Tag Archives: Olympics

The Olympic Torch and Being Green

Vancouver 2010 Olympics, given a bronze medal by the Suzuki society for green initiatives. Just made it but still somewhat green, right? I’m in New Westminster and today the torch has gone through on Columbia Street. Here’s what it looked like.

First there were four Greyhound bus size trucks that went through. I might have missed one or two but at least three of these were Coca-Cola with people in red playing drums, waving flags, drumming, cheering. Then there was a five minute gap and a bunch of cars drove down the street, just trying to get through.

We waited (I watched from the second floor of a building) and then a large 2010 bus drove by, empty from what I can tell. Next two motorcycle cops drove by pushing people back from the road, and then and RCMP car and two more cops. Then a 2010 (what we would call Handydart) bus drove by. Next came the runner with six people jogging about him to keep the crowd back that had surged onto the street. There were about 100 people out there at most but then the torch and runner have already been through most of New Westminster by this point. Then came another four motorcycle cops. And then we saw where that billion dollar security budget came from.

At least six more RCMP unmarked trucks/SUVS brought up the rear, sitting in their sleek new vehicles, just driving along. In all, not including the motorcycles I counted 15 or 16 vehicles for one runner and a torch. They were so far back that if something happened it would only be for picking up the pieces of the runner and finding the bad guys after the fact. But you’ve got to give the guy space, right? Of course, but then why so  many vehicles for one runner so far behind. And just think, the same in every part of Canada.

Fifteen. How is this green? None of those vehicles looked like hybrid vehicles. Oh yes, there was also one Olympic guy who pedaled by on a bike. That was green as were the people on their feet. Fifteen vehicles. Okay sure, four were big branding hullabaloos and not a free Coke between them. Two were buses, empty I must say. But are we just finding jobs for the 15,000 security guys who are living on a cruise ship just waiting for bad to happen? Can we say overkill.

This, folks, are your Olympic dollars at work and the great brains of the Olympic committee doing more than taking the fun and sport out of the Olympics. This is puffed up importance and Olympic BS. Some security is needed but these guys were joyriding. Pretty sad to see and a detraction to the runner with all those vehicles. I wonder how many runners are getting sick from sucking exhaust.

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Kangaroo Kontroversy

Now we’re truly getting down to what the Olympics are all about. The Australian athletes have hung a two-storey flag of the boxing kangaroo outside their residence in the Olympic village. The Olympic village in Vancouver is, like every other Olympic venue, cordoned off and protected by security enough to sink the Bismarck. The only people who might actually get into this “village” are the athletes, reporters, security goons and other bigwigs of Olympic importance. But it is where all the athletes, with their dreams and aspirations are housed. So it makes sense that everyone wants to show team and national spirit.

The boxing kangaroo is not the flag for Australia the country but it is the flag for their sporting attitude and has officially been that symbol since 1983 (Oh and belongs to the Australian Olympic Committee–aren’t they all part of the Olympic “family”?). On top of that the boxing kangaroo was supposedly used on fighter planes in the second world war. Just google it and you’ll see the examples. But the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has deemed it too commercial and have told the Australians to take their flag down. Too commercial. What’s wrong, IOC, are you afraid someone might buy an Australian? It’s not like it’s advertising beer or mitts; it’s advertising Australia’s competitive spirit.

But the IOC has proven that its main purpose is not to promote sports and fun and national competition. Its main purpose is to make tons and tons of money and get big advertising sponsors. It also shows there is no sense of humor whatsoever in the suits and ties gobbling up the money. Where does that money go? Good question.

They don’t pay the athletes, nor the hosting cities. Every city that bids on being an Olympic venue also pays a pretty stiff registration fee that they do not get back. But the money must go somewhere. Well, looking at the IOC’s role and mission this may give us a clue as to where the money goes.

The IOC’s role is to:

  1. Encourage and support the promotion of ethics in sport as well as education of youth through sport and to dedicate its efforts to ensuring that, in sport, the spirit of fair play prevails and violence is banned;
  2. Encourage and support the organization, development and coordination of sport and sports competitions;
  3. Ensure the regular celebration of the Olympic Games; Make that properly branded & trademarked celebration only.
  4. Cooperate with the competent public or private organizations and authorities in the endeavor to place sport at the service of humanity and thereby to promote peace; Organizations like Visa, MacDonalds, Coca-Cola. Yay peace!
  5. Take action in order to strengthen the unity and to protect the independence of the Olympic Movement; The Olympic Movement: is that like a political thing or a just a bodily evacuation?
  6. Act against any form of discrimination affecting the Olympic Movement; So what does that mean in regards to protestors.
  7. Encourage and support the promotion of women in sport at all levels and in all structures with a view to implementing the principle of equality of men and women; Except where inconvenient like those darn female ski jumpers who don’t get to jump.
  8. Lead the fight against doping in sport;
  9. Encourage and support measures protecting the health of athletes;
  10. Oppose any political or commercial abuse of sport and athletes; Get that kangaroo flag down, sports. Get that kangaroo flag down.
  11. Encourage and support the efforts of sports organizations and public authorities to provide for the social and professional future of athletes;
  12. Encourage and support the development of sport for all; But you can’t watch it unless you have a $100 or more for each ticket. So that should be for all wealthy people.
  13. Encourage and support a responsible concern for environmental issues, to promote sustainable development in sport and to require that the Olympic Games are held accordingly; Do you know how many shiny white vans and trucks I’ve seen with the Olympic logo on the roads? Wouldn’t it be better to use old ones in good repair instead of adding more cars to the environment?
  14. Promote a positive legacy from the Olympic Games to the host cities and host countries; But we’ll ignore the fact that only one Olympic host city has ever made money. What’s the legacy: more taxes.
  15. Encourage and support initiatives blending sport with culture and education;
  16. Encourage and support the activities of the International Olympic Academy (IOA) and other institutions which dedicate themselves to Olympic education.

I really hope the Australians keep the flag up the whole time and that other countries add their eagle (US), bulldog (UK), beaver (Canada), etc. to the mix. And I really hope that kangaroo has a middle finger for the IOC’s arrogance and commercial greed.

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Really Dumb Olympic Trinkets

I wasn’t sure what I would write about today but then I received, with my bank statement, a little blurb about winning some Olympic art, sort of. My bank is VanCity, a local, good reputation bank. But in the statement was this double-sided pamphlet from Citizens Bank. It says, “You could win 1 of 12 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games edition Visa prepaid card collector sets.” Phew.

Okay, so first Citizens Bank in my VanCity statement? It makes me wonder what my bank is getting out of it. Then I thought, okay, so I enter to win and then get 12 Visa cards with a prepaid amount, maybe $100 on each. That would be a nice prize, $1200 maybe to spend on the Olympics.

But no, as I read, it turns out that these are prepaid Visa cards, as in you don’t have to buy them. Okay, when have I ever had to buy a Visa card except off of the shady guy on the street corner in Paraguay when I was on the run from the black ops CIA? Never. It turns out that there isn’t a prepaid amount, nor can you put funds on them, but this super duper Olympic art is prepaid, as in you don’t have to pay for it. If you go out to buy them it will cost you $25, $50 or $100. WTF? So what I’m getting is 12 little pieces of plastic that say Visa and have (for the most part) paintings of headless athletes.

These are such great pieces of art that the pamphlet doesn’t bother to mention the artist’s name. And really, if it’s not original the best it can be is a limited edition and there is no comment on how many pieces of plastic have been printed. So whoopdeedoo, if I go to citizensbank website so that they can start spamming me with Visa applications, and I enter to win this “‘prize” I get 12 Visa cards that can’t be used with pictures of headless and generic athletes on them. Wow. That’s impressive collector’s hoopla for the Olympics. Don’t forget this said it was also Paralympics. I can’t see one image that looks like it shows an athlete who would fit in the Paralympic category. No crutch, no wheelchair, no amputee. Okay, there might be one on there but it’s unclear from the pamphlet.

But yes, if I want any piece of so-called Olympic art sanctioned by the official committee then I will indeed rush out and buy these pieces of worthless plastic. I’ll mount them in a frame worth more than they are and put the “collection” next to Bubba’s beer cap collection and the plastic beads from Mardi Gras in New Orleans. People may want a souvenir or a piece to remember the Olympics by but a mass merchandised shirt or stuff mascot is probably going to be more useful than the supposed collectors edition of Visa cards that are in fact as mass produced as these other items. Why not just mass produced fake paintings? Because then Visa couldn’t plaster their branding everywhere. Personally I’d rather take pictures but these days that could you get you arrested.

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VANOC Police State?

Well, Vancouver, are we about to be a police state? Will we feel more protected or more repressed with the beginning of the Olympics? The one billion dollar budget (that somehow the provincial government forgot to include when they were selling BC on this venture) for security means we’ll have such a plethora of police and guards that criminals are bound to take a vacation elsewhere.

A police state is defined as the “government exercises rigid and repressive controls over the social, economic and political life” of the people. It’s hard to know in advance how our social life will be affected because two weeks before they start road closures (yes, 12 days before the Olympics) we still don’t know what roads will be closed. You’d think that they might at least let us know this in advance because it will inconvenience people. And of course road closures do curtail social aspects in certain areas and affect the economic realities of businesses in these zones. And let’s see, political life. Well, Stephen Harper has decided to prorogue parliament on another whim, saying it’s to get the budget in order. Errr, excuse me, but that’s what working every day as a politician is about, not taking a vacation from the hard questions. But let’s just cease any government until after the Olympics. I’m not sure Canada will have much difference from Beijing on repression.

Interestingly, this morning CBC interviewed the person who had been in charge of the Salt Lake City Olympics security. He said police were in bright jackets so you always knew where they were. When asked about how he handled road closures he said he didn’t know because they only closed a couple of roads around the site. Unlike Vancouver, where routes into the downtown core will be closed completely, and other areas around the city will be blocked or narrowed to one lane. Anywhere where an athlete might go, might practice or might compete, will have numerous restrictions. Of course with no map yet of what areas this will be we, the simple citizens who live and work here will be left with a bewildering maze to maneuver last minute.

Oh and Translink and VANOC spoke the other day urging people to not take transit between 2 and 7 pm  so that people could get to their “time-sensitve venues.” So what are people supposed to do with those time-sensitive things called jobs? Signs put up at various intersections are already spouting to bike, walk or take transit for the 2010 Olympics. So which is it, VANOC? Do you want us to take transit but only when it won’t inconvenience all those people paying big bucks for tickets?

On top of that, we have had lessons by way of radio (and I can presume TV but I don’t watch it) on how to behave. Be nice to visitors, they say. Duh. Hello, VANOC, you’re dealing with Canadians and we are supposed to be polite by nature. Maybe not perfectly polite and we’ll be less so after we deal with delays in transit and road closures (and believe me, there is enough road rage/aggressive driving already). In fact, I’ve changed doctor’s appointments and moved them back so that I don’t have to go downtown during the Olympics. I’m not even sure I could get down there, let alone that it wouldn’t take four hours.

So the VANOC thought police are trying to bring us into line, make us behave, line up where we should and stay away if we interfere with their game. We will only be able to protest in set areas. We’ll see how that goes. I just wish all the ridiculous overkill in security (far more than heads of state even get) was not deterring from the actual Olympic feats of the athletes. As it is, I won’t be able to afford to go, I probably would not be able to drive up to Whistler without using some VANOC sanctioned vehicle, and I’ll be paying, along with everyone else for a long time.

This could have been cheaper if it wasn’t taken to olympic proportions. These people aren’t gods and nor is VANOC god. I really hope that we can survive this without feeling that we’ve been scrutinized in every direction. On that note, I haven’t heard from the VANOC thought police yet but because I’ve been protesting here I’m sure that I’m on their radar as some sort of subversive. I protest with words but VANOC would prefer even that to be repressed. Sorry, folks, but I find little to be shiny happy about with this. To the athletes, I hope you have a marvellous competition and that you’re treated well. You should be; we’re being told to greet you on bended knee.

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Weathering Vancouver

What I often hear when friends think of coming to Vancouver for a visit, or for why they could never live here is “the rain.” And yes, we do get rain. After all Vancouver is in a pacific rainforest, though the forest has receded to this hills and mountains in places. Still we’re a pretty green place and that’s evident when flying over the land.

When I first moved to Vancouver, I moved because I hated the cold and I hated winter. The only snow I liked was the very first snowfall, when it was dry and fluffy and sparkled like diamonds in the lamplight. Walking back from my friend’s in the evening, my footsteps would be the first to make an impression on that scintillating carpet and everything was muffled and magical, with only the sound of a car or a dog in the distance. Then day would dawn and it would just be cold and cumbersome.

I was always cold, sometimes to the point that it felt like my marrow was freezing in my bones, a numbness that would only go away with a hot bath. So, winter especially was not my favorite month. I visited Vancouver three times in one year and all of that was in summer. Vancouver is very lovely in the summer and has the mountains and the ocean so close to the city. I fell in love.

I moved in June and spent the summer getting to know the city and getting a job. But fall and winter came and my shoes were growing mold in them. I always felt like I was crawling into damp sheets and it felt clammy to me. Compared to Calgary’s very dry climate, Vancouver was moist and humid (I hadn’t yet experienced Toronto or Singapore where that’s real humidity). My face broke out in little bumps, not pimples nor really a rash. After seeing a dermatologist it was determined that I was using too much lotion; for Calgary it had been the right amount.

Eventually I acclimatized to the weather. Vancouver does not get blazingly hot in the summer. It’s a rare day that it hits near 30, and because of the ocean and the mountains nearby it will cool down faster in the evenings. While we don’t get as hot as other cities in the summer, we also don’t get the freezing temperatures in the winter. In fact, most pipes for the older houses especially are not far below ground. That and the high water table (we are by the ocean) means that if it does freeze, the pipes are in jeopardy of freezing as well.

Last winter was a brutal exception to Vancouver’s winters. Whereas normally we can expect rain and may be a bit of snow that will melt in a day, we had huge dumps of snow (over 18 inches at one point when I measured) that lasted for weeks. There was so much snow that at first it was that dry snow that other places get, the type that is good for snowballs and building snowmen. But then as temperatures rose, we had the slushy, slippery stuff where everything gets soaked instantly and getting grip, whether by boots or tires, is nearly impossible. My landlord shovelled out more than 13 people in a week, me included.

But the white stuff is rare, and truly hideous when it happens in a city ill-equipped for it. The city is getting more equipment as global warming brings more upheavals in the climate. However, that ubiquitous rain that we always have. Well, yes, there have been a few truly icky and gray summers. But usually they’re quite nice. Winter and fall can vary. The past few years have had winters that weren’t that bad. A bit of rain but periods of sun. Of course the snow last year, negated the rain.

This year almost seems like the old winters here. I heard yesterday that we’ve had 23 days of rain. That doesn’t mean that it rains 24-hours a day but that it is raining every day. Today, it’s actually partially sunny but scheduled to rain some more. When the sky is deep gray all week long and the rain is dripping off of everything, and the grass, if you step on it, slides off the mud below it, then yes, it’s gruesome and depressing. I spent most of the day in bed last weekend because it was so miserable and I felt down.

The Olympics come in February and it looks like they’ll have enough snow for the events. Even in Whistler there are years where it can be a problem. But it could also be raining a lot in February, one of the notorious months for bad weather. But even in winter, usually, it’s not every day of rain. Being someone who has suffered from depression, I can understand the reluctance to live in a place depressed by rain. But then it’s a matter of spending time with friends and in bright light, even if it is artificial. I would still rather take the rain over snow and slogging through the cold every day.

 

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Vancouver Goes Puritan Over Booze

Port cities are often more cosmopolitan that interior cities. This has been an age-old pattern, common where sailors and merchants from many lands came to sell exotic and unusual wares. People of various races as well as different customs would mingle in such a city and tolerance for difference was greater. It was true in the 8th century, the 15th century and is true today.

Vancouver, being a port city is more liberal in many things and culturally mixed for various reasons. You might almost expect it to be European in sentiment. By European I mean the easy laissez-faire of open patios, siestas, late night restaurants and drinking. This doesn’t give way to the degeneration of society but to an acceptance of a natural flow. The more taboo, bad or wrong something is deemed to be, in the eyes of the law, the more people will resist against it if it doesn’t feel right. And so it is with the puritan bylaws on selling alcohol and staying open late.

I had the chance, a few years back, to be in Montreal for a convention. We ended up going off to pubs and restaurants when the hotel bar closed up. From what I could tell the pubs and drinking establishments have a soft closing time that seems to be when the bartender wants to go home. We didn’t get to bed before 4 am any night and we were in pubs and restaurants. No one that I saw got overly rowdy but those of us who started our evening late or wanted to party a bit longer were able to do so. It was fun and nice to know that you didn’t have to be partying by 9  and out of the lounge by midnight.

Cinderella still continues to visit Vancouver, often having to be home by midnight, or the restaurants having to close up by this rather early time. This bylaw of early closings has been fought for years but for some reason City Hall wants to keep the draconian mindset. The only exception has been nightclubs in the downtown core on Granville Street. The problem is that many people don’t like nightclubs where fights among the 20-something set seem more common and therefore a search is de rigueur. Parking is hard to find and expensive (moreso because the City isn’t fulfilling its mandate of supplying affordable parking) and many people would rather stay in their neighborhoods where they can walk and avoid driving while drinking.

The City has had this unfair favoritism for about five years now. On top of the early closings and ways of tamping down culture with any place that has live music made to stop at midnight, the City Hall brain children have figured out a new bylaw. This one is the height of stupidity and outmoded thinking. The City, as of January (just in time for the Olympics, folks) wants all restaurants to have their alcohol sales equal their food sales. Fifty-fifty. So that means if you go in and have a $12-burger and want two ciders at $7 each, you’ll only be allowed one. Or if you go for dinner with a friend, say each spending $20 on food, you’ll only be allowed a $40 bottle of wine, not anything higher, nor more than one bottle.

Perhaps Vancouver’s eggheads feel that everyone is too thin and needs to eat more? Perhaps they want to promote beer or the cheapest swill only. That’s what we’re going to get. (Let’s not even mention Campbell’s monster, the HST, that will suck enough extra money and make going out a thing of the past.) Restaurants always make their money on the alcohol and without those profits we’ll see restaurants going the way of the dodo. Smart move, Mr. Mayor and all your cronies. Where have you put your brains?

The smart thing to do would be to let restaurants and clubs stay open longer across the city and allow them to serve alcohol. A fifty-fifty rule will kill the industry. Some cosmopolitan city we’ll have, where arts and culture are already suffering extreme cuts to the point of nonexistence. This will surely pull in tons of revenue that the city is somehow anticipating for the Olympics. Apologies, Madame et Monsieur, that wine is too expensive. Please try our special plonk instead. Oh and only two glasses each. Sorry, no dessert wine without dessert.

Now I’ve always said that if you don’t vote you can’t complain and I didn’t get a chance to vote in the last civic election so I guess I deserve what I get. However, I’m sure many of the restaurant owners did vote and they are extremely unhappy. My suggestion to the cogs that run Vancouver is to take a look at the great European cities, at Montreal and other places, and see what they do and how they handle restaurants and alcohol sales. Maybe the bible thumpers will get upset but then they don’t have to go to the restaurants. But we’re not going to have an all-out booze orgy unless they keep the drinking only on Granville Street where young guys congregate and drink too much. Spread it out and make it more like the local pubs of Great Britain and Ireland.

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The Media Circus and the Bandwagon

The media is a powerful tool (whether internet, print or radio) and how a story or event is portrayed can sway popular opinion, raise hopes or fears. There also seems to be two types of news: there is the news that reports an event that has just happened, and there is investigative reporting, which involves giving backgrounds and both sides (sometimes) into current events. Of course some investigative reporting also takes noncurrent events and makes them current by revealing what has been going on behind the backs of the public.

Reporting is supposed to be unbiased but as we know the range is vast. The best news presents only the facts but that’s rare these days, and even those facts and events are embellished with adjectives and descriptions that can color the story. The worst news reportage is given to hypberbole and innuendo or even outright conjecture and sensationalism.

But media in general, to draw audiences and increase sales, must report current and hot topics, sometimes over and over and over again, ad nauseum. This mindless media bandwagon is like the chatter of an excited child who has noticed a bright balloon. They forget to ask other questions or point out more than the obvious. For whatever reason, the media might latch on to a certain topic and deem it newsworthy, and flog that horse till everyone whether they wnant to or not Here are a few examples.

H1N1, also called Swine Flu. The vaccine is out, the vaccine is out, British Columbians are rolling up their sleeves, health authorities ask the public to be patient, many British Columbians have been waiting. Have they? How does the media know? Have they done surveys or is that just hyperbole? So here we are told over and over again about the vaccine, about the flu, about the number who have been hospitalized or died in BC.

Here is what we aren’t told and which I’ve had to dig out on my own. What’s a pandemic? It’s a case of a particular strain of disease that is infectious and shows up in different regions (global). There are different levels of pandemic. The Spanish flu (a strain of H1N1 coincidentally) of 1918, estimated to have infected a third of the world’s population killed between 50-100 million people and was a stage 5 flu pandemic. It was one of the most deadly flus in the last hundred years.

The WHO says a flu is pandemic when these conditions are met:

  • emergence of a disease new to a population;
  • agents infect humans, causing serious illness; and
  • agents spread easily and sustainably among humans
  • Flus recur often and flu pandemics (AIDS is also considered a pandemic) at least three times a century. The media has been hyping the shots and the spread of the flu but not putting it into context with what a pandemic is or how severe it is. At this point, it’s still not that severe but it has been classed a stage (or level) 6, which indicates spread not virulence. More people die every year from a regular flu than have died yet from this strain. However, what they also don’t say is that because it is of the same type (but not the same) that caused the Spanish flu they are worried that it could be as deadly. Avian flu was more virulent than the current flu but didn’t spread as quickly.

    The media needs to do a better job of presenting facts without increasing fear. By only reporting over and over again about the flu and vaccines makes it sound very deadly. And though it is to some people and there are risk groups, that is no different from the yearly flus that can kill 500,000. So what are the facts in perspective, instead of the facts segregated out for greater effect and emotion?

    Then we have the Olympic bandwagon. Over the past several years we’ve been presented with several perspectives. The cost of the Olympics, how much the province, the city and the federal government were going to put in was mentioned first. As projects and venues were completed, these things were reported of course. The lighting of the torch is now in the news.

    Also in the news is the fact that the city and the province are fighting huge deficits. The provincial government wants to bring in a tax (after the Olympics of course) that will ding everyone into paying more for things that weren’t previously taxed. Jobs are being cut by the city and province. Oh and somehow the Liberal government has prebought enough tickets to Olympic venues to equal a cool million bucks.

    It should be up to the media to now present a picture of what we were told and promised at the beginning and what we’re getting in retrospect. But I think I can figure that out. We were given wishful thinking and lies so that some people would naively believe that the Olympics wouldn’t be over budget and that we wouldn’t be paying higher taxes to cover it. But really, I’m as bad as the media (though I’m not being paid) because I base my beliefs on conjecture and what I can remember. But perhaps we’ll see some good investigative reporting on this before the Olympics begins though it’s more likely to happen after the close of the event.

    And of course, media can be influenced by and even muzzled by politics. And politics plays in anything that a government is involved in.

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    BC Liberals Slash Health Care

    Just a month or so after our pitiful election where barely half of eligible people voted, Gordon Campbell’s true colors shine again. And his determined plan is to undermine our health care, make people suffer with their pains and illnesses and bring in privatized medicine. Ralph Klein pulled this same move in Alberta. At one time he had closed all lab/x-ray clinics in the city of Calgary except for two. My mother went one day for a blood test that she’s required to have monthly. She waited eight hours and then had to go back the next day. For a two minute blood test.

    This way Ralph Klein could then say that the system was overloaded and the only way to deal with it was to open private clinics…because he had closed the clinics in the first place. As a military commander it would have been a good move. As a political leader he wielded as much power and thought he’d slide everything through. I don’t know all of what happened but I’m sure he did get in some privatization even if the private clinics have been under scrutiny. There are private clinics now in Alberta.

    It was announced yesterday that the BC Coastal Health Authority (a fancy name for Ministry of Health) is going to reduce their administrative costs, which rippled through as being, elective surgeries will be cancelled, especially during the Olympics, in case there is an emergency. It’s obvious that the ministry should be renamed to the Ministry of Pain and Minister Kevin Falcon is babbling double speak to cover the fact that the government is hurting people.

    First, to cancel elective surgeries during the Olympics makes no sense. There are many hospitals and to cancel before there is any medical emergency is just plain idiotic. But wait, we have a government health care system so it’s not like revenue is coming in. It’s just a way to save money at the expense of well-being and lives. Oh, and remember that big white elephant, the Olympics,which haven’t even happened yet? Yes, already losing money, already over budget, as if I didn’t know that back when they were lying to us about all the costs.  So guess how we’ll get some of the money to cover those costs. Cut out some health care.

    Some might think I’m being overly dramatic when it comes to saying people’s lives are at risk. After all, it’s elective surgery. Well, let’s look at what elective means. It means it’s not life threatening, as in a heart attack, or cancer, or a burst appendix. Not immediately life threatening. But elective surgeries could cover cosmetic surgery for someone badly burned and scarred in a house fire, every knee, hip or shoulder surgery, and any other joint problem like carpal tunnel or a bust ankle.

    What happens if you put off surgery on a hip or knee or shoulder? We already have super long waiting times (it could be a year to see a specialist and a year or more for surgery). The part of the body affected will change and pain will become chronic. Scar tissue can build up and bone can deteriorate further. On top of that, the person who is suffering might not be able to walk or move, could be in constant pain, unable to eat or sleep or work. Pain is an insidious thing and constant, unrelenting pain can lead people to suicide. For others, it will wear them down and cause other chronic problems.

    In the long run, and long run it is, a person will end up with more health problems and require more health care the longer they must wait for a corrective surgery. I’ve seen some of this first hand with friends requiring surgeries. It’s extremely wearing on loved ones as well. So, by cutting costs now, it hurts people and the system later. But then that’s the shortsightedness of government, isn’t it? We fix today but don’t look into the future.

    The worst (and as far as I’m concerned, criminal) part of this is that people will suffer and yes some will die earlier because the government plays politics with health. Should they just cut administrative costs, it could work. Maybe. But what happens if there isn’t enough staff to run a clinic or a hospital or to file X-rays and blood work properly? We’ll end up with cases like those in the East, where people were misdiagnosed or results weren’t followed up.

    And then of course, the last statement yesterday was that perhaps they would have to look at more privatized medicare. Hello Gordon Campbell in Ralph Klein’s clothing. Cut back health services and then say, “Oh look, we don’t have enough. Of course we need private health.” Nice strategy but I see through it. Unfortunately the only thing I can do to stop this and make people aware is write this. (Not that anyone seems to care enough to vote, until it’s them waiting for surgery.) Oh, and I can stay healthy to try and avoid the ongoing slings and arrows of the Liberal government and the Ministry of Pain.

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    Art Olympics

    Well shiver my timbers and call me a dumbbell. The other day I talked about “Video Gaming as an Olympic Sport” and facetiously suggested a few new ones including writing a novel and caricature drawing. Well, who knew, but there were once art Olympics, or art contest at the Olympics. Total surprise to me but the founder of the modern Olympics, the French Baron Pierre de Coubertin had a vision which included art.

    The artistic competitions were hotly debated and contested, getting off to a rocky start for Sweden in 1912. Only 35 entries were received. The categories for art were: sculpture, architecture, literature, painting and music. Not all categories were filled and gold, silver and bronze medals were not awarded in all. All art pieces could not have been previously published (though there were exceptions for architecture) and all had to relate to sports in some way.

    Due to excuses of funding problems or note enough time, the next art Olympics were in 1920, then for the years of 1924, 1928, 1932, 1936 and 1948. The art categories sometimes had subcategories such as prints, paintings and water colors/drawings for the painting section, but it could vary from one Olympics to the next. After the initial entries of 35 pieces in 1912, there were usually over a thousand, and thousands of people viewed the exhibits.

    The biggest problem was that the Olympics state that athletes must be of amateur status and it was contended that the artists were professionals. The art Olympics were canceled but the Cultural Olympiad took their place in 1956, showcasing various artistic forms in conjunction with the Olympics. I didn’t know there was a special name for the festivals and to tell the truth I’ve never heard of the Cultural Olympiad. But then I’ve never been to the Olympics and considering the Olympic committee’s penchant for branding, of course there is a Cultural Olympiad.

    So, art is no longer an Olympic sport, alas. Video gaming could possibly become one, but I doubt it. But if you’re at all interested in being part of the artistic Olympiad for Vancouver’s 2010 Olympics then you can check it out here: http://www.vancouver2010.com/en/CultureEducation/CulturalOlympiad/ArtistRegistry/Guidelines

    And below is a database of all countries, medals and Olympic sports, including the art Olympics should you like to see who won. Nazi Germany won quite a few in 1936 Berlin Olympics. Somehow not a surprise. I’ll still dream of writing haiku, villanelles, sonnets and plays at Olympic speed and wiles.

    http://www.databaseolympics.com/games/gamessport.htm?g=10&sp=ART&enum=130

    http://www.databaseolympics.com/sport/sporteventlist.htm?sp=ART

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    Media Frenzy

    I don’t read the paper and I don’t watch TV. I also rarely but occasionally look for news on the internet. However, I’m not ignorant. I listen to CBC Radio One’s news & interview programs usually all day. Sometimes I tune out.

    Since the time that I was a kid news has changed. It didn’t used to be as frequent for one thing, just at 6:00 and 11:00 pm, or that’s what my kid mind remembers of TV news. There was no internet. Newspapers did whatever they did. I sometimes read them as a teenager but I wasn’t always reading the front page.

    Now we have 24-hour news networks, through TV, radio, internet. We’re bludgeoned with news. Every media form needs to gain or maintain subscribers and really, the old adage of “no news is good news” seems very true. Who wants to hear, “Today we had a sunny day. There were no robberies or car crashes. No one was mugged. Three people died of old age and one baby was born.” Well, frankly, I’m at the point where I would like more of the feel-good news, which is usually relegated to the entertainment (Only fun about the stars) section or a small filler piece on a back page about the milk of human kindness.

    Why don’t I use other forms of media? Because it’s the same thing over and over. If it’s TV and a horrible accident happened, you see the gory pictures over and over and over again. In many cases I believe this numbs people to the horrors and bleeds away any compassion. The other extreme is that it rubs people raw and gives a skewed sense of the world. We have copycat crimes because certain unstable types see it as a way to fame and to be noted. I can’t take seeing atrocities every day and several times a day. I don’t want to hear over and over all the grisly details of a murder. Yes, I want to know what’s going on in my world but I’d like it less biased, less graphic and sensationalistic.

    Media used to be just reporting. But even the tamest news has some judgment and colorful adjectives thrown in. I listen to the radio because I find it the least biased, though not perfect, medium. I don’t get inundated with pictures that will spiral me into a permanent depression and belief that there is no good in the world. To this day, I have never seen even one picture of the Twin Towers falling. Not one. I didn’t need to. The terror and horror and despair I felt that day, the tearing up that still happens, is no less strong for not having gaped and gawked at a thousand nightmares. I know how bad it was. I don’t need to see it.

    And I’m aware of the people who die in plane crashes, tsunamis, earthquakes, mass murders and rebel insurgencies. I know there is wrong in the world that can’t be swept under the carpet, that must be acknowledged. But could we please just temper this with some of the heartwarming things that people do. Balance it more.

    What has made me think of media and good news-bad news today is the Olympics. It’s one of the few times that the media in every participating country actually concentrates on accomplishments and joy. That in itself is refreshing. Even if I’m hearing the same “Canada won four medals today” several times a day, I’ll take it for a while over the disasters.

    It’s hard to keep a balanced view of the world when only conflicts and disasters are ever highlighted. Most of us follow the status quo and morals of our culture. It is the aberrants who are highlighted and pinpointed. For every bad egg there are thousands of good ones. Thousands of normal people who are willing to reach out and help someone, to give charity (as long as we don’t let the me-me-me culture take over). But we rarely hear of it unless it’s in conjunction with someone stopping a thief or averting a disaster. It’s there but usually buried under an accident or disaster.

    This is why I mentioned the two little acts of kindness in “My Mental Health Day.” They were small but they made me feel so much happier. I get this same feeling when I can make a donation to a worthy cause, that somehow I’m helping to make the world better, not darker. I’ll continue to filter my news. I sometimes think the world is spiralling into darkness and chaos. But I try to swim against the tide.

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