Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Rudy and John come out of the dugout

Day One of the Republican National Convention has left a viewer with no doubt as to what the Bush/Cheney ticket will be campaigning on. If the serious tones and solemn imagery are any indication, George and Dick are all that stands between the US and anarchy. From keynote speakers, to moving tributes to the fallen of 9/11, the theme was hit home again and again, this President is on watch, taking action and keeping America safe. At least that was the message that the Republicans crafted, whether the American people will buy into won’t be known until November. The first session of the four day nomination festival featured some hard hitting defences of the Bush/Cheney first four years, as well as their efforts on the war on terror and the war in Iraq. But most of all it evoked the memory of the dark day of September 11, 2001, a gamble it may be to politicize such a horrendous event, but the Republicans seem to be of the belief that this President was the right guy, at the right time to deal with such a nation changing moment. They very much want to get across the message that the work is not yet done.

If a baseball analogy was to be used on day one, John McCain was the designated hitter and Rudy Giuliani was inserted into the lineup to hit clean up. McCain gave a well received speech strong on praise for the President and taking a few shots at Democratic candidate John Kerry. But for McCain the task was simple, paint Bush as a determined leader, willing and able to make the hard decisions, but doing so with the full understanding of what he is asking of those that must follow orders. Stating that the President is a man who has been tested and risen to the occasion, he dismissed Kerry’s leadership potential as leaving one wanting. It also fell to McCain to slay the Michael Moore dragon, without mentioning the outspoken Liberal film maker. McCain brought the partisan crowd to its feet with his comments about a disingenuous film maker, if there were any Republicans in the crowd or watching on TV wondering who that might be, there was the smiling visage of Moore himself accepting the boos and catcalls from his perch in the media section of Madison Square Garden. As the crowd chanted four more years, Moore responded with two more months. For convention moments it was actually quite entertaining, there was a bona fide war hero out doing the heavy lifting for his party. Moore set up like a piƱata, with thousands of Republicans taking verbal whacks at him as he smiled at all the attention. If they required a target to rally around the flag over, Moore fit the bill nicely on day number one, his work for USA Today might make for interesting journalism, but his appearance at the convention made for great television.

While McCain’s speech was eloquent and destined for the Middle American voter, possibly not quite sold on Bush/Cheney, his follow up hitter was there for a completely different reason. America’s mayor as Rudy Giuliani has been crowned of late, spoke twice as long and brought out the big bat to knock the resume of John Kerry around the Gardens for a bit. Giuliani recounted his direct experience during the days following 9-11 to project President Bush as a leader able to make decisions, stand by them and not waver. He chastised Kerry as an elitist Liberal who would waffle on hard decisions and pander to European leaders at the expense of what’s best for the USA.

Touted as a possible presidential candidate in 2008, Giuliani heaped praise upon the current resident at 1600 Pennsylvania, sometimes taking his rhetoric a bit beyond believability. Comparing George Bush to Winston Churchill seems a bit of a stretch. While many will debate endlessly the real reason behind the eventual war in Iraq, not many are willing to put Bush on the same pedestal as Churchill just yet. Media observers may be aghast at the arrogance of the presentation, but in a partisan environment as this, it was exactly what the crowd wanted to hear. As Giuliani proclaimed that George W. Bush has already earned a place as a great American president one couldn’t help but wonder when the chants of USA, USA, USA would start.

By and large though, the two speeches Monday were effective in their design and successful in their delivery. They have certainly set the tone of the convention, outlined the blue print for the candidates and took on the Democratic nominee with gusto. Touching on all the differences between the Democrats and the assembled Republicans, the night certainly solidified the lines between the US and THEM mentality.

Tomorrow night it’s the Terminator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger is the featured speaker. Having captured the key state of California last year, he’ll no doubt be treated as a conquering hero. And if the Republicans continue on the theme of standing up for America, having a Hollywood action legend praising the toughness of the current President is certainly going to keep the ole testosterone levels hopping in New York.

Like any team looking to win the pennant, its time to go on offense, McCain and Giuliani were first on the field. With all the heavy hitters loading up the bases early in the game, it’s going to be left up to George Bush to head for the plate in the last inning on Thursday. It will be interesting to watch as he takes his cuts in the batters box. With the anticipation building the crowd waits to see how their star player will do.

The pressure is on for the President to deliver, this is no time for a strike out, for Bush hitting a home run on Thursday night might be just what his team needs to pull ahead of the Democrats. Does he have one last hit in him to win the game, or will he head for the showers, we find out Thursday night.

The Lasting Legacy of the Little Blue Cow

Somehow it seems kind of appropriate that for a country of couch potatoes most of our “Olympic moments” revolved around the various TV commercials aired during the CBC’s comprehensive, if slightly over excited coverage. From the Dairy council’s Little Blue Cow vignettes, through the moronic office employee named Toffee in the Tim Horton’s commercials, to the heart wrenching stories of sacrifice from Petro Canada, we soothed our shattered psyche with the gang at CBC. When we weren’t sharing the dream; if not the gas points, Ron McLean was putting on his best game face to help us understand that winning doesn’t always mean everything. Commentator after commentator echoed the theme that personal bests, top eight finishes and oh so closes, count just as much as Gold, Silver and Bronze and possibly that’s true. But you just got the feeling that more than a few times, Brian Williams must have wanted to shout out “can’t somebody win gold once and a while around here!”

At any rate, the Greek Olympic gathering has come to an end and our athletes have returned with their booty, solving any overtime problems at Canada Customs by having very little to declare at the airport. And of course as with most Canadian activities on the World Stage, our insecure little nation begins the uniquely Canadian tradition of over analyzing the final result. With only 12 medals to hang over the national mantle the finger pointing has only just begun. Poor coaching, not enough financing, a national distaste for competition, all have been brought up as possible excuses for our less than awe inspiring performance at Athens.

Money at the moment seems to be the main focus of the diviners, who have come to the conclusion that unless we throw massive amounts of Loonies, Twonies and such into our amateur athletic programs then continual woe will be us. Even IOC grand pooh bah, Jacques Rogge got involved, suggesting he may just have to travel to Ottawa to lobby for more cash for Canada’s athletic movement, purely for our own good, helping us to avoid international shame and embarrassment in 2010. Here’s a bulletin Jacques, when it comes to asking for money in Canada, the line forms on the left and stretches as far as you can see.

No doubt funding is an issue; the simple math tells you that if your athletes are spending more time training and less time waiting on tables, then possibly the gold medal is just around the corner. But then again is it? Somehow you get the feeling that some of the countries that performed better than we did don’t have the same budget as ours, sometimes you just send some athletes who have raw talent that rises to the occasion. No amount of funding is going to change that fact. We can get closer, but we’re not going to be a dominant player in the Olympics. Canada will never be able to join the ranks of the Olympic factory nations.

The USA , China, Japan, Germany these are countries that can muster the financial resolve and cultural drive to aim for the higher spots in the World Olympic movement, we are very much what we are, a middling kind of country that should expect middling results. That’s not to say we should admit defeat and just be happy to be there, but unless we plan on creating a generation of Super athletes much like the Russians before the collapse of communism, we will just have to be happy with the occasional surprise Gold.

There are many ways we can raise more money to help our athletes compete, but dedicating a portion of the federal budget just doesn’t seem to be a high priority and nor should it. Health care, education, defence and a myriad of other national concerns will always take priority. How much trust do Canadians have in a government that has mismanaged our tax monies on the likes of the HRDC mess, the gun registry, adscam and all the other well documented abuses of our cash. For Canada to toss in more cash to the Olympic kitty, we’ll need some new ideas and non governmental options.

Tax breaks for our friends at Tim Horton’s, Petro Canada and the Dairy Board would be a start. The more they dedicate to our athletic endeavors, the better a tax deal they can get from the Government. Make helping our athletes a money making possibility and just watch how fast corporate Canada will jump on board.

Another avenue might be to take some money out of the black hole of lottery monies and allocate it to the Olympic Committee for use by our Olympic athletes, not our Olympic bureaucrats. At one time the raison d’etre for a national lottery was to fund the 76 summer Olympics. Somehow that simple idea got tossed aside when the various levels of government discovered that there was gold in them thar betting slips. If the government is serious about making changes, then let some of our “voluntary” tax dollars go to where they once were destined.

Whatever path we decide to follow, one hardly thinks pointing the fingers at our Olympians is a useful exercise. While the results may not have been what we had hoped for, we can be sure they gave it their best effort which is all we should really expect. If at the end of the day the brave band of brothers on the baseball team or young little Perdita gave it their best shot, then that’s where our pride should go. There’s no shame in not winning, only in not trying. (Though winning once and awhile can feel pretty good too!)

When the government gets around to examining the fallout of our Athens experience they can explore coaching and the bloated political end of our Olympic movement, judging by the performance of our bureaucratic contingent part of our problem may be a top heavy managerial system. Like most things involving tax dollars we seem to have far too many suits and not enough uniforms.

One final thing, I’m not an expert on many of the sports featured in the Olympics and truth be told I’m not one in any shape to lift myself off the couch and show anyone how to do something. But if the Canadian Olympic committee wants to improve our performance in Beijing in 2008, they should find out where that little blue cow trains and if he/she/it is available in four years. That cow participated in a wide variety of events and even won a gold medal in the hurdles without knocking one single hurdle down. You can’t tell me that a comprehensive training session in the cow pasture wouldn’t help put our national team on the right road to Beijing!

Sunday, August 29, 2004

George and Dick’s most excellent adventure

City sidewalks, busy sidewalks, all crowded right there,
Pro-tes-tors, marching through the city.
See the police, on every corner,
All loaded to bear, listen on every street and you’ll hear.

Cheney/Bush, Cheney/Bush,
Cheney/Bush, Cheney/Bush!
Its convention time, in the city.
Hear them sing, Hear them sing.
Will Truncheons ring, truncheons ring!
Its convention time, in New York

Yes indeed, it used to be the greatest show on earth at Madison Square Gardens, was the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey circus, but not anymore. With George and Dick coming to town, the greatest show is unfolding on our television sets as America plays out its political differences in the Garden and out in the streets.

The news anchors are all primed and fluffed, ready to take to their studios high above the convention floor as the Republicans gather to nominate George and Dick to the party ticket and off to tackle the forces of the Liberal left, exemplified by the Swift Boat kid John Kerry.

Monday begins the really big show, in the city that never sleeps, but Sunday set the tone for what’s ahead. A march through the streets of Manhattan attracted between 100,000 and 400,000 participants (depending on which side you take your fact checking from) representing all stripes of American society. With Rev. Jesse Jackson in the front along with new Liberal media kingpin Michael Moore, the vociferous throng marched, chanted, sang and protested anything and everything Bush.

The march was steeped with some powerful imagery
, none more so than flag draped coffins carried through the streets to symbolize dead servicemen from Iraq. Needless to say, the march received a heavy amount of media coverage as it wound its way around central New York.

Largely peaceful, the marchers snaked there away around a 40 block area before arriving at Central Park, a locale they had been apparently banned from. As they parked themselves in the Park, police did little to dissuade them, a small victory for the marchers over the mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg.

Organizers have not tipped their hand as to their next move, but more protest marches are most likely on the agenda as the Republicans work their way to the Thursday night nomination and speeches.

The Republicans gather in New York buoyed by polls that show the President is starting to make a bit of a comeback in the numbers, his opponent John Kerry never really received a convention bounce and has remained one or two points ahead of the Bush/Cheney ticket ever since. Republicans are hoping that by Friday the Bush/Cheney message will drown out the chorus of condemnation currently echoing around the canyons of Manhattan.

The strategy of the Republicans is to portray Bush and Cheney as leaders in a time of crisis. Cheney hit on that point Sunday in a public appearance at Ellis Island, which is located directly across from where the World Trade Centre towers once stood.

Expect to hear no mention of the Swift boat material over the next four days, Bush hoping to distance himself from the controversial aspects of that issue, not to mention avoiding the controversial aspects of his own Vietnam era participation. Like a scab that hasn’t yet healed, the Vietnam years still haunt the US political process. As people pick at the edges of it, the painful times of the sixties and seventies begin to come to the surface again.

While the Republicans began to prepare their trip to New York, the Democrats have tried to turn the attention of the people onto the economy of late. A rather successful approach has been in the Democratic television ads aired in the last week or so, which have been focusing on a battered American economy which has been a largely unreported story with the war going on. The television commercial which features a recitation of declining economic indicators, suggesting the same old record, is a fairly powerful project that highlights just how much many Americans have suffered in the Bush/Cheney years. So far though, the factual nature of those ads and others has not had any real effect on the race.

As George and Dick prepare to make their pilgrimage to the RNC Big Top, the media superstars are pulling out all the stops. Peter, Dan, Tom, the CNN crews, the cheerleaders of Fox, the sober professionals at PBS, all are preparing themselves for comprehensive coverage. One little gem that Canadians will unfortunately not be privy to, will be a debate between the Fox News pit bull Bill O'Reilly and the quite cerebral Bono of U2 (who appears to be a convention junkie judging by his frequent appearances at these polfests)

Some of the networks are dedicating more attention to the proceedings than others. The major commercial networks don’t expect to spend as much time as past years following the minor details of convention life. Much like their coverage at the Democratic convention in July, they’ll follow the key speakers in Schwarzenegger and McCain. And of course when Rudy Giuliani takes to the stage for his address, Republicans will hail him as America’s mayor. Listen with careful attention to his speech and more carefully to the reaction to it, expect a wave of adulation as he wraps up his performance, Giuliani is still very much the hero from 9/11 and more than one Republican has suggested that a Bush/Giuliani ticket would be an unstoppable force in November. Combine the love for Rudy with a scathing indictment of all things Dick in Rolling Stone and somebody had best keep an eye on the current Veep when Rudy is talking!

While the big media players prepare their multi million dollar performers and polish up their studios, our relatively new public forum will get its beta test in New York. Like Boston, Bloggers will be in attendance at the convention, with the growing pains out of the way from Boston and a little less attention on the Bloggers themselves; we may see how our little method of communication will fare in a structured control fest such as the RNC convention.

While we won’t forsake the works of Pete, Tom, Dan and Larry et al. We look forward to a Post by Post description of all things political, both indoors and out, over the next four days.

A week of essentials August 24-30

From tumbling hurdlers to stumbling politicians, the week of essentials featured humankind at its highs and lows. A lost Stanley and an irate family, a tv hero and political zero all vying for time on the essentials. All were just a few of the many items of interest in the week just past. For the record, the week of essentials.

24-Aug-04 Where's Radar O'Reilly when the Forces need him?
24-Aug-04 Going Negative
24-Aug-04 Time to get out of the house?
24-Aug-04 They Lost Stanley!
24-Aug-04 Relationship advice for Brittney Spears
25-Aug-04 Much handwringing over a hurdlers tumble
25-Aug-04 The Canadian Army's Lost and Found
25-Aug-04 Hawkeye to the White House
25-Aug-04 Sugary drinks & no exercise=Health Risks! Whooda thought!
25-Aug-04 We interupt this broadcast for station de-infestation
26-Aug-04 Brand new government, same old Carolyn!
26-Aug-04 And we're leaving on that midnight train to Canada
26-Aug-04 CHOI-FM wins a reprieve, stays on air until court case is heard.
26-Aug-04 Ready to count votes in Florida again
26-Aug-04 Somebody get Dave Matthews off the environment committee!
27-Aug-04 Ralphie has other plans
27-Aug-04 The next despot up for trial
27-Aug-04 God Help Kermit
27-Aug-04 Meet me at the place of Kodhar ka ullu for lunch
27-Aug-04 Lord Black's inquisition
28-Aug-04 Michael Burns George
28-Aug-04 Danes Back Down
28-Aug-04 Slaying Goliath
28-Aug-04 And we're climbing a Stairway to Heaven
28-Aug-04 Won't you please come to New York, or else join the other side
29-Aug-04 Bonne chance ou au revoir pour Bernard
29-Aug-04 Sacrilege or Straigtforward? Only his kids know for sure
29-Aug-04 Iverson points some fingers
29-Aug-04 From the book of Clinton: It's the economy stupid!
29-Aug-04 Revenge really does make you feel better.
30-Aug-04 The Curse of Dick Cheney
30-Aug-04 Meet us out in the streets
30-Aug-04 Bloggin' the RNC
30-Aug-04 Double standard Dole
30-Aug-04 The Gladiator chews the messenger

Tear it down, so as to start over?

Deny, Deny, Deny that seems to be the main approach to a prospect first voiced on 640 Mojo radio in Toronto. During a Saturday afternoon interview with Bill Watters on Mojo, the idea of shutting down the NHL and re launching it as a different entity was suggested. Watters going so far as to say that he had been told by one league owner that it was a very serious option being considered for January should the dispute last that long.

That concept was quickly shot down by the leagues Executive Vice President Billy Daly, who said that no such plan was under consideration. Daly stated that “I can unequivocally tell you that is not the case”

With the Mojo story taking on a life of its own, The Fan 590 in Toronto was quick to jump into the end of the Hockey World as we know it angle, with their own story stating much the same. They too based their story on an un-named GM, who had expressed the belief that a brand new league is very much a possibility.

Now HockeyNation is not sure exactly how that would work, for if it indeed were possible to just close your business and start over the country would be riddled with thousands of labour disputes solved simply by changing the name on the sign. Since it doesn’t happen regularly in the real world, it seems beyond belief that the NHL would be able to get it by the legal and governmental types of two separate nations. When Ford and GM have a labour dispute they don’t just close the plant, change the letterhead and reopen up a week later, somehow we assume there is some kind of labour legislation out there some place governing this kind of solution to labour woe.

One thing is certain though, this bit of rumour mongering means that Hockey fans are now officially in a vacuum, with nothing of substance to help us along the way, we’re left to listen to the rumours and the ravings of the conspiracy buffs. Most of who apparently have a direct line to Toronto radio stations.

The above post first appeared in my HockeyNation blog, for more items about hockey check it out.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Narco tourism across the 49th

The Underground Railroad is alive and well, as an Amtrak train arrived in Vancouver Wednesday bringing 20 American drug seekers across the border. No they weren’t there for the much discussed, celebrated and feared (by some) BC Bud, but rather for our Prozac, Zocor, Lipitor, Ritalin et al, all much cheaper than what they would find back home.

The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer rights paid 20,000 dollars in order to charter two train cars which were attached to Amtraks regularly scheduled Coast Starlight train. Setting out from California the train collected passengers along the way, arriving in Vancouver 3 hours late but to a heavy amount of media attention.

With prescriptions in hands from the docs back home, the 20 freedom (from high drug prices) riders will meet with BC doctors on Thursday and then head off to the Prescription counter to have their orders filled.

Dubbed the Rx Express the train passengers are hoping to point out that Canada’s drug policy of negotiating prices with the drug companies has provided quality product at reasonable prices. The public purchasing is designed to pressure the American system to take a page from Canada and try to bring prescription drug prices down to an affordable rate for the average American.

Smart Canadian entrepreneurs will be watching events closely; there could be an entire new form of tourism waiting to be tapped here. Canadian’s like their gambling junkets to Vegas, perhaps there’s a market for Dining, Dancing and Drugs in Canada.

The current rage in Canada is Eco Tourism, where tourists enjoy the natural beauty of the nation. The next wave may be Narco tourism, where our visitors take more than pictures and trinkets back home with them.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Light up the Havana’s, we were smoked in the eighth!

I’ll admit right up front that I have not exactly been glued to my CBC affiliate (or TSN for that matter) watching all things Olympic. I’ve popped in from time to time to watch an event or two, stuck around when I’ve stumbled across an interesting turn of events (like an American basketball colossus, stumbling under its own self important weight) and have managed to miss a live broadcast of every single one of our gold medal ceremonies (both of them!). I have watched as our talking heads explained what went right and what went wrong, chastised the non believers or tried to make the best out of less than golden moments.

The one event I’ve tried to keep on top of , was the path of our Baseball team. That group of minor league players and all but forgotten former big leaguers, has gamely tried to do what most people thought impossible, bring home a gold medal. With the Americans not even in the Olympic tournament, there were whispers that this team could be the one to bring home the gold. With a close group of team mates, some solid managerial talent and a strong desire to win, I had a feeling this might be Canada’s feel good story of the Olympics. With the news that Australia had eliminated Japan, the road seemed set for Canada to make a run. At least my hopes were riding pretty high with our Big Red Machine.

But as the game moved to the final innings, that little plan came to a crushing end, all in the space of about thirty five minutes of a disastrous eighth inning. Canada went into the bottom of the eighth with a 3-2 lead and came out of it shell-shocked and wondering what the hell happened! Some suddenly shaky pitching and a bout of bad in fielding, (a botched possible double play sparked the Cubans) gave Fidel’s boys enough of an opportunity to load up the runs, scoring six of them, taking a huge 8-3 lead into the top of the ninth.

Until that point Canada had actually been playing some fairly inspired ball, keeping close to the Cubans and at one time taking the lead and holding it through the middle innings. However, a tendency to abandon runners on the bases through the majority of the game came back to haunt the Canadian squad.

Manager Ernie Whitt, who somehow manages to keep his younger players on an even keel, could only watch and wonder what may have been. The Cubans built up the momentum in the eighth to take the lead and sent the Canadians reeling to the dugout.

However, the one thing about this team I liked prior to the Olympics and during the games as well, has been their never say die attitude. And for a while there I thought we might pull this one out of the fire. A determined effort in the top of the ninth, loaded up the bases and threatened to tie the Cubans. With two out, a long, long fly ball made it all the way to the fence before being hauled in. Tantalizingly long to raise our expectations, short enough to crush our hopes.

Kinder Olympic Gods Hello Aeolus) would have summoned up a strong gust of wind to lift the ball over the fence but, alas, once again in what is becoming a rather perpetual Canadian thing we came up a bit short, losing 8-5 and now we will battle for the bronze against Japan on Wednesday.

While you can empathize with many of our athletes as they strive for the top and come up short, I found the drama of the baseball team to be a story within the story kind of Olympic moment. Many of these guys will never make it to the major leagues, some of them have already had their shot and are either on their way down the food chain or already off the buffet table completely. This was to be their one chance to reach for glory and to watch them leave the field having come up short just didn’t seem like a fair shake.

Canada actually won medals on Tuesday a gold and a silver, which should have been a cause for a smile or two. But by the end of the night, the focus was on hurdler Perdita Felicien, who stumbled into the first hurdle of her race and watched her Gold Medal dream crash to the track. Between her misfortune and the baseball team’s heartbreak, the day seemed gloomy and indicative of our week and half in Athens.

Sometimes you need a little luck to go with your skill, for whatever reasons Tyche the Greek God of Luck has not smiled on Canada. In fact it would seem that the Goddess assigned to the Canadian team was Nyx a daughter of Chaos, which seems to define the Canadian path this year..

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Look what they’ve done to my song!

With “special” Olympic moments few and far between for Canadians, one could forgive us our enthusiasm at the prospect of hearing our national song. When Canadian Gymnast Kyle Shewfelt took to the podium to receive his gold medal, the nation was ready to sing along with gusto, or more likely in true Canadian style kind of hum, sort of sing or quietly try to remember all the words.

The exuberant announcers on CBC even coached us along with some flowery patriotic offerings “CANADA wins the GOLD! And for the First time, Athens will hear O Canada!”

Be still our beating hearts, we’re ready to let loose! And so began the rousing rendition of O Canada. Well not so fast anthem fans! What followed is best described as a show stopper! Not since Las Vegas lounge singer Dennis K. C. Park,(curser halfway down this link to hear the epic) terrorized us before a July 1994 CFL game, has O Canada sounded so unrecognizable!

Quick somebody call Hans Blix, we finally found some WMD’s, buried (or well it should be!) deep in the Athens Olympic sports arena is a bona fide Weapon of Musical Destruction.

Even Gold Medal winner Shewfelt appeared to cringe at times, his golden moment interrupted by more than one painful note in the suddenly very long song! No one quite knew what to make of the rendition, commentators went mute, people looked at each other and finally the moment was done. The medal awarded we went on to other things more Canadian, like finger pointing.

In what is fast becoming our national sport the Canadian Olympic officials quickly went into damage control mode. Canadian officials were quick off the mark (if only our athletic attempts were so quick) to claim that the version played by the Greek organizers, was not approved by the COC. In fact one Canadian official went so far as to describe the song as “sounding like it was on ouzo”.

The anthem debacle left one hoping that should Canada be fortunate enough to win any further Gold Medals, we should politely decline the anthem playing segment of the celebration in the Spirit of Good will and Good taste. Short of that have Canada Post send out by it's Purolator International service, any recording from the nearest NHL rink.

However, as we are quickly learning with our Olympic officials, things always seem to mushroom beyond their control. The composer of the performance in question, new Canadian Peter Breiner says not so fast. He has documentation that the piece not only was approved by the Canadian Olympic committee but they even went so far as to say they “were very happy to approve this version”. As he told the Globe and Mail, same people from very happy to ouzo. Breiner has advised all who will listen that he had provided two versions of the anthem, one a more traditional offering and the up beat peppy little thing that managed to send them running for the exits.

(to hear for yourself check out these links from the Globe and Naxos 1) the controversial effort and 2) the original production preferred by the composer himself!)

Breiner may be new to Canada but he’s quick to our national past time of lambasting bureaucrats, the final word on the anthem debacle goes to Mr. Breiner who patiently awaits the playing of his preferred version, which apparently is in the hands of the Greeks, only awaiting the word for placement in the Olympic Juke box.

Said Breiner: “Somebody would have to make the decision, and that’s not exactly the strong side of the Canadian Olympic committee.” And just to reinforce his point he offered up this cutting comment that says it all: “It’s a mess there. They don’t know what they’re doing, as you can see by the results”

Ouch! As they say at the Olympic tennis court (and the court of Canadian Public Opinion), GAME, SET, MATCH, Mr. Breiner!

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Weekly Essentials August 17-22

Wild Weather, national handwringing, paranoid neighbours and a high flying GG, the week had it all. Join us for a look back at a week of essentials.

18-Aug-04 Known for its hot air, Toronto sees the future in cold water
18-Aug-04 And that's the way he was
18-Aug-04 Kick the habit and cut down on crime
18-Aug-04 Harder and Harder to make a buck at a buck or two
18-Aug-04 Needless to say this is in a pay now, use later basis
19-Aug-04 Google better than gold and oil?
19-Aug-04 The good news is that we don't have many weapons,
The bad news is we dont' take care of what we have!

19-Aug-04 When the hosts don't want the guests
19-Aug-04 Frequent flyin' GG keeping her itinerary close to her vest
19-Aug-04 In Olympic handwringing we get the GOLD
20-Aug-04 Bad news for George, Kitty's on the case
20-Aug-04 Bingeing bear shows brand loyalty
20-Aug-04 Suspect one is one item above
20-Aug-04 Last one out of Nortel turn out the lights
20-Aug-04 El Nino is making reservations
21-Aug-04 Well Homeland Security's got a chopper in the air
21-Aug-04 Gang of three plans some strategy
21-Aug-04 Should PM the PM start looking over his shoulder
21-Aug-04 No Hanging Chads here, Kerry's people trolling for votes in Canada
21-Aug-04 Launching off to Saskatoon
22-Aug-04 You just don't see funerals like that anymore
22-Aug-04 But will they be allowed back across the border?
22-Aug-04 Alberta's revenge
22-Aug-04 It really does seem like he's been on forever
22-Aug-04 Your never too old to go back to the front!
23-Aug-04 Finally a golden boy!
23-Aug-04 Good fences may make better neighbours!
23-Aug-04 Is Canada on the way to a dry dock Navy?
23-Aug-04 Governor Joe? Sounds good to Joe Piscopo!
23-Aug-04 Scalping Olympic tickets:How to make a buck at an empty venue

Friday, August 20, 2004

Little Blue Cows, Super burger flippers and a couple of medals on the side!

Oh! Canada, when the going gets tough, we just get going. The official Canadian sport of hand wringing is in full swing as the results pour in from Athens. Unfortunately, the results pouring in show pretty well every country in the world winning medals (Belarus, Zimbabwe take your places), countries other than the True North Strong but Gold Medal Free! We were still there doing a personal best, happy to be there; yes our uniforms are the best, just don’t book us any times in the press theatre afterwards.

So far as we post our little synopsis of stronger, faster, just cross the line please, we have two medals in our possession, laying claim to a bronze in synchronized diving and silver in the trampoline. Blink and we’d miss the highlights but there we are up on the podium receiving our medals and flowers.

A nation of never high expectations (our commentators frequently proclaim “we’re hoping for a bronze or at least a personal best)”, none the less, we are kind of hoping for a tad more movement in the medal count in Athens. Some of our supposed surer bets have certainly disappointed, our rowers have gone astray, cyclists have tumbled from their mounts and our performance in the pool has deteriorated from just plain unfortunate to full fledged backbiting. Anonymous athletes urge Canada to fire the swimming coaches, rebuild and re-float goes the cry. In Olympic excuse making, we’re going for the gold in finger pointing.

The outrage over the choice of Nicholas Gill as flag bearer is no longer of concern, since he never managed to make it past his first fight. Of course much will be made of the flag bearer jinx. The traditional Canadian phobia about carrying the flag into the Olympic arena only to exit the competition unfulfilled. If nothing else we are consistent!

The cheerleaders, oops, broadcasters at CBC are having a hard time working up the necessary feeling of joy, what with our less than spectacular results thus far. However, our lack of success has been a ratings help to the CBC, Americans within range of the Canadian border are tuning in to get a fuller Olympic experience. So in place of medal presentations with the strains of Oh Canada lifting to the skies, we get “personality features” vignettes about the struggle, sacrifice and sense of accomplishment our Olympians have developed between game years. They make for a nice feel good diversion, but when the story fades to black that medal count total comes back up, and ahem, somebody check the computer we seem stuck at two!

Things are so desperate on the televised broadcasts that the Dairy Foundations little Blue Cow campaign is getting our blood pumping more than the actual competition. The commercials feature the aforementioned cow, taking on all comers and coming out on top of the Bovine pile. Yeah Canada, get rid of the red and white, colour us blue, little blue cow blue! You may have seen the commercials, better yet listen to them from a distance; you’ll be rushing to the TV in anticipation of that Canadian breakthrough. Moooove over world here comes Canada. We also can take pride in our burger flipping talents, our Canadian McDonald’s reps are doing us proud as part of the McDonald’s contribution to the Olympics. Super size our effort, when it comes to flipping quarter pounders, shaking the salt on those fries and whipping up a McFlurry we have no equals!

As for the actual events, the success of Australia seems to be causing us the most distress, a nation similar to ours but with less population has to this point put on a pretty impressive show for the folks back home. Mostly from the success of the swim team the Aussies at last count were holding down fourth place quiet nicely, though the Russians are closing in fast. Australia has found success by a comprehensive dedication to funding their Olympic team part of the legacy of the Sydney Olympics where the home side wanted to put its best foot forward. It’s a model that many in Canada wish to pattern our program after but at what cost? Do we thus relegate our health care system to even worse standards than those that currently exist, do we abandon the homeless, curtail many of the programs that we presently have in place in order to look a little better on the world stage?

Surely there must be a less onerous way for Canada to improve, without taking away from many of the social programs that are just hanging on as it is! Better yet, perhaps a funding review is in order, maybe have Sheila Fraser take her Auditor General’s pencil to the Canadian Olympic Association and make sure that the current funding is being properly allocated, more for athletes less for junkets might make for a nice credo.

Perhaps the corporate community should more fully embrace the Olympic movement, not quite to the same point that the USA has, but there may be ways for Canadian industry and services to get involved. A special tax break for those companies that help out may be the key to increased corporate support. If a Canadian company gets fully involved in the Olympic program give them tax breaks for their corporate advertising or any other adjustment to reward their participation. If they hire Olympians allowing them to train to a high standard, allow them to claim those employees as a tax credit. It’s time to get creative, anything to help out the cause without taxing the average Canadian too much.

All is not totally lost in Athens, there are still more events to come, our Baseball team while struggling earlier Friday is still in a strong position for a Gold medal, our Women’s softball team is gamely fighting back to make a last stand for medal potential. The beach volleyball gals seem to be hitting a stride, the rowers are back in the water and the track team has yet to take to the stadium.

No doubt there will be a few more surprises for Canadians; we’ll probably win some medals in sports that few know much about. But it seems hard to believe that come the end of the competition next week we’ll still be stuck at two.

Should we not improve our count by next Friday there will be much said about our performance and how to improve it. Already we're a tad grumpy as our journalists pile on about everything from poor results to poor television.

China will host the next summer games spectacular in 2008. Judging by the success of their team so far, they fully expect to dominate those games whatever the cost. Canada will have to decide just how serious we wish to tackle these challenges; in any case we should have a plan B.

Somebody find out where those little blue cows did their training! They’re pulling their weight in Athens perhaps the time has come to turn the team over to the Cows, better than letting things go to the dogs!

Black Hawks on the border

We haven’t seen any change in the terror alert status since August 1, but things, they are a changing between Canada and the USA. The world’s previously longest undefended border is a tad more defended today, with word from the USA, that the much ballyhooed Black Hawk helicopter will be patrolling the Northern frontier from now on.

The first of the Black Hawk’s will be based in Washington state, where the US Marine Air Group of Bellingham will keep watch for illegal aliens, marijuana importers and money launderers to name a few. In addition to the Black Hawk the Bellingham crew will use a variety of aircraft and high speed boats in the pursuit of their duties. Perhaps even Crockett and Tubbs can come out of retirement and stem the flow of criminal misconduct from the apparently lawless Canadian frontier.

Plans are in the works to place similarly equipped bases in Montana, North Dakota, Michigan and New York State. The enforcement regimen has been in place on the Mexican border for over thirty years, but is a new addition to the Canada/US border.

Considering how large the illegal alien population is in California, Arizona and Texas one wonders if the amount of money and time spent on the enforcement program is providing full value for the investment. Regardless, in these post
9-11 times security of the border is the Holy Grail. With the arrival of the new firepower, its time for the folks in Langley and South Surrey to prepare for the whoop, whoop, whoop of the Black Hawk on its appointed rounds. US official advised that the Black Hawks would not routinely enter Canadian airspace, though one suspects that "accidental" incursions will be part of the drill.

No doubt Customs and Immigration in Canada must be casting an envious eye at the list of materials provided to its American counterparts in pursuit of enforcement. Of course we too could put some Helicopters in the air; the much vaunted (and now maligned) Sea King stands ready for duty. And perhaps it may be the more feared of the two helicopter options.

Sure the Black Hawk is fancy, shiny, fearsome and relatively new (well newer than the Sea Kings anyways). But hey, with the record of Sea King emergency descents, what smuggler would want to take the chance of having a Sea King plunge to the border. One look at our grey gooses thundering downward would change the mind of even the most notorious of evil doers. Better yet, use the Sea King option for transportation of the arrested to a jail. Just the suggestion of being tossed into a Sea King for hopefully a half hour flight should pretty well dry up the cocaine, human cargo and money laundering trade for years to come

Will all the extra attention spoil our little diversion?

Don’t look now but blogging is about to enter the realm of commerce. What started out as the bastion of the lone voice or two in the wilderness, railing on against injustice or poor governance is now becoming a marketing tool.

An article in Thursday’s Globe and Mail has given us a look at the future of blogging, and while we continue on with our whims, witticisms and unfiltered wisdom, Big Business wants to make some money!

Jim Carroll, a Mississauga based futurist and author says the future belongs to those that can tailor a blog for their business plan. With relative ease a small business owner can put together a blog to market their product and do it relatively inexpensively; the estimated cost of keeping an interesting and informative blog is around 300 dollars a year, a wise investment for potentially a goldmine of advertising. Carroll says a well designed blog can find itself recommended highly on the Google search engine, having your marketing blog listed in the first page of a Google search could send hundreds if not thousands of customers your way!

Carroll first identified blogging as a great way to get the message out over two years ago, but he was apparently two years ahead of his time. Now with such heavyweights as Bill Gates and other technology pros giving the blogger types a tip of their hat, it seems that we will soon be battling even more participants in the blogsphere.

One bit of information caught my eye in the Globe story was the demographic breakdown of those that view blogs. A study by Jupiter research last year has determined that 61% of those that surf the net and check out blogs spend between 5 and 10 hours a week reading entries and have an annual income of over 60,000 dollars. It’s estimated that roughly 5.5 million people chase blogs on the internet looking for a place to rest their eyes.

5.5 million, of which 61% make over 60,000 dollars a year!! For those resting their eyes here at A Town called Podunk, its time to share some wealth!

Like the various e mail temptations from Africa or lottery winning notifications from England, we here at Podunk are ready to take some cash. Please send all pertinent information to our mailbox at podunkcan@yahoo.ca, at 60,000 dollars a year we truly suspect you’ll never even notice your donation!

Look at it as an investment for your five to ten hours of wondrous enjoyment here at Podunk!

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Mother Nature's spectacular show

I’ve been drawn away from the computer the last 48 hours and we can hold Mother Nature responsible for my abandonment of my blog. Podunk has just gone through two nights of spectacular fireworks, as late night lightning storms have left the entire area in awe. Fueled by over two weeks of unusually hot and sunny weather for our area, the mixing of pressure systems finally brought us to an amazing display of atmospheric pyrotechnics. Having lived both in humid Ontario and flat and hot Manitoba I have seen my fair share of thunderstorms, but the evenings of the last 48 hours, have provided me with a show I can honestly say I haven’t seen before. Podunk traditionally does not get hot enough to provide the conditions for a severe thunder storm, but we've had a very very nice summer thus far, extremely not and very sunny, a definite change from our frequently cool and cloudy climes. With the heat bound to break eventually, the last 48 hours set in motion the chance to sit back and enjoy a show without compare!

We began our own version of the Symphony of Fire with a Sunday night show of dry or sheet lightning; off far in the distance it lit the sky up for two hours with nary a sound of thunder, nor a drop of rain. Bright flashes of energy changed the hue of the sky and lit up the surrounding mountains in an eerie bright light. The first night of our double header brought people out onto their decks, gathered along the waterfront and on street corners taking in a most unusual spectacle for our area. It was interesting to listen to the neighbourhood as those outdoors for the show ooed and awed, screamed and cursed during the two hours of bright flashing bursts. Large crowds gathered on our waterfront which is pitch black at night to view the best the atmosphere could offer.

But if Sunday night was impressive, Monday night was the BIG show. It again began around 10:30 as thunder crackled off the mountains and flashes of the sheet lightning once again cascaded around the Podunk area. And then came the bright flashes of fork lightning, dancing across the sky in all directions, whichever way you looked you would find a bolt stretching across the sky or crashing downwards toward the ground. The noise was deafening as the thunder boomers rolled through the area with a force not seen here in a long time, if ever. By eleven o’clock the power grid in most of the city surrendered to the Gods of lightning and we were plunged into darkness in over 70 per cent of Podunk. (Having decided to shut down my computer earlier on in the festivities, sensing that we were in for a beauty of a storm, the power interruption quickly brought my plans to update my blogs to a halt).

The complete darkness only added to the drama of the show, some bursts of lightning were so bright as to hurt the eyes. The loudness of the thunder would rattle off the walls of your house. You could feel the electricity flowing through the air when the crackles of fork lightning zipped across the sky. Torrents of rain would finally arrive at the peak of the storm, pounding off the pavement and roof in a tattoo of noise. Emergency vehicles added to the symphony of noise as they rushed from one end of town to the other, investigating near misses, examining some hits or taking care of medical problems caused by the storm and blackout.

Once again as with the night before, many gathered out doors to watch the unfolding show (though to be honest I myself stayed within the confines of my home content to view the event from the comfort of my living room couch, I’ll leave it those that are either braver or more foolish than I to wander outside in a storm such as this one). And in true podunkian fashion many gathered once again on the waterfront to watch the flashing bursts of lightning up close and personal. Of course, one must realize that this is a town that when issued with a tsunami warning will rush down to the waterfront to watch the waves. Observers say that the traffic downtown the last two nights was much heavier than usual on two normally slow nights in Podunk. Apparently we are nothing if not a village of Lookie Loos.

Needless to say the marathon storm has been the topic of the day in Podunk as people compared notes and shared their experiences with the wrath of Nature.

The day began cooler today and though it heated up again as the afternoon went on, we seem to have been denied a third night of celestial entertainment. Podunkians will be talking about the last 48 hours for a while; it was a most spectacular display and reminds us all once again, of the power of nature and how we’re but mere observers in the face of its full wrath!

With the relative peace and quiet of the night, its back to my blog and the task of cobbling together my little efforts in the blogsphere, I only wish I could provide as much entertainment as that which was sent through the atmosphere these last two nights.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

The week of essentials

A full week back and slowly the writers block is lifting. While we try to gather our thoughts, here's the week that was.

10-Aug-04 Oil bubbles over
10-Aug-04 Bring Lawyers, guns and Money
10-Aug-04 Learning to understand Orange
10-Aug-04 And they're worried about flouride in the water?
10-Aug-04 Keeping the defendant on a short leash
11-Aug-04 Radio Liberte
11-Aug-04 Tonight on 60 minutes: journalists who have gone bad
11-Aug-04 Show them the money
11-Aug-04 The wedding was nice but the Hors' Dourves were a little off
11-Aug-04 Reforming the electoral system BC style
12-Aug-04 Voting with their shopping dollars
12-Aug-04 Motviating the Monkey, could change the human work ethic
12-Aug-04 Feel better yet? "I know what I'm doing"
12-Aug-04 The Bears are wandering the street
12-Aug-04 Those incredible men in their almost flying machines
13-Aug-04 Weather for Montreal: Sunny, hot and a trace of sulphur trioxide
13-Aug-04 Take two aspirins and come up with a new idea
13-Aug-04 Stow away those Hudson Bay Blankets
13-Aug-04 You can lead this gal to water, but if it ain't Kabbalah she won't drink
13-Aug-04 Ok everyone, return all those wedding gifts!
14-Aug-04 The citizenship window closes at Midnight
14-Aug-04 The governor is out
14-Aug-04 GI Joe War Fraud
14-Aug-04 If a tree falls in the forest
14-Aug-04 But they only like it for the articles
15-Aug-04 Higher, Faster, stronger, Stoner?
15-Aug-04 The American view of the CBC's Olympic coverage
15-Aug-04 Friends and Family television
15-Aug-04 "Some day, and that day may never come; I'm going
to ask a favour of you"

15-Aug-04 Michael Morre, trailblazes a whole new genre of film
16-Aug-04 Oil is high,yet some wonder why?
16-Aug-04 New Jersey: Where the West Wing meets the Soprano's
merging with queer eye for the straight guy and
ending with a career that goes six feet under!

16-Aug-04 For wedded bliss this is movie you should miss!
16-Aug-04 What if they gave a show and nobody came?
16-Aug-04 Taking a test spin with the Maytag repairman

Friday, August 13, 2004

When Big corporations don't read their own handboooks

Folks in Montreal are just a little peeved at Noranda these days, earlier this week the Noranda zinc refinery in Valleyfield, Quebec 50 kilometers west of Montreal released five tonnes of sulphur trioxide into the atmosphere. The chemical release took the form of a cloud which traveled eastward over the suburbs and into downtown Montreal.

Blaming a faulty pump and lack of prevailing winds, Noranda eventually gave out more details as to what happened and why. It seems that with no wind to speak of, the cloud just kind of hovered over the city for a longer than usual amount of time. The folks at Noranda added that normally in these situations, the cloud dissipates long before anyone is inconvenienced. However, one is not sure if it’s reassuring to realize that this may not be a particularly unusual situation for the company.

Some People in Greater Montreal complained of sore throats and general irritation during the four hour event. Making matters worse for many of the residents of Greater Montreal was the fact that Noranda never actually informed anyone of the mishap until much later on in the event. In fact it wasn't until one family contacted police to report the problem, that anyone knew of the situation.

Noranda officials say that they contacted provincial emergency officials as soon as the event began, but somehow it seems the word did not get out too effectively, they are currently reviewing their communications strategy.

This might be a wise decision for the folks at Noranda, as from their corporate website we found these little Public Relations gems. Kind of a mission statement if you will about responsibility.

From the Corporate Responsibility section of the website is this under the title of Open Dialogue:

Because Noranda has obligations to its communities, we strive to maintain open communication and dialogue. This is an important aspect of doing business, and we are continually working to build alliances within the communities in which we operate. Operations throughout Noranda ensure that local risks are communicated, often in collaboration with community organizations.

Also under the Corporate Responsibility section is a section called Donations and Sponsorships:

Health - In order to continue offering the superior health care available in Canada, many health care agencies depend on corporate support for funding not covered by government grants. Through our limited budget, contributions are considered for hospital campaigns in the communities where we operate, and prevention-oriented programs on a national level.

People in Greater Montreal may wish to apply for some health funding should things go awry again at Valleyfield.

At any rate, it might be a wise corporate legal department which reinforces the idea of alliances and communications to the PR department. Long before the next sulphur cloud works its way over the second largest city in the nation!

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Back on the keyboard

Well I've technically been back for a couple of days, but finding it hard to get back into the writing groove. I've been Keeping my eyes open for some interesting story ideas and formulating my thoughts, hopefully to one day come out in some form of coherent stream.

While I was away the Democrats held a coronation for John Kerry, featuring fiery oration from such Democrat activists as Rev Sharpton and a whack of Hollywood actors. Al, Jimmy, Hillary and Bill all spoke to the troops and basked in the adulation. The VP candidate John Edwards gave a very entertaining speech full of the ususal rah rah's about his boss' chances. It featured a speech from the son of one of the most well known Republicans of all time, and while not overly partisan, the Democrats must have loved the idea of son of Gipper speaking at their shinding. One of the big surprises and more enjoyable speeches came from Barack Obama, who is seen as the future of the Democratic Party. And he must have the Republicans scared as the attack dogs have already been out chewing up his speech at the convention and spitting it back at him.

Candidate Kerry himself, gave a serviceable speech, not a great speechmaker at the best of times, he held his own on accession night. Hitting the right notes and telling the Democrats what they wanted to hear, compared to his competitor in the upcoming election Kerry was positively Churchillian in his oratory. That being said the convention had all the suspense of walking ones dog. You knew where the beast was going and how it was going to get there. Riveting TV it did not make, well scripted and delivered. It appears that the Democrats have certainly benefited from their attachment to Hollywood.

Musicians entered the battle for the hearts and minds of America this election year, as Bruce Springsteen brought his social conscience to the political ring. If the Bush folks thought things had gone south with the Dixie Chicks, wait until the fans of the Boss, the believers of Bon Jovi and the followers of Mellencamp take to the struggle. If nothing else the soundtrack to the 2004 election is going to have a very lively beat.

In Canada we were treated to the developments of the Post Office's grand pooh bah raking cash into his bank account at a record clip and acting every bit the aggrieved bureaucrat. Going to be a hard sell that one to the Canadian public, which thought it had heard everything over the last few years. Ready to get to work, PM the PM picked his lucky winners and has the new cabinet firmly in place. The first order of business for an anxious country, promptly arranging vacation time for the newly elected MP's, now that's a Canadian work ethic!

In my travels I learned that Albertans treat their speed limits as more of a suggestion, rather than a regulation. Gas is cheaper where there is no tax, and Harvey's still makes the best Hamburger in Canada (though they need to go back to their old style french fries, the new ones just don't have that oomph). The West Edmonton wave pool is a good place to take your kid, as is the Odysium science centre. Fort Edmonton Historical Park is a worthwhile stop if you're rolling along the Whitemud, but the Edmonton Zoo is not exactly a five star tourist attraction.(If ever there was something for Edmontonians to envy about their southern cousins, perhaps its the comparison of the two zoos!).

Having done our part for the Canadian retail economy we now retrench and retreat to the safety of the basement. No more participating in the economic revival, we'll sit on the sidelines and toss our brickbats. It won't be long til our fingers are flying once again, of that we're sure.