From the archives: September 2003

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More than just moving pictures

Sunday, 28 September 2003 — 8:57pm | Animation, Film

My praise for the Metro Cinema may become a fairly regular feature of this weblog. Tonight they presented a reel of the winning entries from this year’s Ottawa International Animation Festival.

The amount of pure, sweet creativity thrust upon me tonight was so staggering that describing my individual reactions to each of the eleven shorts is quite an unmanageable affair. There were two delightfully quirky (read: weird) films by National Film Board staple Chris Hinton, “Flux” and “Twang”, which both push the limits of what sequential drawings on paper can do in terms of narrative storytelling. The winner of Most Hilarious Film, “How Democracy Actually Works”, provoked exactly that reaction from the audience. I will never look at public washrooms the same way again.

The NSPCC-commissioned short, “Cartoon”, was one entry I’d seen before in the 2002 Cannes Film Festival’s “World’s Best Commercials” reel. To this day it remains one of the most shocking thirty seconds of mixed media I’ve seen; in fact, I thought of it again a week ago when I read this Economist article about how child abuse is still tolerated in France. It depicts a father smacking around a cartoon child who reacts with all the eye-rolling, head-spinning wackiness of Wile E. Coyote. At one point the child tumbles down the stairs; “Real children don’t bounce back,” we’re then told, as it pans over to reveal a real boy lying at the foot of the steps.

My faith in modern television programming was also renewed by an episode of Samurai Jack (“Jack and the Blind Archers”), winner of Best Television Series, which I had never before seen. In all my years of bemoaning the demise of worthwhile television cartoons, it appears that all the creativity in the industry had been monopolized by this particular show and its creator, Genndy Tartakovsky. Suddenly, my faith in Tartakovsky’s upcoming Clone Wars project – about which I once had serious doubts – has been renewed. They picked exactly the right man to do a Star Wars spinoff. Of course, I will have to see it first before I comment further.

The Norwegian winner of Best Film Made for Children, Anita Killi’s “The Hedge of Thorns”, was probably my favourite of the evening. It depicts a world of personified bunnies, where a boy wishes only to play with a girl across the creek, but one day finds in place of the creek an endless line of barbed wire. As far as tackling the subject of war goes, it surpasses most feature films that see release in the multiplex nowadays.

I should really stop here before I get carried away. If the Ottawa reel plays anywhere near you, I unreservedly recommend that you go see it.

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Friday, 26 September 2003 — 11:39am | Scrabble

I just encountered what may be one of the best applications of blogging I have ever seen: Puzzleblog. Of course, it would be even better if it was based on OSPD rather than Chambers – whoever is behind the site is evidently a UK player – and if it was more challenging for competitive types, like Larry Rand’s Scrabblegram puzzles in the Arizona Republic, which are syndicated across the US.

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Complete and utter trash

Thursday, 25 September 2003 — 1:42pm | Journalism

Today’s issue of The Gateway was fairly notable. First was the much-anticipated Council Forum, which I wish was twice as long so it could give the activities of the evening a proper drubbing. No chance of that regarding the smoking ban policy, of course, as the paper is staunchly vocal in its opposition of the prohibition recommended by the Senate. However, they did call Science Councilor Duncan Taylor “Red Hat Guy” (albeit erroneously identifying him as representing Arts), which leads me to wonder what they are going to say when they find out about his reputation concerning sheep.

This issue also marked my return to writing for The Gateway after a fair absence, with this opinion piece on talking garbage receptacles, which do in fact exist. I first saw them in North Hill Mall, Calgary back when I went 11-3 in a very successful Winter Tournament, a pivotal event when I finally started to break out of the bottom-division rating threshold. It was not until a few days ago that I finally identified the product itself, WasteCare Corporation’s “Smart-Pack” intelligent trash compactor. Don’t you just love technology?

Anyway, be sure to check out the article here. There are some editorial errors that were mistakenly introduced, such as the HAL9000 misquote, which I originally wrote as the correct “I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid you can’t do that.” I’ll forgive Adam… this time.

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It’s times like this I wish I sat on Council

Tuesday, 23 September 2003 — 10:46pm | Studentpolitik


To offer more vocal opposition against junk motions like the Political Policy that the Students’ Union opposes the proposed tobacco ban, so we don’t end up with meetings like tonight’s Council where such a policy actually passes. Read it in the Late Additions package and tell me how people could possibly think this is a good idea, given that the reasons provided are for the most part simply uninformed, or included for the sake of padding out the appearance of a rationale behind the document.

Not only is the issue of second-hand smoke completely left by the wayside, never mind that it’s a focal point of any talk of a smoking prohibition; but arguments such as the one concerning students in residence are completely misrepresenting the issue. If anything, the fact that smoking is already prohibited in residence – generally regarded as a good thing by the residents themselves – sets a precedent for the direction that the rest of campus should follow. That this is going to lead to people going off campus and disturbing the neighbours is a flimsy straw man; Lister residents already go off campus for their frequent excursions of drunken debauchery at places like Duke’s Donair. Considering that the City of Edmonton will have phased out smoking in public a year before this SU Political Policy even expires, this is clearly an ill-founded act of ignorance defying the growing belief in our society that smoking is no longer socially acceptable.

Fortunately, the campus-wide smoking ban itself will most likely pass at the Board of Governors. However, regardless of one’s stance on the issue of the prohibition, the Students’ Union has no business indulging itself in a statement of beliefs that is not just opposed, but clearly detrimental to a good segment the students it represents. Apparently, Council still has no concept of just how dangerous it is to assume universal stances on controversial issues. If anything, the undercurrent of the student body viewing the SU as not being representative of their views is more justified than ever before.

There are some good Gateway reads on either side of the campus smoking ban issue: Kristine Owram defends the notion of choice, Mark Barker reminds us that smoking is on its way out, and Chris Boutet calls the proposed ban unenforceable.

On the other hand, the Separation of Powers case advocated by Councilor Smith looked particularly strong tonight when it was introduced after the 9pm roll call, after which Councilors had fulfilled their attendance requirement. The segregation of the judiciary branch from Council’s duties was well-received and passed unanimously, though it was separated from the rest of the motion regarding the separation of executive and legislative functions. That in itself was unsurprising, as the need for that was very clearly demonstrated by a half-hour in camera bylaw interpretation debate incited by Paul Reikie’s appeal to be reinstated to Council, which meant that the Agenda was not even approved until an hour and forty-five minutes into the meeting.

The issue of executive and legislative separation saw some opening fireworks from both sides as it ran the Second Reading gauntlet, but was tabled to the next meeting. Naturally, this means more fun and games on the Webboard.

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Separation of Powers, Part II

Sunday, 21 September 2003 — 10:34am | Studentpolitik

Despite my initial excitement, the 9 September Students’ Council meeting was not all that exciting. In fact, much of it was a testament to inefficiency, as Council spent a good segment of the meeting swabbing the deck of miscellaneous Standing Orders such as the regular singing of O Canada. Last Thursday’s issue of The Gateway was quick to jump all over this one in the return of Council Forum. The real issue to address, that of the separation of Students’ Union powers into legislative, executive and judicial branches, did not make it to the Second Reading.

The Minutes for that meeting are bundled with the 23 September agenda. Here’s hoping they get to the actual legislative business within an hour this time around. As far as the Separation motion goes, I expect no less than a fierce fight on both sides of the coin – but failing that, could it at least be entertaining?

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