Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Make a wish superhero commercial

Another sad and joyful commercial...

The 'I love New York' ad and how the Internet is the greatest research tool ever

In October 2001, the New York tourism agency ran a television commercial showing everyday people and celebrities saying the phrase "I love New York". The ad ran only for a short time, but it was very touching. The goal was to remind people that New York was a great city where life was returning to normal after the attacks.

We would always stop whatever we were doing to watch the commercial. Years after it stopped airing on television, I tried to find it online. I wanted to figure out why it had such an effect on me. I remember the guitar sounded a lot like it was performed by The Edge. And I remember the old man outside his shop on the street repeating the line "I love New York" in a heavily-accented English.

Before the Internet, the provenance of the ad would have remained a mystery with no opportunity to watch it again. But now one can find out more about it, with a little research. I was able to find out who directed it (Mark Claywell) and even the name of the commercial (New Day). But the video itself wasn't available anywhere.

I read somewhere how the Internet has allowed people to get in touch with, well... not exactly celebrities, but people of interest (to borrow a phrase from the police). This could be some book author, or professor in India, or the writer of some obscure movie-- that is, everyone who is a purveyor of mass information (to some degree).

So, I e-mailed Mark Claywell, the director, to tell him how much I enjoyed the ad and to ask if it was available online. He wrote back with a link to the commercial. Neat. Case closed. After years of looking, I finally could watch the commercial. And now you can too. Enjoy.

UPDATE: The video doesn't seem to be at the above link. You can view Mark Claywell's "A New Day" here:

Orville Redenbacher's Kettle Korn popcorn

On your next day-tip to the United States of America, make room in your car for Orville Redenbacher's Kettle Korn popcorn. Sadly, this product is not yet available in Canada, which is too bad because it is the best home popcorn I've ever eaten.

There's a touch of sweetness that makes it delicious. The taste is similar to adding honey to popcorn. This is like popcorn 2.0. Delicious. Go forth and buy this product.

Why Maurice Richard was one of the greats

There was a touching story in The Gazette today about how Maurice Richard visited the hospital bed of a kid at St. Mary's Hospital in 1995. He did so without fanfare or publicity. He promised he'd score his next goal for him.

Richard returned to the hospital the next week with his own son and the puck.
Inspired by the Rocket
Hospital visit created Habs fan for life
Alan Hustak
The Gazette
Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Win or lose Game 4, nothing can dampen Robert Vanden Abeele's enthusiasm for the bleu-blanc-rouge.

The retired customs officer has been a loyal Canadiens fan since 1955, when he turned 17 and Habs legend Maurice (Rocket) Richard paid a surprise visit to his bedside at St. Mary's Hospital - not once, but twice.

Vanden Abeele had fallen under a streetcar and both his legs had been cut off.

It was the year of the Richard Riot, and that fall, Vanden Abeele had written the Rocket a fan letter. To Vanden Abeele's astonishment, Richard arrived at the hospital unannounced.

"I was speechless, I couldn't believe it was him. Right there in my room," Vanden Abeele, 69, said Tuesday.

"I didn't know what to say exactly. What do you say to someone like that?"

Vanden Abeele recalls Richard spent about an hour with him.

"He didn't say all that much. He spoke with his eyes. I could tell that what had happened to me really affected him."

It's what happened next that Vanden Abeele will never forget.

"He told me he'd score his next goal for me, and then he left."

There was a small black and white television in Vanden Abeele's room, and that night he watched Richard play against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Richard didn't score.

The next game was on a Saturday and the Habs played the Boston Bruins at the Forum: Jean Béliveau scored all four goals.

On Sunday, Nov. 7, in a game in Boston, The Rocket scored his 429th career goal.

"I thought he had forgotten all about me," Vanden Abeele said, "but the next day he came back to the hospital with son, Normand, and he gave me the puck that scored the goal, and an autographed hockey stick.

"He told me he worked hard to get the puck in the net for me, and that it hadn't been easy."

Hospital authorities had hoped to promote Richard's visit to St. Mary's as part of a fundraising campaign that year to raise money for a new wing. But Richard politely turned them down, saying he didn't want people to think he was seeking public sympathy.

Vanden Abeele said Richard's kindness helped him deal with his rehabilitation.

"From my room in the hospital, I could see kids at Collège Nôtre Dame next door skating," he said.

"I started to feel sorry for myself. For me there would be no more skating, no more skiing, no more bicycling. But the Rocket gave me a boost. He cheered me up, gave me the inspiration and the strength to conquer my fears and to learn to walk again.

"He will always be my champion, my hero."

Vanden Abeele still has the puck and the stick, and Richard's autograph, and said he'll never sell them, no matter what he's offered.

"To me, they are priceless souvenirs. I'll never part with them."

Of Monday's game against Philadelphia, which the Habs lost 3-2, and slipped behind in Eastern Conference semifinals, Vanden Abeele said the Canadiens aren't skating as fast as they were in Richard's day.

"They didn't call him the Rocket for nothing," he said. "Maurice was fast. Then, too, games back then were so different than they are now.

"The Habs aren't as tight as they should be. They lose the puck too often. Kovalev, he's good some times. Price is okay, but he's still too young. If the guys on the ice don't do their job, the goalie's lost."

Still, in spite of the setback, Vanden Abeele remains an optimist.

"I'm still a believer! No matter how bad it seems, you've got to believe."

© The Gazette 2008

Monday, April 28, 2008

Spring tree, giant Hab

Spring tree, giant Hab

De la Gauchtière / De la Cathèdrale

Springtime at Place du Canada

General Tao chips from President's Choice

I enjoy President's Choice products. I like their light blue menu. I like their cola. And now I think I just may love their General Tao Chicken potato chips.

I haven't bought a bag of fried-in-oil potato chips in several years. I either get the Baked Lays or the Olestra Ruffles from the United States of America. So, my excitement over General Tao Chicken chips was genuine.

The packaging suggests the chips have a sweetness. I was eager to find out. Here are my observations as I write this minutes after enjoying a few.
1. They are thicker than Ruffles.
2. They are spicier and sweeter than barbecue-flavoured chips.
3. They are comparable to, say, all-dressed flavour in that there are a lot of flavours to content with.
4. For now, I would describe these as a cross between barbecue-, ketchup- and all-dressed-flavoured chips.
5. There are very salty (I just had to down a glass to water).

Friday, April 25, 2008

Students suspended for funny, harmless gag

Students at a high school outside Chicago were suspended for five days what I think is a funny gag. Ten students in larger-than-life banana costumes ran the halls of the high school with an eleventh student dressed as a gorilla giving chase.

The school should lighten up.

>> Read the article

>> See the video

Silly, mean fines

I'm not one who likes to take cheap shots at the Montreal police. Whatever the occasional failing of some of their members, police officers are there 24/7 to protect you if someone is trying to hurt you. For that the police deserve our praise and respect.

Two stories this week annoyed me, however.

Item #1: A university student got a $628 fine for sitting on a granite ledge of some sort at Émilie Gamelin Park (de Maisonneuve and Berri streets). Montreal bylaws, it seems, state one can sit only on park bench when in a park. The police say they warned the student several times to move off the granite ledge (pictured below). This story even made the UPI wire service. Was the student being a jerk? Perhaps. The fine, however, seems excessive.

This will cost you $628.
(Photo credit: Phil Carpentier, The Gazette)

Item #2: Motorists dropping off passengers at the commuter train station in Beaconsfield were given tickets, according to a letter writer in The Gazette. Apparently a new no stopping sign was erected but instead of giving warning tickets, the police starting fining people right away. The letter writer explains that the new "waiting area is not clearly demarcated nor is it pedestrian-friendly." As she writes, why not give warnings first, like the police are doing to enforce the new Quebec law banning non-hands-free use of mobile phones while driving? Worst still, why target commuters who are doing their part by taking public transit?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Quebec destroys the evidence

Just how many people were denied their right to have their votes counted in the referendum in 1995 on Quebec secession?

We'll never know because (a) the Quebec Liberal Party made a decision to not make a fuss about stolen votes once their side won, (b) the Parti Québécois didn't want to be dragged down by the actions of some of its election officials who instructed underlings how to disallow votes and (c) the courts didn't do their job.

This is a scandalous story. Far worse than the sponsorship scandal. And yet the Quebec intelligentsia want to hide this away like a crazy aunt. I am fairly confident that René Levesque is spinning in his grave. This scandal was an affront to Quebec democracy and is about to be shredded from the collective memory of the province.

Spoiled votes saga nears end
Court is expected to allow 1995 referendum ballots to be shredded, leaving some unanswered questions

The Gazette

Monday, April 21, 2008

The long-running saga of the spoiled ballots from the last Quebec referendum looks destined to end in anticlimax.

It now seems likely that all will never be told about the extent to which the separatist side tried to rig the vote, given the impending destruction by powers that be of vital evidence in the affair.

A Superior Court hearing is scheduled for the last day of this month to entertain a request by Quebec's elections chief for leave to finally put the 4.8 million ballots from the 1995 sovereignty referendum to the shredder. And presumably to the recycling bin after that.

>> More

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Let's take their money and then not serve them

Another day, another example of crazy nonsense trying to maim reasonableness and moderation in Quebec.

The Quebec government is being criticized for having English-language text on its business-related government websites. Parti Quebecois language critic Pierre Curzi is shocked and wants these words removed (read: censored, redacted, erased) from Quebec government websites.

The government minister in charge of economic development says the government has to provide information in English... for the benefit of folks outside Quebec who read English. Of course, he adds, the governments policy is to deal with businesses in Quebec in French only.

So, in the end, the PQ and governing Liberal Party aren't that far apart on this issue. They both agree that services to Quebec should be in French only. I suppose if there was a way to block the English pages for people stuck in Quebec, the Liberals would do so. (Perhaps they would hire Internet monitors from China to advise them.)

By the way, about 10 percent of Quebecer tax payers speak English as their main language at home.

Quebec under fire for ignoring Bill 101
English features on provincial websites
Marianne White
Canwest News Service
Friday, April 18, 2008

The government came under fire yesterday for flouting the French Language Charter by communicating in English with Quebec businesses amid a heated debate on the survival of French in the province.

The government is posting almost all of its forms, guidelines and leaflets for businesses in English on the websites of Revenu Québec, Investissement Québec and the Autorité des marchés financiers.

The charter, known as Bill 101, states that the government can communicate in English with individuals at their request, but must deal only in French with businesses in the province.

>> More

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Gazette headline mixes French and English... how disrespectful!

Uh oh. The Gazette published the following headline today: Merci France, Bernier says.

I hope the publisher is prepared for a tongue lashing from PQ education critic Marie Malavoy who, by the way, is an immigrant from France who voted illegally in Canadian elections before becoming a citizen of Canada.

Malavoy doesn't like it when one mixes the two languages. It is "very disrespectful" says she. You might consider it a faux pas to mix the tw... oh, damn it. I am so busted.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

PQ represenative angry over ad that mixes French and English

Quebec law prohibits free choice in public education, in violatation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The provincial government, which has jurisdiction over education, limits access to publicly-funded English-language schools. Only kids whose parents went to English-language school (in Canada) can attend. Everyone else (new Canadians, French-speakers, etc.) are prohibited.

One English-language school board, struggling to survive as a result of these restrictions, placed some ads in French-language newspapers to try to recruit new students -- within the strict confines of a restrictive law. That was too much for PQ education critic Marie Malavoy who, by the way, is an immigrant from France who voted illegally in Canadian elections before becoming a citizen of Canada.

Malavoy is upset because the newspaper ad from the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board includes the slogan: Moi? J'apprends in English.

Remember, this is Quebec where language supremacists go into a tizzy over the use of English in public, even in those rare cases where it is permitted.

Malavoy says the sentence is "very disrespectful" of both languages. Here's her reason: "It's a very bad message because we speak English or we speak French. We can speak both languages but not at the same time."

Like five-year olds who begin to understand that some games have rules and get terribly upset when the rules aren't followed, language supremacists insist that things be done in a precise, narrow way, according to rules. There is no room for creativity or evolution. The dogma is strict and ye must follow it.

Forget what you heard about hockey. Telling people what to do is Quebec real official sport.

If Malavoy was aware of, say, Web 2.0, she would probably go into irreversable seizure. The idea of people...people!...creating content without any politburo to verify the uninhindered creativity of the masses... quelle horreur !

Oh, dammit. I've just broken Malavoy's Rules of Order.

Quebec town threatened with violence for translating bylaws

What happens when a municipality in western Quebec decides to translate some of its bylaws into English for the benefit of its residents? They are threatened anonymously by terrorist wannabees.

It is 2008, by the way.
A few days after asking the City of Gatineau to translate its bylaws into English, the Regional Association of West Quebecers began receiving e-mail messages telling the group it must abandon its alleged crusade against French or risk getting "lead in their heads."

André Hurtubise, the English-language community group's chief executive officer, had told city councillors on March 11 that English-speaking residents of Gatineau have as much right to understand what their city expects from them as French-speakers.

More here and here.
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