Cultural Appropriation Terrorists

Too strong a title? Well when the literary class of 2017 resorts to name calling on Twitter and firing editors who upset their sensitivities what else should you call it? And especially so when so many of the mob with the burning torches call themselves writers and authors.

(The difference being anyone can call themselves a writer – even me – but few can call themselves an author which implies in my mind at least completing a piece of major work let along getting it published…but I digress.)

So I’m leaving the last word to Andrew Coyne and his excellent front page National Post article “So, we are all agreed then?”

This is top notch writing and not just because I agree entirely (although that helps) but because it makes sense and shows what happens when one group attempts to get its way (regardless of how worthy or unworthy the objective) by beating up those they perceive as being the problem.

The result is we’re left with two literary magazines now looking for new editors after resigning in the face of the mob at the door. Maybe one of our indigenous writers might want to apply…oh but wait…would that be kosher?

Kinda makes sense why the Canadian government hasn’t made any progress with this group in the last 200 years but now I’m just being mean to the afflicted.

Let’s leave the last word (at least for now) to Post letters-to-the-editor writer P.K. Rangachari of Hamilton who wrote about his amazement upon reading Robert Kaniglel’s The Man Who Knew Infinity a story about the life of Srinivasa Ramanujan. Mr. Rangachari said he was “amazed at how well the author had captured the mind and soul of my people.” Nice.9781487001117__HR_fe605d7e-dd24-4f7f-bbf9-d4bbea26df3d_1024x1024

BTW not that it matters but I’m currently reading The Break by Katherena Vermette who I subsequently discovered is a Métis writer from Winnipeg. This is a very good book written by a very good author who quite frankly I couldn’t have cared if she was born on the moon and raised by wolves.

Mixed metaphors aside at least I’m accidentally culturally correct in my late night reading 🙂

Watch Ms Vermette and Candy Palmater during their Canada Reads CBC video. The world needs more Katherena Vermette and of course more Candy.

Jesse Wente Won’t Like This…

…or maybe he will.

The controversy surrounding cultural appropriate blew up over the weekend with two editors of prestigious magazines quitting and me, as an ageing white male heterosexual Canadian-born settler, firing off a Tweet to @jessewente with a copy to @metromorning.

My notification setting on Twitter (@oakvillerider) started binging away every couple of minutes this morning so I decided my 140-character response needed more space.

So here’s go…

For a long time I was either a news journalist or an editor. I went to work everyday with the actual thought in mind that this day might be the day I would quit over a matter of principle.

I never had to quit but I did have to offer my resignation on a couple of occasions where my aggressive manner went over the line.

When I became a news editor and later a group national magazine editor I told my staff and later my group of editors that my job was to make their jobs easier. It was my job to protect their jobs and to protect them from the vulgarities of their publishers and complaints of advertisers and even readers.

I told them so long as they told me first what happened I’d do my best to shield them and only edit their writing when necessary (spelling, grammar, structure) or make changes to copy with their input.

They always had the right to quit and I had the right to fire and we both were very careful not to do either.

And now we come to Jesse Wente…

I like listening to Jesse Wente, a regular contributor, on CBC Radio. Mr. Wente is intelligent, compassionate and knows how to tell a story. I’ve long known he is an indigenous Canadian writer and broadcaster and the indigenous part was for me – inconsequential. However, it seems for Mr. Wente it is central.

Fair enough. You get to be what you want to be in my world. But somehow being an indigenous person especially one in the media has become something else…something I don’t recognize as helpful.

You see this current debate began last week when the editor of The Writers’ Union quarterly Write magazine Hal Niedzviecki wrote an essay where he said: “I don’t believe in cultural appropriation.”

Within hours the cultural roof fell in and Mr. Niedviecki had quit under barrage of criticism on Twitter and Facebook. The Writers’ Union Equity Task Force (whatever that is) issued a statement that said they were “angry and appalled” and demanded that all staff at the magazine be re-educated in the ways of anti-racist writing.


A second editor Jonathan Kay of prestigious The Walrus magazine quit after writing on Twitter that “the mobbing of Hal Niedzviecki is what we get when we let identity-politics fundamentalists run riot.”

Gee I wish I’d said that….sorry fundamentalists.

Here’s the issue as I see it:

If we go along with the identity-politics fundamentalists then Elvis wouldn’t ever have been allowed to sing black blues music. Shakespeare would have been shunned for writing about the love affair of a couple of Italian kids. Maybe indigenous musicians shouldn’t be allowed to play white man’s rock and roll (which was appropriated from Mali musicians and adopted by black (and white) Americans living along the Mississippi River and universally loved by many…including old white heterosexual men like me).

Oh the list goes on and gets really silly in a hurry.

What’s not silly but is very serious is the way mainstream culture supports and encourages (or shuns) other cultures whether they be indigenous or different culturally, religious, by sexual orientation or whatever else you can think of.

When I was an editor it was my duty to be inclusive and to encourage even seek out different voices. It was never my job to shame writers who wrote of things I may not have understood. It was never my job to gang up on creatives who dreamed dreams that were not mine.

Yes the past was filled with terrible things done by one culture to another and indigenous peoples aren’t exempt from the view of history anymore than white culture.

But the way to healing the wounds of the past are not to be found in the shaming and bullying tactics being used in the present. I won’t dare to suggest how to find healing in one’s heart but I do know I wouldn’t find it by being critical of others.

I do know my own heart is lightened when I open it to the stories and pain of others even when I don’t understand or even agree with what I hear.

Being in pain, being oppressed, being shamed, being bullied are all things that aren’t okay with me whether it’s happening to me or happening to you or happening to someone else and I will object.

Remember you are my brother (or my sister) whether you like it or not.

Peace be with you.


The 50K Ride

Yup I just finished a 50k ride from Oakville to Burlington and back to Lakeshore Park east of Winston Churchill and then home again.

For the most part the ride was pretty easy. It was the sitting that was hard….and still is. I’m going to have to go into Gears and talk to them about their butt measuring device.

It was an adventure ride with the early in the ride fairly intense car crash just ahead of me as a women accelerated on Lakeshore to pass me (accelerating to pass a cyclist is so dumb) and ran into the back of the last car in a line of cars stopped as somebody made a right turn into their driveway.

Didn’t appear as if anyone was hurt but it was pretty good crash and fortunately didn’t involve me.

Riding 50k had me sitting way back on my saddle (I’ve switched back – for now – to the standard Fizik.) to avoid too much pain over bumps. The butt back position was a lot  more aerodynamic and for the most part my legs were fine it was just my butt that was holding me back…sort to speak.img_0944

BTW anyone who has access to my Strava stats can see early in the ride when I caught up to the very pretty 25-year-old who was passed by three big guys I was using to set a pace.

It was easier to stay with her than keep up with the boys (who were hitting over 30km/hr) but it’s early season and I’ll get better. BTW the telltale numbers are when I spiked at 150 bpm.

At my age happens all the time: I can catch’m I just can’t stay with them 🙂 I can still keep up to Marion…at least for now. She’s training with Petrina at The CyclingCentre.Ca this summer and should be in great shape by mid season.

Maybe the European bike tour isn’t out of the question?

The Cholesterol Myth

Don’t eat eggs. Avoid red meat. Switch to margarine.

Guess what? All of these beliefs long held by cardiologists and the rest of the mainstream medical world are proving false!eggs2

I’ve been reading reports for a long time now in the sporting news about how clogging of arteries isn’t so much a buildup of cholesterol deposits in the arteries (and thus wacky ideas like colation where chemicals are induced into the blood stream in a effort to scrub the arteries clean proliferate) but cholesterol issues are more like a pimple bursting.

In today’s National Post writer Colby Cosh writes about studies showing that a switch to margarine from butter did result in lower cholesterol levels but the patients in the study died sooner. In a study in Minnesota of 10,000 people living at old-age homes and mental hospitals (where investigators could control diets and  do autopsies on all who died) who had saturated fats replaced with corn oil died a little sooner than expected despite lowered cholesterol levels.fi004

Weird eh?

The new suggestion is to follow the Mediterranean diet (olive oil, fat-rich nuts and oily fish) plus go for brisk walks.

As Cosh writes: Just go for walks and eat real food.


The Man In The Mirror

When I started cycling early last spring I was shocked at how much better were the cyclists I was riding with out of the roadways of Halton.3098_10153538706381169_7552897096369745097_n

Sure some were younger and you can’t beat youth with a stick but some were older and a few were a lot older and yet a lot better.

So I joined Petrina Tulissi’s PT Cycling Centre on her Tuesday and Thursday morning rides on the country roads north of Oakville. It was tough but it was always fun.

Petrina is an enormously talented (and much loved by her clients and friends) cycling coach who for years was herself a racer and still competes as a pilot for sight-challenged youth at the Milton Velodrome. When Petrina tells you to do something, there’s no question of having a discussion. On the other hand when Petrina sees you’re struggling there’s no hesitation in telling you to rest and she means it!1

So last night we finished our winter spinning program at the Cycling Centre. Spinning all winter was hard and it was also a lot of fun. We used our own bicycles on rear trainers we rented and went spinning using our bike computers to determine speed and cadence as Petrina called out instructions.

The people we shared spinning classes were anywhere from their 20s to late 60s (maybe even early 70s).  As we got to know each other the tales of cycling adventures kept us going through the cold winter nights.

And now we’re approaching spring and back to road riding. As I look around the room I realized I still wasn’t as good as these riders. Younger, more experienced, even fitter these adult riders would leave me behind on the first climb.

But as I carried my bike downstairs to my car last night I realized I was having none of the issues I had six months ago when I clumsily hauled the bike upstairs. Over the months I had learned so much and grown so much stronger. It suddenly occurred to me that I wasn’t the same man coming down the stairs as I was when I was the man who came up for the first time.13726644_1292487937429458_7137738430347162527_n

It will be the same situation out on the roads this year. I may never be able to catch up with the big kids on every hill but the only kid I need to beat is the man in my mirror and he’s the man I was yesterday when I was younger.

It’s the old me I need to beat.

Funny isn’t it? It’s the old man who will end up beating the younger man (at least for a little while).

Thanks Petrina and thanks to all my fellow cyclists at PT Cycling Centre for a super winter of training and great fun.HERO5_Black_45

BTW this year’s riding will feature videos on my blog and Facebook pages as I’ve invested in a GoPro Hero 5…4K video baby 🙂

“But I’ve Got Two Kids!”

That’s the excuse I got today when I asked one of my fellow yoga students to leave her cellphone outside the yoga studio.  My answer to her declaration was, of course, “I don’t care.”

What was my mother thinking when she would send me out into the world in the morning as a child and not expect me to return until dinner time? And don’t tell me that Oakville isn’t as safe as back then. It’s actually safer. 

How special these two children must be that their mother remains in constant touch with them or their babysitter. I mean it’s a whole hour. 

I know the yoga studio has a no cellphone policy that even extends into the change rooms. Maureen who owns IGita (which is one of the best yoga studios I’ve seen in over 30 years of practice) would have said something if she’d seen the phone but my guess is Mom hid it under her towel during the class.

How disrespectful of her fellow students. How arrogant. How unconscious. 

Mom if you can’t leave your kids for an hour without having your cellphone with you then stay home. Get a yoga DVD. Take up knitting but don’t bring your cellphone into the meditation hall and pretend that it’s alright. It isn’t!

Butt Talk

We’ve got a lively discussion going on about the pain in my butt on Twitter and Facebook. One of the other riders in my riding group uploaded a video on the subject from the very excellent GCN site.

This is so exciting and why I join a cycling club and cycling school. I’ve never had so much attention focused on my butt since I was a teenager. It’s quite a moment.keep-calm-and-don-t-get-a-sore-butt.jpg

But (no pun intended) getting help when things don’t work out is one of the reasons for joining a club or school of instruction.

At Toastmasters last night, for example, I heard one of the best speeches I’ve ever heard in 22 years of weekly attendance at meetings and coincidentally I heard one of the best evaluations (given on this speech) I’ve ever heard as well. The speech was on the consequences of 9/11 and the evaluation was about how this very excellent speech could have been crafted even better. It takes an amazing evaluator for find ways to improve such an excellent speech and an even more amazing evaluator to put the information to the speaker in a manner which is both complementary but also instructional.

This is how we learn to get better. We expose ourselves (sometimes quite literally) to new ideas and new people. I can’t thank my coach Petrina enough and same goes for the excellent and talented riders who train with her.

I’m very lucky they let my tag along sore butt and all.

Spinning Can Be A Pain In the Butt

After careful consideration my coach (and one of the other cyclists who is a doctor and who was also suffering greatly last night from lower back pain just proving that none of us are immune…I prescribed an Advil and hot bath before bed. I’m not sure my colleague concurred.) concluded my hamstrings are the problem when it comes to my sore butt.hamstrings8

Petrina had a good look around (figuratively not literally although I offered) my butt as I was spinning and complaining and I think she’s right on when it comes to the soreness in my butt. It doesn’t seem that any muscles are sore and I can walk fine, even stretch without pain or effort but when I sit straight down on a chair or saddle I’m really sore. If I lean forward on the saddle reaching for the handlebars it’s not so bad and after warming up for half an hour the pain decreases.

Now how did I inflame my hamstrings where they connect to the pelvic structure?

There are a couple of suspects. Last few weeks I’ve been working on standing while pedalling in a harder gear. Also last few weeks I’ve discovered how to spin up my cadence to over 180 rpms which is terrific. Also I’ve been going to four plus yoga classes per week which has had the miraculous effect of eliminating the daily ongoing pain I was having in my quadriceps.

Of course the cue for all pain is rest immediately followed by gentle stretching and increased use until repaired.

I guess the best thing to do is give my butt a rest. I think I can do that.

The Day After

Today is the day after the night I had my best session at The CyclingCentre.Ca.

Charts and statistics don’t tell last night’s story well enough. What happened was after 10 months of intensive road and indoor training with Coach Petrina Tulissi I had my first session were I came out feeling better than when I went in.

Slimming what?

When I say feeling better I don’t mean that gasping, red faced, fist-pumping moment when after two hours of crazy cycling the night ends and I realize I’ve lived through it.

No I mean I got off the bike and I felt perfectly calm. I wasn’t sweaty. My heart wasn’t racing. I wasn’t even breathing hard. Even the persistent soreness in my quads was gone.

Yes the night was what Petrina calls a recovery ride and I skipped my noon hour yoga class but we worked hard enough and harder than a newcomer would have liked.

So why all the self-congratulatory comments? It’s because I could never have done this on my own.

I have to thank the coaches (Petrina and Tracey) at The CyclingCentre.Ca who kept telling me to slow up. You see most newcomers to a sport like cycling start off exercising way too hard and end up burnt out, discouraged and so sore that they often are never to be seen again.

No the secret is to train within your own wheelhouse. Think of your level of fitness as a plateau (even if it’s a plateau that’s actually just level ground but it’s a starting place). Your coach will assess where you are on your fitness trail and design a fitness regime that will move you slowly from your present plateau to your next plateau. Aiming for the top of the mountain too soon is deadly.

So where am I now? (In photo: Petrina and the summer morning weekly training group.)DSCF1745

I’m on a plateau.

I can now pedal with reasonable efficiency at a cadence of 90 to 100 rpm and my average speed is rising to the point that there is some hope I can at least keep the summer riding group in sight. Last summer Petrina would tell me the location of the designated training area and after 10 kilometres of pedalling I’d ride in about five minutes after everyone else 🙂

If you’ve ever wanted to join a cycling club (Oakville Cycling Club‘s open membership period is coming up in a few days) and go on a group recreational ride or even participate in the many races and serious long group rides that take place in Ontario all summer long then you’ll want to take lessons on how to ride faster, stronger and harder.

Three Signs You’ll Be Fine

I suspect a lot of riders enjoy cycling because it makes them feel better. And I’m not talking about just physically feeling better.

One of my best friends (who lives in Bogata and whom I’ve only met in person once…it’s an interesting story) sent me this article this morning and I thought it worth sharing.

The article is the essence of what I used to coach in our men’s groups a long, long time ago.

It comes down to this:

  • Things change
  • You can change things (including your thoughts)
  • You do this by considering what is the smallest possible thing you can do to feel better
  • On a scale of one to 10 what can you do right now to move up one-half point
  • Do it
  • Repeat as needed 🙂

So today, I’m feeling pretty good.

My mind is clear and my body isn’t aching too much from cycling classes (Can’t recommend Coaches Petrina and Tracey too highly. If you want to learn how to cycle this is the place in the GTA) and daily strenuous yoga at Gita (really strong yoga and excellent teachers).

But I can do a little more to feel even better. The sun is rising outside my window. I can take a moment to reflect on my day, breath deeply – repeat and bask in the light.