From the archives: March 2005

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The last remnants of the Old Republic have been swept away

Thursday, 10 March 2005 — 10:38pm | Studentpolitik

To answer the question that James Crossman posed in this poll: style beat substance by 92 votes on the sixth ballot. The results are here. If I had any opinion on American politics, I believe the appropriate line would be, “Now I know how the Democrats feel.”

Mustafa Hirji led in the initial rounds of balloting, and it was not until there were three remaining candidates that Lettner surpassed him by a mere three votes, with Abboud dropped as a distant third. While Mustafa’s performance out of the gates surprised everybody present, the trend that ensued as the runoff votes were tabulated was ultimately foreseeable. Steve Smith said it best:

Your assumption seems to be that Mustafa could pick up latter-ballot support. I think that, of all the candidates, he may have the least potential for this. I mean, there are two types of voters: those who know what they’re talking about and those who don’t. The first category is voting Mustafa, probably at a rate of at least 80%. Those in the first category who are not voting Mustafa are most likely failing to do so because they hate democracy, so they’re not going to vote for him on later ballots either.

The voters who don’t know what they’re talking about are generally not voting Mustafa. Those who don’t vote for him on the first ballot are unlikely to do so on later ballots, because their objections to him (“He’s so frowny!” “He isn’t charismatic enough to be President!” “His posters sucked!”) are likely to continue to apply on later ballots. Uninformed voters are much more likely to break for those candidates with nice posters, good sound bytes, and the impression of experience (think Abboud and, to a lesser extent, Lettner and Poon).

The “voters who don’t know what they’re talking about” caught up, and the rest is history.

I will, however, extend a courteous congratulations to our new Students’ Union President, Graham Lettner. This is because I am a good sport when it comes to matters that do not involve Dan Brown, Star Wars franchise novels, fullscreen DVDs or genocide. Lettner’s ascendency is not the beginning of a new dark age for the Students’ Union, but a rejection of the opportunity to escape an existing one. Aside from that, his team ran a strong campaign.

Perhaps there is no need to dwell on the ifs, buts and other miscellaneous conditionals. We could blame Ross Prusakowski for the undue influence of that hopelessly misinformed Gateway piece of his that made the race look close, when frankly, the choice for President was obvious. We could harp on how Mustafa could have gotten half of the superstar volunteers working on other campaigns had his candidacy been announced well in advance, or the irony of how he was instrumental in introducing preferential balloting in the first place. But at this stage, that would accomplish nothing. I think the relative silence at the Power Plant upon the announcement of the winning ballot, Lettner’s campaign team aside, was a sufficient testament to what we saw happen tonight.

On the upside, the Health Plan referendum was defeated. You win some, you lose some.

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The Revolution may yet be televised

Thursday, 10 March 2005 — 12:44pm | Video games

Today was Nintendo’s big day at the Game Developers Conference. Satoru Iwata spoke of the GameCube’s successor, tentatively named the Nintendo Revolution, as being Wi-Fi enabled and compatible with GameCube discs. As could be expected from a keynote speech at a conference more for developers than consumers, most of the details revealed were of a technical nature. Then there’s the confirmation that the Nintendo DS will indeed have its own online network for wireless multiplayer, with Animal Crossing DS as the flagship title for global connectivity.

Some questions: If the Revolution is backward-compatible with the GameCube, what of the controller? Does it just feature additional GameCube controller ports, or perhaps a WaveBird receiver? What, if any, is the fee structure for playing the DS online? Nintendo has traditionally shared my reluctance to ascribe to the monthly fee model of Xbox Live and desktop MMORPGs like World of Warcraft, but I do wonder how they plan to move away from it. Also – and this has been a burning question for a long time now – if DS wireless connectivity is done via hotspots, is there support for routers secured by encryption mechanisms like WEP keys? I do not plan to compromise my network security every time I want to connect my DS to the rest of the world.

On the other hand, a month ago it was brought to my attention that Steeps is wireless-enabled. Problem solved, sort of.

From a consumer-geek standpoint, Nintendo’s other big unveiling was a minute-long teaser for the new Zelda game. Between this and the Revenge of the Sith teaser that is to be released tonight, there is plenty to keep your video player very, very busy as you rewind and repeat, rewind and repeat. (A direct, albeit slow MOV download lieth hither; a smaller, faster download in WMV format lieth thither.)

Allow me to confirm what you are seeing. Yes, Link rides a boar and with it, tramples an assortment of vermin underfoot. Yes, he shields himself against a mighty boxing Goron. Yes, he shoots down various flying creatures with a bow and arrow whilst on horseback. Yes, he is chased by a one-eyed arachnid that may or may not be an iteration of Gohma (who was more of a crustacean, to be honest). Yes, enemies burst into a cloud of purple haze upon destruction.

Yes, this is, holistically speaking, awesome.

I’ll close with a link to the Gateway story du jour. Linguistics and video games? As Fred Astaire famously sang in Top Hat (“Cheek to Cheek”), I’m in heaven.

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Cover to cover

Wednesday, 9 March 2005 — 1:23pm | Film



This is going to be a summer to remember.

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Vote Hirji, vote often

Monday, 7 March 2005 — 6:06pm | Studentpolitik

Preferential balloting is a godsend, though it really is a pity that when it was first being implemented over a year ago, Students’ Council didn’t have the basic mathematical common sense to realize that None Of The Above should not be eliminated as if it were any other candidate. However, the dreaded NOTA still has its more symbolic uses, and I see myself putting it ahead of a lot of contenders in this year’s Students’ Union election.

Without further ado, let us proceed to whom I will be selecting to lead next year’s SU and, if we are lucky, fall prey to the occasional nefarious prank.

President: It should be obvious from the title of this post that I endorse Mustafa Hirji. Out of all the candidates, he had the most credibility going into the campaign and the most raw matter coming out of it. He has the ambition to overhaul the SU in such a way that it can vie for long-term results. His breadth of knowledge concerning how the system works is unparalleled amongst his opponents. He has a plan, and he has a clue.

Coming second, third and fourth on my ballot in a permutation I have yet to decide are None Of The Above, Spanky the Wonder Elf and Alex Abboud. None Of The Above has run a strong and convincing campaign for President this year, especially given what most of the contenders ended up offering. Spanky, which only a few days ago I dubbed a joke campaign with an almost inimitable lameness, vindicated himself with a strong Myer Horowitz performance that reminded me of the Myer-only campaign for George W. Bushwhacker two years ago. (The lamest joke campaign this year is actually that of one Graham Lettner, but I’ll get to that.)

As for the rest of the non-Hirji candidates, most of whom have real initiatives but none of whom pose any meaningful change to the system itself, Alex Abboud is clearly the most credible. If we imagined for a moment that Mustafa were not running and I had to choose a status quo President with short-term ideas, Abboud would be the man. It does not surprise me that Wayne Poon’s campaign is all about outreach, student services, computers, and more computers; the frightening similarity to how Orientation tends to depict the SU’s focus cannot be accidental. A valiant effort, but limited in scope; on the other hand, that didn’t stop Mat Brechtel. Then there’s Danny Bennett, who doesn’t seem to know what the Students’ Union even does.

And then there’s Lettner, who has run an incredible campaign full of theatrics… and nothing else. Whether it be videos where he thinks he’s Rick Mercer, or crowd-pleasing wisecracks about Steve Smith Gateway letters at the Myer forum, Lettner has established an indisputable talent for talking a lot and saying absolutely nothing. If the Myer Horowitz were a public speech competition at a CUSID debate tournament, his performance would place. Clearly, he has an awesome campaign manager, and clearly, that campaign manager is working for the wrong guy. But if this is all Lettner has to offer, I have no qualms about putting him last, especially given that Bennett’s going to be out after the first ballot anyhow.

Dear reader – and I say this with the knowledge that this plea of mine is ultimately futile given that my regular audience originates primarily from the already decided hack circle – if you are considering voting Lettner in this election, I implore you to rethink. I implore you to remember that style without substance only goes as far as to get a lot of attention whilst achieving absolutely nothing tangible. Somewhere in a closet there’s a chicken suit that can attest to this.

VP Academic: I endorse None Of The Above, even though it is virtually impossible for Mathieu Johnson to lose an acclamation race given that you can expect uninformed voters to rubber-stamp him through. This was a tough decision. On one hand, Johnson is not incompetent in such a way that electing him will hurt students; on the other, bad posters and an incomprehensible one-point platform concerning Faculty Associations just don’t cut it. I think we can do better.

VP External: I would endorse Sara Katz, but she pulled out before campaigning started. It should send a message that I would endorse her without having even seen a platform. This is because the choice before me is either a rank incompetent who knows almost as little about his portfolio as Danny Bennett, or a woman full of knowledge, experience and ideas with whom I disagree about almost everything on a basic philosophical level and has a history of pushing the overly adversarial activism that the SU would do well to perform in moderation at most. In either case, I hope for a strong President to guide the VPX in the right direction next year, and that President is Mustafa Hirji. I am putting None Of The Above first, but given how it will likely be eliminated on the first ballot, I will err on the side of competence and begrudgingly endorse Samantha Power as my second pick. I cannot justify giving Tim Smith the dignity of anything higher than third.

VP Operations/Finance: Never mind that Jason Tobias is running uncontested – he’s proven himself to be a worthy candidate for this position, opposed or not. I wholeheartedly support him for this position with little further deliberation.

VP Student Life: Because Wayne Poon is running for President instead of here where he belongs, I am voting for Justin Kehoe without hesitation. He has the background, vision and enthusiasm to bring some life into what is rightly generally considered the odd man out of the five Executive positions. Carolyn Nowry can try again when she has those same traits at her disposal; unlike Smith and Bennett, she is a credible candidate who has done her homework, but she has the misfortune of running against a much better one.

Board of Governors Representative: Roman Kotovych is a hard double-act to follow, and neither of the candidates do the trick. However, both of them are competent and knowledgeable in their own ways, and this is not a race worth weeping about should I not get my way. That said, my vote is going to Shawna Pandya. As much as I admire Adam Cook’s record and what he brings to the Board, so much that I endorsed him for President last year, it worries me that the best reason he can come up with to vote for him over Shawna is that he’s better at “schmoozing”. While his performance as a coherent orator in this year’s campaign is a tremendous improvement on his implosion back in his Presidential run, this just isn’t good enough.

Health Plan Referendum: I will be voting No, thanks to the overwhelming evidence that the Health Plan basically amounts to paying a lot of money for nothing, and potentially paying more than that with each successive year. I’m frankly amazed that such a bad idea made it this far, but the blame for that lies squarely on an ineffective Students’ Council that lacked the sense to defeat it from the start.

The best moment of the Myer Horowitz forum, for those keeping score, was Chris Jones’ question to the Yes side of the referendum, which was something along the lines of: “Do you not agree that the alternative of catastrophic insurance coverage is better than your unsustainable, unaffordable, and unnecessary health plan?” Naturally, it was dodged.

Overall, I must agree with the prevalent sentiments that this year’s campaigns turned out to be terribly mediocre and didn’t live up to the expectations of the original candidates’ announcement – which, given fiascos like Johnson’s late entry in the VPA race, was already not that high a bar. But on Wednesday and Thursday, you still have a chance to draw something good from the experience and, metaphorically speaking, save Christmas. How? Vote Hirji.

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Winners and hosers

Thursday, 3 March 2005 — 10:14pm | Scrabble, Studentpolitik

As of this morning, it’s official: the formerly biennial National Scrabble Championship will now be held every year, effective immediately. This year, it’s being held in Reno, Nevada on 19-24 August; the main event has been shortened back to 28 games (New Orleans had 30), with a televised Division 1 final presumably subject to all the same ESPN regulations as usual. If I were to enter, I would be facing a similar field of competition as last year due to minimal fluctuation in my rating (albeit a slight recovery), though I wonder what turnout will be like on such relatively short notice.

15 March is going to be a very expensive day. Coming to the Nintendo DS is Yoshi’s Touch & Go, an intriguing side-scroller played entirely with the stylus. Then there’s Donkey Kong Jungle Beat for the GameCube, an even more intriguing side-scroller played entirely with a pair of bongo drums. Coming to DVD are The Incredibles and Series V and VI of Red Dwarf. Although many rightly consider the third and fourth seasons to be the pinnacle of the series, these seasons are not without their classic, must-have episodes; “Gunmen of the Apocalypse” in particular remains one of my favourites. After he left the show, Rob Grant worked a lot of the material in “Gunmen” into Backwards, singularly the best and most readable of the four spinoff novels – and that’s coming from someone on record as, on principle, one who dislikes spinoff novels. When it comes to the likes of Star Wars, “dislike” may even be a tad kind… but that’s a discussion for another day.

In general, all last-ditch campaigns to save cancelled television shows are futile experiments that would get ignored if they were ever noticed in the first place. I must say, though, that Enterprise fans are putting up an admirable fight; when they offer private donations in the million range, you know they’re serious.

I have yet to attend a single election forum, but Chris Samuel harnessed the power of wireless networking to deliver a live report from SUB Stage earlier today. On another note, next year’s candidates already have a hard act to follow: I find it hardly conceivable that someone could possibly run a joke campaign lamer than the pathetic showing put on by Spanky the Wonder Elf.

Finally, while I am reluctant to post endorsements until after the Myer Horowitz, consider me a decided voter. This is going to be a close race in statistics only; as early as it seems, I feel sufficiently informed to make a clear and possibly unwavering choice in every race. Stay tuned for the rationale; in the meantime, rest assured that posters were not the sole consideration.

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