Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Getting Off the Bandwagon

When it comes to the Senators’ bandwagon, I want off. That’s right; you heard me. Punch my ticket and let me off. I’ve had enough.

But why, you might ask? Now that the team has finally made it to the Stanley Cup finals, shouldn’t I be enjoying the ride even more? Frankly, no.

It’s not that it hasn’t been great up until now. Three five-game series victories by a team that appears destined for ultimate success. Who could ask for more?

Me, that’s who. Because when it comes right down to it, I can’t take the excitement any more. 3-2, 1-0, OT, crossbars, goal posts and five on three power plays. My nerves are about as frazzled as they can get.

At first I thought it was just a bad case of Senators fever. You know the symptoms: non-stop talk about the previous night’s game, discussions with complete strangers about the health and/or performance of men named Meszaros and McAmmond and obsessive indoor viewing of hockey even on a bright, sunny Saturday afternoon.

But it wasn’t Senators fever that did me in. I was only suffering from a mild version of this brand of hockey flu. Despite my symptoms, I hadn’t yet worn a Senators jersey or even put a Senators flag on my car.

My downfall was an ailment of a different kind, something I call Senators nerves. It starts with clenched teeth and curled fists and quickly develops into eye twitching and an elevated heartbeat.

At first I wasn’t that concerned. I figured I could handle it. After all, I used to be a Montreal Canadiens fan in my younger days and I’d experienced countless Cup runs, both successful and unsuccessful.

But this was different. I no longer had the stamina of my youth. Plus, the Senators are a team that has never done this before. Who knows what will happen?

I finally realized that I had to jump off the bandwagon in the third period of the final game of the Buffalo series. When the Sabres tied the game at 2-2 in the third, the health risks quickly became too much.

First there was another goal post, then a miracle save by Ryan Miller and finally two late-period penalty kills by the Senators. Minutes into overtime, I knew that I couldn’t carry on, at least not without smelling salts and a portable defibrillator.

So I’m calling it quits. It’s been a good run and, apart from the serious health concerns, I’ve enjoyed the experience. But I’m getting off the bandwagon now and giving up my seat to any new fan who wants it, hopefully a younger fan with a strong, healthy heart and nerves of steel.

The Senators are Eastern Conference champions and that’s good enough for me. I’ll savor that Prince of Wales Trophy win for years to come. But when it comes to a run for the Stanley Cup, count me out.

And it turns out I’m not alone. Although I toughed out the final overtime in the Buffalo series, dozens of American hockey fans decided to call it quits after regulation. Apparently concerned for the health of their viewers, NBC switched its coverage to the Preakness Stakes thereby saving them from the needless stress of overtime playoff hockey.

So for now, I’m done. No more Senators talk. No more Senators games. I’ll leave all that to stronger, braver fans. Fans who are ready for more nail biting, hand wringing hockey. Fans who can take more crossbars, more overtime and more five on threes.

Maybe they can handle the excitement and ride the emotional roller coaster. Maybe they don’t mind endlessly discussing possible victory parade routes. And maybe it doesn’t bother them that there might be a game seven in the final series.

As for me, I’m going to spend the next two weeks with some Leafs fans. They know enough to stay away from playoff hockey and avoid the health risks. Except, of course, for a 40-year bout of chronic depression.

But I figure listening to someone relive the 1967 playoffs over and over again has to be easier on my nerves than following the Senators next series. Then again, if you haven’t given up my seat on the bandwagon yet, maybe it’s time to reconsider. Just let me check if my wife knows CPR.

Monday, May 28, 2007

The Unfinished Cohen

Andrew Cohen is the author of the book "The Unfinished Canadian: The People We Are" which contains a chapter critical of Ottawa.

I read Andrew Cohen. I like Andrew Cohen. But Andrew Cohen could be so much more than he is.

I live in Ottawa and, as a national capital, we deserve the best. And that includes the best in cultural criticism.

Why should we settle for second best? Mr. Cohen is not a first tier cultural critic. If we are going to be dissed and slammed, surely we’re entitled to be dissed and slammed by first rate critics.

Sure, Andrew Cohen is a genteel, orderly fellow, what some might call a typical Canadian critic. But is that what we really want for Ottawa and Canada?

After all, Mr. Cohen is a professor at Carleton University. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But I think Ottawa needs a top flight gadfly, someone say from a first rank university like Queen’s or the University of Toronto. Or if we truly have world class aspirations, how about a Harvard or an Oxford academic?

And Cohen is not even a full professor; he’s only an associate professor. That’s fine, I guess, if you’re satisfied with second best. But I think we can do better. Maybe even a faculty dean.

Sadly, the professor just seems to be very Cohenesque. That is to say, he’s bland, mediocre and undistinguished.

Check out Mr. Cohen’s picture on his book jacket or accompanying his newspaper column. The man wears glasses. Clearly he doesn’t have the proper vision needed to see Ottawa and Canada for what they really are and what they can become.

Architecturally, Prof. Cohen is definitely lacking. With an undersized frame, spindly legs and a small pot belly, it’s apparent that Cohen is not the product of a grand design. His constitution is just not well thought out.

Mr. Cohen’s thinning hair is typical of today’s Canadian critics. It’s OK, I guess. But why don’t we have critics with luxurious manes like those in American and European capitals?

And when it comes to being a critic of Canada, I’m very disappointed in Andrew Cohen. The professor isn’t willing to do the hard work typical of American critics. He simply takes the easy shots at everything from productivity to multiculturalism. Where’s the big picture thinking we’ve come to expect from academia? Think Marshall McLuhan, George Grant and Michael Ignatieff. Well, maybe not Michael Ignatieff but you get the idea.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m proud to be an Andrew Cohen reader. But I won’t settle for a second rate Cohen. He can do better. We can do better.

The 21st century should belong to Andrew Cohen. Let’s help make that dream come true.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Study Me

I’m pleased to report that I’m on the cutting edge of healthcare. If you haven’t heard, the latest medical study concludes that men who take three half-hour naps a week have a 37% reduced likelihood of developing heart disease.

Let’s just say I wasn’t surprised. Given my napping frequency, I figure my chances of getting a heart attack are about the same as winning the lottery.

But this isn’t the first time I’ve been ahead of the curve on healthy living. As you’ll recall, a previous study revealed that two glasses of red wine per day is salutary. I’ve been on that plan for years. In fact, I’ve often been a practitioner of the accelerated version of that regimen.

Various studies have also shown the beneficial health effects of dog ownership. I, of course,
already knew that. Ever since my wife acquired a Portuguese Water Dog, I’ve definitely felt better. I’m not sure why but I have to assume her two daily walks with Oreo have done wonders for my health.

Given my prescient track record to date, I think I can save the health research community a lot of time and effort by outlining what future studies would undoubtedly reveal. For example, if I am the canary in the healthy lifestyle coal mine, it should be apparent that there’s a definite correlation between TV viewing and longevity. Save the bucks spent on expensive studies and take if from me: three hours a day in front of the tube will add years to your life. And if my experience is any guide (and I’m sure it is), you’ll get bonus years for spending that TV viewing time lying down.

Medical researchers may be surprised to learn that regular lack of exercise is another key element of a healthy lifestyle. Again, if my experience is any indication (and I have no reason to doubt that it is), a minimum of sixty minutes of concerted, non-aerobic indolence per day will likely result in a longer or, at the very least, happier life.

Counterintuitive as it may seem, my dietary history spells health with a capital H. No need to set up studies of hundreds of subjects when it’s clear that my food intake leads to an extended lifespan. Because if those studies were carried out, what they would surely reveal is that my CH diet is the best. CH diet as in chips, cheese, chocolate and chili. If it starts with the letters "ch", you simply can’t get enough of it including takeout Chinese and Chunky Monkey ice cream.

There are dozens of other studies that could be conducted. But why bother when I already know the results? Drink beer, eat steak and stay up late. Stay indoors, avoid chores and play poker on-line. Wear sweat pants, scratch yourself and burp frequently.

I know it sounds crazy but, trust me, these are the keys to healthy living. And if you can get someone else to mow the lawn, take out the garbage and shovel the driveway, you don’t need a study to conclude that’s good for your health. At least I don’t. And if you can convince your spouse, neither should you.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

April Is The Cruelest Month

With three of Canada’s six NHL teams making the playoffs this year, all things seemed possible. There was a palpable feeling of optimism as hockey fans in Vancouver, Calgary and Ottawa considered the possibilities. Maybe this would be the year that a Canadian team would finally bring home the Stanley Cup.

Although the Canucks and the Flames have bowed out, fans from coast to coast still have great hopes for the one remaining Canadian team - the Ottawa Senators. Could this be the year that the Sens go all the way?

But in the midst of all this joyous anticipation, don’t forget to remember those less fortunate. Take a moment and pay your respects to the saddest creature in the land: the fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

While most of us revel in our team’s success, there will be those who will not experience the joy of a playoff victory or even the “could haves”, “should haves” and “might have beens” of a playoff loss.

Isn’t it bad enough that many of these poor souls have to live in Toronto? How sad it must be that such a woeful existence cannot even be rewarded with a few measly post-season games.

How must it be for the members of Leafs Nation to turn on their television sets and not see the blue or white maple leaf skating across North America’s hockey rinks? What cruel deity has deprived them of their birthright? Is it too much too ask for at least one preliminary round series with a victory or two?

Yet it is not to be. The Maple Leafs fell short again, leaving their fans aimless in this cruellest of springs.

But there is life after failure, even failure of such longstanding and durable tenure. So if you see a disconsolate Leafs fan wandering the streets, stop and lend him a hand or a sympathetic ear.

Tell him that this year isn’t so bad. Remind him that his team hasn’t won a Cup in forty years so waiting one more can’t hurt. Tell him that everything will change now that the Leafs coach/GM/President will be leaving or whatever else he wants to hear. Humour him by saying that T. S. Eliot must have been a Leafs fan since he wrote that April is the cruellest month.

Take pity on the mournful Toronto partisan. Ask him to join you in cheering for the last remaining Canadian team in the playoffs. Urge him to trade in his blue and white sweater for one of a different hue.

And if the Leafs fan should decide to join you in your playoff viewing, don’t get upset by his ceaseless references to Bower, Brewer, Baun and ‘67. Just gently remind him that, bad as things seem, they could always be worse. After all, he could be a Blue Jays fan.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

National Retail Shopping Day

Another honorable mention on the Demockeracy.com site (www.demockeracy.com) for the following piece:

In a televised address to the nation last night, President Bush proudly announced the establishment of a new national holiday:

"My fellow Americans. I asked for this time to address you on a matter of true national significance.

"As you’ll recall, in the dark days after 9/11, I urged you to put aside your fears, to go about your daily activities and, most importantly, to shop. You took up the challenge and, even in the face of ever-increasing trade deficits and unprecedented numbers of mortgage defaults, you have continued to shop.

"But it is almost six years later and we still have not defeated the terrorists. In fact, thanks to some nervous Nellies and weak-kneed Democrats, in places like Iraq the terrorists are getting even stronger.

"So I am asking you to dig down deep and sacrifice even more. I want you to shop for America, shop for our troops overseas and shop to defeat al Qaeda.

"In the spirit of our parents who bought war bonds and did without in World War II, I want you to go that extra mile, extend that final line of credit and buy that additional unneeded item. Do it for America and for future generations. Otherwise the terrorists have won.

"To help in this new initiative of sacrifice, I am declaring the day after Christmas to be a new public holiday called National Retail Shopping Day. I want all of you to go to your local mall on that day and spend whatever you can to help the war effort.

"And in the true spirit of sacrifice, on National Retail Shopping Day, I want you to buy only retail. Forego wholesale purchases and discounts for this one day and show the terrorists what we are really made of.

"Remember; our country is built on frivolous and excessive purchases. Where would we be without our history of expenditures on unneeded luxury goods? So please support your local retail merchants as much as you can and have a Happy National Retail Shopping Day.

"Goodnight and may God bless America and her bountiful retail establishments."

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The 2012 Race Starts Now

Based on the latest campaign, apparently it’s never too early to get an edge on the competition. That’s why the 2012 race for The White House starts now.

Looking to outflank his opponents, perennial presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich yesterday announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination five years hence. At the same time, Mr. Kucinich withdrew from the 2008 race in order to devote his efforts full-time to the upcoming 2012 contest.

"I’m not saying I had no chance this time," said the diminutive former mayor of Cleveland. "But I think I just doubled my odds for 2012 by getting an early start and automatically becoming the frontrunner."

While electing not to withdraw from the current nomination battle, John Edwards nevertheless may decide to announce a 2012 run as well.

"It just makes good political and financial sense," said the former U. S. senator. "I’m not saying I’m going to lose this latest race," said Mr. Edwards. "But if I do, I can just re-up my volunteers for 2012 and rollover any remaining campaign funds into the next contest."

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are both firmly committed to the 2008 fight and are hesitant to openly declare for the 2012 race. But neither is closing the door on the possibility of an early declaration for the next nomination.

"If a week in politics is a lifetime," said Senator Obama. "Then I can’t even imagine what five years is."

"I’d like to keep all my options open," said Senator Clinton. "If there’s one thing I’ve learned over time it’s to never say never. That and to stand by your man."

On the Republican side, the option of an early declaration for 2012 has even more appeal.
"Let’s face it," said Rudy Giuliani. "Whoever gets the Republican nod this time hasn’t got a snowflake’s chance in hell of winning the presidency."

"Ditto," said John McCain. "2012 is looking better and better all the time."

Early reports suggest that Jeb Bush is even considering declaring for the 2016 race.

"I figure after eight years of my brother screwing up, it’s going to take at least that long for Americans to consider voting for someone named Bush again,"said the former Florida governor.

No word yet on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s intentions for the campaign four years after that.
"With all my amazing powers, even I don’t have 20-20 foresight," quipped California’s Governator.

Monday, May 14, 2007

More Demockeracy.com Content

Another honorable mention on www.demockeracy.com plus a featured original submission. Check 'em out.

Leaks, Shoots and Leaves

You’ve gotta feel sorry for Jeff Monaghan. He’s the young federal public servant who allegedly leaked the Tories’ Green Plan and was arrested at his Environment Canada workplace and led away in handcuffs.

I think the problem is that Mr. Monaghan simply lacked sufficient government experience to know how to comport himself in such a situation. His statement at his recent press conference that he has faith in the judicial system is evidence of that and an obvious cry for help.

As a 25-year veteran of the federal bureaucracy, I think I can provide that help. For example, experience has taught me that it is indeed illegal to leak confidential government documents to outsiders no matter how much you may disagree with the contents.

Your job, Jeff, is to shut up and do what you’re told. You are not paid to make moral judgments on government policy, however wrongheaded, dangerous and duplicitous it may be.

We, as public servants, are not trained in the ways of policy. The sophisticated ins and outs of such ventures must be left to those possessing the skill-sets needed to present them to the public with the proper context and spin.

I can’t stress enough, Jeff, that you should not leak classified government information. That means that you should not fax such information to others, at least not without using gloves. It also means that you should never mail such documents outside the government in anything other than a plain, unmarked envelope. And if you’re going to talk to someone about it, for God’s sake don’t use your own phone.

You see, Jeff, if no one can trace how the documents made their way outside the government, there is effectively no leak and ‘ipso facto’ no leaker. Just remember that old bureaucratic adage: "If a document falls outside the bureaucratic forest and no one makes a sound, is there really a leak?"

But more importantly, Jeff, it’s really silly of any public servant to take it upon himself to rectify government moral turpitude. It’s a mug’s game. Even if you are successful in exposing wrongdoing or corruption, no one will thank you and your life will become a living hell. Just ask any recent whistleblower.

Ironically, your job as a public servant is not to serve the public but to protect yourself. If the government of the day wants to engage in shady dealings, let them. That’s their right. After all, Canadians elected them and presumably they’re just carrying out the electorate’s wishes.

Your job is to identify any such dicey situations and make sure you aren’t directly involved. Write as many internal memos, letters and e-mails as you need to ensure that when the whole mess blows up, your rear end is covered six layers deep in exculpatory communications.

You see, Jeff, there was no need for you to stick out your neck and risk your career, such as it was. For in the end, governments always do themselves in. Don’t try to stop them; you’re just forestalling the inevitable. In fact, you may even be helping to delay their own self-destruction by deflecting public attention away from the real problem.

I sure hope you can get yourself out of this mess, Jeff, and resume your career in the public service. And if you do, just remember the bureaucrat’s motto: Keep your head down, your profile low and your butt fully covered.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Yet another honorable mention from www.demockeracy.com for a version of the following piece:

European astronomers recently discovered a new planet outside our solar system that they surmise may be habitable. The following intercepted intergalactic transmission leads credence to that speculation:

"How I Spent My Summer Vacation" by Zorax, Jr.

Every year when the two moons of Meepsor are in alignment, my whole family goes on our summer vacation. However, because my dad just lost his job at the transporter factory, this year we could only afford to visit the planet Earth.

Earth is a small planet in a remote solar system centered by an unexceptional star. It has plenty of water and lots of carbon-based life forms although my dad says he’s seen smarter bipeds on the dark side of Remulon.

My dad says he heard the Earthlings complaining all the time about something they called "global warming." But he said it was nothing compared to the fiery rings of Zethyr and he couldn’t understand why they were all worried about that anyway when there were at least two asteroids on a collision course with their planet.

My dad also says he’s never seen such a poorly run, disorganized planet in his life. And that includes Crylon and the slum planets of Alpha Centauri.

Instead of one planetary government, Earthlings have about 170 "countries." We saw something called the United Nations but my mom said that was the funniest oxymoron she’d heard since Sector Seven’s League of Planets.

Sometimes my mom and dad went down to the planet’s surface for a visit and my sister Renar and I would get really bored. So we’d teleport some "humans" onto our ship. But even that was no fun because they all just wanted to get probed or have chips planted in their brains.

When there was nothing else to do, we would watch their crude entertainment medium called television. Most of their "shows" were primitive but there was one funny one we watched regularly. It starred an Earthling named Bush and he pretended to run Earth’s biggest country called the United States. Every time Bush tried to do something, he screwed it up but he’d never admit that he’d made a mistake. It was kind of like "I Love Lucynder" back home except way stupider.

This summer’s vacation trip was about the worst one I can remember. Except maybe for that time mom and dad sent me to that summer camp near the black hole in the core of Seyfert Galaxy. That really sucked — big time.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Memo to Oreo

Well, tonight's the night for my "Memo to Oreo" mini-documentary about my ongoing relationship with our family dog. It's slated for airing tonight on the full CBC Radio One network (91.5 FM locally here in Ottawa) at 8:43 P.M. So if it's the second intermission of the Senators hockey game and you've wandered into the kitchen for a beer, turn on the radio and give a listen. Check out http://www.cbc.ca/outfront/listen/2007/07-09-06.htm for particulars.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Guns for Grads

Another "honorable mention" on the site www.demockeracy.com for the following piece:

Hard on the heels of its just-completed national convention and plagued by declining numbers, the National Rifle Association today announced its 2007 membership drive dubbed "Guns for Grads."

"We are a vital force in the protection of democracy," said NRA president Sandra Froman. "But we had to face the fact that our membership base was primarily drawing from an older demographic."

By appealing to America’s youth, the NRA hopes to boost its numbers and revitalize its core constituency.

"Sure, we’re glad to have thousands of aging, Idaho-based conspiracy theorists and white supremacists as members," said Ms. Froman. "But we can’t rely on those guys forever, especially given their dismally low reproductive rate."

The 2007 membership drive is aimed squarely at the millions of upcoming high school graduates. The NRA is hoping that instead of buying grads a watch or a car, proud parents will opt for a rifle or an attractively monogrammed handgun and an NRA junior membership.

"Nothing says ‘We care’ like a gun," said longtime executive vice president Wayne LaPierre. "Given what’s happening on U. S. campuses these days, I think responsible parents will want their college-bound kids to be properly armed."

Facing criticism that the NRA is simply exploiting the recent Virginia Tech massacre, Mr. LaPierre scoffed and pointed to the tobacco industry as a model of good corporate citizenship and aggressive membership recruitment.

"Phillip Morris knows that you don’t expand your customer base by simply relying on your most loyal consumers," said LaPierre. "You’ve got to reach out and engage the next generation."

When informed that Phillip Morris has changed its name to Altria to give its primary product a more modern, user-friendly image, LaPierre said he was well aware of the change.

"We think that was a smart move," said the NRA spokesman. "In fact, we, too, have our own re-branding plans for 2008."

Asked to elaborate, LaPierre replied with an enigmatic smile and the brief statement: "What do you folks think of ‘Fun With Guns’?"