November 14, 2018

Let’s begin with a story. Not mine this time–a breathtaking piece by Marcos Martinez, as part of a BBC series on fake news around the world. In “Burned to death because of a rumour on WhatsApp”, Martinez describes Acatlán, Mexico: a town surrounded by maize and marigold fields, and filled with humble, impoverished citizens… who one day rallied around fake news about child abductors, and burned two men alive. As Martinez painfully distills the brutality: [O]n 29 August, Maria received… Read more

November 11, 2018

Let’s begin with a story. Or, no, maybe not today. Let’s start instead with a poem: a poem published amid a myriad of centennial stories. 100 years ago today, a terrible war came to its long-overdue end. Today we of North American and European heritages and colonial associations (along with descendants of participants from Siam, China, Japan, and Hejaz), mark that centennial together, wherever our lives might find us. Before the end of that terrible war, though, in July 1918,… Read more

November 5, 2018

Let’s begin with a story. Recently on Facebook, a family member posted a series of “facts”, supposedly meant to operate as food for thought. You can guess how many of them were well-cited and accurate, but the one that made me laugh read simply: “According to Albert Einstein, if honey bees were to disappear from earth, humans would be dead within 4 years.” My laugh was cut short, though, by the reminder that this is a serious problem for the… Read more

November 2, 2018

Let’s begin with a story. I write speculative fiction, and have read the genre since I was a young sprog. There was an era in sci-fi when time-travel stories set around Biblical events could sell. Not anymore. Too heavy-handed. Too on-the-nose. But it surprised me, as a child, to learn indirectly from such stories that the narrative around the most famous person in Western history was simply missing all report from the ages of 12 and 30. 12 and 30!… Read more

October 29, 2018

Let’s begin with a story, because I can’t bear to start with this past week’s news. I was four or five years old–in kindergarten, and playing after school at a friend’s house. She wanted to play with another friend who lived along that row of bungalows, and in the bewildering magic of early-’90s Toronto, we met with no opposition when wandering from her driveway. Her friend’s backyard had a wooden fence, though, so we didn’t see who was inside all… Read more

October 26, 2018

Let’s begin with a story–or better yet, a problem. Let’s call it The Problem of Successful Deterrence. A few weeks ago, a UN report gave the world a devastatingly brief window–a dozen years–to keep climate change’s impact to only 1.5 C in increased global temperature. Not an easy task, when leaders in smaller communities (like Doug Ford, premier of Ontario) and world leaders (like the U.S. president, and the first-round winner of Brazil’s election) are opposed to collaborative measures to… Read more

October 24, 2018

Let’s begin with a story. It’s Season 3 of Better Call Saul, and Jimmy and Charles McGill are brothers on opposite sides of a court case. More critically, though, they are on opposite sides of a spectrum of legal belief. Jimmy at this juncture has absolutely broken the law to make Charles lose a major client. However, Charles only had this client because he and his partner had taken another lawyer’s painstaking work from her, while continuing to punish her for her… Read more

October 20, 2018

Let’s begin with a story. When I worked at a university writing centre, some of my trickiest clients were in the Master’s of Divinity program. Generally, these students were admirable humans who’d served their communities for years as parents, support staff, and care workers. Most were also lower-middle-class, and after so much personal struggle, they now wanted to help others through ministry. Most were insecure about academic writing, but unwavering in their spiritual convictions. This made one of the most… Read more

October 17, 2018

On Monday I argued against binary thinking, and promised an object lesson from Western stories about Colombia. Is there any Westerner who’s mentioned Colombia without at least once mentioning its most notorious drug lord? I’m certainly no exception. When I set about learning more about this country, his was the first name that arose in North American histories. And then, while learning Spanish to prepare for my move, yes, I watched Narcos. (And no, at the time, I couldn’t tell… Read more

October 15, 2018

Let’s begin with a story. As I write, it’s a cold day in Medellín–which I’ll thank you to pronounce “meh-deh-JEAN” from here on out, in keeping with the local Spanish. (See: Key Terms for more.) After eight months in my new home of Colombia–two “o”s, you heard me: spell it right!–I am now so acclimated to the mid-twenties-Celsius weather that a rainy 17° morning has me shivering in a long-sleeved jacket. But I’m laughing at myself, too, because I’m thirteen… Read more

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