By Tom Henheffer - Tuesday, June 30, 2009 - 2 Comments
Some of the biggest, and strangest, criminal hauls in Canadian history
News that the Royal Canadian Mint may have fallen victim to a $15 million gold heist got us thinking about some of the biggest—and weirdest—robberies in Canadian history. Here’s a sampling:
1. Railway robbery: Only two trains have ever been robbed in Canada but both fell victim to Bill Miner. Miner, with the help of fellow crook Shorty Dunn, committed Canada’s first train robbery in Sept. 1904. The duo held up a CPR engine in B.C. and netted $10,000 in gold and bonds. Miner’s second train robbery was a gunpoint holdup of the CPR Transcontinental Express in Ducks Landing, B.C. Though Miner’s gang only landed $15 and some liver pills, this attempt cost Miner his freedom. He was arrested and sentenced to life in prison, but soon escaped.
2. The Flying Bandit: Ken Leishman, a pilot turned thief from Winnipeg, captured the public’s imagination in the ’60s and ’70s with his daring aerial escapes and non-violent methods of thievery. In 1966, he was the mastermind behind what was then Canada’s largest gold robbery—about $400,000 worth of bullion. Armed with the knowledge of when flights carrying gold arrived at the Winnipeg airport, Leishman and four accomplices dressed up as freight handlers, walked onto the tarmac, stole a truck loaded with 12 crates of gold bars, and drove off. Leishman was arrested but escaped from prison. He was later imprisoned, but upon his release in the mid-’70s, moved to Red Lake, Ont., where he became a successful businessman. Continue…
By Jaime Weinman - Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 6:13 PM - 3 Comments
First of all, let me say that I actually approve of the name “Canada Day.” Well, “approve” may not be the right word. Let’s say I like it better than the original; one of my earliest memories is hearing the term “Dominion Day” and wondering why we were celebrating a holiday based on the supermarket. When they changed it to Canada Day, I remember thinking: Oh, that makes sense. Maybe it could have a cooler name, but it’s fine the way it is.
I was asked in comments about the best and worst Canada Day specials, but I have to say, I really don’t know what they are. Because, unlike our Southern neighbour, we never made a clean break from the British Empire (and I’m certainly not saying we should have), it’s hard to construct a spectacular narrative for our independence day, and Canada Day is really more of a celebration of being Canadian and creating an identity that was distinct from Britain. That’s great, but it means that a Canada Day special is often indistinguishable from a pro-Canada special from any other time of the year — or at least, that’s the way it used to seem to me.
But here are some clips I found demonstrating how Canada Day has been promoted on television in the past 20 years — for as you know, an event does not exist until it’s promoted on television.
YTV, back when it was new and kind of cool, celebrates Canada Day in 1990:
A 1992 music-n’-montage commercial celebrating the 125th anniversary of the Big C:
1996: The Toronto Blue Jays, consisting almost entirely of Americans, promote Canada Day by lip-synching to a Canadian-specific parody of “This Land Is Your Land.”
By John Parisella - Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 5:46 PM - 29 Comments
If there is one feature of the Obama administration that transcends all others, it…
If there is one feature of the Obama administration that transcends all others, it is its level of activity. Not a single day passes without a policy initiative being launched, a decision being announced, or a commentary being offered, either by Obama himself or through a government spokesperson. A second and more important characteristic is the strategic content associated with its policy making. This guy has a plan. Whether or not you agree with Obama, you know there’s a sense of direction and a view of a bigger picture. No wonder, then, that Obama is more popular than all our leaders combined.
Even his adversaries concede that Obama is transforming the conduct of his office and is moving in directions that will have long-term repercussions on the nation and the rest of the world. Although there is strong opposition to many of his proposals, at least there is a strategy to be debated and a sense that things are changing. Young people are engaging in numbers not seen since the baby boomer generation came of age. In the lead-up to the anniversary of their nation, there is today a sense of hope, excitement, and optimism shared by a majority of Americans. But while the U.S. is on the move, where is Canada headed? Where is Canada going to be in the next decade? Put more bluntly, is Canada asleep at the switch?
By Brian D. Johnson - Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 5:19 PM - 4 Comments
By now it’s indisputable: Johnny Depp is the coolest movie dude on the planet. Forget Brad Pitt. Forget Tom Cruise. . . and remind me, who else is there? Robert Pattison? Sean Penn? Maybe Robert Downey Jr. But no Hollywood star puts together the whole package quite like Depp—combining screen-idol charisma with the grace of a gifted actor who seems to intent on continuing the mythic legacy of Marlon Brando and James Dean. And after the string of Pirates movies, it’s nice to see Depp finally playing a grown-up outlaw in a suit, in a summer blockbuster that is designed for adults.
I’m not sure why the title of Public Enemies is in the plural. Sure, this is a story of gangsters who worked as a team, but it’s really about just one public enemy, John Dillinger, and specifically about the final 14 months of his life before he was gunned down on the sidewalk after leaving the Biograph Theatre in Chicago, having just watched a gangster movie, Manhattan Melodrama, starring Clark Gable and Myrna Loy—a fitting end for a populist outlaw who acted not unlike a movie star himself, and was famous for refunding money to patrons in the banks that he robbed.
Public Enemies is directed by Michael Mann, who has made a career of outlaw romance, from Manhunter to The Last of the Mohicans, from Heat to Miami Vice. This movie plays a lot like Heat in period dress—a cat and mouse game between a frustrated lawman and his elusive quarry. But Christian Bale, who plays the FBI agent on Dillinger’s tale, is even more a cipher than he is behind Batman’s mask. This is Dillinger’s story. Mann portrays him as a purely romantic hero, with an elegaic tone that reminded me of Joey, that epic Bob Dylan ballad about gangster Joey Gallo. But what prevents the characters from surrendering to stereotype is Depp’s performance. Behind the the bravado and the posturing, you can see glints of chilling cruelty in his face. He carves nuance from the hollowsof Mann’s unsubtle script with a brilliant performance that lurks in the shadows, never giving himself up to cliché. As an actor, Depp has the brutal economy of a rhythm guitar player who knows how to hold back—like a John Lee Hooker or a Keith Richards—hiding just behind the beat. Continue…
By Jonathon Gatehouse - Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 5:05 PM - 36 Comments
We’re wealthier than the Americans, live longer than the Swedes and even have more lovers than the Italians
Let’s not sugarcoat it—it’s been a bad, bad year. Plunging markets have siphoned an estimated $300 billion out of the pensions and retirement savings of Canadians. A huge wave of job losses—400,000 and counting—has pushed the unemployment rate to an 11-year high. Add in the billions spent on corporate bailouts, and the $100 billion-plus in projected federal and provincial deﬁcits predicted for the coming years, and the economic gloom can seem overwhelming.
But Canadians might want to stop and take a deep breath before googling up the local chapter of the Hemlock Society. As we gather at the cottage, beach or in the backyard to celebrate our nation’s 142nd birthday, there is much to be thankful for. Things beyond the usual July 1 paeans to our scenic wonders, abundant natural resources, diversity, and stable politics. Continue…
By Katie Engelhart - Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 5:04 PM - 8 Comments
Sifting through all the scandalous news reports for the truth about MJ’s life and death
The allegation: MJ autopsy results released
On Monday, British Tabloid, The Sun, announced that it had received a copy of the coroner’s autopsy of Michael Jackson. It seems the star was in pretty bad shape. The Sun explained that Jackson was “a virtual skeleton” at the time of his death—“barely eating and with only pills in his stomach at the time he died. His hips, thighs and shoulders were riddled with needle wounds—believed to be the result of injections of narcotic painkillers, given three times a day for years.” The report also alleged that Jackson bore scars from at least 13 separate cosmetic operations, that “little more than ‘peach fuzz’ covered his scalp,” and that he showed symptoms of anorexia.
The verdict: FALSE
The Sun’s report was a fake, says entertainment site TMZ (who broke the news of Michael Jackson’s death). The Los Angeles County coroner made this announcement on Monday: “The report that is being published did not come from this office. I don’t know where the information came from, or who that information came from. It is not accurate. Some of it is totally false.” Continue…
By Jaime Weinman - Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 4:54 PM - 5 Comments
While trying to think of something appropriate to say for Canada Day (something between “go, Canada!” and Robertson Davies’ description of Canada as “the good daughter who stayed at home”), I thought I would post a couple of clips from an important influence on Jackson’s dancing style: choreographer-dancer Bob Fosse, a specialist in bowler hats, snapping fingers, and very precise movements that called for exceptional flexibility. (The reason Fosse developed these moves was that he really wasn’t a great dancer or choreographer in the technical sense, leading him to develop methods of choreography that depended more on unique poses than traditional gracefulness.) Jackson, a fan of classic musicals, paid tribute to Fosse as well as other influences like Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire in numbers like “Smooth Criminal”. Here’s the number that made Fosse famous as a choreographer, “Steam Heat.”
And here’s Fosse doing the only good number in the 1974 flop musical version of The Little Prince, playing a snake:
By Jaime Weinman - Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 2:49 PM - 4 Comments
Update: Coleman just conceded. I guess he does plan to run for office in Minnesota again after all.
The Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled, as expected, that Al Franken is the winner in the Minnesota Senate Race. The verdict was unanimous. And I have my doubts that he’ll be seated any time soon.
The post-recount race has seen a weird convergence of factors that all worked together to delay the inevitable. Coleman has been massively funded by the Republican party, because they’re running out of votes in the Senate and need to keep Franken out in order to make filibusters possible. Tim Pawlenty, the governor of Minnesota, is a Republican who wants to run for President in 2012 (and will not run for re-election as governor). And the hapless Democratic Senate leader, Harry Reid, couldn’t try to seat Franken early because he tried to block the seating of Blagojevich appointee Roland Burris, and the same arguments he used against seating Burris could be used against seating Franken without a certificate from the Governor.
I really wouldn’t assume that Coleman will just stop now, or that Pawlenty will simply give in and agree to seat Franken. The one thing that might dissuade Coleman from a federal appeal is that he may still have some hopes of running for Governor himself. But if he doesn’t, then he’ll have lots of donations to work with in funding any attempt to keep this going for several more months.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 2:23 PM - 2 Comments
Sad news from Saskatchewan.
“The family of Dave Batters is grieving the sudden loss of their beloved husband, son and brother, who sadly chose to take his own life at home in Regina on Monday, June 29. Last fall, Dave courageously made public his battle with depression and anxiety when he chose not to run for re-election as the Member of Parliament for Palliser. He entered treatment and his family and friends hoped he would overcome his illness. Tragically, this was not to be.
“Dave and Denise’s family greatly appreciates the support of their friends during this extremely difficult time and requests that the media respect their privacy. Funeral arrangements will be announced at a later date.”
By kadyomalley - Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 2:22 PM - 25 Comments
… to the family and friends of Dave Batters. Like I said last year when the news of his condition first broke, this sucks. I just wish that I’d been right when I predicted that we’d see him back on the Hill someday.
UPDATE: From the Prime Minister’s Office:
“I was saddened to hear of the tragic death of my former Caucus colleague and fellow Member of Parliament David Batters.
“Those of us who knew and worked with Dave will remember him as a friend and colleague who worked tirelessly on behalf of his constituents in Palliser.
“Dave ultimately lost his struggle with severe depression, but we should use his loss as a reminder that mental health illnesses affect Canadians in every walk of life. Too often Canadians, such as Dave, suffer in silence out of fear of being stigmatized for their illness.
“On behalf of our Conservative Caucus, I extend heartfelt condolences to his family and friends during this difficult time.”
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 2:09 PM - 3 Comments
Daily intercourse improves its quality
Couples trying to have a baby should have sex every day, according to a study by Dr. David Greening, an Australian infertility physician. Daily intercourse improves sperm quality because frequent ejaculation reduces the amount of time sperm is exposed to molecules inside the testicular ducts, known as reactive oxygen species, that may cause damage. Greening recommends that couples have sex every day for a week before the woman begins ovulation in order to maximize their chances of getting pregnant.
By kadyomalley - Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 1:13 PM - 28 Comments
Take that, Mr. “Passable Imitation of a Beer Label”!*
Yes, on this, the eve of Canada Day — otherwise known as The Day Before The Giornoversary, but more on that in a later post — Angus Reid has released the results of their latest annual plundering of the very soul of our nation, and discovered that … yes, we still get all schmaltzy over the flag, the troops, hockey and multiculturalism, in that order, but aren’t quite as filled with patriot love at the thought of the monarchy, or — sigh — Parliament, which comes dead last on the list. Although really, you have to think that’s at least partly due to the current inhabitants. (May I remind you, Canadians, that you’re the ones who keep electing them? No? Fine, then.) Then again, we’re apparently bullish on the state of our democracy. In fact, with the exception of “the economy”, we’re more proud of every item on the list than we were last Canada Day. Which is nice, really.
Anyway, there are all sorts of fun regional/demographic breakdowns in the PDF file. Enjoy!
*Okay, okay. I promise — no more Just Visiting jokes. For today. Maybe. (By the way, has anyone ever managed to track down a copy of that much-quoted interview where he made that now infamous observation? And was it a “passable”, “passing” or “pale” imitation? I’ve seen all three variants show up in the talking points.)
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 12:54 PM - 0 Comments
Likely only one survivor; there was a Canadian passenger; and the plane was not supposed to fly
A spokesman for Yemenia, Mohammed Al-Sumairi, says that the search for survivors continues. He did not given an age for the child, which some reports have put at 5 and others at 14. Apparently a Canadian was among the passengers on board. The family of Emsumata Abdoulghani, an Ottawa woman in her thirties, believes she was on board the plane. The flight originated in Paris and stopped in Marseille before continuing to Yemen, where passengers and crew switched planes to an Airbus A310-300. The plane crashed while descending to Prince Said Ibrahim International Airport in Moroni in heavy winds. In Paris, French Secretary of State for Transport, Dominique Bussereau, told legislators that the Yemenia Airbus was not permitted to fly into France. The jet “presented a certain number of irregularities in its technical equipment.” The accident is the second major incident involving an Airbus jet flying to or from France this month. On June 1, an Air France flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris went down in the Atlantic, killing all 228 people aboard.
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 12:51 PM - 6 Comments
TMZ reports donors used for kids, and the pop star never made adoption official
According to a report on gossip site TMZ.com, Michael Jackson is not the biological father of his three children. Michael Jr., Paris, and Prince Michael II were apparently conceived in vitro, with neither Jackson nor Debbie Rowe, the putative mother to Michael Jr. and Paris, contributing biological material to the children. The biological father to Jackson’s two oldest children was reported by Us Weekly to be Jackson’s dermatologist (and Rowe’s former boss), Arnold Klein. TMZ reports the identity of Prince Michael II’s biological parents remain a mystery, perhaps even to Jackson himself, and his surrogate mother was kept in the dark about whom would eventually take custody of the child. Further complicating matters surrounding custody of the children, Jackson reportedly never filed adoption papers for any of his kids, believing no third party would ever lay claim to them.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 12:51 PM - 47 Comments
Canadian Press looks back on the outrage concerning that principal who didn’t play the national anthem each morning.
Conservative MPs on the floor of the House of Commons, bloggers and media pundits provoked a raging national debate this spring over the decision by a single school in rural New Brunswick to curtail the morning ritual of O Canada. The furor drove Erik Millett, principal of tiny Belleisle Elementary, from his job and resulted in death threats against him. New Brunswick subsequently made it mandatory to sing O Canada daily in the province’s schools, starting this autumn. No fewer than five federal Tory New Brunswick MPs – including two cabinet members – publicly pounced on the anthem issue. No other party’s MPs in Parliament intervened.
Contrast that with a national study this month by the Dominion Institute that found the teaching of Canadian history is woefully inadequate in high schools from coast to coast … Alberta and Saskatchewan, home to 40 federal Conservative MPs, both received Fs from the institute for failing to require a single history course to graduate.
Yet not one Tory MP raised the issue in Parliament. Their silence was doubly perplexing because the absence of history education dovetails with a push by Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney to improve what he calls “civic literacy” among Canadians – essentially the understanding of our national history and symbols.
And you’ll never guess what Mr. Millett’s teaching now.
By Jaime Weinman - Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 12:36 PM - 2 Comments
Well, it’s about damn time: Taxi, Season 4 will be released on DVD, four years after the release of season 3.
This will mean that all the ABC years will be available on DVD, and hopefully will lead to the release of the fifth and last season, when the show moved to NBC. Brief historical run-down: Taxi was created for ABC after Paramount lured away a whole bunch of MTM’s best people; ABC was looking for something classier and older-skewing than the rest of their lineup. The show was everything they could have hoped for in terms of quality, winning three straight Emmys for best comedy, but it tanked in the ratings as soon as it was no longer following Three’s Company. When ABC dropped it, the producers had two offers: NBC, under former MTM head Grant Tinker, wanted it as a time-slot companion for Cheers, while the then-new HBO wanted to do an even more adult version. The producers went with NBC, but the ratings were terrible and the quality was lower (because most of their best people were off doing Cheers). It was canceled for good after that.
Anyway, the fourth season is a great season and will be most welcome on DVD; I expect some music changes (there was one episode that prominently featured a Billy Joel song), but it will still be worth it to get un-cut versions of many other great episodes.
James L. Brooks has actually said several times that Taxi is his favorite among his own shows — not Mary Tyler Moore, not The Simpsons, but Taxi, because it incorporated so many different styles of comedy and got away with so much weirdness. It was also, of course, a famous case of a show that turned out high-quality work even though — or perhaps because — it was a complete mess behind the scenes; drugs, cast battles, many different writers and producers jockeying for power, and the famous incident where Andy Kaufman insisted that they write a part for his alter-ego Tony Clifton (Kaufman was good to work with, but Clifton was fired during shooting).
I will add that Taxi was a type of sitcom you don’t frequently see today, one that would do different episodes in distinctly different styles. The normal practice for a sitcom is to establish a uniform storytelling style that is applied to every show, except for gimmick episodes (like Two and a Half Men‘s CSI episode). But depending on who the episode was about, Taxi could be a farce, a fantasy, a social-issue comedy, a dark comedy about unfulfilled dreams, a relationship comedy. Today you have a lot of one-hour dramas that do different types of episodes and stories, but few sitcoms — particularly four-camera, live-audience sitcoms — that regularly change styles like Taxi, WKRP, or The Simpsons in the Oakley-Weinstein years. Which is just another indication of the fact that sitcoms used to be where the variety and character development was in TV, and now it’s one-hour drama.
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 12:29 PM - 0 Comments
Reformist candidate rejects partial recount results
Mir Hossein Mousavi urged his supporters to keep protesting in Iran on Tuesday, a day after the country’s ruling Guardian Council announced that a recount proved the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was fair. Mousavi, who’s called for the results of the election to be thrown out entirely, suggested protesters should continue shouting Allahu Akbar (God is great) from rooftops at night, writing Mr Mousavi’s name on currency and hijacking official holidays to make protests. For his part, Ahmadinejad celebrated Monday’s ruling by the Guardian Council, saying it was Iran’s final victory over its Western enemies who plotted “a soft toppling of the system, failed, and couldn’t reach their aims.”
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 12:27 PM - 0 Comments
Malcolm Gladwell vs. Chris Anderson
High-profile cultural theorists Malcolm Gladwell of the New Yorker and Chris Anderson of Wired are enmeshed in a feud over whether the Internet can be a profit-centre (Gladwell says yes, Anderson says no), reports the Times of London. Gladwell started it with an eviscerating review of Anderson’s book, Free: History of a Radical Price. Anderson then fought back on his blog with an entry: “Dear Malcolm: Why So Threatened?” Everyone’s waiting for the next salvo which they’ll likely read online for free.
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 12:26 PM - 2 Comments
Mingling with mildly sick people to get immunity
Forget staying home to recover from the flu and spare others the risk of infection. In Britain, people with swine flu are throwing parties and inviting their friends and family so that they can get sick too. The thinking goes that by enduring a mild version of the illness now they may prompt immunity against swine flu this winter, when some experts anticipate it could be more deadly. But doctors insist there is still a risk of mortality, and are strongly warning against such festivities: “Going out to try to get the virus will just aid its spread.”
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 12:24 PM - 0 Comments
OK! Went with a morbid cover over a sentimental one
Michael Jackson’s untimely death has spawned all sorts of magazine tributes (including a Maclean’s special issue now available on newsstands.) But the celebrity gossip glossy OK! has upped the ante by publishing what they claim are the final pictures of a dying Jackson on their cover. Mediaweek reports that the British-owned publication paid about US $500,000 for the macabre stills. An investment they expect to more than recoup.
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 12:22 PM - 0 Comments
There is a new flu virus going around
It is the H3N8 dog flu. While fears of a flu pandemic among humans have shifted from the deadly H5N1 avian flu to the relatively mild H1N1 swine flu, the H3N8 canine flu has been a quiet undercurrent in the U.S. It initially looked quite lethal, and caused panic. Now it is clear that it has killed relatively few victims—and many of those have underlying conditions. Dr. Cynda Crawford of the University of Florida veterinary school estimates that by itself, it kills 5-8 percent of the dogs that catch it. Last week, the United States Department of Agriculture announced that it had approved the first vaccine for it.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 12:05 PM - 49 Comments
Elizabeth May wanders the country in search of a home to call her own.
“By the end of the next election campaign I’m going to be sitting in the House of Commons, and we’re trying to figure out which riding in this country is most prepared to want to be the riding that’s known historically as the place that elected the first Green MP,” she said.
By Jaime Weinman - Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 11:56 AM - 1 Comment
One thing you rarely get to hear with TV comedies is an “unsweetened” version. That is, a version that doesn’t have any of the bits of music or canned laughter that are added after the taping. But here are two clips from an old sitcom scene: one as taped, the other as broadcast. This is from a WKRP in Cincinnati episode, and after the taping, some bits of canned laughter were added to fill in the spots where the audience didn’t laugh (usually when the line was too deadpan or not a hard joke: “I sincerely like the frame” gets a bit of canned laughter to tell the home viewer that it’s a joke). Also, the whole scene was underscored with music: “Breezin’” by George Benson.
It would be interesting to find a really unfunny sitcom scene and find out how much canned laughter was added in the sweetening; most of the laughter in this scene is real. But at least it gives an idea of how laugh tracks and background music are incorporated into the final mix.
Here’s the scene without music or canned laughter:
And the same scene with the music and extra bits of laughter added:
(Cross posted at Something Old, Nothing New)