Monthly Archives: November 2009

Orycon 31 Wrap-Up

I just got home from a weekend at Orycon, Portland’s Science Fiction convention. Since I didn’t really attend Vcon I can say that this is the first fan con I’ve been to probably since Worldcon in Toronto. Orycon is a midsized convention I think, neither as large or Dragon Con or Worldcon  but not as small as Vcon.

I can only speak to my experiences from being there as a pro, in writing and editing. My early experience was with the committee in charge of organizing the panels. First, they found me through this blog as my email had changed since the last time I was down (probably a dozen years ago), and sent me an invitation to attend. They then sent out a list of possible panels and asked which ones I might like to be on. This form allowed for submitting a bio and a bio picture at the same time.

A couple times I needed to contact the committee to clarify some things (such as was the reading at midnight Saturday meaning midnight Friday because that’s technically Saturday) and they got back to me promptly. Thanks to Kami Miller and Rick Lindsley for all their help and organizing the panels well.

I did notice on site that there were no bios at all except for the guest of honor so I’m wondering why we needed to submit it. A bit disappointing that but the panels were listed in the large program book and the little pocket booklet. It would have been better to put some bios in the program book and left the panels to the booklet but then they needed room for describing them. I had offered (beforehand) to fill in on a couple more panels if needed but I never heard back and I did notice several panels only had two people on them. However, there were panels offered on art, editing, writing, costuming and other fan-oriented activities so that there were about five panels or more on at all times.

The booklet listed panels by room or by time and basically you could cross reference any way you wished. The kept all the readings off of the main listing though and had them separate which means many people missed them because they weren’t listed in the regular schedules. And I guess they were several hundred programs short in the printing.

I went to the art show, which was so spread out in a very large room that it look kind of empty. It might have been better to put the art panels closer together. The show ranged from the professionals like Lubov (the artist GoH), Alan Clark and a few others to the amateurs. There were fewer pictures of characters from Star Trek and other shows but it almost seems as if the unspoken theme was that of dragons.

That theme of dragons carried over into the dealers room, which was quite large. From what I could see I’m predicting Steampunk is on a huge rise and it will be flowing into mainstream fashion soon. There were many steampunk items from hats and goggles to other mysterious items and corsetry. There were very few books at all in the dealers room and the only presses selling their publications were Apex Book Company, Bizarro Fiction from Eraserhead Press,  and Talebones/Fairwood Press. I meant to go back and by one of the Bizarro books but forgot (and Apex too).  Darn. But the dealer’s room had gadgets, toys, comics, books, clothes, jewellery and all the goodies that people love to buy.

I missed taking a gander at the dance or masquerade and though there were few room parties they were fun and casual. The Pirates of the Columbia hosted one and I think they just do it for fun, plus there was the Radcon party, the hospitality suite and IRoSF, which my brain is blanking on right now.The costumes I did see were quite fun, from women in baroque dresses (complete with ship on the hair) to steampunk farmers and the Joker.

The hotel itself seemed fairly nice, and new from the Jantzen Beach hotel of previous Orycons. It was an extremely cold hotel though and they could have done with turning up the temperature a couple of degrees. I didn’t eat much but the food seemed all right and the hotel very apologetic when they screwed up our reservation. The rooms were quite spacious and nice with small balconies.

I’m notorious for not getting to panels at cons. Because I arrived at 6 I don’t think I attended a panel Friday except to do a reading at midnight in conjunction with Darklady Reed, Kal Cobalt and Tami Lindsley (hopefully I have those names right). Saturday I moderated the “Drowning in Slush” panel and attended one on Steampunk and on neural interfaces.  That’s a better average than usual. The Steampunk panel was quite interesting and well balanced. The neural interface panel was in jeopardy of being dominated about people talking about their disabilities but was save by the other panelists extrapolating into what’s being done and where it might go. And I managed to chat with the physicist so that I can worked out the logistics of a virtual environment story I’m working on.

Overall, I enjoyed the con and would consider going again. I also lucked out on driving weather, which was perfect. With stopping to visit friends, it was a pleasant (if long) drive.

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Filed under art, Culture, driving, entertainment, erotica, people, Publishing, Writing

Orycon

I will be on my way to Orycon in Portland, Oregon in just a few hours so there is no true post today. I was hoping to have the review of In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed done but it’s turning into a bit of a mini-essay and I’m not finished researching a few things. I’m extremely tired so this might not even make sense.

Addendum to the Sears attitude issue: When I bought my coat it was on sale plus an extra $10 was taken off if you applied for a Sears card. I received the card in the mail but it’s a Sears MasterCard. Surprise to me. There was also a “buy now, don’t pay to January” sign when I bought the coat. In the process of all the paperwork to get the sale, I asked, does this apply to the coat (because it was for purchases over $100 and I was told yes. However when I got the statement it showed that I had to pay this month.

I called the number on the statement but they couldn’t help me as it’s really just the MasterCard office. They told me to call the store. That took about four tries to get through and not disconnected. Eventually I was told that I had to come in with the statement to get the payment deferred. They couldn’t do it over the phone because I didn’t have the credit card and hadn’t activated it.

So I went into a store on my way home and I was told any Sears would do. First there was no store directory so I had to ask for the accounts department. It seems they don’t have one but they sent me down to catalogue shopping, tucked behind the fridges.

The girl there was new and didn’t know what I was talking about and said her manager had gone home. I said I was told I could go to any store before it closed. Eventually she found some sort of manager. He came and showed her what to do and left and then she couldn’t get it to work and called someone. Then I had to talk to the woman on the phone and then give it back to the girl behind the counter. The the manager came back, (about a half hour has passed by now) and he starts to do it and asks for the expiry date of my card. I say I don’t have it on me and I haven’t activated it. He says he can’t do it without this and gives me a phone number to call back once I get home and get the card. (I could have been told this the first time I called).

Eventually I get home and get the card and call Sears. The number to that department is busy so the switchboard tells me it’s still busy. It’s about 8:25 and the store closes at 9. I leave in the morning for Portland and the bill is due at the same time. I have to do this now or get interest charged.

Then the switchboard accidentally disconnects me and I call back. They say the line is still busy and I say I will not call back but I will hold. They ask me for my credit card number to pass on and I say no. Then I get through and the girl has a customer so I wait. I give her the number, she takes my phone number and calls me back ten minutes later to say it’s done. Whew! Very exhausting.

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Weathering Vancouver

What I often hear when friends think of coming to Vancouver for a visit, or for why they could never live here is “the rain.” And yes, we do get rain. After all Vancouver is in a pacific rainforest, though the forest has receded to this hills and mountains in places. Still we’re a pretty green place and that’s evident when flying over the land.

When I first moved to Vancouver, I moved because I hated the cold and I hated winter. The only snow I liked was the very first snowfall, when it was dry and fluffy and sparkled like diamonds in the lamplight. Walking back from my friend’s in the evening, my footsteps would be the first to make an impression on that scintillating carpet and everything was muffled and magical, with only the sound of a car or a dog in the distance. Then day would dawn and it would just be cold and cumbersome.

I was always cold, sometimes to the point that it felt like my marrow was freezing in my bones, a numbness that would only go away with a hot bath. So, winter especially was not my favorite month. I visited Vancouver three times in one year and all of that was in summer. Vancouver is very lovely in the summer and has the mountains and the ocean so close to the city. I fell in love.

I moved in June and spent the summer getting to know the city and getting a job. But fall and winter came and my shoes were growing mold in them. I always felt like I was crawling into damp sheets and it felt clammy to me. Compared to Calgary’s very dry climate, Vancouver was moist and humid (I hadn’t yet experienced Toronto or Singapore where that’s real humidity). My face broke out in little bumps, not pimples nor really a rash. After seeing a dermatologist it was determined that I was using too much lotion; for Calgary it had been the right amount.

Eventually I acclimatized to the weather. Vancouver does not get blazingly hot in the summer. It’s a rare day that it hits near 30, and because of the ocean and the mountains nearby it will cool down faster in the evenings. While we don’t get as hot as other cities in the summer, we also don’t get the freezing temperatures in the winter. In fact, most pipes for the older houses especially are not far below ground. That and the high water table (we are by the ocean) means that if it does freeze, the pipes are in jeopardy of freezing as well.

Last winter was a brutal exception to Vancouver’s winters. Whereas normally we can expect rain and may be a bit of snow that will melt in a day, we had huge dumps of snow (over 18 inches at one point when I measured) that lasted for weeks. There was so much snow that at first it was that dry snow that other places get, the type that is good for snowballs and building snowmen. But then as temperatures rose, we had the slushy, slippery stuff where everything gets soaked instantly and getting grip, whether by boots or tires, is nearly impossible. My landlord shovelled out more than 13 people in a week, me included.

But the white stuff is rare, and truly hideous when it happens in a city ill-equipped for it. The city is getting more equipment as global warming brings more upheavals in the climate. However, that ubiquitous rain that we always have. Well, yes, there have been a few truly icky and gray summers. But usually they’re quite nice. Winter and fall can vary. The past few years have had winters that weren’t that bad. A bit of rain but periods of sun. Of course the snow last year, negated the rain.

This year almost seems like the old winters here. I heard yesterday that we’ve had 23 days of rain. That doesn’t mean that it rains 24-hours a day but that it is raining every day. Today, it’s actually partially sunny but scheduled to rain some more. When the sky is deep gray all week long and the rain is dripping off of everything, and the grass, if you step on it, slides off the mud below it, then yes, it’s gruesome and depressing. I spent most of the day in bed last weekend because it was so miserable and I felt down.

The Olympics come in February and it looks like they’ll have enough snow for the events. Even in Whistler there are years where it can be a problem. But it could also be raining a lot in February, one of the notorious months for bad weather. But even in winter, usually, it’s not every day of rain. Being someone who has suffered from depression, I can understand the reluctance to live in a place depressed by rain. But then it’s a matter of spending time with friends and in bright light, even if it is artificial. I would still rather take the rain over snow and slogging through the cold every day.

 

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Harlequin Begins Vanity Press

Anyone who knows anything about vanity presses knows that they’re not respected on several levels when it comes to publishing and being published. A vanity press is called thus because it caters to a would-be writer’s vanity. In other words, a work may be published without any editorial process taking place. This means any piece of drek, shopping list, or untethered ramblings will be printed if one has the funds to bring it to fruition.

Vanity presses often take advantage of unsuspecting new writers who aren’t aware of the full process. For a fee the press will publish your book. Or you have won a contest and your poem/story will appear in the lovely print edition and you can order a copy for $34.95. The publisher doesn’t pay you for your work and basically puts your work, no matter how bad, into the volume so that you, your friends and family will buy copies to show that you’re a published author, not realizing that this isn’t the real realm of publishing.

What happens is that writers are paying the publisher and that’s who buys the books. It isn’t readers interested in the story, just a very small group or just the writer. Little to nothing is spent on marketing and what is, is aimed at the person who submitted the work.

In the past I submitted poems to a poetry contest, only to find out I had “won” and that it was a vanity press. I withdrew my pieces and never looked at those “publishers” again. Self-publishing is also considered vanity press even if someone else (a printer or book packager) puts the book together. A person who pays on their own (as opposed to so-called winners) to have a book edited, laid out, printed and bound is usually considered to be vanity publishing unless they’re trying to put out other books besides their own. They might still have to go through the very hard work of marketing and distribution. Without these important elements, the books sit in the basement.

Small presses should not be confused with vanity publishing. Those who venture on their own to publish their books do so for a variety of reasons. The book may have been turned down by agents and publishers, or the person may want to get a message out there or just sell on their own for whatever reason. Sometimes a self-published book is picked up by a major publisher. But that is a very rare thing. Otherwise, a person makes a cost outlay of anywhere from $1000 to $10,000-plus for editing, production and publishing of their book and if they’re lucky, they may recoup what they put into it. Often they don’t make back their cost so the pay to play.

It is alarming and very odd when a  well-established publisher decides to start another imprint whose sole purpose is to be a vanity press. Harlequin is the biggest romance publisher in the world and has a huge sell-through rate on their titles. They shouldn’t be hurting for money. But they decided to team up with a print-on-demand vanity press call Author Solutions. After outcries from the Romance Writers of America (RWA) and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) Harlequin has taken the name of Harlequin Horizons off of the imprint.

Harlequin reported amazement and as of today changed the name to DellArte Press Book Publishing Services. However, RWA said Harlequin books would not be eligible for any awards and SFWA said all Harlequin books/stories would not count as eligible as a membership fulfillment unless they removed themselves from self-publishing. I doubt the name change will be enough for RWA and SFWA.

I can’t help but wonder why Harlequin even needs to get involved. They’ve been branching out into supernatural and SF romance and shouldn’t need to dupe dewy-eyed writers into parting with money to see their names in print and in hopes of getting to be a Harlequin author. Letting a would-be author think they have a chance of getting their story picked up by first self-publishing it is disingenuous. I checked out DellArte, which has little price packages that start at $599 to $1,599, but that only gets you 5 to 25 free copies, and after that you’re paying extra. That doesn’t cover a full edit at all either and even at $342 (editing services)  it will give you a partial review of a chapter or two. You’ll pay for other copies and I’m sure by the time you’re done you’ll have forked out at least $5,000. If the cover price of a trade paperback (the size they’re advertising) is $14.99 (very cheap and probably higher) and you get it at say, 40% off of cost (the regular retailer discount), that means you make $6 and would need to sell around 833 copies to break even.

Not that many if you’re marketed like Stephen King. But chances are there is little marketing and you’ll have to do most on your own. DellArte offers in the upper end of prices a standard publicity program, which really amounts to a written press release. You still have to do the marketing and distribution is probably all in your lap. So you’re in the same seat as if you went out and found a printer on your own. I’d be interested to know why Harlequin even thought they needed to do this. For various takes on this, follow the links.

 http://www.sfwa.org/2009/11/sfwa-statement-on-harlequins-self-publishing-imprint/

http://www.dellartepress.com/

PublishersWeekly

I also wrote them as if I was a new author with my book ready to publish in 1-3 months. They said someone would get back to me and what I received was a computer generated reply, which follows:

Congratulations on starting a new chapter of your life by exploring self-publishing. We are glad you contacted DellArte Press to start your publishing journey.
 
DellArte Press is designed to help aspiring romance and women’s fiction writers publish their books and achieve their dreams. No matter what the end goal for your book is we have the resources and staff to help you reach that goal. Our professional support team will walk with you every step of the way, so please let us know how we can assist you.
 
Your first chapter in publishing is to explore our Standard and Specialty Publishing Packages. Please visit our Publishing Packages page on our Web site to see how each package uniquely meets your publishing needs. We also offer additional services you can add to your package to give your book the professional and polished edge it deserves.
 
We’re here to help you select the best package for you, and we’ll be in touch soon to discuss your specific book and your goals. If you are ready to get started right away, you can call us at(877) 217-3420 or e-mail
customersupport@dellartepress.com.
 
Publishing with DellArte Press offers several advantages:
Discovery Opportunities – Titles published through DellArte Press will be monitored for possible pickup by DellArte’s traditional imprints
Global Distribution – Extensive distribution networks through Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com and others ensure that your book can be purchased by anyone, anytime, anywhere
Creative Control – It’s your book from start to finish
Professional Editors – Choose to utilize our editors to ensure your book is error free
Effective Marketing – Hire a publicist, have a video book trailer created, set up an author Web site and more
Accessible Support – Easy access to our professional support staff so you’re never left to answer questions on your own
Next Steps: Define Your Desire
 
Your next step is to define your goals and desires for your book. Whether you want to publish just for fun or to achieve commercial success, we can help. One of our Publishing Consultants will work with you to determine the best options for your publishing needs so your goals are met. In the meantime, if you have questions, please call (877) 217-3420 or visit our Web site at
www.dellartepress.com.
 
We understand that your time is precious and you may not always have a lot of time for yourself. We encourage you to indulge your passion for writing and begin the next chapter of your life as a published author. We look forward to working with you to help make that dream come true.
 
Sincerely,

The Dell Arte Press Team
DellArte Press
1663 Liberty Drive
Bloomington, IN 47403
Phone: (877) 217-3420
Fax: (812) 355-1561

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Writing: The Task of the Antagonist

Sometimes I write here to keep myself writing and to work out my own thoughts about various items and events. And working out the process of writing is a…well, ongoing process. 🙂

The antagonist is almost always needed in a story, otherwise it’s a meandering view of someone’s life with nothing really happening. Life is full of conflicts; little ones like “what should I eat tonight” or big ones, like “should I move across the country” or “if I ignore this growth on my neck, it could kill me.” Those are possible conflicts and in the course of a story; the conflict is faced and either overcome or not. If conflicts are never encountered or if all it amounts too is what should I eat, then it may be a fairly boring story. However even a story with a character deciding on what to eat could be exciting or very funny, if done correctly. Canadian Stuart McLean is a master of taking the normal everyday things and making them hilarious. http://www.cbc.ca/vinylcafe/

Usually the protagonist is the main character in a story. It’s much rarer to have  an antagonist as the main character but there can be someone who seems the antagonist and changes through the course of events. However, a story that only has an antagonist will alienate the audience because people tend to empathize or relate to a character, even if that character does things or lives a live that is completely alien to what we know. With only an antagonist as the main character, we can jeopardize the story. Perfume was one book that I read where any character that I could have been sympathetic to was on scene so briefly that there was no connection.

Jean-Baptiste Grenouille was so despicable a character that I could care less if he lived or died. The only thing that truly propelled the story forward was the unique way in which Grenouille reacted and saw the world–through his sense of smell.

A protagonist without an antagonist is only half a story. The antagonist doesn’t have to be a person. It could be an animal, a corporation, the elements or even oneself. We come back to the three age-old conflicts: man/woman vs nature, man/woman vs man/woman, man/woman vs him/herself. These are the antagonists.

The antagonists job is to give the protagonist a run for their money or to challenge them. Batman and Robin always faced very obvious villains, such as the Riddler, the Joker or the Penguin. These were in every way cartoon villains because they lacked depth and dimension. The paper comic books took them to more depth, gave them backgrounds, and histories.

But a good antagonist has a story of her own. It is not just about the protagonist and what he needs or wants and what stands in his way. The antagonist should also want something and have a reason for wanting it and find that what stands in her way may be something else or the protagonist himself. Fleshed out characters add meat to a story.

An antagonist just can’t run around and do bad deeds if they don’t someone intersect with the protagonist’s story, even if it is to show a similar philosophy, background or event that moves them forward. That’s the task of the antagonist; to challenge the protagonist and pull out the best or worst traits in that person. The antagonist gives the protagonist’s story a reason for me. They are like the self and the shadow. Without one, the other pales and the reader loses interest. So always give your protagonist an antagonist, or even several.

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Writing: Poetry Markets in Canada

I’ve been asked by people where to send poems and what markets there are in Canada. Like the US and probably other countries, there are usually numerous literary magazines, either sponsored by universities and colleges or privately run.

Literary magazines can run the gamut but usually put out a perfect bound (a glue square-edge binding) trade size book, with fewer in a magazine format. The reason for the size is often the break for mailing rates, as well as what is visually pleasing. Of course there are many online magazines or those that do paper and digital at the same time. In Canada, the literary magazines could be funded by the university, provincial or federal arts grants (though these have been cut back to the demise of various arts organizations), advertising or by running contests. The latter has become a popular choice in the last ten years or more, where the magazine will hold a yearly writing contest and the entry fee can be anything from $5-$30 depending on the contest.

The bad thing with this is you only have one chance to win, or three if they have first, second and third places. The good thing is that the magazine continues to run and can pay their authors for their work. Literary magazines will vary in pay for poetry. Many may have a set rate, $50/poem, $10/poem plus a year subscription, while others will have a per page rate such as $25/page.

Other magazines are called genre magazines though I argue that they too are literary even if the focus is on fantasy or science fiction. Some of these are well-established and pay as well as the literary magazines, which on average will pay anywhere from $25-$100 a poem. A hundred bucks is a good price for a poem, unless you’re Margaret Atwood. Then you probably get more because your name will help sell more issues.

The genre and small press magazines are more likely to pay for poems by line or even by word though a fair number also have a set price that they pay . When you get to the small small press, mom and pop magazines run out of the basement of someone’s house it can be a smaller amount paid for a poem. Some of these magazines might only pay in copies and I would never submit anything without at least getting contributor copies. After all, how would you even know they printed your piece unless you had a copy and every writer should be paid. I personally don’t submit unless pay is offered for a poem and I don’t really send my poems anymore to places that offer $2 or $5 but I might. And I do send to some reputable magazines that pay $10/poem.

My reasons might vary with the seasons as to where I send. Some magazines are small and chapbook size  (8.5X11 pages folded in half and stapled usually twice) as this is a simple method for people who do not have the budgets for larger sizes and is a popular small press format. My own chapbook of speculative verse, put out by Kelp Queen Press was of this format.

It used to be that magazines, especially the literary magazines only accepted submissions through the mail. With the advent of computers in everyone’s home, more people started writing poetry and with email they would send off every little drib and drab set down. Magazines find the quality of the submissions is lower when they come through email, and therefore to discourage every would-be writer, they stuck to the snail mail method where people seem to take more time on their piece before they send. This is changing and many magazines are using the online submission format. You register and log in, uploading your file and adding some notes. You get an email receipt and can track where your submission is in the process and the magazine can track when items were received.

Most magazines ask for 3-5 poems at a time. It’s best to follow those rules and follow their guidelines (many of the college run magazines close for the summer when students are away). As to where to send your work; well it should suit the market you’re aiming for. Whereas genre markets require a particular genre and literary markets require the literary genre, when it comes to poetry there is more leeway. Poetry has often encompassed the mythical and surreal, using metaphor and simile liberally so a poem with angels or even a minotaur will have more chance of being accepted in a literary magazine than a story would. Most magazines have an online presence and may have a sample of the writers they publish. It’s always wise to read through these and get a feel for what they prefer or buy a copy if you can afford it.

OnSpec, Chizine and Neo-Opsis are three English language speculative magazines that accept poetry (I’m afraid I’m not up on the French-Canadian markets). Descant, a literary magazine out of Toronto, is open to some speculative elements. In no particular order, some of the literary magazines in Canada are Malahat Review, The Front, Broken Pencil, Capilano Review, Prism, Prairie Fire, Antigonish Review, Arc, Event, Fiddlehead, Grain. There are just as many if not more in the US and the best place to check for poetry markets is www.duotrope.com. For speculative specific markets www.ralan.com is the place to go.

The biggest part, as I’ve said before, in getting poetry accepted is perseverance; that’s both in writing and rewriting and in submitting. But there are many, many markets (even with the economy slump) and places for sending poetry.

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Endangered Species Vs Cultural Tradition

Our world is in trouble in a lot of ways and anyone, whether an individual or a government, who denies this is practicing the head in the sand technique. Overfishing has caused the closing of fisheries in numerous countries, caribou herds are threatened, whales are on the endangered list , rhinos and tigers and other large land mammals are in danger of extinction. The list of endangered or near extinct fauna is extensive. Not all are hunted by humans for food or trophyism but the ones that are hunted/farmed/fished for food run into more conflict.

There are the people who make their livelihoods/their jobs from hunting a particular land or marine animal. When they are told they can’t do this anymore they are rightfully upset, scared of a future that is uncertain at best. Then there are native peoples of the lands, whether they’re Native Americans/First Nations, Danes, Laplanders, or Fiji Islanders (to name a few), they all have centuries of traditions and customs.

In many pre-industrial societies, food was a focus of stability. Towns and cities were often built on fertile land near water sources. Herds of animals were domesticated or hunted near villages. Customs, rituals and spiritual rites took place around food and the creatures that sustained the life of a people. These were so ingrained that you cannot separate an animal from the ritual. Initiatory rites as well as rituals for sustenance and good hunting were common.

But time is time, and everything changes through time. The land shifts, erodes and buckles. Species ebb and flow with the changing seasons and shift in climates, and from natural disasters. Although a species can hunt another to extinction, especially if it’s transplanted from its natural habitat, it’s not common. Only homo sapiens have been so resilient, adaptive and creative to live anywhere and hunt what they need. In most ecosystems if the predator overhunts the prey, the predators flourish but then there is not enough prey and the predators die back, maintaining a natural balance.

Only the human species has been able to circumvent this natural balance, bringing technology to bear on the environment to the point of detriment for every living thing including people. And so we have species all over the world that are endangered, protected or becoming extinct and yes, there are many species becoming memories only. Then we have traditional cultures saying, “We have always done this. It’s part of our traditions. It’s you people who disturbed the balance, not us.”

Governments are trying to protect dwindling resources so there will be something to hunt in the future and have placed restrictions and moratoria on different species. Sometimes only a certain quota is allowed to be taken and then there is more conflict. As in the missing salmon this year on the Pacific coast. There was nothing to fish. If anyone, Native or other fisherman wanted to take the fish because it was their right, if would diminish a chance for that species to survive. And now we have Innu hunters shooting caribou in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The thing is, it is their right to do so and have some protection based on ancestral tradition. That’s fine, but conservation officials say that a particular type of caribou, the Red Wine, have moved in amongst the other more prolific herd. There is supposed to be less than 100 of the Red Wine caribou left and they’re protected. The interesting thing is that five years ago Grand Chief Penashue  said about hunters in the protected preserver, “The hunt in the Red Wine caribou range was not just an illegal protest, it was completely inconsistent with Innu values. … Putting a threatened caribou herd at further risk can never be justified on the basis of aboriginal rights.”

Yet today this same chief is supporting the hunting of the caribou because statistically fewer would be hit compared to the George River herd. Seems those ancestral Innu values have changed. So it’s only good to assert traditional rights when it suits you and because the ministry or the government aren’t working with you, it’s now all right to hunt endangered species?

What is not right is asserting traditional and cultural rights over species that are endangered. To do so is pure stupidity because there will be nothing to fight over or use in traditional ways in a very near future. This is the biggest problem when various cultures try to assert their rights because it’s always been done this way. And where do we draw the timeline if someone says, we’ve done it this way for a hundred years, a thousand years, or whatever. Just because one’s ancestors did it doesn’t mean we can continue to do it, whatever it may be. The world has changed and denying that does no good.

I support the right of people to keep their traditions (that’s all those unique cultures all over the world) but not at the expense of losing endangered species or in subjugating other people. Our ancestors did all sorts of things, including using outhouses, killing and beating people and eating foods we wouldn’t touch. They lived without central heating, they sewed everything by hand and only the richest (or the military) might have gone more than a hundred miles from their local village. Life was constant hard work. We cannot always say, because my people once did it I have the right to do it now. We have to be reasonable and holding a species as hostage to get your way is the same as saying well you won’t listen to me so I’ll just beat this kid until I get my way. They’re both innocent (caribou or child) and some healthy reasoning should come in to play as opposed to punishing/speeding the extinction of the species. In this case the Innu should be ashamed of themselves because even killing one more of an endangered herd lessens its chance for viability and recovery.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/labrador-innu-break-hunting-ban-kill-64-caribou/article1370834/

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Hospital Food

It’s been nearly two years since my friend Bear died. The hospital he was in, VGH in Vancouver, through unhygienic procedures infected him with C difficile. (He’s not the only person I know who received infections in the hospital: I know of two others who luckily didn’t lose their lives.) I’ve written about this before but I may not have gone into the quality of the food.

Part of the healing process for any person involves several factors. One is getting rid of the infection/disease or removing /fixing the problem. However mental health also plays a big part in healing. If a person is depressed or of a negative frame it can slow or even halt healing. Having experienced depression in the past I know that depression can even bring on problems. I ended up with elbow joint pain that no amount of therapy could fix. It went away with the anti-depressants.

That’s two factors: medical help and mental health. The third and important aspect is having a healthy body that has all the resources for mending. That means having adequate red blood cells, vitamins, nutrition, etc. I’m not a medical expert and there are many doctors that could tell you the specifics, however any deficiency can hinder health. So that third aspect of healing is having the proper nutrition to bring about a full return to health.

Malnutrition in any of a host of vitamins and nutrients can cause everything from deformity to death. It is a serious issue. My friend had several factors against him in regards to eating. They included being a celiac as well as a picky eater, and of course after C difficile took his intestines and shut down his kidneys, food just didn’t taste right.

I often showed up around his dinner time and his plate would include two stale pieces of rice bread, one incredibly thin piece of luncheon meat, maybe a pat of butter or margarine, sometimes one boiled egg, sometimes broccoli boiled to grey, and very little else. His dinners often consisted of a few chicken drumsticks (he was 6’7″) and maybe one small scoop of potatoes. I never tasted the food but his wife on one occasion did when he didn’t feel like eating and her report was that it was disgusting.

On other patients’ plates, in a healthier state, I would see meat, potatoes and gravy and very little resembling vegetables. Luncheon meat has little to no nutrient value and vegetables cooked to mush do not retain much that’s worthwhile either. One slice of luncheon meat hardly makes up a person’s daily intake of protein. Unpalatable meals are not a way to get a person’s appetite back, which is often subdued after a surgery. It is also the worst thing to do to a person whose system has been traumatized by illness or invasive techniques.

Between the food and the infection and resultant problems it’s no wonder that my friend died. If it wasn’t for his wife showing up everyday with home-cooked meals he probably would have died a lot sooner. It’s sad and criminal that someone has to bring in food to try and heal a patient. Many people stuck in the hospital don’t have that luxury of people bringing them good food or the energy to complain, not that it does much good anyways.

In BC at least, premier Gordon Campbell illegally tore up the contracts of union workers in hospitals. They lost their jobs and as the courts looked at the issue for four years, Campbell had the Fraser Health Authority hire the lowest bidders. Cheapest is not always best. Eventually it was found that Campbell’s government was in the wrong but not after it was too late. The damage was done and things like cleaning rooms contaminated with biohazardous waste or feeding people back to health were lost.

It’s too bad Campbell felt it was worth a few lives to save a few bucks and use a dishonorable way of getting rid of workers. It’s too bad the hospitals are so dirty now many people fear having to go in. I know I do and many of my friends do. It’s too bad the hospitals have forgotten one of the principles of health, a good and well-balanced diet. I would like to see a world where truly human life comes first and that even the sacrifice of a few should matter.

If you’re in an area where the hospitals are comprimising someone’s health with terrible food, complain and complain loudly. Involve the media, write your legislative members, blog, tell friends, do what you can so that another life need not be wasted because of such indifference. This goes of course, not just about food but about the cleanliness of hospitals too. It’s time to have people heal healthily and quickly and that involves good food.

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Buy at Sears, But Only If You Want Attitude

The first time I had problems with Sears, I eventually let it go even though I didn’t shop in the store for a year. In this day when there are so many stores, really it’s quality and service that make the difference. And so it is that I am not waiting for the three strikes you’re out. Two is enough.

The first time, I was shopping in Sears (in Vancouver) and picking up a few skirts to try on. This woman comes up to me and snatches the skirts from my hand, saying “You’re dragging them on the floor and they’re getting all dirty.” I looked at her flabbergasted and walked out. I was also looking for a winter coat but didn’t bother at that point.

These skirts may have been touching the floor but surely the store is kept relatively clean. The better thing to do would have been to ask me if she could start a fitting room or hang the clothes up in the fitting room. After all, that is not only service but protecting the merchandise. This woman said nothing about even putting them in a room for me and snatched them out of my hand. And yes, she was a worker there. I didn’t appreciate being treated like a child.

I tried after that to find an address to send a letter of complaint. Do you think I could find a corporate address or even a local address with the name of any manager attached? Not a one. Sears made it pretty much impossible to do anything farther than complain verbally and we know how far that goes. Well, it threw me off shopping there again.

Now I don’t shop a lot at Sears anyways. The fashions are often not that interesting and it’s only a rare occasion where I will. This year I needed to buy a new winter coat and after much searching, found one I liked at, of all places, Sears. It was on sale too, making it just right.

Unfortunately, I was in a parkade three weeks after buying the coat and chlorine or bleach fell on the collar and took out some of the color. The company responsible for the parkade is willing to pay for repairs. However, no one dies polyester (I thought the coat was wool…oops) so the company will have to replace the coat.

I bought it on sale but it may not be on sale anymore. So I call Sears. First on their customer service line the person keeps saying, You want to order a coat. No, no I want a quote on the cost of the coat. You want to place an order? No, I want to know how much it would cost to get the coat replaced. It’s a coat. Yes a coat. So it’s a jacket. Well, no it’s a coat, just above the knees. You want us to pay for the coat? No. You want to order a coat?  No. I’ll pass you on to our customer service, (I HAD dialled customer service) who then of course passed me on to retail customer service.

So I begin a third time to say, I was in a parkade and the coat was damaged. I need a quote on the replacement cost of the coat so the company can replace it. You were in our parkade? No, just a parkade, not Sears. I just need a quote on replacing the coat for what it sells for retail. You bought it damaged? No, Sears isn’t at fault. I bought it and then it was damaged after. But you bought it on sale. Yes but if it’s not on sale, they will have to replace it at the higher cost. It was damaged by chlorine in a parkade. How did you get chlorine on it? (Not that it’s any of their business.) It dripped on the coat. I’m not asking Sears to replace it. The company will do that. Well you have your receipt. But the receipt has the sale price. Is the coat still on sale? I don’t know (of course not, she hasn’t even asked me what the coat it is…we’re still haggling).

You have your receipt. Yes, but if the coat isn’t on sale then I need to give the company the replacement cost to replace this coat. You’ll have to buy a different one at a higher price. No, I want to get this coat so can’t you send the cost of what the coat is retail? No. Why not? Because that’s not what you bought it for. It’s not what you paid. (I’m now getting mad because she’s saying I’m trying to cheat.) It doesn’t matter what I bought it for. I’m not trying to cheat here. I need to give them the replacement cost. But you didn’t buy it for that. No I didn’t. Why can’t you say, I bought it for this amount but the regular retail is this amount? Because that’s not what you paid.

I don’t think you understand how replacement cost works. Yes I do. No. Replacement cost means the cost it would be to replace the coat, not what it was when I bought. If it’s not still on sale then it would need to be replaced at the regular price. But that’s not what you paid. You’re right it’s not. Is the coat going to be on sale three weeks later? I doubt it so how is the company going to replace it if it’s regular price? You’ll have to pay more. (It’s not up to Sears to decide who pays or not but getting them to give the full rate replacement is just not happening.)

I’m afraid after this I said, You know I’ve had problems with Sears before and this just seals it. This isn’t good customer service and I won’t be shopping there again. She said something else and I called her a bitch. I was boiling by now because she decided I was swindling someone. Obviously this woman has never had insurance with replacement cost included. I found it interesting from the moment I called and mentioned damage all she could hear was damage on Sears property or damage by Sears even though I said they weren’t at fault.

I’d write a letter to Sears corporate office but that would mean trying to find an address and the name of someone to send it to. Not likely, so I’ll vote with my bucks and go elsewhere. And it looks like there are enough other people disgruntled with Sears. I’m just glad I didn’t but a large appliance.

http://www0.epinions.com/content_215301262980/show_~allcom

http://www.my3cents.com/search.cgi?criteria=SEARS

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