Sunday, April 26, 2009

Dear Newspapers, Be Better Please

I still buy the newspaper. On Saturday. What can I say, I like the idea of the Weekend Review section, I get excited by the heading Issues & Ideas, I look forward to the book reviews. I like the readers' letters, which, unlike readers' comments on newspaper websites, are generally worth a damn, even if they're often just as bogglingly boneheaded.
Which is not to say that newspapers never let me down. They do. Frequently. Yesterday's featured Issues & Ideas essay was from lifestyles columnist Shelley Fralic, sort of the Bob Hughes of the Lower Mainland, and warned us that we'll miss newspapers when they're gone.

Where, for instance, will Canucks fans find in-depth daily coverage of their beloved team -- the locker room perspective, the game analysis, the stats upon which hockey pools are won and lost?
It won't be from radio, which can air a game, but already rips and reads much of its content from newspapers.
It won't be from television, which can broadcast a game, but can offer little
beyond 30-second news clips.
And if you think that bloggers, Tweeters, Facebookers and fan sites will provide the quality of sports reporting you now get from this newspaper, coverage you've enjoyed these past 40 years in hockey-mad Vancouver, you're dreaming.

Really? Is that the best you've got? Cuz the broadcast media and the Internet have been kicking newspaper ass in sports coverage for years. The Internet might as well have been invented for fantasy sports leagues (the jock version of D&D) and hockey pools. It will even do the hard math for you! When was the last time a newspaper did your math? Also, the Sun's sister paper, the Province, is generally regarded as most sports-friendly.
Fralic goes on to blame newspapers' woes on free online content, rather than, y'know, 30 years of corporate greed, convergence, monopolies and mismanagement. Newspapers have survived and even prospered in the face of far more radical societal changes brought on by radio and television. It's not the Internet that's killing newspapers, it's newspapers.
The last few decades have seen newsroom staffs cut in half several times over, inevitably leading to reduced coverage of local issues. In its place, we got more wire copy, more celebrity gossip, more rewritten press releases, more of what one of my former newspaper colleagues sneeringly calls bumf, short for bum fodder.
Sadly, newspapers either don't have the will or the capital to put up a decent struggle anymore. I love the newspapers, and I hope to see them back on their feet someday. In the meantime, wouldn't it be great if they decided to go out with their heads held high? With a little class? If they decided to be truly papers of news. Be papers of depth. Be papers of investigation. Papers of questions and answers. Papers of consequence. Papers of integrity. Papers worthy of our esteem. Be good, be better.
Speaking of good and better, I saw my dissimilar doppelganger again the other day. Lee Henderson was at my favourite coffee/book shop Friday afternoon. As was I. Once again, I didn't introduce myself, for a variety of reasons. Mainly, because I have to to finish reading his novel, The Man Game. I was about two-thirds through it when my new roommate showed up and completely disrupted my habits. I want to finish the book before I speak to him. I think that's really the decent thing to do. Also, I probably suffer all kinds of social anxieties that make me a terrible person to know. I only even brought it up because yesterday Henderson was announced as the winner of the Ethel Wilson Prize at the BC Book Awards. The prize money will buy him, if he so desires, 1,000 Americanos at the coffee/book shop. Congratulations.

mp3: "Don't Talk In Your Sleep" by Magik Markers

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Rest in Bea

Bea Arthur, 1922-2009

Interesting Bea Arthur fact: Mitchell Hurwitz, creator of Arrested Development and all around comedy hero, was a writer on Golden Girls.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

All the pieces matter.

If you haven't been following Covered, the blog where artists recreate comic book covers both classic and otherwise, you are officially missing out. Yesterday's entry, Robert Goodin covering a 1958 Carl Barks Donald Duck cover, is nothing short of awesome. Other recent favourites: Dan Zettwoch covering David Collier, Ben Newman covering Sheldon Moldoff, and Mike Lowery doing Kirby & Ditko.

And come on, spending 15 minutes a week looking at drawings on the Internet is a lot easier and more manageable than reading a book. Books are tough. I'm sitting on a mountain of books. I'm not even at the top of the mountain, I'm not even sitting. I'm at basecamp, and the mountain keeps getting bigger. Aw, hell, I'm under the mountain with a plastic beach shovel. A week ago, I was between books. I'd just finished the surprisingly excellent Martin Beck Police Thriller The Laughing Policeman, by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, which I only picked up because I really liked the Walter Matthau movie. I wandered in and out of bookstores. Sometimes I wandered with my baby tucked snug against my chest in her carrier. Sometimes I wandered solo. I talked to coworkers, lent them books, gave some away forever. By the time yesterday hit, though, what began as a simple quest for something to pass the time on the bus and on my lunch breaks by the port (on days w/o rain) had become a mountain. Some words now on who/where/how/why/whatever. When, I already dealt with.

The Writing Life by Annie Dillard - I mentioned this book yesterday. Y'know who else wrote about Annie Dillard yesterday? Roger Ebert (He also talks about God and science: "If I'm wrong about this, I'm encouraged."), that's who.

The Man on the Balcony by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö (seriously, umlauts over both ö's?) - Dollars to donuts, Ian Rankin musta read at least some of the Martin Beck Crime Thrillers.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams - Lent to me by coworker Jamie, who can't believe I've never read it. But Mike read it when we were 13, and he spent most of the Eighth Grade talking about it, so I've always kind of felt like I have read it. Even now that I'm reading it, Mike's is the narrator's voice I hear.

The Corner by David Simon and Ed Burns - Look, David Simon, I know you read my blog. Give me a call. I've got a few ideas. I know you're busy making Treme (with Steve Zahn and Melissa Leo, no less!), and giving awesome interviews on PBS, but I'm willing to let you be my mentor and benefactor.

Alligator Pie by Dennis Lee, with illustrations by Frank Newfeld - I loved and feared this book when I was little. Even though Lil already has a lot of books, and doesn't yet have the comprehension to distinguish between books, I felt it was important she have this one.

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak - Same as above, with added urgency to get an edition w/o movie tie-in or other merchandising elements.

Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned by Walter Mosley - Walter Mosley. Haven't read anything by him for at least a year. Gotta make amends. Also, that reminds me, gotta finish This Year You Write Your Novel, and then, um, write my novel. Damn.

Also, a couple of Dortmunder novels from Donald Westlake, at least 15 Rebus books, at least 6 issues each, sometimes more, of back issues from Captain America, Blue Beetle, The Spirit (going all the way back to when Darwyn Cooke was still doing it), The Winter Men (since the final chapter came out about 3 years after the previous, I gotta go back and read the whole thing), plus Eddie Campbell & Dan Best's The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard and the latest Scott Pilgrim book.


Finally: While I can and sometimes do sympathize with people who get frothingly mad about typefaces, I gotta wonder: What are you not getting mad about that you have that kind of surplus righteousness? But then, who am I to make fun? I used to be a rock critic. I used to waste all kinds of energy getting mad about useless junk.

mp3: "Stronger Than Jesus (Harlem Session)" by A Camp
mp3: "Vampire" by Pink Mountaintops

Friday, April 17, 2009


Roger Dean Young & the Tin Cup w/(another band) Little Mountain Studios, Main and 26th, Vancouver, BC Doors @ 9 pm $5 to get in

Not a lot of bands list me as an influence on their Myspace page. A few, but not a lot. RDY & the Tin Cup is one such band. I'd been thinking about Roger and his wonderful band already this week, even before he emailed about the show tonight, ever since I picked up Annie Dillard's pamphlet The Writing Life at my new favourite (work) neighbourhood coffee & book depository. Dillard, you see, is one of my cohorts on RDY's list of influences, along with such luminaries as Cam Dilworth, Daniel Brodie and Wang Wei. Her meditations on writing are worthwhile and enlightening. I was hoping to start a writing course next week, a fiction writing course. But there was insufficient enrollment, so the class was cancelled. Nobody reads fiction anymore, I knew that. But I thought, at least, there were still enough fools like me who still want to write it.

I won't make it to the show, I'll be at home with my women, where I belong. But when I do venture out to see a show again, I hope it'll be to see Roger.

mp3: "Carry On Heather/Rhapsody" by Roger Dean Young & the Tin Cup

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Batman Who Stares At Goats

Okay, so you've got Batman, Obi Wan Kenobi (2.0), Lex Luthor, the Dude (or Tron, if you'd rather), T-1000, and Jimmy James all in one movie, based on one of my favourite books by one of my favourite Randy Newman fans. All that's missing for 100% Pure Emmet Bliss is Clark Johnson!
Speaking of which, here's some new music from Montreal's Elephant Stone, led by former High Dials bass/sitar player Rishi Dhir. Their self-titled debut is due out May 5, which is sooner than you think.

mp3: "The Seven Seas" by Elephant Stone

Tuesday, April 07, 2009


Day in, day out, it's easy to get caught up in how much work it is bringing up a baby. It's easy to start feeling like you've given up so much, like it's such a big chore and you're such a saint because you change a couple of diapers and miss out on a few hours of sleep. And then you read a story (Globe & Mail) that lets you know in no uncertain terms just how little you've sacrificed, how much you have and how good you have it.

mp3: "These Tears Could Rust A Train" by the Theater Fire

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

"both ridiculous and offensive": just another day at city hall

There really are times when I miss Regina.
Jason Hall and his Regina Landlord's Association had their say before the City of Regina's Executive Committee today. It seems that it was indeed a sideshow. "City Solicitor Byron Werry noted occupation — in this case, landlord — wasn’t a protected ground against discrimination," writes the Leader-Post.
It warms my heart to think that despite ridiculously pro-business governments at both municipal and provincial levels, Regina sluml--excuse me, landlords are feeling like polar bears, threatened and unprotected.
It feels odd to be using the term landlord in the 21st Century anyway. It's so feudal. My landlord says he won't turn on the heat in my building until we bring in the wheat and rid the forest of bandits. If they want to be taken serious (and I wonder if they do) the Regina Landlord's Association needs to think about their branding. Even Moose Jaw, in a suprisingly unexpected move, is thinking about branding. The Regina League of Property Management Executives has a nice to ring to it.

mp3: "Nobody Cares About the Railroads Anymore" by Laura Barrett