Wednesday, June 21, 2017

What the World Needs Now is Wisdom, Sweet Wisdom

I don't know how to start this blog entry. The way the world is today, it's easier, and makes more sense to just whinge and complain. Greed and the love of gain have free reign. Their perpetrators are no longer even trying to hide these apocalyptic horsemen because they are no longer considered wrong, evil, crass, they are considered intelligent virtues. One of the most quotable guys ever, Bertrand Russell, said, "Even the best technicians should also be good citizens; and when I say 'citizens', I mean citizens of the world and not of this or that sect or nation. With every increase of knowledge and skill, wisdom becomes more necessary, for every such increase augments our capacity of realizing our purposes, and therefore augments our capacity for evil, if our purposes are unwise. The world needs wisdom as it has never needed it before; and if knowledge continues to increase, the world will need wisdom in the future even more than it does now." A great quote. A timely quote as we see our world marching technologically onward while we get dumber and dumber. Now I could go on to question here. Because I have the time. It's another 4 AM mosquito fight here so I can't get back to sleep, but don't have to work tomorrow so here I am, banging away. I, unlike most people, have the leisure, the intellect, the facilities and the desire for that wisdom Bert talked about to ask, "Who was this Bertrand Russell, and why have I read so many great quotes from him?" I've heard of him but don't know a lot about him. Or to put it another way, I'm not busy, I can Google him.

Nobel laureate, born to money, prodigious writer, math, philosophy, social critic, political activist, AH HA! and an atheist. THAT'S where I remember him from. You see it's a theory of mine, a very well researched theory, that from the mid 1800's, perhaps the early 1800's, scientists, philosophers, social developers, politicians, pretty much anyone who wanted to be taken seriously as an intellectual had to jump onto the band wagon toward secularism. I enjoy reading the well known writings of the time by people who quite obviously maintained an unstylish belief in God and were not so good at hiding it. Charles Darwin is the best example, but let's get back to Bertrand. Geez, he lived to be 97... with that name. Could a poor parent name their son Bertrand? I'm thinking... no. No they could not.

Anyway, it was the intelligent thing to be an atheist and Bert came to his decision when he was 15 after reading the autobiography of John Stuart Mill. Mill, another atheist, had a great influence on Bertrand Russell. In fact he was his godfather. Mill is another I have read of in my personal research. His "inductive reasoning" may have been where Bert found the intellectual strength to make the leap to atheism. Inductive reasoning posits that some laws can be known without empirical verification. This is the rather unscientific direction many areas of science took at the same time, I believe to their detriment, and if you ask me, inductive reasoning is identical to faith. But don't say that to a scientist or an atheist. They think it makes them sound less intelligent.

Back to our point, Mill worked for the British East India Company from 1823-1858. The corporations of today probably have shrines in CEO's offices to this company! They were wicked! Taxing any tea other than theirs that was drunk in the colonies. Boston Tea Party? That was their baby. And HUGE, or you might say, "UGE," supporters of slavery. While Mill was in their employ he defended slavery calling it "benevolent despotism," whatever he reckoned THAT meant, and referring to slaves as barbarians even suggesting that anyone who spoke of equality just hadn't the experience to know what they were talking about. But then in 1869, no longer beholden to Mammon, he wrote of the evils of slavery and how unthinkable it was that it even existed in Christian England for, "its motive was the love of gain, unmixed and undisguised: and those who profited by it were a very small numerical fraction of the country, while the natural feeling of all who were not personally interested in it, was unmitigated abhorrence." Unmitigated abhorrence... unless you were personally interested in it, like you traded slaves or owned cotton fields or maybe worked for the British East India Company. Then it wasn't abhorrent, it was benevolent despotism.

Where am I going with this? Re-read the quote. It seems to me that the one and only reason why wisdom is not keeping up with technological advancement, though the world so desperately needs it to, nay, is actually being suppressed in this day and age, is the exact same thing that casts a little bit of doubt on the quotester, Third Earl/Viscount, born of Lord and Lady Amberly in their country home known as Revenscroft, and his godfather and influence: Money. Filthy lucre. Avarice. And, in the words of Mill himself, "the love of gain." So add to the quote, "... unless you're trying to get rich." Which pretty much negates it.

See? This is what I do. I find out stuff, always negative stuff cuz that's the stuff that's harder to find out, and share it with people who are blissfully maintaining their ignorance. I don't have to say, "Hey, have you ever seen Bruce Banner wearing super stretchy, purple pants?" but I do. And this has made me less popular than I once was.

I'm going to write something that will be at least mostly positive today. A break from the usual. But, believe it or not, I was once a very positive person not very many years ago. A lot of people enjoyed my company. I actually made people happy. I've mostly forgotten how, or had that ability shitkicked out of me by life and knowledge. I guess that'd qualify as the wisdom in the above quotation. I don't know what good it does the world for ME to have it...

Nowadays I can still put on that happy face for people who don't know me. But I think sometimes it's fake. Maybe more often than not. I put on the positive face for students and even parents of students who want their kids in a positive environment. Even strangers walking down the street. I'll give them a friendly smile as though my life, (and, indeed, theirs), couldn't be significantly better. People who've never read my blog or sat down and had a heart to heart with me. It's sad but the only people I make happy, sometimes, are people who have just met me. Well aside from those who know me best, family, and a few other special friends. I think, my very best friends, and my family know me well enough to understand that even though I'm all doom and gloom here on the blog, I still maintain a spark of happiness deep, deep down and it surfaces in the company of those I love most.

That said, I wonder if people reading this blog will think I'm just a negative Nancy. I feel like I have never brought that spark to the surface in print here. I feel a lot of things. I feel like I should know what the words Beh or cofveve or small fries mean, but I don't. I'm living in a world where the only kids I have are not mine. I love kids that are not mine! Because I don't have to take them home! I have them for a short time, then they're gone. So I figure, much like the heroes of the vids I'm going to recommend here, they're not mine, I can act and maybe they won't see me at my darkest when I'm just demoralized by the crappiness of the general public. Maybe they will never see me when I want to scream at the top of my lungs to the whole world, "This is not you vs. the world, it's supposed to be you in brotherhood with the world." That, I believe, is the wisdom the quote says is needed.

I sometimes wish I could have remained in Canada, my home and native land, and imparted to them, in their own language, the wisdom, ethics and common sense that I have learned over my 50 years on the planet. It would edify and improve Canadian kids in ways that are just as necessary as the ways I am helping kids over here in Asia. Maybe a little more since they would be able to grasp the deeper cultural and heartfelt lessons taught by one from within their own culture. Just like the two videos.

What I, and all of the finer ESL teachers over here are doing is the same, only we're handicapped by cultural, regional, national and linguistic subtleties that will take half a lifetime to learn. But we still get some great "wow" moments from students and those are what keep us going. I don't think most of us are THAT different from the teacher in Japan, though, we ARE quite a bit different from the Saint in the other vid.

So, this is as close as I get to a positive blog post. What I want to show you are two vids that made me feel very good. They should make everybody feel very good. They are absolute paint by number instructions in the wisdom I, and Bertrand Russell, feel the world needs. And I still maintain a spark of hope that someday, before we wipe each other out with greed, we just might acknowledge, honour and practice this wisdom over the "intelligent virtue" of avarice.

Watch "Tashi and the Monk," and "Children Full of Life," two documentaries you can find on this site.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Hong Kong Chinese Visa Run

What you need, what you really really need:

I just got back from my Z visa run to Hong Kong. I had heard that they refuse people a lot, sometimes many times, so I did all the prep work I could. That was mostly wasted energy. SO what I want to do here is post something that will be helpful to people who have to do this daunting task. I found almost nothing online that helped much. I hope people can find this.

There just wasn't any consistency to the reports I had heard from friends, co-workers, literature, and websites, including the website of the Chinese Embassy in Hong Kong. I was told I needed many things. I am not saying it's going to be the same for everyone. It may differ from country to country, person to person or even embassy worker to embassy worker. Here's a list of what I needed:

1. Original letter of invitation by the employer confirmed and stamped at the office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in your city or the nearest city to your workplace.

2. Original Foreigners Employment Permit issued by the Chinese government authorities for Human Resources and Social Security.

3. One photo. The usual passport kind.

4. One application form filled out to the best of my abilities.

5. Photocopies of passport photo page, visa page, (if you have a current visa), and the little paper they put into your passport at Hong Kong Airport immigration.

6. Original passport(s), visa and that little paper.

7. $930 Hong Kong dollars. This was with the 300 extra for express service. Then it's finished next day. Otherwise it would have been $630 and it would have taken 4 days.

I am from Canada, and this was for my Z visa to work in China. I don't know if those make any difference, but the list of prices on the HK Chinese Embassy was totally wrong and they had express taking two days and rush taking one day but being more expensive. That too is wrong. Even the screen at the embassy with the price list on it didn't have any listing for the Z visa. They could have charged me whatever they felt like. And keep reading, you'll probably get the idea, like me, that anything can change before you even finish reading this. This is only a guideline for people who need to do this daunting task. I just want to help a little. Don't expect everything to be exactly the same for you.

Here's a list of the wrong things I heard from someplace or another.

1. You may use photocopies of the Employment Permit and Letter of Invitation as long as they're in colour. Not true. They needed the originals. In the attached list of what to bring, the one they gave me, it says you need photocopies as well. I didn't. I just handed the teller the originals. If they ask you to photocopy them, there is a machine there. It costs 2 bucks a copy but doesn't take the 2-dollar coins. Only one dollar coins. And the place where you are supposed to get change was occupied by a guy who really doesn't want to give change. He usually hides out of sight.

*My advice: Photocopy everything before you go.

2. You need special digital passport photos. I STILL have no idea what that means. I gave them a photo that had a back that peeled off so you could stick it on a application. No problems. People will tell you all kinds of things like it needs to be signed or stamped by the photographer, you need a red background, etc. Just get a normal passport photo with the normal rules. No smile, no glasses etc. If you don't have that, there's a photo booth near the photocopier. I didn't check how much it cost for photos.

*My advice: Bring lots. I had five photos, two from one passport photo session and three from a supposed "digital" photo session. They took the former. Just one.

3. You need the business licence of your employer. You need a signed contract from your employer. Even on the list they GAVE ME AT THE EMBASSY there are 4 things I didn't need and 8 if you count the photocopies. The foreign expert thing is now changed to a letter of invitation. Numbers 3, 4 and 5, especially 5, I have no idea what they even ARE, but I didn't have or need them. A letter from an offshore petroleum corporation?

*My advice: It doesn't hurt to have a contract. And, you know what, let your employer feel some of the pain, get them to give you the contract and business licences just in case. You never know, they could ask for them. I, however, didn't need them. There are only two important dox you need: the invitation letter and the foreign employment permit.

4. I was told to download the application from the website and fill it out in either Chinese or English IN TYPING. This was written on the website! Of course the document was in a form that made editing difficult, but I managed to get it done. It took some trial and error using different readers to open the document, but I proudly produced it when I got to the embassy and one of the two helpers there said, "No, that's the old one. Here, fill out THIS!" The new one is far more complicated and ambiguously worded. If you ask me, the one of the website is better. For example there is a question something like, "Where does the applicant reside at the time of the filing of this application?" I asked a Russian couple who were also pulling their hair out over this thing and they didn't know either. Permanent address, home address or where you're staying in HK? We both just put Hong Kong. It probably wasn't what they wanted but I don't think it was all that important. There was another space about dates of your intended visa or something like that. The one helper told me to list the dates, (and I had to fudge my address too, which was a hostel in Beijing and I forget the address), and address of my business visa. When I handed the thing in, the OTHER guy took it and told me I had to list dates and address where I'm going to live and work when I get the NEW visa. They even have a place on the form where you are supposed to list your family members. There is also no provision for a work visa on the app. so I had to choose between a single entry 3 month visa, a multiple entry 6 month, or multiple entry one year, none of which were relevant to my application. I checked 6 month multiple, which, on the price list should have been 500 plus 200 or 300 express or rush. But I got a bill of $930. Imagine my surprise!

*My advice: Bring addresses and names of employers and everybody you know and everywhere you've worked and/or lived, EVER, in English and Chinese just in case. Filling out this application is BY FAR the hardest part. But the two helpers were pretty good and their English was pretty good. Also, bring at least $1000 bucks HK.

5. I was told I'd need the paper from airport immigration or they'd send me home. I copied it with my passport and visa at the embassy on the 2-dollar copier. They just kept the photocopy and stapled the original into my passport, so I still have it. They DO take your passport(s) for however long it takes them.

*My advice: If you are at a good hotel, copy there. The line-up for the copier at the embassy can be pretty long and competitive.

6. People told me you can get refused to any little thing. One guy told me that he had made it through the application process when his friend got refused for some reason. Then HE was refused by association! I didn't see any of that. The two guys who give out the numbers for the tellers are the ones who told us what to change or write or re-do. Most people go to them a few times before they get their numbers for the tellers, but once that happens, you have a pretty short wait. I'd say I waited 15 minutes. Then the teller asked me for the dox, I gave them, I wrote that I will be cancelling my business visa, signed something and that was that. I got the receipt and she said to bring that at 10 AM next day and I'd get my passports back with the new visa inside.

*My advice: They aren't actually the sticklers I'd heard they were. The applications they get are all full of mistakes. They don't need you to be 100% accurate. Just try your best and they'll get you through it. It's tough, but don't get angry with all the craziness. The workers BOTH admitted to me that their system and their website seriously needs to be updated. Imagine how crappy their jobs must be!

7. I was told to go on Sunday, apply Monday and HOPE it would get finished by Friday. They actually don't like when you apply on Monday. Tuesday or Wednesday are better. Check the hours on the website. I think THEY are correct. Apply at 9 AM, pick up next day at 10 AM. Pay for the express. It's cheaper than two more unnecessary days in Hong Kong. MUCH cheaper.

*My advice: Get out of there with as much of your faculties remaining intact as possible and have lunch at Churchill Pub. They have great fish and chips.

Here are the things the embassy officially requires. It was totally wrong for me, but if you're interested...

To Hong Kong by plane.

I'm making this for the purposes of some new teachers who will need to do this soon from Taiyuan, so you might want to skip ahead if you're not living in Taiyuan.

There are direct flights from Taiyuan to Hong Kong. There's one a day and it's not ridiculously early. Arrange a taxi for 6:00 or 6:30 and you'll be fine. From Number 5 School to the airport at that time it will only take about 15 minutes. You might have luck flagging one down at that time but it's safer to arrange it in advance. (Or in my case, I had a Chinese speaker to it for me.)

Terminal 2 booths 32-34 is where you'll check in. They don't even open until 6:30 and if you are checking baggage, they'll do that closer to 7:30. Don't bother with the self check-in machines, they don't work. If you want to do something while you wait to check in, there is one bank machine hidden over by the toilets on the back side of the island opposite counters 32-34. You can get Chinese money but not HK. There are good cash exchange places as soon as you get there. You can't miss them.

**Do NOT go to the café across from the toilets and the bank machine. They charged me 83 RMB for a coffee my first time in Taiyuan. That's $15 Canadian! Go to KFC. It's a little walk but the coffee tastes better and it's WAY cheaper. You can get a whole breakfast for 38 RMB.

To Hong Kong via Beijing by Train.

This is going to be more of a challenge than the direct flight. But you can save a few bucks.

First you need a train ticket from Taiyuan to Beijing. You can get one at the ticket office near the crazy 7-way intersection. It's easy to find after you've been there once. The ticket will be 105 RMB and you will need to show your passport. The trip is about 3 hours from Taiyuan train station to West Beijing Railway Station. To get to Taiyuan's train station, catch a cab at the crazy intersection and give yourself at least half an hour for the trip there. Taiyuan train station is easy to navigate. You will go through security, (you need your passport again), then go up to the 2nd floor. Find your train on any of the big boards and wait till it boards.

When you get to Beijing, you can catch a shuttle bus to the airport outside the South entrance near the road. There is a booth there where you pay. I think it cost me 60 RMB last time. This is going to take 2 hours or more so be sure you have a late enough flight. Beijing traffic is unpredictable.

Taking the subway is more predictable, but it's not nice if you are taking lots of luggage. It can be done in just over an hour if you're lucky. You can get a Beijing subway card at the glass booth in any station. You will use it again when you return, or if you want to visit Beijing again. Take line 9 toward the Military Museum and National Library. Get out three stops later at the stop before the library, Baishiqiao South. Transfer there to line 6 and go two stops to Chegongzuaang station. Transfer there to line 2 toward Jishuitan. Go six stops and get out at Dongzhimen station. From there you will see pink signs for the Airport Express. Follow them and buy a ticket. It's 25 RMB and takes about 30 minutes. Very dependable and cheap.

Your flight arrives safely in Hong Kong.

After going through customs and immigration, (and getting your little piece of paper), collect your luggage if you need to and follow the people out. You will arrive at the money changing area. They have good rates and they also sell train tickets to the city. Their line-ups are shorter so you might want to buy a ticket to Hong Kong Station from here. They are $100 HK. You will see, pretty much right in the center of the station, people buying their tickets and going to the waiting area. For the trains. There will be a red number telling you how long you need to wait till the next train shows up. They take 24 minutes.
Sorry about my pics. I have a crappy camera. Anyway, this is what you should look for. See the red number? I had 6 minutes to wait. Not bad. And comfortable seats too. You can even charge your phone!

When you get to the last stop, (Hong Kong), get out and follow the signs for free hotel shuttle buses to the left. The buses go to lots of hotels. Most, in my opinion, are a bit pricey. But have I got a deal for you! I stayed at the Homy Inn North Point. The thing about these free shuttles is you can take them if you are not staying in the hotels where they stop. The lady at the money changing place told me what bus to take and where to get off. You might even ask the driver of the bus. Here are the routes they take.

For Homy Inn you take the H4 bus from here
and get out at the Ibis North Point. They will let you out across the street from the hotel. That is Java Road. Go up a bit to the intersection, cross Java and keep going the way you are going. You will come to Marble Road. Cross that and the next street you come to will be King's Road. Don't cross it, but turn right. On your way, you will go past some stores, supermarkets, fast food restaurants, money changers, bank machines, drug stores, a theatre and, on your left, across the street you will see
This is North Point Station Exit B1. It comes out on King's Road a few minutes walk from the Homy Inn. MTR is the way to go in HK. In fact, you can't take a taxi from North Point to Wan Chai, where the Chinese Embassy is, it's too close. You would have to walk, or take the subway to Kowloon to catch a taxi to Wan Chai. But don't worry, the subway is dead easy. Very well organized and plenty of signs so even a beginner won't get too lost.

You can start looking for the big green Homy Inn sign on the side of the building several stories up. It's actually easier to see from the other side of the street. The problem will be finding the door. It's easy to walk past even if you know where it is. There are usually people blocking it because there are bus stops just outside. So you need to look for the street level sign for the Sun Chiu Kee restaurant. This is right next door to the Homey. Reasonable prices and everything I tried there was great! I had spare rib with vegetable fried rice, (103 I think), chicken fried rice and chicken chow mien. All of them made me long for the Chinese food outside of China. lol Here is their card, your Hong Kong transit card and a map, which isn't very helpful, to the Homy Inn.

Another good landmark is Jen's bank, which is directly opposite the door. It's a barred door that kind of looks like a prison door. You go up a flight of stairs to the elevators. Use the one on the left. Don't mistake this for reception. I waited a while there for somebody but nobody came. Inside you will see the 2nd floor marked as reception. Even though it's sort of the third floor. I got my own room with air conditioning and a bathroom with shower for 140 Hong Kong dollars. That's roughly 35 bucks a night. It was well worth it! Especially when you start pricing hotels in the Wan Chai area or even farther away in Kowloon. It's clean, the people are helpful and nice and it's in a great location. The one quirk that they really should change is the bathroom doors. I actually saw some of them being thrown into the back of a truck so this problem might be solved soon. They look like glass closet doors. The sort of sliding, folding type. And they leave VERY little room to squeeze through. Other than that, though, I couldn't find a better place for the money.

Time to go to the Embassy.

Go out the door and turn left. Walk a few blocks to that B1 exit that leads from King's Road down into the subway. And it's WAAY down into the sub-subway. Follow the signs for Kenendy Town, not Chai Wan. Even though it sounds like Wan Chai, which is where we're going, it's not where we want to go. We want Kennedy Town for some reason. Get on the subway and you will be a quick 4 stops from Wan Chai Station. Again, I'm sorry about the photography but I work with what I have.

If you look really closely you can see North Point and Wan Chai. The "You are here" sign is over Wan Chai. I think the stops are Fortress Hill, Some other stop, Causeway Bay, then Wan Chai. Get out and go to exit A5 where we will begin an interesting walk around the second story walkways of Wan Chai.

This is your exit. It takes some time to get back up to ground level but if you go out the right exit you will be in an open air covered walkway. You stay on it for a while until you get to Immigration Tower and see this:

Turn right. Then you walk a little ways till you see this:

then this:

You want to go toward the ferry pier. Soon you will see this:

I think that says Exhibition Center. Go toward that. But when you get here, where you turn left for the Exhibition Center, don't turn left, turn right.

Then you come to this place where it says Ferry Pier. Go through this door.

If you turn left after this little tunnel, you come to here where you have the port view on your left and a coffee shop on your right.

If you turn right, you'll miss the view but you will get to this sign which has our goal building on it. (finally!)

Look to your right and you will see this building.

That's it! So you turn right, then right again through the sign that's impossible to read until you're right under it and now you're in the right building. You'll see a liquor store on your left. Might be handy on a day like today. Ignore anything you may have read, like the address posted on their website, that says they're on the 7th floor or you may get caught in the elevator trap. Go back down to GROUND LEVEL and you will see little signs pointing toward the embassy that say "visas this way" or something like that. Good luck!

After getting your visa applied for, (hopefully), just follow those pics in reverse till you come to A5 exit, go down and take the blue subway line back to North Point, follow the signs to Kennedy Town again and finally you are here:

You should be able to find your way back Homy from here. Tomorrow, this will be a whole lot easier. I hope you don't have to do it in a tropical storm like I did.

Farewell to Hong Kong.

When you've successfully gotten your visa permission in your passport, getting to the airport couldn't be any easier. Just go back to the Ibis Hotel. Remember where the H4 bus dropped you off? That's where you can catch it again. Free!

That takes you to Hong Kong Station. You need to go to a counter and pay. You can use your transit card if it still has 100 HK bucks or more on it. Or you can just pay in cash. Then go down the elevator to the train and you are back in the airport.

I hope this helps make the visa run a little less of an ordeal for you. I would recommend Kowloon Park and Victoria park for quiet walks. I liked Lockhart Street, (below the Wan Chai walkway), for pubs. Churchill's has good fish and chips. Everything is expensive but try to hit it at happy hour around 4. That'll save you some dough.

Good luck, folks!

P.S. Here's a map I got, guess where, which actually has the star in the wrong building. The embassy is not in the Hong Kong Exhibition Centre. I looked! It's in the China Resources Building. See the one to the right?

Thursday, June 1, 2017

$15 Worth of Hysteria

B.C. just had its provincial election. Christy Clark won in maybe the sketchiest election in B.C. ever. It took 15 days to "understand" who had won the election. Have you ever golfed with a cheater? A guy who lies even when he doesn't have to? A compulsive prevaricator? I have. And when you ask him what he got on the last hole it's always the same glazed look at the invisible scorecard in the air, the silent stroke count accompanied by possible finger chalk-ups for each stroke and then the result will be what Tiger Woods scored last time he played this hole. Ask a member of the B.C. Liberal party who won the election between May 9th, (election day), and May 24th, (result day), and you would have gotten something similar. Because they're all the kind of people Canadian politics attracts.

Clark, a former minister of education who made cuts to education that were ruled unconstitutional by the B.C. Supreme Court and sends her kids to expensive, private school, has been involved in lots of scandals and investigations. B.C. Rail, B.C. Hydro, freedom of information, even being too pretty and showing too much of her awesome rack. It is awesome though, I gotta respect her for that!

So pretty much exactly what everybody wants in a candidate for provincial premier, she ran again this year. And she was so unpopular in B.C., she got re-elected! After reshuffling and recounting the votes. Like a magician who's made a mistake and starts the card trick over. But she won. Didn't she?

Now Ontario is having their provincial election. June 7th. So the last minute mud slinging has begun. Kathleen Wynne, who has made some major moves up the ladder of popularity after recently jumping on the $15 an hour minimum wage bandwagon, (probably just an election tactic), looks as though she might. Wynne. Get it? Har har.

This is not rocket science. Here's a good article with some staggering stats! Did they say a quarter of the workforce in Ontario make less than 15 bucks? Well then you'd have to be either a lunatic or, (excuse me while I laugh my arse off), HONEST, ha ha ha ha ha, to run for premier and say you DON'T support it, wouldn't you? That's 1.6 million voters who will get a raise! Is there a better way to get votes than to buy them? Now whether she will put Ontario's money where her mouth is or not, it doesn't really matter in politics. As long as you get elected. The people will forgive you for lying. They always do.

Much like Christy Clark, Wynne has been involved in scandals, denied the scandals, was busted, apologized but denied involvement, and she too is, as it seems every politician is regardless of party nowadays, all for privatization and deregulation. That's what the hydro comment in the vid is about. However, she is the opposite educationally. She is an educator and supports funding for public education. So at least she's got that going for her. Much like Clarke with her good looks, Wynne scores points for being openly gay. And I have nothing against being gay or having a nice rack or being good looking but I wish people wouldn't vote for people because of that.

Anyway, I'm not going to bore you with Canadian politics and I don't much care who wins the election in Ontario, but I have seen a lot of talk about the $15 minimum wage lately and it is becoming clear to me that people in Canada may be a bit more gullible than I had thought. All Wynne had to do was mention her support for this idea and suddenly she went, as the article states, from cold to hot. And now her opposition has cooked up their defence spreading fear of the $15 minimum wage. And people are falling for it. It's just last minute tactics. Political sophistry. A mudslinging sprint to the finish.

Pay careful attention to the ad. Almost everything it says the minimum wage hike will bring can not be caused by a minimum wage hike. They are things that can only come about when CEO's, heads of corporations, captains of industry and business owners decide to do them. More automation from big corporations. Only if big corporations decide on more automation. Fewer employers will hire young people. Again, their choice. Small businesses forced to close. This is the one legitimate concern, but it isn't as certain as they are trying to scare voters into believing. More on that later. Higher prices for groceries. Again the choice of the business owners. And almost everything else? Well then with higher prices on almost everything, the extra money for those 1.6 million people won't make any difference, will it? That's what the makers of the ad hope people get out of it. It's a political trick that goes back to the time when Moses wore short pants. And STILL people are falling for it!

I lived in Canada a few years ago and I was making 10 or 11 bucks an hour. I was working shiftwork, 12-hour shifts with a weekly turnaround of 8 hours I had to manage. I was working more than 40 hours a week every week. I was wearing a uniform that included a vest and heavy boots. I was walking, sweating, running, tackling, chasing, arresting, restraining and/or standing for 12 hours straight most shifts working security in Calgary hospitals. Every month I made a few hundred more than my brother I lived with. He was on welfare. I had one shift during which I got kicked in the shins by a lady with a cast on her leg who I was trying to restrain, I had to go into a room in full mask, gown and sterile equipment worn overtop of the uniform to struggle with a man who had a bowel disease, who was covered in his own stinking, diseased feces and shared that with all of the security guards who dealt with him, I think we had an escaped patient as well so I had to run all over the hospital, and the usual abuse from superiors. I got home and said to my brother that, pride be damned, I'd PAY a few hundred bucks a month to not have to work. It was basically that extra few hundred and pride at being employed that I was being shit on, metaphorically AND literally, for.

The time before that when I lived in Canada I tried to make a go of the ESL teaching market in my own country. I found that it was not an easy thing to do. One major trend in business across Canada that most Canadians don't know about until they're looking for work is the trend AWAY from hiring someone full time. And just try to find the good old jobs where the employer WANTED you to work expensive overtime! I dare you! The education industry is bad for this. Teachers have always worked short weeks since they do a lot of lesson planning, marking and other work at home. Modern business solution: Declare their 12-20 hours a week "part time," don't give them any credit for extra hours they have to put in at school or at home, and don't pay them any benefits. I was not qualified to teach in regular schools but there was a time when I could get lots of hours substitute teaching and working at ESL schools. No more. Now fully qualified Canadian teachers with teaching certs are subbing. Some schools take nothing less. They're also working ESL camps and at ESL schools. To make up for the loss of benefits. This and the fact that becoming a certified teacher has gone from a cheap, one-year education certificate to a year or two of upgrading and a two or three year teaching certificate that is now 10 times more expensive every year, scared me away from that forever. Education is now a racket in Canada and regular people are being priced out of it along with other pie-in-the-sky luxuries like housing, driving, retiring...

In Canada, I was just spinning my wheels. I looked at the people I worked with. About half were from other countries where, when their paychecks were converted, 10 bucks an hour was a great wage. They also told me they had ways to work enough time to collect Unemployment Insurance, or I guess now they call it Employment Insurance, go back to their country and STILL collect. I'm not kidding! And the worst part about this is I think the appropriate agencies in Canada KNOW about this but do nothing.

Some of my co-workers were part timers, students, wives supplementing husbands' incomes, and a LOT of them were people who still lived with their parents. THAT'S one way to make 10 or 11 bucks an hour work for you! Cut out rent and food and BOOM! See? We don't need no stinking minimum wage increase! We just need people to move back in with their parents! Actually, there's another benefit to the minimum wage hike. How many of those people who were in the same, demoralizing jobs as I was, and gave them up to go on welfare or move back home, will suddenly insert themselves back into the workforce? How many parents will be glad to get 30 or 40-year-old kids out of the house?

Listen, as someone who has tried, and remember I'm on my own, no wife and no kids, it is impossible to get anywhere on minimum wage in Canada. Even 15 bucks isn't going to keep up with inflation. I've read that the living wage, that's just enough to pay the bills, in Vancouver is over 20 bucks an hour nowadays. They say half of Canadians have degrees. I read a stat from a prominent university that I was shocked at: 23% of degree holders in Canada are unemployed. Since they're the smart ones, they're probably living with Mom and Dad or living on Swellfare. Canada is richer than ever but a quarter of the people in Ontario make shit wages! I wonder how many make less than the average wage. 60 years ago average Canadians made average wages. And they were enough to pay for their cars, houses, (yes I'm talking outright ownership, not the word "buy" we use today that means a lifetime of mortgage), kids educations, vacations, even a pretty good retirement. What happened?

I'll tell you what happened. Deregulation. Same as America. Politicians have been bought, rules and laws have been changed, legislators have been lobbied, banks, investment firms and insurance companies have been turned into casinos. Canada may have been boring 60 years ago, but give me some of THAT boredom! Now the people who have almost all the money in our country have been given free reign to do unspeakable things with it. One example is something that appears every now and then in some media or other and quickly disappears. It's a story close to my heart because water is important to me and I don't think unbridled capitalism gets any worse than the story of Nestle water in Canada. They have done this in both Ontario and B.C. but I will give up beer if either of the candidates above talked about it in their campaigns or has any plan to end such illegal activity.

Nestle goes into Ontario and pays $3.71 per million litres of water, puts it into plastic bottles that are a huge ecological blight on the whole world, then sells it back at, what 2 or 3 bucks a litre? Depending on where you buy that water it's half a million to a million times what they paid for it! They continue pumping a million litres a day during drought and forest fire season. They don't care and they are not regulated. In B.C. it's even worse! They pay $2.25 to steal the water from British Columbians then sell it back to them. MORE than a million times what they paid. WHO are the people responsible for signing these contracts with Nestle? And why are THEY not busted down to a minimum wage job? Why are there no regulations on this? That's the issue that comes up every time this is mentioned but it gets forgotten about and Nestle keeps on pumping.

The exact same thing is happening in other deregulated industries like housing, oil, banking, stocks, and, most unfortunately, education. I don't know, but probably mining, logging and all other major Canadian industries too. Greed is being allowed to run amok. Can we stop this already?

And this comes back to the minimum wage and the elections. One way to offset this situation we've gotten ourselves into is to increase the minimum wage. Now, of course, businesses are instantly going to be against that because it will hurt if they aren't paying their employees $15 an hour. Obviously, right? Well, as I said above, it's not as obvious as all that. Probably the most famous economist of our time, John Maynard Keynes, would say that those businesses will actually HELP themselves by increasing the minimum wage. Now, I think, maybe down at Chick/Brody Porsche and Audi, they may not feel the benefits so much because people making minimum wage, even 15 bucks, aren't shopping there. But it will be good for the economy and the majority of businesses. Here's how.

But this will only work IF the business world doesn't just instantly raise prices and stop hiring and do all those things that stupid ad talks about. And don't fault me for saying that, if you are saying that giving a 4 dollar an hour raise to 1.6 million people in Ontario won't mean more customers, more business and a shot in the arm to a stagnant economy, then I question your intelligence and/or your honesty. You can guess which one it is for yourself.

Keynes sees a minimum wage increase as a good way out of a recession. And if you don't think Canada's in a recession, what happened to the whole world in 2008? Forget so soon? Here's a reminder. From Forbes Magazine. Even the businessmen know the causes of that meltdown. To sum them up in one word: deregulation. When derivative salesmen and CDS hawkers and banks and Moody's and AIG and all those avaricious Tazmanian Devils were finally cornered, do you know what they said? Do you know what even the big daddy of deregulation, Alan Greenspan, said? "We're sorry. We were wrong. But can you blame us? Why weren't we regulated?" Please skim or read this article. It's a pretty long list of people who got rich from deregulation. They are all despicable and although none are in jail, at least some of them really should be. Ratings companies giving triple A ratings to obvious crap. "Let's hope we're all wealthy and retired by the time this house of cards falters," one said. Political leaders repealing regulation laws and encouraging "liar loans" and lending to ninjas. (no income no job applicants), and de-staffing, basically shutting down the SEC, which is supposed to regulate stuff like this. AIG insurance bosses getting 100 bill. from the American tax payer to keep their company afloat after careless investment in credit default swaps and other financial weapons of mass destruction, then spending it on lavish executive golf and hunting trips. Steve Eisman, who was portrayed by Steve Carrel in "The Big Short," (WATCH that movie many times!), has the best quote of all: "These guys lied to infinity. What I learned from that experience was that Wall Street didn't give a shit what it sold." These people needed regulation. Companies like Nestle stealing from Canada and selling them back what they stole at criminal profit margins need to be regulated. The people who allow Nestle to do that need to be regulated. People who are eliminating full time, long term jobs and making the job market of Canada largely temporary need to be regulated. Minimum wage needs to be regulated. How can Canada claim to be a civilized country when disgustingly rich companies are ALLOWED to pay their workers minimum wage, knowing that minimum wage is far from a living wage?

So don't fall for the tired, old arguments of, "Well that's socialism!" Or "That's communism!" It's just plain good sense and it was part of capitalism when capitalism was thriving. The reasons communism and socialism have many examples of failure are the identical reasons for the crash of 2008, a failure of capitalism, just greedy people getting out of control. Another good Keynesian quote, "When the capital development of a country becomes a byproduct of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill done."

So relax about the 15 dollar minimum wage. If it's implemented, and that's not even all that likely in my opinion, and if knee-jerk business tactics are not implemented without thinking, the market will do what it is supposed to do and adjust itself and things will be a little bit closer to the glory days of our country. But if not, and I have to say, I have a feeling none of the businesses in Canada will give the minimum wage hike a chance, if not, we'll just be a little bit closer to yet another meltdown. And even IF it's introduced and the instant price hikes are the reaction, costs will not be inflated that much. Like the writer of this article agrees, wouldn't you pay a few cents more for a meal knowing the worker serving it was earning a livable wage?

You would think the one bullet point to take away from the 700 billion dollar bailout of 2008, which has turned into trillions by now, would have been, "How 'bout we work on some regulation here?" Inconceivably, that still hasn't happened! Chalk it all up to the power of greed. But I have one last thing to add: If you don't trust companies, government, or banks to stop lying, cheating and stealing from us, or being greedy, as consumers, we have power. An important point in that above article was that one of the "people" who caused the financial crisis of '08 in the States was the American public. Don't take risky loans from sketchy bankers or derivative salesmen. Don't be greedy yourself! Try to avoid credit. Don't vote for crooked politicians. Don't shop at rich companies whose workers make minimum wage. Don't EVER buy another product from Nestle! Don't buy so many bananas. I'm trying not to. It's tough, but we can all make a difference if we choose our battles wisely in the fight to wrestle our country back from our greedy owners. It will take time, sacrifice and patience, but I think it can be done.

*** By the way, the Ontario election isn't until June 7, 2018! Shows you how closely I follow Ontario politics. So Wynne has a whole year to actually raise the minimum wage. I hear there is talk of going to 14 bucks in 2018 then 15 in 2019. This will allow companies to be proactive, raising prices today! Then whether this actually happens or not, you still get more money from your fewer customers while ensuring that the poor won't be able to pay their bills. So it's a win-win for business.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Cost Of Working Where I Work

Okay, for the purpose of memory, yours and especially mine, I am going to sum up the past three visa runs I've made from China to Korea and try to give you an idea of the level of frustration I have achieved in my quest for the oft-promised work visa. If you scroll back to my post entitled "Vacation 2017," that was in January. I had to get out of China for the second time since getting my business visa for my work at Renmin University. (not for, but AT)

I had a really great time with my friends in Korea, as I always do. And when I got back to China, I was still living in Beijing in the hostel where I couldn't cook or refrigerate anything. But I had already agreed, (while in Korea), to take a job in Taiyuan. So it could be said that this visa run/vacation allowed me to remain in China, move to Taiyuan and since I started working February 15th, it was the first time I paid to work for my new company. The trips to Taiyuan for interviews, moving, moving my stuff, ALL bills footed by me. The big one was paying the first three months of rent on my apartment. Again, no help from my employer. So I went broke in order to start working this job.

The March 2nd post, "New Place," was after I had been living in this apartment for about a month, and just a couple of weeks before my third visa run to Korea. My first from Taiyuan, but my second that would allow me to work in Taiyuan. I had finally made my apartment livable. It was not pretty when I moved in. That combined with the move and living for the first month in Taiyuan completely exhausted all my pay and holiday pay from Renmin.

On March 17th, I made another visa run. I had made a plea to management for help with this one. I cited all my expenses and told the second in command that I was flat broke. But payday was March 15th, (supposedly), and I was positive that I could cover the visa run with my first paycheck. Neither the help from management, NOR the paycheck came. I had to borrow money from the saintly HR co-ordinator, Faith, who had been instrumental in getting me settled in Taiyuan. So I stayed only two days in Korea and got back as soon as I could. I bought as little as I could in Korea too, just in case I didn't get paid as much as expected, or didn't get paid at all. This WAS a new company after all. The blog post, "Near Perfect Trip" describes how I was going to ask for a 4000 RMB advance on my end of contract plane fare. I did, and the request was ignored. The paycheck finally came, a week late, and it was only half a paycheck. You see, my new company does the old 2-week withholding of pay deal, (and, I'm sure I don't need to tell you that they don't mention it in their contract), so really, I was being paid in March for the 2 weeks I had worked in Feb. Nowhere near enough cash to pay Faith back, do a visa run to Hong Kong, for my work, (Z), visa, AND cover the next three months of rent, which would be due during that pay period.

So, it was arranged that I would be paid on April 10th, the FULL paycheck this time, and then I could go to HK and get my work visa. Well, in the mean time Faith and Samantha from HR both quit. I got a full paycheck, but it wasn't early and there was no visa run. Half of that paycheck went to cover my SECOND three months of rent and the rest went toward surviving another month. Some time around mid April I met the new HR rep. that was going to be doing Faith's job and would be in charge of negotiating my work visa. Her name was Miss Jang. I sent Faith a text about her saying, "She looks like she's in over her head." I also met Grace. She is the boss's P.A. And, I met the boss, Diana. I mentioned to every one of them how I needed to get out of the country by mid May and was hoping, practically BEGGING, that it would be on a Z visa run, NOT to re-re-REnew my business, (M), visa. Every one of them assured me there would be no problem. I think you probably know what's coming.

For the past month I have been HOUNDING all three of these ladies to the point of almost becoming obnoxious. The very last day, (May 18th), that I could be in the country of China without overstaying my business visa was fast approaching. I was frantically trying to find information on the visa run, the Chinese embassy in Hong Kong, hotels nearby, papers needed, flights, reservations, everything, I mean E VRE THENG was left up to me. All anyone else seemed like they were going to do was get my foreigner's work permit number and official letter of permission both dox from agencies I could not have gone to myself and both with company stamps on them. This will be important later in this tale of woe.

I started teaching the big boss, the owner, Diana, during this time. Grace also sits in on our classes as an emergency translator and a third participant in some exercises and games. I like Grace. She seems quite capable. And I am not hating teaching Diana. She's a great student! At the end of most classes I usually reminded them of my visa status and they both gave me updates and assurances that it was going to happen before May 18th. I found information on visa runs to HK VERY difficult to find. No real big surprise there. What I DID find describes the trip as a pain in the fundamental orifice! Evidently, the embassy is super picky about everything and applicants get refused for little things one at a time. Like the Gwangju Immigration Office in Korea. It sometimes stretches a three-day visa run into a week or more. This is NOT what I wanted to hear! But, with a full paycheck on May 15th I should be able to handle a few days, even a week in HK. The 18th was a Thursday so I knew I wouldn't be getting my visa in one day and would have to spend the weekend there. I told the gals that the visa run really SHOULD be made on a Monday or Tuesday so that it would be ready on the Friday, but I was okay with going at an odd time. I even found two phone numbers for visa information at the embassy, one was recorded info and one was an operator you could talk to. I don't know if it was English, Chinese or both because I tried to call the numbers and neither worked on my phone. I got a message saying I don't have long distance on my plan. ANOTHER thing I'll need HR's help in changing.

Anyway, I give these numbers to Miss Jang, because it would be a huge help to her being new to this and all. She tells me to shut up. He exact words were, "Honey, please be quiet!" This was texted so I was able to refrain from profanity. Then she actually went so far as to GUARANTEE that I would be getting the papers and going to Hong Kong by or before the 18th. Toward the deadline she even suggested I buy a ticket to HK, go to the airport and she would heroically deliver the papers to me before boarding. I said, "No. We will not be doing that."

The morning of the 18th she arranged a time to give me the documents at the school in my office. I got there on time, she was half an hour late. And didn't have the papers. I magnanimously told her that we'd chalk this up to a learning experience and that immigration offices all over the world were the same. She was apologetic saying I was right and she was wrong and all, but I have seen far too much of this Asian lie now and apologize later bullshit to feel anything but anger. I later said to Grace that Miss Jang's education was going to cost me a lot of money. I even said to Grace that I thought she wasn't capable of handling the position, particularly since I've been told that next semester there will be 5 new foreign teachers and this will need to be done for all of them. If they are new to this sort of career or traveling, it will be even MORE difficult than it had been for me. And I said to Grace that Miss Jang doesn't look like she can handle that.

So I then explained to Miss Jang and Grace that without the Z visa I couldn't get a bank account or a card that enabled me to buy a plane ticket online. I tried, I think it's called "C-Ticket" with my Beijing bank card and it didn't work. The reason I was given, you may remember, was because I am a foreigner. So Miss Jang wasted 2 hours of my final legal day in China trying and failing to do something the students I teach could easily do. I texted Faith and within minutes she had me a plane ticket and a train time. I would have to take the train to Beijing then fly to Korea from there. It was last second, expensive, and the schedule would be tight, but it was all that was available. Just before rushing home to pack and leave Miss Jang asked if I could fly from Korea to Hong Kong if they faxed or emailed me the documents. I said I'd be in touch with them but in the mean time they should get the documents and find out if copies were acceptable.

I bought my train ticket and met Faith's husband across the street from the train ticket store and paid him the money for my plane ticket. Again, Faith to the rescue! She even called me and told me how to tell the taxi driver to go to the train station. I got to Beijing and decided to go from the train station to the airport by shuttlebus. In LIGHT traffic that takes an hour and a half, but Beijing rarely has light traffic. I was sitting in gridlock watching the time tick away and envisioning the money for that first ticket going down an imaginary toilet. But luckily, my terminal, (T2), was the first stop on the shuttlebus and it got there 20 minutes before my flight was scheduled to take off. I had NEVER before had a flight into or out of Beijing Airport that was not delayed. In fact I was counting on this flight being delayed. I got to the check-in counter and asked if it was still possible to get on my flight. To my surprise, the girl at the counter said it was! Then, (of course), I checked my bag and it set off an alarm. I had to open it up and show everything in it. They didn't find the battery or bomb they were looking for. That wasted 5 minutes. I now had 15 minutes. I went to the scanner luggageless. The girl said, "You'd better hurry, your flight is boarding." Then Mr. Overkill, maybe BECAUSE I was late and he knew it, felt, fondled and passed that metal detector wand over me so many times I thought he was trying to cast a spell. He put his finger into the waist of my shorts in the back, pulled and looked down the crack of my ass! This is just getting out of hand, folks! The personal rights and freedoms violations we allow at airports because we just want to get where we are going are one sure sign that Big Brother is taking over.

I got through a lengthy immigration line and had a couple of minutes to find gate 11. Beijing Airport signage and layout is not the best. I saw signs that said, "Gates 1-11" and had arrows so I followed the arrows. They had those moving walkways that everybody here STOPS on and turns into moving STANDways to my never-ending irritation. Baggageless, I was able to deek out these blockers and get to my destination more quickly. I got past gates 1 through 10 and the airport ended. Where the HELL was gate 11? Luckily a young, pretty stewardess had seen my OJ Simpson impression and followed me shouting, "Incheon? You are going to Incheon?" So I followed her ALL the way back to gate number 11. Which comes before gate number 1. Chinese math.

I was the last person on the plane and I sat down almost exactly at the correct take-off time. The very first plane EVER to be on schedule in my experience at the Beijing Airport. Of course! But then we all sat in the plane on the runway for 50 minutes waiting to take off, so the airport's record remains intact.

I got to the Incheon Airport, which, incidentally, a fellow expat who lives in Korea posted an article online about. It was on the facebook page called OINK, which stands for Only In Korea. It bragged on and on about how awesome the Incheon airport was and how they've won the award for best in Asia. I posted, (and so did MANY others), that Changi Airport in Singapore can't be touched. Then I posted that the award was probably based on an internet poll. Koreans are invincible at those. I blasted through customs and immigration and waited patiently for my bag. I needed to get my Kindle and send Amber a facebook message letting her know I was there. Amber lives in Incheon and may have allowed me to stay at her and DB's place. But I hadn't had time to message them before leaving China. I hadn't had time for much. I just grabbed any clothes I could and threw them into my bag. Again, thanks to Miss Jang.

It was about 11 PM so I thought Amber and DB would probably just be going to bed. But I watched the baggage go round and round the carousel. Never saw my bag. An attendant or security guard or something comes up to me and barks, "Where you come from?" I said, "Beijing." He says, "Manila? Baggage not here." I said, "Not Manila, Beijing." He doesn't hear me because he's overvoluming me with, "Flight number. Flight number. Flight number." I point to the sign above the carousel that clearly says whatever the flight number was and from Beijing and read it for him. He says, "Go to lost and found." World class service right there, Incheon Airport!

I go to lost and found thinking that because I had checked in so late back in Beijing, and then had trouble with the alarm, they probably hadn't had time to put my bag on the plane. I reach the lost and found and the guy says, "Maybe next counter." MAYBE?

I go to next counter and there's a lady there talking to a guy from Fiji. She stops talking to him and looks directly at me. I say, "Hi. I can't find my luggage..." She says, "Wait your turn. I am talking with this man." So I apologize to the Fijian and we spark up a conversation about how frustrating it is to lose baggage. He was from the same flight as me. Then a THIRD guy from our flight shows up. He interrupts the lady to say, "Hey, this is my bag here, can I take it?" She says he can and then finally talks to me. She asks if my bag is in the pile of baggage behind her desk. I hadn't thought to look. And sure enough, there it is. Baggage handling at Incheon Airport - top notchi!

I get my bag and go through customs and out into the airport. It's now after 2 AM. I am instantly accosted by the sketchy taxi drivers that you expect in Jakarta, Manila, Bangkok etc., but not from the "best airport in Asia." I tell them I don't need a taxi when I want to tell them to fuck off and dig out my Kindle. I wonder if it's even worth contacting anyone. All buses and subways from Incheon Airport are now finished. It is close to exactly NOTHING this airport, so a "nearby" hotel is a 20 or 30 dollar taxi ride away and who knows how much it will cost. But luckily I check my phone and WeChat is working. I see a message from Amber that I am welcome to stay at her place. I try to send her a message. Incheon Airport wifi is down. Best airport in Asia in the most wired country in the WORLD and the wifi sucks. But I got intermittent coverage and managed to send a message that I was on the way. A 40=dollar cab ride later, I arrived at Amber and DB's by 3. They got up early the next morning too. I watched hockey and napped.

My visit was a lot of fun, as it always is with Amber, DB, and the Peet/Spiwaks who were elbows deep in a walkathon raising money for cancer research. I had arranged to stay until Wednesday this trip because that two-day turnaround over the weekend is horrible. Mostly because of the horrendous trip back to Taiyuan. Last visa run I had to wait 3 hours in the waiting room for my train. But I talked with a nice guy who was in the coal industry. Taiyuan is China's main coal city so I'm not so sure I should cheer for its prosperity even though the rich families are the ones whose kids I will be teaching. After the weekend I sent a WeChat message to Miss Jang saying that I could go directly to Hong Kong on Monday or Tuesday if she did three things: acquired the two documents I still needed, (which she assured me she had), emailed them to me, and found out FOR SURE if Hong Kong would accept copies of documents such as these. Remember, they are stamped. What good is a stamp or even a signature if it's photocopied? She gets back to me a day later with, "Are you going to Hong Kong? Have you renewed your Korean tourist visa? I've been working very hard so I'm replying to you now." A DAY LATER!!! I again ask if she's got the dox and if I can use copies in HK. She replies, "You need print it yourself. Must be color print."

I then take a deep breath and dive into an explanation of one of the picky, picky rules I've read about. The visa application needs to be downloaded onto a computer and filled in with typing. You can't print out the application then fill it in in pen. Even though it must be signed in pen. So I filled out as much of it as I could but there were some blanks for my alien work permit number, which was one of the dox Miss Jang told me she had acquired, and one for the name and address of the employer. I only had that in Chinese on WeChat and had tried to copy and paste from WeChat but couldn't do it. So I told Miss Jang I would send her the application and she could type in the Chinese and the number for me and send it back to me. Long silence from her. I sent, "So I need your email." She sends me her email. I send her the application and let her know via WeChat that I've sent it. She replies, "OK." FOUR hours later I send her a message, "Never mind, I will just fly back to China." Remember, she wasted Monday not replying to me. It's now Tuesday and I'm in the same boat she put me in in Taiyuan: I have one day and don't know what ticket to buy but I know it's going to be a crappy, expensive one because it's last minute. So I booked a ticket to Beijing. The next day I got a message from the travel agent saying that my flight was cancelled.

So I go back to the travel agency, (Unique Travel in Itaewon is the one I like), and the agent is pulling out her hair trying to find ANYthing but everything is full. Why then the flight I had booked was CANCELLED??? Maximization of profits. So I ended up deciding on another ticket. In the time it took to book that ticket THAT flight filled up. I had to take a flight on Thursday and arrive back in Taiyuan a day late. Well, not my fault. That day I got about 15 or 20 WeChat messages from Miss Jang asking if I'd decided to go back to China. Explaining that an interpreter, (Grace), would contact me. Apologizing AGAIN at her handling of the visa. Saying that she has been, "re arranged" and won't be in charge later. Then letting me know how nice it has been to know me and not to hesitate to ask for her help with anything in future and she hopes we will see each other again. She probably got the position the same way she handled it: assuming that SAYING you can do things is just as good as being able to do things. Then assuming that an apology will make everything all right when you can't do the things you are hired to do. Unbelievable! Well... in my experience in the ESL industry, BELIEVABLE!

So I got up at 5, said my goodbyes to everybody and was off at 6 AM. I got a 25-dollar taxi to Gimpo Airport, the one IN SEOUL! I can only imagine what it costs to get to Incheon by cab. The taxis used to be cheap in Korea. Now they are almost like Canadian taxis. Everything goes smoothly to Beijing. Even, to my surprise, immigration. I thought they'd give me some hassle knowing that this was my 4th renewal of my business visa and I HAD to be working in China. In Indonesia after my 4th renewal of my business visa there, I was almost refused entry. But the guy in Beijing didn't even flinch. I took the shuttlebus from the Beijing Airport to Beijing West Train Station from stop #7. The tickets can be bought right beside the information circle in front of the hallway that leads to the Airport Express. The bus comes every 30 minutes or less. It takes 1 1/2 hours or so and probably could take more than two in heavy traffic. I didn't have my train ticket yet, so I was not on a deadline like I was on the shuttlebus from the train station to the airport days before when I nearly had to eat my ticket. So after a much less stressful and not so trafficky ride of about an hour and 45 mins, I was at the train station.

I go into the entrance marked misleadingly as "Tickets Entrance," a hard one to find really, and after the requisite Chinese line-up I find out that if I want the fast, 3-hour trip I have to wait till 9 PM. It's about 11:30 AM. I ask if there's anything else and there IS one at 3:29 but it's a slow train that makes more stops and takes about 4 hours, and here's the kicker: standing room only! So I take that ticket and proceed to waiting room number 11. It is JAM PACKED with humanity! No seats available and very little standing room. And I've got a 4-hour wait followed by a 4-hour stand on the train. I DID get McLunch and sat in the crowded eating area of McDonald's for maybe half an hour but stood the rest of the time and stood in the dining car for the whole 4-hour train ride. It was even more nightmarish than it sounds since the dining car was packed with other standing passengers and I was leaning on one of the small tables from time to time and once during the trip a dude bought a meal and ate it, NOISILY, about 4 inches away from my head where my ears are. Grace had offered to get the school driver to pick me up at the station when I arrived, but this was when I had foolishly assumed I could just buy a train ticket to Taiyuan and go there. Instead of arriving around 2, when I could have been picked up, I got to the station at 7:30. I sent Grace a message saying that I would find my own way home and for some reason my WeChat wouldn't work. I was accosted by the sketchy taxi guys and went to the genuine taxi area. I said the name of the school, showed the driver the Chinese writing which says, "Please take me to Taiyuan number 5 High School," a landmark in Taiyuan and the driver says, "Hmmmm wo bu jr dao..." like he doesn't know. Just then, like a superhero, I get a call from Faith! She asks how things have gone and I get her to explain to the driver where I'm going. We then have a nice conversation until I reach my place. It's now after 8 PM and I make some Kraft Dinner, with hotdogs with relish. The KD and relish Heather got me from post. Can't find either in Taiyuan. So I ate supper with relish.

The next day I met the new HR co-ordinator, Amy. I had met her before, but she wasn't the HR co-ordinator before. Her English is much better than Miss Jang's and she seems like she may be able to handle the job. But she says to me, I will get the documents from the ministry tomorrow and give them to you. TOMORROW! Meaning STILL nobody had retrieved the damn documents! They had just lied to me and said they did.

I did get the documents! STANDING OVATION for Amy! But now we have to arrange a time to go to HK. I wanted to go this Monday, (tomorrow), but we can't for a few reasons. First of all, (of course I was the one who checked this...) Tuesday is a holiday in Hong Kong so I probably wouldn't be able to get the visa on Friday, so I'd have to spend a week in Hong Kong. Also, when I got back from my previous visa run and plans had been made to get me my work visa from Hong Kong back in April, the company drew up some new contracts. I think I will need to bring a contract from my employer and show it to the people at the embassy in HK and, obviously it can't be dated from February. That way the embassy will know I have been working without a Z visa. So they drew up new contracts. I guess I never got my copy of the new one because all I can find is one dated from February. So we're gonna probably need to draw up a THIRD batch of contracts. I will be doing a camp here as well as my normal classes for June so there is only a small window for me to do this trip properly. That will be on June 12. That gives the company 15 days to do the contracts and arrange flights and hotel for me. What do you want to bet they start on this June 11th?

But at least I'm working.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Legend of Bobby Orr

As the young boy in the rink dressing room began inserting his foot into his CCM Tacks, a voice from the shadows said, "What are you doing, son?"
The boy was startled and looked toward the far corner of the dressing room to see the old timer approaching. He said, "I'm just putting on my skates."
"No yer not!" corrected the old timer. "Not with yer socks on, son. Never with yer socks on."
The young boy, still holding the laces of his left skate challenged the stranger, "Why not?"
"Because Bobby Orr says not, THAT'S why not!"
"Who is Bobby Orr?" the unfortunate kid replied.

Unfortunate because, although there are no shadows in any dressing rooms, kids are now trained NOT to talk to strangers who might lurk there, and usually such strangers, no matter how well-meaning, get forcibly removed from dressing rooms, I, your faithful blogger, am, through the magic of blogging, that stranger. And I am going to keep that legendary boy off the ice by telling him of a game, a time, and, indeed a player that make true hockey fans stop what they are doing and get glossy-eyed in wonder at what could have been, and what could still be in the most exciting sport in the world. If you're a baseball fan, think of Josh Gibson in the negro leagues. If you're a football, (or baseball), fan, think of Bo Jackson. I bet there are hundreds of stories of evanescent athletes the world over who just didn't get a chance to live up to their potential. I count Bobby Orr amongst this group even though we DID get the privilege of watching his greatness for a short, but glorious time.

In my, and the opinions of most hockey knowledgeables, the only thing challenging the certainty that Bobby Orr was the best hockey player ever is the diabolical fact that he played in an era before arthroscopic knee renovations. Otherwise, he would have removed all doubt that he was the best, most revolutionary, most dominant player of hockey, (dare I say ANY sport? (I dare! I dare!)), EVER! Keep this in mind whilst I take us back to the beginning of the glory days of hockey, and so many other things. He was injured in 1967 in a charity-benefit exhibition game when colliding knee-on-knee with a teammate. This is when he was 18, folks. His rookie season in the NHL. Playing in charity benefits already. And every game he played after that, that is, practically every game of his far too limited career, was played in pain. We're talking bone-on-bone, no cartilage pain in the knee! By the end of his career, BOTH knees!

But this is not impressive until you hear what he did on one knee. Darryl Sittler, a guy who once scored 10 points in a game, (a record still untouched), said, "Bobby Orr was better on one leg than anybody else was on two." Consider that before Bobby Orr, most defensemen in hockey everywhere, stayed away from the offensive zone. The records for most goals, (19), and most points, (59), by Red Kelly and Pierre Pilotte respectively, were just sitting there all vulnerable-like. Now, to statisticians out there, okay, Doug Mohns, a defenseman, scored 25 goals and 60 points in a season, but he was playing as a forward on a line with Stan Makita while doing so. This was an era during which stats weren't as important as they are now so Mohns was listed as a defenseman, but wasn't playing as one. But also consider the forward pass in hockey was not allowed until 1930! So offense was a developing idea in pro hockey. If you got 50 points, you were a superstar. In fact POINTS weren't really a stat for many years. Only goals were recorded. So old timers like Joe Malone, Newsy Lalonde and the like, might have been better than we think. Nobody scored 50 goals until there was a war on and a good deal of the good players were overseas fighting. Even Maurice Richard would admit his 50 goals in 1944/45 should have an asterisk, I'm sure. It didn't happen legitimately until 15 years later, and it wasn't Richard, it was Boom Boom Geoffrion, although Gordie Howe got 49 and 47 in there. Not taking away from the Rocket! He DID get 45 legitimately, but, like Orr, we'll never know what would have been if circumstances were different.

And then, when the virtues of skill and offense were found to have dollar values, Bobby Hull and Phil Esposito blew those records away. But we're talking about forwards, whose job it IS to score. They rarely, (especially in Espo's case), strayed into the defensive zone or were any help there. It was largely, VERY largely because of Orr that Espo got his 76 goals in 1970/71 and this was all while Orr was also being defensively responsible and fighting and doing all the unglamorous jobs of a defenseman as well. Just as a teaser, Orr got a plus 124 in that season, the highest ever by any player in any position. Now I have never been a fan of the plus/minus stat. It is inherently misleading, but when it's this massive, there's something to it!

So this was the way hockey was before Orr. It was largely played by big, toothless, tough, low-paid grinders. And it was dull. A common score was 1-0 or 2-1. People satisfied themselves with believing that the excitement was in the competitiveness and the close scores. It was Slap Shot hockey. Easily the games that got the most asses out of seats and cheering were the ones with the most fights. It wasn't the low, but close scores. I hate the old close scores argument! I say, if close scores make sport exciting to you, try soccer. They sometimes don't even HAVE a score. And they won't give the fans any overtime if the score is 0-0 at the end of regulation time. Still, the fans of soccer, many from countries where it is the only sport they can afford, satisfy themselves with it. At least there's SOMETHING to cheer for! This is the same attitude hockey fans had in the dark ages of our sport and the dark ages of our countries. Speaking of the U.S. and Canada.

We had just gone through the great depression, the "dirty 30's" and then WWII. The countries and the sport were in a state of rebuild. And in no time things became prosperous. Unfortunately by the time every average man had a good job, a house, a car and a TV, Gordie Howe's glory days were over. We didn't get to see much of Mr. Hockey on TV. If we had, WE'D be as scared of him as every player in the NHL was. He was not the superstar we know today. Not by a long, long shot! He played in the days when I think hockey could best be described as "prison hockey." You had to fight. You couldn't avoid it. And if you wanted to prove you were tough and stay in the lineup, you had to take on the toughest guy. That was Gordie Howe. For a while. But soon people just stopped taking him on and gave him room. That's how he got all his points. Think of Happy Gilmore beating the living crud out of the player saying, "That's MY puck. You don't touch MY puck!" Then driving his head into the boards. That was Gordie Howe. And that was what a superstar was before Bobby Orr. Even if your team won 1-0 because Gordie Howe faked a punch to the head of the goalie causing him to flinch, then shot it past him while he was covering up, you were happy with the win. Skill, grace, and transcendental hockey savvy were not yet appreciated. They were clobbered. Gretzky, who always idolized Howe, played a game against him and lifted his stick and stole the puck. Howe confronted him later in the game and warned him never to embarrass him again like that. I don't think he'd idolize him so much if he'd played many more games against him.

So Orr knew he'd have to be tough. He KNEW he was good! And he had that whole list of things. For the love of Don Cherry, he was turning heads at the age of 12! NHL heads! The Bruins sent a scout named Wren Blair to a game to look at a couple of older players and they saw Orr. He was by far the youngest at the tournament but he played every minute of the game except the 2 minutes he was penalized and made the scouts forget about the other guys. When he was 13, the Orrs agreed to $2800.00 a car and a stucco job on their house to sell the rights to their son Bobby to Boston. When he was 14 years old, (what were YOU doing at 14?), he lived in Parry Sound, so could only play the home games on weekends for the Oshawa Generals, but still, playing against mostly 19 and 20-year-olds, got 21 points and landed on the 2nd all star team of the Metro Jr. A League. While having sleepovers, smoking his first cigarette and maybe even kissing a girl. I mean, his parents probably didn't allow him to play the road games because he would get home after his bedtime! A true prodigy!

The next year he played the full season and got 29 goals and 72 points. Let me refer you back to the NHL records of the era: 19 and 59. And although I've seen no footage of the days when he was playing Jr. hockey, I'm sure it would look the same as his NHL footage: total domination. He probably made the 19 and 20-year-olds look silly. SILLY! I saw footage of Connor McDavid courtesy of Hockey Night in Canada, when he was 14. He was playing with kids much older and making them look silly. But not to the extent I'm sure Orr did. Don Cherry, (blessed be His name), stated that he saw him pass up points against expansion teams and never run up the score! So his stats could have been a lot bulkier if he had the mindset of the modern player, (or businessman). I guess I'll never know. This is the advantage we have today. Nobody saw this domination of Orr but family, friends, opponents and the Bruins' scouts. The Bruins' scouts who represented a team desperate to win a cup! Their last win was 25 years before and fading from the memory of the fans. Their stadium was echoing. Their debtors were calling.

Much, (or EXACTLY), like today, I believe this desperation was the ONLY reason the Bruins took a chance on Bobby. No team wanted to play offensively, especially with their defensemen! Their job was behind the centre line, CERTAINLY not beyond the opponents' blue line! But that just hadn't worked. For 25 years. This kid was too good to waste. So they took a chance. I absolutely HATE that teams have to be so desperate to "take a chance" on offense. I firmly believe a strong offense wins in most sports most of the time. I don't believe, I KNOW, it's a helluva lot more fun to watch, even if you don't win! The Bruins, and the Oshawa Generals, were about to find out how lucrative an exciting offensive team could be.

Bobby played the next season and broke the goal record for defenceman in the league with 29 goals. The next year he broke his own record scoring 34 goals. In the next season he scored 38 goals and after a 22 year absence, got the Oshawa Generals to the Memorial Cup! These three more years for the Oshawa Generals compiling mouth-watering stats gave hope to the Bruins' front office. Could he do for the Bruins of the NHL what he had done for the Generals? The only reason he wasn't playing in the NHL as a little boy was because of the minimum age of 18 rule. Yet another thing that makes you wonder what might have been. Orr broke all the records ever recorded for defensemen in the minors in his ensuing 3 years playing for the Generals. He DID have his problems with injury, however. Perhaps a sign of things to come. In the game of hockey, if you play at the speed of light, you will encounter some darkness. This was said by a very knowledgeable hockey man and it has held true for several stars who have injured themselves flying into the boards, the net, the glass, the bench, other players or anywhere you shouldn't be speeding into. The recent spate of concussions and knee-on-knee collisions in the NHL may be one of the main dangers that has lead to the infuriatingly defensive, careful, absolutely dead boring, (and I'd like to add cowardly), hockey that is the norm today. It has become as careful and defensive as yesteryear. They might just as well bring back the no forward pass rule, I sometimes think. Sadly, Orr may be its best argument. Hey, but at least we HAVE hockey to watch, eh?

So finally Bobby Orr turns 18 and is eligible for the NHL. He signs for a whopping $25,000 and there were untold bonuses too. To give you an idea, it was 1966 and there were only 4 other players, all proven vets, getting more than 25 grand at the time. The Bruins were pulling out all the stops and rolling out the red carpet for Orr. He didn't disappoint. He scored 13 goals and 28 assists for 41 points. Now that sounds pretty average but that won him the Calder Cup for rookie of the year. It was pretty impressive, particularly for an 18-year-old! In his second year he had an injury but still managed 31 points in limited action. Again it sounds like nothing but it was considered star worthy. Then in the 68/69 season Bobby Orr got 64 points. Remember, Pierre Pilotte's NHL record of 59? Gone! Even if you are a fan of Mohns, Orr beat him too. At the ripe old age of 21. But this was small potatoes. Orr was just rounding into form. Rounding because of only one good knee, of course. heh heh.

The next season, 1969/1970, I was 3 years old. I only WISH I was old enough to fully appreciate what Bobby Orr did that year! As a 7-year-old I actually went to Buffalo and watched the Sabres play the Bruins in 1974 when Bobby Orr's star was brightly shining and was STILL too young to get it. It remains to this day one of the biggest regrets of my life that I saw Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge, Johnny Bucyk, Wayne Cashman, Gilles Gilbert, even Terry O'Reilly and I not only didn't appreciate any of them, I was voting for the Sabres! I like the French Connection. Gilles Gilbert, Rene Robert and Rick Martin. Shows how much I knew! When I was 7! I couldn't even tell you who won that game. Probably the Bruins. All I remember clearly was the taste of sour cream and onion chips which I HATED! Ha ha ha. Now I love sour cream, onion, and sour cream and onion chips. I was SO different as a kid!

The 1969/70 season of Bobby Orr was when the whole world recognized his power. If you want a very good account of it, go here. I'll just share the highlights. It is agreed to be the best season by any hockey player EVER! And I don't even think it's Orr's best! Just try to bring yourself back to the year of 1969. The Beatles made their last public performance on a rooftop. The 747 and Concorde were just out. The Pontiac Trans Am Firebird was the hottest car around. Woodstock! Apollo 11, Charles Manson, Abbey Road, the internet was ARPANET, Elvis "In the Ghetto," The Guess Who, Sweet Caroline, Come Together, groovy, Bewitched, Bonanza, Ironside. This is what I'm talking about.

Orr gets 14 points in the first 7 games! That's 2 points a game! Gretzky would be hard pressed! In the 80's! And he was a centre!

Just a miraculous start! He's gotta slow down. That's what everybody thought. And he DID...
but not much. This was unheard of! 38 points was far more than a respectable total just past the quarter post!

So everybody is assuming he'll slow down. I don't remember this spectacular year by Orr, but I DO remember Gretzky's 50 goals in 39 games. He, like Orr, just got BETTER as he went along! By his 54th game Orr had 84 points. Do you know how many players scored more than that this year, (2016/17)? SIX! In the whole year! Bobby had over 20 games to go! And this is in an era BEFORE the 80's when NObody had ever even come close to this! This is a spectacular season for a forward and Orr was NOT a forward! AND he still had 20 some games left! Can you imagine the GOD this guy was to hockey fans, never mind Boston Bruin fans!?!? The mind boggles! At the half way point of the season he broke the assist record for defencemen. Three nights later he breaks the record for points. HIS record. Remember he's 21 years old!

By March he has 100 points, 74 assists, and 27 goals, ALL records for an NHL defenseman. But he's not finished yet. He ends up with 33 and 87 for 120 points. THEN come the playoffs! He demolishes the playoff goals and assists marks for defencemen and scores THE GOAL. Everybody has seen this picture.

Orr won the Art Ross for scoring in the NHL, a feat no other defenseman has ever accomplished, (except himself), he got the first of 8 Norris trophies for best defenseman, (again nobody else ever did this even though most have longer careers), he got the Hart for MVP, and he won the Conn Smythe for playoff MVP. Nobody has won 4 except Lafleur and Gretzky who won the Art Ross, Hart, Conn Smythe and the Stanley Cups, but Bobby Orr, in his 4 personal trophy year ALSO won the Stanley Cup making him the only 5 trophy winning hockey player ever. It will be nigh onto impossible for anyone to do that again since it would have to be a defenceman leading the league in scoring on a team that wins the cup and he dominates the playoffs. In a hundred years that is probably not going to happen! That's why Bobby Orr is considered to be the best. But that's just one season. Let's continue.

The next year he becomes the first player ever to record 100 assists. In 1970/71 he gets 37 goals, 102 assists and 139 points. The point total has never yet been eclipsed by a defenseman although Paul Coffey scored 138 in his brilliant 1985/86 season. As mentioned, his plus 124 is so crazily better than anybody ever it almost proves the stat as meaningless as it is. And he won the Hart for MVP and the Norris for best defenceman again. I hope you don't mind my interchanging defenceman and defenseman. I don't know which is right.

The next year he won four trophies again. He got the Norris as a matter of purer course than any award ever given to any player. He also got 24 playoff points and the Conn Smythe for doing so. He got the league MVP, the Hart, of course. And since the Bruins beat the NY Rangers in the final, he got the Stanley Cup again. That's 4 pieces of hardware again. Remember how rare that is! Let alone FIVE! I think I love him WAY more knowing he beat the Rangers!

In my opinion, knowing how hard it is, and how rare an opportunity arises for a defenceman to score a goal, his best season may have been his last full season. Which begs the question, "Where could he have gone from there?" He scored 46 goals and 89 assists in 1974/75. 46 goals wass just an astronomic number never before mentioned concerning a defenceman. He GOT that in the 70's! This is BEFORE the 80's when skill and creativity were most appreciated in the wonderful game of hockey. And even in THOSE days there was only one defenceman who approached the status of Orr. I would say more than approached too! Paul Coffey was a phenom the likes of which hockey would be lucky to find ever again! But STILL not the gift sent down from Olympus that Bobby Orr was!

Just to fire them off at you, I'll list a few more impressive facts: He remains, and probably will always be, despite his short career, the only defenceman with 9 career hat tricks. When was the last time you saw a defenceman getting a hat trick? Rare as an honest ESL boss! His career 1.39 points per game is a crazy goal for a forward to consider, never mind a defenseman. It's important to note that in his big, breakout year he also had 125 penalty minutes. He had to play tough AND offensive, unlike the majority of high scorers in the NHL. There are forwards who are considered superstars in the NHL who have never approached his statistics. In 1979, (coincidentally or not? Gretzky's rookie year), he became the youngest player ever inducted into the hockey hall of fame.

The next year he was pretty much bankrupt. Without cash. Even being so highly paid! How did this happen? Well this is an all too familiar side story to every story we hear nowadays. We are just now beginning to notice these screwjobs and get angry about them. Soon, hopefully we will DO something about them.

Toward the end of his career, when his knees were shot, Boston offered Orr a contract to stay with the team. They could not imagine him elsewhere. They went so far as to offer 18.5% of the Boston Bruin franchise. WHICH HE DESERVED. His agent, the criminally convicted liar and fraudster, Alan Eagleson, (who served time in prison and was removed from the NHL Hall of Fame), had an arrangement more profitable for himself with the Chicago Blackhawks and hid this offer of Bruin ownership from Orr. He signed with the Hawks. He then had another operation and this one finally rendered his career a no go. So, YEAH, he DID have a lot of money as a player and we wonder where that might have gone, BUT, he could be the 18.5% owner of the Bruins by now! A million or maybe billionaire. There is nobody in the Bruins organization who would begrudge him this share in the franchise. Except, of course, the greedy scumbags who actually control it.

Gordie Howe was another example of a commodity being exploited. He was happy that the Detroit bigwigs gave him team jackets whenever he wanted. And while he was giving and taking beatings night in and night out, those jacket gifters made untold MILLIONS!

Here I am torn.

I'm torn again at the decision of whether I respect Gordie Howe and Bobby Orr more for just playing the game they love and not considering the financial details, or wish the two of them had held their owners' feet to the fire knowing, what they OBVIOUSLY knew: the money THE OWNERS made was exponentially humungous compared to the money they were offering the players. Now, I think, in the cases of several athletes I've seen, financial details were not within their personal realms of understanding. Fine, if Gordie or Bobby want to plead ignorance or lack of intelligence, I'm okay with that. But, I think Bobby was smarter. Possibly, and I'd go so far as PROBABLY not Gordie. But I think one of the greatest rip jobs in professional sports history was the trade of Bobby Orr to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Alan Eagleson was disbarred, criminally convicted and found guilty of fraud in the arena of trying to STOP things like he perpetrated on Bobby Orr from happening to NHL players. Jerk! He was involved with several NHL players including Darryl Sittler, who gave that previous quote. Gordie Howe was screwed by the Red Wings management for being nice and not shrewd. The very fact that the players NEED an association to fight for their rights is witness to the corporatization of the most exciting game in the world and it makes me want to blow a toilet full of puke every time I hear it.

I'm not on either side of the lockouts, strikes and bickering over money, by the way. I'm on the side of getting back to the good old days of hockey, and of Canada, and I assume the U.S. when people had good jobs and pay that everybody knows is fair. When there was a pretty good chance you'd own your home someday soon. When you had a job, social life and a partner that was steady. When hockey players, (musicians? artists?), were exhibiting the freedom and creativity that people exhibit when their primary needs are satisfied. When people were taking chances in sports and life. When things were not nervous, pedantic and uninspired. When sports weren't either.

You see, I believe sports is the best analogy for life, and at the same time it might be the best reflection of life. While life was hard and there was an epic struggle to rise above the poverty and hopelessness of society, people had to scratch and claw and fight. So did hockey players. But in the glory days of the 70's and moreso the 80's when things had loosened up enough to allow people more freedom than ever before, we had our best hockey ever! Skills! Excitement! Goals! And still the fights! Now since the greedy less than 1% have made us scratch and claw again like the days of the depression, hockey has become a frustratingly boring game of soccer on ice. Frustrating because those of us who remember the 80's know what could be. And this poor excuse for our favourite game just makes us as depressed as the people in soup lines during the depression.

"What I'm sayin' kid, is today is an environment in which Bobby Orr could not have existed. He would be told to clutch and grab, clog the neutral zone and block shots. Do you want to play like that? Do you want to stain his memory by stopping at the centre line during a power play? I hope you don't. The future of hockey is depending on you."

Then the man from the shadows left the dressing room. He didn't say another word. the young Connor McDavid! Hah! I'd like to include that but after the game 7 Edmonton played this year, I still think freedom in hockey is being suppressed. Freedom. That's what it's all about, isn't it? Ovechkin can't play like Ovechkin because the stupid management thinks he should play fewer minutes and block shots and backcheck rather than shoot or set up plays. Which he has perfected all his life. No, do the opposite of your nature and we will give you lots and lots of money!

This is what has ruined sports and our whole world.

At least that's what I reckon.