Go Canada All about traveling & living in Canada. http://www.lunch.com/gocanada <![CDATA[ Falling Leafs]]>
Wait…. Editors message…. What the hell do you mean, it was a movie?! You realize that I now have to start this essay all over again?!

(Seven hours later….)

Okay. Ready now. It's incredible to see the NHL's legendary Toronto Maple Leafs spiral out of control the way they have over the past several decades. This is one of the league's premier teams we're talking about here, one of its oldest, and one with 13 Stanley Cups under its belt. (Only the Montreal Canadiens have more, with 24.) They are the most valuable franchise in the NHL. However, their best years appear to have just dropped off the face of the Earth. They haven't even made the Finals since 1967, which was the last year of the Original Six before the expansions began. How did this happen? Let's see if we can find out.

In 1909, the National Hockey Association was founded. They didn't have a team in Toronto, though, because none of the play places there were big enough. By 1911, though, they got that big-enough arena, and so they got a new team called the Toronto Blueshirts. (Officially, they were known only as Toronto Hockey Club, though.) They turned into an excellent team, too, winning the Stanley Cup in 1914 and 1918. After winning that first Stanley Cup, they were bought by a man named Eddie Livingstone. Unfortunately, Livingstone was a real asshole. See, his entrance into the NHA pissed off the other owners because the league charter forbade one owner to own more than one team, and when Livingstone bought the Blueshirts, he already owned the Toronto Shamrocks. He also argued with the owners of his team's arena over lease terms and threatened to move the team to Boston. He bickered over the rights to players. When the league was reduced to five teams in 1917 and needed to vote to suspend one in order to keep the league going on an even number of teams, it shouldn't surprise you by now to learn it was the Blueshirts who were suspended. Nor should it come as a big shock that this didn't sit well with Livingstone, who sued the other owners. By November of 1917, the other owners were fed up, but their league constitution didn't allow them to simply vote the Blueshirts out. So they suspended their whole league and, without telling Livingstone anything, formed a whole new league of their own: The National Hockey League. Although the NHA was officially now a one-team league, the founding NHL teams remained members of the NHA on paper and were able to keep voting down Livingstone's attempts to keep the league running.

At the time, Toronto was Canada's second-largest city, so naturally the NHL needed a team there. The Toronto Arena Company was given a temporary franchise, and they got to use the old Blueshirt players until the quarrels with Livingstone were finished. The Toronto team, still called the Blueshirts or just the Torontos, won the inaugural Stanley Cup in the new league. In spite of the Blueshirt players on the roster, NHL history records the Blueshirts' and Leafs' histories as separate. The next season, the NHA voted against playing again, which of course was code for the fact that all the owners would be doting over the NHL. Livingstone filed another lawsuit, and instead of settling and giving money or players to Livingstone, the Arena Company returned its temporary franchise to the NHL and then created a new one of its very own! The new team was called the Toronto Arena Hockey Club, better known as the Toronto Arenas. With Livingstone fighting to bring back the NHA, the Arena Company decided only NHL teams would be allowed to compete on their home ice, which was a decisive blow to Livingstone. Livingstone's lawsuits dragged through the Canadian legal system for almost a decade, and while the courts eventually decided in his favor, he never got his team back.

Lawsuits have a habit of piling up bills, though, and these bills were taking chunks of change so big that the Arenas had to start selling off their stars. For the 1919 season, they won a putrid five games and were so bad, they actually requested permission to suspend themselves before league president Frank Calder talked them out of it. Five-game winners have a habit of sitting out Finals no matter what the sport (most of the time, anyway), so they got to watch the 1919 Finals between the Seattle Metropolitans and Montreal Canadiens on TV or, well, whatever it was they used back in those days. The 1919 Finals were called off by a Spanish Flu epidemic, though; Montreal, having basically no team, tried to forfeit. Seattle, wanting to be sportsmanlike about it, refused to take the Cup. The Finals were cancelled and the NHL records the Stanley Cup as unawarded for the season. But since the Arenas were desperate for a bright spot that year, they proclaimed themselves the World Champions anyway, by default.

In 1919, Livingstone (christ, we're STILL on this guy?) won a judgement against the Arena Company for a cool $20,000. Upon getting the decision, the Arena Company , acting quickly, declared bankruptcy just to fuck him over. They were sold, and former Arenas manager Charlie Querrie put together a group of people who had run an amateur team from the Ontario Hockey Association called the St. Patricks. So that became the new team name. In 1922, the St. Patricks finished second to the Ottawa Senators, but caught fire in the playoffs and fought the Sens themselves in a two-game Finals which was decided by the total number of goals scored. Ottawa scored four. Toronto, five. It was their second Stanley Cup, and the only one they pulled in as the Toronto St. Patricks. They missed the playoffs in four of the next five years, though.

In the late 20's, Querrie lost a lawsuit to Livingstone (ach! HIM again!) and sold the St. Patricks to an ownership group led by Toronto Varsity Graduates coach Conn Smythe. Smythe argued that Querrie should reject a better offer coming from Philadelphia, because civic pride was more important than money. When Smythe took over on Valentine's Day of 1927, he renamed the team the Maple Leafs. The next year, they played for the first time wearing their iconic blue and white sweaters. Smythe's teams started a little slow; they were pretty bad for his first four years. But it wasn't too long before Smythe started performing the work that made his name one of the chief names hockey historians absolutely have to know. He put together the great Kid Line, featuring Busher Jackson, Joe Primeau, and Charlie Conacher and matched them with coach Dick Irvin. In 1932, they went the distance and defeated the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Finals. Smythe was quite happy about that; he had been tapped as The Man to run the Rangers, but was fired within a year because of a dispute only to be upended by them.

Eddie Shore of the Boston Bruins almost killed Leafs star forward Ace Bailey in 1933 with a nasty hit from behind. Coming to Bailey's aid, Red Horner knocked Shore out, but Bailey was writhing on the ice. His career was over, but the Leafs avenged him by reaching the Finals. In fact, they got to the Finals in five of the following seven years, but never won. One of the losses was to the now-defunct Montreal Maroons. Their 1940 loss was to the Rangers, which I'm sure Smythe was ecstatic (read: royally fucking pissed off) about. In 1940, the Leafs helped keep their archrivals, the Montreal Canadiens, in the league. They were pretty much dead at that point, and Smythe didn't want to see them go, so to get them to be good enough to make them a gate attraction, he asked them to hire Dick Irvin. Yep, his own outstanding coach. Irvin went on to win the Stanley Cup three more times with Montreal, setting them up to become the most successful team in NHL history. Smythe replaced him with Hap Day, and he couldn't complain. Day took them back to the Finals in 1942, where they came back from a 3-1 series hole against the Detroit Red Wings to win. No other team has pulled that off since.

The Maple Leafs proved to be deep and rich with talent. In the early 40's, like every other team, they were getting decimated by aging stars, plus health problems, plus some ridiculous little war that was going on. So their lesser-known players like Frank McCool (yes, that was his real name) and Babe Pratt. Despite all their losses, they still won the Stanley Cup in 1945. And then in 1947 as well. Also in 1948. And 1949. Those last three were the first time any NHL team put together such a streak of Cup successes. With the 1948 victory, the Leafs claimed the title for most Stanley Cups over the Canadiens, a record Montreal would take back in ten years. In 1951, the Leafs and Canadiens met in the Finals. All five games went to overtime. In the fifth game, Tod Sloan scored with 42 seconds left to send the game to overtime, where Bill Barilko scored the winner for Toronto, which clinched the series and brought Toronto a fourth Stanley Cup in five years. Sadly, Barilko disappeared in a plane crash four months later near Timmins, Ontario. A popular Canadian band, The Tragically Hip, wrote the song "Fifty Mission Cap" based on his plight.

After 1951, Toronto wasn't playing like they used to, so the Cup went to the Canadiens and Detroit Red Wings year after year. The Habs' 50's dynasty closed with a sweep of Toronto. In the 60's, though, Toronto was able to pick up another band of future legends like Frank Mahovlich, Red Kelly, Johnny Bower, Dave Keon, Andy Bathgate, and Tim Horton under their great coach and general manager, Punch Imlach. Imlach brought them more Stanley Cups in 1962, 1963, 1964, and 1967. The 1967 Stanley Cup is a sentimental watershed for the Leafs. They played in the Finals against Montreal, and Montreal was such a heavy favorite that they built a Stanley Cup stand for the 1967 World Expo in the city. The Leafs were written off as has-beens, but their experience proved to be a difference-maker as they clinched the Stanley Cup in six games.

Imlach may have won the Stanley Cup four times, but he had a few key flaws as a coach. First, he was autocratic and insulting. Andy Bathgate publicly complained about him in 1965. Second, he never could accept the Players' Association, which was created around that time. That presumably caused a lot of friction, since it was led by Leaf players. Third, he couldn't seem to figure out the new talent influx brought about by the 1967 expansion. He engineered a ton of turnover but there wasn't any improvement, so Stafford Smythe (Conn's son, who owned the team now) fired him after a bad first round playoff loss to the Boston Bruins.

Ownership changed hands from Stafford Smythe to Harold Ballard after Ballard, a partner, bought Smythe's shares after Smythe's death. Stafford Smythe's boy Thomas insists Ballard doctored the will in order to do that. No matter what happened, it doesn't change the fact that Ballard became one of the most hated owners in NHL history. He traded the team's most popular players, blocked Dave Keon from signing with another NHL team when his contract wore out - causing him to jump to the WHA - and actively kept payroll as low as he could get away with in order to reel in as much money as he could. The Toronto Maple Leafs on the 70's featured players like Darryl Sittler, Lanny McDonald, Tiger Williams, Ian Turnbull, and Borje Salming. They were competitive, but they only made it past the first round of the playoffs once. That changed in 1979, when Ballard brought back Punch Imlach as GM. They were friends, see, and if you can figure out the kinds of goofy shenanigans the duo got up to, then you're the first star because you've been paying attention! Yeah, McDonald was traded to the Colorado Rockies, pissing off Sittler, who was the Captain. A member of the team anonymously told the Toronto Star that Ballard and Imlach would do anything to get at him, and trading McDonald was their way of trying to undermine Sittler's influence. They were also pissed that so many of their players were bitching about their contracts, and in response to the trade, Sittler resigned as Captain and the team trashed its locker room. Sittler's agent said the trade was classless, and the Leafs began a downward spiral. Sittler - Toronto's all-time leading scorer - was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers two years later.

The 1979 Leafs finished five games under .500 and only made the playoffs because the Quebec Nordiques, a holdover from the WHA merger, were there to pad them in the standings. (Ballard, of course, had thrown a hissy about the merger because the WHA's three Canadian teams had undermined his revenue and, uh, oh yeah, some shit about roster raids or some such.) For the following twelve years, they were barely competitive. They missed the playoffs six times, finished about fourth only once, and posted a .500 record only once. In the 1985 season, they finished 32 games under .500, the second-worst in their history. The times they made the playoffs, they did so with terrible records because it's the NHL and they make playoff teams out of non-NHL teams that don't even know what hockey is in that league. In 1988, they finished with the third-worst record in their history and the second-worst record in the league and were still in contention on the last day of the season. They got in that year because their division was so bad that only Detroit had a winning record.

Ballard died in 1990 and the team was bought by another Ballard friend, supermarket tycoon Steve Stavro. Fortunately, "friend" in this case didn't mean "lackey." Stavro hated the spotlight and decided to not interfere with the team. When Cliff Fletcher took over as GM in 1992, he turned the Leafs into contenders overnight. Since Toronto was the league's fourth-largest market, the Leafs weren't impacted badly from escalating player salaries, and a legion of new stars like Doug Gilmour, Dave Andreychuk, and Felix Potvin brought the Leafs to the brink in 1993. They played their way into the Campbell Conference Finals, where they matched up against the Los Angeles Kings. In a classic series, one player ultimately made the difference. That player was Wayne Gretzky who, by the way, didn't play for the Leafs. In 1999, they made another run to the Conference Finals and with talent like Curtis Joseph, Mats Sundin, Steve Thomas, and Sergei Berezin, they were favored to return to the Finals. It wasn't meant to be that year, either. They were offed in five games and mostly played like they were intimidated by the vicious, physical Buffalo Sabres team they were playing against.

The Leafs proved to be a strong team early in the millennium, but they never closed. In 2004, they had perhaps their grand opportunity, finishing their best in 41 years. They got to the second round of the playoffs, were the Flyers sent them packing. Mats Sundin, the team's longtime Captain, left in 2008, by which time the team was struggling again.

Ordinarily I start this part of my reviews with lists of retired numbers these days. However, the Toronto Maple Leafs aren't one of those teams that does that sort of thing for the most part. They've only done it twice, and those numbers are there to honor Bill Barilko and Ace Bailey. The former disappeared in a plane crash, the latter was crippled in a nasty on-ice incident. They DO honor numbers, though, and their honors list has Johnny Bower, Turk Broda, Hap Day, Red Kelly, King Clancy, Tim Horton, Charlie Conacher, Ted Kennedy, Syl Apps, George Armstrong, Wendel Clark, Borje Salming, Frank Mahovlich, Darryl Sittler, and Doug Gilmour. Some legends who have suited up in The TO include Ed Belfour, Gerry Cheevers, Pierre Pilote, Joe Nieuwendyk, Grant Fuhr, and Terry Sawchuk.

Rivalries? Montreal. BIG. Been called hockey's greatest, and much as fans like myself pull for the Detroit Red Wings/Chicago Blackhawks rivalry, Toronto/Montreal is difficult to dispute. Objectively speaking, the Maple Leafs/Canadiens rivalry was more of a rivalry than Red Wings/Blackhawks because both of these rivalries go back through the Original Six years. Those four teams are the only ones during the Original Six quarter century that ever won the Stanley Cup, but even as a Hawks fan, a fact of puckhead life I have to face is that the Blackhawks don't really belong on the list of Original Six Stanley Cup teams. The era ran from 1942 to 1967, Chicago only won the Stanley Cup once, an aberration victory in 1961. The rest of it was dominated by Detroit, Toronto, and Montreal, who won it every year except 1961. Toronto and Montreal were stealing the title of team with the most Stanley Cups during those years. They were COMPETITIVE. And now, both have fallen on extended Cup-less stretches together. Both seem to be rising powers with each other these days. The rivalry was a feature of a short story called The Hockey Sweater, a classic of Canadian literature. These days, they're also duking it out with the Ottawa Senators. In Buffalo, we like to believe there's a hard rivalry with the Sabres, but Toronto doesn't seem to take that very seriously.

The Montreal/Toronto rivalry can even extent to cultural influence. The Montreal Canadiens are the New York Yankees of hockey. The Toronto Maple Leafs of the Pittsburgh Steelers of hockey! Leafs fans are everywhere. You can't get a ticket, even during the bad years, and the season ticket list has 2500 names on it. The fans pop up everywhere, at every game, and this even extends to hockey fans living in Sun Belt cities. The iconic blue and white sweater of the Maple Leafs is constantly among the best-selling in the league. Huge numbers of Leafs fans also live in the Ottawa Valley and the Niagara Region, so whenever the Leafs visit Ottawa or Buffalo for games, there's an almost 50/50 split of fans in the audiences. This is in spite of hardly being rewarded. In a ranking list of all 122 professional sports teams in the Big Four North American sports leagues, the Leafs were ranked 121.

References to the Toronto Maple Leafs are everywhere in Canadian popular culture as well. The Kids in the Hall, an acclaimed sketch comedy from the early 90's, sometimes referenced them. Comedy team Wayne and Shuster performed a sketch on their old radio show in which their imaginary team, the Mimico Mice, played against the Leafs. Foster Hewitt wrote a novel in 1949 called He Shoots, He Scores! which featured actual players and managers of the team. Actually, several books featured the Leafs. One of them, a 1971 romance novel called Face-off, was turned into a movie. I already mentioned a certain song by The Tragically Hip. Mike Meyers is a big time Maple Leafs fan who often hides his love for his team in movies in ways both subtle and not. In Goldmember, there's a scene where Mini-Me wears the Leafs sweater, and another scene with a news ticker which at one point says "Maple Leafs win Stanley Cup." The Love Guru revolved entirely around a guru who was hired by the Leafs to help their star player sort out his head so he could lead the Leafs to the Cup.

You can't be blamed for adopting the Toronto Maple Leafs. When people tell me maybe they would like to adopt the Buffalo Sabres as their team, I first ask them if they're crazy. Then I point out that Toronto is only a 90-minute drive from Buffalo. Given a lot of factors, though, I can't give them too high a rating, especially based on a Stanley Cup drought which is now the longest in the NHL. The Leafs are the only Original Six team which has failed to win the Stanley Cup in my lifetime. They haven't even made the Finals. On the upside, though, that may just add to a developing mystique which blows into Chicago Cubs proportions.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/sports_team/UserReview-Toronto_Maple_Leafs-143-1390116-233940-Falling_Leafs.html http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/sports_team/UserReview-Toronto_Maple_Leafs-143-1390116-233940-Falling_Leafs.html Tue, 26 Feb 2013 18:19:28 +0000
<![CDATA[Ice Hockey Quick Tip by BaronSamedi3]]> http://www.lunch.com/puckdropshere/reviews/d/UserReview-Ice_Hockey-1237-1334422-233263.html http://www.lunch.com/puckdropshere/reviews/d/UserReview-Ice_Hockey-1237-1334422-233263.html Mon, 4 Feb 2013 16:43:11 +0000 <![CDATA[ Canada's Baseball Team]]>
Toronto was in the discussion as a potential Major League Baseball city way back starting in the 1880's, and no, that's not a typo. From 1896 to 1967, Toronto was fielding an International League team called the Maple Leafs. In 1976, the first real effort to get a team into Toronto was pushed by Horace Stoneham. Recognize that name? He owned the San Francisco Giants at the time, and yes, he had every intention of turning them into the Toronto Giants when he tried to sell them to Labatt Breweries of Canada - basically the Canadian version of Budweiser. A US court put the clamps on that deal, though, and the next year Bob Lurie came along, bought the Giants, and kept them in San Francisco. But by the time that happened, Toronto was already so convinced of the Giants' relocation that they had already built a baseball stadium, Exhibition Stadium, so perhaps out of embarrassment, they kept gunning for that baseball team. Labatt led the effort again, and in 1976 they managed to buy the rights to an MLB team, along with Seattle, which also got a new team for themselves. The placement of America's Pastime in Canada didn't sit well with a lot of Americans who thought Washington DC needed another new team, but those didn't amount to anything. Toronto kept their new team. The name came from a name the team contest from which over 4000 entries popped up.

The Blue Jays began play in 1977, when they Jays beat the Chicago White Sox in a minor snowstorm. That was the first victory for the Toronto Blue Jays, which was the first of 54 that year in a last place finish. The next season saw the Jays improve, shall I say, exponentially (sic). But hey, an improvement was an improvement, even if it was by only four and a half games. By the next season, let's just say…. Things were expected. Things happened, and the Jays finished last again, going 53-109. At least 1979 gave fans something to watch with rookie shortstop Alfredo Griffin, who was co-Rookie of the Year.

In baseball, finishing a season with over 100 losses once usually gets you axed. Doing it three straight times means the owner's daughter must love you. But in baseball, loss will overcome love, and the Jays' first manager, Roy Hartsfield, was let go. Bobby Mattick took over. The Jays…. Remained at the bottom. Standings didn't make the whole story that year, though, and despite finishing last again, the team showed a very substantial improvement with a 67-95 record. Jim Clancy led the pitching rotation with 13 wins and John Mayberry hit 30 homers.

It wasn't until 1982 that the Jays put up an effort which could easily be called solid. Bobby Cox came in to manage, and Toronto went 78-84. It was their first season not being in last. They came next to last, but that's splitting hairs, especially seeing as how the Blue Jays reeled off two very good years following. In 1983 and 1984, they ended the season finishing 89-73, coming in second place both years behind eventual World Series Champions in both years. In 1984, they also picked up a Dominican shortstop named Tony Fernandez, who stayed with the team for awhile and became a big fan favorite. In 1985, the Jays won the first of five division titles.

Yep, it's safe to say that by the late 80's, everything was comin' up Blue Jay. Jesse Barfield and George Bell were hitting home runs all over the place, Jimmy Key and Jim Clancy turned into good, reliable pitchers, the Skydome opened in 1989, and hitting coach Cito Gaston was promoted to regular manager that same year. In 1990, Dave Stieb pitched a no-hitter, the only one in the team's history. That was the year the Blue Jays began loading up. They traded Tony Fernandez and Fred McGriff to the San Diego Padres for Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar, grabbed Devon White from the California Angels, and in 1991 they became the first MLB team to draw over 4 million fans in a season, a number no doubt inflated by the Skydome's massive size.

In 1992, the Blue Jays went 96-66, and were never swept in any season series. They met the Oakland Athletics in the ALCS, which included a thrilling comeback win in game four in which the Jays rallied back from a 6-1 hole. They took the ALCS four games to two, won the Pennant, and brought the World Series outside the United States for the first time ever when they faced the Atlanta Braves. In game two of the World Series, the Jays won off a ninth-inning home run from Ed Sprague. Stellar individual efforts from Jimmy Key, Pat Borders, and Mike Timlin kept the Blue Jays in the Series. Ed Sprague and Dave Winfield came through in clutch moments, and the Toronto Blue Jays walked out of Atlanta on October 24, 1992 with Canada's first-ever World Series title. In 1993, the Blue Jays had seven players at the All-Star game. That happened en route to a 95-67 record and their second World Series title, this time against the Philadelphia Phillies.

The strike turned out to be a good thing for the Blue Jays because, despite high expectations going with, you know, back to back World Series titles, they started to slump. In 1995, those titles started to take their toll, and the Blue Jays started developing an endless case of World Series hangover. The 1995 team had most of the same cast as their World Series teams, but they finished 56-88, good enough for last. 1996 wasn't quite that bad a write-off. The Blue Jays did get solid years out of pitcher Pat Hentgen, who won the Cy Young, and Ed Sprague. Those didn't prevent them from winning only 74 games and finishing fourth. 1997 began with higher hopes than the previous couple of years because the Boston Red Sox once had a hell of an ace pitcher named Roger Clemens. Although Clemens had been bad over the previous few seasons with Boston and the Red Sox had every good reason to let him go, Clemens decided to teach Boston a lesson by showing up in good shape in Toronto. He won the Cy Young and the Pitchers' Triple Crown, leading the league in record, ERA, and strikeouts. It wasn't enough to lift the Jays back into contention, and Cito Gaston was fired with five more games left in the season.

That actually became sort of the theme of the Toronto Blue Jays for the next couple of years. In 1998, they got Randy Myers and Jose Canseco. They did much better, going 88-74, but that was only good for third while the New York Yankees posted 114 wins that year. In 1999, they got David Wells, Homer Bush, and Graeme Lloyd. But they also fired their manager, Tim Johnson, because he lied about a lot of things apparently to motivate his players. Jim Fregosi was a capable replacement - hell, even David Wells liked him - but the Jays couldn't make up for having Clemens traded to the Yankees. In 2000, the Jays had a great hitting lineup with Carlos Delgado, Tony Batista, Jose Cruz Jr., Raul Mondesi, and a bunch of others. It was another winning season, but not quite winning enough. By 2001, the Jays were back under the even break mark.

The Toronto Blue Jays since then have been respectable. They've had more winning seasons than losing seasons, but they've never cracked 90 wins, and mostly they seem stuck in 80-win territory no matter what their record looks like. They've played some great players: Ted Lilly, Roy Halladay, Vernon Wells, Troy Glaus, Alex Rios, and Frank Thomas have all been Blue Jays since the millennium. They've had some fun All-Stars. These haven't translated to very much. Perhaps if the Blue Jays were an AL Central team, they could have done a bit more damage, won a couple of division titles, and returned to the postseason and maybe even the World Series. Unfortunately, the eternal soap opera between the Yankees and Red Sox has been stealing both the talent and the attention. The Blue Jays are trying very, very hard to be as good as they were in the late 80's and early 90's again. If anything shows that, it's this current offseason. When the Miami Marlins decided to dump all their players again, it was Toronto that caught their biggest: Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio. As I write this, it's two days after the Jays also made a trade with the New York Mets which netted RA Dickey, who is coming off a spectacular season for an underperforming Mets team in which he won the Cy Young, one of the few knuckleball pitchers to ever do that.

Roberto Alomar, Pat Gillick, Rickey Henderson, Phil Niekro, Dave Winfield, and Paul Molitor are the Blue Jays enshrined in Cooperstown. Only Alomar is in the Hall wearing the Blue Jays logo. Tony Fernandez, George Bell Boberto Alomar, Carlos Delgado, Joe Carter, Dave Stieb, Cito Gaston, Tom Cheek, Paul Beeston, and Pat Gillick are all honored with numbers in the 400 level of the Skydome, which is called the Level of Excellence. Delgado's enshrinement there hasn't happened just yet; it will occur next year, on July 21. These numbers, however, aren't actually retired.

Outside of the Cito Gaston years with five division titles and two World Series titles, there's not a lot of big defining moments which people identify exclusively with the Blue Jays. They are identified primarily by the fact that they're the only Canadian team in Major League baseball, Montreal having lost the Expos in 2005. The Blue Jays are the only MLB team covered through all of Canada, although their only exclusive territory is in Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland, and the territories (Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, and Yukon). They share New Brunswick and Nova Scotia with the Boston Red Sox. Manitoba and Saskatchewan are the shared territory of the Minnesota Twins, while Alberta and British Columbia also have Toronto's expansion mates, the Seattle Mariners.

It's also very difficult to identify rivalries for the Blue Jays. Technically, they have to spend the most time dealing with the Yankees, Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles, and Tampa Bay Rays. But hell, that's their division, the AL East, and everything there takes a backseat to the constant mudslinging between the Yankees and Red Sox. Even the recently-powerful Rays and resurgent Orioles still find themselves ducking under the crossfire in the Boston/New York arms race taking place twelve months every year.

You have to like the Toronto Blue Jays. They're trying to make noise in a division which has baseball's two loudest noisemakers. You have to believe in the city of Toronto, Canada's cultural, economic response to New York City. The Jays, I'm sure, will keep fighting for their recognition, as well as for the next World Series title which it always seems to have potential to take.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/sports_team/UserReview-Toronto_Blue_Jays-143-1391347-230856-Canada_s_Baseball_Team.html http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/sports_team/UserReview-Toronto_Blue_Jays-143-1391347-230856-Canada_s_Baseball_Team.html Wed, 19 Dec 2012 16:27:38 +0000
<![CDATA[ These Raptors Bite]]>
Toronto has a history with the NBA, and it goes back further than you would first expect. When the league was formed, the majority of the folks who owned teams in it had stakes in the NHL, and they wanted people to fill in their arenas' empty seats while the hockey players sat at their huge summer homes in British Columbia. (Actually, while they worked in the offseason. This was the olden days.) The Toronto Huskies were one of the league's original teams. They lasted only that single season in 1946-1947, went 22-38, and they had the distinction of losing the first-ever NBA game to the New York Knicks (http://www.lunch.com/reviews/sports_team/Use...he_New_York_Groove.html) by a score of 68-66. Their leading scorer was a guy named Mike McCarron, who posted 649 points in 60 games. Ed Sadowski had the highest points-per-game average, with 19.1. Although the Huskies died after that lone season, there is a group of basketball fans in Toronto who want to abolish the name of the Toronto Raptors and bring back the name and colors of the original Toronto Huskies. The name makes a lot more sense, so I guess I'm in agreement with them. They have a website at TorontoHuskies.org.

The current team, the Toronto Raptors, was awarded to Toronto in 1993. They were part of the Canadian expansion from that year, along with the Vancouver Grizzlies. The Grizzlies have since moved to Memphis, and so the Raptors are now the only NBA team in Canada. Originally the plan was to bring back the Huskies nickname in the first place, but management apparently lacked anything remotely resembling an imagination. Their excuse for not using the Huskies nickname was that there was no way they could design a logo which looked like it was ripping off the logo of the Minnesota Timberwolves. So the Raptors name was decided by a nationwide contest, including, presumably, Vancouver. Of the ten final prospects, apparently Canadians favored Raptors over the following names: Beavers, Bobcats, Dragons, Grizzlies, Hogs, Raptors, Scorpions, T-Rex, Tarantulas, and Terriers. Beavers or Bobcats would have actually received my personal vote, but it was 1993, and the movie Jurassic Park was really popular, so Raptors was decided. Their colors were red, purple, black, and silver. Technically, the silver was called Naismith silver in honor of Canadian James Naismith, who created the game of basketball.

At their first press conference, they revealed their first General Manager: Isiah Thomas! You now know everything you need to know about those early Raptors teams. But Lunch is a harsh mistress and we've apparently both got more time to kill, so I guess I'll fill you in on all the other pointless details.

Actually, the early Raptors were a very confusing team. On paper, they sucked, and in the standings, they also sucked. That may tell a lot of the story, but the Raptors first hit the hardwood in 1995, when they won their first-ever game 94-79. It was over the New Jersey Nets, granted, but it was a win in a season when the win column would only add up to 21. That season happened to be the year the Chicago Bulls (http://www.lunch.com/reviews/d/UserReview-Ch...atest_Bullfighters.html) set the all-time win record at a whopping 72 victories, so it was saying something that the Raptors were one of the ten teams that came out on top of them in the regular season. Their bight rookie, Damon Stoudamire, was Rookie of the year. The following year, the Raptors won 30 games. Again, they were one of the few teams in the league that toppled the Chicago Bulls. Actually, the Raptors spent the year going to town on the NBA's elite: They beat the Houston Rockets, Utah Jazz, and Miami Heat, all of whom played in their conference finals series that year. But they struggled against everyone else, and somehow managed to lose three games to a terrible Boston Celtics (http://www.lunch.com/reviews/sports_team/Use...-The_Big_Green_Men.html) squad that won only 15 games that year.

1998 NBA draft. Vince Carter. Carter was actually the result of a draft day trade; the Raptors sent their fourth pick to the Golden State Warriors for Carter, who was picked fifth overall. They also made a trade for popular Knicks player Charles Oakley. Kevin Willis was also taken in that trade, and Doug Christie was brought in. Christie developed into one of the league's best, and to top everything off, the Raptors hired a new coach in Butch Carter. The team turned around in 1999, even though they missed the playoffs in that strike season.

The 2000 season saw the Raptors emerge. They opened a new arena, the Air Canada Centre, after four years at the cavern known as the Skydome. They went 45-37 and made the playoffs and it was considered a good year, even though Toronto was swept by New York in the playoffs in the first round. Vince Carter won the slam dunk contest, and that made new basketball fans of a lot of people around Toronto. 2001 had the Raptors winning 47 games, and it is generally considered THE watermark season for the team. They lost a classic seven-game series to the Philadelphia 76ers. Game seven came down to the final seconds, and Vince Carter was criticized for making the decision to attend his graduation ceremony at the University of North Carolina that morning. Now, I'm not very fond of Vince Carter, after all the shit he pulled. But I don't blame him for attending his graduation. After all, he was a young, talented player for a good team and he had the chance to make the playoffs over and over again. He only had one chance to attend his graduation. That was a personal mark, like a wedding, and if I was in his position, I would have made the same decision. Actually, that's putting too much weight on it; it implies there would have even been a decision, and graduation is so far above a first-round playoff series that sports are totally moot next to it.

2003 began another down period for the Raptors. He admitted slacking off in order to force a trade, and was eventually given one. Fortunately for the team, the 2003 draft yielded Chris Bosh, who was named to the all-rookie team. When Carter gone, he stepped into the role as a franchise player, and he currently holds most of the team records. Even so, they struggled for the next few years, finally turning a corner when they won their first - and so far only - division title in 2006. Bosh eventually left to join the Miami Heat (http://www.lunch.com/reviews/sports_team/Use...mer_Heat_is_Brutal.html).

The Raptors haven't been that good even when they were winning, as you can clearly see. Despite a few winning seasons, the Raptors have never had a coach end his tenure with the team with a winning record, and they've never broken the 50-win mark. They have no titles, no conference titles, or even any playoff series victories. They have no retired numbers. They only have that single, lone little division title. Fans didn't seem to appreciate the purple togs, either, and the team eventually left them behind, too. That means they threw out even the one color people used to identify with them.

But it's not all bad. There may be reason for optimism. The Raptors have enjoyed a very consistent fanbase, if anything, and in three of their seasons they actually set attendance records. Also, the actual value of the Raptors seems to be going up. Maybe it helps that they're the only team in Canada nowadays, but at the start of the millennium, they took just five years to more than double their value. They have a very nice promotion that whenever the team scores over 100 points, all the fans get coupons for free pizza, so that's always nice.

Besides those, though, there isn't yet a whole lot of reason to throw your lot in with the Toronto Raptors. At least, not for anything other than potential. I know Toronto. I've been there several times and believe in the city wholeheartedly. I think they just need to make better pushes to promote Toronto to better free agents. But they haven't had any truly great identifiable players or moments or games and they're named after a brief cultural fascination from the 90's, so while they're likable, it pains me to throw them at the bottom of the heap for now.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/sports_team/UserReview-Toronto_Raptors-143-1388098-226758-These_Raptors_Bite.html http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/sports_team/UserReview-Toronto_Raptors-143-1388098-226758-These_Raptors_Bite.html Sat, 14 Jul 2012 20:40:54 +0000
<![CDATA[UFC 58: USA vs. Canada Quick Tip by FM_ALEX]]> This was the event that the UFC held that pit US fighters against those from Canada, and for the most part it was a good event. Of course like another time BJ Penn would get cheated in my opinion. I don't think their should really be a country vs country thing going on in MMA because it is [Mixed Martial Arts] and that is styles from all over the world that every fighter has to be well rounded in, this isn't wrestling [which I love] that can have a story line like this. Any way this event would see the first BJ Penn vs GSP fight and still to this day I believe that Penn won, that is just me though.]]> http://www.lunch.com/reviews/d/UserReview-UFC_58_USA_vs_Canada-1432702-215053.html http://www.lunch.com/reviews/d/UserReview-UFC_58_USA_vs_Canada-1432702-215053.html Sun, 6 Nov 2011 05:02:07 +0000 <![CDATA[ PENN WON THIS WITH OUT A DOUBT, JUST ADD THE SCORES CORRECTLY]]>

UFC 58

This was the event that the UFC held that pit US fighters against those from Canada, and for the most part it was a good event. Of course like another time BJ Penn would get cheated in my opinion. I don't think their should really be a country vs country thing going on in MMA because it is [Mixed Martial Arts] and that is styles from all over the world that every fighter has to be well rounded in, this isn't wrestling [which I love] that can have a story line like this. Any way this event would see the first BJ Penn vs GSP fight and still to this day I believe that Penn won, that is just me though.

1.ICHO LARENAS VS TOM MURPHY-we get a good first round with back and forth action and we even get our first blood of the night. A decent first round with Tom coming out on top I think. The second round starts with Icho getting taken down by Tom, Tom controls from the top for most of this. The rest of the round is them getting stood up and Tom getting the take down. The third round looks just like the second one with Tom winning by a referee stoppage, USA takes this one I guess.

2.ROB MACDONALD VS JASON LAMBERT-the fight starts out with these two just banging away at each other with Jason swinging for the fences. Then Jason slams Rob hard but both pop up right after that, but once they are back on the ground Jason sinks in a nice kimura. This is an excellent but short fight, nice and exciting and USA takes another.

3.SAM STOUT VS SPENCER FISHER-the first round starts with Fisher just coming in and taking Sam down, but he gets up quick. Fisher throws Sam masterfully but gets nailed as Sam is coming back up, then they trade blows. These two guys battle it out standing and on the ground for the entire round, great first round. The second round is just like the first and is very close, and Fisher try's some nice submissions, excellent second round. The third round is just as exciting as the first and second and they even show some good sportsmanship when one losses his mouth piece. The fight goes to a split decision and Sam Stout ends up taking this hard fought battle, Canada takes this one.

4.MARK HOMINICK VS YVES EDWARDS-if you are an MMA fan then you know who Yves Edwards is, he is a deadly man in the octagon. Good first round between these two as they exchange blows for the entire round and stay in the clinch for a good amount of time while throwing some blows. In the second round Yves takes this to the ground after he is rocked but Mark lays in a tight triangle choke and forces Yves to tap, great fight, Canada takes this one.

5.JOE DOERKSEN VS NATHAN MARQUADT-these two came to entertain the crowd in this fight as they both just go at it full force. Both deliver a great stand up game and also go at it on the ground, great first round. These two put on another great showing in the second round as both take the other down and sweep each other, and go blow for blow. The second round is just as competitive as the first, maybe more so. The third round is just like the previous two as Nathan Marquadt takes the victory for the USA.

6.BJ PENN VS GEORGE ST. PIERRE-this fight was to see who would be taking on Matt Hughes for the welterweight title, GSP wanted to avenge himself against Hughes and BJ wanted his belt back that he never lost. An excellent first round as these two just throw blows with each other and GSP get s bloodied pretty bad. A wonderful first round that BJ takes as he lands the most shots, and bloodied GSP. The second round is extremely exciting and if you really look at it this is a very close round. They both are very close on the striking but BJ lands more times clean were as GSP gets most of his punches and kicks check by BJ, but GSP did deliver some nice strikes particularly a high kick. The debate comes in were the take downs are concerned and it is very close as well, really think about it. GSP gets two take downs on Penn one of quick is right before the round ends, and while he gets points for that fighters are also judged on their defense and what they do from the bottom. BJ gets up after the first showing amazing defense and recovery time and on the second one kept working angles preventing GSP from doing any real damage. The call is yours on who won that masterfully crafted second round. The third round is full of suspense and when I was watching it live I was getting really anxious and awaiting what the final verdict would be. As far as striking goes it is another even looking fight but Penn lands the cleanest blows, and both getting take downs two for GSP and one for Penn. That right there evens it up in my mind but after GSP's second take down he gets caught in an uma plata attempt and then a gogoplata submission attempt. Once again it is your call but by my scoring that makes it a 3 to 2 round for Penn, the two of the three judges thought differently, Canada takes this one by split decision. This was an outstanding fight no matter who you were rooting for, I still feel like Penn won this fight even if by the littlest bit.

7.STEVE VIGNEAULT VS MICK SWICK-this is a pretty good fight as both exchange blows for most of the first round, with it looking pretty even. But around half way through the first round Steve shoots in and is caught up in a tight guillotine choke and Swick the victory for the US, good but short fight.

8.[MIDDLEWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP]-RICH FRANKLIN VS DAVID LOISEAU-this was the biggest fight of Franklin's career since Ken Shamrock in my mind because these two are very similar, great stand up and explosive fighters. Pretty good first round as they pretty much feel each other out with some nice exchanges and combos but Rich gets the upper hand, he even drops David right as the round ends. The second round ends up looking much like the first round as Rich dominates the match and even gets on top of David twice. The third round is a little more exciting as David drops Rich and starts to give it to him, but Rich recovers and gets back into the fight. Also Rich has his back at one point, still Rich takes the round, very good round. The fourth round looks much like the first two as Rich controls this fight for the most part. The final round is another Franklin round as he controls most of this round, but still it goes the distance and Rich keeps his belt and gets a win for the US.

This was a pretty good event that saw competitors from the US and Canada go at it, and in my opinion saw BJ Penn defeat GSP in a close fight.

There is a great behind the scenes feature that shows Penn coming back to the UFC, as well as other things.

Ultimate Fighting Championship, Vol. 58: USA vs CANADA]]>
http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/d/UserReview-UFC_58_USA_vs_Canada-143-1432702-215052-PENN_WON_THIS_WITH_OUT_A_DOUBT_JUST_ADD_THE.html http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/d/UserReview-UFC_58_USA_vs_Canada-143-1432702-215052-PENN_WON_THIS_WITH_OUT_A_DOUBT_JUST_ADD_THE.html Sun, 6 Nov 2011 05:00:26 +0000
<![CDATA[Hiking Quick Tip by Sharrie]]>

I love hiking with a camera and especially if I'm not rushing to finish a trail! Hiking alone does pose some degree of dangers, especially for woman and older people.

Having said that, hiking in national parks is one of the best experiences of life! Just so long as you're not caught in the rain ;-)]]>
http://www.lunch.com/Citylife/reviews/activity/UserReview-Hiking-130-1334688-209514.html http://www.lunch.com/Citylife/reviews/activity/UserReview-Hiking-130-1334688-209514.html Tue, 28 Jun 2011 10:28:17 +0000
<![CDATA[ Ah! Alchemy]]>
This soap is biodegradable, and its very attractive bottle was molded from recycled and recyclable plastic, which is encouraging. Environmental awareness is not the exclusive domain of vacant hippies, and if more people could be convinced to spend a little more money on products like this (which can be used sparingly to great effect) they would ultimately save money and deter pollution.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/product/UserReview-Pangea_Organics_Liquid_Hand_Soap_Canadian_Pine_with_White_Sage_8_5_fl_oz_250_ml_-143-1747098-209173-Ah_Alchemy.html http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/product/UserReview-Pangea_Organics_Liquid_Hand_Soap_Canadian_Pine_with_White_Sage_8_5_fl_oz_250_ml_-143-1747098-209173-Ah_Alchemy.html Wed, 22 Jun 2011 02:24:48 +0000
<![CDATA[Canadian Rockies Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> http://www.lunch.com/reviews/d/UserReview-Canadian_Rockies-1421084-206723.html http://www.lunch.com/reviews/d/UserReview-Canadian_Rockies-1421084-206723.html Sun, 1 May 2011 14:00:41 +0000 <![CDATA[Toronto, Ontario, Canada Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> http://www.lunch.com/reviews/city/UserReview-Toronto_Ontario_Canada-1432586-206106.html http://www.lunch.com/reviews/city/UserReview-Toronto_Ontario_Canada-1432586-206106.html Tue, 19 Apr 2011 08:02:57 +0000 <![CDATA[Niagara Falls Quick Tip by Sharrie]]>
Niagara Falls is also the honeymoon city of the Canadians. Personally, as one of the great Falls, I prefer Iguazu Falls in Brazil over Niagara Falls. I've yet to see Victoria Falls so I can't determine which is the most awesome!]]>
http://www.lunch.com/reviews/d/UserReview-Niagara_Falls-1409094-206104.html http://www.lunch.com/reviews/d/UserReview-Niagara_Falls-1409094-206104.html Tue, 19 Apr 2011 07:54:31 +0000
<![CDATA[Maple Leaf Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/d/UserReview-Maple_Leaf-143-1395201-197802.html http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/d/UserReview-Maple_Leaf-143-1395201-197802.html Sun, 26 Dec 2010 15:51:24 +0000 <![CDATA[Niagara Falls Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/d/UserReview-Niagara_Falls-143-1409094-197801.html http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/d/UserReview-Niagara_Falls-143-1409094-197801.html Sun, 26 Dec 2010 15:49:39 +0000 <![CDATA[ A great source of challenging problems for high school students]]> As the title implies, there has been a high school mathematics competition in the Alberta province of Canada since 1957 and this book is the complete collection of problems used in those competitions through 2006 as well as the solutions. In what is only partially a joke, the years of coverage are split into three periods:

*) Ancient period: 1957-1966
*) Medieval period: 1967-1983
*) Modern period: 1983-2006

The level of difficulty of the problems does not change all that much, the differences are in form and the structure of the contests. Multiple-choice questions appear for the first time in 1967 and the contest was expanded into two rounds starting in 1983. Statistics depicting the response rate as well as the numbers of correct answers are also included.
In teaching mathematics, one can never have a problem pool that is too large, however, for teachers of high school and early college mathematics, this book comes very close.

Published in Journal of Recreational Mathematics, reprinted with permission.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/book/UserReview-The_Alberta_High_School_Math_Competitions_1957_2006_A_Canadian_Problem_Book-143-1711160-202547-A_great_source_of_challenging_problems_for_high.html http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/book/UserReview-The_Alberta_High_School_Math_Competitions_1957_2006_A_Canadian_Problem_Book-143-1711160-202547-A_great_source_of_challenging_problems_for_high.html Sun, 19 Dec 2010 12:00:00 +0000
<![CDATA[ Niagara Falls at Dusk]]> Do you want to know the best way I have ever spent $2?

A visit to Niagara Falls, NY for the first time ever!!!!

$1 toll to cross the bridge there, $1 toll to cross the bridge on the way out.

Niagara Falls is about 7-8 hours west of Boston (therefore on our way home) so we decided we were going to stop and see them on our drive back to MN.  We got there just after sunset which is such a cool time to see it!

This is a view of Niagara, ON which is just across the falls/river

Ferris Wheel at Sunset Niagara Falls, NY

Ferris Wheel at Sunset Niagara Falls, NY by Kristi Sauer

Niagara Falls at Dusk

Niagara Falls at Dusk by Kristi Sauer

Niagara Falls at Dusk

Niagara Falls at Dusk by Kristi Sauer

Niagara Falls at Dusk

Niagara Falls at Dusk by Kristi Sauer

Niagara Falls at Dusk

Niagara Falls at Dusk by Kristi Sauer

Niagara Falls Bokeh

Niagara Falls Bokeh by Kristi Sauer

I am very proud of how nice these panoramas turned out.  This first one was stitched together using 5 photos, the 2nd one was stitched together using 7 photos.  The files are HUGE but I encourage you to click on either photo to see it viewed bigger on Flickr.  I could have a giant panorama poster made from either of these!

Niagara Falls at Dusk Panorama 2

Niagara Falls at Dusk Panorama 2 by Kristi Sauer


Niagara Falls at Dusk Panorama

Niagara Falls at Dusk Panorama by Kristi Sauer

And some brief video footage:

We loved every minute that we spent at Niagara and wish that we would’ve had an entire day to visit so that we could’ve seen it from every perspective.  Unfortunately we had to get back to MN so we spent just a few hours at the Falls and then went to the Hard Rock for a late dinner before getting back on the road.

Niagara Falls was beautiful and I will definitely go back for a longer visit!

Related Posts with Thumbnails
http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/d/UserReview-Niagara_Falls-143-1409094-195937-Niagara_Falls_at_Dusk.html http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/d/UserReview-Niagara_Falls-143-1409094-195937-Niagara_Falls_at_Dusk.html Thu, 9 Dec 2010 19:57:59 +0000
<![CDATA[ No Problems After 2 Years]]>
I got the Logitech Cordless Desktop MX 5500 Revolution to replace my Dell Bluetooth Keyboard-Mouse Combo (which I strongly advise you to steer clear of, by the way).

The Logitech Cordless Desktop MX 5500 Revolution comprises the MX Revolution mouse and the MX 5500 keyboard. I have evaluated each unit individually (under the headers, MX REVOLUTION MOUSE, and MX 5500 KEYBOARD) and in combination (under the header MOUSE & KEYBOARD).


- Function
The MX Revolution has, of course, the usual controls on a mid-range to high-end mouse: forward button, back button, and scroll-wheel. The scroll-wheel is clickable and can be rocked from side to side (default function: horizontal scrolling). In addition, there is another button located right behind the scroll-wheel (default function: Internet search). The mouse also has a thumb-wheel (default function: Document Flip). What sets this mouse apart is its much-hyped hyper scrolling feature.

- Hyper Scrolling
I didn't understand what all the fuss over this Hyper Scrolling business was about, but after I saw it in action - boy, was I impressed. The Hyper Scrolling feature is used thus:

1. A quick flick of the wheel in either direction sets the wheel spinning like a flywheel, and correspondingly, sends a scroll bar moving very rapidly in the designated direction - a useful feature for speeding through those arduously long Web pages or documents with ease.

2. For regular scrolling, turn the wheel as you would normally. The wheel actually responds with feedback so the user feels each notch as the wheel is turned ("click-to-click" mode). What's amazing is the feel of the wheel is indistinguishable from that of a regular mouse.

3. The wheel can also be set (using the SetPoint application) to scroll smoothly ("free spin" mode). A smart electronic mechanism in the mouse controls whether the scroll-wheel is in "click-to-click" or "free spin" mode. Nifty!

4. Hyper Scrolling can be disabled with the SetPoint application if you choose not to use it.

- Tracking
The MX Revolution uses a laser for tracking instead of an optical sensor that picks up images taken by a built-in camera. The primary advantage of laser over optical mice is that laser mice can track on any surface. This mouse took on surfaces that my optical mice had trouble tracking - with no problems. The tracking resolution is 800 dpi, which some people find to be slightly low. I find that it provides very smooth and accurate tracking regardless.

- Customization
For whatever reason, Logitech decides that you should have complete customization on all the buttons except one, namely, the thumb wheel located on the side of the mouse. For this button, you're limited to the following choices: Document Flip, Zoom, Volume, Media, Thumb Scroll, and keystrokes customization for each of the forward, back, and wheel-click motions of the thumb-wheel.

- Power Consumption
A full charge of the mouse usually lasts me about 6-7 days with heavy use (8 or more hours a day). The mouse fully charges in about 2 hours. The battery indicator in the Logitech SetPoint software shows the battery level in terms of "days" and "percentage" of remaining power. When the mouse is fully charged, the indicator always shows "9 days" and "100%" in remaining battery power. I reckon with moderate use, the battery indicator should be a fairly accurate gauge.

- Ergonomics
The MX Revolution continues the tradition of Logitech's line of exceptionally well-designed and ergonomic mice. The placement of the scroll-wheel, the thumb-wheel, and all buttons are perfect for me as they are within comfortable reach of my fingers. The mouse is ergonomically shaped and fits very comfortably in my hand (I have average-sized hands). Last, I should also mention that this mouse is designed for right-handed use only. Sorry, lefties.

>> MX 5500 KEYBOARD <<

- Size
The keyboard has a sizable footprint. The dimensions are approximately 18.5" x 9" x 1.5" (Length x Width x Height measured at the widest points). The wrist rest is, unfortunately, not detachable.

- Weight
The keyboard isn't what I would call light, but it's not intolerably heavy either. In terms of the ease of portability, I wish it was just a tad lighter. On the other hand, its moderate weight also helps to keep it securely weighted down on its rubber feet so it doesn't slide around while you're typing.

- Ergonomics
The wrist-rest helps a little with fatigue. Its has a rubberized texture and has a nice soft feel to it. The tactile feel of the keys is more like that on a "regular" keyboard rather than on a laptop keyboard. The keyboard is fairly quiet when in operation.

- Power Consumption
The keyboard uses 4 AA batteries. The battery life is pretty decent. I've owned the combo set for 2 months now and I'm still on the same set of batteries (I'm using 2400 mAh rechargeables). At this point, the battery indicator on the Logitech SetPoint application says it has 30 days' worth of battery life left.


- Connectivity
The keyboard and mouse both use Bluetooth wireless technology. I was able to set them up very quickly and easily - without a hitch. The Bluetooth connectivity has proven to be extremely reliable. Neither the keyboard nor mouse has lost connectivity since I had them set up - not once - a pleasant surprise, considering my old Dell bluetooth combo dropped out of connection several times a day. The wireless range is equally amazing. I tested the Bluetooth connection by bringing the keyboard and mouse to a room adjacent to the one my computer was housed, and lo and behold, both the keyboard and mouse worked!

- Response
I am unable to perceive any lag in the responses of both the mouse and keyboard. Even after the units have gone to sleep after a period of inactivity, it takes no time, or at most a split second, to wake up and respond to any keystrokes or mouse movements.

>> Conclusion

The keyboard is more on the large side for me (larger keyboards seem to be the norm now). Otherwise, it is top-notch and one of the best keyboards I've ever used. The mouse earns high marks for its ergonomics, styling, performance, and innovative hyper-scrolling feature - It's the best mouse I have ever used, and I've run through quite a few from Logitech. Overall, the desktop set has performed exceptionally well and I have never encountered any quirks or annoyances. I don't think you can go wrong with this one!]]>
http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/product/UserReview-Logitech_Cordless_Desktop_MX_5500_Revolution_Keyboard_wireless_Bluetooth_mouse_Bluetooth_2_0_EDR_USB_adapter_Canadian_English_French-143-1590710-135508-No_Problems_After_2_Years.html http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/product/UserReview-Logitech_Cordless_Desktop_MX_5500_Revolution_Keyboard_wireless_Bluetooth_mouse_Bluetooth_2_0_EDR_USB_adapter_Canadian_English_French-143-1590710-135508-No_Problems_After_2_Years.html Sat, 24 Jul 2010 12:00:00 +0000
<![CDATA[Pacific Crest Trail: From the Californian Border to the Canadian Border Quick Tip by caleil]]> http://www.lunch.com/reviews/d/UserReview-Pacific_Crest_Trail_From_the_Californian_Border_to_the_Canadian_Border-74-1501623-67213.html http://www.lunch.com/reviews/d/UserReview-Pacific_Crest_Trail_From_the_Californian_Border_to_the_Canadian_Border-74-1501623-67213.html Tue, 20 Jul 2010 20:45:54 +0000 <![CDATA[ Whisky Review: Wiser's 18 Years Old Limited Release Canadian Whisky]]> I am going to admit right up front that this whisky has, for the last fifteen years or so, been one of my very favourites.  This stretches well back in time before I was even considering a hobby as a spirits writer.  My review, as a result,  may at times be a little over zealous in its praise, but I guess I feel it is more honest that way, as  I am truly passionate about the Wiser’s 18 Years Old Canadian Whisky. I have believed, ever since my first swallow fifteen years ago. that it is one of the very best whiskies that Canada has to offer.

In fact it was a bottle of the Wiser’s 18 Years Old which began my passion for collecting and writing about spirits.  About five years ago, a bottle of this whisky which had been purchased in 1980, and then saved for about 25 years was opened for me when I was visiting my Brother-in Law.  His sharing of a special whisky, led me to seek out a special whisky of my own that I could share with him.  The whisky I found during that search was Wiser’s Red Letter Whisky.  But it was during that search for a special whisky that I sampled and tasted my way into a passion for spirits that resulted in my blog.  So it is really a pleasure to finally review the current version of the whisky which started it all, Wiser’s 18 Years Old Limited Release Canadian Whisky.

Here is an Excerpt from my review:

“…A  rich mahogany and copper coloured whisky greeted my eyes when I poured a glass of Wiser’s 18 into my glass.  I tilted the glass and slowly turned it to impart a nice thick oily sheen upon the sides. Then I sat back and watched fat droopy droplets of whisky slide slowly back …”

You may read the full review here:

Review:Wiser’s 18 Years Old Limited Release Canadian Whisky

http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/d/UserReview-Wiser_s_18_Years_Old_Limited_Release_Canadian_Whisky-143-1481160-23633-Whisky_Review_Wiser_s_18_Years_Old_Limited.html http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/d/UserReview-Wiser_s_18_Years_Old_Limited_Release_Canadian_Whisky-143-1481160-23633-Whisky_Review_Wiser_s_18_Years_Old_Limited.html Fri, 18 Jun 2010 14:23:36 +0000
<![CDATA[ Whisky Review: Corby Royal Reserve Canadian Rye Whisky]]>
Henry Corby began his  involvement in the distilling industry in approximately 1841, buying and selling grain at a grist-mill on the banks of the Moira River.  By 1859, his  distillery operation had become as important as his milling operation and so the distillery was incorporated as a separate company.

In 1881, Henry’s son, Henry (Harry), took over, and through the next ten years the Company began to bottle their own brand of whisky and sold it under the name of Corby. From 1905 to 1935, the company experienced a series of mergers and acquisitions which first resulted in the assets of Corby, and Wiser’s being consolidated and then in 1935, Hiram Walker -  Gooderham & Worts Ltd. became the majority shareholder in the H. Corby Distillery Limited, acquiring 51% of the company’s equity.

Throughout the period of the 1960′s to the present, Corby established itself as a leading spirits company, expanding the distribution of its domestic portfolio and increasing its representation of internationally renowned spirits.  Acquisitions of leading worldwide brands and trademarks, and an expansion of the portfolio to include rum, gin,and vodka, as well as other spirits has allowed the company to enter the global stage with its portfolio of products. Currently Corby Royal Reserve, Hiram Walker Special Old Rye Whisky, and the Wiser’s family of whiskies are all produced by Corby Distilleries Limited.

I was presented with a bottle of Corby Royal Reserve Canadian Rye Whisky about eight weeks ago from the National Brand Ambassador for Corby and Wiser’s.  This was part of a larger allotment of samples which was provided when they learned I planned to do a series of reviews of their whiskies on my blog. The bottle is labeled as a Canadian rye spirit and is bottle at 40 % alcohol by volume. Here is an excerpt from my review:

…I taste a nice old-fashioned rye profile with a light dryness that goes for the tonsils.  The rye is crisp on the tongue with the dryness has the ability to slightly pucker the palate.  A good dose of caramel arrives with the rye, and the oak spices carry flavours of  fresh fruit and citrus peel…

You may read the rest of the review here:

Review: Corby Royal Reserve Canadian Rye Whisky

http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/d/UserReview-Corby_Royal_Reserve_Canadian_Rye_Whisky-143-1481122-23618-Whisky_Review_Corby_Royal_Reserve_Canadian.html http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/d/UserReview-Corby_Royal_Reserve_Canadian_Rye_Whisky-143-1481122-23618-Whisky_Review_Corby_Royal_Reserve_Canadian.html Fri, 18 Jun 2010 04:38:31 +0000
<![CDATA[Hiking Quick Tip by CampingDog]]> http://www.lunch.com/reviews/activity/UserReview-Hiking-1334688-58889.html http://www.lunch.com/reviews/activity/UserReview-Hiking-1334688-58889.html Mon, 14 Jun 2010 23:01:14 +0000 <![CDATA[ Whisky Review: Wiser's Special Blend Canadian Whisky]]>

I noticed a change on the new bottles of Wiser’s Special Blend about two years ago.  The older bottles proudly proclaimed, ‘Wiser’s Special Blend Canadian Rye Whisky‘, whereas  the newer labels say ‘Wiser’s Special Blend Canadian Whisky‘.  The difference of course is the word “rye” which has been taken off the label. It is small changes like that which give me cause for apprehension.  I like rye whisky, and as the number of Canadian rye blends is diminishing, I am growing concerned that my favourite whisky will one day be only a memory.  Fortunately for me, I was recently given a bottle with the new label by the folks at Wiser’s in the hopes that I would provide an honest review of the Special Blend.  It so happens that I already owned a bottle carrying the previous label so I intend to compare the two bottles to see if the blend as well as the label has changed.

Here is an Excerpt from my review:

“…In the glass, the Wiser’s Special Blend shows itself as a rich copper coloured whisky with lighter shades of amber.   The vapour from the glass is  mildly spicy,  and seems to be  sweetened with an aroma of  ripe fruit.   Light hints of caramel lie in the breezes as well…”

You may read the rest of the review here:

Review: Wiser’s Special Blend Canadian Whisky

Two original cocktails have been added and both are “forrest approved“.  Click on the following link to visit his great site, a drink with forrest.


http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/d/UserReview-Wiser_s_Special_Blend_Canadian_Whisky-143-1464224-22334-Whisky_Review_Wiser_s_Special_Blend.html http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/d/UserReview-Wiser_s_Special_Blend_Canadian_Whisky-143-1464224-22334-Whisky_Review_Wiser_s_Special_Blend.html Sun, 23 May 2010 15:46:09 +0000
<![CDATA[ Whisky Review: Wiser's Small Batch Canadian Whisky]]> Over the next several months, I plan to complete a review series of  Wiser’s Canadian Whiskies    I will start with a relatively new member to the Wiser’s portfolio, the Wiser’s Small Batch Canadian Whisky, and then I will wander through their whisky family, reviewing the Wiser’s Special Blend, The Wiser’s Deluxe, and the Wiser’s 18 Year Old in no particular order.  I will also complete a full review of a brand new Wiser’s Canadian Whisky, Wiser’s Legacy.   ( I have previously provided a first impression of the Legacy (click the link to read this first impression), and now that the Wiser’s Legacy  bottles will hit the store shelves soon it seems a good time to do this review series.)

An astute person may ask about the Wiser’s Red Letter Whisky, the recently named Canadian Whisky of the Year in the Jim Murray 2010 Whisky Bible,  but an even more astute person will realize that I reviewed the Red Letter last year in November. A second review so quickly is hardly necessary.  If you are interested,   The review for the Wiser’s Red Letter whisky can be found here.

I  confess that I look forward with great anticipation to this review series.  I have always enjoyed the Wiser’s Whisky brands and the chance to give the entire whisky family a good once over with my review system is an opportunity that I cannot resist.

Here is an excerpt from my first review for the Wiser’s Small batch Canadian Whisky:

“The whisky is soft and supple on the tongue with a richness that I do not encounter in the Canadian Whisky Category very often.  Hot oak spices tickle the tongue in a smooth delivery which carries flavours of  butterscotch, maple, and ripe fruit.  Corn and light rye flavours provide the foundation upon which  the sweeter flavours are carried….

You may read the entire review here:

Whisky Review: Wiser’s Small Batch Canadian Whisky

As usual I have a few cocktail suggestions for this whisky. Enjoy the review.

http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/d/UserReview-Wiser_s_Small_Batch_Canadian_Whisky-143-1454444-21988-Whisky_Review_Wiser_s_Small_Batch_Canadian_Whisky.html http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/d/UserReview-Wiser_s_Small_Batch_Canadian_Whisky-143-1454444-21988-Whisky_Review_Wiser_s_Small_Batch_Canadian_Whisky.html Sat, 15 May 2010 17:22:51 +0000
<![CDATA[ Whisky Review: Wiser's De Luxe Canadian Whisky]]> Wiser’s De Luxe Canadian Whisky

I am continuing my journey through the Wiser’s family of Canadian whiskies. Previously I have reviewed, the Wiser’s Small Batch Canadian Whisky, and the Wiser’s Red Letter Canadian Whisky. I am writing my reviews in no particular order, preferring to sample and taste at my leisure rather than conforming to a particular schedule.

Wiser’s De Luxe is a premium whisky from Wiser’s Canadian Distillers, (owned by H. Corby Distilling Company).  Originally founded by John Philip Wiser, the company has produced Whisky since 1957.  In fact, it may have been J.P. Wiser who first used the Term “Canadian Whiskey” on a whisky label when he introduced his brand of whisky to the World at the Chicago’s World fair in 1893.

Today Wiser’s De Luxe is distilled at the Hiram Walker Distillery in Walkerville, Ontario (since 1989), and aged in their facilities at Pike Creek near Lakeshore Ontario.   There is no age statement on the Wiser’s De Luxe, but my sense from the sampling and tasting is that we have a blend of whiskies no younger than 8 years and perhaps as old as 12.

Here is an excerpt from my review:

“….I took my first sip of  Wiser’s De Luxe, and I was delighted by an aggressive oak toffee which coated my tongue and provided the foundation for the whisky’s flavour profile.   The oak is deep and rich in the mouth with a hint of smoke (perhaps this is a whisper of dried fruit instead).   I also taste orange peel, vanilla, corn and rye in that order of dominance.  A wonderful mildly sweet honey and caramel lies under these flavours….”

You may read the full review here:

Review: Wiser’s De Luxe Canadian Whisky

As well as the review I have provided a new cocktail suggestion for Wiser’s De Luxe Canadian Whisky.

Please Enjoy the review.

http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/d/UserReview-Wiser_s_De_Luxe_Canadian_Whisky-143-1454440-21983-Whisky_Review_Wiser_s_De_Luxe_Canadian_Whisky.html http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/d/UserReview-Wiser_s_De_Luxe_Canadian_Whisky-143-1454440-21983-Whisky_Review_Wiser_s_De_Luxe_Canadian_Whisky.html Sat, 15 May 2010 16:37:41 +0000
<![CDATA[ Important Lesson: Don't Dally!]]>
It's an account of a river journey made by five youngsters in their early twenties and late teens, and 36 year-old 'leader' through the wilds of northern Canada. Between you and me it's surprising that the whole lot of them didn't perish, they were so ill-prepared. Not only did they leave without the supplies they intended to take, but they left late in the season .AND. then they dallied along the way. Traits which, if you've read about any adventures in northern climes, are pretty much tantamount to a death sentence for someone if not everyone.

Never-the-less, they paddled for what they were worth and tried to do what they could to find food along the way. They fished and hunted and scavenged along the shore. But really their physical trip down the river isn't really what grabbed my interest. What really caught me up and kept me flipping page after page late into the night, was Grinnell's insight into what was going on in their little group; as well as his own reflections on his life and the upper class he belonged to. He doesn't, in fact, focus on descriptions of 'the barrens' so much as how being there made him feel. And his work ends up being more about group dynamics and sociology, religion and culture, than it is about a canoe trip.

For example, one of the things that Grinnell talks about is that nearly all of the young people underwent a profound change. Partly this was because their leader, Arthur Moffett, refused to lead them, and partly this was because they were put under so much pressure. They were alone, without supervision for probably the first time in their lives, isolated and starving, and yet dependent on other people they hardly knew. And under those circumstances, it's not surprising that the atheist Grinnell found religion, like many others who suddenly discover that their life isn't a sure thing, while sinking his teeth into a fresh caribou steak.

The other aspect of the book that I found interesting was the picture he painted of what it was like to be an exceeding rich rebel in a community of effete intellectuals in the last century. Grinnell went to Groton and Harvard, and what he has to say about the institutions' fraternity-like "hazing" system isn't very flattering. But he talks about these things, his failings, his families troubles, and how money and their 'Mayflower' heritage was mixed blessing. (124 of his relatives fought in the Revolutionary War....)

If this book had only been written in the 10th Century it would be poured over and would find it's own Gibbons or Wallace-Hadrill to make it famous. Which is to say that it's a fabulous primary source that has a great deal to teach people if only their put on their history or sociology "hats".

Personally, I found the group dynamics fascinating. Here were these coddled children thrust into a very dangerous situation with no recourse but to muddle through. They look naturally to "the adult" to guide them, but unfortunately "the adult" wasn't there for them, and they had to 'find themselves' in a way most of us wouldn't envy.

If you are looking for simple book about a travel adventure, "Death on the Barrens" is not it. This book isn't simple at all. There's a great deal of soul-bearing and talk about spiritual experiences. As well, there's a great deal of reflection about what life was like for the upper class mid 20th Century.

Pam T~]]>
http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/book/UserReview-Death_on_the_Barrens_A_True_Story_of_Courage_and_Tragedy_in_the_Canadian_Arctic-143-1567212-168394-Important_Lesson_Don_t_Dally_.html http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/book/UserReview-Death_on_the_Barrens_A_True_Story_of_Courage_and_Tragedy_in_the_Canadian_Arctic-143-1567212-168394-Important_Lesson_Don_t_Dally_.html Thu, 13 May 2010 12:00:00 +0000
<![CDATA[ Well- written saga about death and redemption]]>
Little did they know, although leader Moffatt should have, that they were on a razor's edge between life and death and insanity and sanity. In a trip so poorly planned that there was not enough food to last the trip, amid childish squabbles among the men over petty things, they begin a leisurely trip with many days off from the chore of paddling north. Unforgiving winter was staring them in the face, a winter which comes in September, a beast ready to pounce, a beast that can easily destroy them. But still they loiter.

Author Grinnell writes eloquently. The crew is hurtled into the very jaws of death when their canoes are swamped by freezing water and they are barely able to crawl onto land because their fingers and toes are frozen. The description of the men trying to warm each other up inside their sleeping bags, Grinnell inside his cheap six dollar one, is horrific. They pummel on each other trying to get the blood into their frozen limbs, they are a team, now, not a band of quarreling young men, but brothers trying to save each other's lives. However Art, with his rather frail physique, succumbs on September 14, when he literally freezes to death. They tuck him into one of the canoes and carry him up to a hill, and turn the canoe upside down where his body will be safe from marauding wolves.

When the men get back into their canoes again, they know a fear that they have never felt before, and Grinnell's hands shake as he pushes his paddle deep into the cold green water. But he has changed. He has survived, he has been delivered from the abyss, Daniel from the lion's den. He will see more tragedy: his two sons and a nephew will die in the wilderness. He spends the next fifty years of his life looking for meaning where none perhaps exists. But he finds inner peace, perhaps he has found his Shangri-La.

And oddly, in spite of the rigors of that fateful trek so long ago, Grinnell is still so affected by the sheer majesty of the Barrens, even when writing about them fifty years later, he makes you want to go too.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/book/UserReview-Death_on_the_Barrens_A_True_Story_of_Courage_and_Tragedy_in_the_Canadian_Arctic-143-1567212-117133-Well_written_saga_about_death_and_redemption.html http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/book/UserReview-Death_on_the_Barrens_A_True_Story_of_Courage_and_Tragedy_in_the_Canadian_Arctic-143-1567212-117133-Well_written_saga_about_death_and_redemption.html Sat, 1 May 2010 12:00:00 +0000
<![CDATA[ Tales Out of School]]>
Tales Out of School

Amos Lassen

Six high school students whose lives contain situations that so many kids face today is the subject of "2:37". The story takes place during a regular school day but then at 2:37, a tragedy occurs that affects the lives of both students and teachers. As we watch the film, we learn about six students and we see each has a very interesting life. It is an unwanted pregnancy that is the catalyst for the action and our characters include a football hero, an outcast, a girl with an eating disorder, a student who wants her parents' approval and a student who uses drugs to escape from his problems. It is a suicide in a school restroom that causes everything to start moving and even though we do not know yet who the victim is, we soon learn about the lives of our six characters--one of whom takes his own life.
The way the film is shot is particularly interesting--we are introduced to the characters through observation as they go through a school day and then we get to know them better through interviews and we learn how they live when away from school. We know that there is a suicide and we keep wondering who it will be. I found myself thinking it was this student or that student and then changing my mind. It is not until the final five minutes that the viewer is literally slapped across the face.
Here is a film that deals with the real issues that school kids face and it does so by looking at their emotions and everything else. This, therefore, is not an easy film to watch but it is an important one. It is powerful and it keeps you in your seat throughout the entire film. watching "2:37" is the same as confronting the real world and that is something many do not like or want to do. There were times when I had to turn away because the things spoken about are so real. The film is brutally honest and it shows how hard it is to be a teenager today. There are horrors in the high school years that too many of us do not think about.
The direction is excellent and the film succeeds showing us the teenaged Australian and what he/she faces. what is really interesting is that the film attacks more than one stigma and we see that the overriding problem that each of the six share is isolation.
I particularly liked the narration technique and when we reach the point where insight and calculation come together, we are totally immersed in the film.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/movie/UserReview-2_37_Two_Thirty_Seven_Region_1_DVD_USA_Canada_Edition_-143-1577299-123998-Tales_Out_of_School.html http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/movie/UserReview-2_37_Two_Thirty_Seven_Region_1_DVD_USA_Canada_Edition_-143-1577299-123998-Tales_Out_of_School.html Tue, 27 Apr 2010 12:00:00 +0000
<![CDATA[Banff National Park Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> http://www.lunch.com/reviews/d/UserReview-Banff_National_Park-1435909-56317.html http://www.lunch.com/reviews/d/UserReview-Banff_National_Park-1435909-56317.html Sun, 25 Apr 2010 04:55:20 +0000 <![CDATA[Pho Hung Restaurant, Toronto Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/restaurant/UserReview-Pho_Hung_Restaurant_Toronto-143-1431798-56177.html http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/restaurant/UserReview-Pho_Hung_Restaurant_Toronto-143-1431798-56177.html Tue, 20 Apr 2010 07:38:37 +0000 <![CDATA[Sears Canada Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/d/UserReview-Sears_Canada-143-1389043-56175.html http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/d/UserReview-Sears_Canada-143-1389043-56175.html Tue, 20 Apr 2010 07:36:17 +0000 <![CDATA[Canada Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/d/UserReview-Canada-143-1434301-56174.html http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/d/UserReview-Canada-143-1434301-56174.html Tue, 20 Apr 2010 07:34:10 +0000 <![CDATA[ A fabulous tour of Canada's maritime geography]]> "Canada boasts the longest coastline in the world. If it were straightened out it could wound around the equator three and a half times and there would still be a bit left over." - a fitting topic of immense proportions portrayed by the splendid photography of André Gallant and the always readable prose of Canada's late lamented historian journalist, Pierre Berton accompanied by a series of fascinating archival photographs and drawings from the 18th, 19th and early 20th century.

Unlike most dining room table books that, having been opened at random pages and skimmed, are examined only for the quality of their presentation and the beauty of their photographs, Berton's essays, designed to accompany the photographs and embellish and enrich them as only Pierre Berton can, make this book enjoyable as a stand-alone read from cover to cover. The topics which he has chosen to cover are as widely varied as Canada's maritime geography - the Queen Charlotte Islands, the history and social customs of the Haida, the Potlach people; the demise, over-hunting and myopic mismanagement of the west coast salmon, the arctic bowhead whale and the east coast cod fishery; the absurdly mistaken romantic notions of the life of a lighthouse keeper; a brief history of the search for the elusive Northwest Passage; some stories of the golden age of sail; and a history of Sable Island, the wrecking yard of the Atlantic located in the mouth of the St Lawrence River.

What a wonderful way for any Canadian to take a brief tour of the outer edges of this fascinating country of ours and to dip their toes into that ocean of wisdom that Pierre Berton has provided for interested readers of Canada's history, geography, politics and social life and customs.

Highly recommended.

Paul Weiss]]>
http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/book/UserReview-Seacoasts_of_Canada-143-1444379-21044-A_fabulous_tour_of_Canada_s_maritime_geography.html http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/book/UserReview-Seacoasts_of_Canada-143-1444379-21044-A_fabulous_tour_of_Canada_s_maritime_geography.html Sat, 17 Apr 2010 11:20:54 +0000
<![CDATA[Banff National Park Quick Tip by Bethany_K]]> http://www.lunch.com/reviews/d/UserReview-Banff_National_Park-1435909-56054.html http://www.lunch.com/reviews/d/UserReview-Banff_National_Park-1435909-56054.html Thu, 15 Apr 2010 21:38:45 +0000 <![CDATA[Canadian Rockies Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/d/UserReview-Canadian_Rockies-143-1421084-55578.html http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/d/UserReview-Canadian_Rockies-143-1421084-55578.html Tue, 30 Mar 2010 13:46:11 +0000 <![CDATA[2010 Winter Olympics Quick Tip by Bethany_K]]> http://www.lunch.com/thegreatoutdoors/reviews/d/UserReview-2010_Winter_Olympics-19-1433526-55315.html http://www.lunch.com/thegreatoutdoors/reviews/d/UserReview-2010_Winter_Olympics-19-1433526-55315.html Sat, 20 Mar 2010 17:29:16 +0000 <![CDATA[Hiking Quick Tip by Bethany_K]]> http://www.lunch.com/reviews/activity/UserReview-Hiking-1334688-55310.html http://www.lunch.com/reviews/activity/UserReview-Hiking-1334688-55310.html Sat, 20 Mar 2010 16:07:23 +0000 <![CDATA[ Whisky Cocktail: Canadian Caribou]]> The Canadian Caribou
an original cocktail By Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)

For this cocktail we need a Canadian Whisky with a strong Rye profile.  Here are several which work fine, Gibson’s Finest, Alberta PremiumHighwood Centenial, and the one I chose this time Black Velvet Deluxe Canadain Whisky.

As we are using a rye profiled whisky, I chose to mix with  Canada Dry Ginger ale.  The use of real ginger in the manufacture of this soda adds a taste component that compliments rye in a most beautiful way.

Finally the foil ingredient for this recipe is a remarkable Canadian Liqueur, Yukon Jack.  This is a honey based whisky liqueur which adds just the right amount of sweetness and elegance to the taste.  I love this cocktail, and I hope you do too.

The Canadian Caribou
a cocktail by Arctic Wolf (Aka chip Dykstra)

1 1/2 oz  Canadian Rye Whisky
1/2    oz Yukon Jack
Splash(es) of Canada Dry Ginger Ale

Build on ice
Garnish with a lemon Slice.

This Cocktail is “forrest Approved“.  Find more cocktail suggestions at his great website.


http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/d/UserReview-Canadian_Caribou_Cocktail-143-1441476-19874-Whisky_Cocktail_Canadian_Caribou.html http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/d/UserReview-Canadian_Caribou_Cocktail-143-1441476-19874-Whisky_Cocktail_Canadian_Caribou.html Tue, 16 Mar 2010 04:23:41 +0000
<![CDATA[ Whisky Review: Gibson's Finest 12 Yr Old Canadian Whiskey]]> Gibson's FinestGibson’s Finest Whiskies are some of the smoothest Canadian whiskies ever made.  This, of course, makes them some of the smoothest  in the world as Canada is renowned for its smooth whisky.  The 12 year old is a step up from Gibson’s regular Sterling brand.  I found it to be a mildly sweet well balanced whisky with a nice honey and rye flavour profile.

Here is an excerpt from my review:

Gibson’s Finest 12 Yr Old Canadian Whiskey

“…We have a very nice soft oil on the palate with a sweet honey taste interlaced with toffee and rye.  This has a very balanced profile which when given time in the mouth, displays touches of caramel, flashes of hot spices, and a wonderful underlying sweetness….”

You can read the full review here…Review: Gibson’s Finest 12 YR Canadian Whisky

http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/product/UserReview-Gibson_s_Finest_Canadian_Whisky-143-1440684-19425-Whisky_Review_Gibson_s_Finest_12_Yr_Old.html http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/product/UserReview-Gibson_s_Finest_Canadian_Whisky-143-1440684-19425-Whisky_Review_Gibson_s_Finest_12_Yr_Old.html Tue, 9 Mar 2010 14:58:56 +0000
<![CDATA[ Whisky Review: Forty Creek Barrel Select]]> Forty Creek Barrel Select WhiskyForty Creek Whiskies are the brainchildren of Master Distiller John Hall.  John Hall bought the Kittling  Ridge Estates Winery in 19992.  Although primarily a winemaker,  when John discovered a small pot copper still on the estate he couldn’t resist the urge to experiment with another product he loved… whisky.  The wine making heritage combined with the love of whisky has produced what I consider to be a unique Canadian Whisky.  Each batch of whisky is produced upon this small pot copper still, but what makes Forty Creek Whiskies special is that John doesn’t use a single mash for his whisky like other producers.  He makes three separate batches.  A corn mash produces a corn whisky, a barley mash produces a barley whiskey, and a rye mash produces a rye whisky.  Each whisky is aged separately in a variety of oak barrels,  and then blended and finished in sherry casks.  The sherry is actually made right at the winery so Forty Creek can utilize their own sherry casks for the final finishing.

Click here for my Review of Forty Creek Barrel Select:

For More information on Forty Creek Whiskies and other products from Kittling Ridge estates please use this Link:

Kittling Ridge Estates

http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/product/UserReview-Forty_Creek_Barrel_Select_Canadian_Whisky-143-1440606-19369-Whisky_Review_Forty_Creek_Barrel_Select.html http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/product/UserReview-Forty_Creek_Barrel_Select_Canadian_Whisky-143-1440606-19369-Whisky_Review_Forty_Creek_Barrel_Select.html Mon, 8 Mar 2010 18:13:30 +0000
<![CDATA[ A worldwide first: A Clear Aged Whisky: White Owl Canadian Whisky]]> White Owl Canadian Whisky 88.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)

There is a new whisky in Canada, and  it is completely different from any other whisky I have seen. The distillation mash for the whisky is based on wheat, not barley or corn, which is not as surprising as you may think, as the distillers of White Owl Whisky are Highwood Distillers, based in High River, Alberta. They have, after all, been distilling their very wonderful Centennial Whisky with a wheat based mash for many years. It is the next feature of the whisky which I found most interesting and unusual. This is a clear aged  whiskey! In fact if the bottle did not say whisky on the front you might think you were buying Vodka…until you opened the bottle, at which time you would realize that the spirit in the bottle is unmistakeably whisky!  The whisky achieves its clear form by the means of carbon filtration. Highwood crafts and blends an aged whisky, and then runs it through a filtration process to remove all colour and smooth out the taste profile. This is a first for me, and I believe a first for Canadian Whisky! In fact Highwood makes the claim that this may be the first clear aged  whisky ever produced.

I was lucky enough to receive a sample bottle directly from the distillery after a recent tour and I am happy to share the results of my hard labour.

You may read the full review on my bog here:

Review: (Highwood Distillers) White Owl Canadian Whisky

The review also includes five great cocktails for your enjoyment.

http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/product/UserReview-White_Owl_Canadian_Whisky-143-1440524-19309-A_worldwide_first_A_Clear_Aged_Whisky_White_Owl.html http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/product/UserReview-White_Owl_Canadian_Whisky-143-1440524-19309-A_worldwide_first_A_Clear_Aged_Whisky_White_Owl.html Sun, 7 Mar 2010 18:06:06 +0000
<![CDATA[ HIking]]>
Because I love the outdoors, it can be done with essentially nothing but a nice pair of boots, and it can be done year round.  It is fun, something that can be done whether your 5 years old or 95, and it is great exercise.

In the winter I snowshoe!

Because I love the outdoors, it can be done with essentially nothing but a nice pair of boots, and it can be done year round.  It is fun, something that can be done whether your 5 years old or 95, and it is great exercise.

Want to know more about hiking?  Check out my website http://hikinglady.com]]>
http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/activity/UserReview-Hiking-143-1334688-19174-HIking.html http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/activity/UserReview-Hiking-143-1334688-19174-HIking.html Wed, 3 Mar 2010 23:44:16 +0000
<![CDATA[ UFC 58: USA vs. Canada]]> I have been watching the UFC since it’s debut in November of 1993. My brother and I had considered trying out for the fights around 1995. Looking back now, I’m glad I didn’t. This way I can say I would have done well and not have to go through a humbling beating that goes with the game. The difference between UFC 1 and UFC 73 are like night and day! The fighters are a lot more rounded and most can fight standing or grappling. If the fighter is winning the stand up fight he’ll use a good take down defense and continue to fight the stand up game. On the other hand if he is losing the stand up fight he’ll shoot and try and take it to the ground where the better wrestler or grappler will prevail. In the early days we seen boxers fighter wresters with very little cross-training. Inevitably the fight would end up on the ground where the wrester would do an arm-bar triangle or some other basic submission move and defeat the boxer. These were the days of Ken Shamrock, Royce Gracie, Dan Severn, Pat Smith and Mark Coleman. Ken Shamrock was the favorite to win UFC 1 with his rock solid muscular build, power house strikes and outstanding wrestling game. I’ll just say things didn’t turn out that way…

Main Events

~~~~Rich “ACE” Franklin VS. David “The Crow” Loiseau ~~~

UFC 58 - USA VS CANADA had some awesome matches and featured one of my favorite fighters, Rich Franklin.. The Rich Franklin verses David Loiseau fight was one for the books! I was looking forward to this match up with great anticipation. Rich Franklin is known for his striking ability and his ground game is also very solid. David Loiseau is also a very skilled and versatile fighter. I was hoping for Rich but had no idea who was going to win this fight. Franklin was focused from the onset of the fight and dominated David Loiseau in all five, five minute rounds. You want to hear just how tough Rich Franklin is? Rich broke his hand during a flurry of punches in round 2. Not only did he continue on to win the fight with a broken hand, he kept punching with it. You have to remember that the gloves these guys fight with are nothing more than a work glove with the fingers cut off and a tiny bit of padding on the knuckles. Rich Franklin is one tough fighter!

» Rich Franklin wins by unanimous decision, five round fight

~~~~BJ “Prodigy” Penn VS. George “RUSH” St. Pierre~~~

BJ Penn VS George St. Pierre was another outstanding fight. It was also tough to call. George St. Pierre is one of the most skilled fighters in the octagon. Not only are his fighting skills top notch, he’s super fast, has some brutal kicks, very flexible and his cardio is superb. BJ Penn on the other hand is a legend to some and a damn good fighter in his own right. He has knock out punching power with a decent stand up game. He’s also an elite grappler {Black belt} and is even more flexible than his opponent, George St. Pierre. On top of that Penn doesn’t fight for the money. His family has plenty of money and he never needed to fight. This guy fights for his love of the game and he has lots of heart. BJ Penn was the more experienced fighter and was favored to win. This was another hard one to call with another fighter getting injured early and continuing on to win the fight. The first round BJ Penn thumped George St. Pierre in on the nose bloodying and breaking it. BJ also landed a jab in the eye of George St. Pierre and scratched it. The scratched eye was clearly a problem for George. Also when a fighter has a bloody nose it causes them to breath through their mouth which makes it easier for their opponent to land a knock out punch. After three rounds it comes down to a split decision were George St. Pierre wins and becomes the number one contender and next in line for a shot at Matt Hughes and the Light Heavy Weight Belt.

» Georges St-Pierre wins a split decision, three round fight

Additional Battles on The UFC 58 Fight Card

[*] Winner
[*] Sam Stout VS. Spencer Fisher
[*] Nate Marquardt VS. Joe Doerksen
[*] Mike Swick VS. Steve Vigneault
[*] Jason Lambert VS. Rob MacDonald
[*] Tom Murphy VS. Icho Larenas
[*] Mark Hominick VS. Yves Edwards

The Big Upset

The big upset in UFC 58 was the Yves Edwards VS Mark Hominick fight. Yves Edwards is a superb MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fighter by most anyone’s standards. I had not seen Mark Hominick fight prior to this fight. As it turns out Hominick is an extremely capable fighter and he is as fast a striker as you will see anywhere. In the end he not only out punched Yves Edwards, he beat him on the ground which was though to be where Yves Edwards would have the advantage. This was a decent fight as well.

There were several good fights on the UFC 58 Card. Both main event fights were just awesome to watch! These fighters seem to get better and better just when you believe they can’t go any further with their game. I bought the DVD just to have the two main event fights featuring Penn against GSP and Franklin against Loiseau. I would recommend UFC 58 USA VS. CANADA to any fan of the sport, UFC, or other MMA fighting events.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/d/UserReview-UFC_58_USA_vs_Canada-143-1432702-15989-UFC_58_USA_vs_Canada.html http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/d/UserReview-UFC_58_USA_vs_Canada-143-1432702-15989-UFC_58_USA_vs_Canada.html Fri, 18 Dec 2009 03:15:31 +0000
<![CDATA[ Valentine is still 3 months away, so if you wish to get me a gift, there's still time!]]> Soma Chocolate, specifically, tumbled almonds in dark Peruvian chocolate & tumbled toasted corn in Costa Rican milk chocolate right before Christmas! How exotic can that be, right? Well, exotic they may be but fattening they certainly are. I can see myself putting on weight if I continue to munch on them. Oh, they are certainly the best chocolate I've had since I can remember.

Luckily for me (gotta watch that figure of ours, gals) Soma Chocolate is only available in Toronto and after just getting a 100 g packet of each flavor (for sampling as I didn't know they were that awesome!), I've left the city for good! If I were to extend my stay, I'd have had expanded my waist! 

So, a little background about this chocolate maker tucked away in the Distillery District with some quaint gift and art shops in the neighborhood. The shop is also where the factory is. It's a cosy corner with a tiny dining area for those who are dying for a cup of hot coffee or chocolate in the chilly winterly days of Toronto. It's a place where you worship chocolate. Soma Chocolatemaker is one of a few artisan chocalatemakers in North America making their chocolate directly from cocoa beans which are imported from many Central American countries like Dominican Republic, Panama & Costa Rica. Soma also serves Mayan Hot Chocolate & A la Taza at its store.

For my short stay at the Soma Chocolate, I was infused with the chocolate culture and welcome its cozy and warm feel. It was a Saturday afternoon when we visited and the place was pack! It's certainly popular with Torontonians & visitors alike. I especially love its collection of chocolate tumbled nuts & toasted corn. What a great surprise to find such elixirs in this tiny outlet. Those chocolates are marvelous & heavenly so much so I feel fairy godmother has arrived early this Christmas! YUM!!!

Oh, before I forget, Soma Chocolate also serves its own gelato!]]>
http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/food/UserReview-Soma_Chocolate_in_Toronto-143-1432068-15848-Valentine_is_still_3_months_away_so_if_you_wish.html http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/food/UserReview-Soma_Chocolate_in_Toronto-143-1432068-15848-Valentine_is_still_3_months_away_so_if_you_wish.html Mon, 14 Dec 2009 03:29:51 +0000
<![CDATA[ Ammunition for the US Health Care Debate: JAMA Compares US and Canadian Health Care Systems]]> Journal of the American Medical Association had an interesting comparison of health care in the US and Canada. It shows that choice--that American bugaboo--is not limited in Canada. It's worth passing on to those who are wavering on whether to support health care reform in the US.

The conclusion is that although government-sponsored plans like Canada's are frequently publicly portrayed as limiting choice, there is clear evidence that for Canada's health care system, less choice in insurance coverage (although guaranteed) has not resulted in less choice of hospitals, physicians, and diagnostic testing

Note: I've copied this from the on-line edition of JAMA which is not readily available to the lay reader.

Health Care Choices and Decisions in the United States and Canada
By Joseph S. Ross, MD, MHS; Allan S. Detsky, MD, PhD
JAMA. 2009;302(16):1803-1804.

Media speculation about the scope of proposals for health care reform in the United
States has led many Americans to be "very concerned" that changes will limit their
choices in the future. Health care choices are made on 3 levels: insurance plans,
sources of care (physicians and hospitals), and clinical decisions (diagnostic tests and
treatments). In this Commentary, the extent to which Americans currently are able to
exercise choices is discussed. For context, the US environment is compared with that in Canada, partly because the Canadian health system, with much greater government
involvement, is often publicly portrayed in the United States as limiting choice.

Insurance Coverage
United States
All US citizens, other than those aged 65 years or older and the very poor, make the choice to purchase private health insurance (or not). It is estimated that nearly 47 million individuals have no coverage. It is unknown how many choose not to purchase coverage, cannot afford coverage, or cannot obtain coverage. Uninsured persons are severely limited in all other health care choices. They must either receive charity care or pay for care out of pocket, possibly incurring substantial debt or bankruptcy. The choice of insurance plan is also often limited; 96% of US
Metropolitan Statistical Areas have insurance markets that are highly concentrated, consolidated among only a few companies. Employers who offer health insurance also frequently limit choices. One plan is often established as preferred and made less expensive through lower premiums and co-payments. Few working adults can afford to purchase plans outside of their employer because other plans' costs and risks are neither subsidized nor pooled. In addition, loss or change of jobs often results in loss of insurance coverage or substantially higher payments to retain existing coverage.
In contrast, insurers have the choice to accept or deny individuals coverage for innumerable reasons, often related to prior or current medical conditions. They may even deny coverage among those they insure for specific care related to preexisting conditions.
All Canadian citizens and landed immigrants are eligible to receive health insurance through the government-sponsored plan administered by their province or territory. Because the application process is simple, without screening for current or preexisting health conditions or means testing, unenrolled individuals who seek care are routinely enrolled by clinical practices and hospitals, removing the need for charity care. Insurance coverage is not tied to employment and so does not change with loss or change of jobs. The Canadian government mandates that all provincial plans cover "necessary care," including most physician and hospital services. However, there are private insurance plans to obtain coverage for services that are not covered by some provincial plans, such as pharmaceuticals, private rooms in hospitals, dental care, home care, physiotherapy, and chiropractic care.

Hospitals and Physicians
United States
The choice of hospital or physician is often made by an individual's insurance plan. Whether structured as a health maintenance organization, preferred provider organization, or otherwise, most plans attempt to limit costs by designating hospitals and physicians, offering either discounted coinsurance or additional benefits to promote their use. Receiving care "out of network" requires that individuals pay substantially larger co-payments.

Health insurance plans often require individuals to choose a primary care physician on enrollment who arranges referrals to specialist physicians. Forty percent of sicker adult Americans report difficulties seeing a specialist, 40% because of long waiting times, 31% because of a denied referral or waiting for a referral, and 17% because they cannot afford private insurance.

Choice is also influenced by availability of care. The United States ranks last in international comparisons for patients finding it somewhat or very difficult to obtain care on nights or weekends without going to an emergency department.5
Canadians may choose to receive care from any physician or hospital anywhere in Canada. Typically, a family physician provides primary care and makes referrals to specialists. There is no limit to the number of different physicians a patient can see. If patients are not satisfied with the care of one physician or hospital, they may change to another. Specialists generally require a referral from another physician (not necessarily the family physician) to be reimbursed for a "consultation" but can evaluate any patient and be reimbursed for an "assessment." Individuals may present to any hospital emergency department and request specialty care,which is scheduled as long as the emergency physician, who has no incentive not to, agrees.

Diagnostic Testing and Treatments
United States
The common presumption is that there is access to every new diagnostic test, procedure, medication, and intervention in the United States. However, insurance plans make use of formularies that restrict medications. Generally, at least 1 medication in any pharmacologic class is offered among "first-tier" medications, for which co-payments are the least expensive. Choosing less expensive or generic medications is also facilitated by requiring prior authorization for brand-name medications when a generic alternative exists or by offering 1 medication in a class at a lower co-payment after contracting with the manufacturer to obtain a discounted price.Similarly, although many routine, less expensive services are not restricted, prior authorization is often used to limit the use of expensive health care services such as magnetic resonance imaging or experimental interventions.

In international comparisons, US waiting times are consistently shorter for elective surgeries and procedures. However, even though physicians and hospitals generally are able and willing to provide care quickly and efficiently, insurance plans are not necessarily similarly willing to fully reimburse charges. Often, it is not until after the procedure and utilization review that patients become aware of the substantial portion of the payment they must incur.
Virtually all health care services available in the United States are also available in Canada. There isregionalization of specialized services, such as surgical, oncology, or imaging procedures. For services unavailable in all parts of Canada, such as gamma knife surgery, governments will reimburse care received in the United States, but patients are required to apply in advance. In contrast with common perception, Canadians' use of elective health care services in the United States is not common.For care in Canada, there is no utilization review and all services are covered in full without co-payment. Physicians and hospitals are paid promptly by the government. Patients receive no bill and fill out no forms. However, as opposed to prior authorization, the use of expensive health care services is limited by supply; there are fewer facilities per capita that provide this care. Provincial and private drug plans use formularies similar to those in the United States.

Waiting time is less a health care issue than a political one. Both federal and provincial governments haveresponded to media-facilitated public pressure to reduce wait times for specific services, such as hip and knee replacement, cataract surgery, cancer surgery, and emergency care through strategies that resemble pay for performance.Moreover, there is provincial variation in reliance on private facilities that charge individuals directly for common diagnostic services (eg, blood drawing, imaging); some provinces have allowed (or tacitly encouraged) these facilities, allowing patients to choose to pay for some routine care to receive it sooner.

The Bottom Line
Government-sponsored plans like Canada's are frequently publicly portrayed as limiting choice. However, there is clear evidence that for Canada's health care system, less choice in insurance coverage (although guaranteed) has not resulted in less choice of hospitals, physicians, and diagnostic testing]]>
http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/d/UserReview-Health_Care_Choices_and_Decisions_in_the_United_States_and_Canada-143-1431424-15277-Ammunition_for_the_US_Health_Care_Debate_JAMA.html http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/d/UserReview-Health_Care_Choices_and_Decisions_in_the_United_States_and_Canada-143-1431424-15277-Ammunition_for_the_US_Health_Care_Debate_JAMA.html Mon, 30 Nov 2009 13:29:27 +0000
<![CDATA[ An interview with writer, poet, publisher and editor Ron Price of Australia]]>

I began asking and answering these questions in 1998 and added more in the spring of 2009.  This is the 26th  simulated interview in 13 years, 1996 to 2009.  There is no attempt in this series of Qs &As to be sequential, to follow themes or simulate a normal interview. I have done this in many other interviews. I have posted literally millions of words on the internet and readers who come across this interview of 3500 words will gain some idea of the person who writes the stuff they read at other sites on this world-wide-web.
1. Do you have a favourite place to visit? I’ve lived in 25 cities and towns and in 37 houses and would enjoy visiting them again for their mnemonic value. There are dozens of other places I’d enjoy going circumstances permitting, circumstances like: lots of money, good health, lots of energy and if I could be of some use to the people in those places.

2. Who are your favourite writers? Edward Gibbon, Arnold Toynbee, Ortega y Gasset, the Central Figures of the Baha’i Faith, Rainer Maria Rilke, Emily Dickinson, Rollo May, Alfred Adler, inter alter.

3. Who are your favorite artists?  There are several dozen art movements and hundreds if not thousands or artists.  I will name two famous artists whose work I like and two whom I have known personally: Cezanne, Van Gogh, Chelinay and Drew Gates,

4. Who are your favorite composers, musicians, vocalists and singer/songwriters? How can one choose from the thousands in these categories? Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, Rachmaninov, Hayden come to mind as composers but, goodness, there are simply too many to list.

5. Who are your heroes? The Central Figures of the Baha’i Faith, Beethoven, Emily Dickinson, a large number of men described in ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s Memorials of the Faithful and many more that I come across in reading history, the social sciences and the humanities.

6. Who has been your greatest inspirations? Roger White and John Hatcher in my middle age,  Jamie Bond and Douglas Martin when I was a young man in my teens and twenties as well as a host of others, too many to list, in these years of my late adulthood, 60 to 65.

7. If you could invite four people for dinner from any period in history, who would you choose and why?

Pericles: I’d like to know what went on in Athens in the Golden Age, as he saw it.

Roger White: I’d like to simply enjoy his gentle humor and observe that real kindness which I could see in his letters.

My mother and father and my maternal grandparents: The pleasure of seeing them again(except for my grandmother whom I never saw since she died five years before I was born) after all these years would, I think, be just overwhelming.

8. What are you reading? At the moment, in 1998, my last year of full-time employment, I have fourteen books on the go: eight biographies, four literary criticisms, one book of philosophy and one of psychology. Now in the first year on two old age pensions a decade later, I am reading only material on the internet and that reading list is too extensive to list here.

9. What do you enjoy listening to in the world of music? I listen mainly to classical music on the classical FM station here in Perth as well as some from the folk, pop and rock worlds.  Now that I live in George Town northern Tasmania this is also true only much less pop and folk and more jazz.

10. What food could you not live without? I would miss my wife’s cooking and Persian and Mexican food if I was cut off from them. It must be said, though, that I rarely eat Persian and Mexican food now that I am retired and I hardly miss these foods.

11. What do you do when you feel a poem coming on?  I get a piece of paper and pen or go to my computer/word processor.

12. How Important is Life-Style and Freedom From the Demands of Employment and Other People?

These things became absolutely crucial by my mid fifties.  The Canadian poet, anarchist, literary critic and historian George Woodcock (1912-1995), once said in an interview that it was very important for his literary work that he could live as he wished to live.  If a job was oppressing him, he said, he had to leave it.  Both Woodcock and I have done this on several occasions. He broke with a university and I broke with three Tafe colleges. It's a derogatory thing to say it's a form of evasion, of avoidance or cowardice, said Woodcock, but you have to evade those situations in life in which you become insubordinate to others or situations in which others offend your dignity.

Woodcock went on to say in that same interview that when one acts dramatically or precipitately—like resigning from a job or losing one’s temper--it often has consequences that are very negative. He gave examples from his own life and I could give examples here; I could expand on this important theme but this is enough for now. Readers who are keen to follow-up on this aspect of my life can read my memoirs.

13. Were you popular at school, in your primary, secondary and university days?

I certainly was in primary and secondary school, but not at matriculation or university.  I did not have the experience many writers and intellectuals have who received early wounds from the English school system among other things. It wasn't merely the discipline at these schools; it was the ways in which boys got what was called the school spirit. In most English schools it is a brutal kind of pro-sporty spirit that militates against the intellectual who is looked on as a weakling. I was popular at school because I was good at sport and I got on with everyone. I certainly was not seen as an intellectual. I was good at memorizing and that is why I did so well, but at university I could not simply memorize; I had to think and write my own thoughts and my grades went from ‘A’s’ to ‘C’s.

14. You did not flower early as a writer, did you?

Many writers flower early. Many of them become largely forgotten whereas I have a different type of creativity which seems to be growing in power, literally decade by decade, again, like the Canadian George Woodcock.  This kind of creativity over the lifespan is actually quite abnormal.  I seem to have been the tortoise or the bull if you're going to use the Taurean symbol. I have been marching forward slowly. I think what I am writing now is better than anything I’ve ever written in my life.

15. What sort of relationships do you have these days?

I was reading about the Canadian writer George Woodcock whom I have mentioned in this series of questions and answers.  He said that he did not have all that many friends who were writers.  He knew their problems, but he did not know the problems of painters.  He said that he liked to move among painters, mathematicians, psychologists and people who could tell him something.  By my mid-fifties I had had enough of people telling me about things.  If I wanted to know about stuff I could read, watch TV, listen to the radio.  If I wanted some social life I could visit a small circle of people but, after an hour or so I usually had enough of conversation.  Due to my medications by the age of 65 and perhaps due to being in my middle years(65-75) of late adulthood(60-80) I found more than two hours with people took me to the edge of my psychological stamina, patience, my coping capacity. It was better for me to seek out solitude after two hours to preserve the quality of my relationships and not to “blot-my-copybook,” as my wife often put it when I indulged in some emotional excess, some verbal criticism of others or gave vent to some kind of spleen.

16. How would you describe the social outreach in your poetry?

I rarely point a finger directly at some guilty party, organization, person or movement; sometimes there is a subtle psychological base to a poem that hints at or implies some evil in someone’s court. My poetry is quite explicitly non-partisan. I have dealt with this issue several times in this series of 26 interviews. It is an important question because the wider world often judges a person by the extent to which one engaged with or in the quixotic tournament of social and political issues in our global community. I don’t shout at any multinational or rave for some environmental group.  When I do shout and rave it is about other things and there's nothing subtle about my shouting and raving and, in the process, probably little depth in those prose-poems of mine either.

17. Some poets see their work as a form of social criticism and like the Canadian poet Irving Layton, for example, they rage against society and some of what they see as society’s illnesses and injustices. Where does your poetry fit into this picture?

Many of Layton's more than forty published volumes of poetry are prefaced by scathing attacks on those who would shackle a poet's imagination; over the years he has used the media and the lecture hall to passionately and publicly decry social injustice. But perhaps his loudest and most sustained protest has been against a restrictive puritanism that inhibits the celebration and expression of human sexuality. My poetry is not an expression of scathing attacks on anything; nor is it a passionate and public poetic vis-à-vis the quixotic tournament of social issues that are paraded in front of me day after day in the print and electronic media.

I see my poetry as an extension of the whole Bahá'í approach to social issues and individual engagement with these issues. There are several Bahá'í books which explore this quite complex subject. One of the best was published 25 years ago. It is entitled Circle of Unity: Bahá'í Approaches to Current Social Issues.  I encourage readers to have a look at it if they would like a more complete answer to this question, a question that I cannot answer in a small paragraph.

As far as the imagination is concerned it is not, in my view, the opposite of facts or the enemy of facts.  The imagination depends upon facts; it feeds on them in order to produce beauty or invention, or discovery. The true enemy of the imagination is laziness, habit, leisure. The enemy of imagination is the idleness that provides fancy.   I am not concerned, as Layton was, with a restrictive puritanism that inhibits the celebration and expression of human sexuality.   I have many concerns in the process of writing poetry and journals, essays and narrative autobiography. I would like to emphasize here that even authentic historical documents, mine and those of others, are products of a human mind and its language, not of reality itself. Reality could be seen as a white light which each person sees on a spectrum of colour.

17. Do you think travelling has been crucial to your writing?

The Canadian poet Al Purdy(1918-2000) admitted pretty clearly that if he hadn't travelled he wouldn't have written very much. He felt that he had to go further out in the world and experience these places.  He was one of the most popular and important Canadian poets of the 20th century. Purdy's writing career spanned more than fifty years. His works include over thirty books of poetry; a novel; two volumes of memoirs and four books of correspondence. He has been called Canada’s "unofficial poet laureate" and, "a national poet in a way that you only find occasionally in the life of a culture."

I did not travel the way Purdy did. I just kept moving to new towns, some two dozen, and for a great many reasons until I was too tired, too old, too worn-out, too sick, too poor----goodness---what a sad tale, eh? Now I travel in my head and through the print and electronic media.

18. Do you like talking about poetry?

Gary Geddes tells(In It’s Still Winter: A WEB  JOURNAL  OF  CONTEMPORARY  CANADIAN  POETRY  AND  POETICS, Vol. 2 No. 1 Fall 1997) a great story of Douglas Dunn who was writer in residence at Hull and Dunn wanted to meet the famous British poet Larkin.  But Larkin was a curmudgeon. He hated poets! Douglas Dunn was told by friends who knew Larkin that, if you wanted to meet Larkin then you had to make sure you didn't ever talk about poetry. You could talk about jazz and anything else. So these friends arranged this meeting and left the two of them in the pub. Finally, after a few beers, Larkin leans across the table and says, "there are too many poets in this university. Your job as writer in residence is to get rid of them."

I don’t feel like this at all, although I can appreciate Larkin’s sentiments. If I want some congenial poetic spirit I read his poetry or I read about him but I have no strong desire to meet and have a chat.  But I like to talk about poetry and that is why I’ve simulated these 26 interviews.

19. Do you like reading poetry?

Gary Geddes says in the same interview I quoted above that when he was translating a book of Chinese poetry with a George Leong, George would often bring him the most depressing melancholic poems in Chinese to translate. Geddes would say: "George you gotta give me something else, I can't bear all of this stuff.”  I feel that same way about a lot of poetry, indeed, most contemporary, classical and poetry from any period of history. I just don’t connect with it. My mind and heart do not engage. the poets I do engage with hit home quite deeply, but they are relatively few.

20. Do you use metaphor in your poetry to any extent?

Not anywhere near as much as I’d like, as much as exists in its poetic potential. Aristotle once wrote that the ability to see relationships between things is the mark of poetic genius.  I would not want to make the claim to be a poetic genius; how could one ever make such a presumptuous, preposterous, claim.  But I see relationships between things all over the place. It’s one of the great motivators in why I write. I want to develop my use of metaphor in my poetry. I don’t think I’ve really taken off yet in my effective use of metaphor. The philosopher Paul Ricoeur(1913-2005) sees mood and metaphor as the basis of the unity of a poem, of poetry itself.  Writing poetry is certainly a mood thing for me and I’d like to make it much more of a metaphor thing as well.

When emotion and intellect converge in imaginative writing, writing for example that draws on metaphor, readers can be transported to another life-world, a type of Gestalt, a Lebenswelt, to use the philosopher Edmund Husserl’s(1859-1938) term.  Any transcendence that results for the writer and the reader here is not due to being taken to another realm, although this can occur, but more importantly or just as importantly, but it is due to seeing meaning, hidden meaning, meaning that did not exist before, in one’s experience, in the things and thoughts themselves, to go beyond the familiar, to make fleeting moments rich in imaginative detail.

There is a world outside language as the Canadian poet Don McKay(1942- ) asserts. It is very difficult to translate that world but some poetry can do this, can make this translation, with conviction and delight.

21. What do you see as the function of a poet?

A poet has many functions, but two functions of this poet that interest me, to answer this question off the cuff so to speak, is: (a) to discover and distil the labour and the genius of the Bahá'í experience and (b) to give expression to the delight and the love that are at the heart of writing. The Canadian poet A.J. M. Smith wrote this in 1954.   Smith had a preoccupation with death as I have, although not as intense and not in the same way as Smith’s.  Out of his preoccupation with death he made poetry.  I have made my poetry out of this and other preoccupations.

From a Bahá'í perspective, of course, the arts and sciences in general, and poetry in particular, should “result in advantage to man,” “ensure his progress,” and “elevate his rank” ; that music is a ladder for our souls,  “a means whereby they may be lifted up into the realm on high” ; that the art of drama will become “a great educational power” ; that when a painter takes up her paint brush, it is as if she were “at prayer in the Temple” ; that the arts fulfil “their highest purpose when showing forth the praise of God”; and that “music, art and literature...are to represent and inspire the noblest sentiments and highest aspirations.”   The beloved Guardian saw such spiritual power in the arts that he predicted they would eventually do much to help the Cause spread the spirit of love and unity. 

22. When you talk about art and the arts what do you mean?

When I say “art” or “the arts,” I mainly have in mind those that are commonly referred to as “fine arts” such as poetry, painting, sculpture, theatrical drama, film, music, dance and others.  But I also have in mind the “design arts,” such as architecture and urban design as well as the crafts, such as pottery and rug-weaving because these arts operate on a spiritual as well as a material plane. 

23. What do you see when you look in the mirror?

I have a photo which I post at many internet sites.  The caption, the descriptive comment on this photo, reads: “This full-frontal facial view-photo, taken in  2004 when I was 60 in Hobart Tasmania, has a light side and a dark side.  It is an appropriate photo to symbolize my lower and higher natures.  These are natures that reach for spiritual, for intellectual and cultural attainment on the one hand and reach for and get caught-up in/with the world of mire and clay and its shadowy and ephemeral attachments.

Of course, when I look in the mirror there is not this clear dichotomy of light and shadow. When I look in the mirror I see an external self, a face which bears a relationship with my real self, a self which is not my body. My real self is an unknown quantity and my face really tells me very little about this real self. And so, to answer your question, I see what nearly everyone else sees: eyes, ears, nose, mouth, cheeks, etc.

24. What would you bring to this interview to ‘show-and-tell’ if you could bring only one item? And what would you say about that item.

My mother-in-law, who is now 90 and lives in a little town called Beauty Point in northern Tasmania, has a little figure in her lounge-room. It is a small figure of three monkeys. It has a label on it: see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil. It always reminds me of a quotation from Bahá'u'lláh’s book Hidden Words. The quotation goers like this and it is this of which I wish to tell:

“O COMPANION OF MY THRONE! Hear no evil, and see no evil, abase not thyself, neither sigh and weep.  Speak no evil, that thou mayest not hear it spoken unto thee, and magnify not the faults of others that thine own faults may not appear great; and wish not the abasement of anyone, that thine own abasement be not exposed. Live then the days of thy life, that are less than a fleeting moment, with thy mind stainless, thy heart unsullied, thy thoughts pure, and thy nature sanctified, so that, free and content, thou mayest put away this mortal frame, and repair unto the mystic paradise and abide in the eternal kingdom for evermore.”
-Bahá'u'lláh, Persian Hidden Words, p. 44.

Concluding Comment:

I began asking and answering these questions in 1998 and I added more questions and answers, as I said at the outset of this interview, a decade later in the spring of 2009.

2300 words]]>
http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/d/UserReview-An_Interview_With_An_Australian_Canadian_Poet-143-1430633-14904-An_interview_with_writer_poet_publisher_and.html http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/d/UserReview-An_Interview_With_An_Australian_Canadian_Poet-143-1430633-14904-An_interview_with_writer_poet_publisher_and.html Tue, 17 Nov 2009 03:30:05 +0000
<![CDATA[ As far as outdoor activities go hiking is right at the top of my list.]]> taking hikes.  It is a great pastime and one of the few things we can do these days on the spur of the moment.  Just what's not to like about immersing oneself into the great outdoors?   We enjoy just about everything about it.  Molly and I  love the solitude, the scenic vistas, the birds and wildlife, the fresh air and of course the physical activity that is associated with hiking.  We find that it is a marvelous way to just leave your troubles behind for a few hours, reconnect with nature and recharge the batteries.  

Now don't get the wrong idea.  Molly and I know our limitations so you won't find us on extremely difficult and dangerous mountain trails.  Rather, we generally opt for trails in state parksNational Wildfile Refuges, Audobon Society sanctuaries and forest management areas.  We especially enjoy places that offer a variety of terrain.  Once such place that we visited just yesterday is Trustom National Wildlife Refuge located in Southern Rhode Island.  This land was donated by a visionary lady named Ann Kenyon Morse in 1974 in memory of her late husband.  God bless visionaries like Ann who see the wisdom of preserving such important and picturesque open spaces for the enjoyment of future generations.  Spanning more than 800 acres the refuge protects the state's only undeveloped salt pond.  From upland forests to a 1.5-mile barrier beach, the varied habitats in Trustom Pond support more than 300 bird, 40 mammal,and 20 reptile and amphibian species.  This is our favorite place in our home state.  We generally spend around three hours here and always come away relaxed and refreshed.

We also enjoy taking hikes in the mountains of New Hampshire and all along the Maine coast where there are tons of trails.  Wherever we travel we are always looking to take a hike.  It amazes me how relatively few people engage in this activity and take advantage of the open spaces that have been reserved for their enjoyment.  I know that not everyone enjoys the great outdoors but to my way of thinking these folks simply don't know what they are missing.  Looking for something to do this weekend?  Get out of the house and away from the computer and television and take a hike.   Rediscover one of the simple pleasures in life.   Highly recommended!]]>
http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/activity/UserReview-Hiking-143-1334688-13690-As_far_as_outdoor_activities_go_hiking_is_right_at.html http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/activity/UserReview-Hiking-143-1334688-13690-As_far_as_outdoor_activities_go_hiking_is_right_at.html Fri, 9 Oct 2009 20:15:41 +0000
<![CDATA[ Best book on small town Canada yet]]> http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/book/UserReview-Welcome_home_Travels_in_smalltown_Canada-143-1624766-164469-Best_book_on_small_town_Canada_yet.html http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/book/UserReview-Welcome_home_Travels_in_smalltown_Canada-143-1624766-164469-Best_book_on_small_town_Canada_yet.html Sun, 16 Aug 2009 12:00:00 +0000 <![CDATA[ Strong bunch of stories from north of the border]]>
In a small town in Alberta, an intact baby woolly mammoth is found buried in the snow. When Samuel, the town's "smart person," touches the carcass, the mammoth's life force is transferred to him, and he begins to have weird visions about being chased by beings on two legs. During a town-wide party, with mammoth stew as the main course (over Samuel's strong objections), strange things start happening, and several of the townspeople turn into cavemen, and chase Samuel as if he is the baby mammoth.

A young warrior, in feudal Japan, is sent to a small town to find out why they haven't sent in their annual amount of rice. Taking along his concubine and his brother, the mayor of the town says that it is not their fault; the land is somehow cursed. Solving the mystery, the warrior is shocked to find that his concubine and his brother are not exactly what they seem. They are mythological beings in human form.

Superheroes in present-day Korea deal with maniacal villains, inter-Korean politics, corporate downsizing (and overbearing mothers). As the world faces environmental catastrophe, reality-TV adventurers battle giant squids in the very deep ocean. Another small town in Alberta conducts pagan rituals during the year as if it was totally normal (though not everyone agrees). A pair of average women with the power of life and death travel the streets of present-day Montreal.

Here is another strong bunch of stories from north of the border. They are very easy to read, and very weird. It's recommended.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/book/UserReview-Tesseracts_Twelve_Tesseracts_Twelve_New_Novellas_of_Canadian_Fantastic_Fiction_-143-1633137-171029-Strong_bunch_of_stories_from_north_of_the_border.html http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/book/UserReview-Tesseracts_Twelve_Tesseracts_Twelve_New_Novellas_of_Canadian_Fantastic_Fiction_-143-1633137-171029-Strong_bunch_of_stories_from_north_of_the_border.html Mon, 3 Aug 2009 12:00:00 +0000
<![CDATA[ Guess Where I'm Going on Vacation from my Retirement?]]> But the core of this "handbook' is the information about trailheads and short hikes around the lakes, and that information is clear and enticing. Author Andrew Hempstead knows well what distinguishes one trail from another, and thus what helps in making choices.
This book plus some good maps should be all I need for a couple of weeks of bliss.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/book/UserReview-Moon_Handbooks_Canadian_Rockies_Including_Banff_and_Jasper_National_Parks-143-1556403-110472-Guess_Where_I_m_Going_on_Vacation_from_my.html http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/book/UserReview-Moon_Handbooks_Canadian_Rockies_Including_Banff_and_Jasper_National_Parks-143-1556403-110472-Guess_Where_I_m_Going_on_Vacation_from_my.html Sun, 12 Jul 2009 12:00:00 +0000
<![CDATA[ Rhythms of nature and desire - a stunningly beautiful and austere new film by Carlos Reygadas]]>
Film critic Gilberto Perez (The Material Ghost), wrote that the best filmmakers are not satisfied with veneer or plausibility, but seek from reality "something richer and stranger, of more potency and consequence, but also, in that measure, harder to deal with coherently, more resistant to articulate arrangement." Reygadas is in my opinion one of those filmmakers whose work doesn't feel like it is trying to teach you something or to entertain you or to make you feel something specific, but who seeks with each film to discover something real. Not so much to tell a story as to let a story tell itself, to let human being and nature show itself in all its strangeness and wonder.

The opening scene of this film is among the most powerful I've seen. On the one hand it is unsettling and disorienting to be cast into the darkness of the open sky and twirled slowly with no sense of where we stand in space or time. On the other hand, this incredible opening shot serves to orient us as viewers. Before it is clear what is going on, that it is early morning and we are witnessing the emergence of light from the darkness, the sounds of crickets and a breeze and the groaning of the cattle begin to ground the film, to place what is to take place in and among the natural rhythms of the Earth.

The next image, however, serves to remind us that here on Earth we people tend to govern our lives according to a different scale than that which operates in nature, the rhythm of the sun and moon and stars, of day and night, of the seasons, of birth and growth and death. We pattern our lives after the artificial scales measured by the clock, by the calendar that tells us when to celebrate and the laws that tell us when to pay taxes, by the ordinances and regulations and habits and customs and prejudices that tell us when to get up when to go to work, how and when to follow our desires, how and with whom we can share our lives and feelings.

What impresses me about this film is that nothing seems contrived. Nothing seems to be there simply to be looked at, the camera does not feel like either a voyeur or a judge. A scene of intimacy is not there to arouse the viewer, or to create a sense of vicarious satisfaction -- like all real sex (not the fake sex that sells products or pornography), it is awkward and estranging to watch, the scene reminds us that sex is a strange thing, like all real sex it means something only for the participant. Once again, Gilberto Perez writes that the difficulty of engaging with the real in film is that "the closer the engagement with reality, the more difficult the task of giving it form and meaning ... [but] the risk of incoherence must be run, unruly reality met on a ground close enough to its own for its energies and its resistance to come into play. Only by contending with its resistance can a filmmaker derive from its energies, and arrange into expressive structures, a vividness and force that tell on the screen.".

By setting a familiar story into this unfamiliar world, that seems so different than the urban and suburban settings that at least in the movies tend to generate the boredom that results in infidelity, by setting this familiar story against such a rich natural backdrop, director Carlos Reygadas (Japon,Battle In Heaven) gives us insight into what strange and remarkable creatures we are, how we are at once very much animals with passions we cannot understand and how we work so hard to hide this from ourselves, that we must eat and drink and sleep and that our desires are not always compatible with our attempts to regulate desire and that we live and die according to forces we do not control and cannot predict.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/movie/UserReview-Silent_Light_Lumiere_Silencieuse_French_and_English_Subtitles_Region_1_DVD_USA_Canada_Edition-143-1506150-69349-Rhythms_of_nature_and_desire_a_stunningly.html http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/movie/UserReview-Silent_Light_Lumiere_Silencieuse_French_and_English_Subtitles_Region_1_DVD_USA_Canada_Edition-143-1506150-69349-Rhythms_of_nature_and_desire_a_stunningly.html Tue, 19 May 2009 12:00:00 +0000
<![CDATA[ Les Miserables Maghrebi]]>
Not really, its like good lasagna to a second/third/fourth generation Southern Italian American family gathered around a dinner table somewhere in a bedroom community of New York City. The wonderful earthy kitchen aromas of tomato sauce, perfectly spiced meatballs and Parmigiana Reggiano lend a sensual ambiance that lulls these assimilated would-have-been peasants from the Old World into a cultural time capsule that transcends all the homogenization (education/refinement/development) that the New World has to offer.

Director Abdel Kechiche understands this need for Old World familiar. In his film "La Graine et le Mulet" (The Grain and the Mullet) his characters savor the Tunisian dish of couscous and fish as the one universal crowd pleaser that sensually nourishes and positively unites all the film's characters (North African immigrants and the ensuing Beur generation of French-born, Verlan-speaking, traditionally Arabic albeit French citizens) otherwise burdened in varying degrees dependent on age and generation by simple survival in an adopted country (France) where assimilation flounders on culturally diverse ground.

Kechiche exquisitely renders the lives of 61 year-old Slimane (Habib Boufares and his large family with a deft pointillist's love of detail that seems so natural as to be unscripted and unedited. Mundane slices of everyday life are studied almost to the audience's saturation point--Kechiche's camera shifts with a tremulous vibrato as it picks up facial details and seemingly meaningless gesticulations during family conversations revolving around potty training and marital life. Astonishingly, these segments immerse the audience with their living and breathing authenticity--one cannot help being a part of all those dinners as the tongue-tied guest assimilating into a world of family that becomes easier to know as the platters progressively move around the table. After two and a half hours of watching and listening the actual storyline does not seem to matter as much as becoming an honorary member of the family and steadfastly interloping on vignettes that reveal not only character but also a wider universal theme of when what was once called multiculturalism ironically morphs unbeknownst to its observers as `the' culture of the country.

The plot vehicle that allows us our voyeuristic adventure is the plight of Slimane. After working for over thirty-five years in the shipyards, a taciturnly distraught Slimane finds his hours cut and his construction of a better life in France fraught with the holes of regret and invalidated by suggestions from his sons to return to a mother country that in the hopeful temptation of dream could offer him untold riches. Divorced from the mother of his children, Souad (Bouraouïa Marzouk), he lives in a small room that is part of the hotel owned by his girlfriend, Latifa (Hatika Karaoui), and her 20-something daughter, Rym (Hafsia Herzi) with whom he has a close relationship that exceeds that which he has with his own children. To alleviate his financial woes, he decides rather cavalierly to renovate an old boat and convert it into a restaurant where he will serve Souad's marvelous couscous and fish to the music of a hypothetical cash register ringing.

Amidst the interferences of family life in which the audience discovers the interplay between Souad's daughters and Latifa and Rym, the film plays out its final act on opening night aboard the new floating restaurant with all the passion of a Greek tragedy. Complete with a chase scene that leaves one white knuckled with both frustration and exasperation (the scene seems to go on and on), we are treated to food, drink, belly dancing and a fly in the ointment that eventually ends with a gasp and double take as the credits roll.

Bottom line: "The Secret of the Grain" is fascinating. Highly recommended it engulfs one in its reverence for family minutia where we sympathize with the plight of Slimane but also remember the dreams of other immigrants in other places as they assimilate into countries that are both benevolent and haughty in their expectations. Actress Hafsia Herzi hums with an intensity that acts as the perfect loquacious foil for the quiet lead, Slimane.
Diana Faillace Von Behren
http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/movie/UserReview-The_Secret_of_the_Grain_La_Graine_et_le_Mulet_Subtitled_in_English_Region_1_DVD_USA_Canada_Edition_2007_-143-1603177-147122-Les_Miserables_Maghrebi.html http://www.lunch.com/gocanada/reviews/movie/UserReview-The_Secret_of_the_Grain_La_Graine_et_le_Mulet_Subtitled_in_English_Region_1_DVD_USA_Canada_Edition_2007_-143-1603177-147122-Les_Miserables_Maghrebi.html Tue, 3 Feb 2009 12:00:00 +0000