The Walrus Blog

Monthly Archive: July 2009

Sponsored blog post: “The Time Traveler’s Wife” is based on the best-selling book by Audrey Niffenegger about a love that transcends time. Clare (Rachel McAdams) has been in love with Henry (Eric Bana) her entire life. She believes they are destined to be together, even though she never knows when they will be separated: Henry is a time traveler—cursed with a rare genetic anomaly that causes him to live his life on a shifting timeline, skipping back and forth through his lifespan with no control. Despite the fact that Henry’s travels force them apart with no warning, Clare desperately tries to build a life with her one true love. View the official movie website here.

The Book Club will be posting about the Time Traveler’s Wife movie and book in the weeks to come, before the movie’s release on August 14 — don’t miss out.

Posted in The Haulout  •  3 Comments

Rowin’ On The (Fake) River

Račice, CZECH REPUBLIC—It’s exceedingly important, when setting out towards the host city of this year’s Under-23 World Rowing Championships, to make very certain that you’re headed for the correct “Račice.”

It turns out there are two cities called Račice in the Czech Republic. When you search on Wikipedia, the first result that comes up is the correct Račice (in this case), a barely there village (pop. 308) about one hour’s drive north of Prague notable only for being the republic’s premier venue for rowing and flatwater sports — it hosted the World Rowing Championships in 1993.

If, on the other hand, you plug Račice into Google Maps, and drive to the “other” Račice, about 2 hours west of Prague, and, just for the sake of argument, let’s say you’re the parents of one of the boys in Canada’s lightweight four, you’re probably going to end up missing your son’s race. (more…)

Posted in Sportstrotter  •  4 Comments

First Tata Nano sold in Mumbai

The cheapest car in the world, the Tata Nano, was sold to its first customer this week, a 59-year-old customs officer from Mumbai. In January 2008, Devin DeCiantis wrote about the Nano for The Walrus blogs, and wondered aloud if Canadian auto companies could follow India’s innovative example. Read the article here.

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Dawson City, Day 3

I have a completely unproven fear that every four straight days of hotel breakfast buffet I consume will eventually shave off a year of my life; in that case and at my rate, I don’t think I’ll make it to 45. These days, going out three nights in a row is exhausting, much less three night-less Yukon nights, but I still managed to hoover up as much of the Klondike spirit as I could withstand.

After a long breakfast that included a loopy, sleep-deprived discussion on the appropriateness of apple juice as a beverage for adults, and similarity in smell of that drink to kid pee, I eventually set about to St. Paul’s to see Spencer Krug of Sunset Rubdown, Yegor Dyachkov of geeky-cool classical trio Triple Forte, and Victoria-based flamenco group Alma de Espana gamely play together on a Spanish-flavoured jam before each performing alone. Later, Krug joked that he was playing a song on the piano for the time because the Spanish guitars onstage didn’t have the any dots on the fretboard to help him find his place on it. (more…)

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Dawson City, Day Two

Okay, my time in Dawson was more judiciously spent on Saturday. I saw some performers play music that I probably wouldn’t have in my car–the only time I would ever willingly listen to a recording of Franco-Klezmer act Gadji Gadjo would be while scanning through the music stations on an Air Canada flight–but when it was performed live in front of a multitude of appreciative northerners, I succumbed easily. The Dawson City Music Festival, which seems to book acts that are uniformly free of attitude, has been full of these moments.


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Dawson City, Day One

We turned in on Thursday night, not long after arriving in Whitehorse at 11 p.m. and we left the next morning with our lovely and amazing host and driver, Deb from Yukon Tourism. Deb moved north from Simcoe, Ontario over twenty years ago with her husband, a RCMP officer. Back then, she told us, he had to pass a psychological test before his work transfer was approved: “They wanted to know whether he was crazy enough,” she joked.

While I’ve arrived in Dawson by float plane and would like to one day get there by canoe, the drive up is made pleasurable by the distinctly regional nature of its highway culture. On the Klondike Highway, you won’t find a single Taco Bell or Denny’s. Instead, you’ll find idiosyncratically ornamented gas stations that double as gift shops and diners. The Braeburn Lodge is famous across the territory for selling cinnamon buns that are roughly the size of a newborn infant. While we’re there, a carload of teenagers pops in and each one of them picks up a bun to presumably feed them the weekend. In a rock yard outside another diner off the highway is a giant mosquito carved from wood. (more…)

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Martin Vaughn-James, RIP

An important and neglected Canadian cartoonist for Coach House Books, Martin Vaughn-Smith was

Martin Vaughn-James passed away on July 3. In the histories of comics in Canada and comics as book-length narratives he played an important and often neglected role. His importance stems not just from the fact that he was a Canadian cartoonist when so few others were out there, or that he created long-form cartoon books when no graphic novel designation yet existed in book stores or libraries. Vaughn-James was also, and remains, a significant figure in comics history because his work was singular, literate, experimental, and often unsurpassably good. (more…)

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Posted in Four-Colour Words  •  3 Comments

Back to the Yukon

A view from a Canoe somewhere off Lake Laberge

From next week, writer Kevin Chong will be blogging from the Dawson City Music Festival in the Yukon, which begins July 17.

This will be my fourth trip to the Yukon in the past two years, and though I’ve managed to squeeze some work assignments into my travels, I keep finding excuses to return to renew my big heart crush on the place and its people. If you don’t like the Yukon, I probably won’t like you.

In my opinion, the Yukon is Canada in its most undiluted, and perhaps best, form. Like the rest of the country, it certainly gets cold enough there. And the abundant natural splendour is barely smudged by its human footprint. Its 30,000 or so permanent residents are an eccentric mixture of First Nations people, Canadians originally from other parts of the country, Europeans (many of the campground signs here are written in English and German) who fell hard for the writing of Jack London and Robert Service at an impressionable age. (Check out Johnny Cash’s spoken-word performance rendition of Service’s spooky tale-in-verse, “The Cremation of Sam McGee,” here.) The pioneer spirit is still alive, its Gold Rush-era steamboats and brothels proudly burnished for happy tourists, and yet because so many Yukoners come from elsewhere and often travel during the cold, dark winter, the smallness of the communities never feels small-minded. (more…)

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Southern Man

Can Canada reclaim Neil Young as one of their own?

Neil Young

Matt Valentine doesn’t speak the way he sings: in a nasal warble, something like Hans Moleman doing falsetto. The way he moves onstage, slumped forward, stomping out the beat, reminds me of someone I know. It all starts to make sense when I notice his Tonight’s the Night T-shirt, hear his cover of “Powderfinger,” and learn that his dog’s name is Zuma. Yes, Valentine and his partner Erika Elder, who record under the name MV & EE, really love Neil Young.

This bothers me. You see, Valentine and Elder are from New England via New York City. They live among icons and we’re rather short, so they don’t need to cherry pick our supply. Moreover, I’m a little bit jealous. We Canadians get Neil filtered through our parents’ record collections, the talking heads on public TV, grade school lessons in patriotism. To be a Canadian Neil Young fan requires a rediscovery: much like the Beatles, you become a fan when you start buying the records you once borrowed from your mother. The American Neil, the guru of Broken Arrow Ranch, is much more interesting than ours. (more…)

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Video: Stephen Marche interview

Here’s a video of managing editor Jared Bland’s recent interview with Stephen Marche, for the first Walrus Reads event at McNally Robinson‘s new Toronto bookstore.

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“I read a copy of that magazine you work for,” a friend of mine told me recently. “I like it. It’s really Canadian, but it isn’t lame.”

Around the same time, a letter landed on my desk. Using a pseudonym, the correspondent, a self-described Canadian writer, aired his grievance about the alleged absence of Canadian content in current issue of The Walrus. “Inside the issue there are three short stories under the heading under the heading Summer Fiction,” the correspondent wrote. “None of the stories contain any Canadian content or reference to Canadian culture and traditions.” The letter was CC’d to the Canadian Council for the Arts, concerned whether “the powers that be are paying attention to what is being published in Canada.”

The claims made in the letter are so flimsy that they aren’t really worth knocking down. But while I doubt that many Walrus readers share our anonymous detractor’s beef with insufficiently-Canadian Canadian fiction, I do think that this low whine draws attention to a more common assumption. Namely, that if it’s Canadian, it’s got to be lame. (more…)

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MMA’s Gentleman Champion

In recent years, the bloody spectacle of mixed-martial-arts has rapidly grown in popularity. Tomorrow night, the largest MMA promotion, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, stages a landmark event, UFC 100. Though MMA understandably doesn’t appeal to all tastes, tomorrow’s event is of added importance because it offers the opportunity to witness one of Canada’s most accomplished athletes at the top of his game: Montreal’s Georges St-Pierre, the current UFC welterweight champion.

Responding to MMA’s popularity are the competing choruses of devoted fans who obsess over it with a zeal geekier types (say, those of us at The Walrus) reserve for interests like Lost, and those disgusted by the sport’s alleged barbarism. Of course, there’s an expanse of grey between these, and it’s here that my own impressions reside. (more…)

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