Thursday, November 19, 2015

Amanda Vermette: A Classic Example of a Modern "Cry-Bully"

Oh boy, another cry-bully. So, here is the story. I was at a comedy show one night called the Bomb Squad. What happens is that a more seasoned comedian takes someone under their wing and prepares them to go on stage and perform for the first time in a competition with four other comedians. It's a fun concept that helps to groom new talent.

The promoter from the show took his daughter's boyfriend under his wing and groomed him for the show. The kid did great, and ended up winning the competition. He really did kill it and he deserves a lot of credit for being able to get up on stage for the first time and perform as brilliantly as he did.

The problem? The kid put a video of his winning performance online, as comedians are want to do. He did nothing wrong there. Unfortunately, the video of his performance was taken down after a needless firestorm erupted.

Unfortunately, along comes one Winnipeg YMCA employee, Amanda Vermette. Her claim to fame is that she won a "prestigious award" for being a "woman of distinction", the Gerrie Hammond Memorial Award of Promise, given out by the YMCA. According to the YMCA, the award is described as followed: "Organizers say the awards program is an inspirational celebration of talent, achievement, imagination and innovation and honours women in the province who have made a unique contribution to the development of others in their communities." And, according to the interview she did for the Winnipeg Free Press, she does seem to have a high view of herself, indeed.

And, apparently, Amanda went to school with the budding comedian, and seems to have a massive hate on for the guy. And she took offence to the video posted. And she ripped into the comedian for the content of his set. When she was told that they are just jokes, she took exception to the fact that he didn't immediately rush to say how wrong and horrible he was for doing the jokes she seemed so arbitrarily offended by.

So, she did what any irrational, vengeful, cry-bully would....and sent a video of his routine to his employer, complaining about the content. And, his employer decided to fire him, much to her vengeful glee it would seem.

Then a video showed up on Youtube that has since been taken down where a guy interviewed Amanda Vermette about what she did.

In it, she repeated over and over that the comedian, "Can't say this....can't say that...can't do this...can't do that...." and that is why she felt that she must speak up.

First off, yes, he CAN do it. It's called free speech. He CAN say whatever he wants on stage. Eliminate this word CAN'T from your vocabulary because you don't seem to know how to use it. Just because you didn't like what he said, for whatever arbitrary reason you have decided not to like it, doesn't mean that he CAN'T say these things. You don't get to judge what he CAN or CAN'T say on stage.

Her major complaint seemed to be that he made some jokes about fellow workmates at his job. According to her, the people involved were deeply offended, knowing this because, apparently, she knows someone who worked at the same "facility" as him. In fact, Amanda Vermette didn't even seem to realize that some of the people he was joking about were in the audience supporting the comedian that night.

She also seemed offended that he made jokes that she deemed as racist towards his girlfriend and her family. They are Metis. What she didn't seem to understand is that the person who coached him for the show and helped him develop his jokes was his girlfriend's father, who, as pointed out is Metis.

Apparently, she was deeply offended by these things because her boyfriend is black. Odd reason to be deeply offended by a comedian telling jokes about his girlfriend's family..who were there at the show and helped him develop his routine. One of the jokes, which was really pretty funny in context was when the comedian described meeting his girlfriends family for the first time, bringing them blankets....with small poxes (a reference to how small pox ended up being spread through the native population of Canada unintentionally). It was funny, everyone in the room understood the context, and the joke killed...except with Amanda, apparently.

What became clear when Amanda Vermette was interviewed that she had an axe to grind. Again, the video of this interview has been removed. Not sure why, but it has. I would love to post it here for others to see how she conducted herself. But she made it quite clear that in school she did NOT like this guy and she was out for revenge, guising it under a fight against bullying, racism, etc. In her quest to paint herself as a great warrior for a cause failed to see how she had become the bully. She was not at the show. She did not understand the context of the jokes. She jumped to conclusions, She let personal bias get in the way. She used these noble ideas to get back at a kid that she clearly did not like.

Basically, she lied. She lied about others being offended. She lied about her intent with sending the video to the kid's employer, which she insisted was for the righteous cause of standing up against bullying. She lied. She lied to push her agenda. When she was interviewed, the interviewer straight up asked her intentions, and she played him. She wanted everyone to believe she was doing this for a righteous cause. No, she didn't. And the idea that she would even believe that is concerning. And in the process, she smeared a kid that did not deserve being smeared.

She said, outright, that the comedian did what he did out of hate...that he is hateful. She was absolutely convinced that he was doing all of this out of hate. He's a hateful, hateful person. Now, I was there. There was no hate. There were good jokes. There was pushing the envelope, but there was no hate. I didn't get that in the slightest from his performance.

For someone in the Winnipeg Free Press insisted that she wants to be a good role model for people like the girl that she mentors through Big Brothers and Big Sisters, she isn't exactly showing what a good role model should be.

With all the hoopla that is taking place on college and university campuses, where "microagressions" make people flee for "safe spaces" and people demand that speakers be censored or banned and professors or deans be sacked because they challenge the views of students, I see yet another one heading into the university system with that disastrous attitude, and I fear for our future.

Is this how we deal with things now? If people don't bow and apologize to people like Amanda Vermette who insist they must atone for the sins that she has judged, they rush to employers to seek revenge?

As someone who does comedy, I am worried when I see cry-bullies like Amanda. I am worried about the attitude she holds. How many of us comedians are going to be vulnerable to losing jobs because of some of the jokes we choose to tell in our off-time, as judged by whoever decides to judge, based on their own biases, based on their own agendas? Which will be the next of us comedians who fall to this kind of bullying and vengefulness?

It's time to take a stand against cry-bullies that wish to control everyone based on their particular set of views. It's time to say, "Ya, we said something you don't like. If you don't like it, tough, deal with it". I'm not saying we should rush out to be as offensive as possible to everyone and anyone just for the sake of it (although if someone wants to do that, they CAN). But I am saying there NEEDS to be room for a wide variety of views, opinion and jokes that may offend. And I am not saying that anyone has to like these jokes, and if people don't and don't laugh, then comedians will be pretty quick in getting rid of the jokes themselves.

So, dearest Amanda Vermette, have fun in your safe space bubble and fighting for whatever righteous cause you have invented. Hopefully one day you will realize that the world doesn't revolve around you, that people CAN and DO have the right to say things you might not like. And if you have a problem with that, too bad.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Everyone is Going to Hell

To Christians, Muslims and Jews are going to hell. To Muslims, Christians and Jews are going to hell. To Jews, Christians and Muslims are going to hell. And all of these people follow the same frickin' god! So, basically, it appears that everyone is going to hell....while they all think they are going to heaven! Hell is going to be darn full of people who expected to go to heaven, lemme tell ya. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Is Winnipeg's Comedy Scene Too Male And White?

I read an article/opinion peice today in The Uniter, a paper put out by the University of Winnipeg. Lovely paper, I like what they do. And the article I read was quite well done and interesting indeed.

It was called "Funny Men", written by Tess Gauthier. In it, she argues, based on going to the regular comedy showcase at the Park Theatre, the Winnipeg's comedy scene is too male, and too white. Now, I'm getting older. In fact, I appear to be turning into a middle aged white man, the enemy of everything and everyone. And, I guess I'm growing more and more cynical of university kids and the whole liberal attacks on not enough diversity. Don't get me wrong, I am very liberal. And I am pro-diversity. In fact, in Winnipeg's comedy scene, I always hope to see diversity. The more the merrier from across the spectrum, I say. No matter what your religion, your race, your skin colour, your ethnic background, your gender, your sexuality or what have you, I hope that the comedy scene, in general, everywhere, would be a place where everyone can come together, laugh and have fun.

It's long been a complaint that comedy has been very male dominated in general. Ya, okay. Is it because it's an old boys club where women aren't welcome? Well, anyone who is making it that way is a jerk. Don't make it that way. There is and should be room for all. If you are a promoter, a fellow comedian, an audience member, or what have you, help support those from diverse backgrounds feel welcome and appreciated.

At the same time, if you want to see more women on stage, and you are a woman, get on stage! Make it happen! Make the diversity happen! Is it hard? Damn right it is. Comedy is not easy, no matter who you are and who is doing it. And you might run across jerks who say or do stupid things, either because their egos are out of wack, or they are sexist, racist, what have you. But that cannot stop you. You must keep going. It is hard. Ya. That doesn't mean it's impossible. Make it happen. Don't just say "Hey, the scene is too white and too male". Help make it so that it isn't. Ya, I can understand that it might be harder for women, as either a perceived concern or an actual concern. I can't speak for women, as I am not a women.

Now, it is argued in the piece that it is hard for women, kind of for the same reason it is often hard for women in many other fields...families. And I think that's why a lot of comedians of all stripes get out of comedy once they start having families. For touring comics, it's a lot of time on the road, and that is hard. So, it thins the herd.

In the end, however, I take a certain amount of offence to the article. I think the author, although a good writer, completely overlooked a large swath of the Winnipeg comedy scene in her assessment of it. I think she ignored much of the diversity, looked at a small portion of the Winnipeg scene and too quickly came up with a judgement that corresponds with a generalized idea of the world of comedy as a whole. Was she trying to actually report on a problem in Winnipeg comedy, or did she have a preconceived notion and tailor an article to fit it? I almost feel it is the latter.

Dig deeper, Tess. You are a good writer. The diversity is there, even if it's not perfect. Dig, come out to some of the others shows and events, see who is performing. As a native AND gay local comedian said, the diversity is's the visibility. Help by promoting and highlighting the diverse range of comedians in the scene. Help show the diversity. And, heck, help by grabbing the mic and getting on stage and adding to the diversity!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Refugee Crisis: Where is the Middle Ground?

When it comes to the current refugee crisis, I have concerns. Here is the deal. There seems to be two deeply entrenched, and very polarized opinions on how the refugee crisis should be handled. There is the "Let everyone in, and help all the refugees, no borders, no controls!" and there is the "Let no one in! Screw the refugees!". Where is the middle ground of empathy and compassion, but prudence, law and order??

No. You can't just let people flow through an unprotected border. Why? Many reasons. Security is one. To not know who is or isn't in a country doesn't seem prudent in the slightest. Now, many of the refugees who are showing up at the border of countries like Croatia and Hungary aren't interested in staying in these countries. We know they want to make it to Western European countries like Germany. Many of the refugees merely want to pass through. Well, ya, that's reasonable. But, it's also wise and prudent to have an understanding of who it is that is flooding into the country and whether they are staying or just passing through. It's wise to know what they might have on them. It's wise to know about any illness they may have. It's wise to know what countries people originate from. It's wise to know who is travelling with whom and what their reason is. These, as far as I am concerned, are common sense questions. This is important information to ensure the safety and well being of all involved. There is nothing wrong with trying to get this information. And to get this information people have to go through proper, official channels.

Many have argued that these are refugees who are fleeing from war who are looking for a better life, so let them through. Ya, most of them are, there is no doubt about that, and they do deserve to live better than they have been living and they do need help. No question there. But, does this mean law and order should be abandoned within Europe? There is anger that borders have been closed. But, have they really? Yes, there are borders areas where fences are going up. Does this mean that refugees aren't being allowed in? No, not necessarily. It means that they are being funnelled into legal channels. What has been stopped is the open border areas where people can just flow through anywhere, unimpeded, unquestioned.

This is prudence. This ensures the welfare of the people already living within a country. Is it frustrating for migrants who are wanting to get to more affluent Western European countries? Yes. But, should law and order be abandoned because they are frustrated? I argue that no, it isn't. Now closing up borders also comes with a heavy responsibility to those closing the borders. It is important now for people to be processed quickly and efficiently. It is important not to have people languish in camps. It is important to keep the process moving. But equally important that there is a process.

Now, when I look at the countries facing the brunt of this crisis at the moment I see a common theme: Poverty. Unfortunately, at the moment, less affluent countries like Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Greece are facing an influx of thousands upon thousands of people that they have to deal with on limited resources. They don't have the infrastructure or systems in place to deal with this. And, they also don't have the cash. And there seems to be little patience being shown for these countries. There are heavy expectations on them to deal with the crisis with seeming little support in actually dealing with it.

But, this polarization must end, between two sides that are far apart and both out of touch. We cannot ignore the plight of many of these people and we should be helping. But at the same time, we must be prudent about how we handle the situation. It cannot be a free for all. There must be controls. There must be law and order. And we must all understand that this is what is needed. There is a middle ground of desire to help, empathy and compassion while being wise and doing this in a way that is orderly and safe.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Racism in Canada/Racism in the US

[NOTE: I began this story a while ago, but never got around to finishing it.]

Yesterday, while so many were focused on the racist slayings in the states, hundreds of First Nations members gathered at the Manitoba Legislature to hear an apology for the 60's scoop, with many tearful stories being told. I saw very little of that on my timeline. Isn't this a sort of racism? Being more focused on race relations in another country than race relations in our own?

It isn't that I am calling everyone a racist. I don't think anyone posting is. I think they are all concerned about an important issue. But, I do find it interesting how we, in Canada, in general, are more tuned in to race relations in the US, and seem to feel more outrage over it, then race relations here in Canada. I wouldn't even blame the media. One of the problems is that so much of our news sources are from the US. So, we get far more info about the US than Canada. But the CBC covered the 60's scoop extensively. Unfortunately, I think more Canadians will watch CNN over CBC. Why?

It just appears that, in Canada, we are a bit clued out to the realities that face First Nations people here, and are more tuned in with the injustices happening to groups other places in the world. We need to change this. There are people struggling right here in Canada. Colonization has not been kind to them. They have suffered and continue to suffer under our noses. And yet we ignore it. Is it harder to look at ourselves in the mirror and see what has happened here than to look at what is going on elsewhere and condemn it? That could be part of it. Is US news that much more dramatic and attention getting? Possibly.

We have to stop stumbling around blind about the realities that face First Nations people within our own borders. We need to pay attention to the news here, see the blatant racism and the abuse and start acting on it. We need to look at ourselves. It's not that we should ignore the rest of the world. We just have to include us into the greater picture.

Kissed CBC Reporter Pissed: Megan Batchelor VS Daniel Davis

[Note: I began this post quite a while ago and didn't get around to posting it. So, the story is a tad old now.]

CBC Reporter Megan Batchelor was kissed on the cheek by a jubilant young dude named Daniel Davis at the Squamish Valley Music Festival while she was on air. The reporter went to the RCMP to file a complaint against Davis. Davis has apologized, the reporter seems satisfied, and the case has been dropped.

Now, let me say this. Yes, consent is important. Yes, sexual aggression and violence is bad. Yes, unwanted advances are bad. Yes, Davis shouldn't have done what he did. Yes, the reporter was well within her rights to go to the police. Yes, her feelings should not be diminished in any way and the matter should be taken serious. Yes, we must respect other people and their personal space. Yes, women must have the absolute right to stand up for themselves and fight against unwanted attention.


What if?

See, when I look at the video of the event, this is what I see: A teenage boy who is excited, happy and having fun at a summer time music festival. His jubilant mood spilled over and he planted a kiss on the cheek of the reporter.

Now, the reporter took this VERY harshly. She was not impressed. Okay. BUT, what are we doing to ourselves as a a society? Are we now in a state where we aren't allowing ourselves to enjoy the full range of experiences, emotions and feelings that makes us human? Are we starting to put ourselves in bubbles? Are we starting to want to protect ourselves from just too darn much? What happened to the idea of spontaneity in human interaction?  Does an unsolicited kiss on the cheek really have to be met with such an angry backlash? Does it really have to be something that is taken to the police? Or, is it something that can be experienced as a human? Has this reporter decided to cut her off from a world of experiences?

Obviously, saying that people should just run around kissing anyone they see for whatever reason they want is illogical. Again, she did nothing wrong by going to the police. She was well within her rights to feel the way she did. Her feelings should not be dismissed.

But, and I keep going back to the but, what if? What if us humans stopped being so angry with each other and started to enjoy some of these spontaneous outbursts that come with being human? What if we accepted that sometimes we can't control everything, that our personal space might be intruded on, that things are going to happen to us....and that might just be a-okay? That this is what it's like to be human? And these experiences are important for us all to have? And we can choose how we are going to react? Are we going to stick ourselves into bubbles....or are we going to go with the flow? Obviously, the answer probably lies somewhere in the middle. We need to protect ourselves from dangers...but do we need to protect ourselves from EVERYTHING. What if we let our guard down a bit and allowed ourselves to experience what the world has to offer as opposed to being hostile to it?

Obviously, this is a highly sensitive topic. When I have tried to discuss it, I definitely feel as though I am the bad guy for not outright condemning the actions of Daniel Davis and appearing to not support Megan Batchelor. There are those that feel that Daniel Davis deserves to be absolutely skewered, shamed, arrested, tarred and feathered and whatever else that can possibly be done. And this warrants another question. Does the punishment fit the crime? Is what he did so bad, so awful, so horrible that it warrants the response from people that has been given? Is the punishment fitting the crime? Or is the punishment going way, way beyond where it needs to be? How is this determined? I think some critics of the reporter going to the police feel that it was a bit overboard and the punishment didn't fit the crime. It's a fair question to ask, and I don't think there is anything wrong with asking it.

Now, since I wrote this, the two parties declared a truce. Daniel Davis apologized. The police aren't pursuing any charges. Everything is settled and no one has discussed it since. But, it is still on my mind, which is why I decided to post this, even if it is a tad on the old side. And, again, I am not fully coming out swinging for Daniel Dais and I am not condemning Megan Batchelor in any way. She did what she did. I just see it as an opportunity to question a few things, and I did.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Why Pressure on Mo Ansar is Important.

I promise, this will be my last Mo Ansar post for a while. Honestly, he is one of my favourite subjects, because I find him so bizarrely fascinating. Here is an absolute fraud (documented over and over), who has invented a persona, trying to worm his way into being some grand community leader for Muslims, wanting his face on any TV screen he can find, screaming "ISLAMOPHOBIA!!!!!" all along the way.

I'm tired of professional victims like Mo. You want to know why there might be tensions between communities? Look no farther than Mo. While he talks about unity and diversity, he also calls almost anyone he can "Islamophobic". He is obsessed with Islamophobia to the point where he has rendered the term pretty much useless, although it was never a good term to begin with. And, the fact that he is doing this while being a complete fraud is a bit too much to bear.

So, why should people keep pressuring Mo? I don't see all of those who tweet about Mo as being trolls (twitter is Mo's main platform above any other for spreading the word of Mo, and he has a good amount of critics who keep on top of him). Some are. But, as someone who has decided he wants to thrust himself into the public eye with such vim and vigour, he has now put himself into a position where he must be held accountable for what he does and says. He wanted his position, and now he must deal with his position.

Like much of what he does, he wants the glory but not have to actually work for it. Defending ones statements in a logical, reasoned way, being held accountable for wrong doings and fraudulent statements, etc goes part in parcel with wanting the fame and recognition. And he definitely fails on this end, acting like a child in the face of criticism as opposed to handling it with any amount of grace and dignity. He cannot handle the criticism or the being held to accountability. That is not Mo's thing. Mo can only handle praise and agreement with him. He can't handle disagreement or criticism.

People like Jeremy Duns have done an excellent job in his criticizing of Mo (perfect example, right here in his blog post) and holding him to a level of account, despite the fact Mo refuses to be held accountable for being the fraud he is. And this pressure is valuable. It is important to have a counter voice to Mo's, someone who is in tune with Mo's ways and can provide the information that Mo leaves out, or completely distorts.

A public figure of any sort needs to be held accountable. If a guy wants to parade himself around as some kind of a noble, wise community leader, wants to be on national television, radio and in newspapers, dispensing his views which usually involve him telling everyone how Islamophobic they are, how horrible Britain and the US are for almost everything, saying that Muslims were in America 500 years before Columbus, trying to represent a religion with a self appointed voice of authority, etc, then this man MUST be held accountable. It is not a matter of should he or shouldn't he. It is a matter of must be. No matter how much he would like his critics to go away, not only won't they, but they must not go away. They must keep on him. They must counter him. They must continue to hold him accountable for his statements and actions.