Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Silver sends Sterling to the showers

Or maybe not. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver came down so hard on the loose-lipped Los Angeles Clippers owner that Donald Sterling may not be allowed in the showers. Silver did everything but forbid Sterling to watch basketball on TV.

This is not to defend Sterling or his comments, but only to wonder at the change over the past sixty or seventy years in American big league sports. There was a time when Sterling's remarks would not have raised a white eyebrow; that was the period when there were no African-Americans playing major league baseball. Legendary players like Satchel Paige were restricted to what were known as the "negro leagues."

Then along came two brave men who were willing to endure a lot of abuse, not only from owners and fans, but even their own teammates. Yet they did it, opened up the game, and began to change the way Americans saw--and respected--people.

So the next time Pope Francis declares a pair of saints, we're pulling for Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson. Even if their main religion was Baseball.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Birthday of the Bard

William Shakespeare was born this date--April 23--four hundred and fifty years ago. He departed this world on the same date--April 23--fifty-two years later. Shakespeare understood theatre and knew when to make an exit.

Sonnet 30:

"When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past.
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought
And with old woes new wail my dear time's waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow,
For precious friends hid in death's dateless night,
And weep afresh love's long since cancelled woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanished sight:
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o'er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I now pay as if not paid before.
    But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
    All losses are restored and sorrows end."

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

In Praise of Dandelions

In one of Len Deighton's novels, Dawlish, an MI5 senior, has a garden composed entirely of wild flowers and, let's say it, weeds. Deighton's principal spy, whom we always think of looking like the young Michael Caine, says, "Must be easy to cultivate." Dawlish bristles: "It most certainly is not! Takes a great deal of care!"

Our roving reporter thought of this today when passing boulevards covered in golden dandelions. He thought, how wonderful that these lovely volunteers appear unaided each spring. While everyone praises the cherry blossoms and forsythia and rhododendrons, and rightly so, we should also be grateful for the wild flowers that pop up on their own--crocuses, buttercups, snowdrops, dandelions.

If Wordsworth had come upon an expanse of dandelions instead of daffodils, he might have written a different verse:

"My mind was filled with negative ions/'Til I saw a field of dandelions."

And as if the beauty of the dandelion were not enough, it can also be turned into wine--a tiny thimbleful of which, we are told, can induce a memorable hangover.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Joy of Statistics

According to a recent report released by CareerCast, described as a "career guidance website," the work of a statistician is the third best job to which one might aspire. We can hear small children everywhere saying, "When I grow up I want to be a statistician!"

But not as many as will want to be tenured university professors, the job ranked #2, or the top-of-the-line calling--mathematician!

These evaluations were based on data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (right, statisticians), the Census Bureau, trade association studies, and other bodies monitoring salaries, physical demands, stress levels and other factors which determine the desirability of a job.

So if the roles of mathematicians, university professors (tenured) and statisticians are the best jobs (followed, in this order, by actuaries, audiologists, dental hygienists, software engineers, computer systems analysts, occupational therapists and speech pathologists) what are the worst jobs? Number two on the "take this job and shove it" list is said to be newspaper reporting. Number five is broadcasting. Now we find out, after a lifetime in radio and newspapers, when we could have been, if not tenured university professors, at least actuaries. (Actuary, we don't even know what actuaries do.)

Other jobs deemed undesirable are serving in the military, driving a taxi, collecting garbage, working as a flight attendant, being a chef, fighting fires, and acting as a collections officer. The very worst job of all: lumberjack.

What the compilers of these arbitrary rankings seem to have overlooked, while checking salaries, stress factors, et cetera, are the pleasure and interest one may find in following a particular line of work. Really, how many disc jockeys or sports writers reading this are going to chuck their jobs and become dental hygienists? (Not, as Seinfeld would have said, there's anything wrong with that.)

As for lumberjacks, you have only to remember the Monty Python gang's stirring rendition of "I'm a Lumberjack and I'm Okay." No one is singing "I'm an Actuary and I'm Okay."

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Remedy for Football Fans

For fanatical followers of football, the longest season of the year is the time between the Super Bowl and the start of the CFL season.

But there is help at hand. Dr. Slap Maxwell's prescription: Go see "Draft Day," a cinematic Nicorette for addicted grid fans. Best football movie since "Any Given Sunday." Best sports movie since "Moneyball."

See it every day, until the training camps start up and the exhibition games begin.

For serious cases, we recommend viewing twice a day.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Orwellspeak in Canada

Recent moves by Canadian governments, federal and provincial, suggest that the upside down language introduced by George Orwell in the novel "1984" is now among us. Examples: The Parti Quebecois "Charter of Values" and the federal Conservatives' "Fair Election Act."

Turning to Orwell's scary and prophetic work, we find slogans promoted by the Ministry of Truth, Ministry of Peace and Ministry of Love. Among them: "War is Peace," "Freedom is Slavery," and the one that may be closest to the current political situation--"Ignorance is Strength."

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Trading Places

Pauline Marois, new General Manager of the Vancouver Canucks.

Mike Gillis, new leader of Parti Quebecois.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Art of Politics

Have you seen George W. Bush's paintings of himself in the bathtub? If only "Playgirl" were still publishing, Dubya might have been a centre-fold.

But now there is a new exhibition of the 43rd US President's work. Titled "The Art of Leadership," it is a collection of portraits of political leaders from Afghanistan to Ottawa, and is on show at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas. It's said both MOMA and the Louvre wanted it, but the Bush Center got it first.

The portrait drawing the most attention among Canadian viewers is that of Prime Minister Stephen Harper--an exceedingly flattering portrait, in that it doesn't really resemble Mr. Harper. However, the Prime Minister has praised it, saying, "I believe the artist recognized my inner George Clooney."

In other political news, several gentlemen who turned up at an Oakville Conservative nominating meeting expressed disappointment. One said, "I thought it was Amy Adams we were going to see."

And Dimitri Soudas, finding he suddenly has a lot of spare time, says, "At last I'm going to write my novel. I plan to call it 'All About Eve'."

"Or maybe," he said, "'All About Steve'."