America, where have you gone?

I am really worried about the future of the United States of America. Let me explain my concerns. Since the spring of 2017, America appears to be on a downward spiral.

Thanks to the rhetoric of the apprentice president, the country seems to be more divided than at any other time in recent history. Emboldened by the vile words that emanated from the election campaign, and the apparent tacit approval of the Oval Office, the white supremacists and other nationalistic groups have attacked, verbally and physically, minorities; people of colour and people of other faiths. Has the apprentice done or said anything to alleviate this dissent and social unrest? No. In fact, when referring to the Charlottesville murder, he is quoted as saying there were probably “good people” on both sides. How the hell can someone who deliberately ran their vehicle into a group of peaceful demonstrators, killing one, be called a “good person?” Just about every day, there are reports of some white person calling the police because they see some black person doing something innocent. The comments issuing from the White House and some of the legislation and executive orders are doing nothing to ease the “us against them’ mentality that seems to have taken hold in the so-called “land of the free”. Or does that phrase have an asterisk after it now: *provided you’re a white American citizen?

Immigrants are being targeted. We’ve all seen or heard of the current situation where children of all ages are being separated from their parents if they try to cross the southern border outside a regular border-crossing point.

The economy is another area the apprentice president seems to be intent on destroying. Trade barriers in the form of tariffs while good in theory, don’t work in practice. When a country imposes punitive duties on imports, two things happen. First, imported goods become more expensive. If the goods are materials for the manufacture of products, the costs are passed along to the end user – you. If finished products are imported, the same thing happens – you end up paying more for that product. Why is this? Simple. Because the manufacturer or importer isn’t going to eat those additional costs since it will affect their profits, therefore the consumer pays more. The second thing trade barriers do is cause the countries affected by American import duties to retaliate by imposing their own extra duties on American products. The result? The other country will buy less from American suppliers because of the extra duties; and they’ll find a manufacturer in some other country that can provide goods of a comparable quality at a lower cost. According to a news report I saw tonight on one of the news channels, at the moment, Washington has imposed punitive extra duties on goods from countries, and had those countries impose similar duties on American goods, that account for two-thirds of American foreign trade. I have read in the last couple of days that BMW, which manufactures vehicles in the US, is going to move some production to China to avoid the tariffs the Chinese have imposed on the import of automobiles manufactured in the US. Even if you’re not an economics major, you know what effect those actions are going to have on the economy of the United States? If you said they will cost jobs, you pass the course.

Internationally, in addition to the imposition of trade barriers, the apprentice appears to have made it his personal mission to alienate nations that have long been staunch allies of the US. His habit of meddling or commenting on the internal affairs of other nations have done much to ensure that other countries don’t like America much right now. Just today, at the NATO meeting in Brussels, he tore a strip of Germany for their reliance on natural gas from Russia, going so far as to call Germany “a slave of Russia”. I’m certain that Angela Merkel loved hearing that from someone many in her country consider a buffoon. In the meantime, while driving allies away, he is making efforts to become friends with Vladimir Putin, the leader of a country long considered America’s sworn enemy.

The military is another area that seems to have attracted the attention of “the powers? that be”. Having failed to have any and all transgender members discharged, they have turned their attention to immigrants serving in the armed forces. Some are being discharged, often with no reason given, or a vague “national security” reason, with no specifics provided. Such action can only serve to weaken morale in the armed forces. Having worked for a company that at one time, was reducing staff, I know that such actions lead to a general feeling of “am I going to be here next week? Or am I the next on the chopping block?”

A country divided internally by strife; with a struggling economy and a weakened and demoralized military is a prime target for some power with a hatred of the US to consider an attack of some type. This may not be an actual physical occupation, it could take the form of an economic takeover of the United States instead. No fuss, no muss and the objective is still achieved.

I seriously hope I’m wrong, but from what I’ve seen, this appears to be very possible.

Cat.

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Do it your way

Every once in a while, someone will look at some of my photos, or read something I’ve written and suggest that I should teach photography and/or writing. That presents a problem for me.

I’m sure that each of you is very good at some pastime that gives you a sense of accomplishment. But, how would you go about explaining to somebody else just how you do it? That’s the problem with my photography and writing. Oh, I could probably teach each, but the course would be twenty minutes tops. I’ll try here to explain how I do what I do.

Photography: My philosophy is simple – if something catches your attention, snap it. You may look at the image on the camera screen and not see what you expected, but wait until you get it up on the computer screen when you process it. (I do digital photography, so my comments are restricted to computer processing.) The larger image may show you something surprising that you can turn into a beautiful photo. The photo at the top of this is an example of a photo I thought was “okay” until I saw it on the monitor, then it went up in my estimation.

Take advice if offered. I’ve had some free-lance photographers give me some advice that I think is worth passing on. First, remember that a digital camera darkens an image about 30 – 40% from what you see with your eye. You’ll want to restore that brightness before anything else. This of course wouldn’t apply if you feel the darker image is more effective.

Next, a free-lancer told me to avoid weddings if at all possible because you’ll never please everyone.

Finally, if you want to be a free-lance news photographer, the best advice I was given for this was “f8 and be there”. You can’t take the shot if you aren’t at the scene and an aperture of f8 will give you a decent depth of field.

As I said, I do digital photography and process my own work. There are many photo processing programmes available. My personal preference is a Corel programme called “Paintshop”. Some people prefer Adobe’s Photoshop. I’ve used both and prefer Paintshop. If you can, try as many as you can – some places offer free trial copies – before spending your money on one.

The choice of camera is up to the user. Many of my best work was done with a Canon point and shoot, including the header photo. I currently use a Canon DSLR, but depending upon my plans for the day, I have often used the camera in my phone. The quality of phone cameras has improved greatly.

I’m torn about suggesting photography courses. Yes, I can see the benefits for some people, but when I told an artist friend it had been suggested I take one, her comment was “Why? That would only ruin you. The course would only teach you to take photos the way the instructor does.” If you feel you’d benefit from one, go for it. As my friend said, if you feel competent, save your money.

In photography the most important advice I was given was that you have to have imagination and the ability to think outside the box. Photography is as much about feeling as technique.

Writing: I’ve always written, at least back as far as Grade 5. I was fortunate in having teachers who encouraged my writing and have since received advice from others. There are many courses in creative writing available through community colleges that you can take. My ex-partner was part of a group of writers who would meet once a week and present short stories for criticism. Some members were published authors; some were taking courses and others just sat down to write. Through the members of this group (I was a casual member since they often met at our house) I learned the proper format for submitting stories, but that’s about all.

Most often, aspiring writers are told “write what you know”. That is fine if you’re writing factual articles and stories. I have a blog and frequently write opinion pieces that I laughingly refer to as “rants, raves and reasoned discussions – reader’s choice.” The main exception to that is a series of blogs under the general title “Bring him to justice”. This series concerns the attempts by the Toronto Police Service to arrest a man charged with several counts of aggravated sexual assault. This series is factual and, full disclosure here, I’m doing it because I know several people he dated.

For my fiction, it’s rather difficult to write fiction strictly sticking to “what you know”. If I’m writing fiction, the process usually starts with me asking myself “what if…?” then writing a piece to answer the question.

Perhaps the best advice the writer me was given was “write the way you speak.” If you don’t use multi-syllable words as part of your usual vocabulary, don’t use them in your writing. I sometimes paraphrase this as “if you don’t use ten dollar words all the time, don’t use them in your writing, even if you get them half-off. You’ll probably mis-use them.” Something else – spelling counts. Spell-check is great in most cases, but if you use a homophones – and yes, I had to check the definition of this – such as “hear” or “here”, spell-check won’t catch it. Proofread, then proofread again.

There. My courses on photography and writing are finished. As the title suggests “do it your way.” Class dismissed.

Remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.

Submissions wanted from LGBT and HIV communities

I’m a transwoman and my co-writer, a positive woman, are working on a project detailing how society treats members of the LGBT and HIV/AIDS communities at the various stages of our journeys. A few years ago, I spoke with a psychologist at CAMH in Toronto who thought such a book would be a great benefit to them in their work.

We have our own experiences to draw on, but would like to hear other people’s experiences. No names will be used in this and any submissions will be checked to remove any clues that might give away your location. For example, if a submission from Toronto refers to “streetcars”, that would be replaced with the term “public transit” and any route names or number removed. Additionally, specific cities will be removed and replaced with either the name of your province or state, or a more generic term such as “midwest” will be substituted. We will do everything we can to protect your identity.

We both have friends in the LGBT and HIV/AIDS communities, so can call upon them for information, but that would be quite localized in scope. We need to hear from others, not just in Canada, but from anywhere. We especially would like to hear from transmen, for their experiences would no doubt be much different from my own. If you have generally found acceptance, great! Please tell us for that may give those just starting their new lives hope that things will get better. If you’ve experienced discrimination, or worse, please share that as well. Others need to know what pitfalls and danger may await them. Either way, we would like to share your story.

If you are willing to share your journey, you can send it to us at the following email address: 1outcastsofsociety@gmail.com Please remember the “1″ at the start of the address as the address without the numeral is taken.

Thank you,
Cat.

Could I have some logic with that?

I haven’t picked on commercials in a while, and there are two at the moment that bother me because they appear to treat the viewer as unable to think. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect these are being shown internationally. (I have a transportation background, so to me “international” refers to Canada/US, not overseas.)

First is a spot for the Chevrolet Malibu. The vehicle is in a showroom, surrounded by a group of people. They are asked to describe the car in one word. Among the replies is “fast”. Idiot! This is sitting in a showroom, so how the hell do you know it’s fast? It could be a real slug on the road? Case in point: back in the late seventies and early eighties, the Thunderbird had a reputation for being a car that could bring it. In the years I mention, it was powered by a 2.3 litre four. I had the same engine in my ‘81 Mercury Zephyr and even with the four speed transmission I had, there is no way I could characterize it as “fast”. So how the hell can you tell, just by looks, this Malibu is fast?

 

Next is an ad for ZZZquil. Man is lying in bed and a mechanic rolls his creeper out from under the bed and says something along the lines of (and I think I’m quoting accurately here) “your car’s in terrible shape. It needs parts I’ve never even heard of. And it’s going to cost a fortune.” Okay. Number 1, if you’ve never heard of these parts, how do you know the car needs them? As an addition to this, if you’ve never heard of them, I don’t think much of your abilities as a mechanic. And, number 2, if you have no idea what these parts are, how do you know it will be expensive to replace them?

In both these commercials, which I presume are meant to be serious, the one thing lacking is logic. In the case of the Malibu, unless that man has driven one, or been beaten by one at a stoplight drag race, how does he know how fast it is? In the Zzzquil ad, well, I asked the questions in the last paragraph.

Commercials such as these two, which talk down to viewers and potential customers, do not impress me, nor probably a lot of other people. Logic may be as rare as common sense, but some of us do possess it and don’t like being treated as if we aren’t intelligent enough to buy and use the products being hawked.

Cat.

 

Enjoying summer safely

Summer is almost upon us which, if you live in a climate that has four seasons (five in you include road construction), means we’ll be shedding our bulky winter clothing. That also means keeping ourselves safe. I’m not an expert on personal safety, but having survived a stalker, I think I can offer some suggestions that may help.

One thing that can help you is your smartphone. It can be used for more than selfies or food photos. For example, if you are, or suspect you are, being followed by someone who may not have the best of intentions, take their picture. Now, I don’t mean when you’re walking down the street and someone is behind you, you should automatically snap a photo. They may have a legitimate reason for being there. But, if over the course of a couple or three days the same person seems to always be everywhere you are, then take a photo and don’t be subtle about it. You want them to know. If they have less than honourable designs upon you, that you have captured their image may discourage them.

Something else to consider, which works well in daylight. When you go out, you’re probably dressed attractively. Don’t be afraid to check out yourself in any window or reflective surface you pass. Not from any sense of vanity – girl, you know you’re lookin’ good – but it will give you a chance to see if there is someone creepy behind you. If you’re out at night, especially on a side street, pay attention to shadows. Try to walk on whichever side of the street is illuminated best by streetlights. Shadows can warn you if someone appears to be closing on you quickly and give you a chance to take whatever action you feel may be necessary. And where possible, walk facing traffic. Trust your instincts.

To borrow a line from “Hill Street Blues” – be careful out there.

Enjoy your summer.

Cat.

Kellyanne Conway explained

INTENDED AS HUMOUR OR SARCASM AND NOT TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY

As a Canadian and not directly involved in the recent American election, I’ve refrained from commenting on the fallout from the results of that election except for the occasional snarky comment of other people’s Facebook posts. To be honest, Donald Trump scares the living hell out of me.  But Kellyanne Conway and some of her bizarre comments are just too tempting to resist.

If you read or watch science fiction, you are no doubt aware of the concept of alternate universes.  This concept goes a long way to explaining her comments, specifically the “Bowling Green Massacre.”    It should be obvious to even the most casual follower of news and/or politics that she is not from this planet.

An alternate universe would easily explain her comments.  In our universe (the “real” universe) Bowling Green is known as the location of GM’s Corvette assembly line.  But, in the universe usually inhabited by Ms Conway, it was the scene of a terrible massacre by terrorists.

The problem isn’t that she’s using alternative facts, it’s that with her ability to engage in interdimensional travel, she sometimes forgets which universe she’s occupying.  There, problem solved and her weird statements explained.  Think about it – what else makes sense.

Enjoy your day and remember to hug an artist – we need love too, no matter what universe we inhabit.

Cat.

Bring him to justice – one step closer

This is one of those pieces I’ve been waiting to write.

I have confirmed information that the Toronto Police Service will be travelling to Jamaica next Tuesday and returning Wednesday with George Flowers. That brings him nearer to facing justice in a Canadian court.

Once again I admit I’m torn by this. On the one side, I’m glad to see Flowers finally in a court to face his accusers. On the other is the fact that those accusers will have their carefully rebuilt lives torn apart by his legal representative. To be honest, I’m not sure the damage that will done to these people this time around is worth it. He destroyed many lives once and now the legal system gives him a chance to do it again.

If you have had sex with this man, please, please, go to your doctor and get tested for HIV.. And also go to the police for you don’t have to be positive to file a complaint.

I’ll update this as and when more information becomes available.

Cat.