Friday, 30 October 2015

Angry White Woman

There's an article by Philadelphia writer Dominique Matti titled "Why I'm an Absolutely Angry Black Woman" about the ongoing perils of being black in today's world.

In a community near where I currently live, Joel Debellefeuille has been repeatedly given false traffic tickets by police because they claimed he "could not be the driver" of his BMW because his "last name does not match his skin colour".

It's not just blacks who should be angry with stuff like this.  Others should be angry too, hence the title of this post.

I'm angry because when I was in Grade Six I went out of my way to become friends with a black family that had moved into our predominantly white neighbourhood, but I was bullied for doing so.  Because when I was in Grade Ten I supported the relationship between one of my classmates and her black boyfriend when few others did, but couldn't openly talk about it for fear of being ridiculed.

I'm angry because at one of my first paying jobs I worked with a young Native American man who spoke about the difficulties he faced both on and off the reserve.  Because my grandmother once refused help from a black hospital orderly.  Because my own father is of the mind where non-white immigrants who insist on practicing their own faith and culture instead of integrating into ours should go somewhere else instead of twisting our legal system to get what they want.

I'm angry because certain politicians spout anti-others rhetoric and hide behind the Bible and the law to justify their bigoted and xenophobic statements.

Nobody should care about skin colour.  We're all one race: humans.

Monday, 26 October 2015

The Writing of Life

This post has been inspired (yet again) by the daily ramblings of science-fiction author David Gerrold.

The main place where I am passionate about my writing is at my computer keyboard.  The rest of the time I'm just another human.  I have hopes, fears, aspirations, all that stuff.  And if I shut up and listen (a skill I am still learning) I can listen to other people express their hopes, fears, aspirations, and stuff.  Some of it is source material: how can it not be?  But most of the time, it's just humanity.

Yes, I am interested in fairies and starships and aliens and strange new worlds.  However I am also interested in what happens to human beings when we encounter fairies and starships and aliens and strange new worlds.  And one more thing, I am not interested in stories about people hurting each other.  I'm more inspired by stories about people building things, growing, solving problems, and helping each other.

Because ultimately, regardless of time or place, whether the setting is in ancient Rome or Tomorrowland, whether we're in Pompeii or Penticton or Montreal or Melbourne - all we have is each other.  All we have are the choices we make in how we're going to deal with each other.

Of course it's exciting to fly to Jupiter, or climb to the top of Everest, or dive to the bottom of the ocean.  But afterwards we still have to come back to the rest of the world and the people in it.  Sometimes that's frustrating because humans really are the strangest things on Earth.

But the rest of the time, when I shut up and listen, humans are also the most wonderful.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015


Today is the day when the character of Marty McFly arrived in the future in his souped-up DeLorean.  We had a glimpse of gadgets and events that the film makers thought might be available - some of which actually were realized.

However one thing that forward-looking film makers and scientists frequently agreed upon was potential climate disaster and a resulting dystopia.  The fact is that the global climate disruption might very well turn this planet into a whole other ecology within a century.  This is not fear-mongering, it's a scientific possibility.

People will starve.  Water will become the most valuable of all resources.  Diseases will spread.  Millions will become refugees. Horrible wars will break out.  Species will go extinct.  Rhinos and elephants, pandas and gorillas, and millions of other species as well.

The oceans will become so carbonated that they will lose their ability to support life; possibly only jellyfish will survive.  The Amazon, one of the primary sources of oxygen for the planet could become a desert if the clear cutting and slash-and-burn agricultural practises continue.

Some humans might survive: the one percent who own half the planet's wealth have already built their secret sanctuaries.  But what about the rest of us?

Meanwhile, we have the resources to make a difference.  We have the science, we have the technology.  We can draw power from the sun, from the wind, from ocean waves, from geothermal vents, from biofuels.  We can see the possibilities, and that gives us a choice in the matter.
All we need is the political will to address the real issues in front of us.  We can become the species that is responsible enough to learn how to live in harmony with its own ecology.

Meanwhile, some people are still arguing about little chrome trophies or what they stand to lose in taxes.

Get your priorities straight, people!

Saturday, 17 October 2015

The Burlesque Special

Last night I did something totally out of character: I accepted an invitation from an old high-school friend to see a burlesque show in town.  Being middle-aged with a family I had thought my clubbing days were over but when Rob mentioned that it would make good material for a blog, my curiosity was piqued.  Additionally, since he volunteered at the club he could get me in for free.  How could I pass that up?

Unless one knows exactly where to go, it's easy to miss the venue, which is located above a strip bar on one of the city's main boulevards.  The show is known as Candyass Cabaret: formed in 2012 by a petite but bubbly woman who goes by the name Velma Candyass, the troupe performs on the third Friday of every month.  There's little advertising save for a Facebook page and a web site; word-of-mouth is their primary method of gaining new viewers, who are termed "virgins".

This iteration was titled Number 41, and there was no shortage of strange personages in the club, Rob included.  He claimed that his wife "volunteered him" to help out, and so he does whatever is required of him - usually helping to set up the sound system or to film the shows.  Thanks to him I got a rare glimpse of the dressing area (which is normally off-limits to the public) and had brief chats with Velma, the stage manager Francesco, and a few of the performers.

Each show is unique, with both regular and itinerant characters.  One of the fixtures is cheeky Chibi the stage hand, whose costume struck me as being a parody of Sailor Chibi-Moon with the colours inverted.  Dancer Claire strutted through the audience serving chocolate-coated rice krispie balls and popcorn.  And the colourful emcee Jimmy Phule is unshakable; he didn't slow down despite a wardrobe malfunction at the beginning of the show, and was even casual about it: "If you don't got it, fake it".

Highlights of the show included: two dancers taking turns popping balloons to gradually reveal the costume underneath, a trio featuring a singer accompanied by double bass and accordion, a knife juggler performing progressively more complicated stunts to get his aloof girlfriend to notice him, an athletic dancer who twirled a hula hoop around different parts of her body, and a belly dancer who on this night was costumed a la Cleopatra and was balancing a candelabrum on her head.  Jimmy reminisced that he had hired her to perform at his wedding and she was "the second most beautiful woman in the place" - eliciting laughter and catcalls from his wife in the front row.

Contrary to what many people might think, burlesque is not about sex at all.  The closest any of the dancers got to nudity was a girdle with fishnet stockings and nipple patches.  This is edgy adult entertainment where the artists are careful to leave something to one's imagination, while at the same time indulging in their own passion for performance.  Any money they might earn is negligible - but that's not the point: they perform because they love it.  Some even have spouses who routinely attend the shows or help with the production.  Velma's own husband acts as a cameraman and spotlight operator.

It was great fun and I certainly recommend the show to adults who are looking for some racy fare on a Friday night.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

The Republican Clown Car

From a post by author David Gerrold, copied with permission.

Our political discussions - everywhere - have become so polarized that courtesy and respect have disappeared from the national conversation.

It's coming down to this: this year's Republican clown car is going to be a textbook case of what not to do in front of a microphone.  The candidates are retreating to a very small realm of self-righteousness, and from that position, everyone different is automatically the enemy. It's kind of like train-wreck central, a montage of dreadful accidents.

Here's how you win elections:

1) Present a vision that speaks to the majority of voters. It can be something as simple as "two chickens in every pot". But it has to be something that the working class voter can understand - that his life will get better if he votes for you.

2) Behave with integrity. Create credibility. Part of that is your track record before you declared your candidacy. What experience do you bring to the office? Part of it is how you behave in the spotlight and out of it? Don't cheat on your wife, don't be rude to the waitress. Avoid going negative. When you start flinging mud, you get even more on yourself. (There is a way to respond to attacks, but that's a different discussion.)

3) Be the kind of person that others will want to trust. That goes back to what experience you've brought with you. Have you been a charity organizer? Have you served as an executive somewhere? Did you succeed?

4) Show that you care about people. (If I have to explain this one, you've spent too much time listening to Fox Noise.)

Now, when we look at the Republican candidates, we see that they are failing on all four counts. Are they presenting a vision of a world that works for the rest of us? Hell, no. It's all about rolling back the right to marry, rolling back access to health care, rolling back women's access to family planning, rolling back the rights of minorities, rolling back the rights of workers to unionize, and rolling the nation right into the next war.  Instead of pointing us toward a better future, they are talking about who they want to hate next.

When we look at if they are behaving with integrity - we see that they have put forth a slate of nincompoops and liars. The Peter Principle on steroids.  They have all failed upward so far beyond their levels of incompetency that they are like the coyote who has run out past the edge of the cliff and still hasn't looked down.  When we look at their trustworthiness ... let's just boil it down to one question. Would you buy a used car from any of these people?

And lastly, have any of these individuals truly demonstrated an ability to care about people? "Stuff happens." Need I say more? Their responses to the Oregon shootings isn't just embarrassing, it's shameful.

Joe McCarthy was brought down when Joseph Welch asked him, "Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"

It is time for the American people to ask that question of Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, and every other pretender to respectability campaigning for the highest office in the land.  And it is time for the Republican party to shut down this clown car and find a real candidate - someone fit to honor the legacies of Abe Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Enough already.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Decisions, Decisions

This weekend will be a very difficult one, because I'm faced with many issues and decisions that I've not been looking forward to dealing with.

My father has been living full-time with his lady friend for the last two years, and his house has been untenanted save from a weekly checkup by either himself or the neighbours.  He had been thinking about selling the place but after consulting several brokers he decided to hold off on it because he couldn't get the price he wanted.

Now his memory is failing and I fear that his lady friend, as wonderful as she is, has been more involved in his decision-making as perhaps she should be.  I don't want to come straight out and say that she's manipulating him, but the more recent communications I've had with my father just didn't seem quite right to me.

The weekend is the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in Canada.  But instead of spending it with my husband and daughter I'll be at Dad's house with my brother so we can have some serious discussions about what will become of the family heirlooms there.  It was the wish of both our grandfather and our mother that they remain in the family.

The biggest trouble is that both I and my brother live in different provinces and we have our own fully-furnished households, and have no room at this time to take on much more.  So there will be the issues of divisions, transport, storage, insurance, and the like.

If I could I would live in the house myself.  But that would open up a whole other can of worms, not the least of which is the fact that the house is in a small community and pretty much requires having a car to be able to get anywhere (I don't drive).  Not to mention the prospect of leaving my hometown, uprooting my family, and moving to an area where jobs in my husband's field are rare - particularly difficult since he finally got a job recently after spending almost a year and a half being unemployed.

Yes, it might be better to do this now, rather after Dad passes who knows how long from now.  But I still don't like it.

Saturday, 3 October 2015


This is a copy of a Facebook post belonging to a friend of a friend. Re-posted with permission.

"So a number of you have asked that I momentarily come out of my self-imposed Facebook exile to comment on the current Canadian election campaign. I’ve politely denied these requests as my reasons for leaving FB are still very valid, but then I started to notice a disturbing trend:

Canadians are turning into a bunch of racist a**holes.
Let me put it plainly…
If you believe that the current controversy regarding the wearing of the Niqāb by Muslim women at the Canadian Citizenship Ceremony is anything other than a desperate, cynical attempt by the Harper re-election machine to distract the populace from what is arguably the worst job performance by any Prime Minister in our young country’s history then please do us and your children’s children a favour and step away from the adult’s table; go play in the corner with all the other victims of the Conservatives' glaringly obvious attempts at obfuscation and misdirection and talk about whatever ridiculous conspiracy theories you’ve been parroting on their behalf over the last 8 years. Please step away from the rest of us who aren’t fooled by Harper’s desperate – but sadly effective – machinations and while you’re doing that please do us one last favour:
Don’t vote.
Please don’t vote because if you do we’ll not only be the last generation to fully remember the dream that was Canada but we’ll also be the generation responsible for killing it.
Don’t believe me? Here’s a name I want you to Google: Lynton Crosby.
This is the guy Harper’s just hired to ‘advise’ his campaign. Crosby is a monster. He’s been called Australia’s Karl Rove and is a master at negative campaigning and ‘wedge’ issues, specifically race politics. The Niqāb policy and the current ‘Old Stock Canadian’ comments are rife with his handwriting. He’s a master of dark, divisive politics and the fact that Harper’s even talked to him should alone be a reason not to vote Conservative, let alone the fact he’s now essentially a member of staff.
The Muslims aren’t coming to get us; never were, never will. The fact is, countries in the Middle East have always had far more to fear from us than we have from them. ISIL didn’t spring out of some evil impulse mysteriously lying at the core of Islam, it sprang out of the inevitable blow-back which results after a poor region is subjected to over 5 decades of the most cynical interventions of rich regions; from the 1953 Iranian coup d'état to the Iraq War, the West’s hands are covered in blood. Don’t get me wrong: ISIL are no more than a gang of near-illiterate thugs who probably should all be shot; on this point no one – not the West, not the vast majority of the Middle East – disagrees. The point however, is that while most people in the Middle East understand where the aggression comes from, very few people in the West do…
…and this is what Harper is counting on.
I’ve gone through the citizenship process and if the Canadian one is anything like the British (which it is, I’ve checked) then what everyone needs to really know is that by the time you get to the ceremony bit of the process – which is truly just that: ceremonial – you’ve been interviewed, vetted, checked and re-checked dozens of times over a period of about 5 years. To think that someone can just show up on the day of the ceremony with his or her face covered, be handed the certificate and then go “fooled you!” is madness.
If you honestly believe this is even remotely possible then congratulations because a): you’re as exactly gullible as Stephen Harper needs you to be, and b): you’ve successfully wasted a tremendous amount of time and brain power on an imaginary non-issue which could’ve been better spent on the actual horrors Harper has foisted upon the Canadian public - chief among these being a complete contempt for those organizations promoting the rights and equality of women. From canceling the nascent national child care program to closing 12 of the 16 Status of Women offices to his immobility on pay equity to his cozy (and secret) $15 billion arms deal with the notoriously anti-female government of Saudi Arabia, Harper has shown he has far more in common with those he claims to protect us against than he has with the majority of the Canadian public…
…that is, if the Canadian public is the same one I used to be part of and on that I’m growing increasingly unsure.
I hope ordinary Canadians will come ‘round. That’s the trouble with Facebook though is that everyone ends up speaking to the converted. Those of you who’ve gotten this far in my little diatribe probably were on my side of the fence to begin with. It’s very frustrating because Canada’s always been more or less immune to this type of U.S. style horses***. Maybe it’s ‘our side’ who are really the gullible ones, believing Canadians were better than the Americans, British, Australians and numerous others this has already fooled - because fear seems to be working for Harper. Not even the fact that he’s had the worst economic record of any Prime Minister since the war seems enough to overpower this carefully cultivated manipulation.
Harper has destroyed - or is in the middle of destroying - virtually every institution that stood Canada apart and above every other Western nation. I write this as someone who’s had his right to vote stripped away. The most basic tenet of democracy has been denied me and 1.4 million other Canadians but all everyone can talk about is whether an immigrant who has spent thousands of dollars and endured years of bureaucracy to become Canadian should be allowed to wear a bit of cloth on her face.
Well, at least she’ll get to vote.
Thanks for reading, I’ll be back in FB exile until after the election but feel free to cross post all of this as you see fit.
…on the not-so-off-chance that a CSIS agent is reading this, please be aware that although the above could now legally be considered terrorist literature under bill C-51 (not kidding here, look it up), I am most definitely not a terrorist. I’m just a grumpy old white man telling kids to get off my lawn. (Really, please don’t arrest me. I’ll take it all back if I have to.)
…and on the very, very, very, very off chance that this post somehow finds its way into Wayne Gretzky’s inbox:
Please go f*** yourself. You were a God on the ice but are clearly a simpering idiot when it comes to politics. I don’t know what they call it in the States when someone endorses a candidate who’s taken away their right to vote but in Canada we call it lunacy. Please retreat back inside your mansion and leave the rest of us to the business of saving the country you abandoned.

Friday, 2 October 2015

Archaic and Dangerous

Romina Garcia stated in her YouTube video: "If your boyfriend hits you... it's a sign he loves you."

Matt Stevenson posted on Facebook: "The plain truth is women are meant to be dominated by males... a male may in fact rape her to take what he wishes from her."

There's a group online called "Men Going Their Own Way" whose web site contains images and articles that portray contempt toward feminism and women in general.

Even many holy texts advocate extreme punishment for a woman who has been raped or who has sex out of wedlock.

Far too many people, supposedly educated adults, believe this nonsense.  Remember the young man who shot several UCSB students because (among other things) he was angry at not being able to get a girl to have sex with him?  He also believed that he was entitled to sex, wealth, and power, and was willing to do the unthinkable to get it.

Ideas like this are dangerous and just plain stupid.  They are the reason that feminism exists and is necessary.  We are all sexual creatures.  We all - woman and men alike - have the right to determine what we do with our bodies and who we allow to touch them.  I know people who claim that most feminist statements are absolute lies.  Perhaps some are; certainly some are over-exaggerated.  However when someone is blatantly misogynistic I don't hesitate to call them out on it.  Why?  I have been a victim of emotional abuse and sexual assault.  So nobody can tell me to just "grin and bear it, it's a woman's lot in life".

Anyone who tells me otherwise deserves to have a kick in the unmentionables.

A friend of mine recently posted this: "When my dad turned 60 or so he had to visit a proctologist.  Just standard checkup stuff.  Afterwards he told my mom how uncomfortable he felt: almost violated.  My mom turned to him and reminded him that women get pelvic exams almost every year from their late teens or early twenties.  And the light of understanding went on."

You see?  Men don't like being compared with women.  The worst insult you can give a man is "being a pussy".  They only understand once they've been on the other side.  It shouldn't have to be that way.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Numb in the Face of Violence

It has happened again. Yet another tragic shooting at a school and young people have died.  People who had so much to live for and who might have done great things had their lives not been snuffed out by a maniac with a gun.

Unconfirmed reports are saying that the man asked students what their religion was before firing on them.  Why this would matter was only known to him, since it is apparent that he just wanted to kill until the police caught up to him.

There have been so many such shootings in recent memory that we've become numb to them.  Yes, there is an outcry afterwards, but soon enough it subsides under pressure from the NRA supporters, gun lobby groups, and Second Amendment wavers, and it gets swept under the carpet... until the next time.

Something must be done.  Something should have been done after Sandy Hook in 2012, when 20 children were killed.  But nothing was done.  There have been at least six more mass shootings in the U.S. since then.  Needless bloodshed, all because a mentally unstable person had weapons they should not have had access to in the first place.

Even the President was angry: "The notion that gun violence is somehow different and our freedom and our constitution prohibits any modest regulation of how we use a deadly weapon when there are law-abiding gun owners all across the country who can hunt, protect their families, under such regulations, it doesn't make sense."

Unfortunately, as long as the gun groups remain as powerful as they are, as long as there are paranoid folks who believe "the government is going to take our guns away", as long as there are people care more about their guns than their children, nothing will change.

Author David Gerrold put his solution succinctly:

"What if we applied the same regulatory attitude [as automobiles] toward gun safety: license, registration, and mandatory insurance. The insurance companies would love the business - and they would make damn sure they didn't insure someone they regarded as a liability."

We should be concerned.  We should make sure that change happens.  Especially given the spate of mentally disturbed young men who, having reached a point of nihilism, feel a compulsion to strike out wildly at the world.  If we as a society aren't willing to take on the challenge of the mental illness that leads to these acts of violence, then we're not a society of rational adults; we're not even a free society, we're a society that has resigned itself to the repetition of what amounts to domestic terrorism.