Friday, November 9, 2007

Remembrance Roadie

Well, i promised more thoughts on Remembrance Day, and now that my Road Trip to Ottawa is upon me, its time for it. This trip is a double whammy, a weekend of Ontario Hockey League games in Kingston Friday night, Belleville Saturday night, and Ottawa Sunday afternoon as I follow my Kitchener Rangers on the road with friends. It also, for the 2nd straight year falls on the Remembrance Day weekend. Last year i was unable to make the trip, but this year, I am going, and the Rangers are bringing their "one time use" Remembrance Day charity Jerseys to the game in Ottawa on the 11th, a nice touch after they were used in the teams own ceremony last Friday and auctioned off, raising over $19,000 for Veterans Charities, and bringing the three year total raised to over $51,000. I wish i could have afforded to win one of the auctions, but the "game ready" jerseys of players who didn't dress went for a minimum of $500.00!!! Congratulations to the fans of the team and the people of Kitchener for going all out to support the cause.

Now, on to Remembrance Day itself. For me, i have vivid memories of years of the Remembrance Day assemblies in elementary school, with actual Veterans coming in and speaking, and hearing about my own Great Grandfather Lt. West, Volunteering to join the British Army, and leaving the backwaters of Northern Ireland for the front lines of France and the "Western Front". My Great Grandfather would answer the call again in the Second World War, serving as a member of the home guard in england as he was "too old" for active service in Europe. When I was at university, a major part of my program for those who could go, was a course which involved a six week exchange at Oxford Brookes University in their planning department. The benefit of this, was free time to travel outside your classes. While my Great Grandfather fought for his homeland, my parents emigrated to Canada before I was born, and my identification, while with my Great Grandfather's personal involvement, is with my country, and the soldiers who fought for it. Growing up hearing of Vimy Ridge, John McRea & In Flanders Fields, Dieppe, Juno Beach I identify with the Canadian experience of the World Wars much more so than the British. Accordingly, the top priority for me was a visit to the Vimy Memorial, a place that has come to symbolize the moment where Canada became more than a colony, but a country, with strength and abilities all her own. While there is much debate about the "Myth of Vimy", it is important to recognize that whatever the actual facts are, it has become something more, a touchstone of our Identity, and in that role, it can promote continued education about our history and role in the world, then it is important.

For Sunday's ceremony, i intend to be at the National Cenotaph in Ottawa to applaud our veterans during the parade, as my way of saying thank-you for risking your lives in the defence of freedom, of losing your youth and so many friends in the name of the cause. Each year there are fewer and fewer veterans with us, 2007 has seen the number of Canadian Army veterans from the First World War reduced from three to one, a single veteran, John Babcok once a young man from Ontario, one of over 600,000 such young men who went to France, now a gentleman of 107 years, links us to those times. Time never ceases to move forward, and we can not allow the passing of time to diminish the meaning of their service and sacrifices. As time passes, we will experience the same loss with Veterans of the Second World War, then the Korean war, and someday long after our times, the veterans of the current Middle East Conflicts, but if we do not learn from what has come before, will we not just continue to make the same mistakes, leading to more death and sacrifice? I urge anyone who reads this to take the time on the 11th to reflect, attend your local ceremony if you can, contemplate why it is that humanity seems unable to break the chain of violence that leads to war. We can all do better, we must all do better.

I leave you with with some thoughts, please consider the importance of thanking Veterans when you see them out for the Legion's Poppy drive, I know that they appreciate a kind word as much as your donation. Also, put aside your political beliefs regarding the current role of the military in Afghanistan and think of the Soldiers themselves. It is not by their choice that they are there, they signed up to perform a role, that of soldier and defender of us, their political masters choose where they go, please make sure you understand the distinction between "Supporting the Troops" and "Supporting the War", I won't tell you which way to feel, because you must decide that for yourself, but I implore you to realize and understand that if you disagree with being in the middle east, you can still support the troops, and hope and pray that they are allowed to do what they have been ordered to do, and come home alive, because no families in the 21st century should have to suffer the pain of losing loved ones to war, that is something that as a planet we need to consign to the pages of history books.

In closing, I give you "In Flanders Fields", by Lieutenant Colonel John McRea of Guelph Ontario

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Real CFL

You know you are a die hard for the "Auld League" as my host on Saturday night puts it when you sit on a cold metal bench with no back support to watch a battle of the last place teams in an 8 team league. I hadn't been to a game at Ivor Wynne Stadium in about a decade, since Doug Flutie had played for my Argos, not for lack of interest, but for fear of personal safety when rolling into Ivor Wynne in the Double Blue!!!

In any event, Saturday nights clash of the Titans between the visiting Edmonton Eskimos (last in the west) and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (last in the east again), was one for the ages, not only did the Tabbies win (through no fault of their own offensive play i assure you), i met the wonderful people of Section 7 that Dick over at the Velvet Lounge sits with. A finer bunch of CFL fans i have not met in a long time , fun loving, friendly, and more than happy to rip into their own for yet another year where they failed to perform to the expectations of the loyal fans.

Even with a non-capacity crowd on a cold fall night, the fans overall created an atmosphere second to none, makes me wish the Skydome had 1/2 the personality that Ivor does, but alas, especially when the canopy is shut, the dome becomes a sterile and unfriendly place, as it will be for both the Eastern Final on the 18th and the Grey Cup on the 25th. Which is sad, because even as both games now run the chance of being sellouts (the Grey Cup already essentially is, and the East Final is apparently selling well), and no matter how much noise is made, i somehow doubt that it will top the experience of freezing in Hamilton for a meaningless last place duel in the regular season.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Of Football and Rock n'Roll

Oh, what exciting times these are to be a Football fan in Toronto... The Argonauts after a middling start to the season that saw them reach down to a QB who couldn't even make the woeful Hamilton Tiger-Cats, they find themselves at the last week of the season now in sole possession of first place in the CFL's Eastern Conference by a single point over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. I won't argue that Saturdays game was pretty, because a 16-8 win involving a lot of Rouges (Single points on kicks for you American's keeping score), the Argos have stumbled into position to host the Eastern Final a week before the Skydome (Stuff your new name Ted Rogers) hosts the 2007 Grey Cup, the only problem is, they want a commitment to purchase our Playoff tickets by Thursday this week, before we know what date the game will be on. If its an Eastern Semi-Final on November 11 (Remembrance Day), then i will be in Ottawa supporting our Veterans and Troops at the National Remembrance Day Ceremony at the National War Memorial, if its an Eastern Final the week after, you'd better believe i will be at the game.

Saturday night consisted of good old fashioned drinking and rock and roll with friends in Whitby. One of my planning classmates Corby has a house out there, with his Drum Kit in the basement, and a collection of his co-workers now get together monthly for some rock and roll in the basement, some BBQ and Beer, a general all around good time with friends. Another couple of Waterloo planners (Jakey and Edey) joined in this time, and I went out to see friends and enjoy the inevitable requirement of Corby's BBQ skills, Panago Pizza, Rock n' Roll, The Maple Leafs, Random Youtube (turns out R.Kelly's "Trapped in the Closet" videos are funny if you are drunk....) and of course, the Trailer Park Boys!! It turns out, no matter how old you are, sometimes its still good to act like you are 19 and don't know any better and just let rip, especially when its done in a way where the only bad thing that happens is a Sunday morning hangover!

All in all, not a bad way to spend a Saturday in the early fall in Toronto

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Tax Man Commeth

Well, Mayor Miller and the 44 Headed Hydra that is the Toronto City Council finally stepped up and used the powers granted to them by the City of Toronto Act, 2007 last night and voted in the Land Transfer Tax and the Vehicle Registration Act. In theory, neither will actually effect me directly, as whenever i am buying a home, I will be an exempted first time homeowner, and despite my vehicle ownership, its registered at my parents home and not to my Toronto address. It will effect me directly as because of Council's delaying through the summer to now, only about 1/2 the money that could be collected, will be collected next year, which means service cuts and tax increases, the former which will make living in the City more of a pain, the latter which raises the prospect of a big assessment increase on the apartment building i am in, with a consequent rental increase next year.

While i actually support the taxes, as i believe it behoofs our elected representatives at the local level to use whatever powers they have before we go running cap in hand to the Provincial or National governments, the fact that they both have surpluses illustrates the problems in our Federal System. What worked in 1867 in the British North America Act with making "Municipalities Creatures of the Provinces" (See, i did pay attention in class every now and then), doesn't anymore. The radical growth of Cities in the intervening 140 years means that Municipalities, especially the larger ones like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver must have a seat at the table. These places drive our economy, house the majority of our population, and as the recent bridge collapses in Montreal show, are on the verge of collapse from lack of funding for proper infrastructure renewal and expansion.

While i applaud Toronto City Council for doing something, there is more they can do on their own, as well as now being able to go to the Province or the Feds and be able to say they are trying to use the tools they have. I don't know that it will help, but at least they have started making the effort.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Tales of Casks and Fountains

So, how better to start this than with a tale of beer, and great beer at that. My weekend started with the eager anticipation of the 2007 Volo Cask Days at Bar Volo, a fine establishment on Yonge Street in Toronto. As always, Ralph and his family and staff worked insane hours to serve us, the beer loving public, keeping the restaurant open normal hours till 2am Friday night (nee Saturday morning), then working till between 4 and 6am to get prepped for the Cask Festival. After all of this, he had the audacity to apologize for being 10 minutes late in opening at 10am for the preview breakfast!!! Even when we got there Ralph was still working like crazy to get ready!! As always, the many fine brewers of Ontario stepped up to the plate, everytime I think they can't go any further they do. Kudos to all, but I am especially singling out a few, Magnotta for their "Fog on the Tyne" IPA with Weizen yeast, for a product from a brewery i would normally pass over, well done!! Ken and the Black Oak Crew for the S.T.F.U Pale Ale, another great name and another well made beer. The "Grains of Wrath" brewed by John from Church Key to be a house beer for Volo was excellent, I look forward to having it again in the future. And to the Biergotter Home Brew Club. You put out some amazing products, you are a hugely talented group. The Monks Elixer was great (maybe a few more months ageing wouldn't hurt), and I have heard nothing but good things about this years Hopocalypse Redux.

My Saturday ended with me sitting down with my roommates to share some beers and Watch Transformers on DVD, this ended with our kitchen receiving a new coat of Barell Aged Gonzo Imperial Porter Paint. Suffice to say, many tears were shed as we tried to control ourselves at the silliness of the situation as a fine beer sprayed across our apartment!!! That said, for the amount of Gonzo on the walls, we still got 6 sample glasses out of the bottle, so maybe we are lucky after all. We followed the Gonzo with a Great Divide Double Hercules IPA and a Three Floyds Dreadnought Imperial IPA, both of which did not explode, allowing us to watch the rest of Transformers on DVD in relative peace (this being my 5th viewing, 2 in theatres, 1 in IMAX, one a download and one DVD viewing), and i am still amazed that Michael Bay didn't screw it up. Onwards to a sequel, give me Grimlock and the real Devastator (ie the Constructicons, not the mislabeled Brawl from the movie) and I will be gold.