Saturday, January 25, 2014

OECD-CANADA ONE OF THE BEST COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD TO LIVE


According to the OECD, (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development-an international economic organization of 34 countries founded in 1961 to stimulate economic progress and world trade), Canada is among the best places in the world to live, but we already knew that didn’t we. Their “Better Life Index” finds Canada among the leaders in most of the twenty-four indicators measured. The indicators include Jobs, Community, Education, Environment, Governance, Health, Life Satisfaction, Safety and Work-Life Balance. In fact, Canada ranks third behind only Australia and Sweden. Not too shabby, eh?

            I happened to read the article about the OECD rankings the day after CBC Television's Hockey Day in Canada celebrated Canada's national sport and  a week after our local skating stars Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers qualified for a spot on the 2014 Canadian Winter Olympic Figure Skating Team representing Canada at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia in a few weeks. I was already welling up with local and national pride so the OECD announcement was just icing on the cake.

            Since 2000 the CBC's Hockey Day in Canada has celebrated the game of hockey and its connection to our country and culture. Like so many other Canadians, my introduction to the game of hockey came through my parents love of the game and the Saturday night broadcasts on CBC television. The grainy black and white images came into our living room while the whole household tuned in week after week every winter. In fact, I don't think I can actually remember life before hockey.

            Being a prairie farm boy my Dad grew up playing the game in northern Saskatchewan and my brother Jack, the oldest in the family and fifteen years my senior, grew up playing the game, too, so there was little chance that my other brother, Gord, who is eighteen months older than me, and I would grow up without hockey in our lives. We played it on the outdoor and indoor rinks, the streets, both winter and summer, in the school gymnasium, in the basement and when we weren't physically playing the game in those places we were playing our table-top version of the game with the same intensity that we brought to the real versions. It was always hockey, hockey, hockey.

            The last time I actually played in a hockey game, though, was about four years ago in the Dale Blackstock Memorial Rec Tournament and during the course of the weekend both of my skates broke. I was thinking...hmmm...that could be a sign. Then a few months later I herniated a disc in my lower back and that sign was a little more emphatic so I haven't played since the fall of '09.

            Although my back recuperation has not worked out as well as I had hoped it would I gladly accepted a new pair of skates as a birthday gift last month and I'm thinking that I might not be done with the old game of hockey just yet.

            Hockey is only one of the many aspects of life in Canada that makes it such a great place to live and I didn't really need an OECD Better Life Index report to tell me that we've got a pretty good thing going on here in The Great White North but it's always nice to hear it anyway.

            "Every day is a great day for hockey."-Mario Lemieux (1965-).

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

BAD NEWS FIRST!


           As we prepare to pack up from 2013’s version of the Happy Holidays, and I hope yours was as good as mine, (holidays not packing), we find ourselves arriving at the time of year when we must take a look back on the high-lights and low-lights of the previous twelve months activities on good old planet Earth.

            I have been reviewing many different television shows, newspaper articles and websites sharing their views on 2013’s top stories in news, sports, business, entertainment, etc. What strikes me the most about the stories is not really any one individual story, because there are so many, but it is the type of news coverage that most people pay attention to.

            Again, it’s the old “chicken n’ egg” syndrome…do we only concentrate our time on bad news stories because of humanity’s “train-wreck” fixation or are main stream media outlets so fixated on “train-wrecks” that we are sucked into the “bad-news vortex”. Perhaps a little of both, don’t you think?

            Case in point-if you go to the Yahoo-News-Canada-Homepage there is a toolbar near the top of the page that lists the news categories by subject and reading them from left to right in order of importance they are:  Home-Canada-World-Business-Entertainment-Sports-Health-Technology-Science-Blogs- and then waaayyy over here, second to last no less, there’s a heading for “Good News”. The only category that isn’t ahead of “Good News” is “Odd”, which I find kind of…well…odd.

            Anyway, sorry, I seem to be losing my way here. The regular readers of this column will recognize a continuing subject theme that I have touched on more than a few times in the past regarding our mainstream media and their coverage of the news and all I really wanted to do was a review of some of the top stories from this past year but I have been distracted by my research while finding, again, a deeper meaning in what we deem as newsworthy.

            Another case in point- The Associated Press, “which was founded in 1846 and is an American multinational not-for-profit news agency headquartered in New York City who is committed to independent, comprehensive journalism and has covered all the major news events of the past 165 years”- recently released its list of the Top Ten Sports Stories of 2013 and not one of the top five had anything to do with an actual sporting event. They are: 1.)-The Boston Marathon bombings; 2.)-Lance Armstrong comes “clean”; 3.) The NFL Concussion Settlement (The NFL's settlement of lawsuits brought by thousands of former players over head injuries in football); 4.)-Baseball Drug Bans; 5.)-Aaron Hernandez (New England Patriots football player) arrested for murder; 6.) Boston Red Sox win 2013 World Series.

            Yes, the bombings occurred during the running of the Boston Marathon but I still wouldn’t call it a “sports” story. The “story” is the radical extremists who built and detonated the bombs. Lance Armstrong and Major League Baseball’s PED, (performance enhancing drugs), conundrum also involve sports but the story isn’t about sports, it’s about ethics in sports and New England Patriot’s former tight end’s vicious life style is a story that plays out too many times per day in the United States and Canada but because Hernandez could catch a football at the professional level his story is elevated to one of the top five stories of the year in the “Sports” category. I might be splitting hairs here a little on the above subjects but, to me, it encapsulates the overall methodology of news reporting which is- bad news first.

            I have many wishes for 2014 and I will wish, once again, that humanity will strive to do better and be better and here’s hoping that as a society we will start to recognize the importance good news and good things play in our world and maybe somebody could lead with that for a change.  

“The bad news is that only the bad people reach the news because they are noisier,”-Javier Bardem (1969-).