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Josh Lieblein

There was a time when Josh Lieblein actually thought he'd live out a quiet, normal life, helping to keep his fellow Canadians alive as long as possible by working within the confines of a not-actually-all-that-universal health care system. As is often the case, however, fate had other ideas. After being targeted by campus leftists, he was summoned to the nation's capital and trained to fight against the rent-seeking, tax-farming Liberal Party of Canada, a group of snobby elitists who think they're SO much better than everyone else.

Unfortunately, Canadians are not known for their successes in war-fighting (though they are quite brave and level-headed in the face of peril) and even though Josh distinguished himself in several successful electoral contests and developed an expert knowledge of his country's culture and politics, the Liberals ultimately returned to power. Taking pity on this poor enslaved Canadian, Liberty Island Senior Editor David Swindle suggested that politics was actually downstream from culture and that if he could actually shift Canada's culture (after first discovering it, of course), then its politics would follow. Since Canada's literary elite are a bunch of self-promoting hacks who glorify carnal relations with animals (no, I am not joking), Josh realized that he could hardly do worse.

The result is his first novel, the first draft of which is now undergoing its initial revisions and edits: an epic tale of magic, mystery, and not a little foolishness set on a distant world just slightly unlike our own, where the young hero OBSIDIAN MORNINGSTAR relies on only his fists, his wits, and his latent magical ability in his life-defining struggle against the monstrous machinations of the depraved- but impeccably polite- reality-bending aristocrats known as THE CONSENSUS.

When Josh is not trying to stage a one-man literary uprising, he can be found columnizing and podcasting at Loonie Politics, investigating the real-life Consensus with his journalist pal Graeme C. Gordon at ravingcanuck.com, while working long hours as a pharmacist besides. Occasionally he says something funny on Twitter at @JustJoshinYa

The Garrison Mentality: More Than Meets The Eye

Deconstructing Canadian Culture, Part 6: Animation

The consequence free hipster odyssey of Scott Pilgrim and the gritty, blood-soaked path trod by Wolverine do not contradict one another – they are one and the same. This contradiction plays itself out in a concept called “the garrison mentality“- broadly, the idea that Canadians invent or seek out their own personal wars despite living in relative peace. But rather than explicate this confusing concept through politics or history, I will do it using two children’s cartoons with Canadian roots.

One, “Transformers: Beast Wars,” is likely well known to you. Everybody knows the robots in disguise thanks to Michael Bay’s explosion-soaked series of films. (Hilariously, and proving my point in a way, “Beast Wars” was deemed to be too violent a title for Canadians, so the show was known in Canada as ‘Beasties.'”) The other, “ReBoot,” is acclaimed in animation circles but enjoys much less popular fandom. Both were created by Vancouver-based Mainframe Entertainment.

Visually, these two series have not aged well. Being early-to-mid 1990s CGI, the uncanny valley runs deep through them. But the writing, voice acting and character development remain top-notch and surprisingly deep. And, for the purposes of our discussion, the ancient animation actually helps convey the sense of unease and low-level threat central to the garrison mentality.

Inside Quebec’s – and Canada’s – Replicant Culture

Deconstructing Canadian Culture, Part 5: Dystopian Science Fiction

The doomed antiheroes Spawn (created by a Canadian) and Wolverine (who is Canadian) show that to separate from Canada carries with it a grave penalty, even the loss of one’s soul to Hell itself. And yet there is a region of Canada that has nevertheless flirted, dangerously closely, with separatism. I speak of course of La Belle Province – Quebec.

As this is a series on Canadian culture, I will not delve too deeply into Quebec’s history or politics. Any discussion of Quebec culture, however, must reference the year 1759 and the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, just outside modern-day Quebec City, where British forces established themselves as the sole power in what was then Canada.

An obscure and quite short battle in the much larger Seven Years War, this event created the pretext for French-speaking Canadians to view themselves as a conquered and colonized people. To this day, Quebecois display “Je Me Souviens” (I remember) on the license plates of their cars, and antipathy towards the English royal family is common throughout the province while the Queen remains (mostly) beloved everywhere else. This is the result of the Quiet Revolution, a cultural and religious shift two hundred years after the French defeat at the hands of the British. The Catholic Church may have lost most of its power, but a giant cross still stands atop Mount Royal and adorns the Quebec National Assembly, the provincial seat of power, and Quebecers curse each other with religious epithets (Tabarnak! Va a diable! Crisse!).

Banished From The Promised Land: A Tale of Two Canadian Anti-Heroes

Deconstructing Canadian Culture, Part 4: Wolverine Vs Spawn

The road from Scott Pilgrim’s Toronto, to Wayne and Tanis’ Letterkenny, and out to the farthest reaches of Essex County has turned into a Heart of Darkness journey… of sorts. This is still Canada, remember? There was, at long last, some heroism, but nothing yet that could credibly be called evil. For that, we’ll have to go abroad, and back in time a few decades, to the grim-darkest depths of the 1990s.

You know this place: everything is XTREEEEEEEME!!!! and everyone thinks in Frank Miller internal monologue balloons, wears eye-bleeding colours and more ammo pouches than ever could be considered practical, talks like a surfer, and enjoys stable employment as a vigilante contract killer. How would morally squishy Canadians hold up in this kind of environment? Pretty well, it turns out, because you probably know Wolverine, one of this era’s grittiest exemplars, and you’re probably familiar with the work of Todd McFarlane, who drew some of those badass anti-heroes.

McFarlane is Canadian, but his character Al Simmons/Spawn is an American: Wolverine is a Canadian character created by Americans Roy Thomas and Len Wein. I chose these two as a study in contrasts, but also to highlight what happens when the Canadian creator, or creation, gets sick of the aggressively dull homeland and thrusts himself into a hostile world.

The Harsh Truths of ‘Essex County’

Deconstructing Canadian Culture, Part 3: Graphic Novel Nihilism

Down the aimless streets of Toronto in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and through the idyllic back country of Letterkenny, lies the way to understanding the way Canadians see themselves, or at least would like to be seen. Both these works are about keeping up a carefully crafted image: the studied apathy and hipsterdom of the big city, and the carefully cultivated simplicity of the country.

But beneath these polished exteriors (that do their best to not appear polished) lies the haunted world of Jeff Lemire’s Essex County. This is the Canada that we don’t talk about, rendered in stark black and white inks.

The Libertarian Fantasy of ‘Letterkenny’

Deconstructing Canadian Culture, Part 2: “Humour”

In our last post we explored the high-energy, low-stakes, and ultimately aimless retro-gaming netherworld that was Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World and found a lot of art but little matter. So for now we’ll depart the big city of Toronto and take a trip into Canada’s equivalent of flyover country into the little town of Letterkenny.

Now, I should state right up front that making fun of rustics and calling it “Canadian humour” is a trope almost as old as Canada itself, even though I do in fact know that there’s nothing uniquely Canadian about it. Letterkenny is in a tradition dating back to the grand old man of Canadian humour, the Canadian Mark Twain, Stephen Leacock (who I’ll be covering in a later installment).

‘Scott Pilgrim Vs The World’ Vs Terrance Denby and Sidequest

Deconstructing Canadian Culture, Part 1: Heroes

For a decade, I and my fellow travelers worked within my country’s political system, trying to effect change. Then, one fateful day- October 19th, 2015- the 42nd Canadian federal election came to an end, and everything we’d worked for was wiped away.

Rather than go through the process of rebuilding a broken party again, I decided to work with Liberty Island senior editor Dave Swindle to create my own culture-influencing fantasy trilogy. But as I delved deeper into Canadian culture, I began to realize that I was starting from a very different cultural reference point. I couldn’t just blindly copy American tropes of soldiers of fortune, accidental prophets, badass bikers and even SJWs who end up entangled in the American political system.

When I read Liberty Island novels featuring these protagonists, I keep noticing differences that take me out of the story. It’s not hard to imagine other Canadians getting hung up on these differences, too.

What ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ Can Teach Us About Winning The Culture War

Big budget superhero films can still have emotional depth and thematic substance

With Avengers: Infinity War, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has actually reached two milestones. Not only does this film complete the evolution of the comic book movie from niche action flick that barely respected its own source material to movie industry staple, it makes the case that a summer blockbuster can deliver a complex emotional experience.

Even if you haven’t seen the film, you probably know that the deaths are particularly resonant (to the point that there has been a proliferation of “[X], I don’t feel so good” memes, which show characters from different franchises fading away), that Josh Brolin’s Thanos is the Marvel villain that we’ve all been waiting for, and that even with the loads and loads of characters, nobody feels overlooked or half-baked.

Reading Klavan In Canada

Part 10 of the Andrew Klavan Symposium

Sometimes the path to inspiration doesn’t go the way we think it will… I had traced the sole copy of Andrew Klavan’s Werewolf Cop – the only book by him available, anywhere in the vast expanse of the province of Ontario, apparently – to a Chapters bookstore in the mid-sized town of Waterloo…

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