Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A brief message to Torontonians

It's time for another round of the Influency Poetry Salon in Toronto, facilitated by Margaret Christakos.

I mean, just look at this line-up: John Barton, Gregory Betts, Susan Holbrook, Jacob McArthur Mooney, Sachiko Murakami, Ruth Roach Pierson, Carolyn Smart, Carmine Starnino. It runs from April 7th to June 9th, on Wednesdays 7:00PM - 9:30PM.

More information and registration here. Influency is a fantastic experience, and if you can afford to take the class, do it. Where else can you find a seminar series with so many different poets talking to one another?

The Agora Review has some critical essays by Influency participants if you want to see some writing that emerged from a past Influency crowd. i had a lot of fun being Influenced. You will too.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Help the First Nations University

Video Transcript at the end of the post.

Funding cuts are threatening the First Nations University of Canada. Check out their website here to find a form letter to send to Chuck Strahl, Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, and to PM Stephen Harper. Here is my slightly altered version of the form letter available on the Fund First Nations University Now! Blog. Please think about taking a few minutes to send an email or a letter. It doesn't take much effort, but it sure can mean a lot.

Dear Mr. Strahl and Mr. Harper,

The recent Vancouver Olympic Games seemed to celebrate the cultures of Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples. But the decision to cut funding to the First Nations University reveals a different, more troubling position: does the Government of Canada only invest in Aboriginal Peoples when the world is watching? The First Nations University should be a source of Canadian pride. Where else can students learn from such a large concentration of Aboriginal instructors? What other school can put Aboriginal culture at the centre of the educational experience? No other school in Canada has such a wealth of indigenous knowledge.

First Nations University is a unique, and important institution. I am deeply concerned at the seeming indifference the Government of Canada is displaying toward the faculty, staff, and students at First Nations University who will be casualties of your irresponsible decision to close down the only Aboriginal university in Canada. I fear that the closure of First Nations University could reflect deep-seated racial antipathy toward First Nations people.

The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations has shown good faith in initiating the changes required to bring the governance structures at First Nations University into conformity with those of other universities. A working group with representation from all stakeholder groups is currently developing a revised funding and governance model for First Nations University. The University of Regina has expressed its willingness to support First Nations University.

The continuation, and indeed the future success, of First Nations University should be of the utmost concern to the Canadian Government. Funding higher education, particularly at a school with no other Canadian equivalent, is essential for the economic strength of Aboriginal Peoples, and indeed, all Canadians. Please, do not let First Nations University close.

Yours sincerely,

Claire Lacey


ETA: The CBC wrote about First Nations University here


Video Transcript:


A variety of students, of different ages, genders, and ethnicities, are shown one by one, talking about First Nations University.

First Nations University of Canada is about to shut its doors. Maybe forever. And this should concern me because? Our First Nations University is the only First Nations university in Canada. Because First Nations University helps people succeed in university better than any university in Canada. Because First Nations University has over one thousand students right now, and over three thousand graduates. And First Nations University has helped over ten thousand students complete their programs.

I came to First Nations University to be a journalist. I came to First Nations University to complete my minor in Indigenous Studies. I came to First Nations University to study leadership. I came to First Nations University because I believe that every community deserves safe drinking water. I came to First Nations University to give my son a better life. What about other people? Anybody can come to First Nations University of Canada, learn about First Nations cultures, languages, histories, business. People of every colour, race, and religion. Yeah, people from every direction.

Thousands of non-Aboriginal people have studied at the First Nations University of Canada.

Universities don’t just shut down, right? It could be the first university in the history of Canada to close its doors. What will happen if it just shuts down? Students will just go to another university, right? Some will. But some won’t. I waited and planned for years so that I could come to the First Nations University, where I could learn about my culture. From Aboriginal teachers. From Elders. Where there’s no racism in the classrooms. Do First Nations Peoples have enough education already? Hardly. Only three percent of First Nations People have university degrees compared to eighteen percent of the entire population. If the education gap between Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals were to close by 2017, an additional 71 billion dollars would be injected into the economy. How’s that for stimulus? And most of that money would be taxed.

So, what makes First Nations University so special? Well for one thing: it has the largest concentration of indigenous programming in the world. And the largest concentration of Aboriginal teachers, and the most Aboriginal teachers with PhDs. I don’t get it. Why does the federal government want to shut down the First Nations University of Canada? The federal government says it will stop funding First Nations University on April 1st. The Department of Indian Affairs is cutting funding to First Nations postsecondary education? Don’t they care about the future of Canada? Don’t they care that we’re the future work force? [Man holding a toddler] Especially in provinces like Saskatchewan, where over thirty percent of the kids in school are aboriginal. [Woman holding a young child] And we are the fastest growing population in Canada. If you care about the future of this country and our communities and our cities and our future maybe you should care about the First Nations University. Would you rather your tax dollars spent on education, or incarceration? Then maybe you should support the First Nations University of Canada. All you have to do is go to fnuniv.wordpress.com [man pointing to the web address fnuniv.wordpress.com on the screen] It’s right here. On your screen. I can see it, do you see it? There, you’ll find the success stories of this university. You will also find a link to a letter. Please, print out the letter and mail it to your MP. Mail it to the Prime Minister! Fax it. And call them. Tell them that First Nations University needs to be expanded, not downsized. Tell them: the First Nations University has a contribution to make to the future of Canada. And tell them now, because funding for the First Nations University ends on April 1st. That’s less than a month away. So we need you to support the First Nations University of Canada. Right now! If you don’t have a printer, email it!

Now, we need you to do one more thing. You need to send this to four friends. Four directions, four friends. Send it to four friends, four friends from the four directions. And the four colours: white, black, red and yellow. Four friends, so they can send it to four friends, and they’ll send it to their four friends, and Ottawa will have letters coming from all directions. [Couple with young girl] Don’t wait. Her future depends on it.

[On screen: GO TO: fnuniv.workpress.com Produced by: Students at the First Nations University of Canada Music composed and produced by Thomas Roussin]

Saturday, March 20, 2010


Have i posted the Writers In Electronic Residence podcast by Margaret Christakos yet? It's a fun listen.

i recently came into possession of a Sony eReader (the 6 inch reader touch edition). Much easier to read on than my laptop, and saves me from printing out the dozens of articles i read for school. i like the annotation function--you can take notes, and the notes function as bookmarks. However, it seems weird to me that there's no easy way to jump to a chapter or a particular page number if you haven't marked it already. Additionally, i have to turn the touch-based page turning off when i'm underlining, because the reader cannot distinguish between drawing a line and turning the page. And the highlighting function doesn't work at all; the touch screen seems out of sync with the text, so if you try to highlight a line, you end up with a section highlighted three lines below, or one line above. Useless. But the handwritten notes seem to have better accuracy, so the highlighter isn't really necessary. Still, when something costs $300, it would be nice if it functioned properly in all regards.

The Sony ebook store is useless. i had a $25 gift certificate, which i used, and now i think i'll buy my texts elsewhere. Which is possible because Sony ereaders support multiple formats, including pdf and word docs. It supports jpeg, but image files cannot be resized. Text files have 4 different possible font sizes, and it doesn't renumber the pages when you alter the text size which i like because it keeps citations simple.

Overall, i'm pretty pleased with my ereader. But i expect the functionality will improve drastically with the next few generations of products.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

the Bechdel test

Over at Shakesville, there are some recommendations in this thread of books, movies, and webcomics that pass the Bechdel Test. The Bechdel Test, named for the author of Dykes to Watch Out For, requires that a movie (book, whatever):

1. Has to have at least two women in it,
2. Who talk to each other,
3. About something besides a man.

Some variants require that the women be named characters. You know, this is really not asking a lot. And yet, i can think of surprisingly few movies that pass this test. Books fare a bit better. Even Tamora Pierce's YA novels generally only have one prominent female character, so i'm not sure that they would all pass #2. In comics, well Birds of Prey and Detective Comics from #854 (i think this is where Batwomen takes over) pass. I would also like to amend rule 3 to "About something other than romance" because lesbian fiction might not talk about a man, but still can fall within the tired tropes of what women "should" be thinking about (securing a mate, finding love). For instance, with my version of rule #3, Jeanette Winterson's Written on the Body might not pass, since the novel has a fairly narrow focus, if i recall it correctly.

Obviously, it's very difficult, if not impossible, to say that i'm only going to consume woman-friendly media. Even harder to do the same with LGBTQI-positive media. Or PWD-positive media (actually, this one might be impossible). i'm the first to admit, i enjoy comic books like Batman, or Superman, or Aquaman, despite the misogyny. One of my favourite movies, SLC Punk, definitely doesn't pass. But it's important to know the choices available, and it's important to show that there IS support for greater diversity (because the film industry loves to tell us that women WANT brainless romcoms, not films that represent their actual experiences).

Really, this shouldn't be as hard as it is. Suggestions of lit/comics/film that passes are welcome in the comments. i might go over my bookshelf and add more suggestions later.

There is also a blog (apparently coming out of hiatus soon) that determines whether or not movies pass the test.