If you're Canadian and haven't voted early I hope you and I will be doing the same thing on May second, which is voting in the federal election. In the last few Canadian federal elections the media and fellow citizens have been especially worried about younger voters staying away from the polls but apathy and cynicism aren't qualities that any specific demographic have the market cornered on.

Sometimes (often?) in the west we seem to smugly think of our countries as shining examples of democracy. In our case I find this strange indeed — if only 58.8% of registered voters actually voted in the last Canadian election how invested in democracy can we be as a nation? Then there's the fact that many Canadians don't have even the most basic understanding of how our voting system here works. According to a 2008 Ipsos-Reid poll 51% of respondents erroneously believe the Prime Minister is elected by direct ballot when in actuality Canadians don’t vote directly for the PM, but for a member of Parliament in 308 ridings across the country. As leading constitutional expert Peter Russell explains it, “The basics of our system are simple. We elect the Parliament and the Parliament decides who gets the right to govern.”

So it's time for us to do our research and deserve the democracy we've inherited in this country. Then, to quote Margaret Atwood, “Vote, and — as they say — cherish the moment. People elsewhere are dying for it.”

Trailer Park Boys Say Vote:

Rick Mercer Calls Offside on Stephen Harper:

Rick Mercer's Message To Student and Youth Voters:

As promised, the first chapter of My Beating Teenage Heart is finally up! You can read it right here.

I was in Montreal last week and as usual the camera came along for the trip while my laptop stayed home. There were some signs of spring around the place (like the flowers in the below snap of old Montreal) but for the most part it was pretty chilly and overcast. One day we even had snow but fortunately there are plenty of great places to pop into to keep warm and dry

Springtime in Old Montreal? Not quite...

like the tropical rainforest section of the Biodome where I fell in love with the impossibly adorable capybaras.

Montreal Biodome: Capybara

I'm not sure whether you can get an accurate idea of their size from these photos but the capybara is the world's largest rodent (who knew?) and can grow up to 4.3 feet (130 centimetres) in height and weigh up to 140 lbs (65 kg).

Montreal Biodome: Capybara

There were plenty of other cool animals to discover at the Biodome ranging from colourful macaws to monkeys, a caiman, a lynx, four different types of penguins and poisonous frogs.

Montreal Biodome: Hyacinth Macaws

I was already in love with Archambault's flagship store (which carries books, CDs, DVDs, videogames, musical instruments and an extensive collection of sheet music) from previous visits but am also more than a little jealous that we don't have anything to match it in Toronto.

Flagship Archambault, St. Catherine Street

Behold the impressive sheet music floor of Archambault:

Sheet music section on the second floor of Archambault

I picked up some vinyl in Primitive Records on St. Denis too

Primitive Records, St. Denis

and had a look in several other Plateau area record stores,

Sonik record store, the Plateau, Montreal

Beatnick, St. Denis, Montreal

videostores (doesn't this one look cozy),

Plateau videostore, Montreal

and bookstore Renaud-Bray which is always doing something new and cool with this nook near the graphic novel section:

Renaud-Bray, St. Denis, Montreal

Speaking of bookshops, I stopped into the Paragraph bookstore across from McGill University where I visited with Courtney Summers' hauntingly grief drenched book Fall for Anything (if you want to read my thoughts on the novel, you can check them out in this December blog entry).

Fall for Anything, Paragraph, Montreal

Some other Plateau area sights:

Appartement St. Denis 4086

Khyber Pass restaurant, the Plateau

Spiderman mural around the back of  Plateaua area comic book store Millenium

Map with children's names on it.

Even the Easter bunnies in Ogilvy's were getting in on the Habs mania last week.

Ogilvy's Easter bunnies show their team spirit

Hanging out at the Musée des beaux-arts (Museum of Fine Arts), outside

C.K., Musée des beaux-arts

and in.

Musée des beaux-arts statue

Old Montreal statues and monuments:

Old Montreal

Old Montreal

Downtown Montreal:

Downtown Montreal

Some commentary scrawled on this Bloc Quebecois campaign poster:

Bloc Quebecois poster with Nada scrawled across it

And finally, I can't resist taking a picture of Le Château Apartments on Sherbrooke Street each and every time I visit Montreal. Built in the 1920's, it's one of the most gorgeous buildings I've ever laid eyes on.

I hope everybody had a good Record Store Day this past Saturday and that if you weren't able to make it into an independent record store over the weekend that you'll be dropping into one soon because a good record store is truly a magical place.

“The best feeling on earth is to be surprised by something you never expected to find in a book store. The second best feeling on earth is to be surprised by something you never expected to find in a record store. If it something used, or rare or out-of-print all the better. And, honestly, what are the chances of something like that happening in a chain store. I can spend three hours going through the stacks at a place like Sound Garden. It is never time wasted.”
— David Simon

Spin.com has an online list of America's 15 Best Indie Record Stores (all the shop info is correct as of April 15th, 2011) and TimeOut has details about London's best record shops. For those in or near Toronto, blogTO posted their pick of the best vinyl record stores in Toronto last October.

This past weekend was also British Isles show time in Toronto and I didn't load up on much food or many DVDs this time around but the one purchase I'm very excited about is our brand new multi-region DVD player! And it's just in time too because only last week the region 2 copy of By Any Means with Charley Boorman: Ireland to Sydney that I'd ordered from the U.K. showed up and I didn't have any clue how we were going to watch it!

By Any Means with Charley BoormanSeveral years ago I got hooked on Long Way Down and Long Way Round, the motorcycle travel documentary series Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor did together, and I've had my eye on By Any Means for some time but it's never been released in region 1 format, meaning North Americans without a multi-region player were out of luck. However, recently I couldn't resist the sale price of £2.99 at amazon.co.uk despite my lack of a multi-region player. Worst case scenario, I figured I could watch it the next time we're in Dublin.

Now I don't have to wait and I've already ordered a couple of other region 2 DVDs—By Any Means: Sydney to Tokyo and British spy show Spooks (otherwise known as MI5 in this part of the world) season 9. From the vague things I've heard online I suspect I'm not going to like what they do with the Lucas North character but I'm trying to avoid spoilers as much as possible until I've caught the show in its entirety. Meanwhile I'm rewatching season 8 to refresh my memory.

In book news, next week will mark the paperback release of The Lighter Side of Life and Death and along with it, chapter one of My Beating Teenage Heart. I'm finally, finally going to post the first chapter to my website on the eve of the release (April 25th) so if you want a peek stop back then, this will be the working link for Chapter One of My Beating Teenage Heart, but not until the twenty-fifth!
With the Canadian election coming up on May 2nd I'm seeing a fair amount of folks land on my website and blog looking for Stephen Harper items. For some reason the Harper mask seems particularly popular. As far as I know it doesn't exist outside of this website but perhaps someone should create one in real life tout de suite. Anyway, I've posted all my Stephen Harper artwork here—in one place—for handiness sake. Feel free to use any of the images (crediting me) elsewhere if they resonate. Click on any image to see the original blog entry where it appeared on my website.

Harper Action Figures

I've begun with a brand new Stephen Harper action figure: Easter 2011 Harper. With an election less than a month away Prime Minister Harper doesn't have time for his annual Easter card photoshoot and has persuaded the Canadian Federal Collectibles collection to issue an Easter action figure instead. The rendering attempts to capture the jovality of Stephen's cards by featuring the Prime Minister wearing a set of rabbit ears. The basket of Easter goodies included with the figure represents offerings Harper is prepared to make voters in exchange for their ceding of democracy. The pooping puffin who took part in the Conservative campaign against Liberal leader Stephane Dion in 2008 is also included as a potential ally in this year's Harper campaign.

Stephen Harper figure: Easter 2011 Harper

The Canadian Federal Collectibles series recently issued a 2011 Stephen Harper action figure to represent this year's election campaign. This Harper figure comes with a rolled security fence that can be erected to keep the press at a distance from campaigning Stephen (and which also harks back to the G20 Toronto Summit), a spare set of snap-on hair (in the unlikely event that Harper's gets mussed) and a package of face match software which allows Conservative henchman to scan the crowd at Harper campaign stops and turf those suspected of partisan leanings.

Election 11 Harper figure: complete with security fence, spare hair and face match software

Election 08 Harper carries the Canadian flag in one hand; the other is poised to lull us into a false sense of security as he attempts to conjure his Jedi mind trick magic.

Election 08 Harper

April 2009 brought the release of a Harper action figure set to celebrate Harper's reign during the previous six months. As you can see, the Darth Harper figure clutches a Canadian flag in one hand and a chunk of Alberta tar sands earth in the other, the oil proceeds of which Harper hopes to use to fund creation of his Death Star. Statesman Harper (in full ceremonial garb) also grips a Canadian flag, which he can wave vigorously while proclaiming Canada's finances are sounder than any other country in the world. In the event the flag waving fails to placate Canadians, Harper can quickly don the sweater vest he holds in his other hand.

Recession Harper

* Recession Harper accessories sold separately:

Death Star Pet

Death Star Piano

When Canada (with Stephen Harper at the helm) dragged their feet standing agains progress at the Copenhagen climate change talks in 2009 a close observer remarked that, “Canada has become the Darth Vader of the G8 in particular. The marks they now get regularly from the environmental groups are last place.” The below action figure commemorates Canada's toxic environmental position and their opposition to the defenders of our natural landscape.

Darth Canada vs. the Ewoks 

The 2015 Election Harper figure (released on the eve of the 2015 election) features Stephen in decidedly casual wear, not unlike what he wore to a Conservative party rally with Rob and Doug Ford in October 2015. As with the election 2011 figure, the 2015 Harper collectible comes with a spare set of snap-on hair and some of Stephen's favourite props - the bills tossed around as a game show gimmick at fall campaign stops.

“That’s another 600 bucks down the drain,” Harper said, his words accompanied by the loud ‘Ka-ching’ sound of a cash register. “That is what Liberal change means, more money for the government, less money for you.”

Naturally Harper's other favourite prop is fear, which he wields with a heavy hand. Including Darth Vader's mask with the election 2015 figure allows Stephen to quickly switch tactics, moving easily from his Shopping Channel persona to one that incites unrest and provokes anxiety.


Statesman Harper (in full ceremonial garb) also grips a Canadian flag, which he can wave vigorously while proclaiming Canada's finances are sounder than any other country in the world. In the event the flag waving fails to placate Canadians, Harper can quickly don the sweater vest he holds in his other hand. - See more at: http://www.ckkellymartin.com/2009/04/easter-greetings-from-our-pm.html#sthash.OHaSV9YY.dpuf
Statesman Harper (in full ceremonial garb) also grips a Canadian flag, which he can wave vigorously while proclaiming Canada's finances are sounder than any other country in the world. In the event the flag waving fails to placate Canadians, Harper can quickly don the sweater vest he holds in his other hand. - See more at: http://www.ckkellymartin.com/2009/04/easter-greetings-from-our-pm.html#sthash.OHaSV9YY.dpuf
Harper's True Colours

Scary things Harper has actually said and inset, Harper's less threatening sweater vest image:

Scary stuff Stephen Harper's said

Harper's favourite threat and insult:

A probable conversation with a former U.S. President:

More honest Tory campaign literature might look something like this:

Prime Hypocrite. Stephen Harper despises this country and he hates most of us Canadians too.

Seasonal Harper Images

Stephen Harper's annual Easter cards to Canadians:

Happy Easter, peasants! With Fondness, Your Czar, S.H.

Happy Easter, peasants! With Fondness, Your Czar, S.H.

Happy Easter, peasants! With Fondness, Your Czar, S.H. 


A Christmas snap. Even dressed as Mr. Claus, Harper can't resist raising his hand to attempt his Jedi mind trick:

Santa Harper

Pop Idol Stephen

With bling and boat:

Faux soulful avec guitar:

Sith Lord Harper

Emperor Harper and one of his minions supervise the destuction of the environment and the creation of dirty fossil fuel at the Alberta Tar Sands.

Emperor Harper at the helm:

Emperor Harper ponders his ebbing mind trick power.

Conservative campaign leaflet from 2008:

An image from the televised 2008 Canadian leadership debate: Sith Lord Harper, Elizabeth May and Jack Layton:

Sith Lord Harper, Elizabeth May and Jack Layton on Thursday's English language Canadian leadership debate.

Having taken off his day-wear suit, Sith Lord Harper settles down for a night of TV watching, common man style:

Harper's company has made his alliance clear:

Stephen Harper and stormtrooper

Harper Mask

A true likeness of Stephen, right down to the immoveable Ken-doll hair:

Stephen Harper Mask

Harper Friend or Foe?

The puffin who pooped on Liberal leader Stephane Dion cozies up to his old political ally, Stephen Harper, in 2008:

Stephen Harper & Puffin

Harper dartboard

Harmless Camouflage Harper

Harper as Mr. Rogers

Pinocchio Harper

Pinocchio Harper

Prince of Darkness Harper

Read about Stephen's true identity, Stephane Harperoux, a French Baron who has been feeding on democracy since 1789.

Prince of Darkness Harper

Canadian Parliament as Mordor

Harper suspends democracy by proroguing Parliament to avoid a confidence vote:


The Grinch Who Stole Canada


Harper Attacks Bonhomme

Playing Divisive Politics, Election 2015


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