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27
Jan
10

I Like Harper: I’m Pro-Rogue

In the U.S.A. apparently a 59-41 spit in the Senate isn’t enough to pass bills (unless you’re a Republican, in which case it only takes 51-49). Democracy is breaking down in North America, but nowhere near as much as in Canada, where -thanks in part to Michaele Jean, or the bullying thereof by Stephen Harper- governments can now call a time-out if they are about to fall, or would otherwise like to wait out some unpleasant scrutiny. Canada helps other countries establish floundering democracies, and yet we cannot maintain our own. Parliamentary democracies all over the world are now looking at ours with suspicion & derision. Democracy is eroding and complacency is not an option, both for our own & for future generations.

Jean Chretien seemingly started the practice of keeping MP’s on a short leash and voting in blocks (and consolidating power in the PMO). Since he had a majority, he could afford to say to his MP’s ‘vote with me OR I’ll set you free’ (ie. kick them out of the party caucus.) The U.S. Senate & House of Reps only ever seem to vote along party lines. Harper has gone one step further than Chretien and completely muzzled his MP’s and Cabinet Ministers, who -in the good ‘ol C.R.A.P. Party days (ie. Conservative-Reform-Alliance Party)- have been given to actually spouting their bigoted positions, which is bad for business.

Historically, Canada has been seen as a peaceful, helpful country. As recently displayed at the Climate Change summit in Copenhagen, our reputation as global leaders has evaporated, and been replaced with the notion that we are pro-business ahead of social/environmental concerns, and actually block progress. The Canada that we know & love is slipping away, and we are too passive to stop it.

I attended the 3500 to 5000 strong Anti-Prorogation rally on Parliament Hill this past Saturday, and was pleasantly surprised to hear of the similar amazing turn-outs in Toronto & Vancouver especially. Stephen Harper doesn’t believe in Parliamentary democracy, where votes in parliament in fact decide which party leads. His minions are still spouting venomously that the other parties in legislature tried to overthrow ‘the will of the people’ last year when he pompously tried to eliminate his opposition’s funding and the house rose up -as it could & should- to replace him. Our best hope however is that very same arrogance: every time Harper gets ahead in the polls he lays an egg, much like he has just done by proroguing parliament to dodge a committee investigating Canadian complicity in Afghan prisoner abuse. My message to Harper: keep going – you’re invincible!

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05
Nov
09

Old is Gold

cheers - see ya at 70

If you’re not happy now, here’s one thing you can be happy about – you will be. It’s just a matter of time.

How many times have you heard the phrase, “If I only knew then what I know now.”, or, “Youth is wasted on the young.”? Several recent studies are showing that the older you get, the happier you are – & this is in spite of the failing health that comes with old age. So what’s their secret?…

Old people tend to filter out the negatives and focus instead on what they enjoy & appreciate. It’s that simple. Call it nurturing an “Oh, well” sentiment. I would add that through life experience, people learn to be more sympathetic towards others, and this also decreases frustration/increases happiness. Aswell, they become more sympathetic to others’ humanity, indescretions, and more in tune to -& accepting of- life’s cycles.

So, don’t sweat the small stuff (how many times have you heard that?). Why not apply a ‘mature’ perspective to the youthful (or mid-aged) present, and utilize this aged wisdom?

Having said that, apparently Baby Boomers are a bit of an unhappy bunch (according to the same studies), perhaps because life has spoiled them. (I hereby admit to a bias towards Baby Boomers, since their generation’s consumption has almost single-handedly depleted the planet, among other reasons.) Beyond that though, the tendancy in many cultures to respect the elders and take their wise advise culled from experience, is a lost one – and a good one. Next time you see Gramma or Grampa, maybe ask them for some lessons in happiness -and living- that they’ve picked up along the way.

08
Oct
09

Let’s Dump Harper

awww

How does Stephen Harper remain popular? We need to get rid of this guy & fast before he tears down everything Canada stands for. His arrogance knows no bounds, and that was nearly his undoing last fall – hopefully it will ultimately consume him & his ideologue, autocrat career.

Musicians are bristling over his rendition of the Beatles “With A Little Help From My Friends”. How rich that he cow-tows to Canadian high-art society with this low-brow spectacle. The Beatles songbook is hallowed ground, and so it’s sacrilege for Harper to be singing from that repertoire, particularly in light of the fact that he’s systematically tearing down arts funding across the board. They cried foul and punished Harper in the polls in Quebec in the last election because arts funding to Quebecoise means protecting their culture. In the rest of Canada we took it without blinking or complaining, as is the Canadian way.

The Harper government began it’s flimsy mandate with a huge budget surplus bequeathed by the Liberals, which they squandered into a deficit before the economic hard times and subsequent bail-outs even hit. Where is the money all going, if not to the arts? And lets not forget the CBC funding cuts, something that Conservatives have been itching to do for eons. All their goodwill goes to CTV (aka the Conservative Television Vortex), where two of their most senior reporters were recently given plum thank-you-very-much posts to the Senate.

Do we really know Stephen Harper? Does he have any discernable character at all? Does he even -dare I say- have a soul? After Michelle Jean ignorantly saved his government last December I say no more trophy Governor General’s (although the damage is already done). (I wonder what threats were levied to get that deal done.) As goofy as Dion was, they didn’t call him Captain Canada for no reason.

There’s a reason Canada has been predominantly, historically a Liberal led country. Whenever the Conservatives get into power they wreck the place. Fiscal Conservatism is a painfully ironic oxymoron – just look at the States, where Bush destroyed the country economically so thoroughly and left it so beholden to Chinese loans that President Obama can’t even meet with the Dalia Lama for fear of annoying them. Mulroney gave us Free Trade, which basically signed our country over to the U.S. who can now buy us wholesale without restrictions. Conservatives screamed bloody murder to balance budgets in the 90’s, and as soon as they got in they spent like drunken sailors – but not on anything of any social or cultural value, much less helping the poor & disadvantaged. I have to wonder what other evil plans Harper is hatching in the PMO.

Do politicians not learn from history? – Great civilizations over the ages have placed great importance on the arts & culture, as both a by-product & a cause of their greatness. It’s time to wake up, rise up and get rid of this guy. Let’s march on Parliament Hill against the arts funding cuts.

(While we’re at it, why doesn’t Greenpeace start a political party in Canada and run candidates? The Green Party can’t seem to even win a seat, their base is made up of grumpy holier-than-thou left-wing purists with no grasp of political reality (& who are equally as intolerant -in their own way- as their right-wing counterparts), and their leader keeps choosing impossible districts to run in. Just a thought.)

07
Aug
09

Halifax Hoppin’

It’s been a good summer for Halifax, although Halifaxers may be loathe to admit it. The weather has been dreary all around (except in B.C.), but Halifax has gotten to fly it’s flag high, with a massive concert by Paul MacCartney, a Tall Ships visit, and now hometown super-star helicoptering into Halifax Harbor & landing on a Navy ship, Stanley Cup in hand. Bringing home the bacon, and all the way to hometown Cole Harbor just outside of Hali.

People were unbelieveably friendly down there, even stopping their cars & inviting us to jaywalk in the downtown core. And a note for Ontario visitors – what we know as a ‘regular’ coffee at Tim Horton’s is actually referred to as a ‘single single’. Wink.

And do you want to hear something crazy? – The NDP is in charge! And things haven’t fallen apart! Not only that, the city certainly appears to be doing quite well. I didn’t see Paul McCartney in Ottawa this summer, sadly (& I missed him by 24 hrs in Halifax). Our two cities did share a KISS concert, and I bet they didn’t even hold a ceremonial Shannon Tweed Day (that went through in Otttawa while I was away, right?).

And on top of all that, they still have Frank Magazine down there! The luxury! If Ottawa wasn’t so great, I’d shurely move to Halifax!

see ottawa indie music put to Nova Scotia vacation footage @ www.youtube.com/ashleynewall

23
Jun
09

Kill Big Auto (While We Can)

Big auto deserves to go down. Screw ’em. They’ve had every opportunity to make products that are more sustainable, and they’ve fought it at every turn. (They say they couldn’t market it, but have you ever seen a commercial for an electric car?) Big auto companies prop up the “big oil” companies, which are slowly killing the world with war & pollution.

‘But what about all the auto workers in their factories?’, people ask. It’s hard not to feel for them, but then they’ve consciously decided to make their living manufacturing a product that’s hurting our planet. They have been fortunate to be thereby employed for generations, but now ineviteably the party’s over. And what about all the ‘trickle down’  jobs lost, like parts manufacturers & service garages? Same story.

Let the big car companies die so that electric (& other sustainably fuelled) car companies can emerge. Let the big car companies die so that the oil companies can start to wither, and lose the awesome & unmerited power to start wars for their benefit while they pollute.

Speaking of electric cars, if you’ve seen “Who Killed The Electric Car” you’ll know who exactly killed the forward-thinking electric car initiative in California, effectively killing it nation-wide in the U.S.. (Um, that would be the big auto companies.) And the U.S. market dictates largely to the world, so if America started buying ’em, the rest of the world would start making ’em.

Big auto doesn’t care about their consumers, or society as a whole – they only care about creating cars that will need to be replaced in a certain number of years, and which will need repairs regularly at their shops in the meantime. They could easily make a car that would last 20 or 30 years… but that would be bad for business.

Clearly jobs would be lost. The impact on GDP in the medium term would be enormous. In the long term though, it would make cars & driving more affordable giving people more expendable cash. Car manufacturing is a beast that needs an enormous amount of food to survive. That ‘food’ is coming out of our hides, in the form of polluting our planet, car repairs, & gas prices to name but a few. Capitalism has created this monster, and now we have an opportunity to let it die of it’s own volition, & from it’s own folly of taking the money now (ie. instant gratification) instead of looking to the future & getting with the program in terms of seriously manufacturing and marketing sustainable cars.

If I owned an electric car company right now, I’d be looking to strike in this window of opportunity (while the majors are reeling). It’s all about marketing, and no one has yet seriously marketed an electric car -for example- during the Superbowl. Or on TV at all that I’ve seen.

And while we’re at it, to supplement electric cars and compensate for long distance travelling, hi-speed rail travel should be developed -rather than ignored- in Canada. European countries are light years ahead of us (if you’ll pardon the pun) in this regard. But I digress.

Turn the auto dealerships into electric (and other non-oil driven) car lots. Turn the gas stations into electric stations (and/or multiple alternative fuel depots). And buy up the bankrupt big car company factories and hire their laid-off workers to make the new, sustainable cars. There’s less parts to manufacture, install & service/maintain, but it’s not a total wipe-out – people will still need cars of some kind.

We need a new breed of big car company – one which makes sustainable products, and which isn’t focussed on fleecing our wallets both themselves, and at the behest of big oil. Kill the car companies, kill the oil companies, and end the biggest source of pollution and war.

18
May
09

3rd Annual Parliamentarian of the Year Awards: Rona, Liz & Bo Derek

The 3rd annual MacLean’s Parliamentarian Awards started much the same as the others – after working both the first two, this is becoming old hat. One major difference this year was the addition of a martini bar, as if we weren’t getting sauced enough at previous editions on the free beer & wine. No roast beef this year, but the ordeurves were suitably opulent, so we managed.

Best mini burgers EVER!!

Best mini burgers EVER!!

First big celeb through the door was Green Party leader Elizabeth May. As in previous years, I was assisting a professional photographer, taking names. We shot a picture of Elizabeth with an unknown bystander, & I swooped in to get her name, at which time Liz said that she was not to be confused with Bo Derek. Good thing too, because if she’d had corn rolls I never would’ve been able to tell the difference. Apparently she’d just attended an event at the ROM where Bo was a guest speaker, so she had Bo on the brain. Who doesn’t, really. Liz was very friendly, chatty & personable – she’s got my vote!

Elizabeth (not Bo Derek) May

Elizabeth (not Bo Derek) May

Next through the door -beyond all the Parliamentary minions looking for posh free food & drink (like me, and some of the press)- was Bloc Quebecoise leader Gilles Duceppe, who cuts a swath like a rock star. If only we could actually vote for him in Ontario… & he wasn’t a separatist – that’d be perfect.

Happy to be here!

Happy to be here!

Global First National anchorperson Kevin Newman was next through the turnstiles, and this man is built like a freight train. No lack of self-assuredness there, although -at first blush- I think I’d rather ‘have a beer’ with Peter Mansbridge… or even ‘Count Floyd’ Lloyd Robertson.

The national anthem was sung beautifully & poignantly a capella by a lone female singer, but as she was singing the final strains a few antsy dudes in the back of the hall -who’d evidently found the martini bar- began hooting and grunting like it was a boxing match… or a burlesque show. It was at this point -right off the bat- that the MC’s lost the crowd (before they’d even begun). The proceeding speeches and introductions were largely inaudible due to the din of the crowd.

Conservative Jason Kenney won Parliamentarian of the Year, and had a healthy contingent of hooters & hollerers in the crowd to harken his win. (Possibly some of the same dudes who grunted at the national anthem.) They all broke into a chant of “Ke-nney! Ke-nney!” as Jason took the stage to accept & nearly did a face plant, tumbling hard. It was a lowlight that was also a highlight. No pictures of me with celebs from this year, so I’m recycling my picture with Jason from last year. As we took it he asked if it was going to pop up on some left wing blog. I guess his instincts are pretty good.

Jason Kenney

Ke-nney! Ke-nney!

Full disclosure: I have a slight bias against the house band that was hired, because I tried for that gig myself. Perhaps I should’ve taken “I’ll Do Ya” & “Nurturenature” (sample lyric: “the revolution is in your mind”) off my Myspace site before I applied. Lesson learned. The jazz band that got the gig were tasteful, and subtle… but I was going to cover Colin James’ “Why Do Ya Lie?”, which obviously would have been way hipper, more apt, & tres more sophisticated.

Jack Layton was present, and radiant as ever. He was kind enough to pose for a picture with Nyree, who, while working the door @ last years awards, didn’t recognize him and did everything short of frisking him on the way in. She counts that as one of her most embarrassing moments.

Nyree knows weho Jack Layton is now. As for Gilles Duceppe, it's anyone's guess.

Nyree knows who Jack Layton is now. As for Gilles Duceppe, it's anyone's guess.

At Parliamentarian of the Year Awards past I’ve pined for appearances by Belinda Stronach (well documented) and Rona Ambrose. Belinda, of course, has left the political fray, leaving Rona as the sole Hill hottie. Well, to my delighted surprise who should show up early (but not too early), but Rona herself! I was immediately struck by her teeny tiny size. She’s clearly camera friendly, and looks somewhat different in person. Regardless, as a stern looking conservative, it’s pretty hard not to imagine her in leather… & brandishing a whip! (Hey, I’m just saying what everyone is thinking.) Ouch! I’ll be more fiscally responsible, I swear!

Geez, get out of the frame, Jason!

Geez, get out of the frame, Jason!

22
Mar
09

Hockey Analogies: Defending Quebec

OK, let me get this one out of the way right off the bat – the Rheostatics just dedicated a show to it… I’m talking about the sexual connotations of various hockey terms. You’ve got your five-hole, your hooking, and your high sticking to name but a few. I’m cetain the Rheo’s mined many a-more in this, er, shaft than I just have, but you get the idea.

Speaking of the Rheostatics, a rock band is much like a hockey team. Your singer is your centreman, and lead guitar and keyboards are your wingers (& it’s always nice when your wingers chip in a few goals). The bass player is your defenseman, be he or she of the stay-at-home variety (like me on bass), or if they jump up into the rush and maybe even pinch every now & then. Finally, the drummer is your goalie. And who do you blame if you have a bad game/gig? – You got it! (The goalie is also a little nuts, & is always the last one out of the dressing room – much like a drummer, who’s got the most gear to load in the band.. and nobody ever helps him!)

And speaking of goalie’s, as I write this I am in Quebec City. Martin Brodeur has just equalled Patrick Roy’s all-time NHL wins record – in Montreal, no less (& with Patrick on hand)! (Martin surpassed the record a few nights later in New Jersey.) I’ve always said that the best goalies in the world are Quebecoise. The fact that Quebecers Marty & ‘St. Patrick’ are both statistically the best ever bears that out. Beyond these two -to name but a few- you’ve got your Jacques Plante, your J.S. Giguere, your Marc-Andre Fleury, and the goalie who’s name is on the top NHL goalie trophy awarded yearly – George Vezina.

So what makes Quebec goalie’s so damn good? Well, I have a theory – it’s because their culture has been under seige, surrounded by the English language, and bombarded by American & English Canadian culture. They’ve had to defend their identity vigorously for centuries. They’re tailor made to hold the fort, steer that slap shot harmlessly into the corner, and snag that snapshot labelled for the top corner of the cage. And, of course, stack those pads – don’t let it go five-hole!