Monday, August 28, 2006

Albert Speer is alive and well and living in Dubai

Today I was doing my usual surfing around "the net" and from my previous blogs y'all know what that means. I end up on a wacky circuitous drive down the internet highway and I never know where I am going to end up.

Having just watched the amazing Spike Lee documentary "When the Levees Broke" this past weekend. I decided to see what some of my favorite "non-right wing" news websites were writing about on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina sinking New Orleans. Rewinding a bit, if you can get the chance to see Spike Lee's documentary, I suggest you watch it. It is an incredible piece and I think one of his best works ever. It is at times heartbreaking to watch. I had to keep getting up to find kleenex. The interviews with famous jazz musicians, leaders, black leaders, regular people on the street, are so incredible it will put you through a whole range of emotions. You will find yourself shaking your head and wondering why on earth and how on earth GW Bush is still President of the US.

Anyway......I thought to myself "hmmm, I should check out "Mother Jones" site as I have not checked it out in a while. I was reading the "special coverage" page on Katrina and deciding on which of the articles to read first when out of the corner of my eye I noticed an animated "ad" for another Mother Jones article.
What caught me was the catch phrases to get you to click on the animation and take you to the article: "Worlds largest theme park....Biggest Mall.....Tallest Building.....Despotic Ruler....Indentured Labour.....Dubai....Welcome to Paradise" these words are animated across the artistic rendering of what the Dubai skyline will look like in 2008 when the 'Burj Dubai' (worlds tallest building) is completed by 2008 . Now, I don't mind if Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum wants to invest and spend gazillions of his dollars to build a city that is essentially Disney World in the dessert or as the article suggests putting up buildings like "Donald Trump tripping on acid" but I do mind the not so nice reality of that old 18th century thinking that indentured labour is okay. Even more shocking the use of women as sex slaves and the use of child labour. As the article states: Dubai lifestyles are attended by vast numbers of Filipina, Sri Lankan, and Indian maids, while the building boom is carried on the shoulders of an army of poorly paid Pakistanis and Indians working twelve-hour shifts, six and half days a week, in the blast-furnace desert heat.
Dubai, like its neighbors, flouts ILO labor regulations and refuses to adopt the international Migrant Workers Convention. Human Rights Watch in 2003 accused the Emirates of building prosperity on "forced labor." Indeed, as the British Independent recently emphasized in an exposé on Dubai, "The labour market closely resembles the old indentured labour system brought to Dubai by its former colonial master, the British."
"Like their impoverished forefathers," the paper continued, "today's Asian workers are forced to sign themselves into virtual slavery for years when they arrive in the United Arab Emirates. Their rights disappear at the airport where recruitment agents confiscate their passports and visas to control them"

Can it be true or is it just another attempt by the lefties and left wing media to bring down yet another succesful businessman? Cause, according to the Sheiks own website, where you can read his poetry and share his "vision" (he appears to be marketing himself as the Anthony Robbins of the Middle East) it states: Through leadership, vision and innovation, Sheikh Mohammed hopes to guide the people of Dubai, the United Arab Emirates and, indeed, the Middle East, toward a brighter future. That's great! This guy can't possibly be the ruler of a country that is abusing workers as all the investigative reporting states. How can it be so. I will let you read the article and check out the Sheiks website yourself and draw your own conclusions. I can only say that I am leaning toward the "left wing media" on this one. The ending paragraph of the article says it best.... "Yet the future that he is building in Dubai -- to the applause of billionaires and transnational corporations everywhere -- looks like nothing so much as a nightmare of the past: Walt Disney meets Albert Speer on the shores of Araby."

I do want to throw a big "F---K YOU" to the likes of Rod Stewart and David Beckham for supporting this despot (David Beckham owns a beach front property on Dubai and Rod Stewart, an island (rumored, in fact, to be named Great Britain)). I guess they both really, really, really, want to forget their working class British upbringing. You would hope that when folks like that start making oodles of cash that they would try to remember where they came from and do something to make the world a better place rather then supporting a country where there is forced labour and forced child labour to boot. Ooooops, guess I just gave away which way my thinking really is leaning towards on this issue, as if there was a doubt.

Quote of the Day:

Cowardice asks the question, 'Is it safe?' Expediency asks the question,
'Is it politic?' But conscience asks the question, 'Is it right?' And there
comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic,
nor popular but because conscience tells one it is right.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Do you wanna go faaaaaaaastah!!!!!!

It's August and it's a few weeks before the September Labour Day weekend. In Toronto that means it is time for the CNE or Canadian National Exhibition. Torontonian's, who seem to shorten all names refer to the CNE simply as "the Ex".

Out of the blue I ended up at "the Ex" on Monday evening as JB's Sports Network sets up an interactive booth for kids at the CNE (the ol' get them hooked on a brand while their young, marketing angle) As JB works in Public Relations for said network, he was down there to make sure things were running smoothly. He suggested I meet him after work and we have dinner.

If you are from Toronto or you have been to Toronto in August you have more than likely walked through the Princes Gates (photo above) to enter the CNE, many, many times. While I was waiting for JB to meet me at the Princes Gates. I stood there looking at how lovely they are and looking at the details and all the carvings and the fountains on the side. The gates were opened in 1927 by H.R.H. Edward, Prince of Wales and his brother, Prince George. The Princes' Gates have become a symbol of the Canadian National Exhibition. The nine pillars on either side of the centre arch of the gates represent the participating provinces of Confederation (Newfoundland joined Confederation in 1949) of Canada. The figure at the top of the arch, Nike the "Goddess of Winged Victory," is a much loved Toronto sculpture. Torontonians were very, very upset and worried when Nike was taken down in the late 1980's for repairs and cleaning. She was returned to her rightful place on top of the gates looking eastward over the city skyline. The Princes' Gates were designated as historically significant under the Ontario Heritage Act.

The Ex is a tradition for many families. The Ex was founded in 1879 to encourage the development of agriculture, manufacturing, industry, commerce and the arts. It is now the largest annual fair in Canada and the fifth largest in North American with an average attendance of 1.3 million visitors annually.(got that from their "history of the ex" page). I remember as a small child my parents taking us every summer to the CNE. As I walked through the gates on Monday night a flood of memories came over me. As a kid the start of the CNE was always a bittersweet time because you knew when the Ex started you were 3 weeks away from school starting! You would go with your CNE pass which was handed out with your final report card each summer and immediately head for the midway to ride on the rides. I have a vivid memory of being very small and riding on one of children's rides on the Midway. It was a floating ride with little boats on a spoke that went around in a circle at a very low rate of speed, but as a 4 year old it seemed pretty fast. You had your own steering wheel and each little boat had their own bell that you could ring. I can still see my Dad smiling and waving at me each time I went around in my own little speed boat while my Dad motioned to me to ring the bell. Scattered throughout the grounds of the CNE are numerous buildings each designated for a specific purpose during the exhibition. Many of them are now designated heritage buildings as they were built from the late 1800's onward. The "Better Living Centre" was where all the latest appliances would be showcased. I remember my parents going there to check out the latest models in vacuum cleaners one summer. Sadly, now "The Better Living Centre" is more like a huge dollar store with booths showcasing all those "as seen on TV" products.

The Automotive building was where all the latest models of cars were showcased but Toronto now has a huge auto show in February each year. Now the Automotive Building houses the "Farm,Food and Fun" exhibit. The farm exhibits used to be housed in, you guessed it, "The Agricultural Building" which seems to be used for a different purpose this year. Beside the Agricultural Building is the Horse Palace. Being an ex equestrian, I used to spend a lot of time in the Horse Palace during the CNE. My Mother and I would go down a few times to watch the various horse competitions. They do seem to have horse "related" shows going on there but they have strayed a bit from the usual hunter/jumper and dressage competitions.

What I found fascinating while walking around the CNE on Monday night was how much the food building has changed. When I was a kid it was where you went for tons of free samples of candy and soda pop. It would be where the various big name food manufacturers would introduce their latest products. There was never any "ethnic" food at the food building. How times have changed. These days the food building fare has changed to reflect the more multicultural population of Toronto. But don't panic, you can still get Tiny Tom doughnuts and H. Salt Fish and Chips (my mothers favorite CNE snack) As I ventured into the Food Building on my quest for my CNE fix of a tray of curly fries. I noticed all sorts of different food kiosks now selling all sorts of ethnic fare Greek food, Indian food, Lebanese food,West Indian food. JB queued up for a shawarma which he said was excellent. I chuckled and thought when I was a kid the food building was where you could get fries, fish and chips, sausages and the most "exotic" dish you could get was a bowl of spaghetti and meat sauce for a dollar. Now you can get tandoori chicken and head over to the cheesecake stand and get a capuccino and a slice of cheesecake for dessert.

The Bandshell is still there but the music has changed from when the old swing bands from the 1930's and 1940's would play there. It was built as a replica to the Hollywood Bowl, in the 1930's. This summer the Bandshell's attraction is a show called "Hollywood-The Movie Song Show" where you can watch live performers sing, along with dancers and visual props of your favorite movie. You HAVE to check out the link that "showcases" this show. I could not stop laughing but then hey, the show IS free with your admission to the Ex.

I have not been to the Ex in quite a few years and it brought back a lot of memories as I walked through the gates. It was kind of comforting to see that it really hasn't changed that much yet it has changed a lot and truly reflects the multicultural population of Toronto. It is wonderful that all the old buildings are still there and are used and maintained. I can't say I would go every year as I used to when I was younger and like most Torontonian's we may not go every year but we would probably fight tooth and nail to ensure that the CNE went on each year.

I do have a hankering to head to the midway again and climb on the "Polar Express" and fly around in a circle so fast that the centrifugal force squishes you into the person you are sitting with while the music is blaring and the ride operator screams through the microphone "do you want to go faaaaaaaster!!!"

JB is back at the booth on the weekend so perhaps I will trek down again and meet him for lunch hit the polar express and get a belgian waffle ice cream and sit by the Princess Margaret fountain and watch a new generation of youth experience this end of summer CNE tradition.

Quote of the Day:

Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind; it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees; it is a matter of the will, quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life.

Samuel Ullman

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Panthera Tigris Sumatrae

I decided to check out my mutual fund results this morning as they have been taking a beating the past couple of months. I was happy to see that they are climbing up again. My mutual funds are with AGF. This company uses a Tiger as their logo, stay with me...The Toronto Zoo has two new Sumatran baby tiger cubs and AGF, out of the goodness of their Corporate hearts (i am sure not because of the advertising it will give them) has funded "The AGF Baby Tiger cam" it is pretty cool and fascinating to watch the Mother tiger, Brytne, and her two cubs,yet to be named. As Blake Goldring,President of AGF, states on the Toronto Zoo website "Through the Tiger-Cam we can witness the previously hidden world of one of nature's most endangered animals, the Sumatran Tiger. Please come back and visit often - these cubs are growing and changing - in front of our very eyes!" Thanks Blake and hopefully your fund advisors at AGF are constantly on the look out for environmentally friendly and responsible companies with which to invest our money with. Makes me sad that we can't have a web cam in Sumatra where we can watch Sumatran Tigers frolic in their natural habitat! I just checked the web cam and Mother tiger is giving one of the cubs a bath...

Quote for today:

If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer. But if he spends his days as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making the earth bald before her time, he is deemed an industrious and enterprising citizen.

Henry David Thoreau

Monday, August 14, 2006

Kobayashi Maru (for you trekkies, keep reading)

Bless this house O Lord we pray; Make it safe by night and day;
Bless these walls so firm and stout, Keeping want and trouble out:
Bless the roof and chimneys tall, Let thy peace lie over all;
Bless this door, that it may prove ever open to joy and love.

Apoligies but todays blog is a bit of a mish mash of things.

First off, Yes!! the roof is finally finished. The "roofers" showed up on Saturday afternoon to finish the job. I was so happy it made me think of the old hymn "Bless this House" which my Grandfather used to sing sometimes. It was a very popular hymn in the 1920's and 1930's. I was tempted to find a recording of the hymn and play the one line "bless this roof......" over and over again until the roofers left.

The weekend was not as relaxing as I had planned. My Saturday morning golf game with Espinoza and EL was great, very relaxing and a good work out. My friend Zahur joined we three ladies and it is always entertaining when Zahur joins us. Zahur is the type of person who is never stressed, always calm and laid back and he always has hilarious stories to tell us, in his cool African, British accent. Zahur loves golf and is one of those players who never gets stressed or upset. He keeps everyone else relaxed during the long 18 hole journey of the golf game. Zahur reminds me of Yul Brynner from the Ten Commandments. He has the same shaved head and speaks the same way as Yul (even though Yul was not African). When I sms'd Zahur and said we need a fourth for golf on Saturday he said to me with a flourish a la Yul "Then, I shall be your fourth!" not many guys use the word "shall" these days.

While I was out golfing, JB was at the Toronto Beer Festival (he wrote about it in his blog today, photos included) I had the rest of the day to do what I wanted. I decided to go grocery shopping and pick up some items and get something to BBQ and then hit the liquor store for some wine and then go home and relax. I had every intention of pouring myself a nice Leffe beer and reading the new Vanity Fair Magazine, out on our back patio alas, when I drove up to the house, I noticed the familiar white van of the roofers. I just wanted to sit out in the back and relax and read a magazine but the hammering and other noises was making me crazy. It was even worse when they brought out the flame thrower to melt the tar to attach the sealant to a portion of the house that has a flat roof on it. I decided to go inside and close all the windows and prep dinner.

On Sunday, JB and I went for our weekly golf lesson and then got home to find the roofers back at work, doing last minute fix ups and cleaning up all the debris. Once they left, we decided to go to Golf Town as they are having a huge clearance sale. I got a great deal on a 56 degree approach wedge (you golfers will know what that is)in an "oil can" finish and we both got a great deal on two bag carts. It saves us renting a cart each time we go and play.the cart in the photo is the model we bought. It has some nice extras such as the tee holders, ball holders and water bottle holder, not to mention the holder for the scorecard and pencil! This is most important as it is a pain to continually be pulling out the score card from your pocket or golf bag and then searching for a pencil to input everyone's score after each hole. Back at home JB unpacked the carts and put them both together. I was called and emailed about work issues on and off all day on Sunday.

Sunday night my brother arrived home and noticed the roof finished and the debris all cleaned up and quipped "oh, have our lodgers finally moved out?"

Back at work today and thankfully my Director is back! This afternoon, I got into a discussion with one of my co-workers about those annoying "team building" posters that are sold from the store "Successories" I am sure you have all seen them before. The posters with the beautifully photographed nature scenes or sports scenes with the requisite statements such as "A positive attitude is a powerful force. It can't be stopped!".....well, some bright person has developed their own "successories" poster campaign utilizing old stills from the old Star Trek series... There are three pages of these hilarious "motivational posters" one of my favorites is the one below. The caption states "I'm sorry, I can't hear you over the sound of how awesome I am." I just can't stop laughing!

Celtic Chancers update: The boys are close to the border of Kazakhstan and Mongolia. Their latest message: "slept in car in field 2 sound of horse size dogs barking. Woke 2 sound of cow eating wing mirror. Had breakfast with local farmer & flies." (if confused see previous blog "From London to Ulaan Bataar")

Quote for Today:

Today's quote is for our a**hole Canadian Prime Minister who apparently could not attend the rather large AIDS conference happening in Toronto this week. His "people" are saying that it could not fit into his calendar. It appears the likes of Bill Clinton, 1000's of dignitaries from all over the world including numerous women from Africa fighting to get much needed drugs to their countries, does not make our Prime Minister CLUE IN, that perhaps he should have attended the opening ceremonies with the other dignitaries from all over the world. I am embarrassed and disgusted that this man is our Prime Minister and every Canadian should remember this come election day! (Ii never voted for the boob to begin with so my conscience is clear!)

great revolution in just one single individual will help achieve a change in the destiny of a society and, further, will enable a change in the destiny of humankind.

Daisaku Ikeda - Japanese Peace Activist

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Frazzled Female

Man am I jealous of my sister who is on a beach in Phuket, Thailand for three weeks!

This week has been brutal for me. Although this week was a short week due to last weekend being a long holiday weekend, trust me it felt looooooong. Not sure if it is due to some wacky alignment of the planets or if the moon is full but people are NUTS this week. To add to the zaniness my Director is off on vacation and she asked me to be Acting Director.

Anything that could go wrong this week did. From the wee bit of family drama on the weekend with helping JB's sister move herself and the niece and nephew out of the house she shared with her husband and the children's father. To the monosyllabic, low IQ roofers hired to put a new roof on our house this week. Not to mention the insane outages and bizarre incidents at work this week.

The move on the weekend went fairly smoothly. JB's two friends Jayman and RB came up to help with the move and Sis and kiddies seem reasonably adjusted to their new space. Unfortunately our roof is not progressing as smoothly. The roof work was started last week and is not finished yet. They can't finish til next week because one of the so called "tradesmen" shot himself in the foot with the air gun used to shoot nails into the new roof tiles and secure them to said roof. I wondered about their competency as roofers when they showed up to start their roofing job at 3 pm in the afternoon the first day and then were outside working in the dark of night sweeping and cleaning up the mess they made during the afternoon because they did not hire a bin to throw all the debris in. When I questioned why there was no bin, i was told "oh don't worry, we have a dump truck coming to pick up the debris" The last straw was when they showed up at 6:45pm on Sunday. That's when I lost it and snapped "are you actually planning to start work and disturb us on the Sunday evening of a long weekend? and just how does it take FIVE days to put a roof on a house??" Suffice to say, I did not hire these roofers and did not pay for them. If I had they would have been sent packing and a more reputable roofing company would be called to finish the job.

On to the next crisis: this morning I awakened to my Brother swearing like there is no tomorrow. Intrigued as to what would have him swear more than normal,as he can swear with the best of them, I ventured down stairs to the basement kitchen to find him straddling the drain in the floor with a plunger trying to plunge the backed up sewer water back down the drain in the floor. I simply sighed, look up towards heaven and found myself quoting my Fathers favorite coping mantra "these little things are all sent to try us" With my brother using every swear word known to man with each plunge and each plunge getting a different swear word all it's own, I finally said to him "look, stop, some of the water has subsided" I washed the floor with anti bacterial floor cleaner and told him I would call a plumber and ask to have the drain snaked. I then realized that I had to be at work for a meeting. Had a shower, got ready, called a cab and was sent quite possibly the worst cab driver in Toronto. It was particularly nice when he started clearing his throat only to hork up a loogie and spit it out the driver side window towards oncoming traffic. I thought to myself "Yep, today is going to be a great day!!" It was not to be, work was insane. I e mailed JB and said "day from hell" to which he responded "that means what time for pick up?" I sent back "ASAP"

JB picked me up, got home,stepped over all the roofing debris neatly piled waiting for the mysterious dump truck to come and retrieve it. I called Brother's Plumbing asked how much to unclog a basement drain was quoted a reasonable rate and said "can you send someone now" A nice chap arrived snaked the drain and all is back to normal. I washed the floor, again, with PineSol to kill any germs that may have been sitting in the overflow water and all is back to normal in the basement. Man that bottle of Pinot Grigio we had with dinner was finished fast!!!

Let's just say that I am looking forward to this weekend. I am not on call and I have all my fingers and toes crossed in the hopes I will not be called for an escalation requiring the Operations Director. Coglero was supposed to be our houseguest this weekend as he was going to drive in from Ottawa and he and JB were heading to the Toronto Beer Festival which is why, as my previous blog states, we couldn't head to Fergus this weekend. Alas, poor Coglero is feeling under the weather and has placed himself on some bizarre cleansing diet. Coglero or no Coglero JB is not missing out on the Beer Festival. I decided to take a pass on the Beer Fest this year as I find I seem to just stand at the Guinness booth and down Guinness samples then move to the Stella booth and then back to the Guinness booth. I never seem to walk around and try the other beers. Rather than attend beer fest with the boys, my girlfriends Espinoza and EL have booked an 8am tee time for Saturday. There is nothing like a nice early morning golf game to make you forget about the week that passed. How can you feel stressed when surrounded by nature and such lovely vistas.
The photo is of the 13th hole at Four Seasons Golf Club located just north of Toronto. We are very excited because we found out that Four Seasons actually means just that open all four seasons! They keep the course open ALL YEAR. You can play nine holes on the course in the winter. I expect they have a blizzard rule in effect but we are game to try and play golf in our polartec turtlenecks! Anything is better than hitting balls inside as we are normally stuck doing during the long Canadian winter.

Quote of the day:

Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body. Seneca

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Wi' a hundred pipers, an' a', an' a',

If you grew up in Canada,with ex-pat Scottish parents as I did, doubtless you were brought up in an environment so Scottish you felt more Scottish than Canadian. From a very young age my sister and I were sent for Scottish dance lessons. My Mother belonged to the RSCDS, belonged to the SNP (they have tons of supporters in Canada) and was also a member, and for a short time, the conductor of the Toronto Gaelic Choir. I was so involved in Scottish dancing, Scottish events and Scottish shows, Scottish dance competitions that I began to think it weird to see a man in any other form of clothing but the kilt. My father would constantly educate us on the history and culture of Scotland. The struggles, the wars, the clearances, the beauty of the country and how we should be proud to have such a heritage and history to look back on and to never forget our ancestors and the past.

The Scottish culture is so much a part of the heritage and foundation of Canada it is hard to escape it. In Nova Scotia (New Scotland) the road signs in some towns are in English and Gaelic. Here in Ontario, you have access to tons of Scottish Festivals that promote the culture, food and of course drink of Scotland. There is a Burn's Society, RSCDS chapters across Canada, a St. Andrew's Society, the lists of Scottish related societies are endless. The St. Andrew's Society, here in Toronto, was founded in 1836. Scots who had already established themselves in this new city set out to assist immigrant Scots just arriving here. Over the years the St. Andrew's Society has maintained a keen interest in its people and its mandate. These days they have expanded their charitable endeavours through the legacy of the St. Andrew's Charitable Foundation.

My parents came to Toronto in the mid 1950's along with many of their friends and acquaintances, from Glasgow. But they never, ever lost their love for Scotland. They never forgot where they came from. The pull from their Motherland was strong. They never let us forget our heritage and it was the same for most of the families that came here. It is a testament to the power of the land and the culture and probably the reason the English were never able to stamp it out, no matter how hard they tried. If anything it only made it even more prevalent all over the world. Sure, you can clear the Scots off their land and try and ban their pipes and kilts and tartans but it wont work, you only make the culture stronger. As proof, there are chapters of the RSCDS in Tokyo and La Paz, Bolivia! There are pipe bands from all over the four corners of the earth.

My Scottish culture rant today is all due to the fact that this upcoming weekend is one of the best and largest Scottish festivals of the summer here in Canada. People come from all over and congregate in the little town of Fergus, Ontario for the 3 day Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games. I was hoping to make it up to Fergus this weekend as I was in the mood to see some pipe bands, sheep dog trials and some highland dance competitions and of course the heavy competition. Nothing like watching a huge guy in a kilt toss a telephone pole over on its end. Alas we have other plans this weekend which I agreed to without realizing they fell upon the same weekend as the games.

Next years Fergus weekend is already blocked off in my calendar. JB will be even more indoctrinated into the Scottish culture. He has mentioned a desire to see the sheep dog trials as he is amazed at the talent of the Scottish collies. I must say, JB does get extra Kudos for donning a tux and taking me to the St. Andrew's Ball when we were first dating, years ago. That was just a full on assault of "Scottishness" (i know it's not a word)! He even ate the haggis, tatties and nips second course and didn't complain at all, must have had something to do with the fact he loves malt whisky and it was flowing at the Ball. I have noticed in subsequent years that he has taken a wee bit less haggis each year, when the serving platter comes his way. The Ball is held every November and the 48th Highlanders provide the music and the entertainment for the evening. Won't get JB in a kilt yet, he prefers the tux.

A Celtic Chancers update:. The tracking page shows them reaching the Kyrgyzstan border.

Quotes of the Day:

For that is the mark of the Scots of all classes:
that he stands in an attitude towards the past
unthinkable to Englishmen, and remembers and
cherishes the memory of his forebears, good or
bad; and there burns alive in him a sense of identity
with the dead even to the twentieth generation.

Robert Louis Stevenson

We look to Scotland for all our ideas of civilisation.


Friday, August 04, 2006

Me and Thurman

I meant to post this on the actual date but did not have the time to sit and write a reasonable blog about Thurman.

Two days ago, on August 2nd, it was the anniversary of the death of Thurman Munson. Thurman was the great New York Yankee catcher who died at age 32 in an airplane crash.

I take a lot of flack here in TO (Toronto) for being a Yankee fan. I endure comments like "you traitor, you should be supporting the Toronto Blue Jays", "you are just on the Yankee bandwagon" or my favorite "Sure, you just like the Yankees cause Derek Jeter is cute" The last comment always makes me laugh because ya, you got me, because the only reason a woman could POSSIBLY watch baseball is because of one cute player.

My sister and I being born in the mid to late 1960's grew up as children without a Toronto Blue Jays. We did not have a baseball team in Toronto when we were kids. Being less than 2 hours from the New York State border, we watched Yankee game feeds. My sister had her black NY Yankees baseball cap and we would love to watch the play off games with our Dad. Dad would explain the rules of the game, helped us appreciate the sport and respect the history of the game. My Dad would tell us about the great players of the 1940's and 1950's and about the struggles of the black players and the wonderful history of Baseball. He read a lot about baseball history and would tell us all the funny road trip stories he had read about from the 1920's onward.

My Dad was a Thurman fan,and a Yankee fan for years. To me, Thurman just looked like a baseball player. When you watched him play you knew he was focused on nothing else but wining that game for his team.

Thurman Munson was a member of the New York Yankees for 11 years and has been called one of the greatest catchers of the 1970s. He joined the Yankees in 1968 and a year later he was their starting catcher. The '69 season was a dark spot in an otherwise glorious history for the Yankees. It was the year following the retirement of Yankee legend Mickey Mantle whose skills, along with the Yankees performance as a team, were in a steady decline. That decline hit rock bottom in the summer of '69 as the Yankees were without a true superstar for the first time in their existence. When Babe Ruth slowed down, Lou Gehrig was there to carry the torch, who passed it on to Joe DiMaggio, who had subsequently passed it on to Mantle. There did not seem to be an heir to the torch until a stocky young catcher from Canton, Ohio was called up from the minors during the tail end of that terrible season.

He started his career by winning the 1970 American League Rookie of the Year award when he batted a .302. His intense attitude, sharp thinking and leadership soon earned him the position of team captain. The first captain of the team since Lou Gehrig had passed away in 1941. He also earned three Gold Gloves due to his defensive playing abilities behind home plate. In 1976 he won the Most Valuable Player award for hitting .302 and 105 RBI's. During his span with the Yankees he led them to three American League pennants and two World Championships. Thurman Munson had many uncomplimentary nicknames reflecting his unimpressive physique rather than his baseball skills, among them "Squatty Boy" and "Jelly Belly." He was supposedly insecure, often irascible man noted for being difficult with umpires and media. He felt he was unfairly overshadowed by star catchers like Johnny Bench and Carlton Fisk (their rift was well known), he once dropped three third strikes in a game so he could throw to first base and pad his assists total. Brash and cocky, Munson was a most untypical rookie. Once he told veteran second baseman Willie Randolph, "Relax, I like you."

By 1979, however, the strain of catching was taking its toll on Munson's body. In constant pain, he sometimes found it difficult to crouch behind the plate. Yet he remained a superb catcher whose mere presence and tenacity got the best out of his pitchers. Yankees ace Ron Guidry always insisted Munson deserved half the credit for the left-hander's Cy Young Award season of 1978 (25-3, 1.74 ERA, nine shutouts). "I went the whole year never shaking him off one time," Guidry once recalled. "He always knew exactly when to say something and when to shut up. I don't remember him ever chewing [teammates out] and pointing fingers [during a slump]. He'd just say, 'We're not playing as a team we're better than this.' "

From 1975 through 1977, Munson hit over .300 and drove in at least 100 runs a season while averaging just 16 homers-and catching 387 games. By 1976, the Yankees were back in the World Series, swept by the Reds. New York got 30 hits. Munson had nine of them. But in 1977 and 1978, Munson Yankees won it all. Rewarded both with triumph and gold, Munson bought a small airplane. Thurman always wanted to be close to the town he grew up in, Canton, Ohio. He wanted his family to live there. In an effort to get himself home faster during off time he decided to purchase the Cessna and learn how to fly. His love for piloting always made Yankee owner George Steinbrenner nervous. Munson was still a rookie pilot and the day he died he was practising landings and take offs in his Cessna. He had spent less than 40 hours in the air with his new jet. On August 2nd, the Cessna plane stalled while landing, scraped some trees and crashed into a cornfield with its wings shorn off. Two other passengers, a friend and a flight instructor, survived and began attempting to drag Munson from the wreckage. He was calling for help when jet fuel leaked and the plane exploded. Munson's body was so badly burned that he had to be identified by dental records. He had a broken jaw, a broken rib, a bloody nose and a bruised heart among other injuries.

At the request of Munson's widow, Diane, the Yankees played the Orioles the next night as scheduled. It was probably the most emotional occasion at Yankee Stadium since the fatally stricken Gehrig's famed farewell ("I am the luckiest man on the face of the Earth") July 4, 1939. The Yankees lost 1-0, but probably most of the crowd of 51,151 didn't care or even notice. Before the game, the Yankees stood at attention as a portrait of Munson appeared on the video screen. Players had their heads bowed, and they were crying. It was horrible. To this day I remember watching that game. It was heartbreaking to watch Munson's best friend Lou Piniella standing weeping on the field. I was crying, my Father was crying and my Mother was crying.

Three days later, on Aug. 6, the Yankees chartered a plane to attend Munson's funeral in Ohio, where Munson's best friends and team mates Bobby Murcer and Lou Piniella delivered eulogies. "The league told us if we didn't get back for that night´s game, we'd have to forfeit it," Steinbrenner said. "I told them to stick it." The Yankees did return in time and defeated Baltimore 5-4. Murcer drove in four runs and had a game-wining homer.

I keep this photo of Thurman on one of the walls of my office. I bought an official MLB copy on E Bay. I just love the look on Thurman's face, the focus, the look of a team player as he walks back to the dugout to prepare to get up at bat. It reminds me of my time as a kid, my time watching baseball with my Dad and my sister.

To this day, Thurman Munson's locker has remained empty ever since his death. It serves as a small, silent tribute to this much-missed Yankee ballplayer.

I have included the following moving tribute to Thurman, written by Michael Paterniti in 1999:

The House That Thurman Munson Built

by Michael Paterniti
September 1999, Volume 132 Issue 3

Trust me, he said, and the last great brawling sports team in America did. Twenty years after Thurman Munson's death, Reggie, Catfish, Goose, Gator, the Boss-and a nation of former boys-still aren't over it.

I give you Thurman Munson in the eighth inning of a meaningless baseball game, in a half-empty stadium in a bad Yankee year during a fourteen-season Yankee drought, and Thurman Munson is running, arms pumping, busting his way from second to third like he's taking Omaha Beach, sliding down in a cloud of luminous, Saharan dust, then up on two feet, clapping his hands, turtling his head once around, spitting diamonds of saliva: Safe.

I give you Thurman Munson getting beaned in the head by a Nolan Ryan fastball and then beaned in the head by a Dick Drago fastball-and then spiked for good measure at home plate by a 250-pound colossus named George Scott, as he's been spiked before, blood spurting everywhere, and the mustachioed catcher they call Squatty Body/Jelly Belly/Bulldog/Pigpen refusing to leave the game, hunching in the runway to the dugout at Yankee Stadium in full battle gear, being stitched up and then hauling himself back on the field again.

I give you Thurman Munson in the hostile cities of America-in Detroit and Oakland, Chicago and Kansas City, Boston and Baltimore-on the radio, on television, in the newspapers, in person, his body scarred and pale, bones broken and healed, arms and legs flickering with bruises that come and go like purple lights under his skin, a man crouched behind home plate or swinging on-deck, jabbering incessantly, playing a game.

I give you a man and a boy, a father and a son, twenty years earlier, on the green expanse of a 1950s Canton, Ohio, lawn, in front of a stone house, playing ball. The father is a long-distance truck driver, disappears for weeks at a time, heading west over the plains, into the desert, to the Pacific Ocean, and then magically reappears with his hardfisted rules, his maniacal demand for perfection, and a photographic memory for the poetry he recites... . No fate, / can circumvent or hinder or control / the firm resolve of a determined soul.

Now the father is slapping grounders at the son and the boy fields the balls. It is the end of the day and sunlight fizzes through the trees like sparklers. As the boy makes each play, the balls come harder. Again and again, until finally it's not a game anymore. Even when a ball takes a bad hop and catches the boy's nose and he's bleeding, the truck driver won't stop. It's already a thing between this father and son. To see who will break first. They go on until dusk, the bat smashing the ball, the ball crashing into the glove, the glove hiding the palm, which is red and raw, until the blood has dried in the boy's nose.

I give you the same bloody-nosed boy, Thurman Munson, in a batting cage now before his rookie year, taking his waggles, and a lithe future Hall of Famer named Roberto Clemente looking on. Clemente squints in the orange sun, analyzing the kid's swing, amazed by his hand speed, by the way he seems to beat each pitch into a line drive. If you ever bat .280 in the big leagues, he says to Thurman Munson by way of a compliment, consider it a bad year.

When the Yankees bring Thurman Munson to New York after only ninety-nine games in the minors-after playing in Binghamton and Syracuse-he just says to anyone who will listen: What took them so long? He's not mouthing off. He means it, is truly perplexed. What took them so goddamn long? Time is short, and the Yankees need a player, a real honest-to-God player who wants to win as much as blood needs oxygen or a wave needs water. It's that elemental.

Quotes of the Day:

"I'm a little too belligerent. I cuss and swear at people. I yell at umpires and maybe I'm a little too tough at home sometimes. I don't sign as many autographs as I should and I haven't always been very good with writes."

"I like hitting fourth and I like the good batting average. But what I do everyday behind the plate is a lot more important because it touches so many more people and so many more aspects of the game."

Thurman Munson

**thanks to the Official and Un-Official Thurman Munson web sites for some of the stats and quotes**

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Wedding Bells in TO

This past weekend. JB and I attended the wedding of my friend TD. JB took the photo of the lovely couple leaving the church. I love how you can see the rose petals we were flinging at them flying through the air. The wedding was great fun and of course the main focus of this wedding, being an Italian - Greek wedding, was the food! I have not eaten as much food in one sitting ever. I felt like I was at some 3 day feast from ancient Roman times. The servers kept coming out with more food. There was an amazing seafood salad, a pasta dish, a rice dish which I managed to get through when JB leaned over and whispered to me "you know you have an 8oz veal chop and a stuffed chicken breast coming out next". JB would know as he studied the menu card on the table quite closely. The veal chop was great, as was the chicken. Along came a small dish of sorbet and then yet another dish with amazing grilled shrimps and calamari. Speeches and dining over, the DJ started his show and the dancing began. Me and my girlfriend Espinoza were so full we had to get on the dance floor to try and work off some of the meal. Our better halves JB and Migs decided that dancing was not for them and sat at the table and watched us ladies dance with everyone else on the dance floor. JB must have decided he needed to work off some food as a few songs later he decided to dance two slow songs with me and then a waltz! Normally, JB will not dance this much at an event.
Close to midnight the hall staff moved some panels away to display another room which had three tables loaded with huge trays of fruit, pastries and the wedding cake. Espinoza and I both groaned "not more food". Even though I didn't have the room for another bite, I just had to try the wedding cake (photo)which was really quite excellent and I grabbed some fresh figs and strawberries in the odd belief that if I ate some fresh fruit it would make the whole night of eating somehow healthier and less fattening. In reality, the whole idea of a wedding is to enjoy and eat and celebrate and not count calories which we certainly did. JB has a great account of the church ceremony. Let's just say Espinoza and I did spot "Commando Girl" on the dance floor later that evening. We were both still mystified as to how one could sit in a church "commando" particularly in the heat and humidity. I know my Mother told me always to wear clean underwear better yet try and wear underwear at all times particularly in Church! All and all it was a great wedding and we all had a great time with much eating, dancing and laughing with friends. The Bride and Groom are off to Las Vegas to see some shows and will be back in TO next week sometime.

Quote of the Day:

To keep your marriage brimming,
With love in the loving cup,
Whenever you're wrong admit it;
Whenever you're right shut up.

Ogden Nash

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Whatzupwitu? Whatsupwit this cheesy video!

Short blog today....
whatzupwit this video??? I have never seen it before. Eddie and Michael? Bizarre....

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

From London to Ulaan Bataar. Start your Engines!

8 000 miles, 2 deserts, 5 mountain ranges, roads ranging from bad to non-existent, no support crew and all in a car you swapped for a bag of crisps? The answer is : "Yes"

One of the blogs I occasionally peruse made mention of the Mongol Rally. The blogger has two friends who have entered themselves in the race. Intrigued by the thought of a car rally and finding the team name of "Celtic Chancers" amusing I decided to check out the websites.

The object of the Mongol Rally is to drive a shit box car from London over 8,000 miles to Ulaan Bataar, the capital of Mongolia. The rules of the rally state you cannot drive a car that is in good shape or of any sort of major horsepower. The Celtic Chancers are driving a 1995 Ford Fiesta (g-d help them!). The goal is to raise as much money as you can for charity. Some of the charities that will benefit from this crazy, wacky rally are Send a Cow, Mercy Corps, CAMDA and Wildlife CRU.

I love the idea of the charity Send a Cow. Their website explains that Send a Cow works closely with local organizations to identify the most needy people in the community - usually women, disabled people or the teenage heads of families orphaned by war or sickness. They strive to ensure that recipients make a success of rearing the livestock they are given. It's not just cows though, very poor people, with little land and few resources who find it difficult to manage dairy cows, receive smaller stock, such as goats, pigs or poultry. They can then begin to rear livestock even though they cannot provide the full shelter or fodder needed for a cow. Each gift - whether it's a cow, goats, pigs, poultry, bees or even fruit trees - is chosen to fit the circumstances of the individual family. Training is provided beforehand in animal rearing and sustainable organic farming, and low-cost veterinary services are provided afterwards.

The initial gifts go on multiplying indefinitely, as each person who receives livestock passes on the animal's first female offspring to another poor farmer, who will do the same in turn. Send a Cow are now working in Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Lesotho.

I just donated via the lads website. It was a breeze to send a donation online. I asked that my donation go to Send a Cow. I urge all of you to check out the The Mongol Rally website. Pick a team you like and donate some $$$$$ You can track your team via the cool tracking page Last time I checked the Celtic Chancers were somewhere in Kazakhstan.

Here's to the Celtic Chancers. Let's hope they make it to Ulaan Bataar and back safely!

Quote of the Day:

"The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?" But... the good Samaritan reversed the question: "If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?"

Martin Luther King Jr