Why do the craziest ones always look like schoolteachers?

Last night we watched our third documentary, Dance With A Serial Killer (hot docs) at the ROM theatre. Quick note about that venue: don’t watch any film there featuring subtitles. It’s practically impossible to read them over/around the person sitting in front of you.

Now then: the documentary. Very interesting, considering it was a 20-year-old case. A woman is murdered on a beach, in broad daylight, with lots of people around, but no apparent killer. The documentary follows the thought process of detective Jean-Francois Abgrall as he ran every lead in search of the murderer. Eventually the investigation focuses on one man, who all but confesses but continues to elude arrest. Finally, after a few years (and another murder) Abgrall gets the man to confess, and he’s eventually convicted of nine killings. Because he only partially confesses to crimes (drawing elaborate, detailed pictures of murder scenes police don’t even ask him about, but then professing not to have been there) and is now very heavily sedated in prison, there’s probably no hope of ever confirming the extent of his killing. Abgrall believes him guilty of fifty, perhaps more.

Remember, this was 1989, so Abgrall wasn’t using computer searches, DNA evidence, fancy-pants CSI labs or anything else. Nor was French law enforcement a great deal of help; indeed, his case would be the cause of some reforms. Abgrall didn’t get into high-speed chases or fire his gun; he used doggedness, ingenuity and a lot of luck to bring down a psychopath.

[tags]dance with a serial killer, hot docs, jean-francois abgrall, francis heaulmes[/tags]

4 down, 12 to go

The Canadiens took game 7 tonight, pounding the Bruins 5-0 to salvage the series win. No one expected the series to last more than five games, but Boston turned the series into an ugly scrap long enough to win three games. Tonight, though, Montreal’s defense and goaltending were stellar, and their skill just took over in the second and third periods.

Not sure yet who Montreal will play in the next round…I guess it’ll be either New York or Philadelphia. I have to say, I’d rather see them face Philadelphia; for that to happen Philly would have to beat Washington, but I like Washington and hate Philadelphia, so I’m torn. Strategically, I’ll be cheering for the Flyers tomorrow, but deep down I’ll probably be hoping the Caps win.

[tags]montreal canadiens, boston bruins, nhl playoffs[/tags]

And more importantly, white-skinned?

So far we’ve seen two Hot Docs documentaries, and we’re off to see a third in just a few minutes. To date we’ve seen:

  • Air India 182 (hot docs) by Sturla Gunnarsson. It screened opening night at the Winter Garden Theatre (which I’d never been in before…it’s quite strange and lovely) and, while it packed quite an emotional punch, it wasn’t really a very good documentary. It was certainly educational (I was only nine when the bombing occurred and knew only bits and pieces that I’d heard over the last twenty years) and at times infuriating (as the director said, would the bombing have gotten so little attention if the flight had been full of blond-haired, blue-eyed people?), but Gunnarsson mixed documentary interviews with ham-handed recreations. The bar for docudrama has been set so incredibly high by Paul Greengrass (Bloody Sunday, Omagh, United 93) that this seemed amateurish by comparison. There was no doubting the emotional impact, but technically this was a weak film. The subject deserved better.
  • The Last Continent (hot docs) was far better. The subject was a ship’s crew from Quebec who spent more than a year in Antarctica, with no way to leave, in order to document and study the effects of climate change on the Antarctic winter. The result was obvious, to the point that it endangered the ship and crew (who knew they would need pack ice to lock their ship in and protect it from high winds, but the pack ice is later and later in coming each year) and the animals around them. A great study of science, psychology, and most strikingly of all, the continent itself. The scenery and whirl of life around the little bay which the ship eventually called home was staggeringly beautiful. Apparently the scientific findings will be part of a 3-part special on The Nature Of Things some time soon, and the account of life on the ship will be a series on TV (not sure which channel…may only be in Quebec); in the meantime, check out the documentary for yourself. It’s scheduled to be released to theatres this summer.

[tags]hot docs, air india 182, the last continent[/tags]

News flash: area introvert craves more emotional attachment

While I sat at Fran’s eating breakfast I read a few pages of Catherine Gildener‘s Too Close To The Falls. After a few pages a woman, maybe a few years younger than me, who’d been sitting across from me with (I assume) her boyfriend/husband, came over to my table. She told me she’d read the book and loved it, but had never seen anyone else reading it before. I told her I couldn’t take credit for unearthing the obscure find, that it had been recommended by my writing instructor Michelle Berry years before (who I believe had reviewed it for the Globe) and after keeping it on my shelf for six winters I was finally getting around to it. We talked about the fantastic stories Gildener told of her childhood, and wondered how such tales could be real. She apologized for interrupting my breakfast, told me she hoped I would enjoy the rest of the book as much she did, and went back to her table.

This, to me, is the real benefit of the paper book. I see no advantage to the convenience of the medium, compared to an e-book or reading online, but what I’ve found is that people will often come over and talk to me about a book, because they see it as a shared emotional experience. Normally, as an introvert, strange people striking up conversations with me is akin to getting mugged, but in these cases the conversation is about the book, not about me or them, so I don’t mind.

In fact, I wish there was an equivalent for music. Each day on my way to and from work I see hundreds of people with headphones snaking out of their bags and pockets and I wonder what they’re listening to. I assume they’re all listening to the same formulaic, familiar music that infects radio and most iPods, but what about the exceptions? For every Rainer Maria Rilke you spot in a sea of John Grisham and Deepak Chopra there must be a similar musical outsider. How great would it be to see that the baby boomer in a golf shirt is listening to the new Frightened Rabbit? Or that the punk girl carrying a skateboard is listening to Blind Willie Johnson? Or that the accountant with the CostCo briefcase is listening to T-Rex? I feel like every day I’m missing a dozen shared emotional experiences contained in pairs of headphone wires.

[tags]catherine gildener, michelle berry, rainer maria rilke, frightened rabbit, blind willie johnson, t-rex[/tags]

I just threw up in my mouth a little bit

From the Quill & Quire’s blog: Mommy’s New Rack.

In the latest sign of the impending apocalypse, ABC News has posted a story about a new children’s book called My Beautiful Mommy, written by the Florida-based plastic surgeon Dr. Michael Salzhauer. The book is an attempt to explain (and to justify) plastic surgery to children.

My soul…it weeps.

“Why are you going to look different?” asks the daughter of her mother in the car ride back from the doctor’s office.

“Not just different, my dear — prettier!” exclaims the mother.

On the outside, maybe.

Actually, not even then. The wonder that is high definition has made it very clear which actors and actresses have had work done, and it just never looks good. Latest exhibit: Mary McDonnell, who’s acquired a Joker-grade rictus for season four of BSG.

[tags]plastic surgery, mary mcdonnell[/tags]

"Take your life, give it a shake"

I cannot stop listening to “Floating In The Forth” by Frightened Rabbit. It’s just the kind of lovely, warming song (odd, because it’s kind of about suicide) that makes me want to cry and smile and quit my job and sell everything I own and lie in a field with headphones and sun and listen to it over and over and over again.

I know, because of the way I consume music, that by next week I’ll have moved on to something else. But I’ll come back. And, right now, it’s perfect.

[tags]frightened rabbit, floating in the forth[/tags]


Love affair of the day: The Midnight Organ Fight, the latest album from Frightened Rabbit. I loved this one right from the jump, right from song one. And when song one has a title like “The Modern Leper” and it still hooks you, you know it’s good. Go, find. It’s on eMusic, I’m sure it’s on iTunes as well.

[tags]frightened rabbit, the midnight organ fight[/tags]

In which Dan briefly contemplates buying another TV

The statistics in this Washington Post article just baffle me:

  • The Pew Center on the States released a study in February showing that for the first time in [American] history, more than one in every 100 adults is in jail or prison
  • According to the Justice Department, 7 million people — or one in every 32 adults — are either incarcerated, on parole or probation or under some other form of state or local supervision
  • Today one in nine young black men is behind bars
  • African Americans now comprise more than half of all prisoners, up from a third three decades ago
  • The U.S. incarceration rate is five to 12 times that of other industrialized countries as well as being the highest in the world

I can offer no insight or perspective. I’m still in shock from that first number.


The Canadiens held on for a tough win tonight. That game was like a war. The Bruins forced them to play their kind of game, but a superb goalie and a good power play (which finally clicked tonight) was enough to get them the 3-1 series lead.

The Canadiens should finish them off at home Thursday night, and I soooooooo wish I could be in Montreal for it. I wouldn’t even need tickets to the game, I’d be happy just being in the city and absorbing all the energy.

Between work, the NHL playoffs, Hot Docs (which starts Thursday), my assignment and everything else, I’ve kind of forgotten about the Raptors. They’re limping into the playoffs, but will face Orlando in the first round and should have a legitimate shot if they can throw enough big men at Dwight Howard. This is the first time since 2002 that both my teams have made the playoffs in the same year. People…I only have so much attention span!!

[tags]washington post, prison, incarceration, montreal canadiens, boston bruins, toronto raptors[/tags]

Some days it's pretty easy to be an almost-vegetarian

From today’s Globe and Mail: Ottawa to pay farmers $50-million to slaughter hogs

In an unprecedented move, the federal government plans to pay hog farmers up to $50-million in total to slaughter as many as 150,000 breeding swine.

Farmers will receive $225 for every hog they kill, so long as they agree to wipe out their entire breeding herd and stay out of the hog business for three years. The government hopes the program will reduce a glut on the market that has helped drive down prices.

I understand that farmers tend not to be experts in economics, but any farmer so oblivious to the market in which they operate that they can’t understand “falling price + rising cost of feed = losing money” deserves to go out of business. Of course, this is the classic argument against bailouts, that they reward the stupid and non-competitive; they’re never done for economic reasons, only political. Apparently Big Pork* swings a big stick in Ottawa.

Another point: if we assume the slaughtered pigs are to be sold for meat, farmers and the government might as well brace for another price drop as 10% of the pork supply (and probably not the highest quality pork either, as I don’t think they’ll cull the best pigs) plops into supermarkets all at once. If, on the other hand, the slaughtered pigs aren’t to be sold as meat but simply done away with, that seems overly wasteful. Starving kids around the world and all that. Just give it to some food banks, for chrissakes.

* if there’s not a lobby called “Big Pork” there really ought to be

[tags]pork farmers, pig cull[/tags]