Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Fated Meeting

It had been two years since the abbot died. Two years for the church in this village to lie empty. The heavy iron key to the door had difficulty turning, and if it wasn't for my careful and slow application of strength, I might have snapped it in the tumblers. It opened, reluctantly in the end, and I got my first look inside the small building.

It was stout; a stone base, wood walls, and a thatch roof made it rather more luxurious than many of the near homes. However, it was not a building of luxury. Decay filled my nostrils when I looked inside, and what sunlight existed on the gray Derbyshire day failed to penetrate the two filth-covered windows. I stepped inside, and immediately my first thoughts turned to how long it was going to take to make this house of God Godly again. A little laugh passed my lips; why should I care?

There was room inside for maybe fifty people, comfortably; no doubt double that. The donkey and cart I'd brought with me waited both outside as I stepped into the little church. A scurry answered the sound of nails on stone; I'd disturbed some number of rats or other rodents, without doubt. Yet another problem to worry about.

After a few moments of looking about, my eyes began to adjust to the lack of light inside. The back wall of the church had once had two tapestries hang down. I could still see the Cross inside of them each, but the bright colours were faded and holes gaped where moths had eaten away the cloth. The Cross nailed to the back wall of the church wasn't in bad shape, however; the floor was brown with rat shit.

My tongue touched the top of my mouth and clicked against it; a displeased noise I picked up from Brother Francois some years ago. He made that noise often; he was very usually displeased with the world, and especially the men he had to share his life with. But that is what made him an excellent teacher and Master of the Order – he demanded the best, and very often got it.

I am not so young as I was when I came to Derbyshire, and at the time I was not young either, and perhaps my hearing was vanishing even then, for when I turned around, I was surprised by the form shadowing the doorway. Lean, tall, with a faint hunch about the neck, someone was waiting to great the Friar come from London to see to the flock of Derbyshire. This fellow looked probably as unpleasant as I did about the smell attributable to two years of rats; his nose was wrinkled up and the corner of his lips twisted wryly. Unlike many of the men I'd met in the English countryside of late, this fellow was clean-shaven. Most wore facial hair of some form, but not this man.

“Might we talk outside, Friar?” he asked in English. At the time, my grip on the tongue wasn't strong enough to reply fluently, but I understood well enough. My head dipped into an acquiescent nod, and I stepped out of the building after his lead. Again, the day wasn't so bright, though the threatened rain had not fallen of yet, but it was well enough to let me see the man in better detail.

I'd thought he was lean at first, almost hungry looking, but the light brought things into better detail. He wore a brown tunic, almost black, and that had disguised some of his form. Yes, his torso was slim, or slim enough for his height, but both of his arm were densely muscled. His legs, too, looked strong. Not thick or fat, but more than serviceable to run for a goodly length of time. There was a wicked scar over his chin, from just below the left ear to two inches before his chin, and perhaps this went a long way towards explaining why he shaved.

Over his shoulders he wore a cloak, waxed against the rain ponderous in the air, but the sides were tucked back over his shoulders, and I could see that he went armed. Most did, and still do, I imagine (though I rarely see outsiders these days), but the usual means of arms were a long knife or a stout club. This fellow wore a sword and dagger on his left hip, and a thick quarterstaff rested on the wall outside of the church. He also had on a cuirass of hardened leather that had obviously seen hard use; a series of pits and gouges were evident to even the casual glimpse of the untrained eye, and my eyes are not untrained nor casual in such things.

He began to speak in English. Forgive me, as I am paraphrasing what he said, but it was something to the lines of, “It's good to see a man of God come back to His house, Friar. The Church's presence was missed. These are sad times, and the folk of Derby could use a prayer from one such as yourself, from time to time.”

“English,” I started, and then I held up a hand, taking a second to close my eyes and gather my thoughts, to put together the words I needed. “My English is new. Please to forgive,” I began, but then he smiled and switched over to French.

“Is this better, mon frère?” he asked. I nodded, and then he continued, as if I hadn't interrupted him at all, “I'm sorry if I startled you earlier, but I had heard you were coming and wanted to see you for myself. The last cleric here was someone who was poorly received by the locals.”

“I was not aware my arrival was announced,” I said in return. Years and years of training to keep my face impassive may have worked, for the stranger quirked an eyebrow and laughed to me.

“It wasn't, but I hear things many people do not. I'm a funny fellow that way.” His eyes were bright blue, like a Saxon's might have been when Hengist came to the island, but they were juxtaposed by hair that was half red, half blond. They twinkled with restrained glee – the fellow had me at a disadvantage, and I knew, all of a sudden, that he knew rather more than he was letting on. “But you can hear a lot from this person or that person about a man, and not know a thing about him, if you understand my meaning.”

Yes, he was a little infuriating, but he was also completely right. I'd found that out more than once in my life. My head tilted forward in a single nod before lifting. “You are, of course, correct, monsieur. I hope that the words you've heard about me were ones describing a kind and humble man, and that I have so far lived up to them.”

“Mon frère, I can assure you, I heard that you are a humble and kind man. But that is not all I heard, and I will admit, I had to wonder why a simple monk come to serve God in peaceful England brought with him two heavy chests locked with Arabian locks. So I think, my dear Friar, that the words I heard on you were mostly true. That you have some skeletons locked in that trunk. Or perhaps bits of steel that you can't forget and don't necessarily want to remember.”

The man with reddish-blond hair and bright blue eyes had caught me unawares. Yes, I had more luggage, but knowing the locks were Arabian? Guessing that my mail was secreted inside? And knowing enough to know that I have come here for reasons other than the usual reasons a monk is sent to a small church – that piety isn't why I've come across the known world? This fellow obviously had friends in high places, or ones who know how to listen amongst them.

It must be that my incredulity showed, because the fellow laughed and clapped a hand on my shoulder. He wore a half-glove that covered his palm, and it was of thick leather, like the armour he wore. His fingertips were massively calloused, and I could all but feel their coarseness through my travelling cloak. Again, his hand was strong, his arm powerful. He was still smiling, as he said, “Don't worry, Friar. Your secret is safe with me, and I promise what I've heard was complimentary. As for your reasons for being here, they are truly your own, and I judge no man on what he's done in his past, but for the future he tries to make. It has been good to see you.”

“I,” I began, but the fellow shook his head.

“No time, Friar! When next we meet, I promise you shall join me in my home, and we shall break bread and share honey and ale, but for now I have things to which I must attend. Keep those trunks safe, but don't bury them too deep. Even in peaceful England, it seems, there are times when men must make ready for war. Even men of God,” he said, as he turned, gathering his quarterstaff and sliding his cloak back over his form. The hood raised and the twinkling eyes were shadowed from my sight.

“But, you have me at a disadvantage, sir. How will I know where to go? You didn't even tell me your name!” The rain finally began to fall, in a soft, fine mist that filled the sky. His lips twisted into what I knew was a smile, and he laughed as he turned to head back along the path through the trees. As I had suspected, he walked quick, faster than I could, even in my youth, a score of years ago.

When he spoke he was almost gone into the mist, though I hadn't tried to pursue him, it still took an uncommonly short time for the lean fellow to be gone. His voice carried over the rainy mist that was starting to thicken. “Don't worry about such things. And as for my name? You'll hear what they call me soon enough. Au revoir, mon ami!” he cried, and then he stepped off the path suddenly, into the forest, and was gone.

I didn't do as I had originally intended and bury my chests deep, to be forgotten. Instead I hid them in the small room behind the church I was given, digging them into the earthen floor beneath my cot, and covering them with rushes, so that I could haul them out if needed quick enough, but that it would take a dedicated eye to locate the two inches of protruding wood. I began to clean the Church, and over the next days, people came to visit me. Some stayed and helped, others introduced themselves and then left. It wasn't until I met the blacksmith that I mentioned the mysterious stranger. The fellow guffawed and then looked at me.

“A strange man you must be, dear Friar, if Robin Hood chanced a meeting with you in Derbyshire by daylight,” he said, before going back to driving nails into broken boards as his contribution to the Church.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


I wrote this awhile ago. It's no longer current, and it's not always exactly what I think today. But I want to share it here anyway. Mostly so I don't have to crawl through 3 years of old posts on Maidenfans again.

Edit: also read last year's thoughts.

It is hard for me to find things to say on this day. Half of me sits here and ponders that it is the day the world changed (indeed, for the worst), and that like so many others, I cannot forget exactly where I was when Al-Qaida struck down two of the world's mightiest buildings with the fire of their hatred. I remember the quiet aftermath of a terrorist strike deep into the body of a great nation, and I remember watching the great Union prepare to rise up and, as always, shake off the damage of an aggressor and prepare to move forward. Was it any different when the Confederates fired on Fort Sumter, people asked. Was it any different when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor? Many people, many Canadians, have a lot of derision for the United States - I have a great respect for our allies, not least because in the past, the United States has been a beacon of strength, power, and inspiration.

What other country could drag itself, hand over hand, out of the deep pit of the Great Depression? What other country could rebuild savaged states in a matter of a decade? What other country could survive the destruction of an entire fleet at the hands of a surprise assault? You see, when the towers were struck, I, and many others with the sense to watch the world, drew in a breath and waited for the vengeance of America wounded, but not bowed. Certainly not broken under the terrorist's knife, for I believe there is not now and has never been any knife long enough to pierce the heart of America held by a foreign warrior. And the right things happened - all the world went to war against Al-Qaeda. The terrorist's bases in Afghanistan were broken by the assault of the world's free peoples; American, British, Canadian, German, Polish, Spanish, and more.

Political documents are somewhat of a hobby of mine, that is to say, I enjoy reading them and reading about their development and interpretation over time. I can remember being eleven and reading through the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and being enthralled by the idea it held - a universal contract we are born into that protects our rights to exist. As I grew and was educated, I read other documents like it, and of course, the pinnacle of those documents, the first and the originator of the entire idea of modern western democracy: the Constitution of the United States. It seems to me, that the heart of our West, that the soul of our combined being are these documents that protect and demand the continued protection of our rights as individuals.

Opportunism and fear run hand in hand, and we can sadly see the same opportunism and fear running hand in hand today, as we could before. Sometimes when someone says to me, "Remember 9/11! Remember the Twin Towers!" in my mind I hear, "Remember the Maine!" Because this same opportunism that surrounded a fearful New England in 1898 exists today in all of the United States - the simple fact that the greatest country in the world has placed their forces into a war they cannot win (not in Iraq, but vs. "terrorism") because of some very fuzzy pictures and a series of bold-faced lies. Instead of turning the strength of the unified West against the ability of Osama Bin Laden to make war, the crucible was poured in Iraq and there the bloodied arms of the United States were thrust, and slowly they writhe and melt against the constant heat of those who believe in their beliefs enough to give their lives.

We must remember the events of September 11th, and we must support the troops deployed overseas. They are dying because the West was fooled by their own fear. They are dying because we are stifled. The Constitution of the United States, a sacred document to me, indeed, the most sacred of all documents save for my own Charter, violated by the man who swore to uphold it, and the citizens are blinded by the flashing lights and screaming alerts of FoxNews. Our greatest rememberance would be, now, to urge the Congresses and the Parliaments back to the task at hand: hunt down the man who perpetrated a great attack on the greatest nation, and to do so without succumbing to our own fear. Benjamin Franklin said that, "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." If we allow our freedoms to be taken away, how long before we are not free enough to deserve safety? Our security *IS* our freedom, and we should fight to protect it.

I suggest not that we avenge but that we find justice for our dead. Justice for the dead of 9/11 is the capture and lifetime solitary imprisonment of Osama Bin Laden and his inner circle. Justice for the dead of Iraq is the impeachment and arrest of George Bush and his inner circle for violating his oath of office and misleading his nation into a war for no good cause. To cause the first I would see our nations join together again, to end a global terrorist ring. Our 54 dead of September 11th need their justice as well. To cause the second I urge my southerly neighbours to educate themselves towards politics. Your ignorance is the weapon of those who would see you without a voice, without meaning or matter. Mass media does not present the story that needs presenting, instead try newspapers, magazines, the Internet, and journals.

I believe with all my heart that the way our society will fall is not from without. Great societies have never fallen entirely due to exterior invasion. No - Alexander's Macedonian Empire crumbled when he died and left no clear successor. The Roman Empire fell to the corruption caused by the distance and time between cities and the inability of the Equestrian and Patricians to monitor the rule of the Emperors. Victoria's British Empire was auctioned by Attlee's Labour Party to the highest bidder after the Second World War, and the Soviet Union could not withstand it's public's cry for equality in a society that was supposed to exemplify it. If we forget that we are free men and women, born equal, for just a minute, that we all deserve the rights to free speech, religion, assembly, and press, then we risk losing our right to live the way we live. That we risk losing to those who would gladly take all in order to claim our wealth as theirs. That we risk losing our future, and the Age of Enlightenment's greatest child: liberty.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Album Review: The Final Frontier

It's that time of the decade that a real metalhead waits for with baited breath day-in and day-out, knowing that each time this day comes may be the last, and the greatest. A new Iron Maiden album has hit the shelves: The Final Frontier. Already the title begged the question, "Is this the last Iron Maiden album?" Luckily, Steve Harris and company have repeatedly said that it won't be. These guys range from 52 to 56 years in age, and they sure as hell don't sound like it on tour - nor on the new disc.

I've actually had my hands on this since it leaked on Monday, and no, I don't feel bad about it. I've already bought it three times (iTunes LP, Mission Edition via Amazon, and pre-ordered the regular disc for average car/CD use), so, if EMI thinks I'm a thief, they can shove it. When it comes to a band with the utter quality and power of Iron Maiden, they definitely deserve my money. I'll pretty much keep buying everything they throw out.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Deadliest Warrior: Season 3, Episode 2

The Second World War-era United States Marines, the elite landing troops that wrested back control of the Pacific from Imperial Japan.

The German Fallschirmjäger, the battle-hardened paratroopers of Hitler's Luftwaffe, used to overwhelm Nazi Germany's enemies and defend her borders.

Who is deadliest?

George Washington's Tea Partiers

Friends, today, I'd like to remind you that the tradition of the left's tax-and-spend politics is not a recent tradition; it is in fact one that true, conservative, freedom-loving Americans have battled for over two centuries. You see, one of the things that George Washington did as President was to raise taxes when he decided to tax several luxury items that he considered distasteful. One of the prime purposes of President Washington's un-American taxation plan (they would have called it socialist but it's over a hundred years before the Communist Manifesto) was to alter the way people in the United States behaved and believed. This clear violation of the 10th Amendment was no more than a shady attempt to usurp states rights, disguising their intentions by telling the people of the United States that the money was needed to pay off the massive "debt" left by the Glorious War of Independence Against the Tyrant George.

A well-known liberal, Washington ignored the will of the people and chose to implement a form of taxation designed to conform behavior to progressive, liberal norms: he taxed whiskey. Like all people who hate freedom, Washington has a set lifestyle he wants Americans to live, and he had illegitimately abused his power this enact the tax. I don't know if you were aware of this, but Washington's Congress had only one party. Do you know what other country only had one party? That's right. Nazi Germany.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

New design!

Well, looks like Joé was right, and he was happy to help. He's designed this new...layout for me. Is it easier to read? Does it need new work?

Either way, thanks Joé!

I need your opinion.

Joé says it's too hard to read my blog, and that it's hard on his eyes. I have no problem with it - I prefer white on black. However, if a lot of people are having trouble reading it, I'd be more than pleased to investigate a change.

So, I need you to tell me: change the appearance of my blog, or is Joé whining?

California's Proposition 8 Overturned

Hoo boy. Here's the big news of the day: the hate-filled amendment to the California Constitution commonly known as "Proposition 8" has been overturned by Judge Vaughn Walker, the Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. Judge Walker, a George H. W. Bush appointee, found in his ruling on Perry v. Schwarzenegger, that Proposition 8 violates both the Due Process and the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment (learn more about the 14th Amendment here). Walker was expected to rule against Proposition 8, as California judges are not known for their approval of anti-gay legislation. However, the degree of his ruling is important, as I will shortly explore. Unfortunately, I am very concerned about the timing of this ruling, for a reason I will also explore.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Expedition to Undermountain: The Introduction

This passage is the description I gave my online party for the campaign they are about to embark on. I'm placing it here for future reference...and to share with all of you!

The City of Splendors; the Jewel of the Sword Coast; the Lord's City; all of these are nicknames for the independent city of Waterdeep, the largest in the North of Faerun. Built on a natural harbour, surrounded by a heavy wall, dominated by Mount Waterdeep and the castle above it, but protected most importantly by its famous inhabitants, Waterdeep is a city that can spawn a thousand and more adventures, without ever straying from the protection of its walls.

The city is rules by the mysterious Lords of Waterdeep, a cadre of sixteen rulers who, save one, rule in secret. The Open Lord of Waterdeep speaks for the Lords in all things, including foreign diplomacy; the current Open Lord is Piergerion the Paladinson, a famous holy knight who has been Open Lord for quite a long time. The other Lords appear, always, hooded, cloaked, and masked, and look like uniformly similar humans in splendid purple regalia. Though the names of the Lords are officially unknown, many whisper names like Mirt the Moneylender, Texter, and until recently, Khelban "Blackstaff" Arunsun, who removed his helm at a Lord's Dinner and announced his retirement as a secret Lord.

The Boondrunk Saints

I mentioned doing this on Twitter recently, and at least one person (Mark!) was insane enough to agree. The basic theory is that you watch The Boondock Saints, taking a drink of alcohol for several events.

You take one drink...
...whenever someone says fuck.
...whenever something religious happens.
...whenever someone drinks alcohol.
...whenever someone discusses rope.
...whenever Smecker (Willem Dafoe's character) makes fun of the Boston detectives.

You take two drinks...
...whenever someone is killed.
...whenever Smecker does something that could be construed as "fabulous".
...whenever someone uses a racial slur.

You finish your drink when...
...they kill the cat.

Nobody has ever made it through this drinking game. One time, Scott left the room to piss and returned to be informed he was back 32 drinks. Do you dare to dance with the Saints?

Legitimization of the Tea Party

The below was originally written for Politics and Pucks, Mike's blog. He was kind enough to invite me to do a guest post on the day of Blogathon. Because this was a guest post, it has none of my usual formatting. I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

One of the very interesting responses to the Democrat Party's takeover of Congress and the White House during the 2006 and 2008 electoral cycles has been the emergence of the Tea Party phenomena amongst voters in the United States. As readers of this blog will know, the Tea Party isn't actually a political party, but a loose association of individuals who share openly the ideas that government is too big and oppressive, and especially, taxes far too much. I don't feel the need to delve into the extended history of the Tea Party - Mike's coverage of the movement has been more thorough than I could ever be - but I would like to go over their ascendancy from fringe movement to legitimate portion of the American right.

The Tea Party began as an embodiment of the concept that the government should reduce taxes and expenditure in order to restore power to the average American, and a popular patriotic symbol was chosen as the flagship of this movement - the Boston Tea Party of 1773. It is interesting, and apt, that these self-described patriots chose to name their movement after an event that was designed to lash out against legitimate government on a hypothetical and ultimately fictional basis while utilizing extreme racist overtones that precipitated a violent event. The two Tea Parties have shared interestingly similar paths of development, though of course, I hope the end result differs.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Incorporation and the 2nd Amendment

Update: Ryan from Chicago Gun Owners was kind enough to feature this post on his website. It was incredibly kind of him to offer me the opportunity to share my writing with a bunch of new people, and I hope you all enjoyed reading my thoughts!

More theoretical political thought, since the last post on American political history and thought was oh so popular! This one is on the recent extension of Incorporation to the 2nd Amendment. Of course, the 2nd Amendment - the right to bear arms - has been probably the most contentious of the Bill of Rights, and dutifully so. A very strong percentage of Americans, especially American liberals, believe that gun control is an important method of crime prevention, especially aggressive and violent crimes.

Due to the case of Barron vs. Baltimore, the Bill of Rights was not applied to state or city governments in the United States; therefore, according to constitutional precedent, while the federal government cannot unreasonably restrict the right of a person to bear firearms, the many state and municipal governments are not bound by that particular restriction. Many states and especially cities, therefore, established laws banning handguns and other restrictions. One of these cities was Chicago.

Deadliest Warrior, Season....3?

One of the things I've wanted to do for awhile is give a series of comprehensive reviews on the 22 episodes of Deadliest Warrior that have, to date, run on Spike TV in the show's two seasons. Deadliest Warrior is one of the coolest shows I've seen, and I highly recommend it. For those who don't know the premise, the producers pick two warriors from history and bring in expert on those warriors to test recreated weapons, armour, and tactics before using data gathered from the tests to run a simulated battle in a computer. It's pretty cool, not exactly the most accurate show sometimes, but it's fun. It's designed to let you argue.

I'm not down for beginning the long review process, but I imagine I'll get to it eventually. But since season 2 just finished, I'd like to put forward some ideas for season 3. Who knows! I've been known to tweet at the show's hosts from time to time, and they've all been kind enough to tweet back, so maybe somehow the producers will steal my ideas, and I can claim credit where none is likely due.

So, here's one of the matchups I have in mind:

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

July 28th in history: The 14th Amendment is Passed

On Twitter awhile back, I asked what amendment to the United States Constitution most people feel is the most important. I heard a lot of 1st Amendment, and 5th Amendment, and even a 21st Amendment, but only Mark got it right - the most important of the lot is the 14th Amendment. 132 years ago today, that particular amendment was incorporated in the United States Constitution. Because of the impact this amendment has had, I've chosen it to represent today's Day in History.

The 14th Amendment was one of the Reconstruction Amendments, designed to end forever slavery and inequality in the Union. Part of the price for being readmitted to the Union for seceded states was to ratify the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, usually via the influence of Freedmen, Carpetbaggers, and Scalawags in the new state governments. This amendment was the most influential of the three; whilst the 13th Amendment was important at the time, there have been few cases of slavery in the US since - similarly, the 15th Amendment was neatly skirted for around 100 years by Jim Crow laws.

However, the 14th Amendment was the key to shattering Jim Crow, the method by which Dred Scott v. Sanford was nullified, and most importantly, the mechanism by which the Bill of Rights was extended to every citizen under every government in the purview of the United States of America. Serious business.

The Amendment itself says:

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Section 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

Section 3. No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may, by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

Section 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.

Section 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

As one might expect, the first section became the most important. The part of Section 1 known as the Citizenship Clause immediately the invalidated the terrible decision of Dred Scott v. Sanford, which had declared that no black person could be a citizen of the United States. It ensured that even slaved recently freed of bondage were (in theory) entitled to equal protection under the law. In recent years, it has meant that the children of illegal immigrants, born in the United States, are citizens, and has led to some contentious discussions of what to do with their parents when caught.

The Due Process Clause was primarily used to strike down labour laws in the United States, but by the 1930s, this use of the clause was repudiated. Now, the Due Process Clause has been most famously held to protect the right to privacy, such as in Roe v. Wade, which you may have heard of - also Lawrence v. Texas, which you should take a moment and read about. Also, the Due Process Clause has been held to force judges who may exhibit a conflict of interest to recuse themselves; this may become very important as the current federal government appeals the original decision of Hornbeck Offshore Services LLC v. Salazar, which overturned the federal government's moratorium on exploratory offshore drilling in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

The Equal Protection Clause has again been the source of both consternation and difficulty, yet equality and the end of a horrid era in US history. The Supreme Court held first in Plessy v. Ferguson that the Equal Protection Clause was not violated, so long as governments extended "separate but equal" services, ushering in a century of segregation that would lead to bitter court battles, entrenched governmental racism, several Academy Award winning films, and the government deployment of soldiers. The Equal Protection Clause was successfully used by the Warren Court in Brown v. Board of Education and the many, many successor to that ruling; it was also used, in conjunction with the Due Process Clause, to overturn anti-miscegenation laws in the USA during Loving v. Virginia. It's also used to overrule the most heinous of gerrymandering attempts (see League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry).

Finally, there's Incorporation. This is the big reason why the 14th Amendment is the best amendment there is. Before the 14th Amendment, the Supreme Court had held in Barron v. Baltimore that the Bill of Rights (those free speech, trial by jury, etc. amendments) did not apply to the several states, but only to the Federal Government. Basically, that means that the US government could not stop journalists from reporting on secrets in government, but the State of Virginia and the City of Detroit sure can! Obviously, this was a serious limitation on liberty, and one that led to the repression of what we now consider to truly be universal rights, at least in the western world. However, starting with the Slaughter-House Cases, and continuing with the Civil Rights Cases, the Supreme Court has incorporated most of the Bill of Rights to the several states via the 14th Amendment, including the rights to freedom of speech, religion, press, and assembly. The First, Second, Fourth and Sixth Amendments have been fully incorporated, and parts of the Fifth and Eighth Amendments have been incorporated.

Without the 14th Amendment, the Several States of the Union could never have become the rather more national and powerful United States of America we all know (and some love) today.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Blog update!

Well, I've gone ahead and installed Disqus. Probably all the old comments have been lost. I'm not going to worry too much about it.

Here's hoping that I'll be able to increase my posts a bit as well. I'd like to get back into this habit. Hey! If I haven't posted in two days, start bothering me on Twitter for a post!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ronnie James Dio (1942-2010)

Four, five days later and I still don't know what to say. Dio was a god among men. He shall be missed.

Below, find some thoughts from the people who knew Ronnie James Dio, and a few videos showcasing his finest performances over 38 years he has recordings for.

Lars Ulrich: "Ronnie, your voice impacted and empowered me, your music inspired and influenced me, and your kindness touched and moved me. Thank you."

Kiss: "Ronnie was a true gentleman who always emanated great warmth and friendship to us and everyone around him. We will miss him."

Mike Portnoy: "Looks like Dime, Randy, Cliff and Bonzo just scored the ultimate singer....this is one of the saddest days in metal ever."

Iron Maiden: "The world has lost an irreplaceable talent and, first and foremost, one of the finest human beings you could ever wish to meet."

Dr. Brian May: "He was in many ways the antithesis of the current mould of TV-bred singers. He had no apparent desire for fame, in the sense that so many X-factor contestants seem to. He was not a TV face, a 'celebrity'. He just loved doing what he did."

Tony Iommi: "Ronnie loved what he did, making music and performing on stage. He loved his fans so much. He was a kind man and would put himself out to help others. I can honestly say it’s truly been an honor to play at his side for all these years, his music will live on forever."

Vinnie Appice: "My heart is so broken. We are now in a world without him and I will miss him so much. I can only think of how fortunate I was to make music with him that was in his heart. Music that will remain to be listened to by all his fans all over the world, whom he adored and loved!"

Michael Anthony: "Ronnie was a great guy. I remember when we opened for them, all of us were back at the hotel having some drinks; it was his birthday, and I remember us all just hanging out, and he was just a great guy."

Doogie White: "I first met Ronnie 10 years or so ago and he said, 'Ah! So you are Doogie, I know who you are, but never knew what you looked like. Come in, son and have a glass of wine. Is red okay?' This was backstage at the Wembley Arena. He dedicated 'Man On The Silver Mountain' to me that night, saying 'To my new friend, Doogie. You may have sung it, but I sang it first.'"

Lemmy: "I'm devastated."

Jon Schaffer: "I think we've all had run-ins with our childhood heroes, and sometimes it can be a disappointing experience. This was definitely not the case with Ronnie. He was a wise, kind, and special person, and a dear friend that will be greatly missed."

Biff Byford: "The last time we met was in Finland last year, both bands stranded in an airport with flight delays. What do you do?! Go to the bar, get drunk and tell rock and roll stories. He told great stories... To absent friends."

For me, Dio was always one of the greatest vocalists I've ever heard. His music has been the source of inspiration and relief. To know that such a giant has left the scene saddens me greatly. You can't make such great music and expect to not be missed. For a man short enough to require platform shoes, Dio has left a bigger hole in the hearts of those who knew him, and those who never had the pleasure, than many of his contemporaries could ever dream.

The King of Metal is dead. Long live the King!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Splitting at the Igloo

Montreal won one of their two games in Pittsburgh, and now the Pens and Habs get to go to the Bell Centre to see what might occur on Montreal's home ice. Jaroslav Halak returned to his series-winning form in Game 2, and the zone defense Montreal played so well against the Capitals was back as well. The players blocked shots and Hal Gill led the way in that department again (can I emphasize how important he is to our defense, now that Markov is gone?). Josh Gorges has gone from an occasional scratch to our prime shutdown guy with Gill all of a sudden - playing with Hal has had a great effect on the young D. And PK Subban has done exactly what we needed him to to - brought strong, dynamic, energetic offense from the blue line without the defensive miscues of Marc-Andre Bergeron.

But then there's Mike Cammalleri, Scott Gomez, and Brian Gionta leading the charge. The Little Big Three combined for 5 points, including all three goals, on Sunday. Cammalleri scored two gorgeous goals, the first when he kicked the puck up off his shinpad and batted it in with his stick past a diving Marc-Andre Fleury, and the second when Tomas Plekanec sprung him between the D into a breakaway, beating Fleury high on his glove side with a wicked wrist shot - Joe Sakic style (those who know me know this is about the greatest hockey praise I can deliver).

Good things happen to those who play team hockey, and Jacques Martin, who's hiring I originally criticised, has a team of players that were considered goons (Gill), has-beens (Gomez), under-achievers (Cammalleri), and unexpected surprised (Halak) come together to play great team hockey. When their team hockey was strong they put the best individual player in the NHL to shame. Now they managed to do the same to a strong team offense. If Montreal can win twice at the Bell Centre, they take a commanding 3-1 lead back to Pittsburgh. We'll have to see how Crosby and Malkin respond tomorrow night.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Vancouver 2010: A moment belonging to all Canadians...if you pay $59.95.

I was worried about this the second I heard that CTV had received broadcast rights for the 2010 Olympic Games. I decided, this morning, that it might be an idea to go watch some of the final game from the Olympics, being in a hockey mood of late. From time to time I've watched the highlight reel from the 2002 final game, as broadcast by CBC. CBC, of course, is a publicly owned station, and its products essentially belong to all Canadians.

On YouTube, I found a series of fakes and photo montages, almost all of which complained that their original posting of the video clip had been taken down. CTV, of course, is interested in selling their DVD of the event, even though their announcers had hyped each medal win as "Canadian" or "belonging to Canadians", "a moment in Canadian history".

You shouldn't copyright Canadian history. I'm not saying to put the entire DVD set online, but would it kill CTV to allow a few crucial moments onto YouTube? Toss an advert for the DVD set at the beginning, and let me see Jon Montgomery's walk through Whistler, or the final 2 minutes of the Gold Medal Game, or Joanie Rochette's figure skating program.

Of course it would, because CTV is an old-school organization that has very little idea how to market in the digital age, and quite frankly, is disinterested in doing so. By giving CTV Olympic broadcast rights, we've taken part of the broadcast, of the moment, away from all Canadians: we've denied Canada its own moments, its own history. Way to go, whoever made that call.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Habs win, Caps go home!

I'm in shock. I had predicted the Habs losing to the Caps in 7. After all, Halak has the hot hand, but really, who expected the firepower of Mike Green, Alex Semin, Mike Knuble, Nicklas Backstrom, and Alexander Ovechkin would falter at Halak's door for four of seven possible games? Not I. But boy, was I wrong.

Halak posted a 2.46 GAA and a .939 save % on route to winning 4 of 6 games he played in this series. Mike Cammalleri snagged 10 points in 7 games, Tomas Plekanec was second with 7 points in 7 games. They weren't always pretty goals, but they were always in the net, which is more than can be said for Green and Semin, both of whom were held scoreless.

The biggest story is the Habs' penalty kill, which was 97% successful. A lot of people seem to think this reflects on the Capitals failing to convert, but I think it's a combination of running into a hot goaltender and excellent team defense. Hal Gill blocked 31 shots in the series. If it was a failure of the Capitals to score on Halak, then why didn't Carey Price get lit up hard when he started? Even most of the goals on him were even strength or shorthanded for the Caps.

The Caps are done, and I hope the Habs are looking forward. Last year, I'd be more worried, because that would have been the first playoff series a lot of guys in the locker room won, and for most of the rest, they'd never seen the conference finals. This year, I'm feeling much better about our prospects. We have three solid veterans leading the way in Brian Gionta (The C without a C), Scott Gomez, and Hal Gill, all of whom have established themselves firmly in the locker room. They may not speak French - hell, they might all be American - but they're wearing the rouge, blanc, et blu with pride so far, and trust me, we'll take their leadership and skills as we make an unlikely drive forward.

The Penguins are the best team remaining in the east, both in terms of talent and in terms of experience. Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Gonchar, and Fleury are all legitimate superstars, and we're going to have a very interesting time up against them. I find myself wondering how Crosby is preparing his team to face off against Montreal. This hasn't happened in a long while, and Crosby's never played a playoff game in the Bell Centre.

I think we'll shock the Penguins. I think the layoff combined with Montreal entering in on a roll will be enough to let us win one game at the Igloo. I'd love to see us win both at home and go up 3-1, and then close it out at the Bell Centre in Game 6. In fact, I think that's my prediction - Habs in 6.

If that happens, I imagine we'll face the other hot goalie still in the playoffs: Tuukka Rask. Bring it.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Collectivization of culture in the West

I was having a conversation with Joé McKen from Preliator pro Causa on the Twitter regarding the nature of the Internet and the exposure of war crimes, and I said, and I quote:

Amazing how the Internet forces us to confront our own demons.

Of course, I'm referring to today's exposure by Wikileaks of the brutal and unprovoked murder of two Reuters cameramen, and two unarmed Iraqi civilians by the US forces in Iraq. Although I am not an American, I am sickened to my stomach to learn that people who are supposedly from the "First World" can chuckle about cold-blooded murder, especially when they bear an supposedly august flag, like the Stars and Stripes, on their shoulder.

Of course, the war in Iraq has nothing to do with being Canadian, as we have remained (except for the briefest of involvement by JTF-2) completely apart from the conflict, and it's made me think about why I feel so compelled to see the people who committed this crime punished. And I now think I know the answer - because I feel like we should know better. The we isn't "Canadian" or "American", but instead, it is "Westerner".

Since World War II, there's been a collectivization of interest in a manner we haven't seen since the days of Rome. NATO countries now contain at least a tenth of the world's population but most of its industrial production, economic power, and military might, and they share a series of common governments with common protections. From the disunity of the Second World War, an overarching common culture is developing in the West.

This change from nationalism to collective interest has been formalized by the European Union and the NAFTA treaty, among others, and has seen the death of many old hatreds that lasted for centuries - the Irish and the English, the French and the Germans, the Dutch and the Germans, the Belgians and the Germans, the Polish and the Germans (it's like the Germans did some bad stuff). Sure, they don't like each other, but they work together, economically, militarily, and to an extent, culturally. I have European friends from the UK, Holland, France, Germany, something that was impossible a hundred years ago. We're at the beginning of seeing a new strong country arise from two dozen nations who were at each others' throats like 10 times in the last two hundred and ten years.

Similarly, the United States and Canada have gotten progressively closer, though less governmentally and certainly more culturally. Canadians and Americans watch the same television and movies, they go to the same universities, and they have the same opinions on many things. Of course, Americans tend to be more politically conservative, but we have teabaggers here, just as there are people who are rather favourable to the Canadian political or social systems in the States. I'm not saying we're inseparable, but we are closer than ever.

The thing that made me start pondering the concept of collective Western citizenship was when the Middle East went apeshit over the infamous Mohammed cartoons published in Denmark in 2005. Denmark, a particularly small and progressive nation in Europe, mobilized everyone in the West when we considered the concept of freedom of speech versus insult of religion (AKA, blasphemy), and weighed how we felt about the subject. Most of the Middle East was united - blasphemous images of the Prophet should be punished, preferably by death, as the sanctity of the Qu'ran is considered to be more important than any other considerations, whereas in our society - Danish, Canadian, American - our central tenement is the freedom of speech, which, in this case, created two values at a complete impasse.

The fact that seven hundred million people would agree on a political point of view without religious encouragement is completely, totally unheard of in human history. We haven't seen Europe agree on one single point since the Crusades! But in this case, they agreed that freedom of speech is more important than the possibility of blasphemy (except for the Irish, but that's another story).

So I feel now like I am a citizen of something in its infancy, but growing: the concept of the West as the overarching cultural ideal. I feel like we have a certain collectivization of cultural values that we can all rely upon - freedom of belief, of religion, of assembly, the freedom to vote for who we wish and to seek political office, and we recognize this in each other, respect it, and most importantly, we are willing to support and fight for these values in each others' cultures, which is why I think I care about foreign politics as much as I care about my own.

When I see something that violates these concepts, such as the brutal murder of four innocents by people who swore to defend our values, even if those murderers aren't Canadians, I feel betrayed. I feel...soiled that I share these basic concepts. I feel cheated. And I feel like the only way we can grow past this is to bring these offenders to justice. Our justice: innocent until proven guilty, with due process of law.

The same protections all of the West offers to even its worst criminals. Guantanamo Bay excepting.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

More on Canadian identity: Numero 9

I've profiled him before, but I'd like to explain a bit about why Maurice "The Rocket" Richard is so important to Canadians.

He was an unparalleled hockey player. He remains one of only two hockey players to score a goal per game in a season (the other is Wayne Gretzky). He smashed the career record for goals by over two hundred. To this day, he is still in the top 30 in goals scored. He led the Canadians to many Stanley Cups, including five straight in the twilight of his career.

But he was more than that. He reminded Quebec that it had a voice, a reminder that has led to Quebec becoming a strong and robust part of Canada. A Quebec that was long subjugated under first English and then Duplessis rule, that is now rendered a nation, a distinct society. Quebec is a nation within a country that is also a nation. We couldn't be Canadian without the Quebecois. The Quebecois wouldn't be who they are without Canada.

The Rocket represents these concepts. When Maurice Richard was born, women couldn't vote in Quebec. Factories were run by the English bosses speaking down to the Francophones. Government was done either in English or run by thugs belonging to the near-dictatorial government of Maurice Duplessis, who ran a provincial political stranglehold so vicious it would have made Tammany Hall blush.

Richard was a machinist. He wanted to fight in the Second World War, but the Canadian Army refused him twice. He volunteered as a machinist in the RCAF, but was turned down because he hadn't graduated high school, even though he had several years experience as a machinist. The RCAF took many Anglophones with similar experience, but not Richard. So he went to school to earn a diploma as a machinist.

During this time, while he worked full-time as a machinist, he played hockey, twice a night, under pseudonyms and under false pretenses, until finally he was signed by the Montreal Canadiens. Coach Dick Irvin saw something in the oft-injured tough young man from Montreal. Maurice was a right-winger, and he played alright hockey - until injured 16 games in. They tried to trade him, but nobody would take the "lemon".

Two years later, the Rocket scored a goal a game. 50 goals in 50 games is now considered the hallmark achievement for an NHL goal scorer, and the Rocket did it first, and nobody did it again for 35 years. He was humble. He was modest. He credited his teammates and his fans.

Except when it came to unfairness. The Rocket called out the English bosses of the hockey world. He reminded the Quebecois that they had a voice when he called out Clarence Campbell, the boss of the NHL, for his biased decisions on suspensions - oft handed out to people who harmed English players, less so to those who harmed the Quebecois players. Conn Smythe of the Maple Leafs wouldn't hire a single French player, even though Quebec made so many great hockey players.

He was forced to retract these statements, but that made him no less loved. When Campbell suspended Richard for punching out a linesmen, and then had the audacity to go to the next game in Montreal, the city rose for three days. Only desperate pleas from the Rocket calmed them down. However, the city, and Quebec, had realized something - they realized they were strong.

When Duplessis died, Quebec's electoral politics instantly changed and the Quiet Revolution occurred. One man's humble nature and refusal to accept the status quo, but his strength in restraint, had taught a province a valuable lesson. You can change who you are without violence; you can alter your destiny with dignity. This is the lesson the Rocket left in Quebec. He was the most beloved man in modern Quebecois history, and possibly the greatest Canadian-born Francophone of all time.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Vancouver 2010 - A Canadian Identity

It's hard to explain exactly why the now-ending XXI Winter Olympics has been a banner event to all of Canada. It's hard to explain why the international criticism from the United Kingdom and some from the United States bounce off our hides. It's hard to explain why six billion dollars feel well spent when they probably all weren't.

This country hasn't had something to make it Canadian in a long time. If you're an older Canadian, you remember the 1972 Summit Series. If you're in your 30s, you remember the 1989 Canada Cup in Hamilton. There was that 2002 Olympic gold in Salt Lake. But nothing on this stage.

The 1976 Summer Olympics was a disaster. The 1988 Calgary Olympics were well received but overall a disappointment. We've never seen a sporting event in Canada with both the scope and the success as the 2010 Winter Olympics, at least not since 1972 (which will probably always be the seminal moment in Canadian sporting history). But it's not just about the medal count.

It's about the country.

It's about a nation that mourned with Georgia as we confirmed the loss of Nodar Kumaritashvili in a terrible luge accident.

It's about a nation that embraced our bloody-handed past and welcomed our First Nations people as equals at the beginning and at the end of the game.

It's about a nation that wept in joy watching Alexandre Bilodeau embrace his older brother Frederic, who has cerebral palsy, watching two men share a dream come true, and watching a horrible affliction turned inspiration.

It's about a country that watched Jon Montgomery's classic celebration through the streets of Whistler with a gold medal and a pitcher of beer, and lifted our glasses to join him.

It's about a country that sighed collectively with disappointment when we lost 5-3.

It's about a country that cried when Joannie Rochette claimed bronze in ladies' singles figure skating when her mother died on the eve of her heartfelt and heartbreaking performance.

It's about a country that bid farewell to Clara Hughes and welcomed Jonathan Toews.

It's about a country that cursed a failed shot and celebrated with a successful one on the curling rink.

It's about a country that shared in the love of Charles Hamelin and Marianne St-Gelais as he celebrated her silver medal win with her; and she celebrated his golds with him.

It's about a country, 34 million strong, that screamed in joy and ecstasy when Sidney Crosby scored in overtime.

We see ourselves in these achievements. We see ourselves inspired by Frederic Bilodeau. We know the pressure that was felt by Cheryl Bernard, and know we sometimes fail. We know the heartbreak of Joannie Rochette, who lost someone so dear to her, but yet honoured her with beauty and grace by holding her head high. We know what it's like to fire the puck in overtime, whether or not it is in our minds, or on the stick in our hands.

We are Sidney Crosby. And Wayne Gretzky. And Catriona Le May Doan. We are Jonathan Toews and Cindy Klassen and Rick Hansen. We're Meghan Agosta and Maelle Ricker and Frederic Bilodeau. We're me, and you, and my family, and my friends. We've remembered that it's possible, francais et anglais, West and East, to hurt and fight, live and love together. We're Canadian, unique, e pluribus unum (if I may steal a phrase), and we love it, love this country, love this place.

Forgive the patriotism, but I feel that this sometimes dysfunctional, self-hating place has grown up a tiny bit...grown up and remembered what it is to be young.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Album Review: Horror Show

OK, first, blog news: I have a new blog where I make a recording about hockey. Check it out at!

I've been on a huge Iced Earth kick lately. Iced Earth has always clocked in as one of my favourite bands, but the albums I would generally consider to be best by them were The Dark Saga, Something Wicked This Way Comes, Night of the Stormrider, and of course the masterful 3 CD live set from Alive in Athens. But recently I think all those albums have been supplanted by one I had always sort of dismissed: Horror Show.

Iced Earth has this great tradition of theme albums and concept albums, and they usually work out pretty good (though I'm not sold on the two new Something Wicked albums). The Dark Saga is probably their most famous theme album, and it is about Spawn (the comic book character). But Horror Show takes the theme concept to an excellent conclusion. Each track on the album tackles a horror-esque figure.

The album has two long epic tracks, which I consider the best. "Damien" is about the Antichrist rising to rule over all mankind, and "The Phantom Opera Ghost" is about Erik's mad and murderous obsession with Christine. The album has some fantastic shorter rockers - "Wolf" and "Jack" both rock. "Jack" (about the Ripper) especially I find good. It makes me feel very aggressive when I listen to it. Not to women, but just in general. I'd listen to it before a sporting match.

There's a few good medium length songs. "Dracula", "Frankenstein", and "Jeckyl and Hyde" have good riffs, decent solos, and the lyrics fit the theme. "Ghost of Freedom" is an almost ballad-style song. If you're familiar with Iced Earth, you know that Jon Schaffer (the guy who is pretty much the core of Iced Earth) is a huge Americo-nut. I only found out recently he's pretty much a Tea Partier, which has hurt my opinion of him. I get loving your country, but anyway..."Ghost of Freedom" is very close to a "When The Eagle Cries" stinker, but not quite. Unlike The Glorious Burden, this song doesn't smack of American jingoism, but more of a quieter patriotism. It could be used in the propagation of Canada's national myth, for instance.

"Dragon's Child", originally, sounds like an OK rocker, but that's giving it a lot of benefit of the doubt. The lyrics are boring and the music is pretty plain. "Im-Ho-Tep", by comparison, is a bit more exciting and tends to be a decent middle-of-the-road song.

They use a lot of effects on the lyrics, especially on "Wolf", "Jack", and "Im-Ho-Tep", doubling or tripling lines. On "Wolf", the chorus is jumbled together, probably representing the multiple forms of the subject lycanthrope. "Jack" and "Im-Ho-Tep" use more of an echo, to represent the Ripper's tortured soul and the Mummy's time encased in stone.

Anyway, despite the lower points, I'm addicted to the album. 9.5/10

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

It's finally here...

I love hockey. This isn't a surprise to many of you who know me, but hey, I just love hockey. I love local hockey. I love interhouse hockey at university. I love CHL hockey. I love NHL hockey. Men's hockey, women's hockey, sledge hockey. But above all I love Olympic hockey.

For those of you who aren't quite sure why I love hockey, it's probably because I have an ingrained sense of being Canadian, and there's something about hockey that speaks to the soul of a Canadian. Lord Stanley gave us the Cup which is now named after him that is adored by 34 million people while he was Governor-General. The names of Canadian hockey heroes, both on and off the ice, are enshrined in the list of greatest Canadians ever - Don Cherry, Wayne Gretzky, Maurice Richard, Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Mario Lemieux, Mark Messier, Gordie Howe, Cassie Campbell, and Hayley Wickenheiser are all household names in this country.

Canada counts its greatest moments carefully. Most Canadians remember where they were in 1972 when Bobby Henderson scored with a minute left in the Summit Series. Almost every Canadian has seen the famous back-pass from Gretzky to Lemieux in the 1987 Canada Cup. The Rocket was cheered for fifteen minutes when last he stood on the ice at the Montreal Forum. And we all remember when Joe Sakic, Mario Lemieux, Jarome Iginla and Marty Brodeur brought us gold in 2002.

It's eight years later. There was terrible disappointment from a lackluster team in Italy in 2006. But now the best names in the world are together for international hockey. Seven competitive teams have been fielded - Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Finland, Sweden, the United States, Russia, and Canada all have great players. There's always an outside chance for Switzerland and Germany. But we'll find out soon, because the puck drops for Team Canada...tonight.

A wealth of talent made it so hard for Steve Yzerman, himself one of the all time greatest players, to pick the team upon which Canada's hopes and dreams will rise and fall, but I think Steve did a great job. He's given us a core of solid veterans, promising youngsters, great players in their prime, and one or two of the best hockey players of all time.

In goal, we have the trio of Marc-Andre Fleury, Roberto Luongo, and Martin Brodeur. Fleury has won a silver medal in the World Juniors and a Stanley Cup; Luongo has posted several great years statistically, but everyone knows the job belongs to Martin Brodeur (though Luongo will get the start tonight, to give Marty a break). When you mention the best goaltenders of all time, Marty not only deserves a mention, but he deserves to be mentioned in the top three. He owns every regular season record - wins, minutes, shutouts, games - four Vezina Trophies, four Jennings Trophys, the Calder Trophy, 3 Stanley Cups, 2 World Championships silvers, a World Cup...and Olympic Gold. And he's still on top of his game.

Out back we have great young defensemen in Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Drew Doughty & Shea Weber. Doughty is only 20, but he's the real deal, definitely in Norris contention this year. Dan Boyle's won a Stanley Cup, and Chris Pronger has won a Cup, a Hart, and a Norris. But the real story is Scott Niedermayer, second in his generation of defensemen only to Nicklas Lidstrom. Scott's won Olympic, World Championship, and World Junior Championship Gold; he's won a Memorial Cup, a World Cup, and four Stanley Cups; he's won a Norris Trophy and he's won the Conn Smythe Trophy. And now he gets to add one more distinction to that: Captain of Team Canada at the Olympics, a job he's shared with professional players Eric Lindros, Mario Lemieux, and Joe Sakic.

And up front we bring but one man over the age of 30: Canadian superhero Jarome Iginla. Everyone else is 30 or younger, and primarily younger. Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews give Canada some great young strength down the middle, with Joe Thornton's veteran savvy and Ryan Getzlaf's pure skill. It's basically impossible to pick...but our 13 forwards have, between them, 4 Memorial Cups, 2 Hart Trophies, 3 Rocket Richard Trophies, 3 Art Ross Trophies, 2 Pearson Awards, 1 Calder Trophy, 4 World Cups, 6 World Junior Golds, 8 World Championship Golds, 2 Stanley Cups, and 1 Olympic Gold.

Puck drops in 9 minutes, so I'm going to go watch...but just so you know. I'm excited.

Go, Canada, go!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Alex Bilodeau is golden

Canada has never won a gold medal in an Olympics hosted within Canada...until now, when Alex Bilodeau won gold in men's moguls. Excellent job, Alex. I'm very happy for you, and way to represent.

Bilodeau was barely known within Canada, but will now become a household name. His run on the moguls was damn near perfect, hammering out a 720 spin and a massive backflip with two perfect landings on a rocket-fast time to squeak out Turin's gold medalist.

Moguls, by the way, is an awesome sport. You ski downhill as fast as you can between waist-high bumps, and do two fucking flips on the way. That our first gold in these games comes on the turns is just wonderful, and somehow fitting.

Because we're awesome.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

On the Opening Ceremonies

I just finished watching, as did millions of folks around the world, the Opening Ceremonies of the XXI Winter Olympiad. At Canada Hockey Place in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada's organizers put on one hell of a show, heavy on earthen and natural themes with a nice tinge of patriotic Canadian display. The day was marred by the death of Georgian lugeist...luger...uh, athlete Nodar Kumaritashvili's death on the luge track at Whistler earlier that day, but his absence was noticed and remembered by the IOC, the organizers, and the first class crowd at CH Place.

The musical acts were a who's who of Canadian superpower singers, from francophone artist Garou, to international superstar Bryan Adams; slam poetry artist Shane Koyczan of the Northwest Terrtories recited an amazing poem about being Canadian, and Nova Scotian fiddler Ashley MacIsaac participated in one of the acts, happily with underpants. Diversity was the name of the day, with a beautiful opening act by Canada's First Nations groups, through famous lesbian singer k.d. lang's utterly gorgeous rendition of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. The only famous Canadian act missing was Rush.

But I'd like to draw attention to the flag bearers and how carefully these people were chosen. A little was said during the ceremonies, but let's talk a little more.

Betty Fox was probably the least famous person there, but certainly someone about whom every Canadian has heard. Her son was Terry Fox, the young man who lost his leg to cancer and decided to run across Canada to raise money for cancer research, making it halfway before succumbing to a relapse of cancer. Her inclusion was a nod to one of the greatest stories in Canadian history, and an allusion to the great sacrifice that every athlete endures.

Jacques Villeneuve is probably better known in Europe than in his own country. Villeneuve is the only Canadian Formula 1 racing champion, and also won the Indianapolis 500, placing him in a bracket with Mario Andretti for one of the most successful racing drivers in stock and Formula 1 car racing. He's an internationally recognized figure and a Quebecois hero, and one of the most famous Canadians abroad.

Julie Payette flew twice in space, once on Discovery and once on Endeavour. Now she's the Chief Astronaut of the Canadian Space Agency, and has contributed to Canada's commitment to the International Space Station - in person. She represents our scientific achievement, as well as reminding us where our next frontier must be.

Barbara Ann Scott was a gold medalist in figure skating in 1948, and probably would have done so in 1944 if there wasn't a war. She's a member of the Order of Canada and reminds us of the powerful sporting tradition of Canada's past. She is from Ottawa, the nation's capital, where she ran with the torch in December.

Anne Murray, from Nova Scotia, is a famous pop & folk singer. Her hits include "Snowbird", the first Canadian female to hit #1 on the US charts, and she has put out a huge body of work over the years. She's now semi-retired, but remains an internationally recognized face of Canadian music.

Donald Sutherland is another culture icon. A completely famous movie actor, Sutherland has starred in films like MASH, Animal House, Kelly's Heroes, and probably a billion more. His son, Kiefer, is Jack Bauer on 24, so if you like the show, you're welcome. Sutherland was the narrator for Canada's games, and his distinctive voice is recognized by Canadians everywhere. He's from New Brunswick.

Bobby Orr should need no introduction, but yet he'll get one anyway. Bobby Orr is often considered the greatest hockey player to lace up his skates, if not the most prolific. For a decade he ruled the ice for the Boston Bruins, becoming the only NHL defenseman to lead the league in scoring, and winning 8 consecutive Norris Trophies for the best defender. Bobby Orr led Boston to their last 2 Stanley Cups, and Canada to victory in the 1976 Canada cup. If he had been blessed with good knees, we would have seen much more from him, but regardless, he is one of the true greats.

Finally, Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire represents the valued and treasured men and women of the Canadian Forces, over three thousand of which are currently deployed in Afghanistan and around the world. General Dallaire was in charge of the disasterous UN peacekeeping mission in Rwanda, and was tragically affected by the massacres there. He blamed himself, and tried to commit suicide. Since recovering from that episode, he's become a leader for statesmanship and for standing up against genocide and war crimes. Of all the people chosen to bear the flag, I can hardly think of someone more appropriate.

These eight people represent the best of Canada - from all over the country, speaking both official languages. People experienced in sport, in culture, in heroism, and in tragedy. People who rose above the conditions given them to clutch something great - be it the Stanley Cup or the tragically heroic end of the Marathon of Hope; a certified Gold record or an Olympic Gold Medal. People who have seen the earth through a window and the fragile destruction of a diaspora; people who have sped along at 250 kph in front of thousands, and people who have performed on the silver screen before millions.

To the world: welcome to Canada, and enjoy the show!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Mr. Obama and his first year.

Once again, Andrew Sullivan seems to sum up my points. I recommend everyone read his excellent blog post on the subject.

I am still enamoured with Barack Obama. He's done everything I hoped he would do in office, and his hand has been ever so steady on the tiller. Through bank failures and tea parties and exploding briefs, he's kept the US on a straight, sensible course. He's issued a withdrawal from Iraq. He's kept his promise on giving Afghanistan one last kick at the can, and not hanging his NATO allies out to dry. He's made some small steps forward on LGBT rights, if not all of them (I have faith he will eventually repeal DADT, I still do, yes I do!).

He's slowed and probably ended the global recession. Not just with his stimulus, but by coordinating the largest international spending plan ever with the G20 nations. He's won the Nobel Peace Prize - not because he was a leader of a peace conference or a great icon for decades, but because his very inauguration crept us away from the brink of eternal war with the Islamic world. Al Qaeda's reputation in that world is soiled and damaged, thanks to Obama's careful handling of many situations.

Yes, there have been some failures, and many difficulties, but Obama inherited a difficult job from an inept leader who had been unable to handle the situations he was so misfortunately handed. Overall, I think President Obama has been quite a good one, certainly better than George W. Bush, probably better than Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush as well. We shall now see how his second year fares.

Good luck, sir.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Founding Fathers of the USA

Okay, everyone has heard about Sarah Palin's interview with Glenn Beck, and the question Beck asked her on the Founding Fathers, basically saying which is your favourite. Palin responded with "all of them", much as she did with the Couric interview during the 2008 Presidential campaign, before eventually she narrowed it down to George Washington, because he was the leader of the Founding Fathers, and this seems to have gotten her out of a bit of the trouble she was in.

As Glenn Beck said: bullcrap.

American civics should teach us that George Washington was certainly a Founding Father, but he had little to do with the actual foundation of the USA from a political standpoint, being that he was somewhat busy actually fighting the war against the British. There's a reason Washington's name isn't on the Declaration of Independence - he had nothing to do with it. The Articles of Confederation? Washington was again in the field when they were written and had little to do with them (except for requesting that the Continental Congress insert provisions allowing for a strong control of the Continental Army). Washington was not an author of the Constitution nor of the Bill of Rights, though he was a delegate to the convention creating the former and President during the creation of the latter.

Indeed, he was chosen as the first President because his term as Commander of the Continental Army gave him significant recognition and respect throughout the United States, and there was a confidence in him from North and South that would not be held again by a single president for a long time. If you want to look at the people who actually held the true political power during the American Revolution (I *refuse* to call it a War of Independence), I suggest you examine men like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Harrison, Benjamin Rush, and, Edward Rutledge, and above all others, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. These men were part of the internal struggle to create the United States, and their stories are rather more important than the story of George Washington, who served at the pleasure of the aforementioned politicians.

George Washington may have defined what it means to be President, Mrs. Palin (something about which I believe you know very little), but Adams, Jefferson, Franklin et. al created the United States. Her answer was wholly a terrible one, showcasing how little she knows about American history. Washington was willing to serve as President, but humbled by his selection for a post that was half ceremonial at the time. George Washington didn't have a quarter of the power today's President has, and his Cabinet consisted of himself and four secretaries, not 15 secretaries and 7 Cabinet-level officials. Not even the Vice President was welcome in Cabinet under Washington, nor for many years thereafter.

Indeed, as Palin said, Washington served but two terms as President of his own volition, returning to end his life at his Mount Vernon estate. However, it should be remembered that Washington never wanted to be President anyway, nor run for any public office. He didn't want salary. He didn't even want to run the Continental Army. Yes, he served best because he had to, not because he wanted to - there was no equal for Washington as General in 1775, just as there was no equal for him as President in 1789 - but Mrs. Palin does herself a great disservice by pretending to share the same characteristics. George Washington was a truely honourable man who would never be considered for office in today's political world. In order to gain elected post now, you must be aggressive, distrustful, deceitful, and possessed of an ego larger than life, of which Washington was none, making him an entirely better man than all who have served since.

And those who want to serve, need and crave to be in the public's eye, like the idiotic broken mess of a woman that is Sarah Palin.

As an aside, I hate how only Sarah Palin seems to be able to motivate me to blog nowadays.