31 August 2009

Today is MuchMusic's 25th birthday. It's a pretty big anniversary but not one that the station has chosen to honour in any significant way. I wonder if this is because people would see that the channel actually used to be pretty good.
I remember shortly after joining Facebook, one of the first groups that came to my attention was called "When I was your age, MuchMusic didn't suck." I found it, and still do, entirely apropos after reading this article because of the basic truth of it. Bland DJs, the creativity sucked out of all the actual music programming, and shows that are of minimal interest to a music-seeking audience; it's not a recipe for success in any medium. Remember the 4-hour blocks of music videos? Remember when MuchOnDemand played videos that people requested via phone, mail (some of the work people went into the signs was amazing when you consider the intention), etc., instead of having staged requests for the current industry hot hits? Remember Spotlight, where you'd get a solid half-hour block of a band's hits and bio? Certainly the VJs from the 90s--Bill Welychka, Rick the Temp, even Ed The Sock--had a lot more personality and flair than the current bunch because they were allowed to express themselves. The current crew has to tow a company line in order to avoid hurting the profit margins - can you possibly envision Devin Soltendieck trashing Fall Out Boy or Ashley Simpson and their terrible music?
The times have changed, and not for the better. You know that when it's 2009 and the only references to Metallica you hear on the network involve Napster, there's a real problem. Nine Inch Nails is wrapping up their final tour as a live act, not a mention of it--gets in the way of the latest Katy Perry video. But the biggest problem of all for Much is that they've become a product of their environment: the music industry is becoming increasingly irrelevant, and as a consequence so is Much. There was a time that they'd be setting trends in Canada, serving as a place that young kids could watch and get informed as to what's current and hot. Now, it simply serves up whatever their corporate masters tell them to for public consumption and equally quick disposal.

27 August 2009

Next Thing You Know, the Pigs Will Be Sleeping in Mr. Jones' House

The old axiom "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss" seems apropos this morning after reading about Prime Minister Stephen Harper's latest round of Senate appointments. While it's not the first time he's gone directly against old Reformatory thought about a more representative Senate under the Triple E criteria, this time is particularly brazen in terms of its patronage. His campaign chair Doug Finley is moving up to the Red Chamber. Carolyn Stewart-Olsen, the media relations expert that has done wonders in creating a delightfully toxic relationship between the PMO and the Canadian media, is also getting a plumb patronage position. The demagogical, populist ways of the past are clearly being left there by this Prime Minister, who was once the champion of an elected house of sober second thought.
Way back in 2006, Andrew Coyne wrote about the then-new Prime Minister's first foray into Senate reform, stating, "For Mr. Harper, the most important thing off the top is to destabilize the status quo, which is to say to delegitimize it." These latest appointments are as status quo as you can possibly get. Paul Martin appointed Francis Fox, his campaign chair, as well as a number of other long-time Liberals. I was critical of that too, so put away those "Liberal hypocrite" fusillades, folks. The Senate itself remains as illegitimate as ever, as does the process by which appointments to the chamber are made.

So for all the huff and puff over the years about Senate reform, we've seen exactly the same things from the Reformatories that they used to castigate the Liberals for doing. It was said that Harper would tackle the democratic deficit and address the need for true reform in the Senate, a move that would appeal not only to his base also to the countless Canadians that are tired of seeing politically well-connected people rewarded with golden parachutes to spend their golden years living off the public dollar for doing very little work. However, much like Napoleon and his cohorts living on Animal Farm, the trappings of power have made Harper and company difficult to distinguish from their Tory predecessors.

***Update*** Warren chimes in with some choice quotes here.

NHL Close to the Win

If Balsillie didn't take himself out of the game with his latest absurd demand that the team be sold to him by Sept. 10 so that he can immediately relocate them or he's withdrawing his bid, I think that the NHL is mighty close to declaring "checkmate" against him after this bit of news. Not only is it far too late in the League's timetable to move a team based in Arizona to Ontario because of that small matter of the schedule, it's the type of bully tactic that has been employed one too many times by Balsillie. He was so far ahead in the publicity game in the early stages of this process, what with the Make It Seven promotion and the clever public statements, but he has squandered virtually all of the goodwill he had engendered by taking on the NHL by refusing to play by the rules. He wrapped himself in the Canadian flag, which always works well in conflicts with the League and the perception that Bettman is anti-Canada, but his actions have been decidedly un-Canadian and he's shown himself to be a cowboy that doesn't respect his potential colleagues on the Board of Governors.
It's a double-win for Bettman to make the bid and leave open the door of whether the team can be relocated in the future. By taking over the team itself while furnishing Moyes and his creditors with sufficient cash to satisfy the bankruptcy court, the NHL also has the advantage in being to then re-sell the team on their own terms. The Arizona court is first and foremost concerned with getting Moyes out of bankruptcy and ensuring that his creditors are paid; what happens with the Phoenix Coyotes franchise is a secondary concern for Judge Baum. We all know Balsillie's got money, but his actions in the process have not only concerned the NHL but also every other major professional sports league in North America - the idea that a team can be re-located via extra-constitutional means scares the hell out of them. So while the court's concern about the Coyotes is secondary to the concern about dollars, the NHL's bid can satisfy both conditions. If they should hold their own auction in a year or two years after a successful bid, you can rest assured that Balsillie will be completely excluded from the process. If the team is unsustainable, and the NHL must follow through with relocation, it will be done in the traditional constitutional fashion. Make no mistkae: the team will inevitably be moved; it is simply a matter of where, when, and with whom as the owner. But with the unfolding issues from this past week, it is looking more and more like Jim Balsillie will not be that owner. And truth be told, I'm not sure that's a bad thing.

18 August 2009

#1? Not Even Close

It is only the height of arrogance that would possibly lead one to conclude that Ron Wilson, the coach of the Maple Leafs and in the upcoming Olympics of Team USA, would be anywhere near "public enemy #1" in the eyes of Canadian hockey fans. Yet the Globe and Mail comes to this conclusion here.

Let's face a simple fact: the United States is not a contender for these Olympics. They may have some good talent up front and on the blue line, but a tournament such as this--much like with the Stanley Cup playoffs--it all comes down to goaltending. And when you go into your summer orientation camp with Ryan Miller, Jon Quick, and Tim Thomas, you're in trouble from the get-go. Yes Miller has been good enough to lead his team to regular 10th place finishes, and yes Quick is a solid prospect for the Kings, and yes Thomas is the reigning Vezina winner. But do they hold a candle to Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo, and whomever ends up as Canada's #3? Can any of them match Henrik Lundqvist? Evgeni Nabokov? No.

But there's more to this story than the idea that there's a huge hockey rivalry between Canada and the United States. It's the idea that because he's the coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and thus spends his time at the centre of the hockey universe, and is already not liked by Don Cherry, that somehow this hatred will be amped to an extreme level over the Olympics. Newsflash: people don't give a rat's ass about who is behind the bench; they care about who is on the ice and who will be giving their team fits. Nobody quivers over having to face a guy that coached the 11th place team in the Eastern Conference, and they certainly don't fear him enough to hate him. No, the people that Canadians are going to "hate" for potentially spoiling the party in Vancouver are the likes of Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Pavel Datsyuk, Ilya Kovalchuk (wow those Russians are going to be good eh?), Henrik Zetterberg, Henrik Lundqvist, and other top-quality international stars.

Nobody is going to waste their team making a "Ron Wilson: Public Enemy #1" sign for these Olympics - at worst, some Leafs fan that already dislikes him will bring a "Fire Wilson" sign to the Games. But there are plenty of bigger fish to fry than Ron Wilson.

12 August 2009

I Call Bullshit

This is absolutely atrocious:

"Mr. Layton has written a book about investing in Canadians and their communities. Mr. Ignatieff has written books defending torture,” said Lavigne.

“Mr. Ignatieff has defended and supported the war in Iraq … If Mr. Ignatieff or Mr. Harper were prime minister in 2004, Canada would still be in Iraq today.”

This comment comes from Brad Lavigne, the NDP's communications director. If the NDP had a serious person running their party, Mr. Lavigne would be looking for a new job today. Since they don't, Lavigne will continue to make idiotic, false, and ideologically-charged comments that don't let details such as the facts get in the way.

Fact: Michael Ignatieff has not written a single book defending torture, let alone multiple books. He's written a book, The Lesser Evil, in which he addresses torture and flatly states that the practice of torture is anathema to a free and democratic society that is fighting a war against terror.

Fact: the Iraq War started in 2003.

Fact: neither Michael Ignatieff nor Stephen Harper were prime minister in 2003 or 2004, and thus discussing what would have happened if they were is intellectually irrelevant. Secondary fact: that it was 6 years ago compounds just how irrelevant the argument is. It's 2009, there probably won't be an election this year and who knows about next year - surely there are some relevant and pressing issues that the NDP would like to discuss.

Fact: unless there's some clandestine activity going on, Canada has not been in Iraq since 1991. Saying that we would "still" be there today makes absolutely no sense.

Fact: Michael Ignatieff has indeed supported the removal of Saddam Hussein and the liberation of 25 million Iraqis from his tyrannical grip. The NDP have always preferred that Saddam Hussein remained in power, as the status quo ante bellum was completely acceptable to the NDP. Routine detention, indefinite imprisonment, disappearing political rivals, and physical, psychological, and emotional terror - the hallmarks of the Saddam regime - are things that the NDP can tolerate as long as they're happening to Iraqis. Since George W. Bush opposed those things, the NDP, by reflex and default, supported them.