I hate time travel.

Not as an idea mind you, I love listening to Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Stephen Hawking’s musings on the topic (as much as I can understand anyway) probably far more than the next guy, but I can’t stand time travel as a storytelling device.  Sure, it’s sometimes nice to see what Captain Picard would have looked like if he’d been more responsible and standupish during his youth, or how Superman may have turned out if he wasn’t raised by parents as noble and compassionate as the Kents.  One of my favourite Christmas movies of all time is the Frank Capra directed classic It’s a Wonderful Life, where Jimmy Stewart is given a glimpse of what the world, and more importantly the lives he touched and influenced along the way, would have looked like if he’d never been born.  And I enjoyed last May’s time bending X-Men: Days of Future Past.  But for the most part, time travel stories are like a thirty year old K-car in winter, prone to problems, they break down more times than not and sometimes your lucky if they ever even get going.  As a result, I tend to avoid the majority of movies or TV shows that include time travel as their primary narrative conceit.  Need a quick example?  The Terminator.  I know I’m inviting a veritable tsunami of scorn and outrage by nitpicking a classic 80’s Arnold flick (and a franchise that is about to release its fifth movie this summer with Terminator: Genisys), but bear with me.  For those not in the know, the story revolved around a Terminator sent back from the future by the omnipotent computer Skynet, that has led the machines in an uprising that has nearly wiped out the human race.  With me so far?  Cool.  But humanity’s last remaining survivors have successfully mounted a resistance, lead by a brilliant and charismatic strategist named John Connor.  Skynet’s solution to these pesky rebels is to send a Terminator robot back in time to kill John Connor’s mother Sarah, thereby preventing him from ever being born.  Sounds like a solid plan.  Except if the Terminator had been successful, and John Connor had never been born to lead the human uprising against Skynet, then there never would have been any reason to send a Terminator back in the first place.  There would be no reason, no cause to take the action that changed events.  Essentially C cannot be equaled unless provoked by A and B.  And that defective little equations sums up my entire problem with time travel stories.

I’m a stickler for story and diligent attention paid to detail, which doesn’t help because, by their very nature, it’s virtually impossible for time travel stories to properly adhere to a logical plot.  You know what one of my biggest pet peeves in science fiction (the genre that employs time travel the most) is?  The fact that whenever Earthlings venture to another world or encounter alien life, everyone speaks perfect English, even on backwater worlds thousands of light years away.  Now some movies make at least an effort to address this little plot point.  Star Wars had C3P0, who could speak and translate something like six million languages, Star Trek innovated the universal translator and made it standard issue for all Starfleet personnel so they could understand whatever insults the Klingons or the Romulans were throwing their way, and even in Transformers, the most plot allergic movies in recent memory, everyone’s favourite robots in disguise learned human languages from the internet before they made initial contact.  But in just about every other sci-fi flick that includes human interaction with some form of extraterrestrial life, the aliens possess a greater command of the English language than a typical tenth grader.  So you can imagine how much time travel irks me.  It’s why I’ve never been able to sit through an episode of Doctor Who, the original time jockey, despite about seven hundred and thirty-three million recommendations that I should.  And an equal number of shocked expressions when I tell people I don’t.  I’ve lost track how often I’ve been told by friends and colleagues how much I’d love it, and Doctor Who is no doubt one of the most popular genre TV shows on the planet right now.  But in the few episodes I’ve seen there are more plot holes then a thousand pound chunk of Swiss cheese.

And it isn’t like I haven’t asked questions.  For instance, does the Doctor ever change or adjust the past during one of his many time traveling adventures?  Answer; sure, all the time.  But then how does the show account for the effects his interference would have on the course of history?  Answer; well some things can’t be changed, like the outcome of World War 2 or the assassination of JFK.  OK, well what about everything else then?  What about the butterfly effect, that states that even the tiniest change can affect the entire course of history?  Answer; Oh, well the show just kind of ignores that?

Wait, what?

And what about the Doctor himself?  Other than his encyclopedic knowledge of the history of, well everything, his sonic screwdriver (which is occasionally omnipotent, except against wood, so I guess if he’s ever attacked by some angry Ewoks armed with number two pencils the good Doc is really up the creek) and his time travelling, space defying Tardis, what can the Doctor do?  You know, what are his super powers?  Answer; well, he’s very clever.  That’s it?  That’s all you got?  You know who is else is really clever?  Like fiendishly clever?  Batman, but he’s also just about the baddest ass fighter in the history of history and has a utility belt with more goodies then Santa’s workshop on crack.   Look, I’m all for the smart guys winning the big one just as much as the sword swinging, gun-toting, face punching jocks (one of the things I really liked about Pacific Rim was that without the information acquired by Charlie Day’s scientist, the military types would have been completely impotent when it came time to save the world) but from the few episodes I’ve seen, and many others I’ve heard about, the Doc routinely goes up against alien warlords, interstellar tyrants, evil cyborgs and even the occasional demon lord.  And all he’s got is clever?

Insert face palm here.

You remember how popular and critically acclaimed the Battlestar Galactica remake was a few years ago?  You may also remember that many of the shows long time and hardcore fans were left wanting and disappointed by the show’s ending, especially after following it for four seasons.  Many even felt betrayed by the ending’s heavy religious overtones, seeing it as a cop-out by writers who couldn’t devise a better, more creative resolution.  Well I’m pretty sure that there was more storytelling integrity in BSG’s final, disappointing episodes then a typical episode of Doctor Who.

Look, I understand when people really, really like something, that you have a pretty significant capacity to overlook it’s warts.  God knows people do it on far larger scales than TV shows (politics, religion, professional sports, boy bands), but could people please stop looking at me like I’ve got a fluorescent brain tumour hanging out of my left nostril when I tell them I don’t watch Doctor Who because I really don’t get it?  And by “it” I mean the writing and sloppy continuity.  It’s almost like this show has become the Justin Bieber of genre TV.  “What do you mean you don’t like it?  It’s soooooo dreamy!  You just don’t know anything good!”  But let’s be honest, this show, like many other long running and popular forms of entertainment, is just imagination candy with very little to no attention paid or invested in its storytelling.  It’s the same reason I don’t watch The Walking Dead (not only because it avoids obvious, tough to answer questions but also because it ripped off its opening from 28 Days Later) and I’ve stopped watching other TV shows and quit books right in middle the for the same reason.  But don’t take my word for it, just listen to the guy in the video beneath. He’s much funnier and is a snappier dresser (I might avoid some of the comments thought, because, well, YouTube).

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I honestly don’t care if you love this show and think it’s the best thing on TV.  You probably feel the same way about many other pieces of entertainment currently floating around the airwaves or the Internet.  More power to both you and whatever tickles your amusement fancy.  But please spare me the ridiculous reactions when I tell you I don’t watch something (like Doctor Who) because I don’t like it.  There’s usually a reason.

Shayne Kempton




Back in December the National Capital Commission announced it was donating 21.5 hectares of land on Lebreton Flats for development, and it would be accepting proposals from organizations and businesses for developing that parcel along the NCC’s criteria. Speculation about a new home for the Ottawa Senators didn’t have time to get going in earnest before the Sens confirmed that they were indeed submitting a proposal. Sens Army worked itself into a lather at the prospect and during All Star weekend Senators president Cyril Leeder gave a lengthy interview with the Ottawa Sun on why he thought the Sens proposal (one of five submitted before the January 7th deadline) had merit. And over the course of the following week, the NCC teased that all but one of the proposals had plans for a new main branch for the Ottawa Public Library, capitalizing on the current movement to replace the aging one downtown (the NCC has been tightlipped on what the other four proposals entail and who they were submitted by). But there are five reasons why Sens Army, to paraphrase our British friends, should keep calm and carry on.

THE NCC: Ah yes, the National Capital Commission, the biggest stick in the mud since Noah’s Ark got stuck on Mount Ararat. The NCC, also known as Fun’s Greatest Haters, is donating the land in question, and as such reserves final approval on all proposals being submitted. And while the NCC hasn’t thrown cold water on the idea of a new hockey on Lebreton Flats (yet), you can only imagine what the bore-mongers who call the shots on that board of pompous buffoons is really thinking. The NCC seems to have moved beyond its mandate of protecting public lands to being the biggest killjoys this side of the 49th parallel. If someone wants to plant a tree within spitting distance of Parliament Hill or the Ottawa River, the NCC has something to say about it. They’ll rain on a parade, any parade, at a moment’s notice. Last November they threw another political hurdle in the way of Ottawa’s LRT project, most notably it’s western expansion. You know, the LRT project that’s already well underway and has dominated Ottawa’s municipal politics for the last decade or so. Yeah, that LRT, which they just now got around to interfering with, at a potential cost of hundred of millions of dollars. No matter what you think of him or his politics, Ottawa mayor Jim Watson is one of the most civil politicians your going to find, and he’s diplomatically selective in the use of his vocabulary. But recently you can almost hear the F-bombs simmering beneath the surface of his strained restraint when he talks about the NCC. If the NCC thinks anyone will genuinely have a good time at a new arena, they’ll quash it right then and there.

THE DOLLARS: So one important question hasn’t really been asked about a possible new arena, let alone answered: who’s going to pay for it? Eugene Melnyk has essentially been crying poor for the past few years (the Sens lowball contract offer convinced long time Sens captain Daniel Alfredsson to leave the team in 2013 and it’s the reason the team’s payroll currently sits 29th in the NHL) and Watson has already thrown cold water on the idea the city will cover any of the costs (only a handful of professional sports stadiums have recently been built in North America without significant or complete tax dollar financing). So, who’s going to open up their purse? The province? Not when it’s facing a 16 billion dollar deficit and is in debt a few miles north of its eyeballs. The feds? Could you imagine how much ammunition a Conservative government committing hundreds of millions of dollars to a hockey stadium would provide Stephen Harper’s opponents with in an election year? A private developer? OK, then how does said developer and the team split the revenue (it’s a universal rule in the NHL that both the team and the arena they call home have to be owned by the same party in order to be profitable). Well, you may ask, why doesn’t Eugene Melnyk sell the current Canadian Tire Centre and use that money to cover the tab of building a new arena? To which I’d reply, that while that may be all well and good, who do you think is on the short list to buy an 18,000 plus seat hockey arena with no tenant? And if you DO manage to find a buyer, do you honestly think they cough up the couple hundred million such a project will demand? On a side note, Melnyk has said that the not-quite-20 year-old CTC wasn’t built to last 30 or 40 years, implying its nearing the end of its life expectancy. Funny, we never heard that argument a little over a year ago when he was campaigning to add a casino to it.

THE TRAFFIC: Do me a favour, picture the traffic in crowded downtown Ottawa during rush hour on a Wednesday afternoon. Now picture the traffic headed west on the Queensway in the hours leading up to a Senators home game at the CTC. Now take the Queensway traffic and shove each and every car into the downtown traffic you first pictured. Did you throw up a little? The traffic congestion that would result downtown during home games would be nothing short of catastrophic and it would have a ripple effect throughout much of the city. But what about public transit, you may ask. What about it? Have you seen how many buses, packed to the gills each and every one, travel to the CTC during hockey games? Over forty per game, and the traffic is still stupid. But it works at the TD place, you may counter. Perhaps, but there’s already been an avalanche of complaints about funneling visitors to Lansdowne for Red-Blacks games through public transit and it’s only been one season. And the CFL isn’t the NHL, which will outdraw Canada’s football league nine times out of ten, even in the Nation’s Capital (Bruce Firestone, who was the driving force behind the Sens return to the NHL, once wrote that if they depended on buses to fill their new building, wherever it was put, they’d have exactly one sellout-the home opener-and then the fans would revolt). But, you’ll add with no shortage of confidence, people will be able to walk to and from games downtown. Sure, that works in October and March, but January and February aren’t exactly pedestrian friendly months weather wise and judging by OC Transpo’s slowly declining ridership, Ottawa natives have proven that if they can, they’ll drive as opposed to other modes of travel, regardless of cost or convenience. And plummeting gas prices will only add to that preference. But in one final, smug argument, you’ll remind me that by then the LRT should be up and running and can ferry Sens Army to support the hometown boys. And I will politely refer you to point number one of this column. Right now no one knows how the NCC’s recent interference in the city’s LRT western expansion could affect the whole plan. Anything else?

THE PUBLIC: And speaking of Lansdowne, do you remember a little group called Friends of Lansdowne? The group who fought the city tooth and nail and tooth again over its plans for a rejuvenated and renovated Lansdowne Park, one that would welcome (yet) another CFL franchise? Do you remember the tantrums and the caterwauling, the fact that the city spent over a million dollars fighting the group in court and that it put a hold on the entire operation for years, jeopardizing a number of interested tenants (including the CFL)? Don’t think for a second that a similar fight won’t happen if the land in question is used for a new NHL arena downtown. The first day this news broke, some community leaders were quoted saying they liked the idea of a new arena downtown, but didn’t think it was the best use for public land. And the traffic problem I previously described will be the biggest bullet opponent’s arsenal.

THE WEST: You may seem to remember last October, the weekend following Thanksgiving, that there was a pretty big opening in the west end. What was that again? Oh, right, the Tanger Outlet Mall that opened right next door to the Canadian Tire Centre (and it’s opening attracted more then enough traffic to complicate things in the entire west end, all the way out in Kanata, just saying). Now you may be curious why I would bring up Tanger. I mean, the two buildings seem totally unrelated, even if they are neighbours. Except, rumour has it that Tanger was built there in an effort to help develop the west end. You see, way back in the day, the original brain trust behind brining the NHL back to Ottawa wanted to put their arena on Lebreton Flats, pretty much on the land that’s being debated today, but they were denied by, wait for it, the NCC. So when ground was broken on the current location, the underlying idea was that the land around the then Palladium would gradually be developed with strip malls and suburbs and office buildings (until then Ottawa boasted the biggest sports and entertainment venue in the middle of, you know, nowhere). But while the progress has been slower then hoped on that front, the lands around the now CTC have slowly been looking more and more like an urban centre and less like a farmer’s field (I had a job interview at the CTC shortly after it opened, and upon completion of my interview I went and played with the neighbouring farm’s cows). That, according to rumour, was the biggest motivator behind putting Tanger right next door to the arena. Both Mayor Watson and a handful of Kanata business leaders have wondered aloud what would happen if the Sens were to leave Kanata, how it would affect west end businesses as well as long term plans to develop the west end further.

Is a new arena downtown impossible? No, but highly improbable, and not just for the five reasons I discussed (there are probably a dozen more I don’t know about). If it happens, I’ll toast it right alongside you Sens Army, just don’t count your chickens before the eggs are even laid.

Shayne Kempton




So by now just about every student across the Nation’s Capital has returned to school. I know, I know, it sucks and I keenly feel your pain. I hated the first day of school with a rabid passion. Make no mistake, kindergarten and grades one or two were kind of novel, but after that, the happiness threw itself right out the window and I often hoped I was going with it. And it only got worse the older I got (say what you want about elementary school, but I never had to worry about getting stuffed in my locker or initiated with a full can of whipped cream and a used toilet until I started high school). But there were two things that acted like a balm…

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So by now just about every student across the Nation’s Capital has returned to school. I know, I know, it sucks and I keenly feel your pain. I hated the first day of school with a rabid passion. Make no mistake, kindergarten and grades one or two were kind of novel, but after that, the happiness threw itself right out the window and I often hoped I was going with it. And it only got worse the older I got (say what you want about elementary school, but I never had to worry about getting stuffed in my locker or initiated with a full can of whipped cream and a used toilet until I started high school). But there were two things that acted like a balm on the wound that was back to school. First, when I got home from the fresh hell known as School: Day One, I was almost always welcomed by the brand new Sear’s Christmas Wish Book catalogue, which never failed to bring a smile to my school weary face (even when I was seventeen-shut up). The second was new cartoons. Every September in the 80’s and 90’s, kids were offered a menu of new cartoon shows and fresh episodes of our returning favourites for our after school and Saturday morning pleasure. And I swear to Batman, Baby Jesus and Bill Murray that new episodes of my favourite robots in disguise were the only thing that kept me sane during the first few weeks back. So here’s a quick rundown of my ten favourite after school cartoons growing up. Some have aged well, others not so much, but they all have a special place in my juvenile heart (as well as the paradise known as YouTube) and many have even been remade, re-launched and re-imagined, reflecting how timeless some of them were (or how obsessed my generation is with them). Enjoy and feel free to chime in with your own personal faves.

10. Voltron: Defender of the Universe (1984): Just to clarify, whenever I think of Voltron I think of the kick-ass Lion Force one first, last and only and not that abomination formed by cars and trucks and sailboats (producers scrapped plans for a Gladiator incarnation because of how hated and unpopular the vehicle version was compared to the Lion Force one). Adapted from the popular Japanese show Beast King GoLion, the lion Voltron followed the exploits of an elite force of pilots who commanded the five enchanted lions that comprised the giant robotic warrior Voltron (Black, Red, Blue, Green and Yellow). Whenever the evil King Zarkon and his jerk wad of a son, Prince Lotor, made trouble for the planet of Arus (whose princess commanded the Blue lion), the lions sprung free of their colour coordinated hiding places (a forest for the Green lion, the bottom of the ocean for the Blue, you get the picture) to kick some Planet Doom ass. Usually the robeasts (giant magical robot monsters) were more than a match for the lions individually, but when the going got tough (and it always did following the second commercial break) the five lions would combine to form the super powerful Voltron, who with his sword would reduce the robeast of the day into science fiction confetti before the end credits. I probably witnessed more decapitations and dismemberments on this show then in Silence of the Lambs.

9.  She-Ra: Princess of Power (1985-1986): A spin-off of the highly popular He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, She-Ra/Adora was He-Man/ Prince Adam’s twin sister, kidnapped at birth by the show’s primary villain, Hordak, and raised as a commander in the Horde’s conquering army on the planet of Etheria. After learning the truth, she defied Hordak and joined Etheria’s rebellion against the Horde. Armed with a magical sword that mirrored Adam’s, she turned into She-Ra: the Princess of Power, and became the rebellion’s biggest hero and freedom’s greatest champion.

Like MOTU, She-Ra was pretty much a glorified commercial for the toy line of the same name, designed to appeal to girls the way He-Man appealed to boys (Mattel financed part of the production costs for both shows, which were handled by the notoriously cheap Filmation Studios). With 93 episodes spread out over two seasons, She-Ra was the first real female action figure to be introduced to western cartoon audiences, proving members of the fairer sex didn’t always have to be subordinates or damsels in distress (although animators probably should have considered lengthening her mini-skirt when she did roundhouse kicks). You have to wonder how much of this iconic character Joss Whedon may have channeled when he created Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

8.  Centurions (1986): Running for a single season with a total of 65 episodes (including a pair of five episode mini-series that book ended the show), Centurions was set in “the near future” where three special operatives prevented the Earth from being conquered by the cybernetic menace Doc Terror, his cyborg sidekick Hacker and his army of robotic war machines. The agents in question-code named the Centurions-were based on an orbital space station named Sky Vault and could be teleported virtually anywhere on the planet and then bonded with highly advanced weapon systems through their exo-skeletons, essentially turning them into living weapons in the war against Terror (imagine the Bush administration having fun with that nugget of a line). Each Centurion had weapon systems suited to their expertise and combat skills; former fighter pilot Ace McLeod patrolled the skies (and occasionally space), marine/army/outdoorsman type guy Jake Rockwell was the ground bound heavy artillery and marine biologist Max Ray fought the underwater battles. The team was supported by Crystal Kane, who ran the Sky Vault space station and teleported the three and their necessary equipment wherever they needed to be. This show was never going to get an A+ for original names, but the animation was a step or two above other shows of the day and they recruited some heavy science fiction names to write some compelling and complex stories (which occasionally flirted with some issues that had real gravitas).

7.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987-1993): Based on the popular indie (and much darker) comic book series of the same name, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles exploded worldwide in the late 80’s and could be caught on TVs after school until 1993. Following four turtles mutated into humanoid form by a mysterious ooze and were instructed in the ways of nin-jitsu by their mutated rat sensei, the series ran for an incredible ten seasons, making it the longest running show on this list. The Turtles could be seen on both weekday afternoons and Saturday mornings for a few years before moving exclusively to Saturdays in 1993 before wrapping up in November of 1996. Even though it was most of the same creators and voice talent, I didn’t find the Saturday morning cartoons to be as entertaining as the ones you could catch between Monday and Friday. The whole title had to be toned down and kiddified from the violent black and white comic book series created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird a few years earlier, and it seemed that the Saturday cartoons went another step or two in subduing the property. For my money, the weekday Heroes in a Half Shell offered a stronger (and funnier) dose of escapism.

A fun fact is the only reason the show came about was to satisfy the company TMNT creators were negotiating with for the lucrative toy license. Playmate toys was concerned that the Turtles initial audience wouldn’t be large enough to make a toy line worth their while and asked Mirage Studios (publishers of the comic and run by Eastman and Laird) to secure a cartoon show agreement first. And thus the cartoon was born and for the better part of the next decade, Playmate would co-operate with whoever held the cartoon license (there were more then one) to create and market new toys. Capitalism at its goddamn, animated finest.

6.  He-Man and The Masters of The Universe (1983-1985): This show combined high fantasy, science fiction, public service announcements, inter-dimensional travel and dozens of alien races into one half hour bundle of animated goodness. I mean, He-Man turned his pet cat into a giant green, armour wearing, talking tiger with attitude and he rode that mofo into battle. How could you not love this show? Plus, the concept of a clumsy slacker prince Adam turning into the most powerful man in the universe (and you just know every female on his native Eternia swooned when he flexed those cosmic muscles) was especially attractive to little boys desperate for a role model. And the first time I saw Skeletor, He-Man’s primary nemesis and the show’s chief villain, with his naked skull floating inside the shadows of his cowl? Scared my little toddler socks clean off. As far as cartoon villains went, Skeletor was the original Man, predating the likes of Megatron, Cobra Commander and Mum-Ra. Skeletor not only set the standard for looking scary, but also for failing spectacularly and passing the buck onto an underling or minion when it happened (which was a lot). The idea of using the show to market the toys was so controversial at the time (England wouldn’t allow British broadcasters to air commercials for the toy line during the show’s commercial breaks) that producers included public service announcements to ease parental concerns. It was possibly the first time this was done on a regular basis, setting yet another example for future shows.

5.  Thundercats (1985-1989): Speaking of high fantasy and science fiction, Thundercats was another show I ate up as a kid. The fact that my favourite animals were (and still are) large hunting cats just made this show even cooler. Fleeing their doomed home world, the Thundercats (feline humanoids) take to the stars in search of a new home. Attacked by the Mutants of Plun-Darr, most of the Thundercats fleet is destroyed and their remaining ship damaged. Fortunately, the surviving ship contains Lion-O, the heir to the Thundercats throne, and the magical Sword of Omens, the greatest weapon of the Thundercat civilization. Lion-O and his small band of comrades crash land on Third Earth (don’t ask because I genuinely don’t know) and begin settling this strange new planet as a new home. But a band of Mutants have also become stranded on Third Earth, and everyone’s arrival awakens Mumm-Ra, a demon as ancient as he is powerful (and Skeleton had nothing on this dude in the bowel emptying department). Hijinks then ensue. What was cool about this show wasn’t so much the themes and ideas it embraced, but that the storytelling matured with the show and the fourth and final season was actually written to conclude most outstanding plot points (and in a curious plot twist for a kids cartoon, the scary-evil Mumm-Ra was elevated /promoted to virtual godhood). One weird bit of trivia, for the first half of the show’s first episode, the show’s entire cast of Thundercat characters was naked. Completely. Even the female Cheetara. They didn’t discover clothes until the end of their entire freaking planet. Talk about your bacon grease burns.

4.  G.I. Joe (1985-1986): When Hasbro decided to re-imagine and re-launch the G.I. Joe toy line in the early 80’s, they were at a loss how to market it. According to legend, a chance meeting between the head honchos of Hasbro toys and Marvel comics in a men’s room in 1982 launched the Joe army as its known today. It was decided that instead of making uniform soldiers, the new toys would focus on individual characters with unique training, skills, weapons, personalities and looks and virtually all of the Joes (and their villains) we knew and loved in the 80’s were the brainchild of Marvel comics. This expanding mythology lent itself perfectly to an animated show produced by the Sunbow animated branch of Marvel and after airing two popular five episode mini-series in 1983 and 84 respectfully, a full fledged after school cartoon was launched in 1985 and aired 95 episodes over the course of two seasons.

Sharing the same block as Hasbro’s other mega-franchise, the Transformers, G.I. Joe gave us daily doses of black and white patriotism as Duke, Flint, Lady J, Snake Eyes and the other Real American Heroes went head to head with the global terrorist organization known as Cobra, lead by the most disrespected and incompetent leader in the history of animation, Cobra Commander. I didn’t realize it until a few years ago when I caught a few Joe episodes on Teletoon Retro that G.I. Joe was also kind of racist; Roadblock, the most popular black character, communicated strictly in rap and rhyme while Asian and First Nations characters spoke with stereotypical accents and couldn’t properly use pronouns. Fortunately none of that found its way into my cortex, but I do remember the PSAs added to the end of every episode, and much like those included in every episode of He-Man and She-Ra, these were to help ease parental concerns over marketing WMDs to eight year olds. G.I. Joe’s PSAs forever embedded the catch phrase “Knowing is half the battle!” into pop culture’s lexicon. A movie was eventually produced, explaining the origins of both Cobra and Cobra Commander and starring the voice of Don Johnson, but given how Transformers The Movie and the My Little Pony movies underperformed at the box office, it was broken up into a final five episode mini-series that acted as the show’s swan song. To think, all of that because a couple of moguls shared side-by-side urinals. Apparently a full bladder is the other half of the battle.

3.  Batman the Animated Series (1992-1995): Coinciding with the release of Tim Burton’s Batman Returns in 1992, Batman TAS literally started an explosion in comic book media. It was grim, gritty and darker then anything ever seen before. In fact, uber-producers Bruce Timm and Paul Dini had to deflect criticism over the show’s more action-oriented approach from Fox studio executives until the first episode aired to critical acclaim and gave them some breathing room. The show made Kevin Conroy, who voiced the Dark Knight, a star (Conroy has voiced Batman in cartoons, animated movies and video games for over twenty years now and is a fixture on the convention circuit) and made Mark Hamill the definitive Joker in an entire generation’s minds. The show’s art-noir style was even given it’s own name, Dark Deco, and the show, along with the two Burton movies, salvaged Batman as the greatest comic icon in the world, and allowed him to weather the crimes against cinema that were the Joel Schumacher films that nearly killed the franchise. It also launched an entire animated universe for DC comics, including the Superman Animated Series, Justice League and the legion of direct to DVD/Blu-ray releases DC has successfully unleashed over the past decade. In fact, one could argue that if it hadn’t been for Timm and Dini’s barrel chested, square jawed Batman and his dark and stylized Gotham city, we may not even be enjoying the tidal wave of billion dollar comic book movies that’s helping keep Hollywood afloat these days.

2.  Gargoyles (1994-1996): While Batman did its fair share of revolutionizing animated fare, Disney’s Gargoyles proved that you could also produce a smart, slick fantasy show with an original story, deep characters and good storytelling. No one had seen anything like this from Disney. In fact, no one had seen anything like Gargoyles at all. The show followed a clan of Gargoyles, lead by the majestic Goliath, who found themselves in modern New York City following a thousand year hibernation after being betrayed by the humans they once protected in medieval Scotland. Turning to stone during the day, Goliath and his small family of winged warriors are forced to adapt to a bizarre new world, making allies and enemies alike and they eventually adopt the Big Apple as their new home, protecting it from corporate barons, evil Gargoyles, robots, rogue sorcerers, aliens, werewolves, cyborgs and just about anything else, including the kitchen sink. Their stomping ground eventually moved beyond New York to the entire planet as the show mined just about every major mythology for story ideas that were always fresh (in one episode, Goliath would wind up standing toe-to-toe with Odin the All Father from Norse mythology-and would hold his ground). For the most part, the art was light years beyond anything else and the storytelling was smart and complex. The show’s writers created a genuine mythology and infused the characters with legitimate pathos, depth and humanity. A couple of the show’s recurring villains wound up being redeemed, while others who skated the thin line between hero and villain wound up going over to the dark side in hardcore fashion. It wasn’t uncommon to see the heroes make bone headed decisions either, and then struggle with the fallout. Ironically, despite everything the show had going for it (including Disney’s hype machine), the show was only mildly successful, but the voice cast included just about everyone who ever starred on a Star Trek show whose last name wasn’t Stewart over the course of the show’s two seasons and 65 episodes. There was a third season that aired on Saturday mornings, but it was a pale imitation of the previous two and was disowned by series creator and chief writer Greg Weiseman (who had nothing to do with the third season at all). Despite the show’s brief run and lukewarm ratings, it was a critical success, appears on many all time top ten lists and maintains a strong and devoted following online nearly two decades after it went off the air.

1.  The Transformers (1984-1988): Was there any doubt?  From the moment I got my first Transformer (the Decepticon jet Thundercracker) I was hooked on the robots in disguise worse then Rob Ford on crack pipes and all-you-can-eat buffets. There was something about this property that excited my imagination more then anything else before or after. A race of sentient robots divided into two warring factions (the valiant Autobots and evil Decepticons) whose ancient war came to an unsuspecting and unprepared Earth, there wasn’t anything else as original, as dynamic to my blossoming imagination. But this is the show I rushed home to watch every afternoon and committed large portions to memory. Another brainchild of the creative and marketing relationship between Hasbro toys and Marvel Comics, Transfomers was the dominant property for years, not just appearing on toy shelves but on just about everything else under God’s great blue sky. Clothes, posters, trading cards, sticker albums, bed sheets, wall paper, board games, pencil cases, I’m pretty sure there was even a Transformers breakfast cereal somewhere. Which just goes to show I wasn’t the only Transformers geek demanding my parents spend an ungodly amount of money on Dinobot merchandise.

Airing 98 episodes over four seasons (the fourth season was really just a three episode mini-series) and with a pretty kick ass (though financially disappointing) theatrical release in the summer of ‘86, this is actually one of those shows that didn’t age well. The animation was sub-par, the stories were actually pretty meh and the dialogue could only be appreciated by a ten year old. And yet, I have a Grand Canyon sized soft spot for Transformers that I just can’t overcome. It’s big enough that it forces me to reluctantly accept the Michael Bay movies as not being crap (except the second one, even I couldn’t possibly tolerate that cinematic stench). For some reason, Transformers is my intellectual kryptonite, and it all started with this show. But you know what? It’s a pretty cool cross to bear.

Now pass my Christmas Wish Book.

Shayne Kempton




So here we are, the home stretch of Ontario’s latest election campaign, and right on cue the major media outlets have begun their customary endorsements of candidates, defending their selections in the editorial pages and offering reasons why you should vote for them. The words “hold your nose and vote for” have been busier then a mall Santa on Christmas Eve and given that tomorrow’s voter turnout is expected to be on the wrong side of a record low, just about anything could happen. Tim Hudak’s Conservatives could replace the governing Liberals with a majority or Kathleen Wynne could well return to office with a minority government (meaning we’ll be in this exact same spot in another two years or less). Voter turnout in 2011’s Ontario election was an anemic 49.2%- breaking the previous record low of 52.8% set in 2007-and this year’s turnout is expected to preserve the trend of declining voter participation.

And who can blame Ontario voters? This is perhaps the most underwhelming provincial campaign in recent memory and I’ve both spoken to and heard a lot of voters who are ready to throw their arms up in exasperated defeat, ones who can’t bing themselves to vote for the detested and despised “other party” but have completely lost both faith and confidence in their regular party of choice. If Elections Ontario allowed pollsters to list “none of the above” as a polling option, you could bet that the Big Three Party leaders would all be trailing the Invisible Man by a country mile.   I would never presume to tell someone how to vote (and I don’t believe any media organization should either) and as a political independent, I can’t sympathize as much with voters who have spent the majority of their lives voting one way but now face voting another out of disgust and disillusionment. But I do have some advice that I’d like to share after a quick recap of why we find ourselves in this situation.

Kathleen Wynne and her Liberals are dragging more baggage in this election than Jacob Marley in a Christmas Carol. Everything from Dalton McGuinty’s litany of broken promises on taxes (“I will not raise your taxes,” “Ok, this time I’m serious, I won’t raise your taxes,” “OK, I can’t say it again with a straight face, but look, I keep getting elected so whose really to blame here?”) to a non-stop parade of scandals, from eHealth to the Ornge Helicopters fiasco to the current gas plant nonsense. I’ve argued that the reason McGuinty was re-elected twice since he started lying to Ontario voters in 2003 was that he faced weak competition who giftwrapped the subsequent elections for him (whether it was John Tory inadvertently galvanizing Ontario’s Islamaphobia against the Conservatives with his multi-faith schools in 2007 or Tim Hudak’s 2011 economic platform that was so bland that even the staunchly conservative Sun Media refused to endorse him). And while Wynne has been able to deflect some of that pressure by pointing out she wasn’t in charge when Dalton was doing his best impersonation of Pinnochio, she was still pretty high up on the food chain for some of it. In the eight years McGuinty was Premier, the Liberals doubled Ontario’s debt and saying that the Provincial Liberals have a spending problem is like saying that Rob Ford only likes seconds once in a while. Wynne promises to balance the budget by 2018, but the simple fact is that the Liberals never passed a balanced budget under McGuinty (even before the Great Recession of 2008) and they have zero economic credibility as a result of their overspending and fast and loose approach to campaign promises.

And that sound you heard during the opening days of the campaign? That was the sound of any Public Sector employee in Ontario who was even remotely considering voting for Conservative leader Tim Hudak changing their mind at warp speed. Hudak came out of the Blue corner swinging, offering an economic platform of severe job cuts and austerity measures to cure Ontario’s addictions to deficits and combat it’s enormous debt. Hudak’s formula (and platform) is pretty straight forward-the money Ontario would save by cutting 100,000 public sector jobs over the next two years (some through attrition, though no one knows how many) would cover a proposed 30% cut in the corporate tax rate, and that tax break combined with other deregulations would allow a slumbering private sector to awaken like a hungry, angry bear, creating a million private jobs over the next eight years. But Conservatives are usually the first ones to tell you that governments can’t guarantee job growth in the private sector, and one only has to look at our neighbours to the south to see that even when they have money, it isn’t unusual for companies to stubbornly refuse investing in a larger workforce (American corporations are enjoying record profits despite the lingering effects of the 2008 collapse, yet employment levels remain largely stagnant). And you can ask our friends in Europe how deep austerity cuts usually only result in swollen unemployment and stressed social safety nets. Ontario is already one of the most hospitable places for corporations in North America and big companies are the last people who need a tax cut, let alone a 30% one. The truth of the matter is that corporations hate spending on labour (and would scrap the minimum wage in a heartbeat if they could) and the Conservatives haven’t offered any backup plans if some corporations decided to simply pocket the tax savings. And while Hudak pledged not to include doctors or police officers in his cuts, he almost eagerly admitted that teachers would find themselves in his pink slip crosshairs (what is it with Conservatives and teachers?). Just to put his proposed cuts into perspective, the number of jobs Hudak could lay his hands on is about 650,000, so his cuts would result in a sudden reduction of over 15% of the public sector (which would wreak incredible havoc on the services affected), and between 1.5 and 2% of the province’s entire workforce. While the PS is admittedly more swollen then Justin Bieber’s ego, the idea of putting a tens of thousands of people out of work over the next two years doesn’t sound like it’s merely throwing a monkey wrench into a fragile consumer economy so much as it’s dropping an anvil laced with nitro glycerin on top of it. The math Hudak used to formulate his platform (which has been endorsed by a very, very far-right, anti-union American economist) has already been questioned by a number of experts and he’s already found himself on the defensive over reductions to local spending, primarily Phase 2 of Ottawa’s LRT (part of his plan includes reduced funding to municipalities). It’s no surprise that labour unions began mobilizing against Hudak as soon as the writ hit the fan and this is the first time I’ve seen advertising that doesn’t endorse any one particular candidate or party, but rather implores you to vote against one, in this case Hudak’s Conservatives (the City of Ottawa recently ordered that particular advertising removed). Hudak’s cuts have been described as more draconian then former Ontario Premier Mike Harris’, whose reign was filled with more strikes then a Major League baseball game, and he’s been described as a meaner sequel to Harris himself.

And what to say about Andrea Horwath and the NDP? She’s easily the biggest riddle among the three. Already burdened by criticism for failing to capitalize on the Orange Wave that lead the Federal NDP to record success in the last national election, Horwath decided to trigger all this despite low poll numbers and an empty warchest. Labour unions, the NDP’s main source of support, actually implored her to back the Liberal budget last month. Instead she voted against Wynne’s Liberal government, triggering an election that could see a very union unfriendly Conservative party take provincial power. The NDP platform is little more then a collection of vague offerings beyond raising the minimum wage by an extra dollar over the next two years while giving tax breaks to small and medium sized businesses . You may not like the Liberal or Conservative platforms, but at least they have one. I still can’t make head or tails of the NDP’s pledges. And wouldn’t it stand to reason that if you were the party propping up a government, that you would use that position to your advantage by trading support for concessions that align with your agenda rather then triggering an election when your support is low and your cash even lower? What does Horvath tell the NDP faithful if they wind up with fewer seats and less influence this Friday as a direct result of her decision?

So it’s easy to see why so many voters are willing to throw in the towel. It looks as if plenty are planning on spoiling their ballots or staying home altogether. This truly is a case of choosing the least evil. So my advice? Forget the talking heads. Ignore the party leaders. Not one of them has earned your respect or admiration. Instead, use the remaining time to check out what your riding’s candidates have had to say. And don’t let yourself get blinded by the party mantras that so many like to retreat behind. We all know what Kathleen Wynne plans on doing for the province, but what about Ottawa? What about your riding? Would a Conservative government pledge funding to prevent millions of litres of raw sewage from flooding into the Ottawa River every time it rains? And look beyond the rhetoric. After all, the Liberals have promised for years to help clean up Ottawa’s river yet haven’t delivered. It may well be time to abandon the Big Three altogether. Don’t ignore independent or non-mainstream candidates. Worse things could happen then electing either the Conservatives or Liberals to a minority government and allowing a handful of independents to hold the decisive balance of power. After all, what sort of message would it send to the Three Party Leaders if a sizeable chunk of Ontario voters rejected them and their party lines? This is the only time politicians truly listen or care to what the electorate has to say, so instead of staying home or spoiling your ballot, use your vote to send a message. People constantly complain that the system is broken, that it’s stacked against the “little guy,” and those arguments have plenty of merits, but every once in a while we have a chance to shout at the bureaucrats who like to talk over our heads. Every once in a while they need us, and here in Ontario, tomorrow is that time. So vote. And make it count.

Shayne Kempton




Pacific Rim Locandina

Pacific Rim Locandina (Photo credit: Debris2008)

Depending on the calendar on your wall or the time zone where you live, you probably said farewell to the summer of 2013 a few weeks ago (but here in the Nations’ Capital, Mother Nature seems to be suffering a mild case of weather dyslexia and you’d be forgiven for feeling a bit confused for having wished summer a bon voyage lately).  The end of summer is a bittersweet time for movie fans because it usually means the year’s supply of big blockbusters is almost exhausted, although 2013 still has a handful of interesting titles for all movie fans up its sleeve (and don’t forget, we’re entering awards season-when studios like to showcase their Oscar worthy efforts without having to compete with the noise of the billion dollar franchises and popcorn spectacles).  But the fact remains that as far as most movie fans are concerned, from the beginning of May to the end of August is when we spend most of our movie going dollars.  So I thought I’d take this opportunity to sum up my favorite movies from this past summer, as well as a few forgettable ones.  I wrote reviews on most of them, and while time has a habit of altering perspectives, it didn’t really change my views on most of these titles.  I still plan on adding some to my home collection while avoiding others like Miley Cyrus’ inevitable collection of STDs (that poor, poor foam finger).

Favourite Animated Movie:  Despicable Me 2

I’m a huge fan of the first and while I went into the theatre worried that the sequel may prove inferior, I came out more in love with the franchise then before.  Watching a domesticated Gru wrestle with the challenges of raising three girls (including one whose just discovered boys) while becoming a villain hunting spy and navigating his own romantic waters was entertaining in its own right.  Watching him cope with all of that WHILE dealing with the antics of his minions was much better.  It’s common knowledge that the real stars of the franchise are the little yellow agents of mischievous comedy and you can bet that Gru’s minions get some special treatment in Despicable Me 2’s DVD/Blu-Ray release (the little yellow rascals have already snagged themselves a spinoff movie starring Hollywood’s sweet heart Sandra Bullock tentatively scheduled for summer of 2015).

Blu-Ray/DVD Release:  December 10th, 2013

 Favourite Comedy:  The Heat

Fair warning-if you have sensitive ears or are offended by swearing, DO NOT see this movie.  This profanity laced girl buddy cop movie makes shameless use of just about every dirty word in the book (and makes up some new ones along the way).  That being said, the chemistry between stars Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy was hilarious and it isn’t tough to imagine director Paul Feig simply setting up the shot and letting his two female leads improvise each and every scene.  The movie was a financial hit and was so popular Twentieth Century Fox green lit an unexpected sequel shortly after The Heat’s release.

Blu-Ray/DVD Release Date:  October 15th, 2013

Favourite Comic Book Movie:  Red 2

Sorry Man of Steel and Iron Man 3, Red 2 gets the nod as my favorite comic book movie of the summer of 2013.  Based on the Dark Horse comic of the same name, this sequel to the 2010 sleeper hit reunites Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Mary Louise Parker and the rest of the surviving gang of Retired yet Extremely Dangerous CIA operatives from the original.  Framed and one the run, the Red group travel the globe in an attempt to prove their innocence while saving the world.  Like The Heat, it’s the chemistry between the film’s stars, most of them established screen legends, that makes this movie work.  And if there was an Oscar for Best Scene Stealer, Malkovich would walk away with it hands down for his portrayal of the deadly yet hilariously unstable Martin.

Blu-Ray/DVD Release Date:  November 26th, 2013

Favourite Popcorn Movie:  Pacific Rim

The plot is fairly simple, enormous alien monsters called the Kaiju are invading the Earth through an inter-dimensional portal at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.  Mankind defends itself with giant 250 foot tall robots called Jaegers.  It’s giant Monsters vs. giant Robots.  Got it?  Good, because Pacific Rim doesn’t take itself seriously and it doesn’t expect you to either.  Watching Idris Elba chew up the screen as the gruff Stacker Pentecost is a nice little sidebar, but after that, Pacific Rim is sheer spectacle on an epic scale (during one momentous battle scene, a Jaeger uses an entire train as a baseball bat, knocking a Kaiju the size of a mountain flying).  If there was one movie where you could comfortably check your brain at the door and kick back with a giant size bag of popcorn this summer, it was Pacific Rim.

Blu-Ray/DVD Release Date:  October 15th, 2013

Scariest Movie:  The Conjuring

There wasn’t exactly a lot of horror fare this summer, but trust me when I say The Conjuring made up for the absence of other scary flicks.  Loosely based on a true story, the Conjuring follows infamous paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren as they investigate a haunted house in Rhode Island.  The would be ghost hunters quickly discover that this house is unlike anything they’ve ever seen and soon, the supernatural gloves come off in a no holds barred battle royal.  Take the “real story” bit with a strong helping of salt; despite the movie’s ending, the house’s real life residents claim that the Warrens’ attempts to clean the house made the haunting worse (yet they continued to live there for years afterwards).  But be that as it may, I consider myself a bit of a jaded horror movie vet and I jumped at least once.  The Conjuring is perhaps the most efficient horror movie in years.

Blu-Ray/DVD Release Date:  October 22, 2013

Worst Movie:  The Lone Ranger and R.I.P.D

We have a tie.  The Lone Ranger and R.I.P.D. were both really, really, REALLY bad.  Having seen the two of them back to back, I honestly can’t say which one was worse, so they get to share this honour.

Disney gambled that simply duplicating the formula of their Pirates of the Caribbean franchise would also duplicate it’s box office numbers as well.  So they reunited star Johnny Depp, director Gore Verbinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer, replaced the ships with trains and the pirates with cowboys and stuck the whole shebang in the American Old West.  What they got was the biggest bomb of the year.  Plagued with problems when it began production years ago, The Lone Ranger was immediately reviled by critics and audiences alike.  Outside of a few memorable comedic moments by Depp (whose casting as Tonto, the most famous First Nations warrior in movie history, was an early source of controversy and bad press), the Lone Ranger was a failure on every level.  The action was uninspired (not the best sign for an action movie), the hero a stumbling putz (making his transformation into a man of action an even tougher sell) and the plot pedestrian and predictable.  Depp and co-star Armie Hammer blamed the movie’s catastrophic performance on critics who gave the movie bad reviews before they even saw it.   Fair enough.  But they didn’t have too much to say about the numerous critics who gave it terrible reviews after they saw it.  While that particular question may have been left unanswered by the movie’s stars and producers, summer movie-goers answered it with their collective absence.

Blu-Ray/DVD Release Date:  December 17th, 2013

            And as far as R.I.P.D. goes, I’m pretty sure that everyone involved in this disaster of a movie was asleep during every step of production.  R.I.P.D. couldn’t decide if it wanted to be a supernatural Men in Black or an updated twist on Ghostbusters and in the end it failed to hold even a candle to either.  Ryan Reynolds played a recently deceased Boston police officer recruited into the Rest In Peace Department, an organization of supernatural peacekeepers keeping the world of the living safe from the world of the dead (earning some much needed karma points along the way).  It was actually a pretty neat little concept and should have made for a decent flick, but unlikeable characters, a thin plot that went MIA at times, absolutely no chemistry between the leads, recycled special effects and clumsy dialogue conspired to make this a memorable piece of pure cinematic manure.

Blu-Ray/DVD Release Date:  October 29th, 2013

Most Disappointing Movie: Kick Ass 2

The original Kick Ass performed humbly at the box office back in 2010, but it’s strong performance on DVD and cable convinced producers to make the graphic novel’s sequel into a movie as well.  Now, those same producers are wishing they had a Delorien to travel back in time and face palm themselves.  The movie performed poorly at the box office despite facing lukewarm competition, and there were no shortage of excuses why it failed to connect with audiences, including fans of the original.  Director Jeff Wadlow didn’t share the same affection for the source material as Kick Ass director Matt Vaughn, Jim Carrey’s refusal to support the movie following a recent barrage of mass shootings (particularly Newtown, Conn.), Chloe-Grace Moretz’s absence from the movie’s panel at Comic Con, etc., etc.  But what it really boiled down is that Kick Ass 2 lacked the same heart as its predecessor.  Vigilante heroes Kick-Ass and Hit Girl returned (sans Big Daddy) to face a villain that was a mere shadow of Mark Strong’s mob boss from the first movie (it’s often said that a hero is defined by the villains he fights; the villain in Kick Ass 2 was a whiny little rich kid who masturbated too much).  There was no excitement of discovery in their characters, and watching hit Girl spend most of the movie trying to overcome high school angst got pretty thin, pretty quick (although the cafeteria scene will more than satisfy anyone’s high school revenge fantasies).  Kick Ass 2 wasn’t a bad movie per se, but it was a big steaming pile of meh.

Blu-Ray/DVD Release Date:  To Be Determined

Most Controversial:  Man of Steel

Man of Steel has made a lot of money (just shy of 663 million worldwide to date), yet for every dollar it’s raked in, it’s been spat on at least twice.  I enjoyed Man of Steel for one big reason, I finally got my over the top, climactic fight scene where the battle between Superman and the movie’s villain (in this case, a genocidal General Zod) was so epic it leveled an entire city.  But the rampant destruction of a fictional Metropolis was just one of many reasons countless Superman fans despised the movie.  For months, movie message boards and online forums were filled with venom and contempt and shameless verbal cancer and Man of Steel could easily qualify for the Most Hated Successful Movie of all time, let alone 2013.  The best compliment I heard from one of Big Blue’s fans was that Man of Steel was a good action movie, but a horrible Superman one.  That seemed to sum up the best many fans had to say about the movie.  And don’t think for a second that studio heads didn’t notice the furious fan backlash.  A theory currently making the rounds is that the contempt from many corners of comic fandom was what convinced Warner Brothers to include a re-booted Batman in the next Superman movie, using the established Bat property like a crutch.  The theory has some serious merit; there were legions of fans so turned off by Man of Steel that they vowed never to see the inevitable sequel, but you can bet every human being with access to a Cineplex will be going to see the Batman/Superman movie in 2015.   Now the question is, will Batman fans be just as equally pissed off in two years time?  The entire internet practically lost its mind when it was announced that Ben Affleck had been cast as the next Batman; which is either brilliant marketing to keep people talking about the movie a full two years before it’s release, or the first step in a full cinematic meltdown.  Time will tell.

Blu-Ray/DVD Release Date:  November 12th, 2013.

Shayne Kempton



English: Oven roasted turkey, common fare for ...

English: Oven roasted turkey, common fare for Christmas and Thanksgiving celebrations. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


     Thanksgiving is a longstanding tradition in Canada. Every year on the second Monday of October, people join their families to celebrate the harvest. It is a day for reflection upon the year and giving thanks for all you have and for all the good that the year has given you. This is the perception that we have of Thanksgiving. It is the traditional image of the holiday that we still hold dear however no longer live by. Thanksgiving has merely become just another long weekend, however with a delicious twist. The vernacular of the day has even changed to reflect this shift. You would be hard pressed to hear a sincere ‘Happy Thanksgiving’ nowadays. These words seem to be limited to greeting cards and sale signs. They have steadily been replaced with the gluttonous greeting of ‘Happy Turkey Day’. In this new greeting we can see the emerging face of today’s Thanksgiving.

Turkey! This is the image of Thanksgiving. It was my image of Thanksgiving for years. As soon as October began, I started to look forward to the day when I would get to have a nice turkey dinner with all the fixings on the side and a delicious pumpkin pie for dessert and if I was really ambitious, a slice of apple pie too. I would even become giddy at the thought of left over turkey. My mother always bought an extra large bird just so we could have turkey sandwiches, hot and cold, for the rest of the week. I still have images of my various family members sprawled out on the couch and in chairs after dinner suffering from overeating and in a turkey induced comma. This was my Thanksgiving and several of my friends experienced and continue to have the exact same holiday. What exactly are we thankful for? Well, the answer is simple. We are thankful for turkey.

This will be my first Thanksgiving home since I left five years ago. As I watch my family scramble around to get all the fixings for Thanksgiving dinner I can see that nothing has really changed and I expect it will be the same this year as it was before. However, there is one difference of note and that has to do with me. A lot has changed for me in the five years I have been gone and one of the largest changes is with my eating habits. I am now a vegan. I eat nothing from an animal: no meat, no eggs, and no dairy. This is a lifestyle choice that I have made and that my family supports, even if they don’t quite understand it.

As my first Thanksgiving in five years fast approaches I find myself re-examining what the holiday actually means to me. Of course, it no longer means turkey. The thought of saying ‘Happy Turkey Day’ now seems a bit strange and ‘Happy Tofurkey Day’ just seems ridiculous. So I have gone back to ‘Happy Thanksgiving’. This has caused me to ask myself, what is Thanksgiving if it’s no longer turkey? I find myself looking to the traditional idea of Thanksgiving and the name itself. The day is for giving thanks; to be thankful for what you have, what you have gotten, and what you will get. This idea means more to me than the turkey ever did. Don’t get me wrong, I am still looking forward to Thanksgiving dinner, even though the turkey no longer interests me and I can’t eat most of the other dishes because they have some form of dairy in them. Instead, what I’m looking forward to most is spending some quality time with my family and friends, who I am truly thankful for.

My veganism has led me back to the true meaning of Thanksgiving for me, which was once hidden behind the turkey. I think everyone could do with stepping back from the turkey (or the tofurkey), if only for a second, and re-examining what Thanksgiving means to them and what they are truly thankful for.

Carol Dunn