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Letter from the Editor 05 Hunters in the Snow, 1565 07 Alan Girling Roots and Wings 18 Shannon Rayne You May Be an Athlete, But You Are a Woman First 24 Ellie Gordon-Moershel Sea to Sky: Chapter Three 28 Tony Power Memewar: The Game 38 The Glamour of the Plastic Generation 64 Elliott Lummin As Through a Veil and Darkly 67 Garrett Peck Cereal Junkies : Charms Outta Luck, or The Journey to 70 Thor Polukoshko Wholesome Goodness ; #1 – 2 Obituaries 72
Thorblood the 08 Investing in Gold: Orcs, Farmers, Warcraft, and Economics Shaman Thorblood the Shaman takes to the plains of Azeroth in hopes of uncovering the mysteries of the elusive gold farmer — a group of role-playing criminals that cheat, steal and who have significantly affected the economy of the World of Warcraft. Carmen Papalia 40 "...just follow your dreams" Memewar speaks to Paralympian and motivational speaker Donovan Tildesley on topics ranging from the rising profile of the Paralympic Games to three-legged polar bears. Heather McDonald 51 Untitled Suite In this engaging suite of poems, Heather McDonald presents a few of the arguments that are at the heart of the anti-2010 debate — touching on everything from the Assistance to Shelter Act to the paving of the Olympic Village. Erin Millar 51 On Vandalism, A Memoir Freelance reporter Erin Millar describes her experience of becoming a homeowner in a neighbourhood that wants her out — the ever-changing cultural hotspot that is Vancouver’s Commercial Drive.
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In the histories of hockey, there's scant mention of Bruegel's three men home from the hunt. But follow their path, the line of trees down to the frozen expanse, and look closely: The townspeople are at play, three leaning into long sticks with familiar curves. They are too far off for the gallery to hear the thrust and scrape of spears, yet what else could the men be dreaming of? They've trudged long, daylight lingers, and the fire at the inn can wait. Time now to glide like a birdâ€” there's one, it cuts across the icy grey of the early evening sky.
Orcs, Farmers, Warcraft, and Economics thorblood the shaman
images copyright blizzard entertainment
Yesterday was like any other day. I left home, went out into the fields and slaughtered undead skeleton mages. I scoured the lands of Azeroth in search of stronger armor. I brewed a few mana potions. And along the way, I befriended a few orcs.
This is the World of Warcraft, or “WoW” as most players refer to it — a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) produced by Blizzard Entertainment. The premise of the game is that there are two warring factions battling over supremacy for the fantasy world — The Horde (composed of Orcs, Trolls, Blood Elves, Undead, and the minotaur-like Tauren) and The Alliance (Humans, Gnomes, Dwarves, Elves, and Draenei). As you complete quests, you gain experience, increase your class level (i.e. up to a level 80 warrior, rogue, etc.), and find new items such as armor, weapons, or potions. Of course, the fact that WoW is played online makes it much more than a simple kill-monstersand-level-up game; using one of the many professions such as alchemy, leatherworking, cooking, or enchanting, you can sell your goods in one of the auction houses located in any capital city. You can increase your PVP (player-vs-player) rankings by taking part in different Horde vs. Alliance battleground games. You can even create or join guilds composed of like-minded players to collaborate on group quests in dangerous dungeons, or pool gold to help someone buy that expensive new battle axe. But pooling resources with a guild is not the only way for players to get ahead in the World of Warcraft. Since the game’s inception, a number of websites have surfaced which offer players in-game gold in exchange for real money; in fact, the proliferation of these websites is so vast that if you type “Warcraft gold” into Google, you will get over 7 million hits. Of course, WoW is not the first online game to spawn such a market — the selling of virtual
items and currency for real money is a billion dollar international industry that has been around since the late 1990s, with the emergence of eBay and the first wave of MMORPGs, including games such as Ultima Online (1997). But Warcraft, because of its popularity, definitely has one of the largest followings this virtual market has ever seen.
011 keeping things clean
I spoke with a number of players about the issue of gold farming websites, and the sentiment was fairly unanimous that buying gold was a form of cheating — an easy way to bypass the hours of hard work that go into building a character and acquiring equipment the old fashioned way. Faeoria, a level 80 Blood Elf priest, described the process as “the same thing as counterfeiting in the real world.” Players seem sympathetic with Blizzard, a company that clearly does not want other businesses profiting off of their enterprise—apparently, even in Azeroth, the capitalist vein runs strong. Venrir, a level 80 Undead mage, explained to me that “gold farmers are the renegades of the World of Warcraft because Blizzard has no way of controlling them.” The company’s inability to effectively deal with the problem, according to Venrir, “makes Blizzard look weak,” which in turn encourages more of the same behaviour from similar gold farming websites. It’s a cycle that perpetuates itself, despite some of the actions Blizzard takes against the gold farming industry, such as permanently banning thousands of accounts. But apart from Blizzard’s personal business concerns, their stance against buying and selling gold also considers players’ experiences and maintenance of the game’s integrity. According to Blizzard and many players, taking part in the industry of “illegal” gold farming promotes three in-game phenomena affecting game play: the hacking of accounts, the use of bots, and spamming.
When I spoke to Venrir, he explained to me that his account had actually been hacked earlier in the day: “What they do is keylog you or implant a virus on your computer that tracks keystrokes. When they have your password, they log on and sell all your shit and change your password. I happen to be a guild master, so they hacked my guild bank and stole everything from there too. They like to steal items like Saronite Ore and Titanium Ore in bulk (which sell for a lot). They then make level 1 characters, transfer the gold and items to that character, and then transfer it all to the “main seller” and delete the level 1.” Although Blizzard is able to restore hacked accounts, this process of money laundering makes it difficult for them to take action, especially since most of the level 1 characters are created using free trial accounts.
Apart from hacking accounts, gold farmers also gather resources through the use of macros — automated scripts that tell characters to move, attack, or heal, and allow farmers to run several accounts, on multiple computers, at the same time. A single farmer could be monitoring 20 of these “bots” at a time; the farmer only needs to step in and manually control the character if it is killed by a monster, or if the character’s inventory bags are full. The development of macros themselves is big business too. Macros used by gold farmers often exploit minor glitches in the game programming, such as teleportation hacks, duplication of looted gold, etc. Blizzard continually releases new patches for the game to address these minor coding errors, but the argument is that players who support gold farming support the exploitation of bugs, and essentially, outright cheating, regardless of if the player considers buying gold as acceptable practice. Spamming happens when players flood the chat channels with advertisements. Farmers who have a large quantity of raw materials to sell — such as precious gems, ore, and cloth — send message after message broadcasting their wares. Spamming can also include advertising for specific websites or other out-of-game business enterprises. Spamming, although not really damaging to game play, is simply one of those irritations most players could live without.
an economy of war
Perhaps the most interesting consequence of gold farming is the effect it has on the in-game economy. I was startled to find that such a thing even existed, but most of the players I talked to were quite concerned about issues such as inflation affecting their game play. I suppose it’s natural for such an economic system to develop in an online game where players sell and trade goods and services with each other through venues like auction houses, but it still surprised me to hear so many players offer intelligent, and thorough, discussion analyzing the ups and downs of a virtual economy! Like any real economic system, the WoW economy can be manipulated. For example, a number of online guides offer tips on how a player might artificially raise prices in the auction house by creating monopolies on specific items. Likewise, the injection of farmed gold into the economy has a similar effect, but on a larger scale. If more players have more money, then it makes sense for capitalists to sell high-demand items at increased prices, and eventually, all prices in the auction house become inflated in a gradual shift toward a once-again balanced economy. But, as Inuzuka, a level 80 Orc hunter, explained, “It perpetuates a cycle. The prices rise, so we have to buy gold to get the gear. Since we can afford it again, they raise prices again. To get the best auction house stuff now you have to buy gold.” The difference between the WoW economy and realworld economy, however, is that with a steady flow of gold into hands of eager Trolls and Elves, the WoW economy can’t crash, so inflation keeps going higher and higher, as with the demand for farmed gold. Forget investing in real gold, you can’t possibly lose with virtual gold. And the inflation isn’t likely to stop any time soon; nor do many players have an optimistic outlook. As Inuzuka rationalized, “Suramar [the server we play on] is too old and corrupt, so it’s just a part of our lives.” Trofi, a level 76 Troll mage, hints at some positive side-effects of farming, but, like everyone else, was not optimistic about the future: “Well, bot farming actually lowers prices of some rare drops because it increases supply. Back when bot farming was much more prevalent, prices were very low on drops
people farmed for. But now the farmers just steal the gold from hacked accounts, so the net effect is negative. The gold still exists, but when Blizzard restores your account, they just replace the gold out of thin air.” Obviously, you can’t fix an economy simply by creating more currency — all this does is drive up inflation even more.
chinese orcs and dwarves
It is a fairly well-known fact within the World of Warcraft that most farmed gold comes from China. What not all players realize is that many gold farmers, usually teenage boys, are hired by “farming centres” to work for up to twelve-hours a day at sweatshop wages. Many of these farming centres, which are basically just rows of computers, are owned by American players who justify their business in the same manner that corporations justify outsourcing to third world countries for cheap labour. Inuzuka summed this rationale up nicely: “I’ve seen reports on these “sweatshops;” none of the people there complain. 10 cents an hour in China beats making nothing as a farmer with bad crops.” In typical capitalist fashion, Inuzuka went on to explain that “I’m sure that in America there are a few people living on unemployment and playing WoW. It’s like paying them to gold farm, but you don’t get the coin. So, I’d rather my money go to some Chinese guy giving me 3k gold than some lard ass on his couch wasting his life.” The fact that these are not typical sweatshops also adds to the misconception that they can’t be bad. Of course, forcing people to make Nike shoes is cruel, but forcing them to play a videogame hardly sounds unethical; as Trofi stated, “getting paid to play WoW; who is the sucker, us or them?” Apart from the obvious exploitation of human labour, another damaging aspect of these sweatshops is the racism surrounding the perception of gold farmers. The stereotype is that all gold farmers are Chinese, and this leads to some racist depictions of gold farmers in a variety of media — from YouTube videos featuring exaggerated racial stereotypes, to songs about gold farming with Chinese lyrics for the chorus, to comics and photoshopped images with racist undertones.
Off-hand remarks bordering on racism can also be heard in the in-game chat from time to time. As a result, gold-selling websites try their best to appear as American as possible. All the sites that offer a live chat function feature images of smiling white women wearing headsets. And despite the fact that these chat operators write in horrible, broken English, they all have non-threatening Anglophone names like Max, Linda, Carol, Mike, or Tim. I suppose itâ€™s just good business sense to project the illusion of Americanness when the vast majority of your customers are American, but I canâ€™t help but think that, even in Obamaâ€™s glorious racism-free nation, an overtly Chinese-operated gold-selling website would probably attract very little business.
sowing a new crop
In addition to banning accounts, Blizzard does do their fair share to stifle the activities of gold farmers. The newly developed Blizzard Authenticator, available for a mere $6.50, is a hardware device designed to stop account hackers. Recent patches to the game have seen more stringent reputation or experience requirements for use of high-value items, so new players need more than just gold to get ahead. Blizzard also monitors in-game transactions for large money transfers, and claims that they track suspected gold-sellers to find out who is buying from them. But there are always loopholes, and the gold farmers always find ways to evade detection or capture, including interesting and less-traceable methods of in-game delivery.
And of course, Blizzard is not without criticism. Some players endorse conspiracy theories that Blizzard is actually behind some of the major gold-selling websites. Some players advocate the selling of “official” Blizzard-certified gold to deter the gold farming industry; others claim that this will just drive down the price of illegal farmed gold, while continuing to drive up the prices in the auction house. Some players, like TotalBiscuit, owner of WoW Radio and host of the prominent radio talk show [EPIC], take matters into their own hands. With his seminal “documentary” Chronicles of the Gold Farmer — in which TotalBiscuit (as the character TotalHalibut) tracks down and observes a gold farmer in its “natural habitat” — TotalBiscuit started a movement against gold farming, encouraging players to seek out and attack suspected farmers and bots. But the question remains as to whether or not such a thing as “ethical” gold farming is something that is viable. There is no doubt that these farmers do exist, but they are obviously an extreme minority. This would be purely manual farming, without the use of macros, bots, or hacks, where farmers are paid respectable wages for their efforts — fulfilling the needs of gold-buyers (who we can assume are not going to go away), while minimizing the negative effects of the illicit gold trade. Clearly, this is utopian thinking on my part, but, nonetheless, I asked players if they thought that farming could be an ethical practice. Faeoria had this to say: “the gold farmers gotta eat too. And just like here in the USA, people will do a lot of things they don’t necessarily
agree with just to put food on the table. So, while I don’t agree with sweatshop wages, or even with the farming of gold for that matter, I don’t despise those people for feeding their families either. If it’s not “illegal” what can ya say about it? They’re not breaking any laws. But that doesn’t mean Blizzard should give ‘em any slack either. It’s quite a conundrum.”
the golden rule
When I initially set out to write this article, my plan was to track down some actual gold farmers. WoW gold is fairly cheap, about $6-8 USD for 1000 gold (although, you can spend up to $1000 for about 150 000 gold — and to give you an idea of how much gold this is, a high-level character can farm about 20-30 gold in an hour), so my plan was to drop a few dollars and chat up the farmer who delivered my purchase. I wanted to understand the firsthand experiences of sweatshop life, and find out if gold farmers played WoW for leisure as well as for their jobs. I wanted to know how much they got paid, and if they enjoyed the work they did. I wanted to get their opinions on racism, and whether or not they actually believed that buying gold was a form of cheating. But then I realized that that wasn’t even the story I was looking for. The real story was the fact that an issue this complex even existed within a video game in the first place. It was clear to me that World of Warcraft was no longer just a game, but rather something much bigger, and much more important than I had originally conceived. It was a cultural force, with enough authority to generate a multi-million dollar illegal market completely separate from the game’s producers. “I know of two instances where people who met on WoW got married,” Venrir explained to me. At the same time, Faeoria reasoned that “as a parent myself, I’d rather my kid be playing WoW than runnin’ the streets doin’ god knows what.” The game is a way of life. Blizzard not only created a form of entertainment, but an entire lifestyle that goes along with it. In fact, the only major difference between WoW and real life is that we don’t have gold farmers to help us with our mortgage payments and student loans.
Pink tutus twirl like cotton candy in front of my Ferris wheel eyes pointed toes dressed and pressed in silk point and flex flashes of cherry and white ballerinas confident in their stride pull their bodies taught like birthday cake candles
I want to touch them lick sweetness from swirling skirts
my wrist feels the sting from my motherâ€™s scolding hand when I reach towards them four years old too young to understand some women are not meant to be touched some, are meant to be watched from a distance. The dancers scissor kicking thin legs in mid air soar above front row spectators â€“ holding the secret of the woman I want to become. Untouchable. Unstoppable. Uncommon.
I feel the slap on my hand again the sting now comes from my dance instructor’s furious fingers price paid for flirting with curious boys or chocolate crème pies if we dream of becoming a dancer. Practice. Practice. Practice. Pliés, demi-pliés, relevés, pirouettes. My ankles buckle. Knees smash and scrape from the strain of holding my body steady on the tips of toes (unnatural poses!) My failure to escape gravity, stains my dress blushing red. The music continues. I am no longer dancing.
The spirit of my great grandmother shackled to the promise of the harvest of farm land found a home in my bones without invitation. slap
slap slap slap My palms strike goat skin. My hands race a half beat behind the other drummers my mind pushes my arms to play faster. I crouch over my djembe, mahagony heavy leather tethers my body to prairie soil. Slowly, a woman approaches our circle, dread locks and skin soaked with mud we greet her entrance with our communal rhythm her body responds we pick up the tempo her arms shoot like stars piercing the sky we play faster roar
w/ thunder shoulders heave shudder hands bring torrents of rain. She looks like the west wind swirling earth and leaves above our heads as if she were airborne her breath rises from our drums her feet guided by our rhythm
her trance bridges the distance
between her skin and prairie land
my hands glide effortlessly now across stretched skin dance floor but goat skin is too thin to support a leap into flight It is not my will not my choice to dance. Music asks a question my ancestral bones rattle yes.
The bouncer slaps the nightclubâ€™s emblem into my hand pressing my wrist hard against the bar room counter. Hesitant I enter the night club, the heat from the dance floor invades the coolness of my skin.
Is this music? Wavering hip hop distorts over a PA system while shirtless men pound out their intentions against concrete floors. I am out of place here. I am Cinderella’s slipper about to be stuffed with a swollen bloody foot. Scanning the room for something to tether my attention to - I spot the DJ. He spins in the shadow of the man rapping into the microphone but he is the brightest light in this room. His fingers spin stuttered circles onto vinyl electric eccentricity the back beat to the rapper’s broken rhythm I lean back, watch his hands dancing break beat dub steps on the record player I close my eyes shutting out the rapper’s waving voice, find the sounds my body wants to hear feet follow intuitively. Slowly I begin to dance through the thickness of the dance floor the sweat on my skin senses the patterns of the other dancers our shared desire to find our own centers is the spirit guiding us around this room. I feel the rhythm of the women that came before me the tug of my great grandmother on my hips pushing me deeper into the dance floor to feel the heat of wheat fields
next to her skin
she presses me against the shoulders of strangers I step away afraid of falling she pushes harder
I stumble into the arms of a man his eyes greet me with a gaze telling me I belong here
among these vibrating floor boards resisting the morning sun among this community of dancers where feet sing out with rhythm where spirits enter, depart, re-enter, and disappear where my great grandmother finds her rest my bones unearth their freedom the spirits and I released.
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An email from Rugby Ontario states that 20-30 female rugby players are needed for an American commercial. You will get paid 1500 dollars for the day. Sounds great. Oh, but all players in the commercial have to scrum down in high heels and a short skirt. Oddly enough, no one on my elite level rugby team seemed to be too perplexed by this. Though, the lack of negative reaction toward sexist behaviours may be not that surprising from a team that refers to the rookies as “baby rugby whores” and the veterans as “momma rugby whores.” One might think that women’s only athletic spaces would be the mecca for inclusion of all types of women as well as an escape from the “man’s world” that we live in. Don’t get me wrong, it can and does provide a safe space in many cases. On the other hand, as with everything else, women’s sport does not live in a vacuum — in fact I think many people would like to believe that these athletes prefer their vacuum to their sporting equipment. What is the threat? Women playing sports, especially traditionally masculine sports (think rugby and ice hockey) are in itself a revolutionary act of challenging gender norms and reclaiming the female body. Due to this inherent political reality I believe that female athletes are consistently subjected to unusual and clandestine forms of oppression from the threatened patriarchal powers. Clandestine in that many of the women themselves (as noted above) quite readily submit without taking issue. One of these pervasive oppressions, which have been pointed out by acclaimed sport journalist Laura Robinson, is that elite female athletes receive immense pressure to constantly reassure people of their heterosexuality and femininity (Robinson 2002). This idea is not just restricted to the example of my varsity rugby team but to media coverage and sponsorship. There seems to be only two ways to market female athletes: either by emphasizing their sexy, bodacious bodies or by drawing attention to their “primary” roles as loving mother, daughter, or wife.
there seems to be only two ways to market female athletes : either by emphasizing their sexy , bodacious bodies or by drawing attention to their primary roles as loving mother , daughter , or wife .
Hayley Wickenheiser is often referred to as the best female hockey player in the world. She also is arguably one of the best hockey players of either sex. Wickenheiser has a tough, traditionally non-feminine look. So, to me, it was almost laughable to see her in a Hamburger Helper commercial having this conversation: “Hayley, you are a very busy mom, what do you cook at home? Oh, definitely Hamburger Helper.” Then pan to the shot of her serving her son and boyfriend at the kitchen table. This is only one example among many media analyses that have looked at the difference between female and male athlete coverage in media. For example, in one magazine, photos of male athletes, oddly enough, display them playing their sports. When looking at an article on female athletes in the same magazine, the photos are of women showering topless with each other (Robinson 2002). Maybe this isn’t so startling since advertising and media is full of every sort of stereotype you can shake a stick at. It is also important to point out that studies have shown that only about 3% of Canadian print media sport coverage is devoted to women in the first place (CAAWS 2006). We can also look within the sporting community itself to the administrators and managers of these talented women. Who are, not surprisingly, mostly men. A couple years ago, I saw some older women from the now defunct All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) who were then current members of USA’s women’s national fast pitch team speak at an engagement. I, being a die-hard League of Their Own fan, could hardly wait to hear the “real story,” and barely paid attention to the young members of the national fast pitch team. While navigating through my disappointment of the AAGPBL women’s proclamations (they did not, as the film suggested, run around willy-nilly, drinking booze and swing dancing on nights off) I learned some interesting facts from the athletes of my generation. According to one player, it was common practice for these young women to grow their hair nice and long before try outs for the national team. Evidently, the coaches and managers were looking for more than skill level. Imagine hearing Alex Rodriguez talk about the pressure to make sure his goatee was manicured before tryouts. It is absurd.
While travelling with the most successful team in Canadian women’s hockey, Nancy Theberge, author of Higher Goals: Women’s Ice Hockey and the Politics of Gender, discovered the male management intended to ensure that the women looked feminine and classy off of the ice. This, of course, is not even mentioning the sex verification tests that used to be mandatory for all internationally competing female athletes. The Castor Semenya case has given this issue new breath since the tests were discontinued in 2000 (Saner 2008). Unfortunately, the latest reports of Semenya’s chromosomal disorder seem to have given strength to the argument that the tests are justified and absolutely necessary (Tucker 2009). Let’s put this into perspective. The male dominated administrators of international sporting organizations were and are given the authority to publicly consider that the reason a female athlete is finishing well or that she does not look like a traditionally feminine woman must be because she is actually a man. Regardless of the fury I feel when I read that these tests are performed in a desire for “fairness” we need to remember that we’re talking about elite level athletes. In many ways most of them can be considered abnormal. Michael Phelps has an unusually long wing span for his height and extra elasticity in his ankles. Lance Armstrong and other successful cyclists have a much larger lung capacity than the average person. By providing an overview of these issues, I want to expose and clarify the pressures, from many avenues, that female athletes face. Women’s only sport is not a safe haven from gender discrimination. It is not a safe haven from many types of discrimination. All of this does not mean that I love sport any less. It is part of my identity. It is part of our nation’s identity, but if we do not seriously consider the critical implications surrounding the powerful tool that is sport we are sure to let it become yet another cog in the machine of gender oppression. Work Cited: CAAWS. On The Move: Increasing the Participation of Girls and Young Women in Recreational and Physical Activity. Ottawa: CAAWS Publishing (2006). Robinson, Laura. Black Tights: Women, Sport, and Sexuality. Toronto: HarperCollins (2002). Saner, Emine. "The Gender Trap." The International Guardian Newspaper. (2008) Tucker, Ross. "Caster Semenya." Science of Sport (2009): n. pag. Web. 1 Feb 2010. <http:// www.sportsscientists.com/2009/08/castersemenya-male-or-female.html>.
CHAPTER THREE tony power
(Whistler Mountain, British Columbia - April 1970)
The man across from them on the ride up was fortyish, near as Leo could guess, tanned and fitlooking with the predatory good looks of a male model and brand-new, top-of-the-line skiwear to match. But very short, not much over five feet. His after-shave was strong at close quarters. His hair, styled to perfection, was modishly long and a striking silver-grey; likewise the thick muttonchop sideburns framing his narrow, Mediterranean face. Leo was sure he had seen him somewhere and in fact had an uneasy feeling that he might be Nick DiPuma, though he couldn't be sure after all this time and given the distance at which he had viewed him those three, nearly four summers ago. The girl squeezed in beside the man was thin and fair and striking in an ethereal sort of way, dark-eyed with thick black lashes, yet very pale, with a long plait of wheat-colored hair falling forward over her shoulder. Her porcelain skin contrasted dramatically with her companion's dark tan. She was much taller than him, at least six inches, and young enough to be his daughter â€“ Leo's own age â€“ though he didn't think this was the case: beyond their being such dissimilar physical types, there was nothing he could remotely recognize as fatherly about the guy; he seemed much more the cradle-snatching Playboy Man type. And there was something creepily proprietary about the way his right arm was stretched out along the top of the backrest behind her narrow shoulders. She seemed tense and jittery, fidgeting with her hair as they ascended and looking past Leo back down the mountain out of big, dark doe eyes that were filled with apprehension and avoided his own at all costs â€“ though not without first giving him a strange, intense look upon sitting down across from him and his brother in the cramped gondola.
Leo and she were positioned directly opposite one another, toe-to-toe practically, and he was keenly aware of how close her knees were to his own. Mere fractions of an inch separated them, and it almost seemed that hers were surrounded by some weird force field that caused his own legs to tingle and tremble and an erection to threaten. Straightening, he drew in as far as he could, and looked out the side window at the snowcovered slopes below, entertaining fantasies of rescue and romance, improbable scenarios in which the silvery old sleaze was confronted and called to account and sent packing, dislodged from the damsel's affections and replaced by none other than himself... When he looked up again he found that she was once more regarding him with big, troubled eyes but quickly looked away – over at Russ, as it happened... out of the frying pan and into the fire, his brother favoring her with a wolfishly winsome smile that served only to heighten her evident discomfort.
Again her gaze darted away, dropping to the door of their cab, to which was affixed a metal sign the size of a playing card specifying the gondola's maximum permissible capacity (4) and weight (1200 lbs.) in three languages (German, French, and English), which she stared down at, blinking and trembling and in fact looking as if she were about to jump out of her perfect creamy skin. Leo thought that Russ's sunglasses might be bothering her. They were mirror-lensed and a bit sinister and she likely was feeling ogled through one-way glass. This certainly was possible but he had a feeling it was not necessarily the case. Lovely as she was to his own way of thinking, her looks were a bit subtle for the likes of his brother, a bit fragile and anemic and perhaps – though the bulky powder-blue ski jacket she was wearing made it difficult to say for sure – a bit unbuxom: Russ's tastes tended to run to the more blatantly provocative. In any event, Russ pushed the glasses up atop his head and turned his gaze out the window. Was it possible he had sensed her discomfort? Surprising, if so. He wasn't much known for his attunement to the feelings of others. Now Leo glanced over at the girl's companion who likewise was looking out his window at the woods to the east, dark-green stands of mountain hemlock and subalpine fir and pine bordering the gondola cut, casting long blue shadows across the snowy slopes beneath them. Leo wondered again if the man were DiPuma. On his face was a bored expression, and between the multi-ringed fingers of his left hand, a black cigarette, gold-filtered and unlit. A big gold wristwatch peeped from the black nylon sleeve of his jacket. His face and neck and hands were very dark – the sort of deep mahogany tan that was difficult to acquire lo-
cally this time of year and likely attested to leisure time spent recently on a beach or by a pool at some sun-drenched resort for the affluent: Palm Springs... Maui... PeeVee... From the bottom of the mountain to the top of the gondola was a ride of not much more than ten minutes but it seemed endless, passing in stony silence after an initial pleasantry from Russ noting the splendor of the day went unacknowledged by their fellow riders, and likewise a second attempt a few minutes later, after he had pushed his glasses up, this time remarking the magnificence of the natural surroundings, and again ignored by their co-passengers. A snub, no mistaking it – Russ certainly didn't and clearly he wasn't happy. "What the fuck's the problem with these two?" was the question written all over his expressive, scowling face and, Leo feared, not far from his lips. He kept quiet though, for once, donning his mirror-shades again and folding his arms and sinking into a sullen funk. Big silence set in, and as the minutes crawled by it only seemed to mount, gathering into an oppressive, almost palpable mass inside the tiny aluminum capsule and weighing down upon them – upon Leo, at least – more and more heavily until at last they came within sight of the upper terminal, a three-sided marine-green shed atop a ridge adjoining the base of the chairlift that would carry them the rest of the way to the top of the mountain. As the oil-blackened wire cable hauled them up the last little ways toward the shed their uncongenial fellow passengers twisted round to watch the approach – just in time to join Leo and Russ in viewing a more compelling spectacle: a spraddle-legged, out-of-control shussboomer bearing down at speed on the lift line-up, scattering waiting skiers right and left as he barreled through and shot out of bounds through the trees and down a precipitous drop-off that plunged a hundred near-vertical feet to a yellow-cedar storage hut below. Halfway down, he crossed his tips and launched himself into a spectacular airborne maneuver – a flailing front somersault in a semi-pike position that opened into a bellyflop as he set down, followed by a headfirst slide the rest of the way down into the side of the hut. Fortunately a safety net was in place out front, but it gave way when he hit it and though it slowed him down some he still went into the hut hard enough that the girl gasped and stiffened, her knees brushing Leo's, causing him to startle and sit bolt upright. Her companion meanwhile looked on impassively, while Russ brightened a little. "Guy should get into freestyle," he observed. "Aerials. Some definite talent there, man... biggest hotdogger since Oscar Mayer." He grinned and pushed his sunglasses back up atop his head. The silver-haired man faced back around and gave him a chilly, what's-that-bad-smell sort of look; then, as their gondola approached the open end of the terminal shed, looked
away and muttered something in a foreign language. Italian, Leo thought â€“ which would be consistent with his being named DiPuma. Translation was not necessary to understand that it was an expression of disdain. Russ's grin vanished. His eyes narrowed and he began breathing heavily through his nose. A muscle at the side of his jaw started to jump. Leo braced himself for an intemperate rejoinder, but before there was time for such they were inside the shed, their gondola was shunting off the cable, the attendant sliding the door open, and the silver-haired man mooning them with his narrow, Bognered haunches as he exited, leaving behind a pungent muskylemon smell. "SUCH a Brut," lisped Russ loudly. The girl gave them a flustered look. "Sorry," she whispered. "He's just so... he's just so... he's so..." Tears welled in her dark eyes as she groped for the word, then gave up. "God! I can't handle this!" she blurted. "I'm not supposed to get upset! It's bad for me!" Grimacing, she ducked through the door after her ineffable companion.
By the time the brothers had followed her out the man already had unloaded her skis and poles and his own from the exterior pockets on the front of their gondola and was making for the exit with the equipment under his left arm and the black cigarette, still unlit, in the corner of his mouth; the girl hurrying after him. Russ raised a cupped hand to the side of his mouth: "Nice talking to you!" he called after the receding figures. "Have a good one! Go for it!" The girl looked back over her shoulder, smiling dazedly. The man kept going. "REAL NICE TALKING TO YOU!" Russ persisted. "HAVE A NICE DAY!" The attendant, a rangy Nordic type, cut his startled blue gaze their way as he leaned into an incoming cab, steadying and slowing it down as it came rocking off the grip. "Be cool, Russ," cautioned Leo, but his brother was past the point of no return. "Y'ALL BE SURE TO LOOK US UP WHEN YOU'RE IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD, Y'HEAR?" he shouted. The man was down at the far end of the shed now, a few steps from the exit, but he was stopping to greet someone, a bulky, smiling, bearded man in a one-piece navy ski-suit and a red headband who had taken his free hand and was pumping it vigorously. Leo glanced over at Russ. His face was flushed and there was a worrisome, all-too-familiar look in his eye. He reached out and touched his brother's elbow: "C'mon, man, the guy's--"
Russ pulled his arm away. "HAVE A REAL GOOD ONE, YOU LITTLE PIMP!!" he screamed, the sinews in his neck standing out and his face going as red almost as his red plastic ski boots, which were brand-new and very red indeed. Leo gaped at him, as did the attendant and the bearded man and everyone else in the shed except the girl – she threw her hands in the air and kept going through the exit – and the man himself, who betrayed no reaction at all. Russ had an uneasy expression on his face now, looked like he might not be entirely comfortable with what had just come out of his mouth. Reaching up, he plucked his sunglasses from atop his head and slipped them back over his eyes. Leo wondered if the little lavender tablet might have something to do with this madness. But wasn't it supposed to take longer to come into play? Russ had figured an hour, at least. And wasn't mescaline supposed to mellow a person out? As opposed to turning him into a raging bloody lunatic? Alarmed, he checked himself for onsetting symptoms, not that he had much of an idea as to what these might be, but in any case he could not yet detect anything out of the ordinary. It occurred to him now that the age discrepancy might be a factor. When Russ's father – his 'real' father, blood father – abandoned Julie and his toddler self it was for a nineteen year-old. Paul had been thirty-two at the time; and when he married for a third time last year, his new wife was twenty years his junior. Did this help account for the tantrum? Was Russ confusing the silver-haired man with Paul, of whom he never spoke and whose occasional attempts to make contact he always rebuffed? Or was it just his usual incaution, not to say recklessness, and quick temper rendered even more hair-trigger than usual by the hangover and lack of sleep he had complained of? Now the man glanced over his shoulder, gave them a casual look then turned back to the bearded man, who was still looking past him at Russ with a baffled expression on his face. Letting go of the silver-haired man's hand, he gestured their way and said something. The silver-haired man shook his head, pointed toward the exit, indicating that he should go ahead, that he need not concern himself. Leo thought it might be prudent to put some distance between himself and his unruly stepbrother. He walked back over to their gondola and fetched his skis and poles and fanny pack and set them down by a row of burlap bags of rock salt stacked knee-high along the east wall of the shed; then strapped the cobalt-blue nylon pack to his waist and pulled the zippered pouch around front over his right kidney and sat down on one of the top bags. Folding his arms, he leaned back against the rough-cedar wall. This one he would be sitting out. Whatever it was that had set Russ off he could deal with the repercussions himself. And it did seem there would be repercussions.
The bearded man was headed for the exit now. When he was gone the silver-haired man leaned the two pairs of skis up against the wall, then turned without haste and gave Russ a long, level look as he slipped a hand inside the front of his jacket and brought forth not a weapon, as Leo for an instant feared he was about to, but rather a small gold cigarette lighter, with which he lit his exotic cigarette. Puffing on this and staring at Russ through narrowed eyes, he projected an aura of menace that was impressive for someone who was just an inch or two over five feet, sustaining the look until Russ, despite the advantage of his sunglasses, looked away. The man smiled for the first time, if only slightly, and started back toward them, staring hard at Leo as he approached; then, having divined that he was on the sidelines, focusing exclusively on Russ. Walking right up to him, he stood very close, not saying anything, just puffing on his sinister cigarette and crowding him and squinting through his smoke like some pint-size Man With No Name: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, and The Very Short. Russ stood his ground at first, looking at once defiant and apprehensive (mostly the latter), but he flinched and backed off a step when the man reached out and whisked the mirror-shades from the bridge of his nose.
The guy folded them and passed them back, staring at Russ expressionlessly as he held them out to him; then, when Russ accepted them, he reached into his breast pocket again and brought out a black leather billfold. Flipping it open, he tweezed something from it with two fingers, a slip of paper or a photograph, and held this up for Russ's inspection. Russ regarded it warily for a moment, then blinked several times and backed away, stumbling in his heavy boots, nearly going over backwards. The man smiled again and returned the thing, whatever it was, to his billfold, and the billfold to his pocket, then stepped toward Russ and said something that caused him to look even more dismayed than he already did; as dismayed in fact as Leo ever had seen him look, including the night the roof caught fire, and the time back in California that he accidentally shot Claire in her tender infant wrist while fooling around with his BB gun in flagrant contravention of strict standing orders that he never bring the thing inside the house, nor point it at any living creature whatsoever, much less at one of his baby sisters. The man's smile broadened. He reached up and draped an arm round Russ's shoulders, puffed smoke at him, patted his cheek and beamed like a fond featherweight uncle from the Old Country; then gave his back a slap and turned and made his way back to the far end of the shed, stopping to pick up the two pairs of skis again before disappearing through the exit. Russ stared for a moment at the sun-flooded doorway, wide-eyed and bereft for once of all cockiness. He put his head down and touched a finger to the bridge of his nose. When he looked up again he didn't meet Leo's eye. His voice when he spoke was ever so slightly more highly pitched than usual: "Wow. Can you believe that guy? What an asshole! Acts like we're not even there the whole way up... guess he hasn't been properly introduced or something, who knows... only his hairdresser for sure... did you see
that hair-do on him? What a joke, man... every hair in place and individually plastic-wrapped... fuckin' guy looks like The Man From Glad with a thyroid problem... like, the Dwarf From Glad!" He reached inside his jacket and came up with a single white-filtered cigarette and stuck it in the corner of his mouth. "And his skinny girlfriend looks like she's gonna have a nervous breakdown any second... too uptight to even look at you!" He shook his head wonderingly as he patted his pockets for matches. "Fucking Canadians, man! I guess they must've been too RESERVED to be POLITE â€“ but that's not very NICE of them, is it? What's wrong with these people, Lee? They're as bad as Brits! I mean, Americans are pretty crazy and they're liable to put a bullet in your ass if you look at 'em funny but at least the fuckers'll talk to you if they find themselves practically sitting in your damn LAP!" Leo stood up, feeling light-headed and strange. What was Russ talking about? His reading of the situation, like his recent behavior, seemed itself pretty crazy. Clearly the girl was high-strung and upset about something, too freaked out for small talk; while her intimidating companion was hostile (not 'reserved') for reasons that didn't in Leo's estimation have much to do with his nationality, nor seem all that mysterious. Just last week, Alan had taken him to a screening of the Olivier Othello at the university, and with the tragedy of the Moor of Venice still fresh in his mind it seemed to him possible that what Russ had run up against was an older guy with a young girlfriend feeling less than eager to strike up a conversation with a scruffy but tall and allegedly good-looking (Leo couldn't see it himself) young longhair with mirrors over his eyes and an eightinch ponytail and last night's liquor on his breath â€“ and, for all he knew, designs on said girlfriend. So at least it seemed to Leo, but he didn't say anything. It would be a waste of time and breath. Instead he asked: "What was that he showed you?" Russ looked at him but said nothing. His eyes were anxious, haunted. "A photograph or something?" Russ made a sour face. "Yeah, right. Picture of his family... the wife and kids," he muttered. Starting to recover his attitude, it appeared, and his sarcasm, but he was very pale, as pale almost as their agitated copassenger, and his hands shook as he raised a match to his cigarette.
Leo licked his lips. His mouth was very dry all of a sudden; parched in fact. He felt all keyed up, his motor revving high; and he had a strange sense that some sort of time slip or warp somehow had come to pass: The ride up in the gondola seemed hours ago, and breakfast at the Red Dog the distant past. "So, uh, what did the guy say?" he asked. Russ shook out the match and dropped it to the floor by the blood-red toe of his right boot and looked down at it vacantly for a moment; then walked over and set his cigarette down on the stainless-steel lip of a sand-top smoking urn next to the rack to which the attendant had transferred his Dynastars while he himself was busy taunting the silver-haired man, and from which he now retrieved them. Setting them on his shoulder, he started again for the exit.
As he walked away, Leo stared at his feet, struck again by how incredibly red the new boots were. Russ pulled up short after a few steps and about-faced and came back for his cigarette. He retrieved it from the ashtray and dragged on it once then grimaced and pushed it tip-down into the sand as he expelled smoke through his flared nostrils. He looked up at Leo and frowned. "Lee, what are you waiting for?" Leo roused himself and pushed the fanny pack around to the small of his back and cinched the strap. Picking up his own equipment, he started after his brother, trudging toward the exit with his gaze fixed once more upon the boots, marveling at the richness and vibrancy of their color as the sunlight pouring in through the open doorway struck them; indeed transfixed by their intense carmine beautyâ€Ś
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In 2008, I visited York University for their annual Critical Disability Graduate Conference, and I was introduced to a discourse that I wasn’t aware existed. During the two-day event I met a group of former Paralympic athletes that took to writing about the Paralympic Games in terms of representation. Physically fit academics were picking apart what I thought was one of the most inclusive spaces for impaired athletes to become involved with sport on an epic scale. Through presenting analyses of media depictions of Paralympians, these former athletes argued that these depictions contribute to certain stereotypes of disability, such as the "supercrip" and the "impaired victim." While listening to these sport-related presentations, it struck me that the presenters contributing to this discourse were all retired athletes — and were only able to view the Paralympic games critically once they were somewhat removed from sport. I found, when I recalled the sport writing that I had read, that this tendency — for the Paralympic athlete to be confined to the field / rink / court etc, and to seldom delve into the realm of critical discussion on sport — is consistent with current trends in sport criticism. It is often the psychologist or sociologist or the scholar of Critical Disability that writes about the impact of the game as a social and cultural act, and it is often the athlete that maintains that the game is separate from the issue being discussed. It wasn’t until I returned to Vancouver that I realized that I had a window (in the form of a friend and Paralympian by the name of Donovan Tildsley) into the world of Paralympic sport — one that I could peer through in hopes of learning how these two forces (sport and critical thought) might coexist. I thought that Donovan, who must have encountered barriers as a result of his impairment, would be the perfect person to speak with in regards to the representation of Paralympic athletes and the near pathetic attempts by the Olympics commission to raise the profile of the 2010 Paralympic Games. A few weeks later, at a Memewar fundraiser, I was guiding the world record holder to his cab outside of
a Commercial Drive venue. Finding humour in the fact that I (who am also visually impaired) awkwardly forced him through the wrong part of the door, Donovan exclaimed “… it’s like Ray Charles meeting Stevie Wonder’s chauffeur”— a one-liner that has stuck with me ever since and seems to describe my relationship with the celebrity Paralympic athlete. Earlier that night, Donovan informed me of his recent foray into motivational speaking, and of his experience developing an inspiring message that he would offer his presentation audiences. The message, “… just follow your dreams”, which I am of course editorializing, is an optimistic sentiment that caught me off-guard at the time — as I considered the mass of disability-related issues that had occupied me in my writing and art production for the five years leading up to that moment. I conducted the following email interview with Donovan in order to better understand where this earnest optimism in relation to disability and sport was coming from. * * * Memewar: I have noticed that humour is important to you when telling stories etc, I’ve heard you crack jokes during interviews, I’ve seen you climb up on stage at comedy events to tell jokes about midgets and so on. Speak on the importance of humour as someone who is visually impaired. Donovan: I believe that humour is one of the best and most effective disarming tools a person can use. Often, when people meet a blind person for the first time, they’re slightly uncomfortable. They don’t know what to say or how to act. Me cracking a joke serves two purposes. First, it catches the person off-guard and makes them feel more uncomfortable for a time. I hate to say it, but I get a kick out of doing this. But once that initial awkwardness passes, the sighted person realizes that they really have nothing to worry about. They go from thinking, “Oh my gosh. What do I do? How do I talk to this guy?” to “Wow, this guy’s
pretty cool. I’d like to get to know him better.” Yes, I may be blind, but I’m comfortable enough in my own skin to make fun of myself. Hopefully as they get to know me better they’ll make fun of me too. In terms of public speaking, audiences love humour. Something as simple as me getting up on stage and saying how nice it is to “see everyone” will be enough to break the ice. What is the funniest thing that has happened to you as someone who is visually impaired?
Let me take you back to November of 2006. I’m on a weekend roadtrip with my fraternity, Sigma Chi. Picture thirty guys crammed into a Winnibego, drinking beer, and eating junk food as we cruise down the highway, stopping off at different chapter houses to spend some time with our American brothers. On our second night, we stay at U of O in Eugene, Oregon. A bunch of us decide to go to the bar. After dancing for a time, I decide that I’ve had enough and go to sit down. I guess my eyes are kind of closed, as I soak up the atmosphere in the bar through a fresh set of beer goggles. For the record, I’m nowhere close to being passed out, just incredibly chilled out. All of a sudden I feel hands on my shoulders, and hear a voice in my ear: “OK, buddy. You’re coming with me”. It’s clearly the bouncer, and before I can blink an eye, he halls me up by the shoulders and steers me toward the door. As we exit the bar, two things happen simultaneously, which no doubt confound the poor guy. I unfold my cane, and a group of my brothers on the sidewalk see me coming and immediately take up my cause. “He’s blind!!” they yell at the guy. He was shocked! Here he was, trying to eject what looked like a passed-out frat boy from his bar, when in fact he was tossing out the blind guy. “I’m so sorry,” the chagrined bouncer stammered, “I’ll buy you a Hef”. Another beer was clearly the last thing I needed, but I nonetheless took him up on his gracious offer. The story of that night is one which will undoubtedly be a part of Sigma Chi lore for years to come.
You have spoken to youth and business professionals about your Paralympic experiences, what is your message? Do you feel that you have to ever compromise your message in order to reach a diverse audience? My message is a two-parted one. Always follow your dreams, and strive to maintain a sense of balance and harmony in your life. I can’t say I’ve ever had to compromise my message. While I’m in the process of fine-tuning my message with the help of a professional speaking coach, it will always be “my” message. Perhaps some of my stories are told more vividly, and I may remove a more risqué joke for certain audiences, but through and through, all of it comes from within me. What were some challenges in developing a message that was consumable to a mass audience, but which you felt still reflected truth / authenticity / a degree of humanness? Ask me that question in another six months, even in another year, and I think I’ll have a better answer for you. While I’m a decent enough speaker, I feel that the way in which I give my message needs much more work before I can become a really good, and, ultimately, a great speaker. While my story is a good one, and my message comes from the heart, I know that I need to find better ways of relating it to my audiences. If I’ve learned one thing about inspirational speaking, it’s that it’s not about me, the person on stage, but instead about the audience. As a person who must present themselves as an image of what a Paralympic athlete “should” be, do you feel that you have to sanitize your comments / behaviour in public? Yes and no. Sure, I’ve cleaned up some questionable photos on my Facebook, and do my darndest not to get tossed out of bars, but overall, I’m still the same Donovan. Sure, I’ve got my flaws, and there’s things about myself that I’d like to change, but I think I’m a pretty good person overall. There
have been instances in which I have opened my mouth at totally the wrong time, but so does everyone to some extent. I don’t have any plans of starting the next Tiger Woods controversy! As a public figure, I think having a few flaws makes a person more human, more authentic, and more relatable to their audience. As long as you’re honest with yourself and those around you, people will naturally respect you. You encourage your listeners to follow their dreams, how important was this idea of following dreams to you in pursuing your metals? It’s what I did to get where I needed to go. At age twelve, I had this dream to one day compete in the Paralympics. Four years later, that dream became a reality, and I came home with a bronze medal around my neck. I just kept forging ahead, experiencing a ton of success as well as some failure along the way, and it all fell into place. And while it may have been my dream, I definitely don’t take all of the credit for my success. If it weren’t for my dad, who in the summer of 1999 offered to take on the role of coach, I wouldn’t be where I am today. We all have big dreams, but sometimes we need that support, encouragement, and even a little push from people who believe in us, so that we can turn those dreams into realities. What has been some feedback that you have received from people who have heard you speak? A lot of it has been extremely positive, which is somewhat of a curse. How am I supposed to learn and become a better speaker if the majority of what I hear is praise? However, this past year one of my presentations inspired an incident, which when I
heard about it, I was really blown away. So let me tell you about this little boy, let’s call him Mike. Anyway, Mike’s mother had a friend … let’s call her Sandy. Sandy had a deformed hand. For whatever reason, this scared little Mike, and he told Sandy in no uncertain terms that he didn’t want to play with her because of her hand. This piece of news made Sandy cry. Fast-forward a couple of weeks, and Sandy is back at Mike’s house. “I want to play with you!” he eagerly tells her. Shocked at his sudden change of heart, she ventures to ask him why. “Well … we had this presentation by Right to Play (charitable organization) at our school. And this man named Donovan spoke … and he’s blind and showed us his medal from the Paralympics. It was really cool! So if he’s blind and can do all that, I think its OK for me to play with you.” When I hear stories such as this, it reinforces in my mind that I have something to offer the world through my message. To what degree do you think motivational speaking benefits the listener? I think it helps them to see what can be done. If they see me up on stage, a blind Paralympian who hasn’t let his disability hold him back, it helps them to reach inside themselves and step out of their comfort zones. What would your ideal Olympic / Paralympic slogan be? “It lies within you!” The power to dream, to strive, to achieve. How has participating in the Paralympics (in various capacities) benefited you? It has allowed me to see the world, meet new people, and learn valuable lessons in teamwork and self-discipline. Furthermore, the experience has helped me to build my identity as a blind person. I wouldn’t be who I am today or where I am today without my experience as a Paralympian. For this I count myself lucky. It’s a *little* known fact … there was protest against the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver by various interest groups. Protests have been consistent, and are still taking place despite the torch inching ever closer to its home in Canada Place. How do you think the 2010 Olympics will affect Vancouver as a city / people / idea? Honestly, I really don’t know. It’s unfathomable to me that in less than one month’s time, the world will be coming to our city to participate in this grand festival of sport. Hopefully the majority of naysayers have their tickets to Hawaii already booked, so that they don’t have to be a part of something they have no desire to participate in. For those of us who are here, it’s going to be a once in a lifetime experience. Sure, there are going to be some hiccups with traffic and transportation, but if we can all just do our best to sit back and enjoy the near month of mayhem, I think that it could be a lot of fun. What is your opinion on the idea of the Assistance to Shelter Act?
I personally think it makes a lot of sense, on paper at least. What better way to clean up Vancouver’s aesthetic image while at the same time helping people in need? But, when it all comes down to it, it’s virtually impossible to force help or shelter upon individuals who want neither. It may work in the short-term, but I don’t believe it to be a long-term solution. There has always been a lack of media coverage in regards to the Paralympic games — something that is often blamed on a lack of resources, a sentiment that has amplified during this recession. Speak on the state of the Paralympic games.
The Paralympic Games have always been viewed as the “red-headed step cousin” to the Olympics. They have never received the same amount of media coverage, public support, or notoriety as the “regular” Olympics. On one hand, it sucks. Paralympic athletes train just as hard as Olympians, so why shouldn’t they receive the same respect? But on the other hand, you need to remember that the Paralympic movement is a young one when compared to that of the Olympics. The first Olympic Games were held in 1896. The first Summer Paralympics were held in 1960, while the first Winter Paralympics were held in 1976. Give it time, and I have no doubt the Paralympics will rise to a similar stature in another fifty plus years. The Paralympic movement has become more recognized in the last ten years. Far more people now know about Paralympic sport, and support Paralympic athletes. This heightened awareness is due in part to Paralympians who are out there sharing their stories, as well as the efforts of both national sport organizations and Vanoc in promoting the movement. This year alone, CTV will be providing the most Paralympic coverage in Canadian history. Now that’s a step in the right direction wouldn’t you say? Do you have a concept for a 2010 Paralympic mascot?
How about a three-legged polarbear? Or a blind eagle flying with talons outstretched, almost in the form of little white canes? The “1 Year to the 2010 Olympics” celebration featured a performance by Sarah McLachlan, while the “1 Year to the 2010 Paralympics” celebration featured the antics of a suited Olympic mascot at city hall — perhaps a suitable metaphor? How is the Olympic commission doing in your opinion to raise the profile of the Paralympic Games? They’re doing better than they have done in the past, but they still could do a lot more. Vanoc has done an excellent job at promoting the Paralympics on a grass roots level. During both last spring and fall, they held Paralympic Schooldays. They would spend a day at various schools, and would educate the children on the Paralympics, show off various adaptive equipment such as sit-skis for paraplegic skiers, and bring along an athlete such as me to tell their stories. A definite step in the right direction. You know that those kids will be inspired with Paralympic fever! My one criticism is that there is still too much setion between the Olympic and Paralympic movements. Back in 2003, when Vancouver was vying for the bid to host the Games, the Olympics and lympics were always referred to together, as parallel events. But as time went on, that has become less and less the case. Case in point: having different celebrations for the Countdown to 2010, as well as radio and TV commercials which speak of the Olympics but not the Paralympics. But again, I believe that in time, and through further education, this separation gap will diminish. With the controversy surrounding Oscar Pistorius we, as viewers, were asked to question whether there should be boundaries between impaired and ablebodied athletes. What is your opinion on the current system for separating the two — impaired and able-bodied? Comment on the Paralympic system for
categorizing impaired athletes. Do you feel that it works, or does it need to be changed? While it’s not without its flaws, I do believe the current system does work. Under no circumstances would I like to see a combined Olympics and Paralympics. That sort of undertaking would create one massive logistical nightmare for all involved. Paralympians are divided into fourteen categories. S1 through S10 deals with physical disabilities, with S1 being the least able-bodied (perhaps missing all limbs) to S10 being the most abled (perhaps a club foot). S11-13 deals with degrees of visual impairment. S11s (me) are totally blind, S12s can see a slight distance in front of them, and S13s can see quite well, but are still considered legally blind. S14s are those with combined physical and mental disabilities. That category has seen much contention, namely because S14s are incredibly difficult to classify, and the category was even omitted from Paralympic classification for several years up until just this year. In terms of cases such as Oscar Pistorius, it is my belief that, if the guy is good enough to go for the Olympics, then he should go for it! All the more
power to him for giving it his best shot. Having an impairment brings a degree of celebrity. Speak on the brand of celebrity that you receive solely from being visually impaired. Being blind, I think that I’m automatically prone to be noticed more often. People are naturally going to take a second look when they see the guy with the white cane walking into the bar, or the guy with the “blind skier” vest” skiing some expert terrain. Speaking of skiing, I had a small brush with that “celebrity status” while I was up on Blackcomb the other week. Along with my guide, I was hiking up Spanky’s Ladder, a short road that leads to some epic, double-black diamond runs. So I get to the top, and there’s this woman standing there (a ski instructor I think). “I’ve seen you before,” she says. “You’re a legend on the mountain”. Wow! The reason I like to ski this challenging terrain is not to evoke celebrity, but merely because I get a real thrill out of doing it. But, by virtue of the fact that I’m blind, of course more people are going to notice me. I guess the only thing that separates this from my Paralympic status is the fact that being a
Paralympian is a more obvious form of celebrity. Not everyone gets to compete for their country in a sport they love in front of thousands of fans. You have said that political correctness, when referring to impairment, bugs you. Could you explain this further? How might this approach help the public’s understanding of impairment or the Paralympic Games?
When directed toward us, political correctness implies that, we as people with disabilities are somehow made more sensitive by virtue of our impairments. We should be handled with “special” treatment and kid gloves, not as regular people. It is true, there are things said and done which many people would find offensive. I may not, but I also admit that I’m a rather poor judge of taste on many occasions. As long as what is said and done is done so in good spirit and fun, then I see no reason for people to get bent out of shape. If we unmask this political correctness surrounding disability, I strongly believe that it will aid in both humanizing and normalizing disability and the disabled community as a whole. A win-win situation for all involved! * * *
After considering Donovan’s answers to questions that point to various complex disability-related issues—such as the weak profile of the Paralympic Games—I wanted to share in his optimism. His message is a positive one, and acknowledges that the disability rights movement in Canada has managed a significant amount of change. Furthermore, by spreading his message, Donovan has generated a great deal of good on a relational level—he educates youth on difference, and serves as a positive role model for young and old. But beneath this optimism is the reality that deep-rooted cultural barriers (which require vast amounts of advocacy and reform in order to be shaken) still limit persons with disabilities on a day-to-day basis. I agree with Donovan in that one should always pursue ones dreams, but believe that it is only through a commitment to advocacy, and by approaching related issues directly, that cultural barriers will begin to diminish. For more information on Donovan Tildsley’s athletic career, or to find out how you can book him to speak at your next event, visit: www.limitlessvision.com.
the Short Line Reading Series Spring 2010 Dates
February 16, MArch 9 , April 13 Free 579 Dunsmuir St, Vancouver
vanOk coded professional conduct 1. city of neighbourhoods. Vocal opposition in the form of public protest has occurred in Vancouver since winning the bid for the 2010 Olympic Games. Anti-Olympic protestors have posted messages throughout the city including “Homes Not Games”, “No Olympics on Stolen Land”, and “Assistance to Shelter is Social Cleansing”, led by groups like the Olympic Resistance Committee, No One Is Illegal, No2010 and the Anti-Poverty Committee. anger speaks volumes democratic debauchery Issues of rights have mobilized political alliances between citizens who share similar concerns. Reasons for resistance include the effects of Colonialism, ecological destruction, the problem of homelessness, the impact on Vancouver’s sex trade, public debt, and police and state repression. why abstain when you can indulge? positively normative
Rona knows best multiproject growth agenda strategic development exiled for antigrowth tendencies Vancouver is a well planned city. But when spending is extended to mega-events like the Olympic Games, local examples of contemporary concerns such as transportation and infrastructure planning, suburban sprawl, social sustainability and environmentally sustainable development play a role in influencing public response.
enhance my livability wicked slippage symptom of another The number of social housing and non-market housing units built in Vancouver is far below what was promised by the Olympic Legacy Affordable Housing initiative and early development plans for sites including Vancouver’s Athlete’s Village. Vancouver’s homeless population outnumbers the 5000 athletes visiting. corporate sponsorship mcdick’s coca cola village 800/day InSide The dilemma of distributive justice requires a strong argument to explain how fair planning was used to weigh the benefits of hosting a world mega-event against the costs of allocating resources away from important local problems. 2. sense of community. dangle that carrot
gentrify me, iâ€™m compliant 3. healthy economy, healthy environment. The success of Olympic resistance is affected by the level of citizen power and participation in the planning process, as well as the tactical discourse used by the local media to frame the context and concepts debated. sro no more roots and branches vital existence spiritual pipe dream West is best spatially distributed boom & bust Investigating the level of resistance shown in recent host cities and the relationship between the success of resistance and the socio-economic position of the complainant is critical. Looking back at other host cities, it can be concluded that the rights of those with more socio-economic power were privileged. world is watching armchair outpost
free speech zone border guard horseback through Victory Square The official Olympic flag was stolen in response to the death of Indigenous elder Harriet Nahanee, who protested the Sea-to-Sky Highway expansion at Eagleridge Bluffs. After two weeks in jail at the Surrey Pre-Trial Centre in January of 2007, she died in February of pneumonia and complications. charter rights freedoms canada nah
Olympic Charter Rule 51: Advertising, Demonstrations, Propaganda: IOC executive board determines the principles and conditions under which any form of advertising or other publicity may be authorized no form of advertising or other publicity shall be allowed in and above the stadia venues and other competition areas which are considered as part of the Olympic sites commercial installations and advertising signs shall not be allowed in the stadia venues or other sports grounds no kind of demonstration or political religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites venues or other areas It is critical to have local police co-operation in using nonviolent communication tactics, conflict resolution and a minimized use of non-lethal force, in order to prevent more deaths from tasering and police brutality. volts of harm reduction this flash masks social contradictions between classes homeless kidnapping act please commissioner Elliott, Bud Mercer says weâ€™re free
woodsquatted vested public interest homeless count – 17 questions to success The goal could have been to integrate the discourse of public concern, empowered by local media, into an ethical policy-building process that created a physical and theoretical space for resistance. can u sense my sense of place from there 4. vibrant central area. Creating open squares and areas for tourists to congregate during the 2010 Games has cleared residents out of popular DTES sites such as Pigeon Park and Oppenheimer Park, further disadvantaging and displacing an already vulnerable population – perhaps those who are most affected by a private bid that morphs into a public expense. correlated causality mix use say hello, we’re all human
Inside the gentrification of one of Vancouverâ€™s oldest neighbourhoods
e r i n m i l l a r
At 1:30 a.m. on a Wednesday in April, I found myself suddenly conscious. The awakening wasnâ€™t of the fitful sort, the result of being too hot or having to pee, rather an abrupt awareness of something. From the coolness of the sheets next to me, I knew Ben was still out. Had his key in the door roused me? I called his name. Silence. I listened so hard in the darkness that I forgot I was holding my breath until I burst into gasps that sounded like thunder in the still house. Silence. I descended the stairs, my heart beating in my ears. The front door was locked. A quick scan of the main floor room confirmed that no intruder lurked. Photos from trips to Australia and Jamaica smiled comfortingly from walls.
Leather bound volumes of classic literature lined the mantelpiece above the gas fireplace. An antique piano stood guard at the far end of the room. The stainless steel fridge hummed. Clear jars of rice, pasta, coffee, and lentils. A teak coffee table covered in magazines. A globe on a wooden stand. Each item — carefully selected over the past few months to represent our vision of ourselves, some part of our life together in this new house — sat in its intended place. Yet, something wasn’t right; the room was full of the strong chemical smell of fresh paint. Just then I heard Ben’s key in the lock. “Can you smell paint?” I needn’t have asked. His left hand, the one that had just turned the front door handle, was covered in it, wet and black. We surveyed the damage by flashlight. Our vandal, who we missed by no more than ten minutes judging by the still-dripping paint, launched his attack on our new duplex at the dining room windows of the attached home. Thick black sticky paint seeped down the glass like splattered blood in a bad horror movie, the crisscrossing lines suggesting that his weapon of choice was a high-pressure water gun. From our neighbours’ window, he turned his gun on their front door and its six small panes of glass. He then walked towards the front of our section of the house all the while unleashing his inner artist with loose playful loop-de-loops on the tan canvas of wood siding, making sure not to miss any ground level window. Reaching the corner of the house, he paused to give special
treatment to the brick chimney and a clematis we had planted months before in hopes its vines would one day reach the roof. He then rounded the house, giving some attention to the slate patio and second-hand garden furniture, before emptying the water gun in his finale: a great ovular blot next to our front door. We found his message in the back alley, written in blue spray paint on three white garage doors: “Once a garden where we slept. Yuppies crushed this & the rest. For land & freedom!” ••
Ben and I found the house during a yearlong exile in Toronto. I had moved to the "Big Smoke" for a must-take job, my first fulltime writing gig. The fast-paced city’s intellectual and aggressive Torontonians, vibrant jazz scene and buzzing media industry excited and inspired me, but I yearned for Vancouver. In our cramped basement apartment on Jarvis and Carleton on winter days when the sharp wind coming off Lake Ontario seemed set on killing us, we talked of spring in our city of vistas, where on a clear day you might happen to glance north and have your breath taken away by the unexpected sight of pink cherry blossom streets bordering a panorama of pristine snowcapped mountains rising dramatically from the deep blue shimmering Burrard Inlet. In those days, our Vancouver was a dream city, a salve. It was the promise that got us through a bitter winter of illness, depression and long workweeks. We would be happier there. We would eat healthier, live cheaper. We would exercise more and drink less. We would ride our bikes and go to the beach and play music and spend more time with friends. This vision of our renewed life centred on Commercial Drive, where I had lived before moving to Toronto. When we discovered a house being built just one block from The Drive, I didn’t need more than framed walls to conjure an image of myself there, cooking in the area that would months later turn into a kitchen, reading on the then nonexistent front patio, walking two blocks to my favourite Italian coffee shop. The 1,400 square meters of concrete slab and plywood floor looked like paradise to me. This was the height of the real estate price bubble and there was no way we could afford it; nevertheless, with more than a little help from Ben’s parents, we became first-time homeowners. I didn’t yet know how en-
tering the homeowners club would transform my relationship with the neighbourhood I loved. Commercial Drive was originally a route for dragging logs south to Vancouver’s harbour. With the 1891 arrival of the Vancouver-New Westminister Interurban streetcar line, the former skid road became a high street. Beautifully restored heritage houses on streets lined with mature chestnut and cherry trees are remnants of what was an affluent 1920s suburb. Although some prospectors hoped the area would rival the sprawling estates of Shaughnessy, it never fully recovered from the Great Depression and after post WWII became an affordable area where Italian and Portuguese immigrants settled, lending it the European café culture that persists today. I’ve heard The Drive called an “urban village,” a phrase that describes why I felt at home there having grown up in a small British Columbian town. Although The Drive is only five kilometers from downtown, the industrial lands bordering it on the west and south makes it feel isolated to me, like its own small town within a big city. When I moved there as an undergraduate music student, after a couple years of living in North Vancouver and Burnaby, I fell in love with the feeling of community, the ethnic character of the place, the diversity and tolerance. Old men in starched polyester suits and fedora hats yelling at one another in Italian around the Victoria Park bocce court charmed me. My eyes feasted on rosy brown-skinned immigrants who gathered in Ethiopian restaurants to eat spicy kitfo. I watched young Vietnamese men with shining black hair gamble on card games at the Paris Café and ate El Salvadorian pupusas among huge Latin families speaking rapid Spanish in El Riconcido. In the 1980s, Vancouver’s then-artsy Kitsilano neighbourhood was fast gentrifying and artists, musicians, hippies, punks, writers and political activists began to move east in great numbers. The Drive became a centre for the counter-culture movement where protestors opposed to globalism, war, capitalism and, more recently, Canada’s role in Afghanistan organized. During a summer in the early 2000s I was working at Starbucks — one of the only chain businesses on The Drive — when a parade of anarchists marched past and pelted the café and one of my fellow baristas with old coffee grinds. Despite my colleagues’ anger, the anarchists enchanted me as much as the immigrants.
O ur Vancouver was a dream city, a salve. It was the promise that got us through a bitter winter of illness, depression.
Until I worked at Starbucks, I had no idea how deep the anti-corporate sentiment ran in the neighbourhood. The café’s front window was broken so often that we responded like a well-oiled machine and the glass would be cleaned up and replaced by 7 a.m. The rock throwers saw themselves as part of a larger movement to preserve The Drive from the influence of money. Like what happened in Kitsilano and countless other alternative neighbourhoods made hip by artists and musicians attracted by affordability, the general public was on to The Drive. Rental suites were being converted to condos and old houses renovated into million-dollar heritage homes. People (or, according to residents, intruders) from all over the city streamed into the area on weekends to buy cheap salami and drink mojitos on the trendy patio at Havana. Yet, gentrification was no match for the pressure coming from the Downtown Eastside and when the young professionals returned to Yaletown during the week, homeless men slept in the doorways of businesses, drug dealers took over Grandview Park and dangerously thin prostitutes with black eyes turned tricks on the outskirts.
To me, the grittiness was part of the excitement and during the summer of the Anarchist Parade I rarely found reason to leave The Drive. I shopped at the food co-op and got a bank account at the local credit union. My bread came from Uprising Breads Bakery, my produce from the farmer’s market. In the mornings I would fight my way through the crowd of soccer fans at Abruzzo Café for espresso then go next door to peruse People’s Co-op bookstore or the now defunct Magpie magazine store. I found music everywhere. From open windows drifted a symphony of folk singers, classical flutists, punk bands, Dixie clarinetists, free jazz saxophonists and African drummers. On Wednesday evenings, carnival music echoed down The Drive from the resident marching band. Late at night I listened to Bruno Hubert’s sporadic and dissonant solo piano at Bukowski’s. I watched poetry readings erupt into screaming matches and Work Less Party fundraisers featuring burlesque dancers and kissing booths deteriorate into a small group of drunk, naked revelers. I watched anticar activists take over The Drive for a huge street hockey game and hundreds of people gather at Trout Lake to light up the hot humid summer night with homemade lanterns. This all happened on those 33 blocks that summer and finally, after a couple of years anonymously wandering the crowds of Vancouver, I had found a place where I felt I was part of something — something magical. •• I really should have known better than to have picked that house. In fact, less than a year before we bought it, I edited an article about the dispute over the property. But it wasn’t until the deal was signed and we were back in Toronto that I had that smack-your-forehead moment. “Oh no!” I said to Ben. “We’re those assholes!”
Before becoming a construction site, the lot where my home sits had spent some 15 years as an informal park known as the Salsbury Garden. Shaded by mature cypress, maple and butternut trees — some over 100 years old — the garden was a quiet sanctuary maintained by locals. Writer Tyee Bridge described the garden’s “unique atmosphere” as “at once peaceful, colourful and unkempt” and noted that a few rose bushes remained that were planted in the 1920s. In one corner a tiny cob house — made of an old world building material of sand, straw and clay — was built by members of the community. At the entrance of the garden stood two small 100-year-old cottages. Although residents treated the Salsbury Park like a public park, it wasn’t one. In 2004, the property’s longtime owner sold it to a developer who planned to construct two duplexes. Local residents mobilized, collecting 1,600 signatures and enlisting the support of their MLA, MP and 25 community organizations. The activists tried to distinguish themselves as not being anti-development by arguing for “good development” and a balance between density and green space. “There are certain spaces that aren’t replaceable,” Ian Marcuse, a master’s student in UBC’s school of community planning who lived in the cob house for over a decade, said at the time. “Maybe it sounds romantic, but surely we have the capacity to build big cities and still revere these special places.” The city agreed and tried to buy the property. When the developers declined to sell, residents, led by neighbour Penny Street, brought an appeal to Vancouver’s Board of Variance, which revoked the building permits. But the developers appealed and the British Columbia Supreme Court ruled that the Board of Variance had no mandate to consider appeals brought forward by third parties. And so, Vancouver’s mechanism for formal community input in development decisions was destroyed along with all but two of the towering trees, the heritage cottages and cob house, and the 80-year-old rose bushes — and the foundation for my first home was poured, a house that in the eyes of my future neighbours had come to represent the evils of gentrification. Our house was not the only target of anti-gentrification sentiment last spring. When a young family lobbied the city to clean up Grandview Park, which had become a magnet for drug dealers and homeless people, anonymous posters were plastered all over the Drive with a photo of the couple and their child, their address and a demand that they leave the area. During the same night that our vandal visited our house, he also hit Victoria Park where new bocce pits and a playground had recently been installed. In the same paint as our message, he wrote, “No more Victoria Parks. Keep Grandview ghetto!” Evidence that the Winter Olympics had become a symbol of the struggle against gentrification was woven into the narrative of vandalism appearing
around The Drive. “Riot 2010!” spray-painted on a dumpster. “No Olympics on stolen native land,” stenciled on a newspaper box. “Riot 2010? Riot now!” on a sidewalk. The night of our vandalism, I laid in bed alert to every sound, real and imagined, and repeated the vandal’s message in my head. Once a garden where we slept. The “we” implied community, that engagement I loved about The Drive, yet I was clearly not part of the vandal’s circle. Yuppies crushed this & the rest. When did I become a yuppie? For land & freedom! Was I oppressing others’ freedom? Did my decision to become a homeowner mean I was no longer welcome?
We started scrubbing the walls with paint thinner as soon as the morning light allowed. People on their way to work stopped to shake their heads and curse our vandal. “For crying out loud!” a woman who lived in a condo across the street said, snorting indignantly. “I’m still the hippy I always was! So what if I had a couple kids and had to get a job?” Around 7 a.m. Penny Street passed by, walking her dog. When she saw the black paint, her eyes filled with tears and her voice broke as she tried to speak. She joined us five minutes later in coveralls. Later that day I noticed that the hand-painted “Save the Salsbury Garden” sign that had been nailed high in a chestnut tree outside her house was gone. •• One morning the following July, the phone rang too early. It was Penny. In the back alley we found her with our neighbours David and Tina furiously scrubbing their garage door. The message scrawled across the garages was less poetic this time, more direct. “Yuppies fuck off. Get the fuck out of East Van. Yuppies out of our lives.” Our vandal had also slashed the tires of four vehicles parked on the block, selected for their apparent yuppiness: a sporty Acura, a Ford Explorer at least 10 years old, a Mercedes SUV and a new Buick sedan that could only have belonged to someone over 60. My 2005 Echo hatchback was spared. Too fuel efficient, I guess.
The first episode of vandalism was tolerable, but this was too much. With a little blue spray paint, the whole house was changed in my eyes. A detached duplex better suited to the suburbs, it stood exposed on the corner, vulnerable to any anonymous vandal with the inclination to attack. It was no longer a paradise in my magical neighbourhood of diversity and tolerance, but a private good to be protected. We would fortify. We would build fences to keep the community out. We would join the Block Watch. To hell with my civil libertarian opposition to surveillance! We would install video cameras in the alley! And all of a sudden I was no longer the young student of jazz who delighted in bocce-playing Italians and parading anarchists and naked politicians and friendly panhandlers and fast-talking, pupusa-eating El Salvadorians and Brunoâ€™s late-night Thelonious Monk-esque melodies and humid summer nights lit by lantern. I was a homeowner in a polarized neighbourhood. I was suspicious of anyone who walked by in ripped jeans and an army jacket, intolerant of the drug dealers loitering on our corner, unsympathetic to the messages of powerlessness spray-painted on sidewalks and quick to slot people into convenient categories like our vandal had done to me. I was in a class war and had somehow ended up on the opposite side than I expected. Our vandal had turned me into the person he resented. As I walked to get coffee at Abruzzo that morning, The Drive was also changed. The vibrant community where I had watched hippies, anarchists, Portuguese, writers and activists intermingle was only as such through the eyes of me as a young woman. Now I saw that there was no one not Vietnamese in the Paris CafĂŠ. The African immigrants mostly kept to themselves. The punks drank coffee at Turks while the Italians stuck to their own cafes. Everyone avoided making eye contact with the panhandlers. The Drive was not my urban village, but a series of separate communities that happened to share 33 blocks of a street. My Drive was just one among the versions that ethnic communities lay claim to, the version that would resist the Olympics, the version that existed on stolen native land and the version that was fighting gentrification.
Lately, I feel old. It’s not an issue with numbers, the fact that the big 3'o is approaching. It’s finding out that the indie bands of my youth are now the institution, the sell-outs. It’s sitting down to interview Petroleum By-product, a Vancouver band which recently released their first album Superficial Artificial, to find two, well, kids: Sally Jorgensen and Vanessa Turner. Getting into how they formed “PBP” in high school, age was the first issue we discussed. “Our age was the novelty,” Sally recalled, “Or it became the novelty. When we first started, we still had school the next day and people liked that. They liked the idea of seeing a good high school band, or what they considered a good high school band.” Vanessa laughed at this, adding: “We could barely play our instruments. Have you seen Fabulous Stains? It’s a film about three girls who start a band. They couldn’t play their instruments and wore very decadent make up, like us. So people made that connection.” It would be easy to write off this new wave of Vancouver music if it simply relied on cheap novelties. However, Petroleum By-product’s music has always been informed by their concept of the “plastic generation”, their term for consumer culture and its excesses. They are interested in our relationship with things and our increasingly “denaturalized” environment. “We both came from really health-conscious families that didn’t use plastics or certain metals,” Vanessa explained, when asked how they arrived at the band’s mission statement, “It’s one of the reasons we first started talking actually. We had an immediate connection because we’d see people microwaving plastics and we’d be like ‘Oh god, how can they do that?’” In spite of their issues with modern society, Sally was careful to separate Petroleum By-product’s message from the hardliners. “I wouldn’t say it’s the result of frustration,” she clarified, “It’s more of a fascination really. Instead of focusing on the bad things, we decided to glamorize the excess. To satirize it and make it absurd, even more absurd and over the top than it is. For example, we used to play in uniforms that were garbage bags designed with yellow tape and these futuristic vinyl shoes.”
This playful approach certainly comes through in their music. The first two songs on Superficial Artificial, “Mad About Plaid” and “Ain’t Got (Money)”, feature anthemic punk chorus lines set to fully charged bass and synth. As songs of resistance, they don’t point fingers or assign blame, but beg you to join in on the fun of breaking the mould. It may not be the era of Vancouver music that I identify as my own, but it is certainly an evolution from that sound and, perhaps, a reaction against it.
It became apparent just how far Vancouver musicians have evolved when my conversation with Petroleum By-product turned to the city’s music scene and the closure of venues like Richards on Richards and The Cobalt. I expected to find two like-minded individuals concerned with the few legitimate spaces left for art and music in Vancouver. Instead, I found two musicians that have completely adapted to the city’s cycle of boom and bust underground venues. Again, the age gap was ever present. It turns out that while alternative spaces like The Emergency Room (where Petroleum By-product was one of the regular acts) have come and gone, the band has always had the opportunity to play. “This may come off as arrogant, but we’ve never really had to think along those lines,” Sally explained, “We’ve just been fortunate enough to always have people asking us, ‘Play our show. Play our show.’ So we’ve never had to sit down and think about where we can play. We’ve never really had to worry.” Although they may not remember a time when indie shows could be easily found along the beaten path, not in secret basements or underneath the Georgia Viaduct, the girls still believe there’s room for improvement in Vancouver. Vanessa suggested cities across the border as models for progress: “There’s a huge illegitimate venue scene in the States
and websites with a list of all the venues with all the shows going on. Here, it would get shut down in a heartbeat.” When asked about the Olympic Games and whether it was helping to get local musicians exposure, the answer was an outright “No”. “Sure, there was a lot of art money and grants,” Sally conceded, “But, they didn’t benefit local musicians. Everything about the Olympics bothers me. Even the clothing. ‘Buy more clothing to support the Olympics’. This cheaply made junk that goes right into the garbage.” She added: “They’ve even tried to appease local artists and musicians by trying to dress us up in their clothing and use us as mascots. It’s so insulting. We were offered a photo shoot to model Olympic clothing for the Hudson’s Bay Company. But, how hypocritical would that look?” As it turns out, a band from what I deemed “the good old days” had taken the offer after Petroleum Byproduct turned it down. After another reminder of how things have changed, there was one last issue that needed clarification: the trend toward bands releasing only on vinyl and the sense that they have no interest in reaching a broader audience and “making it big”. Vanessa addressed this, sidestepping the fact that Superficial Artificial was released on 12” vinyl: “They’re really doing it because they love it. Whether they get recognition for it is besides the point. For me, it would be great if we could be paid to play music for a living. That’s our dream. But if not, that’s fine too. We’re still going to keep doing what we’re doing.” In the end, I walked away from the interview still feeling old, but not without a sense of optimism. I got the sense from Petroleum ByProduct that in spite of Vancouver’s approach to city planning and liquor licensing Vancouver musicians will still be doing their thing for years to come.
are we doing when we press the button of a camera ? W e are writing . - wa lt e r
Circumstances Alter Photographs: Captain James Peters' Reports from the War of 1885 Michael Barnholden Talonbooks, 2009, 144pp, $35.00
All art forms are, to a degree, dependent on technology. The development of photography, however, started a qualitative shift in the tradition of artistic reroduction. Photography is a mechanical art. The appeal of photography is partially grounded in the promise of an objective representation of reality; the belief that – if only for a stolen moment – the world can be ensnared by human techne. For this reason, Jennifer GreenLewis has argued that the nineteenth-century is alive to us in a way that previous historical eras simply are not. Thanks to the objective “reality” of photography, she argues, the nineteenth-century retains a “documentary assertiveness” which ensnares us and demands our attention.2 How else to account for the strange fascination most of us find when looking at the faded monochromatic images of our forebears? It is partly this
objective dimension which gives photographs their affective quality as well. Verisimilitude, though, is a siren’s call. It is only the promise of objectivity that photographs provide. Like writing, they are radically open to interpretation and refuse to allow their meaning to be fixed.
Lorraine Daston has written that “The miracle of photography, of its so-called objective image, is that it reveals a radically non-objective world. It is a paradox that the lack of objectivity of the world is disclosed by the photographic lens.”3 This is precisely the point taken up by Michael Barnholden’s new book, Circumstances Alter Photographs. It offers a riposte to popular nationalist framings of the Riel Rebellion, or as Barnholden terms it, the War of 1885. Barnholden’s book details the photographic output of James Peters, a captain of the Royal Canadian Artillery’s “A” Battery. Peters’ force was part of the North West Field Force, tasked with quelling the Métis rebellion. Astonishingly, Peters was the first person in history to capture battlefield photographs under fire. The astonishing aspect of this is not that Peters was the first to do this – photographic technology had developed to the point where this honour was merely a matter of time and opportunity – but that his photographs do not loom larger in the national imaginary. Indeed, after reading Barnholden’s account, one cannot help but feel Peters’ photographs are missing piece in Canadian history. His book presents an alternative conception of the Riel Rebellion; one that highlights the corporatist nature of Canadian politics and the role of the CPR, the Hudson’s Bay Company, and the North West Mounted Police had in the formation of a federalist metanarrative. I sat down with Barnholden to discuss some of these issues: garrett peck:
Why haven’t these photographs been
seen before? michael barnholden:
You look at these photos and you try to piece together a narrative. And, you know, whoever is taking these photographs, literally, has a point of view. And I think that’s the problem with Peters’ photographs. They didn’t tell the right
story, and so they were ignored for 50-60 years until the birth, or re-birth of Canadian nationalism – CanLit nationalism. And people start looking at these images, but they can’t fit them into a nationalist narrative because almost every one of them subverts that narrative. It wasn’t just a Métis rebellion. And this is the other thing that these pictures show. There’s this second half where you see the Indian tribes, the Cree under Poundmaker along with Miserable Man. And that connection has been severed in many ways, and you can see the political reason for that. You don’t want a coalition there. But the other interesting thing is that the white folks were supportive as well. I mean, it wasn’t a racialized discontent; they simply didn’t like what was happening to the place they were living. And what was happening was that the place was being turned into a corporate state where corporations such as the CPR were given tremendous advantages. There’s a great quote you use from the Quebec Morning Chronicle: “The real history of how the Canadian rebellion was crushed has yet to be written. It will be read like a romance from the days of chivalry.” Right. That’s the type of narrative that people tried to impose on these photographs and the photographs resisted that. And that’s the only explanation that I can come up with for why no one did this [project] 25 years ago. It contradicts this notion that people have about this event and its place in Canadian history. And part of that is taking on claims made by people like John Ralston Saul, who says that Canada is a Métis nation. It’s absurd. And then you have comments like [Prime Minister] Harper’s, where he recently said that Canada is not a colonial nation. That comment really raised the hackles on a lot of people. To me that’s like not even looking around, you don’t have to be a serious historian to see this. You almost have to wilfully disregard things.
Yeah. You have to look away in order not to see the colonialism. I find that kind of thing appalling, that the Prime Minister of the country could say that. I want to counter arguments like that. [The Riel Rebellion] keeps coming up; each generation has to deal with it. And I don’t think anyone has really connected it to current politics yet. What I’m trying to suggest [with this book] is that a photograph can act in a way that a text can’t accomplish. What do you think about the claim made by Caroline Brothers that, despite the archival presence of photographs, “historians have shown a real reluctance to recognize and adopt visual material as a documentary source”?4 They don’t trust the image because, in a way, it tells a different story. This whole book and the images in it are a perfect example of that. Peters tries to do something with [his pictures] but they never enter the discourse. And what I keep coming back to is the fact that the pictures contradict the narrative: the popular narrative, the political narrative, the cultural narrative. As Canadians, we don’t want to see those images, but I feel like we have to look at them. What sense of Canadian history do you hope your readers take away from the time spent with your book? I hope that they see these pictures and realize that there are competing stories. No narrative is conclusive. It’s worthwhile looking at these competing narratives and you have to do that historically and in the present. The historical informs the present to a great extent, particularly in a place like Canada, where a modern state basically springs fully formed into modernity. A lot of things which we think define us, which make us Canadian, are really contestable. Thanks. In Caroline Brothers’ War and Photography: A Cultural History, she observes, “While photographs freeze time and seem to give the past a tangible form, they can never be more than a point de départ for a wealth of ex-
perience they may indicate but cannot contain.”5 Perhaps nothing encapsulates this elusive nature of photographic documentation better than Peters’ own self-selected pseudonym: Foggy. Our desire for an objective, fixed past – even for those parts which are “captured” on film – remains unsatiated. And while we might long for the sharp edge of historicity that photographic technology promised, we are left with competing narratives and a contestable sense of national identity. Barnholden, in his description of the iconic Riel prisoner photo, writes “This photographic image is not a frozen moment, but rather a flexible referent, read, reread and misread as [Riel’s] story and history. But present in those readings is also always the story of the viewer and the photographer.” How we come to an understanding of the Riel Rebellion’s place in Canadian history is uncertain; however, of one thing we can be sure: we must not look away.
Endnotes 1. Michaels, Walter Benn. The Gold Standard and the Logic of Naturalism: American Literature at the Turn of the Century. Berkeley: U of California P, 1987. (222) 2. Green-Lewis, Jennifer. “At Home in the Nineteenth-Century: Photography, Nostalgia and the Will to Authenticity.” Victorian Afterlife: Postmodern Culture Rewrites the Nineteenth Century. Eds. John Kucich and Dianne F. Sadoff. 29-48. (31) 3. Daston, Lorraine. “Fear & Loathing of the Imagination in Science.” Daedulus. Fall (2005): 16-30. (28) 4. Brothers, Caroline. War and Photography: A Cultural History. New York: Routledge, 1997. (14)
or The Journey to Wholesome Goodness #1 & 2
Charms Outta Luck,
For the complete Cereal Junkies, visit: memewaronline.com/cereal_junkies.html
Children fall 2010
1, 2010 firstname.lastname@example.org 74
submit your work! The notion of ‘childhood’ as a time for play is a fairly recent concept, appearing only in the last hundred years; so what does it really mean to be a child? Is it a time of innocence and freedom, or a time for indoctrination? We were all children at some point in our life, so we can all speak from firsthand experience. But depending on culture and location these experiences can vary greatly. We are looking, as usual, for a mix of genres, topics, and disciplines. Write a poem based on your nostalgia for Kindergarten. In an essay, explore issues of child psychology, document the history of child labour, or analyze the rhetoric of the Michael Jackson trial. Write a piece of children’s literature. Collaborate on an art project with your own child. Or, since much of what we know about our childhood comes from what our parents have told us, model a short story after an interview with your dad, or create a painting based on the untold stories from your family photo album. Remember, you won’t get any dessert until you finish.
Health and Sickness spring 2011
1, 2010 email@example.com
submit your work! Despite our average life expectancy inching ever-closer to a full century, western medicine has come under increasing criticism for lacking a holistic approach. While some nations have an ever-increasing demand for modern medicine to solve disease, the number of naturopathic alternatives on North-American drugstore shelves are rapidly growing. Each of us approach our health and sickness differently, but what are the implications of our health-related practices? Memewar is seeking your poetry, prose, essays, art and your creative inventions on the topic of â€œHealth & Sicknessâ€?. Write a long poem that describes in grueling detail your daily health-related routines, compose an essay about the impact of media representations of war-related injury / deformity, document a performance that investigates the differences between Western and Eastern approaches to aging, or develop a series of mock ads that comment on cultural views in regards to cancer and the industry of cancer support.
a l a n g i r l i n g used to
write short fiction, and has been published in Hobart, Lichen, The MacGuffin and Freefall. Now he mainly writes poetry, some of which has appeared in Qarrtsiluni, blue skies and Snow Monkey. However, he once had a play produced for Vancouver's Walking Fish Festival and would be willing to write a novel if the right idea came along.
c o n t r ibutors ellie gordonm o e r s h e l has been
Published bi-annually by The Memewar Arts & Publishing Society, each issue features poetry, fiction, non-fiction, articles, essays, and reviews as well as visual art, illustrations and comics. Contributions are by both established and emerging local and international writers and artists. Based in Vancouver, Canada, Memewar has been both an online and print publication since 2005.
playing sports since she was in diapers. She reckons that she is probably a latent worldclass Jeu De Paume player but since the Olympics discontinued the sport after its inaugural year in 1908 she has not been able to display her dormant talent. Ellie is also a co-host of Co-Op Radio's The F Word, which is Vancouver's only explicitly feminist radio show. In addition, she has contributed to She Who Holds The Pen, a feminist blog on rabble.ca
h e a t h e r m c d o n a l d is
a Vancouver writer, currently
enrolled at Simon Fraser University. She is currently focusing on microfiction and prose poetry.
e r i n m i l l a r is a Vancouver-based freelance journalist and editor. She has worked both in print and online, and was a founding editor of Maclean’s On Campus, a website dedicated to daily news and in-depth features about universities and colleges in Canada published by Maclean’s. She now writes a weekly column and blog for OnCampus.
She now writes feature articles for Maclean’s, Reader’s Digest, Chatelaine, The Globe and Mail, The Walrus, The Tyee, BCBusiness, Vancouver Review, Memewar and others, and her poetry was published in the anthology “Touch the Flame.”
g a r r e t t p e c k is a PhD student at the University of British Columbia who works with Victorian literature. His interests include the history of science, the development of science fiction, technological theory, and the Muppets. He likes big books; the sort you could commit a crime with and then hide
t o n y p o w e r is a Vancouver-based fiction writer. Toronto born, raised in West Vancouver, educated at Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia. Since 2000 he has been the curator of SFU Library's Contemporary Literature Collection. He also coordinates the library's literary reading series.
s h a n n o n r a y n e is a writer and performance poet with a deep love for the stage and artistic collaboration. Her poetry has been performed or co-presented with visual art, contemporary dance and mixed media installations. She has performed at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word, Under the Volcano Festival and at the Heart in the City Festival. Her work has appeared in chapbooks published by pooka press and is forthcoming in Quills Magazine.
thorblood the s h a m a n is a level 60
Tauren shaman. He is an experienced herbalist and alchemist, and is proficient in fighting with axes and maces.
Investing in Gold: Orcs, Farmers, Warcraft, and Economics Thorblood the Shaman
On Vandalism, A Memoir Erin Millar
“...just follow your dreams” An Interview with Donovan Tildesley
Olympic Suite Heather McDonald