La Meute

Rather disturbing, if not entirely surprising, story at CBC today about the rise of far-right, anti-immigrant groups in Quebec.

The question of Quebec identity has come up in this province from time to time whenever new customs are introduced into the majority culture. It came up with Charter of Values two years ago and now it’s manifesting itself into this group called La Meute or, “the Wolfpack.

Aligning themselves more France’s Marine Le Pen of the Front National than Donald Trump, la Meute, according to the CBC, “hope to become a lobby group of sorts, dedicated to making Quebecers aware of the threat posed by Islamic fundamentalism.” Generally, I’ll assume your political movement is bad news if it has “Front” in the name.

Of course, they seem mostly based in rural Quebec where few immigrants actually live but anti-immigrant sentiment is often highest.

Over the past year, with the refugee crisis in Europe, as well as with the election of Donald Trump, it seems as though people, egged on by fake news designed to whip up hatred, are now emboldened to act out against those who are different.

We need to guard against complacency and smugness in Canada because we’re not so different from the rest of world.

Currently Reading

Image result for the fifth season nk jemisin

I’m reading the 2o15 Hugo Award winner for Best Novel, The Fifth Season. It’s the start of an epic fantasy series by N.K. Jemisin called The Broken Earth.

Here’s what the Atlantic had to say about it:

The Fifth Season is a stunning piece of speculative-fiction work, and it accomplishes the one thing that is so difficult in a field dominated by tropes: innovation, in spades. A rich tale of earth-moving superhumans set in a dystopian world of regular disasters, The Fifth Season manages to incorporate the deep internal cosmologies, mythologies, and complex magic systems that genre readers have come to expect, in a framework that also asks thoroughly modern questions about oppression, race, gender, class, and sexuality. Its characters are a slate of people of different colors and motivations who don’t often appear in a field still dominated by white men and their protagonist avatars. The Fifth Season’s sequel, 2016’s The Obelisk Gate, continues its dive into magic, science, and the depths of humanity.

I don’t read a lot of fantasy and I wanted to read authors outside my own white male demographic so this highly recommend book fulfills that need to break out of my bubble.

I’ll be certainly picking up the next book in the series.

Advice from an Old

immortan

“THE MOTION DIES! IT LIVES AGAIN! IT IS CARRIED!”

As a forty-five year old person, you wouldn’t believe the number of young people who come to me for career and financial advice. Or, as it happens, you may believe that number because that number is zero. But should anyone ask me if they should buy a condo, I will give them this advice:

As option for home buyers, condos have a lot to recommend them: they often cost less than a detached home, there is less maintenance, and they are often located conveniently close to public transport. For someone who doesn’t want or need a lot of space or is on a tight budget, they’re an ideal solution.

But, from my experience, before buying the condo, always ask if the condo administration is currently embroiled is some kind of bizarre, decade long civil war in which both sides are lead by Immortan Joe and there is no sign of Imperator Furiosa to save us. On Wednesday I went to the annual meeting, which some of the administrators said was illegal and against the Quebec Civil Code, but lawyers present said that, in fact, it was legal and there was a lot of yelling and stonewalling and I wish it would end. Stuff is getting done. We have a new roof in our unit but we also have a president who hasn’t really shown up for the job.

I know there’s always politics involved in any community organization like this but knowing this in advance would have made me reconsider my decision to move here.

The neighbours are nice, though.

A Statement of Optimism

Two years ago, I wrote that committing to a 25 year mortgage is a statement of optimism. I resisted buying for so long because I wasn’t sure if my job would be permanent or my company would survive so I held off, just in case we needed to get out of a rental quickly to move down the road. But things continued on in my career and things seemed stable. I decided that despite the ups and downs of life, somehow things will work out for me and I would be able to, at the beginning of the month, make those mortgage payments. And so we signed upon the line that was dotted.

In March, I was terminated as part of a departmental restructuring so what do I know about optimism? It figures two years after I buy a house is when I get shitcanned. Fortunately, I should say at the outset, that there was a generous severance which will last until May and then I have to register for unemployment benefits. But right now we’re doing ok.

However, searching for a new job in 2016, after almost twenty years at the same company, sucks. A forty-five year old man with an English degree and two decades of completely unrelated airline experience is an odd sell in today’s market. But I’ve had some interesting interviews and I keep thinking I’m closer and closer to landing something, anything, but it remains frustratingly out of reach.

I’ve been making use of the time. I’ve returned to my writing and think that I may be on the road to being a real writer in that I really think the novel I’m writing is garbage. I’ve also started doing sessions with a personal trainer to learn to do strength, specifically weightlifting. Clearly, losing my job lead to something of a personal crisis so I figure if I cannot control my employment, I can control my health, which has always been something of an issue.

But it’s been eight months and I still haven’t found anything and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about that.

August Catch-Up

It’s been since last December when I last updated this thing.

Householding

Much of the house is painted now and a new floating floor has been put in the TV room in the basement. The big jobs remaining are still putting in a whole new, less ugly kitchen and embiggening the bathroom. This will happen some day when we’re not broke.

Jobbing

I’m still in the I.T. department at the new job and have adopted a work style of “Keep doing it this way until my boss yells at me to stop.” This has happened a few times. But, by and large, the change has been good for me. My previous job often left me wondering what exactly my role was as more and more people were given input into my work and, to be honest, a conflict with my boss ended up not being too good for my mental health.

Politicking

I am volunteering for my local Member of Parliament in the upcoming election. They were impressed that I’ve been a member of the NDP for, like, fifteen years, man! Apparently the Orange Wave of 2011 made a lot of new members. Last night I attended a debate watching party with my local Member of Parliament, which is a new thing. I’ve long been a member but never volunteered.

Partially, it’s just an excuse to get me out of the house once in a while.

Writing

I am working on a novel, the same novel I’ve been working on for years when, suddenly, I figured out what I wanted it to be about. It happened when I realized my favourite books were set in fictional versions of the author’s hometown for the purposes of satire. Then I realized, “Hey. I have a hometown…”

I also submitted some short stories and a comic book so I can officially say I’ve been rejected by tor.com, Asimov magazine, and Oni Press.

Parenting

My son, soon to be seven (!) starts grade one this year. He also has a working diagnosis of autism, a confirmed diagnosis of dyspraxia, and possible ADD. This is what happens when, before having children, I scoffed at these middle-class parents who claimed their children had all these conditions. The diagnosis does help explain a lot and a proper assessment is pending. While he is very intelligent, he has difficulties at school. A diagnosis will help the school get more resources to help him out. It’s a been a big challenger but I’m learning a lot.

Vacation

And, as of today, I’m on vacation. Other than some camping in Ontario and whale watching in New Brunswick, there won’t be a big trip this year because, again, money. But Barcelona is looking like a place to go next year.

So…what’s up with you?

My Musical Career

A news item from the old hometown recently sparked a memory.

An Anglican church located on the city’s west side is up for sale. The reasons are the usual: low attendance, aging congregation, cost of maintaining the city’s oldest church. When I saw the story, I suddenly remembered being in that church.

In grade 10 a friend and I formed a two-man music group. He was talented and played the guitar. I thought I could sing and play harmonica. We wrote songs in a style we thought was rather cleverly named as “punk folk.” The “band,” such as it was, went through a few different names like The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test before settling on Ugly Ties and Nuclear Bombs. Eventually, we did some cover songs at a high school talent show (“Walk on the Wild Side,” “As Tears Go By,” and “Wild Thing”). Wanting to record our genius, we set up a tape recorder in church where his parents were sextons (therefore he had a key) and started recording. It was very much in the style of the Cowboy Junkies except that we didn’t end up creating one of the best albums of the 1980s. But hey, we thought of it first.

The following year, I abandoned music for stand-up comedy with even more embarrassing results.

December Catch-Up

I’ve often been told by my homeowner friends that the first few years of owning a house is a bit of a strain on the finances, unless they’re my loaded homeowner friends who are simply allowing their lives to unfold as they expect them to. So we’re broke and facing a much more modest Christmas than years past. So far, presents have included a new hot water tank as a gift to each other.

In general, for every birthday, anniversary, and now Christmas, we’ve just been saying to each, “Happy Birthday/Anniversary/Christmas! I bought you a house!”

Still, we do see a light at the end of the tunnel when cash will be flowing a little more freely and we’ll just need to be frugal until that time comes.

In the meantime, renovations on a budget have begun. The downstairs powder room has been repainted Tardis blue. Our winter project is to tear up the carpet in the rec room, paint the walls, and put down a new floating floor and moulding. Further down the line, more rooms will be painted and the kitchen will be spruced up (without actually replacing the cabinets until a later date).

Now repeating kindergarten, James is now getting help for his dyspraxia from the Mackay Centre on Friday afternoons. But there is some concern from his teachers about his ability to handle a mainstream school. This a big worry of mine because I want him to manage his developmental delay enough to do regular schools with his friends. He has gross motor skill issues, some emotional issues, and an almost violent obsession with screens. But he loves books and our nightly reading of The Hobbit. But all of this will be discussed with his doctor in terms of options for the future. It’s a source of a bit of stress but we’re managing.

akta

On a happier note, we are now obsessed with a TV show call Real Humans that just finished its first season on Space. Broadcast in Sweden as Äkta människor, Real Humans takes place in an alternate present in which humanoid robots (or Hubots, as they’re called) are integrated in society as a servants and workers. This leads to a number of issues with regards to labour, friendship, politics, discrimination, and sexuality. Some Hubots, thanks to an obsessed scientist, have become free and wish to free other robots. These Hubots are lead by a Chrissie Hynde lookalike.

The show works really well when it presents the social issues and not quite as well when it gets down to the actual plot of the series involving a government conspiracy. It felt as though the writer was more interested in Hubots like Rick, the creepy personal trainer model who is altered to become his owner’s boyfriend and then starts behaving erratically. Some plot threads get dropped (or perhaps put off until season 2) but overall, it’s an engrossing series.

I’ve also been attending a writers’ class at the local library and as a result, have been writing a bit of fiction here and there that may, one day, get sent to a publisher. Maybe. I write about 500 words here and there, when I can steal time. Over the past couple of sessions, I’ve been presenting a science fiction story as I’ve developed it. One participant kind of sniffed and suggested it wouldn’t pass muster with the Quebec Writers Federation who prefer more literary efforts.

That instantly reminded me of Tom Gauld‘s famous cartoon.

jetpack

Other than that, work is good. I.T. is a whole other world from where I was. I do conference calls with Mumbai so that’s new. I have another week and a half of In work before Christmas and then we’ll be spending the back end of the holidays in Saint John. Hopefully we’ll meet up with some friends we haven’t seen in a while.