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Warning: strpos() [function.strpos]: needle is not a string or an integer in /nfs/c05/h04/mnt/72829/domains/warrenkinsella.com/html/oldsite/index.php on line 61 Warren Kinsella - DOUGLAS H. CHRISTIE
"...[Kinsella is] a modern-day Machiavelli, the mastermind who ran war rooms for Jean Chretien and Dalton McGuinty... He's the ultimate political insider... [The War Room] has plenty of fascinating insights and is a must-read for political junkies."
- The Toronto Sun
"The top Canadian spin doctor...tells all!"
- The National Post
"Warren Kinsella’s new book is a must-read for anyone interested in political campaigning in Canada. And not just political campaigning.…I wish I’d had the chance to read The War Room before I became Stephen Harper’s campaign manager; it might have saved me from many mistakes and months of painful learning on the job."
- Tom Flanagan, The Literary Review of Canada
"The War Room is a rich, detailed, and substantive primer on how to run a winning war room - warts, pizza boxes, smelly couches and all - from a master war roomer."
- The Hill Times
"Kinsella has crafted a handy little guide for politicos and non-politicos alike. Just keep it away from the kids."
- The Winnipeg Free Press
"... a great read ... full of fascinating stories..."
- John Moore, CFRB
"...I don't want to say [he's a] genius...but there's valuable insights here..."
- John Oakley, AM640
"I just got one copy, but I plan to get more!"
- John Wright, Ipsos, CFRB
"I do recommend [The War Room] to everyone."
- Charles Adler, Adler Online
"He's Canada's James Carville...a must-read...If you really want to win, you need this book!"
It is time, O me droogies. Time for the annualized and eminently-forgettable review of the preceding year’s waxings. Dom and Scott, rest easy. The appointed day has come 'round.
What kind of year was it, musically? Well, not so shit-hot, actually. No revolutions commenced, no lives were improved or even changed. No fun, my babe. But some good stuff rose to the surface of the otherwise fetid rawk-and-role pit. Ten things, in fact. Herewith and heretofore, here they be:
1. Son Volt - The Search: Here I go again, being contrarian, picking a relatively-obscure alt-country group as the authors of the year’s masterpiece. So I love punk; so I like stuff that is really fast and loud. So ‘The Search’ has pianos and steel guitars on it, and is pretty quiet. So what? Jay Farrar’s group, like Kings of Leon (see below) bring out my Inner Calgarian - all of that driving a back road in the Summer stuff, late in the day, windows down, listening to ‘Action’ on the radio: “Riding waves of sound, 300 mile from Metropolitan…Grapes of wrath all around, riding waves of sound.” It’s fiercely political, these particular waves of sound, but no raging polemic: Farrar opposes the war in Iraq, and Bush, and consumerism and America’s excesses (and ours too, I suppose, because Son Volt is well-loved up here, and he knows the place better than many Canadians), but without losing his temper about it all. Make you think, make tunes that you will listen to forever? That he does.
2. Bad Religion - New Maps of Hell: When I picked it up at my favourite record shop in July (yes, indeed, I still actually buy CDs, because I like to hold them, and look at them, and because I find downloading way too illusory), the clerk said to me it was their best since ‘Suffer.’ After spinning it for my daughter and I quite a few times, I’d say that's about right - but it’s also a clear continuation of the themes found in 2005's epic ‘The Empire Strikes First,’ which I (and my daughter) regard as one of the best punk records ever made. From the start, with the sonic barrage of ’52 Seconds’ (which is just that), to the conclusion nearly an hour later, these guys - aging punks as they are - are just, like, totally pissed off about the state of America and the planet. And they clearly do not intend to enrol in anger management classes anytime soon. Hearing the power of this record, you will agree that can only be a good thing. Rage forever.
3. Against Me! - New Wave: Yes, yes, I know. I remember. When it came out in the Summer, this is what I wrote, in an open letter to a fellow Against Me! fanatic: “I've interviewed the band three times, and seen them more times than that, and - as you also know - I consider Against Me! to literally have the power to change rock'n'roll (which matters, because I still believe rock'n'roll can better lives). I think Searching For A Former Clarity is one of the most amazing records ever made. It is a soul-saver.” Then I went on about the record: “There are moments of greatness, here and there, like 'White People For Peace,' which they played last time they were in town. There's also ‘New Wave,’ which kicks off the album. There's 'Thrash Unreal,' which is, and whose words are - like most of Tom Gabel's words - completely extraordinary, and in which he (gallantly) comes to the defence of an aging addict, dancing alone in a grimy bar to Billy Idol songs..." But then, my bitterly-disappointed conclusion: “This is what it sounds like when giants fall down.” But…you know what? I, and everyone I know (and even Bruce Springsteen, most famously) listened to it all Summer and Fall. And we are still listening to it. There are some stinker tracks on it, yes. But that’s why God invented the "Fast Forward” button. The rest of it remains the purest of pure genius. And I still love this band.
4. Liars - Liars: If you grew old with me (never an easy thing, ask my gal), you would know that - in between the endless punk rock fundamentalism - could sometimes be heard the stylings of Pere Ubu, the second Public Image album, Angelo Badalamenti soundtracks, Walter/Wendy Carlos stuff, and lots and lots of Pavement (the band, not the stuff you skateboard on). In that space, now, can also be found the Liars: singer Angus Andrew, multi-instrumentalist Aaron Hemphill, and drummer Julian Gross. They are God-like geniuses, the Liars, because they do things that nobody else does. (Angus used to date Wendy O, and made her cool. She moved to Los Angeles. R.I.P., Wendy.) It’s not rock’n’roll, this record, but the kick-off, ‘Plaster Casts of Everything,’ is probably the best rock driving song ever, especially if you are popping…well, you know. (The video, one of the best of 2007 and which makes David Lynch seem conventional, is here.) Astonishing. Words cannot prepare you for it. No lie.
5. The Good, The Bad and the Queen: The eponymous LP by a punk-alt supergroup that, improbably, meets expectations. How? When I interviewed the band’s bassist, Paul Simonon, earlier this year, I asked him what his former Clash bandmate, Joe Strummer, would think about his new band. I suggested to him that a lot of the record has echoes of Joe's work in the Mescaleros. Sounding a bit sad, Simonon said: “I wouldn’t really know…I couldn’t really say, objectively. We were both in the Clash, and we both had a strong interest, an eccentric interest, in all different types of music.” So I pushed him: what Joe would think about the tunes? Said Simmo: “I think he’d probably quite like it. In a way, it’s a musical poem, and I assume he would like it. It’s music that might have tugged at the strings of his heart and his emotions.” And that, I’d say, is certainly true. The record is indeed poem-like - it floats, it shimmers, but it still rocks where required. Joe would like it, and I think you will too.
6. Queens of the Stone Age - Era Vulgaris: The best hard rock band on the planet; SFH saw them open for Nine Inch Nails, and lead QOTSA man Josh Homme (figuratively) flung us around like rag dolls. His guitar, too (literally). ‘Sick Sick Sick’ is my cell phone ringtone. Homme is a fucking genius. Funny, fast, furious.
7. Arcade Fire - Neon Bible: Because I am a punk rock snob (that is, suspicious of anything that is popular) with an antipathy to cultural nationalism (that is, CanCon rules and the Canada Council, because I think we are all good enough already), I at first resisted these Montrealers. Was everyone going ga-ga over them because they were (mostly) home-grown? Was their first album the high-water mark, never to be repeated? The answer, obviously, is no on both counts. They really are terrific - and this new record is as good as the first one, and it was very good. Stand-out tracks: 'Black Mirror,' with the Bowie-esque 'Oddity' oddities nailed; 'Keep The Car Running,' explaining why Springsteen hangs with them; 'Intervention,' which sounds like it was recorded in a church (and was). Their nationality is irrelevant. They'd be good if they came from Mars.
8. Kings of Leon - Because of the Times: My daughter loves Bad Religion, my eldest son loves Kings of Leon. It makes for an interesting household. This record was deemed to be the brothers Followill's make-it-or-break-it: I'm not certain if it achieved the sort of commercial success they wanted for it, and I don't care. It sees them finding their way again, after the sort-of heartbreaking moments of 'Aha Shake Heartbreak.' They've ditched most of the lyrical juvenilia, and sound surer of themselves. And, let's face it, it's pretty cool to hear a nine-year-old walking around the house, singing along to the Kings' best-ever tune, 'California Waiting,' without getting a word or note wrong.
9. The Stooges - The Weirdness: Iggy and the Stooges, the brothers Asheton, back after more than three decades! Three decades! And what better way to start things off, than with the subtle, nuanced wordsmithing of 'Trollin',' to wit: "Huh! Woo! Good God! Baby. baby take a look at me...see your long legs ridin' the breeze, I see your hair has energy...My dick is turnin' into a tree." There is a reason why many of us regard James Jewel Osterberg as God. It is because He is.
10. Shit From Hell - The Wheel of Wow: Out soon! Swear! It's our ticket out of this dump! We're gonna be stars! You'll see!
Number one was sort of right - Messrs. Charest and McGuinty did indeed win minorities and majorities, respectively and as predicted. But I was wrong about a federal election. It didn't happen. It wasn't in all the papers, etc. For 2008, now chastened and properly informed, I don't really see a federal election happening at all.
Number two was right - the environment still dominates as an issue. Ample proof of that was found, just a few weeks ago, when John Baird helped to tank his party's national numbers with the policy tomfoolery in Bali. For 2008, then, the environment will continue to dominate. And it must.
Number three - a Dubya foreign policy success - is an arguable point. He could've had one in Bali, but didn't. The much-trumpeted "surge" in Iraq helped contribute to fewer military and civilian deaths, it seems, but it's hardly a foreign policy move. So I'd say I was wrong on this one. 2008's George W. Bush-related prediction: presidentially, his party ain't dead yet. Republicans are better at presidential elections, now.
Number four was right! SFH, our aging punk rock combo, did record another album, thereby shaming our families. We haven't released it yet, however. The plan is to do it online, the CD being fully dead, name-check Radiohead, long tail, blah blah blah, etc. Stay tuned for the release of 'Avril Lavigne Must Die' in 2008!
Number five was the product of hope more than anything else, and I was dead wrong. Osama bin Laden is still at large, still mocking us. 2008 prediction: the United States will continue to preoccupy itself with the country where bin Laden isn't (Iraq) instead of the country where he likely is (Afghanistan). Wrong.
Number six was right. Bloggers are soon to be declared the Pet Rock of the digital age by the mainstream media. While I think such a declaration is premature, there is no question that bloggers are breaking far fewer stories, and having markedly less impact on the public affairs agenda. Bold blogger prediction for 2008: a few of them, somewhere, are going to defy me and break a big story, and shame the MSM. And me.
Number seven, Jean Chrétien winning a major international award, was wrong. His autobiography was a smash bestseller, however, easily clobbering Brian Mulroney's coma-inducing 1,000-page-plus ego wank. 2008 forecast for the latter man: a narrowly-focussed judicial probe into his fondness for receiving cash in hotel rooms, even whilst he was still a Member of Parliament.
Contrary to number eight, no photos of Salinger and Pynchon surfaced. Damn. Unfortunately, no shortage of photos of Britney, Paris, Lindsay and the other charter members of the botoxed, blow-dried, über-bombed Team Airhead were published, however. Expect more of the same in 2008. Sigh.
Number nine was right, I think. Various former associates of Paul Martin have essentially disappeared from public view. How very sad. Their patron, meanwhile, did get into the news in 2007 - when a bunch of trees were illegally cut down to make way for his private golf course. Team Martin prediction for 2008: they will continue to cling to the sides of Stéphane Dion, the zebra mussels of Canadian politics.
Finally, number ten, about boys and girls in school and having difficulty was true, but safe. Equally-safe prediction for 2008: one year from today, pundits will make more dumb year-end predications.
That last prediction, of course, is safe one. You can make it every year.
Christie is daring me to attend New Year's festivities, where she promises she will uncork a few of her favourite Shatnerisms. I, in turn, have taunted her with the knowledge that my gal Santa gave me the Star Trek original series boxed set(s) at Xmas. That exchange led to me watching, just now, the greatest-ever Star Trek episode, number 28, the Hugo Award-winning The City On The Edge Of Forever.
Written by Harlan Ellison, starring a young Joan Collins, it features what I am told is the first-ever utterance of "Hell" in prime-time TV (it was 1966, after all). The final two scenes always give me a lump in my throat, even after seeing them dozens of times. They are found here - and, if there was ever a need for a spoiler alert, this is it:
Two readers write, the first with a response to the posting of a couple days ago - the second asking a question. Who can find the answer?
Greetings Mr. Kinsella,
I’m an avid reader of your blog. I’ve noticed a few recent musings on your part concerning the nature of your blog—wondering both why people read it and whether it’s of any significance greater than as a personal outlet. So, I thought I’d take a moment to tell you both why I read it and what value I see in it.
1. You’re smart. You’re right about blog’s generally providing commentary and not news per se, but for anyone who wants to develop an informed and thoughtful point of view, shrewd and insightful commentary is GOLD. For example, Bhutto’s assassination is tragic. But I need more than mere reporting the facts on the ground to get a greater sense of the significance of both her remarkable life and untimely death. Good bloggers—i.e. thoughtful, articulate folk who know whereof they speak—help fill in the gaps.
2. You’re Liberal. I’ve voted Conservative in the past, but I appreciate hearing informed criticisms of policies that by my lights and at first blush look appealing. Such commentary stimulates the kind of conversations and debates, both public and private, that are good for everybody because they improve the quality of our discourse.
What I’m saying here is that Canadian public life is improved by having smart Liberals in the blogosphere. (Similarly, we’re all better off with access to the contributions of smart Conservative bloggers, as we would be, at least in theory if not in practice, with thoughtful and intelligent NDP blogs.) Now these are noble and high-sounding reasons for reading your blog, but truth be told there’s another strong motivation for my tuning in on a regular basis:
3. You’re pretty damn interesting. You have and continue to run in some reasonably cool circles, and reading your blog provides a window into worlds I’ll probably never know: Chretien-era gov’t., provincial and national campaign war rooms, celebrities—political and otherwise, Ottawa political culture, and ageing-rocker-playing the clubs-scene, to name a few.
And if all of this wasn’t enough, here’s another reason to blog in perpetuity:
4. Paul Martin. You provide on occasion, (mostly) without bias or malice, empirical proof for something most of the rest of us accepted intuitively: as a leader, Paul Martin lacked the gravitas and spine to be Prime Minister.
Best wishes to you and yours,
--Myron A. Penner, PhD.
About 25-27 years ago, on an early Sunday morning ET (which would be very early Las Vegas time), I watched the annual Jerry Lewis telethon on Labour Day weekend. Jerry introduced a punk band called X, who I had never heard-of before, let alone actually heard, and the band tore through Jerry's fundraiser like a weedwhacker in a daisy patch. I can't tell you the name of the song, but I thought it was brilliant, all the more so afterward when Jerry began angrily asking his producers off camera who booked the band. He wasn't kdding, either. He was uberpisssed with a pained and disgusted look on his face, like he'd just been humiliated by Howard Stern fanboy tricksters. Every couple months I'll do a youtube search looking for that clip, but can never find it, and indeed, I can't even find references on google searches about the appearance. Seven or eight years ago I wrote a letter to Cervenka, sending along a photo I took of her on her spoken-word tour with Lydia Lunch, and asked her about the telethon booking, how they got it, what were the backstage reactions, etc., but she never responded. A great rock and roll memory, and I sometimes wonder if it was real or a dream.
For those who have asked, The Top Ten Best Albums of 2007 list is imminent. I have been unavoidably delayed, however, by a small (but getting larger by the minute) mammal now gnawing on one of my limbs.
When something as a monumental as the assassination of Benazir Bhutto takes place - or a public health crisis, or a weather-related disaster, or a big sporting event, or a surprising election result, or some cataclysm - it is not to blogs that people turn. They turn to newspapers (for analysis, and detail), or radio and television (for immediacy, and emotional impact). That will always be so, unless a blogger somehow is found - by happenstance, not design - at the centre of a newsworthy event, like Iraq's Salaam Pax, or one of the Virginia Tech bloggers.
If most blogs are in any way consequential, it is not because they report on news - they merely comment upon it. And if their commentary is somehow noteworthy, it is not usually because it is the product of actual knowledge and experience - they are, too often, shouters on the margins. A vanity press for the deranged, as someone has said before, and not inaccurately.
Thus we see plenty of seething hatred on the Small Brain-dead Animal's site, where Islam is called "the religion of detonation" for "homicidal freaks" - this, despite the fact that Ms. Bhutto was herself a Muslim. This, despite the fact that her career was largely about opposing extreme expressions of hate.
Some bloggers, however, desperately crave attention in the form of page-view statistics. They know they can only get it by saying things that are more and more outside the mainstream. It is simultaneously boring and offensive, if that is possible.
Why, then, does this web site-cum-blog exist? At year's end, and on sad days like this one, it's a fair question. In my case, I have been a diarist since I was 11 years old. I am alleged to have a 1,000-word record of every single day since then, which is useful in litigation if not real life. I write, badly, because I am compelled to write. But one day - someday soon, or maybe not - I will get tired of this web site, and pull the plug. For now, I do it because I enjoy it, not because I am seized by a conviction that an army of bloggers will soon supplant the mainstream media.
When I stop enjoying it, and notwithstanding the kind words occasionally sent my way, I will pull the plug. So it goes.
Having now deconstructed myself and bloggers, I will (typically) reverse myself, and attempt to be of service - by offering the latest wire story on Ms. Bhutto's death.
The blogger's lament - always the mirror, never the image:
Surgeon: slain Pakistani leader Bhutto died of shrapnel wound to the head (Pakistan-Bhutto-Surge) Source: The Canadian Press Dec 28, 2007 8:54
GARHI KHUDA BAKHSH, Pakistan _ The surgeon who treated Benazir Bhutto says she died from a shrapnel wound to the head.
Authorities initially said the slain Pakistani opposition leader died from bullet wounds. But Dr. Mussadiq Khan, a surgeon who treated her, said Friday that she died from shrapnel that hit her on the right side of the skull.
He also says Bhutto had no heart beat or pulse when she arrived at the hospital and that doctors failed in their efforts to resuscitate her.
Bhutto was assassinated while leaving a political rally in Rawalpindi on Thursday.
Her assailant first opened fire on the former prime minister, then blew himself up, killing Bhutto and at least 20 other people.
A Pakistani Interior Ministry spokesman, Javed Iqbal Cheema, also said the medical report on Bhutto indicates that no bullet wound was found on her body. The reason for the discrepancy with the initial reports was not immediately clear.
Well, not just yet. Our convoy arrived in the Eastern Townships late last night, after a long and hairy drive. But we made it.
Merry Christmas to all of you from all of, um, me. I'm not at all certain why you keep visiting this web site, and I'm only passingly familiar with why I still maintain it. But I'm grateful to have made your acquaintance, however distantly.
Be safe, be happy and be healthy. And Merry Christmas!
Joe Strummer passed five years ago today. Because we are doing our food hamper deliveries a bit later than usual, Joe Strummer Night won't be happening. So toast him wherever you are, and watch this if you have a moment. He is missed:
Thirty years ago tonight - thirty years ago! - Alberta's first punk band, the Social Blemishes, were getting ready to take to the stage at Bishop Carroll High School. We were roundly booed, we were mocked, but we were hooked. Three decades later, we are still playing, badly.
Last night, Shit From Hell got together and recalled that historic night. A sampling from that era is found, gratis, here: I Am A Confused Teenager by the Blem's successor combo, the Hot Nasties. (Yes, and that is me singing, at age 17 or thereabouts, in my best fake British accent mode.)
Thirty years of punk rock! Almost time to grow up!