(This piece was originally published in the Weal, for a segment in which all editors were asked to define their thoughts on modern masculinity. You can read the other editors’ responses on theweal.com.)
Masculinity is no longer relevant. We’re past the age of idealizing Doc Savage, James Bond, Indiana Jones, for all of their perceived ‘manly’ qualities. The word creates a dualism – everything that isn’t feminine. Those two terms can’t exist as opposites to each other.
Most of us are made up of a variety of qualities that fluctuate somewhere between the two – I would challenge anyone who says that a competitive chef in a fast-paced kitchen is somehow a more masculine (he’s powerful, works hard) or more feminine (she provides, takes care of people by feeding them) career.
Those associations that traditionally have defined masculinity and femininity are relatively recent, and definitely Western. There is no standard definition of what masculinity truly is that can apply across the board, no matter what age, culture, or time period a man lives in.
That leaves one obvious sign of masculinity – your physical sex. Unfortunately, that’s also not a foolproof test for manliness. Some people born physically male (cisgendered) identify as female, or no gender at all. And the physical characteristics of what a ‘man’ is don’t apply to everyone – according to the InterSex Society of North America, one in 100 people born have a body that differs from standard male or female.
If you are looking to use manhood or masculinity to cement your idea of who you are and what your role is in society, look elsewhere. There’s one easy way to find good traits to aspire to and set a standard for yourself – find a person that inspires you, and aim to emulate their best human qualities, not strive to a false masculine idea.
(Photos courtesy the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library-Calgary Public Library.)
The Fish Creek Library is the library I grew up with. I developed a pretty regular routine during the summers as a kid – cycling there, grabbing as many books as I could fit and rushing off for home, returning a few weeks later to shamefully pay my egregious late fees with my allowance and grab another stack of books.
Few things have changed about my love of the library over the years – now I visit the Central Library or Louise Riley branches the most frequently, and I’m paying off those late fees on my debit card (sorry librarians, I still can’t keep track of time when my nose is in a good book).
The library is pretty magical – how a place can simultaneously be a secluded isle of calm and a bustling hub for learning is absolutely beyond me. In honour of the Library’s 100 year anniversary, and their One Book, One Calgary program celebrating Awesomeness, here are a few neat facts and reasons on why the Calgary Public Library is awesome:
Read more at Calgary is Awesome.
5 Dec 2012 / 1 note
(Photos by Brett Rieger.)
“Calgary is the centre of a new renaissance,” – and Dr. Patrick Finn certainly fits in to his idea of Calgary. One of Avenue Magazine’s 40 under 40, the professor, writer, designer, and self-described computer geek is somewhat of a renaissance man himself, not just the “strange bald man driving a smart car who works at the university” that he likes to describe himself as.
Finn seems to have struck a perfect balance between ambitious and happy, and he shared some of his tips with a thrilled crowd of around 50 that filled the John Dutton Theatre for the closing event of One Book, One Calgary.
The talk was a compilation of his previous presentations as part of the program, all centering on the theme of happiness. He started by touching on some central themes from The Book of Awesome, by Canadian author Neil Pasricha, namely the importance of attitude, awareness, and authenticity. He then moved on to give mini-versions of his four talks – covering non-work life, the science of happiness, the truth about creativity, and awesomeness.
Read more at Calgary is Awesome.
(Originally published in The Weal.)
A bit of hedonism goes a long way
Bad things are always more fun. No kid would ever choose broccoli over candy. The former is good for you, and the latter leads to not-so-fun consequences like obesity and rotten teeth – but nine times out of 10 when presented with the two options, a kid would have the candy unwrapped before you can say “diabetes.”
Of course, adults definitely have their vices as well. At its worst, a vice is an addiction, and can be a pretty dangerous thing. However, at its best (when it’s indulged in infrequently), it’s shamefully referred to as a guilty pleasure.
Some even avoid that designation – although, those yoga-clad, raw-food diet, better-than-thou health freaks are probably indulging in their guilty pleasures in secret to keep up appearances.
There shouldn’t be so much shame around indulging— whether it’s a couple beers after work, a mad weekend of Halo 4 fuelled by energy drinks, or a ‘lasagna’ dinner made with Doritos, Cheez Whiz, and bacon. As long as you’re only letting your hedonist flag fly every once in a blue moon, there’s no reason to be ashamed. Adults don’t need mom and dad to sit them at the table and force them to eat that plate of broccoli – they go through all the non-fun aspects of life every day, which is why they deserve a reward. Work hard, play hard, right?
This isn’t just justification for lazy and unhealthy behaviour – indulging can help you de-stress, and leads to a better quality of life. According to a 2010 survey by the American Psychological Association, 54 per cent of people are concerned about the level of stress in their lives and its effect on their health. The same survey said that some of the most popular ways to manage stress are eating, drinking, watching TV, and playing video games. More relaxation, less stress, more happiness.
So go ahead – indulge your vice.
(The Weal only endorses mild vices such as an extra-cheesy-cheeseburger. If you read the above and your mind immediately jumped to hard drugs, you’re definitely reading the wrong article).
Sure, Calgary’s awesome now – but it used to be too. Just ask Calgary Heritage Authority’s Historian Laureate, Harry Sanders. Harry has devoted his life to exploring Calgary’s history. He’s written six books on the subject, a series of columns for the Calgary Sun, taught listeners with his ‘Harry the Historian’ show on CBC Radio, and worked as an interpreter and an archivist at different point in his career.
Lately, Harry’s been exploring and sharing some of his favourite things about Calgary’s past on twitter. Lonnie Taylor, one of Calgary 2012′s Cultural ambassadors started a twitter thread (#CalgaryRetro) to share neat facts and photographs about retro Calgary. “Some of my favourite include the Buckshot show (I was a guest for my fourth birthday in 1970), buying comic books at Jaffe’s Book and Music Exchange (now the site of the Epcor Centre for the Performing Arts), and swinging from a rope tied to a big old tree on the Elbow riverbank at Lindsay Park,” said Harry.
Over the years, Harry has collected a ton of fun historical facts – and tonight (Tuesday, Nov. 6) he’ll be sharing them with you! Swing by Memorial Park Library at 7:00 p.m. to hear Harry reminisce about 100 Awesome Things from Calgary’s past. And, Harry would like to add, Calgary is just going to keep getting more awesome in the future.
“What’s most awesome to me is the affection many Calgarians have for the city’s history and its heritage buildings and sites. Calgary has always had a fascinating past, and now more than ever, I believe that the city’s heritage is taking its rightful place in the public’s imagination.”
Read more at Calgary is Awesome.
7 Nov 2012 / 1 note
This month I’ll be publishing a series of articles as the beat writer for the Calgary Public Library’s One Book, One Calgary program. The first article is up at Calgary is Awesome - stay tuned to our site for awesome events happening all November.
31 Oct 2012 / 0 notes
If trustees approve a new plan introduced in September by the Calgary Board of Education, kids could soon be studying for a math test in the Pepsi Library.
It seems a lot like something out of a science fiction novel. In Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, student projects and schools are sponsored by corporations that snap up the brightest pupils as employees and keep many of the others as life-long customers. It’s not a pretty picture, and one that if implemented could definitely lead down a slippery slope.
The proposed plan, which would allow corporate naming of spaces inside schools, would help individual schools to rely less on the board for funding.
The CBE says that they will have regulations in place, such as thoroughly vetting an organization or corporation that wishes to sponsor a classroom. The trustees will have the ultimate say in each case of sponsorship, and they can veto their decision at any time.
The extra funds would go towards career and technology style programs at school – for example, the latest labs with shiny new equipment could be named after a pharmaceutical company.
Read more at The Weal.
31 Oct 2012 / 0 notes
Photographer: Stacy Wong (http://www.sawphotography.ca/)
(Originally posted at Calgary is Awesome.)
At CIFF’s black carpet gala on Sept. 28, the line-ups wrapped around the block for the Globe theatre. It was no shock – Brandon Cronenberg (yes, the son of that Cronenberg) was on scene with his debut film Antiviral, a dark, satirical, thriller with plenty of twisted imagery that harkens back to The Fly.
The film follows Syd March (X-Men’s Caleb Landry Jones), an employee of a clinic that harvests celebrity sickness to infect fans. He infects himself with the virus that killed a celebrity, and suddenly finds him himself a target – and perhaps a victim of the virus.
I chatted with Brandon about the film and his first visit to Calgary. Stay tuned for part two of the discussion.
What came first, the sickness or celebrity angle when you were writing the film?
It was the sickness aspect. I started writing it in 2004, I had just started film school. I had got this fairly bad flu and I just started having this fever dream, where I was obsessing over the physical nature of my illness and the weird fact that I had a virus in my body that had come from someone else’s body.
Then I tried to think of a character that could see this disease as something intimate, and I thought of a celebrity obsessed person who could see getting Angelina Jolie’s cold as a good thing.
I’ve noticed that they often show sickness in films from a primarily psychological side. Why did you feel that body horror was the right fit for this story?
I’m not sure! I didn’t set out to specifically make a body horror film. The body stuff was partly to dramatize the illness, but also the sort of physical celebrity fetishes that I wanted to mirror in the film.
So, let’s say hypothetically you have to inject yourself with a celebrity’s disease. Who would you pick?
Anyone who’s offering.
Watching the movie, I noticed that I started to feel culpable, like I was perpetuating this celebrity fandom. Did you try to bring in that sense of voyeurism?
Yeah, definitely. I mean, there’s a very interesting play between what we were criticizing and what we were doing. For Sara Gadon, for instance, she had to be fetishized and become that sort of icon in order to discuss fetishization. And saturate it.
For instance, later in the film, there’s that slow motion shot of Hannah Geist being made up by her people, being sort of ‘prepared’. That was actually footage we got accidentally as Sara was being touched up for a photo shoot – it was kind of a meta nod to what we were doing.
That was a scene where I really noticed the parallels between losing control of your body, and the very controlled, clean shots you used as a filmmaker.
To a certain extent, the shot construction sort of mirrors that vibe between celebrity non-human media constructs and the physical human being.
27 Oct 2012 / 3 notes
Are we really alone in the universe?
Or is there life out there beyond the stars.
Maybe, according to the experts who participated in a U of C Science Cafe event Oct. 4 at TELUS Spark.
The event, which was titled The Great Space Debate, was held as part of TELUS Spark’s Astronomy Night, which runs on the first Thursday of the month.
Science Cafés are held monthly between September and May each year, on the fourth Tuesday of each month at Inglewood’s Ironwood Stage and Grill.
The forums are held as an alternative to staid lecture series. Each Café features a new topic, with experts in the field arguing their different takes on the material, moderated by someone who is also informed on the subject at hand.
Read more at The Press.
26 Oct 2012 / 0 notes
Sunlight is an amazing energy source – but one that can definitely be tricky to harness. One issue that often plagues solar panel installation is misalignment. Installations often use expensive solar tracking systems. These trackers are multi-axis platforms that direct a solar panel or reflector towards the sun – using electricity and often costing up to or over 25 per cent of a panel’s initial installation cost.
Panels collect two types of light – diffused sunlight (the kind that fills the entire sky on a sunny day) and direct sunlight (which makes up about 90 per cent of energy collected). A solar tracker helps collect all of that direct sunlight, but often can cost close to the amount gained, making it a not very profitable solution.
Two students at the University of Calgary, however, intend to change that with their new mobile app ‘Simpy Solar’.
Read more at my new website, EcoCalgary.
26 Oct 2012 / 0 notes
(Illustration by Sarah Pynoo.)
Right now, Americans are gearing up for Nov. 6, when they will elect their next president and vice president. The forerunners, current POTUS, Barack Obama of the Democratic Party, who is running with his vice-president Joe Biden, is up against Mitt Romney of the Republican Party, with vice-presidential hopeful Paul Ryan.
The candidates have been duking it out over debates – and many Canadians have been following each step and misstep very closely. Canada and America are so closely tied, that whatever choice is made at the polls this November is sure to affect us.
As former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau once said, America is, “in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.”
Read more at The Weal.
25 Oct 2012 / 0 notes
(Crossposted to Calgary is Awesome.)
Two cultures in distant lands connected by a shaman in their mutual pasts. An always changing environment that needs to be adapted to. A dying language. A journey.
It sounds like the latest fantasy novel from George R.R. Martin or J.R.R. Tolkein – but really it’s a documentary by two Canmore filmmakers who happened to stumble upon an incredible story to tell.
Vanishing Point, shot by partners Stephen Smith and Julia Szucs, and produced by the NFB, follows narrator Navarana Kavigaq Sorensen as she journeys across both Greenland and Baffin Island, Canada.
Stephen first encountered Navarana on a ski expedition, 20 years ago. She worked with them as a translator. Navarana speaks six languages, and Stephen noticed that she seemed well-grounded amongst the “phenomenal changes her people were going through.” Navarana said that she wanted to tell a story from a woman’s perspective.
Navarana’s ancestor, a shaman from Baffin Island, lead a migration to Greenland in the 1860s – bringing technology and new bloodlines to her forbearers. Navarana follows families from both countries on their annual hunting trips – connecting with distant relatives more than 150 years after the shaman, Qitdlarssuaq’s initial journey.
“A central part of the film is food and family,” said Szucs. “It’s a big focus of their culture.”
The two families have to deal with adapting to changes – from global warming, to isolation, to an increasingly modernized society. It’s strange to see the same people hunting narwhal and shopping at a local grocery store.
Szucs and Smith spent approximately seven weeks filming with Navarana. They travelled by kayak and dog sled over remote areas of the arctic.
One of the main reasons to tell the story, according to Smith, was to remind how disconnected they are from their environment and land. “We wanted to remind them to be connected, at a heart level, not an intellectual level.”
They also wanted to start a conversation. “Many Inuit in Greenland know about Canada, but how many Canadians know about Greenland?” Smith asked.
“They have a connected culture, blood, and tradition.”
The film will also be translated into Inuktun – a Greenlandic language similar to the dialect from Baffin Island. It has under 1,000 speakers and is an oral language. The film-makers hope that the film will act as a time capsule for the language to pass on for future generations.
Vanishing Point screened at the Calgary International Film Festival this September. It’s travelling to Yellowknife, Toronto, and Banff in the coming weeks. You can view the trailer here: http://www.nfb.ca/film/vanishing_point_clip_1/
17 Oct 2012 / 1 note
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16 Oct 2012 / 0 notes
(Originally published in The Press.)
Many students are struggling to find a place to live, with available accommodations plummeting and rent on the rise.
According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), the apartment vacancy rate fell from 5.3 per cent to 2.5 per cent from April of 2010 to 2012.
With the school year just under way, residences are full at SAIT, the U of C and Mount Royal, forcing students to scramble for other housing options.
Apartment prices for one month’s rent on a two-bedroom apartment have also skyrocketed.
The CMHC reports the average price has hit $1,113 and is unlikely to decline as “rental supply is not anticipated to see any large increases in the near future.” Rather, CMHC expects rental rates to steadily increase.
The 2011 report also shows that northwest Calgary, especially near SAIT and the university, has some of the most highly sought after apartments in the city.
The vacancy rate in northwest is second to only to downtown Calgary, and northwest has some of the highest rents in the city.
One University of Calgary student thinks housing should be less expensive for students to make things a bit easier on them.
“I know of some people who are working two part-time jobs, just to afford tuition, rent and living expenses,” said Kayla Koshynsky.
Koshynsky has chosen to live at home, but says the choice isn’t saving her much money.
Driving to class often involves sitting in traffic for a few hours, which costs her valuable time and gas money.
Taylor McIntyre, a student in SAIT’s Hospitality Management program, agrees it’s a tough situation.
“Most students do not have a job that can sufficiently support them while going to school.”
One local organization, the Calgary HomeShare Program, is taking this crisis into its own hands.
The organization, which launched in 2010 as a part of the Calgary Senior’s Resource Society, has students live with seniors, in effect swapping cheaper rent for helping the landlord around the house.
So far 70 seniors have been paired with students, with 50 more on a waiting list. The program has also recently been opened to other adults.
10 Oct 2012 / 0 notes
(Originally published in the print and online editions of the Weal.)
Like it or not, we’re all going to have to get our hands a little dirty over the next few months. Calgary has a ton of public park space (according to the 2011 census, one park for every 17,316 Calgarians to be exact), and all of a sudden there’s a lot less maintenance staff to handle it.
Due to a council decision last year to transfer some needed funds over to the fire department, the department of Parks and Recreation has a maintenance short-fall of $2.3 million. To recoup some of the costs, the parks department is laying off seasonal workers months ahead of schedule. As of Oct. 4, 349 workers will have been let go by the city – leaving a pretty big gap. Usually, the seasonal workers finish their summer duties and prepare for fall by raking leaves and gathering up trash, as well as trimming plants. The city has no plans to make sure the work gets accomplished in time for winter – instead the parks will be allowed to get shabbier and shabbier until next spring.
According to the City of Calgary’s website, we’re home to 7,800 hectares of parkland and over 700 km of pathways – and they’re definitely not going to keep themselves clean.
The City of Calgary parks manager Todd Reichardt has a solution that he shared with the Calgary Sun on Sept. 19.“If you’re out walking, do us a favour and help us out. If you see it, pick up the trash and put it in the nearest garbage can.”
Clean-up is already needed. According to Metro Calgary, aldermen were informed at a council meeting in September that Calgary’s “riparian” zones aren’t doing so hot. A riparian zone is the area where a moving body of water touches the land – in layman’s terms, a riverbank.
City water resources staff presented that 95 per cent of riparian zones are either unhealthy, or healthy with problems – 44 per cent falling into the unhealthy category.
It seems like a pretty worrying problem, but it’s definitely not without a solution. In 2011, according to the City of Calgary’s Annual Report on Parks, 2,000 volunteers teamed up as part of the Annual Pathway and River Cleanup to collect 10,000 pounds of garbage in just one day. In the five years that the event has been taking place, volunteers have collected nearly 37 tons of trash. If only 2,000 people can make that much impact, imagine how much cleaner our parks would look if our 1.1 million citizens picked up a piece of trash every time they go for a walk.
9 Oct 2012 / 0 notes