March 30, 2010

More Forrest

I've been meaning to get these photos for a while now.  Firstly, I wanted to get at least one good shot of Forrest with our dog Muffy.  Muffy used to be my grandmother's dog and when my grandmother passed away, we bought the house and inherited the dog...or as I like to tell people, we paid a few hundred thousand dollars for the dog, and got a free house out of the deal. 
Anyway, Muffy is very old...over 17 years I think.  The only way I remember her age, is that we have a photo somewhere, of my little sister with my grandmother's previous dog, when she was about the age Forrest is now.  That dog lived to be something like 21 years old and died not too long after that photo was taken, so with my sister being 18 years old, I extrapolate that Muffy is around 17 because my grandmother wasn't without a dog for very long. 

It took me until now to get these photos, because Muffy isn't really fond of kids...not unless they are up in a high chair and dropping food down onto the floor.  She won't sit still for them to pet her, she even snaps at them if they corner here and pull her hair etc.  So when we finally taught Forrest to be 'gentle' with her, I knew I had to get some photos before it was too late.  This 'old lady' is still full of life, but she's deaf, almost blind and can't smell very well anymore either.  She's had plenty of problems with her teeth, and probably can't handle another operation.

Another thing I wanted to capture in photos, is Forrest with his green bucket.  This little prankster is really developing a good sense of humor.  He sometimes puts the bucket on his head, then calmly walks up and stands beside you...waiting for you to notice him and laugh (or say "Where's Forrest?").  Only then does he pull the bucket helmet off and laugh.  Fast forward 18 years and he'll be the guy at a party with a lamp shade on his head. 
I didn't really get the bucket shot I wanted, but these are still funny.

And here are a few more shots from the same shoot.

March 8, 2010

The 2001 Vancouver Olympics

The Vancouver Olympics are over and what a wild crazy time it was.  I  wish I could have been there to experience it, but I was happy to watch it from the comfort my own house.

Bad Start
From the sad and unfortunate death of Georgian luger, Nodar Kumaritashvili, to the overtime heroics of Sidney Crosby, it was an emotional roller coaster, which is really what watching sports is all about. 

Mogul skiing
On the first day, I watched Jennifer Heil compete in woman’s mogul skiing with eager anticipation.  I clearly remember when she won the Gold Medal at the last Olympics and now she could become the first Canadian to win one on home soil.  Her run was amazing, with only one little hiccup, but the American skier was practically perfect and Jen came away with Silver.  It’s a weird emotion that accompanies a Silver Medal.  The immediate feeling is more of ‘loosing the gold’ than of being the 2nd best in the world.  That soon passes and it’s very easy to be proud of the great accomplishment that is a Silver Medal.

Of course, the big moment came the next night when Alexandre Bilodeau captured the Gold Medal in the men’s mogul event.  Canada finally had its first Gold Medal on home soil.  I didn’t really think that was much of a problem, until the Canadian media mentioned it every 26 second for a solid week, leading up to it.  Thank goodness it happened early on, or we might have had to put up with it a lot longer.  Not to mention the pressure it put on the actual athletes, although, I think they are so focused by that point, that media chatter doesn’t even enter their world. 

Own the Podium
Speaking of pressure on the athletes, there has been a lot of talk about the Canadian Olympic Committee’s ‘Own the Podium’ campaign.  The COC allocated 117 million dollars in funding for Canadian Athletes, leading up to these games with the bold mandate to ‘Own the Podium’ (with the highest number of medals).  During the first week of the Olympics, members of the media were insinuating that this mandate was putting too much pressure on the athletes, and they may have had a point, considering the number of 4th & 5th place finishes that we had. 
Maybe the COC should have called the campaign ‘Finally giving our athletes funding on the level of athletically successful countries’. 
At the halfway point of the games, the COC actually came out and admitted that they were going to fall short of their goal to ‘Own the Podium’.  Maybe that was to alleviate some of the pressure or the athletes of maybe it was just so they could say “I told you so” when the media started to question them on the $117 million investment. 
Thankfully, the medals started rolling in, especially the Golds….and by the end of the Olympics, Canada had won 14 Gold Medals and a total of 26 Medals in all. 

Speed Skating
I didn’t realize just how many speed skating events there were.  It seemed like there was a different one every few hours during the games….and they featured many of the same athletes.  That is such a contrast from an event like moguls, where the athletes only get two official runs (one to qualify), each lasting less than 30 seconds.  One day I was sourly disappointed to watch the Hamelin brothers finish 4th and 5th in a 5 man heat for the 1000m short track final.  But I also watched Charles Hamelin win Gold in the 500m and the 5000m relay. 
There were highs and lows on the long track as well.  The highlight being the Canadian Men’s team wining the Gold Medal in the Long track pursuit. 

A very memorable moment was when Canadian Jon Montgomery won the Gold Medal in the Skeleton.  For those that don’t know, Skeleton is where the athlete slides down the bobsled track on a small sled…face first.  The image I will remember about Jon Montgomery is seeing him walk the streets of Whistler while reveling in the euphoria of winning a Gold Medal, and also while drinking beer directly from a pitcher.  He really seemed to represent the ‘average Canadian 30 year old guy’. 

Of course, Hockey was the big attraction for most Canadians.  After all, we do eat, breathe, drink, sleep and poop Hockey. 
The women’s tournament is always a two horse race.  Everybody knew that the Canadians and Americans were far, far better than any other team (Canada won its first game 18-0).  So it was no surprise when the two best teams played each other in the finals, the Canadian Women taking the Gold Medal with a 2-0 win over the Americans. 

On the Men’s side, things weren’t so simple.  The Canadian team (maybe one of the most impressive teams ever put together) had a great start, beating Norway 8-0.  But things started to go downhill from there.  They needed a shoot out to defeat the Swiss team 3-2.  Then they lost to the Americans by a score of 5-3.  The entire country was all abuzz about the play of ‘Team Canada’.  The incumbent starting goalie, Martin Brodeur, was ousted for Roberto Luongo, who’s played the rest of the tournament.
After the round-robin games, Canada was left in a situation where they would have to win 4 games in 6 days, or else face the immense disappointment that would come from not winning the Gold.  They took out Germany 8-2, which set up a date with a Russian team that read like an NHL all-star roster, including Alexander Ovechkin, the most explosive hockey player in the world. 
I will always remember the first period against the Russians as one of the best periods of Canadian hockey that I’ve ever seen.  One of the Russian players said it best when he said that they came out like wild animals.  The final score was 7-3 and now Canadians everywhere suddenly started to strut, rather that walk, wherever they went. 
Just about everyone expected that the Canadians would have to go through the Swedish team to advance, but it turns out that the team from Slovakia beat the Swedes for a chance to play Canada in the Semi-finals. 
Canada didn’t come out hitting like they did against the Russians.  Maybe because the Slovaks had a deadly powerplay, or maybe their performance against the Russians was something that just couldn’t be repeated.   Still, the Canadians took a 3-0 lead in the game.  It didn’t last however, as the Slovaks scored two goals and came ever so close to tying the game in the final seconds of the third period. 

We now had the dream rematch.  Canada vs the USA for Olympic Hockey Gold. 
I can feel my pulse rising just thinking about the game.  The very spirit of our entire country was riding on the outcome of this game.  There were reports of people lining up outside of their local watering holes, starting early in the morning, just to ensure they had a good seat to watch the game.  I hunkered down in my basement, filling the room with tension and fight-or-flight pheromones. 

Canada came out playing pretty physical, almost like they did against the Russians, but the Americans were moving and passing very quickly which made for a very exciting game.  The Canadians built up a 2-0 lead, but as any true hockey fan can tell you, a two goal lead is the most dangerous position to be in.  It’s a big enough lead that you can’t help but fall into a defensive posture, but it’s small enough that it can disappear very quickly, leaving you tied with a team who now has the momentum. 
The Canadians seemed to be playing no-to-loose, rather than playing to win…and sure enough, the Americans scored to make it close.  It was a seemingly harmless play but the puck was tipped and sneaked though Luongo’s guard. 
I remember looking at the play clock, willing it to count down.  10 minutes left, 5 minutes left, 2 minutes left, one minute left….that last few minutes was sheer terror for me.  The Americans were pressing and all the Canadians could manage, was to occasionally get the puck to centre ice before the attack resumed.  It would have taken a miracle from the all-mighty Gretzky, for the Canadians to keep the puck out…and the Americans scored with 24 seconds left. 
It was like all the oxygen has been sucked out of Canada.  The game was tied and the Americans had the momentum.  I was seriously scared for the last 24 seconds. 

I tired to remain calm during the break before overtime started.  I was a nervous but very exciting time.  This is what sports fans live for.  Along with all other Canadians, I was so very close to either the exultation of victory or the crushing agony of defeat. 

The Canadians came out and did what they had to.  They took back control of the game and in what seemed like another harmless play; Jerome Iginla got the puck to Sydney Crosby who immediately shot it past the American Goalie, tournament MVP Ryan Miler.  It happened so fast…the camera angle wasn’t great…I couldn’t even tell what had happened….I just knew that everything was going to be OK. 

As you probably know, Sidney Crosby is widely touted as the 1st or 2nd best hockey player in the world.  For him to score the ‘Golden Goal’ was like a script writer’s dream. 
Those of us who had been paying attention, knew that he had been largely invisible during most of the game, and several of the other games as well….but that doesn’t matter.  He scored when it counted and has firmly cemented his place in Canadian Hockey History. 

And thank God the Canadians won.  If I has to hear one more mention of America’s ‘Miracle On  Ice’ (winning the gold in 1980) I was going to puke. 

Figure Skating
I’m not much of a figure skating fan but with Canada’s Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue winning a gold, it’s worthy of mention. 
A bigger and much more memorable story is that of Joannie Rochette.  He mother passed away in a Vancouver hospital, after a sudden heart attack.  Joannie could have resigned from the competition and nobody would have blamed her in the least….but in a tremendous display of courage and spirit, she did skate and won a Bronze Medal.

The Opening & Closing Ceremonies
Overall, the games seemed to be a huge success, so I don’t want to criticize too much, but I just have to get this off of my chest.  Who the heck was in charge of the opening ceremonies and what were they smoking?  Well, as we’re talking about Vancouver, I don’t have to ask what they were smoking…maybe just how much?

On paper, the ‘show’ part of the opening ceremonies probably looked pretty good.  They had some ‘first peoples’ walking into the Great White North, the ice split apart, there was an ocean, some orcas swam by etc.  (The orcas were really cool).  They mixed in some Canadian talent like Brian Adams & Nelly Furtado.  There was a guy on a wire, running through a wheat field.  There was a grove of huge trees (Cathedral Grove maybe?) with ballet dancers below; there was a mountain range with skiers and snowboarders all around it.  Each aspect was fairly impressive, and to whoever was in charge, it probably looked great…on paper.  But I wonder if they actually ever did a complete run-through….because each of those ‘acts’ was like 20 minutes long!  Add that on top of all the other stuff, like the Parade of Nations and the official speeches…and it must have been 4 hours long.  I wanted to stop watching, but I kept holding out for something better, a big ending or something. 
I can see that part of the goal was to showcase Canadian talent.  I’m not sure why we Canadians feel the need to constantly point out talented Canadians when we have a world audience….maybe it’s because we don’t want the rest of the world to think that K.D. Lang and Avril Lavigne are American.  Anyway, K.D. Lang came up and belted out a soulful rendition of broken hallelujah.  On its own (and on paper) that looks great.  But it was dreadfully slow and didn’t really embody the spirit of the Olympics. 
That was my main problem with the whole thing.  It felt like it was just a bunch of separate acts pieced together and it didn’t seem to have a common theme.  OK sure, the common theme was Canada…but the ceremony as a whole could have had a much more uplifting theme.  This is the Olympic Games…it should be about Stronger, Higher, Faster!  It should be about the triumph of the human spirit and pushing yourself to the limits in an attempt to be the best.  It’s about people from all over the world, coming together in sporting competition with honor and respect for one another. 
I expected more energy, or at least something that built to an exciting finish.  Instead we got broken hallelujah, and some French lounge singer. 
Then there was the torch and the lighting of the flame.  There were hydraulic problems and one of the torch legs in B.C. Place didn’t rise.  Then they had The Great One, Wayne Gretzky take the flame outside to actual location of the Olympic flame.  The problem, once again, was timing.  He ran outside, then hopped onto the back of a truck and was then driven to the location, which took 15 or 20 minutes.  Again, on paper it’s “Gretzky takes torch and lights flame”…but in real time, it’s 20 minutes of bad TV.  I love the idea, but it just seems that it was planned out by a bunch of guys who had no concept of time…probably because they used the itinerary for rolling papers. 

If they had cut each event’s time down to 30% of what it was, it would have been so much better.  To the viewer, it would go from one cool thing to the next.  If they could have built up some momentum and maybe finished off with a bigger bang (Think the 2008 Olympics in China)…then were really would have had something. 

The closing ceremonies were more of a party, which was good.  Once again, they showcased a bunch of Canadian ‘talent’ performing some of their ‘hits’.  Would it have killed them to mix in some continuity with the Olympic spirit?

Oh ya…the one thing that really pissed me off for the opening ceremonies…was the singing of out “national anthem”.  I put that in quotes because what was sung, was not our national anthem…it had most of the same words, but that was it.  It was performed by Nikki Yanofsky, 16 year old singing sensation from Montreal.  I don’t know if it was her idea, but she butchered the Canadian Anthem in the way that Americans constantly butcher their own.  It didn’t have the tune or tempo of our anthem…in essence; she put her own spin on it (including adding an ‘Oh Canada’ at the end).  I don’t want to blame her…but it was someone’s fault and it was terrible. 
I will say that I did really like her singing of ‘I Believe’ which seemed to be the anthem of the Canadian athletes for these winter games.

Conclusion and Photos
Wow, I didn’t mean for that to be so long…but it sort of got away on me.  I guess when something stirs the passion within you; the words just come flowing out.
All I really wanted to do was show of these pictures I took of my son Forrest, only a few minutes after Sidney Crosby scored the Golden Goal.