The Walrus Blog

Monthly Archive: May 2012

The CBC We Want

Live webcast at 4pm EDT, Thursday, May 31

The CBC We Want

Posted on behalf of Friends of Canadian Broadcasting:

Another round of severe cuts and service reductions has left supporters of public broadcasting wondering how to make a difference.

Tinkering on the margins or engaging in the old sterile debates are not options. What should be the future direction for our national public broadcaster?

Friends of Canadian Broadcasting is convening this national conversation because the CBC belongs to all of us. Please join us for this important web event right here at The Walrus Blog and at The Walrus Soapbox on Thursday, May 31st from 4 to 6 pm EDT for this provocative, thoughtful, and constructive discussion.

This webcast marks the beginning of a national conversation convened by Friends of Canadian Broadcasting to gather expert and everyday views about the future direction of our CBC.

Another round of severe cuts has left supporters of public broadcasting wondering how we can make a difference. There is a growing groundswell of opinion that we need to fundamentally rethink the CBC from the ground up.

Bring your ideas and opinions about the kind of CBC you want to this interactive forum, or simply plan to watch and listen to what promises to be a provocative, thoughtful and entertaining event.

Learn more and participate in the discussion at

Live webcast begins at 4pm EDT, Thursday, May 31.


Tags: , , ,
Posted in Events  •  1 Comment

Bullet the Red, White, and Blue Sky

An interview with the rapper, singer, songwriter, and poet K’naan
K'naanCourtesy of A&M/Octone

In the upcoming July/August issue of The Walrus, I scribbled many words about K’naan, the Somali-born music star who emigrated to Canada (by way of Harlem) as a boy in the early ’90s. Seven years ago, he became one of this country’s favourite urban acts upon the release of his debut album, The Dusty Foot Philosopher. The project went on to win the first of his four Juno Awards, and led him to sign a serious deal with A&M/Octone, a heavy-hitting record label based in Manhattan.

During the last World Cup, K’naan’s fame spread nearly planetwide, when Coca-Cola turned his song “Wavin’ Flag” into a multinational anthem. The exception was America, the music business’s premier market. This summer, he’ll attempt another cross-border invasion with a new album, Country, God or the Girl, that’s been deliberately designed for mass US appeal.

In the spring, K’naan and I met in Toronto to talk about his music and more. Below, some of that conversation, dancing around the parts you can read in the magazine.*

* Due to a mistake in the editing process, the printed version of the magazine article states that K’naan has “admitted to serving time in Toronto’s three jails while awaiting trial on weapons and assault charges.” It is true that he was detained as a young offender; however, he was not convicted of those charges — and therefore never “serv[ed] time,” nor claimed to. The Walrus regrets the error.

Matthew McKinnon: I have a pet theory about the American music industry: that it’s adopted the blockbuster model that has driven Hollywood for years. Lately, big labels only want artists who can move really big numbers; most of their money gets spent on the relative few who already are or may yet become superstars. There’s less cash and concern left over for smaller artists, smaller projects.

K’naan: Oh, it’s true. You have the chosen very few who [get to experience] that kind of platform. In America, the king is still Top 40 radio. Either you’re getting played on every city’s Top 40 station or you’re getting played on another kind of station, and the difference across the country is something like 60 million people a week. It’s a very significant awareness factor. To be honest, that world is what my new music is entering into. I’m not shy about reaching people. I’ve never been… Whether it’s the right audience for my work is yet to be seen.

Matthew McKinnon: You have a lot of fans, particularly Canadian fans, who have followed you since The Dusty Foot Philosopher. The music you made then is different than the music you make now, and at least some of that crowd seems unhappy about that. You’re on Twitter. You can read what people think about old versus new.

K’naan: Listen, I’m the least affected person by those kinds of things. It’s not that I don’t see it; it’s not that I don’t hear it or think about it. But I don’t live within the context of other people’s expectations. (more…)

Tags: , , , ,
Posted in Music  •  2 Comments

The Trillium 25 Interview: Ken Babstock

A Q&A with the author of Methodist Hatchet
Ken BabstockCarolin Seeliger
Methodist HatchetHouse of Anansi Press

The Walrus Foundation joins the Ontario Media Development Corporation in celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Trillium Book Award, Ontario’s leading literary prize. At, we’ve grouped the finalists for the 2012 Trillium Book Award and the Trillium Book Award for Poetry alongside a select collection of past winners and Walrus contributors, including Margaret Atwood, Austin Clarke, Thomas King, and Karen Solie.

Here on The Walrus Blog, we’ll be publishing a series of written interviews with this year’s English-language contenders. First up: Ken Babstock, nominated for his book Methodist Hatchet. His poem “Hoffos at MOCCA, Hester at ACCA” appears in the June 2012 issue of the magazine.

Born: Burin, Newfoundland

Resides: Toronto, Ontario

Trillium Book Award–nominated work: Methodist Hatchet (2011)

Trillium Book Award for Poetry–winning work: Airstream Land Yacht (2006)

Selected additional works: Mean (1999), Days Into Flatspin (2001), Methodist Hatchet (2011)

Poetry for The Walrus:Caledonia” (April 2007); “Hoffos at MOCCA, Hester at ACCA” (June 2012)

Related Reading:Review: Ken Babstock’s Methodist Hatchet” by Nick Mount (May 2011)

Biography: Ken Babstock is the son of a United Church clergyman and a nurse. A childhood move to the Ottawa Valley, he has said, “robbed” him of his Newfoundland accent. He’s also confessed to becoming interested in poetry as a means to distance himself from the religious language of his youth. He dropped out of Montreal’s Concordia University at age nineteen, then spent the next twelve years working in factories, forestry, and construction. In 1997, his poems “The Interior” and “What We Didn’t Tell the Medic” won gold for poetry at the National Magazine Awards. Two years later, he published his first collection, Mean, for which he received the Milton Acorn People’s Poetry Award and the Atlantic Poetry Prize. Babstock has since been short listed for the Griffin Poetry Prize, and was nominated for the Governor General’s Award for Poetry. He is a former member of the poetry faculty at the Banff Centre for the Arts and a former poetry editor of House of Anansi Press.

Joseph MacKinnon: Methodist Hatchet has made a big splash in the Canadian poetry world, where some have compared you to W.H. Auden. Can you tell us about the collection?

Ken Babstock: It’s a collection of separate poems which seem to want to have little to do with one another. What I mean is, there’s an undercurrent of severe disbelief or negative valuation swirling around each discrete poem. I’ve tried to bind poems together by virtue of each one’s will to be divided against itself. Like pushing the wrong end of two magnets together. (more…)

Tags: , , , ,
Posted in Chapter and Verse  •  No Comments

The Return of Quillcast

In which The Walrus Blog reposts Quill & Quire’s exclusive interviews with authors and publishing insiders

Quillcast is a podcast series from Quill & Quire featuring behind-the-scenes conversations with authors and publishing insiders. In the past, The Walrus Blog has reposted interviews with CS Richardson, Andrew Westoll, Charlotte Gill, Clark Blaise, Rosemary Sullivan, and Steve Rubin. Now, Quillcast returns to this space with three new interviews, published below. Listen to them here, or subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.

Episode Seven: Celebrating the tenth anniversary of Hana’s Suitcase
Hana's SuitcaseClick on the picture to view images from Hana’s Suitcase Anniversary Album, which features over sixty pages of letters, photos, essays, and children’s art that reflect on the importance of Hana’s story.

In this episode, we celebrate the tenth anniversary of Hana’s Suitcase (Second Story Press), the story of a Japanese teacher and her quest to discover the history behind a child’s suitcase found at the Auschwitz death camp. To mark the milestone, Q&Q web editor Sue Carter Flinn sat down with author Karen Levine and Margie Wolfe, founder of Second Story.

Hana’s Suitcase began its life as a radio documentary for the CBC before being published as a children’s book. Since it was released in 2002, the book has been published in forty countries and twenty-nine languages, and inspired the 2009 documentary, Inside Hana’s Suitcase.


Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Quillcast  •  No Comments

Shipping Point

To reduce national reliance on foreign oil, why don’t we send oil from Alberta to the Atlantic provinces?
Photograph by Eamon Mac MahonAlberta’s Athabasca Oil Sands Project can produce 155,000 barrels of crude per day. Its majority owner, Shell Canada, plans to increase that to more than 500,000 barrels per day (Source:Amazon of the North” by Eamon Mac Mahon, November 2011).

Last month, the Bank of Canada warned in its latest Monetary Policy Report that Canada’s oil industry is dragging down the nation’s economy because the country imports crude at higher cost than it exports. Nationally, we import an enormous amount of oil, both light and heavy crude, mainly from Algeria, the UK, Nigeria, Norway, and Saudi Arabia; in 2009, we brought in an average of 1.1 million barrels per day, compared to an export of 1.9 million barrels per day.* This foreign supply is bound for Eastern Canada, mostly going to the Atlantic provinces and Quebec, with a small quantity reaching Ontario. (Natural Resources Canada provides a good map of our existing oil pipelines.) With the difference in price between Canadian and international oil sometimes as great as 35 percent, CIBC and the Bank of Montreal estimate that the annual loss to the economy is nearly $20 billion. To reduce Canada’s reliance on expensive foreign oil, why don’t we ship heavy crude from Alberta to the refineries in the Atlantic provinces?

This question has excited the media and the energy industry from coast to coast. The Calgary Herald calculates that an eastbound oil pipeline would be a terrific investment, while Nova Scotia’s Chronicle Herald argues that it would be economically efficient. But these views may be mistaking the effect of an eastbound pipeline on oil prices — remember, oil companies are inherently driven by the expectation that those prices will rise. And using decades-old infrastructure for the endeavour presents a high risk of calamity. (more…)

Tags: , , , , , , ,
Posted in Ask The Walrus  •  No Comments

The Italian Job

Cyclist Ryder Hesjedal guts out a tremendous victory at the Giro d’Italia
RyderRyder Hesjedal hoists the Giro d’Italia winner’s trophy.

Before we delve into the specifics of the sporting fairytale that has unfolded over the past three weeks, we must get some housekeeping out of the way: Ryder Hesjedal’s Giro d’Italia triumph is the single greatest accomplishment by a Canadian athlete in the history of the country. This fact is manifestly inarguable. Paul Henderson’s series-winning goal against the hated Soviets in the 1972 Summit Series; Sydney Crosby’s gold medal–winning goal against the hated Americans in the 2010 Winter Olympics; Donovan Bailey’s world record–breaking 100-metre sprint in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics; Nancy “Tiger” Greene’s eight billion skiing medals: all indelible and vital parts of our national story. None come close to what Hesjedal — who I profiled for The Walrus last summer — has just pulled off in the Italian mountains.

Winning the Giro d’Italia, and in particular this year’s Giro d’Italia, should be physically impossible. That it is won, year after year, shouldn’t fool us into misunderstanding the event. Grand Tour racing — the Giro d’Italia, the Tour de France, and the Spanish Vuelta — is the ultimate test of what is possible from our species.

Judith Newman, in her New York Times review of Anne Enright’s Making Babies memoir, pointed out that bad sports writing is the equivalent of bad mommy blogging: “[F]ellows who don’t just document the mildew and peeling paint on a boxing gym’s walls but go on to liken it to the weeping of fetid tears over the tragedies they’ve seen.” I’m with you, Ms. Newman. But watching men in unitards tear through the streets of Milan at sixty kilometres per hour, I hear the metaphysical pealing of the church bells of my soul. (Which, considering we’re talking about Milan, may indeed be actual church bells.)

The Giro lasts three weeks. While luck plays a large role — crashes, illness, catastrophic saddle sores, etc. — the best man tends to win. And the best man is never a one-trick pony. It took Hesjedal ninety-one hours, thirty-six minutes and two seconds to cover the 3,502.1 kilometre route, and he did it in a variety of ways. He had to stay in the mix over the fast, flat stages. He had to excel at the individual time trials (one man wearing an alien helmet on a space-aged bike, racing against the clock), and he had to excel at the team time trial (seven men doing the same). Most importantly, he had to climb up mountains. Lots and lots of mountains. (more…)

Tags: , , , ,
Posted in Sports  •  No Comments

Northern Reflection

Will Canada’s territories eventually become provinces?

Canada, as anyone who’s attended grade school can attest, consists of ten provinces and three territories. At least one Prime Minister — Paul Martin, quoted in 2004 — has said we’ll “eventually” have thirteen of the former and none of the latter. However, the notion of territories becoming provinces is not one that much concerns the territories themselves — as Graham White of University of Toronto’s political science department says, this is a “classic Toronto question about the North.” What’s more important is the “devolution” of various governing powers currently held at the federal level, such as substantial ownership of land. And within the territories’ special set of economic conditions, provincehood — and the economic self-reliance that implies — may only become a goal in the distant future.

In the nineteenth century, the original North-West Territories — which draped most of modern Canadian land, except for BC, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and half of Ontario and Quebec — was managed directly by the federal government. These centralized powers gradually gave way to local separatist movements, and provinces slowly carved themselves out: first Manitoba (1871), then Alberta and Saskatchewan (1905), and finally parts of Ontario (1869, 1874, 1889, 1912) and Quebec (1898, 1912). The Yukon broke off in 1898, following the Gold Rush, and Nunavut a century and a year later. Even so, Saskatchewan and Alberta didn’t own their land or resources until a quarter of a century after becoming provinces. (more…)

Tags: , , , , ,
Posted in Ask The Walrus  •  1 Comment

Arctic Freeze Out

Is Canada dropping out of climate change research?
PEARLPaul LoewenCanada’s Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory

The Bank of Canada’s new $50 note features the Arctic research icebreaking ship CCGS Amundsen — a vessel which, according to the Bank, “reflects Canada’s commitment to Arctic research and the development and protection of northern communities.” But with the federal government’s recent confirmation to stop funding the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences (CFCAS), and the resultant grant cut to our High Arctic research station, the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL), we’re forced to question: is Canada, perplexingly, retreating from climate change research at a time when knowledge is evermore valuable to the global conversation?

Canada’s environmental performance has never impressed (we are currently at the bottom in international rankings, such as our fifty-fourth global position in the recent Climate Change Performance Index), although the Martin and Chrétien Liberals pushed forth encouraging progress. Stemming from their innovations, university climatology programs attracted global experts and our Arctic research facilities fed data into a wide network of international centres. But this spurt was short-lived, and the country’s reputation in climate change science is declining: dozens of newly trained climate specialists are leaving the country en masse for jobs abroad. “We’re bleeding people,” atmospheric physicist Richard Peltier, the 2012 recipient of Canada’s top science prize, the Herzberg Gold Medal, recently told Postmedia News. (more…)

Tags: , , , , , , ,
Posted in Ask The Walrus  •  3 Comments

And the Nominees Are…

The Walrus receives thirty-two nominations for the thirty-fifth anniversary National Magazine Awards

The Walrus Foundation is pleased to announce that for the sixth straight year The Walrus magazine has received the highest number of National Magazine Award nominations. Our contributors were nominated for twenty-three written, seven visual, and two integrated awards*. The winners will be announced at the thirty-fifth annual National Magazine Awards gala on June 7, 2012 in Toronto.

“We’re proud to receive these nominations, and congratulate all of the writers, journalists, and artists who have been nominated,” said co-publishers John Macfarlane and Shelley Ambrose. “The Walrus is committed to publishing thoughtful content, and we are honoured to be able to do so through our work with such talented and dedicated contributors.”

The Walrus has won more National Magazine Awards since its inception than any other publication, including the 2006 award for Magazine of the Year. During that time, The Walrus has won fifty-three golds and twenty-seven silvers at the National Magazine Awards, as well as 186 honourable mentions.

The Walrus congratulates all of our nominated contributors and staff members, listed here:

* Update: This post has been revised following the National Magazine Awards Foundation’s review of its previously announced nominations.

Posted in Housekeeping  •  No Comments
Canada & its place in the world. Published by
the non-profit charitable Walrus Foundation
The Walrus SoapBox
The Walrus Laughs
Walrus TV
Archived Blog Posts
  • August 2012
  • July 2012
  • June 2012
  • May 2012
  • April 2012
  • March 2012
  • February 2012
  • January 2012
  • December 2011
  • November 2011
  • October 2011
  • September 2011
  • August 2011
  • July 2011
  • June 2011
  • May 2011
  • April 2011
  • March 2011
  • February 2011
  • January 2011
  • December 2010
  • November 2010
  • October 2010
  • September 2010
  • August 2010
  • July 2010
  • June 2010
  • May 2010
  • April 2010
  • March 2010
  • February 2010
  • January 2010
  • December 2009
  • November 2009
  • October 2009
  • September 2009
  • August 2009
  • July 2009
  • June 2009
  • May 2009
  • April 2009
  • March 2009
  • February 2009
  • January 2009
  • December 2008
  • November 2008
  • October 2008
  • September 2008
  • August 2008
  • July 2008
  • June 2008
  • May 2008
  • April 2008
  • March 2008
  • February 2008
  • January 2008
  • December 2007
  • November 2007
  • October 2007
  • September 2007
  • August 2007
  • July 2007
  • June 2007
  • May 2007
  • April 2007
  • March 2007
  • February 2007
  • January 2007