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Friday Afternoon Puppy

Cats? Really? You know that if you die, they’ll eat you, right?

Dogs. Now there are noble, brave and loyal creatures. As witnessed by this video from a highway security camera in Chile several months ago.

Warning: I’m a grouchy, crusty old man. I cried a little bit the first time I saw this.

Cats. They’re OK. But give me a dog any day.

Six In The Morning

Dog Blog’s morning news round-up, which has probably never, ever actually been posted at 6:00 a.m.

1 BUDGET! “Steady Budget Offers few Surprises”, says CBC. “Hope Keeps Flaherty’s Balanced Budget Afloat“, says the Globe And Mail. “This Budget Will Set Conservative Hearts Aglow“, says the Toronto Star’s Chantal Hébert. “Feds Aim For 17.6 Billion In Savings Over five Years“, says the Leader-Post.

2 MORE BUDGET! Saskatchewan’s Finance minister ironically says the federal budget is marred by wishful thinking on revenues. (I like the fact Gantefoer acknowledges the irony. Yes, he had to, I know. I still like it. I like it when politicians admit their screw-ups — makes them seem human.)

3 STILL MORE BUDGET “Canada’s Wind Energy Sector Laments Loss of Incentives” says the Leader-Post. “PM Gambles that Voters care About The Deficit, Little Else” says the Globe’s John Ibbitsion.

4 JAPAN WON’T JOIN TUNA BAN “There is no choice for the Japanese government. We Japanese eat tuna,” says one Japanese wholesaler. (Washington Post) Well here’s a thought, moron: let’s just fucking eat all the bluefin tuna and then it will be gone forever. How’s that sound Japan, you fucking idiots?

5 VATICAN GAY SEX SCANDAL A “Gentleman Of His Holiness”–yes, that’s apparently a job title–was busted for negotiating with a male prostitute. Huh there’s a shock, closeted gays in the Catholic Church. (Guardian)

6 DID YOU HEAR? A GUNMAN WAS KILLED TRYING TO ENTER THE PENTAGON LAST NIGHT. So, an angry white nutter who believed the U.S. government was behind the 9-11 attacks turns to armed, anti-government violence. (He was a marijuana user too–so much for the cliche of the mellow pothead.) (Washington Post) What did I just say?

Road Report: Rah Rah

Rah Rah are playing in Regina again after touring nationally.

Rah Rah are playing at the Exchange on Friday, March 5

Since local act Rah Rah are returning to Regina right away, I messaged guitarist/vocalist Marshall Burns, asking what their best show on the road has been this tour:

“Ottawa was pretty memorable cause we had a wicked party after with the Gramercy Riffs. Our awesome friends from Newfoundland. Though I did spill beer all over my amp right before we played so it shorted out and I had to borrow someone else’s last minute…”

Rah Rah is doing a Haiti benefit concert at the Exchange tonight (Friday, March 5) starting at 7 p.m. Other acts include Tinsel Trees, Geronimo, Black Drink Crier, and DJs ThrillHouse and Panda Magic. Maybe take the opportunity to ask Marshall how his amp’s doing.

Pick of the Day: Charity Concerts

There’s two charitable type concerts happening tonight. At the Exchange, several local bands, including Rah Rah, Geronimo and Tinsel Trees are putting on a benefit to raise money for earthquake ravaged Haiti. Meanwhile, at O’Hanlon’s Pub, the Edmonton rock groups The Falklands (pictured) are playing a benefit in support of Solidarity Rock with local groups ASSX3 and The Czar, The Kaiser and The King. I spoke briefly over the phone with Lee Klippenstein of the Falklands and he said that Solidarity Rock was geared to raising money to help indie musicians in Cuba get new gear to replace the decades old stuff they’ve been forced to use. To learn more, check out www.solidarityrock.com

 Those are two great causes. So if you get a chance, check one (or both) of the concerts out.

America In Meltdown

I’ve watched the States closer than most for most of my adult life and while I don’t want to freak readers out, things are getting really, really ugly down there and I’m worried. Still, I’m just an armchair observer. I don’t know all the facts. I haven’t done studies.

But fortunately (I guess), some people do. And here’s what one found. And it’s creepy.

The Guardian, the first newspaper I go to in the morning, reports on a U.S. civil rights organization that’s just released a study on dangerous and escalating right-wing radicalism. According to the Guardian:

The [Southern Poverty Law Centre] report, called Rage on the Right, said the rise in extremist groups was “a cause for grave concern” given their propensity to use violence during their heyday in the 90s, most notably with the Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people. It added that the issues driving support for such groups were increasingly populist and that “signs of growing radicalisation are everywhere”.

The Guardian story claims a 250 per cent rise in right-wing militias in the states. They’re being fuelled by fear of changing demographics (more blacks, Hispanics and other minorities), falling economic power, religion and right-wing conspiracy pundits like a certain prominent Fox News egomaniac/sociopath.

The report says that, unlike during the 1990s, the patriot movement’s core ideas are more widely propagated and accepted by prominent politicians and some in the mass media, such as the Fox News presenter Glenn Beck.

“As the movement has exploded, so has the reach of its ideas, aided and abetted by commentators and politicians in the ostensible mainstream,” said the report. “Beck, for instance, reinvigorated a key patriot conspiracy theory – the charge that the federal emergency management agency is secretly running concentration camps – before finally ‘debunking’ it.”

The most powerful country in the world is gripped by paranoia, hatred, ignorance, religious fervour, racism and general psychosis. Madmen are flying planes into IRS buildings and Republican politicians are sympathetic (Think Progress). Lunatics are showing up at political events with legally-purchased assault weaponry. Religious militias are using proto-Taliban harrasment techniques on “sinners” (Daily Kos). They’re shooting abortion doctors.

The country is a sneeze away from a very violent, fascist uprising–and if the military joined in, we’d all be fucked.

I guess the take-away point is this: We need to educate ourselves about what’s going on in the States and be vigilant for signs of it in our own country.

And President Obama needs to wear a bullet-proof vest and stay the hell out of Texas.

The Death Of Capitalism: Back To The Future?

Economist, blogger and former IMF head economist Simon Johnson makes a compelling case here (originally from the NY Times) that what we have  is a failure to regulate, moderate or in any way impose meaningful rules. Let me ask… do  any of the following key points, borrowed more-or-less directly from Johnson’s post, sound even vaguely familiar when talking about truly mammoth companies?

     ● In many cases big firms did well because they used unfair tactics to crush their competition

     ● Even well-run businesses became immensely powerful politically as they grew.

     ● There was a blatant attempt to use the political power of big banks to shape the financial playing field in ways that would help them

And by now I’m sure that the most common reaction might be something along the lines of “No kiddin’ Pollyanna. Welcome to 2010. There’s no getting anything past you, is there?”

Well, the neat little trick here is that Johnson’s talking about the last Gilded Age, about a century ago, rather than the current Gilded Age that’s just wrapping up… oh… right about now…

So I’m curious – what do you suppose the likelihood is that we might be able to find a reformer willing to take on this sort of concentrated power? A modern-day Teddy Roosevelt, as it were? Because make no mistake – if our experiment with a free market economy is going to continue, perhaps the biggest single requirement is a more-or-less open and fair market – and a champion to lead the charge for one.

The great shame, of course, is that we might have already had just such an individual warming up in the wings.

Except, of course, he appears to have fallen victim to his inability to keep it in his pants – possibly combined with a truly excellent frame job.

Six In The Morning

1 STADIUM STADIUM STADIUM STADIUM The Leader-Post has nine (!!!) stories on their website right now on the proposed downtown stadium. Judging from their headlines, most seem generally positive and excited. Us? We range from conditionally pro-stadium (me and POSSIBLY Rosie, I think) to undeclared and mysterious (Greg) to hostile (pretty much everyone else.) Links here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. (Leader-Post)

2 IT’S BUDGET DAY Here’s the link to the Globe’scoverage . Nice to see the paper’s pulled in Tom Flanagan, who’s kind of like Canada’s Karl Rove, to answer budget questions from readers. Barrrrf. (Globe And Mail)

3 OUT ON HIS ASPER Izzy’s son David officially cedes control of CanWest. (Winnipeg Free Press). Confidential note to Mr. D.: So prairie dog’s now outlasted Conrad Black andthe Asper brood. High five!

4 SASK PHARMACISTS CAN DO MORE When your doctor’s on vacation they can give you a prescription refill, plus there’s a few other things. Sounds reasonable. (CBC)

5 ALLEGED NUDE DUDE IN COURT And he’s not happy. (CBC)

6 ONLY WHINY SISSIES HAVE TEA PARTIES A new American political movement takes their caffeine without crumpets, thanks. (Guardian)

Walmart, Stephen Fry And Uglification

Walmart Bakery

The image above is a stitched-together series of photos taken just inside the entrance to that new Walmart. I took them during my epic journey out to Harbour Landing for the last issue.

Doesn’t it just go to show how a quantity of festive blue and white balloons can make you forget you’re inside a dingy, gray warehouse?

It puts me in mind of a quote from that Stephen Fry interview from the Sunday Edition where he talks about how so much North American architecture feels slapdash, temporary and unfinished — as if we’re still living on the frontier, throwing up shacks wherever there’s a buck to be earned, leaving ghost towns in our wake. Carle mentioned it in her architecture of the dome post. Here’s Fry:

“If you look out of the window in the continental United States and in North America generally, everything is stunningly beautiful that nature has done, and that’s true in the world, whatever it is, in nature, it seems to us incontestably and unconditionally lovely. We find it simply beautiful. And the only things we ever see that are ugly when we look out are things we have made. And if generations of children grow up believing that they belong to a species that can only uglify, that has no role in making things beautiful, that cannot with its own hands and its own ingenuity make things that are lovely, only things that are at best serviceable and at worst hideous and an imposition and a blot and an insult to the nature into which we were born, then there’s a guilt, there’s a self oppressing guilt that the entire species feels, that we all feel because we feel that we are a worthless race. We don’t beautify. We uglify. And there is no excuse for that.”

Well said.

And that puts me in mind of when, back around the time our famous library issue came out, someone asked me why I thought buildings needed to be beautiful. I think the point of the question was to say, “Shouldn’t the inside be all we care about? The outside, that’s just extravagance.”

If only I’d heard the Stephen Fry interview before I’d been asked that question, I might have had a coherent response at the ready.

Anyway, seeing as contemporary architecture — and how it rots — is on my mind, I should mention that over on the Regina Urban Ecology blog, they have a couple posts on the Grenfell Apartments and what replaced them. It’s a little depressing but worth a look.

Pick of the Day: Chic Gamine

Polished, yet waifish. Stylish, yet urchinish. Okay, I don’t think “urchinish” is actually a word. But “urchin” is. And it, along with “waif”, are two definitions of the French word “gamine”. As for “polish” and “style”, well, that’s “chic” for you. Put them together, and you get the name of this vocal quintet with roots (pun very definitely intended) in Montreal and Winnipeg.

In town to perform as part of the Regina Folk Festival Concert Series, Chic Gamine were last here in August when they performed on the main stage on the final day of the 2009 Regina Folk Festival. That gig was in Victoria Park. Tonight’s is at the Exchange.

Composed of four female singers (Ariane Jean, Andrina Turenne, Alexa Dirks and Annick Bremault), along with percussionist Sacha Daoud, Chic Gamine has been together since 1997. Mixing a pile of different influences from gospel and soul to r ‘n’ b and doo-wop, the group captured the Best Roots/Traditional Album Award at the 2009 Junos. Here’s video of them performing their song “100 Years”. (YouTube)

Opening for Chic Gamine will be Saskatchewan singer Alexis Normand.

Infinite Horizons: Some Thoughts From Away

It’s been a few weeks since the city launched its new brand, Infinite Horizons, and I’m sure it’s drifted from everyone’s mind by now. But, back when we were working up our coverage of it, I had some correspondence with the only Regina graphic designers I know (actual prairie dog employees excluded), Lee Henderson and Seema Goel. Neither of them live in Regina at present but they’re both from here and are now reduced to just looking in, enviously, at all our city’s awesome potential.

Now, personally, I mostly fall on the “in favour” side of the new brand debate. Lee and Seema? Not so much. So I thought it might be fun to post some thoughts on the new brand from some Regina expats.

And as this will be a rather long post, I also thought this would be a perfect opportunity to try out the Read More tag this fancy new blog sports. So, read some Lee and Seema after the jump….

Continue reading “Infinite Horizons: Some Thoughts From Away”

Extras Wanted

If you’ve got some free time on Friday afternoon, and you count yourself a fan of indie Canadian rock/punk music, you might want to drop by the Distrikt (1326 Hamilton). Between 2-5 p.m. legendary Hard Core Logo director Bruce McDonald will be shooting a concert scene for his sequel Hard Core Logo II. Reginans who want to be part of the shoot are encouraged to show up with their best rock fan attitudes and apparel (but no clothes with brands, bands or logos on them).

Performing will be the punk rock band Die Mannequin. Plotwise, apparently the group’s lead singer Care Failure claims to be channeling the spirit of Joe Dick and McDonald arrives on the scene to document the goings-on.

To further set the scene, here’s video of Die Mannequin performing their song  “Bad Medicine”  (YouTube)

Hate Sports, Love Architecture?

Here is Douglas Cardinal’s proposal for Regina’s domed stadium.

Think about it: it’s Douglas Cardinal’s building that seems to have killed SIFC/FNUC… Maybe if there were another major Cardinal project, it would act like a Flinstones-style bonk on the head and FNUC would go back to being what it was supposed to be. On the other hand, maybe a Cardinal dome would cause untold havoc in Regina’s governance and all our political structures would need to be razed and started over. Heh heh. Either way, I don’t see a downside.

I have no doubt that they’ll cheap out, end up overspending anyway, and we’ll have another architectural blight, the only kind of architecture we seem to get these days. I say if you’re going to throw money away, might as well throw it away on something beautiful.

On a side note, there was a great interview on The Sunday Edition with British comedian, writer and actor Stephen Fry on his recent fact-finding tour of America. One of the things he talked about was architectural ugliness, and how it’s a needless offense to nature, where beauty comes standard in every creation. He said that some tender souls grow up focusing on all the man-made ugliness around them and believing that our whole species is harmful and pointless. Absolutely worth a listen.

Things could be worse, the NDP might have won in 2007 (yes, I’m being snarky …)

On St. Patrick’s Day, the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce will host its State of the Province Address, featuring Brad Wall as guest speaker. (Sask Chamber of Commerce) Which is fine. That’s what the premier is supposed to do, and Lorne Calvert and Roy Romanow did it many times during their terms as premier. But when Brad Wall comes to speak, I can guarantee you that what Brad Wall says to Regina’s business community won’t matter as much as the fact that Brad Wall, leader of the Saskatchewan Party and Premier of Saskatchewan, is saying it.

There’s no way of sugar coating it: the provincial New Democratic Party can do whatever the business community wants — lower taxes, cut services, cut the minimum wage, build a domed stadium with a retractable roof, send the children down the mines — and the business community would still find reason to complain. It’s because of who’s doing it, not because of the message.

A friend of mine, who once took a kamikaze run for the Sask. Party in a suburban riding in the late 1990s, put it to me this way: Regina’s business community and right-of-centre politicians see the NDP like a case of Freudian projection: the business community secretly thinks that they are inadequate, so they subliminate that attitude and project it on the NDP. That’s why people who are supporting the proposed new domed stadium are smearing everybody who’s not on board — whether they’re opposed to it or, like me, have a lot of serious questions about the finances and sustainability of the project — as tree-hugging, pot smoking, Das Kapital-quoting left-wing pinkos. That’s even though the only real organized opposition to it, as of right now, comes from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, an organization about as socially progressive as … well, the Saskatchewan Party.

One thing Brad Wall certainly won’t be quizzed about on St. Patrick’s Day will be how the province will now have to give back as much as $200 million to the potash industry for over-estimating how much royalty money they were to collect in 2008-09. The Leader-Post’s Murray Mandryk, (LP) one of the few remaining voices of reason within the L-P, correctly notes that the province’s last two budgets now belong in the fiction category, and the province’s policy of letting potash companies pay royalties to the province on the honor system, is also now a joke.

So the Premier’s State of the Province address comes about on St. Paddy’s Day, it won’t be green beer that the people will be imbibing, but Sask. Party Kool-Aid. Sure, potash revenue is down, The books are no longer balanced, and there’s less reason than ever since 2007 that the government’s people care capable of minding the shop, but hey. It could be worse. The NDP might get in, and after Roy Romanow and Lorne Calvert doing ugly things like balancing the budget and paying down the accumulated debt, you know how bleak a time that was …

Six In The (Barely) Morning

1 THEY’RE BAAAAAAAAAAAAAACK Federal politicians return from their Harper holiday with a big fat 6000 word throne speech. (CBC)

2 NO PANTS RAMPAGE Nude dude invades mayor’s office, Fiacco said to  unharmed. (CBC)

3 TORIES PLAY PARTISAN POLITICS WITH RIGHTS AGENCY PICK Story here. The three sitting opposition parties don’t like the guy the Tories appointed to run this very divided and troubled funding agency. (Globe And Mail)

4 GAY MARRIAGE: D.C. JOINS 21ST CENTURY Hooray! (Washington Post)

5 WILD TIGER CUB DISCOVERY END IN DEATH AND CENSORSHIP Blah. Here’s an idea, lets not have six billion people elbowing every wild thing on the planet out of the way. Sheesh. (Guardian)

6 THE STUPIDEST SIGNS IN CANADA. Wow. This baffling bunch of no-parking signs is hi-LAWR-iously awful. It should win international awards for badness. (Canada.com)

Pick of the Day: Merle Haggard

I can’t really count myself as a fan of Merle Haggard. It’s not that I dislike him. More that I’ve never really listened to him much. The song I know him best for is “Okie From Muskogee”. I probably first heard it when I was in high school, and he more or less lost me with the first line.

I’ve lived in Saskatchewan all my life. And I must say, it hasn’t been easy. Am I proud to be from, to quote Haggard, a “place where even squares can have a ball”? Not really, no. I’m not a big flag waver either. And couldn’t ever envision myself submitting to being drafted by my government to fight in a war I didn’t believe in.

 I can’t speak to Haggard’s original intention when he wrote “Okie From Muskogee” back at the height of counter-culture insurgency in the late ‘60s when Richard Nixon was in the Whitehouse and the U.S. was fighting a major war in Vietnam and homosexuality was illegal and racism and sexism were legally sanctioned and … well, you get the idea. But after what we’ve been through in the last forty years it totally reads as satire for me.

 Satire on a bunch of narrow-minded people who are having trouble coping with modernity, and are wanting desperately to revert back to a time when life, for them anyway, was a whole lot simpler. With some things we have to deal with now, like Walmart Death Stars and other mega-big box stores, and outsourcing of virtually every job imaginable to low-wage jurisdictions with no leverage to enforce quality environmental standards, I can’t say I’m entirely unsympathetic. But overall I’d much rather see things move forward a hell of a lot faster than they currently are. And the “Okie” segment of our society is definitely holding things back.

 If I had the cash, and tix were available, and it wasn’t at the Casino, I’d totally check this show out. Haggard plays there again tomorrow night too. Here’s video from 1997 of him performing “Today I started Loving You Again” (YouTube)

Four in the Afternoon: Dome Stadium, Closeting Gays and Mediocre TV

Whoops. Was supposed to do a Six in the AM this AM and completely forgot. So, after receiving a chastising e-mail from Whitworth, here I am with my first Four in the Afternoon on the new blog.

1. THE “FEASIBLE” DOME: The consultants announced yesterday that a new covered stadium would be feasible for downtown Regina. And while reps from the city, provincial and federal governments were in attendance, no one would commit any money to the project at this time. In fact, figuring out how to pay for the initial construction has yet to be worked out. Which makes me wonder how they can say it’s “feasible” if they haven’t even worked out if they can pay for it. What did they spend that million bucks working out exactly? Oh yeah, how much it’ll cost. Which, as it turns out is not the $350 million we were all initially told. If we get the non-retractable dome version, the price comes in at $386 million, the retractable dome version is $431 million. And you know what, projects like this never come in under budget. Never. Never. Never. So we’re looking at at least half a billion dollars spent on a sports stadium. And, realistically, much more than that. Do you know how much we could accomplish if the three levels of government and private industry threw that kind of cash into our libraries? Our downtown? Our civic infrastructure? The mind boggles.

Oh, also, some of the ways they’re considering paying for this seems to be using cash from the casinos or from some new lottery. Meanwhile, on CBC this morning, they were talking about how post-secondary students are increasingly suffering from gambling addictions. Great. So we’re going to get a stadium by making students pay for it. Not to mention all the other poor saps who blow their pay cheques in the casinos and on scratch tickets. (Leader Post)

2. “PSST, THEY’RE NEW HERE. DON’T MENTION THE GAYS.” Our Immigration Minister, Jason Kenney, pulled any mention of gay rights from the study guide given out to new immigrants to Canada. Now why would he do that, I wonder? Kenney, by the way, fought hard against gay marriage back in the day. But I’m sure his personal feelings had nothing to do with it. (Globe and Mail)

3. POLLEY TAKES NAME OFF FLICK: When she discovered a short-film she’d made for the Heart and Stroke Foundation to promote women’s heart-health would also be used to promote Becel Margarine, Sarah Polley, the activist/actor/director, announced she’d rather not be associated with it. (Globe and Mail)

4. MORE REPUBLIC OF DOYLE: The CBC is announcing that the makers of CBC series, Republic of Doyle, are cheered to learn their series has been renewed. Good for them. Still, on a lark, I watched an episode of this show last night (on my computer). Wow, did that ever take me back. It reminds me of all those 70s and 80s PI shows like Spencer for Hire or Rockford Files. And I’m not sure if I needed or wanted reminding. My wife thought the show had to be a parody because, she reasoned, the writers couldn’t possibly believe that what they’d made was a high quality program. My wife hasn’t watched nearly as much television as I have. (CBC)

Have We Got a Deal For You?

Through the creative work they do, it’s often been said, society owes a debt to artists. In turn, it now seems that society is going to offer artists an opportunity to owe a debt to it. Today, we received word from the Saskatchewan Arts Board that, in conjunction with the Ministry of Tourism, Parks, Culture & Sport, it was launching the Creative Industries Flexible Loan Program.

More information, including loan applications, can be found on the SAB’s website at www.artsboard.sk.ca under the Creative Industries tab. According to the SAB press release, $1.15 million is being allocated to the program, which is designed to enhance the entrepreneurial and economic capacity of artists and arts organizations by providing them with short-term, low-interest loans of up to $25,000.

Overall, this is pretty consistent with the direction the Saskatchewan government has taken since the 2007 election in focussing on the development of marketing opportunities for artists. That is definitely one way to enhance the financial well-being of the arts sector. But its also true that for years now, public investment in the arts has been stagnant. From the early 90s on, while the number of artists and arts organizations in Saskatchewan mushroomed, and more and more attention was paid to the idea of creativity as an important economic driver in the province, the amount of money that was allocated to the Arts Board to fund the arts remained flat with the consequent result that the “pie” was relentlessly cut into smaller and smaller pieces.

Is a loan program the answer? For a segment of the arts community that already operates in a quasi-business mode, it should help. I’m thinking of craft producers, organizations that are involved in the production of popular theatre and music events, perhaps some commercial cinema. But market viability, which is implicitly required to pay off a loan (with interest), creates a pretty slippery slope that ultimately could dead-end a lot truly innovative and creative work that’s being done by artists and arts organizations in the province that doesn’t find a ready market.

Pick of the Day: Jane’s Walk

This isn’t an actual event, although it will be down the road. But recently I received an email from the organizers of last spring’s Jane Jacobs Walking Tour inviting interested Reginans to consider volunteering to host a tour or help out in some other way at the 2010 event which will be held May 1-2.

Named after the late urban planning expert Jane Jacobs, the walking tours began in Toronto in 2007, and have since spread to dozens of cities, including New York, Vancouver, New Orleans and Calgary. In such books as The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961) Jacobs championed the idea of making cities pedestrian-friendly and not whole-heartedly embracing car culture and the endless expansion of suburban sprawl.

At last year’s event, say organizers, over 400 people participated in 12 tours of different Regina neighbourhoods. Walks can relate to all manner of themes, from architecture and culture to history and business. For more information on the Jane’s Walk concept, visit www.janeswalk.net. To contact local organizers about participating in the 2010 event, send an email to janeswalkregina@gmail.com.