Monday, January 31, 2011

None For Me.

PZ Myers is a lucky guy.  He gets bizarre e-mail from weirdos, and even the occasional book, to entertain him for free.   Me, the weirdos ignore me.  They can't even go to the effort of leaving a comment when I criticise their favourite conspiracy theory or silly religious belief.  Apparently I don't come up in the incessant internet searching some people seem to do in order to counter any criticism they might face.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

That'll Leave A Stain.

It's that time of year again, awards nomination season.  Along with the "we really wanna win one" awards such as the Oscars we also have the Razzies, which honour the worst in film over the last year.  Not surprisingly the latest episode in the Twilight series, Eclipse received multiple nominations, including worst picture.  But that's like shooting fish in a barrel with a grenade launcher given that the original source material revolves around an ineffectual doormat of a heroine and her vampire stalker, presented as a romance, instead of creepy as it should be.  Leader of the pack this year is The Last Airbender, M. Night  Shyamalan's big screen adaptation of Nickelodeon's popular Avatar: The Last Airbender cartoon series.  The 9 nominations include worst picture and worst director, which Shyamalan especially deserves in the eyes of many for his whitewashing of the multicultural characters of the original and the unfortunate implications of the non-white casting that was used.  It's also up for the new category of worst eye-gouging misuse of 3D, which may not be a long lived category if the current fad for 3D fades out. 

A lot of the nominations will come as no surprise to filmgoers in general and those who have paid attention to the Razzies in the past.  You can find the complete list here.

Not Long Enough.

If you're a fan of the series 24 you may be seeing a big screen version next year.  Or not.  Kiefer Sutherland says that shooting on the film may begin in December of this year or January of next.  Fox on the other hand say he's jumping the gun.  In any case one problem with the film is obvious.  It won't be long enough.  After all the premise of the series was that each season covered the events of a single day, with each episode covering roughly one hour.  So shouldn't a 24 movie be 24 hours long?  If Jack Bauer can survive those 24 hours surely the audience can too.

Friday, January 21, 2011

On The Horizon.

Here's some evidence that an election may be in our fairly immediate future:  We've received 2 mailings within a week from local MP Brad Trost.  Being a Conservative MP he may know something the rest of us don't, like Harper's election plans.

Spare Me A Buck Or Two?

Well, okay, it's more like a billion, but hey, you know I'm good for it, right?  It's been reported that Wendy's intends to sell off their Arby's division due to the latter's poorer than expected performance.  The two companies only came together in 2008, making for a pretty quick marriage and divorce.  Sources estimate Arby's will sell for an estimated 500 to 600 million, and I'm sure one of you reading this can spare that kind of money for a bit.  I promise I'll let you have all the free Arby's roast beef sandwiches you want.  Or if you're willing to put up a bit more I can buy Long John Silver's and/or A&W, although I'm less interested in the latter since it doesn't include the Canadian restaurants of the chain, which currently have no connection to the US parent.

On a more serious note I've always wondered about Arby's operations here.  They used to have outlets in a number of mall food courts but these have all vanished.  The chain is left with two stand alone restaurants, neither of which, at least at the times I've been in them, seems to do heavy business.  Obviously they must do enough business since they're still around.  More importantly these restaurants are both on the city's west side, and there is no Arby's on 8th Street, which despite its innocuous name is one of Saskatoon's main business areas and an obvious place to put a restaurant if you want lots of customers.  It will be interesting to see if the sale has any effect on the fate of the two here, as the first thing a new buyer may want to do is shed underperforming locations if possible.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Read The Text.

Last week the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal ruled that proposals that Saskatchewan civil marriage commissioners should be allowed to opt out of marrying same sex couples would be unconstitutional.  Not surprisingly some people were not happy with the ruling.  One was Ray Noble of Saskatoon, whose letter was published in today's Saskatoon Star Phoenix.  It's short enough to quote in full

RE: Proposals 'a step backward'(SP, Jan. 11)
I say the Court of Appeals ruling was a step backward-about 4000 years-to Sodom and Gomorrah.

As yes, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah.  One of the few "proofs" that gets dragged out of the Bible that God doesn't approve of gay people.  But have some of the people who use it actually read the story?

Genesis 18 tells us that Abraham has visitors, minions of God who warn him Sodom and Gomorrah will soon be destroyed because of their supposed wickedness, with Abraham trying to convince them and God that there are enough righteous men for the cities to be spared.  The minions soon set off to Sodom to visit Abraham's nephew Lot.  Lot welcomes them in, but the men of Sodom soon appear, demanding the strangers come out so they "may know them."  This is generally taken by Christians to mean that the locals want to have sex with the visitors.  Lot offers his virgin daughters instead.

Let's repeat that:  Lot offers to let the men of Sodom do as they please with his daughters.  In other words he offers to let the men rape them instead.  This is acceptable, but raping the male visitors isn't?   One assumes that most modern people would be appalled at the idea that raping women is somehow more acceptable than raping men.  Given this it's not hard to assume many Christians haven't read the story, or they wouldn't be so quick to use it as evidence against homosexuality.

It gets worse.  When the visitors warn Lot they are about to smite the city and that he must gather up all those close to him we learn that his virgin daughters are engaged to be married.  The text indicates that his future sons-in-law don't take the warning seriously, and so the next day are left behind when the visitors force Lot, his wife, and his daughters to flee Sodom.  So not only was Lot willing to betray his daughters by letting them be raped, he was willing to betray his future kinfolk as well. 

As Lot and his family flee the messengers of God warn them not to look back as they prepare to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.  The cities are destroyed by fire and brimstone, and Lot's wife makes the mistake of looking back, resulting in her being turned into a pillar of salt.

Note that Genesis doesn't name any of these women.  Whoever wrote this part of the text apparently thought they were as unimportant as some modern readers seem to.  After  all their focus is all on the supposed homosexual angle.

This is of course the typical cherry picking that goes on with religious texts.  People use the story of Lot to attack gay people, ignoring the details of the story that show by our standards Lot is in no way a righteous man and seems little better than those who were killed in Sodom, yet doesn't suffer their fate.  They also feel free to use this story to claim that God prohibits homosexuality, yet don't see the need to follow things like the dietary restrictions laid out in the Old Testament, claiming Jesus brought about a "new covenant" that superceeds the requirements of Leviticus.  But if that's the case why not the supposed prohibition against homosexuality as well?

Interestingly other Jewish scriptures indicate that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed for their general nastiness, that they were uncharitable, inhospitable to strangers, and often cruelly violent.  This includes the story of one of Lot's daughters, Paltith, being burned after giving bread to a poor visitor to Sodom, while another girl who did the same thing was smeared with honey and hung from the city wall, to be killed by bees.

And while we're on dubious uses of ancient texts the Sodom and Gomorrah saga is one of those Biblical sagas that are claimed by some to be evidence of ancient alien encouters, with some sort of alien nuclear device destroying the cities.  I doubt whoever first wrote the Lot story would be amused at such speculation.

Friday, January 14, 2011

TV Imperialism.

I'm sure many visitors who are old enough will have at least some vague memory of The Nanny, a US sitcom that ran from 1993 to 1999.  It starred Fran Drescher as the nanny, not surprisingly named Fran, to a pair of kids in New York.   What is likely to come as a surprise however is that the series spawned foreign remakes.  TV networks in countries as varied as Turkey, Poland, and Chile decided their audiences deserved their own version of the series.  Not only that, but they also used scripts from the American original, adapted to local culture.  Of course this kind of thing isn't limited to foreign countries using American show concepts.  Various American versions have been made of (usually) UK TV shows, ranging from hits like All in the Family(based on the British Til Death Us Do Part) to failures like the 1996 American Doctor Who movie/TV series pilot.  So this kind of TV imperialism goes in more than one direction.  Still, if I were considering the idea of foreign networks doing local versions of a 1990s US sitcom I would have assumed Friends, not The Nanny.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

This Post Includes Offensive Content.

If you haven't heard about it already you're likely to over the next few days.  The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council wants Canadian radio stations to stop playing the unedited version of Dire Straits' 1985 hit "Money For Nothing."  The problem is the use of faggot in the lyrics.  This story will of course prompt a bunch of yelling about government censorship.

But wait a moment.  It's not the government who wants the song removed.  The CBSC is run by the broadcast industry, not government.  The industry is policing itself.  And let's not hear any "slippery slope" arguments either.  Canadian radio stations already play versions of current hits where words many find offensive, like nigger, are edited out.  So removing one word from one verse of "Money For Nothing" is more a nuisance than anything else.

How offensive language should be dealt with is a question with no easy answers.  Unlike other media music on the radio has the problem that it's not really practical to warn for content on a specific basis.  Compare this with TV or the movies, which can warn in advance for offensive words in a specific piece of content.  It is also easier for viewers to realise that the words a character uses don't necessarily reflect the beliefs of the performer than it is in a song, where the tendency is often to assume the singer of a song and the persona in the song are the same. 

And let's also not forget that the song is still available for anyone to listen to in its original form on CD etc.  If not hearing one word ruins your enjoyment of a piece so much perhaps you shouldn't be listening to music on radio, which often airs versions of music shortened for one reason or another.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

We've Been Lucky.

Today's attempted assassination of US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords brought to mind that Canada has not been immune to political assassination.  However we've been very lucky given that we have only two examples compared to the American experience.  The last Canadian politician murdered was Quebec cabinet minister Pierre Laporte in 1970, killed by members of the Quebec separatist terrorist group the FLQ.  The so-called Toronto 18 terrorist plotters, arrested in 2006, wanted to behead Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper as part of their planned mayhem, but their effort came nowhere near execution.  Given the similiarities between our two countries it's surprising we haven't had more examples in Canada.  Perhaps it's because the political rhetoric here has been less vehement than it has been at many times south of the border.  There is also the fact that the US formed out of revolution, and many have taken this fact to justify their violence.

When I Rule The World 7.

When I rule the world onions will be prohibited.  Yucky, horrible things they are that must go.  Their absense will prevent many gastronomic horrors.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Gas In Saskatoon, January 7, 2011.

If you heard an odd noise in Saskatoon Tuesday it was the price of gas shooting up.  Gas in Saskatoon is now 111.9 cents a litre at most locations, a 6 cent jump from the previous price.  As you can imagine Saskatoon drivers are not amused.

Japanese Justice And Air India 182.

The 1985 bombing of Air India Flight 182 was back in the news in Canada today.  Inderjit Singh Reyat, the only person convicted of their involvement in the attack, was sentenced to nine years for perjury due to his actions during the trial of Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajiab Singh Bagri.  Reyat had taken a plea bargain in 2003 to reduce his sentence in exchange for testimony against them.  Malik and Bagri were found not guilty due to lack of evidence.

Hearing about this case again this morning made me wonder why there has been no Japanese prosecution of any of these people, or anyone else. On the same day Air India Flight 182 was blown up by a bomb a similar bomb blew up at Tokyo's Narita airport, killing two Japanese baggage handlers and injuring four others.  Despite two of their citizens being killed I have seen no indication Japan has made an effort to get any of those accused by Canada in the case into a Japanese court.  They probably didn't need to with Reyat, since he was convicted in 1991 in the Narita bomb case.  But what about Bagri and Malik?  You'd think that after their acquital in Canada the Japanese might want a crack at them as well.  If anyone knows the story here I'd love to know.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

A Request For Teletoon.

If by chance someone from Teletoon's programming staff passes through I'd like to make a request:  Please give Delta State another run through sometime this year.  If you can do it for Undergrads you can do it for Delta State.  I'd like to get the second half of it recorded, since I doubt we're going to see a "season 2" DVD set.  And in case anyone is wondering, yes, I sent some of my money the DVD company's way by buying the "Complete First Season" set.

Pay Cut.

It's amazing the kind of money some of our entertainers are paid.  A report this week claims that Robert De Niro got paid 20 million bucks for the much maligned Little Fockers currently stinking up the big screen.  Ben Stiller also reportedly earned 20 million bucks.  If you add their salaries to the salaries of Owen Wilson, Barbara Streisand, Dustin Hoffman(7.5 million for a mere five days of work) and Jessica Alba you get 72.5 millon bucks, a sum that would pay for the planned replacement for Saskatoon's mothballed Traffic Bridge.  It's hard to believe that some of these people are truly deserving of the money they're getting for these roles.  Perhaps it's time to reconsider these sort of high salaries given how a lot of these films perform.  But at least Little Fockers will probably make money.  It's the films that are flops where the star makes 10 or 20 million bucks that really make you wonder if things are getting too pricey.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

It Will Not Die.

nitz and jesse celebrate

By all reason it should be gone.  Undergrads is a cartoon series that ran fo a single season of 13 episodes.  While in college Pete Williams submitted a short pilot animation clip of an idea he had, The Click, to an MTV contest.  MTV decided they liked the concept, and with some development it became Undergrads.  MTV teamed up with Canada's Teletoon to produce the series.  But while Teletoon apparently did well with the series and wanted more, MTV didn't.  Teletoon never managed to find a new financial partner, but they sure got their money's worth out of the series, playing it multiple times over the years despite its short length.  After its last runthrough a few years ago I had assumed it wasn't coming back, so when I saw it listed on the January schedule Teletoon put out in late December I assumed this was just a mistake.

But nope, when I checked the PVR Tuesday morning the first episode, "Party," was there.  Coming up on ten years after its debut the show is once more getting a runthrough on Teletoon.  It's amazing that it just won't stay dead.  No, no new episodes are likely, and like many fans I've got the DVD.  But it's still satisfying to have it back, and hopefully it will pick up some new fans.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Mick Karn, RIP.

Not a good start of the year for UK musicians.  Mick Karn, former bassist with British group Japan, has died of cancer at age 52.  Karn played fretless bass, and had one of the more distinctive styles you're likely to hear.  The song above, "Canton," appeared on their final album, 1981's Tin Drum. 

Goodbye, Gerry.

Reading that Gerry Rafferty has died I thought I should post a video of his best known hit, "Baker Street."  Reading an obituary on him it sounds as if Rafferty was one of those artists who really shouldn't have been famous.  He didn't seem to be the kind of person who wanted or could cope with the pressures of fame.  It's also interesting to read that he was an early collaborater with Scottish comedian Billy Connolly when the latter was still a folk musician, and apparently told Connolly his future was as a comedian.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Welcome To 2011.

Good to have you along.  Boy, it seems like 2010 was just yesterday.  Best wishes for the coming year.