Thursday, April 19, 2012

Confessions of a Brony

The second season of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is coming to a close and the hype of this extraordinary series is taking on a fever pitch with The Hub posting an advertisement for it in the New York Times' wedding notice section last Sunday. Furthermore, Tori Spelling was slated to host a public screening of the episode, although she took ill and Dancing with the Stars host Brooke Burke had to substitute.

Looking back, it's still hard to imagine this would be so significant to me a year ago, I tried seeing the first episode, but the cutesie opening exposition just turned me off.  However, seeing the sheer intensity of the unprecedented fandom from this show just became too strong and audacious to ignore. So, I decided to seriously see what the fuss was about

At first, the series seemed largely ordinary with an epic fantasy adventure story very much in the spirit of the franchise's first TV appearance in 1984, but with an odd wry humour puncturing the property's notorious overwrought earnestness.  However, the first hints of what the series would be truly appear in the title sequence that begins with the usual superficial lyricism and suddenly dives into a rock tune that makes it really clear that the show will be taking a different path.

 However, as you watch the series in proper order, the characters and the show's style will start inculcate the realization that there is something much more ambitious happening.  It does take awhile, but this show will manipulate your expectations and gleefully thwart them with increasing skill as you grow to understand Twilight Sparkle and her friends. It takes awhile, but the accumulated rapport through the first eight episodes will entangle you like growing vines.

Until episode 9, "Bridle Gossip," when it will suddenly grab you as the series suddenly and truly hits its stride. This episode finally works with the same kind of character based humour that made Jim Henson's Muppet Show become the enthralling demographic spanning TV masterpiece in the 1970s. Specifically, this story about prejudice only works when you know the characters and how the jokes play to their most fundamental natures. Moreover, your patience will be rewarded at the 3/4 mark when you are laughing hysterically as two characters take a silly hyperactive song repeated endlessly in the story and reluctantly have to improvise in the most bizarre circumstances. I could show you the clip, but like I said, it only really works when you are willing to know the characters well enough to understand the humour.

After that, you will be watching this series voraciously as that broken ice allows you to accept the show's deft charm and heart with an opened mind.  Furthermore, the wildly creative fandom will entrance you equally well, whether it the endless fan fiction creativity displayed at Equestria Daily or the tuneful filk songs of the Beatle Bronies.

If you need a better representation of my feelings, then click the latter gang's version of George Harrison's "Something" to truly hear articulate the way it should be:

This is not say the show is flawless; the second season suffers from the Hasbro Inc.'s mandated loose continuity that makes some episodes like "Sweet and Elite" make no sense since the high society treat the Mane Cast like hick nobodies after they have become the national heroes decorated by their sovereign while some characters like Rainbow Dash and her overbearing arrogance gets a bit grating.

But on the whole, the series is a delight that is sadly apparently coming to a close with only 13 episodes scheduled for next season to apparently reach the typical animated series episode cut off of 65. Regardless, what a gloriously relatively long strange trip it has been and I hope to enjoy the rest while there is still some distance to go.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Canadian Charter Birthday and Harper's Snub

Today is the 30th anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a major advance in Canadian human rights which enabled the expansion of women's reproductive freedom, gay rights and other boons.

That makes it no surprise that Harper and his cronies want to ignore the occasion as much as they can. What else do you expect from a government that is so petty partisan to sneer at such a historical landmark in part because it was Pierre Trudeau's pride and joy.  Of course, the fact that it is a guard against the abuses of parliament with a majority government from in theory doing nearly whatever it wants is a factor as well. Now we have to hope that the courts will get a backbone to actually use the Charter to thwart the abuses Harper wants to commit in law. Given their misogyny, the fact that the Charter has the equivalent provisions of the failed US Equal Rights Amendment must really irritate Harper and the gang at least as much considering it makes it that much harder for them to push women around. The fact that they killed the Court Challenges program to impede the fight to make it work is no accident itself.

Of course, I do have complaints about the Charter.  The Notwithstanding Clause, which enables Parliament to arbitrarily override court decision for five years at a time is completely unacceptable as if the Parliament is above the law, or at least the official interpretation of it. Even if that clause has become political poison, it is no excuse to have it still available for any government to use. The fact that it has no provisions for protecting things of basic humanity like the social safety for the most vulnerable in our country is an equal sticking point.

There is also the fact that people have perverted its interpretation as a means to attack public health care in Quebec because it is having problems with wait times, just as how the US Supreme Court used their constitution's 14th amendment to create that legal person concept called the business corporation and unleashed those psychotics on the the world. Watch the film, The Corporation, to see a full explanation of that.

But still, this is a moment to commemorate the Charter to some degree, if only to understand that on the whole, it is something special that Trudeau gave to Canada, if imperfect in nature.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Last Chance to hear CBC Radio's Tradition of Drama

As the CBC copes with its 10+% cut to its budget, one of the casualties to lament is the closing down of CBC Radio's tradition of radio drama.

I was late to this element of CBC, but the weekly radio show became a dearly anticipated treat on Thursday morning/late night, especially after I cancelled my cable TV subscription. Although I could never get into the long running series, Afghanada, Canada's Tour of Duty, all that much, other shows like Monsoon House, Backbencher and Trust Inc. have been wonderful listening in a way that televison can't really match. Certainly, a war series like Afghanada on CBC TV could not have been made with all the production values it would have demanded.

Now, you have one last chance to hear what I mean as CBC Radio's final drama series, Trust Inc., repeats its season starting this morning. It's a fun serio-comedy about a PR firm as they go about their trade managing the truth and the public's perception of it for clients who are often as dubious in character as the spin-doctoring they are expecting from the firm.

What really makes this series special that is that it has an intriguing use of the online materials like a fictional blog by the series' character, a presentation of The Post Telegraph, the series' newspaper where a reporter character writes, and even video clips that illustrate key points of the action of series. Of course, it's also podcast and is available on Itunes.

So, while you still have a chance, check out this terrific series today at 11:31 am and 11:06 pm and listen to  the final product of CBC Radio's dramatic tradition that extends through its 70 year history.
Regrettably as I have learned this morning, CBC has grown more neglectful of its publicly posted broadcast schedules and the network is rerunning the final season of Afghanada on Radio One. So, enjoy that series as Canada's public broadcaster's commitment to radio drama comes to a close.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Victims of Flaherty's Federal Budget

Now with Jim Flaherty's fiscal vandalism more coming fully to light with his Federal Budget, the casualties of what has made Canada have a better sense of humanity are being cut away by these blind ideologues.
  • The Community Access Program, which enables the poor to have better access to the internet and its online resources. So, Harper wants to try to silence the disadvantaged while local organizations and libraries have to pick up the slack as best they can.
  • Rights and Democracy: A decades old organization found by Brian Mulroney to promote human rights and democratic institutions around the world.  Considering how it dared to give some honest criticism about Israeli policies when Harper and the gang are slavishly deferring to that country's every whim, it was rather inevitable considering they don't respect democracy in Canada as it is.
  • National Council on Welfare: What do you expect from a government that doesn't care one bit about the fate of the poor and disadvantaged with their "out of sight, out of mind" mentality, it's not like they were paying attention to anything they had to say for years away.  
  •  Katimavik: A youth program devoted to helping young Canadians work on social projects around the country and learn about different cultures, the environment and leadership. Just the fact that it was created under Pierre Trudeau with his idealism already painted a big target on it. Besides, we're talking about a government that sneers at the basic point of real community in favour "every bastard for himself," so why not sabotage a well established program to promote a greater humanity?

The worst part is that this just the big stuff that we really hear about, what the more subtle cuts that threaten people in more subtle ways.  I can't name real specifics, but that is the point considering what we don't know.

Instead we have these bunch of greedy fanatics slavering to buy overpriced jet fighters other countries are dropping like a hot potato and lying about the price tag for them while they splurge on building prisons for a Law and Order agenda in a time when crime has been going down for years.

We've seen their priorities and now we have a rough ride even we must gather our forces while we harry Harper for the election years away

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

The Federal Budget and the CBC

Well, the threat that was the Federal Budget and the Harper rampage has begun on a relatively subtle note.

On top of killing well established institutions like the National Council on Welfare because the Tories don't care to know anything about the poor anyway beyond where to jail them and cutting Environment Canada's because they want to know even less about that, the CBC is another obvious target with a 10% slash to their budget.

Of course it should come as a surprise to no one considering the network usually cares about the underprivileged and the abuses of the corporate world that hacks like Sun TV would rather ignore with faked news events about other stuff.  At least the BBC has their license fee structure to keep them funded without the government being able to directly attack them fiscally;  it's obviously decades too late for the CBC to setup the equivalent. In fact, at least one Tory MP wanted the cut to be 30%, and I bet Harper made sure that story spread in the name of political good cop/bad cop.

Now all we can do is decide if we really want to have a public broadcaster even as it has to cut back on its regional programming, focus on sport and entertainment to make a buck, close down Radio 2 or (ugh) put ads on CBC Radio 1.

If you want to help keep this national voice then check The Friends of Canadian Broadcasting and while you're at it: check out the kind of CBC TV programming we might see far less of in the future: