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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

Mike Myers and Jim Carrey: The Grotesque In Canadian Comedy

Deconstructing Canadian Culture, Part 29: Cautionary Tales

Writing this one is going to be difficult, because Mike Myers and Jim Carrey were larger than life heroes to me growing up as a proud ’90s Kid.

A Quick Guide To The Culture of Newfoundland and Labrador

Deconstructing Canadian Culture, Part 28: Long May Your Big Jib Draw!

The Simpsons hasn’t been relevant, much less controversial, for decades. But hey: there’s always trolling Canada for laughs. That always works!

And so we got “D’Oh Canada,” an episode that really didn’t need to be made, or talked about, except for the fact that it features a “joke” where Ralph Wiggum decides he’s a “Newfie”, and then knocks the head off a stuffed baby seal and proceeds to kick it around. The Canadian media, which is as awful and transparently fake as yours (except your media reports on issues of consequence sometimes, and mine reports on…..this), duly investigated whether The Simpsons went TOO FAR.

Norm MacDonald: Controlled Chaos

Deconstructing Canadian Culture, Part 27: the Holy Fool Personified

So, now the truth has come out. Canadians are a people without “story”.

But then again: That’s what happens when, for so long, the thing that holds Canadians together was “not American.” And that’s why it’s so important that a “story” for Canadians is created out of the disparate building blocks that make up this series.

Now, the fact that Canadian have no “stories” could be tragic, or it could be magic, as the wonderful case of Norm MacDonald shows.

Story Wars: Canadians and the Star Trek vs. Star Wars Battle

Deconstructing Canadian Culture, Part 26: The Trouble of “Story”

Vulcan, Alberta, Canada. Population: 1,917, as per the latest Canadian census (2016). Home to the Tourism and Trek Station and the annual “Vul-Con” Convention.

No, the town was not named after Spock’s home planet, but Vulcan is a pretty clear indicator of Canada’s Trek obsession. The debate may rage elsewhere, but in Canada there is a definite consensus (as there is with so many things): Trek leaves Wars in the space dust.

William Shatner: To Boldy Goof

Deconstructing Canadian Culture, Part 25: Faking It Until He Made It

For some, the word “goof” is associated with a dim-witted but lovable Disney character. For Canadians, “goof” is the ultimate insult, on par with being called a child molester. Walk into a bar in Canada and call someone a goof and you will get your ass kicked.

A “goof” may be completely harmless and well-meaning. The goof wants to be liked. But something is… off about him. His behaviour isn’t quite normal. It’s persistently annoying. He’s the opposite of the level-headed Canadian exemplar.

People notice and target the goof. Women won’t touch the goof. If you see him, cross the street. His actions can’t go unpunished. And he’s got to reassert his place in the social order by fighting.

Sometimes, however, the goof gets the last laugh. They want to call me a goof? I’ll show them just how goofy I can be

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you get William Shatner.

Leslie Nielsen: Accidentally Absurd

Deconstructing Canadian Culture, Part 24: The Funniest Thing in a Movie Where Jokes are Delivered Almost Every Minute

Surely, Leslie Nielsen was never supposed to be a serious actor? Well, I am serious – and don’t call me “Shirley.”

Nielsen – who has always been a sort of Canadian Adam West to me, utterly and earnestly oblivious to how ridiculous he comes off – is an important dividing line between the serious actors I’ve discussed in previous weeks who would often find themselves caught up in the campiest of schlockfests, and the Canadian actors who began as clowns and later craved respect, such as Mike Myers and Jim Carrey.

Plummer and Sutherland brought gravitas to ridiculous roles, and, as we’ll see, Carrey and Myers tried to inject some levity into serious drama. Nielsen is different because – at least initially – he wasn’t going for over the top humour or deadpan seriousness. There’s a Chaplinesque passivity and calm on display as he boldly soldiers through silliness like the Star Trek forerunner Forbidden Planet.

Donald Sutherland: Grit Personified

Deconstructing Canadian Culture, Part 23: Toughness Tempered with Gentleness

“Grit” is a concept we will be returning to when we discuss the place of sport in Canadian culture, but for now it serves as a way to distinguish between ethereals like Christopher Plummer and Mary Pickford and Donald Sutherland, the legitimately cool, relatable rogue.

“Grit” is also not uniquely Canadian. Harrison Ford exudes grit. Nick Nolte has it in spades. Paul Newman, Clint Eastwood, Charlton Heston… I could go on. But Sutherland is no hardened cowboy, no scruffy nerf-herder. He may have been one of the Dirty Dozen, but his role in that infamous operation was to “stay out in the drive” and impersonate enemy soldiers. In M*A*S*H* (the film) he was Hawkeye Pierce,  a well-known lover but no fighter. When he ends up body snatched in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, pointing and shrieking in that memorable scene near the end, the opposite him reacts with sorrow as well as fear.

Christopher Plummer: A Modern Prospero

Deconstructing Canadian Culture, Part 22: As Blue-Blooded and Upper Canadian as They Come

To criticize a universally beloved 89-year-old titan of stage and screen – possibly best known as Captain Von Trapp from The Sound of Music, a role he famously detests –  is a thing not easily done.

This is the man they brought in to save Ridley Scott’s All The Money In The World after Kevin Spacey’s heinous deeds were exposed at the height of #MeToo. (He will not be the last Canadian on our list that acted as a calming force during that period of justified outrage.) Spike Lee trusted him enough to cast him in two of his films. He played a Klingon with a hilarious eyepatch and “The Emperor” in a schlocky Star War ripoff, Starcrash, with the same grace and aplomb as his many, many Shakespearean turns – Henry V, Hamlet, Caesar, Mercutio, Lear, and, yes – Prospero.

But as Christopher Plummer himself will readily admit, his life has been a charmed one, mostly free of the struggle and want common to most actors. Plummer’s easygoing yet authoritative presence, his capability and durability, and above all his magical ability to project order cannot be truly understood unless you know that he was born to the cream of Canadian society, the great-grandson of Canada’s third Prime Minister, John Abbott.

Mary Pickford: The Archetypal (Canadian) Actress

Deconstructing Canadian Culture, Part 21: The Blank Screen

The history of Canadian actors is unlike the history of Canadians in any other medium. Canadian novelists are celebrated at home and barely noticed abroad. Canadian musicians are oddities and curiosities with hardcore fanbases. Canadian directors are singular visionaries who engage (or refuse to engage) with the meaning of life itself.

But Canadians have been such an integral part of Hollywood that you have to remind people that a famous actor is, or was Canadian. And so, as I introduce the archetypal Canadian actress – Gladys Smith, aka Mary Pickford – I really have to squint to pick out what makes her Canadian.

The Reitman Family’s Blissful Ignorance

Deconstructing Canadian Culture, Part 20: Space to Laugh an Easy Laugh

Meatballs. Space Jam. Kindergarten Cop. Animal House. And above all, Ghostbusters.

These are just a few of the easy, breezy, morally loose and lighthearted comedy classics either directed by or produced by Canadian film legend Ivan Reitman. I don’t have to introduce or analyze them, because you know them all. You can quote lines from them. These films were memeworthy before memes were a thing.

Everything about the guy just screams likeability. Reitman was happy to lend some of his middle-to-low-brow cred to more artistically-minded Canadians – he produced Atom Egoyan’s Chloe, and helped David Cronenberg with a couple of his early projects in the ’70s. Kids can – and probably should, these days – watch his films and delight in them. Actors like Bill Murray, Danny DeVito and Sigourney Weaver loved working with him, and years later he helped give birth to the “Frat Pack” comedy explosion with 2003’s Old School. Even SJWs have to build around or subvert the structures he creates rather than trying to tear them down – that’s how you got “Lady Ghostbusters.”

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