The Government Should...

"My the House of Commons look so inspiring...when it's free of the politicians." The Commentator.

"The government should...."

This pretty much sums up how we debate things here in Canada and in Quebec in particular. Except in la belle province we say, "le gouvernement devront..."

Solve poverty? No problem. The government should....The economy is stagnant? The government should....Our athletes come up short? The government should....Public health is a mess? The government should. Canadian arts? The government should....

No. The government shouldn't have to do everything. Limit the government help rhetoric. The government has no business trying to solve all of our social and economic ills. Our reliance on the government reminds me of a person addicted to nicotine: We don't know how to quit the habit. Government intervention is not an means to an end.

For once, I want to hear people write letters to the editor or call in talk shows talk about how we the people can make Canada a better place. We argue and debate while hiding behind publicly funded programs and initiatives. I know there are many who feel like I do but either we are a silent majority or we are plain ineffective and apathetic.

We tolerate too much non sense here.

Quebec is a different cat altogether. Labour and unions have an unhealthy influence here. Jean Charest and the Liberals proved to be the vulnerable battered immature girl afraid to take on the adulterous and self-serving cantankerous jack ass. Quebecers are socially liberal but that doesn't mean they are naive. More than any region in the country, they distrust government. In this light, they exhibit an individualist and Republican outlook not unlike Americans.

The problem with Quebec is that they also, ironically, suffer from a parochial herd's mentality. They won't do anything unless the politicians - and Priests before them - tell them to do something.

Given these inherent contradictions, that's why the notion if America and Canada were to ever integrate, the Democrats would gain access to million of votes is a little misleading. They would not win Alberta while British Columbia and Ontario would be an interesting battle ground (though the Democrats would have the inside lane). For its part, Quebec has a conservative streak in it. Republicanism would speak to Quebecers.

Pseudo-socialist tendencies does not serve or suit Quebec or Canada all that smoothly anymore. People are finding other ways to be served - much to the chagrin of the NDP and some in the media. Personally, I'm fed up of our tax dollars swirling at the top in the hands of a few greedy souls. Many may have forgotten Adscam but I haven't.

So be it. Many of our nationalized crown "corporations" are corrupt anyway. Liquor, for example, is ridiculously government regulated. The SAQ are not above scamming as they alone choose what we should be drinking. Worse, like with any unionized workforce, its workers over rate themselves. That's why we were treated to the shameless and sickening display of worker whose whole raison détre is to say "c'est bon avec du poulet" going on strike during the holidays last year. It was hell buying liquor that year.

Privatize their sorry asses and see what the market thinks they are worth.

There they stood, in arrogance, wearing their stupid "Boss you're laughing at us" T-shirts. I wanted to punch out every single one of them.

It is about time we learn to solve our problems free of the state. For that, we need leadership and will. The day I see and hear people replace the government should with we the people should... is the day we will be on our way to being a more mature society.


Listen to Me: I Know What's Good for all of you.

-Seriously, since no one seems prepared to deal with it I will do so right here, right now. For all you young ladies out there seeking to find your identity; to leave a unique imprint on life there are many ways to achieve success while maintaining your dignity. Stripping to pay your way through school is not one of them. Cherishing Madonna as a role model is not one of them. Lindsay Lohan (whoever she is. I think she's an actress), Paris Hilton (and insert anyone else here that fits this mold) are skanks. Britney Spears was a figment of our imagination. Ashlee Simpson is...aw forget it.

They are not role models. Don't emulate them. Follow your own decent path. Your parents and your true friends are your path. It's a shame to watch girls acting in a way that can only damage their lives. It's simply not cool. Be wise. There I said it. SAVE THE FAMILY STRUCTURE.

-Norbit: The Madness Must End Now. If you are wondering why it's so hard for great writers or screen writers to get a shot one just needs to look at the stupidity of the film Norbit.

What a travesty of folly; a waste of time, money, energy and talent. How many of these frightening films will Hollywood and its freakish cliques pimp out? They are artistic whores of the worst kind whenever they have the audacity to produce such nonsense. It's not just Norbit. It's a host of "comedies" like it. The genre has been done. Are they that deprived of ideas?

Eddie Murphy used to be funny. He is among the greatest of all comedians; arguably the greatest SNL star. Now, thanks to his latest escapade, he's just another stiff.

Some people should be held to a higher standard and Eddie Murphy is one of them.

-Soccer is going through a hard time these days. We all know about Italy but they are not alone. Germany, Holland and Belgium continue to have trouble. France also faces fan disturbances as we saw in the Champions League between Lille and Manchester United. Fans feel justified to lash out for every perceived injustice.

But are the fans the only ones? Increasingly we are seeing players misbehaving. Once upon a time Paolo Di Canio and Eric Cantona were the exception. Now a whole new breed of players who act violently are becoming the norm. Call this the Zidane Legacy Residue. For a nation that prides itself on upholding fair play they were appalling in the defense of Zidane during the World Cup. They attempted to defend the indefensible. However, I'm afraid they did manage to convince some people. While in Asia, Zidane was all smiles as Asian soccer fans clamoured for the disgraced soccer "scientist" autograph. Star player's behaving badly is on the rise and Zidane - along with the French Federation - will have to shoulder some of the blame for this.


The Commentator Musing Corner: Free of Charge

-The new catch phrase in Quebec is now "consulation populaire." Referendum was somewhat dated and stale; you know, like the Parti Quebecois. So, let's sprinkle some spices on the rotting meat. Oh, the cynicism. I have one: manipulation des idiots.

-And so it begins: Justin Trudeau is out to mend the nation. This I gotta see.

-Geffen on the Clintons: So much for the right-wing conspiracy. Once again from the top: no one should put too much weight into the words of Hollywood; a place of losers and sleaze. Speaking of conspiracies, with Hollywood coming out to support Obama what does this say about the whole "conspiracy" debate? Together they sway much power on the media. Would anyone doubt they tend to lean left? Once again from another top: It's not as clear cut as some people may think but I will say that the voices of true conservatives are rare in the media. Liberalism is a given and already discounted in the psyche of North American political identity. Make no mistake about it, Occidental culture is built on a bedrock of liberalism. Conservatives come along every once in a while to put them back into place. Think Churchill.

-Why does Pat Buchanan make so much sense about foreign policy?

-Britain unveiled a bronze statue for Margaret Thatcher. Just for putting an end to the scourge of socialism in the UK she deserves this. Britain has become far more productive since she smashed the unions - Quebec pay attention. One of the great political leaders of the 20th century, she also proved that women can be tough in a man's world. Hilary is nothing next to her. Yet, I somehow doubt feminists look to Thatcher for inspiration.

-Lindy Ruff for Mayor of Buffalo! Now! LOVE this guy. There is no team in hockey that has faced as many injuries and unfavorable calls as the Buffalo Sabres. Recall that this is the team that lost something like six regulars and FOUR starting defensemen and came within one period of knocking the eventual champions Carolina Hurricanes. So, what happened this year? Er, they keep winning. They're like that villain in Terminator that kept reforming itself. And you know what else? They never, ever made excuses. Amazing. Montreal hockey fans actually think they can take Buffalo because they can skate with them. Maybe. But in a seven game series the Habs have little hope. The Sabres will wear and tear you. Besides, the Canadiens lost one player in the series against the Hurricanes which subsequently took an immediate turn for the worse. We, of course, made many excuses for our loss. Therein lies the difference between the two teams.

-This is all you need to know about the Baseball Hall of Fame process: Jack Todd of the Montreal Gazette has a vote. I know many Americans who read this blog have no clue who this guy is and for this consider yourselves lucky. However, if you love baseball you should be concerned.


The Way Sports were Meant to be Played

"Everything is in a state of flux." Ancient Greeks.

Without ever delving into it by defending a stance, we often hear fans and sports writers say "they play the game the way it was meant to be played." A curious mind will ask what does this mean exactly?

Not much.

People who usually assert this generally say so in defense of an argument about an athlete or team they prefer. Let's dissect and debunk this notion right here, right now. For this, I will use soccer.

Once upon a time a long time ago in a land far away, the game of soccer differed very much from what we have today. The tactics and formations used would be alien, if not unthinkable in today's highly scientific soccer landscape. Soccer was under the sway of a 1-1-8; 1-2-7 (in England where individualism prevailed) and 2-2-6 (in Scotland where a team approach was used. In any event, what this meant was there were one or two defenders and most of the players were stacked at the front. This did not necessarily mean more scoring either.

From there soccer evolved. And not just in England. Many countries contributed to new ideas and tactics while others perfected systems in place. In the 1920s, the Austrians, the Hungarians and Czechoslovakia (Bohemia) took the first steps. Playing a style that predicated on short passing and individual skills, the Danubian School (as it was known) generally employed a 2-3-5 system originating in England. By the 1930s, this style earned the term "Wunderteam" for the Austrians (picture) who are also thought to be the precursors of Total Football.

Not to be outdone, the Italians under Vittorio Pozzo came up with the "Metodo" in the 1930s, which essentially asked players to be more responsible at the back end. Result? Italy won back-to-back titles with the 2-3-2-3 formation. It was the beginning of sophisticated tactics that mark the carefully calibrated Italian style that remains until this day.

Prior to this, the Argentineans and Uruguayans (1930 World Cup finalists) played the 2-3-5 system of the Danube School. For federations interested in playing attractive football, France for example, this was the preferred system.

By the 1950s, the English at the international had remained oblivious to the goings on in world soccer. Choosing to cling on to their superiority, they quickly became obsolete (though not at the club level as teams like Tottenham, Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool continued to sparkle) in international soccer. Some say they have never recovered. While England slept, the Hungarians and Brazilians took the Danubian school to other places by reforming it to a 3-5-2 and eventually a 4-2-4. These systems basically unleashed further the creative player.

In the back drop of these early inventions, modern formations were born. For example, the 4-3-3 and 4-4-2 being among the most popular. Even these have been adjusted to various degrees from a 4-4-1-1 (Italy and Juventus); 5-3-2 (Germany) 4-3-1-2 (Argentina); 4-3-2-1 (AC Milan and Barcelona); 4-2-3-1 (France, Spain and AS Roma) all the way to a 5-4-1 (Liverpool in 2005).

To make matters richer in texture, in between all this two concepts were developed that marked world football; the "catenaccio" or dead-bolt defense invented by the Austrians, perfected by FC Internazionale Milano Argentine coach Herrera and eventually found its way to the Italian national side.

While invented by an Englishman, the soul of Total Football remains the strict domain of Dutch football and Ajax in particular. Like Hungary before them, the Netherlands helped to revolutionize the game but only to fall agonizingly short at the World Cup. Total Football, if we need to compare it to something closer to home, is somewhat akin to the "torpedo" system in Swedish hockey.

With these competing values and interpretations of the game, the idea of how the game was "meant to be played" is a specious statement. The game is meant to be played not in one style but many. Some cultures respond and adapt better to other systems. Humans change and so do sports.

I've just scratched the surface here. It was suffice to illustrate some obvious and over looked examples of how soccer has evolved. History tells us much. Examining the many clubs and national sides who have used different permutations is a study onto itself.

The oft-repeated notion that Brazil plays the game the way it was meant to be played is not entirely accurate. Brazil plays a style that is unique to the Brazilian character. From the onset, soccer had several ways to be played. Indeed, when talent was available, many countries opted for the offensive style. But as we have so many times and in so many sports pure offense does not win you championships. Every Brazilian team was built on solid (and vastly under rated) defense. Conversely, Italy (while no longer dedicated to catenaccio) succeeded not just with defense but with an under rated creative and talented strike force. Still, other teams seek a balance; notably Argentina and France. The Netherlands and Germany yet another style. Again, depending on the resources available a good coach will consider the temperament of his players too.

Everything is in a state of flux. Now you know why such a statement is misguided if not foolish.


The Bacteria Grows

A former boss used to tell me whenever I was being too nice, "Give a pig a chair and he'll want to get on the table." I get this feeling sometimes when it comes to governments who want to run the lives of its citizens. Slowly but surely, if left to their own devices, the monsters of the nanny state will rid us of our freedom to choose. Rob us of our soul. Surely we do not have to give into every single damn "health" or environmental hazard that comes our way, right? At some point we just have to let it, well, be. People are free to make their decisions - smart or otherwise. We tolerate gambling and alcoholism but not smoking? It makes little sense. Do we grade human vices now? How far is too far?

It's getting to the point where we want to legislate how we eat, how we talk and soon enough how we think. Whenever my fridge is running low on food, I sometimes joke that we need to run to the store before some social worker comes in a examines our eating habits. "These people are unfit t be parents blah, blah, blah." For the record, my house is filled with fresh fruits and vegetables - usually from the farm or my grand father's garden. Of course, an organic freak may think this to be just as bad as buying from conventional store shelves. Organic foods: are the premiums justified? I digress.

I remember watching the news a few years back about a McDonald's that was opening up down town. A bunch of students protested and began to harass people who were going in to eat a Big Mac - I have never eaten a Big Mac in my life - I'm more of a McChicken guy even though I have not been to McDonald's in years. I tend to go to Wendy's once in a blue moon. Maybe three times a year. I digress again.

One of the students actually told a mother "how can you feed your child that stuff?" as she chomped on a carrot. It was a shocking and arrogant display of over stepping over ones boundaries. The mother responded hard and told her to mind her own business and to get a job. She could not tell her to get a hair cut since the protester has short hair.

Which brings me to the point of this post. Germany's Commissioner for Substance Abuse Sabine Baetzing is one who believes and professes to know what is good for Germans. In considering to ban smoking in cars, Baetzing contends that "a ban is urgently needed even if it would represent an invasion of privacy."

How long before the NDP jumps on this idea? "Canada is a world leader in invading privacy!" would be their cry.

In any event, think about Beatzing's statement carefully.

Scary. Jack Nicholson in The Shining scary.

O'Neil is around. I know it. I can just feel him. Redrum, redrum....


Customer Service Watch

Places I have contacted since January 10 for different reasons:

1) Canadian Tire
2) The Liberal Party
3) Toronto FC of the MLS

Total responses? One. Sorta. A standard "we care about your thoughts" email from Canadian Tire. They told me they would get back to me and never did.

There's no excuse for not contacting someone - especially the Liberal Party. Mind you, this is the Liberal party we're talking about. I also contacted the communications/media department of Toronto FC. You would think a new MLS team would take the time to respond to a soccer fan but you think wrong. They pretty much don't have an excuse either.

That's Canada for you. During my years in financial services it never failed or ceased to amaze me how unresponsive some Canadian businesses were. I spoke to many people who complained about this through the years. One analyst told me that whenever he called American companies he usually got a call back within the end of business day - with an apology. He rarely got that from Canadians. In fact, he would have to call them two or three times before someone bothered to call back.

He was onto something because it happened to me on several occasions. I remember when I contacted Fidelity to speak with a money manager and got a call back within the hour. Yet, when I tried to call the underwriting department at the Royal Bank I never got a call back. So what you say? I worked for the Royal Bank. They babbled about team work but they weren't a very good one.

And I could go on and on. Take Quebecor - it took four calls. Four calls - to get some printing quotes. Once I managed to get through to someone I thought I was talking to a truck driver. I was so thoroughly appalled I did not give them the business. They don't even pretend to be professional.

Most of my friends own businesses in several industries that conduct a large part of the affairs with the United States. Without question there's a distinct business culture.

I'm not sure why there is such a disparity. One way to compare customer service is using the "Wal-Mart Meter." In other words, compare the Wal-Mart staffs in the U.S. and Canada. Here in Quebec for example- the place that wanted to unionize WM - we miss the point about what customer service is supposed to be. While I have met friendly staff in the past, they have proven to be the minority. Most are not terribly interested in helping you out. All have the "this is not my real job" syndrome whenever you approach them. Just tell me where I can find socks.

I just came up with an idea. I will do my own test. I will contact several MLS teams and see how fast (if at all) they respond. Don't hold me to it - however, it will be on my to-do list.

Who are all these Jackasses? The Myth of the Opinion

Philosophically, what is an opinion in a free society? Specifically, how do we judge an opinion? You are free to speak - and write - but how is an opinion more valid than another? Oh dear. Here I go again. Taking on a subject matter that goes way beyond my wisdom.

There are, I suppose, two ways to go with this. One, is to accept that everyone is entitled to one and just move on. The second, is to demand opinions are informed and verified by facts. Therein, in the second version, lies the kicker: One man's facts is another man's myth. Everything is challenged now. Some people dare not consult facts that don't fit their world view. It's a sad state of intellectual relativism. It's also a form of "absolute despotism" Americans fought to defeat when they achieved independence.

As a Canadian, I marvel at how Americans consistently debate about their country. I wish that there was more of this in Canada. Here, we get very antsy whenever someone challenges alleged universal truths about who we are. But that's not the point here.

Are Americans in denial regarding their existence? The fad now is to assert that America is failing to meet its own promise. Hasn't that always been the case in recent U.S. political culture? What nation on earth even bothers to try? Is America decadent as Rome was during Juvenal's time? Perhaps. The country isn't perfect but I do dare anyone in this post defy my proclamation that no nation asks as many questions like Americans do. It swirls all around us at blinding speed. By George, in one large sweep America benefited from the ideas of Franklin, Monroe, Marshall, Hamilton, Henry, Jefferson, Madison, Jackson, Lincoln, Teddy, FDR, Truman, Ike, Kennedy and Reagan (to name a few off the top of my head) and everyone and in between. Each with a major impact on the land. If you were to map the political and ideological colors of America it would knit quite a quilt.

As professor's Commager and Nevins pointed out, American pre-eminence in the political realm was as indisputable as the Italians' in art and Germans' in musical field; statesmanship was the American specialty."

Whatever one may think about America or how they interpret its history, you have to admit it's one energetic place with a communication problem.

Can anyone write anything anymore without being mercilessly attacked by flat headed boobie's? I know. I'm asking too many questions. Still, you can't write an intelligent piece about Bruce Springsteen without some nut job railing against Springsteen for being a closet communist. One can't tackle or question certain aspects of global warming without being accosted by some crazed leftist environmental militant. Hamilton and Jefferson, Lincoln and Douglas battled a true debate with merit. What's our excuse?

Many who roam around acting as guardians of truth see themselves as protectors of true American ideals. Who is a true rebel anyway? Chomsky? Ok, he's just plain crazy; like Bobby Fischer. Or are they so crazy that their raw genius allows them to see the truth and that the truth they unveil is too uncomfortable for us commoners? Is Buckley a rebel? Fonzi? What are we rebelling against? Who are the real liberals? True conservatives? Don't we all have a bit of libertarianism in us? I know I do.

Part of the problem is that everyone comes into a forum with an under siege mentality that borders on stupidity. It becomes rather tiresome to read the same people recite the same stances on several issues as if the is truth self-evident.

That's the very definition of intellectual stagnation many complain about. And politicians are pretty damn good at using this as leverage to gain votes. The extreme variances of special interest are murdering the very fabric, original ideas and raison détre of who we are in North America. Of what we aspire to be.

Some claim they are conduits to taking us to a better place. The leaders in the Age of Aquarius. I beg to differ. They are polarizing actors in society. Many people think that their anti-whatever posturing actually embodies what the Founding Fathers expected of Americans. Somehow, I do not think Madison or Jefferson would be impressed by the decadent lengths we go to get our points across.

It is essential to employ intellectual discipline or the opinion becomes worthless. There's a big difference between a rant, an genuine, well-reasoned opinion and being opinionated. The pseudo-dissidents and patriots are just as guilty of this.

Alas, that's the price exacted to have freedom. It allows for all sorts of interpretations to be forwarded. A moderate, healthy society can cut through whatever bull shit is hurled at it.

Where does Western culture stand on this?


Prime Minister Stephen Harper is Kermit the Frog

I was reading that the Federal government has allocated, transfered, given away (whatever) $300 million to Quebec ($1.5 billion in total to the Provinces) to turn this place more green. They call it an Eco-Trust and Clean Air Fund to reduce pollution and greenhouse gases. How many ways can you spell waste?

So how much will it cost to buy one of those reports grading our brave initiative in a few years? I don't see this going anywhere. It's like wearing card board boxes as armour to fight an enemy equipped with swords.

It was quite the scene to watch politicians announce the plan. There they stood knowing full well this is worthless but hey, gotta face the irrefutable facts and the all-natural David Suzuki. If I read or hear one more smart-alec boob make reference to Harper's anti-environmental stance I will cook an egg on their head. Whatever happened to Rick Mercer's Won-Ton Challenge?

I hope I'm wrong. Seriously.

I remember during my years in junior high school in the 1980s when Acid (as well as Purple) Rain was "in." We had to write "research" papers and listen to songs wondering if the Russians loved their kids and whether the Africans were aware it was Christmas. It was neo-idealism run amok 80s style. Apparently AR was going to make my hair was going to fall off, turn my forest black and kill all the frogs in the local pond. And it was all Ronald Reagan's fault.

Now, global warming is going to flood us all and we won't be able to produce hockey players with skill.

Forgive me if I've heard all this before. I'm not callous nor do I don't believe we need to do our part to be more environmentally friendly. However, the debate has become way too politicized. It makes for understanding the science behind what faces us all the more difficult.

I've also grown up since the 80s.

Review On "Little Mosque on the Prairie"

Canadian television can be frustrating at times. On one end it is capable of producing interesting programming; on the other hand, it is so blatantly safe and politically correct. More often than not, it's the latter.

When I finally sat to watch Little Mosque on the Prairie (as opposed to Little House on the Prairie which I hated) one month after its debut, I sort of had an idea how the CBC would approach it. After viewing my first episode I was proved right. For such a unique and potentially explosive idea, the dialogue is, well, safe and light in a Canadian way. The CBC obviously sought to strike a balance and what they came up with was inoffensive comedy.

That's not necessarily a bad thing either. The issues raised in the show are new to North American viewers.

The show is basically about how Muslims and Canadians interact in a prairie setting. The prairies are all the rage now. Wheat is in, urban is out.

I got the distinct feeling that the writers are very careful not to offend anybody. Who can blame them considering the context under which the show has been aired? By this I mean in a post 9/11 world. Gotta give them credit for the boldness of their timing. Imagine if Italians, Germans and Japanese programming came out during the Second World War? Uncomfortable, I know. Just musing out loud.

Despite this, the show does accord itself some provoking moments.

For example, in one scene a father opposes his daughter from partaking in Halloween on the grounds that it is not a Muslim activity. Despite this, he ends up chaperoning her. What he soon discovers, while dressed in traditional Muslim attire, is that people mistake him for being "Osama" or a "Taliban" and this oddly makes him feel accepted. Later you see him running around scaring kids and telling them he was a terrorist. I laughed at that.

Another part had a right-wing radio commentator who asks: "Islam: Why it's evil." Funny. I would have gone further. Don't put a script in my hands for I fear what I would come up with. I digress.

Who said Muslims can't mock themselves? Well, in North America they do. I can't speak for the old, battered country. I wonder what Osama and his nut cases think of the show. I can picture them knee-slapping and choking on their food screaming, "it's so true!" and "Hey, that's so you, Os!"

While far from being drop dead funny like other shows that push the envelope, the show does attempt to put a human face on Muslims - as if most moderate minds needed this. It tries to convey the sensitive particularities of Islam living in a secular Occidental world. Make that Prairie, given that the Prairies are a cultural and geographic entity onto themselves.

Personally, I would love to see this idea used in a far more provocative manner. For that to happen it would have to be free of the CBC, and more importantly, the creators would have to be willing to do this - which I doubt they would.

As it stands, the show may have to settle- for posterity - as being a pioneer that will open the door for some other show - possibly in Britain -to take the idea to another level.

In terms of "Wheat Comedy" Corner Gas has this market licked. Nonetheless, for sheer originality LMONTP gets an 'A'.

General comments: Evil has a Baby

I'm back. It seems the transfer to "new" blogger wasn't all that "easy." Nor am I entirely impressed by how much time it takes for blogger to respond to my queries - however dumb. Enough of this. I figure I'll just hit a couple of things to get this bitch blog going again.

-Karla Homolka is a mother. Let that sink for a minute. This evil murderer is not only sickeningly walking the streets a free person she is now with child. How our criminal justice is designed to have allowed her to live among the decent really says much about how we deal with heinous crimes. Prosecutors, if you recall, had to cut a deal with her to get to Bernardo. She - along with Paul Bernardo - took the life of two innocent teenagers. She never showed remorse. She probably never repented or cared. The Canadian justice system spectacularly failed. The "lesser of two evils" legal options/loophole should be closed. We'll see just how tough Harper will be on crime. The Bloc Quebecois, in all their pathetic absurdity, are right when it comes to crime.

-Saw someone wear one of the dumbest t-shirts I have ever come across. It read on the front "What's my definition of a Canadian?" and the answer on the back stated: "An unharmed American with health care...heh, heh." People pay for this crap? First of all, it's not funny. Second, Canadians really need to get over the obsession with public health.

-Reason #26464658 to leave Videotron. My cable provider Videotron won't allow me to get the NFL Network. I have to off to satellite to get it. Don't worry. Once I move into my new home it's adieu to Videotron. No freedom to pick what I want. No. I have to take what they and their bull shit packages give me. It's simple: CHOICE.


Park Ave. Update

Seems City Hall got themselves some smarten up pills and decided to not politicize a cultural street. There is hope after all.


Super Bowl Stupidity: Sleeping at the Switch

Not sure what to make of Canadian broadcasting anymore. Lately, I've come closer to pondering that Canada is not a country but a monopoly. Telecommunications, banking, hydro and liquor in Quebec - to name a few examples - are controlled by a select few unionized workers who basically profit behind the scenes given the lack of scrutiny.

I have a problem with government bodies or unelected people who decide what is best for me. I have an even bigger problem when some gypsy journalist tells me I should be proud of these institutions. There is very little choice here.

We were watching the Super Bowl on CBS. Throughout the game we could not help but notice some glaring problems with telecom in this country. The game was on CBS but we get the Global TV feed and the bad Canadian commercials that come with it. Lucky us. We were treated to Hepititis and Rogers communications ads. At least we were spared nationalist oriented Tim Horton's and Molson beer commercials.

I'm not sure exactly how the telecom market and landscape shapes up in Canada but I do know that the consumer is getting short changed. Here in Quebec the tyrants at Videotron have complete control as to what packages we choose. I remember how they had certain parts of the city of Montreal did not get MuchMusic while the rest of us were forced to watch the French version MusiquePlus.

Anyway, the game ended at 10pm. We waited for the trophy presentation. It was not to be. Someone with a pimple the size of a pineapple on the side of their head - a brilliant parochial producer probably - decided to cut and show Criminal Minds.

Let me see if I get this straight. We watch football for four hours. It's the biggest game of the year - let alone the biggest sporting event around - and these morons screw sports fans right up the you know what by cutting out? We scrambled to find a station that was carrying the game to no avail until we found the French sports network RDS.

Note to sports channels in Canada from RDS to Sportsnet to TSN to CBC: IMPROVE YOUR TICKERS. Cripes, at least recap goals right after they are scored. And not just once. Do it at different intervals. Be creative for crying out loud.

As far as I can tell regarding the cut away it boils down to one of three culprits: Videotron, CTV and that sad excuse for a network called Global (by the way, whoever created the commercial where newscasters sit and recite quotes should permanently lose their jobs. Awful. Especially the idiot who decided to quote Ringo Starr - of all people. A friend who was watching this abomination with me asked perplexed, "Ringo Starr?" To which I answered "He also wanted to live in an Octopus's Garden.") I digress.*

It took the jokers 22 minutes before the realized their idiocy. By then it was too late. The trophy had been presented.

*I was informed that the culprit may (as I suspected) be my cable provider.

Article of Interest: Climate Change


For the record, I am one of those that remains skeptical about the hysteria around global warming. Something in its math is not adding up. One problem is the bacteria of special interest that has littered the whole process of discourse. They remind me of people who move forward with picks and shovels heading from house to house trying to convince (and scaring) people of their "noble" cause while laying waste to the paths they walk upon. I don't question their commitment or knowledge, I question their wisdom.


Rosanna Scopelliti: Taking a Stand


I tend to use Wind Rose Hotel and Beppe Grillo's Blog to get some additional information regarding the issues facing Italy. One of the biggest criticisms directed at Italy is its lack of civic interest. In many ways, they resemble Canada in apathetic behaviour. The latest post on BG's especially caught my eye. Calabria is a region in southern Italy that remains among the most mysterious, rustic and violent thanks to the notorious local mafia outfit called 'ndrangheta. The mafia preys and feeds off the indifference and fears of people. However, it can't win a war against society. Ms. Scopelliti knows first hand how evil the mob is: her father - who was a judge - was killed by the Sicily's Cosa Nostra in 1991. She is waging a courageous battle against the malignant humans that roam the streets of Calabria - of Italy. She deserves some moral support. The above link gives her story in English. You can visit her site but be aware that it's in Italian. Note to Canadians: Vito Rizzutto built a powerful international mafia empire from within the kind, cold comforts of Montreal. Something to think about.

Trying Days Remain for Italian Soccer

I'm not one to overdo the "social malaise" angle of violence. After all, the ultimate responsibility resides in the sovereign self. Sure, there are exceptions but violence in any community or country where civility is secure is unacceptable. Enter soccer violence as recently witnessed in the Italian city of Catania.

I am not here to indict the sport of soccer. Nor am I here to generalize. Too often blogs and soccer forums are filled with brain dead partisan soccer "fans" who are anything but. If there is one thing I have learned during my soccer journey is that people who live in glass houses should not throw stones.

It's easy to point out the hooliganism and general fan violence we have seen through the years. We've seen this in many countries across the globe. The temptation is there to pour it on Italy but the sad truth is that they are not the only ones. Spain, France, Holland, Germany, England, Japan and South America (to single out a few) have all witnessed violence.

This is by no means to excuse what occurred in Catania.

We tend to inevitably look at this sort of stuff through North American eyes. Thus our conclusion is that soccer is a sport over run by hooligans. However, when we look at how many countries and people that participate in the sport the numbers are indeed tiny. Sadly, even the smallest of disturbances can lead to pointless deaths.

Catania is a province in the region of Sicily. Its capital is Catania which has a population of 305 000. By comparison, my city of Laval, a suburb of Montreal, holds 350 000. Catania's soccer stadium is a rather shoddy facility that holds roughly 21 000 people.

Not exactly Milan, London or Paris in terms of size. Yet, this small city has sent Italy into shock. Following a match against Sicilian rivals Palermo in which Catania lost 2-1, fans rioted in the streets. In the ensuing violence a police officer lay dead. A second police officer remains in critical condition. The images were surreal - I saw a kid on an Italian news program partake in the violence while where designer clothing.

Like many countries and sports leagues, Italian officials chose to react rather than be proactive. The signs have been there for quite some time. National head coach Roberto Donadoni was scathing in his comments alluding to this. "We don't practice what we preach. We've been talking about these incidents for years and they still keep on happening."

For its part, the Gazzetta Dello Sport - normally a sober and solid sports newspaper - did not hold back any punches. " Whose sons are they and what transforms their passion for sport into fury?" And "Italy we have a problem and don't just look at football fans."

Sounds like Italy is going through what England experienced with hooliganism in the 1980s and 1990s. If Italy does not take the necessary measures to stamp out this malignant problem they too will find themselves banned from international play just as England was. The first action taken by Italian officials was to cancel all games. Now the tough part begins. How to deal with this?

The timing could not have been worse. With the scandal still fresh in the minds of people, it gives too much ammunition to people who choose to attack the Italian character. Italy is one of the world's greatest soccer culture. It is a land where paradoxes become skewed to the point of absurdity. The country faced a soccer scandal yet it managed to win a World Cup. Polar extremes seem to define the Italian character. In many ways, it mirrors American society in this light. If Italy were a painting it would be a Dali.

What about America? Here's the thing: why does North America not witness similar spontaneous violence at its sporting events? Take, for example, the Super Bowl. Easily one of the planets biggest sports events. Has there ever been fan violence? By extension, has there ever been rampant hooliganism in America's two biggest sports: baseball and football? As for Canada, the same question can be applied to hockey.

That is not to say there have not been fan violence. There have. I seem to recall Detroit fans rampage following a Pistons NBA championship and in my own city of Montreal fans lost their marbles after the Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup in 1993. And don't make me bring up the occasional jack ass fans who taunt professional athletes who, in turn, are sometimes too immature to turn the other cheek.

Nonetheless, these are usually the actions of a small set of fans. Then again, that's all that is needed right? There are no racist chants or kids running across stadiums looking for trouble in American stadiums. Given a sports mad society like America who probably on average go to more sporting events in greater numbers than any nation on earth, the country remains free of the sort of violence we see in soccer.

Why is that?

Obviously, this article can go well beyond the scope of mere sports as the psychological and demographic profiles of North American spectators are different from Europeans. It is interesting to point out that little research has been done about this.

In any event, the sports world laments the senseless loss of life - the insanity of stupid people. There rightfully is a sense of outrage in Italy these dark days.


Huh? No one bets on the NFL

From the desk of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and his position on gambling. He says,

"keeping a strong line between the NFL and sports betting. I don't think it is in the best interest of the NFL to have any association with sports betting."

Like I said, huh? Wha?

Unless he is trying to say betting happens but it's out of control of the NFL and as such wants to keep a distance from it.