2004-11-30

A Leaf Like No Other Never Had A Chance

Alex picked up a maple leaf from the ground
It was a beautiful crisp one, strong and free
Its red, gold and orange soul was in perfect harmony
He showed it to his friends
They wondered how best to take care of the leaf
All had good intentions at first
Before long, an argument ensued
Jealous and parochial they chose to be
All claimed to know what was best
Each tugged at the leaf weakening it in the process
One walked out, not for respect of the leaf, but of hubris
Another chose to chew on it
Yet another chose to change its form
In all this, no one came in and spoke for the leaf
The leaf hangs in Alex's room, a slave to its once proud captor, forgotten
Waiting to be discovered

2004-11-29

Welcome Back, Andy Kim

For music fans, and Canadians in particular, the return of Andy Kim with his recently released EP (Five-song cd) 'I Forgot to Mention' reminds them of what music meant to them when they were young. Often and unfairly classified as 'bubble gum', Kim's repertoire of music is much deeper than a superficial label. People would not react fondly and positively if this were true. When I mentioned the return of Andy Kim to my circle of family and friends, the response was enormously positive.

Featured on the record are Ed Robertson of the Barenaked Ladies, Kenny Aronoff, who, as drummer, worked with John Mellencamp and the Smashing Pumpkins, Peter Holesapple of R.E.M., Bob Medici (Lou Reed), Hal Craggin (Iggy Pop) and Timothy B. Schmidt of legendary rock band The Eagles. Jim Goodwin (The Call, Velvet Underground) co-wrote and produced the EP. While the record is getting air play in most markets, including Toronto and New York, Montreal (with the exception of one radio station), ironically, has not jumped at the opportunity at promoting a local musician.

Andy Kim has sold 30 million records during a time when defining Canadian 'music' was elusive. No doubt, Canada's greatest acts had to leave the nest to be with the best and the rest in the 60s and 70s. Legendary acts like Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot (who still remains underrated in my mind), The Band, Ronnie Hawkins, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, The Guess Who and Anne Murray are just some of the artists who found fame in the United States and have since been absorbed under the rock Americana umbrella - though they never forgot their Canadian roots.

Even acts such as Rush and April Wine performed during a time when Canadian roots music was still in its infancy stage. Among Kim's greatest songs, which includes 9 Top 40 singles and a Juno Award, are 'Rock Me Gently', 'Baby, I Love you', and 'Be my Baby.' But Andy Kim's signature song was the rock anthem co-written with Jeff Barry - 'Sugar,Sugar', from cartoon series The Archies. Even if Kim had not made a comeback, his contribution to rock was established. Andy Kim is a pioneer for many Canadian musicians who followed later.

Today, the fruits of all the labour of great Canadian musicians are there for all to see. New performers such as Alanis Morrissette, The Tragically Hip, Cowboy Junkies, Barenaked Ladies, Blue Rodeo and a host of other Canadian bands can now seek, without having to leave the nest, expression and popularity in Canada. With the right combination of luck and marketing, they can also find a receptive and lucrative American audience. Canadian rock has finally found its voice as it confidently takes part in the new global music market. While our musicians operate on a global stage they are now part of Canadiana. Actually, if the 60s had the British invasion, a case can be made, with proper branding, of a modern Canadian invasion.

Momentum is clearly on Andy Kim's side. The reason why Tony Bennett found a new audience was because of the ability of his talent and music to cross and speak to several generations. In Andy Kim, we find the same attributes. Many of the musicians who worked with Kim on his latest records showed up at the recording with 45's for him to sign. Imagine that, great musicians who have left a legacy asked for the autograph of an adventurous artist (he left home for New York City when he was 16) from Montreal.

He may have been under the radar screen for 20 years, but there is a lesson here - if you remain honest and true to your music free of all the shallowness so prevalent today, people will remember and always respect what you have accomplished. It's why Chuck Berry will outlive any manufactured robot littering music today.

Andy Kim, too, has stood the test of time and he has returned. Welcome back, kid!

2004-11-28

Branding Canada

What do we mean exactly when we speak of the Canadian identity? Without getting bogged down in philosophical jargon, one of the best ways to measure this is to look at how other countries view Canada. It is at that point we can detect something is wrong. The concept of Canada as a nature-haven run by Duddly Do-Right remains the prevailing perception of Canada. Is this what and who we are?

Defining this country by citing snippets of our history such as repelling the American invasion in 1812, Dr. Joe A. Naismith as the inventor of basketball, Tim Horton and 'I am Canadian' Molson beer commercials is not how we should define this country. Though part of our heritage they are not entirely useful independently in attempting to effectively define our identity.

Often we hear people complain about how Americans are ignorant about Canada. These same people would be surprised to know that the problem extends well beyond the United States. Most countries would be hard-pressed in identifying with a particular Canadian value. It is time to look not at why people know so little of us, but what we are not doing to get the message out.

Since 9/11, America has had to redefine itself as a nation. It is their ability to do so in times of distress that reveals the strength of their culture. But 9/11 does not have to restrict itself to America; it has presented a valuable opportunity for Canadians to find its own voice among the enlightened progressive nations of the world. As I write this, however, I feel we are missing the boat.

The danger of relying on "moments" in our history to help define us without a concrete body is that we become a hodge-podge of vignettes. A collage, if you will, of pieces of history. Part of the problem is Canada's relative weak ability to sell itself abroad is indeed the lack of a cohesive historical curriculum that helps to bind the country. If a country is void of its past, how can we ask it to be a confident equal among the great nations of the world? Perceptions do matter.

Living and breathing next to the most powerful single entity the world has ever known has not been easy for such a small country. Nonetheless, this is the card we have been dealt and we should play the hand with more cleverness and confidence. Can we make things right?

Many of Canada's achievements and accomplishments have gone unnoticed. In short, we are off the radar screen. Even Homer Simpson noticed this when he called Canada 'America Jr. Until then, we will continue to suffer under the umbrella of Americana. We need to break free and create a Canadiana umbrella.

One program I often listen to on the CBC is the Vinyl Cafe. I think this is a great program that helps to provide Canadians with a sense of Canadiana. It is a program that explores the vast and diverse cultural legacy in this country.

To those of you who believe in Nologos and Naomi Klein, maybe this is not for you. But for those of us who do, here's a question: With the proliferation of Canadian singers and bands on the global scene, why has not anyone thought to brand it as the Canadian invasion? If countries like the United States, Italy, France, Germany and Japan (members of the G7) all have brand name products synonymous with their respective cultures, why should not Canada?

Branding starts from the ground up. Simply, and naively, I might add, believing in Canada is not enough. You need to sell yourself. This starts with a solid background in history. Next is to clearly define what and how we want to be perceived in the world and how to develop, implement and execute the plan - moose out, fibre optics in? Rid ourselves forever of the reactionary anti-Americanism and constant navel gazing that comes with it. Maybe then we can save ourselves from expensive misguided, albeit well-intentioned, hollow government plans to brand Canada.

Canada is a talented country. It is also an insecure and fragmented society that has had the difficult task of being wedged to older great powers in Britain and the United States.

Only once we understand ourselves better and meet this with savvy marketing will others begin to appreciate us the way we want to be appreciated.

2004-11-27

Colossus:The Great Teams

These are the sports teams that set the standards by which all great dynasties are judged. They each have impacted the cultural fabric of their respective cities and regions. Their history and legend is undisputed.

Colossus

Montreal Canadiens (NHL)- est. 1909- The Habs are ingrained in the sports fabric of an entire province. 24 Stanley Cups. 32 Cup appearances. 3 dynasties and a record 5 Cups in a row (56-60). The true mecca of hockey.

New York Yankees (MLB)-est.1901- 26 World Series Titles in 39 appearances. New York is home to several dynasties and possibly the greatest North American sports franchise.

Boston Celtics (NBA)-est. 1946- Boston are authors of 8 straight NBA titles (59-66) and 11 in 13 years. Greatest dynasty. Great team. 16 NBA Championships and 19 appearances in finals.

Green Bay Packers (NFL)-est.1921- 3 Super Bowls and 4 appearances; 11 NFL Titles. The heart and soul of professional football in America. The land of winning is everything.

San Francisco 49ers (NFL)-est.1946- 5 Super Bowls -San Francisco's dynasty is young compared to when they began operations. An impeccable 5-0 record in Super Bowl finals make them a colossus.

Dallas Cowboys (NFL)-est.1960- 5 Super Bowls - Though disputed in some circle, Dallas is America's team. A league record 8 Super Bowl finals as well as more playoff appearances than any other team.

The Great Franchises. Standard of Excellence established.

Los Angeles Lakers (NBA)- est. 1947- 14 NBA Championships; 27 appearances. They are a step away but are not the only team in town in a great sports town.

St.Louis Cardinals (MLB)-est.1892- 10 World Series; 17 appearances. The best baseball (and sports) fans in the United States.

Chicago Bears (NFL)-est.1920- 1 Super Bowl; 8 NFL Titles. Chicago is home to many sport teams and holds along tradition in sports.

Pittsburgh Steelers (NFL)-est.1933- 5 Super Bowls. 6 appearances. Steeltown made their name in the 70s.

Edmonton Oilers (NHL)-est. 1972- 5 Stanley Cups. 7 appearances They have not been around long but they changed the face of hockey in the 80s.

Detroit Red Wings (NHL)-est. 1926- 10 Stanley Cups; 23 appearances. Hockeytown has proven to be worthy of its title. Second greatest hockey franchise? Not if the Maple Leafs have something to say about this.

Toronto Argonauts (CFL)-est.1873- 15 Grey Cups. CFL fans in Toronto have had some fine teams. Including possibly the greatest under Doug Flutie.

Edmonton Eskimos (CFL)-est.1891- 11 Grey Cups. Some of the greatest teams in CFL history passed though Edmonton - City of Champions

Los Angeles Dodgers (MLB)-est.1890- 6 World Series. 18 appearances. Los Angeles carries Brooklyn's tradition and has found a loyal fan base.

Oakland Athletics (MLB)-est.1901- 9 World Titles. A consistent impressive franchise. Today, it operates with little but remains competitive against the odds.

Miami Dolphins (NFL)-est.1966- 2 Super Bowls. Miami is football in a state that is mad about football. No question about it. '72 is a standard of mythical origins. All-time greatest regular season record. These are hard days for the fish.

Oakland Raiders (NFL)-est.1960- 3 Super Bowls. 4 appearances. Raider Fan may be loose in the head but they do historically have an extremely successful team.

Chicago Bulls (NBA) -est. 1966- 6 NBA Championships. Perfect 6-0 under the greatest player of them all. Complete dominance during Jordan's reign.

The Long Histories with Past Success

Cleveland Browns (NFL)-est.1946- 4 NFL Titles; 4 AAFC Titles. Cleveland dealt a severe blow when they were moved. The Dawgs, among the most rabid of football fans, are back and hopeful they can find a Super Bowl one day.

New York Giants (NFL)-est.1925- 2 Super Bowls; 3 appearances and 4 NFL Titles. Nice little history.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers (CFL)-est.1880- 9 Grey Cups; 21 appearances. Solid long tradition.

Cincinnati Reds (MLB)-est.1876- 5 World Series. 9 appearances. Hard core fan base. The Big Red Machine has a place in baseball lore.

Boston Bruins (NHL)-est.1924- 5 Stanley Cups; 17 appearances. A team with an outstanding pedigree of great player's. Never quite could reach the glory of the Habs. Or the success of the Red Wings and Maple Leafs.

New York Islanders (NHL)-1972- 4 Stanley Cups. A dynasty gave them the cups. Its memory remains. New York Rangers fan gags.

Washington Redskins (NFL)-est.1932- 3 Super Bowls; 2 NFL Titles. Another club whose existence stretches back to the NFL days. A winning tradition to be sure.

The Great Heartaches (each of these teams interestingly have a loyal hard core fan base)

Boston Red Sox (MLB)-est.1901- 6 World Series. 1 Title in 86 years. 1918. Enough said. Will they one day graduate into the next level?

Chicago Cubs (MLB)-est.1876- 2 World Series. Last title in 1908.

Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL)-est.1916- 13 Stanley Cups. Last Cup in 1967.

Buffalo Bills (NFL)-est.1960- 4 appearances in final without winning.

Minnesota Vikings (NFL)-est.1961- 4 appearances in final without winning.

Saskatchewan Rough Riders (CFL)-est.1890- 2 Grey Cups in 15 tries. 1989 last Cup. 2 Cups in 56 years? In a 9 team league?

Great Teams

Denver Broncos (NFL)-est.1960- 2 Super Bowls; 6 appearances. Denver close to making the leap into another pedigree of teams.

New England Patriots (NBA)-est.1960- 3 Super Bowls; 5 appearances. Marching their way into the next level like the Red Sox?

New Jersey Devils (NHL)-est.1974- 3 Stanley Cups; 4 appearances. Devils know how to win. If this keeps up...

Atlanta Braves (MLB)-est.1876- 3 World Series; 9 appearances. The team with 9 lives. An impressive 12 of 13 division titles. Great dominance. Just short of greatness. Sorry, '94 belonged to the Montreal Expos.

Philadelphia Flyers (NHL)-est.1967- 2 Stanley Cups; 7 appearances. Flyers are a constant contender. Impressive and loyal fan support.

Bonus: Great Soccer Teams:

Real Madrid, AC Milan, Juventus, Ajax, Bayern Munich, Liverpool, Penarol, Boca Juniors, River Plate, FC Porto, Internazionale Milano, Barcelona, Benfica, Manchester United, Indepiendente, Santos.

Inso-maniac

That fly again. 2:15am.That does it. The....hunt.....is.....on.

I got it. Dead. Heh-heh. I should hang it or dismember it to make example of it to the other members of fly nation.

I'm now a nocturnal creature. 3am. Just in time for Magnum, PI. T.C. and Rick are good friends for Thomas. Is Higgins Robin Masters? 4am. Flip channels. Soccer game. Soccer fans are insane. Just get a timer clock instead of depending on one zealot with a watch already. Tradition my ass. Then again, most the of the world is used to caste systems. A clock would be, well, too democratic....too American! We can't have that, eh?

Joe DiMaggio apparently suffered from insomnia. Or maybe he didn't trust that skank.

5am time to try and sleep. What a lovely sight that bed is. In position, close eyes and.......what's that sound? Forget it. It's probably nothing. BANG! CRACK! Well, it is -25c outside....is dam co owside....

The wood is cracking. Or is it? Imagine if someone walks in and bashes my head in? Maybe I should bring a hockey stick next to me. I place it next to me like it's my wife. Lovely. The blade just needs hair. I'm fricken howling to myself. She hears NOTHING. Look at her. Out like a brick. Out like....can't think of any more. The more I try and relax the more my mind races. Who, what ,where, how, oh God how! Zero hours sleep. 6am. Click!

Dawn of the dead living.

The Forgotten Prisoners

Earlier this year I was engaged in a conversation about history regarding the Italian community and its extraordinary contribution to the North American experience. During the course of the discussion I casually alluded to a period (taking for granted that people would know about this) in Canadian history when Japanese, German and Italian Canadians were interned in military camps and branded as enemy aliens during World War II. One admitted that he knew of the Japanese experience, was not surprised of the German one but clueless that the Italians were also targeted. Soon after, I could not help but be disappointed that some Canadians of Italian heritage are still not informed about this episode in Canadian history. Indeed, North American history.

In fact, it did not just happen here in North America. It also took place in Great Britain (including Scotland) and Australia. In Britain, under Winston Churchill's fears of a "fifth column." Of enemy nationals, many Italians (about 200 in all) were arrested and sent to camps on the Isle of Man. Some were transported to Australia and others found their way to Canada (as was the case with 2 500 internees who came here on the Duchess of York) about 600 of them spent three years in a POW camp on St.Helene's Island under the Jacques Cartier bridge in Montreal. Many were sent to Petawawa, Ontario and New Brunswick, and subsequently treated as prisoners of war.

Italians were subjected to strict curfews, and in some places in the United States travel was restricted to a five-mile radius from home. Regardless of the geographic location, lives and families were uprooted, and some even ended in tragedy. For example, when the Arandora Star was torpedoed and sunk off the coast of Ireland at the cost of 682 lives, it was carrying 1 571 German and Italian internees.

Among those who perished was Silvestro d'Ambrosio,a confectioner and restaurateur from Hamilton who had lived in Britain for 42 years. Ironically, he had a son in the Canadian army. It was not uncommon, for instance, for men in uniform to come back home, only to find family members were interned.

As far as more irony goes, not only did Italian immigrants form the largest ethnic group at the time, they also represented the largets ethnic group in the U.S. armed forces. In World War I, Italians represented close to 10% (approximately 300 000) of war casualties even though they made up only 4% of the U.S. population. The figure remained 10% of the might of the American forces (1.5 million) in World War II, according to Vice-President Nelson Rockefeller.

In fairness to both the Canadian and American governments, it was time of war and there were, to be frank, fascist organizations operating within our borders. According to Angelo Principe, author of 'The Darkest Side of the Fascist Years', Italian-Canadians fascist newspapers served as mouthpieces for the Italian consulates, spreading fascist propaganda throughout Italian-Canadian communities. His study was based on detailing the histories of the three largest Italian-Canadian newspapers at the time; L'Italian in Montreal, Il Bollentino in Toronto and L'Eco in Vancouver. The names of some of these organizations also made this abundantly clear, including the Italian Fascio Abroad and the National Organization for the Repression of the Anti-Fascists here in Montreal who were located at La Casa D'Italia (although only about 6% of men in these organizations were actual Fascist party members).

This is not to condone most of the exaggerated actions the goverment took, but this should be kept in mind nonetheless. It can also serve as a lesson on today's war on terrorism. In times of war, the delicate line between national security and individual civil liberty is a balance difficult to strike for governments.

In 1990, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney did issue an apology without compensation on behalf of Canadians. The U.S. Congress, for its part, has yet to do so. They are, however, slowly emerging from a 50-year self-imposed government silence. A Congressional bill known as the Wartime Violations of Italian American Civil Liberties Act seek acknowledgement of wartime discrimination against Italian Americans.

The humilation and anger suffered by some persisted well after the war, which in part explains the code of silence that prevailed among some Italians who simply wanted to forget this chapter in the community's history. Indeed, they found it pointless to try and seek compensation and justice from what was perceived to be a racist Liberal Party, the governing party under Mackenzie Lyon King at the time. This perception was further solidified when Liberal party members of Italian descent were interned.

There exists little accessible literature and information during this period. It is hoped that articles such as these may help to raise awareness about this forgotten era. Part of our collective responsibility in the present is to transmit, for posterity, oral history. This helps to define not only the Italian community, but Italians as Canadians as well. I often lament about Canada's inability to bring its past to life. We are a society that seems to suffer a collective amnesia about our history, and this partly explains the failure of branding our culture abroad.

I have always found it curious that national broadcasting organizations such as the CBC speak only of Japanese internment camps. I do not have any idea why this is so. Perhaps blogs like this one can help to rectify this omission. Maybe then people will not be so surprised when they are told of this period in Canadian history over drinks at a cocktail party.

Facts:

-In all, approximately 1 521 Italian aliens were arrested by the FBI for curfew violations in the U.S. In Canada, the government, under the War measures act, temporarily detained 2 400 Italian Canadians. Of which, approximately 500-700 were interned. In the U.S., 600 000 Italians and in Canada, 113 000 Italians were branded enemy aliens. Most who were rounded up were in the process of becoming citizens and were not naturalized. American and Canadian citizens, however, were nonetheless also rounded up, interrogated and interned. Among the most famous people who were deemed enemy aliens included Metropolitain Opera basso Enzo Pinza and New York Yankee slugger Joe DiMaggio's fisherman father. In Canada, the most famous internee was Mario Duliani, a Montreal-based journalist.

Sources:

Una Storia Segreta
U.S Department of War
Ottawa Archives
York University
Sun Media
Scotsatwar.org/Captain Archibald Ramsey
'The OSS in Italy', Max Corvo
'The Darkest Side of the Fascist Years.' The Italian Canadian Press: 1920-1942, Aneglo Principe
'Barbed Wire and Mandolins', Sam Grana

Insomnia

What's that fly doing on the ceiling? 2am. Concentrate and let yourself go. Relax. Toss and turn, toss and turn, toss and turn,toss and turn. Change ends on the bed. Put the pillow over your head. Find the right position.

I think I got it now. Relax. What's that sound? Block it out. Be normal for crissakes. Argghhhh, that fucken dripping. I have to go find it and turn it off. What's on tv? Magnum, PI. Maybe I can try and fall asleep in front of the tv. That Higgins cracks me up.

4am. It's a personality crisis. Fuck,fuck,fuck,fuck. I have to get up at 7am to go to work. So unproductive. Go back to sleep. Relax. BANG! What the hell was that? Go to the door.....the paper. Go back to bed. I wish I was there. I would hurl the paper back at that kid and knock him off his bike. The fly is still there? Should I kill it? Nah, by the time I get up and get a swatter it will piss me off and fly away.

I can't believe Carol. She's such a bitch. I can't work under those conditions. What the hell am I going to do? Where am I heading? I should start going out if I'm not going to sleep. Like Travis Bick. Heh, heh. I can lurk about. The problem is that I'm too tired. I just want to sleep. My eyes are tired. My heart is heavy. My arms and legs lethargic. How did Batman do it? Right. He had to avenge the murder of his parents. Redrum, REDRUM! I still think The Beatles are the greatest rock band ever. Rick is an idiot for thinking they are over rated. How can a supposed music fan say such things? I have to go buy shaving cream.

Look at her. So serene in her comfort. The blanket seems so soothing. I'm envious. Enough! Mind over matter. Relax. Toss and turn, toss and turn. This is ridiculous! FUCK! One step removed from madness. What's with the tattoo craze? Everything is a god dang trend. Immediate self-gratification annoys me. Relax. 4:30am Dozing off.....dreaming.....two men chasing me....one is carrying a severed head. Sky is orange, the killers are black silhouettes. Slow motion.

Eyes open. 6am. 1 1/2 hours of slumber. Little sleep and a nightmare. Nice. Fall back asleep. Death continues to stalk. Why? Lack of sleep. Black and white.....just a trail of blood.....at the end is a river bank....two mutilated bodies....they were just young girls...my heart sinks....look behind me a hideous figure lunges for me with an axe.....7am. Time for work.

2004-11-26

Elton John and Quebec Customs

Customs agent: Votre nom, monsieur?

Elton John: "Er, my French is limited and rather elementary Sir, however I believe you asked me my name?

CA mutters to himself: Maudits anglophone.

Pause. Continues.

CA: Non, monsieur. Je n'ai pas le droit de parler la langue du diable.

Elton John: Very well. Sir Elton 'I remake my own songs when I am sad' John.

Customs agent: Cudon, maudit. Elteau Jean?

EJ smiling as people with rulers approach him to get a glimpse of the problem. "I believe I was not clear. My apologies. Elton John. Levon? Bennie and the Jets? Tumbleweed Connection?

Customs agent violently stamps his passport. "Vous etes maintenant Jean Elteau ici aux Quebec. Voici votre pamphlet sur les Patriotes. T'es bain mieux de te comporte bien icite, mon tabernak."

EJ's makeup begins to leak on his portable piano. "Now you listen here, Mr. Customs Agent man, I am Elton John and I make music. I don't have to comporte myself in any except in a way I see fit. I am here to give a concert for your people. Capeesh?...Play rough with me...I'll show you rough."

And then and there Elton John began to sing Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting and he did just that....even though it was Tuesday.

It was quite the brawl.

For Paolo Calabro

Montreal - City to emulate?

Yesterday a client said something to me that was interesting. He is originally from Montreal but was transferred to Ohio for work. When asked about how adjusting to a new state was, he said it was difficult. Ohio ain't Montreal. In fact, he went further by saying Americans "like their guns and pick up trucks" and that he never missed a chance to tell Americans that if they want to learn about how to build a city they should go to Montreal.

There's a lot to digest in this compact proclamation. That America is a nation of gun toting pick up drivers is not my place to debate, though I do find it to be a slight generalization. I've never been to Ohio so I will only discuss my hometown of Montreal.

Montreal is both an outstanding and corrupt city at the same time. I suppose you can say this of most cities, but Montreal does possess a certain personality and character you don't find in most cities on the continent.

In terms of quality of life Montreal is one of the best cities in the world to live in. Access to education, electricity, water, low crime, recreational parks, public health care, an indigenous artistic community and other factors including low cost of living make Montreal an attractive place. On a subjective level, Montreal is a sexy town that maximizes your vices. It has the coolest bar and clubs and is home to some of the hippest areas in North America. Above all, Montreal is a bilingual, cosmopolitan city with French roots, where many cultures mesh in a kaleidoscope of style and elegance. It is also the Mecca of hockey and proudly has in its heritage case Le Club Hockey Canadiens with 24 Stanley Cups to its name.*

Montreal, however, has a disturbing undercurrent also. It is among the worst in car theft incidences in the world. We have telemarketing scams galore. It has been suggested that Montreal is a crime hub for many Mafia families (of any origin) as well as a haven for terrorist cells. Its poverty levels and the number of people on welfare remain chronically high. Its urban planning is all over the map, excuse the pun, and is possibly the most politicized region in North America.

Unfortunately, Montreal, in all its progressiveness, is subjected to draconian anti-democratic laws like Bill 22 (ironically Canada is officially bilingual but Quebec isn't) and Bill 101 which are laws in place to protect a fragile majority at the expense of a guilt ridden minority. It is also home to the Patriote nationalism of 'L'Office de la Langue Fran├žaise', an outfit that sends its minions to harass hard working tax paying entrepreneurs to ensure they comply with Provincial laws that make it a crime to have bilingual signs that are equal in their orientation.

Parochialism (the most recent example was the local ownership that allowed for the demise of Nos Amours, the Montreal Expos) is not restricted to remote parts of Kentucky. It is exists here, too. High drop out school rates and poor health has also been revealed by recent statistics. Pure freedom of expression and thought gets a rough ride in Quebec academic circles.

So, is my client correct when he chastises his coworkers and neighbours for not being more like Montreal? Yes and no.

We probably are, on a cultural level, more progressive. The real will of Montrealers is that they do not want to be dragged into the regressive mud by their political masters and wannabe intellectuals who are constantly behind the cultural progressive curve. Montrealers possess a joie de vivre that very few cities enjoy.

Politics, however, has the power to spew venom on a good thing. Quebec politics is a hindrance to the potential Montreal has to offer. In economics, this is called the output gap. That is, the difference between potential and actual GDP as a per cent of potential GDP. It can be argued that Montreal is not capitalizing on all the advantages it has been accorded. It can't be denied that economically Montreal has suffered as a result of this.

It did not have to be this way. Montreal had the talent and tools to rival if not surpass Toronto as the financial hub of Canada. Montreal is a city of squandered opportunities. In sum, Montreal has its positives but it also has its serious negatives and we are definitely poorer (in every sense) for it. I love Montreal, but we should be doing better. We have under achieved.

*Even then, the franchise is a mere shadow of its former self. Montreal is now a second-rate sports town.

2004-11-23

Jacky Wacky Loca Mene

Rity uma lame werty qwerty, butty kilogp loopy. Sad fitijk bert cassder, itry's butra an. Est-ce kahjki imperasicom creepy lop fake sjdf ciop'n? Ha ha ha!

Mui much pazzo cazzo fritty in my furfy. Monop pirates op's ij da caz. Tu lie vrim anf lo ki gif. Rrif rrsp lif lofe life 55. Bore boar nonuttin. yui trendisimo wiyl peter oyt. Jibberish jabberwocky.

1984 RIP

Warm Regards,

Scientology Headmaster

Nos Amours

The Montreal Expos are dead. Nonetheless, before I fully accept this I want a full investigation to finalize the time of death - even if they are as gone as the Brooklyn Dodgers. The demise of this franchise is incredibly surreal and sad. I am less interested in who is to blame than in how supposed fans and pundits from both the Canadians and Americans did not come and defend this franchise.

The blame game is all to easy. Lift your finger and point - though there's plenty of that to go around.

From a local ownership standpoint, we did not have a cohesive committed group dedicated to making baseball work. When an American came in to buy the team, they decided to play Patriote vs. Yankee games and lost.

From the fans standpoint, true, historically speaking our attendance numbers were always in the median for all Major League teams, but the fact remains that by the 90s the fan base began to dwindle. Contrary to popular belief, the legendary '94 club was not drawing 30-40 000 people that year. It was more like 21 000. The average began to rise when it became evident, to the bandwagoner, the Expos were for real. If anything, 1994 was ironically the beginning of the end for the franchise. The only problem is that the Expos were buried while they were still breathing, which gave the dying process a kinky 'Twilight Zone' creepiness .

When it became evident that the Expos were in dire need of fan support, despite the buffoonery of the owners, the fans chose to continue to ignore the club. We had a chance to make a difference and did not take it. Indeed, Montreal had on one side a parochial business community where civic duty, especially in sports, is absent and a new culture of must-be-seen type of Montrealer only interested in non-committal one time events.

It remains to be seen how long the new found lover affair with the Montreal Alouettes will last. Afterall, they can't play in Sir Percival (home to McGill University) stadium forever. It's 3rd rate for a professional football franchise. Finally, Major League Baseball, probably because they were fed up with the instability of the situation, also turned its back on Montreal baseball. This is not to abslove this group of Templar Knight-like owners, since I am not so sure they did everythng they could to save the franchise. Why?

I-gnorance, I say. Let me develop this thought further. For this, we turn to hockey. From long ago, it was always understood that the Montreal Canadiens were the standard by which all great hockey clubs were measured. Montreal, not Toronto, is the mecca of hockey. Yet, today we have allowed Torontians to lay claim to such a title (albeit based on marketing and sales not based on victory or championships) which is laughable. Why is Montreal so easily marginalized in popular thought? Surely, with 24 cups to its name, it should be among the 'chosen one' in any conversation that discusses the New York Yankees, Boston Celtics and Green Bay Packers. If the Habs have lost some of its mystique in the new dynamics of hockey, what hope was there for the Expos? Not much it turns out. That doesn't mean, however, that we do not have a proud baseball heritage and tradition in this city. We just have amnesia.

We have all heard various American sportscasters take their stabs at the Expos. Jim Rome, Sports Illustrated, ESPN and even our own networks like TSN all got their kicks in while the franchise struggled. I recall hearing an Atlanta Brave commentator insult the Expos and its fans this summer. This from a franchise that was itself once a laughing stock in the 80s. In fact, Cleveland, San Diego, San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Detroit all had and still do have attendance problems. In the case of the Indians, Pirates and Tigers it's especially bizarre given their long rich baseball traditions. Yet, they were all given a chance to reinvent themselves or given the benefit of the doubt by fans and commentators. Why shouldn't Montreal have been accorded the same chance? Afterall, it was not that long ago that we used to fill the Olympic Stadium.

It would be easy to let the Expos go if baseball had no history here. The fact is that it does. While it dates further back than the Montreal Royals - winners of three Junior World Series in '46,'48 and '53. They also reached the finals in 41,'49,'51 and '58. It was home at different points for legendary players like Roy Campanella, Roberto Clemente, Don Drysdale, Walter Laston, Chuck Connors, Rocky Nelson, Jack Banta, Duke Snider and Tommy Lasorda. The Montreal Royals contribution to baseball folklore was forever written, despite Ken Burns subtle choice to overlook the Royals, when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. This is as much a part of the Montreal baseball experience as well as MLBs in the United States. You would think that so called experts would respect this. Then again, respect is not our strongest character trait these days.

If Brooklyn had Ebbets Field, Montreal had the magnificent and enchanting charms of Jarry Park. While I was not born when the Expos played there I have heard, read and seen enough footage to get a sense of the moment that was Jarry Park. Mack Jones, Coco Laboy, Ken Singleton, Bill Stoneman, Gene Mauch and of course Le Gran Orange Rusty Staub. I defy anyone to deny and belittle this experience.

Later, the Expos moved to the Olympic Stadium and the love of this team transferred over to the Olympic Stadium. Al Oliver, Rodney Scott, Woody Fryman, Spaceman Bill Lee, Larry Parrish, Steve Rogers, Bill Gullickson, Ellis Valentine, Warren Cromartie, 'The Kid' Gary Carter, Andre 'The Hawk' Dawson, Tim Raines the 'Rock', 'Eli' Tim Wallach, Jeff Reardon, Pascual Perez, Dennis Martinez, Jose Vidro, Orlando Cabrera and future Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero (to name a few off the top of my head) were all a part of what was Montreal Expos history. We should always remember these memories.

Furthermore, and just as important, Montreal was always blessed with great sports radio voices which included Dick Irvin and the late great Danny Gallivan n hockey. It was no different in baseball with Dave Van Horn, Duke Snider, Ken Singleton and Jacques Doucet.

Much like this country, the Expos' soap opera involved much talking and bickering and nothing constructive or dynamic. We will miss the romantic and special phenomena we once called Nos Amours. You won our hearts and souls at a time when Canada understood its place on the world stage. Then, in a wounded heartbeat, we all allowed you to slip away just as Canada has lost its way. Blame can be pointed in all directions, but like anything in life, looking in the mirror tells many truths.

The Pretender


It's tempting. It really is. It's pulling me like an alligator pulls in its prey under water. Comparing people of the same era is inevitable but comparing a 14th century personality with a 21st century character? Talk about treading a fine line. Yet, the more I read about the existence of Cola di Rienzo, the more he reminds me of Michael Moore.

Let me explain why. Cola di Rienzo was an ambitious, pompous and reckless 14th century revolutionary who attempted to restore the glory of Rome to Italy, and in the process save its people from the 'wretchedness of Rome.' And was Rome ever a nasty place. A few centuries of sack and burn pillaging will tend do that to a city. Cola attained enormous popularity as he seemed to bring some respectability to Rome as intended. He loved the Italian people and they loved him back. He even befriended the great Italian poet Francesco Petrarch whose birth historians attach with the beginning of the Renaissance.

Cola di Rienzo soon gained wide dictatorial powers proclaiming himself tribune of the sacred Roman republic. His ascent and downfall is a case study on how to use smoke and mirrors to consolidate power.

Like all narcissistic personalities, he eventually went too far and was caught by the very same people who loved him. He was killed and strung up upside down in a public square. Cola took advantage of a vulnerable people living in difficult times and managed to become a romantic figure for posterity. Of course, for some reason, shady and flawed characters always tend to be romanticized by idealists. Cola di Rienzo was no exception, and was the subject of poems and songs, including those by the great adventurer Gabrielle D'annunzio.

Michael Moore is a modern socialist troubadour and intellectual vigilante with a camera. He would like to save America from itself. Cola loved the Italian people, does Moore love the America? Moore is boorish and vociferous in his approach, and his diatribe Oscar night when he won the award for best documentary was something Cola di Rienzo would do.

Whether America is a nasty place like the 14th century Italian city-states is subject to debate. Moore, like Cola, is enormously popular and is the spokesperson for many modern liberal idealists including many pop culture celebrities. As far as I know, Moore is not the subject of poems or songs but his world view, more importantly, is the prevailing world view in public opinion not just in the United States but around the world.

The public relations nightmare American officials face is the single most important dilemma facing the Bush administration and scholars alike. With Moore and his influence, the degree of this influence is not obvious; one can be sure he will continue to sway some people. Moore is a cinematic tyrant that uses fine editing to espouse his opinion. His intellectual dishonesty is shocking in its depravity. When will he be made to account for his actions?

Moore's rise to fame was attributed to his popular and critically acclaimed 'Roger and Me', which basically capitalized on difficult times in Flint, Michigan. Incidentally, a recent business and economic report was published that shattered much of his mythology. His knowledge of capitalism and democracy and how they relate is narrow and clouded by his obvious socialist views.

Just like Cola, his arrogance will probably get the better of him. Was Fahrenheit 9/11 the equivalence of when Cola took a ritual bath in the sacred legendary porphyry sacrophagus that so profoundly shocked people of the Italian city-states?

Cola di Moore. Michael di Rienzo. Cut from the same cloth? Are we just as vulnerable to intellectual and political shysters as people in the 14th century were? Michael Moore is preying on our demand for neat answers to difficult questions. We are a cynical society that has grown ever more susceptible to conspiracy theories and pseudo-sciences based on the flimsiest of ideas on little or no data. Empirical science is no doubt under attack. The doomsayers have become extremely sharp and sophisticated on how they sell their theories. It all seems, well, so true.

We dislike mysteries. It makes fools of us and no one wants to be made a fool. What Moore and Cola do and did so well is that they carefully assess the ailment and prescribe antibiotics. The problem is that the process they use to determine the ailment is flawed. Badly flawed. How can one arrive at truth if the process is compromised?

In the case of Cola, he paid with his life. With Moore, he runs the risk of becoming a marginalized buffoon. Indeed, in some countries his antics would be considered treasonous. In politically correct America, powerful conservative influence notwithstanding, this is not possible. Moore knows how to use freedom of speech to his advantage, and coupled with the new culture of modern relativism where everything goes, Moore gets to cash some cheques.

Moore's films are works of brilliance. He uses humour to drive home important questions and points. He uses flashy and subtle editing angles and tricks to make his point all the more poignant. He plays with our emotions very well. And in an instance he forces you not to question him but to wonder about just how decadent your society and government is. The Monk (please see Batman) could not hypnotize you better.

His attraction is that he 'challenges' so-called conventional thoughts and thus is a purveyor of freedom in all its manifestations. Upon further scrutiny, however, his arguments and facts simply breakdown. In fact, it is disturbing just how easily it is to refute his points. It seems as if he did not even bother to try and hide this fact, as if to say that he is bigger than all modern historical and political facts.

The question should be what allows for such people who lie to further their outlook to be praised so highly? In the case of Moore particularly, is he the price of freedom? In a larger sense, how does responsible freedom distinguish itself from, say, 'freedom fighters' of Middle American militia armies?

To his fans, for their part, Moore can do no wrong. If he is challenged it's because he is being censored He is a great dissident (there are degrees of dissidence and some have stated that Moore is a dissident against George W. Bush. Either way, I would like to see him pull his act in China, Cuba, Iran or North Korea) and those who choose to hold him accountable will be chastised. If one would just look at things for what they are one would realize the joke is on them. Moore and his entourage are tyrants that would do the brown and black shirts proud.

In the end, his juvenile and over the top tactics may prove his downfall. Lost on Moore and Cola is that if their intellectual dishonesty proves that their world view can't stand on their own. They need pageantry, loud chirping and sneaky editing to glass over the lies. It's a hollow shell. Ironically, Moore chastises the nation that tolerates his views and allows for his right to free speech. His films leap from film as art to film as propaganda. It remains to be seen if Moore's efforts will be found in a 10 cent bin for posterity (or just plain forgotten or ignored) or if he achieves lasting power. Time will reveal this.

At the end of the day, no matter how one may view him, he fails to offer a proper solution and thus is apart of the problem-while the audience is stuck holding an inverted mirror.

Thank you Luigi Barzini.

2004-11-22

Autism: Helping to Unlock the Mystery

The prevailing perception of autism in the public's imagination has always been that of the idiot-savant. This perception was further enforced in the movie 'Rain Man' which depicted a person (played by Dustin Hoffman) who had an extreme case of autism. Autism is much wider in scope, however, and afflicts many children today. Autism deserves to be on our social agenda.

Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and occurs four times more with boys than with girls. It results from a neurological disorder that affects the functioning of the brain. Genetic factors are thought to play an important role in autism but no gene has yet been discovered. If not effectively treated, it can be an incapacitating lifelong handicap. Delayed social and language social skills, inability to interact with peers, lack of social recoprocity, repetitive play, unusual interests and motor mannerisms are common symptoms of autism. One in every 165 children in Canada is estimated to have an autism spectrum disorder. Intervention and educational and behavioral programs aimed at improving interpersonal skills and decreasing repetitive behaviours are common forms of treatment for autism. This costs money and the average annual cost per Canadian living with autism or a related disorder is $29 000 (based on a 70-year lifespan). This translates into a lifetime cost per person of $2 million. Obviously, our current system is mostly ineffective as it provides inaccesible treatments with little government support. Autism is on the rise and we are not in a position to help families who have to provide and care for children with autism.

Research and services for autism in Canada generally lags behind its counterparts in Europe and the United States. It is only with the appointment of world reknowned Dr. Eric Fombonne at the Montreal Children's Hospital, that Canada has begun to medically play a constructive and positive role.

What is a concern is that we allow for children to move along life with this condition. With proper early diagnosis and help we can help children manage with autism with a combination of proper medication and social treatments. Autism is a fascinating disorder but it is a nightmare for families as some can be severely strained with an autisitic child. They deserve proper services and help. Public awareness has to be increased and more importantly it has to evolve. Autism is a new frontier and we can most certainly make a difference.

Treasured Souls is a Foundation for Autism Spectrum Disorders. We are a volunteer organization based in Montreal committed to supporting research that will improve the health and quality of life of individuals living with autism spectrum disorders. Founded in 2004, the Foundation works in collaboration with the Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) Clinic at the Montreal Children's Hospital. Our goal is to increase public awareness of autism spectrum disorders, fund local research initiatives and expand services for individuals and families living with autism. Contact information will be available shortly.

Statistics provided by Canadian National Autism Foundation, Autism Society Canada and Canadian Autism Intervention Research Network

Goggles Paisano is from Montreal

Remember Goggles Paisano at the Indianrockolis 500 on 'The Flintstones?' Wild driver he was.

Now, I don't want to seem harsh or anything, but are Montreal drivers arrogant and short attention-spanned lunatics? Driving in Montreal is like living in a survival of the fittest fish bowl. Indeed, a perverse social Darwinism prevails on our streets these days. Everyone drives like they are under siege and you are in their way. Cut or be cut is our unwritten motto. It is interesting to note that on the U.S. Department of Stat website, the government warns Americans when traveling in Quebec of creative Montreal driving.

A couple of things may begin to explain the phenomena. One,the construction zones in this city, already operating in a poorly planned urban environment, are ubiquitous and terribly indicated. This just makes people nervous. Sometimes I feel like I spend my day in a labyrinth of detours - like Jack Nicholson in 'The Shining.' I could be driving along the Inferno known as the 40 Metropolitain highway (the Trans-Canada) and out of nowhere will be a roadblock without warning. Worse - AN EXIT ON THE LEFT SIDE. Or exits located on the same level of off going and on coming traffic!

Add to this mixture the reality that Montreal isn't exactly the most civil of places when it comes to driving and you have one stressed out driving culture. We are legendary for our hostility on the roads. Heck, the lines on the street that signify a cross walk goes right over our heads. If there aren't any spikes in the road we aren't heeding.

My observations, all based on perceptions of course, have led me to conclude that we are mad. Mad as in impolite mad. People - snap,snap - need to be and get somewhere. Everyone is more important than you.

Perpetual construction, poor urban planning, weak sense of civil respect, a cynical army of youths and a multiplying amount of old folks on the road all leads to one word: "Argghhh!"

But Montreal is not the only city to have traffic problems and we are relatively free of the 'road rage' syndrome that seems to exist elsewhere. Still, it does not give us the right to drive like we do. Here are some examples of road no-no's I have come to observe:

The loss of the art of utilizing turn signals (aka flasher or le flasher or le maudit clignotant). I don't get this one, it is a remarkably easy and simple tool to use. You don't have to reach into the glove compartment to use it. It's right there next to the steering wheel and is an action of civility when properly and patiently used. It helps people gauge their positions. Note: Does not work well once you have already made the decision to cut into someone's lane. My personal favourite is when someone arrogantly sneaks in front of you with half a flash. I have sometimes witnessed two cars merge onto my lane at the same time. They come in and just at the right moment they repel each other without incident.

The yield sign means reduce speed as you merge. Not in Montreal. It means speed up and the double solid lines on the ground means you have the right of way. The other guy is always in the wrong even if it's his lane and right of way.

Lanes are there for a purpose. This one is especially difficult for young professionals and students who yap on their cells or are applying make up. Since these Vishnu-drivers are focusing on other things rather than driving they tend to weave in and out of lanes. Lane discipline is crucial in avoiding accidents. Note: Just because you put your flasher on does not automatically grant the freedom to squeeze into a spot that is less than a car length. The person who occupies the lane to which you are attempting to steal has no obligation to let you in. Sometimes I wish my wheels had blades so that I could cut a car down.

Tailgating with cars is a little more dangerous than doing it with beer. Tailgating is an art for the fool. It is not uncommon to have someone speed up your rear. So, don't try and be the tough guy and stay in the way. After all, how do you know if the person is not being chased by aliens from Panet 9? Move over and quietly move back in. If the person, for some odd reason (and this is also common) follows you into the middle lane and continues to tailgate you, politely give that person the stare. Or a look of complete disbelief. I once had a woman tailgate while talking on her cell. As she blew past me I noticed she managed to sip from what I assume to be her coffee mug (magic botox potion in drinkable format?) with three kids in the back. Nice.

I have also noticed the casualness to which we approach red lights now. Yellow generally means speed up and don't be a sucker getting caught on a red. While stops signs, last I checked, are not optional. The first who blinks misses his right of way. I once witnessed someone simply ignore the stop and stare into my eyes with a "I am me and you can't tell me to stop" look. Recently, after doing my time at a red light it finally turned green, no less than 5 cars went through the red signal. Some were turning others just cruised right on through. It was surreal.

The government is experimenting with right turns on a red light in Montreal. Where the pedestrians don't have the right of way. Like most rules here, it will be entirely subjective. Montreal has a fast and aggressive approach to driving. Before we institute new road privileges, perhaps we should conduct a new study on the psychology of Montreal driving. Only then can we logically proceed to introducing new rules.

Until then, if you are a pedestrian with the right of way, I suggest you look four, not two, times before you cross.

Goggles Paisano would fit right in.

Note: It is impossible to find a GP pic on the Internet for some reason.