The Walrus Blog

Monthly Archive: February 2010

Weekend Links No. 11

Recommended reading from The Walrus Blogroll

Spend More, Live Less by What To Do?

1. “Cash graffiti” by Xeni Jardin | Boing Boing
When I was a child, I thought drawing on cash was a serious crime that invited easy prosecution. Obviously these guerrilla artists had no such fear. Follow Jardin’s link to see thirty examples of hilarious money art. (My personal favourite: “The Boba Fett Dollar.”)

2. “Snake Oil? Scientific evidence for health supplements” by David McCandless and Andy Perkins | Information Is Beautiful
Ever wondered if drinking green tea or taking fish oil actually benefits your health? Puzzle no longer. This info-graphic separates the bunk from the benefits when it comes to popular health supplements.

3. “How to Be a Skating Score Nerd: The Futile Search For Understanding” by Linda Holmes | Monkey See
According to the Globe and Mail‘s John Doyle, we’re a figure skating nation, and for once I’m inclined to agree with him. On the heels of Joannie Rochette’s heroic bronze-medal performance at the Vancouver Winter Games, Monkey See offers a guide to (perhaps) better understanding the sport’s Byzantine scoring system.

4. “Olympic economic impacts much smaller than promised” by Andrew MacLeod | The Hook
Residents of Vancouver and B.C. were promised a $10 billion economic boom for hosting the Winter Games; it now looks like they’ll get substantially less. The Conference Board of Canada and an independent accounting firm put the actual figure at roughly $1.6 billion, much lower than even the province’s revised estimate of $4 billion.

5. “Should NBC Ditch Olympics Announcers?” by Heather Horn | The Atlantic Wire
I found myself wondering something similar when I heard TSN’s James Duthie recite the lyrics to Kool and the Gang’s “Ladies’ Night” — without the slightest hint of irony — while describing Canadian female athletes’ four-medal performance on Wednesday.

6. “Bullies in public office” by Eric Mang |
Bullying extends beyond the schoolyard; it often rears an ugly fist in the political arena. Mang, who served as an aide in both the Ontario and B.C. provincial governments, laments how foul-mouthed, hot-headed types often rise to the top at the expense of others.

7. “The Science Guy Takes on Climate Change Deniers” by Alicia Capetillo | GOOD Main
Climate change denial is like a sunburn that refuses to heal. Even Conservative MPs are getting in on the act, despite the Harper government’s official position that global warming is a real and serious threat. Who better to step to the plate to defend real science than Bill “The Science Guy” Nye?

8. “The Italian (Boob) Job” by Margaret Wheeler Johnson | XX Factor
In what must be a distorted form of feminism, breast augmentation has been the springboard for the political careers of many female Italian politicians. While the Italian parliament considers a ban on such procedures for minors, Johnson investigates the country’s strange relationship between breasts and politics.

9. “Leaner, Meaner Innovation” by April Dunford | The Mark
Venture capital firms have been tightening their belts recently, providing less money for start-ups than ever before. This dearth of funds is leading firms to develop business models that, while costing less, offer a better chance of success by engaging customers at an earlier stage of development.

10. “When Canada flouts its own aid promises, we fail Haitians — again” by Graham F. Scott | This Magazine
Canada is first in the world in per capita donations to post-earthquake Haiti, and second only to the United States in overall giving. However, this does not give us license to pat ourselves on the back. Haiti was in trouble before the disaster, Scott reminds, and there is much work left to be done.

(Illustration by What To Do?)

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Image courtesy Eric Lon

PARIS — “So, uh, what have people over there been saying about the Games?”

My dad, who lives on Vancouver Island and spent the first couple days of the Olympics in Vancouver proper, asked me the other day for the French take on the games-to-date. Even over a shitty ADSL connection some nine time zones away, I could tell that he wasn’t just curious. He was a little worried. He needed to be reassured.

This was after the first week of the Olympics, when a few macro things weren’t going as well as people had hoped they would, so to speak. Like the weather. And safety on the luge track. And the torch lighting.

Based on what I was hearing from friends and family, folks in Vancouver were having a ball. Actually, I sort of got the impression that Canadians were almost overdoing their we’re-here-for-the-party! bit, to compensate for what they perceived as a lukewarm early reception of the Games abroad (driven pretty largely, let’s be honest, by the bitter, snarky reports of an inexplicably and indefensibly hateful segment of the British media that nobody should ever take seriously, especially since they started trashing these Olympics two weeks before they even began).

I assured my dad that the French media was taking a largely positive view on the games. It might be because French people are generally rooting for Canada to do well at these Olympics, since many of our athletes give interviews en français to their reporters, or that they won a bunch of medals in the first week (because if the French care about anything, it’s winning medals – they’re a lot like my brother that way). (more…)

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The Anti-Jersey Shore

Cast members of The Buried Life

By the end of the opening credits of the first episode of MTV’s The Buried Life, the concept seems so attractive, so engaging, so right now, that it’s easy to imagine the studio meeting where it was pitched:

Okay, here’s the setup: four twenty-something guys make a list of 100 things they’d like to do before they die, and we send a film crew to capture their exploits. Maybe they’re in a van — no, a bus — cruising, listening to hip hop. They’re kind of rascally, a little outdoorsy, a little West Coast. They’re smart, not self-indulgent. Maybe they’re even Canadian. Here’s the kicker: every time they accomplish something on the list, they help a stranger they’ve met along the way. Boom! — everybody’s happy.

Apparently, everybody was. MTV ordered a pilot, then a full eight-episode season, with premises ranging from standard-issue fluff (“ask out the girl of your dreams”) to the startlingly sincere (“help deliver a baby”). Since its January 18 premiere, The Buried Life has received killer promotion and, relative to cable standards, record-breaking audiences. In a front-page article, the New York Times cast the show as “MTV for the era of Obama.” (No kidding: tonight’s episode is about an attempt to play basketball with the U.S. president.) There’s nothing else like it on television.

The Buried Life is created, produced, edited and even promoted by its four stars from British Columbia: Ben Nemtin, Dave Lingwood, and brothers Duncan and Jonnie Penn. The bucket list? They started it in 2006, and crossed off twenty-four items in the making of an independent documentary that caught MTV’s attention. The show’s name? Inspired by an 1852 Matthew Arnold poem. The foursome’s bus, christened Penelope? They bought her from a nudist in Vancouver. (more…)

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Weekend Links No. 10

Recommended reading from The Walrus Blogroll

Photo by focusedcapture

1. "Greening the Games" by David Suzuki | The Mark
Canada’s preeminent environmentalist compares the carbon footprints of Olympic Games past, present, and future.

2. “16 Years of International Hockey Memories” by Mike Chen | From the Rink
On the eve of tomorrow’s shinny showdown — Canada vs. USA on the big pond — look back on the best of Olympic and World Cup men’s hockey since 1994. (Or worst, depending on rooting interest: the video gallery begins and ends with Sweden winning gold.)

3. “John Babcock, 1900–2010, R.I.P.” by | The Torch
Contrary to hasty reports, Gordon Lightfoot endures, but this week still ends with one less hero. Rest easy, John Babcock, the last Canadian veteran of World War I.

4. “Bowerbirds / In Our Talons” by Jeff Hamada | Booooooom
Booooooom notices an old-but-very-good video for Bowerbirds’ infectious “In Our Talons.” Director Alan Poon employs stop-motion animation to maximum effect here — and again in Zeus’s “Marching Through Your Head,” a more recent project that he co-directed with Walrus contributor Adam Makarenko.

5. “Road scholarship: the slippery facts about road salt” by Nick Taylor-Vaisey | This Magazine
Everything you never wanted to know about the substance that’s been officially considered harmful to the environment since 2001, yet shows no sign of disappearing from winter roads any year soon.

6. “Way Too Similar?” by Jörg Colberg | Conscientious
Literary plagiarism is easy to spot; artistic poaching is harder to prove. Vancouver photographer David Burdeny is under scrutiny over similarities between several of his pictures and earlier compositions by several of his peers. Click this link to decide for yourself.

7. “In defence of Jim Jones” by Shaun Usher | Letters of Note
Nine months before Jones orchestrated the mass suicide of more than 900 of his cult followers, San Francisco politician and gay activist Harvey Milk sent this odd letter of support to Jimmy Carter: “Rev. Jones is widely known in the minority communities here and elsewhere as a man of the highest character, who has undertaken constructive remedies for social problems which have been amazing in their scope and effectiveness.” Milk’s unrelated murder happened ten days after the Jonestown Massacre.

8. “The Hidden History of Resistance in Womens’ Prisons” by Danielle Maestretti | Utne Blogs
In The Walrus’s March issue, Marian Botsford Fraser writes about prisoner Renée Acoby in the feature “Life on the Instalment Plan.” In this post, Maestretti points to related stories — including one of her own, about prisoners who self-publish zines — in recent issues of New Politics and the Utne Reader.

9. “Four Infographical Morsels No. 4” by David McCandless | Information is Beautiful
There’s a lot to recommend in this post, but the dazzler is “Timelines,” an elegant, painstaking survey of films and television shows that mess with time travel.

10. “NBC confuses Terry Fox and Michael J. Fox” by Craig Silverman | Regret the Error
Hey, America: Bill Clinton sucked in Parliament, and George Clinton was your second-worst president ever.

(Photo by focusedcapture available via Creative Commons license)

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Weekend Links No. 9

Recommended reading from The Walrus Blogroll

Weekend Links Icon

1. “CNN Un-Dobbed!” by Leslie Savan | The Notion
In spite of CNN’s obsession with “technoverkill,” as demonstrated by its endless use of the Magic Wall, Savan praises the network for its return to something resembling old-fashioned journalism in the post–Lou Dobbs era. CNN’s coverage of the Haiti earthquake and its cross-platform investigative series, The Stimulus Project, are prime examples of how journalistic integrity can survive in the era of the politically charged twenty-four-hour news cycle.

2. “Four world records Canada should be ashamed to hold” by Kim Hart Macneill | This Magazine
I do not feel any different about my country because the Olympics are being held in Vancouver. I do not subscribe to the blind patriotism our media is promoting in the lead up to the Winter Games. No doubt, Canada is one of the best countries in the world, but there are serious problems we must face as a nation. Macneill presents four issues that have been glossed over in the Olympian hype.

3. “Can Walmart Compete With Whole Foods?” by Andrew Price | GOOD Blog
Everyone’s favourite big box is getting into the organic food market with a program that sources produce and meat from local farmers. Directly in Wal-Mart’s sights is Whole Foods, the organic grocery retailer that has become every foodie’s preferred choice. When compared head to head, products from Whole Foods win the taste test, but products from Wal-Mart win the price test.

4. “Forgive us, Haiti” by Amy Goodman |
One month has passed since a magnitude 7.0 earthquake devastated much of Haiti. In the aftermath, media coverage has focused on relief and recovery efforts, with very little explanation about how Haiti became the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation in the first place. Goodman provides the necessary background.

5. “Saving Haiti’s Cultural Treasures” by Bonnie Czegledi | The Mark
Looting has become a major problem in Haiti following the earthquake. Though looters are thus far mostly focused on securing food and other survival items, some observers worry that attentions will turn to the country’s valuable cultural artifacts. In a pre-emptive response, UNESCO has banned the import, export, and sale of Haitian treasures.

6. “Tweaking reality — Photoshop turns 20” by D.B. Scott | Canadian Magazines
Adobe’s ubiquitous image-editing software celebrates its twentieth birthday next week. The application has endured its fair share of controversy, yet it has become an indispensable tool for the publishing industry. Scott delves into the creation of the program — and links to an amusing site dedicated to horrors of over-Photoshopping.

7. “Stephen Harper delivers paen to patriotism in B.C. Legislature” by Jane Taber | Bureau Blog
Though the content of Steven Harper’s speech to the B.C. Legislature on Thursday was little more than one last chance for rah-rah patriotism before the Vancouver Games, the circumstances surrounding the address were fraught with controversy. First of all, shouldn’t he have delivered this speech to Parliament? Oh yeah, it’s been prorogued. Second, did the province’s Speaker of the House, Bill Barisoff, even invite the PM to come?

8. “Chip-and-PIN is broken” by Cory Doctorow | Boing Boing
If, like me, you’ve been annoyed by the new “Chip-and-PIN” technology in credit and debit cards, here is more fuel for your fire. Turns out these new cards aren’t as safe and secure as advertised: rather, they’re ridiculously easy to use fraudulently.

9. “Where People Still Love Newspapers” by Danielle Maestretti | Utne Reader
Kenya, that’s where. The East African country’s appetite for daily newspapers is so strong that some newsstands offer rental services, charging US$0.13 for thirty minutes of reading time to those who cannot afford the fifty-cent purchase price. Though dailies are in major trouble all across North America, new titles are popping up in Kenya on a regular basis.

10. “Mammoliti’s Curfew: Scapegoating Toronto’s youth” by BerBer Xue | Shameless Wire
In response to what he perceives to be a rash of youth violence plaguing the city, Toronto mayoral candidate and city councillor Giorgio Mammoliti is pushing a mandatory curfew for the city’s teens. Responding from the youth perspective, Xue points out that Mammoliti is playing on the fears of the populace and not providing a real solution to the problem.

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Five Products That Can Change the World

Design is everywhere. As I sit at my desk and look around, everything I see is the result of design: my coffee mug, my business cards, my computer monitor, the format of these words on my screen…everything. All of these products required designers of one form or another, people whose lives are devoted to making things in the best way possible. All too often, though, the considerable talents of designers are devoted to Western consumer fluff. I am virtually certain that a very talented and creative person spent countless hours designing, fretting over, and redesigning the slightly irregular handle of my mug. While this detail does slightly improve my drinking experience, imagine what could be done if that same designer focused instead on ideas that could accomplish real good for the world.

Of course, many designers are already doing exactly that. Their work is celebrated by Emily Pilloton, a San Francisco–based product designer and founder of Project H Design, a non-profit group that “supports, inspires, and delivers life-improving product design.” The following are five products featured in her recent book, Design Revolution: 100 Products That Empower People.

The Hippo Water Roller

The Hippo Water Roller
Fetching water is one of the most important and difficult tasks for people in the developing world. Simply put, water is a fundamental part of life; the problem is it’s rather heavy. Compounding the issue is the fact that the job is often assigned to women and children who can typically carry between ten and twenty litres per trip. Buckets and jerricans are inefficient and can lead to physical ailments: imagine how your neck would feel after carrying a twenty-litre bucket of water on your head for up to eight kilometres. Now imagine doing this several times a day, for your entire life. (more…)

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Cape Flats Calling

Die Antwoord's Ninja

Twenty years ago today, in the single most important moment in 360 years of South Africa’s blood-drenched history, Nelson Mandela walked away from Victor Verster Prison a free man. February 11* is a hallowed day in the local calendar. It may therefore seem inappropriate to profile a noisy, profane rap act named Die Antwoord (Afrikaans for “the answer”) by way of celebration. But, as Mandela marched out of jail into the future, he knew that his release posed a difficult question: Can South Africa transform into a nation united and governed by principles other than race? Die Antwoord, who appear to occupy an entirely different universe from Mandela, are the most articulate answer he could have hoped for.

Over the course of the past ten days or so, the band have been propelled by the likes of Boing Boing, Twitter, Pitchfork, Reuters, et al into the very maw of Fame 3.0. As lead rapper Waddy, a.k.a. Ninja, puts it: “Look at me now! All over the interweb.” Indeed, only two weeks ago, Ninja and his sidekicks Yo-landi “Rich Bitch” Vi$$er and the flabby DJ Hi-Tek were paying dues; now they’re rolling in nunchaku. For their international fans, Die Antwoord are exotic, furious, and, most importantly, new. But what their lyrics mean — or what they stand for precisely — no one in Brooklyn or Paris or São Paulo can say.

Ninja is, at first glance, your typical white trash rapper. He wears his hoodie low; his rangy body is marked with crude tattoos. It takes a second or two to realize that Run-D.M.C. were playing Applebee’s buffets by the time they were of Ninja’s vintage: he is closer to middle age than middle school. He raps in a scattershot mixture of English and Afrikaans; his accent is unfathomable. His lyrics reference the minutely specific to the hip-hop generic: “If you don’t like funerals, Ninja says don’t kick sand in his face,” recalls a South African peanut-butter commercial from the ’80s; “too hot to handle, to cold to hold,” fist-bumps vintage MC Hammer. The clue to Die Antwoord’s raison d’être hides in the intro of their astonishing debut album $O$, where Ninja informs us that, “I represent South African culture. In this place, you get a lot of different things…Blacks. Whites. Coloureds. English. Afrikans. Xhosa. Zulu. Watookal. I’m like all these different people, fucked into one person.” Then Ms. Vi$$er pipes in, dismissing him with a high-pitched “Whateva, man.” (more…)

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Weekend Links No. 8

Recommended reading from The Walrus Blogroll

Weekend Links Icon

1. “Humanoid robot from GM and NASA” by David Pescovitz | Boing Boing
Robotic technology is advancing by leaps and bounds, and automakers are at the forefront of development. Honda and Toyota are already producing humanoid robots that have enough manual dexterity to play musical instruments. Now General Motors, in partnership with NASA, is getting in the game by manufacturing robots designed to assist astronauts. Does anyone else think this “Robonaut” looks like a busboy from the Mos Eisley Cantina?

2. “Why did the police take aim at pedestrians?” by Dylan Reid | Spacing Toronto
January saw a rash of pedestrian deaths in the city of Toronto, with fourteen accident-related fatalities within the first twenty-five days of 2010. City police have responded by cracking down on the pedestrians themselves. Reid points out how this action ignores the other half of the equation, namely the behaviour of drivers.

3. “District 9‘s Director on What Aliens Will Look Like” by Morgan Clendaniel | GOOD Blog
Neill Blomkamp, director of last year’s critically acclaimed District 9, discusses why the alien creatures he created for his film do not reflect his view of what “real-life” aliens will look like. Most interestingly, he discusses why he believes our civilization may just be the most advanced in the galaxy.

4. “Integrity Isn’t Just a Military Value” by Laura Flanders | The Notion
Flanders applauds the direction that Barack Obama is taking on the U.S. military’s controversial “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, but goes on to explain that what America really needs is a comprehensive, nation-wide law that applies to all professions — not just the armed forces. In many states, it’s still legal to fire someone based on sexual orientation.

5. “2010 Olympics Inspire Wave of Vancouver Books” by Jenn Laidlaw | Beyond Robson
Vancouver is set to enjoy its moment in the international spotlight that is the Olympics, and the publishing industry is betting that the attention will translate into book sales. As a young city with a relatively meagre population (compared with other North American metropolises), Vancouver has never really received its due in the book world, other than predictable coffee table tomes that celebrate its geographic setting. Laidlaw examines two new books that look at Vancouver in ways never before explored in literature.

6. “Facebook’s Six-Year Evolution” by John Hudson | The Atlantic Wire
In 2009, Facebook surpassed MySpace to become the most popular social network in the world; on Thursday, it surpassed 400 million users. In the six years since the site went online it has endured its fair share of controversy, focused mainly on privacy issues and user revolts against its many redesigns. Hudson provides commentary on and links to other retrospectives of its unrivalled success.

7. “Auteur Directors Directing the Super Bowl” by Kurt Halfyard | Row Three
Super Bowl XLIV will be played this Sunday in Miami, pitting the Indianapolis Colts against the New Orleans Saints. This video by director Andrew Bouvé asks and answers the question: what if Quentin Tarantino, David Lynch, Wes Anderson, Jean-Luc Godard, or Werner Herzog directed the Super Bowl? Funny how they all wind up looking like NFL Films productions.

8. “Shackleton’s Whisky Dug Up in Antarctica” by Robert Mackey | The Lede
Whisky lovers and Antarctic history buffs rejoice! A team of researchers has found three crates of Scotch whisky (and two crates of brandy) buried by polar explorer Ernest Shackleton during his failed 1909 bid to reach the South Pole. Now a crack squad of whisky scientists has the chance to analyze the samples and recreate the long-lost recipe for Shackleton’s preferred blend of Whyte & Mackay whisky.

9. “Liberals Wouldn’t Have to be So Condescending if The People Who Disagreed With Them Weren’t Such Idiots” by Nick Gillespie | Hit & Run
Don’t be taken by the cheeky headline. This is deep thinking about a guilty secret of many liberals: the condescending inability to comprehend conservative and neo-conservative viewpoints.

10. “Is redesigned Monopoly the worst thing ever?” by Mark Medley | The Ampersand
Monopoly, the venerable board game born out of the Great Depression, is about to celebrate its seventy-fifth anniversary. To mark the occasion, Hasbro has completely redesigned the game. Set to be released this fall, Monopoly: Revolution features a circular board and inflation-adjusted prices (ex. $2 million for passing Go). Is it the worst thing ever? Probably not, but for some die-hard fans, it certainly seems to be.

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Betting the Super Bowl

PARIS—So, uh … can I please get some more fake money?

This is the portentous question that I had to ask, recently and quite sheepishly, of the King of the Walruses. See, I don’t ever like having to ask His Tuskiness for more fake money. I ask him for fake money all the time (hey, I’m a writer, we’ve got expensive fake-whiskey habits to bankroll). But typically, after a little demonstration of heaving and moaning to remind me who the boss is, he comes through.

It’s perfectly analogous to me being a television teenager from the 1950s hoping to take my “main squeeze” on a big date, only in this case the keys to the family car are actually a wad of fake money, my stern-but-lovable father is actually a 2,000-kilogram mass of tusks and blubber, and my best girl is the Super Bowl.

Also, I don’t actually want to play patty-cakes with her in the backseat of my pa’s Ford Galaxie, I want to bet money on a bunch of different little esoteric things that I think she might do. The Super Bowl, I mean.

Yes, it’s that time of year again, the Sportstrotter’s third annual “Top of the Props” column, a foray into the exciting, perilous world of Super Bowl prop betting. Prop betting is when, instead of gambling on the total outcome of a sporting event, you bet on very specific micro-games within the game. If that doesn’t make sense to you, click here for a more thorough explanation.

In 2008 I did pretty well with my bets, turning 100 fake “Trotterbucks” into 131.46, the cherry on the sundae of watching the New York Giants upset the previously undefeated New England Patriots, 17-14. In 2009, the game was another winner, with Mlle Trotter’s beloved Pittsburgh Steelers winning a wild one over the Arizona Cardinals, 27-23.

You know who wasn’t a winner last year? I mean, other than the Cardinals, and 30 other football teams and what the heck let’s throw the Leafs in there for good measure? Yup, that’s right: me. I managed to turn the previous year’s fattened bankroll into, like, 2 Trotterbucks. It wasn’t pretty. Not nearly enough holdover fake money to have any fun with this year. Plus, I think I lost the change (the coins have King Kaufman‘s face on them) in my couch.

Hence, I found myself grovelling to the Blubber-Ball with the Beastly Bicuspids: King Walrus himself.

“Blaargh you? Sportstrotter? What are you doing here?” he belched at me, when I finally tracked him down on a rocky islet off the southeast corner of Baffin Island. His breath reeked of fish, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to be the one to tell him.

“Please, sir. I was wondering if I could have a little bit more fake money? You know, to wager on the Super Bowl?”

“Blaargh don’t you mean the Grey Cup?”

“No, sir,” I said, a little bashful. “Nobody wants to read about me betting on the Grey Cup. They already played the game several months ago. Plus, how can you take a football game seriously when the contest’s defining play is a ‘13 men on the field’ penalty?”

“Blaargh good point, Sportstrotter,” he said. “So how much do you need?”

At this point, I knew I had to play it cool. I had King Walrus right where I wanted him, but if I overshot, I would surely end up looking like an overcooked order of Sportstrotter Spaetzle strewn all across the King’s rocky ledge. “Uh, how much fake money did you give to the Bironist last year when he was handicapping last year’s Giller Prize favourites?”

“Blaargh two-hundred Bironbucks. And I can’t believe he bet it all on the Peter Pocklington biography ‘I’d Trade Him Again!””

Neither could I, to be honest, but I saw my opening. “I’ll take half what he got. One hundred Trotterbucks. Er, if you please, sir.”

He thought about it for a minute, and then – I swear I saw this, with my own two eyes – the Walrus King reached up with his flippers, grabbed his left tusk, and spun it around till half the tusk came loose, like an old-school fountain pen. He tipped the hollow half-tusk upside down and out fluttered a perfect, crisp one-hundred-Trotterbuck bill.

“Blaargh one last thing before you go, Sportstrotter,” I heard him say as I scooped up the money and ran for my life. “You’re not going to piss away all that money on hopeless long-shot wagers again this year, are you?”


So with the words of the venerable King Walrus still ringing in my ears, coupled with the grim prospect of returning next February (not the ideal time to travel to Baffin Island) to ask for more money should my bets go sour, I’ve decided to forego the laundry-list of wacky proposition bets this year, and just bet on the outcome of the game itself. Not the games within the game – just the game, people.

Plus, after all the work I put in getting the money, and all the work my buddies Odom and Matty put in trying (and failing) to get the Las Vegas Hilton to release an electronic copy of its seminal list of 400-strong prop to me (apparently, as of Friday afternoon the only way you can get a copy of the prop list is to march into the Hilton sports book and grab a paper copy yourself – update: Matty located a copy late Friday afternoon!), I just can’t motivate myself to care whether Saints backup tight end David Thomas will gain more or less than 9.5 yards on his first reception of the game (take the under, though).

So here’s my analysis of Super Bowl XLIV – Indianapolis Colts versus New Orleans Saints:

Both of these teams were 13-0 this year, and then each floundered a bit down the stretch after taking their foot off the gas pedal (I guess we can be pretty certain that they weren’t driving a Toyota HEY-OHHHH!!!).

In the playoffs, the Saints and the Colts each destroyed a one-dimensional team in the divisional round. Then the Colts came from behind to beat a team starting a rookie quarterback who had a very average season, a team that lost its starting running back during the game, a team that lost games this season to the Bills, the Jags and the Dolphins (twice), a team whose own coach thought they were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs with two weeks to go in the season. In short, the Colts squeaked one out against one of the weakest teams to appear in an AFC title game in recent memory, albeit one that played hard and gave the Colts a run for their money.

The Saints won the NFC title against a team that most sportswriters considered the best team in football when the season began. So why does everybody with an opinion on this game automatically think that the Colts are unbeatable and the Saints are flawed and that Manning is the best so therefore the Colts will definitely win?

So I’ll take the Saints to win, like I did (get ready, I’m about to blow your mind!) … back in SEPTEMBER, in my NFL Preview column.

And not just to cover the spread, which is currently at Colts by 5. To win the game outright. I mean, why wouldn’t I pick the team I pegged at the start of the season to win the Super Bowl when they’re playing a team I didn’t even think was good enough to make the playoffs in the Colts (uh … this is embarrassing … hey, look, what’s that over THERE!)

Wager: New Orleans Saints to win (money line bet), 100 TB at +180, for a potential win of 180 TB.

And if I’m wrong, well, I guess I’ll have plenty of time to work on my grovelling skills before next year’s visit to Baffin Island.

(Image courtesy

Posted in Sportstrotter  •  1 Comment

Ghost Stories

The Original of LauraThree Days Before the Shooting...

An actor achieves immortality through his face, a singer through his voice. An author is able to live eternally through his writing, but for some, the finished words are not enough.

The critical notions surrounding authorship have been contentious since the 1960s, when developments in literary theory upset accepted notions about art. Critics such as Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault (two names sure to make any humanities graduate student cringe) dismantled the axiom that the author was the architect of a literary work’s interpretive possibilities. Barthes went so far as to declare “the death of the author,” urging scholars to seek out a text’s meaning in its language, rather than in the intentions of its author.

Despite Barthes’ obituary for the author, the cult of authorship persists. Publishers around the world are breathing fresh life into deceased famous authors by posthumously releasing their “lost” works. In 2009, new books by Vladimir Nabokov, Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut, Lucy Maud Montgomery, and in a delicious twist of irony, Roland Barthes, hit the shelves. On the slate for the next couple of years are posthumous works by Ralph Ellison, Jack Kerouac, David Foster Wallace, and Roberto Bolaño. (Bolaño’s corpse is proving to be staggeringly prolific, with as many as four releases on the horizon.)

Meanwhile, J.D. Salinger’s recent death has sparked an enormous level of speculation over the wealth of writings he might have been hoarding. At the time of his death, the notoriously cagey author hadn’t published in over forty-five years. It’s long been reported that he wrote upwards of fifteen manuscripts during his self-imposed exile. Despite Salinger’s militant protection of his privacy and apparent desire not to see these writings in the public sphere, it seems all but inevitable that at least some of them will be snatched up and published in the years to come. (more…)

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Posted in Chapter and Verse  •  5 Comments

Letter From Soccer City

Photograph by Richard Poplak
Photograph by Richard Poplak

This June’s FIFA World Cup Final South Africa represents a risky bet that, like many wagers, poses itself as a question: Can an African nation successfully host a massive sports tournament without descending into chaos? FIFA, soccer’s international organizing body, has smartly hedged. In choosing South Africa, they can ostensibly tap into the best of both worlds — an industrialized democratic African nation not currently undergoing a civil war, and a first class African country brimming with the continent’s possibilities.

The previous Olympics were, of course, also held in a developing nation, but that event was a breeze by comparison. In Beijing, the regime used an iron hand to tamp down potential flare-ups, especially regarding the key issues of infrastructure and security. The Chinese, however, had one city to deal with, while the 2010 World Cup organizers must manage nine. What’s more, there is no iron hand in South Africa, which is in part what made the country so appealing in the first place. But with horrendous violent crime statistics, Stygian transportation problems and an angry underclass that cannot be controlled by the state, the FIFA showcase could explode like a French striker facing an Italian midfielder.

How shall it all pan out? FIFA — a powerful extra-governmental organization sometimes compared to the pre-Renaissance Vatican — is holding thumbs, to say nothing of the South African authorities. Regardless, World Cup preparations are altering the country — arguably Africa’s most important — and it seems appropriate to document these changes. In this, the first of a series of posts leading up to the 2010 tournament, we shall kick off at centre field, as it were — in the newly refurbished FNB Stadium, now called Soccer City. (more…)

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Posted in Foreign Correspondence  •  7 Comments

Make Your Own Walrus Cover and Win

Make Your Own Walrus Cover and WinMake your own Vancouver Walrus cover and be entered to win a book prize pack from Douglas & McIntyre.

To celebrate Canada’s Olympic city and our March 2010 Vancouver cover story, we’re asking readers to create their very own Vancouver cover image and submit it to All eligible covers will be posted in an online gallery for public viewing. The winning image will receive a Vancouver prize pack featuring six books from our generous sponsor, Douglas & McIntyre, along with lots of Walrus goodies.

To enter, just send your Vancouver cover image (photograph, illustration, painting, etc.) to Please make sure you own the rights to the artwork submitted. We require a minimum size of 435 pixels wide by 600 pixels high, and request that you use uniform or low-contrast colours for the top third of the image — we’ll add The Walrus wordmark for you before displaying the covers online.

The contest closes at 5 p.m. PST on March 15; winners will be announced in this space on March 31.

Win one copy each of:

Vancouver Cooks 2 Guide to Contemporary Architecture in VancouverVisions of British Columbia

Vancouver WildCity of Glass The Museum of Antropology at UBC

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Posted in Contests  •  4 Comments
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