I've arrived home from this year's family jamboree and have been unpacking and doing laundry. It was a great weekend; my 25 nephews and nieces ran wild, loving every moment they spent together from the moment they woke up ('way too early) in the morning to when they were finally corralled in bed at night (where they proceeded to giggle and whisper instead of sleep). As for the adults, we attempted to keep up with the kids during the day then sat up into the early hours of the morning, talking and playing games. I'm now tired, sun burnt and itchy (if anything, the black flies were worse this year) but happy; it was a great three days. Here's one of my nephews in costume for the family talent show- he and his siblings were singing "All God's Creatures Got A Place In The Choir":
The drive from where I live to where we were staying in New Brunswick takes about three and a half hours, so I downloaded an audiobook for the trip, choosing P.G. Wodehouse's A Damsel In Distress. I had read this book before, not listened to it, but Wodehouse is always a hoot to listen to being read aloud. A Damsel In Distress is a stand-alone work, not being connected with his Jeeves or Blandings stories in any way, and it's a whole lot of fun. I'm planning to do a review of it over the next week or so and so won't get into a description of the plot right now, but I really enjoyed revisiting the witty, frothy work. More on that later. In the meantime, here's Celtic Thunder singing "All God's Creatures Got A Place In The Choir"; their production was more professional, but ours was cuter.
It's the Victoria Day long weekend in Canada, and it's time for our annual Fam Jam, so I'm headed out to the wilds of New Brunswick for a few days and will be off the grid until late Monday. Looking forward to spending quality time with the entire family, and hoping the black flies aren't as bad as they were last year.
There's been a scandal shaking the Canadian literary scene over the last few weeks, and the fallout is depressing but unfortunately not surprising. It all started when the editor of the Writers' Union of Canada magazine, Hal Niedzviecki, wrote an opinion piece which caused a ruckus. His article started off being suitably social justice-y, with him complaining that Canadian literature is "exhaustingly white and middle class" because the majority of writers in Canada fit in that group, and people tend to write about what they know. It was then, however, that he went off the reservation, suggesting that these writers use their imaginations and write about characters of other races and backgrounds, to provide more diverse stories. He then suggested, tongue in cheek, that they award an "Appropriation" prize for the author who writes the best character of a different ethnicity.
This was his downfall- dismissing "cultural appropriation" as unimportant. Immediately the social justice warriors grabbed their rhetorical torches and pitchforks and marched on the magazine. At the head of the baying mob was the Writers Union of Canada's Equity Task Force- because that's apparently a thing- ready to hurl their weaponized feelings at the enemy. Here's a summation from the Globe & Mail of their behaviour:
The TWUC Equity Task Force issued a statement, saying it was “angry and appalled” by the column, and shocked that it was published – saying it was an indication of structural racism, “brazen malice, or extreme negligence.” It issued a list of demands, including that the next three issues be turned over to Indigenous and other racialized editors and writers, affirmative action hiring for the next editor and future office staff and a future issue dedicated to bringing historical context to the issue.
So did the magazine respond to these outrageous demands by telling the grievance-mongers to go pound sand? Of course not. They cravenly folded like a cheap suit, issued a grovelling apology and had Mr. Niedzviescki resign from his position as editor. One of the TWUC board members also resigned, not over the treatment of their editor, but in solidarity with the protesters:
TWUC editorial board member Nikki Reimer also resigned Wednesday, posting a statement: “At the most generous interpretation [the column] is clueless and thoughtless; at worst, it is offensive and insulting to the many writers featured within the page; it undermines any attempts at space-making or celebration of the writers featured within the pages, and it marks Write magazine as a space that is not safe for indigenous and racialized writers.” She wrote that she agrees with the criticisms circulating on social media. “I vehemently disagree with the notion that cultural appropriation is not real – it exists and it causes real harm. Further, Canada is ‘exhaustingly white and middle class’ not because white writers are afraid to write stories they don’t ‘know,’ but because white writers don’t get out of the way and make space for the multitude of stories to be told by those who aren’t white and middle class.”
Got that? Expressing a different opinion is violence, making the magazine an "unsafe space." And if you're a white person who fancies being a writer, well, get to the back of the bus because you must be censored due to the colour of your skin. Because this isn't unbalanced and racist, or anything. This disgusting display of bigotry, ignorance, and cowardice has seen little push back from anyone of note in the writing or journalistic communities. It is, of course, obvious why: no one wants to be the next target of the mob. This week, however, the editor of another Canadian magazine, Jonathan Kay of The Walrus, rashly expressed concern over these intellectual witch hunts, and promptly fell victim to one himself:
On Twitter, Mr. Kay wrote: “The mobbing of Hal Niedzviecki is what we get when we let Identity-politics fundamentalists run riot.” He added that he did not object to Mr. Niedzviecki’s firing: “Editors get fired all the time. What I object to is the shaming, the manifestos, the creepy confession rituals.” Late on Thursday night, a number of high-profile people in Canadian media had seized on Mr. Kay’s tweet as inspiration for the creation of a real Appropriation Prize, a move which inflamed many who were already upset by Mr. Niedzviecki’s essay. Mr. Kay criticized the move to create an actual prize – tweeting it “went too far” – but held firm on his position that “the idea of turning cultural appropriation into a sort of thoughtcrime that demands shaming and censorship” is, “problematic.” On Saturday afternoon, Mr. Kay debated the issue on CBC News Network with the pop-culture critic Jesse Wente, who told host Carole MacNeil: “We have to acknowledge there is a history of appropriation, that appropriation is institutionalized in Canada. Not just cultural appropriation, but appropriation of land, of our lives, that this is the very foundation of what Canada is based on, including laws that were written specifically to enforce cultural appropriation.” He added that “this manifests itself now in a media that is woefully lacking in inclusion, that is ill-prepared to have these debates, that doesn’t have [Indigenous] representatives, especially at the highest levels.” While Mr. Kay agreed with many of Mr. Wente’s points, he argued, “There is a legitimate debate to be had about where the rights of artists to imagine other cultures end, and the rights of those other cultures to avoid appropriation begin. That’s a real live debate and it doesn’t help the debate when you take one side and cast them all as a bunch of racists, which I argued was essentially the tone and meaning of the TWUC Equity Task Force tweet.” Hours later, Mr. Kay resigned.
For the record, I don't particularly agree with Jon Kay, either. He thinks that there is some debate to be had over whether or not writers and artists have the right to depict cultures other than their own. Um, there is no room for debate on this. We are free Canadians and neither the government nor any other body has any business trying to police our thoughts, our words, or our art. If you don't like someone's depiction of a culture or religion, don't read it, or exercise your right to write- or speak- a refutation of it. If you want to criticize and critique, have at it. It's when your response to spoken or written words that you disagree with is to try to ban them that we're going to have a problem.
As to this whole "cultural appropriation" nonsense, it scarcely deserves a response. The idea that writers of one race should not be allowed to imagine fictional characters of different ethnic backgrounds is ludicrous in the extreme. Are these race hysterics planning to make their demands retroactive? Perhaps they think works like Othello, To Kill A Mockingbird, and Huckleberry Finn should be banned? What of fictional characters written by authors of the opposite sex- are they also problematic? Maybe Frankenstein, The Outsiders, and the Harry Potter books, which all have male protagonists written by women, should be added to the pyre. And don't even get me started on Shakespeare's Beatrice, Thackeray's Becky Sharp, or Dickens' Betsey Trotwood, all strong women characters, but written by men. In addition, what about characters being portrayed on screen or stage by actors of different races? Is that wrong as well? If it is, Hamilton had better close down right now. Once you start down this road of social justice, the only logical end is everything of interest and worth being verboten. To sum up: 1) "Cultural appropriation" is a load of horse pucky and everyone knows it. Those who pretend it isn't do so for generally one of two reasons: either they want to use it as a cudgel to try to knock down those who are more talented or successful than they are, or they're afraid of reprisals if they don't go along with the mob. 2) Being offended or having your feelings hurt doesn't give you the right to stifle someone else's freedom of expression. I'm a Christian, and pretty much any depiction of Christianity by the entertainment industry is inaccurate, negative, and frequently offensive in the extreme. I don't enjoy this, but so what? I have the option to not watch, and to criticize- which I frequently do. What I don't have the right to do is try to stop them from writing and producing works which I don't like. 3) If your response to words and opinions you don't like is to try to ban them and destroy the careers of those who dare utter them, you aren't just wrong or misguided, you are a bad person. 4) There's no point in trying to appease social justice warriors, because it can't be done. They live to be offended: it's an ego and/or power trip for them, so once they get one demand met, they just move on to the next grievance- like locusts devouring and laying waste to everything in their path. Far better to take a principled stand right from the start and at least retain your self-respect.
***Literally while I was working on this, news broke that another person has lost their job over this issue- this time at the uber-left wing CBC: Managing Editor Of CBC's The National Reassigned. As in the Reign of Terror, eventually even those who agree with the cause but aren't seen as being radical enough will be purged. 20th century dystopian literature generally portrayed the rise of totalitarian regimes as coming from the right side of the political spectrum. It is becoming increasingly obvious that at this time, it is the leftists who are intent on removing personal liberties and cracking down on fundamental freedoms. Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible as a response to the McCarthy trials. If he were writing it today it would reflect university campuses and social justice warriors, hysterically accusing dissenters of thought crimes and calling for their destruction, while others cravenly go along with the madness, hoping to avoid being targeted themselves. It's a sad state of affairs.
Some time ago, one of my nephews took me aside and asked me if, for his birthday (which is this week), I could make him a toy snake... mission accomplished.
It's quite cute, if I do say so myself, and certainly a lot friendlier-looking than Kaa from Disney's The Jungle Book. Of course, Disney took quite a bit of liberty with Rudyard Kipling's original character. In his stories Kaa is actually a friend to Mowgli, and saves the young boy from the Bandar-log (monkey people) by hypnotizing them. He accidentally hypnotizes Baloo and Bagheera as well, but Mowgli is able to snap them out of it because, as a human, he is immune to being hypnotized by the snake.
Speaking of Kipling and snakes, the ones in Gunga Din, the 1939 classic film based on his 1892 poem by the same name, are definitely not of the friendly variety. The Thugs have a pit full of poisonous serpents into which they are threatening to toss our heroes. Creepy, creepy.
Happy Mother's Day to all moms out there, especially my own. I'm at my parents' house right now; we just had a big Mother's Day breakfast, are heading out to church shortly, and then will be coming back with more family for lunch. My parents just got a new kitten the day before yesterday, as their old cat had died in the fall. She's pretty cute, though inclined to hiss at Jack (the dog), who is likewise unimpressed. He keeps turning his head and looking in the other direction whenever she's in the room... he seems to think that if he ignores her presence, she'll disappear. She is also directly responsible for me getting no work done last night:
Oh, and I got my bowl back from the Clay Cafe; it turned out okay, I guess:
We had our last concert of the season last Sunday night and it went pretty well. It was a combined concert with the Halifax All City Boys Honour Choir, the Chebucto Community Singers and our choir, the Dartmouth Choral Society. The boys sang first and were delightful and- impressively- had all of their music memorized. Chebucto went next and sang a few pieces; they were really good as well. We were on last and sang only two pieces because we did the Les Miserables medley, which is in itself seventeen minutes long. I was really worried, because I have a solo in that piece and, adding to my general nervousness, I was still recovering from my cold and was afraid my voice would crack. I was downing cough drops and water right up to when we went on. Fortunately I made it through without incident, and as it happened, the trouble came from another quarter. Our baritone soloist in Les Mis had gone to Toronto earlier in the week for work, but was supposed to be back on Saturday, a day before the concert. Unfortunately, due to bad weather, his flight was cancelled. He was then supposed to fly out on Sunday morning, but again the flight was cancelled and at concert time he was still in Toronto. One of our tenors stepped in to sing his part and did as well as could be expected on short notice, but at one point didn't come in when he was supposed to which was awkward, though we covered it up pretty well... I think. Thanks a lot, Air Canada. Chebucto then joined us on stage and we sang two pieces together, one directed by their director and one by ours. All in all, everything went well and the concert was well received by the audience, which was pretty big- thankfully, since we have to split the proceeds three ways. We're done now for the season and, though I love choir, I'm ready for a break.
Whew... it was a busy day yesterday. Well, I don't honestly know if work was busier than usual, or it's just that I'm still feeling pretty tired from being sick. Either way, I was all in by the time 5:30 rolled around, but couldn't go home because our choir's final concert for the season is on Sunday night and we had a practice scheduled. The concert features three different choirs- including ours- all doing a few of our own pieces and then forming a mass choir to sing two pieces together. Last night was the night we were getting together with the other choirs to practice our combined pieces. It went fairly smoothly and we got out of practice early which was good because I had agreed to go with a couple of sisters and friends to the Clay Cafe to paint some pottery afterwards. It was good fun; talking, laughing, and painting were exactly what I needed to unwind. I did a bowl:
We've left our projects there to be fired. They'll be ready for pick up next Tuesday, so I'll show a picture then of the finished product.
“E Concrematio. Confirmatio--out ot the fire comes firmness, through stress we pass to strength.” ― Charles F. Binns
My sister snapped this picture the other day: one of her boys got off the school bus with his nose buried in a book. He made it into the driveway, but then spent twenty minutes leaning on their car, reading.
Well it's about time. I was getting pretty tired of slogging through every day, responsible for my own actions and accountable for everything I do and say. If only, I've often thought longingly, I was a member of an identified minority group, then I would be able to relinquish these attributes of adulthood and rest easy, secure in the knowledge that I couldn't be expected to control my impulses and behaviours.
Of course, I am a woman and thus a perpetual victim of the patriarchy, but sadly, this doesn't enjoy the same cachet that it once did. For one thing, feminists have confused everyone by conflicted messaging; women are- according to them- strong enough to run the world, yet simultaneously too weak to be expected to compete in a meritocracy or, y'know, even pay for their own birth control pills. Plus, they have shot themselves in their Birkenstock-clad feet by supporting the idea that transgender people are born that way while arguing at the same time that gender is a social construct. In addition, they have lent credibility to those who maliciously insinuate that women are bad at math by continuing to push the debunked issue of a wage gap. And let's face it, feminists just don't have the street cred of other special interest groups... calling an opponent a misogynist isn't nearly as toxic as calling him a transphobe or islamophobe, for instance. Radical feminists, you need to up your game.
But, thanks to a student at the University of New Orleans, I've had my eyes opened to the oppression which I have been suffering since early childhood. Really, where would we be without the modern, sensitive university students who are diligently searching for- and finding- offense under every rock and behind every bush? We certainly do owe them a debt of gratitude. In an article in the school paper entitled "It's Time To Check Your Privilege", Darius Miner lists a lot of privileges we need to check. Most are the usual, mundane ones- white, male, cis, etc., but if you skim over all that nonsense you'll come to the one which interests me: right-handed privilege. That's right, Righties: recognize you privilege and be ashamed.
I realized at a young age that I wasn't the same as other members of my family. I held my crayons in my left hand and bumped elbows with the brother I sat next to at the dinner table. I didn't understand, however, that these things were evidence of my marginalization. I blame my parents for this lack of awareness; from the first, they treated me the same as my right handed brothers and sisters and had the same scholastic expectations of me. Because of this, I learned to write neatly and use scissors competently instead of demanding that allowances be made for my disadvantage. How is that fair?
This callousness on the part of my parents about my affliction led to a lack of sensitivity on my part towards left-handed discrimination. For example, it never occurred to me to take offense over the fact that the word "sinister" which now is defined as "ominous or evil", comes from the Latin word which means "on the left hand side". Or that the word "gauche" which means "clumsy, awkward, or inept" is from the French term for "left". Looking back at my unconcern over these problematic terms, I can only conclude that I was unconsciously self-loathing. Not only does right-hand privilege affect my mental health, it may also be detrimental to my physical well-being:
Is this what I have to look forward to? Thanks a lot, dexterarchy.
Now, some deniers might try to argue that there is no systematic or institutional discrimination of lefties, but this disagreement is just proof of their ingrained privilege. They may even try to argue that many successful people- Leonardo Da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Winston Churchill, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates to name a few- were left handed. But what does this prove... you know who else was left-handed? Napoleon Bonaparte, who probably lost at Waterloo because his weapons were designed for right handers. Alexander the Great was a lefty, and he was dead at age 32 from some unknown illness- no doubt bowel disease. Julius Caesar was left handed, and look what happened to him... political intrigue or anti-left handed bigotry: you decide. And who's to say that Jack the Ripper- another lefty- didn't finally snap under the weight of oppression and take his rage to the streets? It's always a mistake to judge someone's actions without considering root causes.
Fellow lefties, it's time to rise up and demand affirmative action for the other-handed. We cannot be expected to attain success on our own, so we need to fight for reverse-discriminatory hiring practices and university quotas- equality through inequality! Those who protest these measures should be sent to sensitivity and diversity training, perhaps to spend a day with their right hand tied behind their back. Of course, this isn't exactly the same as having two functioning hands with a dominant left, but sometimes hyperbole and exaggeration are needed to push an agenda. It's time to smash the dexterarchy and fight for our rights- oops, I mean our lefts... or something. For further reading on this important issue, check out Rex Murphy's excellent article:
Well. The game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Washington Capitals was last night. It was do or die for Toronto, as they were trailing in the series 3-2. They played hard but unfortunately lost in overtime, so they're out of the playoffs. This of course shouldn't come as a great surprise to hockey fans, as the Leafs are notorious for losing- the last time they won the cup was 1967. They were, however, doing a lot better than usual this year (they actually made the playoffs) so we had hopes that they would make it through at least to the next round. But it was not to be, and this morning Leaf fans are feeling a bit like Charlie Brown:
Of course, Leaf fans are also eternally loyal and disillusionment will soon give way to hope for next season, so I guess we're more like Linus and the Great Pumpkin:
While I like watching hockey, there aren't a lot of sports movies that I enjoy watching, mostly because they almost all have the same plot. There are, however, a few that I can think of which I like, although the reasons I enjoy them have little to do with the sports involved. One is Chariots Of Fire, based on the true story of Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams at the 1924 Olympic games. Another is Remember The Titans, which is also based on the true story about a high school football team in Virginia during integration in 1971. The only other one I can think of that I really enjoy is Breaking Away, the 1979 film about Dave, a recent high school graduate who is obsessed with cycling and talks his three friends into competing in a race they can't possibly win... or can they?