“Brexit, Trump and the Search for a Canadian Monkey Wrench”

brexit-canada-1024x576One of the best analyses of the contemporary political train wreck, is Glenn Greenwald’s “Democrats, Trump, and the Ongoing, Dangerous Refusal to Learn the Lesson of Brexit” (www.theintercept.com). Anyone who’s been watching the news and scratching their head, or been “shocked” by Trump’s victory, would do themselves a favor by reading it along with the documents it links to. Here are Greenwald’s two most relevant paragraphs:

“The indisputable fact is that prevailing institutions of authority in the West, for decades, have relentlessly and with complete indifference stomped on the economic welfare and social security of hundreds of millions of people. While elite circles gorged themselves on globalism, free trade, Wall Street casino gambling, and endless wars (wars that enriched the perpetrators and sent the poorest and most marginalized to bear all their burdens), they completely ignored the victims of their gluttony, except when those victims piped up a bit too much — when they caused a ruckus — and were then scornfully condemned as troglodytes who were the deserved losers in the glorious, global game of meritocracy.

“That message was heard loud and clear. The institutions and elite factions that have spent years mocking, maligning, and pillaging large portions of the population — all while compiling their own long record of failure and corruption and destruction — are now shocked that their dictates and decrees go unheeded. But human beings are not going to follow and obey the exact people they most blame for their suffering. They’re going to do exactly the opposite: purposely defy them and try to impose punishment in retaliation. Their instruments for retaliation are Brexit and Trump. Those are their agents, dispatched on a mission of destruction: aimed at a system and culture they regard — not without reason — as rife with corruption and, above all else, contempt for them and their welfare.”

In summary, what working class Britons saw in Brexit is what working class Americans saw in Trump: a monkey wrench —one they could throw contemptuously into a corrupt system that had, for over a generation, been working against them. This article represents my search to proactively indentify the Canadian monkey wrench.

Here we reach the litmus test. If at this point you hear yourself smugly proclaiming, “Not here! Never here! We don’t have a corrupt system in Canada! We don’t have an elite that has been exploiting our masses!” then you’re probably either (1) a member of this elite yourself, (2) utterly clueless, or (3) both.

On the other hand, if you feel yourself quietly sympathizing with the frustrations of working class Britons and Americans (and maybe even feeling a little guilty about it), you’re probably doing what I am, searching for a monkey wrench.

For years my monkey wrench of choice has been voting for the Green Party. And I must say, even though I didn’t get to vote for her directly, it has done my heart good to see Elizabeth May raising hell in the House of Commons these last five years. But I can appreciate that those of us without the environmentalism bent might not find satisfaction there —those folks likely tried voting Conservative or NDP to see what would happen. Of course eventually it became obvious that Stephen Harper was only concerned about, well, Stephen Harper. And the NDP, it seems (tragically), always shy away from authoring any policies of truly monkey wrench magnitude.

Recently, many of us cast our vote for a well-coiffed monkey wrench in the form of Justin Trudeau —some simply angry at Harper for turning out to be a corporate elitist, some for the nostalgia conjured by Trudeau’s name, and some because of one interesting monkey wrench that he held out to us: electoral reform.

The one truly original plank in the last Liberal platform (original for them, at least) was electoral reform. This idea that every vote cast should be counted and represented in Parliament for a change. Now for us this is something quietly revolutionary, a potential for Canada to renew our democracy —a monkey wrench that wouldn’t be thrown into the system with the intent to destroy it, but rather to fix it.

And yet, instead of genuinely pursuing this revolutionary aim, the party in power seems committed to ensuring it happens in a way that benefits them or that it doesn’t happen at all. Presently it looks like we’re headed toward a referendum on the issue. Those of us who paid attention to similar referenda in the past have a good idea how this might turn out. First-past-the-post may very well end up on the ballot as an option because at least one party on the committee will insist it be there. Then, once the issue is in the media, there will be so much misinformation that our overworked (yet consummately reasonable) electorate won’t know what to think and status quo will be seen as the safest option.

If this issue goes to referendum, it is vitally important that first-past-the-post is not an option. This bears repeating. If the issue of electoral reform goes to a referendum, it is vitally important that the status quo, first-past-the-post, is not an option!

Why employ such forceful language? Because Canadians, I fear, are reaching a point where any monkey wrench will do. It would be better for all concerned if that monkey wrench came in the form of a new electoral system than a Canadian Trump.

Those of you who have been paying attention will have noticed that, in terms of political leadership at least, Canada tends to be two steps behind the United States. Mulroney was our Regan, Cretien was our Clinton, Harper was our Bush. And in many ways Trudeau is our Obama —a fresh face able to credibly peddle “change” on behalf of an old, establishment party that doesn’t really want to change anything. So who will be Canada’s Trump?

Here is where we get smug again and cry, “Not here! Never here!” But we do so at our peril. If we’re honest, we know damn well we’ve heard rumblings of discontent in our coffee shops and at our water coolers. The tone is more muted —cooler perhaps than our American neighbours— and maybe laced with a bit of sarcasm, but they are there. I’ll wager not a one of my readers has gone these past several years without hearing a version of one of the following:

“Glad the automotive workers are safe. But where’s my bailout?”

“Immigrants get their cable television paid for!? Wish someone would sponsor me.”

“I wish the housing market would crash. Then maybe I could afford a home.”

And most recently there are the crass lamppost plasterers who crawled out from their basements after Trump’s ersatz victory: “Hey, white person!” et cetera.

It’s only a matter of time before some Trump-ish opportunist latches on to these sentiments and tries to translate them into political capital. Canada’s Trump has yet to emerge from the shadows but rest assured that he (or she) is eagerly waiting there. And our right-wing media is salivating in anticipation. Remember the frenzy they made of Rob Ford? Well, I reckon we ain’t seen nothing yet.

Before I let you go, let’s give ourselves some credit. Historically, Canada has always been ahead of the United States whenever it really counted. We abolished slavery, we established universal healthcare, we stood up to fascism the first time it reared its ugly head. But presently the grim reality is that Canada is the tallest tree still standing in the darkening forest of western democracy. And the rumbling machines of the logging company can already be heard in the distance.

In the months to come, dear reader, there will likely be many campaigns asking for your precious time, energy and money. So my advice to you is this: choose your monkey wrench wisely. But choose quickly.

–Brandon Kidd

e-Romance Confession

Reblogged from: https://gplfortheloveofbooks.wordpress.com/

Hello, my name is Brandon and… I read romance novels. There. I said it. I feel better.

Of course I’m just being dramatic. Enjoying a good romance novel is nothing to be ashamed of. There is, however, the occasional raised eyebrow should one decide to read a romance on the bus, on break at work, or in other social settings. After all, those flashy, airbrushed covers with bare torsos are designed to be eye-catching (see below). But worry no more! Many of the best and newest romances are now available to be downloaded as e-books –free of charge– from the GPL. Now you can enjoy your favourite romances with all the anonymity provided by your e-reader. One such title at the GPL is This Little Whatever by Nicole Forcine.

In This Little Whatever, Jonathan Mendoza is a twenty-nine-year-old travelling performer, a professional belly dancer and street smart vagabond. He literally lives out of his duffel bag and parties nightly with a crowd that gets younger every year. He also tries to live up to a promise he made to his sick mother: to change his lifestyle and live sober. This proves to be easier said than done.

Dean Winters is a successful, conservative professional with a secret and tortured past. He is also in his late twenties and trying hard to enrich his anemic social life. Jonathan and Dean’s lifestyles collide, literally and figuratively, when Dean bowls into Jonathan before a performance. Boy meets boy. But will boy keep boy?

Told from Jonathan’s perspective, This Little Whatever is more than a fleshy fantasy. It’s also a tenderly told story about what makes a good friendship, how people recover from trauma, the value of family, the costs and risks of entering a certain social scene (or leaving another one), and balancing responsibilities to others with taking care of oneself.

!cid_image002_png@01D079EEPublished by Dreamspinner Press, This Little Whatever is just one bright star in an ever-expanding galaxy of gay/queer themed romances available through this publisher. They boast a catalogue of well over 2,000 titles written by more than 500 authors from six different continents. They also operate three distinct imprints: Dreamspinner Press, specializing in gay romance; Harmony Ink Press, devoted to LGBTQ+ Young Adult fiction; and DSP Publications, a boutique publisher of speciality genre fiction.

Bottom Line: This Little Whatever is a rollicking read for anyone who loves navigating the twists and turns of a burgeoning out-of-the-box (and out-of-the-closet) romance. Four out of five stars.

Firebird Soars: Adventures in Discardlandia

http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1388967916l/176803.jpgTreasures show up in the oddest places. I was culling the fiction collection at my day job last week when this aged volume caught my eye. I greedily snatched it up before placing it on the book sale truck among the other discards (one perk of working at the library).

Mercedes Lackey is one of the brightest stars in the galaxy of fantasy fiction. She was writing years before J. K. Rowling and Harry Potter took the genre mainstream and continues to pen page-turners today. The Firebird is a central figure in Russian folklore and a celebrated symbol of spring. Lackey’s spins the classic fairy tale into a heartfelt and thrilling novel about a young man struggling to find his place in the world.

Ilya Ivanovitch doesn’t have the easy, carefree life that he should as the fourth son of a tsar. His father is a tyrant, his insecure brothers beat him half to death on a regular basis, and his three best friends are a priest, a shaman, and a dairymaid. Then one night his life changes forever. Ilya spies the legendary Firebird stealing cherries from his father’s prized orchard.

The Firebird is a magical, shape-shifting creature: part bird, part woman, part elemental. She sees Ilya as well, flying away quickly but leaving him with the ability to understand the speech of animals. Eventually Ilya escapes his wicked family, journeys across an enchanted Russia, makes new friends, and faces a great and powerful evil in order to win true love.

Like all fairy tales, Firebird is at its heart a moral tale. Through her charming characters Lackey meditates on what makes a good family, the corrupting nature of wealth and power, what it means to be an honourable man, how to treat women, and the many faces of love and desire. Firebird is a particular good read for thoughtful young adults, male or female.

http://img2.imagesbn.com/p/9780765317193_p0_v1_s260x420.JPGLackey’s novel also opens a portal to the lesser-known world of Russian folklore and mythology. The GPL boasts several volumes for all ages on this fascinating topic if you’re interested. Visceral, colourful, and fanciful these tales are guaranteed to delight and enlighten readers of any age.

“But what about Lackey’s novel!?” I hear you asking. “You discarded it! Is it out of print?”

Fear not. I discovered that this 1995 novel has recently been reborn in ebook form. The Firebird soars again!

“The Easiest Thing in the World”

Maria was nervous. Having been a single mother from the age of twenty, it was a condition she was well acquainted with. After she landed a good administrative job at the local university, things became blessedly easier for her and Nora, her only child. But in this country in this day and age, every step forward meant an additional worry of falling back. And Nora was about to take one of those steps.

Alone in the office lunchroom, Maria sat twirling her long, black hair around one finger, picking at the boxed salad she brought from home with the other hand, moving croutons around. A typical Thunder Bay winter roared just outside the window and Maria sipped thoughtfully at her hot cocoa. Nora was on her mind —or, more specifically, Nora’s new boyfriend.

Nora had been seeing him for a few months now, but Maria had yet to exchange as much as a “Hello” with the young man. She’d seen him pick Nora up from the house a few times, but she always ran out to meet him, he never came inside.

The glimpses she’d stolen of him, from between cracks in curtains, all suggested that Cory was the average sixteen-year-old. That is to say, lanky and long-haired with a blank expression on his face, an expression that seemed to encapsulate everything about him; Cory was a mystery every bit as enigmatic as the Mona Lisa’s smile. Without the smile. And can you trust a boy who doesn’t smile?

Maria stabbed a cherry tomato and stopped chewing her lower lip just long enough to eat it. Of course she had asked Nora about him, about where they went, what they did, and so on, feigning idle curiosity. But under the placid expression on her face Maria was as ravenous for answers and details as a starving dog before dinner time.

Weeks ago Maria recalled asking over dinner, “So what do his parents do?”

“Um… I don’t know.”

“You don’t know? But you’ve been seeing him for weeks now. Haven’t you asked?”

“No.”

“Well, don’t you want to know?”

“Why? I’m not dating his parents, I’m dating him.”

Maria regrouped, chagrined at being a bit superficial, and tried again: “Does he have any brothers or sisters?”

“One older brother.”

“And… what’s he like?”

“I don’t know. He doesn’t live at home. I’ve never met him.”

And so it went. Every time Maria tried initiating a conversation about the boy, it never got off the ground. As the weeks and months rolled by, Maria couldn’t help painting different pictures of Cory in her mind. And with very little in the way of facts to go on, her imagination had been working overtime. The top three contestants on “Who is Cory?” looked like this:

—a wrist-slashing punk rocker with an eating disorder, absentee parents, a drug addiction, two dozen ghastly tattoos and piercings, and the head of the missing high school basketball team captain in a bowling bag under his bed.

—an over-achieving robot of a boy being driven by helicopter parents to get straight As and enroll in every club, association, and council that his school had to offer ahead of becoming pre-med at the country’s top university.

—a quiet, sensitive, haiku-writing vegan who hates meat, doesn’t eat anything that casts a shadow, and has plans to become a journalist after high school but will end up a starving artist working part-time in a bookstore.

Maria knew which one she preferred, of course, but also that not one of these guesses was likely to be accurate. She sighed and finished her salad. Soon enough her imagination could rest. Cory was coming over for dinner next week.

“Hey, Maria!”

Maria looked up. Sandy from accounting came in, smiling as always, and took the seat across from her.

“Hi, Sandy.”

“How’s it going?”

“Oh… alright, I suppose.”

“Why just alright?” Sandy asked, unpacking the panini and latte she’d brought from the cafeteria two floors down.

Maria had previously shared her musings about Cory with Sandy. She leaned forward, looked up through her lashes and said, “Well, The Boyfriend is coming over for dinner next week.”

Sandy froze with her sandwich halfway to her mouth.

“Really? Finally?”

“Yup.”

“Well, that’s great! You can finally put all your worrying to rest.”

“Or have it confirmed.”

“Will worrying make a difference either way?”

“No, I… I suppose not. You know, I really don’t care what he’s like. If Nora is dating him, then he must be a decent boy —I do have some faith in my daughter’s choices.”

“You should tell her that,” Sandy interjected as she swigged her Starbucks.

“I just wish… Well, I know there’s no way to guarantee this, but I wish there was something I could do to make sure he treats her properly.”

“Oh, is that all,” Sandy said. “That’s the easiest thing in the world. I know how you can do that.”

Maria looked up in surprise.

“You do?”

“Sure, it’s simple. And I know it works. I do the same thing every time my daughter brings home a new boyfriend. All you need is a gun.”

“A what!?” Maria squeaked, her head jerking back.

“A gun,” Sandy said simply.

“I’m not going to shoot him!”

Maria knew that blonde, blue-eyed, pony-tailed Sandy hailed from rural Alberta, but this was the very first hint of red she’d ever glimpsed on her colleague’s neck.

“Of course you’re not going to shoot him.”

“Then what do I need to buy a gun for?”

“You don’t need to buy one. I’ll loan you mine.”

More red. Maria’s eyebrows knit and her mouth hung open as she watched her friend munching with incongruous calm at her lunch. She couldn’t make out whether or not Sandy was pulling her leg. Maria folded her arms, relaxed her forehead and said,

“Explain.”

“Okay,” Sandy said, putting her sandwich down and leaning over the table toward Maria, “here’s what you do. Before Cory comes over, you borrow my shotgun and mount it on the wall of your living room. And don’t worry about the legalities. I never bought ammunition for this shotgun and it doesn’t even work. It just looks big and old —that’s all you need.

“Then, when Cory comes over, you wait until it’s just you and him in the living room. You look over at the shotgun and Cory will, of course, ask about it. When he does, you point to it, stare at it, and with your best poker face you say,

“‘That gun belonged to my grandmother, Cory. Back in 1925 on the plains of Alberta she used it to bring down a rabid buffalo charging at her two young sons. She killed that beast with one shot from hundred yards. The very next thing she did was chop off that buffalo’s testicles with her butcher knife and throw them into her woodstove. Had she not done as she did, I wouldn’t be here today. After the close encounter with the buffalo she insisted that all her children know how to shoot that gun. I admire my grandmother, Cory. She was a kind and gentle woman every single day of her life, but the second something threatened her family she didn’t hesitate to pick up a gun and pull the trigger.’

“Then you channel a little Clint Eastwood, look Boyfriend in the eyes and say, ‘Know what I mean, Cory? Understand?’

“And then after little Cory is done acid washing his own skinny jeans, you’ll never have anything to worry about.”

Sandy returned to her lunch. Maria’s mouth hung open once again.

“You’re serious, aren’t you?”

“Dead serious.”

“But… But Nora will tell him I lied, that the story wasn’t true.”

“Doesn’t matter,” Sandy shrugged, her mouth half full of panini. “He’ll still think you’re bat shit crazy and that achieves the same effect.”

“But… What if he is a decent boy and I scare him off?”

“So what? If you do scare him off, then you know one of two things: he wasn’t going to treat Nora well or he didn’t feel strongly enough about her to tolerate her having a slightly eccentric mother. Do you really want someone like that hanging around?”

“Well… No, I guess I don’t.”

“And if he does hang around, you automatically know two things: he genuinely cares for Nora and he isn’t going to mistreat her. Bingo!”

Maria’s eyebrows shot up like roller blinds.

“See what I mean?” Sandy said. Then with a smile she added: “Easiest thing in the world.”

Maria sat back and considered for a few moments before asking,

“So… when can I see this gun?”