Friday, July 20, 2018

⚜ ⚜ ⚜ 10 Year Anniversary of Paul McCartney in Québec - July 20, 2008 ⚜ ⚜ ⚜

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Picture of one of the stickers of this concert that I got years ago. 

Yes, I know that I have mentioned this concert before, and it may seem strange that I'm bringing it up once again, seemingly out of nowhere.

But, you see, I recently went to my storage and found the copy of my DVD from this concert (it was broadcast locally in Québec) probably a few months after it took place. The thing is, I had never made copies of it, and until I did, I was hesitant to play it, not wanting to damage the disk, or anything.

So, I took it out of storage, and brought it back with me, and without delay, finally made copies, now that I had the real opportunity to do so.

Finally, a few days later, with a day off and alone at the apartment, I got my chance to watch it again. The entire concert in full, from beginning (in fact, a lot of it is talk - in French - before the concert) right to the end.

As I was watching it, a lot of it began to come back to me.

The memories of feeling suddenly excited to hear the first time when my father and brother both told me that Paul McCartney was going to visit the city of Québec for a free concert on the occasion of it's 400th anniversary. They wanted all of us to go together, but in the end, it was just my then wife and our son, still then a baby, who wound up going.

The excitement of arranging things with my work, particularly my then weekend job (the concert was on a Sunday, and going up there would require the entire weekend off, which for a chance to see Paul McCartney for such a huge and momentous occasion, I was only to happy to take off for), and beginning to really know that this was going to happen. Then, driving up, arriving in Canada, then arriving in the city of Québec, a second trip there in 2008, for the 400th anniversary, and sensing the excitement building in the city. The concert was the big thing that everyone seemed to be waiting for, and for me, that anticipation was perhaps the best part. Perhaps, but the concert, and the aftermath, were pretty sweet, too!!

Everything felt magical for that trip, and it was, again, the last time that I did anything like that with my then wife, and our beautiful then baby child. I still mention to him now how he was "there" for the big concert, although he fell asleep by the third or fourth song, and nothing from that point on could wake him up, not even the fireworks!

It happened seven years ago today, and I have just been thinking a bit about it. My son was not even three years old, and he was more curious than interested on that day with what was going on at the stage so far away. He listened, but did not get too much into it during the warm-up, which we were blessed to be able to watch. For the actual concert, he stayed awake for maybe three or four songs, then lay down in his chair, and went to sleep. Not even the fireworks woke him up. Nothing woke him up that night. He only awoke the next morning, when the festivities were by then done.

The concert was the huge event that captivated the entire province of Québec that weekend. Every station was talking about it, or playing Paul McCartney songs. After the concert, every station, it seemed, was playing some of the songs from the actual concert.

We had to get back home, and as we drove the next day, the radio from Québec City faded, yet those from Montréal were playing Paul McCartney stuff, as well. I stopped somewhere in Trois-Rivières, presumably to get some gas and pick up some newspapers, which I was collecting after the event. The cashier looked at me, and she asked if I had gone to the show. She looked amazed when I nodded yes, even though it was a free concert, and we were only one hour outside of the city. But not everyone can go, to be sure. That said, I still feel blessed to have gotten the chance to go, and to have capitalized.

Especially on that day, when Paul McCartney honored the city, and really the entire province, of Québec, on the occasion of the 400th anniversary. What a show he put on for us all, too!

And so today, I remember what took place on this day, eight years ago on the Plains of Abraham in Québec City. It was on these fields that numerous battles took place, including when the English defeated the French and essentially took over all of North America. Years later, Benedict Arnold and General Montgomery would invade Canada and come to the walls of Québec City, only to be repulsed. These fields of the Plains of Abraham are like the Central Park of that city, and it was fitting on many levels that an Englishman would come to the Plains, but this time be embraced and welcomed. He gave back generously, putting on an amazing show that I, for one, will not soon forget.

Je me souviens!

Fêtons Nos 400 Ans! - Ville de Québec

⚽️ Some Strange Stories Dominated Headline After World Cup Final ⚽️

Okay, so, this will be the last post directly about the recently ended World Cup in Russia. Sad to see it go, but all things come to an end, right?

I will admit to being incredibly impressed with Croatia's play throughout this tournament, including right through the elimination game rounds. Admittedly, they outplayed France for the bulk of the final on Sunday, at least in every category except one: they did not get the goals needed to have the score reflect their level of dominance. That was a good thing for France, because not only were they not down by as much as they could have and maybe should have been, but they actually were. One of their goals was questionable, because Griezmann kind of sold the referee with what appeared to be a dive. However, the handball foul inside of the box was deserved. Those two goals were pretty much the only quality shots that France had through the first 59 minutes, but obviously, they made them count.

Then, when France finally showed why they got this far, they were able to essentially seal the deal and put the championship on ice with two goals in a span of roughly six minutes. From that point on, the outcome was virtually a foregone conclusion.

But the news was not over, and not restricted to the outcome, either. Many have commented on some of what happened on the field immediately afterwards, and some have commented on what happened once Croatia returned home.

Some people thought that Croatia's president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović's behavior and her wearing a Croatian jersey to support her team was grossly inappropriate. An Iranian MP complained about having to rationalize it when the images came on television.

Nor was that the only controversy. Apparently, there is a picture of Macron and Kitarović appearing to kiss on the lips, and many feel that was a little too cozy. Also, some people both in Croatia and in other countries thought that her postgame hugs were inappropriate.


Meanwhile, the Croatian national team came home to a hero's welcome, but were warmly received, and seemed to accept, the congratulations from ultra-nationalist Marko Perković.

Who is Perković?

Well, he is a singer who fought in the war in Croatia, and his nickname of "Thompson" came from the kind of gun he carried with him. He has defended some Croatians who have been accused of war crimes, and has glorified a certain chapter of Croatia's past, when it was essentially a Nazi puppet state, leading some to suspect that he has very prejudiced leanings. These concerns are serious enough that he was outright banned from Switzerland.

I sympathized with the Croatian team after they lost, but this story made me lose some of that sympathy, at least for the members of the team who seemed to be enjoying their time with Perković.

Take a look at the article below:

17 Jul 18 Nationalist Singer Joins Croatia Players at Homecoming Party by Anja Vladisavljevic BIRN in Zagreb, 17 Jul 18:

⚽️ World Cup 2018: Emmanuel Macron Wants a Boost in His Approval Rating With France's World Cup Triumph ⚽️

Okay, it has been fun. But now, it is just about time to acknowledge that the World Cup is over, and that life goes on. Admittedly, I used it as a sort of break, or a mini vacation that I was giving myself from much of the real world, at least here on the Charbor Chronicles. I made a point of trying not to write anything on some of the typical nonsense that dominates our headlines, and that would be especially true regarding people named Trump.

But the World Cup is over. The games were entertaining, and I believe that I watched more games this time around than any other previous tournament. Also, I followed every game, and wrote about each one here on this blog. That went all the way to Sunday's final, and anyone who has followed this blog entry, or knows me, knows that the outcome certainly made me very happy.

Just a couple of articles left related to the World Cup, and it seems appropriate to do them both on the same day. You will notice, surely, that neither of these are strictly relegated to World Cup action on the field, or the players who helped to make this World Cup special.

This one, for example, is about the current French president. The next one will be a combination, but will also have some political significance, as Croatia's national team was greeted warmly, and seemed on very friendly terms, with an ultra-right-wing nationalist upon returning home to Croatia. 

Emmanuel Macron has been in office for a little over a year, but things are not going very smoothly. France, like every other nation in the world, has no shortage of problems, and most French people are not overly impressed with Macron's handling of those problems thus far.

Here was a young, energetic, dynamic seeming leader, an injection of youth in what had seemed to be an office dominated by stuffy older men.

Then suddenly, in an era of sweeping and unpredictable outcomes, Macron forms a new party that sweeps to power. Some rejoiced, at least initially, because it kept ultra-right-wing nationalist Front Nationale leader Marine Le Pen from ascending to the top (with Trump's blessings and support, by the way). 

It seemed exciting. 

But a year and change after he first took power, his poll numbers are rather shockingly low. He is looking suspiciously like he might be another one-term president. You know, sometimes it seems that the United States and France seem like opposites in many respects, and sometimes, they can learn from each other. Maybe Macron will be different, but already, he is looking seriously like a one-term president. Meanwhile, here in the United States, it seems that once someone gets into the White House.

That's not to say that Macron is doing such an excellent job that he deserves another term in office. But we sure need to stop electing, and then re-electing, arrogant, selfish imbeciles with a false sense of entitlement as our so-called leaders. I have a feeling that Trump might very well win re-election in 2020. We already voted George W. Bush in for two terms, when he did not deserve a single term in office. We voted Clinton in twice when he did not deserve a single term in office. And we idolized, and nearly worship still, Ronald Reagan, when he did not deserve a single term in office. But once these guys are in, it seems that they become a version of "the Teflon president." And now, we have the ultimate Teflon president in there, a man who lies regularly on a virtually every day basis, and who's combination of arrogance and ignorance has already reached astronomical levels. He embodies all the worst excesses of the American character, and the only people who do not see it are his loyal supporters.

But I digress.

Back to Macron. He showed a little bit of that youthful spirit that got him elected in the first place during this World Cup, celebrating the victories that France enjoyed on the way to winning it all. And now, some are expecting that this will bring him a boost in the ratings among French voters. A much needed boost, obviously.

This is not merely some crazy idea. Jacques Chirac, the French president the last time that France won the World Cup, got a significant boost of 18 points after France won the title, during which he was repeatedly shown cheering France on and rejoicing in their victories. Granted, he was not an active part of the game, or anything. Yet, he benefited not just from being a fan of a team that won it all, but his political career got a boost, as well.

It is understandable, then, that Macron would hope for the same thing.

Take a look at the article below:

World Cup 2018: Emmanuel Macron hopes for approval rating boost in wake of France victory The unpopular French president could be in for a boost  Jon Stone Europe Correspondent  @joncstone  9 hours ago

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Nelson Mandela Day

Yesterday would have been the 100th birthday of Nelson Mandela, although he died five years ago.

Still, his birthday, and his accomplishments, are still celebrated by people all over South Africa and, indeed, around the world. Former President Barack Obama was just in South Africa to give a speech in honor of Mandela, in what has been his highest profile event since leaving the White House.

Mandela famously went to prison for 27 years for fighting against the apartheid system then in place in South Africa, which was a legalized form of racism and oppression by the white minority government, and supported by a majority of whites until the very end, mostly because they feared retaliation. Mandela, however, allayed those fears and gave the whites, and especially the Afrikaners in South Africa, assurances that they would continue to enjoy a high standard of living.

Interestingly, some younger people are beginning to question Mandela, and feel that he might have given away too much to whites by essentially retaining most of their privileges and their high standard of living, at the expense of the majority of blacks, who still live mostly in poverty in the country.

In fact, a growing number of South Africans feel that white males still dominate the nation economically, and that Mandela and the other leaders focused too exclusively on attaining political power, and not enough on gaining economic power. In this way, they feel that the situation has prevented them from getting a serious toe hold on economic opportunities, and that equality is still a far ways off, as whites retain a far higher standard of living. CBS News recently reported on the issue, and got this telling quote from Johannesburg resident Jabu Simelane:

"White people hold the power in South Africa. It's still white male-dominant. The economy is still run by white people." 

Interesting stuff.

Take a look at the entire article (see link below) for this sea change in terms of the way that Mandela is regarded. Truly fascinating.

Many say South Africa "still white male-dominant," and they blame Nelson Mandela by CBS News.  July 18, 2018:

⚽️ France World Cup Russia ⚽️

This has been an incredible World Cup!

Frankly, I am sorry to see it go, and not just because France wound up winning. Generally, it was just a highly entertaining World Cup tournament. There were more upsets than any other that I remember, starting even well before the actual tournament began. After all, ho could have foreseen that this one would not even include such nations as the United States, Netherlands, and especially Italy?

You just could never tell what was going to happen in this tournament. I was obviously pulling for France, but who could have foreseen a scenario where they play their worst game in the final, even getting dominated for much of it, and yet still manage to win? 

But that is the way sports goes sometimes. France's defense bent but did not break, and while Croatia dominated in terms of time of possession and playing most of the game close to France's goal, they nevertheless did not get enough serious opportunities to make the score reflect their level of dominance. France could have come out of those first sixty or so minutes easily down instead of up, 2-1. It felt more like a game in which Croatia could and perhaps even should have been up by at least a goal or two, and maybe even three. But Croatia could not find the back of the net consistently, and plus, they made some huge and very costly mistakes. Granted, that first goal seems to have been from the ref missing a dive by Griezmann, but nevertheless, the ball found the back of the net because of a Croatian's own goal. Then, there was the handball and the subsequent penalty, and I still do not see where all the controversy around that one is. After all, it was clearly a handball inside of the box, and Griezmann calmly put the ball into the goal to give France a 2-1 lead in a game that, to that point, they had largely been dominated it.

Then, of course, France came alive in the 59th minute, and took over the game, essentially. So, despite playing poorly through most of it, France hung in there and were in position to win the game, albeit in a strange and unorthodox manner, considering how well they had played throughout the tournament before this game.

Still, they are the new champions, and for fans like me, it is time to celebrate.

This time, I am not in France to get to enjoy it, to go out on the streets and soak it all in. Yet, enjoy it I can, to the extent possible here. One way was to pick up various local newspapers, which were a mixture of regular news (and President Trump's ridiculous summit with Putin, which I will get to now that the World Cup is over) and, of course, coverage of France winning the World Cup. I did the same thing back when France won the 1998 World Cup, and seems a cheap souvenir, if you will, of a memorable event.

Figured it might be nice to share some pictures of the papers picked up, so here they are. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

⚽️ Like Jacquet Before Him, Deschamps Won the World Cup Despite Harsh Criticism & Lack of Support ⚽️

🏆🇫🇷  On est les Champions ! 🏆🇫🇷 

I remember back in 1998, the first time that France won the World Cup, then coach Aimé Jacquet recieved some serious criticism and skepticism by a cynical media, sure that he was not the man for the job, and certain that he would fail.

Instead, France won their first ever World Cup, and did so in dominant fashion, scoring 15 goals in their seven games, while allowing only two during the entire tournament. They trailed for all of one minute total during those games, and that was in the semifinal against Croatia, who gave France the toughest time in that tournament, much like they did this time around, as well. In the end, France had a perfect record of seven wins in seven games, and celebrated wildly after decisively capturing the championship against Brazil, 3-0.     

But prior to this run, many had criticized Jacquet when he decided not to go with one of France's biggest stars, Eric Cantona. He appeared to be France's biggest playmaker, and people thought that Jacquet was absolutely crazy not to play him, or even have him in the lineup. But Jacquet felt that Cantona was not the stable leader that France had needed. He had kicked a fan during a game and earned a year long suspension, and Jacquet had been forced to build a lineup without him. Before long, he decided that he liked that lineup better than the one that had featured Cantona as the key playmaker, although the media were livid, giving Jacquet harsh criticism. They assumed that Jacquet was incompetent, and could not see the most obvious fact that France absolutely needed Cantona. There were demands that he resign.     

Clearly, France's World Cup victory was massive vindication. Jacquet had proven his critics wrong. But he did not rub this in their faces. In fact, he simply resigned shortly thereafter, still clearly quite bitter about the whole thing. 

Now, two decades later, history repeats itself. A member of that winning French side in 1998 had ascended to be the coach for France in 2102, and he, too, made decisions that not everybody liked. Like Jacquet, he relied on a heavily conservative, methodical approach for the team, which not everyone was a fan of. And many criticized his moves, and were cynical of his chances for success. A team that had the explosive offensive talents of Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappé should take more chances and give them the room they needed to make things happen for France offensively. Some suggested that Deschamps did not know what he was doing, and some even called for Deschamps to resign or be sacked. Some gave him the nickname "water carrier," clearly implying that what success the French side had enjoyed during the tenure of Deschamps had been in spite of him, and not because of him. One television network in France, perhaps mindful of the overly harsh treatment of Jacquet prior to the World Cup title, took a poll and asked if criticism of Deschamps had been overly harsh. Fully 80 percent of people responded "non."

No translation needed, right?

One of the most vocal critics came from, perhaps not surprisingly, French great Eric Cantona. Perhaps voicing some professional jealousy, Cantona said that Deschamps' decisions to omit superstars Karim Benzema and Hatem Ben Arfa were quite possibly on ethnic grounds, essentially implying that, on top of everything else, Deschamps was a racist. Cantona went on to tell the Guardian in an interview prior to the 2016 Euro:

“Benzema is a great player. Ben Arfa is a great player.” 

“But Deschamps, he has a really French name. Maybe he is the only one in France to have a truly French name. Nobody in his family mixed with anybody, you know. Like the Mormons in America. 

“One thing is for sure — Benzema and Ben Arfa are two of the best players in France and will not play the European Championship. And for sure, Benzema and Ben Arfa, their origins are North African. So, the debate is open.”

Not all of the criticism was from France. The Independent’s Chief Football writer Miguel Delaney suggested that Deschamp’s was France’s ‘weakest link:’

ESPN’s UK Editor David Cartilage joined in the chorus and also called for Deschamps to be sacked to allow the explosive French stars to shine as brightly as they can. He tweeted just prior to the beginning of the World Cup:

"When you go through the personnel in this France squad and try to pick out weaknesses or thin areas regardless of what formation you would want to play, it’s very difficult to find one.     

“They seem to have everything covered.      

“That only increases the pressure on Deschamps to make something of it, however, and has only fed the argument that he is really the weak link."

ESPN’s UK Editor David Cartilage joined in the chorus and also called for Deschamps to be sacked to allow the explosive Freench stars to shine as brightly as they can. He tweeted just prior to the beginning of the World Cup:

“Griezmann, Mbappe, Dembele exciting on paper but means nothing without a supply line.”         

He went on to suggest that this overly conservative approach was classic Deschamps, and that it was flat and uninspiring.  Cartilage went on to suggest a more open style, allowing Griezmann to shine for France in the upcoming World Cup. But that would not happen without one thing, he said, and he made clear what that one thing was:       

“Or just sack Deschamps and get Zidane in, tbh”.       

Even success on the field of play did not change the minds of some of these cynics. The Independent's Delaney recently wrote an article just after France won the World Cup, and he remained critical of Deschamps. Look at the title of the article:

World Cup 2018: France must build on their World Cup triumph to earn the great legacy they are yet to achieve 

Daniel Riolo, a prominent French commentator, seemed reluctant to give Deschamps any credit even after France’s semifinal win against Belgium, and stated:   

“If we become world champions, we’ll be the ugliest world champions in history.”

Deschamps, though, himself described France's championship as "beautiful." Well, it sure seemed like a beautiful sight when France took the title. France celebrated wildly back at home, and were apparently completely unperturbed that Deschamps had won the title with what these critics viewed as an overly conservative approach. Maybe Delaney remained unrepentant, implying that France still had not shone as brilliantly as they were capable of, but a world championship is nothing to wave off and dismiss. It is a clear mark of the ultimate success. And to counter Cantona's not so subtle charges of racism, the tremendous success of l'Equipe de France has been seen as a triumph for French multiculturalism, even being recently praised by former American President Barack Obama. In a criticism of the growing narrow-mindedness and xenophobia that seems to be growing around the world, Obama used the French team's success as a glorious example of what a multicultural group can achieve:

“And if you doubt that, just ask the French football team that just won the World Cup because not all these folks look like Gauls to me, they are French, they are French.”

Some might suggest, as Delaney apparently continues to do without any trace of repentance, that France's success has come in spite of Deschamps, but surely the most important and key endorsement of Deschamps came from the players that he was coach of. On the field after the historic win, the players showed their love for, and appreciation of, Deschamps by picking him up and tossing him playfully up and down as an iconic part of their celebration. Later, they interrupted his post-match press conference to honor him, singing:

"Didier Deschamps, Didier Deschamps, Didier, Didier, Didier Deschamps!"

Shortly, they switched to the more common lyrics for that little tune:

"On est les champions ! On est les champions ! On est, On est, On est les champions !"

If you are not family with this little joyous chant, here is a video of it:

And here is a video of the press conference, where victorious French players invaded the press conference of their coach, Deschamps:

While French people celebrated all over the country back home, the French players also decided to celebrate in a rather unorthodox manner, interrupting the press conference of their coach, Didier Deschamps, simply to celebrate in front of the cameras of the media. 

Just in case you wanted to see the entirety of the press conference, and not just the few entertaining minutes when the players livened it up, here you go:

Doesn't look too ugly to me. And Deschamps thrived through it all. He went on to talk about something that my brother and I also discussed after the match, that possibly, the disappointment of losing in the Euro final made this World Cup championship possible.

Frankly, would you not prefer to win a World Cup, rather than just the Euro?

Here is what Deschamps said after the match:

"It gave even more strength to my squad. I believed in them but then you need to see what happens, because it only took us through to the quarter-finals.

"If we had then slipped up against Uruguay a few days later, it would have been good but it would not have meant much.   

"It was so painful at the Euro, but maybe if we had won it we would not have won the World Cup." 

And despite the criticism, Deschamps ultimately proved his critics wrong and, in the process, has now become a French legend during the two most glorious chapters in French football history, one of only three men in history to have won a World Cup championship as both a player and a coach.

With him, and indeed because of him, all of France can now appreciate the fact that:

🏆🇫🇷  On est les Champions ! 🏆🇫🇷 

I got all of the quotes used above from the following articles (see links below):

Surprise! France players crash news conference 15 Jul 2018 From the section Football:

France World Cup win 'as beautiful' as 1998 victory for Deschamps

From ‘weak link’ to World Cup winner: Deschamps silences the critics

In Mandela address, Obama cites French World Cup champs as model of diversity by AFP 24 with AFP, July 17, 2018: