Around the Globe - Fundación Todo Mejora supports LGBT youth        

Todo Mejora means “it gets better”—and it’s this message that the Chile-based nonprofit has worked tirelessly to advocate for. In the wake of continual LGBT discrimination around the world, Fundación Todo Mejora strives to support the LGBT adolescents who face discrimination, including those considering committing suicide. Chile has one of the highest levels of suicide and school violence in Latin America. It’s projected that if nothing is done, in four years, one adolescent in Chile will end his or her life  nearly each day—an astounding metric that Fundación Todo Mejora hopes to change.1,2

Continuing  with our series about impactful organizations using Google for Nonprofits tools, this week we’re highlighting how Fundación Todo Mejora uses technology to spread its message and creates a safe space for these teenagers to find refuge in times of need.

Showing up when searching for help—Google Ad Grants

By implementing a strategic campaign using Google Ad Grants, the nonprofit targeted Google searches common to suicidal thoughts such as “I want to commit suicide”, “Who should I call if I want to kill myself?”, or “Help me, I want to die”. When a local person searches this on Google, Fundación Todo Mejora’s ads show up to intervene with supportive messages, and provide links to resources to find help. One 19-year-old girl who found support from these ads said, "Amidst my depression, I Googled how to commit suicide. Your foundation, ’Todo Mejora,’ popped up in my search results. It made me smile and reminded me the reason to go on.”

These ads have allowed Fundación Todo Mejora to save lives and navigate people to their website where they can find resources and support. As a result, website traffic increased by 20% in one year alone, which means the organization found a way to reach more people in need. This increase also prompted Fundación Todo Mejora to expand their suicide hotline support to 30 hours/week up from 7 hours/week.

Spreading the word—YouTube

To further increase visibility, Fundación Todo Mejora created a YouTube channel where adolescents share their personal stories, which have helped create a community of support, coupled with the call-to-action overlays inspiring others to follow suit, take initiative, and send donations. In their most popular video, with over 62,000 views, Demi Lovato speaks out against homophobic and transgender bullying and encourages victims to reach out for help.

TODO MEJORA - Demi Lovato, cantante

Storage & syncing—G Suite

Fundación Todo Mejora now uses G Suite exclusively for all its day-to-day operations, relying on Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Calendar to work productively. The unlimited user accounts and 30GB of storage per user has saved them time and money that once went towards paying for other storage products. Now, they can save important data in a shared and collaborative space which has helped them streamline their processes, preserve historical documents, and improve communication.

With more time, funding, and organizational processes, Fundación Todo Mejora can focus on expanding their support for youth in need and the LGBT community. Read more about their story on our Community Stories page on our Google for Nonprofits site.

To see if your nonprofit is eligible to participate, review the Google for Nonprofits eligibility guidelines. Google for Nonprofits offers organizations like yours free access to Google tools like Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Drive, Google Ad Grants, YouTube for Nonprofits and more. These tools can help you reach new donors and volunteers, work more efficiently, and tell your nonprofit’s story. Learn more and enroll here.

Footnote:  Statements are provided by Nonprofits that received products as part of the Google for Nonprofits program, which offers products at no charge to qualified nonprofits.

1 OECD (2016). Low Performing Students: Why They Fall Behind and How To Help Them Succeed. PISA. OECD Publishing. Paris

2.Ministerio de Salud de Chile (2013). Situación Actual del Suicidio Adolescente en Chile, con perspectiva de Género [Current Situation of Adolescent Suicide in Chile, with a gender perspective]. Programa Nacional de Salud Integral de Adolescentes y Jóvenes. Chile.

          Senior moments...        

A bit of catching up to do on the blog as last week I posted about the story of my brother in two parts.

Spring is on its way! These buds were spotted on my next to last
Sunday walk of 8.5 miles. I also saw banks of snowdrops, crocuses, primroses and some tiny daffodils - all seen in wild places and not in people's gardens.

Here's a few of  the week before last week's outfits.

Everything charity shopped except the boots - Christmas 2016 present from daughter.

I wanted to show this necklace which I picked up at the Red Cross on Monday for £1.50. I also bought some bangles and a couple of books. All jewellery charity shopped.

Pink corduroy shirt bought from £1 rail in the Red Cross a few weeks back.

Everything is charity shopped except the brown boots - Christmas present 2015.

All jewellery charity shopped.

I walked Wednesday the week before last (6.2 miles) and on the Friday of the same week I walked 5.5 miles. A good week's walking for me; just on 20 miles which is what I want to do on a weekly basis. What else have I been up to?

I finished my blanket...

Thanks to Attic 24 here for the Granny Stripe pattern.

Last Thursday I paid a visit to Barnardo's in Great Denham - I know - but I couldn't resist a quick peek to see if they still had their sale rail. They did. I bought 5 tops at 1.00 each. A yellow tunic; a brown waistcoat, two striped tops and a floral top.

I paid a visit to the library last Saturday and got a pile of books - just what I don't need, more books to read, but I've been after a few of the titles for a while...

This was last Saturday's outfit. Everything charity shopped except the top which was from Store 21 sale.

I bought the waistcoat for £1.00 in the Red Cross two weeks ago. I think it's hand made as there are no labels. It has lovely embroidery on the pockets:

Boots were also from the Red Cross but I can't remember where I bought the jeans.

All jewellery charity shopped. I bought this unusual chain which I think looks very Art Deco in the Heart Foundation shop in Northampton.

Last Sunday I went out early for another walk and did 5 miles.
I've been asked to lead another walk for the Rambler's summer walks programme in May. I won't do a new route but reverse the route I used in 2016 when I led my first walk; it will be around 7 miles and hopefully we'll have decent weather...

Monday's outfit.

All jewellery charity shopped. I forgot to put my bangles on  - I was running slightly late.

This is the yellow tunic I bought last week in Barnardo's for 1.00. It's from H&M; the top is from Cotton Traders and was also charity shopped.

The tunic has pockets! Floral leggings, Store 21 sale and brown boots from Sainsbury's.

I know memory worsens as you get older. I've certainly noticed a change in mine. I sometimes can't remember the word for something - for example a while ago it took me to two days to think of the word for 'brioche'! I never forget faces but often forget names. I start out to do things but I get easily sidetracked by other things and don't always finish what I started.  But this weekend I realised I had had a major memory lapse. For the past five months I've been driving around without an MOT.

I'd got my car serviced in September and thought it had been MOT'd as well. It hadn't. I had to get to the nearest MOT place pretty sharpish on Monday; I can tell you. I'm just so lucky I didn't get gripped by the police; or even more serious have an accident. No MOT means invalid car insurance. Apparently, I should have had a text message reminder last September from the MOT centre but I didn't receive one. They've set one up now so I can't make this mistake again. Don't worry, I'm sure I haven't got dementia but am exhibiting typical memory changes as part of the ageing process...

I remembered to go to the food bank on Tuesday morning! I missed my last session because I had the lurgy and didn't want to share it. It was good to be back. It's quite a physical role in the warehouse; bending and stretching and lifting and weighing boxes of stuff. I always come home with a pleasant ache in my back that tells me I've been challenging my body.

I bought this dress on Monday at the Red Cross - a M&S navy blue sweater dress for 1.99. Everything is charity shopped including the striped tights which attracted a lot of comment. They're going to go in the charity shop bag because although they fit fine in the leg the pants part only comes just up to my hips and they roll down gradually...

All jewellery, including watch, is charity shopped.

I bought some lovely blue beads as well on Monday at the Red Cross and something for the OH.

On Wednesday I set out to walk with the group. I never made it. I was putting my faith in my sat nav to find the meeting point and it sent me through a village and around the houses. I knew it was wrong when it told me to turn into Clophill village. but I was thinking "maybe it's a shortcut" it soon became the apparent the sat nav didn't know what it was doing!  Oh well, at least it was the sat nav's fault and not me having a senior moment! By the time I found a safe space to park up and reset the destination point I would  have got there too late.   One thing I've learnt about my Rambler's group,  in the three years I've been a member, is that they leave punctually at 10 am. I came back home and went for a six mile walk by myself...

Here I am; hot and sweaty on the final leg...I was walking with poles so didn't have a free hand to carry my jacket in and so it stayed on.

This is what I'd stopped for. Two swans resting in a huge field. I don't know about you but up until about a  year ago I had only ever seen swans on water or near water; canal side, riverside, lakeside. Then one day en route to Kettering; I spotted a wedge (flock) of swans resting in a water logged field. I began to see more and more swans in fields away from water. I don't know if this has always happened but I've only noticed it recently.

I also spotted yellowhammers on my walk - brilliant flashes of bright yellow in and out of the hedgerows.

This was Thursday's outfit.

Everything charity shopped except the boots and blue tights - just seen. I bought the floral top which is by Wallis, from Barnardo's in Great Denham last week. I had my scarf on as I'd been out food shopping and forgot to take it off! All jewellery is charity shopped.

Later, I tried some different earrings and a necklace...

On Friday, I'm going for a walk with the group. I know how to get to the destination so won't be relying on the sat nav. It will be an 8 mile walk along the Greensand Ridge and I'm looking forward to it. I'll just need to add in a couple of miles walk on Saturday to reach my target of twenty miles this week.

I hope you all have a lovely weekend; the weather's been remarkably pleasant the last few days; is it going to last, I wonder?

          Advocacy Group Members Hope For Improvements At Women’s Prison        
Some advocates hope allegations of misdeeds at a state women’s prison will prompt improvements at the facility. In a letter last week, the U.S. Justice Department alleged sexual abuse by staff and other misconduct at the Topeka Correctional Facility. Audra Fullerton, with the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, says the group works with officials at the prison. She says there have been improvements at the facility, but there are other steps she’d like them to take. “We really do hope that this new attention brings the impetus for moving forward on some really critical things,” she says. “Having a safe space for victims to disclose abuse without repercussion, without retaliations. They are setting some things up now, but I think more can be done.” Governor Sam Brownback says there were problems at the facility before his administration took office, but he says the Justice Department isn’t considering improvements his administration has made.
          Kiehls #StayingAlive        
A few weeks ago I popped over to Glasgow for a bloggers brunch at Kiehl's on Buchanan Street to hear all about their #StayingAlive campaign in association with MTV.

I actually didn't know a lot about Kiehl's as a brand.  I'd only really become aware of them in the last 2 years or so, after Blair put a couple of Kiehl's men's skincare bits on his Christmas list that he'd seen in a magazine (ahh girls, remember the days when you used to get skincare and makeup recommendations from magazines, not blogs?).

After a morning at the Glasgow store being thoroughly schooled in the history of Kiehl's though, I am no longer in the dark (and now have a wishlist as long as my arm!).  I found it really interesting hearing about the background of the company, from the initial family run pharmacy in New York City, to the worldwide brand it is today.

One thing that has been consistent for Kiehl's is their dedication to helping communities and charitable causes.  In fact, their mission statement includes the phrase "making for better citizens, better firms, and better communities".  The main cause they support is AIDs and HIV research and prevention, which is what the MTV Staying Alive campaign is all about.

The campaign is doing some fantastic work, like providing vital HIV education in rural India, distributing condoms in Rwanda and Ghana, and providing safe spaces for young girls involved in commercial sex work to learn how to protect themselves again HIV.

You can help contribute towards the cause by purchasing a pot of the Kiehl's limited edition Ultra Facial Cream, with packaging designed by Laura Mvula.  Â£10 from every sale goes towards the cause, which is pretty impressive considering that when most brands do these type of charity collabs it's normally like "£1 from every sale".  I've been using it daily for a few weeks now and I LOVE IT.  I only use a tiny bit at a time but it is so moisturising, and it sinks in really quickly, so a really great product (as well as being for a great cause).

You can purchase the Ultra Facial cream in store or online.  Also, to donate £5 to MTV Staying Alive text kiehl98 £5 to 7007.

Thanks to Kiehl's for having us - and thanks to Halloumi Glasgow for the food, it was bloody lovely!

          #MemeOfTheWeek: Trump Asked 'The Gays,' And Got Answers        
After last week's mass shooting that killed 49 people at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, politicians of all stripes have been speaking out about the LGBTQ community — arguing what should be done to protect them, speaking to the importance of their safe spaces, and pledging commitment to their needs. Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, per usual, seems to have made the most waves with his words.On Monday, one day after the attack, Trump spoke as an ally of the community. "A radical Islamic terrorist targeted the nightclub not only because he wanted to kill Americans, but in order to execute gay and lesbian citizens because of their sexual orientation," Trump said. He then called the attack a "strike at the heart and soul of who we are as a nation," as CNN reported, saying it was an "assault" on people's ability to "love who they want and express their identity."But by Wednesday, the tone had shifted. While Trump seemed to still be showing sympathy to gays and lesbians,
          It's Not Always About Trying Harder        

Hip-hop artist Mos Def wrote, All the things that are worth doing take time.

Happy Tuesday, June 20th, 2017!

June 20 is the 171st day of the year. There are 194 days remaining until the end of the year. This date is slightly more likely to fall on a Monday, Wednesday or Saturday (58 in 400 years each) than on Thursday or Friday (57), and slightly less likely to occur on a Tuesday or Sunday (56).
Tomorrow is the first day of summer! What is your favorite season?
So you can see this is a rare June 20th! Wishing Jon Ossoff great success today. Go Georgia!!
My horoscope tells me that I wish I could relax in a familiar safe space today, but my dreams are calling and I'm driven to answer. TRUE!
I don't settle! I pursue your goals and enjoy the journey. Every day is a gift.
As I sat down to begin today's blog, I was listening to Lullaby of Broadway from the original Broadway production of 42nd Street.
42nd Street, with a book by Michael Stewart, who  also wrote Hello, Dolly!, and Mark Bramble, lyrics by Al Dubin and Johnny Mercer, and music by Harry Warren. 
Taking the summer off from entertaining to focus on my CallonDolly project

I listen to songs and they immediately take me on a journey. In this instance, it brought me back to a more innocent time in my life and as I look back and realize that every day events happen that take us down unusual and sometimes amazing paths.
I feel like I'm just hitting my stride as an entertainer (with Glenn Hochburg 6/18/17)
I was 19 when 42nd Street opened on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theater. I had been in New York exactly one year.
It was a different time in New York. I was still finding out who I was. I was living in the Bronx with a woman named Lydia DiVito.
Me in the summer of '79 with The Unsinkable Millie Brown
When I had first come to New York the previous August, I met a woman named Millie Brown, or The Unsinkable Millie Brown, as I called her.
As I've written before, I arrived in New York on August 5th, 1979. I came to New York ALONE at the age of eighteen with $500.00! I had made up my mind five years prior that I would do that on THAT date  and I did. I did it without the encouragement of almost anyone. I had a dream and I went for it. I'm still going for it. There were many who tried to discourage me and/or talk me out of it. My dream was bigger than me. I remember saying at one time that I think those with no ambition might be at a greater advantage. My aspirations and dreams consume almost every waking moment of my life. It even seeps into my dreams.
The point is that I still work at it daily. I'm very disciplined. I get up every morning, grab a cup of ambition, go into my office and am driven until Danny comes home at night. Then, I TRY and shut down. It's not always easy. I'm consumed with the slings and arrows of this business.
Some might say my goals are unrealistic but I have little doubt that you can reach them if I continue to be persistent. Social media has made it increasingly difficult!
I saw a clip last night of Gavin Creel after he won his Tony Award. He said that he is not on social media. It is difficult to be an actor when we are focused on these devices instead of our craft and what's going on 'out there'. I have hit many snags and detours in my life and career.
When I first started having relationships, in my twenties, I often morphed into what my partners desired me to be. I also wanted to be as accessible to them as possible.
As a result my ambitions and career took a back burner. I met my husband, Danny, in the summer of 1990. I was 29. My entire 20s had been spent trying to secure my roots here in NY. My twenties found me drifting from various 'relationships' AND various room mates AND various survival jobs.
As an artist, it has taken me a lifetime to learn firsthand that success is not always about trying harder. It is about aligning myself with the right people, those that are on the same wave length as I.
I have met various people along the way who convinced me that they believed in my talent and desired to catapult me to the next level in my career. This has included agents, managers, producers and various other characters of that ilk. Unfortunately, their agenda was about lining their pockets from my blood, sweat, and tears.
Bette Midler: Current Toast of Broadway and our hearts
Each time, I was left with VERY LITTLE, a lot of heart ache, and a little bit wiser.
I look at Bette Midler's trajectory in her career. She came to New York to be a Broadway actress. She got cast in Fiddler in '64. Interestingly enough, at that time, the other big hit on Broadway was Hello, Dolly! 
Creating her future required her to build a solid foundation first.
She met Barry Manilow and they became the toast of New York with their shows at the Continental Baths.
That led to an amazing career!
She has been honored with multiple Grammy Awards and Oscar nominations for her work in films like The Rose and Beaches. Earlier this month, she won a Tony Award for her starring role in the revival of Hello, Dolly! She has definitely earned this phase of her life!
Recently, CBS Sunday morning did a rare interview/profile on Bette. She said she never looks back. She went on to say you can't move forward if you are constantly looking back.
I have learned the hard way that trying harder at doing the wrong things, making poor choices, and doing the same 'mistakes' over and over much too often, will not bring you closer to success.
Yesterday, I wrote about 'friendships' in social media. It has given most a false sense of acquaintances, friends, and colleagues. I am clearing the deck!
I cherish my friends, my audiences, my followers, and all who have a genuine interest in who I am and what I have to offer. If you find that we are no longer 'Facebook friends', think about the last time we communicated either with a phone call, an email, or even on Facebook. I am probably one of the most accessible people around. I am seeking a totally immersive interactive relationship that I call friend on EVERY level!
I'm not going to be able to soar as I'd like if we all aren't on the same page.
Cherishing my Friends Peggy Eason and Natasha Castillo
That doesn't mean we cut ties. Feel free to reach out anytime. As a matter of fact, I welcome that. I'm just shifting my paradigm. It's ALL good!
Also, if you've been 'unfriended' on Facebook, it's a business decision and not a personal one. It's just the direction I am taking my business.
Reach out to me and I'm here for you, ALWAYS! 

Let's Be Friends! I promise you a great experience!
On this date in 1975 – The film Jaws is released in the United States, becoming the highest-grossing film of that time and starting the trend of films known as "summer blockbusters".
Thank you Alison Arngrim for a great interview today on Facebook LIVE today!

Life is so much better when you stop caring about what everyone thinks, and start to actually live for yourself!!

On June 18th, 2017,  I had the great good pleasure of singing in one of Richard Skipper’s Extravaganzas par Excellence at the Laurie Beechman Theater. This one celebrated Father's Day. It was a  terrific show and Richard was, as always, a wonderful host and singer.   The show ran smoothly and professionally and the
Tomorrow is the first day of summer! Celebrate!!
performance level was exceedingly high.  Upbeat and fun it reminded me of those wonderful TV variety shows of my youth.  But it isn’t an imitation of one of them, it is Richard’s own, unique creation.  If you have never been to one, I recommend it highly, if you are one of the regulars, you are already hooked.

 Mark Watson

Anyone who has an opportunity to see Richard Skipper's cabaret shows should BY ALL MEANS do so! They're sensational! Great entertainers, wonderful music, lots of laughs, just the best way to spend an afternoon! I just cannot wait for the next show because I will DEFINITELY be in the audience (quietly singing along)!
Arlene Jacks, New York, NY

Richard Skipper is the consummate host.  I always enjoy the shows and all the performers--and even the little film intros by Michael Masci!  The theme song Michael picked for the Father's Day opening montage is one of my favorite TV themes--how did you know? Keep up the good work Richard--looking forward to your next season of shows!
Glenn Hochberg, Easton, PA

Sit Back! A New News Cycle Is About to Begin!

Thank you, to ALL who are mentioned in this blog for showing me that it is up to ME to lead by example!

With grateful XOXOXs ,


Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!   

Keeping America great through Art!     

Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!
Please leave a comment and share on Twitter and Facebook
Keeping Entertainment LIVE!

Richard Skipper,

          Do Not Let Janet Yellen Turn the Federal Reserve Into a Safe Space        

Over the past several years, there has been a move to make college campuses an ideological bubble where only preferred and pre-approved perspectives are allowed, known as “safe spaces.” It seems this line of thinking is not only on college campuses as some of our politicians have been calling for that as well. Most recently, Chairwoman of the Federal Reserve Janet Yellen openly suggested turning the Federal Reserve into a safe space.

For some context, Janet Yellen said this in response to growing calls that the Federal Reserve receive a full audit, which has never happened. Calls for a full audit of the federal reserve have been high with three quarters of Americans consistently supporting an audit and there has been a new push with the election of Donald Trump. When asked about her thoughts on an audit, Yellen stated, “Fed officials...need ‘a space where it can have honest deliberations’ without having the threat of political interference.”

As is stated on the Federal Reserve’s own website, “The Federal Reserve derives its authority from the Congress,” and “is an agency of the federal government.” It seems bizarre then that the institution has such little interest in oversight since it is supposed to be accountable to the federal government. The desire to keep it private then makes its mission and goals highly questionable.

Safe spaces on college campuses are bad enough so bringing them to the Federal Reserve would be catastrophic. Safe spaces on college campuses prevent hearing outside or differing ideas, which can lead to an insular mindset that makes acceptance of the real world and unpleasant realities hard to grasp. A study meanwhile found that it can lead to outright hostility towards different ways of thinking and groups deemed to be on the outside. This is not how any institution should ever be run.

Unfortunately, the Fed is an institution that could greatly benefit from outside thinking. Since the Federal Reserve’s inception, the value of the dollar has decreased by 95 percent. Meanwhile, it was found in an audit that the Federal Reserve had made $16 trillion in secret bailouts. For this and other reasons, the Fed is in clear need of review and reform so making it an insular “safe space” would be a serious mistake.

Fortunately, there is a remedy for this problem. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) have introduced the Federal Reserve Transparency Act to give more oversight of the Fed. If passed, it would have the Government Accountability Office complete a full audit of the US Federal Reserve in a single year. This is the perfect way to address the problems at the Fed and prevent it from becoming a protected bubble with no oversight.

The bill comes at a time when the Federal Reserve chairwoman seems to be taking a significant step in the wrong direction. Any institution from college campuses to major banks should be open to new ideas as well as introspection. Not doing so leads to a closed mind and destructive actions. Just like any institution, the Federal Reserve should be open to new ideas and never become a “safe space.”

          Elearning Promotes Iran’s Civil Awareness
elearning development


Elearning Promotes Iran’s Civil Awareness

IRAN (June 2010) – Taavana, an elearning institute for Iranian Civil Society, jumpstarted its launch with a boost from the Iranian civic activists. The institute, which is a project of the Center for Liberty in the Middle East (CLIME), provides native democrats elearning online and other interactive learning tools on cyber security, democratic institutions and civic leadership.  
The E-courses of Taavana include a civic education curriculum developed by the Albert Shanker Institute and Freedom House and a graduate level leadership advance course from the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management.
In addition to e-courses, Tavaana provides case studies of world movements for equality and human rights, video interviews with Iranian and international civic activists, and translations of a public education set of courses, glossaries and dissident writings. Famous Iranian academics and international experts will serve as instructors and trainers for those enrolled.

Tavaana founder and director Mariam Memarsadeghi says that Iranians today have more than ever yearn to be connected to the free world at this kind of set-up. She adds that the project presents a safe space for Iranians to work together with each other and with the most prominent democracy and civil society experts from around the world.

With the elearning online courses providing both self-paced and live training versions, Tavaana is free of charge to all users and is available in English and Persian. Furthermore, it is a complete and comprehensive resource library of Persian and English language on democracy and human rights while discussion boards encourage open dialogue on each learning asset, including Tavaana's media monitor on Iranian civil society. The project will become a construct of this newfound cyber-freedom of expression and connection by offering e-learning online opportunities for Iranian civil society.

Tavaana means "empowered" and "capable" in Persian. It holds a vision for a free and open Iranian society in which each and every Iranian enjoys the full spectrum of civil and political liberties.

CLIME Executive Director Eleana Gordon says that they are excited for the expansion of Taavana on their previous successes using e-learning solutions to train civic activists in the Arab world.

The previously launched Arabic-language Online Activism Institute, a successful project by CLIME, was hailed by Politics Online as one of the “Top Ten Who Are Changing the World of Internet and Politics.”

The internet has become a tool that boosts the appearance of civil awareness. This is bearing fruit in the Iranian society, growing to a rich number of e-communities which are circumventing government censorship to share their ideologies.

          Let them abuse our boys or else post of the day        
The PC professors in a US political site insist that since the US diplomats haven't been successful in pushing "gay rights" on Africa, that our multinational corporations should do it too.

Many global companies adopt an “Embassy” approach, enforcing pro-LGBT policies on local campuses so as to create a safe space in LGBT-unfriendly jurisdictions while helping promote greater tolerance in the local culture. American Express, for example, enforces global anti-discrimination policies everywhere it has offices, effectively raising the bar in jurisdictions like India where those protections are absent. Some companies take a step further, adopting an “Advocate” approach that seeks to effect change in the host nation itself. Such advocacy can take many forms, ranging from direct lobbying to support for local advocacy to symbolic action. Barclays stepped up to discuss its concerns when Ugandan legislators sought the death penalty for homosexual acts; the enacted law, while still draconian, omitted that punishment.
 All of this ignores the "elephant in the room": male on male rape.

Uganda's law was blamed on "Evangelical Christians" by the US gay activists, never mind that most Ugandans who are Christians are Anglican or Catholic.

Ah, but what about history: The slave trade from the Muslim north where boys and men were routinely raped, the good old days of colonialism where the "problem sons" of England were sent to Africa; the practice of hiring men for factories/farm or mines but not making accomadations for their families (male dormatories are especially notorious). Boarding schools, where teachers can exploit kids. And the punishment of prisoners during the genocides of Idi Amin or nowadays by both the jihadis and the "lord's army" types?

read the report from DW (German news site)

Hillary pushed women's rights by insisting on taking female rape and sexual exploitation seriously, but no one in the US wants to recognize this problem.

          Trouble on the left        
Just as it is the duty of every patriotic historian to be harder on his own country than any other--a tradition that began with Thucydides the Athenian--it behooves every politically active person to be critical of his own side.  This is not especially difficult for me today, since the academic left and the ideology it has espoused for at least 30 years is so foreign to my own beliefs, but some may wonder why I am taking the trouble to do it.  One reason is the increasing evidence that that ideology is now firmly established in the nation's newsrooms and plays in important role within the Democratic Party.  Yet it has been politically disastrous and is increasingly at odds with the fundamentals of our civilization as I have always understood them.  If there is not a change on the Left, the Democrats will have great difficulty ever returning to power and will not be able to do much good if they do.

As David Brooks reminded us all this morning, the tradition of western civilization included universal principles of law, justice, and increasingly since the 18th century, of equality.  (To paraphrase Orwell, since I seldom agree with David Brooks, it gives me all the greater pleasure to record my agreement with him on this occasion. It believed that both natural and human science could improve life on earth.  Here in the United States, western civilization, having corrupted itself by importing African slavery, fought a huge civil war in the 19th century to abolish it and established legal equality among the races--even though it took a century to make legal equality a reality.  Women also received political rights in the first half of the twentieth century.  In the middle of the century the world fought a titanic ideological war among liberalism, Communism, and Fascism. The imperial powers retreated from colonialism in the second half of the century.  By then, aspects of western civilization--the rule of law, equal rights for citizens, and attempts to raise the general standard of living--had become a model for virtually the entire world.  The initial post-independence regimes in previously colonial territories were based on some form of western ideology, from liberalism through communism.

The new ideology that now dominates academia was developed by men and women who were children during the great crisis of the 1940s, but spread more widely by my own generation.  It denies the autonomy of ideas and really denies their importance as a motive force in civilization.  Instead, it sees civilization--and ideas--as nothing but a power struggle among different groups, defined by race, by gender, and by sexual preference.  And thus--to get immediately to the heart of the matter--rather than portray western civilization as a triumph of certain ideas that was, to be sure, mostly invented by white men, it portrays western civilization as an instrument used by white men to establish and maintain their domination over other groups--and which, therefore, has to be undone, in fundamental respects, to create real justice.

Let me take another paragraphs to introduce my own perspective.  I became a comparative historian at an early age, not only comparing different countries in the same period of history, but comparing different periods of modern European history.  A comparative perspective, it seem to me, is a good antidote to overly positive or negative views of human nature, since its judgments can be based upon reality.  Now unless one returns to the most primitive hunter-gatherer societies, there seems to be little doubt that western civilization has been less oppressive, on the whole, than any other developed civilization.  That is why movements for racial equality, equality between men and women, and, most recently, gay rights, originated in western civilization, and why such ideas have advanced the most in the most westernized countries.

Now let us go to the new orthodoxy.

The new orthodoxy holds that any attempt to see ourselves as equal citizens in a civic realm is at bottom a fiction designed to preserve the hegemony of white males.  It argues that every one of us is defined by our membership in either a dominant group (straight white males), or an oppressed or "marginalized" one (including all white women, all gays, and all nonwhites.)  Not only that, but everyone of us is morally and emotionally linked to the perceived historical role of those groups. Every straight white male, bears the guilt for the oppression of all other groups, whatever his personal history may be, and every woman and every nonwhite actively suffers from the scars of oppression.  And such oppression is expressed not only, and not merely, through specific, identifiable disadvantages in wealth, income, and opportunity, but through language and culture.

Last week, students a Claremont McKenna University in southern California successfully blocked the audience from hearing a talk by the conservative commentator Heather MacDonald, who is a critic of the Black Lives Matter.  The letter a black students' group wrote to the President of Claremont McKenna moved me to do this post, because it stemmed logically from the ideology whose origins I have just described   The letter replied to a critical statement by the President of Claremont McKenna, arguing that however one felt about Heather MacDonald's views (and I personally disagree very strongly with some of them myself), the Enlightenment value of free speech had to respected.  Here are a few excerpts from that letter.

"Your statement contains unnuanced views surrounding the academy and a belief in searching for some venerated truth. Historically, white supremacy has venerated the idea of objectivity, and wielded a dichotomy of ‘subjectivity vs. objectivity’ as a means of silencing oppressed peoples. The idea that there is a single truth--’the Truth’--is a construct of the Euro-West that is deeply rooted in the Enlightenment, which was a movement that also described Black and Brown people as both subhuman and impervious to pain. This construction is a myth and white supremacy, imperialism, colonization, capitalism, and the United States of America are all of its progeny. The idea that the truth is an entity for which we must search, in matters that endanger our abilities to exist in open spaces, is an attempt to silence oppressed peoples. We, Black students, exist with a myriad of different identities. We are queer, trans, differently-abled, poor/low-income, undocumented, Muslim, first-generation and/or immigrant, and positioned in different spaces across Africa and the African diaspora. The idea that we must subject ourselves routinely to the hate speech of fascists who want for us not to exist plays on the same Eurocentric constructs that believed Black people to be impervious to pain and apathetic to the brutal and violent conditions of white supremacy.

"The idea that the search for this truth involves entertaining Heather Mac Donald’s hate speech is illogical. If engaged, Heather Mac Donald would not be debating on mere difference of opinion, but the right of Black people to exist. Heather Mac Donald is a fascist, a white supremacist, a warhawk, a transphobe, a queerphobe, a classist, and ignorant of interlocking systems of domination that produce the lethal conditions under which oppressed peoples are forced to live. Why are you, and other persons in positions of power at these institutions, protecting a fascist and her hate speech and not students that are directly affected by her presence?

"Advocating for white supremacy and giving white supremacists platforms wherefrom their toxic and deadly illogic may be disseminated is condoning violence against Black people. Heather Mac Donald does not have the right to an audience at the Athenaeum, a private venue wherefrom she received compensation. Dictating and condemning non-respectable forms of protest while parroting the phrase that “protest has a celebrated” place on campus is contradictory at best and anti-Black at worst."

Now I am not suggesting--as the authors of this letter probably would--that this letter expressed the views of most black students at Claremont McKenna, much less elsewhere.  While few black people (and few white people) regard the United States as perfect, many of us are still proud to be Americans.  What makes this letter important is that it expresses an extreme version of what has become mainstream ideology on campus.  Humanity, according to this ideology, is divided into oppressors and oppressed who are defined by race, gender and sexual orientation.  (Class occasionally gets a reference, but economic status is not treated as equally important to these three.)  The oppressors are constantly inflicting great emotional pain on the oppressed, and this must stop.  "Eurocentric values"--that is, the values of western civilization--have always been, and remain, oppressive and suspect.  And those ideas are either the implicit or explicit premise of many thousands of pages of academic writing about "oppressed" or "marginalized" groups that has appeared over the last few decades.

This post is already too long, and I will confine myself to a few fundamental counterpropositions.

1.  The new ideology has sprouted in universities because they are safe spaces whose white male administrators adopted diversity and inclusion as their mission 20-30 years ago.  That mission has become more important than any purely intellectual function, certainly in the humanities and social sciences.  University administrations spend a great deal of time worrying about their facilities (which will affect their U.S. News ranking), their diversity, and the happiness of their minority students.  They spent almost no time trying to develop the best humanities curriculum, and they have given up preserving the heritage of western civilization as a major goal.  

2.   The new ideology has, as I have said, become very powerful in the mainstream media, which accepts the idea, in practice if not in theory, that the problems of "marginalized" groups are more important than anyone else's.  But it has obviously alienated more than 100 million Americans who do not live on the East and West Coasts (and a non-trivial number of those who do.)  After 30 years of political correctness in the universities, we have a self-identified sexual harasser as President and a very traditional white southerner as Attorney General.  Hillary Rodham Clinton in her campaign took pains to make clear that she took the concerns of marginalized groups more seriously than anyone else's.  Quite a few Democratic consultants and commentators look forward eagerly to the day when whites will constitute a minority of the electorate.  The reaction against all of this has been devastating and it was inevitable.

3.  The constant emphasis on the thoughts and feelings of "maringalized" groups--again, everyone but straight white males--is, among other things, a denial of any common value system that unites us all.  When I appeared on a couple of weeks ago, I was immediately followed by a female historian named Arianne Chernok. As you can here, she peremptorily dismissed everything I had to say about Strauss, Howe, and the crisis that the US is obviously going through on the grounds that "there were no women" in the story I had told. This was, to begin with, false:  Hillary Clinton had not only come up in my conversation with host Chris Lydon, but he had played a clip from her famous 1969 commencement speech.  Professor Chernok was repeating the most common claim of postmodernist historians: that traditional "narratives" of history left out women and nonwhites because they focused on political leaders, who were (in the Atlantic world, anyway) white men.  But whether or not that is true, it remains true that we are ALL political beings who live subject to laws and must inevitably be affected by the great political changes that occur every eighty years. Yes, some will in some ways be affected differently than others, but all of us will be affected in the same way by some of the changes that took place.  We do share a common experience that is very important to us all.

And that leaves me to a last, more tentative point.  The emphasis not only on marginalized groups and identities also denies that there is such a thing as "normal" human behavior.  The concept of "heteronormativity" was originally defined as the idea that heterosexuality was the only proper form of human sexual behavior.  I certainly join in rejecting that idea.  But in many instances, I believe, the concept has gone further, so as to deny that there is any biological or other significance to the heterosexuality of most human beings.  15 or 20 years ago, the American Historical Association cautioned teachers not to assume that their students with either heterosexual or homosexual.  This is connected to the postmodern idea that the heterosexuality of most human beings (a statistical fact) is not biologically determined, but culturally imposed.  Now to repeat, it is vitally important to respect the feelings and rights of those whose sexual orientation is different from that of the majority of their fellow human beings.  But I honestly wonder whether a society can hold together, in the long run, if it does not include some ideas of what constitutes normal behavior, in  a statistical rather than a moral sense, even if we recognize that there will always be people who behave differently and whom we must respect all the same.  One of the biggest functions of crises or fourth turnings as identified by Strauss and Howe is indeed to create or reaffirm a value system, both politically and personally, according to which most of us--never all--will live.  And historically, when societies cannot do this by consensus, some one does it by force.

In my opinion, the constant encouragement of young people in particular to define themselves by race, gender and sexual preference is making it much harder not only to find common ground across these barriers--which I regard as essential to our national survival--but also much harder for them to discover the most important thing about themselves.  Many of us have become obsessed with electing a female President--but no one was ever obsessed with electing a male President, because that was a given.  Because it was a given, the citizenry (male and female) could focus on the difference between the men they might elect, a difference defined by their party affiliation, their views, and what they might accomplish.  The emphasis on race and gender as qualifications for anything implies that there is nothing wrong with our institutions that could not be fixed by redistributing the rewards they offer along gender and racial lines. But there is, in fact, a great deal wrong with all our institutions that cannot be cured that way, but will require leadership that sees things more broadly.  And there is very little evidence indeed that simply increasing diversity at or near the top of powerful institutions actually changes the behavior of those institutions.

Great historians, I like to say, do not argue with history.  What has happened over the last few decades ot left wing thought must have been in some sense inevitable--but that does not make it right.  We need a rebirth of a vital center that can call on everyone.  Events, I think, will eventually force us to move in that direction.  The question is when.

          Adaptation of the Vigipirate plan for the summer period        
Vigipirate staff
22 June 2017

Adaptation of the Vigipirate plan for the summer period

The security of French citizens and tourists visiting France continues to be the Government’s priority. The new Vigipirate stance will therefore be effective from 23 June to 4 September, to ensure the increased protection of tourist areas, public transport and crowded places.
The summer holidays will soon begin, with significant numbers of people travelling to their holiday destinations and large gatherings set to take place for sporting, cultural, religious and festive events. The Government has decided to adapt the Vigipirate stance accordingly.
The previous adaptation was agreed to ensure the smooth running of the presidential and legislative elections in the face of a heightened terrorist threat. The persistent threat requires that every measure be taken to ensure the public is protected during the sensitive summer holiday period. For this reason, the new Vigipirate stance "Summer 2017" will be effective from 23 June until the start of the school year on 4 September.
The need for a high level of vigilance requires the Vigipirate plan to remain in force at the level of "heightened security – risk of attack", which is the second of three levels contained in the plan.
Efforts are focused on the increased protection of:
  • tourist areas,
  • public transport,
  • crowded places.
The full mobilisation of internal security forces, supported by soldiers from Operation Sentinelle, will continue with any necessary redeployments to tourist areas. This mobilisation will also involve citizens through the use of National Guard reservists who will bolster the security arrangements that are in place.

A joint French-British action plan to ensure the internet cannot be used as a safe space for terrorists

On 13 June the President of the Republic received the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, along with the Ministre d’État, Ministe... [Read more]
14 June 2017


          A joint French-British action plan to ensure the internet cannot be used as a safe space for terrorists        
Computer and mobile phone
14 June 2017

A joint French-British action plan to ensure the internet cannot be used as a safe space for terrorists

On 13 June the President of the Republic received the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, along with the Ministre d’État, Minister of the Interior Gérard Collomb and his British counterpart, Home Secretary Amber Rudd. During this meeting France and the UK agreed to a joint action plan, placed under the responsibility of both countries' Ministers of the Interior, to ensure the internet cannot be used as a safe space for terrorists.
France and the UK will also coordinate with the countries of the European Union and G7; they are particularly calling for a meeting to be held shortly between the G7 Ministers of the Interior to widen support for this action plan.
Gérard Collomb is poised to host the key internet players at a forthcoming meeting, aimed at reviewing the progress that has been made and what challenges still lie ahead in the fight against online extremism.

          Brexit: An opportunity that could be wrecked by politicians        
So the UK votes to leave and the PM decides to leave, but not now.  The Chancellor of the Exchequer hides, and beyond the Bank of England printing a few billion, nothing else happens.

The EU has already decided to play tough and has its own position, which is essentially "fuck off, the walls are going up, deal with it".  Although Germany is being much more nuanced.

The Conservative Party has to find a new leader, and from that a new Cabinet and a policy on negotiations.  Labour meanwhile is going the same way.  It is likely a new Conservative leader/PM will call a General Election on a manifesto of leading the UK into a new open, free-trading world with a new free trading relationship with the EU.   Leaving the EU requires the UK to initiate it formally, which the EU is begging for, but the Government would rather delay because it changes its bargaining position.

Yet that could be problematic, not least because a key plank of those fighting to leave the EU is to end free movement of people with the EU, and all countries in the EU Single Market (including non-EU Norway and Iceland) all have signed up to free movement, and even non Single Market Switzerland has, although it does have extensive restrictions on new residents having access to any government provided services.

Meanwhile, leftwing nationalists have jumped on an opportunity.  Sinn Fein wants a referendum on Irish unification, but the Northern Ireland First Minister has said no.  Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is flailing about wanting a second referendum on independence, but wont discuss:

1. The EU only lets non-members join, not current members split into joining and non-joining;
2. Joining the EU means joining the Euro;
3. 90% of Scottish trade is with the UK, Scotland in the EU would mean any EU trade barriers with the UK also apply to Scottish trade with the rest of the UK.

Spain, showing it really hasn't turned as far from Francoism as it would have liked, is demanding co-sovereignty over Gibraltar.

Meanwhile, the young leftwing social justice warrior types (Generation SnowFlake some have called them, for their "safe spaces", being "triggered" by hurt feelings and constantly protesting about what is offended) feel "betrayed" about the old "ruining their futures".  However, the truth is that the majority of the young didn't care enough to vote as revealed by Sky News below.

Whinging about democracy when it doesn't go your way, whilst embracing it otherwise, is beyond the pale, as are some of the hate filled attacks on older votes coming from those whose own identity politics is supposed to decry hate speech.  The truth being that the so-called liberal leftwing anti-hate, anti-violence activists are full of hate and quite happily embrace violence to get their "own way".  It's emotion laden petulance, of the kind you would have only seen from the fringes of the far-right and conspiracy theorists had the vote gone to Remain. 

So what should happen now? (notwithstanding who the PM and Government is)

1. The Government should announce the key planks of a new relationship with the EU around trade, investment, movement of people and co-operation, that it seeks to adopt.  It should clarify to the entire country that it is not going to be a UK of isolationism, but one of openness.

2. The Government should make it clear to all EU passport holders in the UK that no-one will be deported, except under existing arrangements for threats to national security or criminals.  No EU residents need fear this, nor will their property be affected or businesses, and if anyone threatens them they should go to the Police.

3. The PM should make it clear that there will be no referendum on Scottish independence this side of Brexit, but that the Government will consult with the Scottish government and parliament on the deal it seeks with the EU.  It is precipitous to talk about Scottish independence until Scotland sees the new deal negotiated with the EU.

4. The PM should make it clear that there will be no referendum on Northern Ireland joining Ireland unless the preconditions of the Good Friday Agreement are met, but that equally it cannot happen until the new deal with the EU is negotiated AND negotiations are concluded with the Republic of Ireland.

5. The PM should go to Dublin and discuss the future relationship and reassure that no border controls will be reinstated.

6. The PM should go to Germany and talk, extensively, about how to make this work, and then go to all other EU Member State capitals, and the EFTA Member States too. 

7.  The Government should go to the WTO to discussing reviving membership.

8. The PM should visit USA, China, Japan and other trading partners and say that it wants to have open, freer trading relationships and the UK will be open for business and people.

9. Finally, the PM should make it clear that there wont be a second referendum on membership and that those who want to claim it is unfair, that this is democracy and the task now is to bring the country together and work for a new relationship with the EU and the world that demonstrably proves the claims of the Remain activists wrong.

Oh and ignore Nicola Sturgeon.  The Scottish Parliament can't "veto" the British Government any more than Lambeth Borough Council can stop the UK having nuclear weapons.

          Emotionalism - the new post-religious puritanism        
Forgive the length of this piece, but this is a very big issue that should concern not only those who embrace academic freedom, but also more generally individual freedom and the importance of reason.

As Mary Wakefield in The Spectator last week put it:

Back in the 1990s, PC students would stamp about with placards demanding equal rights for minorities and talking about Foucault. This new PC doesn’t seem to be about protecting minorities so much as everyone, everywhere from ever having their feelings hurt.

The illiberal left (and I am not being pejorative here, but believe that despite their claims, these are people who are as illiberal as any hardline social-conservatives, in their own way) regard the term "political correctness" as a reactionary pejorative label against "liberation" movements that seek equal treatment of people based on a whole set of agreed identity politics based categories.  It is swiftly dismissed, rather than the key arguments behind it tackled, not least because, unfortunately, so many who claimed "political correctness gone mad" (as if it was ever sane) were themselves not particularly articulate about their concerns, or (if you scratched the surface) racist, sexist and homophobic.

Today the illiberal left (yes there is a genuinely liberal left) have moved on, into what I call the new tyranny of emotionalism.  It is the belief that if something someone says or gestures or does, hurts your feelings, the person who says or gestures or does whatever, should refrain from doing so, to protect the hurt feelings of the "offended".

It is seen in the reaction of illiberal left to the Charlie Hebdo murders by Islamists - after a cursory expression of horror, their first reaction was that nobody should say anything to upset Muslims, by taking on the tyranny of those seeking Islamic blasphemy legal principles to apply to the free world. Then it went much further, with television in the UK refusing to show the cover of Charlie Hebdo magazine, because it might offend a tiny minority of viewers.

It is seen in the anonymous vitriol poured out by those offended by an article published in a newspaper that was neither illegal, nor gratuitous (but the newspaper was from the spawn of the devil - being The Times, owned by the illiberal left's own pantomine villain - Rupert Murdoch - whose main crime has been to establish or buy media outlets that express views they not only disagree with, but importantly disapprove of).   It saw the newspaper pull the article because of the angry mob.

It is seen in the complete absurdity of a UK National Union of Students Women's Conference asking delegates to not applaud speakers because it "triggered" anxiety for some students.  So "Jazz Hands" were suggested instead.  The language used by one of the advocates for this hyper-emotionalism responded by saying:

Our jazz hands request enraged Twitter trolls and sparked a flurry of tweets, unfortunately fuelled by some of Oxford’s own (students and tutors!). Often, these tweets used the language of oppression to mock and belittle us, by ridiculing issues of cultural appropriation, ableism and racism (as well as the very mature “jizz hands” parody).

There you go "the language of oppression".  You can't mock people who are being political, who are seeking power over others, and out comes the identity politics.  The intellectually lazy assumption that because you are of a certain sex, race, etc, you're automatically either empowered or a "victim", rather than looking behind the categorisation of people, into their actual individual backgrounds and cases.  

The "ableism" word adds another dimension - because the issue of applause was about those who had "anxiety triggered".  It reflects the inexorable growth of the trend of psychology not just pathologising reactions people have to difficulties in life, but rendering the pathology permanent and not the fault (or the responsibility) of the person with the pathology.  There is not the time now to go into that maze, but categorising anyone to be disabled if they identify themselves as such, means anyone can now join the identity politics circus and be "oppressed".  Finding that a group of people applauding makes you anxious, now makes you disabled - and you're "ableist" (which is just like being racist - the biggest sin in the illiberal left world).

The psychology and psychiatry professions are now pathologising boys who like wearing dresses and girls who like being tomboys as "transgender" and recommending when they get medical intervention to suppress their hormones.  It is as if the great changes inspired by the late Thomas Szasz's "The Myth of Mental Illness" have been for nothing.  Psychiatry remains embryonic in its scientific understanding of the brain, but it hasn't stopped the illiberal left from using it to justify both surgical and pharmaceutical interventions based on emotionalism, rather than a hard-headed rational discourse about reality.  After all, if you criticise pathologising children behaving in ways that could imply "trans-gender identity", you'll get hounded as being transphobic, because you're probably "cis-centred".  

Universities across the United States are also seeing requests from illiberal left student unions for "trigger warnings" to be produced for books. University students, who are demonstrably not children, who are invariably seeking an education to have a career, where they may create, innovate, produce, assist and be adults who have autonomy over their own lives, maturity and can manage not only themselves, but to raise families, run businesses, be lawyers, doctors, accountants, engineers, seeking protection from words.   It is the equivalent of extending the warnings that apply to movies and (the fading) media of DVDs of content, largely to assist parents in deciding what content their children should watch - but being extended to adults - because it might hurt their feelings.

Even the Guardian article warning of this trend going "too far" accepts the fundamental principle, that people need to be protected from words and art:

Nobody should have to feel victimized, or traumatized, particularly when they may have already been a victim of a trauma mirrored on the pages of a book. And, of course, everyone should have access to the information they need to judge for themselves what they should or should not be exposed to; there should be no horror by homework, nor any rape reminder by reading assignment.

Well yes, no one should "have" to feel victimised in an ideal world, but demanding that others have their actions or expressions prohibited or restricted to protect you is fundamentally illiberal and removes any responsibility for ones emotional reaction and more importantly how you deal with your feelings and places it upon others.

It is a recipe for insanity.

We have prohibitions on not wearing certain costumes because it "offends" people, but don't for one moment start saying that wearing hijabs offends some women.  You see criticising the cultural expressions of Islamic cultures is "Islamophobic" even if they actually embody the principle feminists reject that a woman is "asking for rape" if she reveals - any - of herself.

On public issues where, at the fundamental level, I agree with the key premise (in this case, that gay marriage should be permitted), the illiberal left proselytising this view are exactly that.  Illiberal. Anyone who expresses a different view is to be shut down.  It is the classic example of being "politically incorrect" as Mao coined it. The illiberal left take it further, with a level of adolescent vitriol and profanity that makes you wonder about the things they don't get this upset and angry about - like Islamism.  A Christian baker in Northern Ireland gets fined because it refused to bake a cake expressing support for gay marriage.  The illiberal left want to criminalise those who refuse to give them a platform for their own views.  However, they will happily shut down anyone who they find offensive or demand others exclude them.  

They are profoundly opposed to freedom of speech, because their conception of free speech (just like the Marxist-Leninist tyrannies that murdered and starved millions) is that it gets dominated by those they disagree with (invariably labelled racist, sexist et al.) so free speech must only be granted to the disadvantaged by their identity politics classification (and only expressing their received view or minor variants on it).  They want the media and social media especially, to be there for them - like their own Pravda, Central People's Broadcasting House, to allow the "diversity" of single opinion that they hold.

Of course, when they want to talk amongst themselves, they can't cope with being challenged, and so comes the trend for universities to create "safe spaces".  Mary Wakefield describes them as thus:

My favourite is that this daft bunch, who insist they’re quite sane, are demanding padded cells. Universities must provide ‘safe spaces’ in case a ‘triggered’ individual needs respite from a frightening lecture, on Shakespeare, say. The safe space at Brown University contains cookies, Play-Doh and videos of puppies. I feel a little triggered just thinking about it.

The infantilisation of adults is execrable . The contradictions abound with this.  As part of the identity politics silo classification of people, anyone under 18 is automatically vulnerable, and not responsible for their actions, so is to be protected.  Young people can take explicit nude photos of themselves and distribute them, but it is others responsible for their abuse - the social media websites, the internet service providers, the "culture".  Similarly, if they are violent, or verbally abusive and threatening, it isn't their fault, they are either reacting to being victims or are themselves, mentally ill and you're being "ableist" as is "society" for not giving them the help the need.

Yet these same vulnerable people, seemingly incapable of moderating their behaviour or acting rationally, are entitled to be "heard" and even to participate in the political process.  The illiberal left has supported extending the vote in the UK, to 16 and 17 year olds, with vocal support from leftwing political parties (who think they will benefit).  The claim is that they have a "right" to have their views heard.  The same people who are incapable of looking after themselves are deemed to have opinions that should shape who governs us all.  I don't have a fundamental problem with discussing extending the electorate down to 16 year olds, but it should also be accompanied by full adult legal responsibilities for your actions - something the illiberal left aren't too keen on, as they seek to erode even adult responsibility.  

This can be seen in the new puritanism about consensual adult sexual relations on universities in the United States, seen now in State laws enshrining a radical feminist approach to how consenting adults should interact.  Unsurprisingly, mainstream US Democratic Party politicians, such as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Nancy Pelosi are cheering this on, all with the best of intentions I would think, but the impacts are chilling.  Yes, there is an issue with women under-reporting rape out of shame and shock, and that rape - by its very nature - is difficult to get convictions for.  Not least because it involves private acts between individuals where it is one person's word against another, in circumstances that (outside the commonly held view of rape being an unexpected abduction in a public place) can be interpreted in various ways.  Proving a serious offence beyond reasonable doubt is inherently going to difficult, but it is not a reason to create new rules or to dilute the presumption of innocence.

The new rules grant amnesty on rules on drugs if any student makes an allegation of sexual assault. So if are caught snorting cocaine, against college rules, just say you were sexually assaulted, and you'll get off.  

As Joanna Williams wrote in Spiked, what advocates of new laws on such behaviour are seeking can be seen in Goucher College in the US which has a 33 page policy that includes:

Each participant is expected to obtain or give verbal consent to each act of sexual activity. In order for consent to be valid, all parties must be capable of making a rational, reasonable decision about the sexual act, and must have a shared understanding of the nature of the act to which they are consenting.

It is not difficult to see what this does to intimacy.  It formalises, dehumanises and ultimately destroys it.  Imagine gaining verbal consent for "each act".  "Can I touch your boob"? "Can I touch your bottom?"  "Can I kiss your lips?" "Can I use tongue?".  The death of passion.

It declares that consent cannot be given by anyone who has consumed alcohol or drugs.  Ergo if you engaged in any sexual behaviour when drunk or even after one drink then you may be accused of rape. 

This is the new puritanism.  It is effectively a new set of rules that, instead of the old Christian religious values of shaming about the naked body, it shames about having any inkling of passion or spontaneity in intimate relations.  It removes any responsibility at all for your own conscious volition and relinquishes all power, as it implies that any touching that did not get explicit consent, is an assault.  

As Ann Furedi says:

Rape needs to mean something specific. ‘Unwanted sex’ or ‘unenjoyable sex’, is completely different to ‘non-consensual sex’. We need to understand the difference if we are going to have a sensible discussion about rape. You may agree to have sex that you don’t passionately desire for all kinds of reasons. 

It comes from the radical feminist claim that there is a so-called "rape culture" that pervades modern Western society.  Setting aside the relativism that ignores the true rape cultures prevalent in countries like India, South Africa and Pakistan, it is so utterly detached from the thoughts, feelings and actions of most of the public to give cause to pause and think.  Beyond the small number of those who rape or fantasise about rape, what tolerance is there for sexual assault? Almost everyone would be horrified if a family member, friend or acquaintance had been raped, and would want the assailant caught, charged, prosecuted and appropriately punished.  Yet what you think of as rape (and the law considers rape) and what radical feminists call rape, is not quite the same.  That sets aside the insane Orwellian notion that all sex is rape.  Ella Whelan says it is a victim culture being perpetuated through identity politics at university.

What it comes back to, again, is emotionalism.  The belief that what matters the most is that people's feelings are protected.  The woman who had sex she regretted is being told that she didn't really consent to it, either because she was drunk and wouldn't have "touched that guy" had she seen him sober in the "cold light of day", or because he lied to her about his job, or she "doesn't want to be the sort of woman who does that sort of thing" (except she is and did).   Even Transport for London now has an advertising campaign, understandably targeting women who get sexually assaulted on public transport, but starting with describing a man who "stares at you", as a reason to get distressed. Really?  A reason to call for help in and of itself?  

Daisy Buchanan in the Guardian epitomised this when in the context of figures about reported sexual assaults on train she said:

Any travelling woman who has ever sunk down in her seat and opened her book, only to be tapped on the shoulder and asked “What are you reading, then?” will be surprised that the numbers aren’t higher.

I had a woman sit beside me in an airport lounge some years ago and ask me about the book I was reading (it so happened she worked for the CIA, she claimed, and my book was about north Korea), I didn't think she was sexually assaulting me.

Buchanan continues:

I don’t go out dancing any more, even though I adore it – because I know from experience that something bad might happen if I have to get home after midnight and the streets are full of potentially terrifying men who might not take it well if I don’t want to stop and say hello.

There it is "something bad might happen". 

Yes, that's true for every moment of your life from the day of your first trauma - being born.

Buchanan talks about being tired of being "kind to creeps", having already decided that any man who spontaneously tries to talk to her wants to sexually assault her.  Yes, there is a problem with anyone who harasses and assaults, and yes some people do think they have a right to others. Rape is a horrendous crime, and victims do deserve support and there remain long standing issues around how some law enforcement agencies handle complaints. 

However, there are laws against all of this now, and a culture that openly embraces voluntary adult human interaction is not one Buchanan and her ilk tend to embrace, as they seek a hyper-vigilant layer of rules and enforcement to stop people being offended or having hurt feelings.

You see this sums up so much of the cultural pathology, fed by the illiberal left's intolerance of dissent and criticism, but centering on emotionalism.  The idea that other people should have their behaviour altered so it doesn't upset you, even when what they do does not infringe upon your body, your property or objectively threatens either.

They want a society where nobody gets upset or offended (or triggered) by what others say or do, and where all people deemed to be oppressed (by an almost Maoist categorisation based on non-objectively relevant factors) have unbridled rights to express themselves and demand others accommodate their thoughts and feelings.  They want to police this society with a Stalinist rigour and brutality that cares not one iota for the damage caused by those they harangue.  Academic Tim Hunt's joke about female scientists saw an on-line lynch-mob demand he be fired, and so they won.  Instead of simple criticism or even laughing at the silliness of his remarks, the offendotrons were out and they wanted his head - and got it.  For all of their demands for sensitivity, the emotionalists are ruthless, cold and as brutal as the Khmer Rouge when they identify one who offends them.  They have not the slightest concern about the impact on the lives of those they seek to destroy.  They are the new Red Guards.

Brendan O'Neill (who is most definitely one of the labelled and hated by the emotionalists) summarised it well, although he was focused on modern feminism it applies more widely:

The new feminism, this global franchise, this pop and political phenomenon, is not really a movement. Nor is it, as men’s rights complainers argue, a feministic conspiracy to do down men. Rather, it is but the keenest expression of the mainstream misanthropy and turn against Enlightenment thought of the modern West itself. The ‘male’ values being attacked are really the universal values of reason, autonomy, progress and truth — values that both men and women need, and deserve. Forget the ‘sex wars’. We don’t need new feminism, nor do we need a new men’s rights movement. We need men and women to come together to challenge the illiberalism and backwardness of the modern West, which is so often expressed in new-feminist terminology.

The answer is not the populist reactionary conservatism of the likes of Donald Trump, which is intellectually and philosophically barren, but for a new embrace of Enlightenment values by those who still stand by them.  Not just the objectivists, but the true liberal left (the ones like Nick Cohen, who confront the philosophy of Islam), and the tolerant conservative right.  

Universities across the English speaking world are dominated, but not monopolised, by the illiberal left emotionalists.  The political left is also dominated by them, be they far or centre left, and the so-called "conservative" right appeases them, because it lacks the philosophical foundations, motivation and intellectual fortitude to confront them. 

It's about time that those of us who believe in Enlightenment values stand up - confront the intellectual vacuity of identity politics, the rational bankruptcy of emotionalism, and vigorously demand that our relatively free, open and tolerant culture not be undermined, infantalised  and most of all, bullied, by the emotionally needy and power hungry.

For it is they that feed the culture of new laws on censorship, of new criminal laws (see Harmful Digital Communications Act) to sanitise consensual adult behaviour, and who demand an endless list of new "tolerances" to accommodate every hurt feeling by whoever claims it.  

          The safe spaces that shape us        
If you ask almost anyone in our community about where they first felt safe to be authentically queer, they can remember. For some, it was a place, for others, a person; for me, it was Gettysburg, Pa. I have always been a blend of nerdy and artistic, two qualities to which I am happy to […]
          British Muslims and the need for safe spaces        
Zain Dada and Zainab Rahim discuss their new zine for young Muslim creatives Read More
          the peace we make        

For Christ himself is our peace: his flesh makes us one, breaking down the dividing wall of hostility.

Peace stands in the gap. With ears and hearts, peace listens, offering a hand (or keeping it to ourselves). Peace sets each wrong aright.

Speaking good words and hard truths, peace resists false choices, easy answers, cheap grace, and every entrenched pattern of empire. There is no peace in the presence of injustice (and it's rarely the center or top who knows how far we've come or where next to go).

Peace makes more room for the least, the last, and the lost. Peace de-centers power and conventional models of authority. It favors the margins, honoring their hard-won wisdom and recognizing paths to peace are unknown to masters of war and all who feast on their spoils.

They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace.

Peace sets to work, not despising the offerings of those who know conflict, too, is fruitful. Exposing violence cannot destroy a peace which has yet to be born among us. Clear out the old to make way for the new. Till each field, lot, and heart. Raze the systems. Raise the dead. Establish the work of our hands.

Many bodies, one Body. Many gifts, one Spirit. One Lord, one faith, one baptism. One hope in Christ, whose body makes a way out of no way, birthing peace in place of great violence.

Heal. Feast. Invite. Wash. Serve. See. Teach. Feed. Bless. Rest. Honor. Listen. Forgive. Empower. Humble. Suffer. Challenge. Invert. Convert. Subvert. Sacrifice. Resurrect. Liberate. Re-create. Love.

The peace we wage is forged in fire. With skin in the game, we arm to the teeth: ploughshares, hammers, covered dishes. Pens and picket signs. Microphones, toilet brushes, canvases, keyboards. Sacraments and safe space. Boundaries. Imagination. Hospitality and hard work. Room to grieve and grace to grow. 

Peacemaking by incarnation and alchemy.

          Badass Ladies You Should Know: Lilliam Rivera        
Lilliam Rivera in jeans and black leather jacket, standing before a graffiti mural wall
Sometimes these intros are impossible to write. All I really want to say is, You know who kicks ass? Lilliam Rivera, that's who. From the Pushcart Prize and the Clarion Writing Workshop, to readings at PEN Center USA, interviews with MTV, articles for Cosmo and the LA Times, and personal essays on Lenny Letter, Lilliam's already well-established writing career is now paired with the debut of her YA novel The Education of Margot Sanchez -- and she is killing it. What's more, she is a delight in person, and I can't wait to see her again later this month at YALLWEST in Santa Monica. 

Be sure to enter the giveaway for a copy of her book!


cover of THE EDUCATION OF MARGOT SANCHEZKate: Describe your career(s) and/or current projects. What path(s) and passions led you there?

Lilliam: The Education of Margot Sanchez is my first young adult novel published on February 2017 by Simon & Schuster. I also write short stories that have been published in literary and speculative literature magazines. My background is in entertainment journalism where I’ve worked on staff as an editor and writer for various publications including Latina magazine and E! Entertainment. Now I currently freelance writing copy for fashion brands.

Kate: Do you have any (other) creative outlets? How do they influence/affect your main work (if at all)?

Lilliam: As I mentioned above, I’ve written features and cover stories for magazines. Here are just a couple of my favorite stories: America Ferrera, Aubrey Plaza, Why Do Latinas Have The Highest Suicide Rate in America?, and an interview with Sofia Samatar.

I’ve also hosted a radio show called Literary Soundtrack where I interviewed authors of color like Laila Lalaimi, Victor LaValle, and Meg Medina, to name a few. For me, writing is just perfecting that muscle so writing for other outlets helps me with my fiction. You also don’t know where you will find inspiration.

Kate: What's your biggest challenge?

Lilliam: My biggest challenge is ignoring the voices that try to convince me that I’m a fraud. Even with a book published and the ability to finish a second novel, I still get caught up in the swirls of doubt. My challenge is to focus on the work in front of me and to ignore what is going on with everyone else.

the crowd at Lilliam's release party for MARGOT SANCHEZKate: Tell us about a time that you bounced back from failure.

Lilliam: Before The Education of Margot Sanchez, I wrote my first young adult novel. It was about Latina vampires set in Los Angeles. I started to submit the novel to agents in the hope of representation. It was right at the time when the Twilight movie came out and every young adult novel was about vampires. Anyway, I received a lot of rejections. It was a real test for me. I worked hard finishing that novel and I learned so much from that experience. I was devastated but I guess I knew deep down that no matter the amount of rejections I knew I had a voice that deserved to be heard. Somehow I managed to keep moving forward.

Kate: What's the best compliment you've ever gotten? 

Lilliam: I’ve had the best readers reach out to me and tell me how much they’ve enjoyed reading Margot Sanchez. They’ve expressed how much they can relate to the character. Some have even sent me gifts. I’m always so happy when someone takes to time to let me know that something I wrote moved them in some way. That is a huge deal and I don’t take those things lightly.

Kate: Did you have any defining moments that galvanized your understanding of and/or commitment to feminism? How does it inform/inspire your work?

Lilliam: I didn’t grow up with the word “feminist.” The word I did grow up with is activist or revolutionary. My family instilled in us that we had to fight against the injustices in this world and that there are many out there who refuse to acknowledge Latinx as equal. The first defining moment I came to understand this was when my father explained to me how Puerto Rico, the island he grew up in, is neither a state of the U.S. or an independent island but a commonwealth. If you follow the history of the Island, from when the Spaniards “discovered” it to its current state, you would understand how destructive and racist the colonial mentality is.

Lightning round: Tell us what you’re…    

reading: I’m currently reading Among Strange Victims, a funny novella by emerging Mexican author Daniel Saldaña Paris.

watching: I’m watching Into the Badlands. Karate, bad ass girl fighting. Need I say more?

listening to: On repeat, “Humble” by Kendrick Lamarr.

eating: Whatever is in the house.

doing: In front of my laptop, always typing.

wearing: I’m wearing a concert t-shirt from Hurray for the Riff Raff.

wishing for: The list is very long.

wanting: To see the Game of Thrones new season already! July can’t come quick enough.

Kate: Who are some other badass ladies we need to know & why?

Lilliam: Alynda Segarra is a Puerto Rican folk singer from New York. I’m obsessed with her music. I love how vocal she is in her music, using her platform to make a statement. Her latest album “The Navigator” is all about gentrification and safe spaces.

If you don’t know who Congresswoman Maxine Waters is by now, you seriously need to check yourself. Congresswoman Waters is the only representative who is vehemently against the current administration. She is not afraid.

Julia de Burgos is a Puerto Rican poet who wrote such powerful lines such as “Don’t let the hand you hold, hold you down.” Her work played such an important role in my young adult novel.

Kate and Lilliam (2nd and 3rd) at the North Texas Teen Book Fair with fellow debut authors Natalie C Anderson, Angie Thomas, and Ibi ZoboiKate: What are the best ways to support other women?

Lilliam: The best way to support other women is to have your list ready. What I mean by list is I mean that if someone asks me ‘Do you know of a good person for…’ I will have my list of women to recommend. It is healthy to be competitive but I believe there is more than enough room for everyone so I’m always willing to share my resources. Be supportive. Be vocal.

Kate: What is your advice to aspiring badasses?

Lilliam: Find a path that works for you. You will end up finding others on that journey that will help and that you in turn will help.

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badass ladies you should know logo
Lilliam Rivera is an award-winning writer and author of The Education of Margot Sanchez, a contemporary young adult novel available now from Simon & Schuster. Recently named a "2017 Face to Watch" by the Los Angeles Times, Lilliam's work has appeared in Tin House, Los Angeles Times, and Latina, to name a few. She lives in Los Angeles with her family where she’s completing her second novel.

website  //  twitter  //  instagram  //  goodreads

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          9th July 2017 - Prayer and        
On this weeks programme the SS102fm welcomes back Geraldine Creaton. Geraldine and Lorraine give us a reflection on prayer and introduce us to the new website We have our regular reflection on this weeks Sunday gospel as well as notices and other liturgical odds and ends.

You can listen to the podcast of this weeks full programme HERE. - Reflections on prayer

Geraldine Creaton and Lorraine have a discussion this week about prayer and also introduce to us the new initiative of Archbishop Eamonn Martin of Armagh called being a new and creative way of providing a space and opportunity for prayer online urging as many as possible to register and join this initiative conceived in prayer.

The purpose of is:

• To give people a safe space to share their prayer with others.

• To make requests for prayer online.
• To pray for the intentions of those who have requested prayer.

• To share how God has answered prayer.

You can listen to the reflection on prayer excerpted from the programme HERE.

In terms of the new initiative on the 24th June, Archbishop Eamon Martin, launched at the Annual Charismatic Conference in the RDS. 

Archbishop Eamon in his talk spoke how he has for some time felt the need for an Apostolate of Prayer for Ireland but hopefully through it will become a world-wide apostolate within the universal Church. 

This is in keeping with Pope Francis encouragement to all Christians to go on the digital highways and bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to our brothers and sisters throughout the world.

Archbishop Eamon Martin announces new prayer apostolate at celebration marking 50 Years of Charismatic Renewal

Gospel - Matthew 11:25-30

At that time Jesus exclaimed:
"I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to little ones.
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father.
No one knows the Son except the Father,
and no one knows the Father except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him. 
"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light."
Reflections on this weeks gospel

Liturgical odds & ends

Liturgy of the Hours - Psalter week 2; 14th week in Ordinary time

Saints of the Week

July 11th - St Benedict
July 12th - St John Jones
July 15th - St Bonaventure

On the general calendar the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is not celebrated this year as it falls on Sunday 16th July except of course for the Carmelite family around the world. 

          Nine Worlds Part IV: Revelations        

My yearly pilgrimage to Nine Worlds always seems to come with some manner of personal awakening or development that I’m afraid by 2020 I might possibly have turned into an all-consuming phoenix and absorbed all of humanity in a nirvana-hive of eternal contentment like the climax to an anime that you probably never heard of according to that one friend who always seems to have seen more shit than you. It was a good time.

2016 promised to be my most involved Nine Worlds Geekfest so far. Not only was I going to aid the lovely Andrew Clarke and Kat Iwinski with a live commentary for a mystery movie* on the Friday eve, Saturday afternoon would feature a panel on Kaiju Kavalcade along with my dearest friend Travis Kirkland, whom followers of this blog know well as my counterpart on the years-long running feature about Japanese monsters, and the two subsequent books that followed from it.
But alas! Tragedy struck, and my beloved partner Ella tore a ligament in her right ankle. Now we would certainly be more involved than ever with Nine Worlds, as this would be the first time we’d make use of their Accessibility features. It would be an understatement to say that 9W’s organization fully came through, as we had no problem at any point during the whole weekend to find appropriate seating or navigate the convention space. In fact, door to door from our humble abode in Mechelen, Belgium to the hotel in Hammersmith, everyone from British Airways to Novotel treated us like royalty. Kudos to all involved!

Thursday evening was pretty chill, as we forewent the ice breaker Pub Quiz at 8 (especially since it started at the same time as registrations, which was a bit of a head-scratcher) and just got our things in order and helped Andrew set up the screening room with the proper amount of beanbags and chairs. The midnight movie (DRACULA AD 1972) was one I’d already seen, but one I figured would be a funky good time to revisit and not really feel bad to fall asleep to. Which I (and quite a few others) did on some comfy beanbags!

Friday was a big day, as I got to meet my esteemed co-author for the first time. Not unlike Anakin Skywalker meeting General Grievous, I found him… shorter than I was expecting… but very much like General Grievous he turned out to be a hilarious and fun-filled addition to the saga of my life! Together, we attended panels on**:

  • The Art of Opening Titles: An informative, well-documented talk with a hilarious takedown of the Bond opening credits. COCK! BOOBS!
  • Religion in Horror: An animated look at different portrayals of religious themes in popular horror films from THE WICKER MAN to HELLRAISER.
  •  Philosophy in Dragon Age: A highly satisfying panel, since my side-eye at BioWare at their cowardly portrayal of the Qun as evil was fully justified here. I did have to hide some giggles at the whole room wailing with desperate feelz at Alistair. Let that motherfucker go, he’s an uncooperative asshole!
  • Family Friendly Horror: Unfortunately the content, while decent, felt a bit rattled off from a prepared text on a tablet. The presenter hardly ever took her eyes off it!
  • The Gaming Lounge: for the first time in my four 9W attendances, I actually went to do some gaming. In HOT ANTICIPATION of the next panel, Travis and I did some tabletop gaming and quite enjoyed ourselves with Patchwork, a sort of quilt-making themed Tetris multiplayer strategy game. Thanks to Alex and… Hannah(? Sorry if that’s not your name!) for explaining the rules to us!
  • Consensual Incest Fanfic: a novelty choice for the sheer fucking balls the con had in putting that one on. It was the first time, and it was noticeable. The atmosphere had a lot of justifications and defenses going on, despite the disclaimers there was to be no kink-shaming. Nonetheless, there were some interesting tidbits of trivia and insight to be mined from it. Did you know that in Britain you apparently have to explicitly state you are not blood relatives at your wedding ceremony? How weird is that! Still, the crowd seemed quite game, and I’m sure this’ll be a cracking panel next year now that the nervousness has been worked out. And lest you judge: this room was almost fully female, trans or non-binary!
  • Hell yeah ANACONDA


  •       The Colonisation of Historical Space: a damned fascinating talk by classics professor Nick Lowe about a fannish look at history perhaps being a welcomed one, and how historical fiction based on research findings actually helps create an image of the past that the dry data cannot. Ella had gone off to see an academic lecture on the representation of monsters in classical art. These two lectures combined led to a very interesting discussion in the hotel courtyard on the ungraspable qualities of true recorded history, and the way historiography will always be colored by the writers, so why not make art out of it?
  •       Non-binary Representation in Myth: another great talk by academic Olivia Huntingdon-Stuart about enby figures in mythology, with a focus on Athena; meanwhile, Taylor Driggers made me highly interested in the works of Ursula LeGuin.
  •         The Duke Mitchell Film Club was AMAZING like every year. We attended all their sessions and will probably continue to do so as long as they’ll keep attending. Check out one of the hilarious trailers at the bottom of this post.
  •       Kaiju Kavalcade: An amazing experience where Travis showed himself to be a true showman and amazing performer. The crowd was really into it, the adults and kids alike, and a good amount of laughs was had from the drawing contest (won by a kaiju named UNCLE STEVEN by a little five year old named Vivienne cosplaying as Rey) to the mad libz style enactment of a GODZILLA VS. GAMERA movie (with UNCLE STEVEN as the villain). A real winner of a session that ended in a big dance party with the kids, huzzah!


Being dead fucking tired we didn’t do all that much, but we did go see:

  •             The Limitations of a Strong Female Character: A panel about the pitfalls of “strong” vs. strong female characters. Some good ideas overall, but interesting to note that one of the panelists acknowledged Anita Sarkeesian’s viewpoint that “FURY ROAD isn’t as perfect as we think…” because its strong female characters’ strength was derived from them absorbing male traits, aka they were fighting. While it is true that the feminine is devalued in our society, it was an interesting contrast to the talk by Huntingdon-Stuart who enthusiastically told all about Athena taking on male and female aspects. I’m much more down with this viewpoint that basically goes “screw the binary” than one that goes “no fighting ever!” And I’m a pacifist! I abhor violence!
  •         Problematic Faves (but mostly Whedon): A nice little critical discussion where defensive fannishness never took over.

After some final drinks at the bar with Andrew and Travis, Ella and I were ready to go, but not before Travis gave me a final parting gift which touched my very soul:

Thank you Travis! I hope you found the blue NOTTING HILL door your mom wanted a picture of (or one that looked sufficiently like it that didn’t make you walk thirty minutes)!

I’d like to close off this year’s CON REPORT with a fairly momentous personal realization as well. For years now, I had been experiencing an uncertainty about myself I couldn’t quite place my finger on. A month or so ago I fully realized that I don’t identify as a cisgender male. I had been experimenting with female presentation in the privacy of my own home, but knowing Nine Worlds, I knew it would be the perfect safe space to be my more girly self in public. Donning some converse, black skinny jeans, a cream sleeveless top, eyeliner, mascara and a (dare I say so myself) fairly cute black and pink bob wig, I presented female in public for the first time ever.

I got compliments! This made me really happy!

I heard from several panelists on several different topics that their whole perspective had been changed during previous iterations of Nine Worlds, and this really touched Ella and I. So we weren’t the only ones!

This year, it changed my life even more than I ever thought it possible.

Thank you, Nine Worlds, you magnificent con, you.

*It was ANACONDA, and the audience certainly wanted some. My favorite crowd-sourced laugh of the screening was the following exchange:
“Oh haha, I thought that read “problematic designer”.”
“Like they had a guy that went around on set just saying the n-word all the time.”
“Well yeah… Ice Cube.”

**Before Travis arrived, I attended “How to Nail Self-Publishing,” to inform him of the myriad ways we could expand our empire. When I learned the three authors doing the talk pumped about €800 in each book they released, I nodded in a polite fashion and did not mention the session to Travis at all.

          The “In” at the Crossroads: Nine Worlds 2015        



“Warning: Prolonged exposure to a thing’s fandom can damage your opinion of the thing.”

“We usually don’t have to work at finding an in.”

These are the two great insights I have gained at Nine Worlds Geekfest 2015.

No, come back, gentle friend! This piece is not about calling your interests weird and worthy of scorn! Pull up a beanbag and let us converse…

Since the first edition of the con in 2013, I’ve always come away from it intellectually and socially edified, with new nuggets of wisdom to go out and spread in the subtlest, politest, least obnoxious way possible. If quite a few of your irl acquaintances and some of your irl friends are basically “But isn’t racism/sexism over?” types, this can be rather handy.

This year, however, my #notallmen friends are safe – the revelations were of a personal nature. I had been contemplating my status as an ally over the past year, and the ways in which I could be most useful to the general cause of helping women, PoC and queer people. A good friend opined that sometimes what is best for privileged voices is to just sit back like a parliament bench-filler, wave your pamphlets about and grumble “Hear, hear!” when a woman/PoC/queer person is speaking.

So it was with a humility engendered by previous iterations of Nine Worlds and cultivated by discussion with friends throughout the years that I embarked on this year’s journey. Little did I know, dear reader!

My wife Ella and I arrived early on Thursday, and opted to partake in the 9 Worlds Pub Quiz, an ez-mode trivia contest that was more about forcing you to get to know some new people by limiting the number of teams available than it was about winning any prizes (though I did take home a sweet Mandalorian mug).


Regarding wisdom #1 mentioned at the start of this post: The quiz host posed a Serenity/Firefly question, and made a little “I’m sorry to remind you chaps of this traumatic event!” joke. The crowd then good-naturedly made exaggerated “oh nooo!” sounds. A bit eye-roll inducing, but fine. This then happened two or three times… and the crowd kept going along with it.

I like Firefly/Serenity. I own both on DVD, and when I recommend it to someone, I’m enough of a dork to say they oughta read the Dark Horse comic miniseries “Those Left Behind” after watching the series but before seeing the movie to really get the full experience. I’m also thirty years old, of moderate economic means and living in a first world country. This means there’s more entertainment out there than I can really ever experience in my lifetime. This also means that I’m not really still sad about Firefly’s cancellation. It’s been a decade, and it had a decent run of episodes and, while maybe not a good “movie”, it had a good season finale that just happened to have played in theaters. Besides, I’ve had six seasons of Justified to watch since 2005, which really filled my personal quota of “witty, sarcastic cowboys but not in typical cowboy times”.

I remarked upon the Firefly fandom’s wallowing in victimhood over drinks with Ella, and she said: “It almost seems like it’s become part of the experience.” It is, I realized – and there’s no problem with that. Privilege is busting on people for seeking that communal safe space (which the privileged person may not require), and I ain’t gonna give anyone shit for that. So I apologize for the outrage-inducing opening statement to get you to read on: “damage” should be understood as “alter”. Worked, though, didn’t it?


A big new geek thing I discovered is roller derby. This is apparently a seriously feminist/queer thing, a space of acceptance and openness and opportunity for expressions of power for the disenfranchised. Awesome! Another eye-opener: how Ella and I reacted to roller derby documentary “In the Turn”, following different women and queer people around, detailing their experiences with the sport (which, for all intents and purposes, looks almost exactly like human pod-racing, crashes and explosions included – pretty awesome indeed).

My reaction: “How lovely! I hope those people are all happy.”

Ella’s reaction: “Oh my god it makes me wanna get all tatted up and do my hair in crazy colors and and and”

And here’s where “We usually don’t have to work to find an in” comes… uh, in.

Almost no media I ever consume requires me to do any effort to connect with its protagonists. I found Frozen to be merely okay when it came out. Elsa was an empty icicle of a character to me, a nice deliverer of musical numbers and nothing more. She built an ice palace on the mountain and just sat in it. During the panel “Magical Girls 4-Eva” I learned that the studio was banking on Anna becoming the break-out character people would identify with. I had a vague memory of Disney being unprepared for the huge amount of demand for Frozen merchandise, but that particular detail had eluded me.


Why is it so relevant? In my discussions of Frozen, one of my big pet arguments was always “Come on, Anna was way more fun than Elsa!” … which, it turns out, was exactly what the suits were expecting me (and everyone else) to think. Nobody’s a snowflake with unique individual opinions. If you say “Am I the only one who…?” the answer is probably “no”. Privilege pops up everywhere, even in the simple act of appraising a piece of narrative media. Don’t shit on anyone for wanting to belong. Rather, ask yourself why they want to belong and try to understand the appeal. Maybe it’s not for you – that’s fine. In this case, it’s fine not to have an opinion.

Look, I’ve typed a lot, and it sounds like 9 Worlds is some dour, soul-searching annual retreat, but it’s seriously tons of fun that you can learn from if you let it! Hell, even that introductory pub quiz I got all heavy-handed about was full of laughs and meeting lovely new people. Some other highlights of the year included:

  • The Here Be Dragons Silly Film Quiz that required absolutely no film knowledge – including a round on kaiju with “Memories from Monster Island” giveaways (yay)
  • A livecast of a commentary for SPECIES with partners in crime Andrew Clarke and Kat Iwinski – I do believe we slayed the room!
  • The aforementioned “Magical Girls 4-Eva” panel, with an art historian giving an introductory speech on the feminine mystique in art around the world dating back to prehistory
  • A delicious gin tasting with Dr. Anna Brock and Hannah Lanfear (yes an actual BOOZE DOCTOR)
  • Christine Ni’s presentation on the women of Shaw Brothers, logically called “Shaw Sisters” exposing me to a whole new subgenre of martial arts films I only had the vaguest knowledge of
  • Literally anything the Duke Mitchell film club showed in room 41
  • Giving Haribo to Game of Thrones’ Miltos Yerolemou (a jolly chap who was HIGHLY AMUSED at the kaiju clips we showed) and shaking Kerry Ingram’s (the little girl they burned on that very show) hand
  • Movie and TV discussions that actually gave me new insights where I was half expecting them to just be circle jerks – big ups to Naomi Alderman (Mad Max) and Chloë (A Song of Ice and Fire)… I don’t remember her last name but she made an excellent Squirrel Girl

I’m sure I did many more awesome things and listened to awesome discussions that I have forgotten to mention here, so forgive me for their omission (I did imbibe quite a bit). You are surely appreciated, if not wholly remembered!


Now let’s get cracking at my 2016 cosplay. Thinking either Lucas Hood or the Tampunisher (that is a regular Punisher outfit but I carry a paper maché fire hydrant with me at all times).

Note: All cosplayer pictures taken with express consent. DM me @servantofdagon if you see yourself and wish me to remove them.

          Being LGBT at a faith-based summer camp        

Advocate and journalist Eliel Cruz draws attention to an unacknowledged problem for LGBT people in the summer camp world: they are fired or disallowed, often without warning or explanation. These decisions are made behind closed doors and based out of ignorance and fear; some camps are opposed to LGBT identities or do not know how to include LGBT lives in their structure or policies and underhandedly fire them as a way to avoid the problem. This exacerbates the bigotry LGBT individuals often face from some faith-based organizations, and creates stressful and disempowering experiences for young people trying to participate in a common activity for religious youth.

 In the words of one camp counselor fired for affirming to her boss that she identifies as a lesbian, "As a 19-year-old, I am still in disbelief that the Boy Scouts discriminated against me… I felt alone and scared, but most importantly, I had no idea how my rabbit, Thumper, and I were going to get home." During formative years of life, these camps are sending a message to faithful youth that LGBT young people's dedication deserves no place in their religious community simply because of their identity.

However, this need not be the case to create a camp environment that is comfortable for all campers and carries on the tradition of celebrating and creating communities of faith through summer camp for religious youth. For organizations accepting of LGBT people but unsure how to incorporate them into a camp environment, the common concerns of single-sex living and sleeping arrangements can be mollified: Sexual activity amongst campers is always illegal, and LGBT youth deserve no additional policing to maintain that policy.

Excluding LGBT campers only serves to promote the stereotype that these children are predators and deserve to be isolated to preserve the safety of their peers. In reality, LGBT kids are just kids, looking for community, support, and to grow in their faith through a summer camp experience. A similar story holds for LGBT staff members at faith based summer camps; these are often also young people looking for inclusion and participation in their faith community, who are negatively affected when their community decides to systematically exclude them.

Several camps, such as The Naming Project, Spiritual Pride Project, and Camp Lightbulb, demonstrate that LGBT identities and a celebration of religious faith can be brought together under one roof. These camps offer spaces for religious young people to come together in their shared intersections of religious and LGBT identities. Furthermore, these innovative programs highlight that camp, at its core, is about building diverse community around shared experiences for people who may not have otherwise been brought together.

The difficulties LGBT youth often encounter with their local faith communities makes clear the especial need for faithful LGBT youth to find a safe space to live their truths. Reverend Brad Frosley, co-director of the Naming Project explains, "Our goal is to walk with and accompany these kids wherever they're at on their journey. Some are extremely religious. ... Others have already experienced such hurt or loss within the church that they've given up on religion."

Several Christian organizations, such as St. Paul's Lutheran Church of Minnetonka, cite bullying and suicidality as concerns for LGBT youth, propelling faith-based groups into inclusive action. Many youth also live homeless or out-of-home due to anti-LGBT attitudes and actions within their family structures. Camp Lightbulb is paving the way in this area, working with centers for homeless LGBT youth, such as the Ali Forney Center in New York City, to provide camp services to youth who do not have the financial or family means to sign up for camp.

These faith based summer camps designed for LGBT youth set an example for all faith based youth initiatives. LGBT employees or participants need not be excluded to maintain camp functioning. In fact, communities of faith can be made stronger by incorporating and celebrating these religious lives in their presence.

June 5, 2015

          Ten things to know about GLSEN's 2013 report on school climate        

Today, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) published their 8th biennial report on LGBT youth experiences in schools, the 2013 National School Climate Survey. Since 1999, this survey of over 7,000 students from all 50 states and Washington D.C. has consistently indicated that the availability of LGBT school-based resources and support directly impacts the safety of school climate. While a lot of progress has been made in the past fifteen years—verbal and physical harassment based on sexual orientation and gender expression were lower than in all prior years of the NSCS—there is a long way to go in making our schools safe spaces and positive learning environments for marginalized youth.

Check out some of the facts below to learn about how LGBT middle and high school students experience hearing biased language, harassment and assault, anti-LGBT discrimination at school, and the impact of supportive resources.

1) Language: 65% of LGBT students heard anti-LGBT remarks frequently or often—33% pertained specifically to transgender people. Specifically, 71.4% heard "gay" used in a negative way frequently or often, with 90.8% reporting they felt distressed because of this language.

2) Harassment: 36% of LGBT students were physically harassed (e.g., pushed or shoved) in the past year because of their sexual orientation and 23% because of their gender expression

3) Assault: 17% were physically assaulted (e.g., punched, kicked, injured with a weapon) in the past year because of their sexual orientation and 11% because of their gender expression.

4) Discriminatory policies: 56% of LGBT students reported personally experiencing LGBT-related discriminatory policies or practices at school, while 65% said other students at their school experienced such policies. 28% of those reporting cited being disciplined for public displays of affection that were not disciplined among non-LGBT students.

5) Staff support: LGBT students with 11 or more supportive staff at their school were less likely to feel unsafe than those with no supportive staff and had higher GPAs (3.3 vs. 2.8). Problematically, only 39% of students could identify 11 or more supportive staff.

6) Gender-segregated spaces: Over a third of those surveyed avoided gender-segregated spaces in school because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable (bathrooms: 35.4%, locker rooms: 45.3%). 

7) Transgender students: 42.2% of transgender students had been prevented from using their preferred name (10.8% of LGBT students overall) while 31.6% were prevented from wearing clothes considered inappropriate based on their legal sex.

8) Absences: LGBT students who experienced higher levels of victimization because of their sexual orientation or gender expression were more than 3 times more likely to have missed school in the past month than those who experienced lower levels (61.1% vs 17.3% for sexual orientation, 58.6% vs 18.2% for gender expression).

9) Gay-straight alliances: Only half (50.3%) of students said that their school had a GSA or similar student club. Compared to LGBT students who did not have a GSA in their school, students who had access to one were less likely to hear anti-LGBT slurs often or frequently (57.4% vs 71.6%).

10) Inclusive curriculum: Only 18.5% of LGBT students were taught positive representations about LGBT people, history, or events in their schools; 14.8% had been taught negative content about LGBT topics. Those with LGBT-inclusive curriculum were more likely to report that their classmates were somewhat or very accepting of LGBT people (75.2% vs 39.6%), and felt more connected to their school community. 

Positive changes in indicators of hostile school climates emerged in the most recent report. For example, although the expression "that's so gay" remains the most common form of anti-LGBT language heard by LGBT students, its prevalence has declined consistently since 2001. Also, students experienced lower verbal and physical harassment based on sexual orientation than in all prior years, and higher numbers of GSAs, supportive educators, anti-bullying policies, and LGBT-related resources in schools.

For more information on school climate—including demographic and school characteristics comparisons, research methods and samples, trends over time, and a discussion of the data— read the full report here. Whether we work in or with schools ourselves, we are all responsible for making the space where our youth spend most of their time safe, inclusive spaces of growth and community.  

October 22, 2014

          Back to school resources for LGBT students, their parents, and teachers        

As the summer draws to a close and the feeling of fall is in the air, whether you are in the closet, have recently come out, are currently in the process of self-exploration and questioning, or have been out and proud for years, you might be anxious to start the new year.

According to research conducted by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), more than 60% of LGBT students feel unsafe because of their sexual orientation and around 44% because of their gender expression. A majority of LGBT students experience cyberbullying and more than 80% of students hear "gay" used in a derogatory way frequently at school. In the school hallways, in the cafeteria, on the bus, and even in the classroom, LGBT students often feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, and targeted just for being who they are.

There are plenty of resources to refer to as LGBT students and allies get ready to walk through the high school doors.

For Students

Look at GLSEN's information on how to report bullying and harassment. Don't let the bullies get away with their hurtful actions!

If your school has a Gay-Straight Alliance or a similar club for students of all different identities, JOIN IT! You'll hopefully find a safe, supportive environment and make new friends who share some of your experiences. If your school does not already have a club like this, find out how to start one and check out GLSEN's Jump-Start Guide for tips.

Visit Matthew's Place, where you can read personal stories and advice from teen bloggers who have gone through the same experiences as you. You can also check out the site's Resources section for a comprehensive list dealing with anything from coming out to religion. Also join TrevorSpace, a social networking site designed to connect LGBT young people and allies.  

If you or a friend are in danger or in need of immediate assistance, there are ways to get help. GLBT National Help Center offers free and confidential support through their talkline, as well as through a one-on-one online chat. The Trevor Project also has a Lifeline for crisis intervention and suicide prevention. Don't feel embarrassed or nervous to use these resources. They are here to help!

Remember, fall doesn't just mean that your homework is due soon – there are some events to look forward to! National Coming Out Day happens in October, and people around the country celebrate being openly LGBT or allies. GLSEN's Ally Week , October 13-17, is devoted to creating a national dialogue about how everyone can become a better ally! And don't forget GLAAD's Spirit Day will be on October 16  this year. Millions around the world go purple in support of LGBT youth and in a stand against bullying, so make sure you pledge to wear purple and encourage others to do so as well!

Watch this quick, uplifting video created by a bunch of LGBT YouTubers before you head off to school:

For Parents

Support your children and listen to their needs. ONE Community posted a great article this time last year with excellent advice on how to talk to your LGBT child as the school year begins.

Check out PFLAG, an organization for parents, families, friends, and allies. Their website can connect you to even more resources and advice.

Know that by reading this, you are already taking a step in the right direction. Your child knows that you are supportive, which is one of the best things you can be!

If you are an LGBT parent, read over the Family Equality Council's (FEQ) Back to School Tool. According to FEQ, children with LGBT parents may face heightened levels of bullying, name-calling, and harassment. FEC' guide lists steps you can take to help bring inclusivity to your children's schools.

For Teachers

There are plenty of resources available online for making your classroom a safe space. GLSEN has a whole section of their website devoted to Educator Resources, including LGBT-inclusive curricular materials and lesson plans. You can also order a Safe Space Kit from GLSEN to help show your support for your LGBT students.

Check out Queer Youth Advice for Educators, a report put out by What Kids Can Do. Youth contributors helped to create the report, which includes advice on what teachers can do to meet their LGBT students' needs.

In case you missed it, Education Week hosted a Twitter chat for teachers and school administrators the beginning of this month. Check out highlights from the chat, where educators like you shared strategies and pointed out further online resources they've used.

With so many resources out there to help you, this school year can certainly be the best one yet!


August 21, 2014

          The Funny Thing About "Safe Spaces" On Memorial Day Weekend        
For perspective on this Memorial Day weekend, let’s juxtapose the "safe spaces" approach used by many of our nations colleges with how the U.S. military builds men and women of character. After all, the U.S. military's Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) will celebrate its 101th birthday June 3.
          #164 El talibán que administra el sub de Veganos me ha crujido el karma con una noticia que había publicado        

#121 hombre la postura antivegana es safe space a mas no poder.

» autor: narniota

          #121 El talibán que administra el sub de Veganos me ha crujido el karma con una noticia que había publicado        

#61 Safe spaces. Di que si.

» autor: raikk21

          The Russians Are Coming        

There was a package addressed to me on our front porch the other day. This is not an uncommon occurance at our house in this, the age of Amazon. I've even been surprised by something I ordered and forgot about — perhaps after a couple of cocktails. Like 12 pounds of Benton's bacon, or that $14 Larry Dahlberg bass fly that appeared one day. And we shall never speak again of the blue folding deck chair.

So, anyway, I opened the package, not sure what to expect, and found a DVD (so practical!) of the old movie The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming. I was momentarily puzzled, but then I realized it had to have come from my Trump-loving Arkansas friend, Maurice Lipsey. The note inside confirmed it — something along the lines of, "nothing new to see here."

Maurice, a former Memphian, sent me a big safety pin after Trump won last November, and urged me to find a "safe space." And he's sent a couple other gag gifts in recent months, all poking fun at my misery and frustration with the idiot currently serving as our president.

On Maurice's birthday, I sent him a video of a woman singing "Happy Birthday" in Russian.

But, unlike his hero, Maurice isn't an idiot. He's truly a great guy, even if his politics aren't, in my opinion. I've known him for 12 years or so, ever since I started going over to fly-fish at his place, Fat Possum Hollow, on the Little Red River. Maurice has built a dozen or so nice cabins on the stream, practically in the shadow of Sugar Loaf Mountain. I go for a long weekend every couple months or so. It's my happy place.

After a day on the stream, most of the visitors end up in Maurice's "bar" in his barn, drinking beverages and talking fishing, Grizzlies, Tigers, Memphis, Razorbacks, and who knows what else. It's a nice way to wind down in a place where you don't have to drive home — and Maurice has a great jukebox. If it gets down to the two of us, late of an evening, we might venture into politics, where we will cordially but vociferously disagree on just about everything.

But that's the thing — we're cordial. I recognize that he's a sentient American with the right to hold whatever (misguided) political views he wants to. He treats me the same. Yes, we make fun of each other's politics, but we don't call each other names, and we end the evening with a hug, as friendly as when we started. We need more of that kind of interaction in this country. Maybe somebody somewhere will even change somebody else's mind.

Through talking with Maurice and a couple of other friends, I sort of get how some folks can find Trump appealing. They believe — as Trump, his allies and supporters, and the official state media (Fox News) would have us believe — that the Russia stuff is all made up, just sour grapes; that the Fake News media and the Deep State and Hillary Clinton are conspiring to bring down a great American president. Lots of people buy into that narrative and believe it with all their heart. To which I say, "Really?"

I believe, on the other hand, that the autocratic, strong-man cult that is being promulgated by Mr. Trump will eventually be brought down by the rule of law and the investigation of multiple nefarious Russian political and business connections. I believe Jared Kushner was in on this up to his little eyeballs, as were Paul Manafort, Donald Trump Jr., Carter Page, Mike Flynn, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, all of whom have publicly and repeatedly lied about their meetings and interactions with Russians. Innocent people don't do that.

And I believe Trump is trying to "bad vibe" and insult Sessions into quitting, so he can name a loyalist toady to that supposedly independent position — a loyalist who will fire special counsel Robert Mueller. I believe we are headed for a Constitutional crisis in the coming months, as all this shakes down.

But no, I don't believe the Russians are coming. I believe they're already here.

          Conversations 2017-Building Allies - YWCA of Greater Atlanta        
Title: Conversations 2017-Building Allies - YWCA of Greater Atlanta
Venue: Atlanta Marriott Marquis / Atlanta
Category: Life Enrichment
Date: Sep 20, 2017


Conversations 2017-Building Allies

DateSeptember 20, 2017

Time: Registration: 11:00- 11:30 |  Program: 11:30-1:00pm

Location: Atlanta Marriott Marquis, 265 Peachtree Center Ave., NE

DescriptionConversations 2017 creates a safe space for Atlanta community members from different sectors of society to have an honest dialogue about the intersection of race and gender. Our theme, Building Allies will explore how each and every one of us has a role to play in addressing systemic racism and sexism, and how we can support one another in our efforts to take action. For more information, visit our website at We look forward to seeing you on WednesdaySeptember 20th, at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis!


          Comment on #GCS 17.5.17 Pt3 by Chantel Carter        
WOW!!!! It astounds me, the arrogance of people who are so called medicine people!!! GENOCIDE, just happened here. SHAMEFUL. Let me break it down: what is Genocide? DEHUMANIZING another. Did everyone commenting on this page do just that? Yes. Therefore it's GENOCIDE!!!! Not once did Nathan criticize any one of you. He actually even defended a fellow plant worker, or SHAMAN as you are all so quick to call yourselves. Have I worked with Ayahuasca? Yes. Many journeys, many years and everyday. With Nathan? Yes!!! Has it been hard. Fuck yes!!! Do I blame anyone? NO. Nathan has held a deeply integrous and safe space of unconditional love for me in some VERY dark places. I integrated as soon as I accepted and stopped resisting. Also, most importantly, realized I am my own healer. It is arrogant to believe that as a shaman you heal. Shamans (that word has become such poison in our work)...... Nathan is authentic in EVERY way. He was called to be who he is and soon he will lead the shattering of all shamanic EGO!! He is the only one who is equipped to do this, because of who he is and how he has gone about his medicine work. I d like to add: WENDY was my sister's best friend, my daughter's Au pair and close friend of mine. My sister and I had to assist at the scene of her suicide. My sister had to identify her body. The suicide note was addressed to 2 people, one of them was my sister. NATHAN and AYAHUASCA had NOTHING to do with her suicide. So before you ALL (and you have been seen AL) jump on this destructive and horribly unconscious band wagon, just STOP and A) get your facts straight and B) look at yourselves and the genocide you are all so guilty of for the sake of being right!!! I am astounded by the Arrogance!!!!
          Comment on #GCS 17.5.17 Pt3 by BlaBlaBlackBird        
Absolving all responsibility of the state of the client is cowardice. If that is the case, and the facilitator, as you are insinuating, plays little to no role, then you may as well order your medicine off the dark web and drink it on your own. But you wouldn't, now would you. Yes, things can come up, shit happens within the process of healing. It is the responsibility of the facilitator to hold a safe space for this to happen, and to guide the process SAFELY. Think of it as flying in a plane. The pilot cannot stop turbulence, but it is damn well his job to navigate his passengers out safely. And to become a pilot requires years of fucking training. Not just a couple of hours in a simulator, and having been in the cockpit once. I don't know how this could possibly be unclear.
          5 Shopping Tips for the Last Days of the Christmas Season        
Photo Courtesy of Pixabay

1. Use a credit card or cash for all of your purchases

Many brick-and-mortar stores have not upgraded to the new clip cards and the use of fake card skimmers increases this time of year. At least of you run into a fake card skimmer, the credit card transaction will be refunded to you, whereas the debit card transaction might not be.

2. Do not use public Wi-Fi spots for online transactions

Yes, we can all say that free public Wi-Fi is great, but the connections are not secure, so it fine if you just want to catch up on your favorite blog or news website, but DON'T use it for purchasing items online. If you do, you run the risk of a hacker capturing your personal information and your credit card number. Instead of ringing in a happy new year, you could kiss your bank account (and many other things) goodbye.

3. Complete face-to-face transactions in a Safe Space

If you are buying items from online services such as Craigslist, meet your proposed seller in a well populated area, such as the parking lot of your local police department. The Hazlet, New Jersey Police Department has been offering this service for a while now and it gives people an extra piece of mind. Contact your local law enforcement agency to see if they offer this great public service.

4. Use 2 Factor Authentication on all of your online accounts

Yeah, I know....2FA is a hassle, but it will keep your accounts secure and with the data breaches exploding like crazy this year, it is better to be proactive in securing your information than to end up getting hacked and becoming part of the millions of people who have experienced identity theft and are still trying to recover from it.

5. Keep your devices safe and secure

Make sure that all of your devices are secure and have the latest software updates. 

Double-check that the firewall on your computer is enabled and your virus protection is updated as well. Don't visit shopping websites that don't have the "https:" in front of their address and consider using password management software such as LastPass or Dashline.

          Sean Dorsey's show, BOYS BITE BACK, hits the stage May 12-13        

Award-winning choreographer and acclaimed transgender contemporary dancer, Sean Dorsey presents BOYS BITE BACK--an evening of new short dances that respond and bite back to the culture, which is especially timely under the current administration. Performed at the Z Space in San Francisco from Friday, May 12 to Saturday, May 13, BOYS BITE BACK will also give audiences a sneak peek into Sean Dorsey Dance’s upcoming full-evening show BOYS IN TROUBLE, which premieres in San Francisco April 2018 before touring the US. Tickets available here.

Featuring new works from Sean Dorsey Dance with guest artists The Singing Bois, a brilliant queer retro quartet of masculine-of-center singers of color, and Amir Rabiyah, an exquisitely talented queer, trans, mixed-race, disabled poet-storyteller, BOYS BITE BACK will be an evening of powerful performance that navigates queer and masculine trans identities. 

GLAAD interviewed Sean Dorsey about the inspiration behind BOYS BITE BACK, his introduction to choreography and dance, what he's learned refining the craft and art as activism, and advice to trans people about pursuing their passions.

GLAAD: What can audiences expect to see?

Sean Dorsey: Full-throttle dance, luscious queer partnering, highly-physical theater and powerful storytelling about navigating queer and trans masculinities, conformity and resistance. Sean Dorsey Dance is known for our signature fusion of athleticism and accessibility. These are dances rooted in story, so they are accessible, relevant and moving. And humor – there’s a lot of sass and humor because what revolution works without those?

GLAAD: Tell us a little about the ensemble and cast.

SD: I’m blessed to work with an award-winning multi-generational ensemble of 5 dancers (including myself). We move constantly between highly-technical dancing, live speaking, partnering, lifts and theater. BOYS BITE BACK is performed by myself, Brian Fisher, ArVejon Jones, Nol Simonse and Will Woodward. The show also features gorgeous music composed by Alex Kelly, Ben Kessler and Grey Reverend. 

GLAAD: Why should people go out and see this show?

SD: There’s a lot of gorgeous, moving, important and incredibly-crafted work in this show – by all the artists. And right now our communities are so hungry to gather together in safe spaces, to celebrate our queer/trans selves AND to elevate art/voices of resistance. You get ALL of this at BOYS BITE BACK! Plus Saturday night we’re having a Gala reception to celebrate our new work. I'm proud of this new work and love that we're exploring masculinities, conformity, resistance, being "butch enough."

GLAAD: How did you first get into choreography and dance?

SD: I suppose it all started with dancing around my living room to my “Sesame Street Fever” and “Fame” records … I jest here (sort of), but I’m serious when I say that I had to create my own path as a transgender dancer and dance-maker. There was literally nobody else like me in the entire modern dance field, in dance classes, schools or onstage. So I had to be really creative. Growing up, I threw myself into community activism while doing dance training and tons of theater and music on the side until finally in my 20s I realized that creating dance-theater could BE my activism. The rest is history! 

GLAAD: Dance is so much about discipline and dedication, what else have you learned from your profession--whether about yourself or other people?

SD: Working in a field that has so much intense scrutiny on the body, that is so fiercely binary-gendered, and that has almost no trans representation, I’ve learned a lot around risk-taking and self-care. I absolutely love teaching these things in classes and workshops I offer for trans, non-binary and queer folks! This is one of my favorite things to do – readers should reach out to me through my website if they’d like me to come teach (or perform)!

GLAAD: What advice would you give to trans, gender non-conforming, and non-binary people about pursuing what they’re passionate about?

SD: I would say: “Do it! You are beautiful! You are unique and there is literally no one else on the planet like you … which means you have something unique, important and powerful to share. Being trans, gender non-conforming or non-binary is an enormous GIFT. We are blessed – the rest of the world might not appreciate that yet, but I promise you: you are gifted and special. Do what you love. It’s your birthright.”

GLAAD: Is there anything else you’d like to share about the show, about your craft, or who you are?

SD: People can learn more about the show, my work and our current 20-city tour at



May 10, 2017

          Learning and Skills Exhibition 2014        

I went to the Learning and Skills Exhibition at Olympia this year.  It is a popular event that's co-located with the Learning Technologies Exhibition and Conference and both days were very busy.

The exhibition is free to enter and there were a large number of seminars running in parallel across 10 open theatre areas.  These were being run by commerical training providers and although this meant that they included a certain amount of 'selling', by and large, I found the content well presented and a good way of taking the pulse about what's going on in the L&D market.  It was also a great networking event.  I bumped into a lot of people both on the stands and as attendees and had some interesting chats with old and new contacts.

The things that I saw which interested me were...

Social learning using user-generated video

Fuse Universal and Phones4U gave a lively presentation about the use of user-generated video to help develop sales effectiveness.  The video link that I've added does a good job in making the case for this type of social learning.  What I can't find online is the video that was shown at the conference,  produced by one of Phones4U's frontline sales people.   It was creative, full of energy and contained lots of context-specific content with sales tips and tricks.   

Online Coaching Development

The University of Cambridge's Institute of Contunuing Education (ICE) presented their online approach to coach development.  The title of the presentation was 'Can you really learn coaching skills online?'

Given that this was a presentation about their online learning programme, then the answer was 'yes' of course.  What really interested me was the analysis from research done with students about their levels of discomfort with self-disclosure in discussions.  The continuum was from: working 1:1 with another person face-to-face (most comfortable) through working in trios, groups of up to 5, groups of 6 or more to online (least comfortable); the results were just over 70% for 1:1 to about 20% for online working.

What impressed me was that the presenter acknowledged the virtue of workshop-based coach development but also pointed towards an alternative approach using online methods.  The course uses Skype to create a 'bubble' for paired coach/coachee practice with the facilitator also present providing verbal feedback, through the Skype channel, to the trainee coach.    The rest of the learning group/set could listen to the conversation through headphones and were invisible to the coaching pair.  They were able to add their written feedback about the coaching practice. 

The point in all of this is that if you want to develop coaching skills and you can get along to a traditional workshop then this approach has a lot going for it.  But not everybody can work this way and the online model demonstrated a compellling alternative that replicated the 1:1 'safe space' for self-disclosure using Skype and also encouraged good deep learning processes from those observing through the written feedback process; an additional benefit being to the trainee coach of a permanent and reviewable record of the feedback for continuing reflection and learning.  


Ignite is the name for a particular type of event that has been held in around 100 cities worldwide, organised by volunteers, at which participants speak about their ideas and personal or professional passions according to a specific format.  The tagline is '...enlighten us, but make it quick'.  Each speaker is allocated five minutes of presentation time and is accompanied by 20 presentation slides. During the presentations, each slide is displayed for 15 seconds and then automatically advanced.  To see examples follow these links Ignite Cardiff  Ignite Showreel

At the session I saw there were 6 speakers and the topics covered were: The best training event ever - NHS Couch to 5k programme, Skills@School, Life as a Digital Apprentice, Avoiding the Mariah Carey Syndrome, Being Your Best Self and The Baloney Detection Kit - Bertram Forer's Personality Test.

Reflections about format? Positives: lots of content in a short space of time, redundancy for the listener is minimised, encourages presenters to practice because the slides' advance is uncontrollable. Negatives - creates tension for the speaker  - I noticed that several of the presenters rushed and on many occasions were waiting for the next slide to advance; creates tension for the listener - I found myself paying a lot of attention to anticipating the next slide than necessarily concentrating on the speaker.

Overall, I thought that this was an interesting idea that has value as a learning process both for the presenter and the listener. 

          Episcopal Social Services and Safe Space NYC Sign Management Agreement; Plan to Merge        

Planned Merger Further Strengthens Strategy to Expand Programs for Youths and Families Across the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens

(PRWeb July 15, 2013)

Read the full story at

          CSU Nationally Ranked Among Top 20 Great Value Colleges with Safe Spaces        

Cleveland State University is nationally ranked among the 2016 Top 20 Great Value Colleges with Safe Spaces.

This designation recognizes CSU for providing inclusive areas on campus where students of any race, gender, sexuality, class and ability can find compassion and empathy, free of the pressures of prejudice.

In particular, CSU was lauded for its Safe Space Program (which seeks to improve visibility and support to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and questioning [LGBTQ] students) and the Mother’s Room run by the Mareyjoyce Green Women’s Center (which provides a safe and secure area for nursing mothers).

The rankings were compiled by Great Value Colleges, a website dedicated to helping students search for higher education institutions that best suit their needs in the areas of academics, cost, size, location and personal interests and goals. Click here to view the complete list. 

          A Solution From Hell        

The following essay is excerpted from the latest issue of n+1 magazine. It is available online only in Slate. To read the complete version, click here to purchase n+1 in print.

The current age is uncommonly preoccupied with human rights. The story of how we got here can be traced from various points, whether from the Enlightenment and its great American spokesman Thomas Jefferson, or from the interventions and non-interventions following the European upheavals of 1848, or from the founding of the United Nations after World War II and the Holocaust, or from 1977, the year when post-'60s dismay, Jimmy Carter, and the Cold War intersected to place a commitment to "human rights" at the center of Western consciousness. Whichever way, for whatever reason, or for half a dozen reasons, human rights have at least rhetorically come to the fore of American and European foreign policy, with the result that it is now possible for the U.S. to wage war for humanitarian purposes in campaigns that seem otherwise irrelevant to the national interest. In this telling of the story of the "rights revolution," as the philosopher and Iraq war proponent Michael Ignatieff has called it, the end of the Cold War has opened up new vistas for the enforcement of human rights across the globe.

There is another way to tell the story, however. In this telling, the march of rights took a wrong turn as early as 1948, when the U.N. adopted its Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The U.N. Charter had established state sovereignty as the basis for international law. This meant that weaker states would be protected against stronger states by the international community—and for all its flaws, the U.N. was instrumental in helping postwar, post-colonial states get on their feet. At the same time, the Universal Declaration promoted the principle of human rights in general, independent of sovereignty. Writing in the wake of World War II and the founding of the U.N., Hannah Arendt in The Origins of Totalitarianism echoed Edmund Burke's famous critique of the French revolutionaries' Declaration of the Rights of Man. "The calamity of the rightless," wrote Arendt, "is not that they are deprived of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, or of equality before the law and freedom of opinion—formulas which were designed to solve problems within given communities—but that they no longer belong to any community whatsoever. Their plight is not that they are not equal before the law, but that no law exists for them." Surveying the history of refugees and other stateless people over the prior 30 years, Arendt found that "not only did the loss of national rights in all instances entail the loss of human rights; the restoration of human rights, as the recent example of the State of Israel proves, has been achieved so far only through the restoration of national rights." There could be no rights without belonging to a sovereign jurisdiction; the U.N., by enshrining sovereignty on the one hand and "universal rights" on the other, had tried to solve the problems revealed in the interwar period, but ended up simply restating them.

The contradiction in the U.N. founding documents between inviolable human rights and inviolable state sovereignty remained essentially obscured throughout the Cold War, when neither the Americans nor the Soviets could seriously claim to believe in either. Even when the U.S. championed human rights under Carter, it retained its priorities: Forced to choose between socialists (or just serious land reformers) and human rights abusers, the U.S. always sided with the abusers. Suddenly in 1991, the choice became unnecessary. You no longer had to decide between leftists and rightists, since everywhere you looked there were only capitalists. And by the end of the Cold War, aerial weapons systems had advanced to the point where the military could conduct basically gratuitous wars, with little risk to soldiers' lives, at comparatively low cost—and without raining explosives indiscriminately on foreign populations. The new precision-guided weaponry offered the hope of truly distinguishing the good guys from the bad guys, as long as they stayed far enough apart.

In the '90s, the language of human rights came into its own. The people of Kuwait, when a U.S.-led, U.N.-approved coalition drove Iraq out of their country, were the citizens of a sovereign state invaded by Saddam Hussein—but not so the Iraqi Kurds, who were Saddam's own citizens when he invaded their lands. Nevertheless the U.S., Britain, and France established a no-fly zone to protect the Iraqi Kurds from their internationally recognized head of state. Likewise, the Tutsis of Rwanda and the Albanians in Yugoslav Kosovo were victims of the state in which they lived, and their rights, insofar as they had any, could only be defended by an international community. In one case those rights were defended, in the other they were not. What were the U.S.'s principles, and what was its practice, when it came to human rights? Neither seemed clear, and the debate about them was equally confusing and confused.

The only people who seemed consistent about intervention were too far right or left to get much of a hearing. Throughout the 1990s, the right opposed intervention from a "realist" perspective, arguing that it was not in the national interest to go on humanitarian adventures abroad. The left, which was in the process of forming a powerful movement against the "structural adjustment" policies of the giant international financial institutions, and also promoting a humane globalization (carelessly labeled "anti-globalization" by the mainstream press), opposed the interventions on anti-imperialist grounds. In the end, neither view had much effect, as a strong hawkish core emerged: Bob Dole, the Republican leader in the Senate and 1996 presidential candidate, was a strong proponent of intervention in Bosnia; so too, eventually, was Bill Clinton. Among respectable pundits, the right-leaning hawks were neoconservative, the left-leaning hawks neoliberal. If there was a real distinction it was in their attitudes toward international institutions like the U.N. Neoconservatives loathed the U.N.; neoliberals liked it. But it was the Kosovo intervention, which most egregiously circumvented international institutions (in the name of a good cause), that was the final Clinton intervention. Thus at the end of the '90s neoconservatives and neoliberals had reached the same place, disdainful of seeking "multilateral" permission for their wars.

Perhaps the liberals would soon have returned to their more traditional interest in international institutions; perhaps the conservatives would have gotten out of the human rights business altogether; perhaps not. In any case the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 altered—or scrambled—people's thinking. The next American war was an unusual operation: a mission to overthrow a government (the Taliban) that almost nobody recognized as legitimate, in order to deprive a belligerent non-state actor (al-Qaida) of a staging ground. Realists on the left—few remained on the right—argued for a narrowly defined police action to root out al-Qaida. Supporters of all-out war, soon the only respectable position, invoked the liberation of Afghan women as a bonus legitimation. And a year and a half later came Iraq. The war was sold to the public under many pretexts, but for liberal hawks the dominant reason to invade was Saddam Hussein's former crimes (and potential future crimes) against his people. There was no question that from a humanitarian perspective a world without Saddam would be a better world. And we were going to take him out.

In retrospect, it's easy to see that the argument over humanitarian intervention that should have taken place in the years after Kosovo was replaced and muddled by an argument over the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war. In 2000–01, a high-powered international commission convened to discuss what the international community should do in the event of a human rights crisis in a failing state; one of their recommendations was that the concept of "humanitarian intervention" be scrapped, as being needlessly prejudicial (like "pro-life"), and replaced with the more capacious, less necessarily violent "responsibility to protect." The group's report was humane and intelligent, though not without problems; it was also presented before the U.N. Security Council in December 2001, at which point it had been "OBE," as they say in Washington—overtaken by events. The same happened with Samantha Power's "A Problem From Hell": America and the Age of Genocide, the summa theologica of liberal interventionist historiography, which was published in 2002. The book immediately became part of the debate over Iraq, with George W. Bush famously scribbling NOMW ("not on my watch") in a memo outlining its arguments. Not long after, he launched Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The argument over pre-emptive war was decided, resoundingly, against, though not because Stephen Holmes wrote essays in the London Review of Books or Jacques Rancière contributed an elegant elaboration of Hannah Arendt's argument about rights in the South Atlantic Quarterly (subscription required). The argument was decided by the 126,000 or so Iraqis killed during the U.S. invasion and in the civil war that followed. No one will be invading a terrible but stable regime to hang its leader anytime soon; at least we won't. Now, in 2011, we are bringing the troops gradually home from Afghanistan and Iraq, the results mixed. Neither war was waged for human rights, and it seems clear that humanitarianism shouldn't have been part of the discussion, not in the way it was. How humanitarian is it to unleash one civil war and reignite another?

In Libya, we find ourselves faced with a more classic, '90s-style intervention. The background could not be more stark: A courageous rebellion against a brutal and unbalanced 40-year dictatorship was inspired by the nearby uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia. Unlike the dictators of those countries, Muammar Qaddafi gave no thought to stepping down. The rebels armed themselves and began to march toward Tripoli, capturing several towns on the way. They carried Kalashnikovs and RPGs. Qaddafi's days were numbered! But his army had jets, and tanks, and heavy artillery. Once it began a counteroffensive, the rebels proved powerless. They retreated and retreated, until Qaddafi's forces reached the outskirts of Benghazi, the largest city in the Libyan east and the heart of the rebellion. Qaddafi took to the radio. "It's over," he told the rebels. "We are coming tonight. Prepare yourselves. We will find you in your closets. We will show no mercy and no pity." People on the ground began to predict the massacre of Benghazi. They even used the word genocide, if only to disclaim it: "Not a slaughter amounting to genocide," clarified the New York Review of Books, "but almost certainly a bloodbath." (And what was the exact word these exquisite splitters of hairs had in mind for the killing resulting from NATO bombardment?) TheNew Yorker's understated Jon Lee Anderson was in Benghazi as Qaddafi's army approached. He had been watching the hapless rebels for weeks, growing increasingly alarmed at their inadequate arms and training. Now artillery could be heard on the edge of town; in the city's lone functioning Internet cafe the young people updated their Facebook profiles. Social media weren't going to help them now. "The war was finally coming to Benghazi," Anderson wrote.

And then it didn't. NATO jets swooped in, forcing Qaddafi's army back. Benghazi was saved. Nor was it a unilateral mission. The Arab League had sought the intervention; none other than Lebanon, home of Hezbollah (still furious at Qaddafi for the "disappearing" of a Lebanese Shiite chief in the late '70s), sponsored the resolution in the U.N. Security Council. The White House had the finesse to "lead from behind," as they put it. And the rebels, having taken several cities in the first weeks of the uprising, had established what international law calls "belligerent rights"—they were a force that could claim some legitimacy both inside and outside the country. Many of the arguments that should have given pause to American policymakers before the Iraq war, and to some extent during the Kosovo bombing, were moot here. This intervention was U.N.-approved, and seemed to emerge from a genuine concern for the casualties that would have ensued had Qaddafi's forces been allowed to proceed into Benghazi. (A more realpolitik consideration was to place the U.S., belatedly, on the side of the Arab Spring; we would be less resented as the old enabler of Mubarak if we were also the newfoe of Qaddafi.) Ryan Lizza's New Yorker article describing the days leading up to Obama's decision for war singled out Samantha Power, senior director for multilateral affairs on Obama's National Security Council, as one of the motors for the intervention. America was finally choosing values over money.

And yet somehow it gave one a toothache—like the toothache Vronsky had at the end of Anna Karenina, when he went off to Belgrade to humanitarianly aid the Orthodox Christians in their uprising against the Turks. Wars waged by the U.S. are inevitably imperialist; that is part of the toothache. But are they also irredeemably so? Can the local good—the protection of these people or that city—never outweigh the global problem that human rights are, at best, invoked inconsistently and hypocritically, and at worst to excuse any and every war? Humanitarian warfare, clearly bad in principle, often looks good from the standpoint of a particular people at a particular moment, when they are threatened with death. And so the temperamental opponent of intervention can come to feel that while in general he opposes this kind of thing, well, in this case he guesses he supports it—and in that case too, and the next one. He can come to feel like somebody who has principles only for the sake of suspending them. This was the real cause of the toothache—it was déjà vu all over again. In general, you reject humanitarian war—but have you ever met one you didn't initially like? For liberals or leftists who neither automatically support nor automatically oppose all interventions, the Libya war has prompted something paradoxical: mixed feelings in especially pure form. Here the humanitarian motive for intervening has seemed more genuine and decisive than in any prior case. And the chances of doing real good looked favorable. Yet we've got to stop doing these things!

What has been the result? NATO almost immediately expanded the concept of "civilian protection" granted in the U.N. resolution to include regime change—what safety could there be for the rebels if Qaddafi stayed in power? Again, it was hard to argue: Qaddafi was a maniac and a murderer. But Qaddafi held on. One of his residences was bombed, killing a son and several grandchildren, and still he held on. The rebels, while increasing in number and confidence, did not suddenly transform themselves into a well-armed, well-trained fighting force, and militarily a stalemate ensued. Here we were again: An idea that on the face of it was reasonable, and in a certain way "humane," was leading to further deaths, further damage to a country's infrastructure, and a political situation in which the rebels, emboldened by the NATO jets (and, eventually, attack helicopters), refused to negotiate until Qaddafi was gone. Meanwhile the International Criminal Court, the pride and joy of the liberal interventionists, filed suit against Qaddafi for crimes against humanity, thereby putting him beyond the pale. How could you negotiate with someone with nothing to lose? So a nonmilitary solution to a conflict that, Obama said, would be a matter of "days, not weeks," is, as of this writing, further away than ever, even after five months of bombing.

All this could simply be regretted as a well-intentioned plan not working well enough. But that issue of abrogated sovereignty cuts both ways—the American people are supposed to be sovereign, too. The Obama White House's attitude in this has been telling. Not only has Obama failed to seek congressional approval; his lawyers filed a laughable legal brief that argued that America was not even at war. As congressional Republicans correctly pointed out, the administration could not be serious! What could explain this fealty to the letter of international law, and utter contempt for the president's duty to get his wars through Congress?

The answer, it seems to us, can be found in the work of the humanitarian hawks; they have turned the world into a morality play, a ceaseless battle of good versus evil. In Power and the Idealists, his ambivalent farewell to the moralism of the generation of 1968, Paul Berman traced this worldview to the 1960s student left. Born too late to fight Nazis the way their parents did, idealistic young leftists in the prosperous countries of the West looked for Nazis where they could: in university administrations, in American carpet bombers, in the colonialist Israeli state. Even as they grew older and wiser, the hunt for Nazis continued, and continued; in 1999, it led them into Kosovo, and in 2003 it led some of them into the catastrophic invasion of Iraq. Berman was the most perceptive analyst of the humanitarian hawk mindset; Samantha Power was its most compelling exemplar. There are only three kinds of people in her A Problem From Hell: evildoers (Hitler, Pol Pot, Milosevic); saints (Raphael Lemkin, Jan Karski, George McGovern, Peter Galbraith); and cowards (everyone else). You're either with Power or with Pol Pot. The word evil is sprinkled liberally throughout the text (35 appearances), as are slaughter (65), mass murder (25), bloodbath (13), and massacre (99). The function of these words—as well as the word genocide, to whose propagation the book is partly devoted—is to place the evil people beyond the pale of politics, of negotiation, of human intercourse. Would you shake hands with a mass murderer? With the invocation of the word genocide, we move into some other sphere of human relations. Thought, strategy, negotiation shut down; there is only right and wrong, only fight or flight. Which is precisely, in fact, the point.

A politics this morally coercive may explain why a president who is a former law professor, and who came to power with the mandate to restore the rule of law, would so brazenly ignore the Constitution. But a politics this morally coercive is not a politics at all.

What has happened to human rights in the last 20 years is a hijacking, of the sort Napoleon managed with the Declaration of the Rights of Man when he turned Europe into a bloodbath, as Power would put it, under its banner. The search around the globe for genocides to eradicate is the ultimate rights perversion, for it reduces human rights to the right not to be brutally murdered in a particular way that fits the definition of genocide given in the Genocide Convention. This cannot be anyone's idea of a robust human rights. If human rights are to be reclaimed they need first of all to be restored to the realm of politics. Not the realm of morality, which is always and ever a discussion of good versus evil, but politics, a discussion and argument over competing legitimate aims—e.g., the aim of honoring sovereignty and not waging war, versus the aim of protecting the defenseless and ensuring their rights. Morally, it would clearly be better to be a democracy liberated by George W. Bush than a tyranny under Saddam Hussein. Politically, it may be better to bide your time under Saddam than be plunged into a civil war that will kill 100,000 or twice that many. A political rather than moral discussion of human rights might even lead us to acknowledge that a mass murderer like Muammar Qaddafi or George W. Bush has a legitimate constituency whose rights must also be kept in mind.

Meantime the historical record grows long enough for us to ask: Has there ever been a truly successful, truly humanitarian humanitarian intervention? Not of the Vietnamese in Cambodia, who deposed the Khmer Rouge for their own reasons (the Khmer kept crossing the border, and also murdered their entire Vietnamese population), and then replaced them with Hun Sen, who has been ruling Cambodia with an iron fist for more than 30 years. Not the Indian intervention in Bangladesh, under whose cover the Indian government arrested all student protesters in India. And not NATO in Kosovo, which, while it stopped Milosevic and ensured the safety of Kosovo, could not make it a viable state (it is now a failing state likely to be swallowed by Albania), and also led to the ethnic cleansing of the Serb population. Too bad for the Serbs, to be sure; but the creation of a safe space for the expulsion of a civilian population cannot be what anyone had in mind when they launched the planes. That there has never been a successful humanitarian intervention does not mean that there cannot be one in the future. But the evidence is piling up.

          Progress has been the motivation for immigration to the United States.        
Sunday, March 12, 2017

During the 2016 election, the issue of employment was the most important for the majority of the voters. But many think that the illusion of the American dream is in jeopardy under the new administration of Trump. With the new policies of a Republican government in Congress and the Executive Office what will be the impact on the daily life of the residents of the DMV? I wanted to know what opinion leaders in the field of employment, how they feel about the subject, and what opportunities and services available to the community.

For this survey, I spoke with representatives from the public, private sector and non-profit. Soon I understood that this subject is extensive and I had to divide it into parts to make sure that readers can take advantage of a wide range of opinions and services to cover it well.

During the elections, the rhetoric on unemployment was a constant theme. It was hoped that after the elections the new administration would take actions to create more work since although employment rates have improved, large segments of the population are unemployed.

But what most residents feel here is fear of the recent actions of the Trump administration. The policies that have been highlighted are those on immigration. Daniel, taxi driver at the DMV, said "such White House is crazy.”All my family and friends live with fear." Daniel believes that the new mandates are a harm to the trade.

Diana Ramirez, Director of the center of opportunities for restaurants (Restaurant Opportunities Center or ROC), not is in accordance with the orders Executive but says that his organization is ready for those political anti-immigrant. ROC has the support of a group of local and national organizations working to protect workers in their industry. After the "day without immigrants," the fruit of the manifestation was the implementation of a new initiative: the "restaurants sanctuaries." These shrines are safe spaces for immigrants. The sanctuaries are approved by the local restaurant owners and employees can receive protection from deportation. "We created a space where everyone has a seat at the table," said Ramirez.

And continue forward. For more information about these actions, please visit .

Gabriela Mossi, Director of the Washington English Center, says that although there is uncertainty at this time, "there are many opportunities for those who want to prepare for better jobs." The Washington metropolitan area continues to grow in the areas of hospitality, tourism, construction and health, explains, and "the immigrants are and will remain an integral component of these industries." The Washington English Center teaching English to adults since 1993, but in recent years has incorporated a practical and contextualized learning curriculum to train students. In addition, "we are working with other organizations as group to offer specialized courses in these areas."

The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Washington (Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce) also is focusing on initiatives for growth of its members and collaborates with the DC Work Investment Council. Ángela Franco, President of the Chamber, said that "people feel fear... but there are many opportunities that are not affected by the administration. In DC we have incredible programs in technology, engineering, and incentives for employing residents."

Odie Donald, II, Director of Department of Employment Services for the District of Columbia, details that have a multitude of programs and initiatives for women and minorities in them eight districts of DC. "Our duty is to serve the residents of the district and that includes protection of policies that could be dangerous for our residents. Have services as a "Workforce on Wheels, and collaborate with the sector private and organizations community to bring these messages to our residents." But we are going to do more. We are innovating our customer service system to ensure that DC residents have the best."

I found a big difference between two points of view. One is the fear of the new political rhetoric and that has aroused movements among those who feel hostigo and danger. But the influential in the field of employment offer opportunities and a more positive attitude.

To think, I went to Rumba Cafe in Adams Morgan where, they say, make the best mojito of the DMV. The owner, Gustavo, knows me well and I can always count on an inspiring environment. I wonder for what this difference?

I think that the answer is the lack of information and investment in effective communication to the community. In my experience as a political campaign manager, I know that victory is not achieved if the voter doesn't know who the candidate or issues. That requires investing in reach to the community and take advantage of the media that we already have in the hands. Although residents have a duty to be informed to develop and achieve the American dream; we must also develop communication systems designed for the same success or at least to be informed and not be surprised.

John Rodriguez - Senior Political Analyst, Latin time / the planet | 3/12/2017, 6 a.m.



          Tiny Signs of Consensus on Climate Change Emerge in U.S. Congress        
The U.S. Department of Defense is emerging as a safe space in which Republican members of Congress can affirm support for action on climate change.
          An Obituary for Microsoft Paint        

On Monday morning, the internet was abuzz with sad news: Microsoft, we learned, is finally killing off Paint, the seminal drawing program that has been around since the first release of Windows in 1985. Getting into the mournful spirit, the Guardian asked its readers to submit their memories of the program. On Twitter, at least one user marked the program’s purported passing with a gravestone seemingly drawn—where else?—in Paint itself.

Look into the story a little more deeply, and you’ll realize that things aren’t quite so grim. In a post on changes coming to Windows 10 this Fall, Microsoft indicates that it won’t be stripping Paint from its flagship OS—at least not yet. Instead, Paint is one of many features scheduled to be “deprecated,” which means that it will no longer be “in active development and might be removed in future releases.” In other words, Paint isn’t quite dead yet; Microsoft is just sending it off to a retirement home and ignoring it while it lives out its final days.

Nevertheless, many have embraced the sorrowful spirit, offering celebratory remembrances and reminding us how great the program could be. Wired, for example, “tracked down some of the best art made within Microsoft Paint.” Wired notes the top posts on Reddit’s r/mspaint community will “put your terrible paint creations to shame.”

Many of those images demonstrate a striking willingness to laboriously grapple with, and push back against, the program’s limitations. The creator of a finely rendered version of the “astronaut sloth” meme writes that he or she “spent 45 hours on this guy, only using a mouse.” For such artists, Paint was a challenge to be overcome, a creatively generative form of restraint, not unlike the arbitrary restrictions that writers of the Oulipo school place on themselves.

It’s hard not to be impressed by their work, but dwelling on masterpieces misses what makes Paint worth mourning, even if it’s not actually passing into the digital twilight today. Microsoft Paint was always a clumsy program, but in its clumsiness, it offered a powerful demonstration of what computers could do. It was just sophisticated enough that there was always some new trick or tool to discover, but just simple enough that you could stumble through it on your own, sans tutorials or manuals. A virtual breach in the otherwise baffling circuitry of the machine, it offered a way in, acknowledging that computers were complicated, but told us not to fear them.

Try to recall your first time playing with it: Remember what it was like to hold the mouse’s left button down as you dragged your cursor across the screen. Maybe your hand shook slightly. Maybe you weren’t certain what you were trying to draw. One way or another, the line was jagged and rough, but it was still yours. Here there was evidence, however inexact the execution, that you could leave your own mark on the digital world.

Even if you never mastered the program, you likely found idiosyncratic ways to use it. An open, experimental canvas, it amplified your other interests instead of dictating your activities: I remember mapping out mazes for the Dungeons & Dragons games I would play with my friends—square rooms linked by rectangular corridors. Later, I tried to make my own Magic: The Gathering cards. No one would have confused my bootleg template with the real thing, but it still felt like I was contributing, not just playing a game that others had designed.

Those experiences are distant now, but I found myself thinking back on them recently as I experimented with Spaces, Facebook’s virtual reality meeting room product. Grabbing a blue pencil from the menu, I began to scribble, thick lines appearing in the air before me. As with my first experiences in Paint, my initial attempts were clumsy, the lines appearing and disappearing as I struggled to learn the controls. Trying to sign my name, I was left with something that looked like an imitation of Cy Twombly, and a bad one at that. And yet, as I had been when I first opened Paint decades before, I was still impressed with myself, newly convinced that I might one day master this strange interface.

Once, Paint served a similar function. Its awkardness was, to some extent, the point: The blank screen was a digital safe space, one in we could experiment on our own terms without risk. If Paint is fading now, it’s likely because we no longer need the assurances it offered us. Where it once helped us learn to think of the mouse as an extension of the hand, our fingers now slide over trackpads and touchscreens. We have long since internalized the things Paint taught us, allowing us to take up other tools.

Thus, while Microsoft may not actually be killing off Paint, it is, in a manner of speaking, dead already. But insofar as its lessons linger, Paint will never really die.

          Future Tense Newsletter: Are Social Networks Profiting From Terrorism?        

Greetings, Future Tensers,

Earlier this year, the families of three victims of the San Bernardino terror attack filed suit against Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. Their claim? That the companies share responsibility because they profited from propaganda that helped radicalize the perpetrators.

The new legal theory, writes Nina Iacono Brown, is based on federal laws that make it illegal to provide “material support” to terrorists—including “communications equipment.” Lawsuits related to the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting, the 2016 Brussels airport bombing, and the 2015 Paris attacks take a similar tack and will soon put the theory to the test in court.

How terrorist organizations like ISIS harness social media to recruit and disseminate propaganda is also on the mind of British Prime Minister Theresa May. In the wake of recent attacks, both she and other European leaders are moving forward with plans “deprive the extremists of their safe spaces online.” However, as Molly Land explains, the policies would actually make us less safe in the long run. Moreover, she writes, such moves would act as an invitation for countries to censor and punish digital speech even more than they already do—a scary thought, considering what recently happened in Pakistan.

This week, our Slate writers have also been following the latest fallouts and rollouts from transportation companies Uber and Lyft. Jonathan Fischer bids good riddance to Uber CEO and founder Travis Kalanick. Henry Grabar has some questions about the company’s new tipping function. (We’ll add one more: Will we tip the robot drivers too?) Will Oremus explains how the new, not-exactly-novel Lyft Shuttle undermines city buses. And Rahul K. Parikh asks whether doctors should play along with the Uberization of health care.

Other things we read between trying to match Maluuba’s record Ms. Pac-Man score (damn it, Inky!):

On second thought: Should the Patent and Trademark Office be allowed to change its mind? Rochelle C. Dreyfuss explains how the Supreme Court will soon decide.

Blatant negligence: Josephine Wolff unpacks the story of the breach of 198 million voter files privately compiled for the GOP.

Back in the ring: A few weeks after seemingly leaving the cause behind, Netflix announced that it was rejoining the fight for net neutrality. Angelica Cabral writes why it may be best for business after all.

Rebooting the library: Chris Berdik explains how libraries are moving beyond quiet stacks to become “lively, high-tech hubs of collaborative learning.” Don’t worry, the books still have a place alongside the computers, robots, videos, circuitry kits, and 3-D printers.

Three years after the release their best-selling book, The Second Machine Age, MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee are back with a deep dive into the key forces driving our increasingly digital age. Join Future Tense on Thursday, June 29, in New York for a conversation with the pair about their latest book, Machine, Platform, Crowd, and about how to build a future that doesn’t leave humans behind. RSVP to attend here.

Prepping for what really happens after societal collapse,
Kirsten Berg
for Future Tense

Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University.

          Theresa May's Ideas About Online Safety and Terrorism Might Backfire        

This post originally appeared on The Conversation.

In the wake of the recent attacks in Manchester and London, British Prime Minister Theresa May has called on social media companies to eliminate “safe spaces” online for extremist ideology. Despite losing the majority in the recent election, she is moving forward with plans to regulate online communications, including in cooperation with newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron.

May’s statement is just one of several initiatives aimed at “cleaning up” the internet. Others include Germany’s proposal to fine social media companies that fail to remove illegal content and the Australian attorney general’s call for laws requiring internet companies to decrypt communications upon request.

It is understandable to want to do something – anything – to help restore a lost sense of security. But as a human rights lawyer who has studied the intersection of human rights and technology for the last 10 years, I think May’s proposal and others like it are extremely concerning. They wrongly assume that eliminating online hate and extremism would reduce real-world violence. At the same time, these efforts would endanger rather than protect the public by curtailing civil liberties online for everyone. What’s more, they could involve handing key government functions over to private companies.

Weakening security for all

Some politicians have suggested tech companies should build “back doors” into encrypted communications, to allow police access. But determined attackers will simply turn to apps without back doors.

And back doors would inevitably reduce everyone’s online safety. Undermining encryption would leave us all more vulnerable to hacking, identity theft and fraud. As technology activist Cory Doctorow has explained: “There’s no back door that only lets good guys go through it.”

The harms of speech?

May’s statement also reflects a broader desire to prevent so-called “online radicalization,” in which individuals are believed to connect online with ideas that cause them to develop extreme views and then, ultimately, take action.

The concept is misleading. We are only beginning to understand more about the conditions under which speech in general, and particularly online speech, can incite violence. But the evidence we have indicates that online speech plays a limited role. People are radicalized through face-to-face encounters and relationships. Social media might be used to identify individuals open to persuasion, or to reinforce people’s preexisting beliefs. But viewing propaganda does not turn us into terrorists.

If it isn’t clear that removing extreme or hateful speech from the internet will help combat offline violence, why are so many governments around the world pushing for it? In large part, it is because we are more aware of this content than ever before. It’s on the same platforms that we use to exchange pictures of our children and our cats, which puts pressure on politicians and policy makers to look like they are “doing something” against terrorism.

Overbroad censorship

Even if online propaganda plays only a minimal role in inciting violence, there is an argument that governments should take every measure possible to keep us safe. Here again, it is important to consider the costs. Any effort to remove only “extremist” content is destined to affect a lot of protected speech as well. This is in part because what some view as extremism could be viewed by others as legitimate political dissent.

Further, the exact same material might mean different things in different contexts – footage used to provoke hate could also be used to discuss the effects of those hateful messages. This is also why we are not likely to have a technological solution to this problem any time soon. Although work is underway to try to develop algorithms that will help social media companies identify dangerous speech, these efforts are in early stages, and it is not clear that a filter could make these distinctions.

The risks of private censorship

Trying to eliminate extremist content online may also involve broad delegation of public authority to private companies. If companies face legal consequences for failing to remove offending content, they’re likely to err on the side of censorship. That’s counter to the public interest of limited censorship of free speech.

Further, giving private companies the power to regulate public discourse reduces our ability to hold censors accountable for their decisions – or even to know that these choices are being made and why. Protecting national security is a state responsibility – not a task for private companies.

If governments want to order companies to take down content, that’s a public policy decision. But May’s idea of delegating this work to Facebook or Google means shifting responsibility for the regulation of speech to entities that are not accountable to the people they are attempting to protect. This is a risk to the rule of law that should worry us all.

The way forward

There is, of course, online material that causes real-world problems. Workers tasked with reviewing flagged content risk harm to their mental health from viewing violent, obscene and otherwise disturbing content every day. And hate crimes online can have extraordinary impacts on people’s real-world lives. We need to develop better responses to these threats, but we must do so thoughtfully and carefully, to preserve freedom of expression and other human rights.

One thing is certain – a new international treaty is not the answer. In her June 4 statement, May also called on countries to create a new treaty on countering the spread of extremism online. That is simply an invitation to censor online speech, even more than some nations already do. Nations need no additional incentives, nor international support, for cracking down on dissidents.

Human rights treaties – such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – already provide a strong foundation for balancing freedom of expression, privacy and the regulation of harmful content online. These treaties acknowledge legitimate state interests in protecting individuals from harmful speech, as long as those efforts are lawful and proportional.

Rather than focusing on the straw man of “online radicalization,” we need an honest discussion about the harms of online speech, the limits of state censorship and the role of private companies. Simply shifting the responsibility to internet companies to figure this out would be the worst of all possible worlds.

          Reminder: Chicago Safe Spaces Tour        
As a promised follow-up to the original posting, I’ll be conspicuously attired in something resembling this (but without the hood). Well, and pants, shoes, etc. Also, there is a slight chance that I will actually talk my way into the tour of what I am calling Pierce the Younger, but it is to end at […]
          Chicago Safe Spaces Tour, 9-10 April        
Sycophants, satellites, holobionts, camp followers, groupies, collaborators, stalkers, uncommitted delegates, and newsletter subscribers are invited to check your privilege and join me and a few others in a series of environments where you can be without fear of being made to feel uncomfortable, unwelcome or challenged on account of biological sex, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender […]
          Best Gay Bar        

Hall of Fame: Babe's of Carytown

First Place: Godfrey’s

308 E. Grace St.

Second Place: Barcode

Third Place: Cha Cha’s Cantina

For more than 25 years, Hall of Fame inductee Babe’s of Carytown has been a fun, boisterous but always secure haven for the LGBT community. “We are a laid-back, safe space, and neighborhood bar,” owner Vicky Hester says. “Our motto is ‘Fun is the best thing to have.’” The same motto could apply for the first-place winner in this category, Godfrey’s Nightclub on Grace Street. It offers nightly shows or just throws a big ol’ party. And if you haven’t hit its Sunday drag brunch yet, do so immediately. It’s a Richmond institution.

          Advances in Plumbing Design for Healthcare        

Healthcare facilities are now striving to meet the needs of all patients to offer not only healthy and safe spaces, but inclusive spaces as well. Recent advances in plumbing design for healthcare facilities are helping to keep all patients and caregivers safe and healthy. This course reviews innovations in plumbing design and how these designs support trending healthcare needs, such as infection prevention, behavioral healthcare, and bariatric and ADA patients.
          Liberal Students Unite Against First Amendment Rights of Conservatives on ‘The Fosters’        

Remember when college campuses were supposed to be places of free speech that enabled young people to form opinions based on hearing different points of view? In today’s world, that is only a fond memory. The August 8th episode of Freeform’s The Fosters, titled “Telling,” perfectly illustrated how liberal students no longer accept the First Amendment rights of conservative students on campus.

While on a college campus where she monitors an art class, Callie (Maia Mitchell) is approached by a male student asking her if she’d sign a petition to stop the appearance of a conservative speaker invited to talk to students by a “right wing student group.” ”You look like a human who cares about other humans,” he says.

An invitation extended to an immigration reform expert by a conservative group on campus has triggered the liberal snowflakes. In their sheltered minds, a differing opinion must be stopped. It is claimed the expert has “no real academic credentials” and would “spread her hateful rhetoric on campus.” Difference of opinion equates to hate, apparently. Callie declines to sign the petition, as she is trying to maintain a low profile these days.

Well, regular viewers of this show know Callie is unable to keep a low profile and naturally she ends up joining in with the group after attending a party meant as a fundraiser for Mariana’s (Cierra Ramirez) roller derby team. Mariana’s team mentor, Ximena (Lisseth Chavez), had to be reined in by another friend when she began to challenge police called to break up the party due to noise complaints.

Callie gave Ximena a ride home and asked her why she couldn’t risk being arrested. Yes, you guessed it. Ximena is in the country illegally because she has not reapplied for protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival act (DACA), as she is required to do. She gives Callie her reason for disobeying the law as not wanting to jeopardize her parents by the government knowing their address. I guess her parents never bothered to go through the process of being in America legally, either.

Callie, to her credit, tells Ximena that there is a difference between being brave and standing up for yourself – in this case, arguing that since the party had a permit, the police weren’t entitled to break it up early – and being stupid, “even if you are right.” Ximena said, “I have to fight for my right to be here.” Completely lost on Ximena is that she has no right to be here, along with the fact that she loses her right to complain that she can be deported if she is unwilling to comply with the rules that allow her to stay in this country legally under DACA. Instead of being grateful, she acts entitled.

So, as the show comes to an end, Callie joins in with the group of students determined to stop the conservative from speaking on campus. When the guy with the petition notices her, he remarks that she must care about other human beings after all. Callie responds, “I care about keeping people from spreading hate.”

A conservative speaker invited to speak on a college campus about immigration reform is the same as “spreading hate” and tolerance of others only goes one way. This is where we are, America. Art imitates life. Reality will really bite one day when the graduates leave their safe spaces and face the real world of lots of different opinions. Too bad they won’t be able to participate in a debate over ideas, only having listened to one side for so long.

          Please Donate        
Hello anyone who happens to stumble upon my blog. Please check out the following Indiegogo link (a fundraiser that I am part of):

It’s never a good thing when an enraged heart and an engorged sentimentality dominate logic and practicality, but that’s about where we are with the debate over the NHL’s decision to pull out of the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.

Take Monday’s Associated Press report that reconfirmed what had already been confirmed by USA Hockey: That any player on an NHL contract would not be allowed to play in the Olympics.

That goes for NHL players, AHL players on NHL contracts and everyone else with an NHL deal. It’s the reason why USA Hockey cautioned veteran players and college players thinking about the Olympics that signing an NHL deal would end those dreams. And while the NHL is the one driving this, USA Hockey is the one obeying the will of its “partner.”

Cue the outrage over the NHL keeping minor league players from their own Olympic dreams, including the odd notion that interest would be exponentially higher if, like, Cal O’Reilly or some other Marlie were playing for Team Canada. Which is ridiculous, unless we’re talking about Brooks Laich.

Cue the misstating of the actual story, which is that minor league players are very much eligible to participate in the Olympics IF they’re on minor league contracts. AHL President David Andrews reiterated that with Yahoo Sports this week, saying that “AHL contracted players may go if assigned by their club.”

So, Zack Stortini Nation: our boy is very much eligible for the Olympics should the Charlotte Checkers allow him the chance.

(Whether AHL teams will actually do this is another issue, considering their own needs and pressure from the parent clubs.)

Again, think about this logically regarding AHL players on NHL contracts: Does the League really want the Edmonton Oilers to have to tell Connor McDavid he can’t represent Canada but Joey LaLeggia can because the former is in the NHL and the latter is in the AHL?

And if one of the driving arguments for the NHL staying home is “we take all the risk but get little of the benefit,” why on earth would they ship their safety net to South Korean for three weeks? So Malcolm Subban can blow out his knee playing goal for Canada in an exhibition tournament, Tuukka Rask does the same for the Bruins in March, and it’s the Anton Khudobin Show for the Boston Bruins the rest of the way?

I don’t know. It seemed pretty obvious that if the NHL isn’t going, anyone paid via an NHL contract wasn’t going. But that’s just me.

Speaking of “all the risk but get little of the benefit,” the other example of a raging heart trumping pragmatism was the heat generated by a recent Montreal Gazette column, written by the Impossibly Named Dick Pound.

“IOC’s Dick Pound rips NHL for its Olympics decision in op-ed column,” proclaimed Sportsnet, and that he did, as well as assigning an enormous amount of import to a tournament in which the NHL has participated a grand total of five times.

“The Olympic tournaments finally became events in which the best players in the world participated. The game continued to grow internationally and the fan base became global,” wrote Pound, who probably also credits the World Baseball Classic with MLB’s popularity in Japan.

Let’s take a look at the guts of this, shall we?

I “get” the economic argument. But I also believe that there are at least two larger interests in play.

OK, let’s stop right there.

Dick Pound is the senior active member of the International Olympic Committee. He “gets” cute in this column by ironic-quoting words like “negotiations” to describe the talks between the NHL and the IOC, the inference being that the NHL didn’t do so in good faith, one supposes. What he doesn’t do, of course, is turn the microscope around and point it at his own organization’s stubborn avarice, which is actually why we’re in this pickle.

And that’s odd, because Pound has never been one to shy away from calling out the Olympics for its corruption.

The first is a responsibility for growing and promoting an exciting game, which is important for the sport, its players and spectators throughout the world. It is not sufficient for the NHL to be content with plucking the low-hanging financial fruit, but to fail to invest in the future of the game. 

This is in reference to the NHL’s desire to go to China in 2022, but not South Korea in 2018.

Now, one can argue the merits that the Olympics “grow the game,” which has always seemed born from two American wins in 1980 and the myth-making that followed it. One can argue that two weeks every four years doesn’t grow an established sport any larger than it already is. The Golden Goal is an important part of the Sidney Crosby Story, but he was already Sidney Crosby.

(As a sidebar to all of this: “Growing the game” would seem to benefit from true parity and the formulation of new, sudden stars on such a large stage. Something an NHL-less Olympics would seem to create, for what it’s worth.)

But Pound is conflating “growing the game” with “growing the brand,” and that’s the NHL’s aim as much as it’s the IOC’s aim in protecting the Olympic brand at all costs. When it comes to growing the brand, one major sticking points between the NHL and the IOC has been placing NHL branding on Olympic hockey, and sharing in NHL/Olympic merchandise. The NHL sees growing the brand as growing the game, and good luck getting the IOC to share in that (financial) growth, even if it means something as simple as NHL signage on Olympic rinks.

We continue:

The second issue is the NHL’s decision to actively prohibit individual players, who want to represent their countries at the Olympic Games, from doing so. Aside from being heavy-handed and an abuse of its economic power, it is disrespectful to the rights and dreams of those players.

“An abuse of its economic power…” what the hell does that possibly mean?

That the NHL can mandate that its players play to the specifications of their contracts and at the will of the NHL, and that’s wrong? That the NHL will use the Olympics as a bargaining chip in CBA negotiations?

Also, as usual, when it comes to sharing the wealth, the IOC is going to run to the safe space of “the dreams of athletes” every single time.

We continue:

While I can see that it might be legitimate to try to discourage such participation, I believe it is (among other things) bad business to forbid or prevent such individual choices. Again, one does not have to be much of a prophet to predict that the NHL Players Association will exact a significant price for the NHL’s intransigence regarding the players when the next Collective Bargaining Agreement discussions begin. That, too, is bad business for the NHL — all of its own making.

Well, yeah, lockouts suck. On that we can agree.

But here’s what’s also bad for business: Shutting down your league in the middle of its season, loaning your assets to another business so it can profit from it, shouldering all of the risk and getting little to no palpable reward from it – either from the Olympics themselves, or the impact on the NHL in their aftermath. From gate to ratings, there is no Olympic Effect for the NHL. They’ve had ample time to study this.

So yes, it’s bad business when you’re helping drive an event that generates billions on billions on billions of dollars thanks in part to your brand – hockey is second to figure skating as far as Winter Olympics prestige sports – and seeing no benefit from it, especially in an Olympiad where the host city inspires such apathy.

The Olympics generated $9.3 billion in marketing revenues during the 2016 Rio Games. The IOC gets 10 percent of revenues from the Games. It’s much easier to spout off about crushing the dreams of athletes than having the IOC justify this incredibly unbalanced partnership with the NHL, beyond empty platitudes about “growing the game” and “let them play!”

But then the IOC has perfected the art of using the “Olympic Dream” as a monetary steamroller to crush logic and practicality. Ask Rio.


Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.


          SAFE SPACES FOR CHILDREN CONVOCATION by Kirsten Lee, Second-year M. Div.        
The Wartburg Seminary community recently met for a convocation entitled “Creating and Maintaining Safe Spaces for Children” in our congregations, communities, and homes. Victor Vieth, Senior Director & Founder of the National Child Protection Training Center at Gundersen Health System … Continue reading
          "In You I See The Future" - Turnpike (World Keeps Turnin' #2)        

Everyone keeps yelling about 2016 that it needs to get in the bin. A lot of awful, disgusting, despicable things happened, sure - but hey, a lot of beautiful babies were born, friends and loved ones to embrace, people banding together as a community against the seemingly ever growing mindless hordes of misogynistic/racist/bigoted/violent drones. We have to hold on to these, nurture these communities, tirelessly fight for them to grow and exist for our and future generations.

To go to a micro rather than macro situation, you can look at your local music scene, pretty much anywhere in the world, at any time in history. It is always a matter of kicking against the pricks, trying to express yourself and others, to keep open avenues of thought and inclusion, safe spaces for creativity and productive, exciting dialogue, to harbour communities of diversity and positivity. As places shift, as democracy and consumerism predicts that every market become a one-sided fight for the haves (money) and the have-nots, we see loved and occupied establishments devalued, sold out, closed up, vilified, abandoned. We see the landscape moulded into the faceless oases of monied tastemakers, corporate mouth breathers and dollar-sign-eyed smash-and-grabbers, trying to ride the wave of lucrative feasting before the carcass is stripped of flesh, energy, ingenuity, til all that's left is a vapid wasteland. We see it generation to generation. And as bad as all this sounds, there will always be those that refuse to change, that resist the mutation of their imaginations, that adapt to wading through the broiling tides without compromising their ideals. It has always happened, and I hopelessly, positively believe it will happen again.

Which leads me, vicariously or no, to Turnpike.

(excerpt from performance at this year's Sonic Masala Fest)

Context: this is the band that I always attribute to being the reason Sonic Masala exists. There were a multitude of events, moments, conversations and hallucinations on that feted weekend in Minehead in 09, the My Bloody Valentine curated ATP Nightmare Before Christmas (live - MBV x 3, Sonic Youth, Dirty Three, Lightning Bolt, Fucked Up, Swervedriver, A Place To Bury Strangers, Th' Faith Healers, De La Soul, Lilys, Witch, Robin Guthrie, etc etc; then all the shenanigans in and around all of this sonic beauty and brutality), but the clearest thing for me was staggering through the door to my chalet at 3am, a party of friends and strangers in full swing, and putting on 'Do The Broken' from the Brisbane trio's Humans Find Patterns album, now a decade old. Everyone stopped. Everything stopped. The drink and drug fuelled euphoria was spiked with adrenaline. What was this? What was this? I talked about the band to everyone, I made a beer curry with my mate Paul, and SM was born.

I even remember when I saw them for the first time - 2002 4ZZZ Market day. There to see 6 Ft Hick The Celibate Rifles and Ed Kuepper, amongst other things I have forgotten now, I stumbled across two bands that blew all bar 6ftH away - The Mess Hall (my love for this two piece would be hard, fast, short-lived) and Turnpike. Adam with his skewed cap, writhing guitar strangling, aggressive yet sinuous fretwork, his head waving to and fro across the mic so that every third throttled word was almost made out; Tim's bobbing body, bassline gargantuan and intense; Chris' brutal pummelling, seeming both lulling and punishing, but always propulsive. In the heat of the early October sun, I was forever marked.

Their wiry, wired, sometimes head-scratchingly insane live sets and song compositions became whispered legends that people around Brisbane and indeed the rest of Australia heard about, yet found hard to witness in person. It wasn't so much because they were hidden - it was because they were such a unique, one-of-a-kind band that did things their own way, which in this case was randomly, expressed exactly when the mood arose, with little to no fanfare, no fuss, no push for adulation, drive for commodity or care for continuity. Every set was unique, the band shapeshifting, playing with form, type and patience, but always, indomitably, Turnpike. The fanbase was small yet Juggernauts, punishers, acolytes, the marked ones. Blistering releases - an EP, an album, some tracks and CD-rs here and there...and then...

Fifteen years go by, and so does life. Marriages, families, home lives, occupations, financial boons and woes. Time dwindles, is stretched in infinite directions. The bulldozers of "progress" flying the flagship of chrome-and-steel-and-multiple-J-letterage desecrate the holy grounds that Turnpike and many bands of that era made holy. The old guards stand aside for the new. Shows become less frequent, much feted, barely attended. The fanbase remained core. But the new generation kept hearing the whispers. Catching glimpses. Not comprehending the abject idolatry, but not leaving unscathed either. What was witnessed, glimpsed, das not compute. Such fury, ferocity, abandon, intellect, generosity, tenacity. Yet the fires were lit.

2016 and finally a second album is here. Where There Is Nothing seems like a dire outlook yet totally suitable moniker for these clutch of songs. Seven years and many different recording periods in the making. People behind the scenes (namely Cam Smith of Incremental Studios and Tim Brennan of Tyms Guitars, plus the supporters and friends too numerous to mention) kept the fires burning. The ruminations on the world and its infinite wondrous and horrifying possibilities proliferate the ideas fuelling these nine long-gestating songs - and they sound pulled out and spewed forth, soul-bearing through angular aggression/transgression. The dichotomy of beauty and insight coming from a brute idiot; the beginning and end of all things, and the simulation/repetition of such things; ghost maps; the possible death of the universe as we know it in a scientific setting as opposed to a finger-on-the-red-button scenario. It is all there. 

As you can see, this isn't really a review. I don't feel equipped to review this album any more than what is dribbled here - the history of this band, its importance to me and to the music scene of Brisbane, the fact that there are bands of this ilk growing and encouraging every major underground music scene - and others growing to take their place - I'm too close to the heat of the furnace. Recently Violent Soho were given their own "plaque of fame" in Brisbane - and they used the opportunity to shout out Turnpike (alongside the likes of The Quickening, Eat Laser Scumbag and Dick Nasty) to have helped pave the way. It's already happening. There is hope. There is truth. There is Turnpike. 

          Around the Globe - Fundación Todo Mejora supports LGBT youth        

Todo Mejora means “it gets better”—and it’s this message that the Chile-based nonprofit has worked tirelessly to advocate for. In the wake of continual LGBT discrimination around the world, Fundación Todo Mejora strives to support the LGBT adolescents who face discrimination, including those considering committing suicide. Chile has one of the highest levels of suicide and school violence in Latin America. It’s projected that if nothing is done, in four years, one adolescent in Chile will end his or her life  nearly each day—an astounding metric that Fundación Todo Mejora hopes to change.1,2

Continuing  with our series about impactful organizations using Google for Nonprofits tools, this week we’re highlighting how Fundación Todo Mejora uses technology to spread its message and creates a safe space for these teenagers to find refuge in times of need.

Showing up when searching for help—Google Ad Grants

By implementing a strategic campaign using Google Ad Grants, the nonprofit targeted Google searches common to suicidal thoughts such as “I want to commit suicide”, “Who should I call if I want to kill myself?”, or “Help me, I want to die”. When a local person searches this on Google, Fundación Todo Mejora’s ads show up to intervene with supportive messages, and provide links to resources to find help. One 19-year-old girl who found support from these ads said, "Amidst my depression, I Googled how to commit suicide. Your foundation, ’Todo Mejora,’ popped up in my search results. It made me smile and reminded me the reason to go on.”

These ads have allowed Fundación Todo Mejora to save lives and navigate people to their website where they can find resources and support. As a result, website traffic increased by 20% in one year alone, which means the organization found a way to reach more people in need. This increase also prompted Fundación Todo Mejora to expand their suicide hotline support to 30 hours/week up from 7 hours/week.

Spreading the word—YouTube

To further increase visibility, Fundación Todo Mejora created a YouTube channel where adolescents share their personal stories, which have helped create a community of support, coupled with the call-to-action overlays inspiring others to follow suit, take initiative, and send donations. In their most popular video, with over 62,000 views, Demi Lovato speaks out against homophobic and transgender bullying and encourages victims to reach out for help.

TODO MEJORA - Demi Lovato, cantante

Storage & syncing—G Suite

Fundación Todo Mejora now uses G Suite exclusively for all its day-to-day operations, relying on Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Calendar to work productively. The unlimited user accounts and 30GB of storage per user has saved them time and money that once went towards paying for other storage products. Now, they can save important data in a shared and collaborative space which has helped them streamline their processes, preserve historical documents, and improve communication.

With more time, funding, and organizational processes, Fundación Todo Mejora can focus on expanding their support for youth in need and the LGBT community. Read more about their story on our Community Stories page on our Google for Nonprofits site.

To see if your nonprofit is eligible to participate, review the Google for Nonprofits eligibility guidelines. Google for Nonprofits offers organizations like yours free access to Google tools like Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Drive, Google Ad Grants, YouTube for Nonprofits and more. These tools can help you reach new donors and volunteers, work more efficiently, and tell your nonprofit’s story. Learn more and enroll here.

Footnote:  Statements are provided by Nonprofits that received products as part of the Google for Nonprofits program, which offers products at no charge to qualified nonprofits.

1 OECD (2016). Low Performing Students: Why They Fall Behind and How To Help Them Succeed. PISA. OECD Publishing. Paris

2.Ministerio de Salud de Chile (2013). Situación Actual del Suicidio Adolescente en Chile, con perspectiva de Género [Current Situation of Adolescent Suicide in Chile, with a gender perspective]. Programa Nacional de Salud Integral de Adolescentes y Jóvenes. Chile.

          Comment on What’s Current: Three Toronto police officers accused of rape walk free by Rachael        
The article about the women's swim team just horrifies me. Is this where we are going now? If that's the case, we need to get out and fight against this because very soon we won't have any safe spaces left. We will be meeting in secret and on the internet (thank god for the internet) because we won't be able to do anything as women, in public.
          Falling Awake: Interview with Claire M. Perkins        

Illustration from Chapter 4 of Fallen, "Catch a Fallen Dream" by Claire M. Perkins
Utilizing strong components of fable, Fallen: The Adventures of a Deep Water Leaf, written and illustrated by Claire Perkins, synchronistically echoes a number of the messages in the current empowerment-themed issue of WPWT. A light yet spiritually satiating dose of elemental life/soul essentials, it speaks to now, right from the dedication: "It is time to awaken. It is time to remember." The present calls for actionable awareness and conscious choice while also imploring us to recall our relationships to ourselves, to one another, to our environment, to our collective history, and to our spiritual roots as we journey forward through this earthly experience. Perkins proves an able guide as she takes us along on this fictive yet symbolically veridical journey through life, loss, love, transformation, healing, and self-realization.

As the author writes in the Acknowledgments "for those who dreamed the first dream and we who dream it forward," it is intended as a story for the dream-makers and dream-realizers.

Take the plunge with us as we explore the beauty of falling awake and rising to our dreams. (*Note that due to challenges with, the spacing is not uniform. This does not, however, take from the wealth of content generated by our wonderful interview subject. For more info on the author and links, check below the interview.)

Interview with Claire M. Perkins by Nicole M. Bouchard

1) The genesis of Fallen consisted of words in a dream. The concept of "a deep water leaf" was further nurtured by interpretations of your personal experience with grief over the loss of a child chronicled in your non-fiction title, The Deep Water Leaf Society: Harnessing the Transformative Power of Grief. Fallen's next stage of gestation stemmed from a workshop with Robert Moss—Writing as a State of Active Dreaming—where your protagonist, began to communicate with you and a brief, lively three act performance brought to life your initial chapters. One of Fallen's final stages, was a weekend Tom Bird Method retreat where the focus would seem to be part connecting with the “Divine Author” and part healing the writer as an individual.

Talk to us about the importance of consulting our dreams for inspiration, integrating the emotional truths of our experiences, acting out our work to see it come to life in another medium, and going within to heal our outer lives so we can clear our creative channels.

CP: Inspiration. The word has roots related to both the breath and spirit. To be inspired is to be animated by divine spirit, to breathe spirit in and through oneself. The Middle English meaning of the word inspiration was "divine guidance." I love thinking of the word in that way, that inspired writing is a channeling of spirit or divine guidance as much as it is one's own creativity. It is a divine partnership, a co-creative activity.

I have always felt that dreams are portals to the higher dimensions in which we exist, beyond the three dimensional world of our conscious, waking lives. Dreams connect us to our own higher selves. They create an opening through which inspiration, or divine guidance, may flow.

From Albert Einstein to Paul McCartney, I could cite endless stories of scientists, inventors, artists and other world-changers whose works were significantly influenced by dreams.

It is no surprise that dreams have been an integral part of my own writing process, because they have been a rich and integral part of my life experience. For me, dreams have always been a powerful source of healing, guidance and inspiration. I believe this can be true for everyone, yet it seems to be almost a lost art to engage with dreams and dreaming as a relevant and powerfully life-shaping resource.

Robert Moss, one of my most influential dream mentors, teaches that the re-creation of a dreaming culture, the sharing of dreams on a regular basis, the re-integration of dreaming into the fabric of everyday life in a reverent and honoring way, may hold the key to healing what ails human culture.

Dreaming, in a paradoxical way, may be the key to awakening.

This is one of the major themes within the story of Fallen. The characters are living within a dream and yet they are also the dreamers of the dream. When we understand and own our power to shape the collective dream in which we are living, we can quite literally change the world.

While writing is partly divine inspiration, it cannot help but be influenced by our own human experience and our meaning-making around what we experience. We write what we know, even if we don't set out to do so. And, sometimes, it is only as we write that we discover what we know. Our plots and characters reflect back to us, as much as to our readers, the stories of our own lives.

The phrase "deep water leaf" was given to me in a dream that would prove crucial to my healing journey after the death of my son, even though the dream came to me many years prior to his passing. I rediscovered the dream as I read through years of old journals in an attempt to make sense of his life and his death and the challenging relationship we'd had. The dream offered the phrase "deep water leaf" as the key to healing grief.

As I wrote my first book, The Deep Water Leaf Society, which chronicles the two years following my son's death, I felt the phrase "deep water leaf" represented the deep dive into an ocean of heartrending emotions. The miracle of becoming a deep water leaf was that, rather than being drowned in those emotions, [see also question 5] I found myself emerging into an altered state of being that I may not have reached in any other way.

Just as dreams can be a portal to spiritual connection, so can the most difficult and challenging of our life experiences. These experiences literally alter our reality. They cause us to ask the deep questions, to re-evaluate what's important and what we hold dear, to question and create meaning, and to anchor ourselves within new truths.

The new truths that emerge from our experiences inform our writing and other creative endeavors, imbuing them with our own unique perspectives and authentic voice.

Writing The Deep Water Leaf Society helped me to shed the last of my grief and to externalize the details of my experience, holding them at arm's length and seeing them from the witness perspective. Paradoxically, this helped me to better internalize and integrate my experience. Although the writing was cathartic, I was still left wondering just exactly what a "deep water leaf" really is. That question stayed with me for a number of years, and became the muse for Fallen.

At Robert Moss's Writing as a State of Active Dreaming retreat, we were encouraged to write daily, to incubate dreams to support our writing, and to invite our characters to speak to us. At the end of the retreat week, each of us was expected to present a final project, sharing either some portion of what we had written or some aspect of our experience during the workshop. We could do this through any medium we liked.

I elected to use Dream Theater for my final project, a method Robert often uses in his dreaming workshops, in which the dreamer chooses other workshop participants to act out various roles and scenes from their dream.

During the course of the week, I had compiled an ongoing dialogue with a leaf that falls from a tree onto the surface of a lake. She spoke to me from her place of origin, in the tree. She spoke to me as the falling leaf, and she spoke to me after her landing. The dialogues were quite dramatic, ethereal, and poetic. My little deep water leaf had quite a personality and I think she found me to be rather dull or dim-witted.

I chose a narrator to read the dialogues and others to play the roles of tree, leaves, wind, water, birds, and trampling moose. As the narrator read, I directed the three acts of the play, giving general cues while allowing the actors to put their own spin on things. At the end of the play, I interviewed the actors about their own feelings and responses to the roles they had played.

Just as writing my first book put me into witness state for my grief, watching the tale of my deep water leaf play out on the stage of Dream Theater brought the story to life for me. Suddenly I could see it and feel it in a way that had been escaping me. Instead of struggling to create it, I could see that it had a life of its own and a story it wanted to tell me. That shifted my approach to writing Fallen from struggling to answer a question (What is a deep water leaf?), to allowing the story and its characters to show me the answer.

Over time, through dreams and journaling and random thinking, the general outline of the story arc took shape in my mind. Still, I struggled with writer's block and made many abortive attempts at getting the story down on paper. Until I found Tom Bird.

Tom Bird's writing method emphasizes super fast, full-steam-ahead writing without thinking. Encouraging a writing speed of around 2000 words per hour, this writing method bypasses both the inner perfectionist and the inner critic and opens a channel for the “Divine Author Within” and the book itself to pour through. It helped me to get out of my “own way” and let the story tell itself.

An unbreakable rule in Tom's method is not to reread or edit anything until the entire book feels finished. Not polished, but finished. The result is a complete, if bare bones, story that can then be edited by rearranging the flow, filling in missing gaps, adding supportive research, fleshing out characters and polishing language.

Because this editing process opens the door back up to the perfectionist and critic that live inside, the second phase of Tom's process involves exercises geared toward self-healing, self-acceptance and visualizing success as an author.

It's one thing to get the words down on paper and quite another to launch them out into the world. I think we all have inner stories that block our creative channels and make us feel we have nothing to say that anyone would want to read. Doing the deep dive inner work is required not only to clear our creative channels but to empower us to share what emerges with the world.

2) Another interesting phase that led to the birth of the book entailed the evolution of your artistic abilities. This was another journey in and of itself which you shared on social media. Learning various techniques, you were able to communicate your vision through images as well as words, expressing different aspects of story, soul, and self.

Share what it was like on a personal level to begin to align your imaginings with your actual renderings, and how you discovered what style, method, tools, etc. worked/felt best to you as an artist in general and as guardian of what this story in particular would portray.

CP: Oh my goodness! I had no idea what I was committing to when I decided to illustrate this story myself. I am so glad that I did, but had I known at the outset how much time it would take to complete the illustration project, I would probably never have begun.

Thankfully, I was already taking classes with an amazing teacher at the Mesa Arts Center, Helen Rowles. I had grown particularly fond of colored pencil drawings. Prior to Helen's classes, I had dabbled in acrylic painting, mixed media, collage and digital compositing. I felt more comfortable with collage and compositing because I could rely on existing images to create art, which was much less intimidating that creating something from scratch. When I painted, the painting always fell short of the vision in my mind. It was frustrating.

Under Helen's guidance, I learned the skills of drawing well enough to capture my inner visions. The downside is that drawing and blending the many layers of colored pencil in a piece of any size can take a very long time to complete. Some of the 11"x14" and 16"x20" pieces I'd done in class had taken up to 35 hours each.

When I first envisioned the illustrations for the book, I thought there would be a scattering of them throughout—perhaps as many as three per chapter. There was no way I could spend that much time on them. It felt overwhelming.

Ultimately, I decided to use one illustration per chapter to highlight the primary action or feeling of that chapter. Even so, working in an 11"x14" format, full-blown colored pencil drawings would have been out of the question. I compromised by creating watercolor pencil backgrounds and using colored pencil only for the primary figures in each drawing.

It still took me a full year to complete the illustrations. Each of the drawings took about 10 hours to complete, and I really only worked on them during class, where I could count on Helen's guidance. The writing and editing were completed long before the drawings were!

I struggled with trying to decide how to illustrate some of the chapters. The ones that were the most fun were the chapters with the animal guides in them. My method was to find images online of the animals and settings I wanted to portray and to use those as general inspiration for drawing.

Because the theme of love runs strongly through the story, I incorporated heart shapes into each of the animals. And, of course, Alora herself and the other fallen leaves are all heart-shaped as well.

The most challenging aspects were trying to keep Alora's facial features consistent from drawing to drawing, and capturing her emotions. Skill-wise, a professional illustrator may have been able to do a better job in a much shorter time, but the illustrating experience deepened my connection to the story and its characters. I didn't really want to trust the handling of them to someone else. They felt too much like family to me. Drawing also provided a much needed respite from the work of editing and revision. I hope the reader will find that the drawings add character and charm to the story.

3) Using the elements, Fallen conveys what it can feel like to be at the "mercy of life's circumstances." In an interview last year, we discussed how in nature, seemingly destructive or chaotic forces like lightning, fire, and lava can be catalysts for growth and vital change, just as certain kinds of adversity can trigger similar results for people. There is a chapter of the book, Chapter 6, where the central characters learn to "harness the power of the wind," as a means of escape and survival, where once the wind had been a natural adversary or threat. In Chapter 9, Alora, the fallen deep water leaf, reflects on how the "wind itself hadn’t changed. But now she could steer by it."

A sub-theme of the WPWT empowerment issue revolves around how we begin to change our experience of the external by changing internally. On the Home page of the magazine, we feature a quote by George Bernard Shaw that reads: "Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything." The page from the editorial staff states that in "a time when many around the world, coming from different viewpoints, feel little is in their control, it is an opportune season to look within at what we can control." Toward the top, we say how this issue of WPWT "is an issue that aspires to conscript change as an amiable accomplice in life's adventure." That is what Alora and her companion, Blaze, do when they learn to employ the strength of the wind to deliver them from harm and further their travels.

Just as it took great practice and effort for Alora and Blaze to be able to channel the dynamic power of the wind, how would you personally say one can start viewing outer chaotic forces as vital inner change catalysts, and go about practicing ways of steering/controlling/channeling the extent of their impact?

CP: Ah, chaos. The cyclone that is the precursor to change, to creation, to evolution. It is the breakdown of the old that must take place before the breakthrough of the new. It is a beautiful thing, and it totally sucks when you're in the midst of it.
According to Barbara Marx Hubbard, futurist and conscious evolution advocate, if we study the 13.7 billion year history of the Universe, we will see that major crises preceded every quantum leap in the evolution of life. Crises stimulate innovation and transformation. They “are evolutionary drivers.”

It's true on the collective level and for each of us as individuals. But just like the deteriorating caterpillar, when we are in the midst of the chaos that precedes transformation, it's pretty difficult to imagine the wings we are about to grow.

How can we become more resilient in the face of chaos? Like a tree in a strong wind, we can learn to dance with it.

One powerful aspect of my training in expressive arts was learning to dance with Gabrielle Roth's 5Rhythms®. Roth’s rhythms, which mirror the rhythms of life itself, are “Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical, and Stillness.”
One begins the ecstatic dance in graceful flowing movement, moves into the choppier energizing beat of staccato, and from there tumbles into the auditory and physical cacophony of full-blown chaos. In the rhythm of chaos, the body lets go of controlled, orchestrated motion. Feet stomp, limbs flail, hair flies as heads swing. Beauty and order begin to re-emerge as the dancer slows into the joyful lilt of lyrical and then, finally, rests in stillness, filled with the energy of all the rhythms that came before.
What I discovered in my explorations of dancing the 5Rhythms is that once you have rested in stillness, you can carry some of it with you through the next cycle of chaos.
The dance has something to teach us about how we can face unexpected challenges, tragedies and external chaos.
First, when we are in the thick of it, we must surrender to it. When I lost my son, I had to enter into the chaos of all the feelings that loss awakened in me. I had to allow myself to grieve. I had to live in the uncertainty, not knowing if I would ever feel whole again. I didn't have to let go of control—it had been stripped from me. I could only surrender.
We must feel what we're feeling and not stuff it down. No stiff upper lip. If a tree remains stiff in the onslaught of wind, it will snap. Expressive arts and journaling provide safe space to explore, express and eventually release emotions. There is no way past but through.
Second, if we take time to create a place of stillness within us prior to the inevitable arrival of chaos in our lives, we can tap into that stillness even in the midst of chaos. We can develop stillness through meditation, prayer, spiritual practice, yoga, dance, deep breathing, energy clearing and centering practices.
Developing a daily practice that includes stillness is essential. Find what works for you and make it a priority. Once a practice has been established, it can provide respite during times of chaos and challenge.
Third, engage proactively in whatever the chaos is. When I lost my son, I was six months into a year-long training in expressive arts. It was a godsend. I used those tools to harness the transformative power of my grief. I knew my experience was going to change me. I could either be steamrolled by grief and left broken by it, or I could use its energy to steer the course of my transformation.
Now, I'm not going to lie. It wasn't easy. And there were days—many of them—when I was steamrolled by the loss. I did a lot of numbing with alcohol and mindless TV watching. But I kept coming back to the tools of expressive arts in order to actively engage with what I was feeling, to explore not only the wounds of this loss, but the wounds of my own childhood and the wounds of the world. I explored the deep questions about life and death, about meaning, about why we are here on this planet at all.
So, look at what your current chaos is trying to tell you. Search for the questions it wants you to explore. Engage with it on your own terms. Don't let it steamroll you, harness it.
Like the characters in Fallen, you'll have to experiment to find the best way to position yourself in relation to the wind of chaos. Blaze got knocked into the mud a few times before he figured it out, but he didn't give up. It takes practice to build enough strength and balance to remain upright and steer your own course. So, keep trying and don't give up.

4) Also in Chapter 9, Alora meets Lizard who explains to her how he shed his tail when it no longer served him, and grew a new one. This is easily parlayed into the deeper wisdom of shedding one's "tale" when it no longer serves them, and reframing self-story to gain insight, confidence, or empowerment. After listening to what Alora tells him, Lizard recounts her story from a different perspective, finishing by saying, "That’s a sight more pleasant and powerful story than what you started out with, wouldn’t you say?”

After grasping the necessity for her new tale, she then asks what the following step is. Lizard responds with advice involving a mix of taking stock of what works and envisioning what is desired: "Why, write your next chapter, that’s what! Dream your way forward. Change your focus from what isn’t working to what is. Fix one eye on everythin’ good and let the other scout ahead into the possibilities of what could be."

The same way that one event can be witnessed by five people and there can be five different versions of what happened, we have the capability to hold within us multiple versions of our life events, personal qualities, actions, and traits. We're often better, kinder reframers for others than we are for ourselves. What do you feel are some of the most effective ways of awakening to our more empowering truths and shedding the outmoded, restrictive tales we've either grown or been given?

CP: Synchronistically, I am currently writing a blog series called "Twenty Ways to Change Your Story." As for most things, it begins with awareness. What stories are we holding about ourselves, our lives, and the world?
Is life something to be afraid of, or an adventure to enjoy? Am I stuck with things as they are or can I change them? Am I a victim or am I a hero? Am I in this all alone or are we all in it together? Where can I find help? Where can I be of service? Can I face my fears and dive into them? And if I do, what treasures might I find? Can I take on the strengths and powers of those I meet? Can I become whatever I choose to be? Can I use my gifts to change the world?

The way you answer these questions becomes your story.

We grow deaf to our own stories. They go underground, into the subconscious, where they quietly but powerfully go about the work of proving themselves to be true. Our stories shape us. Yet we have the power to reshape our stories to better serve us and those around us.

We can start by tuning into and really hearing what we say and think. We can catch ourselves in the act of self-sabotage. At a linguistic level, we can eliminate words like "but" and "should" in favor of words like "and" and "choose." We can replace "I can't" with "Anything is possible, so how can I?" We can become more selective and deliberate with the words we put after "I am." We can sleuth our way into discovering the limiting stories we've been fed by our parents, teachers, and culture at large, and begin to question them. We can ask, Is this true? Who says so? What would it be like if it wasn't true?
Ultimately, it is not as important whether a story is true as it is how that story serves us. Bill Harris, founder of Centerpointe Research Institute and inventor of Holosync technology, teaches that we can choose our beliefs. He says, “Evaluating beliefs based on whether they’re ‘true’ or ‘false’ isn’t helpful . . . conscious, happy people evaluate beliefs based on whether or not they’re resourceful.”

The first thing to grasp about this is that we can choose what to believe. And the second is, that we can choose the beliefs that work for us, regardless of whether they are "true." Because, once we have chosen new stories and begun to act on them, our minds (and the Universe, if you choose to believe in the Law of Attraction) will work to make them true.

A major theme in Fallen is the idea that we are more than earthly beings—that we remain connected to the spiritual source that dreamed us into being. We are one with that source and empowered by it to move the dream forward as we choose. Adopting this belief, whether it is "true" or not, can be empowering in at least a couple of ways.

One, it would mean that anything that happens here is simply experience, as opposed to being good or bad. Even death is not the end, because in death we return to that higher state of being. This belief can make us brave in the face of frightening experiences.

Two, it would mean that we have a higher power to call upon in times of trouble. We don't have to feel alone or helpless. We have a powerful ally in our court at all times. We have never truly been separated from this aspect of ourselves. It has imbued itself so completely into our life, our dream, that we can find it wherever we look, as Alora does when she finds her wise animal guides.

This belief can override any of the other stories we've been telling ourselves. It awakens us to our larger selves. We can awaken within the dream and reclaim our power to shape it. Nothing is impossible. We can become "lucid dreamers" in the dream of life, shapeshifters and world-changers.

One basic choice we can make is whether to believe we are victims, at the mercy of the elements, or the heroes of our own story, empowered to choose how we will respond to the elements and interact with them. Even when we feel as though the wind has taken us off course, we may find it has actually taken us to where we most need to be. Alora discovers this when she drifts off course and encounters Lizard, the first of her wise guides, in Chapter 9.

The very elements that have been tossing us about may well be leading us home. Yes, we can learn to harness them. Yes, we can choose our course. And, we can learn to see how the elements may have been serving us all along, even when we were feeling tossed and tumbled by them [as explored in the previous question]. What if everything in our life experience was here to serve us? To help us grow? To help us awaken and remember?

Albert Einstein said, “The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.” How we answer that question is the biggest story, the most important tale, we'll ever choose.

Will we approach life from a place of fear or embrace it as an adventure? For me, the hero's journey begins by choosing to see the world, with all of its drama, uncertainties, and challenges, as friend rather than foe.

5) In Chapters 12 and 13, Alora undergoes some of her most transformative growth as she encounters Turtle and Dragonfly, and enters the Deep—needing to find a way to adapt and shift to survive the watery depths. In different ways, each of her guides has need for the surface and the Deep. Turtle navigates both. Dragonfly explains how dragonflies spend more than half their lives growing beneath the water before developing wings that allow them to soar. To me, the deep has always represented emotional depths, the subconscious, dreams, the mysterious and pregnant potential of the unknown. The story emphasizes the need to navigate both the Deep and the surface.

The question is this: how do we swim gracefully in the "Deep" without getting drowned solely in the dreaming stage (vs. surfacing to action), without getting weighed down by the heavier, deepest emotions (subjective vs. objective), or without forgetting to breathe and flailing in the face of the unknown?

CP: I love your perception and description of the Deep. It is all that you describe and more that I cannot completely put into words. The Deep is where we connect to the truth of our being, to our larger selves, to our source, to our oneness with all that is. It is the portal to our awakening.

          Catching Up: The Winter        
This summer will be a bit subdued as far as travels go, which is going to be lovely for me after the fall and winter of action. After returning from Purchase, I immediately launched into teaching a 22 person class in the Cabinet Program at North Bennet Street. I spent the better part of January working with the students there.

Here is the chair that we made. It's a scaled up version of my kid's hoopback (which is one of my personal favorites to have around the house). I made this version larger to better serve the students at the school as their bench chair. I think it's very cool that they get to make their own shop furniture. Scaling it up posed the usual challenges of adjusting the rake and splay of the legs so that the chair doesn't take up too much floor space, which is especially important in the tight spaces of the school.

As the class was winding down, I went down to Colonial Williamsburg to present, along with the outstanding Don Williams and the folks from the Cabinet and Jointers shop, on chairs...of course.

 The auditorium at the museum is first class with two cameras and projection to really get up close. Here Kaare is giving me a "hand" pumping the treadle lathe. Frankly, it was a bit much for me to turn, pump and talk! I got lots of help after wearing out Kaare from the jointers apprentices.

photo by Tom McKenna
For the presentation, I thought it would be fun to work out a new continuous arm and Kaare Loftheim, master cabinetmaker, agreed. Here is the chair that I made, based on a few photos in books and online. As usual, I learned some fun things about design and got to finally turn some Rhode Island balusters!
 Here is the complete chair and the one that I demonstrated
 The seat shape and the legs were a lot of fun.

 Plus I took a little more time with the distressing, placing a thin coat of shellac inbetween the undercoat and top coat of dark green. I was very pleased with the results.

 The swelling on the lower section gives ample material for the joinery, I'm not sure how much that played into the design thinking at the time, but it was apparent to me. The lower portion takes on much more of an important role in the look of the leg, which gives a nice balance. The image below is not good for proportions because of my phone lens, but you get the idea.

It was a great trip and an honor to be invited. If you ever get the chance to attend, I highly recommend it.
And here is your Georgie update! She is thriving and turning out to be the easiest dog I've ever had. Playful and loving but extremely calm on her own. She is now acclimated to all the shop noises and all my hustling about. When it gets to be too much, she just retires to her crate for a nap! We are still working on new experiences. The first time she saw the television she freaked, but now she sits calmly while it's on, I don't think that she had ever heard a voice come from a box.

I know it's gratuitous, but I"m smitten
Lil would approve of her technique
The truck is becoming a safe space, this is their first ride together

          Flagging Principles        
Some of you may have seen the story of a Conservative Jewish day camp which hosted a group of Palestinian youth from "Kids4Peace" and, as a gesture of welcome, hoisted a Palestinian flag alongside its usual American and Israeli flags. Right-wing Jews reportedly went ballistic (though I've seen little evidence any of them are affiliated with the camp or its campers), and the camp -- to its great shame -- apologized.

That the camp apologized rather than stand behind what ought to be a completely uncontroversial display of hospitality and welcoming is, of course, disgraceful. It's perhaps noteworthy that -- until this screed hit my inbox this morning -- the only commentary I'd seen from the Jewish press was dismay that the camp did apologize (e.g., here and here). Perhaps that generates some hope that, in the feature, the camp will model more of a backbone and not kowtow to the frothing right fringe. We could also talk, as several people have, about the sheer irony of throwing a fit about showing a Palestinian flag within a shouting distance of the Dyke March ban of Israeli (or "Israeli") flags. It's always nice to see just how fast some people reveal their ever-so-deeply-felt principles to be tickets good for this ride only.

But for me, the real thing to concentrate on is the tremendous bad faith of the conservative objectors in terms of what they purportedly expect out of Palestinians. Their argument is that it is wrong to raise a Palestinian flag insofar as Palestinians refuse to accept Jewish equality or relate to Jews on any basis but hate. The problem being, of course, that the flag was hoisted precisely to greet a contingent of Palestinian youth who were committed to doing just the opposite -- coming to a Jewish space in the spirit of friendship, equality, and respect.

In essence, the conservative demand of Palestinians is "you don't deserve acceptance until you start treating Jews with decency, respect, tolerance, and love, and if you do all of those things go fuck yourselves anyway."

It's grotesque and it's embarrassing. And it's a shonda that it carried the day.

UPDATE: I happen to know, from painful experience, that authors do not choose the headlines for their columns. So I really, really hope that whichever editor titled this piece "In raising the Palestinian flag, Jewish camp disrupts a safe space for Zionism" was making a sly jab at conservatives who proudly ride their high horse about the horror of "safe spaces" right up until the sight of red-white-and-green sends them into panicked whimpers about the existential threat to Jewish self-determination.

Honestly, if your Zionism is so weak that the mere presence of a Palestinian flag leaves you dazed and shaken, maybe it's time for you to take a break and leave the struggle to those of us with a bit more moxie.

          My Mammogram Diary. What I Learned From My Breast Cancer Scare        

Normally I like to keep things positive and uplifting, light and fluffy over here on Afrobella. I see my blog as a respite, an oasis, a safe space. And it is in this safe space that I’m going to share my story even if some of this is TMI. My TMI could help someone else.... read all

The post My Mammogram Diary. What I Learned From My Breast Cancer Scare appeared first on Afrobella.

          â€˜Easy and safe’ is over-rated        
Working with groups generates lots of dynamics. I want to focus on the dynamic between the facilitator and the group. There’s a long held position about facilitation that the facilitator needs to make the task easy for the group, and to create a safe space. I disagree. When I’m tired, feeling a bit vulnerable, and […]
          'Normal': The Word Of The Year (In A Year That Was Anything But)        
It's been an unusual political year, to put it mildly, and you could write most of its story just by tracking its effects on the lexicon — the new words and new uses of old ones, some useful, some that we could do without. I'll come to some of these in a minute. But for my word of the year, I'll go with "normal" and its sister "normalize." That may seem perverse for a year like this one, but when people are talking a lot about normal it's a sign that we're living in extraordinary times. Start with "the new normal." Since the beginning of the century, that's how we've announced that events have forced us to accept new realities. In 2002 the new normal was long airport lines. In 2009 it was kids moving back in with their parents. Then came school lockdowns, soaring college debt and safe spaces. But when you search on the phrase now, the results are always political. For some it's an energized racist fringe . For a writer at Forbes it's Pizzagate and online vigilantism . For The
          By the Grace of... Really?        
For those not in the know, the Indian Institute of Management at Calcutta (IIM-C) is a premier educational establishment in the city of my birth. It is one of the top business schools in India, and according to the QS Global 200 Business School Report 2012, in the Asia-Pacific region as well. It offers several graduate (Master's and Doctoral degree and diploma) programs in Management and Executive Education.

Admission to this prestigious Business School is, as expected, difficult. A Bachelor's degree is a basic minimum for eligibility. Aspirants have to take and rank high in computer-based admission tests, the Common Admission Test (CAT) or the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). Selected based on their scores, applicants are required to clear a further written ability test, and finally, an interview; separate weights are attached to their performances at all these steps, as well as their prior academic record. As a result, although the CAT qualifying bar, as well as the admissions policy of the Institute, subscribes to the Reservation Policies of the Central Government for under-privileged, under-represented groups, the final admission is generally considered to be merit-based, and no wonder - since the School seeks to train managers and high-level-decision-makers of the future, folks who are going to run industries and businesses across the country.

Imagine, then, my surprise, when, last Saturday, I was greeted with a news headline that proclaimed "Extra marks to allow more girls at Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta". Intrigued, I delved into the report.
...Indian Institute of Management Calcutta will see a sizeable number of women students walking into the campus... result of a new admissions formula that IIMC adopted this year, precisely to break the traditional male domination on campus. Women have been given extra points this time by IIMC to help them secure admission, a bold step that is being observed with interest by the two other bigger IIMs - Ahmedabad and Bangalore.
According to IIM-C's new admissions formula, therefore, three extra points (called Diversity Points) will have been given to women at the pre-interview stage to enable more women to make it to the interview.
...As a result of this "grace", of the total number of candidates coming for interview, at least 25 per cent are women. "If you take absolute numbers into consideration, 395 women will be appearing for interview this time, which is a large number considering the fact that last year only 170 came for interviews. This has been possible because of the three extra points that we have given to every woman who has qualified for the written ability test and interview," said Sanjit Singh, the admissions chairperson of IIMC... The total number of seats at IIMC is 462, going by the past trends, at least 20 per cent of the total number of women interviewees get selected. "If you convert that into absolute numbers, about 100 women would finally get admission at IIMC. This is about double the actual number and we feel that our purpose is served," Singh added.
I think their intention is august; they want to have more women join the prestigious institution and make a more balanced class; apparently, the "institute decided to tweak its earlier admission formula where all candidates were treated equally because the composition of the student body was 'skewed'." Although a couple of the reasons offered for this 'grace' by some unnamed 'faculty member' were very typically patriarchal and paternalistic - for example:
"Without a healthy percentage of women on campus, men are bound to get rowdy and indisciplined. Moreover, as young managers they need to be sympathetic to women's issues. So we decided to give extra points to women CAT successfuls to help more women come into IIMC, something that they were not being able to do without this little extra help," said a faculty member.
... the Institute seemed to desire the implementation of some system which would bring some equity into the gender distribution of their classes. However, was this it? A system of awarding 'grace' points to women simply for being women? Wouldn't this very idea - that the women needed 'grace marks' to catch up with the men - be insulting to all women?

This is the question I placed to various friends and acquaintances of mine across Social Media. The responses that ensued were most interesting and illuminating, to say the least. I am not particularly fond of cultural relativism, but I was rather surprised at the sharp cultural divide that sprung up between the responses from people of two different parts of the world. Read the responses, and let me know what you think, if you want, in the comments.

Reaction from American, British and various assorted Western folks
This was gleaned from a non-representative sample of my non-Indian friends. The caveat is, of course, the demographic, and the cultural bindings that come with it: these are educated individuals, many of them engaged in a variety of professions, and belonging to all strata in the economic spectrum. Ideologically, they are (as far as I know) progressive, liberal, some left-leaning, some centrist folks, passionately committed to issues surrounding equality and social justice everywhere in the world, their opinions informed by empathy, rationality and common sense.

[NOTE: Wherever possible, I have quoted my friends ad verbatim.] Generally folks welcomed the idea of this 3-point grace. A friend wondered if this isn't a version of Affirmative Action, perhaps a recognition that there are longstanding cultural reasons women do not traditionally qualify for admission, and the recognition that a more diverse student population is desired.

To my thinking, the only thing this particular action affirms is the idea that women are intellectually inferior to men, and must be allowed some kind of sop or 'grace'. But, in reality, how true or valid is that idea? To examine that, I brought up the schooling system in India. In India in general, as well as in Calcutta, the system of schooling is often sex-segregated (by which I mean, there are separately boys' schools and girls' schools), although co-educational schools exist, too. At least in my state (West Bengal, of which Calcutta is the capital), these schools are, by and large, very comparable to each other, and the girls' schools are by no means inferior in any way in their educational capabilities. The schools are obliged to follow a curriculum that is designed and mandated by the State Educational authorities. The school leaving tests are held twice, after the 10th standard (post-secondary), and the 12th standard (post-higher secondary); these are public examinations, organized and conducted under the State Educational authorities. Girls perform very well, at par with the boys, in these exams, often topping the list of top students in the state.

My understanding, therefore, is that the kind of social disparity and institutionalized discrimination that demands a corrective Affirmative Action simply doesn't exist at this level - let me emphasize that, at this educational level. To this, another friend brought up two very pertinent questions: If girls are equally educated, why aren't they applying and being admitted to these schools now? And if girls are getting the same test scores now, why would the school think giving extra points to women will help?

Meeta Sengupta, a noted Indian educator and blogger, has answered this partly in the Opinion post she wrote at Livemint after learning about this proposed step by IIM-C. is true that not enough women are represented in business schools, especially the “elite” ones. This does not necessarily reflect on the competence of women but on the choices they make in learning and in life—or the choices that have been imposed on them if they come from highly patriarchal families...

In a patriarchal and misogynistic society like India where parents dominate decision making, it is natural to divert women away from careers that will demand full attention, a lot of travel and almost no provisions for any path but the steeply vertical. Women are advised to opt for careers that will support their primary caregiver role and their lifestyle. The burdens of high-flying careers of women are often too much for the “cared” to bear...

Even women who have entered the hallowed portals have made alternative choices along the way. A look at the composition of boards of large companies across the country would reveal that the pyramid for women looks steeper than the one for men. Many women do leave at child bearing age, refusing to deal with the pressures of a dual career—there simply doesn’t appear to be an alternate model that will enable her to “have it all”, to continue to contribute as her talent and efforts warrant...
So why does IIM-C think that the 3-point grace is going to be helpful for the women? A couple of friends thought that the reason is because the extra point to women gets them in the door, that "grace" for entry doesn't morph into grace with regards to achievement, and that it's just a way, even if distasteful, of getting more diversity on the playing field - a rare example, perhaps, of the end justifying the means.

I couldn't agree. Perhaps the extra points to women are supposed to be an enticement - I haven't a clue. But I know that ALL the Indian women I have talked to about this feel unequivocally that this leads to disempowerment of women, that this is going to give rise to a reverse stereotype as the recipients of grace marks, thereby undermining the abilities of all women. Meeta Sengupta agreed with me when she addressed the major lacunae in the Business School system that the grace marks would never solve.
There is a difference between giving people a chance to prove themselves in a challenging situation and systemically giving concessions by class or gender. The recent decision by IIM C... is deeply patronizing and clearly shows little knowledge of those the school seeks to encourage...

The admission test is skewed towards engineers. This really has nothing to do with gender except for the fact that there are not enough women in the pool of engineers. If the test were to be skewed away from mathematics towards “writing” as the school claims, then it should be based on the type of student IIM C wants. Men are good writers too, and some of them too get left out by the test seemingly designed for the left-brained examination. If engineering training is useful to the group, then the school should continue with that and not seek to dumb down its cohort...

A concession in the entrance criteria does not address any of these (that is, the choices that women make, or which are imposed on them, as well as the consequences thereof. My note). The entry criteria should be changed if there is a need for diversity of competencies and skills. This may or may not be co-related to gender, a variable irrelevant to the design of a test that seeks merit...

Any dilution of this (that is, the instances where women, on their own merit, have successfully competed with men to gain entry to these professional schools. My note) can only dilute the credibility of the women it seeks to support. Every woman who gets through to these institutes will be suspected of having been offered concessions and thus be deemed inferior at the tables she seeks to lead. This is completely regressive and, worse, self-defeating...

If this (that is, the societal and familial prohibition on a woman choosing a career outside the traditional caregiver/nurturer framework. My note) is what softening the entrance criteria is seeking to address, then it is nowhere close.
What needs to happen is to put in place programs that would (a) strengthen educational programs in high schools and thereafter, especially for the women students, (b) provide better support for women students to prepare for the tests, and (c) ensure that the test questions are not biased in any way so as to favor the men students. Giving grace marks does none of that. I'd really like to see positive changes brought in women's education system in India (and there are ways to do it), so that they are not left at the mercy of 'grace points' and random benevolence of educational institutions.

In a relevant discussion, a friend from the UK pointed out that this system didn't not seem so different from a policy in the UK of changing the A-level passes required to get into the University of one's choice depending on what school one attends. The thinking goes that a student attending a top Public school will find it easier to get good A-level grades than a student attending a mediocre state school.

There are some inherent problems with this line of reasoning. The situation in question is not akin to the difference between the academic outputs of two schools. IIM-C is making a categorical statement, via its policy, that regardless of performance or merit, or any other criterion, a candidate is automatically entitled to 3 grace points if one happens to be a woman. Apart from being demeaning, this is wholly unnecessary. As Meeta Sengupta pointed out, going by the past trends, approximately 10-25% of the graduating classes in the premier business schools of the country are women. At IIM-C, this proportion is about 20%. These women, who have so long qualified to join these schools, have matched their male counterparts in performance and quality in their work, and later, in their careers. Why should they ever be considered so weak as to require a grace?

Finally, another friend brought up the real and serious issue of 'Stereotype threat', a situation in which members of a marginalized group perform poorly in Standardized Tests when they are made aware of their marginalized identity. Thus, Steele and Aronson (1995) "showed in several experiments that Black college freshmen and sophomores performed more poorly on standardized tests than White students when their race was emphasized. When race was not emphasized, however, Black students performed better and equivalently with White students. The results showed that performance in academic contexts can be harmed by the awareness that one's behavior might be viewed through the lens of racial stereotypes." Wikipedia lays out an important description:
Stereotype threat is a potential contributing factor to long-standing racial and gender gaps in academic performance. However, it may occur whenever an individual's performance might confirm a negative stereotype. This is because stereotype threat is thought to arise from the particular situation rather than from an individual's personality traits or characteristics. Since most people have at least one social identity which is negatively stereotyped, most people are vulnerable to stereotype threat if they encounter a situation in which the stereotype is relevant. Situational factors that increase stereotype threat can include the difficulty of the task, the belief that the task measures their abilities, and the relevance of the negative stereotype to the task. Individuals show higher degrees of stereotype threat on tasks they wish to perform well on and when they identify strongly with the stereotyped group. These effects are also increased when they expect discrimination due to their identification with negatively stereotyped group. Repeated experiences of stereotype threat can lead to a vicious circle of diminished confidence, poor performance and loss of interest in the relevant area of achievement.
And in the relentlessly patriarchal Indian society with its deeply entrenched misogyny, gender stereotype can be a clear and present danger to academic performance in general. But do the specifics apply to this particular situation (as well as cultural context) under discussion? Let's examine:
  • In India, academic performances are not judged by Standardized Tests. State Education boards set their own question papers. The questions are based on text-books under the State-determined curriculum. No one has ever alleged or even hinted at any kind of gender bias in setting the questions. Gender of the student is not a factor in any kind of consideration.
  • A common stereotype which can undermine women's performance in some particular areas is their supposed inability to understand mathematics. In Indian schools, however, girls are NOT taught that women are expected to be bad at maths. In the schools, whether all-girls or co-ed, girls are taught from the uniform syllabus set for ALL schools under a State, and so far there is no evidence of poor performance by girls either in these school-leaving exams, or the subsequent national level entrance tests to medical and engineering schools, which contain major sections on physics and maths.
  • Under discussion is the entry to Business/Management Schools, which are treated to different standards than, say, technology or medical schools. The most immediate difference is that in India, entry to Business schools, as opposed to medical or engineering schools, requires a Bachelor's degree at the very least. When school and college performances are concerned, getting less marks has NOT been an issue for the women; other societal factors have been. Graduates of a Management School are expected to fill in the Management workforce of the country, as one can imagine. That is where the discrimination occurs, not earlier.
The important point to base the conclusion upon is: "...most people are vulnerable to stereotype threat if they encounter a situation in which the stereotype is relevant." It appears to me that in India, a gender stereotype is simply not relevant in the context of school and college performances, and there is no evidence that it is a relevant factor in existing admission disparities in business schools, separately from all other issues that plague women in Indian societies. Most of all, the 3-point grace proposed by IIM-C is not going to be the panacea the institution is projecting it out to be.

With this discussion in the background, I turned to ask my Indian friends, many women amongst them.

Indian reaction
This was gleaned from, again, a non-representative sample of my friends. The caveat is, as before, the demographic: these are highly educated, professional individuals, hailing from - and belonging to - economically middle-to-upper-middle class and above (at least by Indian standards). Ideologically, they are (someone please correct me in the comments if I am wrong) progressive, liberal, perhaps left-leaning folks, staunchly in favor of common sense and rationality. They are mostly Indian expats to North America, but share a common concern for India and feel strongly about issues surrounding equality and social justice in India, as well as the rest of the world. This is a demographic to which I belong, too, and I offer these details prior to the discussion as a means of privilege-check.

A friend of mine agreed with my distaste for the proposed system, pointing out the real possibility (it happens in India!) that the grace system may soon turn out to be an entitlement, demanded everywhere, for all institutions - with probable involvement of political parties bringing pressure upon the institutes that demur. She also reminded me of existing welfare programs such as free education for the Girl Child till the 12th standard (senior school-leaving), and payment to the parents to send the girls to school in various rural areas. An important fact in the patriarchal Indian society is that higher education, for which often parents may have to pay, more-often-than-not boils down to the parents, even in urban areas. There are some young women (in each generation) who consciously choose the traditionally selected role of exclusive homemakers, happily accepting the financial dependence upon their husbands - because it is the 'traditional thing to do' - and these women may not bother much with academic performances. What is needed, opined she, is a support system for those who want to study further, but face severe opposition from their families or communities.

Another friend found this system extremely insulting. She said, "Women don't need grace marks to catch up. Women need to be shown that a field that is traditionally more male oriented in India doesn't need to be so. Women who portray the IIM skill set can be identified and encouraged to apply... This will only perpetuate the myth that women aren't management material and the all the other sexist stereotypes."

The conversation at this point turned naturally to Affirmative Action. My friend, who has had some experience with the political process in North America intersecting with Affirmative Action, provided some examples from Canada, of Affirmative Action-like principles utilized to ensure diversity even in absence of a quota system. A Canadian political party, the NDP, demonstrated to the minority candidates and/or women, that the party is open to their involvement - by simply facilitating their participation; in lieu of any kind of quota, they offered babysitting services for women who were interested in running, and provided a sort of start-up funding for lower-income people. This endeavor rewarded the party handsomely in term of maximum involvement from women and minority communities over the years.

India's equivalent of Affirmative Action is the system of Reservation for marginalized, socially and economically downtrodden communities, who are put under certain 'schedules'; at various stages, from education to employment opportunities, quotas are reserved, which must be fulfilled by people from these schedules. Reservations are not ideal solutions, but for a historically marginalized community, Reservation is a system that - if properly implemented - can work wonders. However, the current system of Reservation is often criticized by many in the country, because it seems to have failed to create a safe space for the minority communities as it originally intended. One of the problems has been that the Reservation system is largely mismanaged, and subject to many layers of corruption. But the problems in the system have been unsolvable because of partisan vote-bank politics very popular amongst Indian political parties. At the same time, it is difficult to knock, in good conscience, the Reservation system in India, because various inequalities (the most loathsome are caste-based inequalities) still remain very much in effect, and continue to oppress people of certain downtrodden communities.

My friend opined that instead of offering sops or graces, there may be much better ways, available to an institution like IIM-C, to encourage women to pursue Management as a profession; they could, for example, scout for talented women with leadership skills and analytical abilities in schools and colleges, by themselves or in conjunction with the schools/colleges to identify women with leadership skills and analytical capabilities. They could perhaps offer tuition breaks or scholarships to women when they qualify. They could run awareness campaigns to entice talented women. "They could do so many things other than insult the intelligence of one half of the population."

Several other friends have considered this step by IIM-C an example of 19th century patriarchy-infused paternalistic mindset. A friend lamented asking when the understanding that being a woman is not a handicap will finally dawn upon the Indian society. On Twitter, I asked the same question of one journalist, a teacher, an author - all women whom I follow - and they were unanimous in voicing their disagreement.
My thoughts are congruent with Meeta Sengupta's, when she writes (in her Livemint Opinion piece):
To be promoted for anything other than merit is no less than an insult. To seek advancement on anything but merit is foolish if not foolhardy—a gesture that is doomed to fail; a move that has the seeds of its own destruction built within itself. A person without the merit or ability to perform the task he or she has been elevated to is unlikely to perform well. So, what were they promoted to do? To prove Murphy’s laws? After all, selection without merit is setting up a person for failure.

          pjeby on Of Exclusionary Speech and Gender Politics        

A person willing to employ pickup artistry or similar is revealing their opinion that women do not deserve full agency and/or the chance to make informed decisions in this arena, purely because the Artist disagrees with their probable decision.

Is a person willing to take a class on public speaking revealing their opinion that audiences do not deserve full agency or the chance to make informed decisions about what they're presenting in a speech? Should they not practice to make the best possible impression?

I realize there are schools of PUA that are based on trickery. However, the "direct", "natural", and "inner" schools of PUA studies deal only with what makes men more attractive to women, generally. That information is unlikely to be useful to you as a bisexual woman, but it is certainly not about treating women as objects. Some teachers (most notably Johnny Soporno) are quite explicitly about emancipating women from oppressive societal constructs around sexuality (such as the idea that having sex with more than one partner means a woman has no self-worth).

Still other teachers (e.g. Juggler) teach men how to make emotional connections in conversation -- to reveal themselves better and to learn more about a woman than just "what do you do" type chitchat. And others (e.g. Tyler of RSD) emphasize learning how to provide a woman with a safe space and positive energy. (I know that sounds kind of woo-woo, but actually explaining it in a reductionist way would take way more time and space than I want to spend here.)

None of these things are any more offensive or objectifying to women than public speaking classes are to audiences. They're teaching men to be better men, not how to "control" women.

          Who Goes There Podcast: Episode 91 – Evil Dead        

If you’re looking for a safe space, you’ve come to the wrong place! We’re taking souls and plugging holes on a new episode of the Who Goes There Podcast. This week we’re joined by buddy Brandon “it’s pretty good” Loder,… Continue Reading

The post Who Goes There Podcast: Episode 91 – Evil Dead appeared first on Dread Central.

          Our Music My Body Promotes Safe Spaces & Consensual Interactions at Local Venues and Festivals        

Have you seen a consent button-making table at a concert recently? Did you read Riot Fest's or Kickstand Production's anti-harassment statement? If you answered yes on either account, you might have run into Our Music My Body.

Our Music My Body is a campaign by local non-profit organizations Between Friends and Rape Victim Advocates that promotes fun and consensual music experiences for all music lovers and concert- and festival-goers in Chicagoland and beyond.

CHIRP volunteer and DJ Amelia Hruby recently met up with Our Music My Body organizaer Matt Walsh to chat about the campaign.

AH: For people who aren't familiar, what is Our Music My Body?

MW: Our Music My Body is a collaborative campaign between Rape Victim Advocates (RVA) and Between Friends. Rape Victim Advocates is a rape crisis center that advocates for survivors of sexual assault in hospitals and court systems and also does education work. Between Friends is a domestic violence agency in Rogers Park that does court advocacy counseling as well as prevention education in middle and high schools.

AH: How did it get started?

MW: So in 2011, when Odd Future played at Pitchfork, Between Friends and RVA came together to protest the group's hateful lyrics. They caused a big storm, and they were given a booth at the festival. And this was the moment when people realized that these things need to be talked about in the non-profit world.

Then a few years passed, and I came onto the Between Friends team and did a small campaign about Riot Fest in 2014 (#GetConsentAtRiotFest). I reached out to RVA and said that I wanted to do this a lot bigger in 2016. I got put in touch with Kat Stuehrk and we started working collaboratively on a campaign that included a Huffington Post article, booths at Pitchfork and Riot Fest, and a panel on safety, sexism, and harassment in the music industry that included Corin Tucker (of Sleater Kinney), Britt Julious, Jes Skolnik, and Monica Trinidad.

AH: What is the primary goal of Our Music My Body?

MW: Really we are part of this movement that exists throughout the world that's trying to raise awareness about sexual violence and sexual harassment at music festivals and music venues. We're working on a 101 level of trying to engage people to think about this concept and challenge these ideas. So we have cards that we pass out to everyone we see at festival and venues with basic tips [about consent] as well as resources including numbers to sexual assault agencies, domestic violence organizations, reproductive health and LGBTQ services.

AH: What do you all have planned for this year?

MW: The big goal is to be more visible in Chicago. We want to be present at every festival this year to be pushing this to be a larger conversation. At the fests we tabled last year, we had this buttonmaking station where you could make a big button with a consent tagline. We want our tables to be engaging and to have people interact with us and their ideas about consent in this space.

We're also working on developing models for policies surrounding these issues. Last year, we helped Riot Fest and Kickstand Productions write their anti-harassment statements. With Riot Fest, we wrote the statement, and they okayed it and posted it on their website, but this year we'd love to see it be more visible. With Kickstand, at Beat Kitchen and Subterranean [the venues where Kickstand handles booking] you'll see our signs. And on those signs, they have the domestic violence hotline number and the rape crisis number so that people have access to them if we're not there.

AH: How can people who are interested get involved with Our Music My Body?

MW: They can email me at! We always need more tablers. We also have volunteers working on our materials, graphic design, website, and policy research.

You can also check out Our Music My Body at on their Tumblr page.

          Adult son with autism argues alone at night: Should we be concerned?        

Parents seek perspective: Is this just his way of coping or a sign he needs help? Advice and perspective from an expert in the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network

My adult son, who has autism, is up all night, walking around the house talking to himself and sounding like he’s arguing. During the day, he's fine and high functioning. Is he coping with loneliness this way? Might this indicate he’s being mistreated by bullies?

Today’s “Got Questions?” response is by developmental-behavioral pediatrician Peter Chung, of the Center for Autism & Neurodevelopmental Disorders at the University of California, Irvine. The center is one of 13 sites in the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network.

Editor’s note: The following information is not meant to diagnose or treat and should not take the place of personal consultation, as appropriate, with a qualified healthcare professional and/or behavioral therapist.

Thank you for your question, which I’m sure is shared by many families. I can think of several possible reasons for your son’s behavior.

As always, it’s important to remember that every individual with autism spectrum disorder has his or her own idiosyncrasies and unique habits – as we all do. So while I’m happy to offer some general advice for understanding and addressing your son’s behavior, it’s no substitute for a personal evaluation by a qualified medical and/or behavioral specialist, as I’ll describe more below.

To start, I recommend approaching your son in a calm, non-confrontational way to invite him to talk about his night walking and talking. Keep in mind, he may be keenly aware that his actions are unusual. So he may feel embarrassed or defensive when questioned. If he’s open to talking about this behavior, you and he might gain insights by exploring several questions.

1. Does he remember his night walking and talking the next day?

Sleep disorders are particularly common among people who have autism. They can include parasomnias, which involve abnormal movements, behaviors, emotions and perceptions while falling sleep, sleeping or waking up. Often, someone with such a sleeping disorder has little or no recollection of their nighttime actions the next day.

If it sounds like this could be the case with your son, I recommend talking with his primary care doctor and/or a sleep specialist about an examination called a polysomnogram. It combines measurements of heart rate, breathing rate, limb movements, oxygen saturation and brainwave activity during a night of sleep to evaluate for sleeping disorders.

The good news is that sleep disorders such as sleepwalking and sleep talking do not cause psychological harm, though sleepwalking can pose physical danger as the person isn’t fully awake.

Good sleep hygiene and a regular sleep schedule can help ease disordered sleep and their associated parasomnias. Sleep specialists in the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network have developed several Sleep Tool Kits for children and teens who have autism. I highly recommend these guidebooks, which can be downloaded free of charge here.

Research suggests that melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles, is low in some people with sleeping disorders. I recommend talking with your health-care provider about whether treatment with melatonin might be appropriate. For more information, see the Autism Speaks ATN/AIR-P tool kit Melatonin and Sleep Problems in ASD: A Guide for Parents. (Follow the title link to learn more and download.)

Editor’s note: All these tool kits are made possible through the ATN’s federally funded role as the Autism Intervention Treatment Network for Physical Health.

2. Does your son’s nighttime conversations consist of repeated dialogue?

Many people affected by autism like to review conversations to themselves. This can include repeating lines from their favorite movies, TV shows or YouTube channels. We call this “scripting.” It’s a common repetitive behavior that can be a source of comfort when the person is anxious or excited.

In my practice, I see a number of people affected by autism who are aware that their “scripting” is socially inappropriate. So they wait until they are in a private, safe space such as their bedroom or the bathroom – or perhaps in your son’s case, at home after the family has gone to bed.

You may be able to tell if your son is scripting based on whether his dialogue consists of the same exchanges every night. He might also be able to tell you where the conversations come from if he feels comfortable disclosing that information to you. So here again, I encourage you to assure him that he’s not being reprimanded.

Another clue to possible scripting is the quality of his speech when he’s talking at night. Does the speech have a repetitive quality or an unusual cadence to it? Does it sounds different from his usual style of talking?

Scripting isn’t generally a problem as long as it’s not interfering with his daytime work, school and social activities. However, you may need to set limits if it’s interfering with your son – or you – getting sufficient sleep. So I recommend considering whether he’s having trouble staying awake or seems more irritable or unfocused during the day – all signs of sleep deprivation.

If needed, consider using a timer or a visual schedule to indicate when he needs to stop scripting and go to bed. If you can, create a safe space – like a room with calming or soothing belongings and activities – where he can script without disturbing other people in the home.“

3. How does your son feel about this behavior? Does it make him feel better or more anxious?

It’s possible that your son is processing his emotions and daytime experiences. That is, he might be re-living conversations that he’s had the previous day. Or, he might be rehearsing conversations for future use. If this is the case, his night talking and walking may be an important coping mechanism or a compensatory skill. In other words, this behavior may actually help him interact with his peers during the day.

By contrast, if the night talking increases his stress and anxiety, I think it’s important for your son to be evaluated for several mental health conditions that sometimes accompany autism. These include obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, severe depression and psychosis. I encourage you to seek evaluation by mental health professional familiar with autism complicated by these conditions. Again, approaching your son in a non-threatening way is crucial to getting an honest response.

4. How long has this behavior been present?  Are there any associated changes in daytime behavior?

The possibility of a serious mental health condition is greater if your son’s nighttime habits started abruptly or came with a regression in his self-care or daytime behavior. You don’t seem to indicate this. But again, if you think the self-talking is associated with a change in mood and/or a general decline in function, I encourage a thorough evaluation by a qualified mental health provider.

Along these lines, I suggest talking with trusted individuals who interact with your son during the day. For example, his therapist, teachers, employer or other supervisors. How is he doing at school, work or his other day programs?

On the other hand, if your son has had these nighttime behaviors for six months or more without problems in the rest of his life, I would be reassured that this is not likely due to a serious mental health issue.

Every individual with autism is a complex person with a rich tapestry of strengths, challenges and unique characteristics. I hope that this response is able to help you and your son find ways to help him thrive and enjoy a great quality of life.

Got more questions for our experts? Send them to
We apologize that we can’t answer all your questions in this column.

Need personal guidance?
Members of the Autism Speaks Autism Response Team are trained to connect individuals and families with information and resources.
Call (888) 288-4762│En Español (888) 772-9050│ or email

* Learn more about the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network 
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          7 Money-Saving, Kid-Friendly Home Renovation Strategies        

Children are Great Home Helpers! 


7 Money-Saving, Kid-Friendly Home Renovation Strategies

            When it comes to home renovating, saving money, and children, most people simply hire a babysitter while they work on a DIY project. There are fun ways to ditch the babysitter and save money by including your children as little home helpers.

            Every home project should be aimed at increasing home value. Without cutting corners, make the most of your next project by taking advantage of the situation. Make your next home renovation project enjoyable, lucrative, and family-friendly with these child-centered home renovation activities.

Project 1: De-Stash for Cash
Enlist your children to help with the renovation ‘clear out’. Save money by listing unwanted items on Craigslist,and have them help you decide what to list and for how much. Your children will love throwing around some old toys and home items, it will bring in some extra cash, and save you the headache of bringing unwanted items to the donation sites. Need help with the Craigslist process? Check out this guide.

Project 2: Play ‘Shop Owner’
Children love to play ‘shop’ no matter what age group. Let your kids be a part of the renovation process and save some money by having a yard sale, and putting in some of their items, along with some of the renovation cast-away items up for sale.

If you’re shopping for items to install or food for a quick meal, visit your local co-op for eco-friendly, lower cost items to bring into the home, and include them in the choosing and purchasing process.


Project 3: Play Decorator
When choosing what materials to use, or what colors to paint a room, invite your child’s input. Beforehand, let them know they are participating in a group decision, and you want everyone to make a vote. Helping to decide what will go into the home empowers them and helps build ‘teamwork’ experience.

Moreover, depending on the project, you can also allow your children to pick one aspect of the renovation project that is ‘theirs’. Choosing one item for a new room, for example, will provide valuable critical thinking experience as well as decision making practice.

Project 4: Enjoy the Chaos
Renovations can be a difficult time for everyone involved. Turn a chaotic situation around by embracing it. Rather than escape the house for fun excursions during the renovations, save some money by taking advantage of the mess.

Have an impromptu living room camp-out, complete with tent, flashlights and ghost stories. Plan a fort-building session with painting tarps, stepladders, big buckets and pails and other safe items you can find, either in the area about to be renovated or in another room entirely. You can always organizelater!


Project 5: Construct and Destroy
Home DIY renovations can be fun, cost effective and very rewarding. For your DIY projects, give the kids some items that are safe for them, in a safe space, to allow them to feel what it’s like to use their hands, get dirty, and have some construction fun. Check out this resource for more fun tutorial ideas!

Children learn from every experience they encounter. Take advantage of this process for them to learn about tools and the rewards from a job well done. Let them find their plastic toy hammer, and hand them an extra plank of wood. Let them smash, pound and be loud! Give them a paintbrush and some paint and let them paint on the wood at a safe distance while you work. Talk to them about what you’re doing and why. Let them put on safety goggles, put on work boots and, even get them an apron to be a part of the home construction project.

Project 6: Rent Your Extra Rooms
Whether you are going away for a period of time or have extra rooms in your home, renting a room is an amazing way to earn some extra money and build home value. Get the children involved by having them be the breakfast ‘cookers’ of the home. Guests love breakfast, especially free breakfast, and including your kids is a perfect way to keep the money flowing in.

While I love this tip, it is important to make sure you know how to find the best renters. Especially with a family, it is important to know who is going to live in your home. Airbnb, HomeAway and Craigslist are good places to start. However, when trying to find out more information about a renter, there are great resources out there, like this one, that keep all information private and still show any history of violence or bad rental outcomes.


Project 7 (A&B): Start a Kid’s Garden
Whether the renovations are outside or inside, offset some improvement costs by starting up a community or private garden. It’s an excellent way to save money and get kids involved in a home project. Furthermore, a garden itself is a huge home value builder!

A.      Home Garden. A home vegetable garden can provide food for the family for a whole summer, or even through a winter, at a fraction of the cost of regularly purchased grocery produce. One bag of potatoes, can cost anywhere from $2-$5 dollars, but a few potatoes planted in the garden will make more potatoes for years to come. Include carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, beans, spinach, lettuce and beets, and you have an array of healthy foods for the initial cost of just the seeds some dirt, and a few hours or family fun.

B.      Community Garden. If you have ample space, convert landscaping in your front or backyard, and start a community garden. Post an ad in you online community bulletin, or just a sign in your yard, and offer up backyard or front-yard space to neighbors to come in and plant for a monthly fee. Include your kids in the planning, advertising, communicating and pricing process for an exciting family home-business adventure!

Need more garden help? Check out this resource for a great place to start!

Renovating to improve your home value doesn't need to be an emotionally and financially draining ordeal. With these tips, and some creativity, patience, and resourcefulness, you can save money and offset a portion of the costs, while also creating a great bonding time and learning opportunity for every member of the family.

Author Bio: Hank loves ice cream, Sour Patch Kids, and DIY projects that save money. He is a new landlord and loves to blog about the home. He hangs out on Twitter @hombyhank when he is not in the garden or working on a new project.

          [Opinions] Wide open safe spaces: Moving on in the Women’s and Pride centres        

The University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union offers support and services through campus centres, but with increasing apathy on the volunteer front, these resources aren’t living up to their full potential. The USSU Women’s Centre and Pride Centre both offer incredibly valuable services to students on campus, so why is it that nearly every time you […]

The post Wide open safe spaces: Moving on in the Women’s and Pride centres appeared first on The Sheaf - The University of Saskatchewan Newspaper Since 1912.

          Inclusivity At Alchemy        

We can’t say enough about how much we appreciate Sara Connell from Out Boulder County! Sara provided our staff with an incredible LGBTQ training. We learned so much about how to be more inclusive and create a safe space for all of our dancers at Alchemy of Movement. We are so, so, so grateful. Thank […]

The post Inclusivity At Alchemy appeared first on Alchemy of Movement.

          NewsMax CEO Worries About Sinclair Broadcast's New Acquisitions, Media Consolidation        
Industry trade magazine AdAge reports that Christopher Ruddy has asked the FCC to take time and carefully weigh any decision allowing the Sinclair Broadcast Group to go through with a deal that would bring the media conglomerate a total of of 233 local TV-news stations, including Memphis’ WREG.

Via AdAge:

"I am calling for delay," Christopher Ruddy, CEO of Newsmax, a conservative outlet with a 24-hour cable news channel, said in an interview. "I think it needs more vetting."

Ruddy, a friend of President Donald Trump, adds a conservative voice to liberal critics of the deal who are wary of Sinclair building a network of local stations featuring the company's pro-Trump commentary.

If you don't know who the players are here NewsMax is a frankly conservative multi-platform media company where TV hosts comfortably compare unflattering news reports about President Trump to “lynchings.” That comparison's no anomaly at NewsMax, which recently dipped its toe in the cable news business. Though marketed as Fox-light it's been a reliably safe space for Right-Wing cranks and conspiracy theorists.

Sinclair's been collecting local news stations. Holdings currently include ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX affiliated properties in an environment where local TV news has more reach than all four major cable news stations combined with NewsMax tossed in like a set of Ginsu knives. Frankly conservative and unapologetically Trumpist, Sinclair requires local stations to air segments by former Trump staffer Boris Epshteyn, the sixth person interviewed in ongoing probes into Russia's impact on U.S. elections.

For pretty much everything you need to know about Sinclair and Boris, and what might happen to Memphis' WREG if the FCC approves Sinclair's latest takeovers click here.

So basically we've reached this weird patch of Spacetime where a company invested in a national cable news product promoting kooks and conspiracy theorists can run headlines like "Local Broadcast Wins as National Media Increasingly Distrusted" with a straight face.

Welcome to The New Fairness in a marketplace of ideas that's somehow even worse than it was when  irresponsible media narratives were seeded and tended by media organs with no agenda beyond basic profit motive.

          Comment on Sententia 4: What She Says by Temperature/ more search engine terms / Check it out! | life roar: a safe space for anarchist apes        
[...] move on, then. Have you seen the new issue of Sententia? It so happens to be called What She Says: The All Women Writer’s Issue. I’m very honored to be a part of it. Thanks so much to Amy King, guest curator, for [...]
          Craft Day - Queer Creative Safe Space        
The vision of Craft Days grew out of a desire for a safe space for queer folks to express themselves and think creatively about the way we communicate with each other. We believe in creating a monthly meet up space for art, healing, and self care. There may be different themes or guest facilitators for each Craft Day so follow up to keep up with what we have planned next!    Contact Jordyn at    
          As people of faith (Guest post from Sarah Ager)        

Ramadan is starting tomorrow, Saturday 27th, 2017. Here is a guest post from Sarah Ager - a Christian UK girl who converted to Islam and is now happily married to a Muslim man and lives in Italy - who is the curator of Interfaith Ramadan (this text was written in 2016, but I kinda lost her text until this week when I found it by accident on my computer... God moves in mysterious ways):

le coran image

As people of faith, we sometimes act under the assumption that ours is the only way of perceiving God. We hold this view even though Muslims make up only a seventh of the world's population. We sometimes forget that we live in a multi-cultural world alongside people of many diverse beliefs and faith backgrounds, who have their own unique ways of approaching and perceiving the Divine.

There are many lenses through which people perceive the world – the Bible, the Torah, the Qur'an, the Bhagavad Gita – to name just a few. There are a wealth of religious and non-religious texts which guide people in their daily lives – just as the Qur'an acts as a moral compass for Muslims.

In our increasingly globalised world, constant contact with other backgrounds and faiths make it imperative to learn more about the diversity of our neighbors because we are all an intrinsic part of the communities in which we live. Developing mutual respect, rather than merely tolerating one another, is not something that can be learned overnight. Through reaching out and speaking openly we can begin to nurture genuine appreciation for the ways others express their faith.

Without education, we can all too easily develop an irrational fear and mistrust of those we deem to be 'other'. This is especially true between people of different faiths, and when political groups, individuals, and certain factions of the Media so often seek to divide by exploiting and exaggerating religious difference.

Fear and mistrust of people based on assumptions of race or faith are at the core of countless acts of discrimination. To overcome this problem, we need open and constructive communication – the foundation of all positive relationships.

Through interfaith, an all-encompassing and inclusive way of interacting with one another, we endeavour to transcend human-made boundaries and make personal connections with people from all faith and non-faith backgrounds. Interfaith invites us to come as individuals with personal stories rather than being burdened with collective responsibility and representation of an entire faith community. Through sharing we gain greater understanding and become more inclusive in our interactions with the people around us.

As a Muslim from a predominantly Christian family, my inspiration for promoting interfaith is not only social, as a means of strenghtening ties with family and friends, but also deeply spiritual. Interfaith is not a foreign concept to Islam, it is in fact an intrinsic part of our faith. Within the pages of the Qur’an, we are called to protect “cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques, wherein the name of God is oft commemorated” (Qur'an, 22:40). In his lifetime, Muhammad 
ï·º encouraged and was actively involved in interfaith.

On one such occasion, Muhammad 
ï·º met with a delegation of Christian Chiefs from Najran and together they signed a peace treaty which included the terms;
“No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries. No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims' houses. Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God's covenant and disobey His Prophet.”

Alongside the promise that the Christians of Najran could worship freely, the treaty also included the understanding that “their Churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants,” meaning they would be able to uphold their faith tradition alongside Muslims in the Arabian Peninsula.

It is clear that building strong communities by taking care of all those within it is an integral part of Islam and should be considered the duty of Muslims who strive to please Allah. The fighting we see between faith groups,  and even within them, hurts the whole community and goes against the golden rules of each faith, from the Christian concept of loving our neighbour and the Islamic principle that doing harm to another human being is as if you have hurt the whole of mankind, symbolising our intrinsic interconnectness.

Present day examples of interfaith in action include the iconic images of Muslims protecting Coptic Christians in Egypt during the 2011 Arab Spring and more recently, Christians providing refuge for persecuted Muslims in the Central African Republic despite the serious risk to their own lives. On a smaller but no less significant scale, there are regular and heartening stories of religious groups coming together to help other groups in times of need, from churches providing safe spaces for Muslims to pray during far-right protests in various European cities, to Muslims looking after synagogues in Kolkata.

On a more local level, Interfaith helps us to develop new and comprehensive ways of speaking in our daily lives that respects differences, and brings people together based on shared values. This inclusivity feeds into all our relationships, with family, friends, co-workers etc, and is particularly relevant for converts who have non-muslim family members or those in interfaith families. The tools of interfaith can also aid us in much needed intrafaith dialogue, creating stronger ties between different groups under the umbrella of Islam.

Although Interfaith dialogue invites us to share our personal experience of faith, we should remember that interfaith is not about throwing a net to catch potential converts. Critics of Muslim-based interfaith initiatives have argued that it's cleverly disguised dawah of the "creeping sharia" variety. Similarily, many Christian websites have written articles which recommend interfaith dialogue as a way of proselityising and essentially going undercover to gather information about how best to convert members of certain religious or secular groups. It is important to recognise the fine line between education and evangelism. Trust is crucial for open dialogue but it cannot develop if we suspect the other party is trying to boost their own numbers. Instead, interfaith offers us a safe space where we are able to come together, explore our similarities, change stereotypes, and build relationships based on constructive communication.

For people of faith, learning about other religions allows us to gain insight into how others worship and, ideally, helps us to deepen our connection with God while honouring our own faith tradition. Interfaith dialogue and hands on engagement provides us an opportunity to gain insight into our own tradition as we explain our beliefs to others and in turn learn how how faith is viewed through the lens of other faith traditions. In his book 'The Good of Religious Pluralism, Austrian-American sociologist Peter Berger states that 'pluralism influences individual believers and religious communities to distinguish between the core of their faith and less central elements'. As a result of pluralism, Mormon writer Daniel Peterson believes that we not only gain intellectual benefits from engaging with other but  we also 'become better by interacting with people different from ourselves.' People of diverse faiths share a common journey as learners and as seekers towards a better self and a better faith community in which we are a part.

Although we may be strolling down different paths, we are all on journeys seeking to find meaning in our lives, be our best selves, and for those who have faith, grow closer to our Creator. Interfaith dialogue reminds us of how much richer our lives can be when we strive towards these goals hand in hand.

          1905 - Безопасное пространство / Safe Space        
Картман является последней жертвой постыдного тела.
          Why Trump still needs the love of the crowd: ‘This is like medicine to him’        

As storm clouds gathered over the White House, the president retreated to his safe space: a stadium rally to rile his base and celebrate Trump the showman

Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong
West Virginia, mountain mamma
Take me home, country roads

The crowd erupted as John Denver’s 1971 song filled the arena. Behind a black curtain, beneath a blue “Make America great again!” sign, Donald Trump was preparing to make his grand entrance.

Continue reading...
          Lines and People        

I've always been fascinated by lines. I like how they separate and define spaces, how they turn as you move to change your perspective. I like the ways lines can become their own spaces between spaces. With a little imagination, lines can take me places in the same ways that lines move my eyes.

Lines are like people in the way that lines that have a purpose are more interesting than lines that do not. Randomness is lovely in people and lines, but lack of commitment is not.

Lines can enclose safe spaces or draw boundaries that give meaning.

Perhaps that's what people are doing when they draw lines around themselves.

Lines are filled with power and potential, like people.

And some have rough edges ...
But the ones that get softer over time, or in certain lights, I admire.

-- letting me be, me liz strauss

          July 3, 2011. Third Sunday after Pentecost. Proper 9        
© 2011 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Enrollment dwindled a bit in my courses at Rutgers on The Bible as Literature when students learned that the elective was not an easy 'A,' that they had to write original papers, that in a secular setting I was concerned more with their critical thinking skills than with whether they were believers.

Often on the first day of class I would take an old bible and baptize it in a bucket of dirty water. I'd go to the window, look out in many directions, and report, "No lightning yet."

Then I would retrieve the soggy book, read from its cover, 'Holy Bible," and announce that in this class, the book would have to earn respect in the same way that books in any of their other courses had to earn their respect.

Still many returned to take the second course in the sequence, active Christians as well as Muslims, Buddhists, atheists and others.

"Why are you back for the Christian scriptures when you know from the class on the Hebrew scriptures that you disagree with me fully?" I asked a member of the Plymouth Brethren.

"That's easy," the student replied: "You love the book and you give fair grades when we earn them."

Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67

Two weeks into the Hebrew scriptures, a young female arrived before class with great excitement about the reading we have in the lectionary today.

"The gave her a nose ring!" she exclaimed. "Oh what fun I had in telling my mama that I am not being an upstart by wearing a nose ring: they were doing it in the bible thousands of years ago!"

Before she made this discovery, she considered dropping the class, claiming she could not think of any thing original to write for her first critical paper.

"Why don't you use this insight as kindling for your paper?" I asked.

"How would I do that?" she responded.

"What other references to jewelry can you find using the online bible? What purposes does the jewelry serve and what attention do the writers give to it?"

She was off and running. Her paper was impressive; for example, she discovered that jewelry came on hard times when prophets tried to explain newly arrived hard times..... Bracelets, amulets, rings, and the like, are easy targets to blame for bad fortune.

Consider July 3rd as 'Nose Ring Sunday.' Wear one to church. Celebrate with Rebekah.

One of the continuing pleasures of reading Scripture is to focus on details which are not in central focus for the narrators.

Psalm 45: 11-18

Not quite up to the pomp and circumstance of the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, but the impulse is the same.

The sad note here is that the king's pleasure gets direct attention: the bride is supposed to get her pleasure vicariously through him, by how much she pleases him. No mention is made of his obligation to please her.

The king will have pleasure in your beauty; *
he is your master; therefore do him honor.

Lutibelle prefers:

You will have pleasure in the king's beauty; *
you are his master; and he will do you honor.

One telling detail that memorializes the psalmist's patriarchal assumptions is the emphasis in "O king, you shall have sons."

Romans 7:15-25

I did not choose to be gay. Until I was 28 (in 1964), I fought it and kept my arousal patterns as a deep dark secret, telling only a few very close friends. During that time I lived in the closet. I disliked myself and I sought to avoid any other gay people. It was a lonely time. By the time I came out, I had had sexual encounters with only six persons, all strangers, when I was drunk and desperate.

I did not understand my own actions. For I did not do what I wanted, but I did the very thing I hated.... I felt it was no longer I who did it, but sin that dwelt within me.

I cried out, "Wretch that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?"

Like Paul, I felt that the body corrupts, that flesh is sinful in and of itself. I separated mind and body; I separated soul from body.

And I strove to reject the body as best I could. For years I fervently asked God to take away all my erotic desire.

All my prayers to change my desires failed. At long last, I gave up on God, or so I thought.

Yet God delivered me, just not in the way I had asked.

God sent a live human being into my life who loved me, and I found it impossible not to love him. Very quickly I found that we were attracted in dozens of ways, not just by sex, though sex was integral to our closeness.

We courted for five months and then we married, just the two of us in the presence of the Holy Spirit, using the Book of Common Prayer (1928 version, since it was the only one authorized at the time.)

I was not long into the relationship with Ernest before I realized that our love was transforming me. Instead of separating me from God, our love for each other drew me closer to God. Instead of rejecting sex, I integrated it fully with my mind and my soul.

I had almost died without this wholeness, this integrity. The church still encourages that kind of violence in many places.

When Ernest and I married on February 2, 1974, I did not know another couple who were lesbian or gay, so great was my isolation.

It should surprise no one that when I founded an lgbtq ministry in the Episcopal Church, I named it Integrity, to reclaim what the Church had violated.

I have booked a long conversation with Saint Paul on this matter. I grieve that he was so fully cut off from his own wholeness. He argued that marriage was for lust control only. He more than any other biblical writer promoted the unhealthy notion: "Sex is dirty; therefore, save it for marriage."

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Since today is "Nose Ring Sunday," let it also be an occasion to throw away concern for our good reputation. Jesus notes that the crowds call him a drunkard, a glutton, and a friend of sinners. At the great gettin-up morning, we too will be judged by the company we keep. Jesus' practice turns on its head conventional morality. How much time have you spent with drunkards and gluttons? Do you have a wide reputation of being a friend of sinners?

I don't know much about the righteous, but I know a lot about sinners, being one myself. The sinners that I know are not likely to invite someone to dine with them for a second time if the person tells them how evil they are and reports to the world on their bad behavior. I doubt that Jesus could have earned friendship status with sinners if he came down on them judgmentally. When he met with my Samaritan ancestor at the well, he expressed far more concern about her thirst than about her sin.

For years an Episcopal deacon in Chicago ran a facility for the homeless, and in highly visible gilded gothic script he hung a sign that said, "Love your neighbor today: leave him alone!" From all busybodies and from all who consider themselves better than the rest of us, good lord, deliver us."

Make the church a safe space for sinners, and you will pack the congregation much as Jesus did.

Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Even for sissies like me. Indeed, for absolutely everybody!

See also
          Comment on Preferred names and pronouns still pose administrative challenges by Lucy        
Okay, so let's analyze this here.. 1. From the get go, let's stop putting feelings over facts, shall we? This "Gabriel Holt" is a biological woman; every gene in her body is XX. That is reality. She may claim to "feel like a man" - but what does that mean? What is it like to "feel like a man?" Would not only a biological man know this? Does it mean liking stereotypical masculine things, such as cars, and wearing short hair? But aren't those "social constructions" not confined to males? So how do they define malehood? This is an identity confusion disorder. How far have we gone down the toilet as a society that instead of helping these people, we're clapping along and silencing anyone who speaks these scientific facts? SCIENCE and BIOLOGY over FEELINGS. 2. There are people being bombed apart this world over, people starving, people facing natural disasters, women being stoned for no reason, yet university application forms not catering to someone's feelings is supposed to be a pressing issue? Universities are a joke. Enjoy your "safe spaces" where you deny scientific reality and any opposing arguments. Oh, and I don't expect my comment to be posted anytime soon, because that breaks your echo chamber and facts trigger you folks.
          Comment on Marketing course union exec causes controversy over Rye’s safe space policy by Rachel        
I support Dan Petz and also believe safe spaces are a terrible idea. In fact, many psychologists disagree with the approach as they believe it only further limits people's ability to cope and adapt to real life situations. So when we see these adult students acting like hysterical children, many times it's precisely due to the prolonged cocoon of shelter such as safe spaces that prevents them from being able to function properly. People don't want to ban these spaces out of malice or ignorance, but because we (of all genders, orientations, and races), but because the evidence doesn't support their claims and desires.
          Dr. Piper on the Pat Campbell Show        

Dr. Piper Joins the Pat Campbell show to talk about Charlie Gard, Constant Truth, and Safe Spaces. 7/14/17  

The post Dr. Piper on the Pat Campbell Show appeared first on Oklahoma Wesleyan University.

          10 Ways To Reduce Stress        

10 Ways To Reduce Stress

Stress affects people differently and some people seem to be more naturally resilient. A certain amount of stress is beneficial and can help you feel alive and alert. But once stress reaches a level greater than your ability to tolerate you will feel overwhelmed and your productivity, your relationships, your health and your quality of life may be impaired.

It may at times seem that things are out of control and that you are helpless to reduce your stress. But, you are more in control than you may realize. Stress management helps you to change stressful situations when you can change them; to change your reaction to situations that you cannot change and to make time for self-care.

10 ways to reduce stress:
  1. Eat a healthy diet
    Keeping your body nourished will help you be more resilient. Eat a healthy breakfast and eat several healthy meals throughout the day. Try to be mindful of what you are putting in your body.
  2. Get enough sleep
    Everyone feels much more frazzled when they are sleep deprived. Establish a healthy bedtime routine to help you prepare to sleep. Try guided meditation to help you sleep more soundly or to get back to sleep if you wake up during the night.
  3. Change what you can change
    Speak up, rather than bottling up. Use assertive communication and send complete messages including how you are feeling, a description of your concern and what you would prefer instead. Plan ahead to avoid unnecessary stress from running late or being unprepared.
  4. Reframe the problem
    Try changing perspective or finding your sense of humor. For example look at having to wait as a gift of time with which you can people watch, think, read or check your email on your phone.
  5. Accept what cannot be changed
    Give up trying to control things that are out of your control—like other people. Try to not label things as good or bad. Appreciate that it just is what it is.
  6. Learn to say no
    Ask yourself, “Is this something that I want to do?” “Is this something I am willing to do?” “Is this something I will resent doing?” If your answers are no, no and yes, then say no.
  7. Manage your environment
    Create a safe space for healing your frazzled nerves. Find ways to introduce peace and calm into your home. Get out in nature when you can. Look up and be mindful in your environment.
  8. Spend time with family and friends
    Build a support network and choose to share your feelings with those you trust. Communicating with someone who helps you feel safe and understood can help you feel more grounded and calm.
  9. Exercise regularly
    Physical activity helps to reduce the negative effects of stress. Exercise releases endorphins that help you feel good. Even just 10 minutes of activity that makes you sweat can increase your energy level and boost your mood.
  10. Create time for fun
    Laughing is a great stress reliever. Nurturing yourself will increase your resilience. Do something each day, just for fun, just for you.
Managing your stress is a great way for you to take responsibility for yourself in your relationship. The more resilient you are and the better able you are to cope with the stress in your life the less negative impact stress will have on your relationship and your quality of life.

Susan Derry, B.Ed., M.S.Psy., R.T.C., C.P.C.
Professional Counselor & Life Coach
Co-author of Marriage Prep: Beginnings a downloadable marriage preparation course
Co-author of Intimate Sex: Manual for Lovemaking, a sex manual for couples
Offers a free Nurturing Marriage Ezine
          Safe Space        
Have you ever been part of a group that is exhausting? What about a group that is exhilarating? In an increasingly complex world, what we know about and how we process work in teams is critical. Over the past 20 years the time spent in collaborative activities has increased by 50 percent or more. It’s […]
          Protecting Delicate Victorian Feminists from the Trauma of Salary Negotiations        
According to modern Feminist theory, women are emotionally fragile and delicate creatures who must be treated like children and protected from the harsh realities of life. They tend to be overcome with “the vapors” when exposed to strange, new ideas, and must therefore be sent to “safe spaces” — equipped with Play-Doh, and crayons, and […]
          Game of Thrones 6.2: Home        

Hello again, everyone, and welcome to week 2 of our Game of Thrones recaps. I'm joined, as always, by Ser Lockett, who still offers the GRRM perspective even though the series has gone off-book. Before we get started, last week a couple of people asked why I'd come down so hard on Margaery, and to be honest, that is an excellent question. She hasn't committed a fraction of the crimes Cersei has, and in many ways has been a victim of the game. But my issue with her is entirely a personal one. As a mom whose daughter has been dealing with a group of mean girls for the past three years, I noted quite a similarity between Margaery and the queen bee of the group, who has been tormenting my daughter and many other girls for a few years now. Margaery is a loathsome social climber, a woman with no emotional ties to anyone but her brother, who will marry and befriend purely if it helps her social status, and will claw her way through and over anyone who gets in the way. When she and her fellow worker bees were badgering Cersei last season, and ganging up on her the way these girls gang up on my daughter and others at lunchtime, I instantly despised her, and I've never stopped. So no, from the outside perspective, Margaery certainly doesn't deserve our wrath in quite the same way as Cersei. As my mental representative of all the little bullying mean girls I've had to deal with over the past few years, I want Margaery pushed off a short pier into a very deep, concrete ravine. Ahem. 

So now, without any further ado, here's Christopher to start us off! 

Christopher: The general consensus about last week’s premiere has been that it was a decent enough episode, but a slow start—which really shouldn’t surprise anyone who has been watching Game of Thrones since the beginning. Season openers have tended to be a little lugubrious, as their main job is usually to resituate us in this world after ten months away. But they always end with a bang, with a shock or a revelation: season one saw Jaime push Bran out the window, season two was the massacre of Robert Baratheon’s bastards and the realization that Gendry is one of them; in season three, Barristan the Bold saves Daenerys from assassination, Arya kills Polliver with Needle in season four, and last season saw Mance Rayder burned at the stake—and mercifully killed with an arrow by Jon Snow. And of course last week was the Melissandre reveal.

After which, we’re usually off to the races, and this week’s episode should have satisfied people’s need for action and surprise: the wildling rescue of the Jon Snow loyalists, Ser Robert Strong’s showing what happens to those who tell tales about Cersei, the appearance of Euron Greyjoy and sudden dispatch of Balon … to say nothing of everything that went down among the Boltons.

Oh, and that little ending bit.

There were also a lot of lovely moments that were by turns quiet or tense, like Tommen’s reconciliation with Cersei or Tyrion freeing the dragons. But I think I most loved where this episode began. After an entire season plus one episode away, we finally meet up with Bran & co. again, more or less where we left them, in the caves under the weirwood tree of Bran’s visions. There are any number of questions left unanswered about the timeline, though the unavoidable fact that Bran has grown since last we saw him suggests that he has spent however long last season was supposed to have lasted underground, training with the Three-Eyed Raven. (Who, we should point out, is being played now by legendary actor Max von Sydow). And whatever training he has had seems to have paid off, as he can now travel through time.

His vision of Winterfell past lends the start of this episode a sense of déjà vu, as this was where the series effectively began: with Bran in this same yard practicing his archery with the encouragement of his brothers and his father. Here he sees his father at around the age he was when the series began, sparring with Benjen. “They were all so happy,” Bran says with something like wonder in his voice. “So were you, once,” the Three-Eyed Raven reminds him, and we recall that brief moment of peace with which the series opened, shattered along with Bran’s spine at the end of episode one.

We also see the infamous Lyanna, whose abduction at the hands of Rhaegar Targaryen precipitated the end of the Dragons’ dynasty, show here young and wild and obviously more confident in the saddle than her brothers (“Stop showin’ off!” young Ned says petulantly); we see the young version of Rodrik Cassel, already rocking the mutton chops; and most touchingly and surprisingly we see Hodor when he was still called Willas and capable of speech. I love how obvious it is that, even back then, he was a gentle soul, and obviously well-loved by the Starks.

But just as we, along with Bran, become sentimental for the past, it is time to return to the troubled present. Ignoring his plea to stay longer, the Raven brings Bran back to the cold cave and his useless legs, admonishing him that such journeying is like swimming under the sea, in that “if you stay too long, you drown.”

“I wasn’t drowning,” retorts Bran. “I was home.” This episode is titled “Home,” so it’s interesting to think of the ways that motif wends its way through the story. What is home for these displaced characters? Bran has a vision of Winterfell, but all of the surviving Starks are scattered around the world, and Winterfell itself has been stolen by the Boltons. Theon decides that he must needs return to his home in the Iron Islands, Tyrion is doing his level best to adopt Meereen, and Tommen has the realization that without his mother he is missing the better part of himself. Home is a safe space, but there are vanishingly few of them in this world.

What did you think of this episode, Nikki?

Nikki: Well, now that I’ve been able to sit for a moment after dancing merrily around my house for hours, I can say this episode was a spectacular return to the action we’ve come to know and love with Game of Thrones, and as you beautifully pointed out, it does so right from the very beginning. The Bran material was well handled, and for a moment, as you mentioned, I actually thought we were back in the beginning of episode 1 of the series. I expected to see a very young and surly Arya looking out the window as she longed to be wielding a sword and not wasting her time in embroidery lessons. I loved it, and especially loved seeing a young Hodor, who reminded me of Samwell Tarly.

But then we’re back at Castle Black, and a still dead Jon Snow, with Davos behind the door as Thorne, lying through his teeth, stands outside and promises him safe passage if they simply come out with their hands up. Even Ghost isn’t buying that one. As they all unsheathe their swords as a not-so-subtle message to Thorne that they will not, in fact, go quietly into that good night, and Ghost braces himself between all of them, teeth bared and growling, Thorne has one of his men begin to break down the door. 

And just as I started to wonder if this might be the end of Davos (please no!) while at the same time REALLY looking forward to watching Ghost go straight for Ser Alliser’s throat, there’s a second banging that stops the current action and pivots everyone’s attention to the outside walls. I fist-pumped. “Wildliiiiiiiiings!” I sang quietly from the couch, tense with anticipation. And then it was even better: Wildlings + giant. And when the wiener on the parapet decided to shoot his tiny, tiny arrow that bounced off the giant’s neck with a wee little *ping* sound, what the giant did next made the Hulk’s throttling of Loki in The Avengers look amateur in comparison. And the rest of Thorne’s army dropped their weapons quickly, eliciting an almost whiny “Oh COME ON, GUYS!” from Thorne that was hilarious in its frustration and expression of broken dreams. Off to prison with Thorne and the Annoying One (Buffyreference) and... it’s over to King’s Landing.

And we open on King’s Landing with this Eric Idle type standing in the street doing his version of Monty Python’s “nudge nudge wink wink” sketch involving an unlikely story about Cersei giving him the eye, a little monologue that causes the Mountain to smash the Facebook angry dislike button so hard that even I made a noise of disgust. (“Say no more!!”) This is the most we’ve seen of the Mountain since he was raised from the dead and has turned into nothing more than a meat-based killing machine (which, granted, is only a sidestep from what he was before he died), and that thick neck, grey face, and deadened eyes behind the mask lend a particularly horrifying element to him. I hope he never takes off that mask, because it’ll give me nightmares for life. But the appearance of the Mountain and what he does here looms large over the rest of the episode, so by the time we get to the events at the end, we’re not quite so sure about this whole raising from the dead thing.

As Cersei descends from the Red Keep with the Mountain at her back, she’s stopped by King Tommen’s guards, who stand before her in a YOU SHALL NOT PASS manner and explain, heads bowed, that despite her being the king’s mother and despite her destination being the funeral of her daughter, she is not allowed to leave the Red Keep. This is possibly the lowest we ever see Cersei, and despite everything she has done, you can’t help but feel badly for a mother who cannot say goodbye to her own daughter.

The show then takes us to Jaime and Tommen, standing at Myrcella’s side. Those creepy rocks with the wide-open eyes painted on them are lying on her face, and we remember that less than two years ago, they were standing in the same spot. Only when it was Joffrey on the slab, Cersei was standing at his side, cursing Tyrion’s name and convincing her twin brother that the imp had been behind it, as Tywin put his arm around Tommen’s shoulders and led the young boy away, establishing himself as Tommen’s chief advisor. How the times have changed: Cersei has been humbled to the point where she can’t even attend the funeral, Jaime has calmed down and it’s uncertain whether he still thinks Tyrion killed Joffrey, Tommen is a reasonable king who listened to the advice given him and is still making his way through everything, and Tywin is dead, by Tyrion’s hand.

Tommen confesses to Jaime that the reason he has yet to visit his mother is simple: shame. He should have stopped what the High Sparrow did to her, he should be stopping what they’re doing to Margaery now, and he doesn’t know how to face either woman when he’s let them down so colossally. And right on cue, the High Sparrow emerges from his perch and begins to descend to where Myrcella’s cold body lay on a slab, as Jaime sends Tommen away to speak to his mother.

What did you think of the conversation between the High Sparrow and Jaime, Chris?

Christopher:  As always, I am in awe of certain actors on this show, and Jonathan Pryce is a prime example. Jaime, we can see, is coming close to a breaking point: reunited with Cersei, having seen his daughter die and his family under siege, he seems ready to return to his violent tendencies and familial retrenchment. His fury at the High Sparrow is chilling in how cold and controlled it is, but for all intents and purposes the High Sparrow calls his bluff.

Not that Jaime doesn’t call out his hypocrisies. “Your sister,” says the Sparrow, “sought the gods’ mercy and atoned for her sins.” “What about my sins?” Jaime demands, and provides a litany of his misdeeds, from the killing of the Mad King to setting Tyrion free. “What atonement do I deserve?” It is the one moment in which the High Sparrow has no answer—for what could he say to that? The subtext of this conversation is the uneven dolling out of punishment, which disproportionally hurts women, and which is more preoccupied with sexual transgression. Cersei and Margaery suffer torture and humiliation, and we’re not certain of what is being inflicted on Loras. But Jaime’s laundry-list of sins has not garnered him anything more than the label Kingslayer.

Jaime’s mistake is overplaying his hand: he should have let the silence deepen, and let the High Sparrow attempt an answer that would have further shown his hypocrisy. But Jaime is not Tyrion, and so before the High Sparrow can become properly discomfited by his question, he grasps his dagger in a threatening manner, allowing the High Sparrow to deflect his words. “You would spill blood in this holy place?” he asks. Jaime’s response, that the gods are bloodier than all mortals put together, is a nice piece of rhetoric but comes off, ultimately, as empty bravado. Better to have pointed out that he has spilled blood in the throne room of King’s Landing and bring the question back around to what atonement he deserves.

One way or another, Jaime’s implied threat effectively summons the High Sparrow’s muscle, who array themselves around the sept but do not approach. And it is here that the High Sparrow stares down the Kingslayer, daring him to kill him. The face acting between these two is on point here: Coster-Waldau has a wonderful look of surprise and consternation when he’s invited to kill his foe; and Pryce very subtly communicates an instant of trepidation in making the challenge, replaced by his mounting confidence as he looks over Jaime’s shoulder to see that his Faith Militant have arrived. The Sparrow is still in danger from Jaime Lannister, should the latter choose to roll the dice and wager that he could fight his way out of the sept; but he knows that the calculus has changed, and it is far more likely that the Kingslayer will choose to fight another day.

And more importantly, it gives him fodder for one of his speeches: “No doubt many of us would fall,” he says of the prospect of Jaime cutting his way out. “But who are we? We have no names, no family … every one of us is poor and powerless. And yet, together? We can overthrow an empire.” The look he gives Jaime as he takes his leave falls short of open disdain, but it’s clear he knows he’s just owned the Kingslayer—and Jaime knows it too.

It does seem, however, that the High Sparrow’s estimation of his nameless, poor legions of the Faith Militant will be put to the test. Heeding Jaime’s advice, Tommen visits his mother to make his own atonement. He apologizes, and in the substance of his words we see a Lannister-in-training: “I should have executed all of them. I should have pulled down the sept onto the High Sparrow’s head before I let them do that to you.” Certainly, that would have been the path taken by the late-not-quite-lamented Lord Tywin; hearing the words from Tommen emphasizes again the familial retrenchment of the Lannisters, and the danger this could pose both to themselves and to the kingdom at large. “You raised me to be strong,” he continues. “I wasn’t. But I want to be.” In this moment, Cersei gets something resembling recompense for all her humiliations, but it does raise a few questions, re: Margaery. They’re still married, after all; she is still, in fact, the queen. If Tommen is returning to his mother’s tutelage, what kind of relationship can we expect him to have with his wife, assuming he manages to break her out? Cersei’s plotting late in last season effectively turned Margaery into her devoted enemy, and Margaery is hardly someone who will humbly accept the role of submissive wife. What role does House Tyrell have in the context of the Lannister wagon-circling?

We then segue to Meereen, where Tyrion’s alcoholism elicits Varys’ disapproval, which itself provokes Tyrion to make eunuch jokes, and banter ensues. As so often happens, Tyrion has my favourite lines of the episode, the first of which I’m seriously thinking of putting on my business cards. When Missandei asks him how he knows so much about dragons, he replies, “That’s what I do. I drink, and I know things.”

But as it turns out, he does more than just drink, venturing into the dungeon to unchain the dragons … presumably because no one else was willing to do so. What did you think of our time in Meereen, Nikki?

Nikki: Tyrion and Varys were a highlight in an episode full of highlights. Just when you think you’re starting to know Tyrion, he surprises everyone with a lot of talk about dragons. He’s certainly expressed his awe of them before — witness the look on his face when he first saw Drogon flying overhead when he was in the boat with Ser Jorah. But now we discover he knows far more about them than the myths and legends: he knows how to actually take care of them. He explains that, like many animals in our world, in the wild dragons are massive creatures, but in captivity they can be quite small — he says in the great time of dragons, when they were all in captivity, they were the size of cats. (Cats!! I want a cat dragon!) And his explanation makes perfect sense. Our family actually has a pet bearded dragon. When he was little, we had to keep increasing the size of his cage or he would actually stop growing so he would never exceed his environment. I’m happy to report that at some point they do stop growing, but last year my son and I went to a reptile show, and there was a bearded dragon there from the wild that was four times the size of ours, and ours was considered full-grown. So the writers have actually culled this little fact from real-world creatures.

As Missandei, Grey Worm, and Varys look on, stunned, Tyrion explains to them that the dragons must be unchained, or they will die, and he will be the one to do it. “I am their friend!” he proclaims. “Do they know that?” Varys understandably replies.

The scene in the dungeon was so tense I could barely blink. Tyrion slowly descends the staircase as Varys stays safely by the door, and confronts the two dragons who have been left behind. Drogon, Daenerys’s favourite (and the largest of the three) is the one that’s out on the loose, and Tyrion slowly walks up to Rhaegal and Viserion. It’s interesting, in a sense, that there were three dragon siblings: Rhaegal are the smaller and more contemplative of the three, whereas Drogon is the largest and most aggressive. Tyrion’s family was the opposite: the two older ones were larger and more aggressive, while he was the smaller and more thoughtful of the three. Where Drogon, the large one, has left the nest, Tyrion, the smallest, is the one that’s been banished. And now he approaches the dragons. First we see four glowing eyes in the darkness, followed by a large head and a furnace burning brighter in the back of one of the throats... but the pilot light quickly goes out, as the dragons don’t have the energy to breathe fire at the moment. Tyrion, wide-eyed, is like a little boy coming face to face with the creatures of his wildest imagination, as he bows his head and begins speaking to them with great reverence. He is at once terrified, yet astonished to be in their presence. “I’m friends with your mother,” he tells them. “I’m here to help. Don’t eat the help.”

He explains that the only thing he ever asked for on his name day was a dragon, but everyone laughed at him. “My father told me the last dragon had died a century ago. I cried myself to sleep that night... but here you are.” He reaches out a hand and oh-so-tentatively touches its head before suddenly reaching out and grabbing the nail holding the chain together. At which point the other dragon bends its head forward, extending it so Tyrion can do the same. And the moment they are freed, the dragons lumber to the back of the cave. Tyrion stands, amazed, for one moment, before hustling it back to Varys. “Next time I have an idea like that,” he says, “punch me in the face.” It’s a brilliant, beautiful scene, where our favourite character meets our favourite creatures. Wow, what a combination they could make.

And speaking of punching in the face, a girl with no name is attacked once again by the waif, and this time the girl formerly known as Arya is pissed. She grabs that staff and swings in every direction, screaming and yelping... until the staff is suddenly stilled by the hand of Jaqen. I was thrilled to see him (I thought we’d seen the last of him) and in a very biblical moment, he tempts her with shelter, food, and even her sight if she’ll just tell him her name. “A girl has no name,” she replies, and then he leads her away. Will Arya see again? I can only imagine what Jaqen has in store for her next (but I hope she gets a good knock or two at the waif beforehand...) ;)

And then we get to the Boltons, the most depraved lot on a show filled with depravity. Once again Ramsay wants to do something drastic — in this case, storm Castle Black — because he’s thinking ahead and knows that’s where Sansa is going (and he’s right). Clearly no one has sent out a raven yet, and word that Jon Snow is dead has not been sent out as quickly as word like that usually moves (I swear the ravens in Westeros are faster than Twitter) but Roose, as usual, is cautious, and thinks moving on Castle Black is neither the right nor the politically astute choice at the moment. And just then it’s announced that Lady Walda has just given birth to a baby... boy. The child who will take the throne away from Ramsay, for a legitimate child always trumps a bastard, even if that bastard has been given his father’s last name. Roose looks to Ramsay, and embraces him, saying, “You’ll always be my first-born,” in a surprisingly touching moment... which is immediately cut down by Ramsay plunging a dagger into his father’s chest and killing him on the spot.

This moment was definitely one of the most shocking I’ve seen on the show — I didn’t see that coming at all, despite everything that had happened leading up to it. And when Ramsay calls for Lady Walda and the baby, it just gets worse. We know what he’s done to Theon, and we know what he’s done to Sansa. We know how he uses those hounds, and when he lures Lady Walda into the kennel, it’s so much worse than the fate his father endured. I couldn’t move as I watched this scene, at once horrified and hoping against hope in my mind that this one time might be the moment Ramsay lets someone go (seriously, Nikki, do you ever learn??) I imagined standing there in the same way, and how, knowing how this would play out, it would probably be more merciful to smother the child on the spot than let the hounds take him. And in the final moment we see on screen, it looks like that might be exactly what she does. Notice how she turns away from the camera and falls forward, and you never hear a baby’s scream in that scene. I was incredibly thankful the directors didn’t show us that moment.

What did you think of what happened at Winterfell, Chris? Was it a complete surprise or were you suspicious it was going to move in this direction?

Christopher: I had a brief moment of confusion when Ramsay stabbed Roose, thinking at first it was the other way around—that with the birth of a son, Roose had no need for his bastard any more. That would have been shocking, but of course it would have ended Ramsay’s storyline, and I have a slight suspicion the showrunners want him around for some time yet, and will presumably (hopefully) give him a properly gruesome death. Perhaps we can start taking odds on who gets to kill him in the end? I’m saying Jon Snow 10:1, Brienne 5:1, his own hounds 3:1. Sansa? Even money.

But no, it’s too early in the season for Ramsay to go, but not too soon for Roose. It was still a surprise, though to quote a Buffyism, as justice goes it’s not unpoetic. In the world of GoT, certain things are sacrosanct, among them the laws of hospitality and the taboo against kinslaying. In aiding and abetting the Red Wedding, Roose violated the former—and one of the reasons the Boltons’ hold on the North is precarious at best is that many of the other houses look upon the Boltons as cursed for that transgression (a point emphasized more in the novels than in the series). That Roose loses his life to the monster he has cultivated, and who—as the rest of the scene demonstrates—is quite happy to kill his kin, is about as close to justice as we’re likely to get in Westeros.

And as we have seen, things in Westeros always get worse before they get better (wait—do they ever get better?). It is doubtful that the psychotic Ramsay can hold together the alliance he will need to win the North (and potentially defend against a Lannister army), but he can do a whole lot of damage in the meantime.

Meanwhile, Brienne, Sansa, et al seem to be in a bit of a holding pattern: of all the scenes in this episode, this one feels like the most extraneous, as its main purpose seems to be for Brienne to tall Sansa about her encounter with Arya, and for Theon to announce that he’ll be leaving them. The logic behind his reasoning isn’t entirely clear, but then I don’t know that logic is necessarily going to obtain with Theon at this stage. The only thing that is clear is that after all he has done, there is only one place left for him.

When he says “Home,” we then cut to the castles of Pyke, the seat of power in the Iron Islands, where Balon Greyjoy is in the midst of an argument with Yara, Theon’s sister. The gist of their dispute is Yara’s pragmatism in the face of Balon’s stubbornness, with her pointing out that islanders are ill-equipped to take and hold mainland fortresses. He will have none of it, storming out (ha!) onto what seems to me to be a rather rickety bridge between buildings. And here we meet a new character, Balon’s younger brother Euron, whom we glean has been away for many years, sailing to the ends of the earth. His time away seems to have … well, affected him somewhat. Which is to say he’s batshit, referring to himself as both the Drowned God and the storm itself before committing this episode’s second instance of kinslaying.

I’m not sure what I think of this new story line. In the fourth novel of the series, A Feast for Crows, GRRM introduces both the Iron Islands and the Dorne subplots. Given that Feast eschewed the Jon Snow and Daenerys storylines (thus making it the least favourite of the books among fans), these new dimensions in the Ice & Fire world could be presented with an economy of storytelling (or what passes for economy of storytelling in this series); but they came to complicate book five, A Dance With Dragons, making it the most shambolic of the books so far. Reading Dance, a friend of mine said in an apt analogy, was like pulling taffy. Given the difficulty of teasing out all these threads in a novel meant that the television show was ill-suited to take all of them on, and there was a general assumption when we undertook the Dorne plot last season that the series would ignore the Iron Islands.

But here we are, and I’m worried—in part because the Dorne storyline was so clumsily mishandled, and we’re still stuck with it. And now the Iron Islands on top of it? Fingers crossed, but I’m worried we’re hitting Peak Narrative right now.

On the bright side, they will likely be mining A Feast for Crows for content, so at least there will be onestoryline I’ll have an inkling about this season.

Which brings us to this episode’s final scenes, which I assume you have one or two thoughts about, Nikki. But before that, a few final thoughts on this episode:

  • Davos apologizing to the others for what they’re about to see as he draws Jon’s sword is classic, and a perfect line for that character.
  • The showrunners really want to be a bit more sparing with their deus ex machinas. Brienne riding to the rescue last week was great, but the wildlings’ appearance at Castle Black was so utterly predictable you could have set your watch to it. I found myself thinking “I wonder how many blows they’ll get on that door before Edd returns with Tormund?” Which isn’t to say it wasn’t a thrilling sequence, just that it’s not necessarily a good pattern to fall into.
  • It’s official: crushing skulls is the Mountain’s preferred method of killing. Dude doesn’t even need a sword.
  • “Next time I have an idea like that, punch me in the face” is my other favourite Tyrion line of the episode, though “Don’t eat the help!” is pretty good too.
  • I’m REALLY happy they cut away from Walda when the hounds attack, but the sound effects were almost as bad as seeing it.

That’s it for me. What did you think of the episode’s ending, Nikki?

Nikki: I’m sure there were a lot of people out there who thought the final three seconds of the episode were as predictable as it gets, but I’m not one of them. This show has thwarted hopes and expectations more often than not, and because it was so drawn out, with Melisandre making numerous attempts to raise Jon and failing every time, I thought there was a possibility that we would end with a quiet camera hold on Jon, fade to black.

Of course, that was while I was in the moment. In retrospect, fans would have stormed the HBO studios over it, and they knew that. They couldn’t have possibly gone in that direction, and so of course it had to end the way it did, but in that moment, I just wasn’t sure if they were going to go for it or not.

The final scene began with Melisandre sitting gloomily in her room listening to country music — the music of pain. (Dude, that’s three Buffy references in a single recap, this is some kind of record for us!!) Fans have been up and down with Melisandre from the beginning. I think she’s the most stunning looking person in the entire series, and I absolutely love the way the actress carries herself and speaks. Some other viwers find her grating. I found her rather unsettling in the beginning, when we first found her with Stannis, and she’s been utterly unpredictable in her actions every step of the way except in one aspect: her unwavering belief that her convictions are correct. She never questioned that the Lord of Light was leading the way, and that Stannis was his vessel on earth, and that he’d lead them all to glory. And when Stannis died, she stumbled, and went to Castle Black and said, “OK now I’ve got it right, it’s... Jon Snow!” and then Jon Snow was killed, and she doesn’t know what to believe anymore. She’s wasted so much of her life having faith in one thing that when it collapses, she has nothing more to live for. (To the point where last week, one of our readers wondered if Melisandre removed the necklace so she could lie down and die, a notion I confessed I’d also considered when I saw that scene.)

Many of us have had that feeling, whether it’s in a relationship or a job or anything you’ve been involved in for several years. But it’s one thing to say, “Aw, man, I worked at that company for 12 years and I should have moved on years ago”; it’s quite another to have devoted your entire being to worshiping a god for centuries, only to realize you were a wee bit incorrect on that one. She’s utterly despondent as she sits in her room, and the old, confident Melisandre has turned to ashes in the fire. “I assume you know why I’m here,” Davos says. “I will after you tell me,” she replies. The old Melisandre would have chided him for even questioning what she knows, and of courseshe would always know why he’s there.

But Davos won’t let her wallow, and he pushes her. He wants to know if she knows any magic that can bring back the dead, and she tells him that she met a man once who came back from the dead, but it shouldn’t have been possible. She knows the implications of this (anyone who’s seen any genre TV or movies knows the consequences are never good). She stares ahead, unblinking. “Everything I believed, the great victory I saw in the flames, were lies.”

Davos will have none of it. He steps forward, and tells her you know what? He’s not looking for the bloody Lord of Light, master of nothing, he’s asking for help from the woman who showed him that miracles do exist. The Lord of Light might be a lie, but she’s not. And she is pretty incredible. And with that, Melisandre finds the tiniest glimmer of hope within her, and follows him to Jon’s side. She cleans all of his wounds, like Mary washing the body of Christ, until they are just red half-moons all over his body. She cuts his hair (I’ll admit to wincing through that, like, I know you’re trying to bring him back from the dead and all, but do you really have to cut his hair?) and throws it into the fire, along with some of his blood. Ghost sleeps through the entire process, which I found a little odd: you’d think the direwolf would be standing at the ready, even knowing that Jon was dead. (And at one point I was yelling, “Put some of Ghost’s fur into the fire!”) 

She lays her hands upon him, and says the incantation, and... nothing. She tries it again, nothing. We watch the hope fade from her face as she tries it again and again. Tormund turns and walks out of the room, waving them off like he couldn’t believe he’d gotten caught up in this stupid charade in the first place, but Davos’s face remains steadfast. He doesn’t take his eyes off Jon, waiting for something to happen. Melisandre’s chant becomes more and more feeble, with less and less conviction, until finally she just gives up. Head hanging, shoulders low, she turns and leaves the room, as one by one they all leave. And only Jon and Ghost are left behind.

And then, Ghost stirs. And, I will admit, I went, “Oh my god, his spirit went into GHOST!!” but as soon as the words were out of my mouth I thought wait, no, that would just be weird. Even weirder than this show usually is. And as the camera closes in on Jon as Ghost begins making noises, we all know what’s going to happen, and it does.

Didn’t stop me from fist-pumping the air and going, “YAAAAAAAAASSSS!!” And my joy was so full that I didn’t turn to the person beside me and say, “YOU were wrong and I was right because I never wavered in my conviction that he was coming back and HA-ha ha-hahaha.” Oh wait, no... that’s totally what I did.

Thanks again for reading, and I look forward to chatting again next week!