Friday, August 27, 2004

This Land Is an Odd Land

Just when you thought there was nothing to write about, the candidates make an appearance.


My American friends, forgive me as I'm going to write about things you don't know or really even care about as they didn't happen in the States or to Americans.

I find it interesting that the Canadian love fest with Perdita Felicien continues despite her wiping out the first hurdle in the women's 100 meter final. Here she was, the gold medal favourite, shyly trying to put down the media hype and attempting to train for the final. Canadian broadcasters practically cannonized her before the race and were predicting as easy win after Gail Devers had to drop out. All the while, Perdita quietly trained away.

On race day... tragedy. She falls into (over?) the first hurdle effectively killing the Olympic dream for a nation. She goes to the camera, does her interview and apologizes to the country. The outpouring of support and love for her came from coast to coast in this country. The media placed her on an even higher pedastal, Donovan Bailey sang her praises as being everything that Canada could want in an athlete - and we still love her.

So, my question then is this...

Why did we publicly bludgeon speed skater Jeremey Wotherspoon in 2002? The circumstances were exactly the same. He was the one to beat. He was the one with the records. He was quiet and unassuming. In the final where he was supposed to bring home gold, he tripped over the blades of his skates and fell down... and was widely ridiculed by the media and the public at large. The topic of conversation for a week was how Wotherspoon had choked, what a bonehead he was, "how do you screw up so bad at the most ciritical point of your athletic career?". All of this national ire was directed at him.

Yet, two years later, we still love Perdita.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

You Want Fries (or Consistency) With That

I want to like the Olympics. I really do. I want to be able to flick on my TV after supper and watch these incredible athletes go about their sports without having to deal with politics (and I like politics). I want to be able to watch the games for the sport not for the controversy. Unfortunately, just like the winter games in '02, we are now faced with a judging controversy that is threatening to interfere with your and my enjoyment of the games.

"We do not change scores." - the International Gymnastics Federation. "We do not change scores." - the International Olympic Committee.

Watch what you say folks.

At this point you all know the story: Paul Hamm of the US was erroneously awarded the gold medal in the men's all around gymnastics final. The South Korean should have won. A fact made public when it was discovered that three judges made scoring errors that put Hamm in the lead. Add to the controversy the discovery that one of the judges is from Ohio - the same state where Hamm trains.

Chapter 2 of the story. Canadian, Kyle Shewfelt misses the podium in the men's vault final due to a scoring impossibility that puts Romainian Marion Dragulescu in the Bronze position. In interviews after the event, two officials from the IGF both stated that Dragulescu score of 9.375 on the vault where he fell, was mathematically impossible. His start value was low and the required deductions would have given him about a 9.1. Average that out with the first flawless vault and his score should have placed him fourth. The Canadian coaches protest and are turned back with the comment "We don't change scores". The technical director for the IGF that turned the protest down was Romainian.

I could handle both situations. It's understandable. Once a score is placed on the board, it stands. The judges decision is final.

Skip to yesterday.

Ivan Ivankov - world god of the high bar - pulls out the routine of the night. The judges hammer him for a score. A routine that according to commentators and experts on air, should have scored a high 9.8 (ish) gets a 9.37. The crowd goes insane - booing, catcalls, shouting etc - for about 15 minutes. The technical director (the same Romainian that turned away the Canadian coaches' protest), goes to have a meeting with the two judges that score "wrong" and has them change the score!! This is not 24 hours after stating publicly that "We do not change scores."
The same thing happened in 2002 in figure skating (Sale, Peletier and the Russians) where a score was changed and the Canadians ended up getting a gold.

When is subjective judging going to end? Or at least when will we see some consistancy in the application of the rules. If the IGF and the OIC are going to have a "judges decision is final" policy then they should damn well stick by it. Don't bow to public pressure or politics or national loyalty. Apply the rules fairly to everybody.

At the opening of every games, the athletes all take the Olympic pledge. Maybe there should be a pledge for the judges. The way things are going now it's not fair for the athletes that are judges improperly and it's not fair that some athletes are asked to give back or share medals when other's are not.

Tonight's coverage includes the women's' 100 meter hurdles final and cycling pursuit finals. At least there's a clear winner and no controversy. Hey... is that a syringe in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Stronger Higher Faster - and the rest of you suck

Ahh the Olympics. A time to watch excellent Americans demonstrating excellence while being excellent - according to the NBC coverage anyways.

I thought to myself that maybe this time things would be different. Maybe the American network would realize that other countries came to the games and that some of us would like to see them compete as well. Maybe, in the face of growing anti-US sentiment around the globe, NBC would take the lead in showing the world that the US values the contribution of all nations, especially during a peaceful event like the Olympics.

Nope. Not this time. Sorry out there. NBC is for Americans only and the rest of you losers can go home. I'm amazed that they still even care about Michael Phelps. They generated all the hype about 8 Golds, beating the Spitz record and crushing Thorpe. Now, even 6 golds is a pipe dream and his stiffest competitors are eating him alive. I guess NBC can turn him into a sympathy story now.

I'm not saying that the American network shouldn't show American coverage. I'd just like to see some balance. If the US gets beat then give credit to the athlete that won, don't write it off as a poor US performance. Every other nation "Wins silver or bronze medals" the US "Settles for silver or bronze".

I guess I'll continue to watch the Olympics on the CBC and get broad coverage of the events and athletes. All the sports without the arrogance.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

The Horror

With apologies to Joseph Conrad...

It's budget time. Sing and dance everybody it's budget time. Hey who cares that the City wants the budget a month early, there's two publication deadlines to meet, staff to dismiss after summer and all the end of season crapola... Now it's budget time.

Bend and scrape and calculate and justify and emulate. Emulate - last year's budget. I really don't have time for this nonsense right now. So because Excel has that nifty CTRL R feature... I proudly present the 2005 Fudget.

ta da. Am I fired yet? Please.

Friday, August 06, 2004


Sixteen hours : Nine seconds. That's the waiting time to face time ratio for people waiting to meet Bill Clinton at his book signing in Toronto earlier this week.

Sixteen hours??? I once waited near the front of a line for 11 hours to buy tickets to The Who. Clearly, I was proven right as they sold out 20,000 seats in 1 1/2 hours and the show was damn near three hours long. But sixteen hours to have nine seconds of time with an ex-president?

Monica didn't have to wait sixteen hours for him and she certainly got more than nine seconds of face time - so to speak. At least, Bill should be telling his buddies that he could last more than.... nevermind.

The rules for meeting Clinton were: No photographs, he wasn't signing personal messages, no touching (yeah that one's funny I know) and no cell phones allowed in the store (to keep out the camera phones I suppose). So what did you get for your nine seconds? He signed your book and you got to gush at him and pay him a compliment. The "no touching" rule precluded a handshake. But then, Bill's on tour without Hilary; who knows where those hands had been the night before? Nine seconds certainly isn't long enough to ask an insightful question and get a real, well thought out answer. Nine seconds isn't long enough to get his perspective on the Bush family that bracketed his Presidency. Nine seconds isn't even long enough share a Big Mac with the guy and get his thoughts on well, anything. Nine seconds is about what you'd get if you bumped into any hollywood starlet or hot music performer on the street before their security people "had a word" with you.

Granted Bill Clinton is the first US President to make the transition from politcal icon to pop icon. I'd mention that Pierre Trudeau did it in Canada 30 years ago but that would require a history lesson that I don't feel like giving. My point is that Bill Clinton is the hottest ticket on the author's circuit since Dr Phil. Even Hilary, who's book is out-selling Bill's by about a million copies, doesn't get the adoration and love from the people like Bill does. It's like watching the screaming masses chase John, Paul, Ringo and George, or witnessing the swarm that surrounded Michael Jackson throught the '80's. He's still swarmed but it's a little different now.

Now, Bill was a competant President. He truly seemed to care about not only the welfare of the American people but that of his fellow global citizens. He can play a hell of a mean saxophone, and let's face it, getting action in the oval office made him a hero to most men around the world. But is any of that worth wasting sixteen hours of your life for a nine second love fest?

Still, it is probably a once in a lifetime oppourtunity. And it's definately cooler to wait sixteen hours to meet Bill than it is to stand in line for sixteen hours with other costumed geeks to be the first to see the new Star Wars or Harry Potter Hits Puberty or the next interminably long Lord of the Rings flick. Those will still be in the theatre after a week followed by many dvd releases. With Bill, those nine seconds are all you're going to get. Unless you fit under the desk.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Remember Camping?

“The national parks of Canada are a source of pride for Canadians and an integral part of our identity, they celebrate the beauty and infinite variety of our land.”
I’ve just come out of a National Park. That statement should include the words “…for those that can afford to use them.”
Call me a Liberal or a Socialist or whatever you will, but it would seem to me that a National Park should be accessible to every person that lives in that particular nation. To access a National Park of Canada, you need to have a Parks Pass ($89 per year). If you’re going to actually use any of the amenities in the Park, open your wallet. Here’s the tally from an 8 night tent camping trip in one of our larger National Parks.

Parks Canada annual pass $ 89
Tenting fees @ $17/night $136
Fire permit @$2/night $ 16
Fishing permit (two people, one week) $ 28
GST @7% $ 18.83
Total payable to Parks Canada $287.83

Now, that’s not particularly expensive on the face of it. However, there are a bunch of people in this country who couldn’t afford that $287 + $125 in gas to get there and back, + $200 in food, propane etc…. I have no problem paying for access –especially when the money goes to protect the park, run interpretive programs and so forth. What really gets me is that there is no incentive for a Canadian to use their own park system. As a Canadian, I pay the same rates to use my national resource as does a tourist from another country. Why not lower the user fees for Canadians and charge everybody else a little more. That way, you’d open the parks and their wonders to a broader range of citizens who might otherwise choose a less expensive holiday option.

O.K., so I'm into this little family vacation for $600 (ish) in hard costs, maybe another $300 in soft costs (snack food, emergency fleece hoodies, coffee and cinnamon buns in the bakery in town, food on the road, fishing lures etc...) and we're having a great time depsite the couple of days of crappy weather. We visited the Nature Centre, went fishing, saw the museum, played on the beach, saw a ton of cool wildlife and generally had a successful trip. I'd say we got our money's worth.

However, one night I'm in the camp bathroom, brushing my teeth when I look over and see a kid (maybe 12-14) reading a comic book and playing with an electronic gizmo of some sort. Turns out he's from two sights down (I saw the 30 foot 5th wheel trailer he was staying in) and he was wasting 1 1/2 hours charging his laptop so he could play a computer game. This is a big park with lots to do, not to mention the fact that his (and all) the campsites have fire pits to sit around and roast hot dogs and marshmallows, drink beer and coffee etc... . But no, this kid's family dragged him into northern Canada so he could play video games in the forest.

For $900 they could've bought him a new computer and saved themselves a pile of gas.