Thursday, February 25, 2016

My Blog is Not a Platform

Platform, Part One
I’m an artistic writer.  For fun. Earlier this week my over-cheerful brother told me, “If you’re an artist, then you should have a platform.”

 “A platform?”

Cheerful smile. “Sure, like when Abraham Lincoln did his debates in the pasture. He and his pal Douglas stood on a platform to be heard.”

I grunted. “I thought he stood on a stump. But yes, I’ve heard of writers having a blog as a platform. In fact, I’m still laughing about Chuck Norris trying to persuade the publisher to take a chance on publishing his life story—
“—Even the dark is afraid of Chuck Norris—”
“Yes, well; he finally resorted to telling the publisher he had just won the Karate championship—and that would mean Karate fans from all over would be his market. The publisher accepted Chuck’s reasoning. I’m glad, because I really liked Chuck’s book.” (The Secret of My Inner Strength)

“However,” I shook my head “I’m still not convinced I need a blog as my platform.” (Should I take up karate?)

“But Sean,” said my brother, smiling very broadly “you believe in capitalism, don’t you?”

“Yes,” I said cautiously.

“When any capitalist has lots of cash then you have to respect what he says, right? And get this—An artist made lots of cash, he was on the New York Times best-seller list, for two books explaining how every artist and writer should have a blog as a platform.

I looked cautious. “OK”

My brother enthused, “You simply tell the public, with your blog, what they want to know about something, so they keep coming back.”

My shoulders slumped. “This artist probably blogs about life in Paris, and painting along the river Seine, and life in the artist colony, and wild parties with models… I can’t do that.

I know,” he sympathized “when you’re a pasty white writer in a basement dank and lonely it’s hard to have any life to write about.”

I just made a face.

His smile got big and energetic again. “This guy, he knows all about art—and rivers and models—he shares how his art is coming along, he gives lessons in how he creates it.”

My shoulders stayed slumped. “Yes but— I guess, the only thing I know about is writing.” Then I brightened up: “I could blog on how to write! That could be my platform! … I wonder if anybody else has done that?”

My brother talked hurriedly: “Oh I’m sure they have, platforms are the latest thing, now you run along and go blog.”

… I got right on it. So here, ladies and gentlemen, I present my new platform:
Lesson One

First let me set the scene from the novel Danger in Deep Space
(page 34-35, volume two, copyright 1953 by Rockhill Radio, published by Grosset and Dunlap)

Three heroic space cadets are in their spaceship, the solar alliance cruiser Polaris, in 1953— I mean, the book is copyright 1953. From the series, “Tom Corbett, Space Cadet.” The series used to be advertised on the backs of the Hardy Boys books, remember?

The Polaris has been hurtling through the darkness of space with its crew of three cadets, and their tough commander too. Tom Corbett, earnest like the 1950’s boy next door, is on the control deck, while up on the radar deck in the nose is Roger Manning, a dark haired ladies man, and down on the power deck is the muscular Astro. No last name, just Astro. (No, he’s not Vulcan: He’s an orphan raised on Venus—so just one name) Major Connel is on the control deck with Tom. Now the Polaris is approaching a defended space station. The station is hailing them.  

…Shall I answer her?” asked Roger over the intercom.

“Of course, you space-brained idiot, and make it fast!” exploded Connel. “What do you want to do? Get us blasted out of space?”

“Yes, sir!” replied Roger. “Right away, sir!”

Tom kept his eyes on the teleceiver screen above his head. The image of the space station loomed large and clear.

“Approaching a little too fast, I think, sir,” volunteered Tom. “Shall I make the adjustment?”

“What’s the range?” asked Connel.

Tom named a figure.

“Ummmmh,” mused Connel. He glanced quickly over the dials and then nodded in assent. Tom turned once more to the intercom. “Control deck to power deck,” he called. “Stand by for maneuvering, Astro, and reduce your main drive thrust to minimum space speed.”
First, notice the action words, like “nodded, glanced, turned.” Readers like action.

Then notice the verbal action tags, like “called, replied, asked.”

In other chapters, when Connel is not present, and when the cadets, on their respective decks, are talking to each other, you can practically hear the camera going “whoosh!” to move to each cadet. That’s action. My point is this: Readers of today are raised on screens and tablets, they are used to action visuals like they would see on camera. They don’t like people merely talking. They even have a contemptuous word: “talking heads.”

Hence the use above of “volunteered, exploded, mused.”

Writers beware: Certain clichés have been used so often they barely show on the reader’s radar as action; others have been so overused they don’t register at all, in fact, they might as well be dead. Such a word that cannot touch the senses of a reader is called a “dead cliche.” Charles Dickens satirized the use of dead clichés when he began A Christmas Carol with (From my mistaken memory of the condensed version) “Marley was dead. Deader than a doornail, if a doornail can be said to be dead.” His point, of course, with a wink, was no reader would be actively be visualizing a doornail. No action. The doornail cliché, truly, was dead, dead, dead.

Writers be careful: The deadest tag of all? He said. …What do you visualize for "he said?" ... Nothing! It’s a dead cliché! If you write ‘said’ then what you have is a ‘talking head,’ barely alive. Meaning: your prose is barely alive.
So here is Lesson One: Seldom say, “he said.” Use it only occasionally, for variety.

You’re welcome.

Next week, same blog, same platform, we’ll have Lesson Two—How to write a literary classical whizz bang sex scene to make tons of money but-don’t-tell-your-mother so you can afford to vacation on an island in the Pacific. (May I suggest, Vancouver Island?)

Platform, Part Two
…Meanwhile, as for the above scene with my brother, the thing to note is: He thought a platform would be a good idea for me—and not for him. I am reminded of a man in Silicon Valley, essayist and website millionaire Paul Graham, who gives advice to computer nerds, nerds who are seeking to make a fortune by creating code for new software apps (applications) such as the next Face Book.

Graham tells them (As explained in his essay How to Get Startup Ideas) that when you have an idea, and friends go, “Yes, that would be a good thing…” If they are thinking “good” for someone else, someone other than themselves … then be fearful, very fearful. Graham calls these “sitcom ideas,” meaning a character on a situation comedy could plausibly make money with this app or site, but not someone in the real world.

Graham gives an example: You could create a “social media site for pet lovers.” Sounds plausible, we all love puppies: “Awww, how cute.” So you tell your friends your new idea and they say, “Great!” But the real question is: Would they themselves go on a “pet lovers social media site?” As a fellow writer, you might advise me to make a blog platform, but would you go on it?  It’s OK if you, and my dear brother too, both say: “No.” You won’t hurt my feelings. (Hi Gordon!)

No, because I won’t use all my waking man-hours for an odyssey through an endless series of blogs on the World Wide Web. Not when I’m an avid writer and reader. Instead I have four or five blogs I check out almost daily, a dozen I get around to monthly, and a score, at most, that I always click on from one season to the next. Other “perfectly good” sites, “too good to delete,” just take up space on my bookmarks list. As for the hundreds and hundreds of eager writers with their eager platforms all over North America… No. On any given day, I’m only going to my favorite half-dozen sites.

Back when I lived in the cool rainbow part of town, the realtor’s rag would read,  “Imagine waking up on Saturday to a variety of fine coffee shops in walking distance.” There were a half-dozen such gourmet shops. I guess I had “adventurously sought variety,” had tried every coffee place—just once. Back then, you might have called me a “stick in the mud” for I confess: Every weekend, as I woke up, I already knew, never mind “variety,” I would only walk to my favorite place, the greasy spoon Lido Chinese Café… where people knew my name.

I conclude that yes, it’s a good idea for a writer to have a platform, provided the writer is a character in a sitcom.

You’re welcome.

Sean Crawford
February 2016

~By the way, successful published writers, at weekend reader-writer-publisher conventions, all say to use “he said” as much as possible… But hey, what do they know? They’ve all been “published,” which means they’ve sold out to the man. 

~I could have credited the writer of the Tom Corbett, Space Cadet series as being Carey Rockwell, but I think he’s only as real as that fellow Franklin W. Dixon who’s been writing the Hardy Boys since my father was in short pants.

~Here’s a link to a free uncondensed version of A Christmas Carol.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Review of Odyssey 5

I am enjoying re-watching the Showtime cable TV series Odyssey 5.

Here’s what you would see if you were a waitress in a dumpy diner in Houston, Texas: Around a booth are gathered five dissimilar people: A snobby atheist British scientist with a sports car—what’s he doing here? A young black TV anchorperson—she’s a churchgoing stable wife and mother. A middle-aged fighter pilot turned NASA mission commander, along with his 17-year old son. A blond “girl next door” type, also from the air force, who is now a NASA shuttle crewmember—she has a Texas senator for a father.

That senator, during the next five years, will betray her mother and be involved in unethical behavior. She knows this future because she’s been there—all five in that booth have secretly traveled through time. Through alien science, their consciousness has been downloaded into their previous bodies. So the boy, although now suffering through high school, is really 23, and he’s an astronaut too.

When the waitress comes over to re-fill their coffee she comments, “How come you folks always clam up when I come by?” …It’s because they are grappling with a secret: They were—will be—five years from now, the last surviving humans, looking down from the space shuttle Odyssey, as the entire earth is destroyed. Now they have five years to determine who or what caused the apocalypse—except they are already disturbing the “time line,” so maybe they are speeding up the disaster. Still, they have to try.

Part of what enchants me is how dissimilar the five people are: As the commander says in the booth, they would never “put up with each other” together at a diner in real life. But here they are.

For my part, I am reminded of the story of a boy from remote rural Quebec, come here to the city: He goes around the neighborhood elated, saying hello and conversing with every English speaker he can find. He had thought “the English” don’t like Frenchmen, and the novelty of finding this wasn’t true took a long time to wear off, a time when he went around with a huge smile. Like that boy, I’m still not used to different classes of people liking each other. So I smile: It’s so charming how the five cooperate.

From the DVD collection commentary I heard that although the producers were under pressure to make each episode have a standard “beginning middle end” they nevertheless managed to make it somewhat of a serial. But a series requiring episodes-in-order was still rare back then; (See my historical essay Death of Buffy, archived January 2012) today, according to the commentary, they would have made it more of a serial. Anyways, it worked well enough for me.

On the Internet, I see how the—to put it politely—‘“uninformed” brigade’ don’t like the inclusion of somewhat self-contained episodes, claiming the show had therefore an X-files feeling. Not to me. And I saw every episode of the first five seasons of the X-Files. Besides, as web novelist John Scalzi noted for his “episodes” in The Human Division, if every story is “on plot” then it’s annoying, like constantly hammering a nail.

Others in the uninformed brigade are forgetting, or perhaps they never knew, how the original TV commercials always referred to the show as “Odyssey 5 uncut”: my DVD box says “unrated.” And so these folks, perhaps having a self-righteous religious bent, are greatly upset by how the DVD collection has swear words. Maybe they forget the show was intended for cable, like today’s Game of Thrones, to be shown only to those who request it, only after the kids are safe in bed, never meant for family viewing. Under heaven, there is a time and purpose for cable.

I myself disagree with swearing on TV, and in fact I once wrote an essay on TV morality (Morality, Boys and Hollywood, archived July 2013) but for Odyssey 5 I got used to it, largely because the swearing exquisitely portrays the character of the mission commander. He may go into outer space, but in own his headspace he’s not a white-collar academic, not a gentle scientist—he’s a “pilot”: blunt, realistic, and no bullshit allowed. (When an old colleague asks, “Are you humoring me, Chuck?” His reply is, “When have you known me to humor anyone?) He’s not impulsive, but he has no use for “god damn” —said as two biting words— indecision. Now, back on earth, he keeps the team focused and on the move.

Back when Odyssey 5 was made, 2001, people would tell you about a new sci-fi series or movie in one breath, and in the very next breath tell you how worthy the special effects were. They still do. As best I recall, this trend of equating the worth of a sci-fi show to the worth of its FX started with Star Wars. It’s a trend I still don’t like. What I like about O-5 is how it takes place in the present day, with few effects. No fire breathing dragons, flashy ray guns or rippling space portals. Of course not: Whatever is/was hidden from the crew and the rest of the earth, over the next five years, will not give away its position with bells and whistles.

If this sci-fi does not live or die by FX, then by what? Drama. The casting is perfect. There are no square-jawed saintly astronauts, (the commander would be the first to say, “I’m sure as hell no saint”) only flawed people who argue and joke and screw up. Drama. And fine ensemble acting, since, as the commentary says, they cannot publicly, by day, go around in a large group while doing their investigations, although they can work together at night or go meet at someone’s home.

I had to chuckle at the commander wearing his ball cap sideways and chewing gum like an idiot so he could pretend to be the journalist’s cameraman. And I liked a scene where the NASA commander and the scientist, as themselves, walk into an air-conditioned building and talk to a man in a business suit while their white shirts are hanging out. I got it: Of course! Houston is near Mexico—it’s hot! How nice to see a show that for once isn’t set in L.A. or New York.

Another criticism by the uninformed brigade was that “time travel to fix things” has been done before. But I can’t agree with them, not unless I lower the bar to include anything remotely involving time travel, such as the Back to the Future films. No, Odyssey 5 is it’s own breed of cat. Part of what makes it different is—they know their own future. When your brother is about to screw up? Maybe this time you stop him. That cute date you said “no” to? Why not say yes? And all this sounds trivial next to the worst future of all: The TV journalist knows her little boy is going to die of cancer… but her husband doesn’t believe her. He won’t let her change the boy’s fate. Still, she has to try.

The old pilot, Chuck (as in Chuck Yeager) Taggart is played by Peter Weller. Weller’s father, it turns out, was a pilot. Maybe that helped Weller’s research: I can’t imagine him ever performing a better role—he’s truly that good. I like how Taggart’s wife is a realistic air force wife, not some long legged Hollywood model. I like how Taggart surprises his other son by hugging him instead of shaking hands—because he knows.

The series was still getting good ratings when it was canceled. (Link) It seems Showtime wanted to get away from sci-fi. Too bad. If you see O-5, you should ideally skip the last ten minutes of the very last episode because it has some “What the—?” game changing cliffhangers. (Or else do like me: I just pretend that very last part, like the first Star Trek movie, never happened) This time in my viewing, I did something I’m really pleased with: I enjoyed skipping episode 12, The Trouble With Harry, and then watching it last. It has some fun, offers a resolution to the mission, (no cliff hanger!) and asks everyone a meaning-of-life question at the end.

It’s been nearly a decade since I had last watched my DVD collection; in another decade I know I will dust it off and appreciate it again.

Sean Crawford

~I've included my blog label "feminism" because, with the fate of the world at stake, the characters  dare not enter a shared illusion of the women time travellers being less competent, not like before "woman's liberation," although they—at least the scientist—may act as if other girls are less equal.

~The link above explains why Angel was canceled: Wow. I always thought it ended too soon. As for why Firefly got canceled (Link to my buddy Blair’s review) I just don’t know what to believe. I think some mysteries, like why the third season of Star Trek is so bad, are forever beyond mortal ken. (A local reporter once listed his 20 favorite ST episodes: none of them were from the third season)

~Given that in “the business” the actors are often referred to as merely “the talent,” because they have zero film education, it was a delightful change from other DVD features to hear the long pilot-episode commentary with Peter Weller sounding like himself: a director and college professor with an excellent vocabulary. (Bigger than mine) He easily holds up his end of the conversation with producer-writer Manny Cotto.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Profit Produced Putin

At the top, let me say I reserve the right to disagree with my society, or my government, and also to share in my society’s guilt when we do wrong.

As I see it: If I live in the US, now waging two ongoing wars, then at the end of the day I might agree with having a death penalty. If I live in Canada, now in peacetime, then at the end of the day I might agree with not having a death penalty. In both cases, agree or disagree, I would know there were two worthy sides to that weighty issue.

It logically follows, then, being in agreement, that I wouldn’t, as a citizen, feel any need to wear “bad guy” clothes of matte black. But neither would I wear a good guy’s pure white wool: I would wear tired weathered grey. Because in this weary world, having seen many springs come and go, I can’t be as pure as Mary’s little lamb. And that is something I can live with.

Sometimes I think of how we created the rubble that Vladimir Putin arose in. You can’t blame him, as leader, for doing things like riding a horse or swimming across the Tiber. Or no, that was a Roman Emperor who swam—but they both do physical feats in public with their shirts off. And it works. In a non-democracy the followers daren’t be too smart.

And how smart are we? Did we really think that after the Berlin Wall came a-tumbling down Russia would transform into another virtuous Roman republic? One man knew better: Canada’s prime minister, Pierre Trudeau. He knew that people—not just as individuals but at the group level, the nation level—could learn: Trudeau repatriated Canada’s Constitution from London, despite people’s fears that we weren’t ready, as part of helping us to grow more responsible. And from his essays we know, too, that he trusted to Quebec to grow. But he didn’t agree with tossing Russia to the wolves with sink-or-swim capitalism. My God, what have we done?

Today Russia, while not a failed state, is not very cohesive either. The Russian people seem to require wars and annexations, and increasing oppression of gays, in order to function. They seem to have more mafia than any country except Italy—How much of that is our fault?

After Berlin, Trudeau pointed out—in vain—that Britain had kept up (communist-style) rationing for years after the war. To expect Britain, thought Trudeau, or a communist nation to bounce into capitalism overnight was madness. Trudeau was right, and the world bankers were wrong. Perhaps we were willfully blind. Perhaps, like the guys on Wall Street before the 2008 meltdown, we were too impatient for profits, and to hell with the chords of  “the better angels of our nature” of Russian society. I wonder how much Russians are now saying, “Every man for himself!” I do know Russians say, “When you move (between apartments) you move alone” meaning: friends don’t help friends move. Such is Russia.

After the World Bank’s shock therapy, Russia ended up with eight wealthy oligarchs. One of them was a former KGB officer, Vladimer Putin, and he came out not as an equal, but on top. Oppressing the other seven. “Money makes enemies,” they say, and the other seven, if not all of Russia, are Putin’s enemies. But I guess as long as he keeps doing what he’s doing, he’ll keep a lid on them all, and he’ll stay safe…

I try to watch the dominos falling without being bitter. The surplice over my armor is grey, but I know one nice thing about my fellows, even if, like Trudeau, I don’t always agree with the majority: Every one with any spirit wants to ride a white horse.

… …

Speaking of Russians moving between homes, you may recall that a future governor of California came from a country that was not communist, but not a part of NATO either: Austria. In his autobiography, Total Recall, Arnold Swartzenegger writes of being a young honest immigrant:

" It was a challenge moving to a country where everything looked different, and the language was different, and the culture was different, and people thought differently and did business differently. It was staggering how different everything was. But I had the big advantage over most newcomers: when you are part of an international sport, you’re never totally alone.

…The (body building) guys found me a little apartment, and as soon as I moved in, this friendliness turned into “We’ve got to help him.”…Another one unwraps a bundle and says, “My wife told me that these are plates I can take; they’re our old plates, so now you have five plates.” They were very careful to name things and give simple explanations…

I said to myself, “I never saw this in Germany or Austria. No one would even think of it.” I knew for a fact that, back home, if I’d seen somebody moving in next door, it wouldn’t have crossed my mind to assist them. I felt like an idiot. That day was a growing-up experience. "

Sean Crawford

~The sad Russian folk saying was explained to an American volunteer who was trying to compose literature for the Russian Alcoholics Anonymous.

~Russia’s getting worse. Note paragraph four in this link to yesterday’s The New Yorker. Russia just razed its small businesses and became even blander. “Razed” is meant literally.

~ “…increasing oppression of gays…” I’ve just learned from British writer Den Patrick’s blog that Russia is denying drivers licenses to gay and trans people. I guess (sarcasm) what’s next is gays will be declared “capitalist-roaders” or “reactionaries.”

~This essay began with my Free Fall Fridays prompt of “money makes enemies” 

~Total Recall subtitled My unbelievably true life story, Simon and Schuster, 2012, pages 82-83, hardcover.

~ “The Governator” has written five other books.

~As an entertainment reporter for the student newspaper, one morning I saw a pre-release screening, for critics and theatre managers, of The Terminator. Afterwards, a manager asked me what I was going to write. I explained why society fears Jack the Ripper more than Jesse James, and my words ended up on the marquee: “Without conscience or pity.”

After the screening, I have a fond memory of visiting the downtown Calgary police headquarters and telling the desk sergeant his fellow constables would be talking enthusiastically about the movie. But this was only after I walked up to the desk and got him to explain to me, point by point, how it would work to drive a car smashing into headquarters to free a prisoner, while killing all the cops. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Horror of Being Right 

Every family has its quirks and its culture. A visiting small girl says the drinking cups, after being washed, are “s’posed to” go upside down. Perhaps as a hangover from the days when cups were on an open board exposed to dust and cinders. A visiting teenage boy is surprised to learn that other families don’t talk about hockey at every supper. For the first time he realizes that his family, which has brothers in youth hockey leagues and a father in the NHL, is unusual. A child of Arab or Russian mafia heritage might take honor killings or violence for granted. It was a Russian writer, Tolstoy, who said each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. A unique family culture is seldom sketched out and colored in until a grown child can move away and look back with an adult painter’s clear gaze.

It’s strange how, so many years ago, as a boy, I filed away instances where my surrounding family all told me I was wrong, when at the same time I somehow knew I was right. With four of my brothers older than I, there was often considerable force to the words directed at me. Buffeted by their strong views I could only smolder in silent fury and despair. I don’t know what queer survival instinct led me to resolve to keep sparks of memory. Maybe God was looking out for me. When I was many years older I would revisit the various problems to check whether I was wrong.

My family believed in violence. Feeling things were not right, I was like a British writer’s lonely character, Winston Smith, in Nineteen-Eighty Four, struggling to grasp what was missing. One day there was a light in the darkness, like a wooden bridge appearing within the void of my isolated family, as a brother taught me a concept: Chickens have a pecking order. That was us. This helped me grasp the physical bruising, but I still didn’t get the mental bruising. Children don’t have the words.

Today I have the words to say, “Even a broken clock is right twice a day.” From The Desiderada I can say that even the poor and ignorant have their story. I can maintain a blessed determination to see all people as having a right to exist with human dignity. As a child I had no such words, very little confidence, and much despair: How could I be right if that meant all the older wiser ones were wrong?

Actually, I saw this dramatized once on a Star Trek episode, Plato’s Stepchildren. On a little planet, a small number of ancient Greeks, about the same number as the family of the gods on Mount Olympus, have magic powers. And just as the most powerful Greek god, Zeus, is the chief of the gods, so too do these Greeks have a “right and proper” hierarchy based on the relative strengths of their powers. Except one fellow. A dwarf named, ironically, Alexander. He has no powers at all. Among the Olympians Alexander is forced to be everyone’s servant, a breathing marionette, an object of fun, a fool.

Into Plato’s world beam Captain Kirk and Spock. Although without powers themselves, they still have credibility: They both assure Alexander he is an OK person. Poor Alex: It’s the very first time in his life he has ever been validated. Alex cries out something like, “It’s them! All this time I thought was something wrong with me (that I deserved this) but it’s them!”

Since boyhood I’ve forgotten harsh incidents in my family, just as I have forgotten every close call on the road. Now that I’m a grownup, with a car, I can drive courteously and safely. I even drive the Deerfoot Trail that many locals avoid from year to year if they can, or drive white knuckled on the rare occasions they have to use it. When a local wrote into the newspaper to complain the editor commiserated, saying, “There are five freeway exits in a row with no two the same.” Sometimes highly educated engineers can all be wrong.

Since then many dollars have been spent to improve that particular highway, but still, it’s as if our city road engineers don’t prioritize being predictable, as if they prefer to use the artsy right side of their brain in planning their loops of spaghetti. That’s why when I give people directions I always have to add which lane to be in, not like in my old city. My point is this: While I have surely made mistakes every time I had to use a new highway, I have forgotten each of the mistakes (except for my most recent, learning the new Stoney Trail). Just so have I have forgotten all the times since attaining adulthood that I was able to stop, reflect on something from childhood, and say, “Ah-ha! I was right.”

It’s only natural to forget specifics. I guess down the years I dropped each memory once it served its purpose. But it’s healthy to remember that such instances occurred. Here’s what still baffles me: How could I, as a child, have known which instances to file away? How could I have known that sometimes I could be “a minority of one” yet be right? Maybe my artistic side allowed me to see past the grip of family culture.

How nice to think I’m artistic. I’ve come to believe that every culture needs artists, of paint and print and more. I’m not surprised evil dictators will always smash the freedom to show art. The communists smashed, and now the Islamics are smashing. Today I see, in my mind’s eye, an Arab boy who’s entire village—everyone he knows—all agree that he should some day kill his own sister, if need be, for honor. Strangely, he loves his sister. Could it possibly be OK to think your dear older sister is equal? And one day that boy comes across a printout of the old 1948 United Nations Declaration of Universal Human Rights, or a still older declaration saying his sister has “the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Reality cracks. “It’s them!” The boy looks up in horror.

Sean Crawford
Calgary 2016

~In the Cuban-made movie Strawberries and Chocolate an artist yells to a young communist, “You need me!” with “you” being “Cuba,” meaning that even under communism art is vital.
By the way, an American, Robert Redford, sponsored it to be distributed in North America, which is how I saw it.

~My favorite Deerfoot Trail improvement is that all the level crossing traffic lights have been removed.

~Last night I heard about a teenage girl saying, “What? Women didn’t used to vote?” I heard how this week is the 100th anniversary of Canadian women getting the vote, three years before my father was born. (More precisely, it’s January 28 for the province of Manitoba, April for here in Alberta) I think it’s significant that five people—not just one hero—worked together for this. There is a statue of the “famous five” in our city plaza.

~I think a tavern offers too many escapes, so if you want to get liberated then it’s better done over coffee, perhaps in a kitchen—that’s where I remember women doing “consciousness raising,” in groups, when “Women’s Liberation” was current.

~I suppose the above Arab boy would slam shut the doors of his mind, forgetting what he knew, unless he found others safe to talk to. I think those rare souls who can get liberated in the library, all by themselves, only do so if they can hear a voice as they read the page.

~It must be a special frustration for liberated Muslim women and men: They can look behind to see what they were like when they were un-liberated, and so they know what others are still like, but no radical Muslim can look ahead to see that one day he could be free.