Whiskey and Cream: Episode VIII

Whiskey & Cream for January 23rd, 2021

Host: Ari Shapiro

0:46-8:30: “There is increased fire here”

It’s still very early in the abbreviated and pandemic-influenced NHL season, but the Toronto Maple Leafs are already feeling the weight of fickle fans who scrutinize their every win and loss in much the way you’d cheer for heavyweight fighters exchanging blows. But this year, there’s a bona fide sense of urgency and a real commitment to team defense. Although the Northeast division will undoubtedly make it easier for them to avoid some of the juggernauts of the past such as Boston and Tampa bay, the team is poised to succeed if goaltender Frederik Andersen can do his best to resemble Grant Fuhr rather than Andrew Raycroft. But with all their young and highly coveted talented players, this would seem to be the year that they could find a way to win a single playoff round.

Luke Fox (@lukefoxjukebox) is an NHL writer with Sportsnet in Canada and has published a variety of books on rap music. In covering the team on a national level, he believes that there’s increased fire in the way the team has been constructed under general manager Kyle Dubas, and that by adding players like Wayne Simmonds, Joe Thornton and Jimmy Vesey, he believes that the team added a measure of toughness, leadership and skill that offers priceless intangibility and fire in a payroll that’s dominated by a nucleus of game-breaking talent short on professional success.

8:50-15:42: “A baseball team is a big company designed to make money”

Most fans of the Toronto Blue Jays in 2021 have come to accept the limitations and scope of what their baseball team is all about. After decades of playoff futility and cultural rot, the organization seems to be a shadow of its former championship self. You know, that glorious platinum standard set by the exploits of Carter, Alomar, Molitor and company. But then suddenly and as quickly as it came, the steady development of 80’s talent and the cultivation of a family-oriented brand began to erase itself from the hearts and minds of an entire generation. For awhile there, it look like the sport itself was drifting into irrelevancy through doping, the cheating and the commitment to heartless austerity by billion-dollar corporate owners. Although 2015 brought a mighty reprieve to cynical fandom everywhere, the current front office has been besieged by lingering expectations of competitive play that hasn’t existed for half a decade.

Arden Zwelling (@ArdenZwelling) is a writer and multiplatform contributor with Sportsnet. He’s also the co-host of At The Letters podcast where he breaks down this team for a living. For him, the Blue Jays front office of Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins have been transparent with their intentions from the moment they arrived in Toronto, and although most people are turned off by their corporate doubletalk and public relations tone-deafness, it all comes down to a baseball team being a big company finding ways to make a profit. When asked about the recent George Springer signing and his outlook on the team in 2020, his responses were as refreshing as they are candid.

15:55-22:49: “Oh Canada! We stand on guard for thee”

Once upon a time, Canadians were known for the sport of hockey, maple syrup and peacekeeping. But as populism raged across the western world and took most of empathy and compassion with it, a nation respected for centrism and balance finds itself grappling with its identity amidst a global pandemic. It’s not a stretch to think that if things get worse and more people become unemployed and homeless, that this country could find itself facing an existential crisis that strikes to the very core of what it means to be a liberal and conservative.

Asif Hossain (@asifintoronto) is a social influencer and has worked with MLSE, Tennis Canada and the Canadian Olympic committee. His eloquent contempt for political misanthropes and posturing leaders comes from a belief that most Canadians have a generally favourable view of their government and are willing to work together and compromise. Perhaps that’s why it’s so disheartening for him to witness countless examples of elected leaders who continually let us down with their hypocrisy and lies.

23:07-28:51: “The power of a microstory”

Microstories might be better than teletherapy. I know that’s a bold claim coming from someone who isn’t a psychiatrist and hasn’t published a book in his lifetime, but nothing seems to bring me genuine catharsis more than a compelling short story wrapped in the mental shape of a bite-sized piece of chocolate. In a world where doomscrolling has become a tradition and reading a book seems blase, it’s nice to find true escapism through the musings of someone who combines delicious yiddishkeit humour with the cold, steel pragmatic irony of our modern times.

Eric Rosenhek (@TheHek) is the author of Dim Sum Stories, a series of heartfelt microstories available exclusively at arishapiro.ca. For him, the capacity to visualize intriguing narratives cobbled forth in small spaces offers him the chance to channel his stress and anxiety in all the best ways – through the promise of literary escapism where the white noise stops and all you can hear is the sound of your heart beating. Hearing his observations on the pandemic and what keeps him sane reveals a touching look into the mind of someone whose creativity defines the very essence of his soul.

“Whiskey & Cream Theme” written and performed by Chris Henderson.

Whiskey and Cream: Episode 005

Whiskey & Cream for December 23rd, 2020.

Host: Ari Shapiro

0:36-7:35: “A kinder, gentler brand of politics”

It always comes down to the fundamentals, that we’re different from them. That’s how it feels looking at the United States from a distinctly Canadian perspective. The pandemic has caused immeasurable harm to the very fabric of their society in ways that defies the imagination and begs the question: why isn’t more being done to help their citizens during a time when compassion is needed more than ever. And why does their culturally innate suspicion of government and resistance to being told what’s best for them – inevitably finds a way of steering them into the realm of greed, paranoia and conspiracy? Furthermore, one has to wonder if a correlation exist between populist and progressive governments when it comes to empathy in their political leaders?

Warren Kinsella (@kinsellawarren) is a celebrated Canadian lawyer, author and musician who has appeared in The Globe and Mail, the Ottawa Citizen and the National Post. He’s collaborated and interacted with numerous prime ministers and political bigwigs during his time, and when it comes to understanding the true merits of effective governance, his take on the differences between Canada and the United States during this global pandemic is squarely focused at our existential differences and how having trust in government is essentially what separates our two democracies.

7:44-13:48: “The men and women of science were correct”

Toronto is heading towards a lockdown on Boxing Day, an announcement that sent shockwaves through those living in Ontario and across Canada. A first wave that was met head-on by the conservative government in the province has long been forgotten in the face of a second wave that’s exposed a shocking level of excuses, pivoting and the passing of the coronavirus buck. With Ontario averaging over 28 deaths a day, the sense of urgency has never been greater even if the credibility of the messengers seems minimized by their tendency to speak out of both sides of their mouths.

Mary Ormsby (@MaryOrmsby) is one of Canada’s most respected journalists who has covered Olympic games, World Cups, and major professional leagues across North America for over three decades while writing for The Toronto Star. She’s spearheaded features about concussions, women in sports, homelessness and clergy abuse with award-winning features spanning over three decades of investigative journalism. For her, Doug Ford presents two phases – or “faces” as she calls them – that’s tested her limits when it comes to political leadership. Whereas she felt he was the right leader at the right time for the first wave of COVID-19, his foot-dragging disposition and chronic insistence of ignoring the men and women of science who were correct is making her wonder why a lockdown didn’t happen sooner.

13:51-18:22: “Always eliminate the window dressing”

Vaccine-hesitancy has quickly become one of the most controversial terms of the day, and when you eliminate the window dressing, it essentially bogs down to a tempting desire to reach for conspiracies over having the gumption to explore the real truth. Behind masks, behind social distancing, behind a vaccine to help keep us safe and healthy. But in an era where the written word has caused so much harm, are we perhaps underestimating the power of the spoken word?

Adam Corsair (@AdamCorsair) is a professional baseball and basketball podcaster whose literary passion for the Toronto Raptors and Blue Jays makes him an instant favourite here at Whiskey & Cream. His heart may be Canadian, but his family lives in Rhode Island – where faulty information and propaganda remains a daily battle for sweet, lucid sanity. His craft is reflected nicely in the gorgeous tonality and dissonant manner to which he passionately explains his plight in a world where fiction becomes fact in the click of play button.

18:35-22:44: “The Coronavirus Athlete”

Living during a global pandemic as a sports fan means settling for a new reality where your season, playoffs, rules and regulations seem permanently amorphous and subject to change. And that’s left some armchair fans scratching their heads and wondering if an asterisk needs to be deployed as a reminder that these achievements are happening during exceptional times. But as the business side of hockey, baseball, football and basketball continue to forge ahead amidst all this societal doom and gloom, there’s immense solace to be found in the astonishing power of sport and what it can do for a stir-crazy, cabin-fevered audience that can’t leave the house to enjoy Pascal Siakam, Auston Matthews or Bo Bichette.

Jim Lang (@JimLangSports) is Canadian sportscaster, writer and radio host who has covered major sports… For him, escapism is about savouring the real stories of courage and fortitude that exist to help soothe our burgeoning layers of anxiety and depression. That means embracing the notion that things will get better if we support those who train, excel and overachieve in pursuit of sporting excellence. In doing so, he tips his hat to the modern day coronavirus athlete.

“Whiskey & Cream Theme” written and performed by Chris Henderson.

A conversation with Casey Michel

My conversation with writer, analyst and investigative journalist Casey Michel, whose writings on global corruption, government kleptocracies, western relations and post-Soviet geopolitics have been featured on the BBC, NPR, MSNBC and countless other mainstream news sources. His editorials on nationalism, populism and extremist have also been featured on The Atlantic, The Washington Post and Sports Illustrated.

We discussed: his recent article entitled “The Oathkeepers Are Today’s Blackshirts” featured in The New Republic and the rise of extremism, if he feels that North Americans should be mindful of the burgeoning paramilitary forces that represent ultra-right nationalism, how he’s kept track of historical firsts when it comes to the Donald Trump presidency and how badly it’s undermining democracy in America, the likely scenarios that will unfold during the upcoming November election, his feelings on the shamelessness of an era no longer bound by traditional history and rife with cultural revisionism, which aspect of society should be blamed for the current state of affairs in the White House, if he’s more worried about China or Russia when it comes to the future, and how he wrestles with the dystopian realities confronted on a weekly basis through a steady diet of worthwhile video games and enthusiastic bird-watching.

Don’t forget to follow Casey on social media (@cjcmichel) and check out all his brilliant work at caseymichel.com.

Shapiro’s League of Seven: No man or woman is an island

Shapiro’s League of Seven: “No man or woman is an island” (Episode #03)

League members: Jon Reid and Chris Henderson
Hosted by Ari Shapiro
Recorded: March 27th, 2020 (30:32)

Another day, another lockdown.

Most of the western world is losing their respective battles with the coronavirus while other smaller nations continue to impress us with their fortitude, fastidious ways and transparency to their local communities. In lieu of this powerful variance between how different countries have handing this pandemic, it’s abundantly clear that the idealistic notion of cooperative globalism has been reduced to a cynical mantra of everyone for themselves and let’s hope fear and anxiety doesn’t destroy the best laid plans of mankind.

It makes me wonder: what will happen when this period of life is over and is this really an opportunity for humanity’s reboot in the areas of kindness, compassion and empathy while making health care the absolute most important political issue of our time moving forward – or will it be back to business as usual with 2% less humans and significantly less civil rights and freedoms?

Theme: Lovers In A Dangerous Time (Bruce Cockburn, Stealing Fire, 1984)

“No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s.

Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.”

-John Donne (1624)

Shapiro’s League of Seven: The Failure of Social Distancing and Donald Trump

Shapiro’s League of Seven: “The Failure of Social Distancing and Donald Trump” (Episode #02)

League members: Chris Henderson and Bradley Huff
Hosted by Ari Shapiro
Record: March 22nd, 2020.

Subjects covered:

1. The coronavirus aka COVID-19 is raging, and social distancing is proving to me an unmitigated failure. While countries like South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam are proving to show the world that they can slay the pandemic giant – other nations such as Italy, Iran and The United State of New York City are ensuring that an inevitable lockdown is n the horizon – the kind that will prevent you from having your pretentiously premium coffee brewed for you while limiting the glory of having beef vindaloo and garlic naan with your binge-watching weekend. These are dark times that could last half a year or longer before we flatten the curve as the cool kids like to say.

2. What the hell went wrong? How did we know so much about the imminent arrival of this pandemic and why do we find ourselves handling it like lemmings hoarding toilet paper, bread, and other medical supplies while those who really need it are frustrated to roam the planet looking for an available hospital bed? Where’s the empathy and compassion needed to overcome this crisis…and has it ever existed?

3. How Donald Trump stumbled and bumbled has way into political oblivion, downplaying the severity of the situation and reducing the number of CDC workers…and yet it’s more than likely he’ll be re-elected in November when and if the elections are held.

Theme: Money City Maniacs (Sloan, Navy Blues, 1998)

Shapiro’s League of Seven: The Day The Sports World Paused

Shapiro’s League of Seven: “The Day The Sports World Paused” (Episode 01)

League members: Marshall Auerback and Mick Sloniowski
Hosted by Ari Shapiro
Record: March 17th, 2020.

Subjects covered:

1. The day the sports world disappeared.
2. Flattening the curve; stay-at-home guidelines and cash reinforcements, debt write-offs – how should the world handle this development?
3. The threat of social media when it comes to the disappearance of toilet paper and key goods.
4. Italy and Iran’s total failure; why South Korea’s mandatory testing policy worked right off the bat.
5. Israel cyber-monitoring; deploying cell phone monitoring technology – is that an Orwellian gateway?

Theme: Coffee and Feels (Satin Jackets, Golden Feel, 2020)

Toronto Blue Jays Round Table: Rebuilding Pride. But At What Cost?

Enjoy the latest Toronto Blue Jays round table recorded on May 20th, 2019 and brought to you by Jays Journal and arishapiro.ca.

Settle in and join host Ari Shapiro and his guests: country musician star and site expert Chris Henderson (@baseball4brains), scouting director and minor league expert Richard Birfer (@richardbirfs), and celebrated writer and public speaker Hayden Godfrey (@haydengodfreyy).

Together, they tackle the issue of resting Vlad Guerrero Jr. hot on the heels of winning AL Player of the Week and in front of a national holiday crowd, how to analyze the reported 25% decrease in attendance over last year and what baseball is doing to combat diminishing interest in the sport, evaluating the fourth year of the Shapiro/Atkins era, why the fourth largest market in baseball has an actualized payroll of $65 million dollars, what to do with Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez as the only legitimate trading chips on the roster, looking back at Roberto Osuna and the price that was paid for making a “moral” baseball trade, and their general speculation on the quality and nature of this enigmatic rebuild.

Be sure to visit jaysjournal.com and arishapiro.ca for your latest in Blue Jays insights, editorials, and analysis.

Maple Leafs Round Table – White, Morassutti, Owens

I’m pleased to bring you my latest hockey round table featuring three professors of puck whose insights and expertise on all things Toronto Maple Leafs could easily be considered second to none; Omar White, David Morassutti, and Austin Owens.

We discussed their thoughts on the first week of the season and any surprises or disappointments which left indelible impressions, their collective concerns about the team’s suspect blue line, why certain NHL calibre defensemen might remain whipping boys for an entire season, the always vexing issue of Mike Babcock’s selective minutes distribution and why the universally lauded Travis Dermott deserves much more ice time, and their definitive hot takes on the William Nylander impasse in all its false splendor and surreal glory.

Be sure to check out the fine literary and audio work from Omar White (@OLW93) with Pension Plan Puppets, Dave Morassutti (@d_morassutti) of Sportsnet, and Austin Owens (@_AustinOwens) at The Score.

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