Indie News

I’ve started doing a weekly segment known as “Indie News” on a new Vancouver radio station called Roundhouse Radio 98.3. Me and the other panelists had a good chat yesterday, talking about the Jian Ghomeshi sexual assault trial, the US election, vaccines, and a whole host of other topics in a free-wheeling, hour-long chat.

Give it a listen.

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Good cartoons

A couple weeks ago, I broke down and did something millennials aren’t supposed to do — I got cable.

The internet is great and all, but a thing I’d come to miss since leaving my parents’ house — the last place where I enjoyed reliable access to television — was the pleasure of a non-curated watching experience. Sometimes it’s fun to discover a new show not because a friend told you about it or because you’ve been hearing great things on social media, but just because it happened to be on one night as you were channel-flipping.

Cartoon Network is great. I honestly didn’t realize we had access to it in Canada. The quality of children’s animation is incredibly high these days — both in terms of art and stories — another thing I hadn’t anticipated, having snobbishly assumed everything went downhill the second I turned away.

Here are four short reviews of my four favorite cartoons I’ve discovered, ranked in order of preference.

p10517219_ce_h9_aa1. Clarence 

A show about an endearingly awkward — maybe even borderline autistic — eight-year-old and the various white-trash weirdos who inhabit his life. Its kid’s-eye-view of the world reminds me a lot of thematically similar shows I liked in gradeschool, including Doug, Recess and an obscure Canadian cartoon called Stickin’ Around — but also has elements of King of the Hill in how bluntly it portrays the culture of the lower-middle class. It is not a mean-spirited or bitter show, and the characters are endearing in their earnestness to make the most of their circumstances.

p10517219_ce_h9_aa2. We Bare Bears

An aggressively modern show centering around three bear brothers — eager Grizz, nervous Panda, and phlegmatic Ice Bear — who live like 21st century hipsters in a cave at the outskirts of the big city. The premise is odd, but the characters are charming and the writing is consistently funny and insightful with plots centering around the neurotic brothers struggling with the familiar stresses of contemporary life including social media, smartphones, online dating, food trucks, and vlogs. Though the show is gentle and inoffensive, its subject matter often feels “mature” — in the literal sense of the world — making it compellingly unique.

p10517219_ce_h9_aa3. Steven Universe

Broadly familiar with the series thanks to its Tumblr fans, it was nevertheless quite different than I anticipated. The show’s universe is complicated, and revealed only gradually, but essentially centers around a magical boy named Steven who lives in a resort town with three even more magical women — cold and authoritarian Garnet, bossy and dorky Pearl, and free spirit Amethyst. It’s a surprisingly slow-paced series — episodes often contain little action — but its laid-back, dreamlike atmosphere makes for a relaxing watch. Steven is an impossibly adorable character with huge, expressive eyes and a naive eagerness to learn and do right.

p10517219_ce_h9_aa4. The Amazing World of Gumball 

The most artistically compelling but also the least deep, this one centers around two young, frantic brothers, Gumball and Darwin, who inhabit an insane neighborhood in which almost every imaginable fantasy character — dinosaurs, robots, video game sprites, talking flowers, etc. — cohabit uncomfortably. Every character is rendered in a completely different style, from claymation to hand-drawn to CGI to South Park-style cutouts, which only increases the madness. Plots are generally simple and tend to utilize slapstick and chaos at the expense of serious characterization or genuine emotion. But it’s hard not to be captivated by the endless creativity of it all.

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Election theft… or just betrayal?

Only a few criticisms seem to genuinely get under Donald Trump skin, and they’re easy to identify since they’re the ones he tends to bring up unprovoked in debates and speeches.

One is his allegedly small fingers, an insult about which he has an inexplicable psychological hang-up; another is the more factually-grounded observation that he has yet to win 50% in any Republican primary contest to date.

Democracy may be a better system for picking leaders than all the others, but that doesn’t mean it’s not rife with philosophical contradiction and paradox, the most persistently unsolvable being who should win in a circumstance in which there are more than three choices, and none of them can secure a majority of votes. This is the dilemma the modern “electoral reform” movement attempts to resolve, and at the moment it is the struggle consuming the Republican primary election, and the Trump campaign in particular.

That Trump is doing much better than anyone ever anticipated conceals the fact that he is doing considerably worse than most other Republican front-runners at comparable times. By March of 2012 Mitt Romney had won majority victories in several states and surpassed his closest opponent more than 2-to-1 in the delegate count. By March of 2008 things were even more one-sided, with John McCain winning states with 60% and up, having already intimidated all serious competitors out of the race.

By contrast, Trump’s strongest rival, Ted Cruz, does not appear to be slowing down, and no matter what happened on Super Tuesday Part II this was unlikely to change. If Trump had won both Ohio and Florida he would’ve knocked out both John Kasich and Marco Rubio causing the anti-Trump majority to firmly coalesce around Cruz. Any other outcome, such as the one that actually happened, ensured the continuance of a three-man race, which isn’t great for Cruz but makes 50%+ victories for Trump no easier either.

The conservative prediction, in both senses of the word, is that Trump is on course to send only a plurality of delegates to the Republican convention this summer. Though the rules are byzantine (and yet to be even firmly established) in all likelihood this would mean a Trump loss on the first ballot, in which the combined majority of his opponents’ delegates vote his nomination down. If they continue to vote in sync they could theoretically deny him the nomination forever, eventually using their majority to install some outside guy as a compromise candidate — perhaps Paul Ryan, who recently won the endorsement of John Boehner.

Is this just?

The question, as usual, reminds me of a similar dilemma in Canadian politics — namely the question regarding the justness of a so-called “coalition government” in which the second and third-place parties in Parliament deny the prime ministership to the boss of the party which has secured a plurality of seats, but not an outright majority. John Kasich had a clever line about this in the last debate — “in school, if you got an 86 you got a B; just because everyone else got an 84, doesn’t mean you got an A” — but I would counter that two Bs added together don’t make an A either. My problem with coalition governments has always been that they draw a mandate from voter behavior that the voters themselves did not explicitly give — that is, because most Canadians voted against Harper, a coalition of his opponents has greater moral right to govern. Or, in this case, because most Republicans voted against Trump, the nomination of any person who is not Trump fulfills the wishes of the majority.

It is a fallacy to conclude that because voters reject one option, they are endorsing every possible alternative. In a single-ballot electoral system, voters only get to express one preference, and for the system to have predictability — and thus public legitimacy — the stated preference of most voters must be honored, even when that entails awarding an office on the basis of a plurality victory. Kaisch voters did not vote for Cruz or Ryan, they voted for Kasich in the context of an election in which he was an option. What choice they would make in even a slightly different context, say Cruz v. Kasich, let alone Trump v. Ryan, is unknowable, and it would be undemocratic for his delegates to offer a hard answer.

It can be argued that America is a republic, not a democracy. In Canada, people who are fond of the coalition idea argue Canadians elect a parliament, not a prime minister. If we believe our elected delegates have broad, personal discretion to make decisions as fundamental as who should be president or prime minister without explicit voter instruction then that’s fine, but it obligates candidates to conduct their campaigns in a far different manner than has been done to date.

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Trudeau and America

A new video to set my US pals straight.

And also, in my biggest writing gig to date, I wrote a long piece for the prestigious American magazine Foreign Policy about the history of Canadian prime ministers and US presidents.

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Lousy flags

I could do nothing but videos like this. Know any other good bad ones?

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Dumb Canadian traditions

A new video about some of the dopey nonsense this country does.

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More Angosphere news

A longer-than-usual video in which I talk to some friends about politics in other countries.

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The Toronto Maple Leafs are terrible

Here’s a new video I made about everyone’s least favorite hockey team:

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