Stuff Happens, week 26: Grexit explained; bike lanes deflated; Cowboyhatgate

The big international story this week continues to be the Greek debt, and the threat of Greece getting kicked out of the Eurozone, a situation called the Grexit (if this had been an American crisis, it would have been called Greekgate). As a service to my 27 regular readers, I will try to explain this situation as best I can, which is not say not very well at all.

Greeks have this thing about paying taxes — in general, they just don’t bother — but they still like all the comforts that come with a welfare state. In order to keep the country running (or in the case of Greece, casually ambling) Greece has borrowed billions and billions of Euros from the Eurozone. Turns out that the moneymen have a thing about getting their money back at some point, which seems fair. The Eurozone tried to force austerity measures on the Greeks, which were not well received; Greeks seem to believe the idea of repaying loans and living within your means is some form of capitalist slavery. The public voted down the austerity measures in a hastily called vote last week, setting off much celebration and, I assume, a lot of broken glasses. The stage for some sort of showdown between Germany and France (the top dogs of the Eurozone) and Greece is now set. Greece risks getting booted from the Eurozone, which would mean they will have to go back to their old currency, and good luck getting anyone to loan you any money when you want to repay with drachmas. But on Friday night, the Greek government voted in a package of austerity measures that were pretty much exactly what the people voted against! OK, so now do you understand it?

Here in Edmonton, a city under a permanent state of delayed construction, the gleaming new leg of the Light Rail Transit system is all set to go, and has been for months. But there’s apparently something wrong with the signalling system, and nobody has a clue when the first trains will run down the tracks. It’s a fiasco, joining the list of major city projects (not one, but TWO major bridges) that are hopelessly behind schedule. But on the plus side, city council voted to rescind the error of previous councils by eliminating some dedicated bike lanes, which were unused by most cyclists and hated by all drivers. The catch? It will cost about a million dollars to remove the bike lanes. Ah, Edmonton.

On Monday, Canadian Vsek Popsisil (now that’s a classic Canadian name, eh?) pulled off an amazing feat at the Wimbledon tennis championships. He played in singles AND doubles in one day — almost six hours of tennis, two matches, 10 sets, losing the doubles but winning the singles, advancing to the quarter finals. Remarkable, but according to the Edmonton Journal, it was not as amazing as …. you guessed it … Oiler no. 1 draft choice Connor McDavid scoring five goals in an intrasquad game. That was their page 1 sports story; Popsisil’s remarkable feat was relegated to page 5.

A new public opinion poll shows the New Democratic Party under Thomas Mulcair “represents the clearest change from the Stephen Harper government,” an indication that anti-Harper forces could coalesce behind Mulcair. Yet, the Conservatives continue to pollute the airwaves with their anti-Justin Trudeau “just not ready” ads, blinkered in their belief that Trudeau is public enemy no. 1. Sooner or later, they’ll catch on and start running anti-Mulcair ads. Might I suggest a tagline? Thomas Mulcair: Just Not Cleanshaven.

imagesPremier Rachel Notley had one of those ‘oops’ moments that, in the days before social media, would never even have been a moment. At the Stampede, the premier donned the traditional white cowboy hat, but she put it on backwards. This incited the usual Twitter snickering and general stupidity. The premier’s chief mouthpiece, the incredibly humourless Cheryl Oates, said: “It’s absolutely unintentional. She was born and raised here her whole life and she respects all the intricacies that go with that culture.” What a ponderous, political answer. The best response is no response at all (which the NDP is very good at already), or something funny. The best comment came from a hatmaker from Smitbilt Hats, makers of the famed chapeau, who said: “Hats don’t come with how-to instructions.” In 2005, Stephen Harper appeared at the Stampede looking like the picture at left, backwards cowboy hat and all, and somehow survived.

So, y’all excited about the Pan Am Games in Toronto? If so, you’re practically alone. The first event was a water polo game between Puerto Rico and Venezuela, played in a 2,000-seat pool built specifically for the games. Total attendance was 25. Pan Am fever: catch it! 

The other shoe drops: the Nine West chain of 48 shoes stores filed for bankruptcy protection this week. If the stores close, that will leave the typical Canadian shopping mall with only 25 shoe stores.

RIP: Omar Sharif, suave actor best known for his roles in Lawrence of Arabia and Dr. Zhivago, at 83 … Kenny Stabler, former QB for the Oakland Raiders, at 69 … Burt Shavitz, hippy beekeeper and co-founder of the Burt’s Bees lip balm and other products, at 80. By the way, Burt’s Bees was purchased by Clorox, the bleach people, in 2007 for $925 million.

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