Friday, June 27, 2008

Return to Forever at Ottawa Jazzfest

Mr. Bitterman caught half of the jazz fusion supergroup Return to Forever set at the Ottawa International Jazzfest, June 26. Frankly, I don’t get what all the fuss is about.

Aparently, many people who were teens and young adults in the latter '70s, eventually got into jazz via “progressive” rock bands such as Genesis, Yes and ELP. (See Ottawa Citizen journalist and jazz pianist Peter Hum's blog) From there, they segued to jazz/rock fusion bands such as Return to Forever, and from there into other styles of jazz.

Obviously, they are great musicians (led by keyboardist Chick Corea, with guitarist Al Di Meola, bass player Stanley Clarke and drummer Lenny White). But I couldn’t help but think that the group was comprised of four extreme egos. From what I caught – the second half of their show – it consisted of each musician doing a solo, one after the other. Apparently they did all come together as a group for a few jazz rock fusion anthems before I arrived, but all I saw and heard were solos. See review in Ottawa Sun.

Mr. Bitterman was never into those progressive rock bands in the '70s. In fact, I went in a completely opposite direction with punk, post-punk and new wave. And ultimately, Mr. Bitterman's interest in jazz came more from my father listening to the likes of Sinatra and Louis Armstrong throughout my childhood. Something like that never leaves you.

Anyway, the crowd at Return to Forever was the largest in jazzfest history, according to reports – so there must be something to it. I think there’s a lot of dudes who, in their formative years in the '70s, were smokin’ a lot of pot and trippin’ to that type of rock. Mr. Bitterman, instead was pogoing to 999, the Stranglers, the Pistols, the Clash ...

Return to Forever was certainly an interesting spectacle. However, when it comes to jazz, Mr. Bitterman is definitely a bop, be bop, and hard bop type of guy. That’s why, instead, Mr. Bitterman will enjoy Charlie Haden moreso on June 27.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Mad Max beguiled by beauty

Poor Maxime Bernier, Canada's now former Minister of Foreign Affairs. (See Ottawa Citizen "Troubled Bernier quits over document breach") It's an old story, but he succumbed to the wiles of a beautiful woman -- Julie Couillard. It was only last summer they looked like a Hollywood couple as he was sworn in as Minister of Foreign Affairs.
But today, his limo is gone, his beautiful girl is gone, and now he'll sit in the backbenches with the rest of the underachievers and wannabes in Parliament.
Poor judgement? Sure. But have you seen Ms. Couillard? Despite being a Minister of the Crown, he is still human.
I have to wonder, however, what he did to the lovely Ms. Couillard to have her turn on him so. When news came out she had been associated with bikers, Mad Max simply replied that she was part of his private life, and that it was not public.
But she has certainly made their "private life" public. In fact, if you listen to her, it's as if it's his fault she was married to a biker and associated to bikers...that HE is somehow ruining her life. Why, because the press found out about her past choices? And it's his fault.
Yes, poor Mad Max. He obviously made poor choices too. But can hardly blame him. It kinda makes me angry.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

More Guess Who at Senators and Leafs games

Mr. Bitterman demands that more CANADIAN music be played at hockey games in Canada. Americans only know American music. It's a disgrace there isn't more CANADIAN music at hockey games!
Oh wait. We're there for the hockey, aren't we.
Quebec publisher Michel Brule needed some publicity and, well, it was a slow news day, I guess. So, as the Ottawa Sun reports, he complained there isn't enough French music at Habs games.
Typical of people of his ilk, he blames it on anglophones. "Anglophones are the most ethnocentric people in the history of humanity," he said. "Anglophones only listen to anglophone music and only read books written by anglophone authors."
So what's he saying? The DJ at the Bell Centre is English? That all hockey fans at the Bell Centre are English?
Boring. Expected if you will. Typical.
And makes me angry.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Federal government language policy

A young man was hired as the lifeguard at the pool at
the Prime Minister's residence at 24 Sussex Drive.
The PM's family was making use of the pool when one of his children encountered some difficulty and cried for help.
The lifeguard ignored the cries, so the PM himself had to plunge into
the pool to rescue the boy.
Afterwards, the PM grilled the lifeguard. "You ass! Didn't you see that
my son was in trouble?"
"Yes, sir, but I can't swim."
"How the hell did you land the job of lifeguard then?"
"I'm bilingual."
This made the PM angry.

(Disclaimer: this was a joke -- but it does, in a Seinfeld kind of way, sum up the situation with the federal government).

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Sportsnet stupidity

I really don't understand Sportsnet. Their contract with the NHL, it appears, is regionally based. But I guess the centre of that regional universe is Toronto. Last night they had NHL games advertised on the on-screen TV guide for Ontario East, Ontario and Sportnet West. The HD channel advertised the Toronto game. Ontario East got to see the Sens vs. Flyers in non-HD TV. And on a 1080p TV, their feed does not look great. But when you tune into the HD channel, where they've advertised the Leafs -- we got poker, and then billiards in glorious HD. How wonderful!
Mr. Bitterman emailed Sportsnet for an answer, and this is what we got:
"Dear Mr. Bitterman,
Unfortunately, due to blackout restrictions set forth by the NHL, not Sportsnet, we are only able to broadcast NHL SD/HD games regionally this season. In other words, since you live in Nepean (East of the Belleville/Pembroke line), you will only be able to access our Senators games on Sportsnet East. All other teams' games will be blacked out from you. Please keep in mind that Sportsnet's HD channel is a feed made available nationally -- this means that we cannot air NHL regional games on this channel due to the aforementioned blackout restrictions. Our apologies for any inconvenience that this may cause.
These NHL imposed regional restrictions have been in place since Sportsnet's inception in 1998.
Daniel Zaiontz
Audience Relations"
If, like Zaiontz says, "Sportsnet's HD channel is a feed made available nationally -- this means that we cannot air NHL regional games on this channel due to the aforementioned blackout restrictions," then why did the online guide advertise the Leafs game, then? Sportsnet is owned by Rogers. I have Rogers. They make me angry. I should get Bell.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Ottawa cabbies won't smile for the cameras

Ottawa cabbies, it seems, are camera shy. The City of Ottawa wants to pass a bylaw to place cameras in cabs -- ostensibly for the public's and cabbies' protection. The cabbies don't like it. They call them "spy" cameras.
I wonder why cabbies don't want to be scrutinized?
Let me relate a scenario. I was talking to the owner of my local pizza joint recently. She tells me her delivery drivers will soon be equipped with wireless Interac machines. That way, when the pizza delivery person arrives, you can pay for your pizza with your debit card. My point here is the technology exists.
Now, whenever I have taken a cab from downtown Ottawa to the suburbs -- at least a $50-$60 cab ride (which is ludicruous in itself), the cabbie has insisted on cash. This hasn't happened just once. It has always been the case; regardless of my asking to pay by credit card (let alone having the opportunity to pay by the wireless Interac machine). They want cash. In fact, the last time I took this trek, the cabbie took me to a bank machine before he took me home. His insistence! He didn't want my credit card.
So why do they insist on cash for these higher-priced fares? So why don't they want cameras in their cabs? I don't know. I'm just sayin'.
But always having to pay cash makes me angry.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Removing prayer cheap political points for McGuinty

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty is a man with no conviction.
During the last election, he made it a one-issue campaign by seizing the opportunity to pounce on PC leader John Tory's pledge to fund faith-based schools. Tory felt by funding other religious schools, it was not only fair, but it brought those schools, presently private, into the Ontario-wide curriculumn. In other words, it would standardize the education.
But McGuinty, like so many Liberals, feels he knows what's best for Ontarians. McGuinty, a Catholic whose children went to Catholic schools and whose wife teaches in one, campaigned vigorously against funding other religions, with the claim that it polarizes our children. Conspicuously and conveniently absent from his message was that Ontario already funds Catholic and Protestant schools. I mean, if he were a man of conviction, then he would fund just one school system in the province, wouldn't he?
Now he wants to remove prayer from the Ontario legislature. McGuinty said it was time to "move beyond" the Lord's Prayer to a more inclusive custom that better reflects Ontario's multiculturalism.
First off, I haven't read any reports that anyone actually complained about the Lord's prayer being recited. No, this is McGuinty's way of trying to get cheap votes from the non-Christian population.
But even so, the Lord's prayer is not overtly Christian-specific per se. It of course is a Christian prayer and is cited in the Bible. But other than mentioning "our father", its message is universal. I don't think any other religion would find that prayer non-inclusive or offensive.
Furthermore, many of these other religions -- the same ones McGuinty campaigned against funding their own schools -- actually send their kids to Catholic schools because of its moral base. And as far as I know, none of them complain about the Lord's Prayer!
Liberals have no sense of tradition (unless it's renaming a mountain after Trudeau!). McGuinty has no backbone and no conviction. Just a penchant for cheap political points.
He makes me angry.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Finally. Some language common sense

Randall Denley in the Ottawa Citizen is talking common sense when it comes to the federal public service hiring process which favours bilingual candidates only. In his piece, Time to rethink raison d'être for bilingualism, Denley writes about The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) appearance before a House of Commons committee. "Not only does that policy restrict access to public-service jobs for unilingual Canadians, the need to learn two new languages impairs the government's ability to hire visibility minorities, the union says. The whole situation is made worse by the failure to provide language training to employees," Denley reports.

You may recall that Mr. Bitterman made this statement about minorities (something Mr. Denley's colleague failed to realize) in an earlier blog -- It's the Language, Stupid!

The best point the union and Denley make, however, is that the level of bilingualism required in the public service is unrealistic. It's not needed. "One of the keys to fairness is taking a more realistic approach to the level of bilingualism that is actually required...language requirements should reflect the actual duties of the position. That seems self-evident, but the federal public service is pushing for fluency in jobs where surely adequacy would suffice. Maybe the boss's French, or English, isn't as good as that of a native speaker, but if you can communicate with him, what's the problem?"

Meanwhile, our friends at PWGSC are still fighting the good fight. One of their leaders, Sean MacInnes, wrote Mr. Bitterman, and he had this to say about their meeting with Official Languages: "Our meeting Tuesday was very successful. It lasted 90 minutes and there is an investigation taking place in (PWGSC) and we should know more in the coming weeks. Official Languages says they take all complaints very seriously and agreed that it appears excessive here. I'll keep you posted."

He encourages everyone who is fed up to complain. There's strength through numbers. Without this kind of common sense, the federal hiring policies regarding language make me angry.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Who's scarier? The stalkers or the stalkee?

I haven't been a subscriber to Macleans in years. But I was in my doctor's office recently and picked up a January, 2008 copy. I wanted some easy reading so turned to Rebecca Eckler's article, The Anti-eckler bloggers host a 'party'. When I finished reading it, I didn't know who was scarier -- she or those she was writing about. You be the judge. But I think they all need to get another hobby. They're all way too self-absorbed. And they make me angry. (By posting this, does that make me one of them? D'oh!)

Parking woes

Paying for parking makes me angry. Paying MORE for parking, more often, makes me very angry. Sign the petition against increasing downtown parking meter fees and times. It's ludicrous.
From the committee opposed to increased fees and times:
"We have updated our online petition. Please support our efforts and sign the new updated petition if you have not already done so. More importantly make your view known to your Ward Councillor.
Nous vous demandons de bien signer notre pétition et de plus faire connaître vos commentaires à votre conseiller.
Those who voted FOR the increase on Transportation Committee this week were:
Les conseillers suivant ont voté en faveur de la hausse des tarifs au Comité des transports cette semaine:
Mayor/ Maire O’Brien
Councillors / Conseillers : Wilkinson, Cullen, Bloess, Thompson and McRae.
The item goes to Council either on February 13th or 27th.
Le rapport sera à l’ordre du jour au Conseil le 13 ou 27 février."

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Unilingual English AND French discriminated against

The comment sent in my previous post makes a good point, one that I failed to mention. Both unilingual (or at least not fully bilingual) English AND French are being discriminated against with this heavy-handed Official Languages policy.
As our friends at PWGSC stated in their letter to Graham Fraser: "There has not been one opportunity that we can recall for unilingual employees, may they be English or French in years. And as a result, many quality employees have been forced to leave RPB to areas where the language requirements are not as punishing. Unilingual Canadians, at least a few years back, were considered valued employees in the workplace. Now it would seem that they are a burden to the social engineering project."
The Official Languages policy, taken directly from the Official Language Commissioner's web site under the tab, "your language rights", states the following (you tell me if the hiring practices of the federal government provide equality to non-bilingual people):
"All Canadians, whether English OR French and without regard to their ethnic origin or first language learned, have the right to benefit from the Government of Canada's commitment to ensuring that they have equal opportunities to obtain employment and advancement in Federal Institutions".
The hiring policies, of not just PWGSC, but throughout the Government of Canada, are prohibitive to those who do not have a strong command of BOTH lanaguages.
It makes me angry.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Language matters

Hooray for a group of unilingual anglophone public servants at Publice Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) in Ottawa for taking our ridiculous Official Languages policy to task. See Randall Denley's column in the Ottawa Citizen.
The group's letter to Official Languages Commissioner Graham Fraser states, "Census figures recently revealed that 85 per cent of Canadians overall called themselves unilingual while only seven per cent of Anglophones outside of Quebec could converse in French. This despite billions of dollars being invested in immersion and language training programs. Why is language taking precedence over merit in hiring?"
Canada's idiotic language policy makes me angry.

Friday, January 18, 2008

It's the language, stupid

The Ottawa Citizen rarely misses an opportunity to exaggerate an issue. And quite often I have to wonder about its motives when it writes about government (Okay, I confess, Mr. Bitterman is a federal bureaucrat -- why do you think he's so bitter!). There's been two articles in the last couple months where it's obvious, the Citizen writer just doesn't get it when it comes to the federal government. One was that the federal government, after opening up jobs to the public across Canada, wasn't getting many takers. Gee, I wonder why??
The most recent was titled, "Minorities Losing Ground in PS"

You'd think the writer would have learned after her first article, because the
Citizen received all kinds of letters to the editor telling them it's the language, stupid! The federal government has language restrictions for jobs. Most jobs -- almost all jobs in the National Capital Region -- require bilingualism. So someone in Cow Town, Alberta, isn't likely to be bilingual, are they? And the same goes with this most recent article about immigrants not finding work in the federal public service.
The writer has a throw away line about language, and does not substantiate it. It reads:
"Visible minorities are also more educated than most applicants; half have bachelor degrees or higher. Language doesn't seem to be barrier, especially for entry jobs, and neither does the preference for Canadian citizenship."
Excuse me? Langue doesn't seem to be a barrier??
Let's face it, minorities have their mother tongue, probably have learned English since coming to Canada, and if they want to work for the federal government, they also have to have French as well. No wonder they are "losing ground."
Why is the Citizen so blind to this?
The Citizen's stupidity and the preventative language restrictions make me angry.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Blu-Ray Blues

I've never been an early adapter to technology. I still use a Sony Discman, and I'm not on Facebook. But when I got my Samsung LCD HD 1080p TV recently, they threw in a Samsung Blu-Ray player. Blu-Ray movies look AWESOME. However, there's always a catch, isn't there. The technology is so new that there are glitches. Apparently, the studios don't make all Blu-Ray discs the same. So when you rent -- or buy! -- a Blu-Ray disc, beware, because they're a hit and miss.
This, I found out, when a month or so ago I rented on Blu-Ray "Live Free or Die Hard," the Bruce Willis movie. It wouldn't work in my player. I thought it was a damaged disc, so took it back and, of course, they didn't have another. So I went to another Rogers and rented it there (so I rented it twice). It didn't work either.
So I telephoned Samsung and asked wtf?? (I know I said in an earlier blog I don't like MSN-speak, but I'm trying to keep this PG rated).
They informed me -- get this-- that right now, because it's so new, not all Blu-Rays play on my player. They are working on "firmware upgrades", whatever that is. And from what I was told by Samsung, this will be ongoing. They can either send me a DVD that upgrades the player each time there is a new firmware upgrade, or, using a USB cable, I can hook my Blu-Ray player up to my computer and download the upgrade (okay, that's kind of cool).
BUT -- they didn't have the upgrade for the Bruce Willis movie yet and it would be awhile. So I rented it on regular DVD (and the movie, as it turned out, wasn't worth all this hassle).
It happened to me again with "Pirates of the Carribean III." It really is hit and miss. Thankfully, Rogers lets me rent the regular DVD for free when I bring the Blu-Ray back with my sob story. But this is really getting to be a pain.
It makes me angry.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Sens TV

Speaking of maddening hockey TV , I purchased a game on "Sens TV" on January 4, 2008. This was a pay-per-view game and cost me $12.95 plus taxes through Rogers. It was $2 more because I purchased the HD channel. Like, what's that about? I already pay extra for an HD terminal, so why the extra money for the HD channel? I guess it goes to the Sens organization for the production of Sens TV.
And speaking of production, what a shite production that game was. So you want to watch a Sens game on a night no one else is broadcasting it, and you have to pay. That's maddening enough. But you'd think that since you're paying for it (and therefore there are no commercials), they could at least put a little production into it. What we got was some montages of Sens goals against the Sabres. No voice over, just some bad, indiscernible music.
And Dean Brown has to be the worst play-by-play man out there. He's worse than American announcers.
Okay, I get it that he's from Ottawa, does play-by-play on the radio broadcasts, and the Sens are his team. I'm a Sens fan too. But he sounds like a cheap cheerleader. Have a little professionalism. I mean, hockey fans want authoritative analysis -- not blatant biases. And don't get me started on his blithering over Luke Richardson's recent first goal in, what, four years? Brown still hasn't shut up about it.
Oh, and if you check out his blog (I'm not going to bother to link it here), you'll notice the porker can't write either.
Gad, he makes me angry.

Hockey TV is maddening

Trying to catch a hockey game on television has never been more complicated for me. And it mostly has to do with technology -- oh, and greedy cable providers. My problem begins with my recent purchase of a High Definition LCD television. Hockey games in HD look awesome. However, watching CBC, or trying to get a game on Sportsnet is not always all that straightforward. For one, you never know whether or not the game advertised is an actual HD broadcast.
For instance, the onscreen Rogers' TV guide will indicate a Leafs game on their HD channel. However, living in the Ottawa area, what happens is that we are delivered a Sens game instead. Fair enough. I'd rather see the Sens anyway. The problem is, however, that Sens game isn't broadcast in HD, so I'm getting a poorer quality reception -- even though it's on the HD channel.
And Sportsnet has the maddening habit of listing a game, then blacking it out. Or, it will have a game, but not show it on their HD channel. Most times a Sens game is blocked out is because the local "A" Channel is broadcasting it. This analog channel always looks like crap, so I can't stand to watch such a poor quality broadcast. So instead of it being broadcast on Sportsnet's HD channel, because we're in Ottawa, we have to watch this terrible looking broadcast by a bunch of amateur on-air personalities on the shite "A" Channel.
Only TSN is consistent and you get what they say you're going to get. Thank you TSN.
Adding further to my misery is the Rogers' sports packaging. You can purchase Rogers' Centre Ice package for about $30 per month, or $200-and-something for the season. You get all kinds of games with this package. Except in HD. They only offer a spattering of games on channel 490 in HD. So why would I fork out that kind of money to watch analog broadcast games?
This all makes me angry.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Passing of Ginty Jocius

Ginty Jocius died on January 2, 2008. He was the owner of Ginty Jocius and Associates, Guelph -- an agricultural marketing and communications company. He also built Canada's Outdoor Farm Show, in Woodstock, Ontario.
See the Guelph Mercury for full story .
See obit in Kitchener-Waterloo Record.
I worked for Ginty in 1987. He would have been only about 41 years old back then, and full of life and vigor. His company was small at that time, but he was well on his way to building it up. I admired him, and as a young man in my 20s, was fascinated by his work ethic and his mind. I was only with his company for eight months, but he left such an indelible mark on me. My condolences to his family. The agriculture world has lost a great man.

Spurned by Bhutto?

I found David Warren's column in the Ottawa Citizen on January 2, 2008 about Benazir Bhutto to be odd.
He was basically saying she was no good because she was born into privilege. (Maybe she spurned his advances in university). She did have courage and conviction which would indicate she rose above the "spoiled brat" he had met many, many years earlier. And if he was going to judge a leader by their privilege and youthful arrogance, then where does that put Warren's beloved George Bush?
Warren's column made me angry.