December 31, 2019

Let’s begin with a story. The day after Christmas, I was stocking up for this week’s stint of writing-isolation. Others, of course, were out for Boxing Day sales (yes, even in Colombia!), while still others–the beggars who had taken Christmas off because the streets would be empty–had returned to their informal labours. In the 28-degree-Celsius midday heat, under a bright near-equatorial sun, families with small children sat in the shade with their sweets and wafers, while old men and women… Read more

December 22, 2019

Let’s begin with a story. This one comes from In the Dark, Season 2, which outlined the stark injustice visited upon a man named Curtis Flowers, tried an historic six times for the same crime: the murder of four people in a furniture store in Winona, Mississippi on July 16, 1996. With no direct evidence tying him to the crime, a dogged prosecutor used a range of other approaches to get his convictions, each one then overturned. With the help of… Read more

December 17, 2019

Let’s begin with a story. My end-of-year work party probably looked a bit different from yours. Whereas most North Americans are used to placing financial success at the fore of their work, I don’t make much money at my primary place of employment here: none of the main staff does. (It is, however, my life-line for a visa!) And so, our work “party” instead involved… a speech from the boss. About values. About our need to be thankful for being… Read more

December 9, 2019

Let’s begin with a warning. I strive always to remind readers when I am not an expert in a given topic, and for today’s essay it is critical that we’re clear on this accord. I have no degree in psychology or social-work; I am not a neuroscientist or medical practitioner. I am simply a humanist who has lived with suicidal ideation since they were eight. At eight, I used to etch the words “I want to die” in the earth… Read more

December 4, 2019

Let’s begin with a story. When I lived in Southern Ontario, my most heart-heavy season was that long stretch of winter in which cloud coverage blotted out the sky for weeks: a hazy pink canvas over salmon-orange streetlights, dark shadows, and deep snow. I need that clear night sky. I need to be able to look up sometimes into an immensity of stars, like a seal sucking on air pockets under a stretch of endless ice. I need to gasp… Read more

November 29, 2019

Let’s begin with a meme. That’s all stories are, really: more elaborate units of information replicated via dissemination from person to person. In the last few weeks, we’ve started to see a range of memes specific to the end of the decade (which, for the purposes of this essay, we’re just going to accept as 2009-2019, though you’re darned right this has been a matter of contention). I myself have taken part in a few on Twitter, where I am… Read more

November 22, 2019

Let’s begin with a story. Yesterday I wrote about the national strike in Colombia, which turned out to be a splendidly peaceful protest in Medellín and only volatile in Bogotá and Cali (although even now, students in Bogotá are cleaning up the damage done by protestors yesterday). In all these cities and more, though, the night ended with something unexpected: a spontaneous cacerolazo, which is a form of protest I had never encountered before. All over the country, as protestors… Read more

November 21, 2019

Let’s begin with a story. Today Colombia is on strike. In the wake of recent protests in other parts of South America, folks here have been rattled. An anonymous video surfaced a couple weeks ago, for instance, of a young man threatening acts of terrorism on the Bogotá and Medellín metro systems on the day of the strike itself. Then, last week, a man was arrested for graffiti’ing strike-related messages on the Medellín Metro.* Some two dozen foreigners from neighbouring… Read more

November 17, 2019

Let’s begin with a story. When I was a child, Canadian culture was a touch different. There was a freezer in my public-elementary, for instance, where school-event freezies (what some of you call otter pops) were stored alongside sandwiches made up for any kids who were hungry. A child who’d forgotten their lunch. A child who’d had no lunch to forget. The sandwiches were peanut butter–a cheap, efficient protein source. Tasty! Durable! And most critically of all: Not yet a… Read more

November 15, 2019

Let’s begin with a story. One of the most misunderstood Aesop’s fables is now also a common expression in our culture: namely, having a case of “sour grapes,” which we use to dismiss others as simply envious of one’s good fortune. This Aesop’s fable can certainly be spun in that familiar way–and if you’ve read any version in a children’s story book, you’ve probably encountered just such a heavy-handed lesson. Here’s one common iteration, from the Library of Congress: The… Read more

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