Monthly Archives: October 2009

Honoring the Dead: All Hallows

It is the end of October, Hallowe’en, All Hallows Evening or Samhain (pronounced sow-ain). In Celtic and early European traditions Samhain was the ending of the year, the harvest had been collected and the cold dark days began. Fears that the light wouldn’t return and that nocturnal and supernatural creatures came into the fore of most people’s thoughts. It was the time of the dead, when the veils between the worlds thinned. Those who had died the previous year crossed over and those who were dead could come through to haunt or visit their kin.

As Christianity worked its way through Europe the day came to be known as All Hallows Eve, and that which was hallow, meaning holy or to be revered, was honored. Christianity brought in All Saints Day, following on November 1st. Mexico combined their traditions into Dias de los Muertos, the day of the dead. Throughout many countries, but not necessarily at this date but often in this time of year, is the tradition of honoring the dead. Even Remembrance Day falls in the dark time (if placed on that date for different reason).

And so it is, with this dark and cold time I have found I’ve been thinking about people who I’ve known who have died. Unfortunately the list gets longer but we keep them alive through memory and love.

There was John “Bear” Curtis, part Cherokee, 6’7″, an actor, known as being a grumpy bear, but lover of art, generous and spiritual. He was a pipe carrier, had completed the sundance, and created various crafts from amazingly detailed collages to sculptures, drums and rattles. Bear was, in size and personality, larger than life. His strong spirit kept him going for over a year, after the unhygienic procedures of the hospital infected him with C-Deficil. I honor Bear for having touched my life and given beauty to the world.

I remember Lydia Langstaff, a young writer, born with a congenital heart defect and not expected to make it past infancy. White-skinned, blue-veined, as delicate as porcelain, Lydia never complained that she could never fly or even take a flight of stairs. She wrote and persevered and finished a first draft of her novel before she died at 28 in her husband’s arms. I still have the draft of her novel, and cannot find husband or family, afraid to throw it out and not sure what to do with it many years later. I honor Lydia and it was she who taught to use each day as best you can, even if I don’t always fulfill that.

I remember Jay Herrington, a bright star, a beautiful man, a powerful priest. Intelligent and gifted, he made amazing crafts and was just beginning to find his pace. He was witty and funny and did an amazing drag queen, High Joan the Conqueror. He died in a vehicle malfunction and never woke from his injuries. I honor Jay for bringing light and reverence into my life.

I remember Gerry Stevens, opinionated, strong minded, honorable and loving life. He battled cancer quite well, living longer than most. Gerry was a compulsive gadget fiddler, taking things apart and putting them together, to see how they worked, to figure out new ways to make things. A thinker, he created and changed and stayed involved. Gerry died with his boots on, staying strong till the end and saying, if it’s not fun, don’t do it. I honor Gerry for teaching something about dying with grace.

I remember Geoffery MacLean, Mischka and Berek Ravensfury who all left too soon from disease, car accidents and mental anguish. None of them were perfect men, full of complex contradiction. But all of them were impassioned, caring about people. I honor these three for seeing that heart mattered most of all.

David Honigsberg I only met a couple times. He and his wife Alexandra were vibrant, intelligent, creative, alive. They struck me as two people who lived very rich lives and only enhanced the bright flame within each other. David died suddenly of a heart attack and I was shocked, thinking someone so alive could leave so suddenly. Jenna Felice was a young editor at Tor, a firebrand not afraid to state her opinion or grab at what she wanted. She was another bright star on her way to greater heights when she died from an asthma attack. It saddened me greatly to see such a flame extinguished so soon. I honor Jenna and David for their fire and fervor.

There are more, ones I knew well, or barely knew. There are those people I never knew at all. There is my cat Figment, who was unique, maybe as all cats and people are. Intelligent, skittish, loving, playful, mischievous, I still miss him. I honor him for the unconditional love and company he gave me for 14 years.

All those who touch us, great or small, young or old, furred or flesh become part of our lives. They may not be famous but they matter to others, are loved and love. Immortality happens in memory, in honoring those who have move through the path of our lives. This is the time that the veil thins, as those who have gone beyond pass through our memories. Honor your ancestors, your loved ones, your acquaintances for we are all part of the great whole.

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Writing: Orycon 31 in Portland

Orycon 31 is Portland’s local science fiction convention. I will be attending as one of many writing and editing guests on the weekend of Nov. 27-29. Many local conventions will often invite writers and editors to attend and in return for sitting on panels they get a free membership. The larger conventions (World Horror, World Fantasy and Worldcon) do not do this because the ratio of professionals is so high. It seems the local Vcon (Vancouver, BC) is still trying to figure out how to invite the locals.

But Orycon has been inviting me for years and I have far more publications now than I did when I attended the first one over ten years ago. I don’t get to many conventions but I’ll go to Orycon as the quality is usually quite good. Because I had no idea what time I would arrive or leave on the Friday and Sunday I told them I could only do panels on Saturday.

And so it is I’ll be on two one panel. One is “Drowning in Slush” with editors Deb Taber and Maggie Jamison  from Apex ; Abyss and Apex (which for some reason I always pronounce Abbess–I should be smacked) magazine’s Camille Alexa, and Lou Anders, the editing guest of honor at Orycon. Later that day I’ll be on “Publishing Ethics”.  I’ve just received the updated itinerary and I’m not on that one any longer.

At midnight on Saturday I’ll be doing an erotic reading with four other authors. That’s just been changed to three others; Theresa “Darklady” Reed, Tammy Lindsley ( I can’t find much on her but she’s on the bid committee for Worldcon Reno in 2011) and Kal Colbalt. It works out to about fifteen minutes apiece so I’ll need to find a pithy, erotic scene from an existing story, and of course one with more SF or fantasy elements (Isn’t all erotica fantasy?). I might read “The Boy Who Bled Rubies” from Don Juan and Men or “Janukurpara” from the Mammoth Book of the Kama Sutra. These two have been published in the last year. However it might be fun to read from “A Taste for Treasure”  to be published in the Harlequin erotic fairy tale anthology Alison’s Wonderland next year. I’ll have to do some timed readings and figure out which excerpt works well at midnight to keep people hot and bothered.

I am much more familiar with the editors on the panel than I am with the authors at the reading . But that makes sense as I submit to many of the magazines. Any field of writing, whether fantasy, SF, erotica or mainstream literary (as well as any other genre and subgenre) has numerous writers. There are those at the top, famous, selling a lot, read by many, interviewed often and known by the general public. Then it peters down to lesser known novelists and onto to fiction writers of various sorts. There are many magazines of different calibers and people publishing a lot or a bit. Even if I was up on my reading (which I’m not because I use my time to write…and read some) I probably wouldn’t know everyone out there. And I know far more in the SF/fantasy side than even the erotica side. It’s one reason many of us do these cons, to get some exposure.

If I worked full-time in publishing (some day I shall) I might then know most of the names. Even when I was a book buyer I knew every novelist’s name. A few years out of that business and I don’t know many new authors at all. Then there are the novelists and the short fiction authors. Ellen Datlow and other editors who are velociraptors in their reading have a very good fang at the jugular of speculative fiction (hey, it’s Hallowe’en; I had to use the imagery). I’d love to be able to do that but it’s a constant thing.

So I look forward to meeting the editors and the writers I don’t know, and hear their knowledge or readings. I often find that reading or hearing other stories and poems, makes me go, hmm, interesting. I never thought of that, and what if… Reading other people’s work can be inspirational as well as churning up thoughts in the ole gray matter. I’m looking forward to Orycon and hoping for good weather on the drive down. Now I need to polish up a piece to read, and practice reading it aloud.

http://www.orycon.org/orycon31/

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Rationing During the World War

I wasn’t around during either World War so can only use my imagination, history texts and those oh-so-accurate Hollywood movies for my impressions of it. My parents both had been in the tail-end of WWII. I can also take memories as my mother has told me a few stories about those times.

Velorution_vintage_poster_pin_up_giWhen I was a child my mother had this drawer in the china cabinet (a pretty old and shoddy one) that was full of stuff. It had playing cards, some with girly pinups (of my father’s), ashtrays, rumoli chips, cribbage boards, coasters and whatnot. It also had a small stack of postcards. Where they came from I’m not sure. Some were joke or funny postcards but all were illustrated as opposed to photographs. A few of these had those classic pictures of a woman, pin-up style of course, showing stockings and peeks of underwear.

One particular card I remember had a woman holding her hand over her mouth as her underwear puddled around her feet while she watched a man change her tire. I recall other cards with the dropping underwear thing and just never got it. It wasn’t until my mother told me that rubber was rationed in the war that I started to understand.

When the Japanese and Germans cut off supply lines for various items, the UK, Canada and US (along with needing various items to feed the troops) brought in war rationing as well as other countries affected by the war. Rationing lasted from 1942-47 in Canada, from 1942-46 in the US and from 1939-1954 in the UK. Obviously European countries were harder hit as they were directly in the line of fire and did not have the range of resources that N. America had.

Rubber was needed for tires and other items so it was rationed on civilian cars, but it also affected fashion. There were no elastic waistbands in underwear, nor straps on bras. And no wonder women cherished the silk stocking from France. Clothing in general, especially in Europe was rationed as well and people were only allowed to buy so much in a year and had to use ration coupons for everything. Of course rationing affected all types of food as well.

My mother told me about the problems of wearing the button underwear of yesteryear. The buttonholes were given to stretching, which often caused a malfunction of the underwear. She said she saw this well-dressed woman walking along the street one day and slowly this pink fabric began to creep below her coat. The woman stopped, stepped out of her underwear and kept walking, leaving the pink offender behind. Women often put safety pins into their underwear to secure it better. Imagine our world now, if we had nothing that stretched. That would eliminate almost all underwear out there including yoga and exercise wear, bumpers, steering wheels, tires, boots, shoes, electronics from phones to kettles, you name it.

We don’t realize how much we have and in a world of the world wars, people were cut off from various supplies. My mother also commented on chocolate and while she was stationed in England a friend was sent several squares of chocolate. Not even a whole bar. Her friend shared with my mother and they would take one small bite of chocolate. She’d stare in windows at pastries she couldn’t afford with her rations.

We live in the have and have not world now. A third world country has people who won’t read this. They’re not thinking of internets or blogs or social networking. They’re thinking of how to get another meal and finding enough shelter. In North America, for almost all countries, the poorest people have TVs and phones and several sets of clothes. They may be of poor quality and made of stretchy material that was so hard to get so long ago, but they have the essentials.  We toss out clothing that is out of fashion by a few months. We get rid of clothes that are too tight or too big.

During the war, people would have made do, or would have taken up needle and threadmake-do-and-mend to adapt. In some ways it wouldn’t be a bad thing to bring back some rationing. Too many countries are using resources at a phenomenal rate, depleting trees, water, minerals beyond our ancestors’ wildest nightmares. We waste millions of tons of stuff a year that gets sent to landfills, and yet, we want more. If our society continues to live in the more is better attitude and that a person’s success is judged by how much they accrue, well then, we certainly won’t have more in fifty years.

Everyone needs to take a history lesson, thank their lucky stars and consider how we could use those mindsets that were done for war but could be done for economy today. I’m sure I would moan with everyone else if rationing came in (where backyard gardens also flourished) but I would make do and be no worse for wear.

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Cursed Restaurant Locations

CBC Radio One was talking about the cursed restaurant phenomenon yesterday. A timely topic for Hallowe’en. The curse involves numerous restaurants going through a death knell in one location. I can’t speak to the 1809 W. 1st Avenue curse, but it’s gone through three restaurants in three years, I believe.

I can speak to other cursed areas, or deadzones as I call them When I worked in Kits there was a deadzone on the north side of the west 2000 block. I don’t know what was there originally but it was right in the heart of numerous clothing stores, restaurants and other commercial venues. Le Grec, an extremely successful Greek tapas (or mezes)  restaurant started on Commercial Dr. They decided to expand and move to the larger area in Kits, 2041 W. 4th Ave.

Well, they lasted a year maybe two. Their fame didn’t seem to travel and the restaurant was only ever partially filled. After that, there came a string of restaurants, all suffering the same fate. For a short time the location became some sort of import store, which also succumbed to the deadzone fate. At some point the front of the place was renovated to open it up but the restaurant that went in also fizzled away. Then Hell’s Kitchen went in, with massive renovations and success at last. Maybe it’s because their name includes hell or they sold their souls or that they sell pizzas both eat-in and take-out but they have had a longer success than any predecessor.

The place where Le Grec began on 1447 Commercial Drive, had been an Italian restaurant in its heyday. Then it had sat empty for years until Le Grec moved in. After they went to Kits, Bukowski’s moved in. Maybe Bukowski’s had a heyday with musicians and readings and I seem to recall something about it but it slowly died down. It still drew people in but it never seemed full. I believe they had a fairly good run of years before their eventual slide.

After they faded away another restaurant went in. They painted the walls a sort of bloody red and had some type of Asian fusion food thing going on. They even had bluesy musicians in there. But even though they’d only taken a month or two for renos, nobody came. I went in a few times the food wasn’t bad, but people avoided the place like the plague. I think there gets to be a point where a place can’t generate clientele and then anyone going in sees the emptiness and changes their minds.

The unique aspects of this location is that it’s smallish and three tiered. The top tier was loungelike and restauranty. The middle tier was always restaurant and the bottom tier, farthest from street level, was the bar.

After the Asian fusion place, another place with something like soul Seoul food took over but didn’t even make it a year. The restaurant sat for a bit and then underwent a massive renovation, where the people who own the Five Point, a very successful sports bar/restaurant on Main St., took it over. The Charlatan changed the layout and put the bar up front on street level with big sports TV screens. They expanded the middle section and kept a bar/lounge area at the bottom. The red walls stayed but were toned to dried blood red with more subdued lighting. The sports TVs alone have kept the Charlatan popular along with pretty good food. So they too have broken the deadzone curse.

There seem to be several things that curse a restaurant. It could be a combo of bad management, decor, food, location, management or all of these. It takes breaking the perceived mindset of the public who may place an aversion on the area from past experiences. Whatever the case, some restaurants really struggle to get going in certain locations. I don’t think anyone is standing out front and saying, curse you 1809 W. first. After all, what would be the point? But the public will also need to take the plunge when something new opens up and the restaurateurs will have to be open to criticisms to keep the place going.

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All That Vampire Stuff

It’s that time of year again. Actually it’s that year. Well really it’s that decade. Okay, okay it’s that century. Bram Stoker published Dracula a little over a century ago and it changed the face of fantasy and horror for all time to come (so far). Now Stoker didn’t really create vampires per se. Blood sucking, soul stealing creatures have existed in various cultures for many centuries. Rusalkas (Russian), lamias (Greek), succubi and incubi, dhampirs (Balkan) and sirens are just an example of creatures that take something permanent from you, often through seduction. They might devour the person or parts of them. Even the Rom (Gypsies) had vampiric beliefs, which also could include inanimate objects.

So vampires are not new. Using blood to rejuvenate in some way also has been around for a long time, whether it was drinking it or bathing in it. The notorious serial killer Countess Elizabeth of Bathory killed so many young women that, like Vlad the Impaler, a myth began that she bathed in the blood of virgins to retain her youth. She was pretty much placed under house arrest for the rest of her days (nobility did have some privileges).

In the world of writing there have been many many vampire novels, and even more numerous short stories. Goethe and Lord Byron were just a few to tell tales and poems about vampiric lovers returning from the grave. The  19th century saw quite a fascination with vampire tales and Stoker’s book was just one of many.

Books of note in this century include John Matheson’s I Am Legend and John Shirley’s Dracula in Love. A man discovers he is Dracula’s son and it is a somewhat trippy, hallucinogenic tale that is at times extremely gruesome and not really romantic, given the title. I’ve read some vampire books, but not all and one included a nearly annihilistic version of vampire hunters. There are too many tales to list but the Barnabas Collins TV series was of early note in vampire fiction, as well as the movie The Hunger.  Anne Rice probably began the more modern trend of eroticizing vampire fiction with strong gothic undertones in Interview With a Vampire, The Vampire Lestat and subsequent novels.

There have been many spinoffs and tales, which have included a subgenre of occult detective books, where a vampire is the detective. The Dresden Files, by Harry Butcher, the Anita Blake series by Laurel K. Hamilton, Charlaine Harris’s books, and the Angel TV series are just a few in that aspect where often the vampire tries to retain his/her humanity, or the detective’s partner or lover is a vampire.

So when Twilight came along it was just another vampire movie and book. I haven’t read the book so I cant judge on the treatment of the vampire in that tale before Hollywood got hold of it. But from the movie these vampires have no problem with walking around in daylight though they avoid direct sun, because it seems that they sparkle. Perhaps for this young adult novel it is a metaphor for being an angel or a higher power and I wasn’t quite clear if all vampires sparkle or just the good ones who eschew drinking of humans. But the tale, a human falls in love with the noble vampire who won’t make her/him immortal, is nothing new. It’s just got the dreamy guys and a new batch of people to feed it to.

Everyone who writes a vampire tale may throw a twist into it. Some vampires are affected by crosses, or any religious icon that has true belief behind it, by garlic, by sunlight, by none of these. Their powers may only be longevity, or fast healing, speed, strength, flying, shapechanging. Vampires vary, yet overall the seductive aspect that lures humans is that the vampire is immortal but you must take a life or drink blood to attain this aspect.

The media, like the tweenies that Twilight is aimed at, is all over Twilight like Dracula on Mina. As if it hasn’t happened before, they say, what is with all this hype, or “we see a trend in Twilight and movies like it.” The vampire tale is a subgenre of horror or fantasy or speculative fiction, depending on how you want to categorize it.  The trend is not new, but like many fads, it fluctuates. A fad runs about a two-year lifespan so this too will die down, yet like a vampire, the tales of such immortals do seem to endure the test of time.

Notice the fangy V.

Notice the fangy V.

As a writer, I too have not been immune from writing a few vampire tales. “Hold Back the Night” was about a servant of Kali whose human lover is burned by a possessive husband. “Lover’s Triangle” is a tale about a Gypsy woman in a slightly different future who is lured by her vampire lover’s touch. And “An Ember Amongst the Fallen” is about a vampire’s fall into deparavity or discovering something about his own humanity. The latter is due out in Evolve in March 2010, through Hades Publications and the anthology looks at worlds where vampires are known of by humans.

Will I write more vampire fiction? Possibly. I have a couple of other unpublished stories. I didn’t set out to write any but it just happens and the juxtaposition of immortality at a terrible price is always an interesting premise for tales. I haven’t yet written a werewolf tale but have written a mermaid story, “The Fishwife.” Maybe at some point I’ll work my way through many mythic creatures.

http://www.edgewebsite.com/future.php

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Going Postal Over Workers Compensation

“Going postal” became part of our culture’s vernacular after several instances of US postal workers killing coworkers in fits of rage. From Wikipedia we have:

It derives from a series of incidents from 1983 onward in which United States Postal Service (USPS) workers shot and killed managers, fellow workers, and members of the police or general public. Between 1986 and 1997, more than 40 people were killed in at least 20 incidents of workplace rage. The phrase has been applied to murders committed by employees in acts of workplace rage, irrespective of the employer. It’s generally used to describe fits of rage, though not necessarily at the level of murder, in or outside the workplace.

So when a workers compensation claimant took people hostage this week at the local Workers Compensation Board in Edmonton it was a bit like going postal, although he wasn’t an employee. There is mixed information on Patrick Clayton’s background and it seems he was using drugs on top of it all, but we don’t know if he ended up doing drugs because of how Workers Comp treated him or if he had a pre-existing drug problem before his injury.

Clayton might not be the best example of the frustration people feel at workers compensations boards across the country, but he is in the spotlight because of it regardless. It’s interesting that Alberta’s premier’s first concern was looking at security in government buildings and not looking at what in WCB’s policiies drives people to such desperation.

I’ve outlined my own earlier interaction with WCB in another post. But let’s say there are many many people who have felt frustration, fear and hopelessness as they have been denied their claims or cut off prematurely. I wonder what the statistics are of people who have killed themselves over claim denials or people who continue their lives in pain because of such limitations through WCB.

Some people will claim that for every one legitimate claimant there are ten faked claims (some of the many many comments on CBC’s news article listed below), when it is more like the other way around. I’ve had a nephew whose truck was hit by a train when the truck stalled on the tracks. The truck’s maintenance was the responsibility of the company my nephew worked for and they had ignored the problem. However WCB cut my nephew off after a month or so, even though his shoulder was still screwed up.

This is a common statement for people with claims. If they are not outright denied, their claims are often cut very short. WCB seems to think that all people should heal at the same rate. Every knee injury or back injury is exactly the same as the one before and therefore a person should be back to work in X weeks. When that person responds slower than this ideal list, WCB says goodbye. They pretty much make claimants feel ike cheaters, liars and fakers, and it’s guilty until proven innocent.

As I mentioned previously WCB in BC is called WorkSafe BC and I can’t help but believe the name change is partly because they realized they weren’t compensating workers. Sure there are some claimants who try to get a free ride, and sure there are claimants whose compensation is approved. The first time I had to claim was for a repetitive stress injury to my hands. WCB paid for the physio but again when I wasn’t better within the allotted time it was sorry, no more help. I had to work around the injury and lost a job opportunity because of it.

Any doctor worth their salt could tell you that physiology from one person to the next may be similar but there are numerous factor that can contribute to rehabilitation and healing and much of it not in the patient’s control. There are genetic predispositions, underlying conditions and the vast mystery of how the body works. People don’t respond the same or at the same rate. Would that we could, then it would be cut and dried in fixing people. Everyone into physio and out healed and whole in six weeks.

People lose their livelihoods, their way of life and their physical and mental health when cut off by WCB. They’re often not given anyway to adapt, no explanation other than you should be better and the attitude, whether meant that way or not, comes across as cold and uncaring. My own case had someone taking notes for the vacation case worker talk to me but the actual case worker never actually every talked to me, and just sent a letter of denial. How can a person feel other than ignored and dismissed summarily.

Taking innocent people hostage was not right at all, and could have easily been me or friends or family. But if nothing else, maybe this will bring light to the fact that WCB practices are not seen as fair or just from many people. WorkSafe BC probably did the right thing in changing their name and I think that WCBs across the country should evaluate their mandate. If they’re not their to help the worker then they need to let people know that and change the name.

 http://www.cbc.ca/canada/edmonton/story/2009/10/22/edmonton-charges-hostage-incident.html#socialcomments

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The Media Circus and the Bandwagon

The media is a powerful tool (whether internet, print or radio) and how a story or event is portrayed can sway popular opinion, raise hopes or fears. There also seems to be two types of news: there is the news that reports an event that has just happened, and there is investigative reporting, which involves giving backgrounds and both sides (sometimes) into current events. Of course some investigative reporting also takes noncurrent events and makes them current by revealing what has been going on behind the backs of the public.

Reporting is supposed to be unbiased but as we know the range is vast. The best news presents only the facts but that’s rare these days, and even those facts and events are embellished with adjectives and descriptions that can color the story. The worst news reportage is given to hypberbole and innuendo or even outright conjecture and sensationalism.

But media in general, to draw audiences and increase sales, must report current and hot topics, sometimes over and over and over again, ad nauseum. This mindless media bandwagon is like the chatter of an excited child who has noticed a bright balloon. They forget to ask other questions or point out more than the obvious. For whatever reason, the media might latch on to a certain topic and deem it newsworthy, and flog that horse till everyone whether they wnant to or not Here are a few examples.

H1N1, also called Swine Flu. The vaccine is out, the vaccine is out, British Columbians are rolling up their sleeves, health authorities ask the public to be patient, many British Columbians have been waiting. Have they? How does the media know? Have they done surveys or is that just hyperbole? So here we are told over and over again about the vaccine, about the flu, about the number who have been hospitalized or died in BC.

Here is what we aren’t told and which I’ve had to dig out on my own. What’s a pandemic? It’s a case of a particular strain of disease that is infectious and shows up in different regions (global). There are different levels of pandemic. The Spanish flu (a strain of H1N1 coincidentally) of 1918, estimated to have infected a third of the world’s population killed between 50-100 million people and was a stage 5 flu pandemic. It was one of the most deadly flus in the last hundred years.

The WHO says a flu is pandemic when these conditions are met:

  • emergence of a disease new to a population;
  • agents infect humans, causing serious illness; and
  • agents spread easily and sustainably among humans
  • Flus recur often and flu pandemics (AIDS is also considered a pandemic) at least three times a century. The media has been hyping the shots and the spread of the flu but not putting it into context with what a pandemic is or how severe it is. At this point, it’s still not that severe but it has been classed a stage (or level) 6, which indicates spread not virulence. More people die every year from a regular flu than have died yet from this strain. However, what they also don’t say is that because it is of the same type (but not the same) that caused the Spanish flu they are worried that it could be as deadly. Avian flu was more virulent than the current flu but didn’t spread as quickly.

    The media needs to do a better job of presenting facts without increasing fear. By only reporting over and over again about the flu and vaccines makes it sound very deadly. And though it is to some people and there are risk groups, that is no different from the yearly flus that can kill 500,000. So what are the facts in perspective, instead of the facts segregated out for greater effect and emotion?

    Then we have the Olympic bandwagon. Over the past several years we’ve been presented with several perspectives. The cost of the Olympics, how much the province, the city and the federal government were going to put in was mentioned first. As projects and venues were completed, these things were reported of course. The lighting of the torch is now in the news.

    Also in the news is the fact that the city and the province are fighting huge deficits. The provincial government wants to bring in a tax (after the Olympics of course) that will ding everyone into paying more for things that weren’t previously taxed. Jobs are being cut by the city and province. Oh and somehow the Liberal government has prebought enough tickets to Olympic venues to equal a cool million bucks.

    It should be up to the media to now present a picture of what we were told and promised at the beginning and what we’re getting in retrospect. But I think I can figure that out. We were given wishful thinking and lies so that some people would naively believe that the Olympics wouldn’t be over budget and that we wouldn’t be paying higher taxes to cover it. But really, I’m as bad as the media (though I’m not being paid) because I base my beliefs on conjecture and what I can remember. But perhaps we’ll see some good investigative reporting on this before the Olympics begins though it’s more likely to happen after the close of the event.

    And of course, media can be influenced by and even muzzled by politics. And politics plays in anything that a government is involved in.

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    You Are to Blame For All That Befalls You

    There has been a sentiment of late, that I’ve heard from people who would consider themselves nonreligious and not really spiritual. It is that all the things that happen to you in life you draw to yourself. For some reason, deep in your psyche, whether you are sabotaging yourself or doubting yourself or hating yourself, these feelings bring about the bad things that happen to you. If you’re sick, it’s because the negative thoughts within you bring out the poisons. If your house falls into a crater after an earthquake, it’s because there is something in your karma that drew this to you.

    I recall nearly getting in a fight with a friend over this. Instead we veered away and never talked about it again. If you can’t get a job, it’s not because you don’t have the training or the economy sucks, it’s because you’re not trying hard enough or you’re harboring some inner fear.

    The positive side of this is that people take responsibility for their lives and actions. If something isn’t going right, examine yourself and your motives. I know people who believe the worst will happen to them and it does. It is as if they are a giant negativity magnet and they draw the worst people and the worst situations. So yes, like can attract like. Some of it is attitude and outlook. If you think that everyone is out to undermine you, then that’s what you’ll see. For some people, it’s a lifelong perspective. For others, it’s a trap that they fall into once in a while.

    It’s the same idea that happens with many coincidences. When I had a red Honda Civic it seemed as if the road was festooned with red Honda Civics. We become sensitized to a certain view or aspect and then we will see it everywhere. If we think people are ignoring us and turning away, we won’t notice those who turn to us but only those who ignore us. It’s part of the problem with depression. As a person grows more depressed, his/heremotions flatten and things look dire, they can’t see the sun or the good things anymore–only the bad, the hopeless, the desperate.

    So yes, mindset can change a lot about a person’s life and can affect physical health. But I doubt any one of us is powerful enough to either draw an earthquake or avert it, to stop lightning, to avoid an act of nature, to predict the path of a random murderer. We can be diligent and alert and cautious but we can’t protect against anything. And sometimes genetics dictate that a person will get a disease, no matter how healthy or happy they live. Of course, a healthier lifestyle might lessen the chances of the disease but it depends on the disease.

    The near fight with my friend began with this sentiment that we are responsible for everything that happens to us. And I said, I cannot see how a little child of two who is raped and murdered could possibly bring that on themselves. Or a whole nation that his destroyed by a tsumnami…was that a mass bad attitude? No. If that were the case, we’d see a lot of nations wiped out because of what their governments do.

    The negative side of the each of us being responsible for all that befalls us is that no one else has to take responsibility. Oh you were beaten. Well you probably brought it on yourself. You lost your job? Well it’s for a reason. It will make you grow. Worse than platitudes is this negation of caring. Every person doesn’t have to feel guilt or compassion because, well, it’s in your karma. You brought it all on yourself.

    I’ve commented before on how I’m very saddened by the me-me-me culture of North America where the only thing that matters is self (or in some cases family) but that there is little consideration for one’s fellow human beings, nor is there much compassion. And that’s what this attitude does, it encourages a social cold shoulder to tragedy. I think there is a middle ground, a way to temper this.

    Be responsible for your thoughts and deeds and if things aren’t going well, look at how you think and act. Look at what you might be able to change. But also, be reasonable. If someone’s relative is killed by a car, or their house catches fire, or a children is beaten, don’t turn away and say, “Well you will grow from this. There must have been something that made you attract this. There is something in you causing this.” If only we were so powerful, we could move mountains. But we are human and acts of nature and unnatural acts of human violence happen to people with no rhyme or reason.

    Barbara Ehrenreich was interviewed on CBC about her book Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America and she makes some good points about positive thinking and how it can be negative. It covers some of what I’ve been talking about. http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/2009/200910/20091015.html

    All I know is that I hope to keep compassion in myself, not turn a blind eye, and help when I can with someone’s tragedy, and to not tell my friends to smile through it all when something devastating happens to them. And if I can’t do anything, I can be compassionate and lend a shoulder of support.

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    What I Really Think About Sex

    I have posted some very strong-minded articles in regards to sex and sexual abuse. I’ve mentioned that I was sexually abused and rather than be a victim I’ve pursued a healthy mindset and not let the past or the perpetrator control me (I hope).

    I’ve commented on how I am somewhat skeptical (and a bit disgusted) with the whole genetic sexual attraction thing, and though I could see a small percentage of people maybe truly just falling in love (or physically lusting after) their relative as adults, I still think that there is too much room for power over. Not to mention the cultural guilt and taboos, and of course children of such relations limits them due to the narrowing of the gene pool and the increase of genetically damaged results.

    I’ve commented at least to friends on the subjugation of women in various countries where wives and girls are treated as possessions and don’t have equal rights. I’ve made strong statements about child abuse of any sort and abuse of animals, if I haven’t mentioned it before is extremely disturbing and wrong. Any living creature that can’t give its consent or understand the full impact of what is being done to it or her/him should not be coerced into sexual activity. Laws are there to protect the innocent.

    So, with these opinions, it might also seem that I’m pretty hard-edge, straight and narrow on the whole topic of sex. But I’m not. I am for eliminating abuse and for equal rights, and when it comes to sex I’m all for it.

    What I mean by this is that it is neither my job nor my right to snoop into someone else’s life (be it a politician’s, a movie star’s, a neighbor’s, a relative’s, a friend’s) and make judgements on how or who they have sex with (unless it is of course the aforementioned animals, children or subjugated people). I don’t care if someone does it doggy style or hangs from the rafters in a bat costume. I don’t want to know if they yodel during coitus or exchange fluids from which my imagination runs screaming. It doesn’t matter if they have sex with the same gender, five people at the same time while chanting Monty Python, or pay for it.

    When we get right down to it, it is nobody’s business but those involved. Humans are sexual creatures and we like to have sex. We are also not set into a mating cycle like most animals and therefore can have sex whenever we want. Like bonobos, we do it for fun as well as procreation. It is in fact human nature.

    Now I also think that people need a sex education, starting in school, that goes beyond “these are ovaries–they produce eggs, this is a penis–it (and the scrotum) produce sperm. Babies can form…etc.” They need to understand what sex is, how the process of excitement and arousal works, how to achieve it, what the results are. There needs to be a healthy wholesome attitude about something that everyone (or nearly everyone) does at some point in their lives. Instead of telling people that masturbation is bad and dirty, tell them it is healthy and normal. Instead of shushing any talk about the sex act, explain it.

    I strongly believe that if we took the mystery and “dirtiness” out of sex, (this idea perpetrated by too many religions) that we would have less sexual perversion. I’m not saying no perversion but if it’s suddenly not dirty and wrong, where is the illicit thrill? Granted sex has its own thrill but it’s our society’s constraints on sex that causes some of the illness surrounding it. And prostitution should be legalized. It would take it off the street, remove the stigma from women and johns, keep it clean and safe, improve other neighborhoods, and gosh, give the government revenue. It’s only the moral religious backwardness that prevents this and makes it “dirty” as well.

    At some point the greater majority of humanity has intercourse, and some of it pleasurable. However, the majority of people will not kill someone (war in some areas is still not the majority of the planet). So then why is it bad, naughty and X-rated to even see full frontal nudity, let alone intercourse, but on any prime time night you can see someone beaten, strangled, cut, shot or otherwise mutilated? HBO has shifted this somewhat but on average there is more violence than sex on TV. Is it any wonder we have a sick and atrophied culture when violence is okay to view but sex and naked bodies is bad? What a sad state. And here the Glenbow Museum’s ad (in Calgary) was banned by Calgary transit. What was the subject of the banned picture? A baby’s head and umbilical cord. Oooh, now that’s really disgusting.

    But I digress. North American culture has so many sexual hangups that a nude person on a beach is wildly titillating and sex is something done in the dark and not talked about. It’s time to wake up, teach people about the joys and pleasures and wholesomeness of consensual sex (notice that important word–consensual) and stop getting all aghast when it happens near you. Don’t judge, just accept that it’s part of normal life.

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    Movie Review: Zombieland

    Finding an interesting movie in the month or so before holiday season releases can be a bit of a challenge. I saw 9 a week ago and being the science fictional gal I am, when fellow writer Rhea Rose wanted to see a movie, we got it down to Where the Wild Things Are and Zombieland. For whatever reason, I decided that I’d rather see Zombieland.

    We went to Silver City in Coquitlam, one of the most stupidly designed theaters, as parking lots go. It’s like a maze and some rows blocked so you have to backtrack or cross over the road that cars enter from, to get to the other side. This inefficient design takes up space that could have been used for parking. Let me tell you, if you had to run over zombies, you’d never get up enough speed and they’d take you down for sure. So stay out of badly designed movie parking lots.

    Now the movie, which has a brilliant opener, with the narrator, who we don’t know quite yet, and slo-mo pastiches of people turning zombie and chomping on their friends and family. First there was mad cow, then mad people, then mad zombie, and so it began, spreading across the country and maybe the world. But for this movie it is in the ole U.S. of A and there is no saving the country because it’s too late (so much for flu preparedness). In fact, so destroyed by zombies is it that there are few people left alive and one is our narrator, a young, geeky college guy with few social skills and a lot of neurosis, including irritable bowel syndrome (probably from those pizza and Mountain Dew he lives  on.) He is known as Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), an unlikely survivor of the zombie apocalypse, partly because of his fastidious rules, (always wear a seatbelt, check the back seat, double tap, etc.) which are often demonstrated in other zombie encountering clashes.

    He meets Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), a lean, mean, zombie killing machine who has two goals in a world depleted of humanity: to kill zombies and find a Twinkie, which, he says, has an expiration date despite popular belief.  Tallahassee names Columbus and then two others they meet, the femme fatale Wichita (Emma Stone) and her little sister,  Little Rock (Abigail Breslin). Why they have these names and don’t just say I’m Sarah, I’m Fred, is never explained. I mean, it’s not like they have to hide their identities in a world lacking humans, law and order. But that’s just one of the many thin patches on this barely held-together plot. Columbus is looking for…who knows but he’s like every person, trying to stay alive, despite the odds. Wichita and Little Rock are trying to get to the West Coast to the mythical Playland, which is supposed to be free of zombies.

    Who told these people about this zombie free land? After all, there’s no one left to spread a rumor. Not that the zombies would encourage the meat to get away. Oh and the zombies. Well they are the most wholesome zombies I’ve ever seen. By wholesome I mean they seem to have all their limbs and haven’t been chawed apart, except for that initial chomp. But then as the zombie virus spreads it seems they all get bruised looking eyes, blood and gore on their faces and they spit blackish or green gorp from their mouths, which might be blood or rotting guts or who knows. Now these zombies aren’t the shambling creatures of other movies. They’re fast and can run (the fatties went first, says Columbus. Rule #1 is cardio.) and they seem to think to a degree, like wily animals, being able to smash in windows. But at other times they shamble, heads askew, wrists limp, legs at odd angles. I’m not sure why.

    The zombies are also attracted to bright lights and sound and of course they want fresh meat. But with so few bodies around (a lack of extras or money for special effects), I wonder how it’s much of a problem to avoid them. And what do they eat if they’ve eaten all of the living? Well, one scene shows a zombie chomping on her “manwich” and drinking the marrow from his bones. If that’s the case, it seems that when all of the humans were gone and only zombies were left they’d turn on each other, but instead there are numbers of them waiting to congregate on our unsuspecting heroes.

    When there are cars and keys  and homes with food, plus stores abounding, why is it that Little Rock and Wichita have to steal a car from Columbus and Tallahassee? If they’ve survived this long, they should be able to figure out how to get a free car, not to mention,outwitting mindless zombies would be harder than two men. So this unlikely plot thread throws our four nuts together. Columbus has feelings for Wichita which she rejects at first, but Tallahassee is older and weird. And Columbus really has no choice, if Wichita is the last woman alive (her sister being too young). Boy meets girl with a tag along “uncle” and sister in a land of zombies. Hmmm.

    SPOILER ALERT. There is a gratuitous Bill Murray scene, which has the least well-planned out skit of the movie. Another rule: don’t dress up as a zombie if you’re not and try to scare people used to shooting zombies. All I can figure is that either Bill Murray put money behind this movie or they asked to use his house and he said sure, but I get a cameo. Of course, he is a legendary comic too.

    This plot was very very thin, to the point that we came out of the movie going errr, where was the plot, but it was funny. And that’s just it. The one liners and the hilarious skits are timed very well and the actors all hold their own. Overall it’s a vehicle for Harrelson and we agreed he actually looked pretty good all buffed up. The unlikely teamup of the anal-retentive geek and the hard-edged badass work well and the pacing is good for this rather short movie. How long can you stretch out a zombie-chasing-human story anyways? I would give this a 6 out of 10 for the lameass zombies and gore, and the lacklustre plot, but the humor and the comedy hold this together and had us laughing out loud. So I’ll give it a 7  6.5 because of the good acting and the funny skits along the way to who knows where. The motto could be, family is who you pick.

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