National Infrastructure Summit 2012, Day 1: City Smarter, Not Harder

Last year’s summit, according to the organizers, was about analyzing the scope of the infrastructure problem; estimates, including the one in the IBM Smarter Cities presentation today, range from $300 to $400 billion. For perspective’s sake, that number is roughly twenty times the budget of the city of Toronto alone. So cities looking to maintain, fix, or replace existing infrastructure while also ensuring that they have the funding (or “capital,” eghguhgh) available to equip new developments with efficient and enduring infrastructure must find radical new ways to think about doing that. “Innovation,” the business types call it, and it’s the focus of this year’s National Infrastructure Summit.

While a big chunk of the “innovation” comes from ways to source funding – more on that in a bit – another substantial focus of the summit is on data. Specifically, big data, the kinds of interlocked and complicated sets of data that make up the backbone of modern infrastructure. Everything from city libraries to water and power grids comes with data and statistics that mesh together to form pictures of communities and cities that politicians, bureaucrats, and planners have to navigate in order to provide effective services. Finding ways to turn that complex nest of information from noise into signal is high on the priority list.

Part of the presentation from IBM’s delegates focused, for example, on the Washington, D.C., water system. The problems the District of Columbia faced – aging pipes, rising costs, decreasing civic revenue – should sound all too familiar to anyone who’s watched municipal politics in any city, ever. But using database collation technology – some of which was on display out on the vendor booth floor, and all of which almost went over my head (I’m going to head back tomorrow or Wednesday and try to get it explained to me in terms an idiot can understand) – D.C. forwent the reactive approach to fixing their infrastructure, instead using data to predict usage and anomalies, as well as sharpening the algorithms by which they schedule maintenance and improvements.

Oh, and they used the data of their maintenance workers’ routes to initiate something called “spatial scheduling,” where workers who are already in the neighbourhood anyway check in on infrastructure and facilities, rather than hauling someone out for a special trip, thus maximizing the time and energy of their employees.

There are more examples on IBM’s Smarter Cities page, of course. And they’re the sort of public-private partnership – a collaboration between smart, commercially employed thinkers and public employees whose job is focused on making the best of limited municipal resources – that it’s easy to get behind.

The other kind of public-private partnership – one that’s heavily emphasized during the NIS – is a financial one, and it’s both tediously convoluted and sort of frightening. But Paul Dechene understands it better than I do, and he’s blogging a panel tomorrow featuring CUPE president Paul Moist (who at 1 p.m. today held a press conference to announce the release of a CUPE-sponsored study by University of Manitoba economist John Loxley that counters the hoo-rah attitude toward P3s so prevalent here at the NIS), so I’ll let him tackle that. It is, however, the main way that many municipalities are looking to fund infrastructure projects. No surprise there, given that the federal government has tied so much of its municipal infrastructure grants to P3s – $1.2 billion annually – that, in 2009, it created a Crown corporation for the express purpose of exploring and promoting P3s.

God, wasn’t this supposed to be a blog entry? I’ll keep it short: there are some ideas floating around that, at least, make the idea of P3s for infrastructure projects a little more palatable. One idea that’s been in practice for a long time is a municipal finance authority like they have in BC. Since the 1970s, British Columbian municipalities have had the power, thanks to a legislative act, to pool their resources together and negotiate for funding through one large entity. According to Jim Craven, who spent years with the MFA in BC and now does consulting work for British Columbia municipalities, the united municipalities have the clout to ensure fairer funding agreements. Down the line, this means that revenues from infrastructure don’t go to paying back exorbitant loans; instead, they turn into profits for the municipal finance authority and are translated into dividends paid out to the communities.

Regina city councillor Mike O’Donnell was at the panel discussing financing, and in an interview after the panel, he seemed interested in trying to find a way to make something like that work in Saskatchewan.

“We are a very diverse province, and I think sometimes we don’t co-operate enough,” he said. “…What I really took away from the presentation is that co-operation has many benefits. Co-operation financially can, in fact, be extended to the very smallest areas of the province. And for someone like me, it’s very worth pursuing.”

That’s all for me, folks, and probably all for you, too; check back tomorrow for a couple of soundbites from mayoral candidates Marian Donnelly and Michael Fougere, as well as an interview with Jennifer Barrett and Christopher Miles Kailing, the winners of the Greenfield Design Prize portion of the City of Regina’s Morph My City competition. I promise they’ll be shorter than this.

National Infrastructure Summit 2012, Day 1: No Acronyms

Well, here we are.

Right now I’m posting from the ballroom in the Delta Hotel, where Canadian Construction Association President John Schubert is discussing asset management and public-private partnerships. The language he’s using to discuss it is obviously hella business-y, but with municipalities looking more and more at P3s, that’s no surprise. So I’m half-listening and half-updating you, the prairie dog‘s Monday afternoon blog readers. Hi, Barb, basically.

I’m planning on a couple more updates today, which I’m going to have to whip up rapid-fire or else post at the close of the conference today, since I’m not invited to the mayor’s reception and dinner at Casino Regina at 6 p.m. Since the summit is a packed, rapid-fire event, I’ll be trying to focus on these highlights.

– Over lunch, reps from IBM’s Smarter Cities initiative will be presenting on… something. But it should be interesting.
– At one o’clock, during the summit’s “rejuvenation break,” CUPE has a press conference to launch a guide to “the other side” of P3s. I’ll be livetweeting that one.
– The Greenfield Prize of the “Morph My City” competition, which is an award going out to a proposal to turn empty land in (or presumably around, because that’s how this city works) Regina into a modern & sustainable community, gets handed out at 3:30 today; the finalists are from Toronto, New York, and Missoula, Montana, so it should be interesting to see what ideas they have for our burg.

Plus, you know, interviews and stuff, assuming I can hack it. Paul Dechene will be checking in on the summit tomorrow, and I’ll be back on Wednesday to wrap up. If you have thoughts for us – things you think we should pay attention to, people you think we should talk to – feel free to let us know in the comments. And you can follow me on Twitter, where I post as @warmandpunchy, although I can’t promise anything interesting and also that’s my personal account so, you know, fair warning about the amount of butt jokes.

There Is Power In A Union

Yeah, okay, you might have already heard that I’m pro-union. But as James pointed out this morning, Canadian unionization is on the decline. That’s not a bad thing because I’m pro-union; it’s a bad thing because, without the advantages that unionization confers and the ways it gives power to the people who are the true engines of production and of the economy, we’d all be working 60-hour weeks under the thumb of Dickensian villain-bosses.

If you need a reminder of why union membership is important, here is ex-union member and union supporter and incredible songwriter and all-around great guy John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats, with an old standard he recorded in support of the Wisconsin General Strike last spring.

Its sentiment is worth revisiting.

Four In The Afternoon: Not Fooling Anybody

4 in the Afternoon1 HITLER: THE STORE! I mean, the swastika dates back to like the bronze age, but naming your store “Hitler” and putting a dot with a swastika in it over the I – that’s just not going to go over well, dudes.

2 PAUL RYAN DRESSES LIKE A TEENAGER AT HIS FIRST JOB INTERVIEW And other scintillating news. The Romney campaign recently said it wouldn’t let its ads be “dictated by fact-checkers,” so maybe advice on menswear will go over a bit better.

3 APPARENTLY $940 A MONTH FOR A LOW-INCOME FAMILY IS “AFFORDABLE” Hahahaha that’s fucked. Good work, Regina.

4 AND NOW, QUEBEC POLITICS The polls show evidence of a potential shakeup in the works. Horse race, awaaaaay!

The Changes To Canada’s Environmental Laws Have Resulted In 3,000 Cancelled Reviews

Hooray!

Out of 2,970 project reviews that were stopped by the legislation that rewrote Canada’s environmental laws and weakened federal oversight on industrial development, 678 involved fossil fuel energy and 248 involved a pipeline, including proposals from Alberta-based energy companies, Enbridge and TransCanada.

The numbers were calculated using the agency’s new online database that is still undergoing some revisions, additions and corrections.

Federal environmental assessment is only one among many regulatory instruments aimed at ensuring that projects do not cause significant adverse environmental effects, and it is important to note that these smaller projects will still be subject to relevant federal and provincial laws, regulations and standards,” said Isabelle Perrault, a spokeswoman for the agency.

She explained that Environment Minister Peter Kent has decided to continue a “screening-type assessment” for 18 projects that were already undergoing reviews before Parliament adopted the budget bill, which also offered new tools for the government to authorize water pollution, investigate environmental groups, weaken protection of endangered species, and limit public participation in consultations and reviews of proposed industrial projects.


It’s hard to look at that list of things that this bill does accomplish and actually conceive of how this was positively spun. Come to think of it, I guess they didn’t really bother, outside the hollow and craven business-schooler defence of “B-b-b-b-but efficiency! The economy!”

Oh, and the whole reason I posted this: the province with the most cancelled environmental reviews was, drumroll please, Saskatchewan, with 638 cancelled reviews! Whoops, we have to all leave the province now, we’ve forfeited our security deposit.

Six in the Evening: We’ve Got It Going On

Well, I mean I have it going on. A busy day, that is. Last Architects & Builders record released today, last show tonight. Things get sort of hectic!

1 ROB FORD IS A SITCOM CHARACTER I mean, he seems like he was created by a focus group for our collective amusement. Or frustration, if you’re the Toronto police force.

2 “F-BOMB” NOW IN DICTIONARY Which doesn’t seem as big a story to me as, hahaha you’re kidding me, “bucket list.”

3 DOES THIS PROVINCE MAKE US LOOK FAT? You can be honest. Fewer than 20 per cent of Saskatchewan residents said they were regularly physically active; like me, the other 80 per cent are probably all just really busy.

4 WHAT IS UP CANADIAN AUTO WORKERS UNION Good luck, I guess, with your contract negotiations, dudes. It’s a fun little canard for anti-union folks to look at this and grumble about how the greedy union workers are ungrateful what with the bailout of the auto companies letting them keep their jobs. I can empathize; after all, I really enjoy reading novels. Fiction is fun! But the crucial thing here is that – sort of like the money from the 2008 bank bailout! – once you find out where exactly that bailout money has gone (hint: General Motors CEO Richard Wagoner pocketed $14 million in 2008 without even taking his salary into consideration) into the pockets of people and consider the concessions made by the people much farther down the economic food chain, that argument sort of falls to shit. It also falls to shit when you look at how Mondragón works. So, like I said, good luck, union folks.

5 CANONIZING KATERI Pope Benedict is apparently set to canonize the first Aboriginal saint. And it’s a woman, no less.

6 STANDING HIS GROUND But not using the “stand your ground” defence – apparently, George Zimmerman is going to plead traditional self-defence. In the case where he trailed an unarmed teenager, jumped out of his car, pulled out a gun, and shot the kid to death. We’ll, uh, we’ll see how that goes.

Six In The Morning: Riots And Roads And Robbery

1 FREE PUSSY RIOT Russian prosecutors today called for three-year jail terms for the members of feminist punk band and activist collective Pussy Riot. A Russian lawyer arguing, like lead prosecutor Alexei Nikiforov has, for protestors and political prisoners to be “isolated from society”? Not menacing at all! Anyway, if you want a primer on why exactly you should care about something named “Pussy Riot,” Mother Jones has many of the reasons. (Side note – the one silver lining to this debacle/frightening assertion of post-Soviet Russian state authority & dissent-quashing is that dozens of Serious Media Outlets have published the words “Pussy Riot” over and over again.)

2 NO ROADS LEAD TO FOND-DU-LAC Bruce Johnstone has an article in today’s Leader-Post examining the impediments to progress presented by a lack of proper infrastructure – specifically, a lack of all-season roads – in northern Saskatchewan. How important are decent roads to northern communities? “Typically,” Johnstone writes, “the 900km trip from Stony Rapids to Prince Albert takes 15 hours, much of it driving on rutted, rocky, sometimes washed-out roads.” And as a result, milk costs $10 per jug. Yikes.

3 WE WAS ROBBED Like many Canadians, I somehow found it in me to care like hell about soccer yesterday. Also like many Canadians, I was crushed when a series of bizarre calls seemed to cost us the game, as the Canadians were finally defeated 4-3 by Team USA in the last thirty seconds of extended time. But those were the only thirty seconds in which Team Canada was neither tied nor leading, so while it’s understandable that they would take the loss hard (especially since this was the closest they came to victory in eleven years), the team should be proud; after all, striker Christine Sinclair scored a hat trick on the top-ranked team in women’s soccer. Whether they win the bronze on Thursday or not, this team belongs on every goddamn box of Wheaties in the country.

4 CURIOSITY ROUNDUP So this happened, Mars continues to rule, etcetera. Also the Internet is alight over an attractive science man who helped land the rover, and apparently people are grumpy about the quality of images coming from – can I say this, just to make it clear? – a robot that we shot into space and is now roaming around the surface of Mars. NASA’s response should just be like, “The pictures look bad? Fuck you, man, we put a robot on Mars. Again.”

5 THE SIKH SHOOTER WAS PROBABLY A WHITE SUPREMACIST More here, and here. (Pro-tip: Milwaukee reporters are by default probably going to be doing the best work on this story, so link to them when you can, hey?) Also – the Atlantic Wire takes an insightful, if brief, look at white supremacists’ reactions to the news that this shooter was assuredly one of their own.

6 LOUISIANA WILL PAY SCHOOLS TO TEACH CHILDREN THAT DRAGONS ARE REAL Not even close to a joke.

Let’s get Irish troubadour Van Morrison to play us out with a number from his classic contractual obligation record. Van?

Four In The Afternoon: “Gallows Humour” Sort Of Depends On The Presence Of Gallows

4 in the Afternoon 1 THE TITLE OF THIS POST EXPLAINED Chinese firm CNOOC Ltd. has bought Canadian oil sands partner Nexen Inc. for $15 bil, meaning that a company whose base of operations is a nation governed by a large and brutal dictatorship now falls under the, pfffffffftahahahahahaha, the “ethical oil” banner. Ahahaha.

2 ISN’T THERE AN O. HENRY STORY THAT’S SORT OF ABOUT THIS The Tories have decided to save the environment by, uh, building a huge and expensive waste treatment plant instead of doing what scientists suggest and continue to put sewage into the ocean. I don’t want to be the first one who tells them where fish shit.

3 AAA I CAN’T WAIT No seriously I cannot wait to find out details of PM Stephen Harper’s meeting with Toronto mayor Rob Ford in the wake of Ford’s new scheme (read: insane desire grounded in nothing resembling fact) that ex-cons be cast out from his city as if it were an island nation in a bad B-movie or a European realm in the centuries before they invented regular bathing.

4 CRIME IS DOWN NATIONALLY Well, I guess it’s time we eat our words, as it appears that getting “tough” on crime w- oh, wait, the tough-on-crime approach is in legislation that hasn’t been implemented yet, and these stats are from 2011, ha ha, whoops. But Vic Toews has decided nevertheless to take credit for his government’s contribution to the lowering of a crime rate that has been steadily dropping since the early nineties, through policies that in large part have not been enacted yet. In other :( news Regina still has the highest crime rate in the country, dang.

A Children’s Treasury of Gif Reactions To How The City Of Regina Will Pay For Its New Stadium

So the CBC put together a neat little infographic on how the city plans to cover the costs of the new stadium – which, including operating costs, will now come to a total of $675 million over 30 years.

I had some feelings (or “feels,” as the kids on Tumblr call them these days) about seeing this story, and decided to use gifs to tell my story. (Gifs are animated images that – well, you’ll get the idea.) That story is below the jump.

Continue reading “A Children’s Treasury of Gif Reactions To How The City Of Regina Will Pay For Its New Stadium”

Star-Phoenix Editorial Board Bucks Stadium Commentary Position, Actually Challenges Authority

No sooner do I click “publish” on that last entry than a link to the Star-Phoenix‘s editorial on the stadium shows up on my Facebook dashboard. Among the genuinely hard-hitting analysis?

But the timing of this decision coincides with a renewed and aggressive commitment by the government to pennypinching when it comes to cultural supports. The extravagant generosity when it comes to a new stadium in Regina, announced within a year of the last election, raises questions as to whether the government either is making things up as it goes or wasn’t being totally forthright during the election campaign.

Oof. That’s a far cry from the Leader-Post‘s editorial board hoo-rahs. I wonder why that is?

Four In The Afternoon: Being A Freelancer Sometimes Means Sleeping Til Noon

4 in the Afternoon1 POLARIS SHORTLIST It’s here! Someone else talk about this please because all I can think about is 1) there is some serious déjà vu going on here with some of these nominees, 2) what are Handsome Furs (who are broken up now!) going to do with the money if they win?, and 3) aw man Cannon Bros. didn’t make it.

2 DANZIG SHOOTING A young man and a teenage girl were shot dead at a block party last night in Toronto. The pontificating is already rolling in, but nobody in editorial pages has yet weighed in on how Twitter has managed to give us an incredibly complete picture of the night already, thanks to the work of one Redditor. (I’m not suggesting, by the way, that this is one of those stories where “the real story is Social Media.” There’s something vaguely mortifying about clicking the links in that Reddit post, as more often than not the people he’s linking to are dealing with having witnessed death twelve hours ago. There’s a humanity and a vulnerability to it that you don’t often get from a big-picture news story.)

3 MORE STADIUM BUSINESS At dinner last night, fellow prairie dog blogger James Brotheridge and I talked about having seen mayoral candidate Marian Donnelly’s in-depth post about this weekend’s stadium announcement. We’d both had the idea of looking at other mayoral candidates’ web pages to see if they’d posted similar reactions and come up with bupkis. Thankfully, Global was willing to do a bit of legwork and ask mayoral candidates what they think. (And even though he’s not running for mayor, there’s also a pretty good Murray Mandryk column today about taxpayers footing the bill.) (Although his argument that it’s better to build a new one now than spend a third of the cost of a new stadium on renovations makes me wonder if this entire city needs to be sat down and given a stern lecture on the importance of renovations, upkeep, and general care of your goddamn property, because it’s apparently a deeply-rooted attitude problem now.)

3 CUTS ON THE BIAS I actually don’t like linking to Huffington Post – not a fan of their business model, not a fan of their founder, not a fan of their layout or design or anything. But sometimes their reporters do good work. Example: their current mega-feature on life under austerity. Today’s piece, on the long-term impact of cuts to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, is a must-read.

Six In The Morning: Am I The Only Person Writing These Things Anymore?

1 WELL IT’S A HOT ONE In what’s rapidly becoming one of the hottest years on record in North America, much of Saskatchewan must feel like it’s seven inches from the midday sun, just in time for Margaret Wente to argue that poor people really want air conditioning and therefore it is a necessity(?????), hooray. (Incidentally, did you know that Shaunavon is one of only five Canadian towns participating in an international study of extreme weather conditions? It’s true!)

2 JASON KENNEY GIVES HIMSELF CONGRATULATORY ASS-SLAP For that thing we were talking about last week. Good news is he’s been getting roundly derided for it. Protip one is that you never put a petition on your own website asking people to congratulate you for doing what is nominally your job, e.g. crafting legislation. Protip two is that if you’re going to hide behind the canard of (ahaha, DOG WHISTLE ALERT!) “bogus asylum claimants” getting better health care than seniors, maybe make sure seniors are getting better health care than “a level similar to that provided by provinces to people on social assistance,” you colossal turd.

3 CALGARY STAMPEDE DROPS FRENCH VERSE FROM “O CANADA,” PREDICTABLY Come on, dudes, this is just sort of embarrassing. What kind of grown-ass person can’t remember the like three lines of obligatory French we insert into “O Canada”? It’s not even so much that this is offensive to Canada’s history as a bilingual country, it’s that it makes Western Canadians and Albertans in particular look like people with absolutely shitty memory retention for basic things that aren’t cowboy hats and lawn chairs and the kind of unconscious Anglocentric imperialism that’s offensive to Canada’s history as a bilingual country.

4 AM I A BROKEN RECORD ON THIS RIM THING The beleaguered Canadian tech company is definitely not going to shutter its doors as its executives run off into the night with burlap sacks full of what’s left of the company’s money, no sir. (I mean that literally, they’re apparently just going to lay off 5000 people at a time instead. The tech sector!)

5 THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE FIRST PHOTOGRAPH EVER POSTED TO THE INTERNET Oh my god imagine waiting like fifteen minutes for this .gif of four ladies in dresses with text overlaid to load on your computer. Imagine being a CERN employee in 1992 and using the very first version of Photoshop to make what was basically the very first image macro. Oh my god imagine all of that stuff.

6 FRANK OCEAN DROPS CHANNEL ORANGE A WEEK EARLY One of R&B’s hottest rising stars is Frank Ocean, a member of the California weirdo rap collective Odd Future. His new album was supposed to be out next week but he put it on the Internet last night for everyone to hear it instead. It is pretty good.

Regina Fringe Festival: Vernus Says SURPRISE

I went to all the trouble of writing out the stages of the toy-seeking quest in Vernus Says SURPRISE, only to realize while driving home that the play’s whole point was that it was a character study. Don’t blame me; blame Ken Godmere, who plays the titular Vernus, the only person on stage. (Full disclosure: Ken’s daughter, Emma, is both the stage manager for this play and a former Canadian University Press colleague of mine.) Godmere renders elderly Vernus’ journey – from home to toy store and back again, in order to get a birthday present for his granddaughter – in such a compelling way that I feel like I shouldn’t be held accountable for caring about the plot.

Vernus Says SURPRISE is a one-man show, so it’s obviously to Godmere’s credit that his Vernus is a fun character to watch. Even more so when you consider that he doesn’t speak. And he’s not only the only person on stage, he is – with the exception of a single wooden chair – the only thing on stage at any time, meaning he’s interacting with empty spaces and a broad panoply of sounds, dialogue from unseen speakers included. The stagecraft is remarkably precise, however, so the stage manages to feel populated with people and objects, and Vernus’ dealings with the things around him feel tactile and believable. You get a good sense of every environment Vernus spends time in, from his daughter’s (mildly hazardous!) home to the bustling big-box toy store, as Vernus finds occasionally ingenious ways to deal with the obstacles put in front of him.

But, hey, I said this was a character study, didn’t I? So the joy isn’t exclusively in watching Vernus go from place to place but in how he manages to do it. And there’s a lot of joy. With his pants hitched up to his waist and a comically short tie, Godmere’s Vernus is a hunched and slow figure, but a clever and funny one. That makes the oddly mortal moments – holding a door open at a bank with what seems like a Herculean effort, cutting off a practice golf swing midway through, dumping spare change on a counter with a sweaty brow – stand out all the more; the play isn’t grand or difficult, but low-key, sweet, playful, and fundamentally entertaining, especially since it has the sense to step back, be quiet, and let silent Vernus breathe.

Regina Fringe Festival: No Sleep

The thing with No Sleep is, it seems to treat conflict as character development. Its bro-leads – played by Rob Armstrong, Thomas King, and Tyler Toppings, three Regina-based actors – bellow and huff and point and commit an alarming number of what any reasonable observer would consider property crimes, all because the script occasionally insists that, yes, dudes shouting at each other over things they’re mad about deepens relationships. Unfortunately, there’s a nagging question every time someone on stage threatens to punch someone else right in the skull: “How are these guys who hate each other roommates?”

When the testosterone dies down, however, there are some nice moments. In No Sleep, three roommates decide to have a Memorable College Weekend by placing a wager on who can stay awake the longest. This sets up both the action and the stakes of the play in an immediate and satisfying way, and it allows the brief vignettes that follow to develop a delirious sort of momentum; the guys’ actions become more believable as they get more bizarre, following some law of inverse relationships between hours slept and rationality of behaviour.

A scene involving Hulk Hogan and Yoda puppets lands nicely, exploiting the possibility that three guys in this scenario would likely start fucking with each other in weird ways and finding a really novel way to do it. A Zamfir-scored Mexican standoff with Super Soakers, an out-of-nowhere bursting into “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” and a sleep-madness-induced dance number with a piece of bacon all work really well, too – they’re tightly scripted and smartly choreographed (hat tip to choreographer Chip McDaniel, I suppose!). The common thread between all of these is that the weird, woozy atmosphere of a sleepless weekend is used to the play’s overall advantage. As both individual character moments and scenes that show the bonds that these guys have as college buddies and roommates, they develop nicely.

But with the exception of one scene near the end, a lot of the scenes of Conflict-As-Character-Development seem to have been wedged forcefully into the play. And there are more of those scenes than there are the mildly hallucinatory ones. It makes it hard to see these people living together on a month-to-month basis. In a play that’s about the way three guys interact, that can be a dealbreaker.

Six In The Morning: Well, Quarter After The Morning

1 ODA’S OUT The Hon. Minister of $16 Orange Juice announced today on her website that she’d be leaving politics, possibly (read: hopefully!) forever, and the story is predictably all over the news. Oda, who seemingly never gave a single shit about either her performance or the public’s perception of her performance, leaves behind a legacy of dirty, dirty pool. Good riddance!

2 SPEAKING OF OUT As you surely read yesterday, Anderson Cooper outed himself this past weekend. In response, Entertainment Weekly posted one of the must-see long reads of the week, an essay on the quiet revolution in coming out:

[Big Bang Theory star Jim] Parsons did not seek out any magazine covers; in fact, he turned down several offers. Instead, the ”big reveal” about his sexuality came in the 33rd paragraph of a Times profile about his return to Broadway this summer in Harvey. Nor did he address it in any quoted remarks within that story. The writer simply noted that Parsons’ 2011 Broadway appearance in The Normal Heart as a gay activist during the early years of the AIDS pandemic ”resonated with him on a few levels: Mr. Parsons is gay and in a 10-year relationship, and working with an ensemble again onstage was like nourishment, he said.” The phrasing made it clear that not only was the news that Parsons was gay not the most important thing in the article, it might not even be the most important thing in that sentence.

3 THE WORDS “DEATH SPIRAL” ARE NEVER GREAT TO SEE When your company’s president has to deny that the company is in essentially an all-out tailspin, it is probably not a good sign. And so the Research In Motion deathwatch continues.

4 MAYBE BEING UTTERLY HEARTLESS IS POLITICALLY UNPOPULAR The federal Tories have apparently decided to slightly scale back their recent cuts to refugee health care. Plenty of refugees will still be screwed by the new changes – Fun Fact 1: Your Dog Blogger’s mom was part of a church group that once helped a family of Kosovar refugees escape the brutal, ugly war there in 1999. Fun Fact 2: It is not exactly clear whether this refugee family, who had an infant child with Down’s Syndrome, would get the health care they likely need under the new rules, if they came over today, a lack of clarity I don’t think it’s unfair to call “humanitarianism-challenged” – but at least that number will go down ever so slightly. Hope the money saved will go to good – hahaha, oh, wait, we’re saving a grand total of $20 million on this. That is like .1% of our deficit from this year. We are a nation of Scrooges, now.

5 SPEAKING OF HISTORICAL REFUGEE GROUPS WHO OFTEN FOUND THEMSELVES ON THE RECEIVING END OF AN ESSENTIALLY CRUEL LACK OF CHARITY The Telegraph reports that the first ever Miss Holocaust Survivor was crowned in Israel this weekend and reactions are roughly what you would expect them to be.

6 WHISTLE HIM OUT Andy Griffith died today at age 86. He had a pretty diverse c.v., but was most known for his numerous television roles – everything from his eponymous show that also featured Don Knotts and a young Ron Howard to his stint as Matlock, with guest appearances and critically acclaimed TV movie roles in between. Whitworth – who’s sitting behind me right now, as I’m whipping this post together in the prairie dog offices this morning – has reminded me that those “in between” roles included some pretty wild and ambitious things, like the below clip for the fun-looking Salvage 1, in which Griffith played a junkyard operator who dreamed of building a junkyard spaceship to visit the moon for salvage. RIP.

Six in the Morning: Sick in the Morning

1 THIS WILL DO WONDERS FOR PRO-MONARCHY SENTIMENT I… I guess they’re renaming Big Ben “Elizabeth Tower“? Why are they doing this.

2 OBAMA “JILTS” CANADA The Globe & Mail has a rundown of an article in Foreign Policy that claims that Obama has “jilted” Canada but I’m maybe wondering if it’s just that Canada’s government has, over the past five or so years, simply made a series of decisions that have been unpopular internationally, and this is just another instance of someone being a tremendous wiener about the fact that people internationally do not really like us anymore. (That we maybe don’t care doesn’t indicate we’re grown-ups now, like a certain pundit in one of our national newspapers claimed this morning. If a child takes a shit in the sandbox and either throws a snit or just doesn’t give a shit when other people complain about his bad behaviour, he is usually not afforded grown-up status for it!)

3 VICIOUS WEATHER Yes, it’s going to probably thunderstorm like the dickens today. And yes, a tornado chaser probably knows a lot about tornados. But Environment Canada probably knows more, and a blog speculating that tornadoes might happen is far different from a weather alert saying tornadoes will happen, so everyone stop shitting your pants, please, about hypothetical maybe-tornadoes, and instead just grab a comfy chair and get stoked to watch God rain vengeance down upon your lawn, for its crime of being a lawn.

4 PAROLED DEVELOPMENT Or something. Anyway the new episodes of Arrested Development are apparently going to be released in one big chunk next year. Hopefully they’ll also be released in Canada, though I can’t see any reason they wouldn’t be (the Fox run is all available, and (godawful) Netflix original series Lilyhammer is also available, so it seems to logically follow).

5 CITY OF BIG SHOULDERS (THEY ARE BIG FROM HAVING TO MOVE A LOT OF DEAD BODIES) So Chicago has a murder problem. When prairie dog dude-in-residence Mason Pitzel and I went down to Chicago a couple of years ago, we spent time at a cool venue in a rough area of town. One night we tried to leave and were told to stay inside the venue and just sort of wait for transportation to arrive for us. This was because vans needed to be corralled because taxis were not interested in driving out to us because someone had just been shot dead a block and a half north from our venue. That is your story for today about someone you sort of know from his writing on a newspaper and blog being near a dead person who was shot.

6 THEY FIXED THE ENDS The “Extended Cut” downloadable content for Mass Effect 3 hit Xbox Live today and is currently downloading on my machine. Why is this significant? It’s sort of like subjecting a film to wide release, finding out people don’t like the ending, and then reshooting and rereleasing the film while allowing everyone who previously bought a ticket to come back and watch the film again, which is obviously all weird. Then again, I’m not sure most movies are so badly botched in writing and execution that the Better Business Bureau winds up opining that the game’s ending rendered its marketing campaign false advertising so maybe this is a special case.

Four In The Afternoon: Cashout

1 WE DID IT, EVERYBODY In news that will surprise absolutely nobody, Regina’s vacancy rate is officially the lowest in the country! Hooray, we are basically living a Fugazi song, now! Congratulations are especially due to the current city council that has helped cause this mess, especially when its own Michael Fougere took the lead in a recent Leader-Post survey on the crowded mayoral field.

2 SPEAKING OF CIVIC ELECTIONS With Marian Donnelly announcing her candidacy yesterday afternoon, the total number of mayoral candidates is seven. Seven! Absolutely no vote-splitting likely to go on there, for sure. And with the youngest city council candidate in Regina history throwing his name in yesterday as well, the fall’s municipal election looks like it’ll be exciting, for once.

3 COMICALLY TERRIBLE BUDGET BILL SET TO PROCEED Yeah, the Tories used time allocation, again. You know what’s funny? Twenty years ago, Stephen Harper argued against the use of omnibus bills to push through sweeping legislation. Most people need to have wormhole accidents or something in order to discover the evil mirror universe versions of themselves but apparently Harper just needed to age.

4 CHUCK NO Confession: I actually enjoy Chuck Klosterman, even if I’ve been finding it grating how obvious and/or straight-up bad a lot of his pieces over on Grantland are. (Worst offender to date is probably this article about Tune-Yards, in which our intrepid hero says a bunch of shit like “It doesn’t sound anything like Stereolab, but it sounds like an album made by someone who believes Stereolab was awesome” and writes what is basically speculative fan-fiction about Merrill Garbus’ career, both of which would probably net writers without the name Chuck Klosterman rejection letters from almost any media outlet as high-profile as Grantland.) That sensation of being abraded by a person’s writing is why I’m so leery of Klosterman’s new post as the ethics columnist at the New York Times Magazine. Then again, maybe I shouldn’t be worried – the Ethics column is, after all, basically Dear Abby for the Grey Lady’s readers, a fact reflected in Klosterman’s first piece for them. But “Chuck Klosterman, ethicist” still has an odd ring to it.

Six in the Morning: The Day Jason Kenney Surprised Absolutely No One

1 FAKERS NEVER PROSPER Hey, remember that whole “Sun News fakes Canadian citizenship ceremony” thing, where a bunch of civil servants appeared on a Sun broadcast and pretended they were new Canadian citizens, or at least were called new Canadian citizens repeatedly by the hosts? And remember when both Sun News spokespeople and immigration minister Jason Kenney said that nasty bureaucrats pulled the wool over everybody’s eyes, including those of poor innocent Sun News (because the only villains in politics, ever, are bureaucrats)? Well, surprise! That was a talking point and not really the actual truth.

2 MAGNOTTA COMING BACK Do the facts around the foot-mailing suspect’s arrest in Berlin – that he was caught easily; that he was looking at stories about himself in an Internet café at the time; that he isn’t fighting his extradition at all – make anyone else worried about what exactly he’s going to do during his trial here in Canada? Because it worries me.

3 B.C. ISLAND/RICH-GUY PARADISE FOR SALE So what if, since 1995, James Island has been subject to claims a First Nations band that wants the land they were promised would be returned to them? Have you seen the island’s golf course? Fabulous!!!!

4 SCOTT WALKER ENROUTE TO RE-ELECTION, SOMEHOW Despite being hated enough to actually warrant a recall election, it looks like Republican (and odious Koch Bros. toady) Scott Walker will be retaining his gubernatorial power in Wisconsin. Mothers, hide your paintings of poor children enjoying their childhood.

5 INCOMING BATH SALTS BAN The Tories plan to restrict access to key ingredients in psychosis-inducing terror drug bath salts, thus scoring the final, decisive victory in the War on Drugs.

6 NEEEEEEEEEERDS Okay, I’ll be honest, I haven’t actually been following video game mega-event E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo, geddit?) all that much, but there’s some interesting stuff coming out of it. Microsoft wants to turn you into a less depressing version of the hyperconnected entertainments-fixated recluses from Infinite Jest (and also wants you to use Internet Explorer on your Xbox, a feature that complements the system’s current implementation of Bing in terms of its utter uselessness), and Ubisoft floored everyone with their presser, especially with new property Watch Dogs. The fact that Watch Dogs apparently takes place in an open-world Chicago is enough for me to buy it right now, sight unseen, but happily the gameplay video that they’ve released is worth getting excited about:

Four in the Afternoon: There’s Cats Puking At The End Of This Post

4 in the Afternoon 1 ENVIRONMENT CLEANUP COSTS CRAZY Federal Environment Commissioner Scott Vaughan has released a new audit suggesting that costs to clean up contaminated resource extraction sites and the like will run around the $7.7 billion mark, and cautioned against lax environmental oversight, which sounds depressingly familiar.

2 SASKATCHEWAN SERVER PROTECTS POUTINE Well, sort of. Elections Canada apparently tracked Pierre Poutine to a proxy server in Saskatchewan, but that trail’s gone cold. The proxy server would have let Poutine disguise “his” IP address – and thus “his” identity – when accessing “his” account with Rack Nine, the centre at the centre of Robocallgate. It also would have let “him” watch stuff on Hulu. Pierre Poutine’s got it figured out, people.

3 WHITE HOUSE GAY MARRIAGE TANGO After Joe Biden told David Gregory on this weekend’s Meet the Press that he was totally cool with gay dudes and ladies getting all kinds of gay married, one has to imagine that White House press secretary Jay Carney immediately poured himself a stiff drink and put on his favourite Guided By Voices record for the last half-hour of pleasure he would know for quite some time. The Washington press corps has apparently been relentless, pressing the guy with a bunch of variations on “Well what is President Obama’s opinion, then, buddy.” Over fifty questions in one day, to be precise. Ha ha wow wouldn’t it be crazy if the Washington press corps hivemind was this rabid about oh I don’t know let’s say drone bombings I mean wouldn’t that just be nuts

4 WHERE THE WILD THINGS WERE American author and illustrator Maurice Sendak has died. Sendak, whose works include the utterly classic Where The Wild Things Are, treated kids not like lesser creatures but like the tiny half-formed adults they are, with complex emotions and a love of weirdness and darkness, and so he wasn’t afraid to scare the existential shit out of them sometimes. There’s a bunch of great memorials out there today; check out the ones from NPR’s Fresh Air, the Guardian, Slate, the New Yorker, and of course the New York Times, the latter of which might have actually made me cry. If you’ve still got it in you – or want to know what dude was about in his own words – the Globe and Mail ran an interview with him last year that was both characteristic and totally timeless.

FEEL BETTER WITH THIS VIDEO OF CATS PUKING SOUNDTRACKED BY ELECTRO HOUSE No wait don’t go I swear this is more worth it that it sounds