Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Year of the Podcast

I blame my boss.

It was our staff Christmas party last year, and our Christmas bonus for the second year running was an iPod. Now before you say something obvious-ish about getting iPods from the same person two years in a row, be informed that last year's iPod was a Video Nano, while the previous year was a Tie-clip shuffle.

I can't explain why the shuffle didn't have the effect that the Nano did, but upon receiving it I launched myself into a personal experiment in podcast listening (and viewing) which almost immediately turned into a full-on addiction. The amount I use my iPod for listening to music is a small fraction of the time I have my ear buds in place. I'm going to hazard a guess at 5% music, 90% podcasts, and 5% other uses.

For those who don't know the term, podcasts are essentially downloadable shows (audio or video), usually made by independent content providers (I.E. people in the comfort of their living rooms) but increasingly by small companies which manage to make money off of advertizing within podcasts and even by major media outlets (CBC is a leader in podcast access with many of their shows available for download.) They vary in length from a minute to over an hour. They vary in quality – not necessarily in line with the level of provider. They vary in content – the 'niche' audience aspect of podcasting is a key element, you can find shows on very specific topics. (Just go to the iTunes store and put any odd word into the search bar... a podcast will come up in the results.) They vary in frequency from daily, to "X" per week on no fixed release schedule, to once a week or once a month, or "whenever we feel like it". In many cases any given show's back-catalogue of episodes remains available for download online. And of as much importance as almost any other aspect, yet easily overlooked, iTunes has excellent management software, the details of which would take up a post of its' own. The simplest summary of what a podcast is that I have thought of is 'TiVo for talk-radio.' I know I just lost those for whom short-cutting the tech by referencing TiVo, is no shortcut; and those who have no love for talk-radio (podcasts are predominantly talk-based, but not exclusively.)

Okay, enough framing. That's not why I am writing. What I want to do is recommend my favourite podcasts for others to check out. A bit of a year-end list... made appropriate as I've just passed the one-year mark as a fan and advocate. I can't tell you how many different podcasts I've checked out over the last year, there are dozens which never lasted past the first few episodes. There are others that I liked at first and eventually bored or even outright sick of... "Sci-Fi Surplus" I'm looking at you. There are still others that had limited runs for reasons ranging from being serialized novels; to, the providers ran out of material; to, the hosts reached the end of their inspiration to continue – I will include a few of there in my honourable mentions, but to make my top recommendation list it must still be producing new episodes on some sort of schedule, no matter how informal. Another rather arbitrary rule – which I will practically break further down – I'm not including any TV shows that are made available as podcasts. I do download The Hour, Real Time with Bill Maher, and the Global BC News Hour, but this is the only time I'm mentioning them. I will however include a few radio shows that were originally available as podcasts. I will also be including video podcasts (technically vodcasts, but that's such a stupid name) that are purposed as podcasts. Anyhow, enough 'rules'! On with it!

First up, a few podcasts that are practically every day podcasts for me:

CBC Radio 3 Track of the Day – A mixed bag, but that's why I like it. It's always Canadian music, but beyond that it's up in the air. Each day one of the hosts picks a track, briefly justifies their choice, and then plays it. Sometimes 2 or 3 will back up on my iPod, but I always listen eventually and in a few cases I've found an artist who I've been inspired to find in the iTunes store. My latest discovery thanks to the track of the day – Zoe Keating. Check her out. Every noise you hear is cello... and it's all done with loops, so she can actually play each song live. Amazing stuff.

AC360 – I said I'd break the 'no TV' rule. But this is a slight difference. Anderson Cooper's CNN show is re-cut and re-purposed for podcast. Some content is podcast only. It's my preferred way to catch up on international (with a strong lean towards American) news analysis on a daily basis. The podcast format isn't particularly good for breaking news... at all. But it's a good way to start my day with a bit more of an in depth look at what happened in the world yesterday.

Canucks Video Podcast – Well, it's not quite daily, and days after games there are usually two podcasts. It's pretty much the same video material that is posted on their website, but it saves me the effort... oh the luxury of RSS.

Onion News Network & Onion Radio News – Again not quite daily, but between the two podcasts it's rare that one isn't available. If you aren't familiar with the Onion, do yourself a favour, check out their website. The funniest faux news-source available. And their podcasts are the cream of the crop. Particularly ONN. Each episode usually provides at least one true howler, and several subjugate chuckles as well. ORN is less reliably funny I find, and often (like their print material) the joke is the headline, so the rest is kind of a waste of time... but at 60 seconds an episode, I can afford to chance it.

60 Second Science – Scientific American's daily update on one item of Science News. Concise, usually delivered with a bit of whimsy, and pitched to be understood by someone with only rudimentary scientific knowledge. I have other sources for getting details, but this is usually where I hear about discoveries first.

Moving on...

The kind-of Top Ten:

Not really ordered beyond "My Absolute Favourite", "Six I'm always giddy about when a new episode arrives", and "Three more really good ones that I can round out a top ten with."

In reverse order...

"Three more really good ones that I can round out a top ten with."

The Moth – A rather new discovery for me, but apparently The Moth has existed for ages. It's a live storytelling event in New York and Los Angeles. It's now available as a podcast – one story a week, I believe, though I don't pay too close attention. The stories are usually 15 to 20 minutes long, often have no actual point and are regularly structurally flawed. But they are almost always amusing or touching. Some storytellers are charismatic. Many are Famous. Some storytellers are utterly off putting, like the Jewish comedienne who screamed her tale of woe about a lousy boyfriend, or the guy who told about being raised to be weird... and damn did it sound like the rearing had been successful. For the most part though it's a reliably satisfying listen.

It's All Politics – I rode this one through the primaries and right into the US election. It's been less entertaining since then, but for a weekly encapsulation of the political scene south of our border, its good listening. It's definitely left-leaning (which places it right of most Canadians) but manages to cover the good and the bad on both ends of the spectrum with good humour.

Savage Love – I've been a fan of Dan Savage's syndicated column for over a decade, but I have always found it hard to read on a regular basis. But his podcast version is far more entertaining. Imagine the same bleeding edge sexual advice being doled out in actual conversations. Dan actually phones the people on his podcast, he doesn't just write up a snide couple of paragraphs. He actually calls them and usually treats them with great respect... but not always – and that's often when it's most fun, 'cause usually they deserve it.

"Six I'm always giddy about when a new episode arrives" (In no particular order.)

TED Talks – Perhaps you are familiar with the TED Conference? I wasn't. Apparently, (I have totally gleaned this from context, not from actual facts.) every year a bunch of people gather together and share lectures with one another. The people are the greatest minds in their fields and they just get together to share ideas. I don't know who or how they get invited, and the scope of discussion is remarkable. Presenters have included; Al Gore (Before it was ever a film, An Inconvenient Truth was a TED Talk), Rick Warren (yes, THAT Rick Warren if you are up on current news – I just wanted to highlight the variation of speakers right off the top), to Thomas Dolby (Science!), Richard Dawkins, Steve Jobs, Dave Eggers, Jane Goodall, Bono and a bajillion (I exaggerate) other folks who you have never heard of. TED stands for "Technology, Entertainment, Design" – though it doesn't seem to be that strict. One talk per podcast with a backlog of talks videotaped back to 2002. My one complaint... that by monetizing the podcast (I.E. Adding advertisements to the end of each.) after initially posting them, the old episodes are now seen as new episodes... which means iTunes wants to re-download the entire 400+ episodes all over again, and I can't faithfully recall all the ones I've already seen – particularly the ones I was least interested by. Argh.

This American Life – Chicago Public Radio's best loved program with good reason. As host Ira Glass explains each week "...we choose a theme and then bring you a variety of stories based upon that theme." The scope is spectacular. Every single week I hear a story that makes me think 'THAT is a film.' This past week, the 'film' was the true story of how the American Union of Real Bearded Santa Clauses (I shit you not) had a very disturbing and un-Santa-like internal political schism. Imagine – you can experience that kind of unbelievable reality every week.

Radio Lab – I kind of see Radio Lab as the This American Life of science... but that's not quite right. Each week they choose a subject – say 'time' or 'memory' or 'perception of self' or 'armageddon' or 'distance' or ' language' or ' DNA' (you get the idea) and then they do their best to come at it sideways. Often the subject itself is one that can really only sort of be attacked for popular consumption by abstracting it. Yet at the same time there is always an undercurrent of science. It's not hard science, it's not rigorous science. That would be hard to maintain when producing a seeming stream of consciousness exploration of a topic. Regardless, when Radio Lab is in its 'off' season, my listening options are not as fulfilling.

Movies You Should See – Sometimes you have to take issue with the show's recommendations of what 'Movies You should See' ("The 'Burbs" – are you kidding me?) but of all the shows in my top ten, it is the one that will give me the most reliable laughs. It is also one of the two podcasts in my top ten that is not professionally produced. Four Brits sit around their living room and talk about the chosen movie of the week... and whatever random discussion that follows from the core discussion. My one criticism of the show is the levels of 'IN' you need to have to fully appreciate it. But trust me; you'll 'get' it eventually. I could even try to help explain some of the in jokes – like how Bloom (Shorthand for Orlando Bloom) is such a bad actor that he actually sucks good acting off other actors who are nearby – he is a black hole of acting... as is 'Mannequin Skywalker' (Hayden Christensen to those of you on the 'out' side of things.)

To the Best of Our Knowledge – The triad is complete. This American Life, Radio Lab and To the Best of Our Knowledge. TTBOOK, as it is called, sits somewhere between the other two. It's the Radio Lab of social sciences. It is based more upon interviews than reporting, and is far less limited in its subject matter, both overall and even within its weekly theme. Unfortunately it is currently on hiatus and is re-airing some of the best shows of the past year... which isn't such a bad thing really except that it's a podcast, so if I wanted to hear the old episode I could just go download it. (Not everyone has fully grokked the nature of podcasting – even the providers who are transitioning from Radio to internet delivery.) To the Best of Our Knowledge might actually be my favourite of the three similar shows. I'm not sure why though; I just want it to come back soon.

Filmspotting – Another Chicago Public Radio offering. It's little more than a weekly movie review show. There are a few additional features – such as a top five list such as 'Top Five Films About High-School' or 'Top Five Actors Who Died in their Prime' and a weekly challenge to identify a snippet of dialogue from a beloved film as performed by the non-performer hosts. Occasionally the hosts travel to the TIFF or SXSW or Sundance and come back with interviews which they dole out at appropriate times too. For upcoming and current movies Filmspotting is my favourite source.

"My Absolute Favourite"

My number one favourite podcast is The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe. It was one of the handful of podcasts I first downloaded without really knowing what I was getting into and if there was a podcast I listened to before it, I have forgotten. I was randomly searching the iTunes store for interesting stuff to sample and in the Science and Tech category I found a podcast name that intrigued me – Skeptic's Guide to the Universe. I had no idea what I was in for.

I could have decided to label 2008 as the year of rational thought – as it was my other big 'discovery' this year. I have clearly been a rationalist practically all of my life, but didn't realise it or that there is a formalized movement of rational thinkers in the world. Skeptic's Guide was my gateway drug. So, as it was podcasts that led me to my big awakening of the year, I choose to give them the honour of being the catalytic paradigm of note for 2008.

I began listening to the SGU in mid-December 2007 and was 'caught up' by late-April. Their early episodes were rough, but they soon found a groove. I found that the various personalities on the show evoked a variety of responses from me. I hated Perry originally, but later found that I laughed uproariously at his sense of humour more than anyone else's. (The show has never quite recovered from losing his presence.) I immediately loved Skepchick Rebecca (as did every geeky guy listener in the world, it seems) but as she began to believe in her own superstar status, I began to find her more and more tiresome. I don't think I could be alone. About the time I wrote an email complaining about her smug self-importance she seemed to calm down a bit – coincidence? (Oh ho! Rationalist humour!) I expect I could not have been alone in wearying of her egocentric legend. The lead-host Dr. Steven Novella is extremely well spoken and intelligent. His well practiced ability to dissect any argument down to its core principles is laudable. His younger brothers, the uber-geeky Bob who sports wood at the mention of the prefix 'nano', and my favourite, Jay who has a puerile sense of humour but is always the first to congratulate the others on a job well done. Last but not least there is Even Bernstein, who also puts time into producing the SGU's companion podcast "SGU 5x5" – a shorter, tighter, weekly podcast that alternates with the main one.

I have cried listening to the SGU (I won't spoil it for you; you simply have to listen in order from the beginning. I cried shamelessly, on public transit.) But more often I laugh and I always find it interesting if not usefully informative. Their guests have ranged from Richard Dawkins to President Jimmy Carter and included many names that would be familiar to the rationalist community and even a few names that any media savvy person would recognize. It is very conversational and feels like sitting in on a weekly chat with friends about the week's more preposterous 'science' and the social politics surrounding it.

Some Honourable Mentions for those of you who really just can't stop reading:

I could have filled up my top ten with Skeptical podcasts (Notice how I slipped SGU 5x5 in?) but I didn't feel it was good use of space. Skeptoid is perhaps a bit brash. Host Brian Dunning is very no nonsense, perhaps to a fault. But for 'just the facts' analysis of a range of topics, Skeptoid is excellent. Skepticality is kind of the 'touchy feely' skeptical podcast. Some excellent interviews – I particularly enjoy their ongoing relationship with secular lobbyist Lori Lippman-Brown, but the real highlight of Skepticality came from tragedy. Originally Derek was much more outgoing than his co-host Swoopy. But then – while at a podcasting conference dinner – he had a stroke. He survived. But it was left to Swoopy to continue. Swoopy blossomed, and while Derek is still a part of the show – and the show indeed was part of his recovery – Skepticality is Swoopy's show now. Listening to Derek's recovery and Swoopy's chrysalis unfold on the show was awesome. Also The Amazing Show is quite entertaining. Not consistently about skeptical thought, but it features the mac-daddy of skeptics, James Randi usually imparting some anecdote which occasionally has something to do with skepticism.

CBC has many podcasts as I noted earlier. Most have a lot to offer and I listen to about six of them, but only one makes my top ten. Podcasts of "As it Happens" and "Morning Edition" are merely single highlights from the most recent daily show. "Vinyl Cafe" – I largely listen to for Dave & Morely stories. "Ideas" was a limited series that I am slowly working my way through. "The Hour" is a truncated and chopped up version of the TV show.

Wait Wait Don't Tell Me – Chicago Public Radio scores again with NPR's current events quiz show. It's usually very funny, and occasionally I pick up a piece of news I'd previously missed.

Astronomy Cast – They posted their first episode the week Pluto quit being a planet, and slowly, week by week they have tackled a new astronomical subject. Sometimes I find it hard to fully understand – I've never fully appreciated the wave/particle duality except in a superficial kind of way. Other times it has clarified things I only mostly 'got' – The Theory of Relativity... I thought I understood it, but then listening to one episode I suddenly realised how cursory my knowledge of one aspect was. And still other times it expands upon the now outdated high-school astronomy (from the ground-based telescopes to the edge of the universe) that got me listening to the show in the first place.

Crash Test Kitchen – The lowest tech video podcast I watch. It's a very irregularly posted cooking show. Hosted by Woz and Lennie – a globetrotting pair of Aussies who have delivered episodes from no less than four countries (including Canada... actually, come to think of it they might be better characterized as 'Commonwealth trotting') from various kitchens where they have made all kinds of meals... some not very successfully and rarely without pissing each other off. Oh, the schadenfreude!

Geek Brief & Epic Fu – Two podcasts that are as market savvy as they are informative. Cali and Zadi, respectively, are each hotties who dish out a sampling of tech and web-culture news. Cali is more tech, Zadi more web. Put a scrumptious lady in front of a camera for the nerds to drool over as they get a fix on the news that is most important to them. An excellent choice. Cali has 3-5 minute shows a few times a week. Zadi is 10-12 minutes once a week. I'll watch them anytime... occasionally I'll listen to what they are saying.

In Our Time – A BBC radio show. Each week a group of experts is provoked into giving a much briefer explanation of the subject of the week than any of them ever seem comfortable giving. They would much rather expound about their specific sub-category of knowledge, but host Melvyn Bragg cajoles them on.

And finally, four shows that are on notice:

Slice of Sci-Fi – If I could find another shorter and less self-indulgent show to get my sci-fi entertainment news, I'd ditch this one in a moment. It's the THIRD podcast on the subject that I've tried, and certainly the most successful, but there is an air of unwarranted intellectual superiority about the geeks who want to do these types of shows that grates my last nerve. The consistent worst problem? They always seem to think that 'because I like it' should trump any networks business decision to cancel a TV show that isn't producing numbers. Doesn't mean the system isn't broken, but the underlying premise of their argument is just as broken.

Stuff You Should Know – Interesting, but I've had to quit calling it informative. You would think that a show called 'Stuff You Should Know' would have some rigour. Yet they give pseudo-science the journalistically corrupt 'equal time' and often have obvious gaping holes in their research. This past week – the proverbial straw – they were talking about plane crashes. They got around to the infamous Uruguayan rugby team who crashed in the Andes – the subject of the feature film "Alive," and mentioned that there was a documentary being made about and they'd have to see it when it comes out 'whatever they call it.' Well, it came out LAST YEAR and is called 'Stranded.' I saw it last year. I found it on line without using the title. A two word google search: "rugby cannibalism". I could go on with further damning detail, but the essence is clear... shamefully lazy reporting.

The Productivity Show – The irony of this podcast is remarkable. The original episodes, though not terribly focussed were quite useful and interesting. But gradually the regularity of release stretched further and further. Then the show was taken over by another host... who was less interesting, but more regular... for a while. I suspect no new episodes will ever surface. It has been months since the latest one.

John Cleese Podcast – Delightful. Such a mixed bag. Some short new sketches. Some direct to web-cam anecdotes. Some excerpts of lectures. Not one wasted moment in the entire batch. But I suspect that it too will never air another episode.

I have over 1200 backlogged podcasts on my hard-drive, and listen to an average of about 15 per day, but at least ten new ones download on the average day... and most of the backlogged podcasts are over 30 minutes in length, while at least ten of the 15 I burn through in the average listening day are under ten minutes.

It's going to be a long hill to climb. I thank my boss.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A New Farewell

It was an unusual weekend.

Exhausting, emotionally wrought, and yet I can't imagine not doing it.

This time last week word got to me that the Father of one of my best friends had suddenly passed away.

For me it was one of life's benchmarks. Not many parents of friends have died before now, and those who have passed away have done so in tragic and premature circumstances. This was different. John was 70. Still younger than one would hope, yet old enough that it is hard to make the argument that he didn't have a good run. On top of it, last year he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Alzheimer's had nothing to do with his death, he had a stroke. I am only speaking of myself, I would not presume to speak for John's family – my friends – when I say that on some level his sickness had sub-consciously prepared me for the eventual and the inevitable, but this was no less than years earlier than expected. It was a shock to hear he was gone, and it hit me hard. I underestimated how much it was affecting me when I called Demetri, Ruth and Frances. As I left a message for them on voicemail, I spoke out-loud for the first time some of the things that were racing through my mind, and that made them real, and I barely... okay, hardly at all, held myself together as I extended my condolences to them. While trying to throw out a buoy of support I was simultaneously discovering the mortality of my own parents. If I could do it over and save that phone call 'til after my own soul crushing realization, I would.

The next two days dove-tailed with my best Christmas present ever & the Trevor Linden jersey retirement (they are connected, directly and may be their own blog post), making for an emotional few days.

Friday night I hopped on a plane home to Prince George to attend the funeral service. The plane was delayed by nearly two hours due to weather. At the time that was a pain, but by now the weather across the country is keeping people stranded at airports for days, like some twisted hybrid of Kafka, The Terminal, Planes Trains & Automobiles and Castaway. I'm betting that Christmas Day at YVR is not what people had planned. I feel a bit cheap complaining about the two hours of lost sleep I had, considering the hassles some people are having.

Saturday morning came early. I had thrown out lines to a few people I don't normally see when I'm in PG, thinking that habits would persist and at best I'd only connect with one. It was a busy morning. Breakfast at 8am (after getting in at nearly 3) after which I squeezed in the obligatory shower and shave, followed by the proverbial second breakfast... okay it was really just coffee.

On my way to the service itself I had the realization that as sombre and occasion as it was, it was bound to be an awkward reunion with many people I had not seen – in some cases for twenty years or so. Dad pointed out that I had better get used to the idea, 'cause that is what life is going to keep doing to me, and that in many cases the people who I am reunited with will be people who I don't see again until the next funeral. Hadn't really considered that, but he's right. Don't feel guilty about it. It's the way it is.

I arrived at the church with minutes to spare. Got one of the last seats, seated beside a friend who I hadn't seen in five years or more.

The service itself was a first for me. Practically the first time I've been to a liturgical service. I have been to one vaguely religious funeral, but it was mostly lip-service – definitely lacking in ceremony. In any case this was definitely my first Trisagion – if that was indeed what it was.

Many of our theatre traditions find their origins in either the Catholic Church or Greece. That said, a Greek Orthodox Funeral is not particularly compelling theatre. But I did find it interesting in its own way. I definitely don't feel the need to attend another one in order to hone my appreciation though. Most significant to me was the music. I think technically it was chanting. I'm sure that someone better schooled in such things might delight in telling me just how wrong I am and that the subtleties are far from subtle, but it sounded an awful lot to me like music from a bit further East along the Silk Road. This is an old ceremony. Traditions that can be fairly qualified as 'ancient.' In my mind just more evidence of how close... how similar we all are, despite superficially different theistic traditions. Does it really require stepping outside of the theology to see it? It shouldn't.

It seemed that most of the people in attendance were not Greek Orthodox, though certainly that must have been the faith of the greatest number of attendees. One woman within arm's reach of me seemed to know the service very well and chanted along, crossed and bowed at what seemed every appropriate customary moment. I felt a bit guilty that it unnerved me so much. It must be an accepted part of most religions in the world now that we are so homogenized as a society that where once an entire village would attend the same church, that now in the most moderate sized western towns the variety of belief is wide and the intermingling so inevitable that there must be an acceptance that non-believers of some stripe are going to desire to come and show their respects and support to the bereaved. I have no great insight here – I am simply mildly curious what the development and history of this has been over the centuries.

If you have missed it, I am an atheist. Perhaps to be perfectly intellectually honest I'd have to call myself an agnostic or preferably a teapot or tooth-fairy (my preference) atheist. But it must be said that the church(es) make some really beautiful rooms. Garish, for sure – there's no way I'd want to have a shrine, let alone a chapel, for my living room – but it's hard not to appreciate the effort that goes into the decor. Fittingly this particular church was designed by John.

The eulogy was delivered by Demetri, and not too surprisingly it was the best eulogy I have ever heard. I have delivered two eulogies in my life. Two grandparents. It's a daunting proposition to try to sum up a lifetime in ten or twenty minutes. Undoubtedly impossible. Watching Demetri I appreciated why he – and I – are those in our families who are expected to do such things. Writing and presenting are our trades. But that should not be confused with neither the entitlement to the honour, nor the actual ease of the responsibility. I expect to be expected to deliver again, and I now have seen the bar raised and will try to do better than I ever have before, and without an underlying feeling of disgruntledness (yeah, whatever – even writers experience a failure of vocabulary on occasion) or anger at the belief that I should be the one to do it. (Indeed if and when the time comes that I am asked again and there is someone fitting who is up to the challenge, please step forward, I look forward to sharing the responsibility with others as much as possible.)

Back to Demetri. His eulogy did everything it needed to. It provided a brief & essential history of John's life; identified the core of his character; made us laugh; gave personal and heartfelt insight (the real payment for giving a eulogy is the opportunity to share these); and provided us with guidance in how to fill the space where John was with the best memories and lessons of his life. But on top of it all, Demetri aspired and reached a level of art in his structure. By the end he had seemingly effortlessly returned to his starting point from a new direction, simultaneously tying in the most personal sentiment – which had appeared at approximately the 1/3 mark – as he reached his final sentence. It had been pitched at a near perfect emotional level and the people gathered could have gladly listened for as long, yet again. Without the structural flourish it would have been excellent and dynamic, and perhaps I am the only one to have noticed – or appreciated it technically... and to feel a tinge of guilt at analyzing it, but that extra level elevated it to a true work of beauty.

Although we didn't get into it, I expect that my companion on my walk to the reception at the family home also noticed the structural divinity of the eulogy. He too is a writer. Paul and I walked together. It's not far, but it was -27c. As Prince George ex-pats we had to do the trip in two parts, stopping for coffee and heat roughly half way.

The house was very full when we arrived, and sure enough every third person was someone I hadn't seen in years. It was an odd layer of joy to add into the mix.

After the reception – when I left with a group of three there was a single couple left – I went home to dinner with my Dad and his wife, Kay. A damned good dinner too. Simple, but very hard not to go back for seconds. It's Christmas, it's best to avoid the extra helpings right now.

After dinner we watched some hockey and curling – how Canadian – before bed. Pretty much as I arrived in the bedroom Demetri called. He came over for a few quiet hours. I had come primarily to support him (and his Mom and sister) and the understandable chaos of the service and reception had naturally limited our opportunity to talk. A week earlier we had expected that we'd see each other in Vancouver in the new year (and may still, but it will be extremely truncated) but circumstances have changed, resulting in both an entirely new category of things to share and a paucity of time to do so in. It was good he came by, despite both of us being exhausted and neither of us having a night ahead in which we could get much sleep. He had an early morning breakfast with visiting family. I had an equally early flight to catch.

The talk was good. We didn't even talk too much about the preceding week. Some. Not much. We'd spoken a few times while in the thick of it, and I'd got a chance to glean where he was at – what he was experiencing. I expect there will be more once the season has passed and there is time for processing. It could take years to really get it all.

As far as 'being there for him' I felt like most of the evidence of what I had come there for was in the procession out of the church. I gave his Mother a hug – she was remarkably cheerful, I suspect the sheer out-pouring has been an on-going process and the number of people there at the church was a lift to her spirits – and then I proceeded to Demetri. We didn't say much. We just hugged and his voice broke as he thanked me for being there.

Zoi se mas.

My flight home was delayed. It was too cold. The de-icing fluid was freezing.

Friday, December 12, 2008

"Well, tonight, thank God it's them, instead of you."

Twenty Four years... damn.

I remember whern I first heard 'Do They Know it Christmas?' I was in my grade 10 Algebra class and because we'd collectively done well at a recent quiz we got to listen to the radio while we worked on our latest set of quadratic equations.

Some kids in the class had already heard the song and word passed around quickly that it was a song by a bunch of British musicians to raise money for starving people in Africa.

I recall thinking that it was rather partonizing and had to think 'wait a second... there are large portions of Africa which while poor are hardly starving' or something to that effect. C'mon, I was fifteen, there was no internet, while not really anymore accurate than the information I was getting from the song, the essence of what was going on in my head was right.

Let's also put into perspective that beyond having grown up with Unicef ads telling me that I could sponsor a child in Bangladesh for less than 50 cents a day, I was really not in touch with third world suffering. Yes, I do know Bangladesh is not in Africa - but I don't know that I knew the difference in 1984. And that is part of the point... I didn't know. Over the next year I - like so many - would learn a lot. The short term legacy of that song would be phenomenal.

The effect in Ethiopia specifically was, as we now know, minimal. Some lives were saved, or at least prolonged, but an enormous amount of money was lost to logistical failures in distribution and localized corruption. But awareness was raised. A spirit of humanity was evidenced that has never really disappeared. The song has been rerecorded twice since. Various similar projects like "We Are the World" (talk about patronizing) and "Tears are Not Enough" (the Canadian artists' response.) appeared to do their part. And of course there was Live Aid.

Live Aid itself could fill volumes. From the career making performance of U2, to the follow up Live8 (where Bob Geldof recognized that awareness was more valuable than money & didn't even try to raise funds with it.)

The long tail of 'Do They Know its Christmas?' is truly remarkable. I wonder if Midge Ure and Bob Geldof had a clue when they put it together?

But the legacy that I think may actually be the most important, is that they created a song that would transcend it's origin to become a genuine non-secular carol. Non-secular? Yes. I contend that it is, despite the title of this post, and a reference to prayer in the lyrics. It's a song that goes beyond those cursory and largely metaphorical images and speaks to the things that many agnostic and atheists - I'll even go so far as to say 'non-Christians' - find in the yultide season.

It's a time of expanding our awareness to think of the plight of those less fortunate and to celebrate the abundance each of us has for ourselves and our families. These are all standard Christmas platitudes, and I don't want to get buried in my own maudlin musing, but the chorus of "Feed the world... Let - them - know - its - Christ - mas - time..." is hard to hear without singing along and or getting it stuck in your head. And it bears more of the spirit of the 'reason for the season' than the typical non-religious carol - most of which are seasonal novelty songs (Eg. "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer", "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" or "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer.")

Considering how bastardized the entire holiday has become, it's nice to have a cornerstone upon which the loftier morals of the holidays can be built without having to turn to the ecclesiastical. 'Cause "in our world of plenty, we can spread a smile of joy."

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Prorogation – Right or Wrong, is it even smart?

I really really have to stop myself from teeing off at length about Stephen Harper's various declared mistruths and fallacies to the Canadian public over the past several months. (To say nothing of anything he actually did before and immediately leading up to this autumn's election.)

I am not happy with him as our Prime Minister. I would not be happy with Stephane Dion as our Prime Minister either. I don't even really consider Jack Layton or Gilles Duceppe as realistic options regardless of my feelings.

Any contention that a coalition is unfair, unjust or (this one really just fucks me off) illegal is either misguided, misinformed or an outright lie.

I don't think a coalition would be particularly functional, but there is only one way to know. Apparently it works really well in Switzerland. So let's assume that it's hasty to assume. One thing that is for certain is that a coalition is perfectly legit. It has been a part of our Parlimentary system from the outset and while it has been nearly 70 years since Canada last operated under one it has been a valid option under every minority government since Confederation.

While I'm on the subject of how our political system works, and before I get to my main point, there is a pair of polemic fallacies that are being lofted by each side. The boiled down version of each are as follows. On the pro-coalition side of the debate: "The majority of Canadians did not vote for Harper." On the anti-coalition side "No one voted for a coalition." Both of these statements are correct on the surface, but the implicit argument of both is utterly false for exactly the same reason. That is because of how our government is elected. This is important and it seems easily overlooked. It appears as though through a combination of common parlance (Eg. "I'm voting for Harper." Or "I voted for Trudeau.") and associative assumptions gleaned from the highly visible elective process of the United States, that people seem to not realise who/what they vote for. Think back to October 14th. On your ballot, did you see any of the following names? Stephane Dion, Steven Harper, Jack Layton, Gilles Duceppe, Elizabeth Green? The answer is "no" (Unless you happen to live in – respectively; Saint-Laurent-Cartierville, Calgary Southwest, Toronto-Danforth, Laurier-Sainte Marie or Central Nova; and even then you only would have had one of them on your ballot.)

We in Canada vote for our local representative in the House of Commons. They (typically) each belong to a party. Collectively they determine who the government is. If there happens to be a majority of one party's representatives (MPs) it's pretty much a given that they will declare that they will declare their party leader as Prime Minister. Otherwise, it is all up for grabs. Under MOST minorities the party with the most seats is able to leverage an agreement with at least one of the lesser represented parties to agree with them in principle and support the leader of the better represented party as Prime Minister. This works under the understanding that more Canadians supported that party's representatives than any other. But this is nothing more than a courtesy. There is NO obligation to do this. It in itself is the simplest form of coalition. There is nothing stopping any other combination of parties – or even individuals if they desire to split from the party lines – who believe that they can collectively act in the best interest of the Canadian public from appointing a Prime Minister from among their ranks (presumably the leader of the largest party group within them) if they have the political will and force of numbers (I.E. a majority) to do so.

So, back to those two statements. "The majority of Canadians did not vote for Harper." True. Of course the only Canadians who could live in Calgary Southwest. But at it's heart, the unspoken premise of this argument is "Canadians did not elect a majority of Conservative MPs." Which is essentially irrelevant. We elect MPs of whatever stripe. THEY determine what the make up of the government is, no matter what constitutional avenue is excercised to do so. On the other side, "No one voted for a coalition." Again, this is technically correct. Put aside all facetious arguments such as "Of course not, 'Coalition' was never on the ballot." (Sorry Mom, I know that particular witticism was yours.) This is a false attempt at attacking a straw man... which I believe makes it a straw man in it's own right. It argues that 'coalition' was never an option. This is, frankly, complete bullshit. Coalition is ALWAYS an option. It just happens to be an option that is not often used in the sense that the people using the argument mean it. It may not be on the ballot, but tacitly it is a standard part of our political process. Furthermore, it is precisely what would allow Harper's minority government to exist – a coalition. Arguably a less stable one than what was planned by the opposition parties this week. Harper's minority government would be operating at the pleasure of the opposing parties, and thus would require agreement from at least one of them on any given vote – a defacto and ever shifting coalition without officially agreed upon terms (unlike the agreement proposed for coalition this past week).

Neither argument is really saying what it actually means. This confuses the issue as such equivocation results in a lot of wasted effort arguing about meaningless frivolities rather than getting to the point.

A coalition, like it or hate it (there doesn't seem to be much 'love' for it) is a valid and legal option. AND... before the anti-coalition side jumps down my throat for apparent non-partizanship... to the best of my understanding, so is proroguing Parliament.

However, I think proroguing Parliament is a worse choice.

For starters, delaying action on the current financial crisis is a mistake. We seem to be one of the countries who are least affected by ('least', not 'un' affected) and we are not only allowing it to gain traction within our borders, but we are losing our advantage without. This is merely my limited perspective. I am no economist, it is also hardly germane to my main point.

From Harper's position, what is he thinking? It strikes me as a singularly cowardly approach. Does he actually expect the other parties to back down in January? It doesn't look good on him, and can only put him in danger of squandering the limited advantage he has. For what? To hold on to his vestige of power another six weeks? If he had simply allowed the coalition to take control, it would have had a limited shelf life. It's inevitable. That would only have made voting for a stonger Conservative government look like a good option to a large number of Canadians. Yet by throwing the equivalent of a political hissy fit, he does nothing to improve his image. (Much to the long term delight of the other parties.) At best he is merely putting off the inevitable and making himself look worse in the eyes of the majority of Canadians who did not vote for him, and alienating the fringe of those who did. By proroguing Parliament he will find himself facing either an election or a coalition in January. The latter will lead to an election in the end too, but his party will be best served in either case to not enter the next election with him at the helm. Again... what was he thinking?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

White Guys 43, Black Guys 1 - Black Guys declare Victory, Chicks Shut Out Yet Again

Okay, so we’re all happy for Barry Dunham... now what?

We will all remember where we were last night when John McCain made his dignified walk across the stage and it was no longer in question, Barack Obama was going to be the 44th President of the United States.

It strikes me as important to get this down (or 'up in the cloud') for posterity.

I was at a rather small bar in the West End with my girlfriend, Jodie and our friend Mike. We shared a ridiculous number of surprisingly good hot wings, several pints of beer and endured the cheering of hockey fans on the other side of the bar watching the Canucks shut out the Predators. The CNN feed on our side of the bar had no volume, but I had picked up wireless from the coffee shop next door and was giving additional updates and context as the projections came in.

We sparred back and forth about the value of projections. Myself on the defensive... though I guess I'll even do the other two a favour and prepare a hot dish of crow for them – perhaps I can get the bar's recipe for tangy hotness. Yes, projections in 2000 were famously wrong at a late hour, but as I pointed out they are based on a long history of statistical analysis and that the laws of large numbers make them very reliable as a whole, if individually unstable... and of course the same law means that every now and then the whole collected projection can go to hell, but that's extremely unusual and the wise money can be put on the projections. Anyhow, I belabour a point which I had the grace to not rub in then – or was it that anytime I opened my mouth I was shouted down? Anyhow, in type... "Nyah nyah!"

When McCain took the stage to concede they switched the audio from the game to CNN.

I was disappointed on some level that McCain didn't make the core of his speech something to the effect of "YOU – my own party – threw me under the bus, you fuckers!" But I have to respect his reserve and dignity. It has to be tough to know that in the past 24 hours your life has peaked. Not many of us will ever face that moment except from a long nostalgic way off, and fewer will be able to say that that moment came when we were 72 years old.

By the time Obama was making his acceptance speech, the entire place was quiet... though it didn't take long before one drunk blow-hard was sharing his opinion with everyone. Once that fellow spoke up it wasn't long before the spell had been broken for others and they too quit their rapt listening and began chatting again.

By my count it took 32 minutes from McCain's concession until Obama was campaigning for 2012. You'll recall the sentence "We may not get there in one year or even in one term."

When Obama's speech was over and the hockey game was back on I took my moment to shout the defiant sentence that had been floating in my head, ready for this very moment, for days... "Take that 'Real America!'"

No one has any real reason to believe my own claims on this, but I called this (yeah it was a 50/50 chance) back at the DNC. In a conversation I declared that Obama had for all practical purposes asked Joe Biden to be the Vice President, not just the VP candidate. My intention at the time had been that I felt this election was the Dems to lose. Over the past seven weeks I have allowed myself to get shaken from time to time into caution by nay sayers and conspiracy believers. There were arguments that were hard to dismiss, but I didn't want to believe. 'The Bradley Effect.' 'Massive digital election fraud.' 'Military Coup by Cheney.' (Okay, I suppose that last one may still be an option.) But time after time I kept coming back to my guarded optimism. Every time Sarah Palin opened her mouth; add the economic disaster that landed largely in the Republican's hands; tepid debate performance after performance by McCain; in fighting; Republican endorsements of Obama by the likes of Colin Powell; McCain's apparent frustration and eventual veiled despondency – the list goes on.

In the past week I felt a growing sense of comfort. Less and less did my doubts rise. A few days ago I told myself that it was no longer worth worrying about and that the question was now whether Barack would merely win or win by a landslide.

Last night, shortly after I arrived at the bar they called Pennsylvania in Obama's favour and I truly felt like I knew it was over. A little while later Ohio was declared his and I breathed a shuddering sigh of relief. There were a few moments where I felt emotional over the remainder of the night as I was defending the value of projections, but I had largely already processed my feelings of relief over the past week.

Somewhere in the darkest part of my soul I find myself wishing that the first words out of Obama's mouth when he stood at the podium last night had been "Allah Ackbar!" Possibly followed by "Learn your Morning Prayer by 5am January 21st or lose your tongues, infidels!" And then with a puckish grin "Heh heh... just kidding."

Today it seems everyone's Facebook status is either a statement of relief (okay, there is one exception I've noticed – a friend who falls in the category of religious right... I shake my head at their dire warning of the end of days) or a humorous comment about the sudden lack of news.

I feel lighter today, or as though I've been holding my breath for eight years.

It's like the end of a TV series. The final episode has come and gone and everyone will be discussing it for days, how in the final scene Hillary woke up and said to Bill "I just had the weirdest dream." Or perhaps it's more like Star Wars... the Rebel Alliance prevails in the final reel and deposes the evil Empire.

In any case, the sequel is bound to be interesting. He's put on one hell of a show, but now he really has to perform. It's going to be virtually impossible for him to live up to expectations, but he has the acumen to redirect those expectations towards realities both as they actualize and as they are anticipated. Let's face it, if the woodland critters came from the forest and gathered at his feet with wide-eyed adorable expectancy, it still wouldn't be enough for his detractors.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Hey Premise Media! I Wilfully Watched a Pirate Version of Your Crappy Movie!

I've previously trumpeted my disdain for the politics behind Expelled. In short, it's a film starring noted (ahem) 'Smart Guy' Ben Stein wherein the producers explore the seeming enormous number of academics who have been ousted from their demagogic positions or denied tenure allegedly because they have aligned themselves with Intelligent Design. The film asks "Shouldn't both sides of this 'scientific controversy' be taught alongside one another? Isn't that what academic freedom and free speech are all about?"

I won't go deep into the answer, but briefly it is a resounding 'no.' That's not the film's position – far from it – that is my position. It's also the position of practically any genuine scientist or science education professional you can find. Intelligent Design (I.D.) is not science. It is not falsifiable. (Hence not science.) It is not even close to being accepted by scientific consensus (For the record, scientific consensus does not mean EVERY scientist on the planet agrees, it simply means that the vast majority do; that the notion has been properly peer reviewed; and it's hypotheses have either held up under scrutiny or been adjusted so that they do.) and thus does not constitute a scientific controversy. The 'scientists' who support it generally AREN'T accredited scientists or are scientists in disciplines that have nothing to do with evolution. The demagogues in the film who have allegedly been oppressed have demonstrably all been removed/denied tenure for entirely separate reasons (And if said reasons are 'trumped up' to give legitimacy to the purported 'real reason' (affiliation with I.D.) then where are the legal proceedings to untangle that misappropriation of justice?). Anyhow, there is much more that could be said on this, but I'm not going to retread more territory that has been well worn by more accomplished sceptics than I. If you feel the need to delve (and there's some good juice – just look into the entire P.Z. Meyers boondoggle) I recommend Expelled Exposed.

And now, in paragraph three, I finally get to my purpose.... Since I first heard of Expelled I've wanted to see it out of morbid curiosity. There is also the underlying need to be able to righteously answer "As a matter of fact, I have!" when defiantly challenged "Oh yeah? Have you even watched the movie?" But, as a result of all their underhanded shenanigans (demonstrably duplicitous interview requests; the aforementioned P.Z. Meyers affair; the unlicensed use of copy-written material; misleading misquoting of Darwin – it's all in the Expelled Exposed site) I am loathe to give those assholes a dime of my money. So, last week when an opportunity to watch a pirated version of the film floated my way, I jumped.

It would be too easy so simply dismiss the film by declaring that there is 106 minutes of my life I'll never get back.

It took me at least two hours to get through it. It is a remarkably uncompelling. Three times I had to rewind and watch as much and more than five minutes over again. Not because it was too complex to follow – no, it's pretty Mickey Mouse (to say nothing if it's transparent theistic agenda). Not because it was so fascinating I had to see it again – Christ, no. But because it is so dull that my mind would not just wander, but go on a full-on walk-about.

Many of it's most immediate critics (like Richard Dawkins) criticize it for its basic filmic technique, but why bother? Watching on a small screen, many of these purported failures were largely invisible if they existed in the first place. The real problem with the film is that it simply isn't in the least engaging.

If you, like me, have a need to buoy up your awareness of I.D.'s ridiculous creationist agenda, then go for it. Find a free copy, and sacrifice two hours of your life to an exercise in logical fallacy. But seriously, if you are even only marginally intrigued... save yourself.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A Pleasant Surprise from Vista

This is pretty much a pointless little celebration.

I just discovered that Vista will allow me to write a blog post in word and then it will automatically post it. I know I am only moderately 2.0 literate, but this one just boggles my mind. How perfect! No more of that crappy writing online and then losing the post in a browser refresh! Not that I've never lost anything on my computer – though the stability of Windows is far better than it once was. I can't recall the last time I lost a document to a failure to save on time. But on line... Grrrrr. I probably lost my initial will to blog to the too common loss of postings when writing on line. I did eventually learn to write in a word doc and then transfer it... I even have a file on my desktop titled 'Blog to Post' which is the file I save my latest post to on a rotating basis. But this discovery... wee haw!

I'll still have to learn how to add pictures and tags, but this strikes me as a personal revolution.

HEY LOOK! A PICTURE! A RANDOM ONE JODIE TOOK A FEW MONTHS AGO. Okay, now to figure out how to tag...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Ha ha! Screw YOU telemarketers! Screw YOU!

To the horror of more than one girlfriend - and the the amusement of several - I've never been particularly nice to telemarketers.

My Mother always used to simply tell them in a severe tone that they were wasting her time and, when she was particularly annoyed she'd use the same words Dad used while watching Hockey Night in Canada.

I'm sure that when I got my first place of my own with my own phone I probably resorted to the same tactics for some time - though I do not specifically recall. I soon bemoaned the lack of a national Do Not Call List. I had heard about how one existed in other countries - specifically the U.S. - and how you could get your number put on the list and then telemarketers were legally obligated to refrain from calling you. I can't imagine how this worked efficiently in the days before high-functioning computers, but that's not germane to my point.

Around the turn of the century I put two and two together and realised how important call-times are to telemarketers. I even spent some time working in an inbound (I.E. I was NOT a telemarketer.) call-centre and had the importance of call times repeated to me by upper management like a mantra. This was where I learned my most dastardly trick - the one that horrified some and delighted others...

Upon realizing that I had connected to a telemarketer I would express my exaggerated faux-interest in their product ("Why yes, I'd LOVE to get Guns & Ammo magazine for a bargain price.") and then 'discover' that I needed to attend to something ("Oh, just a moment I need to get a pen and paper." or "Oh crap, I'll be right back, the kids are playing in the oven."). At this point I'd set the phone down - off the hook - and go about my business. And now comes the hard part for the telemarketer... the clock is ticking. Their sales metrics are going to hell the longer they wait, but I have assured them that I REALLY want to give them a sale. The call is taking a longer and longer time every moment, but they have a seemingly guaranteed customer on the hook. The question becomes 'how long do they wait?'

The real art of it is finding the perfect moment to come back, just before they are about to give up and reassure them that you'll only be a moment longer and how you can hardly wait to get your hands on the great deal they are offering. If you can catch them at the perfect moment, this is really when you score big points - how can they give up now?

You may think this is unfair and evil. "It's not the telemarketer's fault." Well, not really. But they did take the job. And it sure as hell isn't my fault that they're calling me. I figure that in a country lacking a DNCL this is a pretty good tactic to put to use. Again, from working in a call centre I know that every number that is ever used goes into a file - with various other info (money spent, credit card numbers if applicable, possibly addresses) is a section for notes. And every time I screw around a telemarketer, the more likely it is that they are going to add that fact to their notes - eventually earning capital letters or bold face or even a radio-buttoned flag... warning that I'm not worth the effort. A defacto - 'Do Not Call'.

Since I first got call waiting I have quit answering dubious numbers. But with a cell phone I'm still on hand and disturbed by the interruption. For some time now it has also been necessary for individual companies to have their own internal 'DNC' lists... but who knows how well maintained these are and if there isn't a date at which the request runs out - I'd swear that some places I've told to quit calling have begun again after six months or so.

But today that all changes. The Canadian National Do Not Call List has begun. It took hours this morning to get my number registered - the flood of people must have been enormous.

I'm also amused by this article warning us about the exemptions (Why the fuck are newspapers allowed to keep calling selling subscriptions? Can someone explain that?) and portenting that by signing up for the DNCL we're just going to create a need for more direct mail and spam. Hmmm... well, I've got the required wording for effective 'No Junk Mail' filtering on the snail mail box, and my spam filter on my email has proven for two years or so to be extremely effective. So, what marketting firestorm exactly is it that I am bringing down upon my head?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I Never Thought I'd Tag an Entry with both 'Hitler' and 'Sitcom'

A sitcom about a happily married Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun in a typical 'Pleasantville'-esque American 50's suburbia... except apparently it's England. Though only Neville Chamberlain speaks with a British accent.

"Heil, Honey, I'm Home!"

(and the 2nd half, if you are truly so inclined)

No. Really.

Not a joke. I mean that in every way. It wasn't funny. I don't even mean that it was too taseless to be funny. It really isn't funny. It was cancelled after one episode. It was a real (attempt at a) sitcom, when it might have been funny as a one-time-only SNL sketch.

Apparently, (and this may be retrodicting) it was intended to be a parody of bad-sitcoms. The thing abour parodying something bad is that you can't afford to be bad yourself.

Whoever created this series should be forced to sit and watch it, Clockwork Orange-style until they promise to never do it again.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Where no Cake has Gone Before...

Geeks don't often come out looking good. Their absurd fidelity to the minutae of their fetishism regularly triggers the scorn of those of us with some sense of what really matter in the real world.

Case in point:

On the Food Network show 'Ace of Cakes' (geeky enough in it's own right, a show about decorating cakes) they recently did a show where they elaborately decorated a cake to look like the command deck of the original Star Trek series Enterprise. (Add geek level number two.)

It is cartoonily impressive.

But it gets better. Meanwhile over at trekmovie.com, they got into a good debate about it. (Level three.)
Comment number 6, Sean, goes WAY over the top - which is noted above as being parody of how Trek fans geek-out and nit-pick. This may be true, or it may be retrodicting. Either way, the need to defend it is telling in it's own right. Yet it goes on. And on. And on. The statement sparks a small online fracas that extends well beyond the borders of cakes and Trek (as if that wasn't bad enough). It gets a bit boring to be honest, but a quick skim to see how retarded it gets is worth a peek on a slow day. That is if you can handle a flame-war over the dismissive use of the word 'First' (I kid you not.) and who has the right to use ALL CAPS when and where.

Monday, September 08, 2008

A Stern Phone-call from the Boss

I know that this is a week late, but I had a busy week last week with reshoots on 'Beast...' so I'm just getting around to watching the DNC & RNC today... heck, I'm not even going to finish watching DNC highlights today, let alone catch up on analysis of the various passes, yields and of course Hillary's dramatic movement to suspend proceedure.
THAT was great theatre.
But then, Melissa Etheridge gets up on stage for a victory medley of songs.
I'm not really a fan, but I did buy her first CD back in... '88 was it that it came out? For that matter, when was it that she came out?
Anyhow... I'm off topic by a mile in just two sentences.
M.E. was at her throaty best on-stage in Denver last week... except for one lousy little galling thing.

I imagine that she took a phone call later that night.

M.E.: Hello?
B.S.: Hi. Is that Melissa?
M.E.: Yes. Who is this?
B.S.: Bruce.
M.E.: Bruce? I don't know any... oh. wait. THAT Bruce.
B.S.: Yeah. That Bruce.
M.E.: Bruce, from New Jersey, Bruce.
B.S.: Exactly.
M.E.: Look, Bruce I think I can guess what this is all about...
B.S.: You do, do you?
M.E.: Yes...
B.S.: Then why the fuck do I have to make this phone call!?
M.E.: I thought...
B.S.: First Reagan, now this.
M.E.: Well yeah, but he was a Republican.
B.S.: What kind of difference does that make?
M.E.: You let Kerry use 'No Surrender' - heck you even came out and played...
B.S.: What does that song mean?
M.E.: You mean 'No Surrender?'
B.S.: Yes. What does it mean?
M.E.: It means... uh...
B.S.: Don't think to hard now. It's right there in the lyrics...
M.E.: "No retreat... no surrender..."
B.S.: Riiiight. It was a good motto for that campaign...Christ, that fucking campaign...
M.E.: So...
B.S.: That's what it means. Simple as that. Now... what does 'Born in the U.S.A.' mean?
M.E.: "I was Bor-"
B.S.: NO!!!
M.E.: You say it like fifty times -
B.S.: It's ironic!
M.E.: But you sing it so anthemically.
B.S.: That's anger Melissa! Anger! Do you understand irate anger!?!
M.E.: Is that intended to be ironic?
B.S.: I swear to god, next R&R.H.o.F dinner, I'm gonna smack you right in the face. That song is about a country gone wrong. It's not about pride. When Republicans mis-use it, it's one thing. They look like idiots. But when it's used as a victory song for a history-making moment in Democratic Party nominations... FUCK! Melissa, Democrats should know better. The DNC should know better. Obama should know better. YOU SHOULD FUCKING KNOW BETTER!
M.E.: I'm sorry, Bruce. I'm a bad lefty. I screwed up. I'll never do it again. You are right, and by 'right' I mean 'correct' not...
B.S.: Yeah yeah, I know what you mean, I'm not nuance challenged like the rest of you.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Bob Odenkirk at his best...

Why Bob Odenkirk isn't as famous as his old Mr. Show partner, David Cross, I'll never know.

This is totally awesome:


Monday, July 28, 2008

Where is West?

No secret, but the ongoing conflict between East and West has found new life. Yeah, not much of a news flash there, it’s been blatantly obvious since one fall Tuesday seven years ago - has it been that long already? And doubtless it was actually pretty obvious before that for anyone who was paying attention - but that seems to have been part of the issue… no one was.
Like some geo-political Valdez, with a drunk Captain at the helm, Western civilization ran aground on the shores of Islam.
It’s been obvious that the definition of ‘East’ in East versus west has changed over not only the course of my lifetime, but for a lot longer than that. It’s face has several times been worn by Communist China and it’s ideological Asian allies. It has been the Soviet Union. And, of course now it is the fundamentalist vein of Islam. Lot’s of virtual ink has been used yakking over how different this paradigm is. How it’s not political, but religious. How the geography of the opposition is both unconstrained and interspersed with less radical mindsets and to a lesser degree even interspersed with our own. I couldn’t comment upon an idea that is new to me on this front, let alone one that is new to anyone else who is at all in touch with the state of the world we live in.
I fully expect that this particular stand off will out live me. Though I do hope that it’s eventual outcome crystallizes in my lifetime. It’s such a big question - one of the biggest of our time, up there with peak oil and global warming - and one that would be particularly unfulfilling to leave unanswered in my day… even if the ‘answer’ is nothing more than a projection. Perhaps I should re-phrase this. It is a certainty that this divide will remain long after I am gone. But perhaps the core issue might lean towards resolution before I am done.
What I have been thinking about that may seem more original - it certainly does to me - is the notion of how we - The West - have changed.
I’ve taken to using the term ‘Neo-West’ of late as I feel it more accurately identifies who ‘we’ are.
Once upon a time, the West was Western Europe. Then the New World began to exert it’s might in the world - as the ‘we’ of the America’s found our ideological voices and the ingenuity to muster our resources into some relevance. This primarily came into focus through the two global conflicts of the 20th century. And with the rise of the Pax-Americana, shifted drastically through the cold-war to roughly where it is now.
But even that designation is misleading. The ‘West’ of my high-school days is significantly different from the ‘Neo-West’ of today. Certainly in a political sense. The geography of who is counted among the West has shifted, though in many ways the demographic of the people within those areas remains in many ways the same.
Obviously I am speaking foremost of the former Soviet Union. While significant parts of that vast land-mass are strife ridden and much of that strife is a Muslim/Non-Muslim divide, most of that it small scale. The land that was once behind the Iron Curtain and made up the greater part of the perceived ‘East’ of the Kennedy/Kruschev through Reagan/Gorbachev eras is now inarguably Neo-West.
The Land of the Rising Sun - once an enemy so reviled that the moral compass dropped quickly to the bottom, like say an atom-bomb, thus allowing the inhumane notion of visiting the horror of that same weapon upon them was seen as collateral damage - are now a thriving Neo-western nation. Indeed, one of the most thriving. If the definition of Neo-West is ‘industrial capitalist democracy’ (which isn’t necessarily the definition, but certainly works as starting criteria) then it’s arguable that Japan is the epitome of Neo-Western civilization. Put THAT in your pipe and smoke it! The unavoidable inclusion of Japan alone clearly severs the implicit understanding of my grandparent’s generation that ‘West’ meant white (or even pre-dominantly white) nations.
There are also countries that were the afterthoughts of Western Civilization. Places that were culturally and politically ‘West’ and had be so affiliated for generations, but by an accident of geography were typically ignored as being part of the family. Australia and New Zealand are the obvious examples here. Both colonies of Britain, both settled under similar circumstances to one another and to a lesser degree Canada. Both participated in the World Wars, are essentially English speaking, and have long been consumers of Western culture. It’s hard to say that they haven’t been part of the club. But they were always wallflowers at the member functions.
There is an obvious geo-centric argument to go against my claim that Canada has been a part of the West as long as the U.S. has been. We participated in both World Wars more immediately than the US - and going with my earlier thoughts that seems to have been one of the keys to membership previous to the past twenty years. And as the US became the dominant force in Western culture, Canada was both literally and figuratively right alongside. Yes, we as Canadians come similarly close to being the red-headed step-children along with our brethren from Down Under, but I feel that we’ve been sitting at the big kids table for most of a century.
Undoubtedly many more countries and or regions can lay claim to being part of the Neo-West. Western Europe is a given. Large portions of South and to a lesser degree Meso-America are ‘in the club.’ Parts of Africa, for sure seeing as the ‘white’ requirement has been dropped.
Israel? Why not. Israel certainly qualifies by any measure previously mentioned, and if being ‘pre-dominantly white’ is no longer relevant then why should religion? Excepting that the ‘East’ of this equation is primarily defined as Muslim. That alone firmly puts any Judaic society on the ‘camp of opposition’ to the existing ‘East’ simply by definition. There’s nothing that says this is a ‘Christian-nation’ thing. That’s an idea whose fleeting relevance gets more and more quaint in the face of rising US religiosity.

My point - for the moment - seems to be that ‘East’ and ‘West’ while still relevant terms, don’t in fact mean ‘East’ and ‘West’ cartographically anymore. It’s obvious that Western culture is no longer ‘Leave it to Beaver.’ Not even close. Though I think in many ways, by those of us who have been part of the ‘West’ since before our grandparents were born, it’s easy to forget. We may be a global society, but superficially at least, a patina of our former centricism remains while the fruit underneath the skin comes in so many different flavours - often a melange of the greater selection.
What does it all mean any more? How do these increasingly arbitrary divisions have such long legs?

Oh, why can't we all just get along? ;-)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Dark Knight

I went to Batman yesterday.

It was fantastic.

A number of months ago Dafne asked me who my top five directors were. Chris Nolan was on the bubble at that time, but there is no longer any doubt in my mind. He is an outrageously talented visionary.

There are a few quibbles I have with it, but just minor things really.

The real question though is Heath Ledger. How good is he?

He is wonderful. He seems to have put it in the back of his mind that the Joker is one of the greatest arch villains of all time. The Joker has to earn that, just like anyone else - and he does. It must be a scary proposition to know that you are going to be measured against Jack Nicholson (and no less than one of Jack’s most iconic performances) and Heath is equal to the job. It is very impressive.

It’s also very creepy that at the end, the door is clearly left open for the Joker to return, when we know that he (or at least Heath) can not. It would not have been hard to re-shoot & restructure in such a way that the Joker was clearly gone for good.

But someone needs to say this…

It is NOT an Oscar worthy performance. That is being said for the sole reason that Heath has died after such a promising performance. He probably would have been a perennial had he not overdosed, but that in itself does not make this an Oscar contender. He is great as the Joker. Let me say that again. He is great as the Joker. But most of the depth is in the script (and considering how little is known about the Joker, that doesn’t in fact allow for a lot). He is scary and gross and terrifying. But Oscar noms are worth more than this. This is hype. Well supported hype for a film that hardly needs it.

There we go. Someone said it. Let the tomatoes fly.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Some Women Give All Women a Bad Rep

This one just has to be put into posterity.

I’ve been trying some internet dating. So far it has resulted in one three month relationship that was nice, but had nothing at it’s core. Beyond that it’s been fun, but unsuccessful.
I had an excellent date with a delightful lady who agreed that we’d had an excellent time. Later she sent me an email telling me that she knew she’d be trying to change me and that she didn’t want that in her life. Okay. Fair enough. Not sure it’s a fully matured argument, but it’s not unreasonable.

There was the woman who found me later on Face book (who didn’t have my name to the best of my knowledge) and would NOT LEAVE ME ALONE.

There was the oddball who sent me a photo of her, her rifle and the deer she’d just killed with it. Props for bold presentation. Wrong audience, lady.

An awkward connection with an attractive friend of a friend who didn’t want to accept that I identified a deal-breaker in our first exchange. A nice seeming woman in all other respects, but she just didn’t understand that I would either have to constantly censor myself or she’d have to live in the shower of my contempt for something dear to her. Doesn’t sound like a good relationship to me, but some people apparently like abuse.

There have been a few totally pleasant meetings with women who seemed surprised when I made it clear at the end of the face to face that that would be all we’d be doing.

This story is about one of the latter-most situations. Two of them actually.

I don’t know when I first connected with Tracy (not her real name). A few weeks ago in any case. She had her defences up high, but I didn’t care. She was on an online dating service, she WAS looking for a connection. The messages progressed well. She was amusing and I amused her.

We decided that we should meet face to face, but we were collectively booked for the better part of a week. We set it all aside, agreeing that we’d reconnect after the upcoming weekend.

Then, one evening as I was on the site answering emails, or perusing photos I got an instant message from another user. I’ve only used the IM service on the site once before. It’s a lousy UI, and I’m not big on IM in the best of cases. I’ve never initiated an IM conversation, but I do accept them - ‘cause ya never know!

It was a decent conversation. But it was late. We agreed to message each other the next day and make plans. She ended up suggesting we get together at a place near both of us (she claimed to live on the Drive) that night after work. I had nothing up, so what the hell.

We met. It was a decent conversation. She was definitely interesting, but I knew very quickly that I wasn’t interested. The more I meet women, the more I think I don’t want to get together with another artist. I used to think it was just actors I was done with, but I suspect my moratorium may extend further. Jury is officially still out on that one - it’s not a simple equation.

As we wound up, she - let’s call her Carrie - gave me the somewhat ambiguous invitation “Want to come with me?” The answer was a polite ‘no thanks.’ She seemed surprised.

Allow me a moment to rant about women. How many times have we - guys - been given the message that ‘all I want is someone who is a good listener?’ “Innumerable times” is the answer. So the astute guys develop that habit. It gets practived to the point of instinct. But there is an issue that develops from that. Our ability to actually listen gets interpreted as interest above and beyond the moment. When all we are doing is being polite! I’m sure later I’ll discover that my ability to listen when I’m not interested has become a liability as women don’t know when I’m listening sincerely. Argh! Fuck!

So I’m thinking that the fact that I actually paid attention to her gave her the message that I was actually interested in her. That wasn’t the case. To be blunt - even a bit rude - if I was still on the longest dry-spell of my adult life I don’t know that I would have followed up on the vague invite. She may have just been saying “Hey I’m going to a ________. Want to come along?” Though that itself may have been a trial that eventually led to her bed. But not necessarily.

In any case, it’s moot. I wasn’t interested. She seemed a bit surprised. Perhaps even put out. (Oooh! Pun.) Maybe even…(and this is reading things in after the fact, and with more circumstantial information) …it seemed that I might be screwing up some wild plan.

So, that’s that. Farewell to Carrie. Pleasant enough, and I wouldn’t be adverse to running in her in the ‘hood and asking how her projects were going, but that was that.

I get through the weekend and it comes time to reconnect with Tracy and make plans. She chose Tuesday after work… which was a strange choice as neither of us, as it turned out, worked that day.

We met, had dinner. She was fun. Very lively and fun. I laughed a lot. Physically she was not really what I’d immediately think ‘holy shit, she’s hot’ about, but her genuinely winning personality could potentially tip the balance. There were some other factors which would prove an issue, but not insurmountable if things remained otherwise promising. No deal breakers.

After dinner we went for a walk. I don’t recall how we got onto it, but she started talking about her crazy roommate. This apparent nutbar who wouldn’t clean up after her dogs. Who would wake up at 7am and start hammering. HAMMERING!

I could totally relate. Those of you who know the epic of Erin living upstairs know the essence of my commiseration. I was totally on board with Tracy’s complaints. She told me how the roomie’d driven her so bananas that last week she snapped and had it out with her on Thursday afternoon. The roommate exhibited an utter dereliction of responsibility and capped it all off with this gem of a quote (which also recalled Erin for me) “you think I’m loud now, wait ‘til I bring a man home!”

Oh, the non-sequitur argument. Such a slam dunk of ‘WTF?’ stupidity. I was totally with Tracy in her frustration.

Then she dropped the bomb.

“She is on the site.” (Meaning the dating site.) “Her user name is ‘Hawk moon’ (not her real username).”

Carrie’s username had been “Hawk moon 71.” I stopped dead in my tracks. I don’t think I’ve ever done that before.

“Oh, have you talked with her online?”

“That is really familiar. There’s a chance.”

“Her real name is ‘Carrie.’”

Holy shit.

I played dumb from there out.

Have you done the math? I’ll lay it out for you, just to be certain.

What are the chances that a Carrie going under the name Hawk moon 71 is NOT the same Carrie whose roommate identifies her as Hawk moon? That’s the easy part. Thursday morning, Carrie and tracy have an argument about noise that culminates in the gem “wait ‘til I bring a man home!”

Later that night, I - who am already having an online chat with Tracy - get IM’ed by Carrie/Hawk moon 71 who fast tracks her way into a date with me the next night where she seems to try to get me to go home to bed with her.

Granted there are a few assumptions being made in this equation (that Tracy is missing the ’71’ from her roommate’s username; and that Carrie who I met was in fact trying to get me to go to bed with her.) but it certainly appears as though I almost became a pawn in an apparently really ugly roommate battle. In fact, I’m almost certain of it. The real question is: did Carrie hack Tracy’s account - or other wise pick me out as her mark in said war - or was that really just a huge co-incidence?

There is really only one piece of evidence that contradicts any of this and it’s quite easy to reconcile. Carrie claimed to live near me on the Drive. Tracy lives over near Main. The Drive and Main are not far apart, but I don’t think someone who live on Main would claim they lived on The Drive… unless they were manufacturing a reality for some reason.

I could be manufacturing my own reality on this matter myself, but I think Occam’s Razor dictates that this was a close call of weirdness for me.

Assuming all of that, Carrie did achieve part of her plan. I’m not getting involved with Tracy any further - though exploring it just a little farther would be illuminating - when I otherwise would have.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Palm Slapping Between Dix & Mr. Homosexual following a good leg-pounding in a wonderful matching swimsuit

Yeah, that was a long title... but it got your attention, right?

And it wasn't just a gimmick. It's totally relevant to this post.

I just came across this hysterical blog post about an unintentionally funny find/replace error.

I suspect I'm going to be giggling about this one all day - you deserve the same chance.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Abortion Hits the Big Time

A nice contentious post for Canada Day.

Henry Morgethaler has been named to the Order of Canada.

I think that that is awesome, and far too long in the coming.

I never really had a strong position on abortion one way or the other. I knew that I didn't think it was a positive thing personally, but I knew that that was a personal issue. Further, I knew that no matter what else I thought, it was important that any and every one else have to freedom to make their own choice on the matter.
On this my opinion hasn't changed terribly much. I do beleive that there are gray areas. Very gray. But I am loathe to put limitations on circumstances under which abortion is identified as a bad thing.

I've twice been in circumstances where abortion has been a direct factor in my life.

In both cases it was a situation where we slipped through the cracks in terms of statistics contraceptively.

Without getting into specifics...

In the first case we had been dumb, yet we still lost the contraception lottery.
I was shocked and upset at the prospect of parenthood, yet I was willing to bite the proverbial bullet and make the necessary changes in my life to own up to my contraceptive stupidity. Further, I don't think we would have been collectively bad parents. She already was a parent. Myself... well there's no owner's manual, right?

It was a significant time for me. I had never seriously considered the possibility of being a parent. But there it was. I warmed up to the idea quite quickly. I was ready - or as ready as I'll ever be. (This still holds true.) It wasn't ideal, but we'd do fine. It was then that I opened my mind to the real prospect of being a parent. Obviously it never happened. She decided to have an abortion. I suspect that it had something to do with my inital uncertainty. Or at least that became her excuse. We only ever seriously discussed it once. I arrived home to the news. We lay in bed for a few hours talking about options. I was non-committal. I had never thought about being a parent seriously. I had some mental housekeeping to do. And I did it. I prepped myself for being a father. Then, one day not much later, she told me she'd had an abortion. Not once had I been directly consulted. While I recognize that it is her body and that that alone ought to dictate whose choice it is, I do think it is the right of the father to know in advance - so at the very least they can wrap their head around the notion if they aren't actually prepared for it. In a best case scenario they would have a chance to put forth a considered argument against it. But it's not their choice. They should be kept in the loop. I wasn't.
I was mad. It was the end of our relationship - though it took a year for that to fully blossom. Though I have to admit that my life is probably better for it.

In the second case we REALLY slipped through the cracks statistically. We were using contraception 100% properly (though 100% properly is not 100% effective) and in doing the math backwards we are pretty certain it happened the very first time we had sex together. We were later engaged - we were serious about each other. But when we were hit with the prospect of being co-parents so early, it was utterly wrong. It was too soon, and I think sub-consciously I already knew she was an alcoholic. No good for parenting, let alone gestation. I was not happy about the idea, but I was totally ready for her to have an abortion. It was her second too.
I am very happy we didn't carry that one to term. It would have had fetal alcohol syndrome. What a terrible thing to be responsible for - not the child specifically, but to know that you allowed it to happen to the child. Not to mention that if I never speak to the would have been mother ever again, it will be too soon.

But upon that second - most accidental - abortion, I was determined that I never wanted to be in that position again. Having said that, if I were faced with having a baby with someone who would bring the worst of circumstances upon the child (such as FAS) I would seriously consider the option, and probably go with it in the end. That doesn't change the essential emotion. I don't want to ever have an abortion in a relationship ever again.


Previously when I was approximately opposed to the idea personally, it was always with the caveat (ask around, it will be confirmed if you drill deep enough) that I had never been in the position of having knocked someone up.

In my first circumstance, I was willing to follow through. I would have done my best. But it's probably best that it didn't happen - though there was no medical reason to back out. In the second, it may be mostly hindsight, but I am very thankful it didn't happen, medically and socially. Would I have got to that point if not for the first? I can't say. But I'm glad I did.

In any case I am extremely grateful for Henry Morgenthaler for breaking the ground. He is totally deserving of the Order of Canada. In a forward thinking society we should all be able to make personal decisions about how our lives are lived. It is responsible to have children under responsible conditions. I can't thoroughly claim that I would have been doing it in either circumstance. We owe it to the children.

A few last random thoughts:

Only stupid people are breeding. I don't know who first put forth that notion - it wasn't Harvey Danger. But it's very true. I don't know how we can ever beat that one.

Where do we draw the line? If someone uses abortion as contraception, that strikes me as beyond the pale. How to determine that? I do not know. But perhaps if a pattern develops? A three strikes rule? That might work. If you can't learn your lesson in three times, you've got to start facing the music. If there is no clear mitigating circumstance (rape, severe invitro medical condition (a slippery slope, that one)) on the occasion of your fourth abortion - perhaps even the third... Tough luck you are expected to see this one through. There would be occasional issues, but there is little doubt in my mind that they would be significantly reduced.

In any case...

I am proud to live in a society that recognises the social value of abortion.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Wicked Puzzle Solving Game... featuring Time Travel

My head is exploding.

I can't stop playing this game.

It's a really great brain twister that REALLY forces you to think ahead... well ahead.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Commercial Drive Photo

I meant to post this weeks ago.

A photo of mine of Commercial Drive has been used for the Schmap Canada website.

Naps - gooood.

This info graphic on napping was just too good not to try to share as far and wide as I can.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Six Word Memoirs - My Heart Breaking New Literary Addiction

I've found myself a new web-page. It is addicting beyond my imagination.

It came from a simple notion. Hemingway was once given a challenge. Write a story with six words. Just six - beginning, middle and end. His response was profound and tragic. "For Sale: Baby shoes. Never worn."

Smith Magazine challenged other famous authors. Including: Colbert, Eggers, Sedaris, and Chopra. They also solicited their many readers. Then they made it a book. "Not Quite What I Was Planning." They also gave it a sub-title. "Six word Memoirs by Famous Authors." It also includes their obscure contributions.

They are still taking new memoirs. New ones go on the web-site. Maybe eventually in a new book.

They are various in their impact. Curious, complete, sad, inspiring and funny.

I had to submit my own. "No time to wait for coda." I'll try again with more reflection.

It'll definitely make a good present.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

A 'Meh' Moment in NHL History

The Wings won the Cup last night. It makes me happy. Pittsburgh is a really promising team with a heap of young talent that whether together or in other cities WILL win their share of Stanley Cups, but Detroit is just too damned good.
The current team has plenty of experience, yet isn't terribly old - Chelios and Hasek excepted.

In the final round, as good a fight as Pittsburgh put up - it often looked really evenly matched (the first seven periods of the series excepted) - there was barely a single stat that Pittsburgh led in for any relevant length of time. Sure, there were two games where the Penguins led on the scoreboard at the end of a game. In game three that was mostly because Detroit looked a little old for the second period and then couldn't catch up. They turned around and never looked weary again - even late in overtime in game five. In game five it was Fleury, whose outstanding goaltending outdueled Osgood for a game - most importantly in the last three periods of the game. Osgood looked like the goat in that game, but he was in fact solid straight through the series from start to finish. But when you shut-out the competition for nearly seven straight periods at the start of a series there is only one direction to go... I predict that that single direction was the reason he didn't win the Conn Smythe.

Zetterberg won the Conn Smythe. I've got no argument with that. If you saw game four you know that Detroit weathered nearly a full two minutes of 5 on three. If it had been 5 on Zetterberg it would have made no difference. He seemed to single-handedly killed that pair of penalties and nearly got a short-hander out of it to boot. It was totally fucking amazing. He also tied that Pittsburgh kid for points in the playoffs at 27.

Last time the Wings won the Cup - six years ago - the Conn Smythe was won, for the first time by a European. Niklas Lidstrom. Last night he did something else no European has ever done before - he was the first to hoist the Cup. The honour of recieveing the Cup goes to the team Captain. No European has ever Captained a Stanley Cup winner until now.

Historically I don't really see it as that momentous. But it is worth considering why it hasn't happened until now. Europeans have been playing the the NHL for longer than I've been alive. Granted, there wasn't a particularly big influx of them until the Russians started playing in the NHL - significantly Fetisov and Larionov, in 1989. Which wasn't so long ago really. Larionov played for Detroit for all three of it's previous Stanley Cups in the past 12 years - most recently 2002. Fetisov for the first two. It was a decade ago that the league made the two year All-Star game experiment of dividing the league between North American players and European Players, rather than East and West conferences. They couldn`t have done that if there wasn`t significant balance in the league. So, if in theory there were as many marquee players of European decent as North American a decade ago and more, then why did it take this long for one to Captain a team to victoryÉ Certainly, there was some reticence to making them Captains. But TEN YEARSÉ I haven`t looked at the stats. I`m sure some mining there would be illuminating.

What seemed far more interesting to me was who he handed it to. I always thought that there was something special being said in who the Cup was handed to first after the Captain. Some kind of acknowledgement, that `hey you are special to this team - this victory.` The two most significant being Steve Yzerman handing the cup to a wheelchair bound Vladimir Konstantinov in 1998 - which caused me to burst into tears ina bout a quarter of a second; and Joe Sakic wasting an entire two seconds between recieving the Cup from Gary Bettman and handing it over to Ray Bourque in 2001. Failing such obvious emotional choices there are other options, including any single one of; a stand-out player who DIDN`T win the Conn Smythe (which Borque was), a veteran workhorse who has likely played his last game (which Bourque was), a veteran who had finally won the Cup (Bourque for the trifecta), a goaltender who worked his ass off - which strikes me as the default choice. Last night Lidstrom passed the Cup to Dallas Drake. Drake is my age - which is to say that failing a Chelios-like stamina (which it`s safe to say he doesn`t have) he is going to retire any moment now. This was his first Cup.