From the archives: October 2003

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The separated powers that be

Friday, 31 October 2003 — 7:31pm | Studentpolitik

It’s about time, but I finally made my second appearance of the year in the University of Alberta paper, The Gateway. The piece concerns separation of powers and how its foundational principles would be beneficial to mankind – that is, on the surface. Beneath the surface, the piece is actually about, well, absolutely nothing.

There actually is one significant difference between the piece that was run and the original draft I sent in. It lies in the passage that reads, “Let us bypass the obvious political examples of iron-fisted dictatorial menaces holding power more concentrated than alcohol in a high-school student.” The boldface indicates the euphemism that they wisely substituted for “Lister resident”. There has been quite a feud going on for awhile now between angry Lister Hall residents and The Gateway, mostly concerning the latter’s alleged dissemination of a negative stereotype that the University’s most populous student residence is a breeding pit of drunken debauchery. The veracity of this claim is heavily disputed on both sides.

I confess, I was rather looking forward to the hate mail – but the edit was probably for the best. In a sense, it should demonstrate that no, the paper does not have some kind of angry unilateral vendetta against students in residence.

Or to quote Duncan: “Anyone see the article in today’s gateway? I tore it from a friend’s hand and stomped on it…. I was then told that it wasn’t actually about seperation of powers. I appologised.”

Happy Halloween, folks. By the way, M.Bison is the best costume ever.

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Quis custodiet ipsos custodes

Tuesday, 28 October 2003 — 11:58pm | Adaptations, Comics, Film

The big news this weekend – besides the fact that Thailand’s Panupol Sujjayakorn cleaned house at the World Scrabble Championships in Malaysia – was this Aint-It-Cool News rumour about how Revolution Studios has greenlit the David Hayter Watchmen project, and John Cusack might even be attached to play Dan Dreiberg, the second Nite Owl.

If this is true – and that’s a big If at this point – I have some serious concerns.

First of all, if the unmitigated disaster that was The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is any indication, people should really think twice before touching something by Alan Moore. Especially when it’s the something by Alan Moore.

What are we toying around with here? It’s not run-of-the-mill comic book material. Even though I am relatively new to the medium, it did not take me very long to realize that Watchmen is the Lord of the Rings of comic books. And as with The Lord of the Rings, although I am concerned with faith to the source material, the top priority is on pulling it off with the artistic, cinematic merit it deserves.

Right now, Watchmen is a wildcard for one reason alone: David Hayter has never directed a movie.

Hayter’s record so far is as the screenwriter behind the two X-Men movies. I do have considerably greater faith in his ability to adapt a working screenplay after seeing X2, but no matter how many chances I give the first film, I still can’t like it. It’s not horrible, but lukewarm at best, and a lot of it was just plain sloppy. However, this is only one concern.

If Hayter is seriously intent on directing the project, my advice would be thus: follow the panels. Watchmen, the book, had a certain mastery of layout worthy of much comprehensive analysis on sites like Watching the Detectives. Follow it. Learn some lessons from the composition and juxtaposition that made it such an exemplar of the graphic novel medium.

It’s a well-known fact that Terry Gilliam wanted the project once, but would only do it if it were in twelve one-hour sections, which no executive in his right mind would consider theatrically releasable – but is a really great idea. Gilliam was the right man for this project, just as he was the right man for Harry Potter and the definitive man for Don Quixote. Lord knows he tried to do Don Quixote. And nobody but Gilliam should be coming within twenty miles of The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

As for John Cusack – this is actually a pretty good casting choice. Put him in a big pair of glasses and dress him up in those conservative Dreiberg clothes, and the look is apparent.

Everybody can rattle off their dream cast list for Watchmen, kind of like how people were speculating Sean Connery for every conceivable role in The Lord of the Rings back in the roaring nineties. Everybody recognizes that Dr. Manhattan is the stumbling block. We’re hearing people shout for Sean Penn to play Rorschach, Tom Selleck as the Comedian, Val Kilmer as Ozymandias. At this point, I’m more worried about the script.

But we’ll see. For the time being, I’m going to reclaim my spot in line for The Incredibles.

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Ten things I learned in Toronto

Tuesday, 28 October 2003 — 11:35pm | Debate

I learn a lot from every tournament, but this one in particular.

First, hitting Kevin Massie and Mike Saposnik in the very first round under the following conditions: a) they are on Closing Government, b) you are on Closing Opposition, and 3) they are having a wild time bringing church/state separation into a resolution that the CA openly admitted was designed for quick adjudication – means you should make it a back-half round and take a second. I took a third.

Second, if you are not sure whether you are talking to your billet or just someone who looks astonishingly identical to him, allow your partner to find out the hard way – especially if said partner can actually tell the difference between two black leather jackets.

Third: Even if you are one of the only two people in the Great Hall who appreciate the live presence of the super-duper Gordon Webster Quintet at the kind-of-black-tie banquet, talk to the band anyway and discover just how cool they are.

(Corollary to Three: The reminder of my continued swing-dancing deficiency was indirect, but unsettling.)

Fourth – “Seventy-five cents for a kick in the stomach is better than just a kick in the stomach.”

Fifth: Preschool class presidents should form a federal political party.

Sixth – it’s particularly enheartening when you make an obscure Homestar Runner reference in your public speech room, and Everybody, Everybody gets it. I topped my room that round.

Seventh, a complete Sunday brunch of bacon, eggs, sausages, cranberry juice and breakfast tea between break rounds is of incomparable value.

Eighth, given just how rusty my British Parliamentary skills are, I’m almost glad I am no longer debating, but rather judging at Singapore Worlds.

Ninth – the fact that fifty percent of the CUSID West teams in attendance won the tournament, as opposed to zero percent of Central, indicates that the west really is getting in, and that Greg Allen is going to need a new trophy room very soon. I think their performance was bolstered by a voice like a deep river.

Tenth – Hart House seriously knows how to run an amazing tournament; no wonder they hosted Worlds back in 2002. If they look to pull off something this good again next year, I will be in attendance. Given the whole shebang about Ottawa’s and Toronto’s BP tournaments being back-to-back, this is not necessarily a solid expectation, but even if it’s run in CP I’d consider going.

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Report for the month of October

Monday, 27 October 2003 — 5:08pm | Studentpolitik

It’s funny how much happens when you don’t update a weblog for three weeks.

Last Tuesday, I actually had someone come up to me – in person – and ask me to update this page. Apparently he seriously needed something better to do on his downtime, given that expounding on the various benefits of separating executive and legislative powers on the SU Webboard is no longer a dependable source of diversion. Yes, that’s right – Separation of Powers was defeated at the 7 October meeting. Since then, the big battle has been around the issue of the multi-year tuition proposal that Dr. Carl Amrhein, Provost and VP Academic, presented that very night. (See the minutes on Page 4 of the 21 October Agenda.) The big ruckus is over whether or not – and if so, under what conditions – SU President Mat Brechtel should negotiate with the administration for an agreement on tuition increases and a united front in lobbying the provincial government for more funding.

The 21 October meeting led to a lengthy discussion of this issue that extended all the way to 11pm before postponement and adjournment. Thus, there is an extra meeting tomorrow night to evaluate this very issue.

Currently, the prevailing analysis is that the terms offered by the University are clearly unacceptable and do little aside from silencing the SU’s annual tuition campaign once every two years. While it is true that the current terms are unequivocally lopsided and make a superficial connection to the “united front” idea, Council is also demonstrating an irrational unwillingness to differentiate the multi-year concept from the current offer. As a matter of principle, a coordinated multi-year strategy could deliver some serious goods – but it needs significant ironing first.

It’s much more substantially debated on the Webboard, here and here.

Believe it or not, Council dung-flinging wasn’t the only thing that happened in October. I had the opportunity to see two very notable releases in cinemas, Kill Bill, Vol. 1 and Mystic River. Both of them are highly recommended viewing. Unfortunately, a deluge of midterms still prevents me from having the time to get back to my old hobby of comprehensively analysing every film I see; tack these to the waiting list.

The Tory-Alliance merger brouhaha: what hasn’t been said? Well, for starters, everything. The Mackay-Harper agreement on the establishment of the Conservative Party of Canada – good name, by the way, and I still associate Conservative with the word “Tory” due to my British imperial roots – has a section on founding principles that says, for lack of a better descriptor, dick-all. I missed their on-campus merger forum last week on account of debate practice, so there are some blanks to fill in, but I remain a sceptic.

The debate practice was in preparation for the 2003 Hart House Invitational at the University of Toronto, which was the classiest tournament I have ever attended. I will shower it with praise in another post. I will not shower my actual performance at this event with any praise at all.

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All the news that’s fit to type

Tuesday, 7 October 2003 — 4:45pm | Scrabble

It’s funny how much happens when you don’t update a weblog for a week. There’s that The Return of the King theatrical trailer, for starters, and I could probably write pages and pages of commentary on my reactions to that thing but that would be redundant, as the collective orgasm of the Tolkien community – at least, the half of it that adores the Peter Jackson films – has already been heard twice around the world by this point.

Then there’s the announcement of Pixar’s Film Seven concept, Ratatouille. All Pixar news is good news. It will be interesting to see how it performs without the Disney label, though I have a hunch that the Pixar name by itself far outclasses Disney on the reputation front at this point in time.

Last weekend I also played in Division 3 of 4 at the Western Canadian Scrabble Championships in Calgary. The final tournament results are online. I placed seventh in a field of twenty due to a botched Round 17 where a win would have placed me comfortably in third. I lay the blame for my loss squarely on a fatal mistake down a triple line, where I misread my opponent’s blank R in NASTIER as an S – twice – and in doing so, lost two turns in a row and allowed her to take both triples down that lane. I’m still not over it.

In a few minutes I will be heading off to tonight’s Students’ Council meeting. The Agenda and Late Additions are both online. Tonight is the big vote on the Separation of Powers bill, as well as a Tuition/Budget presentation from the Provost. It’s going to be one heck of a meeting; expect commentary later tonight.

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