What anemia means

This is my definition for anemia— the deficiency that doesn’t seem like a big deal until it starts to define you.

I walk around in a fog most days.

It’s not because I’m high or emotionally unstable. I don’t use any kind of drug and I usually manage to keep my emotions under control.

But I still drive straight through red lights, forget whatever it was you told me 30 seconds ago, and don’t understand basic concepts the third time through.

This isn’t me. This is my anemia. It’s starting to take over my life, but it’s not a big deal because it’s low iron.

Tons of women have low iron. They don’t seem melancholic. They’re not disappointed in themselves for being behind in work. My anemia is severe, which may explain the difference, but doesn’t excuse me from forgetting who I am.

I used to take pleasure in the little things. I couldn’t get bored. I tried my hardest at everything and wrote every deadline down in three different places. Now I feel behind, like deadlines are swirling around my head but none are written down—why didn’t I write them down?

I can’t remember what I’ve forgotten. I fall asleep at my computer with three pages to go. I wake up feeling no more refreshed than when I fell asleep. I’m exhausted all the time. I’m frustrated all the time.

I’m a little bit scared for my safety. Someone upstairs is stopping traffic when I hurl through red lights and stop signs. He’s saving my life because I can’t concentrate.

I try to get back to my happy place by pulling on my sports bra. Exercise only leaves me on the floor, out of breath with hummingbird wings for a heart.

I don’t know when it’ll get better or if it’ll get better, but I’ll keep popping the pills the doctor prescribed.

I’m sorry for complaining about it. I know I’m fortunate in many ways others aren’t. I know others are in a lot worse conditions than me. I just hope the next time someone tells you they have anemia, you’ll know what they mean.

Survival of the fittest: how the newspaper must change to survive

Maybe “survive” is a bit of strong word. I’m sure print newspapers will survive thanks to the existence of young newspaper purists: those unlikely 20-year-olds who enjoy reading off of a large, floppy, and hard-to-fold material.

newspaperead

Does this really look comfortable? Photo from: IELTS in Taiwan and Around the World

 

But if the newspaper is going to prosper beyond these outliers, it must change its physical form. Newspapers must be smaller and tougher.

The case for going small

The newspaper page size must match the size of devices we are used to reading. As we rely more on our smartphones (something we can hold in one hand), I believe humans are becoming more accustomed and comfortable with holding and reading off smaller surfaces. And let’s be honest, newspapers are awkward to read. We pick it up, lose a few pages, sprawl our arms out in an attempt to open the spread, and fail miserably at refolding the paper back to its original self. If we reduce the newspaper page size, people can keep their hands close to themselves (as they do when scrolling through their phone), flip through the paper without looking like an awkward human being, and neatly pass it on to the next person when they’re done.

Be strong, newspaper!

If newspapers weren’t as flimsy as they are, people might be more likely to pick one up. Humans like material goods. There’s a substantiveness to them: the more substantive, the better. Ask anyone who has printed on regular paper then printed on card stock. There’s psychological value in tougher paper, and the added expense of it may just be worth it.

But you say, “Stef, people would rather just read off their phones anyway.” Well, my friends, find out how many of your friends get headaches from sitting in front of a screen for too long. Reading off of a screen too much can even cause eye problems. If newspapers can provide readers with a non-headache, phone-resembling alternative, people may just opt for it.

 

 

 

(Some) support for D’Angelo Russell

Maybe I’m crazy. Correct me if I’m wrong, but truth still matters for something, right? If it does, I’m having a hard time understanding the recent D’Angelo Russell / Nick Young headlines—in that they begin with the former rather than the latter.

No, Russell shouldn’t have filmed an unknowing teammate, but it seems Young admits to cheating on his fiancée in his video. If it’s true, the bigger story isn’t that the 19-year-old rookie filmed his teammate without permission. The story is that Young cheated on his fiancée amid already contentious sexual assault allegations.

NBA writers have done several things by placing the blame on the videographer. First, they’ve shown the truth doesn’t matter—it’s at the very most, secondary.

Where I’m from, if someone cheated on their partner, that someone’s friends would put a lot of pressure on him/her to tell his/her partner. It would not be a sympathy, let’s-do-what-we-can-to-hide-all-this show. If the cheater refused to come clean, some of the cheater’s friends would go as far as to tell his/her partner. We understand that friends are there to keep us accountable and hopefully, to make us better people, not to cover our butts. We understand that the person who has been cheated on has the right to know and that the truth matters.

Secondly, NBA writers have perpetuated the stereotype that NBA players cheat. By not making less of a fuss about Young’s confession, writers have basically acknowledged cheating as the norm. We don’t fuss about the humdrum. They’ve, it seems, taken the Lakers’ players side, who are stonewalling Russell, showing this type of truth-bearing is not to be tolerated. Yes, I realize truth-bearer is too much a nice title for someone who hid his camera while asking a friend provocative questions, but along with his immaturity, it seems Russell has exposed truth.

I’m not in the NBA. I don’t know the bro code to break it. But if the percentage of professional athletes who cheat on their partners is as high as the media and Lakers personnel are making it seem, it’s probably a good thing Russell’s video got out.

Let’s not forget Young’s fiancée, Iggy Azalea, thanked Russell. Yet all the support seems to be going to the man who apparently cheated on her.

I understand not jumping to conclusions. I like to see every piece of evidence before I declare a conclusion, so I get why NBA writers aren’t pulling the trigger on calling Young a cheater. But the discussion of Young possibly cheating on his fiancée is still an important one to have. Blaming Russell and consoling Young seems to me like we’re assigning victim status to the wrong person— remember Azalea?

 

Reservations: fresh but sometimes boring

NOTE: This is an assignment I completed for my journalism assignment. It’s not related to basketball and I am not a theatre person, but I tried my best.

Reservations, Steven Ratzlaff’s two-story play, brings to light the extent of conflict between indigenous and non-indigenous people in a way that evokes sympathy for both cultures. By leaving the conflict unresolved, Ratzlaff leaves the audience to generate their own ideas for one and to question whether one even exists.

Ratzlaff’s first story follows Pete, a Mennonite farmer who meets conflict with his daughter, Anna after she learns he wants to give his land to the Siksika Nation. Anna, an aging actress, was counting on the money her father’s land would have given her. All this is complicated by the fact Pete’s second partner, Esther, is Cree. As the audience learns the Cree were a part of the land Pete wants to give back to the Siksika Nation, and Anna’s life seemed planned around the money should would inherit, the audience begins to question whether Pete’s actions would be just or logical.

The second act takes the audience into the life of foster mother, Jenny, foster father, Mike, and the Aboriginal CFS agency responsible for their children. Jenny believes the visits her children must have with their home community are depressing her children while the agency’s representative, Denise, believes their visits are necessary for the health of the communities. The conflict between Jenny and Denise escalates after Jenny’s children leave, and she sits in on Denise’s lecture on Martin Heidegger—a lecture Mike oversees.

The genius of the play is the concept of the play itself. By bringing private conversations outside the home, the play producers effectively have the conversation few in the public sphere are willing to have. While many advocate for one worldview or another, few stand in the middle of the clash and feel sympathy for both sides. Few get down to the base of the issues where rationality and good will are weighed (in the first act) and the good of the community is weighed against the good of the child (in the second act).

The script helps portray the weight of the issues brought up. Words like reconciliation, resolution and dispossession were thrown around the stage, causing the audience to question their meanings and real-life applications. But the script had a distancing effect at times as well. “Therefore’s” in the place of “so” and “arriving” in the place of “got here” made everyday characters (farmer Pete and actress Anna) seem less real than their strong performances would’ve otherwise communicated.

Behind the actors, a large screen showed beautiful prairies and night skies, connecting the issues discussed to our Canadian land. While Anna and Esther bonded in the first act, the prairie night sky behind them evoked a sense of warmth. Sound designer Andrew Balfour complemented this scene nicely with his choice of music—something he did well throughout the play.

The lack of conclusion seems to be the point of the plays. Ratzlaff drops the audience into private homes where division between the indigenous people and the settlers is high, and the play doesn’t show how the conflicts are resolved. By giving the audience characters with strong emotional investments in the issues and a script that articulates the reasoning for their opposing opinions, the audience begins to ponder just what “resolution” might look like, if it is possible. This question has sneaked into my thoughts everyday since.

The talkback session, however, did not provoke any further pondering. Ratzlaff didn’t answer any questions in a straight manner but many questions weren’t posed as such anyway.

I had expected there to be a little more dramatic action in the play, which instead comprised mostly of conversations. However, the conflict of the conversations was so high, a lack of action didn’t detract too much from the play. What did, however, was the lecture Denise gives in the second act. Some fellow audience members commented that they felt like they were back in university. I felt university would’ve been a much better option. This was less exciting than my university lectures were. Teamed with the notion the audience had that they were at a play, the lecture scene stained an otherwise engaging and culturally important work of art.

The unfortunate danger of flagrant fouls

Basketball’s flagrant call is good in theory and usually in practice, but every now and again we stumble across a play where intention (or “necessity”) is nearly impossible to judge.

Take last night’s flagrant one foul called against Houston Rockets’ Dwight Howard. Howard was positioned under the rip with the ball. He shifted to his right, elbowing Toronto Raptor guard Kyle Lowry in the face as he did so. Upon contact, Howard paused briefly and Lowry went down hard. Howard then went up with his right hand and finished the two-point play.

Judging intention on this play was difficult, because Howard’s body movement can be interpreted in different ways.

Howard might have had no intention of elbowing Kyle Lowry. Lowry had his arm on Howard, so Howard was definitely aware of his presence, but Howard never looked directly at him, suggesting he didn’t know his elbow was about to make contact with the guard’s head. Howard shifted his weight out to the side before taking the ball up because his position under the basket prevented him from scoring. His elbows didn’t have to be out, but NBA big men learn to use this tactic to keep other big men from blocking them. Howard’s pause after contact may have been because he felt surprised from the solid contact his elbow just made or from the fear of being called for a foul. And Lowry could’ve been a victim of size disadvantage, as the 6’11’’ centre came toward his 6’1’’ frame: Howard’s elbow was at the height of Lowry’s head.

But Howard might have had the intention of elbowing Kyle Lowry. Although Howard never looked directly at him, Howard could have seen Lowry in his peripherals. Howard’s shift to the side of the bucket looked a little exaggerated, as if he was going out of his way to fill the space where Lowry’s head was. The pause could have been in anticipation of the foul call he had already thought he might be getting. And if Howard saw Lowry there, he knew his size advantage would spell disaster for the Raptor all-star.

It took all three refs to make the call after initial disagreement between the first two. How were they to judge intention (an internal process) of the play (an external one)? This is the problem with flagrant fouls—the interpretation process that attempts to uncover the former via the latter. While sometimes intention is clear, situations like last night prove flagrants aren’t always so. Last night’s call didn’t end up mattering, but as NBA teams embark on the final stretch before playoffs, these types of calls will bear more and more weight. This isn’t to say flagrant fouls should be taken out of the game, only to acknowledge the risk they hold for game outcomes as refs vie to interpret behaviour correctly.

Rookie status, not slump

Kristaps Porzingis isn’t going through a slump. The seven foot three rookie may have been in coach Kurt Rambis’s doghouse the last few games, but his 13 points per game in the last two fall only a point short of his season PPG average.

If Porzingis is experiencing slight point production downturn, it’s only to be expected of a rookie power forward.

Typically, big men take longer to develop in the NBA. Porzingis has defied expectations thus far this year, but that doesn’t mean every part of his game is where it needs to be. Rambis has acknowledged that Porzingis struggles with interior battles. Such struggles are symptoms of his 240 pound frame. His 240 pound frame is symptomatic of his rookie status.

In fact, the roots of all Porzingis’s troubles are symptoms of his rookie status.

Porzingis is nearing the end of a season that has been more physically draining than any year he spent in the ACB. In his final year in the ACB, he played 1072 minutes. With 19 games left this season, Porzingis has already tallied 1732 minutes—1732 minutes in a higher calibre league. So yes, Porzingis has been step slow of late.

As a new player in the league, defenders didn’t know what to expect of the 7-3 slick-shooting forward. But now teams have months of footage and defenders have hours of experience. Porzingis isn’t going to slip by with some of his go-to moves, and this will naturally decrease his production. Throw in the frustration from being thwarted with moves that worked magic a month ago, and it’s easy to see why Porzingis is in the doghouse.

Yes, Porzingis’s production has slowed, but is this slight downturn not to be expected? Considering all the factors, Porzingis’s “slump” of a single PPG may even be impressive.

 

 

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45e Concours de gigue

No, “Concours de gigue” does not mean “basketball anything.” The following photo essay shows a jigging contest at Festival du Voyageur and is being posted here as part of a school assignment.

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In a truly family affair, kindergarteners to seniors took to the stage at the Centre culturel franco-manitobain on Saturday in the 45th Jigging Contest at Festival du Voyageur. Twenty participants competed in four categories before l’Ensemble Folklorique de la Rivière-Rouge dazzled the audience with their musical prowess and theatrical dance. The jig, characterized by steps, hops, and a still upper-body, is a form of folk dance set to the tune of the fiddle. In accordance with the contest’s tradition, Saturday’s jigging was set to the tune of “Gigue de la Rivière-Rouge.”

Five-year-old Cassity Kent won the nine and under category (as the only participant), while Joyce Beach placed first in the 60 plus. Brooklyn Rees-McKay’s year of hard practicing earned her gold in the 10 to 13 age category, and Ryan Richard was the contest’s open category champion—a title he’s held in every eligible contest for the past 15 years.

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The stage behind violinist, Simon Reimer, remains empty moments before the jigging contest begins. Reimer, 22, holds the bow his young hands have been playing since he was five. He will play “Gigue de la Rivière-Rouge” for all the contest’s participants./STEF LASUIK

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Some participants sported traditional Métis moccasins and ceintures fléchées in this dance of the feet./STEF LASUIK

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Annabel Chorney-Young, 8, showed off her self-taught jig. Although she is trained in Ukrainian dance, contest officials allowed Chorney-Young to try her feet at jigging as an unofficial participant in the contest./STEF LASUIK

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L’Ensemble Folklorique de la Rivière-Rouge, a singing, dancing, and theatrical group, entertained the audience while the judges deliberated./STEF LASUIK

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Three-year-old Lexie Sampson (right) admired l’Ensemble Folklorique de la Rivière-Rouge’s talents and wants to be on that stage herself someday./STEF LASUIK

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Brooklyn Rees-McKay, 11, said she’s been practising a lot since her fourth-place finish in last year’s contest. On Saturday, she was excited to win gold in the 10 to 13 age category./STEF LASUIK

 

Calling the play

NBA writers can endlessly analyze the trades made by the 18 teams active at the deadline. And they should. But when they begin calling the other 12 “winners” or “losers,” I smell fraud.

Labelling a team that didn’t make a trade is like calling a play without considering who’s on the floor. We cannot know whether a team lost or won if we don’t know all the details of every trade proposal each team had.

If we knew the details of declined trades, we could begin to judge. But the release of such information is rare and rarely complete. And we can’t go around saying the Toronto Raptors won or lost at the trade deadline when we don’t know what offers GM Masai Ujiri turned down.

If Ujiri declined to trade Patrick Patterson for a second-round pick, Toronto won. If Ujiri refused to send Patterson and a pick away for Thaddeus Young, the Raps lost. But the fact that Patrick Patterson is still with the Raptors is not a win or a loss in its own right because it’s only half the story.

The argument remains, however, that the Raptors are losers for not upgrading a team that may soon lose its king. Even after last night’s loss, Demar DeRozan’s Toronto Raptors sit second in the East and if there was ever a year to take a run at it, 2016 may be that year.

But in an age when a star player can verbally commit to a team one day and be inked to another the next, speculation that DeRozan will leave Toronto at the end of the season is only that. And if such bizarreness prevents us from making an educated guess about DeRozan’s next contract, we can’t say this is the year the Raptors should go all in.

Masai Ujiri seems confident he can re-sign the all-star and is willing to offer him a max contract. So, it seems, are the Lakers—a team that would take DeRozan back home. Yet DeRozan has built a home of his own over his seven years in Toronto. Childhood homes are usually where the heart ends up going, but DeRozan will have a better chance at immediate success with the Raptors.

Should Toronto have gone all in? Only the hind sight of free agency will tell. Yet “going all in” may have been exactly what Ujiri did by not moving a single player. Declining weak offers may have left Ujiri with a better team for this year’s playoffs. Without knowing all the details of every phone call the busy GM made, we can’t say for sure.

The man of the hour (rightfully so)

Every stadium Kobe Bryant visits for the final time is showering the 37-year-old with gifts, tributes, and yes, love. So is it really fair that the weekend showcasing the league’s best (of which Bryant currently ranks last) is still all about Kobe?

 

I’m going to say yeah, it is. The five time NBA champion, two time finals MVP, and 11 time NBA all star first team is one of the Greatest of all Time. And GOATs deserve this level of love because they put in the work that made them the best for a long period of time.

 

If you worked as hard as Kobe Bryant, you could be in the NBA too. His commitment took him to a level others couldn’t compete with. A sustained level others couldn’t compete with. Since his tenure was so enduring, he deserves more applause than those who are currently having good seasons. Kyle Lowry is headed into his second all star game. His last two years have made him worthy, no doubt, but two years are nothing compared to 15.

 

And Steph Curry is every new NBA fan’s favourite player, but his stardom is only reminiscient of that of Bryant’s early days. Yes, I believe Curry will keep up his numbers and overall dominance, but until he does, I’m still going to tip my hat to Bryant first.

The unexpected game-changer

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All stats per NBA.com

With the Portland Trail Blazers making a run at the Raptors’ lead Thursday night, Cory Joseph drove the lane and silenced the loudest cheering Portland fans had engaged in all night. It was a mis-en-abyme for Joseph’s whole season: the point guard has the power to be the game-changer. But it’s a power that comes in streaks.

He’ll score two points or 16, but his minutes stay relatively consistent. Dwane Casey keeping his minutes up is justifiable, as Joseph provides the team’s best defence for one/two guard, but the hot or cold numbers are concerning. If he’s going to play over 20 minutes anyway, the 14 point difference in his play is easily the difference in most games.

Yes, we could also say this about the inconsistent play of Bismack Biyombo or Terrence Ross, but Biyombo is only finding his footing as an NBA big man, and Ross may just be a lost cause.

Joseph, however, shows promise. Immediate promise. He’s shooting 45 per cent this season, which comes from games where he goes 9 for 11 and games where he goes 0 for 6. The man can be the off-the-bench difference, but it all hinges on one thing: his jump shot.

When Joseph is shooting well, he can outshine Kyle Lowry. Because when Joseph is shooting well, his defenders are forced to play tight on him. And when his defenders play tight on him, Joseph can beat them and bring out his deadly push-shot. Games where Joseph doesn’t shoot well from the perimeter are games the Raptors have to find scoring elsewhere, because both of Joseph’s go-tos—his jump and push shots—are rendered useless.

If game deciding points hinge on Joseph’s jump shot, the Raptors’ PG has a two-word practice agenda.