In the grand spirit of Twitter’s Follow Friday I figured I’d shed some light on three blogs maintained by close friends.
The Can-Lit Project
Written by my girlfriend Katy and her sister Tory, the Can-Lit project is a series of book reviews and essays about Canadian literature.
It all began when Katy decided that she wasn’t familiar with the Canadian canon, so she and her sister dedicated themselves to reading as many books from this great country of ours as is possible. The result has been intriguing, with both of them exploring classics of the genre as well as some titles that are less popular.
In their eight months of blogging they've put up 43 reviews of Canadian books. Most are fiction, but some are non-fiction.
This may be the Canadian studies graduate in me, but I think this is a very worthy pursuit. In particular, I’ve enjoyed the debates over titles like Life of Pi by Yann Martel. I’ve never read the novel myself, but I miss this kind of heated discussion from undergrad and it makes me want to read the book so I can weigh in as well.
If anything, this blog shames me into being better read and also reading more high quality books. One of my favourite blogs to read and not just for obvious personal reasons.
The Writer’s Pet
Speaking of debates from undergrad, my friend Lija also maintains a literary blog called the Writer’s Pet. Although we used to talk about CanLit in our glory days at the University of Toronto, she’s now moved on to sunny London, England where she continues to toil in the writing game.
It’s a great website to check in on regularly since Lija always has something interesting going on, whether it be a new review or a discussion on unorthodox bookmarks.
My girlfriend’s brother-in-law (the husband of Tory, co-writer of the Can-Lit Project), is a professional mixed martial artist who fights out of Edmonton. He recently started a blog to record his planning and training for a tournament at the end of April that will feature fighters from across Canada in an elimination tournament, much like the original Ultimate Fighting Championship.
There’s only a few posts so far, but that handful has been enlightening. Victor’s talked about his entrance into the sport, his experience fighting at The Fight Club 10: High Octane and coming up with a strategy for his next bout.
It’s a good read for anyone interested in seeing what it takes to be a high-calibre professional athlete or for any fans of MMA.
I’m not a particularly musical person – I was kicked out of the school band in grade 7 because I was so inept at playing the trumpet – but I love listening to music.
In fact, whenever I write I have my iTunes running on random shuffle. Although I’ve got an eclectic collection of songs, the vast majority of it is hip-hop.
The reason is simple - even though I’m a middle class white guy, rap music speaks to me more than any other genre. Sure, I like rock, country or even some classical music but for me, nothing compares to urban music.
I’ll be the first to admit I come from a very different world than most rappers. Aside from Drake – who grew up around the corner from my apartment – I can’t honestly say that I identify with the hard, impoverished world of many rappers. The violent and often criminal reality of a rapper like Snoop Dogg or Dr. Dre is something I’ve never experienced and hope I’ll never have to.
However, I can identify with Dr. Dre’s concerns about aging and re-establishing his personal identity as he does in the classic album Chronic: 2001. I can also empathize with Jay-Z on his track Young Forever from the Blueprint III. The subject matter may be foreign, but the themes are universal.
Unlike a lot of media, rap often conveys narratives with humour and playfulness that belies the seriousness of the content. As the Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates recently pointed out, a talented MC like Ghostface Killah can make you laugh while describing selling drugs in a school zone.
I think a fair comparison would be enjoying classic literature. I will never be in the dense colonial jungles like Kurtz in Heart of Darkness and I will never be a drug dealer like the Notorious B.I.G. in “Juicy”, but I can be moved by both.
However, hip-hop makes itself more accessible then a lot of other media by being the most culturally aware of all musical genres.
Lyrics refer to historical events, other musicians, television, comic books or movies. You just can’t find a line like Everlast’s “Because I can feel it in the air tonight/but yo I’m not Phil Collins/I’m more like Henry Rollins” in other kinds of media. At least, not often.
Whether it’s the Beastie Boys name-checking Star Trek, the various members of the Wu Tang Clan creating “secret identities” based off of super-heroes from Marvel Comics or MF Doom basing his entire persona of the villain of the same name, rappers locate themselves in a cultural context that any listener can easily identify.
It goes well beyond lyrical styling - the beat itself is often a sample from another song or a television show. Busta Rhymes using the theme from Knight Rider or DMX and Onyx using the intro to Welcome Back Kotter for “Slam Harder”.
The music itself is a clever nod to the urban environment that it’s created in.
Floating snippets of familiar hooks and beats and sampled choruses are reminiscent of music floating out of neighbourhood windows as you walk down the street. Thumping bass simulates the clacking of subway cars riding on aging tracks. Changing lyrical flow or rotating MCs is a lot like catching parts of a conversations as you pass people on the sidewalk.
It’s impossible to listen to Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five’s “the Message” and not recognize the frustrations of living in a city. The same can be said of Kurtis Blow and Run DMC’s collaboration for “8 Million Stories”.
This culturally-awareness is the great strength of rap. It makes it more relatable and current. These references helps hip-hop bridge significant divides like politics, gender, religion and, of course, race. Hip-hop inspires and entertains me like no other kind of music.
After admonishing Tri-City last week, the Americans stepped up and reeled off three wins to take their series against the Kelowna Rockets 4-1.
I doubt my post made it on to their locker room’s bulletin board, so you can save your thanks for some other day, residents of Kennewick, Wash.
The victory also helped fans of the Canadian Hockey League by moving them closer to the official semifinal pairings for all three leagues.
Out east, the Saint John Sea Dogs will be facing the Victoriaville Tigres and the Moncton Wildcats will tangle with the Drummondville Voltigeurs.
As I’ve said previously, I really like the Voltigeurs, and I expect that they’ll tame the Sea Dogs in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League finals.
Here in Ontario, the Barrie Colts will play the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors starting tonight, and the Windsor Spitfires will lock up with the Kitchener Rangers on Thursday night.
No bold predictions here – just obvious ones. Barrie and Windsor will definitely handle their opponents, making for a classic pairing for the John Ross Robertson Cup and the Ontario Hockey League Championship. At the end of it all, I think it will be the Colts that go on to the Memorial Cup.
The Western Hockey League semifinals will be the most hotly contested across the nation, with the Calgary Hitmen staring down the Brandon Wheat Kings in the Eastern Conference final and the aforementioned Americans tangling with the Vancouver Giants.
It’s a shame that the Hitmen and Wheat Kings can’t meet in the league final. They are the two best teams remaining in these brackets, and it would’ve made it a more pure championship.
That said, I still like Calgary’s chances to win the Ed Chynoweth Cup when they meet with Tri-City.
Friday, April 9th 2010
QMJHL – Cornet scores in second OT as Rouyn-Noranda edges Moncton
It took nearly five full periods of play, but Philippe Cornet kept the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies' playoff hopes alive on Friday night.
Cornet scored 14:28 into double overtime as the Huskies eked out a 5-4 win over the Moncton Wildcats in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League post-season action. (See more...)
WHL – Tri-City wins series with OT victory over Kelowna
KENNEWICK, Wash. -- Kruise Reddick scored at 5:37 of overtime to lead the Tri-City Americans to a 4-3 victory over the Kelowna Rockets and a series win in Western Hockey League playoff action on Friday night.
Tri-City wins the series 4-1 and will play the winner of the Vancouver Giants-Spokane Chiefs pairing in the Western Conference final. (See more...)
Saturday, April 10th 2010
QMJHL – Bourque has winner as Moncton wins game, series vs. Huskies
MONCTON, N.B. - Gabriel Bourque and the Moncton Wildcats weren't too tired to finish their Quebec Major Junior Hockey League series on Saturday night.
Bourque had the eventual winner 14 seconds into the final period as Moncton finished off the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies 3-1, taking their quarter-final series. (See more...)
OHL – Knights drop Rangers to force Game 7
KITCHENER, Ont. -- Jared Knight scored twice as the London Knights forced a seventh game in their series against the Kitchener Rangers with a 5-3 win in Ontario Hockey League playoff action on Saturday night.
The decisive Game 7 will be in London on Monday night. The winners of the Western Conference semifinal will face the Windsor Spitfires. (See more...)
Niederreiter’s two goals keeps Portland alive in WHL semis
VANCOUVER -- Nino Niederreiter scored twice and added an assist as the Portland Winterhawks avoided elimination from the Western Hockey League playoffs with a 5-4 victory over the Vancouver Giants on Saturday night.
Portland will host Game 6 on Tuesday. If necessary, Game 7 will also be held there on Thursday. (See more...)
Sunday, April 11th 2010
WHL – Foucault nets OT winner as Hitmen down Tigers, claim series
MEDICINE HAT, Alta. - Kris Foucault scored twice, including the overtime winner, as the Calgary Hitmen edged the Medicine Hat Tigers 3-2 to end their Western Hockey League playoff series on Sunday night.
Calgary won the series 4-2 and will face the winner of the Brandon Wheat Kings-Saskatoon Blades pairing in the Eastern Conference final. (See more...)
Although the playoffs (hockey and/or basketball, take your pick) still sit between us and the summer, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has already begun to promote their coverage of this year’s World Cup of Soccer in South Africa.
There’s a growing an air of excitement surrounding the tournament. After all, it’s the biggest sporting event in the world, even more popular than the Olympics.
Unfortunately, this time around I’m going to be watching the World Cup with a pretty sceptical eye.
My disillusionment began in Dec. 2008 as I read Declan Hill’s The Fix, an investigation into the world of sports fixing by a journalist who used to work with the CBC and the British Broadcasting Corporation.
I reviewed the book on my now defunct blog, but in short: Hill uncovered a far-reaching criminal underworld that exerts its influence over many sporting events. Hill chose to focus his investigation on soccer matches and his findings were startling.
According to him, there are two kinds of match-fixing scenarios.
1) Internal – When a member of a team gives incentives to officials or the players on opposing clubs to give his team an advantage.
Author Joe McGinniss details this kind of fix in The Miracle of Castel Di Sangro when he overhears several players discussing throwing their final game of the season against Bari. They had been asked to do this “favour” to insure that Bari would be promoted to Serie A.
2) External – When an outsider influences the outcome of a match for personal gain.
Obviously, this is the more typical kind of sporting corruption, with the Black Sox scandal, when the Chicago White Sox threw the 1919 World Series at the behest of Arnold Rothstein, serving as a sterling example.
In The Fix, Hill uncovers evidence of many professional matches being thrown world-wide. The climax of the book is when a mobster assures him that the World Cup itself is fixed. The gangster predicts the results of a handful of matches, down to when the goals are scored.
Hill watches with growing horror as each one of the games ends just as described.
Why is this pertinent now? Because last November German police arrested 15 people for fixing more than 200 games. Two weeks ago, Turkish police detained 40 people, including former international Arif Erdem, for their involvement in thrown matches.
Germany’s Bundesliga and Turkey’s Süper Lig are not the best professional soccer league’s in the world, but they are hardly fly-by-night organizations. In fact, the German national team is one of the best sides in the world and a contender for the 2010 World Cup.
With all this in mind, it will be hard to not be cynical when one of the favourites struggles against an opponent this summer. I simply can’t help but be a little jaded after reading The Fix and hearing about recent events in European soccer.
Although I’m just 26-years-old there are times when I feel old and curmudgeonly. Recently, my complaints have been directed at Major League Baseball’s handling of “event” games, whether they are the World Series, the World Baseball Classic, the All-Star Game or Opening Day.
All of these rather significant baseball games start way too late, they’re filled with time-consuming theatrics and the play itself seems to move at an incredibly slow pace. It makes me feel like an old crank shaking his walking cane at those damn kids who won’t get off my lawn.
However, NorthJersey.com reported Thursday morning that at least two MLB umpires - Joe West and Angel Hernandez – agree with me.
The two officials are members of the crew that have been calling the opening series between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.
“They’re the two clubs that don't try to pick up the pace,” said West in the article. He is the chief of the umpiring crew and was behind home plate on Sunday. “They’re two of the best teams in baseball. Why are they playing the slowest?”
“It’s pathetic and embarrassing. They take too long to play.”
Amen, Joe West. Amen.
Hernandez refused three requests for timeouts during Tuesday night’s game. New York’s Derek Jeter, Marcus Thames and Boston's David Ortiz were all denied a pause from the ‘action’.
Despite West and Hernandez’s efforts to quicken their glacial pace, the Yankees and Red Sox first two games clocked in at 3 hours and 46 minutes and 3 hours and 48 minutes.
Maybe baseball players don’t have to work the next morning, but most people do. How is baseball supposed to cultivate a new audience of young fans when any responsible parent would be sending their kids to bed hours before these games lumber to an end? How are the paying customers expected to sit through nearly four hours of slow play?
Commissioner Bud Selig must find a way to curb these seemingly interminable games. Broadcasters must be haemorrhaging viewers with these lengthy match-ups and in the long run it’s going to shrink baseball’s market share.
Selig should move the time of the game up. Both games in the New York-Boston series were slated to start at 8 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. How about moving the opening pitch up to 7 p.m.? At least that way the game will end on the same day, barring extra innings.
That’s another thing – when I say “opening pitch”, I do mean the first throw of the game. Not a fly over by the Air Force, the unfurling of a gigantic flag in the outfield or a performance by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys. If you must have all that pageantry, start it at 6 p.m. with the game itself beginning an hour later.
I know that this would effectively cut the West Coast off, but does Selig really want to be developing Yankee and Red Sox fans in California? Shouldn’t they be cheering for the five teams they already have?
Also, the most important part of any sporting event is the final result, and the Pacific Time Zone won’t be robbed of that. A Californian baseball fan who gets off work at 5 p.m. would only be missing the first half of the game.
Major League Baseball is famous for being slow to adapt to change, but enforcing a more reasonable time frame for their games is a pressing concern that Bud Selig should address sooner rather than later. After all, the clock is ticking.
A week ago I tweeted about the movement to have Pat Burns inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. I had wanted to expand on that 140-character missive, but the Easter holidays got in the way. However, now I’ve got the chance.
As TSN later reported, the Facebook group Let's Get Pat Burns into the Hockey Hall of Fame - NOW! has the support of tens of thousands of hockey fans - over 49,000 as I write this – to put the former National Hockey League coach into the Hall of Fame before he succumbs to terminal cancer.
Other media outlets have picked up on the page, including Hockey Night in Canada, Coast to Coast with Don Cherry, the Montreal Gazette, the Toronto Sun, the Toronto Star and several radio stations.
Burns has a wealth of accomplishments that should earn him a spot in the Hall of Fame.
In his 14 straight seasons as a head coach he won 501 games with four teams, making it to the playoffs 11 times, the final twice and winning the Stanley Cup once.
To put that in a historical perspective, Burns is 11th in NHL history for number of games coached, nine behind Brian Sutter.
Burns is also 11th on the list for coaching wins, just one behind Hall of Fame member Glen Sather.
Even his losses stack up well, with Burns dropping 353 decisions in regulation and 14 in overtime (OTL was only counted in his last four seasons). That’s significantly less than Jacques Demers (468) and Brian Sutter (437), both of whom also coached for 14 years.
Granted, Burns doesn’t come anywhere close to the top 10 in terms of Stanley Cup wins, but he does at least have that one Stanley Cup ring from the 2002-03 New Jersey Devil’s championship, which is better than many other members of the Hall of Fame.
One could speculate that had it not been for Burns’ premature retirement, he’d have moved even further up these lists. Certainly, he could have moved up on the lists for games coached, and presumably climbed further up in terms of wins.
However, the Hall of Fame shouldn’t rely upon conjecture or presumptions. The man’s record speaks for itself. Even within the constraints of his shortened career he put together an exceptional coaching record.
The only question is whether or not Burns will be alive by the time he is inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Burns was present at the groundbreaking ceremony of a hockey arena that will be named in his honour two weeks ago. During the press conference, Burns was not optimistic about his chances of seeing the rink completed.
"I probably won't see the project to the end," said Burns. "But let's hope I'm looking down on it and see a young Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux."
Normally, there is a three-year waiting period after retirement to gain admission to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
However, there is precedent for the Hockey Hall of Fame speeding the process up: Roger Neilson was fast-tracked as he was terminally ill, as was Mario Lemieux, whose Hodgkin's lymphoma appeared to be fatal.
Burns has everything going for him. He has a high-calibre resume, the support of many hockey insiders and the Hall of Fame has done this kind of promotion before.
All that’s left is for the selection committee to take note of his accomplishments and the groundswell of support for his induction. It would be a fitting cap to a stellar career and an inspiring life.
If you’d like to throw your support behind the Let's Get Pat Burns into the Hockey Hall of Fame - NOW! Facebook group, you can join by clicking on this link.
By and large, the favourites are dominating. The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League is a perfect example of this: the Victoriaville Tigres are out to a 3-0 lead in their series with the Quebec Remparts, while the Saint John Sea Dogs, Moncton Wildcats and Drummondville Voltigeurs are all up 2-0.
Not surprisingly, the Windsor Spitfires and Barrie Colts are continuing their dominance in the Ontario Hockey League, quickly establishing 3-0 leads in their match-ups. The Ottawa 67’s are up on the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors 2-1. The London Knights have a similar lead over the Kitchener Rangers.
The Western Hockey League is no different: the Vancouver Giants, Brandon Wheat Kings and Calgary Hitmen all have solid 2-0 leads.
No, there is only one team that has been a disappointment this post-season: the Tri-City Americans.
Although Tri-City finished the regular season at the top of the Western Conference’s standings, they really stumbled to the end of the year, going 5-5 in their final 10 games.
If it wasn’t for the Spokane Chiefs beating the Everett Silvertips 3-2 in literally the last game of the WHL season, the Americans would have finished in third in their conference and had a much tougher pairing in the opening round of the playoffs.
Surprisingly, Tri-City struggled in that opening pairing against the Chilliwack Bruins, eking out a 4-2 series win.
The Americans game, at its height, is marked by a balanced approach with and without the puck. Although they had the third-best offence in the league their best scorer, Brendan Shinnimin, was only 14th overall.
Similarly, Tri-City had the least number of penalty minutes (986) in the entire league. A real accomplishment, considering the rough-and-tumble style of the WHL.
That kind of discipline has disappeared in the past month of Americans’ play, and it is hurting their chances of contending for a WHL championship.
Friday, April 2nd 2010
QMJHL – Couturier helps Voltigeurs slip by Rimouski in overtime
Sean Couturier made sure his Drummondville Voltigeurs started their second-round Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoff match-up on the right foot.
Couturier forced overtime with two minutes left in regulation and then scored the winner 24 seconds into the extra period as the Voltigeurs eked out a 5-4 win over the Rimouski Oceanic on Friday night. (See more...)
OHL- 67's cruise to win over Majors to tie series
Anthony Nigro and the Ottawa 67's made a statement in the second game of their Ontario Hockey League playoff match-up Friday night.
Nigro had two goals and two assists as the 67's crushed the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors 7-2. (See more...)
WHL – Hitmen gain playoff momentum, down Medicine Hat Tigers
Kris Foucault kept the Calgary Hitmen's post-season roll going on Friday night.
Foucault scored twice to lead Calgary to a 5-2 win over the Medicine Hat Tigers in their Western Hockey League Eastern Conference semifinal opener. (See more...)
Saturday, April 3rd 2010
QMJHL – Huberdeau scores twice as Sea Dogs beat Gatineau
The Saint John Sea Dogs are rolling through the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs and don't seem ready to let up.
Jonathan Huberdeau scored twice as Saint John routed the Gatineau Olympiques 7-2 in the QMJHL quarter-finals Saturday night. (See more...)
WHL – Giants beat out Winterhawks in physical playoff game
The Vancouver Giants and Portland Winterhawks opened their Western Hockey League playoff series with a bang on Saturday night.
Brendan Gallagher had four goals and an assist as the Giants out-paced the Winterhawks 9-6 in an unruly opening to their second round match-up. (See more...)
Sunday, April 4th 2010
OHL – Colts slip by Battalion in OT; take 2-0 series lead
Luke Pither's impeccable sense of timing has the Barrie Colts in control of their Ontario Hockey League Eastern Conference semifinal.
Pither was the overtime hero as the Colts eked out a 3-2 win over the Brampton Battalion in OHL playoff action Sunday afternoon. (See more...)
Last August I attended the Canadian National Comic Book Exposition on behalf of Alternavox, an online magazine based in Toronto. I did several interviews that, for a variety of reasons, didn’t make it on to the site. The other day I was going through my digital recorder and found a bunch of these chats and figured that I would put them up here.
First up? Dan Parent, veteran Archie Comics artist.
The past five years have been tumultuous in the world of Archie Comics: new artistic styles were introduced for the monthly Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Betty and Veronica titles as well as some controversial storylines that created an uproar in fandom.
Dan Parent has been a house artist, writer and co-editor with Archie Comics, but now works freelance on America’s favourite redhead. He knows Riverdale from the inside-out and sees many of the latest changes to the line as healthy.
“I think it’s a good experiment,” said Parent at the Canadian National Comic Book Expo on Aug. 29. “I still prefer the classic look myself , but I think it’s always good to try new things. I thought it worked for what it was.”
After graduating from of the Joe Kubert School of Cartooning and Graphic Art in 1987, Parent became a house artist at Archie Comics, working on comic book production work before moving to the licensing department.
He began to do freelance work in 1996, although maintained close ties to the Archie gang, occasionally doing work for the company. Parents has his favourites amongst the ‘new look’ titles.
“I really like the manga Sabrina,” said Parent. “The girl who does it, Tania Del Rio, did a really good job on it.”
Archie Comics made waves on May 15, 2009 when they announced that Archie Andrews would be proposing to the raven-haired Veronica Lodge over the wholesome girl-next door, Betty Cooper in the 600th issue of his monthly series.
Fans on both side of the blonde vs. brunette debate were inflamed, with comic book store owner David Luebke going so far as selling Archie #1 comic for $30,000 USD in protest.
However, Parent shrugs at the controversy.
“It’s interesting, it stirs things up,” said Parent. “People have a lot of passion for the characters; people have grown up on them and they’re sort of like they’re your friends at this point.”
“I think it’s good, it’s what keeps us in business.”
Parent was quick to defend the plot, for some personal reasons.
“I’m a bigger fan of Veronica, so, you know, it works out fine for me,” he said with a laugh. “As far as the story goes, it’s a really well written story, and I didn’t write it so I’m not just saying that.”
A veteran of the comics industry for 23 years, Parent still has some dream projects that he’d like to work on before calling it a career.
“I would like to do the Archie superheroes. They are going to be bringing them back – I’m not sure if I’m going to be working on them or not, probably not,” he said. “I like Li’l Archie a lot too. I’d really like to do some work with Li’l Archie.”
Having worked on several children’s comic books like Felix the Cat, Barbie and Disney Adventures, Parent knows what it takes to create an accessible kid’s title.
“First of all, good artwork , of course,” said Parent. “A good story that doesn’t talk down to kids, which is kind of difficult. Sometimes the stories do in other books. Kids are smarter than we give them credit for, and if it’s funny, it’s funny.”
“Even if you have an obscure reference that you think a kid might not understand it’s usually okay because if it’s funny they’ll go along with it.”