World Cup: Sepp Blatter's Inappropriate words

"The Socceroos should have gone to the quarterfinals instead of Italy...because they were up to beating Italy..." So are the words of FIFA President Sepp Blatter. Let's dissect this like a frog in science class shall we?

First, Australia should stop whining. Welcome to international soccer boys where everyone has a grievance.

Next, this is the fallout you get when an underdog manages to exceed expectations. People begin to romanticize and assume the David vs. Goliath syndrome.

The famous penalty has to be rehashed here. Once again from the top. Defense 101. In a critical moment of a game do not come barreling into a player with an angled slide tackle. Why take such a chance? In doing so, you essentially leave the referee no choice but to call it against you.

Lucas Neil would have been better off playing positional man to man defense. It is true that refs tend to give defenders the benefit of the doubt, but everyone should put themselves in the ref's shoes for a second. Neil came full force into Fabio Grosso. What was the ref expected to do? Even if he suspected a dive, the tackle was probably more dubious in his judgment. It was the correct call. What made the decision unbearable for Aussie fans is that it happened in the last second. That does indeed, well, suck.

Italian midfielder Gennaro Gattuso felt the call was harsh but such is soccer; indeed sports.

Has anyone noticed that Lucas Neil since the World Cup has had two penalties called against him in the Premiership? His judgment has much to be desired.

Blatter adds that Australia were up to beating Italy? Aside from the reality that they didn't, it's all moot now. The first half of that game was one of best one in the tournament. It was technically sound and Australia did indeed come with their lunch pails.

It was in the 2nd half where everything turned for the worse. First, there was the mistake of sending Marco Materazzi off. Clearly, the ref goofed. This reduced Italy to 10-men against an Aussie side that was gaining confidence. Naturally, Italy gave possession to Australia. The reality is that Australia, despite their frenetic paces, created very little - just like France in the final*. Italy sized them up for a counter attack. In fact, Italy was far more dangerous on the counter. On this day, Australia just wasn't going to score. They were up against one of the finest defensive sides in World Cup history. Not even Germany managed to score on the Azzurri and France got one thanks to a dubious penalty.

Italy deserved the victory. But this is not the point now is it? Listen to Blatter's logic. In his mind, it was ok to apologize to one country by disparaging another. Did he feel Australia should have beaten Brazil? Did he feel France deserved to beat Portugal on a dubious call? Did Germany deserve to beat Argentina? Did he really believe for one minute Zidane was the best player in the tournament? Where was he in the aftermath of the shameful display by Zidane?

Did he feel South Korea deserved to beat Spain in 2002? France over Italy in 2000? Does he care to mention that Luca Toni had a goal turned away for Italy in the final against France? Yet, a very similar goal was allowed for France against Spain - a country with their own justified grievances. Let us not bring up the debacle in 2002 when Italy had three perfectly legitimate goals - one in extra time against South Korea - turned away.

The list of teams who 'should not have won' in world cup history is very long and it includes many countries. Yet, I have not seen such scorn heaped upon one nation to this degree. That Blatter has a possible dislike of Italy seems plausible as this is not the first time he practices verbal buffoonery. Recall that he did not even present the trophy to Italy as is the custom for the President of FIFA to do.

Sepp Blatter is void of any class. France too should itself to be classless in the aftermath of their 'unjust' loss to Italy. It went as far as lying about Materazzi's comments. Remember his comments were allegedly racist in nature and that it involved the word 'terrorist?' Nothing of the such happened according to FIFA's investigation.

*If France was not awarded that penalty where Malouda dove - Materazzi did not clip him as many claim - and Toni's goal stands it's game over. True, Zambrotta flagrantly fouled a French player but that was, in my opinion, an 'evening out' call by the ref. France outhustled Italy but did not outwit them. Head coach Marcello Lippi outfoxed the animated and sarcastic Raymond Domenech.


The Blob

With boredom by my side I watched The Blob in its original 1958 format the other night on televivison. Burrowed into the couch by the end of the film, a remake of The Blob from 1988 was next up. I did not, of course, intend for it to be a Blob half-marathon. However, it was a slow, showery night.

I'm one of those film viewers who is enamoured with obscure, underground or lost movies. The more removed from pop culture all the better. I'm not sure why this is so. Maybe it's because when stripped away from the superficiality of a final product that was meant for distribution, independent films show film as art in its bare form. I never did understand the "won't go for that" line used by executives or marketers. How can they really be sure, right? Art has a weird aura to it that no one can predict with any consistent accuracy. Kind of like a grocery store's inability to precisely forecast customer eating and purchasing habits. In a way, this is a good thing. It shows humans still have some independent thought and fight in them.

Far from being a critique of either film, this post would like to discuss something else - Namely, the whole debate of sequels or remakes. The old saying goes that you can never replicate an original and for the most part this has been true in almost any facet of artistic endeavours.

This adage seems to be upheld here. The Blob has become a sci-fi cult classic. And like all cult classics, luck is what made it so. No one can predict - nobody - what and will not be a classic. If they could read people's minds, I doubt they would be making films. They would probably seek to conquer the world or something. Machiavelli did not fathom nor cover such power in The Prince. I digress. Suffice to say that if movie producers would be able to tell what would be a cult there would be no classics to speak of.

The Blob was an independent film. I'm even willing to say, without fact, that when the makers of this film approached established movie people it was met with skepticism. That's the standard origin for all classic pieces of art. Next thing you know some guy is writing in his biography, "Who knew?" or "Who would have thunk it?"

For me, what makes this B-type flick work is the unbelievability factor. Watching that Blob, slowly ooze out of a vent was devilishly hilariously. The script and pace of the film is so flawed it's irresistible. At the end of the movie the town figured out that The Blob hated the cold. The solution was to freeze it with fire extinguishers. But where to find, like, hundreds of extiguishers in the middle of the night? Why at the local school of course! With a dozen or so people jamming into the school they each instantly ran out with an extinguher. What's more, the whole town zoomed up to the diner where The Blob had taken over with, you guessed it, extinguishers - if one paid attention the extras approaching the diner were hardly taking their roles that seriously as they smiled while they ran. By my best calculations, and my math is terrible, it took about two minutes to identify the problem, mobilize the town and quell the sucker. It was almost too comically surreal to resist. You wonder if it was all done on purpose or tongue in cheek.

Another thing to consider about the original make, is that along the way (30 years in this case) something gets lost in translation. We rely way too much on technology now. The goal is to make everything as close to real life as possible. We want to reenact everything so that it mirrors our existence. The line between reality and fiction is now blurred. While this has an undeniable and impressive impact on our visual senses it does stunt our imagination. We don't necessarily appreciate or tolerate flaws as a normal human fact. After all, humans are flawed.

They didn't make films like they used too.Like the good old days or music when Rock'n Roll was pure and maintained its essence. The same can be applied to movies. Not all movies need to have the big stars, budgets or directors. Sometimes the ones that resonate are the ones we least suspect. Ah, but this is what makes The Blob and all others like it so much fun. They weren't meant to be part of "the machine."

The result? People latched on. There is no doubt that the 1958 version stuck with me more. I feel like some Chuck Berry. Good night.


"Be Nice to me or Else I'll Blast you in my Column."

Michael Schumacher from F1 has retired and Don Matthews was fired as head coach of the CFL Montreal Alouettes. While we're at it, Bobby Clarke is no longer GM of the Philadelphia Flyers. What's the connection between the three and why am I mentioning them together in the same paragraph?

Cold, callous, difficult, calculating, bitter. These are just some of the words that have been used by journalists to describe the personality traits of Schumacher and Matthews specifically. It doesn't help Clarke's cause that he played for one of the most delinquent clubs in hockey history. As for journalists who make these claims, while true, they border on childish. Here in Montreal, several writers are notoriously arrogant, thin-skinned or just plump mean spirited. Through them, we can understand how Hopper and Parsons functioned.

It's become acceptable for journalists to disclose their personal negative experiences with athletes or coaches now. This 'personalized' approach is apparently supposed to mean something to the sports fan. Journalists often tell the story of how much of a jerk this guy is and how stupid that person is; especially when they feel they were treated poorly.

They are, these scribers, very skillful at rallying public opinion to their side. They'd be perfect political speech writers for Fidel Castro. Many sports journalists are one step removed from keeping a diary like a blogger in their columns. In some cases, I wonder if there are any standards at all with editorial boards. They ramble unchecked about a grievance they have for weeks in some cases.

Are sports fans supposed to care that a journalist hates a particular coach or athlete? Does it really matter that Barry Bonds is a jerk? In some karma, spiritual way maybe, but these are athletes. If society didn’t place such an importance on them we wouldn't care. Certainly, we shouldn’t care. False idols are unhealthy.

It's one thing to mention a writer's frustration with an entertainer, however when it becomes a feature of your column on a regular basis it becomes tiresome to read.

It almost becomes a one-man crusade. Men of the papers sit down with their swords singing the 'Song of Roland' as they seek to mold the minds (notably us commoners) of the naïve and unsuspecting. Baseball writers are known to be jerks that way too. It's so bad that they won't let a deserving ball player in the Hall of Fame if they feel he wasn't kind to them. Feed 'em grapes and keep 'em 'appy, Maude.

That Schumacher was not popular is fine. We pick and choose who we like anyway. One can question his wild competitive spirit and wonder if it was good for the sport. But to flat out go after the man and his character to prove this point is dubious at best. Why should I entrust the journalist in dealing with a person's reputation?

Let's face it. There are many stupid journalists at large who simply deserve to be thrown on their asses. Dealing with mercurial hard asses from Bobby Knight to Lou Holtz to Ted Williams to Ty Cobb to even Bill Parcells (T.O.will do that to you), takes a special person. Most journalists are not up to the task. It happens everywhere. Marcello Lippi in Italy, one of the world's finest coaches, is constantly at war with the Italian sports press.

Fans concern themselves with one thing: winning. If you're a Ferrari fan all you care about is that Schumacher is a champion. Same with McLaren fans under the reign of Ayrton Senna a couple of decades back. Montreal football fans would not have cared about Matthews' attitude if he brought a second Grey Cup to Montreal. That he didn't was open season and journalists gleefully pounced on him. You know, because he was such a jerk to them. They love it - wink - when one falls from grace. That's what makes them - wink - evil. Then they all turn around and look at each other and wonder why the press is called out every once in a while. "Moi?" Not all to be sure, but a few nonetheless.

The perception is what drives our beliefs. With the athlete, journalists have appropriated themselves the right to attack them often without thought. I'm not saying don't bring to the attention of readers certain stories relating to character. We rely on them to bring forth the 'truth'. What I am saying is that it should not govern their objective observations. If it does, they are no better than the jerk they are impugning.

If you really want to get to the heart of how an athlete thinks, I imagine a long piece outside the mold of the sports pages may be a better place to do it. You can explore much more a person's soul with 2 500 words than 750. Until then, just….the….facts ma'am.


Two Soccer Giants Headed in Opposite Philosophical Directions

With nine World Cup titles and 13 appearances in the finals, Brazil and Italy are two countries (along with Germany) synonymous with world soccer success. Both did it, excuse the Frank Sinatra reference, their way. However, both countries are heading in opposite directions in terms of how they will manage their national sides moving forward.

If Brazil was the embodiment of beautiful soccer where innovative virtuoso's danced to the samba that graced the field, Italy was far more rooted in sophisticated realism that sometimes provided dramatic operatic flair. A careful blend of Michaelangelo artistry and cunningly Machiavellian.

It's a sort of zero-sum game of style and substance that defined the philosophical interpretations of soccer of each country. They existed at the polar extremes of one another. Put in political parlance, they are extremists. Italy and Brazil chose one vision and stuck to it. It's hard to argue with the results.

Something funny, however, happened in the last few years. Where Italian soccer has been opening up and playing a more offensive brand of soccer, Brazil has slowly been embracing a more cautious style of play.

In both cases, fans and media have been slow to catch up to this evolution. Even while Brazil won with defense during the World Cup in Germany, the media still spoke of its struggling offense. Despite the evidence of this, popular positions maintained that Italy was a squad dedicated to cynical defense and Brazil to improvised offense. Of course, this assertion was misleading if not misguided.

Former player and present coach of the Brazilian national side, Dunga has talked about bringing vibracao (will and motivation) to his team. Dunga himself was not the proto-typical Brazilian player and it is an interesting piece of fact that he was named head coach. It may indeed reveal that Brazil is no longer solely dedicated to joca bonita anymore.

Italian head coach Roberto Donadoni for his part has confirmed that he will continue to encourage an attacking spirit in Italian football. Indeed, several clubs in Italy are designed to be as such. Some of the world's finest strikers, always a forgotten relic among legendary defenders and keepers, actually do come from Italy now. That is not to say that Italy will play offensive of soccer for the sake of it. The bedrock of Italian soccer is the counter attack which entails a certain respect for defense. Call it a character trait.

It is unclear to what degree Italy and Brazil will adhere to their newfound tactics. If the recent World Cup is any indication, Italy is quite capable and prepared to play defense when need be.

Will Brazil find a happy compromise that will please its demanding fans? There is no question Brazil's offensive prowess remains in tact, however, its under rated defense played effectively in Germany. It seems people are still not quite prepared to believe Brazil is strong defensively.

This inverted state of affairs is something to look out for in the upcoming months or years. Will Italy and Brazil continue to remain at the pinnacle of soccer greatness? So many questions that only time will be able to answer.

Until then, get used to a new breed of great Brazilian players in the defensive mold and Italian ones groomed as strikers. Either way, they are still doing it their way.


- They say that the gap between the powers and the minnows has closed in recent years. Maybe. While smaller nations are more competitive than they have ever been, soccer remains a big boy sport. Consider since 1982 (where upsets did take place. Algeria defeating Germany. Cameroon drawing Italy for example) who made the finals: Brazil and Italy 2-1, Germany 1-2, Argentina and France 1-1. The big five dominate the list. What about the semi-final match? France 1-1; Germany and Italy 1-0. Other 3rd place winners include Poland, Sweden, Croatia and Turkey. Hardly minnows themselves. 4th place includes Portugal, England, Holland, Belgium, Bulgaria and South Korea. With the latter being a surprise (especially the way they made it. I admit I was not convinced of South Korea's accomplishment) we're not quite there yet. Africa has to make the party now. Making it to the next round should not be enough for the quality and talent stemming from the Dark Continent.

-Inter 4 Milan 3. Serie A is boring you say? Anyone who says Italian soccer is boring should be dismissed outright as not understanding soccer. The Milan Derby was easily one of the finest matches in recent soccer memory in any league.


Reviewing The Vanishing Country: Part III

Part III of my review of the Vanishing Country by Mel Hurtig gets to the heart of Hurtig's fears: America. An effective way to convince readers that integration is bad is by magnifying America's blemishes.

While the United States and Canada share certain cultural similarities, both nations have chosen different paths in their attempts to obtain a "just" society. "Peace, order and good government rules Canadian civil ethics whereas "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness' guards America.

Imagine if we were to combine the two? Just thinking here.

One quote that exemplified Hurtig's concerns about American hegemony is expressed by Senator Doug Roche. "Our values - integrity, compassion, equity and justice - are being shoved aside as Canada slides increasingly closer into a suffocating embrace with the United States."

Never mind the broad scope of the comment, since when does integrity, justice and compassion become the exclusive domain of Canadian values? Don't Americans have similar aspirations?

It's one thing to question further integration with America by examining Canadian leadership and history. It's quite another to dip into America itself. Many do it with disastrous results. It is no different here.

In his section 'America as a rogue state,' I submit the book becomes unhinged. Filled with one-sided perspectives, it gives pause to just how little of American history is known by so many people.

For example, he quotes, "As in other matters already described, the U.S., is a schizophrenic nation. It refused to join the League of Nations, established after the First World War…" What he doesn't say is that it was American ideals - specifically Woodrow Wilson - that conceived the League of Nations. Its refusal to join is a topic that deserves its own study and quite frankly was out of the realm of this book.

In his discussion on how both countries operate and attempt to export their values he writes, 'What Canadians prefer is 'soft' power. Humanitarianism is OUR thing.' Yet by every measure, we are laggards on total aid as a government expenditure. He quotes Foreign Policy but failed to mention that in an index published by FP, Canadian humanitarian aid was abysmal relative to our rhetoric. As for, soft power - which entails many different aspects of foreign policy - it is only as effective as the hard power that backs it up.

For all its hyper reflections and selective bantering (its role in Central and South America for example) about American power, there is one thing to keep in mind. Out of all the great powers in World history America seems to use a light stick in relation to its staggering power. Given the proud persona of the present administration, America might be well served to recall Teddy Roosevelt's "speak softly and carry a big stick" adage.

The wanton selective nature to defend his positions is usually taken out of context. Each one of them is far more complex than what he presents his readers. For example, the specious notion that American sanctions against Iraq led to 500 000 starving Iraqi children. Omitted was the case that aid was being sent but Hussein made sure it did not get to his citizens. Furthermore, this notion collapses when one realizes that he was still trading with major European powers - to say nothing of the UN's immoral behaviour during the sanctions.

After spending much time doing so, he writes, "Of course it is wrong to generalize on all our differences" No kidding.

Above comments notwithstanding, he dives into other aspects of American society. "…We've never had anything like the extent of the prolonged murderous racial violence of the KKK…" Perhaps. However, we did have the Orangemen and a vocal Eugenics movement. Treatment of blacks who escaped slavery in the U.S. was not that much better in Canada. Some would go as far as to argue that the Canadian political landscape is chronically and inherently racist.

As is the case with any anti-American chest pounding, Vietnam and Kyoto are sure to be mentioned.

On Vietnam, "Won't it be wonderful to see our young men and women flown off to the next American Vietnam?" A discussion with any of the world's most reputable military historians can refute this tired intellectual classic. It was presumptuous and unnecessary.

On Kyoto, "Never mind the undeniable evidence that global warming is a terrible threat to life on this planet." Actually, it is disputed.

Hurtig tackles pollution too. Maurice Strong characterized the United States as a "super polluter…" Yet, with sulphur and carbon dioxide emissions, Canada's own record is questionable. In fact, when it comes to environmental issues, Canada's recent improvements notwithstanding - our record does not match our image or rhetoric. When it comes to pollution, many countries are guilty.

Lurking not too far off in the distant is the notion that America will simply swallow up Canada.

That Washington would call the shots would threaten our independence. This position obviously has merit. Is it a done deal that America would actively seek to dismantle our welfare state?

One section that caught my eye was one where if a newcomer came to America he would suggest certain readings. For the 'best and the brightest' in American media he highlights the NYT (despite its recent turmoil), NPR radio and Harper's. Interestingly, the conservative side of the coin such as National Review or the Weekly Standard ares not mentioned. Same goes for libertarian publications such as Reason. The omission of other publications with a differing perspective is unfortunate.

This book was less a call to engage in debate and more a personal polemic. The cold, hard reality is that Canada's international performance under the Liberals in the 1990s and early 2000s was an abject failure in terms of enlightened guided leadership. We should be less concerned with the Americans and more so with our own backyard.

The ultimate irony here, of course, is that Hurtig's biggest fears lies in the notion that America would dismantle and destroy our compassionate welfare state. Implied here is that Americans are socialist pagans. Yet, it is Canada -with its inherited British collectivist disposition - who imported successive socialist ideals from the United States (think New Deal). We then took it a step further.

Where most Americans have not been keen to accepting socialism (there is more government intervention in the U.S. than Americans care to admit) as a mark of their values, Canada turned it into our most cherished value. The welfare state is our raison d'etre.


Article: Academia: Where do you fit on the political ideological spectrum?

I don't swing either way. I'm a small 'L' libertarian, small 'L' liberal and small 'C' conservative sprinkled with a dash of saffron. I'm straight.

This makes me, I suppose, a purple Tory liberal libertarian.

Many of us are unsure of where we would fit on an ideological line. If people had to choose, I think liberalism would win out; politically speaking. Conservative thought has always been in the minority. The conservative voice operates in a boom and bust political ideological economy. The Western philosophical line is very much liberal with conservative hiccups in between.

However, that doesn't mean people are no conservative culturally or financially.

Still, there are some ideologies we knowingly reject. Most people would know if they were fascist, communist or anarchist. It gets confusing with conservatism and liberalism because they have intersected many times in history. In fact today's conservatives are yesterday's classical liberals. And today's liberals are really hard core old style conservatives like Edmund Burke. Libertarianism traces its roots back to classical liberalism too - though they sound very much like classical conservatives as well. Me? I know that I am not a socialist. The whole idea of my money going to someone else simply does not resonate with me.

Most people would agree that taxes for education, health, military and other essential services are fair game. For anything beyond this, I would much rather live in a society that appeals to me directly for funds for various activities that help to enhance our communities. If our society is civil and enlightened we will freely give. Instead, right now my money goes into all sorts of dubious programs and grants that I would otherwise not fund on my own.

Nor am I enamored with the fact that affirmative action or equal opportunity and other 'pet' programs that sometimes discriminates against the taxpayer. We try to rid one social problem by taxing another - the ones we deem to be the root of the problem of course.

Not sure how this ended up here but I'll close by saying that the Muppet Show was one helluva show.


Blogging Frees Creativity

I was channel surfing the other night between commercials during the baseball game (I always do that) and sat on CSI: Miami for a minute. That show really is hard to digest.

Nonetheless, one can't argue that well-dressed mannequin's, beautiful scenery, exaggerated characters - some of whom are simply not believable thanks to poor character development are a recipe for a Bruckheimer success story.

Heaven forbid the sooty Miami underground is ever explored. CSI Miami is the Miami Vice of the 21st century. Beautiful scummy people lurk among us. Though Miami Vice was far more stark and interesting.

Canada, for its part, has been a marsh land of television drama through the years but lately some pretty good shows have been produced here. The one that springs to mind is Da Vinci's Inquest (later Da Vinci's Hall and possibly some other title). For its part, Quebec produced a decent French-language mafia show called Omerta.

What I appreciated about DI was its attempt to be realistic. With borderline acting in some episodes, the overall package was nonetheless very good by Canadian standards and pretty good by American ones. The show is set in Vancouver - easily one of North America's most beautiful city. Yet, the viewer rarely saw panned shots of, for example, the Vancouver shoreline that suggested the city was nothing more than a post card. In other words, the show was not afraid to explore the ugly side of the city. In doing so, it did not insult the viewer. CSI seeks to superficially attract us, Da Vinci's Inquest hooks you with realism.

CSI is like any other cookie cutter show around. How many do we need? I'm still waiting for CSI: Saskatoon - Or a parody of it anyway. And please, enough with the geniuses that run the labs. I don't buy it.

I digress. My point is that a select few control what we see or read. An oligarchy of lords run the fiefdom so to speak. If one pays close attention we are not always fed the best of what creative minds can offer. Someone or some group get to control what gets on and what doesn't while making too much money in the process. Earning wealth is fine if it actually contributes something of value to society. Are the big networks doing their part? Bemusement fills my face whenever I hear a big-time exec demand 'originality'. Originality strictly belongs to another class of people now and they are not on CBS or ABC or NBC.

I have to admit I do like CSI Las Vegas because of Grissom. His character is plausible. I also like his recent comments about moral relativism in the post modern age. How our moral compass is pointed in one direction but for some reason we are failing to follow it. We define our own personal moral code now and this is indeed troublesome. This was a case where I actually was impressed with a show. They challenged an existing social problem.

The greatest periods in human history took place when all aspects of a civil society were running at full throttle to enhance human achievement. These periods were marked by the fact that thinkers and inventors strove to appeal to the highest common denominator. They were not held back by polls or ratings. They only had to answer to themselves, God and community they were a part of. Ignorance and pestilence was indeed rampant but it did not dictate the path of humanism.

Today, the media has given a voice to the lowest common denominator. As such, you have to put in power minds that understand the sort of person who enjoys Paris Hilton. Everything spills from there. We operate in an age that is opposite to Classical Athens, the Age of Antonine's, Renaissance, Enlightenment and so on. We are the barbarians of a new era.

Blogging can change all this. Blogging is a force that has been unleashed to give the freelance and creative mind a voice - the great equalizer. A voice that is ignored by many newspapers, magazines and major networks. More savvy and thoughtful editors have seen the worth in it. There is still, however, a long way to go.

Imagine a network like NBC that has an army of staff writers outside its stuffy culture? One could only imagine the explosion of ideas that would grace our screens. Imagine one where 'equal diversity opportunity' discrimination is erased from the desks of big execs? Untie the free mind once and for all.

With over 50 million blogs (since I wrote this a year ago it has risen to 70 million) according to Technorati, there is no doubt many are less than impressive. However, I have read many that can rival anything put out by traditional mainstream channels.

Blogging is the new power. The new knowledge.

It should be given a chance for it is urging us to usher in a post-Humanist world.

That way, we can see that we're much more than CSI Miami.

General Comments

I don't write for the sake of it. I like to put some thought into my posts because I care for you all - ahem. This is why I have not posted recently. No time to think and carefully write out. It's already bad enough I sometimes don't check my spelling until days later.

That said, nothing beats presenting some clips that grab my eye for the time being. Check out my mock Couric interview on the right side of my page.

-In the 'Finally' department Nancy Lee is no longer head of the CBC. I can't think of any profound positives during her tenure. The day she let the talented Chris Cuthbert form CBC Sports go was the day I realized something was possibly slightly ajar with her. She also failed to grasp that the CBC was a public broadcaster - or at least that's what its mandate is supposed to be. The CBC is a government institution that acts like a corporation. To me this is an oxymoron. Consider when she once said that Toronto was the key to the CBC's ratings.

-We often hear that lawyers are the most hated people. In a way, the reliance on lawyers in American society has weakened the core of its social fabric. Specifically, unscrupulous lawyers were all too willing to encourage lawsuits. They have caused much social angst and confusion. They say lack of responsibility and accountability is a serious problem in our society and some lawyers have done their part to bring this on just as anybody.

Surely, they aren't the only ones, right? I heard someone say the other day they hate tow companies. What about minute maids (Green Onions here)? Personally, the only group to be more dangerous and have run unchecked in pop culture are ad agencies. They have done arguably the worse damage. It's a monopoly of the worst kind.

Feel free to offer your 'most hated job's and the worst kind of monopolies in the world today.

-Remember acid rain? Me neither. It's all global warming now.

-Here's a cultural irony. I saw a commercial for Akwasasne Casino. Wasn't gambling part of the reason for the social demise of Natives? Now they figure to profit off it. And why not? If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!

Gotta run.


More Observances and Questions

What's with the smiling Scarecrow's? A smiling pumpkin or clown can be sinister but a Scarecrow looks stupid -all tilted. Halloween is supposed to be scary. Instead, front lawns are fricken dressed and littered with friendly Scarecrow's. Make me shiver! Not like I want to rent 'The Wizard of OZ.'

When will the madness stop? When will the world be rid of comedic sportscasters? They come off sounding like smart-alecs. Mixing humour with anything takes a skillful mind. What is the screening and hiring process for an anchorman's (excuse me, anchorperson's)) seat? Just who decided that mixing pseudo-jesters with reporting the box scores was a swell idea? It's the same with newscasts. Ever notice how they laugh at the dumbest jokes? Or end their newscasts with Cookie the Frowning Flipping Frog? They shuffle their papers with a comfortable smile and tell us good night. This is news?

It's like everyone is on drugs. Nothing is real.

Report relevance. Keep it professional.

Ha! Like that's going to happen.


Question of the Day

One man's entertainment is another man's history lesson?

"We need a change."

The great motto of our modern times.

"We need a change or I need a change" is an oft heard and spoken assertion. In sports, coaches are usually fired under the excuse of "we needed a change" which usually follows or precedes (depending on the mood of the messenger) the classic "the player's were no longer responding to the coach" line.

Whenever something does not go our way or proves to be a little too long in its turn around, we fall back on "we need a change." It makes us feel good that we are actually doing something to actively solve a problem. That we are searching energetically for solutions. We justify our salaries if not ourselves as a competent person in doing this. The old saying goes in sports "you can't fire 23 guys so you fire the coach."

How's that for shrugging of the shoulders and skirting responsibility? What about the people who selected the 23 players? Firing a coach and hiring a successor leads to what stock analysts call 'dead-cat bounce'. There is inevitably a quick bounce back whenever a catalyst propels a stock (like a merger rumour or new CEO) but a dead cat is a dead cat and it will fall back down. A dud is a dud, right?

Same in sports. The new coach comes roaring in with his new methods and players tend to respond for a while. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Call it dead-coach bounce. Or dean man walking...or skating. Depending on the sport.

Teams (and corporations for that matter) who constantly shuffle management around usually remain in the same spot. They run a lot but remain at the same point. Teams that show patience tend to be successful ones.

Bobby Cox is a long-serving manager with the Atlanta Braves. Would the Braves have necessarily done better had he been released? Probably not. How many years did Connie Mack manage? This is just me but doesn't a long tenured coach exude credibility? In times of the pampered athlete, a player coming into a team where he knows the fans support the coach and management helps to maintain the balance of power in favour of the coach as it should be. If the player doesn't like this he can take the proverbial 'hike.'

We see the 'we need a change' bit in political culture also. I could have sworn that the minute Bush and Harper were elected in their respective countries, calls for change were immediate. 'Change' in this instance meant 'we don't like these two so get them out.' It seemed that way anyway. Harper barely had time to even read the portfolio on Chretien before some began to ponder the 'need for change' in Canada. 45 years of liberal Trudeauism and 8 Mulroneyism, meant that Harperism had no chance.

It's the same in employment. People always want a change. One month into a job they are yearning for a vacation. They say that before the age of 35 we will have changed our jobs 5 times. The long career with one company is now a thing of the past. Obviously, this sort of stability has taken the back seat to a new type of worker who wants more out of him or herself. Or that they need 'a change' a little too often. For those who are confused, Oscar Wilde once said, "it is better to be financially stable than interesting." Most hate what they are doing but what change to make?

Change is good but under the right conditions. You can't change for the sake of it. Don't change a job for a lateral move. Don't fire a coach if the successor is not a better choice (who could replace Joe Torre?) Don't scream for change without giving a chance to someone.

We may just get what we don't want.


Mediapseak Revisited

In College 16 years ago (that's Grade 12 and 13 for the rest of the continent) I read a bool called Mediaspeak": How Television Makes Up Your Mind (1983) by Donna Woolfolk Cross. I found it to be informative back then and recently began to give it a 2nd read now that I am older, wiser and prettier.

I decided to find out more about the author. It's never a bad idea to find out more about what makes a writer tick. Unfortunately, not much was found about the book in terms of reviews and forums. However, I did stumble upon her 1996 novel that threatens to be the next blockbuster film.

'Pope Joan' is the story of a woman who allegedly became Pope in the 9th century - the darkest point of the Dark Ages. The minute I saw this I thought about the 'Da Vinci Code.' Are we going to see another mammoth debate about the Catholic Church's 'cover up' based on dubious facts? As a student of history, it was easy to refute Dan Brown. Will it be as easy to do the same for this novel?

The Church has been remarkably (not that many people are aware) open about these subjects. They have opened their vaults giving access to their documents as early as the 19th century.

The Middle Ages was one historically complexed mess. It is very, very easy to pick a fable, legend and myth and turn into fact during a time when Europe was reforming itself after the fall of Rome. It was a volatile and violent (if not downright exciting and creepy) period in European history. As was the case with the 'Code' too many gaps in evidence are present to conclusively determine there was a female Pope.

I am sure it's a gripping tale. However, people should take a course in European Medieval history before they read it if they plan to assume this to be a history lesson. Just like people who swear by the 'Code' should read a little more critically the life of Leonardo Da Vinci. That's my advice.

That said, I remain curious about the author who penned Mediaspeak. In the 23 years since it was written I wonder if she feels if the book remains relevant.

Is advertising more powerful than the President of the United States? Is media a threat to democracy and doesn't even know it? How entrenched and effective are ads to the bottom line? What comes first: The demand or the supply in advertising? In other words, is giving 'what the people want' a fabricated marketing ploy?


The Prince and the New York Yankees

For the sheer enjoyment of it I chose to use some passages from Niccolo Machiavelli's masterpiece 'The Prince.' You will find it applies to some to modern sports teams. It's quite the stretch to compare The Republican city-states of Italy and the New York Yankees but fun nonetheless.

The Yankees don't win anymore. Like Renaissance Italy, the grandeur and aura of New York is crumbling before our eyes. Why?

"…Mercenaries and auxiliaries are useless and dangerous; and if one holds his state based on these arms, he will stand neither firm nor safe; for they are disunited, ambitious and without discipline, unfaithful, valiant before friends, cowardly before enemies…"

How many mercenaries are in the Yankee line-up? The New York Rangers tried (and still do) that route. Notice how they fell apart in the playoffs against the New Jersey Devils - a team that does not rely on the mercenary athlete.

"….they are ready enough to be your soldiers whilst you do not make war, but if war comes they take themselves off or run from the foe; which I should have little trouble to prove, for the ruin of Italy has been caused by nothing else than by resting all her hopes for many years on mercenaries, and although they formerly made some display and appeared valiant amongst themselves, yet when the foreigners came they showed what they were. Thus it was that Charles, King of France, was allowed to seize Italy with chalk in hand; * and he who told us that our sins were the cause of it told the truth, but they were not the sins he imagined, but those which I have related. And as they were the sins of princes, it is the princes who have also suffered the penalty.

The King of France, for our sake here, are the Detroit Tigers who in turn took advantage of the impotence and disunity of the Yankees. Just as Charles did in invading Italy. Terrell Owens is another example of a roaming effective mercenary with scant notions of chivalry and honour.

"…the mercenary captains are either capable men or they are not; if they are, you cannot trust them, because they always aspire to their own greatness, either by oppressing you, who are their master, or others contrary to your intentions; but if the captain is not skilful, you are ruined in the usual way…."

Derek Jeter proved to be a faux Prince? That's a tad unfair of course. Jeter is the face of the Yankees. He is the offspring of their development system. He is to the Yankee organization what the De Medici's were to Florence. Yet, he did not stand up for the Republic when it mattered most. He padded his numbers but failed to lead them into battle. He led himself. Johnny Damon is a misplaced Prince who belongs elsewhere. The mercenaries around him turned the other way.

As for managers, aside from the ironic fact that Joe Torre and rumored successors Lou Piniella and Joe Girardi are all of Italian extract, are they but mere mirages? Is the problem deeper than a manager change?

"…and as with these examples I have reached Italy, which has been ruled for many years by mercenaries…"

Rebuild your farm system. Build from within. The Yankees are busy plucking players from abroad. This will only ruffle The Princes. Raise unhealthy jealousy. Reestablish organizational trust. Native sons always provide unconditional love. The Montreal Expos, Anaheim Angels, Atlanta Braves and Oakland A's knew (in the case of the dead Expos) know all this.

The Montreal Canadiens, for their part, are trying to rebuild their kingdom only they have been littered with incompetence and a sniveling media.

Bring in more mercenaries and watch the Yankees whither.

More Sports Talk: Perception vs. Facts

As a topic of discussion, a local sports radio show took on a long known perception about Europeans - and Russians in particular - that don't play hockey as hard as North Americans. Mind you, not so long ago the same argument was directed at Quebec born players. When the chips are down or when backs are pinned against the wall, Russians are apparently not the go-to guys in the dressing room. Ah, mad geniuses are always misunderstood!

Fans began to call in. To be sure, none were outrageous in their comments but the idea of what passes as 'facts' and what is a perception were somewhat off.

First, I've noticed a subtle double standard. Most people were calling in to support his position by saying he was '100% right.'

How is it that he was '100% right' for bringing such a topic up but Don Cherry is a 'racist' for tackling the exact same issue through the years?

The word of the day was clearly 'facts.' As in, the 'facts' are in and 'face the facts.' I ask, what facts? Present me FACTS. 'It's a known fact' is not necessarily factual. It's a combo of hearsay and perceptions. We may be convinced of what we are seeing but it doesn't necessarily mean it's right.

No one doubts that Russian and Czech players are mercurial. That they do seem to be disinterested at times. Maybe it's a cultural trait. Boston Red Sox fans get all worked up when Manny Ramirez seems a tad too relaxed during games.

Look, I know North Americans play with heart but just don't tell me Russians or Latins or whoever are not committed to winning.

I can't help but wonder if we impress upon others our idea (read 19th century Protestant ethics. If not, Calvinist) of hard work and dedication. To us, if we don't go nuts and shout 'raw,raw,raw!' we're not trying. Not everyone is like this. It's indeed often a cultural thing.

Another example is that here we believe in 'no pain, no gain.' By comparison, in the Orient, there is no need to put the body through punishment to attain perfection in the body. Diff'rent strokes, for diff'rent folks.

I wonder also if the NBA will ever get into such a discussion. So far, judging from the play of Nash, Nowitzki, Ming and Ginobili probably not. I don't see why it's such an issue with NHL fans. The odd thing is that the NHL has been welcoming international players longer than any pro league in North America and yet we still hammer away at this.

Part of the problem (and there so many) may lie in something else. There's a huge difference between how European players learn hockey and how NHL coaches expect them to play. They play one way all their lives and suddenly are asked to play 3rd line with some North American hack artist. Or that they have to play defensively. Or not so long ago, were asked to dump the puck and give away possession. Europeans were all about puck possession and artistry. Obviously it was a clash of ideas.

Such a discussion reminds me of the corruption index published in 'The Economist.' So many factors come into play. For example, corruption is in the eye of the beholder.

How we choose to assess corruption is largely based on how we view other cultures. Hence, it becomes 'racist' in its implications.

In a way, we are every bit the 'racist' as Cherry by this logic in discussing this topic without gathering all the facts.

Yes. My point is that we need to be presented REAL FACTS and HARD EVIDENCE and this is difficult to do with such a topic. It wasn't inappropriate to bring it up. However, it takes a careful analytical and thoughtful mind to deal with the nuances.

Feel free to talk about it. Just don't tell me it's 'fact.'


Sports has a Sense of Humour

Michael Schumacher's chances of winning the world F1 title has taken a step back. The engine of his Ferrari blew while leading the race.

Guess who zoomed past him into first? That paranoid Fernando Alonso. It wasn't so long ago the Renault team led by their fearless boss Flavio Briatore were spewing all sorts of conspiracy theories about how the F1 season was rigged.

Now an engine blows in their favour. Funny how the gods on Mount Olympus work, eh? Life - she's-a-mighty unpredictable.

It can leave a bitter taste in the mouth of fans when teams like Renault complain only to subsequently win. The demons they thought were there were never present.

Heading into the last race of the year in Brazil, Alonso and Renault are sitting pretty while they wipe the crocodile tears off their infantile faces. I can just imagine the reaction if the opposite happens. That is, if Alonso's Renault blows over. Open season once again on the conspiracies!

"It's good for racing," one announcer on RDS proclaimed following the win. How is this good for racing? For the last few years the other teams attacked Ferrari for being too successful and rule changes were made to quiet the losers. The changes were put in place apparently to help all teams. All it did, of course, was shift some of the success into other big teams. Not very impressive.

In other words, teams like Renault are wealthy welfare recipients. Just like how some owners make money off the cap system in North American pro sports. In hockey, GM'S in the NHL always complain about Lou Lamouriello. Why? It's simple. He always finds a loophole before they do. The lesser minds are always the first to cry to the teacher.

Anyway, for that announcer, what he really meant was that it's always a good day when Ferrari doesn't win.

Speaking of boogey men to blame for ones troubles. Yesterday I heard a sports fan call in to the local sports radio show. He made quite the connection. In his eyes (and many delusional Montrealers think this way no doubt), the reason why Montreal lost the Expos was because of fiscally 'irresponsible' teams like the New York Yankees 'who win everything all the time.' I'm surprised he did not blame George Bush or Stephen Harper.

First of all, the Yankees don't 'win everything all the time.' They have not won since 2000. The last made the series in 2003. With the latest lost, we may even see the Yankees in slight trouble next year. They were a team built for the regular season. Their dynasty of the 90s was constructed on the bedrock of dominating pitching. The last few years, the Yankees have been an offensive juggernaut with little pitching. The old axiom in baseball is that strong pitching usually beats good hitting. In other sports, 'defense wins' is the saying.

So, he went off saying baseball needs a salary cap. Implied here of course is that a cap would have saved the Expos. Nonsense. The cap may attempt to give dead-weight franchises run by clowns a chance but it's not fullproof. How can you help an incorrigible person?

The cap has not helped the Cleveland Browns, Tennessee Titans and Detroit Lions in the NFL. It sure isn't going to help the New York Islanders in the NHL. Heck, what did it do for the Montreal Canadiens? All we've done is give a bone to the incompetent. The cap is like communism. It claims to be egalitarian when in fact it's a license for shysters to profit from it. There's no way to help the dumb. If an owner does not want to win; he ain't going to win no matter what the cap does. Don't be fooled by parity. Parity is another word for mediocrity.

Meanwhile, look at how a little brains can do for teams like the Oakland A's and Detroit Tigers. They did not open the bank to produce winning teams. They soundly made their choices and built successful clubs. THAT'S what you want to see as a sports fan. We can cry all we want but it's how you make the best of situation that will determine if you succeed or fail. In Montreal, we chose to buckle our knees like a bad hitter does when they see a fast ball go by them.

Smart minds and competent people build great teams. Not superficial rules.

I've said this many times over. Here's why Montreal lost the Expos: Because fans did not support the team. Because Montreal is wannabe major league sports town with a minor-league fan base and business community. We prefer short one-week non-committal events like the Jazz Fest and an F1 race.

In, out. You can't market us for anything else. Blaming the Yankees is lacking in accountability for our own actions.


RIP: Buck O'Neil

Detroit Tigers Roar

I saw something tonight that heartened me. It should have softened even the crustiest of cynics and skeptics. Much has been said about the modern athlete. About how they are pampered, overpaid and selfish. Most of it might very be true. Some of it may be inaccurate. There does seem to be a disconnect between fans and athletes now.

However, for one brief interlude tonight, the sport of baseball provided a glimpse of how sport can truly be a celebration. Following their dominating performance in eliminating the New York Yankees 3 games to 1, the Detroit Tigers celebrated on the field and then in the locker room. Standard stuff. There is nothing new here.

What made this special was that they quickly came out of their locker rooms armed with champagne bottles and.....CELEBRATED WITH THE FANS. It went as far as spraying fans with champagne. It was a first for me to witness such spontaneous acts of joy in victory. It was quite a scene. An impressive one at that.

Even my wife sat and watched. For once sports provided a reprieve from all the negativity with a brief moment of the purity we all yearn for. We actually reached a higher standard. It says a lot about the character of this team. And what a pitching staff.

All I can say after this is: Go Tigers!

- It is nice to see classic baseball franchises rise again. We may even see a Tigers vs. Cardinals final. In recent times we have seen success reach the Red Sox (1901), Twins (1901) White Sox (1901), Athletics (1901), Tigers (1901), Cardinals (1892) and Dodgers (1890) - do I have to mention the Yankees?

Pirates, Cubs, Indians, Orioles, Giants, Reds and Phillies should take notes. The Braves have possibly just started their dark age.

Canadian Idiots

Thanks must be directed Globe and Mail columnist Jan Wong for her recent article about the Dawson College shooting. More specifically, the attempt to draw a connection between Kimveer Gill's rage and linguistic alienation in Quebec.

So why thank her? It revealed the true nature of our disability to question our society critically. That's why.

We should be strong enough to take on debate in all its form without responding in kind to anything we deem to be wrong. To do otherwise, infers that we are in the right. Of course, we are far from being perfect.

To be frank, it was an absurd assertion to make. However, it does point to a deeper malaise in Canadian society in general. Never mind that many editors (ahem, The Montreal Gazette) seem to be sleeping at the switch - the G&M should not have, in my opinion, run the article.

One way to measure where a society stands on issues or if one wants to get a glimpse of our collective intellectual strength is to observe reactions to perceived insults. Canada quivers at the knees and foams at the mouth as saliva seeps down its chin whenever we are wounded in the abstract.

The reaction in Quebec was predictable. It's just another 'example' of why Canada does not 'understand' us. The article was used as a lame weapon to prove, among other things, why we should break away from Canada. If this is the sort of stuff that will make way for such claims, perhaps it's not the kind of club one should consider joining. Jan Wong started something and Quebec's political culture - in part playing the part of perpetual victim and subsequently embracing the concept of justified racism - as it is constructed finished it. What was the result? Tie game heading to shoot-out. If that.

The wrath was pointed in all the same tired direction. The Province's headlines and 'thinkers' went off in all sorts of directions, tangents and angles about Ms. Wong's misguided article.

Nothing of any substantial value was added. Just tiny bits of parochialism masking as sophisticated pondering. We've been hard wired through years of selfish propaganda to react in this manner. The 'under siege' mentality pervades our free minds.

Too bad cooler heads did not prevail. Apparently she represents all of Canada Anglais. Itself a concept outmoded like hair mullets.

In other words, the reaction was no better than the action propelled by the piece.

If any Quebecer honestly believes that similar articles have never been spewed from our own backyard, then we are more delusional than first thought.*

Newspapers written in the Latin language offshoot through the years have been filled with just as many dubious acts of journalistic indiscretions. The Montreal Gazette itself has a contributor on its pages named Josée Legault.

She who has put together some rather mind-boggling dull gems worthy of a documentary that would make anyone's hair raise. It seems taking Nazi Germany and comparing it to contemporary issues is the game of a small-mind and fool. They all remind me of Beetle Bailey.

On a side example and by extension, many Quebecers (or Canadians for that matter) like to libel Don Cherry - through second hand information - as a 'racist' yet the curious question must be asked then: how is he any different than Bertrand Raymond, Rejean Tremblay, Jean Perron and Micehl Bergeron?

True free debate in Quebec does not exist. If it does, its pulse is weak and meek.

Canada is not to get a free pass either. Canadian political dogma stipulates you must never attack something like, for example, public health. If you do so, you are a dangerous and radical neocon. A puppet of the Americans.

Canada in general is a pathetic wasteland when it comes to meaningful debate. We are obsessed with stupidities that feed our insecure and thin-skinned DNA make up. When all else fails blame those same Americans.

Quebec cries about Canada. Quebec's anglos cry about French Quebec. And so on. It's annoying. It is an irritation because it's an albatross on our society.

Jan Wong wrote an article. It missed. Better-endowed minds did not find agreement in it. She was, nonetheless, free to do so. The G&M did not need to apologize.

For many years, I would sit in front of a television with my French-Canadian friends and family members and watch homegrown programming. The Quebecois humour (and film for that matter) industry is actually pretty sophisticated. Its cornerstone for a long time hinged on spoofing not only its own culture (also a way to measure cultural maturity) but that of the rest of Canada. In fact, it was the essence of their comedy sketches.

Unfortunately, they are not to pleased whenever they are spoofed themselves. They dismiss it as low-brow. Maybe it is.

However, it takes two to tango. Quebec should have shrugged this one off. The G&M was caught sleeping at the switch. Just like the New York Times does at times.

*Right about now, someone is glancing over this post missing the heart of its meaning and dismissing me as anti-Francophone. Let me intercept, rubbish.


Meet Luca Patuelli

I mentioned the other day I'm working on a cover story for a magazine called 'Exceptional Family.' They offered me an assignment and I took it.

The story revolves around one Luca Patuelli. Mr. Patuelli was struck with a rare affliction called athrogryposis (multiplex congenita) at birth. The disorder results in reduced mobility of joints in the body.

Why a story about Luca? The reason is straightforward - he's a winner. We all love stories about people who succeed against all odds. We've all heard that life is what you make it. That we have to deal with the card God has dealt us. While much of it is lipservice to healthy individuals reduced to mere clichés, they are literal words to live by for Luca.

I met Luca today in a coffee shop in downtown Montreal. He had time to devote between classes for my interview. Only it wasn't really an interview. I'm not really a Q&A sort of guy. It was more a discovery exchange. Casual conversation is a powerful tool in learning how a person parades and dances through life.

That's exactly what the easy going Luca does. Specifically, he breakdances and has started quite a stir. At 22, he's already appeared on the 'Today Show' and Muchmusic aired a documentary following him around for a week called 'Music is my Life.' He's already been approached by production houses in California for commercials and may be in line for bigger things. Persistence, dedication and talent have paid off. Not bad for a kid who has had 14 surgeries (16 in total) related to his condition.

I asked him if he had any goals. "I want to be in a video game one day," he chuckled. "That would be cool." When I asked him about his plans for the future he answered like any young budding star would, "I want to do some motivational speaking down the line but I have 5 or ten good years of dancing in me. I'm still in my prime."

Luca, who was born in Montreal and raised in Maryland, is studying Marketing at Concordia University in Montreal and hopes to incorporate marketing into his breakdancing career. And a career it is. Luca - AKA Lazylegz - is part of a West Island crew called Illmatic Styles and they compete all over the continent as well as Europe. "Montreal is not as advanced as cities in Europe, Asia and the United States, but we hope to change this." I wondered how they could. "It takes commitment. People do tend to want things fast. They don't realize that it takes hard work."

For now, Luca just wants to have fun. In his spare time he hangs on with his buddies. He swims and works out. Indeed, he has strengthened his legs through his work out regiment.

In our time together it was clear this was a person with ambitions and a competitive edge. This was carefully balanced with a congenial personality, a sense of history and a healthy optimism on life. He has no time to sulk. If you want something you have to go and get it. I didn't see a guy held back in anyway. In fact, I didn't notice the crutches he uses to get around.

Luca has been blessed with a solid supporting cast all his life. He never really faced discrimination but if he did it's not something that would have stood in his way.

My meter was running and unfortunately had to close the conversation. Caps on time can be rather impolite. Not even time, however, could stop me from slipping in one question. I asked Luca about the PC movement. I was curious how an insider viewed its culture. He shrugged his shoulders and said, "I don't really think about it. I'm not into lobbyists. How do they know how we feel? They see one negative thing and they think they need to run and change things. The way I see it you make it happen for yourself." Wise and enterprising words.

Luca has made it this far on the force of his character. On the lifeline of a solid family identity and a bedrock of close friends. Above all, he is part of a community he loves dearly.

For now, it's all good for Luca. God and the human body served him a harsh hand - or in his case legs. Luca smiled and turned a positive spin on it. He now holds the right cards in his hands.

It was an uplifting day.


Note to Canadian Tire: Phone Calls are Cheap

When life refuses to throw a bone it can test even the most mild mannered person. It's been a rough couple of years to say the least. Catching a lousy break has been elusive. It seems the other guy is getting them all. Some days it just boils over and then you start over with a happy face like some moron with a lobotomy. It's been one of those weeks.

I went to Canadian Tire today. I needed a new battery for my car. For some reason, I had a brain cramp and could not remember if it was a 1.8 or 1.9 litre engine. I reached for my jacket and realized I did not have my cell phone with me. I asked the man behind the counter if I could use the phone for a quick second so I could find out and buy a new battery. He refused. He told me that the phone was not supposed to be used by customers. I proceeded to storm off. Something I have never done in my life. I had never lost my cool. Ever. Today, I guess was my first. Though no one would have noticed it as I didn't even bother to swear or tell the guy to suck on a lemon. It was more steam out of the nose and ears.

We have spent quite a bit a money at CT place through the years. Not to mention the poor service (and commercials) we've had to put up with. We've even tolerated that mysterious Scottish man who looks like Willy on 'The Simpsons' on their play money. Why, this year alone it exceeded $1 000 and here I had some cornball deciding it was against company policy to allow a client to use the phone? I just could not believe a corporation would be that small-minded. Oh, in all of this, they lost a sale.

Think about it. $100 (or whatever it would cost) down the tubes.

One thing is for sure. I ain't buying my battery or anything else at CT anymore. Am I being petty? Am I over-reacting? Perhaps. I'm not sure.

Screw you, Canadian Tire. Cheap bastards.

Hey, that felt kinda good.

"Our Game"

There is a bad habit to which we Canadians cling to. In marketing hockey, we are always sure to mention how it is "our game."

Many scratch their heads in bewilderment at the stark reality that hockey is not that popular in the United States outside a few major centers like Detroit, Boston, Philadelphia and Minnesota. Much sweat (and possibly tears) has been poured into selling the game of hockey in the USA.

The irony of course is that we want the game to be international while reminding everyone that it's "our game." Love "our game", but remember it's "our game"

Canada invented hockey. Most of its legacy and developments happened in Canada. However, Canadians advertisers and sports channels are having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that hockey belongs to the world now. Indeed, many European nations have been playing it for decades. They have their own leagues, superstars and tournaments. Some of the NHL's best talent comes from both from the USA and Europe. Ah, but it's "our game."

As we push the cheesy hockey clichés, the demographics point to it being a sport that kids are increasingly overlooking.

I thought about whether there is any sport a country can purely and permanently lay claim to. None of soccer, tennis, cycling, squash, rowing, basketball, hockey, volleyball, various motorsports, boxing, golf, badminton, cricket, rugby, track, swimming or skiing (to name a few) belong to any country. Some may excel at it better than others. Some may even have a passion that exceed all nations for a particular sport. But none wholly belong to a specific country per se. Not even the great American pass time of yesteryear baseball is an American sport anymore.

The closest thing would be North American professional football. But history points to this being a sport shared between two countries (USA and Canada). There is no doubt that football finds its ultimate expression in terms of a social phenomena in the USA.

Overall, maybe Canadians are to hockey as Brazilians and Italians (and a couple of others like Argentina and England) are to soccer; Australians for rugby; Americans for football. Essentially, that we are mad for the game. This should be good enough in a world gone interactive.

We should be proud of the fact that ice hockey has been accepted like it has. With this reality in mind, it is now safe to drop the "our game" bit.


Don't Judge me as I Judge you

The other day I was treated to a dreaded Starbuck's coffee. The person I went with enjoys it so I went with it. It wasn't that bad. Until the insane and illogical $3.36 cdn (taxes included) for a small cappuccino (mezzo in Starbuck's lingo. Mezzo means 'half' in Italian). I digress in this opening paragraph.

We sat by a window overlooking the traffic go by in a quasi-quaint urban traffic infested setting. In front of us were two young girls in a study group. We sipped our coffees as I silently observed the environment around me. Soon enough, two fashion oriented ladies walked in. Smartly dressed in latest trend fabrics they clearly enjoyed the garnered attention they must have received throughout the day. They caught our eyes as well as the two young girls.

I must admit I do like when people dress with skill. Fashion does have a negative aspect to it, but how one dresses does lend some insights into a person.

If the two mature women were dressed for the catwalk, the two young girls were dressed to walk on cats. They were hardly models of high fashion. To each his or her own, right? Who cares? They were there to study - and evidently gossip.

But the young gals did care. It was clear by their mannerisms and smirks they were not impressed by fashion. My hearing is scant but I didn't need to hear what they were saying to know what they were thinking. Look, I don't want to defend the fashion muffins. Maybe they could hardly form sentences together, It's not the point. The point is that I could not possibly make that assessment without knowing them.

We do tend to associate well-dressed people with being, well, shallow. Maybe even dumb. Liberals in my university class were virulent with their comments about people who showed up to class dressed with, well, class. Apparently, to be smart you have to dress down. To be cool, you have to dress like you're poor (even if you're family is wealthy. To be a true artist you have to live unsure of where your next meal (or shower) will come from.

Of course, this is all nonsense.

Which brings me to a story. I was an indifferent student all my life. Perhaps if I took school seriously I could have possibly earned more out of my degree - maybe be a contender who knows?

I didn't. Nonetheless, I still managed a high enough grade point average to consider entering graduate studies. I opted against it. I figured if I was able to get a decent grade putting in half the effort then something is wrong with the system. I didn't want to be part of a club that wanted be as a member - To steal a quote from Groucho Marx. Besides, I wanted to get a real job and work.

In one of my political science classes, we were to write an essay about something - I forget about what. In that class, there were some smooth talkers and intelligent people. One of them I got to know mildly. A gay man to boot.

On the day the professor returned our graded papers I took mine and ran to my next class. During that history class, the aforementioned gentleman sat next to me. He looked over and asked me what I got on my paper. I began to reach into my binder for the grade. "You don't know what you got?" he asked. "I forgot to look. What did you get?" I asked. " A -" he replied.

"Good stuff," I told him. I wasn't surprised. He was one of the smart ones. I finally pulled out the paper and was pleased with my grade. I flashed him the 'A' and the nice review I received from the professor - a former member of the Liberal party.

The response?

"You? You got an 'A'?' Gee, thanks I thought. He was clearly taken aback. I wonder what could possibly make him react in such a classless manner. Well, there was more to the story that would be difficult to print here.

Suffice to summarize that I was pre-judged. I was one of those 'well-dressed' types. Just like those girls who cast unfair dispersions upon others.

I never saw that guy again. I'm all the richer for it in some way I am sure.

Hocus-Pocus: I Guess it's that Simple

"In these political dark ages, it’s important for us to stand up for one another. These hotel workers by the airport make 20-percent less wages than hotel workers around the rest of Los Angeles. We’re here to express our solidarity with them, to help them unionize and to help them close the gap between their sub-poverty wages and the millions and millions of dollars the people who own these hotels make."

Noted economist Tom Morello of Audioslave.

I like Audioslave. I'm not so sure, however, I agree with Mr. Morello's passionate but odd assertions. I just could not let this go by without offering a comment or two - for what it's worth anyway.

It would have to be agreed upon that we may very well be witnessing political dark ages - though I wonder what exactly he meant by this. I take it to mean "in these days ruled by George W. Bush." Did he feel this way with Clinton in power? If he did, score points for his intellectual integrity. If not, it's just another piece of pop drivel.

As for the notion of demanding illegal immigrants be unionized and given the rights American citizens enjoy is absurd on many grounds. What body of civil or legal discourse would possibly agree to this? America is the land of opportunity and freedom but there are limits to its openness.

There has to be standards and rules by which all must follow. If one enters the country by breaking the law they are jumping ahead of someone who is following it. How is this fair?

Look at it this way, if the government was to ever tighten immigration laws who would pay the price? The people who abide by the law and all potential immigrants who planned to apply faithfully. That's who. What Tom Morello is advocating is rather irresponsible socially and inefficient economically.

The truth is that whenever draconian laws are enacted it's usually as a result of someone who abused it. Humans are funny that way. Socialists (Morello is a millionaire socialist) are then the first to criticize a law that they unwittingly helped spawn.

Does he not realize what kind of an impact granting amnesty will do to wages? Does he not realize that corporations are not a license to print money? That they do have budgets and those budgets are set according to the realities of the market place? What kind of economic logic is this?

Faced with this labour versus management conundrum it may be fair to consult the "What came first, the chicken or the egg?" riddle. From one side, if it weren't for enterprising minds, there would be no labour market and the "millions upon millions" they are apparently entitled to as illegals. On the flip side albeit a weaker argument, corporations or companies don't earn profits without workers.

There is also a shocking and willing indiscretion on his part to not see unions for what they are: a cynical outfit of bandits that care little of worker's rights. A drag on society and the human spirit that operates in the same efficient and ruthless style as any corporation they so loathe.

In addition to having protection under labour laws, codes and standards, corporations have made strides in ensuring their worker's are taken care of. This is not to suggest there aren't any problems, but corporations are more aware than they ever been when it comes to worker's rights. There is such a thing as freedom of economic mobility and the market will pay accordingly. We all feel we are under paid (well, everybody except celebrities) but this is not the proper way to look at things in my opinion.

The question is: Why are illegals being hired by corporations to begin with? If it's to take advantage of lower wages then this is not right either.

I wish I could agree with all this. It would make finding solutions to major problems rather easy.

Political dark ages these are indeed, it is ironic to point out that these are also musical dark ages as well.


Overpass Catastrophe

Quebecers should be sufficiently outraged. I know I am. I have to confess, we're not used to all this attention. First, a deadly shooting takes place at my former College and now a concrete slab from an overpass falls in my home city of Laval. Both made it to CNN.

It's an overpass familiar to all. Boulevard Concorde is a major street in Laval. Just to give my American friends an idea at how big Laval is, its land area is larger than Montreal. There are roughly 360 000 residents and it happens to be among the largest suburbs in North America. Living here all my life my observations lead me to think that Laval falls into the category of a big town growing too fast for its small operation.

The slab that collapsed was on an overpass that rises above Autoroute 19 that spans two rivers and connects Montreal to Laval. The '19' eventually leads to a bridge known as the 'Papineau-Leblanc' bridge. At the time it was constructed in 1969, it was one of the world's first and longest cable-stayed span bridges. It still ranks among the longer bridges in North America.

Five people have been confirmed dead and six injured. The cars had been literally flattened. It's an offensive scene. A couple of years ago fatalities followed when the same thing happened in Laval on an overpass named Boul. Souvenir.

The question is this: what have Transport Quebec and the minister responsible for the health of our roads been doing? We obviously took for granted that they would do the right thing and inspect all our overpasses. They are calling for a public inquiry. It rings hollow. Shouldn't these overpasses be built better to begin with? They have roads and bridges in Europe that last a lifetime built by Romans and we can't ensure a slab does not fall onto our heads with all the marvels of technology at our feet?

Evidently government officials did not do their jobs. Point final. I can't see how they can spin this one. They should be held directly responsible for this catastrophe. Still, I'm a reasonable man and I shall await their report.

For years, Quebecers have been suspicious of who constructs and how our road infrastructures our maintained. Quebec roads (and drivers) are terrible when compared to the ones found right over the border in Ontario, Vermont and New York. The notion that our winters are brutally harsh (which they are) does not wash since, for example, Vermont and New York face similar winter conditions yet do not seem to have the wretched roads we Quebecers have to contend with. Montreal is infamous for its potholes. So much so that it's as Montreal as hockey, smoked-meat and bagels.

That's an urban conspiracy I can't prove or disprove. What I do know is that my wife and daughter had just used the overpass earlier in the day as did my parents. Using Concorde is the main road onto the bridge. How can such a major overpass be allowed to whither?

Earlier in the day debris had fallen. Cracks had been showing. Nothing was done. People paid with their lives. Families are broken.

We should all be very concerned and outraged. Alas, this is Canada. We don't get mad. We don't even get even. We just.....lie there.

I never trusted Quebec politics in the abstract. Now I can add in the concrete as well.

Note: Anger is indeed mounting. Opposition leader Andre Boisclair of the Parti Québecois said (and I paraphrase) what we are all thinking, "How can bridges be falling with all the technology we have?" Technology is nothing when it is met with incompetence. 20 of Quebec's 4500 bridges (including a 2nd one not too far from where the Concorde bridge collapsed and one that I have used regularly through the years on my bike route) are either closed or being closely monitored now.

2nd Note October 2: During the Dawson College shootings, people wanting to keep up with the developments had two news outlets to choose from: RDI (French language Radio-Canada who happened to be the first) and CNN. Local stations - Global TV, CBC Montreal and CFCF for example -apparently in tune with the pulse of our community were not to be found. If one turned to any of these channels they would have been treated to regular scheduled programming (ie soap operas). This continued for a couple of hours. How can CNN make it an immediate top story while our own news telecasts were still slow to reacting? I stuck to RDI and CNN. Same with the overpass.