2006-11-29

Park Avenue RIP

That was quick. Let's thank the city of Montreal for this post.

I've been sort of listening and observing the proposed name change by the city from Park Avenue to Robert Bourassa avenue.

Park avenue is one of those cultural mosaic streets in Montreal. Next to St. Laurent boulevard it is quite possibly the most culturally diverse street. Park is simply an institution that helps define this hip city. Montreal is filled with names that immediately conjure up detailed images of a particular spot in the city. St. Denis, the aforementioned St. Laurent, Ste. Catherine, Mont-Royal, Crescent and of course Park (to name a few) are legendary street names if such a thing exists.

It is rather unfortunate that the city has decided to pluck the name Park from our midst. We will take a name with personality off the map and add the name of a drab politician. I have no issue in naming a street after Robert Bourassa (even though he was a duplicitous wizard.)

Still, there are many streets in Montreal. Why choose this one? No, I have not come up with an alternative (though Cote Ste. Catherine or Cote des Neiges hit me at first) and it sounds as though the merchants on Park who are fighting the proposal have not either. Then again, when a government decides something it's very rare they will change mind.

On the positive side, Mayor Gilles Tremblay allowed this to go to a free vote. Montrealers are not accustomed to such acts of democracy from City Hall. Usually CH behaves more like a parochial city-state. On the negative, Montreal continues to self-mutilate itself when it comes to its history and heritage. We have no problem with destroying or eliminating landmarks in the name of 'progress' (i.e profits). What do you expect from contemporary politicians? History is a secondary issue today.

When I visited Boston a few years back I was struck by the respect the city had for its history. Everything is preserved. A visitor can feel that energy. Montreal can learn from Boston - I think. Maybe Boston does the same thing I don't know.

Montreal is one of the oldest cities in North America. It has a duty to preserve and protect its image. Instead, we convert Church's into condos and name streets after politicians. Blah.

The last time this happened was when the city switched Dorchester Boulevard to René Lévesque boul.

The irony, of course, in naming Montreal streets after politicians is that the city is the cultural hub of this province. It is also the economic engine. Its demographics are fast shifting away from the party platforms, for example, of the Parti-Québecois. Montreal is cosmopolitan, clearly interested in being bilingual (and in some case trilingual. Sorry L'Office. You're fighting a losing battle. Better to invest on more rulers. Something tells me you will have to harass many, many more merchants in the future.) and free.

There's not a damn thing they'll be able to do about this - except changing street names.

2006-11-28

Will be Back Very, Very Shortly. The Commentator is Recharging his Mind. He wants to make us all Feel like Dancing.

For those of you who can't stand to live without The Commentator's posts (cough), check out Blogcritics.org under the name Alessandro Nicolo. Or browse for dated articles around this blog. We wish we could offer you an espresso. Also, since we're here, we may be moving shortly. Keep you all posted.

Love,

Leo Sayer and Pablo

2006-11-24

The Political Games we Play

That sound you hear is Gilles Dushlepp choking on his poutine after he heard Stephen 'Don't Make my Blue Eyes Brown' Harper's plan to make Quebec a nation within a nation-state of nations among nations in a quasi-functional democratic and fragmented Canada.

I have exclusive information of what he said as soon as it was unveiled: "Tabarnouche!"

One has to wonder when will the deck of cards collapse it seems that surreal some times.

Yeah, Harper pulled the red carpet from under Duceppe's feet. However, I wonder about all this nonsense about nationhood. 40 years of this crap is starting to make Jack a dull boy.

Harper's plan makes sense since this is how Quebec has been functioning and operating for a while now anyway. The only thing Quebec is missing is to mint its own coin and print its own passports - I'm sure Quebecor print media will offer them a good deal since they will buy in bulk.

In a country that is more decentralized than any Federal state this side of Des Moines, we are all de facto fiefdoms within a concept called Canada. The fact is, Canada is a mere warehouse of shoddy parochial provinces. Nothing more, nothing less. The presence of the Bloc Quebecois is the ultimate expression of a functional democracy to some. Perhaps, but it's also proof of a dysfunctional one.

Canada is divided. Quebec is divided. The irony is that while Quebecers are convinced that the territorial borders as presently defined belong to Quebec, the Cree think otherwise. And as we have seen, there's a small but vocal contingent of Montrealers who will seek to secede from Quebec if the Province moves on to find the world on its own. Devolution #9, devolution #9...Repeat. It's fun. It's like that Beatles song.

For its part, Quebec in particular has never, ever, never, satisfactorily explained to us, who want Quebec to progress and succeed, exactly how they would proceed as a separate nation. For example, what about the economic game plan? 20% unemployment in some parts of the Province, high welfare numbers and way too many unions. Explain to me how this leads to a dynamic nation getting ready to explore the world? How! Economics? Bah! Anglophone propaganda! Duceppe is a Marxist - though I hear he collects rent - and if it's one thing Marxist suck at it's economics.

There is no functional and practical game plan. We want to secede and frolic in the sun with all the linking privileges to Canada. Rubbish. You're either in or you're out. For those of us removed from the 'emotional and romantic theorizing of the situation, we want some concrete assurances. None have been forthcoming.

For guys like Duceppe and his political cohorts, this is the problem. They know this and Harper called their bluff. I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll......cough. Plan B. All is rosy since Quebec politicians have accorded themselves an opt-clause. Think Bouchard and Parizeau and their English connections. I can't shake the image of Quebec leaders leaving the province incognito if they were to ever succeed in splitting Canada only to find out the price of bread soared spurring the storming of the Bastille. That's how much I distrust them. But that's me.

Growing up, a close baseball/sports buddy of mine was an independiste. We often playfully debated about this. His mother would often complain that I lead in spoken languages 3-1 and pleaded for her son to learn English. Years later, he came up to me and declared he no longer advocated the destruction of Canada. I asked him why. He said, "because I was never able to explain properly to you the idea of destroying a country. Language and culture is one thing. My pocket book is quite another." He told me this in English and later became a stockbroker. Welcome to the real world indeed. I had quite the upbringing and I can only conclude:

Quebecers deserve so much more than empty intellectual shenanigans.

2006-11-22

Meet Leslie Kritzer: A Casual Interview

"Art can make you understand through emotion what you are absolutely incapable of understanding through intellect." Roberto Rossellini (1962)

"I recognized in many, but above all in you Filippo (Brunelleschi), and in our great friend the sculptor Donatello and in the others, Nencio (Ghiberti), Luca (Della Robbia), and Masaccio, a genius for every laudable enterprise in no way inferiour to any of the ancients who gained famed in these arts." Leon Battista Alberti (1436)



We are all moving targets seeking unique methods of self-expression. Our audiences are also part of the creative process, for without them we have no spirit to help define us.

The infinite permutations to which art can manifest itself are really a testament to the human spirit. Enter Leslie Kritzer.

In the underground New York scene, acclaimed actress Leslie Kritzer - who describes herself as a "performance artist who happens to be on Broadway" - is reviving a lost period in that city's cultural history. Her show "Leslie Kritzer is Patti Lupone at Les Mouches" pays homage to the legendary Tony Award winning Broadway performer she adored.

Not without credentials herself, Kritzer's body of work includes Funny Girl, Hairspray (on Broadway) and soon the theatre adaptation of the film Legally Blonde where she wil play the role of Serena; one of Elle's sorority friends.

She was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for her role as Pickles in The Great American Trailer Park Musical. Her work also includes Off-Boradway with Bat Boy and Godspell.

The question begs to be asked: Why Patti Lupone? "Patti Lupone used to perform at Les Mouches every Saturday night for six months circa 1980 during her run with Evita," Kritzer says. "It was an eclectic period, in that New York was still an uninhibited city.

"I eventually saw a bootleg of some of her shows and my friend and director, Ben Rimalower thought: Wouldn't it be cool if we brought a performing arts spin on Patti Lupone? We wanted to unearth and recreate, and bring a sense of her legendary shows to a 2006 audience. The response has been overwhelming."

Warning: Writer's Intrusion! Indeed, New York City throughout the 1970s was a hotbed of unhinged raw sexual human exploration. From the underworld characters of Lou Reed, to the confused cross-dressing precursors to punk, the New York Dolls, to the misfit cast of Saturday Night Live, NYC was where free spirits came to live and - sadly as AIDS devastatingly unleashed itself on the 1980s - die.

Ok. That's one side of the stage - excuse the pun - but is Patti Lupone aware of the show? "Yes. I would never do something like this without her blessing. In fact, the original musical director back then was David Lewis and he's now involved with this. It's been quite a ride. We listened to the badly damaged tapes and we've had to rearrange the music. We took all the best of the tapes and compiled a sort of 'six month best of' compilation. The cabaret scene is off the cultural landscape now and through my show I am giving glimpses of what it was like."

In music bands mimicking other bands are known as 'cover bands.' In acting, there is no equivalent term. Nonetheless, mastering the art of inhabiting someone as particular as Patti Lupone can't be easy. How does one prepare for this? "I didn’t have much time. One month to be exact. I had to learn and study her mannerisms. Her voice. Her laugh. Everything about Patti is distinct. I wanted to be as close to these Patti-isms as I could be without comprising my own voice and style."

I didn't want to let Leslie Kritzer go without briefly talking about bloggers.

As some readers have come to realize, there are many bloggers who use their blogs as a form of artistic expression. They are writers, philosophers, and artists all waiting to be discovered. In a way, the blogging community is similar to NYC around 1980 in that there are no rules. I asked Leslie what advice she had for frustrated bloggers? Her response was both practical and esoteric. "We all have a voice. You never know who is reading. Be persistent. I've had my share of ups and downs. Moments of vulnerability where I cried and didn't think I was good enough."

When I opined that I perversely welcome a dose of instability as a means of inspiration, she answered, "Yes. I do too! Too many writers are seeking validation in the wrong places. They think that if they get published they magically become writers. It's deeper than that. If you feel you are a writer then you are one. You make your own reality."

In a more "professionalized" New York world, Leslie Kritzer dipped into history - and summoned the ancients - to revive a lost and forgotten piece of Americana and an art form long dead. For all intents and purposes she has proven to be the equal of her ancestors, and this is all a talented and incomparable actress can ask for.

Thanks Scott.

Click here for photos from broadwayworld.com

If you wish to know more about Leslie click here to go to playbill.com

2006-11-21

What If? History has many

" The Romans knew not, and could not know, how deeply the greatness of their own posterity, and the fate of the whole Western world, were involved in the destruction of the fleet of Athens in the harbor of Syracuse. Had that great expedition proved victorious, the energies of Greece during the next eventful century would have found their field in the West no less than in the East; Greece. and not Rome, might have conquered Carthage; Greek instead of Latin might have been at this day the principal element of the language of Spain, of France, and of Italy ; and the laws of Athens, rather than of Rome, might be the foundation of the law of the civilized world." Arnold.

In University I posited a similar argument but with a different spin. I contemplated what the world would be like had Italy unified as early as France, England and Spain instead of the late 19th century along with Germany.

In the Age of Exploration, Italian merchants, science and philosophers were at the height of their influence as the last remnants of the High Renaissance spilled over into European expansion. During my research I came across a periodical by Charles Verlinden in the 'Hispanic American Historical Review' vol. XXXIII, No. 2, (May, 1953) pp. 199-211:

"When studying the beginnings of modern colonization, one must always remember that the Spaniards and Portuguese, who occupied the stage almost alone for more than a century, had the opportunity to make use of the experience gathered by the Italians and above all the Geneose in the technique of commerce in general, as well as especially in the field of colonial economy, as this economy had developed in their possessions in the Levant and on the shores of the Black Sea. Many features, characteristic of the economic and colonial activity of the Iberian nations, can only be understood when their connection and resemblance with Italian precedents is kept in mind."

"Italy was the only really colonizing nation during the middle ages. From the beginning of the crusades onwards, Venice, Pisa, Genoa, later Florence and southern Italy under the Angevins as well s under the Aragonese, were interested in the Levant and in the economic and colonial possibilities offered there by the gradual waning of the Byzantine empire.* It is also at about the same time that Italian merchants appear in the Iberian peninsula, and obtain an influence that will persist until far into the modern period, both in European and colonial economy."

In fact, it didn't take much to notice the influence. Even a quick, superficial reading of the Renaissance would make this clear. So it got me thinking. At the end of my thesis for a Western European history class, I decided to have fun. I put forward the theory that had various explorers sailed under the Italian flag would South America's prima lingua be in fact Italian as opposed to Spanish or Portuguese?

The professor, it turned out, appreciated the thought.

But for historians it's legitimately quite difficult to play with the 'what if's' of history with any academic weight. That doesn't mean we can't entertain the thought.

There are many 'what if's' instances just like the one I pointed out in world history. I know some wonder 'what if Germany succeeded in defeating Russia in WWII?' or 'what if Napoleon managed to invade England or at least cripple its economy with the Continental System?' or 'what if China did not become insular during the age of exploration?' While it makes for interesting conversation, reading and writing, it by no means is an exact science for we have no way of knowing how things would have developed otherwise. We can only guess with an educated mind. Make that a flawed and educated human mind.

For those of you who care about such things I know there's a book out there called 'What If? Eminent Historians Imagine What Might Have Been' This is the second part. The first one was about military history.

* Verlended's footnote cited from multiple works. A. Schaube, W. Miller, R. Lopez, R. Dudan, J.M. Monti, J. Müller.

2006-11-18

New Segment: 'Five Q's': Journalist J.M. Berger

I've decided to introduce a new feature on this blog called 'Five Q's'. I hope to make this a regular part of my routine moving forward. The goal is to broaden the scope of this blog by profiling and interviewing bloggers, journalists, artists etc. I trust this will be both enlightening and entertaining.

My first guest is J.M Berger.

Question: With all the conspiracy theories out there regarding 9/11, have you arrived at any conclusions regarding the event? We often read about people describing the terrorism problem as the 'so-called war on terror.' Professor of Political Science at Ohio State University John Mueller contemplated recently in 'Foreign Affairs' about the possible exaggeration of a terrorist threat within the United States in an essay titled 'Is there Still a Terrorist Threat?' Is the threat not real? In what form does it exist and to what degree?

J.M. Berger: I think the official story is essentially correct. The alternative accounts of that day proffered by some are a) far more complicated and unlikely than the official account, and b) predicated on some highly questionable leaps of "logic." I've seen too much "investigative" reporting that is predicated on "logic." Logic is the opposite of investigation even when the logic is sound, which is almost never the case in 9/11 conspiracy theories.

Have U.S. authorities exaggerated the threat of terrorism? The answer to this is both yes and no. I don't think they understand the threat of terrorism. They're happy enough to use fear as a political tool, and they have taken draconian measures that encroach on basic American values while often ignoring basic, common-sense steps that would actually make us safer. But to say there is no real threat from al Qaeda and groups inspired by al Queda is foolish. An attempt at nuclear terrorism is virtually inevitable. The question is whether it will happen sooner or later; and whether it will come in the U.S., or abroad; whether it *can* be prevented and whether it *will* be prevented.

Question: The line between what is fact and what is fiction has blurred. A marvelous example of this is the 'Da Vinci Code' and Michael Moore phenomena. My questions are twofold: Does this concern you? How would you suggest readers begin to separate fact from fiction?

J.M. Berger: It's completely specious to group "The DaVinci Code" with Michael Moore. One is fiction - pure and simple- and the other is documentary with a political agenda. Neither of these things are new phenomena.

The uniquely modern problem is that people are flooded with information, and they either don't know how to make discriminating judgments about the credibility of that information, or they simply don't want to be bothered. There's another level of problem that stems from the intense complexity of modern society. For instance, anyone who claims to be able to predict stock market activity is lying -- often to themselves as much as to others.

Cause and effect is so complex in our globally connected world that it is literally impossible for the human mind to grasp more than a tiny fraction of the whole. The process of simplifying things so that we can understand them leaves people vulnerable to manipulation because the "explainers" in our society are almost always colored by a political, religious or cultural viewpoint.

Even if it were possible to fully understand the complexities of, for instance, privatizing social security, it's impractical for people to educate themselves about every important issue to the extent that they can make an informed opinion. So they trust others to tell them what to do.

Unfortunately, those others almost always have a vested interest in a viewpoint, rather than a commitment to simply understand the issue at hand. So facts become fuzzy - or nonexistent - and the world becomes rudderless, with the important decisions being driven by a fickle electorate's obsession with triva, personality or who has the best campaign ads.

Question: Bernard Goldberg has brought up the subject and I will here too. Is there a liberal bias in the media?

J.M. Berger: The "liberal bias" of the media is the greatest achievement of conservative politics. It's a lie so successful that the media has begun censoring itself in order to "refute" it. This leads to situations like the New York Times allowing itself to be manipulated into propagating outright lies about Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction which politically favor a conservative president's agenda, while a Democratic president can be dragged into impeachment for sexual misdemeanors with an intern.

If there is any bias in the media, it's a conservative bias because cowardly journalists now feel the need to constantly re-examine and revisit simple facts when those facts displease conservatives. Liberals get no such consideration.

Question: Regarding Iraq. In my opinion, the 'cut and run' or 'pull out our troops' theory espoused by some political leaders strikes me as a tad premature or misguided. Is this a fair outlook? Do you believe Iraq will succeed?

J.M. Berger: Iraq is a disaster of unparalleled proportions for the United States. It's difficult to see the best way out. Simply pulling out without any resolution of the situation on the ground would be a mistake, in my opinion, but I have trouble conceiving of any exit from Iraq that will not constitute a strategic loss for the United States. People have tried to compare Iraq to Vietnam, and that's a mistake. The radical Islamists are trying to make Iraq into Afghanistan for us - they have said so explicitly. They want us to stay and stay, like the Soviets did in Afghanistan, until we are finally "bled to bankruptcy." So simply staying would be a huge mistake. We need to figure out the best face-saving way to withdraw.

Strategically, we need to figure out the least damaging way to withdraw. But no matter how it happens, there is no question that the U.S. is going to come out of this war in a far worse strategic position than it entered.

Question: In terms of Canadian/American relations. Canadian officials have sent mixed signals to its own people and the Americans as to how they want to participate and contribute to the war on terror. We have soldiers in Afghanistan but none in Iraq. From your own experiences, is Canada doing enough (or at the very least does it appreciate America's security concerns)? What hard questions should Canadians be asking themselves regarding Mid-East policies?

J.M. Berger: As the previous answer indicates, I myself have no issue with Canada's desire to stay out of Iraq. Prior to the U.S. invasion, Iraq was not an especially meaningful player in global terrorism (relative to Pakistan, Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and probably half a dozen other countries).

Canada does need to evaluate how well Muslim communities within its own borders are integrated, and it needs to review its borders, immigration and visa policies. It's fairly easy for radicals to move in and out of the country right now, which presents an obvious security concern for the U.S. I'm actually not endorsing any specific change; it's an issue for Canadians to decide based on the balance they want to strike between ideals and security. But the issues I mentioned are relevant to this question.

Al-Qaeda and Egyptian Islamic Jihad have maintained a significant presence in Canada since the early 1990s (at the latest). The Toronto cell was disrupted before it could mount an attack, the next operation may not be pre-empted. I don't know how the Canadian psyche would respond to a successful event on the scale of 9/11 or worse. That is the question that authorities must consider as they sit down to draw their lines in the sand.

J.M. Berger is freelance journalist. Over the last six months, he has worked for the Boston Globe, NPR and the National Geographic Channel. He also covers terrorism in his Web site, Intelwire.com (http://www.intelwire.com).

You can also visit his work at the following link:
http://jmberger.egoplex.com

2006-11-17

Montreal Sports Radio Will Never be the Same

I just found out that Gabriel Morency of Team 990 sports is leaving our fair city for a greener scenery on Toronto. I met Morency briefly and my only regret is that I did not get to know him better or listen to his show more often.

In any event, it's a smart move on his part and The Commentator wishes him luck. Although, I am concerned about the hole his departure will leave on the city's English-language sports landscape.

As readers know, I have been hard on the Montreal sports scene in general. There is no depth in the ranks so to speak. But every night on his show Sports Rage (heard from midnight to three in the morning), Morency added flavour and spice to a dead, fickle and sometimes pathetic sports city. While the day crew pats itself on the back for what a swell town Montreal is, Morency did not shy away from more stark realities which I shall not get into here.

Luckily for Montrealers, Picard's alternative and independent minded 'P on Sports' between 8pm and 11pm will serve as a refuge.

But how does one replace Morency? Hilarious, bitter, contrarian, insightful, passionate and knowledgeable, he was, for me, the face of Montreal sports - French or English. Jaded by the safe talk shows around, my friends flocked to him. He did not rely on 'insiders' to drive his show. They were merely a part of it.

To boot, his army of loyal callers were part of what made his show unique. I know I've called in. Sports Rage was a true sports talk show. He let his listeners vent without the stuffy, elitist attitudes that grips other shows at the station. He was without a doubt the most hard core and knowledgeable sports nut around. You can bet he was informed on any topic. He also had what I like to regard as a 'sixth sense' about sports. It's the inherent ability to understand the nuances of sports. I found him to be both credible and entertaining.

Many times at night I laughed and giggled like a little girl listening to his show. I especially loved the long rantish pontifications about 80s kitsch and programming because I tend to do the same thing.

I will miss those late nights. I'm sorry to see him go but sometimes you need to leave the rest to be with the best.

Here's an ode to Sports Rage. 'What's kicking Montreal!'

2006-11-15

Boston Fighting History of Bad Decisions

Boston has always been at the center of American history- and this includes sports. From the Babe Ruth trade all the way to the recent Joe Thornton deal, Beantown is quite good at making people scratch their heads.

The Boston Red Sox have paid a stunning 51 million dollars just to speak to a Japanese pitcher who never played in the Majors. That doesn't include signing him to a contract. Which makes you wonder what exactly motivated Boston to make such a move.

To cite another sport, we saw something similar with the NHL recently. Europeans are claiming (quite accurately and justifiably) that the NHL is destroying the quality of their leagues. The Russian Elite league, now endowed with some financial muscle, is ready to fight back as they did with the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Malkin affair. But what is Japan's angle in this? Do they fear being raped by MLB? Lest we forget, Japan is the only country with a legitimate professional league outside North America.

And what to make of Boston's logic? In business, any sound business decision is based on one premise: what are the odds of increasing return? Most businesspeople make an educated calculated risk before investing to ensure a reasonable shot at earning profits - or at the very least getting their capital back. We all know business has risk associated with it and the basic axiom goes 'the higher the risk, the higher the return.'

Unless this pitcher is the second coming of Spahn, Matthewson, Alexander, Grove, Ford, Koufax and Drysdale combined the financial cost of this move may prove too much for even a rich team like Boston to handle. Paying someone before they merit it is a dicey game. Somebody in that organization must really, really, really believe in this pitcher. That's the, I suppose, calculated risk - assuming someone made that calculation.

What makes this move ironic is that Theo 'The Boy Wonder Genius' Epstein cried poverty during Boston's self-inflicted collapse during the 2006 season. Please the Massacre at Teutoburg (a.k.a. the New York Yankee five game sweep) for details.

Philosophically, I have no problem with teams spending the money they rightfully have the way they see fit. You won't be hearing any PC egalitarian musings about socialistic cap systems from my end..

However, there's fiscal spending with prudence and then there's imprudent spending - in this case possibly for Machiavellian strategic purposes. That is, maybe the Red Sox did this under paranoid duress in an effort to keep the Japanese star from signing with any of the New York clubs.

In soccer, what the Red Sox just did and what the Penguins went through, it's called a transfer payment. In this case, however, the Sox paid to just talk to a player. The beauty of the transfer payment (and I am being deliberately simplistic here) is that the smaller team who is about to lose its biggest asset is handsomely financially compensated for their loss. The flip side is that it literally pits the big clubs versus the small ones regardless of which league they are from.

What do I know? I'm just an observer. Whatever the case, it was a ground breaking move on the part of the Boston Red Sox. Who knows? Maybe the Sox are ahead of the curve on this one. Even though history is not on their side given the city of Boston's track record.

Revisiting America's Historical War Path

Read to the tune of 'Happiness is a Warm Gun.'

I wrote not so long ago about how people send you emails that 'you gotta read.' The ones I find most annoying are those that contain history as a subject. There's always some person flipping emails tagged as 'uncovering the truth' and 'what they don't want you to know.'

The most recent email forwarded to me was about how 'Republicans have started all the wars in the 20th century.' Aside from the fact one needs simply to raise an eyebrow and research this easily refutable charge, it frightens to think how pathetic and selective we really are when it comes to history.

Here's a quick snapshot I put together - off the top of my head so if there are any errors please point them out.

America partook in 12 wars since 1776. In other words, in 230 years they have been at war 5% of the time. Of course, this does not include the proxy wars of the Cold War and other clandestine operations. The guiding principle used was as Teddy Roosevelt put it, 'speak softly and carry big stick.' Not to mention the bricks and mortars of enlightened philosophy built by Jackson, Madison, Jefferson and Wilson.

Wars that were internally fought:

1) American Revolutionary War
2) War of 1812 (more like a misunderstanding and I place it under the Revolutionary War banner)
3) Civil War

America's early international Wars:

4) Spanish-American War (includes War of the Philippine's)
5) Mexican-American War (first war under the Age of Jacksonian politics)

External battles in the 20th century not directly started by U.S.:

6) World War I
7) World War II
8) Korean War (A UN initiative, 17 countries including Canada took part. Canada sent 26 000 soldiers)

America's first direct engagement:

9) Vietnam (origins far more complex for some to grasp)

Post-Soviet Cold War:

10) Gulf War I (with international community)
11) Gulf War II (controversial continuation of GW1 - with some support)
12) Afghanistan (with world support)

Given this history, is there ample and sufficient evidence to conclude that America is a war-making machine (Eisenhower's concern for the growing industrial military complex notwithstanding. But this is another matter) as oft depicted? Never mind about the GOP. Regardless, of their role behind the scenes - all nations engage in some form of covert operations - America does not wield a huge stick like Rome or London before them - both of whom were endowed with a fraction that blesses American might.

As for which party took the initiatives:

1) Mexican- American War: James Polk (Democrat)
2) Spanish-American War: William McKinley (Republican)
3) Korean War: Dean Acheson was the key man. President at the time was Truman (Democrat)
4) Vietnam: Process of events began with Truman (Dem), Eisenhower (Rep.), Kennedy (Dem.) and finally Nixon (Rep.)
5) Gulf War I: Bush Sr. (Rep.)
6) Gulf War II and Afghanistan: Bush Jr. (Rep.)

So much for the 'fascist' GOP starting all wars. Seems pretty even to me. As you can plainly see, wars transcend party lines.

It's a strange bit of history that Kennedy and other revered Democrats started their own wars, committed adultery while in office and made shambles of domestic policy too. Did it ever occur to anyone that America is not a fascist state?

2006-11-13

Word to Media: Stay Away if you won't Play Fair

www.nationalreview.com/comment/mac_donald200503300758.asp

Could you imagine the PC (Parochial Corrosiveness) of modern media in the Blogging ranks? Could you imagine stories being dictated by a prescribed and predetermined agenda? Oh, the unholy alliance of special interest and 'free-thinking' journalism! Could one envision one's blog being 'edited' by Gloria Steinheim?

If this were to ever happen I know I would fight those bastards to the death. Ok. Maybe not death (I have bad knees) but you get my drift. Some editors at big newspapers can't see beyond their jealous, arrogant little broken fingers and quite frankly they don't belong among blogs. They should hang around the blogs that already agree with their little cliquish games. Not mine.

Let true freedom reign.

A Cell Phone and My Technological Inept Life

With the notable exception of purchasing my firs CD player, I'm not exactly technologically au courant when it comes to gadgets. No, I'm not a tech fiend or trendsetter.

Take my cell phone for example. To me, a cell phone means a portable device that allows you to go farther than a traditional home version. It's for making and taking calls. Nothing else. I don't need my phone to ask me if I need fries with my next call.

Just retrieving messages on a landline is a trying experience for me. Dial this. Dial that. Enter your code. Listen. Delete. Erase. Store. It's too much. Voicemail over a cell is just as bad.

Anyway, I purchased my first cell phone recently. Yup, it took me 34 years. My brother-in-law - he who can't stand to see people stuck in the Dark Ages (typically meaning being one-year behind; He once belittled a man for not having a dishwasher) bestowed upon me my first, bulky cell). My best friend who didn't need his anymore (since he was moving forward with a newer version) gave the second one I ever owned to me. All I had to do was assume the plan. No fuss or muss. And so this is how it's been for nearly a decade.

The biggest complaint against me is that I don't answer the phone. Excuse me if I'm not married to my phone. Nor am I one to have one go off in the company of people or in various public spheres. Who am I? The President of the United States?

Years ago I went out for drinks with a friend of mine. We had been friends since elementary school but by the last couple of years she had changed noticeably. That night, we barely spoke. Her phone kept ringing. Couple this with her always getting up to go see some acquaintance of short term value, it made for one annoying - if not insulting - night. It takes a certain amount of patience and understanding to be around social-butterflies with a communication weapon.

Back to the real story. So, I bought a cell phone. Ever notice how people tell you 'congratulations' after you buy one? Why? Because I did my bit for consumer society?

Backward caveman tendencies notwithstanding (love those GEICO commercials), I was aware of what cell phones can do. I have too many friends and family members who flaunt latest technologies in my face. It was impossible to not be aware. It hasn't been lost on me that cell phones are mini-communication kingdoms now. Is there anything these suckers can't do? It's a rhetorical question geek. No need to answer.

That night I sat down to get to know my phone better. I opened the user guide and noticed it was 101 pages. Hey, I read 'War and Peace' no sweat, right?

Wrong. Seriously, it was too much. The symbols. The options, The menus. Lord, it overwhelmed. I felt the weight of a thousand psalms crush my chest. I even called my local University to see if they give classes on Cell Phone Use. I expected my phone to grow arms and begin to cook my food. Laugh, it won't be long cells will transform themselves into Rosie and Bender.

Sure, you feel like a genius as you play along with the bible manual pressing buttons while you sit half-cocked with your spine out of place. However, as soon as you get up to get a snack all is forgotten. Everything is muddled as you try to figure out the maze known as your cell phone. I stare at it like I stared exams I was about to fail in school. Remember those? Yeah, not a good feeling.

Ask me to dissect, discuss and put into context 'The Inferno' and I'll have no problems. Ask me to operate and wield a phone most normal individuals can and I'm about as nimble as Shaquille O'Neal.

I bought. I read. I studied. I experimented. I memorized. I did not conquer.

2006-11-11

HONOUR THY SONS

In Flanders Fields
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army

IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

2006-11-10

Post Season Blues Revisited: Yankees Take Note

The uneasy existence between the New York Yankees and Alex Rodriquez has been a topic of discussion among New Yorkers. Much has been said and it is now time to consider some hard truths. Baseball is a game of statistics and why not use stats to make a point?

One of the biggest knocks against Rodriquez (and Barry Bonds for that matter) is his post season performance. True, it may not be up to par with the standards Rodriquez plays by but is it really that bad?

The comparison to Derek Jeter is too easy. Forget that. Let's dip into history. Let's say, oh I don't know, the 1960s. Hmm, but which two players to compare? I got it! Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle. Two of that era's greatest icons.

Dive shall we straight into the postseason?

First up Mays. Say Hey played in six post seasons and 25 games. His career numbers are:

.247 BA; .323 OBP; .337 SLG; all in 89 AB. This included a .182 BA in 1951 and a mediocre .250 in 1962. Mays hit one HR in his post season career.

Next, Muscles Mantle: .257 BA; .374 OBP; .535 SLG; and 18 HR in 230 AB. Mantle had more chances on better teams playing in 12 post seasons and 65 games.

Check out these numbers: Mantle hit .200 in 1951, .208 in 1953, .200 in 1955, .167 in 1961, .120 in 1962 and .133 in 1963.

Ok? I know stats don't take into consideration so many things but I am not comparing players from different eras to see who was better. I'm just bringing to light the numbers as they were.

A-Rod: .280 BA; .362 OBP; .485 SLG; and 6 HR in 132 AB. A-Rod played in 9 post seasons and 35 games.

Barry "Sell My" Bonds: .245 BA; .433 OBP; .503 SLG; and 9 HR in 151 AB. Bonds played in 9 postseasons and 48 games. I just noticed something. Bonds doesn't have a nickname. In a sport where nicknames are almost a rite of passage it's interesting to note he doesn't have one. How about Secure or Triple AAA? Get it? Bonds...bah. So I gave him one. "Sell My" as in to unload assets given his reputation - no? Fine. Be like that.

Back to the numbers. Not so bad, huh? Perspective is everything.

Two are revered legends. Two are not. Social and psychological circumstances notwithstanding, life is funny that way.

Note: Does not include 2007 stats.

2006-11-09

The View: Rosie's Views are Foggy

The television happened to be turned on this morning. It was sitting on the show The View. As I poured myself a glass grenadine and blueberry juice, Rosie O'Donnell was the one who managed to grab my attention for a millisecond. The panel of "experts" were talking about the Iraq War. Now, given her opinions about politics, I just had to listen lest I miss her latest thoughts.

I was not disappointed. In her attempt to low ball America's role in Iraq she claimed that ONLY the United Kingdom supported the U.S. This was a flat out misuse of facts.

We all want to get our point across. The war in Iraq is an unpopular one among some. Naturally, we stake our positions and one way to do this (outside the realm of the abstract) is to use facts. However, what intellectual use is it to anybody if we are dishonest about how we debate? Ms. O'Donnell is most definitely entitled to her opinion. She is not entitled to ignoring facts or evidence. Nor is she in a position to interpret how and why nations choose to support and not support wars.

There were over 40 countries (including Japan, South Korea, El Salvador, Holland, Australia, Georgia, Lithuania, Philippines to name a few) in various capacities that supported the war. Not all committed troops but America did attempt to build a coalition. It wasn't as unanimous as the First Gulf War, however, it did secure support.

Look at it this way. If one supports her statement, it disregards and disrespects all casualties the 17 countries suffered in Iraq. Consider that Poland (17), Italy (33), Bulgaria (13), Denmark (6), Spain (11), Ukraine (18) among others (approximately 161 in total not including the U.S. and UK) all lost soldiers. Over 120 lives have been lost (again not including UK and U.S. deaths). Does she care about the families of the fallen soldiers from other countries?

It's not enough to say that America should not have gone in the first place. What's done is done.

It was a blatant and unfortunate omission on Ms. O'Donnell's part.

Figures from icasualties.org

Comments on Cars as Status Symbols, Stock Brokers, Gilmore Girls and Lebron James

-Once upon a time Mercedes-Benz was an exclusive car. If you owned a Benz it meant - to a certain point - you were wealthy. There was a close correlation between the car and assessing a person's fortune in life. Here's an example. My father bought a BMW 733i in 1984 when BMW came back into the North American market. The car was still an obscurity back then but it was not lost on some knowledgeable car fans. It was my first experience with a big car and how society reacted to it. By the time my father bought his second car - an Alfa-Romeo 164 - times had changed.

With the arrival of credit and the greed of the 80s reaching maximum zenith in the 90s, everyone could suddenly afford a luxury car. Everywhere you turned kids, individuals who earned 35k and other assortments of people from all walks of life could get their hands on one of those babies. Audi? No problem. Bimmer? It's yours. There's no prestige attached anymore to certain luxury items. These cars are for white trash too now.

Tsk, tsk I'm disappointed with the Germans. They should never have given into the temptation to pander to the lower classes. Their image is taking a hit. Screw the masses. Go straight to the top. Porsche should never have come out with an affordable line. It lost its aura and they essentially let Ferrari - which are still hand made - maintain supremacy in the sports car culture.

I'll leave it with this. At the end of a rough day, my former partner and I sat in his office looking outside a 5th story window. We were trying to figure out the madness that was swirling around us - it was the height of the tech bubble. Coming from an earlier time, he said pretty much echoed the same thing mentioned earlier. If you wanted a big car you worked towards it, saved the coin and earned it. Looking down below it made no sense to him to see so many fancy cars on the road. "The markets are telling me wealth is on the rise. I don't buy it for one minute. It's a paper tiger." I agreed. We were right. It came tumbling down.

-Speaking of stock brokers. Caught between managed products and the rise of the on-line trader and discount brokerage firms, the broker found himself needing to reinvent his role. A complete make-over if you will. While the rules of the markets stay the same (that is universal axioms proven over time) the job isn't. Long gone are the days of the quick tongued broker chomping down on a cheap Honduran cigar. You can literally get away with not following stocks on a daily basis now. You just need to be informed or 'briefed' - like a politician. The investment landscape (which includes investor needs) has changed and many brokers are no longer agents of the markets like they used to be. They have been forced to seek a niche or convert their businesses to an investment management process or style. Service comes first. The nitty gritty of investing is outsourced.

- My wife watches the Gilmore Girls. I can't digest it. Really, who talks that way? That town has to be a CIA scientific project. Everyone is so articulate. Even guys with caps on backwards speak with an elevated penchant for the vernacular. And that mother daughter tag team is completely diabolical. It's ok to be 'friends' but you're the fricken mother. Act like one. Any other daughter would have ended up selling body parts under such loose house rules if you get my drift. There are no values in that show. Worse, it has no point. It's opulent drama at its best. The show gropes itself with the Gilmore gals.

2006-11-08

For Music Enthusiasts

freeindie.com/2006/11/memphis.html

A reader kindly pointed me to this site and this band in particular. Actually, they are a duo called Memphis. I have no idea how he figured I would enjoy the music but he did. Thanks for this. I recommend a listen. Is it me or is there a hint of Big Star in there?

Dem Dems

Looks like Nancy Pelosi and her band of heroes will get a chance to save the Republic and restore to its past glory.

Er, yeah right.

Now the Democrats (a.k.a as The Drifters) have a chance to leave an illuminating imprint on the great democracy. The only problem is that they really didn't deserve this victory. The Republicans gave this one away. Still, a win is a win. It will be very interesting to see what the Democrats do. They got what they wished for.

In the aftermath of the elections, it was amusing to peruse around the web and spot titles like 'The Word Weighs In' and see a picture of Hugo Chavez there. May as well accompany it with Lex Luthor and Gargamel or something. Like, who cares what populist pipi-heads from tupperwear countries (ok, Venezuela has oil. My bad) think about the election? Seriously. What's next? An insightful piece on North Korea's thoughts? Maybe Jackie 'Chinwag' Layton (how's that for movie star screen name? Jackie Chinwag!) would like to weigh in. Why not?

Still, medium strength questions must be asked! Will the world 'hate' America less? How will Bin Laden 'interpret' the result? Which Hollywood star will come back first?

My advice is don't stay up. You'll be disappointed. The poorly repackaged Democrats are simply not what they think they are cracked up to be.

Alfred E. Neuman said "What, me worry?"
Nancy Pelosi says, "What, us elected?"

"Um, Ms. Pelosi. That's a Fisher Price phone you're dialing."

Plus ça change...

I hope I'm wrong. Lord, I hope I'm wrong.

2006-11-07

Saucy Superficiality Sells in Sports: The Hockey Shoot Out

I'm reading a book called the 'The Thinking Fan's Guide to Baseball' by Leonard Koppett. Two words in the book led me to this post: artificial excitement. A duo that perfectly describes the introduction of the hockey shoot-out. Anyone who knows me, has a clear idea of where I stand on the settling major games with a shoot-out. It's not that I refute progress. I reject progress on false pretenses. But that's another matter altogether.

Here's what the NHL hockey standings look like according to the official NHL website. I chose the Montreal Canadiens* as an example:

13 games 7 wins, 3 losses, 3 OT.

The local newspaper expresses it thusly:

13 games 7 wins, 3 losses, 0 OT, 3 SL.

So which is it? What is Montreal's record? To me, it's 7 wins, 3 losses and 3 ties. But because the NHL came up with the absurd notion of getting an extra point for a shoot out victory it leads to a loss for a team - even though the game ended in a tie. Follow? There's logic there somewhere. If we were to continue with this premise, then Montreal's record is really 7 wins, 6 losses. Since all sorts of free points are given for showing up or being mediocre, the local paper breaks down where those points are coming from. Hence, the 3 shoot out losses category.

Call it the NHL's way of marketing its product. Never the one to be innovative or imaginative, the old boys at the NHL thinks this is a clever way to get fans to love their game.

They may be right.

After the lock out, the NHL needed to recover lost fans - not entirely dissimilar to what baseball went through in 1994. So, the best way is to appeal to the masses. Or, expressed differently, the lowest common denominator. Enter the shoot out concept.

I don't like it. Then again, I'm an advertising execs worst nightmare; you can't appeal to my primal senses that easily. Nor am I that simple to please. It's a showcase in immediate self-gratification for sports fans with no attention span.

Historically, the game of hockey tolerated ties. Now, we can't digest them? Today we're so terrified of being bored that the gimmick is now the trick to gloss over a perceived lack of action.** We no longer are capable of picking up any subtle traits in any sports. The people who are 'bored' are the same ones who think baseball or soccer is boring. We want to trivialize ourselves by being entertained superficially. These people are not sports fans. They are the worst kind of fickle paying customers. They are the ones who send a dish back at a restaurant for no real reason or return items at Wal-Mart because they feel it's their Constitutional or Chartered right to do so.

The lines between sport and entertainment are now one line. Hence, athletes are no longer athletes in the purist sense of the word. They are entertainers now. Just look at the NFL and NBA. At least the NHL has been spared the spectacle of showboating. Just like great writing has given way to the 'creative rant' (Coulter, Dowd and their ilk), sports has given way to the marketing machine.

We don't cater to real, hard core fans anymore because we take them for granted. We pander to the casual and corporate fan because this is where the money is. The old adage "sex sells" seems appropriate in that substance doesn't matter.

I know this has been said many times in several different ways but it does have merit.

Many hockey commentators like to fool themselves into believing that the shoot-out was a visionary idea. In reality, it was a reaction to a malaise that gripped hockey - the lock-out.

Sure, the shoot-out is fun....in a superficial way.

Hey, if people like it....

*Yes, those same Canadiens who pay the outstanding Christopher Higgins $575 000 (for a second years player) and an unproven rookie in Guillaume Lantendresse $875 000. The maximum allowed.

** Hockey slumped in the 1990s the game was not being played in its proper spirit. The excessive reliance on slow paced monsters put a damper on action because the small, speedy and talented players were weeded out of the equation. Mind you, the hook was used perfectly by Gretzky in the 80s. The shoot-out does nothing to enhance the game itself. Rather, it is a tool for marketing and publicists to sell their product. The good news is that the game has been given back to talent. The bad news is that you have to tolerate the generic atmosphere of our arenas. Sure, things get electric but overall something got lost in translation.

2006-11-06

Searching for Independent Man

"Sentukililippi yo tillusprit in ritty qwep!"

Did it work? Did this inane incantation produce an independent individual?

Hmm, let's see. Flipping channels here and there. Furiously turning and churning pages there and here. Nope. Nothing.

Where to find a Canadian independent politician? Free thinker? The Canadian political system, by its construct, discourages individualism. Within party lines independent thought is ruthlessly controlled. Party discipline is strictly maintained. This makes all names on the ballot imperceptible. When Canadians vote they vote for a party. Not necessarily a person.

Sure, Trudeau transcended trite Canadian parochialism - albeit a socialist one - but he was an anomaly. Dief the Chief was also an intriguing misplaced character. His nationalism led to a Canadian recreation of 'E Tu Brute?' after he was unceremoniously stabbed in the back. Loosely translated: 'You too, eh?'

Sigh, a magnificent and exciting third way, sigh, is not in the cards for us Canucks. Yipes, the NDP don't count. I hear they are changing their motto to "always the usherette but never the bridesmaid." They are the Dr. Pepper of Canadian politics. Dr. Pepper trails Coke and Pepsi (though the 'Pep' is probably owned by one of them. Who keeps track?) just like the sad sack NDP pick up the bread crumbs left behind the Liberals and Conservatives.

Speaking of the NDP, how's Layton's brilliant request to open a 'dia-log' with Al-Aqaeda going? Good one, Jackie. Really. I've heard stupid things in my day (and I've said my share) but this idea has to rank among the worst I have ever heard. It was so bad he deserved to have his politics license revoked. Maybe even his driver's license. He's a menace I tell ya!

I guess I'll just have to pretend that a man in a cape and special powers will one day swoop in and energize us all. Or execute....

2006-11-05

Of Statistics and Objectives

I'm a big statistics guy when it comes to sports. It's just plain fun. As a function of helping to keep things in proper context stats - if interpreted properly - are useful if not important. However, stats should not be the only factor to rely upon. It does have its limits.

Stats do not consider many things outside the realm of numerics. It doesn't consider the character of an athlete. It doesn't remotely suggest how a player arrives to certain stats. What we see are the final stats but we never get a sense on how the numbers were within their own teams. In a sense, one can read history and never get a sense of it. History is about people who make the events. My point is that stats are just one step in a multiple step process in comprehending the totality of a club or athlete. 'The stats say" or "look at the stats" are just for those who want to get a single, self-serving point across.

In the business world stats are known as objectives. Every employee has them. "These are your targets" now go forth and multiply! So says the manager. The funny thing about objectives is that it's very similar to statistics.

The star of the office is always the best salesperson. Why? Well, they meet their objectives. Just like a 50-goals scorer, or a QB who throws for over 25 TD's or a .300 hitter in baseball, it's a measure to stand alone and top of your peers. Setting standards and goals are an important element in attaining excellence. Objectives are, well, good.

The problem comes when we turn a blind eye as to how a person reaches those stats and objectives. In sports, they cheat. In business they cheat. Both bring to mind the very essence of a person's character. In some way, the numbers disguise the process of achievement.

Many times the best person in the office is very far from it. Many are, well, jerks. In fact, many are downright despicable and ignorant. In the financial services industry, they are the chosen and protected ones. No matter how much trouble they get into (for example, not considering a client's interest first) management always shields them. The reason is straightforward - The big producer means more dollars.

In sports today the numbers are put into an athlete's contract. What this has done is make the stats paramount in negotiations. Character is secondary. How to measure integrity anyway? Sure, insiders keep a personal internal tab of this but we don't value it, as we should. The person of character is always the first to be thrown to the wolves. Not the big producer.

Objectives are fine. So are stats. We should, however, learn to scratch a little deeper. Sometimes we find truth.

2006-11-04

Standing Meekly as 10

Remember when Lucien Bouchard anchored Canadians with the assertion that Canada 'was not a real country?' In some philosophical way he was right. The only problem with his thought was that if Canada did not exist a case can be made that by extension neither does Quebec. Nationalists across the board are fooling themselves on this front.

I'm not sure exactly what he meant but it seems to me that there is an issue that gains little respect or attention. Whenever politicians unveil their soup de jour menu to 'make Canada a better place for all Canadians' I always wonder just how they will do it in a place like Canada where in many areas a national policy is absent.

Without a national policy to maintain a contained identity, Canada is merely a collection of petty Provinces. When we say Canada is fragmented and regionalized it generally means that the country is made up of 10 governments ganging up on one. First Ministers conferences are showcases in just how dysfunctional and childish Canada can really be. How many years have we been talking about the same repetitive issues? We still can't fix health care in this country because there is not clear concise rules as to how to do it. This makes for one parochial and ineffective jamboree. We really have little that binds us. Saskatchewan (insert whatever Province here) comes before the flag of Canada.

Take education. One of the most important aspects of national socialization begins and ends with history. Education falls under provincial jurisdiction. Not surprisingly, provincial considerations take precedent. Particularism has overtaken our identity as Canadians. We SAY we are Canadian but what we really mean is that we are Mantitoban, Ontarian etc. Ottawa is just a far away place where politicians go to hang out.

Securities and trade is another. It is laughable that countries like Canada boasts of its trade image abroad while maintaining inter-provincial barriers. It is one of quintessential nonsense to go into another Province and not have he same products. There's 'free-trade' between Canada, United States and Mexico but none between our provinces. "We're working together to fix this," is another famous line spewed by short-term minded elected officials.

Securities are an important aspect of economics. It has become a highly regulated industry and in order to protect investors it is paramount that ONE national set of rules governs everyone. Yet, we do not. Provinces war with one another over a semi-diversified economy is like two countries fighting over a piece of desert. It's pointless. We'd have so much to gain if we could set our differences aside.

John A. Macdonald was on the right track - corrupt drinking notwithstanding - when he attempted to create the famous National Policy principle. It feels as though Canada was glued together with good intentions and it soon unglued.

Canadians are not about the big picture. They are about the small snap shot. The idea of Canada as a nation preparing itself to take over Britain' empire never had a chance. It quickly dissipated under the twin weight of American and British influence - and Canadian immaturity.

Canada stands meekly as 10. It would be far more accomplished standing as one.

Sesame On A One-Way Street

You know we are in trouble when Sesame Street gets things wrong. My daughter was watching Sesame Street Workshop. The segment had Grover saying words in different languages. The one that caught my good ear is 'ciao.' According to Prairie Dawn the word is Portuguese. My wife and I looked at each other. "Ok, I'll go research it," I told her.

'Ciao' is known world wide as an informal versatile greeting (that is, hello or good-bye. Though in English we regard it to be 'good-bye') in Italian. The word itself derives from the Venetian dialect which is a derivative of the word 'schiavo.' There are different definitions of the word but the consensus is 'I am your slave.' In Victorian English it meant 'Your servant.' Of course, we contemporaries all use it far more loosely. For some, it's just quicker and nicer to say 'ciao' rather than 'bye' or its extension 'good-bye.'

Nowhere could I find in my exhaustive search did the word remotely have any connection to Portuguese. The only thing I can think of is that the person (s) who put together that segment got lazy and assumed that the 'iao' sound is inherently Portuguese. The Portuguese spelling of the word is 'tchau' - though this seems to be of the Brazilian variation. At least, they kept in the Latin family.

Even if the word did have roots in the Iberian peninsula, the word is unmistakably Italian. It is a symbol of Italian cultural exports that reached its zenith in the 50s and 60s to come out of Italy.
'Ciao' is now part of the cycle and routine of many cultures. However, it naturally finds its highest expression in Italy.

2006-11-02

Forgetting to Remember

We're a history deprived and deficient society. No doubt about it. Even when we do dip in the logs of history it's in a selective manner. People from France to Holland honour our fallen soldiers. In Canada, we choose to ignore. To forget. How regrettable!

The days leading up to Remembrance Day is a solemn one to those who care abut such things. The great men and women who served in the Great Wars are slowly dying off and we could not care less. There they stand - as the furious pace of people going nowhere swirl past them - with the medals proudly displayed. The medals themselves mean little. It's what these gems stand for that has great meaning. They served us - indeed Western Civilization- during a time of evil and madness. We can't even spare a moment. A dollar.

It's a sad commentary of where we sit listlessly as a community of soulless people who take everything for granted. Yes, Canadians are apparently so advanced. I know. To me, we have no clue about anything anymore. We argue over the silliest and pointless of things. Lost zombies we are. Some are just to busy to care. Others have decided to justify their ignorance for political reasons. Many simply are not aware. Oxford defines 'aware' as having knowledge or realization. This does not apply to some Canadians. It just doesn't. It should not be tolerated.

It stuns me to the point of anger every year. In the last few years our Veterans have been kicked out of the CIBC Bank, turned down by IKEA and other corporations. The list has grown disturbingly long. This year is no exception. It seems no one is paying attention. Provigo Grocers - though they moved to rectify the situation - was the latest culprit to deny Veterans the honor of selling their Poppies.

It just should not happen. How unenlightened and ungrateful are we? How desensitized are now to allow ourselves to treat soldiers with disdain? In a sense, we are demoralized and we don't see it.

These people are not in it for the money. They have too much honour and integrity to hold any greed for overvalued paper. They stared straight into the eyes of the Devil and his palace of hell. Just WHO are these jackasses who treat our Veterans in such a manner?

It really does point to the apathetic malaise to which we live in. Too many unqualified people are in positions of importance. Too many people are in places of power merely because they know how to take orders and fill in the blanks. They have no sense of history; of themselves.

It's not hard todespise people with no sense of curiosity; of respect. That do not look beyond their finger tips. Who interpret rules and regulations to their literal end. Who show no creative ability to adjust to the unpredictable nature of humanity. Yet, there they are - managing other people. Earning high incomes to turn away relics of a lost time that should never, ever be forgotten. What careers they hold!

Forget we do. Frivolous we are. Ferocious in our ignorance we roar. Flawed and failing in our spirit as a nation we lie.

2006-11-01

North America's Most Famous Telephone Number

867-5309

Never knew what Jenny's area code was, though.

A Work Related Story

The previous version of this post was too long. I cut it down and stuck to this story.

Whenever I am pressed for time some of you may have noticed a pattern on this blog. I revert back to stuff and territories familiar to me. That is, I'll write about sports, film, music and matters of light politics. The key to blogging is to keep up with your posts. I notice whenever I let go for a few days the number of hits go down. What pressure!

The pressure is not an issue. Time is. I tend to research thoroughly before I write about serious political and historical matters. I would like to write so much more. If only I had the time to develop my ideas.

With this, I would like to offer a personal work-related story. It took place when I joked around with an assistant in a brokerage firm I worked at. Keep in mind this assistant tolerated a vile and foul mouthed (and funny) broker. One day we were talking and she seemed pretty laid back. When she returned to her desk she sent out an email about something. I returned fire writing, "Who are you?" Get it? I just saw her minutes ago. Lame yes. But hey, it's the little things that build repoire right? A normal person plays along. Not this one. She freaked out. It got to the point my assistant (even though she thought herself equal to me - that bitch. But that's another story) came into my office and asked "How could you say that to her?" I was, naturally, speechless. From that point on I lost them.

Speaking of my former flakey, dingbat assistant who needed to seriously get a decent poking of sorts. One time a representative from a mutual fund company dropped off U2 tickets for my team. I was the guy nurturing this relationship and no one else. He dropped off the tickets to my assistant WITH MY NAME ON THE ENVELOPE thinking that she was an individual with an ability to be respectful - one of her greatest weaknesses it turned out. He be wrong. Instead, she took the tickets and GAVE ONE (MEANING MINE) TO THE SAME GIRL AFOREMENTIONED. When I came back from lunch I asked why she could not wait until I came back? "I didn't think you liked U2," she replied. No joke.

My senior partner (a.k.a as the boss who was raping me and not paying me accordingly) sat spineless as both stared blankly back at me. I waited for some sort of gesture to do the right thing. An apology. Anything. None was forthcoming. How do you teach people to do the right thing? "Well, I already told her," was the response. Now, for those of you who know me, I'm not a shit disturber. I walk away from absurd BS so as to keep my karma clean. I see no purpose in fighting for such things. I could have demanded the ticket but I didn't.

The story doesn't end there. The day after the concert the girl buys MY SENIOR PARTNER AN EXPENSIVE BOTTLE OF SCOTCH. "What's that for?" I asked. "Oh, Cahterine bought me a bottle for the tickets." Aside from the fact he HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH IT, I could not believe that neither my assistant or my partner had THE DECENCY TO AT LEAST TELL HER SHE HAD MY TICKET. Such were the values of the people I worked with.

Truth be told, I resigned because of this. Not because of this particular (I'm not that petty or insular) incident but that my values clashed with their own. It was, as we say, a collection of things that built up to the point of unmanagebale stress. I was simply not compensated for the pipelines of referrals I sent this guy. A pipeline that remains strong and profitable until this day for him. My principles came first and it did cost me much. Thank God my wife understood. She agreed.

Funny thing is that the day he hired that flake I questioned his judgement. She had been an assistant to a previous broker and her ability to be recklessly moody was notorious. I often said to myself, "thank God I don't work with her." Be careful what your thankful for. When our docile and professional assistant left, my partner panicked and hired 'The Idiot' because he did not want the 'hassle of training someone.' Fool. Not a day did not go by where I did not complaints about her. Many times I approached him about it. At one point, it became serious. For TWO YEARS he said he was going to fire her but had no balls to do it.

I hate when I have no control. I'd rahter get paid half the money and have full control than put up with stupidity.

All we've learnt as a business species is that we can wear cuff links to work. It's all a facade.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Good night.

A Family Story.

My mother's side of the family is Protestant. My upbringing was Catholic. It's rare for I-talians to be on the side of Martin Luther - that little bugger - but in the case of my relatives, it was an option they chose when they arrived in North America at the turn of the last century. It was a way of assimilating quickly. To be exact, my relatives are Pentecostal and they happen to have played a big role in expanding Pentecostalism on the continent. Good for them.

We, on the other hand - that is, the Catholic side - we're heathens. A thoughtful and inquisitive feller may ask "How comma you-a Catholic?" The short of it is that my parents really didn't care - but their respective families did. When my father informed his older brother that he was switching sides, he reacted as though my father went gay on him. Since they loved one another - I guess - my mother, decided to go Catholic. Naturally, my grandparents - actually my grand father was not impressed. So I am not Catholic based on any divine design.

I forget the rest of the story. I tuned out. But until this day we joke about it whenever we are at family functions. We're the only Catholics and it sometimes feels as though everyone knows it. Not that they are Calvinists but we feel the sweat around our collars (Remember ring around the collar?) Then again, my family is not exactly normal. We tend to, shall we say, let our imagination get the better of us. And so it should for it brought us many laughs at the black sheep table at functions and events.

God bless my cousins. We once went to a couple Pentecostal masses and sermons and found them to be lively and engaging. A far cry from the bizarre, ritualistic functions of Catholicism. Still, we joked about whether we needed to disclose who we really were. "You mean we're allowed to come in?"

I digress. My cousins were often just as insane as we were - only with much less profanities and vulgarity. My sister has one ugly tongue. They never judged us and we never judged them. We were united in humour.

With this useless backstory I turn back to the story. Years ago we were at one of those functions. An engagement I think. I brought along with me my girlfriend at the time. There were at least 75 people. An irrelevant, disjointed and somewhat unbecoming conversation ensues.

My brother-in-law: "When are they going to serve the food?"
Brother: "I's hungry, Maude."
Mother: "Don't start, guys."
Sister: "Yeah, what's taking so long?"

The Minister gets up. "Can I have your attention please!"

Me: "Great."
Brother-in-law: "Are they going to serve the food while he talks?"
Minster: "We want to thank Jesus..."
Brother: "Jo, tell that nigger, wop, chink joke."
Sister: "There was this..."
Mother: "Stop it. You always embarrass me. Do you see anyone behaving this way?"

My father is oblivious, by the way. My other sister, who married the hungry hippo, pretends not to laugh. My girlfriend is unsure how to act but is enjoying (and was going to enjoy) herself.

Me: "Doesn't the Minister talk like Snagglepuss?"
Minster: "Now let us bow our heads and pray...."
Brother: "Speedy Gonzalez giving a Protestant speech. Now that's funny stuff."
Brother-in-law: "He looks like Sherman."
Sister whispers to us: "Ma, is embarrassed. She's not even looking at us."

68 heads went down. All eyes are shut. The silence is deafening except for six Catholic heathens (minus my mother who grew up Protestant) with their heads up. It may as well have been up our asses.

Me: "Shit. This is bad. Look at everyone."

We all look around. Everyone is concentrated in prayer. My brother-in-law is staring out at the waiters with a look of desperation.

Brother: "Yeah well they don't have to put up with Original sin. We're so screwed no matter what we do. As long as the food is good here."
Me: "We're The Simpsons. Everyone else are the Flanders."

Afterwards, murmurs and whispers and polite glances follow.

Brother-in-law: "What are they staring at?'
His wife, my sister: "I don't know. Maybe because we behave in a boorish manner?"
Brother: "I wonder what boar meat tastes like."

And so on.

I can just imagine what could have been said about us that day. When my cousins came to sit with us during the meal we could not stop laughing about various things. We kept asking them to come to the dark side. People continued to stare. Some came by. Many did not get the humour and ran away.

Now that I think of it, I wonder what God may have thought.