felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Quiet weeks. Lots of work, lots of writing. There is an election going on, but I've been working on it a lot less than I expected.

(There's only so much a person with problems with strangers and crowds can do for an election campaign. I've hung a few signs, done a little data entry, vacuumed a campaign office - and that's it so far.)

We're once again going to the polls to see if we can dislodge he worst prime minister we've ever had. The polling stats for the different parties are roughly where they were last time, though there are so many close races that a few numbers one way or the other can make a lot of difference.

I'm really hoping that non-voters will get more engaged, or that Harper will make some misstep that finally defeats them - though given all he's already done, it's hard to imagine what that would be.

In other election news, a CBC show this morning discussed scientific evidence that people vote more based on a politician's looks than their ideas. Anyone who thinks that applies to Canada has never seen photos of our leaders.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)

So I got back my novel, and the response was...confusing. I got not one but two letters from two different editors. One was an encouraging, the same a before. She was encouraging, but had problems with it still - some I agreed with, some I didn't - and didn't think my style was mature enough yet. She also thought it wasssThe other was a standard rejection letter.

Neither wanted to see it again. But I feel like I've been written two dissenting opinions by a supreme court.

So now begins the great re-edit. I already have my next publishing house picked out, and I've begun my outline. I'll save the heavy work on it for after I finish novel number three, which is a lot of fun and a nice break from heavier work of the main novel.

Nope. Not getting discouraged. I won't let myself. Not until I've been rejected by as many houses as rejected Harry Potter :)


So it was a huge day for human rights in Canada yesterday - the biggest hurdle in the fight for adding trans folk to the Canadian Human Rights act. Now, it hasn't passed yet. There are still hurdles - our evil leader could still find a Machiavellian means to kill the bill, as he did with our big climate change bill. Our democratic mechanisms are rusting closed in this country.

Still, it's made it this far. Props for that go to politicians Bill Siksay, Megan Leslie, and Olivia Chow from my party the NDP. But outside the House of Commons, the one person most responsible for this bill's passage is my dear friend and roommate, [profile] montrealais. He's been a one-activist army, talking to the media, organising actions, setting up a website, writing letters, and getting others to do the same.

If it goes through, now, its effect is limited - protection from discrimination in government agencies (including the military), in airports, in federal housing, and in banks. Next step is the provincial battles, and a Charter challenge court case for the rest. While its scope is limited, though, it's the first time the Canadian government has stated that trans folk are equal citizens. That's worth celebrating.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Those who follow me on Facebook know already - the deed is done. Today I sent my novel out again to the editor who liked the premise when I sent it out the first time. I have been revising it for one year and two weeks.

Tomorrow I begin the outline of a (third) second novel. I figure it's good to several on the go. Today I'm vegging in Vana'diel - though I did more than my quota this morning, so I don't feel guilty.

I miss seeing friends, though.

What else? I just finished a scary exposé on the religious right in Canada - The Armageddon Factor by Marci McDonald. I thought I was prepared for it, but I hadn't realised how far they'd gone in taking over our judiciary, in founding a parallel education system so their kids won't be infected by Canadian values like tolerance, and are re-writing the history books so that Canada was always an evangelical nation betrayed by secularism.

And we've always been at war with Oceania. It sounds like conspiracy theory, but her credentials are solid and her sources are sound. And I've seen enough close up that I can believe what I haven't seen.

So I'm a bit more melancholy than I would normally would be on a day when I've gotten one large step closer to achieving my dream.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
I also just wanted to say to my Australian friends, "Welcome to the world of hung parliaments!"

Canada has had what you guys call a hung parliament since 2006. And since we're on the Westminster system like you guys, our voting system is equally ill-equipped to handle the reality of multiple parties. Worse, actually, since we have neither preferential ballots nor a system of proportional representation.

And like you, most of us voted farther to the left than the party that won the plurality - your Greens and Labour parties make up 49.5% of the popular vote to 44% for the right-wing Coalition, whereas 63% of Canadians voted farther to the left than the winning Conservatives our last election.

I offer two pieces of advice, as a lefty who's had to watch the worst government in our history dismantle our country with only a mandate of 37% of the popular vote:

  • Do not allow the media to demonize a coalition between your more left-wing parties. They are not sports teams - they are not discreet units that have nothing to do with each other, and it's not "first past the post." They represent positions on a political spectrum, these positions blend in with some parties better than others. When similar parties ally to each other, they better represent the whole of the public than "winner take all."

  • If Abbot does wind up as prime minister, don't let him bully the other parties with a threat of an election. Our prime minister has kept himself in power four years by making everything a confidence motion, and cowing the cash-strapped Liberal Party into voting for everything the Conservatives want.

Gillard lost more votes to the Greens this election than to the Coalition, so it's pretty clear that Australians are more interested in progress than the final seat tally suggests. Don't let Abbot spin this into an undeserved victory.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
There's more to say than could be said about what happened in Toronto this week. It was revolting what happened to Canadian citizens on Canadian soil. I've seen police brutality close up, of course there was Quebec 2001. But never anything on this scale, never anything so blatant. And never has so much been captured on camera before for us to see.

There's so much I could link, and did on Facebook - which itself was a small fraction of the evil perpetrated there. And let's not mince words or hide behind euphemisms. This was evil. You know it by the awful feeling in your gut when you watch it.

Two things were more haunting for me than anything else - for others too, clearly, as they've gone viral. The first is Tommy Taylor's powerful account on Facebook of his arrest. The other is this moment of peaceful protesters being attacked while they sing "O Canada." This is now my favourite rendition of our national anthem, and the only one that stirs my patriotism:

Yet 73% of the country think the police did a good job. And that's way too high for the right-wing nutjobs in this nation - after all, only 39% voted for Harper.

I wondered how could anyone think that? How could that be thought after the bloodied journalists and the trapped activists singing hippie protest songs bloodied by batons? While other pictures show police standing by and looking bored while anarchists - in suspiciously new brand-name black clothing - break windows and set fire to police cars?

How could they read the descriptions of the 40-person cages full of peaceful protesters and random passersby (tourists who are never coming back here again) as they stood up for 16, 18, 24 hours with nothing more than a dixie cup or two of water and a toxic sandwich, and not be sickened?

How do they rationalize the targeting of gays, and anyone who spoke French? The lies the police told? The officer who threatened a journalist with rape? The tasering of a man with a pacemaker, the abuse of a man with cerebral palsy? How do they justify the scale - the camera panoramas that show it wasn't just "a few bad apples"?

Then I realized they didn't need to, because they didn't see it and they didn't read it. It's not in their world.

"Two solitudes" is our favourite cliché. It applies here. Not English or French, or central Canada and the rest. Not even the suited men (and one two women) in the conference and the people outside, though there it applies better. In this country, those who got the story mostly through old media and those who got it mostly through new media are the two solitudes. They got two different narratives.

Old media wasn't always awful. The Toronto Star got it right from the first days. CBC and the Globe & Mail - our two great bastions of old media - got better after day one. Even the National Post worked up some outrage.

Most failed absolutely, though. Just a guy breaking a window and a couple of burning police cars. That was the story. While we new media types saw the unedited footage of bloodied innocents and unprovoked assaults, for most old media it was just a story of hooligans captured.

We say that we "consume" old media and "use" new media. But that's simplistic. Both get used, both get consumed. But who does the using, and who the consuming?

The old media moguls make a big show of using new media. They can tweet, they can post to YouTube, they can set up a Facebook account. But they still imagine themselves as the talkers, with others as listeners. They still aren't listeners themselves, which was painfully obvious on the CBC's and Globe's first day of coverage - until journalists they knew were hit. They still don't believe that non-journalists have something worth saying.

I think the violence and horror will probably be one of the defining moments of our generation. That may sound bombastic, but ask someone who was a teen or twentysomething in the Sixties how many hippies they knew - the answer is probably zero, though they now define the era.

But I also think this will be one of the moments where we look back and say, "That was a nail in the coffin of old media." It was one of those moments we called "watershed" when we can easily visualize a gradual change.

No, I won't be cutting this one. I don't want this one to be optional.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
First off, congratulations to Australia, which has its first female Prime Minister today - Julia Gillard. She was chosen by her party like our first Kim Campbell. Unlike Campbell, though, she has a chance of winning her upcoming election. If she does, Australia will have passed up Canada.

Also, The Wild Hunt had its article by a member of the Neo-Pagan Antinous community. It was an excellent article - all about the arrogance and ignorance of many academics when it comes to modern Paganism - but I was really hoping to learn more about his group beyond the little blurb linked on the blog.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
About a decade ago, I paid a visit to the Allan Memorial Institute - a psychiatric hospital where a friend of mine was being kept against his will. His parents had him committed. We snuck in to perform a Pagan ritual to mark the beginning of spring, which involved sneaking a ceremonial sword called an athame into his room. We made a little bit of sacred space in that ugly spot.

For anyone who's never seen the Allan Memorial, it's an imposing, grim building. It's a stone mansion up on a hill whose original owner named it Ravenscrag. It looks like the kind of building that would be haunted in a Gothic novel.

I didn't know anything about the building's history then. I'd never heard about MKUltra, and the now well-documented "Sleep Room" experiments. But if Naomi Klein is right, much of the uglier aspects of the modern world was born in that mansion on a hill in Montreal.

Review of The Shock Doctrine continues )

In short, highly recommended.

In more personal news, I know I need a vacation when I almost use the word "embiggens" in a student's English report card.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Happy new year, and happy end to decade of evil and disaster. Somebody seems to have put the goddess Hera in charge of this decade: pointless Trojan-esque wars, suspicion and paranoia, scheming and bickering - but punctuated and relieved by some wonderful weddings, and the right to same-sex marriage.

(Let's hope Demeter or Artemis takes the reins of the next - we could use some progress on the ecological front. But I'd settle for Aphrodite. Making love, not war is certainly better than the alternative.)

I'm going to be ushering in this decade with Sean tonight, who I was with when this decade started. It's a nice bookend to the bad decade, and a good way of starting over the decade. Here's to getting a re-do on the last ten years.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Anyone worried about the religious right in the US (or elsewhere) - or who's ever wondered where America's frequently evil foreign policy comes from - should read this old interview with Jeff Sharlet, the journalist who's done more than anyone to expose the activities of a Christian fundamentalist group known simply as The Family.

These are the same people who are responsible for the extreme anti-gay initiatives in Uganda right now.

It makes me wonder if Stephen Harper has connections to the family. Anyone who doesn't think Christianism hasn't deeply infiltrated Canada should read this article I put up here last year.

This is stuff everyone should know.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Yesterday I ran into Brian Mulroney, former prime minister of Canada. I recognized him immediately - not just his face but that distinctive baritone of his.

Not that that's surprising. Mulroney calls Montreal home, and the business district where I work is the water that fish swims in. He was getting his shoes shined in the Place Ville-Marie, which is a very Mulroney thing to have been doing.

But it's a strange thing to see a man you've hated since you were twelve, but never met up close.

A bit long, so I'll cut to save friends' pages )

Anyway, the whole reason I was at the Place Ville-Marie was to mail off my short story in poetry. I feel a lot more confident about the poetry than the short story.

I had no time this month, thanks to all the overtime - the third October in a row where the universe conspired against my preparing anything for the awards.

But now I can go back to preparing my novel to send out.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
It's been a good week. [livejournal.com profile] montrealais is back from Europe. Tickets to Tori arrived in the mail -- thank you [livejournal.com profile] em_fish! Elections Canada is on my back about Ts someone else forgot to cross, but I think that's going to work out.

Writing is on schedule, too. My goal is to send this monster out no later than the first week of September. I was kind of wonder if those who have a copy of version six had a chance to read it yet..? If not, it's fine. I was just curious.

Also, every Canadian or Canadian aspirant needs to listen to this podcast. It's about Canada, and the First Nations, and who we are. And it's classic Saul -- brilliant ideas in plain English, with humour and with no punches pulled.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
So I finished Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, a book that often gets called "Harry Potter for adults" -- which seems like a vague insult directed at the many adult Potter fans.

But it's easy to see why the comparison gets made. Both are a mix of comic and dark, both centre on magicians in Britain, both are crammed with plot twists, and Jonathan Strange was published in time to ride the wave of Harry Potter popularity.

Overall, I'm with most people who compared both books -- Jonathan Strange is the better work overall in terms of craft, but with some reservations. And even though I think Susanna Clarke is the better writer, I still like Rowling better because she seems to understand things Clarke doesn't.

Review continues, now with spoilers! )

On a totally different note, Vandana Shiva was on The Current this morning. I first heard about her through David Suzuki's writings -- she's a quantum physicist, an environmental activist, a feminist, and an anti-globalization activist, and I've always been a fan of hers.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
In case Canadians were wondering what their government was up to lately when they're not removing pay equity legislation or trying to put an end to environmental assessments, I can tell you. Well, the answer is Stephen Harper has been making appointments.

This year, he made Darryl Reid, ex-head of Focus on the Family -- one of Canada's nastiest anti-gay and anti-feminist organizations -- his top advisor in the PMO.

Last October he appointed Gary Goodyear as the country's Minister of Science and Technology. This year, rumours started circulating that he was, in fact, a creationist. When the question was put to him directly, Goodyear dodged it, and instead talked how he was a Christian and sceptical of some areas of mainstream science.

Goodyear's appointment comes with a round of cutbacks to the sciences, at a time when we're desperately trying to get the information we need to fight global warming. Not surprising from a man who probably thinks the earth is only 6000 years old.

At the same time, over at the Immigration and Refugee Board -- the one-person show notorious for its treatment of gays and lesbians seeking refugee status -- Harper has just appointed one of the country's leading homophobes, Mr. "The Church's Free Speech is Under Attack From Gay Activists" Doug Cryer.

Meanwhile, Stockwell Day -- the government's loudest fundamentalist and vocal creationist -- has been moved from his Public Security portfolio to Minister for International Trade. I guess his plan to protect Canada in the event of a dinosaur attack is fully in place, as well as measures to prevent any terrorist interference in the Rapture.

He now has the authority to cut off trade relations with Malbolgia and Caina, and work toward establishing them with the Primum Mobile and Empyrean.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Ignatieff chickened out, at least for now. There's still a slim chance he'll vote it down on amendments, but it looks like Flaherty is pretending to be reasonable and they're going to reach a compromise.

Political stuff continues )
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)

Well, it's been quite a week. Harper's bought himself some time, but at a massive cost of credibility. Ontario's economy is getting worse and Quebeckers are disillusioned. You don't take power in this country without the two most-populated provinces.

It's too sdoon to tell for sure, but I'm trying to keep optimistic. The Liberals are trying to push Dion off the plank faster than before, for having committed the sin of poor video editing and failure to hire a decent courrier service. I really hope that decent judgement prevails on their part, or that Michael Ignatieff suddenly shaves his head, renounces the world, and runs off to a Buddhist monastery in Laos or something like that.

Meanwhile, Martha Hall-Findlay said on CBC's The House that this last week Conservatives have been offering highly-illegal bribes to Liberals to get them to cross the floor.

If the Liberals don't pull a David Emerson en masse, and don't chicken out, Harper's lost. And if they do, it's hard not to imagine the Liberal Party getting wiped out in favour of the NDP next election. They'd have no money, no trust from the public, no common principle to rally around. In some ways, this really is their last chance.

Poor Dion. I feel sorry for the guy -- he was the best of the three presented at the last Liberal leadership convention. And frankly, I wonder if the pundits have it backwards and he prevented an even greater collapse of the Liberal Party than would've happened under Ignatieff or Rae.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)

Like the rest of the 62% majority who voted to the left of Harper last election, I'm very much hoping for the coalition. Harper seemed genuinely shocked that his attempt to kill off the other parties by destroying their funding has provoked a passionate reaction.

This is a great time to be an NDPer. I'm really hoping that parliament doesn't get prorogued. And in this most anti-Harper city of Canada, I keep catching that rarest of creatures, the cheery conversation about politics. Whether Liberal, NDP, or Blocquiste, those who follow federal politics in this city are almost giddy.

I feel sorry for Michaëlle Jean. I figure that governors general are like retired superheroes -- they likely don't think about their special powers, and then they only hope never to have to use them.

Video Games

The excitement didn't keep me from finishing Shadow Hearts, yesterday. This is a game made by the small company Sacnoth, founded by alumni from the Final Fantasy franchise. Someone told me they thought the Final Fantasy series was too repetitive, and felt it needed something else.

Apparently that something else included 13th-century English scientist Roger Bacon and his pet imp, wild historical inaccuracies, daughters of married Catholic priests, gay acupuncturists with very little professionalism, gods of death, anatomically correct monsters, anatomically very incorrect monsters (how does that thing stand?), pretty vampires, steampunk treadmill-operated teleporters, and space-alien gods.

It is a very fun game, with some highly original elements, and well worth the playing. It's incredibly campy, but when your Dickensian orphan is taking down an space god in orbit with his slingshot, you're too distracted to notice how strange the game is. Very absorbing.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
So, yeah -- in political news, the government might fall on Monday.

The reason? The Harper government decided to do what did all last session -- throw nauseating things like banning government worker strikes and starving the opposition parties for cash -- into a budget. They figured that since a budget is a confidence motion and voting against causes the government to fall, they could force the Liberals to go along.

They badly miscalculated, though. See, the NDP and Bloc would have voted against it anyway, but they finally pushed the Liberals too far. Voting for the budget would be an act of suicide for the Liberal Party.

So what happens now? Either Harper backs down, or the government falls. Normally that means an election, but since we just had it, our governor general can use one of her "reserve powers," and give the opposition parties the chance to form a coalition.

So on Monday, we could have a new prime minister. Or an election. Or maybe Harper will learn how to back down and eat crow, but I suspect that's the least likely of all possibilities.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Well, the American election is over. I don't expect the US to transform into a utopia and I expect there's going to be a lot of disappointed people -- no one gets to be president without being friendly with megacorporations, and you don't step on those people's toes without losing all your funding for the next election.

Still, there'll probably be some changes for the positive. He's talking about closing Guantanamo, and it's after the election so he has no reason to say that unless he really intends to. Let's hope Omar Khadr can catch a break.

Don't get me wrong. I'm glad he won, but mostly for the things he won't do than for the things he will. He's not likely to invade Iran just because it's there, not likely to strongarm Canada into further nasty trade agreements. He's not likely to take his economy (and the world's) into another tailspin.

It's also nice to have a neighbour who at least pays lip service to socialized health care and cap-and-rade policies. It'll take the wind out of the sails of our neo-cons, who are constantly harping on about we should be more like the US.

But what this election was really about was keeping the Pandora's Box of the uglier aspects of the US psyche firmly closed. It was those uglier aspects that Sarah Palin embodies -- that combination of might-makes-right evil and intolerance of all things different from the evangelical Chrisitan worldview. The better half of America's psyche won out for four-to-eight years.

That buys time. But there's got to be some serious changes -- structural and cultural -- or every election a near miss of this kind. And there's nothing the rest of the world can do except watch, so that change has got to come from within the US.

And a good reminder of how close a miss it was, was Proposition 8 in California. The lid came off that Pandora's Box just enough to strip a people of their fundamental right to equality. The theocrats got the measure passed. And while activists are already working hard to overturn it in court, the fact that it passed at all is a major moral failure for the state.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
So today's the eve of the American election. I guess that means that obsession will be over for me, but Quebec's government is expected to call a general election tomorrow.

After that, there won't be an election for me to obsess over until the Montreal elections in late 2009, unless one level of government falls in the meantime.

Obama's grandmother died yesterday. The fact that creepy Republicans conspiracy theorists are coming out of the wordwork and screaming that Obama killed her to cover up something related to his birth certificate just makes me like them even less -- and I didn't think that was possible.

John McCain, meanwhile, was born in a place that isn't even American territory anymore (Panama Canal Zone) and you don't see anyone trying to get him disqualified.

Meanwhile, many blogs and newspapers are carrying a story in their man-bites-dog sections about a witch doctor neighbour of Obama's other grandmother who cast the bones to predict and Obama victory.

Kenya and witches have been coming up a lot this election -- even more than lipstick on pitbulls and pigs. First it was Sarah Palin belonging to a witch-hunting church, and crediting her Alaska gubernatorial victory to a prayer from Kenyan witch hunter Thomas Muthee. Their church claims to fight witchcraft with miraculous effects brought about by prayer.

I wonder if Muthee and Radima have ever met? Probably not, but it would be interesting. Maybe the American election should be determined by an anime-style, apocalyptic battle of magic between the two.

Hell, it makes about as much sense as the electoral college system.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
We're still waiting for a Quebec election. I'm not exactly enthused. I'll be voting for a party that I hope does well, but has never won a seat in the assembly, so I'm not exactly expecting to be overjoyed on election day.

I have higher hopes for our neighbours to the south. The good news is that in state-by-state projections of electoral college votes -- the only ones that count in that most-broken-system-in-the-Western-world -- Obama has 259 solid electoral votes out of 270 needed, while McCain has 157/270. Forty-seven are leaning toward Obama, which isn't the same as victory, but if he only wins eleven of those -- or eleven of the 75 too-close-to-call -- he wins the presidency.

More American political stuff here, for those who are interested )


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