Thursday, June 16, 2011


I was up late last night.

I watched Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. If only because I have not missed a Cup-clinching game since ... 1980, I would guess. The spring that witnessed the end of one NHL dynasty and the beginning of a new one. Back in an era when dynasties were still possible.

Even in the midst of a disastrous Greyhound bus trip across the country with a frigid female companion in the summer of 2000, I still managed to catch Jason Arnott's overtime goal behind the analog fuzz of a tiny TV atop the diner refrigerator in a charmless Calgary bus station.

But last night, after the entirely predictable (yet obviously unfathomable to Canuck "enthusiasts") Game 7 loss, I couldn't tear myself away from the CBC affiliate in Vancouver. Soon after their Cup hopes were efficiently extinguished by the Bruins, the civic humiliation escalated right under the paternalistic eye of the national broadcaster.

Not to exaggerate, but I was spellbound with a morbid fascination while witnessing, at a digital remove, the desecration of my familiar lieux de memoire in the downtown core. So little of that downtown has changed, it seems, since I spent the better part of a decade in that city. I probably know that downtown better than I do the downtown where I now live. The iconoclastic stripping of the altars around Georgia, Granville and all the other familiar streets had a surprising emotional impact on me. With the exception of the dear friends that I made while I was there, some of whom still reside in that beautiful city, Vancouverites always seemed, to me at least, unnaturally frozen under a patina of affected coolness and detachment which supposedly rendered them unencumbered by the societal stresses of the East, towards which they often wagged an empathetic or condescending finger.

But underneath there seemed to be a repressed sense of marginalia and neglect, leavened with a bizarre sense of superiority and entitlement.

When that reaches a boiling point, and the primordial sludge bubbles to the surface (it penetrates far beyond the parochial yet passionate milieu of NHL hockey), all it seems to take is a few combustibles and an igniting agent.

What bothered me most about watching things unfold last night was less about the fully loaded cretins who were burning and looting, but rather the non-participants who were obviously enjoying the spectacle of watching, and photographing/videotaping with their insipid 'smart' phones, the property and psychological damage being inflicted on both their home city and their international reputation. Smilin' and wavin' to the rest of the world as the flames flickered. The downtown, not to mention the social order, was momentarily turned upside down during a bizarre charivari of carnivalistic mob rule while the police watched from the sidelines. I have to believe that any global currency that the city and province might have accrued during the hosting of the 2010 Olympics (itself a problemmatic "event", but that's a debate for another day) went up in smoke bombs and tear gas last night.

Which begs the question. If Sid hadn't have squeezed that puck through Ryan Miller's short side, what might have happened in downtown Vancouver? Surely nothing of the sort that took place last night, as the 'international community' was there to chaperone. When left to their own devices and resources, its a different outcome, apparently.

Last night, I kept waiting for Hugh Dillon's elite reponse unit to show up and restore some order.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Y Cymry

As a diasporadic Scot, I feel a fellowship with other occupants of the Celtic fringe, including those from the Brythonic branch of the lingual tree.

The shiring of Wales by England may have taken place in the 1530s and 40s, but by then the Cymry had infiltrated what was arguably the most powerful institution of sixteenth-century England. The Tudor dynasty formally consecrated its Welsh lineage by including the Red Dragon in its royal arms. Earlier the future Henry VII raised the Red Dragon with its Tudor green and white background when he defeated Richard III and his supporters at Bosworth Field in 1485.

A little more recently, and right on the heels of their fellow Celts in Scotland, the Welsh regained their own parliament. It remains to be seen what Devolution will ultimately deliver to both, but it is interesting to watch.

In between, the Cymry have made their own disproportionate contributions to not only “Britain” and “Britishness”, but to the wider world. But fear not, I have no intention of assembling a list that irrefutably demonstrates how the Welsh invented the “modern world”. No doubt you can find something of that sort in a bargain bin at your local book bizarre of choice. Such claims have become what Trojan founding myths were to nascent European nation-states.

I do need to mention, however, a few Welshman that have meant something to me, if not the modern world, which, surely, is a more important cause than I am. Although I am open to contributions, as always.

Bertrand Russell never meant anything to me. Mathematicians never make good philosophers.

Richard D. James may not mean something to a lot of people. But Aphex Twin might, but not really that much to me.

It means more to me that Roger Glover is a Welshman. But not all Welshmen are Highway Stars.

It means much more to me that Peter Greenaway is Welsh. But not many Welshmen have made films as wonderful as The Cook, the Thief, his Wife, and her Lover.

And while it might not be traditional Welsh music, a power trio originally from North Wales has recently captured my ear.

Hwyl am rwan ... (switch to 1080p)