The clean-air report nothing but another “skies-are-falling” drivel

The air in Toronto is cleaner than the air in Edmonton.

Thus a study, dubbed “scientific” by Toronto-based national media.

We would have to adopt two wild assumptions in order to even begin considering it seriously, never mind accept it.

The first wild assumption: the study would have to be based on facts, not on so-called straight arithmetic averages; the data used would have to be verifiable and verified. And that would be just the basic requirements for judging the study.

The second wild assumption: we would have to assume that those who reported it knew whereof they spoke (wrote). Meaning, basically, that they were not guided one bit by the generally accepted misconception that a journalist’s job is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable. Judging by the current mainstream media’s output, their instructors in sundry journalism schools never told the candidates of this craft that their job is to inform.

As a minor aside: why do these journalism schools exist in the first place? Story-telling and curiosity are the only two abilities a journalism candidate requires. Neither can be taught. The technology, laws, etc., these things change at least once between a journalism candidate’s first entrance into the hallowed halls of learning and her/his departure.

Equipped with a diploma, they are convinced that here they are, ready to change the world. They are nothing of the sort. Especially considering that changing the world is not their job.

Which brings us back to the clean air story.

To make it read or sound believable, our intrepid journalists started asking questions. Their selection of those they feel are fit to enlighten us is frightful. The usual suspects who claim (in the case of Edmonton, and Alberta in general) that it is the industry that is to blame, and the government is guilty for not doing anything about it, and, besides, car exhausts are a terrible culprit, as well, what with everybody and their dog riding around either in a pickup or, Heavens forbid, an SUV.

Short memories

It seems proponents of government-enforced radical change ought to remind themselves of several facts. These facts happen to complicate their simplified outlook somewhat, but, alas, that’s life.

Such as: even if we do accept the Toronto-based report and pretend it answered all the questions it was supposed to answer in order to be considered a serious scientific paper, there are a few unpleasant questions remaining. Not only about its methodology. About nature, as well.

First of all: oh, absolutely, we should not be abusing our environment, but mind telling, for example, the Russian taiga forests to stop burning?

It just so happens that for a number of decades running our atmosphere has been seriously damaged by smoke coming all the way across Santa’s North Pole condo, making the regions south of Edmonton within days.

Here’s what’s happening: the Russians let, on way too many occasions, the taiga forest fires burn out all by themselves. Forest fires, they say, with some justification, are a natural occurrence. They would only act if these fires came too close to forced-labour camps (yes, they still have them, and most of them are in Siberia). Russian authorities consider these camps a useful source of cheap labour, as they always have been. Might as well protect them.

There have been several other occasions, such as that the fires came too close to nuclear installations. That’s when the Russians would act.

Don’t expect for a moment that they would employ water bombing aircraft. But they would employ bombers. Russian (formerly Soviet) air force bombers stationed in those regions would practice carpet bombing. These bombing sorties would become part and parcel of military training, while creating buffer zones against the spread of the fires. What the fires do inside those zones, that, the Russians would tell you, was either God’s or nature’s decision, depending on that particular Russian’s religious inclination (or lack of same).

Compared to the inferno that keeps happening with regularity in Russia’s taiga, British Columbia’s (or Canada’s, in general) forest fires are nothing but small camp fires, used to roast meat, play the guitar or banjo, down a beer or two, sing a few songs and enjoy each other’s company. Not only that, we as Canadians feel we have the obligation toward both the forests and the wildlife that inhabit them. That’s why the best water bombers have been designed and built in Canada. They are used in civilized countries all over the world. Canada leads the field.

How about closer to home?

Now that winter seems to have left Edmonton for a few weeks, it took the city administration more than a month to wake up to the fact that a thorough clean-up job would be in order.

The system we have here borders on the insane. It may have even crossed that border.

If you, as a tax-paying citizen, have issues with too many potholes in your area, don’t expect city crews to be aware of them without you telling them. No, they are incredibly busy, and if you tell them, and are persistent enough to keep calling them every even (or odd) hour to remind them, chances are they will patch them up just as the leaves start falling and birds begin their journey southwards with the autumn coming in.

No, they will not fix them. They will only patch them up. Whether this is an attempt to create full employment in Edmonton remains to be seen. It looks like it.

The same goes, and now we come full circle back to clean air, for city roads.

After a few weeks went by without major blizzards, you could see city crews cleaning the roads. This is not to say they were doing a heck of a job of it, especially when they were watering the roads just as spring rains began hitting the place. Still, as a beginning it looked interesting. That, of course, didn’t mean that the debris left behind the watering cisterns would be swept away during that same operation. First, the water had to dry. Besides, you should give the debris a fair chance to enjoy the windy weather and do a bit of flying around, in order to see their neighbourhoods.

Then came the turn of sweeping away the debris from the grass along the roads. Where? Why, back to the road surfaces. Meaning: those surfaces that, allegedly, had just been cleaned.

Now what?

Now nothing.

When nothing had been happening for a week, an annoyed citizen called the city complaint centre, filed her or his concern, left her or his name and phone number, and got a call from someone in the city administration another three or four days later. Just don’t you worry, we’re going to get around to it.

When?

Ah, said the unnamed city employee (unnamed because he wasn’t told in advance he might be quoted for publication), anyhow, ah, said that employee, in a week or two. He sounded somewhat troubled when that citizen mentioned that, due (or thanks) to the last windy days it would make no sense for anyone to come to clean the road a week or two from now: the debris would be all in the air by then.

The city employee went on to explain that these things are the responsibility of two separate departments, as if two departments could not co-ordinate what they’re doing. And let’s not even mention the bold idea that cleaning roads in a city Edmonton’s size should not require two separate departments.

Feet on the ground

Of course, all this makes environmentalists’ cries sound somewhat ridiculous.

Get rid of coal-burning power stations. Stop using pickup trucks or SUVs. Solar or wind power stations are the answer. And so on.

It doesn’t take much research to establish that solar and wind power stations are one of the least effective (and efficient) sources of electricity. To put it simply: the energy these electric power sources create is way too expensive to even maintain the economic status quo.

Yes, the environmentalists would say, but if that’s the cost for healthy living, so be it. Is there anything to that argument? Turns out there isn’t. There would be more if these people were on record as saying that all of us should turn the lights off whenever we leave a room.

It just so happens that Canada is in the forefront of nations devising, building and using with spectacular effectiveness equipment to filter unwanted emissions from coal-fuelled and diesel-fuelled electric power plants. Except, it seems, the environmentalist crowd haven’t been made aware of it. Why they didn’t make the effort to find out themselves is another question.

How about nuclear power stations?

Well, they may be the song of the future. As soon as someone invents a way of safe disposal of radioactive waste.

How about power stations that use tide?

Another idea whose time might yet come. Perhaps as soon as someone develops a working plan how to control the tides so that the supply does not depend on the Moon’s mood alone.

The main issue

Here’s what the so-called environmentalist movement is all about: let the government decide what’s best for you. And you. And you. And, speaking of it, you, too.

Who guarantees that government knows best? Why, the government, of course!

There’s a world of difference between the science of ecology and the ideological movement of environmentalism. While it is a fine idea that all of us should contribute to keeping this planet clean, lying about the current state of affairs borders on the criminal.

Indeed, yes, lying.

How would you explain the cries that we’re entering yet another ice age just a few decades ago, to be followed by similarly loud cries (by the same people, too) that we’re going to burn, that’s how the planet is heating up.

And all that within just a few decades.

Of course, the real explanation is simple: none of these changes are new, and those yelling the loudest have obviously missed their high school science class when their teachers were explaining the basics of solar cycles.

What makes this even more dangerous is that mainstream media, ideologically blind and incapable of learning, ignores signs that what we’re dealing with here is frightful nonsense.

On top of it, mainstream media these days is unable (read: unwilling) to tolerate opposing views. It presents the terribly warped statements by climate alarmists as fact, while those same climate alarmists are laughing all the way to their banks, going to collect another set of grants for their more than questionable would-be research.

Speaking of which: how much have you learnt from mainstream media about the e-mail traffic within the East Anglia climatology institute? That would be the place that co-ordinates all of the worldwide climate alarmism.

Turns out a Russian hacker managed to break into the system and publish its content. Frank exchanges about falsifying basic data and conclusions galore. Has it made mainstream media’s front pages? Was it leading news broadcasts? And how about the fact that this doctored East Anglia drivel has remained the basis of the United Nations’ regular alarmist climate change reports?

An old fairy tale tells us about a boy who would shout in feigned horror that wolves were coming. He would have great fun watching his neighbouring villagers running out, their weapons at the ready, hoping to chase the wolves away before they got to the kid.

One day, as the boy was taking a herd of whatever domestic animals to pasture, a pack of wolves appeared.

The kid cried in horror. Nobody bothered to even look out of the windows. Next thing the kid knew, he was on the wolves menu.

Bon Appetit!

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Ex-employee hates Jágr’s management style

Jaromír Jágr may be a fantastic hockey player but he’s not much so far as owning a hockey club is concerned.

Thus the former sports manager of the Rytíři Kladno club Martin Vejvoda.

The club that has given hockey a number of stars, including Jágr himself, was in dire straits after the 2010-11 season. When it looked as if Czech top league in Kladno would be gone, Jaromír Jágr rode in on a white stallion and bought the club.

It helped so far as the books were concerned. It didn’t help much on the ice, ex-manager Vejvoda claimed in a story published by the isport.cz website the other day. Last season, Kladno, once the proud Czech Extraleague champion, was relegated. This year, the club managed to make the so-called first league’s tournament that decides which team would be elevated, but that was as far as it got.

Once the club’s competitive season was over, Jágr signalled from North America that it would not be over so far as the players’ work was concerned. They would still be paid for the next two months, Jágr said, so, he expected them to start serious practices that would prepare them for the next season.

That didn’t sit well with the players. And since Jágr expressed doubts about the quality of his club’s management, former sports manager (equals something close to general manager in North America, but not completely) Martin Vejvoda felt he was slighted.

So, he went on Facebook and suggested Jágr ought to keep his mouth shut.

“It’s one thing to employ people, and another matter to solve things,” Vejvoda said. “You can’t do that without having the authority. Coaches should have it, too. What system to play, who’s going to play. They weren’t free to do their job.”

Besides, nobody dares run the day-to-day operations, either. Jágr, claims Vejvoda, announced through the media that his preference for the club’s new coach would be Jindřich Lidický, but the hiring process is at a standstill until Jágr returns from North America by the end of April.

Lidický is a name that resonates with many Kladno fans. He was a star forward with the club in one of its famous incarnations decades ago. His younger version has been coaching Kladno’s junior teams. Apparently he was quite successful, too. Jágr, who knows his club will require a bit of rejuvenation, is on record as saying that Lidický has not only brought the kids up, but he also knows them. That’s why Lidický would be perfect for the job.

Ex-manager Vejvoda summed this situation thusly:

“After the relegation season (last game took place April 20), the owner would show up in the arena at the end of July. The club brings in new assistant coaches but not the head coach after it had been relegated. The club enters the new season with seven defencemen, aged 22.5 years on average. There’s nobody to run the day-to-day operations, with subsequent deduction of points (for this transgression).”

Strong sentiments. Made stronger by the fact that Kladno alumni such as Jiří Tlustý, Ondřej Pavelec and Radek Smoleňák express their agreement by signalling they like what Vejvoda said on Facebook.

Vancouver Canucks’ forward Radim Vrbata owns one third of the Mlada Boleslav club in the first league, the isport.cz journalists mention pointedly. Yet, their story continues, Vrbata has delegated a lot of decision-making powers onto others. They have the right to make decisions during the season without consulting their boss. Only the most important issues depend on Vrbata’s participation. Unlike in Kladno, where Jaromír Jágr has to have the last word on everything.

“And it’s difficult to get hold of him,” added ex-manager Vejvoda. “I was told I’d be responsible for hockey operations. It didn’t happen. I recall a game at Prostějov where some players’ attitudes were unacceptable. Even though nobody cared about defence before the season, I was of the view that there should be not only fines, but that some of those guys deserved to be fired or transferred into a lower league. But I couldn’t do a thing without the owner’s permission,” Vejvoda added.

Whatever Jágr says, people take it seriously.

“He (Jágr) was active in the club’s work over the summer,” said Vejvoda, “and that was very good. Except, as soon as he left for overseas, our hands were tied. It can’t work that way,” said Vejvoda. He decided to fix the defence situation by himself, was told he was overstepping his mandate and, by mid-November, he had enough and resigned.

“Two of the young defencemen got injured,” explained Vejvoda. “I brought in (23-year-old) Lukáš Kužel, a passionate player and a fighter. It wasn’t an expensive acquisition, either. Except, I was told I have broken policy rules.”

The isport.cz story doesn’t quote any reaction by Jágr. Either the isport.cz journalists thought accusing Jágr is going to bring in enough eyeballs to justify this lack of tradecraft, or they are trying to confirm what the ex-manager Vejvoda had said: Jágr is difficult to get hold of.

Still, it is interesting: Jágr single-handedly saved the top league team for Kladno. He came in just as it looked that relocation would be imminent.

And these are the thanks he’s getting. There’s an old Czech saying: Pro dobrotu na žebrotu. Meaning, roughly and in verbatim translation, be good to others, and you’ll go begging. Or, better still, no good deed goes unpunished.

Indeed.

Hockey Unlimited offers impressive season finale

There are 30 NHL teams. They have 690 players on their active rosters.

A few thousand players in minor professional leagues are working their behinds off to join the anointed 690. And then there are tens of thousands players in all kinds of sundry competitions, from university level to any other kind of a league. Some of them are in North America, others play overseas. Many of them dream of making the NHL and, ultimately, lifting the Stanley Cup over their heads.

But the 30 NHL teams can only accommodate 690 players all told.

Selecting those few who might have what it takes to make the show is what NHL teams’ scouts’ jobs are all about.

With this being this season’s last installment of Hockey Unlimited, and this year’s NHL draft coming in just a couple of months, the Aquila Productions’ documentary took a behind-the-scenes look at the way NHL clubs search for new talent. With professional insiders leading the way, we get to see the many things that have to happen before a general manager, surrounded by his coaches and scouts, mounts the podium to announce his team’s selection.

Sportsnet aired this season’s Hockey Unlimited finale Thursday, and there are several repeat broadcasts scheduled (see below for additional information).

Finding the future NHL stars makes looking for a needle in a haystack an easy job. Remember, it’s not only the first-rounders who are expected to make an impact within a season or two. It’s the late bloomers who make this exercise so exciting. In fact, as Hockey Unlimited shows, not all first-rounders develop into bona fide NHL players, while quite a few players selected in later rounds of the draft end up becoming stars (Pavel Datsyuk comes to mind).

So what does it take? Analytics, of course, say the insiders, but gut feelings, too, and those are usually based on wealth of experience. Scouts gather this kind of experience through trial and error. They spend many years going from one arena to another in some God-forsaken places, looking for gems no other scouts have noticed. And, of course, talking to the coaches and to the players themselves helps reveal significant angles, also.

To sum up, it’s a tough job, but if a professional sports league such as the NHL wants to survive, somebody’s got to do it.

A visionary’s vision

A visionary Roman Catholic priest, Père (Father) James Athol Murray, loved God, Canada and hockey. Not necessarily (or not always) in that order. The founder of a high school now known as the Athol Murray College of Notre Dame of Wilcox, Saskatchewan, this learning institution has given the hockey world a number of stars, some of whom reminisce in the second segment of this episode of Hockey Unlimited about the time they spent in the community of fewer than 400, studying in the boarding school that earned international fame since its founding in 1927.

That the Notre Dame Hounds form a team most other hockey clubs respect, and very rightfully so, is one thing. The other is that the school educates its students academically and, perhaps most importantly, as human beings, too.

As students and alumni tell us, on top of it all, they form friendships that they expect to last them till death do them part.

It’s one part of what Hockey Unlimited does so well: it puts the game into perspective.

Fighting a frightful battle

Nowhere does Hockey Unlimited show it better (and with more understanding) than in telling the final story of this episode.

Here’s what it’s all about: Noah Fayad, a 14-year-old player on the St. Albert Sabres AAA Bantam team in the Edmonton Major Bantam Hockey League, was becoming more and more tired. His coaches noticed, and his dad asked his son. Alarmed and shocked by the answers, rounds of visits to medical people followed. The diagnosis that came back was overwhelmingly scary: leukemia.

It is quite possible that without young Noah’s active involvement in sports, nobody would have noticed. Or, they would consider the signs a part of the many changes people go through during puberty.

Except, Noah Fayad was physically very fit, indeed, one of the stars on his team. So, the decline in fitness and stamina was more noticeable than if he was a couch potato.

A physician interviewed for Hockey Unlimited said Noah’s prognosis seems encouraging. Not only because of his physical fitness, and not only because medical people detected (and started treating) the disease early enough. The friendship and support shown by his teammates and opposing players alike, must have been a boost, too.

Sabres’ young assistant coach Brady Reid lost his father John to the same disease when he was about Noah’s age. He understands what Noah’s family is going through. And he is proud of his players who wear a sticker with Noah’s initials and number (NF 12) on their helmets to show they are in the battle with their teammate.

And when players from other teams show up wearing similar stickers, or just plain stickers announcing they are trying to help find a cure for leukemia, no words can express how grateful Noah and his family must be.

And Hockey Unlimited, not a show known for too many words, is even quieter here. It lets the pictures do the talking.

As always, hockey coach Steve Serdachny offers a few tips: this time, on passing the puck. Fitness guru Simon Bennett makes sure we learn the seemingly easy exercise that would make our hips capable of withstanding the toughest tasks we confront them with.

Serving with distinction

Hockey Unlimited is a fine documentary. Yes, it helps that it covers Canadians’ national passion. What makes it so distinctive is the fact that it not only keeps looking for contexts, it also finds them. Its creators respect both their subjects and their audiences, and that shows, too.

Its tradecraft is impeccable, something we’ve got used to with Aquila Productions’ programming. But its ability in looking for and finding stories that would interest even those few Canadians who prefer anything to hockey, now, this is an ability that makes it extraordinary.

It seems that the timing is right, too. Television audiences are slowly but distinctly becoming bored with fast-paced shows that consist of furious factoid hits without giving the viewers any time to at least consider thinking about what they are seeing.

Hockey Unlimited gives their audiences as many facts as it can give them to let them think and form their opinions. It doesn’t force its own opinions on its viewers, either.

This is what great documentary making is all about, and here’s hoping Hockey Unlimited still has a few seasons ahead of it.

 

BROADCAST SCHEDULE:

 

Thurs. Apr. 9

3 PM ET SN One

Fri. Apr. 10

1 PM ET SN Pacific, West, Ontario, East
11:30 PM ET SN One

Tues. Apr. 14

5:30 PM ET SN Pacific, West, Ontario, East

 

 

The black art season is upon us, Hockey Unlimited promises

(Updated with detailed broadcast schedule below.)

Remember the Edmonton Oilers selecting Steve Kelly sixth overall in the 1995 NHL draft? The event took place in the Northlands Coliseum (remember THAT place? No? Would the name Rexall Place put it into context?). When then-Oilers’ president and general manager, Glen Sather, and the team’s then-chief scout, Barry Fraser, were mounting the podium, the audience went berserk, demanding the locals select one Shane Doan.

Doan went to the Winnipeg Jets who were selecting seventh. He’s been with them through thick and thin till this day, and he’s still their desert incarnation’s captain in Arizona.

Come to think of it, Edmonton native Jarome Iginla went 11th overall in that same draft, straight to the Dallas Stars, only to be traded to the Calgary Flames for Joe Nieuwendyk.

Where’s Steve Kelly now? Retired, that’s where, after achieving the unpleasant title “underachiever,” never playing more than a half of a season for any given NHL team, going through the German DEL hockey league all the way to the AHL, and ending his career there, following an injury.

Whether it was Kelly’s pure bad luck is irrelevant now. The only thing that matters is that, in hindsight, his selection in the first round was a mistake.

A mistake? After all, as we all know, hindsight is 20-20.

Again, it depends on your point of view.

In 1993, the Ottawa Senators have selected Alexandre Daigle first overall. They were so ecstatic to have landed him, they gave him an outrageous salary by the standards of the day, forcing the league to introduce more or less sensible limitations on rookie income (entry-level contract, as we know it now).

Daigle became famous right then and there. Not so much for his hockey prowess but, rather, for his frightfully idiotic statement that he’s happy to be picked first because, you know, who remembers the guy selected second.

Hartford Whalers (today’s Carolina Hurricanes, for the uninitiated) were selecting second. Chris Pronger was their choice.

Who of the two has achieved more? A rhetorical question.

This being its last installment for this season, Hockey Unlimited’s eighth episode opens with what it calls the science and black art of scouting.

Remember, the regular season will be almost over on the day Rogers Sportsnet airs this episode, Thursday, April 9. (See broadcast schedule below for further broadcast times.) The playoffs will be upon us, but so will be the draft lottery, and, ultimately, the draft itself.

Even with today’s use of advanced statistics and other hugely involved tools of what their priests call the analytics, teams are selecting real, living people, hoping they’re finding a series of gems in the rough. This, in and of itself, makes the draft a hit-and-miss proposition, easily comparable to guessing the sex in one-day-old chicken. Winning over one-armed bandits in casinos carries more probability than picking the right player.

And that even with the hoopla about the so-called “generational players,” such as Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel this season.

Teams that place first and second in the draft lottery should be very careful about what they wish for. Just to refresh your memory: the abovementioned Alexandre Daigle carried the same “generational” label.

Having an insider take us through the maze of trying to find big-league talent is going to make this an interesting segment, for sure.

It is quite logical that, following this insider look into the NHL draft, the second segment of Hockey Unlimited is going to concentrate on a school that has produced so many hockey stars.

It’s known as Athol Murray College of Notre Dame. Founded in 1927 by a visionary Roman Catholic priest, Père (Father) James Athol Murray, Notre Dame has given us stars like Curtis Joseph, Wendel Clark, Vincent Lecavalier, Tyler Myers and Jaden Schwartz, among many others. Located in the relatively small village of Wilcox, Saskatchewan, this high school academy has been developing the spirits, minds and bodies of its students since its inception.

The school’s alumni have remained “hounds for life,” as the second segment of the season’s final episode of Hockey Unlimited shows.

It wouldn’t be Aquila Productions if they didn’t find a hockey story that puts the whole thing into perspective.

Noah Fayad, a 14-year-old player on the St. Albert Sabres AAA Bantam team in the Edmonton Major Bantam Hockey League, has been stricken by leukemia. His quietly courageous battle against this disease has inspired both his teammates and his opponents alike.

Fayad’s battle has helped create a special bond between him and the Sabres’ young assistant coach Brady Reid, who lost his father John to the same disease when he was about Noah’s age. As has become the series’ tradition, Hockey Unlimited will again offer viewers valuable tips on hockey fitness from high-performance personal trainer Simon Bennett and on-ice skills from NHL instructor Steve Serdachny.

Episode eight of Hockey Unlimited will begin airing on multiple Sportsnet channels on April 9, with repeat broadcast at various times over the following week preceding the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs. (See broadcast schedule below for further broadcast times.)

 

BROADCAST SCHEDULE:

 

Thurs. Apr. 9

3 PM ET SN One

Fri. Apr. 10

1 PM ET SN Pacific, West, Ontario, East
11:30 PM ET SN One

Tues. Apr. 14

5:30 PM ET SN Pacific, West, Ontario, East

Give me smut and nothing but?

What is it that makes drivel such as the previously mentioned Fifty Grades of Shade successful? Have we all gone out of our minds?

Not really.

Before we continue, a couple of acknowledgements.

The headline is stolen from a Tom Lehrer song.

The inspiration for the earlier text on boycotting abusive pornography, and, come to think of it, for this follow-up, too, comes from my wonderful granddaughter, Michaela.

And now back to the topic.

Many might remember how the National Gallery of Canada went ahead and bought a sculpture from a certain Jana Sterbak. It was made of pieces of beef, which apparently was supposed to carry a deep thought, a message, indeed. The only message was that it began to stink within days and Ms. Sterbak had to replace the offending pieces of beef.

The general public were not amused. Some ventured so far as to suggest that instead of spending the money on this insult to human intelligence, the National Gallery could have spent it on buying beef in any shape or form for Canada’s Food Banks.

A bunch of hicks, snorted the artistic poohbahs whose way of working can be safely described as “I scratch your back, and you scratch mine.”

Jiří Menzel, an Oscar-winning film director, has more than once described this phenomenon thus: these so-called artists ignore the general population because they live in an incestuous world of mutually awarded grants and whatnot. The general public ignores them back. And so, they live side by side, ignoring each other. The only issue to observe here is that one of the two sides is productive, moving society ahead, while the other is not.

The unproductive group, a.k.a. so-called artists, can hardly care less about the basics, such as tradecraft. They are artists, God damn it, and they’ll have you know that tradecraft exists only for nincompoops whose only goal is to pander to the masses of the unwashed.

The result? Simple. Ms. Sterbak wins the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts. Another proof of the incest that exists in the so-called pure artistic community.

Dr. Milena Sterbak, Jana Sterbak’s mother, was an honest physician who left her native Czechoslovakia in 1968, when Soviet tanks rolled in. When she was still alive, she wasn’t very comfortable with what her daughter was presenting as art. If only she knew where her daughter’s chutzpah would land her, she would strangle her with her own hands.

But how is it possible? Don’t the educated people whose opinions matter in these circles know any better?

It seems they don’t.

Many, if not most, correction, if not all of them, know not whereof they speak. They look at the garbage (quite literally, on occasion, too) that is presented to them as pure, unadulterated art. They don’t want to miss the train. They have no idea what it is they are looking at, but since everybody in their crowd is sighing in ecstasy, using all kinds of would-be intellectual words (mostly ending in –ism or –ist), they join the chorus. Little do they know that those whom they are joining are about as ignorant as they are.

Of course, all those would-be artists deserve the right to create whatever they please. Freedom of expression. Why taxpayers should be paying for this drivel is another question. If a private connoisseur wants to indulge (and has the money to do so), by all means.

Which brings us back to excrement known as avant-garde use of sadism and masochism in literature and movies. Fifty Shades of Grey is a frightful example of society gone berserk. Works that applaud abuse cannot be described any other way.

So, how and why is it possible that a publishing house of some renown picks up this turgid prose and publishes all of the more than 500 pages of it?

That Hollywood picks it up is not a surprise. These guys smell dough from the furthest of distances. Which brings us to the most important question: how is it possible that crowds that should know better spend their hard-earned currencies on this nonsense?

It would be difficult to believe that sado-masochism has reached such popularity within general population.

So what is it?

It would be interesting to see a breakdown of actual people who’d bought this insult to the meanest of intelligence. We won’t get that, of course, but still, it would be interesting to see something like that.

Meanwhile, boycott is the only line of defence we have. We should use it. We should use it now, before it’s too late.

Remember Larry Flynt? The guy who produced such smut as Hustler? The guy who fought for his freedom of expression and won?

We should fight for our freedom to be free of this would be creative, artistic, even, nonsense.

It’s our duty. If not to ourselves, then, at least, to our children and grandchildren.

Boycotting abusive pornography beats censorship, hands down

Long, long time ago, there used to be a British Army Captain by the name of Charles Cunningham Boycott. He used to be an English land agent in Ireland. The Captain resisted the locals’ demand that their rents are reduced. The Irish came up with an ingenious way of getting back at him (and his masters). They ostracized him. They pretended he didn’t exist.

Captain Boycott would end up costing his masters and the British government a pretty penny. With the Irish refusing to help his masters with harvesting their crops, the Crown had to send in the army to do the work. To get about 500 pounds’ worth of crops off the fields would eventually cost about 10,000 pounds.

Good old Captain couldn’t buy his groceries locally, his mail delivery guy faced threats if he didn’t stop delivering mail, and, generally speaking, the locals made him into a non-entity.

Thus the word “boycott” came into existence.

This would be precisely the treatment the Fifty Grades of Grey ought to receive. Both as a book, and as a movie.

A British author who wouldn’t be able to write if it saved her life, one E. L. James, hit upon the idea of creating a novel that would celebrate all kinds of sexual perversities that she could think of. Making her dreams come true, so to speak. So, she wrote Fifty Shades of Grey. It started innocently enough as a blog entry, proving one more time (as if proof was needed) that the web really is the most democratic medium on earth. Anyone, no matter how untalented, can publish, more often than not not having to pay a red farthing for the privilege.

Then, for whatever reason, Vintage Books entered the scene. Now, it used to be a pretty respectable publishing outfit. Established in the 1950s by no less an authority on quality literature than Alfred A. Knopf, Random House bought it half a dozen years later. It sails under Random House’s flag even today.

Driven by the number of eyeballs that made this piece of excrement a popular sensation in the blogosphere, Vintage went and published it. The buck doesn’t stink.

Not to be outdone, Hollywood entered the fray. Focus Features, Michael De Luca Productions and Trigger Street Productions, with the support of Universal as the main distributor, made this regular nonsense into a movie.

Rather logical, that. Hollywood has long ago ceased to have any good story ideas of its own. It’s been making its dough on endless re-makes of re-makes, the more violent the better: why think of story development when a shrapnel explosion that releases some life-threatening space aliens will do the job as well, and it won’t cost as much, either?

Shockingly, some outfits that ought to know better, such as Publishers Weekly or Time, have pronounced E.L. James an important person, author, an artist, indeed.

Of course, if you consider someone who’s been selling filth under the guise of art an important person, just because that filth has been selling like hot cakes, it seems you have to return to kindergarten and re-learn basic human values.

Demeaning women wouldn’t be one of them.

And yet, this is what this drivel is all about: abuse is fun, abuse deserves our admiration, abuse deserves our applause. And the person who promotes it deserves every cent of the money she’s making.

Even more shocking: a public library in Florida removes the filth from its shelves, only to be censored by a politically correct hen from the American Library Association. The book, she said, attracts readership, and who the heck are those librarians who think they can decide what is and what is not in good taste.

Which brings us to a serious question.

Censorship, as such, should not exist. While, for example, most of us would agree that filth that demeans women and celebrates abuse should never see the light of day, once we attempt censorship, we’ve stepped on a very slippery path.

There’s a better way, for us, as citizens. Boycott this kind of dirt, and boycott those who celebrate it. Then, it still would be a form of censorship, but it would be based on our individual responsibilities, and nobody can be forcing us to support those who claim freedom of expression includes freedom to applauding criminal behaviour.

Criminal?

Yes, absolutely.

Abuse of anyone, be it sexually or any other way, happens to be criminal activity.

Our judicial system is not going to touch this with a ten-foot pole. It fears the onslaught of those who believe anything anybody published while claiming it’s art and it’s sacred.

Guess what: it’s not.

And the best way to drive the point home would be to boycott not only Fifty Shades of Grey (and any other installments of it), but also everything that has anything to do with Random House, as well as with the Hollywood morons who are pushing it through.

Feeling the pinch in their wallets is the only way we can stop them.

Hockey Unlimited tackles kids’ bodychecking issue head-on

A good documentary does not shy away from issues that are bound to create controversy. Indeed, a good documentary does not shy away from issues that already are controversial, either.

But, at the same time, a good documentary is perfectly willing to give voice to all sides in the argument.

Hockey Unlimited is a very good documentary.

Episode 7 that aired Monday on Rogers Sportsnet, with repeat broadcasts scheduled for later (see schedule below), opened with a serious look at an issue that has split Canada’s hockey community beyond belief. When should young players be permitted to engage in bodychecking?

Hockey Canada says not before they’ve outgrown their peewee level.

The Saskatchewan hockey association says not so.

Hockey Canada is basing its decision on parents’ fears. Those fears are based on NHL-level hits, repeated on television in super-slow motion over and over again, ad nauseam. We all know the consequences of such events, often career-ending, and quite frequently having dreadful impacts on players’ lives long after their careers have ended.

As Tom Renney – who heads Hockey Canada – put it, his organization is responsible to its members. As it should be, of course.

Except, Saskatchewan hockey people say they are responsible to their members, too, and their members agree with their view that teaching kids this age the art of bodychecking will make their later hockey lives easier for them.

The Saskatchewan hockey people support their views with findings from sports medicine experts, including specialists in kinesiology. They say what kids need is for someone to teach them the art of safe bodychecking. And they’re not merely talking about it. They are holding clinics for coaches, teaching them how to teach bodychecking right.

It seems the gap is in the definition. Where Hockey Canada sees bodychecking as a martial art always linked with a huge hit that sends the victim head-first into the boards or the victim performing a salto mortale (full somersault) in the middle of the ice surface, Saskatchewan hockey association sees it as an ability to insert one’s body between the opposing puck carrier and the puck, with the objective of taking the puck away.

Hockey Unlimited does not go out to say so openly: it is a documentary, after all. But it gives its viewers sufficient amount of information to form their own decision.

Speaking of peewee hockey, its international tournament in Quebec City is now 55 years old and still going strong.

Hockey Unlimited’s segment on this event doesn’t show us only what’s going on on the ice inside the Colisee. It takes us backstage and introduces us to numerous volunteers who make the tournament the success that it has been since its inception in 1960.

They don’t use fancy computers to capture and type-out everything. An old typewriter has seen such names as Guy Lafleur, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Rick Nash and Steven Stamkos among the 1,200 players who would excel in the NHL. It still works when volunteers are typing out game sheets. The idea is simple and straightforward: why spend money on office equipment when you can spend it on making your players’ experience unforgettable?

The players are happy that they play against some strong opposition, and that they play in front of thousands of fans who fill the seats in the good, old Colisee, no matter who’s playing whom. Considering, especially, that many of them are used to playing whenever their local arenas are free, in front of their parents and closest family members only, seeing such huge crowds borders on the overwhelming, but it’s wonderful fun, the players say.

And you can feel everybody’s enthusiasm just come across from the Colisee right into your living room (or wherever you’re watching).

Just as you can feel the enthusiasm coming across from players who brave blizzards and crazy temperatures to play hockey at the self-styled World Pond Hockey Championships.

Official pomposity purists might suggest it would have to be happening under the auspices of the International Ice Hockey Federation ((IIHF) to be able to call itself the world championships, but participants do not care. The more players come, the merrier. That’s all that matters. And they DO come from all over the world, with the possible exception of the Antarctica. Come to think of it, how many teams from that continent have we seen at IIHF events, anyhow?

It’s a beer-league event to end all beer-league events, attracting players from all over the world. Staged on the Roulston Lake in Plaster Rock, New Brunswick, the number of players easily doubles the number of people who live there. That the beer flows quite freely is quite obvious when the teams face the camera to introduce themselves, but the hockey is free-wheeling, too, and the handshakes and hugs that follow the games are genuine.

And when the weather gets worse, and the temperatures dip, so much the better, the Aquila Productions documentary shows. How many people can claim they scored a game-deciding goal in a blizzard with temperatures hovering around mins-30 Celsius?

You can add to it another question: how many camera crews would brave these elements the way the Aquila Productions’ crew has? After all, these guys weren’t keeping warm skating, and in good mood drinking beer. They were there to document others doing it, and what a great job of documenting they have done!

Useful tips on hockey fitness from high-performance personal trainer Simon Bennett and on-ice skills tips from NHL instructor Steve Serdachny have become Hockey Unlimited’s tradition; they make the show complete.

Broadcast schedule:

Mon. Mar. 30

5:30 PM ET SN Pacific, SN West, SN Ontario, SN East

Wed. Apr. 1

9:30 PM PT (12:30 AM ET) SN Ontario, SN East, SN Pacific

Fri. Apr. 3

12:30 PM ET SN One