Archive for March, 2011

For the past two weeks, Community has been running unopposed in the 8pm Thursday time slot.  The Big Bang Theory has taken a few weeks off, for whatever reason, and it has left Community with the center stage.

However, instead of doing an individual review of both Custody Law and Eastern European Democracy (218) and Critical Film Studies (219), I have decided to review them together.  On the surface, they are very different episodes: Custody Law moving along the Shirley-Chang storyline and Critical Film moving along the Abed’s weird fascination with movies storyline.  But they come together around a couple different points regarding the way the show is written and run.

The first point is that of multiple storylines.  Mainly that the show’s writers are able to work with multiple storylines without bringing down the general quality of the show.  While some episodes ignore one storyline in favour of another storyline, there are no episodes that do not fit or seem extraneous to the episode.  At no point does the viewer stop and say “Hey, what’s going on?  None of this makes sense.  Where’s the other storyline?”

In Custody Law and Critical Film, Community’s writers have taken two completely different storylines – with the characters taking on completely different roles – and placed them in back-to-back episodes.  One has been a primary feature of Season Two while the other has been a recurring theme that pops up here and there throughout the show.  Each one has consequences for the future of the show and the primary characters involved.

However, the main point here is that, while these storylines have came and gone throughout the series, they feel like they’ve never really left, that they’ve always been there under the surface just waiting for the perfect moment to emerge.  The fact that the show has so many storylines going – there are also the crazy, old Pierce storyline and the Jeff-Annie relationship – points to an exciting end-run for the season and a thrilling season finale.

The Shirley-Chang storyline started with episode 206, Epidemiology.  It wasn’t seen again until episode 212, Asian Population Studies.  The Abed storyline started way back in episode 103, Introduction to Film.  It has cropped up in episodes such as Communication Studies (116), Contemporary American Poultry (121), Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples (205), and Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas (211).

The Shirley-Chang storyline is fueled by Chang’s closeness with the study group and him temporarily living with Jeff.  Abed’s storyline is fueled by, well, Abed himself.  They come about naturally, almost like you’d expect them to.  As such, they don’t require a long run of consecutive episodes to keep them relevant.

The second major point that has come out of Custody Law and Critical Film is that of how the show’s writers utilize the show’s main characters.  This is a study of contrasts as well as an analysis of a trend throughout the series.  On one hand you have episodes like Custody Law and Eastern European Democracy that take two different stories and wrap them up in one episode, and in doing so only really focusing on smaller subsets of the entire main cast.  On the other you have episodes like Critical Film Studies feature the entire main cast in a single, contained storyline.

I tend to find the storylines that divide the cast into subsets less appealing than those that utilize the cast as a whole.  Those that divide the cast into subsets tend to leave out certain characters, whether it be Annie and Pierce in Custody Law or Shirley in Intro to Political Science (217).  Each character brings something different to the table.  They bring a different dynamic to the show in terms of they way they relate to other characters or the just through their own personality quirks.  Episodes that leave out one or more characters leave out some of that dynamic.

However, episodes that utilize all of the main cast, whether together in a bottle episode like Cooperative Calligraphy (208) or in an episode with diverging storylines such as Early 21st Century Romanticism (215), give the viewer the full load of tension and comedic relief.  They pack the action and excitement into one episode.  These are the episodes where major story arcs are usually developed or concluded.  Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking (216) is a good example of this.  The whole old, crazy Pierce storyline is largely resolved in this episode, which features the entire main cast in key dramatic roles.

Overall, Custody Law and Critical Film are both solid episodes despite being very different in both their storylines and the way that they utilize the show’s cast.

Stay tuned for the next Review featuring The Big Bang Theory episodes The Zarnecki Incursion (219) and The Herb Garden Germination (220).

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Always having your balls in your hands is the first sign of douchebaggery.

So…Ash is a douche.

That was my f*cking Pikachu.

I got there first and that stupid, red-hat wearing twerp took it right out from under my nose.

Here’s what happened:

After my brutal mauling at the hands of a rabid Pidgey, I went to Professor Oak’s lab to see if he could help me on my quest to find the best pokemon.  He said, “There’s no such thing as the best pokemon, my son.  All pokemon have their strengths and their weaknesses and all of them are deserving of our love.”

First off, I’m not Professor Oak’s son.  Was that some kind of subtle hint that he banged my mom?  If it was, then seriously, dude, grow up.  You’re like 85 years old now.  Secondly, what’s this hippie garbage about loving all pokemon?  I’ll be damned if I love a f*cking Pidgey.  I’ll put something hard it its eye alright…

Anyways, I digress.  Back to the story.

Professor Oak was showing me five of his pokemon: an Eevee, a Bulbasaur, a Charmander, a Squirtle, and a Pikachu.  He told me all about their different types and their strengths and weaknesses.  And then he said that, as a new pokemon trainer, I could have whichever one I liked.

I wanted the Pikachu.  Nothing said kicking a Pidgey’s ass like a strong dose of Thunderbolt.  I’d see that rabid flapper fry.

But then Ash and Gary showed up.  They were whining about something stupid that happened when they were playing train and tunnel in the sandbox.  Kids’ problems, not mine.  Instead of telling them to wait like good little boys while I chose my pokemon, Professor Oak let them choose a pokemon first to make them feel better.

This is why I hate nepotism.  Little twerps like Gary and Ash get ahead in life because they’re Professor Oak’s little superstars.  Meanwhile, hardworking people like myself who are trying to contribute to the science of pokemon get overlooked like we’re not even there.  F*ck you, nepotism.  F*ck you, Professor Oak.

Needless to say, Ash chose Pikachu.  Gary, like the moron that he is, chose Eevee.  I’m going to set aside my anger at Ash for a second to say: Eevee?  Seriously?  For your first pokemon you’re going to choose a Normal type?  A good-for nothing, needs a stone to evolve, Normal type?

Well, at least he didn’t take my f*cking Pikachu…  Say what you want about Gary’s stupidity, but he didn’t take my Pikachu.  Ash did.  Now he’s next on my list after Pidgey…

These were my options.

So, after Ash and Gary had a quick battle – which Ash quickly won – Professor Oak finally let me choose a pokemon.  It was down to Bulbasaur, Charmander, or Squirtle which really meant that it was down to Venusaur, Charizard, or Blastoise.

It was never going to be Bulbasaur.  It would fall victim to Pidgey’s Peck just as much as I had.  There was no way I was going to choose a pokemon as my starter if it was weak to a Pidgey.  Also, Bulbasaur’s Grass/Poison type combination makes it weak against Fire, Ice, Flying, and Psychic – four of the most common types of pokemon.  It is slow, making it less than ideal for beating up other pokemon.  So, definitely not Bulbasaur.

Squirtle is also slow.  Squirtle also has poor attacking stats.  I don’t want a pokemon who just sits back and takes it.  I want a pokemon who can bend others over and make them their b*tch.  Besides, if I’m going to take down Ash, I’m not going to do it with a pokemon who is weak to Pikachu’s Electric attacks…

That leaves me with Charmander, and while there’s nothing special about Charmander, Charizard kicks ass.  Charizard has an awesome move score and great TM-learning capabilities.  Not to mention that its dual-type actually helps it instead of harms it like Bulbasaur’s.  Charizard’s attacking stats are also through the roof.  You might be wondering why I would bother with Charizard when Pikachu will be able to Thunderbolt its way to victory?  The answer is simple: Charizard gains its Flying type at level 36 and it won’t take me nearly that long to kick Ash’s little boy ass.

Or Gary’s for that matter.  Yeah, he’s on the list too.  Why?  Because he annoys me.

So my first pokemon turned out to be Charmander.

And Ash turned out to be a douche.

Who knew?

Everybody remembers Darryl Sittler’s ten-point game.  Everybody remembers Kobe Bryant dropping 81 on the Toronto Raptors.  Everybody remembers Lionel Messi or Andrey Arshavin potting four against Arsenal and Liverpool respectively.

Everybody remembers the individual achievements, the moments where a single player seizes the spotlight and becomes larger than the game or the sport itself.

But look at those achievements listed above.  Which of them could have been accomplished without the aid of the player’s teammates.  Could Sittler have scored ten points?  Certainly not.  Would Kobe have got anywhere near 81?  Maybe if he was playing as himself in a videogame.  Would Messi and Arshavin, in a sport where goals are rarer than water in the desert, have scored four?  Please…

Any player will tell you that those moments pale in comparison to what one achieves as a team.  For instance, Sidney Crosby would be just as happy with the gold medal around his neck had it been someone else on Team Canada who had scored.  It’s what you achieve with others that matters, not just what you achieve on your own.

So, why do a lot of sports fans cheer for individual players and not teams?  Why do we see so many fans that will follow players to the ends of the earth, regardless of what team they play on?  I would need all the sand grains on Daytona Beach just to count how many people followed Manchester United for Cristiano Ronaldo or how many follow Barcelona just for Messi.

It would be ridiculous for fans not to have their favourite players, but it seems equally ridiculous for fans to cheer for players ahead of teams.

After all, players don’t win anything without their teammates.  I’d like to see the single player who could step onto the field/ice/court on their own and defeat a full strength team.  Hell, I’d even like to see that player that can play in any position without dropping their skill level in the slightest.  The Dutch experiment of Total Football in the ’70s is probably the closest we’ve ever seen, but that project was undermined by the fact that while all the players were good in all positions, none – except for maybe Johan Cruyff – were exceptional in any one in particular.  Contrast that with the Dutch team of 2010, with world-class specialists like Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder, and Robin van Persie.  The fluidity of their game might be a little behind that of the teams from the ’70s, but they are far ahead in terms of skill in individual positions which translates into a better team.

Furthermore, teams represent something more than just personal achievement.  They represent a certain ethos, a certain unification of the human spirit towards a singular purpose.  When one teammate fails, another picks them back up again.  When one teammate succeeds, the rest also succeed.  Together they forge towards a goal that is beyond any of their individual powers.  Through a season or a series of seasons, bonds are formed that cannot be broken.

And these bonds extend to the fans as well.  Fans have access to the life of a team to a much greater extent than they do the life of a player.  We see players when they’re playing and maybe in an interview afterwards, but the rest of the time they disappear into their own lives, of which the average sports fan sees very little.  Teams, on the other hand, bear their lives for all to see.  Their lives are played out in the league standings, the attendance figures, and the spirit of the fans themselves.  None of this can be hidden.

This brings me to one final point: without fans, a team is not truly a team.  The fans make up the heart and soul of a given team.  They motivate the players, keep the management honest, and pay to keep the team afloat through tickets.  They create the spirit of a team.  They give the players their nicknames and their reputations.  Look at a club like Manchester United.  They realize this, evidenced by their slogan, “We are United.”

When I cheer for my favourite team, I get something out of it.  I get a feeling that I belong to something greater than myself or any one player.  Players come and go, but the team always remains (unless you live in Winnipeg or Quebec City…).

When I cheer for a player, I don’t get that feeling.  I get the feeling that I am watching someone else’s achievements and that those achievements are solely theirs.  There is nothing for me to share, nothing that I can call even slightly my own.

So, the next time you find yourself cheering after your favourite player scores a goal, cheer because the team scored, not the player.  Cheer for being part of something greater than yourself.

Mindf*cked

Posted: March 25, 2011 in UWO
Tags: , , , , , ,

For the first time in my life, something is screwing with my brain.

I don’t just mean that I don’t know – that happens often enough on its own.  I mean that I don’t understand how or why.  It just doesn’t make sense to me.

And it’s doing a number on my head.

I just can’t figure out exactly why World University Service Canada Western and/or the Student Refugee Program were protesting outside the University Students’ Council’s offices this week.  Their stated purpose was to protest undemocratic actions by the USC after the referendum concerning a student fee for the SRP was disqualified despite having an overwhelming number of votes in favour of the “YES” side (for my opinion on that phenomenon, see my previous blog post).  Their claim was that the voice of the people is more important that proper referendum procedure.

Their claim amounts to saying that just because a number of students voted in a certain way that therefore the rules do not apply.  If the shoe were on the other foot, i.e. if the referendum was invalidated due to the disqualification of the “NO” campaign and the “NO” campaign was protesting, I doubt that the WUSC and SRP people would have any problem with the system.  Their claim is simply down to not getting what they want.

This is where my lack of understanding comes in.  The sole reason that the SRP does not have a student fee right now is the inability of their campaigners to follow the rules.  It is entirely their own fault that the referendum was invalidated.  Basically, the protest they staged was protesting their own inability to follow clearly-defined and broadly-communicated rules (which no other candidates in any other election seem to have problems abiding by) that are designed to promote fair and equitable campaigning.

Bylaw #2 is one of the USC’s most talked-about documents.  It gets more airtime than most motions that are passed through council on a weekly basis.  Each year during elections season it is trotted out and displayed for all to see.  It is readily available to any UWO student who wishes to peruse it.  There is no excuse for not reading it – if that is indeed the case in the scenario at hand – especially if you plan on running any kind of campaign in a USC-run election.  It should be your Bible…

Now, there are complaints about Bylaw #2 being hard to decipher and therefore hard to follow, and I understand that sentiment, but as it stands, there are many ways to get clarification about the Bylaw.  The first is the MANDATORY All-Candidates meeting on the eve of the campaign period.  I can say from attending two such meetings under the current CRO Adam Smith that it is clearly outlined what candidates can and cannot do in simple and easy-to-understand language.  Candidates are also given a package with all of this information as well as the CRO’s contact information in it to take home.  The second way is using the CRO’s contact information.  The CRO gives you this information for a reason, they’re not just looking for a few more BBM contacts.  The CRO wants you to ask about Bylaw #2 and elections procedure.  They would much rather iron out issues beforehand than have to hand out demerit points for it afterwards.

This brings me to the rules themselves.  The only way to institutionalize democracy is through rules that protect the equality and rights that are necessary for a democratic society to exist.  They allow for every voice to be heard rather than just the loudest or most forceful.  This is what Bylaw #2 is: rules that protect the fairness and equality of the elections procedure as well as ensure the rights of the voter to not only vote, but do so free from pressure to vote in a certain manner.  If one says that these rules should not apply, they are basically saying that the democratic process should be biased in favour of those who shout loudest or who are best able to force their beliefs on others – in short, the tyranny of the majority.

If you want to protest that the rules are unfair, fine.  There are channels that you can use to make constructive changes.  If you want to protest that the rules should be ignored, that’s a completely different and completely unacceptable position.

So, let’s get to the root of the problem: that the “YES” campaign broke the rules.

The “YES” campaign was found to have broken a number of rules including rules against campaigning during the voting period, sending unapproved mass-emails, and not campaigning in the the spirit of fairness.  The rules that the “YES” campaign were found guilty of carried a maximum punishment of 52 demerit points.  The threshold for disqualification is 30 points.  Eight more points and they would have been disqualified twice over.  However, the Elections Committee was fairly lenient with the points that it chose to dole out, giving the “YES” campaign only 35 of the 52 points.  Yet, despite this leniency, the sum total of the rules broken was still enough to pass the threshold for disqualification.

If a USC Presidential candidate were to accrue 30 or more demerit points, their name would be removed from the ballot and they would cease to be a valid candidate.  The same applies in a Registered Interested Party referendum.  If one side, “YES” or “NO,” accrues 30 or more points, they would be disqualified and their position would be removed from the ballot.  The SRP referendum was a special case in that the points were given after the voting period ended, thus making it impossible to remove the “YES” answer from the ballot.  Therefore, the referendum itself was invalidated.

Given the availability of the rules before and during the campaign period, I just can’t wrap my head around why so many rules were broken.  Between that and the leniency displayed by EC, I also can’t wrap my head around why the people who protested on Wednesday thought that the USC was involved in some conspiracy to stop a student fee for the SRP.  Because, if that were actually the case, the referendum would never have passed through council in the first place nor would there be a policy whereby students could initiate a referendum by collecting a number of signatures.

The bottom line is that rules are rules.  You can’t break them whenever you see fit.  And if you do break them, it is the responsibility of the Elections Committee to punish you for doing so.  It makes perfect, logical sense.

It also makes perfect logical sense that if you argue that the rules can be overturned when one sees fit to do so, then I have every right to kill you.  Let’s say that overturning the rules is acceptable so long as I (or whichever party is in question) benefit from it.  We have a rule against murder.  It is a very well-founded and generally accepted rule.  I see a benefit in not having to listen to people protest because they annoy me.  You are protesting.  In order to end my annoyance, keeping in mind that doing so is a benefit for me (and undoubtedly countless others) I kill you.  Because it is okay to overturn the rules whenever it benefits me, I am entitled to kill you.

This scenario is certainly absurd, but it is logically valid.  These are the potential consequences of overturning rules whenever one sees fit.  In no way am I condoning murder as a way to end annoyances, but in a world where the rules can be overturned for the slightest benefit it is certainly a valid way of doing so.

The sum total of these reasons is why I just can’t understand the SRP protests.  All the logical signs along this path point to one thing: the rules were broken and punishments were handed out.  It falls down to the people who broke the rules to admit that they screwed up.  It falls to the leadership of the “YES” campaign to take it on the chin and realize their mistakes.  They shouldn’t blame the USC and they certainly shouldn’t be deflecting blame away from themselves in doing so.

Perhaps the people who should be protesting are the 5700-odd students who voted “YES.”  They should be protesting against the “YES” campaign leadership screwing up and taking what was a landslide victory and turning it into a sham.  Perhaps who should be protesting is Nathaniel, the current student sponsored by the SRP.  He should be protesting the way in which the “YES” campaign leadership has deprived fellow refugees the opportunity to come to Canada to study by failing to understand the simplest of campaigning rules.

Because the protest in front of the USC offices didn’t help.  For those with any logical sense it only showed desperation on behalf of a group of people that are unwilling to admit their own mistakes.

Guilty as Charged

Posted: March 23, 2011 in Miscellaneous, UWO
Tags: , , , ,

It’s easy to succumb to peer pressure.  It’s easy to go along with what your friends do, think, or say just because you don’t want to be left out or shunned for behaving differently.

And our elders and the people we look up to have told us for years that we shouldn’t act like other people just to fit in.  We get told instead to think for ourselves and if we do, then we will be much the better off for it.  We’ve all heard the same spiel since we were kids, something along the lines of: “If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump off a bridge too?”

Well, my question to you is very similar: If your friends told you that voting “YES” was the ‘moral’ choice, would you also vote “YES” even though it seems ridiculous to ascribe a single morality to the entire human race?  Would you still vote “YES” if you did not believe that the “YES” option was moral at all?

This is a problem that has risen in the latest round of University Students’ Council referendums.  One question on the ballot, asking whether students would allow the USC to collect a student fee on behalf of the Student Refugee Program and World University Service Canada – Western, blatantly involved guilting students into voting “YES.”

For those of you unfamiliar with USC referendum processes, the SRP referendum was listed as a Registered Interested Party referendum.  This means that one group of people campaigns for the “YES” side and another group campaigns for the “NO” side.  The other option would be a Information-Based referendum, in which the USC would distribute unbiased information about the referendum.  With the RIP-style referendum, the two parties are treated like individual candidates and all the same campaigning rules apply.

But the rules are not at issue here.  What is at issue here is that the “YES” party in this campaign were able to guilt students into voting “YES” on the basis of it being somehow immoral or wrong to vote “NO.”

Their logic is simple.  Students not being able to go to school is bad.  People that live in third-world or war-torn countries deserve the help of people in wealthy and peaceful countries.  People in wealthy countries have the obligation to help those less fortunate than them no matter what the cost.  Therefore, if there is a student out there who needs money, then it would be wrong to withhold that money.  This is then translated into if you don’t vote “YES,” then you’re a morally-bankrupt person who doesn’t care about the fate of your fellow human beings.

Again, the key point is that voting “NO” would be WRONG.  There is nothing to say why it is GOOD or even RIGHT to support refugee students.  There is nothing to say why I should care about my fellow human beings.  It is simply assumed that I believe in the same moral principles and will jump to the same conclusions as the people telling me to vote “YES” simply because it is the RIGHT thing to do.

Society as a whole backs this up.  Society places a great emphasis on altruism and the idea that one should go out of one’s way to help others.

This is not a concrete argument.  This is not logically sound.

I do not agree that people from wealthy countries should be obligated to support people from less-wealthy countries.  I do not agree that need should be a legitimate means of acquiring money.  If you take need as the only criteria for donating your money not only will you be bankrupt within a week, but you will lose all moral agency.  You will be a slave to those with more needs and more problems than you.

And you can’t donate to just one needy party and not another else you lose your reputation as a ‘moral’ person.  Giving money to one needy party and not another makes you a hypocrite.  By setting need as your standard, you leave yourself no room to choose which need deserves your money more.

After all, you can’t put a value to a need.  You can’t make a scale from one to ten and rank needs along it.  What makes one need greater than another?  All needs are a lack of something essential.  How do you prioritize what is most essential?  Do you say that food is more important?  Shelter?  Education?  Religion?  If you ask a thousand people, you will get at least a hundred different answers.

However, there is one thing that we can value more than any of these needs: life.  Without life, none of these things have any importance at all.  Without life, humanity doesn’t need food.  Without life, humanity doesn’t need shelter.  What is there to educate if there is no life?  How can there be an afterlife if there is no life from which to pass on?

Because of this fact, I am of the opinion that our only moral barometer should be that of life.  Specifically, our moral barometer should be our own life, as it is all that we truly and rightfully have control over.  The guiding principle for our moral decisions should be whether some action will or will not benefit our own lives.  Will my life be worse if I act in a certain manner?  Will my life be better?  Will such an action by other parties have a meaningful effect on my life, both directly and indirectly?

So, why shouldn’t I help out the needy?  My life will not be any worse by helping out the needy, other than I will be slightly poorer.  In fact, one might argue that my life would be better for helping out others (although might I point out the inherent and arbitrary association of ‘better’ and ‘altruism’ in such an argument).

To make such an argument, one mistakes one of the fundamental points that comes with living in a free and democratic society: the right to live one’s life as one chooses.  The mistake lies in the interpretation of this right only as a prohibition against affecting other people in a negative manner (i.e. making their life worse).  Under this interpretation, it is perfectly okay to make someone a king against their will, because being made a king would be seen as making a person’s life better, not worse.

The proper interpretation of this right is to regard it as a prohibition against unduly affecting the lives of others in both positive and negative manners.  Both manners are intrusions and both interrupt a person’s agency over their own life.  Helping the needy is no less of an intrusion, even though it purports to give people a better lot in life that the one they were given in the beginning.  It takes away a person’s agency over their own life.  It takes away a person’s right to live as they choose.

As you can see, my moral position is almost the polar opposite of that being ascribed to me by the rest of society.  I don’t find need as a valid criteria for altruism.  I don’t find altruism inherently valuable.

The moral of this story is that I should not be guilted into voting against my moral beliefs.  I should not be pressured into betraying my moral beliefs because society values something different.  When I approach an issue, I want to be able to judge the issue through my moral filter, not have my moral filter usurped by that of either another group or society as a whole.

And this goes for all referendums, issues, and questions that I come across, not just the recently-concluded SRP referendum.  Although they are guilty of the practice of trying to guilt students into voting “YES.”

Owen Franks.  Brad Thorn.  Sam Whitelock.  Kieran Read.  Dan Carter.  Sonny Bill Williams.  Robbie Fruean.  Israel Dagg.  What do all these names have in common?

You would be forgiven if you thought I was naming members of the latest All Black squad.  All of these players, especially on current form, are shoo-ins to be part of it.

But really I’m naming members of the current Crusaders squad in the Super 15 and these eight are just the tip of the iceberg.  Now add in other luminaries such as Ben Franks, Corey Flynn, George Whitelock, Andy Ellis, Zac Guildford, Sean Maitland, and the legendary Richie McCaw.  Suddenly it becomes crystal clear why the Crusaders are the best team in the Super 15 this season.

See, the Crusaders boast a starting lineup that could potentially be an All Black team all on its own.  Not just in terms of reputation, but in terms of form as well.  And with McCaw – the only player to have won multiple IRB World Player of the Year Awards – yet to play a game this season, they can only get better.

The stats probably say it best.  The Crusaders’ 151 points scored and 65 allowed place them first and third respectively in those categories.  They have scored a competition-leading 17 tries and wing Sean Maitland is the leading try-scorer with five tries to his name.

Despite a round one setback against the Blues, the Crusaders look nigh on unstoppable.  Their fast, physical, and unpredictable game lends itself well to an era of structured defence and gym-monkey players.  If you look at their lineup from one to fifteen you’ll see a legion of big men who can move and who know how to handle a rugby ball.

Chief amongst them are the center combination of Sonny Bill Williams and Robbie Fruean.  It certainly helps that they get the ball from Dan Carter, but these two are enough to scare props, let alone other centers.  Their combination of speed, strength, passing, and awareness is simply unmatched in the Super 15 – and maybe even in the world.  Williams is 6’3″ and 238lbs while Fruean is 6’4″ and 242lbs.  Considering that most centers usually measure around 6′ and around 200lbs, Williams and Fruean represent some pretty heavy artillery.

The scariest part is that they both can play.  They don’t just charge at the line and hope to smash through a tackle.  Williams’ offloading skills that he developed during his days in rugby league allow him to stand up in the tackle and release the devastating strike weapons outside of him.  Fruean has the speed of a wing to capitalize on those chances as well as the awareness needed to put his actual wings away instead of trying to take on defenders single-handedly.

Speaking of those wings, I am still amazed that Sean Maitland hasn’t been capped for the All Blacks.  Seriously.  Just imagine him on the opposite wing as Hosea Gear wreaking destruction on other nations in the World Cup.  Maitland is possessed of blinding pace and has the positional awareness and kicking skills that come with playing the last ITM Cup season at fullback.  He also plays the Crusader-style game that is favoured by Graham Henry and co. to perfection, running off his centers and popping up in unexpected places.  It will be interesting to see how his partnership with Zac Guildford and Israel Dagg develops as the season progresses as both are also candidates for New Zealand’s World Cup squad.

Other than the immortal Messrs. Carter and McCaw, the Crusaders have another area in which they particularly excel: the tight five.  The Crusaders’ second row is stocked full of talent with the experienced figures of Brad Thorn and Chris Jack competing with youngster Sam Whitelock – already a All Black regular – for a starting spot.  All three have the skills to play in the loose in addition to their in-tight muscle and aggression.  The front row of the Franks brothers, Ben and Owen, and Corey Flynn is also one of the best units in the Super 15.  Owen Franks has made the All Black tighthead jersey his own in the wake of Carl Hayman’s departure and only the stubborn Tony Woodcock of the Blues keeps Ben out of the national side.

In their history, the Crusaders have won seven Super Rugby titles.  With a lineup that could match most national teams and a style of game that they execute with such precision, it won’t be long before they add an eighth trophy to their mantle.

Everyone should be scared.

It is March 19th.

By the end of today, all USC elections – both internal and external, barring the election of the Speaker of Council – will have been completed.

The council positions for the 2011/12 year will have been filled, a new executive will have been elected, and new councilors will get about the business of learning how to fulfill their roles to the best of their ability.

But after the excitement surrounding AGM parts I and II dies down things will go back to normal and everyone will go back to their respective lives.  And at that point you will realize just how many more people you see on campus during elections season than during the death months of November and December.

See, during first semester people go from moving in, partying during O-week, cramming hard for exams, to taking a well-deserved Holiday break.  Everyone is focussed on their lives and in first semester our lives don’t interact in quite the same ways as they do in elections season.  When I go about my life in first semester, I focus on my life on its own and not the lives of others.

Then when second semester rolls around, I seem to be interacting with nearly twice as many people as I did in first semester.  When we come back in January, everyone is gearing up for their respective campaigns, whether USC Presidential or otherwise.  People are taking meetings left, right, and center while trying to put together platforms that appeal to students while keeping them feasible.  It doesn’t matter that the campaign period doesn’t start until the start of February, people are already getting out there and making themselves more visible.

From that point until the middle to end of March there is a constant deluge of people that you know hanging around the UCC Atrium, the Spoke, the Wave, USC Council Chambers, and your favourite hangout spots around campus.  You simply cannot get away from them.

Apart from it simply being elections period, there is another indirect reason why you see so many people you know during this time of year: facial recognition.  From September to February of each year each university student meets any number of new people and many of those new people become new Facebook friends.  The January-February period is outstanding in this regard in and of itself as friend lists jump in exponential rates as candidates meet new people and try to round up votes.

Therefore, under the facial recognition hypothesis, it isn’t so much that you see all the people you know all of a sudden, but rather that you recognize people’s faces and start seeing them around campus where your eyes would have slipped right past them in the past.  It looks like there are more people that you know, but just that you know more people and by the time elections season rolls around those faces start to register to a more meaningful extent.

Then again, it could just be that more people are appearing more often, because that is certainly the case to some extent.  Either way, it will be irrelevant when everyone goes back into hibernation to study for April exams.

And then campus will be a lonely place once again, where your friends hide out in underground study holes carved into various buildings across campus.  You will wonder where the days went when you couldn’t walk for five steps without running into someone.

And you will count down the days to the next USC elections period…