END OF TORINO 2006

– Getty

Well, it’s all over. What an Olympics! 24 medals for Canada. We’ve become an Olympics powerhouse now and looking forward to Vancouver 2010, we’re poised as a nation to become even more successful.

Right now, I’m absolutely beat. In case folks didn’t know, I worked every single day of the Olympics. I’m on Day 22 of my work schedule and I’m pretty spent at the moment. But it was worth it in every possible way. I love the Olympics and getting the chance to cover it professionally after years of just being interested in the Games as a fan was a real honour.

After some sleeping, recovering from my impending sickness and recharging, I’ll post some in-depth thoughts on Torino.

OPEN SOURCE KEEPS WINNING

Greetings,

Well with the Olympics almost over, I’m starting to wrap my head around some old interests like culture, technology and reading material again. I’m currently penning an article for my old publication, Diatribe, which seems to be getting back on its feet after the break-in (good news).

Now first off, even though many folks might think Beer.com is basically a forum for libidinous males to ogle very fine young women, there’s way more to it than that. The site has a technology streak in it and it’s constantly offering up great sites online that have useful purposes. Here’s a sampler.

Google Page Creator – Google’s kind of in this weird phase right now where they’ve got about a billion projects on the go and they’re facing some very traditional business model problems on expansion, project management and the like. But when Google nails it, do they ever: Google Page Creator could be a much-needed shot in the arm for web development. Get this: an expansive user interface that allows for some surprisingly sophisticated programming, 100 MB (!) of free storage, all tied to your GMail account. Can the Google OS, Google Browser we’ve been waiting for and online Google Office apps be far behind?

Democracy – How cool is this? An online television one-stop-shop with the screen resolution and video quality to compete with analog television. Damn right!

GCast – Free podcast hosting! I’m kind of interested in this, but recording a podcast from your phone? That sounds okay, but I can’t imagine what the sound quality is like.

I think the best part of these innovations is how they all subscribe to open source, free philosophies of technology integration in daily life; the closed systems that don’t encourage innovation are struggling more and more as content mediums. With a fresh round of lawsuits coming from the MPAA against torrent hosting sites, it’s becoming plainly clear to me that Lawrence Lessig of Creative Commons was onto something when he wrote Free Culture. The real culture wars in the 21st century will be between those who encourage innovation through technology and open source and those who place constraints (i.e. DRM) out of fear of losing control over digital properties. It’s more clear though, everyday, that a business model that embraces the “small is more” and “pay-per-click” on embedded ads is starting to really pay off.

Welcome to Web 2.0.

HOCKEY CANADA: WORST GAMES EVER

-AP Photo (don’t they look all intense? Guys, where was the intensity before the final two minutes on Wednesday?)
Greetings,

In spite of the fact this Winter Olympics has been incredible for Canada in every way
imaginable (Cindy Klassen should be the COC’s choice for flag bearer at the Closing Ceremonies on Sunday), the men’s hockey loss to Russia yesterday and the women’s gold medal win leaves me feeling surprisingly annoyed and even ashamed.

First off, the women. Listen ladies, I appreciate your gold medal win. But you did it in the worst possible way and potentially ruined women’s hockey at the Olympics for 2010 – it’s no secret that the I.O.C. wasn’t impressed with the brutal shellacking Canada delivered Italy and Russia (I guess team Canada thought it was 1924, not 2006, when Canada would routinely deliver 30-0 victories against weaker opponents), and it was all done with a strange aloofness on part of the coach, i.e. Melody Davison. After all the rationalizing was done (“we need the goals advantage!”) on part of the women, they end up the away team against an incredibly outgunned Swedish team that pulled a Lake Placid-esque moment of their own against the U.S. and find out all their efforts to run up the score were in vain. So excuse me if I don’t feel an outpouring of national pride when we won gold. I know there’s loads of pressure on Canada’s hockey teams to win gold at the Olympics, but when Don Cherry even says 16-0 wins against obviously overmatched teams like Italy is “un-Canadian,” you have to wonder. To paraphrase Marge Simpson, “there is such a thing as being a bad winner.” This being said, the IIHF put in a format that tacitly encouraged needlessly pounding on teams. So don’t blame the Canadian women entirely (although don’t let them off the hook either).

Onto the men, a team doomed to failure from the start. I never had confidence in this team, not for a one moment before, during or after their ignominious loss to a superior Russian squad on Wednesday. But let’s be clear: a team that had a combined payroll exceeding $90 million that can’t score in 11 of their final 12 periods? This team isn’t any different than the World Cup team of 2004; while excuses aplenty were being made to let this team off the hook (The Lockout! The NHL surface! The Distractions, oh my!), I lost a lot of respect for the leadership of Wayne Gretzky the last two days.

First of all, Todd Bertuzzi. It was bad karma selecting a dude whose actions wouldn’t be tolerated in the real world and his sharp decline in play made his choice questionable at best.

Second, it’s a lame excuse to say the NHL ice surface is what players like these are used to and that’s why they failed. That’s BS – many members of Team Canada played on international ice surfaces at Salt Lake City and they won there.

Third, it’s very convenient to mention the lockout as a reason why Canada sucked in men’s hockey this year—oddly enough, other teams in this tournament, i.e. Russia, have players in the NHL too.

Finally, Pat Quinn. Why? WHY? The guy’s on the razor’s edge in Toronto as it is; after this humiliating loss, he’s about two losses away from Richard Peddie calling up the media for a press conference to announce Quinn’s “retirement.” He’s worn out his welcome as Canada’s coach and hopefully Bob Nicholson will select a coach for 2010 who knows how to gel a team together for a competition that clearly isn’t a cakewalk and shouldn’t be treated as such.

It’s a damn shame that our hockey teams will continue to overshadow what has been a great Olympics for Canada. But let’s face facts: Canada, collectively, got arrogant about our country’s chances at hockey tournaments like these. I hold out hope in 2010, Canada will have a new management structure that doesn’t select players based on instinct or a GM’s intuition, a coach who knows how to make Canada’s elite players gel and, most importantly, instills a sense of humility into the Hockey Canada program. We’re one nation among many that are good enough to win gold, and we need to stop acting like we’re entitled to it.

RANDOM LIST

Greetings,

In the midst of checking out various blogs, there’s this list thing that’s been popping up here and there amongst some ex-Queen’s folks I knew. So, in the spirit of playing along, here’s my contribution.

Four Random Jobs I’ve Had

* Business Store Stockboy
* Nightclub Busboy
* Freelance Writer
* DJ

Four movies I can watch over and over:

* Heat
* Blade Runner
* The Commitments
* Aliens

Four places I have lived:

* Markham, ON
* Kingston, ON
* Halifax, NS
* Toronto, ON

Four TV shows I love to watch:

* The Simpsons
* The Family Guy
* The Hour
* Studio 2 (it’s a damn good show, TVO’s best)

Four places I have been on vacation:

* St. John’s, NL
* Montreal, QC
* Rome, Italy
* Seattle, WS

Four websites I visit daily:

* CBC.ca
* BBC News.com
* Slashdot
* Hotmail

Four of my favourite foods:

* Lasagna, Veggie or Meat
* Pizza w/one meat and onions, tomatoes and peppers
* Greek Salad
* Curry Chicken

Four things I love:

* Family and friends
* Books (lots of them)
* Broadband internet
* Red wine

Four things I dislike:

* Smugness
* Paris Hilton
* Judgmental attitudes
* Dogmatic beliefs of any kind

Four authors I most admire:

* Michael Ondaatje
* Northrop Frye
* Robertson Davies
* Mordecai Richler

NEWSPAPERS, VANITY FAIR AND WHAT A CENSORED INTERNET LOOKS LIKE

Greetings,

We interrupt this blog’s commentary on the XX Winter Olympics Games for a discussion on media topics.

Really, easy reading for a Saturday morning, yes?

THE FUTURE OF NEWSPAPERS: Salon has a terrific article on the future of newspapers (or the potential lack thereof) and the lack of readership among my age group. It’s looking at the issue exclusively from an American point of view, but there’s a trend emerging within newspaper markets throughout the Western world. Broadsheets like the Globe or Star are being read less and less by young folks but free commuter dailies (a mix of soft news, celebrity gossip and entertainment-driven pieces) are surging in growth along with web audiences for newspapers.

This isn’t exactly news. Broadsheets have been declining in readership for sometime now. I read newspapers like I drink water; it pretty much has to happen as often as possible for me to feel complete during the day.

I can’t really put my finger on why this is happening. You’d think in a post 9/11 world people would be seeking out as much information sources as possible; documentary films like Why We Fight (which, after the Olympics is over, I’m really looking forward to seeing), TV shows like The Daily Show and the many millions of blogs would be demonstrating a tangible need to know what’s going on.

I don’t buy the argument that “there’s no time” to read a newspaper. Please, I know the news is, like, “so down” and not very happy to read sometimes. I know it’s not a great way to start the day with new images of Abu Ghraib (Warning: these pictures are pretty horrible) as opposed to the latest ongoing of Brad and Angelina.

I think this is symptomatic of a larger problem in the West nowadays; the gradual disengagement of individuals from the premise of a civil society, or rather a shared dialogue amongst individuals in the public sphere. Newspapers run on the assumption that ideas can and should be shared among many people. Thing is though, digital technology is helping facilitate “egocasting” into the public sphere.

What I mean by this is take your average day in consuming media. For me, it starts out with CBC Radio in the morning. I’ll read the Globe and Mail and Toronto Star. I come online at work, run my RSS Reader that delivers me feeds from the BBC, Google News and the CBC. I’ll flick on the TV and go to CBC Newsworld, Pulse24 or CNN during the day as a TV is nearby. I’ll also listen to podcasts that specifically cater to my interests, like On The Media or Inside the Net. The point is: I’m creating my own culture of media that, while shared with some folks, isn’t a collective cultural focus. Not everyone listens to podcasts, not everyone uses an RSS Reader. I’m “egocasting” through reading, listening and watching content that feeds my beliefs and assumptions about the world. The Globe had a great piece on this a few weeks back during the federal election. This being said, I’m trying this year to do more to engage media with diverse viewpoints, including The Western Standard and the National Review.

-Salon.com

VANITY FAIR: Ok, ok. I picked up Tom Ford’s Hollywood issue for Vanity Fair. I really like Vanity Fair. It’s got some really great journalism in it and some decent stuff. Of course, there’s controversy over Tom Ford’s treatment of the annual Hollywood issue.

Rachel McAdams pulled out of the original trio of actresses on the front cover when she found out it would feature nudity. While sure, I’m not upset seeing Scarlett Johansson and Keira Knightly on the front, you really have to go inside the issue to get a better sense of the controversy and why Ford’s approach seems, well, I’ll say it: misogynist.

Every single shot in the issue that features women (including the shots of male actors) has women in positions of being purely sexual objects (including the genuinely creepy shot of Jason Schwartzman and a woman’s naked bod, sans head) or naked without a real sense of context. Nudity isn’t a bad thing, far from it, but comments I keep hearing from many women make a lot of sense: the double standards of nudity in Ford’s spread seem strangely out of place for 2006.

GOOGLE CHINA: I’m not particularly thrilled with Google’s decision to go along with China’s authoritarian local laws. I know, respect national sovereignty. And Google has every right to pursue its business in the ultra-lucrative Chinese market (Baidu.com has to have some competition), but here’s a site that will show you what a censored internet looks like. The good folks at Citizen Lab in Toronto have set up a site on OpenNet.Net that compares search results on Google.cn with Google.com. Interesting stuff.

FOUR MEDALS FOR CANADA

– Getty
Greetings,

What a great day for Canada! Four medals! I was beginning to think this Olympics was turning into a disaster for Canada; the last couple of days hadn’t been so much fun to watch, given how many Canadians expected to medal kept, well, not doing so hot.

But now Canada’s ranked fifth in the medals after speed skating, skeleton and figure skating (Jeff Buttle winning was totally out of left field – he had a lousy short program but hey, wonders never cease).

Maybe 20 medals isn’t out of the question after all.