For example, yesterday, they "leaked" the good news story that they were cutting tuition fees by an oh-so-generous 10%. Note that this didn't come with any kind of increase to post-secondary spending, meaning the institutions were responsible for finding the savings themselves. By now we all know what that means: larger classes, more reliance on contract faculty and TAs instead of tenure-track profs. The students and profs I knew received the news coolly, knowing that there would be a catch, and the axe fell today: an overhaul to the Ontario Student Assistance Plan, which effectively cut free tuition for families earning less than $50,000.
Because that's not sadistic enough, yesterday was the deadline for university applications. All kinds of kids applied for university—which, they are told repeatedly, is their only shot at upward mobility, or at least being able to put food on the table—thinking that tuition wouldn't be a problem. A lot of them are poor. Ford just fucked all of those kids over. Some of them are my students, who will now not be able to go to university, or will end up being horribly in debt, because Ford is determined to destroy anything resembling accessible, quality education in this province.
While he's at it, he's also recently:
- Introduced sneaky legislation to shred collective bargaining rights for nearly all unionized trades workers
- Planned to introduce a two-tiered transit system and open the door for privatizing public transit
- Created chaos in the healthcare system, likely in a move towards privatization
- Been up to some hinky business with the other Ontario municipalities
Waiting for the next election isn't enough; we need to be pushing back hard, now, in an organized manner. I'll keep posting about upcoming actions, but in the meantime, take two seconds to sign a completely useless petition, okay?
For all Trudeau's Haida tattoo, talk of nation-to-nation relationships, and tearful apologies for the ongoing genocidal acts committed against indigenous people on this land, when it comes down to something he (or any other politician in the pockets of oil companies) really, really wants, he's entirely happy to throw communities and their environment under the bus, whether it's legal or not. In the past, I—and no doubt many others—have likened settler governments and indigenous peoples to an abusive relationship, with the abuser consistently gaslighting his victim.
Imagine, if you will, that your neighbour wishes to take a massive poo on your floor. Like any right-thinking person, you do not want this. So you tell this person that you do not, in fact, want them to shit on your floor. And then they call you a "house cleanliness extremist." If you think this scatological allegory is absurd, remember that the TransCanada pipeline is far more of a danger—not just to the Wet’suwet’en Nation, but to every single human being on this earth—than someone crapping on your hardwood.
When the government wants to wreck havoc on aboriginal sovereignty, it typically goes something like this:
Government: Hey, sorry about residential schools, that really sucked, we super respect our indigenous peoples now! Can I put a pipeline through your territory?
Indigenous people: How about no?
Government: Cool, courts. Can we put a pipeline through that nation's land over there?
Courts: No, that's actually illegal (well, sometimes, anyway).
Government: Okay, rad, we're going to do it anyway.
Indigenous people: *blockade*
Government: RCMP!! HALP!
RCMP: SMASHITY SMASH
This is currently happening, with the RCMP massing to attack people who are not just defending their homes, but the planet we all need to share. Including Elders and children. They have asked for help, whether it be financial, donations of items, or people to help defend them and shine a light on all the dirty tricks the government is getting up to there.
If the plight of humans or the threat of climate apocalypse isn't enough to move you, here is an adorable pupper who is doing her part:
Ratchet is protecting traditional territories from unscrupulous oil companies and the government they own. What are you doing?
The gist is as follows: Children today (children as defined up until the early 20s, for reasons) are more anxious and fragile these days because we've sheltered them from the sorts of experiences that make them tougher. This, I agree with to a point. But it merits some unpacking: What is fragility, exactly? Is it a request for trigger warnings when encountering a depiction of violent rape in a classroom reading? Is it a protest against a transphobic speaker who has been known to publicly out trans students and target them for relentless harassment? Is it complaining online that your professors have a "liberal bias"? A male gamer's fear that feminism is taking over video games? Is it a cis person's abject terror at the thought of using the same washroom as a trans person, or a white person's unwillingness to share a water fountain or a swimming pool with a black person? I would argue that fragility has always existed in some form or another, but certain types of fragility have, traditionally, been coddled more than others, and only some are termed as such.
Then there's the question of whether kids today (and younger adults; I have a plug-in that automatically corrects all instances of "Millennials" to "Snake People," which spares me a lot of silliness in thinkpieces) are less resilient, to which I'd say yes, but with some reservations. Are the students who I teach now more anxious than those I taught a decade ago? Yes, but I teach a very different demographic so it's hard to say for certain. Were the students I taught a decade ago more anxious than I was as a teenager? Yes, which is a m a z i n g as I'm a pretty anxious person now. But I can't imagine say, being anxious enough to miss months of school, knowing full well I'll fail, or not handing any work in not because I'm not capable of doing it but because my terror at this task is so overwhelming that I can't force myself to do it. But my experience is, while likely more varied than Haidt's, still quite limited, so I'm willing to listen to arguments on either side.
So, assuming that kids today are more anxious and fragile, what caused this? Haidt correctly points to overscheduling and helicopter parenting as a cause, and suggests that there are economic factors at work. So, yes, I agree that this is a problem, and it's at least a problem up to high school and based on what my friends who teach in post-secondary are saying, still a problem in college and university. But the social and economic factors at work are fairly clear here. In a shit economy where one's best chance at a decent living is post-secondary, optimizing education for post-secondary is a survival strategy. If that means that five-year-old Madison needs to be shuffled back and forth to Mandarin lessons, ballet, and hockey practice and is left with no unstructured play time in order to be competitive in a neoliberal institutional framework, her parents are going to make those sacrifices, because if they're the one family that doesn't, little Madison is fucking screwed. Where my first divergence from Haidt happens is that what about those kids whose parents can't afford those lessons? If his argument is correct, then the kids of single moms who have to work three fast-food jobs to afford an apartment in a food desert should be having better life outcomes and less anxiety than the Park Slope kids. But of course they don't, because in both cases, the root of anxiety is economic insecurity, reinforced by race and class.
But moving on to high school, I see some evidence of moral dependency in which teachers and school administrators are absolutely complicit, but also trapped by the litigious nature of education. To use a neutral example, if my nerd friends and I wanted to play D&D at lunch, we'd just do that. We didn't need an official club or teacher supervision; we set up in the cafeteria or locker bay and did our thing. If we wanted to engage in political activism—well, we did have some clubs for that, but we primarily ran them ourselves, and they certainly weren't organized franchises like Free the Children or Me to We, complete with a binder outlining activities that the teacher could organize for us. I hardly need to tell you that this is no longer the case. I definitely see a failure to self-organize amongst my students, a focus on extracurricular activities for application-padding rather than interest, and difficulty with self-advocacy. I tend to see young people as overly dependent on adults—in my day, we were concerned about privacy, we snuck into clubs, we didn't tend to get drunk or high with our parents. This isn't all healthy behaviour, to be sure, but it did foster independence in the way that allowing children to fall off playground equipment is probably, long-run, good for them.
The other example that I can think of is in assigned readings. Several years ago, some Very Smart People declared that there was a Serious Crisis in boys' literacy. Boys weren't reading, oh no! The solution was at first to provide more graphic novels in English class (which is quite foolish, as graphic novels tend to require more literacy skills, not fewer, to analyze) and then to ensure that no book would be read in English class that was not geared specifically to young adults as a marketing category, and featuring a male protagonist to be relatable to male students. I'm exaggerating, of course, but not by very much. The idea that boys could be made to empathize with characters unlike themselves, or that they could be pushed outside of their comfort zone, was never seriously discussed.
To a degree, I buy Haidt's assertion that if an offensive speaker is booked at a university, students who are legal adults will go to the dean about it. I'm pretty sure that happens in some places. Where I differ, again, is that the problem is that students want to be protected from language and experiences that are not politically correct. The problem is actually that they'd go to the dean rather than self-organize to no-platform the offensive speaker; appeal to authority is, in fact, how we end up with strongmen politicians. Given that I see no-platforming happening more often than appealing to the administration (because, surprise, the administration is only interested in making filthy lucre) I don't think the problem of a new, somehow more dangerous wave of political correctness is actually a thing. Also, if it is, it's almost entirely sectioned off from the real world, where people of colour and trans folks can still be safely oppressed.
Speaking of which, one of his arguments towards the end, which was an objection to "Grievance Studies" and the idea that educational institutions are teaching that educational institutions are inherently oppressive is...interesting. Given that in my lifetime, the Canadian government was still kidnapping indigenous kids to be imprisoned, tortured, raped, and experimented on in residential schools suggests that, yes, all of our institutions may in fact have rotten foundations that merit interrogation, just sayin'.
All of this is not to say that I don't think fragility is a problem; I relate hard to the link about Millennial failure-to-adult above, even though I'm not a Millennial and have been spared from many of the classic Millennial problems. But I think its causes—the fact that we have less than 12 years to avert apocalyptic climate change and yet instead of going after the 100 companies responsible for 71% of carbon emissions, people are actually contemplating blotting out the sun, the fundamental dystopic natures of both the gig economy and the concept of a "jobless recovery," the global rise in fascism, the much older and more insidious neoliberal commodification and atomization of all aspects of life—are more difficult to solve than simply telling snowflakes to suck up their peanut allergies or instituting University of Chicago-style free speech policies. They involve confronting a more widespread social anxiety, one with very real causes and real consequences beyond participation trophies and overly coddled kids.
This manchild is an elected official paid to represent the constituent whose life he endangered.
Manchild @samoosterhoff sent @NiagRegPolice to my home today. Sam’s angry I posted stuff already in the public domain. Police told me I’ve done nothing wrong.— Rob Gill (@vote4robgill) December 29, 2018
It’s pathetic that elected officials send Police to scare voters.
I’m not scared.#onpoli #news
I went back to look at the tweets; Cletus the Fetus is angry because Mr. Gill posted a public news story about how he'd attended a Christmas event with a homophobic evangelist Charles McVety, which was a thing published in every major news outlet in the province. But this government, committed to FREEZED PEACH, is apparently not so committed when it comes to criticism of their actions.
Accordingly, here are some New Year's resolutions for all of us committed to the struggle.
- Show up to other groups’ events. So you do Palestine stuff? Show up to a First Nations thing, or a Black Lives Matter thing. You’re antifa? Do some picket line support. Talk to at least one person you don’t know while you’re there.
- Bring a new person into your movement. A relative, a friend, a co-worker, a neighbour. Make it your goal to recruit one person.
- Organize off Facebook. Let’s build more resilient networks.
- Think beyond the demo in particular and symbols in general. Figure out what needs to be done and which action is best suited to accomplishing a win in that scenario. No one cares if there are 1000 of us protesting in front of the US Consulate on a Saturday when it’s closed.
- Bring back the reading group. In person. Invite someone in who is not already part of your movement.
- More fuckin’ giant puppets because I miss them.
- Assume good intentions when it comes to your fellow activists. Did you get called out and feel it’s unfair? Maybe the other person is right and you can learn a thing. Maybe they’re not and they just had a bad day, or were hurt by an interpretation of your words and actions based on their own history of trauma. Did someone else screw up their terminology? Assume first they don’t know and weren’t trying to be offensive. People act out of malice all the time but if you can talk it out and avoid misunderstandings, that will be better. I guarantee you will find out in like five minutes if it’s a misunderstanding or the person is actually being a dick on purpose.
- Likewise, stop slagging off other people’s genuine efforts. We all do as much or as little as we can. No one’s politics are pure.
- If you’re in a position of privilege, do something that makes activism more accessible to someone else. Volunteer to do childcare. Hold meetings in accessible spaces. Go out to marginalized communities rather than expecting them to come to you.
- Spend time with someone older than you and someone younger than you, and listen to what they have to say. Old activists have experience of what's worked and what hasn't; young activists have new ideas that we should hear.
- Bring joy back into political action. Being dour never changed anyone’s mind. Make actions creative and inspiring rather than repeating rote slogans with the same signs all the time. We’re angry and sad but that comes from a place of love and empathy; our activism should carry with it the seed of a better world.
That’s all I can think of. Feel free to add more of your own. Happy New Year, punch a Nazi, liberate a detention centre. Be fierce, be kind, and go forth and make the world a less fucked up place.
1. Kings Rising, C.S. Pacat
2, Wolf in White Van, John Darnielle
3. The Stone Sky, N.K. Jemisin
4. The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, Catherynne M. Valente
5. The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon In Two, Catherynne M. Valente
6. Abaddon's Gate, James S. A. Corey
7. Petropolis, Anya Ulinich
8. Cibola Burn, James S. A. Corey
9. Nemesis Games, James S. A . Corey
10. Babylon's Ashes, James S. A. Corey
11. Down Among the Sticks and Bones, Seanan McGuire
12. Annabel, Kathleen Winter
13. Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer
14. A Legacy of Spies, John LeCarré
15. It Devours, Jeffrey Cranor and Joseph Fink
16. The Man Who Spoke Snakish, Andrus Kivirähk
17. The Rook, Daniel O'Malley
18. Mongrels, Stephen Graham Jones
19. The Changeling, Victor LaValle
20. Persepolis Rising, James S. A. Corey
21. Swallows and Amazons, Arthur Ransome
22. American War, Omar El Akkad
23. Carry On, Rainbow Rowell
24. Certain Dark Things, Silvia Moreno-Garcia
25. Signal To Noise, Silvia Moreno-Garcia
26. 84K, Claire North
27. The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Alexander McCall Smith
28. Signs Preceding the End of the World, Yuri Herrera
29. Company Town, Madeline Ashby
30. The Churn: An Expanse Novella, James S. A. Corey
31. The Marrow Thieves, Cherie Dimaline
32. The Changeling, Zilpha Keatley Snyder
33. Son Of a Trickster, Eden Robinson
34. River of Teeth, Sarah Gailey
35. Split Tooth, Tanya Tagaq
36. The People's Republic of Everything, Nick Mamatas
37. Three Parts Dead, Max Gladstone
38. The Garden, Meghan Ferrari
39. Scarborough: A Novel, Catherine Hernandez
40. 2312, Kim Stanley Robinson
41. Red Star: The First Bolshevik Utopia, Alexander Bogdanov
42. The Alienist, Caleb Carr
43. The Dying Earth, Jack Vance
1. PostCapitalism: A Guide To Our Future, Paul Mason
2. Lifelong Kindergarten: Cultivating Creativity through Projects, Passion, Peers, and Play, Mitchel Resnick
3. Debt: The First 5000 Years, David Graeber
4. Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan, Shrabani Basu
5. Berlin Calling: A Story of Anarchy, Music, The Wall, and the Birth of the New Berlin, Paul Hockenos
6. So You Want To Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo
7. Specters of Revolt: On the Intellect of Insurrection and Philosophy From Below, Richard Gilman-Opalsky
8. But It's So Silly: A Cross-Cultural Collage of Nonsense, Play and Poetry, JonArno Lawson
9. The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down, Colin Woodard
10. Joseph Beuys, Allan Antliff
11. Contemporary Gothic, Catherine Spooner
12. The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America, Thomas King
13. The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, Michael Lewis
14. Words On Fire: The Unfinished Story of Yiddish, Dovid Katz
15. Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City, Tanya Talaga
16. Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World, Anand Giridharadas
17. Click Here To Kill Everybody: Security and Survival in a Hyper-connected World, Bruce Schneier
18. Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trump, Gary Lachman
19. The Toronto Book of the Dead, Adam Bunch
20. Let's Talk Diabetes With Owls, David Sedaris
Books With Pictures In Them
1. This One Summer, Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki
2. Teen Titans: Earth One, Jeff Lemire, Terry Dodson
3. Night's Dominion: Vol. 1, Ted Naifeh
4. Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation, Octavia E. Butler, Damian Duffy, John Jennings
5. Another Castle: Grimoire, Andrew Wheeler, Paulina Ganucheau
6. Nimona, Noelle Stevenson
7. Witch Boy, Molly Knox Ostertag
8. Briggs Land Vol. 1: State of Grace, Brian Wood
9. Newsprints, Ru Xu
10. The Adventures of Superhero Girl, Faith Erin Hicks
11. Monstress Vol. 1: Awakening, Marjorie Liu, Sana Takeda
1. Passage, Gwen Benaway
The Good Place
Among the most well-constructed shows I've ever seen. A woman dies and goes to heaven, except that she's not supposed to be there. She's not a good person. She's surrounded by people who spent their entire lives making the world a better place, but if she reveals who she is, she'll end up in the Bad Place, being tortured for all eternity. It falls to her "soulmate," an anxious moral philosophy professor, to teach her how to be a decent human so that she has a chance of earning her spot in the Good Place.
And then the show pulls the rug out from under you. And then does it again. If you're not watching it, the less you know about what happens in it, the better. The structure is amazing; it reels you in with the funny sitcom format and then subverts it, leaving you constantly unsure of the status quo. Each season has been something different, and this year's is really building towards what's basically a Talmudic argument with God, which is a plotline you really don't see in a lot of media, let alone a sitcom.
I did not sign up to cry over a makeover show.
The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell
I challenge you to find a show more made for me than a goth baking show with taxidermied Muppets and a murder plot or two.
This show taught me more about baking than any amount of baking classes ever could.
I have very mixed feelings about Nu Who's 11th season. On the plus side, we're free of the Moff's overly convoluted plots, racism, and misogyny. I love Jodie Whittaker's Doctor. Two out of the three companions are fantastic. I like the emphasis on smaller, more personal stories. There's more diversity in both the casting and the writing room, finally. The cinematography ruled.
The storytelling, though, not so much. The best observation I saw was that Chibnall thinks he's writing for children but has never actually written for children. Most of the plots were very Point A to Point B. There was at least one truly great episode, "Demons of the Punjab," and only one really awful one, but without an overarching theme, the season felt pretty pointless, with the characters just kind of wandering around and never in any kind of real danger. Overall, really fun, though.
It's silly and puerile but also kind of amazing. This season has our two aspiring documentary filmmakers travelling to an elite private school to uncover who using scatological weapons of mass destruction to terrorize the staff and student body. It's great as both a satire on true crime documentaries and also a fairly realistic depiction of teenagers such that is rarely seen on TV.
This year's Problematic Fave, I bingewatched it in a couple days and then read the book and put a hold on the sequel. It hooked me in with the costume porn and the architecture porn, but tbh it's basically got the appeal that I think Sherlock has for a lot of fangirls. Read into that what you will. Note that it is a show with two of my biggest triggers (bad things happen to children, bad things happen to cats) and several tropes that I despise, and I still want more of it.
Continues to work its way up my list of the Best TV Shows Of All Time. This was a less dramatic season than previous ones, but no less heartwrenching, between Princess Caroline's attempts to have a baby, Diane's attempt to find herself, and the oh-god-so-fucking-painful exploration of Beatrice Horseman's life and (spoiler) death. As always, the experimental episode is the best, and this year's stroke of brilliance was to make me cry with an animated episode that is a single shot of a half-hour long monologue. Because it can.
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power
I have an ambivalent relationship to the original She-Ra, For Reasons, but the reboot is flawless. It's got the magitech, vaporwave aesthetic, it's the gayest show I've ever watched, and there's a Marxist talking alicorn. Give me more.
The City & the City
The BBC adaptation of one of my favourite books did not disappoint. Full review here.
And my favourite show of 2018 was...
Season 3 is the point at which the show surpasses the books, which is a hard task because as you can probably see from my book log, I've been binge-reading them and am now into the novellas, having run out of the main series. But now I'm squarely in the "show is better" camp, after a stellar (hah) season.
There's an interesting article making the rounds about hopepunk, the idea that what's needed is not more grimdark dystopias but stories that serve as guideposts towards a less crapsack future. While I take issue with some of the examples in that article falling into this category (Game of Thrones? Really?) The Expanse is definitely this. I don't want to give away what happens in the last episode but it wasn't what I was expecting based on the books/the way genre fiction is typically structured, and it came at a time when I was feeling a lot of despair (in fairness, when am I not?) with a ray of light and redemption even in the context of its typically brutal setting.
And that's it for my babbling about pop culture for the year. I should probably work on actually creating some. :)
"Run To the Hills," Tanya Tagaq and Damian Abraham
"Ari Ari," Bloodywood
Tales From the Kingdom of Fife and Space 1992: The Rise of the Chaos Wizards, Gloryhammer one of their videos was "this video gave me back my virginity," Which is true.
Okay, so unlike with my previous two posts, I cannot actually pick a Best Album of 2018. It is a tie. Both are so transcendently brilliant in different ways that I can't decide. So the two best albums of 2018...
Stranger Fruit, Zeal & Ardor
Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa, Jeremy Dutcher
Hands down the best superhero movie of...ever, I think. It redefined the types of stories a blockbuster Hollywood action flick could tell, it had interesting, multilayered politics, compelling characters, gorgeous Afrofuturist-inspired visuals, and a kick ass soundtrack. You probably already saw it three times like I did.
The Death Of Stalin
Technically this came out in 2017 but didn't hit theatres here until 2018, so it totally counts. It's The Thick Of It but in the Soviet Union (ostensibly; like anything Armando Iannucci does, it's more about British politics than anything else) and it's about as pitch black as a comedy can get. Everyone is fucking terrible but some people are really, really terrible, and some people are merely terrible in ways that are entertaining. Which is, ngl, exactly the kind of humour I find most hilarious because I'm a bad person.
And the best movie of 2018 was...
Sorry To Bother You
Boots Riley's directorial debut is brilliant, funny, and political without ever getting didactic. The story of a black telemarketer who rises up through the corporate ranks owing to a magical ability to sound white on the phone starts out as one type of story, pulls the rug out from under you, and veers in an entirely weirder direction. Its only flaws are 1) I thought the ending was a little too long, and 2) I am really afraid that the Elon Musks and Jeff Bezoses of the world might watch it and get ideas. But it captures the zeitgeist in a way that's simultaneously chilling and hilarious as anything.
The Stone Sky, N.K. Jemisin
I believe N.K. Jemisin set some kind of record for the most awards won by a single author ever, and she absolutely deserves them. The Broken Earth trilogy, of which The Stone Sky is the conclusion, is some of the most inventive fantasy writing I have come across. She is one of those rare authors who can do brilliant worldbuilding and compelling characterization and clever plotting and fantastic prose. The other two books in the trilogy made my book round-up last year, and the finale was flawless.
The Changeling, Victor LaValle
How many fairy tale re-imaginings and changeling stories can a girl read? I have a limitless appetite, it seems, but this one stands out in terms of doing some of the most interesting things with it. A woman becomes convinced that her baby is no longer her baby, and commits a horrific act out of desperation, and her devastated husband is left behind to unravel the mystery of why. It's an often brutal read; the casual cruelty of fairy tales (that would be the non-Disneyfied versions) meeting the systemic cruelties of race and gender in America, but also ultimately just a beautiful story.
American War, Omar El Akkad
This one broke me enough that I reviewed it before my annual round-up.
Signal To Noise, Silvia Moreno-Garcia
On a more uplifting note, this one! I feel like I should have actually bought this one as a depression re-read because it is so wonderfully uplifting. It's the story of three teenagers in Mexico City in the late 80s who discover a way to summon magic by playing records, interspersed with the adult characters reconnecting, awkwardly, when one of them returns home for her father's funeral. It captures that feeling of being in your teens when music imprints on you and transforms you. I completely fell in love with the protagonist, Meche, who is a smart, aloof antihero of a type that you don't see often in female leads. It also just captures a lot of what I adore about Mexico City. It's both a critique of nostalgia and a story that invariably fills me with the best kind of nostalgia.
The Marrow Thieves, Cherie Dimaline
Dystopic YA is very much Not My Thing, unless it's something like this. Everyone loses the ability to dream, except indigenous people, because dreaming is somehow encoded in their bone marrow. You can guess what white people do to them as a result because—and this is what makes a good dystopian novel—it's the story of settler-indigenous interactions since Europeans first showed up here.
The People's Republic of Everything, Nick Mamatas
I mentioned that I don't buy books for the most part. I bought this one, and you should too; it's worth it for the expanded version of Under My Roof (one of my favourite YA novels ever) but if that's not enough to convince you, there's a steampunk story about Engels and look, everything Nick writes is hilarious and weird and precision-guided to destroy you a little.
Scarborough: A Novel, Catherine Hernandez
This was a close contender for my favourite read of the year. The story of children in an after-school reading program in the Kingston/Galloway neighbourhood of Scarborough (an incredibly diverse, low-income area, for non-Torontonians), it pulls exactly zero punches and is wrenchingly true to life. Ms Hina's email correspondence with her supervisor is easily the most infuriating-yet-cathartic thing I have seen in a novel; particularly if you work in education, you will find it incredibly relatable.
Red Star: The First Bolshevik Utopia, Alexander Bogdanov
I'm mentioning this not because it's a good read (it is not very well-written) but because it was among the more interesting books I picked up this year. It's a 1908 science fiction novel about a communist activist who goes to Mars, which is inhabited by a utopian communist civilization. It has all the flaws of early sci-fi—Russia was not immune from the classic infodump—but it also has some pretty cool shit, like a whole plot point that shows that people in 1908 were well aware that humans could cause climate change. And had a better understanding of gender fluidity than I'd have thought.
Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City, Tanya Talaga
This scathing non-fiction book is about the deaths of seven First Nations children attending school in Thunder Bay. It paints a brutal picture of a broken system and the legacy of genocide and indifference with which the Canadian state has interacted with indigenous peoples. Maybe not a good thing to read if you're already depressed, but I really think that every white person in Canada ought to have this book forced into their eyes, Clockwork Orange-style.
Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trump, Gary Lachman
Conversely, this was the most entertaining non-fiction book I read this year. Maybe it's not non-fiction? I don't know. It was impossible to tell whether the author genuinely thinks Trump and/or Bannon are literally chaos magickians, whether he thinks they think they are chaos magickians, or whether it's a metaphor for corruption and power. Regardless, if you are interested in politics and the occult or if you happen to be currently writing a novel about corrupt politicians who are possibly chaos magickians (cough), it's worth checking out.
Annnd my pick for the best book of 2018 is...
Split Tooth, Tanya Tagaq
(You knew it'd be this one, right?)
I mean obviously I am a massive Tanya Tagaq fangirl and I consider her probably the most brilliant and innovative musician active today, but did you know that she also is an incredible writer? Split Tooth is sort of a novel, and sort of poetry, and sort a memoir, and it is a searing read about life, death, sex, and transformation in the Far North. Her writing is mesmerizing and bizarre and, well, quite a bit like her music. Also there is a fox blowjob scene, which is probably all you'll hear people saying about it, but it is a really excellent scene in a mindblowing book.
Below the cut is my annual attempt to capture what the parade is like. One of these days I'll bring my actual grownup camera, but it's always too crowded for a short person like me to get good shots anyway.
Happy solstice, everyone.
( photos )
Chocolate chip cookies
Molasses ginger crinkle
White chocolate, walnut, and cranberry snowballs (these are my favourite)
Experimental pumpkin squares
Experimental coconut cream sugar cookies
Gluten-free and vegan:
Chocolate chip cookies
Flourless pumpkin, chocolate, and cashew butter cookies
Double chocolate truffles (these were objectively the best things I made this year)
A smattering of people even thanked me for baking for them. :)
I was under the impression that legislation and funding had to be debated in a parliamentary democracy and not just spontaneously rammed through on the weekend when no one's paying attention, but to be fair, I was an anarchist as a tween when we were learning about how government worked, and I was kind of counting on living in some kind of communal eco-utopia by the time it was relevant to me. So I don't know, maybe the Ontario Legislature really decides things by having the premier tweet a policy, and then it happens. It's much more convenient than facts and debate and voting and such, after all.
At any rate, he has in fact gone after education on both a funding and ideological level. First, the funding.
The Ford government has cut millions in funding for programs that provide after-school jobs for needy teens, classroom tutors for kids, “student success” supports for racialized youth as well as a project focusing on Indigenous issues, the Star has learned.
The province’s 72 school boards received emails late Friday with the list of programs to be cut or that will see funding reduced, and have been scrambling all weekend to figure out the financial impact, given the specialized grant money was promised by the previous Liberal government last March and may have already been spent.
The TDSB staff were all called into work yesterday—that would be a Saturday—to make sense of the stream of nonsensical emails. Ramming this through on a weekend, right before Christmas, ensures that any resistance to this will be scattered and poorly organized.
But don't think it's just after-school programs for starving children; the goon squad is also interested in attacking post-secondary. They've finally come up with their FREEZED PEACH policy, which, along with axing the modern health and physical education curriculum, was the only education-related issue they mentioned in their platform. And it's a doozy, once again passed with no consultation or discussion.
It might as well be called the Jordan Peterson Fanboy Act, as it essentially protects the right of racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic white men to have free speech, while anyone who opposes them does so at the risk of getting funding cut for their entire institution.
It's obvious why Tories don't like public education. An educated populace sees through their shoddy economics, repressive policies, and overall shortsightedness. It'd be better for them if, as with the police force that is on its way to being Ford's own private militia, they could just, you know, make sure that schools and universities were propaganda mills devoted to beating the rebellion out of students. Sadly, teachers, administrators, professors, school trustees, and so on, are quite used to being the adults in the room. But now we are all dealing with a raging toddler intent on spraying the walls with projectile vomit and burning the room itself down, so it's time to recognize the extent of the threat, step up, and mobilize. Not just to ensure that he's booted out in the next election, but to stop him now, because democracy isn't just something that happens during elections, and there is a lot of projectile vomit that can be sprayed in four years.
He cut funding to the College of Midwives.
His ridiculously named new omnibus bill puts large swathes of the Greenbelt in danger.
Amazingly, this hasn't actually increased investor confidence in the Ontario economy, probably none of these cuts end up saving money.
It's going to be hilarious if his whole Math Is The Only Subject That Counts rampage results in a generation of voters that can actually do math and realize how much bumbling Tory austerity measures really cost. But not really because in the meantime, a lot of people are going to suffer and some will die, just like the last time the Tories were in power.
P.S. This is who he's talking to about curriculum changes.
Now, the Ontario Provincial Police, like cops anywhere, are basically awful, but they're not supposed to be, like, a political entity any more than police forces are political by nature. There are ostensibly rules as to who can be in charge of them.
Doug Ford decided that rules were for eggheads, and changed them so that he could appoint his BFF Ron Taverner to the job.
Well, that is awfully corrupt! Enough that the ombudsman is getting involved. But that's not the fun part. The fun part is this:
Word is going around the Twittersphere and actual news sources (the Twitter link is better because it also includes a photo of him breaking distracted driving laws) that the premier's chief of staff asked the OPP to buy a "large camper-type vehicle" from a specific source and keep it off the record.
You read that right. The former hash king of Etobicoke (who sucks at selling pot, it seems),
1) Changed the rules so that he could appoint his buddy to head up the provincial police, then
2) Asked the police to do something at minimum sketchy and at maximum blatantly illegal, and then
3) Asked them to cover it up.
We all know what he'd use a camper van for, right?
gosh maybe electing him wasn't such a great idea you guys