The Big Short plays the underdog while betting on The House

The Big ShortThe Big Short is the story of greed and opportunism.

It starts with the story of the banker who had the idea of mortgage-backed securities. It then jumps forward to the early 21st century, when a few savvy traders spot the warning signs of the sub-prime mortgage crisis. Against conventional wisdom, they bet that the mortgage lending industry will fall apart, and take major financial institutions – and huge chunks of the US economy -with them.

And these are the good guys of the story.

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July 17, 2016  Comments Off on The Big Short plays the underdog while betting on The House

Justin Trudeau’s no-good, very bad excuse for arms deals

We live in strange times when Conrad Black does a better job of defending Liberal foreign policy than Justin Trudeau.

Black bluntly defended Canada’s sales of arms to Saudi Arabia: Canada isn’t important enough to influence Saudi Arabia’s policies, someone else will sell them weapons if we don’t, and no one really cares about things like the Geneva Convention or the UN Declaration on Human rights. It’s an odious, selfish defence that values trade dollars over human lives, but at least it’s an honest one.

The Prime Minister, on the other hand, has made only the flimsiest of excuses for the deal, maintaining it was already here when he moved in. continue reading »

June 11, 2016  Comments Off on Justin Trudeau’s no-good, very bad excuse for arms deals

How I lost interest in baseball the year the Jays started winning

This is as close to religious symbolism as we get around here.I’ve been a Blue Jays fan for about as long as I’ve been alive. I was born the day before their first game ever, and became old enough to follow sports in a meaningful way by the time the team got good in the mid-80s, and the World Series wins in 1992 and 1993 were unquestionably the highlights of my life to that point. For the last 15 years, I’ve often felt like the only baseball fan in a city where it’s always hockey season.

So it’s puzzled a few people – my wife in particular – that I’ve been largely indifferent to the team this year. Blue Jays Fever  is sweeping across Toronto, and I feel the same as I do whenever Raptors Flu or Leafs Plague is in town: Unimpressed.

(Lest you accuse me of simply being contrarian, I don’t think I’ve watched a game since before the Tulowitzki or Price trades, which is when the team started heating up.)

How did it come to this? I’ve been thinking about this lately, there have been a few factors that brought me to this point.

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October 16, 2015  Comments Off on How I lost interest in baseball the year the Jays started winning

Bell needs parking more than cyclists need safety, and the City of Toronto agrees

(This is a roughly edited version of a letter I sent to Councillor Joe Cressy, Mayor Tory, and Film Toronto about Bell Media closing down one of the few bike lanes in the downtown core so they would have a convenient spot to park. Cressy, my very own councillor, acted with speed & efficiency rarely seen in government to get it re-opened before the end of the day.)

Bike lanes, like any other piece of infrastructure, must sometimes be closed. But Richmond is the only westbound bicycle lane between College street and Queens Quay. To many cyclists, the bike lane is the only thing that makes it a bike-friendly route, given the high speeds of many drivers. This is a central route for cyclists such as myself for travelling to work in the downtown area, and it should be closed only when there are no other options – and this was clearly not the case. It’s important to find out how and why this happened, and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

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April 29, 2015  Comments Off on Bell needs parking more than cyclists need safety, and the City of Toronto agrees

Oscars Gonna Oscar

osc-banner_statuetteIf you’ve watched the Oscars for any amount of time, you’ve probably noticed some trends: The Academy likes movies about real people, preferably historically significant ones. Four of the eight Best Picture nominees are based on true stories, and four of the five Best Actor nominees are playing real people, with the fifth, Michael Keaton, playing a sort of alternate universe version of himself. They also like movies about people with physical or mental disabilities (Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking being the best example this year), movies about art (BirdmanWhiplash), and performances by actors who hide their movie star looks under prosthetics (Steve Carell, acting under the shadow of Nicole Kidman’s fake nose). They also really, really like Meryl Streep.

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January 15, 2015  Comments Off on Oscars Gonna Oscar

The Netflix Effect: Silly Journalism

DC  Comics editor Julius Schwartz had a habit of commissioning covers first, and then telling the writer & artist of the book to work from that cover. It’s a creative approach to fiction, but not ideal for writing the news.

The Ontario Government released a list of the most popular baby names in 2014, and noted that some names seem to be inspired by popular TV shows. The Toronto Star went a step further, and wrote a story about The Netflix Effect, theorizing that baby names weren’t merely influenced by television, but specifically by TV shows streamed on Netflix. Then they attempted to back up their theory.

Dubbed the “Netflix Effect,” the names of characters from shows such as Orange is the New Black are hitting the top 100 or 150 or just making an appearance thanks to the popularity of Internet-streamed series.

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December 19, 2014  Comments Off on The Netflix Effect: Silly Journalism

TIFF 2014: A brief sampling

Last week, the Toronto International Film Festival announced some of their big galas and premieres. There were some interesting films listed, but the real excitement came today, when they unveiled the Midnight Madness, Vanguard, Masters, and Documentary programmes. These are the films that are less likely to make headlines, but are some of the best, most interesting, and craziest movies at the festival.

Here are a few films that jumped out of the lineup so far. This is by no means definitive, and at times totally subjective and irrational. There is a reasonably possibility that some of them will not be very good.

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July 29, 2014  Comments Off on TIFF 2014: A brief sampling

The Leftovers Manufactures Meaningless Suspense

HBO’s newest series, The Leftovers, was created by Damon Lindelof, one of the head writers on Lost. This should raise some red flags.

Lost had its moments: It set up an intriguing premise, and was great at building suspense and mystery. But the mysteries grew and grew, and the resolutions seemed farther and farther away; cliffhangers would tease at revelations, only to see the story move in a completely different direction in the next episode. I gave up midway through the second season, abandoning any hopes I would ever see anything resolved.

The Leftovers starts with a similarly mysterious premise: One day, in a Rapture-type event, people disappear. But with the series starting three years after the mass disappearance, it creates a second mystery: What has happened since the disappearance?

This is an odd sort of mystery, because the characters all know what happened during those three years; as such, The Leftovers seems largely built upon keeping things from the audience. There’s a certain amount of logic to this – while the world of The Leftovers is foreign to viewers, it’s become an everyday reality for the characters within it – but it also requires the script to avoid some obvious topics until they can be revealed in the most dramatic fashion.

A mild spoiler for the pilot follows. Except it’s not really a spoiler, as we shall soon see. 

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July 2, 2014  Comments Off on The Leftovers Manufactures Meaningless Suspense

Career Politician John Tory criticizes Olivia Chow for being a Career Politician

In his latest press release, Mayoral candidate Jonn Tory takes aim at Olivia Chow’s history of spending money as a politician. Matt Elliott took a good look at the accuracy of those claims, but the one thing that stood out in Tory’s release is the dreaded accusation that Olivia Chow is a Career Politician.

“Toronto needs a mayor with experience, fiscal common sense, and restraint – not a career politician who has been living off the public purse for three decades.”

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June 25, 2014  Comments Off on Career Politician John Tory criticizes Olivia Chow for being a Career Politician

Obvious Child is 5% groundbreaking, 95% uninspired formula

Obvious ChildGillian Robespierre’s Obvious Child does one unique thing very well: It tells a story about abortion without any emotional trauma or hysterical moral wailing.

Obvious Child is the story of Donna (Jenny Slate), who gets pregnant after a drunken one-night stand and, given her complete lack of financial or emotional stability, decides to have an abortion. Predictable hijinks ensue, but more interestingly, women talk about their experiences with abortions, and none of them degenerate into tearful monologues about terrifying clinics or lifelong regret. continue reading »

June 24, 2014  Comments Off on Obvious Child is 5% groundbreaking, 95% uninspired formula

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