Thursday, January 22, 2009

Fashion Disaster

Might as well start them early.

Rick Mercer says Canadians envious of U.S.

Shooting at a TTC station

Talk about scary. I'm riding the subway downtown for a meeting when I get two messages on my Blackberry that there has been a shooting at the Osgoode station. The TTC new e-Alerts were also blasted to users with a message similar to the one below. Coverage has been incredible. The police have released video of a suspect. Stay tuned for more.

Linda Blair from the Exorcist is 50

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

How to Spot a Canadian

There is a website dedicated to recognizing Canadians. It states that Canadians are a tricky people to distinguish. They are often able to blend into a society and appear to be American, British, French or any other number of nationalities. This site will provide you with some tips and tricks to help you recognize a Canadian no matter where you are.

One post talks about their money...

Canadian money is weird. It's all a mass of different coloured bills and there are far too many coins. Americans, in particular, are confused by such a bizarre form of currency.

It gets worse.

In Canada they actually allow a store to print its own money.

It sounds insane. But it's true. Okay, it's not actually money. It's "money." The quotation marks are very important.

You see, Canadian Tire, a large retail store in Canada, has been handing out its own money for years. Whenever you purchase anything from a Canadian Tire store you receive Canadian Tire "money" back along with your change. This "money" can be used during future visits to Canadian Tire in place of real money. It's quite strange, but this practice has been going on in Canada for generations.

It's always interesting to see the reactions of tourists or new Canadians when they are handed this "money" back along with their change for the first time.

Usually the reaction is a look of confusion at this weird custom. Some people will think they are being ripped off and given fake money back in lieu of their actual change. Some people think they're being given foreign currency. Some think it's a joke. They will eventually understand this bizarre custom and leave the store.

There is a good chance some of those Canadian Tire virgins will attempt to spend the money at another store and be ridiculed.

In that way Canadian Tire "money" is kind of like Canadian hazing.

Billy Ocean is 59 today

Razzie Award nominations are out

The Razzie nominations were announced this morning which recognize the worst coming out of Hollywood for 2008. Mike Myers' The Love Guru got the most nominations with seven. Paris Hilton's The Hottie and the Nottie and M. Night Shyamalan's The Happening also got a few nominations.

I'm proud to say that once again I have not seen a single nominated film. For those who are curious, the nominations are announced the day before the Oscar nominations come out. The winners are also announced the day before the Oscars are given out.

How do the judges score a costume malfunction

At the European Skating Championships Russian figure skater Ekaterina Rubleva was being twirled around by her partner, Ivan Shefer, when her costume started to slip.

The 23-year-old kept smiling, but with the next move requiring her partner to hold her hand above her head, the inevitable happened.

Another pair of dumb criminals

The two men responsible for burning pro-Cardinals slogans into the lawn of Donovan McNabb’s offseason home in Arizona last weekend were arrested Saturday evening.

The two men, Rex Perkin, 37, and Ryan Hanlon, 28, were arrested Saturday around 6 p.m., for using [diesel] fuel to kill the grass in the Philadelphia quarterback’s lawn and leave the messages., “Go Cards,” “Go Kurt,” and “I (heart) AZ.”

So how do you think these two geniuses were caught? Well one of the vandals left behind a box that had his name and address on it. That’s some solid police work right there.

People are turning on Ron Wilson already

At the start of the season I predicted that despite the fact that Ron Wilson is an excellent coach the medial and fans would eventually turn on him. That’s just the nature of the beast in the hyper-inflated Toronto sports market. Well it appears that the negative vibes are happening already.

Don Cherry who many Canadian hockey fans revere has been calling Wilson “Napoleon” for criticizing his players. Others in media have joined in this debate on whether Wilson has been too harsh. Fans on radio call –in shows have also jumped on the bandwagon. They are suggested that the recent slump is directly related to Wilson’s harsh approach and that players have become de-motivated. This is a bunch of hogwash!

There are 4 newspaper dailies, two cable sports networks and the CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada all focused on the Leafs. The coverage is relentless. In this environment there is constant pressure to find something new or contentious to feed the equally insatiable Leaf fans. During a 15 minute media scrum, if a reporter can coax a Leaf player or official to make a controversial remark, the media horde will run with it. It doesn’t matter that the comment was taken out of context. It’s today’s story. Maybe for the next couple of days if you can analyze it to death and get someone else noteworthy to comment on it. So after the game, the coach is asked to comment about a player who was on the ice for 3 opposition goals. Never mind the fact that the player was going to be trashed anyway in the post-game reports. If they coach says something negative then the story is written from the perspective of the coach’s remarks. That is more interesting than another report on a bad team.

The media works from a double standard. They can run negative after negative column without being called out. For example, shortly after the Jason Blake signing last season the chirping began and pick up steam as the season progressed. By the summer there were long extensive opinions on how Blake had to be either demoted to the minors or bought out. His contract was such a liability that he was considered untradeable. However, when Blake was sent to the press box for a couple games because of poor play then all hell broke loose. A few weeks ago the coach suggested that Blake had turned around his game and was one of the Leaf's best players. Now that comment was virtually ignored by the media

What Obama means to Canada

I watched part of the Obama inauguration but left my office to get to a meeting downtown. As I was walking down the hall to the elevator I realized that every office I passed was empty. Staff were congregating in meeting rooms to watch the ceremony on televisions set up for the occasion. It was eerily quiet because the phones had stopped ringing. When I got downtown, it was the same story – there were large crowds of people watching the inauguration on televisions in electronic stores. Dundas Square had hundreds of people watch it from giant screens. Workplaces and schools across Canada ground to a halt to watch the proceedings.

When I mentioned this to some of my American friends later in the day, most were quite surprised. Why would Canadians be that interested in the inauguration of an American president? In fact, this phenomenon was likely not limited to Canada – it likely took place across the globe. Most people here recognized that the transition to the new president was an historic event even though some Americans I spoke to refused to acknowledge that was the case. “He’s just another president not a black president”, is what I was told. But that’s not the case. In the backdrop of history – acceptance of slavery by the founding fathers, the Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation, the civil rights movement, etc. – this was a significant leap forward. It doesn’t matter what his politics are or whether how well is does. History was written yesterday and millions around the world wanted to witness it.

But in addition, the promise to bring about change both in America and abroad has implications for Canada. We are a mouse living next door to this enormous elephant. The world is counting on Obama leading the world to economic recovery by cleaning up the mess at home. Canadian troops are also dying in Afghanistan so we have a direct interest in American policy there. Climate change is a global issue. American energy policy, trade policy and security policy can have implications for Canadians.

It’s a small planet we live on or maybe it’s just a very large village.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Leaf Nation meet Tank Nation

It's happening. The Toronto Maple Leafs are actually tanking. There is no other explanation for what is happening to this team.

Make no mistake; this is not the usual just-bad-enough-to-miss-the-playoffs style of losing that characterized the last three Leaf seasons. What's happening this year is different. We were fooled early in the season when the Leafs looked no worse than many other playoff contenders. The Leafs are turning into the team we thought they'd be this year and the team management predicted they would be. In other words, they're bad—and they would be making a strong run at the first overall draft pick in June except the Islanders are even better at tanking.

I was at last night’s game and it was painful to watch. But after 3 mediocre season you have to be bad, really bad to get good again. That’s what happened in Ottawa, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Washington and it’s happening in Phoenix. Yet for the first few months of the current season the Leafs seemed intent on thwarting their destiny, not only were they winning, they were playing annoyingly well. On December 23, however, the downward spiral began. That night, the Leafs lost 8-2 to the Dallas Stars; they were down 3-0 before registering their second shot on goal, and from there it was simply a question of how the Dallas players would pad their stat lines. Since that game, the Leafs are 3-8-1 and are slipping down the NHL standings. They currently sit twenty-fifth, but teams twenty-six through twenty-nine are within four points.

So let the tanking continue from now until the end of the season. Last overall might be a stretch—the New York Islanders have that sewn up—but a top-five draft pick looks increasingly likely. New general manager Brian Burke seems to be on board: apart from the odd acquisition of Brad May he hasn’t done much. If you wanted to inject some life into this lineup you would try bringing up Boyd Devereaux or Mark Bell from the Marlies or pick up one of many spare goalies to give some relief to Toskala. However this team is going to look drastically different after the March 5 trade deadline. They will be worse, God willing. We've struggled to embrace a deliberate tank job, but it's what the team needs in order to fix its myriad problems. We'll never root against the Maple Leafs...but we won't be too upset when they lose, either. Seldom has rooting for our favourite team been so complicated.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Today's news


Should Israel's response to Hamas rockets have been proportional?

Damage from an Israeli aerial bomb.

A home-made Hamas rocket.

The hostilities in the Gaza have once more brought out the debate about whether the Israeli response to Hamas rockets was proportional. I have found this line of thinking an academic exercise but not reflective of the realities of the Middle East.

The starting point is that Hamas is fighting a war of attrition with the goal of eliminating the State of Israel. Unfortunately they have limited weapons at their disposal to fight this war. So they lobby crude rockets at Israeli border towns doing limited damage. The Israelis do strike back but these limited skirmishes have no impact on Hamas. However, after several thousand rockets there is a breaking point. In the past Israel has been able to use its military power as a deterrence. The wars fought in 1956, 1967 and 1973 in each case made its hostile neighbours think twice about fighting again. In fact, Egypt and Jordan made peace with Israel because it was in their interest to do so although the relations are anything but warm.

The deterrence factor seems to have been lost over the last few years. The attack on Hamas was intended to be disproportionate. Only a strong response would provide the southern Israeli towns with a period of quiet. Although it is hoped that this break in hostilities might lead to a diplomatic breakthrough, I doubt it very much. Hamas is a radical Islamic group much like the Taliban that is ideologically driven. Accepting the existence of the State of Israel is just not in their lexicon.

Are expectation too high for Barack Obama?

It appears that many people are treating the Obama inauguration as history in the making. Even in Canada schools and workplaces will have TVs on to watch the ceremony. To add to the historic moment is the juxtaposition of having Martin Luther King Day on the day preceding the inauguration.

I can't help but wonder are expectation going to be too high? He has been selling a new vision for America and hope for a better future. It will tough to deliver in this "era of cynicism". The economy is a mess, America is weary of fighting two wars, the Middle East has exploded once again, and confidence in politicians are as low as it can go.

With every new president there is talk about the honeymoon period - the grace period before critics are jumping on your back. It can go from 30 days to 100 days. For this administration it may be shorter rather than longer. I wish him well, for everyone's sake.

Enough with the snow, I'm ready for spring

I thought the weather couldn’t get worse than it was last winter but hold on that just might be the case. After the dumping this weekend, we have now had a total of 115 cm (45 inches) in Toronto and we aren’t even half way through winter. Last year we had a record snowfall of 194 cm (over 6 feet) but by January 19th we had only 78 cm (30 inches). At the rate we are going we could have 9 feet of snow this winter. Since we haven’t had many thaws the snow keeps accumulating. We’re going to run out of places to dump the stuff.

As for driving in the snow it wouldn’t be so bad if other drivers had a clue themselves. So I thought I would reprint a column from The Globe and Mail on winter driving. And good luck out there.

Welcome to Remedial Winter Driving for Torontonians 101. Here's the executive summary: Snow and ice mean you must drive more slowly and not so close to my rear bumper. There. That's pretty much it. Any questions?

"Doctor, please tell me why revving my engine and spinning my wheels endlessly does not magically get me out of a snowdrift."

Excellent question. It seems many of you believe this method - known as the "Toronto method" - is effective, although evidence suggests it merely creates enough noise to attract frustrated passersby who then feel obligated to help.

Getting out of the snow is usually quite easy. Most of the time, all you need to do is barely touch your accelerator, flip your car in and out of reverse, and rock gently back and forth until you escape. But stick to the Toronto method if you insist - you won't get any help from me.

Next question. Yes, you in the front row. "I drive just as fast and recklessly in winter as I do in mid-July. Why is this a problem?"

Another excellent question. You will no doubt end up in one of the hundreds of minor fender-benders that clog the city's roads every time we get some serious snow. How about banning unqualified drivers from leaving their homes during or after a snowfall? Perhaps we need a new "S-Class" or "snow clearance" driver's licence.

Now, class, let's give a warm welcome to our guest lecturer, Toronto Police Sergeant Tim Burrows, who has sorted out winter traffic accidents off and on for 15 years. His advice is not complicated: You must drive more slowly.

"There was one the other day, it was just simply comical," Sgt. Burrows said. "A lady, she avoided running into the back end of a bus by turfing her vehicle up over a curb and into a snowbank. She was so proud of herself for missing the bus."

If she had been driving more slowly, this bus-or-snowbank dilemma would not have presented itself, Sgt. Burrows pointed out. Most people, he said, manage not to slide through intersections or into buses, even in winter. His advice is for drivers of any age to upgrade their skills with a special winter driving or "skid control" class.

Next, please welcome Angelo DiCicco, the general manager of Young Drivers of Canada in the Greater Toronto Area, who has been teaching driving lessons to both young learners and adults seeking refresher courses for 21 years. He said many Toronto drivers seem mentally unprepared for snow every year.

"We're in Canada. It's January. This happens often," Mr. DiCicco said. "The roads are slippery. ... You're surprised that you lost traction?"

Mr. DiCicco's tips for winter driving include keeping a supply of cat litter in your trunk to sprinkle under your tires when stuck, to boost your traction. He also believes all drivers should get winter tires, which make a dramatic difference in stopping time on snowy roads. Quebec, where most drivers already switch for the winter, made snow tires mandatory this year.

But this is Toronto, not Rimouski. Many of us get along just fine without snow tires in the city most of the winter. Making them mandatory might just license some to drive even more idiotically. Class dismissed.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

White trash in Wasilla?

According to a barely literate MySpace message, Sarah Palin is snubbing the family of Levi Johnston, the jock who knocked up Bristol, because they're "white trash."

The message was supposedly left by Mercede Johnston, Levi's 18-year-old sister, on the page of a friend, a former Wasilla resident who now lives in Florida, to tell her about an upcoming trip to Orlando. It likely has a lot to do with the fact that her mom Sherry was recently busted for dealing OxyContin so now the family isn't allowed to visit Bristol and Levi's love child.

One Hit Wonder

Badfinger - Day After Day (1971)

Badfinger was supposed to be the heir apparent to The Beatles. It didn't quite work out. Tragically the band had more suicides than hits.

Checking in on the ex-Maple Leafs

With the revolving door installed in the Maple Leaf dressing room, it's hard enough keeping track of the Leaf lineup let alone recently departed players. You know these deals never seem to work out well for the Leafs. I think it's just bad karma left over from Harold Ballard.

Andrew Raycroft (Colorado)
By the end of last season I can't think of a Leaf player who was booed more than Rayzor. Is confidence was shot. He had to play better somewhere else. He didn't have a great start in Colorado bad suddenly put together a string of good games. After serving as the back-up to Peter Budaj through the first two months of the season, Raycroft has started in five of the last six games. He has a solid 2.73 goals-against average and .903 save percentage to go with a 9-3 record. We could use that now. Though in a start last week he stopped a puck behind the net and instead of shooting it in the corner he threw in front to Oiler Shawn Horcoff for the winning goal (see below). Sounds like the Rayzor we know.

Darcy Tucker (Colorado)
Darcy Tucker is having a Darcy Tucker year. He has played the agitator which at times has hurt his team. In a recent game against Minnesota he totally lost it and took a couple minors and a misconduct to seal a loss. No one was happy and as usual Tucker didn't really care. He is on course for a 10 goal, 18 point season which is not much for $2.25 million.

Bryan McCabe (Florida) McCabe now has eight goals and 12 assists in 33 contests this season. Although this season has been marred by injuries, McCabe seems to be rounding back into vintage form. He is a +8 and heading for a 16 goal, 40 point season and could help carry Florida into a playoff spot.

Mats Sundin (Vancouver)
It's taking Sundin some time to get into shape. In 5 games he has 1 goal and 1 assist but a -4. Not too much yet for that kind of money. Too early to say whether signing him was a mistake,

Kyle Wellwood (Vancouver)
When he arrived in Vancouver he was still out of shape as far as hockey players go and it looked like his NHL career had come to an end. But early injuries got him back on the roster and he has been very productive. He is currently 2nd on the team with 14 goals and headed for a 25-goal season. He is even a +4. However, the most recent Canuck game had Wellwood back in the pressbox which raised some eyebrows. Wellwood continues to be a one-dimensional player which means once he stops scoring his ice time disappears.

Alex Steen (St. Louis)
Steen had been struggling offensively with the Maple Leafs and was pointless in his first six games with the Blues. However, Steen has turned his season around, scoring four goals and 12 points in his last 15 games and just a -1.

Carlos Colaiacovo (St. Louis)
One of the byproducts of all their injuries on defence is that ex-Leaf Carlo Colaiacovo is playing a lot for the St. Louis Blues these days. In his first 22 games with the Blues, Colaiacovo is averaging almost 18 minutes per night and had scored eight points in 22 games, largely because he was getting time on the second power play. Trade is not looking too good so far.

Hal Gill (Pittsburgh)
Gill has been Pittsburgh's 6th or 7th defenseman this season despite the fact that the Penguins have been hit with injuries on the blue line. He has been a healthy scratch on occasion. However, he has provided the Penguins with a fair amount of toughness and has contributed with 3 points. OK, he's no Bobby Orr.

Wade Belak (Nashville)
After being traded to Florida, the Panthers signed him to a 2 year contract then put him on waivers in December. He was eventually traded to Nashville where he has continued to fill the enforcer role. His exit from Florida had nothing to do with his play. Rather he was the player designated to be the fall guy in a shake up during a team slump.

Mark Bell (Marlies)
Openings in the Leaf lineup has not provided Bell with an opportunity to return to the NHL. Instead the Leaf call ups have been Jir Tlusty, Jeremy Williams, and Andre Deveaux. Mark Bell is 3rd in scoring on the Marlies with 9 goals and 21 points in 41 games. He becomes a free agent this summer and may find a team to hook up with. But in won't be at $2.5 million.

Movie Review: Valkyrie

Films based on true stories tend to bomb or turned out to be epics. If the film can trick the audience into forgetting that they know the story already, it is a sure sign that they have done well. Tension can be explicitly built into the foreknowledge of doom,, where the suspense comes not from ‘will it all go wrong?’ but rather ‘how will it all go wrong?’. Valkyrie concerns the last of over a dozen separate plots to assassinate Adolf Hitler during the reign of the Third Reich. Tom Cruise stars as Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, the Nazi officer who led the plot to assassinate Hitler in 1944. He is surrounded by an outstanding collection of British character actors playing other key Nazis (Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Terence Stamp).

Well for me the movie was smack in between a bomb and a hit and my expectations were low. There was some suspense but I didn't get sucked into the film.
Cruise manages his part respectably, with a combination of ramrod posture, starched costumes and minimalist acting . However, as an actor Cruise is rather limited and his performance was a little wooden. The film is saved by the ensemble of Brits. I was dragged to see it by friends. Don't run out to the theatres. Wait for it to come out on DVD.

Eight years of George Bush in Eight minutes

The adorable Zooey Deschanel is 29

Mug Shot of the Week

Fashion Disaster

Christina, I think your hair is alive!