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.

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. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Did Tesco Destroy Ramadan?

There appears to be a kerfuffle going on in the UK, although it is a low level one, where a customer spotted Smokey Bacon Pringles on a Ramadan Mubarak promotional display case in a Tesco store.

Now, the retailer has assured that the misplaced Pringles are now off of the display. But some people seem angry that Tesco would screw up so badly and promote Smokey Bacon Pringles as a Ramadan treat! This despite the fact there is no actual bacon in them. Perfectly halal. But, of course, it's the idea that matters.

Anyway, it would appear that the offending tubes of chips were found on the top shelf of the display. From the picture it appears that only about 5 or 6 tubes are there. So, I'm guessing this was a cheeky customer playing a prank as opposed to a major marketing error by Tesco. Yet, some of the news outlets that have reported it have made it out to sound like Tesco was deliberately marketing these deliciously bacony snacks directly to people who generally stay clear of bacon.

Well, the display stand used was provided by Pringles themselves and had a Ramadan Mubarak logo on it (the tubes of Pringles themselves did NOT). Now, it could have been an error by someone in the store, indeed, placing the wrong snacks on the display. But most likely it seems someone was probably playing a joke. It does not appear that Tesco OR Pringles OR anyone else is actually marketing Smokey Bacon Pringles to Muslims. But I guess trumping it up as a case of Tesco purposely wanting Muslims to buy Smokey Bacon Pringles makes it sound far more scandalous than it actually is.

Of course, this is all speculation. They haven't said that they are the ones who set it up as a marketing scheme. They admitted the Pringles were in the wrong place and fixed it. Of course Tesco isn't going to say "Some damn punk kids were playin' around with the Pringles again!". They fixed it, story over really. And no, I would say the number of people truly upset about this is low. And it is just a funny story. In fact, it's darn funny, if you really think about it. Delicious Smokey Bacon Pringles on a Ramadan display? HAHAHA! Oh, the hilarity! No? But, of course, the problem is, it now has me craving Smokey Bacon Pringles. Excuse me while I run to the store...and Ramadan Mubarak!


I KNEW I should have checked in with my all time favourite Muslim commentator, Mo Ansar, on this! Of course he would have something to say about it. And boy, did he.

Wow, he's really gone overboard on this issue. What was most likely a bit of prank by someone has got Mo saying that there is some kind of massive systematic failure (what system, I don't know), and to make it worse, he uses the hashtag #MuslimLivesMatter, almost as if he is equating this rather humourous display with the killing of innocent unarmed African-American's in the US. He's gone over the top on this one! Who knew that Smokey Bacon Pringles placed on a display stand was that heinous of a crime? You would have to be a Mo Ansar to see it this way. I'm sure if it was up to Mo, and it was the type of society he would want it to be, he would have someone's hand chopped off for this. After all, he doesn't seem interested in condemning the cutting off of limbs as punishment...)

Friday, June 12, 2015

Rachel Dolezal and Mo Ansar: Two Peas in a Pod?

Ahhhh, Rachel Dolezal. What have you done? It has become big news that the leader of the NAACP in Spokane, Washington has been pretending to be "black" for something like 20 years. I'm not sure how one pretends to be black, or how an obviously white person can manage to pass as being black, but, who am I to question. Regardless, what she appears to have done is to create a complete fantasy world for herself. She has made up a persona and put herself out there as a great activist using this persona. Sound familiar?

To me, it sure does! The first person I thought of is, of course, my favourite persona inventor and outright liar, Mo Ansar. I have written about ol' Mo in the past. He is a character that I find most fascinating and can't help return to. One reason he is so fascinating is because of the fact that he is a fraudulent creation of his own mind, which is bizarre on many levels. Even when I look at Rachel Dolezal, I see a person who has done a lot of good in her role as a black women, despite the fact that she lied about being a black women. I cannot say the same about Mo Ansar, although he insists that he is doing great work as an activist and community leader.

So, what is at play with both of these people? Narcissism? Confusion? A pathological need to lie? A desire to be something that you aren't? Why would people such as these create these identities for themselves? It is bizarre. There is such a strong desire to be something, to connect with something that they are willing to pretend to be anything to make that connection. For Mo, becoming the Mo Ansar we know has definitely been done to get onto TV, get fame, get recognition, to have a community rally behind him. Is this what Rachel did as well? What was she hoping to achieve? And was it really worth it? In the end, it all appears to be crashing down and unravelling before her just as it did when Mo Ansar was exposed by so many journalists, writers and researchers. Mo has struggled to make his way back, trying to worm his way into any little crevice he can to regain his low level glory. Will we see Rachel do this as well? Or will she be content with letting this go now? Will she learn the lesson, reevaluate and come clean? Or will she continue to try to lie to everyone...including, most importantly, herself?

This is something that Mo failed to do. Even when being completely outed as a fraud, he could not come clean. He continued to lie and deceive and hasn't stopped to this day. He refuses to fess up and he refuses to learn, and then pretends to be a pious Muslim on top of that. He makes a mockery out of his own religion, attacks atheists and any one who he deems Islamophobic and just generally pisses people off. In that way, his persona is quite dangerous and is a black eye on activism. Now it's Rachel's turn. What route will she take? Will she come clean? Will she open up and work on her honesty? We can only hope.

Rachel Dolezal might be excellent in her work, unlike Mo Ansar. And if she is, I hope that she can continue doing good for people despite her lies. But if she can't be open and honest about who she is, her intentions, her goals, etc, then she stands no chance. She will continue to be dogged, not by anyone else, but by her own recklessness.


Since writing this, Rachel Dolezal has only made things worse for herself by continuing to lie, continuing to insist that she "identifies" as black, etc. She has resigned from the NAACP. But she is still defiant. She isn't helping herself, that's for sure.

Likewise, interactions with Mo's sock puppet's online only further muddy his waters as he continues to try and deflect, distract and dismiss the fact that he has been lying for years and is a fraud. He refuses to budge on the issue and attacks anyone who points out the truth. He seems to feel his being silenced in a McCarthy-esque way, playing the victim in all of this as usual, as opposed to the perpetrator of lies and fraudulent behaviour.

The arrogance of these two individuals make them liabilities to the causes they supposedly fight for. To continue to lie makes no sense, and only destroys what credibility they might have even further, yet neither seem to see this. How arrogant can you get? Or have they just brainwashed themselves to believe they are who they are, and instead of admitting their wrongs, they continue to pretend they are some kind of victim in this, as if they are martyrs to the cause. They are so dedicated to wanting to be victims that they will do anything to try and make themselves out to be victims.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Screw your identity politics

Look, you wish to play the identity politics game. Fine. Go ahead. You can define yourself anyway you want. You can have a string of a thousand identities that put you in a little niche all to your own, a million miles from anywhere else. Not a problem. Enjoy that. In fact, heck, I support you. You can do whatever you want with your identity. You can call yourself or identify yourself in any way, shape or form that you wish! Go nuts! Have a ball!

But, whatever you do, do NOT get me involved in your little identity politics games. I do not wish to play identity politics. You don't get to determine what my identity is, thank you very much. No matter how much you want to, no matter how hard you want to try, the reality is my identity is mine, and I define who I am, not YOU. Keep your identity politics to yourself. I will not be defined by my gender, sexuality, colour of my skin, etc. I am who I am, and I will define who I am. You don't have that privilege. You can define who YOU are, and that is all. Period.

Do you have a problem with that? Oh well, I am not really concerned about that. I'm not concerned because by wanting to play identity politics with me and define me in ways that you see fit in order to fulfil an agenda or to create a narrative that I most likely have nothing to do with anyway, you aren't actually concerned with me. You are concerned with YOU. It is YOUR game, not mine. It is your wish to play identity politics, not mine.

Most likely, I don't fit into the little stereotypes that you have of me based on the identity or identities you want to stick on me anyway, so just stop. Stop right now before you even think of defining me. Go ahead, get all pretentious, tell me how privileged I am and no matter how I wish to identify myself, I am still what you identify me as. It doesn't change the fact that it is not up to you to define me. It is none of your business who I am, and I am not what you want to tell me I am.

Have we got this all straight now? My identity is determined by me, not you, but me and ONLY me. Okay, good. We can now move on. 

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Evil Powers of Rock and Roll: Black Pussy, World's Most Dangerous Band

My last blog post about the band Black Pussy was a tongue in cheek roasting of what I see is a complete over reaction that the bands name has spawned. Here in Winnipeg, "activists" upset about the name have threatened to boycott The Pyramid Cabaret, the venue hosting the band. The anger that has been shown by some has left me puzzled, and frustrated. And, the band has released a statement addressing the controversy......HERE.

The idea of free speech and it's limits has been something that has fascinated me in the last few years. In a world where cartoonists and bloggers are slaughtered over material that is perceived to be offensive, freedom of speech is once again becoming almost an act of dissent, so protecting as much of our freedom of speech as possible is important, although considerations do have to be made on how we are going to deal with the most offensive and dangerous speech in our society.

Now, those who oppose Black Pussy more than don't like the name. They say the name is outright oppressive, especially towards women of colour. At least that's what the white women and men who have taken up this struggle are insisting. Speaking for women of colour seems to be the cool thing to do. And yes, okay, fine, I can see how the name might be perceived as offensive and in no way am I going to say that someone shouldn't find it offensive. If you find it offensive, you find it offensive. But, when I hear people say that the name is oppressive, that it creates an unsafe environment for women, that it contributes to rape culture, further marginalizes a marginalized group, etc, I think to myself, "REALLY?? You have managed to get all of that out the name Black Pussy??" Again, I'm not arguing. If that's how one wants to perceive it, sure. I guess. But, it seems to me that some are giving an awful lot of power to this name.

The way some are talking, this truly is the most dangerous band in the world. And this is why the Pyramid Cabaret, apparently, made a HUGE mistake in booking them and should cancel the show and repent for being so sinful. By booking them, they will have created an unsafe environment that some will never be able to go to again. Wow. That's, ya, that's intense. It's also bizarre given the acts that have played in the past at the Pyramid.

Xzibit, Necro, Ghostface Killah, Twiztid, Mad Child, Winnipeg's Most, Onyx, etc, have all taken the stage at the Pyramid. For frick sakes, these guys redefine misogyny, sexism and violence towards women! I mean, come ON! And yet, not a word about these artists. Not a word. There was not one protest to my knowledge about any of these artists being there. Compared to these folks, Black Pussy is TAME. If anyone went into the Pyramid after these guys played and saw it as a safe environment, then the least of your concerns should be a band called Black Pussy. This is why I feel that the outrage over this band is complete disproportionate to the "crime" they have committed, and that there is a certain level of hypocrisy in those who say they want Black Pussy banned to maintain a safe environment, while never mentioning these previous artists. It boggles my mind. It seems to me that if Black Pussy named themselves Love Puppies, and then got on stage and sang about murdering women (like Necro does, and Mad Child does in one of his videos) it would be more acceptable and receive no protests. That's the message I am getting here at least.

I'm not saying the name doesn't offend. I guess after seeing hundreds of bands for 25 years now, I've seen and heard so much more offensive stuff that to me this name seems so tame. I'm not saying people should not be offended. But I am saying that, when I look at the offence and the vitriolic response, I shake my head. As someone mentioned, "Well, it has started a decent debate and we are talking about the name." That's true. Can't argue with that. Well, to a degree. I mean, there has been no shortage of back and forth about it, but has it really been a debate? Based on what I see, it's one side calling anyone who doesn't denounce the name outright and back a boycott racist, sexist assholes. That isn't debate. That isn't being open to discussion. That is dictating how all others should feel about the name. That doesn't leave room for a debate or discussion in the slightest. But, the fact that the racial and sexual undertones of the band name are being discussed in an open way can be seen as positive, yes.

What worries me is this: What band will be next? I like a ton of music. And there are bands that I like that have themes, ideas, words, etc that in many ways, when I look at them, arguments about "safe spaces" and feeling threatened and oppressed by some of the content of this music could be levelled against them as well. For example, the Supersuckers, a band that comes to the Pyramid regularly. I mean, they are a sex, drugs and rock and roll band. They are not over the top, but there are definitely lyrics and ideas that can be scrutinized. Will they be the next band on the chopping block? Who will be? Who will be targeted next? How clean do those opposed to Black Pussy want to scrub this venue? How safe do they want it to be? And what will happen to all those other artists that I mentioned above? How on earth can a venue justify banning Black Pussy but then allowing an artist like, say, Mad Child who also plays at the Pyramid regularly, when he has a video featuring him killing prostitutes in a brothel? It would be the height of hypocrisy for both the venue to host him AND those opposing to the name Black Pussy to allow this guy to play again. This guy makes Black Pussy look tame.

As I write this, the Pyramid is contemplating how they will handle this controversy and plan to address it soon. It will be interesting to see what they plan to do, and how this will impact events at the venue in the future. In many ways, they can't win. If they don't cancel, they will have many upset people being very upset as upset people can be. I won't say ALL of their reasoning for being upset or offended are false or wrong. Like I said, if someone wants to feel offended, it is not up to be me to say they shouldn't. On the other hand, if they do cancel, how can they justify booking many of the acts that they do book. Will this usher in a new era for the venue where all acts will have to go under heavy scrutiny? How can a venue ban an artist on what is COMPARATIVELY a tame name (key word comparatively, that's why I put it in caps) compared to what it has hosted before and then ever host any of those artists ever again? Will it be opening the doors to never ending charges of hypocrisy or never ending series of boycotts?

The ball is now in the Pyramid's court. This should be interesting.


The Pyramid has announced that they have cancelled the show. Interesting indeed. However, according to reports, the band will be playing at The Zoo in Winnipeg. We shall see if that comes true or not.

It's hard to know what to say here. I don't blame the Pyramid necessarily. They were between a rock and a hard place here. Damned if they do, damned if they don't. I don't want to say they made the wrong decision, but I also don't want to say they made the right decision. They made a decision. But I think I laid out above why the decision is problematic and what is means for the venue in the future.


So, yes, the show IS happening at the Zoo in Winnipeg, Tuesday, June 2nd. Furthermore, I just wrote this comment on a Facebook post that I thought I would pin to the end of this:

Sadly, for me, personally, and I know this is going to come across bad, but I now have a bad taste in my mouth regarding the Good Will Social Club. Some of the fiercest critics of this event kept dropping that name, and wanting the Pyramid to take on their policies, and for people to go there to a show the same night, almost in "protest". I don't want to demonize the GWSC, BUT, now I feel that it isn't an environment I would be welcome in at all and would be under scrutiny from the time I walked into the place. I used to think their policies sounded good (safe space policies against homophobia, sexism, racism, etc, etc., and for the most part YES, they are good). But now they sound a tad scary and as though these fierce critics who were so vitriolic wait there to judge and pounce. I know, probably irrational, and I am not calling for a boycott or trying to besmirch the place, but, I definitely got a bad taste in my mouth.


So, the Pyramid posted a rather odd thing on their Facebook page yesterday explaining that they had offered Black Pussy an opportunity to do a discussion session of sorts prior to the show where concerned parties could express their views to the band. They have since deleted it.

This, I thought, was bizarre. Is this the new standard in entertainment? If a band that has any controversial ideas, names, lyrics, videos, etc, is it now going to be a thing to have an open session prior to each performance to discuss these issues?? It's kind of like a meet and greet package, but instead it's a "meet and tell the band how much you hate them" package.

Yup. That was bizarre.

On a brighter note, apparently the band was paid in full for being cancelled, which I think was the right thing to do.

Given all this, however, I do want to point out that the Pyramid really is a fantastic venue. I've seen a ton of good stuff there and have always enjoyed the place. The atmosphere is great, the sound is excellent, the staff is wonderful and it's just a good place to go all around, and Winnipeg is lucky to have this venue. They have gone through a lot in the past week with all of this. I think they tried very hard to do what they felt was right. I feel that they listened to all sides of this story. They were gracious enough to allow their Facebook event page to be used as an open forum for discussion, which I think was healthy to some degree. I think it showed a commitment to the community, allowing the community to use it's page to discuss, sometimes intensely, a controversy (that shouldn't have been a controversy). I commend them for their efforts and know that they were in a tough position. I'm not convinced they necessarily did the right thing in the end, but they did what they did and they did it for their reasons, and it's now time to move on, remembering it is still one of the city's BEST venues!

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. And yes, I feel horribly that there are people who have faced violence and discrimination because of the hijab. Regardless of my feelings about it or of the religion, no innocent person should face those kinds of horrors.

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:

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 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.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Far Right in Thunder Bay: Tamara Johnson's groupies speak

Wow, the internet is a fascinating place. Now, a while ago, I did a blog post about Thunder Bay's Queen of far right, racist politics, Tamara Johnson. She is quite the piece of work, along the lines of a Tommy Robinson or Marie Le Pen. If she was living in the UK, I'm sure her favourite hang out events would be EDL rallies and Combat 18 meetings. She is racist to the core. And, sadly, she has a following. In Thunder Bay, Ontario, she got somewhere in the neighbourhood of 10,000 votes in the municipal election, and this was based almost entirely on a racist, far right agenda, where the demonizing of First Nation's people seemed to be the only platform she ran on. Bizarre and sad.

So, today, on Thunder Bay's own ultra right wing, and very bizarre Facebook page called Dirty Laundry Thunder Bay an admin named Chelsea went on a tearing whine fest about how poorly Tamara Johnson has been treated by the social media masses and Thunder Bay media, posting some screen captures of various posts, some of which were pretty threatening indeed.

Now, I do not agree with death threats in the slightest. Just don't do it, okay. It's serious business and it crosses a line. I mean, come on, Tamara is a complete idiot, but threatening her with death, even if it isn't a serious threat, is counter productive and wrong. I need to put that in here now to make sure that is clear. And now we shall carry on.

Anyway, the text of the Facebook post goes as such.

"Tamara Johnsons face was continuously criticized on Social media and on many facebook groups like CC by Derek halstead sikver . Her profile pictures were commented on by strangers whose purpose was to bully her . She was called a bimbo, a whore and a hooker. Her family was threatened and intimidated. The bimbo comment is most recently posted on tbaynews thread. How can we as a society stop bullying if we allow people to make these types of comments against women?. Tamara volunteers in our community and is a good mother yet is still continuously threatened . Why did tbaynews ignore these threats?. They were posted as a plea for help from her and not one person did the right thing to stop it . By allowing comments about an individual who is no longer a public figure. This furthers the notion that equality for women does not exist . It also furthers the notion that Caucasian woman can be bullied and told to go kill themselves without consequence. Until our community, news media , and police take a pro active approach to end ALL forms of Social media bullying .. Nothing will be accomplished and it will continue to segregate people. Although there are certain groups that are rabiddly against Tamara, there are even more fans and supporters. Nobody can deny that her popularity soared within a 1 year span that garnered her over 10 thousand votes in the city of Thunder Bay. This huge support base needs to be respected. Freedom of speech needs to be supported. We live in a democratic, civilized society and should not tolerate bullying/harrasment at all. We have been sent countless evidence of support for this woman and unfortunately too many screenshots of the abuse directed toward her. Most are too vile and racist to post on our site, pure racism directed toward Tamara - Admin Chelsea"

Oh my frickin' GAWD. The irony. Are these people for real?? Tamara Johnson is now even more of a victim?? How did this happen? What planet are these people living on? A blatant far right racist spews racist stuff and runs on an electoral platform that appears only to be based on the issue of race, and yet somehow she is a victim?

Now, I believe in free speech. I am not against that. As I said in the last blog post, I fully support people with racist views to share them. That way, we know who the vile racists are in our society and we can oppose them, counter them, protest against them and challenge them. They deserve being challenged. Free speech is a two way street. You say something stupid, and someone challenges you. If you put it out there, people will respond, especially when you are in the public eye. Now, of course, threats of violence and violence are not acceptable, but to feel as though one spewing racist, divisive, arrogant, cruel and disgusting stuff should be immune from accepting low brow rhetoric in return is just, well, stupid. If you set the bar low, as Tamara did, the response is probably not going to be warm, fuzzy and gentle.

But, apparently, the feedback to Tamara's bullying approach to race relations is in itself bullying and how on earth can we allow this in a free and civil society? Wait, so absolute racist bullshit is somehow good for our society, but saying not nice things to or about the person saying the absolute racist bullshit is crossing some line? Are you people for real? Do you even listen to yourselves, or are you too caught up in your own pure white fantasy world where whites are the victims of those oppressive Indians who are so racist against whites all the time. For frick sakes, this is stupidity beyond belief.

Ya, I defend her right to free speech. But I also defend the right of people to exercise their free speech right back at her, as they have done. No violence, no threats, I don't condone those, but I do condone absolutely grilling her and calling her out as the far right racist she is. It all makes me sad to see what my old hometown of Thunder Bay has become. I mean, racism has always been an issue there, there are no two ways about it. BUT, with the arrival of a far right mouthpiece who decided she would run for both municipal and provincial politics, Thunder Bay is sliding deeper down a scary slope, and 10,000 supporters of this far right candidate have proven how bad it is.

Here is some good stuff for you to read to find out more about our far right friend/foe, the Queen of Thunder Bay racism, the pride and joy of her far right supporters, one Tamara 'I'm Always the Victim' Johnson. Enjoy!

Tamara Johnson election ad 'shocks' Anishinabek Nation

Tamara Johnson: 'They threw me out' over Facebook comments

Mayor Keith Hobbs calls Tamara Johnson's statements 'disgusting'

An Open Letter to Tamara Johnson

Former PC candidate says she was booted from party for speaking the truth

‘Racist’ election ad sparks outrage

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Earl Grey and LaVerendrye: THE SHOWDOWN!

Well, tonight was the night. The BIG night, when both LaVerendrye School and Earl Grey School got to make their presentations to the Winnipeg School Division Trustees in regards to a proposed school swap. In this corner, LaVerendrye School, dedicated to taking over Earl Grey School in a swap! In that corner, Earl Grey School, desperately trying to stop the swap and save what we have worked so hard to create.

Now, once again, I know. LaVerendrye has a serious overcrowding issue. We got that. And there is no one, from what I can see, that doesn't acknowledge this. It's just fact. How they got to that point is just bad decision making by several parties. We got it. They need help. However, as was made abundantly clear by the presenters representing LaVerendrye, the ONLY option that they seem to be remotely interested in is a full school swap with Earl Grey School...oh, and by September 2015. But, according to one presenter, they aren't interested in displacing kids, ignoring the fact that this is EXACTLY what a swap is.

Yes, the whole evening, during all of LaVerendrye's presenting, not once, NOT ONCE, was any of the other options available to alleviate their overcrowding issue given any weight, if mentioned at all. The ONLY option that these folks are interested in is a full swap, with EG, in September. End of story. No room for negotiation. Yet, YET, apparently, as we were told, we are supposed to be a community, working together for the best solution for our WHOLE community. What this basically translates to is, LaV wants Earl Grey School, and because it is good for LaV, it is good for the whole community. Got it.

We were told that a swap really is in the best interest of everyone...including the taxpayer. This is based on...what? How do they know this without an assessment that determines which of the options available is the most cost effective? And, also, most cost effective does NOT translate to most effective overall. And, as far as I am concerned, a deal that displaces Earl Grey students, dissolves our Junior High program, puts the Early Child Care Center, day care options, Earl Grey Community Center programs and Montessori programs at RISK (if not out and out wiped out) is NOT the most effective way to deal with the LaVerendrye overcrowding issue.

It just seemed rather condescending of the LaV presenters to imply that the losses will be minimal and that there really is not much to this. No, the losses are NOT minimal. We lose our Jr. High program with absolutely no guarantees of where our Jr. High kids are going to go. We know that the Earl Grey Children's Centre is licensed ONLY for Earl Grey School. It ain't going anywhere. And, the distance between the LaV school site and Earl Grey School is significant enough to make transportation (so far we have been offered, vaguely, a walking school bus option) between the two schools a challenge for kids who are, say, 5 years old, particularly when it's blizzardy or extremely cold outside. And, has anyone ever tried to walk with 20 five year olds in full winter gear? Gawd dang it. It takes me 10 minutes to get my two kids across the frickin' street in the dead of winter.

But, you know what? Earl Grey is able to adapt, you know, we can make anything work. It's all possible. We can do it, we can overcome any obstacles to make this work. The Earl Grey families can do it, we were told by a LaVerendrye presenter! That's great. Apparently, the LaV folks can't adapt to any other options other than taking over Earl Grey, but us at Earl Grey can adapt to anything. Funny how that is. It's always easier for the OTHER party to adapt. Thanks guys! No, no, don't worry, we will be just fine. You told us we will be, so, heck, who are WE to question your mighty judgement. GAWD!

So, basically, in a condescending way, we were told that we have nothing to worry about, and our concerns are overblown, or...whatever. Well, you can guess how well that went over with the Earl Grey families in attendance. Let me tell you, no bridges were built tonight. Having our concerns swept under the table, once again, was not a nice experience. But, apparently, if the swap goes through, we, the Earl Grey families, are going to come together, have a great Barbeque and share some Memory books of some sort, according to one Lav presenter, laughing at all the memories before we go on to the bigger and better things open to us in a smaller school that will limit our growth, where the Earl Grey school community is ripped apart. Oh, the joy! It's so nice that they painted this rosey picture of how beautiful it will all be when after their hostile takeover. What condescending wankery. The nerve.

The Earl Grey representatives did do a good presentation and laid out well how the school is utilized, pointed out the fact that Earl Grey is GROWING, pointed out that our school population is pretty darn reliant on the programs offered by the adjacent community centre (called Earl Grey Community Centre, for frick sakes) that we will be pulled away from, and that we have a SUCCESSFUL, integrated, complete package that should be emulated, not torn apart, that is years, if not decades ahead of it's time. I mean, we really DO have a great setup that took years to develop and build, that is a complete, pre-school to grade 8 experience. And, a swap is going to dismantle this, no question about it, no matter how much some wish to insist that it won't. We will be going back years, if not decades from where we are now. And, the impression from last night is not only do LaV parents not understand the nature of our school or what we have built and why a swap would be so destructive, they basically showed that they don't give a fu....I mean, darn.

And, frustratingly, we keep being told that Earl Grey School can hold 600 students. We KNOW that it can't. This is an outdated figure. Completely outdated .There needs to be a reevaluation of the school here. With class size limits, dedicated rooms for computer labs, etc, it is no longer able to suit the needs of 600 students. So, why does it matter? If LaV is going into this with this idea that Earl Grey is an under utilized school, with cavernous amounts of space collecting cobwebs, then they have got their hopes way up, and this is a problem. The truth is, if LaV is going to keep growing as it seems to be doing, it ain't going to be all that long before they are looking at space issues at the Earl Grey site. It's that simple. And then what? We get kicked out of our school, shoved into LaV, and then in a few years, they have to attend to the issue of space...again? Why do this? Just fix this RIGHT from the beginning. Do what should be done, which is to open a second French Milieu school that will allow the program to grow. And leave Earl Grey School where it is, so it can grow, like it is doing. Don't put US in a situation where we don't have room to grow and continue to develop.

There ARE other options, but they were not discussed by LaV tonight at all. They only want to pursue ONE option, and that is the one that just happens to be most destructive to Earl Grey. And they are fixated on it, believing it is the end all and be all answer. But, apparently, they are willing to work with us to make the move work. That's just lovely! Thank you SO much for that. Unfortunately, you know what, we don't WANT to move because it is a bad deal for us. What LaV wants is for a swap to happen, no matter what. They aren't interested in working with us for a solution. They are interested in dictating the solution, which is a full swap, and they could care less about us.

Given this, we don't really have much choice. Our back is against the wall. We have been shoved into a corner. We know what we want, and that is to save our school and it's community which is working so well, but is under threat of being dismantled. This community IS divided. It IS an us vs them scenario, despite the fact that no one wants that. But, we can't escape it. We are two parties pitted against each other, and the divide deepened last night through lack of understanding, empathy, plenty of misinformation and just general condescending rhetoric from the LaV presenters. And, we at Earl Grey have to defend what we have, for our kids today and into the future, especially when the other side, at LaV have determined that they will ONLY pursue one option, and that is to take over our school and push us into the LaVerendrye school site. That's it. No other option works for them. And we are left to do everything we can to stop the swap.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Progress? Understanding between Earl Grey and LaVerendrye?

I know, I know, this blog of mine has become devoted to one topic lately, and it is the proposed swap between Earl Grey School and LaVerendrye School. As an Earl Grey parent, I've been pretty consumed by this topic because it is going to directly impact the future of my children and all the kids they go to school with. So, it would be irresponsible for me to not take this seriously.

Today, I opened up twitter to find a rather well written blog by a LaVerendrye parent who I had previously seen on twitter who seemed to have little interest in the views or concerns of Earl Grey parents. I think we have made a break through. I think our speaking up has finally got through to Lav parents who are seeing that yes, we at Earl Grey have plenty to lose in this swap. It's becoming obvious that the Lav parents are starting to understand that we have to be worked with, not just pushed aside, that we shouldn't just be expected to roll over and accept this swap. So, I, personally, want to acknowledge this olive branch of sorts. I think it is a sign that we are making progress at least in mutual understanding. I don't think at any point Earl Grey families have not understood or acknowledged that yes, indeed, LaVerendrye has serious space issues at their school. They do. And they need help. So, now, I feel that there is at least mutual understanding across the board of what each side is facing. 

Does it change how I feel about the swap? No. I still feel that in the end Earl Grey has way too much to lose to not try and prevent a swap. I don't think that what we are doing at Earl Grey to prevent the swap is anything any other school wouldn't do. When faced with program loses and displacement, we, just as they are doing over at LaVerendrye, owe it to ourselves and our kids to stand up and do our best to preserve them, and I hope that the LaVerendrye folks see and understand this. No, it isn't personal. We are two groups with very different ideas trying to persuade a middle party that has to decide on this what the best route to take will be. Obviously, at Earl Grey, we are against a swap. We don't want it. We see there are other options and we encourage those to be explored. LaVerendrye, however, seems to have narrowed into one solution which is a school swap, which unfortunately is the option that is the most destructive to Earl Grey School. So, we must keep pushing forth, expressing our views, explaining why we believe that this is a bad deal, especially for Earl Grey.

ADDED SECTION: Because I keep getting questions about what exactly we will be losing, as if some LaVerendrye parents think this is going to be seamless and painless for Earl Grey, I will outline it here. First off, we LOSE our Jr. High programming. This seems to be heavily downplayed which is extremely frustrating. We have a 50 percent rise in applicants for our Jr. High next year, yet if it disappears, we have no actual catchment area and no guarantees on where exactly our kids will go to Jr. High, or any understanding of how transportation works. So, this is a huge, disruptive lost.

Furthermore, the Earl Grey Early Childhood Education programs are licensed ONLY for Earl Grey School. At the moment, they cannot move over to LaVerendrye, which means we lose them in our school. Some are downplaying this, saying that both Lav and Earl Grey are just blocks from each other. That's lovely, but at the moment, all we have been told is that we might have walking bus service between the two schools. We are talking about 5 year old kids walking back and forth between schools in Winnipeg's famously brutal winter. It is a large enough distance where this is just not acceptable.

Also, we have students who rely on the lunch and after school programs that are at the Earl Grey Community Center which is on the Earl Grey School site. We lose that connection to those programs. These are vital for so many students, especially from single and low income families.

Want more? We have a GROWING school, contrary to reports. How long until LaVerendrye School will no longer be adequate for our needs if we are moved over there? Sticking Earl Grey into a smaller school limits the growth Earl Grey can experience. And for what? If LaVerendrye moves into Earl Grey, I think they will be surprised to find they don't have the cavernous space they expect to have and, if they are growing as fast as they appear to be, will soon run out of space at that site. And then what? Earl Grey will have been dismantled. And for what? Basically a short term solution, when what is needed is a second French milieu school.

We have plenty to lose. And it is important to fight for this. It is frustrating to see people downplaying our losses. Or, trying to gloss over our very real concerns and questions over how this whole swap will work, because at the moment absolutely NOTHING has been clearly outlined, except what we have to lose. We have not been presented with one single gain yet! Just lose, lose, lose!

Now back to the blog as originally written:

So, are we a community divided? Yes and no. We are divided on this issue. But, none of us have to make this into a personal division between one another. We all have to live with the choices made in the end of course. It should only be on this subject that we look at ourselves as divided. In every other way, no we are not, and our feelings about this subject should not bleed through into other parts of our lives. I know that is hard with such an emotional issue. This is how I am approaching it, and I hope others are as well. Of course we will come through this. But, at the moment, we have a very divisive issue put in front of us. There is going to be damage done to the community. It is inevitable when a divisive issues comes forth. I, personally, am not going to have my connection with this community as a whole damaged, but I can see and understand how this might not be the case with everyone. It is a risk that comes from issues like this. 

In the end, yes, it is up to the Winnipeg School Division and the Trustees to make the final decision. The best all of us can do is present our cases. I still stand against a swap. I will still encourage parties involved to look at options that do not include Earl Grey School in it's solution. I will still stand up for the future of our school, it's programs, the staff and the students. Stop the swap. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Earl Grey School: The inconvenient reality of resistance

Boy am I getting frustrated by this whole school swap stuff. I wrote about it before when I posted an open letter to the Winnipeg School Division and Trustees petitioning against a school swap between Earl Grey School and LaVerendrye.

Since writing that letter, I have become increasingly frustrated as opposed to feeling better about the situation. Part of the reason is social media interactions with some of the LaVerendrye parents pushing for a school swap. Now, I get where they are coming from. Their kids are in a school that is no longer meeting their needs. They have run out of space. I got that. They are losing programming because of space issues. Again, I got that. I do feel for them, I really do. They have a tough situation there, and it needs to be fixed. And it sound be fixed. It has to be fixed.

However, there is this single minded obsession with some that the full and complete answer to their problems is to have a school swap with Earl Grey School. There is this perception that Earl Grey is a giant school that is half empty, and so they want it, come hell or high water, and want it for September 2015! Well, for starters, no the school is not half empty. Somewhere along the line this figure of a 600 kid capacity has come about which is an outdated and inaccurate number of kids that can fit into Earl Grey School. Yet, this seems to be the figure that people are sticking too. We are seen as a school with a population of somewhere around 230 hogging a school that can hold 600 kids. Well, no, it can't hold 600 kids and if LaVerendrye does succeed in pushing us out of the school, they will quickly find that their 360 students won't have space coming out of their ears either.

Apparently, LaVerendrye is a growing school. It is a school in demand. Lovely. I'm glad they are successful. However, if it is this great growing school, how long before the Earl Grey School site is no longer adequate for their needs. I would say much sooner than later. Plus, heck, Earl Grey is growing as well. This seems to be forgotten about. Putting Earl Grey into a small school when it is growing doesn't make a lot of sense. It's like if I were to buy skinny jeans and eat a cake everyday for breakfast. This is a pretty good reason right there to open a second French milieu school (the format of LaVerendrye) that would allow their programs to grow, not just in our community but the whole city.

What is bothering me the most is the lack of empathy or understanding coming from the LaVerendrye folks. I shouldn't paint all of them with the same brush. There is a certain core of determined folks that want Lav to move to Earl Grey and they want it done by September 2015, and they ain't stopping til they get that. And, they really don't seem to care about the Earl Grey folks in the slightest. What other parents there think I'm not sure. I'm only going by the most vocal who want a swap and only a swap, and they appear to have zero concerns about us, which is hurtful and concerning. I mean, come on, what are we, chopped liver? (I hate liver)

Even when presented with the reality that if Earl Grey moves to the LaVerendrye site, we will lose programming (Jr. High for starters), they seem to balk and either not believe or just completely downplay our legit concerns. Well, quite frankly, this isn't helping me have much sympathy for them. They want our school, bottom line, telling us how great this is for our community as a whole, and how a school is just bricks and it's all about the community. That's nice, but the Earl Grey COMMUNITY will actually be torn apart by this swap. That's the concern we have. Come on guys, respect and understand it, Is that too much to ask? We have legit concerns. We know we would lose our Jr. High. We know that the Early Childcare Centre cannot transfer over to Lav with us and therefore we have no clue what the future for that will be (other than the fact it looks bleak, at best). Our connection with the Earl Grey Community Centre, which so many kids rely on for lunch and after school programs is at risk. We do stand to lose a lot, and the LaVerendrye folks have to understand this. Heck, the Winnipeg School Division has to understand this. The people who are making decisions have to understand this. The WORLD has to understand this (the first priority for people in Syria I am sure).

What is particularly frustrating, as I go back and look at news articles about this topic, and even past Parent Council Meeting minutes is that Earl Grey was promised, and I emphasized PROMISED that there would not be a swap, that it was off the cards and a dead deal. However, here we are in March 2015, just months before a swap would happen, facing the very real possibility that a swap could take place. How did this happen?? Well, pressure from LaVerendrye parents happened, for starters. They have decided that of all the options available to us all, they want Earl Grey School and nothing can convince them otherwise. And now we have to go on the defensive to save our school, our programs and even jobs within the Earl Grey Community, and it has all kicked off within such a short amount of time. We are working with such little information about how this thing will work, and the full impact it will have on Earl Grey. What we already know about an impact is not overly comforting. We know we will lose in the end, and we haven't even gotten into some of the other impacts that we don't even know about yet.

Yet, it seems that some Lav parents have got this whole thing figured out, including how things will work with our day care and Earl Childhood Education programs, etc. Oh ya, the plans are all drawn up it would appear, just no one bothered to tell us. The question is, where are THEY getting their info from and at what point was anyone going to fill the Earl Grey folks in as to what was going to happen to us? It almost feels like some at Lav wanted to push this through with as little resistance as possible, keeping Earl Grey out of the loop for as long as possible as to not threaten their grand plans. I'm sure there will be many at Lav who claim this isn't the case, but it sure feels like it. And then, some want to say this is best for the community. Glad they have determined what is best for the community and that it is Lav parents having their way, and screw everyone else. Thanks for that. I didn't realize that is how a community worked. Learn something new everyday.

I can't take away the fact that they have good reason to do all of this. Yes, they have a huge overcrowding problem and they want a solution yesterday. Understandable. And there are solutions out there that would not impact Earl Grey, but they do not appear to be attractive to the Lav folks. Fine. Whatever. They want what they want. I can't fault them for that. They are doing what they feel they need to do for their kids. Well, guess what, we gotta do what is best for our kids as well. Our kids matter here just as much as theirs. We want the best possible outcome to give them the best possible future. If a school swap goes through, however, I don't believe that we are getting a good deal. I think we are getting a bad deal in fact. LaVerendrye is mad because they are losing programming. Fine. Understandable. Then why put Earl Grey in a position where WE lose programming?? What about our programming? Isn't it as important? To me it is. I want to see Lav kids have all the opportunities they can get. But I also want to see my kids have those same opportunities. So, it makes sense to come up with a solution that will ensure this. A swap does not. So, I don't have much choice other than to fight against a school swap.

I'm not fighting it to be a jerk. I'm not fighting because I dislike Lav and want to hinder their progress. I'm not fighting because I don't want Lav students to get the programs they need and deserve. I'm fighting because I know there are other alternatives that don't end up screwing Earl Grey in the end. Can anyone blame me? Can anyone blame any of the Earl Grey parents doing the same thing? I don't think so. Unfortunately, we have been given such a short time (a matter of a few months between being told this is now actually an option....well, not just an option, but the PRIME option, after we were lead to believe it was off the table) to fight for our school. This doesn't give much time to figure out what is going on, and with such scant info being given as to how this will all work (other than the guarantee that we LOSE Jr. High and that our Early Childhood Education programs are only licensed for the Earl Grey site meaning it might not be able to move with us, we lose our connection with the community centre we rely on, we lose space, etc) we've already been screwed and messed with and we haven't even got to the confirmation we will have a swap. 

Monday, March 2, 2015

#stoptheswap Open Letter Opposing Earl Grey/LaVerendrye School Swap

Dear Trustees, Winnipeg School Division administration and other interested parties,

It is my understanding that because of overcrowding issues at Laverendrye school (Lav), one solution that has been put forth is a “school swap”, where Earl Grey School would swap places with Lav. Based on media reports and social media interactions, it seems that some of the Lav parents are quite serious about this idea, and appear to be pushing Trustees and the Winnipeg School Division in this direction.  As a parent of two children at Earl Grey School, I am deeply concerned by this proposal and frustrated that it is even being considered.

On the surface, this sounds simple. A school swap implies just that. It implies that two schools would just swap spaces and everyone would go along as if nothing happened. But what is being proposed is NOT a school swap. This is taking one group that has a space issue (LaVerendrye) and completely displacing and dismantling a tight knit community (Earl Grey) to solve their problem. It is taking a group that has no problem, is having success and building a top notch school and making them suffer to accommodate the needs of LaVerendrye.  In fact, it baffles me that Earl Grey even ended up in the equation as a way to solve LaVerendrye’s issues.

The students of LaVerendrye have everything to gain from this proposal which is why it is attractive to that group. However, the students of Earl Grey basically lose everything. How is this advantageous to anyone? The Earl Grey school community will lose its connection to the Earl Grey Community Centre. It will lose its connection with Dante Day Care, and it may lose its in-school Early Childhood Education programs and Montessori school. These are valuable programs that, if Earl Grey moves, will create a wealth of problems and pain to students and their families. Again, LaVerendrye will gain these, and we will lose them. How is this fair? Once again, this is not a swap. This is one group pushing another group out and gaining everything the other group will lose.

Furthermore, the proposal for a school swap involves taking away grade 7 and 8 programs from Earl Grey. Essentially, the system we have in place will be decapitated. In a school designed to have children from all grades work together, learn from each other, guide each other and participate in activities together, two of the senior grades will be taken away. This destroys so much of what has been worked for at Earl Grey. Where will these kids go? Dispersed to other schools where they will be just a number?

To outsiders, on paper, a “school swap” may look like a simple, easy solution to alleviate a problem. It is not. It will come with severe consequences for all of the families and students of Earl Grey School. This is NOT merely a school swap. This is tearing apart a school community, ripping all the pieces that make it a successful, productive and satisfying whole to shreds in order to solve a problem that another school is facing.

What I ask is that this option be dropped from the table, for the sake of the Earl Grey Community. There are other options that will help LaVerendrye while not dismantling Earl Grey. These are what should be pursued for the sake of all.  Earl Grey, with its small class sizes and tight knit community that works together with the community center, early childhood education and Montessori programs, is a system that should be emulated, not destroyed.

The option that, from my perspective, makes better sense is developing another French milieu school elsewhere, possibly at the William Osler site. If the demand for these types of schools is so high, it really won’t be long until the Earl Grey site will no longer meet the needs of LaVerendrye either, which means it won’t be that long before the school is facing the same issues all over again. There are numbers floating out there suggesting Earl Grey can hold 600 students, and this appears to have supporters of the swap feeling that Earl Grey is a half empty, dying school. Well, there is actually only 1 empty classroom. All others are being utilized. And, from my understanding, the 600 number comes from outdated estimates before class sizes were capped, before dedicated classes for computer labs and a library were needed. The idea that 600 students can fit into the current Earl Grey site is just not accurate.

If the School Board and Trustees believe we have too much space in the Earl Grey School, I think you would be hard pressed to find a parent that wouldn’t support the opening of the space to new programs or new students and welcome proposals to share the school with others. But, I don’t think you will find a single parent in the school comfortable with the idea of having Earl Grey as we know it completely dismantled.

I live across from Earl Grey School and am watching as our neighbourhood is drawing younger people who are buying up relatively affordable housing and renovating. It seems to me that it won’t be too long before the demand for a school like Earl Grey increases.  Earl Grey, if stuck in the LaVerendrye School site, will be looking at space issues before long, as will Lav in the Earl Grey location. All that will have been achieved is some shuffling around and destroying of the Earl Grey School community that is showing success, where students are happy, where we have no issues. Temporary gain for Lav, but long term pain for all involved is not a solution. That is what a school swap delivers.

Earl Grey families and students face many losses if this proposed school swap goes through. Why do this to the Earl Grey kids? Why do it to the families of Earl Grey students? A better solution must exist. Many others have been put forth worth considering. For the sake of the Earl Grey community, please drop the school swap idea. Let Earl Grey continue with its successful formula. Allow Earl Grey families to continue to enjoy the programs they rely so much on that we will lose in the event of a swap. Let Earl Grey survive.  Stop the swap.