Monthly Archives: October 2008

Calgary World Fantasy Convention

I’ll be writing later on the convention. I’m in Calgary and there is no place that has wireless for free, very different than Vancouver, where it is free nearly everywhere. This is also the first hotel (the Hyatt)where they charge $13.95 a day for wireless usage! I’ve never been in a hotel before that charged, not in recent years.

It’s cold and clear today but above 0. I ran into John Douglas nearly right away. We had tried to contact each other but my email had changed and I lost his. I met him years ago in New Orleans WFC. He’s an expat Canadian who was working for Avon books at that time. We’ll catch up soon. The only way I have internet is by the good graces of David Hartwell who snuck me up into the “Regency Suite” where internet is free.

And now I must go down and collect my coat and find a drink before the evening’s parties. There is an open mic reading at 10 and I’ll read a couple of poems then.

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

Afraid of the Dark

In 2000 I wrote monthly columns for an online magazine titled Fearsmag. I was paid to write whatever I wanted. This was a lot of fun for me. I decided to write on fears and would pick a different one each month. I started in October. Unfortunately, I only wrote four articles before the dotcom crunch swept away the magazine.

As a child were you ever afraid of the dark, of the things that lived in your closet? I was. I would always imagine the devil lurking beneath my bed and I had to try to look under it to dispel the notion without letting the devil grab my hair and pull me under. What of the dark of the great outdoors: I would sing as I checked on my rabbit whose pen was around the side of the house. In the dark where creepy unknowns leered and watched I would bravely sing my way through and thus conquered my fear.

We’re approaching that time of the year traditionally known for facing fears and shadows and for fear of shadows. The dark and night have always been associated with the unseen, both physical and spiritual. It represents fears, hidden desires and the underworld where anything is possible. One never talks of a lover’s sun but a lover’s moon, the brightness that lights the way on emotion’s dark swirling sea. Vampires can’t abide by sunlight, werewolves howl at the moon and roam only at night. All that is feared and evil and able to overpower our rational minds and our frail bodies crawls and creeps and flutters through the night.

It is an old fear, the dying of a season, the coming of the dark months, but one that has hit almost every culture and stayed with us in our traditions to this day. To the ancient Celtic people this time of year was known as Samhain (sow-en)*, or Summer’s End, the turning of the old year and the birth of the new. It was the darkest of times, the sun grew ever more reluctant to show its diminished face, the fruits had long abandoned the trees, and even the leaves fell in their death dances. Cold winds blew over the heath, rain fell like mourning tears and people filled their root cellars with preserves, the sheds with wood and they knitted warm clothing for the oncoming siege of winter. Who knew if the sun would ever return?

What could they do to coax back the sun? Samhain was the turning of the great wheel of time, but was there any surety that that wheel would continue to turn, or like a well worn wagon, would that wheel topple, never to spin again? Sensible people filled their larders, prayed to the gods and did what they could to appease the forces of nature.

From this fear of the never ending darkness came Samhain or the celebration of Hallowe’en (All Hallow’s Eve). As the wind moaned through the standing stones and waves dashed unheedingly into rocks, people knew that the souls of the dead were wandering closer to the land of the living. The underworld was nearer than ever, the veil that separated the living and dead drew apart and souls could once more traverse the land. And woe to the person who had caused a wrong. Everyone dreaded the departed returning for reparation.

As the earth grew brittle with cold and streams could numb limbs blue, it was only natural that such souls as had died that year might stop at the hearths of their loved ones to warm themselves before that final departure from the lands above to the underworld. Or perhaps they had already passed through that chilling veil and were stopping by for a visit, some attachment remaining still for the corporeal world.

 Many were the precautions that people used to keep the dead at bay. Some souls were friendly or helpful, yet others were malicious. One could sweep their thresholds, clean hearths, hang strands of herbs or leave something out for the wandering spirits. Not many people would travel on a night like all Hallow’s eve, and if they did, it was in groups. What better way to fool the spirits that might be looking to lick up another live soul than to act like you were already one of the crowd? Some of the earliest Samhain celebrations involved men dressing as women and women as men. Ghosts and skeletons, then ghouls, goblins, witches and nightmarish beasts—these were the first costumes of Hallowe’en.

Hallowe’en was a time of fortunes, to find what the year ahead stored in its larders for you. Who better than to let you know what the year held than those who were no longer snared by time’s net? That which lay barren in the ground would rise up with the soft kisses of the returning sun and would grow in the new year. By having one’s destiny foretold there was at least a certainty that the year would turn and the sun shine once again. Yet, it was with dread, I’m sure, that some people faced their auguries. Who wanted to be told that their loved one would die or they themselves? Yet, that knowledge was tempting. The future’s seductive lure of revealing what was in store has enticed many people to its bedside throughout the centuries.

One could prepare if the future opened its eyes to you. All this to stave back the impending dark, whether it was that of waning days or the black abyss of death that everyone knew lay somewhere “out there” for them.

Always one of the best ways to push back the veil of night was to light Jack o’lanterns, a practice that came in some time after the early Druidic festivals which included lighting large bonfires upon the hills. Jack o’lanterns, originally carved of turnips, kept those spirits or demons that lurked within the folds of darkness’s cloak at bay. Bonfires didn’t hurt and keeping one’s spirits up in large groups helped scare away any fears.

If you had done no wrong to the one who had passed on, you had little to fear from the souls of the dead who would visit at Samhain. Through most of Celtic culture a “dumb supper” would be held. There, people would lay out a meal of bread and honey and perhaps some cider or ale for the departed who were sure to stop by. A good and substantial meal helped one move beyond the world and at the same time made sure that the spirits weren’t slighted.

Gypsies during the Middle Ages used a similar custom. If they could not cremate the dead to pass the soul on its way, they would bury the person with all of their possessions. It wasn’t worth it to keep a treasured trinket only to have a mulo (ghost) come traipsing after you and demanding it back. To further keep the dead spirits happy, Gypsies would party and feast around the gravesite for several days, eating and drinking and leaving enough for the deceased to make sure the soul was appeased.

A guilty conscience might have been the reason many people left food for their deceased, but the underworld was beyond normal senses. It was dark and the unknown. Many people felt it better to err on the side of caution than to become the unwelcome host to the angered dead.

Besides warding off and appeasing the spirits, Samhain marked the time of stillness, of summer’s and sun’s and harvest’s and herding’s ending. Herdsmen killed off the weak, sick and old animals that wouldn’t make it through the winter and salted and preserved the meat.

Darkness left little to do besides mending and repairing and sitting around hearthfires telling tales, drinking and singing songs. When the revelry was done, or couldn’t be sustained the dark time of the year was a time of introspection. When animals burrowed into their lairs, the sap returned to the roots of the trees and sun drew farther away, it was only natural to contemplate life and one’s role, to think out new paths for the year ahead, to plan and to seek one’s fortune.

With all the activity—bonfires, costumes, auguries, dumb suppers and Jack o’lanterns, people had little time to think about their fears or actually encounter them. I bet there were more conversations with the deceased two thousand years ago or even one thousand years ago.

As Hallowe’en and the darkening months approach maybe you’ll have time to reflect upon them. The next time you encounter the ghost and goblins and things that go bump in the night, maybe you will have the sense to be afraid. Maybe you will have no reason to fear anything. If you’ve wronged no one, especially those who have died, then you might be safe. But don’t forget the darkness that can be the most frightening, is the darkness within yourself that can consume you.

 

*Samhain, the Celtic Feast of the Dead. Ducking for apples in water came from souls in the cauldron of regeneration.

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Filed under Culture, entertainment, fairy tales, Ireland, life, myth, Publishing, spirituality, Writing

Traveling

I’m in Alberta at the moment, visiting family and getting ready to go to the World Fantasy Convention at the end of the week. My chances to get on the internet are sporadic.

Calgary (and Edmonton) in October are cold. It’s hovering near 0 (celsius) and crisp. However the sky is clear but a weaker washed out blue this time of year. The trees are almost all bare and the ground is yellow and brown and golden. In some fields where the hay was cut long ago the remaining stubs have turned a bleached whitish yellow. They almost look silver and it’s kind of pretty. There is a touch of green left in some grass but it too has mostly yellow with the cold. Quite a contrast from Vancouver.

I will hopefully have time to write more and post but it could be sporadic this week.

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Filed under environment, family, life, travel, Writing

India in Space: Bang, Zoom, to the Moon

What did Jackie Gleason know when he said, “To the moon, Alice. To the moon”? That one day without the aid of his hollow threats to Alice, that people would go to the moon. India has now joined the US, USSR, China and Japan in sending a ship to the moon. This is an unmanned, information gathering, two-year trip. NASA has also tossed a bunch of bucks toward it and India signed an agreement with NASA.

Back when the US was putting a man on the moon the USSR had to do so too in the Cold War era. Was it just  a need to explore, for humankind’s reach to go further into the mystery of the stars or was it a race of paranoia so that one superpower could have supremacy over the other? Later there was the Star Wars program and other scary propositions on just what would happen if one country got the big guns into space before the other.

When I heard India was punting a ship to the moon I first thought, “What, another country that has to prove it can do it?” But after reading a bit more, it wasn’t another case of one upmanship but an effort in working together to further research and for India to be included in the future. Space travel has always been phenomenally expensive and the only way, and the most logical way, is to pool resources, both financial and research.

There is already a group of countries (Insternational Space Agencry) that are working together for future space flights and plans for Mars. But there are countries that continue to do their work in secret, not sharing and suspicious of any questions. China comes to mind. Perhaps as time and modernization progress China won’t see the US as running dog lackeys and the US won’t see China as the yellow menace.

Between India and China they hold one-third of the world’s population, and Asia has about 61% of the population according to a United Nations report. As time progresses more and more races will mix and eventually everyone may have the same creamy brown skin. White people are the minority as population goes. It will be a good thing when everyone looks like everyone else and racial fear will be lessened.

World population is expected to increase from the current 6.1 billion (2000) to 8.9 billion in 2050. That’s a 47% increase in 50 years. Natural resources will be depleted even further and pollution will accelerate, perhaps beyond repair. Truth to tell, work on pollution should have begun thirty years ago when Lovelace put forth his Gaia hypothesis. So let’s say that people keep multiplying like roaches. That’s why there is Mars and moon exploration. Sooner or later the infestation will have to spread or the human race will die down. Personally, global birth control wouldn’t be a bad thing. Limit how many children everyone can have, but that could be ugly to enforce unless people chose to do so to help keep the planet sustainable. Go forth and multiply is no longer needed. We’ve succeeded to the point of implosion.

You could say China and India have the most to gain with getting some of their two billion plus people into space. But what if religious, geographic or philisophical conflicts persist? What if people don’t share? Then it’s a race not just to see who can get to Mars or the moon or some other place first. It’s a race to see who can colonize first.

The chance of shooting people from Earth to space is still a pretty slim and expensive possibility though there is the capacity to do so now. The chance of taking over all of the moon or Mars is also slim and a long way in the future. Like the world’s mosaic, I hope that when we get to peopling the moon and Mars that it will be considered an extension of Earth and all races will have equal ownership. That does mean that there could be religious colonies or ethnic colonies and that we could bring our grievances and hatred into the stars. There is the fear of course of some fanatical group getting a stranglehold first but the moon and Mars are still pretty big places and trying to enforce sole ownership will be nigh to impossible for a long time .

I’m going to hope that we slow down our population growth, work together in space exploration and maybe by the time we’re colonizing, the world will be one big happy place. I can dream, can’t I?

 News article on India’s moon flight http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/world/6073509.html

United Nations report on world population http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/longrange2/WorldPop2300final.pdf

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Filed under Culture, environment, history, life, news, religion, science fiction, space, travel

Dublin and Ireland

 Tsk, yesterday, I was in a such a rush that I post a piece that I had posted the week before. So, here is a different piece on Ireland. First posted Oct. 14, 2007 on Blogspot
Now that I’ve been back for a few days, I’m starting to sort through my pictures. Dublin was the first real landing spot in Ireland. So of course there are many shots of the streets and the housing, which differs from Vancouver. Architectural history, barring the earlier dwelling of the coastal other indigenous people (and not many of those remain due to the deterioration of wood and leather) in most of Canada goes back about three hundred years. Yes, there are a few exceptions like bits of a Viking settlement in Newfoundland or the 16th century Basque whaling village, but all in all, our civic history is relatively young. So Dublin like many European cities has history steeped in history that can be seen in the shape of the streets and the buildings.

The link listed here connects to my photos of Dublin, with the exception of the two fox pictures from my friends’ back yard in Glasgow (where we first landed). Foxes are the local vermin in Glasgow but protected there now. Some of the pictures I’ve included are fuzzy. I was still learning the digital camera and in some cases the lighting was very low but I have them here out of interest.

Dublin’s one day included a trip to Christchurch Cathedral. Parts of it date back a thousand years. Some of the tile work is still beautiful and holds up well after thousands of feet walking over them and hundreds of years. Some of the tiles are originals. Others were redone in the 1700s. Interestingly there was a glass encased, mummified rat and cat, found in an organ that had been restored. Who was chasing whom, we may never know. We also went to the famous Temple Bar area, which is trendy but has some interesting pubs and restaurants. We ate at Fitzers which was very good and not that cheap. A drink of rum and coke and a cider cost about 15 Euros in Dublin. It’s 1.5 dollars CDN to the Euro. Dublin is supposed to be the most expensive city in Europe right now.

We also went to Dublin Castle, which like many structures has many centuries of history and more modern parts built on the remains of the older places. Still used today by Ireland’s president (who serves a seven-year term) the rooms are of 17th-18th century designs. Under the buildings are excavated ruins of the original walls and towers. We were told that they used to take the heads of the executed and stick them on pikes about the castle. Eventually the heads would rot and plop into the moat. How do they know this? Well, they found four hundred severed heads in the moat. Which spawned this drinking song that you can sing to “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.”

Ninety-nine severed heads in the moat, ninety-nine severed heads.
You take one out, you toss it about, ninety-eight severed heads in the moat.
At which point, you could take a sip of said beverage and pass it down the line. More than ninety-nine heads though and it gets quite ungainly to sing. My sister and I had the opportunity to sing through all the heads to zero while stuck in rush-hour traffic in Cork. It kept us amused and even if our windows were open a bit, the people stuck in traffic beside us studiously ignored us.

Last was wandering around the River Liffey. This bisects south and north of the city. There are various car and foot bridges over the river and the areas between are called quays, such as Merchants quay, which gives you an idea of what it must once have been like before the advent of cars.

If you wish to use these photos, please ask. They are copyrighted.

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Filed under Culture, entertainment, history, humor, Ireland, life, memories, travel

Blog Blog Blog: A Comparison

In the blog world I have tried three different ones: Live Journal, Blogspot and WordPress.

I began Live Journal first as a way to keep track of people I knew and what they were doing, and likewise so they could see what I was doing. Some people have many people on their lists, over fifty or more. If you friend someone, they can read all of your blogs, not just the public ones. This means you can put locks on some of your posts so that no one can read them but yourself (the personal diary format) to certain groups of friended people being able to see them.

When you put someone on your friend list you can also read their posts daily as they come up. So, if you do have many many friends, it could get time consuming. Supposedly there are filters on who you want to read but I never figured them out.

A paid account gives more user account pictures that you can upload, as well as a wider range of templates to use. There is a fair amount of versatility there. You can also screen, block or allow all comments. Some people use it to invite people to teas, parties, etc. However, I didn’t always read my LJ every day and wouldn’t find out about something until after the fact. As a form of communication, when I actually asked for feedback, I would receive few to no answers. I decided it didn’t serve the purpose I wanted (email is still the better form of communication and people really didn’t care about what I posted) and in the end it became quite a time sink for reading endless blogs, often on things I wasn’t interested in either.

I started up Blogspot next and ran them concurrent. Blogspot, I saw as the more public and writerly blog. This was to inform, entertain and just write. LJ had always been the more personal stuff. When I talked to other writers, many use Blogspot/Blogger. Blogger allows some adjustment of some basic templates. LJ has the greatest number of templates, but I’ve seen a fair number of online magazines using Blogspot. Blogger also shows how many hits you’ve had. Searches do not bring up anything from LJ so if you’re looking for posts related to editors, authors or magazines, the only way you’ll find them is through word of mouth or a link on a site.

I wasn’t happy with the limited hits Blogspot received and as a writer wanted my name to be found more easily through internet search engines. I don’t have a website so I needed to somehow bring some traffic in. I had used WordPress when doing a contract blog writing job and thought it would serve that purpose. The templates are fairly basic, like Blogspot. But the traffic is naturally higher.

Blogspot has a limit on the number of tags you can enter for a post, whereas WordPress does not. With the addition of WordPress’s categories, it gives a greater range of ways that people can search topics. I am basically a writer and not that savvy on how all search engines and tags work. If I google my own name, the first two spots are for another Colleen Anderson, a musician and writer. The third spot is Mermaid Tales, which is my Blogspot blog. Fourth spot goes to the “linkedin” website of professionals by any name you search for. And fifth spot is WordPress.

I write five days a week on WordPress and post about once a week on Blogspot (or less), yet WordPress never overtakes the other in the rankings. However, I’ve run Blogger since April of 2007 and the number of hits now equals what I achieved on WordPress in just over three months. So WordPress gets more hits but when I search a topic, often Blogspot comes up first. Are there more WordPress viewers or are there more searches coming in? I’m not sure.

For this reason I’ll continue to blog on both Blogspot and WordPress. I think WordPress’s templates are more limiting but then I have checked out both recently to do a true comparison. WordPress still lets me think that people read my posts, whereas Blogspot might just be a few of my friends. Really what I should do is daily copy my posts from her to the Blogspot forum but I often can’t be bothered. When I do get a web page, I’ll incorporate my blog. LJ however, I’ve pretty much dropped altogether.

And since WordPress has just added the new feature of the poll button, here is one on the blogs.

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Filed under entertainment, internet, memories, Publishing, Writing

Things Irish

First posted in Oct. 9, 2007
Blarney–we heard many a tall tale in Ireland and the gift of the gab runs through many, it seems. Now that we’re nearly on the home-front we’ve checked the internet and if Liam’s fish whacking is a record it’s only in Killybegs or Donegal as there is no listing. But somehow we’re not surprised by this in the least.

Almost all the toilet bowls in Ireland are quite roundish, kinda cute…as toilet bowls go. The handles are on the right instead of the left in Canadian/US toilets. Why one side or the other, who knows?

Latches on almost every bathroom door are slide latches. It seems to be the latch style of choice. Door knobs on exterior doors are often in the middle of the door.

You’ll be hard pressed to find a face cloth at any B&B or guesthouse. I hate water in my face so I always use one. Luckily I brought my own.

About 80% of the places we stayed didn’t have hairdryers.

Everything from toothbrushes (equiv. of $8-13) to hair mousse (equiv. of $10) is really expensive.

I’ve been called love or lass but no other form, besides “girls.” So my friends who think chicken (never heard this one even the first time around Eng. and Scotland many years ago) must be remembering a local idiom from somewhere.

I was told that no matter where you are there pretty much would be the friendly Irish and you wouldn’t be sitting alone for long or they would start buying you drinks. This friendliness was apparent in the towns but by no means universal. The resort areas and modern cities were as friendly…or as unfriendly as every big, trendy place. Kilkenny would have been the same except for the lads from the North.

Food was generally of high quality and in large quantities. I had a traditional cod (I think) and cabbage dish in a creamy sauce. The cabbage is more the savoy cabbage and it wasn’t bad. In the pubs the drinks all have their name brand glasses so you’ll get Bulmer’s cider in a Bulmer glass, Carlsberg, or Guinness in their glasses with the name on them. Some of the pubs in the west and the south still have the small coal fireplaces, and they are indeed stoked with coal. Oh and at least in Donegal, pub night is a Monday, perhaps to celebrate getting through the first day of work.

Every town or village goes back centuries so the streets are narrow and winding, the buildings tall and joined together as row houses. As you get farther out from the town center you encounter newer row houses, or individual dwellings. These seem to be quite large and have at least four bedrooms. That’s why there are so many B&B’s in Ireland.

Traffic circles and few lights. They’re insane and you’ll get honked at for doing it wrong but then find in the next town that it’s different. Speed limits are for decoration. If you see a sign for 60 km, people will easily be going 120. The small roads are usually 60-80 km and the highways 100-120 km. Often you’re getting up to 80 then having to drop down to 30 two blocks later for a traffic circle (roundabout) and this goes on.

We only saw one farmer with a horse and buggy but saw some country fellows in the typical cap, jacket, baggy pants with shiny bottom, and wellies.

Ireland is green and after a few millennia of deforestation, there are border trees and groves, a few protected forests. It was a stunning thing to see flying over the country. However, we did see areas of reforestation. When flying I couldn’t figure out why the trees looked as if they were combed. It was because they had been planted at some point.

Irish roads are almost all bordered by hedgerows or stone fences. There may also be trees that have been growing there for a long while that form tunnels as the branches reach above and leave space enough for car and lorries to go through. It definitely gave a different feel to the countryside. The hedgerows and stone walls are everywhere. We were told by one B&B owner that they recycle everything, so if an old wall is pulled down, those stones are used again to build something new. Makes sense when you consider that a country with 5,000 years of habitation needs to re-use what is there.

It was also interesting seeing the Irish looking face. I never realized how Irish my friend Sam looked. His dad was Irish, and Sam would blend right in in Ireland. Many men have triangular faces with wide brows that may be lined or more wizened then their years. There is the white skin and rosy cheeks of an Irish complexion too. It made me realize where some of my friends’ ancestry began.

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Filed under Culture, history, Ireland, life, memories, travel

Roadside Memorials

Recently CBC had their panel of people talking about roadside memorials and what was the decent length of time to keep one up. Just to be clear, there are the spots of fatal traffic accidents, where people then put up pictures, flowers and other mementos of the people killed. Sometimes there are more permanent fixtures that go up, as well as planted flowers, trees or bushes.

What is the proper length of time? Should the crosses, plastic flowers and faded photos be removed at a specific time? When I come home I always drive by one that had four people’s pictures on one side and at least three on the other side. It told me it had been two cars involved and two groups of people. One of the memorials seems to have disappeared while the other is still there. It’s been over a year.

If anything, these memorials serve as a reminder to drivers to slow down, be cautions, don’t cut people off. When stopped at the light, a person can look over and see something of the person whose life was lost. Eventually, when the loved ones move on, the memorial will disappear. Some will last longer than others. I can see how city road crews might have problems with these memorials. Should they take them down? Isn’t this infringing on someone’s grieving process? Yet, if the memorials are in the way of cutting weeds and maintaining roadsides, then how can the workers do their jobs?

The CBC panel suggested that people should remove them within a year. I have envisioned a world where every telephone pole and light standard was taken over as a memorial (eliminating the postering of them now) and painted in indvidual ways. Perhaps the city could make money by renting/selling a light standard as a memorial site for someone. This is somewhat like a plaque on a park bench.

I personally have no problem driving by a memorial and seeing it for a s long as the grievers see fit to maintain it. It was one of the aspects of Ireland that showed me best the culture and families: the gravesides were carefully maintained in family outings. A memorial, even if it isn’t in a cemetery, serves the same purpose. Let people grieve and let them remember. And let the people who didn’t know them see something of this life gone by, know the person was more than just a statistic and maybe watch their own driving a little more.

Our culture often lacks the acknowledgement of death and grief, expectinng everyone to act normal a week after a loved one’s death. Often people have to suppress their feelings, which can cause health problems along the way. A roadside memorial may just be one way for people to deal with their grief in a culture where we try to keep death invisible.

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Filed under cars, Culture, driving, life, memories, spirituality

Trying Out the New Poll Daddy

There you go. Something to look at on a Saturday afternoon when pondering what next to do. Am I right that the day changes over on WordPress with GMT, or at 6:00 pm Colorado time?

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Teenage Sex and Teachers

When I was in high school we had this drama teacher. Big at emoting; surprise surprise. There were a range of us, from those who wanted to be there acting to those who were slacking with an easy elective class. I was still shy but actually liked to act. One of the better “acting” students was, if anything, very dramatic. She and this teacher would emote at each other constantly, to the exclusion of the rest of us. In fact, he barely taught us at points because they were too busy googoo gaaing at each other.

Were they having sex? Most of us thought so. Did we care? Not really. I only cared because my instruction was suffering as this teacher gave one student who didn’t need it all of his time. Were we scandalized? No. Presuming they did have some sort of affair, I have to say that 17-18 year-old girl definitely was cognizant of what she did, wanted it, hoped for it. She certainly wasn’t coerced or influenced and may have manipulated the situation.

Hero worship, big daddy syndrome or whatever you want to call it has gone on for a very long time. Hollywood perpetuates it with leading men often 20 years older than the women. Only in a few cases have they (Hollywood) been brave enough to actually have a female lead older than the male. Harold and Maude is an example of a spring/winter relationship where friendship and personality does not see the boundaries of age. I’ve never had a problem with relationships where one person was significantly younger/older than the other.

A friend of mine is married to a man 18 years older, and friends of theirs just got married and there is nearly 30 years difference. I’ve dated men 15 years younger or older than me. What balances age? Attitude, similarities, wisdom, youthfulness and maturity.

A teacher in their 20s or 30s attracted to an 18-year-old isn’t that odd in our society. Where the problem comes in, today at least, is that there is seen to be an imbalance of power. A teacher could in essence coerce a student into having sex with them for passing grades. This applies as well to colleges and universities. Such fraternization isn’t just frowned on but basis for dismissal. Old movies are rife with college professors married to the young women they slept with, causing their first marriage to fail. Of course, a professor can also be blackmailed by a student in such a relationship.

There have been several cases of teachers being charged; sometimes with true grounds for sexual harassment. Sometimes the instructor was blackmailed or set up without any truth. There are people who will use any situation to manipulate and have power over someone. Doing an internet search will show that there are enough cases of teachers of both genders having sex with their students.

A female Burnaby teacher at St. Thomas More school is now under investigation for alleged relations with a grade 11 student. Tom Ellison was convicted with a conditional sentence for his sexual congress with 17 students (that he confessed to being with). Twelve of seventeen former students complained of their relations with him in the 70s. Because laws for any teacher having sex with a person under 18 regardless of consent were not passed until 1988, the sentence was of a lesser degree.

There are two aspects to teacher/professors having sex with students. The main one for both is the abuse of a position of authority.  For school teachers it is also the issue of underage sex. There are definite cases of rape and sexual abuse, but there are also the nebulous cases and it becomes unclear who instigated and if a student would ever suffer ill effects from the sexual encounters with their teachers. The simplest way to keep it from getting ambiguous is the law as it stands:

The Criminal Code does not now criminalize consensual sexual activity with or between persons 14 or over, unless it takes place in a relationship of trust or dependency, in which case sexual activity with persons over 14 but under 18 can constitute an offence, notwithstanding their consent. Even consensual activity with those under 14 but over 12 may not be an offence if the accused is under 16 and less than two years older than the complainant. The exception, of course, is anal intercourse, to which unmarried persons under 18 cannot legally consent, although both the Ontario Court of Appeal(3) and the Quebec Court of Appeal(4) have struck down the relevant section of the Criminal Code.

Blame can often be shared. There is a bigger difference of sex with a 14-year-old than with an 17-year-old. Coerced sex is never right but consensual sex gets iffy. Teachers are now being tried mostly on the basis that they are going against the law. If anyone asked me in a court of law if that high school classmate of long ago was coerced, I would definitely say not. But if the affair affected how we were being taught, I would definitely say yes. And if one had broken up with the other, there could have been blackmail. It’s better to keep it black and white.

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2007/01/26/bc-ellison.html

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