Category Archives: TTAG!

Things That Are Great!

Temptation Bites Back

Artist: Cynthia Mutheardy.


I attended the Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF) yesterday at the Toronto Reference Library. This was my first time attending the event and it met/exceeded all my expectations/childish fantasies.

The two main highlights of my TCAF experience were:

  • Getting to high-five the creators of “Amazing Superpowers.” This is one of the best webcomics on the internets and the creators of this comic, Wes and Tony, were really funny and easy to talk to. I purchased a print of this comic and got it signed.
  • I got to meet Kate Beaton!!!!!!! Ms. Beaton is the creator of “Hark, a vagrant” (which I have previously blogged on), she is from Novia Scotia, is one of my heroines and is amazing. I purchased a copy of her comic collection “Never Learn Anything From History” and she shook my hand. This was an unreal moment for me as I am a huge fan of her work (h/t to my friend Brent who is responsible for my love of webcomics) and it was fantastic to see how many other people are huge Beaton fans/nerds too (there was a massive line for her autograph that was definitely worth the wait.)

The event ends at 5 pm tonight so there is still time to check it out. Two other notable webcomics in attendance: Overcompensating and The Book of Biff.

Comics and graphic novels are two forms of texts that often get overlooked. ‘Amazing Superpowers’ and ‘Hark a vagrant’ are really intelligent and high-quality works that I highly recommend you make a part of your day. Kate Beaton’s work is especially excellent as her comics often touch on moments in Canadian history, Ms. Beaton is able to breathe new life into Canada’s past while staying true to the very acerbic and silly sensibility that forms the foundation of Canadian humour.

TTAG: Cheese


Cheese has so many forms, textures, smells and flavours that it is absolutely impossible to not like at least one kind of cheese. Cheese can be soft, gooey, pungent, crumbly, hard, subtle in flavour, creamy, it comes in many colours and can contain spices/herbs to give it a totally different flavour. Cheese is global and local at the same time. Rich people like cheese, poor people like cheese and even vegetarians eat it instead of delicious, delicious meat. The protean cheese provides is an excellent byproduct as you can eat cheese only for its taste as it is so scrumptious. What other food can be made from the coagulation of liquid produced by the cows, sheep, goats or buffalo? The cheese can stand completely alone and satisfy but it can also be melted, shredded, baked, sliced and stuffed into other foods to make them better. Cheese is as comforting as mother’s love with only thrice the fat.

Cheese is GREAT!

TTAG: Stephen Harper’s Flight Suit Photo Op

Stephen Harper’s Flight Suit Photo Op

“Stephen Harper awakes one morning in 24 Sussex Drive to find himself inexplicably transformed overnight into George W. Bush.” – Franz Kafka

A few days ago Prime Minister Harper visited Canada’s arctic. He was transported to HMCS Toronto by helicopter. When the PM got out of the helicopter he was wearing a sexy orange flight suit and manly helmet. The first thing that comes to mind when one sees a picture of the Prime Minister in all his glory is when former President George W. Bush declared “Mission Accomplished” on a battleship while, you guessed it, wearing a flight suit. Like President Bush’s announcement, the Prime Minister’s is also an expensive show piece with little substance. Nunavut’s Newspaper called this “The most expensive photo op you’ll ever see.” Some of Nunavut’s citizens were complaining that the Prime Minister is focusing entirely on the military in the arctic and ignoring the people who live there (and the many challenges they face.

The “Flight Suit Photo Op” is funny for many reasons. It is cheesy, our current Prime Minister Harper is a nerd so it is a fish-out-of-water situation and it is another in the “PM Harper dresses up” series. Canada has had many awkward Prime Ministers but this event may be the most awkward thing any PM has done in the history of our great country. The “Flight Suit Photo Op” is funny on many different levels and it is very public. The nature of the event itself (a choreographed scene that the Prime Minister wanted every Canadian to see) amplifies the funniness by being a shared ever for all Canadians.

Though this arctic adventure is quite awkward noone can deny that it is epic. Even if you are Stephane Dion, if you riding a helicopter to a battleship in the arctic everyone has to agree that, for at least a day after, you are a badass. When you see the pictures of the Prime Minister in the bright orange flight suit you laugh at him but, for a split second, you are laughing with him as it is cheesy but epic.

For years Prime Minister Harper has been George Bush’s soul mate (in terms of policy.) Prime Minister Harper’s economic, environmental, foreign, tax, crime, education, and all other policies are the same as George Bush’s were when he was President. Like the former President, Prime Minister Harper relishes using divisive tactics to scare Canadians and destroy his opponents. Prime Minister Harper and the former President also share a Manichaean worldview. The Prime Minister sees the world as a battle of good versus evil; if a great evil/good disappears another good/evil will fill that void. It makes sense that with Barack Obama being elected President our Prime Minister has decided to fill the void President Bush left by actually become President Bush. When he put on that flight suit and stepped off that helicopter Prime Minister Harper declare loudly “I am George W. Bush!” and “I am sexy!”

Prime Minister Harper’s Flight Suit Photo Op is a massive event that all Canadians can and show revel in. It is simultaneously epic, funny, awkward, cool, meaningless and substanceless. This one event encapsulates the completion of Prime Minister Harper’s transmutation into President George W. Bush.

Stephen Harper’s Flight Suit Photo Op is GREAT!

TTAG: Dune


In 1965 Frank Herbert published the best science fiction novel ever. Dune has feudalism, space travel, dessert planets, drugs, concubines, matriarchal cults, a galactic messiah and every sci-fi fundamental/archetype. Dune was published one year before the original Star Trek series began.

The plot of Dune is one as old as time: The desert planet Arrakis, the only place in the universe you can find the spice melange, is receiving being transferred to the Duke of Atreides (one of several feuding noble houses that rule the galaxy.) The Emperor uses the Harkonnen to initiate a coup against the Duke to ensure that he cannot use his popularity and the native Fremen who live in Arrakis to become emperor himself. The Duke’s concubine Lady Jessica, the Bene Gesserit, and her son Paul Atreides (who the Fremen believe is the Kwisatz Haderach) who both have Mentat mind-power, manage to escape death and flee to the desert where Paul climbs up the Freman ranks. Paul, who name is now Muad’Dib, declares Jihad on the Barron Harkonnen and eventually becomes Emperor of the known Universe. You know, that old chestnut.

Though written in 1965, Dune’s story and themes are timeless and relevant even today. Four examples come to mind: First, as the corporations of today design more intelligent robots one can look to the world of tomorrow in Dune to see a great set of rules that ensures no computer (“thinking machine”) is powerful enough to replace humans completely. Second, while there are droughts and wars for water all over the world today one sees a similar situation in the planet Arrakis where everyone wears a special suit that recycles water. Third, many people in the Western world are addicted to pain medication and anti-depressants just as the universe is addicted to “the spice” in Dune. Lastly, again like on Arrakis, the humans of today have to deal with giant sandworms that are drawn to shield generators and can swallow space ships whole.

Dune inspired the Star Wars franchise (and the good parts of the new ones) and helped set the standard for well-written and hard science based science-fiction. Dune is intelligent, contains social commentaries on Islam, Environmentalism and Drugs that were ahead of its time and one movie version has Patrick Stewart in it.

Dune is GREAT!

TTAG: Hark! A Vagrant

Hark! A Vagrant

‘Hark! A Vagrant’ is a web-comic produced by Kate Beaton. Originally from Cape Breton, Beaton is a Toronto-based cartoonist who has lived all over Canada (Alberta, B.C., New Brunswick and now Ontario.) She has being writing and illustrating ‘Hark! A Vagrant‘ for just over a year. These comics have many ingredients right out of the Recipe Book of greatness: they are silly, intelligent, full of obscure references and are very Canadian.

Something is so wrong yet so right about James Naismith saying “No you don’t carry the ball, you dribble that shit” in one of her earlier strips that is a perfect send up of the Canadian Heritage Moment commercials. The Naismith comic has so many layers and is clever and thoughtful but, while being unique compared to other web-comics, it meets the same high quality as Beaton’s other cartoons on the website.

All of Kate Beaton’s comic strips are humourous, unique and explore situations that you wouldn’t think would make for great satire or web-content but are thoroughly satisfying. Some situations she brings to life are:

A Scottish Soldier in General Wolfe’s army on the Plains of Abraham bemoaning having to fight in the English Army,

Pope Benedict discussing with a women why he is better than John Paul II (who arrives and makes excellent use of street slang.)

A picture of Queen Elizabeth I with the emphatic title “Bigger Ruffs for Everyone.”

A stranger giving a child candy drawn using the Microsoft Paint Program

And a meeting between some of the big names of Canadian history (assembled by John A Macdonald) where they debate how to make Canadian history more interesting.

Many of the Hark! A Vagrant comics don’t feature history at all. They are either autobiography or contain jokes and references not grounded in history but still hilarious nonetheless. I have read every one of these comics and check Mrs. Beaton’s website at least twice a week. There is an apparel section that features t-shirts with her work featured on them.

Hark! A Vagrant is educational and inspirational, the writer/illustrator has maintained a distinct quality in every one of her cartoons. Sometimes you have to wikipedia the historical figure referenced but you are all the better for it when that occurs. Anyone who can make Canadian history interesting and funny should be applauded. These comics are not only clever but they combine the bests elements of Monty Pytonesque esoteric references with jokes that are universally funny.

Hark! A Vagrant is GREAT!

TTAG: Knob Hill Farms’ Baskets

Knob Hill Farms’ Baskets

Before environmentalism was cool, before Wilco became Wal-Mart and yes even before Tim Hudak began his career as a politician, a gigantic store called “Knob Hill Farms” was servicing customers all over the GTA. There were two within convenient driving distance of Whitby, one in Pickering and one is Oshawa. Their behemouth stores sold food. Aisle after aisle after isle X1000 were filled with different products in cans, boxes and, when you get to the milk section (yes there was a whole section dedicated to milk), cartons.

Before you were able to push your enormous shopping cart around a warehouse that they used in Indiana Jones you had to “buy” a basket. Buy is in quote because it was really just a deposit. They were $2 each (two dollar bills were still allowed.) Knob Hill Farms is where my family’s love affair using a container instead of bags to bring food home from the grocery store began (as well as my own addiction to pie filling in a can.) My dad would get a whole bunch of them and every time we came we would either return some and get the deposit back or get some new ones. However, we did not return all of them. Know Hill Farms’ Baskets were always a fixture in my basement or the kitchen holding old newspapers and other items. They seem to have a limitless amount of uses (including a car for young Joseph to ride down the stairs.)

In 2000 Knob Hill Farms closed down because of L0blaws and other competitors. It was a dark day as it also closed down a great tradition of: Family Sunday Shopping Trips. My parents did not return the baskets we had, around 10 or so, as we knew the value of their multiple uses.

Years later people started realizing how much of a waste grocery bags are. My dad was ahead of this curve and before cloth bags and cardboard boxes were vogue he was using what I called: “Knob Hill Farms Boxes.”

Knob Hill Farms’ Baskets have infinite uses, they help the environment by saving bags, their size is perfect for a shopping cart, KHFBs were built to last and they are now a collector’s item. I have repeatedly used them to move my belongings into residence at University.

Knob Hill Farms’ Baskets are GREAT!