Monday, December 23, 2013

The Hobbit: Desolation of My Childhood

Like many people who grew up loving J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, I was skeptical of the plan to split the movie into three parts: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey; The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug; and The Hobbit: Bilbo Baggins and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Making three movies out of the 1,400 page Lord of the Rings Trilogy was one thing but stretching this beloved 270-page children's story across three overlong films? Was Peter Jackson on bath salts?

Needless to say, I feel like quite a fool of a Took after just coming out of the second movie. It was great! What I had failed to understand is that the makers of The Hobbit trilogy are just giving the people more of what they want. After diligent note-taking and extrapolating for the third movie, here, in descending order of screen time, is what the people want:

  • 9 Hours - Chase scenes. Endless chase scenes
  • 8 Hours - Looney Tunes-esque action sequences
  • 7 Hours - Something, anything to keep the plot from moving along before the next movie

  • 6 Hours - Credits
  • 5 Hours - Pensive glances (usually but not necessarily involving an elf)
  • 4.5 Hours - Main characters about to die only to be saved at the last second by an arrow out of nowhere (also works if you replace 'arrow' with 'eagle')
  • 4 Hours - Orcs leering menacingly
  • 3.5 Hours - Same orcs dying by the hundreds with surprising ease
  • 3 Hours - Inter-species sexual tension
  • 2.5 Hours - Speaking in made-up languages (often combined with above)

  • 2 Hours - Orlando Bloom paying off his second mansion
  • 1.5 Hours - Characters/plot from Lord of the Rings
  • 1 Hour - Characters/plot from Peter Jackson's feverish nightmares

  • 38 Minutes - Characters/plot from The Hobbit
  • 30 Minutes - Martin Freeman as Bilbo reenacting scenes from the British version of The Office (Note: not sure if this actually happened, I nodded off during one of the chase scenes)
  • 25 Minutes - The least satisfying Stephen Fry appearance
  • 5 Minutes - "Clever" Peter Jackson cameos
  • 1 Minute - Horrifying moment of clarity upon realizing the irony of paying $15 for a ticket to the second movie of a trilogy where what little can be called a plot centres around a villain who becomes consumed by his greed for money

All and all it was a pretty good ride. Of course this doesn't count all the DVD bonus features such as hours of footage of orcs pumping iron to hone their ripped orc bods and PG-13 sex between an elf and a dwarf.

As you can imagine, I'm pretty excited to see Peter Jackson's version of The Silmarillion due out Christmas of 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Help us, Peter Jackson, you're our only hope

I woke up this morning grasping and screaming, the echo of my nightmare still fresh. Every blink sparked an echo of that last terrifying image - Peter Jackson's face morphing into the visage of a cackling George Lucas.

I have a theory. I don't know how or why, but I believe the creator of Star Wars and the director of the Lord of the Rings trilogy are linked in some terrible, cosmic way.

In many ways they are mirror images of each other. George Lucas rose from a little-known studio film director into the most powerful independent filmmaker in the world. Peter Jackson rose from a little-known indy filmmaker into one of the most powerful and well paid studio directors in Hollywood.

George Lucas went from thin to obese...

while Peter Jackson went from obese to thin.

Most of all, both men were key driving forces between the two most beloved trilogies of films ever made. And now I worry they're taking their symbiotic destiny to its final, tragic conclusion.

After inspiring the dreams of a generation of children, Lucas went on to systematically destroy those dreams with a prequel trilogy so terrible, so sacrilegious, that people dare not reference them around certain people I know or, for that matter, me.

Jackson seemed to duck that fate when he chose to adapt The Hobbit, the prequel to his own beloved trilogy. It's The freaking Hobbit. It's one of the most fun and riveting children's stories ever written. It's got a wizard, dwarves, big battles, a fantastic journey, and a dragon. A dragon. How do you screw that up?

This is how you screw that up. Late in July Jackson announced The Hobbit would be split into three films rather than the planned two. So whereas the Lord of the Rings took three movies to cover over 1,400 pages of J.R.R. Tolkien's writing, The Hobbit will take three films to cover 272 pages.

And keep in mind this is Peter Jackson, who believes an angel loses its wings if he ever makes a movie under three hours long.

Here is the ultimate horror of the mysterious hex these two filmmakers have been placed under. Lucas killed Star Wars after gaining so much power no one could challenge some of his questionable decisions. And by some I mean all. All of his decisions were just awful.

I mean, just picking one at random, having Padme die of a broken heart? How did no one call him out on that? Goddammit, George Lucas.

Anyway, Jackson once again appears to be a twisted mirror image of our friend George. When a studio attempted a blatant cash grab to shoe-horn in another movie, Jackson was our only hope to stop them. Instead he took the money and went over to the dark side.

Unless this bizarre curse is broken - a sacrificial pyre of Jar Jar Binks merchandise? - I fear we are in for another three movies of pain and disappointment.

Then again, what the hell do I know? I ate a lot of stuffing before bed last night and I haven't even seen the first Hobbit movie yet. But you heard it here first if in 2014 we somehow find ourselves arguing over whether Bilbo shot first.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

As rebellious as possible, under the circumstances

In 1775 Britain's 14 colonies were in open revolt. The following year 13 had formed their own nation, but Britain managed to suppress the uprising in the 14th colony, Nova Scotia.

Forget the over-hyped War of 1812. This was the hour that Canada came a few whiskers away from being snuffed out long before it even existed.

It's one of the most crucial moments in our history, but almost no Canadians know about it today. Governments will never celebrate the event because it's not exactly glorious. Yet more people should know this story because it gives us insight into our psyche; our weird, conflicted psyche.

In Halifax: Warden of the North, Thomas Raddall sums up the time in one stark, eye-opening paragraph (emphasis his):

Nova Scotia, the fourteenth colony, then comprised the whole of the Maritime Provinces. The Province of Quebec was almost utterly French, conquered only 16 years before and held in submission by the British garrison in Quebec citadel. There was nothing west of Montreal but a wilderness inhabited by Indians and a scatter of trappers and traders. Thus Nova Scotia was the key to all Canada; its ports commanded the approach to the St. Lawrence all the way from Cape Breton to Gaspé and it was the only English-speaking part of the whole country. Had the Nova Scotians thrown in their lot with their fellow Americans in 1776 the war must have ended with the complete disappearance of the British Flag from North America. [p73]

Leading up to the American Revolution, Halifax was in many ways an extension of New England. The census of the towns 3,000 or so residents in 1767 lists 52 Scots, 200 Acadians, 264 "Germans and other foreigners," 302 English, 853 Irish, and a whopping 1,351 "Americans," most of whom were from New England. [p66]

So when rebellion boiled over in the south, there was no surprise to see it spread up to Halifax. The colony was ruled by a small group of elites made up of the governor and his friends, as well as a few of the richer merchants. There was basically no middle class.

When the Stamp Act hit North America, requiring all publications to used taxed "stamped" paper, Canada's first newspaper was in on the outrage. The Halifax Gazette "declared the disgust of the town and province," writes Raddal.

Provincial secretary Bulkely was nominally the editor of the Gazette and demanded an explanation from Anthony Henry, the printer who actually ran the paper. Henry brushed the treasonous content off as a prank by his young New Englander apprentice Isaiah Thomas.

But soon another incendiary paragraph appeared in the Gazette. Then it printed an anti-Britain call-to-arms in the Pennsylvania Journal under the guise of reporting on the Journal. Henry finally pushed his newsman badassery to the breaking point when he cut the stamps out of the Gazette's pages in direct violation of the Stamp Act. Henry lost the Gazette printing contract, while Thomas was banished from Halifax.

Meanwhile, Haligonians burned an effigy of the local stamp master on Citadel Hill, while the man himself had to be put under armed guard. But Halifax was unique in that it had spent much of its history as a military base in the war with France. Its civilian population was helplessly outnumbered by the military presence.

Still, by fall of 1776, much of Nova Scotia was in open revolt. At the head of the Bay of Fundy a militia of Nova Scotians besieged Fort Cumberland, the only garrisoned outpost outside of Halifax in Nova Scotia. The rebels nearly succeeded, but lacked ammunition and fell to British reinforcements  Their cause was so popular the captured ringleaders were allowed to "escape" rather than face a politically incendiary execution.

A Nova Scotia delegation travelled to Machias to meet with their American cousins and plot the removal of the British Crown from all of North America. The young congress promised troops and arms, but the American army general nixed the agreement in a letter that would change the course of history:

Camp at Cambridge, Aug. 11, 1775.

     I have considered the papers you left with me yesterday. As to the expedition proposed against Nova Scotia by the inhabitants of Machias, I cannot but applaud their spirit and zeal, but I apprehend such an enterprise to be inconsistent with the principle on which the Colonies have proceeded. That province has not acceded, it is true, to the measures of the Congress, but it has not commenced hostilities against them nor are any to be apprehended. To attack it therefore is a measure of conquest rather than defence, and may be attended with very dangerous consequences. It might be easy with the force proposed to make an incursion into the province and over-awe those of the inhabitants who are inimical to our cause, but to produce any lasting effect the same force must continue. And our situation as to ammunition absolutely forbids our sending a single ounce of it out of the camp at present.

I am, Gentlemen, &c.,
George Washington

As Raddall points out, the rub is in the last line. For want of ammunition, the Nova Scotia rebellion was doomed and Canada was saved.

It's hardly a Hollywood story. Our rebellion was crushed while the rest of the rebels left us behind to create their own country. We were basically the kid who didn't get picked at gym class on Independence Day.

But glimpsed in a certain light, Canada's origin story is noble in its own way. Having a long, bloody history has been done. What country hasn't been forged in battle? Even prissy-sounding nations like Luxembourg and Malta have seen dramatic conflicts. But a nation that didn't seize its independence so much as apply for it in triplicate, now that's rare.

Personally, I like having a culture that's defined by ambivalence, introspection, politeness and mild linguistic tension I like that when CBC Radio held a contest to find the Canadian counterpart to "as American as apple pie" the winning entry was "as Canadian as possible, under the circumstances."

And I like that we're generally embarrassed about the imperialistic notes of our history, such as the expulsion of the Acadians or annexation of aboriginal lands. I guess it keeps us modest.

So cheers to Canada and I guess Australia and I dunno, maybe New Zealand. We gained our independence by virtue of no one else wanting us that badly, and that builds character. And sure enough, now all the cool countries are broke.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The True Story of the War of 1812

It was 200 glorious years ago this year that Canada took its first steps to becoming nation when it took up arms against the Americans in the War of 1812 for certain reasons that I imagine are very well explained on Wikipedia.

It was that battle where we defined our Canadianness, except that we were actually British at the time, but it planted the seeds of our emancipation from the Americans. Or the British, rather. Like 60 years later.

Still, I'm told by reliable sources in government that the War of 1812 was "a seminal event in the making of our country." Heritage Minister James Moore has even renamed October the "Month of Commemoration of the Heroes and Key Battles of the War of 1812," so elongate your calendars accordingly.

I've recently been reading Halifax: Warden of the North, the brisk and lively history of Nova Scotia's capital by Thomas Raddall. I couldn't wait to get to 1812 and read about our historic butt-thwomping of the Americans. Instead, I had a revelation. I now think 1812 is nothing compared to a more pivotal moment in Canada's history: The American Revolution.

First, about the 1812:

Historians debate who "started" the War of 1812 but one thing is clear - in the lead-up to the war we were a bunch of assholes.

By 1805 Admiral Mitchell of the Royal navy had come up with a novel recruiting strategy - seizing Americans on the high seas and bringing them into Halifax as seamen on the lower decks.


The captains of His Majesty's fleet, not content with robbing provincial merchantmen of their crews, had begun overhauling American ships and treating them in the same way. The excuse was that many seamen in American vessels were deserters from the Royal Navy. This was true, for impressed men escaped at any chance and the Americans... were able to offer high wages as well as the supposed protection of their flag. [p133]

Tensions simmered until 1807, when the HMS Leopard fired on the Chesapeake. The Chesapeake, a 38-gun, three-masted heavy frigate and one of the "original six" frigates of the United States navy, is still today famous for all the wrong reasons. Several crew were captured, a couple were convicted of mutiny and gruesomely executed.

Back in Washington, the Americans were wicked pissed. Many pushed the government to declare war on Britain while the blokes had their hands full with Napoleon. The Americans first placed an embargo on trade with Europe  - a blow aimed straight at the British army's stomach [p135].

This was actually great for Halifax (population circa 10,000), which had the lucrative role of laundering shipments ostensibly for Nova Scotia but actually destined for Europe. Then in 1811 the Americans got their revenge for the Chesapeake when the US frigate President fired on the British sloop Little Belt without warning, killing 16 men and wounding 21.

Shit was pretty much destined to be on. Sure there were grievances, but more than anything it was about American opportunity. Raddall:

But a real cause for alarm was the ancient truth that weakness invites attack. Canada looked an easy prize while Britain was heavily engaged in Europe, and all the gossip from the United States was of preparations for attack by land and sea. [p138]


President Madison chose his moment in June. American armies promptly marched over the border of Upper Canada and a host of Yankee privateers put out into the Atlantic. The first news of war for many a British merchant skipper was the capture of his ship and cargo on the high seas.

It was great timing. Britain had more ships than she could maintain, leaving many under-maintained, under-manned, and under-gunned. The Americans swiftly imposed their presence when the US frigate Constitution ravaged the British frigate Guerriere.

Now it was Britain's turn for revenge, and they went after the ship that had been the spark of the conflict, the Chesapeake. Raddall reports Boston pleasure boats sailing out to watch the battle as the HMS Shannon sailed into Massachusetts to face its rival. The two ships unloaded on each other and the Chesapeake was badly damaged. As the Shannon's crew drew in close to board, Chesapeake captain James Lawrence was cut down by a bullet. Dying, he uttered the famous words "Don't give up the ship!" which would long remain a motto of the American navy.

The entire battle lasted 15 minutes. The Chesapeake was brought back to Halifax as a treasure. A young Tom Haliburton, who would grow up to create the character Sam Slick, was on the waterfront and described the scene:

"The coils and folds of rope were steeped in gore as if in a slaughterhouse... Pieces of skin and pendant hair were adhering to the sides of the ship, and in one place I noticed fingers protruding as if thrust through the outer wall of the frigate; while several sailors, to whom liquor had evidently been handed through the ports by visitors in boats, were lying asleep on the bloody floor as if they had fallen in action and expired where they lay." [p142]

So there's our fix. We got our bloody battle with the Americans, our heroic victory, some token warfare in our otherwise peaceful and almost bureaucratic history.

To pause here for a moment, Raddall's book does not touch the land battles of 1812 except to say that Britain knew they were outmatched and tried to avoid them. But suffice to say the mainland theatre really did play out like a CBC-produced Can-Con feature written and directed by Paul Gross starring Gordon Pinsent and the cop guy from Corner Gas. French, English and First Nations fought side by side, defending our land against American invaders.

(You have to buy the director's cut to see where the British promise Shawnee chief Tecumseh an independent Indian state in the midwest, then later British forces run away in the Battle of the Thames leaving a badly outnumbered group of native soldiers, including Tecumseh, to be slaughtered by American troops. The Treaty of Ghent, the peace treaty that ended the war and restored lands to their original owners, neglected to ratify Tecumseh's vision. Weird.)

But Raddall does give due credit to the man who oddly enough really decided the war of 1812 - Napoleon.

As the British finally overwhelmed Napoleon's forces in Europe they could finally focus most imposing navy the world had ever seen back on North America. The rest was just follow through - a sacking of the White House here, some bombs bursting in air there, and both sides were ready to shake hands and call it a day. All that was left was to swap back conquered lands and Bob's your uncle (again, unless you were a native warrior, in which case best get used to crushing disappointment).

I know, I know. All that buildup and we only "won" because some short French guy lost? Welcome to Canada.

But if you really want close calls, there was an even more precarious moment for Canada a half-century earlier. I'll tackle this in my next blog post, which I will write hopefully sometime.

In the meantime, here's the government's official War of 1812 trailer:

And here's a more honest version:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Fun and Loafing Near Las Vegas


A few weeks ago I flew into Vancouver, then drove down to California with some friends to attend the Coachella music festival. As far as boring trips go, this one wasn't.

Our troupe was continually faced with the arch-nemesis of middle-class white people: inconvenience. Our car died driving through Washington State and we had to spend a night in a place called Kelso, which I highly recommend if you're a connoisseur of strip malls and/or meth. (Though there was this great diner called Stuffy's II that specialized in a dish called "stuff" and every menu item was unreasonably huge and glazed in butter and just delicious [no word on what became of Stuffy's I. Grease fire, one assumes.])

We fixed the car, headed off on an Oregon mountain pass and promptly got in a car accident. No one was hurt and after some inventive crowbar work to get the driver's door working again, we headed off on our journey. Also it rained at Coachella for the first time in 13 years.

Still, the trip was amazing and fun and, barring future dementia, totally unforgettable. I have no energy to put this into any kind of narrative, so here's my collection of random observations from Coachella and the ride there and back:

My expectations of the hipster-to-bro ratio at Coachella was way off. As soon as we drove in we were surrounded by Southern California frat/sorority guy/girls driving their parents' SUVs (I can only hope the five of us who had just driven 2,000 kilometers in a 1993 Ford Escort looked retro). Skinny jeans and horn-rimmed glasses? Rare. Ironic moustaches? Shaved. And forget about hippies, there was nary a drum circle to be found.

The complete and exhaustive list of awesome moves available to DJs:
1) Raise one arm in the air
2) Raise both arms in the air

Biggest Fashion Faux Pas as Determined and Told to Me by People Who Know About This Sort of Thing: socks and high heels.

I have seen some beautiful displays of love in my life. I've seen families that share everything with each other. I've known couples who would die for one another. My ex-roommate had a loving and committeed relationship with our Playstation 3. But I was not prepared for America's love of beer pong.

We hadn't even gotten in yet and dozens of tables were set up in the lineup. All weekend beer pong tables littered the camping grounds. Often they were crowded. Sometimes there were just guys sitting there waiting for the next challengers. Of course this means the surrounding grounds got a bit messy:

If you look Canadian enough, Americans will think you're adorable and give you free stuff like Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

Swedish House Mafia may or may not be a great house band. I honestly can't tell. They seemed to be really good at that thing where the music gets faster and higher then drops really low and bassy and everyone jumps and goes "waaaaa!" But it might also have had something to do with the stage being covered in lights and fire.

Suggested alternate name for Swedish House Mafia: Three Guys and a Laptop

Dumbest thing on sale: "vintage" Coachella t-shirts.

"Excuse me, is your car a hybrid?"

I never knew Americans had such a fixation with IDing people. Apparently if you so much as walk into a place that smells like booze you had better have two pieces of government-issued photo identification. I think I got IDed more in one week of being in America than my entire adult life in Canada. Is it some sort of make-work program?

Strangest thing heard blaring from the campground: Hootie and the Blowfish.

Best overheard argument: "No, dude. Hyenas don't hunt prey. They just don't."

Weirdest sports apparel sighting: A Raptors-era Damon Stoudamire jersey at the Dragonette show. Otherwise it was the normal collection of Dodgers, Red Sox and Yankee hats. My own Phillies ballcap elicited occasional reactions from "go Phillies!" to "Uh oh, here comes trouble."

Second-most startling Coachella moment: Jamming in a few rows away from the stage to see Radiohead amongst tens of thousands of people, only to find myself standing next to two friends from Halifax, literally the opposite end of the continent.

Most badass kid: This kid, spotted during the Childish Gambino show.

What's kind of weird about this is that Childish Gambino's lyrics are incredibly filthy:

 Most Coachella-ey overheard quote: "I draw the line at Coldplay."

Least Coachella-ey overheard quote: "No one's even tried to sell me drugs yet!"

Token slacktivism: a kissing booth where for every kiss some company put a dollar towards Africa or cancer or something.

Most "clever" plays on Coachella from myself and a bathroom wall, respectively: Brochella, Coachhellyeah.

I'll always remember the look on that girl's face when she saw the Mexican man in charge of cleaning the port-a-potties and said with a quiver of horror and revulsion "That's... his job."

Price of a cup of coffee: $5. Price of a single cupcake: $5. Price of a banana: $2.

Most startling Coachella moment: Meeting up with a friend at a diner on Sunset Boulevard the day after Coachella ended, only to learn that what I thought was a real-life rapper playing Tupac as part of a tribute, was actually a fucking hologram. Even though I was far back and drinking hard liquor out of a pop bottle, I spent several minutes completely unaware a man before me was made out of light and pixie dust. When did we get this technology? The novelty may have worn off by now, but I expect this will be the closest I'll ever come to knowing how previous generations felt when they first experienced radio, television, or Star Wars.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

One last bit about this Hitler thing

I had hoped I'd never have to say this, but I'm about to bridge the gap between Hitler and child pornographers.

Ottawa has gone a tad loopy in recent weeks, with a few of our elected officials saying things that they probably never should have said sober. In a debate on the ending of the gun registry Conservative MP Larry Miller compared the registry and its proponents to Hitler, then took it back, then took it back that he took it back.

Shortly after, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said opposition members who attacked the government's new electronic surveillance are standing with child pornographers. He later tip-toed away from that one after pretty much the whole country decided the bill was kind of dictatorial and creepy.

Now, I'm no rocket surgeon but I could have told Miller and Toews that quoting Hitler or likening your political opponents to child molesters is probably going to backfire. If nothing else, it opens you up to equally cheap shots in retaliation.

Speaking of...

My colleague from the Hot Room (the old parliamentary press gallery room on Parliament Hill, so named because everyone who works there is ridiculously good looking) Kaven Baker-Voakes of Empire News initially came across this uncannily germane Hitler quote. He decided it would be in poor taste to use it, but I have no such reservations. Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to take smear politics meta with Hitler on the internet surveillance bill:

"The state must declare the child to be the most precious treasure of the people. As long as the government is perceived as working for the benefit of the children, the people will happily endure almost any curtailment of liberty and almost any deprivation," - Adolph Hitler, Mein Kampf.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Chicago Sun-Times decides to stop debasing itself

Congratulations from the bottom of my ink-stained heart to the Chicago Sun-Times, which this week announced it will stop endorsing candidates during elections

Here's hoping this outbreak of common sense spreads faster than bed bugs because I suspect election endorsements are the single most foolish things newspapers do. Here I'll lay out five reasons why and then suggest a much better system.

I would love to hear some arguments from people who disagree with me on this. Clearly a lot do because over 700 publications made endorsements in the last United States election, which I find inscrutable and weird.

Why printing an election endorsement is insane:

1) It debases - Though endorsements are written by an editor or at most an editorial board, they reflect on the whole paper. The New York Times endorses Obama, The New York Post endorses McCain, etc. All the work your reporters went through to maintain their independence and impartiality? Gone, to the public eye. The institution itself is now formally in the camp of a political party, which is exactly where it ought not be.

2) It lingers - Ottawa Citizen columnist Dan Gardner continually ridicules the Globe and Mail every time the Harper government makes an inept fiscal move. And why shouldn't he? The Globe endorsed Harper for his fiscal chops in 2011. If his government fails and turns our economy into pudding, the Globe will have been wrong. The paper's reputation is now tied to the actions of a politician. Worse, criticizing the government's economic plans will now strike many readers as hypocrisy.

3) It's arrogant - As the Sun Times points out, newspaper endorsements don't have much impact. Of course they don't. Most voters have made up their minds by the time endorsements come out in the last days before an election. And even if you are undecided, who wants to be told how you should act? Especially by the profession most people rank somewhere between used car salesman and date rapist. Any first-year psych student can tell you this is not how the human brain works.

4) It's alienating (and probably bad for business) - So you're a newspaper and you endorse candidate X. Those who support him/her/it will probably nod smugly, maybe tweet it, then stop caring. But boy, are people who back candidate Y going to be pissed. They'll tear into your logic. They'll accuse you of being a conservative/liberal shill, and maybe they'll stop subscribing to a paper so clearly in the bag for that asshole candidate X. Congrats, you've lost all credibility with half your readers. Was that really worth it?

5) It's Archaic - We've supposedly evolved past the age when newspapers were openly partisan. That dark age was decades ago (or, alternately, a half-dozen time zones away in the U.K.). Most newspapers now look down their noses at the Sun chains of the world that don't even feign balance. So how can newspapers claim to be modern champions of objective scrutiny while they're still clinging to the one act that most defined the days of biased, agenda journalism? I'll say this for the Sun papers, at least they accept who they are and don't try to dress it up.

Ok, so the counter-argument to all this is that editorial writers sometimes do have intelligent, thoughtful arguments for why one candidate is the best choice. Why should they silence themselves on such a critical issue for some ideal of impartiality that most people don't buy anyway?

Here's what you do instead: be humble, be personal, and be careful.

Don't hide behind the banner of the paper. Have the writer or editorial board put their name(s) on the piece. Then, don't tell people how to vote. Instead, tell them how you will be voting and explain why as best you can. Keep in mind that every political platform benefits some people more than others. Look beyond your own situation and write persuasively about which platform will help the greatest number of people. Avoid talking points used by the parties.

Andrew Coyne of MacLeans PostMedia provided an elegant example of just this kind of thing last year.

It's that easy. And in this digital age, as an industry struggling with the issue of printing words on paper and handing them out individually, we should really jump at the easy solutions when we can.