“What do you think of when you hear the word colonial?”
That was the question posed to me and others by a Black interpreter, a title that the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation has chosen to use over the more popular “historical reenactor.” It’s also one I had asked myself in the months leading up to the one-week vacation my spouse and I would be taking in Williamsburg, Virginia. To be perfectly honest, my answer before visiting didn’t amount to very much at all. Leftist internet circles and the odd Key & Peele sketch had helped me arrive at the conclusion that the Founding Fathers were a problematic bunch, but having eschewed American History in high school my familiarity with them was limited to binge-listening to Hamilton.
In spite of, or maybe due to, the level of my ignorance, I was excited to take a trip back to the 18th century in what I would later learn was the first permanent English colony in the Americas. While the City of Williamsburg owns the public streets that the restored Colonial-era buildings can be found on, buying tickets allowed the two of us to enter several of them and join walking tours. (Lifehack: teachers receive a 25% discount, so either marry one or finish a years-long education degree to save a little money!)
The interior of the Governor’s Palace, with portraits of Queen Charlotte and King George III bordering the doorway.
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Posted in America, Culture War Report, government, history, morality, race
Tagged America, Colonial Williamsburg, culture war report, freedom, history, interpreter, justice, slavery, that the future may learn from the past, USA, Virginia
Of those visible and pictured here, roughly 1/3 have since tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. (That’s me on the right holding the beer.) Photo credit: Josiah Bilagot (@jbilagot)
Long-time readers of the site will be familiar with this feature as the rare recounting of a hands-on lived experience. Over the years my co-writers and I have shared our personal encounters attending such events as a LARP-ing session, major esports finals, and even an “Extreme Midget Wrestling” match. While each was a brief glimpse into an occasion the general public may never stumble across, what I’m sharing today is much more personal and, unfortunately, much more likely.
This past Saturday, July 23rd, my spouse and I hosted a reception at the very lovely Bluma & Appel Salon at the Toronto Reference Library to celebrate one year of marriage with our friends and family. It was a far cry from our actual wedding in July of 2021, when the backyard ceremony was comprised of the two of us, our pastor, my parents, my grandfather, and our photographer. Had we all seven gone inside afterward to share a meal in an enclosed room we would have flagrantly broken the provincial COVID guidelines at the time. In contrast the reception included roughly one hundred guests from dozens of households, interacting unmasked, dancing, and even enjoying a Indian vegetarian-vegan buffet-style dinner. It was one of the first pure, unbridled moments of joy I’ve felt in quite a long time. Continue reading →
The other night my roommate convinced me to join her at our regional library’s “Book Smack” event. At first I was concerned that it would be a tedious affair. After all, why would you want to talk about a book when you could just go ahead and read it? However, the event page promised that the librarians would “let their hair down, take off their glasses and speed review their favourite books” and that it would be “fast, furious and fun” night, so with the image of wild librarians in mind, I decided to go along.
When we arrived at the venue, I wasn’t overly surprised to see that the audience was primarily older women. The featured librarians were also all women, although only two of them sported silver-white hair.
Before the event started the MC set some ground rules. Each librarian would have a certain amount of time to convince the audience to read/watch/listen to a few of their favourite books/movies/audiobooks/CDs. In the first round each librarian was given five minutes, then three, then only one, to review their books. During the intermission audience members would then vote for the librarian who they thought would would win the book smack. Then, for the second round, librarians were only given three minutes, then one minute, then only thirty seconds to defend their choices.
I’m not entirely sure what made this event as fantastic as it was. Maybe it was just the fun of seeing librarians mutter words like “full frontal” and “masturbation warning”. Perhaps it was the appeal of seeing a group of much older women giddy with laugher all around me. Most likely, it was the reminder of just how amazing books are, and how they can bring us together by inviting us into new worlds or allowing us to wrestle with our own struggles. Continue reading →
Posted in Culture War Report, lgbt, literature, media
Tagged Aziz Ansari, book review, book smack, Cece Bell, culture war report, David R. Boyd, Dear Zachary, Dumplin, El Deafo, Eric Klinenberg, I.N.J. Culbard, Julie Murphy, Lawrence Hill, librarian, library, Making a Murderer, Modern Romance, R.W. Chambers, Raziel Ried, reading, The Book of Negroes, The Illegal, The King in Yellow, The Optimistic Environmentalist, The Reason You Walk: A Memoir, Wab Kinew, When Everything Feels Like the Movies
It can’t be easy making a biopic.
Err to much on the side of leniency and you get a sappy, self-congratulatory, and ultimately meaningless popcorn flick. Err to much on the side of harsh truth and you’ll often get a vicious hatchet job.
Now try doing that while the main character’s still alive.
Suddenly there’s the additional burden of being honest and fair and avoiding litigation at the hands of the offended and his or her legions of lawyers.
Now try doing that with eleven characters at once.
Against all odds, Straight Outta Compton does just that.
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Posted in America, art, bizarreness, business, celebrity, crime, Culture War Report, film, history, music, race, review
Tagged 80s, 90s, antisemitism, Arabian Prince, beating, biopic, criticism, Dr. Dre, Eazy E, fuck tha police, gangsta rap, hiphop, Ice Cube, Jerry Heller, LA riots, MC Ren, misogyny, no vaseline, NWA, pac, police, police brutality, race, racism, rap, rodney king, ruthless records, Snoop Dogg, Straight Outta Compton, Tupac, Tupac Shakur, Violence, wu-tang clan
A few weeks ago a close friend called me up because her family had bought a bunch of tickets to see The Phantom of the Opera at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre. Lucky for us, they ended up with a few extra tickets that they needed to sell. The tickets were an incredible deal and Seattle isn’t very far from where we live, so we leapt at the opportunity.
On the day of the play we were ecstatic. In high school, several friends and I had become obsessed with the film version of The Phantom of the Opera. One of these friends made himself a Phantom-like cape for Halloween and even managed to convince the rest of our class that we should have a Phantom of the Opera theme for our grad banquet. While John wasn’t quite as familiar (or obsessed) with Phantom, he had acted in community theatre in high school and was looking forward to seeing a professional version of such a well-known play.
At this point I should probably warn you about spoilers, just in case you have never seen the film or the play.
Since our tickets were such a great price, we were hardly surprised when we were seated in the nosebleeds. Quite frankly, we didn’t care. We were too busy looking around at the ornate theatre itself.
This was the only photo I was allowed to take in the theatre itself. As you can see, we were pretty far back. The brown object in the centre is the chandelier, covered up, and the stage is covered with a dark screen that makes all the objects appear covered in cobwebs.
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Posted in art, Culture War Report, film
Tagged boat, Broadway, chandelier, Christine, elaborate, Eric, experience, film, IMAX, Lake under the Paris Opera House, Paramount Theatre, Paris Opera House, Phantom of the Opera, play, Raoul, Seattle, set, set design, sing for me, spoilers, stage, surrounded, the movie, the Phantom, theatre, tickets
It’s been my ambition for some time now to dedicate a series to explaining American politics to our substantial audience of non-Americans. While this blog is comprised 50% of Canadians (our frosty neighbors north of the wall), the simple fact of the matter is that the land-the-free has long been the front line of culture war. What happens here affects the rest of the globe.
With the already hotly contested primaries underway and prospects for the 2016 election being widely debated, what better time could there be than now to explain just why it is that we the people are fundamentally screwed.
Let me break it down here.
I. The Person Who Wins Isn’t Always The Person Who Gets Elected
In spite of our praise for democracy, the American republic does not have a one-man-one-vote policy. Every four years, there’s a decent chance that the candidate with the most votes will still lose to his opponent.
See, we have something called the “electoral college”- a staggeringly complex system that not even this succinct TED video can completely cover. At its simplest, the system boils down to states having “points” assigned to them on the basis of their populations and number of congressmen and senators.
This system means that a political candidate doesn’t necessarily have to get a massive number of people to vote for him- just a majority. So long as he or she gets that majority, no matter how slim, they still takes away as many “points” as if they had won a landslide.
What that means is that a person can get elected president in spite of his or her opponent getting more actual votes. Just look at this image below:
While the majority of votes cast in this example are blue, red still wins by virtue of this system. While supposedly protecting states with smaller populations (preventing them from being drowned out by heavily populated states), the result is that a person’s vote can very well be rendered utterly pointless. Plenty of folks simply don’t even bother voting, especially in states dominated by one party. Alternatively, states with greater electoral power (more points, that is) and a habit of swinging between parties (Ohio and Florida, most famously) get disproportionate amounts of attention.
In spite of being viciously despised by folks on both sides of the political spectrum, there’s really very little hope for any reform on this point. While part of that can be blamed on tradition, plenty of it also boils down to a little thing called- Continue reading →
Posted in advertising, America, bizarreness, business, Culture War Report, government, history, money, news, politics
Tagged 4th congressional district, America, American, Ben Carson, Canada, Canadian, citizens united, democrat, elections, electoral college, explained, foreign, gerrymandering, house of cards season 2, Illinois, international, Nebraska, non-americans, pac, politics, popular vote, primary, redistricting, regulation, superpac, system, vote, voting