Chicken Soul Soup: The Musical Development of Othello

In which a student demonstrates the adroitness of multilingualism.

Me: How would you summarise Othello’s character development throughout the play?

Student: Chopin→Rachmaninoff→Beethoven→Schoenberg.


Dear Fellow White People II

Yet another Canadian white person has been found “not guilty” of murdering a member of Canada’s First Nations.

Let’s stop pretending.

When it becomes fairly clear that an Indigenous person has been murdered by a white person, why don’t we just take the money we’d spend on kangaroo court and give it to the grieving family?

“I’m sorry, but it looks like your child was murdered by someone we don’t like to convict. Here’s the money it would cost for the rest of the investigation and a three-week murder trial.”

As this would happen in approximately 68% of cases, it would clear our court systems and give the family some money to spend on something useful—say, clean drinking water.

Dear Fellow White People

Forty-eight hours before writing this, I read that a man had been declared not-guilty in a point-blank handgun shooting. The victim, shot in the back of the head, died at the scene.

I live in Canada. I don’t see how this verdict is possible. According to our laws, the minimum verdict could only have been manslaughter.

Sitting here, on land which is part of a treaty that is being upheld by only one party, what can I do?

I can learn. I can read books and social media, watch films and TV programmes. I don’t have to continue living the way I’m told to live, just because of my skin colour. I don’t have to remain ignorant, subscribe to prejudice or have blind faith in my justice system.

Though family, friends and neighbours might shun me, I can follow my conscience. Though my ancestors may have contributed to colonisation and prejudice, I don’t have to remain submissive to utter bullshit.

Chicken Soul Soup: The Dead Horse

In which Sheila and her student wish for progress in education and debate the sharing of sharp weapons.

Student: The topic for the essay is whether social media is good or bad for teenagers. Yawn.

Sheila: Don’t hand me a simple bad or good. Don’t bore me.

Student: What should I say?

Sheila: The topic is a dead horse: stop allowing it to be beaten. Find a knife, slice the meat up and serve it around. Make that dead thing useful.

Student: Have you got a knife in your arsenal? Share it?

Sheila: Git your own knife. I ain’t sharin’.

MAPs on Twitter

Recently, Twitter locked or suspended accounts belonging to Minor Attracted People; the timing coincided with a ridiculous article in The Sun, UK edition, about pedophiles on Twitter. The Sun is the sort of publication that, daily, has several articles with the term in the title.

Sensationalism doesn’t prevent abuse.

Last Friday, I signed my name to a letter to Twitter. You can read it on Jeremy Malcolm’s Medium blog, Experts, Police, and Vigilantes Face Off Over Pedophiles on Twitter  

Today, The Prevention Podcast interviewed Ender, one of the MAPs who was suspended from Twitter. You can listen to the podcast here.

Here’s the thing: most people become aware of their sexuality somewhere around puberty (approximately ages 10-14). This is about the time we start giving our children a bit of freedom in the world–to walk to school without us, to spend some time on the internet. This is the period when parents whisper furtive prayers that their child will be all right. We hope they’ll find good role models and good people to hang around with.

Twitter removed the good role models from their site. This reduces the chance of a young MAP meeting the likes of Ender before they decide to search for child pornography, before they meet a pro-contact pedophile.

It’s estimated that less than 20% of sexual crimes are committed by Minor Attracted People. That means that almost 20% of sexual offenses can be prevented.

I have yet to meet a person, no matter how heinous, upon whom I would wish sexual assault. In order to prevent abuse, we have to talk about it.

Merry Christmas to Me

Activity Being Avoided: attending to the cat’s every whim (much to her annoyance)
Music In My Head: Barfuß am Klavier — AnnenMayKantereit
Tea Being Drunk: Typhoo (the stupid grocery store stopped selling Barry’s)
Books Being Read: Blood Sports — Eden Robinson, The Final Confession of Mabel Stark — Robert Hough

A few years ago, I had to buy a vacuum cleaner just before Christmas.

Why is that noteworthy? I was a self-employed tutor/writer/editor who was paying for her children’s education (and I still am): vacuum cleaners suck up book money. I couldn’t justify buying myself a Christmas present. Not that I went bookless, of course. I just had a smaller pile of holiday entertainment than usual. It was a Christmas that is forever stuck in my mind as a First World Problems holiday.

I’m not one for literary altruism. Winter in Canada can be cold and unfriendly, and I believe credit cards were invented for a reason. On top of that, this year, I am only paying off the student loans, and am feeling rich because no one is demanding money on a weekly basis. In celebration, I’ve pushed the lack of altruism to a new place on the spectrum. This was the original holiday pile:


Four of these were gifts from my children; the rest were second-hand finds, so they aren’t financially-relevant, either. (Right?)

When the first of the very cold weather hit Mississauga, and I was walking home from work in the dark, I was feeling extremely sorry for myself. Some stuff happened, and Amazon got a lot of my money.

This arrived today:


It was supposed to be available in Canada, but no one accommodated my immediate needs so this was shipped from Ireland. Bonus.

It came with a heart-warming bookmark.


Penguins are very, very nice things. I like the birds, too, but not as much.

There’s still another one to come; it’s due sometime in the next couple of weeks.

Amazon 51daoqlmtol

I’m trying to be better about updating my Goodreads page, so I’ll let you know how the books are. If anything ends up being terrible, you’ll be able to buy it at the Friends of the Library book sale. If you want the really good books, you’ll have to ingratiate yourself with me so I’ll add you to my will.

May all the books you read in 2018 be excellent.

Sitting with the Bad Guy

A student had to write an essay in response to this quote:

Said student didn’t do so well with the essay, partly because they didn’t understand the concept of “easy and preferred answers”.

If human life had accurate easy and preferred answers, philosophers wouldn’t exist. Argument wouldn’t exist. There would be no need for thought.

Much as it may seem otherwise, I am easily bored. (It’s difficult to notice because I am also easily entertained by my own imagination, which can be whipped out at the drop of a hat. Do what you want with this statement.) The process of thinking is enjoyable to me: the result may be fine, but the means of getting there is what I appreciate. Maybe that’s why I never excelled at math: correct answers are not as pleasurable as good answers.

I also appreciate “liberal education”. I don’t want to miss anything interesting.

On Twitter and blogs, I follow an odd assortment of people. Very few of them are people I agree with—or necessarily like. I want to read about things I don’t know about. I want to read what the ex-cons and the anti-contact MAPs and the disgraced editors have to say. I want to read what the rabble-rousers and prejudiced people think. After all, “[y]ou can’t have a light without a dark to stick it in” (Arlo Guthrie). It behooves me to become familiar with the light, the dark, and that wonderful, explorable, murky grey area in between.

A few months ago, my daughter phoned me. She’d just witnessed her first car accident, and she’d been sitting with the person who was at fault–the crasher–as the victim had a whole slew of people with him. The crasher was having a bit of a rough time with what had just happened, so my daughter sat on the curb and listened until the authorities showed up. My daughter said the crasher was pale and shaking, obviously in shock: to my daughter, there were clearly two victims, and victims should not be left to flounder.

A very long time ago, I was in the same situation as my daughter’s brief companion: I was once a crasher. Like the crasher in my daughter’s situation, I knew I was at fault and was trying to process everything while standing alone on the street corner. The priest from the nearby church came to stand with me. We didn’t talk much; it was just easier to get through that waiting period with someone close by.

I was thinking of this as I read my student’s (failure of an) essay. They had used “right” and “wrong” as adjectives for “answers”, and I realised how rarely those terms are appropriate, in my experience. Perspective is a definitive thing, and the human race has yet to share a single perspective.

Naturally, it would be very nice if everyone would share my perspective–or would that bore me?

I believe we have the right to judge things as “correct” or “incorrect”, “good” or “bad”; however, personally, I want to be quite sure I’ve got all the information before I make that judgement. I’m not ashamed to change my mind–and I’ll gladly do so if I find it necessary–but it’s that whole ounce-of-prevention-pound-of-cure thing. Backpedalling is like work.