Friday, June 12, 2009

Game 7!!

Well, we're less than an hour from the opening faceoff of what will be, one way or the other, the last NHL game of the season. Of course, it's Pittsburgh at Detroit, and it's always rather fun to see one of the Old Six in the finals, and most of my acquaintances (me too, for that matter), are leaning towards pulling for the Red Wings.

There's a certain amount of irony there, for NHL hockey was played in Pittsburgh before its arrival in Detroit. The first NHL game played in Pittsburgh took place on December 2nd, 1925, between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the New York Americans (New York won, 2-1, in overime). Notable players for the Pirates that season included defenceman Lionel Conacher, starting goalie Roy Worters, and coach/forward/backup goalie Odie Cleghorn. The Pirates were actually decent (i.e. a regular playoff team) for their first three seasons, before tailing off. Their final season in Pittsburgh, 1929-1930, was abysmal; the team won only 5 of 44 games. They moved to Philadelphia for the next season, and were worse (4 wins). After that season, the Great Depression put an end to NHL hockey in Pennsylvania until 1967. If you're interested, there's much much more about the Pirates, and Pittsburgh hockey generally, here.

The first NHL game in Detroit took place on November 22, 1927, between the hometown Cougars (later the Falcons, and subsequently the Red Wings) and the Ottawa Senators. Ottawa won 2-0. The Cougars, who got their name from the fact that most of their players had been purchased from the defunct Victoria Cougars of the Western Hockey League, had actually been formed the previous season, but had played all their home games in Windsor. Unlike the Pirates, of course, they survived the Depression, and began winning Stanley Cups in 1936.

So, in fact, it's a very old-school matchup tonight!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

From One Extreme To Another...

So, this past weekend, within 14 hours, I saw Rancid in concert and attended a church service with HRH the Countess of Wessex. Some observations, starting with the Rancid gig:

  • Large Hockey Arena = Not A Good Punk Rock Venue.
  • Despite all kinds of problems with the sound (see immediately above), Rancid did very very well (again). They've been at it for the better part of 20 years, and you can tell.
  • Weirdly enough, Rancid were one of the opening bands for this thing. The actual headliners were Rise Against, who may want to rethink the whole "having-a-ginourmously-popular-band-open-for-us" thing. A good many people, we included, left after Rancid's set.
  • Rancid's set list was mostly old favourites, with a couple of new songs tossed in. They went all-acoustic (bongos!) for one number ("The 11th Hour"), which was rather fun.
  • The opening band, The Riverboat Gamblers, were pretty much unlistenable, although that really wasn't their fault. It wasn't until their last couple of numbers that the sound system started cooperating, and when it did, they actually sounded pretty good.

Here's one of Rancid's new songs:

And, moving on to the Royal Visit:

  • I'd say it pretty much went off without a hitch, despite a minor rebellion on the part of the plumbing the day before.
  • I did not actually get to meet Princess Sophie, but I am told that she is the soul of graciousness, especially when dealing with the little kiddies!
  • The sermon rocked.
  • The reason HRH was in town was to inspect the South Alberta Light Horse, of which regiment she is the Colonel-in-Chief. So, there were a lot of dress uniforms about the place on Sunday morning, some of them liberally festooned with medals.
  • The regimental band provided entertainment during lunch, prompting one small child to sit approximately five feet in front of them, watching raptly, with her fingers in her ears.
  • All-in-all, I think it was a memorable morning for the right reasons!

Semper Alacer

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Paging Mr. Darrow!

Homo Erectus: Not Welcome in Alberta

Ok, maybe that's a bit of an over-reaction, but still...

Alberta passes law allowing parents to pull kids out of class
Written notice required when sex, sexual orientation, religion are covered

Alberta legislators passed legislation early Tuesday that will give parents the option of pulling their children out of class when lessons on sex, religion or sexual orientation are being taught.

And at first glance, it doesn't sound too bad. No sane person would argue that parents shouldn't be informed about the curriculum, nor even that they shouldn't have some say in it. This is not an issue (the old straw man that is the idea of "sexual orientation being taught in school" is far too tedious to address here). The issues, and indeed the screaming bloody problems with the bill, begin with this statement from Premier Stelmach (despite political disagreements, I've never particularly had a bone to pick with Stelmach, and I've been reliably informed that he's an intelligent and pleasant man in person. The whole Bill 44 controversy is exposing a side of him that's, well, not very edifying):

If [Bill 44 is] passed, parents will be able to pull their children from lessons on evolution, Stelmach confirmed.

Ah. Well, this is a problem. For you see, Bill 44 is not a mere tweak to the School Act. It is a piece of human rights legislation (more on this in a moment). Therefore, if you, as a teacher, bring up evolutionary biology to your class without having informed the parents, then you have violated the parents' human rights as much as if you'd fired them from their jobs because you didn't like their skin colour (significantly, exposing a child to ignorance by dragging him or her out of science class because of his or her parents' personal beliefs is not held to be a violation of the child's human rights...).

The government's reaction, when this problem was pointed out to them, was to haul out the world's teeniest band-aid and slap it over the offending section of the act. Classroom discussions that occur spontaneously, outside of the actual curriculum, were exempted from the bill. This, of course, will in no way prevent people from complaining about spontaneously-raised topics which are offensive to them, and thus putting the teachers through the hell of dealing with being accused of human rights violations. As for the rest of it, the government rather huffily denied that the parents' rights clause could ever possibly cause any trouble for teachers whatsoever:

"The intention of this bill was never to have undue fear, undue duress put upon any members of the teaching profession," [increasingly surly and petulant Culture Minister Lindsay Blackett] said Monday.

Mr. Blackett's statement is what we refer to as "a lie." The entire, deliberate, intended reason for enacting the "parents' rights" section of Bill 44 is to instill fear in teachers and to place them under duress. Bill 44's primary purpose is to write sexual orientation into Alberta's human rights legislation, the government having been ordered to do so by the Supreme Court. And so, having lost gays as a legal target for petty thuggery, the troglodytes of the religious right have been given teachers as a replacement. It is every bit as simple, and as shameful, as that. And you had better believe that said troglodytes are drooling with the anticipation of being allowed to make mischief against a group they have always viewed with contempt and fear:

Brian Rushfeldt, co-founder of the Calgary-based Canada Family Action Coalition, thinks the proposed human rights provision can be more widely interpreted.

“It’s up to the parent to make (the legislation) as broad or as narrow as they want,” said Rushfeldt, who welcomed the proposed changes.

And there you have it. At this point, anything that is taught in a classroom is fair game. Want to talk about the fellow whose skull is portrayed above? Well, that's evolution, which, as we have seen, counts as religion, so you'd better make sure that everybody's been told you're going to do it. A class unit on ancient Greece? You can be accused of teaching polytheism. You just know that somebody will use this bill to start beaking off about the contents of school libraries; after all, library time is part of the curriculum, is it not? And don't get me started about classtime spent on math! As we all know, math textbooks destroy values and cause drug use.

Anyway, it's not a good day for Alberta. And I'd feel better about it if I weren't fairly sure that our federal government approves deeply of all this.