Thursday, March 26, 2009

Live from Powell River


I was falling...blissful sleep dangled before my closed eyes...and it kept happening. I had my ear plugs in, but I could hear a faint murmur from the back of the bus; and then, about every fifty or so seconds, the murmur would explode:

"PWAAA-HA-HA-HA-HARR-HARR-OOOO-YEAH!-HAHAHA-ARRR-(COUGH)-HAAA". And I'd wake up again.

It sounded like I was on a 17th century pirate ship. In fact, I was on the bus traveling up to Powell River, BC, to play in my second ever rugby game.

Powell River is a long way - a five hour trip each way. No wonder numbers were low. Only fourteen guys showed up, and of those, five or six were Premier League players. That's the top rugby league in town. They'd been called in to help out; the Castaway Wanderers Third Division team is brand new, after all. I suppose it will take a bit of time for things to establish themselves, including consistent attendance.

Anyway, I did finally doze off. Which was good, since I'd only gotten to bed around 2:30 the night before, and I had to wake up at 6 to catch the team bus. While I was awake, I ended up chatting with Alex - a studious chap for a rugby player - about artificial intelligence and the possibility of machine consciousness, and also with a few other guys.

Fortunately, Powell River agreed to play us fourteen on fourteen. I was at right wing again, and was fortunate to get a lot more carries than in my first game. I didn't score, but I'm getting the hang of things, and that's exciting. In fact, in the Powell River game, it felt like I was playing in an actual rugby game, rather than it feeling like I had just dropped acid and was on some sort of surreal slow-motion trip, which is how I felt in my first game. So, that was good, and once again, all the guys helped out.

Unfortunately, we lost the game due to a young Powell River player, a Fijian, who was able to break through the line and score, I think, four tries. Pity.

But...the frustration didn't last long. We got back to the clubhouse, showered, dressed, and then were treated to a great dinner by Powell River, replete with a drinking contest between four of the players, a few jolly speeches, and a lot of laughs. One thing that got a lot of laughs was this. Someone said to me, "Hey - didn't you win a Juno?".

"Yeah, two actually", I mumbled.

"You seem pretty casual about that", the guy said.

And I was totally serious when I replied, "I'd be a lot more excited if I scored a couple of tries".

For whatever reason, the entire table erupted in laughter, and the little exchange was repeated a few times on the bus home for the benefit of those who hadn't heard it. I can't explain why, but I really would be a lot more excited to score a couple of tries...!

Ah, the ride home. That was something.

You see, someone ran to the liquor store and bought an entire crate of beer as we were in line for the ferry...and, well, long story short is, the ride home made the ride there seem like a prayer meeting. Things got louder and louder, more and more raucous and frenzied, and for the last two hours, I played guitar while a bunch of the boys sang as loudly as they could: Beatles songs, Tom Petty songs, Stone Temple Pilots songs, Chili Peppers songs, Neil Young songs, dozens and dozens of songs.

Playing rugby seems to the closest thing readily available to actually joining the army and getting shot at together (always a bonding experience). Quite the experience so far.

Just keeping a log of my rugby games,

T.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Seals, Fish, Cows - What's the Difference?


The seal hunt started today, and all the usual people have started their annual freakout. The European Union, for example, is up in arms about the seal hunt and wants to shut it down permanently. It is now reportedly considering banning the sale of seal products in protest.

Young seals are killed traditionally by the Inuit peoples of the arctic with a single whack to the head - the same way that fishermen usually kill fish. A single gunshot is now the mode of choice for seals. Either way, what is more "brutal" about a whack or a bullet, than about the mode of slaughter in your local slaughterhouse - the place where they slash the throats out of dozens of cows a day? If anything, the seal hunt is far more humane.

For the EU to be consistent, it needs to ban all meat-eating. Yet the French are still eating foie gras, the Belgians are still eating frog legs, and the Germans are still eating sausage. How does that make sense? How do EU bureaucrats think that the ducks, frogs, and pigs they eat get from the state of being alive, to the state of being dead, except via being killed? It's bizarre. The guys at the EU are probably eating chicken for dinner right now, with no sense of hypocrisy at all.

As if that wasn't enough, amigos, the EU is the same organization which has continued to allow BULLFIGHTING in Spain! Why, how could they ever ban bullfighting, when it's part of Spain's "cultural heritage"? Yet the fact that the seal hunt has been a primary pillar of Inuit culture in Canada for tens of thousands of years, and maritime culture for hundreds, means nothing to these pampered snobs. It doesn't matter even that the Inuit literally utilize every part of the seal it is possible to utilize: bones, fat, eyes, meat, organs, everything, or that the maritimers also try to sell as much of the seal as possible. It also doesn't matter to the protesters that the seal population, if left unchecked, would decimate fish stocks, and then probably start dying of starvation. No - all that matters is that young seals are cuter than fat old bulls, sheep, ducks, turkeys, geese, frogs, snails, cows, goats, salmon, cod, herring, and every other living creature that EU bureaucrats, and 90% of the rest of the protesters, eat.

Killing a seal for food is no different in principle than killing a duck, deer, or moose for food. Unless the activists are also calling for a total ban on carnivorousness, their position is incoherent.

And if they are calling for the end of carnivorousness...well, that is a subject for another blog entry.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Special Olympics Bowling


So Barack Obama is getting crucified today because the other night on the Jay Leno Show, he said, in referring to his inability to bowl, that it was "like Special Olympics or something".

I don't understand the world anymore. It's like the most popular pastime out there is waiting around trying to see or hear something to get offended by, after which the challenge is to make the biggest fuss possible about the offense. And if you can somehow launch a lawsuit over your wounded feelings, even better. Meanwhile, the offender has to grovel and bootlick until the offended party announces that enough is enough. It's like some weird perverted master-slave ritual which people now participate in, unquestioningly, instantly.

One of the all-time classic idiotic examples of this came a few years ago, when a (white) comptroller for the city of Washington, D.C. used the adjective "niggardly", and was forced to resign his job because of the word's similarity to the "n word". That "niggardly" is an ancient word, probably of Old Norse origin, which has no relationship whatsoever to the corrupted Spanish word for black ("negro") which is the "n word", was too complicated a fact for many of the offended to understand.

Anyway, I don't know why the Special Olympics people had to freak out over a stupid joke. If I were the president of that organization, I think I would have said, in the best of humour, "President Obama has thrown the gauntlet down, so I want to formally invite him to stand up to his challenge, and to compete in a charity bowling tournament against some of our Special athletes. President Obama, you name the day!". And Obama couldn't refuse without looking like a total dweeb. And that way, the organization gets tons of publicity, MONEY, public support, and they don't look like just another pack of whiners waiting around to feel offended.

Just my two cents,

Tal

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Live from the Pigpen


The referee blew the whistle. Line-out to Castaway Wanderers.

Quickly, the Castaway Wanderers lined up against the Cowichan Piggies (yes, that is their name - you'll find out why below), waiting for the throw-in, over on the right side of the field. I stood a few metres behind Chris, the scrum-half, wearing a Castaway Wanderers jersey like the rest of my brand new teammates, having just run on to the pitch to play in my first rugby game ever.

A lot of things could happen now, I thought. One thing that could happen is that the Piggies could steal the line-out throw, charge past the players in front of me, and then en masse trample me. The hulking Cowichan forwards made that seem like an awfully painful prospect. Another, more likely, thing, would be for Chris to get the ball and pass it left, away from me.

Just then, the line-out throw came in, and play started. Holy cow...this is it. Chris got the ball and began running forwards and to the right. I ran about eight feet to his right, and two steps behind...and as there was no play to his left, and I was the only person to his right, I knew in a split-second that I was going to get a pass - three seconds after I'd stepped into a game for the very first time.

Chris glanced as he was running and tossed it over. It was behind me, as it happened, but I was able to reach back with my left hand as I was running and grab it, reeling it in. Thank God. Two steps later, I was at full-speed, determined to break as many tackles as I could before being crushed by the brutes in black and green jerseys now closing in on me (the Castaway Wanderers jerseys are black, blue, and red).

I pushed off the first would-be tackler and kept running. Another guy was running full speed at me from a diagonal angle (from my 10:30 on the clock). I stopped on a dime and he flew past me. And in that split-second, I sensed the possibility of glory...while the horde was closing in fast, there was only guy directly ahead of me. Other than him, there were fifty metres of open space (actually, open mud, hence the pitch's name: "The Pigpen", and the name of the Cowichan team, the Piggies) to the try line. The second tackler now flying past two feet in front of me unable to stop, I took an accelerating step, determined to beat the last guy - when some guy I never saw coming flattened me from behind (from about 5 o'clock). And as he did so, he punched the ball out of my right arm. ARG. Knock-on (the ball went forward). The ref blew the whistle and the ball was turned over to Cowichan.

That all happened in my first ten seconds of my first rugby game last Sunday (I was at right-wing, the number fourteen position). We ended up losing the game, but it was great to finally be able to play in a game, and I really appreciated the support from the other guys on the team.

I became very keenly aware of just how much more muscle mass I need after my eighty minutes on the pitch...I'm fit enough, but lithe, and my focus now is getting muscular bulk as quickly as possible, so that next time I step on to a pitch, I don't get killed. Surviving would be really cool (and for some reason I can't explain, not playing again is not an option).

Sunday night, my brother and I popped into a local pub where a bunch of the guys from one of the more elite Castaway Wanderers teams were hanging out. I got to talking to one guy, and he said, "it's exciting, isn't it? It's kill or be killed".

And I guess this would be the time to ramble into some deep insight about the primal thrill of risk for some sense of personal achievement, or some glory...but I'm not really sure the sheer joy of getting your head kicked in running around in a mudpit can translate into words. So...I think I'll just end it here. Looks my amateur rugby career has officially begun :)