Thursday, December 30, 2004


I don’t ski. I hate being cold, and as far as I’m concerned snow is an annoyance.

That was fine when I lived in the Bay Area. I used to take Christmas Eve bike rides and golf on New Year’s Day. That doesn’t work here. I needed something to do once it got too cold for bikes besides cycling sessions in the gym getting ready for Spring, and thinking about California.

So, curling. Yes, you need ice, so it’s cold. But you don’t have snow so you’re not wet, and you sweep, so you’re not as cold as you might think. There is a strategic component, so it’s more like “chess on ice” than “bowling on ice.” Some people curl at a high, competitive level, or at least they aspire to that. Some find the best part of curling is the “social part” of the game, which generally involves drinking. Either way, there is something for everyone.

Like golf, curling has many traditions, much history, and a whole lot of etiquette. Everyone shakes hands before the game and wishes their opponents “good curling.” At the end of the game, everyone shakes hands and thanks their opponents for the game. It’s a great tradition.

I am way too new to curling to explain the rules, which can vary from country to country, unless you are playing by the World Curling Federation rules (See what I mean?), or especially the strategy. Some good resources are here:

Curling Basics
Curling shots illustrated. (Flash required)

Canadian Curling Association
The governing body of curling in Canada, bless their hearts. There are links to the Canadian rules, and to various CCA-sanctioned events. There is also an explanation of the points ranking system. (Instant migraine.)

World Curling Federation
This link is to a glossary. (You might need it.)

“Curling For Dummies”
by Bob Weeks.
Not a website, an actual --- gasp --- book ! Get it out of the library if you don’t want to spend the money. (US$21.99. CDN$29.99) An easy to understand discussion of the rules, traditions, and history of the game.

There are lots more resources. Everyone has an opinion about the game or the players. Me too. I like curling, because unlike Canada’s two official sports (Yes, there are two. Look it up.), curling does not involve players hitting each other over the head with sticks. It does involve teamwork, skill and sometimes luck.

Canadians like to say that curling is a terrific game for television. That’s probably true, if you are thinking about Canadian television. For years, three commentators on TSN broadcast the really important events. (And these events last a week; they’re not over in three hours.)

Ray, Cate, Vic, and of course Linda
Ray, Cate, Vic, Linda

A lot of what I know about the game (admittedly not much) I know from listening to Vic, Ray, and Linda. There is nothing like it. Three Canadians on Canadian television talking about a game revered by Canadians. It’s not like watching Bob Costas. These people actually stop talking sometimes. It takes some getting used to.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Good Fences Make Good Neighbo(u)rs

President George W. Bush was in Canada yesterday and today on a State Visit. The coverage of this on CNN and the other American networks took up... not very much time. The coverage of the "anti-American feelings" on the part of Canadians took up a lot more time.

All the media on both sides of the longest undefended border billed this visit as "an attempt to mend fences." CNN's Wolf Blitzer and Tucker Carlson (yes, the one Jon Stewart called a dick) beat up on poor Carolyn Parrish. Even a Canadian MP who is expected to exhibit pure anti-American venom for the American viewing audience was too polite to do so. At least she didn't apologize. It takes some getting used to.

President Bush came to Ottawa, but chose not to address Parliament, apparently because Parliament has heckled other American Presidents, notably Ronald Reagan. Does that make Bush a bully AND a coward? Even Carolyn Parrish faced up to the other Members of Parliament, not to mention facing up to Wolf Blitzer and Tucker Carlson.

Anti-Bush demonstrations erupted in Ottawa, in Halifax, where he also spoke, and in Vancouver. The puppets just keep getting better and better. The radio talk shows were filled with anti-American rhetoric. It takes some getting used to. Meanwhile, as long as they were in Canada, some of the press corps visited a clinic and paid $20 (Canadian?) for flu shots. I guess they were sure the medication would cure them and not kill them.

At the State Dinner, President Bush and Canadian Prime Minister exchanged toasts. The transcript of the speeches appeared on the websites for the White House, and for the Prime Minister.

In the White House press release Canadian Prime Minister Martin is quoted as saying:

…Right behind me, totem poles, the Aboriginal cultures of the Pacific Northwest. Upstairs, a journey through our social history from the first Viking settlements on the New Foundland coast. (Speaks in French.)…

As an American now living in Canada, it is difficult to say which is more embarrassing: The apparent ignorance of the name of the Canadian Province whose people opened their arms to some 13,000 stranded airline travelers on September 11, 2001 and never asked anything in return, or the parenthetical note that Mr. Martin "Speaks in French."

The full text of Mr. Martin's remarks (including translation from French) can be found on the Government of Canada website. So can the full text in French. Both versions correctly identify Newfoundland as…well, as Newfoundland.

This is the thing Americans wonder about. We just can't understand why "foreigners" don't "like" us. But it's just this kind of lazy, arrogant crap that makes us the laughingstock of the world. Does the White House Press Office have a fact-checker? How about a spell-checker?