The Loss of Disorganized Sports

Ext. Spring morning. 8 degrees celcius.

Friend: "Let's go play tennis."

Me: "Let's go cycling."

Friend: "Later. Pitch and catch instead?"

Me: :Ok. But let's go see if the French guys are on the diamond. Maybe we can have a game."

Such was the ritual for many, many years for me and my buddies. It's March and spring has arrived ushering in a new season. I was driving the other day and was struck by the silence on the streets. In the past, as soon as the weather permitted, the streets were swarming with kids playing sports and other activities. Subset communities of kids were constantly interacting. Everything revolved living outside.

One of my fondest memories was playing 3 on 3 ball hockey in front of my house with my neighbours. The best days were the ones after a snowstorm and the snow had a chance to set in and form a tight compact surface. The colder the better. -25c was perfect and we loved it. The bigger games were organized in math class or on the school bus. Locations for games scouted. Last minute calls were made. "Johnny can't come" and "The net is broken" or "some kids are in our spot." It's ok. We negotiated. We found ways to get our game in.

After a couple of hours a friend would admit it was time to have supper. Such interruptions! "Ok! Let's all meet after supper." If we were in an area we knew well the equipment would lay scattered in the night on the beautiful white snow. If I had a camera....

It was like this for any season. From morning until nightfall it was what we did. If no one was around I would kick a soccer ball of the side of my house - much to my mother's anger. Some of us shot hoops. No matter. We were biding time. It always seems we always ended up together playing something. As the sun began to set parents would shout the names of kids who colored the street. "Dan!" "Patrick!" "Claudio!" "Miriam!" "Veronique!" "Mario!" One by one the street emptied. But it was just a temporary reprieve because the next day was going to be even better since we had already laid done our plans the night before.

Girlfriends were found. Friendships strengthened - or weakened. New buddies discovered. It was all so simple.

Today, kids have other stuff to occupy their time. We didn't have cell phones back then. Heck, there was no call waiting or display. If the phone was busy we simply hopped on our bikes to get our friends. One by one we'd pluck them out of their houses.

This is the technology age: phone headsets, MP3s, iPods and so on. The sophistication of our technology is incredible. It takes a certain mind to take it all in. The kids of today use their wit and minds differently. It revolves around a chip. I suppose they are way to cool for sports.

Ours revolved around nothing but the urge to be active. I'm no Luddite. Nor am I here to compare and claim one generation is better than the other. I'm not about to start the "in my day..." angle. Though, I can now see why this is done.

As I write, my window allows me to see the action on my street. It's a wickedly gorgeous Sunday. I am staring out at the area where we used to play street baseball - more like stickball. It wasn't even a diamond. I can't even describe the dimensions. All I know is that it was 30 feet to first base and 120 feet from third to home - or something like that. I recall being mostly a singles and doubles hitter and a pretty darn good fielder.

I remember that while we came from different cultural backgrounds (mostly Italian and French), we all poked fun of each other's nationality. There was no political correctness to stifen this good natured fun. It was the wops versus the frogs. But mostly we were friends and we mixed the teams. It wasn't always perfect. There were fights. Nothing like a good fight to purge us of our sins. There was one kid I could not stand - still can't. But hey, it is what it is.

All this to say that the streets remain silent.


The Florentine Factor in French Cuisine

"The Italians.... made the French acquainted with the art of dining well, the excesses of which so many of our kings tried to suppress. But finally it triumphed in the reign of Henry II, when the cooks from beyond the mountains came and settled in France, and that is one of the least debts we owe to that crowd of corrupt Italians who served at the court of Catherine de' Medici." The French Encylopedie, Vol. 4 (1754).

Ah, nothing like a backhanded compliment.

Catherine de' Medici (L'Italiene) was an influential member of the French court in the 15h century. Back then, the de Medici's tended to have that sort of impact on European affairs. While her story is intriguing (among other things she ordered the St. Batholomew Massacre) she’ll be remembered most as the patron of arts and education in France. Her classic de' Medici temperament and Florentine sensibilities greatly influenced Gaullic culture.

Italy was to Europe what the Orient and the Middle East was to Italy. In other words, gateways to knowledge. Through the Venetian Republic, they often were introduced to the advancements coming from the East - even small things we take for granted from playing cards to the use of forks by way of Constantinople. Once in Italy, the Italians often perfected and reinvented what was imported to fit the Italian mold. From here they dispersed what they learned to the rest of Europe.

Similarly, the United States stands today - like Renaissance Italy before it - as the guider and protector of modernity.

I would like to focus on culinary matters - An endeavour which the exhuberant Italians excelled in. No kidding; this was a society that was eating - with the aid of utensils - ravioli's covered with cinnamon while the rest of Europe was chomping down on rotten meat with their hands. Yuk.

As far as I can tell, Italian culinary history comes from two sources: Roman and Florentine. Bartolomeo Platina wrote De Honesta Voluptate et Valetudine in 1474. In 1498, a rediscovery of Roman gastronomic texts left behind by Apicious served as a further model. Either way, Italians had a 50 years jump on their Latin cousins.

Catherine de' Medici, while appreciated by the sophisticated members of the French court such as Francis I, was looked upon suspiciously by the French. What would you think of a person who rides into your house bringing alien products such as forks, perfumes, sidesaddles, high-heeled shoes, acting troupes, spices, melons, truffles (which came from the Arabs), ice cream, iced aperitifs, artichoke, broccoli, Savoy cabbage and - mon dieu! - Pastry books! Pastries included zabaglione, custard cakes and tarts.

Heck, while we're at it we may as well mention that Catherine was also a feminist of sorts for she demanded French women - who often ate in private rooms - eat at the dinner table with the rest of her guests.

Much of what de' Medici introduced were initially looked upon derisively. Once the French caught on, what the Florentine's were doing eventually became hallmarks of French haute cuisine centuries later. Little things like fine tablecloths and printed menus were incorporated in the French way of doing things.

France being the great culture that it is, produced its own first great chef in La Varenne and he looked on astutely as he was to launch France's culinary revolution.

For the Italians in general, it did not stop there. With their own concept of la dolce vita Italians founded some of Paris’s greatest cafes.

I'll close with Jacob Burckhardt: "In the 16th century the Italians had all Europe for their pupils, both theoretically and practically, in every noble bodily exercise and in the habits and manners of good society."

Now you know how the mille feuille was born.

Next: Baldassare Castiglione


Quebec Elections: The Day After

While on the surface it may seem like just another boring post about a boring political election, the reality is that it is not.

Canada and Quebec have shifted right and the electoral map lends some interesting insights about what Quebecers are thinking.

It took the ADQ to finally show where Quebec really stood. For years it was a murky world of trying to interpret who voted for what on what values. For example, voting for the PQ did not necessarily mean you advocated the break-up of Canada (though this is the raison d'etre of the party) and voting Liberal did not mean were you not a Quebec nationalist. Indeed, the Liberals often legislated nationalist bills and laws. Then came in all the labels, allophones, anglophones, soft-sovereigntist (another way of saying I am undecided but will keep my options open), hard core independiste and so on. To many of my age group this was all nonsense. Cumbersome labels only serve to muddy the waters.

Interestingly but not the topic of discussion here, the nuances of Quebec politics is not that far off from what I have observed in Italian politics.

In addition to making clarifying the electoral landscape, the ADQ also gave Quebecers a real choice. It was center-left and left politics that ruled Quebec for decades. The center-left doctrine has fallen on hard times and ears. Now, in comes a party that tilts right.

With Harper and Dumont now elected you can't get clearer than this. Is it a fad? I don't think so. I will be watching Dumont; especially on his separatism rhetoric. Harper has my vote. Dumont is very close to getting his.

The tightness of the result (a mere few thousands votes separated the three) will obviously give spinsters some leeway but here's what we can infer about the results nonetheless.

Many have argued that the social-democratic (and I use the term democratic loosely here) PQ vote was a blue collar/romantic intellectual vote. That only the "clueless" voted PQ. Many Pequistes argued back that it was the older voters from the pre-Quiet Revolution era who supported Federalism. They believed they had all the progressive ideas. All they had were 19th century romantic notions.

Last night's vote did not necessarily mean Federalism won (though it's hard not to think this) but it did show - given the electoral map - that the PQ did indeed get its votes from the hinterland (rural communities) and the poorer regions of the city of Montreal (Montreal-East). I The ADQ split is what brought this forward. Now who migrates to the ADQ is another story altogether.

The ADQ and Liberals pretty much got everything else. That has to count for something. Now we know where the Province lies ideologically. This is significant because Quebecers were always good at keeping its political master guessing. Quebecers are republican individualists at heart and they will swing if they have to. Contrary to popular belief, conservatism always had a place in Quebec. This time they could not swing. They were forced to make a protest vote and in the process revealed a part of who they truly were.

So where does this leave the PQ? It's hard to see how they can overcome this. The BQ were handed their lunch at the Federal level and now the the PQ are dealt a hard blow. One can argue they should abandon their dream of nationhood. But that would be political suicide. I'd rather they stick around. That way we can keep an eye on roughly how many people believe in the project. As time moves forward, many moderate Pequistes may shift to the ADQ. Only the hard core pure laines will stick around. Call them the structural and committed supporters. Once this migration takes place (and I'm only assuming here) that will reflect more accurately how many people truly believe in breaking up Canada.

To me, 1995 was a loss leader. It never was that close. The Lucien Bouchard factor was able to sway the emotional vote. As Quebec modernizes, as the Internet grows with relevance, as the new generation begin to travel, the rational component will play a bigger role. In other words, the PQ will have to finally prepare hard documents explicitly explaining how they intend to achieve independence. A raod map or business plan if you will. This means with all possible scenarios (good and bad) being detailed and disclosed to the public. They will have to think like mature leaders and not troubadours.

All in all, this was a great result for Quebec. The Province needed a little right of center push.

Let's not get too excited here. There are major irritants that still conflict this country: inter-provincial barriers, self-serving Premiers, wars over transfer payments, string unions and so on. These are all counter-productive activities that impede Canada. These are issues that need to be ironed out.

Will Harper and Dumont truly usher in a new Canadian mentality?


Quebecers Speak; will Leaders Listen?

The PQ is fond of telling us about how they represent the "will" of the people. That will-o-meter must be busted real good because the will of Quebec is a little more elusive than they care to admit.

Our will and their wish are two different things. Tonight's Provincial election result was interesting indeed. It was as tight as predicted with the popular vote being split roughly a third for the three major players: Liberals, Parti Quebecois and Action Democratique. All told, the Liberals (as we speak hold about 46 seats, ADQ 42 and PQ 37) which translates into a minority government.

First, how can the PQ possibly spin this positively? They can't. They are rudderless. Their ideas are hopelessly out of touch with the realities of contemporary and urban Quebec society. Their apologists too are out of excuses. That Green Sovereignty marketing ploy was not only ineffective but sophomoric as well. Mr. Andre Boisclair spoke, as people chanted "un pays!, un pays!, the usual "we have a dream" rhetoric but is anyone truly listening? They lost by a few thousand votes in their minds. True. But they lost and this was not a positive result. Not even close. They lost nine seats and 4% of the popular vote.

Just a side note, the PQ claim they are democratic but they have a funny way of showing it. In the referendum in 1995, they managed to get pro-Canada votes tossed. This time, it was alleged that they obstructed advanced polls from being open in the Sherbrooke riding of Jean Charest.

Of the two traditional political parties in the Province, it is the Liberals who get the benefit of the doubt from the wrath of the people. The message was clear: shape and wake up, deadbeats. Just to make sure they make themselves heard the people made Liberal leader Jean Charest sweat like a minion for his seat. His leadership is now in question.

The clear winner is the ADQ. They gained a whopping 38 seats. ADQ leader Mario Dumont is officially Quebec's rock'n roll rebel. Once an obscure third party, the ADQ and its leader Mario Dumont have stolen the spot light and now will have to play a sharper, more refined game. I'm sure many people thought that they would do well but remain the third party. We under estimated just how fed up Quebecers are. I myself debated long and hard but opted to play a wait and see approach. There are many things I like about the ADQ and if they perform well they will get my vote next time. The Liberals should not sit on their asses and assume they will get votes back next time. Some are crediting Prime Minister Stephen Harper's strong conservative penetration into the Quebec landscape for the ADQ breakthrough.

That's two minority governments Canadians and Quebecers have voted for. They are saying we weren't quite ready for Stephen Harper at the Federal level and provincially Mario Dumont but fail us once again and we will not hesitate to give them full power. They say America is divided. In many ways, Canada is too.

There is not only a clash of values between urban and rural centers, but a generational one as well. The new breed of Quebecers are not easily connecting to the platforms and ideas that come from the Liberals and PQ anymore. This was a protest vote in many ways and the people have given Dumont Official Opposition status to prove himself.

Who says Canadian politics is boring? Oh yeah, me. In terms of issues and debates yes, Canadian politics is not dynamic. At the voting level, the story is different. Remember this is a society that eradicated the Conservative Party in the early 90s. Nothing like its annihilation had been seen in modern Western political culture.

It's all in how one interprets their victory and defeats. Down south, the Democrats learned little. Here, the Liberals still talk and act cocky with Harper in power. Does it mean our leaders are not listening? Will the Quebec Liberals react like their Federal counterparts? Notably with a shrug and not make any real effort to change?

One last note. This may sound petty but it would be nice for the leaders to give part of their speeches in English. This is not 1955 anymore. It's a simple matter of respect. If Harper can speak and give a speech in French so can our leaders. The Liberals are miles ahead on this front.
We'll see. All I know is that I am proud of Quebec today. They were not afraid and they sent a message.


War: It was Good Enough to Produce Three Great Works

So I was sitting around the other day sipping some Averna and began to ponder Niccolo Machiavelli, Sun Tzu and Carl von Clausewitz. Now you must all pay the price for my personal ruminations.

The Three Amigos, the Three Muskateers, the Three Wise Men, the Three Bananas of political and military theory. Between them it is very hard to measure just how many states and individuals they influenced. Some would include Caesar here but I won't for no particular reason except for the fact it would make this piece longer.

All three selected - obviously - operated in three different periods. Sun Tzu, whoever he was, came up with his ideas set in the “Art of War” during a period of civil strife in the Chou Dynasty. Interestingly, it was also a period where Buddhism and Confucianism enhanced spiritual awareness in Chinese society. Ironies, ironies.

Centuries later. Machiavelli also wrote his twin classics “The Prince” and “Arte della Guerra” during a volatile period as the city-states of Renaissance Italy were in a perpetual state of warfare*. And like China was to the East, Italy was the cultural hub of the West.

While Machiavelli and Sun Tzu operated in a state of political confusion, the conclusions they drew regarding the military and politics could not have been any different.

The Prussian officer and writer, Carl von Clausewitz, for his part, wrote during a time when German idealism and philosophy was at its apex in the 17th and 18th centuries. While his own thoughts overlap Tzu and Machiavelli, he was very much a man of his time. This led him to other ideas.

How best to describe the three? Well, Sun Tzu claimed that leaders should follow 'The Way" when engaging in war. He believed that it was essential for the military commander to know himself and his enemy. “If you know both yourself and your enemy, you will come out of one hundred battles with one hundred victories.” The best war, Sun Tzu taught, is one that is won without fighting. If you must fight it is essential to keep the fight short.

If you've ever watched a martial arts movie – and we all have - you'll get the gist of Sun Tzu. His works remain one of the most influential military books ever written.

Machiavelli was a little more sober and did not harbour any illusions about things like honour and integrity. He merely wrote what he observed. The purpose of his writings was to show the prince how to attain and maintain power at all costs.

I don’t think he would have no qualms torturing modern terrorists. Dershowitz meet Nick Machiavelli.

Machiavelli immortalized the phrases “the ends justifies the means and “it is better to be feared than loved.”

Unfortunately for man, Mac's take on human nature seems to be the more accurate one when compared with Sun Tzu.

Military historian John Keegan has a point. Maybe the dictum "War is the continuation of policy by other means" isn't accurate. After all, man has been engaging in war well before the advent of the nation-state. In this way, Clausewitz's famous dictum is somewhat lacking. Clausewitz can be excused; Empire and the nation-state were flourishing in Europe during his life.

But war is not just an intellectual or diplomatic process. It descends into the nether regions of man's darkest desires. And he knew this all too well.

Which makes reading Clausewitz, wrote the seminal “On War,” more difficult. On one side he feels the age old approaches to war were no longer valid given the unpredictability of man. On the other, Clausewitz sought to approach it in very finite ways as he designed blueprints that would ensure "things go right." in a war.

At least, we can see where Machiavelli and Sun Tzu are coming from. With Clausewitz less so. Machiavelli saw things as they were; Sun Tzu as they ought to be and Clausewitz as they might be.

Just because Clausewitz wrote as though war was predictable he knew that with man ambiguity would often have a say. Put in sportspeak, think football. No matter how perfect a play is designed man’s infallibility will always determine its success. The best you can do is manage man’s flaws. To prepare your team so as to give you the best chance of winning and to react appropriately and decisively if things go wrong.

In any event, as a result of this, the term "fog of war" is attributed to him. "Rather than comparing [war] to art we could more accurately compare it to commerce, which is also a conflict of human interests and activities; and it is still closer to politics, which in turn may be considered as a kind of commerce on a larger scale." On War, Book I, Ch. 3

According to Clausewitz, "absolute war was violence unchecked by any controls, whose aim is to utterly annihilate the enemy" and "The destruction of the enemy's military force is the leading principle of war; … The results will be greatest when combats unite themselves into one great battle," he wrote.

But Clausewitz went on to note that in reality, such abstract "pure" war did not exist, for political strategies and goals served to restrain such potentially massive carnage.

So, let me see if I follow, he thinks man is capable of carnage but puts faith in our rational thought to prevent one? Can anyone say World War I and II? The more international organizations committed to peace we build, the more we find ways to build better weapons to kill each other.

As it were, none spent too much time on the origins of war so let’s close with an Ancient thought: According to Thucydides, "Man went to war out of fear, honour and interests."

So - where does the American military establishment and tradition fall closer under?

*Should we be surprised that the art of diplomacy and the concept of balance of power politics was born in Renaissance Italy?


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Quick Takes: We Vote Monday, The Green Seperatists and Pourous Harbours

Quebecers take to the polls on Monday: someone had to wake me up to remind me. Here is a crash course regarding our choices:

Parti Quebecois: Yeah, right.

Plausible alternative but Mr. Dumont is a little too comfortable with separation. He too suffers from a genetic deficiency unique to Quebec politics. Namely, he can't seem to explain with any substance how Quebec could and would achieve success in a post-Canada world. Too bad; I would have strongly considered him.

: They are, well, the default wallpaper settings for voters who would never vote PQ.

Can I vote instead for Sanjaya?

- What to do to reinvigorate an outdated political platform? Why gloss over it with a trendy decor, that's how!

The strategic acumen the Parti Quebecois attempts to display in the early 21st century seems smart on the surface but it lacks substance.

It's like building a beautiful restaurant and serving crappy food.

17 years of voting privileges and they still fail to make any sense to me. I mean, where's the logic? They want to bust up a country while being environmentally friendly? Yeesh.

- A Senate National Defence Committee Report quotes: "It is no secret that Canada's ports are riddled with organized crime, and nobody seems to be doing much about it."

You think? I'll take it a step further: gangs run much of Montreal's streets.

At this point, if resources are scarce to crack down, why not enlist organized crime to help and defend our borders? Don't freak out: It's been done before. Notably during the Second World War.


Suspicious Insider Trading Activity in Canada: Canadians Shocked

Well, I didn't take a poll but that's how we react to such things. Link to interesting article follows this quasi-soliloquy.

When I first entered the financial world I had to take a the Canadian Securities Course to be licensed as securities broker - A must for anyone who had any aspirations to get into the investment side of things. Furthermore, as part of our "continuing education" I had to take other exams to keep myself "sharp." Interestingly, each time I was left perplexed by how we operate and govern ourselves in this country.

Let me explain as well as blunt. We're just not mature enough when it comes to regulating our stock markets. Our approach to our markets is the same thing we apply to a multitude of things in this country from Arctic sovereignty to global security issues to public health: a little naive and parochial with a dash of paprika.

To be specific, the one thing that struck me in my formative years was how fragmented and poorly regulated the Canadian securities landscape really was. Every time some person came in from Toronto to explain and train about conducts, practices and laws the part about how the government oversees all this left many of us scratching our heads. Worse, it's a joke how mean spirited the Provinces can be with one another. They literally have "trade" and "securities" wars with one another. Guess who pays the price? Us. As in citizens, consumers and investors.

It also bordered on the bizarre. Clients would call in talking about American corruption (of course without ever keeping things in perspective. When explained that in relation to the gargantuan size of the U.S. markets the indiscretions were rather minor and the offenders were prosecuted to the full extent of the laws in that country) but were always oblivious to the corruption in their own backyard. It's as if Canadians believe they are incapable of high end political and corporate corruption.

Lord knows, we are capable of it. And we're good at it too. The Liberal Party has mastered the art of achieving and maintaining power off the backs of apathetic Canadians. They wrote a new chapter on Machiavellian politics. "How to Justify the Means Politely. Canadian Style."

It is absolutely ridiculous to have no national standards in this country. Nor did it take a genius to figure all this out.


Talk of Invading Iran is Crazyspeak

And here are my 2 cents (2.32 US with the exchange rate)

Iran has been run by thugs for over two decades. Its rhetoric has been unconscionable. Above all, its murderous clandestine role as the soul and sugar daddy of terrorism in the region has been nothing short of immoral. If Iraq needed regime change so does Iran.

Iran is many things, but irrational it is not. This not Hussein's Iraq. Walking among the mullahs are pragmatic realists as well. Contrary to some, Tehran does want a stable Iraq. Why wouldn't they? Shia's have a chance to assume real power in a post-Hussein era.

Scholars, politicians, commentators and civilians alike have all been discussing and offering advice about what to do with Iran.

One theory and suggestion is that the United States should invade and attack the Persian pearl. This is crazy talk.

Why in the world would America – already fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq - in its right mind take on a third stage to fight? It would not only be almost impossible to succeed, it could very well further damage its already precarious image around the world. Its terrain and nationalist population would prove to much. Engaging in long, complicated wars in not recommended.

In any event, what would the United States do? Blow the sucker up like Iraq?

No, no. Invading Iran is pure nonsense. There’s a better way and I am sure it’s already been put forward.

First, ever since I could remember Iran has always had a vibrant rebellious student class demanding democracy for their country. The country seems so vulnerable to a true democratic revolution that it’s surprising it has not happened yet.

Second, Iran's economy continues to struggle. People rise up not for ideology but when they can't buy bread. They'll use ideology as a means to allow them access to the bread. Remember this. Iran is using the threat of nuclear armament as a plea to have the U.S. lift sanctions against them. They want a trade-off. They'd be willing to slow down the rhetoric and follow international rules for some cash. Iran is no North Korea on this front.

Iran represents a remarkable opportunity for the United States. Notably, with some skillful leadership, the U.S. can use Iran as a way to mend its negative image in the region. Though of course, given the penchant for the Middle-East to accept conspiracy theories at face value, cynics may begin to fear an American-Shia alliance. Who knows how this would be looked upon by the Sunni’s – already unhappy bunch - in Iraq?

However, America may have no choice but to convince Iran - already internally divided - onto a moderate path. The potentially explosive combination of anti-Israel rhetoric and nuclear bomb aspirations (political ploys notwithstanding) is all the United States needs to make it their business to engage Iran.

And here’s the beauty: all America needs to do is take a position of moral support. Ok, maybe they can supply some CIA poison pills or something but you get the picture - all while keeping Iran intact. True, Iran's judiciary remains in the hands of fanatics as well as other important arms of the government.

Nevertheless, the U.S. need to take the high road on this one. Time for them to clearly define what they expect of Iran and vice-versa. After 9/11, they took the bait to take militarily on Al-Queda. They chose the theater and the battle with Afghanistan and Iraq. With Iran, the situation is different. While the European powers along with Russia have already been in talks with Iran, America should establish its own permanent diplomatic dialogue with Iran – one on one. With a little humility and good old fashioned containment approaches, the U.S. may be able to yield positive results – even with a fanatical government in place. To be fair, the Clinton administrations (as well as Reagan and Bush Sr.) had tried repeatedly to this and was met with hostility.

If you are an optimist, think of it this way: Half the battle is won. The people already are asking for democracy. Iranian leadership seems primed for dissent. It’s a gift for America and the idea that they’d be seen as liberators is legitimate in this instance.

Its educated class are probably already well-read on the writings of Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison. Is there a better way to win the “hearts and minds” of a people? Wouldn't it make things easier then for the U.S. to approach the Iranians on mutual security concerns?

For the specific case of Iran, let the Constitution work its magic on its own. It would be a refreshing way to introduce democracy - or some variation of it anyway - in a region that is in desperate need of real change and enlightenment.


What I have Learned about the Canadian Private Health Landscape


Please note that the above link is in French.

We've been at it since January and the feedback and results are mixed.

I don't think physicians and private clinics (such as MRI and diagnostic Imaging, Dermatology etc.) are quite grasping the powerful tool that is www.findprivateclinics.ca. It's one giant one-stop referral depot. It's a place where they can be found instantly. The cost is ridiculously affordable relative to the services rendered.

Of course, we've recognized a couple of things. One, you can't rely on a good idea and enthusiasm alone. It takes persistent and savvy sales techniques - which we're pretty good at. Time is money and we've also come to terms with the fact that there's a whole lot of education needed to present to doctors as the majority simply do not understand Internet marketing.

So you fear what you don't know. Strike one.

The second strike against us is that the private clinic landscape in Canada is murky at best. Navigating through its rough waters has been both enlightening and frustrating. I have had the privilege of speaking to several physicians in Ontario who were kind enough to describe what is going on here. They themselves remain uncertain. Though one influential physician told me that he thinks the idea is brilliant and that we should stick with it. He fully comprehended its value. We all agree that private clinics are on the rise but we are operating in a vacuum at this moment.

Findprivateclinics is ahead of the curve when it comes to the changing reality of the medical landscape in this country. The buzz around it continues. Not too long ago we launched the French version of our site called www.santeprivee.ca. Soon after, we were approached by one of Quebec's most respected French-language newspapers. We've already been featured in the Montreal Gazette. There is a clear demand - and interest -for our services.

The citizens (clients) are not far behind as the traffic to the site continues to grow. Let me rephrase this. We merely reflect the demand set by the market. The Internet is just another way to monitor people's needs and wants. For their par, doctors and clinics - though not all - remain aloof to this. It's unfortunate - it's not smart business. Some, to cite one example, simply fail to act in good faith. For instance, potential clients have the option to send inquiries to a clinic. What we do is follow up to make sure the clinic received the inquiry - after all, it would be wrong to not service the patient. Yet, many of the people making the decisions at the management level of these clinics do not respond or care to read the inquiry. This is disheartening and unfortunate.

The government is not blind to all this. Obviously, for political reasons they are not prepared to admit that Canada is on a path towards a two-tiered health system. They are in a state of denial it seems. Until they come out and either legislate or clearly say that private system is here, the landscape will continue to develop under the radar screen. Of course, this makes things harder for entrepreneurs, citizens and physicians alike.

FPC is a work in progress. I'm confident we will avoid a third strike. We have a sharp eye. The count is 1 and 2. Patience will lead to us getting the right pitch.


Will a North American Alliance be Defined Along Cultural and Geographic Lines One Day?

Here's a question. Given the vast piece of real estate North America represents, it's bound to offer various historical and geographical cleavages. We tend to study and define these along nation-state lines but what about culturally? For example, Are Vermonters that different from Quebecers? What about the citizens of Detroit and Windsor? Texas and Mexico - heck, Alberta certainly can identify with both Texas and most libertarian states for that matter. Seattle and Vancouver? And so on.

Finally, here's my question: New York city is in the United States. However, that does not mean all Americans have visited the city. I would guess that those furthest from the city have not - California for example (unless you're an entertainer but that doesn't count). Given the proximity to Montreal, many of us have traveled to New York. Does this mean we have a better understanding and closer affinity for New York than some Americans?

In other words, does being American give people a better sense of that city even if they've never been there than someone who has from another country on numerous occasions?

As you can tell, I'm weeding the concept of the nation-state completely out of the question. I'm defining it on cultural and geographical lines. Maybe even along values. In fact, this is what those who advocate deeper North American integration advocate. They feel the lines between the two set of cultures have become increasingly blurred; may as well merge the two.

I've thought about this - though evidently not long and hard enough and it's probably a subject Canadians are more involved with. Nonetheless, something tells me this sucker may gain some fans down south - especially realists who want access to our resources. But in the end, it's a non-issue. Ain't gonna happen.

So, along city lines free of borders, New York, Boston, Montreal, Philadelphia probably have more in common with each other while another set like Detroit, Toronto, Chicago represent another block. Another set may include Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles. Or maybe they don't. I don't know. No one has given me a grant to research this. In the end, nationality will probably have a big impact anyway.

I know; this can be interpreted as New World conspiracy. It also under estimates the strong national attachments people may have to their countries. No NWO/NAU conspiracy here.

Just musing for the sake of it.


Me, Bird and New York City

Last week I went to New York to attend a wedding. In two full days we did midtown and uptown Manhattan, the Village and Brooklyn – where the reception was.

Along the way I managed to get to Birdland.

First, a couple observations. Every time I go to New York, it never ceases to amaze me how walkable the city is despite its mammoth size. “It’s the grid system” people always tell me.

Another thing that caught my eye was how relatively clean the city is now. New York is no longer center of cultural debauchery – Ancient Rome circa the 1st century in the middle of the New World - it once was in the 1970s. The city has become professionalized almost corporate like now. Only the Village maintains a certain independent/alternative vibe.

Between 1988 and 1998 I went to New York on numerous occasions. Each time it came with a set of “donts” from stunned family members. “You want to go to Time Square for New Year’s?” Once they got past the initial phase of shock and quickly realized that visiting New York is not as crazy as they thought, they moved into New York advice mode.

I remember most of them. “Don’t stare at anyone in the eye,” “keep looking around,” “stay away from 8th avenue” and “stay where the cops are – on 5th, Broadway and other tourist areas.”

This was post-Bernard Goetz and pre-Rudolph Giuliani so New York was just about to experience its remarkable metamorphous. The streets were dirty, the people rude and suspect and the crime rate still high.

Yet, we loved it. New York impacts almost anyone who visits for obvious reasons. So rich in cultural texture, the city literally is unique among world cities.

Then, 9/11 came. Even for a Canadian that day will remain with me. What stunning images. I still remember them quite vividly. A great metropolis wounded. I had to go back.

It took me six years but I finally went back.

We explored as much as we could in 48 hours and vowed to come back. My cousin has dangled Rangers and Knicks tickets in my face to make good on this vow.

My, quite an introduction just to get to my impressions of a New York landmark: Birdland. As a jazz enthusiast, it’s years I wanted to go to Birdland and I finally did.

Despite several reincarnations (the original opened in Midtown Manhattan in 1949, closed in 1965, remerged in 1986 in the Upper West Side and moved back to Midtown ten years after that), “The Jazz corner of the world” pretty much remains that from what I am told. It’s a sad fact of our musical landscape that the great jazz clubs are all but closed now. Jazz, while vibrant as a musical form, is now permanently a niche market.

Once upon a time it wasn’t the case. Before rock’n roll jazz was what people listened to. They got dressed up and went to see the jazz greats perform legendary music late into the wee hours of the sultry, steamy New York night. It was all so cool. This trend led to Birdland’s closing in 1965.

Bebop, alto-saxophonist Charlie Parker – aka Yardbird or just Bird – was the genius headlining Birdland on Broadway west of 52nd street; a section of NYC that was at the center of jazz in the 1930s and 1940s.

Birdland witnessed many landmark performances and legendary musicians as well as celebrities. Birdland is where Dizzzy Gillespie and Bird conceived the bepop movement if I’m not mistaken.

The latest reincarnation of Birdland is the one I experienced. Given the interesting and spacious layout, there really isn’t a cheap place in the house and when one enters the club you can bet that everyone in there is there for the jazz.

Jazz is not at the forefront of our conscience anymore but that doesn’t mean great jazz isn’t being played and performed. Birdland is proof that jazz still resonates with people. It may not be in the same spontaneous and wild setting it once was but still quite worth a visit.

Today, a new generation of modern jazz musicians walk through its hollowed grounds.

As for me, I saw French composer, arranger and pianist Michel LeGrand. It’s rare a musician is as accomplished as he is in terms of awards. LeGrand won three Oscars and five Grammy’s as well as an Emmy nomination.

In the early 1950s, Legrand was one of the first Europeans to work with legendary jazz innovators Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Stan Getz and Bill Evans. He has also worked with such musicians as Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan, Jack Jones, Regine Velasquez, Ella Fitzgerald, Perry Como, Lena Horne, Dame Kiri te Kanawa, James Ingram, Johnny Mathis and Barbra Streisand.

New York has evolved and so has Birdland. I’ve evolved. I wish I was around in its “hey-day” but destiny had other plans for me. I have a feeling I would have fit right in.


We Want Answers Now

I left a comment on O Machine the other day and decided to post it here.

We all know that suicide bombers, freedom fighters, terrorists - whatever they are called either way it's a sin - are promised 72 virgins by their evil masters after they blow themselves to Kingdom Come.

About that 72 thing. How does that work exactly? Do they get 72 girls for eternity? But once you go through the harem they are no longer virgins, right? Or does it replenish? In other words, does the religious contract stipulate you get a new set of 72 virgins.

If you're stuck with the same 72 that doesn't strike me as a fair deal.

In a sense this is sort of like the Wile E. Coyote question: Was there one thickheaded numbskull or several?

These are important questions our leaders and media choose to ignore.

Speaking of Looney Tunes, did you know that the Tasmanian Devil is a threatened species?


Pete Rose: One Hopelessly Flawed Man who Belongs in the Hall of Fame

Let's be clear here: It's not the Hall of Integrity. It's the Hall of Fame. Fame comes in all sorts of ways and not all famous people who have been given awards are "legit"so to be speak. There are way too many people in history who were plain jerks or failures as human beings that were brilliant at what they did. Fame is just that: fame. To attach any moral codes to it is hypocritical.

Ok. Let's move on to Pete Rose.

If it were up to me character would be among the primary considerations when bestowing an award on someone. But this would be imply will live in a perfect world inhabited by perfect beings and as well all know this isn’t the case.

So when it comes to the Hall (or any Hall for that matter) and Rose what I'm saying is that we need to separate the character from the accomplishment. In the event that both happen to mesh that only reflects well on the person and in some cosmic way humanity will reward that person.

Pete Rose is one of the most perplexing athletes of the 20th century. Subjectively, he is among the greatest most intense players (Frank Robinson was one intense dude) in the history of baseball. He was the essence of the Cincinnati Reds that won back to back championships in the 1970s. And the Big Red Machine were not short of legends: Concepcion, Bench, Morgan and Sparky all come to mind. Objectively, his stats speak for themselves.

As a human being let’s just say we won’t be pointing to him in a picture one day and saying to our kids, “See son, this is who I want you to model yourself under.”

At the heart of the matter is a person who gambled every night as a manager. Not as a player but as a manager - as in after his career as a player was over. Not only that, he bet on his own team. Worse, he lied about it for nearly two decades. Most people with an addiction tend to do that. To many he was (and remains) a creep, yet swearing that he never bet on his own team he managed to sway even some of his most ardent opponents and cynics about his gambling indiscretions and to consider him for the Hall one day.

Now the truth comes out and it's not pretty at all. It simply reveals that Rose is a flawed human with utter lack of judgment and decency. He could have averted all this had he come clean from the start. Who knows? Maybe he would have been inducted into the Hall by now. Mind you, baseball writers are not exactly a forgiving or sometimes enlightened bunch.

In Pete Rose we see where excellence meets vice. Where vice overcame virtue. It's easy to look at Rose and think that his actions were selfish and arrogant. Of course they were. But he has a disease of a gambling variation. This is not to defend him. Not at all. His explanation and reasoning that he bet on his team every single time to win because he believed in them rings hollow.

Still, we shouldn't be negative. It may have taken him almost two decades but it does suggest he realizes he made a mistake.

On a side note, did anyone catch Katie Couric asking that reporter if his chances of getting into the hall are "caput"? All that money and she could not have come up with a better word?

When it comes to Pete Rose the baseball player we need to disassociate him from the man when considering the Hall. I know many Halls of Fame in several sports considers character but let's be frank: it's not full proof. It's such a dicey thing. Keeping him out is lousy considering who is in there already- from cheats, to gamblers to racists alike the Hall is not a place where we look for Renaissance Men. We should judge him on his accomplishments on the field and nowhere else. Going beyond this to prevent him from getting in is wrong. Questioning and even chastising him for his poor deeds is justified and should be discussed. But isn't that separate issue altogether?

There is, perhaps, an opportunity in all this. We can learn from Pete Rose. Astute parents can teach their kids about his mistakes. There are many life lessons in his story. It's the only way to help combat this addiction - or any other addiction for that matter.

Aside from all this, Pete Rose is simply a baseball player who earned his place in the pantheon of great players.

First image from baseball-almanac.com

Overpass Catastrophe Revisited: Note to Quebec Government: I'm Watching You

I didn't watch the Provincial debates last night. As usual, no one can decide who won. There is one part of the debate that made me happy. Specifically, Action Démocratique du Québec (ADQ) leader Mario Dumont challenging Jean Charest about the de la Concorde overpass tragedy. Look, I won't pull back any punches here; corruption is high here and to me the overpass catastrophe is a blatant example of immoral corruption. For so long, we turned the other cheek and dismissed it as a European way of doing things. Until that cool September day. My wife and child were on that overpass minutes before. So was my mother. Later on, we found out five people had been killed (six injured) including a pregnant lady.

Explain to me in this day and age how this could have been allowed to occur? How? An inquiry into the matter is only expected out in September and I await its content. Every person - and you know who you are - who had anything to do with this bridge has blood on its hands. I am sure this could have been avoided.

Political machinations aside (already the letter he used in the debate is misleading according to some engineers), I am nonetheless gratified that Dumont brought it up. I fear that we will sweep this tragic event under the rug . It's the one thing that citizens should not forgive.

As for the politics itself, Charest - for his part - has failed to cut taxes or weaken the unions. Both the PQ and Liberals have proven to be pathetically incapable to deal with serious issues such as the third world state of our public health and still play the silly hand-out game with the Feds. Referendums and transit systems seem to be all they are interested in. In other words, they are good at spending (if not siphoning) your money. They can't even build a bridge or make day care work and they should once and for all be called out. For the record, I am fed up of having to subsidize every fricken impractical social program this province enacts. Quite frankly, it's the same old crap with the two major parties.

I'm not a cynic. However, it's hard not to be one these days.


Artricle and link of Interest: Some UN Figures


I came across this link via Burkean Canuck. I'm glad to see Canada is pulling its weight - then again they usually have when it comes to the UN. Here are the top ten donors in order: United States, Japan, United Kingdom, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, Norway, France, Sweden and Canada.

For those of you into this sort of stuff here's a link:


National Public Health

Website link

"In a free and democratic society where you can spend money on gambling and alcohol and tobacco," Dr. Day said, "the state has no business preventing you and me from spending our own money on health care."

This pretty much sums up the situation. Fear of the unknown always makes people apprehensive but there is very little reason to not allow for private health care in Canada. I completely reject the nationalist tendency to argue against on the premise that public health is a "core Canadian" value. Many countries have public health and not very many of them use it as leverage for cultural purposes.

There's also the concern that if we "two-tier" the system we will move close to an American style health program where Canadians would be left out. This does not have to happen - nor do I believe Canadians would stand for it. However, it seems to me with a little enterprising vision Canadians can come up with a smart way to approach this.

But there is a problem. The government seem reluctant to take a stand and deal with the inevitable; more and more Canadians are searching for private clinics. This is all the proof one needs to know that the people are ahead of the curve on this one. Nor do I subscribe to the nationalist/socialist rhetoric from people like Mel Hurtig who seem to think that Canadians have been hoodwinked by "right-wing" Conservative think-tanks like Fraser. What a bunch of baloney.

Of course, the thought never occurs to politicians like Mr. Hurtig that perhaps the Fraser Institute is simply reflecting what Canadians already think to begin with. For many of us it's simple, we pay taxes into the system. We are grateful for this and willingly do it. However, relative to what we put in, we feel we are not getting the services in a proper and timely fashion. It simply makes no sense to wait eight hours to see a doctor for a flu or blood test. Or to wait up to two years for a surgery. In some cases, our hospitals resemble 2nd world hospitals I am told. I saw it with my own eyes. I agree. People sitting on beds in the hallways is not my idea of a compassionate health care system.

Prime Minister Harper: Step up and take a stand. It does no one any good - not the patients, the clinics or anyone else - to allow for this to operate in a vacuum in hushed up tones. This is health we are dealing with - not inter-provincial barriers where the petty provinces act like self-serving babies. Teach Canadians to stand up for ourselves without always needing to run to the government for a hand. If some Canadians want to pay for health services let them. Those who wish to not do so are free to remain in the public system. We demand the best and we are not getting it.

National public health is not a value. It's a service provided to all. By clinging to the notion that it somehow defines the Canadian identity only impedes us from making true and meaningful improvements to it.


Five Questions: Horror Film critic and historian Iloz Zoc

If you're the squeamish type, then you may hide under the bed for this one. Five Questions invited Horror afficianado John Cozzoli to come in a talk about horror flicks. Enjoy. Moo-ha-ha-ha.

Fed up with being a corporate cubicle zombie, John Cozzoli traded in the needles and voodoo doll effigy of his manager for
the more rewarding pleasure of blogging as his horror-oriented alter ego, Iloz Zoc. As a Monsterkid growing up in the 1960's, and now a horror head in the 21st century, he writes about the movies, books and creative people that are devoted to giving us thrills and chills. He also keeps busy writing the great American horror movie script and gruesome short stories. He lives in Long Island, New York, with his wife and son. Occasionally, and when his day job becomes a day-mare, he still pulls out that voodoo doll in between blog posts. In-between needle jabs he dreams of owning a movie theatre serving hot popcorn with real butter; of course, with lots of horror movies.

1) First, let’s get one thing out of the way: why Iloz Zoc?

I had been trying various pen names to use for my fiction; you know, all those stories I've got tons of notes on but haven't actually started writing yet. Incidentally, that's why I started the Zombos Closet of Horror blog: its purpose is to force me to actually write. Well, coming up with the names of the characters, like Zombos and Zimba, I needed something for my alter-ego valet character that would be equally weird. I tried various names, and then I suddenly hit on the simple reversal of my last name to see how it would sound. Bingo! It sounded loopy enough to work for the blog, and I also liked it for my pen name - whenever I get my fiction-side rolling. I thought it would be fairly obvious to family members, but, amazingly, they didn't realize Iloz Zoc was Cozzoli spelled backwards. So I think I made the right choice.

2) I once watched the 1922 horror classic Nosferatu‚ and thought it was quite creepy for its time. What is considered to be the first great horror film? What are among the best of all time?

Yes, cultural mores are really reflected in any horror film and fictional work created within a specific period. Nosferatu is so vivid due to Max Schrecks' portrayal of Dracula, and the stylistic approach showing him in all his evil glory. Unfortunately, the non-speaking role limited the overall effect, although visually, it's still quite a nightmare image.

The 1931 Dracula remains a wonderfully creepy, Gothic-styled horror film mainly due to its star, Bela Lugosi. His persona as the undead aristocrat remains a vivid image to this day, and the iconic look of Dracula that everyone tends to remember. Of course, with Edward Van Sloan and Dwight Frye, the story, although whittled-down budget-wise due to the Great Depression, still is a good one. But Lugosi is incredible. What's more, his was the first talking performance for an on-screen supernatural monster. His Dracula ushered in Universal's great horror cycle, opening the door for the later Frankenstein, Wolfman, and Mummy films.

It's a wonderful coincidence that his accent, which proved a hurdle in later films, was perfect for Dracula. The film wouldn't be as strong if it were done silently - it was released in a silent version since many theaters in 1931 still weren't sound ready for talkies. Aside from Lugosi and company, the expansive set design early on in the film (while a culmination of the gothic designs from the silents before it) is superlative here. It's unfortunate that director Browning didn't have his heart in it; the film may have been much more exciting and atmospheric if he had.

So, my answer to your question is that Dracula is the first great horror film because it led to the classic cycle of supernatural horror unleashed by Universal, which transformed into the mutant atomic horrors of the 1950's, which led to the Hammer Studios' evocative revivals, etc. That's not to belittle or ignore Lon Chaney's influence on the genre; his part as Erik in Phantom of the Opera is fantastically chilling and sorrowful at the same time. In fact, he was supposed to play Dracula in place of Lugosi. Tragically, his untimely death decided otherwise. If he had starred in it, I'm sure the film would have been entirely different due to his penchant for makeup; of course we'll never know. But his performances, which led Universal to consider doing a major horror film like Dracula, don't directly connect to that classic cycle. The advent of speaking rolls really changed the face of horror, as well as film in general.

Now, not surprisingly, my opinion would be contested by lots of other horror heads - phooey on them. However, if you wanted to look at the time-line for horror films, then, according to Wikipedia, the current consensus on which is the first horror film would be 1896's Georges Melies' film, The Devil's Castle. Who outside of a really died-in-the-wool horror head would know that? It's also three minutes long, so you can't really do much of a story in three minutes.

So, as an ethnocentric American horror film fan, I'll stick to my Gene Autry guns with good old Bela and Dracula.

What are the best? While I have some personal favorites, I'll say that the best and most influential films are Lon Chaney's silent Phantom of the Opera, and other classic Universal Studios titles including Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Wolfman. Hammer Studios' films also revitalized the supernatural horror genre and gave us notable actors like Peter Cushing, Ingrid Pit, and Christopher Lee. Films like Night of the Living Dead moved horror in a new direction and gave us the "modern" flesh-eating zombies we all love. Carpenter's Halloween introduced the supernatural slasher that would not be stopped, and Reanimator, with Jeffrey Combs, brought us Lovecraft with a humorously nihilistic twist filled with over-the-top gore. A Nightmare on Elm Street gave us a truly frightening film serial-killing monster in Freddy Krueger, and converted him into the first memorable wisecracking one in the never-ending sequels.

I could go on and on, and there are many influential foreign films that can be added to this list, but Wikipedia is a good place to learn more.

3) Can you break down the different genres? What are the main differences (if any) between mainstream and B-horror flicks? Is horror global so to speak?

How many years do you have? Really! Sub-genres equate to variations on a theme. And in horror, you have lots of variations on a theme. For simplicity, I look at it this way: you can break down horror films into supernatural horror, man-made horror, nature-made horror, slasher-psycho-killing-machine horror, creepy freaky aliens from space horror, and splatter-gore horror. Vampires, ghosts, demons, Lovecraftian alien-gods, etc, fit into the supernatural category, though with Lovecraft you can use creepy freaky aliens, too. Man-made horror encompasses most of the 1950's mutant horrors like giant bugs, and even Frankenstein. You have your mad doctors, mad scientists in the man-made horror category, too. Right now, the slasher-psycho-killing-machine and splatter-gore horror films are in vogue. Unfortunately - I say unfortunately not because they aren't valid horror forms - mostly because the focus is on visually revolting and disgusting effects, not the story.

Zombies fall into the nature-made and supernatural horror categories, though many horror heads would label Zombies as a sub-genre, too. I'm not saying you can't do that, but I like to be as broad as possible first, and then narrow down from there. Of course, many horror films overlap in their use of themes or sub-genres. The skies' the limit here. For a great tutorial on horror genres, I recommend reading Tim Dirks' article at Filmsite.org. He touches on the various genres that evolved at various times in the horror time-line, and mentions the associated movies for that genre and period. Very informative reading.

It's funny, but foreign horror films, like the Korean and Japanese films, take horror seriously. It's not an A or B or C movie labeling for them. Their actors and directors take what they do very seriously. It's mostly in America that this odd system of B and C movie labeling has evolved. When you look at the early Universal films, especially Lon Chaney's silents, they were extravagant, main-studio productions. They kept Universal afloat during the Great Depression. As you move more into the 1940's, you start seeing lower-budgeted films specifically targeted for fast production. The stories were treated with less importance, and the studios started lining up lower-status actors to star in them. So the difference between a mainstream and B-movie then was the cost, story quality, production quality, and acting roster. But the funny thing is that they were made quickly and cheaply to turn a fast profit -- and they made money!

Today, I'd not use that letter-labeling anymore. Now it's mainstream versus independent movies, and all bets are off. When you see an independent film like The Abandoned, or Head Trauma, you can't say that a lower budget means low production values. Often, it's the independent film that shows more originality, more creativity, and more professional heart than many big-budget mainstream offerings. Look at the incredible foreign films we're seeing, like Nightfall and The Maid. Hell, even Bollywood has a wonderful film, Naina.

While the main differences between mainstream and independent films are similar to the older B-movie labeling system, these days, it's more a matter of budget, actors, and distributor, not quality. Quality can vary in mainstream films as well as independents, so that's not a fair measuring stick anymore.

And yes, horror is a global art form. Even more so today with Japan, Korea, Russia, and India, lord you name it getting into it. It's also global in more overt and subtle ways. Look at the recent influx of torture and torment gore-soaked films coming out, from Hostel to Saw to Texas Chainsaw, and the boffo box office their getting. I think they are a reflection of our time. As our world descends down the ladder of evolution with terrorism and religion as rationale for evil, horror films reflect that paranoia and loss of self-control and security. As we become more desensitized by the horrors on the news, horror films have upped the ante visually on depraved human suffering - to be viewed from the comfort of your own theater seat; popcorn and soda included. And speaking of horrors, those concession-stand prices are horrific indeed!

4) Where is horror as an art form heading?

There's a positive and a negative perspective to that question. The positive is that horror is heading to other forms of distribution and expression. With this generation of media-enthused horror heads, who are technically savvy, cinematic and fictional horror is moving to the Internet, Ipod, You Tube, and more places then you can shake a severed limb at. More and more would-be creative people are producing their own horror films, with varying degrees of success, both artistically and financially. But the digital revolution is on. This is a positive development given that new generation distribution methods and media will move horror along into the 22nd century.

There are also the negatives to be considered. All this technology and mondo-accessibility to the medium, combined with the increasing psychological and sociological influences of global-warming and terrorism, will foster more nihilistic forms of horror for mass consumption to compensate. Look at it this way: Universal's horror cycle swung into full-force during Word War II. Why? Because people needed a greater horror than the real one they were facing to escape. To take a vacation from their reality with a fictional 'someone else's worse problem.' One that couldn't affect them. That helps to give you a sense of empowerment. It's a matter of becoming desensitized in order to survive the sensory-overload of constant, background fear. We all have it, though we hide it well.

Today, that fear keeps chugging along - it's now 24 by 7, on the Internet, on the TV, on the radio, on every hour of the day, every day of the week. So is it any surprise to see teenagers piling in to watch Jigsaw cruelly torture and rip victims apart in bloody chunks? They know it's not real sitting there in the theater, but they can still feel some sense of control over all the bloody mess because it's almost real. It still desensitizes them, and us, to the horrors all around us.

Horror, as an art form, may be heading toward more graphically nauseating, realistic horror story lines - ones that force us to vicariously experience someone else's helplessness and gut-wrenching fear of not being in control so we can hah-hah, glad-it-wasn't-me afterwards. I'm not so sure that's a good thing for the art form, or the audience either. Of course, I'm biased. I grew up in a time when the only monsters you feared were on the movie or TV screen (or under the bed – couldn’t resist, The Commentator). When the hell we became the monsters I'm not sure.

5) Who have you interviewed?

Wonderful directors, writers, and actors. I was uncertain whether people would respond to me - who’s this guy with a blog? I still get people asking what a blog is at conventions, and these are people you'd think would be savvy regarding blogging. But, of course, many other people involved in the horror game are.

Notable people I've had the privilege and pleasure of conversing with are directors like Ethan Dettenmaier (Sin-Jin Smyth), and Lance Weiler (Head Trauma, The Last Broadcast); writers like Jonathan Maberry (Ghost Road Blues), Vince Liaguno (The Literary Six), Kim Paffenroth (Gospel of the Living Dead), Gary Rhodes (who also directed Lugosi: Hollywood's Dracula), and Annalee Newitz (Pretend We're Dead); and actors like Lee Perkins (Carnies, Live Evil, Job).

There are many more, but you'll have to go and read about them on my blog. Hehe. So many wonderful, very interesting people have put up with my somewhat gonzo-horror style of merging reality with a fictional chaser. It's a lot of fun for me, and I also learn from the exchange. This year I'm expanding coverage of horror fiction, and music -- I recently received some fantastically creepy CDs from Midnight Syndicate, so I'll be reviewing those, too.

I consider doing an interview a value-added proposition for my readers, and it's a selfish pleasure for me. There are so many reviews for this or that out there these days. I felt the only way to make myself stand out was to have a bizarro angle - Zombos and company - and also to seek out important and interesting people in the field of horror to get their take on this or that. Sure, it helps to promote their movie, book or music, but it also provides a fantastic opportunity to get inside their heads; without all that messy, squishy gore spurting out, to boot.

Speaking of which, this has been quite a treat for me. Thank you very much for the opportunity to be interviewed!

Bonus!!!! Is there a modern day equivalent to Lon Chaney Jr or Bela Lugosi?

No one. But of course, I'm looking at a Universal glass darkly. Having experienced the classic horror films and the talents of the gifted persons that created horror cinema, I find it impossible to compare iconic actors of yesteryear's horror with today's iconic actors. It's just not the same. The two persons you mention, Lon Chaney and Bela Lugosi, were consummate professionals that could play any role. They just happened to create some of the most memorable movie monster roles, but they were still all-around actors that could tackle any part and give it their all. While I love many of today's horror actors, and I think they are highly professional and talented, I don't feel their talent can touch the breadth and width of a Chaney, Lugosi, Chaney Jr., Boris Karloff, or many of the first actors to portray horror on the screen.

Now having said that, I can say that Jeffrey Combs and Lance Henriksen are tops on my list of horror actors. I go out of my way to see their performances in any picture they're in. Robert Englund also created one of the most horrific monsters to come along, and I find his Freddy bone-chilling, but outside of that role, I've not really grown attached to his other work.


Comments: Survey's, Superfluous Muckraking and Spamming

-Perception is all that matters and substance counts for little.

Consider this survey about how people view a dozen selected countries. Israel comes last; behind such impressive societies as North Korea and Iran. Proof that the world's mindset is sufficiently warped. Canada comes out on top.

For the record, while Canada has many positives, I don't consider it the best. It depends on the criteria one uses. It remains, on a whole, a society that under achieves. We should be doing much, much better with what we have been accorded. Canada can be a great place. But do Canadians deserve it?

As a friend put it, "Canada: So popular, yet so useless."

One last note about the survey: Populism is over rated.

-On the heels of LÁffaire Kovalev, Francois Gagnon of La Presse believes that Montreal papers are not rags. I beg to differ, Franky, sometimes they are.

Definition of tabloid according to Oxford: a small-sized newspaper, often sensational in style.

Sounds very much like Montreal print media: in both languages. It seems poor Alexei "Call me Alex" Kovalev is the latest hockey star the French language press has decided to pick on. When it comes to to this sort of stuff, the French language papers have pulled some good ones in the past - mostly along language lines. Since it was usually within their own parochial circles, very few times have they been called out for it. This blog is.

They get very personal here. The scary thing is that they have no idea how subtle in their politicization they really are. It's hilarious to hear them speak about "les Anglais." They literally have no clue. That's because they are sedentary in their under sieged mentality.

Back to Kovvy - it's my nickname. I'm sticking to it - Apparently, he told a Russian reporter from a Russian paper that: Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau does not appreciate Russian hockey players and that he gives special attention to francophone players. Le ciel est noir! He also mentions that there are cliques in the dressing room - really? He said that? Never thought this could happen- and that Montreal's overall defensive play holds back creative players. Um, you don't say? Look who is running the team: Bob Gainey, Guy Carbonneau, Kirk Muller and Doug Jarvis. Tie them together and feed them jello and you get Frank Selke. They are the high priests of defensive hockey.

Here's the thing: Alex said it to a Russian paper. Should he have said it to local papers? Perhaps. But he didn't. Was it worth all the energy and resources to try and catch him in a lie? Probably not. For what? To hear what most Montrealers already knew? They have dedicated two, three days and multiple pages to this ridiculous story. Should he have denied the story? Nope.

And this is where they feel they are justified. The media is fond of saying they are not stupid. Neither is Kovalev. He's heard all the stuff about him - which comes with the territory of being a pro athlete. Some of it was over board. There's always talk among fans that the mercurial but exquisitely talented Russians can't win or that they don't play hard. Don't you think he doesn't know this?

They - being La Presse - say they fact checked their sources and work. Though we still can't know for certain - when you're dealing with libel best to be 100% sure - since the original tapes went missing.

Who the hell does Kovalev thinks he is? Tabernak, he has no business saying these things even if they are true! Yes, we are a small minded bunch but golly molly we wield a lot of power, you commie. Watch us.

And that we did - straight into the gutter.

Why do I consider this to be a silly story? Does it really matter what he said and where he said it? Maybe he felt more comfortable leaking it to an outside source. Who knows? Think of it. Athletes say - and do - far worse things.

Then they comically wonder why free agents don't want to come and play here. Indeed, you can't get more insanely illogical and passionate than that.

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Scumbags posing as relatives and friends of murderous and corrupt African dictators have also stepped up the frequency of trying to carpet bag me into helping them launder millions of dollars. Hey, listen and listen good: Go screw yourselves, assholes.


Park Avenue the Mayor!

The city of Montreal has a hard time coming to terms with entrepreneurs. Quebec in general has been hoodwinked into a unionized outlook that has been detrimental to this city both economically and aesthetically. Hopefully, the next generation of Quebecers - free of the shackles of the PQ and a colonial mindset predicated on outmoded political ideals - will stand up and challenge the crud that has ruined this once important Canadian metropolis.

City Hall often takes action without consultation. It's what we do here; small town mentality for a big city. Too often, the decisions are taken from one perspective: the government. Small businesses have been constantly mistreated over the years. The actions we take against them makes me wonder if we have any true understanding of what an entrepreneurial class brings to a society. Again, Quebec's business models and ideas seem out of whack in comparison to most places.

The "it's our way or no way" mentality that prevails is all the more silly given we do not have the luxury of having any natural financial or economic leverage. For a foreign company to set up here we either have to basically roll out the red carpet a-la Ireland (shhh, don't tell the media). If we decide to play hardball for political reasons or allow the unions to dictate terms we lose the business. It's that simple. While the majority of Quebecers see no harm or foul in this, to most who do understand this it is childish - if not suicidal - behaviour.

One may think that parking meter increases are meaningless but they are not. It's a cheap tax grab. Finally, Canadians are showing some life and beginning to voice their disapproval. The last time we saw merchant rise up was in 1993 when the city charged a surtax to businesses to keep residential taxes in place. Merchants rose up and helped topple Mayor Jean Dore. His successor Pierre Bourque cut the surtax by 80%. Present Mayor Gilles Tremblay now has both merchants and residential owners upset as he shifted the surtax into a non-residential property tax. Either way it's a burden that has irritated citizens.

This being Montreal, one has to ask "qui bono?" Certainly not the citizens or business owners. Who does the government serve exactly?

Article of Interest: Loathing Intellectualism and Ourselves

One thing I have learned in life: that the inevitable - which is the strict domain of people pretending to know the truth - is remarkably elusive.


"...Mankind was on the decline already in Homer's lifetime; today the earth breeds a race of degenerate weaklings, who stir any god that views them to laughter and loathing..."

Juvenal (Satire XV)


Of Hijabs and Soccer

Since I write quite often about soccer, I decided to attempt to comment about the interesting story of a girl who was ordered off the field by a referee at an international tournament in my home city of Laval.

This was a tough thing for both the player and the referee.

A couple of things need to be stressed here. This is not a human rights issue nor is it a case of Muslims being persecuted - the referee was ironically Muslim. This is a a straightforward case of an official following the rules. I've played soccer all my life and there are all sorts of things that we are not allowed to wear on the field. I remember one time when a ref asked me to remove my necklace that happened to carry a cross.

Funny. It never occurred to us to claim that the Quebec soccer federation was being anti-Christian; that somehow we were being persecuted. And don't tell me that's a different story because it isn't.

All soccer players are asked to remove something of value that may be deemed inappropriate or dangerous.

What this case opens up are all sorts of questions like: what about our "rights" then? Like I said, to me it was my necklace with a cross on it.

What happened here is a family/community simply over reacting. Nor was I impressed by the Ontarian soccer teams that packed up and left in protest. They should have done their homework about the Quebec rules beforehand. Quite frankly, I take major offense that some claim they are being persecuted against.

Is this a case of reasonable accommodation?

A libertarian may argue that the overall premise of a civil society is predicated on the fact that the next person does not infringe upon another person's liberties. Or that if the hijab does not harm or affect the safety another it should be allowed. Is life that simple? Does Islam run in direct contradiction to libertarianism? I'm afraid Muslims will have to learn to concede and without citing the Charter every time an innocuous incident happens. We do not have to remind ourselves that the same tolerances and privileges accorded to Muslims are not always reciprocated in Muslim countries for Christians.

We are witnessing a reemergence of religion colliding and asking to live side by side secular activities. Does religion really have a place on the soccer pitch? Should concessions be made?

By extension and on a somewhat related story, the Cross has been removed in our schools and more and more Christmas trees too lest we offend people. What kind of people would take offense to such things? Why are we pandering to them anyway?

A spirit of compromise should prevail. In this instance, if a child wants to play a sport but the rules are clear then it is incumbent on the player to follow the rules. End of story. The minute we play favoritism we open the door to all sorts of nonsense. Keep it black and white.

It's only a matter of time people will push back. It's only normal.

Back to the hijab. The player had a choice. Wearing the hijab is a cultural ordinance that's been around for 1400 years. Interestingly, many Muslims have also remarked that the hijab is not a religious requirement. Many people hold cultural things close to their hearts but is a soccer field the best place to cling to this?

We do have to determine if it's dangerous for whatever reasons but officials need to make that decision free of pressure. They should take different perspectives into account. Every angle about what could happen has to be considered however unlikely. It's called being prudent. For if anything were to unfortunately happen who would take the blame?

Let's not politicize this anymore than it has been. This sort of stuff will only upset moderate people. If Quebec determines - free of racism of course - that the hijab poses too many safety concerns live and abide by its decision. That's what it means to live in a democracy.