Springtime in Ottawa

In case you’re wondering what Spring looks like in Ottawa…



Music Has a Name

A revelation came to me.

Not all at once, but gradually,

as when the day brightens slowly

with the end of a rain, and the clouds, kissed by the breeze,

blush, then shuffle away, letting the light shine in.

I exited the bar at closing time, kissed Marianne goodbye,

and stood on the banks of the Saint-Laurent.

In the clear, cold light of the moon,

as the final mists were blown away,

amidst the church bells ringing in the distance,

it came to me, what I had always known but not known,

that Music has a name.

And it’s name is

Leonard Cohen.

Do Me a Solid

Don’t you just love the things in your life that are really solid? That you can really count on?

There are some brands and products I’ve encountered that fit that description. Did you ever own a Nintendo Super NES console? We bought one back in the day. It was a memorable day, actually, because my son was young enough and excited enough that he blurted out, “You’re the best dad ever!”

But that aside, the Super NES still works, some 20 years later. Amazing. Then there was the N64 console and Super Mario 64, which I would have no problem nominating as one of the best games ever. The console was rock solid and the game was huge. As in, there were a huge number of places to explore, and I couldn’t count how many ways you could command Mario to move.

Sadly, there aren’t too many products that would put in this category. I love London Fog as a brand. I’ve had one of their coats for years, and have used their umbrellas. Apple’s iPad might have been once, but since iOS 7, mine has crashed numerous times while app switching. It comes back up again quickly, but still.

Sometimes a thing just makes you feel like it must be solid. For instance: Had a problem with the car and called up a service station. The guy that picked up the phone said, “Rocky speaking.”

Rocky. Any car shop that hires a guy called Rocky has got to be the real deal. They got my business and did a good job. Naturally.

What’s solid in your life?

A Beautiful Truth

Did you ever get the uneasy feeling that the world you thought you were living in wasn’t quite real? Real in the sense that things you thought were true in fact might not be?

Sounds like the cue for a fantasy story, but sadly, it’s not fantasy, it’s reality.

For example, one could be forgiven for thinking–or perhaps a man could be forgiven for thinking this–that by now women were doing OK. That men had learned to treat them as equals, deserving of respect for their own individual merits. Seems like a no-brainer in the 21st century, don’t you think?

But is belief in this beautiful truth, that all people are created equal, only skin deep? There is an abundance of evidence that this might be the case. Let me cite some anecdotal examples.

Here in Ottawa, at one of the local universities, there were two front page stories in a matter of days. One in which a woman was allegedly sexually assaulted by members of the men’s hockey team, and another in which the student leader was the subject of a sexually violent online conversation.

Then there’s the sexually-oriented attack on Mary Robinette Kowal from some male members of the Science Fiction Writers Association, as I mentioned in an earlier post.

And the latest from that community, the ill-advised selection of Jonathan Ross, known for his verbal abuse of women in his performances, as MC for the Hugo awards ceremony. At a time when healing is needed, what a brilliant choice. I’ve never seen Mr. Ross in action, but by all accounts it seemed that the Hugos were hurtling towards a disaster of 2013 Oscars proportions. Anyone remember the travesty that was Seth MacFarlane’s Oscar performance?

After a Twitter storm, Mr. Ross resigned as MC. But what were the organizers thinking of in the first place?

Finally, an amazing incident in which a passenger on a WestJet flight left a note for the captain, written on a napkin, to the effect that the airplane cockpit was no place for a woman.

Wow. Come on, guys, are we really so threatened by successful women? Have we learned nothing over the past few decades?

Perhaps the hardest thing to accept is that the problem seems equally prevalent amongst young, university-aged men as men of my generation, who could almost–but not really–be forgiven, having grown up in an era when most moms stayed at home and baked and cleaned.

Why don’t all us men take a breath and agree on the following:

  1. We will not make sexually hostile comments about women, even in private conversation.

  2. We will call out anyone who does.

  3. Even if deep down you believe that women should stay at home (you might want to get some help for that), you will behave as if you don’t believe that, and treat the women around you with the same respect as if she were a man.

Is that so hard?


Do you read or write FanFiction? Do you care about it? If so, then there’s an article that might interest you at Wired.com.

keep calmWikipedia  defines FanFiction as “… a broadly defined fan labor term for stories about characters or settings written by fans of the original work, rather than by the original creator.”

Again according to Wikipedia, FanFiction.net is the largest FanFiction site, hosting some millions of stories. I post stories there myself based on characters created in Doctor Who, Castle, Firefly, and others.

The Wired article makes the case that FanFiction has generally been looked down upon by the writing community, but that this may be changing. They note that a new publisher, Big Bang Press, having successfully completed a Kickstarter campaign, will be publishing original works by FanFiction authors. Just as interesting as the article are the comments.

Normally I shy away from the comments section of Internet articles. They all too often have the intellectual and emotional maturity of eight-year-old miscreants on speed. Not these comments, which are well written and thought-provoking. They make some excellent points.

The key point is this: the world is full of derivative works of art. (If you want to impress your friends, talk about intertextuality, my new word for the day. You can look it up at Wikipedia.) Would you turn up your nose at AMC’s The Walking Dead because it’s based on a series of comic books? (Sorry, graphic novels.) Then there’s Robert Jordan, author of the beloved Wheel of Time series, who wrote a number of books based on Conan, created by Robert E. Howard. By Crom! And the list goes on.

Let’s be honest. Part of the reason FanFiction has its reputation is because of the quality of the writing. But come on. Lots of FanFic authors are kids. How often have you heard adults wringing their hands at how seldom kids read these days, and blame it on the Internet and (gasp!) Social Media (the source of all evil). But at places like FanFiction.net, you’ll find lots of kids, university students, and young adults who not only read, they write. They deserve to be cheered on, regardless of whether or not their prose is a match for Alice Munro.

Which isn’t to say you won’t find some great FanFiction stories out there. If you are skeptical, just check out “Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality” by Eliezer Yudkowsky. You’d be hard pressed to find any commercially published work that was funnier or more thought-provoking. I’ve seen some FanFics that were painful to read, and some that were a joy. You can explore what-ifs, alternate universes, and the further adventures of your favourite characters. And all for free. Really, what’s not to like?

Writing FanFiction is fun, you see, and FanFics can be fun to read. Once you find some authors you like and start to follow them regularly, you’ll find the experience more and more rewarding.

Feeling spontaneous? Here’s some spontaneous FanFiction for you.

“Wash, we seem to be getting a might close to that sun,” Mal said.

Wash held the flight controls tightly and grimaced. “Afraid we’re going to get a whole lot closer, Cap’n. We’re caught in its gravity well. Got a plan though,” he said.

“Please tell me it doesn’t involve turning my boat into a molten puddle.”

“Can’t promise anything, but I think I can slingshot us ‘round the sun if I increase the speed,” Wash said.

“Sorry, did you say you wanted to fly us into the sun faster? That’s your plan?”

“Here we go,” Wash said, and keyed in the course and speed.

Mal picked up the intercom. “Um, this is the Captain. Those of you who like your meat extra crispy are in for a treat. Hang on to something.”

Some time later, he wasn’t sure how long, Mal picked himself up off the floor in confusion. Then it came to him. The sun. Slingshotting. Glancing out the forward window, they seemed to be in orbit around a planet that he didn’t recognize.

Mal shook Wash by the shoulder. “Wash! I need to you come ‘round, figure out where we are.”

But as Wash struggled to regain his sensibilities, Serenity received a voice transmission.

“This is Captain James T. Kirk of the starship Enterprise. Please identify yourself.”

Mal and Wash looked at each other.

“Oh, crap,” said Wash.

Oh, didn’t I say? You can write FanFiction crossovers as well. Feel free to take the above as a writing prompt and finish the story.

The image is from http://keep-calm-and.tumblr.com

Life, the Universe and Everything

the little prince

Life. Don’t talk to me about life.

Actually, do.

A few of us were talking about the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings movies the other day. One friend opined that they were boring. Well, I thought, that’s different. But her comment got me thinking about my reaction when I first watched The Fellowship of the Ring. I was stunned, and I sat back in the chair and said to myself, I’m glad I’m alive to see this. It was a great moment.

Sometimes its the arts, a particular movie or a beloved book. Anyone read Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince? Other times it’s nature, whether sitting by the pond in the local park, or walking on a quiet trail in the Gatineau Hills in complete peace, with no sound but the rustling of leaves and the whistling of birds.

What makes you glad to be alive?

Mostly Harmless?

With apologies to Douglas Adams.

The brief entry for planet Earth in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the e-book with the words “Don’t Panic” written in large, friendly letters on the cover, has recently been updated.

earth 1 : mostly harmless 2 : best known as the site of the second ugliest building in the universe, which of course is the ironically named Algonquin Centre for Construction guideExcellence, Ottawa, Canada; the irregular, asymmetrical and drab building includes vegetation on the rooftop, reflecting nostalgia felt by the earth’s ape-like inhabitants for the trees from which they recently descended; bipedal species should note that the sight of the building can produce symptoms ranging from headaches and nausea to complete mental breakdown; protoplasmic species are urged to avoid the building at all costs as in all likelihood they will explode into puddles of goo; in general, the building appears to produce effects similar to that of Vogon poetry.

An earlier version of this was posted elsewhere. However, the building is still ugly.