2017: Day 2

tissues

A belated Happy New Year to all my readers.

Two days into the New Year and, just like the Queen, I have a cold. Unlike the Queen I don’t have a small army of servants to pick up my tissues. On the other hand I did manage to write 800 or so words on a new short story, so… there’s that.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need a tissue.

Hope your 2017 is going well so far.

We’re almost there

solstice

Time is an illusion. The delineation of years by numbers… 2016, 2017… is an artifact of a calendar constructed by an emperor 2,061 years ago.

What is not so ephemeral is the certainty of the Winter Solstice. That is the day marking the shortest day and the longest night of the year. This year that falls on December 21, which is tomorrow.

Tomorrow is the darkest day of 2016. After that, the light comes back. Having reached the furthest limits of its orbit, the Earth continues its journey around the sun, swinging closer and bringing back the longer daylight.

In other words, after tomorrow things will get brighter. In an astronomical sense, anyway.

Personally I am going to be a lot busier. Preparations for Christmas have to be made and this week at my day job is one of the busiest of the year. My daughter comes home and brings the real feeling of Christmas with her.

Also this week has seen a marked increase in snowfall which means I spend a lot of my time outside with a shovel. That is not natural for me. Being in the cold and exerting myself are not my favorite activities. Sitting in a comfy chair, being warm and well fed is more my style. So, blogging becomes a luxury from here on in.

Tomorrow the gloom is at its most gloomy. After that we can look at each other and say; `Well done! We made it!“ then gorge ourselves until we collapse. That is the way of things in the North.

So, if you survive the gloom, if you are around to read these words when the light begins to come back… well done. You made it. I hope whatever celebration of that you choose is pleasant and full of joy.

Take care, my friends.

Thanksgiving turkey and a heaping side dish of irony

standingrock

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my American friends. May today be a mere microcosm of the tribulation you’ve been experiencing this year and in the four years to come

In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. It wasn’t until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.

Some Native Americans and others take issue with how the Thanksgiving story is presented to the American public, and especially to schoolchildren. In their view, the traditional narrative paints a deceptively sunny portrait of relations between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag people, masking the long and bloody history of conflict between Native Americans and European settlers that resulted in the deaths of millions.

Thanksgiving is particularly ironic this year in light of the protests at Standing Rock in North Dakota where Sioux are trying to stop the progress of the Dakota Access Pipeline through their sacred territories and the brutal and harsh treatment they have received from private security forces and State Police.

Also ironic this year is the rhetoric surrounding the issue of immigrants coming into the US. The violent and vitriolic opposition to the idea of letting those who are not white or Christian into the safe harbour of America while they flee their war-torn homelands is somewhat at odds with the national celebration of the time that the original peaceful inhabitants of America fed and sheltered a group of starving immigrants.

So, here`s hoping that the day goes relatively peacefully. Enjoy your turkey and your pie and your football and may the ravages of indigestion not be visited upon you.

Whiskey Jack

gray-jay

Let’s take a break from fear politics and science fiction and fantasy (don’t worry, I won’t stray too far away).

Let’s talk about birds.

Specifically, let’s talk about the gray jay or, as it is commonly known, the whiskey jack.

The gray jay (Perisoreus canadensis), also grey jay, Canada jay or whiskey jack, is a member of the crow and jay family found in the boreal forests across North America, mostly in the northernmost parts otherwise known as the Great White North or, as those of us who live here like to call it, Canada.

Why, you ask, am I suddenly talking about gray jays?

Well, you see, in January 2015, the Royal Canadian Geographical Society and Canadian Geographic magazine announced a project to select a National Bird of Canada, dubbed the National Bird Project, consisting of an online poll inviting Canadians to vote for their favourite bird. The poll closed on August 31, 2016, and a panel of experts convened the following month to review the top five selections: the gray jay, common loon, snowy owl, Canada goose and black-capped chickadee.

This month the project announced that the gray jay was selected as the winner of the contest, and will recommend that the Canadian government make the selection official as part of Canada’s sesquicentennial celebrations in 2017.

The gray jay takes advantage of man-made sources of food, hence the names “camp robber” and “whiskey jack”. Human observers do not inhibit gray jay’s feeding behavior; however, once having identified man with food it does not forget. This is probably the reason why the whiskey jack beat out the other contenders for Canada’s favorite bird. While camping or just being out in the wilderness, a favorite Canadian activity that is practiced both summer and winter, encounters with the whiskey jack are commonAsk most any Canadian about it and they’ll tell you stories about whiskey jacks stealing food from their camps. A friend of mine recently told me about a whiskey jack who stole a whole strip of bacon from a frying pan while he was cooking it in his campsite. (Yes, Canadians cook bacon while camping. We’re not savages)

The name whiskey jack is a corruption of an Algonquin word, Wisakedjak. Wìsakedjàk (or Wīhsakecāhkw in Cree and Wiisagejaak in Oji-cree) is found in northern Algonquian and Dene storytelling, similar to the trickster god Nanabozho in Ojibwa sacred stories and Inktonme in Assiniboine myth. He is generally portrayed as being responsible for a great flood which destroyed the world originally made by the Creator, as well as the one who created the current world with magic, either on his own or with powers given to him by the Creator for that specific purpose.

The Cree people believe the wīhsakecāhkw is a benign spirit, fun-loving and cheerful. The name was Anglicized as whiskey jack.Indeed, the bird is seen in Cree stories as an example of good manners and good company. Very Canadian

Wisakedjak shows up as a character in the book American Gods by Neil Gaiman, where he is frequently referred to as “Whiskey Jack” (See? I told you I wouldn’t stray far away from fantasy). In the book, he appears as a native old man, who lives in a mobile home, somewhere near a Lakota reservation in the badlands with Johnny Appleseed.

So next time you are in the remote boreal wilderness, keep and eye out for the gray jay or whiskey jack.

Or just cook up some bacon and he’ll come to you.

John Oliver on Journalism

Back on July 14th I wrote a blog post about my frustrations with the state of the newspaper industry and how the term “generating copy” had replaced writing. Since then John Oliver on Last Week Tonight released this video on the state of journalism which echoed a lot of the same frustrations.

Of course, Last Week Tonight did it bigger and louder and with more jokes, but the video lays out the sad truth of the industry.

 

SDCC: a rant about ungrateful fanboys (slightly NSFW)

sdcc_logo_grande_4542ff10-4626-4dce-91e0-f0e916457862_largeI’m at that point.

You know the one, especially if you’re a parent and you’ve been listening to the kids whine about how unfair everything is and how their life sucks. You get to that point and suddenly the Dad comes out in you and you lecture your kids about how good they have it compared to when you were a kid.

You try to resist, because you know that it never really makes a difference and your kids will just stare at you like some alien that has just walked into the house speaking Klingon.

But I’m there now.

This past week I’ve been watching all this incredible stuff coming out of the San Diego Comic Con, arguably the biggest and the best convention for fans of comics, science fiction and other genre movies. As is usual during Comic Con I’ve also been listening to the whiny-ass fanboys complaining about how nothing is exactly how they want it. How (insert adaptation of your favorite comic/SF novel/sequel/spin-off/whatever) had better not suck or how the (Insert Comic book company name here – which one doesn’t matter) cinematic universe has lost it and has to be rebooted post haste.

To all you fanboys: STFU.

No… better yet, I’m not talking to you in textspeak anymore… I’m Dad now and I’m talking like a dad. Fanboys, shut the fuck up!

You’re getting so much amazing stuff and all you do is whine and complain. It’s like getting a huge fucking haul at Christmastime and complaining because the phone I got you wasn’t the exact brand you wanted.

Oh, boo-hoo.

You know what I had at your age? I had Star Trek re-runs. Heavily edited on old and dirty and badly spliced film reels. We didn’t have the restored versions with new and shiny cgi effects.

strektos14

We didn’t have a blockbuster movie to watch and a new series to look forward to.

7a28a7f7959c09777e756b71a5b23083d6e2fe8c4de98bfa0713da1e513234a4We didn’t have a DOCTOR STRANGE movie with A-list actors and top notch visual effects to look forward to. We had a TV movie done on cheap sets and starring Peter Hooten with a 70’s porn ‘stache.

We didn’t have Justice League starring an OSCAR WINNING ACTOR, we had… never mind. You don’t want to know what we had. 90 minutes of our life we’ll never get back, that’s what we had.

hqdefaultYou fanboys (and I don’t care how young or old you are) are fucking ungrateful. You’ve got it made, kids! You’ve got it made in the shade and you don’t know just how good you have it. Yet you whine and you complain like none of this amazing stuff is good enough for the likes of you.

Now, I hear you say; “Yeah, Jack, but, cut us some slack! These aren’t gifts. It’s not Christmas. It’s a business transaction. The studios make a product and they sell it to consumers, and consumers have a right to criticize the products they’re being given. If I go into a restaurant, order a burger, and find it’s undercooked, do I not have the right to call attention that?”

Well, yes, you’re right. It’s not Christmas, and these aren’t gifts given to you by loving parents. the Christmas analogy was just meant to illustrate how I feel about the situation.

These films, TV series, comics, what have you, they’re product. And absolutely, you have the right to complain about an undercooked burger.

But telling the waiter  “This burger better be good or I’m never coming here again!” before it’s even on the plate or telling the chef that his meals suck based on a picture you saw on the restaurant’s website strikes me as a bit entitled, not to mention that it makes the one complaining look like a dick.

Look, if you watch something and you don’t like it, I’ll accept that. We may even talk about it. I frequently do with fellow fans. But I reserve judgement about something until I have seen the movie/series/comic/whatever rather than moaning about it beforehand.

Saying “I hope it’s great.” is better than saying “Oh, man this is gonna blow” in my opinion. And, yes. I’m not just talking about younger fans. I’m not trying to pull some ageist crap here. There are fans older than me who are just as bad and there are younger fans who have a fantastic attitude.

As a creator it just guts me to hear fans talking shit about something sight unseen. As an artist and a writer… see, this is where my frustration is coming from. I know what it’s like to put so much of myself into something, a book or a piece of artwork, only to have someone who doesn’t know, hasn’t seen/and/or read the work dismiss it out of hand.

I’m sorry, for having to go all “Dad” over it like this, but I’m at that point. I’m all out of fucks. I’m out of them. You like something? I don’t give a fuck. You don’t like something? I don’t give a fuck.

I’m. all. out. of. fucks.

Generating Copy

 

generating copy

I work at a newspaper. I do graphics and occasionally write advertising copy, but I work alongside the reporters. There have been directives that come down from the head office of the chain’s digital department. The directives never talk about writing or reporting. They talk about “generating copy”.

Personally I can’t think of a more insulting term than “generating copy”. That cold, clinical phrase completely guts what it is that reporters actually do. It eviscerates the process of writing in any form. The process of creating, of digging into your soul for a few measly crumbs of insight and then weaving that insight, feeling, or even just information into words — the right words — that create a cohesive passage that speaks to the reader in ways that not only make sense and impart information but touches something inside of them…

To label that as merely “generating copy” is the act of a soulless cretin. It’s a phrase that comes from someone who has never seen anything of the wonder or the beauty of the world. It is a phrase uttered by a lifeless, heartless, soulless zombie stuffed into a suit. It is the most insulting kind of corporatespeak and the more I think about it the angrier I become.

The problem is, I have been listening to these bums. They talk about how anyone who wants to get “traction” out of their blogs have to follow the steps on the ladder to increase traffic to your site and post pieces that generate “swagger”.

I’ve been listening to them, trying to do just that because I think that I need to chase some mythical ideal audience in order to “move more units” (i.e: sell books)

I am unable to do that and up until now it’s been getting me down. It wasn’t until I thought about the phrase “generating copy” that I realized what a load of cow dung it all is.

I’m a writer. I write because I am compelled to order my chaotic thoughts, to try to make sense of the jumble of random noise that fires off inside my head. I am moved to give voice in some way to the painful yearning that occasionally grips my soul. I am compelled to reach out to try to communicate my inner turmoil to somebody… anybody… or maybe just out into the void. It doesn’t matter.

I write because I have to. I write because I have no other way to say what it is I need to say. I’m not trying to drive traffic or create “swagger” and I am not just “generating copy”

This is me. This is my mind and my spirit running free and playing, leaving footprints in the sand in the form of these words. The cold and unemotional format of electronic words on an LCD field of blue-white is all that is afforded to me, but while I can I will try to breathe a bit of life into it now and then.

Anything else is just generating copy.