Saturday, November 29, 2008

SPORTS: Evil Incarnate

I have looming programming deadlines and have had precious little time to WATCH sports, let along blog about it. So it is with great reluctance and rage all at the same time that I once again have to appear here to get something off my chest and let me get some sleep.

Friday was a rare day around here. I was roused from my cave to go and have a free lunch with some friends, soon to depart from Brampton as their year-round home. Off to Florida and then a residential move to Niagara. Ed and Jeanine Hills are good folks and the town's going to miss them. That said, I didn't enjoy my free lunch.

Getting into the car, I happened to catch the sports news at the top of the hour. It concluded with the news that David Frost had been acquitted of all charges in his trial in Napanee, Ontario. This is the same David Frost that was the subject of a murder-for-hire attempt by a client, former NHL player Mike Danton (aka Mike Jefferson). Once again, a man I believe is evil, is walking around as a free man.

I wasn't at the trial and I have no idea how the judge, Geoff Griffin, came to the conclusion that the women in the trial weren't entirely believable and that the former players for the Quinte Hawks Junior A hockey team were, when they denied Frost's intimate involvement in their sexual affairs. I was prepared for that ruling. Three weeks ago, I was told that was going to be the result. And yet, I was so distraught when it really did come to pass, that I left half my lunch on the table during my free meal. Not to be flippant, but I don't pass up free food. And I sleep fine most nights, usually from exhaustion these days. And here I am writing up a blog post two hours after trying to fall asleep.

It's been more than two decades since I last had any contact with Frost. And even back then, I probably only had a half-dozen, standing around shooting the breeze, discussions with him at hockey games. Never once did he do or say anything to cause me direct harm. And never once did I not get the feeling that I had just talked to one of the slimiest people in the occasionally self-serving area of minor hockey.

At the time, I was involved with the Bramalea Blues Junior A team. Having watched them as a fan from their inception (a friend's father was the first president of the club), covered them as a reporter for the Guardian for more than a decade, and then having worked directly for club owner Joe Abraham in several capacities, I had a vested interest in the Blues. I truly believe Frost's belief in his own invincibility got started with his decision as a mentor (svengali was more like it), to take several then Bramalea players to Deseronto to play for the Hawks. The transfer wasn't approved, and the aftermath of the departure included missing equipment belonging to the Blues. But rather than fight in any of several venues to stop Frost and his minions from leaving, the sense at the time, was to let this disgusting toad and his players go. Addition by subtraction.

Would we (the Blues) have decided differently! Maybe, just maybe, we might have derailed a disaster in the making in so many lives. On the other hand, Frost was soon to be convicted of slugging one of his players, IN FULL VIEW of an arena of witnesses, so maybe this is just all self-flagellation. That conviction on a greatly reduced charge was a small hiccup. Otherwise, Frost has seemingly never paid in the slightest for his ability to control the lives of his core group of players, down to their sexual experiences. His group of accolytes included several future NHL players and several other almost-weres. He'd gained the trust of the parents of these kids by promising future riches playing the beloved sport of hockey. And he made good on most of the promises. Destroying the relationship these kids HAD with their families was just the price of success.

The CBC and Bob McKeown have made it a mission to try and put the spotlight on this darkest of human souls. So have reporters like Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun. The chilling recording of a phone conversation between the imprisoned Danton and Frost, in which Frost forces a profession of love out his client, the same client in jail for trying to arrange Frost's murder, is unforgettable. A grown man simpering into the phone "Love you too," remains an indelible memory from one of the first exposes of Frost that survived lawsuit chill to make it to the general public.

I believe David Frost is evil. The wreckage of families he's left behind in his wake simply beggars the imagination. Time after time, good people, like this judge in Napanee or the RCMP folks that didn't believe Tom Jefferson, the younger brother of Mike, who told tales of being hazed in a potentially illegal way by Frost, Mike and others under Frost's sway, are proven wrong in retrospect. Just as pictures later showed up to vindicate Tom, I'm sure we'll find out later the goings on in that room at the motel in Deseronto were just as the women said.

But it will be too late.

Maybe I'll stop wishing I'd done something about raising hue and cry over Frost's contempt for the rule of hockey and of the law, way back at the beginning. Maybe I'll absolve myself completely for being, in a very small way, one of the many who turned an eye, rather than confront the unpleasantness that is and was David Frost. But it's not going to happen tonight ... this morning ... as I try and get to sleep.

Say a prayer for all of those that hoped justice would be served yesterday.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

MISC: Government Should Divorce Marriage

I thought I'd written up on this before, but apparently not. So, to forestall further conversations, here's what I think about the failure of Proposition 8 in California to protect the rights of gays to get married: I think government (more specifically, the American government) should get the heck out of the marriage business and leave it to each religious group to determine whether they will or won't let any two particular people get married in their house of worship.

Thankfully, we in Canada recognize the idiocy in letting the religious segment of our society dictate to those not of their faith. We let gays marry. For a country with an avowed separation of state and religion, Americans seem awfully bent on letting theocrats have a big say.

That said, I think what we call marriage should be turned into a legal entity called Unioning (or something more elegant, but meaning basically the same). Unioning should be allowed between any two consenting adults. If they want to partner up, so be it. They get all the benefits of partnership and all the warts. If they want to Dissolve (the cute replacement name for divorce), they go through Dissolution Court and split the crap they have gathered together as a couple. In every way, Unioning is the same as Marrying. Spouses can call each other spouse, partner or husband/wife. It's THEIR Union so the rest of us have no say on how they run it. As long as it does not ACTUALLY impact on other parts of society. Real impact, not that phony slippery slope of 'PROMOTING' the act that the Inquisitors want to suggest will happen.

No, the churches, temples, mosques and synagogues can be as discriminatory as they want. If one of these houses of worship don't want to allow two people to marry in their hallowed hall, then it's perfectly okay for them to discriminate. Their house, their rules. If two people, who don't meet the religious gathering's idea of a perfect couple want the blessing of the group, the group doesn't have to give it to them.

Does that mean no gay couple will ever have a church wedding? Of course not. Not all religious groups kowtow to the extremist side of their faith and deny happiness and salvation to those who would worship there, but aren't mainstream to the core of that group. Many ministers, priests and rabbis will choose to endorse the marriage of two people, without respect to their race, creed or sexual preference. The religion might be a key point though [G].

If there were no actual benefits to getting married, I'd tell the gay portion of the world to get over not getting the acceptance of groups that are far less tolerant than the religious origin of their faith. It's shocking how often intolerance is the core of the belief that always seems to mention tolerance favourably in their 'good book.' But there ARE benefits to getting married. They are ensconced in the laws. In fact, the rollback of gay marriage rights in California might very well be struck down due to that very fact. It's discriminatory and the GOVERNMENT can't do that.

Just to be clear. I'm not headed for the altar in a gay marriage (or non-gay marriage) anytime soon. I have a large extended family and percentages say two or three of them are probably gay. I'm championing the idea of Unioning for them, the poor deluded fools who think they might want to get married some day.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

MISC: My Man Merv

Catching up with some of my regularly-read blogs, I happened onto this one by Earl Pomerantz on the subject of haircuts. Regardless of your interest in the particular subject matter, it's worth reading. In fact, almost all of Pomerantz's stuff is worth reading. Like Ken Levine, Pomerantz is an old comedy writing pro (including an episode of the Cosby Show and more than a few anecdotes about why it wasn't more). He's also a transplanted Canuck from down the road in Toronto. But I digress.

In Earl's recollection of barber shops, his barber's name was Tony. Always Tony. No matter which of the barbers in the eight-seat shop he ended up getting cleaned up by, the barber's name was Tony. Most likely, from the dialog, Italian Tony. And I'm sure he's telling us straight, at least as far as a comedy writer can write a straight line.

Me? My man was Merv.

Merv's Barber Shop sat at the corner of Airport and Derry Roads in Malton. I lived there for a minute or two, before moving up the road and over a bit to Bramalea. Where I've spent the last four decades plus. But even after moving to Bramalea, my dad would still take Wayne, Rick and me back to Malton for our semi-regular haircuts.

Two things to know about Merv. He looked like Wayne Newton of the later years, especially the hair. And he was also a real estate agent. You can fill in the rest.

About thirty years ago, just about the time I was getting old enough NOT to be taken somewhere for a haircut by my parents, there was a big fire in Malton. The corner of Airport and Derry Roads was razed to the ground, a gigantic cinder. And that was the end of My Man Merv ... as a barber. He became Merv the Millionaire Real Estate tycoon full-time. I've never had a regular barber since. And certainly not a hair stylist ... as both my friend Patrick and his boy A.J. proudly boast of having.

But the end of Merv's Barber Shop did NOT stop my regular pilgrimages to the site!

From out of the fire that consumed Merv's Barber Shop, rose in it's place, an automobile repair shop. My Dad, so used to going to the corner for years and years, starting taking his cars in for repair there when he needed something beyond his own not-inconsiderable mechanical skills. Victor's Auto Repair became the family car repair place.

For whatever reason, the corner of Airport and Derry Roads has had a magnetic pull on the Mugfords. It's always been a place where dependable, affordable services could be found.

But it all started with My Man Merv.

Monday, November 03, 2008

MISC: Yes, I'm Alive!

It's been a half-month since I posted. A half-month of taking on just a little bit more work than I should have, promising results in an idiotically short time. My bad. But I remain immersed in the work and it looks like slow going for the next two months still. I'll try to be around a bit more often than once every two or three weeks. But daily just ain't gonna happen.

MISC: I've Never ...

There are many things I've never been. A great athlete. An artist. Musical. A linguist. Black. Tall. Female. There are others. But you get the idea. Some of those attributes are genetic, some owe at least something to genetics.

On the other hand, I have been a reader since early in my life and it has been amongst my greatest pleasures. And that's not something everybody can say. For some, the answer, the first answer that comes to mind when asked to complete the sentence, "I've never ...," is "been able to read."

I caught the second episode of the British Fame remake, Britannia High, on the weekend. It deals with a flashy, popular high schooler, who can't read. In the end, he recognizes the problem and starts on the path of dealing with it. It was predictable but still caused a knot in my stomach.

Having always read, I've never been able to understand NOT knowing how. I almost don't have ANY memories of the times before I read. For me, not knowing how to read is as unfathomable as what life might be like on distant stars and planets. And yet, there are people I've met who DID know what that was like.

Within the extended family I have, I know of one adult who had to take remedial reading courses in his 30's. And a girl I suspected of being dyslexic never got tested. Never finished high school. Never became the success she might have otherwise.

Because that's the tragedy of illiteracy. So many of those burdened by it are actually waaaay smarter than average. Think about it. They can't read, yet manage to hide that fact for DECADES!

A line in the TV episode referred to a happy time, when his family went on vacation in Spain. There, the whole family was in his little dinghy, needing to ask people what signs said, what was on the menu and how to read maps and directions. He didn't feel alone that fortnight. But for the functioning illiterate, every day feels like a nightmarish vacation in a far-off land.

In some cases, these people arrived at their adult years because of bad education or missed opportunities. For those people, admitting it and getting help, can result in unburdening themselves of a hidden shame incredibly quickly. Their native intelligence and a dedicated teacher can eradicate all that stopped them from enjoying the benefits and pleasures that you and I take for granted.

On the other hand, the portion if illiteracy that is attributable to dyslexia is unfortunately high. Many, many dyslexics are above-average intellectually. They have to be. Every sequence of letters provides a puzzle for them to solve. The old 'Sound it out' instruction asks them to do the impossible. It takes expertise to catch the problem early and dedication by parents, teachers and child to minimize the effects dyslexia makes on their lives.

I tried to steer the young girl through the maze of roadblocks to getting her tested back in her youth. I failed. Her parents were horrified at the thought their bright young girl could be damaged in any way. The teachers took the question as an indictment of their teaching. And I gave up. And, unfortunately, unlike the TV show, there was no happy ending.

Not everybody will become a voracious reader. I fail to understand why, but I accept that a lot of people never get to find that story that lights their imagination and fuels their love of reading. They are all the poorer for it. But everybody deserves to be able to read enough to get by and reserve the right to be entertained later.

If you see a child, any child, who shows the slightest symptom of having reading problems, don't let the 'honour' of others get in your way. Insist on professional testing. Pay for reading lessons from a good teacher. Do what you have to do, to avoid years, decades, of the kind of personal hell illiteracy can drown a person in.

You sure don't want to ask yourself the question I ask myself whenever I see the subject come up. "Why I never tried harder?"