Canada is number one?

By the jesus it doesn't happen often but apparently Canada is number one in something-- in this case branding.

Canada rates high in areas like political freedom (4); tolerance (5); stable legal environment (4); freedom of speech (3); environmental friendliness (7). Overall, its quality of life was ranked at 6, although that was down one notch from last year.

In its report, FutureBrand says Canada “continues to be the strongest country brand despite its lack of leading rankings in any one dimension — proving that consistency is more important than specialty focus.’’


Canada’s No. 1 brand country rating is also a source of pride considering that many iconic country brands are falling, mirroring socio-political and economic fortunes, like the United Kingdom which ranks 13 (down 4), and the United States comes in at 6, having slipped two spots from last year.


Mario Balotelli
New EPL favourite: Mario Balotelli

Joining previous nominees Craig Bellamy and Joey Barton, Mario Balotelli is now my favourite EPL player.

Why? Because he is interesting, that's why.

The Manchester City forward's antics have been rewarded with a new song by the fans, replicated here (courtesy of the Guardian Sportsblog):

Oh Balotelli he's a striker…
He's good at darts/
He's allergic to grass but when he plays/ He's fucking class.
Drives round Moss Side/ with a wallet full of cash
Can't put on his vest/ But when he does he is the best
Goes into schools/ Tells teachers all the rules
Sets fire to his gaff/ With rockets from his bath
Doesn't give a fuck/ Cos he did it for a laugh
Runs back to his house/ For a suitcase full of cash
Oh Balotelli …

Lastly, it is important to note that Mario has a lovely smile when someone finally gets one out of him.


Jonathan Richman
Newest find: Jonathan Richman

Lately, I have been listening to Beat Surrender on BBC Newcastle. They play mostly British artistes, with the odd American thrown in.

The particular Odd American I am writing about today is Jonathan Richman, who first had a hit in 1975 with Road Runner.

He seems to be a contemporary of Tom Waites with a similar sense of humour (titles of his albums include things like I, Jonathan, Jonathan Sings!, and Having a Party with Jonathan Richman) but more of an ear for a tune.

Fun fact: Jonathan played the singing narrator in the cinematic tour-de-force Something About Mary.

Here are links to mp3s of a few examples of Jonathan's œuvre:

Road Runner

Parties in the USA



Pop song of the summer

Last year, We No Speak Americano was the viral hit of the summer.

This time it's PONPONPON, preformed by Kyary Pamyu Pamyu.

To quote Sarah Proud and Tall:

I can’t stop watching. It’s like eating marshmallow while bathing in fairy floss inside a sugar house that David Lynch built inside John Waters brain.

Watch it on YouTube.


Jack Layton before and after

Why does it seem like it's always the good ones that go first?

J-Lay died of cancer today at age 61. As an example of how unfair life is, consider that Stephen Harper will probably live to be 100.


Barclay's Premier League
2011-12 EPL predictions
I was waiting for the Charity Shield before publishing my prediction, since I wasn't sure about whether to pick Man City or Man U. as the winners.

I have decided on Man City. This might seem counter-intuitive, since Man U. won the game. However, this game gave me my first look at the new Man U. goalie, David De Gea, and he looked like Ben Foster all over again.

Other controversial picks would be Arsenal out of the top four, and Liverpool placing third, above Chelsea:

Manchester City
Manchester United
Elevator plans
This sign was posted this week inside the entrance to Metro Hall. Ah, the City. They are probably being optimistic, though, if they think it is only going to take 2 years to fix those elevators.


Toronto 2011 Federal Election Results
Meet the new Toronto - Federal Election Results 2011

Click on the image above for results by polling station, colour-coordinated by party (Liberal red, Conservative blue, NDP orange).

Please note that I have thoughtfully added the riding names to the larger image.

Stolen from impolitical.


Socialist Realism
Socialist Realism


Ignatieff torturer
Kinsella blames Ignatieff

Trouble-maker Warren Kinsella pinpoints Michael Ignatieff's reluctance to distance himself from his former pro-war, pro-torture views as the biggest reason for the Liberal collapse in the last election:

Davey — the son of the legendary Grit rainmaker, Keith Davey, and a friend who had brought me to Ottawa to run the Liberal war room — thought an election fought on extending the war could end badly for the Conservatives. Even better, it would banish a few ghosts for the Liberals. Ignatieff had secured the leadership months earlier, and was still dogged by concerns from the party’s left wing. In his writing and media appearances, the former Harvard professor had been an enthusiastic proponent of the war in Iraq, unambiguously pro-American and, seemingly, an advocate of “coercive interrogation” with terror suspects. His position had put him at odds with others in the party. After nearly a decade in Afghanistan, some of us felt we had done our share, with too many Canadian lives lost. We thought it was time for other Western nations to step up. In the coming election, Liberals should be the ones favouring an end to the war. Let the Harper regime, with its bellicose military rhetoric and its willingness to give the generals whatever shiny new toy they desired, become the party that favoured war with no end.

“We can banish the pro-American, pro-torture, pro-Iraq war stuff in one move,” I had said to Davey and others in the Office of the Leader of the Opposition. “We’d pick up a ton of NDP and Bloc support. And Harper will be caught in the quagmire like John McCain was. It’s perfect.”

But Ignatieff wouldn’t do it. Not only would he not even discuss the notion, Davey said; he was angry that we had suggested it in the first place. When I asked Davey what he’d said to Ignatieff, he replied, “I told him we just wanted him to, you know, win the fucking election. That’s all.”


Having fun at the expense of the British

English Police Report
Dark days around here, what with the Harper Government® now feeling free to implement its agenda of cutting federal jobs by one third while building lots of new prisons and purchasing stealth fighters that might or might not be of use against E.T. invaders.

So to cheer myself up, I have posted the graphic above from somethingawful.

I found myself laughing out loud, and I haven't even finished my first coffee of the day
There is definitely an accretion of humour as one reads through the list, however I particularly liked "A Welsh prat had a wank in me Mini".


carpet bombing
Libya- stupid is as stupid does

Well, they're at it again: the contempible swine (both politicians and media) that make the big decisions for the rest of us in the west have decided that they are backing Libya's eastern tribes in their rebellion against the Quathafi-led western tribes.

Apart from the obvious problems associated with interfering in the internal affairs of a sovereign state, Daniel Larson mentions some of the more practical problems with this most recent example of neo-colonialist behaviour:

Intervening governments that have committed to providing defense for civilian areas in Libya and enforcing a no-fly zone are now stuck with that commitment for the foreseeable future. That could tie up military resources for as long as the conflict continues, and there’s no telling how long that might be. We can expect to see a lot more agitation from hawks here and in Europe that Gaddafi cannot be allowed to remain in power, and they are likely to see Gaddafi’s acceptance of a cease-fire as an unacceptable maneuver to buy time. Interventionists sold a Libyan war primarily on humanitarian grounds (“saving” Benghazi, etc.), but they will not be satisfied at all by a cessation of hostilities.

The more significant problem is that this has set a precedent that the states that were prepared to intervene in Libya will be expected to do the same in many more cases. An arbitrary, rather odd decision to treat the Libyan civil war as the greatest political crisis in the world will create the expectation of foreign support in other internal conflicts. That is likely to encourage rebellions and civil conflict. If a group believes it can win foreign support and political concessions by provoking a sufficiently brutal crackdown, that will make it more likely to rise up against its government, which may lead to humanitarian catastrophes that the “responsibility to protect” is supposed to prevent.

Apparently, the U.S. fired over 110 Tomahawk cruise missles at Libya on Saturday (at 750,000 USD per missle) and lots more ordinance is on the way. Government spending that even the most tea-steeped teabaggers will agree is money well spent.

Further, some thoughts from Stephen M.Walt:

...despite Obama's declaration that he would not send ground troops into Libya -- a statement made to assuage an overcommitted military, reassure a skeptical public, or both -- what is he going to do if the air assault doesn't work? What if Qaddafi hangs tough, which would hardly be surprising given the dearth of attractive alternatives that he's facing? What if his supporters see this as another case of illegitimate Western interferences, and continue to back him? What if he moves forces back into the cities he controls, blends them in with the local population, and dares us to bomb civilians? Will the United States and its allies continue to pummel Libya until he says uncle? Or will Obama and Sarkozy and Cameron then decide that now it's time for special forces, or even ground troops?


harper pointing at a segull
Harper is at it again

A few years ago, I noted that a) Stephen Harper really likes to point at things when he knows he is being photographed, and b) the Harperites will stop at nothing in their quest for a majority government, including modifying the language in a 1984-esque fashion.

Then, it was "Canada's New Government". Now, it is "The Harper Government".

The last time I heard something this ridiculous, it was the decision to name North York's new main square "Mel Lastman Square" after none other than North York's serving mayor, Mel Lastman.

I can just imagine the conversation between Harper and his eager young lickspittles in the PMO:

Lickspittle #1: Every focus group, every survey shows it. The people love a strong leader!

Lickspittle #2: And how better to remind the little people how strong a leader they have than titling all official Canadian communications from "The Harper Government"?

Lickspittle #1: What could *possibly* go wrong? It's a slam dunk!

Harper (visibly pleased): Well, if it is what the people want...

Lickspittles #1 and #2
: It is! It is!

Harper: Then who am I to deny them? I reluctantly acquiesce to this dignified piece of nation building...

And the rest is history!


Fun with Google Maps

The best thing about Street View is that it allows one to take a virtual tour of the neighbourhood of anywhere that one has an address for, limited only by the fact that Google has not had time to completely document everywhere on earth (yet).

So attempting to use Street View to look around Cochin, Kerala, for example, will result in a bunch of dots linking to photos (see below) rather than the continuous highlights of an area that has been documented by the Google car.

Cochin on Google Maps

I am sure Google will get to these places eventually. In the meantime, I am able to wander the streets of Heidelberg, Germany (where a friend and his family were staying for a month), or tour the neighbourhood of my childhood home in Guelph, Ontario.

Guelph Street View

Here are a few snapshots from my virtual visit to Shankill Road, Belfast, an address that has stuck in my mind since it was a sectarian hotspot before everyone learned to chillax:

Red Hand of Ulster
Red Hand of Ulster

Rangers Supporters Club
Shankill Road Rangers Supporters Club

Ulster Volunteer Force
Ulster Volunteer Force


The Gojira: so cool looking it's not funny

I haven't been paying a lot of attention lately to the colourful antics of the Sea Shepherd Society, but I couldn't help but notice the Cylon-like Sci-Fi lines of their new 'stealth' ship, the Gojira (pictured above.)

From Reality Junkies:

Last season on Whale Wars, The Sea Shepherd crew has introduced a replacement to the Ady Gil in their fight against the Japanese Whalers, this time it’s a beefed up looking version of the Ady Gil called Gojira which translates to Godzilla. Last year, the Ady Gil ended up ripped in half by one of the Japanese whaling vessels which was ruled to be the fault of both the stationary ship and the massive vessel that turned into it. How they got to that decision is beyond me.

Like the Ady, this ship will likely be used to track the factory ship (the ship that kills and packages the whales) which will allow the Sea Shepherd and the Bob Barker to tail it and prevent whales from being transferred to the vessel. Unlike the Ady Gil, this likely won’t be captained by Pete Bethune who was arrested last season for boarding the ship that split his in two.


fan map of london

Football Fan map for London and environs

Click on the graphic above for a larger view of this London fan map (liberated from Think Big.)

I have altered the graphic a bit, in that I substituted the full names of the various London boroughs instead of their abbreviations.

My first thought? London is a LOT bigger than I thought it was. I thought I had seen the place during a week and a half stay back in the eighties, yet looking at this map I realize that the parts I became familiar with were limited to Camden, Hamlet Towers, and the Cities of London and Westminister.

In fact, I believe that the only time I went south of the river Thames was to visit the Imperial War Museum.

Good times, good times...