Comic that popped into my head at 5am this morning when I couldn’t get back to sleep…

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Smuggling Rats Across Canada: A Charming Family Memory

Did you know that rats, particularly domesticated “fancy rats” are available in many parts of Canada as pets? Much like a hamster, these little guys are cute and charming companions. My family has a history of having pet rats, starting with my Father.

Before I was born, my Dad had a rat named Studley. He would tell me about how Studly would accompany him on walks, and even swims, and that he was just The Best Rat Ever. Seriously, if you don’t believe me, rats are cute. Look at this ‘lil guy!

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So, one Easter morning in the mid to late 90’s, when we were living in New Brunswick, my little sister and I awoke and ran into the den, where we found the usual candy, chocolate, and little toys awaiting us. After surveying our treasures, our parents peeked into the room and asked if we’d observed the cage yet. We had a large cage on one side of the room which, until recently, had been home to our rather grumpy rabbit, Peter. While Peter was quite old and sadly didn’t make it till Easter, I gazed inside and saw that two new friends were quietly exploring the cage.

My sister and I were delighted and each named one of the rats- we decided to name them after the Rugrats, Tommy and Chuckie. Tommy was my rat, and he was white with grayish markings on his back. Chuckie, my sister’s rat, had a more reddish tinge to his spots (like Chuckie’s hair!)

The rats were so adorable- while many of our family and friends who visited were squeamish of them (particularly of their tails), others would remark at how cutely they munched on their food, how diligently they cleaned themselves, and how curious and smart they were. We would let them crawl over and around us, and they loved perching on our shoulders as we watched TV or did our homework. The two were brothers, and would sleep nestled up curled around each other.

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We loved our rats very much. Domesticated rats live longer than their wild counterparts- about 3 years. Tommy and Chuckie both passed away of “old age” within short time of each-other, and it was one of my first real-life experiences with the end of the natural cycle of life and death.

A short while after Tommy and Chuckie died, my parents got us two new companions to fill the rat-shaped holes in our hearts. I asserted my tween power and declared their names would forever be known as Frodo and Sam, as I was in the middle of reading The Lord of the Rings and enjoying it immensely.

Our new rats were again white with some grayish colorations. Frodo was my little guy, and he was very active, always climbing things and wanting to have a look around. Sam was a bit lazier, but again they were best buddies as well as brothers. Sometimes we would give them pieces of French Toast Crunch cereal, and laugh at how cute they looked crunching on their little rat-sized toasts.

After we’d had Frodo and Sam for a little while, our parents informed us that we were moving to Northern Alberta, to a province far away in the middle of the Boreal Forest. I pictured us living in a quaint little wooden cottage in the middle of nowhere. Great! Sounds fun! But, although my parents didn’t want to alarm us, they mentioned that rats are banned in Alberta. While this policy is meant to keep Alberta free of wild rats, it affects pet rats too.

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This poster is so dramatic. “White rats can only be kept by zoos, universities and colleges as well as recognized research institutions in Alberta. Private citizens may not keep white rats, hooded rats or any of the strains of domesticated Norway rats.” – Alberta.ca

My family is united and defined, perhaps more than anything else, by our love of animals. My Mom has worked at vet clinics and at the SPCA, and we’ve had all sorts of creatures in our home over the years. Our pets are our family, and it was inconceivable to us that we wouldn’t bring the rats to our new home in Alberta. So, we prepared ourselves for Frodo and Sam’s potentially perilous journey.

My Mom actually had both of the rats anesthetized and neutered at her vet clinic (I’m thinking this procedure, for pet rats, is a medical rarity?)- they were both boys, but now there was no possible way they could breed even if they somehow escaped into the wild. I suppose she did this partly so that if we DID get into any trouble at the airport, we’d have at least a chance of keeping them.

So, we finally set out to move, with a large number of critters. Each of us was responsible for at least one pet-carrier, and we took our babies to the airport- a cockatiel (Jerrie), 2 cats (Jill and Smudge), an aging Labrador Retriever (Stinker), and the two rats.

The rats’ carrier was made of thick plastic with thin slots on the sides. Panic gripped me as we approached the security gate to get cleared for our first flight. I watched in terror as the airport staff inspected the carrier, peering inside and craning his head.

“These are…?”

He looked at me quizzically. I steeled myself.

“My hamsters.” I squeaked.

ratties3

Whether it was an act of mercy on his part, ignorance of rodent species diversity (or the regulations of our destination province), apathy, or simply not wanting to initiate a dramatic scene, he let us through without any difficulties. I can only imagine the absolute chaos that would have ensued if they had tried to take away our Frodo and Sam. It would have been devastating and traumatic for our whole family, and probably the entire room…

And so, we made it to our new home, safe and sound with our entire family, including the rats. We settled into life in Alberta. You might think that Frodo and Sam, once they lived out their few years on this earth with us, were the last rats my family would know in our new home province. However, this was not the case…

My mom continued to work in SPCA and vet roles in our new town, and as had always happened before, we often ended up fostering or adopting animals that didn’t have homes. And wouldn’t you know it, it turned out that other people in Alberta had pet rats, and in some cases (such as moving into an apartment with an inquisitive landlord) they needed to re-home their rats.

In steps my Mom, of course- she can’t bear to see an animal in need- and so over the years we acquired three more rat companions. One was a lone rat who we named Sir William after the character in A Knight’s Tale. Bill, or Billiam, as I often called him, was white with black spots, and had the softest and sweetest temperament of any rat I’ve yet met. Later we also became the guardians of two sister rats named Sugar and Spice for their respective fur markings.

I’m still living in Alberta, but my family has since gotten a home back in New Brunswick- they’ve had more rats since moving back. I haven’t myself, but I’d be willing to bet that there are more pet rats in Alberta living out their quiet lives in secrecy today.

 

Canadian Library Month!

The month has flown by, but before it’s over I really want to acknowledge on my blog that October is library month in Canada! This month we celebrate our libraries and raise awareness of the vital roles they play in Canadian lives each day.

“More than just a place to find books, libraries promote cultural awareness, engage in the community, provide educational programs, support freedom of expression and so much more.”

CFLA

Libraries have been evolving and keeping pace with the changing needs of communities today- when oblivious people (usually non-library-users) try to claim that libraries are becoming obsolete, they are met with fierce library defenders who realize the true value libraries continue to provide to their communities (despite recently enduring closures and/or huge cuts to their budgets).

This library of nothing but books and silence is a lie. It’s a myth of a previous time, and that myth gets in the way of us realizing an important truth: that our world needs libraries more than ever… in an age of technology and information, in growing inequality and social isolation, our world needs libraries. They’re essential.

Laurinda Thomas

Libraries, both here in Canada and worldwide, are thriving and doing more with their communities than ever before. They are reinventing their collections, their strategies, their programs, their services, and their physical spaces. Check out this slideshow article from Matthew Hague of Chatelaine, “15 Of the Absolute Coolest Libraries in Canada” , and also Brian Bethune of Maclean’s: “How Public Libraries are Reinventing Themselves for the 21st Century“.

Libraries are not just places to consume- they are places to create, and places that engage with their communities.

“Librarians no longer have all of the answers. We no longer expect that we do the talking and you do the listening. We are building a world… where we share in these experiences, and we are co-creators in the experience that people are going to have in libraries.”

Ellen Humphrey

 

Here are some titles to check out for Library Month!:

These are just a few I’ve come across, and there are so many more awesome resources out there! Please let me know if you have any other favourite recommendations 🙂

 

This is What a Librarian Looks Like: A Celebration of Libraries, Communities, and Access to Information for All by Kyle Cassidy

“In 2014, author and photographer Kyle Cassidy published a photo essay on Slate.com called “This is What A Librarian Looks Like,” a montage of portraits and a tribute to librarians. Since then, Cassidy has made it his mission to remind us of how essential librarians and libraries are to our communities. His subjects are men and women of all ages, backgrounds, and personal style-from pink hair and leather jackets to button-downs and blazers. In short, not necessarily what one thinks a librarian looks like.”

 

Write to Me: Letters from Japanese American Children to the Librarian They Left Behind by Cynthia Grady and Amiko Hirau

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“A touching story about Japanese American children who corresponded with their beloved librarian while they were imprisoned in World War II internment camps.”

 

Americus by MK Reed and Jonathan Hill

“Neal Barton just wants to read in peace. Unluckily for him, some local Christian activists are trying to get his favorite fantasy series banned from the Americus public library on grounds of immoral content and heresy. Something has to be done, and it looks like quiet, shy Neal is going to have to do it. With youth services librarian Charlotte Murphy at his back, Neal finds himself leading the charge to defend the mega-bestselling fantasy series that makes his life worth living.

This is a funny, gripping, and relatable tale of life and local politics in middle America”

 

BIBLIOCraft: The Modern Crafter’s Guide to Using Library Resources to Jumpstart Creative Projects by Jessica Pigza

“There is untold wealth in library collections, and, like every good librarian, Jessica Pigza loves to share. In BiblioCraft, Pigza hones her literary hunting-and-gathering skills to help creatives of all types, from DIY hobbyists to fine artists, develop projects based on library resources. ”

Property of the Rebel Librarian by Allison Varnes

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“When twelve-year-old June Harper’s parents discover what they deem an inappropriate library book, they take strict parenting to a whole new level. And everything June loves about Dogwood Middle School unravels: librarian Ms. Bradshaw is suspended, an author appearance is canceled, the library is gutted, and all books on the premises must have administrative approval.

But June can’t give up books . . .”

 

Library Wars: Love and War by Kiiro Yumi and Hiro Arikawa

“In the near future, the federal government creates a committee to rid society of books it deems unsuitable. The libraries vow to protect their collections, and with the help of local governments, form a military group to defend themselves—the Library Forces! Iku Kasahara has dreamed of joining the Library Defense Force ever since one of its soldiers stepped in to protect her favorite book from being confiscated in a bookstore when she was younger. But now that she’s finally a recruit, she’s finding her dream job to be a bit of a nightmare. Especially since her hard-hearted drill instructor seems to have it out for her!”

Why We Don’t Need “Straight Pride” Flags

Chipman, a small village in my home province of New Brunswick, is in the headlines today because officials approved the raising of a “straight pride” flag next to a main road.

“Chipman resident Glenn Bishop and 11 others met over the past few months to find ways to show support for straight people.” –Global News

Interesting, I didn’t know that people in New Brunswick were in need of support for …being straight?

The flag was swiftly taken down amidst backlash, and although the town claims that the flag was intended to show support for “all groups in the community” I fail to understand how that is possible, unless it was a decision made from ignorance.

Pride for what?

“Straight pride” flags are at best completely unnecessary and at worst incredibly offensive symbols of hatred towards LGBTQ+ people.

LGBTQ+ communities have pride parades and raise pride flags because they are coming together, not only as a positive celebration of who they are, but also to take a stand against the discrimination, prejudice, unequal rights, and violence that they are subjected to just for being themselves.

If your response to seeing a pride flag is to feel excluded and think “where’s my straight pride flag?” you are totally missing the point of the pride flag. Pride flags are used worldwide as a bold visual symbol that says “we’re not ashamed of who we are” in a world that still positions straight, cisgender people as the apparent default way to exist.

If, like the man behind the aforementioned flag,  you don’t get why “straight pride” flags are unnecessary and offensive, here are some reasons:

Straight, cisgendered people are not shamed for being straight.

Neither their sexuality nor their gender are perceived by the public as remarkable traits of their identity.

They aren’t screamed at in the street for holding their girlfriend’s hand.

They aren’t denied the opportunity to take their boyfriend to prom.

They aren’t approached at the bar and told “you’re a waste of a perfectly fine girl”.

Nor are they targeted, profiled, denied rights and privileges, attacked or murdered because of their sexuality or gender.

When “straight pride” flags are flown, they carry a toxic message: “I don’t care/believe that these things happen to you, I’m important too, look at MY flag!”.

“Straight pride”  flags are arrogant, as they were created in direct response to pride flags as a way to claim “it’s just equality!” while simultaneously overlooking the reason why we need pride flags in the first place- people (not straight people!) are being attacked solely because of who they love and who they are.

While the mayor of Chipman recently said that no formal apology was forthcoming,  I think that further shows that the people behind this flag, and those who claim not to understand why it is controversial, are in need of education on this matter.

Note: Making threats, hurling insults, and jumping on an internet hate train are NOT effective or ethical ways to educate people. Please don’t do that. Rather, consider sharing information and statistics about LGBTQ+ realities , contacting officials in Chipman, and showing support to your local LGBTQ+ group(s).

I hope that the village of Chipman will learn from this experience and grow together as a community. I agree with recommendations that were shared by the Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project (NSRAP), a sibling to Moncton’s River of Pride:

“NSRAP strongly encourages the town council and mayor of Chipman to seek training on diversity and inclusion and sensitivity training to attempt to understand the lives of their marginalized constituents. Additionally, a formal apology, beyond the previously released statement, should be made.”

 

 

 

 

 

Challenged in Canada: Tracking Attempts at Censorship

Banned Books week is next month, and right now I am working with my department on a presentation about censorship in Canada to share with our coworkers.

I made a collage of some of the titles that we currently have in our library which have been challenged in Canada in the past:

challengedbooksatwbrl

The diversity in even this small representation shows that challenges are submitted on titles from a wide range of subjects, authors, formats, and intended age ranges. Maybe you see some of your favorites up there? These are only a small portion of books that have been challenged in Canada in recent years.

I’m sure there are tons more challenges that aren’t ever submitted for record-keeping. It’s important that we keep records like this of materials that are challenged, because it serves as a real-life reminder and example of how everyone’s standards are different. If we start censoring information, each act of censorship may be perceived as a precedent, and since one person’s treasure is another person’s trash… I know it’s overused, but the term “slippery slope” definitely comes to mind.

Access is vital. Even titles that contain extremely problematic information and views can serve as reminders of past atrocities, case studies for learning, and material for developing informed criticism. How can you knowledgeably criticize or condemn something if you don’t have access to the source material?

Freedomtoread.ca offers a book list keeping track of Canadian challenges, each of which “sought to limit public access to the works in schools, libraries, or bookstores.”

Freedom to Read week is organized by the Freedom of Expression Committee of the Book and Periodical Council, and is celebrated annually in February.

Freedom to Read

Here are the details of some recent challenges as recorded by the Freedom to Read website.

 

The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

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2016-In January, a patron of a public library in Ontario challenged this novel for young adults.

Objections: “The book is age inappropriate… because it contains a bi-sexual sex scene not alluded to on the cover.” The complainant requested that all books with homosexual content be located “in a special area reserved for adults 18+” and put on a shelf marked with a rainbow. The complainant wanted the books labelled “so that children, as well as adults, do not happen upon [them] unwillingly.”

Result: The library decided that labeling LGBTQ content would be an example of expurging library resources and, therefore, would violate the Library Bill of Rights… The Scorpion Rules remained unlabelled in its usual location.

Battling Boy by Paul Pope

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2016- In May, a parent in a public library in Ontario challenged this graphic novel for children.

Objection: The parent disliked depictions of violence and the book’s “poor attitude toward women’.

Result: In June, the library resolved the challenge. The library moved this book from the children’s section to the teens’ graphic-novel section.

The Graveyard Book (Graphic Novel, Volumes 1 & 2) by Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell

Related image

2015/16- In December 2015, a parent challenged this children’s picture book in a public library in Ontario.

Objection: the mother didn’t specify what action she wanted, but she used the complaint form to complain about the book’s illustrations. her 10-year old son was crying because of the illustrations.

Result: After evaluating The Graveyard Book by checking other libraries’ collections and book reviews, the library retained the books in its collection.

 

Adult Magazines

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2015- A patron in a public library in British Columbia challenged the collection of electronic magazines (from the Zinio distribution service) and paper magazines. The challenge affected a minimum of 17 titles: Cosmopolitan, Details, Esquire, Glamour, GQ, Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, Redbook, Rolling Stone, SELF, Seventeen, Shape, Sports Illustrated, Teen Vogue, US Weekly, and Women’s Health.

Objections: Sexism, insensitivity, inaccuracy, depiction of bodies that are “negatively objectified”. The patron demanded that all subscriptions be cancelled.

Result: The library kept the magazines and the subscriptions. They were popular with other readers.

 

Young Adult LGBTQ Publications

prideheart

2016- In July, a female parent in the St. Albert Library in Alberta challenged all young-adult LGBTQ publications in a teen summer reading program

The library displayed pamphlets that listed the young-adult LGBTQ book titles in the summer reading program.

Objection: The parent was offended by the inclusion of queer lit as one of the book category choices in a turn of the library’s Teen Summer Reading Game.

“There is a difference between showing respect for all peoples and using the summer reading program as a place to further LGBTQ propaganda,” the woman wrote. “My son recognizes that there are people who choose to live this lifestyle; however, it is not a healthy lifestyle to promote to our youth, and it is contrary to God’s plan for human sexuality, love and marriage.”

Result: The Teen Librarian inferred that the patron wanted the queer lit category removed from the Teen Summer Reading Game book category choices and that she may have wanted the queer lit booklist removed from the brochure display in the teen area of the library.

After reading the parent’s comments, the Teen Librarian wrote a letter which was given directly to the patron when she brought her child back to play the reading game. The Teen Librarian informed her supervisors of the challenge and consulted with them on the content of the letter before it was delivered. The queer lit category remained a choice for one turn of the 2016 Teen Summer Reading Game, and the queer lit booklist remained on display with the other booklists in the teen area of the library.

*Note from Shauna: How awesome, informative, and professional is this letter!? Amazing.

Here is the body of the letter:

“Thank you for expressing your concerns about the inclusion of the Queer Lit category in the St. Albert Public Library’s Teen Summer Reading Game. As stated in the Guidelines for the 2016 Teen Summer Reading Game on the player dossier:

‘There are multiple categories listed for each turn of the game. Choose just one of those categories to select your reading material from.’In other words, players are not required to read from any one book category to advance to the next turn of the game.
“For the Mission Nighthawk turn of the game, three categories are provided for
players to choose a book from: In Real Life (realistic fiction), Romance, or Queer Lit. Players can select a book that fits into any of these three categories. Librarians
recognize that not all books are suited to all readers. Library patrons have a choice in what they read.
“As the Teen Librarian, I am responsible for creating a reading program for teen
participants that encourages them to read over the summer, for selecting books for the Young Adult collections, and for making booklists to help teen patrons discover books of interest to them. The St. Albert Public Library serves all members of the community, regardless of age, race, faith, education level, income, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnic background, or language spoken. We serve LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning) youth, and the Library is a safe public space for them to visit.
“Many of these young people, as part of an invisible minority, have learned to be
secretive about their sexual identity or gender identity for fear of rejection from their peers or their own families. They experience isolation and are often victims of bullying. For these youth, a realization that there are library materials available to them which address LGBTQ identities and issues can help them to become more resilient and to feel that they have a place in society.
“Including the Queer Lit category in the Teen Summer Reading Game is a way to
raise awareness of the existence of LGBTQ materials in the Young Adult Collection, and it communicates to our patrons that the library is a welcoming place for all people. Having LGBTQ material available in the Young Adult collections and on book displays alongside other materials, not hidden away, helps to create an atmosphere of acceptance.
“If you would like further information on the importance of LGBTQ Collections
in public libraries, I can direct you to some journal articles on the topic. Please feel free to contact me if you have further questions.”
After receiving the letter, the mother did not contact the Teen Librarian or take
any further action regarding her challenge. Her son did complete the Teen Summer Reading Game and received a book prize. The family continues to regularly participate in programs at the St. Albert Library.

 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

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2014- In Camloops, B.C., Dean Audet demanded the removal of this coming-of-age novel from his son’s high school and other schools in the Kamloops/Thompson school district.

Objection: Audet described the novel as “pornographic, offensive and vulgar”.

Result: Audet’s son was given a different book to study. A committee of teachers, a parent and librarians reviewed the novel and approved it for continued use. Audet considered taking legal action to remove the novel from schools.

 

Donovan’s Big Day by Leslea Newman

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2014- In August, a patron of a public library in Alberta objected to this children’s picture book.

Objection: The patron disliked the theme of same-sex marriage.

Result: On the same day, the library resolved the dispute and kept the book in the collection.

 

Battle Bunny by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett

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2014- in May a parent complained about this children’s picture book in a library in Quebec.

Objections: The parent disliked the depictions of violence and didn’t think the book was funny. Her 10-year-old child was “traumatised” by the bunny’s “exceedingly violent” actions, she said. Many parents would share her opinion, she added, and she asked the library to remove the book from its collection.

Result: Librarians evaluated the book. They agreed that it was a work of humour and satire. They thought Battle Bunny could appeal to reluctant readers. The librarians also noted that professional book reviews were positive and that four previous borrowers of the book had made no complaints. Battle Bunny remained in the library’s collection.

 

Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety by Daniel Smith

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2014- In November, a patron of a public library in Alberta said this audiobook needed a warning label on the cover.

Objection: This book has dark, adult content.

Result: The library kept the book in the collection.

 

Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss

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Toronto

Objection: Violence. In this children’s book, children hop on their father. The complainant argued that children are being “encouraged to use wanton violence against their fathers.”

Result: The library kept the book in its collection. In an e-mailed message to the complaining parent, the library explained that its collection aims to reflect the reading needs of diverse individuals and communities (cultural, ethnic, or religious). The library relied on parents to involve themselves in their children’s use of the library and their children’s reading choices.

 

The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore

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2013- In Strathmore, Alta, a parent complained about the inclusion of this graphic novel in the library at Crowther Memorial Junior High School.

Objection: The parent objected to “extreme violence and swearing” in the text.

Result: A committee reviewed The Walking Dead and deemed it inappropriate for use in a junior high school. The book was withdrawn from the collection.

Animethon- My First Time :o

We just got back from Animethon, a 3 day anime convention in Edmonton. This is Animethon’s 25th anniversary, and it’s expanded so much over time that they had to move it to a new location this year: the Shaw Convention Centre.

I left work early on Friday afternoon (THANKS TO MY LOVELY MANAGER!!!) and hubby and I did the 5 hour drive to Edmonton. He was super tired when we checked into our hotel, so I did the 6 minute walk of awkward to the con solo in my InuYasha dress.

Why hello there, No Face.

What Have I Gotten Myself Into

When I arrived at the centre, I registered and immediately got in line for the Hatsune Miku vocaloid concert. I was an hour early and the lineup was already out the theater hall, into the hallway, and down the stairs. After about half an hour of standing alone on the stairs and sweating in my voluminous yukata-style Robe of Rat, I started feeling a little gross and tired. I was very happy when we started moving into the concert hall.

As soon as I entered the cavernous room I scurried up to the standing area (which wasn’t as full as I was expecting- most people chose seats) and I got out my light sticks. Seeing adorable Miku, whose rhythm games I adore, dancing, singing, and playing guitar in front of me accompanied by some really talented musicians was SUPER COOL. @metadatastudios put on a great show.

After the concert I chatted with a few cosplayers and attendees, and met up with a friend to attend the idolish7 panel where the presenters showed us some clips and shared some info about the characters – now I really want to get into idolish7, it looks hillarious and cute!

After the panel I headed back to the hotel because I was exhausted.

Disqualified from the Cosplay Contest ^-^’

On Saturday morning, Dustin and I headed out to the con together and explored the vendors and artists alley. I couldn’t stop squeeing at all of the adorable plushies everywhere, there are just so many ridiculously cute stuffies from Japan!

I fell in love with a character named @pugliepug and bought a bunch of Puglie merch. I also found a new designer that I really like, 1percenttalent and I got a super cool tank with eyes on it.

After spending All The Money, we checked out the gaming hall, and I tried out the visual novel Love Hues ( @love_hues_game )- the full version isn’t ready yet (I played the demo) but it has a very cute style, college setting, diverse characters, and is LGBTQIA+ friendly! On their twitter it says the full release is expected later this year. They gave me a free poster and pin just for playing and filling out a short survey about my game experience.

I spent more time exploring and chatting with people, getting my Tsukimi (Princess Jellyfish) cosplay ready for the cosplay contest which would start at 2, but in a very un-Shaunalike move, I missed the cosplay rehearsal! I can’t believe I didn’t check my emails more thoroughly, but I was disqualified T-T oh well, no biggie. I still had the Take The Stage prelims later that day to look forward to…

Tap Dancing On Carpet Sounds Like Nothing

Take the Stage is like a talent show, and I had hastily prepared a little tap dance to the opening song of Princess Jellyfish (Koko Dake no Hanashi by Chatmonchy). It included some really basic tap techniques and of course my giant Clara plushie was part of it- I planned to lift her gracefully into the air and twirl her around. It all sounded really lovely in my head.

Anyway, even though the finals were to take place on the main stage, the prelims ended up taking place in a teeny panel room with a carpeted floor. The old thought experiment came to mind: If a Shauna tapdances on the carpet and no-one hears it, does it make a sound? After watching some of the others perform (singing mainly) it was my turn.

I’m not the most impressive tap dancer in the best of circumstances (I’ve only been dancing for 2 years), and Dustin came and took a video of my performance but I haven’t seen it yet… not sure if I want to to be honest! XD

The carpet threw me off a bit, as well as nerves, and I ended up forgetting my choreography halfway through, improvising some random moves. Heck, I had fun though, and I don’t regret it. If I go next year I think I’d like to try singing!

I was kind of low-key hoping I wouldn’t make it to the finals (which take place on Sunday) because we wanted to head out early and do some shopping and eating before driving back home, and I was in luck(?) because I didn’t manage to make it to the finals, haha.

Honey, Do You Love Me? WHAT HAPPENS AT ANIMETHON STAYS AT ANIMETHON (Except for blog posts, apparently)

Dustin peaced out to the hotel and I headed to my next attraction- I had bought a ticket to the Butler Cafe. I joined a lineup of people waiting and was soon ushered into the Riverview Cafe room. I was alone- my friend wanted to come but the tickets were sold out unfortunately- and I was escorted to a table of strangers. Once everyone was seated it was apparent that we had one extra seat beside me left, so I gave Clara her own seat!

Each table had their own butler assigned with a bell to ring for service. Our butler had a fancy name I can’t remember and horns on his(?) head. He served us tea and choice of dessert (tiramisu or vanilla creme brulee). I opted for the creme brulee, which was very tasty but didn’t have a seared top to crack T-T it was more like a delicious sugary pudding or custard.

For a moment I was wondering if I had spent $16 for a scalding cup of tea and a dollop of pudding, but then the head butler went up onto a stage to introduce himself and the other butlers, and I realized that there was going to be some theatrics involved. Everyone at each table was given a slip of paper with a dare on it. They could issue these dares to the butlers as they pleased.

A wild hour ensued with butlers embarassing eachother, professing their love to eachother, performing kabe-don, singing on the stage, and other shenanigans.

While my butler was at our table fulfilling someone’s dare to draw her a picture, I asked if I could use my dare ticket: Your Butler must play “Honey, If You Love Me” with another Butler of your choosing.

“Honey, If You Love Me” is a game where one person gets in the face of the other and tries any trick they can to get them to smile while saying “Honey, if you love me, won’t you please, please smile?”. In my drama classes in high school, this usually involved silly voices and flirtatious gestures.

I chose Haru (the only name I remembered from the introductions). Our butler called him over and showed him my ticket, saying “She chose you”. Haru either misunderstood or chose to ignore the part where he was supposed to play the game with my table’s butler, and instead he came to face me.

“Oh, so you want to play with me?”

I stammered “wha- um, with me? Isn’t it- with the But- My Butler- I was not prepared for this…” I could hear the members of my table giggling behind me.

My butler decided it was more fun to watch Haru play with me instead, and allowed him to proceed. He got down on one knee in front of me where I was sitting in my chair, took my hand, and said “Honey, if you love me, won’t you please smile?” I summoned up the skills I had practiced in drama class more than 10 years ago and maintained a flat, resting bitch face, but then he leaned in and pressed his cheek against mine for just a second, and I looked away, blushing and smiling.

Yeah, he won. I was never good at that game…

When I went back to the hotel later that night I told my husband what happened and he teased me for “cheating on him with a butler” 😉

I Didn’t Make it To The Finals So I Guess I’ll Go To The Concerts

I got the email saying who got into the Take The Stage Finals, and I didn’t make it, which meant we’d be able to sleep in a bit and wouldn’t have to rush around the next day. As such, I decided to make the most of it and check out the concerts of the night. I headed once more to the concert hall still in full cosplay with my giant Clara plushie clutched in front of me.

Kanako Ito was first- she is a singer known for her work on visual novels, including Steins Gate, which I am a fan of! She was so cool on stage with her flowing dress, sunhat, and powerful voice.

Soon after, ROOKiEZ is PUNK’D came out and performed a full concert for us. They are so cool! I was especially taken with the bassist Ryota who was closest to where I was standing- headbanging and swinging his hair around wildly, aiming his bass at us like it was a machinegun. They really got the audience going, clapping, jumping- I got a good workout, and since I had Clara waved her tentacles in time with the music and raised her into the air while cheering after each song.

When the concerts were over I rushed back into the hall to get autographs. I bought a ROOKiEZ towel to be signed, and I used my basic Japanese to tell the band that the concert was really fun and that they spoke great English (because the lead singer had been apologizing for his lack of English, but he spoke very well!). They were very kind and thankful.

Kanako Ito signed my pass for me, and she was so sweet. I told her that I really enjoyed her singing, and she complimented my Japanese, then I complimented her English and she said 本当に!? HONTOU NI!? ありがと arigato! (REALLY!? Thank you!)

I staggered back to the hotel a sweaty mess, wig askew. I hastily changed into my nightgown (throwing my cosplay every which way), washed my face, brushed my teeth, and fell into bed sooooo ready to sleep.

It Ain’t A Trip To Edmonton Until I Get My Crepe

We checked out of our hotel and headed to West Edmonton Mall to do some quick shopping. Because we had spent most of the weekend eating complimentary hotel cheese and granola bars, I had one mission first and foremost: Get a crepe from Crepeworks. This has been my tradition at West Ed since I was a teen. I usually opt for the strawberry or blueberry options, but this time I chose a simple Custard Delight. Soooo gooood.

Satisfied after the custardy goodness, I did some speed walking, skirting and dodging the annoyingly slow and spread-out families and couples who were browsing at a snails pace and simultaneously blocking the walking path- in these situations I can’t help but quietly call to mind Ludacris’ “MOVE B*TCH, GET OUT THE WAYYYY, GET OUT THE WAY B*TCH GET OUT THE WAYyyyy”! I’d never say something like that out loud, but we don’t go to Edmonton that often, so when I have some shopping to do it’s SERIOUS BUSINESS, OK!?

I mainly did some shopping at Oomomo, the new Japanese store where most items are $3. They have these really great acrylics that I love for raising my figurines in their case, and for displaying items at craft shows.

After the mall we stopped at another of our usual spots- New Indian Village (formerly New Asian Village)- they have an amazing buffet spread with curries, naan, spring rolls, salads, chicken, all kinds of stuff. I also love their desserts, like gulab jamun, kheer, and jalebi.

Lastly, we visited the new Miniso for the first time. It’s super cool! Dustin loved the fun tech accessories they have, while I lost my mind over the super cute plushies and beverage containers.

We drove back home singing to rock ballads most of the way. It was a fun little weekend trip!

Care about your kids? Canada, Let’s Talk About Sex-Ed

In 2015, the year I graduated with my Bachelor of Education, a new sex-ed curriculum was introduced. It is a heavily updated version, the result of a lengthy consultation process involving child development experts, educators, police, and thousands of parents. It provides health information for students that is scientific and unbiased. It is inclusive and consent based.

Some infuriating news is emerging from Ontario right now as Education Minister Lisa Thompson announced that the new Ford government has made good on campaign promises to set sex-ed back 20 years to a curriculum that is so far removed from the realities of 2018 as to be an absolute embarrassment.

HIT ME BABY ONE MORE TIME

Fellow Canadians, remember 1998? The year of our insane ice storm that encased cars in ice, devastated power lines, ripped trees from their roots, and formed icicles as tall as your house?

Yeah, you know, 1998, when

  • Windows 98 was released by Microsoft
  • Titanic and A Bug’s Life hit the theatres
  • Pokemon Red and Blue were released in North America
  • Furby was the most anticipated Christmas gift

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Yes, that’s when the former health curriculum was made- a time before wifi and camera phones. It was a time when cyber-bullying and sexting weren’t even on our radar, and neither were visible, meaningful discussions about consent.

I’ve seen protesters, opponents of the 2015 sex ed curriculum, holding posters saying “Say NO to irresponsible sex ed”. You know what was irresponsible? Using the 1998 curriculum for so long when it was so far behind the times.

I get it, talking about sex makes some people uncomfortable. Guess what folks, that’s WHY we need comprehensive and factual sex ed in our schools. Real sex-ed saves lives.

If you think it’s solely the responsibility of parents to discuss sex, do you trust that all OTHER parents are teaching THEIR kids about respect, consent, sexting, cyber-bullying, and sexual violence? If you read the news regularly, you know this isn’t the case, and kids suffer for it. Sometimes they die because of it.

Kids are going to learn about sex before they are adults, and not just from their schools or parents. Most grade 8 students have seen their fair share of hardcore pornography.  This is reality. Is this how we want our kids to learn about sex?

We need to acknowledge the importance of all kids receiving a proper health and sex education that will prepare them for the world.

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TOO MUCH TOO SOON?

There are tons of myths floating around about the new curriculum that make it sound like some pretty “explicit” stuff will be taught to young elementary school kids, but it’s simply not true. For example, consent is examined at a young age as a concept (as in “you can say no if someone asks you do to something that makes you uncomfortable”) but it is not framed in the context of sex for that age group.

For that matter, don’t believe the myth that engaging critically and matter-of-factly about sex is going to make your kids want to start trying things with themselves or others (the opposite is true). 

Kids are going to learn bits and pieces from all over the place- a solid sex ed curriculum in public schools ensures that they get accurate FACTS. Education is the best form of protection there is.

SO, WHAT IS IN THE CURRICULUM?

The 2015 curriculum is equipped for fostering safety and empowerment in students by introducing the following concepts at developmentally appropriate times from K-12:

  • Learning about the proper names of body parts, which child-abuse educators urged would empower kids to speak up about violence and abuse
  • Personal and online safety, including cyber-bulling and sexting
  • Respecting differences, including sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression (recognizing that respecting these differences is enshrined in Canadian law )
  • Healthy relationships, respect, identity, sexuality

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For those who disagree with the updated curriculum, you have the option of pulling your kid from health classes if you like. That is your choice. Heck, you can even withdraw your kids from public school completely and homeschool them. Unfortunately, instead the “Progressive” Conservatives are regressing the curriculum for the entire student body.

Now teachers are left in the uncomfortable position of having to alter their plans toward a curriculum that is clearly not in the best interests of the students.

SO WHAT CAN WE DO?

Some teachers are firmly refusing to revert back to the old 1998 curriculum, and in doing so are taking a stand against this ignorant knee-jerk decision. One inspiring sexuality educator in Toronto, Nadine Thornhill, is creating a video project to ensure the 2015 curriculum is still accessible to anyone who wants to access it.

Just as some educators refused to address parts of the new curriculum when it was implemented in 2016, so too other educators will now surely elaborate on topics in the classroom as they see fit regardless of the current regression to the 1998 curriculum.

I hope that school and public libraries will also increase the visibility and accessibility of titles that address consent, comprehensive sexual education, gender identity, gender expression, LGBTQ+, and online safety.

Soon I will post a blog post with recommendations of book titles on these topics.