Monday, 29 September 2014

Racism, Hidden and Overt

I originally wrote this piece three years ago but it continues to be relevant.

"I saw a peanut stand, heard a rubber band, I saw a needle that winked its eye! But I think I will have seen everything when I see an elephant fly!" -- Jim Crow, from Dumbo

I was actually looking for something completely different (yes, I know, we all say that) when I happened across a YouTube video that had been posted as part of a sociology project on racism in the media, particularly in children's cartoons.  Of the examples depicted, I personally found most of them to be stereotypical but only one was truly justifiable as being racist.

1. "All this and Rabbit Stew" Merrie Melodies (1941).  This is one of the (in)famous Censored Eleven cartoons that were deemed as too offensive to be shown to modern audiences.  It depicts a slow-witted dark-skinned hunter trying to shoot Bugs Bunny.  Yes, this can be interpreted as racist.  But what many people forget is that these shorts were NOT meant to be children's cartoons in the first place: they were aired for adults before the showing of a film. Plus they tend to reflect the general attitude of the time, as wrong as it was. This leads into the following:

2. "You're a Sap Mr. Jap" Popeye the Sailor (1942).  This shows Popeye single-handedly defeating a Japanese boat.  The date and subject matter indicates that this was war-time propaganda.  How better to get people riled up against an enemy than to portray that enemy as stupid?  Bugs Bunny did the same as he flew airplane battles against a German-clad Yosemite Sam.  Many characters were used to drum up patriotism during this time, even Superman.

3. "When I See an Elephant Fly" from Dumbo (1941). The song featuring the character of Jim Crow is too-often seen as racist.  But it's not at all.   A tad stereotypical, yes - after all, the very name was a reference to segregation laws, plus the "southern" language the crows used.  But nowhere in the entire scene are there any slurs or offensive language.  It's a bunch of birds expressing their doubt, in a humourous way, that an elephant can actually fly.  In the end they even help out.

4. "I Wanna Be like You" from The Jungle Book (1967).  I had to shake my head in disbelief at this one.  The song is about King Louie the orangutan wanting the secret of fire so that he can be respected like a human. Never mind that the characters can be considered racially diverse, from Mowgli the Indian boy, to Louie who was voiced by an Italian jazz singer.

5. The Chinatown scene from Rescue Rangers to the Rescue (1989).  Here, the heroes Chip and Dale track their enemy to Chinatown where they meet all manner of characters from a straw-hatted laundromat proprietor to a pair of Siamese cats who speak in unison.  Racism, no.  More stereotypes, yes.  Asian and martial arts films were becoming more popular and the depiction of the culture was bound to create stereotypical situations and characters.  If you REALLY want evil Siamese cats, watch Lady and the Tramp (1955).

6. The Amigos, Happy Feet (2006).  Anyone who believes the quintet of dancing Adele penguins to be a depiction of racism must be seeing something that I don't.  They are bachelors who decide to impress the ladies with dance moves instead of song, and they take in the vocally-challenged protagonist Mumble as part of their troupe.  I highly doubt this film could have won the Academy for Best Animated Feature if it contained any truly racist overtones.

If I could I would tell the creator of the project that if he wanted a more racially unifying piece, listen to "We Are One" from The Lion King II.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Risk Taking

I have a shout-out to an old high-school chum for inspiring today's post.

I've heard much talk about risk lately.  People want to only take actions which hold no risk.  Perhaps that's why there has been a relatively low turnout at many political demonstrations.  Humans are wired to respond only to immediate threats, not to what "might" happen.

I have never met a sailor who managed to sail across the ocean who was afraid to leave port.  The port is certainly the safest place for the boat to be.  I've also never met a mountaineer who managed to climb a mountain who was afraid to leave the bar.  It's nice and warm in the bar: no avalanches, no crevasses, and plenty of beer!

In anything you do in life there is some risk.  If you think you can get through what's coming with no risk, think again.

The absolute biggest risk you can take is to do nothing.  If we all do nothing I can guarantee that what is coming will not be good.  People will have to move, businesses will close, cities will shut down, and people will lose rights that are already being infringed upon.  In the worst case, there might even be armed conflict in unexpected places.  There is so much fear, hatred, and ignorance right now it's hard to imagine that it wouldn't break out.

There is already violence happening.  A halal meat store in the city of Sherbrooke had five bullets put through their window.  In Montreal an "Ethnic" taxi driver was shot in the head.  Robbery was not the reason and the shooter did not know the driver.  There are daily reports from women who wear head scarves of their ill treatment on the streets and in their workplaces.  Let's not forget about everything else that's happening in the Middle East and around the world.

The greatest risk people can take right now is to do nothing.  Nobody can expect the government to stand up for you if you won't even stand up for yourselves.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Inappropriate References

This morning a Facebook friend shared a photo with the following text underneath it.  I've removed specific references.

"Yes, I am fully aware that I am posting a picture of the back of a chip bag.  Look closely, there is a Bible verse on the bag.  Bought snacks at (store) the other day as I do from time to time.  Today while fixing lunch, I discovered the Bible verse.  All of (company) snacks have a different Bible verse on them and I think this is Awesome!  Will definitely be purchasing more (company) products.  Some of you may think this is crazy, but our money supports things a lot of times that we are not aware of.  So personally, when I see a company that is willing to put Scripture on their product, then I want to support them. I hope some of you will go purchase a snack made by (company). Many of you may already be aware of this, but I was encouraged by it, with our world wanting to take God out of everything."

I respect the religious opinion.  However I find the printing of holy verses on snack food wrappers goes way too far.  If said company wants to attract buyers for their product who observe such-and-such a religion, sure - it's the company's prerogative.  But forget about anybody else who doesn't believe in that particular religion, because most likely they'll find such a marketing ploy offensive.

There is a time and place for such things.

Another shared photo on Facebook showed two women in bikinis, one of whom had her face in the other's chest.  A man standing behind them was looking off to the side, toward a rack of barbells.  The caption was an advert for a bodybuilding organization.  I promptly removed this from my feed: yet another sordid example of sexuality being used to call attention to a product or service.

If an organization has to resort to such banality to call attention to itself, they're doing something wrong. Heck, the advert was totally unrealistic.  I don't know any man who would ignore two scantily clad women in front of him in favour of weight training.  And a public Facebook feed is no place to post such either!

Again, time and place.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Canada For Sale - Sold!

Back in 2012, the Prime Minister of Canada flew to Russia and met in secret with Chinese government officials to sign an agreement that will give China a stake in Canada's business and governmental affairs.

This FIPA agreement will allow China to SUE Canadian corporations, provincial governments, and even the Federal government if it acts in any way to put Canada's interests first.  Moreover, it overrides Canada's existing treaty agreements with First Nations.

SAY WHAT?

Already China has bought out several lucrative Canadian companies, Calgary's Nexen Inc. being one of them.  What's to stop them for running roughshod over us once FIPA comes into effect in October?  China is bigger and richer than us, and now it has a way to force its will on our country.  The wording of the agreement is such that we can't even opt out of it; we're locked in for 31 years with no recourse.

Why hadn't the public noticed this blatantly unconstitutional grab of greed before?  Because it was done IN SECRET.  Because it was not debated in Parliament.  Because the current Conservative government, that was elected on a platform of accountability and transparency, has been anything BUT transparent.

This needs to be stopped NOW.  We need to get these horrible people out of office.  Unfortunately the next federal election is scheduled for October 2015.

Far too late.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Bad Writing

I have been a reader and a writer for most of my life.  I appreciate the art of penmanship and the sense of adventure that stories bring into our lives.  What I can't accept, however, is the misuse of the language through ignorance or premeditation.

Being a member of the fan writing site called Fanfiction dot Net, I've seen all forms of amateur writing from stellar to horrendous.  It's fairly easy to pick out the questionable ones at a glance: non-capitalized titles, summaries that make no sense, and an overwhelming number of peer reviews - nothing gets people riled up more than poor writing and everyone and his cousin won't hesitate to say so.

That said, I will break these writers down into three categories.

1. Ill educated.  These are obvious: poor grammar, punctuation in the wrong places, run-on sentences.  Usually written by tweens or teenagers who haven't gone through the rigors of high school English classes.  However I'm surprised at how many adults write this way, thus showing their lack of education or the lack of skill of their teachers.  They might not even be aware that their writing is lacking.  In these cases I post reviews that gently remind them to educate themselves on the finer points of written expression.

2. Unfamiliar with the medium.  One of the main tenets of writing is to know your subject, in both senses of the word.  One needs to be clear on what genre is being aimed at, and what audience/age range is being written for.  Most writing sites have type and age classifications for that reason.  There are also writers who aren't familiar enough with the source material, because they only saw/read a small part, and it shows in their stories.  I point out to them that professional TV show writers and novelists usually keep a record of the rules and conventions within their particular universe, so that characters can act consistently.

3. Trolls.  These are people who write badly for the sake of writing badly and to garner attention.  I've seen troll-fics in which the spelling and grammar are so bad that they're painful to read, where popular characters are turned into porn stars, or an original character is added to the universe and proceeds to usurp the established hero (or sometimes the villain) and wreak total havoc.

An infamous example is entitled "My Immortal" which breaks just about every rule of fan-fiction writing and is considered one of the worst stories in existence.  To this day nobody knows if this was done through plain ignorance or brilliant planning.  Here are just a few of the atrocities:

Self-Insertion.  An original character based on the author's ideal vision of themselves is put into the fictional universe.  Often has the same name as the author, or a close variant.
Extreme Mary-Sue.  This character must be the most beautiful, most powerful, most everything.  When things get tough, they must rescue everybody and make the heroes appear stupid.  Usually has a love affair with an established main character.
Inconsistent plot.  The characters get into a situation, which is suddenly resolved in the next scene with no indication of how they got out of it and it's never mentioned again.

You get the idea.  So don't read "My Immortal" unless you want to kill a few brain cells.  It's that bad.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Ask Me if I Care


Originally I was going to post a Photo Friday but this article came to my attention.  Written in 2005 by Doug Patton, a freelance journalist from Atlanta, it describes how many people feel about the ongoing war against the Islamic insurgents.  The original can be found on gopusa.com. I however wish to make clear that I do not agree with some of his points.  Everyone deserves respect, even prisoners of war.

"The lie heard round the world about the flushed Koran has caused convulsions in the Bush Administration and forced the Pentagon to launch an investigation of unfounded allegations contained in an unsubstantiated story. The results of said investigation are now in, and it seems there are at least five incidents of "mishandling" of the Koran at Gitmo.

Well, guess what? I don't care!

Are we fighting a war on terror or aren't we? Was it or was it not started by Islamic people who brought it to our shores on September 11, 2001? Were people from all over the world, mostly Americans, not brutally murdered that day, in downtown Manhattan, across the Potomac from our nation's capitol and in a field in Pennsylvania? Did nearly three thousand men, women and children die a horrible, burning death that day, or didn't they?

And I'm supposed to care that a copy of the Koran was "desecrated" when an overworked American soldier kicked it or got it wet? Well, I don't. I don't care at all.

I'll start caring when Osama bin Laden turns himself in and repents for incinerating all those innocent people on 9/11.

I'll care about the Koran when the fanatics in the Middle East start caring about the Holy Bible, the mere possession of which is a crime in Saudi Arabia.

I'll care when Abu Musab al-Zarqawi tells the world he is sorry for hacking off Nick Berg's head while Berg screamed through his gurgling, slashed throat.

I'll care when the cowardly so-called "insurgents" in Iraq come out and fight like men instead of disrespecting their own religion by hiding in mosques.

I'll care when the mindless zealots who blow themselves up in search of nirvana care about the innocent children within range of their suicide bombs.

I'll care when the American media stops pretending that their First Amendment liberties are somehow derived from international law instead of the United States Constitution's Bill of Rights.

I'll care when Clinton-appointed judges stop ordering my government to release photos of the abuses at Abu Ghraib, which are sure to set off the Islamic extremists just as Newsweek's lies did a few weeks ago.
In the meantime, when I hear a story about a brave marine roughing up an Iraqi terrorist to obtain information, know this: I don't care.

When I see a fuzzy photo of a pile of naked Iraqi prisoners who have been humiliated in what amounts to a college hazing incident, rest assured that I don't care.

When I see a wounded terrorist get shot in the head when he is told not to move because he might be booby-trapped, you can take it to the bank that I don't care.

When I hear that a prisoner, who was issued a Koran paid for by my tax dollars, is complaining that his holy book is being "mishandled," you can absolutely believe in your heart of hearts that I don't care.

And oh, by the way, I've noticed that sometimes it's spelled "Koran" and other times "Quran." Well, Jimmy Crack Corn and -- you guessed it -- I don't care!"

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Extremism By Another Name

A post that appeared to have originated on tickld.com claims that a Christian housewife hated the Harry Potter books so much that she rewrote them completely.  She changed the wording to a blatant Christian tone, replacing all references to magic.

Hogwarts was transformed into the School of Prayers and Miracles, of which Dumbledore was the Reverend.  Voldemort became an evil congressman who was pushing an anti-religion agenda.  Harry was predicted to become a "fornicating, drug-addicted Evolutionist" if he didn't become a good Christian.

I can't verify if this particular story is true, although it is a fact that many hard-line Christians don't like the Harry Potter books and have been extremely vocal about it; saying that they promote witchcraft.  I have one thing to say to these people.

Get over yourselves.  It's a work of fiction.  It's a story that was meant to excite the imagination.  There's no agenda involved.  The author is Christian, or did you even bother to find that out?  If you don't like it, you don't have to read it.  Or better, read something that has more Christian overtones to it, such as, I don't know - the Chronicles of Narnia?  Wait, there's magic in that too!

Rewriting books to suit your own views is extremism.  You are trying to impose your views on others; in this case on children who will one day grow up to become the next businesspeople/politicians/whatever.  They will perpetuate that one-sided view unless given the chance early on to think for themselves and ask questions.

This is exactly how the Islamic State works.  Replacing school texts with religious ones.  Forbidding the study of arts, culture, mathematics.  Putting guns in the hands of children.  See any similarity here?

Extremism exists everywhere.  For every viewpoint there will be a diametrically opposed viewpoint.  The challenge is to have a civil discussion about how to meet in the middle so that some form of understanding can be achieved; that way more constructive stuff can get done.

And don't get me started on the Bible.  I've read it and as far as I'm concerned it's also a work of fiction. Curse me for saying so if you want.  If there is in fact an afterlife I'll deal with it then.

Update: This story is real.  It's displayed on the writing web site Fanfiction.net and is authored by "proudhousewife".  As of today the story has gained over 1100 reviews, some praising the work as over-the-top satire, but most are extremely harsh.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Why We Can't Stop ISIL

I refuse to call that terrorist group by the other name.  As far as I'm concerned, Isis is the name of a goddess whose province was nature, magic, and caring for the downtrodden.

A friend posted the following quote which I believe to be quite telling.  You are, of course, entitled to your own opinion on this subject.

The Real Reason Why We Can’t Defeat ISIS by C.J. Werleman

"Even if we could, there will be another group in its place, fueled by the same grievances and objectives but with slightly different branding.

13 years after 9/11, and after $3 trillion and the deaths of 7,000 U.S. soldiers, the threat against the U.S. is greater than ever.

Why? Because our overall foreign policy in the Middle East remains unchanged, and while we remain addicted to the region’s cheap oil, our efforts to arm and fund oppressive despotic regimes will continue.

The media and politicians continue to peddle the myth that ISIS and its like are created in a vacuum. The U.S. sells $55 billion of arms to these countries, thus making them U.S protectorates. In return, the U.S. and its Western allies receive an uninterrupted supply of cheap petroleum. What do the citizens of these countries receive in return? Nothing. The ruling autocratic elite disproportionately holds the oil revenue, and thus these countries are deprived of funds required for the investment of the common good.


The brutal and sadistic beheadings of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff have rightfully outraged the U.S. public. But because of our dependence on Middle East oil and the tactics we use to ensure our supply, and because these tactics result in the economic oppression of millions of Muslims, we need to embrace a vulgar truth—vengeful hatred of the U.S. and the executions of Americans on Middle Eastern soil is the cost of doing business.”


Sunday, 14 September 2014

More Employment Obstacles

"If we guarantee employment for some, we jeopardize employment for everyone." -- Albert Dunlap

I don't think it has been this difficult for many people find a job for a long time.  Our local economy has been slow for months.  The previous governing party chose to ignore the real issues at hand which caused a deepening crisis.

Quebec has a $4.7 Billion deficit.  The proposed "Charter of Values" generated widespread controversy and overt racism towards non-Christians, particularly Muslims.  Fortunately the new government scrapped it but the damage has been done.  Large businesses such as Sears and Bombardier are laying off hundreds.  Manufacturing plants are closing because they can't afford to upgrade their equipment.  More than 28,000 people left the province last year because they couldn't get work here.

Our family is facing the situation where we might have to leave too.  The company my husband worked for shut down in February and he hasn't been able to get work since.  I have been unable to find work in my field despite trying for two years.  Something has to change.  If we can't find jobs here that match our skills, we'll be forced to look elsewhere, no matter how much we want to stay in the area where we grew up.  I don't see a future in working at a coffee shop, which is one of the few jobs available these days.

It'll be a huge challenge no matter where we go.  Jobs are scarce everywhere.  Many companies are displaying ads with multiple requirements because they're looking for the "perfect" candidate so they don't have to spend money and time on training.  I've heard stories of qualified applicants being turned down because they had children or they were of colour.  How can anyone get a fair chance?

Still, if our 17 year old niece with one year of junior college and no experience whatsoever can get a job at a coffee shop, why can't I find anything?  I've sent dozens of applications to companies from large offices all the way down to fast food restaurants.  Very few have even had the courtesy to tell me they received the application (automated emails notwithstanding).  It's starting to look like what my mother predicted 30 years ago, that highly educated people would end up scrubbing floors for a living because the system was so screwed up.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Friday Book List

I love to read books.  I learned to read at a very early age, beginning with Dr. Seuss' Hop on Pop as I recall.  Thanks to my mother and wise English teachers I've since read a large range of literature from Shakespeare to science fiction.

A friend challenged me this morning: off the top of my head, I had to list ten books that I've read that have stayed with me for whatever reason.  So here they are.

1. Now We Are Six, A.A. Milne
2. Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
3. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
4. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
5. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey
6. On a Pale Horse, Piers Anthony
7. Flowers for Algernon, Daniel Keyes
8. The Deed of Paksenarrion, Elizabeth Moon
9. Kushiel's Dart, Jacqueline Carey
10. Ready Player One, Ernest Cline

So now I'm going to extend the challenge to my Blogger friends.  What books have you read that have stayed with you?

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

In a Musical Mood

I was exposed to many genres of music as I was growing up, from classic to electronica.  My parents had quite an extensive record collection, and when I was young they made a point of sitting in the living room one evening at least once every two weeks listening to music.  My father was very into folk music, particularly that of the New Christy Minstrels.

They were an American folk group founded in 1961 by Randy Sparks and had several hits on the Billboard charts.  The group launched the careers of such noted musicians as Kenny Rogers and Gene Clark. This song is from their album Ramblin' released in 1963.

Green Green, written by Barry McGuire and Randy Sparks

Green green, it's green they say
On the far side off the hill
Green green, I'm going away
To where the grass is greener still

Well, I told my mama on the day I was born
"Don'cha cry when you see I'm gone,
Ya know there ain't no woman gonna settle me down
I've just gotta be travelin' on"
A-singin'

(Chorus)

Nah, there ain't nobody in this whole wide world
Gonna tell me how to spend my time
I'm just a good lovin' ramblin' man
Saying "Buddy can you spare me a dime"
Hear me cryin'

(Chorus)

Yeah, I don't care when the sun goes down
Where I lay my weary head
Green green valley or rocky road
It's there I'm gonna make my bed
Easy now

(Chorus)


Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Can't see the Forest for the Trees

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. -- Albert Einstein

I've just about given up on watching the local news due to the sheer insanity that has been going on since last winter.

An under-dressed homeless man was told by a police officer to calm down or be tied to a post for an hour in the frigid weather.  The ongoing commission on industrial corruption has uncovered ties between union leaders and influential politicians.  A woman suffering from chest pains was kicked out of a hospital for not being able to speak French.  This is the reality of living in Quebec, despite people saying that these were "isolated incidents".

The area was founded by French settlers in 1608 and called New France, but it was conquered by the British in 1759 and renamed Lower Canada.  Under the Treaty of Paris in 1763, the French people residing in Canada were allowed to retain their religion and language, and could travel anywhere in safety.  On paper, it seemed like a good deal.  However it precipitated a long-standing resentment of the English which resonates to this day.

In the 1960s, fired up by a controversial speech by visiting French president Charles de Gaulle: "Vivre le Qu├ębec libre!" (Long live a free Quebec) a group dedicated to Quebec nationalism resorted to violence in order to get their point across.  Their actions were roundly condemned but the events set the stage for civil and political upheaval which resulted in a party coming into power whose main focus was to separate Quebec from the rest of Canada.  There followed relentless campaigning, two provincial referenda (that failed), numerous attempts by Ottawa to resolve the situation via special legislation (that failed), and increasing tension between the French and English speaking people in the province.

For a while we seemed to be at a crossroads as a people.  There are laws in place here that limit the signage and expression of any language other than French.  The previous ruling political party had tabled a bill to amend those laws to, among other things, prohibit members of the civil service from displaying or wearing religious symbols in an attempt to enforce a secular society.  (Fortunately it was struck down after the change in government this past spring.)

All this had done was create more resentment and even racism toward groups who are not white, French, and Christian.  And it's also an emotional smokescreen to distract people from what is really wrong in our province: political and industrial corruption, crumbling infrastructure, business closings, job losses, and an ever-growing number of people who are leaving because of social instability and the highest provincial taxes in all of Canada.

Unlike many of my peers, I have chosen to stay here this long because I love the city.  My daughter has the right to get an education in both languages, which will certainly increase her prospects later on.  But the "separation" storm is forever brewing on the horizon, a fact that will certainly have long-reaching effects on me, my family, and all of the people living here.

Monday, 8 September 2014

What was That Book?

While surfing the Web searching for information on a book I once read, I came across another blog on LiveJournal called Whatwasthatbook.  On it users can post the plots of books that they remembered in the hopes of someone telling them who the author was.  I couldn't post on it, not being a member of LiveJournal, so I decided to post my query here just on the off chance that someone knows what I'm looking for.

The book was in the fantasy genre, and I believe by a female author, from approximately 1995.  The plot centers on two girlfriends, both depressed after recent difficulties in their lives.  They find a travel agency and think to take a vacation together to try to sort themselves out.  They spot a booklet similar to a Fodor's Travel Guide but for a place neither of them has heard of.

Their journey takes them into remote mountains where they discover a portal to a magical land.  Once in that land they become embroiled in a bitter war.  One of the women falls for a powerful humanoid-feline sorcerer, and when the war is over she chooses to stay in the land with him instead of going home with her friend.

Update: After much searching, I finally found it.  The book is called Glenraven by Marion Zimmer Bradley and Holly Lisle, published by Baen, 1996.  Apparently there was also a sequel which I'd never heard of.  So it looks like I'll be buying both at some point, just to refresh my memory.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Festivals

Montrealers are a tough breed.  We have long and cold winters, traffic nightmares, and crumbling infrastructure.  However that's all forgotten in the warmer months, when we become known as Festival Central because of the plethora of events.  The season kicks off in June with the annual Formula-1 races and then goes from there: International Jazz Fest, Just for Laughs Fest, FantAsia Film Fest, International Fireworks Competition, and far too many more to list here.  For those on my Twitter feed @Sailorchronos I've been posting event information at least once a day as part of my writing gig with the web magazine My City Gossip.



Although the summer is almost officially over, festivals still abound in our fair city.  This weekend alone sports at least five.  Residents of communities across the river from the former Expo-67 islands where some major concerts are held have been complaining of the noise.  Even with my hearing impairment I can hear the bass booming at night from the window of my home office, and I live six kilometers away!  The complainers miss the point: summer here is relatively short and we need to have some fun in order to ward off the specter of frigid temperatures and snow.  If they want quiet they can wait until November.



Friday, 5 September 2014

Photo Friday: Stuffies

One day I was bored and decided to take some photos of my daughter's stuffed toys in appropriate places. The first one is a Pikachu hiding in the vine that climbs on our side fence.


At our back door is Diana, the cat that belongs to the character Chibi-Usa from Sailor Moon.


Here's a Totoro wondering what to make of my bronze frog decoration in the garden.  He's seen in the beautiful animated film My Neighbour Totoro.  The creature has been defined as a "troll" or a "spirit of the forest" but is only seen when he wants to be and is quite friendly.


Thursday, 4 September 2014

Throwback Thursday: Vacations

We've come to the end of another wonderful summer.  While organizing my photos from a recent vacation I came across a few that were taken way back during a family holiday in Florida for February/March break in 1978 - I was nine at the time.  Here I'm standing next to one of the water-skiing areas of the now-defunct Cypress Gardens.  The birds in the background are American Coot.


Also at Cypress Gardens, I discovered a small area that sported a number of statues that included one of a dinosaur.


We also spent a few days at Disney World on that trip.  At the time, the only part of the park that existed was the Magic Kingdom although Epcot was in the initial stage of construction.  We rounded a corner and were suddenly bounced upon by Tigger who was very happy to have his picture taken.


Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Early Musicals

"Never say goodbye, because goodbye means going away, and going away means forgetting." -- J.M. Barrie

This morning I was reminded of a play that I was involved with back in grade school. Mrs. Pidcock, one of the most active members of the community, organized a Peter Pan musical play for the combined Grade 7 classes of the two English elementary schools. She and Mrs. Tae, one of the music assistants, wrote the lyrics to all the songs, that were set to tunes from various musicals and pop artists. I auditioned for a stage role, and although I didn't get one, I didn't mind because I was already in the chorus that would be singing in the background.

The play ran for two consecutive nights and the school gymnasium was packed both times. The crocodile, played by a short but feisty boy named Allen, stole the show with his song set to Bill Haley's Rock Around the Clock:

One bite two bites three and four
Five bites six bites seven and more
Eight bites nine bites ten and eleven
One more bite and I'll be in heaven

I'm gonna chomp and bite that man tonight
I'm gonna chomp and bite with all my might
And I will start to smile with glee
When I have Hook inside of me
Gonna chomp and bite him with delight tonight

Tick tick tock tick tock tick tock
Tick tick tock tick tock tick tock
Tick tick tock tick tock tick tock
Gonna chomp and bite that man tonight

I'm gonna bite his ear that's just for fun
I'm gonna bite his leg so he can't run
And I will start to smile with glee
When I have Hook inside of me
Gonna chomp and bite him with delight tonight

Tick tick tock tick tock tick tock
Tick tick tock tick tock tick tock
Tick tick tock tick tock tick tock
Gonna chomp and bite that man tonight

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Brains Required

Already another school year has started, and so has the bullying that too many young people endure.  Who remembers the incident last year where a nine-year-old boy was told to leave his My Little Pony backpack at home, because said backpack was causing him to be bullied by other kids at school?  The boy's mother tried to bring up the issue with school officials, but didn't get the help that was expected.  Instead of properly dealing with the bullies, they penalized the victim.

This kind of nonsense happens far too often in today's world.  A woman gets raped?  "She asked for it because she was dressed in skimpy clothes."  A child disappears?  "He intentionally went into an area that was unsafe."  A kid gets bullied?  "He must have done something wrong."

We are all different, we all like different things, and we all make our own choices.  Why should anyone be bullied or harrassed just because they happen to like My Little Pony or the colour pink, or because they have a different skin colour or because they prefer the company of their own gender?

I've been on the receiving end of bullying many times, so I know what it's like.  I was bullied for being too shy, for being too smart, for spending too much time with my best friend, for liking books that were below my grade's reading level.  And now my daughter is bullied for simply wanting to play with kids who also happen to be in the "clique" of one particular girl.

The people in authority, parents included, need to get some brains, grow backbones, and deal decisively with bullying.  Otherwise those child bullies will grow up to become future businesspeople and community leaders who will stop at nothing just to get what they want.  And more young people will suffer in the meantime.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Trepidations

Today is Labour Day in Canada and I'm going to write about working.  Lately I've been increasing my efforts to look for employment in the geographic area that I want to live in, but it's a struggle.

My husband however is looking further afield.  He recently had a series of interviews with a company whose Canadian office is located in Toronto Ontario, 500 km from our home.  If he does get the job he plans to relocate to an apartment in Oshawa, which is admittedly a step downward from the rented two-floor townhouse that we currently live in.  I would have to remain on my own here with our daughter for an indeterminate amount of time, and then organize a move for all of us.  The prospect terrifies me.

I would sooner move east to New Brunswick, where my brother is, than anywhere west of Kingston Ontario, and my husband knows that.  Particularly since my father is elderly and I prefer to remain in our home area - what I refer to as the "triangle" between Montreal, Ottawa, and Kingston - so I can be closer to Dad in the event of an emergency.  But my husband seems so adamant to break out of what he terms the "status quo" that he hasn't taken my feelings into account.

I know that today's reality is that people have to go where the opportunities are, and once settled it doesn't make sense for them to go back.  Plus almost everyone I know has told me that I need to swallow my pride and go along with whatever my husband has planned no matter how much I might hate it.  But it doesn't make it any easier.

Does anyone know someplace in the Montreal area that is looking for a writer?