Monthly Archives: June 2011

How to Bomb Out on Dating Sites

dating, love, dating sites, sex, men, chatting

Creative Commons by Motoyen (Flickr)

I’m in a state of singlehood at the moment, which some liken to being a leper while others might see as being a lion amongst a herd of gazelles. People often have different requirements on a dating site. Some want short-term dating, some long-term leading to a permanent relationship. Others want casual companions or to hook up with a bed buddy for the night. In the last situation you might start your online chat with, “Do you like it doggy style?”

But for me, there is no faster turnoff than a guy who doesn’t bother to chat about life, the universe and other intriguing things (notice I didn’t say “everything”) but instead begins with “I’m very physical. I like to cuddle/neck/be oral/snuggle/have a high libido/enjoy holding hands. What do you like?” To me, it’s rude and crass. Stick it in your profile, if you must. Often, we haven’t exchanged names yet so it’s like a guy on the street flashing open his trenchcoat.

If you met someone at a friend’s dinner party, would you start out saying, “Do you like it hard and fast or slow and soft?” Perhaps it’s suitable in some cases but in most it would be crossing a line way too soon. And without the benefit of alcohol when online (I presume here) it’s certainly a rude slap. A guy that starts with the 20 questions about sex may as well stick a picture of his penis up online as well. And if that’s all he can really think of to talk about he should just say he’s looking for sex. I couldn’t lose interest faster.

The other way to bomb in the dating field is to do another twenty questions about the age and ethnicity of guys I’ve dated. It’s one thing to know if I would date someone younger or older than me but another to want me to list their nationalities. In my bomb shelter I will hide from the barrage of such questions and wonder what the reason for asking is. If I’m willing to talk to a person younger or older and of any color it already shows I’ll likely date them. Listing every nationality or religion is bizarre.

I’d prefer not to be bombed with a multitude of questions but to trade questions and answers back and forth, even discussions about life and interests. Guys like the top two examples make me think they wouldn’t be good dating material because in one way or another they’re more hung up on sex than on relationships and on who to date by looks than just who is compatible. I do believe sex is part of a good partnership but it’s not all. If it was, I wouldn’t worry about being single or not. A great mind is more likely to get me into bed than a sex fiend is.

If you’re a guy or a woman and you think you’d like a relationship but all you can think to talk about is sex then I would suggest learning how to carry a conversation. You certainly don’t want to arrow in on the genitals in the first few chats online with someone. Unless a relationship is established, to me, it will always be crass. Those intimate questions are better left to discussions in person. If all you want is to have online sex, go for it. Just don’t bother chatting with me. Forget about love; let’s start with a decent conversation.

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Filed under Culture, internet, people, relationships, sex

Writing Update

writing, publishing, poetry, fiction, stories, horror, dark fiction, magazines, anthology

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It’s time to do another update on the writing front. Right now everything is happening quickly and I’m very busy so I can’t even keep up with myself. A new poem, “Sundance,” is up at Chizine, actually it went up last week, as part of the mega-issue, which is being done to raise donations to keep the magazine free. Chizine, as a magazine, has been going for ten years and had a sponsor who left the magazine high and dry last year when they didn’t pay promised fees. This has meant many of us have continued to work for free or nearly nothing so that the writers could get paid. If you want to read some stellar fiction and poetry there are thirteen weeks’ worth with over a dozen pieces in each week. “Darkside” was published about a month ago on  Chizine as well.

Besides Sundance, my poem “Shadow Realms” is coming out soon in Witches & Pagans #23. The poem “Of the Corn: Kore’s Innocence” was published last year and is nominated for an Aurora Award. A third poem, “Visitation: Leda’s Lament” will be coming out in Bull Spec but I don’t know what issue yet. These last two magazines are print only. As well, the reprint of the poem “Obsessions” should be coming out soon in gothic anthology Candle in the Attic Window from Innsmouth Press. While these poems could all be considered speculative, “Kore’s Innocence” and “Leda’s Lament” are part of a Greek revisioning series.

On the fiction front, my story “It’s Only Words” specifically written for The Horror Anthology of Horror Anthologies, will be the opening story in the anthology. It’s going to print as we speak and is edited Des Lewis. “Tasty Morsels” should be out sometime this summer in Polluto #8. They call themselves a magazine of anti-pop culture. These two publications are out of England. “A Book By Its Cover” was also bought for the Mirror Shards anthology, which is a collection of horror stories about augmented reality.

I’m also on a steampunk kick and sent one story, about blimps, off into the submission world. I’ve just finished a second, which I wrote specifically for an anthology but no idea if it will be accepted. It would be considered horror or at least dark. The third, “Nightingale,” is still in the works as I have to figure out how my protagonist breaks out of the antagonist’s trap. It is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of “The Emperor and the Nightingale” but very different. I still keep meaning to get back to my novel and really need to do so soon. I just have to get the brain to stop churning out other ideas. I think I’ll get this last story out of the way and backburner the rest so that I can get back to the novel in July. My goal is to have the novel completed by next year so I do have to get going.

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Filed under Culture, entertainment, fantasy, horror, myth, poetry, Publishing, science fiction, Writing

Play Review: Yippies in Love

yippies, hippies, Vancouver riots, Vancouver history, sit in, be in, property damage

Bob Sarti's "Yippies in Love" at the Cultch until July 3rd

The play Yippies in Love had its preview on Wednesday, June 22 at the Cultch, Vancouver’s east-side theater and “Culture Lab.” On until July 3rd, perhaps it would have been better named “Yippies in Confusion.” Done by Theatre in the Raw, this low budget musical had a minimalist set, which didn’t bother me as a play is more about the dialogue and the story. With a few black blocks, a tickle trunk of props, two coat racks of costumes and a screen that showed old footage of the Yippie culture, we kept our attention on the actors.

Yippies, it turns out, were revolutionary hippies. They didn’t just believe in peace and love but in rabble rousing, provoking and marching on the US embassy and Oakalla prison. They had about a two-year heyday in Vancouver’s early 70s culture, which saw police heavy handedly beating and arresting dozens of people. This was something I didn’t know about my city’s tarnished past and the play was enlightening in this aspect.

The confusion in this play happens on several levels and I confess that sometimes I just don’t get musicals. Is it a comedy musical, or a drama musical or perhaps just a venue for songs? I don’t think producer/director Jay Hamburger or composer Bill Sample knew themselves. It felt as if the tone of the Yippie values might be too serious or radical for the audience so they softened the views with songs. The songs, with lyrics by playwright Bob Sarti, were derivative, with some being of the 50s, others with tones of “Crocodile Rock” or other hits of the past. But they didn’t  have the feel of the ideals of the era being portrayed. How did  a song more suited to Grease fit into provocateurs in the 70s? The music was executed well, and the songs “Reach Out and Touch” and “It’s So Hard” were the best, while others like the incredibly goofy dancing marijuana joints singing “Dancin’ Doobies” seemed gratuitous without much substance.

Costumes pretty much amounted to someone going through people’s closets or thrift stores and getting what sort of, maybe, not always looked like 60s/70s era clothing and a few props like jackets or police hats. Makeup looked like it was left up to the actors, which meant none for the men. Now it’s a small venue so you can see their faces but one of the men (possibly Bing Jensen though the actor doesn’t match the picture in the program book) was much older than the rest of the cast who are playing people in their 20s. Though he had the deeper voice used in the music (baritone?) he was as white as a sheet, seemed to react to every hat placed on his head with red splotching, and for having such a deep voice he was hardly heard. Some makeup would have made him look like he wasn’t half dead. While he seemed animated enough he was also expressionless and a bit wooden for much of the play. The other actors (Emily Rowed,  Rebecca Shoichet) were competent and sung well but the material wasn’t something where they could shine. Danielle St. Pierre (Julie) has done a fair amount of theater and she was the strength of the piece. Steve Maddock (Andy) was good though I felt he overacted a bit.

We have to remember that this play is called Yippies in Love but even that was confusing. While Andy seems to love Julie all she wants is a special friend and the play ends with everyone going their separate ways, leaving you with the thought that they raised a little hell but accomplished nothing but living on welfare and tossing bricks through bank windows. Not much love there. Sarti says all the actions are based on true facts, and the play meanders from “be-in” to housemate chatting, to smoking pot,  to a trial, to sort of running for mayor. Perhaps this wandering very well exemplifies the way of the yippie but it only seemed to highlight the overall reactionary and militant actions of this group. This was also a little unfortunate in timing, one week after the riots that happened during the Stanley Cup finals. So, when the Yippies invade Blaine and throw bricks through a bank window it was hard to get into their exhilaration.

After the play concluded and the cast took their bows (Vancouverites will clap for nearly anything) they sang a rap song about doing it from the bottom or some such, encouraging radical protests from the grass-roots perspective. They named a lot of different social protest groups in Vancouver including Black Box. These yahoos were responsible for trying to cause riots during the Olympics and marching down the street, wearing black hoods with their faces covered. Such protests don’t actually further a cause but just cause anarchy for anarchy’s sake. This romantic romp through Vancouver’s past anarchic protesters got across the point of how pointless it all is. Maybe that’s the message. If so, it succeeded.

I went with three other friends and two wanted to leave at the intermission. I wanted to stay so I could write a complete review. The other person was hoping for some closure. I’m being generous and would give Yippies in Love two peace signs out of five.

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Four Things in War Movies That Would Never Happen

movies, war, fighting, chevalier, horses, swords, armor, king arthur, battle, mayhem

Clive Owen in King Arthur

I love historical films, or period piece movies, where the setting is of a different time and especially of a different culture. Once you go pre-Industrial era you’re dealing with huge (or sometimes small) battles involving cutlasses, swords, spears, maces, arrows, catapults, boiling oil, inaccurate muskets, canons and a whole host of hand to hand combat. With the medieval era or early there is still this romanticism about the noble knight, a holdover from Victorian notions that Hollywood has embraced. Sure, war scenes have become gorier, with bodies being skewered and sliced, and blood spraying everywhere. Reality would be the reason the directors would give. But even they fall victim to romanticism, so that even if a movie looks historically accurate in terms of costume and setting, they’ll veer in actual actions and attitudes.

  1. The mounted fighter will leap off his horse to battle the hordes on the ground. Not in a million years. The difference between a mounted fighter and one on fought was astronomical. Horses and armor were so expensive that those who had these items were pretty much guaranteed to be knights. The term chevalier comes from the Latin caballarius meaning horseman. It was the French word for knight and a noble. Because of the expense of a horse the knight would not give up his mount easily, nor would he lose the advantage he had of literally being head and shoulders above the crowd. It meant superior mobility, better viewing of the battle and powerful blows from above. The knight would stay mounted as long as he could, until he was either pulled off his horse or his horse was killed.
  2. The noble knight wears no helmet in battle or tears it off in the final face-to-face with the foe. So, what is the point of wearing armor if you remove parts of it, especially when fighting the more experienced warrior? Armor, like those horses, was expensive and you didn’t want to lose your helmet amongst the gore on the field. Not to mention, leave you head bare to being sliced up? I’ll mention here too that the helmets are usually tied, buckled or clipped on to stop them from toppling off with any knock. Maybe not all were, but they would have covered the faces and necks and would not sit jauntily atop the head. I’m no armor expert but I know enough that you have to affix your armor so it stays in place. Clive Owen as Arturius (Arthur) above wore his helmet in battle but his dying comrades didn’t always.
  3. Armor is black, especially if you’re noble or a bad guy. Before about the 1600s black was a dye color that was extremely difficult to procure, if you could get it at all, and came from black walnut and oak galls. It was therefore very expensive. If you managed to get some of this dye,would you waste it on armor when it was going to get scuffed and hacked at? No. You’d use it on your clothing. The lower classes got the more washed out colors of blue, green, brown, yellow and pink. No one would have black armor unless the metal itself was black and that too would have been rare. Even if movies have no battles this is the biggest mistake made.
  4. Traveling through the snowy, cold mountains with your cloak billowing behind you, if you’re wearing one. Early armor was made of leather boiled in beeswax. Then there was chain mail and later, plate metal. Some armor could be a combination of two or three of these things. Any metal was cold so warriors always had padding beneath, for keeping the metal off the skin to stop chafing, bruising and cuts, and to insulate. If it was cold enough to wear a cloak and still need to wear your armor while traveling through hostile territory, you would have it billowing nobly behind you. What’s the point? To look like Superman? It certainly wouldn’t serve the purpose it was made for, which was warmth. Everything in those early centuries was handmade and not cheap to replace.

I’m sure there are more inconsistencies and inaccuracies in those movies that show battles. I won’t even touch on the World War movies as I don’t watch many of those. If you have any pet peeve with Hollywood’s mutilation of history, let me know.

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What to Do With Vancouver’s Rioters

riot, Stanley Cup, Vancouver riot, car smashing, hockey, rioters, looting

Creative Commons: Mike Carlson, Reuters (The Calgary Herald)

It’s already made news throughout North America and farther; the rioting in Vancouver over the Canucks’ loss of the Stanley Cup. While countries like Yemen and Libya have people fighting for their lives and freedom, rioting where they are dying, we have a bunch of goofs rioting because a sports team didn’t win the Cup, because they have too much time on their hand, because they have no respect for anyone else.

A million dollars could not have got me downtown last night where over 100,000 people gathered, and as CBC news reporter Priya Ramu said, many of the people were drunk before the games began and the streets were littered with beer cans and mickey flasks. She heard people saying, if the Canucks lose, riot. There were even people interviewed saying they were down there for the riots. While the percentage of rioters would be a small amount of the total people attending, the fact is that many pictures show gangs overturning cars and fighting with police while many more onlookers cheer them on.

Are these our modern heroes? Is this what’s important in the world? The issue wasn’t just the crowd during the game. There were crowds of people harassing the Bruins at the hotel where they were sleeping, with cars driving through the parking lot all night honking horns. As well a s twitter flash mob gathered in the hotel parking lot to scream and try to keep the Bruins awake. Wow, what a proud record Vancouver holds. I’m sure the Canucks are ashamed to call Vancouver home with this sort of attitude. I guess the term good sportsmanship means nothing to fans and “sore loser” has become the order of the day. People wonder why I don’t watch hockey. With this kind of attitude, which included booing the presenter in Roger’s Arena being so loudly that he couldn’t be heard when handing out the trophies, it’s no wonder I can’t find the sport in these games.

But I have an answer on what to do with the rioters, the looters, the thugs who threatened people and tore apart our city. Like the picture above, many people are recognizable and many of these people will be caught. Here’s some of the things these people should have to do; be charged with the crime, pay for the damages and do volunteer work (that’s no pay) cleaning the city and feeding the poor. But what would be best, since these yahoos have way too much energy and aggression and no sense of what’s important, is to draft them. I’m not fan of war and the draft but it seems to me that if these guys were sent into the army and made to serve without pay (that pay equaling the cost of the damages they inflicted) that at least their aggressions could go to a purpose, a good purpose. I have no sympathy for these jerks, whether men or women. Let them taste what riots are really like from the other side when people’s lives are at stake.

After a rant by one person elsewhere I want to say, it’s not to unleash dynamos of war, rape and torture on unsuspecting victims in other countries but to bring discipline and purpose to these people. Most of them are men with too much time and aggression. Maybe it’s anger, maybe it’s lack of structure. Few of those are going to be sociopaths. Most are able to be trained and I bet that many of them would be crying like babies by even having to face a boot camp, let alone follow army discipline or get blown up. If this seems too hard-edged for some, then give them a choice: five years in jail or two years in the army. They’ll come out of the army with a better perspective than sitting and stewing bitterly in jail, and not contributing to society, which is what they’re doing already.

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I Don’t Hate Bicyclists!

bikes, cars, commuting, traffic, no cars, bicyclists, bike lanes

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Okay, I have to revisit this topic, as my bicycling friends think I’m out to get them. Let me reiterate. Bikes are a good thing. Bicyclists are a good thing. Bike lanes are a good thing. But… there are major transportation issues in Vancouver and I firmly believe the way they’re being handled is not the best answer and is causing antagonism.

Listening to my biking, driving and walking friends, there are several factors at play. Vancouver wants to cut down on people driving to the downtown core. Not a bad thing but as the mayor of Calgary, Naheed Nenshi, said, he believes in the dangling-the-carrot approach. Right now, it feels as if Vancouver is punishing anyone who drives. First, we have the highest gas prices in the country. This is partly because of the province’s supposedly green policy, which again punishes drivers, doesn’t tax gas companies and doesn’t offer a cheap and efficient alternative.

Coupled with a downtown core that you can only reach from North and West Vancouver by two bridges (Lions Gate and Iron Workers Memorial), or from the south side of Vancouver by three bridges (Burrard, Cambie, Granville), this adds to a crush for people commuting to work.  From the east  there are several roads and only one pseudo bridge, the Georgia Viaduct. It looks like a bridge and acts like a bridge but other major streets going into Vancouver are Powell, E. Cordova, Hastings and Expo Blvd. via Prior St. (which is also the street that leads to the viaduct).

bike lanes, bicyclists, biking, traffic, commuting, Vancouver, no bikes

Wiki Commons

Now I believe bicyclists have a lane over the Lions Gate Bridge and there is one over the Burrard St. Bridge. These are fine, and Burrard used to have a shared pedestrian/bicyclist sidewalk. I used to walk it and learned that this was the safest thing because bicyclists on the road were very much in danger of being smunched and on the sidewalk they smunched pedestrians. It wasn’t the best solution so making a lane was the better choice and when you have bridges you have to choose one of them. Lions Gate Bridge is closer to downtown and Cambie and Granville have too many feeder routes. There is no “from the west side” to get to downtown Vancouver unless you take a boat. But from the east, the most popular car routes are the viaduct and probably Hastings. Hastings is two way but the viaduct feeds onto a one-way street downtown or a one-way street out of downtown. Unfortunately in this case, the city chose the worst possible street that conflicts greatly with drivers coming in and limiting ways to turn. One or two of the other streets would have worked better.

You can no longer turn right for blocks and blocks. As well, no one knows for sure who has the right of way. There are some signs. Cars yield to bikes coming up on their right side. Big barricades limit delivery vehicles from offloading supplies. If a bicyclist wants to turn left from the right side bike lane, how do they do that, especially with concrete barricades limiting them? I should also say, that the city says 1800 people a day use the bike lanes but the one that goes along the Georgia Viaduct onto Dunsmuir St. doesn’t look that busy. My walking friend who works downtown says he’s never seen more than four people on it at once, nor have I until the other night, out of rush hour, when I saw five. But either way, they could have put this bike lane on a different street where it wouldn’t have inconvenienced drivers and still given bicyclists a free lane.

Now, how do you keep bike lanes and not punish drivers because, yes, there are many drivers as well and many reasons why a person can’t just bike into the city. Let’s not even mention winter weather. Try this. Don’t punish people for living farther out and having to commute into work. Charge the same price, make the bus/train really cheap and more people will take it. Don’t stop the SkyTrain at 12:30 am when clubs are open till 3 am. Don’t blame drivers for all the faults. Do encourage people with better education for cyclists and motorists. Don’t do things like critical mass, which only raises the antagonism level. Do think about the structure of a city ringed by estuaries, rivers and the ocean. Make taking the bus in the downtown core completely free, as Calgary does. Think about dangling the carrot.

I’ll end with that we do need a better solution and if I could afford an electric/hybrid car I would have changed long ago. I also stay as far away from downtown as I possibly can, except when I go to my doctor. I don’t go for drinks, dinner or movies downtown because parking is expensive, roads are blocked and I feel like I’m bad just because I have a car. I’m an environmental advocate but I also can’t afford to buy an $800 bike and I can’t sell my car. So before we blame another group the best solution is to work together, which means listening reasonably to all sides, not believing one way is the only and right way.

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Filed under cars, Culture, driving, travel

The World’s Oldest Profession

prostitute, courtesan, hooker, prostitution, Greek, music

Wiki Commons: courtesan and musician w/client

It’s debatable as the oldest profession, but it’s also true that prostitution has been around for a very very long time. And undoubtedly there were probably forms of prostitution going back to Babylonian times. While there are Sumerian and Mesopotamian texts referring to prostitutes there is still great debate as to whether there were sacred prostitutes who gave themselves away for coin at various temples. There are many references to Aphrodite, Ishtar and Inanna, and Herodotus writes about the temple prostitutes for some of these goddesses, but some scholars debate the veracity of his words.

One thing is certain; as long as we have had men and women, there has been a need or a want for sex. And the trade has been plied in various cultures and various ways for millennia. The ancient Greeks differentiated between courtesans, concubines and wives: “we have courtesans for pleasure, concubines to provide for our daily needs, and our spouses to give us legitimate children and to be the faithful guardians of our home.” (Pseudo-Demosthenes) As with this comment it is obvious there were different classes of prostitutes. Pornai were often owned by pimps and therefore either slaves or indentured servants. Then there were hetaera, those we would associate with mistresses or courtesans. They didn’t sell to various customers but would have had a select clientele.

The hetaera could manage their own affairs, while the pornai would have possibly been dancers, musicians and/or women who had to sell themselves to survive because they had no pater familias to protect them. The world of the Greeks was not an easy place for a woman and for her to do anything she needed the protection of a man, unless she was of the select few who could run businesses and own property without a man’s permission (Vestal Virgins were one group in Roman times). Young girls and boys could also have been prostitutes, sold into it or born into it, and the world and culture were different then.

But has it changed much in the world today? Prostitutes who are “owned” by pimps are often still on the lower rung of the ladder, whereas call girls and courtesans rate higher, work with select clients and don’t have to be on the street. There are many people who get into prostitution because they are destitute, on drugs or suffered an abusive childhood (often including sexual assault). But there are some who prefer it, because, like the sacred prostitutes of long ago (some of them), they feel they are therapists, they like it or they enjoy the rewards they can reap, though like any job, work is work. There are those forced into it as child prostitutes. No one, no matter their age or gender should ever be forced to give or sell sex.

But should it be legalized? Yes. To do so would get it off of the streets…mostly (more on this in a minute). Sex workers could be certified, checked for diseases, housed in government brothels (just like cigarettes and alcohol, I can’t see how the government has passed up this opportunity for another vice tax), protected from pimps and dangerous johns. Those on the street would more likely be those underage and the police could haul them and the johns in for consorting with minors. It would literally clean up the streets and keep almost everyone else safer. Of course, there is always a grey area and the laws would have to be explicit as to how the prostitution would look, including laws about minors, people not in control of their faculties (drug addicts) and what is okay. But it can be done and places like Amsterdam and Nevada prove it.

To let outmoded religious beliefs of a few affect the sex trade is yet another case of forcing one’s morality on another. If it doesn’t hurt anyone, then it should be allowed. Let adults be adults and decide for themselves. And let’s do more to protect the numerous women out there so that they’re less likely to end up as a corpse in the woods or on Picton’s pig farm. Keeping prostitution illegal only hurts those who are in the trade and doesn’t even give them a better way out.

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Platitudes For Attitude

Ever wondered what a platitude is? Probably not but we use them all the time. A platitude is defined by Websters as a “banal, trite or stale remark.” A homily is an “inspirational catchphrase.” Making any sense yet?

Let’s put it into context. I’ve heard plenty on being single, without people necessarily knowing my situation. Here are a few.

  • Oh, you’re trying too hard.
  • When you stop trying, that’s when it will happen.
  • You’re not trying hard enough.
  • You need to look in new places.
  • You’re too picky.
  • The right one will come along.
  • Don’t give up hope.

They work for all situations, such as being laid off or being fired.

  • A better one will come along.
  • Sometimes we just need a change.
  • Things are bound to change.
  • I’m sure you’ll get another job soon.
  • If you don’t succeed, try and try again.
  • Don’t give up hope.

How about for health? “It’s God’s will.” Children? “This hurts me more than it hurts you.” People? “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Travel? Sports? Education?

I’m sure there are a million platitudes. The road to hell is, after all, paved with good intentions. And platitudes. Gobs and buckets full of oozing platitudes.

After hearing the numerous and often contradictory homilies from well-meaning friends I just started saying, please, no more platitudes. These phrases seem to be a way for a person to try to ease someone’s pain, fears, worry, sadness or situation that looks lacking to those who have better circumstances. Perhaps it is just a human need to try to offer some form of cheerleading. Perhaps we feel uncomfortable when someone has encountered a setback in their lives. Perhaps, like reading crystal balls and tea leaves, we believe that to offer a homily will be a prediction come true. But the fact is, no one knows what the future holds and there are many people who don’t get what they want or need through their lives. Giving some shallow catchphrase does very little good.

Sad fact, but life isn’t fair and it takes work. Only those privileged few born with gold spoons in their mouths don’t have to try. Maybe they get platitudes too. But I’ve found, after hearing some of these phrases far too many times and catching myself even saying them, that they just sound hollow. I would prefer someone saying, We’re here to support or help you as a friend and I hope things get better soon. That seems far more genuine.

I’ll leave you with Aldous Huxley‘s comment about platitudes: Proverbs are always platitudes until you have personally experienced the truth of them.

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Being a Major Minority

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Time and again I hear our provincial and federal governments, and the politicians on their campaign tirades, talk about more money for this and that, giving support to various groups. The most common is “We’re going to support and get more money for children and families.” It’s always families, as if you get a big reward for having children. Don’t get me wrong; I love children and they are born with potential that is only marred by life’s circumstances like location, status, family relations and everything else that molds us. Children should be very much cared for and loved and given every opportunity to become productive, worthwhile and happy adults.

But in a world burgeoning on overpopulation in many countries, with resources being stressed so far that I’m not sure I want to be a child a hundred years from now, I have to wonder about this constant campaigning to support families. “You’ve had one, two, five children; you obviously need support,” say the politicians. But really “you” chose to have those children. You should probably have figured out your budget first. Admittedly procreation is an overwhelming urge in all animals, one way that a species perpetuates and survives, and imperative even in humans. But studies of different animals have shown over time that an overcrowded population tends to bring in controls, not consciously but by nature. Some of these effects of overcrowding tend to be increased violence and disease. One study in rats (that a rat researcher told me of years ago) indicated that overpopulation increased the percentage of homosexuality. This study may or may not have been repeated but it would make a certain sense in population control.

So, in this world there are those who are parents, and those who are not; those single people or couples who, for one reason or another, do not have children are the other. When the government talks about giving support to those burdened families there is never talk about giving it to single people unless they’re young (teens/children) or very old. Being one of those childless and single people, I get a bit miffed. If one person in a couple loses their job, they still have the other person to help with everything from mortgage to food. If you’re a single person, you have nothing but the bridge to live under. Yes, sometimes families need help but controlling that procreation urge (and I speak of those having four, five, ten children) would keep lifestyles saner.

It’s like we’re the black sheep and the lepers combined. I guess someone out there thinks we live high on the hog, doing the singles nightlife constantly, buying the expensive drinks and cars and other toys. Sad to say, many of us struggle with paying unmanageable rents/mortgages while covering all those other costs of living, such as food and clothing and utilities. Families do far more activities than I do. When I hear that families get a break but I don’t because I’m invisible I wonder what sort of stigma the single person and the childless person has. We’re not contributing to overcrowding; we are contributing to society as much as anyone else so why are we not worthy? If things go very bad for me I’ll end up under a bridge, with no support and the government won’t help. I’ve been there in the past, and prostitution looked like it would have to be an option. Luckily I didn’t have to go that route. It makes me really wonder if I should just start popping out kids and be a welfare mom and get government support for families, since “family” is the magical word here.

Above picture courtesy of Uppity Woman blog.

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Writing: Awards From a Canadian Perspective

Creative Commons: The Bram Stoker Award

 

Like every profession, those who excel or are the tops in their field will often receive an award or some form of recognition. How those awards are meted out tend to differ. For writing, the various top awards are given by means of voting by the readers, by members or colleagues or through juries and judges. All of these have merits and flaws. Here is a partial list of some of the awards given out in speculative fiction:

  • Hugo Awards
  • Nebula Awards (works published in US voted on by SFWA members)
  • James Tiptree Award
  • John W. Campbell
  • Philip K. Dick
  • Theodore Sturgeon Award
  • Arthur C. Clark
  • World Fantasy Award
  • Bram Stoker (voted on by HWA members)
  • Sunburst Award (Canadian works)
  • Aurora Award (Canadian writers)
  • British Fantasy Award (British)
  • Aurealis (Australian)

The list actually goes on, and a full breakdown can be found on the Locus magazine site. Descriptions of each are given as well. My curiosity about visibility of Canadian writers and awards came about because the Horror Writers Association sent me and invitation, saying I was eligible. I’d actually been eligible years before when I could have got full pro membership (before they raised the rates) but never did anything about it. Than I found they’ve created a supporting member category for those who are selling but not at a pro rate of which few magazines offer (.5 cents or more per word). Yes, you do not get rich writing speculative fiction,k in most cases.

I was more interested in whether a story/novel published by a small Canadian publisher would ever be noticed enough to be nominated for bigger awards. Obviously some awards, such as the Nebulas, for works published in the US, or the Aurealis for Australian works, might limit this, but then again there are many Canadian authors published in or distributed in the US. I posted my question to our writers’ list and here are some of the opinions.

Gemma Files, published by Chizine Publications, is up for this year’s Bram Stoker for first novel. Other Canadians have won or been nominated for this award in the past, such as Edo Van Belkom, John Little , Nancy Kilpatrick, Robert Sawyer, Sandra Kasturi, Brett Savory, David Nickle, Don Hutchison, Charles de Lint and probably a few others that I missed. Many of these publications were from the US but some were Canadian. Some of the publishers were Canadian as well, while the authors were American. So it looks like, as long as the publications are known of or distributed far enough, Canadian representation is there in the Stokers.

The Hugo nominees, voted on by fans at the World SF conventions, are supposedly from all countries. However, since most World SF cons are in the US and there majority of publishers are there, there will be a tendency to have more US oriented works. But, that doesn’t mean a Canadian isn’t nominated, especially if they’re published by Tor or some other big US publisher. Charles de Lint is a good example and has been nominated over 45 times for Aurora, Sunburst, World Fantasy, Nebula and British Fantasy awards among others. And he’s Canadian.

However, looking back quickly over the last 11 years of Hugo awards it seems there are very few small presses and  none that aren’t American though in fact they have no restrictions on language or country. (I could also be wrong about small presses from outside the US–someone please correct me.)

But when an award is voted on by attending members of a convention or on fans it is a smaller spectrum of the writing avaialabe. It is first limited by a name the fan recognizes or the books they’ve read. This also runs true for member-voted awards of associations such as SFWA or HWA. There is a limit to how much a person can read or what they like. Some people will vote for someone based on the popularity of their name, even if they have’nt read the work. It happens all the time.

Canada’s population is much smaller than the US, and even if all Canadians were published in the US there would be a smaller percentage and a smaller number nominated for awards. Canadian publishers are less likely to be seen by American readers, which also limits the range of available works. But I doubt there is anyone who has read all that is published in a year though I have to give people like Gardner Dozois and Ellen Datlow huge kudos for the sheer volume of stuff they go through. I’d almost say the Year’s Best anthologies are a more accurate collection of written works than any award.

But truth be told, no award will ever really have all of the best authors or stories or publishers. There is always a limiting of the field by various means. But Canadians don’t do too badly, considering, and are holding their own. As we have more digital formats and the universality of the internet we are likely to see more and more authors from all parts of the world.

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