nice helmet jackass

If you’re Canadian like me, you’ve probably heard through the internet grapevine that Margaret Atwood wrote an amusing piece on the hair of the contenders in this year’s federal elections, particularly the coiff of Canada’s dickish, control-freaky Prime Minister, Stephen Harper. It was published in the National Postthen suddenly unpublished.

The explanation, as put in an email from the Post’s senior vice-president Gerry Nott:

“The column was taken down because the necessary fact checking had not been completed. Senior editorial leadership at Postmedia [the media network to which the National Post belongs] also had not concluded whether the column was aligned with the values of the National Post and its readers.”

The likeliness of the Post publishing anything without fact-checking it is practically zero; fact-checking is part of newspaper operations 101. Furthermore, Atwood says that the Post’s editors received her article nine days prior to publishing, which is plenty of time to review an article that doesn’t even cross the 1,000-word mark.

The more likely occurrence is that — to use Gerry Nott’s own words — the column wasn’t “aligned with the values of the National Post“, especially when you consider their track record for endorsing terrible conservative candidates.

Jeet Heer, senior editor at The New Republic, said it well on Twitter:

Since then, the Post has republished the article, with a couple of sentences mentioning millionaire donors to Harper’s campaign removed, for reasons I will leave to the reader to deduce.

For the benefit of those of you who haven’t had a chance to read it, here’s the original, unabridged article, posted as a public service. Enjoy!

Margaret Atwood: Hair is in the election-season air, but is it crucial to the question of your vote?

justin trudeau

The caption for this photo in the National Post read: Liberal Leader Justin Trueau speaks to the media during a federal election campaign stop at the annual gay pride parade in Montreal, Sunday, August 16, 2015.

Hair is in the election-season air. I didn’t put it there – those attack ads on Mr. Trudeau introduced the subject, with “Nice hair, Justin” – but now that the hairball has been coughed up, so to speak, let’s consider it.

Hair is a big deal. People spend a lot of time worrying about their hair and a lot of money altering it. Some sculpt it, some dye it, some shave it off. Some hide it under scarves and hats because God, in his or her many forms, has taken a serious interest in hair – telling people to grow it, conceal it, cut it, refrain from cutting it, wear a wig in place of it, not let Delilah hack it off, and so on. Some are born with hair, some achieve hair, and some have hair thrust upon them through laws and customs. Some hair goes missing, leaving either a Mr. Clean macho look or a bowling-ball one, as with Mr. Duffy. Some hair is curly, some is straight. Luck of the draw.

Fashion can be a cruel taskmistress, hair-wise. Many are the photos of us with odd hair from former times that we presently seek to conceal. (Ducktails? Beatles bangs? Flowing hippy locks?) My own hair can be interpreted as “Pre-Raphaelite” or “frizzy” depending on the hostility level of the interviewer. I’ve lived through those 50s smoothening adventures with a product called Dippity Do as well as the nightmare straight-hair Twiggy years of the late 60s, which involved other failed processes. After that I gave up.

But back to the hair-strewn attack ads of the Conservatives. What’s the point? Women will recognize “Nice hair” as a pickup line, so I suppose addressing it to a political opponent is a way of girlifying him: the Conservative ad-writers would see girlification as inherently demeaning, their view of girls and women being what it is. But “Nice hair” makes them sound a bit envious, too: no one has ever accused Mr. Harper of having “nice hair.” It also makes them sound trivial. Hair, an election issue? Really?

But let’s suppose that hair is indeed crucial to the question of your vote. Is hair the measure of a man, or woman? Is character destiny, and is hair a clue to character?

Let’s try this hair quiz:

Of the three national male leaders, which one travels with a personal grooming assistant – lavishly paid for in whole or in part by you, gentle taxpayer – so that none of his hairs will ever be out of place, supposing they are indeed his and not a wig, as some have supposed? (Hint: Initials are S.H.)

stephen harper

The caption for this photo in the National Post read: In the name of all that’s decent: can’t the press at least let Stephen Harper grieve a little?

Which leader, on the other hand, doesn’t need such an assistant because his hair is “nice” enough already? (Hint: initials are J.T.)

And which one wouldn’t know what a personal grooming assistant was if he fell over one? (Hint: Initials are T.M.)

Yes! You got it right! Smart you!

Next: Why should the taxpayer foot the bill for the micromanagement of Harper’s hair? Is his hair in the public interest? Is it crucial infrastructure? A matter of national security? Or is the pampering just a matter of narcissistic vanity?

Maybe it wasn’t altogether wise for the Conservatives to bring up hair: it focused the hair spotlight. Start with one candidate’s hair and we can’t help thinking about the topside garnishments of the others – not only what they might signify, but also what they might be costing us.

Will the Conservatives now lay off on the personal-appearance attack stuff? Doubtful: they’ve got a thing for it. Jean Crétien’s paralyzed face, laugh a minute! Trudeau’s hair, woo-woo! Who’s next? “Nice tits, Elizabeth?”

Wait! I can see it coming! Mulcair’s beard! The Conservatives will have trouble with a straight-out character attack on Mulcair because they regarded the guy so highly they tried to hire him themselves, so they’ll have to fall back on the beard: “Thomas Mulcair. What’s he hiding behind that beard?”

Don’t go there, Cons! Because then we’ll all start thinking about “hiding.” Why is Harper still coyly hiding the two-million-dollar donors to his party leadership race? Don’t we have a right to know who put him in there? Who’s he working for, them or us?

Why is he hiding his campaign events from the public? Is he running for Prime Minister of the whole population – those whose taxes pay, in whole or in part, for him and his hair – and if so, why isn’t he talking to all of us? In his earlier quoted comment, “I don’t care what they say,” who are they? Aren’t you agog to know if you’re on Harper’s hidden “enemies list”?

Why is he hiding what he knew about the Duffy cover-up, and when he knew it? He’s given four mutually exclusive answers so far. Is there a hidden real answer?

And if he’s hiding all this, what else is he hiding?


This morning in St. Pete

by Joey deVilla on August 21, 2015

Once a week, I like to get out of the home office and work somewhere else. Today is that day, and I’m in St. Pete.

st pete 01

Click the photo to see it at full size.

Downtown St. Pete is really bike-friendly, complete with a number of dedicated lanes for cycles and nearly non-existent traffic (especially when compared with Toronto, so I took my bike with me and did a quick run near the water before getting to work this morning. My route took me past the Dali museum:

st pete 02

Click the photo to see it at full size.

The museum holds the largest collection of Dali works outside of Spain, and it’s worth checking out. There’s an Escher exhibit that opens tomorrow — I’d love to check it out.

The rest of my route took me along the water…

st pete 03

Click the photo to see it at full size.

It’s a fantastic day for a bike ride. I need to get out here more often:

st pete 04

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I have to unlearn my Toronto navigation instinct that equates “water” with “south”. In St. Pete, the water is to the east.

st pete 05

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You can see The Pier in the background of this shot. The inverted building is being demolished and there’s some kind of “goodbye” ceremony taking place later today:

st pete 06

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There’s was little traffic in the area at 9:00 a.m.. It’s as if I had the whole place to myself:

st pete 07

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Here are some people who are having an even more laid-back morning than mine:

st pete 08

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…and then it was time to get to work. I’m camped out for the morning in a very quiet Starbucks by the stadium right across from the street from this cab with a clever slogan:

st pete 09

Click the photo to see it at full size.


I’ll be presenting at Ignite Tampa Bay next Thursday!

by Joey deVilla on August 20, 2015

ignite tampa bay 2015

Ignite Tampa Bay takes place in Tampa next Thursday, August 27th from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the Cuban Club…and Yours Truly will be one of the speakers!

Ignite is a quick presentation format with the following constraints:

  • The presentation is exactly five minutes long
  • The presenter is accompanied by 20 slides, which advance automatically every 15 seconds

Olivia Mitchell, who teaches how to make effective presentations, describes the Ignite format as “the presentation equivalent of a haiku or a sonnet”. If you’ve seen a lightning talk, an Ignite presentation’s a little longer, and if you’re familiar with the Pecha Kucha presentation format, it’s similar, but a little shorter and simpler.

If you need to see an example of an Ignite talk, why not take a look at one of mine? This is the one I did at Ignite Toronto 4, which took place waaay back in September 2010, which for me was practically a former life. It’s called Go Busk Yourself, and in it, I tell the audience to become street musicians, because it’s life-changing:

Here’s the first slide from my upcoming presentation:

first slide

That’s right, I’ll be talking about our local superheroes, Florida Man and Florida Woman. Here’s the abstract, which I had to keep short:

“Florida Man” and “Florida Woman”, those staples of slow news days and internet memes are this state’s most valuable resource. They’re the products of Truth™, Justice™, and the American Way™, and the surest signs of a better tomorrow. I’ll explain how this can be, complete with Florida Man logic and a closing accordion number.

Tickets are still available for Ignite Tampa Bay, but they’re selling out quickly! Make sure you don’t miss out on one of the city’s most thought-provoking and entertaining events put on by its most engaged citizenry.

Recommended reading


Fun whisky/whiskey facts for tonight’s party

by Joey deVilla on August 15, 2015

Enjoying a nice scotch at my friend Adam’s place.
Photo by Adam PW Smith.

I’m attending a whisky/whiskey tasting event at my friend Erinn’s place tonight, which makes it the perfect time to share some topical information.

whisky vs whiskey

There’s a difference between whisky and whiskey. It’s academic, and generally distills down to the country of origin:

  • Countries that have E’s in their names (UnitEd StatEs and IrEland) tend to spell it whiskEy (plural whiskeys)
  • Countries without E’s in their names (Canada, Scotland, and Japan) spell it whisky (plural whiskies)

ricard paterson - very serious whisky guy

When it comes to matters pertaining to scotch, my go-to guy is Richard Paterson (he’s @the_nose on Twitter), Master Blender at Dalmore and Whyte and MacKay. If you’ve got four minutes to spare, check out this quick intro to whisky tasting vide that he did with

He gets a little more in-depth in this six-minute video, which includes his coffee and chocolate pairing suggestions:

Also worth reading: a 2010 article in Wired titled This Nose Knows Whisky: A Spirited Talk With Master Blender Richard Paterson.

Yours Truly at a Bombay Sapphire rooftop party in Toronto.
Click the photo to see more pics from this party.

When this technology fad blows over, I’d like to stop being a tech evangelist and become a “brand ambassador” for some wine or spirit, like Bombay Sapphire’s Merlin Griffiths (ignore the fact that it’s not as good gin as it used to be; pay attention to the fact that the accordion gets you invited to his shindigs), or Randy Adams, who’s The Macallan’s brand ambassador:

If you’re in the mood for some longer viewing and have an hour to spare, watch this documentary — Whisky: The Islay Edition…

There’ll be bourbon at this party too, so this video is appropriate…

…as is this photo with one of my alco-heroes, Tom Bulleit, of the bourbon of the same name:

And while this event will be about drinking our whiskys/whiskeys neat or with a little water, I have to share this recipe for Bourbon and Branch, one of the favorite cocktails of none other than Commander James Bond himself:


Each guest is expected to bring a whisky/whiskey to this party, and Anitra and I are bringing something a little offbeat (as you should expect we would). We’re bringing Corsair Distillery’s Quinoa Whiskey, and yup, it’s made with that lovely high-protein South American grain (along with malted barley). Complex lists it among the 10 Best Spirits You’ve Probably Never Tried, Distiller gives it high marks, and Ryan the whiskey blogger gives it a four stars (out of five) rating.


Failure Factories: Pinellas County’s terrible schools

failure factories

Campbell Park, Fairmount Park, Lakewood, Maximo, and Melrose are elementary schools that occupy a six-square-mile zone in one of Florida’s most affluent counties. They’re also among the worst schools in the state: in standardized tests, eight in 10 fail reading, and nine in 10 fail math. They’re worse off than they were ten years ago, which was before the school board ended integration. This Tampa Bay Times piece on these schools, which they’ve dubbed “Failure Factories”, is both informative and heartbreaking.

$3,000 reward offered for info in Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office deputy shooting

A $3,000 reward is being offered for information to help catch a man who shot a Hillsborough County deputy on Thursday morning. The deputy is going to be all right, but the suspect is at large.

Travel + Leisure loves our local food scene

fodder and shine

Citing wonderful examples like Fodder and Shine and The Refinery in Seminole Heights, and Ulele closer to downtown, Travel + Leisure are fascinated with the new restaurants popping up here in Tampa.

While we’re on the topic, I’d like to plug Sea Salt in downtown St. Pete, where we had dinner last night before heading to the Weird Al concert. Their 5 p.m.-to-6 p.m. prix fixe gives you an appetizer, main, and dessert for $28 and provides a lot of tasty bang for the buck. Here’s a video of the dessert we had: a strawberry panna cotta covered with mango sauce on the side. The sauce is applied by pouring it into a container on the side, which has a couple of pieces of dry ice in it:

Proposed mega-development in Channelside

proposed channelside development
Channelside is the home to Amalie Arena (formerly the Tampa Bay Times Forum, formerly the St. Pete Times Forum, formerly the Ice Palace), the Aquarium, cruise ship docks, the History Center, the SS American Victory, and somehow, in spite of all this, a whole lotta nuthin’.

Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik is trying to change that with a big development plan to create an actually walkable hub in the area, and now Port Tampa Bay has announced their “vision plan” to develop the area. It includes wavy 75-storey buildings and looks interesting; will it bring people to hang out?

Star Wars fandom’s ying and yang were here

kevin smith - weird al

If you like geek culture and Star Wars, this was an exceptionally good week to be in Accordion Bay, as both the good-clean-fun and potty-mouthed yin and yang of Star Wars fandom were here. Kevin Smith did his “Evening with Kevin Smith” schtick at the Tampa Improv on Wednesday, and Weird Al’s 82-city world tour played at Clearwater’s Ruth Eckerd Hall on Thursday. Anitra and I caught both of ’em, and both were geektastic.

Smith is smart: he knows to play to the locals whenever he does his monologues. When he comes to Toronto, he always talks about his love for the Degrassi Junior High, which is set on Toronto’s Degrassi Street (the street exists, but there’s no school on it). For the Tampanians, he told us that he wrote “half of Chasing Amy” here in Tampa for his then-girlfriend Joey Lauren Adams while visiting her when she was here shooting Second Noah.

He also talked about his friendship with Johnny Depp, whom he said considers himself a “failed Floridian musician”. Depp was enjoying some success with his Florida-based rock band, The Kids, when they decided to move to L.A.. The band didn’t do that well, but he went on some acting auditions and ended up having to leave the band to focus on a gig for a then-new show called 21 Jump Street.

Weird Al put on a great show last night and even broke out the accordion to play some of his hits from those heady Dr. Demento days in the 1980s, including Yoda. In all this time, I’d never seen Weird Al live before, and it was great to finally do so.

“Clean up on I-75!”

This happened not too far from Tampa when the driver was distracted by his dog. At the very least, we can take comfort in the fact that no good beer was lost:

crashed bud light truck


Whoever designed these probably didn’t go there

by Joey deVilla on August 14, 2015

There’s always a chance that the designer was going for “ironically funny” and that the spelling mistake pictured below is intentional:


Otherwise, the manufacturer deserves to be haunted by the hepped-up-on-goofballs ghost of John Belushi…


…who most certainly wouldn’t let this sort of offense go without a response:


Okilly Dokilly, the Ned Flanders-themed metal band

by Joey deVilla on August 13, 2015

okilly dokilly

Stupid sexy Flanders.

Of course there’s a Ned Flanders-themed metal band. The real question is: what took them so long?

Okilly Dokilly — notice the embedded KILLs in their name — are from Phoenix, and according to their Facebook page, they’re the “world’s only Nedal band”. Listen closely to the tracks below, and you’ll discover that many of their lyrics are Flanders lines from The Simpsons.

And since it’s Throwback Thursday and we’re on the topic of Ned Flanders…