Canada

An Open Letter to the BC Teachers’ Federation – A Reflection on Military “Propaganda”

Note: The following letter was forwarded to me and is reprinted here with the author’s permission. The individual has asked that they remain anonymous to prevent any internal backlash. As today is Remembrance Day here in Canada, I felt obligated to reprint it today more than ever. 

Dear Sir or Madam,

It is regrettably with a heavy heart that I find myself writing to you today, and I wish to direct these words to whomever is responsible for the approval and creation of the poster found in the link included below:

http://bctf.ca/uploadedFiles/Public/SocialJustice/Programs/GlobalEd/Military_Recruitement_Web.pdf

This poster was brought to my attention today by a colleague, and it is my understanding that it owes it’s creation to the Social Justice department of the British Columbia Teacher’s Federation. I must admit that my initial feelings upon seeing this poster were that of outrage. Tempted as I was to call your organization and lodge a complaint, I decided instead to think about what I had seen and why someone might have thought that the creation and distribution of such nonsense might have been a good idea in the first place. As the afternoon wore on, I cooled off enough to get my thoughts in order and came to the conclusion that perhaps the individual or individuals, whatever the case may be, that generated this work may just be ignorant as to the function of the Canadian Armed Forces. Perhaps it was a case of best intentions gone horribly wrong, or maybe the heart was in the right place but the head was firmly stuck up the arse?

Whatever the case may be, this issue still needs to be addressed as I think the author of this work failed to take a number of things into consideration. But I must start with disclosing the fact that I am currently an active serving member of the CAF with 17 years of service, with multiple tours of duty, and many numerous operations both domestic and international. So perhaps my opinions on this subject does contain a certain amount of bias. That being said, when it comes to social issues facing Canadians today you won’t find a stronger supporter than me. I truly believe that the level of social development this country has achieved is what has made us a truly wonderful society. And although there is always room for improvement, you would be hard pressed finding a more diverse or inclusive land to live in. Values like these are what makes us unique in many regards, and many across the globe hold us in high esteem and as a beacon of hope for the rest of the world to emulate. It is values like these that make me proud to call myself a Canadian, and it is values like these and the people that hold them dear that I would do anything to protect. Which, as it happens, is why I do what I do. So that is why it breaks my heart to see those who claim to fight for social justice slander those of us who actively fight to protect it.

So lets look at the poster. Your poster is divided into two parts, or at least it is laid out that way on your website. The top half as I am looking at it asks “Are You Thinking About The Military?” in an uneven and gritty font seen often in numerous anti-drug posters from the 80’s, no doubt this was done to really jump out and grab the attention of the youth you are so worried about losing to the brainwashing of Canada’s mighty and fearsome military juggernaut. The rest of the first page goes on to encourage prospective recruits to ask questions to themselves, their family, and their recruiter. Now this portion I can totally get behind 100%, as these are all very good and important questions that should be asked before making a decision. Pursuing any career requires plenty of foresight and careful consideration, and the military is no different. What irks me is not the first page, which is good food for thought for anyone toying with the idea of a career in defense, but the second page.

Here, the gears get switched here as the author(s) attempt to build a case against the defense of their own country. The first point on the poster encourages the readers to raise awareness with teachers that military recruiting is a social justice issue. That is false. Military recruiting is no more a social justice issue than picking up after your dog is an environmental issue, or losing a loonie in the couch cushions is an economic issue.

The next two bullets instructs teachers to report the sightings of recruiters to their unions, and for students to report the same to their teachers. In this case it feels like the creator is somehow drawing comparisons that men and women in uniform should be treated no differently than some stranger in a dirty trench coat skulking down the halls of a public school. Not to mention missing the fact that recruiters do not show up unannounced and uninvited to places of learning. When they do show up, it  is arranged ahead of time and usually coincides with a career day or a job fair. Military recruiters do not, I repeat do not hide outside in the bushes ready to grab the first kid they see and throw them in the back of a cargo truck to be shipped off to war. Really the whole tone of this second page is rather alarmist while being short on actual facts.

Bullet number four encourages educators to teach all sides of the story to the students, as well as the sobering facts and figures that come with it. This I actually do respect and encourage as well. However if the teachers who are supposedly teaching all sides of the story from an unbiased perspective are the same ones who can’t tell the difference between recruiters and pedophiles lurking in the halls, then I think that any hope on encouraging fair and thoughtful discussions in our classrooms is probably lost.

Moving on, point five encourages us to support counter-recruitment programs in schools. Well we certainly don’t want our kids to find jobs, do we? No, better to get an arts degree and live in your parents basement suite until you’re 38. Point six, pretty much just an extension of point five. The materials used I imagine are probably construction paper, glue sticks, and lies.

Point seven provides a link to another webpage, one that at first I couldn’t tell if it was actually being serious or not. At times, Operation Objection seems to depart from reality altogether and devolve into some sort of self parody that had me scratching my head in confusion. If these are the kinds of resources your department is using as a tool for developing social justice policies, then I think you may need to pump the brakes and take two steps back from the whole campaign while you give your head a shake. At the very least try to reach out to other groups and get some educated opinions on defense policy, and try not to rely solely on a website that claims that the cadet program is Canada’s effort to raise an army of child soldiers. Really, I can’t even be upset with them because the nonsense being spewed is so surreal.

The next point encourages the public to do what they can to counter “military propaganda”. Now, I’m not sure what you consider military propaganda to be, and quite frankly I’m a little bit confused by this one. With a budget of only 0.9% of the country’s GDP, we can’t even afford to keep our aging aircraft flying, let alone run some sort of slick propaganda machine to brain wash the masses. What exactly do you consider propaganda to be in this case anyway? Would that be recruitment posters? Cause that’s not actually propaganda, those are the equivalent to “Help Wanted” adds. I’m sure you don’t open the news paper in the morning, flip to the classifieds, and say to yourself “Aha! There’s a job opening at Sears, this is a prime example of Retail Propaganda!”. Of course you don’t, that would be very silly. The rest of the points on the poster I’m not going to bother touching, it’s late here and if you haven’t figured it out yet then a few more lines probably won’t help any.

I’ll finish this off by saying that despite your best intentions, I found this poster to be grossly offensive and I consider it a personal slap to the face after spending the last 17 years serving my country and people the best way I knew how. If there is anything you can take away from this letter, let it be this. We’re not monsters, murderers, political party hacks, or shills for the military industrial complex. We are public servants, nothing more nothing less. And we take great pride in serving the public, even when at times the public doesn’t seem to reciprocate those feelings. We do our jobs the best we can, despite the fact that we are short on equipment, funding, and people. Somehow we still manage to get the job done, despite all these challenges. And despite the great cost that all to often comes with the job. The hardships, the injuries, the fractured families, the lives lost, all to serve the public.

To serve Canada, the people, and all they stand for, that’s what they do. And for your department to spit in the face of all we have accomplished, all we have sacrificed, and have the audacity to call that “social justice”? Well, I guess some people just don’t get it. Tomorrow is Remembrance Day, and I will go to the ceremony and pay my respects to those who have fallen. Those who decided to give instead of take. Then I will go home, pour myself a drink, and think long and hard about the friends I’ve seen come and go through the years. Those who gave and were injured in such ways that they couldn’t give any more, those who became frustrated at the bureaucratic red tape and the disrespect from misguided campaigns such as this and left the service frustrated and broken, and those who gave their lives because at the end of the day there was nothing left to give. I will think of them all for a long time, about who they were, what they did, and what they stood for. I shall reflect on them for a long time. Then I will think about your department, this campaign of yours, and all the good it has achieved.

I won’t have to think about that for very long.
Regards,

[Redacted]

 

Note: Because today is Remembrance Day, and in light of the above message being spread by the BC Teacher’s Federation, it seems appropriate to end this post with In Flanders Field by John McCrae, composed on the battlefield on May 3rd, 1915.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead: Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved: and now we lie
In Flanders fields!

Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields

Between Fire and Pines Update and Other Such Stuff

Between Fire and Pines has been out for just under a month n0w, and what a month it has been. At the insistence of one of my managers our store is now stocking numerous copies. I also have my first author signing planned for June 25th. I’ve sold 15 copies in-store, another 15 hardcopies online, and roughly 10 ebooks. So either somewhere out there 40 people are about to start demanding their money back or I’ve just ruined my reputation in the eyes of these 40 individuals.

But through all that, one thing has remained consistent. The feedback has been the same.

I couldn’t put it down. It just kept moving.

I call that a win. From the manager who definitely doesn’t read gore-suspense-thriller to the friend who offered the single review on Amazon, they just had to keep reading.

Now somehow book club has learned of it, and I can never go back to book club. Too bad. It was fun while it lasted.

I’ve paid for a small amount of marketing, which didn’t result in any sales; lowered ebook prices to extreme measures, which did result in sales; stared in bewilderment at the hardcopy of my novel, realizing I can never rewrite it again.

 

And that was when I hit the brick wall. Both metaphorically and literally because I wasn’t watching where I was going. It was bound to happen. I’ve heard people say it time and time again. When you finish that first book you experience this sort of atmospheric burn-out, probably from sheer bewilderment that it could possibly be done and in print. This is a problem because I have 8 more books I need to write, and yes, for those of you wondering, I do have enough ideas for all 8 books. This may be my first rodeo, but I have been training with this horse for thirteen years. Yeah, how do you like them metaphors?

So I hit the wall, and then the wall resulted in a strange mental stress which, perhaps unexpectedly, resulted in an intense, holy-shit sort of physical stress that, for the last week, has made my body just… just awful. Cranky, bitchy, chronic painy awful. Screw you, chronic pain. You’re such a dick.

We got a dog this week as well. Alex’s compensation for canceling the trip to Japan. Her name is Whiskey. She is an 8 year-old shepherd mix and she is derpy as hell.

Stress after stress. There was an article in CBC about Prince’s Fentanyl overdose. They spoke to several doctors who stressed the challenges of dealing with chronic pain patients. They did not speak to any patients themselves though, because… reasons, I suppose. It irked me. Not because what they were saying was wrong. I imagine it must be difficult to deal with chronic pain patients. I agree, opiates are over-prescribed. But if you are going to talk about chronic pain, perhaps CBC readers would benefit from actually hearing from someone who suffers from it.

It upset me, to hear that the conversations were difficult for doctors with no concept of how much of a challenge it is for patients to come to doctors, with all their fears and flaws exposed, and say “I need help.” Then to top it all off be told that, “Hey, it’s as much psychological maintenance as it is the physical pain. There is no magic cure.” You can’t just throw that at someone who is looking at pain for the rest of their life. At least ease them into it, jeez.

Where was I? Oh yes, stress led to pain and pain did a number on my creative juices, and it’s only after a couple days of writing notes by hand that I really feel like I can accomplish something again. Book 2. Because book 1 is finished and out of my hands. Nope. Still surreal. I’m probably 2/3rds of the way through the draft. Plenty of explosions and emotional highs and lows. Less gore though. I needed to tone that back. The ending will be more succinct, and Natalia’s growth as a character will be clear. At least, it will be if you’ve read the first book, which you can buy from any of these fine establishments:

Amazon.com

Amazon.ca

Directly from CreateSpace (So I get more moneys)

You can also check it out on Goodsreads, unless you are in book club. If you are in book club, please forget everything.

 

 

Writing and Chronic Pain: 2 For the Price of 1! Today Only!

I’ll admit shamefully to being AWOL from the internet for the last couple of weeks. Oh sure, there was a witty tweet here or there, but I just didn’t have it in me to sit down and converse with my friends on Critique Circle or post on Facebook or even update my GoFundMe supporters. I thought it was a lack of creative juices flowing. Then I thought to myself, No, if that were the case I would make something explode and everything would be back to normal. I pondered that perhaps it was partially due to participating too much at work (ha-ha! Alliterations!) but then during Christmas I worked plenty, and still managed a post here and there.

Why I wasn’t immediately able to identify it as a mental issue brought about by chronic pain is beyond me. You’d think by now I would instantly understand that chronic pain, and indeed any chronic condition has this inherent ability to burrow itself into your psyche and lay waste to what was once a fruitful and thriving land of social norms. Chronic pain is like an agricultural bacteria that eats away at the crops you spend weeks and months cultivating, leaving you with a wasteland. You don’t want to do the things you love, you don’t want to be healthy, to exercise. You don’t want to talk to friends or be social. You just want to curl up and sleep because at least in sleep you might be able to escape the pain for a few hours, and during that time your brain has a chance to sow new seeds and tend to them.

I let my crops rot in the ground over the last month or so, and I’m not certain why. It was certainly an unwilling choice on my part.

Then again, I always have theories. Some of them even make sense. For one thing, work has been busy and, for whatever reason, people have generally been unpleasant to deal with. I had a gentleman from Manitoba tell me what was wrong with Alberta’s politics just the other day. The irony was palpable; the self-awareness was not. Angry people drain me. They’re like a blistering sun, a thicker, summer heat that dries out the land. Angry people, unfortunately, tend to wear on my mental crops.

But I can deal with the angry people, usually with ridiculous cheeriness. So it couldn’t be them. Not really.

It could be, in all likelihood, pain. Because over the last month or so it has been bad. Despite the glory that is my Cymbalta, I’ve felt twinges of familiar nerve pain begin where my spine is pinching and grinding and generally being unpleasant. The arthritis is acting up, to the point where even wearing some pants put too much pressure on the bones, creates noticeable pain. Too much of it, in fact. I do strengthening exercises; I try to be aware of my posture. Shoulders back, stand up tall. It only hurts more. No excuse, you keep trying because if you stop then the pain wins, and you need to at least feel like you are fighting against it. Sometimes I’d like to let the pain win, but then I wouldn’t be me. That thought is almost as exhausting as the pain itself.

Maybe it isn’t pain. Maybe it is the stagnation of creativity that I’ve been battling since I sent my manuscript to the editor. There have been days when I’ve wanted to reread it, to go over sections, just to remind myself of the tiny details, but I resist. This should, theoretically, be the last week that she has it (unless it needs more work), which means soon enough I’ll have it back and can begin plugging away on the changes that I need to make for it to be presentable to the rest of the world. Easy enough, I suppose. In the meantime I’ve been thinking about book 2, doing research and the like. I fell into a crevasse with it, realizing that something I wanted to pursue, a plot point, just wasn’t realistic. That sent me into a tailspin, trying to come up with a better alternative while still maintaining the character development that needs to happen. I went out and bought myself a notebook that has space kittens on it. That is, kittens in space. It is my idea book where I’ll do my damned best to work through some of these ideas and try to find a more reasonable solution. Normally it is easy for me. Normally I get an earworm that whispers mystical secrets about the universe and also about my narrative, and that is that. A solution. Done.

Not this time. Do I keep this character or that? How does that person die? How will that person live? Explosions or viruses? How much trauma is too much? That last point, at the very least, I’ve managed to, not master per say, but understand efficiently enough that the whole narrative doesn’t seem campy. Still, it feels like stagnation. Creativity at a standstill.

It is an ironic sort of cycle. I use writing to help with the pain, but what if the pain is too distracting to allow me to write? What do I do then?

giphy

 

An Open Letter to My Fellow Canadians: I am Your New Prime Minister

My Fellow Canadians,

On the day of this, what is historically the most nauseatingly-propaganda filled election ever witnessed by this country, I would like to pre-emptively thank you for electing me as your new Prime Minister. I know it was a difficult decision, what with Tom Mulcair’s excellent beard, Justin Trudeau’s luscious locks, and whatever the hell crawled onto Stephen Harper’s head and died at least three years ago. But you, Canada, you made the right choice. You went out there and said Hey, I don’t want a Prime Minister who is in contempt of court, or looks like he eats babies, or has brought about an unending deficit, or skins kittens to wear on his head, or, when realizing how foolhardy his clinging to power is, decides to bring up issues such as the niqab in order to distract voters. No, you had enough of that and also, you thought this was a little sketchy:

Say Nope to Dope but Make it Rain Cocaine!

Say Nope to Dope but Make it Rain Cocaine!

Congratulations, Canada, on pulling your head out of a prolonged stay underneath a pile of refuse, which might have been dealt with if it weren’t for all the scientists that got fired and the abandoning of the various environmental protection plans that were in place. Yes, that is what the sun looks like; no, I can’t stop the burning. Even I have my limits as your newly, shockingly elected official.

It’s going to be okay, Canada. I might not be able to grow a beard, or do my hair particularly well, but I promise you that every pet I have ever owned has been well-documented and never once has its carcass ended up on my head as some sad-excuse for a hair piece.

Sorry, hold on, I’m just being told something. Oh… Oh? Oh, it’s real? Oh my god. Oh, oh my god, I had no idea, I just assumed- Yeah, yeah, of course, send my apologies. No, no wait till Stephen is done crying in the corner.

Where was I? Oh yes. I am most pleased by the unexpected results of this election. For once, Canada has shown it cares. Or at the very least, Canada has shown it cares enough about not having another agonizing period of time with Stephen Harper at the helm of this sinking ship. They do say hate is one of the best motivators for getting people off their asses. That, and lighting a fire. And isn’t that exactly what Canada has become? One giant country, metaphorically and, if you live in the Central Okanagan frequently literally, on fire? That environment. Such a shame that we… We just don’t have much of it left.

I know what you’re thinking, not simply because I have utilized the invasive ‘terrorist-prevention’ aspects of Bill C-51, but because it is exactly what I would be thinking were I in your shoes. I am fairly certain I did not vote for you, Most Supreme Prime Minister Kathleen. No, you probably didn’t. You probably voted for Trudeau or Mulcair or… Uh, one of those other ones. But never fear – sensing your unease at the possibility of Stephen Eyes of the Dead Harper becoming our Prime Minister yet again, I have decided to do us all a favor an simply declare myself Prime Minister to expedite the process. Rejoice! Release the clowns!

By the way, our military is now composed almost entirely of clowns, mostly so I can proudly cry Release the Clowns! during our next military action against, I don’t know… Russia, maybe?

And as your new Prime Minister, I am please to announce the following changes:

  • No more First Past the Post nonsense. In fact, I will be adapting an electoral system based almost entirely on what CGP Grey says. Because he clearly knows more than I do on the subject.

  • There will be no Netflix Tax. I repeat, something that you were never concerned about in the first place nor even crossed your mind will not be implemented. Please stop rioting or I will be forced to release the clowns.
  • We will not be taking away your Canadian Citizenship. Ever. You’re a Canadian Citizen and if you have done something atrocious, really shit on the grid, then you are our mess to clean up and we will deal with you appropriately. And yes, it may involve clowns.
  • A consistent number of murdered or missing peoples will be considered a sociological problem that we will look into. Generally, my hope for this new Canada is less murder, more ponies. Less missing people, more healthcare for refugees.
  • We gon’ plant some trees. Go back to protectin’ those rivers n’ lakes.

Dear, fellow Canadians. I know you are tired. 78 days is an awfully long time for us to experience an election campaign (Shut up, USA, we get it.) That is why my campaign lasted exactly three hours and was started and finished on the day of voting. You see, I am just like you. I hate the never-ending propaganda. I despise the robocalls. I am sick and tired of seeing signs promoting an MP who refused to debate because, I assume, public speaking gave him the runs. And I am so god-damned tired of hearing about Justin Trudeau’s hair. I don’t care. None of us care! If Harper’s campaign signs had involve glitter glue and pony stickers I would have assumed he was vying for the position of Prom Queen! Jokes on him though, because Elizabeth May is clearly the underdog in this after-school special, and she would most certainly walk away with the title.

As your new Prime Minister I will levy taxes according to income in the household. Now, I know, that is going to be mighty contentious to some of you, but think of it this way… Taxes go towards things we all use every day. You pay more taxes because you make more. These two things are basically unrelated, and I don’t care. You’re going to pay more, same with corporations. Deal with it. If you don’t like it, you can move to the States where they have an even longer election campaign and they have Donald Trump to deal with. That’s right, you thought Harper’s hair was bad, just imagine Donald Trump’s singular lock of hair blowing in the wind as he blusters about race, wealth, and, oh I don’t know, women or something.

It’s been a long 78 days, and an even longer 10 years, yet we as Canadians stand taller and stronger today, with the vague awareness that government officials are, at this very moment, checking your browser history and questioning how we were raised. That ends today! No more Bill C-51! No more dead eyes searching the crowd from the podium, looking for the youthful flesh that might once again rejuvenate its ailing human form!

This election asked ‘Do you want a lizard person for a Prime Minister?’ and you answered ‘No, thank you! Please give us someone else!’

I have answered your call, Canada.

Now, if you’ll excuse me. I have to go vote for my local Liberal MP.

Most Sincerely,

Kathleen Sawisky, esq.

Most Supreme Prime Minister of Canada

Integrity Commissioner.

Surviving the 2015 Calgary Stampede

Here in Calgary it is Stampede season, which means we are about to be inundated by approximately 3.7 billion people who come visit the city for ten days in an effort to relive what they presume to be an accurate rendition of the Old Timey West. Two things happen when the Calgary Stampede goes on: 1) Citizens native to Calgary evacuate the city to the nearby mountains (this is also part of our zombie preparation plan); 2) Those not native to the city arrive. And they all wear cowboy hats, boots, and jeans. And we will resent them and all that they bring to us.

Now, I’ve only lived in Calgary for just over three years. But I understand it. I understand the intense fury, the violent anger that erupts deep within one’s soul every time they get stuck in a traffic jam on Deerfoot because some wildly inappropriately dressed tourists have crashed their car and are attempting to extract their mangled cowboy boots from the wreckage of their vehicle while simultaneously screaming Woo! Stampede, bitches!

I hate it as much as the next person, which is why I think I is time we all sit down and come up with a list of must-do’s and musn’t-even-attempts for both the locals and the tourists who have decided to eat as many scorpion pizzas as possible before riding the Zipper on the midway.

Taking Part in the 2015 Calgary Stampede: Tourists

  1. Okay, you’re here. We will all do our very best to accept that.
  2. Just because you can start drinking early and later than normal doesn’t mean that you should. Practice some self-restraint, if only for your health. We’ve had a heatwave recently, and no one, least of all any of us locals, wants to read about you keeling over in a pool of your own filth due to alcohol poisoning.
  3. If you have to drink excessively, please drink water too.
  4. Please don’t harass Calgary Police Services for doing their job. I get it, your buddy was just goofing around when he was tossing empty beer cans over the bridge, but it still isn’t right nor is it legal. If the police are arresting him, it’s because he was acting like a mighty morphin’ power douche. He could use a few hours in the drunk tank.
  5. Be nice to those volunteering at the Stampede. Yes, it is hot. Yes, it is crowded, and yes, maybe you totally can’t even right now, but neither can we, so just take a deep breath and relax.
  6. Yes, there is crappy beer on for cheap. Drink up that Kokanee and that Bud Light Lime if you want! But while you’re here, I recommend trying out some of our local flavors! Big Rock Brewery is become renowned across the world, and Village Brewing is a fantastic craft brewery! Trust me, you’ll enjoy the overall experience a lot more if you spend a couple extra bucks on a quality brew.
  7. Please don’t make cowboy or Ol West jokes. We’re heard them all, and none of them are funny.
  8. If you have to dress up, don’t go overboard. A hat just makes sense; it protects you from the sun. You don’t need the boots and the cowboy hat and the plaid shirt tied in such a way to emphasize your boobs (ladies, this goes for you too), and you don’t need to speak like you are from Texas. We sure as shit don’t.
  9. If we look unimpressed with you, it is only because we are. You are the twentieth person to comment about something ‘Western’ related today, and we are slowly dying inside. It’s best just to move on and forget about us.
  10. Please don’t comment on how we are dressed up in western clothes in our place of work. We don’t need to be reminded of this humiliating experience. True story. My husband works at a bank, and even he has to dress up.
  11. Did I mention not over doing it on the drinking? I feel like this is a really important point. I can‘t emphasize it enough. Don’t get alcohol poisoning.
  12. If you are here from PETA: Okay, we understand. A lot of people have issues with the rodeo aspects. Please don’t take it out on everyone going to the Stampede. Some of us are just there for the soft serve in the phallic cone.
  13. Be prepared to wait on hot, sweaty C-Trains with the rest of us. It is annoying as hell, and we all know it. There’s no need to complain loudly about it. And while we’re at it, follow basic transit rules. Make room, don’t hog seats with bags, make sure the elderly, pregnant, and disabled all have places to sit.
  14. Look out for each other. People usually go to Stampede in groups, but it is easy to get lost, either because of crowds or because you are completely smashed. Strangers looking after strangers is both heartwarming and an important part of ensuring everyone has a fun time. If you see someone who looks like they are about to keel over, help them get medical attention.
  15. Don’t be a dumb-dumb. Common sense hasn’t ceased to exist just because you are wearing spurs and a rhinestone belt buckle.
  16. Yes, it has been busy at our place of work recently, and yes, we can’t wait until Stampede is over. No, we’re not sure if we’re going to take part in the activities.
  17. Your short-shorts are inappropriate cowboy wear. You can either take this seriously or you can just fanny about, but don’t pretend you’ve found some happy in-between place. You haven’t. And those shorts would kill if you actually rode a horse. I’m talking full on chapped thighs.
  18. Finally, and I really can’t stress this enough. Don’t drink so damn much, unless it is water.

Surviving the 2015 Calgary Stampede: Locals

  1. Can you get out of the city? Then do it. Jasper, Banff, Golden, Radium. Anywhere but here. Go, go, go. You are wasting time reading this. Just go.
  2. You can’t leave? You have to work? Okay, don’t panic. We’ll get you through this. First off, assume that wherever you work is going to make you play along with this nonsense. It’s best to just embrace the gingham skirts, the cowboy hats, and the boots now, before it’s too late.
  3. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. There are plenty of free pancake breakfasts for you to attend. You might as well get all you can out of the next ten days of terror.
  4. Yes, there will be country-western music playing everywhere. I find the best solution to this is to hum the Sailor Moon Theme Song. It’s easily accessible to the other poor sods who are trapped in the same scenario as you.
  5. Suicide pact with your coworkers.
  6. Are you absolutely certain you can’t leave the city? Can you fake an illness or an accident? Your employer would understand.
  7. Personally, I find wildly mocking people below my breath really takes the strain off of the whole experience.
  8. Extra visits to your psychiatrist. Remember: they will be filling up fast!
  9. Consider earplugs and/or horse blinders, just in case.
  10. If you do find yourself trapped in a crowd, proceed to windmill your arms and making a whooping noise. If they don’t get out of your way because you’ve hit them, they will at least avoid you do to possible insanity.

Of course, that might not be enough. That’s why I recommend The Treasure Hunt of Stereotypes. This is a game my husband and I play whenever we have to go to the mall. We came up with a list of stereotypical mall goers and began to tick off them as we saw them. This included: child on leash, teenage girl who can’t even, and depressed husband or father waiting for wife or daughter by change rooms. I have prepared the following preliminary list for your enjoyment, either at the Stampede, at your local mall, or just downtown around 17th Ave or Stephen Ave mall:

  1. Woman with cut off jean shorts that would offend anyone over the age of 70;
  2. Small child clearly forced into wearing cowboy gear, looking unimpressed. Bonus points if crying;
  3. A group of women wearing plaid shirts that have been tied above their belly-button, Daisy Duke-style;
  4. A drunk and sunburned frat boy. Double the points if he is carrying a can of beer;
  5. Someone wearing a pink, bejeweled cowboy hat;
  6. Someone wearing gaudy, bejeweled cowboy boots;
  7. Anyone using the terms ‘y’all’ or really, dropping their ‘g’s’;
  8. Anyone who announces, probably drunkenly, that they are absolutely getting a horse after their experience at the Stampede, because of course they are;
  9. Spontaneous line dancing. Extra points if it is on Stephen Ave;
  10. Someone arrested for chewing tobacco and spitting it everywhere without a care for those around them;
  11. White cowboy hats (you take a shot for each one of these you see. Staff members of the Stampede and/or Calgary do not count.);
  12. Any bar that changes its title to ‘Saloon’;
  13. Inappropriate racial stereotypes;
  14. PETA protesters;
  15. Piles of vomit at the midway;
  16. Country-Western music playing inside a mall or store that does not regularly play it;
  17. Random buskers with guitars or banjos;
  18. An idiot wearing spurs attached to their cowboy boots which you know they bought because they once saw Fieval Goes West and figured it was important to complete their outfit;
  19. Bigoted comments being spouted by drunks, probably at the ‘saloons’;
  20. A Stampede Princess (you lose a point if she isn’t wearing a bejeweled hat or belt buckle);
  21. A small infant, dressed in cowboy gear;
  22. Bolo ties. Bonus points added if the person wearing it is under the age of 45;

There you have it folks. This is, of course, only a basic survival guide. I would still recommend leaving the city or, worst case scenario, going full hermit until this is over and done with. I, for one, will be hiding under my bed until it is safe to come out again.

An Open Letter to Stephen Harper: “So, about this Bill C-51…”

Dear Sir,

The recent crown approval of Bill C-51, also known as the Super Protection Power Friends Act, has now given your government remarkable access to the personal information of Canadians all in the name of terrorism prevention. I assume, unless you have been holed up in a bunker under Parliament for the last several months, you are aware that the people of Canada are generally displeased by this new blank cheque that our national protective services have been offered for accessing the personal information of the general public. We as Canadians enjoy our privacy. We like thinking that our webcams are not being illicitly accessed as we play DOTA2, possibly naked. We like thinking that Canada is just a tiny bit better than our southern neighbor when it comes to our privacy.

This is no longer the case. Now, there are approximately 35 million people in Canada, which is a lot of webcams to hack, letters to carefully open via a boiling kettle so its contents may be read before it is resealed and sent on its merry way, and cellphone conversations about grandma’s bunions to listen to. You folks are going to be positively exhausted, especially given the many different ways we little people like to communicate now. That’s why I thought I would do you the favor and offer you a list of personal information about myself ahead of time, that way you can start compiling my file and begin building the inevitable case against me when I am arrested for… I don’t know, jaywalking or something. Never suggest I didn’t cooperate with authorities. The following list should offer you enough information to begin formulating a damning picture of my inevitable rise to power as a benevolent dictator who rules through the passing of controversial bills that ignore the concerns of the general public- oh… Oh… Sorry.

  1. I am tremendously sarcastic. During an average day you can be sure that my interactions both in real life and on-line are composed of approximately 74% sarcasm. That should probably indicate to you that when I make an ill-timed joke, it is worth taking a second look at its content before sending the militia out to drag me from my bed.
  2. My favorite colours are as follows (in order); Blue, robin’s egg blue, green (all types), yellow, red, lilac, all other purples, and finally orange. I put orange last because I find that it is the most likely to assault my senses. Well, the most likely to assault my senses right after the military and/or law enforcement personnel who are given more permissions to now hold me under vaguely understood crimes that I may or may not have committed. Orange is definitely right after that.
  3. Up to this point in time my biggest crime has been jay walking from the 402 bus to the Somerset-Bridlewood LRT here in Calgary. I find the pedestrian light to be an unfathomably long wait, and when I can clearly see traffic coming from two blocks away in either direction, I don’t feel as if I need to wait. I can understand how you might perceive this as terrorism, and I will do my best to not look Middle-Eastern as I cross the street.
  4. I am married to a half-Arabic-half-Jewish-Canadian man but don’t worry. I already waterboarded him on our second date, and the tracker I have in the bottom of his shoe indicates that he spends the majority of his day at his ‘job’ as a ‘banker’. I am, of course, suspicious of this and will keep you updated as the situation progresses.
  5. I am a nosey individual and as such I have been paying close attention to my neighbours. I have gathered the following information for your use: Neighbour to the east of us – Elderly Chinese woman. Very pleasant albeit hard of hearing. Cooks seafood dishes at least once a week. They smell delicious. Woman across the hall and to the west of us –Possibly Eastern European origin; has a dog; family was over visiting last week and she was making chicken soup for them. Both of these women seem unusually kind and pleasant to deal with, leading me to assume that they are hiding some sort of dastardly plan. I would recommend tapping their phones, if only to get those recipes.
  6. I spend much of my free time conversing with individuals from Critique Circle via their chat. From this I have determined that American politics incite individuals to rioting. I am particularly concerned about the Libertarian of the group, who appears to be a closet anarchist. I would like it to be stated, for the record, that I do not support his views re: people pulling themselves up by their metaphorical bootstraps.
  7. My favourite video games are Borderlands 2, Final Fantasy VII, and the Last of Us, which, as I type it out, I realize all discuss public dissent against government and corporate powers. This is not a sign of my own belief systems but instead indicates my strong love of solid narratives and blowing shit up. In games! In games! Oh shit, you’ve done it now, Kathleen. They’re going to be on to you… Better make the next one count, girl.
  8. As for those questionable search histories… I promise I can explain those. I was looking up information on ‘ebola’ because I was in a panic and my Little Book of Pandemics mixed with my recently rewatching Outbreak led to what I can only classify as an intense paranoia and quite frankly I believe information is the best form of prevention… I guess we have that in common!
  9. And I know I order a lot from that Indian restaurant here in Silverado but honest-to-God, they have some of the best Pakora. A girl’s got to have her vices, you know?
  10. One time I may have told the ex-Governor General, Adrian Clarkson to, and I quote, “gag me with a spoon.” Contrary to popular belief, it was not a form of dissent but my response to her rather smarmy comment about evacuees from a local fire taking their Britney Spears CD’s with them over personal artifacts. Again, not dissent, not a terrorist.
  11. I do know the odd Arabic phrase, but that is mostly from interacting with my husband and in-laws. For instance, I can tell an individual to move their ass. If that person happens to be a chicken, all the better.
  12. Follow up: I also know the word for ‘whore’ in French, but not Quebecois-French. I’m not sure where that lands me on your Possible Terrorist List. Hopefully closer to the bottom.
  13. While I do purchase a lot of drugs, none of them have ever been used as a means to bribe individuals taking part in cultural coups in developing countries.
  14. I use the phrase “da bomb” a lot. I cannot begin to emphasize the fact that I never have been in contact with explosives of any kind (unless high school chemistry class counts.) I enjoy the phrase simply because it is outdated and my use of it often annoys those I talk to. The same may be applied to the term ‘amaze-balls’ and ‘holy guacamole’.
  15. If I was forced to pick a favorite Sailor Scout, it would probably be Saturn. Not because she has her World Destroying Glaive, or anything. I mean, that’s pretty cool but it’s heavy stuff, you know? Being able to destroy the world. Not that I’d want to destroy the world. I just think that’s a lot of power for a kid to have and she seems to handle it well. Not that I crave power, if that’s what you’re thinking. I definitely don’t.
  16. Yes, I own a lock picking kit. According to the research I did prior to purchasing, it is not illegal to own one as long as you pinky-promise you aren’t going to do anything bad with it, which I totally do. Honest.
  17. I am not currently, nor have I ever been, a member of the Communist Party. In fact, I tend to avoid parties due to the awkward nature of social interactions. Plus, when people find out I have a lock picking kit they tend to get a little weirded out by me.
  18. My top three fears include abandonment, drowning, and being choked to death by a giant python while it slowly crushes my insides and devours my limbs.
  19. Despite the concerns of the general male population, I am not using my ample bosom as a means to distract the opposite gender from their Illuminati-style purpose of ruling the free world. In fact, it is a pushup bra. I’m aware this may be a form of false advertising, but really, the same argument could be made for The true north strong and free. I’m just sayin’.
  20. My overall search history on the internet is, I’ll grant you, rather questionable. I would be a little concerned if I were in your shoes and were told that someone like me was looking up guns, and bullet velocity, and blueprints to the Waldorf Astoria and how many people have escaped from prison in New York City. Pinky-promise that it has only ever been for research, and I’m sure when you sneak into our condo and use a keylog, you’ll discover that all of those things were really quite harmless.
  21. As for that other thing that shows up on my search history, you can thank my husband for that. He wanted to see if Rule 34 applied to the topic (it doesn’t), and didn’t consider what he was searching until I suggested that it was a terrible idea. I’m not a pervert, I’m not doing anything illegal. That was just my husband being a dope.
  22. Sometimes when I get mail for my neighbor that accidentally appears in my box, I don’t give it to them right away. One time there was a tax receipt for him sitting there for a solid three weeks before I finally plucked up the courage to go knock on his door. I think that might be construed as tampering with the mail, but really, I sealed it up again so well that there is no possible way he could have noti-uh… Umm…
  23. I definitely voted NDP in our last provincial election even though I live in Alberta and, worse than that, Calgary.
  24. I don’t like maple syrup that much.
  25. I don’t think Celine Dion is a national icon.
  26. The fact that Martin Sheen is playing Matthew Cuthbert in the new Anne of Green Gables film is actually okay by me even though we definitely don’t need a new Anne of Green Gables film, nor is Martin Sheen Canadian.
  27. Sometimes I forget to say my ‘Sorry’s’ before bed.

I think that about covers it. There will be missing items, of course, as I am frequently told I am a questionable individual by friends, family, and even complete strangers. This may be partially due to my chipper personality which I frequently use to mentally disarm my opponents when I require something from them. Thus far I have discovered that yes, in fact, you can get more bees with honey as opposed to vinegar, however I believe your tactic of simply using a giant net to scoop up said bees will also probably work. Sure, you’re going to get stung, and badly at that, but giant nets, and by that I mean the audacious invasion of our privacy, is probably pretty fun too.

Yours Sincerely,

Kathleen Sawisky, Esq.

Integrity Commissioner

PS: Not a terrorist!

All Hail the Mighty Soapbox

This is my soapbox. That’s why I write open letters wherein I complain to people, places, things. Basically any noun that really grinds my gears. On very few occasions have I ever found myself so truly enraged by something that I felt the need to take it to the streets. Nope, the good ol’ written word is fine with me.

Calgary Expo ran into some issues on its first day today wherein a booth put up a Pro Gamer Gate banner. Now, there are always two sides to the story, but as I have wondered many times, why does a group that insists it stands for ethics in gaming journalism use the title of a group of people that is equated to the harassment of women? I’ve heard it is because they want to stand their ground, that they aren’t their title. This is true, and noble in its own way. My big question has always been “is this the hill you want to die on? Are you so passionate about the term ‘Gamer Gate’ that you are okay with your actual cause being ignored in favor of the attention ‘Gamer Gate’ gets for its bad apples?” No one has ever given me a satisfactory answer.

I guess I just think that when you are passionate about something enough to start a movement, you should probably throw that energy into the movement and not something as simple as the title.

But, that being said, who am I to judge? I just like playing games. That’s it. I don’t care if people are paying for reviews. I usually just go by what looks visually enticing.

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