A new year has begun, and a cloud of uncertainty mixed with hope is hanging over it. For the last year or so, the world has been in the grip of a pandemic, with responses thereto varying from one political leader--and one person--to the next. In the midst of COVID-19, people of Asian descent and black people have faced violence, the latter of which brought Black Lives Matter back into the news for a time. As well, reports of celebrity misbehaviour related to the pandemic have leaked into the headlines (see Bryan Adams and, most recently, Tom Cruise). COVID-19 has presented the world with an opportunity--mainly for businesses to stop trashing the planet to make a buck--but it's up to everyone at all levels of society, including political leaders, to take advantage of this particular opportunity. On a personal note--without going into details--I've made a mess of my life within the last year and a half or so, but the arrival of 2021 has presented me with an opportunity to make things right, and to maybe get even the tiniest bit ahead. I know there are circumstances beyond my control, but I'm determined to make things happen this year. I don't know what 2021 will bring, but I'm cautiously optimistic about...everything.
October 9, 2020 is the first time I’ve heard the name ‘Mary Ann Shadd Cary’–and I only came across it because of a Google doodle in honour of her 197th birthday.
Such is the quality of the education I received during my years of compulsory education here in Canada.
Mary Ann Shadd Cary was an anti-slavery activist; the first black female publisher in North America; the first female publisher in Canada; the first black woman to vote in a U.S. election; and the second black woman in the U.S. to earn a law degree (at 60 years of age) in the United States; her former Washington, D.C. residence was declared a National Historical Landmark in 1976; the National Women’s History Project (now the National Women’s History Alliance) designated her a Women’s History Month honouree in 1987; and she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1998. In Canada, she was designated a Person of Historical Significance, with a plaque in Chatham, Ontario dedicated to her; she features in Canada’s citizenship test guide, which was released in 2009 (page 16); Library and Archives Canada has a Mary Ann Shadd Cary collection, archival reference number R4182 (formerly MG24-K22); Heritage Toronto has marked the place where she published her newspaper, The Provincial Freeman, with a plaque.
Mary Ann Shadd Cary is an important figure in American and Canadian history, but I never learned about her in school, even in the American history class I took in high school. Shadd Cary is yet another example of how the accomplishments and achievements of people who are not white cis heterosexual men (preferably of means) are erased from history’s pages–or at least have been until recently. Now that she features in Canada’s citizenship test guide, I hope schools here in Canada are teaching students about her–or at least allowing students ways of learning about her.
It’s true that history is so often written from the point of view of the victors and those in power, but it’s high time we acknowledge the past in its entirety and the achievements of everyone who lived and did important things, not just a few who fit a certain mold.
…and writing a long-overdue post.
Since the advent of COVID-19, I’ve had plenty of time to post, I know. But I’ve allowed myself to be distracted–mostly by Netflix. I was going to post something on COVID-19 a while back (my thoughts on everything that’s happened since it hit us), but, for reasons known only to my subconscious, I lost my nerve.
Now I’m forcing myself to post something.
I’ve been: out of work and on CERB (Canada Emergency Response Benefits) for the last little while; looking for gainful employment, and had a couple of near-misses; working on my novel–for the last month or so, I’ve focused on writing a chapter outline for what, hopefully, will be the last draft, and I still have to edit that before getting to work on the book itself. I’m also planning other books: my next novel, a young-adult book or two, a graphic novel, what could possibly be a YA graphic novel (truth be told, I still haven’t determined if my YA book will be a graphic novel or not), and I’m also thinking of writing a children’s book–I’m thinking middle-grade for right now. Oh, and I’ve started sketching again.
I’m also preparing to move house; right now, I’m sorting through my things, and have even done some packing. I’ve done some sorting and packing in fits and starts within the last year, but, seeing as I have to be out of my current place by February of the coming year, I’m focusing on getting my belongings sorted and packed within the next couple of months…when I’m not working on my first novel.
So, that’s what I’ve been up to for the last few months. I’ve been keeping safe, and I wear a mask whenever I’m out in public, and taking other measures to help curtail the spread of COVID-19. Going forward, I plan to post here, and on my other platforms, than I have until now.
I saw the movie Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn the first day it hit theatres in Vancouver. I know this movie sounds like just another comic-book superhero flick, but this one has elements I would like to comment on–possible spoiler alert for those who haven’t seen it.
The movie focuses on Harley Quinn, her breakup with The Joker, and the aftermath; from where I sat, the women who would form The Birds of Prey were merely props in Harley’s story, an afterthought, while Harley did most of the work, especially against Black Mask. I read in one magazine interview with star Margot Robbie (who portrays Harley Quinn) that she wanted to create a girl gang in this movie. Granted, in the comics, Harley only occasionally worked with the Birds of Prey; in the movie, the four women work together only once, and–again–Harley does most of the work. Renee Montoya and Black Canary, individually, work well alone, and Rebecca Bertinelli/The Huntress makes the occasional appearance on her own before all of the title characters are trapped together, and even helps Harley in a chase scene. But there’s no mention of the Birds of Prey until near the end of the film.
For those of you who haven’t seen the movie but have read the Birds of Prey comic books, there is a change: Jurnee Smollett-Bell portrays Black Canary. In the comics, Black Canary is a white blond, but in this movie, she’s, well, black. So the creators of Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn changed the race of at least one of the characters, and perhaps that’s a good thing–and it’s appropriate that Black Canary is that character, and her new race is black.
It’s nice to see the ladies of the superhero comics (besides Wonder Woman) are getting a fair shake at the box office–and as heroes of their own stories. I enjoyed Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn, though, as a storyteller myself, I would at least tweak some things about the storyline. (But, then again, there are things I’d change and tweak about every story I read and see.)
Happy New Year.
I’m starting 2020 with mixed emotions, mostly because I’m carrying thoughts and emotions about last year over into today. One lesson I’m trying to teach myself is to let things go, while learning from my past decisions and experiences.
I have plans, and high hopes, for myself this year, while trying to be realistic about everything. I’m thinking, right now, I’ll have to create a schedule for everything I want to accomplish this year–but I’ll see what happens.
So, here I am, at the beginning of 2020, with quite a few plans and high hopes for the year, while trying to keep a level head.
P.S.: I meant to post this on New Year’s Day, and I thought I did, but I double-checked, and clearly I didn’t. Oops.
Here we are–December 31, the end of the year, New Year’s Eve. And, just as in previous years, it’s a mixed bag for me.
I have had to restart writing the latest draft of my first novel more than once this year; it is now the end of the year, and I still haven’t finished writing this draft, nor is it ready for me to submit to an editor. I’m halfway through my latest attempt at writing this particular draft, and I’m hoping within the next year I’ll have it ready for an editor.
I’ve just looked over my records of everything I’ve done this year; I haven’t accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish, but I’ve done quite a bit. My exercise routine has faltered within the last couple of months, but I intend to make physical fitness a big part of my life, alongside my creative projects. Oh, and making a living. Among other things, such as cooking healthier meals and packing up my house.
I admit I had a pessimistic attitude towards my activities in 2019, but, having taken a more or less objective glance at my accomplishments within the last year, I refuse to be so hard on myself, while I’m determined to improve.
‘So much for your promises…’
Johnny Hates Jazz, ‘Shattered Dreams,’ Turn Back the Clock, 1988
Canada is having a federal election this year, and I’m taking some time to reflect on the past few years. Oh, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, how have you lied to us and let us down? Let me count the ways…
Prime Minister Trudeau promised–even before being elected as Prime Minster of Canada–to improve the government’s relationship with First Nations, and acknowledged the killing of Indigenous women is not a relic of the past, but an ongoing issue. But the government approved, then purchased, the Trans-Mountain pipeline expansion, which will lead to, among other things, violence against First Nations women and girls.
Speaking of the Trans-Mountain pipeline, Trudeau promised–on Twitter–to put a price on pollution–after his government purchased the pipeline. And I seriously doubt the government, or the company they bought the pipeline from, will pay for the pollution the pipeline causes. Oh, did I mention Joe and Jane Canadian Taxpayer are the ones paying for the pipeline?
Recently, the news reported the Prime Minister’s Office attempted to pressure former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould into intervening in criminal proceedings against SNC-Lavalin, and now–now a couple of weeks before the federal election in Canada–the Liberals don’t want to talk about it, because they were implicated in it and it thus makes them look bad, and they want Canadian voters to develop collective amnesia about it so it doesn’t affect their chances of winning the majority in the election. I don’t know how I feel about Wilson-Raybould, but the Liberals, under Justin Trudeau, have royally shot themselves in the foot with this scandal, and their involvement therein.
Then there’s the brownface kerfuffle, which, judging from the research I’ve done, will be its own post, or, at least, part of its own post.
So, there it is–a few ways Justin Trudeau, during his time as Prime Minister of Canada, has lied to the Canadian populace and let us down. But, knowing Canadian politics like I do, I don’t see anything Trudeau has done affecting his chances in the election.
On July 1, I saw the reboot of the horror movie Child’s Play, inspired by a review I read in a Vancouver free daily newspaper.
I haven’t seen the original movie, but, from what I’ve heard and read, the doll Chucky came into being by way of a serial killer using voodoo to transfer his soul into a nearby doll. In the reboot, the dolls–one of whom become Chucky–are run by way of artificial intelligence; thus the reboot offers social commentary on how artificial intelligence is a double-edged sword, and, if humans aren’t careful, something like Terminator can become a reality.
The movie comments on other aspects of society, however. Going into the theatre, I wondered why Chucky absorbed only the worst of human behaviour, when even actual children absorb the good and the bad. My mental question was answered practically at the beginning of the movie: In the Kaslan factory in, of all places, Vietnam (most factories for American corporations, in the real world, are in India, China, the Philippines, and various parts of Latin America), a supervisor verbally abuses, then fires, one of the workers, who then disables every function (including the ones that stop the doll he’s working on from becoming violent) in the AI tube going into the doll, and inserts it–all while displaying great relish in his actions–in a subtle comment on what happens when you treat the people who work for you like crap. Now, I understand that, in the real world, not all workers whose bosses abuse them develop sociopathic tendencies, but certain people, given enough reason, will turn on the world around them in their own ways and wreak havoc. And the Vietnamese worker in the Child’s Play reboot wreaks havoc–and how–via the last doll he worked on before he was turned out on his ear. This scene also comments, I believe, on First World corporations exploiting Third World labour.
Chucky is part of a line of toys called ‘Buddi’ dolls, whose tagline–given to them by the Kaslan Corporation–is ‘a friend to the end.’ Never mind the fact that, at some point, kids stop being kids and thus outgrow toys, and people, even children, can drift apart over time, for various reasons. Andy is a preadolescent in this movie, and initially doesn’t want a Buddi doll, but his mom, Karen, gets him one anyway, on impulse, possibly thinking the only consequence of doing so will be the doll collecting dust from never being used. Little did she know…
Karen and Andy are apparently new in town, and Andy clearly has trouble making friends–which changes after Karen gets him Chucky, as he befriends two of his neighbours, who get Chucky to curse (which, according to my memory, is the worst thing they do). But things go off the rails when Andy and his new human friends guffaw at a TV showing of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, during which Chucky tries to kill the friends after seeing a scene from the movie; when Andy chastises him, he claims he was trying to make Andy happy.
And it doesn’t stop there. Andy hates his mother’s boyfriend, Shane–who is, to a degree, abusive (and who is also cheating on his wife with Karen)–and Chucky sees this as a licence to kill him. But Chucky doesn’t want Andy to have any friends beyond him, either–case in point Karen and Andy’s neighbour Doreen (whose son, Mike, is a cop), who Chucky eventually kills upon seeing camera footage of her, Mike, and Andy having dinner and hearing Doreen tell Andy he’s her new best friend after Andy shows her how to use a phone to order a car to take her to bingo night. As well, Chucky tries to turn everyone against Andy–by, in one instance, showing video footage of Shane’s decapitated head in Andy’s bedroom. Friend to the end, or possessive?
What I took away from the Child’s Play reboot–besides recognizing technology is a double-edged sword (as if I didn’t know that already)–are the possible social consequences of buying products from seemingly domestic businesses but which were actually manufactured in downtrodden foreign nations; the possible consequences of impulse shopping; and that some relationships can become toxic, especially if boundaries and ground rules aren’t established. The film also hammered home for me that pieces of popular culture–such as this movie–can, even unintentionally, serve as social commentary, disguised as entertainment.
I attended the Vancouver Comic Arts Festival (VanCAF) this weekend, and I’ve developed an interest in adding writing comics and graphic novels to my oeuvre/portfolio. But, of course, I need practice. Lots of it.
I turned forty last month, and only now I’m developing an interest like this. I’m also interested in video games–an interest I’ve developed in my thirties–and various forms of technology. But I realize I’m not getting any younger, so I’m determined to do something about these interests now.
I didn’t know why I didn’t develop these interests when I was younger; now I realize it may be because I was a cultural snob, starting when I was, at my youngest, a pre-adolescent, if not sooner. I could go into ‘coulda-shoulda-woulda’ mode here, but what’s done is done, and I have to live with that, and the consequences.
Now, back to the present.
In terms of my career, I still have gotten nowhere, though I am trying. In terms of just trying to survive, I’m lost at sea. Conventional wisdom states you’re supposed to have everything figured out, and be settled down, at the age of thirty years old; I’m forty years old, and I’m still not where I want to be. And I’m torn between being ashamed and being grateful I’m still alive to do something about my circumstances. For instance, I’ve started writing out a chapter outline for the latest draft of my first novel after I’ve lost count of how many attempts to get the the damned draft written (again, I could go into ‘coulda-shoulda-woulda’ mode here, but I’m doing the outline now, before I’ve shown the draft to an editor), I’ve gone back to doing practice sketches, and I’m now interested in learning how to create and produce comics. (I know, at this point, I should do things in bits and pieces, but I’ve got ideas, and I like to at least write them down and start work on them while I’m thinking about them.) Also, I’ve increased my exercise schedule, and I’ve decided to start eating healthy, while tidying up my place and preparing to move house within the next two years (which I’m doing now, as opposed to waiting until the last minute and scrambling).
At this point, I’m asking myself if life begins at forty, or if I’m just using that as an excuse for wasting the previous years of my life. But I guess time will tell.
Yep, it’s that time again–another diatribe about free speech.
This episode was brought about by a group of people informing me and some others of an article by Stephanie Zvan, titled ‘Nazis, No-Platforming, and the Failure of Free Speech,’ in which she expresses support for Richard Spencer getting punched in the face by a man in black and states, ‘Punching Richard Spencer is perhaps the best PR black bloc has ever had.’ A handful of people I know who have read the article seem to think Zvan is advocating violence, in the way she lauds Spencer getting punched.
I disagree with Zvan about punching Richard Spencer being even a good PR move, never mind the best one the black bloc has ever had, for the following reasons: a) police have historically gone undercover in activist circles, advocated committing crimes, and actually committed crimes while masked (among other tactics) to justify cracking down on dissent (see COINTELPRO); b) the person getting punched or otherwise assaulted can milk boatloads of sympathy from their supporters and those who don’t know any better, and thus get more support for their cause while making anyone who sides, even politically and philosophically, with their attacker look like at least a million miles of bad road; and c) Richard Bertrand Spencer and Company simply aren’t worth it. Don’t punch or otherwise assault fascists or fascist sympathizers, people. We’re better than that.
I’m not for punching people who spout ideas I find repulsive, but I understand we as a species don’t always think of the best course of action in the heat of the moment. I also understand it’s impossible to talk to people whose minds are already made up, so it’s best to avoid them whenever possible.
And that’s why I’m for no-platforming.
Let’s be clear: No-platforming is not a form of censorship. Those being no-platformed can still spread their ideas from other platforms and forums. The government isn’t getting involved, so no one is being censored. Also, no one is owed a platform or an audience, so if people find your ideas repulsive or otherwise disagree with you/them and don’t want to hear what you have to say, you’ll just have to suck it up and move on. And it really bugs me how fascists and proto-fascists have a beyond-annoying tendency to use their freedom of speech to stamp on their critics’ and opponents’ freedom of speech, and make bad-faith arguments about free speech in order to recruit and push their ideas into the mainstream discourse (see Sir Oswald Mosley).
There is a line between ‘radical’ and ‘tankie,’ and oftentimes that line can seem fine, but we can’t continue having important discussions on terms dictated by those with privilege. How many times does the left have to tell the right and the centre, as well as other leftists, that freedom of speech does not equal freedom from consequences? I have become quite familiar with the concept of ‘freeze peach’–essentially, a bastardization of the term ‘free speech,’ in which its advocates actually want consequence-free speech–but only for themselves. Actual free speech doesn’t work that way, though–freedom of speech is for everyone who lives in societies which have it. You can say what you want, but–again–no one is owed a platform or an audience, and there are consequences, especially if you go too far.
All told, I think Zvan is saying that we as a society have allowed individuals to abuse the value of freedom of speech to devalue other, marginalized human beings, and even try to deny them their right to exist and to make the world worse for all but a few privileged individuals for long enough, but I think she communicates this idea in such a way as to allow for misreading and misinterpretation of her article–and this serves poorly the cause(s) she is advocating for. And she doesn’t help herself or her cause(s) by failing to elaborate on what she means by ‘good speech’ and ‘bad speech’–‘good’ and ‘bad’ are not objective values, after all.
This is not the end of the debate about freedom of speech, nor the last time I stick my oar in to give my two cents’ worth about speech–far from it. I feel the need to stand up for freedom of speech and fight against the abuse thereof, no matter how tiresome the debate gets. But these are my thoughts about freedom of speech, and how it’s used.