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HOCKEY KNIGHT IN TURKMENISTAN (AMERICAN EDIT)

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Like all Canadians, I was born with skates on, so when I heard the news, four years ago, that the President of Turkmenistan had decreed that his petroleum rich police state would become a hockey superpower I was delighted and fascinated.

birdy on ice

In 2012, the President of Turkmenistan, seen here, decreed that his nation would become a hockey superpower and ordered his minions ot sally forth and make it so

But Central Asia was a long way away, and I was delighted and fascinated with many things that day, as I am every day, so I thought little more about it until mid March of this year when my wife phoned home to report that she had been offered a promotion and transfer to the hermit state.

Six weeks later I found myself in the presence of the American Ambassador to Turkmenistan, a fine fellow named Alan Mustard. The Ambassador and I were sipping a cold one at a Sunday afternoon tailgater that was hosted by one of my wife’s work colleagues. Since Canada does not maintain an embassy in the former Soviet republic that sits on the southeatern shores of the Caspian Sea, I decided to pitch Mr. Mustard with a mad idea.

“Hockey diplomacy,” I said to the Ambassador, as I shook his hand for the first, and last, time. His eyebrows rose. He pondered. He looked me up and down, which he had done a week prior, when we passed each other, without speaking, at another event.

The other attendees of the weekly grill and swill were dressed golf club casual. As is my wont, I looked like a fat Steven Tyler impersonator trying to crash a frisbee golf party hosted by Snoop Dogg. Clearly, the Ambassador was taken aback by my garish garb. Nonetheless, his mind invited me to elaborate.

“I call it The TurkmeniStanley Cup,” said I, perhaps slurring the curious moniker (Canuckistanis are cheap drunks when imbibing in 100+ degree desert  heat). Observing no objection, I carried on. “Every summer, the world’s hockey minnows, such as Mexico, Morocco,  Malaysia, Mongolia etc. , gather here, under Turkmenistan’s cruel sun, and battle to be crowned the kings of global mighty mite hockey.”

The Ambassador seemed amused, and I bleated on. “Kids in all age divisions. Hockey is an expensive sport, even in Canada, far more so where ice is mostly something you put in cocktail glasses, so those little silver spoon  kids are going to be the future leaders of their nations. They will form lifelong friendships, breaking down barriers to business and fostering diplomacy between disparate nations.”

Mustard, who is not  a Colonel, did not have to say what he was thinking. The Ambassador was not thinking, “Dang! I wish I was in the kitchen, with a knife, so I could prevent this peacock from squawking any further!”

No, dear reader, the Ambassador is a diplomat. He does not think murderous thoughts. Mr. Mustard, Mr. Ambassador, who has heard every dumb Clue joke ever, was thinking, “That’s all well and good, old chap, but, pray tell, what the Dickens does that have to do with the United States of America?” Actually, that might be more like what the British Ambassador would be thinking if he’d been cornered by a fat, drunk colonist with a heedful of gibberish, but I call poetic privilege, so let’s move on, shall we? Jolly good.

I told the Ambassador that I grew up 40 miles from the Minnesota border, in Thunder Bay, which is, pound for pound, the best hockey town on Planet Ice. I told the representative of the American people that I’d carved up a fair bit of ice, and chased more than my share of puck bunnies, in the land of 10,00 lakes,   when I was a youngster.

And I grudgingly admitted that my teams were bested when we traveled to tournaments in Edina, International Falls, Duluth, Grand Rapids… well, there’s no need to elaborate on this embarrassing confession any further, is there?

As he looked at his watch, I told the Ambassador that I’d spent an entire week watching the Minnesota State High School Hockey Championships on TV, every spring

I rambled on, as Mustard glanced at his time piece yet again, saying that I’d been envious, oh so envious, that kids my age were playing in front of 18,000 strong crowds at the St. Paul Civic Center. How, I wondered,  could the inferior Americans get so many people to watch their brand of shinny? “Was it the cheerleaders?”

It was, by then, obvious that Mustard was wishing that he was a Colonel, and that he had me over the kitchen table, with a knife in his quivering hand, so I cut to the chase:

“All to say that I understand that Minnesota is a bona fide hockey hotbed, and the kids there love the game as much as kids north of them do. All those kids, on both sides of the border, need to understand the righteousness of hockey diplomacy as much as the kids in the world’s hockey minnow states, no? Of course they do,” I assured him.

“So,” said I, “we also bring in teams from Duluth and Thunder Bay, not to contest for the TurkmeniStanley Cup, but to play a little shinny and make friends.” And then, the coup de grace, the money shot for every free market loving, red blooded American, “It’s all sponsored by Coca Cola. The two best things in the world on ice – hockey and Coke,” I slurred in conclusion, as I drained my beer.

mustard

Allan Mustard, the American Ambassador to Turkmenistan, didn’t quite grasp hockey diplomacy.

Ambassador Mustard’s eyes darted back and forth, trying to parse it all. Alas, the dashing diplomat hails from Washington state, and all that Pacific Northwest rain does not freeze when it hits the ground, so he just didn’t get it. Thus, the diplomat muttered something diplomatic like, “I’ll talk to my people about it.”

I was not convinced, but nor was I overly pessimistic about his promise.What I was was thirsty, so I I let Mr. Ambassador off the hook and ambled away to fetch another beer.

The following week I happened upon the Ambassador’s second in command at the embassy, another fine fellow named Paul Poletes. The South Dakota native had gone to university in Minneapolis.  Surely he would fathom the genius, the simultaneous gravitas and beautiful absurdity, of hockey diplomacy, right?

Yes, dear reader, I am happy to report that he did, indeed. In fact, he seemed to love the idea, as did his compadres from the embassy.

So, why did the Golden Gopher ignore my follow up emails asking to parlez about the possibilities?

beach hockey

Having failed in his effort to become the Alan Eagleson of the 21st century the author has reverted to his traditional day job: drinking beer and pounding sand

Sadly, good friends, it is my duty to inform y’all that my glorious scheme died on the vine because yours is still a nation of hockey infidels.

Y’all don’t have ice in your veins and vulcanized rubber in your heads. Hockey diplomacy is beyond your grasp. Your collective will is not strong enough to submit to a marriage with your chilly better halves and give birth to a global brotherhood of puckheads, because you can never fully embrace a spot that you cannot own.

Well, nor can we Canadian Lords of the Ice, so forget about Turkmenistan, and the rest of the world’s hockey wannabes, because it’s time to drop the puck in Toronto and get it on, already!

Go Canada go!

Editor’s note: The author informs me that he has not been able to sell his frozen fairy tale to any publication north of the border, not even to the august daily of the alleged best hockey town on the planet, leaving us to wonder, out loud, just how much the Canuckistanis really love hockey. Lacrosse, after all, is the official national sport of the Great White North. U S A! U S A! U S A!

HOCKEY KNIGHT IN TURKMENISTAN

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A Canuckistani puckhead failed in his attempt to bring hockey diplomacy to the secretive police state, but at least he lived to tell the tale

Had I known there were no bookstores in Turkmenistan maybe I would have said, ‘No way,’ when my wife told me she’d been offered a job there. Any nation that bans bookstores is no place for a writer.

book building

Irony is finding a building that looks like a book in a country that has no bookstores

There were other signs that the Central Asian petro state was not going to embrace me as a comrade: I am an anarchist (funarchist, actually) – whereas Turkmen authorities once jailed a young man, for a year, for organizing a flash-mob dance party. The ultra authoritarian police state, known to expats who reside there as North Korea Lite, is a vast desert where the summer temperature usually hovers around 45 degrees – whereas as I am a tree-hugging, snow-loving Canadian whose genetic roots are buried in the Finnish permafrost.

But, even at 53 years of age, I am still the bug-eyed kid on the lookout for an electrical socket with a butterknife in hand, so instead of saying, ‘No way’ to my wife on that fateful day back in March, I said, “Let’s go!” after I stopped laughing.

Minutes after my wife nervously hung up the phone to ponder whether or not she wanted to be a stranger in the strangest of lands, I flashed back four years. I was pounding away at my keyboard, listening to BBC World Service, when the word “hockey” was mentioned. The Beeb does not mention the sport very often, and when it does it usually prefaces it with the word “ice”, so as not to confuse and disappoint the legions of grass/field hockey fans who listen to “the world’s news service,” so I gasped and listened intently.

The Beeb’s intrepid reporter, Rayhan Demytrie, intrepidly reported that the President of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, known to expats who reside there as Birdy, had decreed that his country would become a hockey superpower, and ordered his minions to sally forth and make it so.

birdy on ice

Will President Birdy sack a cabinet minister when he discovers that he missed a great opportunity to put Turkmenistan on the international hockey map?

I was born with skates on, so the story delighted and fascinated me, but Turkmenistan was a long way away and I had many other things that delighted and fascinated me, so I thought nothing more of it at the time. But the minute my wife called back and said she had accepted the posting, my mind started to gnaw away at the BBC story. That night, at about 4 a.m., I awoke with my latest, and perhaps greatest, of absurd schemes – The TurkmeniStanley Cup.

turkice

Despite the fact that the summer temperature hovers around 45 degrees Turkmenistan’s 10,000 seat arena maintains pretty good ice.

By the time our flight touched down at Ashgabat International Airport on April 22, The TurkmeniStanley Cup had fully formed in my mad mind. Birdy is not the only world leader whose inner child dreams of hockey hegemony. Despite global warming, one might think planet Earth is turning into Planet Ice by looking at the list of nations that have joined the International Ice Hockey Federation. Nigeria and Namibia, Argentina and Armenia, Israel and Indonesia, Malaysia, Morocco, Mongolia, Mexico and on and on the list runs. In this mad dream of mine all the world’s hockey minnows would come together every summer to compete for the ultimate prize in mighty-mite hockey – The TurkmeniStanley Cup (I do hope you’ll forgive me for repeating the name of my dream – The TurkmeniStanley Cup – repeatedly, because I am ridiculously proud of the moniker and I want it to stick in your heads forever – mwa hahaha!).

Kids in all age divisions – atom, peewee, bantam, midget, junior and senior – would compete for the TurkmeniStanley Cup.

No doubt, President Birdy’s mug would have to be carved into the mug itself. Perhaps the trophy would have shades of green to match the country’s flag. Overall, however, the TurkmeniStanley Cups would be almost identical to Lord Stanley’s cherished chalice.

The tournaments would last two weeks, giving plenty of time for the players to explore behind the veil of gas and sand, and get to know each other. Lifelong friendships would be formed, and renewed, in person and on ice, every summer. But there is so much more to The TurkmeniStaley Cup.

Even in Canada, hockey is an expensive sport. In places like Brazil, South Korea and Turkmenistan, hockey is largely a sport reserved for the offspring of the financial elite. Those silver spoon kids will, in all likelihood, become the barons of business, the captains of industry, the political powers of their countries for generations to come, so The TurkmeniStanley Cup would become a de facto act of  diplomacy. Hockey diplomacy!

brawl

Canada’s junior hockey ambassadors didn’t quite understand the meaning of hockey diplomacy when they went to the Soviet Union for the World Championships in 1986/87 and brawled with their hosts

But wait, dear reader, for there is even more to The TurkmeniStanley Cup; the all important Canuckistani angle.

I am not just another beer-bellied, armchair, powerplay quarterback. I played hockey throughout my youth. And, if I do say so myself, I was pretty good (a basketful of trophies will attest to my assertion). I won individual awards throughout my minor hockey career in the greatest hockey town on Planet Ice, Thunder Bay.

fw gardens

The Fort William Gardens in Thunder Bay: Planet Ice’s Mecca.

Hockey was my life when I was a child. To this day, hockey is the only thing I am patriotic about. And while there is not much I miss about Thunder Bay, I still have dreams about playing shinny late into the cold winter nights on the Lakehead’s outdoor rinks. As I watched the Turkmen hockey championship game on TV, I realized that I could easily become the best player in the country, so I ordered a new $1000 pair of Graf (RIP) skates, a pair of $1000 Rollerblades, and started blading miles in the sweltering heat, which made the pavement soft and almost gooey.

As I bladed along Ashgabat’s  long, lonely highways I dreamed of bringing scores of Thunder Bay kids to play hockey in Turkmenistan. There would be no point in bringing the best minor hockey players from the greatest hockey town in the world to compete against the minnows of Planet Ice, so I resolved to work with old hockey friends in the Lakehead to form teams comprised of scholastic standouts who play the game, without necessarily excelling at it.

Every winter Turkmenistan’s future hockey legends would fly to Thunder Bay to play hockey as it was meant to be played – outdoors, on a pond.

pond

Would this be HockeyHalla for young Turkmen puckheads? Would they meet their first puck bunnies in those snow banks?

And still, gentle reader, there was more to my mad scheme. In addition to being a good hockey player, I was also a pretty good baseball player. A year or so ago, I received a friend request on Facebook from my Little League baseball coach, a guy named Pat McDonald. Years after I left Thunder Bay, Pat coached the AAA Bantam Kings to the Ontario Provincial Hockey Championship. The star of that team was a guy named Eric Staal, eldest of the Stall hockey brothers.

Eric won a Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006. He also won gold at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games. I was convinced that Pat could get Eric, and the rest of the Staal brothers, to come to the TurkmeniStanley Cup to teach the coaches of the world’s hockey minnows how to coach their hockey minnows.

staal

Would Eric Staal have become a global hockey diplomat in Turkmenistan?

Eric Staal would certainly know Patrick Sharpe, another Thunder Bayite who has made it big in the bigs. Sharpe won three Stanley Cups with the Chicago Blackhawks, and earned a Gold Medal at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games. Surely, I reasoned, he, too, would be willing to plunge into the Heart of Oddness to do his part for hockey diplomacy.

But who would pay for all this madness? Despite the recent global slump in petroleum prices Turkmenistan is hardly a beggar state, and the total cost of the tournament would be chump change.

chart

If Birdy wants the TurkmeniStanley Cup to happen, he can afford to pay the bulk of the costs.

In my mind’s eye, I could see Turkmenistan Airlines’ Boeing 777 200LR landing at Thunder Bay International and chartering 291 wide-eyed hockey kids, their families, and NHLers, past and present, off to an all-expenses paid adventure that none of them would ever forget.

777

Turkmenistan Airlines 777 could be the Airforce One of hockey diplomacy.

The TurkmeniStanley Cup would also host a business summit.  Companies from hockey minnow states that wanted to explore trade opportunities would converge on Ashgabat and do business while the kids were ripping up the ice. Those companies would help cover their teams’ expenses, but those expenses would also be offset by the tournament’s signature sponsor, Coca-Cola. Hockey and Coke: the two greatest things in the world on ice. Coke sells its products in every country in the world, save Cuba and North Korea, and this would be an incredible promotional vehicle for the global giant, garnering headlines the world over.

With a plan like that, even I, a bona fide political satirist whose words would strike fear and loathing into the hearts of the Turkmen political elite, would be able to convince President Birdy that the TurkmeniStanley Cup was a no brainer. Right?

The problem was, how could I, a man whose grade two report card had the words, “BRIAN HAS A PROBLEM WITH AUTHORITY”, scrawled across it, get my pitch to the authoritarian President?

problem

Maybe the author was never meant to rule Planet ice?

Canada does not maintain an embassy in Turkmenistan, but Uncle Sam is all over the place like white on snow, so my first pitch was made to the American Ambassador, Allan Mustard (no, he is not a Colonel, I did not meet him in the kitchen, and he did not have a knife, but, yes, he has heard all those jokes before), whom I met at a Sunday tailgater.

Understanding that there would have to be an American angle to the idea, I expanded it to include Thunder Bay’s sister city, Duluth Minnesota, which is 200 miles down the north shore of Lake Superior from the Lakehead. I grudgingly admit that Minnesotans are just as rabid about hockey as Canadians. Including Duluth meant that we could attempt to bring Brett Hull  – who played his collegiate hockey at the University of Minnesota-Duluth before winning Stanley Cups with the Dallas Stars and the Detroit Red Wings, being part of the only American team to ever best Canada at a best-on-best tournament (the 1996 World Cup), and being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame – to Turkmenistan.

The Ambassador seemed amused by my idea, but he hails from Washington state, which is not exactly a hockey hot bed, so he didn’t really appreciate the brilliance of it all.

mustard

Allan Mustard, the American Ambassador to Turkmenistan, , didn’t quite grasp the gravitas of the absurd scheme.

However, the week after I happened upon Mustard, I happened upon his second in command at the US Embassy, a guy named Paul Poletes. Although he is not a puckhead, Poletes went to university in Minneapolis, so he understood the magic of it. At first, the South Dakota native was very excited about The TurkmeniStanley Cup. Sadly, my attempts to obtain a formal meeting with Poletes to explore the possibilities fell on deaf ears. Americans, even those who have lived in Minnesota, are still hockey infidels, after all, so I was disappointed, but not terribly surprised.

Not easily deterred, I the turned to the wife of one of my wife’s work colleagues.

The woman was very well connected, not only in Turkemnistan but across Asia and Europe, not only in business, but also in politics. She’d dished out baksheesh like Scott Stevens once dished out bone busting body checks. And, even though she didn’t know a hip check from a wrist shot, she loved The TurkmeniStanley Cup.

No more than a week after pitching her the idea, this beguiling woman had arranged a meeting between ourselves and Kaakbay Seiidov, the Minister of Sports.

On the morning of the scheduled meeting I attended the luxurious apartment of this mysterious woman a few hours early to run through the pitch. She had given her servants the day off, and was busy doing dishes from an extraordinary dinner party the night before.

I was slightly nervous: the only meetings I had ever had with cabinet ministers came after I had occupied their offices. Conversely, my colleague was absolutely nonchalant. So nonchalant, in fact, that she blew the Minister off… without bothering to call his office to notify them… so she could enthrall me with tales of international drama and intrigue from her fascinating life… while she washed dishes… and I drank cognac… and laughed.

The following week I was summoned to a lunch meeting with the international woman of mystery. She informed me that the Minister was not willing to meet with me, a hockey mad Canuckistani of no import. At first I feared that the Turkmen government had discovered my past when doing its due diligence, and that I, and my wife, would be labeled persona non grata and deported on the next flight. But it wasn’t so.

birdy 2

Would Birdy have sent the author packing if he’d found out that he was not who he said he was… or that he is who he says he is… or that he really isn’t sure who he says he is?

While Brian Salmi is the name I was given at birth, and the name I use publicly, I have legally changed my name twice. The Turkmen authorities had not a clue that the name is Bond. James Bond. Wait, I’ve got that all backwards – James Bond is my legal name, so the Turkmen authorities knew not that I am, in fact, Salmi. Brian Salmi.

Well, that’s not quite right, either, but never mind all that jive for now.

The Minister didn’t know, or care, who I was. He wanted nothing whatsoever to do with a man like me based solely on the photo I had submitted with my visa application. Not so long ago, it was illegal for a man to have long hair and/or a beard in Turkmenistan. Although the male cranial follicle ban has been lifted, men like me are still, evidently, not welcome in the company of the Turkmen political elite, no matter what we have to say for ourselves, no matter how glorious our ideas are, no matter how much their country could benefit from our deliciously crazy schemes.

cabinet

Will there soon be a new face at the Turkmen cabinet table?

I was tempted to ask the international woman of mystery to inform the Minister that he should never judge a book by its cover, but in a country that bans bookstores the veracity of that maxim would be totally lost in translation.

I have now given up my dream of organizing The TurkmeniStanley Cup.

beach hockey

Having failed in his effort to become the Alan Eagleson of the 21st century the author has reverted to his traditional day job: drinking beer and pounding sand

Since my wife and I have left Asia it has come to my attention that Canada’s Ambassador to Turkmenistan, John Holmes, has recently met with representatives of the Turkmen foreign ministry to discuss economic cooperation. Perhaps Ambassador Holmes will champion The TurkmeniStanley Cup one day. I do hope so, because it would be a shame to let this dream die, and surely someone, someone who is not me, can make it come true.

P.S. – For the record I do not have a problem with authority… I simply refute/ignore anyone’s preposterous claim to have any authority over my sovereign self.

Editor’s note: The author, whatever the Hell his name is, hopes to complete his new book, Hockey Knight in Turkmenistan, by Halloween.

– 30 –

Tim Hunt has nothing to apologize for

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the crucifixion of nobel winning scientist tim hunt is the most horrifying and sickening pc witch hunt i have ever seen. for those who do not know, hunt said that female scientists can be a distraction to males, or lesbians i guess, working in the same lab, because you can fall inn love with them, which is very distracting. and if they fall n love with you, and you criticize their work, they cry

it was a joke. for this, he was forced from several posts and targeted byy all sorts of mental cases

marina and i met through work. i was editing two start up weeklies, one in kosovo, one in montenegro. i knew almost nothing about either country when i took the gig. nor did the two cubbies who were eventually hired as reporters. both countries were very politically sensitive. scrutiny of the papers by the powers that be was intense, given that they were the first and only english language papers in the market. the wounds from the most recent balkan wars were still open. getting stories wrong was potentially very dangerous. we were all working 100 or more hours a week in 35+ degree heat. the pressure was constant

and then the publisher hired marina. and i fell insanely in love with her, and her, i am happy to report, with me. i could not have been more distracted. if i was doing an interview, my mind would wander to marina. editing a piece? same thing. talking to a local to get a grip on the basics that must be known in order to report in a new area? same thing. it was marina, marina and marina all the time. and we were not even in the same country. this all happened by email, texts, chats and skypes

if i had criticized marina, as her superior, she may well have cried. she is a sensitive girl

that’s what tim hunt was talking about. love. the insanity of it. the magic of it. the beauty of it. for this egregious crime, people set out to destroy his career

maybe the people who are applauding the witch hunt have never fallen in love. maybe they have and were destroyed when it turned cheap. maybe their hearts are so blackened that they are no longer capable of feeling anything warm. i understand. i flirted with all that in my dark years before marina. i was emotionally malnourished, poisoned, for a decade before marina. an important part of me was dead

the vilification of tim hunt is a monstrous thing. anyone who supports it is either a monster, or well one their way to becoming one. they are sick. or dead. i’d feel sad for them, if they didn’t take such glee in hunt’s sacking, but they do, so they make me sick

URDAS

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8 – WE’RE OFF TO SEE THE WIZARD

It was the day after the dark and stormy night when the battle of the band went down. It was a dark and stormy day. Riff n Raff walked into Ye Olde Clowne House, looking for BeanO. They found him sitting in a dark, back corner, by himself. He was nursing a cold one and watching the 24 hour news channel. He was fidgeting. Every story, from every corner of the world, was about acts of terrible violence. “BeanO,” Riff said, “What the Hell is wrong with the world?”

“That’s gonna take a while, son. How much time you got?”

“That’s a good question, BeanO,” said Raff, “How much time do we have? Things are getting really ugly, everywhere.”

“C’mon,” said BeanO.

“Where we going,” asked Riff.

“We’re going to Urda Castle.” The kids had no idea what or where Urda Castle was, but it sounded like an adventure, one that could be more fun than dangerous, so they followed the clown. BeanO opened his wallet, heading for the cash register, He stopped cold. All his money had disappeared. More accurately, all the ink on his money had disappeared. He had a wallet filled with blank pieces of paper.

“Either of you have any money?” he asked Riff n Raff. They, too, had nothing but blank pieces of paper. “Well, that’s weird, but we have bigger problems to deal with, right now. Wait fifteen seconds, then follow me out the back door. Look natural.” It wasn’t a first for Riff. Raff was nonplussed by the drink and dash.

Ye Olde Clowne House was located next to the train tracks. As luck would have it, a train was slowly passing our heroes. “Quick, jump on,” BeanO yelled, hopping into an empty boxcar. The kids scrambled aboard. “Why don’t we just take your clown wagon, BeanO?” Raff asked.

“There are no roads to Urda Castle,” BeanO told them. “The Urdas don’t welcome visitors. We’ll have to jump off the train at Ignace and hike ten miles to get there.”

“Is it dangerous? Asked Raff.

The clown hesitated a second before saying, “Dangerous? Yes, very, very dangerous.” Riff didn’t believe him. But he knew his father was up to something, so he kept his mouth shut.

BeanO had sold it well, and Raff had fallen for it. She was all ears as the clown explained, “We will have to cross The Bridge of Death, which spans The Gorge of Eternal Peril.” Raff squirmed and looked out the open door, as if they were rapidly approaching The Bridge of Death, which spans The Gorge of Eternal Peril. “There we will have to answer five questions in order to cross The Bridge of Death, which spans The Gorge of Eternal Peril.”

“Three,” said Riff.

“What?” asked BeanO.

“Three questions, not five.”

“Yes. Right. Three questions.”

“What happens if we don’t answer the five questions?” Raff asked, nervously.

“Three questions,” Riff corrected.

“Yes. Three questions,” said Raff.

“If we fail to answer any of the five questions correctly,” said BeanO.

“Three,” corrected Raff.

“What?” asked BeanO.

“Three questions, not five,” said both Riff n Raff.

“Yes. Three questions, not five,” said BeanO. “If we fail to answer any of the five questions correctly,” BeanO said, before pausing to see if either of the kids was getting annoyed. This time, the kids let it go, so BeanO continued. “If we fail to answer any of the five questions correctly, we will be cast into The Gorge of Eternal Peril.”

“By whom, exactly?” asked Raff, who was catching on.

“What?” asked BeanO.

“Who will ask us the five questions,” asked Raff.

“Three questions, “ BeanO corrected.”

“Yes. Three questions,” said Raff. “Who will ask us the three questions and cast us into The Gorge of Rternal Peril if we get one of the five questions wrong,” she asked.

“Three questions,” Riff corrected.

“Yes. Three questions,” agreed BeanO. The kids stared at the clown and awaited an answer

“Ummm,” said the clown, stalling for time as he scanned his memory banks for the answer to the all important question. “Ummm… it’s… ummmm, it’s…. it’s The Old Man from Scene 24,” he said with a smile.

The smile was a little too much for Raff, and she called the clown’s bluff. “Give me your finger,” she demanded of the clown.

“What? What for,” BeanO asked, knowing the gag was all but done.

Raff jumped on BeanO, grabbed him by the wrist, forced his clenched fist open and pulled his finger. Nothing happened. She did it again, and again, and again, and nothing happened, nothing happened, and nothing happened. “We’d all be dying of laughter, right now, if there were any such things as The Bridge of Death, The Gorge of Eternal peril, and The Old Man from Scene 24.”

“No,” Riff corrected his friend, “we’d still be sitting in Ye Olde Clowne House if there were any such things as The Bridge of Death, The Gorge of Eternal peril, and The Old Man from Scene 24 between us and Urda Castle, but we have time to kill, and dad am here to amuse us, so….”

Raff laughed and gave BeanO a big bear hug.

“Who are these Urdas?” asked Riff.

BeanO thought. How could he explain what an Urda is? “An Urda is someone with an answer,” the clown answered, finally.

“That’s pretty cryptic, dad.”

“You know when you ask an adult why something is happening, and their only answer is ‘because’?”

“Oh, I hate when they do that,” said Raff.

“As you should, Raff. You should hate it because ‘because’ is not an answer. It’s a cop out. It just means they’re too lazy, or stupid, to figure it out. Or they don’t want to face the ugly truth.”

“Yeah, that’s what I’ve always thought,” said Raff.

BeanO elaborated, “When people are young, when they are children, they are filled with curiosity, always asking questions; Who? What? Where? When? And most importantly, why? Their hunger for knowledge seems inexhaustible. But it’s not. Adults beat that curiosity out of them by answering ‘Because’ all the time. When you hear ‘Because’ enough times, you start accepting it as an answer. And you stop asking ‘Why ?’And then, just like that, you’re an adult. And when a kid comes along and asks you ‘Why?’ you tell them, ‘Because’. And it goes on and on and on. And that’s why the world is such a mess.”

The kids were enthralled.

“The Urdas never answer ‘Because’. In order to become an Urda, you have to have been asked ‘Why?’ by a kid, a million times, and never once answered ‘Because’. Urdas have answers. They are thinkers.”

“So, the Urdas will know what’s going on? They’ll have an answer?” asked Riff.

“If anyone can make sense of what’s going on, it will be the Urdas,” said BeanO.

“How do you know about the Urdas?” asked Raff. “Why doesn’t anyone else know about them?

“People do know about the Urdas,. Or they are at least vaguely aware of them. They choose to ignore their existence. And the Urdas are reclusive. They prefer to be left alone.”

“Them what makes you think they’ll talk to us?” asked Riff.

“Because the leader of the Urdas is an old friend of mine. A guy named Gair. He was on his way to becoming a great clown, maybe the best of all time, when he decided to become an Urda, instead.”

“Wow!” said Riff.

“Cool!” said Raff.

“What do you think, BeanO?” Raff asked. “Why is the whole world going violently cuckoo bananas?”

“I don’t know, but I suspect it has something to do with the ECGs?”

“The who?” asked Riff.

“The what?” asked Raff.

“The Evil Clown Gods Who Rule the Universe,” said the smiling clown.

“More friends of yours,” asked Riff.

“Friends?” said BeanO. “Kinda. But, no, not really. But… yeah, kinda.”

“You’re a very cryptic clown, today,” said Raff.

BeanO got to the story. “Clownlore. Legend. Although some swear it’s all true, and it’s hard to argue with them.” BeanO pondered, then asked, “Do you ever wonder where crazy ideas come from?”

“Where?” asked Riff.

“Your crazy ideas, my crazy ideas, everyone’s crazy ideas. “

“Where?” asked Raff.

“You know when you wake up, in the middle of the night, with an insane idea in your head?’

“It’s always at four in the morning,” said Raff.

“Yeah, it is,” said Riff.

“Yes, it is,” the clown confirmed. “The legend of The Evil Clown Gods Who Rule the Universe has it that the universe is… well, ruled by evil clown gods. And Earth is a prison planet for the miscreants of the universe. All the beings that are criminally insane and/or morally bankrupt. When they die, they are all reanimated, in human form, here on Earth, where the Evil Clown Gods continually test them, to see if they have earned a pardon.”

“That’s brilliant!” exclaimed Raff. “It makes so much sense. What else?”

“The Evil Clown Gods identify the most likely to succeed, and use us to mess with, and test, the rest. When they have another assignment for us, another test for the rest, they look down and see us, sleeping peacefully, and say to each other, ‘Look! There’s BeanO, sleeping so peacefully. Let’s wake him up and put this insane nonsense in his head!; And then they laugh like lunatics as they watch me sit bolt upright in bed and ponder exactly why I am thinking of doing something that will marginalize me from the majority of the inmates here.”

“Why is that evil?” asked Riff.

“Because, if you do what they tell you to do, it drains your popularity.”

“Everyone hates on you?” asked Raff.

“No, not everyone. Some people get it. Some even find it wildly hilarious. That’s the test. That’s how the Evil Clown Gods pass judgment.”

“Do they ever get you to do really horrible things?” asked Riff.

“Not me,” said BeanO. “But, yeah, they do. But they never force anyone to do anything. They allow us all free will.”

“Wow! Urdas and Evil Clown Gods,” said Riff. “The world just got a million times weirder.”

“No,” said Raff. “It’s all starting to make sense.” BeanO smiled at Raff. Then he nodded. Then he stopped smiling.

11 – WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ALL THE FUN IN THE WORLD?

BeanO, Riff n Raff had a somewhat long and semi arduous journey to get to Urda castle, but it wasn’t exactly The Lord of the Rings, and we like to keep things barreling along here, so…

“BeanO, my old friend, hurry up, get inside, it’s a dark and stormy night,” said Gair, leader of the Urdas, when our heroes arrived at the castle.

“You keep more illustrious company than you did when we were juvenile delinquents running wild, BeanO,” said Gair, bowing to Riff n Raff. Rising from his bow, Gair addressed the kids, “On behalf of all Urdas, past, present and future, I thank the two of you – and you, too, BeanO – for saving the world, not once, but twice now. We are not yet certain that was a good thing, but we thank you for the opportunity to find out. I suppose you’re here to seek help in saving the world for a third time, yes?”

“Yes, we are,” said Riff.

“Right, let’s get down to it,” said Gair.

Yes, of course the Uradas fed our famished troika, but Gunther Grass is not ghost writing this, so we’re not going to go on and on and on, for pages and pages and pages, about the food they ate. They had pizza, okay? BeanO had a couple cold ones. No, no one bothered to take pics of their pizza and post them on Instagram.

“You want to know why the world is in a state of high anxiety, why there is no joy in Mudville, why everyone everywhere is filled with fear and loathing” Gair said, more than asked.

“Do you know?” asked Raff.

“We are the Urdas. We keep asking questions until we have answers. The answer is, in fact, complicated and multifaceted. But there’s no immediate need to get into the psychology and philosophy of it all right now.

“Just the facts, ma’am,” said BeanO with a smile.

Gair returned the smile and replied, “Yes, of course, Sergeant Friday.” Gair and BeanO looked at Riff n Raff. Neither of the kids recognized the line. The adults shrugged their shoulders. Gair carried on:

“We monitor the planetary population’s energy, the same way that meteorologists monitor the weather. About a month ago the balance between positive and negative output was obliterated. It was as if Fat Albert came to the playground, pushed Mushnouth off the teeter-totter and sat down across from Dumb Donald.”

“What happened,” asked Raff. “Why did this Fat Albert dude push Mushnmouth off the teeter-totter?”

“We don’t know. It could have been something as simple as some idiot doing a dine and dash. That’s how delicate the balance has always been.” All of a sudden, our three heroes were very interested in their footwear. Gair made a note of it, but let it pass, and moved on. “Within 24 hours a tsunami of ill will rolled across the planet. All the fun was sucked from the world. Every city in the world contracted Vancouveritis.”

“Ewww,” said BeanO. “No Fun City. I tried busking there, once. The cops beat me up and City Hall passed a bylaw against clowns performing in the parks, or on the streets, under punishment of death.”

“Oh, I know,” said Gair. “Horrible place. So much potential, though. They really should have elected that smart-ass Rhino funarchist when he ran for mayor. He’d have given them the funema they so desperately need. Anyway… things have gotten progressively worse since then.  And it’s gonna get way way worse, way soon.”

“Why?’ asked Riff.

“Yeah, why?” asked Raff.

“We are constantly searching for concrete evidence of the existence of the Evil Clown Gods who Rule the Universe. We are trying to contact them. So, we study the stars.

“The constant drone of chaos, sorrow and hate that is being emitted by humanity has attracted the attention of the Vogon Reptiloids, and they have dispatched a Death Star to come and destroy us all.

“The Vogon Reptiloids feed off negative energy. It’s oxygen to them. They search the universe for any kind of negative emotion. They create fear, anxiety, hate, and misery wherever they roam. They may well have placed us on Earth, all those years ago, knowing that one day we would be ripe for the picking. A garden of sorts. And now they’re coming for us, and we have no idea how to stop them

“The Death Star is destroying everything in its path. Like a black hole, it sucks in entire solar systems, and spits out the debris. If it keeps advancing at its current pace, we will be sucked into its vortex in about a week. The closer it comes to us, the more insane and violent we become. The crazier we get, the faster it comes.”

Raff had the solution right away, and you probably do, too, “If negative energy attracts them and makes them stronger, positive energy will repel and/or kill them.”

“Yes,” Gair confirmed.

“So, all we have to do is fill the world with positive energy,” Riff said, as if it was as simple as making a cat purr. No one said a word. Everyone understood the enormity of the task. “Well, you’re the Urdas, you have all the answers,” said Riff.

“We are not omniscient. We do not have all the answers.”

“We can start by telling everyone. Once they understand, they’ll get with the program,” said Raff.

“The powers that be will tell you you’re crazy,” laughed Gair. “Your popularity is not yet so great that you can challenge the powers that be. Even if Sid and the penguins were here, you’d be hard pressed to reverse thrust.”

“You tell them, then,” said Raff.

“No. We’ve rejected them. Their egos will not allow them to even consider the possibility that a bunch of weirdoes, who have rejected their ways, could be right, especially about something as large and strange as this. When you walk away from society, you do so knowing that they will never take you back.”

BeanO understood.

“It will take an unprecedented demonstration of human solidarity,” Gair told them. “And, even if you get everyone in the world to believe you, it won’t do you any good if they are all afraid. Fear is a negative energy. It paralyzes people.”

“What to do?” said BeanO.

Gair answered, “You’ll need to generate enough energy to break the inertia. If, that is, you can convince everyone that the planet is near doom. If you can do that, then you have to come up with a spark that will start a fire. A catalytic event, perhaps. Something that will reach and empower enough people to turn the tide. And I do mean turn the tide quite literally, because if the Death Star gets close enough, it will start sucking us into its vortex, causing tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes etc. etc. The first sign will be drastic changes in tidal activities.”

“What do you mean when you keep saying ‘you’ rather than ‘us’?” asked Riff. “Are you going to sit back and let the planet be destroyed?”

“We have already done our part by telling you all this. We will do everything we can. We will continue to study the problem. We will hive our minds and search for solutions. We have already done all this. But so far, we’ve come up with nothing.”

Gair noticed that as enthralled as the kids were, they were fading. They’d had a long day and needed sleep. He knew that they had yet another incredible battle to wage against the human race, to save the human race from destruction, and they needed to be well rested before they left Urda Castle in the morning.

Riff n Raff were too exhausted to be scared, or even alarmed. They knew better than to panic. They knew they had to keep clear minds, but first they needed to clear their minds of the fog that was gripping them. They’d come up with a plan, of sorts, in the morning. But right now, they desperately needed to sleep and told Gair so.

“Of course,” Gair said, “I’m sorry to have kept you up so late. Do you require two bedrooms, or will one suffice?”

Before Riff could say anything, Raff said, “No, one will do thank you.” Gair had an Urda show the kids to their room, where they showered and went to bed.

BeanO was not as calm as Riff n Raff. It was clear to Gair that the cowardly clown was terrified. “We make a very nice Hefeweizen. I’m gonna have a couple. Would you care to join me?” It was a rhetorical question.

The two old friends stayed up late into the night getting caught up, discussing life, the universe and everything, and searching Facebook to see what had become of all the girls they’d loved before.

who are you?

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who are all you people who keep hitting on WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH SALMI?

Protected: TIME MACHINE

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Protected: Metal de Fromage

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Nyet nyet Soviet!

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“Montenegro could become legitimate target”

PODGORICA — Russian State Duma Deputy Mikhail Degtyarev has threatened that Montenegro could be targeted by Russian missiles if that country joined NATO.

“Before the crisis in Ukraine flared up, Russian Ambassador to Serbia Aleksandr Chepurin commented on Montenegro’s orientation toward Euro-Atlantic integrations to remark that there were ‘monkeys in politics, like everywhere else.'”

Indeed!

Bring it, monkey man!

You seem to forget that this is land of Tito, who told STALIN to go fuck himself. and Putin ain’t no Stalin just as much as Dan Quayle wweren’t no JFK.

(thumps chest repeatedly and lifts a defiant finger to the east, while barking “NYET, NYET SOVIET!”

wha hahahaha

We’re goin’ for 25 and we don’t take no jive

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habs cup

Habs haters are always blathering on about how us Habs fans are always blabbering on about history.

Here’s the math, dummies: unless THE CUP is in your possession, all you have is history.

At the moment, the only fuckers who have bragging rights over us are the Blackhawks.

The rest of you fuckers don’t have TWENTY FOUR banners hanging from your rafters. You don’t have HABS HISTORY. That means that, until THE CUP changes hands, we take shit from ‘hawks ‘fans and no one else.

Fuck you, I won’t drink what you tell me!

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Molson recently bought the local Montenegrin brewery, Niksicko

The standard Nik bottle has been 500 ml

nik

Now, restaurants are pushing 330 ml bottles, which are, of a sudden, priced higher the the 1/2 litre bottles ever were

The smaller bottles are now green, instead of the traditional brown, an obvious attempt to bamboozle rubes into thinking there is something different in the more expensive bottles.

i suspect this odious gambit will soon spread into the local stores

if it does, i will, i kid you not, appear at the Canadian embassy and threaten to douse myself in nik and light myself on fire.

rage

Fuck you, I won’t drink what you tell me!

Fuck you, I won’t drink what you tell me!

Fuck you, I won’t drink what you tell me!

Fuck you, I won’t drink what you tell me!

Fuck you, I won’t drink what you tell me!

Fuck you, I won’t drink what you tell me!

Fuck you, I won’t drink what you tell me!

Fuck you, I won’t drink what you tell me!

Fuck you, I won’t drink what you tell me!