Showing posts with label my writing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label my writing. Show all posts

6.09.2018

what i liked, what i hated, and what i don't understand: a list about my election campaign

I agreed to stand for election because it was an opportunity -- an opportunity to bring a progressive perspective to a riding where those ideas are usually overlooked, and a personal opportunity to expand my own skills and experience. Overall, it was a positive experience -- because it was so short-term. If it had been gone on for six months or a year, I would have been miserable! Here's what I liked, what I hated, and what I just don't get.

Positives

1. I met a lot of people! Community activists, progressive-minded neighbours, minority voices in our suburban city. Strangers reached out to support our campaign, to encourage me personally, and with ideas of how they could help. I loved making these connections. It was personally gratifying, and it also expanded my own network in the community.

2. It was a completely immersive experience. I was fortunate to be able to take a leave-of-absence from both library and union work, so I could campaign full-time. I felt exactly like I did during our library workers' strike in 2016 -- completely obsessed. I woke up every morning before dawn, super-charged with energy, and worked like mad the entire day. If I created a brain-map for these times, 95% of it would be the strike or campaign, with a tad leftover to take care of myself physically and remember my partner and dog. I would not have the stamina to do that for months on end, but for a few weeks, it was exciting.

3. I believed we could improve people's lives. There's a unique buzz you get from advocating on someone else's behalf, and fighting for what you believe in. I fight for better working conditions and the rights of our union's members all the time, and I love it. I got a glimpse of doing that on a larger stage, having more opportunity to improve people's lives. That was exciting.

4. I loved the challenge. I used skills I've been honing in both work and union -- leadership, strategizing, planning, listening, researching, reacting.

5. I believed so deeply in the platform. I never would have or could have done it otherwise.

Negatives

1. Being photographed so much. This was the worst part of the strike and it was the worst part of campaigning. It started off with a horrible experience getting my headshots done -- every single thing about the experience set up for failure -- and continued that way through the whole campaign, as I was forced to see images of myself all the time. I hated this.

2. Being cut off from much of my support network. Candidates are strongly advised to take their personal social media accounts offline during the campaign. I tried just being quiet and more circumspect than usual, but quickly found I was causing other people more work and concern, so I complied with the recommendation. I have many friends and fellow activists that I mostly see only on Facebook. Being cut off from my network was stressful.

3. Taking this blog offline. I hated this.

4. Having to moderate my responses to be appropriate for a candidate. The hotheaded temper of my younger days has long since mellowed and is well under control. But I still prefer a blunt response to a measured one. I zipped my lip... but I didn't like it!

5. Having so little time and so few resources. The NDP reached out to potential candidates in Mississauga very late, and for the most part, we candidates were on our own. The party used a central online platform -- a great tool -- but the structure and guidance it offered applied mostly to large campaigns with solid funds and an army of volunteers. I was able to access some guidance through CUPE, and about 80% of our donations and volunteers came through my own networks. I assume the Party's candidate search probably identifies people who have networks they can leverage, but it was inadequate.

What's up with that?

1. What is the effectiveness of lawn signs? They provide name recognition, but do they translate into votes?

I got calls and emails from many people complaining that they did not see my signs around Mississauga. They were often angry or at least very annoyed, implying our campaign was failing. They clearly equated signs with votes, and they thought we had failed to understand the importance of these signs.

Lawn signs are very expensive, and Mississauga Centre is large and sprawling. The Liberal candidate had enormous signs and they were everywhere. When we investigated the price of those signs, and the number you would need to achieve a noticeable presence, we were amazed at how much she must have spent. Allan's rough estimate was that the Liberals may have spent 8-10 times our entire budget on signs and door leaflets alone. (Our budget was $5,000, and we spent around $7,500.)

Instead, we chose to put our resources into printing. We focused on the many huge apartment and condo towers in the riding. A tiny band of dedicated volunteers put a leaflet in front of every door of more than 90 buildings. This reached a lot of people -- but it isn't public, the way signs are.

Our strategy also included a limited round of phone calls to likely sign takers, leafletting community events, meet-and-greets outside mosques, and every possible public appearance. When we received a sign request, I would contact the requester and invite them to canvass their neighbourhood with me.

Despite our lack of signage, we came in second with about 27% of the vote.

2. Why would people call a candidate for general election information?

I fielded many calls from people who received a leaflet and wanted to know where to vote, how to register to vote, why they hadn't received a voting card, what riding they are in, and so on. I returned every single phone call, and supplied whatever information was needed. Part of that is the librarian in me, and part of it is wanting the caller to come away with a favourable impression of their NDP candidate.

But why would anyone do this? Is the answer "because they don't know how to find information, and one phone number is as good as the next"?

3. Why can't people find the name of a candidate in any party?

We received many emails and phone calls from aggrieved residents saying they didn't know who the candidate was -- often because they didn't see any signs. Many of these emails were forwarded to me from the central party! If they could figure out how to email the NDP, why couldn't they figure out how to look up the name of a candidate?

4. Why do people expect a personal contact initiated by a candidate?

We did very little "door-knocking" (in-person canvassing) or phone calling, because we deemed it a very poor use of our limited resources. This contradicted advice from the central party, so I frequently questioned our decision. Then Allan and I would estimate how many people we could reasonably expect to reach in person, given the size of the riding and our small number of volunteers -- and we affirmed our decision every time.

When I did canvass, I was wholly unprepared for this reaction: "We haven't received a single phone call, not one knock on our door, not one word from any candidate!" This is said with resentment and hurt feelings. More than one person told me she would vote for me because I was the only candidate she met! In a riding of 85,000 potential voters, in a city with a population of 750,000, why would residents expect personal contact initiated by a candidate? Is this extreme passivity?

5. In a parliamentary system, where members of the legislative body vote in a block according to party, why is personal contact so important?

People want their candidate to be smart, honest, dedicated, and so on. I get that. But in a parliamentary system, the personal attributes of your representative are really not very important. What matters is where the party stands on various issues, and how many seats they win. You're voting for the party leader and the party platform. Yet many people vote for an incumbent because they're thought to be a nice guy or they host community barbecues.

3.27.2016

best of wmtc, 2015 edition

I barely wrote at all last year, but my editor and partner managed to find a few (possibly) worthy of a best-of post. Thus, this page has been udpated.

I miss blogging.

I love my job and I love leading our union. I love having a steady paycheque, too! But I miss my old life. #CantHaveEverything #StopWhining #YesIKnowItsAFirstWorldProblem

4.04.2015

best of wmtc, 2014 edition

Every year since embarking on graduate school, then beginning to work full-time, I've thought: I have no time to write, I don't write any more. And every year, Allan chooses a sizable number of wmtc posts as best-of for that year. I'm always surprised at how much I've written.

I believe 2015 will finally change that. Adding my new union responsibilities to the mix seems to have displaced this blog. This time next year, we'll see if that proves to be true.

For now, this page has been updated. Thank you, as always, for continuing to read wmtc.

9.02.2014

what i do, what i miss, and what are they thinking: answers to the question, "what do you do?"

When we moved to Canada (nine years plus a few days ago), I wondered what, if anything, I would miss about the US. Who would have guessed it would be watching "Baseball Tonight"? Yup, the only thing I miss about living in that crazy country is watching a baseball-highlights show on ESPN. Not bad!

In a similar vein, what do I miss about being a writer? A strange sound that I can't quite decipher.

When people would ask that inevitable question, "What do you do?", and I would answer, "I'm a writer," invariably, I would get this reaction: "Ooooo..." Their eyes would go wide, their lips would form an O, and out would come a sing-song sound of amazement. I don't know why this was. I don't know what it meant. But it would always happen!

Except in New York. No one "Oooos" over anyone's work in New York, and certainly not over writers. Writers in New York are more common than tourists in Times Square, or rats on the subway tracks.

But everywhere else, when I said I was a writer, I would get this "Oooo..." response.

Who would have known I would miss it?

I do miss writing professionally. I miss the writing life. When Allan and I talk about his next book project, about his research and his process, I miss it. A lot.

At the same time, I'm very aware that what I'm missing had become quite rare in my life. I'm missing when it was going well: when I was working on absorbing assignments that paid decently and would be published and distributed. And if that had been a more common occurrence, I would have stayed with my original intent for library school: a job as a part-time librarian, to replace my day-job, while I continued my (part-time) writing life.

But that wasn't the case. Good writing jobs had become far too scarce, and I got excited about librarianship, and so it goes.

But who would have guessed how I would miss the sound of that "Ooooo..."! It's the silliest thing, especially since I don't even know what they were Ooooing about, what romantic misconception about writing was at work there. But it was fun. I'd say I was a writer, the other person would Oooo, and it gave me a little buzz.

So how do people react when I say I'm a librarian?

They either reply with a tight little, "Oh, that's interesting," kind of like you would say, "What's that smell?" Or else they say one of these seven things, collected (with GIFs) by Ellyssa Kroski, the iLibrarian blogger (and Director of IT at the New York Law Institute).
1) “Do people still even go to the library now that there’s Google?”

It’s amazing how many people respond this way when I tell them I’m a librarian. I assure them however, that we are somehow soldiering on in the library field, along with all of the doctors who are still attempting to stay relevant in spite of WebMD.

2) “So, are you like, a volunteer?” Usually followed up with “What? You need to have a Master’s degree to be a librarian?!!”

Nearly everyone I’ve ever met has been astounded that librarians hold advanced degrees.

3) “But isn’t print dead at this point?”

Yes, this is still a thing people are saying.
Click through to read the other four. I've been working as a librarian for only 14 months and I've heard all of these multiple times.

4.05.2014

whither wmtc (updated)

I feel so disconnected from this blog, and from writing in general. I hate it.

I love having this blog. I love that when I do want to write, and have the energy to do so, and have something to say, I have a place to do it. But writing occupies such a small space in my life now. 

I'm finding tremendous satisfaction from my job. Meaningful work from which I can actually earn a living! What a concept. I've also gotten very active in my union. The need to protect good jobs and the public sector has never been greater, so the timing is perfect, and I feel I have a lot to contribute.

When I'm not working and not engaged in union activities, I'm re-charging. That means movies or baseball, sometimes reading, and trying to get some exercise. I've been very pleasantly surprised at my energy level. I'm very conscious of managing my fibromyalgia, but that's second-nature to me now. I know when to say no, or to cancel plans if I have to. If I do feel a little fibro-ish, it never lasts too long or becomes too severe.

All good. 

But writing! Where is writing? I knew it was coming. I knew it was inevitable. But it makes me too sad to think of this part of myself shrinking and disappearing.

Update. Did it sound like I was pulling the plug on wmtc? Not a chance. Just musing... and wishing I could live in a few alternate realities at the same time. Perhaps you can relate.

3.04.2014

best of wmtc, 2013 edition

The wmtc greatest hits page has been updated with the best posts of 2012, as chosen by my partner and editor.

About this year's picks, Allan says: "I tried to be a bit more ruthless this year. Also you should highlight our Spain trip and also the tag "what i'm reading" since so many of those are great." All right, sir!

Thanks for reading and sharing my posts, and thank you always for your support.

1.27.2013

best of wmtc, 2012 edition

The wmtc greatest hits page has been updated with the best posts of 2012, as chosen by my editor and second-biggest* fan. Thanks for reading, and thank you always for your support.







* My mother, who else?!

1.14.2013

workers doing it for themselves: fighting the austerity agenda in north america

I'm re-running this, which I wrote for Socialist Worker Canada (now at a temporary site while a new website is being completed). If you are part of this struggle - or if you want to be part of it - and live in the GTA, please join us tomorrow night for Fighting Austerity in North America: Walmart Workers to Bill 115. Details below.

* * * *

Workers Doing It For Themselves: Food service workers in New York and Chicago unite to improve working conditions

One of the most exciting developments currently unfolding among the working class in North America is the organizing efforts of non-unionized workers. Non-union workers make up about 70 per cent of the labour force in Canada and about 88 per cent in the US. This represents untold volumes of untapped power.

The recent actions of Walmart workers, while significant and exciting, represent only one of several groups of non-union workers organizing to improve their own working conditions.

Historic win for Hot and Crusty Workers Association

In September 2012, New York City restaurant workers walked off the job and won a historic victory – a collective bargaining agreement that is a first for low-wage food-service workers, many of whom are undocumented people.

Twenty-three workers at one Hot and Crusty café (part of a chain) were organizing for more than a year, with support from Occupy Wall Street and the Laundry Workers Center, a workers’ support group. The Hot and Crusty workers were earning below minimum wage, were forced to work overtime (sometimes as much as 70 hours per week) without a higher hourly pay, and endured verbal and sexual harassment on a regular basis. They formed an independent union, the Hot and Crusty Workers Association, and demanded salary increases and improved conditions.

In retaliation, their employer closed the restaurant. Workers occupied the store, holding a workers’ assembly until forced to leave by the police. Undaunted, the workers opened their own café on the sidewalk outside the closed restaurant, serving coffee, bagels, and donuts in exchange for voluntary donations.

After only four days, the company asked to negotiate – but the workers rejected the company’s initial offers. Like restaurant workers throughout the US, most Hot and Crusty workers are undocumented, meaning they cannot work legally in the US. Employers routinely use the workers’ immigration status as an excuse for dangerous and unhealthy working conditions and illegally low pay, believing undocumented workers will be afraid to speak up. In this case, the company’s initial offers would have applied only to people with official work permits. In a strong show of solidarity and commitment, the Hot and Crusty Association workers rejected attempts to divide them.

Over the course of a 55-day picket, the workers received a tremendous outpouring of support, including thousands of petition signatures from the community (a high-income area), daily visits from students and faculty from nearby Hunter College, and letters of support from dozens of unions and labor organizations. Eventually, the owner sold the restaurant and the new ownership negotiated in good faith. The Hot and Crusty Workers Association now has a three-year collective agreement, truly a ground-breaking moment for food-service employees in North America.

The agreement includes wage increases, paid vacation and sick time, seniority, grievance and arbitration procedures, and union recognition, and is the first of its kind for food-service workers in North America. The agreement is the direct result of the workers’ own intelligence, determination, and courage – and their unity.

“We can’t survive on 7.25!”

Also in New York City, 200 fast-food employees walked off their jobs in November 2012, demanding a $15/hour minimum pay – a figure slightly more in line with the towering cost of living in that city. With the slogan “We can’t survive on $7.25,” workers from dozens of fast-food outlets, including McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s, organized under the banner of Fast Food Forward. It was the largest strike ever in the US against the fast food industry, which reaps some $200 billion a year in profits. Fast Food Forward emphasizes that better pay for workers benefits the entire community, calling for “better pay for a stronger New York.”

Along with pay increases, Fast Food Forward seeks health benefits and reliable scheduling. Fast-food workers cannot attend school or organize adequate child care, because their scheduling is often so erratic. The restaurants also force workers to work “off the clock” – with no pay at all – by scheduling tasks either before workers punch in or after they punch out.

Fight for fifteen

In Chicago, retail and food-service workers formed Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago. Like their sisters and brothers in New York, the Chicago workers received support from community groups but did the organizing themselves. WOCC’s “Fight For Fifteen” campaign calls for a $15/hour minimum wage. The workers have organized pickets and marches through the Michigan Avenue shopping area, and in an upscale, Michigan Avenue vertical mall, unfurled a banner reading “$1.5 billion” – that’s the combined salaries of the CEOs of their employer companies last year. WOCC represents workers of more than 100 different employers, from widely different backgrounds, all united in their struggle to improve their own lives.

* * * *

Fighting Austerity in North America: from Walmart to Bill 115
Tuesday, January 15, 7:00 p.m.
OISE - Room 2227
252 Bloor Street West
Subway: St. George

Speakers:
Elizabeth Clinton, OUR Walmart campaigner, by Skype from Texas
Ritch Whyman, International Socialists

Event on Facebook

11.07.2012

further thoughts on why i blog: a clarification

My recent post about no longer voting in US elections caused some dismay and upset among some of USian readers. At least one friend interpreted that post as encouraging others not to vote. I was surprised by this - but my friend was surprised that it meant otherwise! It seemed like a clarification was in order.

First of all, I would never try to convince anyone not to vote. For most of my life, the idea of not voting was anathema to me. I would have never considered it. And, in the first few presidential elections in which I was eligible to vote, I voted Democrat, and I didn't agree with people I knew who voted third-party. So I understand all the arguments about voting and about voting Democrat. I know where my USian friends are on these issues, because I've been there.

What's more, the inaction of not voting is not enough. Boycotting the duopoly without working on building a new system, or educating people about alternatives, would be fairly useless. And I am certainly not telling people what to do with their time or how to be politically engaged.

My statement about why I no longer vote in the US is a description, not a prescription. I'm explaining how I feel.

Anywhere from 200 to 700 people a day read this blog. Do most of those readers share my assumptions and my worldview? Or do most of them find my blog a restatement of what they already know? Do some people read wmtc to challenge their own views? I don't know the answer to any of these questions, and I never guess at the answers as I write.

I write about what's on my mind, because the writing process is how I discover clarity. If people like the blog, maybe they'll keep reading. If they don't, they'll (usually) go away. (In some cases, I can only wish they would.) I can't control those things and don't concern myself with them.

In 2008, I wrote this. (Scroll down, there's more.)
Why I Blog

  • I find it an extremely valuable writing discipline. Blogging helps me write every day. Writing every day primes the pump for my life as a writer.

  • It is very useful to write for an audience. Instead of writing in a notebook and ending up with a bunch of half-formed ideas, knowing that someone is reading helps me write more clearly, which means it helps me think more clearly.

  • On the other hand, it is very difficult and time-consuming to get columns or essays published. My work was published before I started blogging, and continues to be. But writing without the need to attract an editor frees me from having to construct a complete, publishable essay tailored to a specific audience.

    Thus, somewhere between the personal notebook of vague ideas and the slaved-over, multi-drafted essay for possible publication, lives my blog post.

  • For self-expression. I have a need to write. I have had this need all my life.

  • To share information I find interesting, noteworthy or valuable.

  • For community. We've met most of our friends in Canada through this blog. Other people have met each other (independent of me) through wmtc.

  • To help people interested in emigrating to Canada. People email me for information all the time. I can't always answer their questions, but I can try to point them in the right direction, and I can at least offer support. Many Canadians were incredibly helpful and supportive to me and Allan in our journey. I try to do the same for others.

  • To learn. I ask questions, I put forth ideas, people of similar viewpoints offer more information and direct me to other sources.

  • To have a record of my experience, first as an emigrant, then as an immigrant, and one day as a Canadian citizen.

    Not Why I Blog

  • To gather a spectrum of viewpoints on a particular topic. Because I don't tolerate all viewpoints and opinions on wmtc, I am frequently criticized for being close-minded. The truth is I see a lot of different viewpoints. I just don't want them on my own blog. It would ruin the experience for me. A new friend of wmtc recently described my blog as a "safe space"; for me that affirmed I was doing the right thing.

  • To debate. I dislike debate for its own sake. I find it tiresome and tiring, a misuse of my limited time and energy. My preferred method of learning is to read and consider. I will read and consider anyone's opinion, but I won't be baited into an argument. When I forget that, I am always sorry.

  • There are hundreds of thousands of blogs and message boards on which people can debate any topic under the sun. Readers seeking that type of experience would do well to avoid wmtc.

  • To bait others into an argument. See above.

  • So that other people can use my blog as a soapbox. And lest any friend of wmtc be paranoid, I welcome long comments from wmtc readers and discussions among readers. I'm referring to people who don't read my blog but think it might be a good place to direct other people to their own blogs, or to spout their opinions on any unrelated topic.

  • For money. I love being paid for my writing, and if blogging helps me land a paying assignment, that's beautiful. But the blog itself has to stay noncommercial in order for it to remain completely independent, and to retain its value to me.

  • Because I have nothing better to do.

  • Now, four years later, I would slightly amend that statement.

  • I'm no longer writing professionally, so I need this blog more than ever. It's my only writing outlet and I can't imagine being without it.

  • I no longer blog about emigrating to Canada. That is over and done with, and my experience isn't very relevant to someone considering or trying to emigrate now. I do still get emails from grateful readers, thanking me for helping them sort through the confusion of immigration information, and showing them it can be done. I treasure those emails. But emigration is no longer a principal motivating factor in my blogging.

    But everything else holds true. You'll note that "to persuade" is not on the "why" list. Here's what I told my skeptical friend.
    I write about what matters to me most, what I'm passionate about, and social justice is a huge part of that. But my writing about social justice doesn't serve a different purpose than my writing about books or travel or my experiences at school. It's just me, what I need to express.

    I do hope my writing is informative and educational (in a broad sense), and if it influences how a reader thinks, that's fine, but my goal is not to influence. I'm never trying to change minds or votes, and my intention is not to challenge people to question their assumptions - not at all.

    . . . . My only writing challenge is my own, to express my thoughts in ways that are both clear and lively - the writer's constant losing battle.
  • 8.14.2012

    from the archives: paralympics integration with olympics, the athletes' perspectives

    Oscar Pistorius' historic run as the first double-amputee Olympic athlete has revived the ongoing discussion of whether or not the Paralympics should be integrated into the Olympics. (Stories in The Guardian, Slate, and on CBC's The Current.)

    Integration sounds like a great idea, and on the surface, the fierce opposition of many athletes with disabilities may seem purely self-interested. The issues, however, are far more complicated than most mainstream media is willing to take on.

    I wrote about this issue when I covered the Atlanta Paralympics in 1996, and I thought some readers might be interested. I uploaded one story through Google - Change, Growth and Exclusion: A Paralympic Identity Crisis - and a second story I found archived on the New Mobility website: Where are the Paralympics going? Both are written from the perspective of athletes with disabilities.

    4.15.2012

    digital jigsaw puzzles, this quiet blog, and the current state of my brain

    The writing part of my brain appears to be on vacation. It didn't request time off; it doesn't have to. It's the boss. I have a pile of topics I'd like to write about, but Writing Brain is off in the woods somewhere, recovering from academia.

    So what is the rest of me doing, besides working two jobs?

    There's baseball, of course. I've already dived into my spring and summer reading. I have the usual humongous spring list of chores and errands, all the things that pile up while I'm in school. I'm also spending far too much time on my latest obsession, digital jigsaw puzzles.

    I plan to return to the War Resisters Support Campaign, at least for the summer. I've been marginally active in the Campaign via email, but I haven't been able to attend meetings for a long time, and I really miss it.

    None of that explains why I'm not writing. But I've noticed that every year after school ends, I'm eager to get back to blogging, but I can't. Not right away.

    * * * *

    I always have more topics to blog about than I have time or space to blog. Some items wither and die on the list without ever seeing pixels, but none has lingered longer and more annoyingly than Marxism.

    Last year, Allan and I attended the annual Marxism conference put on by the International Socialists. I intended to write about the talks we attended, or at least post our notes. Then I got my summer research job, and then school started again... and every time I look at my notes, I'm overwhelmed with the size (and the possible futility) of the task. But I never forget that I said I would do it, so the not-done-ness continues to bother me. This persistent, nagging feeling can be a powerful motivator, and also a pain in the ass.

    Now Marxism 2012 is coming around, and we are again taking the weekend off to attend. So I either get my 2011 notes up before that happens, or I remove the task from my list permanently.

    * * * *

    My half-semester workshop in children's digital games turned out to be very interesting. We played a lot of games and discussed the many issues that they raised. Working in groups, we designed a game using some basic DIY game-creation applications, to evaluate the process and the choices involved. We also chose ten digital games for a library playlist, and presented them in a digital format. Through that assignment, I discovered digital jigsaw puzzles.

    I'm playing Ravensburger Puzzle Selection in "campaign mode". This means every time I complete a puzzle, I get another, more difficult puzzle challenge. It's a game designed for an addictive personality like mine.

    My family used to do jigsaw puzzles, often having one going on the dining room table in the winter. (Many people in my age group have a similar memory.) I was great at jigsaw puzzles and loved them, but haven't seen one in years - decades. Last summer, after a conversation about puzzles on a JoS game thread, a baseball friend gave me two Red Sox-related puzzles. This revived my interest in puzzles, but our home is badly positioned for it: there's only one table. (Long-time to-do: buy foldable card table.)

    Enter digital puzzles. They are every bit as addictive as physical jigsaw puzzles, but less convenient - and less social. Working on physical puzzles is time spent with other people, but a digital puzzle keeps me at my computer. It's not like I need more screen time. But it's too late now. I'm addicted.

    * * * *

    I've noticed that blogging about the inconsequential details of my life sometimes kick-starts my writing. So if you're still reading this, thanks for bothering, and thanks for contributing to the process.

    3.22.2012

    canadian profile: justin hines

    In the March issue of New Mobility, I have a cover story about Canadian musician Justin Hines. You can see it here.

    I wrote this over my winter break - just as the library job came through! Not exactly the restful vacation I was hoping for. Fortunately I had a lot of help; Allan should really have a co-byline on this one.

    The print edition looks terrific, full of great photos. It was a pleasure to interview Justin, he seems like a terrific guy. I add this to my profiles of interesting Canadians: Chantal Petitclerc, Stephen Fletcher, and the great Alyssa Manning.

    For those of you who can't get enough of my scintillating prose, I posted this with the Children's and Youth Advocacy group at the iSchool: A View from a Children's Library.

    3.04.2012

    best of wmtc, 2011 edition

    During the school term, I am frequently frustrated by not being able to blog. I have ideas for posts that never get written - unusual for me, and unpleasant. If this annual tradition of collecting my best posts from the past year serves no other purpose, it reminds me that I actually am still writing.

    This the long list for best-of wmtc in 2011.

    resistance is not futile: resistance is everything

    how to save the public library

    "all we know is we are going to get our freedom" (Report on forum on revolution in Egypt.)

    my police complaint saga comes to a close

    stephen harper dismantles canada's refugee system; jason kenney attacks canadian democracy

    haliburton wolves in winter

    ¡bienvenido diego! (Not best-of, but most important! More good dog pics here: in which i undertake something completely new: my first garden.)

    books on books, part 1: robert darnton, the case for books

    books on books, part 2: contested will by james shapiro

    books on books, part 3: reading matters: what the research reveals about reading, libraries and community


    thou shalt be thin: obesity hysteria and the eating disorder epidemic

    the only good bargaining is collective bargaining

    "we work to buy things that are built to die so that we must work to buy more things that will break"

    war is peace, freedom is slavery, and bp is listening: more tales of corporate propaganda (My pick for best post of the year.)

    on the dangers of centrism

    occupy movement: some answers to cynics and detractors

    "she is my family" and other revelations of humanity: s. brian willson in toronto (Allan guest post.)

    how can we live without polar bears? bbc's planet earth gets political




    3.03.2012

    celebrate international women's day 2012

    Today is International Women's Day.

    We've come a long way.

    And we've still got a long way to go.

    Globally, the picture looks much worse.

    See the current issue of Socialist Worker for a collection of IWD stories, including one by yours truly.

    At today's IWD March in Toronto, the theme is "Reclaim Our City: Together We Are Stronger!" Details here.

    1.16.2012

    the perfect is the enemy and other thoughts on writing

    I have a little meta-reflection on writing my recent post about the walled-off internet. These thoughts are not specific to the topic; it could have been anything. As it happens, writing that post brought up some truisms about the writing process - one negative and one positive. Perhaps they are familiar to you.

    The first is that old bugaboo that haunts many a creative effort: The Perfect Is the Enemy of the Good. In this case a related pitfall was also at work: There's No Such Thing as Definitive.

    I had wanted to write this post for months. I keep a short list of topics I'm trying to get to, and some ideas will stay on the list for weeks or months, especially if they're not timely or pegged to an event. This idea - called "walled-off internet" on my scraps of paper - stayed on the list for ages. The longer it sat there, the more difficult it became to write.

    I started to feel as if I had to gather every scrap of evidence, research every corner, become a minor expert on the topic, before I could write. (Definitive.) And the post had to be an Important Post, a Best-Of Post, it had to be Great. (Perfect.)

    That's a big mountain to climb. For such a project, I would need a massive block of uninterrupted time, I would need to feel on top of my game, I would need... all kinds of things that I don't have. I'm not ready to tackle such an undertaking!

    So the item sat on the list, unwritten.

    This was happening subtly, subconsciously. That's how our creative processes begin, I believe. Discovering them, digging them up and bringing them to the surface, we begin to understand them and work with them, instead of letting them control us.

    The second, happier writing truth that I encountered was something I call The More You Write, The More You Write. (When I say truism and writing truth, I'm referring to my own experience. I know these feelings are familiar to many people trying to do anything creative, but I'm not implying they're universal.)

    As "walled-off internet" mouldered on my topics list through the fall semester, eventually I decided I'd write it over my winter break. That offered an escape from the Perfect and Definitive traps. I told myself, I don't have time to write such a massive post during the school term. I'll put it on the winter-break list.

    Then winter break came, and I was busier than I wanted to be - new library job, getting ready for Quebec trip, long list of errands and appointments - but also tired, a bit burnt out. I just couldn't get my mind in gear to write. I was totally unmotivated. All I could do was look at those two topics (there's another one!) on that list and wonder when the hell I'd ever write them.

    Then school started. Now I'm busier, but my brain is re-engaged. I'm thinking and writing for school. And lo and behold, suddenly I am motivated to write - not just for school, but for myself, for wmtc. Because... The More You Write, The More You Write. Writing primes the pump for more writing.

    In the great musical "A Chorus Line," which deals with the struggle for artistic success and recognition, there's a line, "I'm a dancer, a dancer dances". It's a simple lyric, but loaded with meaning. The singer - not a star, just one of the legions trying to get any dancing job - is asserting her identity, and equating her identity with this creative act. She sings, "All I ever needed is the music and the mirror" - because to be a dancer, to claim this identity, she doesn't need fame or even a job, she needs only to dance. The more she dances, the more she is a dancer... and a dancer dances.

    9.14.2011

    straight goods, advertising and propaganda

    In case you missed it last week, my post on advertising and propaganda is running on Straight Goods. I hope you'll give it a read.

    Comments are best posted on the original thread.

    7.05.2011

    personal update, freakout, apology, open thread

    I have been asked to write the final report for my portion of the research project that I've been working on this summer. There's a strict deadline - the grant ends on July 23 - and many, many loose threads to tie up. It's a great challenge.

    In keeping with my writing process, right now I'm a bundle of anxiety. I'm telling myself (as I always do), "This is the part where I freak out. This is the part where I think I can't do it."

    I adopted this method many, many years ago. At some point I realized that it was not down to experience, that these feelings would never go away. Much like an actor who has "stage fright" (that is, anxiety) before every single performance, no matter how much I write, no matter how many deadlines I meet, there will never come a time when I won't experience this anxiety.

    Once I understood this, I embraced the process. I don't deny the feelings, but I don't give in to them either. I feel them, but I also observe them from a slight distance.

    "This is the part where I freak out."

    "This is part where I feel I can't do it, I won't do it, I will fail."

    Right now, this blog and the many, many topics I want to write about weigh on me as one more area of my life I must neglect. Thus the apology part of the post title.

    In comments, John F said that wmtc readers could use a forum to post stuff they want to share with other readers. So here you have it: an open thread. I will post a bunch of stuff that's been sitting in my inbox from James, Allan, and other readers. If anyone else has anything they want to post, feel free, unless you are one of our trolls, then be a good chap and fuck off.

    I'll be quietly freaking out and hopefully getting a lot of work done at the same time.

    6.10.2011

    more wmtc on brigette depape at the mark

    A slightly enhanced version of my recent post about Brigette DePape is running at The Mark: Why Brigette DePape's Actions Were Heroic.

    I had assumed The Mark was inundated with DePape-themed essays, but it turned out they had only run one, and it was very negative. I'm glad I bothered to send them the link.

    4.05.2011

    "why i'm voting liberal even though i'm not a liberal" at the mark

    My piece "Why I'm Holding My Nose and Voting Ignatieff" is now running at The Mark.

    I still don't feel altogether comfortable with the choice, and I'm sure I never will. But I've examined it from every angle, and this time out, this is what I have to do.