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The latest silliness in Alberta politics disguised as concerned activism stems from the announcement by Earls restaurant that they will be sourcing the beef for their meat laden menu only from suppliers that are certified “humane”.

Given the apparent lack of “humanely” procured raw meat in Canada, this means that Earls will be looking to our southern neighbor for the dead animals it needs to keep the ravenous consumers sated.

The official opposition party, Wildrose, which never misses an opportunity to lustily engage in drama and antics that most people lost interest in when they grew up, decided to support a boycott of Earls’ chain. Never mind that they were choosing one group of Albertan workers over another, or that as a political party perhaps their efforts might be better spent calmly assessing the situation and thoughtfully offering a solution for the ranchers and farmers who now appear to need to new certifications to compete with American producers.

No. A boycott is the go to. A gold standard move.

Politicians shouldn’t be expected to think any harder than the average toddler about issues that arise. Gut reactions and mindless pandering is what has made Alberta – indeed all of Canada – the superpower nation it is after all.

Boycotts as a political tool generally are about highlighting social or rights issues and forcing change by striking at fiscal bottom lines.

Increasingly, in Alberta anyway, boycotts are grounded in the notion that change is bad, and no one should ever have to do it for whatever reason.

Just to disclaim a bit, I’ve eaten at Earls two, maybe three, times. Ever. Red meat is the staple of their menu, and though I enjoy a burger or piece of steak here and there, I have never been much of a red meat-eater. Earls is just not on my radar.

If I were to boycott it though, my objections would be about the sexist way it expects its female wait staff to dress. I frown a lot about chains which put the servers on the menu as though they were a meat dish too.

But, that’s a topic for another day.

Today, I am finding the whole #BoycottEarls to be yet another cynical move by an increasingly desperate right-wing conservative movement to remain relevant.

Because connecting with people and inspiring them with real ideas and policies that speak to life in 2016 and a future that is sure to be different from our parent and grandparents is a lot more work than fanning (or creating) frivolous outrage in the current news cycle.

And who wants to work hard?

Let’s leave that to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Such a fool. Look where paying attention, giving a shit about everyone and working hard has gotten him, eh?

There’s everything consumer oriented with a business wanting to let customers decide about products on offer. It’s capitalism, as I understand it. And personally, I like knowing what I am consuming. So Earls is just following the growing interest of customers who aren’t as inclined to mindlessly shovel shit into their mouths anymore.

That said, it’s just as okay for people to decide not to eat at Earls because it offends their delicate sense of privilege or their politics.

But let’s not pretend that this boycott is about anything of importance. No one’s rights are at stake. There aren’t any great social issues in play.

#EarlsBoycott is another minor skirmish in the Alberta poli-war, which is important in its own way but certainly not worth jeopardizing the employment of Earls’ kitchen and wait staff.

In an atmosphere where Alberta is still shedding jobs, it begs a query as to why the Wildrose Party would so eagerly play partisan politics with the employment of some of the provinces less affluent workers. It seems to be a game to them, and Albertans should be wary of political parties that see jobs and citizens as pawns on a board to be played with in such an off-handed manner.


If you’ve ever wondered why we can’t have a nice world. One that runs well and works for most everyone most of the time. It’s because of partisan bullshit. This deeply seated need too many of us have to pick a side and stick to it right, wrong, whatever because “GO TEAM!”

I have meandered all over the partisan map.  At some points half of my beliefs have been in opposition to the other half even.

However, most of the time I straddle the center line with the occasional tight-rope walk just to spice things up.

So when I am confronted with blind lemming followers of this or that, the best I can muster anymore is “Well, good for you. At least you care enough to sort of pay attention.” Seldom do I add “If only you’d bother to think for yourself and apply a bit of pragmatism and common sense.”

But you can’t have everything, right?

There are people who want to be involved and immerse themselves in doing their little or lot bit for the cause, and so what if they mostly don’t understand how their cause fits into the bigger picture? They care. Deeply. That matters. Right?

And it’s better than apathy. Right?

I’m not so sure.

Last night my Twitter feed was inundated with retweets about Ayn Rand’s personal failings.

The tweeter is not someone I follow. He’s a pompous ass. He only interacts with the adoring throngs because he isn’t interested in any sort of conversation that might show him up or disprove his preferred view of reality.

That’s fine. Twitter is kind of about building your own little tunnel vision and sharing it with those who are similarly blinkered.

But the gist of his argument boiled down to “Ayn Rand took amphetamines and had serial killer fetish, therefore her theories about capitalism are bullshit.”

I got a D in Logic and Reasoning back in the day. In retrospect I should have gone to class more than I wouldn’t have had to pull an all-nighter to get a B on the final and hold onto my pathetic D.

However, poor background aside, I am fairly sure that Ayn Rand’s rambling nonsense on all things the far right-wing loves is crap because it’s crap and not because she was a questionable human.

If you wanted to apply the questionable human equals someone who is full of shit logic, it just so happens that Thomas Jefferson, that great American Founding Father, would tumble off his pedestal too.

After all, how can the father of personal liberty hope to escape judgement given that he was not only a slave owner but he forced his 15-year-old sister-in-law into a sexual relationship with him because he owned her.

Yes, Jefferson’s long-time intimate companion Sally Hemmings – who bore him six children – was not only his sister-in-law and his slave but, according to some accounts – was the doppelgänger of his dead wife.

Creepy and worlds of wrong barely begin to cover this situation and yet, Jefferson is revered. His ideas are seminal in terms of American political world building.

Personally, I think Ayn Rand’s appeal is that most people who bother to read her dirge of a novel, Atlas Shrugged, are young adults or teens when they do. The themes are appealing to the young, and who really ever goes back and re-reads the “great” novels of their youth? Hardly anyone. The fuzzy memories are always better.

Randian love and worship is a sign that you’ve not quite grow up yet. At least in your political world view anyway. It’s like people who cling to the idea that pure socialism will save us all. An immature idea that refuses to incorporate the reality that life is complicated because “people”.

Even though Rand’s idea are simple-minded, her personal failings and quirks are just human. Humans can be awesome. They can completely suck. But for the most part, they are somewhere in the middle. None of these states of being detract from the things people can accomplish.

For all Rand’s faults, she wrote a novel decades ago people not only still read, but they find things in it which push them to think and learn, and let’s be real, not everyone who reads Atlas Shrugged gets stuck in the limited world view.

I fear there is no way to cure for the world of side-taking or the inevitable outliers who live and die in the absolutism that makes the world a less nice place for us all.

Personally, I am done pretending to care about the fringes. Feigning politeness rather than rolling my eyes. I am part of the problem if I don’t.

Sometimes the other side is right. Sometimes the middle path is the best way.

And sometimes people need to calm the fuck down, grow up and spend some quality time in the real world with real people who don’t reinforce every blind prejudice they learned as a child.

 

 


Google calender white spaceI had to go all the way to July to find more than one day in a row where nothing is planned. No to do’s. No appointments. No practices or games. Nothing school related. No work of note.

Of course, July is still empty only because it’s just far enough in the future, and clear of the school year, to be empty.

White space.

Those days on the calendar that you don’t owe anyone, and no one and nothing has yet laid claim to, are the white spaces in our lives. Down time.

I was talking yesterday with my daughter’s school vice principal and his wife. Ran into them at the trade show in town.

Trade show is a big deal. I generally only go to catch up with my government representatives. The MP. The MLA. But it’s a chance to run into all sorts of people. The ones you only see at the Canada Day Parade and picnic or the Farmer’s Market.

I bring up my conversation with VP because it wandered into “going back to work” territory. Something I have been thinking about now that the wee daughter is not wee anymore.

And the thing that runs through my mind is – where would I fit work in?

There is very little white space in my life. Not enough to slip in a full-time job at any rate.

The opportunity I was speaking to the VP about was a part-time position in the school library. Which he’s already filled. But he was curious if I was going back to teaching now that not so wee kid is nearly in high school.

That is the time that SAHM’s think about, or do, head back out into the workplace after all.

I have thought about it.

There is a two-year degree/accreditation  program at the University of Alberta for people who already hold degrees and would like to work with indigenous schools and students that looks interesting. Education is still a passion for me whether I like the box public education is still uncomfortably crammed into or not.

And I am writing again. Seriously tempted to try my hand out more substantive blogging. Politics. Social commentary.

Shouldn’t forget politics beyond the commentary either. Working in politics tempts me mightily. Behind the scenes, of course, but I would be good at it, I think.

But where to find the serious time for such things?

White space is still hard to come by, and I don’t mean the few hours every day between this obligation and that errand or chore.

Of course, the fact that I can even entertain thoughts like white space and how to acquire more of it so I can pursue a career choice for passion rather than necessities sake speaks to an enormous amount of privilege. Not a place I ever dreamed I would be at this point in my life. Or ever really. Yet here I am.

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that time management is a truly personal thing. The less you have to self-direct, the more dissatisfied you are likely to be generally. However, having too much open-ended time rarely leads to anything productive.

I can’t say I have any concrete plans at the moment. I am still living from one open day in the calendar to the next and letting that be enough direction for right now. That itself is a lesson. In patience and letting go. I’m grateful for that.

But it is time to plan for the future, or near time anyway. Do something with the white spaces.


Music icon Prince was found dead in his home today. He was 57.

On the social media, there was sadness and shock, and the inevitable “why are so many of our pop culture touchstones dying!” “Damn you 2016!”

I’m not sure if it’s been a banner year for celebrity deaths. I don’t really keep track of that sort of thing.

It has, however, been a first culling for the youngest Baby Boomers and the oldest Gen X of their musical and movie “heroes”, and they aren’t taking it well.

For me, I am not surprised when men in their 50s or older up die. It’s fairly normal for death rates to begin to inch up once people edge closer to retirement age, and for a 57-year-old male who’s been suffering from flu-like symptoms for a few weeks to suddenly die? Heart attack is the first thing that comes to mind.

Other celebrities who’ve departed for the other side or the beyond, or whatever your personal preference is, include Alan Rickman (a true loss) and David Bowie (someone I’ve always found quite creepy and can count the number of songs of his I don’t hate on precisely two fingers).

I liked, shared and retweeted depending but wasn’t terribly affected.

But Prince is a bit different.

Prince is part of the soundtrack of my life. The university days primarily.

My chief memory of the fall of 1983 is scored by Prince.

One weekend in particular stands out

Sigma Chi Derby Days. It was an annual drunk-fest to mark the new semester and the end of summer. That was my sophomore year, and though I didn’t head over to the frat house as early as some of my friends, I ended up there eventually. Most of the campus ended up there at some point between mid-afternoon and midnight.

The party started in the dorm. Someone was mixing Blue Curacao in the sink while others danced around the room to 1999.

At 4am, our hall was still full of people. Loud. Drunk to some extent.

Every light was on.

Stereos and boom boxes competed to be heard. Laughter. Dancing.

Every door was open. Well, every door but Nick’s, the RA. His door was closed. No light seeping out from under it.

And when Currier Hall’s head RA came stalking down the hallway, flanked with other resident assistants who were equally grim-faced and clearly not there to dance,  it was Nick’s door she stopped at.

“I can’t believe he’s sleeping while all this is going on.”

A small crowd of curious co-eds were watching by now. There were giggles.

Someone said, “I don’t think he’s sleeping.”

She pounded on his door. Ready to confront him and discover why he wasn’t keeping order. Again. At barely 3 weeks into the school year, our floor had a bit of a reputation for “all nighters”.

Nick, who was put together like a Greek demigod, answered wearing just a sheet, followed by a young woman in similar attire. If Little Red Corvette wasn’t playing, it should have been.

By Monday, Nick had moved into the house of the fraternity he belonged to. Of course, he belonged to one. Anyone who could wear polos like he did naturally belonged to a fraternity.

The new RA was a wee weasel named Eric. We didn’t even try to like him, and he in turn didn’t like us.

It’s a testament to the soundtrack of my life that whenever I hear a Prince song, I can remember both Nick and Eric though I haven’t seen either man in over thirty years, and I can remember the Sigma Chi Derby Days like it was last weekend.

Everyone’s life has a musical score. Mine has an album full of Prince.

His death reminds me – though I hardly needed reminding – that time has passed and, like people, will continue its inexorable path to an endpoint. Some of us sooner and some later, but all of us inevitably.


Lots of things about being female that irk and irritate me, but none piss me off more than everyday sexism.

I have spent all but a few years of my life railing against the limitations, inequalities, dangers and outrages visited upon me simply because I am not male.

Decades of my life. Quite literally.

So it stands to reason that I am very interested in varying takes on the subject that appear in the news and on the social media.

Yesterday, a conservative Member of Parliament (MP) Michelle Rempel, who also happens to be the immigration critic, wrote a piece which appeared in The National Post, detailing her ongoing struggles with the daily hassle of trying to represent her constituents while being female.

I’d like to report that the Canadian Parliament is an enlightened bastion of gender equality, and that Canadian men are not sexist Neanderthals in the workplace, but sadly, I cannot.

Here is some of what Ms. Rempel had to say on the subject:

The everyday sexism I face involves confronting the “bitch” epithet when I don’t automatically comply with someone’s request or capitulate on my position on an issue, confronting assumptions that I have gotten to my station in life by (insert your choice of sexual act) with (insert your choice of man in position of authority), enduring speculation and value judgements about my fertility, and responding to commentary that links my appearance to my competency. It involves my ass being occasionally grabbed as a way to shock me into submission. It involves tokenism. It involves sometimes being written off as not serious when I’ve clearly proven I am.

I’m fortunate, though. I haven’t had to overcome obstacles that many other women face. I have a romantic partner who isn’t emasculated by my success, and enthusiastically encourages me to pursue my aspirations. I’ve worked for and with employers who have done the same. I’m in a position of authority. I haven’t had to raise children as a single woman. I haven’t had to raise children, period. I’m cisgender, straight, and white. My body mass index doesn’t exceed 25. I’m not an immigrant. I’ve never been in an abusive relationship. I’m fortunate enough to have had a steady job throughout most of my working life. I could go on, and on, and on.

It’s a laundry list of not only the dismissive attitude men in the workplace still harbor and act upon, but it also highlights that being very privileged isn’t the shield some might suspect.

At the end of a day, what a man sees when he happens upon women in the world – wherever it might be – is someone who is not his equal. Someone he is free to not only make assumptions about but to give them voice. Someone he can fondle, leer at, proposition, and belittle because he is the man and the man is allowed.

It’s 2016 and the. man. is. allowed.

Let that sink in.

Then ask yourself, why is that?

In my opinion, some of it stems from the fact religions and out-dated cultural beliefs and practices still have too much influence in the world, but it also stems from the reality that women are a diverse group with differing and competing ideas/needs concerning what equality should be.

Regardless, I am firmly on the side of those who believe  the root of the problem is men. Their attitudes. Their unwillingness to let go of a status quo that suits them just fine because it asks/expects so little of them.

A gentlemen on Twitter responded to one of my tweets about Rempel’s article by saying he flet responding with a positive when a man behaves in a sexist manner is more likely to prevent similar behavior in the future than scolding or outrage.

Generally, I would agree. I spent too many years slowly luring teenagers to the trough of knowledge to not recognize the wisdom in such an approach.

It doesn’t mean, however, I am not bone weary fucking tired of it.

When after a conversation a man says to me, “You are a lot smarter than I thought you were.” My reaction is no longer “Thanks.” As it would have been when I was young.

Now, I say nothing.

Because there’s nothing to say to something so incredibly insulting the mind boggles he thought it was okay to say this out loud.

And grabbing my ass is grounds for slapped fingers. Or losing the whole hand.

Not that I have to worry about being groped anymore. My ass is too old to entice anyone but my husband. That or men save this kind of extraordinary personal space invasion for younger women because they instinctively know older women will hurt them.

Like Rempel though, I haven’t experienced sexism in a way that held me back during my education or kept me from employment or advancement after I graduated.

Though I have been physically threatened at different points when I was a young girl and woman, I was never hurt and was never trapped. I would point out that fear leaves its own marks but how we deal with them is an individual thing that can’t be easily quantified.

While I have been a single mom, an immigrant and “too large” to qualify for inclusion in what passes for “beautiful”, they were not obstacles for me either in the sense that they are for many.
I have been lucky and lucky, as most of us are wise enough to realize, is simply another way of saying “privileged”.

And she makes several good points about privilege when she writes,

The everyday sexism that I experience is grating. It angers me, and it makes me roll my eyes. Sometimes, when it’s bad enough, it causes me to second guess myself. I address it. I speak out about it. That said, I’ve never lost a job because of it. I’ve never experienced violence because of it. I’ve never had to worry about feeding my family because of it.

So, who am I to tell other women how they should combat everyday sexism? In fact, who are any of us to do the same?

There is no one sizes fits all solution for everyday sexism from a women’s perspective and, in my opinion again, there is no solution at all until men are willing to share privilege with us.

Because equality is really about leveling privilege.

And I don’t see that happening.

We’ve come a long way since the days we were not allowed to vote and were passed from father to husband like chattel. But we still owe the progress that been made more to the largess of men than anything. And unless we speak up, insist and address the daily insults and outrages, little is going to change.

So it’s incumbent upon those of us who are in the position to do something to do it. Like Michelle Rempel does in Ottawa. Like I do when I radicalize my daughters with knowledge, encouragement and being embarrassingly outspoken.

We need to push. We need to call out. We need to remember that women are still not equal and it’s way past time we were.

 


South is a direction. For most people. And in most circumstances.

But for me, South has more often than not been a place.

When I lived in Iowa, South was Texas, the Gulf Coast and Florida. Places I regarded as the farthest points from the brighter spots of the universe for reasons that were as stereotypical as often as they were based on fact.

Today, South is the United States of America, a place I consider as uninhabitable as I would swampland, Mars and Saudi Arabia.

It seems the farther north I go, the less South appeals to me. Curious.

*I found this prompt via a Twitter friend, who is a very talented writer and comedian. Not unlike how I found the 30 Day Challenge. It goes like so – Using “south” for inspiration, write 100 Words – no more, no less – then add a link back here from your post. (A pingback is like bread crumbs, it helps your readers find the other 100 Word stories, and it’s nice to share.) – and you can check out the creator here.

And a side note, my 30 days will not include weekends unless I am spectacularly bored or maddened about something to the point of beating my outrage to death with words. I probably should have stated that upfront.


There are far more than five problems with social media but five is as good a place to start as any.

I should disclaim that I have technically been “social” on the internet since the late 90’s. Back in the day when message boards and list-serves were the meet up places for those who had decent access to the world-wide web and who realized the potential for using it to find people of like minds on just about any topic you care to imagine.

In many ways, the old days were pretty good. The forums that existed were tailored rather specifically, so the odds of tangling with someone who just happened to stumble across something you’d posted was fairly low.

Not that dust ups didn’t occur. Flaming was rampant and often part of the fun. But the fires were localized rather than raging wildfires that could burn across the planet in a matter of hours.

There was not much fear that anything that happened on a forum wouldn’t stay on that forum. The potential of ruining someone was not as great as it is today.

Which brings me to problem number one.

Social media’s tendency to mob people because it’s terribly easy to gather up a sizable and diverse audience, equip them with virtual torches and pitches and set them loose to vilify, humiliate and destroy anyone within a matter of hours or days.

Long after the initial spark has burned out, a viral posting on the Internet has a half-life that can easily exceed that of the subject. For good sometimes but usually for ill.

The immediacy of social media makes it dangerous in ways we simply haven’t come up with decent ways to counteract.

And some of that stems from problem number two.

Most of us are too exposed to virtual strangers through our social media use and neither appreciate how little we really know many of the people we “friend” or merely “follow” nor are wise enough to wonder or worry about it.

Which leads to the third problem – and I am incredibly guilty of this – a shocking amount of over sharing goes on via social media.

Where in bygone ages, we could only horrify our family, friends and sometimes co-workers with our exploits and opinions. Now our audience is anyone and everyone with the added bonus of reach. We are  also – initially anyway – shielded from reactions of those who have allowed us into their Internet neighborhoods and homes.

While we are all familiar with the Facebook share, rant or errant Twitter post exploding virally, most of us will never experience anything like that personally. This lack of consequence than emboldens us at the expense of our silently suffering social connections. People who surreptitiously mute or politely unfollow our updates to spare themselves rather than risk confrontation, hurt feelings or awkwardness. What people we don’t know don’t know about us is often for the best after all.

So the fourth problem is that in our quest to connect more because it’s so easy to do using social media, we actually become less connected.

There is a reason why you don’t go to your 25th high school reunion, but you forgot it and foolishly reconnected with not just your teenage bff’s but everyone you were ever acquainted with in school and then were eventually forced to unfollow all of their updates. That reason is, of course, you never wanted to maintain those connections. If you had, you’d still be friends with these people in your actual real life.

Social media allows us to feel widely connected or reconnected while at the same time providing convenient barriers to be intimately connected with more people than we can realistically handle or endure. Here is the final problem with social media. We are no more social with it than we were without it.

Problem number five is that we all have a much more finite capacity for connection than social media would have us believe.

Humans are simply incapable of caring much beyond a small circle of people. That’s why we distinguish between acquaintances and friends, and why friends are categorized accordingly to how we met them and closeness to us.

There is a vast difference between work friends, activity buddies and close or best friends, is there not?

Though there are mechanisms for ranking people in social media, the reality is that those who use it more become the people we see the most whether they are all that important to us or not.

All this said, as an introvert, I find social media a great leveler. Take away the physical aspect of being social and I can be as outgoing as anyone, which is why I have always enjoyed it.

But I am less certain that it’s been a boon for human relations. While connectedness has allowed people to more readily see the things we have in common in our various quests, it’s opened the doors to divisiveness on a larger scale too. I am uncertain that the former off-sets the latter. Not enough anyway.