Oct 15
2012

How to Stop Bullying

A little off topic today, but relevant.

<Drags out soapbox. Steps up.>

If we truly want bullying to stop, we need to stop looking to children to change their behaviour. We need to start looking to adults to change theirs.

Children learn by watching and then emulating what we do. Look around you. How often do you hear put downs? How often do you dismiss someone based on their skin colour, religion, background, gender, orientation,

education, political affiliation or socio-economic status?When you watch TV, how often is bullying going on? (Hint: Sitcoms would not exist without it. And reality shows like Big Brother? Don’t get me started.) What about in your children’s shows? What video games do you or your children play where taking advantage of the weak is part of the game? (Grand Theft Auto I *am* looking at you.) What about the movies you watch as a family?Take a look at the real world. How often is the news filled with politicians engaged in name calling and rumour spreading? How often do we see witch hunts against whistle blowers and civil servants when they refuse to be partisan in favour of the ruling party and actually try to follow the rules and guidelines? Look out for the public interest as it were? (Sadly, my own Primeminister is a master at the last one.) I won’t ask you about pundits, because they really are the worst of the bunch.

So if you want to stop tragedies like the one that happened this week, your posts, petitions and private member’s bills, while well intentioned, really won’t change a thing. Instead, you need to look at your behaviour and change. Be more accepting. Be less judgmental. Model the behaviour you want to see in our children. Drop things from your life that promote bullying. Even if you love them. And then challenge the other adults in your life to do the same. Start with your circle and then reach out further. Politicians. Entertainment icons. The World.

Is it easy? No. I struggle every day to be a better person, someone worthy of my son’s admiration. Of my student’s. Of my former cadets. And I am nowhere near where I want to be. But I keep trying. I slip and stumble, but I stand up and keep going.

We all have to do this because *we* are the adults here. That means that we need to behave like it. And we have to stop expecting children to be more mature than we are.

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” Ghandi.

<Steps down. Puts soapbox away.>

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Jul 21
2012

Aurora – Some thoughts

[ Shocked Mood: Shocked ]
[ Listening to CBC Radio Currently: Listening to CBC Radio ]
A Facebook friend commented on the blaming for the horrific events in Aurora on the Joker. A discussion ensured and these were my thoughts. I wanted to capture them somewhere more permanent than Facebook, so I pasted them here.


Quote:
I find it fascinating that in a country where you can get a gun for opening a bank account, that they are quick to condemn a fictional character for this tragedy. Last I heard, we don’t even know if the Joker link is true, it is based on a statement by a New York cop who may or may not have heard it from a former New York cop who now works in Aurora. Who knows if the shooter said it seriously or at all? But sure enough, the media is running with it.

So let’s imagine the Joker is his inspiration, what if he’d never been created? I bet someone disturbed enough to walk into a theater and shoot people would have found someone else to fixate on and model himself after. Perhaps a real person? Al Capone? Jesse James? Would we then be talking about banning teaching history in schools? Removing history books from the library and bookstores? No. We wouldn’t.

And yet every time one of these things happens, there is a knee jerk reaction to blame something else for creating the situation, instead of doing the deep soul searching as a society that is really required. Why is it that semi-automatics are available to any member of the general public in the US? Why is it the mentally ill are so hard to treat? Why can’t politicians think beyond the next election cycle and look to affect real change for the better? Why does someone think wondering why no one in the theatre was armed and shooting back, blaming the victims as it were, is acceptable?

The reality is this man was in need of help, and those around him missed the signs, big time. For him to have gathered that much weaponry and ammunition, someone had to have know. Given the sheer amount of money that has been spent in the last ten years in the US on terrorism prevention, why is it still possible for one man buy so many weapons and explosives off the web? How could the FBI, Secret Service and NSA not be tipped off or be monitoring this?

Let’s also ask, what about mental health awareness? Why are we not trained from a young age to recognize when someone is deep trouble like we are with a heart attack? Why don’t I know what to do beyond call 911 when someone is in trouble with a mental breakdown? Are the police even trained? (I know the answer to that one already, and for the vast majority, it is no.)

But no, sadly our leaders, political, media and legal, are going to continue with the shallow "blame everyone else" and "find a short term solution" that they do after every one of these events.

And then the next one will happen and nothing will have changed.

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Jul 20
2012

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier (LWR)

[ Amused Mood: Amused ]
[ Listening to CBC Radio Currently: Listening to CBC Radio ]
You want to know what Alan Moore was thinking about as he was writing The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier?

Sex.

Sex. Sex. Sex. Sex. Sex. Sex. Sex. Sex.

Oh yeah, and sex.

This book is supposed to be the hidden history of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Gathered as a series of different clippings, such as articles, postcards, and "boys comics", by the government in a Black Dossier to document the actions of the league. These clippings are stolen by Mina Harper and Alan Quartermaine, and it is their story of escaping with the dossier that weaves the book together.

As they read the dossier, so do we, and a very interesting story it presents. We get the altered history of England, a place where literary characters are real, with various incarnations of the League working to bring down enemies of the Crown. We also see how much the government changed under an Orwellian inspired government after the war, and how our once heroes are now fugitives from Justice.

Did I mention there was lots of sex? Almost every piece of work has sex and nudity woven through it. The comic story of Orlando, the gender switching companion to Prospero and Sinbad who literally had sex with ever character of historical significance they encountered. The further adventures of Fanny Hill who also seems to have sex with everyone she encounters. There is even some totalitarian pornography tucked in with an exert from a pulp novel. Even Mina and Alan are lying around in various positions involving nudity, bathing, post-coital bliss.

I get that many of the memorable female characters in literary history that would be likely to take up with the league are the sexually scandalous ones, but I wonder if Moore was not attracted to them because of sexual promiscuity rather than their tendency to take risks. Would he have chose chaste Elizabeth Bennett for the league, even though she is seen as an early feminist heroine by many readers.

This is the most sexual of Moore’s works that I have read, and I have to wonder if he was going through Andropause at the time of crafting this.

The better parts of the book are the cartoons, as Moore shows his ability to tell story and create character. Some of the articles are interesting, but others seem at times to be a chance for Moore to write like Shakespeare.

It’s a good read, but not to the same level as the earlier volumes.

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Jul 17
2012

Go Team Everyone Else

[ Sleepy Mood: Sleepy ]
[ Currently: Editing a Podcast ]
The RevolutionSF books editor, Peggy Hailey, is attempting to beat all the children in her town in a reading contest. You can send letters of encouragement to the children, known as Team Everyone Else (rungepubliclibrary_a@yahoo.com). You could probably send Peggy encouragement, but, really, who roots for the little guy?

Do it for the kids!

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Apr 16
2012

Green Lantern: Sinestro Corps War Vol. 1 – ALWR

[ Happy Mood: Happy ]
[ Currently: Recording a Podcast - no really. ]
I am not a Green Lantern fan. My knowledge of the character comes from his association with Green Arrow through Justice League and the Hard Travelling Heroes. But someone who I know gushed about this storyline so much, that I thought I would pick it up.

Hal Jordan is back from the dead, and he is trying to fit back into his life and the corps. He is looked upon suspiciously by his fellow Green Lanterns because of what happened before. Surrounding him are the other Earth Green lanterns, John Stewart, Guy Gardner and Kyle Rayner. Sinestro rises back from banishment to challenge the corps, recruiting a group of "Sinestro Corp" members to fight along side him. And the results are not good for the corps.

Geoff Johns has been credited with giving a boot in the butt to this franchise, giving it the life and sense it needed to move forward. For me, this book was fun, but it was a little confusing as I didn’t know most of the characters on sight. Geoff Johns does not give enough of the backstory for someone like me to fully follow the story.

So if you are a real GL fan, this is your book. If you were a fan and are looking to get back in, this is your book. If you are like me, this is not your book.

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Apr 08
2012

Of “Quality” Literature and Trolls

[ Evil Mood: Evil ]
[ Listening to CBC Radio Currently: Listening to CBC Radio ]
So Joel Stein put the cat among the pigeons with his New Your Times piece March 29, 2012. To say he caused an uproar in the YA community would be an understatement.

Some have claimed that Stein is a satirist, that he doesn’t mean this seriously. Others have railed against him, thinking his comments are serious. That he is offering a criticism of what is wrong with adult culture.

So what is his purpose then? I would never presume to tell someone what someone else is thinking, but in reading what I see is a troll. I see that Internet demon that destroys message boards and comment threads. You know what I mean, the pot stirrer who gets his or her pleasure out of upsetting others and then watching the fallout.

And Stein hits all the Troll buttons, and none too gently at that:
* SEXIST: He implies that men are less manly if they read Twilight and Hunger Games. These are "girls books" and "men" don’t read those.
* ELITIST: He states that the only adults who should read picture books are those whose lips move when the read. Never mind that Shaun Tan’s The Arrival is the best exploration of the Immigrant Experience I have ever seen, and there is not one word in it.
* IGNORANT: He lumps Harry Potter, Twilight and Hunger Games together. Those who have read all three series know that they share little in common beyond the designation of "Young Adult"
* AGEIST: He refers that his teachers would never have assigned him Donkey Kong, because it has no value. So things were better in his day. They had standards!
* DISMISSIVE: He states that if his parents had read Judy Blume, he would have looked into boarding school. Never mind that reading what your kids are reading is considered good parenting because it helps you relate and helps you understand what they are going through. And you are showing them that you value them as human beings.

So why is he trolling? Who knows? Again, only Joel Stein knows his real motivations. And even then, he might not understand it himself.

What I do see is yet another adult who thinks it is acceptable to dump all over Tween girls. As if by definition, something being popular with a Tween girl automatically means that it is of lesser value. That it is shoddily made, and won’t stand the test of time. (Tell that to Frank Sinatra and the Beatles, BTW.)

There is something inherently sad about an adult who thinks that it is acceptable to devalue Tween girls. An adult who builds themselves up by putting down children. Children who really can’t fight back. Makes Stein look even more pathetic now in my eyes.

I am a teacher, and where I work people who put down others in order to build themselves up or, worse, for pleasure are called bullies. We know that bullies were most likely picked on themselves as children, leading to low self-esteem. So they in turn bully to build up their own self-esteem. Is that what happened to Stein? Was his the money he was going to use to buy a new translation of Tolstoy stolen by the captain of the football team? Again, I don’t know. I am not Joel Stein.

But as a victim of bullies through junior and middle grades, I have also never understood why former victims turn into bullies. Why would they ever want to make someone feel as low as they did? Unless they lack empathy, and that puts them into to category or sociopaths and psychopaths who derive pleasure from hurting people or simply don’t care. Now calling Stein a sociopath or psychopath is probably going a little far. I am not Joel Stein’s psychiatrist.

So what to do about Joel Stein? At the very least he is like that media pundit, hired because they can spout for hours about things they know very little about. At the very worst he is a twisted little misogynist who gets his jollies picking on children. Neither of these should be people we give the time of day to, let alone try to emulate.

Instead, read. Read a lot. Read a variety. There is a lot of good literature out there. Some of it was written for adults. Some of it was written for teens. Some of it was written for children. There is also a lot of crap out there. Some of it even appears on the New York Times opinion pages. Don’t waste too much time on the bad. We have so little time on this planet. Spend it looking for the good. Because as Joel Stein has proven to me, your reading will change you, and sometimes not for the better.

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Apr 07
2012

Invitation to the Game – ALWR

[ Sick Mood: Sick ]
[ Listening to CBC Radio Currently: Listening to CBC Radio ]
So the Hunger Games is popular right now. And there are lots of people tossing around titles for people to read after they have finished Collins work. And believe me, there are many worthy followers, but what about a book that came before the Hunger Games? One that explores some of the same themes, but goes in a very, very different direction.

It’s 2154, and the world is a dystopian mess. Many years ago, some apocalyptic event occurred that caused the population to drop to a point that there was a lack of workers. To fill this need, governments created robots to do menial work. These robots began to get better, able to handle more complex work. This meant that as the population recovered, there was no work for them to do. Permanent classes of unemployed were created, living off government hand outs.

Into this world is born Lisse. As a child of an unemployed family, she is taken from her parents at the age of six to be educated. But with the robots taking more and more jobs, she too ends up Unemployed at the age of sixteen. Dropped off in the Designated Area in which she is now to live, Lisse bands together with a group of seven friends to survive their new world of gangs, drugs, garish clothes and government crackdowns.

But then one day, an invitation arrives for the group to attend the mysterious Game. With nothing else to do, they go and are exposed to a treasure hunt in a new world that seems too real to be true. Each return finds them wanting to do better and learn more. They devote a great deal of time to preparing for their next session. And then one day, it turns out the Game may have been all too real.

Author Monica Hughes’s work was published in 1991, and it shows a world where technology is replacing man in insidious ways. A precursor to works like the Hunger Games, there is a very socialist theme to this book, that big government may know better than we think it does. And the Utopian view that the children, when given a chance, can build a better world out of the ashes of our own.

It has aged very well and is worth the look.

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Mar 25
2012

The Life and Times of Martha Washington – ALWR

[ Cool Mood: Cool ]
[ Currently: Waiting to go grocery shopping ]
I managed to get my library to ILL an omnibus edition I have been wanting to read for awhile. And low, The Life and Times of Martha Washington arrived for me.

Martha was born in 1995 an alternate history America, one where the poor are locked into the slum/tenement housing provided by the government. From there she joins PAX, part peace corps, part military police, part army. She rises through the ranks and becomes a war hero, and treasonous rebel. And we see her as she passes finally dies at the age of 100.

Martha Washington is probably Frank Miller’s best work. (There I said it. And I sit back and wait for someone to tell me I am wrong.) Or at the very least his most feminist. Martha is not a sex kitten who uses her body to get what she wants, nor is she a male vision of what a strong woman is. She is a strong female character in the tradition of Elizabeth Moon’s Paksenarion and Tanya Huff’s Torin Kerr. One that I, as a woman could identify with.

This omnibus collects the series Give Me Liberty, Marth Washington Goes to War and Marth Washington Saves the World, plus some one issue stories. Because of this, it is a little disjointed, but that is due to how Miller wrote the Martha Washington series. Some chapters were written before others, while he deliberately chose not to cover certain chapters of her life. Still it is enjoyable and leaves you wanting to know more about this amazing woman.

Go get it.

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Feb 11
2012

The Night Bookmobile – ALWR

[ Happy Mood: Happy ]
[ Listening to Extra Hot Great Currently: Listening to Extra Hot Great ]
In my travels through the library led me to this book:

While out walking one night, Alexandra comes across a bookmobile that is full of every book that she has ever read. This library of Alexandra fascinates her, and after she leaves, she spends years looking for it again. Alexandra begins to isolate herself, becoming obsessed with reading, wanting to impress the librarian with her choices. Eventually she becomes a librarian herself, and each time she encounters the library she is amazed at how many books it contains.

This is a beautifully illustrated picture book, that the author, Audrey Niffenegger (famous for the Time Traveller’s Wife), calls a graphic novel. If there is one flaw with this book, it is the characterization of Alexandra, a reader and eventually librarian, as alone and desperate with only one choice at the end on how to join the mystical library. This is not a book about how incredibly uplifting and enriching reading can be. Instead readers are loners with suicidal tendencies, which we are not.

Niffengger missed the mark here. She wants to produce a piece that makes us stop and think about who we read for and why we read, instead becomes a slap in the face of the very readers she is trying to appeal to. What would have happened had she used Alexandra’s reading as a way for her to grow, find a better, more self-fufilling relationship and contribute to society. The end could have been relatively the same, but her readers would have been more satisfied.

Interesting concept, but Niffengger’s depressing plot turn ruins what would have been a perfect book.

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Jan 21
2012

Ceres Vol. 1 Aya – AQR

In my quest for manga, I found this.

When Aya turned sixteen, all she wanted as a karaoke party with her twin brother and their friends. Instead she is attacked by her family, who are trying to kill her because they think she is a threat to the family. It turns out Aya is the descendant of an angel and carries her heavenly powers. Before long, Aya is on the run, accused of her father’s murder and hiding out with another of the angel’s descendants.

This first volume of the manga series is quite interesting. Some nice layout of plot and backstory. An early leader in the "angels are the new vampires" trend. Pick it up.

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