The Literary Salon

A free salon wherein patrons and passers-by may view or contribute ideas on literary and generally intellectual matters. The blog will strive to maintain its commitment to wit, humour and perspicuous analysis.

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Location: Toronto, now Ottawa, Ont, Canada

Monday, July 26, 2010

Why World Cup 2010 was a terrible disappointment

Another world cup has come and gone, and at this point I'm usually going through serious soccer withdrawl symptoms--after all, there were 64 high profile matches over the last 30 days, more than one usually sees in an entire year. However, this time I'm not really feeling the same sense of sadness I usually feel when a major soccer tournament ends--in fact, I'm almost glad the World Cup is over. Why this blasphemy, you ask? It's because this has been without a doubt the worst major soccer tournament I've ever seen. I've seen every World and Euro Cup since 1994 (94, 96, 98, 2000, 2002, 04, 06, 08, 10), and only the 2002 World Cup was even close to being this bad. Most friends of mine who watch soccer more than once every 4 years tend to agree with me, but for those who may still be unconvinced, here is why I feel 2010's edition was the worst, in no particular order:

1) Big teams flopping: Italy had literally its worst world cup performance ever, and the French comedy troupe managed to score 1 goal. England was not only disappointing, but, except for about 20 minutes, absolutely excruciating to watch: their game against Algeria should be a contender for most unwatchable soccer game ever at a world cup. Argentina gets embarrased 4-0 in the quartefinals. You know something is wrong when one of the best teams in the world gets smashed to bits. Brazil never really played to their potential, and seemed to completely lose it in their final 30 minutes in the tournament. Even Holland never came anywhere close to playing as well as they could, and Spain for the most part played a very conservative style that was frankly boring to watch most of the time (if you don't believe me, try watching any of their last 4 games, all 1-0 wins, even against teams like Paraguay). The only team that was actually good was Germany, who oddly lost in the semis.

2) Similarly, lack of quality games: out of the 64 matches played, of which I managed to watch about 54, only 7 or 8 were actually watchable. Most games were either snoozefests (Brazil-Portugal, any of England's games) or one-sided blowouts that were finished by halftime. I agree with Nigel Reed of the CBC on this one: most teams even AFTER the round robin played not to lose.

3) Similar to the above, lack of goals. Now, I'm not one of those sports fans who argues that soccer is boring because there are few goals. I've seen plenty of 1-0 or 1-1 matches that were edge-of-your-seat exciting. However, this is the 2nd lowest scoring world cup in history--only WC 1990 had fewer goals. I think the goal dearth is symptomatic of the excitement level provided by most matches this year.

3) Host nation disappointing: I doubt anyone seriously though South Africa would do very well, but 2010 marks the first time in the history of the world cup that the host nation failed to get past the round robin. For whatever reason, tournaments seem to suffer when the host nation doesn't get far. Even the USA in 1994 (a memorable one) at least made it to the knockout stage. At the last world cup, which was IMHO a great one, the host nation Germany made it to the semifinal, losing in a thrilling match to Italy, the eventual champions.

4) Star players flopping: Lionel Messi, C. Ronaldo, Kaka, Wayne Rooney, Van Persie, etc etc. The list goes on. These are the best players in the world, and they were sadly either invisible or dreadful to watch. Did Rooney forget how to kick a ball? Thankfully we had a few upstarts who managed to impress, including Muller and Ozil of Germany, and the veteran Forlan of Uruguay. Otherwise, I can't remember another tournament at which so many top notch players just failed to show up.

5) Jabulani: yes, at the beginning of every tournament I can remember, players always complaining about the new ball that has been developed, often arguing that it is too light or unpredictable. However, I think this time the players and coaches had a legitimate beef. Even weeks into the competition we saw countless shots from the best players in the world go sailing miles high. NASA even tested the ball and found that it was unpredictable when travelling over 60 MPH. Perhaps the altitude at some of SA's stadia exacerbated the problem.

6) Officiating: I can't for the life of me remember a tournament that had such appaling refereeing. Yes, referees make bad calls in soccer, and yes, there were a few matches in 2002 in which the referees were bribed. However, nearly every match at this world cup had at least one major blown call--offside goals, obvious goals that weren't counted (sorry Lampard), penalties not awarded, obvious dives not punished (Iniesta in the final, among others), etc etc. I don't think there's a single argument left against video replays in soccer. Even the 900 year old dinousaur Sepp Blatter, FIFA's president, is actually considering it now. You know something is seriously wrong when he wants to change something.

6) VUVUZELAS!! I watch soccer fairly often, so I'm not unaccustomed to horns and such blaring during a game. It must be said, though, that the vuvuzelas almost single-handedly ruined this world cup. Whoever thought that having 50000+ horns that crank out over 100 decibels would improve the game should be arrested--the same person must have also thought that hearing a swarm of bees going through a blender for 90 minutes is pleasurable. I feel sorry for the players and fans in the stadium, and of course viewers everywhere. On two or three occassions I heard some singing and chanting from the crowd, and I remembered how enjoyable it is to be able to hear thousands of people singing and oohing and aaaahing in unison. Again, I don't ever remember something like this ruining the viewing experience of a soccer tournament. Ban the vuvuzela please, or I will break every single one in half!

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Saturday, July 04, 2009

Thank You, America

On this, the 233rd anniversary of the independence of America, I thought it appropriate to share some thoughts on why I think everyone should be thanking America today, despite the popularity of hating it. In lieu of a detailed and potentially boring essay, I provide the following succinct list:

1) Innovation: America leads the world by far in terms of technology and innovation. The next time you say you hate America, think twice as you use your Mac, PC, Cell phone, Ipod, Facebook, or Internet. The world has its problems now, but American innovation will likely be the solution to them.

2) Arts: though some pretend to be snobs, nearly everyone, including those in countries hostile to the USA, watches and enjoys Hollywood films. How many people saw Dark Knight? Star Trek? Star Wars? This is to say nothing of music, most of which is (or tries to be) American. In fact, people in the Middle East WANT to be American; they may hate the politics, but they love the culture.

3) Opportunity: America remains the land of opportunity. Despite what hypocritical, PC leftists maintain, the fact is that it is the first Western country in the world to elect a black president (yes, he's half, but he's visibly black). Not only that, but he came from a disadvantaged background: he was raised by a single mother who had to use foodstamps occasionally. In what other country in the world is this possible?

4) Last but not least, peace and stability: yes, this may sound strange, and I admit the USA isn't perfect, especially on foreign policy. But, and trust me on this one, you want the USA to remain the world's only superpower for as long as possible. You DON'T want a world run by China or Russia. Despite its flaws and occasional human rights violations, America is the lesser of all evils, and it has in place a system of checks and balances to ensure that such violations do not continue very long.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Death of the Apostrophe

I completely agree with this well written, incisive, and witty piece from the National Post. Yes, it's about apostrophes, but the author expatiates on how it is a symptom of something bigger.

Favourite Quotes

"Then, there are proud philistines who feel that whatever they don't know, doesn't matter. For them, the proof that something isn't important to know is that they don't know it. If it did matter, they would know it, and since they don't, it doesn't. 'What did you say that writer's name was -- Ibsen? Never heard of him. Can't be very important.'"


"In ancient Greece, young Demosthenes wanted to be an orator. Since he stuttered, he is said to have trained himself by placing pebbles in his mouth. If the tone-setters of our age stuttered, they wouldn't bother with pebbles. They'd abolish public speaking."

I'm not sure whether I'm getting more conservative, but I find that the National Post is the only paper usually worth reading: their articles and especially editorials are much more interesting than those of the other papers in this country, even if I disagree with them.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Well, it's that time of year again. In case you're wondering, no: this is not another rant from an angry single man; it's a bit more philosophical, so read on.

If I were a woman, and my significant other gave me a flowers and a box of chocolates on February 14, I would actually be offended. First, I would ask, why are you getting me a gift when that's what everyone else is doing on that exact same day? Second, if you're going to give a gift, be a little bloody creative: get your significant other a painting, a book, a ride in a horse drawn carriage, or cook that person a special meal, etc, etc.

I'm not saying people in relationships shouldn't give each other gifts or do nice things for each other, but it is really irritating that people do the same things on the same day because Hallmark tells them to. Am I the only one who thinks this is insane?

Every day should be Valentine's day: you should let the other person know he or she is appreciated as often as possible. In the same way, you shouldn't wait until Mother's Day to call your mum or do something nice for her; every day should be Mother's Day.

That's it. V-day is one of those times I'm actually kind of glad to be single.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Orwell would be rolling in his grave

Classic ultra-liberal nonsense here

As an ex-smoker, I sympathize with smokers and non-smokers alike. If someone doesn't want to breathe in second hand smoke, that person shouldn't have to, although most people are unduly paranoid about second hand smoke, which, by the way, has not been conclusively linked to cancer or other ailments.

I do, however, have a problem with draconian/babysitter governments that impose these hypocritical measures. Tobacco is legally grown and sold North America, and the government makes a very hefty profit from it. In the province of Ontario, more than 60 tp 70 percent of the cost of a pack of cigarettes is tax.

So, the government makes a killing from this legal product, and now that same government is telling people they can't use it even in their own homes. If that isn't idiotic hypocrisy, I don't know what is. Either shut the hell up and let people use this product, or shut the hell up and simply ban it; you can't do both!


All two of you may be wondering where I've been and what I've been up to. To be completely honest, teaching and thesis work keeps me more than busy, with hardly any energy or care to spare for something like blogging (that, and my life isn't that interesting).

I did, however, return from two weeks in Europe, which marked my first trip to that continent I'd read and heard so much about. I went to a conference on Adam Smith @ Oxford (yes, that one), which was fantastic--so much so, that the organizers want to include my piece in an upcoming collection of essays. Needless to say I felt vindicated after months of ball-busting labour, and I didn't refuse their kind offer. The piece will appear in the upcoming special edition of The Adam Smith Review, which should be coming out near the end of this year. More on that as details become available.

I used my mostly university funded trip to visit relatives in England and Germany. I stayed with my English relatives, who lived in the middle of nowhere (near Seaton/Exeter), for 3 days, and 5 days in Frankfurt, Germany, with my other ones. I also took a trip with my cousin to Berlin for 2 days, which was probably not as fun as it should be since I got a nasty European cold that lasted nearly a week.

For the first time in my life, I had a digital camera with me. Now it's just a matter of uploading all those photos, which I will do eventually (probably on Facebook and or Google Photos). Stay tuned.

For now, it's back to teaching 1st year Drama and Poetry, a fun yet very time-consuming assignment, and trying to finish a first chapter of the thesis, which so far is progressing fairly well. I hope to have this current chapter done by the end of the term, which would be right on schedule.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Brief Rant on Copyright

If a company ceases to publish a book (or a video, etc), then that company forfeits its copyright of said item. Why companies that do this maintain copyright is one of the dumbest (if not the dumbest) things about copyright law today. In fact, what we have now is a form of communism.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Split Infinitive

I was recently reminded of a hotly debated grammatical issue: the split infinitive. Before you sigh and think to yourself, "great! another nobody telling us why we should not split infinitives," don't fret: I'm actually defending the construction. I happen to think that dogmatically arguing against splitting infinitives is pedantry. Allow me to explain.

First, what is the split infinitive? Very briefly: the infinitive form of verbs in English, unlike any other language I know of, is always to + verb (to run, to walk, to eat, to type, etc). Inserting a word, usually an adverb, between the two and the root verb is what is known as the split infinitive (to boldly go is perhaps the textbook example).

Here's why it is NOT wrong.

The split infinitive did not become a "problem" until the nineteenth century. In other words, no one noticed it until then. English writers have been splitting infinitives since at least the thirteenth century, and many of the best eighteenth-century writers did so as well. To argue that the split infinitive is just plain wrong betrays an ignorance, whether deliberate or not, of the history of the English language.

Now let us examine the construction ahistorically, that is, its use at the present time.

I do not advocate splitting infinitives for the hell of it. However, there are times when consciously avoiding the split infinitive can result in awkward, unidiomatic or, worse, obscure constructions. Take a look at the following example, which I have taken from Burchfield's edition of Fowler's Modern English Usage:

In not combining flatly to forbid hostilities.
In not combining to forbid flatly hostilities.

Compare with the following construction which has a split infinitive. It is clearer and more natural:

In not combining to flatly forbid hostilities.

Constructions that attempt to avoid the split infinitive at all costs can sound affected as well as obscure:

She wants honestly to marry that man.

To sum up: there is no reason why the split infinitive is wrong. There is nothing in the DNA of the language that forbids it (whereas you simply cannot say I has candy). If it is possible to preserve the infinitive without a loss of naturalness or meaning, then by all means do so, but don't feel you have to, despite the prevailing sense that it is simply wrong.