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the creative stuff I’m reading.

Week eighteen in ephemera

Cloudspotting

As a card-carrying (or maybe a wannabe card-carrying) member of the cloudspotter’s club, I was excited by this recent rumpus. Keep watching that sky! Where I live, we’ve been getting more sunshine over the past few days and while I love clear blue skies, I really love nothing more than to lie on the grass in a park or by the water and just watch those clouds roll on by, casting shadows and making me dream of cotton candy, bed, waves, whatever.

Meritocracy

You’ve heard of the meritocracy? Critics of affirmative action legislation and policies love to throw the meritocracy around and it’s pretty annoying. Yes, affirmative action can often be a one-dimensional solution to lack of diversity, opportunity, and equity, when it ignores intersectionality and cultural infrastructure; it doesn’t really dismantle the problematic relations of power we live with. Yet, the meritocracy fails us. The guy who coined ‘meritocracy’ was pretty annoyed by neoliberal goofballs in power throwing that concept about. Excellent reminder that satire serves a specific purpose and we need to consider our sources.

Leave Me Alone: I’m eating and reading

Fran Lebovitz knows where it’s at when answering the NYT’s ‘by the book’ column, especially when talking about fictional dinner parties with authors living or dead.

GET OUT

I went to see Get Out in the theatre with a friend and even without captioning it packed serious power. Go see it, if you haven’t. Squirm in your seat if you’re a white viewer, and have a think about all those little microaggressions you recognize acting out. Read more here.

Comics, Again

Rob Delaney totally loves Phoebe Gloeckner’s A Child’s Life. Have you read Gloeckner’s work? It’s intense and dark and *so* beautifully written/drawn. Gloeckner’s Diary of a Teenage Girl is better known (movie, etc.). Also, I appreciate the way Delaney talks about depression and reading.

I Have Something To Tell You

PAY ATTENTION. This has been short and not that sweet but it’s something. Just going to hold onto that: it’s something. Thanks for reading.

 

Week seventeen in ephemera

Water, We All Need It

When it’s slow at work, since I’ve made a promise to myself to stay off fb on my office computer I just rabbithole. The thing about this is that it reminds me of the late 90s and early 00s when the internet was just cool and full of random stuff that begat random stuff. And indymedia. Remember indymedia? And Nerve before all the paywalls. Colours of Resisistance. And Scarlateen (still around, yeah Scarlateen!). But mostly, random discoveries.

It’s an older post, but snarkmarket’s history of water crises in Flint, Michigan is a gooder. And the water situation for several First Nations communities across Canada is only getting worse. Total bullshit, you guys. Everybody knows it: water is life.

You Say Rayon, I Say Viscose

I love fashion and design and stuff and I love picking it apart politically. My approach is naive and undisciplined, c’est la vie. Peripherally, I’ve noticed different sources touting rayon/viscose as a more environmentally palatable (green, eh) alternative to polyester and other cheap, popular, accessible fabrics. Nuh-uh! It’s some nasty stuff. It has the potential to be less nasty but then it’d cost more to produce. The guy in the interview references the factory fires in Bangladesh which killed hundreds of workers so we can wear cheap fast fashion. He raises an interesting point, that we need to pursue stronger regulation of production and employment standards rather than leave it to the consumer to vote with their dollars. To this I say… DUH. I’m not shaming fast fashion. Clothes are expensive. We gotta wear them. But regulators can do so much more to ensure that it doesn’t cost lives, abilities, and the environment.

All That Manifest Destiny HooHaw and We’re Left With This

Granta online has decent free content sometimes. If you like meandering, sometimes wanky, sometimes excellent stuff, check it out! I veer to the wanky, of course, so I love it all. Carys Davis is researching his novel in what sounds like a pretty juicy archive at the New York Public Library. First-person accounts of early American expansionism to the West (including examples of resistance to this concerted, government-funded colonial process) which resonate with today’s political climate in the US.

I Pee A Lot At Work; To This I Say NOPE

You guys, when the Pew Centre surveys you, you gotta keep it together. Be real. What are these risks to safety you’re willing to compromise ownership of your time/movement for? Surveillance at work is not a winner-winner-chicken-dinner. #JustSayNope.

Guys, I pee a lot at work because I drink a lot of water and because it gives me exercise to walk down the hall to the washroom and makes me move out of my chair at least once an hour if nothing else will. On another note, I’m so used to my rolling chair that I forget the dining table chairs at home don’t roll and I spend a good deal of time making my chair screech at 7am while eating breakfast. Our poor neighbour downstairs must really hate us.

This isn’t Divorce, American Style

An ugly truth of American culture:

The worst, most terrible things that the United States has done have almost never happened through an assault on American institutions; they’ve always happened through American institutions and practices.

How the use of fear engineers social hysteria and drives all the bullshit stuff that’s been happening, is happening.

I’m Feeling Bookish – Are You?

Most of the time I’m confident that I’ve kicked my bibliomania to the curb, then a shit week happens and I drop into Munro’s or Russells because I can. And I leave cash poor with books I won’t get to for months at least because I’ve already got three or four going at home and in my bag, not including the library books racking up fines. Pretty sad story, huh? <sarcasm> When I dropped out of school and went to NYC with my roommates and ended up at the Strand bookstore, I think I spent $250 I didn’t have in 15 minutes. In my defense I bought some sweet, SWEET art books that I’ve since donated in binge tosses. There’s having no regrets and there’s stupidity. My real regret here is that I missed out on the Blue Stockings bookstore, but that’s a small complaint to have so I’m okay with that.

Have you read Slammerkin? I think you should. Emma Donoghue writes historical fiction like no one else (not that I’m an expert; I have to admit that I don’t read much historical fiction but you should still take my word for it – winky face emoji). Life Mask was good too.

So, I had one of those shit weeks recently and picked up Katherena Vermette’s The Break. I have not read a novel that opens with an explicit trigger warning about violence, trauma, and healing. I’m just a quarter in, but it’s a heavy and beautiful story centering multiple generations of women in a Metis family in Winnipeg. The blurb on the cover of my copy is from Eden Robinson, whose Monkey Beach blew my mind several years ago, and exposed me to slight elements of contemporary Haisla experiences. So, I grabbed it. I’m in it, and I’m moved.

About That Image

On Palentine’s Day I went to see Häxan with my friends S and S (yeah, it was pretty slithery, snakes and witches and all the things – sibilant!). It’s a Danish silent film, released in 1922, about witchcraft through the ages, mostly the medieval period when the Inquisition was on a rampage. A musician accompanied the film with electronica. Pretty pretty good, you should check it out if you get a chance. High drama, interesting set design, and a closing, contemporary chapter drawing parallels between treatment of poor people, particularly women in the early 20th century and during the middle ages.

 

 

Ephemeral, not Ethereal

What does the ethereal my title mean, eh?

I’ll tell ya what it means for me. I had a weird experience today, dripping with well-meaning ableism that left me feeling pretty ghostly (ethereal, yo), even erased. I’m not comfortable going into details as I’ve not brought it up with the people I had the interaction with, and this blog has my name on it, so. One thing I can say to my one or two readers, if ya meet people, in whatever context – work, play, yadayada – and they communicate differently than you, just think for a moment about how you can shift your behaviour to be inclusive. Make a freaking effort. It may seem like a big ask, but in the end it’s not. It’s being human and humane. Oh, the self-censorship is strong here.

Beyond that, though, what an incredible clusterfuck it’s been the past few weeks (and I know that there’s a lot to be said, that has been said, about this clusterfuck being new to a limited privileged group, and not to many others in North America or worldwide). Folks have compiled lists of what you can do if you’re feeling immobilized, angry, scared, overwhelmed, and maybe like big crowded masses of people are not your thing – here’s a place to start, for Canadians: contact your MP and insist that they act on the US’s travel ban. Read up on Canada’s Safe Third Country Agreement and why it’s dangerous. Remember that the US’s legislation is actually two articles: one related to Muslims and the other related to refugees in general. It’s FAR-REACHING and it’s CHILLING. Learn to recognize and disrupt Islamophobia, and think about how you can resist. Also, keep thinking about the water protectors at Standing Rock – their legal defense needs funding support. And learn more about how you can name colonial racism in your communities. It’s everywhere in Canada, and so, so, so normalized. Listen to, or read the transcript, from today’s forum in Vancouver on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW). There’s a wealth of information out there, get informed and get active in your resistance and solidarity, eh?

I’ve written here before about the overdose crisis in BC, and the opioid crisis across North America. Some generous folks, in Vancouver, who use drugs, offered some advice on how all of us (drug users, neighbours, healthcare providers, legislators, bureaucrats) can respond to the overdose crisis. So much power, experience, and love there. Donald MacPherson summarizes the trajectory (non-trajectory?) of Canada and BCs response to drug use, overdoses, and criminalization.

Not to veer too jarringly, but did you hear about Beyonce?! Speaking of music-makers, Four Tet has made a playlist of artists from the human stain’s list of banned countries. That’s beautiful, my friends. I don’t care what the haters at factmag say, I love Missy’s new single and video.

Oh, I’m reading Deborah Levy’s Hot Milk. It’s been pretty effective at drawing me in, though I wouldn’t say it’s “hypnotic.” Swing Time was hypnotic. I’m a shameless Zadie Smith fan (except for Autograph Man but I’ve let that go). I loved Swing Time. I’m also reading Elena Ferrante’s Troubling Love. It is so intense and infuriating that I feel myself scowling like a beast when I read it. I’ll take it.

Ephemera in the New Year: Some Top Reads So Far

It’s a new year, whether you take that as a matter of course and turn over new leaves or whatever, or you view time as the “same as it ever was”, and there’s so much ephemeral stuff floating about.

I finished Zadie Smith’s Swing Time and loved it even more than I expected to. It’s an uncomfy read, in a good way, as a white middle class reader. I got so sucked in and felt myself identifying with the two main characters and then getting smacked awake at my arrogance. Recommend, recommend, recommend.

Something I *really* identified with, to an uncanny degree, is Anne Helen Peterson’s tribute (would that be apt?) to being in college in the late 90s, early 00s, before the internet became what it is now. My world was icq, napster (metallica broke my 12 yr-old heart when they sued napster, but here we are), hotmail, and and the university email system, and little else. There was a rich chump (to be fair my school was full of rich chumps) in my dorm who had a cell phone in 1998 and at one point I had the misfortune of being stuck with him in the elevator while he harangued the folks delivering his brand new toyota to our dorm. Nice mom car, by the way. We literally did wander around dorms and cafeterias looking for each other. It was romantic. The best was meeting up at the library or the fancy, exotic starbucks coffee cart just outside one of the classroom buildings. When I dropped out and had to walk across the city each morning to get to my job because the buses hadn’t started running for the day, I had an arrangement with my coworkers to be at a specific corner at 6:30am for a ride, and if I wasn’t there by 6:32, I’d be walking the rest of the way. No phone. Though, being deaf, I don’t really romanticize the days before texting. I do miss getting together with my people face-to-face for conversations and not half-assed conversations that sometimes happen via text or instant messaging (partly because these conversations are happening with hearing people).

Another thing I *really* identified with is Reading Ta-Nehisi Coates in Idaho. I first got into my mum’s worn college copy of Black Like Me (which is a super problematic piece of non-fiction, to put it mildly) in the middle school years, in a small town in eastern Ontario. Our part of the Ottawa Valley could have been described quite like Idaho is described. My mum was from a working class suburb in New England and came of age during the Civil Rights Era. The book meant different things to us, but it definitely made me feel confused about my whiteness and privilege – it unsettled me. Anyway, back to RTCI: read it! It’s a very thoughtful and genuine engagement with race, bigotry, white supremacy, and Idaho.

Becoming Ugly really got to me:

It was a game that everyone but me seemed to love. I was a girl who mostly hung around boys because I hadn’t yet learned that female friendships, though infinitely more confusing, were also infinitely more rewarding. I was the self-professed type who loudly preferred spending time with men over spending time with women because they were less dramatic and complicated. And so I surrounded myself with boys who found it funny to grab my body when I least expected it, and were spurred by my discomfort to push me further and more painfully.

The game ended the night that Tom*, the one who always grabbed me, did it to me again while we were walking up a flight of stairs. Familiarly, everyone laughed and I tried to join them, desperate to appear easygoing and in on the joke despite being the literal and figurative butt of it. But suddenly, the effort of it all—the smiling, nervous chuckling, and eye rolls that I had allowed myself over the past several months—sickened me. It felt like I was choking on my own vomit of anger and humiliation. To save myself, I’d have to spew my own bile. And so I turned and punched Tom directly in the groin.

Can’t really add much to that, but “story of my life” as a kid and a teenager. Ugh. Shame and dissociation and rage and futility, all in an easy-to-open can of spork.

 

November 9th, 2016: Pussy Grabs Back

The cat came back the very next day: here, pussy, pussy

This is not a pussy reference, god no. But close. More an acknowledgement of trumpy’s not-so-surprising capacity to reappear, good as new, no matter what shit hits his stupid suit and hair (and that perma-tan face). Anyway, I’m not going to say too much about it because what’s there left to say that hasn’t been said both eloquently and asininely online and in the media? I’m supremely disappointed that white people like me (not going to play the “us good whiteys” and “those poor losers” because that’s shortsighted, self-aggrandizing, and absolutely not true) gotta let humanity (or just the totality of existence?) down again and again. So much respect for those who’ve been fighting white supremacy in its all-encompassing power for generations, and who continue to do so (#standwithstandingrock #blacklivesmatter and so many more).

So, that’s my day after US election dirge.

Also, last night I listened to this on repeat because goddam Nina Simone. Tonight, it’s going to be Hercules and Love Affair (okay, I’ll be honest. as my fb friendz know, I’m always listening to Hercules and Love Affair. like, leave me alone, okay).

Coffee and TV

Last week I binged through Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, yes I did. Then Monday night I watched the first season of Chewing Gum. Both so good. Both definitely getting that feminist-y talk about race and gender and sex and work out there to the front, in different ways. I recommend them both. I don’t know how to write about TV or books critically, except to say I like ’em or I don’t. Should have spent more time in English Lit in my undergrad, I guess? Last night I half-assedly watched The Crown while half-assedly following the election counts online. It’s alright so far: the casual, entitled ignorance Prince Philip displays when they visit sites of empire in Africa are gaggy and real. And the line Elizabeth uses about the country being savage just a generation ago before the Brits cleaned it up. Ugh. And the line from an advisor about how they need that country for the crown, because independence is eating up the rest of the continent. And of course empire is far more sinister and violent behind the polite facade of British Rule. Anyone seen Issa Rae’s Insecure? I can’t wait to watch that. The NYT wrote a profile of Rae a year or so ago and it was exciting!

What I’m reading now

Well, too much soundbite political coverage on social media, I’ll admit that. But also Elizabeth George’s A Banquet of Consequences. This is high-end trash. Sadly, there’s some lazy xenophobia sprinkled throughout the novel, and the class divide in Britain is real and relished (by the rich?). Putting that aside (I know, I know) I’m tearing through it. It’s so interesting go between contemporary literature and trashy reads, and I quite enjoy the bouncing back and forth. Plus George’s description of how Sergeant Havers eats is deeply satisfying – butties and pineapple upside down cake and chips, and anything crap, you name it, it’s going in. I know, sounds gross, but given how much I love food – cooking, eating, sharing, talking about it – it’s no real surprise.

Seriously, though, after reading Andrea Levy’s Never Far from Nowhere, it’s such *bloody* juxtaposition, the two (multitude of, let’s be honest) Englands blow my mind and are made all the realer, for me. Levy is amazing – Small Island is better known – but her early stuff is juicy.

 

 

 

 

Week eight in ephemera: Overwhelm, Vagenda and Nino Sarratore

What?! Hello again.

It’s been nearly two months (an intense two months) of overwhelm when thinking about when to post each week and realizing I had no energy to think about things, let alone write these thoughts. But, after a month at a new full-time job, I’m coming back to the quietude I prefer (and likely need). So, here’s a scattershot re-entry into ephemera!

On my mind:

Farrah Khan, Ann-Bernice Thomas, and Jeremy Loveday spoke/performed at the University of Victoria this week, as part of Sexualized Violence Awareness Week. It was a rich, heavy, and beautiful event. I was exhausted and feeling disconnected from any sense of participating in community. A thoughtful person affiliated with the event invited me to attend, and live captioning had already been arranged. On that note, that’s never happened before and it was incredible to be somewhere that I didn’t have to plan to be a month in advance, didn’t have to advocate for accessibility, and did not have to commit to going; it was an invitation with no strings attached. I can’t really gather the words for how this made me feel. The closest I can come would be that I felt a part of the room, because I didn’t have to spend the energy reading people’s faces and wondering if what I was getting was correct, etc. I could feel the feels in the moment (and given what was being talked about, the feels were there to be had). Usually, I experience this stuff at remove, disengaged, storing the stuff for later, if I get the stuff that is being said. So, so much gratitude for the work that went into making the event happen, and to the three presenters for getting most of their texts to the transcriber in time for projection. Always have gratitude for the folks who listen, comprehend, and type so fast to make that one kind of access happen.

The overwhelm:

Nino Sarratore, that selfish, sexist, and “sensitive” dude that Neapolitan Novels readers love to hate (I mean, I speak for myself here, but wait)! My friend got me onto the fuck nino sarratore tumblr that is all about dissing Nino. Yes, pure genius! Seriously, fuck that guy (sorry, parentals! Or maybe at 37 I’m too old to care about what my folks think of my cussing. Yeah, I’ll go with that. But the post-Catholic guilt is strong). If you haven’t read these books, please do. I’m imploring you.

I start my workday at 8am five days a week. I get out mid-afternoon each day, and that is awesome. But 8am? After years of starting my work days at 10, 10:30, or even afternoon, when working on contracts? BRUTAL. One of my great loves is being awake in time to watch the dawn sky change into day. The brutal thing about being up so early, though, is that things just don’t compute. I enjoy the early light but I don’t function well before 8:30am. I just don’t. I’m not ashamed to admit that my first year of university was dedicated to getting the requisite courses done, just never at 8:30am or Friday morning at all. I excelled at this. What I’m really talking about is that I woke up at 7am today, a full hour later than on workdays. And I managed to read in bed for another two hours. This is the life. The side effect of living the life is that I finished Americanah and experienced saudade (Portuguese and Gallician), that longing that I get when I’ve finished a book that’s absorbed me completely. The novel was published three years ago, and I resisted because of the hype. I’m so glad I finally read it.

Yesterday was Orange Shirt Day in Canada, an event honouring and remembering the forced removal of indigenous children to christian residential schools across the country. In these schools, the nuns, priests, ministers, and lay teachers enacted abuse of an incredible and sickening range, from forced erasure of the children’s language, spirituality, and rituals, sexual abuse, withholding of food, solitary confinement, and much more. Given that residential schools operated until 1996, this structural colonial violence was occurring as I went about living a “typically” Canadian middle class childhood and adolescence, completely unaware. Like many settler kids of my generation, I learned in the public school system that contact and assimilation was a thing that happened in the past, and for the benefit of indigenous peoples. Barf.

One small antidote to the overwhelm of how Canada has been built: Going Home Star.

Vagenda of Manocide” makes me laugh/shudder every time I see the phrase. Way to go, Maine, eh? But you gotta listen to Bitch’s vagenda playlist. It’s excellent. And then check out their story of feminist punk in 33 songs. Poly Styrene will always have my cold, angry heart.

Week seven in ephemera: Reads!

Decent Reads:

My friends know that I love to read. Saying “I love to read,” feels inadequate most of the time; I must read or I begin to feel frantic, unsettled, even desperate. A while back I shared an article about bibliotherapy and when I first came across the concept, nothing felt so real as that possibility. Besides comics and graphic novels, I haven’t shared what I’ve been reading (except for the online articles and essays, of course). Now, I’ll start sharing both current reads and some past reads that impacted me in such a way that I don’t forget them (and I forget things easily – whoops).

Current Reads:

Colson Whitehead’s Apex Hides the Hurt | First, I love Colson Whitehead. I loved Sag Harbor, The Intuitionist, and Zone One. Still haven’t read John Henry Days. I’m only partway through Apex, so I’m not going to say what I think about it beyond the fact that I’m enjoying it. I enjoy satire. Also, it’s common for me to read old stuff. I don’t like having hype in my head when I’m reading something, so unless it’s “summer reading” (more on that later), I’m going to be at least a few years behind. This one was published a decade ago.

Colson Whitehead's Apex Hides the Hurt (2006).
Colson Whitehead’s Apex Hides the Hurt (2006).

~Damn! After I saved the initial draft of this post and continued to waste time in FB-land, I saw this feature on Whitehead regarding his latest, The Underground Railroad. Hype or no (and there’s a lot), I’ll be reading this as soon as possible.~

Elizabeth Bowen’s The Heat of the Day | Speaking of old stuff, the publication date is 1948. It holds up, so far! I don’t know if it’s because I grew up curious about my family’s experiences of the Nazi invasion and occupation of Poland (and their subsequent shifts in identity, dispossession/displacement, place-making, and belonging), but sometimes I appreciate a good WWII novel. I imagine, sometimes, who my grandmothers were before they had children, especially when I read stuff from this era.

Summer Reads:

Lauren Groff’s The Monsters of Templeton | I read this a few years ago and was into it. It’s based on Cooperstown, New York, where I once spent a few humid and resentful days following my dad and brother around the baseball museum and not even bothering to be interested. Looking back it was actually a weird and cool place but at the time I thought sports were crap, unless we were talking about Wimbledon, the giant slalom, or basketball (basically everything my brother was disinterested in – note the theme). Anyway, back to the novel: it’s messy and is about the messes hidden in family lore and reality. I like that stuff.

More recently, Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies | Fates was on the fast-read shelf at the public library and I recognized Groff’s name. You’ll see in the review I’ve linked to that it was a huge book last  year but I’d missed that, such is the strength of my hype-aversion. Again, it’s messy and and is about the messes hidden in long-term relationships and family lore. There’s a Weeki Wachee Mermaid, there’s some weird intrigue, and apt descriptions of post-college house parties full of frenemies and acquaintances.

Colson Whitehead’s Sag Harbor | Noted above, SH is one of my favourite summer reads. I was lucky enough to spend at least part of every summer by the coast in southern Maine, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, growing up. My extended family lives all over New England and I miss the region dearly the summers I can’t get back east. So many summer novels about vacation homes, islands, and beach living are about white people; white people with money and the mostly white townies whose world is disrupted/perhaps controlled by their brief presence each year. Sag Harbor, and Dorothy West’s The Wedding, an earlier example, share narratives of black Americans vacationing in beach towns (Long Island in the former, Martha’s Vineyard in the latter). Both novels describe parallel summer communities that have little to do with the more well-known white enclaves. For me, I love having that dominant narrative of summer life cracked; it’s only one story after all, and there are so many more.

Transformative Reads:

Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels | Definitely an exception to my hype-aversion; I didn’t know about them at first but got into and read all of the first three just before the release of the final, fourth, novel. Lifelong friendships are complicated, just as family is complicated, but women are sold a particular idea of being bosom buddies that’s crap, much like romantic comedies are crap. These novels are brutally honest and beautiful. I’ve read several of Ferrante’s other novels as well, and recommend them. People have been talking about the infamously trite cover art of the North American editions. Here’s the latest on that.

Los Bros Hernandez’s Love and Rockets | I have a soft spot for this series and am reading new-to-me issues that I’ve missed. My absolute favourite is Maggie the Mechanic. I prefer Jaime’s work but Gilberto’s is bizarro good. Love, broken hearts, sex, punk rock, adolescent punks, aging punks, California – all the good stuff. Why was it transformative? I love the way these dudes write and draw women, loneliness, alienation, and home.

Lucy Knisley’s Relish | The guy whose comics drawing class I’m taking (Gareth Kyle Gaudin of Perogy Cat fame) loaned me this book right when I started the class. Before reading this, I kinda felt too uncool to attempt sharing stuff via comics but on reading Relish, I recognized my own relationship to food and art and travel in Knisley’s storytelling. I aspire to her way of telling the story visually.

Marsha Hewitt and Claire Mackay’s One Proud Summer | I read this book as a kid and given that my grandparents were part of the Polish expat and Anglo communities in Montreal and my dad was a year old at the time of the 100-day cotton millworkers strike in Quebec, it blew my mind. My mind was blown by Lucie, the 13 year-old protagonist, who Norma Rae’d her way around for justice. I was used to young adult fiction about American (hello, Newberry Award winners), but this was about Quebec, and it was about something that actually happened, and it was radical.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading this far!

 

 

 

Week six in ephemera.

On slaves in the White House.

I try to stay away from current affairs because keeping a legit news reading list would be a full-time job. Buuuuuuut, everybody was talking about Michelle Obama’s explicit naming of the fact that slaves built the White House. Why would she do that? If we talk about American history in full, we have to talk about everybody’s history, from multiple perspectives not just the (literally) white-washed dominant narrative. And the image of her two black daughters playing on the lawn of the house that black slaves built is a powerful, monumental message. If you’d like to read some historically astute responses to claims that the First Lady was “over the top” or (ugh!) race-baiting, here you go: interview with Jesse J. Holland, the author of a recently published history of African American slaves in the white house; Julie Hirschfeld Davis factchecks for the NYT; and Peter Holley tracks the glitterati of Twitter on the topic.

#BlackLivesMatter in Canada, as we need to be reminded over and over again. A recent incident in Ottawa, not far from where I grew up, had (white) people in Canada shocked that police brutality against black people happens (for more information about what I’m referring to, check the #JusticeForAbdi hashtag on social media). It should not be shocking, but angering, galvanizing, even. Our strange, seemingly passive, national pride built on mutations of British politeness is dangerous, and it needs to change (and the narrative of who Canadians are, and indigenous folks are, for example needs to change). A #BlackLivesMatter in Canada reading list has been compiled. Lets check ourselves before we wreck ourselves.

Marjorie Liu, the creator of Monstress, a bitching comic series I mentioned last week, talks to NPR about how rejection shaped her work. You’ll find the transcript button under the “play” button for the recording. And, as my friend Sabrina says, it’s amazing. Do yourself a favour and read Monstress!

More on the comics front, a list of top comics to read at the beach this summer, courtesy of some comic creators (including the aforementioned Marjorie Liu). I am obsessed with Paper Girls! It’s not an exhaustive list so if you want to turn some folks onto something new, leave a comment!

A few weeks back I referenced and shared an article on how the net is not neutral because algorithms are overwhelmingly developed by white dudes. Further news on this front: WikiLeaks is losing the plot (perhaps never really had it in the first place) in terms of being on the pious vanguard of radical net activism. Speaking of how we get our information and who we trust, the NYT Magazine has a big piece on what’s going on for journalism right now, including several first-person interviews with folks from standard print publications and newer digital publications.

Speaking of pious, how about these holy Sisters of Twitter, eh?

I’m getting ahead of myself here so I’m going to wrap up with something personal. Outside on the beauty of silence when you run (no music, no podcasts, no conversation, just let the ambient sounds of your immediate environs wash over you). Of course, when I run, it’s in near absolute silence, as hearing aids like to fuck shit up when they get humid or damp and that’s no fun for me. And I love intentional, dedicated allotments of silence.

I’ll leave you here this week. The bike photo is from my route to the swim spot I frequent as often as possible. It was abandoned in the twilight, in the middle of a park. Twilight makes everything beautiful, to me.

Week five in ephemera.

I’m not done with public libraries yet, and I have no shame. This beauty is a slice of the of struggles to desegregate US “public” libraries. From a New Jersey public library treasurer, in 1945: “Wednesdays’ short hours were enough for the children, Trumaine said, because “we don’t believe in social equality for Negroes. We don’t want our white children associating with them on the same level. The Negroes are a different race. They should be proud of it but keep to themselves.””

Storytime Underground is a rad collective of youth librarians challenging the idea that libraries have ever been neutral, and the power and responsibilities of librarians, whether they recognize it or not.

I don’t have Pokemon Go on my phone, but I find the phenomenon fascinating; this brief piece captures the game’s positive potential. A friend gave me a brief orientation on her phone today and I’ll admit it was pretty adorable and has a strong draw.

A brief history of BC’s Great Coal Strike and how racism and racial exclusion hurt labour movements.

The trends in unionizing digital media workplaces:

We are, on some level, at ease with precarity. Not just the hoverboard-riding, “trim 20-somethings” we stereotypically associate with today’s newsrooms, but all of us. It’s critical to remember, however, that job security has a relative value. Older workers, people of color, women, and those from low-income backgrounds tend to need it more. For them, the traditional gains of collective bargaining—protection from firing and discrimination, pay increases, and health insurance—remain essential.

I’m so stoked about this, and I hope you are too: Roxane Gay and Yona Harvey are writing Marvel Comics’ World of Wakanda! You gotta check this out (later this year). And in the meantime, look for Monstress.

I really enjoy the transcripts of the NPR podcast, Planet Money. Which means, frankly, I just really enjoy NPR and Planet Money because it is good stuff which I know because they provide free transcripts of their programming right where they post the audio programming. This is kind of a “duh” in my book, but my experience and enjoyment of podcasts and radio programming is hella limited because the minds of hearing programmers and producers and media conglomerates can be hella limited. ANYWAY, Planet Money talked this week about when women stopped coding. Do not fret, my hearing friends, you can listen to the podcast at the very top of the transcript. Imagine!

I do go on, don’t I? No need to answer that. I have more to share, so please check back next week, pals! And thanks for reading this far, you’re some fuzzy in-season peaches.

Week four in ephemera.

If you’ve known me for at least a little while, you know I love libraries. I love the concept of literature, art, and community, as well as internet access, being available for free. In rural areas libraries can offer an escape plan, a way to learn more about one’s environs, and a way to gather with others. In urban areas, they provide all of the above as well as a place for adults who may be retired, unemployed, or without an office, to spend some of their time, clean bathrooms, the internet, comfy chairs for naps, sometimes access to video games, etc. I’m missing a lot here, but this is what comes to mind quickly.

I worked in a small town public library for six years and it’s still the best job I’ve ever had, even though I was a sulky, alienated teenager who couldn’t wait to get the hell out of Dodge for my entire tenure. The steady mentoring, community-building, and unlimited access to books, VHS tapes, and CDs without fines were the empowering and enlightening ticket to a kind of freedom that high school was not. Good lord, what a love song! If you’re indifferent to libraries, keep reading – I’ll be talking about other stuff.

A lifelong fantasy of mine, unsurprisingly, has been to live in the library. Public libraries used to have caretakers and their families living behind the stacks. The US Senate has approved the appointment of Carla Hayden, country’s first woman and first African-American Librarian of Congress. Apparently it’s been rare to have an actual Librarian in that position as well.

More awesome library stuff: #BlackLivesMatter reading lists for youth from a librarian for Hennepin County (MN) Library, and everybody from the Oakland, CA public libraries.

Vancouver Public Library has a Residential School reading list, a mix of memoir, anthology, novels, and at least one graphic novel. So much for everyone to learn about North American (a colonial place name) history and why reconciliation is a deep, deep, multi-generational project.

Jenna Wortham complicating queer positivity and acceptance during Pride month.

A good deal of discussion of the changing face of ‘the Left’ has been happening for ages (when hasn’t it, really?). Lately, very real resistance to identity politics by writers, activists, and organizers positioning themselves on the left, while Black Lives Matter, Idle No More, and other significant movements led by POC and Indigenous people are naming the structural and personal marginalization of their communities, has been erupting. ‘Social Justice Warrior’ has become a slur against folks advancing certain arguments with certain methodologies online. We Are the Left has issued a rebuttal to these continual attempts to erase identity politics from what could be a vibrant, complex, and sustainable collective of leftist communities.

Technology is never neutral. Algorithms originate from white dudes who build the internet. Of course, I’m being simplistic because I’m not a tech writer, but this is, essentially, what happens.

I used to watch so much TV. And you know what I didn’t see, growing up? Deaf folks who weren’t old or fully embedded in Deaf culture. Sure, I saw different aspects of myself reflected: white, middle class, dorky (cringeworthy, really), English-speaking, and that is a distinct privilege. However, let’s see some different (aka realistic) portrayals of folks with disabilities.

It’s been a tremendous end of term for the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) this spring, in part because the more liberal justices were fighting back on abortion, after the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s sudden death. So it’s time to demand reproductive justice; it’s time for an abortion renaissance!

The Trudeau government is apparently pro-science and pro-evidence and there’s more hope among harm reduction activists across Canada despite the grossly sluggish response of the BC government to an alarming number of overdose deaths in the past year. This week, the City of Toronto has approved three supervised injection sites and their next step is applying to the federal government. In the US, opioid dependency has skyrocketed over the last decade, due to over-prescription of OxyContin. Big Pharma and the close relationship between between drug companies and medical practitioners have created a dangerous cocktail. Racism, too, has played a part in this epidemic; the idea that opioid dependency in such high rates couldn’t happen in predominantly white communities. It seems that the collective white imagination still thinks of such drug issues as being a “black” thing.