tuque /tūk/ n Canadian English, var. toque [19th c. Canadian French, from the French toque, from the Basque tauka] 1 A close-fitting knitted cap, often with a long tapering end or tassel or pompom. 2 fig Something quintessentially Canadian.
souq /sūk/ n from the Arabic سوق var. souk 1 An open-air marketplace. 2 fig A central meeting place for the circulation of news and ideas.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Nazem Kadri, like Leafs fans, submits to fate

Guileless Toronto Maple Leafs fans will buy almost anything you're selling, including--and this is especially frustrating--tickets to see the Toronto Maple Leafs.

We are also prone to a seasonal recurrence of a delusion that a return to glory is just one more player away.

We've bought overhyped imports named Lindros, Peca, Kubina, O'Neill, Blake, Grabovsky and Andrew flippin' Raycroft, and held onto them well past their sell-by date.

We've believed in guys like Tucker, McCabe, Belak, Ponikarovsky, Wellwood, Antropov, and Toskala longer than Jesus would have.

Just recently we purchased a whopper of a tall tale that General Manager Brian Burke could harness the moon and trade it for John Tavares; so credulous are we that when Tavares morphed into a gimpy Phil Kessel we actually said, "John who?"

We're hopelessly optimistic and simultaneously predictably fatalistic. So, as shadows grow long with autumn's arrival indicating the return of hockey season, is this year any exception to Leaf Nation delusion?

All of those names on the Leafs' wall of recent shame share two things in common: None of them has laced up his skates for a playoff game at the ACC since the Lockout; and not one of them is Lebanese.

That was supposed to change this year. With their first-round pick at this summer's NHL draft, the Toronto Maple Leafs selected Nazem Kadri, a Lebanese-Canadian phenom from London, Ontario (whose photograph, apparently, the Leafs' web editor hasn't found yet).

Kadri is coming off back-to-back 25-goal seasons for the Kitchener Rangers and the London Knights (where he teamed with John Tavares) of the OHL. He turns 19 next week. He's hyped to be an explosive skater who plays with a hard edge.

Leafs fans will buy anything. A screen door for a submarine? We'll take two. The Brooklyn Bridge? Just set it over there next to Kaberle. An explosive Lebanese hockey player. Oh geez, why not?

But little did we know that the never-before-tried combination of Canadian hockey prowess and Lebanese, well, something or other, would produce such jaw-dropping results. Over the past few weeks Nazem Kadri has had Leafs fans partying like it's 1967.

At his peak, Kadri willed the team to a preseason victory over the Stanley-Cup-laden Pittsburgh Penguins; he scored the tying goal in the waning moments of regulation and the winner in the shootout.

The Leafs wasted no time in inking him to a three-year entry-level contract. Then, they promptly put him on a bus back to London. Thanks for packing in the preseason fans, now go enjoy more of the OHL.

It was fate that Kadri should tantalize us with his talents for a few weeks and then be banished for another year in the junior leagues. No really, even his last name [ قدرى ] derives from the Arabic meaning "one who submits to the will of fate."

The Arabic of his first name [ ناظم ] originally meant a kind of classical Arabic versifier or poet; a man who transformed the ho-hum into the sublime.

Sigh, go the Leafs fans. At least one more year of cheering for mediocrity... and the London Knights!

And on that note, here is the Tuque Souq's fearless 37-second NHL preview:

EASTERN CONFERENCE: 1-Bruins; 2-Penguins; 3-Caps; 4-Flyers; 5-Canes; 6-Senators; 7-Lightning; 8-Habs; 9-Devils; 10-Panthers; 11-Sabres; 12-Rangers; 13-Thrashers; 14-Leafs; 15-Islanders.

CONFERENCE TITLE: B's over Caps in 7.

WESTERN CONFERENCE: 1-Sharks; 2-Blackhawks; 3-Flames; 4-Ducks; 5-Wings; 6-Preds; 7-Canucks; 8-Blues; 9-Wild; 10-Blue Jackets; 11-Oilers; 12-Kings; 13-Stars; 14-Avs; 15-Coyotes.

CONFERENCE TITLE: Flames over Ducks in 7.

STANLEY CUP: Bruins over Flames in 6.

The puck drops on the 2009-2010 season tomorrow evening at 7pm. We Leafs fans are never less fatalistic than right before opening night. After that, we are Nazem Kadri.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Walrus tackles Al-Jazeera, gently

On newsstands at this very moment, The Walrus magazine is profiling the much-maligned Al-Jazeera English (AJE) satellite news channel with a chronicle of the network's trials to become a big boy of global English-language media. The article, "The Most Hated Name in News," is by National Magazine Award-winning writer Deborah Campbell.

It's definitely worth a read if you haven't followed AJE's ordeal to get past the CRTC and other skeptics in Canada.

Favourite quote of the article: "Citizen journalism is like citizen dentistry."

Favourite insinuation that North American news media is a black hole: That if only AJE could break into the North American market its only rival on the global stage would be BBC World, which ironically is barely available in the North American market.

However, the article may leave the reader wanting for more than a peripheral glimpse of AJE.

For example, the article's central character is described as launching "a kind of pre-emptive strike to address concerns about AJE as it applied for a broadcast license from the CRTC." What were those concerns? The article later implies that it was completely due to perceptions of an anti-Israel bias. Makes sense, but where's the proof?

The CRTC's guidelines for issuing a license to a non-Canadian media outlet includes the following:
"Absent clear evidence, as determined by the Commission, that a non-Canadian news service would violate Canadian regulations, such as those regarding abusive comment, the Commission will be predisposed to authorize non-Canadian news services for distribution in Canada."

This was not cited in the article, to its detriment. Has anyone chronicled "abusive comment" by AJE? Did anyone besides pro-Israel groups protest? How has the CRTC engaged each side of the debate?

Regrettably, the article also misses the opportunity to address another burning question: what is the relationship between Al Jazeera English and Al Jazeera Arabic? Is there different content and approach to news? Are critics lambasting AJE for what AJA does in its reporting? The CRTC approved AJA in 2004 and has been monitoring it ever since--what has it found? Is AJA a hate-mongerer, or are its Canadian critics merely Arabophobes?

80% of the important info in the Walrus article--including the same interviewees--can be found in this April Globe and Mail article, at one-tenth the word count.

Give us more, oh Walrus. Tackle harder.*

In related news, the article did pique the Tuque Souq's interest on at least one other peripheral topic: Why the hell is Al-Jazeera banned in Tunisia? This new article from the Committee to Protect Journalists explains the ongoing war between AJA and the otherwise happy-go-luckiers of Tunisia.

Also, in almost totally unrelated news, the new Walrus issue also has a great piece on the making of Just for Laughs gags. They really never get old!

* The Tuque Souq recommends supporting The Walrus (and lots of other Canadian magazines) by taking out a subscription for you and your loved ones, so the Walrus can give us more.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Qaddafi's UN speech hits the mark like no mark has been hit before!

As brevity is the soul of wit, so Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Qaddafi is unwittingly the soul of levity.

Some say 95 minutes is a long time to spend talking to a roomful of world leaders usually known for their quiet, contemplative moods. But Qaddafi broke with the serene norm of United Nations gatherings in a General Assembly address that was as bellicose as it was, well, really really on the mark.

For example, Qaddafi argued that until Europe repays what he estimates is a $7.7-trillion debt to Africa for slavery and what-not, Africans get free passage into Europe and can squat wherever they want. Right on, brother! Stick it to those Eurotrash!

Qaddafi urged the world body to investigate immediately the mysterious deaths of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. About damn time! Lee Harvey Oswald or Lee Harvey bin Laden?

The Swine Flu, said Libya's leader, is a conspiracy of the big drug companies. Duh! And you know what, "Fish Flu" is next. I dare anyone to bet his life against it!

The UN Security Council, Qaddafi exclaimed with uncanny precision, is really the UN "Terror Council." Natch! I mean, what other organization out there so blatantly overuses the word "terror" now that that Bush dude is gone?

"Jet lag sucks!!" roared the Colonel. Amen!

And, Muammar Qaddafi was the one man who had the courage to say what everyone is thinking but too "diplomatic" to address. (That Israel and Palestine should join together in one binational state? No, plenty of people have argued that. Although Qaddafi's proposed name--"Isratine"--is just effing lame.)

No, Qaddafi had the cojones to say that Barack Obama should be President-for-Life. Admit it, even you've thought about it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Rise in Iraqi art theft sees Picasso drafted into War on Terror

Iraqi security forces have thwarted what they believe to be an attempt by dissidents to finance a new rebellion by stealing ancient treasures and speculating in the global art market.

After Iraqi police recovered three stolen, ancient Sumerian artifacts* valued at several hundred thousand dollars, high-ranking Iraqi security officials concluded that the conspiracy underlying the wave of art and artifact theft in Iraq is a clandestine cartel of terrorists who are planning to open their own art museum whose exorbitant entry fees will finance terrorist projects in perpetuity.

It's a sign of the times that freedom fighters and guerrilla groups aren't confining their fundraising endeavors to smuggling drugs, hijacking boats off the coast of Somalia, and sucking up to Osama. These days, say Iraqi authorities and their American overlords, you are as likely to find a terrorist at Sotheby's as you are a tuxedo-clad, Oxford-educated art thief at Sotheby's.

The recovery of 3 of Iraq's ancient treasures comes on the heels of the reclamation of a Picasso painting, valued at a slight $10-million, believed to have been stolen by Saddam Hussein during his 1990 invasion of Kuwait. (The stamp "Property of Kuwait" next to Picasso's signature was the give-away.) A suspected terrorist was trying to off-load it for a bargain $450,000.

Iraqi archaeologists and antiquities experts face an uphill battle to recover the many thousands of historical artifacts looted since the beginning of the American occupation, as well as to preserve and defend the hundreds of archaeological sites in Iraq from future looters. The dusty earth of the "Cradle of Civilization" has yielded priceless treasures from the ancient worlds of Sumerians, Babylonians, Assyrians and Persians, including the world's earliest-known woven baskets, writing tablets, and wheels--all things known to be of use to terrorists.

Some experts fear that the terrorists are trying to recover all the seeds from the Hanging Gardens of Babylon--one of the seven wonders of the ancient world--which if rebuilt in the wrong hands could provide millions in tourist revenues for the coffers of evil-doers, which could then lead to terrorists buying up even more Picassos and becoming major players in a new, hyper-inflated global art market.

To be on the safe side of possibly supporting terrorists, American military officials are advising everyone in the world to stop going to museums until terrorism is destroyed completely.

* - The Sumerian statues in the photograph are not among those stolen... yet.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Swine Flu fears put kybosh on Eid kissing

Well, it seems that no amount of spiritual rejuvenation can protect a faithful body from Swine Flu. Today is Eid al-Fitr, the feast that concludes Ramadan, but in anticipation of public celebrations across the Islamic world many governments are issuing precautions.

At the heart of the minor panic is the return of pilgrims from the Hajj, where the gathering of thousands of pilgrims from dozens of countries may have helped spread the feared disease. According to a widely circulated AFP story today:

"Jordanians have been urged to refrain from kissing each other in a bid to combat the contagious disease... 'People should not kiss at social events and gatherings. Instead, they should just shake hands,' the Amman government's fatwa (religious edict) department said in a statement ahead of Eid when families and friends gather in large groups...

"In Cairo, where two people have died from the A(H1N1) flu virus and nearly 900 cases have been reported, preachers suggested that worshippers perform the traditional Eid dawn prayer at home rather than in crowded mosques... Airport authorities have reinforced swine flu testing measures as the end of Ramadan means the return of thousands of pilgrims from Saudi Arabia...

"Indonesian officials fearful of swine flu spreading set up thermal scanners at the open house event [at the Presidential palace], which is part of a custom that sees people throughout the country ask for forgiveness from others for slights and offences..."

And, even though Saudi Arabia issued no precautions with respect to Swine Flu, "many Saudis were expected to stream into neighbouring Dubai and Bahrain for Eid. Both locations are popular for those seeking a break from the ultra-conservative kingdom's restrictions on movies, music and alcohol."

So, from the Tuque Souq to you, wherever you are hiding from the Swine Flu:
رمضان مبارك - كل عام و انتم بخير

Friday, September 18, 2009

TIFF tiff doesn't end with Festival's closure

It's been a helluva two weeks for the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), what with Colin Farrell knocking up a mermaid, Oprah pushing her weight around, Michael Moore's apparently unintentional irony of buying high/selling low on Capitalism, and Atom Egoyan filming a movie in Toronto that is actually (gasp) set in Toronto.

Woven within what was overall a rather less-than-starry festival (no offense, Bono) was the controversy surrounding TIFF's so-called City-to-City program, which debuted this year with the spotlight on Tel Aviv.

A protest movement led by various film producers, directors, actors and random famous people (along with hordes of anyone-can-fill-out-an-online-petition folks) strongly opposed TIFF's aligning its stars with Israel's largest city. In the midst of it all, a host of very talented and successful Egyptian films were withdrawn from the festival in protest.

The city of Tel Aviv is celebrating its 100th birthday this year (which pretty much makes it the youngest city in the Middle East; nearby Jericho is 10,000 years old). The centuries-old Palestinian city of Jaffa, around and on top of which Tel Aviv was built, is the focus--along with the still-recent Gaza War--of the protesters' lament that TIFF erred in choosing a partner city.

TIFF is standing by its selection of Tel Aviv and is already accepting nominations for next year's City-to-City honoree. Candidates include: Mexico City (built atop the destroyed Aztec civilization's capital Tenochtitlan); New York City (once the home of the Lenape Indians); Damascus (which blighted the ancient Aramaean civilization); Istanbul (which was Constantinople, now it's Istanbul not Constantinople); and Rome (built over the ancient ruins of the civilization of, well, Rome).

Of course, unlike these other historical smack-downs, the Palestine issue is not resolved. The "Brand Israel" campaign--and wouldn't Syria want to develop a "Brand Syria" campaign if the Aramaeans still had a voice today?--seeks in a Toronto marketing initiative to emphasize Israel's softer side, the side very few want to hear about when West Bank settlements are going up every day. Hence, the boycott of Israel's softer side at TIFF.

In related news, the Toronto Palestine Film Festival gets underway later this month. As far as we know, Bono won't be there.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Freed Iraqi Shoe-Thrower laments global lag in shoe throwing

The shoe is still on the same foot!

That's what Iraqi journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi--the man who famously threw his shoes at George W. Bush last December--had to say to the world and especially his former captors when he was released from incarceration yesterday.

Mr. al-Zaidi was released after serving nine months of a three-year sentence for assaulting the former U.S. president. He says he was tortured in prison, and not with shoes--a fact which has led Mr. al-Zaidi to wonder, What was it all for?

Indeed, although Mr. al-Zaidi's unique act of defiance against the occupation of his country initially touched off a fledgling worldwide movement of shoe-throwing demonstrations (which the Tuque Souq has punfully chronicled here and here), research shows that this non-violent form of protest still lags behind other methods.

As the above chart clearly indicates, while it's true that shoe-throwing demonstrations have taken on a global character, the anticipated universal adoption of hurling one's shoes as a leading means of protest has failed despite Mr. al-Zaidi's best efforts.

In related news, the United Nations is slated to hold a series of conferences next month on combating piracy. Coffee will be served promptly at 9a.m.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Stephen Harper stung by Qaddafi snub

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is reportedly "bummed out" and "really freakin' cheesed" at not receiving an invitation to Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi's 40th anniversary party last week in Tripoli.

To celebrate the fortieth birthday of his own revolution Qaddafi feted himself with a multi-million-dollar soiree, which featured hundreds of dancers, fireworks, acrobatic airplanes, mock hangings, and a so-called Gallery of Grotesques.

Among the invitees who RSVP'd an enthusiastic 'Yes' were such luminaries as Zimbabwean ne'er-do-well Robert Mugabe, the indicted-for-genocide Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir, Somali Pirate cartel bossman Mohamed Abdi Afweyne, and Venezuealan leader Hugo Chavez who was spotted gettin' jiggy with something on the VIP stage.

According to a source in the vicinity of 24 Sussex Drive, Mr. Harper was especially looking forward to a ride in Qaddafi's famed Rocket Car, which the Libyan dictator gave himself as a gift on his 30th anniversary back in 1999 and whose mass production was supposed to transform Libya into the supersonic-automobile powerhouse of the world. (Unconfirmed reports noted there were at least a dozen pre-orders from Wayne Enterprises.)

According to the Government of Canada's website, Canadian-Libyan relations are pretty much at an all-time high. Canada imports almost $16,000 worth of Libyan products each year, which makes up 0.000015% of Libya's GDP. Canada's current foreign direct investment in Libya is described as a whopping "n/a".

With all this goodwill and free-wheeling spending, Mr. Harper was positive he'd receive an invitation to Qaddafi's big show. Some political insiders are already suspecting domestic political sabotage, including but not limited to Michael Ignatieff impersonating Stephen Harper at the post office, Michael Ignatieff impersonating Muammar Qaddafi and making prank phone calls uninviting the prime minister, and Michael Ignatieff impersonating Hugo Chavez and dancing all over Qaddafi's stage.

In related news, Canada is gearing up for another election. Qaddafi hopes to be invited.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Palestine launches Intifada against Guinness Records book

Frustrated by yet another roadblock on their 61-year journey for statehood, Palestine has declared a new Intifada--on the Guinness Book of World Records.

Recently a Palestinian baker from the West Bank city of Nablus set a world record for the largest knafeh ever made: 1350 kilos and 150 square meters of sweet, cheesy, pistachioed goodness. (Despite the testimony of Israeli settlers, it seems that this knafeh was not intended to be their housewarming gift.)

And a blind Ramallah civil servant named Mohamed Hashem is believed to hold the world record for most telephone numbers memorized: 80,000 phone numbers. (Since Ramallah only has a population of 30,000, we can assume that the rest of the phone numbers Mr. Hashem has committed to memory are of the 50,000 Israeli settlers who live within shouting distance of his house.)

With the surge in national pride owing to these record-breaking achievements, the Palestinian Ministry of Ambiguous Bureaucracy has announced a new campaign to verify other Palestinian-held world records, including:
In related news, Israel's Ministry of Random Acts of Oppression announced a ban on all sales of the Guinness Book of World Records in the Palestinian territories.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Bahrain wins Coupe de Ramadan 2009

In an epic battle in which the opposing sides pitted not just their soccer skills but also their piety, humility, reverence, atonement and self-purification against each other, Bahrain eliminated Saudi Arabia in a World Cup qualification match with a 2-2 draw in Riyadh.

The match started at well past 10pm local time due to Ramadan--the ninth and holiest month of the Islamic calendar during which many Muslims fast and pray by day and feast and (according to some interpretations) play soccer by night.

Bahrain's substitute midfielder Ismail Abdullatif proved to be the holiest, most reverent player on the pitch, as his diving header just seconds from the final whistle shocked the host Saudis and sent them crashing out of the two-legged elimination match on the away goals rule.

The two sides drew 0-0 in the first leg at Bahrain's National Stadium in Manama last week, a game in which the Saudis' stellar goalkeeper Waleed Abdullah showed off his piety and atonement by making save after gilded save.

The victory for Bahrain now means the tiny island nation is just one small step away from its first ever World Cup finals berth--a home-and-away playoff versus New Zealand in November for the right to book a ticket to South Africa. Meanwhile, after qualifying for 5 straight World Cup finals, the Saudis are out.

In related news, this year marked the very first time ever that the Saudi Council of Senior Scholars--the country's arbiters of all things religious and one of the most important authorities in the Sunni Muslim world--permitted the use of telescopes to determine the start of Ramadan (sighting the crescent after a new moon).

On the other hand, Bahrain--a mostly Muslim country two-thirds of whom are Shi'ite--not only still relies on the naked eye to determine the start of Ramadan, it often relies on two or three naked eyes which don't always see the same thing. Very often, the country's Shia and Sunni communities do not begin the holy month at the same time!

However, this year proved to be a rare harmony of naked-eye moon sightings, as Bahrain's two Muslim communites actually agreed on the start date for Ramadan. Clearly Bahrain's subsequent triumph on the soccer field shows us just what Allah thinks of telescopes.

And speaking of atonement, no one is gearing up for Yom Kippur quite like the Israeli national soccer team. After a humiliating 1-0 home loss to Latvia last week that saw them all but eliminate themselves from qualification, the Team of David atoned with a 7-0 thumping of lowly Luxembourg at Ramat Gan stadium, after which they remain infinitesimally mathematically alive to qualify with two games remaining.