You can thank Sheri for that title – we used it as a hashtag for the Cathedral Village Arts Festival this year, and as an abbreviation of our theme, Our Streets Are Stories.
I always look forward to the CVAF anyway, but this year was extra special because I got Involved again and volunteered as the communications coordinator for the festival. This involved the usual social media effort, manning the Twitter and Instagram feeds while managing to keep myself as far removed from Facebook as possible. My alter ego on there suddenly became alarmingly popular though! This was a thinly disguised excuse to have an official reason to go out every night of the week and pack in as much festivalling as possible. I was creating valuable live coverage, honest! I even got an all access pass! (to a free festival).
I also had to help write press releases and schedule interviews with local media. Sheri (the chairperson) and other members of the planning committee were shunted off to TV and live radio interviews, frequently at horrendous times of the early morning. I did one myself too, at 6.45am on a Tuesday on community radio, practically guaranteeing me an audience of bus drivers and unfortunate Tim Hortons workers.
All these efforts paid off though, and the turn out was HUGE, despite the weather not being as exceptional as last year. One key message we tried to emphasise in our media briefings was that the festival is #AllWeekLong. So many people still seem to think the festival is just the Street Fair on the last Saturday, when there are arts, dance, theatre, literature, music and film events on every evening for the whole week. Here’s a small sample…
My parents arrived the first evening of festival week! A great way to start their summer holiday and I made sure to drag them to as many events as we could. They both even wrote and read poems at the poetry slam just 24 hours after their arrival! Poems had to be on the theme of ‘our streets are stories’ again. Here is my effort:
Cathedral Stories are worthy of glory
My poetry usually is not
While trying to avoid complication
I went for literal interpretation
The point of which I forgot.
It’s easier to start with a question, she says
How about, ‘What’s the word on the street?’
At this time of year
Stranger signs start to appear
One popped up today
A stencil, sprayed, just outside Safeway
“It’s Good To Be Alive” the street seems to say.
Our cathedral story truly began
Five years ago
Returning from another poetry slam
Or was it just burgers in here?
Memories fade, the details unclear
But walking home we were
Small girl complaining
It had started raining
Small girl stops, plastic jacket undone
Not caring, while I start quietly swearing
She sits on the curb
In a puddle, plants her feet
And starts reading her book
In the middle of the street.
Sometimes, my beloved Canada is just far too close to the USA.
First milestone of the year: 22nd January produced my first bout of abuse on Twitter in 2017, from some Trumpanzee. Getting abuse on Twitter is nothing new, sadly, and nothing really out of the ordinary especially since I am guilty of the crime of Having Opinions Whilst Female Online. This week especially has proved Lewis’s Law of the Internet: any comments about feminism justify feminism. And in this case, any comments about the Women’s March totally justified the Women’s March.
What triggered enough Trump-supporting trolls was this image, originally from the US National Park Agency:
This then got picked up by CNN who contributed their own versions. The emptiness was also recorded on countless other news sites and also by people’s personal phone videos and so on. Even better, it was then contrasted with images of the humungous crowds in the Women’s March.
Stupidly, I read the comments on the CNN piece. One of them was “Come on, CNN is #FakeNews. We’re not stupid.”
I admit it. I couldn’t resist. I replied: “Erm, yes you are.”
I know, I know… don’t feed the trolls. You can guess at the sort of responses I got to that! I went on a rapid block-fest (hence no screen-shots) and that was the end of it. I am just incapable of comprehending the sheer level of stupidity here. This was just after Sean Spicer, the brand new press secretary came out with the claim that the Orange Toddler’s inauguration was the biggest and most watched in history, after saying no one actually had the numbers. Demonstrably wrong. Provably false. So why risk saying it? Because he/they could be absolutely certain that a significant proportion of their audience will believe it no matter what the evidence to the contrary. The Head Troll in this little twitter exchange actually told me that I shouldn’t watch so much TV because I was being brainwashed and should learn some critical thinking. Priceless!
2 + 2 = 5.
We’ve always been at war with Eastasia.
Or, for a more modern version, try Picard’s desperate scream of
“THERE ARE FOUR LIGHTS!!”
In an even more dystopian statement, Kellyanne Conway then claimed that the White House are presenting “alternative facts”. Going back to Orwell, first they steal the words, then they steal the meanings.
There is no arguing with “alternative facts”.
There is absolutely no point in feeding the trolls by trying to argue against Alternative Facts with Real Facts because if they can no longer accept actual evidence, then the only recourse is to just provide your own defensive insults and the whole discourse very quickly disappears down a spiraling abyss of bullshit. I know this because I am guilty of it myself. I didn’t need to actually call that idiot an idiot directly. It obviously didn’t change his mind about anything, I dare say he wasn’t remotely bothered – and if he was, he certainly gave out worse than he received on the insult stakes. All I did was allow myself to be angered by it, triggered, which then opened up my feed to a whole new cesspit of trolls and in a way, validate their existence.
He is entitled to his opinion, as ignorant as it may be, and he has the right to voice it all over Twitter, just as I do. However, no one else is under any obligation whatsoever to agree with him, or even respect it. We don’t have to read it.
And that is the crucial bit. We don’t have to read it. Nothing is forcing me to spend a ridiculous portion of my day glaring at my phone on Twitter. Neither does anyone have to watch CNN if they don’t trust them. Reading Trump fans’ feeds is like picking at scabs – I know it will only make me feel worse, but its almost compulsive. I won’t achieve anything. Any sort of opposing interaction in this online black hole results in getting more and more wound up, angry and hate-filled, and that sort of ‘discourse’ is the entire basis of the Trump regime. Divide, obfuscate and conquer.
Trading insults anonymously in restricted, short soundbytes merely magnifies the antagonism and reduces the significance of what is said. It’s like we are trying to win a chess game in two minutes by repeatedly honking air horns at our opponent. It is never going to be productive from either side of the political spectrum, and we should all just stop. There are better things to do.
I am not saying we should go easy on the Trumpanzees. I am not saying we should ‘give Trump a chance’and normalise this utter crap. I’m certainly not saying we should accept everything we read in the news. And I am not even saying we should lay off the casual insults – rascists/misogynists/homophobes/transphobes/neo-nazis and LIARS should be called out as such, as should ignorance in all its forms. But for any sort of resistance to have a lasting impact, to create meaning out of the noise, we have to actually engage.
If we can’t dispute ‘alternative facts’ we can at least point out the logical fallacies and cognitive dissonance that created them. As we won’t be listened to online, we have to march in the streets. Anyone can just shout “Listen to meeeee! I’m RIGHT!” – but to be any more credible than the trolls, we have to demonstrate why we believe what we believe. ‘Othering’ our opponents by dismissing them all as ignorant actually empowers them because they then remain uncriticized. It also furthers the divisions in American society – and in the rest of the world. How do you combat ignorance? Education. And how do you educate? Through engaging curiosity, encouraging exploration and questioning everything. Not through sounding 140-character air horns.
Thanks to the seven hour time difference, Carl and I were able to watch the whole of the UK election last week in real time – the first time we’ve managed it without falling asleep, and I now have a new respect for the BBC teams who had to make sensible sounding comments on the whole thing all night and right round until about 7am Friday morning. I am severely sleep deprived too, so the thought did occur that I might be hallucinating the results, or maybe it was part of a nightmare… but no. The Tories “won” and actually achieved a majority government.
That is to say, they achieved a majority under the First Past The Post system. In actuality, they got about 37% of the vote, meaning nearly 2/3rds of the voting populace voted against them – a figure that corresponds far more closely with all the polls that were conducted in the preceding six months or so. The LibDems got LibDemolished, and Labour pretty much crashed and burned as well, though no so dramatically. The same system unfortunately left the Greens (1.1 million votes) with only 1 MP, the Scottish National Party (1.5 million votes) inexplicably with 56 MPs and (fortunately) UKIP with 3.3 million votes and one lone MP. Whatever your views, the fact that this system is completely inadequate should be painfully obvious. Sadly, the same thing happens in every election… I’m sure I was saying the same thing 5 years ago.
Leaving aside the failings of First Past The Post for a minute, I still can’t really comprehend how these idiots actually gained any votes at all. Who would intentionally vote for further cuts to public services and more austerity measures? Who would vote for a party promising FEWER Human and civil rights? Yet some people clearly did. I get that the point of an anonymous vote and secret ballot is that you don’t have to tell people who you’re voting for, and if people really were (rightfully) ashamed of voting Tory, they probably could have just told the pollsters one thing then voted for the opposite.
But then I read stories like this: 200,000 ballot papers stolen. And you do wonder…. Then there were the London Protests over the weekend, which resulted in… Total Media Silence. NOTHING at all reported on BBC or Channel 4, and the hashtag #ToriesOutNow seemingly removed from Twitters’ ‘Trending Topics’ list. Here’s a few pics rescued from Twitter anyway:
Does that look like a response to a respected, wanted government who have just won a landslide majority?
I admit, I didn’t actually use my vote – we are still elligible to vote in the UK, but doing so is amazingly complicated and, as demonstrated by the FPTP system, would have been a wasted vote anyway. So I guess I can’t complain. I am angry though, and I am scared for the people still stuck there. Two friends have already asked if I will employ them as baristas and allow them to emigrate over here…. I did point out that we are governed by Tories too, (the OxyMorons – “progressive conservatives?! WTF?) but so far, they seem slightly less dangerous and destructive in comparison. I don’t believe that our dose of democracy should be limited to one X on a piece of paper every five years, especially if that X gets lost in a FPTP system. Democracy is far more than that – and it includes the right to protest, so good on those who took to the streets in London! I’m just sorry that I only caught on to it after the event and only via Twitter!!
Last night, I experienced the sort of revelation that Thunks you between the eyes like a wet fish. I was sitting in Beer Brothers with Amy after a fun, impromptu and childless night out, when a complete stranger came up to me saying she wanted to tell me how much she liked this blog! Well, that completely threw me. I had no idea how to react! It was a shock even that she’d recognised me (though I guess with the additional volume that comes with beer drinking, my accent is quite noticeable!). But honestly, I write this stuff safe in the knowledge that few people outside my close friends and my Dad bother to even skim through my stream-of-consciousness drivel, and they only do so when I nag them. I certainly don’t plan, draft, and edit these posts with an audience in mind, so having strangers read it feels very odd indeed.
My fan, if that is the right term, said she liked hearing an outsider’s view of Regina – well, that I certainly can offer! Even after 18 months here, I am still discovering new things to do, which is great. Amy and I were having a drink after going to see the Regina Symphony Orchestra at the Connexus Arts Centre. She and her hubby go quite regularly, but he is sadly suffering the same daycare-plague that Carl and I got the other week, so I got to gatecrash what would’ve been their date night! We saw Tchaikovsky’s Sixth, and Amy gaily filled me in on the stories of cholera, suicide and scandal surrounding the gay dead Russian’s final work, which only added to the experience. I am by no means a classical music aficionado, but I really enjoyed it – very different, and I’m glad I got to see something that it wouldn’t even occur to me to try without a friend waving a spare ticket at me.
Our other recent adventure was going out to Pilot Butt(e) for the Amaizing Corn Maze! Not as sunny as last year unfortunately, but we dutifully got lost and had a lot of fun jumping in hay and rolling around in the pea pit. You also get a nice view of the city from there – you can see my new work! – and I heard The Best description of Regina ever the other day:
The SGI building is the second tower block in from the right on this photo. The only other blog-reader that I know of (who I daren’t actually call a “fan”) has been asking for an update on The Job. So for her sake, “the Job goes well”. It is not the most fascinating role ever but I am confident that it will get more interesting eventually, but even in the meantime it is such a relief not to have to count hours and worry about whether I have enough shifts to survive the month, and it is considerably easier work for more money that spending 8, 9, or 10 hour shifts on my feet making soy crappycinos for rude vegans. SGI really look after you – there’s all sorts of complicated health and insurance benefits which I’ve never had before, plus a random day off every two weeks (which is lovely!), and even the Timbits fairy who delivers deep-fried sugary goodness fairly frequently to our office. We’re on the 6th floor and the views are pretty good (except my desk is facing out over the railway tracks, not the prettier downtown side) but the cafeteria on the 18th floor has a stunning 360 degree view of… flatness! I can’t quite make out my house, but I can see the Cathedral so I can work out where our street is at least.
I do get myself up there as often as possible to remind myself that there is a world outside the scanning room, where I am currently stationed. I do have a proper desk too which I have been adorning with photos of Miranda, and then more silly clutter like a china moose riding a purple scooter, and I have an official SGI notebook in which to write daily Scanning Room Haikus. The whole office is now covered in Halloween decorations – NOT instigated by me! and I appear to be working with a trekkie (who ordered herself a lifesize cardboard Karl Urban…), a fellow Whovian who also happens to “try and bring cake at least once a month”, and someone else who owns Rammstein’s entire discography. So, I am amongst friends!
We had a staff meeting the other day, and us new folk (there’s four of us) had to introduce ourselves. I did my best but Jim followed up my comments with “and I’ve just learned that Annabel has over 1000 twitter followers, and one of them is sitting in this room!” – yes, thanks for that! Gulp. Another new starter happens to follow me on Twitter, and recognised me from there even though I didn’t recognise her until she told me her name, or at least her twitter handle. Regina is a small town really… (I found out over the summer that statistically, I am the 177th most influencial twitter user in Regina – out of 21000, which is kinda cool, and kinda scary! I think I should have that on a rosette!). I had at least noticed that I’d hit the Big Four Figures on Twitter, but really, folks, why do you follow me?? If you think this blog is pointless, I can assure you my tweets are considerably worse… I think the real reason why the realisation that people actually read my crap is so uncomfortable, is that I am now immediately starting to self-edit, and self-censor. I’m quickly becoming far more conscious of what and how I write (the preceding sentence is grammatically terrible, for instance!) and now it’s all awkward. So, thank you all for reading, but I am now going to try and pretend you don’t exist so I can carry on churning out carefree psychobabble.
I got another amusing message on Twitter recently from Mark and Ange back in Darlington, warning me that my other, old twitter account had been hacked and was sending out spam to people. The other account is @thetinycheese – actually, Miranda’s account from when she used to want to bash the keyboard with Mummy in my cafe, aged about 10 months. I haven’t used it in ages, since Miranda got big enough to actually damage my keyboard! Apparently, people still follow it, but I’ve forgotten the password so I can’t get in to it and get rid of the spam, sorry folks!
Miranda is slowly settling in to her new daycare, but it has been very hard on her, poor baby. I was really pleased that we managed to get her in to the one we wanted – it’s very close, run by a very friendly woman who seemingly has infinite patience and energy, Miri can carry on going to her preschool too, and best of all, our neighbours’ daughter goes to the same daycare so Miri has her big friend Abi to play with there! I know full well she enjoys it really, but she is not remotely impressed by having to get up so early in the mornings now, and we are officially The Worst Parents Ever when we have to shove her through the daycare door and run off quick before she can follow us to work. She’s got quite clingy to Mummy now – probably as a result of having spent the last 6 months with me all day every day, and now barely sees me at all apart from in the evenings when she is already exhausted. I miss her too!! Staying home with her this summer was far, far more demanding and tiring than going to work in an office so in some ways, going back to work is a big relief, but it is very strange not having my big baby around all the time. Waa!
Anyway, November is looking to be a busy month – we’ve got big Halloween plans as always, it’s Nanowrimo, I’ve somehow naively got myself a stall at a craft fair mid-month, so I have to Make Things to sell on it, and I’ve still got lots to learn at work. Oh, and I’ve got my first ever driving lesson (on the wrong side of the road) this week! So, I better get on with things and stop just writing about things, I reckon!
Today I received another lovely letter from the very daft Rumble, and I shall quote from it to justify the title of this post:
“… I realise…that the woman herself has died since I started this letter. So what’s the coverage been like in the Canadian newspapers? Please send us all a blog post about how her life and death were represented in the media for Canadians!! Did they care? Tell me they’re not like the American worshippers?!”
She speaks of course, of Margaret Thatcher.
Her death was definitely reported over here, in fact, because of the time difference, I was actually woken up by the great news on my radio alarm at 7am. CBC Radio 1 did their bit to remain as unbiased as possible but to their credit, they did mention the fact that she wasn’t going to be universally mourned, shall we say. At the very least, the coverage negated the need for me to check http://www.isthatcherdeadyet.co.uk/ . But I still did, because it is funny.
So, for anyone else who’s interested in the official Canadian reaction, here’s the main newspaper articles:
(I would be more worried by the Harry Styles fans’ comments, but then, I have no idea who Harry Styles is.) I would say though, that it was not the “best of the web” because that article stayed safely away from the most negative reactions (like my own!) Here’s some of my favourites!
I did tweet “Ding! Dong! The Witch is Dead” as soon as I could get to the computer on 8th April, but sooooo many people had beaten me to it already. I was far from being a lone dissenter, even here in Canada. My own tweets were relatively tame in comparison with some of the bile, biting sarcasm and/or righteous indignation that took up most of my stream that day. What took me by surprise was the intense negative reaction that my one little Ding Dong provoked from a few (a small few) Canadian tweeps.
So, I should be ashamed for singing a song from The Wizard of Oz, yet the woman who destroyed an entire nation is somehow sanctified in death and hence, untouchable… Interesting use of the word “Classy” too – would that be in reference to Thatcher’s reign over a class war?
“@boxcoach_dan: @LeighPatrick @doctorcoffee Why do the worst of the worst always end up here? Hope she gets ass cancer & dies quickly.”
A balanced retort if ever I saw one. OK, so I am celebrating the fact that an 87 year old woman died. She was hardly going to last forever, was she? But no, apparently being pleased that she finally karked it is Wrong and “grotesque” and shameful, but publicly wishing that an alive, complete stranger gets cancer and dies is a perfectly acceptable. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the Tories… Ick.
Fortunately, those were the only negative comments I got. Others were actually curious:
Why does everyone hate Margaret Thatcher? I was under the impression she was a nice PM? Perhaps I am horribly wrong.
We informed her she was indeed horribly wrong. And why. With stats. And bulletpoints. And a 43-reason list. And quotations.
O.O Weeeeelp, I am quite wrong I see. I really had no idea about this lady.
There is obviously a degree of disconnect between the British view of Thatcher (which is highly divided anyway, but based on experience) and the image presented in overseas media and ‘history’ classes! A Canadian friend pointed out that Thatcher was as divisive as former Prime Minister Trudeau Senior, even though he was a Liberal, and from then on, we got sidetracked because, as PM Harper unctuously sped to London for Thatcher’s funeral, this happened:
So now I have to get to grips with Canadian politics, as even though the election is two years away, Conservative/Harper attack ads began against Justin Trudeau just a few hours after he took office. I won’t be able to vote then anyway, but I do need to know who I should support! Lets hope Canada never gets a Thatcher!