Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Red Detachment of Women

Last week, I had the opportunity for a unique cultural experience, I got to go to my first Chinese Ballet. It was an important and very popular number called The Red Detachment of Women. After I saw the production, I wanted to run right home and right a blog all about it, but for one of the few times in my life, I was absolutely speechless. It is only now, after some reflection, that I am able to properly explain what I witnessed.

Allow me to provide a bit of context and history first. The Red Detachment of Women, was the ballet shown to Richard Nixon during his visit to China in 1972, and it is one of the "eight model plays" which were the only operas or ballets allowed during China during the Cultural Revolution. Therefore, it is very, very pro-communist. Do not believe me? Well here is a scene from the film version of the movie. Pay extra attention to the oh-so-subtle Party overtones at around the one minute mark.

If you had trouble reading between the lines, understand one thing: she loves communism, and communism loves her.

The basic plot synopsis, is that the main character, Wu Qinghua, escapes from being a slave by an evil lord. She stumbles upon the Red Army (and in particular their female detachment) and joins them. They strike back against the lord, save the day, and continue to march on to victory.

Moral of the story: Workers of the world always unite.

At first viewing, myself and my friends were absolutely blown away by the shear blatancy of the Red-love-in. However, after doing some thought, we came to an important conclusion. It is not that different than most American films, especially from that time frame.

So many Western movies, even today, are centred around the idea of Freedom, and Democracy. The villains are Russian, Chinese, Arabic, or Latino, and the good guy comes in to free the day, and allow America to prosper over all.

Don't believe me? Watch Saving Private Ryan or any John Wayne movie.

My point is that proganda pervades entertainment in any culture, at any time, however it is always easiest to see it in different places and different times. So obviously, the question must remain, what exactly are people trying to get us to think right now?

I have some ideas, but I have a feeling that future generations will have a much clearer picture. Until then, I think that I'll continue criticizing these happy soliders.

Until next time,


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Shades of Wrestlemania -- 4 Months in Advance

With the Survivor Series out of the way, it appears that we have indeed kicked off the most exciting season in wrestling, the Road to Wrestlemania. Traditionally this time has been used to hint at upcoming matches and feuds for the big dance. It was at this time last year that Edge returned, captured the World Title en route to facing The Undertaker in one of the best main events in recent years, and it was around now that the Ric Flair "Win or Retire" storyline started.

Now, with Cena and Edge returning, the McMahons feuding, and Jeff Hardy starting to snap, it appears that the WWE has set some plans in motion to make the 25th Wrestlemania a good one. I think that when April 5th comes and goes, the card may just look something like this...

Money in the Bank Ladder Match: John Morrison vs. MVP vs. Shelton Benjamin vs. Mr. Kennedy vs. The Miz vs. Evan Bourne vs. Ted Dibiase Jr. vs. Cody Rhodes

First off, massive apologies to Kofi Kingston, R-Truth and THE Brian Kendrick, who may just be left off this card, because I simply can not find room for them here. The WWE has a pretty stacked roster right now, and some people have to be left off of the card. Although, if there were a chance to have the two or three of those men face off (potentially for the US-Title?) it would certainly be a welcome addition to any card.

That being said, this has the potential to be an excellent showcase of young talent, with future household names like MVP, Evan Bourne, and Ted Dibiase Jr. all getting a chance to show themselves off. I considered adding both Simply Priceless The Miz and Morrison to a different match, but I think that the two involved in the same match would make for a great dynamic as they both sets of duos would surely try to double cross each other.

As usual, I have written the performers down in order of who I think should win, and I give the easy nod to John Morrison on this one. He is on the cusp of something great right now, and should break on through to the other side (pun definetly intended) in the very near future.

ECW Title Match: Matt Hardy (c) vs. John "Bradshaw" Layfield

Match wise, I would much prefer Chris Jericho challenging Hardy as suggested in my last card prediction, but I just do not see that happening. As usual, the ECW Title will be relegated to the mid-card. JBL has very little mileage left in his tank, so he needs to be used to put over the next set of stars, and this includes the elder Hardy.

JBL has lost in numerous attempts to claim the Big Gold Belt, and so he could easily change his focus to the ECW Title in a quest to cement his legacy. The promos for this feud would be gold with JBL mocking Hardy at every turn, en route to Matt finally getting his hands on JBL and successfully defending his title on the grandest stage of them all.

No Disqualification Match: CM Punk vs. Randy Orton

This would be a huge blow-off for a long simireing feud that started back at Unforgiven. Orton seems to be involved with Batista, while Punk is dealing with Cody Rhodes and Ted Dibiase, but it is only a matter of time before they meet up for an epic encounter. I see the two having a few big matches before this one, with Orton edging out (probably due to interefence from Simply Priceless), with this one serving as a good final blow-off.

Who is Mr. Wrestlemania?: Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker

I came exceptionally close to changing the matches around and having both of these two men involved in different matches, but I just could not bring myself to cancelling this potentially iconic showcase. This match needs to happen at Wrestlemania, no iffs ands or buts. These two men have proven that they cna get better with age, and deserve a chance to show all of the young stars of today just what can be done with an unquestioned desire to be the best.

The BIGGEST Match Ever: The Great Khali vs. Vladmir Kozlov vs. Umaga vs. Kane vs. Finlay vs. Mark Henry

First off, this match would mark a record-tying twelfth consecutive Wrestlemania appearance by Kane (counting his WM XIX pre-show match as an appearance). One more to go and he would break Bret Hart's record!

This is one of those matches that clearly fits under "perverse pleasure". I struggled to fit all of these wrestlers onto the card, and the Money in the Bank match is not for any of them (except Umaga and maybe Kane). This one can be fought under the simple guise of "Brand Superiority" or something like that. Like the Money in the Bank match, I ranked them in order of who should win the most. If you would rather, this could be easily changed to a six-monster tag team match with a little finessing and at least one face turn by either Kane or Umaga.

While it seems strange to have Khali ranked above such serviceable giants as Vladmir Kozlov or Umaga, but one needs to remember the the WWE is looking to expand into India in the near future. As such, they could stand to benefit from having Khali take an ugly win in a pretty meaningless match.

The Biggest vs. The Best II: Rey Mysterio and Floyd "Money" Mayweather vs. The Big Show and Kimbo Slice

This one may be a bit of a stretch but it would be pretty great. Apparently there has been a lot of talks about the WWE bringing Kimbo Slice in after his disasterous EliteXC career. Due to his horrible performance he would make a great heel coming up with excuses. Also, they played up a friendship between Mayweather and Mysterio leading into last years Wrestlemania, so it only seems logical for the two to be partners here. Now, I for one, would prefer to have Mayweather play a heel and potentially team up with Big Show and Kimbo against Mysterio and two partners, but the idea of Slice and Mayweather on opposing sides could sell a lot of Pay-per-views.

Alternatively, if the WWE can only get one of the non-wrestlers to appear, than they could easily make them a heel, and put someone like Borune, Kingston, or Kennedy on Mysterio's side.

One Last Match: "Stone Cold" Steve Austin vs. Chris Jericho

I have repeatedly said that Wrestlemania 25 should feature Austin's return to the ring, with a variety of suggestions being floated around. However, after Cyber Sunday's finish, when Austin cost Jericho the title, I got the feeling that these two were on a colision course. These two have never really had a direct high-profile one-on-one match, and this would be a great place to have the first (and presumably last) major encounter.

Inter-promotional Inter-gender Match: Brie & Maria Bella and Carlito & Primo Colon vs. Santino Marella, William Regal, Beth Phoenix, and Layla London

This is a bit of a strange match, partially to give a woman's match, partially to have a comedy-cool down match, and partially to get some very deserving wrestlers on the card. The WWE should really play of the twin appeal of the Bella's, and teaming them up with the Colon sibling seems logical and entertaining. These twosomes could face off with RAW's heel couples, in a match that could alternate between intense and ridiculous given the talent involved.

They could put a host of titles on the line in this match if they so desire, given that four of the competitors in here are currently holding gold, and they could easily get a few more mid-card titles into this match if they really wanted to.

World Title Match: John Cena (c) vs. Batista

They need to give these guys a rematch, and they need to do it on a big stage. Given that Cena just won the title, and Batista is gunning for him, it would be great to have Batista get *this* close to a one-on-one match between now and then, only to have him either win the Rumble or an Elimination Chamber Match to qualify for this rematch.

I think that a big momentum for Batista only to have Cena retain to even up the score, to set up a huge rubber match somewhere down the line.

WWE Title Match: Edge (c) vs. Triple H vs. Jeff Hardy

Now here is a big deal. The WWE needs to get the title on Jeff Hardy in a bit moment, they have been teasing this for what seems like forever, and this would be the best possible moment to do so. Keeping in a Triple Threat ensures that Jeff doesn't botch anything, and more importantly, erases the memory of what is considered to be the greatest Triple Threat match ever with the greatest Wrestlemania moment ever five years ago. Obviously a Jeff Hardy win, followed by Matt running out with his ECW Title, and having them hugging with confetti is a moment that just plain needs to happen.

Turn back in 4 months to see what happens...

Until next time,


Achieved Predicted Cards

Eight Weeks in Advance
Two Months in Advance
Four Months in Advance
Six Months in Advance
One Year in Advance

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Quarter Season Review

Well with my Presidential Hangover subsiding, I am finally ready to talk a bit about my favourite frozen sport. Back before the season started, I did a full preview of the NHL Season, and in blogging tradition, I plan on looking back at the first quarter of the season, and more importantly, at the remaining three quarters left to play.


Oddly, the most surprising aspect of this conference has come in the once dependable Northeast division. While expectations were not high for the Ottawa Senators, I don't think that many people thought that they would be contending with Atlanta and Florida for bottom of the conference. Things have been really, really bad in Canada's Capital, and show no real sign of turning around. They have all of the talent in the world, but are just unable to click.

The main beneficiaries of the Sens misfortune has been the Boston Bruins, who are surprising a lot of people by sitting on top of the Eastern Conference. While they have a host of young talent, solid goaltending, and a strong team system, I just do not see them outlasting Montreal for the division title, not this year.

Also on the upswing are the Buffalo Sabres. While they have been struggling in recent games, but showed flashes of their 2007 President's Trophy form at the start of the season. I think that they should be the ones to benefit the most from Martin Brodeur's elbow injury, as they could just leapfrog the Devils and make it into the bottom tier of the playoffs.

The other big surprise to some has been the Tampa Bay Lightning. Many people thought that they would be immediately make the playoffs after an off season transformation, but appear to be struggling to find any sort of offensive cohesion. Their division rivals Carolina, should take enough points off of the Lightning to make it into the Top 8.

As for the rest of the playoffs the pre-season favourite Habs, Penguins, Flyers, Rangers, Capitals should all be in no problem, with the rest of the Conference shaping up like this:

1. Pittsburgh Penguins
2. Montreal Canadiens
3. Washington Capitals
4. New York Rangers
5. Philadelphia Flyers
6. Boston Bruins
7. Carolina Hurricanes
8. Buffalo Sabers

9. New Jersey Devils
10. Ottawa Senators
11. Tampa Bay Lightning
12. Toronto Maple Leafs
13. Florida Panthers
14. New York Islanders
15. Atlanta Thrashers


On the left side of the continent, things are (unsurprisingly) more interesting. The two most surprising teams, Dallas and Vancouver, have been shocking for opposite reasons.

The Dallas Stars were expected to be Stanley Cup Contenders, but find themselves in the bottom of the Western Conference right now. While the West is much closer than the East, this is not good news for the Stars at all. Add the news that their Captain, and best player, Brendan Morrow, is going to miss the remainder of the season, and it should be a long season in Texas.

On the other end of the spectrum have been the Vancouver Canucks. They were expected to be among the Conference basement dwellers, but are currently leading the most competitive division in hockey. This has been in no small part to Roberto Luongo's MVP type performance. Through 21 games this season, the "Captain" has 5 shutouts, putting him on pace for an earth shattering 20 shutouts for the season. While I doubt that he will reach that mark, he could very well top Tony Esposito's modern record of 15 shut outs in one season. With that sort of incredible goaltending, it would be hard to imagine the Canucks not making the playoffs. While I doubt that they will outlast Minnesota or Calgary to take the division title, they should have little trouble cracking the top 8.

The other two biggest stories in the West have been the emergence of two of the best young forward corps in the league, San Jose and Chicago.

Granted, the Sharks have been a powerhouse for what seems like an eternity, but this years group seems different. Marleau has not been putting up great numbers, and Thornton has stalled out of the gate, however they have been carried by the likes of Devin Setogouchi and Ryan Clowe, coupled with the emergence of Erhoff and Vlasic on the blueline. The Sharks are playing so well right now, they are even higher in the standings than the mighty Red Wings, despite losing Evgeni Nabokov for an extended portion of time. This may be the deepest Sharks team ever, and they have to be considered the favourites to emerge in the West.

The Blackhawks had high pres-season expectations, but struggled in the fitst few games of the season, prompting them to fire head coach Dennis Savard. Since then, they have experienced a reversal of fortunes, and have climbed their way up the standings. There have been a host of talks about them making a big trade for a veteran forward (Michael Nylander's name seems to pop-up a great deal) with hopes of going deep in the playoffs this year. While I think that may be a bit of a stretch, they should still be an exciting team to watch grow right in front of us.

Lastly, the Edmonton Oilers, have played a solid game so far this season, and appear to be gelling as a unit. Sadly though, Dustin Penner has not been a big part of that, and you have to wonder how long until Kevin Lowe starts to shop him, and just who will make a $4 million commitment to an underachiever. None the less, the Oilers should edge of Columbus, Colorado, and Nashville for the 8th spot, with it all shaking down like this:

1. Detroit Red Wings
2. San Jose Sharks
3. Calgary Flames
4. Anaheim Ducks
5. Chicago Blackhawks
6. Vancouver Canucks
7. Minnesota Wild
8. Edmonton Oilers

9. Columbus Bluejackets
10. Nashville Predators
11. Colorado Avalanche
12. Dallas Stars
13. Phoenix Coyotes
14. Los Angeles Kings
15. St. Louis Blues

As for the playoffs, I see them going something like this:


Penguins over Sabres in 5
Canadiens over Hurricanes in 5
Capitals over Bruins in 7
Flyers over Rangers in 6

Red Wings over Oilers in 6
Sharks over Wild in 5
Flames over Canucks in 7
Blackhawks over Ducks in 6


Penguins over Flyers in 7
Canadiens over Capitals in 6

Blackhawks over Red Wings in 6
Sharks over Flames in 7


Canadiens over Penguins in 7

Sharks over Blackhawks in 5


Canadiens over Sharks in 6

That's right, I'm sticking to my Centennial magic pick from earlier in the season, sub-par Powerplay be damned.

Will I be right? Tune back in 60 odd games to find out...

Until next time,


Monday, November 17, 2008

Presidential Hangover

Pardon to any regular readers for the latest week long absence. Normally I have some reason, either professional or personal for any such sabbatical. However, this time it is something completely different.

I am hungover.

That's right, I over-indulged, and now I am paying the price. Only this time, I didn't overdo it on alcohol, I took in just too much information. Over the past several weeks (hell, months) I have been pretty consumed with the U.S. Presidential Election. Any information on Obama I would drink up, get delighted, and seek out more. I went too far.

In the past thirteen days since hope was reborn, I have been drained. All of my energy and enthusiasm went into one major event, and since then I've been a little bit lost, with nothing left to focus on. However, I've had a cold shower and a couple of Red Bulls, and I'm ready to talk about something else. Here are a few random things that I have observed in the past few weeks:

Rae vs. Ignatieff: Finally, some worthwhile political news from my own country! As sad as I was to see Dion resign (being only the second Liberal Party Leader in history to never serve as PM), I am rather hopeful for the future. There has been a lot of speculation and interesting announcements and moves, but the Liberal Leadership Convention, scheduled for this spring appears to be coming down to the two favourites from 2007, Bob Rae and Michael Ignatieff.

While these two competed a few years ago as favourites, they were shocked by the plucky Dion, who emerged as a compromise candidate. This time, however, things are a bit more interesting, as both men must realize that this is their last chance for the top spot in the party. I expect them both to come out swinging at one another.

Even more broadly, this represents a very important decision for the Liberals, who are in dire need of a change. Do they go for the more Left-Wing Bob Rae, or the more Right-Wing Ignatieff? Do they try to win voters back from the NDP and Greens, or try to take advantage of Canada getting more conservative (note: small c)? If they go for Rae, expect to see some jump to Harper's team, and if they take Ignatieff, I think that NDP might just end up with some more disaffected Liberals.

Pay attention to this one, because it should have a pretty profound effect on Canadian politics for the next few years.

The Hottest Free Agent in Town: Oddly in the NHL right now, the most sought after free agent is not a player, but rather a General Manager. Last week, the Anaheim Ducks and GM Brian Burke, parted ways, in a move that should fundamentally alter the NHL's landscape.

There has been a lot of talk about Burke going to Toronto, and it appears to be the most likely situation. However, there is reported interest from both Chicago and Ottawa, as well as Blackberry Billionaire, Jim Ballsille, who is still looking for his own NHL franchise.

Burke is considered one of the best GMs in the league, having build a solid team in Vancouver, and winning a Cup in Anaheim, so interest is high, especially in Toronto, who needs to turn things around quickly. However, there is an issue if MLSE will allow Burke (or anyone) the kind of control that they are looking for.

Classical Departure: In my obligatory wresting topic, it appears that TNA Wrestler, Christian Cage, may be headed back to the WWE. This comes almost three years to the day that he jumped to the Orlando-based company in a move that fundamentally altered the wrestling landscape. While this has not pushed TNA into direct competition with WWE, it served as a precursor for Kurt Angle and Booker T walking away from the WWE and joining TNA.

Also, in the mean time, Christian has improved in leaps and bounds. He has been one of TNAs top performers for the past three years, and shown t hat he genuinely belongs in the Main Event. If he returns to the WWE, expect him to have a secure place in the upper-midcard, and a very likely feud with either Chris Jericho or Edge.

Lastly if this does work for Cage, then we could expect to see other young wrestlers who are lost in the shuffle (including the recently released Kenny Dykstra and Elijah Burke) to head down south, hone their craft and come back for more money and a bigger limelight.

Lesnar Wins!!!: Speaking of wrestling, former WWE Champion, Brock Lesnar, shocked the world by defeating UFC Champion, Randy Couture to claim the title. I think that this goes a long way to legitimizing professional wrestlers as athletes.

A Few Trips Booked: Allow me to get personal for a moment, but I have booked a few trips for upcoming holidays. Over Christmas, I will be heading to southern Vietnam and Cambodia, while for Chinese New Year (early February) I will be going to Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore.

Expect more stories of these to follow.

The Cabinet Fills Up: In the past week, speculation has been rampant about the upcoming cabinet. Apparently, Hilary Clinton has been offered the high-profile position of Secretary of State, but it remains to be seen if a) this is true, or b) she will accept the offer. If this is the case, then this goes a long way to Obama establishing a "Team of Rivals" as he has claimed interest in building.

George W. Bush talked a great deal about bridging partisan divides, but he ended up surrounding himself with exceptionally conservative people, showing that he was all talk (yes I know Colin Powell was the exception, but he didn't last both terms). Obama has already left Robert Gates on as Secretary of Defense, and he and Joe Biden haven't always seen eye-to-eye in the Senate. If he adds some more high profile Republicans, or other Democrats that he's had issues with, expect him to go much farther along that his predecessor into healing some old wounds.

Yes, I know it involved Obama, but only tangentially...forgive me...

Just in Case You Want More Election: Newsweek has an EXCELLENT seven part story about the election. It contains many behind-the-scenes looks at the campaign, going all the way back to the primaries. It is well worth the time.

Damn, I couldn't get through an Obama free post. Ah well, I suppose that admitting you have a problem is the first step towards recovery.

Until next time,


Friday, November 07, 2008

Everything has Changed

All week, scratch that, all year, I've been ready to write an article outlining my sheer overjoy at an Obama Presidency. Now, since it happened a few short days ago, I have been at a loss. I struggle to find the time or the necessary words to express the sheer magnitude of emotions that I have been feeling since that fateful November night.

Obviously as a long-time Obama supporter and believer in his inevitable victory (look through my archived posts if you don't believe me), I am ecstatic, hopeful, and vindicated. However, that is not going to be the goal of this post, since that would just be a series of expletives, videos posted and "I told you so's", instead I am going to look at a few major ways that everything changed this week.

No matter what you think of Obama, you have to admit that this is a special, and magical moment, by a pretty special and magical individual. He has long been campaigning on "Change" and even if he does absolutely nothing or is (somehow) a worse President than George W. Bush, he has already brought a great deal of change.

The Race Card: Let's start with the elephant in the room. Barrack Obama is (half) black. Kind of hard not to see that one. Now he has never really played the race card, but the Clintons and McCain/Palin have been subtly playing on racial fears as a method of opposition. Once upon a time (i.e. last week), there were all sorts of talk about America being "ready" for a black President, or concerns that Obama was over polling due to the Bradley Effect.

Yet on November 4th, 2008, all that proved to be for naught. America, once considered to be the most racists of the Industrialized Nations has produced a symbol for hope and unity. Sure, there are still lots of racists in the United States, both whites and minorities, both Southerners and Northerners, but the rest of the world has to start to look at their own racial politics now. All of a sudden people in Canada, Britain, France, Australia, and every other Western Democracy have to stop saying that the United States is so racist, and need to ask themselves if they are ready for a leader with a different skin colour.

The End of Inevitability: While it seems like ancient history already, one cannot overstate the impossible task he faced going up against Hilary Clinton in the primaries. Everyone was so used to saying "President Clinton" once more, and it seemed like a lock that she would win, en route to crushing the Republicans, and the Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton circle would be complete. Things, however, did not work out that way. Obama shocked the world with a victory in Iowa, en route to a series of victories in the longest, and most engaging Primary campaign that the United States has ever seen.

Perhaps more shocking, was the thought that only a few years before, the phrase "Permanent Republican Majority" was tossed around frequently. It was thought the Republicans had build up such a solid amount of support in the south by pushing hot button issues like gay marriage and abortion, that they were unbeatable, and would remain so for an indefinite amount of time.

The Re-drawing of the Map: Connected to the above point, is the fact that the US Electoral Map is vastly different than it has been for years. After Nixon created the "Solid South" in 1968, the Democrats were able to consistently win the North East, and the West Coast. However, the electoral count was never enough to push them over.

As a result, it seemed like the only way the the Democrats could win, would be by choosing a leader from the South in order to flip one of the previous Republican states. It should come as no coincidence that the only Democrats to have won an election since Kennedy were from Southern States (Johnson was from Texas, Carter from Georgia, and Clinton from Arkansas) while the Democratic Candidates to not have won an election, McGovern, Dukakis, and Kerry, were from the North. The only exception is Al Gore, being from Tennessee, but I will leave it to you to decide if he won or lost that election.

So now all of a sudden we have Obama being from Hawaii and/or Chicago, who was able to win big in traditional Republican "Bible Belt" states such as Virginia, North Carolina, Iowa, Colorado, and even one Electoral Vote out of Nebraska. This is a huge shift in the way that politics have focused so much on "Swing States" like Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania. Obama could have lost those three states that were so key in 2000 and 2004, but still won the election. Something completely unthinkable for a Democrat to have done even a year ago.

The success of this has to be credited to Howard Dean and his 50 State Strategy. He was laughed at for suggesting that the Democrats run ads in typical Republican strongholds, in order for them to spread their wealth and attention, however in the end it worked. This can lead to a radical change in the way that US politics are done, and an electoral map that is far more fluid from term to term than we have seen in a very long time.

Back to the Drawing Board: Again, tied into "The End of Inevitability" is the long road that that the Republican party has in front of it. They were simply embarrassed by the results, and need to make some difficult decisions.

We have already seen the McCain camp come out and blame much of the loss on Sarah Palin, and I assume that we will see Palin's people do much of the same in the coming weeks. This presents a very crucial decision for the Republicans to make. Do they go with a more moderate, ideological based side represented by McCain, and championed by other members like Jindal and Romney? Or do they go with the religious right, represented by Palin, and includes Huckabee? Or do they go back to the drawing board?

This is hardly the big tent party that Regan built, or the champions of the "Common Sense Revolution" lead by Newt Gingrich and friends. They need to find their way, fast, or they could be in a lot of trouble.

While I am a huge bleeding heart liberal, I know that the US needs the Republicans to be a strong party once more. Democracy works best when you have more than one viable option, so that they can push one another to offer more to the voters.

Bottom Up: Due to all of the hype that Obama has been getting in the past few months, it is easy to miss the fact that this campaign was a grassroots movement. Whether it was out of choice, or out of sheer necessity, going up against the Clinton machine, it worked. With the last several Presidents being Washington insiders, with a great deal of support from the party machines, it is interesting to see a campaign done by the people, for the people work.

Obama raised more money than any other political candidate in history, and he did so mostly because of his contact with ordinary people. He had a plethora of small donors give a little, so he could always lean on them more later. This is a stark contrast to the small amounts of maxed out big donors that had been relied upon in the past.

Digital Democracy: There are people who voted in this election who could conceivably not remember a time when the internet was not a part of their lives. While it has been used as a campaign tool before, this marks the first time it was such a central part of a successful campaign.

This reason is two fold. For starters, all of the politicians to have served since 1996 (ish) have been older, and in general, the internet is the domain of younger people. The other, more important reason, is that this is the first Web 2.0 election. Since 2005, the use of blogs has boomed, YouTube started to broadcast, Google cemented its status as a verb, Digg and Delicious brought stories to you, Wikipedia changed the definition of truth, and Facebook has become a household name. The internet is a very different place than it was during the US election, and the Obama campaign was quick to make use of it. They communicated frequently with their supporters on Facebook, dominated Digg, and make any of his speeches easily accessible on their YouTube Channel.

The internet is clearly here to stay, and politicians can no longer ignore its power in the democratic process.

Enthusiasm: Regular followers of this blog will know that I am currently teaching in China, and due to the time difference, the election results were coming in at the same time that the school day started. What I saw over the course of the day simply amazed me.

Throughout the morning, I had students come up to me as we would share our latest electoral counts, and when I walked through the halls all that I could hear was "Obama" in between heated discussions in Chinese or Korean. When the final call was made, just before lunch break, the energy in the school was simply breathtaking. I had students run up to me and give me a high five, and all sorts of them simply overjoyed with the results.

This is the change that has the most potential to make a lasting difference. Think about this, there were teenagers, notoriously the most apathetic of demographics, on the other side of the planet, living in a communist country no less, who became emotionally involved in the political process on the other side of the planet. From what I have read, this was not an isolated incident.

The enthusiasm that was generated as a result of this candidacy is something that hasn't been witnessed in my life time, and probably has not been witnessed since the 1960 US election. This has the real potential to inspire a generation of youthful activists the same way that Kennedy was able to do two generations ago. Once more, with the increase in communication and shrinking of the world, it has potential to be far more far reaching. If people in China were happy about how a democratic election turned out, who is to say that they can't look for one of their own some day soon?

While it is easy to get caught up in the excitement of Obama's victory, and expect an immediate end to the problems in Iraq and on Wall Street. We must remember though, those changes will take time to work out. However, in a lot of ways, the world we enter this week is a vastly different one than the world that started just a few short days ago. Change, my friends, is not coming, it is here.

Until next time,


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Electoral Map Preview

After months, and months of voting, it is finally upon us. After following this story for months, and month, I have put together a very AUDACIOUS electoral map preview. John McCain had best HOPE that I am wrong on this one, or he may be looking for a CHANGE of careers. It may be a bit to Obamistic, but allow me to explain the swing states.

In using the exceptionally cool Electoral Map generator at Real Clear Politics, the final numbers that I am predicting are:

Obama/Biden: 396
McCain/Palin: 142

Wasn't this race supposed to be close? Wasn't John McCain going to give hope an audacious battle to the top? Wasn't Sarah Palin supposed to energize the Republican base and discontented Clinton supporters enough to put more red states on the map?

As we stand on the brink of the most exciting election in generations, clearly none of these things happened. Obama is poised for an absolute landslide victory, and the United States is set to have yet another dramatic shifts in direction.

For starters, let me get something out of the way. John McCain will not win the election. It would take either on act of God or an act of fraud to get him into the win column. Obama is securely in the lead in all of the Kerry states from 2004, plus Iowa and New Mexico. This puts him at 264 electoral votes, when he needs 270 to win. Meaning he only needs either Virginia or Colorado to win the election, and he has enough of a lead in both states, to put them securely in the blue column. This of course says nothing for Ohio, Florida, Nevada, and a multitude of other states poised to switch colours today. The numbers simply do not lie at this point, and the McCain camp can not put enough red on the map to push him over 270, thinking anything else at this point is simply delusional.

Looking at the map that I generated, you will notice that I give Obama/Biden far more than the 270 needed. Worth noting, they take both Florida and Ohio, which are just for insurance at this point, and not quite so crucial as they have been in recent elections. Also, I switched Nevada and Colorado, given Obama's strong enough lead in both states.

Of real interest though are the traditional "Bible Belt" Midwest/Southern states of Indiana, Missouri, Georgia, and North Carolina all going Democrat. The polls in all of these states have been essentially statistical ties. However, the Obama camp has been very proactive with their "Get Out and Vote" campaigns, as has been demonstrated with the massive turnouts all over the United States for early voting. North Carolina and Georgia have shown absolute surges in African American voting, and for both racial and ideological reasons, those should massively favour Obama. At the end of the day, ballots in the box are more important than polling numbers. Indiana and Missouri are so close to Obama's homestate of Illinois that they should be flooded with Democrat volunteers who can help the state switch sides.

That ultimately leaves Arizona, Montana, North Dakota, and West Virginia as the other toss-up states. The mere fact that these states, all of which Bush carried by double digits in 2004, are competitive is a huge Obama victory. I think that McCain should carry both his homestate of Arizona, and the traditional Republican stronghold of West Virginia in races that should not be as close as they are, however that is where I see his luck running out. While McCain has almost a 4% lead in Montana, I think that Obama is going to take this one. Ron Paul, mega-right wing Libertarian is on the ballot in Montana, and should take about 5% of McCain's vote, and coupled with Obama's vastly superior ground game, he should be able to pull out an upset. North Dakota is very close, and polling data suggests a dead heat, I'm going to give this one to Obama, since he has the superior ground game, and in cases of a tie, one can never underestimate the enthusiasm of Obama's supporters, who are far more likely to go and vote than McCain's supporters at this point, people like to back a winner after all.

All of this adds up to 396, which you don't need to be a math expert to understand that is a bigger number than 270, and translates into three simple words. Yes, we did.

Until next time,


Post Script: If you are interested in a variety of different electoral previews taking different things into account check out the following sites:

McNutt Against the Music
Karl Rove
Real Clear Politics

Post-Post Script: Obligatory comment: If you are American be sure to vote. It's not often that the entire world wants to take part in the democratic process of a single day, so please go and cast your ballots.

Post-Post-Post Script: Feel like reliving/reeducating yourself? Check out This. Fucking. Election. You won't be disappointed.

Monday, November 03, 2008

On the Precipice of Hope

I don't think that I could be anymore excited.

As I sit half a world away, my eyes are squarely fixed Eastward across the Pacific, to the United States. Over the last eight years, we have watched this country go from bad to worse, as each decision of the Bush Administration proved more disastrous than the last. Now finally, in 28 odd hours, things will start to change.

While the time difference and busy schedule are going to get in my way, I know that I will be following these results as close as I can, and as each state goes blue I know that my heart will skip a little bit. I am fully expecting to shed a tear when he passes the magic number of 270, and we can finally declare that the baby Bush years are behind us.

After years of feeling downtrodden and dejected by the state of the world, there is finally a chance for something new and exciting to come our way. I am excited to imagine that the world that we go to bed tomorrow will be a better one than the one which we woke up to. Really how long has it been since we've been able to say that?

Yes, it's audacious, but I'll be damned if it's not hopeful.

Watch - "One Day to Change the World"

Watch - "There's Nothing We Can't Do"

Until next time,


Saturday, November 01, 2008

Obstacles to Gold - Edition I

After profiling my thoughts for Team Canada in 2010 a short while ago, I decided that we need to take a look at our opponents at Vancouver. Between now and the actual Olympics, I will periodically take a look at our biggest challenges to winning the Gold Medal. In the first edition, I will look at Canada's two most historical hockey rivals, the United States and Russia.

The United States

Looking up and down their 2006 Olympic Roster, I can't help but wonder just what on earth they were thinking. They kept essentially the same team that won Silver in 2002, which was essentially the same team that won the World Cup in 1996. The core of the team stayed the same as Amonte, Guerin, Weight, Roenick, et al still played a prominent role on the team. While this was an exciting group of forwards to build around a decade ago, they really overperformed in Salt Lake City, and should not have been counted on quite so heavily.

The United States won the World Junior Championships in 2004, and some of that incredible wealth of talent should have been counted on in Torino. Now they find themselves years later with a huge amount of young talent, especially up front, but few of them have the big game experience needed to win large tournaments like this.

That being said, they still have a very good team, and should be considered a dark horse with potential to pull off an upset or two of one of the favourites.


This area should be a strength for the squad, as they boast a good amount of depth at this position. At the last Olympics, they were in a bit of an odd state as netminding stallwart Mike Richter was clearly on his way down, with no immediate apparent in sight. This time, things are different as they have a very good top two netminders in Rick DiPietro and Ryan Miller. These two should compete for the starting spot, with no obvious favourite. I personally would chose Miller since he has more experience in high pressure situations, having made it to the Conference Finals twice in recent years, but neither is a bad decision. As for the third goaltender, it is a toss-up between Florida backup Craig Anderson, who has shown flashes of excellence as a starter, or the always reliable veteran Tim Thomas. I'd give the nod to Thomas, but again, Anderson would not be a bad choice either.

Glen's 2010 Picks:
Ryan Miller
Rick DiPietro
Reserve: Tim Thomas


The US is going to be going though a changing of the guard at it's rear, as Darien Hatcher, Matthieu Schneider and Chris Chelios have to see their best days behind them. Instead they will be replaced with the new generation of American d-men, includings the likes of both Jack and Eric Johnson (no relation), Mark Stuart, and Keith Ballard. The team should have some continuity as 2006 alumni John-Micheal Liles, Paul Martin, and Brian Rafalski take part of the team, only in a more prominent role. Also, I added Dustin Byfuglien as a reserve, since he can easily fill in a position as either a defensemen or a checking forward should anyone get injured. While their defense group is certainly nothing to be embarassed by, it has to be considered on the weaker side of things when compared to the Canadians or Swedes.

Glen's 2010 Picks:

Ballard - Martin
Liles - J. Johnson
E. Johnson - Rafalski
Reserve: Stuart


Now here is where things get really interesting for the Americans. They have an absolute embarassment of riches in young forwards. They also still have some aging veterans who are performing well passed their expiration date including Bill Guerin, Keith Tkachuk, Mike Modano, and Doug Weight, to say nothing of current stars such as Zach Parise, Eric Cole, Scott Gomez, Jason Pomminville and Chris Drury.

All that being said, there is simply not enough room for all of the players listed above, since this team needs to be built around one man, Patrick Kane. This kid is good, really, really good. He is such a smooth skater and a crisp passer, he needs to be the centre piece for this squad. Similar things can also be said for Peter Mueller, Phil Kessel, Dustin Brown, and David Booth, who are all young with teremendous upsides. The forward squad I chose is an attempt to patch together experience, ability, and potential, with more of an eye towards the future than the past.

E. Cole - Mueller - Kane
Drury - Gomez - Kessel
Parise - O'Sullivan - Pomminville
Tkachuk - Modano - Gionta

Reserves: Booth, Dubinsky

All in all, the US Team should generate a great deal of optimism. While they should be considered a tier below powerhouses like Russia, Finland, Canada, and Sweden, they have a great deal of potential, and this should be a very important step towards future growth. If the NHL does participate in the 2014 games, the Americans have to be considered one of the favourites for that year.


Unlike the Americans, the Russians have all of the talent to be considered a heavy medal favourite for this year. They have earned medals in the last several World Junior Championships, and won Gold in last year's World Championship. They also have one of the best top six forward contingents, a very underrated defense corps, and one of the best starting goalies in the world.


Three words, Nabokov, Nabokov, Nabokov. He is one of the true elite goaltenders in the league, and has to be one the clear favourite to be the starter for his country. However, one can not underestimate Coyotes starter Ilya Bryzgalov, who could easily step in to face any opponent and steal a win. Round the trio out with veteran Nikolai Khabibulin, and the Russians have a goaltending trio that competes with Canada or Finland for the best in the world.

Glen's 2010 Picks:
Reserve: Khabibulin


The Russians have a stero-type for being all offense, but with solid rearguards like Anton Volchenkov, Dimitri Kalinin, Sergei Gonchar, and Sergei Zubov, the Russians should be more that capable of taking care of their own end. Add in Andrei Markov, former NHL Dany Markov (no relation), Oilers d-man Denis Gregeshkov, and Jackets stud Fedor Tyutin, and the Russians are all of a sudden pretty deep in the back. Also, my apologies, but my knowledge of any KHL stalwards is escaping me right now, so there may even be some other surprises in store.

Glen's 2010 Picks:

Volchenkov - Zubov
Kalinin - Gonchar
A. Markov - D. Markov
Reserve: Tyutin


This is where things get downright scary. At the top of the pile they have Ovechkin, Kovalchuk, Malkin, Semin, Datsyuk, and Frolov, who probably have more firepower than even Canada's top six. This group is complemented by the likes of Kovalev, Federov, Afiniganov, Zherdev, and prodigal-son Radulov. Also of note are KHL standouts Sergei Mozaykin and Alexei Morozov, who finished 1-2 in KHL scoring last year. Morozov was also the Captain of the last two World Championship teams, and the Russians have a starling 16-0 record with him wearing the C (they lost in 2007 when he was injured), so expect him to be given the honours again.

The Russians due have as light weakness though, and that is a lack of star-power at centre. After Malkin and Datsyuk, they only have Federov listed as a natural centre, meaning at least one of their wingers (probably Kovalev, but potentially Frolov) will have to move to the middle. Switching from winger to centre is a bigger challenge than the other way around, and that could be a weakness for another team to exploit. Other than that, their forward core has little to no weaknesses, as they do have some very good two-way players like Datsyuk and Federov. Their offensive arsenal really has to make them one of the favourites going into Vancouver.

Glen's 2010 Picks:

Ovechkin - Malkin - Semin
Kovalchuk - Datsyuk - Radulov
Frolov - Kovalev - Morozov
Mozyakin - Federov - Afinoganov

Reserve: Filitaov

So there we have two of our biggest threats to our dream story of Gold at home. Both teams have tremendous offensive firepower which should give the Canadian Defense a huge challenge. Next time I revist this feature I will look at the two teams that earned the top honours in 2006, Sweden and Finland.

Until next time,