ed_rex: (Default)

After dropping off passengers at the Trudeau International Airport in Dorval, I headed back to Ottawa driving an empty van, torn between the comforting inanities of the sports station on the radio (go Habs go!) and the distorted eco-rock of the eternally-rejuvenating Neil Young, playing with the much-younger men of Promise of the Real.

Anyway, though I'd make a quick stop at a nearby hotel to pee, about half-way back to Ottawa I began to feel that pressure again, the one that says, Really, Young Geoffrey! You do like your fluids, don't you! And it's true, I do.

After balancing the twin desires — the relief of a good pee vs the desire to get home as soon as possible — the urge to pee won out over a frankly pretty brief stop.

I flicked my turn signal on and pulled off the highway, stopping entirely off the paved shoulder, turned on my hazard lights (yes, as a cyclist, a driver and a pedestrian, I've become a bit of a signal-nazi; and no apologies), and got out from behind the wheel, walked around back to the passenger side and opened the front passenger door, in order to more discretely go about my business.

Job done, I zipped up, closed the door and started back around the vehicle again. Only to see, as I reached the driver's side, a car pulling up onto the shoulder behind me. One with flashing lights on the roof.

Oh my Christ! was my first thought, am I going to be busted for indecent exposure!?!

But surely not! There was no proof I'd exposed anything, was there? It was dark and I'd completed my ablutions before they were anywhere near me!

Still, I could only wait to find out. I turned to face them as an officer emerged from either side of the car. The driver carried a flashlight, but she didn't point it aggressively towards me, but rather just illuminated the ground between us. "Good evening!" I said, waving at them with my gloved right hand.

"Hi," said the cop, "are you all right?"

"Oh," I said, a little non-plussed. "Yes, yes, I'm fine thank you."

"Well good," she said, "we just stopped to make sure everything is okay."

"Yes, it is," I said, then added with completely unnecessary candour, "I just had to, y'know, empty my bladder." (Idiot! came a voice from the back of mind, never volunteer anything!) But no harm done. She smiled and said, "Well good night, then," and she and her partner turned back to their car.

"Okay, thanks," I said, waving. And I thought, making sure "everything is okay" is what cops should do!

But when I got back in the car, I had to wonder, would that have been the whole of the interaction if I'd been a brown or a black man?

And that — after she finished laughing — was just what Raven said when I told her the story after I got home" "Yeah, because you're white!"

I'd like to think that she (and I) are wrong about that, that those particular cops really were among those "good cops" we hear about every time a Sammy Yatim is gunned down like a made dog that's not even on the loose, but it's hard not to wonder if I was only benefiting from my white skin.

Anyway, here's Neil Young and Promise of the Real, to give you something else to be angry about. ("Monsanto").

ed_rex: (The Droz Report)

The other day Raven and I set out to replenish our supply of printing paper, on account of we'd run out and I needed to print something toute-suite, as they say over in Hull.

Our mission was interrupted however as, barely out of the apartment, we missioned east towards Bank Street.

On a stretch of sidewalk ahead of us was a very old Oriental woman and a dark-skinned and much younger (not to mention taller) woman who might have been of east-Asian or Middle Eastern background. Or something else entirely. Onwards.

Raven and I slowed as there seemed to be something not right with the situation. But being and/or becoming Canadians, we were hesitant about just barging in.

But I clearly saw the younger woman glance at us, and then, take very definite note of Raven. She opened her mouth, closed it, then briefly spoke to the old woman. Then looked at Raven again and once more, almost spoke, but decided against it at the last moment.

This was a couple of weeks back, and I no longer remember if I stopped, if Raven did, or if the young brown woman decided to speak up first.

In any event, there was a slowing down and turning and we made it clear we were open to "getting involved".

"Do you ..." the young woman began, addressing Raven, "well, do you speak Chinese?" She stopped and looked down, as if she was worried she had committed some monstrous offense.

I presume I've mentioned at some point over the past couple of years that Raven hails from Macau? Her first language is Cantonese, Mandarin her second. (English and, lately, French, are coming up fast from behind.)

"Yes," said Raven, "I do? What's going on?"

"I think this lady is lost," said the young woman, but I can't really understand her. "Would you mind ..."

Raven had already started talking to the old woman. She briefly interrupted to let us know they were speaking Cantonese and that the old woman had got off the bus at the wrong stop. "I know where her building is," she said. "I'll take her home."

"Are you sure? If you tell me where it is, I don't mind taking her ..."

"No, it's fine," Raven said, and the woman seemed relieved and just a little surprised to boot.

Raven told me to get to the stationary store before it closed and said she would meet me there. I walked about with the good Samaritan. "I'm really glad you guys stopped," she said.

"I'm glad we could help," I replied for some reason donning the Royal We.

"I didn't want to assume anything," she said. "I mean, just because someone ... looks ..."

"Chinese?" She laughed, and nodded. I laughed too, mostly in an attempt to make her feel at ease. "You were in luck," I said. "Raven is Chinese. And I know she really was happy to help. It never hurts to ask.

"I guess," she agreed, but I don't think she really did. And who was I, the white guy, to argue? Maybe the visible minorities among you reading this can tell me how common it is — how frustrating or offensive it is — to be asked if you speak this or that language. Raven herself didn't mind, but she is an immigrant, so if someone presumes she speaks Chinese (or even asks) well, she does.

Maybe she'd feel different if she were born here.

Meanwhile, the young woman and I went our separate ways, and I never dared to ask where she was from. Her English was excellent, but with a hint of an accent. Just a hint, though, leaving me to forever wonder if she was from Vanier or Hull, or possibly from some place much further away.

For once I don't have any real thesis or rant to make. This was just an incident that has stayed with me, an uncomfortable encounter that I am not sure what to make of. (Besides being reminded that Canadians tend to be very considerate, perhaps to a fault.)

ed_rex: (Default)

Girls gone funny

The older I get, the less patience I have for ideologues of any description, whether of the right or of the left.

No matter what their intentions — whether it is to combat racism or to combat other races — anyone who believes there is but One True Way to do things, or think about things, has the soul of a fascist.

And so, rather than just recommending you rent or otherwise get a-hold of the now-completed first season of Lena Dunham's Girls, I found myself struggling with people who seem to seriously believe that cliquish exclusion and nepotism is worse than the Holocaust.

My essay is a long one, so I'll put it plainly here. I enjoyed Girls an awful lot and eagerly await its second season. Dunham is an excellent young writer and her show is a bloody good professional debut — even if its principals are all privileged white people.

Am I blind to my own privilege as a white guy? As I said, my review is a long one, but I welcome your comments. Also, please note: it is not safe for work! You've been warned. Click here for Privilege and prejudice: The unbearable whiteness of being Lena Dunham.

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Secret in plain sight

It's no secret that, despite the official denials, most of us suspect there has been a lot more than innocent sleeping going on in the bedroom of Sesame Street's Ernie and Bert.

The odd couple of American children's television were clearly part of the broader movement for personal liberation that has swept the globe since the 1960s, and kudos to the former Children's Television Workshop for daring to portray the love of one man-puppet for another.

Yet somehow, another revolutionary transgression has, to my knowledge, gone completely unnoticed. You know you're curious. Click — click, I tells ya!

ed_rex: (Default)

I like to think I am, if not colour-blind when it comes to human beings, at least colour-indifferent. And more, that I am at the same time reasonably sensitive to cultural nuance and to words and phrases that, however innocuously intended, can carry offensive or painful baggage.

In other words, I am white (or at least, perceived as white; ask me about my Mongolian ancestry!) and am part of my country's dominant culture. So I try to remember the privileges those facts afford me.

Sometimes, though, it can all get a little confusing ...

Read more, "In Blackest Day ..."

ed_rex: (Default)

More memeage: In this edition, Young Geoffrey ponders the words of folks he admires.

I had a couple of interviews yesterday — we'll see whether I qualify for a security clearance; if not, getting a decent job in Ottawa is going to prove a little, er, problematic (no, I haven't given up on freelancing. There's a possible ghost-writing gig coming up in September, but neither am I any longer willing to live on spit and promises to coin a phrase). Anyway, if I don't look too terrible, tomorrow you folks (all three of you?) might be lucky enough to see me as be-suited eye-candy.

Which is a roundabout way of overtly copping to the fact that I missed yesterday's entry to this meme.

I opened up the file and started typing, but found it too hard to concentrate, whether due to stress or to the many possible answers to today's question. Should I talk about the usual genre suspects like — Tolkien or Delany, or the more obscure, like Arthur Kostler or Mary Midgley.

But then, what about Peter Watts or Kim Stanley Robinson, Melville or Heller, Woolfe or Lapham or Klein?

The list of good published (and usually at least somewhat famous) writers who have impressed and/or influenced me — whom I "admire" — would get pretty long pretty fast.

So instead, I'm going to talk about a couple of you, Livejournalers whose words I've been reading for some years and whose thinking and craft I've watched (usually with pleasure) change and develop over more years than I care to admit.

Click to see who I'm talking about! (That oughta pump up my aenemic numbers!) )

Click to see all the questions )

ed_rex: (Default)

Making up the real:

Middle-aged white guy writes teenage black girl as heroine, tries not to offend or to Mary Sue

More memeage: In this edition, Young Geoffrey talks about culture, making use of the familiar, making it up and (sort of) appropriating the other.

Click for Question 13, 'What's your favorite culture to write, fictional or not?' )

Click to see all the questions )

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