Note to Raymond Domenech: Oh, Shut up Already!


Boy, Raymond Domenech is really having a hard time dealing with the World Cup loss, eh? It seems he can't refrain from negatively commenting on anything about Italy. Ray, let....it....go. Imagine if Dino Zoff would have complained months after Italy's 2-1 loss to France at Euro 200 despite outclassing les bleus? How about if Cesare Maldini lamented continuously after falling to eventual champions France in a shoot-out and in a match France played poorly?

That's right: people would call them sore losers. The fact is that they took those difficult losses and moved on. No derogatory comments were made towards France in public.

Too bad France has reacted like they have. Sometimes in sports the best team does not win. Or sometimes the best team does not play up to par and manages to eke a victory. Italy was the best team in the tournament overall. France was not. The French themselves caught some major breaks in 2006.

Both are great soccer countries. Move on. No one said life was fair.

Of course, reading the threads about the incident (which most people did not see) it's also a chance for many to spew their anti-soccer and prejudiced views.

Here's the thing about this particular head butt that elicited a comment from Ray. Sampdoria player Del Vecchio is an aggressive type of player.With the play in question, Del Vecchio slid and tried to poke the ball past Inter Milan goalie Julio Caesar. If one paid close attention, he tried to clip Caesar. The best way to describe it is when a hockey player taps, pokes or jabs at the goalie's glove after he freezes the puck. We all know how defenders feel about that.

Materazzi simply confronted Del Vecchio by getting in his face. He, gulp, was right to do so. He served notice to Sampdoria that the Inter defense was not going to tolerate this sort of act. Furthermore, he stuck up for his team mate. Del Vecchio reacted by, interestingly. head butting him. Could Materazzi stayed on his feet? Perhaps. It is interesting to note that he did get a cut lip suggesting Del Vecchio managed to connect.

Again, I'm on record as saying that I'm not the biggest Materazzi fan. However, we should not rush to judge and compare this to the Zidane incident. No matter how many times we will revisit this, Zidane has no one but himself to blame for his stupidity. Domenech can hide behind a thin veil of fabricated justifications all he wants but it won't deviate from this hard truth. Gosh, what if the tables were turned?

Domenech, who suffers from selective memory syndrome, is hoping to deflect the absurd actions of Zidane onto Materazzi any chance he gets. Say what you want, Materazzi did not violently attack anyone. His goal is to get under the skin of a player. The reactions of Del Vecchio and Zidane were the work of players who could not keep their cool. Both received red cards. End of story. Point final.

It just so happens that Materazzi is always in the middle of a controversy. We can debate whether he is the type of player teams want but spare me the anti-Italy rhetoric that has followed it. Soccer is filled with far worse offenders than The Matrix as he is known. Former Italy player Marco Tardelli is on record saying that Materazzi - although right - could have approached it differently. Maybe. But that's not the point.

What makes Domenech's comments remarkable - if not hypocritical - is the fact that there are a few players "who go down easy" on his own team. Try Malouda and Henry for starters. Domenech is best to restrict his comments to his team and to look in the mirror first.

Raymond, stuff a pastry in your mouth have an allonge and just shut up.

Article of Interest: Science

When science and gay sheep collide.


A Night of Mixed Emotions

No one does a retirement ceremony better than the Montreal Canadiens. Easily one of the best run organization from a PR standpoint, the Habs know how to connect present hockey fans with the past. There's a certain regal aura to the whole process. It's akin to a President's State of the Union address for the Canadiens have historically been a true and revered great sports organization with a powerful tradition.

Among the more stirring moments of such a ceremony is the ascent. The moment where the ghosts of Forum's past are summoned and the banner is raised to be immortalized. As it slowly rises it conjures up surreal and majestic inner feelings and images of magnificent nostalgia for all hockey fans.

Tonight they will honour and retire Ken Dryden's #29. Dryden was the goaltender for les Canadiens during the dominant and dynastic years of the 1970s. I'm not sure why management are slow to coming around to honoring some of the legends on those clubs but at least they are doing it. Earlier this year it was Serge Savard now it's Dryden's turn. Next Larry Robinson - I hope - even Bob Gainey, Toe Blake and Elmer Lach.

It's pretty remarkable what Dryden achieved in only eight short seasons: Five Vezinas, one Calder, one Conn Smythe, a .790 winning percentage, 2.24 goals against and 46 shut outs in 397 games. Above all, he helped back stop the Habs to 6 Stanley Cups. Easily one of the greatest goaltenders ever - Fort Knox type defense notwithstanding. Not to mention being on the cover of Sports Illustrated three times. Now that's recognition.

While hockey fans pay tribute to 29 we should also remember the loss of Lorne 'Gump' Worsley who died of a heart attack this week-end. Worsley had some of his best seasons while playing for nos glorieux. When compared to the 1950s and 70s edition of the Habs the 60s tend to be overlooked despite the awesome successes. Worsley was part of four Stanley Cup celebrations in 1965,66,68 and69 and earned the Vezina in 66 and 68.

Gump was best remembered for his wit and sense of humour. During the early part of his career with the Rangers - when he was regularly facing over 40 shots a night - he was asked, "Which team gives you the most trouble?"

He replied, "The New York Rangers."

Merci les boys.


The Ice Age Cometh and Stayeth and it's Damn Cold.

For the past 10 days it's been typically and bitterly cold in Quebec averaging -15c. Not the worst cold snaps we've had but close enough. It got me thinking abut an article the local "sports" pages ran regarding global warming.

The month of December presented us Montrealers with fairly warm weather for that time of year. So what better thing to write about, the editor thought, about global warming and hockey? That'll get the commoners all worked up. Hit them where it hurts the most in this province: with hockey. As if that wasn't enough on its own they decided to stretch it out. Mainly, they asked the hard hitting rhetorical questions: What kind of an affect and impact will "global warming" have on the development of Canadian hockey players? The logic was that if there are no outdoor rinks for kids to master their skills as a result of the earth turning into an oven we would have the equivalent of barbarians on skates.

And they say intellectualism is alive and well. What a bunch of baloney.

So much for that. It's fricken freezing and the rinks are packed with kids. Sometimes the weather goes in cycles. Ask any climatologist about that. We're probably in a warming period. Global warming is turning out to be big business. I bet you that in 20 years we probably won't be "alerting" people about any of this. Questions: Are guys like Gore any different from apocalyptic Christian fundamentalists? One uses scientific "facts"and the other the bible. Roger Bacon would probably loathe both.

Go forth and try and save the earth. You probably won't win. Something tells me Mother Nature has a hand in all of this. Still, it's a fair debate in small doses and with fair minded people. I'll listen but spare me the hockey will whither nonsense. That's what we mean by hyperbole. All they have done is contribute to the hysterics of modern mass media. We claim to be progressive but we're no different than extremists from times past.

The truth, as always, is somewhere in the middle.

The rest is pure garbage.

Canada vs. Soviet Union: An Epic Brawl that Deserves a Poem


I was never prouder that day in 1987. Once upon a time we knew how to stand up. Then again, what did I know? I was a dimwitted teenager.

We couldn't beat the godless commies militarily but on the ice we were even. Canada was on their way to win the gold medal that year and a good conspiracy mind would claim that the Soviets started the fight to keep that medal out of Canadian hands. Sure, I instinctively knew we probably would be disqualified but it was still priceless. The name Everett Sanipass will stay with me forever.

Bring back old style 70s and 80s brawls! As for all these journalists who want fighting out of the game - the bottom line is that they may think they are smarter than the fans but the reality is that everybody loves a good fight.


The Plains of Abraham (1759): A Decisive Historical War

For Quebec nationalists, the Plains of Abraham fought in 1759 is a fight they can never forget. Yet, the war had consequences that went far beyond the territory of what was then New France. For this is the one battle that conclusively changed North America - and the world - forever.

In the 18th century, highly centralized France was the most powerful society in Europe - and this included its military. France's North American exploits and adventures up to that point were a romantic adventure of brave Frenchmen exploring and mapping out the continent's most remote parts. The coureur de bois are forever intricately immersed in the image of les Canadiens,. Even leaving the birth of an indigenous people in the Métis in its wake.

However, New France faced massive obstacles she could not overcome. Despite managing to create a hinterland empire that stretched from Quebec through Detroit and St. Louis into New Orleans, the French could not pin the British to the East coast for long. In the 70 years or so that led up to the war for Canada's soul, New France's population was approximately 140 000 scattered settlers. As my physiotherapist - who was from France - once told me a few years back, "New France never had a chance."

By this he explicitly pointed to the strong, independent and resourceful 1.5 million settlers of the Thirteen Colonies. Despite France's military advantage in Europe, she could not eclipse England's navy and its more able military captains.

The two tragic heroes on the Plains of Abraham were General Wolfe for England and General Montcalm for France.

The Plains of Abraham was the conclusion to a protracted war that included The Spanish and Austrian Wars of Succession as well as the Seven Years' War (known as the French and Indian War to Americans).

By the time the peace treaty was signed in 1763, Canada was ceded to Britain. While Spain - who fought against Britain - lost its possessions in Florida. Only New Orleans did not fall into British hands. Instead passing from French to Spanish authority. It eventually returned to France. However, needing to improve his treasury and seeking American friendship, Napoleon sold the state to the United States.

Interestingly, Canada was not the only place France was expelled from. Far away into a distant land in India - presently the world's largest democracy - the French lost to Britain once again .

Of course, like with most of history, speculation is bound to capture our attention. The problem with "what ifs" is that while it can be intoxicating it ultimately fizzles in its endless ruminations. Still it's worth noting what historians have pondered regarding the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. Some of the more salient ones that stood out for me revolves around what could have been for France. For example, what if Montcalm had waited for all his troops to rejoin before launching what proved to be a premature attack on the British line? Or what if his successor General Levis had received early reinforcements from France to strengthen her chances of victory?

Would New France have met a different fate?

Intriguing, as this may be it did not - in the final curtain call of history - happen. Britain won and the rest was, well, history. French Canada has since survived but one can't help but wonder about how things could have been had France won. What if indeed.

For those seeking additional readings on the Plains of Abraham consider:

C.P. Stacey, Quebec, 1759
Rene Chartrand, Quebec, Battle of the Plains of Abraham Osprey Publishing

While the Plains of Abraham was a significant war, there have been other major wars in world history with far reaching implications. Here are the 15 most decisive battles according to 19th century historian Edward Shepherd Creasy. Of course, this is not exhaustive and we could easily debate this it still is an interesting list for military history buffs.

The Battle of Marathon (B.C. 490)
Defeat of the Athenians at Syracuse (B.C. 413)
The Battle of Arbela (B.C. 331)
The Battle of Metaurus (B.C. 207)
Victory of Arminius over the Roman Legions under Varus (A,D. 9)
The Battle of Chalons (451)
The Battle of Tours (732)
The Battle of Hastings (1066)
Joan of Arc's Victory over the English at Orleans (1429)
The Defeat of the Spanish Armada (1588)
The Battle of Blenheim (1704)
The Battle of Pultowa (1709)
Victory of the Americans over Burgoyne at Saratoga (1777)
The Battle of Valmy (1792)
The Battle of Waterloo (1815)


FQ's with Professional Mountain Climber Jake Norton

Welcome to another installment of Five Questions where interesting people are asked, well, FQ's. Today's guest Jake Norton is not only a mountain climber but a speaker, photogrpaher and guide. Check out his bio via his link.

Jake blogs at Mountainworld.
Mountain World Photo

1) Rhetorical question first. Do you have rocks in your head?

Well, perhaps. In all seriousness, I think people – myself included – do question both my intelligence and sanity when the amount of time I’ve spent on Everest and in the mountains in general are taken into account. But, I have had some wonderful experiences in the hills, and climbing truly is my driving passion in life…So, I guess that makes it all worthwhile. It is nice to be able to do something you love for a living!

2) I read on your website that you discovered the remains of a British pioneer climber. Was that something you set out to do or did you stumbled upon it? Did you know who it was? What went through your mind? Briefly walk us through this fascinating experience.

Yes, in 1999 our team – the 1999 Mallory & Irvine Research Expedition – discovered the remains of pioneer climber George Leigh Mallory. Our goal that year, as evidenced by the name of the expedition, was to go to Everest and attempt to solve – or at least shed more light on – the mystery of Mallory & Irvine.

For those who don’t know the story, Mallory and his climbing companion, Andrew Comyn Irvine, were last seen about 800 feet from the summit of Everest on June 8, 1924, by their teammate Noel Odell. The big question was, of course, did they reach the top that day, some 29 years before Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzin Norgay climbed to the summit via the easier Southeast Ridge on May 30, 1953. While Mallory & Irvine would not get a summit certificate if they reached the top (it’s important to make the round trip!), it still would be an amazing accomplishment if they did reach the top and has been a fascinating mystery for years.

In 1999, our team was comprised of our leader, Eric Simonson, historian Jochen Hemmleb, doctor Lee Meyers, film crews from BBC and PBS-NOVA, a climbing/search team of Dave Hahn, Andy Politz, Tap Richards, Conrad Anker, and myself and, most importantly, our stellar Sherpa team, who as always did the lion’s share of the work on the hill.

After a month-and-a-half of work on the peak, on the morning of May 1, our climbing team set out from 25,600 foot Camp V on the North Ridge with the aim of doing a first cursory search of an area we identified as the Mallory Basin – it was where we thought we had the best chance of finding evidence of Mallory & Irvine. After and hour and forty-five minutes, Conrad called a mandatory team meeting, and I could see him about 50 meters away from me frantically waving his ice axe. I climbed over to him and was immediately stunned into silence, for there was Conrad standing over the remains of what had become our hero: he had found George Mallory.

It really was a stunning moment – or series of moments, as we spent about 4 hours with George that day. I still get goose bumps to this day remembering it, and thinking about how humbling it all was. For there we were in $1000 down suits and $1000 boots, standing over the remains of a man who had climbed at least as high as we were: he did it in silk shirts, a tweed coat, and woolen knickers. It definitely gave me perspective on the pioneer climbers and all they accomplished - summit or not.

3) You climbed Everest twice via the Northeast and Southeast ridges. Could you describe these ridges and what are the significant characteristics of each? Was Everest your most difficult challenge?

Correct…I’ve now been on 5 Everest expeditions, 4 to the Northeast Ridge (climbing via Tibet) and one to the Southeast Ridge, climbing via Nepal. I reached the top first from the Southeast Ridge in 2002 while shooting and expedition for Discovery, and then again in 2003 shooting stills and video for the Outdoor Life Network’s Global Extremes reality TV series.

These two ridges are the most common climbing routes on Everest, and see probably 98% of the climbing traffic. While the Northeast Ridge was the route of the first attempts on Everest (all pre-World War II, 1921, 1922, 1924, 1933, 1935, 1936, & 1938), the technically easier Southeast Ridge was the first definitive summit route and has been the route of choice for most parties since 1953.

The main differences between the two ridges are a question of objective versus subjective hazards. The Southeast Ridge route, while easy from a technical climbing standpoint, ascends through the Khumbu Ice Falls - one of the most dangerous ice falls anywhere in the world. This mass of ice – literally a glacial waterfall – moves an average of 3 feet per day during the climbing season. Thus, there is immense objective hazard on this route: we climb through the ice fall early in the morning before things have heated up and blocks begin to topple over. But, it is incredibly dangerous and although we do our best to minimize the risks of the ice fall, to some extent you are rolling the dice and hoping nothing collapses around you. However, once through the ice fall, the route is very simple and straightforward: you travel up through the Western Cwm, ascend the steep Lhotse Face through Camp III to Camp IV at the South Col, and then climb to the summit. The only marginally technical section on the route is the Hillary Step at about 28,800 feet - but that is now quite easy given the traffic it has seen over the years.

In contrast, the Northeast Ridge has almost no objective hazard on the route. The only objective dangers are a small band of seracs (ice towers) you cross beneath on the North Col Headwall, and then the minimal danger of being hit by falling rock (or perhaps an abandoned oxygen bottle) on the upper, rocky ridges and faces. But, the summit day on the Northeast Ridge is quite involved. It is nearly all rock, and not good rock for climbing – it tends to be crumbly shale and fractured limestone, all tilted downhill at impossible angles. It feels as if you are walking on a giant, ceramic-tiled roof that runs for 10,000 feet. Once you ascend through the steep terrain of the Yellow Band and gain the Northeast Ridge crest, you encounter the major obstacles of the climb: the First Step, the traverse to Mushroom Rock and on to the Second Step, and then the Second Step itself. In a nutshell, the Northeast Ridge forces you to keep your focus, to always pay attention to the route ahead and behind as well as to ascend moderately technical terrain at extreme altitude. And, the most difficult part is that you cannot get down quickly, for the route is nearly all rock, and descent is an arduous process. Nevertheless, it’s fun climbing, and there's no objective hazard, so the Northeast Ridge is my route of choice.

On an interesting side note, it was really a matter of politics that forced the pioneers in the 1920’s and ‘30’s to climb from the North via Tibet. At that time, Nepal was ruled by the xenophobic and autocratic Rana regime, and the country was all but sealed off to foreigners. So, the pioneers gained permission from the 13th Dalai Lama to approach the mountain via Tibet. In 1949-1950, the Chinese invaded and occupied Tibet. China subsequently sealed it off to foreigners while a revolution in Nepal overthrew the Ranas and brought King Tribhuvan Bir Bikram Shah Dev back to power. This opened Nepal's doors to foreign travel, Along with it the first attempts to climb on the south side of Everest.

4) We came across each other's path on one of my posts at Blogcritics that questioned if people climb mountains for the right reasons and if there is an overall benefit to mankind. It sparked some interesting comments. Would you care to rehash your thoughts here?

Sure. Basically, the debate was whether or not climbing, in light of recent tragedies in the mountains and ethical debates about David Sharp’s death, serves any purpose to mankind or the world as a whole.

To me, climbing can serve a purpose for humanity, for it has the potential to show people what one can accomplish, what barriers – self imposed or otherwise – one can overcome. In essence, climbing is about pushing our limits as humans, about looking up at a seemingly insurmountable goal and having the confidence to push toward that goal while maintaining the decision making power, ration, and instinct to decide when to turn around. As I wrote in my Blogcritics comment:

"So, to come back around, I think climbing mountains - Hood, Monadnock, or Everest - should be about striving to see what we can accomplish in our lives. It is, really, a metaphor for life itself. Climbing (and similar sports) teach us that many things which seem impossible are actually possible given the right combination of skill, insight, tenacity, & instinct. As James Ramsey Ullman so eloquently put it: "In its truest and most profound sense, the mountain life is an escape not from, but to, reality."

Sadly, however, climbing has recently made somewhat of a transition, especially on Everest. Many people who go to Everest these days do so, to me, for the wrong reasons. They are not there to push themselves to their limits, to discover the fine balance between pushing to the limits and ensuring a safe return. Rather, many people come to Everest today for one reason only: to stand on top. And this is not only unfortunate, but dangerous as well. It is unfortunate because these climbers miss the beauty of the challenge, the inner growth which stems from deliberately pushing our mental and physical limits. In the words of one of my favorite authors, Robert Pirsig: "To live only for some future goal is shallow…It’s the side of the mountain that sustain life, not the top. Here’s where things grow."

This trend in Everest climbing is dangerous because when one is focused solely on the top, living only for some future goal, that person is more apt to sacrifice their humanity in an effort to reach that goal. I cannot say what happened in the David Sharp incident last May – I was not there, and thus have only a bystanders opinion with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. (I know many people who were on the ridge that day, and know they are good people and did what they thought was best in the situation.) But, I do know that, when faced with the option of helping a dying man versus reaching that little patch of snow on top of the world, I would always choose the former…and have on Everest expeditions in the past.

5) What do you do to relax? Skydive?

Hehehe…What do I do to relax? Well, I honestly don’t do that too much – I like to be active, be it cerebrally or physically. And, my businesses take up a lot of my time when I’m not out climbing. But, strange as it may sound, I find climbing – ice, rock, or mountain – to be incredibly relaxing. For me, climbing forces all the superfluous things in life out of my head, and I become completely focused on the bare essentials: move that hand, don’t fall, breath, step up, etc. By breaking down life to its most basic components, I find I return from a climbing outing focused, happy, and more at peace. So, I guess that’s my relaxation!

Bonus: What advice would you give those who are thinking about climbing. What should they consider before undertaking such a journey?

Good question. Let me start by saying that this is my true opinion, and not said because part of my profession is being a mountain guide. I truly believe that the best way to start climbing is with a guide, and preferably with a good guide service – not the cheapest one. Remember the adage of you get what you pay for. This holds true in the mountains, with pretty serious consequences. A good guide will take you into the hills and get you acquainted with climbing in a safe and fun manner, and you’ll be amazed by the things you’ll accomplish after a day or two of instruction.

Once the initial learning phase is done, lots of people want to go out on their own and start climbing. That is fine, but people need to be sure they have mastered the basics of climbing first – anchors, route finding, safety, etc. The joy of climbing comes in part from living to climb another day, not dying in the process.

So, in a nutshell, I would suggest to those interested in climbing to start with a guide, learn the essentials and make sure they are second nature (there’s nothing more terrifying than needing to build an anchor to save your life and not remembering exactly how to do it) and then go to the hills but climb well within your ability until you’re sure you can push the proverbial envelope safely! Never forget the priorities: safety, fun, summit – in that order!


I, Observe

-I saw a Tic Tac commercial tonight and wondered who the hell buys Tic Tacs? Someone does or else they wouldn't have the money for advertising. Still.

-Who was that guy from Home Depot with the pencil in his ear and sweatshirt coaching the New England Patriots? I think he even threw a Stanley measuring tape at one of the officials.

-Could Peyton Manning react any less excited after winning the AFC Championship? Maybe he was just plump stunned.

-I don't get Madonna. First, she makes a killing selling sex and making herself look like a cheap tramp - hey all the power to her I guess. Second, we are fed all sorts of laughable crud about her spiritual and mature side. Here's the thing the you need to consider the next time you see her sitting on Oprah's couch while she yaps about how her children don't watch television: she willingly contributed to the excesses we see in pop culture today. Her place in culture is secure. Anyone remember that stupid book Erotica and that horrible cover of American Pie? Good for her if she found a new path. Just don't insult my intelligence. I think Oprah's couch needs to be upholstered. I call it the Triumph of Sex over good taste. Others call it progress.

This is just what I observe.

Why I like Pierre Elliott Trudeau

On the heels of my somewhat tongue in cheek blasting of his sons I figured why not write about the patriarch Pierre Elliott Trudeau himself.

Before I go on let me be clear that his engaging of intellectual fornication with communist bums did little to excite this putrid little mind. Just wanted to get that off my puny shoulders.

Whatever you may think of his policies and how he handled the country - and there are many who vehemently disagreed - the one thing I appreciated about him was that he led. He was a thinking man's leader. I did not agree with everything he did but Trudeau had a vision and had the courage to attempt to see it through.

Trudeau meant more than just being a Prime Minister. He glamorized it. He was aloof. He pirouetted behind Royalty. He suspended civil liberties. He canoed. He tried to get Canada out of its parochial mindset. He was a hopeless idealist tempered with forceful realism.

To me Trudeau was not about the policies per se (although some of these have done damage to the country) but the idea of a determined leader.

For that he deserves our respect.


The United States and the Middle East

On the heels of Condaleeza Rice's important visit to eight Arab countries, something became apparent. It is evident that Arab's want Iraq to succeed. They want assurances that Americans will not leave and allow Iraq to dissolve to the point of anarchy - Hillary Clinton's recently unveiled her plan to slowly withdraw troops notwithstanding.

Ironically, for a country that has been accused of succumbing to the Jewish lobby, America is now seen as a potential protector of Sunni Arabs as Iran continues to forge through with its plans to build nuclear weaponry. As if that wasn't enough, Israeli PM Olmert has gone on record urging the Americans to stop instilling fear regarding Iran.

One question: The United States visited countries like Egypt, Qatar and Kuwait while they continue to indirectly speak to Syrians and Iranians either through intermediaries or on television broadcasts. When will they directly engage Iran and Syria? Two culprits who have done little to help Iraq and seem content to lay the seeds of social and political discord in the country.


A First: Thanks to Law & Order

Something was said on a recent episode of Law & Order caught me off guard. It came when defense attorney Mr. Robinette told the jury that once upon a time 3 000 Italians, 11 000 Germans and 110 000 Japanese Americans were interned during the Second Great War.

That was the first time I have ever heard any medium (including print media) make mention of the Italians and Germans. Usually, it stops at the Japanese. I often wondered why so many journalists and historians neglected to mention this. Time and again from Ignatieff to Berton to many other scholars, commentators and politicians their eloquence is tempered by this omission. Is it because the numbers don't warrant the mention? Surely this can't be the reason. Do we deep within the subconscious feel if we add two other cultures it will make us look worse? It has always perplexed me and I have talked about it on this blog.

It took a television show to break the ice. It was all so interesting.

Of course, I am sure it would be too much to add that Ukrainians too were part of this unfortunate omission.

Canadian Customer Service: An Oxymoron?

When I was in the financial world many calls were inevitably made to the United States. What always impressed and intrigued a couple of us was how quickly phone calls were returned. No matter who, big or small, you can bet you would get a response by the end of the day at the latest. A few times the President of a company would call directly. It was all so flattering.

Contrast this to Canada. I worked for the investment arm for one of the big banks. It was shocking how many times I would put in a call to my own divisions without a call back. Sometimes I would have to call two or three times before getting a curt, if not impolite call back. Imagine that, American strangers would respond back quickly and my own bank could not care less. Americans just know how. That's the only way I can describe it.

Of course, this was my experience. I'm sure Canadians have their own opinions. To be fair, it's not always the case. But overall and on average Canadians lag Americans when it comes to customer care and service. In Canada, you have to beg for a cheque. In America it's already literally in the mail.

I recently emailed the Liberal party for some information. Pretty standard stuff. This was the beginning of last week. I'm still waiting for an answer. Even one of those standard "thanks for contacting us but due to high volume" is too much for them to post.

Is this the Liberal Party's idea of responsive government?

Canada's Answer to Obama

If there was a Canadian Political Idol who would win? We know that in the USA Obama would be a Slama but what about this great big land of tundra?

Manufacturing political stars would be a ratings winner I think. Instead of having contestants sing you have them talk about their political platforms. Crazy you say? Crazy like a Tasmanian Devil. We're not really that far off from such a show. Isn't politics a popularity contest now?

Since Mr. Canoehead is not a politician, my pick would be Justin Trudeau. He's perfect. He has no real political experience. But what he lacks in hard seasoned credibility he makes up for through his lineage. His legitimacy lies directly in the he is the son of one of this country's most charismatic leaders ever - Pierre Elliott Trudeau. Alas, as much as I liked the famed pirouetting PM for putting Canada on the international map, I must confess I was not entirely enamoured with his appreciation for the likes of Fidel Castro and Mao Zedong. Neither was Nixon I hear.

It won't be long before the Liberals begin to sell the hype. The Liberals are experts at repackaging and selling at a discount. It will be relentless and people will buy into it. It's the making of a media darling and the media will eat it up like Jaba the Hut ate Jawas.* He'll be like the Shirley Temple of Canadian politics. They may very well invent a drink for him.

Ironically, Trudeau's rise has made me appreciate Action Democratique leader Mario Dumont more- recent comments notwithstanding. Dumont created a political party from scratch. He has hung in there to the point of having seats in Quebec's National Assembly. He's a political animal. Who knows? Maybe he'll be elected to power one day. Which brings me to another ironic realization, if the ADQ survive, Quebecers will have three party's to choose from. That's one more than what Federal politics can offer.**

Following Justin's moving speech during his father's funeral a few years back, the country buzzed over his good looks and articulate wit. As I remarked to my wife at the time, "And a political star is born." Snap, snap. Just like that. 30 seconds in the microwave and the Liberals have someone to help out their sorry butt's.

Nor am I convinced he has more astute sense than his brother. Alexandre's sophomoric soliloquy revealing his reverence for Castro (he compared him to Superman or something) a couple of years ago was something right out of South Park.

If the Trudeau boys are the future of this country I would suggest you sell your bonds and move away. If you are a pampered socialist then you may want to consider holding them. Other than that I would probably enjoy a beer with both of them.

There you have it. Justin and Obama on the rise together. The future looks good for North America. Don't forget to call and vote for your favorite politician.

*I can't verify that it is in fact true Jaba ate Jawas.

** I deliberately and consciously made a point of not including the NDP.


A brief look at European soccer


Rob Hughes of the IHT is an outstanding soccer writer. One of things I look for whenever I read soccer journalists is whether they have "the instinct." I can't describe it. It's something that comes to you over time. I've been connected to soccer for so long it's a part of me.

Sports Illustrated
has the always enjoyable Gabrielle Marcotti. Here in Canada I enjoy George Johnson. My friend tells me Neil Davidson is good but I have never read his stuff so I'll go with my friend's judgment.

Personally, I enjoy Hughes very much.


I don't think anyone would dispute that the Premiership, thanks to revenue sharing, is the most profitable, if not most glamorous, league in the world. However, calling it the top league is a bit of a stretch and I am sure Italians and Spaniards will have their own thoughts about this assertion. However, if Italy and Spain were to adopt a similar plan (as opposed to keeping revenues tied to the clubs individually) they would pretty much eradicate England's edge on this front.

There are several ways to tackle this issue. In terms of quality, Italy and Spain match England in some cases surpass it. In terms of attracting talent, right now England has the edge. In terms of overall success historically, Italy prevails. That said, I don't think anyone would or could argue that Spain and Italy have historically been the more consistent leagues.

In terms of linking domestic league success with international accomplishments here Italy stands alone and no nation rivals them in Europe - quite possibly in the world. England has rarely lived up to its promise and Spain have simply flopped. Germany has the international success but their domestic league is not quite on par with the big three though pretty successful.

Here's I would rank them: 1) Italy 2) Germany 3) England 4) France 5) Holland 6) Portugal. Where's Spain? Well, have you checked their international record?

Domestically, the Premiership edges out Serie A and La Liga at this point in time. It won't stay that way. It's always been a battle between the three. So expect great competitive soccer to keep being produced by their hands. Er, feet.

Note: Since 2000, I would argue the cycle has shifted to Spain.

He Still Looks Like...

Can you guess who is The Shmoo? I can't.


Help Africa! 80s Style

Do you remember back in the 1980s when the Anglo world minus Australia recorded those Christmas Africa songs? At the time I was a teenager and thought it was just another great gathering of stars who got together to show they cared. Altogether now: Aw! Ironic it was to have Live Aid during a greedy decade.

Now that I am older and somewhat less naive, all I can say is bah! That's right 22 years after hearing Tears are not Enough by The Northern Lights (the Canadian derivative of the British and American versions) that about sums up my tinkings. In fact, tears are definitely not enough to describe just how painful that song is. No wonder; David Foster had something to do with it.

Let's delve for a moment into the lyrics.

As every day goes by

How can we close our eyes
Until we open up our hearts

Not at our tax rates. The government already has my heart and soul. Nationalists can argue all they want that out "taxes are not that high." High enough for me.

Seems like overnight
We see the world in a different light
Somehow our innocence is lost

Huh? It suddenly felt that way because a bunch of Canadian hosers got together to try and save Africa literally overnight. Here's some advice: deal with Canada's Native population first.

How can we look away
’cause every single day
We’ve got to help at any cost

I wonder if they still help at any cost.

We can bridge the distance

Only we can make the difference
Don’t ya know that tears are not enough

Not if the province of Quebec is building the bridges. And don't ya know Canadians can't make a difference?

C’est l’amour qui nous rassemble
D’ici ? l’autre bout du monde
Let’s show them canada still cares
You know that we’ll be there

I thought Latin was dead.

If we should try together you and I
Maybe we could understand the reasons why
If we take a stand every woman, child and man
We can make it work for god’s sake lend a hand

So what are the reasons? Try corruption, no rule of law, transparency or accountability, political instability, perpetual tribal and civil wars. That much is obvious to anyone who cares to pay attention carefully. Ever hear of you can't help those who refuse to help themselves?

If the Canadian version was typically Canadian in its pathetic niceness, the British one was downright condescending. I never found out if Africans knew it was X-Mas but Do they know it's Christmas completely ignored the fact that there are 480 million fricken Muslims in Africa (915 million total population). I'll go out on a limb and say half of them didn't give a shit if it was.

And what about USA for Africa? The song was called We are the World. I guess that captured the era pretty much. I know America represents 5% of the world population and 35% of total power as well as a ridiculous fascination with celebrity but it was supposed to be a song about Africa.

Given this trio of bad songs rooted in Western guilt complexes, it's not surprising to find out that Africa is in worse shape than it was in the 1980s. Live Aid notwithstanding.

Bono can use his vox all he wants in Canadian parliament but the cold, hard truth is that throwing money at Africa is just part of the solution. Remember when your parents gave you 20 bucks to open your first bank account in an effort to teach the value of saving and responsibility? Yeah, well hello. It works for countries too. Though the exercise went right over my sister's head.

There has been a renewed commitment to helping Africa. From what I noticed about Bush's Millennium plan one of the conditions is to hold recipients of funds to be accountable. As for Bob Geldoff, the man behind Live Aid, he at least has the integrity to remain committed to the plight of Africa. He deserves to be listened to on matters of Africa.

All this is good. Just spare me the bad music. And the day I see meaningful changes on the Dark Continent is the day I'll consider giving. For now, you're better off buying a cup of coffee for a homeless person. If that's not enough for you may want to consider this.

My Boys

Ok, how long before that chick on My Boys begins to sleep with all those guys?

Little Mosque on the Prairie: A Revolutionary Show?


Everything is based in Saskatchewan now. That's disturbing. I'm still waiting for CBS' response to my CSI Regina idea.


Link of interest: Thinking of Our Troops


We don't talk enough about Canada's contributions to fight against terrorism. Specifically fighting Al-Queda in Afghanistan (in the southern and eastern provinces of Kandahar, Helmand, Kunar, Kost, Paktia and Paktika*). The above link gives readers a complete run down of our operations. Stephen Harper is often depicted as a puppet of the United States. It's plain wrong. Harper simply understands the stakes - call it the historian in him. For Canadians who feel that our troops should be called back it should be reminded that Canada is a popular destination for terrorists. We are involved even if we don't want to come to terms with it. Even the Liberals understood this much. I prefer to view Harper as leading this country. I don't have to agree with someone to respect him.

There was no such leadership under the Liberals. Even now they babble without a clue. Chretien didn't lead he pandered. He was more Mackenzie King in his waffling than Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

America's decision to combat terrorism is legitimate. They were correct in identifying the problem. The question is whether they have found the proper solutions. The reality is that Iraq was a reluctant theater in the wider battle against terrorism. Al-Queda most certainly saw it this way. Maybe Afghanistan wasn't the sole country to deal with. The idea of a democratic society bordering Iran and other dictatorships in the regime is a tempting notion. It's also been a divisive (necessary?) distraction. That's my interpretation. But why did America choose Iraq? Disassociate yourself from your political allegiance and think about that for a second. Or can the answer only be answered through the prisms of partisanship?

My only concern is that America becomes trapped in a situation between fighting bandits and neglecting to keep an eye on nation-states. The nation-state is not dead after all. We should not forget that Russia is far more capable of inflicting damage on the U.S. on a massive scale than any terrorist organization. China remains a communist state on steroids. Another concern is the erosion of America's air force. It is the American Air Force that had given America its decisive edge over all nations. Now its tanker fleets need to be upgraded.

As for the wider geopolitical angle, behind the scenes it's hard to believe that China, Russia and India aren't supporting the United States. With their own problems and skirmishes with Islamic militants, I suspect that they are riding America's tail. In fact, many Arabs were also glad to see Saddam go. They too had recognized the rise of Islamic terrorism as a threat to their religion and respective governments. Only they were paralyzed to fight it. It doesn't help that the Arab world both appreciates and resents the Americans at the same time. America is taking the heat for countries who quite frankly want to rid themselves of the same scourge. Ask any major nation in private if they feel America is morally wrong in fighting terrorism. I'm willing to bet this blog the answer is no.

It all adds up to Canada doing its part.


A Trivial Epiphany

Marty slid into bed hoping he would not wake up his wonderful wife. He failed. He sat and stared at her sultry eyes. He gingerly moved his Germanesque hand along her long glossy, jet black hair. He even went as far down as her breasts. "What are you doing?" she demured with one eye open. "Oh nothing. Just thinking," he said.

"What about?"


"Don't give me that shit. You woke me up so spill it."

"Ok, ok. I have come to a conclusion."


"Well, it's just that I think you can give Will Ferrell the crappiest script and he'll still make you laugh. You know?"

Unsure how to react she pauses and pushes her head back into the pillow and stares up at the semi-plastered ceiling. She turns over and playfully looks at Marty.

"You're my boy blue. Even though you're a ham at two in the morning. Come here."


Philadelphia Eagles Lose

A useless post. I am profoundly annoyed at this moment. The Eagles converted a key 4th down play late in the game only to have it turned back on a penalty. Unbelievable.

Article of interest: International Politics:Sweden


Wha? You mean Swedes aren't perfect? They have race and immigration issues? Oh my!

Interesting quote in this article comes from a Social Democrat. "She has used very simplistic and general language when talking about problems," said Luciano Astudillo, a member of Parliament and the spokesman for immigration issues for the opposition Social Democrats. Don't all socialists sound alike? I know, all conservatives, Marxists, Liberals etc. sound alike too. But we all know it's the socialists who have humanity figured out. I know because the NDP say it's true. Anything that runs contrary to their social outlook is always dismissed as simple. Yet, the person he said this about is an Afro-Swede with a Muslim-Christian religious background. How silly of her to offer such thoughts!


Forgettable Notorious Canadians

When Kimveer Gill went on a tragic shooting rampage in the summer of 2006 at the Dawson College Campus in Montreal it brought out the usual introspective questioning a society searching for answers looks for.

"We're not used to this in Canada" is how one person put it to me. "This kind of American-style violence is not who we are," another said. Ah, the delusional Canadian. Is there any other kind?

No doubt, you can never get used to such an absurd act of violence. However, that doesn't mean we shouldn't be a little more aware by now. Where American violence sticks in our minds, the Canadian variation slides right of our backs.

Was this shooting a first for the city of Montreal?

No. As far as killing sprees go, before Gill there was Valery Fabrikant who opened fire and killed four colleagues at Concordia University. He is presently serving a life sentence. Prior to Fabrikant Marc Lépine killed 14 women at the University of Montreal. He took his own life just as Gill did.

In terms of a serial killer -though police have not officially classified it as such - in 1984, a stalker who was labeled the Montreal Boys Slasher killed two boys and possibly is connected to two other grisly deaths. He remains at large.

As you can tell we do have our own demons that have come through the city.

It's interesting to observe how Canadians react to heinous crimes. The perception is that when it happens in America it's the norm. When it happens in Canada we act as if it's the first time we ever see this on our soil. Canada has witnessed shooting and knife sprees in its schools. It has seen brutal school slayings. We've had high profile race killings (such as Native Indians) and famous mob ones (the Donnelly's). We've witnessed the horrible terrorist murder of politician Pierre Laporte committed by the Front de Liberation de Quebec (FLQ) in 1970 during the October Crisis. His killers remain heroes to some Quebec hard core nationalists. And mercy killings as documented by the Robert Latimer case.

Yet, we can't seem to remember.

The reality is that Canada has its own seedy list and legacy of killers- spree, serial or otherwise. In a larger context, Canadians seem to be less willing to accept this reality. Who knows? Maybe it's a defense mechanism. Canadians already exhibit an aloof outlook in international affairs so why not crime?

Many Canadians would be surprised to read in one sitting how many serial killers and infamous murderers have littered this country. So I complied one at end of this piece. I'm not a psychologist nor am I sociologist so don't ask me to put this in any criminalogical terms or to rationalize any of this. My point is that relative to public perception, we have had many notorious killers. More than we care to acknowledge.

What intrigues me, as I have mentioned earlier, is how quickly we forget. Canadians in general have a short memory when it comes to history so it's not surprising we do not realize the extent of our own bloody past. Our insular attitudes on the subject is further deepened by the fact that Canada is essentially a safe and peaceful country.

In America, a killer's fame seems to stick around for a while - thanks in part to sensationalist media techniques. When we think serial killer it conjures up images of movies like 'Natural Born Killers'. In the Canadian public imagination the names of American serial killers like Jeffrey Dahmer and Richard Ramirez trump many of our own. There are exceptions. For example, Paul Bernardo, Karla Homolka (who presently walks the streets of Montreal a free woman these days) and Clifford Olson.

Ironically, it is a Canadian who possibly will go down as the most infamous of them all: Dr. Thomas Neil Cream. His final chilling words before his hanging were, "I am Jack." As in Jack the Ripper.

Following is a list of Canadian spree and serial killers (solved or unsolved. Some of the names are the file names given by local police, media or the public in which the murders took place) in alphabetical order. Nor is this list, which includes 42 names, exhaustive.

Archambault Serge, Boden Wayne Clifford, BC Prostitute Killer, Canada Highway Murders, Canada Prostitute Murders, Charalambous Josephakis, Crawford John Martin. Edmonton Prostitute Killer, Evans Wesley Gareth. Fabrikant Valery, Ferrier Martin, Gill Kimveer,Green River Killer, Jordan Gilbert Paul, Krueger David Michael, Legere Allan Joseph (Madman of Miramichi), Lepine Marc, London Ontario Killer, Lortie Denis, McGray Michael Wayne, Montreal Boys Slasher, Montreal Gay Ripper,Moore Douglas Daniel, Mysterious Alberta Serial Killer, Nelson Earle Leonard. Niedermier Barry Thomas, Nugent Braeden Benjamin, NW Territories Headhunter, Olson Clifford Robert, Ontario´s Lovers Lane Killer, Pickton Robert William, Snow David Alexander, Toronto Hospital For Sick Children Murders, Toronto Prostitute Executioner,Toronto Prostitute Killer, Toronto Rape Slayer,Toronto Subway Killer, West Ronald Glenn, Williams Henry Robert, Winters Noel Michael, Wood Daniel William,Yeo Jonathan.

Sources: www.crimelibrary.com


It's About the Marketing, Stupid!

Soccer, football (whatever) fans everywhere must be shaking their heads in disbelief right about now. The L.A. Galaxy will officially pay David Beckham $250 million dollars. While not unprecedented, think Alex Rodriquez, it still staggers the mind. Is anyone truly worth that much? From what I hear, on the street a human body goes for $200 000. A-Rod and Becks may play two different sports but they are one and the same when it comes to creating their own personal marketing Kingdoms.

Shocking figures aside, good for them.

Beckham's value is not in his skills - though he does possess some. It lies in his marketability. Pure and simple. He can help sell MLS soccer and help to popularize the game in North America. To what degree it remains to be seen.

The Freddie Adu experiment didn't go so well. Of course, you can't really compare the two since Beckham has far more global reach and appeal. Actually, let me rephrase the making soccer popular bit. Soccer is already popular. It just needs to be branded and legitimized as a bona fide sport with television appeal. Pele, Franz Beckenbauer and Giorgio Chinaglia were the last big name stars to come to play here with the New York Cosmos of the defunct NASL. Will the MLS suffer the same fate?

The sports world is divided between purists and brand marketers and advertisers now. Depending where you sit it will determine your reaction to the signing. Beckham and Posh Spice are more flash than substance. Ok. That's a tad unfair. Beckham at least played for Manchester United and Real Madrid. So he had to have some substance. But I can't defend Posh. Regardless, they are now the strict domain of pop culture. Subheading: entertainment. Beckham will be making the cover of People more than he will Sports Illustrated. Wanna bet?

Does anyone remember Bend it Like Beckham? Me either. And this brings me to my next point. Where does David Beckham rank among the greatest players of all time? It's easy for the casual fan that does not follow soccer to assume he is the best player given the exposure he gets. But what's his worth among fans? Beckham is a dead ball specialist. He also possesses wickedly accurate passing skills. In other words, he's one-dimensional. Some may quip back that he was a right back and thus had enough skills but that's not the point. Relative to the hype his skills come up short.

That doesn't mean he wasn't an effective player. He was. I enjoyed watching him play immensely and for four or five years he was among the best players.

The answer to my not so rhetorical question is simple: he does not crack anyone's Top 11 or perhaps even 2nd team. More importantly, making a Top 100 would possibly be tough for him. Personally, I think he could make the list but I know of a few fans who don't think he would. Even within his specialty there are players equal to him if not better. Bend it Like Beckham could just as easily been Bend it Like any Brazilian or Argentine. As a matter of further fact, he is not even the greatest English footballer of all time. Bobby Charlton, Sir Stanley Matthews and Bobby Moore remain well ahead.

Who are among the top dead ball and set plays kickers today anyway? Set plays can sometimes be a crucial turning point in a game. Defenders have to be careful so as to not give up a foul in and around the area preceding the 18 meter box. There are many players who are deadly when given such an opportunity. Taking a free kick is an art form onto itself and it's a test of sheer skill. Next time you see such a play and you happen to witness a goal, pay attention to how the ball was struck and how it circumnavigated the wall of defenders. Needless to say, some of the most beautiful goals are scored off a free kick.

In no particular order here are some of the top free kickers in the world. Feel free to add to the list: Roberto Carlos (Brazil), Juninho (Brazil), Ronaldinho (Brazil), Deco (Portugal), Luis Figo (Portugal), Francesco Totti (Italy), Andrea Pirlo (Italy), Michael Ballack (Germany), David Beckham (England), Alessandro Del Piero (Italy), Juan Roman Riquelme (Argentina), Shunsuke Nakamura (Japan), Xavi Hernandez (Spain), Xabi Alonso (Spain) and before his retirement Zinadine Zidane (France)

So, David Beckham has reached the shores of the United States. We'll see if he'll be dining with the Prince of America Derek Jeter anytime soon.

"Mistakes were made."

And so with these words George W. Bush stood up and took responsibility before a skeptical nation. I knew at some point he would. He struck me as that kind of leader. Or at the very least, having the right people telling him what to do. Either way, it was a smart move. It diffuses the notion that he refuses to acknowledge there are problems in Iraq.

In any job or walk of life, everyone appreciates someone who admits his or her mistakes. It takes courage to admit flaws. Think about how hard it is to do so for a second for lesser things in our daily affairs. It's a natural human reaction to not want to admit you are wrong. It's to walk through the door and confess that is hard.

For the leader of the most powerful nation on earth to do so is even more impressive. Not one Arab leader has ever taken (to my knowledge anyway) responsibility for their own problems. Here in Canada, after the shameful scandal known as Gomery, not one lousy leader stood up and said "We did do it. We have failed. We stole money from the people. We will rebuild your trust. We apologize." Instead, they hid behind an inquiry (Canada's new national pass time by the way) like all arrogant politicians with no vision do. And now they act as if they are going to come back into power and all is perfect again. Canadians should not vote Liberal until they learn to stand up and be counted.

Bush has essentially increased his wager by adding troops. Not sure if 20 000 more will do it but he put his butt on the line before the people of America; the world. It basically means 20 000 versus local sectarian insurgents. At this point everything seems more black and white now. Either you believe America lost and you pull out or you feel it's time to force Iraq's accountability gene to come out. For that to happen it will take, well, 20 000 troops.

The best compromise is to make Iraq strong enough to stand on its own two feet. In other words, accept an Iraq that may be weaker than what was expected but at least sufficiently independent to take care of itself. That's what may pass as 'victory' now.

It may not be the right time to concede defeat. People like Pelosi seem to to be oblivious that perception is a powerful thing in the Mid-East. To us, pulling out is logical. To them it means something entirely different. President Bush, in this light, deserves one last benefit of the doubt. He extended his hand. Americans should consider rallying behind him.

Prime Minister of Australia John Howard makes his case. "You can't sort of have a middle position on this. You can't be sort of against what the president is trying to do and yet be in favor of defeating the terrorists in Iraq. You have to understand that if America, the most powerful country in the world, our strongest ally, is defeated in Iraq or retreats in circumstances of defeat in Iraq, that would be the greatest propaganda victory the terrorists could ever win."

The truth is that the option of pulling out of Iraq is no better than the mess that ensued the invasion. Two wrongs don't make a right. America must stay. Iraq needs to succeed. The implications of it doing so are wide and deep.

As for Iran and Syria. Well, they should have been dealt with years ago. Ignoring or engaging them at this point is a double edged sword soaked in blood.

I suppose 2007 is the moment of truth in Iraq.

What will be the tipping point?


Some Thoughts on the CFL

The CFL is one quirky, wacky league. That's the only way open this piece. Well, that and the fact that there's no reason to write about the league these days. Luckily, I don't have to answer to editors.

If football is a proxy for how our business cultures operate then the CFL and NFL could not be any more different. The NFL had men like Lamar Hunt and Pete Rozelle to lead the it to sports supremacy in the United States. The CFL, is lovingly parochial and petty. Hmm. Sounds like Canada's political landscape. The CFL is more than a football league. It's pulse and conscience of an entire people! Well, maybe not but probably more than the NDP.

I have nothing against the CFL. I love watching Canadian football. It's the Wild West of football. The last great frontier where ideas and innovation still persist. Lest we forget the man-in-motion and shotgun came from the CFL.

But it's so utterly Canadian. As a result, it's easy to poke fun of it. If the CFL were a SCTV character it would have to be Merle Camembert played by Eugene Levy. Or Mr. Magoo. Take your pick.

God only knows how many times the CFL was saved from the throes of Camembert by Captain Canuck and Nelvana through the years. For you Americans, these are our superheroes. They may not be much but we're sticking with them.

One of the classic persistent running jokes in the CFL was that we had two teams with same name in a nine-team league. That's 22% of the league with the name Rough Riders. The Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Ottawa Rough Riders (as if making one two words and the other one would fool people) to be exact. It may have fooled people in Regina and Ottawa but not this scribe.

History lesson time. The reason why this happened was because the two teams came from separate leagues. Of course, in typical Canadian fashion rather than order one of the teams to change their names we opted to do nothing about it. So Ottawa were known as the Eastern Riders and Saskatchewan Western or Green Riders. For years it was, "which one is spelled one word?"

In the eyes of the CFL it was problem solved. Then Ottawa went bankrupt.

Problem solved permanently. You could hear the collective sigh and by league officials.

Not so quick boys. Since we're on the topic of names let us consider a couple more. One of the problems of the CFL is its marketability. Canadians too often opt for the NFL. Without facts, I am quite certain to conclude that there are more Miami Dolphins or Dallas Cowboys fans in Canada than any CFL team.

Let's start with the Montreal Alouettes. Alouettes? A traditional and catchy Quebecois folk song about plucking larks? We all learned and love the song in Quebec but are you kidding me? This is football. It's not the 'Order of Good Cheer.' The Hudson's Bay Company got out of the fur trade long ago.

Most pro teams talk about basically killing their opponents. Us? We want to pluck them. The Alouettes were first formed in 1946 and the team named itself after the famous work song "Gentil Alouette." In the dustbin of cool history facts, during the Second World War the RCAF's 425 Bomber Squadron assumed the lark as its badge and the motto "Je te plumerai."

Now let's look at the Philadelphia Eagles sing along:

Fly Eagles fly, on the road to victory...
Fight, Eagles Fight...
Score a touchdown 1,2,3...
Hit em' low, hit em' high, and watch our Eagles Fly...
Fly, Eagles fly, on the road to victory!
E A G L E S - Eagles!

Nothing about the Liberty Bell and stuff like that. Just fly, fight and win. Still, I will concede that under the right influence (beer) singing 'Gentil Alouette' is far more fun.

Memo to the Edmonton Eskimos. Eskimos is now deemed defunct as a term to describe the Inuit. Far from me to defend the meanies over at politically correct central but maybe it's time for the Esks to evolve? The Edmonton Inuits may not have the same ring to it but at least it stays in step with the mythology of the nice Canadian. On second thought, Eskimos is fine. If the Redskins can stay in Washington so can Eskimos in Edmonton I say!

What the hell is a Tiger-Cat? For this we delve into another installment of 'Sketches of a Canadian conversation at a football game.'

"Dad, what's a Tiger-Cat?"

"Well son. A Tiger-Cat is a mythical ferocious but friendly Canadian feline that lives on the Canadian shield. But make no mistake about it. A Tiger-Cat will kill everything you ever loved. And always remember to say thank you, son."


After World War II, the two teams that played in Hamilton -the Tigers and the Wildcats-merged to form Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Pretty creative.

The made up name Tiger-Cat is also redundant. Like chicken hawk and tuna fish. I digress.

In case you're wondering where the cool name Blue Bombers came from. It wasn't name for any of Canada's awesome World War II fighter pilots or squadrons. Nope. It was named for a beer company. Labbatt Blue that is. At least, this is what I am told. Like I said, so Canadian.

The Canadian Football League. A gem, if not downright loony, of an institution that continues to, er, pluck along.

In case you haven't noticed, I don't just sight the problem. I offer solutions no matter how bad. With further ado - that's English - I offer my suggestions for new nicknames.

I submit the Hamilton Fighting Loons, Montreal French-speaking Polar Bears and Winnipeg B-52 Bombers - or the 52ers. Or the Winnipeg Sots.


Paolo and Elton John

I never realized it until recently. Weird how things unfold as we tread forward on this thing we call life. To gain a better idea of what I'm taking about I need to take you back to 1986 or thereabouts. My family was gathered at my cousins' house one night. We were standing around for some reason when my cousin Paolo asked if he could go see Elton John at the old Montreal Forum.

I was 14 at the time, which meant he could not have been more than 17. Like any young teenagers, his brother (who was my age at the time) and I expressed interest in going also. Our parents were not convinced that they should let the three of us go on our own into the city. Luckily for us, my uncle was interested in going to the concert and was willing to take us. Paolo was persistent and he was not going to be denied. Permission was eventually granted.

It was to be our first major concert and we were thrilled. We may have been kids but we were sufficiently exposed to classic rock thanks to my older sister. I was aware of who the giants of rock were back then. I was not easily impressed by the sound of the 80s. But Elton John. Wow. Tumbleweed Connection was a favorite album back then and remains so until this day. Same with Madman Across the Water.

Paolo, who was a piano player, liked Sad Songs very much. I liked it also and one day I borrowed his 45 to record the song on my tape recorder. We didn't burn CD's in those days. Of the older classic penned by Bernie Taupin and composed by Elton John, Someone Saved My Life Tonight also held a special place in his musical heart.

The concert was everything we thought it would be. Elton John was as flamboyant as ever, wearing his signature wild costumes as he emphatically hammered away on his legendary piano. We were high up in the nosebleeds - as they were called - but we brought along and shared a pair of binoculars. It made no difference to us. The binoculars were powerful enough for us to see those famous gapped teeth.

Paolo was ecstatic before and after the concert. It was the last outing we would ever share together. Several years later Paolo was driving along a road when he mysteriously decided to pull over. Right then and there his life ended. Just like that, without warning. A doctor noticed him as he lay motionless in the car. The kind man tried to revive him but was unsuccessful. Paolo was 25 years old.

Not so long ago I brought some CD's with me into my car. I usually just grab the first CD that comes into my hands to insert in the CD player. The first song that came on that day was Someone Saved My Life Tonight. I had not heard the song in quite some time. Prior to this, I had listened to it a million tomes but that day it had a special meaning. I immediately thought of Paolo. The irony of the words was not lost on me. No one could save him that day. The angels had different plans for him.

I never had a chance to return the 45. In fact, I still have one of his books. I plan to keep them. The title may be Sad Songs but something tells me he is in a happy place.

For Paolo Calabro

RIP: Death of the Crooner

They sure don't make 'em like they used to.


FQ's with O Machine's Luke Buckham

Welcome to another installment of Five Questions. Today's guest is Luke Buckham. Hmmm. Two of my first guests are from New Hampshire. What gives? Enjoy. He's very talented. Luke blogs at O Machine. The link can be found under the Blinks category on this site.


Luke Buckham is 26 years old. He lives in Keene, New Hampshire in a small
but wonderfully functional apartment which he shares with a daddy-long-legs
spider. Daddy-long-legs possess a poison more powerful than that of the
black widow, but their tiny jaws are too small to transmit the poison to
human beings; so it is possible for us to live in peace with one another.
Mr. Buckham has written over seven thousand books. He is currently
recording experimental music with a group called Mister Bones & Madame X.

1) What is the state of poetry in contemporary times? Are we disinterested
and indifferent to literature and the arts at large?

I have a few friends who frequently write brilliant poetry, make brilliant
music, and paint brilliant paintings. And I spend a lot of my free time
poking around in little record shops, bookstores and libraries; I always
find something interesting. So for me, the state of the arts is healthy and

There are a great many people who are passionately interested in what's
happening in every imaginable art form, but their interests are not
portrayed or catered to by the mainstream media. Good taste is always a
minority characteristic, but that minority is now larger than it has ever
been: there are (at least according to recorded history) more people on this
planet than ever before, and more of them know how to read and write than
ever before. So there is a vast audience for anyone who wants to make an
impact with poetry, or with any art form. It will take guts, massive
talent, and gamble, as well as a Warholian instinct for self-marketing, for
a good poet to break through to a wider audience with a medium as demanding
as poetry, but it does happen occasionally, usually for the wrong reasons.
The truly great writer Charles Bukowski, for example, now has a following of
many thousands of people in America, but most of them don't seem to be
capable of understanding the deeper implications of his work. They seem to
be drawn primarily by his rock star status, by his outlaw mystique. But
surely many of them are also intoxicated by the writing itself. I'm just
glad whenever anybody's reading something other than the daily newspaper.
Even a superficial appreciation of a great artist is better than no
appreciation at all; it does have an effect, even if that effect is less
than what the artist themselves may have originally hoped. It's true that
the best-selling American book of poetry of all time is Jewel's 'A Night
Without Armor'--and it's true that her book is awful--but who cares? Fads
come and go, but a thousand years from now, barring the total extinction of
the human race, someone will still be reading Walt Whitman, and nobody will
have ever heard of Jewel.

2) Where is blogging heading? Will it revolutionize anything as some claim
it will?

Blogging is instantaneous. There was time when, if one wanted hundreds or
thousands of people to read one's work, one would have to go through a
publishing process in which the work in question would be scrutinized and
criticized. Not always wisely, either, but there was at least a vague idea
that some literary standards must be upheld, or, at the very least, that the
work in question had to have a selling point. Then, after months of
production and promotion effort, the work in question would finally be
unleashed on the public. Or, one could try to get published in magazines,
but even a spectacular success in that arena was not nearly so quick a fix
as blogging. True, most blogs get relatively few hits, but it's the fact
that the medium can be accessed by millions of people all over the world
that is intoxicating to many.

Right now, anyone with the barest minimum of computer literacy (I myself
blog and know hardly anything about computers; there are many simple blogger
features that I still haven't figured out how to use, but posting is easy)
can log on daily and fling their thoughts, or their thoughtlessness, at
anyone and everyone who happens to be surfing the Internet. Like any
democracy, this allows for a flood of public sloppiness and mediocrity, but
dictatorships flood the world with mediocrity too: the mediocre tastes of
the dictator. And, like any democracy, it is not really a democracy. In
fact, right now, large companies are seeking to make it harder for certain
sites to be quickly and efficiently accessed: and they will be successful,
because they own our "representatives" (in many cases they ARE our
representatives) and control virtually every choice they make.
Anti-authoritarian thought is not good for big business. Thus, websites
that encourage rebellion, even (especially?) peaceful, humorous rebellion,
must be made harder to access.

But there is not much for our dark masters to fear in the world of blogging.
Even a cursory scan of blogs will reveal that the vast majority of sites
are horribly boring; they generally consist of a few hasty, sloppy diary
entries, most of which show no talent for writing, or even a desire for
meaningful communication. Blogging is primarily a showcase for shallow
narcissism. It allows everyone with access to the Internet to reach at
least a few hundred people with accounts of last night's party, last night's
new haircut, last night's sexual experience, etc, simply for the sake of
advertising one's surface to the world, in hopes of getting laid or
otherwise attracting admiration (this is part of the reason I blog as well,
but I hope I can at least EARN admiration).

In other words, blogging is very much like the rest of human existence. It
has not, and will not, revolutionize anything: it is just the latest
technological manifestation of humanity's agonizingly slow evolution (but
are we even evolving?). Blogging is not a new problem, or a new solution to
anything. But it is evidence that most human beings have nothing of worth
to impart, even when they are given more than adequate space, leisure time
and tools to educate themselves, and the freedom to express nearly anything
at all. Blogging reveals this sad truth: it did not create it, and to the
extent that it encourages it, well, if blogging were to be eliminated from
the face of the earth, something else would quickly take its place and
reveal the same awful truth.

I work in a convenience store. The hundreds of conversations I overhear on
a daily basis are sufficient evidence of the lack of thought and focus that
comprise most people's lives; I was aware of this before Blogger and Myspace
came along.

3) Is this a 'so-called' war on terror or is it a legitimate fight?

Why use the word "war" at all? War on poverty, war on drugs, war on
ignorance, war on intolerance: many people are using a warlike language for
everything, and that shows a serious lack of imagination, as well as a
serious depth of fear. The language of warfare points to a widespread
willingness to use massive violence to obliterate problems (read: people).
In other words: most of us are probably terrorists at heart, but those who
use the word "war" to describe any of their quests are openly engaging in
the worship of anger, in the worship of force in and of itself; they are
engaging in outrage for outrage's sake, partly because outrage sells and
feeds business as usual, whereas any attempt at mercy would stop us in our
tracks and require of us a long, initially agonizing look in the mirror.

When the "Cold War" "ended", those who, for various reasons, wanted America
to continue to build up its military might, and find conquests for that
military to carry out, knew that a new ever-present enemy was needed.
"Terror" is the perfect enemy, since terrorists (My definition of a
terrorist is anyone who thinks violence can often, as opposed to rarely,
solve problems; this includes a lot of people. But any other definition of
terrorism also includes a lot of people) exist in every country and probably
always will. As countries rise and fall, and political landscapes dissolve,
terrorists will continue to pop up everywhere. Thus, this really is a war
without end: a perfect situation for those who want to continue to rake in
massive revenues through military spending indefinitely. And a perfect
situation for those who believe that the only alternative to dominating and
intimidating others is to be enslaved by them. It's also the perfect way to
intimidate and terrify a largely decadent, arrogant, fat-assed, ignorant and
complacent people, who have grown used to predictable, cushy routine. The
unpredictability of terrorism, the threat of the unexpected, makes them shit
their pants and cling to authority.

There is another level on which a struggle against "terror" is perfectly
legitimate, just as a struggle against apathy, or a study of dishonesty,
would be perfectly legitimate, provided it did not claim that ultimate
victory was possible, and provided that it did not use massive force as a
primary option. That is just part of the problem with the way many people
(usually politicians) frame the "war on terror": they insist, or at least
suggest, that ultimate victory is possible, as if it were possible to remove
every discordant and disturbing element not only from humanity, but also
from human nature. That idea is bullshit; and I believe it is often
deliberate bullshit, meant to further American military power and American
interests. It will have the exact opposite effect. America has already
overreached its military capabilities, and it will someday fall into
humiliating disarray, as all empires have. Our attempt to regulate the
entire globe will continue to fail miserably, and create new resentments,
new wars, until we take a very hard fall. America will almost certainly
survive as a country: Rome and Greece and Sweden still exist too, but they
are hardly in their glory days.

There really are people who hate others for their success, their beauty,
their achievements. That this beauty and these achievements are often
dubious and corrupt is not beside the point, but there will always be people
in the world who are hungry to violently avenge themselves on others because
of jealousy, or fear, or moral indignation. But maybe this is the real
meaning of "terror": the "war on terror" is perhaps the quest of those who
doubt the validity of their own achievements against those who take those
achievements too seriously and wish to destroy them. Those who believe that
massive violence is a valid means tend to fear that old "he who lives by the
sword..." proverb. And they try to prove the proverb wrong, and they are
afraid that a successful act of violence perpetrated against them will prove
that they are inferior to the perpetrator.

Think about this for a minute: what kind of reactions do you think
terrorists expect? What kind of reactions do you think that they desire?
Do you think they expect to be forgiven, to be bombarded with flowers and
chocolates in response to their cataclysmic successes? Would such a
response aid their agendas, and prove their preconceptions about the Great
Satan? Would it help them win converts?

Of course, no serious person would recommend responding to a terrorist
attack with flowers and chocolates. Serious people do serious things: they
murder and injure millions of people in order to bring peace and happiness
to the world, and to bring an end to resentment and jealousy. Serious
people have serious answers to serious questions. For example: how can one
make an ordinary missile or bomb a more devastating, effective, and
frightening weapon? Answer: spike the weapon with depleted uranium. In
this, they are absolutely correct. How can one argue with such quick,
efficient answers, brought to us by such highly educated and respectable

4) Is America inherently evil with some good tendencies/intentions or is it
good with some naughty intentions?

What is America? It is not a person. It is not even an idea; not a single
idea, at any rate. America is a country: a place with borders, founded on
ideas, some of them confused and contradictory, some of them quite good, and
many of which have never been successfully put into practice. Like all
nations, we were founded by imperfect, noble, hypocritical people with
imperfect ideas. And like all nations, our citizens are radically different
from each other: many of them are constantly at odds with many of their
fellow citizens, some for good reasons, some for terrible reasons. Any
country presents us with a truly radical diversity. How can one seriously
size up the morality of such a divergent, chaotic, many-headed and wildly
variable conglomoration of folks? How could any entire nation be inherently
evil, or evil at all? It's hard enough to size up the morality of a single
person, much less an entire nation. And to the extent that our nation has a
sort of belief system, most people are not aquainted with that belief
system, and would have a tough time following it.

"Naughty" is a very cute word. I associate it with crotchless panties
(though there is nothing really naughty about those, in my view; they're
just good, ridiculous fun). I don't think it describes the genuine dangers
of the power which our nation wields, usually unwisely. But I'll permit
myself this generalization as my own third-option answer: I don't think the
average American is morally all that different from the average person
anywhere else on the globe. Culture, fashion, language, tradition, and
government all conspire to make it seem otherwise; the truth is, I believe,
simpler, in this case. People of different countries may sometimes appear
to behave very differently from each other, but when you look at how they
choose to go about their daily business, they are morally very similar to
each us; similar, too, in how they radically differ from one another.

Here's a good idea for a head-clearing bumper sticker: AMERICA DOES NOT
EXIST. And really, how could it exist? After all, most Americans know very
little about America, which makes it pretty hard to bring it into being.

5) Who would you recommend for readers interested in poetry to start off

Do what you do when entering the realm of any other art form, or for that
matter, any experience: find out what turns you on. Spend many hours in the
poetry section of your local bookstore of library and rummage through the
books until something excites you. It'll be like making love for the first
time, successfully defying your elders for the first time, or getting drunk
for the first time, or even like getting into your first fistfight; there
will be a heart-pouding feeling of barriers falling, boundaries both real
and imaginary being trespassed: a whole new key to viewing existence, if you
want it.

Notice that I said many, many hours are needed to find your poet. It's
true. Any reader who is really interested in poetry has lots of time to
read it, even if it means sleeping less and eating less than other people.
Once you find a poet who blows your mind, find out what they read, and then
read those poets, too; and on and on and on, in that fashion. If you don't
have time for this kind of activity, kill yourself.

I read poetry for only one reason: to be entertained. If I learn something
in the process, great, but I'm here for the fireworks. Poets who show me a
good time include John Berryman, Claude Gauvreau, Etheridge Knight, Rennie
Sparks, Cesar Vallejo, Mitsuharu Kaneko, Frederick Seidel, Umar Khayyam,
Mina Loy, Blaise Cendrars, Aime Cesaire, Catullus, David Berman,
Rabindranath Tagore, Captain Beefheart, Stephen Crane, Ikkyu, Sharon Olds,
Zahrad, Greg Devlin, Philip Larkin, Sappho, Andre Breton, Ted Hughes, Werner
Herzog, Robinson Jeffers, Ezra Pound, James Tate, Guillaume Apollinaire,
John Cale, Paul Celan, Joe Wenderoth, and Elizabeth Bishop.

Every one of these people is ten thousand times more important than the next
president of the USA. And I thank you for ending with this question,
because it is more important than any of the others.

Some Russian whack-job named Fyodor Dostoyevsky once said this: "Beauty will
save the world."

What an idiot!


The Cinéma de Paris. The Montreal Mirror and its Annual Lame Top Five Lists

Between and after classes during my university days I used to frequent the Cinéma de Paris.

The CDP was a rickety, arsty repertoire film house. It wasn't luxurious by any modern standards and mainstreamers weren't going to appreciate going to such a place - especially on a date.

The cinema was the only place in Montreal (that I am aware of. I know the Rialto - now closed - used to occasionally show films but not in any standard way like the Paris) where Montrealers could go out and catch classic films on a regular basis. It was, well, a part of the Montreal cultural landscape. A landmark to many. All sorts of colorful Montreal characters and personalities would be found within its walls.

I'm not exactly sure when but the CDP moved from sinful Ste. Catherine street in the mid 90s to Park Ave. (soon to unfortuantely be renamed Robert Bourassa). By the time it moved I was working in the West end of the city and living in the Northend. Getting to the cinema became increasingly difficult.

Alas, never take things for granted. I always thought that it would be there. While I did manage to go a few times, the visits were too few and far between.

The Cinema de Paris closed its doors forever. Now we're stuck with whatever the big, pathetic movie corporations stuff down our throats. Everything is so formulaic now.

-Every year the Montreal Mirror publishes its top 5 everything lists. Top 5 Mexican restaurants, top 5 best places to loiter, top 5 best place to piss and so on.

Apparently Montrealers think Pizza Hut serves the best pizza in town. Pizza Hut? Double Pizza and Domino's also cracked the top 5. I won't even bother with the top Italian restaurants list.

It's official. Montreal has lost its ability to judge good food and with it its culinary mind.

-What is it with Q92 FM and its obsession with the song 'Easy Lover' by Phillip Bailey and Phil Collins? Was this song ordained the ultimate classic hit of the 80s to be played every single damn day?

I don't listen to Montreal radio. It, for all intents and purposes sucks -for a lack of a better word. So how I do know they play that song? My wife listens to the station everyday and I happen to be around on break. That timing is impeccable. That's how I know. When I asked about the song being overplayed she said, "Never thought of it. But now that you mention it, it is weird." There you go.

It reminds of me of the episode on WKRP when Mrs. Carlson decided to automate the station. Thus removing the creative juices of the program director Andy Travis. The show made a prescient point about the death of radio as a creative art form. Like I said, it's all about blueprints now. Gone are the days when you could go knock on doors and give your music demos to DJ's. In Canada it's a double whammy because we don't support our own stuff - unless it is accompnaied with the communism of Canaidan content rules. We have to beg our own to play our stuff. By extension, lost are the days when you could go to your local grocer and sell a product directly to the owner and earn yourself a shot at a decent living.

All roads with pot holes lead to Toronto now.