It’s Ford.

Dear America,

So, Rob Ford is now mayor of Toronto, and I think some of my friends up here may soon immigrate to the United States in the trunk of a car. Their Facebook updates are liberally bespangled with F-bombs. Again, I say this strictly in the name of further debunking. Not only does Canada boast a more politically conservative government than is southern neighbor, but its biggest city just elected the most conservative candidate in the mayoral race. In a landslide. Continue reading

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the little things, part 4

Elevators in Canada have a button that makes you dance.

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You Wouldn’t Like Me When I’m Angry

A caveat to this video: I am not posting it for any sort of politically partisan reasons whatsoever. As a visiting journalist in Canada, I have no pony in the Toronto mayoral race. I am simply posting it to further debunk the long held myth, among my country-folk, that Canadians are categorically demure and retiring — “Sweet” was the word Tucker Carlson used once. (He also used the words “retarded cousin” but that’s another matter.) Carlson, of course, is perfectly situated to perpetuate myths. His opinions reach millions of living rooms through the magic of television. At the advent of television news, Edward R. Murrow described the technology as a powerful instrument for truth. These days it’s more often a powerful instrument for broadly disseminating whatever pops into your head. Continue reading

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Bring the Boy Back Home, Part 3

Special thanks to Canadamerican Allan Coukell for sending this one.

On Thursday of this week, Sean was sitting at his desk in Toronto when the following message came over the transom from Shea: “GREAT call with CIC this morning :-)”

“YAY!” responded Sean (who is, apparently, a 17-year-old American high school girl), “Should we leap on the magic IM Wurlitzer machine?”

“Oui!” wrote Shea.

So they did.

*   *   *

Sean: Is that my favorite fugitive?

Shea: You know it. O Canada… how I love thee.

Sean: What’s going on?

Shea: At 8:15 this morning, I got a call from a most wonderful immigration officer.

Sean: Wow. I’ve never seen all of those words together. “Wonderful,” “immigration” and “officer.”

Continue reading

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Bring the Boy Back Home, Part 2

So, Monday morning came and Shea had his phone call with Citizenship and Immigration Canada. That afternoon, he and Sean jumped back on the magical instant messaging Wurlitzer machine to “chat” about the latest developments.

*   *   *

Sean: Shea Guevara.

Shea: Sean Jean!

Sean: How goes it?

Shea: Okay. Things are okay. I had my call this morning.

Sean: How’d it go?

Shea: The folks at the CIC are pretty friendly. (There’s actually a pretty funny message about not being hostile with them while you’re waiting). And the news was… inconclusive

Sean: Inconclusive?

[Long period of silence.]

Shea: Merde. The coffee shop kicked me offline. I’m back.

Sean: Ha ha. The FBI is on your ass. They’re censoring this chat right now, those [CLAUSE DELETED]. Continue reading

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Bring the Boy Back Home, Part 1

This past Friday, Shea sent a quick email to Sean saying he had run into a bit of immigration stickiness (aka “immigrickiness”). Shea is currently in Durham, North Carolina on a work trip. Sean’s in Toronto. Yesterday, Sean wrote Shea back to ask for details.

*   *   *

Sean: You there, mon frère?

Shea: Bonjour, mon ami!

Sean: Hi! Long time no “see.”

Shea: Si. It’s been too long.

Sean: Oui.

Shea: Has it been too long to say, “Welcome back from the tar, er … oil sands?”

Sean: Never too long to be welcomed. Thanks. That place was off the hizzook. (As they say in Alberta.) So what’s this about you getting into trouble with the Quebecois law?

Shea: Ah yes… that.

Sean: You’re having me worried over here.

Shea: Should we get right to that, or should we give a little background first?

Sean: Probably the background first.

Shea: Certainly. Continue reading

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The Oil Sands.

So, here’s why we… or rather why I haven’t been posting much, of late. As I mentioned, I went to the oil sands in northern Alberta (north of Fort McMurray, to be precise, which is officially part of the tundra and is almost on the same latitude as the southern tip of Alaska) and I gathered about twenty hours of tape. Not only was weeding through all of it a bit daunting, but the whole project of encompassing the oil sands into a collective nine minutes nearly ended my pulse. It’s one of the, if not THE, biggest construction projects in the world. Between the two processes of extracting the oil (or rather the bitumen) from the sand, the process of upgrading and refining it, the reasons anybody’s doing this in the first place, and the environmental impact… it’s a lot of ground to cover. In any case, I thought I’d post links to the results. (And even though it’s 2010 and I am now a blogger as well as a radio producer, I still don’t know how to make hyperlinks. So here’s the way we used to do it back in the day.)

And here is a link to a slide show that Marketplace generously featured on its website

Finally, here’s an extra bit of audio that didn’t make it into either story. In touring Shell Albian Sands (Shell’s mining operation which it co-owns with Chevron and Marathon), I got to talking with one of the truck operators about the gigantic dump trucks they use to ferry the oil-laden sand. These are the largest dump trucks in the world. CAT 797s.  They can carry 400 tons. And yet, Carrie, the truck operator, kept referring to them as “she” — the way that admirals refer to their ships. Anyhow, here’s part of our conversation. In the beginning, she’s talking about extractor shovels that scoop the sands into the trucks. (The biggest of their sort as well.)

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Okay, I’m getting a big old crush on Quebec (and Canada). My gal and I just took a two-week vacation, the first two-week vacation I’ve taken in at least 10 years … yikes!.

Before we left, I couldn’t imagine leaving work behind for that long. And now, I can’t imagine not taking two-week vacations on at least an annual basis. I’m not saying I don’t know anyone in the US who takes two-week vacations … but I know a lot more people in Montreal who do it as a matter of practice. Recently, I had a conversation with an officemate that went something like this.

me: “You’re going on vacation. That’s great. Where are you going?”
om: “England. My wife has family there.”
me: “Very cool. How long are you going for?”
om: “It’s a vacation … [pause to look at me funny] … so two weeks.”
me: “Aaaaaaah. Right. Of course.” [pretending to understand the concept]

For me, the idea behind this trip was to get a better sense of the landscape and people of Quebec and some extra parts of Maritime Canada outside of the major metro areas. So we covered some major ground to make that happen. Road trips were the way I developed my love of exploring the US, and I was hoping it would have the same effect up here. I’m happy to report, mission accomplished.

Show & Tell

But before I get into any real reflection, here’s a not-so-short list of some amazing things I saw-heard-ate-did-etc. on the trip: (Click on the links to see more photos!)

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A Meta (meta) post.

Firstly, apologies for our ten-day long silence. Mon frere, Shea, is on a much deserved get-away, which I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about upon his return, if not sooner. And I just got back from a reporting trip with — this will surprise no one who knows me — about 20 hours of tape. So, once I dig out, you can be sure I’ll post pictures and possibly a little extra audio here and there from the assignment.

Meanwhile, a surprise treat. I just happened across *another* blog by an American living in Canada — a blog admonishing yours truly at great length.

See, I was hunting around for those stories I mentioned in our first post, the ones I reported for The Current about the differences between Canadians and Americans (produced by Kathleen “The Great” Goldhar). I noticed that the pieces weren’t on the CBC website anymore and I was surfing around on the off-chance that they were preserved somewhere else. They weren’t. No, what has been preserved instead is this critique of the second story, written shortly after the story aired. In other words, this has been on the internet since June of 2008 and I’m just discovering it now. It makes for pretty entertaining reading. Especially if you’re me. Which you’re not. But hopefully you’ll appreciate it anyway. (This is what I get for Googling myself.)

So, again, here is an American blogger in Canada, writing about an American (me) who is now *himself*  an American blogger in Canada re-posting the post. I’ve deleted the author’s name for propriety’s sake — not that that’ll prevent much in this day and age. Anyhow, please enjoy.

Oh and there are a few inaccuracies in this rant but most of them are too unimportant to point out. And lots of you will be able to spot them anyway.

“Irony, Goodnight (I Wish)

“It’s been bugging me for almost a week now, so it’s time to blog. Tuesday of last week, one of our TV channels mysteriously disappeared for a few hours in the morning. I had to drink coffee and generally wake up (something that happens hours after I’m upright and mobile and otherwise feigning competence) to CBC radio.

“The Current, a current affairs show, had a segment comparing Canada and the U.S. Naturally, I stayed tuned to hear it. Grr. Continue reading

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the little things, part 3

In Canada … Eeoyre isn’t depressed. Here, this stuffed donkey seems to go by the name Anatole (that’s Anatole, spelled with the letter “Ah“).

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