Saturday, January 31, 2009

Predicting 2009

Yeah, yeah, yeah, so I'm a little late on this one, but technically it is both still January, and the Lunar New Year just began, so I'm not as late as I could have been (i.e. if I posted this in December).

But yes, so starts my annual tradition of trying to predict the year, I did alright predicting 2008 (including a daring prediction that the Patriots would not win the Superbowl and that Obama would represent the Democrats in the election), so I figure, why not try my luck once more?


Note: Pretend that dude has my face on it, and pretend that it's in some sort of nice banner, I don't have photoshop from my current location...

1. Prime Minister Ignatieff - Let's start out with another daring political prediction. I think that by one way or another, Ignatieff will be our next Prime Minister within 2009. It seems that the coalition option is out the window (for now), but I think that people are getting sick of Harper, especially with Obama's victory for progressives, that we may just see ourselves our 4th election in 5 years, and the Liberals will rally and win it. Chances are good it will be another minority government, and once more, nothing will get finished.

2. Victory from Beyond - I think that Heath Ledger's performance in The Dark Knight was just too good to pass up. Also, the Academy can gain all sorts of good press by having the ever popular Ledger win the award, making him the first posthumous winner in over 30 years.

3. Original 6 Success - I know that Detroit won the Cup last year, but otherwise it has been a bit of a rough couple of years for the Original Six teams. However, this year things seem to be different, and I think that at least 2 of them will be in the Final Four of the playoffs. I am leaning towards Chicago and Montreal, but I would not be at all surprised to see Detroit or Boston there. Also, expect the Rangers to make some noise in the playoffs. sorry Leafs fans, there is always next year (or the one after that, or the one after that....)

4. Another Three Countries Scratched Off My List - A hold over from last year, and yes, a personal one. But I think that 2009 will see at least three new countries added to my list of places I have been. I am not certain which ones, or exactly when, but it will happen.

5. No Big 3 Bankruptcy - There has been a lot of talk of Ford, GM, or Dodge going under, but somehow, I just do not see it happening. These companies have been around for a long time, and I think that they will find a way to stay a float.

6. Liberal Upswing - In recent years, the world has been turning to more and more right-wing politicians, ranging from Bush to Harper to Merkel, and hell even Tony Blair got more conservative with age. I think that many people have become disillusioned with this and we will see more countries go to the left at some point this year. I already predicted Ignatieff, but I think that some other major Western Democracy will go with another liberal or left wing leader at some point in this year. That being said...

7. Obama's Popularity Will Drop - Sure, I love the guy, and probably will continue to do so, but over the course of this year, there will be some people getting upset with him. He is widely popular right now, and I think that the expectations are too high, and they should drop over the course of the year.

8. The Temperature Will Continue to Rise - Third year in a row making this prediction, and really, do you think that anything major will get done?

9. No New World Champions - Yes, another wrestling prediction had to sneak in here somewhere. I think that for the first time in a long time (the early 90s at the latest) there will not be a first time World Champion over the course of this year, as Jeff Hardy, CM Punk, and Samoa Joe all were this year. For the purposes of a "World" title, I am counting the World Heavyweight Championship, the WWE Title, and the TNA Title, all of which have more or less "World" rankings associated with them. MVP, Matt Hardy, and John Morrison would be the closest, but I just do not see that happening until 2010 at the earliest.

11. Star Trek Will Rule Once More - Another insanely nerdy prediction, but I think that the new edition of Star Trek, scheduled for release in May of this year is going to be awesome. It will break the mold of odd numbered Trek movies being udder crap, and will be a great film. The plot sounds great (time travelling Romulan goes back in time to try and kill Kirk), and it is directed and produced by J.J. Abrahms, who after Lost and Cloverfield can do no wrong in my eyes.

12. The Economy Will Rally - I know that this is a bold one to make, but I think that things will bottom out in the middle of the year and start to rally. Here's hoping that I'm right on that one!

13. I Will Have a Great Year - Yup, doing this one again. Kind of cheesy, but should still be a good one for me personally, in some capacity at least.

Tune back in December to see just how accurate things were....

Until next time,


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Shades of Wrestlemania - 2 Months in Advance

Well it appears to be that time again, when my favourite-nerdy-pseudo-sport starts to kick it into high gear. A few times over the course of the year I have tried to predict the card, some of them were wild guesses (Mysterio & Kennedy vs. Big Show & Floyd Mayweather) but some seem like they were pretty spot on (Hardy vs. Hardy). After Randy Orton won the Rumble a few days ago, things seem to have cleared up a bit, but at the same time gotten just a bit more muddled. Either way, I think that the card will look something like this...

United States Title Match: Shelton Benjamin (c) vs. MVP vs. Mr. Kennedy

Here we have three of the WWEs best and brightest talent, so really, why not through them all into one match? MVPs losing streak gimmick seems to be over (thankfully) and he is heading for a feud with Shelton. Combine this with his recent interactions with Kennedy and you have a recpie for a three-way feud. I would love to see what these guys could do if given a little bit of time.

Money in the Bank 5: John Morrison vs. Rey Mysterio vs. CM Punk vs. Kofi Kingston vs. The Miz vs. Evan Bourne vs. Christian Cage vs. JBL

Our annual tradition of entertaining spotfests is upon us! This year has the potential to have one of the best Money in the Bank matches ever! Most of the guys listed in the match can really go, and JBL should provide some entertaining brawling and the occasional comedy spot. I may be going on a limb in having Cage come out for this match, but apparently he has resigned with the company and would make a great addition to this match, but if he is not then Carlito would probably be the best replacement. JBL is a natural fit, since it would be his last chance to "Be a hero in his homestate" by winning and cashing the title in. At the end of the day, I think that Morrison would be the best man to be Mr. Money in the Bank, but a Mysterio would could be entertaining as well.

ECW Title Match - Belfast Brawl: Jack Swagger (c) vs. Finlay

These two have already started a feud this week. While I am certain that they will have a match at No Way Out, it would be nice if they can stretch it out to Wrestlemania. Last year, Finlay had an entertaining Belfast Brawl with JBL, and this match should be even better, and would be a great opportunity to cement Swagger a bit higher up on the card.

Brother vs. Brother: Jeff Hardy vs. Matt Hardy

You just know that this match is coming, and I for one, can not wait! These two had a largely forgettable feud in 2001 that went nowhere, and Matt turned on Jeff in 2002, but that also went nowhere as Matt ran to Smackdown. Finally these two have a chance to really tear down the house. I see Matt once more costing Jeff the title at No Way Out, by finding a way to interefere in the chamber, thus putting more and more heat on this feud. I think that it would be a great spot to have Matt get the win, only for Jeff to win a bigger match later on down the line.

The Biggest Match Ever: Umaga vs. The Big Show vs. The Great Khali vs. Kane vs. Mark Henry vs. Vladmir Kozlov vs. Festus vs. Santino Marella

I know that I suggested this last time, and it doesn't seem like a match that I much want to see, but it could be pretty entertaining. If they wanted to, they could switch this to a 5 on 5 match, but they would have to mess around with some of the face-heel dynamics, which could make it fun. I added Santion to this match for purely comedic reasons, as it would be a lot of fun watching him get beaten up by everyone else. If they wanted to, they could add Finlay to the match, and make it so that the winner gets the ECW Title shot, just like last year, but I think that this has more to gain by being a stand alone, entertainment match.

Tag-Team Revenge Match: Simply Priceless vs. Vince and Shane McMahon

With Orton slated to face Shane at No Way Out, this would be an easy set up. Have Priceless help Orton go after Shane a few times. Then, suddenly, Vince returns and proceeds to challenge these "Young Punks" to a match in order to start to get to Orton. It's not as high-profile as most McMahon matches, but it would go a long way to helping to build some new stars, and apparently Vince has high hopes for both Rhodes and Dibiase.

Who is Mr. Wrestlemania?: The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels

They started to lay the groundwork for this one at the Rumble, and I think that it needs to happen. They just give HBK vs. JBL at No Way Out, and perhaps make this "Shawn's last chance" by having JBL tell him that he will give him all the money he needs if he can just beat the Undertaker at Wrestlemania. Of course, Taker needs to win here, because well, he's the Deadman.

8 Diva Action: Beth Phoenix, Michelle McCool, Natalya Neidhart, and Jillian Hall vs. Melina, Kelly Kelly and the Bella Twins

Yeah, one of those Bunnymania matches. I'm not sure who (if anyone) is going to pose for Playboy this year, but I would imagine that the main contenders are Kelly Kelly and the Bellas. So, simply through them all in one match, let them fight, and get on with it. Either way, a good chance to take a bathroom break and calm down before the next set of matches.

One Last Match: "Stone Cold" Steve Austin vs. Chris Jericho

It seemed for most of this week that the WWE was going to build toward Chris Jericho vs. Mikey Rourke. While that had a great deal of potential to be entertaining, and would help lift the buyrates, it appears that Rourke is not going to do this. So instead, we are left with a curious spot for Chris Jericho, and I think that this is the best bet. Austin is a huge name, and deserves a huge send-off. So, really, what better place than to have it in Texas? Jericho would work a very good (and safe) type of a match, and he could do a lot of work on the microphone to carry it.

Legends Battle Royal

There has also been talk of doing a "Legends Match" to coincide with the "Legends of Wrestlemania" release. This would be a great opportunity to showcase some of the characters in the game, and give fans a nice nostalgia trip, similar to the Gimmick Battle Royal from Wrestlemania X-7. I don't know who would perform or win, but it would be fun to watch none-the-less.

WWE Title Match: Edge (c) vs. Triple H

Since H is feuding with Vickie Guerrero this just seems logical. I am not certain as to how Triple H will earn his title shot, but he should do it somehow, someway. Sadly, the WWE threw this match away in July or it would be even more intense. I would have Triple H's 4 mania losing streak end here, but only to give him a short title reign before the belt returns to Edge.

World Title Match: John Cena (c) vs. Randy Orton

Now, here we go, a match that we all want to see!! Orton has been simply unreal in these last few months, and was certainly the right choise to win the Rumble, especially after Batista went down. These two had an excellent feud in the summer of 2007, that never properly finished due to Cena's injury. Orton, shocked the world by defeating Cena last year, and would look to do it again. I think that Orton should take the win here, even if it means that Wrestlemania has to end on a down-note. He deserves it.

So there we have it...twelve matches, which may be a little much, however, three of them would probably be very short and little more than comedy matches. Even with all of these matches, there are still a number of excellent performers (the Colons, Cryme Tyme, R-Truth, Hurricane Helms) who are not going to be featured.

Tune back in 2 months to see what happens...

Until next time,


Achieved Predicted Cards

Eight Weeks in Advance
Two Months in Advance
Four Months in Advance
Six Months in Advance
One Year in Advance

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Transmuter of Nations

Date: November 4, 2008

Prologue: One man claimed that he had the power to transform an entire nation. Many doubted him, but it turns out that maybe, just maybe, he had the power all along...

The Democratic Primary was never supposed to be in doubt. Hilary Clinton had the thing all locked up. With her massive amount of super-delegates, her apparently limitless war chest, and of course the wildly successful Clinton brand behind her, it appeared that she was a lock to not only be the Democratic candidate, but to be the nations first female President.

But things, do not always go as they seem. The eyes of the nation convened on Iowa on January 3rd, for the first stop on the Primary circuit, the Iowa Caucus. Clinton was wildly expected to win, but not by the landslides that she was polling in other states such as New Hampshire. However, she decided to break with her husbands course and try to win the Caucus.

Perhaps, she felt unbeatable, perhaps she just did not think it through. Either way, it was a decision that would haunt her as the unthinkable happened. Hilary Clinton lost. Not only did she lose, but she finished an embarrassing third place, finishing behind 2004 running-mate John Edwards, and a relative newcomer to national politics, Barack Obama.

Obama stunned everyone by winning in Iowa. Sure he was young, attractive, and an amazing speaker, but this was a Clinton for God-sakes, and if there is one thing that they don't do, it's lose.

Obama set his sights to New Hampshire, he thought maybe if he could win that one that Clinton would be out of the race. Her inevitability would be gone, as she would be associated with the stink of failure. However, one can never count out a Clinton, as Hikary proceeded to through her all into the next contest, New Hampshire, one that she would rally back and win.

And so began a six month long journey. Obama would win a state, Clinton would win a state, lather, rinse repeat. While Clinton would tend to win the larger states, such as California, and New York, she would only win by a small margin, and sometimes, not even win the delegate count. Obama, on the other hand, would win smaller states, but by a larger margin. After Super Tuesday, Obama was ahead on the delegate count, which is what ultimately decided the winner.

Things got bleaker for Clinton as, Obama won 10, albeit small states in a row in the middle of February. He ended up ahead of Clinton by around 100 delegates, a lead that he would never give up. Still though, to her credit, Clinton kept fighting. She would never quite get to the point where she would be fully eliminated from contention.

However, that massive war chest of hers, started to run out, well sort of. See there are rules for how much that a person can donate, and there are rules for how much a candidate can spend on either a primary or the general election. Clinton, was given millions, upon millions of dollars by some very wealthy people. She had to divide this money between the primary battles, and the general election, and well, she had spent all that she could for the primary, leaving her both too poor to compete in the primaries, and with an abundance of wealth for the general election.

Despite all of this Clinton fought on, when Obama had a chance to put the nail in the coffin with the Texas and Ohio primary, Clinton won. When the oppourtunity presended itself in Pennsylvania, Clinton fought back. However, as the winter turned to spring, it appeared that hope was blooming, and that there was nothing to stop Obama.

Finally, 6 months to the day after the first ballot was cast in Iowa, the last primaries in Montana and South Dakota came, and the numbers were finally beyond denying. Obama won the nomination, and the right to face John McCain for the President of hte United States.

It is probably a good time to mention something that I haven't mentioned, but you all no doubt know. Barack Obama is a black man. He is the first black man to be a serious contender for President of the United States. That's right, finally a nation that was founded by slave-holders looked to have a president whose father could not eat at every restaurant, or ride where he wanted to on a bus, or even marry his white wife in every state of the union.

Of course, Obama's feel good story was not over then. There still stood the Republican Maverick, the man who many feel was robbed in 2000, John McCain. McCain had easily won the Republican Primary, and had things all wrapped up in February.

But Obama seemed unstoppable. His poll numbers where huge, and no attacks seemed to work. The Republicans called him inexperienced and unpresidential, so he went on a Presidential-style trip abroad, and received record number of crowds. They tried to paint him as an empty headed celebrity, but then they chose Sarah Palin as their running mate, a woman who makes Paris Hilton look like Kofi Annan.

Finally, on November 4, the night of the election, Barack Obama was declared the President of hte United States of America. He won the electoral college 365-173, an absolute landslide.

So what is he going to do now? Clearly, he did not just want to win the election, but he wanted to do something. He constantly through the word "Change" around implying that he was going to somehow alter the course of the United States, and bring it back to its former glory. The main targets are Guantanimo Bay, the economy, the war in Iraq, and America's standing abroad. This is a really tall order for anyone, but many feel if there is anyone out there who can do it, it is Mr. Obama.

Wait four years, and we shall see if anything will really change.

Epilogue: Obama was officially innagurated on January 20, 2009. In his first few days of office, he has already begun looking at ways to phase out American involvment from Iraq, he has taken steps to close Guantanimo Bay, and appears to be making a play for real bipartisanship. It appears, my friends, that change is not coming, it is here.

Until next time,


Achieved Year in Review Posts:

The Fall of the Prophet - January 6th
The Rise of the Ice Queen -January 7th
An Unlikely Fruition - January 7th
Attack of the Three-Headed Terror - January 9th
A Most Sincere Inquiry - January 10th
The Golden League - January 14th
The Fall from Grace - January 16th
The Eighth Layer of Injustice - January 16th
The Transmuter of Nations - January 22nd

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Eighth Layer of Injustice

Date: November 4, 2008

Prologue: Does love deserve a chance to live and die on its own? This past year many people thought that it didn't, and tried to put a stop to love...

Like many states in America, groups in California had presented a ballot measure during this falls election. There was a choice to ban gay marriage or to allow it. While California was far from the first state to have such a measure, it stood as the best hope for gay rights activists.

Not only has California long had it's laissez-faire attitude, but the California Supreme Court had already struck down a ban on gay marriage that spring. However, any hope was for naught, as Proposition 8 (also dubbed Proposition Hate) was enacted, and gay marriage was once again banned in California.

This marked the first time in America that people have democratically elected to take away the rights of others.

There has been a lot of blame thrown around as to why Proposition 8 passed, everything from homophobia in blacks, to money from Idaho, to a nasty smear-filled campaign have taken centre stage.

No matter what the reason for this change, one important question does remain. Why are so many people opposed to gay marriage? I mean, really, if you don't like gay marriage then DO NOT GET ONE!!! Who are you to stop anyone else from getting one?

It really is amazing that so many people got so involved in an issue that really has nothing to do with their lives. In no way did the Supreme Court say that any churches had to perform any gay marriages, thus giving them the full authority as to who they want to allow to get married and who they do not. Really for the "Yes" crowd, gay marriage is nothing more than an inconvenience, something that they do not want to see, but does not do anything to them.

However, for the people who had their rights repealed, it is an entirely different story. They were allowed one of the most fundamental rights and had it taken away on a whim. Somehow or another, getting married was not considered to be an element of "the pursuit of happiness", and ws not deemed unalienable enough.

Epilogue: There have been protests against Proposition 8, and a public outcry over this. However, it appears that it will be a long time before this can be changed again. Until then, gays will have to continue to be second class citizens.

Until next time,


Achieved Year in Review Posts:

The Fall of the Prophet - January 6th
The Rise of the Ice Queen -January 7th
An Unlikely Fruition - January 7th
Attack of the Three-Headed Terror - January 9th
A Most Sincere Inquiry - January 10th
The Golden League - January 14th
The Fall from Grace - January 16th
The Eighth Layer of Injustice - January 16th
The Transmuter of Nations - January 22nd

The Fall From Grace

Date: Ongoing

Prologue: When you try to soar too high, eventually you will reach your limit and come crashing down. A large group of individuals attempted to fly to heights unheard of, and fell harder than anyone could have ever thought. Unfortunately, they may have brought the rest of the world down with them...

After months of strains, concerns, and sub prime mortgages, things had to break, and break they did. In the span of a few days former Wall Street giants Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, and AIG were all belly up, and Wall Street was changed forever.

The US Government found itself in a very precarious position, as they needed to do something to stop the bleeding. They proceeded to take control of mortgage giants Frannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as well as AIG.

Then when it was obvious that larger action was needed, and a $700 billion bail-out was passed. The US Government agreed to lend/loan billions of dollars to ailing banks to restore confidence in American markets and restabilize things.

Meanwhile, other markets all over the world have been collapsing. Banks have been nationalized, and millions of people have been laid off.

Also, the "Detroit Three" of GM, Ford, and Dodge, requested a bailout of their own, and after a series of dramatic developments, were eventually able to receive a very limited one as well. This prevented at least GM from filing for bankruptcy in the short term.

Now the response among normal people like you and I, has been mixed to say the least. There are obviously people who see this as nothing more than a scare tactic, however, those individuals seem to be in the minority. Most people are joining the collective "sky is falling" attitude, and see that we could be heading towards our worst financial problems since The Great Depression.

This has already lead to tightening of the metaphorical belt on both an individual and a collective level. Every time you open up the papers, there is some talk about what the governments are going to do to help us in this problem. Are they going to spend more to get out of a recession? Are they going to cut taxes or increase them? Everyone seems to have suggestions, but nobody has an answer, at least not yet.

However, there is one question that has not been asked. What is going to be done to hold the people responsible for this mess accountable? Why did so many wealthy and intelligent people give out sub-prime mortgages in the first place? How could they not have seen what was coming? Should they not at least have to answer for their short-sighted behaviour?

Apparently all they seem to be getting is a stern talking to, and another bail-out package, while decent, hard-working people have gloom and uncertainty to look forward to.

Hardly seems fair, does it?

Epilogue: There is still some optimism in these uncertain economic times. People all over the world, are developing ideas in new fields to reestablish economies, with a great deal of talk being made of "Green Collar" jobs in new forms of energy, or electric cars.

If that's enough to save us, we will have to wait and see. Because, somehow $700 billion was not enough to undo the damages.

Until next time,

Achieved Year in Review Posts:

The Fall of the Prophet - January 6th
The Rise of the Ice Queen -January 7th
An Unlikely Fruition - January 7th
Attack of the Three-Headed Terror - January 9th
A Most Sincere Inquiry - January 10th
The Golden League - January 14th
The Fall from Grace - January 16th
The Eighth Layer of Injustice - January 16th
The Transmuter of Nations - January 22nd

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Golden League

Date: August 8- 24, 2008

Prologue: Every four years, people catch gold fever, and this would be no different of a time. The greatest from all over the world would converge by a place once forbidden. In the end though, one nation, and two very special men proved to be the most golden of them all.

The Chinese had high hopes heading into the 29th Olympiad. Not only did they want to wow the world, but they wanted to show just how great China was. They had set a goal to reach the top of the medal standings, which seemed lofty at the time. After all, China had not been a major sports power before, how could they possibly earn more medals than the usual favourites such as Russia, Australia, and the United States?

Somehow, someway though, the Chinese did it. In the years preceding the games, the Chinese continued to send their best and brightest to the world championships, and before anyone knew it they were the favourites in such events as weight lifting and diving, something that was previously unimagined.

To the astonishment of the world, China finished with a staggering 51 Gold Medals, 15 more than the second place Americans.

As amazing as that was though, there were two men who really stole the show from the host nation, Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt.

In the 2004 Olympics, Michael Phelps won an unbelievable 6 Gold and 2 Bronze Medals. However, his sights were set even higher this time. He wanted to break Mark Spitz's record of 7 Gold Medals in one game. To do this he needed to win 17 races in a mere 9 days.

Not only did he do this, but he did it in a truly unbelievable fashion. In winning his eight gold medals, he set seven world records.

Not to be outdone was Jamaican Sprinter Usain Bolt. A longtime 200m sprinter, Bolt decided to add the 100m sprint to his repertoire in July 2007. In a very short amount of time, Bolt was able to set a world record of 9.72 seconds at the world championships.

He entered Beijing to compete in both the 100m and 200m sprints. He was the favourite to win them both, but nobody had any idea he would be quite this good.

If you blinked you would have missed the 100m race, as he shattered his own record with a blistering 9.69s. To make things even more amazing, he slowed down at the end of the race to look in both directions and he started to celebrate prematurely. If that was not enough, his left shoe was untied. That's right, Bolt was able to slow down at the end of a race, with only one shoe firmly tied, and he was still able to be the fastest man ever. Some scientists have calculated that he could have made that run in 9.55s, which is staggering to say the least.

In the 200m, Bolt kept focused for the entire race, and was able to break Michael Johnson's 12 year world record, with a time of 19.30s. He also had a 0.9m/s headwind slowing him down.

Almost as an afterthought, Bolt was a part of the Jamaican 4x100m relay team that won the gold medal, and set another world record.

In looking back on the Beijing Olympics, it is hard to say who the real star is. Is it Michael Phelps and his 8 Gold Medals? Is it Usain Bolt and his super human speed? Or is it China, and their iron will to impress?

I suppose that the debate will rage on for a while, but what's not to be debated is that the real winners are all of us who got to watch these simply unbeliavable feats commited by unbelievable people.

Epilogue: With the 2012 Olympics scheduled to in London, one can imagine that the Chinese are going to try once more to top their past glory, and truley cement themselves as world sporting powers.

Phelps and Bolt are a mere 23 and 22 respectively, so expect to here more of them in the future. Neither has announced if they will participate in the next Olympics, but we will have to wait until London calls...

Achieved Year in Review Posts:

The Fall of the Prophet - January 6th
The Rise of the Ice Queen -January 7th
An Unlikely Fruition - January 7th
Attack of the Three-Headed Terror - January 9th
A Most Sincere Inquiry - January 10th
The Golden League - January 14th
The Fall from Grace - January 16th
The Eighth Layer of Injustice - January 16th
The Transmuter of Nations - January 22nd

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A Most Sincere Inquiry

Date: July 18, 2008

Prologue: How often can the dead speak to us? How often can they inspire us?

This past year, a jester sought to commune from beyond the grave, and in doing so he presented us with perhaps the most important question we have been asked in ages...

On January 22, 2008, rising star, Heath Ledger died of a sudden and tragic overdose to sleeping pills. After some research, it was discovered that Ledger became so addicted to the sleeping pills because he got so into his role of The Joker for the upcoming summer blockbuster, The Dark Knight.

This immediately picked the interest of a rabid fan base, who were at best, hesitant to see the same actor from 10 Things I Hate About You and Brokeback Mountain portray one of the most infamous villain in the entire DC Comic universe.

After several more months of some excellent viral marketing (including the amazing,, the big day finally arrived, and everyone went to see it. The movie set the opening day record with over $67 million, shattering the previous record of $58.1 million.

Hype goes a long way to setting opening day records, but if the product lacks, it is hard to maintain serious drawing power (see: 3, Spider-Man). However, for all of the hype surrounding The Dark Knight, it did something almost unimaginable in the age of superficial blockbusters, it was better than it's hype.

The film was universally praised by fans and critics alike. Ledger's performance as The Joker was simply legendary. He performed a rare feat of having a villain completely steal the show, and joins the elite pantheon of Hannibal Lector and Darth Vader as the most engaging and multi-dimensional antagonists in film. Meanwhile Christian Bale was excellent once again in his role as Bruce Wayne/Batman, excellently contrasting the characters idealism with his borderline sociopathism. Perhaps the most underrated character in the film though is Aaron Eckhart, who is able to take the pretty-boy-do-gooder Harvey Dent, and believably turn him into a comic book super villain, while remaining true to his motives as a champion of justice.

The rare combination of hype and quality helped generate a box office mega-success. When it was all said and done, The Dark Knight became the fastest movie to reach the $500 million mark, cutting The Titanic's run in half, and ended up finishing as the second-highest grossing film of all time, only losing only to to the afformentioned film about a boat and a love story. Upon its release to DVD, it sold 3 million units in one day, once more, shattering a record.

Not only did this movie prove that dark, twisted movies can sell, but it was perhaps the most successful use of viral marketing in history. As such, one can anticipate that more and more of both will be used in the future.

But the most enduring legacy of this film, is and always will be Ledger's performance. It is heart-breaking that we were robbed of an amazing talent at such a young age, just as he was hitting his peak. Who knows what more the man could have done with a full career ahead of him?

The tragic thing is that we will never know. But do not grieve to badly, I don't think that he would want you to take things so seriously.

Epilogue: The most interesting development in the coming months will be the consideration it gets during Oscar season. After winning several nominations and awards in other venues, it remains to be seen if a very un-Oscar movie receives a nomination. A growing vocal majority is repeatedly making claims that the movie deserves a nomination for Best Picture, and that Heath Ledger deserves the nod for Best Supporting Actor.

We will have to wait until January 20, to find out.

Until next time,


Achieved Year in Review Posts:

The Fall of the Prophet - January 6th
The Rise of the Ice Queen -January 7th
An Unlikely Fruition - January 7th
Attack of the Three-Headed Terror - January 9th
A Most Sincere Inquiry - January 10th
The Golden League - January 14th
The Fall from Grace - January 16th
The Eighth Layer of Injustice - January 16th
The Transmuter of Nations - January 22nd

Friday, January 09, 2009

Attack of the Three-Headed Terror

Prologue: What happens when the people speak, but don't really say anything?

It leaves the powers that be in a very odd situation, as they tend to lose control. With such a gap in power, it appeared that a three-headed creature would seize the reigns, however one man had to appeal to a higher power to delay the onslaught and hold on.

After over two-years of a reasonably successful Minority Government, Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, began to make claims that Parliament had become dysfunctional, and an election was needed. On September 7, Stephen Harper went to Governor General Michelle Jean, and requested the dissolution of parliament. The Governor General complied, and we had an election on October 14.

To the surprise of nobody, the Conservatives won yet again, with another Minority Government. However, this time they had a larger seat total, garnering 143 seats. This compared to the 77 earned by the Liberals, 49 by the Bloc Quebecois, and 37 to the NDP (along with 2 Independents).

(Editorial Tangent: Now before we continue, we need to examine one of the central principals of a Parliamentary Democracy. The electorate (in theory) never vote for the Prime Minister, or even the political party. Technically you vote for the representative of your constituency, and it is up to those representatives (MPs) to chose the leader of their group. It just happens in practice that almost every politician is affiliated with a party, and each party has a leader who is understood to become Prime Minister in the event of a victory for their party.)

Before Parliament had even sat, the Finance Minister, Jim Flaherty delivered his fiscal update, which is essentially a mini-budget. This update was quickly, and vehemently panned by the three opposition parties. With three main points of contention: a lack of an economic stimulus plan to prevent recession, removal of civil servants right to strike, and the removal of subsidies for political parties. The last being the most crucial, as it would essentially bankrupt all three opposition parties at once.

(Editorial Tangent #2: While it is by no means required, it is expected that the political parties cooperate and compromise in the event of a Minority Government. After all, if the will of the populace is divided, then surely the actions of the government are expected to reflect this.)

This sent all three parties, and much of the population, into an incendiary rage. However, the only way to stop this was to table a Non-Confidence motion, and therefore trigger yet another election. Since this was something that nobody wanted, especially the Liberals who had delivered perhaps their poorest electoral showing in history.

As a result, something daring was proposed, a change in government without an election.

After a series of talks, it was announced that the Liberals and NDP would form a coalition, lasting until June 30, 2011. They would place the Liberal leader as Prime Minister, and create a cabinet of 23 other ministers, including 6 NDPs. However, with a quick amount of math you can notice that the 114 seats that the two parties have combined is not enough, so they needed a little bit more support. They then formed an agreement with the Bloc Quebecois to support the coalition until June 30, 2010.

This prompted Stephen Harper and the Conservatives to launch a full scale media blitz, calling the coalition ruthlessly undemocratic, even addressing the nation on prime time. There were two central arguments against the coalition: the widely unpopular Stephane Dion would be Prime Minster, and that it required the support of the Bloc Quebecois.

This sparked a fervour and debate across the country as rallies were held on both sides of the argument. Something that has not been seen in Canada since the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords over a decade and a half ago.

Stephen Harper made an unprecedented request to the Governor General to prorogue parliament. She complied, and delayed the Parliament to January 26th (From December 8th) in a wildly debated move. Normally prorogation is reserved for genuine national emergencies, such as war or natural disasters, and has never been used for political emergencies.

In a snap move, Stephane Dion then announced that he would step down as Liberal (and coalition) leader, and Michael Ignatieff was quickly selected as his replacement. Ignatieff has softened talks of a coalition, but by no means has stated that he will comply with the Conservatives.

However, we will have to wait until the 26th to find out what will happen, and that, my friends, is something that we will be discussing in our 2009 year in review.

Epilogue: While the government has not been seated, the Canadian economy continues to suffer, the 100th Canadian solider died in Afghanistan, one of the worst winters in memory started to take place, and nothing is being done to remedy either of those situations.

Somehow claims by the government of having the best interest of the people in mind are not being debated.

Until next time,


Achieved Year in Review Posts:

The Fall of the Prophet - January 6th
The Rise of the Ice Queen -January 7th
An Unlikely Fruition - January 7th
Attack of the Three-Headed Terror - January 9th
A Most Sincere Inquiry - January 10th
The Golden League - January 14th
The Fall from Grace - January 16th
The Eighth Layer of Injustice - January 16th
The Transmuter of Nations - January 22nd

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

An Unlikely Fruition

Prologue: Back in a distant time, a man made an extraordinary claim. He said that he would bring freedom to a long oppressed land. As the years passed, people thought that this day of freedom would never arise. However, to the shock of many, freedom would come, and it would be just what the doctor ordered. People were bound to ask though, was it worth the wait?

In 1994, at the height of their popularity, Guns N' Roses front man, announced the name of their next album, Chinese Democracy. However, as delay upon delay came, and the band changed members repeatedly, it appeared as if we were going to see actual democracy in China before the album's release.

Years past, and the album became a punchline. With the Offspring even hinting at calling their album Chinese Democracy: You Snooze, You Lose in 2002, however they backed off for legal reasons. Even as early as this year, Dr. Pepper, made a (presumably) satirical offer to give one free can of Dr. Pepper to everyone in the United States if Chinese Democracy was released in 2008.

I am not if Axl Rose likes Dr. Pepper or not, but that seemed to motivate him. It was announced in the fall of 2008 that the album would be released in November. As is often the case in this digital age, the tracks of the album were leaked. However, in a stunning development, Axl Roses pursued legal measures against the bloggers who leaked the tracks, and so far one man, Kevin Cogill, has been sentenced to a year in prison as a result of the track leaking.

Much like Star Wars Episode I: Phantom Menace this album faced a near impossible volume of hype and expectations. When you keep people waiting for so long, you need to come to terms with the fact that it may be better in the minds of fans than in reality. However, unlike the first Star Wars prequel, Chinese Democracy did not make its creators any richer. The album boasted some very low sales, and in no way justified its $13, 000, 000 reported price tag.

Once more, it really just wasn't very good. Sure, it had its inspired moments, however, the chords are over produced, and the lyrics are under thought. Which hardly warrants the fourteen years that Axl Rose had to meditate on the subject.

If there is one thing that Chinese Democracy has proven, it is that good things do not always come to those who wait.

Embedded Video

Epilogue: Chinese Democracy sold only 261,000 units in the first week of sales, and the numbers sharply declined after wards. It ranked #12 on The Rolling Stones year end rank of albums, but #1 on IGN's Worst Album of 2008 list.

There have been no talks of releasing a new album.

Until next time,


Achieved Year in Review Posts:

The Fall of the Prophet - January 6th
The Rise of the Ice Queen -January 7th
An Unlikely Fruition - January 7th
Attack of the Three-Headed Terror - January 9th
A Most Sincere Inquiry - January 10th
The Golden League - January 14th
The Fall from Grace - January 16th
The Eighth Layer of Injustice - January 16th
The Transmuter of Nations - January 22nd

The Rise of the Ice Queen

Date: August 28, 2008

Prologue: Two men engage in a year long battle. One man, who continues to play by his own rules, gains momentum, but realizes that he is unable to achieve victory on his own. He summons a previously unknown maiden from the land of ice and snow, to aid him in his mission. Quickly though, this Ice Queen begins to overshadow the very man that she was supposed to assist, which puts things on an irreversible path.

August seems like a lifetime ago by now, doesn't it? In reality though it has only been a little over 4 months since John McCain introduced the world to Sarah Palin, and the course of the campaign changed in a matter of minutes.

Back in August, John McCain was taking a chip out of Obama's huge lead, with the extremely successful "World's Biggest Celebrity" advertisements. Obama had just made a safe albeit boring running mate selection of Joe Biden, which hardly set the world on fire. However, his convention came pretty close to (figuratively) setting things ablaze. It had the emotion of Hilary Clinton's speech, and the stunning visualization of Obama addressing 80, 000 people on a Denver night.

McCain knew that he needed to do something to both upstage Obama's running mate, and get peopel to stop talking about his acceptance speech. John McCain, ever the maverick, did not take such likely candidates as Pawlenty, Romney, or Liberman, instead he went with a much wilder pick that certain got people talking. He chose Alaska Governor, Sarah Palin.

At first, this was a huge success. People wondered who this young, unheralded, and attractive woman was. They saw her as a an excellent "outsider" both as a woman in a man's world, and as someone who has little connection in Washington. Also, people who had originally supported Hilary Clinton, seemed to flock towards Sarah Palin.

She became a huge star in no time.

And that was the biggest problem.

Everyone wanted to know more about this mysterious Palin. We had gotten two years to get to know Obama on a national stage, but had no idea who this woman was. Quickly, John McCain became an afterthought, as people began to flock towards his running mate.

Palin ralies became huge events, drawing massive crowds, while McCain's ralies had far smaller numbers.

And that was the next biggest problem.

Palin became in control of the campaign. McCain had pledged long and hard to run an honourable campaign, however, Palin made no such promises. She began to accuse Obama of "Pallin' around with terrorists", and an intense amount of hatred and blatant racism would begin to emerge at her rallies, as she began to fan the flames of hatred. Certainly not an honourable campaign that John McCain wanted.

Since Palin became an overnight sensation, the media wanted to get a hold of her for an interview.

And that was the next, next biggest problem.

She really had no idea how to handle any sort of questions. She was either completely unprepared or completely ignorant, or perhaps both. Take a look at the most infamous blunder of hers from an interview with Katie Couric.

Amazing eh?

Now that certainly is "gotcha" journalism, with that tricky Couric asking a hard question.

Other proud moments for Mrs. Palin, include her not understanding the Bush Doctrine, getting confused as to the role of the Vice President, and thinking that Africa is a country. Certainly something that someone who wants the second highest office in the land should know.

Also, a new sueprstar in politics, especially one with such gaping holes in her knowledge set, became excellent fodder for satire. Including this, perhaps the most memorable moment of the 2008 campaign.

After eight years, jokes at George W. Bush's expense were in need of freshening up, and thankfully, the Republicans came through yet again for us. Not only did 2008 give us a richer target for satire, it gave us a more polarizing character than we have seen in a very long time. Due to her age, and relative freshness on the national stage, this is one that will not be going away soon.

Epilogue: In the end, Palin became an absolute cancer to the McCain campaign. Five days before the election, almost 60% of Americans thought that she was unprepared for the job of Vice President (to say nothing about President), and over 40% had an unfavourable opinion of her.

In case you haven't heard, McCain-Palin were absolutely crushed in the election.

Sarah Palin is considered an early contender for the Republican nomination in 2012.

Until next time,


Achieved Year in Review Posts:

The Fall of the Prophet - January 6th
The Rise of the Ice Queen -January 7th
An Unlikely Fruition - January 7th
Attack of the Three-Headed Terror - January 9th
A Most Sincere Inquiry - January 10th
The Golden League - January 14th
The Fall from Grace - January 16th
The Eighth Layer of Injustice - January 16th
The Transmuter of Nations - January 22nd

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The Fall of the Prophet

This is the start of my (belated) look back at 2008. I have plans for a number of posts to make an appearance here in the coming days, so please, continue to check back as I reflect on a number of things that made 2008 worthwhile.

Without further ado, here is the first installment in the "Adventures of 2008".

Date: February 3, 2008

Prologue: The unstoppable forces of evil go against the plucky underdog. Despite having a vastly superior force to anyone else in the world, they still resort to underhanded tactics to overcome their foes. Victory appeared so imminent that a group of giants seemed unable to keep these forces at bay. All seems lost for truth and justice, as the sinister brigade looks to cement their place in history, however, as is often the case, things do not go quite as they seem...

The New England Patriots finished the 2007 regular season in historic fashion. They defeated the New York Giants in a nail biter and ended the regular season at 16-0, something that no team had ever done before. During the first two rounds of the playoffs they steamrolled the competition, and prepared for a Superbowl showdown against the very same Giants that they had vanquished once before.

Despite their absolutely historic run (the Miami Dolphins had completed a perfect regular season in 1972, however, their regular season was only 14 games long, thus making this one arguably more impressive), the New England Patriots were not without their detractors. The most notorious of which was the infamous "Spygate" scandal. The New England Patriots were accused of filming a practice held by the New York Jets prior to their September 9th match-up, a game which the Patriots easily won.

After a series of investigations, the Patriots were fined and lost their first round draft pick due to breaking the NFL's rules. After this, a series of other accusations surfaced about Bill Bilichick taping a variety of other games, including the 2002 Superbowl, which the Patriots scored an unlikely upset over the vaunted St. Louis Rams.

Regardless of wether the Patriots cheated in any other game, it did not matter, doubt was cast upon their legacy and their quest for perfection. Even if they were to win the Superbowl, there would be a number of questions as to how many victories that they actually earned, and how many were gathered illegally. This caused a great deal of resentment against the New England Patriots, as even non-football fans were hoping for them to lose. Normally this kind of sporting animosity is only reserved for the New York Yankees, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the LA Lakers, and the US Olympic team. However, on this day, the Patriots entered the infamous club.

The game itself was a rather slow affair for the first three quarters. It looked like the Patriots offense was having a slow day, and their defense had to take over. The score was 7-3 for New England, heading into the fourth. The Giants scored an unlikey touchdown at the start of the quarter to make it 10-7, and then things got interesting.

Tom Brady, arguably one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time, turned it up a notch, and lead to the Patriots getting another touchdown, to make it 14-10 with 2:42 left to play. It seemed like the inevitable was going to occur, and there would be 19-0 posters everywhere the next morning.

Then, this happened.

Watch that again if you have to, because it is simply one of the most amazing (and downright lucky) catches you will ever see.

A few drives later and the Giants scored another touchdown, making the score 17-14 with 35 seconds left. The Patriots attempted to move the ball down the field, and the unthinkable happened.

The clock ran out. The Patriots lost.

The Giants completed one of the greatest upsets in sporting history as they humbled the unbeatable juggernaut. Sports fans and casual viewers alike celebrated as the bad guys lost, and evil was vanquished for yet another day.

Epilogue: The New England Patriots, perhaps more motivated than ever, looked to start the 2008 season with a bang, and perhaps claim the Championship that they felt they deserved the year before. However, in an act that can only be described as karmic, star quarterback Tom Brady, suffered a knee injury during the first quarter of the first game. It would be both his first game of the season, and his last. As a result of losing their star, the Patriots failed to make the playoffs this past season, and will have to wait at least another season to win the one game that truly matters.

Until next time,


Achieved Year in Review Posts:

The Fall of the Prophet - January 6th
The Rise of the Ice Queen -January 7th
An Unlikely Fruition - January 7th
Attack of the Three-Headed Terror - January 9th
A Most Sincere Inquiry - January 10th
The Golden League - January 14th
The Fall from Grace - January 16th
The Eighth Layer of Injustice - January 16th
The Transmuter of Nations - January 22nd

Sunday, January 04, 2009

A Series of Unfortunate Events -- Christmas 2008 Edition

Prelude – The Best Laid Plans

The following is a special joint blog from Glen and Elvina outlining some of the perils and pitfalls of their travel to Vietnam and Cambodia over Christmas. Before reading, be clear of one thing. Despite the number of setbacks along the way, this has been an excellent trip so far, and both of us would fully recommend a trip like this to anyone.

Glen’s Song: “Nowhere With You” – Joel Plaskett
Elvina’s Song: “Imitosis” – Andrew Bird

Glen: The plan was simple enough. Fly from Shanghai to Shenzhen, take a ferry to Macau, and overnight there. Afterwards, wake up very early and catch a cheap Viva Macau flight to Ho Chi Minh City. Hang out in Southern Vietnam for a few days before taking a riverboat up to Phnom Penh, Cambodia on the 24th, and spend the rest of the Christmas holidays in Cambodia.

John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens when you are making other plans”, and let me tell you, we were in for a dose of life.

Elvina: Where oh where to begin? The few weeks leading up to holiday have been busy, busy, busy – as I moved into another apartment, wrote 18 student reports and pre-planned for our trip. The geek at heart still managed to find time to draft a chronological itinerary of our plans in a spreadsheet. With all the stress at home and at work, it was comforting to know that a great time was waiting as the light at the end of the tunnel.

Early on, we decided that since we’d be let out of school at noon on Friday the 19th, we’d like to spend the night in Shanghai and fly out the next morning. We looked carefully at the Shanghai subway map and compared it to the addresses of hostels. We found and chose one that was within walking distance to the metro line that was two stops away from the Maglev to Shanghai Pudong airport, on the east side of the city.

Chapter 1 – The First of Many

Glen’ Song: “Escape is at Hand for the Traveling Man” – The Tragically Hip
Elvina’s Song: “Leaving On A Jet Plane” – Chantal Kreviazuk

Glen: It is worth noting at this point that we rejected a hostel that looked ideal, great rooms, good price, but it was in the wrong location. It was on the West Side of the city, and closer to Hongqiao airport. Yes, a city the size of a small country has two fairly large airports. Don’t forget that part.

Our night in Shanghai went without incident or omens. Nice dinner and drinks with good friends, many of who were heading across the Pacific Ocean for Christmas. We woke up the next morning and began making our way to Pudong Airport.

As we were crammed into the very congested Shanghai subway cars, a sudden realization came over me. I had forgotten my alarm clock in the hostel. I mentioned this, thinking that I would leave it. Really, I didn’t want to abandon my clock, since it was very handy to travel with, and I knew that we would need to wake up early the next morning to catch our flight out of Macau.

Looking at my watch, we decided that we had time to make a 10 minute backtrack to fetch my clock, while Elvina wait at the Maglev station to catch the super 430 km/h train to the Pudong airport.

Elvina: We were plenty good on time, so I wasn’t worried at all. We got off the very crowded train, crossed over and caught a similarly crowded train back to where we started. We decided I would stay on the platform with all of our bags while Glen make a quick run back to the hostel and fetch the alarm clock. There I waited, noting that the trains were coming every 5 minutes or so.

Glen comes back about 15 minutes later, explaining that getting the alarm clock was no problem at all but got held up trying to pay for the subway. Like most automated machines, the ones that sell tickets in the Shanghai metro prefer coins or near perfect bills. So Glen spent some time unsuccessfully feeding his non-perfect monetary note into several machines before someone eventually helped him out. And now we were on our way!

Glen: I’m sure at this point you may be getting bored of this, and wondering just what we are going to start complaining about. Well keep reading, because the first calamity occurred right after we got to Pudong.

We got to the airport with barely enough time. We knew that we had to hurry, so we quickly ran around the busy terminal and made our way to the Shezhen Airlines check in counter. We thought it odd that our flight was not listed, but thought little of it, and got in the line for a different flight offered by the airline, and assumed that they could sort us out.

After making our way to the front of the line, which is never an easy task in China, we presented our e-ticket to the woman behind the counter, and she looked very confused.

She spoke some incomprehensible words to Elvina. Clearly, my Chinese lessons were not progressing at light speed. I was more thankful than ever to be traveling with a fluent Mandarin speaker.

Elvina looked at me, laughed a bit and said, “We went to the wrong airport.”

I told you to not forget about the two airports. Clearly, I hadn’t given that same advice to myself.

Lucky for us, (Despite everything that we told you and are about to tell you, I am amazed at how many times that I start a sentence with that particular fragment) there were several flights a day to Shenzhen, and it only cost us around $40 each to change our flight to a later one. To help kill the time, we also had an hour-long bus ride to the other airport.

For the next several hours, both waiting in the airport, and en route, we would repeatedly laugh and say “We went to the wrong airport”, followed by “Rookie mistake!” Both Elvina and I have traveled a fair amount, and really should have known better.

We agreed that it was just a bit of overconfidence, and we would not make a careless oversight like that again for the rest of the trip. We were half right, but unfortunately, not the right half.

Elvina: We found this episode very funny, and our excitement was in no way deflated. We got on the bus to the correct airport and got all checked in once we were there. Waiting in line to go through security, we were fairly excited, being at the beginning of a great trip. I went through first, and as usual, made the metal detector go off. So while I’m standing up on the platform getting wanded, I notice Glen having some trouble at the desk where the security guard is sitting. I try to find out what’s going on but security just says he has to go back for something. Glen waves that everything is okay and he’ll meet me inside. Off I go, unclear of whether I should wait right there or go to the boarding gate. After some dilly-dallying and noticing that there are two security check points, I figure it’s best to go to the boarding gate. And yay, we found each other. Apparently part of his boarding pass had fallen off and he just had to go back for a new one. So we sit down with a big sigh of relief and Glen says to me that since these little bloopers happened to us early on, we were probably in for smooth sailing the rest of the trip.

Chapter 2 – Macanese Nights

Glen’s Song: “Pure Morning” – Placebo
Elvina’s Song: “Bottom of the Barrel” - Amos Lee

Glen: So, I was wrong about the smooth sailing bit, dead wrong.

Before I realized this, we got to Macau in need of a good nights sleep. Since, it was a Saturday, and the “Vegas of the East” is a bumping place on the weekends, it was hard to find a cheap place to stay. After doing a bit of research, we settled on what appeared to be a lovely and cheap place, pictured here.

Go ahead, take a few minutes to be captivated by the nice website. Don’t the rooms look great? Nice rooms, prime location, and cheap rates. What more could a traveler possibly ask for?

The truth.

After arriving at the place, we were shocked at what we saw on the website compared to what we saw in real life. Dirty is a word that gets thrown around so much that it tends to lose its meaning.

This place was freaking-filthy. The place looked like it belonged in a horror film. The narrow, I just imagined some hapless victim trying to run down the narrow and darkened stairs. A smell came over me, which I assumed was a cross between clogged sewage and dust from the 1960s. Brown water and tiny bugs came out of the tap when you turned it on, so needless to say, showering was out of the question.

Elvina: It was fairly easy to get from the Macau airport into the city. Taxis were waiting for us, without the need to haggle prices, as they ran the meter. The car doors were even automatic, the driver would push a button and the door would open for us. Armed with the address and directions that the hotel emailed us, and wanting to flex some Cantonese muscle, I showed/told the driver where we wanted to go. He was brought us where we needed to be and pointed into an alley that we’d need to walk into. He was funny, said he would take HK dollar, US dollar, Chinese Yuan, anything… so long as it was real.

We head into this alley and find the place up a narrow flight of stairs. I often judge things too soon, and have been working on that. So I told myself that it was an old building and would be better once we got there. We get the “front desk” and there is just an old man who only speaks Cantonese, none of the polite, English speaking staff that we had been in email contact with. He wants a printout of our booking, which I don’t have, and he proceeds to lecture me about not bringing it. He takes out a ratty old notebook marked in Chinese, numbers and letters. We see a GL and point at it, as our reservation. He keeps lecturing us, that without the printout, he really shouldn’t be giving us a room but since he has vacancies tonight, he will.

So he gives us a key and directs us to a room right near the desk. We unlock this room and just laugh. The walls don’t touch the ceiling so you are basically in a big cubicle. There is a sink in the corner of the room that looks as if it only dispenses rusty water, a fan, and some furniture from a yard sale.

We put our stuff down and go for a walk, trying to make the most of the Macau night. We had a nice stroll, after all. We get back to the hotel, knowing we have to leave at 4:30 anyway. I am scared of what I might catch in the bed, so I sleep in the clothes I’m wearing, not wanting to come in contact with much else. The alarm goes off and we get out of there pretty much right after.

Chapter 3 – Access Denied

Glen’s Song: “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” – The Clash
Elvina’s Song: “Help!” – The Beatles

Glen: We got to Ho Chi Minh City, and everything seemed to be going to plan. Our hotel was easy to find, and quite nice. We saw some museums, crawled in some tunnels, did some shopping and had a great time. But alas, this is a post about things not going well; so let me skip ahead to December 24th.

After seeing some of the Mekong Delta, and staying at the border city of Chau Doc, the plan was to take a boat up the Mekong River into Cambodia. We even met this great other couple and discussed the possibility of going out for a Christmas dinner in Phnom Penh, and possibly exchanging some tacky presents with one another. It seemed like the recipe for a Merry Christmas, a good thing for a Grinch like me.

So there we were, sitting on a boat, approaching the Cambodian border. The tour guide came around to collect everyone’s passports, in order to arrange visas for all. He takes mine, looks at it, and returns it with no problems.

Then, he takes Elvina’s and things start to go down hill.

Elvina: Yeah, yeah, yeah, so nice time in Ho Chi Minh City. Now, all of that seems a blur of tourist sites and being hassled by peddlers on the street. But fast forward to sitting on the “fast boat” to the Vietnam/Cambodia border. Glen has already set the stage.

The tour guide flips through my passport and I can see on his face something is not quite right. He looks at me and says, “You don’t have any more pages.” I flip to the blank pages but he points at where it says “Amendments and Endorsements.” A lot of gesturing to those pages and being gestured at other pages which say “Visas” up at the top.


“You can’t cross the border.”


My first instinct was to cry. My second instinct was to negotiate. My first lucid thought was that I was holding Glen back from going into Cambodia.

After gathering enough composure to ask the tour guide what to do next, we learned that I had to go back to Ho Chi Minh City to get more pages from the US consulate. It just took forever and a day to get here and we were going back?? So we get dropped off at the dock, where we eat lunch. Shortly after, we head back on the same boat, then a six hour bus ride back to HCMC. The night we arrive, Vietnam had just beat Thailand in a soccer match. The streets were insane – motorbikes everywhere, people clanging on pot lids and noisemakers and waving the Vietnamese flag. We got stuck in the kind of traffic that I would never be able to drive myself out of. I felt amused by this, but mixed in with annoyance and anger at myself.

There we were, dumped off at the main backpackers’ drag and found a hotel to stay at within a few minutes. I don’t remember what happened next, I just wanted to go to bed and wake up with the problems solved.

Glen: Yeah, I didn’t leave her and go to Cambodia by myself, as tempting as that may have been.

Chapter 4 – The Ghost of Christmas Plans

Glen’s Song: “Plans” – Bloc Party
Elvina’s Song: “That Was the Worst Christmas Ever!” -- Sufjan Stevens

Elvina: (ed note: please do not make implications from this song title, as this was NOT the worst Christmas ever.) I woke up on Christmas morning, but it turns out, the aforementioned incident was not a bad dream. We started strategizing and decided we would go to the consulate tomorrow and treat ourselves a nice Christmas. We spent the day wandering around the streets of HCMC, booked a flight to Siem Reap the next day, shopped for touristy stuff, found a vegetarian restaurant (actually found a bunch so we actually had choices) and then Glen got a haircut while I got a very strange pedicure for between $1-2. We had a traditional Christmas dinner: vegetarian Indian. The restaurant even had a Christmas tree outside. The waiter asked Glen if he would like it spicy. Glen answered yes and would regret this later.

We went back to the hotel to Skype our families to say Merry Christmas. First, we decided to call the US consulate so that I could be well-prepared in the event that they required any documents or information. I went to their web site, which we had just checked the day before. It said on the calendar of federal holidays that it was closed on Thursday, December 25 for Christmas. Sure, straightforward enough. Well, okay, tonight, looking on the page for their 24-hour serviced phone number, it had a special note saying that the consulate was closed also on Friday, December 26. That meant, given the weekend, we couldn’t get to the consulate until Monday.

Glen: Yeah, we really should have read that note about it being closed on the 26th, but I guess we figured that our luck was due to turn around by then.

So yet again, we were forced to make a plan in a hurry. In planning for this trip, we looked into a number of places, particularly in Vietnam, to go to, but did not think that we had enough time. Well, apparently we had a few more days to kill in Vietnam, so no point in standing still! We decided to go to Hoi Ann, since it seems like such a cool old place to go. But we had a few things to take care of first, namely the flight to Siem Reap booked for later that day.

We went to one of the many travel agents doting the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, and were able to change our flight to the 29th with relatively little hassle. Now, we just wanted to find a way to Hoi Ann. We figured a bus or train would be the best alternative, but we forgot one of the cardinal rules of traveling in Asia, distances can be deceiving.

While Hoi Ann looks close to Ho Chi Minh City on a map, Asian road and rail networks are nowhere near as developed as their Western counterparts, and it would take over 12 hours by train, and around 20 hours by bus to get there. This really would not have given us enough time to see the city at all.

So we did something that I you would never be able to do in the West. We went to the travel agent, and asked about flights to Danang (the nearest airport to Hoi Ann) that were leaving that day. He said that there was a flight going at 3:30pm. We looked at our watches, and noted that it was in fact noon. Surely, they could not sell a plan ticket to a foreigner with such little time, could they?

There was little time to ask them about the security concerns, so we said that we would take it. However, the only seats left were in Business Class. Sure it increased the cost, but it was still not that expensive, given that it was a forty-minute flight.

The travel agent, then called us a cab, and before you could say “Random Security Screening” we were in the Business Class lounge at the Saigon Airport.

Elvina: It all seems like a blur but in the course of one day (probably an extremely busy day at malls back home) we had changed a plane ticket, bought a new one, had lunch, and flew to another city for dinner. Speaking of dinner, we walked into a hole-in-the-wall place simply because it advertised vegetarian dishes. Upon sitting down, we quickly realized the lack of menus, save for a little piece of paper stuck the wall with less than 10 items. We used our limited Vietnamese menu knowledge to figure out what was what. We pointed, and got food. Pretty simple.

Walking around Danang was not much to write about. Yes, it was night time by then, but it is a dark and quiet little town, without much going on. We just slept off the surreal day and woke up early to go to Hoi An. It took a bit of searching to find the bus station. In the end, we never found it but some locals told us to just wait by the side of the road and they’d show us which bus to flag down. So we ended up paying way more than any locals, sitting in the back row of this very sketchy city bus, which we thought we’d fall out of every time the back door opened. The saving grace was meeting a nice Estonian guy who was traveling to Hoi An as well.

Glen: It should be worth noting at this point, that Elvina got sick. Nothing major, just the side effects of moving around crowded Asia so much. But we did have to make a quick (and painless) trip to the doctors. I mention this for one reason: had this been on any other trip, this would have been the biggest concern and downer, but not us.

Anyway, after getting very lost, we eventually found a guesthouse and enjoyed Hoi Ann. Really, it is a fabulous city, and well worth a visit for anyone who plans on going through Vietnam. After a great two days there, we hopped back on a flight and returned to Ho Chi Minh City, once more.

Chapter 5 – Panic on the Streets of Saigon

Glen’s Song: “I Predict a Riot” – Kaiser Chiefs
Elvina’s Song: “Bang” – Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Glen: Remember back in Chapter 2, Elvina said that the streets were crazy after Vietnam defeated Thailand in soccer? Well the night that we landed in Ho Chi Minh once more, they won again, moving them one step closer to the World Cup. So the streets were even more insane.

No, scratch that, the streets were absolutely bonkers with excitement.

As we hopped in a cab and drove to our hotel, people everywhere were cheering, flags were being hung from the many (MANY) motorcycles going all around us. Every intersection was like a mosh pit, as people everywhere were reveling in nationalistic fervour. Say what you will about how much athletes get paid, and how the purity of sports has been lost somewhere between all of the Coca-Cola Sponsors, but there is little that has the power to get people together more than a good sporting event.

After about 40 minutes of slow rides, and fast riots, things started to kick up a notch. We got to one of the main roundabouts in the city, and there was a whole mob of sports fans there. Flags were being waved all over the place. When people noticed me (the token white guy) in the car, they started to cheer at me and give me the thumbs up, all well and good I thought. Then things got a bit more out of control.

First people started pounding on the car in some sort of a game. Then, someone jumped on the back of the taxi to wave his flag from a higher point; a few people jumping on the hood of the car to cheer followed this. While I found the joy enticing at first, I was starting to get a little scared at this point.

To his credit, our driver calmly opened the door, and got the guys off of the hood. A few voices of reason emerged from the cheering masses, as some total strangers helped escort our car out of the crowd and on to safety.

We got to our hotel, and probably paid too much for too little, but at that point we did not care. We certainly had no plans to go outside, and all we needed to do was get to the Consulate the next morning, and be on our merry way.

Elvina: I really loved Hoi An, and considered it a bonus at this point. I might even like to go back at some point. But, Glen summarized all of it quite well so I’ll leave it at that and just move on to the good stuff.

Chapter 5 – Lucky at Last

Glen’s Song: “Lucky Day in Hell” - The Eels
Elvina’s Song: “Beautiful Day” – U2

Elvina: I woke up on Monday morning rarin’ to go. I remember we both said, “Today is the day!” That is actually quite funny because I woke up on the Friday we began the trip thinking the same thought. We got out of the hotel, with the only priority of finding a bite to eat before we were onwards to the consulate.

We found the consulate without any problems, but Glen couldn’t go inside since he didn’t bring his passport. He headed to a coffee shop type place across the street. As I entered through security, I felt a strange sense of relief, as cliché as it sounds. The whole experience was oddly American-centric but also very Asian as well.

Upon entry, you are greeted by a sign that points immigrants, visitors, etc, to the left or right. American Citizens, it says in bold letters go straight ahead to a big scary iron gate.

I go up to take a number, as the sign says to do. I see that blank forms are along the back wall so I pick up the appropriate one and complete it. Just as I finish and look up to see how far they are away from my number, I see a sign that says:

Go directly to window 3 for any of the following:

  1. Additional visa pages in your passport.

I didn’t need to read any further. I went immediately, as directed. No one was there and I tried to make my presence a bit more known. A woman came by and I asked if I was at the right place to submit this form, which I held up. She looked at the form, my passport, and disappeared. I waited. Another woman came over and asked if she could help me. I told her that I was waiting for my passport from the previous woman. She said, “Oh it will take about…” In my mind, I heard her say “… two week.” In reality, she said, “… half an hour.” Gleefully surprised and relieved, I asked her if I’d need a receipt to claim my passport later. Oddly enough, there wasn’t. And, there was no charge for this service. I go across the street to join Glen for a glass of fruit juice. Soon, I have my new thick passport in hand! We go back to the hotel to get our stuff and we are on the bus to the airport we know so well.

Glen: We finally made it into Cambodia, and it was fantastic. Angkor is completely mind blowing, and Phnom Penh is completely soul sapping. Just what we were after.

Things in Cambodia were fantastic, as our luck really got turned around. I guess we had to go through a bit of karmic overdraft, but things worked out in the end.

So I guess if we could impart some advice to anyone out there it would be the following three things:

  1. Carefully read all plane tickets

  2. Know how many pages you have left in your passport at all times

  3. Never, and I mean NEVER travel in a country when they are playing important soccer games.

Hopefully you can learn from our mistakes!

Until next time,