« May 2007 | Main | July 2007 »

June 2007 Archives

June 1, 2007

For Nate Gartke

No one has put this on public record before, and I am risking my very life by revealing it, but every night before bed, every Albertan quietly whispers this short prayer:

God bless the leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, for he shall keep an Albertan in 24 Sussex.
God bless President Hugo Chavez, for he wardeth off the oil companies and maketh our oil sands the more precious.
And God bless the teachers and school boards of the nine other provinces and the fifty states, for they are the guarantors of our children's posterity, and our children's children's. Amen.

NP: The sons of Sam

Since I don't live in Toronto, I had a moment of utter confusion when I saw the first few variations on the headline "Sam the Record Man to close legendary Toronto store" on Wednesday. "Wait a second," I thought to myself. "Didn't I write that same article six years ago?"

I did, and in Friday morning's National Post, I've written it again, looking at just how little has changed for the fate of the music industry since 2001. Chiseling a tombstone for record retailing took me back to a time when, if you lived in a second-tier city like Edmonton, you really needed a peer group in order to build up a record collection. You simply weren't going to complete the entire back catalogue of a band unless you had a few guys swapping sightings and maybe some friendly clerks keeping an eye out for you. "Larks' Tongues in Aspic just came in at the A&B! I'll start the car."

Short radio appearance tonight

I'll be discussing today's Post column with Rob Breakenridge on Calgary's CHQR. Listen for that between 6:30 and 7 pm Mountain time.

What is rock music's greatest enigma?

Could it be the death of Felix Pappalardi? The disappearance of Richey Edwards? Good candidates, but maybe the best is the exact birthdate of former Black Sabbath vocalist Ronnie James Dio. Can the pint-sized frontman really be eight months older than George Harrison and four years senior to Bill Clinton? (þ: Jason, who has a brand-new opera/jazz weblog that may at any time degenerate into a poignant realtime docudrama about obsessive-compulsive record collecting.)

@FullComment.com: Wars starry and sublunary

New at the Post's Full Comment site: would Star Wars, all things being equal, leave a viewer feeling more religious or less so? And does President Bush still speak for conservatism?

Feeling public-spirited?

One man. Against the elements. In the barren heart of the planet's remotest wastes. With nothing but books to pass the time. But which ones? Now you too can help the Battle of Alberta's rogue anthropologist, "Sacamano", decide on a Siberian reading list.

June 2, 2007

But police admitted it was the cleanest crime scene they had ever encountered

Am I the only one who thinks this is a blatantly obvious homicide? "That's right, officer. While I was in the other room playing video games, my 18-month-old brother must have taken the dish racks out of the dishwasher by himself, crawled inside, found a way to pull the heavy sealed door shut on himself, and engaged the exterior latch, scoring an unprecedented triumph over the child-safety precautions of one of the world's oldest appliance manufacturers. When I came into the kitchen and saw his blanket on the floor, the dishwasher was naturally the first place I looked for him, as anyone else would, and that of course explains why my fingerprints are on the handle. Are we good? I have soccer practice in a half-hour." C'mon, hillbilly cops, we're all cheering for you to connect the dots here.


The Silk Hat has closed its doors.

June 3, 2007

Two screenshots from the news Web

AlJazeera.com screenshot
I'm afraid I can only admire the cheek of a news organization that brazenly puts "Conspiracy Theories" on its main menu as one of its key categories. Wouldn't it be a more honest world if everybody did this?--if Fox News went ahead and had a link to "White House Talking Points" or the Toronto Star included a "Leftist Nonsense" link (presumably leading back to the paper's main index page)?

Edmonton Sun screenshot
Taken from the Edmonton Sun's page. To all those Osprey Media employees who worry that a Quebecor takeover will annihilate their editorial standards, I'd just like to say, hey, don't make a Great Dane out of a chiwawa, people.

June 4, 2007


As is usual when it comes to matters not related to infernal tootling, I agree with Paul Wells. The Palm Foleo is receiving arsenic-laden reviews, but doesn't anybody else think it looks like a good start? It certainly looks like something I could use if it weren't shackled to an expensive phone, and considering how many working journalists and others are doing shocking amounts of work on a Blackberry screen right now, there may be an immediate market for it. I can't help feeling, watching friends compose e-mails and compile spreadsheets on something the size of a Game Boy, that the world may be ready for a computer that's halfway in size between PDA and laptop.

@FullComment.com: Two long-ish ones

At the National Post's totally-free-to-everybody-and-updated-throughout-the-day Full Comment site, I eulogize Bang the Drum Slowly author Mark Harris and take sides in the increasingly rancorous "I'm a Mac/I'm a PC" debate.

June 5, 2007

Groovin' with Disco Dion

Readers may be amused by this use of the National Post's editorial page as a Conservative weapon of counterattack on the floor of the House of Commons Friday. (Note to Scott Brison: although I have little doubt that Terence Corcoran shares the sentiment quoted by the hon. member, he should be held responsible only for opinions appearing in the Financial Post section of the paper.)

‘I'm not sure I'll even be able to sell it as bird seed’

Also, I hear you can smoke itColumn topics I'll probably never get around to dept.: with so many head-shop clerks in ginger dreadlocks wandering around and raving about what great stuff hemp is, you might be tricked into thinking that there was actually a viable market for it. Agriculture journalist Barbara Grinder talked to Alberta growers who have tried experimental hemp production and found most of them disapponted. Apparently Canadian families aren't yet making hemp-heart casserole a weekly taste treat, and Dr. Bronner manufactures only so much soap. Bonus features of yesterday's miracle crop: it doesn't store well and there's little processing capacity. I guess we'd better stick to lupins.

June 6, 2007

World press: Deal or no deal? Uh, deal, actually

A few news stories from hither and thither:

Berlusconi's acquisition of gameshow juggernaut Endemol creates an awkward situation for Italy's RAI
A Zambian charlatan's AIDS cure turns out to be a swimming-pool disinfectant
In France, the Sarkozy family is royalty: in Slovakia, the Sarközy family is a clan of gypsies living in constant terror of nighttime assaults
A Norwegian journalist is sued by the subject of her runaway bestseller, The Bookseller of Kabul
Has the G8 outlived its usefulness? Former French president Giscard d'Estaing thinks so
A politician's Tienanmen denial threatens to boost turnout at HK's annual observance of the massacre
Uh-oh: the absurdist debate over what to call the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia threatens to trigger an early election in Greece
Is the next Chernobyl slowly rusting away in Kola, just miles from the Norwegian border and a day's drive from the peninsular mainland of Europe?

Only possible title for this post: Napoleon Dynamite.

Another fresh quote from the President of Venezuela for those who are in doubt about what his Western supporters are supporting:

To (US President) George W. Bush and to the masterminds of this slow-wick, soft coup: Sirs, forget about your plan here in Venezuela. What could eventually happen is a revolutionary outburst. We do not want it to happen. However, in that case, I would be at the forefront. If this ever happens—and I will make a great effort for this not to occur—the government would join the people and lead the revolutionary outburst. Therefore, you would rather stop it.

People sometimes get angry, see? And when people get angry, stuff gets broke, right? Maybe a few heads get cracked. It's just a shame Edward G. Robinson isn't still alive to play Chavez in the movie of his life.

And just in case you thought the president couldn't get any weirder:

The head of state showed reporters a picture drawn by him, depicting a dynamite cartridge with a burning wick. The graphic, in his opinion, illustrated the ongoing plan he was making reference [to].

Prediction: 40 years from now, Pierre Trudeau's grandchildren will be writing op-eds about how their family friend Hugo was not only a compassionate leader and a man of tireless energy, but a dab hand with a Rapidograph.

June 7, 2007

Whatever they are, I'm pretty sure they're manufactured from straw

It's easy to shop for an OB/GYN, or ask around for LASIK. Try demanding the lowest cost emergency room when you're on an ambulance gurney and hooked up to an oxygen tank after a heart attack, or when your doctor diagnoses you with cancer and says this is the specialist he recommends. At those moments, consumers aren't, to use another fancy economics term, particularly price sensitive... Health care isn't just another widget. -Ezra Klein, fighting for socialized medicine in the U.S. at Tapped.

Mr. Klein will perhaps pardon me for losing patience with this cliché; it is mass-produced in my home country so I am a bit more tired of the stench than he expects his usual readership to be. Here is the question that I think serves to disperse it instantly:

What exactly, on these premises, would be just another widget?

Are shoes subject to the ordinary laws of supply and demand? Try telling that to a child in a snowstorm who doesn't have a pair! Are flashlights a widget? Even been in a blackout without one?--there are times when you'd pay a thousand dollars for a flashlight. If you're homeless, Pizza Pops aren't a widget. They might mean as much to a bum under a bridge as a defibrillator does to a pork-fed executive collapsed in a marbled bank lobby. To a fellow who's just been laid off from the only job he's trained for, food, shelter, clothing, even money itself, all have non-widgetary nature.

So all hail the new lifeboat economics, which instantly replaces orthodox price mechanisms with the scrawlings of an idiot child in the presence of any good that might conceivably be immediately necessary to life, health, or safety. Is there any reason this intrepid nescience should be limited to health care? If we can't plan for an ambulance ride, how can we plan for anything? (Maybe, he said in an ominous whisper, there are no widgets at all.)

NP: The Sens are dead. Long live the Sens

Old Sens logoAt the Full Comment site, there's a preview of my 500-word editorial on the occasion of the Ottawa Senators' defeat in the Stanley Cup final. I've noticed that my work these days divides neatly into the three Freudian categories of the psychic self. Writing editorials is inherently something of a superego exercise; the pieces lack an individual byline in print (though we are experimenting with identifying authors online sometimes, as in the case of this Senators piece), and the voice one adopts in writing them is, as a matter of policy, guided by the conscience and worldview of "the newspaper" rather than any particular individual. If you had to explain to somebody how a superego supposedly works, you couldn't possibly find a better practical example. By contrast, signed columns are expressions of the lone man's reasoning Freudian ego, and weblog entries, often written in haste and representing immediate reactions to phenomena, clearly have more of the nature of the id. Though in the case of the Ducks' Stanley Cup victory, my id has already been spoken for perfectly over at Covered in Oil.

Don't miss my other recent posts at Full Comment: on Wednesday I highlighted an underreported story about a black celebrity's air-security nightmare, and today I bestowed surprise praise on a rival member of the commentariat.

June 8, 2007

NP: Friday morning means it's the ego's turn

In this week's National Post column I analyze the implications of new Canadian data on Ritalin prescriptions and divorce. (You can read the original study here.) If you're a child, negative life events at home seem to have a lot to do with whether you get diagnosed with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder. Which would seem to be a bit of a blow to those who insist that ADHD is a neurological illness which has nothing at all to do with parenting—indeed, it would seem to make that view nearly insupportable—and an important point in favour of those who have argued that the explosion of ADHD diagnoses is part of a trend toward medical modification of personality traits. Send angry e-mails to the usual address, not that you need to be told.

June 9, 2007

Gravy on the side

Here's a weekend special for fans of the Howard Stern Show on Sirius Satellite Radio: a 1991 CBC News feature on poutine, the national taste treat of Quebec, which was then only just becoming familiar to the rest of Canada. It's reported by a younger version of Stern's investigative pit bull, Steve Langford, so if you've been wondering whether Langford was for real or just some super-intense, Andy Kaufman-like comic genius, you need wonder no more.

What's most priceless about the poutine mini-documentary is how little Langford's style has changed as senior reporter for the Howard 100 News, which Stern created for his Sirius channels as a means of filling airtime and counterattacking/satirizing a journalism profession that has been notoriously careless about its coverage of him for the past 25 years. In the 1991 video the young Langford seems a little less earnest than he is today about probing the legal problems of Wack Packers and the opacities of American Idol voting. But the part where he tries to ambush the late premier Robert Bourassa about his culinary preferences could have been shot yesterday: Stern has him pretty much doing the same schtick in places like the UN building, and he never ever breaks kayfabe.

June 10, 2007

NP: Man is wolf to man

Five millennia after he was left lying face down in the Ötztal Alps to be engulfed by glaciation, the world-famous Tyrolean "iceman" Ötzi has been ruled a homicide victim by anthropologists using advanced medical-imaging technology. Let's mourn our unlucky tattooed ancestor, I suggest in an editorial for Monday's Post, rather than the state of nature in which he lived.

June 11, 2007

Fade to black

I haven't seen very many episodes of The Sopranos over the years—only just enough to know that it was a derivative show universally praised for its originality, and an amazingly slackly-written show universally praised for its tight writing. And I am both old and clear-eyed enough to remember how it was originally marketed: as a gimmick that practically began apologizing in advance for its short shelf life. What if a mobster had a therapist? It turned out people liked the mobster a whole lot, and the therapist maybe not so much. Problem solved.

David Chase is supposed to have had the whole thing pretty well sketched out in his godlike genius brain right from the get-go, and if you can believe that while fumbling with the loose ends of two dozen plot threads, you'll believe it was incredibly inventive to have a mob boss living in a New Jersey suburban neighbourhood in the guise of a waste-management executive. (Did the producers ever just go ahead and actually put a "DARK UNDERBELLY OF THE AMERICAN DREAM LOCATED HERE—NO FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY" sign on the front lawn of Casa Soprano?) From my detached point of view The Sopranos has looked for years like a textbook case of a TV* series gradually being hijacked by its charismatic male lead, and its fans have gotten pretty much what they deserved. Why bother writing an ending when you can let America do the work for you?

*Of course, it's acknowledged to be a profound insult to refer to The Sopranos as mere television; that would require its creators to grovel in the murk of the leper colony with Rod Serling and Dennis Potter and Larry David and John Cleese and, God forbid, David Simon.

June 13, 2007

Gold. Silver. Bronze. Participant.

If you liked my ill-informed dismissal of the best-loved serious television drama ever, you'll love my current quality ranking of the late-night talk shows!

1. Conan, by a nose
2. Kimmel
3. Leno (unwatchable with guests, but the gag writing is still solid)
4. That manorexic MTV guy—not nearly as bad as you'd expect!
5. Letterman
6. The Scottish guy with the horrible monologues

This is how bad things have gotten for Letterman, how depleted and ossified he is now: if you count The Colbert Report as a late-night talk show, and I'm not even sure why I feel there is any ontological issue here, then he is at best running the 6th-strongest late-night talk show out there at the moment. And I say that without even having seen Greg Gutfeld's show, although I have friends who love Gutfeld and it is at least conceivable that someone would try to engage me in a conversation about the program. When's the last time somebody approached you and said "Hey, did you see Letterman last night?" Unless you count the post-9/11 Sammy Maudlin Special, it had to have been before the heart bypass.

June 15, 2007

NP: Drumheller reality check

In this morning's National Post I warn the paper's cross-country audience that despite the Liberal victory in Tuesday's Calgary-Elbow by-election, it could still be a while before Alberta politics is characterized by weird, unfamiliar phenomena such as a minority Assembly or pre-existing doubt as to the identity of the next government. The success of Premier Ed Stelmach's "northern conspiracy" is predicated on a mild loss of support in Calgary, so the vote in Elbow effectively had little content in an information-theory sense. But the day's overlooked other ballot, in Drumheller-Stettler, showed that the opposition parties are unprepared to compete aggressively. Despite the opportunity that a by-election presents for expressing impatience with a government, the Drum results bordered on the comical. Liberal candidate Tom Dooley, who was previously best known for being a folk song, couldn't even scratch together a thousand votes. And the New Democratic candidate reached an unbelievable new historical low for the party, finishing (NOT A TYPO) seventh. Probably a while, then, before we can break out the champagne we've all got set aside for the arrival of the New Jerusalem.

@FullComment.com: Call off the alarm, it was just a trash barrel

At the Post's editorial board this morning I look at a fascinating amateur effort to find out how well-calibrated our measurements of mean surface temperature are. (Early anecdotal answer: not very.)

Drumheller reality check, pt. 2

If you get a chance, be sure to check out the mind-blowing exchange over the Tuesday Alberta by-elections that took place during the "At Issue" panel discussion on the National last night. On the strength of the Calgary-Elbow results [discussed here], Chantal Hébert chose Kevin Taft as her pick for the biggest "Future Newsmaker" of the next 12 months ("I looked up his name!"), which, since I have a lot of respect for Chantal Hébert, fills me with terror at the possibility that I may at some time have written or said something equally preposterous about Quebec politics. CBC panelists aren't placed under oath or anything before the broadcast: a little silliness is allowable. But they proceeded to crank up the surrealism when Allan Gregg asked "Yeah, when was the last time the Liberals won a seat in Calgary?" and Ms. Hébert replied "I think 36 years was what I saw." The Liberals currently hold three Calgary seats in the legislature, so this answer was only off by a factor of about ten.

But Jim Dinning, wherever he may be, will no doubt be comforted to hear that both these experts on Alberta politics are in complete agreement that the Conservative Party picked the wrong guy. [þ: Bryan Rogers]

Then again, if England actually won something they'd probably make him a duke

Two weeks ago I asked "Does anybody else think the talk of a knighthood for David Beckham feels weirdly premature?" Apparently at least one person agreed with me. (Warning: link leads to article containing photographs of Realdoll Spice.)

June 16, 2007

NP: Cleanliness difficile

A super-surprise bonus from the pages of Saturday's Post: my second column in as many days. (As its length suggests, it was originally planned as an ordinary unsigned leader.) This piece does not express an opinion so much it asks a question: isn't a hospital that has trouble with "infection control" virtually a contradiction in terms? One senses that the obsolete term "pesthouse" may be on the verge of coming back into fashion in Canada.

[UPDATE, July 28: Inkless Wells readers can go here for a response.]

June 19, 2007

Summers best forgotten

As the Edmonton Oilers prepare to roll the dice with the no. 6 pick in the 2007 NHL draft, Dan Barnes arranges a sort of family reunion on the Journal sports page for the dynastic succession of legendary Oil draft busts. I think I'll program my PC to wake me up Friday morning to the soothing country sounds of the Pete Soberlak Band.

June 20, 2007

@FullComment.com: Follow the money

Over at Full Comment I've taken a quick, timely look at what bettors are thinking about Conrad Black's chances of beating the rap. I would also recommend the board's latest take on the Senate human rights committee's bizarre campaign to outlaw any use of non-consensual force whatsoever by parents against children.

Classic Coshery: Turns out the revolution was televised

An offhand remark in the new WSJ interview with Bill James caught my attention:

Speaking globally ...the reality is that there are many changes in the game which could cause batting numbers to jump. And no one really knows to what extent the increase is a consequence of steroids. I strongly suspect that the influence of steroids on hitting numbers is greatly overstated by the public. ...I've never understood why nobody writes about it, but the bats are very different now than they were 20 years ago. [Barry] Bonds's bats are still different from everybody else's.

After the jump (I think this is how this works—I'm still learning the new interface), you can read my 2001 piece about those "different" bats—now a scarce commodity even amongst major leaguers because of meagre hardwood supplies and a 2003 MLB move to require manufacturers to carry millions of dollars in liability insurance. (Even Bonds couldn't obtain a fresh order of his beloved Canadian bats until earlier this month and had to use borrowed Japanese ones.)

Continue reading "Classic Coshery: Turns out the revolution was televised" »

June 21, 2007

ColbyCosh.com's super exclusive awesome NHL Entry Draft preview

So let me just make sure I've got this straight, then. The top North American in this draft is a guy who lit up a Tier II league and has kind of sucked in international play. The #2 weighs 160 pounds. The #3 is some potato-headed New Jersey dude who's committed to the NCAA and whose hugest fans admit he's probably three years from being NHL-ready. The top European, and the only European anybody's really talking about, has a busload of talent but may or may not have any interest in the NHL, or in anything else that we know of, with the possible exception of a steady supply of fermented mare's milk. If you're interested in a goalie you could take a flyer on the half-Ugandan guy who rapped on Swedish Idol or the 19-year-old who passed through the lower intestine of the entire draft in '06.

Am I feelin' the excitement? You bet!

NP: A world that shall not be

Silly movie posterIn Thursday morning's Post I have a 1,500-word feature that represents the closest thing to speculative fiction I have yet written. It's a view of one possible future seen from the perspective of Wikipedia in the year 2047, and it shows the hive mind trying to come to grips with an unexpected epoch of global peace. It puts a final contrarian cork upon a special Post series in which four other writers try to imagine the next great instance of human strife, so you may wish to read the pieces in order, starting with Hillel Halkin's account of the 2014 Arab-Israeli War and moving to George Jonas's frontline report from the 2025 Euro-American War, Daniel Pipes' vision of a near-future American intifada, and the mighty John O'Sullivan's imaginative scenario in which humble Fort McMurray ultimately does in Russia as a great power.

An interpretive note: my picture of the future should be regarded as a map, not a prediction. Optimists can take comfort in the fact that I am certainly right about some positive trends that we don't pay enough attention to in worrying about the day-to-day state of the world. Pessimists will look at the article and be terrified—as I was sometimes in writing it—at just how much has to go right for the world to catch a breather from major war.

June 22, 2007

NP: Speaking truth to (ignorant, clueless, incredibly petty) power

Friday's Post column is about Kieran King, the Saskatchewan high-school student who's been hassled by freaked-out school administrators because he dared to, er, contradict DARE.

What fascinates me about the case of Kieran King, the Saskatchewan high school student who was threatened, punished and slandered by various officials over the past three weeks for talking with some pals about the health effects of marijuana, is that it explodes almost every single utopian cliche about public schools that has been ever propounded by their employees and admirers. It's almost glorious, in a way. Ever heard an educator say "We're not here to teach students what to think—we're here to teach them how to think"? BLAMMO! "We encourage children to make learning a lifelong process." KAPOW! Poor Kieran didn't even make it to age 16 before someone called the cops. "Diversity is one of our most cherished values." But express a factually true opinion that diverges from what you've been taught and—WHOOMP! "Public schools aren't crude instruments of social control, they're places where we lay the foundation for an informed citizenry." BOOM!

Family jewel?

Kyle TurrisDoes anybody else think that Kyle Turris, taken #3 overall in today's NHL Entry Draft, bears a slight but disturbing resemblance to a young Wayne Gretzky? Think about this too long and you can start driving yourself nuts. Turris was taken by the Coyotes, the team Gretzky coaches. 99 was quoted as saying "Our staff has kept a pretty good eye on him. He’s a tremendous young man, he has a terrific future and we’re thrilled to have him." Almost the sort of thing a... proud father would say, no? And did you notice that Turris was rated #1 by the scouting services on the eve of the draft but was mysteriously allowed to fall to the Coyotes?

Why, yes, since you ask, the Kings totally did play a road game in Vancouver about nine months before Turris was born. November 27, 1988. You could look it up. Gretz was held off the scoresheet. The VanSun's Mike Beamish described him as "looking tired." (I know, I know—this is how rumours get started, but I couldn't resist.)

[UPDATE, June 23: I just discovered that Turris is a sure bet to be great. The evidence? Kevin Lowe is already making excuses for not moving up the ladder to get him. Usually Lowe waits a few years for a kid to develop a little before he starts telling his "We thought we had a deal" stories, so you know he thinks Turris is a mortal lock to be an All-Star.]

June 23, 2007

And the award for Best Jonny Greenwood Guitar Performance Not By Jonny Greenwood goes to

Pleased to make your acquaintance, chaps from British Sea Power. Maybe I'm just way too tired after a week of 115 separate deadlines but I think your single is pretty good and I want to see if my souped-up weblog (at least I think this stuff all over my trousers is soup) can handle YouTube embedding.

Life has been very cruelly arranged such that you can only spot excellent pop music reliably after you've gotten too old to follow it with the necessary fervor.

Less than zero

While we all recover from the emotional rigours of NHL draft weekend, which were particularly intense here in Edmonton, here's a thought experiment about the net value of scouting departments that some of you may wish to contemplate. Imagine you're an Oilers fan who inherits a time machine from his wacky scientist uncle, only to find out that the damn thing actually works. Naturally, instead of going back to kill Hitler in 1933 or anything like that, you decide to return to the mid-'90s and arrange the violent demise of Oilers scouting director Barry Fraser and his staff. Having created this terrible crisis you are asked to rectify it with the tools available, but instead of going out and hiring a bunch of ex-jocks to replenish the lost personnel, you decide to hire a little old retired lady at $10 an hour.

This plump little pumpkin of a woman knows literally nothing about hockey, but she's your new Scouting Director. Your instructions to her are to attend the NHL draft with the two big lists of North American and European skaters as ranked by the league's Central Scouting Service; cross off names as they're announced by other teams; and when that nice Mr. Bettman calls her up to the stage for the team's first draft choice, she is to read out the highest-ranked name not yet crossed off on either list.

How would she have fared, with her pencil and her two pieces of paper, against the Sather-Fraser regime? Our data go back to 1995.

Year Oilers          Grandma
1995 Steve Kelly     Radek Dvorak
1996 Boyd Devereaux  Marcus Nilson
1997 Michel Riesen   Michel Riesen
1998 Michael Henrich Dmitri Kalinin
1999 Jani Rita       Martin Havlat
2000 Alexei Mikhnov  Ilja Nikulin

At $10 an hour and all the draft-room canapés she can eat, Grandma beats the living hell out of the professionals. The top Oiler picks in these drafts years were, in order, crap, a late-blooming role-player, crap, crap, a guy who is now doing real well in the Finnish SM-Liiga, and a question-mark manchild who currently seems unlikely to knit together an NHL career. One old lady and a pencil found you a volatile but talented second-line winger, a fourth-line guy, one of the crap players from the other list, another D who's reached the conference finals in the last two years, Martin freaking Havlat, and a Russian national-team defenceman who hasn't crossed the ocean yet. It's safe to say that Edmonton would be watching a team of an entirely different calibre today. As in, it would be pretty good.

Although the Oilers' scouting apparatus was much worse than useless in those six years, providing an object lesson that all businesses would do well to heed, Oil fans who are impatient with Kevin Lowe should probably stop and reflect that he is still doing better than Grandma, on the whole. In 2001 she would have drafted R.J. Umberger instead of Ales Hemsky, and the clamour of the bulletin boards and weblogs would not yet have died down to this day. She turns the tables on Lowe in 2002, snatching Jiri Hudler (who may not be able to play every night for the Red Wings but certainly could here) where he bet the farm on the immortal Jesse Niinimaki. But Lowe rebounds with what looks like another victory in 2003, capturing the still-promising Marc-Antoine Pouliot where Grandma would have stuck us with current RSL fourth-liner Dmitri Chernykh.

June 26, 2007

Headline of the day

Well played, Globe and Mail night desk. Well played.

June 27, 2007

I believe Private Eye would call it "Benoitballs"

I have a brief note about the Chris Benoit murder-suicide up at Full Comment and there's a slightly expanded version in this morning's print Post. In the last 24 hours the press has seized upon the discovery of (legal, prescribed) steroids in the Benoit home and drawn the inevitable lame conclusions—guarded in several cases by that crooked little sergeant-at-arms of the headline writer, the question mark. It is perhaps difficult to complain about anything that might direct more press attention to the role of prescription drugs in killing several generations of wrestlers, but it must be said that the WWE's bold official statement denouncing "the sensationalistic reporting and speculation being undertaken by some members of the media" has the better of the argument. Benoit flew halfway across the country after lying to his employers and killed three people on three different days. If that's "roid rage" then I'm a mountain goat.

Most family annihilators believe they are helping their loved ones "escape" to another world, an imagined state of peace in which the family's unity is restored. Forensically, the Bibles that Benoit carefully placed beside the bodies of his victims are more significant than anything the cops will find in the medicine cabinet. Indeed, what more could he have done to make his message clearer to the investigators?

The Great Tribulation

The CFL season starts tomorrow. I'm a staunch patriot when it comes to three-down football but I can't remember being less excited to make that statement. I think we now have to ask, have a city's sports fans ever suffered through a worse 13 months? At about 8:30 pm on June 6, 2006, the Oilers were ahead 3-0 late in the second period of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals. Within an hour they had coughed up that lead, watched their starting goalie get physically broken into several pieces by Marc-André Bergeron, put the clownish Ty Conklin in net, and lost the game when Conky went behind the net with 30 seconds on the clock and decided to pad Rod Brind'Amour's playoff scoring totals. They went on, of course, to lose the series, face a trade demand from their best player, move his heavily discounted contract to Anaheim for two disappointing youngsters, and miss the playoffs by a million miles as Anaheim won the Cup, laughing and jeering all the way. Meanwhile the CFL Eskimos finished last in the West and hence missed the playoffs for the first time since 1971; Kevin Martin couldn't get past the 3-4 Page game at the Brier; and our Northern League team, not that anyone gives a damn, enjoyed a losing season punctuated by a little-noticed June meltdown involving a vicious brawl, a deliberate forfeit, and the firing of the manager. The whole Chris Benoit thing isn't really "sports" but it certainly fits the ugly pattern—the guy had the same kind of status here that Brett Favre does in Wisconsin or Derek Jeter in NYC. Is it any wonder that some Edmonton fans are already cheering for the Oilers to tank the '08-'09 season just for a crack at John Tavares?

June 29, 2007

NP: The Predators and the prey

After the jump, you can read the original version of my Friday National Post column about the fight for the future of the Nashville Preds. The one that appeared in the paper ended up being slightly cryptic after editing, partly through my own fault. Close readers of my work are likely to complain that I often say completely contradictory things about the National Hockey League and its bosses from week to week, and I have no defence against the accusation. Here's what I think I think right now:

Continue reading "NP: The Predators and the prey" »

@FullComment.com: 'Cowering, ineffectual ninnies'

In my latest for FC I look at what's good and bad about the mighty Matt Taibbi's ninja-like Adbusters assault on modern liberalism. If you're interested in what he has to say without reading some right-wing crypto-fascist's petulant gloss on a topic that doesn't even really concern him, you can head straight to his article without stopping off for gas.

June 30, 2007

Benoitballs of the day

From today's Edmonton Sun:

Chris Benoit's family is fighting to come to terms with not only his death, but also the untimely demise of their daughter-in-law and grandchild, said the wrestler's father yesterday. An angry Michael Benoit shot back at the press for the family having to face a constant barrage of media coverage on the double murder-suicide. ...The negative portrayal of his son in the press has caused nothing but heartache for the family, including two of Benoit's children. "It's people looking for their 15 minutes of fame," said a disgusted Michael from his Ardrossan-area home.

I guess some of you probably think it would be unkind to call the grieving Michael Benoit a fool for suggesting that the media should not have covered his celebrity son's murder of his wife and disabled child, and that if they were to cover it, the reportage shouldn't include a "negative portrayal" of the murderer.

But I ask you, why should Michael Benoit be grieving? While other parents were encouraging their children to go for higher education, he was turning his boy over to be schooled in the Hart family "dungeon." I'm not much younger than Chris Benoit, and the wrestling game's propensity for premature death was well understood to my friends and I in high school. Journalism ethics lecturer Michael Benoit allowed his son to enter a profession in which essentially nobody lives to be 50. Chris killed himself on, or immediately after, his 40th birthday. Aside from the extravagant manner of his death, didn't Dad see any of this coming? He didn't think anything was strange about his child's physical transformation into a giant pink vein-streaked boulder?

Perhaps the journalists who were ultimately responsible for every single tiny step forward in his son's show business career are entitled to ask whether Chris's life in wrestling paid for the car his father drives, the home in which he lives, year after year of golf clubs and cufflinks and big-screen TVs for Christmas... but then, even if none of this came with the deal Mr. Benoit signed, you can't put a price on being the father of a superstar. At least not in dollars.

About June 2007

This page contains all entries posted to ColbyCosh.com in June 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

May 2007 is the previous archive.

July 2007 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Powered by
Movable Type 3.35