Tour of the Universe was the best ride this 1980s kid ever took

The 1980s were a pretty sweet time to be a lower-middle class kid in Ontario. Marineland (which I now know was a terrible place for the whales, dolphin and deer they held captive there) and African Lion Safari were only a few hours away, for most of us. Canada's Wonderland, our first major theme park, opened its gates in 1981 and there were miniature golf courses, freaking everywhere. Not a one of them held my Star Wars-focused attention like Tour of the Universe did.

Housed in the basement of the CN Tower, Tour of the Universe was a space flight simulation ride set in the far-flung year of 2019. Upon entering Spaceport Toronto, passengers would be issued a round-trip ticket to Jupiter before passing through security, intergalactic customs and being subjected to a medical—inoculation against the Ganymede Rash and Alien Dropsy were a must. Upon entering your shuttle to Jupiter and strapping in, you'd be subjected to a quick, immersive space adventure: the 'trip' took place on a large screen inside of the cabin built out of the bones of a 747 flight simulator that was moved around on hydraulics in time to the action on the forward display. It was the first ride of its kind, anywhere in the world. American kids would have to wait a number of years for a similar experience when Disneyland picked it up and retooled it as Star Tour.

Image via YouTube Read the rest

How Quebec's health-care system uses "vaccine whisperers" to keep "vaccine hesitancy" from turning to anti-vax

A French neonatal specialist named Dr Arnaud Gagneur has created a "vaccine counselling" program within Quebec's health-care system that uses a non-judgmental technique called "motivational interviewing" with parents of newborns to allay their fears about vaccines. Read the rest

My Life on the Road — Staying Still

I've been back in Canada since May and I am certain I am losing my mind. It's a certainty that takes hold of me, every year.

We come home because we have to. As Canadians, we can only stay in the Untied States for a maximum of six months at a time. This past year, we stayed just shy of five months in the United States and, another two, down in Mexico. We drove back across the Canadian border with a few days left to spare. This dates-in-da-States wiggle room is important as I sometimes have to head south for work. I'd rather not get into dutch with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Being back in Canada for half the year is , a must if we want to hold on to our sweet-ass socialized medical care (which we totally do.) and for my wife to return to work. While she's a certified dive instructor, she also loves the land-locked gig she works for half of the year. We also come home because we want to. I have few friends and work remotely. Disappointment and distrust have left me happy in the small company of my partner, our pooch and a few well-chosen friends that I seldom see. My missus? Not so much. Community is important to her. Her sister's family—now my family—means the world to her. Reacquainting herself with her people, each year, brings her a happiness that I try hard to understand. I love to see her light up around her friends. Read the rest

Mounties accidentally stream homicide press conference with Facebook's cat filter turned on

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police aren't known for their sense of humor—especially in instances where investigating a senseless murder. When it's a double homicide, you can taste the gravitas right through your television or laptop display. Last week, a British Columbia RCMP press officer of telling the world that two young travelers—Chynna Noelle Deese, 24, and Lucas Robertson Fowler, 23—were found to have been shot to death, near Highway 97: It's a strip of road that runs from B.C.'s border with Washington all the way up to the Yukon. The RCMP's detectives are on the case. Deese and Fowler's people were notified. Everything was being handled as professionally as possible.

Until Facebook stepped in with that stupid kitty cat video filter of theirs.

From The Daily Beast:

Canadian police held a somber press conference this weekend to deliver details on a double homicide, but viewers tuning in on Facebook Live were left baffled: The police officer speaking about the slaying was shown with cat ears and whiskers. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police in British Columbia later explained that an “automatic setting” on Facebook Live had accidentally been switched on when they were announcing news about the killing of an American woman and her Australian boyfriend. After re-recording the entire press conference minus the “cat filter,” Sgt. Janelle Shoihet apologized for the “technical difficulties” viewers experienced the first time around.

So, that's awkward and awful.

On the off chance that anyone reading this has any information linked to the case, you'd be doing society a good turn by contacting the Dease Lake RCMP detachment at 250-771-4111

Image via Wikipedia Commons Read the rest

Today marks the 20-year anniversary of Len's Steal My Sunshine

For your records, the hook was sampled from Andrea's disco hit More More More. It happens all of a sudden at about 2:19 in this video:

Isolated for your repeat pleasure:

You can buy Steal my Sunshine on tape cassette from Alcopop! records. Read the rest

Canada-shaped coin issued by Royal Canadian Mint

Illustrator Alisha Giroux was drawing the map of Canada "for fun," when she noticed that its shape aligned with the shape with animals.

CBC News:

She turned Quebec into a snowy owl taking flight, and Ontario into a loon with its wings folded. British Columbia, meanwhile, became a spirit bear.

Giroux decided to design a two-colour version of her map for Canada's 150th anniversary and posted it online. About a year ago, she received a call from the mint, with an offer to have her design featured on a coin...

The coin also includes Giroux's initials just below a chickadee representing New Brunswick, something she said "hasn't quite sunk in."

The Royal Canadian Mint is now offering this 3 oz. pure silver Canada-shaped coin for $340. It's guaranteed to never fit in a vending machine.

That's Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on the reverse side of the coin.

(Nag on the Lake) Read the rest

Billionaire newspaper monopolist family cancels editorial cartoonist after anti-Trump drawing

Canada's Irving family is one of the richest in the world, owning more land than anyone except the British royals and the Catholic church; they also own virtually all the media in New Brunswick, as well as the industries that those newspapers cover, and they augment their media control over the public discourse with a ruthless approach to their critics. Read the rest

Uber drivers in Toronto unionizing to take on The Man

Working for a ride-sharing company like Uber or Lyft can be a tough gig that offers low pay, long hours that keep drivers on there road and away from the people they love and, at times, wheeling under dangerous working conditions. In some parts of the world, pissed off drivers have walked off the job and protested their crappy working conditions and demanded--and I know this is crazy--a living wage. Up here in Canada, we tend to do things with a little more of a socialist flare.

From Gizmodo:

First announced on Monday, Uber drivers based in Toronto expressed their intention to join the United Food and Commercial Workers, a 250,000-strong trade union which operates in both Canada and the U.S. The actual number of drivers who had signed cards was not released, but during a press conference this afternoon, UFCW Canada staffer Pablo Godoy claimed their support had hit the “high hundreds” and were growing rapidly.

The move comes at a time when Toronto's city counsel is attempting to sort out a balance between cab companies and the ride share operations that have been drinking their milkshakes. With this in mind, there couldn't be a better time for Uber drivers to invest in the power of a union. That said, there's still a number of legal issues to be ironed out before Toronto's Uber drivers are rubber stamped as a bona fide part of the union and afforded the protections that membership in UFCW provides.

Given the amount of trouble that Uber has had in recent years in locales like New York where the city has implemented strict living wage laws for ride share drivers and in Cancun, where they were forced to suspend operations to keep their people safe from pissed off taxi and colectivo drivers, its possible that the company might just consider not giving it's Toronto employees a tough time, at least in the short term: even giant, plundering corporations need a breather from all the bullshit they generate, every now and again. Read the rest

Mystery saint giving out $100 bills and encouraging notes in eastern Canadian town

It's been a crackerjack year, hasn't it? Kids are being held in concentration camps, whole species are disappearing from the face of the earth, our weather is absolutely borked and drinkable water is fast disappearing in many locales around the world. Everything is terrible!

Except for when it isn't.

From The Globe & Mail:

An anonymous benefactor who secretly placed a $100 bill and an unabashed message of positivity in a Nova Scotia park has delighted and intrigued the town’s residents.

The bill was taped to a New Glasgow, N.S., gazebo in a Ziploc bag with a note encouraging the finder to spend the money on something that brings them happiness and to remember the good in the world.

It was found by town employee Doug Miller while setting up for a funding announcement over the weekend.

As detailed in a photo on the Globe & Mail's website, the note reads: To whoever finds this $100 bill -- it is yours! I hope it will bring you joy and that you will use it for your enjoyment. Always know that there is good in the world and joy to be found. I hope you know, or will learn, that you are priceless and worth more than any paper or plastic. I hope you will always choose to be happy.

A hundred bucks is a lot of cash, to most people. To others, it's a fart in a mist. No matter how you're situated for cash, I'm sure you'll agree that it's nice to occasionally run across a news story where nothing is on fire, spreading like the plague or about to die at the hands of the military industrial complex. Read the rest

Never Trust a Nation

Formed in 2014 by civilian volunteers caught up in the depravity of the Syrian Civil War, the Syrian Civil Defense (SCD), commonly known as The White Helmets, worked to move vulnerable non-combatants from harm's way. They delivered essential services such as first aid and the delivery of humanitarian supplies to areas that foreign NGOs fear to tread. It's thought that since the SCD's inception, they've been responsible for saving well over 100,000 lives, with 204 White Helmet volunteers dying in the process. At most, those working the debris fields of what were once proud Syrian cities on behalf of the SCD were paid $150, per month. Aside from this stipend, it's largely thankless, incredibly dangerous work.

For their efforts, the White Helmets came under threat from the Syrian government and their influence-horny Russian allies. With much of the financial and logistical support that had been offered to them by the west drying up as the Syrian Civil War wound down, SCD volunteers were left with few safe places to hide, few resources and seemingly, few allies.

Then, something amazing happened.

As reported by the BBC, in July of 2018, the Israeli military yoinked 100 White Helmet volunteers and their families--a total of 422 people--out from under the noses of the Syrian military and their allies. The Kingdom of Jordan was cool with giving the White Helmets a place to hang, so long as it was on a short-term basis. Canada offered to grant 10 of the White Helmets and their families asylum. Read the rest

Canada's telcoms regulator adopts a sweeping new pro-competition agenda

For decades, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has been missing in action, standing idly by as Canada's telcom companies merged with each other and with media giants, created three bloated, anticompetitive vertically integrated monopolies; now the CRTC has repented its sins, adopting its proposed pro-competition agenda (which was bitterly opposed by the Big Three), with far-reaching implications for mobile virtual network operators, facilities sharing, rural coverage, accessibility and investment. The policy goes into effect immediately. Read the rest

Beyond Meat added to Tim Hortons' menu

Eating the stuff that cows eat instead of eating cows is so hot right now! It's fine by me: last summer, I had the opportunity to nosh an Impossible Burger while I was in Boston. It was absolutely delicious (although I did have bacon with it, so there's that) and, as it's better for me and better for the planet, I'm all in on the idea. Protein-rich plant-based faux-meat is the way of the future, friendos. As it slowly gains popularity in restaurants and homes across America, it's also making a dent up north.

From The CBC:

Tim Hortons announced Wednesday that starting immediately, the chain's 4,000 locations across Canada are offering breakfast sandwiches made with Beyond Meat patties, a plant-based meat alternative whose popularity seems to be soaring.

The chain will offer three varieties of the Beyond Meat patty, including in an English muffin with egg and cheese, in a tortilla wrap with egg, cheese and other ingredients, or in a 100 per cent vegan form on a baked biscuit with lettuce and tomato.

For anyone that's every had to suffer through a Tim Horton's breakfast sandwich over the past few years, this could be great news: anything would be better than the taste sensation of an over-spiced sausage patties on a dryer-than-a-popcorn-fart biscuit that the chain has been churning out of late. Timmy's won't be the first chain in Canada to get in on the Beyond Meat action. A&W--which in Canada is superior in almost every way to the American chain of the same name--has been offering Beyond Meat burgers, for some time now. Read the rest

Countries with longer copyright terms have access to fewer books (pay attention, Canada!)

Rebecca Giblin (previously) writes, "We've just dropped a new study we've been working on for a year. You know how it keeps being claimed that we need longer copyrights because nobody will invest in making works available if they're in the public domain? Heald and some others have done some great work debunking that in the US context, but now we've finally tested this hypothesis in other countries by looking at the relative availability of ebooks to libraries. It's also the first time anyone has been able to compare availability of identical works (by significant authors) across jurisdictions. The books we sampled were all in the public domain in Canada and NZ, all under copyright in Australia, and a mix in the US (courtesy of its historical renewal system)." Read the rest

Grocer designed embarrassing plastic bags to shame shoppers into bringing reusable ones

East West Market in Vancouver, B.C. had a terrific idea to get people to start bringing their own reusable shopping bags: design plastic bags with messages too embarrassing to carry. Unfortunately, while hilarious, it's backfiring. They made them too good and now everyone wants a set of them! Collect all three: the Colon Care Co-op, Into The Weird Adult Video Emporium, and Dr. Toews' Wart Ointment Wholesale.

(Funny Or Die) Read the rest

The Canadian government has released the surprisingly sensible results of its extensive, year-long review of copyright law

[Editor's note: Whenever governments review their copyright, one of two things happens: either they only listen to industry reps and then come to the "conclusion" that more copyright is always better; or they listen to stakeholders and experts and conclude that a little goes a long way. Normally, when the latter happens, the government that commissioned the report buries it out of terror of powerful Big Content lobbyists. This time, miraculously, an eminently sensible Canadian report has seen the light of day. I was delighted to invite the legendary Canadian copyright scholar Michael Geist to present a short analysis of some of the important conclusions. -Cory]

The Canadian government launched an extensive review of its copyright law last year that led to months of study and attracted hundreds of witnesses and briefs. While some groups hoped the review would lead to new website blocking measures and restrictions on fair dealing (Canada's version of fair use), the Industry committee report released this week actually recommends expanding fair dealing, rejects site blocking without a court order, and rejects proposals to exclude education from fair dealing where a licence is otherwise available. The study covers a wide range of copyright issues, but its conclusions on fair dealing, digital locks, site blocking, and term extension are particularly noteworthy. Read the rest

David Silverberg's "Terms and Conditionals": the things you just agreed to

[David Silverberg's As Close to the Edge Without Going Over is a new book of genre poetry from Canadian speciality press ChiZine (previously). I was tickled by his poem "Terms and Conditionals" (for reasons that will be immediately obvious) and I asked him if we could reprint it here -- he graciously assented. -Cory] Read the rest

Remembering Velma Demerson: Grand soul, feminist, human rights advocate and writer

[Velma Demerson was jailed in 1939 and by the Ontario government for the "crime" of having a Chinese boyfriend; sixty years later, she began an ultimately successful legal challenge seeking reparations; I'm pleased to present this remembrance for Demerson by Harry Kopyto, the campaigning human rights lawyer, who served as one of her advisors -Cory]

On Monday May 13, 2019, Athena Mary Lakes, better known as Velma Demerson, died from old age in a Vancouver hospital at the age of 98. She is best known for her successful legal battle culminating in 2002 against the Ontario Government for incarcerating her in Toronto in 1939 for almost a year. The reason for her incarceration? She was found morally “incorrigible” under the Female Refuges Act for living with a Chinese man, Harry Yip, whom she married after her release. Their son, who was born while she was in jail, was taken away from her until after her release. Read the rest

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