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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.

 

 

Week Whatever in Ephemera: What lights my fire?

This beauty has been making the rounds on social media (which I’m trying to limit my time on, but you know how it is). I love it and have so much respect for the bravery of author/hiker Rahawa Haile naming all the things to fellow (white) hikers as she makes her way. A quote that struck me:

When was the last time you saw yourself at your best? When did you last wish you could? I can’t tell you my last time. What I know is that I moved to New York City in 2008 at the start of the recession, and after a few years a vanishing began. That’s how it goes. You stop being yourself without even knowing it. You withdraw. You retreat like a glacier, slowly, until people wonder if there was ever anything more to their memory of you than an inconvenient pile of rocks. You tell yourself things will get better until there’s barely anything left to remind. And then you decide what you can still fight for.

Active literary citizenship can take many forms, particularly during times of transition. There’s more to writers than writing and more to readers than reading; you are not your byline.

I said to a friend, after reading this last week, I’ve grappled with the fact that many black writers have captured experiences of “in-betweenity” and erasure in a way that resonates for me, deaf in a hearing family and hearing world. Why do I grapple? Because I’m white and it’s such a common and lazy trope to cherrypick the experiences of people of colour and wrap them up around white and middle class (in my case) experience. And yet, it’s true. Living in a dinky small farming town/bedroom community (yeah it was confusing but there we are), I knew few kids or adults, other than old folks, who were “like me.” Stories of erasure, in-betweenity, and hybridity opened a door for me. Of course I realized a long time ago, as an adult, I have far more in common with other white people because of the privileges our shared skin accords us, without our even knowing. What I love about Haile’s article is how familiar and unfamiliar it is. I’ve spent the last few years unraveling a functioning (and sometimes nonfunctioning) depression related to sensations much like she describes in the above quote. I’m fighting that vanishing. It’s not easy. But I need to.

In fighting that vanishing, I’m compelled to think about my responsibility to resist the erasure of people “not like me” – solidarity rather than unity. The strength that it takes not to vanish because it often feels like it would just be easier to let coworkers, friends, family members, and well meaning whomever pretend that not finding a way to communicate with me outside their norm is my failing and not theirs, is something I can fuel and direct towards listening, witnessing, and disrupting “business as usual” in colonial and racist habits and patterns. Tall order, but necessary.

The NYTs chronicle of the ways in which local youth were firestarters for the power we see at Standing Rock (yeah, I liked that song by the Prodigy – it was the 90s, alright). They have so much power, and the story of how they woke up their elders, while recognizing and accommodating colonial generational trauma and its legacies. Heady stuff!

That’s it for tonight, but I’ll be back. Thank you for reading.

 

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.

What the world needs now…

Is Serious Media Literacy Skills

And yes, love, etc. And rage. Bread and roses. JUSTICE.

All the things!

I’m skipping a comics class because our apartment building is running on one laundry machine and I just don’t think I can hang out every day after work this week waiting until I get that magic spot. (yeah, world’s smallest violin, I hear it too).

There’s a lot of stuff going on in the world, eh? Some truly incredible resistance led by indigenous people and people of colour in North America (yep, let’s problematize NA as a place naming, another time). Look up #IstandwithStandingRock and #BlackLivesMatter and #webelieveyou to get a taste of what I’m talking about.

On my mind, at the moment, though, is our collective need to cut down on spreading crap media (lies, lies, lies) around like peanut butter on warm toast (or nutella, if you prefer).

If we don’t develop critical media literacy, we’re fucked. I know, it’s crass. But it’s true. Just, critical thinking in general. I’ve taken for granted that my folks raised me ask questions and cultivate thoughtful, hopeful doubt. I also got to sit around in classrooms in high school and university and have a think about “how we know what we know, blah blah blah.” Something increasingly rare, it seems, in neoliberal approaches to post-secondary education of late. So, privilege and timing / timing and privilege. But, developing critical thinking skills and media and digital literacy does not require access to the university. I’ll stop here and research this more for another time.

Buzzfeed nails it, discussing Myanmar‘s astoundingly fast conversion to internet access, when less than 1% of residents had internet access two years ago. In the span of a hot minute, the country has moved from near-total state control of the media and telecommunications to a huge percentage of the population getting online. As the article notes, this leap in technological access and lack of media/digital literacy is feeding anti-Muslim rhetoric and misinformation at a terrible rate. You may think it’s just because it’s Myanmar (which would be pretty idiotic). But this is partly what happened with Trump, in the land of so-called free press (have you been paying attention to Trump’s relationship with the media? Ugh. Danger ahead).

And this from the New Yorker’s Adrian Chen on Russia’s concerted misinformation campaigns on behalf of the Kremlin.

Yeah, I should take it easy with citing the New Yorker all the time. Sorry. The New Yorker was my best friend (not an exaggeration), regularly left in the hospital lobby by one of the local doctors with a subscription, where my mum worked reception nights and weekends. A definite step up from Readers Digest. So, I get a little wrapped up in the NY (my security blanket, really). I’ll take it easy.

Some satire brightening my life for moments on the daily: “TODAY’S DEBATE: Should men THEMSELVES be involved in decisions about their reproductive health? Or would that be seen as pandering?”

Have you seen the new Gilmore Girls? Have you noticed how fatphobic it is? Episode three (Summer) is particularly cruel and lazy in this regard. At first I thought it was just the new edition then I went back and watched some old stuff and yep, it’s a constant thread throughout. WTF. GG offends on multiple levels, but this struck me in particular last Saturday. And still I watched it.

A book I’m nearly done reading is Kate Bollick’s Spinster. The review cites one of my favourite lines from the book:

she recalls eating a Big Mac late one drunken night on the sidewalk on her walk home. “I chomped and strolled as slowly as I could, prolonging the delectable realization that waiting for me at home was nothing but an empty bed into which I’d crawl naked and drunk and stinking of fast food, disgusting nobody but myself.”

And with that, I bid you adieu. Till next time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 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 three in ephemera.

Actually, I wish that all that’s been happening (or what I’m aware of of all that’s been happening) were actually ephemeral. I mean, I wish that state violence against POC, this week black and brown people in America, would just end. I wish it wasn’t generations upon generations of trauma revisited every day, and reenacted all the time. You know the saying, “if wishes were horses”? Yeah, me too. But I wish it anyway.

My social media is glutted with first-person accounts, including the videos of black people dying, in real time, at the hands of police officers, which I have not watched. It includes footage of the Black Lives Matter – Toronto taking a much needed stand against the consistent tokenism and erasure of queer POC in Pride festivities year after year. It also includes the latest bombing by ISIS in Baghdad (ISIS is not representative of Islam, and people need to get that, like, immediately). And, competing for space in my feeds is the continued violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada.

But, there are many things to read and educate ourselves with, particularly if we’re white:

This is what white people can do to learn about and support Black Lives Matter. A letter to well-meaning white friends in a similar vein (we need to read it again and again and go beyond).

The common narrative I’ve read in western coverage of ISIS is that recruits or volunteers are poor, disenfranchised, and looking for escape. This could be wrong, or changing very fast.

Even the way we access the internet is off because of racism.

Yesterday was AltPride in Victoria/Lkwungen and WSANEC territories (so great to see the snail trail getting dropped in my neighbourhood). Today is “regular” Pride. Much respect, love, anger, and solidarity to the queerlings in my life.

It’s been a week. I have more to say, so please do check back. Much gratitude to Lin-Manuel Miranda for the pithy, loving tweet this week.

 

 

Week two in ephemera.

The world is going to pot on the daily (hasn’t it always already been?). So, some stuff of inspiration: the women kicking ass as Guardian Angels fighting harassment and violence on NYC’s subways; the Perv Busters!

Less inspiring: how the rich controls the media by silencing journalists. Terrifying.

The Reluctant Memoirist has appeared on a few lists and made the rounds, but it’s a compelling example of how journalist Suki Kim’s gender and race impacted the way her work has been perceived and critiqued in media and publishing circles. From the article:

“As an Asian female, I find that people rarely assume I’m an investigative journalist; even after I tell them, they often forget. Having spent my formative years in America not speaking English, I know how to be mute; my accent sometimes makes people assume I am naïve. I am good at disappearing. I am aware that such apparent weaknesses can in fact be advantages.”

Speaking of a journalist going undercover to get the story: I haven’t been paying close attention, but so far I’ve not seen critiques or categorizing of Shane Bauer that the reluctant memoirist in question above faced. Something to chew over? And, the impact of the prison industrial complex in the United States is one that has been horrifying to watch (and prisons are already horrifying).

I was a front line social worker for eight years and harm reduction was always part of the services I provided, regardless of the position of organizational leadership. If, for a minute, you think it’s alright to write people who use drugs off because you’ve never had that issue, I hope you read this. People are people. The people I worked with and that our community lost are still with me today; memories knocking any self-serving piety out of me on the daily.

Since it’s July 1st, or where I live, Canada Day, I have to add some “CanCon.” Last year, the Truth and Reconciliation Report (TRC) was released to the federal government and general public. This spring, a TRC Reading Challenge was started, and people have been pledging to read or listen to a reading of the Report in its entirety. I signed as a means of intentionally pursuing reconciliation in the present and future. For more information about Canadian history as it relates to ongoing colonial structures, read Lynn Gehl / Gii-Zhigaate-Mnidoo-Kwe’s Algonquin-Anishinaabekwe love letter.

Thank you for reading!

 

This week in ephemera.

Curiosity didn’t really kill the cat. Curiosity gives life to ideas and actions. Here, I share my curiosity. Conversations with myself (and anyone else) are usually ephemeral. Even after they’re gone, wisps floating away from my brain, I know they were interesting.

Things I’m curious about right now:

Brexit: what the hell, Britain?! And, where to from here? Six key points. Could it be an opportunity for antiracist movements to grow? And some Canadian snark.

I’m always thinking about this one, but can reading fiction be your therapy? And is it possible to talk about self-care and therapy without assuming that happiness is the end goal? What about contentment, joy, even curiosity? In a depressed state any of these are harder to come by, possibly, and happiness seems to be too specific for attainment.

Assumptions that being coupled is inevitably better for humans grate. I could share loads of articles supporting that hypothesis and probably just as many refuting it. Instead, I’m celebrating the singletons I know and love with this 1936 advice column. Stay defiant, stay gold.

Oof. This is rape culture, not party culture. Make no mistake.

There’s more, so check back!