Nobody Does it Better: Daniel Craig kills it in Spectre.


I don’t know what the formula is that keeps me coming back to 007.  The Sean Connery years are definitely period pieces by today’s standards.  Roger Moore as James Bond was cool and campy.  Almost like watching Adam West as Batman.  Timothy Dalton was too hard-edged and unforgiving playing the role and for me personally Pierce Brosnan was perhaps channeling a bit too much Remington Steele for my liking.

The series could have continued down that make-believe path of vaudevillian villains with the mega-lair that Dr Evil would be drooling over.  Then came along Daniel Craig, who essentially rebooted bond, and brought a healthy dose of reality and consequence to the character.  Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace changed the game for Bond and upped the stakes to unto before seen levels.

Then Sam Mendes turned the amps up to 11.  I loved everything about Skyfall, the cinematography was beyond anything that had ever graced the world of 007.  The story line actually meant something, the movies dovetailed together.

Spectre brings everything together, including the sins of the past.  The gritty reality of Craig’s bond hits home in ways that have never been explored and only hinted at in Skyfall.  James Bond was once a boy and that boy has a dark past.

Pictures and documents from James’s childhood are recovered from his boyhood home of Skyfall, things he would rather have left behind.  One burned photo from the movie trailer shows two boys and a man standing together in the snow.  Does James Bond have a brother?  And if so how does he fit into the larger picture of the cabal of lies and the shadowy organization that is behind all of it?

Spectre brings the Daniel Craig story arc into sharp focus and ties the clues together.  Who was ultimately behind the deaths of Dame Judy Dench’s “M”, and his love interest Vesper Lynd for whom he was willing to give up his service to crown and country?

Once again Sam Mendes ups the action to almost hyperactive levels in the opening scenes but with the artistic flair very few directors can match at this level.  This is not a CGI slug fest but a film in which a reported 36 million dollars worth of high performance supercars were destroyed in filming.

The Daniel Craig story arc for James Bond has delivered a character examination of a lifestyle that has consequences.  People die, new relationships form and villains have real world ambitions.  The situations depicted in Spectre are going on in the world today.  Intelligence agencies collect data on the population at large in increasing levels.  Phone calls, video surveillance and data transfers are being monitored in real-time but who ultimately controls that information and to what end?

If you love the world of Ian Flemming’s most potent creation do yourself a favor and go see this movie.

My rating for Spectre is 4.5 out of 5.

Authors Note: If you want to learn the real life inspiration for James Bond 007 please use the links below.

William Stephenson the quiet man that would inspire 007

James Bond, Winston Churchill and Adolph Hitler: The Canadian Connection

William Stephenson, Roald Dahl and Ian Flemming: The Birth of James Bond 007

Mid-Winter Mardi-Gras: Let the Good Times Roll!

Well, here we are again Winnipeg, mid-January with the cold and snow firmly entrenched and no end in sight. For those of you, like myself, unable to travel somewhere tropical, there is a reprieve in sight. The good folks in The Vatican came up with the idea of Lent a couple of centuries ago and wouldn’t you know it the industrious citizens of New Orléans know an opportunity to eat and carry on when they see it. Fat Tuesday, or Mardi-Gras to our Creole and Cajun friends to the South is just the excuse to let loose, eat and drink till you can’t do that no more.

Tom McGouran lampshade at the ready with Alix Michaels rocking out with an Aligator at Mardi Gras Media Night

Tom McGouran lampshade at the ready with Alix Michaels rocking out with an Aligator at Mardi Gras Media Night

Held at The RBC Convention Centre February 13th and 14th this Mardi Gras celebration marks the tenth anniversary of the event in Winnipeg. Fabulous food, entertainment and two themed nights are planned to please and surprise those who have a shine on their shoes and spring in their step.

Announcing the festivities for Mardi Gras at media night.

Announcing the festivities for Mardi Gras at media night.

Friday, February 13th is Zombie Night. The living dead will be roaming the room at the RBC Convention Centre. Come dressed as one of the living impaired and join the Undead Newlyweds as they seek fun, dancing and brains!! Those who dress to impress the undead get free admission to the Friday the 13th event.

Tom McGouran and the Zombie Bride 2

Tom McGouran better eat quick he’s being sized up for lunch by the Zombie Bride!

Don’t have a date or a mate to bring to Mardi Gras on Valentine’s Day Saturday, February the 14th? Don’t worry, you can wear your heart on your sleeve and maybe meet that special someone who will sweep you off your feet and rock the night away. Cut out hearts will be available at the door to pin to your outfit and mark yourself Looking for Love! I can personally attest to hearing some very heartfelt testimonials from people who were looking only to dance the night away and found that special someone to make the night magical.

Tom and Alix

Tom McGouran and Alix Michaels

Speaking of magic, back by popular demand, all the way from New Orléans, Louisiana is Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellrasisers. The perennial party band is a sweet treat for your ears and your feet. You’ll be jumping and shaking with music so good you’ll want to slap yo mama!

Even Country Girls like Mardi Gras. Leanne The Boss Lady Cater in full plumage at Mardi Gras Media Night

Even Country Girls like Mardi Gras. Leanne “The Boss Lady” Cater in full plumage at Mardi Gras Media Night

If that’s not enough for y’all, don’t forget The Lindsays will be performing throughout the night.  Featuring Sword Swallowing, Juggling and feats that will  amaze and surprise young and old alike!  Showgirls and yes ladies Showboys will be on display for your roving eye.  Of course we can’t forget Beads! Thank goodness it’s an adult party with no children to protect from the giving of Beads! Wink Wink Y’all!

Fresh shucked oysters

Fresh shucked oysters

Now all that moving and shaking is going to be putting a fierce hunger in that belly. Why not try some of the flavours of Louisiana. The menu this year includes fan favourites such as Deep Fried Pickles and Sweet Potato Fries, screamingly fresh P.E.I Oysters, shucked just for you and of course Peel and Eat Shrimp. New to Winnipeg Mardi Gras, sample Authentic Alligator Fritters, be careful though these may bite back!

Freshly flambéed Shrimp with Pasta

Freshly flambéed Shrimp with Pasta

Looking for something a little more hearty? Try the Louisiana Style Shrimp with Pasta, French Quarter Gumbo or Bourbon Street Creole Style Jambalaya! I’ve personally tried all the above and they are spectacular.


Jambalaya! Need I say More?

Gentlemen, why not treat your own zombie bride to be or Valentine date to a sweet treat. This year’s desert special is Basin Street Pudding with Bourbon Laced Caramel Sauce.

Bread Pudding with Bourbon Caramel Sauce

Bread Pudding with Bourbon Caramel Sauce

With all of this activity y’all are going to have a mighty powerful thirst going on. Don’t worry, they have you covered. Major drink sponsors include Fireball Canadian Whiskey, Wine O’ Clock, Diabolica, Molson/Coors and Heineken. Naturally, you can’t have a party Louisiana style without Jack Daniel’s or Southern Comfort so they’ll be there as well!

Come visit Kristjana the Fireball Girl at Mardi Gras

Come visit Kristjana the Fireball Girl at Mardi Gras February 13th at the RBC Convention Centre.

I know that personally I can’t wait for the chance to shake off these winter blues and dance till my feet can’t dance no more. Come join us, it’s going to be one hell-raiser of a good time.

Media Celeberties laugh it up at Mardi Gras Media Night

Media Celeberties laugh it up at Mardi Gras Media Night

Authors Note: I do have a few free passes to give away for both Friday and Saturday nights. So to win, leave a comment detailing what night you’d like and what you’ll do to get them. For example, if you want Zombie Night, tell me what your costume plans are. If Valentine’s Day is more your style tell me why you absolutely need to meet that special someone this year. Winnipeg and area only please, I will be in contact with the winners to arrange pick up of the tickets.

Here’s Bobby!

Hello friends and gentle readers.

I feel that I should first apologize for the distinct lack of posts this last year or so, I basically took the year off as a sabbatical of sorts. My health in general was poor, my mind increasingly disjointed and unorganized. In short, I needed a break from life. I went to my Doctor and arranged a break of sorts. A mental and physical health holiday of the highest order.

I can happily report to all of you that my break was not in vain. In fact, I would highly recommend to anyone at the midpoint of life to take a year off and really dig into the mechanics of who you are, where you are and how you got there. For me it was not only the single-most difficult thing I had ever done, it was also the most rewarding and enlightening. A fearless accounting into who I am and who I am working to become in the future.

I say that with humble honesty, my friends, very few people to my knowledge take the time to mentally and emotionally rip their lives apart crawling hands and knees amongst the facets of our lives relentlessly searching and examining the good, the bad and ugly. The dark, sticky shame covered fragments that hide in the dingy corners and under the beds and the floorboards of the home that is our psyche.

I have trembled and cried uncontrollably at times, facing not the facts of my life, but the raw suppressed emotions I had buried for decades. I am beginning to learn how to feel and not just think. One of my most vexing Councillors repeated again and again, don’t tell me what you think, tell me what you feel. Scary stuff for a 45 year old man raised in the 70’s to do.

The long and short of it friends is that after a much needed break from life I am striving to return to the land of the living. Slowly at first, moderation I am finding is a good friend of mine. Surely though you can expect new content to grace the pages of Exploring Winnipeg and Beyond. I have been networking and working on story ideas that I hope you all find interesting and enlightening.

So it is with full optimism and determination I am proud to announce, the best is yet to come.

With Love to you all, I am once again, your scribe.


We Love, we Grieve, We Stand together. Because we can.

Today is a day we as Canadians should all stand united.

I say that on the eve of remembrance knowing that will never be true.

Canada is a fractured country, it always has been and it always will be. From the two solitudes of French and English that laid the foundations of this country to the regional strife we battle today.

That is the problem that is Canada and also its solution.

Unlike many nations around the world Canada since my birth has embraced the idea of a mosaic society. Allowing many cultures to blend into one fabric.

We live as one nation, fractured, separated, apart, but some how blending as a whole.  What would be nation states in other parts of the world fighting yet united as a whole.

Hard to understand when seen apart of a nation but somehow working together, never seamless, never united always fractured.  But always working for the greater good.

We have lost, we grieve.
We stand together because we can.

We love, we labor. We stand together because we can

Montreal: The Mish-Mash City

I can almost see the confused look on your face gentle reader.  Mish-mash city, what the hell is Bob talking about this time? Well let me put it in terms we all can understand, Montreal is a city of contrast.  Old and new, English and French, white, black, brown with enough old world charm and new world sizzle to make it all stick together and work surprisingly well.

I stole the term from a menu item at Beautys Lunchonette, the mish-mash is an omelette containing Egg, hot dog, salami, green pepper, onion and apparently what ever else it close to the cook’s hand. It’s a strange concoction but seeing that it’s been on the menu at Beautys for decades it must somehow work.  That’s the way I found Montreal on my first visit.

My partner and sometimes editor Darlene has been in Montreal on business for the last few weeks and with access to free hotel room.  I was able to roam the city to my heart’s content during the day.  I did not over plan this trip as I am accustomed to doing.  Instead I tried to focus on a different part of the city each day and just wander the area in search of adventure and of course food.

Orange Julip Exterior

Gibeau Orange Julip Exterior

Orange Julip Menu Board

Gibeau Orange Julip Menu Board

After flying in from Winnipeg our first stop was a grand Montreal landmark and home to some of the finest hot dogs in la belle province.  Of course I am speaking of Gibeau Orange Julep,  it’s impossible to miss as you drive past, just look for the giant orange-shaped building with masses of people milling about in the parking lot.  Established in 1928 the business centers around quality fast foods including hot dogs, hamburgers, crispy french fries and the obligatory whipped orange beverage.  Similar to an Orange Julius but less sweet and made from fresh squeezed oranges.  

Orange Julip Drink

Orange Julip Drink

Two Hotdog special from Orange Julip

Two Hotdog special from Gibeau Orange Julip

Contrast this with our first dinner in Montreal’s Old City and hopefully the Mish-Mash idea becomes a bit clearer.  Dining at Vieux Port Steakhouse is a treat for the carnivore that lurks in all of us.  First of all the dining area is fabulously old school and when I say old school I mean 1700’s.  The interior walls are still the original rock and mortar construction, dark wood accents fill the room giving it that proper non-hipster seriously stylish feel.

Vieux Port Steakhouse

Vieux Port Steakhouse

Bob and Dar Vieux Port Steakhouse

Bob and Dar at Vieux Port Steakhouse

The menu is meat centric of course, ranging from the 8 oz flat iron steak ($23) and topping out at the truly massive 22 oz porterhouse ($47).  But that is not to say that beef is the only option on the menu; bison, lamb, and a reasonable selection of fish also make stand out appearances.

Lobster Bisque

Lobster Bisque

Ribeye steak with Baked Potato

Rib eye steak with Baked Potato

The monstrosity that is Vieux Port Steakhouse Porterhouse.  So big it requires it's own plate!

The monstrosity that is Vieux Port Steakhouse Porterhouse. So big it requires its own plate!

After dinner strolling through the street of Old Montreal I was already beginning to form an opinion on this city.  Separated by only scant blocks the gleaming glass and steel office towers give way to cobblestone, hand laid stone and mortar buildings and horse-drawn carriages clip clopping down the narrow passageways with romantic couples cuddled up in blankets.  It was like stepping into another world entirely.

Crowded Streets in Old Montreal

Crowded Streets of Old Montreal

Going Out For a Smoke in Old Montreal

Going Out For a Smoke in Old Montreal

Square Romanesque Night One Montreal

Square Romanesque

Purple and Blue Square on Night One Montreal

Purple and Blue Square

Montreal did not bulldoze the past to make way for the present, it’s embraced, cherished and honored.  Much like the truly multicultural city it is today.  More on that in my coming posts.

Plinth at Night in Purple Redux

Plinth at Night in Purple

Was Harry Houdini America’s first international super spy?

Originally posted on Exploring Winnipeg and Beyond.:

There is a great deal of recent speculation on the life and times of one of magic’s greatest legends, Harry Houdini.  It seems that new information has come to light on things that governments don’t like to talk about.  Espionage.

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Happy Birthday Harry Houdini.

Originally posted on Exploring Winnipeg and Beyond.:

Seeing  as tomorrow marks the 137th anniversary of Harry Houdini’s birth I would like to take a minute or two to honour this master illusionist, escape artist and debunker of spiritual chicanery.

To read more about Harry and his life, check out these two great posts that I wrote last year on the topic.

Spirits, levitation and Sherlock Holmes

Harry Houdini: The Mythbuster of his age

Happy Birthday Harry, the world of magic and illusion wouldn’t be the same without you.

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