dreaminghope: (Flying Demon Girl)
We went to Las Vegas last weekend. It wasn't on our List - that is to say, Vegas isn't one of the places we are eager to visit - but exceptions must be made for weddings.

If we're going to Vegas just once, we figured to "do" Vegas. We saw a lot of casinos and their famous free displays and shows. We missed out on celebrity impersonators - unless you count the poorly done Elvis on the street, which we don't - but managed to fit most everything else into three days.

Wedding: We went down for two of Russ' co-workers' wedding. It wasn't a Vegas quicky, and wasn't done by Elvis, but was in a casino ballroom.

Gambling: Penny slots between the wedding and reception. I lost $1 and Russ lost $5 or $10. We're big spenders, we are.

Shopping: Speaking of big spenders, I found a $10 purse at a cheesy gift store amongst the fancy designer stores. I needed something to carry to the wedding and found something ten minutes before we had to leave for the ceremony.

Shows: Burlesque, strip, drag, and Cirque du Soleil... we managed all four by seeing Zumanity.

Bar hopping: Not our usual choice of activity, but with some peer pressure encouragement from other wedding guests and some coupons, we hit a couple of bars before the reception, including the very odd Minus 5, where the walls, chairs, tables, decorations, and glasses are all made of ice.

Buffet: After you've overindulged in everything else, it seems natural to overeat too. We only went to one buffet, since we are trying to be healthier (the gym in our hotel was very acceptable). The Monday breakfast buffet kept us full through our afternoon flight home.

Vegas is surreal. It is fake - Disney for adults - and completely lacking in irony. The tourists are almost as odd as the city; there's almost a desperation about them, a constant performance of how much fun they are having at all times.

While exploring faux New York, and faux Italy, and faux everywhere else, Russ and I had some fascinating conversations about capitalism, commercialism, racism, classism, and some of the unfortunate implications and problematic choices of "Zumanity". And in between, we just gave ourselves over to the experience, including a trip to the world's largest gift store (where we got caught under the awning by a magnificent rain storm - a day's worth of rain in 15 minutes: not everything in Vegas is fake) and taking at least one cheesy tourist photo:

dreaminghope: (Zoey)
What follows are some of my reflections on the post-Stanley Cup riots in downtown Vancouver. The Facebook and Twitter posts are uncredited because I don't know what's locked under privacy locks and what isn't. If you see something you wrote and want credit, let me know. All spelling and punctuation are from the originals.

We're about a ten minute drive from the heart of downtown, where about 100,000 people had gathered to watch the big game on Wednesday night. We aren't hockey fans, but we flipped over to the game a couple of times during the course of the evening. When we saw that the home team had lost, Russ looked out our living room window, up and down the street: "It looks quiet out there."

I went on Facebook and read the following updates over the next couple of hours:

All I can hope at this point is that all of the people downtown are behaving and continue to behave like civilised folks.

oh come on Vancouver! don't trash the city! street fires and vehicle vandalism?

Car fire at Hamilton and Georgia

Its apprantly getting bad. Police cars getting flipped now..

So... The first can of tear gas has been fired. I'm downtown.

Ug.. now the cop cars are on fire...

Vancouver, this is why we can't have nice things.

St. Pauls hospital is apparently at Code Orange and locked down. :(

Russ slept in until about 6:15 on Thursday morning. He would have slept longer, but I let the cats into the bedroom to keep him from going fully back to sleep after his 6 wake-up call. That was wake-up number two; the first, to the alarm at 4:50, was rough for him and he stayed in bed. He hadn't slept well: couldn't fall asleep, couldn't stay asleep, and between, had nightmares about the riots. Russ wants so badly for this city - his city - to be a place where we can celebrate or mourn together without it becoming a police event.

And it goes on. )

This isn't a holligan town. It's OUR town! Peace & Love. (one of many messages written on the plywood over one of the broken windows at Chapters)

There's a lot of plywood up as businesses wait for new windows to be delivered. All over the city core, the plywood is scrawled with hundreds of messages: people expressing their shame in the rioters, their anger in what's been done in the name of hockey, their hope that it will never happen again, and their faith that our city is better than this. Mostly, the messages were reclaiming this city as being a beautiful and peaceful one, and not what was seen on the international news on Wednesday and Thursday.

Maybe we're a little less apathetic today. Maybe we're taking our city a little less for granted. As I ran errands all over downtown today, I saw a lot of people adding their messages of hope to the plywood, a lot of people taking photos, and people adding thank you notes to the police car. I also noticed that everyone looked at the plywood as they walked past it, even if they were obviously in a hurry.

Last night was not what Vancouver stand for. I am still proud to be a Vancouverite. (one of many messages written on the plywood over one of the broken windows at The Bay)
dreaminghope: (Working Zoey)
It was with some disappointment that I heard last week that Yann Martel has given up his book project.

I assume that most non-Canadians (and probably a lot of Canadians too) wouldn't heard about this odd little one-sided book club. Yann Martel is a pretty famous Canadian author who wrote Life of Pi*, among other things. In 2007, Yann was in the visitor gallery of the House of Commons to witness the official celebration of fifty years of the Canada Council for the Arts. There was a short speech by the Minister for Canadian Heritage... and that was it. As Yann says: "Fifty years of building Canada's dazzling and varied culture, done with in less than five minutes."

Reportedly, our prime minster, Stephen Harper, did not even look up during this brief speech. His Conservative government treats the arts as optional add-ons to the serious business of life; mere entertainment that should only be funded in the most minimum of ways. Yann was embarrassed to see that the politicians could not manage even a good semblance of caring on the anniversary of the Canada Council.

As a direct result of that day, Yann started What is Stephen Harper Reading?. Every two weeks, he mailed Stephen Harper a book with an inscription. The books are incredibly varied, include poetry, classics from all around the world, Canadian novels, and even kids books (Where the Wild Things Are). I believe almost any reader can probably find one book on the list that they've read, or at least one they'd want to read. Each book came with a letter explaining why he chose it.

He published all these letters on his website, along with all the responses he received. Over almost four years, he (and a few others with him) sent 100 books to Stephen Harper. This elicited exactly seven responses, all from the prime minister's office and none from Stephen himself. On the website, the vast majority of the letters are followed by a sad little "Pending..." in the reply section.

Besides following the website, I also bought Yann's first 55 letters in book format (which he also mailed to the prime minister) and intend to buy the second edition when/if it comes out with the last 45 letters.

I was taken with Yann's project for several reasons. First, I am in favour of arts funding. Second, I am in favour of creative protests. Third, I love reading other people's personal correspondences and diaries, and there are aspects of both in these letters. And, finally, I like reading about books. I will happily read descriptions of books I never intend to read (just as I love movie previews, even for movies I would never watch).

I love the 100th/last letter. It is perfectly artsy, a bit academic, and just a little snarky**. I'm still contemplating his comments about being tired of using books as political bullets and grenades.

I hope he gets a personal response to this last letter. Perhaps I have old fashioned manners, but the lack of a single thank you note from the recipient of all these wonderful gifts offends me. But besides that, I am genuinely curious as to what Stephen Harper would say in response to the final comment Yann makes on this whole project:

We've become slaves to our work and have forgotten that it's in moments of leisure and stillness, when we're free from working with a hoe or at a keyboard, that we can contemplate life and become fully ourselves. We work, work, work, but what mark do we leave, what point do we make? People who are too beholden to work become like erasers: as they move forward, they leave in their wake no trace of themselves. And so that has been the point of my fruitless book-gifting to you: to raise my voice against Canada becoming a nation of erasers.

Yann Martel, should you stumble across this for some reason and feel the need to start mailing books again, I will gladly provide my address and I promise to read every book. Also, I write very nice thank you notes.

* Random side story about either the psychology of readers or the nature of marketing: I saw Yann Martel read at the Writers and Readers Festival. In the discussion after, Yann mentioned people often say of "Life of Pi" that "I know it is highly commercial, but I enjoyed it". This amazes and confuses him because there's no way that novel, with all its symbolism and heavy themes like religion, etc., could possibly be considered to a commercial piece of writing. He considers it something of a bizarre miracle that it became a bestseller. I think there's a bit of something like (warning: TV Tropes link) It's Popular, Now it Sucks going on.

** "One hundred is a nice round number and a good number to end on. (The number of times you personally have written back to me is also a nice round number, by the way: 0. That's zero, naught, nada, zilch.)"
dreaminghope: ("I hate everything")

A definition of privilege by [livejournal.com profile] kate_nepveu from How to Discuss Race and Racism Without Acting Like a Complete Jerk:

"Privilege" is a term of art that means the automatic, unsought, often-unacknowledged, and unrejectable advantages that accrue to favored groups in society. People may have one kind of privilege while not receiving another. For instance, while I am not white, I am heterosexual, cisgendered, able-bodied, young-looking, upper-middle-class, and not overweight—all of which give me advantages over people who do not, or are not perceived to, share those characteristics. Again, since privilege is automatic and unsought, having it does not make someone A Bad Person (TM).

"Your privilege is showing" generally means something like, "you have made the unconsidered and erroneous assumption that your advantages are shared by everyone else."

What This Means to Writers

The issue of who can tell a story is huge. What happens when creative license and imagination meets real life people dealing with racism, sexism, ableism, sexualism, and other prejudices? A lot of science fiction authors were confronted with this immense issue during RaceFail 09. I highly recommend looking through some of those links, as I cannot do the topic justice in this space.

The Point of This Today

I stumbled upon a link to While a hostile relative re-writes my life: 'Who is, and is not, my family' by Leslie Feinberg on my LJ "friends of friends" page yesterday. I read it and then thought about it for more than twelve hours.

One of the issues sticking out to me is how Catherine Ryan Hyde is using her estranged family member to bypass the issue of her privilege. By claiming her "transgender sibling", she is claiming a right to the story that would otherwise be challenged. She is claiming to have authority on this topic that she doesn't have.

It appears that the Catherine would have every reason to know that Leslie Feinberg would not want her to tell Leslie's story. Leslie writes that "... [Catherine] argued with me for hours that the story of the Tutsi people in Rwanda is hers to tell. Her statements about the peoples of Rwanda were so racist, so apologetic for colonialism and imperialism, that I informed Hyde at that time that she was no political kin to me." This suggests to me that Catherine knew, or at least could have figured out, how Leslie feels about those in more privileged conditions speaking for "The Other". Also, the two of them were completely estranged: "I restated my request for no further contact from these living biological relatives." There is no indication that Leslie's permission to be used as a marketing tool was ever sought.

Catherine Ryan Hyde is claiming that she is entitled to tell this story, which would be problematic even if she had invented the characters wholesale due to the issue of a cis-gendered author speaking for a transgendered character. But setting aside whether or not she ever should have written this novel, she was definitely not entitled to steal Leslie's right to tell the story by telling it instead, nor was she entitled to use Leslie to claim authority of her own.
dreaminghope: (Thinking Zoey)
This week, the Canadian federal government proposed to review the wording of the national anthem. In particular, they were considering returning the phrase "true patriot love in all thy sons command" back to the original words "thou dost in us command" in the spirit of greater gender-neutrality.

The dog was wagged; the news coverage of the possible change overshadowed the budget discussion, and the public outcry that followed gave the government good reason to back down on the proposal.

Words do matter.

A game of "one of these things is not like the others; one of these things just doesn't belong":

1. Some of those people are pregnant.

2. Some of those humans are pregnant.

3. Some of those folks are pregnant.

4. Some of those men are pregnant.

"Men" isn't gender-neutral. Neither is "sons". It is true that our national anthem could be more inclusive.

But - and it's a big Conservative butt - we're just talking about changing one phrase in one song. Instead of pay equity and a complete national daycare program - things that could create real changes for real Canadian women - the Harper government wants to spend money debating a word. Or, they don't, really. Perhaps I am cynical, but I think they achieved exactly what they were aiming for: they distracted from the budget and made an empty gesture towards equality, and they changed nothing.
dreaminghope: (Giggle)
We wish to offer our congratulations and support to all Canadian athletes, especially those participating in an international cold-weather-sports competition on the west coast in the year between 2009 and 2011.

If you aren't an official sponsor, you can't say "Olympics". You can't say "Vancouver 2010". You definitely can't use the Olympic rings, and using the rings' colours is risky.

Those who've never lived under the rule of the IOC (International Olympic Committee) may not know what goes into protecting the Olympic brand. It's quite the process to prevent ambush marketing, including demanding family restaurants change their names (sorry, Olympia Pizza), forcing banks to take down pro-Canada ads (naughty Scotiabank), and accidentally creating strange new alliances (what do Roots and MasterCard have in common except that they both aren't Olympic sponsors?).

This has led to a new hobby of mine: spotting the "not-Olympic" ads. That consists of carefully scrutinizing the ad for the official marks that mean it's an approved ad, then squealing "it's not an Olympic ad!" and making Russ take a picture of it.

Sears welcomes the world... for no reason at all. I haven't got a picture of it (yet), but Shell Gas also welcomes the world, also for no reason at all.

Scotiabank was forced to remove the phrase "Show Your Colours" from their posters, but they were allowed to keep their expression of "random" patriotism.

(Left) Despite their claims to the contrary, Lulumon's "Cool Sporting Event That Takes Place in British Columbia Between 2009 & 2011" clothing line seems like a big "Take That" to the IOC after Lululemon lost their bid to become the official clothing outfitter of the Canadian Olympic team from 2006 to 2012 to HBC.

(Right) Waves Coffee... I wonder what that could that be a reference to?

This one's my favourite, though. In case it's too small, it reads: "Welcome to Vancouver, a world class city. We wish all athletes successful performance in their pursuit of golden dreams."

After taking the picture, we noticed something odd. The ad had been modified with flaps pasted on the original banner. We could make out the original ad from the back:

"Welcome to Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games. We wish all athletes successful performance in their pursuit of Olympics Dreams."

Well, can't have that! After all, this is not an Olympic ad.
dreaminghope: (Dancing Cat)
There's Valentine's Day, of course. And there's the Lunar New Year, widely and extravagantly celebrated in the Vancouver area due to our high Chinese population. And there's this international sporting event inspiring rarely-seen displays of Canadian patriotism. There are the red tents for the homeless. And there's this display about Delta and Richmond's cranberry fields:

Vancouver's very red right now.

Today, Russ and I joined my family to watch my Dad take part in a unique event. As part of the Olympic celebrations at suburban Richmond's O Zone, the Taoist Tai Chi Society that he is a part of brought North America's longest Chinese dragons across Canada from Ontario to B.C. to take place in a double dragon dance. Dad was one of the people carrying the large dragon; he was one of the people carrying the head.

Left: The smaller dragon: 75 metres / 246 feet. Right: The larger dragon: 150 meters / 492 feet (my Dad's holding the centre pole of the head; his face is obscured by the dragon's open mouth).

The dragons circled around the stadium, sweeping and twisting, then they each coiled up tight to watch a large demonstration of tai chi. Then they did a double dragon spiral, where they ended up coiled tight together. Many Pagans know how physically challenging a huge spiral dance can be - the strain of keeping up the pace while doing the sweeping curves - and can probably imagine doing that while holding a stick supporting a piece of dragon up above their head. Uncoiling was even more work - they literally ran to keep everything in one piece.

While the two dragons were spiralled together, they moved in for a kiss, bringing together the Lunar New Year at the Olympics with Valentine's Day:

Gung Hei Fat Choi!
dreaminghope: (Zoey)
I am writing to express my support for restoration of funding to the arts, as recommended by the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services in its recently-published Report on the Budget 2010 Consultations.

I am referring specifically to recommendation number 26 in the report: "Make funding of the arts a high priority in the 2010/11 budget by returning to overall actual funding levels of 2008/09."

BC Arts Minister Kevin Krueger, defending the 90% cuts to the arts and culture sector in the last budget, said: "Is it right to borrow even more deeply than that to provide grants to the adult community of today that will have to be paid back by people who are now children and grandchildren?" But that is a misleading question. When studies show that every dollar spent in the arts sector returns $1.36 to the economy, grants aren't charity; they are an investment.

Every year, I attend the Vancouver International Writers & Readers Festival at Granville Island. In the lead-up to the weekend of events, I buy more books than I do for the rest of the year combined, and often books I wouldn't have otherwise purchased. During the weekend, I often eat out for two or even three meals a day, plus coffee. I buy fancy sausages and other gourmet treats from the market. I often buy a couple of other little items - yarn, gifts, etc. - from the various shops on Granville Island. If the festival didn't happen, I would probably spend that weekend cooking at home, reading library books, watching TV... I would have a much less interesting weekend, and I would also generate a lot less economic activity. If money is all that matters here, than cutting the arts budget makes no sense at all.

Vancouver is about to welcome the world to our beautiful city. They might be coming for the Olympics, but this is our chance to showcase everything we have to offer: natural beauty, some of the best restaurants in the world, multiculturalism, and arts and culture of all kinds. This is the worst time to devastate such an important part of what makes British Columbia great.

British Columbia, especially Vancouver, often seems to mistake high housing prices and real estate booms for wealth, but sustainable growth and real wealth means investing in people through education, health care, and arts grants.

Our Liberal provincial government has said that "This government's commitment to the arts is abundantly clear". Actions speak louder than words, and it seems that this government's opinion of arts funding is crystal-clear. I would like to see arts funding restored for the economic and cultural health of our province, and because I believe it's what the residents of BC want. If the Liberal government is not willing to support our artists, our storytellers, our performers... they may very well find that they are lacking support in the next election.

Premier Gordon Campbell
Fax: 250-387-0087

MLA: Kevin Krueger (Tourism, Arts, and Culture)
Fax: 250-953-4250

MLA: Rich Coleman (Gaming)
Fax: 250-356-7292

MLA: Jenny Kwan (NDP MLA for Vancouver-Mount Pleasant)
Fax: 604-775-0881

For more information about the BC government's choices and the effects of the cuts, see Stop BC Arts Cuts.
dreaminghope: ("I hate everything")
I had better not be getting sick. My dear co-worker is simply too British to stay home when ill; The Boss had to virtually force him to leave when he heard The Brit throwing up.

Hopefully it was flu poisoning and I don't have anything to worry about, but I am feeling achy and tired.

Of course, my illness may be more psychological than physical. Last night's election had extremely disappointing results. Not so much the renewed Conservative minority government, because, though personally undesirable, it is a better case scenario; what's really got me feeling sick is that only about 59% of eligible voters bothered to go to the polls. That's the lowest turnout recorded. One riding was decided by a mere 68 votes.

Past American voter turnout has been even worse, of course. The US hasn't had more than 59% of their voters actually vote since 1968. But as a guest at last night's election party pointed out, it isn't very becoming of us to be constantly comparing ourselves to the US. And 59% is still pathetic.

The election party was very successful. Much good food and drink was shared, the youngest guest, who won't get to vote for another 16 years or so, was adorable, and every time Stephen Harper appeared on the TV screen, he was greeted by a barrage of Nerf arrows that would quiver on their suction cups. That was satisfying.
dreaminghope: (Thinking Zoey)
On the eve of the Canadian election.

I think we should pay our MPs* more.

I can hear the derisive laughter from here. No one wants to spend more money on politicians.

We need MPs with ideas and passion and brains. We need creative new minds in politics, instead of more of the same. Offer more money; draw people in.

No more expensive campaigns to lead the individual parties. No more company donation to politicians. Companies can donate to a single non-profit, Democracy Fund, and the money will be distributed amongst the parties who got at least 10% of the popular vote in the last federal election. The money will be used to bring party members together to create policies. It can also be used to find and pay candidates across the country. We will need to pay candidates because campaigning is a lot of work, and we want to make sure that people who can’t afford to just take time off are able to run.

Next: No party leaders. No one runs for prime minister. The elected MPs in each party will choose their leader from amongst them after the election.

At the same time, we change how campaigning happens. First, no more TV commercials. No one can learn about a nuanced and complicated economic plan from a 30 second spot during a Law & Order rerun. No more bus ads, radio ads, or lawn signs either. If you want to support your favourite candidate, you can find Bristol board in all the major parties' colours at the dollar store.

Campaigns will be about the local candidates going to community events, handing out their literature, and doing lots of presentations and having debates in church halls and parks. Candidates who are interesting and exciting will naturally attract the media, so there will be lots of news bites. Candidates who seem likely to become the prime minister, the leader of the opposition, or otherwise important, will end up having their full debates televised in time slots paid for by the independent Democracy Fund.

I have some details left to work out, still. Luckily, no one's voting me in tomorrow, so I have some time to work out the quirks.

* Members of Parliament: Each area's elected representative in the Canadian federal government.
dreaminghope: (Thinking Zoey)
In business, it's a good idea to always hire people who are smarter than you are. Hire a marketing director who is smarter about publicity than you are, a sales person who will sell more than you can, and a customer service rep who is better than you at calming people who are hysterical about their mushy tomatoes. That's just good business.

Over the next six weeks or so, both Canada and the US will be hiring our new leaders. We will be stuck with these leaders for four years* and the results of their decisions for quite possibly a lot longer than that. So, to the voting public of North America, a simple plea: Hire someone who is smarter than you are.

This may not be the person who is most likable or relatable.

This may not be the person in the nicest sweater vest.

This may not be - is almost certainly not - the most "just like us regular ol' folks".

Please, voters on both sides of the border, choose a leader who will be better and smarter than you would be, or at least smarter than the other candidates. And, my dear neighbours in the USA, if you think that means voting for Palin, then I must conclude that your education system is even worse off than formerly thought, and all sharp objects should be removed from your country forthwith before you hurt yourselves.

*Assuming a majority government in Canada.
dreaminghope: (Thinking Zoey)

Privilege Meme )

I think there are problems with this list of privileges; I think I had the most privileged childhood possible, but I cannot answer "yes" to every question. That leads me to believe that either my childhood was not as privileged as I thought, or the list doesn't measure privilege in the way I would. Since the former is impossible, it must be the latter.

I came home from school to the smell of fresh baked cookies and homemade bread. I came home from school to a Mom who chose to be a stay-at-home-mother, and who had the financial support from my Dad to make that comfortable.

We ate dinner around the table every night as a family. At the kitchen table, I learned that whales are mammals and that two cookies for dessert is the right amount.

I had a small allowance to teach me how to save for what I wanted. It took me three weeks to save up for each Fabulous Five and Baby-sitters Club book I wanted.

We camped every summer. We crossed Canada in our motorhome to visit Expo 86 one year and to tour the Maritimes another. My Mom read my sister and I Heidi as Dad drove. Over the course of my childhood, we went to England, Mexico, and Florida. I went on class trips to Quebec and to France.

TV was very limited in our house. There were no Saturday morning cartoons – I thought they only played in hotel rooms. I don't think we had cable until I was about ten years old. I've never had a TV in my bedroom. My sister and I learned to play together. I drew, and read, and learned to knit.

The many benefits I reaped originated mostly in financial and class privilege. Although my parents were not wealthy when I was very young, we were middle-class, and my parents made careful choices about what to do with their resources. They chose a trip to England over a TV in my bedroom. They put me in French immersion in public school and put money aside for my post-secondary education instead of putting me into a private school.

Sometimes when confronted with the vast inequalities that exist even within my comparatively wealthy country, I understand why people want to believe that hard work automatically means success, and that the lack of success clearly means a lack of will and hard work – it's hard to admit that what you have may have come from luck of birth.

I did earn scholarships during university, but maybe only because I didn't have to work a part-time job at all during high school and not much during university. And my parents taught me to love to learn by taking me to the library, by reading to me, by learning themselves.

I have worked hard to save money for home improvements and an upcoming trip to Italy, but my parents gave Russ and I a huge head start by giving us money for our down payment. And my parents taught me how to manage money.

Financial well-being itself is privilege, but more importantly, it can buy other privileges: time and attention, education, travel. And I think that's where the "Privilege Meme" fails: someone whose parents were very wealthy would score very high on the test even if their parents were only wealthy because they worked all the time and couldn't spend any time with their kids. I knew those kids: they had everything a kid would think to want from the best toys to the most desirable clothes, but they never ate dinner with their parents. I was more privileged than that.
dreaminghope: (Sexy - Cinnamonsqueak)
Sexual Ethics

"How many people here have sex with the lights on?" the teacher sat cross legged on his desk and looked at us evenly. Some of us looked back at him and raised our hands immediately; others giggled and blushed and either raised hands tentatively or not at all.

We came mostly in pairs – couples – to take a class on "Getting Down and Dirty with Mother Earth – Greener Sex". The teacher was dressed in jeans and an unbleached cotton shirt with a mandarin collar.

"Thank you," he acknowledged our raised hands, "That's the first thing to cut out. Keeping the lights on is an unnecessary waste of electricity. If you want a bit of mood lighting, consider some LED Christmas lights."

I wrote Xmas LEDs instead of lights on my notepad.

"What about candles?" a student by the window asked.

"Well, beeswax might be an acceptable choice, if you aren't vegan, of course, but don't get cheap candles. They're made with petrochemicals."

I wrote beeswax candles? and drew a bumble bee and some flowers.

"But, even better, if you want to be able to see each other, just have sex during the day."

Someone at the back giggled like a middle school student in their first sex ed class.

At the end of the class, the page of my notebook is covered with instructions.

The bedroom: organic cotton sheets, furniture made of sustainably harvested wood, and compact fluorescent bulbs.

Romance: organic and locally grown fruit, organic and locally made wines, and fair trade chocolate (in moderation – shipped from overseas = larger carbon footprint).

Sex play: shower together (save water during foreplay), organic hemp cuffs, modifying second hand clothing for role playing costumes, and sex toys (durable – buy to last – rechargeable batteries).

"It is hard to choose a good lubricant. Avoid petroleum-based ones, of course. There are some commercially made ones that are water-based or made with hemp oil, but simplest of all would be some organic extra virgin olive oil."

Smell like salad dressing, I noted.

"It really comes down to seeking out the most natural products and getting as close to how things used to be, before plastics and chemicals, as we can."

"When did sex get so complicated?" my partner whispered as he looked over my pages of notes: products, ideas, resources, instructions.

"Doing the right thing has always been complicated," I whispered back.

"Sex can be the most natural thing in the world," the teacher said, "if we really work at it."

Fiction inspired by “The Greenpeace Guide to Environmentally-Friendly Sex”.
dreaminghope: (Dancing Cat)
Lament of the Conservative Pagan

Pagans are socialists, communists, and more;
We're tree-hugging hippies who'll sleep on the floor.
But I wanna know who made the decree
That Pagans vote Green or for the NDP.

I'm a proud ol' Pagan;
But I am afraid -
I won't be at your Pagan Pride parade.

'Cause I'm a conservative Pagan;
Hear what I say:
Not all Pagans have a leftward sway

They say we're all poly, and maybe that's true,
But I'm not poly 'nough to sleep with you.
They say all Pagans do an alphabet of kink, (b&d, s&m, c&b…)
But hearing about it makes my privates shrink.

I'm a conservative Pagan;
I am afraid -
I won't be at your Pagan Pride parade.

'Cause I'm a conservative Pagan;
Hear what I say:
Not every Pagan is an easy lay

They say we're all flaky, but that's hardly fair,
Some of us are nutty, but see if they care.
History and facts are a terrible bore,
A made up history is much less of a chore.

I'm a conservative Pagan;
I am afraid -
I won't be at your Pagan Pride parade.

'Cause I'm a conservative Pagan;
Hear what I say:
A little studin' and learnin' wouldn't go astray

I'm not saying that your beliefs are bad;
But mine are better and yours are a fad.

I'm a conservative Pagan;
I am afraid -
I won't be at your Pagan Pride parade

'Cause I'm a conservative Pagan;
Hear what I say:
You don't need to f* on the first of May.


May. 31st, 2007 11:38 pm
dreaminghope: (Thinking Zoey)
You know when you are hanging out with friends, goofing around, making bad jokes, and someone makes a joke that's a little too crude? They just cross that line from what's OK to what's not. Usually you don't know where the line is until someone has crossed it. Some of my friends like to pole vault over the line.

Today, I pulled out my handy copy of On Liberty by John Stuart Mill. Well, I fondled my copy of The Subjection of Women first, but then I pulled down On Liberty:

If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind. ... But the particular evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is that it is robbing the human race, posterity as well as the existing generation – those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth; if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth produced by its collision with error.*

After reading lots of random parts of Strikethrough2007, I saw the same thing over and over, especially from the fandom people seeking to have their beloved slash communities restored: "Yes, by all means, get rid of them – those monsters and pedophiles – but leave us innocents alone!"

Freedom of speech means that people can say horrible, weird, and outrageous things. People can say that the world is being run by reptile-alien creatures. People can create art dedicated to fictional incest (the link is not work safe). And they can say that well documented historical events never happened. And, if we want, we can all shake our heads: "Too far, man; too far. You've crossed the line."

And, maybe, once in a while, one of those outrageous things doesn't sound so insane after all. And we won't know unless we let people say anything they want, over and over, so our society can say "no way" or "maybe" or "yes!"

This isn't a tidy or easy process; it's messy and sometimes ugly. We have to hear and condemn hate speech. We have to hear and condemn people who say that it is OK to hurt innocents. The only time we should forbid speech is if we can prove that the words themselves are harmful or show clear intent to harm, such as with instructions on how to harm people and with threats.

Free speech only works if no one is silenced – not even the monsters.

*Mill, John Stuart. On Liberty. Penguin Books Ltd., 1974. Page 76.
dreaminghope: (Labyrinth)

Because they say he was never the same after.

Because he did go over, and he never talked about it.

Because he did talk about it: we know where he went and when, but not how he felt about it.

Because he didn't - couldn't - go over – emphysema – and he never talked about it.

Because his medals are in our living room.

Because his flight helmet is in our living room.

Because I always cry at 11 AM on November 11th.

Because we don't know what peace looks like, nor how to achieve it, but we know what war looks like, and we can hope to learn to prevent it.

Because some things may be worth dying for. Because some things might even be worth killing for. And though they may not be the things the propaganda says – patriotism, glory, honour – when I doubt, I remember images from the Concentration Camps.

Some say that red poppies and the trappings of Remembrance Day glorify war. And sometimes, in the hands of those who can benefit from using them that way, they do. I understand choosing not to participate in that, especially given the current political climate.

But for me, the red poppy is about the young men who died and the people who lost them. It is about the suffering and the lack of glory. It is about loss: loss of life, loss of hope, loss of home, loss of innocence. It is not just for the soldiers, but for everyone.

For me, the poppy is about the search for peace, even if we don't know what it looks like or how we are going to find it, because that is the only thing we can do when we remember.

In Flanders Fields )
dreaminghope: (Quiet Gargoyle)
"Downtown and in the rich areas, people can be completely cut off. They only see the prettiness of this city," David, my British co-worker muses, "I like working here because it reminds me of what's really happening."

"Can I have a banana?" there's a skinny woman at the gate. She holds the gate with both arms, her body bowing and swaying away like a windsock with the tip caught. She's either on drugs she shouldn't be taking, or off drugs she should be on.

"Sure," David grabs a banana from an open box and takes it to the gate. She mumbles a "thanks" and stumbles away.

"When you bus through the downtown Eastside, you see our poorest, our most desperate citizens. You know, it, uh, keeps it real," David smirks at his word choice, "and here, working here, with the crack and the prostitutes and the bottle collectors... it is real."

How real do you want it?

I live and work on the edge of the bad neighbourhood of Vancouver. The most notorious corner in Canada, Main and Hastings, is less then 10 blocks from my house. On my way to work, I pass a homeless man sleeping in the park and a prostitute waiting on the corner for her next customer. A group of addicts shoot up in the doorway outside my workplace. The vacant lot on the corner is an improvised dump where pilfered garbage bags have been ripped open and emptied of any useful or slightly valuable contents.

At home, we keep our recycling box under the deck. We used to keep it on the deck, until the morning where I walked into my kitchen to see a stranger on my deck, checking the box for returnables. We leave all our returnables in the alley where a man with a liberated shopping cart picks them up – the East side recycling system at work.

To me, this sums up how un-romantic the real reality is, when you are here:

On top of a cupboard on my back deck, I had stacked a couple of old litter boxes. They were clean, in that Russ had sprayed them with the hose, but they hadn't been soaped or scrubbed. That's why they were still outside, actually. We had bought the cats a shiny new box, with a roof and a filter, and the old ones were just sitting waiting a need.

They were stolen.
dreaminghope: (Working Zoey)
If you'll allow my inner political science geek a little space: John Stuart Mill wrote in On Liberty that progress and social growth in a society depends on allowing unpopular opinions to be heard so we can consider their value. It allows society to continuously re-evaluate values, laws and standards, and will hopefully reveal both where we are going right and where improvement may be possible. For this reason, free speech (and its assistant, free press) is an absolute necessity in a society that values progress and improvement.

Politically geeky details )

If this is healthy on a society-wide basis, I wonder if it might be healthy on an individual basis too. Perhaps systematically challenging our beliefs, our morals, our very understanding of ourselves and the world will keep us mentally flexible and result in personal growth.

So, I am trying to figure out what questions I need to ask myself to get the right effect. They need to be questions that provoke a reaction in my gut: disgust, excitement, passion, something. The best questions may be the ones I don't want to ask, but it is hard to even think of what those might be.

I figure everyone's precise provoking questions will be different, for they have so much to do with challenging deeply held, personal beliefs and perceptions. But, generally, questions would be about religion and spirituality, relationships, beliefs about money and work, politics, memories, lifestyle choices and beliefs about the world that all of these things are based on.

It will take a lot of thought to come up with the right questions, much less give the answers the consideration they deserve.

*And not to forget the people whose hard work and sacrifice resulted in slow change.
dreaminghope: (Zoey)
It seems appropriate that I would be writing about peace of the 25th anniversary of John Lennon's death, though the timing is a coincidence. The topic of "world peace" has been on my mind since [livejournal.com profile] grinningthefool's post on wishes a day or two ago.

Let's say, for the sake of discussion, that we define "world peace" as the international lack of wars and terrorism. War and terrorism are both defined as violence involving at least one country. So, a "gang war" on the streets of a city is not included in our definition, for they are two non-political bodies fighting each other, but a terrorist action against the citizens of a country is included, because it is violence against that country.

Is world peace desirable?

It seems fashionable to argue that war is an ugly but necessary part of the world. That it serves a greater good that can not be served by any other means, or that it is so much a part of human nature that we cannot get rid of it, so we might as well accept it.

I refuse to believe that.

I don't know much about my family's part in the wars. I know my Mom's father, my Opa, fought in WWII, and that his wife, my Oma, had a part as well (I've seen a picture of them in their uniforms). My Dad's father, Grandpa, couldn't fight because he had a lung problem that excluded him from military service. Russ has told me some stories about his family's parts in WWII in particular, but those aren't my stories to tell. Russ didn't have the same grandfather he would've if his grandpa hadn't fought in the war.

In my middle school history classes, we saw a lot of movies about World War Two, especially about the atrocities commited by the Nazis. I felt sick after, unable to handle the images of death and torture that were burned into my brain. But, even more then that, I struggled with the depth and breadth of the horror and the loss. All of a sudden, all the ways in which war hurts people came home to me. It was a horrible picture: young men killed; parents grieving for their son, who should have outlived them; women left widows before they hardly had a chance to be wives; people who came back not quite the same... There is no way we can consider life to be sacred and give in and accept horrors on this scale.

The causes of war are obviously complex, but I refuse to be a defeatist, and I refuse to believe that we aren't capable of something better then killing each other. After all, most of us learn as children that violence won't solve anything, that hitting people is wrong and that it is good to share.

Violence won't solve anything: "Use your words", countries of the world! Countries (and cultures, and religions) can remain different from each other. Diversity can be embraced. The end of war will not be the end of conflict; it will be the end of solving conflict by blowing each other up. Not to be naïve, but I do believe people can be capable of finding peaceful solutions, given the tools to do so. These tools include competent diplomats, impartial mediators, and an informed and active citizenship (that includes us).

Hitting people is wrong: And hitting them back isn't any better. Though war may be necessary again, as I believe it was when Germany invaded other countries in the lead-up to WW II, preventing war should be considered preferable to slapping a poorly behaved country into submission. Our best tool in war prevention: freedom and resources for all citizens of the world.

Citizens who have food, clean water, health care, roofs over their head and who feel secure and safe do not want to go to war. People with hope for the future and a feeling that they are able to achieve their dreams do not want to go to war. It is people who are scared, hungry, hopeless and impoverished that think that war is a solution. When people live without security and without freedom, they are vulnerable to the selfish beliefs of their leaders.

It is good to share: It has been predicted that the wars of the future will be fought over resources, like water or oil. There is only so much the world can give us, and the world cannot support everyone at our current (North American) standards. The rich need to share with the poor; we have to voluntarily give up some luxuries so other people can eat and get clean water. We need to find new ways of doing things that will support sane growth and more international equality. And we need to share information. The more open- and peace-minded people talk to each other, the more respect they will have for each other and the more they will seek peaceful means of conflict resolution.

Maybe we should let a bunch of kindergarten kids run the world, before they unlearn these lessons.
dreaminghope: (Thinking Zoey)
In the past week, I have seen two dramas on TV (one a couple of years old, one brand new) about child killers. The CSI franchise seems particularly fond of this storyline. That got me thinking... of course.

I was a Disney child. Many people in their 20s probably were. We grew up watching Disney's animated movies. Disney's films are known to be lacking in active parents: in the vast majority of cases, one or both parents are missing or dead. A lot of the child heroes are orphans. In fact, the death or absence of the parent either launches the child's adventure or is crucial to allowing it to happen.

Forward to a more recent phenomenon: Buffy: The Vampire Slayer. In the final years of the show, in order to allow the "kids" to complete their process of growing up, the show killed off or sent away all the parental figures. The heroes are not completely independent and grown-up, despite everything they had accomplished in the course of the show, until all the adults are gone and they are left standing on their own.

I suspect that the fate of the adults in Buffy isn't unique to that show, though I don't watch a lot of the teen and coming-of-age shows that would prove it. Feel free to provide evidence for or against my theory on this section.

The result is that we have a media set-up where children or young people are the heroes, but they cannot completely take that role until the adults are "out of the way". The Disney phenomenon alone is a pretty strong cultural driver; any other shows are simply reinforcing the theme.

It is my theory that this may pose a subconscious threat to mainstream grown-ups. After all, who wants to think that they are merely an obstacle to be disposed of so the next generation can get on with it? This subconscious threat is reflected in the current crime shows, where there seems to be a trend of showing ever younger killers and an increasing number of youth killers. In my livingroom, it has become cliché: if there's a person under the age of 25 on a CSI episode and they aren't the victim, then they are the killer. The shock value of seeing a cold-blooded killer of 12 in a TV show has worn off - we can predict the outcome of more and more episodes - and there must be plenty of stories that can be told that involve adults, so I am convinced that there must be something else behind this trend.

Any thoughts, anyone? I invite evidence to support my theory, evidence to refute it, and any alternative explanations for the rash of child killers on TV.


dreaminghope: (Default)

February 2014



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