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The simplicity of pasta

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A couple of years ago I saw a fun video by Bob Blumer called "Man vs Can." Blumer is a Canadian TV host perhaps best know for his former show "The Surreal Gourmet." The premise of Man vs Can? Blumer bets he can make a fresh pasta dish on the stove faster than his young guest can open a can of Spaghettios and heat them. The outcome is predictable. You can see it here:


What struck me about the preparation was how simple it was. You don't have to be all that handy with a knife or know much about cooking. I've been making big, rich pots of spaghetti sauce all my life, always using canned tomatoes and paste. But you can take a fresh tomato or two, a bit of garlic and Parmesan, a sprinkle of this or that and – presto! The tastiest pasta you'll ever eat, in no time at all. When my wife and I visited Tuscany last year, I was expecting pasta to be a mainstay. Big plates of deep red sauce and delicious, steaming pasta. What we got instead was pure simplicity; fresh i…

Into the lion's den: respected climatologist survives attempted mauling unscathed

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Last week's Committee on Science, Space and Technology hearing in Washington should have been a sober discussion about the latest findings on climate change and the direction the U.S. should take towards mitigating the damage.
Instead, it was about as productive as a World Wrestling Entertainment match. Lots of melodrama and smackdowns with no real winners, but one very real loser: the truth.
At the bottom of the scrum was Michael Mann, a mild-mannered paleoclimatologist who works with proxy data to map historic temperatures. He and his colleagues produced a graph in 1998 that took the world by storm. It was dubbed the "hockey stick" graph because the sharp upward turn in the past century or so resembles the blade of a hockey stick.
An extended version of the graph was incorporated into the Third Assessment Report by the UN's International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2001. And that report was memorable for concluding with reasonable certainty that humans are w…

Agnus Dei - Samuel Barber LIVE

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I was just browsing through some concert reviews I filed more than 15 years ago, and came across one I wrote on a Quintessential Vocal Ensemble concert in May 2000. The choir, conducted by Susan Quinn and primarily populated by Holy Heart of Mary graduates, was in its prime at the time. One of the pieces it performed was Samuel Barber's Agnus Dei, which the composer set to his famous Adagio for Strings. You can find it on QVE's album Ave Maris Stella. Meanwhile, here's a rendition I found performed by the Flemish Radio Choir based in Brussels. Beautiful.

I'll take the blue pill — and I don't mean Viagra

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A belated review of The Red Pill, a film by Cassie Jaye
In February, federal Conservative leadership hopeful Maxime Bernier received an endorsement from Alberta Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt.
It was an important coup for Bernier who would normally face an uphill battle convincing right-leaning Albertans to bet on a Quebecer. He wanted to tweet something clever, something to show that Fildebrandt "gets it" — that he sees the real thing when he sees it. So he posted the following meme.



It's an allusion to a scene from the 1999 film The Matrix in which the main character is offered a choice: take the blue pill and remain in the artificial reality you're blissfully trapped in now, or take the red pill and discover what's really going on behind the scenes.
As metaphors go, it's a sledgehammer. And it's been exploited endlessly since the film came out. We're being manipulated by the system. Do you want to wake up to reality, or stay asleep?
The tweet would have…

On intoxication and consent

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In the past 36 hours, social media has exploded over a controversial headline in The Telegram. The story, by court reporter Rosie Mullaly, covered the first day of testimony in the trial of Carl Snelgrove, an RNC officer charged with sexual assault against a young woman to whom he offered a ride home in the wee hours of the morning. (Some have also condemned CBC's and NTV's television and online reporting of the trial.)
Before we get to that, this is what's known so far through evidence presented in court. The constable saw the complainant on a street downtown. She was intoxicated He offered to drive her home. She accepted. After that, the woman says, everything is hazy. She vaguely remembers the officer helping her in through a basement window because she couldn't find her key. She evidently let the officer in the house. Then things go pretty well blank, although she has a fragmented recollection of him engaging in anal sex. And the man's DNA was found on her fur…

Trump, annotated

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I considered composing my own annotation of Donald J. Trump's inauguration diatribe, but instead will defer to this excellent piece from Vox. http://www.vox.com/a/president-trump-inauguration-speech-transcript-annotations

We're talking about children here

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A school bus rides along an open country road in winter. The children are laughing and jostling, the two in back waving at the man in a pickup following behind.
Suddenly, the driver loses control. She tries to straighten the vehicle, but instead swerves off the edge and trundles down an embankment. The man in the pickup pulls over and rushes over to see the bus fishtail out to the middle of frozen lake. It comes to a stop, then slowly sinks as the ice beneath it gives way.
This is the horrific central event in Atom Egoyan's 1997 film "The Sweet Hereafter." There are no special effects or explosions. Just the sickening vantage point from the road as the vehicle slowly submerges. When the witness rushes to the scene, we can hear the screams of children. Fourteen of them perish.
"It is typical of (Egoyan's) approach that 'The Sweet Hereafter' neither begins nor ends with the bus falling through the ice of a frozen lake, and is not really about how the ac…