasture area - to fix my registered address, in any event; despite getting it right last time, this year Elections Canada sent the notice of registration to my parents' home address. This would be a problem, what with having lived at my current address for the past three years. (As ever, I'm glad I no longer live in the riding of Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke; at least here, Kobayashi Maru though Ottawa Centre may be, I'm not faced with the distasteful dilemma of Cheryl Gallant.) Being there anyway, I decided that I may as well, rather than have to schedule making it over to my assigned polling station on E-day. Mondays are particularly class-heavy for me this term, and the temptation to skip it after a long day of lectures might well have been overpowering. So, yes, I've cast my vote for Keith Fountain, despite the mildly unsettling prospect of voting for someone who looks about 16. The Conservative campaign, though far too squishy for my taste in many policy aspects has nonetheless been delightfully hyper-competent. Also, one of my fears about policy and strategy has been acceptably assuaged, with the politically tone-deaf segments of the party who wanted to fight an election entirely upon opposition to gay marriage kept firmly under wraps. At least, to this point. There's still plenty of time for some loose cannon (a-hem) or another to blow the whole game. (Don't get cocky, people.) In the local context, I fear Richard Mahoney is going to win, with a lot of the centrist support Ed Broadbent had on the basis of the electorate's warm feelings towards politically-resurrected elder statesmen melting away. Uncomfortable as the prospect was, I would have considered the NDP candidate, Paul Dewar, if he seemed to have a better chance. (Anything to stop a Grade-A Martin crony, and all that.) However, I don't have enough confidence in Dewar or his campaign to prevent being steamrolled by scarily dedicated and well-funded Martinites. Rank-and-file Liberals mildly embarrassed at and honestly trying to overcome the reputation the party leadership et al have established for them over the past decade are one thing; close personal friends of the PM with a jones for winning a trophy seat are quite another. That said, Dewar might still come up the middle if any of the Red Tory votes Mahoney snapped up last time fall to the eminently-moderate Fountain, as several posters at the Election Prediction Project surmise. Since a Conservative win is next-to-impossible here, that'd still be an acceptable outcome; either that, or a Mahoney win that turned out to end up in opposition. (I'll take my schadenfreude where I can get it, thank you very much.) In a way, the election is over for me. Convenient though special ballots and advance polls may be, they do have a way to take some of the fun out of the process. Now all that's left is to watch the race (making comments of varying snark and cheer, depending), and hope that I made a good bet.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

I continue to be fascinated by the photo newswires; my observation last week about the curiously good visual coverage Stephen Harper is getting (and, conversely, the PM's campaign getting stuck with more of the less-photogenic shots) seems to be continuing to hold true. Again looking at the Yahoo News aggregator, which showcases the highlights of the various wire services' photos, what do we see over the past few days? Harper looking vaguely determined, in an indeterminately benevolent way: Check, check and check. He's even caught on film smiling in a way that seems more genuinely cheerful than usual, which is a big bonus. (Well, it's not as though he doesn't have good reasons to be cautiously upbeat today...) On the other hand, there's the Liberal campaign. Martin caught in bizarre, goofy poses: Check, check (Did Liberal observers of the 2004 US election learn nothing from John Kerry's 'Bunny Suit' fiasco, or Gilles Duceppe's hairnet issues last year?) and check. (As for a related subset, Martin caught in midpoint of innocuous nervous habits that only look odd out of context: check.) How about Martin looking mildly dazed or befuddled, upstaged by women seeming to be the most competent-slash-awake person in the shot? Yup; both his wife in one pic, and the Minister for Strategic Self-Promotion in another. Martin as a tiny figure speaking to an unseen audience in a seemingly empty hall? Mmm-hmm. Most unnervingly, Martin engulfed by threateningly amorphous blobs? Oh yes. For what it's worth, what Layton and Duceppe photo ops that make it onto national feeds seem generally positive, except for one that unfortunately makes Jack! look a bit like a retired math teacher, or maybe a dapper insurance salesman. Still, the trend seems clear; this remains a more positive (or at least more restrainedly neutral) coverage of a Conservative campaign in photos that I'd possibly expected, with the Liberals getting the brunt of overly-clever editorializing-by-camera angle. There haven't been any shots of the PM in anything so positive as the decidedly beatific poses of last year so far, anyway...

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

In keeping with the lighter vein I've been on lately, let's look at the political ramifications of nepotistic hackery - but via a scene from The Venture Bros., a superlative parody of the Jonny Quest style of heroic adventure animation popular in the 1970s, and itself a further spin on the tropes popularized by the character of Doc Savage and his pulp imitators in the 30s and 40s. A finer series, so pitch-perfect in both its satiric and earnestly thematic elements, is probably not to be found in Cartoon Network's lineup. In this episode, the incompetent Dr. Venture has been sought out by reclusive, disabled and not at all similar to Walt Disney, oh my, no theme park magnate Roy Brisby, with an offer to buy the entire research work of his Doc Savage-like super-scientist father on cloning: Dr. Venture: Well, I don't know if I've kept any of Dad's old notes. Mr. Brisby: Don't play coy with me; of course you kept them! You've been riding his corpse's coattails your entire adult life! Dr. Venture: Hey! Where do you get off? You don't know me! Mr. Brisby: Oh, I know you, Dr. Venture. My researchers are very thorough. For instance, you're not actually a doctor of anything. You never finished school. I also know that since you took over Venture Industries, profits have gone... Zip-a-dee-doo-dah. (On the fictional side of things, as long as I'm making topical viewing suggestions, see also: Development, Arrested.) Dynasties - especially the political or corporate varieties - are tricky things, aren't they? Name recognition may get you in the door, but you'd better be able to perform once sitting in the big chair. George Bush used to get a lot of flack for being "Junior," imagined by opponents to be a lesser clone of his father - at least, considerably more than now, on that particular angle of attack. Likewise the current Mayor Daley of Chicago, who lost his first bid for Daley Senior's old job, only to later start a similar streak; tying dear old Dad's 21-year record will take only until 2010, at this point. On the other hand, you can also have scions that screw up the whole family gig with pervasive mediocrity, like Ohio Governor Bob Taft, who's probably retroactively damaged the reputation of his great-grandfather. Or, in the Canadian context, Paul Martin. Some pundits - Warren Kinsella immediately comes to mind, but there are others - seem to take perverse glee in naming the PM as "Paul Martin Junior" when they really want to twist the knife vis-à-vis the scandal of the day. I can't; not only is it untrue - his father's middle names differ - but calling attention to his father's career and reputation is a needlessly petty way to casually belittle the man. At least, it is when he does such a good job of riding that corpse's coattails all by himself: "What if decades ago, Tommy Douglas and my father and Lester Pearson had considered the idea of medicare and then said, 'Forget it, let's just give people 25 bucks a week?"' Martin asked. Well, I daresay we'd have a less neurotic country today, sans the myth of increasingly-inefficient socialized medicine justifying an undeserved self-image of Canada the Good, but that's neither here nor there. No, my issue with random accusation of Stephen Harper will destroy Canada! #253 is the name-dropping of his father's reputation: Why? Why does he do this? The senior Martin, whatever the popular legend of his being his generation's Saviour of the Liberal Party, never actually managed that feat, and his son's done a pretty thoroughly mediocre job of pulling it off himself. As Kinsella, for one, is delighted to remind anyone and everyone at any opportunity, Paul Martin's major accomplishment as leader has been the palace coup that put him in power and forced the Chretienite wing of the Liberals into exile. It's not as if he's even run a particularly competent campaign so far; as Bob Tarantino notes today, he's now seeming so politically tone-deaf (invoking the name of Mike Harris, which, while it might fire up the die-hard Liberal base with loyal baying for right-wing blood, has a reasonable chance of backfiring with the undecided Ontario middle who re-elected Harris in 1999 for law-and-order reasons in a climate not far off from today's) it's astounding. One has to wonder, at this point, about where the fabled Martin reputation for political brilliance was even born; the Hidden Agenda trope that won last time was the rhetorical equivalent of a baseball bat. Without benefit of Harper or loudmouth Tory backbenchers shooting the CPC in the foot, and subsequently being forced to improve his game, it now seems that wildly swinging such blunt instruments might actually be the limit of the PM's tactical finesse. Between the seemingly improving-and-stabilizing poll numbers, and poor Liberal performance so far, I think I'm prepared to say that this election is now Stephen Harper's to lose - and while there's still probably a better-than-even chance of that, if so, it certainly won't be because of Martin's vaunted political acumen or crack campaign team. A dynasty is a terrible thing to waste, no?

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The polls are worrying me. These kind of numbers might be peaking just a bit too soon, and the gut-wrenching awfulness of panicky backlash, like last year's, is a frightening prospect. Though it does, thankfully, appear that such backlash may be muted, it's not much helping that nervous twitch in my neck I get every time I see a TORIES GAINING headline. The solution, as ever, is simple: write at length on a heartily frivolous topic to take my mind off the problem. It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that I watch a lot of Teletoon, Canada's pale imitation of animation-focused American cable station Cartoon Network. It's my default channel, the one that I tend to rest on when nothing else is on and the repeated loops of the news networks are getting on my nerves. (CTV Newsnet in particular - and I could swear I made comments to the CRTC at their request that helped to successfully lift that annoying little requirement from their broadcast license. Oh well; I guess old habits die hard.) Sure, I've seen every episode of Futurama, Family Guy and Home Movies dozens of times over, now - often muted - but that kind of repetition is still better than most of what the broadcast networks have to offer. What this does mean, however, is that I'm particularly sensitive (so used to the usual patterns of them as I am) to any change in programming, promos, bumpers, station identification, etc. Promos for the newest block of special programming only showed up today or yesterday, and no information, unfortunately, is yet available on the Teletoon website. Let it not be said that the enforced incompetence of Cancon rules imposed upon Corus in determining the station's programming is somehow made up for with marketing savvy in 'New Media' areas. Hell, look at the extent of what they've accomplished, under their late-night program block brand name of "The Detour," to promote marquee series Bromwell High - and what British co-producer Channel 4 has. (Both links highly NSFW.) The latter is an excellent example of interactive Flash with original animation; the former is...somewhat less so. In any event, the special block is horror-themed, titled "The Dead of Winter" - and interestingly enough, seems to feature all the same wonderfully 80s series that were picked up for a temporary run for Halloween-themed blocks last October: The Real Ghostbusters, Beetlejuice, and rare permutations of Scooby-Doo. That's nothing short of brilliant, and I don't just say that because I love at least two of those. Indeed, it's a joy to see The Real Ghostbusters again; not only is it a show featuring many excellent scripts by later Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski, but it also has the power to engender soft pink feelings of nostalgia for that circa-1990 point in my childhood when I was absolutely obsessed with the entire Ghostbusters franchise, and those are probably qualities of equal merit. (Seriously. Obsessed. I picked my first pair of glasses based on the premise of wanting to look like Egon - and not with Harold Ramis' prissy little wire-rims from the movie, either, but the perceptually thicker frames of the animated Egon's character design. Yikes, huh?) Beetlejuice, likewise, is another blast of nostalgia, yet manages (by virtue of the actual production being contracted out to Canadian animation house Nelvana) to fulfill part of the daily schedule's Cancon quota. More interestingly, it's probably the most Tim Burtonesque of all subsidiary works based on Tim Burton's increasingly bizarre oeuvre, with direct thematic links to The Nightmare Before Christmas, Sleepy Hollow and Corpse Bride; it's the full extension of the expanded universe from which all Burton's Gothic meandering is drawn. Even more interestingly, the writers somehow managed, by sheer force of will, to paper over the whole statutory rape-based premise of Beetlejuice and Lydia's relationship established in the original film. That's some accomplishment for an animated spinoff that's still pretty dark, even if it does occasionally drift into clumsily rendered Relevant Childrens' Themes of the period. (I sometimes wonder how anyone growing up in the early 90s managed to avoid a neurotic complex over the persistent unwillingness of the entire planet to embrace vaguely-justified, simplistic environmentalism, of the kind that was for a time ubiquitous on Saturday morning TV.) For these, then, I can most definitely applaud a weird kludge of a programming theme; kudos to whatever Teletoon executive sold their boss on reusing the entire Halloween block in situ. Now, if only the same persuasion could be applied to arranging for more than sixty minutes per week of Cartoon Network's Adult Swim original series, perhaps in lieu of an episode or two of Family Guy on the non-Canadian side of the programming ledger...

Sunday, January 01, 2006

It almost seems as though someone is trying to communicate something about the credibility of disgraced professional athletes in this story's layout, but I just can't tell what...