Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Hey Pyramid! Here is Your Warning Over BLACK PUSSY!

I am outraged! The Pyramid Cabaret in Winnipeg has booked a band (Black Pussy) with an offensive name and a call for a boycott has come forth. I have thrown my full weight behind this idea of a boycott (all 260 pounds of me). I mean, for god sakes, this is ridiculous.

What has Rock and Roll come to when bands just think they can call themselves offensive names? Back in my day, Rock and Roll was so good and pure. They never dared offend anyone, they listened to their parents, they conformed to all the rules of society and they were model citizens for everyone. Now, this FILTH!? This is what is destroying Rock and Roll...and HUMANKIND! It is the absolute destruction of our society and it creating an unsafe world!!!!

In solidarity with the boycott of the Pyramid, I have written this open letter to them. I think you will find that the venue will quickly change it's mind and start creating an atmosphere we can all enjoy thanks to these words that I have typed from my comfy activist chair:

Dear Pyramid,

I am writing today to ask you to stop booking musical artists of any kind. I am concerned that one of these artists may say or do something that will deemed offensive, and I feel that every venue, everywhere must be completely sanitized for my protection.

As long as you keep booking musical acts, you are creating an environment that is unsafe and intimidating for someone at some time, even if I wouldn't actually go see any of the artists that might offend me. Every environment everywhere must adhere to my strict standards of safety, and by booking any musical artist you have crossed a dangerous line. 

Furthermore, I am concerned that some of the patrons may say something that may offend me even if I am not at the venue, so I encourage you to ban anyone who may say something that would create an unsafe atmosphere. I will soon post a list of words, alphabetized, (also referred to as a dictionary) that will outline which words you must be on the lookout for in order to remove the offending person that may have said or thought the word or words. What would be preferable would be if you were to outright ban anyone from talking at the venue, because of the chance that something that will create a toxic environment by uttering a word or series of words that may offend those who may or may not be there. We absolutely must make sure that in every corner of the venue is completely controlled in every way to adhere to my standards. 

Other venues have banned music, talking and communication of any kind and it has created a wonderfully bland atmosphere where everyone feels safe. We all sit in silence and have a wonderfully safe time. I fully encourage you, under threat of boycott, to follow this successful model. The fact that you aren't adhering to this shows your lack of commitment to creating safe spaces where all can enjoy blandness in all of its pure, unadulterated glory without feeling any hint of discomfort or challenge. It is vital that everyone else in the community conform to my standards or they will be accused of a variety of offences that I will dole out as I see fit. And now it is YOUR turn to do the right thing, under threat of boycott and being called names, to conform, get in line, and never book bands again that may offend someone at some time, which is all bands.

Thank you for your cooperation in this manner. 

There. That should change everything! Now, the world is saved from the evils of music, particularly that devilish Rock and Roll and it's disgusting names! Take that, Rock and Roll! Take that music!



Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Hijab Outrage! More Madness from the World of Religion.

I always love hashtags on twitter because they give me so much material to write about. The newest one I am checking out is #NotYourHijab which appears to have spawned because everyone's favourite celebrity for no reason, Khloe Kardashian posted an Instagram picture of herself in a hijab that she put on while in Dubai. Users of the tag are upset about the "cultural appropriation" of someone who isn't Muslim wearing something that is regarded as Muslim headgear (although it is also found in other cultures and religions) I love topics about religious clothing and symbols. They are always so interestingly bizarre, mainly because religion itself is so interestingly bizarre.

Now, many on the tag are discussing the discrimination that they face as the result of the hijab, or the stupid things people have said to them while wearing the hijab. And it is interesting. Yes, people do say mean and stupid things to other people, and no one of any race, religion or gender is immune to it. Frick, as a white male I was bullied relentlessly at school. And I feel for these folks who have had to face stupid things from people. No, I don't know what it is like. I've never worn the hijab, obviously. I am not Muslim. I am not a woman. No, of course, I do not know what it is like. But I can feel for them. And yes, I am learning from the tag what people are experiencing.

At the same time, it brings me back to a problem that I have with religious headgear. Let me tell you a story. At my sons school, the rules state that a kid cannot sit in class with a hat on. However, there is an exception for religious headgear. That's right. If a kid has a cold head, the kid cannot wear a hat. However, if someone believes that they must wear headgear to a appease a non existent god, then headgear is okay. That, to me, makes no sense, whatsoever. When practical concerns take a backseat to religious dogma or weird religious beliefs, I can't help but shake my head.

Now, I don't care if someone wears a piece of cloth on their head (and yes, ultimately, that is exactly what it is), no matter what the reason. It's up to them. But I do despise religious exceptionalism. I despise the idea that if someone claims they are doing something or wearing something for religious reasons that it suddenly gets a free pass. It should not. It should never. Rules related to hats should also relate to religious headgear.

And I am further bothered by anyone who claims some moral high ground because they wear the hijab which just happens way too much. No, you are NOT superior in any way to someone who does not wear the hijab. Plus, I question WHY some people who wear a hijab do in the first place. One of the more vocal people on the hashtag is calling Kim Kardashian a bitch and swearing like a sailor. Huh? What? Is she not aware that swearing is haram in Islam? And if you are breaking that "rule" what is the point of even wearing the hijab? Makes no sense. But that is religion for you. It's jam packed with hypocrisy, and the vast majority of religious followers are terribly hypocritical, picking and choosing how they want to follow their religion, often contradicting themselves all along the way, and it is showing in the hashtag as well.

What is also hilarious is that when the idea of the hijab is challenged, people rush to point out that nuns also wear a hijab, the Queen covers her head, Mother Mary wore a hijab. But then when non-Muslims actually DO wear a hijab, it is called cultural appropriation?? Again, that makes no sense. When it is convenient, all of a sudden non-Muslims are examples of the universality of the hijab. But, here non-Muslims are being chastised for wearing the hijab. Make up your mind, folks!

Furthermore, allow me to point out that the Kardashians are Armenians. If you look at a historical map of where Armenians are from, guess what, they wore a hijab (not refered to as a hijab, but hair and sometimes face covering) back in the day, long before any of these kids who are upset about cultural appropriation decided they would wear theirs. Take a look at traditional Armenian women's wear. Given this is Ms. Kardashian actually culturally appropriating anyone? No. In fact, what she is wearing in her picture is pretty much the clothing of her ancestors. She is wearing culturally appropriate clothes to her own culture.

Plus, you can add in the fact that Muslim Turks tried to wipe out the Armenians. Seems to me the least these folks could allow the Kardashian's to do is wear a hijab after their people were almost wiped out by Muslims. It seems rather trivial that a Kardashian is wearing a head covering in comparison to having her people almost wiped off the face of the earth in the Armenian Genocide.

Ahhh, the joys of religion. The craziness of it's followers. The ridiculousness of it all. Religion. Can't live with it...pass the beer nuts, Cliffy.

(images from: https://www.pinterest.com/simonayoruba/armenia/)




Monday, May 25, 2015

Forget Islamophobia, Let's Look at Atheophobia

Came across this fascinating Facebook status update the other day that I thought was telling on so many levels:


I hear people talk constantly about how atheists are so rude in their hatred of religion. And I hear constantly about things like "Islamophobia" (there isn't a Christian equivalent like Christianphobia) and I cringe.

This, clearly, is atheophobia, ladies and gentlemen. And it is atheophobia that doesn't make any sense whatsoever. How does atheism create discrimination and disorder in any state?? HOW? How is the simple act of understanding there is no god or gods discriminatory or disorderly in any way, shape or form? And when atheists question religious beliefs, how does that cause discrimination and disorder? HOW? The answer is that it doesn't.

This is a completely irrational dislike of atheism based on absolutely no facts. It isn't destructive in itself. This isn't a persecution of atheists as a statement. This is just a really dumb thing to say and frankly to believe. I mean, in the end, it doesn't matter what this dude thinks. Mind you, if he was in a position of power this would be far more worrisome. And sadly, this idea does coincide with the fact that there are thirteen countries in the world where an atheist can be sentenced to DEATH. I don't know of any country on the planet where someone can be sentenced to death by a state for practising a religion.

Furthermore, this guy, who is a Muslim, follows a book that completely demonizes non-believers and explains in detail all the various ways we will exist in brutal, firey pain for eternity. Yet, to him, this isn't a problem, isn't discriminatory or disorderly. And then, on top of that, I came across this dude arguing against same sex marriage in a terribly homophobic way....you know, in a truly discriminatory and disorderly way. Ahhhh, the hypocrisy. Don't talk to me about Islamophobia when you got guys like this representing your religion, and holding a belief that isn't uncommon at all.

Now, as someone who believes that thoroughly skewering religion is perfectly fine, I am not going to completely dismiss this guys statements. Just as any religion is open to criticism, dislike, scrutiny, debate and even outright dislike, so is atheism. It's okay. You don't have to like atheism. It's up to you. And yes, statements like this are perfectly fine. But given the fact that there really isn't any evidence that I can think of that makes this statement accurate, and he hasn't provided any, I will freely say that his opinion is ridiculous. This free speech stuff is so much fun!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Ireland Says YES and then Curmudgeon Comedian Says Stupid Stuff.

So, this "comedian" over in Ireland, Donnchadh Dubh, doesn't seem to happy with the whole YES vote that his country achieved to recognize the right to equal marriage. This is his hamfisted and ill thought out response:


What the hell does one even SAY about something like this?? I mean, what the hell is he even talking about for starters. Second off, well, what the hell is he talking about exactly??

Fortunately, despite guys like this, Ireland has voted to recognize same sex marriage, and that is something worth celebrating. That is true progress. It is still unfortunate that it went to a vote. Human rights should never go up for a vote. But, we can't change that now. And Ireland voted YES, so the deal is done, much to this guys dismay. Oh well, he will live. When he realizes that no one is FORCING him into a same sex marriage and Ireland doesn't turn into a lake of fire, then maybe he will calm down a bit. In the meantime, screw this guy. Time to celebrate, Ireland!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Movie Review: Mad Max Fury Road

Holy mother of all that is brutal and post apocalyptical, I just saw Mad Max Fury Road and what a wildly intense movie it is! Loud, violent, intense, fast and crazy. But, even more importantly, Fury Road is a deeply layered movie with many important observations of what human beings are and how we behave. Ultimately, we truly are animals. That is the main truth that is present here. No matter what, we will fight to survive because that is what animals do. We must survive to keep the species going and they will do anything to do that.

There has been much talk about how important this movie is in terms of feminism, which is wonderful to see. I don’t know how much I need to add to that part of the film. It felt like a strong feminist movie, but didn’t feel at all like it had gone out of its way to be such. It was what it was and showed that issues facing women can be dealt with in an intense action film. Hopefully, it will lead to more exploration of what role women can play in future movies of all genres, particularly ones dominated by men.

For me, however, one of the most fascinating parts of the film was its critique of religion. Young warrior men head off to fight in the belief that they will pass into heaven (in this case Valhalla) after they are essentially martyred in battle for their political, spiritual, totalitarian leader. Gee, where have we heard this before? Could it be in the young men who shoot up cartoonists or behead people in the desert in the belief that it is what some kind of god wishes…convinced by some spokesman for the religion that martyrdom is a beautiful thing? What better way to convince people to, in such a vigorous and passionate way, sacrifice themselves and face death believing they are doing the right thing and will go into a utopian afterlife (or even just exist forever) than through religion? We see young warrior men in this move smiling, excited, happy, almost giddy in the knowledge that they are about to die because they are so convinced that it will lead them to something better, turning otherwise decent people into blood thirsty killers.

Prayer rituals, symbols of faith and brotherhood, mantra’s and a symbolic spray painting of the mouth (in chrome) signifying that one is about to face his death and go to Valhalla seem ridiculous when set in a movie, yet is reflective of what religion really truly is, and really always has been. And having it laid out so bare and open, seeing these people wishing to die while killing others, should make anyone consider the sheer power that can be held over people by religion, although that is certainly not the only ism that can have this power.

Now, I have been blown away by some of the critique of the film, where people see it only as an action flick with no plot, and it’s kind of a movie where you go and shut off your brain and be entertained by mindless violence. I ain’t seeing that. This is not some fluff action movie in the slightest.  I left the theatre, a head full of thoughts about what it means to be human, tribalism, nationalism, religion, power structures, how we use our natural resources, what the future could be like if we continue on the path of environmental punishment we are on, the role of women in any society, the role of warfare on our planet, etc. The movie did a great job of tackling a ton of ideas with a limited amount of dialogue. That amazes me. But, regardless of these interesting bits and pieces within the film, yes, an amazing aspect of the flick is the sheer brutality of a post-apocalyptic wasteland being tackled by marauding warriors driving insanely designed vehicles that collide and explode and flip and bash and bang their way across a barren desert. And, in this sense, there is plenty of incredible stuff to witness, hear and experience within this movie that you don’t have to look at any of the other narratives that are readily available to get the full throttle enjoyment out of it. But, they are still there, and are worth plunging into for the questions it raises, if not the answers it gives. 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Thunder Bay Dirty: More Far-Right Jerkery

There is a Facebook page called Thunder Bay Dirty which is highly concerning. It regularly features racist remarks against First Nations people, shows pictures of people suffering at a difficult time in their life, and shows little understanding or sympathy for those who are in legitimate pain. It features pictures of people who are drunk, who are high, who are passed out, who are hurting, who are living in the streets...people that are already highly vulnerable.

Look, Thunder Bay, at the moment, is facing a crisis that needs to be taken seriously by all levels of government. There is clearly something wrong in Thunder Bay. The situation, with alcohol and drug addiction, homelessness, despair and lack of hope, crime and violence is troublesome and only appears to be getting worse. I don't know exactly WHY it has become such an issue. These things have always been an issue in Thunder Bay, but appear to be getting far worse over time as opposed to better. Clearly, something has to be done. Clearly more money and time needs to be invested in social programs, affordable housing, addictions programs, outreach services, policing, etc. Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to be happening in Thunder Bay with enough seriousness. Maybe there is more going on behind the scenes that I do not know, but thus far, it appears that not much is changing.

While Thunder Bay Dirty attacks, makes fun of and further fuels stereotyping and abuse on those already marginalized, the problem seems to continue with no real action being taken. Thunder Bay Dirty claims that it is raising awareness of the problems Thunder Bay is facing. Well, it is, in the cruellest and rudest way possible. I feel bad for those whose pictures have shown up on the site. It's sad that people would take a picture of someone suffering and post it up on a page. These folks don't need to be further shamed. They need help. They need compassion. They need understanding and empathy.  They don't need further humiliation and mistreatment.

I know efforts have been made to take this Facebook page down. There have been other pages like it that have bitten the dust, removed due to it's content. Thunder Bay Dirty has managed to survive. And, it probably will in one form or another. Trying to ban this stuff, or fight it by shutting it down won't get rid of it or the sentiments and ideas behind it. Of course, this is easier said than done. Thunder Bay has always been a rather racist city. I used to live there. I know. I know the mentality in too many people. And, with the crisis in the streets getting worse, so has the racism, unfortunately. I've already outlined the issues with "politician" Tamara Johnson. She seems to have inspired many racists to come out of the woodwork and start being extremely vocal. Then, to make it worse, now Thunder Bay had drawn in internationally known vigilante group The Guardian Angels, which the Mayor of the city seems to endorse as some kind of solution to a problem that they aren't the solution for.

All of this has me quite worried about my old hometown of Thunder Bay. I hate to see the racism, the animosity, the anger, the frustration, the pain and the division. It needs to change. Hopefully, part of that change will come by making people aware that the racism we see is not helping the situation but only making it far worse. These people in those pictures on Thunder Bay Dirty are HUMANS. Start looking at them as such. They aren't entertainment. They aren't animals to look at and laugh at. They are humans, many of them suffering. Try to grow some compassion. Try to understand their pain. Try to understand the crisis. Make Thunder Bay a better place for all. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Swap stopped. Earl Grey School survives!

Wow. Well, last night, the decision we were all waiting for came down, and the Winnipeg School Division decided that they would NOT do a swap between Earl Grey and LaVerendrye schools in order to help LaVerendrye's overcrowding problem. To say that many at Earl Grey are relieved is an understatement. Finally, the process is over for us. Our school has been saved. It will not be torn apart. It will not be dismantled. At the moment, our Jr High programs, our day care and Early Childhood Education programs are intact and Earl Grey students still have access to their lunch and after school programs. It is a victory!

At this point, I should clarify that this is a personal post mortem of the situation and I don't speak for anyone else, although I think there are others who do agree with me. I don't want anything said here to reflect badly on anyone else at the school. Yes, we, as a group had our views and opinions and worked as a collective to fight for our school. But, we are also individuals who have our own approaches, views, opinions and ways of dealing with this.

I do feel for the folks at LaVerendrye. They have been fighting for years to have their overcrowding issues dealt with. Some parents at Earl Grey recently went for a tour of the LaVerendrye just so we knew what the place was like if the swap went through, and there is no doubt that the school is cramped, full and they need help. The new plan in place, which is to open up William Osler school, which is within the catchment area for LaV, will help that situation, but the logistics of it seem to have many at LaVerendrye very upset. I think I might agree with their assessment if I was in their position. It is going to be a painful number of years ahead for them to create a new system that suits their needs. I wish them all the best in this and hope that they are able to have it all sorted out as quickly and least painfully as possible.

There were many things that were said and done in this process that hurt a number of people. It was a difficult and divisive situation. I still don't think that some folks at LaV quite understand how our school works and all that was at stake for us to lose. Even now, I feel that there is anger and frustration with Earl Grey, and it's still based in lack of understanding, or a lack of willingness to understand our needs. This swap would have TRULY been a dismantling of Earl Grey, whether LaV intended this to be or not. The swap, as proposed to us, was dismantling, period. Fortunately, it appears that the Winnipeg School Division did hear us clearly and must have understood the problems we would face if a swap had gone through. We presented as best as we could how difficult this would be for us and we explained in detail the full impact of such a move. So, the hurt feelings continue with this lack of understanding or acceptance of what a swap would mean, even now. With this part of the process now over, however, maybe we can move on. In many ways, it doesn't matter any more. I, personally, know and understand how devastating a swap would have been to Earl Grey. But, now that option is off the table, regardless of what anyone says, it no longer really matters.

In the end, we all want what is best for our kids. The passion shown in this process illustrates our commitment and dedication to getting a result that is good for them. And no matter what feelings may be between some of the parents, the kids are not part of the problem. They are, after all, our children. They deserve a decent education, they deserve to be treated with respect and care and they deserve a community that they feel safe and comfortable in. And, I am sure every parent on both sides of the equation can agree on this. They are our kids, and we love them.

And now, we must carry on. Decisions have been made. There is plenty of work to be done. For Earl Grey, it looks like there might be big, exciting things on the horizon with full day kindergarten being added and possibly, down the road, a dual track French/English program. For the folks at LaV, they have work to do with the Trustees and the Winnipeg School Division to develop a solution that works well for them.