There's been an endless amount of talk on the various Oiler blogs about suck, failure, the general badness of the team and the reasons for it. These reasons include but are not limited to the lack of an NHL calibre defence, questionable goaltending (as much as I love Bryzgalov - he's the most quotable Oiler since Fatso Penner), not enough depth, too many of the same types of players, missing a big 2C, poor management, Kevin Lowe, the Pronger curse, the Smytty curse, and even something as simple as "God hates us all". The fan-base is in a frenzy and the jersey tossing masses are getting restless. Even the most optimistic fans and bloggers are starting to lose their composure and fall into the trap of pessimism, something I wrote about in my more prolific days, moonlighting at the CopperNBlue about three years ago. You know, it's funny (not "ha ha" funny, more like "face-palm" funny); there's been so much angst and bitterness for so many years that I forgot some of the stuff many of us were writing about back in the early days of the infinibuild. Even then, the obvious solution was to burn the whole thing down. Here's a slightly edited for context chunk of what I wrote at CnB back in January of 2011: 

"Bringing it back to the Oilers, the idea of the rebuild espoused by the organization is the grand narrative currently being used to bait the general public into believing that everything is okay. Derek has pessimistically contradicted this hope with the concept of (mis)management as his own counter-historical narrative... The purpose here is not to argue which theory (bad luck vs. mismanagement; pessimism vs. nihilism) is correct, but instead to demonstrate that seeing things in absolutes is problematic. There are likely aspects of both of these ideas that are correct; just as luck has played into the decline, so too has (mis)management... Context is everything. Finally, it seems there is only one course of action that remains to bring about a more desirable future: Revolution. "

The revolution that I was sort of blathering on about 3 years ago seems to be starting now, with the Fire Lowe campaign, the jersey tossing, and pessimism reigning over much of the Oilers Blogosphere (LT and maybe Black Dog excepted). But until the players themselves start considering their own actions and how their actions impact others, nothing will change. I'm quite torn here. I want to say that no amount of change at the top is going to make the players (workers) play harder, yet my political beliefs lie somewhere else - that overthrowing the bosses ought to make everything better. In a sense, the players have already overthrown the bosses 5 times since 2009. Mac was fired, Quinn was fired. Renney, Krueger, and Tambo all were let go and while some could argue that Quinn and Tambo never should have happened in the first place, still nothing has changed. This is why I am torn; the theory that overthrowing the bosses will lead us to something great seems to fall apart in this particular instance. It's rather unsettling, quite frankly.

So instead of preaching revolution, today I am going to write about a concept called "accountability." Theoretically I should know something about this. As a soon-to-be professor who has his own class to teach and design, I am accountable to my students to make sure that I am providing them with the necessary tools to succeed in the classroom, something that coaches can relate to. But that accountability can only go so far. Teachers, like coaches aren't responsible for the performance of individual students. Their jobs are to provide the tools for success, the right game plan if you will, to provide structure and to reach students in different ways. However it is not entirely up to the teacher to motivate the students to want to do their best. Try as we might, no teacher is capable of reaching every student. To an extent, that motivation has to come from within, as the teaching-learning dynamic is fluid, not exclusively top-down. The teacher gives assignments, provides ideas, and works with individuals and groups of students to help them to succeed in the courses they take. Students, however, don't always want to try to put in the work. Sometimes they want to sleep through your lectures. Sometimes they expect the teacher to just give them a PowerPoint (or other sort of presentation software) slideshow. Many want to be spoon-fed and to put in the minimum amount of effort required to pass the class. As the old saying goes: "C's get Degrees."

In a university classroom, there is an unspoken agreement between strong students and willing instructors that basically goes like this: "I'll do the work if I give a fuck, provided that if I give a fuck, you'll give me an A and possibly a letter of reference for grad school/law school/professional program X." I teach a lot of 20-22 year olds. They're good kids, if not a little bit too pampered and privileged for their own good, but some of them are so used to having everything handed to them that they just tune everything out. Some of them also don't give a flying fuck what I am teaching and are there because they assumed (incorrectly) that a course without a final exam is essentially a bird course. 

I wonder if some of this is happening with the Oilers kids. Many of them are really young, have spent their whole lives being successful without having to put in a boatload of effort, and then suddenly they have more money than they know what to do with, and since they're used to being the best, they feel like they don't have to try and hold up their end of the agreement. Many of these Oiler kids have all the skills in the world, incredible talents and endless potential, but they coast because they either aren't motivated or they aren't holding up their own ends of this unspoken agreement. Instead of A grades and reference letters, hockey players get contracts for lots of money. The Oilers kids got their A grades in advance of writing their kick-ass papers but under normal circumstances, the A grades and reference letters require a modicum of work. Instead of acting like A students or even the really hungry B students who want to get better, the Oilers kids play like C students. They take shifts off, they don't show up until the last day of class, and then they complain when they don't get the results they expected. Where's the accountability? Well, they've gotten their grades in advance, what's left? Why show up?

It's easy as a fan to blame management all the time, and admittedly the current management is trying to clean up a mess that is so massive it could take another 2-3 years to overcome. However that doesn't mean the players who are here, who are making giant amounts of money to play a game shouldn't be held accountable for their roles in the collapse of the team. There's no academic probation for talented players in the NHL, there's no dean's vacation either, as teams are too concerned with managing a salary cap to use buyouts with top players who under-perform. Taylor Hall knows he's safe and he's set for the rest of his life. Same with RNH. It's the players on the bottom, the players who would be expected to be C students, the students who were (potentially unfairly) streamed towards technical college and the trades for whatever reasons (usually racist or class-biased) like Ben Eager who get shipped out or sent to the farm (the equivalent of academic probation in this analogy), while the talent and potential allow the kids to maintain their positions in the hierarchy of students, it is almost entirely because the allure of that potential is greater than the actualization or their results. 

It's time for a change, but this change has to come from within, not be forced from above or below. 

Go Oilers!


Guest Post (or why Gary is a Douche Bag)

Bettman or a vampire? You decide

BCB and I haven't been around much lately for a myriad of different reasons, and none of them particularly worth mentioning. However a friend of the bringing back the glory family, Doug Nesbitt, has been writing some very interesting things as of late. Doug is a labour history student in lovely Kingston Ontario at one of Canada's self-proclaimed "best" universities. That claim is a lie, but that's neither here nor there. And don't let that scare you off regarding where our beloved Oilers' MacFearless leader received his MBA. Apparently it is the one thing this place still does well. Anyhoo, Doug, despite being a Leafs fan, is a pretty smart dude and wrote some words worthy of publication on our underwhelming little space. Please enjoy it.

The Bettman-engineered bullshit in Phoenix ends for now with Arizona taxpayers forking over tens of millions of dollars to subsidize a failed franchise. Let's be clear: the loss of Winnipeg to Phoenix had nothing to do with US-Canadian exchange rates and everything to do with Bettman's desire to move the team to Phoenix because of its massive regional television market. Bettman and Co have proven again and again that the league is more than capable of bailing out teams in financial difficulty, even taking them into league ownership.

But why bailout Phoenix and not Winnipeg? Bettman's entire project, since he became Commissioner at the behest of the owners, has been US expansion into major television markets in order to land a lucrative American network television deal. This explains the two Florida teams, Atlanta, San Jose, Anaheim, Nashville, Minnesota moving to Dallas, Hartford moving to Carolina, Winnipeg to Phoenix, Quebec City to Colorado (even though Colorado had already failed in the 1970s, much like the first Atlanta franchise), and then the granting of another Minnesota team seven years after the move to Dallas. All this activity happened between 1991 and 1999.

This project should not be a surprise. It was the desire for an American network contract that motivated the original expansion from 6 to 12 teams in 1967. But in the United States, hockey isn't football, baseball or even basketball. Bettman's project failed consistently, producing a number of financially unstable teams. From this situation stems the 1994 and 2004 lockouts. In both lockouts, Bettman and the owners sought to impose a salary cap on the players in order to free up cash for a profit-sharing system in which profitable teams subsidized failing teams necessary to land the network contract.

But expansion has brought with it other problems that has led Bettman and the owners to radically alter the game's rules in very bad ways. The shootout and elimination of the two-line pass were done for ratings - to produce a higher scoring, faster, and "entertaining" game. Prior to the 2004-5 lockout in which Bettman caused the loss of an entire season in order to win the team salary cap, the NHL hit the lowest goals-per-game rate since the mid-1950s. Between 1975 and 1993, teams averaged between 3.4 and 4 goals per game. Between 1997 and 2004, this fell from 2.9 to 2.6 (and have fallen since a peak after the lockout down to 2.7). NHL hockey in the late 1990s and early 2000s was a slow, boring, defensive affair (save Colorado and Detroit) in which "clutching and grabbing" was the major on-ice problem.

The collapse in goal scoring was in great part a result of the league's expansion from 21 to 30 teams in nine years which dramatically diluted the talent pool, making old defensive strategies like the neutral-zone trap radically more effective when implemented by well-coached teams like Jacques Lemaire's New Jersey Devils. With a diluted talent pool, you got relatively slower and less talented players relying on clutching and grabbing to even the odds. This was combined with a revolution in goaltending techniques, like the butterfly and subsequent pro-fly popularized by Patrick Roy, and a brief period of unregulated goalie equipment enlargement. In the hope of creating a higher-scoring and thus "entertaining" game for new fans, eliminating the two-line pass was precisely about breaking Lemaire's trap. It should be noted that Detroit also employed a left-wing lock, imported by Bowman from the Soviet style of play that went along with Bowman's successful attempts to recreate the five-man units developed by the Soviets by literally using those same Russian players.

The shootout was all about ratings. Bettman continues to claim fans are "bored" by tied games. You'd expect that from someone who said he never watched a hockey game before he became NHL commissioner. Bettman's only concern is TV ratings and landing a lucrative network contract. In addition to profoundly violating the team essence of the sport by making shootouts the basis upon which teams win, the extra point awarded to shootout wins has totally warped the standings. The battles for the last playoff positions at the end of the season are often unfair and unreflective of who actually has a better winning record. The shootout is sheer bullshit and has to go.

Meanwhile, the NHL, whether Bettman or Shanahan, is completely incapable of enforcing safety standards on headshots, hits from behind, and cross-checking. This "let them play" attitude is a cover for creating an incredibly dangerous game which has led to an epidemic of concussions and other injuries. Players like Matt Cooke, whose deliberate attempts injure and end the careers of star players, get slaps on the wrist in highly inconsistent suspensions handed down from Shanahan - who has obviously had his head rattled a few too many times. And the ongoing failure to implement automatic icing, like in minor hockey, is indicative of the league's total lack of interest in player health and safety.

This is the NHL as the owners and Bettman want it: a vicious assault on the sport's integrity, its fans, its players, and the cities in which its teams are located. I welcome the destruction of the NHL and its replacement with player-run teams and community-owned venues.

Doug Nesbitt is a History PhD candidate at Queen's University and a labour rights activist. His (non-academic) work can be found at and occasionally on Rabble. We here at BBTG appreciate Doug's contribution to our blog and will attempt to get him appropriately drunk as compensation for his efforts.

(Go Oilers)

Teaching to Win or Learning not to Lose?

It's been a while so I am going to go back to a classic "Lowetide" style introduction to start us off. This handsome fellow is Paulo Freire, a Brazilian thinker and scholar of education. He's been on my mind a lot lately because I've started and now finished teaching my first ever University course, a 3rd year lecture on the Sociology of Education. Freire is something of a legend in the field, one of the founding fathers of an area of study known as "Critical Pedagogy." Critical pedagogy looks at fundamental inequalities that exist in the classroom, in the way that teachers teach and students learn, the way that management types and policy makers decide what is to be taught and why. In the early 1970s, Freire wrote a book called "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" and I think that some of what he has to say applies to our young and confused Oilers team. (By the way, yes, we are a hockey blog again. We've just been busy with other projects for about 16 months, during which the team was so bad it was barely worth thinking about.)

Anyhoo, as I said, there is a young and confused team on the ice. As fans, we really don't know who or what they are. They seem to lack an identity. One of the primary functions of education is to socialize students. This process is often how students develop a sense of self and learn to interact with others. It's possible that the lockout combined with a new teacher (Ralph), a new curriculum (Ralph's system) and a rotating cast of crap in the bottom of the roster has delayed the socialization of the team. That is a possibility and also why I wanted to look at Freire's understanding of education. Freire looks at traditional education as something of a "Banking Model", in which teachers deposit knowledge into the docile minds of the students, and students withdraw that knowledge in order to write exams and papers etc. etc. Freire asserts that the teacher is the narrating subject while the student acts as a patient, listening object (Freire, 57), that the teacher’s role is to “fill” the students with the contents of the narrative, which are almost always detached from reality (ibid, 58). It is a conscious attempt to minimize or even annul the students’ creativity to serve the interests of the oppressors, in this case, the State. The oppressors then use their supposed “humanitarianism” to preserve a “profitable situation” in this “banking model” of education (ibid, 60). This could be interpreted as the State attempting to maintain a hegemonic control over knowledge in the classroom, socializing the students to believe the values of the State without question. The State, in this case, would be the Oilers organization and the oppressor is obviously the Hydra-headed beast known as "MacTamblowe". They know the team isn't going to stop making money so why bother putting any work in? They can just switch up the teachers at will and the message won't change. Why else would Bucky and Smith still have positions?

Enter Ralph. He has a reputation for being a communicator first and foremost. Ralph has a teaching style unlike any that the last few Oilers coaches have employed, and while the team has languished under the oppression of previous regimes, perhaps Ralph's new vision could work. Ralph is a motivational speaker and prides himself on creating an atmosphere where the players and coaches engage freely in dialogue, and that coaches can learn from players, too. It's a different approach to thinking about the game. What would Freire think about Ralph's revolutionary approach to teaching?

Dialogue is the encounter between men, mediated by the world, in order to name the world. Hence, dialogue cannot occur between those who want to name the world and those who do not wish this naming—between those who deny others the right to speak their word and those whose right to speak has been denied them. Those who have been denied their primordial right to speak their word must first reclaim this right and prevent the continuation of this dehumanizing aggression… Dialogue is thus an existential necessity. And since dialogue is the encounter in which the united reflection and action of the dialoguers are addressed to the world which is to be transformed and humanized, this dialogue cannot be reduced to the act of one persons "depositing" ideas in another, nor can it become a simple exchange of ideas to be "consumed" by the discussants (76-77).

As Freire states, without dialogue there can be no communication, and without communication there can be no true education. This is perhaps the most radical statement in the entire book. We cannot begin to be educated or act as educators unless we communicate. 

The Oilers have shown signs of promise this season. When they are engaged, they play well, particularly when they actually have the puck. Unfortunately, they are maddeningly inconsistent, but at least it looks like the team might finally be learning not to lose. It's possible that had the team gone through a proper training camp to learn Ralph's systems, maybe they would have been a bit better. However overcoming years of oppression is hard to do. There is still a sense of defeatism in the team, and that will take time to overcome. Acquiring better players might help, too, but that is on MacTamblowe to work out. The players, like the fans, need to demand more from the State or threaten to bring it down. Some players like Taylor Hall appear to be capable of instilling a revolutionary spirit, but too many are still stuck inside of the old model of learning, where thoughts are mere deposits, not ideas to be explored creatively and passionately. With an offseason and a proper training camp, perhaps Ralph's critical coaching will pay off, the Oilers will actually develop an identity and start to win consistently, not because of but rather in spite of the organization's inability to care for its people and provide the necessary means to succeed. 

As I asked so many times in my class this past year: "whose interests are actually being served?" Something to think about...


That is all

Life in a Very Complicated Place: Travel Desk Vol. 5

Hello faithful readers. All 6 of you that have been following this little excursion from hockey and into politics will be happy to know that my trip is coming to a close and our regularly scheduled Oilers banter will be returning in a few weeks. The other 4 readers who are here for my rants on life in the middle east? Um...sorry, I have maybe one more of these left in me after this.

Rosh Hanikra, the Sea

Last weekend I was treated to an experience few people outside of the middle east get to have. My Druze friend took me to his village, Abu Snan, and I was privy to a sort of cultural exchange I never thought I would find myself having, exposure to life in a typical Arab village in the north. Now for most of my life I've been socialized to have at least an implicit fear of the other. It's part of the system I grew up with, (friends, feel free to debate that as much as you like; it's my perception of the system many of us were a part of and you can read my Master's thesis or some of my other scholarly work if you're looking for some evidence of this claim), and yet not for a second did I feel unsafe in a place that is 100% Arab, mixed almost evenly between Muslim, Druze and Christian. Abu Snan is historically a Druze village but over the years its population and land base has been able to expand. That said, its neighboring village, Kfar Yasif has a building freeze and hasn't been able to grow or support the demands of its populous. That is one of the fundamental differences between the Druze agreement with the Israeli government and the status of other Arab communities inside of the 1949 borders. In any case, this story isn't to talk about the politics of land in Israel, but rather my experience of the people of Abu Snan, who might be the friendliest in the entire country. It is also home to the best Shawarma possibly in the world, a place called Karem. If you're ever in the north of Israel, it is a must visit, but get there early. It's so good and popular that the owner shuts it down after the first spit of meat is finished, and will often turn away people if he knows he's running out and his regulars are still on their way. But trust me, it is too good to miss.

I was welcomed with open arms by my friend's parents, brother and very old friends. There was a real sense of community, of historical bonds that comes from growing up in one place and maintaining friendships over long periods of time. I know that feeling well, and in a sense it was a bit strange to walk into a new circle of people who had known each other for 25 years. I actually saw some analogues to my own friendships and sensed a sort of brotherhood of shared experience that I always feel when I go back to Edmonton for a visit. The similarities didn't end there. Our Friday night was spent outside, with a fire, an Argileh, and several dozen beers. Sounds a lot like summer nights back home, too, doesn't it (other than perhaps the Argileh). The conversation and drinking carried on until well into the wee hours, as such nights often do, and we knew it was time to shut it down when the morning call to prayer began to echo through the village.

My friends made a point of explaining to me that they are effectively society's trash, the liquid at the bottom of the garbage bin, and that when they drink, they de-evolve into a much more primitive state. I didn't see that at all. What I saw was a group of friends with inside jokes, genuine compassion for each other, and a bit too much beer. Then again, coming from Alberta where white trash/redneck jokes and the occasional group beer-shotgun competition is standard fare, I really felt myself close to home despite the palm trees and stray cats. One friend made a point of asking me how I felt about hearing conversations in Arabic, if it made me uncomfortable. I can honestly say not for a second. It was a typical Friday night, just in another country. The amazing part about language and culture is that if you spend enough time interacting with people in a language you don't understand, you can pick up on the non-verbal cues and still follow along. Plus, now I can curse in a new language rather well, which pleases me.

Rosh Hanikra, the border

To put into perspective about where in the country I was, we were able to drive up to the border with Lebanon in less than 30 minutes. This is a complicated part of the country where identity and culture are constantly tested and the lines between who is what are very blurry. One of my friends was telling me that he wants to leave the village permanently, not to mention the country because of the racism and discrimination he feels and the fact that he's Druze puts him in an uncomfortable position, knowing his privileged status within Israeli society while other Arabs in his village and others like it don't have the same sorts of opportunities. He resented being in the Army and it was there that he felt the most racism. His family is of Syrian origin, but due to the complications with Syria, he will never meet his cousins who still live there. Yet others from the same community feel very attached to Israel, find serving to be an honor and can't imagine not doing it. It's complicated to be an ethnic minority within a very divided and hierarchical place where one's ethnicity is tantamount to status and access to power within the state. To most Druze though, the arrangement with Israel is a positive one as they are able to keep their historical land and property rights, which to them is the most important part. And having spent some time on their land, I can see why.

Abu Snan/Kfar Yasif, from my friend's balcony

I spent my Saturday evening indulging in two local traditions: The family meal and the Classico. The family meal consisted of perhaps the most delicious food I have ever eaten in my life. Kebabs, grilled Lamb, Tabbouleh, Olives from the family's own Olive trees. And of course everything that required oil was made using hand pressed Olive oil from these same trees. Words cannot describe the amazement. And it didn't stop coming, either. The Classico was the Soccer match the village and most of the rest of the country was waiting for, the annual match between F.C. Barcelona and Real Madrid. I've grown to enjoy Soccer a lot more than I was expecting to, and have become a Barca fan by association, but the event was something closer to an Edmonton/Calgary or Canada/USA hockey game than anything I've ever witnessed. There were about 70 Druze men, equally divided in terms of team allegiances hanging out in the local pub, a hookah to every 3 people, and the match up on the big screen. The intensity of the match, the passion of the fans, and the energy in the room was incredible. The result however, was disappointing, but as an Oilers fan, I've grown used to that. It was in this moment that I was able to put my limited knowledge of Arabic to good use, screaming with joy when things went well, cursing and shouting when things went badly, all in the local dialect. As the only white Anglo for miles, the people who didn't know me were all very pleased to see that I was embracing the local culture and the passion. It also demonstrates how sports teams are so often tied to a place, but the idea of fandom and all that comes along with it seems to transcend space and place. How a tiny village in the north of Israel is so evenly split between two clubs from Spain is beyond me, but sure enough it happened. And in the aftermath the village exploded, people pouring into the streets to celebrate the victory, driving around honking their car horns, shouting and jumping with unbridled energy, while the people who lost walked or drove home in disgust. And yet the clubs themselves are completely detached from the material realities of life in the village, the region and the country. (Canucks fans could learn a thing or two from these people!)

I can't say for certain how typical the snap-shot of life I experienced actually was. I don't know what it's really like to live in these Northern villages. I do know however that there are major problems with employment, schools are underfunded, infrastructure is lacking and in some cases, the villages themselves are unable to grow despite the population and demographic situation begging for expansion at the same rate as Israeli communities. The funding isn't there even though the tax base is. What I do know, however, is that I was treated like family by total strangers, given a glimpse into a community I wouldn't ever have been exposed to had it not been for a little bit of luck, and had the best time of my entire trip. And they say these are the people I am supposed to fear?


Oilers notes: I've never been more unsure of what to do about "winning the lottery" as I don't think Tambo can be trusted to make the right decision. #2 would have been so much easier.

I think I can safely say I want the Kings to win the west, if not the whole shebang, if for no other reason than to watch former Oilers get another shot. Stoll's game winner against the Canucks was a thing of beauty, and Penner has been playing like, well, the real Penner as opposed to Pancakes. That makes me happy. He's a player I've always really appreciated and its nice to see him produce when it counts.

I'll be returning to North America in less than 2 weeks and Kingston by June. It's been a good run over here and I really appreciate all the feedback from everyone who has been following along. These stray observations are likely going to appear in my PhD dissertation in one form or another and all of the comments you have made over the past few months, on the site and privately, have kept me on my toes. Thanks for that.

Go Oilers


Black Panthers and Bombs: Travel Desk volume 4

This post is probably going to get me in some crap. I'm fine with that. I've been away for a little while and wasn't sure how to return to the blog, let alone my own head after the events of the Purim weekend. I was waiting until something really cool happened I think to balance out the good with the bad. It's been an interesting month in the Holy Land since I last wrote and now I think it's time to share some of it.

Good: Meeting a member of the Israeli Black Panthers yesterday. More on that later.
Bad: What many around these parts have characterized as a "real Israeli" experience, by which I mean rockets.

This map shows the range of Grad Rockets that are sometimes launched from the Gaza strip into the Negev region. The rockets of course come with a reason, and this particular attack was no exception. Early on the Friday after Purim, the IDF targeted a Gazan resistance member, blowing him and an associate up. There were rumors, not definitive proof, but rumors that these two men were involved in planning a major assault. We will never know if these intelligence reports were valid or true, but that is hardly the point. When one's supposed sovereignty is breached, one has the right to defend it. This is a concept that applies on both sides of the security fence. The IDF felt the preemptive assault would protect Israeli sovereignty and security; the Gazans felt their security had been breached and so then the rockets come. That's life in the region. That's how it goes. I am not going to place blame or inflammatory comments up today; you the readers can do that on your own, and that's cool, but I know that our 9 readers come from diverse backgrounds, some political, others not, some Jewish, others not, others still simply hockey fans who are getting progressively more bored with the way I've hijacked their 6th favorite Oilers blog on the Inter webs.

Anyhoo, if you look at the map, you can see a city called Be'er Sheva, a rather famous place historically and currently the largest metropolitan area in the Negev. It's also the home of a very good friend of mine, his wife and their very young child. I decided to go down and visit them again because I needed a break and they're just damn fine people. Plus, my friend always has really nice scotch, we eat well, and it was Purim! (For those that don't know, Purim is basically Jewish Halloween and its an actual Mitzvah to get so drunk you don't know right from wrong on this holiday. True story!) At dinner that night we saw on the news that something happened in Gaza in the afternoon, a couple of militants were targeted and killed so I was told to brace myself for the potential for retaliation. OK, sure. It seemed unlikely to me that anything would happen. Wrong.

1030 PM and we are sitting around having a perfectly normal conversation when the siren goes off. I hadn't heard it before but I knew exactly what it was. Stunned, I look towards my friend and without even a trace of irony say "so this is actually happening?" as we are running down the stairs towards the bomb shelter. A few minutes later we heard the new "Iron Dome" missile defense system engage and do its thing. All is quiet, then suddenly a large rumbling boom off in the distance and the whole building shakes a little. Then 3 more. On the outside I was trying to look and feel as calm as possible. On the inside I was screaming and cursing and trying not to lose my dinner. We return to the apartment, I grab the scotch and down 2 shots in succession without blinking or batting an eye. I ask if its over. I'm told hopefully, but probably not. And because its Shabbat, the buses aren't running so I can't even flee in the night back to Jerusalem where its safe. It was a long night to say the least, 1AM, 330AM, 7AM and then again the next evening around 530. That's when it ended for me. It continued well into the next week for the residents of the South, not to mention the residents of Gaza who also endured precision tactical strikes until a ceasefire brokered by Egypt came into effect several days later. A real Israeli experience. Just what I always wanted.

While I was inside of it, clearly scared and wondering what was going to happen next, my friend asked me if this changed my perspective, altered my political position at all. I assured him it hadn't, but at the same time there was a part of me that was feeling a kind of anger I had never felt before. I wasn't angry at the Gazans or the Israelis per se; I was angry that such an existence has become normal. I was angry that my friends had to live like that. I know they choose to live in the south, but they don't choose to live under threat of violence. I know the Gazans don't choose to live under threat of drone planes and precision tactical strikes either. The craziest part of it all was knowing that while the rockets were being blasted out of the sky and the mortar shells were falling, there were 1000 Israelis at the biggest club in town, partying like it could be their last night of party well into the next morning, all in costume and engaging in the most holy of holy drunks. Normal life, right? Yeah, welcome to the new normal.


So for a few days after I had to try and wrap my head around that anger and not let it consume me. On of my supervisors told me I had been decolonized. In a sense, he was right. I had to sort out my own position on all of this and could now express the lived experience and still I am on the left, perhaps even more convinced of the need for new strategies of resistance and redefining the peace process and the problems of nation-states defined by ethnicity, the politics of exclusion and the use violence as a form of bio-political control. As my fear and anger faded I came to accept the experience as a part of me, a new normal. Innocence lost in a way I never expected.

This experience lead me to try and take advantage of the other sorts of sociopolitical opportunities available to me in this country, ultimately leading me to the neighbourhood of Musrara yesterday, right on the seam of the 1949 armistice line, down the hill from the newly developing  and predominantly Ashkenazi and middle class Jewish West Jerusalem and directly under fire from the (then) Jordanian controlled East Jerusalem. This neighbourhood was a former Palestinian community that was eventually settled by African and Arab Jews who actually have more in common with their neighbours to the east than they did with their fellow Jews up the hill. At least that's the narrative according to one of the neighbourhood's long time residents and few surviving members (due to age, not violence) of the Israeli Black Panthers.

They borrowed their name and were directly inspired by the Black Panther movement of the United States, recognizing the importance of the intersection of race and class in the struggle. Mizrachi Jews were brought into Israel from their former homes in the Middle East and Northern Africa and were settled in the interior, far from the almost exclusively Ashkenazi (at the time) cities along the coast. They were almost always placed in areas closest to the borders, on a macro level in cities along the various armistice lines between 48-67 and on a micro-level in terms of civic planning in neighbourhoods. Musrara was no exception, and since there were many abandoned homes, it was a place for cheap housing for the unemployed and undereducated non-white Israeli Jews in Jerusalem.

The Panthers wanted change for their social conditions, access to schools, health care and infrastructure that had been denied to them; they wanted a voice in Israeli society and were sick of being pushed to the margins, labelled as backwards, primitive and incapable of integration. Eventually they bulled their way to a meeting with Golda Meir in the early 1970s. Not much came of it other than the discovery of a common love of smoking. Meir characterized them as "not very nice." The 1973 war ended a bit of their momentum, but their early work created quite a storm in Israeli society and paved the way for the protest movements of future generations. Without the use of social media, the Panthers managed to mobilize more than 8000 disenfranchised and disaffected protesters in the early 1970s, the strongest and most organized protest movement in Israeli history until the housing protests of last July.

Reuven made an argument that I found particularly compelling. He claims that the peace process won't really happen until the Mizrachi Jews are given an equal role in the power structure of the nation. He believe that due to the shared ethnic backgrounds, marginalized class position, linguistic and cultural affinities, that it will be the coming together of the Mizrachi Jews and the Palestinians (regardless of religious affiliation) that could create a lasting peace. Call me crazy, but I think he just might be right.


The Oilers have points in their last 6 games and DD looks like he might have found a path towards consistency. Who knew that all it might take was letting him get the majority of the starts?! He made an absolutely brilliant save last night, coming out to his own blue-line and stacking the pads to take away a potential breakaway opportunity, was dynamite in the shootout, and is playing with poise and confidence. Hemsky and Gagner are playing wonderfully together and Harski is a beast. These stray observations are about all I have for the Oilers these days. They're playing for pride, and regardless of the way the draft lottery goes, I would really like to see them end the season strong. I don't care if they don't finish 29th; draft position shouldn't be the objective, learning how to win consistently should be.

Go Oilers


Making lemonade

There's 3 (good) reasons I keep watching oilers games:

1) Everyone is healthy.
For the last few years March has been the time of year when we get to watch a roster half full of players from OKC/Springfield finish off the lottery march. Every game that Hemsky's healthy has some value. Dude could have had a hatrick today if the puck was bouncing different. Alas.

2) The biggest loser race.
With CBJ's loss tonight, the Oil are 8 points clear of their 3rd straight 30th place finish. This particular season also has an extra-special battle for epic failure. Ever since Tyler Dellow brought it up a few weeks back, I've been following the race for worst team of the current CBA and damn if it hasn't been a good one. Edmonton currently sits 8 points back of Columbus and 5 back of the Islanders which seems like a pretty big gap with only 14 games left, but these are 3 tremendously bad franchises and I wouldn't put a flatline past any of them. Pretty compelling stuff.

3) Learning from other people's mistakes.
Thanks to dawgbone98 at Copper n blue and Justin Bourne at Backhand Shelf I may have actually learned something about watching hockey over the last few months. Oilers games are just chock-full of defensive breakdowns so they're a great opportunity to play 'spot the error.' My favorite from yesterday:

This one's easy, Colorado scored because Linus Omark is as soft as milk on the backcheck. Am I right internet?


But something felt a bit off about that. Why would he possibly play that soft on someone in that good of a shooting position?

I went back and watched the goal a few more times before the gears started turning.

Omark plays left wing.

How the hell does the LW end up covering the guy in the low right slot?

If you have gamecenter or PVR, the whole clusterfuck starts with 16:29 left in the 2nd. RNH actually wins a faceoff! and everything proceeds straight downhill from there. Highlights from the next 61 seconds of play include:
- Petry turning the puck over just inside his own blueline (bailed out by Smid)
- RNH and Hall combining to turn the puck over just inside their own blueline (bailed out by Smid)
- RNH neatly boxing himself out on the backcheck (bailed out by David Jones missing the net)
- Zero puck posession for the Oilers 'top line' outside their own zone

Eventually, Colorado breaks off for a change and Petry skates the puck up past the blue line. All 5 Av's are clustered together by the Oilers bench so Petry decides to skate the puck. Straight ahead. Since they play for the Oilers, Hall & Eberle decide that a turnover just before the red line is a good time for a line change.

The positioning doesn't look too bad here but Hemsky and Omark have no speed coming off the bench, Petry's flat footed, and Ryan Wilson's just off the bottom left edge of the picture with a full head of steam.

Ok, the Av's forward on the far side is wide open but Wilson decides to go outside...

And he makes RNH look like Ryan Whitney

Smid had to slide over so Wilson doesn't have a straight line to the front of the net, and manages to land a pick on Ted who returns the favor by almost decapitating Smid (amazing agility by the kid to stay on his feet though.) Luckily, there's no immediate danger since the other 2 Avalanche forwards managed to run into each other in front of the net.

At this point, Omark's back and has recognized that McLeod's uncovered so he heads down to tie him up, probably assuming that Petry and RNH are going to double Wilson. It's not ideal defence but they should still be able to keep everything to the outside.

And then it really hits the fan.
Petry somehow decides to play outside on Wilson, possibly (hopefully?) thinking that RNH is going to pressure. After puck-hawking all around the zone, RNH decides this is a good time to switch back to 1-on-1 cover and breaks for the front of the net to take McLeod.

The best part is that Hemsky already has the outside covered if Wilson tries to keep going around the wall, and Omark actually has McLeod's stick tied up. If either of Petry of RNH goes straight to Wilson then he has no lane to the front.

The chain reaction of errors is now almost complete. Petry's totally lost position on Wilson (who's a freaking DEFENCEMAN! ffs.) RNH changes his mind and decides to drop his man to chase the puck again. Unfortunatly, once Omark saw RNH turn to cover McLeod he started moving back up ice.

And Omark's left holding the bag.

I suppose you could argue that Omark should have stayed low until RNH actually came all the way up to McLeod, but there were 5 pretty clear mistakes before that and IMO they're at least as bad.

Also fun:
This isn't the first time Petry and RNH have teamed up for some epic D-zone coverage

Turns out teenagers might not be the best choice for playing D in the NHL. Good thing we'll have a new one in the lineup when September rolls around.