Shame On Oscar


Earlier this week reigning bobbleheads at The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (aka, the Oscars), puffed out ever so pleased with themselves chests to announce new inclusion and diversity guidelines. Ostensibly the first stage of a five year plan to promote diversity on and off the screen. Translation – Oscar consideration will be reserved for productions where people of colour, women, persons with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ community are included in minimum percentage quotas. From actors, marketing, pre and post production, catering and internships to location scouts, camera operators, lighting techs and extra wranglers, every aspect of production just became a box to tick.

Initial coverage centred on warm fuzzy kudos for Academy acknowledgement of trending social issues. Were we supposed to gush praise for enlightenment of an old guard white establishment? Sleep tight knowing another behemoth influencer feigned understanding or compassion for systemic injustice? What a farce!

Lets talk fine print before weighing in on the absurdity of hollow, insulting percentage quotas. New rules don’t apply to films vying for 2021 Oscar nods. Not until Oscar 2024 will films have to meet quotas in two of four standards. The four standards cover “diversity representation among actors and subject matter; behind-the-camera staff, such as cinematographers and costume designers; paid apprenticeships and training opportunities; and marketing and publicity.” Take your pick, no pressure. Pad the crew with a sprinkling of trans black lesbians, contract first aid to a immigrant Iranian doctor formerly flipping burgers to support his family because his degree isn’t recognized in America, hire amputee survivors of Rwanda genocide to sew costumes, recruit unpaid interns at predominantly black colleges, take a page from Netflix and script obligatory same sex intimacy in every production. Mission accomplished, standards fulfilled, business as usual.

What’s wrong with these people? Do they actually think spotlight posturing makes a difference? Believe marginalized people seek validation based on arbitrary quotas? It’s SO PAINFUL! News flash -we’re all the same. Black skin the same as freckled white, same sex union no different than traditional marriage, nation of birth, faith or lack thereof – all irrelevant. Diversity quotas prevail for purposes of corporate optics. Look at us, click, like, follow and share our trending abundance of social awareness. Shame on Oscar.

https://nationalpost.com/entertainment/oscars-academy-sets-out-new-diversity-standards-for-best-picture-contenders

Dogs Trained To Sniff Out Coronavirus


Lead researcher Dominique Grandjean at France’s National Veterinary School of Alfort is training dogs to sniff out COVID-19. Since March eager canine noses have been exposed to sweat samples from people infected with coronavirus. Accurate detection requires 6-8 weeks training for dogs already primed to detect other triggers, 3-6 months training for rookie canines. Once dialed in, dogs exposed to a line of sweat samples can identify COVID with close to 100% accuracy. Notably identifying asymptomatic persons with remarkable acuity.

These dogs are trained to sniff out the coronavirus

Muzzle of a white dog, closeup on its nose.

On average, dogs have about 220 million scent receptors. Image via Shutterstock/

Today, COVID sniffer dogs are being trained in the UAE, Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Belgium. In the UAE (United Arab Emirates) COVID-19 detector dogs now patrol airports. The ability to identify asymptomatic infection is huge, perhaps the difference between boarding a plane safely, or sitting next to someone unaware they’re carrying the virus.

15% Pledge


Aurora James, founder of “sustainable retail” store Brother Vellies in Brooklyn, New York launched the Fifteen Percent Pledge on May 31, 2020. A “You asked how you can help. This is your opportunity.” social media campaign aimed at large market share retailers in America. The likes of Whole Foods, Home Depot, Target, Saks Fifth Avenue, Barnes and Noble. In total, calling on ten mega retailers to rethink business strategies and marketing to include 15% of shelf space allotted to black owned enterprises. Why 15%? Approximately 15% of U.S. citizens are black. All ten declined,  preferring to focus on their own “racial diversity measures.”

See the source image

https://www.15percentpledge.org/pledge

Fifteen percent pledge momentum blossomed without help from corporate behemoths. In June Sephora stood in line, followed by Vogue magazine and countless online fashion, health and wellness retailers. Make no mistake, fifteen percent is building steam. Fair enough, but am I the only one who sees misplaced red flags?

Fact – racism is rampant, black Americans are twice as likely to contract coronavirus than their white neighbors, 40% of businesses closed due to COVID-19 were owned by black Americans, compared to 32% Latino and 16% white businesses. Awareness, dialogue, equality are fine and dandy, but it’s a slippery slope when these initiatives serve as feel good substitutes for fundamental change.

The fifteen percent pledge is a band aid. White participants mean well, they’re pleased with themselves, subscribe to social media trends of the moment. Fifteen percent pledges are a marketing banner. Sales spike with every law enforcement murder of a black citizen, fall when protest subsides. Sure, a handful of black entrepreneurs might benefit in the short term, but how does that combat racism?

Blacks don’t want fifteen percent pledges, they want equal rights. They want equal opportunity based on merit, not skin tone. Those with red hair, freckled white skin and green eyes are no different from persons with tightly curled locks and dark pigmentation. Latino or South Asian citizens aren’t privy to fifteen percent pledge initiatives, so why blacks? Why not aboriginal citizens or non-Christian immigrants? Sigh.

 

Worst Year of Your Life? Really?


A recent poll conducted by Leger Marketing in partnership with the Association for Canadian Studies asked – “Up until now, is 2020 the worst year you have ever lived?” 50% of Canadians, 58% of Americans answered yes, 2020 is the worst year of my life. Canadians and Americans, 41 and 46 percent respectively cited death of a loved one as reason. (Not specific to COVID-19), followed by stress, anxiety and future uncertainty at 41% for both countries.

Sure, it’s been tough. Took some time to adjust, adapt and digest, but worst year of my life? Not even close.

Pessimism flourished along geographic and demographic lines. 62% of respondents living in southern U.S. states declared 2020 worst year of their life. In Canada 56% of those aged 18-54 declared 2020 the worst, compared to 47% over 55.

https://nationalpost.com/news/half-of-canadians-say-2020-has-been-the-worst-year-of-their-lives-with-younger-people-more-pessimistic-poll

In my mind, 2020 as worst year of life represents collective misappropriation of frustration. Worst year of life internalizes external circumstance, it creates dismay rather than sparking unity. Worst year of life is a personal declaration, it’s lonely and depressing. Granted, I speak from a Canadian perspective. ( 121,00 cases, 9,004 deaths compared to 5.15 million cases, 164,000 deaths in America ). That said, cause and effect can be debilitating, or it can facilitate a fundamental shift in perspective – reevaluation of priorities leading to social awareness, empathy, government foibles and personal responsibility. Is that so bad?

COVID-19 is a cautionary tale, how humanity responds defines our future. Unexpected, devastating, inconvenient, sobering, contentious, political, alarming, needlessly fatal – yes. Worst year of our lives? Only if its lesson eludes you.

Chinese Take-Out Ponder


Once upon a time I’d jump at suggestion of ordering Chinese take-out. Chinese food of my youth, small town 1960’s take-out was much like Wonder bread or Tang, novel for its homogenized predictability. Special fried rice with baby shrimp and bright green peas, beef and broccoli, lemon chicken, sweet and sour pork smothered in artificial red dye stickiness. Fresh, satisfying indulgence reserved for special occasions.

Taste-Buds-Kitchen-chinese-take-out-1.jpg (832×555)

I grew up, moved away, left Chinese take-out nostalgia behind. Try as I might it never tasted as good again, I could take it or leave it. Given a choice, Chinese take-out wouldn’t evoke enthusiasm. It just wasn’t the same. My first pregnancy came with inexplicable aversion to the smell of Five Spice, sight of BBQ Duck displayed in Chinese market windows. Both produced involuntary gagging. Go figure? If my husband craved Chinese, he ate it for lunch at work.

Three pregnancies and ten years later I caved to Chinese take-out pressure. My family loved it, me not so much. Certainly nothing special about it. Special fried rice contained tiny canned shrimp, dry garlic ribs were nothing but bone and gristle. WTF? Last straw arrived late one stormy night when a co-worker and I happened upon back alley horror. Driving to the office after a catering gig we took a short cut up an alley close to the shop. It was pouring rain, a screen door flapped in the wind, six pigeons with clipped wings scattered out the swinging door followed by a frantic cook attempting to corral them. Oh hell no! Remind me not to order from that Chinese restaurant.

Repeated story to another co-worker. You think that’s bad. she replied. Seems her brother works for the gas company. They got a call to attend a mall food court for suspected gas leak. On arrival they investigated service corridor, determined gas odor came from back room of Chinese restaurant. Gained access, discovered employees blow torching hair off dead rats. Double, oh hell no! That was five years ago.

A few days ago my husband really wanted Chinese take-out. Far from thrilled, I took one for the team. Suffice to say it didn’t go well. Five items for $84, are you kidding me? Greasy fried rice with 4 shrimp and 7 peas, sweet and sour pork sans pork under generous clumps of fried batter, soggy lemon chicken coated in thick layers of raw at the centre dough. Nothing to do but laugh, vow not to go there again.

Chinese take-out can live in childhood memories. Grown up Notes is done.

Beryl Dickinson-Dash


In 1949 Beryl Dickinson-Dash was a third year arts major attending McGill University in Montreal. At the time, only 150 of 8,500 McGill students were black. Most blacks were international students, Beryl Dickinson-Dash belonged to a handful of Canadian born black students, notedly a black Canadian woman who knew of no other black female Canadian students.

Beryl with her mother Maisy

Winter Carnival was a big deal at McGill, a mid-winter festival presided over by Carnival queen and four princesses. Keen beauties required 25 signatures from male students to secure nomination. Without her knowledge, the roommate of Beryl’s boyfriend (whom she later married) submitted a photo she’d given her boyfriend on his birthday along with 25 signatures from black male students. Beryl was shocked to find herself one of 26 official candidates.

Next came the ceremonial tea, an afternoon of polite white glove decorum and radio interviews. 26 were cut to 15, 15 became 5 finalists after a second round of interviews and struts. Beryl made the final cut. Each candidate was assigned a campaign manager.

Campaigns reached fever pitch, Beryl’s boyfriend, his brother, roommate and black students rallied behind her. Telegrams were sent to McGill posing as endorsement from prominent companies and organizations. Posters of Beryl appeared in every classroom. Voting booths with scrutineers proved seriousness of a fair vote. Results were leaked several days before official crowning. Beryl won by a landside, so much so final numbers wouldn’t be released as doing so might “injure the other girls”. Just past midnight, March 5, 1949 on her 21st birthday, Beryl Dickinson-Dash was crowned McGill Carnival Queen at the Montreal Forum in front of 8,000 spectators.

A newspaper clipping from March 5, 1949, announcing the pageant victory. (Submitted by Bradley Rapier)

Beryl doesn’t know why a predominantly white student body elected her Carnival queen. “Perhaps they were tired of how things were” she said. Regardless, she became a media sensation, front page news in papers and magazines. South of the border, Color magazine sponsored Dickinson-Dash (now Beryl Rapier) for a two week trip to West Virginia – her first negro college. A painting of Beryl standing in front of West Virginia state capital building by artist William Edouard Scott titled Spirit of Democracy was presented to McGill as a token of appreciation from people of America. I remind you – it was 1949!

Color magazine sponsored a two-week trip to West Virginia for Rapier. A press clipping from that trip features photographs of her at West Virginia State College. (Submitted by Bradley Rapier)

Sadly, few people in Canada know the story of Beryl Dickinson-Dash. But for stumbling upon her story last week courtesy CBC Radio Doc Project, I’d remain oblivious to a remarkable moment in Canadian history. More photos and history at the link below –

https://www.cbc.ca/radio/docproject/how-montrealer-beryl-dickinson-dash-made-history-as-mcgill-s-first-black-queen-of-carnival-1.5605944

Over Everything


Two of my favorite artists, Kurt Vile and Courtney Barnett buddy up to sing Over Everything.  “When I’m outside in a real good mood, you can almost forget ’bout all the other things, like a big ol’ ominous cloud in my periphery”. Know it’s okay to step outside by yourself to appreciate inexplicable subtleties of daily life all too often muddied by calamitous headlines. Sometimes we just need to breath. Enjoy….

What The Fudd?


On May 27,2020 HBO Max began airing a series of eighty, eleven minute reinvented classic Looney Tunes cartoons. Reinvented as in “we’re not doing guns” according to Peter Browngardt, series executive producer at HBO Max. Looney Tunes icon Elmer Fudd, bumbling shotgun wielding hunter of “wascally wabbits”  since the early 1940s, now chases “wabbits” with a scythe. A scythe? What the Fudd?

Browngardt is quick to assure cartoon aficionados – “But we can do cartoony violence – TNT, the Acme stuff. All that was kind of grandfathered in.” Dynamite, booby traps, falling anvils, bank safes and pianos remain, guns and get this, “bullying” are out. What the Fudd?

On one hand there’s the NRA giving storybook characters guns – https://notestoponder.wordpress.com/2016/04/05/little-red-riding-hood-has-a-gun/ on the other HBO Max replaces Elmer Fudd’s shotgun with a scythe – https://www.msn.com/en-us/tv/news/looney-tunes-has-taken-elmer-fudds-gun-away-for-hbo-max-revival/ar-BB158Dvu What the Fudd?

How about Yosemite Sam? Will HBO Max replace his pistols with machetes? If this is how American entertainment executives tackle gun violence, I give up. What the Fudd?

See the source image

See the source image

https://www.msn.com/en-us/tv/news/looney-tunes-has-taken-elmer-fudds-gun-away-for-hbo-max-revival/ar-BB158Dvu

Try To Live With Polite Spiders


Several months ago a tiny spider appeared on the bathroom windowsill. I said hello. Odd as this sounds, Spring doesn’t officially arrive until a polite spider homesteads on my bathroom sill. It’s been that way every year of twenty one lived in this house. Suffice to say welcoming spring spider, keeping her polite existence to myself is problematic. Mine is not a family of arachnid sympathizers. I clean around her, know that when startled she retreats through a vent in the aluminum window frame and hope for the best. In two months she’s doubled in size. Twice as large, neither a threat or concern – polite spiders know their place.

Arachnophobia is real, I get it. Expecting others to embrace polite house spiders is a big ask. That said it’s important to understand how vital spiders are to the balance of nature. Their prime directive is to control insect populations be it aphid, fly, moth or mosquito. Everyone needs to relax, understand house spiders are polite and predictable without a lick of animosity toward the human race.

Why is it I embrace the annual appearance of polite bathroom spiders while my family feels obliged to eradicate them with insecticide, wads of tissue or unceremonious suction of a vacuum hose? All because house spiders are demonized as vile marauders!  Oh my goodness, they’re not malicious, it’s so disheartening. I’m not asking you to hug spiders, I’m asking for restraint. Share your home with spiders, they mean no harm and conduct themselves with polite propriety if left alone. Sigh.