Obama to Visit Ottawa

Last week, it was announced that Barack Obama would make his first trip outside the U.S. as Prez to Ottawa on Feb. 19. It's not an official state visit, media report, more of a working visit with a limited number of public events. Parliament won't even be in session, so he won't be making a formal address there. Nonetheless, Whitehouse communication strategists have implemented a rigorous program to prepare Obama for his debut on the international stage. The above picture was taken Jan. 29. It shows Obama, after truck-loads of ice shavings were brought in from Verizon Center (home of the Washington Capitals) and dumped in the Rose Garden, practicing walking in the type of slush found in Ottawa in mid-February. Later that day, he received a primer on ice hockey, curling and the differences between NFL and CFL football. Today, Obama was scheduled to listen to a playlist of 49 songs that CBC listeners selected for him as an introduction to Canada, and begin reading Margaret Atwood's novel A Handmaid's Tale. In the weeks to come, he will watch films by Atom Egoyan, David Cronenberg, Deepa Mehta and Patricia Rosema, along with select episodes of Corner Gas and The Trailer Park Boys, and will be quizzed daily on arcane Canadiana like who invented the game of basketball and the vital role Canada played in the famed pre-Civil War Underground Railroad. Finally, to attune his palette to Canadian tastes, Obama will sample numerous national delicacies like beaver tails, poutine, fiddleheads, nanaimo bars, bannock and tourtiere prepared for him by a noted Canadian chef.

Downtown Plan Moving Along

To an outsider like me, Regina's Downtown Master Plan Project has seemed pretty quiet lately. So, I was glad to get an email today saying things are moving along and we can expect it to be presented to Council this spring. From the email:
We have seen great progress on the Downtown Master Plan to date and that work continues. Office for Urbanism is now working closely with City staff to fine-tune the plan's technical details. They are also working with the development community to finalize the 'built form framework' that was developed as part of the plan. This framework governs the specifics of building design for the area, including how high buildings can be, how far back they should be set from the sidewalk, etc.

We anticipate bringing the Downtown Plan forward to Council in the spring. The date of the Council meeting will be communicated to you in the near future. This plan is our chance to create a vibrant downtown that is the heart and soul of our community. We are taking the time we need to ensure it is complete, thorough and tested.
You can take a gander at the Downtown Plan newsletter here.

Talking To Journalists

It should not surprise anyone who's met me or has ever read my editorials that I don't know what I'm doing. Partly I'm just a born dumbass, but this is also a quality of the modern condition. Lots of us work in jobs we don't feel qualified for, struggle with situations we're not prepared for and generally bumble our way through life the best we can. As long as we don't knock too many expensive vases off shelves along the way, we need to cut ourselves some slack.

Aaaaaanyway, one of the things I do to be less-incompetent is read and learn from other newspapers and magazines, with special attention to pubs that are similar to (but better than) prairie dog. For this reason, we have subscriptions to several alt-weeklies, including Toronto's NOW, Edmonton's See and Halifax's The Coast. I keep an eye on more online.

My favourite alternative weekly newspaper is Seattle's The Stranger. Launched in 1991 by Tim Keck, a co-founder of The Onion, and a great cartoonist named James Sturm, it's loaded with personality, humour and at times genuine insight--and at times ferocious stupidity, like when then-editor (now editorial director) (and one of my favourite newspaper writers) Dan Savage advocated for the invasion of Iraq. But that's another blog post for another day).

The Stranger also has an excellent blog, called Slog. I read Slog a couple times a week, sometimes a lot more if there's something important I'm procrastinating on.

All that to get to my point--this post which I found interesting and maybe you will too. The university of Washington student newspaper contacted Savage, who's also gay and a well-known sex-advice columnist for an interview about anal sex in their sex issue. Savage (click for a video of Dan pummelling a right-wing Christian jerk on Anderson Cooper), is leaning toward not giving them an interview because the newspaper previously published a dumbass, bigoted opinion column equating gay marriage with bestiality.

I'm interested in all this partly because I fouled campus newspapers with my crap for 10 years and still have an emotional attachment to the student press.

But more importantly, there is an issue here. An issue, I say! When media outlets print/broadcast something vile, does that mean people they've enraged should refuse to give interviews to them thereafter? Yes, no or "it depends"?

Well obviously the correct answer is "it depends" but it's fun to talk about.

Something similar but more important happened in Sask last year when the SFL declared a boycott of CJME because of allegedly biased and hostile coverage. I don't listen to CJME so I don't know if this is still in effect. We covered it last year though. You can read Paul Dechene's article here.

[Edited by author because post had some cutsey, coy writing. Coy must die.]

Robert J Sawyer Interview

As a bonus feature to this issue's article about life on Mars, here's the complete interview with Robert J Sawyer. In it he discusses the possibility that life down here began out there and he argues that we actually discovered life on Mars back in the early 70s.

For those who don't know who he is, here's his bio...

Called "the dean of Canadian science fiction" by The Ottawa Citizen and "just about the best science-fiction writer out there these days" by The Denver Rocky Mountain News, Robert J Sawyer is one of only seven writers in history to win all three of the science-fiction field's top honors for best novel of the year: the Hugo Award in 2003 for Hominids, the Nebula in 1996 for The Terminal Experiment and the John W Campbell Memorial Award in 2006 for Mindscan. Rob has an honorary doctorate from Laurentian University. He was born in Ottawa and currently lives in Mississauga. His latest novel, Wake, will be published in April of 2009.

You can check out his website here.