Feminists/bisexuals/women don’t have senses of humour.

I owe a debt of gratitude to my friends in high school for rescuing me from the clutches of American-style humour.  I am generalizing here, I realize.  American humour varies depending on the comic/show.  However, I am talking about the stereotypical style of American humour that can be found in most sitcoms/films and spouted by many comedians.  This kind of humour relies heavily on misogynistic jokes, racist or stereotypical jokes, and poop/fart/bodily fluids and functions jokes.

In my childhood, I enjoyed the humour of Nickelodeon shows (particularly All That, featuring Lori Beth Denberg.  Let me talk about her for a moment. Lori Beth Denberg was fat…a fat actress in a TV show I watched a lot.  That meant so much to me, a fat girl in our world.  Here was a fat girl being funny and being successful.  She wasn’t being used as a prop or as the butt of jokes delivered by thin kids.  She was a jokester in her own right.), BlossomFull HouseALFPunky Brewster, etc.  Later, I enjoyed shows such as Roseanne (I didn’t see the final season, but I remember reading about it), SNL, The Simpsons, and In Living Color. I fell for some (not all) of the films of Chris Farley, Adam Sandler, and other SNL alumni and alumnae.

However, in high school, my group of geeky, freaky, outcast friends introduced me to The Rocky Horror Picture Show and to British humour in the form of AbFab and Monty Python and the Holy Grail. That was it.  Oh, American-style humour would still hold some sway over my laughter.  However, my sense of humour expanded.  Yes, British humour has some similar problems of misogyny and racism and stereotyping as American humour.

Since those early days, I have discovered the joys of shows like The Vicar of Dibley (thanks to my British friend Jay for sending me audiotapes of this show long before I actually saw it), ClatterfordLittle Britain, and (more recently) 8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown.  I also discovered and enjoy Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series.

Let me address Little Britain here.  Little Britain is a sketch comedy narrated by Tom Baker and starring Matt Lucas and David Walliams.  There is one sketch on the show I won’t watch.  It is a sketch where an older woman always projectile vomits, a symptom of her gross racism.  I just don’t want to watch someone vomit.  There are also problematic sketches.  There is one where Matt Lucas is dressed and painted to look like Mr. T.  “Mr. T” is working out in a gym and, when asked by another gym-goer, claims not to be Mr. T nor to know who Mr. T is (despite that fact that he drives an A-team style vehicle in the end).  The disturbing, racist history of blackface makes this sketch uncomfortable at best.  Another problematic sketch involves Bubbles DeVere, a large lady who spends all her time at a spa and evades her bill by attempting to seduce the spa manager.  Matt Lucas wears a fat-woman suit for this sketch, as the character continually loses or takes off her spa towel in sketches.  While I love that she’s confident and sexual, I feel that the audience is meant to go “ooh, gross” when she propositions the manager of the spa or shows her naked fat body.  (There is also the problematic bit where David Walliams is dressed and painted to be a large Woman of Colour married to Bubbles’ ex-husband, who is incidentally not fat.)

The introduction to British humour paved the way for my enjoyment of Canadian humour.  My earliest encounter with Canadian humour was through the band Moxy Früvous.  After I moved to Canada, the political humour of This Hour Has 22 Minutes and Royal Canadian Air Farce won me over.

I still enjoy the exceptional pieces of American humour (The Daily Show for one).

However, in general, I need more than the don’t-be-a-girl, I-want-to-kill-my-mother, gross jokes of mainstream American humour.

There is one American comedy I really wanted to like:  The Big Bang Theory.  It’s about scientists and geeks.  What’s not to like?  Sadly, it is so full of the misogyny (period jokes made supposedly funny by Sheldon using big words to say them; Raj being told “don’t be a girl,” because he’s creeped out by bugs).  I gave the show a go.  I did.  I kept hoping it would get better.  Mayim Bialik (Blossom) is on the show, for goodness’ sake.  In the end, however, the show came across to me as a typical American sitcom with a geek veneer.  So I stopped watching.

In conclusion, I will leave you with this video of one of my newfound favourite British comedians Josie Long.

Extermi–I mean, Vaccinate, Vaccinate

A recent outbreak of measles thought to originate in Disneyland has somehow granted people permission to unleash a slew of vitriol on social media against people who choose not to vaccinate (so-called anti-vaxxers).  (The note at the end of the linked article is important to read:  “This story was amended on Monday 19 January to clarify that California health department officials say the unvaccinated woman thought to have spread the disease after a visit to a Disney park in December is not the origin of the outbreak.”)

Who are anti-vaxxers?  If you believe the various blogs and political cartoons, anti-vaxxers are crunchy granola (read: “dirty hippie”), white, suburban parents who think vaccines cause autism.

Do you know what that is called?  It’s called a stereotype.

People who choose not to vaccinate choose to do so for a variety of reasons.  Yes, some individuals claim vaccines cause autism (which the CDC and others claim is false).  (The Brtitish Journal BMJ which published the editorial about the vaccine-autism study also had to add this correction:  “The BMJ should have declared competing interests in relation to this editorial by Fiona Godlee and colleagues…The BMJ Group receives advertising and sponsorship revenue from vaccine manufacturers, and specifically from Merck and GSK, which both manufacture MMR vaccines.”)  Yes, some people are concerned about a cover-up by the CDC regarding the MMR vaccine, which Forbes magazine debunks here.  (Interesting to note Dr. Verstraeten’s quote:  “Because the findings of the first phase were not replicated in the second phase, the perception of the study changed from a positive to a neutral study. Surprisingly, however, the study is being interpreted now as negative by many, including the antivaccine lobbyists. The article does not state that we found evidence against an association, as a negative study would. It does state, on the contrary, that additional study is recommended, which is the conclusion to which a neutral study must come.”)  However, those aren’t the only reasons that people choose not to vaccinate.

One related reason some people choose not to vaccinate is a lack of trust in the medical community.  For example, Merck is being sued for fraud over its MMR vaccine.  There is concern over a lack of independent testing of vaccinations.  The Public Health Agency of Canada says there is independent testing.  The CDC page on the matter is a little confusing.  It says:

“Clinical development is a three-phase process. During Phase I, small groups of people receive the trial vaccine. In Phase II, the clinical study is expanded and vaccine is given to people who have characteristics (such as age and physical health) similar to those for whom the new vaccine is intended. In Phase III, the vaccine is given to thousands of people and tested for efficacy and safety.”

Are the “thousands of people” all the people who take the vaccine once it’s approved, or is it an actual clinical study involving thousands of people?(According to WHO, vaccines do undergo independent testing; however, I don’t know if this just applies to vaccines sent overseas.)  When Gardisil came out, I was concerned.  It seemed the vaccine was rushed out to the public, and the impression I got was that there were no long-term studies done on this vaccine.  It seems that long-term studies are ongoing.  Are long-term studies generally done after a vaccine is approved?  Does that make sense?  I suppose it does in a society that is in such a rush with regards to, well, everything.  Further to the point of trust, when trust is broken, it can be difficult to earn it back.

Another reason for not vaccinating is a parent may have had a child vaccinated, only to have that child have a severe allergic reaction.  (It isn’t common, but it does happen.)

Another reason is ethics.  When we went to Public Health to get my child’s vaccines, we were given information sheets.  One of the sheets mentioned there being gelatin in at least one of the vaccines.  This raises an ethical question.  I’m vegan.  I have since learned that vaccines contain albumin (egg whites/egg proteins), as well.  Many vegans realize it is impossible to be strictly, purely vegan in our current world.  We are forced to make hard ethical choices, weighing benefit vs. risk, weighing benefit vs. suffering.  I have also seen it mentioned a couple times that vaccines contain aborted fetal cells.  According to Immunize Canada, while aborted fetal cells from “legal abortions from the 1960s” are used to grow the viruses in the early stages of the vaccines, “[d]uring purification of the vaccine all cells are removed.”  For some people, this use of aborted fetal cells is also an ethical dilemma.

Initially, I was thinking that if you want more people to vaccinate you need to give them adequate information.  This article argues to the contrary.  After watching The Cove (a good, terrible, difficult movie to watch; go watch it!) and learning that vaccines have/had mercury in them, I was seriously concerned.  Apparently, currently only multi-dose inactivated influenza vaccines still contain thimerasol (and “trace amounts” in other vaccines).  What would ease my mind would be a list of ingredients for each vaccine, and information about what each ingredient does in the vaccine (for example:  formaldehyde – “[t]o kill viruses or inactivate toxins during the manufacturing process”).  It’s like the Tom’s of Maine toothpaste label.  Despite the fact that that company was bought by Colgate-Palmolive (which has a voluntary moratorium on animal testing but goes on to say in this report that it limits animal testing) in 2006, I do like that they provide a list of ingredients, the source of said ingredients, and what they do in the product.  I would like to see a list like that for vaccines.  It won’t change the views of every person who chooses not to vaccinate; what’s in the vaccines is not the sole reason people are against them.  For people like me, however, it adds to our ability to make an informed choice, whatever that choice will be.

Update

I’m a few days late announcing it on here, but my book Sore:  fantasies and inhibitions is now available on Kindle!

Meanwhile, I am planning my next big project.  I am also doing well with my goal of two submissions per week.  This past week, I actually submitted to a paying journal.  Fingers crossed on that one.  :-)

This morning, I achieved my goal of getting up half an hour earlier than usual to allow more writing time.  Sadly, I did very little writing.  I have a PIP (Poem-In-Progress), but the words wouldn’t flow.  On the up side, I have done some research and planning for my next big project.  So there’s that.  I need to get off of the computer soon and do my daily yoga (another goal).

See you on the stretchy side!

Just Call

Here is a poem inspired by the ever-inspiring Bea:

Just Call

I have a new number,
but I don’t know what it is.
Just call me on the Ouija board,
she says.
I pull out the box
dusty     dusty     dusty

We were teenagers calling spirits
Whom will I marry?
As if they had time for that,
E-N-D-I-S-N-I-G-H
What is your name?
H-E-X-I-N-G
What is your birthdate?
N-O-V-E-M-B-E-R-D-I-E-S
We pretended it made sense
pretended we weren’t pushing
fingers
past the breaking point of maybe
to the solid heartbreak of No
or even Yes.

Bored, we put away the board,
and we grew up.
I called my spirit into life
the breathing forest
a pulsing promise       motherhood.
She called spirits down
into glass and drank and drank
and floated up the river to Any Street
and city lights.

Of course, we both know poets lie
in that kind way
we can call it Art.
I always touched the Ouija board alone
When will he come?  He?  She?
N-U-E-R
More to the truth of it

Now I’m calling you
Do you hear me?
Can you hear me?
Am I getting through?
E-N-D-I-S-N-I-G-H

© 2015 by Robin A. Sams

The Self-Publishing Conference. Or, hire a professional. Hire a professional. Did I mention hire a professional?

Yesterday I went to the Vancouver Island Self-Publishing Conference.  It was put on by the Federation of BC Writers.  There were a number of speakers about different aspects of self-publishing, such as editing and book/cover design.

While I took notes and learned some great information, the first three-quarters of the conference left me feeling discouraged.  The editor speakers’ advice?  Ultimately, hire a professional.  The author of Self-Publishing in Canada Suzanne Anderson’s advice about book design?  Ultimately, hire a professional.  (I do recognize the value of hiring an editor and/or a graphic designer.  My point is not to make light of their services.)  Then representatives from two book printers on the island spoke about their various services.  Then Bruce Batchelor of Agio Publishing House spoke about marketing, and it was clear to me whom they felt the audience in the room was.  He spoke about how “we” have discretionary income:  if our TV breaks, “we” can buy a new one; “we” live in large houses with only two people in them; et cetera.  The majority of the audience probably did have discretionary income.  The majority of the audience was two or three decades (or more) older than I am.  Of course, this is me generalizing, too. The speakers made it obvious to me that they were gearing their speeches toward a middle- to upper middle-class audience.

I have a discretionary income of zero.

I wasn’t the only person in the room like that.

However, I am glad I stayed for the whole conference.  For one thing, I got to hear Shaleeta Harper and Philip Gordon talk about text, the free lit magazine in town.  They talked about how they started the magazine, the philosophy behind it, and how they went about doing it.  (I already knew some things about their magazine, having been to the magazine’s launch last October.)  They also touched on crowdfunding, which they plan on doing in the near future.

I would have found it exceedingly helpful if there had been a speaker at the conference talking specifically about crowdfunding as a means to funding your publishing projects.  I was pleased that I recognized the various crowdfunding sites Ms. Harper and Mr. Gordon mentioned (indiegogo, Kickstarter, Patreon).  I am considering which crowdfunding platform will be appropriate for some projects I want to do, so stay tuned for that.

A new year

At the start of the new year, I quit my main day job.  It was time.  Well, past time, really.  Last weekend, I received my certification in Emergency Child Care First Aid  and CPR.  That class was fun, although I hope I don’t have to use most of the knowledge I learned.  I still have one very part-time retail day job, and I will soon be looking to do child care in my home (once I get our apartment de-cluttered and cleaned until it “shines like the top of the Chrysler building;” something like that).

As for writing, I have made the goal this year of two submissions per week until April.  So far, I’m doing well with it.  I made a goal of one submission per week until April last year.  Why until April?  April is National Poetry Month and is the time when I take part in NaPoWriMo, writing a poem a day for the whole month.  I am also planning on taking part in the Big Poetry Giveaway this year.  After April, I’ll review my progress with the initial submission goal and decide where to go from there.

I also have a couple big projects in mind that still require research and some additional thought.  All in all, I am looking forward to a year of change and a year of writing.

Done

it is time         past time
the last straw happened
ages ago.
Letting go     let it go
push past this year
heartache     mold of misery     year of tears
pushing on into a new year
where city lights sparkle and shine
a heartbeat waits in my hands
home is the cozy safe place
I am done
being pushed down   down
I cannot breathe
glass glitter inhaled    the rhythm of not enough
I open my arms
jump into terror    to flight
to maybe
because I know
there will be hands.

© 2014 by Robin A. Sams

Hey, Beautiful, let’s talk about this song.

Trigger warning: talk about coercion and sexual assault.

I’m going to talk about what’s probably my least favourite Christmas song.  No, I’m not talking about the ones that stop mid-song to preach at you to love Jesus and the Holy Spirit (although I really think I shouldn’t have to be subjected to those songs while I’m at work).  I’m talking about “It’s Cold Outside.” I never really paid attention to this song until last year, when I actually listened to the lyrics.  It’s a popular song for covers, including  this recent one by one of the stars of Frozen Idina Menzel with Michael Bublé (wow, I had a difficult time watching that video all the way through due to the sexualization of the children).  There’s also this interesting one by She & Him, where the parts are reversed.

Here are the lyrics (from MetroLyrics):

I really can’t stay (Baby, it’s cold outside)
I’ve got to go way (Baby, it’s cold outside)
The evening has been (I’ve been hopin’ that you’d drop in)
So very nice (I’ll hold your hand, they’re just like ice)

My mother will start to worry (Hey, beautiful, what’s your hurry)
And Father will be pacing the floor (Listen to that fireplace roar)
So really, I’d better scurry (Beautiful, please don’t hurry)
Well, maybe just a half a drink more (Put some music on while I pour)

The neighbors might think (Baby, it’s bad out there)
Say, what’s in this drink (No cabs to be had out there)
I wish I knew how (Your eyes are like starlight now)
To break this spell (I’ll take your hat, your hair looks swell)

I oughtta say no, no, no sir (You mind if I move in closer)
At least I’m gonna say that I tried (And what’s the sense in hurting my pride)
I really can’t stay (Oh baby, don’t hold out)
Oh, but it’s cold outside

I simply must go (It’s cold outside)
The answer is no (Baby, it’s cold outside)
The welcome has been (So lucky that you dropped in)
So nice and warm (Look out the window at that storm)

My sister will be suspicious (Your lips look delicious)
My brother will be there at the door (I ain’t worried about you brother)
My maiden aunt’s mind is vicious (That ol’ biddy, she ain’t gonna bother me)
Well, maybe just a cigarette more (You don’t need no cigarette, its smokin’ plenty up in here)

I’ve got to get home (Baby, you’ll freeze out there)
Say, lend me a coat (It’s up to your knees out there)
You’ve really been grand (I thrill when you touch my hand)
Oh, but don’t you see (How can you do this thing to me)

There’s bound to be talk tomorrow (Well, think of my lifelong sorrow)
At least there will be plenty implied (If you caught pneumonia and died)
I really can’t stay (Get over that hold out)
Oh, but baby its cold outside

The line that threw me off and made me actually listen to this song:  “Say, what’s in this drink?”  Wait…what?  Did he just drug her? While actually listening to this song, red flags flew up in my mind.  I wanted to shout to the woman:  “Get out!  Get out of there!  He’s going to sexually assault you!  He may have put something in your drink!  Call a friend!  Get out of there!”

The (traditionally) male part is all about coercing the (traditionally) female part into staying the night.  If she is actually interested in staying the night, then she is taking part in the stereotypical dating advice of playing “hard to get.”  (Psst…here’s better advice:  Never play hard to get.  No means no, and an enthusiastic yes means yes.)  There’s also the underlying idea that if she stays the night, there will be Talk.  In other words, her family and the neighbours will think she’s a slut (shock!  gasp!  a terrible thing!).

Why couldn’t the guy just lend her a coat?  If she had a great time, and she indicates that she did, she’ll come hang out with him again (maybe when it’s not so cold outside).  If she likes the guy, she’ll stay the night with him when she’s ready, not when he’s guilt-tripping her about how sad he would be if she got sick and died from the cold outside.

How can you do this thing to me?”  What thing?  Tell you “no?”  Give you a hard-on but not follow through?  “Get over that hold out.”    What?  Yeah, you know what?  I’d rather be out in the cold.  Bye-bye!

An observation

In poverty, you often bleed one wound in order to staunch another wound.

My unspeakable wife Queen Lisa

The neutrality of my last post came completely apart by Halloween.  That afternoon, the wave of betrayal swept over me.  How could he?  How could he do these things to those women? How could he do this to us Früheads?  How could he do this to his fans?  How could he…?

And I am past it.  I am reading less but still listening.  I am hopeful at the re-connecting with fellow Früheads but sad that this was the reason for our re-connection.  I sincerely hope Jian gets the help he needs.  I also sincerely hope the women involved are able to heal.

While some people are questioning whether to throw out their old Früvous CDs, I am not.  (The blog to which I just linked raises some valid questions; I think everyone is inconsistent when it comes to these questions.  Humans make decisions based on emotions and rationalized thinking a lot.)  Jian Ghomeshi was one-fourth of Moxy Früvous.  He wasn’t the frontman, as some news articles have called him.  He was one out of four members.  I haven’t actually listened to their music much in many years.  I know some fellow Früheads are listening to their music now to aid in the processing of this whole business.  The show In the Red on the local campus and community radio station here played “King of Spain” last night.  That’s a Dave song, and one of the band’s best songs (in my opinion).  I turned it up and remembered the joy.

 

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