Welcome To Earth, Bitch! *uppercut*

Gipsy Danger

Seriously, folks… go see this incredifuckingmazing movie right now! 8 times!

Please – for the love of whatever god or gods you believe in – don’t let the absolute fucking stupidity of GROWN UPS 2 win the box office for this weekend.

This isn’t TRANSFORMERS… it isn’t GODZILLA (that’s next summer)… it’s not POWER RANGERS like some fucktards have been saying.

PACIFIC RIM is it’s own thing with it’s own style and it’s own big damn heroes – 80 meter tall robots beating the shit out of 2,500 ton aliens.

While it’s best seen in 2D (shot in 2D and then converted to 3D – though all the CGI is rendered in 3D, so I suppose it’s a wash as to which is ‘better’), you may have a hard time finding 2D showings as theatre owners are a bit nervous about the profitability – especially with surveys showing GROWN UPS 2 to be of more interest to the movie going public… which means they’re forcing the majority of ticket buyers to pay the $3 – $5 3D surcharge in an attempt to maximize revenue.

However you end up seeing it, make sure it’s on the biggest screen you can get to: the action is HUGE.

If you were ever a child filled with wonder, then make sure you see this movie.

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THE BESTEST EVAR MEATLOAF RECIPE

After considerable research and development (five separate batches with differing ingredients and different amounts of each), your pal Stormcastle has come up with the ultimate meatloaf recipe and is willing to share it with you!

I’ve made the instructions below as straight forward (read: idiot proof) as I can – but if you’re stumped on terms like “minced”, consult a dictionary or the internet.

Of course, if you somehow manage to burn down your home while attempting to make your meatloaf, I hold absolutely no responsibility.

THE BESTEST EVAR MEATLOAF RECIPE

You will need the following:

  •  2 large eggs (beaten with a fork)
  •  2/3 cup of milk
  •  1/4 tsp. black pepper
  •  2 tsp. sea salt
  •  3 slices of white bread (crumbled)
  •  1 medium-sized onion (minced)
  •  1/2 cup carrots (minced)
  •  1 & 1/4 cup Tex Mex shredded cheese
  •  1 & 1/2 cup lean ground beef (can substitute ground pork or turkey)
  •  1/4 cup brown sugar
  •  4 liberal dashes of Worcestershire sauce
  •  1/4 cup Heinz chili sauce
  •  1 tbsp. yellow mustard
  •  1/3 cup crumbled bacon
  •  1/2 cup sweet pepper (minced)

Step One:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step Two:

In a medium mixing bowl, combine eggs, milk, salt, black pepper, and bread crumbs.

Beat combined mixture with a wire whisk until uniformly smooth.

Step Three:

In a large mixing bowl, combine the mixture from Step Two with the onion, carrots, sweet peppers, cheese, bacon, and ground beef.

Using a non-mesh potato masher (or the dough attachment on an electric mixer), thoroughly mix the contents of the bowl until well mulched together with an even consistency.

Step Four:

Scoop the meatloaf mixture into two 8″ x 4 1/2″ aluminum bread pans and then vibrate the pans on a flat surface to evenly distribute the meat mixture.

Step Five:

In a small mixing bowl, combine the brown sugar, chili sauce, yellow mustard, and Worcestershire sauce, beating fast with a wire whisk until smooth – and then pour the mixture over top of your two pans of meat promptly so none of the ingredients settle.

Use a coffee spoon to gently spread the sauce on top of the meat, but do NOT push it into the mixture.

Step Six:

Place your meat-filled pans into the oven and bake them for 60 minutes.

Step Seven:

Once baking has finished, remove from oven and promptly drain away any excess fat – which will look like oil inside the pan surrounding the shrunken meatloaf.

Be sure to hold your meatloaf inside the pan with a large wooden spoon while you pour out the fat!

Step Eight:

Allow the meat loaf to cool for 10 – 12 minutes before serving.

Step Nine:

Immediately place any unused portions of meatloaf in the refrigerator in a tight-sealing plastic container so you can enjoy it later.

Bon appetit!

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A recipe so good, the devil wanted it!
The Loaf that is Meat!

My View: “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”

First thing’s first: The Hobbit trilogy is NOT in any way going to be like the Lord Of The Rings trilogy – and that’s okay.

Where the three LOTR films were a tale of direness and doom, the Hobbit films will be decidedly more airy and light… and before you complain, that’s the way the actual book is.

Tolkien wrote The Hobbit as a book for younger readers, and as such, you won’t find the darkness and moral terror that the LOTR books brought to the table.

However, even as a “children’s” book, The Hobbit graces 300 pages or so in novel form – and when you factor in material that bridges the 60 years between The Hobbit and The Fellowship Of The Ring from Tolkien’s exhaustively written appendices for the realm of Middle Earth, there’s still plenty of material to craft out each of the Hobbit’s two forthcoming sequels.

Yes… Peter Jackson and the Brothers Warner are milking the franchise for your hard-earned dollars, but as long as the movies themselves are good, who are we to care?

Which brings me to why I’m here: is An Unexpected Journey any good?

Quite.

(BE WARNED, YE WHO READS PAST THIS POINT: THERE BE EXTENSIVE SPOILERS FROM HERE ON)

Again, I must stress the tonal differences between the two sets of movies: this movie might turn off those of you who can only tolerate fantasy genre films if they’re monstrously epic and carry the fate of the world in the balance – because there’s none of that in An Unexpected Journey.

Well… that’s not entirely accurate as there is foreshadowing of Sauron’s return to Middle Earth – mostly in the form of a parley between Gandalf, Elrond, Galadriel, and Saruman.

However, for the majority of the film, we in the audience follow the adventures of Bilbo Baggins as he’s enlisted into the Company Of Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage from the first season of Strike Back – who’s character in that show had to be terminated at the start of the second season in order for him to play his part in The Hobbit trilogy).

During the opening minutes of An Unexpected Journey, we join Ian Holm’s elder version of Bilbo Baggins at Bag End – his lovely home under a hill in The Shire.

This sequence of the movie actually takes place mere hours before we were introduced to Middle Earth at the start of The Fellowship Of The Ring – and thusly concerns the preparations for Bilbo’s 111st birthday… and naturally brings back Elijah Wood’s Frodo Baggins (in a nice feat of continuity segueing) before his own tortuous adventure began.

Bilbo has finally sat down and put pen to paper in an effort to document his many adventures that have earned him a certain reputation amongst the denizens of Hobbiton – and we see in his eyes a mixture of fondness for the memories and a tiredness that carrying the One Ring around in his vest pocket for 60 years has inflicted.

Quickly, we’re transported backwards in time to find Martin Freeman’s younger Bilbo outside his home and enjoying some quality pipe smoking on a fine morning… only to be distracted by a tall shadow falling over him – a shadow belonging to none other than Gandalf The Grey.

Now, I must take a moment to point out that while Gandalf still looks like he has spent 2,000 years in Middle Earth, the make-up and costuming for Ian McKellan somehow manages to make the wizard look a bit more youthful – I think mostly by making him appear a bit more plump while enlarging his wizardly hat… while attaching a fetching scarf that I don’t recall him wearing in Fellowship.

After a bit of dialogue that goes back and forth between Bilbo and Gandalf – which played out a bit awkward in places, but lifted up by Freeman’s excellent carriage of a confused Hobbit – evening falls and Bilbo sits down to a nice plate of pan-fried fish… only to be interrupted by the arrival of a Dwarf, and another, and another, and another, so on and so forth until Bag End is positively bursting at the seams with dwarven merriment as they proceed to eat poor Bilbo out of house and home.

You see, Gandalf had left a little bit of runic graffiti on Bilbo’s front door before he departed – a rune that seemed to mean something along the lines of “Meeting Place For The Association Of Hungry & Homeless Dwarves”.

After the re-appearance of Gandalf, and the arrival of Thorin Oakenshield (played with great subtlety by Armitage that minces nobility, stoicism, and world weariness), it becomes clear that Gandalf has come to enlist Bilbo on quest for treasure… one that lies under the Lonely Mountain – sometimes referred to as the Misty Mountain – in the former dwarven kingdom of Erebor, which was once the greatest city to ever grace Middle Earth.

There’s one small catch: the city and it’s ridiculously tall piles of gold have been usurped by the fearsome dragon Smaug.

It’s made clear that for their plan to succeed, the company of dwarves (and one  Mithrandian wizard) need someone that could sneak by Smaug… one who possessed a scent that the dragon had never encountered – and since dragons weren’t overly concerned with the halflings who lived in The Shire, it made sense to Gandalf that an adventuresome Hobbit would fit the bill quite nicely.

However, when it was made adequately clear (to great extent by one dwarf) that there was a more-than-fair chance that Bilbo could end up incinerated at some point during the journey to reclaim Erebor, Bilbo decides that he doesn’t want to indulge in childish fantasies that would take him far from home and place him in harm’s way.

At this point, the scene to which I lead this article with takes place… and I must say, it’s quite a marvellous bit of a capella and one of my few bones to pick with the film as the scene is cut short far too short (and I honestly hope that there is a longer recording that will be unleashed at some point in the future… as it is, the version on the current soundtrack CD is precisely the length seen up top).

Needless to say, Bilbo changes his mind and signs his name to the rather lengthy dwarven contract that makes it clear that 1) the dwarves that comprise the Company Of Thorin Oakenshield bare no liability should any harm come to him, and 2) he is entitled to one fourteenth of any treasure recovered on their quest.

And so begins his unexpected journey across the lands of Middle Earth, on an adventure of the likes that very few hobbits had ever been on – one that brings the company into conflict with all manners of creatures: orcs, goblins, trolls, and wargs.

It also brings these adventurers to the Elvish kingdom of Rivendell – the same Rivendell in which we first meet Lord Elrond in The Fellowship Of The Ring – and as with Gandalf, the movie accomplishes the goal of making Elrond seem younger (in spite of the fact that elves don’t age) by having him ride in on horseback after slaying a marauding party of orcs.

It’s here that I feel I should discuss the one issue that seems to have taken over these Hobbit films: the frame rate.

As you’ve probably heard – either with a positive or negative slant, depending on the critic – Peter Jackson filmed this Hobbit trilogy at 48 frames per second (meaning that for every second of movie on the screen, there are 48 separate frames going by) instead of the industry standard of 24 frames per second that has been around for about a hundred years.

What a higher frame rate brings to a film is a level of clarity – some have likened it to looking through a large window while a theatrical group enacts a play based on The Hobbit – that audiences have never experienced before.

A great number of people have said that the clarity is so distracting that they can’t pay attention to the story because they are overloaded with set and make-up details.

Personally, I find that to be total and utter bullshit – mainly because I’m a person who works with filmed media… and since I know what frame rate does, I know it’s advantages.

When you have a movie like The Hobbit, which has an abundance of fast-paced battle sequences and lots of running around,  you get a strobe effect  while the action goes across the screen: it can be challenging for the human brain to make sense of fast moving action at the standard 24 frames per second because it seems that the objects on the screen are stuttering as bits of movement are lost between each frame of film.

Logically, as you add more frames to each second of film, more of the action is captured and then displayed when you play it back at the cinema – which makes a battle between 13 dwarves and an entire city of goblins (which is already pure chaos) seem a lot less like a jittery sequence of photos, and more like the fluid dynamic that it really is.

More frames = more information… and since your brain prefers to make it’s decisions with the most information possible, 48 frames per second (or higher) makes much more sense than the archaic 24 frames that was established with the advent of movies with sound – because it was easier to apply a linear audio track to film that ran at that speed.

Many of you who have HD video cameras at home may have played with the FPS settings on your own – many of these cameras come with a 1080p/30FPS option – and have discovered that higher frame rates actually result in a better picture.

This image clarity lends itself even better to 3D films since your brain has to assemble two different data sets into one image simultaneously for the 3D to work effectively… and you may have experienced the difficulty that 3D movies have when the objects on screen start moving around erratically: you doubly notice that strobe effect that’s inherent to 24FPS film.

Add in the polarized glasses that you wear while viewing 3D films at the theatre which reduce the amount of light that reaches your eyeballs, and the data rate that’s going into your brain drops even further.

So, yeah… there’s a lot to be said for clarity.

And since the technology of today’s cameras, digital cinema projectors, and home HDTV screens all have the capability to show high frame rate video, the traditionalist’s urge to keep filming at 24FPS for no reason other than it’s just the way audiences have been used to seeing movies doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

Your average HDTV screen now supports 60Hz – which means it can effectively display video at 60 frames per second!

So I can only hope that the eventual Blu-Ray video release of An Unexpected Journey is at 48FPS without having to pay extra – as the majority of cinemas around the world are only showing the movie at 24FPS… and I can tell you right here, the action sequences were jittery as hell in that format, as I was unable to attend a showing with 48FPS.

Anyway… back to my analysis of the actual movie.

There are great stretches of the movie’s nearly three-hour run-time where not a lot happens – where the scenery and cinematography take the place of narrative… but that’s okay as it gives you plenty of time to soak in New Zealand’s countryside, and to pay attention to all the little things that make fantastical events and characters actually gel in Peter Jackson’s films.

Every now and then, you may find yourself looking at your watch – mostly during dense expository – but rest assured that these moments are far in between… and are only natural when converting Tolkien’s material to the big screen as he was very fond of run-on sentences that could last entire pages.

I’m not a Tolkien nerd by any stretch of the imagination, so I can’t tell you precisely what was in the books that made it onto the screen – or what scenes or characters in the movie were made up by screen writers on the whole/were imported from Tolkien materials outside of the originating Hobbit novel.

What I can tell you is that not much screen time was truly wasted – if any at all.

I can say here – with absolute confidence – that every bit of casting for characters we didn’t already know from the LOTR movies was pitch perfect.

Every actor seemed to live and breathe their individual character, and played off the other people in the ensemble brilliantly.

Every dwarf was splendidly dwarvish… and Martin Freeman was note-perfect as the young Bilbo Baggins – so much so that you couldn’t even imagine another actor performing in his hairy foot prosthetics.

Of course, all of the returning actors and actresses bring their ‘A’ games as well – adding small flourishes here and there to make you believe that their characters are indeed younger… whether it be they are quicker with a smile, or a fit of eye rolling when darkness is suggested to be at hand.

Gollum is once again on the screen, and Andy Serkis is able to flesh the miserable creature out more completely than he could a decade ago: while the LOTR films employed early, Oscar-winning motion capture technologies to bring Gollum to life via Serkis’ physical acting, An Unexpected Journey allowed Serkis to use his own facial expressions this time around (instead of them being purely animated during the previous films) – which really helps bring Gollum’s tortured psychosis to the forefront.

In the end, my only quibbles with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – the frame rate issue, some make-up processes could have been a bit more refined between orcs and goblins, and that maddeningly short song about the Misty Mountain.

On the whole, I give An Unexpected Journey 8.95 stars out of a possible 10.

What’s maddening is that I have to wait a year for the next one! >.<

Thorin Oakenshield

My Brief Thoughts On Gun Control

NOTE: None of the below opinions are particularly original, or even expressed in the best possible language – but that does not mean they are any less valid.

You know, I get it: guns kill people.

However, guns just don’t get up and shoot people of their own free will… which means PEOPLE KILL PEOPLE.

And since PEOPLE are the #1 cause of murder in the world, I hereby suggest banning PEOPLE.

That’s a reasoned comment. 

Saying that guns should be banned is both knee-jerk and simple-minded… and completely ignores the human component – which is what we as a species is very good at: denying personal responsibility.

The asshole who shoots up a school full of children could have used a bomb if he didn’t have access to a gun – and, to be perfectly honest, it’s much easier to craft a bomb than to get a gun.

Arguments aren’t idiotic just because you don’t agree with them – so as much as you want to think you’re better than other people, you’re not… and won’t be until you can be bothered to learn both sides.

This issue isn’t black and white like you think it is: gun control would work just about as well as the war on drugs… and how well is that working out?

People who want guns to do heinous things like shoot up schools will always get the guns.

Even if every retailer in North America stopped selling guns to the public, there would be other markets around the world to smuggle the weapons in from – jurisdictions where life isn’t valued in the same way as it is here… so the call to ban gun sales is unrealistic in the expectation that it would matter.

I said previously that there are millions of gun owners who store and use their firearms in safe and legal ways, and that you will never ever hear about 98% of them – so who are you to take away their right to defend themselves against those who have illegally obtained weapons?

How about sport shooters? Rent a gun? Really? That’ll work real well when you want to go deer hunting.

Yes… I agree whole heartedly that civilians should be barred from owning automatic weapons as those are the territory of professional militaries and not for personal defence or hunting quail.

However, as the saying goes: if guns are outlawed, then only the outlaws will have guns… and that is not acceptable.

Think about how easily you can obtain Ecstasy, crack, meth, and cocaine in just about any urban centre – which are things the government would really rather you not have… and then think about how effectively authorities could control illicit guns imported from China, the Middle East, or even Mexico.

As much as some people would like to think they know everything about this subject, they don’t – so until you can take it upon yourself to learn all side of gun culture, I’m not accepting any argument you make about it.

There are legitimate reasons for people to own handguns for personal defence – mainly because 911 doesn’t magically beam cops into your home to battle armed intruders.

Hunters have the right to practice what they enjoy safely.

Also, until you can understand that the people who use the guns are more to blame than the company who made the gun for it’s intended purpose, no case you make can withstand scrutiny.

It’s a multifaceted issue – one in which self-righteous blowhards can not be taken seriously when they dismiss out of hand the rights of other people.

Yes… people have the right not to be shot, and yes, the sale of guns could be tightened up – but to call for an all out ban is idiocy at it’s finest (or worst) as to do that effectively, you’d have to un-invent the firearm – at which point, people would be still killing each other with broadswords and crossbows.

The End Of McGuinty’s Marathon

If there’s been one equal reaction around the world to the global financial meltdown and its enduring fallout, it’s that the electorate of every country, state, and province – at least those who subscribe to the free market and democracy in general – has blamed the standing government.

Everybody loves their elected officials right up until those same elected officials reach the end of their budgetary ropes and start asking the people to tighten their belts as the government is forced to tighten its purse strings.

Yes, we’re all familiar with the riots in Greece as that government ushered in drastic austerity measures… the Arab Spring uprisings that stemmed from the citizens of those countries being unable to make ends meet within what the corrupt regimes had laid out… and the Occupy Wall Street/99% movement.

Other governments around the globe have dealt with the financial fallout in a more quiet fashion – at least in so much that there aren’t angry hordes of protesters filling the streets and boulevards in the seats of power.

Canada is one of those places – with the exception of the province of Quebec, which had a spring and summer filled with angry post-secondary students.

Yes, there were some tricky or tumultuous elections from coast to coast where the incumbents were either given a black eye or completely tossed from office – but for the most part, order has been maintained.

Ontario – which had been the wealthiest of provinces for the longest time before Alberta got it’s oil sands operations into full swing and took the title – was forced into a corner when the American economy collapsed, and the government at the time had to make some difficult choices.

The most visible – and the most quoted – was joining the U.S. in bailing out General Motors and Chrysler who were bankrupt from decades of bad deals with the auto worker’s union that had bled their coffers dry in a time where neither company was innovating at a level to compete with their counterparts from abroad.

Before I move on, I’d like to point out that those bail out loans have been paid off as both companies managed to pull their asses out of the fire.

As in America, the average citizen didn’t think the government had any business propping up private interests like Fortune 500 companies that had made bad choices – that it was perfectly acceptable to let those industrial giants die and take every job they created with them to the grave.

However, it was actually cheaper to prop up General Motors and Chrysler than to have all their workers (plus all the workers from companies that  manufactured parts for the auto industry) suddenly flood the nation’s unemployment benefit system – which would have crumbled under the load of 500,000 new applications since there was barely enough money to go around for the existing case load.

Plus, unlike money paid out to unemployed workers, all the money loaned to General Motors and Chrysler would come back to the government plus interest.

Anyhow, after the putting out the most immediate fires, the government of Ontario was left with a basic truth: all the smaller companies that either went bankrupt or had to radically downsize their workforces removed a sizeable chunk of tax income from the province’s spreadsheet.

Added on to that problem was the strategically leveraged investment tools that governments use to grow their bottom line – mainly investment bonds issued to raise capital – took the same kind of hit that the primary stock exchanges did… which turned billions into millions practically overnight.

People who drink the Hudak & Horwath flavor Kool-Aid fail to take that into account when they blame the Liberal government – and Premier Dalton McGuinty himself – for all the financial woes that have fallen on Ontario.

I’m not here to say that the McGuinty government hasn’t made any number of mistakes: a few programs have turned into total clusterfucks due to the lack of oversight.

Most notable are the eHealth and ORNGE debacles – and those two messes are all kinds of bad… but it’s one of those situations that make people say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Both programs were created to save the province money, and they should have… but the Liberals decided to save money on top of those savings by not appointing the number of provincial overseers that would have prevented the repeated foul-ups at eHealth and the insider kickbacks at ORNGE.

The eHealth program – which, by the way, was set in motion under the previous Progressive Conservative regime – was designed to/still has the potential for measurable savings to the province’s public healthcare system by creating a singular patient database that would eliminate layers upon layers of redundant paperwork across hundreds of hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices… pointless duplication that costs millions of dollars in working hours needed to fill it out, process it, and file it.

The sort of electronic data system to store the patient information – which would include everything from your family doctor’s written notes to blood work results to x-ray images – doesn’t exist anywhere in North America… which means that it has to be built from scratch.

Information servers, remote client software, unified image/video protocols… and that’s just a fraction of the problems facing just the technology vendors – and doesn’t account for the legal teams necessary to create a framework that protects both the patients and the healthcare providers.

The very nature of public healthcare makes it even more complicated as governmental agencies aren’t really suited to the kind of R&D (research and development) that a company like IBM does routinely – so, regrettably, the staff at OHIP took a stand-off approach with the idea that the ‘professionals’ that were hired would figure things out on their own without much input from the government.

Obviously, that hasn’t worked – and it’s going to be a long, hard road before the eHealth concept comes to fruition because the province is trying to compete with the private sector for the management staff needed to make it happen.

Looking over towards ORNGE, the same hands-off policy lead to a disaster – albeit for different reasons.

Prior to the province incorporating ORNGE, the health ministry leased the aircraft it used for air ambulance services from private contractors which meant that Ontario was losing money on the service in 2 out of 3 categories: while the pilots were trained and managed by the province, the fuel costs and aircraft use/maintenance was sold to Ontario at a moderate mark-up.

ORNGE was formed so that the province would own all the aircraft – purchased directly from the manufacturer – and would be buying the fuel for those planes and helicopters at open market prices.

Over the projected service life of the aircraft, the province would save hundreds of thousands of dollars – if not millions – in the same way that owning a home saves money over a 20 year cycle in comparison to someone renting an apartment for that same 20 year period.

The problem was that the province picked the wrong people to manage ORNGE, people who felt they weren’t beholden to the people of Ontario – managing ORNGE like a private company instead of a subsidiary.

When you run your own company, you can arrange all the kickbacks and shmoozefests you want – but when the money you’re playing with is supplied by the public, you’re responsible to the public.

Again, the Liberals had a little too much faith in the people they chose – and it came back to bite them in the ass.

Other problems that people want to hang around Dalton McGuinty’s neck – things like the poor relations with the province’s educators for instance – aren’t really the fault of the government when you look at the bigger picture.

Remember how I said the province is taking in a lot less money than when the Liberals ousted the Progressive Conservatives due to this shitty economy?

Well, that kinda means that the Liberals – or any government for that matter – can’t make the pay scales continually rise like in days of yore.

Up until quite recently, the McGuinty Liberals were the darlings of the public employee unions because the Liberals were happy to spend money to maintain the status quo where all the nurses and teachers had their demands met.

Problem is that the province can’t spend money it doesn’t have… and that fact fails to register with the unions.

There is already too much red ink on the provinces budgetary tables, and to pay for what the teachers are asking – and what the nurses will soon also be demanding – would require adding a lot more debt… the same debt that the ignorant public wants to hang around the government’s neck.

The same kind of thinking – though modified by a lot of NIMBYism (people saying ‘not in my backyard’) – is what has caused the power generation snafu that the opposition is beating the Liberals over the head with.

By and large, the people of Ontario had given the Liberals an environmental mandate – demanding that dirty, smog-creating power generations stations be replaced by cleaner alternatives like natural gas plants and wind farms.

Problem is that nobody wants these things near their homes – regardless of the fact that they had already grown up in the shadow of the coal power smoke stacks, and that they would only be trading one for the other.

No… they demand that these new power generation facilities be built far from their homes – which would be an okay idea if it weren’t for the problem of transmitting electricity from far-off locations to the average home with 2.5 kids and an ever-growing collection of electronic devices.

Which means that on top of the costs of replacing coal with renewable/environmentally friendly alternatives, the province would be on the hook for the cost of building new transmission corridors – which, coincidentally, nobody wants in their backyards either.

The natural gas power generation facility that the Liberals cancelled was called off due to NIMBY pressure – cancelled so that the voters in that area would be happy.

Those same voters are now angry because the province now has to pay a cancellation fee – a fee incurred on their behalf.

Doesn’t make a lot of sense to be mad about getting exactly what you asked for, does it?

However, John Q. Public isn’t known for making sense – he depends on his elected officials to make sense of the world for him in the form of a sound bite that requires him to think the least amount possible.

The only time John Q. Public wants grand visions of the future is during election season – the rest of the time, he doesn’t want to be challenged.

Which is why Dalton McGuinty is stepping down as premier.

The truth is just far too complex for the average voter… which leaves them to be influenced by the more basic name-calling and finger-pointing done by the leaders of the opposition.

It’s a hell of a lot easier to blame someone than to help that same person fix the problem.

South of the border, we see that in the Romney/Obama contest.

If Romney wins, it will be because the public at large – who doesn’t follow/understand the machinations of their government – has swallowed all the bullshit that the GOP opposition has thrown out there… when the truth is that Obama didn’t meet a lot of his promised goals because the GOP/Tea Party has refused to work with the White House on just about anything.

We here in Canada like to think we’re smarter than our American neighbors – but honestly, if we’re so easily convinced by the person who yells the loudest, then that isn’t the case at all.

Dalton was never perfect… but he has always tried to do the best thing possible for the people who elected him.

Resigning now is a less-than-ideal option, but it’s what was left in his toolbox: the PCs and NDP won’t work with him as they’ve painted an image of the premier that they won’t reconcile with in the interest of the province.

No… that’s not entirely accurate.

The Progressive Conservatives sided with the Liberals on the salary freeze for the province’s teachers – which means the PC’s are capable of working with the party that the electorate chose to govern… but in larger scheme of things, they don’t want to because they want to have their own hands on the levers of power.

Mr. McGuinty made it clear that he was resigning in an effort to give the Liberal party a new face – one that doesn’t carry 8+ years of name calling with it whenever the next premier appears to the public.

Of course, the next premier and leader of the Liberal Party of Ontario won’t have that long of a grace period before the opposing politicos start flinging mud.

It’s the nature of the game – and no matter what anyone says, politics is a game that’s paid for by the public.

It’s just not a game that people keep track of – unlike something like baseball where the fan at home can cite any number of statistics for their favorite team or player.

No… the public at large has no stomach for politics and therefore has a very short memory.

They’ve clamored for McGuinty’s head on a pike – but have no idea what to replace him with.

They still remember the shit Mike Harris did, so the voters don’t trust the Progressive Conservatives.

The public service unions remember the cutbacks they received at the hands of Bob Rae and the NDP (coincidentally, this happened during the last time there was a recession even remotely like the one we have now), so they don’t really trust the current New Democrats all that much either – but it would seem to be the only option in a 3 party system.

Anyhow, I’m going to bring this blog to a close since you probably came into it with your mind already made up as to whether Dalton McGuinty has been a good premier or not.

However, the facts are indisputable: the Liberals under Dalton McGuinty healed a very fractured province that was left in the wake of the Mike Harris/Ernie Eves era.

They also brought a socially responsible agenda – one that was expressed once again mere hours before Mr. McGuinty announced his plan to resign at the earliest possible convenience… a message that I’m going to leave right here instead of the usual clever graphic that I normally end my blogs with.

*

The Battleship Age

As most of you out there know, heavier-than-air flight has only been around for a little more than 100 years – and before that, flying about was limited to balloons.

I don’t know if any of you are avid balloonists, but balloons are neither fast enough or precise enough in their movement to make a good platform for waging war – mostly employed as lookout platforms so you could see your enemy coming before he was close enough to shoot you with his musket.

Heavier-than-air flight changed the rules of war – you could project your military strength fairly quickly and precisely anywhere you wanted to as long as the plane/helicopter had fuel in the tank.

Embarrassingly, it took military strategists and planners a little while to catch on to this notion on any appreciable scale – roughly 20 years after the Wright brothers first sailed aloft into the wild blue yonder above the ground, though they had played with biplanes in The Great War in very picturesque air battles that spawned the likes of the Red Barron.

But those World War One air battles were strictly that – air battles.

The idea of massive ground offensives launched from the air wasn’t something that had been well developed – beyond primitive concepts like the open-cockpit gunners dropping modified mortar shells over the sides of their planes.

Eventually, technology caught up with the desire to kill your enemies on an effective enough scale to start planning air raids and sorties where you could launch a campaign of “death from above.”

One of the most important advances in this area was the aircraft carrier, which has become the modern era’s capitol ship – the most important expression of your military’s might and war-making prowess.

The United States’ ranking as the #1 superpower in the world relies quite heavily on its fleet of carriers and super-carriers (example pictured above) that can mobilize an air force – that’s larger than the entirety of some small countries’ military –  anywhere there’s an ocean deeper than 50 feet.

But that wasn’t always the case.

Up until the early 1940s, the naval powers had another primary weapon – the one ship that was supposed to make you shit yourself when you saw it come over the distant horizon.

The battleship.

In today’s fast-and-lazy culture, you’ll catch people calling any warship that has guns on it a battleship – but the truth is that there’s nothing in active military service for any nation that even approaches the sheer power that a true battleship brought with it.

In today’s navy, the biggest ships – that don’t carry aircraft – are cruisers (9,000 – 10,000 tons)… and the bulk of them are guided-missile cruisers which are designed to strike targets on land from far out to sea.

Next one down on the size-chart would be your destroyer (8,500 tons) – which, as the name implies, is meant to destroy other ships.

Then you have your frigates (5000 tons), which are used mainly for ship-to-ship interdiction or antisubmarine warfare.

After that, you get to patrol boats (1,000 tons) and fast attack boats (500 tons or less) – and both of these are generally used by coastal defense agencies.

You can be forgiven for thinking those 10,000 ton cruisers were pretty hefty, but the pinnacle of true battleship design – the American 890 foot long Iowa-class – tipped the scales at 52,000 tons of deadly intent.

The defining quality of a battleship were their biggest (main) guns… and these were 16″/50 caliber (not .50) canons on the Iowa-class that were able to lob 2,700lb. shell on to a target up to 24 miles away – with the shell leaving the muzzle at 2,500 feet per second.

A proper battleship had at least 6 of these monstrous guns, and 9 in general practice, for attacking other battleships or land-based targets – and it was a really bad day if you found yourself on the receiving end of a battleship’s ire.

Battleships were the ultimate expression of their respective nations’ military power – the way in which an entire country’s people underscored their will to have things happen their way at any price.

Of course, that price was steep – both in the terms of the crew and servicemen who would die during battles, and in the amount of money the individual governments had to spend on their construction (in excess of $1,000,000,000 in today’s dollars).

$1 Billion U.S. dollars is a lot – $80,000,000 in 1940’s currency – and even more considering that at the time of World War II, the world was coming out of The Great Depression where cash wasn’t exactly just laying around.

I should take a moment right now to inject one thought: the American B-2 stealth bombers (above) cost a billion dollars each… which just goes to show how much the military establishment loves inflated prices – $1 billion for 52,000 tons of naval steel vs. $1 billion for 79 tons of stealth air power.

Anyhow, back on track.

The battleship came about as a natural evolution from the primitive ironclad ships that first sailed the seas in the 1860s – starting with France’s La Gloire and then became popular after their use in the American Civil War (beginning with the USS Monitor – whose turret is pictured above –  and the CSS Virginia) – growing from ships that were primarily wooden and were later sheathed in metal plates (clad in iron… ironclad) into ships that were built entirely from steel and pig iron from the keel up.

As much as a battleship was designed to dish out a pounding, they were simultaneously designed to take as much as they gave – with solid iron plating that averaged 11 inches in thickness to nearly 2 feet thick armor that  protected the machinery and men that fired the main guns.

The largest battleships that ever sailed the seas were the Yamato-class built by the Empire Of Japan (above) that displaced 72,000 tons – but weren’t very effective during combat due to their ungainly size: it took too long to get up to speed and then they were hampered by a very large turning radius.

Bigger wasn’t necessarily better, but the Japanese emperor still felt that a truly powerful nation had to have the largest battleships – despite the fact that Japanese aircraft carriers and their air wings were proving to the world that air power was the power of the future… which was evidenced by the attack on Pearl Harbor (pictured above) that drew the Americans into World War II.

(I suppose there could be a joke to be made about the Japanese overcompensating for… the size of their small country?)

By the time the last generation of battleships were commissioned, the writing was already on the wall – aircraft had advanced to the point where they could carry death and destruction many times further than the furthest point where a battleship could fire a shell to.

Plus, as giant metal islands, battleships were very vulnerable to aircraft attack because they were mainly designed to take fire from other surface ships and their thickest armor was in areas likely to take a lateral hit – meaning very little armor was in place to protect the behemoths from bombs and bullets coming down out of the skies.

That, however, didn’t mean that battleships couldn’t make a difference.

You really didn’t want to be on the receiving end of one of those 2,700lb. shells, whether you were on a ship (that whole ship-sinking thing) or supposedly safe in a bunker on land – either way, their explosive and kinetic energy were pure hell on Earth.

For this reason, battleships continued on in active military service well past World War II and the Korean War… going on to serve the Americans in both Vietnam and – finally – the first Gulf War (Missouri pictured above in the Persian Gulf).

Why?

A 16″ Mark 8 naval shell only cost between $500 and $1000 (depending on purpose)… which is peanuts compared to $569,000 – $1,450,000 cost of the Tomahawk cruise missiles that TV newscasters became so enamored with during the Saddam Hussein scuffles in the Middle East.

In the end, it became too expensive for the world’s navies to continue upgrading the venerable battleship so that they could continue to fight in the modern era – radar/guidance/fire control systems, missile systems, maintenance of the gigantic turbine engines that consumed 100s of tons of fuel oil per day.

So, now, all of the great American battleships from World War II – save for two that were sold for scrap, and the hulk of the Arizona exactly where she sank – are now sitting as museums, tied up to piers almost permanently (except for the occasional jaunt to dry dock to repair leaks) in what navy veterans hope to be a lasting reminder of the sacrifices made for freedom.

Only one other nation has preserved a battleship: Japan… and they’ve only saved one, and the Mikasa (above) was built in 1899.

It surprises me that the British haven’t held on to at least one of their battleships since the whole British Empire was ruled by naval power, which has given them a partiality to the Admiralty and it’s tools for warfare on the high seas – but their last King George V-class battleship (above), the Howe, was towed off to the ship breakers in 1958.

I suppose it’s a blessing that the American culture is so obsessed with their military and it’s history as it’s the only thing that’s kept 9 of these mighty ships at least partially alive – though a few of them are falling into disrepair (the USS Texas – pictured above – is quite prone to flooding as of late).

A lot of you may not think these throwbacks from a long gone era are overly important once you’ve aged past your school field trip years, but if you live in a free nation, you owe that freedom to the mammoth endeavors your progenitors embarked on before you were even born.

There is a misconception among a lot of Americans that the USS Arizona (above) remains permanently commissioned  – and while that would have been a nice gesture on the part of U.S. lawmakers, the Arizona wreck is maintained by the National Park Service… but does have the unique right to fly the  flag of the United States forever as if she was still an active service ship.

Oh… and that part from the BATTLESHIP movie that came out in 2012? You know… where they fire up the Missouri and go charging after the alien bad guys? Yeah…. that couldn’t happen: no fuel in the tanks, and who in their right mind would keep live ammunition – shells still in firing condition – aboard a museum ship that sees thousands of visitors on a regular basis?

All you need is a bored high schooler goofing off on a tour and wondering what would happen if they hit a shell really hard in a certain area – and then death, carnage, and major problems for a national treasure.

However, please feel somewhat authentic while playing your Battleship board game from Milton Bradley (old school) or Hasbro (new games): back in the old days, those big guns were sighted and ranged by human eyes – a spotter would look through binoculars while you fired on the opposing enemy ship and called out how close each shot was until the shells finally found their target.

Not quite the same as calling out a letter and a number, but still vaguely similar.