Tyranny By Minority: The Disgraceful History of Canadian “Democracy”

As a leftist, I was one of many Canadians disenchanted that Conservatives now control Parliament despite winning well less than half the support of Canadian voters.  I was aware that this was nothing new for Canada, but after consulting our electoral history, I now know I had no idea how undemocratic our system is.  Canada has had 28 majority governments, but only 6 of them won 50% of votes.  On average, the popular vote of a majority government is 15.45% smaller than its share of Parliamentary seats.  Obtaining a majority government is about as close as a Canadian leader can constitutionally come to holding absolute power.  The idea that one can attain this without the consent of the majority (you know, the actual majority) ought to be a national disgrace.

Here are some other figures.

Least Popular Election Winners (Cut-off: 40% of the popular vote).

  1. 1867 - Conservative - John A. MacDonald.  34.53% of the popular vote.
  2. 1979 - Progressive-Conservative - Joe Clark.  35.89% of the popular vote.
  3. 2006 - Conservative - Stephen Harper.  36.27% of the popular vote.
  4. 2004 - Liberal - Paul Martin.  36.73% of the popular vote.
  5. 1962 - Progressive-Conservative - John Diefenbaker.  37.22% of the popular vote.
  6. 2008 - Conservative - Stephen Harper.  37.65% of the popular vote.
  7. 1972 - Liberal - Pierre Trudeau.  38.42% of the popular vote.
  8. 1997 - Liberal - Jean Chrétien.  38.46% of the popular vote.
  9. 1957 - Progressive-Conservative - John Diefenbaker.  38.50% of the popular vote.
  10. 1874 - Liberal - Alexander Mackenzie.  39.49% of the popular vote.
  11. 1872 - Conservative - John A. MacDonald.  39.49% of the popular vote.
  12. 2011 - Conservative - Stephen Harper.  39.62% of the popular vote.
  13. 1945 - Liberal - William Lyon Mackenzie King.  39.78% of the popular vote.

Least Popular Majority Governments (cut-off:  50% of the popular vote).

  1. 1867 - Conservative - John A. MacDonald.  34.53% of the popular vote.
  2. 1997 - Liberal - Jean Chrétien.  38.46% of the popular vote.
  3. 1874 - Liberal - Alexander Mackenzie.  39.49% of the popular vote.
  4. 2011 - Conservative - Stephen Harper.  39.62% of the popular vote.
  5. 1882 - Conservative - John A. MacDonald.  40.40% of the popular vote.
  6. 2000 - Liberal - Jean Chrétien.  40.85% of the popular vote.
  7. 1921 - Liberal - William Lyon Mackenzie King.  41.15% of the popular vote.
  8. 1993 - Liberal - Jean Chrétien.  41.24% of the popular vote.
  9. 1896 - Liberal - Wilfrid Laurier.  41.37% of the popular vote.
  10. 1878 - Conservative - John A. MacDonald.  42.06% of the popular vote.
  11. 1988 - Progressive-Conservative - Brian Mulroney.  43.02% of the popular vote.
  12. 1974 - Liberal - Pierre Trudeau.  43.15% of the popular vote.
  13. 1980 - Liberal - Pierre Trudeau.  44.34% of the popular vote.
  14. 1935 - Liberal - William Lyon Mackenzie King.  44.68% of the popular vote.
  15. 1968 - Liberal - Pierre Trudeau.  45.37% of the popular vote.
  16. 1887 - Conservative - John A. MacDonald.  47.42% of the popular vote.
  17. 1930 - Conservative - Richard Bennett.  47.79% of the popular vote.
  18. 1953 - Liberal - Louis St. Laurent.  48.43% of the popular vote.
  19. 1911 - Conservative - Robert Borden.  43.56% of the popular vote.
  20. 1891 - Conservative - John A. MacDonald.  48.58% of the popular vote.
  21. 1908 - Liberal - Wilfrid Laurier.  48.87% of the popular vote.
  22. 1949 - Liberal - Louis St. Laurent.  49.15% of the popular vote.

Worst Discrepancies Between % of Votes and % of Seats (cut-off: 20%).  All are majority governments.

  1. 1935 - Liberal - William Lyon Mackenzie King.  25.93%.
  2. 1958 - Progressive-Conservative - John Diefenbaker.  24.83%
  3. 1984 - Progressive-Conservative - Brian Mulroney.  24.79%.
  4. 1949 - Liberal - Louis St. Laurent.  23.75%.
  5. 1874 - Liberal - Alexander Mackenzie.  23.13%.
  6. 1878 - Conservative - John A. MacDonald.  22.99%.
  7. 1882 - Conservative - John A. MacDonald.  22.63%.
  8. 1940 - Liberal - William Lyon Mackenzie King.  21.74%.
  9. 1867 - Conservative - John A. MacDonald.  21.03%.

Election Winners That Did Not Even Win the Popular Vote

  1. 1896 - Liberal - Wilfrid Laurier.  Won 85.88% of the number of votes won by Charles Tupper’s Conservatives.
  2. 1979 - Progressive-Conservative - Joe Clark.  Won 89.47% of the number of votes won by Pierre Trudeau’s Liberals.
  3. 1926 - Liberal - William Lyon Mackenzie King.  Won 84.60% of the number of votes won by Arthur Meighen’s Conservatives.
  4. 1957 - Progressive-Conservative - John Diefenbaker.  Won 95.20% of the number of votes won by Louis St. Laurent’s Liberals.

    Proposal For Electoral Reform In Canadam

    On Monday, Canadians elected Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative party to a majority government.  The Tories won in 167 ridings, more than enough for a majority, but only received 39.6% of the popular vote, which most Canadians feel should not qualify for majority and only does because of an archaic electoral system.  Conservatives received 5.8 million votes, totalling only 24.3% of eligible voters, but 9.25 million Canadians were either too lazy or too ignorant to go around the corner and vote.  The remainder of the popular vote was split this way: NDP (30.6%), Liberal (18.9%), Bloc Québécois (6%), Green (3.9%), various others (1%).

    It is typical for the victorious party of Canadian elections to lose the popular vote.  Our poly-partisan system makes it difficult for any one party to receive 50% of the votes.  Thus, nearly every election leaves a bad taste in the mouths of voters that feel our electoral system is not democratically ideal.  Various proposals promise elevated democratic representation.

    Some feel that each party should rank its members and send a percentage of these candidates to Parliament corresponding to its share of the popular vote.  Therefore, if you get 40% of the popular vote, the top-ranked 40% of your candidates serve in Parliament.  This idea is reasonable, since it has been a long time since the riding was the relevant unit of federal electoral participation.  Canadians realize that individual members of Parliament sheepishly tow party lines and thus, we vote for federal leadership and routinely ignore the qualities of the local candidates we technically vote in.  Essentially, Canadians behave as though they are voting for a President.

    Others suggest that our poly-partisanship is to blame, and that the NDP ought to merge with the Liberals so that Canadians with similar ideologies do not suffer merely because they have more options.  Even a merger between these parties would not represent a majority of Canadians: the Grits and NDP combined for 49.5% of the popular vote.  I do not like this idea.  I follow American politics quite closely, and in my opinion, the two-party system is a big problem: Both major American political parties constantly lick the boots of Big Business at the expense of the populace.  The fewer parties there are, the easier it is to buy off the entire group of elected officials.  A two-party system narrows the ideological scope of an electorate as both parties reach for the centre, thus further marginalizing members of society that don’t subscribe to a dominant national ideology and punishing people who think outside the box.  The last thing any electorate needs is fewer ideas.

    Still, we have a serious problem.  Since the Progressive-Conservative party merged with the Alliance, right-wing voters have had only one option, and this has benefitted the careers of prominent Tories like Peter McKay and Stephen Harper immensely (each were leaders of the aforementioned parties, respectively).  Meanwhile, voters on the left (I use the term “left” very loosely when applying it to Liberals) continue to split their votes between the NDP and Liberals, and even have a reasonable option in the Greens now.  While the Conservatives have been the most popular political party in the last three federal elections, they represent a set of ideas that starkly contrasts those of most Canadians.

    There are two different ways to define our political spectrum: domestically and historically-internationally.  I plan to address each.  According to our self-defined spectrum, the Conservatives hold far-right economic ideals while the Liberals appear left-of-centre.  The Green, Bloc and NDP cluster on our far left.  On social policies, the Conservatives tend towards authoritarianism while the other four parties lean libertarian (to various degrees; the Liberals are slight social libertarians, the Bloc and Greens are more libertarian, while the NDP is the most socially liberal party).  Thus, the Conservatives are alone on the right-authoritarian quadrant of our political spectrum while the other four parties hover in the left-libertarian quadrant.  That means that 39.6% of Canadian voters are in one ideological quadrant while 59.4% are in another.  With a majority Conservative government, 59.4% of Canadian voters have virtually no representational power whatsoever.  This is radically unacceptable to anyone who cherishes democracy.

    On the historical-international political spectrum, we have three general ideological sets.  According to global norms, the Conservatives remain far right economically and are much more authoritarian than they seem at home.  The Liberals are slightly right wing economically and slightly authoritarian socially.  The Greens appear squarely centred according to historical-international standards, while the Bloc and NDP are very slightly to the left of centre both socially and economically.  Using the historical-international scale, 39.6% of Canadians voted for far right, authoritarian values; 18.9% voted for marginally right wing authoritarianism; 40.5% voted centrist.  Simply put, our current electoral system does not accommodate Canadian desires.

    While our system desperately needs a tune-up, I do not think we need such radical change as proposed by my two aforementioned alternatives.  I think there is a very simple way to fix this with only the most minor of alterations.  This is not my idea; this is actually a popular way of tallying votes to reflect a consensus best.

    When we enter the voting booth, we place an X next to the candidate we wish to support.  This tells Elections Canada which candidate we like, but it does nothing to inform them of which candidate we do not like.  Rather than place an “X” beside the desired candidate, voters should write, “1.”  Then, beside the next-most preferable candidate, voters should write “2.”  Beside the next-most preferable candidate, voters should write “3,” and so on.

    For example, a riding offers the following choices: Conservative, Liberal, NDP and Green.  There are three rounds of vote tallying for this riding.  In the first round, vote-counters tally all the “1” votes.  Let us say that after round one, the Green has the fewest “1” votes.  This disqualifies the Green candidate and another round of tallying begins.  This time, vote-counters tally all the highest-ranked votes for the remaining candidates (so any ballot that preferred Green now defers to its “2” vote).  Now the Liberal candidate finishes last and thus disappears from the ballot.  The final round of vote counting begins, tallying all the highest-ranked votes between the two remaining candidates (so any ballot that favoured either the Green or Liberal defers to the “2” vote, unless that vote is also either the Green or Liberal, in which case that ballot defers to the “3” vote).  The winner of this count wins the riding.

    I believe this process would much better reflect the will of voters.  It is silly to pretend that each party not voted for was equally desirable to the voter.  This would help combat “strategic voting” wherein voters choose not to support the sincerely preferred candidate and instead vote to prevent an undesirable outcome.  People would be free to have their ballots reflect their actual desires rather than worrying about the votes of others.

    Most importantly, though, this process would force politicians to be more accommodating to voters.  Consciously alienating certain segments of the populace would no longer be politically viable.  As it stands now, politicians that cannot reasonably expect your support try to make life harder for you as an appeal to those whose support is obtainable.  That is immoral.

    Picking your favourite candidate works in a two-party system because there are only two choices, and thus your vote indicates both your preference and rejection.  However, in a poly-partisan electoral system, the question of whom you dislike is as democratically relevant as the question of whom you like.  It is bad when a government wins a majority without the explicit support of most voters, but when a government wins a majority on policies that most voters explicitly disapprove, the system is simply undemocratic and broken beyond hope.


Hits include:
-  I’m Really Intense
-  I Think You Can Guess What I’m About Just From The Album Cover
-  I Don’t Like To Party


    Hits include:

    -  I’m Really Intense

    -  I Think You Can Guess What I’m About Just From The Album Cover

    -  I Don’t Like To Party

    38 notes

    The Beginning of the End For Bettman? Do Not Hold Your Breath

    His face twitches when he speaks because he cannot stand the sound of his ludicrous bullshit.  He has trouble making eye contact with people interviewing him because he is pathologically incapable of honesty.  His unpopularity is virtually unanimous amongst NHL fans.  The team owners - whose status as his boss is decidedly inconvenient for anyone who gives a fart about the sport - seem to love him for some reason (he just received a five-year contract extension).  What reason could that possibly be?  I will give you one guess.  Yes, profits are up.  As a whole, NHL franchises are making more money than ever, and Bettman’s supporters credit him with the resolution of lockout that ushered in a number of new rules designed to make the sport more exciting.

    There are a number of worthy questions for his supporters.  Why does he deserve credit for resolving the lockout but no blame for allowing it?  Isn’t it odd to praise him for overseeing a more profitable league while he is stubbornly refusing to relocate failed franchises, nurturing hockey in the sunbelt like he’s planting a garden in the desert?  Even statements made by the little twerp himself acknowledge that the increased speed of the “new NHL” makes it a more hazardous league.  Okay, I guess that last one was not a question, but you get my point.

    Apparently none of these issues are pressing for the owners (I rarely see eye-to-eye with the super-rich).  But suddenly, out of nowhere, an insidious issue called player safety has become a financial issue for the league.  Now, he might be in trouble.

    Player safety has become rather controversial in recent seasons, as the rate of serious head injuries has risen.  Progressive hockey fans yearning for a safe yet physical game are at loggerheads with reactionaries that fear severely punishing offending players will result in gradual elimination of violence from the game (to these people, “European” is always the clinching pejorative used to rest their cases).

    The most obvious solution to the issue is to regulate player equipment.  Shoulder- and elbow-pads have apparently evolved from foam to adamantium as players protect said body parts at the expense of each other’s heads.  It is good to know that today’s NHL players will have strong elbows and shoulders as they develop dementia in their mid-fifties.

    Neither the league nor the player’s union seems to have any interest in regulating equipment, though, so that is out.  Instead, the idea is to regulate player behaviour (because it’s so much easier to make a healthy decision in less than a second than it is to have a series of meetings designed to substantially improve the safety of the game) by cracking down on deliberate head-shots.  This has also proven a difficult process haunted by hypocrisy and inconsistency so egregious it seems intentionally random.

    The best hockey player in the world will probably miss the rest of the season with post-concussion syndrome, and while it would be immoral to punish offenders based on the skill of their victims, Sidney Crosby suffered two blatantly illegal checks that should have been subject to supplementary discipline.  It is not Crosby’s skill that warrants punishment, but rather his skill that highlights the league’s irresponsibility in letting two different players skate by after illegally ending his season (that was developing as one of the best in NHL history, no less).

    When the league does suspend a player, it tends to go one of two ways: if the offender has any skill at all, the suspension is far too short, and if the offender has so little skill that his presence in the league is questionable, the suspension will be reasonable.

    I suppose I should hurry the fuck up and get to the part that means trouble for Bettman.  Last week in Montreal, star Boston Bruin defenseman Zdeno Chara viciously and intentionally bludgeoned Montreal winger Max Pacioretty’s head with a stanchion used to support a glass partition.  Chara had a well-known beef with Pacioretty entering the game and his team was losing 4-0 with fifteen seconds remaining in the second period.  It could not possibly be a more obvious example of desperate, violent revenge designed to galvanize his pathetic teammates.

    The league did nothing.  Oh, did I mention that the head of NHL discipline, Colin Campbell, has a son on the playoff-bound Bruins, and that captain Zdeno Chara is easily its best player?  Let’s not even mention the fact that the Boston-Montreal rivalry is currently the most heated in hockey, and that his father is more famous for the Rocket Richard riots than anything else (I guess I mentioned them).  Somehow, it does not strike anyone as a conflict of interest for the head of NHL discipline to have a son playing in the league.  Sure, he recuses himself from decisions involving the Bruins, relinquishing responsibility to an inferior that reports directly to him (no one would ever make a decision based on what they thought their boss wanted, right?) but every time he makes a ruling, it has the power to affect the Bruins in some capacity.

    The league’s refusal to punish Zdeno Chara has proven more controversial than is typical for its bad decisions, because this was simply one of the most extreme instances of hockey violence in recent memory.  A lifelong hockey fan at the age of 26, I can only recall two incidents more brutal than this one, and I only need say “Marty McSorley” and “Todd Bertuzzi” to clarify them.  Those assaults remain in a class of their own.  Remember that Bertuzzi received a season-long suspension, but due to the lockout (that somehow counted against his suspension despite the fact that not a single game occurred), only missed 13 regular-season games and 7 playoff matches.  So yeah, the league does not have a great record of accomplishment for discipline and many people are pissed off about this Chara shit.

    A few of those people hold prominent positions at Air Canada, apparently, because the airliner issued this surprisingly stern warning to the NHL:

    We are contacting you (Wednesday) to voice our concern over (Tuesday night’s) incident involving Max Pacioretty and Zdeno Chara at the Bell Centre in Montreal.  This is following several other incidents involving career-threatening and life-threatening headshots in the NHL recently.  From a corporate social responsibility standpoint, it is becoming increasingly difficult to associate our brand with sports events which could lead to serious and irresponsible accidents; action must be taken by the NHL before we are encountered with a fatality.  Unless the NHL takes immediate action with serious suspension to the players in question to curtail these life-threatening injuries, Air Canada will withdraw its sponsorship of hockey.

    Wow, right?  Pretty strong stuff.  Now, I am finally going to get to the part that might spell bad news for Bettman.  Here is his response:

    Our hockey operations people are extraordinarily comfortable with the decision that was made.  It was a horrific injury, we’re sorry that it happened in our fast-paced physical game, but I don’t think whether or not supplemental discipline was imposed would change what happened…  Air Canada is a great brand as is the National Hockey League and if they decide that they need to do other things with their sponsorship dollars, that’s their prerogative.  It is the prerogative of our clubs that fly on Air Canada to make other arrangements if they don’t think Air Canada is giving them the appropriate level of service.

    Ballsy stuff all around.  It looks like we have a couple of cowboys on our hands here.  Before I get to the sponsorship issue, can I get a WTF? for the choice of words, “extraordinarily comfortable?”  What the hell is that supposed to mean?  They are normally less comfortable with their decisions than they are here?  This was somehow a situation in which they were more certain of their ruling?  Bettman was an immature cunt to add the word “extraordinarily” for no other reason than to taunt his critics.

    One more thing before we talk about Air Canada: does Bettman actually think that the league has some magical power to change the past?  “I don’t think whether or not supplemental discipline was imposed would change what happened.”  Feel free to read that one over a few times.  Who the fuck said that supplemental discipline would undo the assault and its injury?  Have there been previous suspensions that retroactively altered the events that led to said suspensions?  In that case, it must have been pretty confusing that people were getting suspended.  Have people been contacting the league, blaming them that Max Pacioretty broke his neck because Zdeno Chara was not suspended?  No no no, it’s not the fault of the Chara non-suspension that Pacioretty broke his neck; it’s the fault of the Chara decision that the next guy intentionally bludgeoned by a rink-side stanchion because his assailant fears no reprimand will break his neck.

    Is it wise to play fast and loose with huge sponsors like this?  Air Canada is not only the (estimated) biggest corporate sponsor of NHL franchises, but it also charters several teams including all Canadian clubs.  It should come as no surprise that Bettman should be so careless with Air Canada - he would probably rather fly Southwest anyway.  I did not make up that joke and I have no idea who did.

    I would not count on this being the beginning of the end for Gary Bettman.  Owners just extended his contract, the league is making money and my opinions rigidly tend to oppose those of the NHL in all matters Bettman.  However, if he fails to get a grasp on discipline (firing Colin Campbell is no longer an option) and sponsors start withdrawing, the owners will probably look for a commissioner who can keep the big corporate dollars rolling in.  This is especially likely to happen when an NHL player dies during a game resultant of a headshot.  The way Campbell and Bettman like their hockey, that should happen very soon.

    1 note

    Malicious Intent

    Nearing the end of the second period, the home team leads the visitors 4-0.  The visitors’ top defenseman, one of the best in the league and the largest player in NHL history, lines up a hit against a winger that embarrassed him in a match earlier this season by scoring an overtime goal in the big man’s face and shoving him post-play, sending the giant into a rage.  The winger chips the puck down-ice before contact occurs, but the D-man decides to finish his check.  The pair speeding along the boards in front of the visitors’ bench, the big man spots an opportunity when he looks directly at a glass partition (that probably should not be there), reaches out and holds the winger’s head while he rides it into the post of the partition.  The winger is taken off the ice on a stretcher.  For a few minutes, I wonder if he is dead.

    This is what I saw last night when the Montreal Canadiens hosted the Boston Bruins.  Max Pacioretty was the injured winger and Zdeno Chara was the giant defenseman.  In all honestly, the brutal hit disturbs me less than the post-hit reaction by NHL pundits.  Far too many commentators are concluding that the hit must have been an accident, and as far as I can tell, they have offered two explanations to as why they feel that way: Chara has never done this before and things happen very quickly on the ice.

    I’ll start with the latter since it’s the most common justification for questionable hits in the NHL.  It’s not always bullshit, but I think in this case it is.  Yes, the game is very fast, and there are many times when the last-second actions of a hit’s victim actually alters the circumstances of the hit in such a way that it becomes very dangerous in a way the hitter did not intend.  The most typical example here is when a checker is targeting a puck-carrier near the boards when said puck-carrier turns to face the boards, accidentally creating a hit from behind if the checker does not have time to react.  I do not understand how anyone could use the speed argument to defend Chara.  In fact, I propose we use speed against Chara in this instance.

    Here is a video of the hit.  To argue that Chara does not have time to realize that his hit is illegal is ludicrous.  The hit concludes at the red line, by which time the puck is past the blue line.  However, I would argue that he does not have enough time to overcome a nasty instinct.  Chara sees a player that humiliated and infuriated him months ago, sees a chance to hurt him, and does not have time to think better of it.

    The more popular defense of Chara relies on a clean history.  He’s a big, mean man, but not particularly noted as a dirty one.  I don’t understand how this changes what happened on the ice.  There’s a first time for everything.  If someone does something nasty for the first time, it is still nasty.  It does not get promoted from ‘nasty’ to ‘not so bad’ by virtue of the fact that it was a first offense.  I understand that his suspension will span fewer games than if this was the second or third time he did this, and I agree with this logic, but some analysts (namely Mike Milbury and Barry Melrose) actually suggested this was no more than a two-minute penalty on the grounds that Chara’s record is clean.

    Consider this: everyone’s record is clean until it isn’t.  To give a player the benefit of the doubt based on his history, even if it involves ignoring every other factor relevant to the situation, is just stupid.  Let’s summarize the case:

    • For Chara: He has never done this before.
    • Against Chara: His team was down 4-0; including this game, Boston has lost 8 of its past 9 against Montreal; the hit was very late; he was looking directly at the obstacle of collision; the victim was a rival with whom he had bad blood entering the game; the victim had scored 4 goals and 2 assists in 3 games against the Bruins this season entering the match, including an overtime goal; positionally, Chara has no reason to be at centre ice at this point and should be in his own zone, indicating he was going after Pacioretty.

    The NHL can never determine exactly what a player was thinking during a play; disciplinarians are not psychic.  Their job involves weighing evidence to make objective guesses as to what a player was thinking.  Anyone who can consider all the items in this case and still conclude that Chara acted without malice is simply making a concentrated effort to be dishonest.Intentional?

    1 note

    Sure as shit looks intentional to me.

    Sure as shit looks intentional to me.

    2010 - My Top Fifteen Films

    The Oscars award ceremony will occur this evening, and though I concur with virtually every possible criticism one could make of it, I love it.  It’s my Super Bowl (well, that may be a bad analogy because I actually enjoy the Super Bowl quite a bit as well, but you get the idea).  I still have not yet seen many notable films from 2010, so this list is incomplete and may require revision at a later date.  I hope there is no statute of limitations on end-of-year best-of lists.

    • 15.  Shutter Island.  A slight disappointment, this film overcame obstacles that would normally bring a picture down.  It telegraphs its key plot twist from the opening credits (I successfully predicted said twist roughly fifteen minutes into the film) and suffers a rather hammy climax.  Meanwhile, it still comes correctly enough to justify a viewing, thanks mostly to sharp and compelling performances by director Martin Scorsese and editor Thelma Schoonmaker.  Contrary to popular belief, this was the best film Leonardo DiCaprio made last year.
    • 14.  Stone.  The enigmatic story of a parole officer on the verge of self-destruction and the potential parolee that might push him over the edge.  Stone forces thoughtful spectatorship.
    • 13.  Winter’s Bone.  This is why AMPAS’ decision to double its Best Picture nominees was a good one.  This work of hillbilly noir could never have made the five-film cut, and would thus see its audience reduced substantially.  Tonally, this reminded me of last year’s excellent Frozen River.  Screen with Deliverance if trying to scare a friend away from the American South.
    • 12.  127 Hours.  A truly terrible idea for a film, director Danny Boyle actually pulls off a miracle and makes the story of a trapped hiker captivating.  James Franco excels in one of the most demanding acting roles in recent memory, and the conclusion is one of the most deservedly triumphant moments of melodramatic stylization I have ever seen.
    • 11.  The Fighter.  When the ads started appearing for The Fighter, I thought it looked like a big, smelly turd.  I was mistaken.  There is nothing new here and its obvious conventionality is what turned me off initially.  Ultimately, while it’s doing things we have seen in a hundred different sports films, it does those things very well.  Christian Bale’s lovable crackhead seems to be a unanimous strong point for audiences.
    • 10.  The Kids Are All Right.  For some reason, I have very little to say about this so I’m just gonna move on.  Lesbians and shit.  It’s good.
    • 9.  The King’s Speech.  There is a very good chance this will win Best Picture at the Oscars, which would be bad, even though this is a very good film.  The reason I think its victory would be bad is that this is very much the type of film that always contends for awards.  Seriously, it’s absurd how over-represented the historical drama genre is in Oscar history.  That said, this film enjoys a solid screenplay, terrific performances and even a fetching visual style that no one seems to be mentioning.
    • 8.  True Grit.  If you are a viewer that typically finds the Coen brothers objectionably enigmatic in their storytelling, this is probably the Coen brothers’ film for you.  The unsung hero of True Grit is its keen sense of humour, and one scene involving a man wearing a bear skin had me laughing so hard that I had to review it to hear the dialogue.
    • 7.  Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.  Quite possibly the best comic book adaptation ever.  Yup, I said that.  This is certainly a comic book films’ comic book film, and works hard to preserve its original form.  Funny, exciting and original, I suggest this is the most balls-out fun film of the year.
    • 6.  That Girl In Yellow Boots.  Never heard of it?  Didn’t think so, bitch.  It’s an Indian film that features a striking colour palette and a disturbingly tragic, unpredictable narrative.  Not a lot of laughing in this one.
    • 5.  Toy Story 3.  I’m getting really sick of Pixar.  You know why?  Because every film it puts out is wonderful and everyone always agrees.  It’s getting tired.  The thrilling climax unexpectedly gives birth to the most touching moment of the year.  Assuming the franchise is complete, it goes out on its highest note.
    • 4.  Beginners.  Ewan McGregor is a cartoonist whose father (Christopher Plummer) has just died, and the film is largely a flashback to the last year of his life that started when he came out as a homosexual following decades of secrecy.  Laughs and tears are in all the right places.
    • 3.  Rabbit Hole.  Did someone just say “laughs and tears are in all the right places?”  Originally a Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Rabbit Hole exercises masterful emotional manipulation, knowing exactly how far to go without becoming over-sentimental and hackneyed.  Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart have never been better, and the grieving process (they play a couple struggling to overcome the death of a young child) has never felt more authentic.
    • 2.  Black Swan.  Darren Aronofsky is one of the most talented directors in the world, but would it kill the guy to make a film that’s a pleasure to experience?  Requiem For a Dream is one of cinema’s greatest buzzkills, and this formally magnificent piece is no picnic either.  Props to the mirror imagery.
    • 1.  The Social Network.  "Hey Mike, why not just pick the most obvious film as your number one?”  Yeah, I know.  Nothing exciting about finishing the list like this.  It’s not my fault.  David Fincher made a movie so good I just can’t deny it.  Fincher’s directing is ambitious and novel; he actually employs editing and sound (yay for Trent Reznor!) techniques best suited for action films while telling an inherently boring story to create one of the more riveting pictures of the year.  Aaron Sorkin, whose work I normally despise, does magnificent work as screenwriter, probably because he finally met a director that can make his dreadful style work.  I mean, seriously, Aaron Sorkin is one of the most overrated people in the history of all things.  Anyway… this is the story of the disputed intellectual ownership of one of the pillars of the modern world - Facebook - made by one of Hollywood’s most stylistically progressive artists.  It’s the best film of 2010 because as far as I can tell, it is 2010.

    EDIT:  You might be wondering, “Hey Mike, where the fuck is Gaspar Noé’s masterpiece Enter the Void?”  You have a keen sense for cinema if you asked this.  I actually saw that film last year at the Toronto Film Festival, and it was #1 on my 2009 list, so I didn’t think it was fair to include it for 2010 as well, even though that was its year of release for many markets.

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      Top 50 Statistical Passing Performances In Super Bowl History

      I’m offering no analysis here, so I’ve carefully avoided labeling any of these performances “the best.”  These are the best statistical passing performances in Super Bowl history.  Rushing stats mean nothing here, nor do late-game heroics.  The statistics I’ve taken into account are attempts, completions, yards, touchdowns, interceptions, completions per attempt, yards per attempt, touchdowns per attempt and interception per attempt.  Eligibility restricted anyone with fewer than 10 pass attempts.  The year next to each player’s name actually represents the year of the NFL season being completed by the Super Bowl, not the year in which the big game occurred.

      50.  Daryle Lamonica, 1967, Oakland Raiders.  Lost 33-14 to Green Bay Packers.  15/34, 208 Y, 2 TD, 1 INT.

      49.  Jim Kelly, 1991, Buffalo Bills.  Lost 37-24 to Washington Redskins.  28/58, 275 Y, 2 TD, 4 INT.

      48.  Jim McMahon, 1985, Chicago Bears.  Defeated New England Patriots 46-10.  12/20, 256 Y, 0 TD, 0 INT.

      47.  Bart Starr, 1967, Green Bay Packers.  Defeated Oakland Raiders 33-14.  13/24, 202 Y, 1 TD, 0 INT.

      46.  Steve McNair, 1999, Tennessee Titans.  Lost 23-16 to St. Louis Rams.  22/36, 214 Y, 0 TD, 0 INT.

      45.  Stan Humphries, 1994, San Diego Chargers.  Lost 49-26 to San Francisco 49ers.  24/49, 275 Y, 1 TD, 2 INT.

      44.  Jim Plunkett, 1983, Los Angeles Raiders.  Defeated Washington Redskins 38-9.  16/25, 172 Y, 1 TD, 0 INT.

      43.  Ken Stabler, 1976, Oakland Raiders.  Defeated Minnesota Vikings 32-14.  12/19, 180 Y, 1 TD, 0 INT.

      42.  Terry Bradshaw, 1979, Pittsburgh Steelers.  Defeated Los Angeles Rams 31-19.  14/21, 309 Y, 2 TD, 3 INT.

      41.  Brad Johnson, 2002, Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  Defeated Oakland Raiders 48-21.  18/34, 215 Y, 2 TD, 1 INT.

      40.  Roger Staubach, 1977, Dallas Cowboys.  Defeated Denver Broncos 27-10.  17/25, 183 Y, 1 TD, 0 INT.

      39.  Roger Staubach, 1971, Dallas Cowboys.  Defeated Miami Dolphins 24-3.  12/19, 119 Y, 2 TD, 0 INT.

      38.  Troy Aikman, 1995, Dallas Cowboys.  Defeated Pittsburgh Steelers 27-17.  15/23, 209 Y, 1 TD, 0 INT.

      37.  Ben Roethlisberger, 2008, Pittsburgh Steelers.  Defeated Arizona Cardinals 27-23.  21/30, 256 Y, 1 TD, 1 INT.

      36.  Jim Kelly, 1993, Buffalo Bills.  Lost 30-13 to Dallas Cowboys.  31/50, 260 Y, 0 TD, 1 INT.

      35.  Jeff Hostetler, 1990, New York Giants.  "Defeated" Buffalo Bills 20-19.  20/32, 222 Y, 1 TD, 0 INT.

      34.  Peyton Manning, 2006, Indianapolis Colts.  Defeated Chicago Bears 29-17.  25/38, 247 Y, 1 TD, 1 INT.

      33.  Ben Roethlisberger, 2010, Pittsburgh Steelers.  Lost 31-25 to Green Bay Packers.  25/40, 263 Y, 2 TD, 2 INT.

      32.  Eli Manning, 2007, New York Giants.  Defeated New England Patriots 17-14.  19/34, 255 Y, 2 TD, 1 INT.

      31.  Matt Hasselbeck, 2005, Seattle Seahawks.  Lost 21-10 to Pittsburgh Steelers.  26/49, 273 Y, 1 TD, 1 INT.

      30.  John Elway, 1986, Denver Broncos.  Lost 39-20 to New York Giants.  22/37, 304 Y, 1 TD, 1 INT.

      29.  Terry Bradshaw, 1975, Pittsburgh Steelers.  Defeated Dallas Cowboys 21-17.  9/19, 209 Y, 2 TD, 0 INT.

      28.  Dan Marino, 1984, Miami Dolphins.  Lost 38-16 to San Francisco 49ers.  29/50, 318 Y, 1 TD, 2 INT.

      27.  John Elway, 1998, Denver Broncos.  Defeated Atlanta Falcons 34-19.  18/29, 336 Y, 1 TD, 1 INT.

      26.  Mark Rypien, 1991, Washington Redskins.  Defeated Buffalo Bills 37-24.  18/33, 292 Y, 2 TD, 1 INT.

      25.  Brett Favre, 1996, Green Bay Packers.  Defeated New England Patriots 35-21.  14/27, 246 Y, 2 TD, 0 INT.

      24.  Bart Starr, 1966, Green Bay Packers.  Defeated Kansas City Chiefs 35-10.  16/23, 250 Y, 2 TD, 1 INT.

      23.  Roger Staubach, 1978, Dallas Cowboys.  Lost 35-31 to Pittsburgh Steelers.  17/30, 228 Y, 3 TD, 1 INT.

      22.  Kurt Warner, 2001, St. Louis Rams.  Lost 20-17 to New England Patriots.  28/44, 365 Y, 1 TD, 2 INT.

      21.  Ken Anderson, 1981, Cincinnati Bengals.  Lost 26-21 to San Francisco 49ers.  25/34, 300 Y, 2 TD, 2 INT.

      20.  Tom Brady, 2007, New England Patriots.  Lost 17-14 to New York Giants.  29/48, 266 Y, 1 TD, 0 INT.

      19.  Tom Brady, 2004, New England Patriots.  Defeated Philadelphia Eagles 24-21.  23/33, 236 Y, 2 TD, 0 INT.

      18.  Brett Favre, 1997, Green Bay Packers.  Lost 31-24 to Denver Broncos.  25/42, 256 Y, 3 TD, 1 INT.

      17.  Donovan McNabb, 2004, Philadelphia Eagles.  Lost 24-21 to New England Patriots.  30/51, 357 Y, 3 TD, 3 INT.

      16.  Peyton Manning, 2009, Indianapolis Colts.  Lost 31-17 to New Orleans Saints.  31/45, 333 Y, 1 TD, 1 INT.

      15.  Jake Delhomme, 2003, Carolina Panthers.  Lost 32-29 to New England Patriots.  16/33, 323 Y, 3 TD, 0 INT.

      14.  Joe Montana, 1988, San Francisco 49ers.  Defeated Cincinnati Bengals 20-16.  23/36, 357 Y, 2 TD, 0 INT.

      13.  Jim Plunkett, 1980, Oakland Raiders.  Defeated Philadelphia Eagles 27-10.  13/21, 261 Y, 3 TD, 0 INT.

      12.  Terry Bradshaw, 1978, Pittsburgh Steelers.  Defeated Dallas Cowboys 35-31.  17/30, 318 Y, 4 TD, 1 INT.

      11.  Aaron Rodgers, 2010, Green Bay Packers.  Defeated Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25.  24/39, 304 Y, 3 TD, 0 INT.

      10.  Kurt Warner, 1999, St. Louis Rams.  Defeated Tennessee Titans 23-16.  24/45, 414 Y, 2 TD, 0 INT.

      9.  Drew Brees, 2009, New Orleans Saints.  Defeated Indianapolis Colts 31-17.  32/39, 288 Y, 2 TD, 0 INT.

      8.  Doug Williams, 1987, Washington Redskins.  Defeated Denver Broncos 42-10.  18/29, 340 Y, 4 TD, 1 INT.

      7.  Tom Brady, 2003, New England Patriots.  Defeated Carolina Panthers 32-29.  32/48, 354 Y, 3 TD, 1 INT.

      6.  Joe Montana, 1984, San Francisco 49ers.  Defeated Miami Dolphins 38-16.  24/35, 331 Y, 3 TD, 0 INT.

      5.  Kurt Warner, 2008, Arizona Cardinals.  Lost 27-23 to Pittsburgh Steelers.  31/43, 377 Y, 3 TD, 1 INT.

      4.  Phil Simms, 1986, New York Giants.  Defeated Denver Broncos 39-20.  22/25, 268 Y, 3 TD, 0 INT.

      3.  Troy Aikman, 1992, Dallas Cowboys.  Defeated Buffalo Bills 52-17.  22/30, 273 Y, 4 TD, 0 INT.

      2.  Joe Montana, 1989, San Francisco 49ers.  Defeated Denver Broncos 55-10.  22/29, 297 Y, 5 TD, 0 INT.

      1.  Steve Young, 1994, San Francisco 49ers.  Defeated San Diego Chargers 49-26.  24/36, 325 Y, 6 TD, 0 INT.

      The glorious podcast debut of Toronto-based band BABE, the second coming of Christ, some rude diners provide a vehicle for Mike to use accents to unsuccessfully hide the fact that all of his voices sound exactly alike.  Mike says “800 metres” when he means “80 metres,” at one point, and at another, forgets how to operate his microphone without affecting the recording at all.  Bless you for listening to this.

      Rewriting History: Huck Finn Goes PC

      This year, NewSouth Books will publish Adventures of Huckleberry Finn with some editorial changes.  The word slave will replace nigger and injun will also disappear.  Mark Twain scholar Alan Gribben apparently led the charge to alter Twain’s masterpiece, on the grounds that the change would better express Twain’s ideas in the 21st century, and that the new version would be more friendly for use in classrooms.  Suzanne La Rosa (of NewSouth Books) said, “we saw the value in an edition that would help the works find new readers. If the publication sparks good debate about how language impacts learning or about the nature of censorship or the way in which racial slurs exercise their baneful influence, then our mission in publishing this new edition of Twain’s works will be more emphatically fulfilled.” [sic]

      Gribben is correct that the new version will be more friendly for use in classrooms, but it’s not necessarily a good thing that that is true.  He is dead wrong and extremely arrogant in suggesting that the new version will better express Twain’s ideas, though.  I cannot imagine a better way to express Twain’s ideas than by publishing the book the way Twain wrote it.  Moreover, Twain did not write the book in the 21st century, and it is not necessary to update it.  He was very pointedly describing a time and a place.  We teach Shakespeare in schools despite the fact that Elizabethan England isn’t much like our society.  La Rosa’s suggestion that NewSouth Books was interested in sparking a debate about censorship is laughable because such a debate would require discussion of the word nigger and would thus render the censorship completely futile.

      Of course, as it stands now the censorship is futile, because the idea that we can protect children from their own cultural history (a task that in itself seems immoral) by removing nigger from the text doesn’t quite hold up logically against the fact that the book still portrays a society in which African-Americans are slaves!  Call me crazy, but I always thought the most abhorrent aspect of slavery was slavery, not racial slurs.  It seems unbelievably insulting to suggest that students can handle learning about slavery but that they cannot handle a word that signifies it.

      Mark Twain was quite self-conscious about his employment of the word in question.  In its original publication, he wrote a foreword that addressed the language he felt was necessary to tell the story he wished to tell.  Even at the time, he knew that nigger was a bad word, but he felt it was an important part of conveying the culture in which the novel occurs.  A rather important part of the novel is the recognition by Huck and Tom that Nigger Jim is inherently deserving of freedom and dignity, in opposition to a society that considers him little more than an animal.  The censored version undermines Twain’s intention and sugarcoats the shameful history of the portrayed region.

      Those responsible for censoring Twain’s masterpiece undoubtedly have their hearts in the right places.  They would rather see a censored Huck Finn taught in schools than see a resistance to controversy remove it from the curriculum entirely.  Excuse the clichés, but two wrongs don’t make a right, and the road to hell is paved with good intention.  If there are school districts populated by parents whose heads are jammed so far up their asses that they would rather raise a generation of philistines than confront a nasty word (and, in the process, learn something indispensable about their own history), then that’s a shame, but it does not mandate the censorship of a truly great novel.

      You may have noticed that during this blog post, I have deviated from the culturally normal euphemism N-word and instead opted to use nigger.  I did this quite consciously, and the reason is that I am an adult.  I don’t say F-word; I say fuck.  It is obviously a good policy to avoid using a word that offends people so much, but it is an even better policy to refuse to let a word own your emotions.  I do not think that I have used the word in an offensive context, and I refuse to participate in the hysterical social infantilization overwhelming our culture.  We cannot erase our past, and we should not want to.  As disgusting as the treatment of African-Americans in North America has historically been, we are only contributing to the horror by pretending it never happened.  Totalitarians cleanse their history of the inconvenient bits; democracies preserve their histories out of a twofold desire to be honest and to learn their lessons.

      Chickens Come Home To Roost: Tragedy In Tuscon and Dangerous Rhetoric

      By now, you have probably heard all about the tragedy that occurred this weekend in Tuscon (if not, read this).  Immediately after the news broke, Internet users (myself included) exploded with angry blame directed mostly towards Sarah Palin (I believe I tweeted at her something along the lines of “I hope you’re happy, you stupid, heartless cunt”), and some other radical right-wing commentators that habitually employ violent rhetoric to manufacture political support.  The most notorious examples of such rhetoric included: a map published on Palin’s web site that used gun-sight icons to delineate districts concurrently represented by Democratic legislators (including Gabrielle Giffords) that supported last year’s health reform bill; Palin’s message to voters that they should not “retreat, RELOAD”; Sharron Angle’s statement that, “if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies… the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out”; Jesse Kelly (Giffords’ most recent electoral opponent) held a rally last summer at which supporters were invited to, “Get on Target for Victory in November Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly” [sic].

      While the aforementioned examples represent the most atrocious instances of violent rhetoric and all come from right-wing mouths, Democrats and left-wingers (or whatever passes as left-wing in the chronically conservative United States) are not exactly virgins to such madness.  The Daily Kos recently deleted a post titled (and referring to Giffords), “My CongressWOMAN voted against Nancy Pelosi!  And is now DEAD to me!”  (I’m not sure why “woman” was capitalized, unless the author thought Giffords should have voted for Pelosi out of gender unity).  During his presidential campaign, Barrack Obama wanted to express that the Democrats would campaign more aggressively than Republicans, so he chose the words, “if they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun!”  Now, obviously these examples are not nearly as egregious as the right-wing counterparts, even though conservatives are shamelessly trying to argue that blame should fall equally on either side of the aisle, but the point I’m making is that violence is central to political rhetoric in America.

      America is and always has been a culture in love with the notion of good violence.  Arguably the most consistent theme in American art history is the idea that good can only defeat evil by resorting to violent measures.  George Carlin famously illustrated that even football is riddled with war metaphors.  Obviously, the #1 contributor to Jared Lee Loughner’s actions was his own undiagnosed madness.  But I would argue that the #2 contributor is a society (and particularly a political climate) that is so enthusiastic about the notion of triumph by violence.  It’s one thing to be batshit crazy, but when highly influential people start making you feel that you’re correct to feel that way, it goes a long way toward realizing your terrible fantasies.  And President Obama isn’t even considered one of the hawk-ish types (a dubious perception, of course, but that’s not really the point).

      I don’t think any of the public figures that use violent rhetoric wanted this tragedy to happen.  Even the few that used such imagery directly to raise opposition against the victim herself probably did not want this.  But the point is, they faced a choice between generating political support and making sure they weren’t putting anyone in danger.  They chose the former, regardless of potential cost.

      While it is unlikely that anyone went far enough to technically be charged with inciting violence, some people came very close and there are a number of public figures that ought to feel extremely guilty about what transpired.  Hopefully some good can come of this atrocity: American legislators might revise gun ownership laws by acknowledging that the right to bare arms should be subservient to the right to public safety, influential public figures might stop employing dangerous rhetoric and the media might stop treating purposely misinformed psychopaths (read: Tea Party) as though their opinions are as valid as those of any citizen.

      I wouldn’t count on it though.

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      Thank you, tumblrbot, that is an excellent question.  My earliest human memory (as opposed to my earliest cyborg memory, which is a completely different story) occurred at the age of 3.  I was completely naked, and opened the front door to go outside.  My mother swiftly put the kibosh on that, urging me that “you can’t go outside without clothes on!”

      So how does this relate to the person I’ve become?  Well, I suppose I’m an extrovert, constantly putting it all out there, so to speak, while those around me routinely ask, “Why is he telling us this?”  For instance, I pride myself on being very fast at defecating, my penis hurts when I pee after washing it as though soap gives me venereal disease, and I suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder.  Why did I tell you that?  I really didn’t need to.  Don’t tell my mother that I’m still walking around without clothes on after all these years.

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