Category Archives: news

Grrr, Tough on Crime

crime, heroes, tough on crime, Captain Marvel, fighting,

Captain Marvel gets tough on crime (Marvel Comics)

Yet again, we’re hearing about the Harper government’s tough on crime slogan. I actually get shudders because this phrase just sounds a bit too much like the Bushism “War on Terror.” There’s a crusader’s zeal to it that means not taking measured steps or looking at issues sensibly. It’s a fervent belief that actually has no facts to support the need.

Crime in general and violent crime has been going down consistently in Canada, so what’s happening?

Well, on one level, you have a Conservative government with some scary religious zeal being redirected to where Canadians will find it more acceptable than true religious right-wing zealotry. Crime! Everyone hates crime and yes we want people to be punished for their misdeeds. But the government’s smoke and mirrors means they’re really spending relatively little on building more prisons for a crime rate that’s going done. Then in a few years when the greatly diminished statistics are available (because this government cut out a lot of what’s needed by statisticians) they can say, “Look what a great job we did.”

Hmm, in the meantime they haven’t spent money on crime prevention, which includes lessening poverty, providing education for children (including those who have learning disabilities), and helping people get away from drug addiction. Much better to throw the drug addicts in prison where they can become ever more hardened than try to rehabilitate.

The other half of this weird equation where crime is going down but it “looks” like it’s going up can be blamed on media. When I say media I mean all, from the comic above to all those TV shows and movies with violent criminals or sometimes savvy and cool and handsome ones (the thieves and internet heisters). This also includes radio, TV, newspaper and internet news. We are now supersaturated in the fat of tragedy. Every trauma, tragedy, disaster or crisis is reported on. We don’t get the news just twice a day, but every hour, in twitter, on the internet, in colour, with numerous graphic pictures. We get talk shows and articles until all we see is the DIRE HORRIBLE STATE OF THE WORLD. Aieeee!

No wonder the Conservative government can sell wasting money on more prisons when crime is going down (gang warfare however, is going up). It would be nice if the media went back to unbiased reporting, which means mentioned the good things in life too. How about a few more tales of human kindness and achievement, of the beauty in the world both natural and made by humans. I want to weep sometimes as the mess we’re making but we also have great creative beautiful minds and the majority of people aren’t criminals and really do want the world to be a better place. So while we stay tough on crime (England’s thugs, I’m talking to you) let’s also be gentle and uplifting with beauty.

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Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

The massacre in Norway is in some ways not new. Unfortunately, it’s a common enough scenario; yet another example of the endemic problem of judgment, racism or bigotry that infects this planet. Granted, there are people of unstable or extreme personality types such as narcissists who believe only they matter, or sociopaths who don’t really care about anything but their own gratification. I don’t know the statistics but I’m betting half of all massacres, multiple murders and suicide pacts are from unstable personalities. Religious temperament is probably responsible for the other half.

peace, war, fighting, getting along, coexisting, bigotry, racism

Creative Commons: co_exist_by_c3b4

If we rule out that all religious beliefs make you a little crazy or that racism is only practiced by nutjobs, then we have to believe that people have extreme views and sane minds. But what’s at the basis of all the bigotry and hate crimes?

It’s a belief that someone is “other.” I am green and you are purple. Therefore you are different, not like me, maybe an alien and I can’t trust you. Or: You believe the flying spaghetti monster is god and I believe in Cthulhu. Therefore you are evil and should be shot down for spreading spaghetti monster worship, which is wrong. This I believe.

These examples are all about judgment and belief. A belief that I am better, my way of seeing the world is right and yours is wrong for some reason. I believe I am more favored by god but somehow you’re not or bringing in the wrong god. But what does it offend? Our sensibilities?

I may not like you walking around and showing your plumber’s crack. I may believe your religion of wearing orange cones on your head is goofy. I might see you eating cucumbers as a sign of true evil or that when you sing you are opening a hole to the world of darkness. But no matter what I BELIEVE, what really matters is, are you hurting me?

I mean tangible hurt, not some imagined slight to your soul or psyche. To me this is what it all gets down to and what we should remember. I might not like it, but is it hurting me or do I still have my freedom of movement and thought? I believe, like or worship this. Does it hurt anyone? No. Then I can do it. I can marry the rock in my garden, make sweet love to a chocolate croissant or worship the almighty slug. I might be seen as deranged but I’m not dangerous.

So everyone needs to take a deep breath and in that moment of judgment and hate boiling up in your guts, just step back and ask: Is he/she hurting anyone? If not. Then leave them alone to live their lives as they please. After all, it’s what you would want people to give you.

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Foster Homes: Better the Hell You Know

foster parents, foster homes, children, family services, child abuse

Universal's Despicable Me is a film where fostering goes right

Yet again one of Canada’s ministries of children’s welfare is in the news because a child in their care died under questionable circumstances. This one’s in Alberta and after taking a four-month old baby from the mother the child died within a week of removal. The ministry, or department, seems to keep itself steeped in secrecy and obscuring the facts. These ministries were set up to rescue children from terrible situations in their families lives and give them a chance at a normal and healthy life.

It is even the stuff of movies and books; the child removed from the abuse at home and put into a foster home. The foster home becomes one jumping off point after another, because of neglect or a host of abuses. The child grows to be a teen, often on drugs, into prostitution and on the street. The teen grows to be a criminal adult. Those fictions and tropes are unfortunately built on fact. The movie Despicable Me is about a villain who takes on foster children as a cover. The results are hilarious and fun and with a turnabout that gives the children a good home. It’s a fantasy in many ways, but a good foster home is not something all children get.

There are good foster parents who do give a child a loving and stable home in their life. There was a case in Alberta a few years back of a foster mother who lost her right to foster, not because she was bad (in fact she had fostered many children well) but because she was a lesbian. Yet ministries in various provinces have time and again placed children in homes where the people were abusive (physically or sexually), alcoholics or drug users.  And of course the worst cases are where the children lost their lives due to being placed in a home possibly more horrific than the one they were in.

Imagine the nightmare of being a child and thinking you are saved to find the situation worse, or to be torn from the dysfunctional beings that you still love and placed with monsters who care nothing for your well-being. Sad and unfortunately no exaggeration for some. For Alberta last year, six children died and five of those were Aboriginal. Makes you wonder where the ministry is placing these children.

I know of someone whose mother was a foster parent. This woman, an only child, was placed in foster care at times by her own mother, because the mother could make more money raising other people’s children than her own. Eye witnesses report that this mother would be quite verbally abusive to a child she was caring for. I also know of a couple who rescued their relation from an abusive sibling. The sibling was unfit for several reasons to be a parent and they are giving that child a stable and loving relationship that he would not have recieved from his own parent.

There are good and bad foster homes but the governments who oversee these services need to screen the foster homes far better than they do, and get their facts straight. They need to charge the people who are killing the children and they need to clean up their own acts so that they can truly rescue children from a dire situation and put them in a safe environment. I guess I’m lucky that I only had my own dysfunctional family to deal with and didn’t have to face a foster parent as well.

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Insensitivity to Living Things Hits a New Low

I know that we’ve had little sun in Vancouver this year and that with the last week finally revealing summerlike temperatures, people were awestruck. But I wonder if the following incidents are because people didn’t realize what sun could do or because they’re just exhibiting an ignorance and negligence which is, in fact, criminal.

On July 4th an Alberta mother left her four-month-old baby alone in the car in Kelowna. The exterior temperature was 30 degrees Celsisus (86 Fahrenheit), so the interior would have been even hotter. When the RCMP broke the window to get the baby out the mother returned and proclaimed the baby was okay. Seriously, she may as well have left her baby amongst containers of toxic chemicals as well. In a half hour a car sitting in temperatures of 90 degrees F can reach 124F, hotter than most of us could stand. Babies can’t regulate their temperature.

Another incident yesterday had a mother leaving her three-year-old child unattended and locked in a hot car while she went into a nearby house. The exterior temperature was 25 degrees Celsius. It’s not just that it’s dangerous to leave any living thing in a hot car, it’s also highly irresponsible and against the law to leave a child that young unattended at all.

The third in a week was an RCMP officer leaving his young police dog locked in a car while he went fishing for three hours. Imagine how hot that car would get. And another puppy died because it was left in a car for three hours where the temperatures reached 68 degrees Celsius. That’s four incidences in one week, and one death.

I’d like to say that the RCMP officer should have known better, but really, everyone should. Just as we must have a license to drive or to marry I think it would not be a bad idea to have a license to parent or to own a pet. We’re dealing with lives here. Granted that half of the population has an intelligence below average (okay, it’s a sliding scale with many at the “average” range) but this isn’t intelligence; it’s common sense.

Besides never leaving a living being locked in a hot metal box for more than a few minutes, parents should not be leaving children alone, period. There are a range of dire events that could affect unattended children in homes or cars. Here are just a few:

  • heat exposure
  • cold exposure
  • suffocation
  • kidnapping
  • car being hit or brakes being disengaged
  • fire
  • choking
  • falling

These are not cautionary myths to scare children. These are real, and animals and children die from the negligence. All this while RCMP are still investigating the death of an 18-month-old child left alone in a house while the parents went for a walk at 1:30 am. Their heat had been cut off so they were heating the place by keeping the oven going. Still, the child should not have been left alone. Don’t people understand that the word “parent” means that you’re in charge and the caregiver? If a living being is left in your care you are responsible for its well being. Use your brains and think about the consequences of leaving them alone, or in a hot car, or in a swimming pool.

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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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Writing Update

Somewhere near Giant's Causeway Ireland

This will be brief because I’ve had a couple of very busy weeks and not much time to update the blog. In fact, I’ve had little time to work on stories or my novel because there’s been too much other work.

Still, I finally received my copy of New Vampire Tales edited by James Roy Daley and available through Amazon from Books of the Dead Press. My story “Lover’s Triangle” is reprinted in this issue.

I also found out that a poem “Shadow Realms” will be in the next Witches & Pagans #23. I didn’t even know she had a poem of mine nor did Anne until a week ago. I think that will be out by the summer.

And speaking of Witches & Pagans, my poem “Of the Corn: Kore’s Innocence” has made it onto the nomination ballot for the Aurora Awards. It was in issue #21. All the nominees will be announced this weekend I believe. I was a little surprised because I thought one of  my stories would make it and not the poem. But still I’m happy to have been nominated so a big thanks to everyone who sent in nominations.

I’ve tossed in a random photo above, from my trip to Ireland three years ago. I hope to go there again this fall unless I decide to go to Spain or Italy or somewhere else. Tying in Ireland and Wales to Fantasycon, in Brighton could work for my travels. Fantasycon is the British Fantasy Society’s version of the World Fantasy convention, and takes place at the end of September. No matter what I’ll be somewhere in Europe for the fall.

Short and sweet. My posts are rarely this short, so enjoy it.

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Chizine Shazam!

Imaginarium cover, due out this year from CZP

We are plugging along at the ole Chi factory. The Chizine (Chiaroscuro) website has been revamped and is up for viewing here: http://chizine.com It opens with a mega issue or a Super God mega issue as we’re calling it.Which means it’s chockablock full of good stuff. Lots of fiction and poetry by some fantastic writers, not to mention that we’ll be posting poems from Chizine alumni, every writer who has ever been published in Chizine, the online magazine. Take a look and keep checking back. And there is a handy little visual vial that readers and those who appreciate the arts and reading can fill with donations.

Besides Chizine there is ChiZine Publications, which publishes books, and there’s the Rannu competition. And…many other promotions and contests and readings and things that CZP is involved in doing. To help the avid dark fiction fan find all this fun stuff, we’ve created the Chi hub. You can check all sorts of info at this darkly awesome site: http://chizinehub.com/

You can even check guidelines! Gasp! Yes, before you submit to any publisher you should always read the guidelines. In fact we’re going to expand an explanation on what a synopsis is. When a publisher or agent asks for a synopsis it is not the short catchy description on the jacket flap of a book. Nor, especially not, is it a movie teaser. Teasers only present the highlights and tension and we need to know, after we’ve read your three sample chapters, if there is enough story and plot to want to read further. It behooves the author to make sure we know where your story is going and how it ends. None of: “Hamid realizes the world is not as he expected after he meets the carnivorous unicorn girl and events take a turn for the worse.” Tell us that Hamid fights off the carnivorous unicorn girl only to find out she is a virtual creation of his anima. He  conquers his fears, eats his beliefs and recreates himself, quelling the hallucinations. On a new day, Hamid has become a murderer, immersing himself in a shadow world of his own imagining, which is explored in book 2.

Synopses list the main events AND give a conclusion. Check out the Chi hub and if you have any comments, please let us know.

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Skimming the Scum of Election Campaigns

Three days into the campaign for our fourth election in seven years, and I find I’m already getting aggravated. What happened to the time when political parties would actually campaign, saying what they would do and give the country? Now it’s not campaigning; it’s haranguing, attacking and generally low brow attitudes that would make the drunks in an alley brawl proud.

The government, run by the Conservative party, has brought Canada to an all-time low in being the first country in the commonwealth to be found in contempt of parliament (that includes England’s lengthy five or six centuries). I guess I shouldn’t expect any ethical attitudes but I’m sad to say I think all the parties have pulled off their gloves and are jumping into the mud. On Friday (the first day of campaigning) Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said that if you vote for any party other than the Liberals you’ll have more of the same, the contempt the Conservatives were charged with, which has brought around the new round of political campaigning. I find that insulting to paint everyone with the same brush and when it was clearly the Conservative government that did this to say other parties would is just low.


Creative Commons: theresalubowitz.com

Today I hear Harper going on about Ignatieff wanting to form a coalition government, which Ignatieff never said. In fact the ad to the right not only made aspersions that Ignatieff had made such a deal in the past when he wasn’t even party leader. The background picture shows three other people, but Harper is trying hard to convince , a) a coalition government is bad when in fact we’ve never had one and it couldn’t be as bad as the contemptuous Conservative government, b) that Ignatieff ever had anything to do with the first time around way back, and that, c) this is what Ignatieff plans now, when he has expressly said no. After all, to say the Liberals are going for a coalition government is admitting defeat at being a majority before the voting happens.

It’s actually hard to find many images of the attack campaigns because most are verbal harangues or TV spots and I don’t watch TV. Thank the gods; otherwise this might become so irritating I wouldn’t vote. And that’s the point of this. If the politicians would all get of their high horses of arrogance and get back to actually campaigning.

Creative Commons: PointsofInformation.com

I don’t know if all the parties are slinging mud yet but I’m having little faith. The examples of the NDP, Conservative and Liberal images here are not all attack ads. Two are political cartoons. While lampooning is done by various papers the biased rhetoric of the parties disgust me so much that no wonder people aren’t voting. I will, because I believe you can’t complain unless you voted.

I’m beginning to think we should scour all the political parties and put in some new faces and fresh ideas but it doesn’t seem long before they all become jaded and join the giant sandbox. Of course you have to watch out for sandboxes because you never know what animal has used it as a toilet.

 

I’ve been trying to ad the links today but WordPress isn’t accepting them. Will try later.

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Writing: March Update

Creative Commons

Want to read one of my poems, besides the one listed here? Well you’ll be able to in a month or so at Polu Texni. http://www.polutexni.com/ “A Good Catch” about a mermaid gone awry will be published in this online magazine. The poem was an honorable mention in the Rannu competition (two honorable mentions are given and equivalent of second place).

I’ve also just sold a story “Tasty Morsels” to Polluto #8, a British magazine. http://www.polluto.com/ I think it will be out in late spring but I’m not sure yet.

As well, “Exegesis of the Insecta Apocrypha” published in Horror Library Vol. IV has made Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year. Of course having a story selected for the anthology would have even been better but hey, it’s nice to be on that list again.

In other news I’m still judging the poems in the Rannu competition. I’ve done my second read-through and narrowed my list down. Now I’ll have to compare to the other judge’s and then we have to pick a winner and two honorable mentions. That should be done in the next month.

I’ve also finally finished my steampunk/blimp story and have it going through a few readers to catch those technical glitches. I’ve been up in a hot air balloon (the smallest possible airship) once but it was many years ago and the blimp (the next size up) in the 1800s has some different mechanisms that took getting my brain around it. It’s good to have someone who’s an ex-air force pilot and fan of airships look over it. I’ll work on the rewrite and hope to send that out in the next month.

Which means, my plate is cleared to work on another story. But I’ve also made a commitment to finish the languishing novel this year so it’s moving up the list. And slush, I still have slush to catch up on and gotta get going on that one. Maybe I’ll have plowed through enough slush before going to the World Horror Con in Austin at the end of April so that my conscience will be free. The pen never goes dry.

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When Do We Start Glowing in the Dark?

Creative Commons: by truthout.org

Japan has been hit threefold with disasters: the earthquake, the tsunami and now the possible meltdown of several nuclear reactors. It’s a sad and tragic time for their nation and for the world. My heart goes out to the devastating losses they’re facing. Of course one nation’s disasters often has ripple effects that can affect the whole world and none more so than nuclear fallout.

While the Canadian government is assuring us right now that we’re okay, even though people are buying up iodine, I wonder how true those assurances are. Every earthquake in Japan can raise the risk of a tsunami there and along the North American pacific coast. As well, we fear that fallout from a meltdown will be blown this way. It’s not an unreasonable fear.

Nuclear radiation, in high enough doses, can cause leukemia, cancer and death. In fact, my mother tells me that one never heard of leukemia before the second world war. Is this true or just an anecdote? Well, one way that forged paintings or other historical artifacts are identified as modern fakes is by the testing for strontium-90, a radioactive isotope that wasn’t really evident before nuclear war and testing. Studies have shown that children born after 1963 had 50 times more strontium-90 in their teeth than before nuclear testing began. The bones absorb strontium-90 as if it were calcium.

Radiation is an invisible demon. We can’t see it, we can’t taste and yet it can affect us in many harmful ways. We have no way of knowing how cancer rates compare to four centuries ago because they weren’t recorded then and may have been called something else. So how do we know? But we do know radiation can be harmful. Every bit of fallout from testing, from bombs, from other disasters or

Creative Commons: Wikimedia Ehamberg & Stannered

uses, does disperse more of the deadly isotopes (and there are others)  into our atmosphere. It goes into our water, our earth, our plants, our animals, our bodies. It builds up.

While our ancestors of several centuries back may have been healthier from fewer chemicals and less radiation, they also died faster from other diseases because medical science was not equal to the task. And it’s true that people can often live through a radiation exposure, though the long-term effects on a person or their ancestors is another matter. The image to the right shows the types of radiation with gamma rays, the deadliest able to penetrate most things and stopped only by thick lead. Of course, lead next to your skin isn’t very healthy either but perhaps we’ll see new fashion trends involving lead woven into items.

The government says not to worry yet they’ve said that in the past about such things as thalidomide. There have been two other related nuclear incidents; that of Three-Mile Island in Pennsylvania and Chernobyl in the Ukraine. Whether it affects the immediate surroundings or all of the world, it is not a good thing. I’m not a scientist and all the aspects of radiation would take a book, but I can’t blame people for wanting to suck back iodine and wear lead coats. After all, it’s better to be safe than glowing in the dark. (And yes, those glow in the dark items we use do run on radiation but on very very low doses.) I think we already glow a little bit.

Below are a couple of articles on Chernobyl and how radiation works.

The Chernobyl Disaster

The_Effects_of_Radiation_on_Matter

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