Saturday, May 22, 2010
Grits lie. They lie for any number of reasons. But mostly they lie when they are guilty of having committed the very same sins they claim to be without.
I am alluding to something that many of you, especially those in the federal riding of Outremont, may or may not of heard yet: the slanderous campaign of misinformation and half-truths being waged by the Young Liberals of Canada (YLC) that MP Thomas Mulcair is currently being subjected to.
For those who have missed out on this fucking farce, allow me to edify you with a little lesson in propaganda. Basically, after Liberal pollsters & spin doctors read the data they advised their Leader, a man not known for his dovish tendencies (e.g. supports the war in Afghanistan), to do an about face and call for keeping the status quo on the Gun registry. Only after 8 members of his own Caucus supported gun ho Harper and his gang of shoot-'em-all-and-let-God-Sort-'em-out Tories in their crusade to pass c-391 in Ottawa.
Why the sudden change of heart, you ask??? Simple: The Libs know a wedge issue when they see one. And this may give them a little bit of credibility with the voters who are on the left of the political spectrum in the next election. The same folks who would normally vote for the New Democrats and who, rightly, regard Iggy as more neo-conservative than neo-liberal on most issues.
Now, I grant you Jack had misled his party on this point. We should never be on the right of Iggy, irrespective of the policy being debated. And saying that it's a matter of conscience for each Dipper MP to decide how to vote, is ,frankly, something of a cop out.
That said, Mulcair (whose riding contains Ecole Polytechnique, the scene of the horrific massacre that led to the gun registry being established) has come out strongly in favour of gun control and this law in particular, from the start! A man whose son is a police officer in Quebec, doesn't need any lessons in crime prevention from either the Tories or the Grits! All he can do is try to make his fellow dippers see reason on this point, because it's not his decision to whip the vote or not. To claim that he somehow support the gun nuts in this madness, is an outright lie, and is the worst kind of cheap, unthinking republican style politics. In other words, the Grits have borrowed a play from their arch-enemy's play book on political black-ops.
The Future is Unwritten
I know that strictly speaking this is not a political issue, and I am ostensibly a political correspondent. But this is such an important issue to anyone who values the kind of multicultural society that we have aspired to create in this country, that I feel it must be seriously addressed by thinking people of all political stripes.
For those who think blatantly racist displays are a thing of the past in our society, I give you exhibit A: two imbeciles who thought it witty to appear at last Thursday’s hockey game between the Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadiens, wearing black face paint and afro wigs in a backward attempt to show their support for Hab’s defensemen P.K. Subban, an African Canadian who has been involved in a few games in the NHL this season, but was recently sent down to the minors to play the for the Hamilton Bulldogs again.
I defy any decent person to look at this picture and not be disgusted by the ignorance these two men happily expressed, not only to those in the crowd that night, but to the millions of viewers around the world. To add insult to injury, the two men were given a brief brush with fame by the producers of RDS (the French language TSN), when the camera cut to them during the game, for what felt like an eternity, and the commentators failed to denounce what they saw (perhaps due to their confusion).
Imagine the irrevocable damage this will do to our image as city of ethnic diversity and tolerance, welcoming to all. Is this the message that we want to send new Canadians in this country: you may assimilate. You may even play our national sport. But we reserve the right to mock your physical appearance!
I truly hope that the Montreal Canadians Organization will release a statement addressing this matter and making it clear that these two fools do not, in any, way, shape or form, represent the team or its fans. Perhaps that will get people talking about this troubling situation, at least. Failing that, will somebody arrange sensitivity training for these clowns involving former Hab’s enforcer George Laraque?
The Future is Unwritten
International jurist Philippe addressed a small crowd at the University of Quebec in Montreal, on Wednesday.
The topic was one that was close to his heart, the future of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Specifically, what is the purpose of the upcoming conference on reforming the court in Kampala, Uganda?
Kirsch has been a judge at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and is regarded as one of the key architects of the Rome Treaty, which led to the creation of the ICC and, ultimately, its establishment seven years ago in The Hague.
Since that time the Court has come under criticism from various governments and people. Many of whom have pointed out that the Court is something of a paper tiger, a point that Kirsch concedes is valid, to some degree. He mentioned that of the 13 indictments issued by the court only three have been executed, so far. Further, some major international players like the U.S. continue to be leery of submitting to the court’s jurisdiction. While other countries, such as Sudan in the case of President Omar al-Bashir, thumb their noses at the court’s attempts to bring notorious war criminals to justice.
Despite this, Kirsch remains sanguine about the future, citing developments such as President Obama’s pledge to support the court and the ‘preventative effect’ of the court with regards to crimes of war and humanity in terms of legal reforms implemented by many member states.
Judge Kirsch, however, refused to answer a question regarding the preliminary hearings of the ICJ in the matter of alleged crimes committed by both Russia and Georgia in their 2008 war, claiming that it was too ‘political’.
The Future is Unwritten
Official BLFC Chant (sung to the tune of Altogether Now by The Beatles)
One two three four
We’ll have a beer and come back for more
Five six seven eight nine ten
BLFC is back again!
A B C D
Can I bring my friend around to see
E F G H I J
We’ll do it the Burgundy Lion way
Bom bom bompa bom
Play the game Bompa bom
Chop down the defense bompa bom
Skip the practice bompa bom
Look at us
Black, white and burgundy red
Your team is putting the fans to bed
Beer, Chips, footy and Chelsea blue
BLFC we love you!
British food. I merely have to mention the words, and images of fish & chips and marmite sandwiches probably appear in your head. Or perhaps a little bit of vomit appears in your mouth as you think about the utterly disgusting concept of breading a boiled egg, wrapping it in bacon and then deep fat frying it! Yet these are just a few of the so called “delicacies” of that you’ll find in Blighty.
Burgundy Lion notwithstanding (they are ,after all, a British style gastro-pub with a decidedly Canadian flavour, i.e. English poutine!??!), British cuisine, is generally pretty awful. The proof is Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsey, two celebrity chefs from the U.K. The former has declared war on British junk food in schools and has written many a book about Italian cooking. The latter now seems to spend more time in the U.S. on various reality shows, than he does in his kitchen back home.
Brits are among the unhealthiest people in the world, largely due to a lethal diet of cigarettes, booze and heavily fried snacks. Evidently, there are places in Glasgow (the cardiac arrest capital of Europe!) where the life expectancy of a man is literally the same as it is for an Iraqi man living in a war zone. This Scot, however, doesn’t have the excuse of possibly being blown up by an IED on the streets of Baghdad! Rather, his short life will probably be due to his love of the infamous, and surprisingly tasty, fried mars bars.
While there are exceptions to this, of course, such as British beers, many of which are quite awesome and generally better than what you will find over here. There is British Asian cuisine (e.g. chicken Tikka) and the many other ethnic foods you’ll find in almost any major city. Most of which are vastly superior to the native dishes that Brits seem to crave, but that leave the rest of the world completely perplexed. Has any non-British person ever acquired a taste for mushy peas, for instance? No, of course, not! Don’t be an idiot! But as the last French empress Marie Antoinette never said, “let them eat Jaffa cakes!” I think I’ll stick with my French pastries, thanks.
Now, as promised, I shall tackle a subject of the utmost importance to music nerds everywhere: the Clash. Firstly (so I’m guaranteed to get published), I’ll mention a little known anecdote about the boys passion for footy, which I came across while reading the hilarious and essential biography of the band: A Riot of Our Own: Night and Day with the Clash, by Johnny Green. In it Green recounts, in colourful cockney English, an informal game of footy played by the lads during the recording of their masterpiece London Calling, back in ‘78:
Joe (Strummer) was everywhere on the pitch, like a terrier after the ball. Battersea played as well, and it was a race between Joe and Topper’s dog for every stray ball. Joe always went straight for goal. Paul (Simonon) was lethal; if he was coming at you, you got rid of the ball fast. He was hugely enthusiastic, prone to big hoofs and long shots. Topper was good too. Well Coordinated, he could show people the ball, drag it away, go both ways round them then look up before playing the ball on a sixpence. He spotted openings. He was the first to be picked every time-followed by Paul: no one wants to play against Paul. Everyone took the piss out of Mick’s (Jones) football style, running up the wing with his arm in the air shouting, “To me! To me!” He could dribble and played a passing game. But Paul thought a pass was something received with a charming smile from women.”
What is it about the Clash that fascinates me so much? I could give you the official reasons (e.g. first band to mix rock with reggae and ska, first rock band to embrace hip-hop, etc.), but somehow that wouldn’t do my relationship with the group justice. No, there is definitely something more personal going on here.
I discovered the band, ironically enough, while rummaging through my folks old record collection (to this day, I suspect that they bought it by accident). It was their second album, the uneven Give ‘Em Enough Rope. Oddly, they had never introduced me to the band (they weren’t exactly pop music savvy). Here was an awesome assault on the ears. Terrifyingly loud and aggressive music, in parts, that dealt with the most exotic subject matter imaginable to a middle-class Canadian teen: a trip to Jamaica gone terribly awry, the perils of illegal drug use in London, etc. I was pretty much instantly smitten. From that point onwards, I would devote myself to consuming anything and everything ever put out by the band, both good and bad (anyone remember Cut the Crap? I didn’t think so!)
Being a political junkie I was, of course, drawn to the Radio Clash’s message of social justice and solidarity with our brothers in the third world. For a pithy 3 minute 31 second summary of American hypocrisy in terms of it’s of Latin American foreign policy, listen to Washington Bullets. Ditto for a lesson on the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East, for which I recommend that insanely catchy tune Rock the Casbah ( my favourite).
This band ,in my humble opinion, are the Beatles of punk music. In other words, they were the originators of virtually every trend in their particular musical genre. Mind you, calling them a punk band is doing him a bit of a disservice, since their influence, goes far beyond the world of punk rock.
But most of all, there was the outstanding charisma of their front man and main lyricist, Joe Strummer. Anyone who has seen Strummer on stage, as I had the pleasure of doing at his last concert in Montreal, can attest to his brilliance as a showman. I’ll never forget that raspy voice lamenting the fact that there was a physical barrier separating him from his fans. This boiled the blood of the old rabble rouser like nothing else. After all, wasn’t the Clash about tearing down barriers whether they be about race, class or music.
For those of you who aren’t in the know, you are probably not a music geek like myself (or a muso, as they say across the pond). After all, this is only the greatest radio station in the world that, due to hard times at the Beeb, is facing cancellation. I’ve been listening to it for a couple of years now, and I can honestly say that for sheer listening pleasure, there’s nothing like it. Among the many legends that have been hosts of their own show on 6: The late Joe Strummer, Don Letts (The Clash videographer & reggae impresario), Jarvis Cocker (ex-Pulp front man), Guy Garvey (lead singer of Elbow), just to name a few! And the best part is, thanks to the miracle of the inter-web, it’s available to everyone absolutely free of charge and commercial free, so there’s no reason to listen to that Top 40’s Clear Channel crap ever again! 6 also does truly outstanding documentaries on everything from illegal downloads to the late Malcolm McLaren (God rest his smutty soul). Actually, they often do a better job of covering the Canadian music scene than a lot of Canadian media do. This would be a truly great loss to serious music fans everywhere. So send those e-mails, toute suite!(firstname.lastname@example.org)
Why the BBC as an organization should give a damn what some unemployed wastrel living in Canada thinks about their programming, is beyond me. It’s not as if I pay for it through my taxes, like the Brits do. Yet, the Beeb has no shortage of fans all over the world and the scope of their mandate has always been international, to some extent. Just listen to the BBC World Service, as countless people do everyday, and you’ll see why this program is the gold standard for international news. No show is more comprehensive or thorough in their reporting. Maybe that’s why we love them so much. They don’t just provide a British take on current affairs; they also try to reflect the opinions of those affected by those events.
The world loves David Beckham. Anyone who doubts me should book a flight to Ulan Bator Mongolia and travel to the Gobi desert to ask the local Yak herders where Beckham plays football. They will answer correctly, no doubt, A.C. Milan.
The reasons for this, however, are complex. Yes, he has the god given ability to cross the ball on a corner or set piece better than most. And, of course, there will always be the crowning achievement of the Treble he and his colleagues captured while playing for Man U, back in ’99. But all of that tells only part of the story. There is another Becks. The jet setting glamour model with the pop tart wife (Victoria Beckham. As if that needs saying!) who has become a veritable international commercial juggernaut, the likes of which has never been seen in the football world before. Seeing as, I am not enough of an expert to have an opinion of his footy skills, either way. It is the latter that I take issue with in this column.
Beckham may be gifted on the pitch, but as far as his personal life and style are concerned, he will always be the object of curiosity, if not ridicule. There are the countless endorsements, for every conceivable type of product, no matter how ludicrous (i.e. Pepsi). The constant attempts to live up to his fashion icon status with increasingly daring and bizarre hairstyles and fashion accessories. Living in the UK ( though this could probably be said about the capital of Mongolia, for all I know.) one is struck by the sheer ubiquity of Beckham’s chiseled mug. It’s as though the man doesn’t know the meaning of the word overexposed!
Perhaps most damning is his boring-as-porridge personal life. I’m aware of the lavish parties with P-diddy ( if that is your real name?) and the one-off fling with a woman in a broom closet, or wherever it was! Considering that the man’s international profile is second to none and that he is massively wealthy, you would expect him to be a little more colorful. Maybe buy an island or two, or perhaps an endless series of famous and mysterious babes to keep him on his toes ( a la Mick Jagger!). Instead we find him living in a ginormous McMansion (which the press as dubbed “Beckingham Palace”) as tasteless as any your likely to find in suburban Kirkland. I suppose he and the missus were the inspiration for the deliciously tacky British TV drama Footballer’s Wives, but compared to those fictitious couples, Becks is a bloody choirboy!
Becks may very well make it to South African World Cup ’10. Further, he may be good for the quality of football played at the tournament (though, he will certainly be good for ticket sales). But, at the end of the day, if I’m to choose a football legend whose personal life is inspirational and worthy of my respect, give me a George Best or Pelé any day of the week.
I’m about to deal with a phenomenon that is rather close to my heart and that may be close to yours, but that most likely leaves you indifferent or baffled. I am referring to the longest running soap opera (or kitchen sink drama, as they say on the other side of the pond) on British TV (and soon the whole world), Coronation Street.
What is it about the show that inspires such devotion in fans like me, who watch the show religiously, to the point of getting cross with my friends should they have the audacity to call me when the show is on.
Firstly, a bit of trivia for you. The show was first broadcast back in 1960 on Granada TV in the UK. Since that historic moment, it’s gone from strength to strength and is one of Britain’s most successful cultural institutions having been exported to Canada at least since the 70’s. In this country the show is one of CBC’s highest rated programs and is shown in prime time. Mind you, we’re 10 months behind British audiences, leading to the temptation to cheat by asking your friends in the UK for spoilers! Incidentally, if you’re an American anglophile who loves the “Street”, you’re out of luck. The show has never been syndicated in the U.S.
This, of course, hardly answers the obvious question: Why the devil would any Canadian get hooked on such a show? In my case, it’s partly due to the fact that I used to live in the U.K and the show reminds of those days, both good and bad. The society that revolves around your local pub (The famous Rovers Return), the working class humour and the endless talk about football. But it’s also the feeling that, in terms of real life situations and realistic characters, no show on TV delivers more. No American show or Canadian show has ever portrayed the life of ordinary folks, warts and all, so convincingly.
When you consider how many episodes of the show air every week, the quality of the writing is astonishing, consistently providing a study in the drama and issues of everyday life. If one criticism of the show rings true, it is that it is pretty damn hard to get into in the first place. However, its soon becomes highly addictive and, like any good well kept secret, once your in the know you have access to a compelling world that to some extent resembles your own and you will always share with all the other fans, even if most of them happen to be 60 year old Grans!
With World Cup 2010 just around the corner ( if you’re an international footy fan, 6 months is nothing) it’s time to draw attention to an oft-neglected aspect of the tournament: the official anthems of the World Cup.
Many have been written over the years, but the vast majority of these are crap and were quickly forgotten. The reason being, in my humble musical opinion, is that they were far too specific in their subject and style and, as a result, didn’t stand the test of time. Nothing ages faster than bad pop music (except maybe Britney!).
When I think of marriages between football and pop music, one immediately comes to mind as being made in heaven (No, not Posh & Becks). My international fans (in particular those from Brazil) will have to forgive my ignorance, as the focus of this column will be (neigh, must be!) the 1990 chart-topping single by New Order, created for England’s World Cup campaign, World in Motion. Of course, it is only natural, that such a pop masterpiece would be created in England, as it represents that country’s two greatest passions coming together in one lovely, catchy, hooky tune!
As New Order tunes go, World in Motion is not particularly clever. It’s certainly shocking to learn that this was the bands only number one in the U.K. It has a very simple, unpretentious melody with (let’s face it) a rather cheesy rap from England player John Barnes, at the end. In other words, it absolutely pales in comparison with the brilliant synth-pop single Blue Monday, which rightly remains the bands signature song. But when one studies the period in which it is made and understands the context of the song, nothing better captures the optimism and laddish arrogance of the 90’s edition of England’s national side (epitomized by the yobish Paul Gascoigne). Best expressed at the end of the song with the hooligan type chant that is repeated over and over.
But what sets this song apart from so much other sports related music, is that it doesn’t associate itself too closely with football. The lyrics are not necessarily about football and could just as easily be adapted for use in many other sports. Like all intelligent pop musician’s, Bernard Sumner, et al, know that songs always work better when they tease the listener a bit. Hence the obviously ironic line “This ain’t a football song…”
When I think about the dearth of Hockey related pop music coming out of my own country, it shames me. Yes, I know the Hip tackled one of the sport’s legends quite movingly ( i.e. Fifty Mission Cap). But we have never cut a record with the sheer simple beauty and breadth of appeal of World in Motion. I suppose it’s too late to create an official song for our Olympic hockey team?
Anglophilia: [ang-gluh-fil-ee-uh ] –noun a strong admiration or enthusiasm for England, its people, and things English.
I thought it appropriate to begin this editorial with a dictionary definition of the word anglophilia. After all, isn’t this word at the very heart of the whole bleeding business! By that I mean, the Burgundy Lion and its over the top obsession with all things English, including the beautiful game.
Now don’t get me wrong, dear reader. I say this without any condescension. The reason being that I am a recovering anglophile myself. I once felt a kind of bizarre nostalgia for that “green and pleasant land” based on idealized images of the country and its people implanted in my brain when I was a pup by my dear old Gran, and others.
Granny was, by her own admission, a throw back to a different era in Canadian history, when people still “spoke the Queen’s English” and anxiously awaited the next royal visitor to this land. My brother and I could scarcely resist this disease, so infectious was Gran’s enthusiasm for Naughty books, Princess Diana and cucumber sandwiches.
As I grew older, and more independent in my tastes, I began to appreciate the finer points of British culture and developed a passion for Brit-pop in particular. I’ll never forget being deflowered, in a manner of speaking, by the middle-class-university-educated rock of those four lovely lads from Blur, at my first concert (never mind the whole Blur vs. Oasis rivalry. I’ll take both, thank you very much!) This was the scene for me; so much more refined than those obnoxious Yanks and their imperialistic pop music industry!
But then something happened. I lived in Cardiff U.K. for a few years ( I know it Wales and not England, but for Argument’s sake, let’s not quibble about details!) and in much the same way as an adult is disabused of any childhood fantasies he once entertained, I became rather disillusioned with the whole place. Far too much “aggro”(a Britishism for aggression) and mean-spiritedness , for my gentle Canadian tastes. After three long, and sometimes hard years, I was happy to be back in this country that, for all its faults, is still pretty hard to beat.
Yet, in the interest of full-disclosure, I must admit that some part of me can’t help but admire that place on the other side of the pond and its endearing people. I love the Beeb and listen to Radio 6 every chance I get. I’ll never miss an episode of that legendary kitchen sink drama: Coronation Street ( more on this in future columns). Thus, let me make my intentions clear: if these editorials have a point , other then sheer self-gratification, it is to look at our love/hate relationship with dear old Blighty. Examining both its most brilliant pop cultural exports ( i.e. The Clash) and its tackiest excesses ( i.e. the Beckhams).