Sterling, the Scapegoat Racist

The trial and execution of Donald Sterling has been swift and sure, leaving the talking heads crowing about doing the right thing. Sterling, the Scapegoat RacistThe problem is, just like Police Chief Bull Connor in the ’60s, Sterling is an easy target; it takes no effort to decry overt racists, the kind who mutter racist drivel or point fire houses at the innocent.Sterling, the Scapegoat Racist

What would be interesting – perhaps even civilized – is if these same talking heads took aim at the insidious racism that permeates American society, the kind of racism that is shrugged off, such as the fact that while the majority of players are black (78%), the majority of coaches (53%) and general managers (60%) and vast majority of owners are white (96%). Sterling, the Scapegoat RacistWhile many of these owners might be vaguely beneficent, none are looking to surrender ownership of the plantation any time soon.

This capitalistic wall is the very same issue that grounded Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 when he switched his sights from the blatant racism of the south to the economic racism of the north. Sterling, the Scapegoat RacistIt wasn’t a direction that the white politicians and business leaders took kindly too but was a problem quickly and violently solved.Sterling, the Scapegoat RacistWhen the Toronto Raptors and Vancouver Grizzlies joined the NBA in 1995, the U.S. media was startled to learn that both organizations hired black men as managers – Stu Jackson (Vancouver) and Isiah Thomas (Toronto). Sterling, the Scapegoat RacistThis wasn’t much of a story in Canada because these guys knew basketball – one came from the NBA’s Head Office, the other from the championship Detroit Pistons – and that was all there was to it. However the story in the U.S. ran, sadly, like the Sterling story runs today: NBA Serves Justice. Too bad the same can’t be said everywhere else.

Meh Meme

The word ‘meh‘ isn’t much of anything; it isn’t a word, not even a thought. But it does reflect our mediocre lot, this meh species of ours. 20140428_185429Rather than being clever, as we purport, we have addled ourselves with half-realizations mirroring our stasis. Meh. We live emptiness, half to and from nothing, cloaked in a pretended indifference that we use to mask our terror and ignorance. That’s our meme: not bad, not good, just sitting in the back, waiting for class to end. 20140427_193914Plagued by likes, tweets and blogs, anything to avoid the realization of our inevitable demise, our dull species continues back to irrelevance, our genesis, a meh meme of our end.20140426_123808

To the End of the World

The Danish film, Expedition to the End of the World, follows a crew of artists and scientists to the formidable northeastern coast of Greenland. Screenshot (1201)Punctuated by pithy reflections – “So what if Copenhagen and Hamburg are flooded (by global warming)? We can move to Mongolia and Switzerland” – the film provides a landscape on which to reflect. Screenshot (1200)The film could be considered something of a cinematographic Stendhal Syndrome – where one is so overwhelmed by a moment of personal significance as to have a physical reaction – as our inevitable demise is discussed in a sensibility that, although self-deprecating and humorous, is overwhelmingly bleak. thescreamatsothebysIt is a fitting film for these apocalyptic days and offers so much more than the mindless effects of all the super-hero pictures, Noah and Godzilla

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Master Nate

I stretched out in the grass, the lawn sloping away into an almost epically long view, the trees in a horseshoe at the far side and the city above. sheep meadowKristie was asleep beside me. We had finished our finals, Third Year done, and summer was here. I breathed out lightly, almost happy, my elbow tucked perfectly in. That’s when I saw him surge out of the corner of my eye, my old high school teacher, Master Nate.

“Vicks!” He stood over me, awkwardly perving down my top. “How are you doing? What a day! What a day!” I closed my eyes and wished him away. imagesBut he was still there, his narrow eyes, big nose and lips like Ichabod Crane. “Who’s your lovely friend?”

sleepy-ichabod“Who’s this?” Kristie sat up.

His hand came jutting out, hairier than I remembered. “Nate Doyle. Pleased.”

“Master Nate.”

He blinked hard, dark white spittle at the corner of his mouth. “What’s that, Vicks? What?”

I lurched up, banging the grass off my jeans. “I told her about you, Master Nate.”

His mouth opened and closed, a large-mouth bass gasping for water. “I would have done anything for you. Literally anything.”

“This is the guy?” Kristie zipped up her top. “Jesus fuck.”

“Vicks, no.” His eyes bulged, his chin jutted out. “Literally. Anything.”

“Master Nate masturbates.” I couldn’t feel my arms. I wondered if this was what a heart attack was like.

His eyes looked wild, a rodent in a trap. rat“You’re a good girl, Vicks. I know that. But you’re hurting me. You know that.”

“I should call the police.” Kristie got her phone out of her purse. “Let’s do that.”

“Lit-er-al-ly. An-y-thing.” He punctuated each syllable with a thrust of his hand.

“So what do you do? It’s just 9-1-1?”

And then he turned away and was suddenly crazily running, swerving toward the darkness of the trees.running-away1I thought about having a rifle, lining him up, breathing in, shooting, how he would fall, the little thing he was, and how that would be that.

Vicks stared after him and then at me. “That guy taught you?”

“He was the head of the department.”

My Stupid Freewill

I am dumb, looking at the screen.Screenshot (1172)Only just able to raise my finger, I click again. Screenshot (1170)I am non-thinking, the opposite of my brain working, and believe there to be a link, somehow secret, that will inspire, move me in a direction, anywhere.

Screenshot (1171)But I stay thick and slow, stuck. There is nothing. Screenshot (1170)I go around again, the same pages, the same things, the same morbid reflections, the same sentimental desires, and I know that I will not click on anything new, that I will keep circling in, trapping myself in this concentric hell. Screenshot (1172)An email arrives and I have to respond to that. I have to get up. I have work, things I must do, and already am thinking back to just now, having this time to do whatever I wanted and doing nothing, absolutely nothing.esk-compI should have done something real and certain. I promise myself that I will do that, the next chance I have.

Email Sign-Offs

Emailing is a cold communication, all business, and yet I regularly get messages signed “warmly”. Warmly-Yours-Snow-Melt-Brass-Plaque-P15557158Automatic signatures have the opposite effect on me; rather than establish a connection, they form a barrier because they are block and copied, and therefore a pat response. o-EMAIL-SIGNOFFS-END-THEM-FOREVER-facebookI have always signed my emails “sincerely” or “thanks very much” and have since read, in a Forbes blog by Susan Adams, that this is archaic. Here are a few of Ms. Adams’ other insights:

Best Wishes –Seems too much like a greeting card but it’s not bad.
 – I used to use this but stopped, because it’s trying too hard to be abbreviated. Why not type three more letters? OK if you’re sending it from your phone.
Thanks for your consideration
 – A tad stilted with a note of servility, this can work in the business context, though it’s almost asking for a rejection. Steer clear of this when writing a note related to seeking employment.
 – I predict this will gain in popularity as our emails become more like texts. 
[:-) – I’m a sucker for variations on the smiley face made with punctuation marks, though I suspect most people don’t like them.
In haste 
– Good when you don’t have time to proofread.
Be well
 – Some people find this grating. Not appropriate for a business email.
Yours Truly
 – I don’t like this. It makes me feel like I’m ten years old and getting a note from a pen pal in Sweden.
 – Pretentious for an English-speaker, though I can see using it in a personal, playful email.
 – I’ve heard of this being used in business emails but I don’t think it’s a good idea.images-1Have a wonderful bountiful lustful day – Tim Ferguson, editor of Forbes Asia, regularly gets this sign-off from Joan Koh, a travel writer in southeast Asia. It’s weird and off-putting.
Sent from a prehistoric stone tablet
 – I laughed the first time I read it but then the joke wore thin.
This email is off the record unless otherwise indicated
 – I’m wondering what kind of paranoid people put this in their signatures.

Thanks, and I mean that sincerely, McPhedran

My Whirling Brain

I don’t drink coffee. And for good reason. My brain is on constant whirl. It starts from the moment my eyes are half open. My Whirling BrainMy dream? What was that? What did I do? I was a lawyer? I was that. And a murderer? No, that was him. And he got off. My Whirling BrainI was all right. My health was good, even if I always had the pain deep in my back and ribs. What was the point of any of this? I was alive. Yes. I had to get to work. I had to get back to the book. How were the Leafs? Oh right. Shit.My Whirling BrainSometimes I want to hide from my head, get into the corner of it and let it spin on itself. It never stops, whirling from the banal to the introspective back to the banal. Lots of doubt. Lots of darkness. Lots of sex. My Whirling BrainSports too. That helps tone everything else down – the nothingness and all that. My Whirling BrainAnd then I do what I have to do. I eat and walk, teach and talk, email and grade, write and plan, blog and argue, reason and mount the elliptical, try to make some sense of what’s to come. My Whirling BrainAnd then I have a drink and think and have another and try to ride the round slow arc, going up, my arms almost out, warm and clear, and chase that well, and slump, giving in to my urge to play Texas Hold ‘Em. My Whirling BrainWatch something and something else, sleep and do it all again.

Overlooked New York Part II: Elizabeth Berger Plaza

Only a block away from New York’s oldest park, Bowling Green, sits Elizabeth Berger Plaza. 20140415_170050This triangular, nondescript green space sits at the entry to Battery Park Tunnel and is an exit for Rector Street Station for the #1 train. 20140415_170606Berger Plaza offers potted plants, trees and benches to relax. 20140415_170150 20140415_170721Historic plaques adorn benches. 20140415_17064820140415_170826These commemorate that the location was once called Little Syria – before being displaced by the construction of the tunnel. 20140415_170004Undoubtedly a much quieter space then.20140415_170248

Ferry Sinking & Easter Chocolate via The Cold Medium

The headline from yesterday’s Globe & Mail web page read: Haunting text messages from the ferry disaster. Plus: spring home-buying tips and a DIY Easter egg recipe.

A vaguely intelligent-looking woman in purple jacket and glasses offered a pithy sequence of thoughts in rapid succession. Screenshot (1143) “As the hours tick by and conditions continue to hamper the search, the likelihood of anyone left on board will survive lessens.” Screenshot (1148)“I know personally from anecdotes that some homes get multiple multiple offers. Why is this?” Screenshot (1141)“This weekend will involve chocolate, lots of chocolate, if you’re like me.”Screenshot (1142)How cold can a medium get? (Thanks Lexus)

Good Apocalypse

The city is in ruins, not still smoldering but that feeling there, the sky bright, endless, the depth terrifying and clear. IMAG3113There is nothing. And it is a good thing. 20140408_181741Yes, a good thing. It is not that people haven’t been lost. They have. They are distant and gone. There is a gap from that. But not as much as would be expected. 20140401_160751The screams have gone, not from dying, but the drunkenness, the all-knowingness, the certitude banged up against in the street, dumb-eyed, suddenly stopped, turning. There is none of that. 20140322_135650The quiet is sure. It is a free place, drifted to, away and alone, the climb to the top, the twist through the shoulders, feet firmly planted, hands tight, watching, clear-headed, almost happy with nothing on TV but Gilligan, too poignant, verging on Camus. gilliganBut the funny thing is I feel good, too good.20140401_153145And I know I should feel guilty about that.