#246 Steve & Mark – NHL Playoffs
Mark: Hello and welcome back to EnglishLingQ for another podcast from sunny Vancouver.
Steve: It sure is sunny. Hello. It's wonderful. It's what, 25 to 30 degrees centigrade? Mark: Yeah.
Today is the warmest day of the year, for sure.
Mark: It could end up being the warmest day of the year, period.
Steve: Well, here in Vancouver between May and September you get three glorious months and two bad months and it can literally be any month, it seems. I mean I can remember the first of July terrible conditions. I guess August is normally the best month.
Steve: I think so.
Mark: In general. Mid July to mid August is the most guaranteed weather.
Steve: And you know the weather is so warm and yet here we are, sort of the Canadian sporting event of the year, the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Although, both of the teams are in the United States, but there's more interest in Canada than there is in the United States. It's exciting to watch, I guess it takes forever. I guess they have to make enough money to pay all these high salaries to people, so they drag the season out. I mean it is ridiculous to be playing hockey in June.
Mark: It is ridiculous to be playing. In fact, I guess the owners make all their money in the playoffs. So they have their budgets set so that the players' salaries are all paid by the end of the year and if the teams do well in the playoffs the owners make money. And the players want to be paid a lot of money and the owners, therefore, need to make that money. So they have, as you say, a lot of games they play over the course of a season. So by the time the playoffs start in mid April and the playoffs go on for a long time.
So you have to kind of close the curtains, shut out the sunlight and turn on the air conditioning, if you have it…
Mark: That's right. Steve: …and pretend it's winter. But there've been some exciting games and it's interesting to see some of the sort of unsung heroes or the journeymen players. Players who have been around a long time who don't get a lot of publicity have been producing and some of the younger players that don't get a lot of publicity. The big stars have also been producing, but they haven't been as dominant. Mark: No.
Steve: It's fun to see some of these other players really come through. Like Maxime Talbot last night was outstanding. He was definitely the best player there and he probably earns one-tenth, maybe not one-tenth, but a third of what Crosby and Malkin and these people make.
Mark: Yeah, but you know it's a team game and on any given night anyone can be the hero… Steve: Sure.
Mark: …especially in the Playoffs when the other team's best defensive players are concentrating on stopping the opposition's best offensive players. Very often it's someone else who kind of sneaks through and finds a little open ice because it gets pretty tight checking out there. There's a lot more opportunity to do good things offensively during the season than during the Playoffs where everybody is trying that much harder. Steve: Yeah, for sure. To me it's the most exciting game. I know, for most people in the world, soccer is the number one game, but for us hockey is the most exciting game. I think in certain countries in the world like Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic, Russia, certain areas of the United States this is the biggest game. Latvia is another country where it's popular. Mark: In Switzerland it's quite popular, too. Steve: Switzerland, yeah. It's a phenomenal game and a very international game. Certainly the teams in the finals, you've got players from every country, Sweden, Finland, Czechs, Russians, Canadians and Americans. Maybe I've left some out. Mark: Right.
Steve: You know just to digress to language learning for a second, all those players speak English and speak English well. I always find it annoying when people say that language learning is a matter of aptitude, I just don't believe that. There are all kinds of figures. I was listening in Russian to the story of a famous Polish queen who was actually Hungarian and who was, you know, made a Saint by Pope John Paul some while ago. But she spoke four languages and the people in the Courts of Europe spoke four or five languages. Don't tell me that just those people who were born in the Courts of Europe had a natural aptitude for language learning. Mark: Well, as you often point out, I mean everyone in Sweden basically speaks English.
Mark: During the hockey game last night they had Don Cherry, who's the Canadian cultural icon, who's got a segment between periods during the hockey games on Hockey Night in Canada, which is the broadcaster of hockey games. Anyway, every year at this time he introduces the top five or six or whatever it is prospects that are coming up. I think it was the top six most highly-ranked prospects in the upcoming entry draft and of the six one was from Sweden. I can't remember his name, Victor Hedman or something like that. At any rate, the other four guys are Canadian and they do their thing. They say, you know, I'm so and so I played here. I was coached by so and so. My favorite player is whoever. And then the Swedish guy goes and it's unbelievable. Like he's a 16-17-year old Swede and he just, no problem; on national TV in fluent English. He's lived in Sweden all his life. Steve: And I don't believe that all the Swedes have a special gene that makes then good language learners. Mark: Right.
Steve: I don't believe in this aptitude thing. Mark: No.
Steve: People in the United States, because they speak English and they consider English is good enough…and in Canada, Anglophone Canadians are no better...
Mark: No better.
Steve: …don't learn languages well. Mark: Right.
Steve: And in smaller countries or in certain circumstances…I mean in Russia in the 19th century the aristocracy all spoke French and Russian and possibly German and English. It was normal, it was no big deal, they all did it and I don't think they had any special aptitude that somehow other populations don't have. So it's fun to see those players how they all get along. I mean they're all part of the team and it doesn't matter where they're from. It's kind of fun to see that. Mark: Many of you may have heard this theme before, but we've talked about university professors, foreign university professors here, for example, who don't speak English very well. I mean they've probably worked here for 20 years; whereas, these hockey players come over and if they don't speak English when they get here they pick it up pretty quickly. Steve: Yeah.
Now you could say it's opportunity, but it's also attitude, it's also attitude. But, you know, we were both watching an interview with President Obama of the United States, first interview with French television. And, of course, it's not reasonable to expect the President of the United States to speak in a foreign language, I guess. Mark: Right.
Steve: I guess. But we expect that the Chancellor of Germany or the Prime Minister of France…all these other people can speak at least one other language. I gather Chancellor Merkel can speak Russian as well as English. It would be nice if the President of the United States could speak Spanish or French or Chinese or some other language.
Mark: Well I have a call into him.
Steve: Get him on LingQ.
Mark: Get him on LingQ. I know a way he can do it.
It needn't cost a lot of money because he doesn't have the funds. Mark: Him and a hundred thousand of his closest friends.
Mark: We'll put them on for a discount. Steve: But you know it's interesting, Mr. Obama said that the United States is one of the largest Muslim countries in the world. Mark: You know I heard that and I kind of thought, why is he…
Steve: But we checked it up on Le Figaro. That's what he said. So are there a million and a half Muslims in the United States, maybe?
Mark: I know.
Steve: Maybe, so let's compare that, like one of the largest Muslim countries in the world. I mean Russia is the largest country by area; it has, I don't know, twenty million Muslims. Mark: Right.
Steve: So how about France? It's probably 10% Muslim. Mark: Yeah.
Steve: That's without going to the real Muslim countries. Well India is the largest by population.
Steve: Indonesia, Pakistan, Egypt…
S; …Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Turkey; sixty-seventy-eighty million people. What's he talking about? Mark: I have no idea.
Mark: Even France and Britain have more Muslims than the U.S.
Steve: I know.
Mark: That was a strange thing to say. I mean I can understand trying to curry favor with the Muslims, I guess that's what he's after. Not that I think it's going to do much good, but I mean that's just simply not true. Steve: No.
But it's amazing the sort of ignorance. You know I have to mention when we're talking about ignorance. I listened to my Russian radio station Echo Moskvi and there are two things there that are quite interesting. One is the Russian Government has appointed a committee and the title of the committee is Committee to Investigate the Falsification of History that is Damaging to the Interests of Russia. That's the name of the committee. It's not a committee on history, let's see what's out there, not a committee to exchange information with other countries, not a committee for objectivity in history, it's a committee to identity the falsification of history that is harmful to the interests of the Russian State. Mark: Right.
Steve: Now what is that? That is purely, how are we going to rewrite history? Anyway…
Mark: But that takes place here, all the do-gooder left-wing types trying to rewrite history and paint the West as a demon or downplay our role in any wars or…
Steve: You know what? I don't mind, there could be 10 different textbooks and they say different things and maybe they're largely influenced one way or another. I prefer that to the State saying we will police it so that nothing is written that is harmful to the interest of the State. In other words, either you're pushing for objectivity or you're pushing for -- and what I would most like to see – a variety of points of view. Mark: Yeah, but you don't get a variety. That's my point, there is no variety. Steve: Right.
Mark: All the teachers come from the same teachers colleges, from the same unions where there's one way of thinking. Steve: Right.
Mark: This is how it is and this is how the textbooks have to write it.
Steve: Okay. But let's leave that, we've been on that theme before. But let's look at the other perspective, which is what happens in Russia. So I was listening to a radio interview with this lady who is from the Duma, which is the Russian Parliament and she is the Deputy Leader of the second largest fraction, which basically supports Putin. But it's some kind of a mixture of nationalists and communists; it's called the Just Russia Party. The issue is that in Portugal there was a Russian woman who had a child and couldn't look after the child. So the child was raised by this Portuguese family who were sort of guardians and raised the child for six years in Portugal. Then the mother wanted the child back and so the Portuguese Court ruled that the mother should have the child back because the child, in fact, was not put up for adoption by this Portuguese family. The Portuguese family was just looking after it. So then this girl goes back to Russia and there was some question about the mother was a suitable mother and blah, blah, blah. So there was lots of discussion about the pros and cons, should a child always go to the natural mother and so forth and so on.
But what was very interesting was this woman, who is typical of the attitude that seems to come out of the Russian Duma and the governing circles in Russia, one of her main points was, you know, Americans come to Russia and adopt children. And, apparently, there's been like 55,000 Russian children adopted by American families and she says they go around the world adopting families. Mark: Adopting children.
Steve: Excuse me, adopting children. What is their purpose? Are they trying to recruit soldiers for their upcoming wars? That was her comment. I mean, you know to attribute…
Now the fact that the Canadians and the Irish and the Australians and the Swedes all adopt internationally, to a similar extent as the Americans…
Mark: I mean you'd think the bigger issue would be why are there so many Russian kids up for adoption? Steve: Well, they talked about it. They recognize there are lots of social problems in Russia, but to attribute these kinds of motives. I mean the Americans have to be pretty, pretty long-term thinking to be planning now for the army 20 years from now. And, of course, they're not the only ones that do this… Mark: Right.
Steve: …it's a whole social issue. I mean I can see if Canada were a poor country and let's say Japan or China were rich and every year there's thousands of Canadian kids that are put up for adoption and taken elsewhere to be raised when our population is declining. I would not be very happy with that situation, but I wouldn't necessarily assume that it's because the Japanese want to fill their armed forces with Canadian children. It's amazing what people come up with. Mark: Yeah.
Steve: It's amazing. Mark: For sure.
Steve: Yeah, but getting back to Barack Obama. Yeah, he's a sophisticated guy, if he could do an interview in French or in Spanish… Mark: Yeah, but I mean I guess. I mean Spanish would be of more use to him.
Steve: Relevance, yeah.
Mark: Relevance in the States. French, yeah, but I mean, really, why is he going to speak French?
Not necessarily French, no, no.
Mark: Unless out of interest.
Mark: We don't really care what language he learns as long as he does it on LingQ and tells everybody. Steve: That too, that too. But I think it alters your perspective, just even knowing one other language. I don't want to get carried away with this thing, but it shows that you've made an effort to try to learn a little bit about another culture. Mark: I don't know, I don't know. Steve: No?
Mark: I mean some people like learning languages and some people don't. Steve: Maybe you're right, maybe you're right. Mark: I don't think it has any bearing on whether you'd make a good president or not. I'm sure there are lots of people that speak any languages that you wouldn't want as president. Steve: This is true. You wouldn't want me that's for sure. Mark: You know?
So what do you think of the economic crisis? We're starting to see a few more positive indicators. Mark: Seems to be. The stock markets seem to have recovered much of what they lost…
Mark: …which is an encouraging sign. I believe that the stock market is a leading indicator. The stock market has to recovery before the economy.
Steve: It tends to be.
Mark: It tends to be a predictor. It tends to drop, it tends to precede recessions and it tends to signal recovery.
Steve: To me it's interesting. You have those indicators or those economic statistics, which tell us what has happened. So we've seen, for example, the sale of existing homes in the United States rose by some tremendous number, the largest year-to-year increase. From May of 2008 to May of 2009 was the largest year-to-year increase in like 10 years or something.
Steve: So that's a very significant number. Mark: Yeah.
Steve: Certainly the stock market indicates people's attitudes, anticipations. Mark: Right.
Steve: Then there was the Conference Board of Canada, which is a leading economic think tank, did a survey which showed that Canadians are more optimistic about the future now than they have been in a long time, for years. So that again shows the mood.
Steve: And, of course, it's the mood that drives all this. Mark: And it's the mood that drives it all. Because I mean I saw another statistic that said, I think, the number of foreclosures in the States or something had gone up, in fact, recently. It was the highest on record or a big jump. I can't remember exactly the statistic, but it was a statistic that a year ago would have caused people to panic or at least cause a negative reaction. Steve: Right.
Mark: It seems to have just kind of gone by. The general sentiment seems to be on the positive these days.
Steve: Well there are several things there. First of all, some of those bad debts and people who can't afford to live in their homes they've got to be cleared out some how, so I don't fully understand. Maybe getting all of those foreclosures out of the way is a good thing, I don't know. Obviously the fact that people are buying more homes might be because the homes are so cheap, so somebody took a tremendous beating on those homes.
But, again, as you say, it's mostly the sentiment that we're worried about. Steve: Right.
Mark: I mean there are always people making money. Every time someone's losing money someone else is making money. Steve: Well, that's right. Mark: So whether, you know, all those people that took a bath on the mortgage…whether they invested in those mortgage-backed securities or had to foreclose on their mortgage. I mean they lost money, but someone else made that money.
Steve: Right, well someone is going to walk in there. Someone who is prudent with their money is going to walk in there and buy the house at 60% of the value.
Mark: Exactly. But my point is that it's not like that money is disappearing and nobody is earning any money. Throughout the crisis some people were making money, but it was more of the sentiment that people thought, oh-oh…
Mark: …things are going into the tank.
But if overall the value of people's home declines and overall the value of stocks on the stock market declines… Mark: Right.
Steve: …then people have less money.
Steve: Their net worth declines…
Mark: For sure.
Steve: …therefore they say I don't have as much money as I thought. I'm not going to go to Hawaii. I'm not going to buy a car. I'm not going to buy this and that… Mark: Right.
Steve: …and it all tends to spiral down.
Mark: That's true, yeah. Steve: And so it's when people start feeling more positive they buy stuff and then people start getting employed. I think just to see the increase in the number of unemployed is declining; whereas, whatever it was, like a 10% increase in unemployment then it's an eight percent increase. It's still an increase… Mark: Yeah.
Steve: …but it's less of an increase than the previous month, so that comes up as a positive indicator, you know. Mark: Right.
Steve: But, yeah.
Mark: Well people have to start spending money and helping to turn the economy around because someone has to pay for all the money the governments are forking out…
Steve: Well, that's right. Mark: …through all the different…
Steve: Well, it's going to be. With the amount of money they're spending if we have sustained low growth than the deficit burden is going to be horrendous. Mark: I know.
I mean to me I just don't… Steve: Yeah.
I don't know. Mark: I think it's wrong, all this money they're forking out to ... Steve: But maybe, first of all, they may not spend it all.
Steve: And that perhaps the feeling was that they had to, you know, appear to be doing something.
Steve: That this was all part of getting people to feel a little more confident about the future.
Mark: I mean I guess if things turn around here and the positive momentum continues maybe they'll come out smelling like a rose. Steve: Right.
Mark: But we'll have to see. But it's sure an awful lot of money for the States. Steve: Especially for this General Motors buyout.
Steve: And in Canada…
Mark: And in Canada, too.
Steve: …the same on a per capita basis.
Steve: It's the same. Whereas, the forest industry that I'm interested in, far more people out of work; nothing, no help for them. Mark: Well, that's the thing. The thing that bugs me the most, I guess, about these handouts is why are you handpicking industries to support and letting others fail?
Mark: You're taking money from some industries and giving it to others. Steve: Right.
Mark: I mean that's just not right. Steve: No.
Mark: Either you give money to all industries, which should take the form of a tax cut…
Steve: Including LingQ.
Mark: …including LingQ or don't give them any. You can't handpick, it's just not right. But I mean that's what governments do, they're buying votes. Steve: Yes.
Mark: That's, unfortunately, the case. Steve: Yeah.
Mark: Anyhow, I think that's going to do it. Steve: There it is. That's our run for the day. Mark: Yeah.
Steve: We do appreciate any feedback, we don't get a lot. We'd like some arguments. Get some people to phone in and tell us we're stupid, we can take it. Mark: Don't just turn us off. Steve: Yeah.
Mark: Tell us we're stupid and tell us why. Steve: Tell us something we don't know. Mark: Okay. We'll talk to you next time. Steve: Bye for now.