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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Olympic Fever

Okay - a confession first - I've never been a big follower of the Olympics. I'm not a sport-cynic, or a they-aren't-amateurs purist... or even simply appalled at the wealth and control of the self-appointing International Olympic Committee (although it is appalling). I just never got into the games much.

I did get excited when Vancouver (near here) got the 2010 Winter Games, because I've known for some decades that my only shot at an Olympic medal would be in curling - and this might be my chance. I was a high school champion and it's the only Olympic sport I can think of that usually includes chatting, drinking between games, and welcomes overweight middle-aged athletes. And when they shout to their team mates, they scream "HARD! ! HURRY HARD!! HAAARDERRRR!" Which is just plain funny.

I'll probably catch some of it on TV, and I do love to watch ski jumping (flying!) and the biathlon (skiing AND shooting). But some of the things that gall me about these games include:

- Corporate sponsorships are so huge that they have branded everything. When the torch celebration, blew through Nelson - the COKE RBC (Royal Bank of Canada) stage and sound system and free light-up COKE drinks were delightfully global spirited. The Vancouver Library was ordered to cover up logos of non-sponsors on any plaques, donated items or other publicly visible places. No PEPSI donated computers allowed! Not in Olympic City. Oh yes, and COKE flew a bunch of staff up to Canada from Atlanta - so they could get turns running the torch in BC.

- Our provincial and federal governments are spending about $6 billion on the games (yes, the B-word). That's at a time when schools are closing, the arts have been cut by 40% in BC, health care needs an injection... and homelessness is on the rise. In fact, school sports have been cut.

- Security for the athletes, IOC gang, politicians, and corporate sponsors is huge. Our bill will be $900 million. There are several thousand Canadian troops in town supporting the RCMP, Vancouver police and no doubt, our little spy service, called CSIS.

- Tickets for the "people's games" are a little on the dear side. The remaining seats for events like, say a Belarus - Belgian hockey game might go for as little as $75 to $400 a seat. The gold medal game has tickets, on the official site last week, that top out at $50,000 a pair. (Is he making this stuff up? No, but to be fair, if any ordinary good tickets were available, they were only about $750 each.)

All this to say that many athletes are amazing and worth seeing; the opening ceremonies will be spectacular (even if the orchestra is 'lip-synching' the instruments to recorded music); and the feeling of pride in winning will be palpable. I'm personally pulling for Ghana's one man Olympic team.

But there are all those other things that sour it for me.

More bread, less circuses please.

Friday, January 22, 2010

First anniversary of "Close Guantanamo Bay within one year"

One of President Obama's promises a year ago was to close the illegal US detention centre in Guantanamo Bay Cuba. Of course there are challenges in doing that, but rather than overcome those challenges, we're getting more of the same at Guantanamo (a Justice Department-led task force released its outrageous recommendation to continue holding nearly 50 Guantanamo detainees indefinitely). If you'd like to learn more and/or send a message in support of an alternative approach, have a look at this Amnesty action.

I know it's tough to do the right thing in a country where the wrong thing is the default position - in a nation where fear still trumps rights, where the bible is the handbook for many, where information is distorted and where fear rules (did I mention that bit twice?).

Yet a stand has to be taken - on human rights, on climate change, on sending food not guns into Haiti...and so on. If not me, who? If not now, when?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

This week's graffiti

Calling all little fishes!

This is from Madison, Wisconsin. I like smart graffiti.

Friday, January 15, 2010

A few photos from Australia

It's been weeks since we sat on the beach at Manly, since I ate fish and chips with chicken salt and rode the waves back to Sydney on the green and yellow harbour ferry. In fact, it's winter here and dark way too much of the time. No sunscreen required here. No vitamin D provided. Am I grumpy? Maybe...

Here are a sampling of photos to spark my memory...and perhaps entertain you briefly as you move along through 2010. "No worries" as the Aussies say.

I 'inherited' Lucas's hat this summer - it loves to travel and here's the proof.

Melbourne has a great tram system, including free downtown line. Photo reflection.

This little stoner is tired and spends 20 or so hours a day sleeping. The rest of the time he sits around buzzed, eating only eucalyptus leaves.

"Whoa man! Is that ANOTHER eucalyptus tree I see over there?"

View of two of the Twelve Apostles (one HAS to be Peter, the rock...) This is along the Great Ocean Road, on the south coast. Three hundred kilometres of pristine beauty - and gawking drivers and hikers.

We went to Australia for a wedding, which was wonderful - in Pacific Palms on the east coast. We lived on Bluey's Beach for a week, a few feet up the hill from where this photo was taken. By 7:00 am I'd had coffee, walked the beach, and got 5 years worth of vitamin D, converted from Canadian winter days.

At the end of the dirt road, not far from Pacific Palms, on a one-man homemade golf course (30 members) - that's where the roos are hanging out, including this little bald Joey and his mom. (Click to see larger.)

Giant fig tree - in the Wingham nature walk, inland from the east coast. Moments earlier the intrepid traveler almost stepped on a mullet (no the bad haircut, the lizard). Also spent time avoiding the Giant Stinging Tree and the poop from above, where several hundred thousand flying fox bats call home. Note: pretty much everyone in the 100 year old Australian Hotel and pub in Wingham, say "G'die Mite!" (translation: "Good Day Mate" - and each one reminds me a little of Steve Irwin.

Hiking the rain forest trail in the Blue Mountains, east of Sydney. Incredible ancient feeling and very sore legs and feet after hours of up and down. Check out the Giant Staircase (861 steps down and one weird train ride back up). You really earn your pie (ask any Australian about pie...mmmm).

December in the Sydney gardens - Merry Christmas! (Now let's get in the shade and drink a few...)

Monday, January 04, 2010

Oh Banksy!

Some years ago I used to post graffiti every week or so, after scanning the internet to find good stuff. Banksy, the elusive British guerrilla street artist, invariably showed up as the most interesting. Well, he's still busy and these are two of my favourites.

By the way, if you like this, you'll probably also enjoy Seraphine's blog, with its daily dose of wonderful comic art and social comment.

Click on them to see photos larger...

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