Thursday, January 28, 2010

Monogamy and the FLDS man

Have you ever said to yourself (if you're a man) "I could really use an extra wife around the house," or (if you're a woman), "I would love it if my husband had an extra wife around". Two wives? Four? How about more than 80 wives for one man? It's mind-boggling to me, but not for FLDS members in the US and Canada. FLDS members broke away from the LDS (aka Mormons) years ago because they wanted to practice polygamy. There's a fascinating piece on it in this month's National Geographic, and here's what I took away from it: It's a mess.

The article mentions former member Carolyn Jessop, who wrote a best-selling book called Escape. It is a memoir of her time as a mother of eight, and as one of her ex-husband's many wives. Naturally, memoirs are biased because they are recollections of events based on memories and flawed perspectives. But there isn't that much material on the FLDS, so take what you can.

The points that interest me:

-The Lost Boys. If one man has several wives, the math means there are going to be several unwed males. In a society where marriage is so important, don't you think that has some ramifications?

-The women who defend their situations. There is almost nothing holding these women back from leaving these FLDS towns. They have phones, drive SUVs, and have all your basic freedoms. Yet they do not leave. In fact, a lot of the women are stout defenders of their faith. It's easy to say they've been brainwashed, but the issue runs deeper than that. To abandon everything familiar, (home, family, friends, faith, daily life) and to leave for another town or city, well you might as well be entering completely alien territory. Come to think of it, that's a pretty powerful way of holding people back.

-Criminal behaviour. Some FLDS members have been jailed in recent years, including their prophet, Warren Jeffs. The sordid cause in many cases? Sex with a minor. In one example, a man had a 16-year-old as one of his wives, but the state's age of consent is 17, and since plural marriage is illegal... the girl was not considered his wife. Off to a cozy jail cell he went. Do not pass Go, and do not collect $200.

I wonder how much of the show Big Love is based on these real people. Anyway, I just find this interesting, because this is taking place in North America, and not in far-flung reaches of the world under backwards, patriarchal systems. (Note: While men are the key figures in the FLDS, women have equality, and they factor heavily in the social structure, making it a more matriarchal system than it seems at first glance.) This post wasn't intended to go on so long. I was actually going to write about science-fiction and its ability to make allegories for real life. Maybe next time. Maybe this is just as unsettling because it isn't fiction. Either way, thanks for your patience.

*Photo by Stephanie Sinclair

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Photos from the weekend protest

I bet most Canadians didn't know what the word "prorogue" meant not that long ago. The process of discontinuing a session of parliament is not new. Prime Ministers have used it several times, but this time it's causing a stir because Stephen Harper used it to get out of answering tough questions about his government. I guess he didn't want to slide in the polls, and look where that got him. His 15 point lead over the opposition is gone. It could be temporary, but I like that some folk have been paying attention to government shenanigans. Anything to stop the apathy of the last few years.

This weekend there were protests across the country. I went to the one in Toronto to see what the turnout would be like, and it was pretty good. Here are a few photos I snapped of the event.

EDIT: I thought I resized the photos. I definitely reduced the quality, but they still look huge. Sorry. I'll learn for next time.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Quarrington, Causes, and CoCo

Sadness, frustration, hope, worry, a little more hope, and a shock of red hair. That's what's on the menu today. If you like links, then this is sort of like an all-you-can-read buffet. Bon appetit.

Paul Quarrington died on Thursday. He was a CanLit icon, and a well-known musician in these parts. Last I saw him was at the International Festival of Authors, back in October. I didn't have tickets to actually see the event for him, but it was great by all accounts, even if it was a bit sad considering he was sick. Vit Wagner's piece is here, and Julie Wilson's excellent tale of (among other things) living in his old house is here. There's very little that I can add to what they have written, but Quarrington wrote several good books, and I suggest you experience some of them.

Of note to Canadians: There are protests going on today in anger over the government prorogue. I'm going to swing by the one in Toronto and see if any significant fuss is made about this political farce.

Haiti update: I was photographing a fundraiser for Haiti on Thursday night. The event went remarkably well. From a humanitarian perspective, it's great to see the general outpouring of generosity in recent days. Part of the money raised went to Lifewater, an organization that builds wells and provides sustainable clean drinking water. It was a party kind of fundraiser, but there were a couple of pretty sombre moments, such as when the organizer (DFareham) had his mother on the phone from Haiti. She was put on speaker, and there were echoes of gunshots a couple of times during a two-minute conversation. I can't even imagine what it's like to be in those shoes. Here's hoping for the best.

For those of you who helped, who are helping, or who have donated time or money, thank you.

Raising funds? Good. Distributing them and having accountability? That's trickier. Not to get too political here, but there are economic problems with Haiti that go beyond anything brought on by natural disaster, and some of it could be our doing.

It's troubling to read about the indiscriminate distribution of goods. Here's a sample line: "Piyay (goods) from foreign missionaries and aid agencies with the best of intentions but little understanding of the culture they are working in too often turns the village sociopath or criminal into the wealthiest member of the community [...] And now, in the wake of this disaster, the piyay is about to arrive as never before."

The good news? There are ways to fix Haiti.

Friday night also had a couple of big TV events. First was the Hope for Haiti telethon hosted by George Clooney.

That was followed by another event, one that was a bit more light-hearted than anything else in this post seems to be. I'm talking about Conan O'Brien's last show as host of the Tonight Show. Funny, moving, and rocking (did you see him shredding on guitar?!), it was a good way to go. Long may you run, CoCo.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Man-colds, accidents, and Haiti

So what's up with the January resolutions? So far I'm doing alright with most of them. This will be my third blog post of the year, so obviously I'm not coming through on my blogging goal, but I have excuses aplenty. Of course. Really, I was wiped from inventory at work last week, and this week I've been sick. Actually, my publisher asked me yesterday if I had a "man-cold", which is apparently a regular cold that seems to morph into a super-cold when a man gets it. Hehe... I've probably had a couple of those, but this one was the real thing.

Anyway, while I was zonked out, I actually managed to get a fair amount of reading, writing, and drawing done, so I have high hopes of delivering some serious results when I have my month-in-review recap.

As far as work is concerned, I was really, really glad an incident like this one did not occur in our warehouse during inventory.

What an absolute mess.

In other news, I'll be donating my talents (if that's the word) as a photographer for a fundraiser for Haiti come Thursday night. I'll try to post something here leading up to the event if I can. For anyone out there reading, I'm sure the Red Cross, or any of the other organizations listed on this page,would appreciate your support.

Lastly, it's possible you've seen this by now if you're at all aware of North American media, but just in case, here is a fantastic retort to some surprisingly insensitive remarks about the Haitian crisis.

That's quite the smackdown. And that's all the time I have at the moment. Tune in next time, and in the meantime, I wish you all a great end to the weekend.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Favourites from 2009 (January, Part 2)

The new year is here, and it's already begun better than last year. For one thing, I have a job I enjoy. For another thing, there was no hangover. 2010 is bound to be another year full of learning experiences, especially with work. A year ago I didn't know anything about e-readers, e-pub formats, Twitter, the Google lawsuit, or anything at all work-related. I'd just finished acing a film history course, and I only took up publishing because screenplay and digital editing courses were full. Crazy, eh?

(About those e-readers: I won't buy one until they become affordable and until companies settle on one e-book file compatible across the different readers. Still, they're kind of neat, and I might try to borrow the Kindle at work.)

Let's take a quick look at 2009, the year that was.

Things I liked about '09:

-A re-dedication to drawing. The results are strictly amateur, but I can improve.

-Movies*, and seeing them in theatres.

-My boots. Shoes are shoes, right? That's what I thought. And then I got a good pair. The difference is phenomenal.

-Jim Nelson, the outspoken editor-in-chief of GQ.

-Following friends on blogs. It's added an extra dimension to getting to know people a bit better through their drawings, photography, and travels.

-My safety razor. When I forsake the beard and go clean-shaven, this is the way to go.

-Battlestar Galactica. TV shows take too long to watch, which is why I like it when a series is worth watching from start to finish. (About that finish, though...)

*Favourite movies: Inglourious Basterds, The Hangover, A Single Man, Away We Go, Up in the Air, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Up, Coraline, Star Trek, Sherlock Holmes, The Proposal, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, The Princess and the Frog, State of Play, and Julie and Julia. (Movies I'm still waiting to see: The Hurt Locker, Avatar, Zombieland, Moon, District 9, A Serious Man, The September Issue, The Informant!, Public Enemies, and I Love You, Man.)

Things I did not like about '09:

-Owing Revenue Canada money. Seriously? How did that happen? And why did I only find out before Christmas.
-Google. Ok, I'm neutral on Google, but it was/is something of a Big Brother in publishing. Their motto might be "Do no evil", but their not-so-gradual takeover of the world is a little worrisome. The upcoming settlement is going to cause trouble whichever way it goes. Appeals will drag. Meanwhile, Steve Jobs and Apple will wipe the floor with their new tablet.

Goals for 2010:
-Write more. 2009 was supposed to be the year that I finished my novel. Instead, I pulled it apart (three times), and put it aside. I'm writing another story. Will I stick to Story B, go back to Story A, or do something completely different? I'll keep you posted.
-Improve photography skills, specifically the ones needed in a studio.
-Make a short live-action or stop-motion film I'm proud of. I'll settle for a short film I'm not embarrassed of.
-Improve this blog.
-Compile a decent visual arts portfolio.
-Complete a marathon and a bike race.
-Play shows with a new band (or the old one, if circumstances allow).
-Start shopping for a house.
-Take a picture of (or with) the Loch Ness monster.
-Pay it forward.

That's all I can think of. It looks like more than enough for now. I need to start writing.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

January, Part 1

In which I don't state all my goals yet (that's for Part 2). The following is a list of what I intend to read this month:

At Large and At Small; Confessions of a Literary Hedonist, by Anne Fadiman
The Book of Atrix Wolfe, by Patricia A. McKillip
A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers (a novel), by Xiaolu Guo
Fables #1 (Legends in Exile), by Bill Willingham
Outlander, by Diana Gabaldan
The Republic, by Plato
Under the Dome, by Stephen King

This might be an unrealistic list for one month. The only way these books will get read is through proper time management, something that I fear is beyond me. But hope springs eternal (pardon the cliche), and these are the books that I plan to read in the very early days of this month, year, and decade. This month the balance looks like: 4 novels (1 fantasy, 1 historical fiction, and 2 contemporary fiction), 1 graphic novel, 1 book of philosophy, and 1 book of essays. Suspiciously absent: Canadiana. I'm not too worried though, because I'm bound to read some at work. If I can write about it here, I will.

Writing a review of each is not going to happen. That would really be overreaching. But I can promise a monthly recap where you can see what progress (if any) was made. More titles are bound to get added, but this is the official start for the month.
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