December 8, 2011

The NBA, Where We Do What We Want... err Happens

The NBA and David Stern should be ashamed. This is an absolute joke. The Hornets by all accounts would have done pretty well here, getting a couple serviceable players, a solid draft pick, and good trade bait. It's unbelievable that Stern's almighty hand would come down and nix this trade. UNBELIEVABLE. This is why a league should not be allowed to own a team. Owner's of teams that would have been hurt by this trade (ahem, Marc Cuban) complained, and Stern put the kibosh on. Complete insanity. This league does not have a good track record with this kind of stuff (ahem, the MJ incident AND ahem, every draft lottery ever). Ergo, I submit to you the new NBA marketing tag: 

The NBA where we do whatever the fuck we want.. happens. 

If I was Dell Demps I would quit. Plain and simple. This is an unhealthy working environment. I'd go further, get all the VPs, coaching staff, etc. involved. This is bullshit. How could they be expected to do their jobs? A small internal coup might send a message to the league that this is unacceptable. Worst case, Dell Demps earns the reputation as a badass with standards.

If I was a Hornets fan, I would be livid too. Sure, some fans are probably thrilled. But they're stupid. Listen, CP3 will NOT be a Hornet forever. That much is clear. If he's forced by David Stern and some loud-mouth owners to unhappily work out his contract in New Orleans, so be it. He's got all the power in the world to jump wherever he wants come free agency. Long term, this trade is a necessity for the Hornet. Look at the relative success of the Denver Nuggets after the Melo trade, fifth in the West last year. Not getting rid of CP3 will haunt this team all year, mark my words. And as a second mark of my words... it's going to be a lot harder to trade CP3 now. That's pretty much the best offer they're going to get... maybe.

November 19, 2010

York University: Willfully Ignorant or Just Plain Biased?

The nasty side of York University, and frankly Canadian academia as a whole, has once again veered its ugly head. The university had invited George Galloway to speak to students. In response, and as a way to reach out to the large, ignored Jewish community at York, Rabbi Aaron Hoch of the Village Shul sent an email out to his mailing list. In the note he asked that his following "take part in protesting this outrage." He noted that York University President Mamdouh "Shoukri has again showed his amazing tolerance for anti-Semitism and lack of vigilance regarding the feeling of safety for Jewish students on campus.” The story, of course, doesn't end there as the university has now threatened to sue the Rabbi. (As if they didn't already have a bad image in the Toronto Jewish community.)

So who is George Galloway? A former British MP, he has been a vocal detractor of Israel and supporter of Palestine, among other things. In 2009 he organized the Viva Palestina (, an aid convoy to the Gaza Strip following the flotilla incident. He also donated £25,000 to Hamas, which he claims was for aid purposes.( Then in March of 2009 he was deemed inadmissible to Canada on 'security grounds.' The Canadian courts upheld that his donation to Hamas constituted explicit support of a terrorist organization.( On an American radio show he said the following regarding Zionists:

"The reality is these people have used Jewish people, and they have used them with this ideology of Zionism, to create this little Hitler State on the Mediterranean, to act as an advance guard for their own interests in the Arab world, and we're all paying for it, the Palestinians have paid for it, the Arabs have paid for it, and now the American people are paying for it, and why should we? We don't want to live our lives in a permanent state of warfare and division." (

Eventually he was allowed into Canada, and York University's president jumped on the opportunity to invite him to speak. The man is a provocative individual and inflammatory in any sense of the word. Should he be allowed to speak in Canada? Probably, unless it can be shown that he is a security risk. Is it an outrage that York U invited him to speak? Slightly, considering their past, but definitely not shocking. 

What is truly outrageous is the reaction from the university. Universities should be about the free flow of ideas from all backgrounds, and to this end having anybody speak from a particular perspective is a good thing. But when a university repeatedly sides with one point of view and denies the other point of view protest, there is a problem. If Mr. Galloway was invited to speak for the benefit of hearing another side to a very heated and important debate, this would be acceptable. But the university's fierce reaction to the planned protest suggests otherwise. 

Further, York U has a bad history of anti-Israel behaviour - with its acceptance of the incredibly hateful Israel apartheid week ( - and an even worse record of on campus anti-semitism. The Rabbi's letter has become a rallying point for York U's Jewish community. From a National Post article on the subject:

"Rabbi Hoch, of the Dan Family Village Shul, said he has since been flooded with emails from people who are “giving voice to their frustrations.” Those frustrations, he said, are born from the “intimidation” of Jewish students on campus, which he said culminated last year after a swarming by pro-Palestinian students of a group of Jewish students, who wound up barricaded inside the school’s Hillel lounge." (

Worse still, a member of this mob that attacked a group of innocent Jewish students, Krisna Saravanamuttu was elected president of the student federation. He obviously disagrees with the Rabbi’s characterization of Mr. Galloway as an “activist for terrorist organizations,” and said “those seem like baseless accusations to me.” Fact is, those accusations have a very solid base. Mr. Galloway is on record as a financial supporter of Hamas, a terrorist organization designated so by the EU, The US, Canada, and others. 

Canadian universities are a joke. Bastions of hardcore leftist ideology. Our tax dollars fund these pits of humanity and its a fucking shame. It's a shame that our money funds this hateful, classless and unacademic behaviour. It's mostly a shame that York U doesn't get it. Look, I understand and believe that universities need and deserve public funding. But it's wrong to take public funding and then silence the public from protesting your activities, plain and simple. So, is York U willfully ignorant or just biased? That's a no brainer.

November 18, 2010

Gateway to America's Soul - Through the Eyes of a Bag of Sun Chips

What is wrong with America? Has she lost her way? In the season finale of Real Time with Bill Maher this past Friday, Maher made an excellent point about what ails America by referencing a bag of Sun Chips.

For those not familiar the story is as follows: in early 2009 Frito-Lay introduced a biodegradable packaging for Sun Chips. Made of completely plant-based material, the bag decomposed into dirt instead of remaining a bag of chips for five hundred years. A good idea, forward thinking, great PR, etc. etc. There was one hitch: this bag was damn loud, shockingly so. But who cares, right? In both the Pacific and Atlantic ocean swirls a Texas sized "island" of garbage, which certainly contains a bag of Sun Chips or two. 
Shouldn't environmental thinking trump a loud potato chip bag? I guess not. Critics, from consumers to media commentators, descended: facebook groups and youtube videos sprouted up as a grassroots campaign against the loud bag took hold. Finally, on October 5th they pulled the packaging from America's shelves.

It seems that what should have been hailed as a beacon of progress, and a wonderful sign of a corporation taking some initiative, has been relegated to the world of corporate misstep. Worse, it seems that the selfish nature of individual Americans was on display in its truest form. As Maher put it,

"Of course we could have made the ultimate sacrifice and - I dunno - poured the chips into a bowl... Sidenote: in Canada, Sun Chips is keeping the non-earth raping bag, because they are not a nation of crack babies. They get it; that sometimes you have to give up small things in order to make the world a better place. Except in America, where 'have it your way' is the rule for everything, including volume on snacks. You think we're going to reform Social Security??? haha"

Sun Chips Canada took full advantage of this PR opportunity

The silver lining in this story is that, yes, Canadian shelves will remain stocked with this loud bag. As a Canadian, of course I am proud of our great sacrifice, ha! There has been a lot of talk of late about how this is Canada's moment (, after battling domestic issues for decades we are now at the fore-front of international envy. Our banks have been lauded as the most stable in the world by the World Economic Forum three years running ( We hosted a relatively successful Olympics this past winter. Et cetera. Are we perfect? Of course not. Far from it. But we are certainly in better shape than our neighbour to the south. 

Thing is, we can't afford to ignore America's problems. Our greatest trading partner, best friend, and often times family, is in a near state of crisis. High unemployment, cumbersome national debt, a broken health care system, disastrous foreign policy, and a reeling economy; resulting in a broken and highly divisive political landscape. America's problems are quite large and threaten its position on top of the world. Worse, the electorate and politicians don't appear capable of getting anything done. Every election we see a sweeping shift in another direction. Imagine the cool kid being dethroned, with 300 million voices inside her head. They feel threatened as the number one country in the world, and with very good reason. Maybe the Sun Chips saga is not that big of a deal in the grand scheme. But Maher's point is that a solution to what ails America is impossible while American's are unwilling or unable to think of the bigger picture. And he is spot on.

October 25, 2010

Toronto Votes... Sorta

Is nobody else shocked by the voting system used for the Toronto Mayoral election today? In this day and age (excuse the cliche) you should walk in, swipe your driver's license, or health card, or approved voters card, and tap a screen a few times to vote. Further, if you want to improve dismal turnout numbers, put the damn thing online - with obvious safeguards in place - and have an in-person option for all the luddites amongst the electorate.

For those unaware of the brutal process today: you walked in (to wherever you were voting) and were directed to one of many lines hosted by a volunteer with a list of names for every eligible voter in the ward. After an ID check, the volunteer crossed your name off of the list and gave you an anonymous voting card. On the card you are asked to fill in the two ends of an arrow with a marker for the candidates (mayor, council member, trustee) of your choice. Are you kidding? This is the best we've got? 

When my mother went to vote she discovered that her name was already crossed off of the list. A volunteer had made an error and crossed her name. She was eventually allowed to vote, but only after causing a stink. Is this not the most primitive of voting systems? Even the Iraqis, with the inked fingers, got it better (forgetting the violence of course). A monkey could game the system, all you would have to do is walk in and ask for a voter's card from a different desk, where your name would be clear as day. Maybe the volunteers would notice a discrepancy later, maybe not. The fact that a volunteer accidently crossed my mother's name gives me little confidence. This process was just the icing on the proverbial cake of an absolutely terrible mayoral race.

Best of luck to Mayor Ford.

October 15, 2010

The Toronto Raptors: Better Without Bosh?

I recognize that this post is a little late to the punch. But seeing as pre-season is upon us and our roster is solidifying (for now at least) I figure it a good  jumping off point for discussion. So, are the Toronto Raptors better without Chris Bosh? In the short term, the answer is no. Plain and simple; I just don't see it. How do you recover from the loss of your best player? The franchise leader in virtually every stat of significance, a career 20 and 10 guy who was the center of our offense. Fact is we just don't have anybody ready to fill the immediate void he leaves behind. Not Bargnani, as Chuck Swirksy would have us believe. Not Kleiza, Amir Johnson, Ed Davis or Solomon Alabi... not yet at least.

I have held the belief for a while that Bosh was not a good/vocal leader, and could have never brought a championship to this city on his own. He implicitly confirmed this thinking when he moved to South Beach. And further proof has come out from the likes of Triano and Jarrett Jack this summer. From Triano:

"When you talk about Chris being the leader in the lockeroom, I think it's the one thing that he wasn't for us. He did a great job of getting 24 points and 10, 11 rebounds on a regular basis, but Chris did not really take the leadership role into the locker room. He's not a vocal person, he's not a guy who really did that. I think in the years that he's been here, he's almost deferred to different people: Jermaine O'Neal, Jalen Rose, and Vince Carter in his earlier years, didn't really defer to anyone last year and everybody kind of waited for him to take the reigns last year and it could've been been part of the issues we had."    

With the current state of the East I don't foresee a playoff birth from the Raps this season. But in my opinion, we got rid of our biggest impediment to future success in CB4. If he re-signed, Bosh would have weighed down the team for years and years. Again, not that Chris is a bad dude or bad player (in fact he is a consummate professional and great basketball player), he is just not a franchise player caliber leader. And in losing him the club has gained much needed and valued flexibility going forward. Flexibility is nice, but only if it leads somewhere. The club does have a lot of interesting, disparate talent and potential and even though we will likely struggle this year, it is still an interesting time to be a Raps fan. The speed of our recovery from the loss of CB4 will depend on a bunch of factors:

  • Is Bargnani up to the task as a number one option?
  • How will the duo of Jose/Jack pan out this season?
  • How good can players like Kleiza, Barbosa and Julian Wright be and where do they fit in?
  • What is DeRozan's ceiling?
  • How will the developing swagger in the Young Gunz translate onto the court?
  • Where will Ed Davis fit in...
  • Will BC use the TPE and how?

Look forward to posts on all of these questions and more; including a "State of the Eastern Conference and Where the Raps Fit in" and an "Expose on Why Players Don't Like to Play in Canada." Anyways, that was a thriller the other night in double OT, looking forward to tonight's game.

June 29, 2010

The Toronto Raptors: The Miami Summit, or Lack Thereof

Steve Aschburner wrote an excellent piece yesterday on (linked here) on the free agent summit in Miami. He postulates several great thoughts on its cultural, social, and scientific significance...

As a basketball experiment, it would be fascinating to see the Xs and Os brought to life by such remarkable talents. Who would initiate the action? How would their skills mesh? Where would the outside shooting come from? Then again, with double-teams demanded at three spots, simple math says there would be 2 ½ guys left mostly open much of the time.

As chemistry and psychology experiments, we could learn much about the dynamics of ego, the power of sacrifice and the ingredients needed to bind together such strong personalities. What would the pecking order be? We pretty much know who'd be No. 3, but how would Nos. 1 and 2 get divvied up? Would Wade have squatter's rights because it was his town first? If so, what's higher in the royal flow-chart than King?

As a financial experiment, we might finally get to see how the New York Yankees' methodology of team-building works in pro basketball. The NBA largely has been protected from that by its salary cap, but this would be as close as a hoops team can get to opening the wallet for the best of the best.

Even if a spend-spend-spend approach isn't quite what the Yankees do (they're more like spend-spend-spend-spend to about the 25th power), it would force Miami and the rest of the league to find out what happens when most of the remaining players are brought in on minimum contracts. Would the Gee, Three! be surrounded by marginal talent? Or would they, on their reputations and expectations of success, lure enough solid teammates who'd take serious pay cuts to nail down rings themselves?

As a cultural experiment, seeing how such a galaxy of stars would shine away from the gyms would be fascinating, too. Would they hang together? Would they share off-court opportunities? In other words, would Bosh get a puppet and would Charles Barkley be elbowed out of the T-Mobile spots?

Finally, as a political and competitive experiment ... well, here's where things get dicey. We'd start by assuming that Cleveland and Toronto, abandoned by James and Bosh respectively, would be toast. At least for a (long) while. But what about other markets and their preference for building toward a championship the old-fashioned way? Could they compete with the instant mix of superstars, money and minimal stirring?

I have always written off the possibility that these three end up together as preposterous. Each has earned the right to carry a team on his own (some more than others). And, in their own ways, each has stated that he wants to be the man in a respective uniform. For about 24 hours now this rumor has been swirling out of control, and it appears (of course, this comes out while I'm writing this piece) that it might be just that: a rumor. But the point of it being picked up so virally by many fans and pundits alike, is that it is such a tantalizing thought. So, even if this is not going to happen, I will finish my article as if it were a done deal. Mostly because I want to, but also because - as the reason for the virility in the first place - I'm sure the three stars have given much thought about packing up and moving to South Beach together.

Firstly, I don't care if Bosh leaves Toronto, frankly I want to see him gone. In his seven years here, he has managed to lead his team to 3 playoffs wins. That's games, not series. He has put up fantastic personal numbers, but has never really been able to get more from various and talented teammates. While he says he wants to be the man for a franchise, I think he is better suited as the Robin to a Lebron/Wade Batman. He is not suited to lead, and if we kept him in TO, it would be Garnett in Minny, or Pau in Memphis all over again. Moreover, Bosh ending up in Miami with Lebron and Wade would be bittersweet. I love Miami, have a second home there and consider them to be my second team (whatever the hell that means). Further, I could chalk it up as a situation that Bosh could not pass up. Unlike if he went to, say, Houston, where there is only slightly better talent, and he would still be the franchise guy. I am grateful for his service to the City of Toronto's basketball fans, but it is time to part ways. For the benefit of both parties. If we can return a Michael Beasley, then great. Either way, the Raps move to rebuild mode immediately, so I am fairly indifferent.

Secondly, regarding the 'done deal', "massive 3" (big 3 seems to small for me) in HEAT uniforms. Some might question whether they would be dominant. Whether they would mesh well together. But the question in my mind isn't if, but how many championships they would win. Yes, bringing the three together means that the team will have to do with nine to twelve minimum salary guys, but who cares? You could put John Daly in at the five, and he would average 10, 5 and 5 (boards, dimes, if you were wondering). Especially given that Pat Riley would likely move down from his front office perch, I put the vegas over/under championship total at 5.

Thirdly, at the end of the article, Aschburner goes on to question their competitive drive if they decide to sign together. That's ludicrous. They would still have to go up against the Lakers, Celts, Mavs, Magic, Nuggs, etc. These are the three biggest names in the sport right now only by virtue of the free agency, not because they are the only talent in the league. There is no question that this would be a seismic shift and leave the Cavs and Raps high and dry (the Cavs would be worse off IMHO). But in no way is this a sign of a lack of will for competition. I would say the exact opposite. League wide talent is at an all-time high and the three would be saying that they want to pair up to face this talent. If anything I would question their competitiveness if they didn't decide to pair up.

Lastly, and most importantly, with Bosh all but gone, where do the Raps stand? We can try a patch-work for one season to see if we can salvage anything from this shipwreck... maybe Beasley comes to town. Maybe we get some interesting pieces in return for Turkoglu or Calderon. Marcus Banks and Reggie Evans are expiring deals too, maybe we can package them into a deal and return some value. 

Either way, it looks like the team will be handed to Bargnani. He's had plenty of time in the league and it's time to see what he's made of. If he can't handle it, get rid of him and blow up the team. The roster next year will be drastically different, and probably not great. Jose needs to go, he's not good enough. His body is weak, and injury prone. His defense is weak. He handles the offense perfectly and its a pleasure to watch him dime Amir for the alley, but his deficiencies are too big to ignore. Ship him, for expiring contracts even. Jack gets the starting the job. With Jose out of the picture, Turk's job as a ball handler becomes much more important and I could see him being sold to stay a Raptor. Further, I would bite that he would be useful once more. 

A starting five of Bargs, Amir (Re-Signing him is absolutely necessary) Turk, Sonny and Jack is interesting, but still pretty shit. Demar and Ed Davis off the bench are a pretty big wild-card at this point. Add in a player or two from the Calderon deal, and maybe Beasley, and the team might be alright. Do they make the playoffs? Likely not. Do they make for some entertaining games throughout the season? Sure, but few. If Demar and Bargnani, and Triano for that matter, have great off-seasons, the team might not be in bad shape. If they maintain the status quo (more likely in my mind), the situation in Raptors land looks pretty bleak. If that's the case, blow it up. Clean house. Get rid of Colangelo et al. and start fresh with the core of Demar, Sonny, Davis, Amir. The Raps can only give it a year though, and this is key. If they don't make the playoffs, BLOW IT UP! I do not want the Raptors to become mediocre hacks wadding in the middle of the pack, which a lineup of Bargs, Amir/Davis, Turk, Sonny/Demar, Jack has written all over it. We would win thirty five games, and everybody would be like, "oh well we had an alright season, let's give these guys another shot." That's not good enough. Specifically because I don't believe Toronto is a draw for major star power... unfortunately. Our success needs to come from organic growth. The Raptors need to be really bad to be really good. And we need to draft well in the process.

Two Urinals

At my place of work, in the men’s room, there are two urinals. Based on the erosion of the urinal cakes I have noticed that people tend to choose to pee in the right urinal. The puck is always the first to erode, and I wonder why? When I go pee I don’t really think about which urinal I choose, I just sort of go. Sometimes I stand in the middle and try to go back and forth… sorry colleagues: that was me. Anyways, I think it would be an interesting psychological study to see if there was any difference between those who choose right versus left. When they choose it, and why. Maybe it is a dominant hand type of thing. Maybe it’s a personality thing. Maybe it’s a left brain, right brain issue. Maybe it’s random… probably not. Maybe we would just find that people who choose right pee more? Would that be a finding? Maybe they are healthier and drink more water? Who knows… who cares?

June 17, 2010

Tall Man Etiquette

Being as tall as I am its a funny thing when you meet someone who is near your height. At 6"7 that happens rarely, but when it does the outcome goes one of two ways. The first - and less common - is that you make eye contact, direct or indirect, and kind of give the other dude a nod. Like this scene from the office, but instead of black people, its tall people.

You're saying, "Hey Bro. Respect. You're tall, and I'm tall. Fuck Yeah!" 

The second reaction, which is much more common; both parties snap their spine up and walk by looking at each other indirectly so as to gauge who is taller. Being the tallest person in sight is a competition, so when someone threatens your position as the alpha, you have to be sure who is the tallest. Upon acknowledgment that one is taller the other must bow down and give way to the taller. If, on occassion, you run into a situation where you can't tell there is protocol. You must immediately fight to the death in typical tall guy fashion.

June 10, 2010

The Political Capital of the Oil Spill

I read an article today in The Globe and Mail ( suggesting that the oil spill will be a 'game changer' for the oil industry. It was quoting an analysis by the international energy agency which posited that tough new regulation might jeopardize supply in the next five years to the tune of around one million barrels a day.

It also cites a Deutsche Bank report, “this is the end of the oil age as we knew it and the Macondo [the blown well] will be seen as an enormous driver toward at least recognition that cheap, abundant, politically secure oil is no longer available and our behaviour must change to recognize that.”

Amazing. I can't wait. I've been saying it for a while that Obama needs to use the political capital associated with the spill to fulfill a campaign promise of weaning America off its addiction to oil. Is it scummy to politicize a massive disaster? No. The fact is that people respond to crisis. George Bush missed his opportunity following 9/11. In the name of national security he could have used the attack to make drastic changes to the way Americans get their energy (among other things). And lots of very smart Americans believe this is a much more effective way to counter terrorism. Ronald Reagan spent the Russians into the red to end the cold war. Now in the war on terrorism, we are funding the enemy. This is why Israel's energy policy is to be oil-free, ASAP, using electric cars, solar and wind power, etc. Anyways, of course Bush would have never tried to sever the ties between Americans and the oils powers of the middle east... his father's business connections being what they are. So let's all hope that the reason Obama is lying low so far is to calculate a measured and effective response to break the addiction to oil. Look the fact is that we are so entrenched in our oil addicted lifestyle that coming clean from oil will require us to make financial sacrifices. Massive investment in research and development to improve the technology is paramount. 

The time is now. We need to grow up and recognize that the cost of oil is far greater than just the daily price of a barrel. We subsidize the oil companies by letting them sell their product without making them pay for all the costs of using the product. Pollution, health issues related to smog, etc. Why do we do this? They make tens of billions of dollars every year from killing our planet. I love capitalism and the wealth that it creates for the masses, but this is capitalism gone awry. Let's take the needle out of our arm and get on with fixing the world.

June 8, 2010

Religious Pollution

"I've sworn off agnosticism, which I now call cowardly atheism." James Cameron. Bullshit. Granted; you are the man and yes, you have the two biggest grossing films of all time under your belt and can apparently fix massive oil spills. But this line is hogwash. There is nothing cowardly in agnosticism. In fact the world's preeminent atheist, Richard Dawkins, is truly an agnostic. Read his work: In 'The God Delusion' he says it plainly that as a scientist he cannot discount the possibly that a supernatural being exists. Ergo, Dawkins is an agnostic.

My view of those in the modern world is that they are willfully - and pleased to be so - ignorant. They go about their daily lives not really giving a damn about the divine, and every so often they go to church, or synagogue, or whatever to appease God. At the end of the day it is about fear. Not fear in some sort of hell, but fear in death. The ultimate question religion tries to answer is that of the afterlife. In this guise, religion is comforting to the majority. It's Pascal's Wager, living life in belief of God has everything to gain and nothing to lose. I believe it's likely that our consciousness ceases to exist upon death. I sure hope I am wrong though, because that is a scary fucking thought. 

Regardless, the question "is there a god?" is a separate question from the question of religion. Yes most religions are centered in the belief of some sort of supreme, super-natural, and judgmental being. But would you be surprised if you died and had a sit down with God where he said, "Yes I exist, and I am the creator. But no, I did not have anything to do with the 'holy' scripture, or religions by which you humans have chosen to live your lives." I wouldn't. In fact, that actually makes a lot of sense to me. To be an atheist today means you subscribe to your world-view by choice. Like Dawkins, most atheists are in-fact agnostics. This is because atheists tend to be the more educated, scientifically minded people. And as scientists they cannot and will not answer the 'God' question with one hundred percent certainty. So let's forget about the 'God' proposition and focus on religion.

I believe that when you look at the history of religion there was a breaking point. A point where religion stopped being useful for humanity and began being destructive. Before monotheism, humanity was a disaster, with very little societal morality, etc. at this point in time religion was beneficial to humanity. But I do not believe that it was rooted in the divine. Our ancestors wrote the torah, the koran, etc., as a code of laws of sorts, for the time. Humans are social animals and really fucking smart. So it is important for us to define our social relationships in a clear cut manner. For centuries this is what religion did. Religion certainly ushered humanity from barbarism to civility. The problem is that it now threatens to bring us back to barbarism, as plenty of the modern world's uncivilized behavior is rooted in religion.

The question of whether religion has been historically good or bad, to me, is an unnecessary one. What are you going to do? Sit there with a scoreboard and count every death one by one. "Well these 115 deaths were religious based..." Useless and frankly a null point because for a lot of them it could be argued either way. Take the crusades for example. Depending on which lens you wish to view them through you could reasonably say that they were a human inspired, or a religious based tragedy. You can view history through so many different lenses, perhaps you might say that the crusades were more a product of the times, etc. The point is that taking historic stock of religion is arduous and ultimately useless.

What is useful, however, is looking at religion today and the prospects of a society that believes in religion versus one that is without faith. To put it plainly, what are the pros and cons of religion in the modern world? To me, it's a no-brainer that religion currently has a negative effect on the human race as a whole. Amongst other things, religion is an extremely polarizing entity. So much so that people kill others and/or themselves in its name. To abolish religion is an easy sell to me. Obviously not for others. In the name of religion today we have suppressive regimes that abuse their citizens. Ritualistic killing. Female circumcision. People are taught to hate and kill and even commit suicide. The fact is that in the modern world, we don't need religion anymore. We need to move past the notion that we should devote our lives in the service of something we have never seen. We need to believe more in the power of humanity than in the power of the divine. This could usher in transformative change. It will never happen, not for hundreds of years at least, but it's nice to think about. Regardless of whether you believe in a particular religion, it should be your duty as a responsible human being to take care of this planet which has given you life. To take care of your fellow man trying to do the same. Look I'm just a monkey trying to do right by his monkey brethren. And I'm more than okay with that. Watch the movie 'Jesus Camp', it will scare the shit of your, seriously. In it, Ted Haggard, the besmirched pastor and former head of the council which overseas thirty million American evangelicals, says that kids love religion because it gives them hope and purpose. Without it all you have is natural selection, basically suggesting that intelligent design is much cooler for children because God formed them with his own hands. Why do religious thinkers believe this way? I happen to believe the natural selection is damn cool. Over millions of years our monkey ancestors were whittled down to the best and brightest: homo-sapien, and now you are here today, reading this shit on the internet. Religious people say they derive purpose from the divine, and that those without religion are lost, and purposeless. That is a load of shit. Purpose can be found everywhere, and why not in service to the whole of humanity and this beautiful planet we call home.

So, what happens when you die? Shit, I dunno. Let's all agree that we don't know. We don't know if there is a God. We don't know what existence is, in fact, we take our existence, more so the existence of the universe for granted. Maybe you want to pray on Sundays, or everyday for that matter. Fine, waste your time, if it makes you happy then great. If it makes you kill then you have no place on my planet, get the fuck off!

May 27, 2010

Top Ten Homer Simpson Moments

I recently published my top ten favorite comedies of all time. In it I included video clips for most of the shows on the list. Let me tell you, searching for these clips was a blast. Most notably for a bit from The Simpsons. I used to adore The Simpsons, but over the last 5 years or so they have fallen from grace, and I do not watch new episodes. In disgust, I placed them at number nine on my list, even though if they had killed the show after say the sixteenth season it would have been a no-brainer top five. Anyways, I figured since I had such a fun time watching these simpsons videos it would make a nice blog post. Here ten awesome Homer Simpson moments, unranked. There are certainly more, just not available on youtube. Enjoy!

Top Ten Television Comedies

Yesterday I wrote a piece on my ten favorite television dramas. In it I explained that when comparing television shows it's important to categorize based on genre. I will not make a list of my favorite shows that includes both comedies and dramas, there is a clear distinction, when crafting a show, between a comedy and a drama and I believe it useless to compare the two. Sure there is overlap; comedy in dramas and drama in comedies, but when looking at a show's over-arching plot you should easily be able to see that one is a comedy and one a drama. Again, I will mention that this is my list, and certainly subjective. I am twenty two years old, so I have a bias towards more modern television. This was a really tough list to come up with. I knew which ten I wanted to be on the list, but to rank them was arduous and to be frank unnecessary. They are all so good, and in most cases the show is yet to be complete. So take this ranking with a grain of salt. Anyways, without further adieu:

From the creators of The Office, Parks and Rec follows the ups and downs of a parks department in small town, USA. Amy Poehler plays an over-zealous deputy director of the Parks department in the City of Pawnee, Indiana. My favorite character is hands down Ron Swanson, the director of the parks department, Poehler's boss. He is a libertarian and plays a perfect foil to Poehler.

The only reason The Simpsons is so low is because of everything they have done after season fifteen. Seasons five through fifteen was some of the funniest television in history. The Simpsons is legendary, but unfortunately it has gone stale and in my humble opinion it is not funny anymore. It's too bad they have tarnished such a stellar reputation, although I'm not sure those in charge really care anymore, The Simpsons is a money making machine. To not include it on this list would be foolish, but for me, with the calibre of television they are pumping out nowadays, I can't put it close to the top five.

Another show which is past its prime, a show that has jumped the proverbial shark. But in its heyday The Office was just plain funny. Again its too bad that it's rep has been tarnished with this last season's monstrosity. With Carell leaving after his contract expires following next season, I believe the show will be done. So hopefully they will pick up their socks and deliver a good final season.

A lot of people don't like family guy. I love it. Sure their bits can get annoying - that Conway Twitty thing was out of line - and they are certainly hit and miss. But in my opinion they hit more often than miss, and the hits are fucking hilarious. Brian, the anthropomorphic dog, occasionally retreats into his instincts as a dog, and it is always gold.

The fourth season just concluded, and 30 Rock shows no signs of slowing down. Following the people who make The Girly Show, a live-to-air sketch comedy show, not unlike SNL. Tina Fey is a comedic genius and her soul has been firmly placed at the center of this show. She had years of hilarity on SNL, so she knows the inner working of a show like The Girly Show. 

A show about three buddies who live in a trailer park. These guys are alcoholics, addicted to dope, and get by day-to-day with various drug dealing and criminal schemes. Watch this show from the start of a season to the end, the story arc is amazing. Every season usually starts anew as the boys get a fresh start coming out of prison. By the end of the season some combination of characters is back in jail after another failed scheme. The comedy in this show is not typical, and centers on the stupidity of these small town hosers. As my dad will point out: these dudes would be farting all day long, but not once do they make a fart joke.

From the genius mind of Larry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm is simply unreal. Its ironic storytelling to the max. This show is semi-scripted, which makes it that much more impressive. Follow Larry David around as he gets into all kind of trouble running amok of the town and his friends and neighbors. If you are a fan of Seinfeld, do yourself a favor and pick up the season seven DVDs. The season's plot is based on the development of a reunion Seinfeld episode. We will probably never have a real Seinfeld reunion, but who cares, this was way better. Watch it!

South Park is the shit. After fourteen seasons this show is still pumping out gold. Matt Stone and Trey Parker are fearless - too bad their parent company is made up of a bunch of pussies - they tackle any and every social issue. And this keeps the show fresh, as these ten year old boys are able to conquer the greatest of social issues with relative ease. Unfortunately the dudes at viacom have something stuck up their ass and a video clip could not be found on youtube.

The funniest show since Seinfeld. Only through five seasons, this show has the potential to surpass Seinfeld for that number one spot in my books. Four ego-centric friends from Philly run an unsuccessful dive bar. After the first season, Danny Devito joined the cast and what he brings to the table is immeasurable. Another semi-scripted show, he brings a wicked attitude and acting acumen essential for the shows potential. The best stuff comes after season 2, when Danny's character really takes a turn towards a more scum filled lifestyle. Watch this show, it is so damn funny.

The most successful sitcom in history, third most viewed series finale of all time. 76 million viewers. To this day, Jerry Seinfeld is the second highest earner in the television industry, earning $60 mil a year. A quote from Wikipedia, "...Seinfeld focused on [life's] minutiae, such as waiting in line at the movies, going out for dinner, buying a suit and, basically, dealing with the petty injustices of life." I have one friend who doesn't like Seinfeld. There was a point where I would argue with him, but I have resigned myself to the fact that he is being stubborn now and is missing out. So when the topic arises, I simply ignore the conversation. I posted the following video to his facebook wall with the comment, "Suck It". His response was, "Top ten lamest moments ever?". Boy do I pity him. This is the funniest show in television history. The numbers prove it. The fact that over ten years after the finale it still gets plenty of air time proves it. Just watch a fucking episode and tell me your sides aren't splitting. If you don't like this show, you don't like comedy or sitcoms. And I guess that's cool, your life will have a void though, and your existence will be less fulfilling.

May 25, 2010

Top Ten Television Dramas

Upon the conclusion of Lost I figured it incumbent upon me to put down a list of my favorite television shows. It's a tough list to come up with, particularly because there is such a large variety of genres. But also because a lot of my favorite shows are not yet complete, so it is hard to judge the entire body of work. I do not wish to compare apples to oranges, in that respect I will make two top ten lists. One for for pure comedies and one for dramas, dramedies, etc. No reality shows, no talk-shows, just pure scripted / semi-scripted television. I must add that obviously a list of one's favorite television shows is a purely subjective measure. If you do not like my list please comment with your own.

Honorable mentions to Dexter, Mad Men. I have not seen these shows, thus the honorable mentions. They are widely followed and crititically acclaimed. So trust me, they are on my list.

It's hard to argue with success. The original came to a close on monday night. It had been on the air for twenty years, the longest running crime drama on TV, and tied for the longest running drama. When a show gets such a following and produces multiple spin-offs, you know the formula is working. I don't religiously follow any of the shows, but I can't help myself if I find an episode starting when I'm browsing through the guide. These are their stories.

Probably more of a comedy than a drama. But still a great plot and plenty of drama. A newly widowed suburbanite mother of two turns to selling pot to support her family after the death of her husband. Over the course of the show, she finds herself increasingly entangled in crime. Great entertainment. Shane learning a life lesson:

An FDNY firehouse set in a post 9/11 New York. The show follows the men of the firehouse in the daily professional and personal lives. A dramedy in every sense of the word. Denis Leary plays the main character, Tommy Gavin, who struggles with his recent divorce, alcoholism, and the loss of his brethren on 9/11, especially his cousin and best friend. The firehouse's lieutenant's take on life:

A wicked drama about the lives of a close-knit outlaw motorcycle club. The show follows Jackson Teller, the thirty-something VP of the club, as he struggles with club loyalty, adjusting to life as a father, and the daily problems that arise from being an outlaw. Only through two seasons, the show has been picked up for a third by FX, and shows no signs of giving up, as viewership/ratings have been high. The season two trailer:

If you do not know what this show is, or is about, then shame on you. David Duchovny plays the lead in this comedy about a book writer always running into trouble with sex, drugs and women, while struggling to maintain a relationship with his ex-girlfriend and trying to raise his daughter in a less than normal environment for a teenager. Watch it!

Bryan Cranston (best known as the dad from Malcolm in the Middle, or the dentist Tim Whatley from Seinfeld, lol) plays a high school chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with cancer. With a pregnant wife and a disabled son, he has plenty of responsibilities. To pay the bills of his treatment and set up his family for the future he decides to put his extensive knowledge of chemistry to work cooking crystal meth. Mayhem ensues. Currently in its third season, this show is simply awesome, do whatever you can to watch it. The opening scene of the series:

The West Wing provides a glimpse into presidential politics in the nation's capital as it tells the stories of the members of a fictional presidential administration. These interesting characters have humor and dedication that touches the heart while the politics that they discuss touch on everyday life. The show is long over, but while on the air it was highly decarated, critically acclaimed, and widely followed. If you're into politics, get your hands on the DVDs.

3) Lost
Simply amazing. LOST follows the lives of survivors of a plane crash on a mysterious island. For those who have not seen it, a warning: if you plan to watch it clear your calendar for about three weeks, because if will consume you. I started watching after the fourth season had ended. I couldn't stop watching. I have seen it happen to many of my friends, they literally get LOST (I know its a brutal pun) in the drama. The show is set in the unknown, throughout the show the properties of this mysterious island are slowly revealed, and to fully understand the show you will need to accept the supernatural. While on the air, and probably forever, this show created a mainstream cult following, whereby fans would try to decipher the hidden meaning in the show.

Following characters on both the law enforcement and gangster sides of Baltimore's drug trade. As you watch The Wire you come to empathize with both sides and no real protagonist / antagonist is developed. Furthermore, the show draws countless parallels between the two sides. Each season focuses on a different theme, and this keeps the show fresh. In later seasons a political angle and a major Baltimore newspaper are thrown into the mix. The Wire is arguably the best show ever created, its the reason you pay for HBO, the reason to watch TV. Nothing supernatural, just real television, the closest thing to real life in a television series. When choosing the best television drama I will not choose between my two favorites. I just won't do it, lots of people have a favorite, but to me they are both so incredible that its not worth comparing. Here's the opening scene of the series:

Following the life of Tony Soprano, the head of a fictional mob, as he struggles to find a balance between his personal life and the mafia. The perfect crime drama, drawing from every great mafia movie including Goodfellas, The Godfather, Casino, etc. In theme and talent, as there is plenty of overlap in actors from the movies and the show. What's more is that James Gandolfini, while certainly an overwhelming presence and a perfect fit for the role of Tony Soprano, is a poet/artist/gentle soul in real life. He is just so dedicated to his craft that Tony Soprano was one of the more intimidating characters of all time.