Writing: Expanding on the Playground of Lost Toys

trunk stories, submission guidelines, lost toys

Trunk stories are valid, if they actually fit the theme.

I realize that when one puts up guidelines for a themed anthology that you will always get trunk stories, those tales already written that have not yet found a home and that might just fit the theme even if not tailored toward it exactly. Trunk stories can be perfectly well-written stories that just don’t mesh with what’s out there, or they may be your B grade stories, never selling because something just didn’t gel in the telling.

I’ve sent trunk stories to anthologies before and I’ve sold some and not sold others. It’s fine to do this. And sometimes you write a story for a particular theme but it’s not accepted, so you try to sell it elsewhere. With Tesseracts 17 we saw a number of superhero stories because there had just been an anthology on superheroes. We saw a few green man stories because there had just been an anthology on the Green Man. There was a story from each of these that we nearly accepted.

playgrounds, lost toys, speculative fiction, fantasy, SF, guidelines

Now here is a great playground, and it’s made by humans. Or perhaps it’s a toy. Creative Commons: Sizuken, Flickr

The Playground of Lost Toys is experiencing this so far, to some degree. I suspect that many of the tales we’ve received were already in existence.There are tropes within all fiction and while many great tales come from them, the fact that they’re tropes mean that they’re popular themes. There are hundreds if not thousands of ghost stories. Likewise, we’re getting a lot of doll stories. It’s a toy that is universally recognized. I’m beginning to suspect that some people are also getting stuck on the “toys” aspect without really thinking about what toy means.

We will accept a few stories (possibly) about dolls or trucks but the anthology is not a doll anthology. If it was, then we would only want dolls. It’s speculative fiction so this opens quite a realm. Google some images and see if they give you an idea. Combine words that are unlikely, such as alien and playground.  Or toy and magnolia. Here are some further suggestions, to get the creative juices flowing:

  • What would be a Sasquatch’s toy?
  • Boy toys–are they cars or men who are playthings, such as in the realms of Faery (this isn’t an erotica anthology either so be careful if you use this)
  • Game consoles–maybe they change the world or the person.
  • Computers–how many games do people play on their electronic devices
  • Games–board games will be considered as toys for this
  • What would you, an animal, or an alien toy with?
  • What would an Ent find to be a toy?
  • Do snakes have toys?
  • Playgrounds have slides, swings, ladders, etc. These can all be considered toys.
  • What would be a toy’s toy?
  • Is it a toy or is it a being?
  • Sentient  or self-aware toys.
  • Are there beings where toys are sacrilegious?
  • Are there aliens with no concept of toy and on finding one they..
  • Synonyms for toy: plaything, game, model
  • Places where toys are: playgrounds, chests, rooms, stores, manufacturers, middens heaps, museums
Dr. Who, toys, SF, fantasy, anthology submissions, guidelines

Dr. Who’s sonic screwdriver. It whirs, it has lights, it’s functional, but is it a toy too? Copyright BBC

Let your imagination encompass the act of playing and see what comes up. The full guidelines are here, and you can submit your story as well: https://exilepublishing.submittable.com/submit. Note that 90% of the anthology has to be Canadian. We’re looking forward to weird and wonderful tales.

Leave a comment

Filed under entertainment, fairy tales, fantasy, horror, myth, science fiction, Writing

Movie Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

apes, chimps, planet of the apes, war, racism, simian virus

Copyright: 20th Century Fox

There will be massive spoilers and I realize this movie came out last year but others, like me might still be deciding if they want to watch it.

Many of us are familiar with the Planet of the Apes movie franchise. We have a secret love for the overall monkeyness of Roddy McDowall’s Cornelius in the original Planet of the Apes, and his subsequent role as Cornelius’s son, Caeser, as savior of ape and humankind. And for anyone who wonders, Caeser seems to be a chimpanzee (or possibly bonobo) in the ape family. There have been several versions of Planet of the Apes since those early years, in cinema and on TV. I haven’t seen them all.

With the great range of special effects and digital motion capture available now, any film is possible. Creating more realistic apes as well as developing great new plots should make for a lot of great cinema. And if you look at Rotten Tomatoes or other review sites Dawn of the Planet of the Apes rated high, to which I must say I’m truly stunned. Rise of the Planet of the Apes was good; it wasn’t great. And having Andy Serkis add his skills into realistic  primate movements of the ape definitely enhanced the visual richness of the film.

But…I just am not sure about the rest. Plot. We open with an idyllic scene of apes in the woods, then they move into the great hunt (even though apes are herbivores!). From this we understand their complex society and that they use mostly sign language. Pan to the lovely ape village and Caeser becoming a proud papa to a second son while the first, injured from a stupid move, looks on with doe eyes. The mother is thrown in as a later heart-string to pull, and isn’t even named; pretty much a token female if I ever saw one. But that’s not important. Caeser sits with a buddy overlooking his land and they speculate: Do you think they’re all gone? Haven’t seen one in ten years. We know what’s coming next. Enter the humans. This is called foreshadowing and is an acceptable plot device but gee, was it really needed?

Here’s where the blatant plot devices jumped up and shot me in the face. Dumb guy walking through the woods encounters two apes, Caeser’s son, Blue Eyes and friend Ash. Outnumbered, even though they’re standing there stunned, the guy shoots one which brings all apedom down on his ass, so that he and his compatriots are evicted by Caeser from the garden of Eden. The apes follow them back to their home (San Francisco).

Gary Oldman looks like he’s not the bad guy (for once), but the nominal leader of the little band of humans that have survived the simian virus that wiped out most of earth. But while everyone assures the humans that they are immune to the virus or they would already be dead, Gary, as Dreyfus, lives up to morally ambiguous bad buy status by believing the apes will come to kill humans because they are “animals.” Those of us with primate brains realize we’re all animals. Thankfully we’re not hit over the head with this comparison.

Malcolm (Jason Clarke) is the feeling guy who believes the apes are okay but they need to get to the dam and see if they can start the generators because San Fran is almost out of power. Really? It takes people 10 years to get off their butts to check this out? They’ve been getting by on what, frozen vegetables in all this time and nobody thought to look to the future until they have less than a month of power remaining? And neither the apes (in swinging distance) or the humans (in proximal driving distance) were aware of each other in all this time? Good lord. The humans deserve to die off if they’re this stupid. And somehow the apes didn’t know there is a dam nearby.

apes, chimpanzees, Dawn of Planet of the Apes

The noble ape rides up to the palisade of the humans. Copyright 20th Century Fox

So let’s back up a minute to the apes, who like to wear white warpaint across their ribs and faces. The female apes like to wear some sort of flower fringe over their mouths (why?) or on their brows as Caeser’s spouse does, because you know, apes have to follow human characteristics of gender differentiation. They also ride horses, though earlier they swung with ease and swiftness into the San Fran precincts. Did no one else notice the blatant comparison to the American Indians in the days of white settlers and the army? They ride their horses the same. They have spears whereas the humans have greater fire power, and eventually lay siege to the palisades of San Francisco. They fit the trope of the noble savage. But one caveat here: no matter how science fictional or fantastical our tales are, if there is war or aggressors they will always, always look like one cultural group or another; because we are human and only have our cultures for perspective.

Apes are noble…except for the bad guys. Dumb guy who shot the apes may as well be called Doubting Thomas and naysays everything, as a suspicious dude and isn’t moved by Caeser’s baby crawling all over them in cuteness. (By the way, what ape mother would allow her baby away from her side at such a young age, as in just born?) Of course Doubting Thomas is the only guy who can turn on the generators (really?) so he must come along and they know he’s skittish so no one searches him even though he’s a liability for violence. You know it’s going to go bad, right? Well it does but he’s not the initiator after the first shot.

baby ape, apes, Caeser, Planet of the Apes

Who doesn’t like an icebreaker moment with a little baby…that discovers a hidden gun? Copyright 20th Century Fox

Enter Koba, the ugly ape, scarred by human testing, hateful and distrustful and Caeser’s right-hand chimp. Koba wants to kill all the humans while back in the human camp Dreyfus wants to kill all the apes because, by god, they’re animals! We already know that ugly people/creatures are never the good guys. Blue Eyes loses faith with his human loving dad and joins Koba who goes to the human stockade and searches, to turn up their arsenal and folks doing target practice. Koba is so hateful, he mimics a happy chimp to cause homicide, and then arrives back in the ape lands to shoot Caeser, which of course no one sees. None of this was a surprise to me. I knew how almost all of it would play out from the first shot fired in the first 10 minutes. Koba or Doubting Thomas were going to start the inevitable war.

Caeser and Malcolm represent the calmer, peace lovers when everyone else is an over-the-top, two-dimensional hate monger. Things go bad, because you know they must, as Koba goes on a killing rampage, after locking up the good apes. But oh no, the leader is dead and only he can stop this madness. But guess what, he’s not dead. When the killing rampage began I tuned partly out and started playing solitaire. (Queue predictable killing sequence.)

Koba, apes, Dawn of Planet of the Apes, simian virus

Koba plays coy before becoming murderous. Copyright 20th Century Fox

Koba ends us killing Ash, Blue Eyes’ friend while Blue Eyes stands and watches with those big sad doe eyes. And Ash doesn’t really fight back at all. It’s the same thing that Frodo did in LOTR and it drove me nuts. Too much standing around and emoting with big, liquidy eyes. Do something!

Dreyfus has his last rally and is willing to kill all the humans (like Koba killing the apes) because of some weirdness that’s never clear. The apes can’t have the tower. So what? So he blows it sky high, along with himself. But while the good guys rally, the end is near and war will ensue, and away we go. Next, more Planet of the Apes remakes. Please please please, try to get a plot that’s half way original and not so predictable.

Overall, besides the awesome special effects, the plot was snoresville. I give this only two slippery banana peels.

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under art, Culture, entertainment, movies

Writing: The Playground of Lost Toys

books, publishing, collection, reprints, ebooks, Smashwords, writing, book production

Creative Commons: Ninha Morandini

“Usually at least once in a person’s childhood we lose an object that at the time is invaluable and irreplaceable to us, although it is worthless to others. Many people remember that lost article for the rest of their lives. Whether it was a lucky pocketknife, a transparent plastic bracelet given to you by your father, a toy you had longed for and never expected to receive, but there it was under the tree on Christmas… it makes no difference what it was. If we describe it to others and explain why it was so important, even those who love us smile indulgently because to them it sounds like a trivial thing to lose. Kid stuff. But it is not. Those who forget about this object have lost a valuable, perhaps even crucial memory. Because something central to our younger self resided in that thing. When we lost it, for whatever reason, a part of us shifted permanently.”

Jonathan Carroll

Ursula Pflug and I will be co-editing a speculative anthology titled The Playground of Lost Toys. This will be published by Exile Editions, in time for the holiday season. See below for guidelines.

Our childhood toys embodied our emotions. We just knew our favourite doll loved us, and that our toy soldier was as brave as we would be if given the chance. A child easily attributes magical powers, personality or secrets to a coloured stone or a twisted stick, but don’t we continue to do so as adults, just in different ways? Certain objects accrue power from the home or the landscape, absorbing our dreams and wishes, and the elemental energies that lie buried in a sandbox, hidden in the closet, or in the bole of a tree.

writing, Canadian anthology, Steve Vernon, Colleen Anderson, Tesseracts 17, Edge Publications

Get writing and send us your best.

Stories should touch on wonder, mystery, dread, awe: the delight when a strange toy appears, or loss when a cherished plaything is broken. A tale might, for example, explore the classroom ritual of show and tell, or the lost and found box in the corner of the gym in the moon colony.

Toys are often gendered so that beloved hockey stick might belong to a girl and the flying figure skates to a boy. Dolls reflect not just societal notions about gender but also about diversity; Mattel, for example didn’t issue a black Barbie till the late 60’s and then amidst controversy. These tensions can all be rich sources of speculative inspiration!

anthology, writing, submissions

Creative commons: photosteve101, flickr

What if there was a Matryoshka doll where each smaller container held mysteries to the seven wonders of the world, or a toy spaceship that entered other dimensions? Imagine a paper fan that controls the wind, a whistle that calls back the dead, a Chinese tiger hand puppet that protects. While these suggestions are fantastical, we also want stories about “normal” toys in science fictional or fantastic settings. Additionally, the toy itself needs to appear or disappear, to be “lost” or “found.” This need not be the core of the story arc, but it should be an element. Toys don’t have to be physical but could be metaphorical or allegorical as well.

Speculative subgenres from steampunk to magic realism will be considered. Excessive gore will be a hard sell. Sex is okay, if it’s integral to the story. Tales that are multi-faceted and go beyond a simple nostalgic trip down memory’s lane will have a better chance. We welcome QUILTBAG and/or People of Colour authors. At least 90% of the authors must be Canadian (or pay taxes in Canada); we can consider only a small percentage from other locales.

SUBMISSION LENGTH: Original, unpublished prose up to 5,000. Slightly longer works are okay but query for longer lengths. No reprints, no multiple submissions. Canadian spelling. Please follow standard manuscript format. If you don’t know what that is google William Shunn’s manuscript format. If we reject your story before the deadline, you’re welcome to send another.

PAYMENT: .05/word

SUBMISSION PERIOD: Feb. 1, 2015-Apr. 30, 2015 (midnight PST)

RIGHTS: English World rights, one-year exclusive print and digital, non-exclusive reprint rights, Exile Editions

PUBLICATION DATE: Nov. 2015 (tentative)

SUBMISSIONS: Through submittable. (this link might not work until Feb. 1)

NOTE: If your address is outside of Canada, please indicate whether you are Canadian expat (and paying taxes to Canada) or what your citizenship is. We have very limited space for stories from outside of Canada.

We are getting a LOT of doll stories. Please note the guidelines. While a doll story or maybe two could be accepted, we won’t be taking all that many. This is to be a diverse anthologies that covers toys that were, toys that are and toys that are yet to be.  Think about the word “toy.” What do people toy with? There are adult toys; computers are toys, people are toys, animals have toys, aliens have toys. Go wild! Make something up and think outside the sandbox!

2 Comments

Filed under entertainment, fairy tales, fantasy, horror, Publishing, science fiction, Writing

WordPress Takes Another Unfortunate Page From Facebook

frustration, computer annoyance. changing sites, website frustration

Thanks, WordPress, for doing it again, with no instructions. Creative Commons attribute.

It’s amazing how various companies feel the need to constantly refresh and rearrange their look, their feel, their software. Every new version of Microsoft seems worse than the one before but uses way more memory so you have to constantly upgrade your hardware. It’s a make-work project. How do you employ thousands of people if you create something so awesomely efficient that someone never needs to buy another piece? Planned obsolescence and inefficiencies are part of the market model, which in the long run, is unsustainable, uses up resources and burdens landfills.

While I’m not surprised by this, I am constantly annoyed. I hate Facebook for its unending changes, and  sneaky tweakings of policies so that while you have never intended to sell your soul to the devil, a legal spindoctor has suddenly changed it so that if you didn’t say, I don’t want to sell my soul to the devil, then you’re automatically in hell. Oh wait, Facebook is hell. Google has done similar tricky business.

 

Wordpress, blogging, Fresh Pressed,

Fresh Pressed was dynamic, colorful and right there for easy access.

And WordPress, alas! Why oh why? Let’s see, what was once good, and what changes have appeared, without any instruction or direction to the new design? Remember Fresh Pressed? You’d sign in and get a page of highlighted “pressed” blogs for the week. The page was colorful and interesting, dynamic because it always changed. (Hey WordPress, one of the first rules of websites is to make them dynamic. What have you done?) I found blogs that I follow because of Fresh Pressed. Now, it’s tucked away in some spider-infested corner and I never see a new blog anymore unless I go hunting.

Then there was that change a year or two ago. Ooh, sleek, ooh, simple. So simple in fact that I couldn’t find my way into my blog, to making posts and to checking stats. Why? Because WordPress decided to make a teeny tiny W icon that you have to click on, like the secret hidden pathway behind a bookcase, but way not as much fun. And let me tell you, when I tried using WordPress help it was like talking to a robot that said the same things but never read my question. It was another blogger who finally pointed out the miniscule icon.

One good thing was more developed stats. I could scroll over the graph and see what day I had posted, how many people visited one page and how many people looked at multiple pages. Now. Well, I have good old-fashioned retro bars that just show how many people in a day have visited. Yeah simple. Boring. The maps are still there and that’s a good thing but Wordpess, bring back the old way.

Wordpress annoyance, blog page

Soon you will need to follow a trail of breadcrumbs to find WordPress.

And of course with the new year, presto! Yet another new freaking look and no way to find my blog. Sure, I can find blogs I follow, and I can find my profile. I can’t find comments from readers. I can’t find the useful sidebar and all the tools to write a post. I can find a blog window to write in and only by going back to the CLASSIC design have I been able to do what I’ve always done. Post pictures, highlight text, add tags, approve comments. Really, WordPress, that’s why it’s classic. It works.

I was going to post about the unfortunate array of what classifies as dating, or about my work on the Viking longboat. And yes, I will be posting about both of those, and a long list of writing achievements. But right now, I’m expressing my annoyance at WordPress thinking they’ll be one of the cool kids if they just continue to mix things up. Don’t follow Facebook’s example. Don’t be like Microsoft, which has increased the sales of Apple products. WordPress won’t listen to me. I guess this is just a cautionary tale. :/

6 Comments

Filed under internet, Writing

My Mother the Squirrel

Happy New Year, World! I hope we can see more peace and calm and less fanaticism this year, but it’s not looking likely. However, I’ll do my bit for compassion and understanding and remember, it’s the microcosm, your neighbors, your friends and your family that can make for a more loving place.

winter, pack rat, cold, hoarder, food

Creative Commons: Zeeksie @ Deviant Art

On that note, I traveled to the frozen wastelands (as I see it) of Alberta to visit friends and family over the holidays. While I’ve been back in recent years I’ve tried to avoid winter  because it is evil and bone-chilling. I decided to brave it for the winter festivity and because my mother is 91. Two weeks I spent, and overall the weather was only -28 for about three days. The rest was in the -5 range, balmy for Alberta.

It gave me a chance to visit friends, find some long lost cousins, and do the family thing. Staying at my mother’s, and with my organizer personality, it meant cleaning out drawers, cupboards or closets. Even my sister, who might be considered closer to the hoarder personality (she moved in the this summer, purportedly with boxes to the ceiling) felt my organizer bee abilities. We were driving all over the city to do some pre-Christmas shopping and as I sat in the passenger seat of the moderately messy car, she asked me to look for her Superstore card.

purses, overstuffed purse, hoarding, pack rat

Not my sister’s actual purse but a close representation. Creative Commons: http://jewelrypurse.blogspot.ca/

Grabbing that rather pregnant purse, I pulled out the overstuffed wallet. No card. Turns out there were two other holders with plastic cards. Still no card but I started to go through her bulging wallet, putting Tim Hortons (the Canadian doughnut gods) and Shoppers Drug Mart gift cards together. There was more than one and I have never seen so many store cards before. My sister could be the goodwill ambassador for commercialism and store marketing.

In the process of cleaning her wallet I found coupons that had expired and others that soon would. There was a forest of business cards, many for businesses she no longer frequented. In fact, this mothership of store cards had very little actual cash and took up most of the room in a moderate sized purse. When I was done, there was a small plastic shopping bag full of paper. Her wallet lost several inches in girth and actually closed by the clasp.

At my mother’s it was much as it had been two year’s previously. I exclaimed, “Mom, you’re a squirrel! There’s candies and nuts everywhere.” This time, as I started to clean up for Christmas dinner, I decided to inventory my mother’s squirrel hoard. To put some of this into perspective, my mother grew up during the Depression, in a small coal mining town. A treat at Hallowe’en was an actual fresh apple, something we would sneer at today. She traveled to a large city with her friend to find work. They slept in ditches with their one small suitcase and hitchhiked to get there, when it was much safer to do so.

squirrels, hoarding, food, pack ratss

This is not my actual mother but she stores food like the queen of squirrels. Creative Commons: http://theairspace.net/commentary/squirrels/

Going through the Depression and then WWII where rationing was practiced everywhere, my mother learned to appreciate being prepared. Long before the days of Costco she hunted out food wholesalers and would buy toilet paper and other items in bulk. After her divorce, she continued her frugality, and would buy day-old bread from a bakery, up to 24 loaves, which were then frozen. She also sold Tupperware, when we were very young and I remember my brother and I playing in the large container suitcase. So yes, my mother still has nearly three shelves of Tupperware, which, by the time I organized it, was only two.

She had five knife sharpeners (and nothing but dull knives), six cheese/food graters and more pots than a restaurant kitchen. In fact, she’s never thrown out a pot or handle-less cup since I was a child. A Taurus mug that I used when about 12 was there, the handle gone. I convinced her to throw out a few pots where the Teflon was worn but then she balked at getting rid of the two aluminum, electric frying pans that she no longer uses.

In cleaning out a spare closet I found crafts going back to the 70’s; unfinished potholders and head-sized balls of wool. One partially finished needlepoint of a forest, with the bag of woo, she told me she had bought it in England during the war, before any of us were born! She’d never worked on it since. There was a pillow cover, to be embroidered that had Canada’s flag, the Union Jack. That’s how old it was. There was a three-foot plastic bin of gifts for unexpected g, which she had forgotten about. Then there were the cosmetic bags, for traveling. Two were stuffed full, then a triple decker bag, extra deep, chock full of lotions, shampoo, conditioners and other small toiletries. Some were very ancient and dead. Others half used, and many unopened. She must have gone on a burglary spree of hotels.

I cannot name all of the things I cleaned and boggled at, such as health supplements in at least four places, or the spices in pretty much every cupboard. If you’re thinking my mother is going senile, you’re wrong. She’s pretty sharp still and has always liked to keep things, lots and lots of things. Like every scrap of wrapping paper ever used (I threw out a three–foot pile some years back), or enough bulbs to light half of the city, or coats.

Purdys, candy, chocolate, food, hoarding, sweet tooth

My mother’s not so secret love affair is with Purdy‘s made in Vancouver, Canada.

All of this pales  in comparison to the food items and not just any food, but chocolates and candies. My mother shrunk this last year to 4’9″ and she lost weight. She was never overly large but stores like a squirrel. In doing the inventory, I counted every bag or container that was open on the kitchen table (her place has two kitchens,up and down but she used the bottom one for eating) or on the table by the chair where she watches TV, or on the counter upstairs. There were the nutrolls in the fridge upstairs, and then in the deep freeze there were 17 boxes of After Eight mints. She claims she can only find them at certain times of the year and when her stomach is upset the mint helps (with chocolate of course). There were also another five boxes of Purdy’s chocolates.

Purdy’s should have a plaque to my mother: I’m sure she keeps them in business. The upstairs cupboard had the main squirrel hoard. There were hard candies, contained in bags or bought bulk. I pooled many into one container. There were Scotch mints and licorice all sorts, mint chocolate bars from Purdy’s, Jordan almonds, nougat (hard as a rock), and some Italian coconut confection, a few Smarties or M&Ms. I didn’t count raisins because they’re a natural food. When I thought I was done, I discovered a container of icy squares and of Ferrero Rocher in the closet. Then, as  we pulled dishes out of the china cabinet for Christmas dinner, lo and behold there were two large bulk bags of chocolate squares and a mega box of liqueur chocolates where the liqueur had dried up.

I thought I was done but I was looking in a cupboard for a pot and lo, there was a box of chocolate covered cookies. And then I looked in another cupboard and found another five boxes, plus some other cookies. My mother was given another two boxes of chocolates for Christmas and chocolate covered cookies, plus some Italian candies. And then three days after she bought a tin on sale. She said to me that she had all this stuff because if she got sick there was enough to carry her through. I told her, “Well, Mom, if the apocalypse comes, you’ll survive it on chocolate alone.”

Readers may recall that I did the apocalypse diet a year ago, and with the food in my place (no hoards of candy) I survivef for three months without buying anything. My mother would run out of real food in probably less time than I did but then I didn’t count her dry goods staples. However, the final count of cookies, candies and chocolates in my mother’s place was…ready for this? ONE HUNDRED AND SIX! Yes, indeed. The Guinness Book of Records needs to talk to my mom.

All in all this was a lesson to me. I determined there are three levels of “collector.” I’m the curator because I have many ornaments and tchatkas (like my mother…sigh) but I dust and you can walk through my place. My mother is the pack rat, because she stores things for unforeseeable disasters, and my sister is the hoarder, who keeps more than my mother but can’t find things. It’s a fine line between them and it’s a lesson to me not to hang onto things I no longer use or need. I barely escaped without a suitcase of chocolates.

1 Comment

Filed under family, food, home, life, people

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 38,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 14 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture

Fetishes, Flaming and Facts

A few weeks ago an extremely popular, Canadian interview host, Jian Ghomeshi, was fired from CBC radio. When this first happened, CBC said it was because of information they had received about Ghomeshi. Well, that was rather mysterious. I point out that I also heard this on CBC Radio, not on another station. (I don’t have TV so I get my news by listening to radio.) Then Ghomeshi put out a  statement that he has a kinky lifestyle and indulges in bondage and domination, and that CBC found this “sexual behavior was unbecoming of a prominent host.”

Jian Ghomeshi, rape culture, sexual abuse, kinky lifestyle

Ghomeshi in the Q studio. From: http://www.blogto.com

Jian Ghomeshi hosted the popular radio show called Q. He interviewed many famous personages from writers and politicians to actors and singers. The interviews were good, with depth and Ghomeshi asked good questions. He received at least one award for his interviews. For those who watched the filmed versions, Ghomeshi had charm and women found him cute, handsome or some other mysterious mix of enticing.

Now, it’s a known fact that our current, super, ultra right-wing, Conservative government thinks the arts only consist of artists standing around in evening gowns and tuxes sipping champagne (to paraphrase a comment from our prime minster), which shows the lack of reality in how tough it is for artists to make a living and the disconnect  when even political speeches and political party branding come from artists. It’s also known that Prime Minster Harper is trying to muzzle scientists and get rid of the CBC by drastic funding cuts. These days I’ve heard the same program as many as three times in one week, due to these cuts. Q and The Current are two radio shows that through their popularity have survived so far.

Now, because Prime Minster Harper’s strict and religious roots tend to show from time to time (and unlike the US, Canada has not mixed religion and politics) and from what looked like the unveiling of Ghomeshi’s sexual practices and CBC’s vagueness, it seemed pretty clear what had happened.

I posted the following on my public facebook page:

So CBC fires Jian Ghomeshi because he leads an alternative lifestyle. So what! Let’s get this right. He is not a criminal and hasn’t been charged with anything. This is the same as CBC firing someone because they’re gay, or single, or married, or like to do it in the missionary position. It’s no one’s business.

Let’s not mention how the Harper government has stripped CBC of programming so badly that the nakedness of this national broadcasting station is far more shameful. And as Pierre Trudeau once said, and CBC exec, you should pay attention: “There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.”

And what can I say…the vitriol started to fly. Remember, this was within 24-48 hours of the initial news and it sounded like he didn’t meet their ideal of upright citizen.

One response was this (language alert):

God, I am so sick and fucking tired of seeing this unexamined argument. The CBC fired Ghomeshi because he’s under journalistic (and not far off from a criminal) investigation into multiple instances of rape and a host of things too foul to mention. Ghomeshi is not the injured party.

At this point what I had heard on CBC Radio was that there was no criminal investigation, no mention of rape and no mention of things too foul to mention (Iif they weren’t mentioned, how do we know they are foul?). I have to say I wasn’t doggedly digging up every article coming out and I don’t live in Toronto, so perhaps the super irate people were glued to their media devices (I was at work). I thought it unfair to fire someone on hearsay of a possible kinky and consensual lifestyle as it was presented. I said, what happened to innocent until proven guilty and got even more anger.

…you’ve got the wrong end of the stick, and … actually, fuck it. I’m done. You go do whatever you want.

So, okay…the conversation had only just begun but obviously, according to some people, I’d thrown in with Jian Ghomeshi. More people made it sound like I hadn’t a clue about the world, that abuse doesn’t always go reported, that I thought rape was good, that I didn’t care about women’s rights. No one said this but they sure implied it. I responded with the following (if you want the full thread you can find me on facebook and read it):

Let’s put it this way. Let’s say you jam olives up your nose. While most people don’t (do this) and more don’t like it, it’s not illegal. However someone tells your employer that you’re an olive jammer and you’re fired on the spot, because they don’t like it and it’s shameful. Now let’s say you stomp olives and that’s illegal. Well then you’ll be charged and the courts will rule accordingly. Should you be fired while it’s going on, even if you only sell hot dogs or collect garbage? And yeah, Rob Ford wasn’t fired. They couldn’t wedge him out.

If Ghomeshi is guilty or if there is enough evidence then he’ll be charged for a crime. However, the CBC firing someone because of an alternative lifestyle is no different to when the gov’t used to check up on women on welfare in the 40s to make sure they didn’t have boyfriends. It’s about rights (and yes if women didn’t consent and were abused, that’s an abuse of rights) but the right to free speech and the right to having sex however you like it is there for everyone, unless it harms someone, unless it’s consensual. And sorry, but no matter what the courts say there are many many people who have relationships that are “kinky” however you define it and that’s consensual whether you or I like it or not.

Someone then said well yes, you can fire people before they’re charged and posted about the guy who was fired as a CEO because there was a video of him kicking his dog in an elevator. However, that’s tangible evidence…a video. At this point it was CBC and Ghomeshi saying he’d been fired because of the sexual practices. It was not yet clear on how much CBC knew or believed.

If anyone has a doubt about how I feel about women’s rights and sexual abuse and if anyone even presumes to think that I think this okay, then they’re guilty of jumping to conclusions. I was defending human rights based on what I heard, reported by the radio broadcaster that fired Ghomeshi. Perhaps people should think before they grab pitchforks and torches. I’ve been sexually abused by my father and I can say I never shed a tear when that monster died. I’ve spoken about rape culture and sexual abuse in such posts as “She Dressed that Way; She Must Have Wanted It,” and “Rape; It’s Just a Social Media Trend.” So if someone thinks I support sexual abuse, then they don’t know a thing about me.

Since I posted, something like eight women have come forward with allegations that Ghomeshi’s sexual practices were not consensual. I have only heard one interview and while it seems no one was raped, they were assaulted in other ways. I could be wrong about this. I haven’t seen the reports. That’s a lot of people,  even without hard evidence. Witnesses are used in trial and there could very well be a body of information to convict him.  I never said he was innocent except for saying he wasn’t a criminal when CBC was extremely vague about why they fired him. I was defending a person’s rights to be innocent until proven guilty. I saw an infringement on the rights of someone to an alternative lifestyle, not an infringement due to sexual abuse which was as yet not made clear. And now, CBC execs have given more information.

I wonder about Ghomeshi. Someone of his fame indulging in a fetish lifestyle that left marks would have needed to be extra careful. And I know people of many walks of life and of different lifestyles. Some sexual practices aren’t for the faint of heart but there are people who pursue and like variations that might be “too foul to mention” for others. As I’ve always said, if it’s consensual, then it’s no one else’s business. But I”ll stress. IT MUST BE CONSENSUAL (and of legal age).

If Ghomeshi is guilty of abuse, then he must have been arrogant and narcissistic to think something like this wouldn’t surface. Either that, or he wanted to be caught. Either way, the courts will decide. However, it is true that many women never voice the threats and abuse that have happened to them. My father got away with it. And it’s complicated why he wasn’t brought to trial. There were others who were too damaged to go through that. I’ve seen what a trial can do to a woman who was raped, how it’s made to seem that she enticed, that she flaunted, that she taunted, that she was the guilty party. I will never condone sexual abuse, and I’m pretty insulted that people presumed that about me and conflated my comments about human rights with supposedly supporting sexual abuse.

If I’ve made enemies, that’s fine. I’m glad that we have people running trials and gathering evidence. Otherwise, I might already have been lynched by misconceptions. Ghomeshi is on trial on many levels already. This has shed a light on the fact that rape culture still runs rampant, that women are still blamed when they are raped. Let’s not even get into other cultures and how a woman can be stoned if she’s raped or called a slut. It makes my blood boil.

I will however say again, that if someone was fired because they were into spanking, or bondage, or master-slave relationships that were consensual that they have that right to do in their own home as they wish with adult and consenting partners. You and I don’t need to like it. We might find it too foul to mention but that’s not a reason for a person to lose their job. Our private lives are our rights and gay and lesbian culture and relationships were once treated as being too foul to mention.

 

2 Comments

Filed under Culture, news, people, sex

Fall Soups: Squash, Rice and Chicken

kabocha, cooking, recipes, squash, squash soup

Kabocha squash. Scoop out the seeds and roast them like pumpkin seeds. Creative Commons: Namayamsai LLP

When it comes to fall, I always make up a bunch of soups and freeze them. They’re good on a rainy or cold day, or when I’m tired and haven’t left time to make a lunch in the mornings. I have a great recipe book called The New Soup Bible by Anne Sheasby. There are several editions so the soups tend to be different in each one. They are also British and will list items like courgettes and aubergines (zucchini and eggplant to us North Americans) but measurements are in imperial and metric. Nutrition values are also given, which is helpful when I’m trying to watch my intake.

A couple of weeks ago I ended up making chicken stock because we’d had a Thanksgiving lunch at work. I can’t see a good chicken carcass go to waste and always make stock anytime I have one at home. So I hauled these babies home. I also keep cuttings from onions, celery and carrots to make veggie stock so I added these all in, with a bay leaf and some salt and pepper. I ended up with a lot of stock and a good selection of meat. So I had to make some soups. I’ve made succotash soup, and besides the cartoon Sylvester saying, “Thufferin’ thuccotash,” I actually had  no idea what it was.

Succotash soup is southern American (though it was first Native American) and the essential ingredients are corn and lima beans. The recipe I made is thickened with flour and comes out a light creamy yellow. So hearty is this soup that a serving is 500 calories though I saved mine into smaller containers. I didn’t take pictures of this but I have about four soups to make as  room appears in my freezer. I also made Chicken Coconut soup, with coconut milk, green curry and full on yumminess. I put a touch too much lemon grass in but otherwise, it’s super delicious.

Next I took a recipe for pumpkin, rice and chicken soup. The recipe calls for the following:

  • 3-4 c. chicken stock

    squash soup, fall soups, kabocha

    Stirring kobocha and leeks.

  • 1 wedge of pumpkin
  • 1 Tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 Tbsp butter (I used olive oil for the oil and butter)
  • 2 leeks chopped
  • 5 green cardamon pods (I used black pods)
  • 1/2 c. basmati rice
  • 1.5 c. milk (I used almond milk)
  • pared orange rind to garnish (I didn’t have oranges so skipped this)
  • salt and pepper to taste (I also added a bit of marjoram)

I wasn’t sure how much a wedge of pumpkin is since pumpkin comes in all sizes. I also didn’t feel like being stuck with a lot of pumpkin so I used a kabocha (Japanese) squash, partly because a friend had brought some to a Thanksgiving dinner and it was tasty. In fact, I ate one quarter of the squash one night with cilantro, lime and olive oil. You can also roast the seeds. I also ate the thin green skin. I’m a proponent of eating skins if they are edible because there are many nutrients that are lost when yams or potatoes (for example) are peeled. These squat green gourds are slightly sweet and more yellowy-orange.

The recipe calls for cutting the pumpkin into cubes and slicing the leeks, then sauteeing in olive oil in a pan. (They called for sunflower oil but I used what I have.) I had pre-cooked the squash in the oven with a bit of olive oil so I cut it up and added it in, with the skin, realizing when I pureed it that it was going to possibly be spotty and not that orange. I also could not find green cardamon pods so I bought black pods. I believe that, unlike the green ones, these are roasted. They had a smokey smell but I tossed them in. Once everything is tender, you add in half the stock and stir.

kabocha, squash soup, cooking

The finished soup, with rice, chicken and squash.

Before pureeing you remove the pods. I forgot and a small one got ground up. I just have a wee Magic Bullet so I had to do batches and the squash/leek paste was so thick I had to add some of the milk at that stage. While this is all cooking, I put the rice on. Again I didn’t have basmati rice but brown and red rice mixed together. Rice is rice for this soup.

I poured the puree back into the pot, added the rest of the chicken stock and chicken, and the milk. This soup was pea-soup thick so I increased the milk to 2 cups. I added the rice but decided that it was still too thick so I added several cups of water. You could make this as thick or thin as you wanted.

The appearance is a little more green and there are slight flecks of green from the skins. The taste is slightly smoky and not like green cardamon at all but I think it works well and is balance by the slight sweetness of the kabocha and the savory leeks. A successful and very tasty soup. Instead of 4 servings, I end up with 8. Nutrition breakdown for 8 servings is: 158 calories, 5.4 gm fats, 15 gm carbohydrates, 12.3 gm protein, 36 mg cholesterol.

Leave a comment

Filed under food

Mysterious Mushroom

puffballs, mushrooms, eating

From Tom Volk’s fungus site. This shows the scleroderma citrinum mushroom

Earlier this summer I was yakking to my neighbor when I looked down and saw a potato colored stone at my feet. It was the size of a small plum and, like the crow I am, I reached down to pick up the interesting stone and in the process recognized it as vegetable, or more accurately, fungus. I exclaimed to my neighbor, “Hey, it’s a puffball mushroom but I’ve never seen one that wasn’t wrinkly and puffing out its spores.”

mushrooms, edible fungus, puffballs

I didn’t get a picture of the full mushroom but you can see how tiny it was, and black inside.

I was intrigued. This little beast was firm and a light tan, like a new potato, with a wee tendril root at its base. I said I was going to eat it, to which my neighbor looked dubious. Oh, don’t worry, I assured him, puffballs are edible if they’re not sporing. But really, what did I know? I used to work upgrading hiking trails and got totally into trying to find edible plans. Chicken of the woods, those ripply fungi that grow on the sides of trees, were supposed to be edible and taste like, yes, chicken. But the ones I found were always woody and not the tender young things needed for chicken fungus.

calvatia cyathaformis, true puffball, cooking mushrooms

What do you do with a wee shroom? You fry it up in some garlic oil.
Hope it doesn’t kill you.

Being not a total idiot (or perhaps I was) I took the shroom inside and cut it open. I was very surprised by the black texture. Most puffballs are a solid white/cream mass, just like the outside of a button mushroom. My photos aren’t that good but it wasn’t solid black, more like what it would have looked like if you paced it tightly with black poppy seeds. Well, black guts! There was no way I was going to eat this without reading up more. Was it bad? Was it a truffle?

Neither, though truffles do have black interiors but look completely different.. It is indeed a puffball  earthball, of the variety Calvatia Cyathiformis, most likely scleroderma cepa. It’s hard to find pictures on the internet and most say that scleroderma are poisonous though I found a book on Amazon that says they’re edible.  The mushroom was very firm, and had no smell.

The puffball earthball was so small I thought I’d do a taste test and used mildly flavored garlic olive oil. I fried the slices for about then minutes and the color turned a bit more brownish. The texture remained firm, not like button mushrooms that can turn really soft. I survived with no ill effects. This was my first wild mushroom, picked by me, and it seems the internet lead me astray! Now I want to point out that I did several hours research before even contemplating cooking it. After all, I’ve seen The Forsaken and Clint Eastwood’s fungus embroilment. I didn’t want a repeat. Probably because it was so small it hadn’t developed its toxins yet, but I can tell you that after another two hours of searching on the internet that I can’t find the sites I read originally and that there aren’t a lot of great pictures. The skin was not scaly, there was no root and only a tendril. It wasn’t bitter at all but tasty.  The scleroderma cepa is used as a soil inoculant and while I don’t know what that means, it means any soil put in the yard could have carried these spores. So don’t eat these guys. Don’t try this at home kids. And just so you know, my neighbor’s gingko tree has been dropping apricot colored fruit but I will not be trying these even if you can eat up to five before you might be poisoned!

calvatia cyathiformis, frying mushrooms, cooking, wild mushrooms

My first taste of a wild mushroom. I wish I had more.
I’m glad I didn’t become one.

So maybe I am stupid after all. :-/ (Thanks to Hillary for pointing this out.)

 

5 Comments

Filed under environment, food

Edgar Allan Poe and Crowdfunding

Poe, macabre, dark fantasy, horror, Gothic fiction, Edgar Allan Poe, crowdfunding

Poe themed coffin art by AhtheMacabra. There are only four and two are claimed.

I have to mention this particular crowdfunding because I just love it. There are many projects out there from books to gadgets and many add perks that entice people to donate. Not only do you often receive the item that the crowdfunding is for but you also get extras. With publishing it’s a hard numbers game. Costs of printing and distribution are set. So you have to add those costs into a cover price but if you go too high no one will buy your book. (For the purposes of this blog, book means paper and/or ebook.)

Publishers have to pay their staff and if they’re small or independent presses that staff might include unpaid interns or no one but the editor and possibly another dedicated soul or two. Those publishers have to pay their writers and while no book would exist without the writer, we are often at the bottom of the pay pile. I do not agree with publishing “for the love” as it’s called and believe that if you’re publishing a book for the love you should still pay the authors for their labor. Because of this structure, often paying everyone hinges on selling enough of a book. The publishers must market and sell and promote in as many ways as they can and a great amount of money can get caught up in marketing alone. These days the business models include the authors also trying to market themselves. And of course, there is crowdfunding, where you get a more direct piece of the pie and can buy into projects you might never have seen otherwise.

mystery fiction, Gothic fiction, fantasy anthology, Nancy Kilpatrick, Caro Soles

The anthology nEvermore! will collect tales from authors of mystery, murder and the macabre.

So I come to nEvermore! Tales of Murder, Mystery and the Macabre. Editors Nancy Kilpatrick and Caro Soles have come up with a great idea. The anthology will contain many tales. The indiegogo campaign says:

Poe is the father of the modern detective story.  And his genius at writing dark, supernatural tales and poems is legendary.  Poe wrote at a time when genres didn’t exist.  Readers wanted a good story; how it fit on a bookstore shelf didn’t matter.  We want to recapture that sense of excitement and discovery of short fiction. 

nEvermore! will bring together mystery writers who include a slash of the supernatural and dark fantasy/horror writers who slip across the shadows and touch on the mystery genre.  This will be a  “big book,” an homage to the glorious, Gothic style of the master, Edgar Allan Poe, bringing Poe-inspired fiction into the 21st century.  A book that will revive and refresh all of us who love to read short fiction! Help us create this unusual anthology.  Be a part of it!

poetry, Gothic fiction, Edge Publishing, horror, fiction crowdfunding, fantasy anthology

Living Dead Dolls of Poe and Annabell Lee, with coffin, raven and death certificate.

As with most crowdfundings, you donate different amounts and receive different or more perks. The perks here are wonderful and unique. For writers, there is a writing contest to be included in the anthology. For $50 you get “Descent into the Maelstrom,” which includes a nEvermore ebook, a free download of The Raven by Masochistic Religion, and entry into the writing contest. Only three stories will be chosen and there are 100 spots in the campaign. For $125 you get one of the coffins pictured above (each one individual and only four were made), an ebook and the music download. These adorable Poe dolls are rare and only one set is available for $250, under “Premature Burial,” which also includes an e or print book and the music download.

For other writers, you can pay $1,000 to have a full-on critique of your manuscript and face to face time (or phone depending where you live) with Nancy or Caro. This is a fair price (plus you get the book and the download as well). As a copyeditor, I have easily charged this to copyedit a novel manuscript, though copyediting is somewhat different than critiquing. Who are Nancy Kilpatrick and Caro Soles?

Nancy Kilpatrick is an award-winning author and editor known for her dark fantasy/horror and mystery stories.  She has published 18 novels, over 200 short stories, 6 collections, 1 non-fiction book, and has edited 14 anthologies.  She has worked for major publishing houses and small presses and some of her fiction has been translated in several foreign languages.  Poe’s works have been a lifelong passion and she is thrilled to have this opportunity to create an anthology that honors this exceptional author of style and genius.
Poe, the Raven, nevermore, Caro Soles, Nancy Kilpatrick, horror

Quoth the raven, I have to have my nails done. You know you want them.

 

Caro Soles is best known for founding the Bloody Words Mystery Conference to highlight Canadian mystery writing. She received the Derrick Murdoch Award from the Crime Writers of Canada, was short-listed for the Lambda Literary Award, and inaugurated the Bloody Words Mystery Award several years ago.  She has published 11 novels and many short stories and has edited several mystery anthologies.  She writes and reads mysteries, teaches writing at George Brown College and loves a good ghost story.

Nevermore, the Raven, Poe,

nEvermore! a Poe-inspired anthology. Support the crowdfunding and get the book.

There are many other perks in this crowdfunding campaign, from Poe lunchboxes, action figures, stamps, band-aids and air freshener as well as raven books, nails, magnets and plushies. Some items are very limited so check it out now. New perks will be arriving as others sell out. So how fun is that? Support authors, get an awesome anthology and other fun items. Go here. On for two more weeks. It’s definitely a win-win.

 

1 Comment

Filed under art, Culture, fantasy, horror, people, Publishing, Writing