Every time they touch, the taxpayer burden is honestly too much

This throwaway Colby Cosh joke reminded me of a little something: when sleazy slum property owner Stephen Mandel left office as Edmonton's mayor, he also left behind the multi-million dollar new arena, a cool new facility for Daryl Katz's Edmonton Oilers to play in without having to do any of that obnoxious capital investment that other hugely successful companies would tend to have to do. That Mandel's little arena deal also meant great news for property developers and speculators (like longtime heavy Mandel financier Terry Paranych) isn't at all a sign that he's beholden to interests willing to use government power to exert control the free market wouldn't give them.

Now Mandel is sadly back in public life as the unelected Health Minister in the new Prentice cabinet, and as thin-skinned and unwilling to speak with opponents as ever. What does this put him in charge of? If you guessed the industry that would be a customer to the pharmaceuticals which are the primary business of one Daryl Katz.

At least there's a good chance that Alberta will be getting new hospitals, even though there's even money that half the space of each will wind up dedicated to free floor space for a Rexall Pharmacy or two...


What books do you own but never read?

The Federalist, as part of its killer series taking down Neil deGrasse Tyson, has mentioned several books Tyson claims to have read yet didn't seem to know (or understand) what was in them. This led to this top ten list of books people claim to read but don't. Oddly, no books from Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, or Hillary Clinton made it on the list.

So in the interests of full disclosure, here is my breakdown of this list:

Have read: Les Miserables (translated, though I do own a French language copy to show off on my bookshelf), 1984 (numerous times, which I once alluded to), The Art of War, and The Prince (plus listened to the excellent BBC audio book).

Haven't read: Atlas Shrugged (I have read The Fountainhead, and that was painful enough to get through), The Origin of Species, A Tale Of Two Cities (I got about halfway through this one, but compared to A Christmas Carol it's not nearly as fun to read),  Democracy in America (I have read some of the Federalist Papers and all of the United States Constitution though), The Wealth of Nations (I've skimmed through some of it, I do own a copy), Moby Dick (again, I own a copy and read a few chapters but yet to finish), and not surprisingly Ulysses.

What other books are there that people own but haven't read? I haven't finished reading the entire Iliad yet, I do it in chunks, and Martok is bad for buying reams of books because they look good on his bookshelf without actually cracking them (lots of Chomsky, Capital in the 21st Century, Peddling Prosperity, The Skeptical Environmentalist, etc.)

Feel free to add yours in the comments. Anonymously, of course.


What a Halloween prank about flatscreen TVs tells us about the flaws in women

Apparently over the last few days another round of postings has been made about this LG viral ad campaign video from 2012:

In case you can't view it, they setup the elevator floor with monitors, then make a rumbling and the video "cuts away" to look like the floor is collapsing. Besides the obvious fact that you wouldn't need particularly good picture quality to believe, for the couple seconds required, that the floor was giving 'way (indeed, many of the YouTube clips are being posted at 240 resolution!), what caught my eye was that chicks aren't good at self-preservation.

First let's look at Guy 1: the floor starts "giving way" top to bottom (all directions will be from the perspective of we the viewer unless otherwise noted), and he immediately steps downwards away from the falling tiles. It isn't a quarter second before he realizes it's fake and stops moving.

Guys 2 and 3 are in the elevator together: Guy 2 at the top right has his tiles fall before he even looks down, he backs up against the wall for support while Guy 3 at the bottom leaps back to the remaining "good" tiles. Since Guy 2 isn't falling, they both clue in quickly that it's a prank.

Guys 4,5,6 are all in the elevator together: again, Guy 4 at the top should be falling by the time they notice the floor, so no real reaction is possible here. Guy 4 jumps up a little bit. They really shouldn't have even bothered including this run on the ad, it really didn't push the illusion that they fooled anybody. In fact, this is a great demonstration of how the illusion was too fast...even if you bought the scenario it's hard to be convinced you're in danger while your buddy is standing there on thin air.

Guy 7 does really well: he looks down to see the tiles falling in an upper left to lower right progression, and immediately jumps back to the "safe" tiles behind him.

Guy 8 and 9 are together: 8 in the upper right sees his tile fall away, and leaps to a safer tile behind him and hugs the wall. Guy 9, like Guy 7, immediately leaps back against the tiles last to fall. I like that all of the men in this video were heroes in what J. Michael Straczynski calls the "Heinleinian tradition": sure I'm about to fall dozens of stories, but by standing here I gain precious milliseconds I can use to figure out a way out of this situation. Keep that in mind, the contrasts are about to be striking.

Now we come to the ladies. Chick 1 sees the tiles falling starting in the upper left. She's standing on a tile yet to fall, yet jumps to her right to leap onto a tile that's already falling! As she watches tiles fall away, she continues to run away from the yet-to-fall tiles.

Chick 2, like Chick 1, leaps to the upper right tile as she's watching the tiles fall from upper-left to lower-right. In fact, she's so close to as bad at this as Chick 1 I had to re-watch to confirm they were in fact different girls. (Chick 1 is hotter).

This covers so many things, from why women are homo acerbia to why men are so predominantly the authors and subjects in heroic drama. It's right there in the TV ad campaign, folks. We're just better at it.


No matter how many parades you hold, your lifestyle is still illegitimate

Wasn't the Uranist Pride Parade back in June?
And I don't see anything about a beer gardens for some reason.

(Yes, this is an old joke. And I love it)

Costco Canada rejects American Express

Costco Liquor (and, I suppose to be technical, the rest of the store too) is going to be discontinuing its relationship with American Express:

Costco Wholesale Corp said it will stop accepting American Express Co cards in Canada from next year as it will not be renewing its credit card relationship, which expires on Dec. 31.

“Costco warehouses and gas stations in the United States will continue to accept American Express Cards after Jan. 1, 2015, with the exception of TrueEarnings and American Express Platinum Cash Rebate cards issued in Canada,” Costco said in an email to customers.
Isn't that a bit surprising? For years, any occasional trip I make to Sherwood Park have featured a stop in at good ol' Costco Liquor, and I've finally trained my brain to remember two things:
  1. Don't buy Kirkland Bourbon
  2. Remember that they only take American Express
What will Costco take? They have yet to let us in on that little secret. Meanwhile, American Express loses support of a major retailer, which probably isn't good seeing how American Express is only used in about 6 locations around the globe (I remember when I got my AmEx card the sadness to realize I could only order from Pizza Hut, Pizza 73 didn't take them...they probably still don't).

I'm also really really hoping that I don't lose that other mental note to self while I'm in the store. Kirkland Bourbon really is fucking horrible.

Is Stéphanie Beaudoin the "world's hottest criminal"?

21-year old Victoriaville, Queerbec native Stéphanie Beaudoin is in a bit of legal trouble.

Meet the bikini-clad 'crook' who's been described as being every bit as hot as the goods she's accused of stealing from people's homes.

Stephanie Beaudoin has been dubbed the "hottest alleged thief on the planet" after a sultry snap of her posing in a black bikini emerged on social media.

Beaudoin, from Quebec, Canada, originally hit the headlines after she was charged with 108 offences relating to 42 alleged burglaries over the summer.

Six additional counts of breaking and entering and receiving stolen goods were added when she appeared in court in Victoriaville on Monday.

According to news website Surete du Quebec, the counts include gun charges.

Beaudoin, 21, is said to have broken into homes in Arthabaska and Maple through back doors or basement windows, carrying out the burglaries with three teenagers.

However, the nursing student is attracting plenty of attention online - mainly from admirers who are enamoured with the image of her in swimwear.
SUN Media is catching some flack for their poll on the topic:
Meanwhile, which pic are we talking about?
This one. more pictures are available at Elite Daily.

Meanwhile, everybody getting so excited about this girl being "the world's hottest criminal" has apparently forgotten both Casey Anthony, Lorena Tavera, Jennifer Jensen, Alexis Neiers, Elle Evans, Tori Black, and...of course.... Anna Chapman.

Bonus link: Fellow Canoe.ca content member tvanouvelles.ca shows a picture of Beaudoin looking like she's been beaten by the ugly stick of justice

Rob Ford's cancer diagnosis is doubly dangerous

More information has come to light this week on the surprise depature from the Toronto mayoralty race from Rob Ford: he has been diagnosed with liposarcoma, which naturally far-left Democratic Underground has characterized as "cancer of the fat".

The prognosis is about 40 days of intensive radiation therapy, similar (but with less of a success rate compared) to the treatment millions of men have received for their prostate cancer. Almost every news article published on the topic are making it clear that this is far from a death sentence. Olivia Chow isn't about to watch another man in her life slowly fall apart during an election campaign. However, the 5-year survival rate for this cancer is about 65% (though the sigma is huge, varying wildly at which stage the cancer is discovered). The figure for prostate cancer is closer to 94%.

Nobody can say whether or not Rob Ford looks at this as a terminal illness, though, which brings me to my next major point: we're looking at a guy here who has been known to abuse drugs and is looking at a serious health issue with no guarantee of success and a potential for unpleasant treatment.

Nevertheless, for those who are diagnosed with cancer or other major medical conditions, the future can seem terrifying.

This fear about the future may be responsible for the increased risk of suicide that tragically occurs in the first week after the diagnosis of cancer. Depression or demoralization may also emerge later, particularly when there is pain or other physical symptoms. Whole-person care means treating these symptoms as vigorously as the disease itself.
It has yet to be seen if Rob Ford will pull through his cancer treatments. However, just as critically, Ford Nation needs to make sure that he pulls through long enough to receive them.


Lessons from 1995: Scotland's oil doesn't make it more like Alberta

Well, the infamous Scottish referendum is in the books, and the BBC reports no results yet (though "No" is winning with 54% in their pseudo exit polling)

Voting closed at 3pm Edmonton time, so it's officially too late for me (apart from a Tweet or two) to tell Scotland how they should have voted. It's over, it's done, there's nothing left but the crying.

Well, here it is Scotland: the choice you should have made and why, and apologies for those of you who chose wrong.

It's important to note that a couple of high profile Scotsmen did decide to pass on their referendum views over the past 24 hours: Andy Murray and Groundskeeper Willie. The Simpsons video is slightly sad for the primary fact that it encapsulates the "Yes" side's lunacy in a nutshell but seems unaware that it's doing so. (The Daily Mail calls it a "satirical clip" but I don't think it was intended as such at all). Willie is proud of a "Yes" vote for a Scotland "free of English shackles" but seems unaware of the elementary fact that Scotland pays far less into its union than they get back, and the only way the math works out is by wholly unrealistic ideas of how much oil the Brits will let them keep (and how much they have).

Andy Murray, on the other hand, seems only to support "Yes" because the "No" side were a bunch of meanies.

Come to think of it, many of the prominant "Yes" voices sure do provide a solid reason to vote "No" don't they? Let's temporarily forget the silly Braveheart-inspired reasons to vote Yes and look at two of the famous voices pronouncing it. Sean Connery has been campaigning from afar, and cannot vote on the referendum today. In fact, the old blowhard can't even visit the country to rally the troops!

Neil Connery told the Edinburgh Evening News: “There’s only a certain amount of days Sean can be in the country for tax reasons, so I know that he intends to use them wisely."
Re-read that bit above. Go ahead, I'll wait. Okay, you're back? Good. Did you notice the conflagration of "Yes" ideals in that single quote? Sean Connery doesn't live in Scotland, mostly because the taxes are so high. Yes, those same taxes that as per above aren't even high enough to maintain the bloated welfare state in Scotland are already enough to drive one of Scotland's medium-rich persons to the clutches of another nation. Just imagine how many more like Connery, with presumably even less emotional attachment to an Independent Scotland, will be anxious to leave as taxes climb higher to keep the poor voters happily electing a Salmond government. Then, add in the bigger caveat: apparently Connery has better things to do and doesn't want to burn up his precious Scotland tax-evading time promoting the "Yes" vote that he's apparently been a pusher for most of his adult life. What does that tell you about the "Yes" side? Among other issues, it's that ultimately economic reality catches up to even the most fervant Scottish Independence supporter.

Another famed "Yes" supporter is noted faggot Alan Cumming. Unlike Connery, Cumming at least could be bothered to pop into the country. Also unlike Connery, Cumming goes into more specific political claims of the "Yes" side (and unsurprisingly gets it horribly wrong):
"I've always voted Labour in the elections I have voted in in this country, that's because I believe in a good health service, a great education, and that should all be free," he continued. "Those things are under huge threat, as we all know."
"I believe if we don't vote Yes we're going to see a huge change in the amount of money Scotland's going to be given by the Westminster government," he said. "I really don't believe they're going to say 'vote No and we'll reward you' because all they have done is threaten and bully us up till now."
Obviously the second quote is just a bunch of pointless fearmongering, though maybe he's convinced that David Cameron will treat Scotland in the same manner he treated Hilary Lyon. Classic transference. The first quote, of course, is the money shot (stop masturbating, Alan, that isn't the context I meant). "I believe that everything should be free" is ignoring the harsh economic reality that it cannot (nor should not!) be free. Somebody is going to have to pay for that "good health service" and that "great education". Who is going to pay? The answer is, the newly minted scottish people: and oh Lord are they going to be paying a lot. As noted earlier, taxes are due to skyrocket, level of service is going to diminish, and that doesn't even factor in devaluation of currency or general economic malaise which would reduce income from even ever-higher taxation rates. If there's a good news story in there, it's that Cumming won't have to worry about paying: he and his fellow pillow biter don't live in Scotland either! It's amazing, always, how generous liberals are with other people's money. Meanwhile, Scottish voters scared of how David Cameron's slightest amount of economies are "threatening" public services may want to keep an eye on the massive overhaul that the Scottish welfare state would need to undergo to remain even slightly solvent in the wake of a "Yes" vote...not to mention pensions, or the share of the UK national debt an Independent Scotland would end up taking over. (Unsurprisingly, the "Yes" side has a bunch of unrealistic numbers they're pushing as the answer)

When looking at all of these issues, and how they are basically being airbrushed over by the "Yes" side, we come to the parallel that longtime Canadian Third Edge of the Sword readers will have surely spotted by now: the 1995 Queerbec referendum where they (narrowly) voted not to separate. Just like in Scotland, a peoples who defined themselves by being defeated by the English demanded to be separated from the country that was paying its freight. The parallels aren't perfect, of course: Scotland (generally) speaks the same language as their English "oppressors" [though, rapidly, the same language they are speaking is Pashto! -ed], and Scotland has oil. Other than that though, it's freaky-deaky how many parallels you can find.

Queerbec Referendum: "Yes, you'll be able to keep your Canadian passports" (even though that would have to be negotiated with a host country that would be bitter, angry, and no longer incentivized to make concessions)
Scottish Referendum: Yep

Queerbec Referendum: "We'll keep the Canadian dollar" (technically Canada can't stop another country from using our money, but the Bank of Canada can play around on its monetary policy levers as much as it likes, even if it means starving every Frog in the province to death.
Scottish Referendum: Well what do we have here?

Queerbec Referendum: No no, the English lie, we pay into them!. (Hint: the Frogs are the ones who are lying)
Scottish Referendum: Totally different. These are Scottish people making this ludicrous claims

Queerbec Referendum: After a "Yes" vote we'll still be part of all the international agreements we were in before, from NAFTA to NATO to the United Nations. (sidebar: if you opposed such organizations, you were told that Quebec would proudly get to renegotiate them to have better terms, which compared with the first statement makes no sense whatsoever).
Scottish Referendum: Well, even Queerbec wouldn't have contemplated joining the European Union

Queerbec Referendum: Separate from Ottawa, we're all going to be rich! (Meanwhile, corporations run for the hills)
Scottish Referendum: Separate from London, we're all going to be rich! (Meanwhile, corporations run for the hills)

Queerbec Referendum: Forget the economic issues, this is all about IDENTITY IDENTITY IDENTITY!
Scottish Referendum: Just re-read the article linked to above.

So all in all, there are a lot of parallels (none of them particularly good for the "Yes" side) between Queerbec and Scotland. The general theme for both separatists movements, of course, is delusion. Quebecers actually think they pay into equalization. Scots actually believe that the Bank of England will be forced to make monetary policy to the benefit of citizens of another country which don't elect any of the politicians that the Bank of England is beholden to. Both wave the "culture" flag loud and hard, trying to elevate the heart over the head (the formulation used by the sovereigntistes).

Will England be negatively impacted by a Scottish "Yes"? Probably, at least at first: unlike what would have happened after the 1995 referendum it's very possible that the short term economic impacts on England are mild, and that the longer-term prospects are mild in the other way. Canada would have been more likely to be in a position of "wild swings": the economic costs and uncertainty would have been worse with a larger percentage of the population disappearing. Once realistic Queerbec debt evaluations were performed, however, and Canada found itself not siphoning equalization payments into a giant pit the economic fortunes of the two countries would have diverged wildly. Like Alberta (and Newfoundland) Scotland at least has oil while Queerbec has...maple trees? Just imagine how insane the early-2000s Alberta boom would have been without equalization payments, or with Ottawa having lower unfunded CPP liabilities (Queerbec is older than average). Unshackled of the burdens of supplying social services, two official languages, and full control over her own immigration policies, the federal government could have heralded over a new era of prosperity, while Queerbec floated ever further into backwater territory.

In England the situation isn't as clear: the Brits don't have the economic storm to weather as much, but they will lose a large chunk of the North Sea oil reserves. The bigger risk to the United Kingdom is loss of prestige: this is the sad last little wisps of the great BRITISH EMPIRE, a worldwide force so dominant clever bloggers treat it like names in Star Wars title crawls. American politicians still agonize over who "lost Vietnam" or "lost China", it remains to be seen if the stigma of "losing Scotland" similarly impacts David Cameron's Tories and/or Gordon Brown's Labour. Brown has recently dominated headlines as the fevered voice of "No": the voice that fellow Labour politician Alistair Darling was supposed to be, but spectacularly fell short on. Labour certainly seized the chance to be the defender of Britain that a weakling like Cameron couldn't have -- and seeing how the Scots are mired in far-left politics, it makes sense. Jean Charest, not Preston Manning, was the voice for "No" in 1995. Of course, Manning (or Harper?) could have had the more forceful addresses in the Brown style. What's French for Alistair Darling? Jean Charest. Regardless, despite the personal popularity of Queen Elizabeth II in Scotland, the major UK parties seem to have dropped the ball. (Her Majesty has chimed in.) Part of the problem is that they don't know how to frame the issue. As Mark Steyn wrote:
The colonial oppressors in London appear to have been caught on the hop by what started emerging in the polls a couple of weeks back, and their response has been feeble. You can't beat something big with something small. An appeal to identity is primal. In response, the Westminster side has attempted to sell the UK as an administrative convenience. The "Yes" side cries: "Scots wa'hey! A nation reborn!" The "No" side rolls its eyes and sighs: "You hayseeds have no idea of how fiendishly complicated it's all going to be once you've stopped tossing your celebratory cabers and reeling your Independence Day Gay Gordons."
It would also be emblematic of Cameron's characteristically self-defeating cynicism. He will well deserve to be the first Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Whatever's Left. The United Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland is a bit of a lumpy name. The United Kingdom of Southern Britain and Northern Ireland? Maybe a few years hence the Scots and Irish can form the mirror state of the People's Republic of Southern Ireland and Northern Britain. Or maybe secession will prove contagious. London and the South-East might find it prudent to secede from the dependistans of Wales, Ulster and Northern England, and relaunch themselves as the Singapore of Europe. Indeed, it's not clear whether what remains would be entitled to call itself a "united kingdom". At its height, the UK was a union of three kingdoms - England, Scotland and Ireland - and with one-and-a-half of them gone what's left would be a union of a kingdom, a principality and a province, and, if there's a catchy name for that, they're keeping it under wraps.

Whatever happens, the result, as in Quebec, seems likely to be close enough that even a "defeat" for Mr Salmond would keep the issue in play as a permanent and destabilizing feature of British politics, especially if a majority of young Scots vote "yes". Mr Cameron would deserve to be reviled as the man who broke the Union: He had a much easier hand to play than Lloyd George did in 1922, and he bungled it.
The Steyn point about keeping separatism "in play" is worth noting. Scots may be unaware of this, but the 1995 referendum was the second one: there was one in 1980 as well. There was talk of another referendum in the mid-2000s and another again just a couple years ago. Like sodomite marriage or closing the Edmonton airport, "Yes" just keeps trying until they win, and only then do they declare that "the issue has been settled". Until then, "Yes" is always uniquely pushed as "the way to settle this once and for all". So even if you are opposed to an Independent Scotland, ask yourself how you can stop it. Sadly, the excellent reasons for voting "No" above may come into play again later. I'm afraid on this one I don't have an easy answer for you.

What could have worked, perhaps better than nothing, is avoiding the same problem that was faced when the issue was poofter weddings, or murdering babies, or cowards closing airports: speak out early, speak out loud, and use the same weapons of identity on your side that your opponents do. Enter, naturally, the UKIP. The UKIP's Bryan A. J. Parry issued a tepid support for the "Yes" side that wasn't endorsed by the actual party. Would a strong UKIP statement in support of a British identity been a better foil for the SNP's pro-Scottish promotions? Possibly, sure: Jean Charest was offering a very very watered down and wishy-washy Canadianism, but it was at least an identity. What's the "British" identity now? Football and chippy shacks as both England and Scotland slowly coast into a socialist malaise, and the Muslims slowly turn the physical landscape into their own, a land nobody would recognize? Replace football with hockey, chippy shacks with beer, and Muslim hoards into actual Southeast Asians (not the kind that Fleet Street refers to)...yep, you got it: you're looking at the Chretien/Charest/Trudeau vision of "Canada": a cultural nullity that excites nobody. Could a UKIP be instrumental in forcing a British identity onto both English and Scottish residents, allowing them common ground and a reason to vote No? If No wins, it will be barely, so the lesson here would be ready for the next referendum.

If you want another parallel between Queerbec and Scotland, consider this...here's Steyn again:
None of this will happen in Scotland or Wales tomorrow. But one day an unpopular Government in London will provoke the election of a hostile legislature in Cardiff or Edinburgh, determined to exercise its powers to the limit and shrewd enough to use its toytown parliament as a launchpad towards the real thing.

In my native Canada, Quebec City is home to a provincial legislature, but it is known as the National Assembly; they refuse to let the Lieutenant-Governor, the Queen's representative, read the speech at the Opening of the Assembly. It's not hard to imagine similar slights from a Scottish Parliament: most of those elected will be openly contemptuous or at best boorishly indifferent to their Sovereign. If you provide structures that enable a region to pretend to be a nation state, eventually it starts to become one. Thus, Quebec now has its own immigration policy: if you are a British subject and you wish to emigrate to Montreal, the Federal Government in Ottawa will have no say in the matter.
It also works as a parallel between the Red Indian and the Canadian government. As an aside, this is another Scottish parallel that (for now!) isn't applicable: further ethnic sub-partition within the newly independent country. But back to the imitation governments, Canada has experimented with giving Red Indian tribes (towns) "self-government" with little to no benefit. Just like Scotland with the UK on steroids, there are now demands for inquiries into why girls who become hookers meet with bad ends, and endless complaints for more money.

This cynical bit of realism ties into the final note about Scottish Independence: I mentioned earlier that if Scotland votes yes today, they're looking at negotiations with a British peoples who may be more than a little unhappy about their rejection. There's long been a "don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out" attitude here in Alberta (with this blog being a fervent champion of it) with respect to the Endless Separating Frog Show, and such an attitude was widely considered to spread, like with any jilted lover, across the "we are your bestest friends forever" crowd in the Rest of Canada. Has there been such an outcry in England to cause such an outpouring of sympathy/support/revulsion?

The answer to that question, more than anything, may determine Scotland's future over the next 25 years more than the referendum.


Only Auric can afford to stay at the hotel from Goldfinger

So, are you thinking about a trip to Miami Beach? Well, I wasn't really, but the movie Goldfinger was on a few days ago, and of course we all remember the iconic scenes where Bond slaps a massage girl on the ass to get her away from the "man talk", where Bond meets the beautiful Jill Masterson and uses her radio to force our villainous Auric Goldfinger to lose at gin rummy, and also where he beds her only to have Oddjob murder her and coat her in gold paint (a death which, though believed to be true at the time, can't actually happen).

Those scenes happen at a beautiful beachside hotel with nicely curved lines and outdoor pools right by the ocean. A little Google Mapping and I found it: the Fontainebleau Miami Beach on Collins Avenue, a sprawling 1504 room resort that features 12 restaurants and bars and was also featured in Sinatra's 1959 flick "A Hole in the Head". So I asked myself, if I was going to Miami Beach wouldn't I want to do it in style? Bond-style?

Just for fun, let's say that I wanted to stay there off the peak season, perhaps in late April? That's also far enough into the future that you don't start paying the "coming up soon" premium rates. So from April 20th to April 25th (during the week), you pay...

$509.17/night for the "deluxe" room. (I'm not falling for that one again!)
$542.45/night for the ocean view room.
$564.63/night for the deluxe room with a balcony.
$731.03/night for the junior suite with a bay view.

Junior suite? How much for a senior?

Oh, and wait, there's more:
A Hotel Fee of $19.95 per day, per room (inclusive of tax) will apply to your booking. This fee includes: unlimited wired and wireless internet access in guestrooms and at the pools; Gym access and beach chairs for all registered guests in party; local dialing and toll-free calls; and newspaper daily.
Yikes, maybe next time I go to Miami Beach, I'll settle for Jason Bourne luxury rather than the James Bond kind. And don't even think about multiplying those room rates (plus hotel fee!) by 1,504 to see what their daily income could look like. Trust me, you don't feel well after looking at it.

And the James Bond massage? Costs extra, and you don't even get to spank her on the keister.


iPhone 6: It's like a Samsung Galaxy Tab, only less useful.

Tragic news for Apple nerds: iPhone 6 has only minor speed improvements over an iPhone 5.

Keep shelling out a grand, folks!

Why #AmINext isn't going anywhere (and why that's their fault)

The woman behind #AmINext thinks the campaign has staying power.
A woman spearheading a social media campaign about missing and murdered aboriginal women says she isn't worried about the initiative fading from the public consciousness like other online campaigns have done in the past.

Holly Jarrett said the campaign, in which people are asked to take a photo of themselves holding a sign that reads, "#AmINext," seeks to open up a national discussion on the issue of aboriginal women who have disappeared or been murdered.
In fairness, as anybody who noticed my #AmINext Quiz last week could attest to, it certainly will have staying power: Indians are still marrying amongst each other and still turning to turning tricks for gas sniffing money. Yes, your campaign has staying power!

Out in the real world the campaign already has no staying power. We all remember the last hashtag campaign the Red Indian started: I started #IdleNoMore off with a joke, and the best part is that the joke keeps paying divends!

Both #IdleNoMore and #AmINext try to pretend that either we don't know the cause of the social strife afflicting the Red Indian. In the case of #IdleNoMore, it's dependence on government handouts and a culture that is inherently lazy and incapable of rousing its citizens into being productive, combined with a genetic predisposition to addiction and false mythology of history given off by the usual suspects. In the case of #AmINext, it's the violent predisposition of Indians (whether cultural, societal, or genetic doesn't really matter) combined with the promises of quick riches and attention that prostitution offers women who are poor and, let's be perfectly frank about this, typically as ugly as sin.

It's certainly not politically popular to just come up with the solution like this. Undoubtedly, if you're trying to pretend that your sad little tribe is a "First Nations" (despite the fact that your nation can't raise a dime on its own and requires metric shit-tons of money from another, more successful country), and you're trying to maintain support from your own narrow-minded ethnic brethern, it's not a particularly successful strategy. You're trying to sell snake oil here, not actual solutions. As with all "social justice" campaigns, #AmINext is predicated on perpetuating the injustice versus foolishly solving it. Crying for a national inquiry (again, paid for by the country made powerful and successful when your people were moved to the sidelines and productive classes were allowed to flourish) is a good distraction, an excellent way to let everybody know that it isn't your fault what's going on (and certainly isn't theirs!), and that this plan of yours will magically solve the problem that you haven't given two licks to try and solve yourself. It keeps your fat paycheques rolling in courtesy of the Canadian taxpayer and gives you "national clout" and all that other nonsense. [as an aside, this 'national' clout again seems to be in a 'nation' that they claim they aren't part of and occasionally claim doesn't even exist. -ed]

It doesn't solve the problem, of course. As noted above, #AmINext has staying power because as long as the likes of Holly Jarrett get their way, you're going to find squaw hookers and violent Indian gangsters murdering their wives and sisters.

"All I ever wanted was a world without maps "

With the hilarious news this week that President Monkey has a "senior aide" who feels confident enough to tell the world what to do vis-à-vis the Middle East despite not knowing Syria and Saudi Arabia don't share a border, I thought I'd help the White House out and give them a primer borrowed from Canada's famous NATO quip to Russia.

So here is a handy guide for any US Government Presidential aides wandering past Third Edge of the Sword before a big press briefing and unsure what the Middle East looks like.


"Yeah it stings now / The world is so cold / Now that you've gone away"

Well, sad news out of T-dot today as Rob Ford has dropped out of the mayoral race to instead run in Etobicoke Ward 2, which will be tough because there won't be a single American talk show host capable of correctly pronouncing the word "Etobicoke". [fun fact, the boss here doesn't pronounce it properly either. Come to think of it, I don't think he also mispronounces the word "pronounce" -ed.

Wait, I hear you asking, isn't there already a Ford running for councilor in Etobicoke Ward 2? Well, there was: Ford nephew Michael is now running for school trustee in Etobicoke Ward 1 (and no, I don't understand why school trustee means he's switching wards). And just in case you think the Ford bouncy-ball game was confusing enough as it was, there will still be a Ford brother running for mayor: just Rob's brother Doug is running in his stead. Ford Nation started this week off with two Fords running for public office, and it finishes the week off with two Fords running as well.

Still, you gotta figure that FordNation is reeling a bit from this one. The way I see it, there's a two-fold problem. The first problem is that strictly speaking, Doug is more electable than Rob. Doug Ford doesn't come with the huge degree of personal difficulties that plague Rob Ford, from the substance abuse to the treatment of the press. Doug's platform, such as it will be, will be a little less crazy than Rob Ford's would be: after all, Doug is less crazy than Rob. The second problem, paradoxically enough, is that the whole reason for voting for Rob Ford in the 2014 Toronto mayoral race was purely to be a giant "fuck you" to the Toronto Red Star, southern Ontario sodomites, Robyn Doolittle, the left-wing media in general, and the forces of political correctness that determined Ford was guilty long before they had anything to find him guilty of. Re-electing Rob Ford was going to be great, it was going to signal another three years of the media circus around the Centre of the Universe, and give us hope that the plagues on Alberta (Queen Nenshi and Cowardly Don Iveson) could be expunged. We just needed our own Rob Ford to ride to the rescue, and his re-election would have made that ever more likely.

Instead, Doug Ford is there. It's no fun to vote for Doug Ford! Sure sure, it's the same family, extension of the race yadda yadda yadda. Rob Ford being out just takes all the fun out of the race, and as a result I'm forced to do what I didn't think I was going to have to do: remove my endorsement of Ford for Mayor.

It's all summarized, basically, in this image:

Rob was just fun, he was the jovial partying train wreck that may not have been the hero Goth--er, I mean, Toronto needed, but he was definitely the hero they deserved. Rob Ford, Etobicoke Councilor (and make no doubt, he's a huge favourite to win that race), just doesn't have the same ring to it. It won't excite Jimmy Kimmel, it won't be the butt of jokes on Conan O'Brien, and it won't piss the living shit out of Jon Stewart. In other words, even if Doug wins as mayor and Rob wins as councilor, it just won't be the same. It won't be fun. And if you don't want the mayor of Toronto to be fun, if you don't want Rob Ford constantly pissing off liberals in the job, you might as well settle for a less-snortworthy candidate in John Tory.

John Tory is not Olivia Layton.

I don't know what more I can say to endorse him than that. Indeed, there isn't much there to endorse him for. His transit plan is at best charitably characterized as less completely insane than his opponents...er, opponent. He's still got some wacko tree planting scheme. He plans on spending tax dollars on the same sort of people who hounded Rob Ford and masturbate nightly with dreams of Olivia Layton as mayor. He's also, if you haven't gotten the memo already, incredibly, inconceivably, unacceptably boring.

But, and say it with me everybody: John Tory is not Olivia Layton.

Rob Ford, like it or not, is gone. We'll never get to know if he did pull off the miraculous win: we do know that the two most disastrous things the Chow campaign has done so far has been hiring Catsmeat Kinsella, and firing Catsmeat Kinsella. We will never get to see the look on her face when, judging by recent polling numbers, she would have had to watch Rob Ford beat her (and, possibly, be crowned mayor) while she sulked away to her subsidized housing to have a good ol' cry. We'll never get the chance to, a week after Ford won the mayor's race, "accidentally" bump into Doolittle in the street and laugh at her and tell her how she lost. Doug Ford may well be mayor, but what's the point? We'll never get the chance to gloat, only play what-if and also know that Rob Ford's biggest haters won't have him around to kick anymore (which, judging by the left's reaction to Nixon, means they'll stop being a sputtering incoherent mess on the topic somewhere around 2093).

If all you get is a mayor who isn't Olivia Chow, you might as well just vote for John Tory. Get well soon, Rob.


How's @ukprogressive's 'progressive' Egypt coming along?

Despite the dangers, Reuters tells us, Steven Sotloff was going to tell us the real story about the Arab Spring. We saw last week, of course, how the story ended up: with Sotloff hiding his Israeli citizenship yet still being beheaded for his troubles. In fact, let's take a peek at one of Sotloff's final dispatches:

Coups depicted as revolutions, peaceful protesters painted as fanatics and disgruntled citizens hailed as revolutionaries," he wrote in World Affairs in July 2013, "have transformed Egypt into a circus where the main attraction is the uncertainty of heading into the unknown."
Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch says one of the witnesses of a mass killing slaughter has been arrested and beaten.

It's a good time, as always, to check in on that "facebook revolution" that British Coward Denis Campbell was so keen on a couple three years ago.
Democracy is messy.

Freedom is contagious.

For 18 days in January and February, the world sat on the edge of its seats watching an Egyptian people yearning to breathe free. The overthrow of Hosni Mubarak by a plucky band of pro-democracy youths remains a great story and the signature moment of 2011’s Arab spring.

Listening to pundits today though, you might be forgiven for thinking it never happened. As we watch the evening news and talk shows, ruthless dictators in Syria and Libya attack their people with impunity. On the basis of protests and internal squabbles, they are quick to proclaim Egypt’s revolutionary gains on the brink of collapse and point to an intransigent military clinging to wealth and power as their ‘proof.’

And yet this week the world saw the resumption of the remarkable trial of former President Hosni Mubarak for deaths caused by his orders during the uprising and his sons Gamal and Alaa were in the dock for massive corruption, looting the country of billions.
I don't think I'll ever get tired of reading this. How long will Mubarak serve in the clink? Well, he isn't scheduled to be released until...wait, nevermind...he only spent a couple years in jail before being released in August 2013. He's being "held" in the military hospital as of this January, but that's more for his medical treatment. His sons each got four years in jail after having to repay $17 million out of the "billions" they "massively" looted the country. Oops.

Democracy is messy, we'll grant Dennis-the-Coward that much: Egypt elected Mohammed Morsi in 2012, the first ever democratically elected leader. Morsi is...now in jail being tried for murder and espionage (ahhh, that ol' canard). He got a little to chummy with our good friends the Muslim Brotherhood, you see, and as a result there was a "contagiously free" military coup in 2013 after mass protests. Now, Abdel el-Sisi runs the show in Egypt with help from Adly Mansour, the chief justice of the supreme court who was President after the military coup. Following his big win this year, he's now chumming up to our old pal Vladamir Putin. It leads into what Jonathan Cohen & Haim Koren call "nothing new under the sun". The names change, but the dirty way of running the Middle East haven't budged.
Remember the moment when all hope looked lost during that third week. Parents urged the youths to stop now, they had achieved their goals, the government was changing, a new cabinet was meeting. The pro-deomcracy youth though knew that if they quit, they would be hunted down and killed. It was that moment in every great film where hope faded and things look their darkest before the dawn.

Remember the massive chain of humanity in Tahrir and Suez, Ismalia and Alexandria locking arms and stretching into the sea outside of an empty Presidential Palace on that final day.
And finally, remember the sheer joy and celebration on the faces of everyone that night when they realised they had survived it all.
They haven't survived it yet. If they keep listening to progressive nutters, they may never. More critically, perhaps, progressives aren't going to like the world that Egypt will be living in soon. As Mark Steyn noted once, all us right wingers have to do is grow a beard and get an extra couple wives. Campbell's ilk won't be so lucky.

Meanwhile, how will we define "winning" in Syria? Easy: a world where Steven Sotloff gets to keep his head.

Your revolution is turning ugly, Denis.



I tweeted this one earlier, but if you're an Indian woman and you are wondering if you're the next one who is going to be murdered or go missing, there's an easy little test you can perform.

1. Are you a hooker? They tend to get murdered.

2. Are you in a close relationship with an Indian? (Close here means you're dating one, are married to one, or are the daughter or sister of one. Indians are far more violent than non-Indians.

So there you go. Are you next? If you're in one of these high-risk groups, then yes. You should get out, immediately.


Third shoe

Celebrity deaths seem to always come in blocks of three: the most famous being the deaths of Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, and Ed McMahon within 72 hours of each other. (Though for my money, Romeo LeBlanc dying the day before MJ could have also qualified)

Johnny Cash/Warren Zevon/John Ritter all died within a single week in 2003, and celebrity watchers were fearful when Shirley Temple died just a few days after Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Last Thursday we lost Richard Attenborough, and now today Joan Rivers. Is there a third coming? Or does Rivers reset the clock?


This is the time at SDA Third Edge of the Sword where we juxtapose!

I thought I'd take a nice little break and look at some pairs of news stories.

Today snow fell in Southern Alberta. Hey, do you think maybe Calgary councillor Sean Chu might be owed an apology?

Mark Steyn talked about this on the Rush Limbaugh show today: a security-clearanced worker at the Minneapolis Airport has died overseas fighting on behalf of ISIS. He was originally from Somali, and there's a large Somalian contingent in the Twin Cities. With the news also that ISIS has been recruiting various Calgarians for their cause as well, is it worth asking if there's been any ISIS defectors from Edmonton's very very large Somalian community? Maybe more to the point, are there a lot of them working security at the Edmonton International Airport? There were more than just Sudanese supposedly coming here to make this city their "Safe Haven" and then bringing crime.

Finally, President Monkey hopes that NATO can send Russia a message. Unfortunately, Putin chose today to already send a message: he has a 7-point cease-fire plan for Ukraine which basically is the word "surrender" seven times over.

Raonic and Bouchard

The knives come out against two of Canada's rising tennis stars.

She was outplayed. And she's a bit of a drama queen, don't you think? Just setting up the excuses, which she continued to propogate later when she said she had no expectations for the U.S. Open.


What's happened to all her supposed focus and toughness and all that we heard about early this season when she was having success? Let's get real here; she has not beaten a high-ranked opponent, has benefited from the way draws have broken for her (though granted, one can only play the person in front of you) and of late continues to lose to lower-seeded players. She is not, at least not yet, as good as her ranking would suggest.

ISIS decapitations lay bare the lies of 2008

Yesterday while guest-hosting on the Rush Limbaugh Show, Mark Steyn discussed the ISIS crew's manipulation of social media: tweeting decapitation videos around the world. He made a point that this "laid bare the lie" about the "frenzy" around President Monkey in 2008, specifically the use of social media.

No matter how cool First Lady Monkey thinks she is posting these ludicrous "bring back our girls" signs, the Muslims are doing better at it. Almost as Steyn is discussing it, the news comes in that a second American journalist -- Steven Sotloff -- has been dressed in an orange jumpsuit and beheaded. It's early now, but there are rumours it's our favourite British beheader who offed James Foley last month. Steyn's point is regarding the application of social media by the beheading crew, but the beheadings themselves lay bare another lie about President Monkey's 2008 campaign.

Remember this? President Monkey was supposed to "reboot America's image" in the world, recovering from the "bad old days" under George W. Bush (pbuh) when the United States of America wasn't beloved from pole to pole. So...six years in, how's that rebooting of America's image coming along? Let's ignore the low hanging fruit of the infamous reset button with Russia, and concentrate on the Hussein part of the reboot equation. How's America's reputation doing these days in the Middle East? Are they anymore beloved? The dead heads of American journalists would seem to indicate that they aren't.

Will the media who are getting their heads chopped off bring this up? How many of their colleagues have to be laying dead and headless in the sands of Syria before they start noticing that the American image isn't getting rehabilitated anytime soon? How soon before they notice that being dhimmi on the Syrian insurgency isn't doing them any favours and winning them any friends? Any chance they might next clue in that, in the same way that constantly defending violent Muslims against those evil conservative Republicans isn't saving Steven Sotloff's skin, America's reputation isn't improved just by doing the same thing on a national foreign policy?

In any realistic way you care to measure it, President Monkey hasn't done a lick in improving America's relationship with foreign countries. Reset-Russia is, as Ezra Levant noted last week, flexing its muscles while a monkey plays golf. He has lost Iraq. He's lost Syria. He's on track to have nuclear Iran and expansionist China. North Korea didn't see its relationship with America improve, nor did Sudan or "Bring Back Our Girls" Nigeria. The United States' relationship with Israel has soured so badly that pro-Democrat showrunners at NCIS have turned them into the world's bad guys, even as supposed "opponents" in the region start quietly deciding that the Jewish Devil you hate is better than the Muslim Devil who hates you.

Foreign policy wins were supposed to balance out President Monkey's domestic policy disasters. Those domestic disasters, as we well know, played out pretty much as you might expect. There have, as yet, been no demonstrable foreign policy wins other than the death of Osama bin Laden...and the "because President Monkey is there" body count continues to grow. Even poor Peggy had to pay for gas and mortgages despite her belief that the contrary would occur.

So far the only President Monkey promise that has held up is that the polar ice cap has grown and the heating of the earth has paused. Of course, it isn't politically expedient to credit President Monkey with that, so the only thing the Democrats could point to as their big success just isn't there.


What lies will Premier Lukaszuk force upon your children, and how will he try to get away with it?

Last night, PC Leadership Candidate Thomas Lukaszuk didn't like my idea that if his Faggot-Familiar Alliances can be formed in schools, then kids should be also able to form groups that unify and declare that the sodomite lifestyle is wrong and will not be considered as equal to superior heterosexual relations. Specifically, he didn't like that I was trying to "make it political".

Of course, it didn't take long before the poofters started crowing how great it was that Lukaszuk was "one of them" (no, not that way...we think...)

Anybody who doesn't think that sodomy is a political project is, of course, kidding themselves sixteen ways until Sunday. After all, we covered just a few months ago this very topic, caused when pro-uranist politicians tried to use legislative power to enforce their agenda on schools from one corner of the province to the other. It's quite clear from his campaigning that Lukaszuk wishes that Motion 503 had passed (and equally clear he's glad that Motion 502 was defeated). His supporters dream of him enforcing this sick vision on schoolkids when he's crowned Premier. But no, whatever would make us think that this was some sort of political thing?

What is non-political in Thomas Lukaszuk's world? Anything he'd rather you didn't debate him on. Anything he knows he cannot defend. So he does what all liberals do: tries to bend the language to obscure the reality behind his schemes. Occasionally, he gets caught. After all, he started this whole nonsense off by spouting some inane blather. So I called him on it:

How long did Lukaszuk's requirement that schools be inclusive for all kids, no exceptions last? 

About eight minutes.

Even for a lying liberal politician, that's quick.

2014 Edmonton Fringe Review: Tobit

In the Second Century BC, for reasons scholars have not been able to determine, the Book of Tobit was excluded from the Jewish Tanakh and remained solely in the providence of Catholics for most of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. However, the Dead Sea Scrolls confirmed that the story predates Christ and the Israeli religious community have begun to reclaim Tobit for themselves.

It comes (or rather...came...) to the Edmonton Fringe in the form of "Tobit", a full length semi-musical about the account of Tobit, a faithful Jew who suffers both banishment from society and later blindness, before the angels of the Lord come to rescue him and bring joy to his family. Though the play drags on at times and contains some time-filling elements that weren't necessary with its 95 minute runtime, it is a well acted and engaging performance about the biblical tale come to life. It is almost nothing like "The Hobbit", despite what some cleverly timely advertising for the play would have you believe.

It opens with a monologue from the lead character (Tobit is played quite ably by John Moerschbacher, who because of the spelling of his last name will never ever ever be referred to for the rest of this review), setting the biblical stage for us and opening the scene: as with so many biblical stories, the best drama seems already to be over. Tobit's decades of exile are already coming to a close, and while Jews still aren't the most popular folks around he can show his face in public...even if the townspeople aren't impressed by him giving every dead Jew a burial. This is expressed in one of the rare (thankfully!) cutaways to the three gossiping bimbos: Naama (Shanni Pinkerton), Adina (Martina Gasparlin), and Ovadya (Hollie Emerick). I know they want to throw some more female characters into the mix, but these three girls always seem like they're a millisecond away from proclaiming "but first...lemme take a selfie!" and make it look less like the townspeople still haven't accepted Tobit and more like he said something unkind about Katy Perry during one of his burials. Regardless, as Tobit is out burying another body, a seagull shits in his eyes and blinds him.

Cut ahead a few more years, and Tobit's son Tobias (Christian Pawlowski) is still living at home, either recently a man or almost a man but somehow not supporting his parents (sounds like most basement-dwelling 20-somethings today) while Tobit's wife Anna does odd jobs around the town for money. Tobit tries his best to keep a level head about things and not lose his faith, but it can be hard...especially when you lost your eyesight because of a goddamned (pardon the pun) seagull. Tobit suddenly remembers that he's got a whole bunch of money in the bank...or buried under a rock...or in his cousin's wallet...or something...in distant Media. It's a couple three weeks journey, so Tobit sends his son to find a traveling companion. He does, quickly returning with Azarius (Dave Kantor) who looks and sounds suspicious as all get out: he claims to be a relative of Tobit's, the son of a distant relation who Tobit is pretty sure didn't have any kids. Despite the fact that this apparently perfect traveler showed up eleven femtoseconds into the search and seems coincidentally way too convenient, Tobit sends Tobias out on the road at once. Anna is heartbroken, fearing the loss of their only child on the dangerous roads with a guy who's probably not on the up and up.

We cut away to Sarah (Meaghan Sheehan), a pretty girl whose husband has just died on her wedding night. Again. Again. Turns out this is hubby #7 to be offed before the consummation could be performed, and servants Deborah (Nimet Kanji) and Dinah (Emanuelle Dubbledam) find this more than a little bit suspicious. Deborah, in decidedly super-duper non-servant behaviour confronts Sarah about her murderous ways and basically murder-slut-shaming her to tears. As the servants leave, Sarah prays to God to stop killing potential mates...at least until she can get some nookie or some land out of the deal.

Back on the road, Azarius is explaining to Tobias that before they get to Media they are going to visit his first cousin three times removed, who has a beautiful daughter named Sarah that is in need of a good boning even though she's cursed by a demon that keeps killing her suitors. While he's processing this new development, Tobias goes down to the river to wash himself and almost gets eaten by a medium sized fish. No, this doesn't make any sense. Meanwhile back at the ranch Anna's spidey sense must be tingling up a storm, as her son is clearly an inch away from his own demise for the entire tale. Fortunately Tobias survives, and at Azarius's insistence whomps the little crossocheilus on the noggin and drags him to camp. Conveniently enough, Azarius explains that various body parts of this fish will, in no particular order:
1) Cure the injury to an ankle caused by its own bite
2) Instantly return the eyesight of an old man who was blinded by seagulls
3) Banish demons who kill men on their wedding night

Yet still Tobius thinks that Azarius being there is a really really great stroke of luck rather than, the increasingly obvious answer, of a massive and almost literal deus ex machina wandering around next to him. They make their way to Tobit's long-lost cousin Raguel (Bob Locicero) and his wife Edna (Marilla Currie-Wasney), who sense something important and familiar about the young man at their door. Once they learn the that Tobias is their own kin, they are both elated to learn that they are hosting family, and frightened when Tobias boldly declares that he is going to ask for his second cousin Sarah's hand in marriage (as is his right, as her closest living relative, ancient Judaism being basically indistinguishable from present-day Saskatchewan). There's a pretty funny scene where Raguel and Edna, convinced that Sarah's personal demon will continue his killing spree, begrudgingly and ruefully begin preparations to haul Tobias's dead ass out of Sarah's bedroom and bury him out back with the others...more funny since we already know Tobias is going to turn out all right: after all, we got the ridiculous fish foreshadowing.

I think ultimately the biggest issue with this play for the modern audience is the whole fish body parts gag: it may have worked 2200 years ago, but for the modern audience that knows every trick that M. Night Shyamalan can throw at us, it makes it a little too clear that Tobit's eyesight and Sarah's wedding are going to be fixed. Had the play been tweaked so that Azarius didn't give so much very very very specific knowledge about what the various fish parts were to be used for (and then also told us explicitly that Sarah's former would-be-lovers were all killed by a demon that the fish guts would kill and/or ward off), there could have been some ambiguity in the final result (or, barring that, the final execution). Also a giant drag on this play are some of the musical numbers...I understand they are used to kill some time between scene changes, but only Locicero and Sheehan have the singing voices to elevate any of the musical material (though Kantor can at least hold his own with his big closing number). When the singing is done by Moersch--er, the Tobin Guy...well, it's pretty bad. He does a great job speaking Tobit's monologue, is decent though occasionally wooden acting the main character, there's no need to test out and see if he can sing as well. It also doesn't help that the songs themselves have the energy and musical variance of a hymnal...they fit the tone of the play, yes, but that tone is such a somber downer that its just too depressing to carry out in song. They weren't going to go Andrew Lloyd Weber here, and there was no reason to think they needed to.

In the end, though, Tobit is a well crafted piece of theatre that just needed to be trimmed and paced a little better, otherwise wringing excellent performances out of their cast. The Tobin guy is, as noted, starting off strong and losing steam a bit throughout. Sheehan and Kantor are very good at projecting their characters, and while Kanji gets overbearing in some of her performances she's at least chewing some scenery to enjoy herself. The highlight is Bob Locicero's Raguel, however: Locicero brings that man to life, and projects all the power and sympathy and nuances into the character that are required.

Final word: A solid telling of a Jewish morality tale, but it will make you have a new dread for that Selfie Song.

(for more reviews of the 2014 Edmonton Fringe, click here)

2014 Edmonton Fringe Festival Review: Screwtape

It's that time of year again, time for the batch of Fringe play reviews seen in the final weekend of the festival, the ones that there is a good chance you can NEVER SEE (unless it gets revived or plays a Fringe Fest in a diferent city).

Which brings us to "Screwtape", a one man show based on much of the text from CS Lewis' famous "The Screwtape Letters", the basic storyline of "Screwtape Proposes a Toast", and actually nothing at all from the James Forsyth play "Dear Wormwood" which was renamed "Screwtape". For one, this is a one man show: John Huston plays the title character and in fact doesn't play any other characters. For a little over an hour, Screwtape is the only person we see and hear.

It starts out with Screwtape, former headmaster of the Academy of Demonology in Hell, practising a commencement address to the latest class of graduates in which he passes along some of his wit and wisdom learned over the years. As a brief aside, the play doesn't give you any slow introductions or any backgrounder, it bursts full speed into Screwtape's speech. I had no problem with this, but I am told by others who aren't as familiar with the works as I was (indeed, had no idea what The Screwtape Letters were) that the play went a little too fast into it and cost a potential fan who was left utterly confused and perplexed as to what was taking place on stage. Your mileage may vary. There's a wonderful little nod to modernity as Screwtape is apparently using Google Glass 9.0 to read his speech and communicate by telephone with Wormwood. There are a few other nods to modernity, mostly more new villains for Screwtape to reference, which don't go nearly as well. There's an iPad joke in there, because of course there's gotta be an iPad joke.

The blending of the two tonally different Screwtape books is done basically by going back and forth between Screwtape's two missions: to dictate to Toadpipe (stage left) his upcoming speech, and to answer calls for help from his nephew Wormwood, a hapless recent graduate from the Academy and aspiring young Tempter. Wormwood has been assigned his first "patient", a aspiring Christian to match up with. Unfortunately, Wormwood doesn't seem to know a lot: his uncle Screwtape blames the new Headmaster Slubgog for letting school standards slide (it goes without saying, if he talked at all about how much better the town had been while he was mayor I was prepared to storm out of the building). As a result, Screwtape has to provide some live coaching to Wormwood about how to corrupt a man's heart, the importance of patience, and some philosophical thoughts about God's motivations (which gets Screwtape in some minor trouble on account of blashphemy). Ironicly, while "The Screwtape Letters" is by far the better work, it's the speech based on "Screwtape Proposes a Toast" which works the best for the play; not that the distinction is still very much, the script wisely keeps the text almost entirely un-altered from the original. Peter Jackson, please pick up the white courtesy phone.

Huston plays Screwtape actually quite a lot like he was the demonic temptation version of Sir Humphrey: the British accent possibly helps. Screwtape occasionally gets very very posh and droll, much like Sir Humphrey; he occasionally gets very upset about something, raises his British voice, and eloquently yet aggressively makes his case before returning to his demeanour, much like Sir Humphrey; and whenever he is speaking about "Our Father Below" (Satan, of course) he gets an almost mock deferential pose, almost like Sir Humphrey when dealing with Sir Arnold or defending the civil service. As a general rule, this works well: Screwtape does get a little upset and animated a little more than he should for the characterization of Hell as a runaway bureaucracy, but generally the Humphrey-ness of the character leaps back into the forefront and the portrayal calms down. The clinical matter-of-fact attitude towards turning a human soul into a demon's plaything and/or supper is more chilling than a more vicious portrayal, and I think a lot of the more aggressive tone scenes hurts more than it helps. The relentless inhumanity of the whole endeavour is what keeps us wondering when Satan might come with a scheme to tempt *us*. It's also why the scene where Screwtape temporarily gets so excited he turns into a giant centipede (and verbalizes that he does so) doesn't work very well, turning the serious moments of the "third act" into a bit too farcial an experience. It's not the strongest part of the book either, and it doesn't translate from the page to the stage very well at all.

I make a reference earlier, by the way, to the "third act". This also isn't entirely how the work is structured, as Screwtape (for obvious reasons) plays more like just a regular speech would. Touching on various topics and referencing earlier statements, there isn't much of a "story" here other than the basic summary that the Wormwood parts of the play serve as the story of Patient's life. Like us, Patient doesn't have a life story that always fits within a story structure: he finds love, has good and bad things happen in his life, spends time with people who may lead him astray, feels down and seeks guidance, but not always having a climax or a denoument. The climax of the story, as it happens, is more the interplay between Screwtape and Wormwood near the end of Patient's life: Screwtape offers help to his kindred, but fitting his place in the (under)world he isn't afraid to revoke it or promise swift retribution in return for a variety of wrongs both real and imagined. In the end, Patient's death comes a little bit out of nowhere: without the buildup of the war that occurs in the book, it just looks like a regular mostly unexpected out-of-somewhere-close-to-nowhere death. Again, this is just like the kind you or I would have and while it scores points for realism, it does take away a bit of the tension whether or not Patient will become Christian or not. Though it's CS Lewis, so you probably shouldn't be too surprised by the answer.

Final word: An excellent adaptation of the CS Lewis material, marred only slightly by bringing the story more into our own time.

(for more reviews of the 2014 Edmonton Fringe, click here)