Random and various

1 – Let’s get the big one over with first: Justin Trudeau. How many of us, excluding Andrew Scheer who claims to have never done anything, did some kind of dumb-ass shit in our twenties? For me, that was the sixties and personal video cameras and social media didn’t exist then, so there’s no proof I was anything other than an angel. (And I’m sticking to that story.)

2 – Sticking with the upcoming Canadian election, I won’t try to influence how you vote – there are plenty of fake news sites already doing that. I’m just going to suggest that rather than just accept a single source for information, check other legitimate sites as well and if it is a third party ad google them to see if they have any obvious bias. You may find that ad you saw that said so-and-so is a complete incompetent idiot is a troll site based in some foreign country. CPAC, the channel that provides coverage from inside the House of Commons, is also offering election coverage and I would think their election reporting would be as even-handed as their Commons coverage. But, where you choose to get your information, and what you choose to believe of that information, is up to you. Question claims, no matter the source and vote according to your conscience, but vote.

3 – I’ve seen some ads on television lately for Quickbooks, an online business accounting system. One of the claims of these ads is that you can get paid quicker. I must take exception to that claim. Yes, you can issue an invoice faster, but you have no control over when it gets paid. Unless the terms of the invoice are “2% 10, net 30 days” I’m not paying it until I have to.

4 – I got an interesting text message last night claiming to be from the Simcoe County District School Board, a legitimate school board in Ontario, telling me my phone number has just won me $3,000,000 US funds. Several things wrong with this. First, Simcoe County is north of Toronto, so why would they choose a telephone number with a Toronto area code as a “winner” in a contest I never entered. Second, this is Ontario and Premier Doug Ford is slashing education budgets on a grand scale, so I highly doubt Simcoe County could afford to give away three million. If they had that kind of money lying around, they’d sink it into the system, not award it to some random stranger. I forwarded the message to the School Board. They thanked me and said they were aware of the scam and are investigating.

Okay, rant finished. Since this is the first day of autumn, treasure the few warm days that remain and enjoy the fall colours. Winter will soon be upon us.

Remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.

Whatever strikes my fancy

I’m a writer and photographer. I’m working on my autobiography. Funny thing, but if people learn this they will often ask “is it finished yet?” Umm, unless you’re using a spirit board to ask that, the answer is obviously “No”. I’ve stopped it at the point I received my new birth certificate with new name and gender, but I’m still here so it could continue.

I write speculative fiction, also called science fiction and mystery and these pieces usually start with asking myself “what if …?”, then answering that question. That “what if …” could be on any topic – as the title indicates “whatever strikes my fancy”. I’ve destroyed cities and other planets (usually with classical music playing in the background as I write) and in the late nineties I chronicled a war that destroyed this planet. What prompted that was the debate over whether the 21st century would start January 1, 2000 or 2001. I think the answer depends if you ask an historian or a mathematician.

With my blogs, again I write about any topic that strikes my fancy or irritates me. I enjoy writing about various online scams as warnings to my readers. For the most part I stay away from American politics. I’m not American so unless what’s-his-name in the White House had done or said something exceedingly stupid, I ignore it. Having said that, living in Canada and being reasonably intelligent, I am aware that events in the U S may and can have a tremendous effect on us as well, so I do pay attention to American politics. I have however taken Canadian federal politicians to task on many occasions over their pronouncements or actions. And with the current regime in Queen’s Park, I can see that Ontario Premier Doug Ford will become a frequent target.

I prefer to write and edit in longhand, then once I’m satisfied I transcribe to the computer. By doing so, if inspiration strikes while I’m out I can capture the thought at the moment as I usually carry paper and pen.

I use this same approach with my photography. If something catches my eye, I’ll take a photo. A flower, a sign, interesting architecture, a scenic vista or sometihng whimsical such as this shot below taken outside a local shop on my phone, it doesn’t matter. There are occasion , such as grocery shopping, when carrying a camera is too awkward, by my phone has an excellent camera.

I use digital cameras (Canon ever since my first film SLR in the seventies) and have what I consider to be good software – Corel Paintshop Pro for processing. I can usually find something in the raw image to turn into a photo. And of course, by using digital cameras and processing, “undo” and “delete” have become my best friends.

I’ve had various people who like my work suggest to me I should give courses in both writing and photography. Such course would be very short indeed for here’s what I’d say:

Writing: write about what interests you. If that requires research, great – you’ll learn something new. If writing fiction or topical blogs, write the way you speak. If people who know you read it, they’ll hear your voice speaking the words and for others, it will sound more natural. Don’t use what I call “ten dollar words” in an attempt to sound more intelligent. If you don’t normally use them in everyday vocabulary, you’ll probably use them incorrectly.

Photography: if it catches your eye, snap it and sort it out later. Remember, “delete” can be a powerful tool.

There’s the essence of any courses I’d give.

Now, go create something and remember to hug an artist, no matter what their field of endeavour, for we need love too. And to my Canadian followers and visitors, have a safe and happy Canada Day weekend.

Cat.

For the writers among us

A few thoughts and observations on that demon that haunts us ink-stained wretches:

“… writers don’t like the actual writing bit.”

“Being literate as a writer is good craft, is knowing your job, is knowing how to use your tools properly and not to damage the tools as you use them.”

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” Douglas Adams, (1952 – 2001)

The above three quotes are from Douglas Adams, best known as the author of the five books of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy. (I know, but that’s how he described it.) And from personal experience I can say that first quote is spot on. As well, I have written many short stories that prove the third one as well.

As for the second, that would be for the reader to determine. I like to think I write well, and use, but not abuse, the English language properly. One piece of advice I was given is “write the way you speak.” In other words, if you don’t commonly use “ten dollar words” in your daily vocabulary, don’t use them in your writing, even if you can get them half-off. You’ll sound pretentious and will probably use them wrong. My writing always uses the vocabulary and speech patterns I use in everyday communication and people have told me that when they read my stuff, they can hear my voice reading it in their minds. I consider that a compliment. The only time I vary from that is if the character requires it.

There are several other “rules” of writing that make little sense to me at least, such as “write what you know”. That may be fine if you’re writing a technical piece, but doesn’t necessarily apply if you’re writing fiction. When it comes to my fiction, many of the stories start with me asking myself “what if …?” then answering the question. How bleak would the literary world be if authors only wrote what they know? We’d have been deprived of works like J K Rowling’s Harry Potter series as well as many books that are now considered classics.

“Write what you know.” I’m a blogger – sporadically recently because there are things going on that interfere with the writing as well as Douglas Adams’s first observation – and my blogs are usually about things or events that either interest me or incense me. And given the newly elected government in Ontario, I think there’s going to be a few things that incense me. In my more honest moments, I frequently describe my blogs as “rants, raves or reasoned discussions – reader’s choice.”

One thing I read somewhere (I think it was a writer I friended on MySpace years ago) was that in order to be a writer, you must write 600 words a day. What that writer didn’t add was that it must be six hundred words you want to keep. I don’t agree with that word count. You can only write so much and if only 10 words will come that are “keepers”, then that’s ten words you don’t have to worry about later.

Many people who don’t write and don’t understand writing will often joke about the process and sometimes point to the hoary opening “It was a dark and stormy night” as an example of writing. Actually, I used that twice in one story just to see if it was possible to use it without seeming trite. Here’s what I came up with:

It was a dark and stormy night – a real nasty one – the kind I’ve come to dread ever since that night. I was sitting quietly, enjoying my beer, when I noticed the guy staring at me. I ignored him as I do anyone who is rude enough to stare. Then I sensed him coming over.

After a bit of small talk, he stopped talking and just looked at me. I looked back. “What, you want to hear about the time traveller?”

“If you wouldn’t mind telling me,” he said, signalling for refills for both of us.

I thanked him, then said, “I don’t mind telling, if you don’t mind listening. All I ask is that you don’t interrupt too much, because I don’t really like talking about it.”

He agreed and, after a sip of the beer, I started.

“It was a dark and stormy night “ I stopped as I saw him glaring at me, then I said “I know, I know – any story that starts that way has to be pure bull, right? Hear me out, then you tell me.

In the introduction to this piece I wrote “I planted my tongue firmly in my cheek and here’s the result”. I know it’s hard to tell from this short intro, but what do you think? Did I pull it off? If you like, I’ll post the entire story later this week.

Okay, let’s try to get serious for a few minutes here. Writing is, by its nature, a solitary pursuit. When you’re working on a piece, be it fiction, a blog, essay or factual, most writers don’t want anyone around to derail their train of thought. I usually have classical music playing quietly while I work. In one short story, I destroyed an entire planet with “Ride of the Valkyries” in the background. Yes, some writers say that so-and-so is their muse, their inspiration, but that doesn’t mean that muse has to be present all the time. I’m fortunate in that respect as I live alone so there are minimal interruptions.

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” Very true. I can’t count the times I’ve started writing something with a plan in mind only to have the characters dictate what happens through their actions. I usually just leave it since on the occasions I’ve tried to bring the story back to my vision, it didn’t work as well.  And yes, it can happen that something you’ve written will send a story off in a new direction rather than following your roadmap. I think it works this way: You write something and your mind picks up on that and asks “what if I follow that line instead?” That is what I mean by the character dictating the ensuing actions.

It seems that many good writers are also voracious readers. Not to see what the “competition” is doing, but simply for the enjoyment of the written word. No, the excuse that it cuts into writing time won’t work. Without some kind of break or diversion, your mind goes stale and your work will suffer.

And, I think I’ve done it again – started off with one idea in mind, but ended up somewhere else. I could have probably spent much less time writing this if I’d simply said “write about what interests you; write it with passion and in cohesive sentences and the readers will come.” To finish off, a quote from Robert A Heinlein (1907 – 1988), the great science-fiction writer “You must write.”

Enjoy your day and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.

Decisions, decisions, decisions

I am really starting to be concerned about the future of the Province of Ontario for the next four years. On June 7, the citizens of Ontario will elect a new Premier (our version of a state governor).

The leader of the Progressive Conservative Party is Doug Ford, brother of the late mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford. When Doug was a city councillor during his brother’s term as mayor, he proved himself to be a bully toward other councillors and had some very different views. Among his pronouncements was an idea to close libraries to save money. Apparently Doug had never read a book and could see no reason why anybody should. Another instance that springs to mind was his opposition to a proposal to put a home for autistic children and young adults in his neighbourhood. His objections to this proposal were that it would lower property values in the area and that these people would be allowed outside.

Doug Ford has said he admires Donald Trump and some of his ideas and comments during this election campaign so far seem to show he’s taken a page from the Trump campaign playbook. (In comments on Facebook, I’ve referred to him as “Trump North”.) Like Trump, Doug likes to portray himself as “a man of the people”, but he counts his wealth in the millions. He claims he can save the province billions by finding “efficiencies”. No plan, no exact amounts disclosed, just “efficiencies. Sound familiar to my American readers? Figures pulled out of thin air, proposals to reduce business taxes, all the while not revealing how exactly he’s going to save this money that won’t involve raising taxes and cutting people. During a leadership debate yesterday, in response to a question on hiring immigrants to work in northern Ontario, Doug said “We should take care of our own first.” I think I heard all this stuff sometime during the 2016 presidential campaign in the US. According to the polls, Doug Ford and the PC party are leading by about a 14 point margin, so obviously there are people who like what he has to say. Oh yes – one more thing. It is tradition that the party leaders also provide a press bus. Doug isn’t doing so which is one way of controlling what the media reports on his campaign.

There is one thing that gives me hope he won’t be able to run unfettered over Ontario. In Canada, both federally and provincially, the leader of the party must win a seat in the legislature. Doug is running in a riding (electoral district for my American readers) that includes the city ward the Ford family considers a fiefdom and is the headquarters of “Ford Nation”, so it seems unlikely he will lose. But, in the Canadian political system, both federally and provincially, there are three major parties, In Ontario those parties are the Progressive Conservatives, led by Doug Ford; the Liberal Party of Ontario, led by Kathleen Wynne, the current Premier, and the New Democratic Party led by Andrea Horwath. This is what gives me hope. With three major parties and only a fourteen point lead, it appears to me that if Doug does become the next Premier of Ontario, he will have a minority government. Having the most seats will make him Premier, but not having a clear majority of those seats means he’ll have to offer some concessions to the other two parties to get legislation passed.

Personally, I have no idea at the moment how I’m going to vote. As I wrote, Doug Ford scares me. While Andrea Horwath and the NDP are saying some interesting things, the last time the NDP formed the provincial government during the ‘90’s, they almost destroyed the province. Auntie Kathleen and Liberals are also saying nice things, but they also have had some problems during their reign. Further complicating my decision is that the MPP for my riding, a Liberal, was of great help to me when I had some problems with my documents a couple of years ago. So, do I vote for the local representative who helped me as a form of reward for his help, knowing the spotty record of his party, the NDP who did so much damage in the past, or take a chance Doug won’t turn out to be a Trump clone?

I have about three weeks to decide, so I’ll be paying close attention to both the provincial and local campaigns.

I don’t care if you vote PC, NDP, Liberal, Green or some other party. But, on June 7, you must vote.

Cat.

Is that your high point?

I first wrote of this years ago, when I was using Blogspot, but it continues to irritate me, so here goes again.

Ontario is one of those jurisdictions that allow personalized license plates. Maximum of eight characters – letters and numbers only. Some show a lot of creativity, such as the Volvo I saw flying past me on the highway one day, well in excess of the posted limit (he must have been, because I was) with the personalized plate “NONE”.

Then there are the ones specific to the vehicle displaying them, like the white Volkswagen Rabbit with the plate “IM LATE”. Good, but if the next vehicle happens to be a minivan, the context is lost. Or “RED BMW”. As long as that person keeps buying red BMWs, fine.

But the ones that really irk me are those that celebrate a past event in the owner’s life. That is when I ask the question posed in the title. For example, I saw a vehicle one day with “SSGT RCR”, which to any former member of the Canadian armed forces can only mean the person was a Staff Sergeant in the Royal Canadian Regiment. For my non-military readers, the RCRs are a much decorated infantry regiment. As I said, with that plate, I have to ask whether the high point, the highest accomplishment of the owner, was being a non-commissioned officer in the army. What about all the years since? Has nothing else of import happened in your life since you left the service? I’m not denigrating anyone’s service to their country, I served myself, first in the Royal Canadian Engineers, then in the militia with the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada. But, I’m not going to get a personalized plate that reads “CPL QOR” to celebrate that fact.

No, I have something else in mind were I to get a personal plate. When I drove a cab, one customer, also a friend, told me she had my phone number listed on her cell phone as “leggy bitch” (I wore a lot of miniskirts in the cab – helped greatly with tips), so in order to avoid the censors in the Ministry of Transportation, I’d ask for “LG BEECH”. At the time, my cell phone number spelled out “legs”, so that plate would have seemed appropriate. At the moment, I have what the ministry calls “tourism plates” because they have Ontario’s official flower, the trillium, on them.

If you want personalized plates, go for it! But I would ask you to consider not commemorating something from thirty years ago.

Cat.

No Ben, just no

I try to avoid commenting on American politics on general principle because I have plenty of targets here in Ontario, but every once in a while comes a WTF moment that can’t be ignored. Such was the case earlier this month with the comments of Ben Carson. Something about immigrants coming to America in the holds of slave ships, working hard for less and dreaming of starting a new life for themselves. No Ben, just no. This is the sort of thing Kellyanne Conway would no doubt call “alternative history”.

Ben, these people were in the holds of slave ships because guess what? They were slaves! They were treated as cargo, not passengers. Once they arrived in America, they were property, not immigrants; not people who chose to come to America in hopes of a better life. They were ripped from their comfortable lives in various African countries and forcibly shipped to your fair shores. As property, they could be bought and sold, just as the plantation owner could buy and sell horses or cattle. And in many cases, the livestock was better treated than the slaves.

If they were dreaming of anything Ben, it wasn’t of making a better life for themselves in America. I’m just guessing here, but if they dreamt of anything, it was escaping, making contact with the Underground Railway and finding their way to Canada, where they could truly live as free people and make a better life.

Ben, I understand revisionist history is common in the administration of which you are part, where your president denies saying things he has been recorded as saying and other members deny speaking with the Russians despite proof to the contrary, but really, calling slaves “immigrants” is too much of a stretch. Immigrants indicates to me, at least, they came willingly, whereas slave ships did not carry willing, paying passengers. History texts are not printed in a looseleaf format for a reason: the past can’t be changed and is not subject to being altered at will by you or anyone else. . And “alternative history” is properly called “fiction”.

So, no Ben, just no.

Cat.

We must support our US friends in their fight for equality

In a posting on her site dated December 31, 2016 editor Jillian Page mentioned that she had considered shutting down LGBT Perspectives. In that posting she mentioned something that I’ll admit I take for granted and that is the incredible advances the Canadian LGBT communities have made in the decade since same-sex marriage became law of the land.

At both the federal and provincial levels laws have been enacted that give us the same rights, privileges and responsibilities as every other citizen of whichever province in which we live. As well, at the federal level, and not widely publicized, in February 2016, the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration quietly announced that Canadian citizens would be allowed to self-identify when it came to changing gender on federal documents, except the passport. You still have paperwork to fill out for that one. Otherwise, all you need is provincial documentation showing the changes to change any other federal ID.

While we revel in our new-found recognition, we must remember that our sisters and brothers south of the Canada/US border aren’t so fortunate. The different system of government in the US gives each state power to make its own laws. Consequently, members of the LGBT communities, especially the trans community, face a patchwork of laws with which to conform and hoops of varying sizes at different heights to negotiate to accomplish anything. This is true even with the Obama administration and from what I’ve seen, the difficulties will only increase under Trump.

I have seen estimates that put the number of trans Americans at 10% of the population, which translates to about 30,000,000 people. To put that in perspective for Canadian readers, that’s only slightly less than the population of Canada. Thirty million souls. Think about that number for a moment. According to pronouncements, both now and in the past, a Trump federal government and states governed by members of Trump’s party are declaring war on these people, either reducing or removing whatever protections previous administrations put in place. Perhaps one of the ,most egregious of these laws was North Carolina’s infamous HB 2, the so-called “bathroom bill”. From other reading I’ve done – and no, I don’t just rely on a single source for information – this is typical of what our sisters and brothers can expect to face over the next four years.

While we sit here north of the 49th parallel or Great Lakes, perhaps smugly because we haven’t had some of these struggles, we must not forget those who went before us that are the reason we have what we do. We must support our counterparts in the US in any way we can, even if it’s only to offer moral support so that even if they fail, those who follow will enjoy our freedoms.

Cat.