Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What's Best for Hockey

I'm totally in touch with my inner dude. I love having a beer, watching the game, yelling at players and errant pucks and checking up on my hockey pool as if I was actually some sports god rather than a geek who thinks I know my stats. But lately, there have been two serious issues that are facing the game of hockey right now and they both pose a threat to the sport that I love and to my inner dudeness. They are:

1- Cheerleaders.
2- Head Shots.

1- I'm in touch with my inner dude, but I am not a dude. Let's make that clear. I love the game and I love watching it, but the last thing that I want to see is a group of bouncing blondes in skin tight clothing encouraging me to cheer. Not only are these figures merely ornamental, they don't make the game any better (are you listening, Edmonton? Your team will still suck even with Cirque du Soleil in the background).

I'm against cheerleaders because they're pointless and they trivialize the game. Your main focus if you're a real fan should be on the rink. And if your team's any good, they'll give you something to cheer about. Not a bunch of bunnies in the bleachers.

2- Head shots. They're dangerous and they're detrimental to the game. I love a good clean check, but thugs on ice is not my style. Head shots are ruining careers and putting people's very lives in dangers. We're past the Coliseum and the gladiators, people. It's time to put an end to vicious head shots to players when they don't even have puck possession.

You can argue the policy over and over again and come up with a million scenarios, as long as you get the issue resolved. As complicated as the issue may seem, lawyers deal with worse every day in basic assault cases using mitigating and aggravating factors. Yes, it's time to call in the lawyers.

Aggravating factors: player doesn't have puck possession, opponent sought out the victim at high speed, opponent made contact with his elbow with a clear intention to hurt, opponent used undue force.

Mitigating facotrs: player did have puck possession, player's head was down, player fell against the board of his own accord as a result of the hit and not by intention of the hit.

Sure, there's lot of grey area in here to argue for and against. Acknowledging the complexity of the issue is part of dealing with it- not dealing random 6 game suspensions for every act. A case by case analysis is going to be costly and time-consuming. Nobody ever said justice was easy or fast. That doesn't change the fact that we need it.

Hockey's in danger of being trivialized and brutalized. We don't need more violence to up the ante and make the game interesting for people. It's a contact sport, but not a blood sport. We don't need sexy cheerleaders to make it more appealing; the game, if played well, is beautiful to watch. What's best for hockey is hockey.

Anti-Octopus Songs

Paul, the octopus who has successfully predicted the winners of the World Cup, has died peacefully in his sleep in his aquarium in Germany. While this event has caused a stir in the sports world, resulting in everything from a Facebook memorial page to a 'written statement' issued by the deceased animal,the most hilarious passage from this news clip taken from yahoo.ca has to be the following:

"He then fell offside with bitter German fans who threatened to turn him into sushi after he correctly predicted a semi-final defeat for the Mannschaft against Spain.

Stung by Paul's "treachery", some sections of the 350,000-strong crowd watching the game on giant screens in Berlin sang anti-octopus songs."

Wow. Turning him into sushi. That's cold-blooded. There are no other words for it.

But then you have to ask the question: what is an anti-octopus song? What does it sound like? And how do you convince 350,000 people to sing them? And how can 350,000 people in the world know the same anti-octopus song? It's kind of a mind-boggling mystery like reindeer games. What the heck are those? What is Rudolph the red nosed reindeer missing out on? Is there some form of reindeer Wii that we don't know about?Or poker?

But back to the songs. What could they possibly be?

Oh, octopus, you are so slimy. You only have 7 tentacles. You have suction cups for brains.

Apart from the fact that it doesn't sound the least harmonious or sing-songish, it's also slightly ridiculous. I mean, what kind of fault can you find with an octopus that would sting so badly in song?

Oh, octopus, your predictions are so bad. You couldn't predict 6pm at 5pm.

That doesn't make sense either. Especially considering his incredible record.

Oh, octopus, you live in a tank, your mother stank, you're out of rank and one day you'll be calamari.

Even if that did work, I still have trouble picturing entire stadiums full of grown adult men singing that.

But then again, stranger things have happened.

I guess we'll all get a chance to learn anti-octopus songs when the next World Cup occurs in 2014 and Paul's successor is chosen. We'll see if he has the same uncanny abilities- or if he's delicious.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The End is When?

According to new studies surrounding the calculations of the Mayan prophecy which has foretold our doom, the end of the world may already have happened- and the worst part is that we may have missed it. It was probably one random Tuesday at 3pm while I was thinking about how long it had been since I got a haircut when it happened. But of course, the calculations have always been harder to do than most people would imagine and the end of the world is such a tricky thing to nail down.

See the following excerpt from an article on Yahoo.ca:

"A new critique, published as a chapter in the new textbook "Calendars and Years II: Astronomy and Time in the Ancient and Medieval World" (Oxbow Books, 2010), argues that the accepted conversions of dates from Mayan to the modern calendar may be off by as much as 50 or 100 years. That would throw the supposed and overhyped 2012 apocalypse off by decades and cast into doubt the dates of historical Mayan events. (The doomsday worries are based on the fact that the Mayan calendar ends in 2012, much as our year ends on Dec. 31.)"

(end of quote)

So it's another one of those perplexing good news-bad news thing. The good news is that 2012 may not be the end. The bad news is that we still have no idea when the end will be because the first calculations were supposedly wrong- but on the off chance that those calculations are actually right, the end will, in fact, happen in 2years from now and we'll just all have to wait and see.

It's funny that so much has been put into the Mayan calendar. Some scholars have said that the calendar has been right on several other counts, just like Nostradamus, predicting the world wars, pollution and some say, even 9-11. But the problem with prophecies is that they're a lot like fortune cookies; vague, entertaining, sometimes a little spooky, but more often than not, interpretations of the things that we are inclined to believe already.

The original prophecies did not say 'world war will break out in Europe in 1914 after the assassination of the archduke Franz-Ferdinand.' They probably said something more general, such as 'war shall plague the earth for several years and leave behind a trail of destruction and human misery.' A pretty good guess from an ancient civilization that was regularly prone to the same fate years after the arrival of the Aztecs. Hardly surprising when you open any history textbook. War is a matter of fact for human history- and it's not that hard to predict.

The saving grace about the ambiguity of prophecies is that it leaves room for hope. Nothing is pre-determined or inevitable, other than the fact that we will all somehow die. We just may not all suddenly die at once in some apocalyptic scenario worthy of a Jerry Bruckheimer film.

I hope that I have time for that haircut first.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Terrorists have to eat, too

A US blogger has claimed that Canadian soup is being monitored and controlled by terrorist groups. Pamela Geller, who runs an anti-Muslim blog, has called for a boycott of Campbell's soups from Canada. She claims that the Islamic Society of North America, ISNA, who does the certification of the soup as halal, is affiliated with Hamas, a terrorist organization.

The blogger is clear that she doesn't oppose halal food any more than she opposes kosher foods, showing some clear tolerance for the pesky presence of 'cultural differences'. But the ISNA has denied any claims to Hamas and/or any other religious extremist group and the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization that ISNA claims to have ties with, is not listed as a terrorist organization by the US itself.

The boycott has prompted a Facebook page with 3,500 members. Of course, this boycott would have been more helpful with the following conditions:

1- The soup is not sold in the US; therefore, a US boycott of a Canadian product that is only sold in Canada is going to have something less of the desired impact that boycotts are generally intended to have, which is to hurt the bottom line of a company and give it bad press to its clientele. This boycott will achieve neither one of these intended impacts.

2- While the site offers claims, it does not offer proof. Further to that, the New York Times, a credible piece of mainstream media and journalistic integrity, has printed a rather unflattering portrait of Pamela Geller, an activist who led the protests against a Ground Zero mosque and is the leader of Stop Islamization of America. It's not difficult to decide who one would rather believe in this situation.

3- The Muslim Brotherhood is not listed as a terrorist organization by the US State Department. It's difficult to argue the danger of an organization that your own government does not list as dangerous. One would have to wonder if it's not so much the actual nature of the organization that is the problem for Geller, or its Islam affiliation, which is, to date, not a crime.

It's clear that Geller is part of the population that closely monitors the Muslim population of America for threats, both real and imaginary. So much so, she's willing to go against an iconic American company, Campbell's, and to accuse them of funding an organization that's dangerous to America. Forgetting, of course, that Andy Warhol's iconic image of the Campbell's soup can is an enduring symbol of American corporatism and its cherised capitalist system which is supposed to uphold democracy.

But there appears to be no contradiction for Geller, who makes this claim obviously on 'sources' and good faith that all Muslims in America are up to something, whether it's funnelling money through Campbell's soup cans or building mosques on US soil.

To those in Canada who may affect the boycott: eat more tomato soup. Let's show the US that we think this is ridiculous.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Good for Vancouver

Vancouver is one of Canada's coolest cities. It's got that grassroots, bohemian chic, community-based, eco-loving vibe that makes it one of the best places to live- not to mention the mild weather and the proximity of the ocean. They have the Vancouver Canucks, Stanley Park, and like any major metropolis, quality shopping and dining.

They've also recently shown that they have class. Sarah Palin dropped into Vancouver to give a speech to some well-heeled Conservatives out West, an invitation only affair that cost about $500 a head to hear her speak about her book about herself. And the greatest part? Nobody else showed up.

The only interested protester was there to protest Canada's poor Kyoto record. There was no fanfare, no mass protest and not even curious citizens. This sends a pretty clear message out there about how Vancouver residents feel about Palin: indifferent. And good for them.

The people who admire her are generally hardline Conservatives who have no regard for the environment. These are the people who dropped the money to see her. The people who criticize her are giving her a power that she doesn't deserve to have because it assumes that her opinions are valid or fact-based. You don't engage a person like that anymore than you get into a debate with the crazy street lady with the shopping cart full of cats.

Good for Vancouver to show her the recognition that she deserves. Good for them for not giving her credence or press.

If Tina Fey, however, showed up dressed as Sarah Palin...

Then I think you'd have to close Robson street.

Friday, October 8, 2010

I must be 52

A recent study in Britain has shown that the average person becomes grumpy once they hit the age of 52. See the following excerpt:

"The poll of 2,000 Britons found those over 50 laughed far less than their younger counterparts and complained far more.

While infants laughed up to 300 times a day, that figure had fallen to an average of six laughs by teenage years and only 2.5 daily chuckles for those over 60, the survey for cable TV channel Dave found."

I guess becoming old isn't a laughing matter, what with the ageing, the wrinkles, the loss of mobility, the numbers game that shows that you're ever closer to death...
the loss of all your childhood dreams, the years lost worrying about yourself and others around you, the time devoted to others that you'll never get back...

Of course infants laugh up to 300 times a day. They have no clue what's going on! They think that everything shiny is interesting and that toes taste good. They have their innocence and their dreams and their every need being taken care of by other people.

Teens may have their acne and peer pressure type issues, but they're still able to laugh at themselves and at each other. Have you ever seen a high school yearbook? There are hours of laughtime entertainment right there.

Does it not surprise anyone that the years associated with midlife crisis and the fact that half your life is over and that half may have been wasted will cause some distress in people? Is it any wonder that this distress may result in decreased laughter?

Grow up, people. Getting old is not fun. These people are grumpy and they have every right to be. I'm pretty cantakerous myself and nowhere near 52; I guess I'm only 52 in my spirit.

Vera Wang in a recent edition of InStyle put it best:

The best part of ageing? The wisdom. The worst part? The mirror.

So true.

Say It Aint So, Diego

The voice of Dora the Explorer has claimed that she has been cheated out of big profits from the Nickelodeon franchise that hired her to sing such classic songs as "We did it!" The young actress, Caitlin Sanchez, states that her contract unfairly denied her a share of the billions of profits generated from the hit kid show and that she was coerced into signing it 'as is' at the risk of losing the role.

While the studio claims that the lawsuit is without merit, it looks like it may go forward anyway, much to the chagrin of the studio. It doesn't make an educational children's show look good when the child star sues the studio for such treatment. Parents may not react well to that kind of publicity.

But while the actress is making claims that her contract was unfair, she did make a staggering $5115 per episode. The actress claims that this didn't take into account the hundreds of hours spent in the studio making the episodes, yet, it's hardly an amount to cry over.

Then again, the $40 a day stipend to travel and promote the show doesn't look nearly as generous. While it's safe to assume that being a child actress has its other merits and perks beyond the poor per diem, it's a fair bet that the show has generated a lot of profit and that the studio wanted to keep as much of it as it could. After all, who would have thought that a show about colours and numbers could turn into such a consumer generating machine?

The lawsuit claims damages in the tens of millions worth of potentially lost revenue due to the shoddy contract. While this is likely a drop in the bucket for the studio, they will do what all people with money do- protect it to death. Deny the charges and claim that they've been 'more than fair'. It's a familiar song and we've all heard it before.

I just hope that this actress does get what she deserves. And that she doesn't dance when it's all over.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Someone call the Heart and Stroke Foundation

Quick! Someone call the Heart and Stroke Foundation! It looks like a new wave of arterty clogging is about to take over the country, as KFC introduces Canada to the infamous Double Down, a hand held sandwich with no bread that has two pieces of original chicken, bacon and two kinds of cheese. See the following link for a picture, along with the suggested variety combo add-ons, namely a fountain drink and fries.


KFC already has a bad reputation in Canada due to its sodium content, its fat and its supposed cruelty to chickens as declared by PETA. In the past, Canada has been a marketplace that has been mostly reluctant to take on "American-sized" fast food, what with the new big Beefy from Taco Bell just making its debut in a hilariously accurate commercial featuring shocked Europeans and Japanese. "Why does everything from America have to be so big?" asks the snooty cricket player. Although this commercial is meant to poke fun at him, I think it's safe to say that most of us actually agree with him.

It doesn't surprise me to see yet another fatty snack coming to Canadian franchises courtesy of the nation that invented baconnaise, an innovative spread that combines the fatty power of bacon with the cholesterol raising power of mayonnaise. It is disappointing, however, to see commercial profit considerations coming before health considerations.

90% of respondents in a survey for KFC stated that they thought that the Double Down should come to Canada. Only 45% of them said that they would actually try it themselves. Meaning that we support the consumer's right to choose, even if they're not choices that we ourselves would make. I'm pretty sure that the 90% knows at least one person who will try the Double Down just to say that they did. There's a glutton for punishment in every group.

I just hope that more AEDs will be installed within a certain distance of the KFC. This is one celebration that we might want to break out the paddles for.

Eyes on the Prize Indeed

It appears that the athletes at the Commonwealth Games have more to feel good about than just medals. An article on yahoo.ca has shown that the athletes have clogged the plumbing at their village with around 1000 used condoms. For a village that houses about 7000 athletes, that's not a bad percentage of active engagement.

Commonwealth Games Chief Mike Fernell has stated that this is a positive sign that athletes are engaging in safe sex. The introduction of a condom vending machine in the villages, no doubt, has aided this cause.

Disturbing trends in condom use have shown that people are less and less vigilant about the use of condoms, probably due to the perceived threat of catching the AIDS virus and other STDs. In the 90s, increased awareness and ad campaigns highlighting safe sex practices resulted in higher use of protective measures such as condoms. It appears that this message has been lost to some, with rates of sexually transmitted infections increasing and condom use decreasing for other population age groups. The most startling result of a recent survey on condom use showed that it was actually middle-aged people who were the most negligent in condom use, and contrary to popular opinion, the youngest demographic was also the most responsible.

It's an old message, but it's still worth stating: practice safe sex. Let's not be naive and think that sex won't happen. Even before the plumbing at the athletes' village took a beating, there were probably enough shenanigans when condoms weren't so readily available. All jokes aside, it's better to protect people rather than put our heads in the sand and deny that sex is going to happen.

That said, it baffles me that athletes are this active during a time of competition. I guess the old Muhammed Ali philosophy of abstinence in times of competition isn't for everyone. Or maybe we should acknowledge that athletes are people too.

I hope that this isn't a cause for more than one form of performance anxiety.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Today in News

The following are a series of immature observations on today's news for October 1st (it's also Friday- so we all need a break from the serious stuff).

Don't make the little people angry- it appears that Peter Jackson and his company Wing Nut Productions is under fire for labour disputes with actors involved in the two Hobbit movies, prequels to the famous multilbillion earning Lord of the Rings series. Peter Jackson claims that the actors' union in New Zealand is not a certified union, which is why they've refused to negotiate minimum terms and conditions for actors from the country. I'm no Tolkien genius, but I'm pretty sure that I know what all hobbits want: 3 breakfasts a day.

China and India may go to war- or not. It appears that speculation is growing that the two super powers of Asia may go to war over political, economic and territorial disputes that date back hundreds of years. This duel may come as the two countries increase their power and fight for top spot on the world's list. Both countries have millions in their armies and nukes. This begs the obvious question: can Chinese dragons win a fight against the multi-armed Vishnu?

China is planning to send people to the moon- catching up late to the space wars that characterized American and Russian jockeying for power back in the 60s, China is catching up with a heavily subsidized space program just as other nations are facing budget cuts. Looks like a giant step for Asia is ahead- maybe India will follow suit.

South Korea is more than a little disgusted and mystified that North Korea's successor to Kim Jong Il is his portly son. The obvious question of how one man can be so fat when his people are starving to death has been asked several times over in the South. Looks like dictatorship comes with endless fridge privileges.

And finally, coming back to local news, Canada has bid farewell to one Governor General and called in another. While some nations find it puzzling that Canada maintains this old symbolic tradition of the Queen's presence in Canada, others will be even more mystified by the fact that it's a dude. The funniest part of the whole story? No matter how well-educated and honourable this man is in his write up, the real newsmaker has been his granddaughter Emma, blowing kisses as he was announced in his new post. People are interested in credentials, but they will always be swayed by sweet children and puppies. Just check out youtube.

And they say Diamonds are a Girl's best friend...

It's not just women who loves diamonds after all. It appears that even the world's burliest, toughest and manliest of men also love diamonds- 404 of them, to be exact- like the latest Stanley Cup champions rings awarded to the Chicago Blackhawks. It used to be that the rings were simple in their design and awarded to commemorate what was already the Holy Grail of the hockey world, the Stanley Cup. But now it appears that the rings are not just a mark of status and hockey success; they are also playing double duty as serious bling.

I guess it's good for the NHL players to have a little street cred. These diamond-loving divas may have no teeth and no idea what a stiletto is, but they know a status symbol when they see one. See associated article:

Personally, I think it's funny to see men wearing rings that have more diamonds than their fiances. I also find it funny that there was a point in time when men acted like they were immune to diamonds and that this was just a woman's needless obsession with shiny things. But I guess that falls in line with men's increased sense of vanity over the years which has stimulated the invention of various metrosexual product lines for men and has even declared that certain shades of pink are acceptable to wear.

While I find that the new rings are beautiful and impressive, I really hope that this is not a sign of things to come. It appears that every ring wants to out-do the ring from the year before by adding on the bling. But more isn't always better and a ridiculous amount of diamonds won't make the rings more beautiful- in fact, there's a high risk of gaudiness there and any lady would have told you that.

A simple ring is more effective. It captures the elegance of wearing victory on your hand and a more intelligent use of symbols, numbers and characters does more to enhance the personalized trinkets than the tacking on of more diamonds. As any self-respecting diva who is accessorizing her look will tell you, Chanel put it best: always take off the last thing you put on. You can own Leboutin shoes, an oversized Prada purse, a fur coat, a Hermes scarf, Dolce and Gabbana aviators, and a complete 3-piece Cartier set- just don't wear it all at once.

Let's remember that the most important thing is winning. If you fight through 82 regular season games and 4 rounds of the playoffs right into the summer months, you want something pretty special to commemorate that. But the commemorative object should not be more important than the fact of winning itself. And no prize should be grander than the actual Cup itself.

Making the World Meaner

An unemployed Detroit-area mother has been charged with fraud after claiming that her son was dying of leukemia and shaving his head bald for several weeks so that she could accept donations for his treatment. Apparently, the mother went so far as to tell her son that he had leukemia, and crushing drugs into his apple sauce to give him a listless appearance in front of other people. She received $7,500 from a church fundraiser, along with some other donations and a gift of an XBox for her son.

There has to be a special place in hell for people who fake having cancer. On the one hand, it's an insult to every cancer survivor out there who has truly suffered and needed support in the past. On the other, it is incredibly manipulative and abusive to take advantage of the good will and generosity of other people and repay it with treachery.

Acts like this are part of what makes the world a meaner place to live. It causes cynicism and jadedness and makes people less likely to want to help each other. It causes peoples' faith in each other to erode and makes us want to close the door on the next person who comes looking for help.

People have a natural willingness to want to help each other and be charitable to those less fortunate. When this nature is abused often enough, people will give up rather than be taken for a fool again. And meanness can spread like butter and permeate other aspects of our lives, making us less charitable with our money, our time and ourselves.

People who are swindlers like this take humanity two steps back in its progress.

Research Matters- just not all of it

It's nice to see scientists have a sense of humour. Recent awards have gone out to the IgNobles, the opposite of the Nobel prize for science, to award scientists who have studied oral bat sex and whale snot. The IgNobles are the Razzis of the science world and have made a tradition of honouring weird science and proving that scientists are humans too. Among their notable awards, they've also praised BP for showing that water and oil do mix and Goldman Sachs for creative economics. Science, politics and humour combined- this is a fake awards show that I would love to attend.

In other interesting weird science news, a group of scientists at the Monell Chemical Senses Center has been studying whether or not asparagus pee really exists. Many people have complained about a strange, sulphur-like smell after consuming asparagus and apparently, this myth has been so compelling that this group of researchers decided to investigate further. See following excerpt from online Yahoo article:

"In the new study, the researchers recruited 38 participants who gave urine samples twice, before and after eating bread or asparagus (the eating sessions were spaced at least three days apart). Then the participants returned and sniffed other participants' urine and their own in separate sessions, which were limited to prevent nose fatigue. At each session, they were asked three times to distinguish between urine produced after eating asparagus or bread and between urine produced before and after eating asparagus. The scientists also tested their general olfactory ability."

I find it astounding that anyone thought that this was an important enough scientific mystery to seriously investigate pee. Can anyone really be that fascinated with the study of pee smells? I'm also dumbfounded that they found a group of participants willing to smell other people's pee in the name of science.

To be fair, I suppose that science is any kind of research that is curiosity driven and seeks to answer a question. Scientific methods can be used to unlock all sorts of mysteries, and it doesn't all have to be in the name of saving the world. I'm just glad that one of the IgNobel prize winners discovered that swearing helps to alleviate pain when you stub your toe. Now that makes me feel better.