Tag Archives: self-awareness

Black History and You

Valentine's Day and Black History Month, lonely and white

Along with the USA, Canada and the UK celebrate Black History Month. If you are one of those who would ask rhetorically “What does that have to do with me?”, please consider the following question.

What do you and I have in common with Dr Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, Dick Gregory, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglas, Jack Johnson, Louis Armstrong, Josephine Baker, Nelson Mandela, Maya Angelou, Kunta Kinte, Ricky Gervais, Richard Dawkins, Muhammad, Moses, Jesus, Madonna, Adolf Hitler, Kim Jong-eun, L’il Kim, Kim Kardashian and the Ku Klux Klan?

We all came from Africa. (And if you deny that fact, enjoy your 4,000-year-old flat Earth. Careful you don’t fall off the edge.)

Familiar faces from African-American history

Familiar Faces from African-American History, Caitlin Tamony bbc.co_.uk_

You may hear it claimed that “Black History Month” is vitally significant, especially for a continent not yet free of ignorance-based tensions and hostilities. You may hear that Black History Month has outlived its usefulness — “We all saw Roots on TV.” You may hear that Black History Month is self-defeating—it should all be just History. As Morgan Freeman said, “I don’t want a black history month. Black history is American history.”

As with so many debates, there is truth to be found on all sides. Only the ignorant claim the ignorance is all behind us now. And history should, indeed, be history for one and for all. If only there were no ignorance amongst historians, publishers, educators and media.

painting by Charles T. Webber in the Cincinnati Art Museum_underground_railroad

The Underground Railroad, Charles T. Webber, Cincinnati Art Museum

So let it be History Month, and let’s all look into a bit of history—look up something you know nothing about, or investigate whether certain “facts” you like to quote are as solid as you have always believed. Just notice the limitations of the sources you check. Who wrote what you read and what are the foundations of their claims?

Regardless of how direct or indirect you consider your African heritage to be, why not take a moment or two this month to do yourself and the world a favour: learn something new about our collective past.

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Filed under cross cultural understanding, geography, perspective

Dreaming on Your Feet

I had a dream that my girlfriend and I went to the chocolatier and bought some Fair Trade chocolates for Easter. We got in the car and, as I was steering us onto the highway, she had both her feet pressed on top of mine. I couldn’t step on the breaks or the gas and could hardly see around her, cars rushing all around us.

My girlfriend had a dream that she was driving a getaway car, but my feet were in her way as she was trying to stomp on the gas.

We woke up, holding each other. Her feet were pressing down on mine. My feet were pushing up against hers.

Have we been stepping on each other’s dreams?

If we wake up, can I get safely home with my Fair Trade chocolate? And what is she going to get away with?

Please tell me your weird “when I woke up from my dream” moments.

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Filed under fair trade, family and relationships

Just My Luck

Yesterday, after facilitating the Science and Philosophy Book Club discussion on Steven Pinker’s The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature, at the Centre For Inquiry, I went into the subway to buy tokens for the first time since the new-year fare hike.

As I stood before the dispensing machine, stunned by how little change I could expect back from a $10 bill, a fairly normal-looking human approached me with three subway tokens in his hand – which is all you get for $10 now. He asked, as people rushed around on all sides like a scene out of the cinematic masterpiece 2012, “Are you about to buy three tokens?” I started to say that I’m not going to be suckered out of – how much? He took advantage of my bewilderment and said something about having too many tokens and not enough cash for a burger.

The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature, Steven Pinker

The Stuff of Thought, Steven Pinker

My civil language must have provided him such a window that he had a clear view of my nature, which is so far from doing harm that I suspect none. I dipped into my pockets and pulled a fiver out of one and what may have been $6 in coins out of the other. He took the money from my hands and put the three tokens in my palm as if he was helping me lighten my burden. As I was about to let loose with a ferocious, “Hey…”, he deftly clutched a hefty bunch of low-denomination coins (mine) from his hand and plunked them into my other palm. Now my “hey” was ready. I said he owed me more change than that. He added a quarter saying, “Oh right, sorry. There you are; exact change.” And he politely vanished into the crowd.

When I say “vanished”, I mean he was more determined to split than I was to shout him down and get back what may have been about a buck fifty he’d scammed me out of. I just watched him go. This is “Toronto the good”. I was not offended but simply bamboozled, both that he would go to such lengths for pocket change and that I found myself letting him do it. I was fascinated by both of our behaviours.

How is this “lucky” for me? In the following two ways.

  1. I had a student from one of those beautiful beachy places in South America which I am privileged to have visited and hope to see again. He described a day he was walking on the beach in his swimming shorts and flip-flops – nothing to steal. Someone pulled a gun on him, in a public place in broad daylight, and said he wanted those stylish shorts. My student said he knew what happens to he who hesitates. He ran home naked and alive.
  2. For a mere buck fifty or so I got a priceless lesson. Don’t trust anyone ever; every person on this Earth is evil scum and you can never drop your guard for a second! The next person who says, “Excuse me,” to me is going to get a ferocious kick in the balls (oh, he’ll have balls, because it takes balls to be that low.)

That’s me, lucky and still learning.

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Filed under conscious consumption, language, Optimism & Inspiration

What’s Worn Under Your Kilt?

Who stole the punchline? It was in there when I submitted this article!

Please add your own answer to the question, “What’s worn under your kilt?” in the comments section below my new Post City article,

http://www.postcity.com/Eat-Shop-Do/Do/September-2011/Whats-up-with-the-kilt-A-crash-course-just-in-time-for-the-annual-Beach-Celtic-Festival/

Under the Kilt

What's worn under your kilt?

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Filed under cross cultural understanding

Here Comes My Big Brother: Robert J. Sawyer’s Wonder

Robert J Sawyer‘s 20th novel Wonder is being launched in Toronto tomorrow and will be in book stores on April 5th.

ROBERT J. SAWYER  Photo Credit: Christina Molendyk
ROBERT J. SAWYER Photo Credit: Christina Molendyk

Since 2008, I have been attending talks by Sawyer in Moncton, Montreal and Toronto, on a range of topics covering writing, publishing, science and philosophy.

I recently interviewed him for the second time. The first time was at the beginning of his WWW trilogy about the World Wide Web spontaneously becoming self-aware; this time his trilogy is concluded. Please read my article Here Comes My Big Brother: Robert J. Sawyer’s Wonder posted at AE The Canadian Science Fiction Review

or for a very abbreviated version of the interview please read http://www.postcity.com/Eat-Shop-Do/Do/March-2011/Wonder-lust-Robert-J-Sawyer-launches-his-latest-novel/ at www.PostCity.com (where you may encounter more of my writings).

Wake

Wake

Watch

Watch

Wonder

Wonder

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Filed under book reviews, interviews, life not human, Optimism & Inspiration, writing

Yes, Shatner is Canadian!

You might know who “Beverley” Leslie Jordan is, even if you don’t know you know him. The 55-year-old comedic actor steals scenes on stage, film, and television (best known as “Beverley Leslie”, nemesis of Karen Walker on Will & Grace). He flies into Toronto tomorrow for one night to perform a one-man show tailored to the audience, a fundraiser for the CLGA. In honour of Jordan’s Boston Legal co-star William Shatner and last night’s “Genies“, here is part of the interview:

You’ve worked with William Shatner. Can you name the awards show he’s hosting?
No!

The Genies.
What is it?

Like the Canadian version of the Oscars.
Wow! Is William Shatner Canadian? I enjoyed working with him. I like him. He’s funny.

Would you ever want to host the Oscars, or would it be easier just to win one?
Oh Gosh! I don’t want to host one, I don’t want to win one, I don’t want to be nominated for one. I went to the Emmys once. It was the most nerve wracking thing. It was torture. I mean, you’re not going to get any sympathy: “I had to go to the Emmys and I won. Poor me!” But I’m telling you, at one point I thought I was having a heart attack.

Will there come a time when being gay is as widely accepted as being left-handed, and what would it take to get there?
I can’t believe you just said that! I’ve always said that I would love for a parent to say, “I think my child is going to turn out gay” the way you say, “I think my child is going to be left-handed.” Not so much with pride or shame, just that it is.

Read the rest at Post City online http://www.postcity.com/
http://www.postcity.com/Eat-Shop-Do/Do/March-2011/Loud-and-proud-Leslie-Jordan-at-Hart-House/

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Filed under interviews, Optimism & Inspiration

Moving Experience

We were roommates in this west Montreal neighbourhood when the 90s had just begun. Now at an age when we measure our friendship in decades, she is moving home (does that phrase make anyone but us hear a Beatles tune…in reverse?). Home to our little east coast hometown.

Is this good? Is it bad? It’s home. Home is where you go.

What is she leaving behind? Fantastic restaurants and cafés, a plethora of festivals, magnificent architecture, and a mountain of joie de vivre! And a life partner who, like her, is beginning a new life.

Why? Because that’s what happens. When people say “you only live once”, they are speaking metaphorically. Right now she is taking a break from packing and watching TV, from which I hear strings playing Mendelssohn’s Wedding March. She is not the same person who walked down the aisle a decade ago, nor am I the same person who walked down a different aisle in Mexico a few months after that. When you get married, it’s not just to the person with the matching ring, it’s to the person they will become, and the person they will be after that. Sometimes you are lucky enough to love all of the people you marry. “Forever” is not always for everyone.

What is she taking with her? Cats, books, dishes, music, and a friend whose love for her has been deepening for 25 years. If we could pin down the exact date we became friends, this would be the Silver Anniversary of our friendship.

I won’t stay with her in our hometown. I’ll move her and her cats into their new place, visit my family and other old friends for a couple of days, and then I’ll hurry back to the person I’ll marry next (I love the people she’s been so far).

My oldest friend is back to fussing about what to pack and what to leave behind, but one thing that won’t get left behind, and won’t get lost or broken in the move, is me.

Happy Anniversary M.

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Filed under beginnings