Once again I’m leaving the Westlock News. But this time I expect it to be permanent, as I’m moving on to the Edmonton Sun.
I have mixed emotions about leaving, as I’ve grown comfortable in Westlock, but the opportunity to move to the city, and to take on the challenge of working for a daily was too much to resist in the end.
And now, much like I did when I left the first time way back in 2011, I present my farewell column in advance of its actual appearance in the paper.
Well, it’s come to this. Again.
Some of you with long memories may recall something I wrote in this spot back at the end of August 2011, when I was saying farewell to Westlock as I moved over to work in Barrhead.
At that time, little did I know I would be back here in mid May 2012. Clearly I wasn’t saying “goodbye,” but was instead saying “so long.”
This time is different. This will be the last column I write in this spot, as I will be heading down to Edmonton to start a new gig with the Edmonton Sun.
And to be honest, it’s rather a bittersweet moment for me.
I’ve been working here in Westlock, notwithstanding my short sojourn in Barrhead, since Dec. 1, 2010. To save you all the effort, that’s 1,403 days I’ve been out here, or three years, 10 months and three days as of Oct. 3.
It’s the longest I’ve held a steady job — I lifeguarded for seven years, but that don’t really count because it was really only in the summer months.
I’m not exactly sure how I feel about leaving.
On the one hand, nearly four years in one place means I’ve grown accustomed to and comfortable in one place. I’ve got used to this place, where everything is, who people are, and the overall lay of the land.
On the other hand, I’m looking forward to moving to Edmonton. There’s no way around that fact. Growing up in a city, living in a small town, even one with a city a hop, skip and a jump away, has been an adjustment.
But while getting out of here is something I’ve been looking forward to, at the same time I feel like I’m leaving a place that has gradually become home.
I’ve spent the last 1,400-plus days getting to know the community and its people. I’ve watched kids grow up, somewhat. I’ve seen one cohort of students graduate who weren’t even in high school when I started here.
In short, I feel like I’ve been part of your lives, albeit as that guy with a camera who showed up at your sporting events, concerts, plays, meetings, conferences and whatever has gone on in the last four years.
Seriously, I’ve covered so many things, I can’t remember even half of them.
And in return, you’ve all been a part of my life. You’ve helped me grow as a reporter as I’ve chronicled your lives and tried to do justice to your successes and failures.
So here we are. I want to thank you for welcoming me into your community, and I want to thank you for putting up with me and all my foibles. I’ll never forget it.
So there we have it.
I just finished watching The Graduate.
You all know it — the film about the college grad who has an affair with a married woman by the name of Mrs. Robinson.
Well, that’s all I knew about it. And let me tell you, there’s a lot more to it.
I think the one thing that surprised me about the movie is how I need to stop believing everything The Simpsons does. For example, the final scene at the church. I had thought Benjamin was banging on the glass to get Mrs. Robinson’s attention and to stop the wedding. Nope. He was actually doing it for Elaine Robinson.
Further to that, I had no idea there was a younger love interest in the storyline.
Now, in all honesty, I only watched this movie because it’s one of those films people say you “should watch.” So watch it I did.
I’m not disappointed.
It was a bit awkward in the beginning when Mrs. Robinson was trying to rope Benjamin in and he was evidently trying to figure out what she meant while not wanting to say it out loud. And then he does and everything goes all the more uncomfortable.
It was a very interesting film. I’m not sure what else I can say.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.
Its reputation precedes it, and I found it very disappointing.
My knowledge of Frankenstein comes from popular culture where Dr. Frankenstein is a maniacal madman (redundant, but whatever) who is creating a monster for evil purposes. Or at least for kicks. And that he loves his monster as his own creation.
However, that’s not how the book goes.
Instead, Dr. Frankenstein creates the monster (and we’re never told how) and immediately hates and fears it when it comes alive. Then he flees and leaves the monster to its own devices. The monster eventually learns to speak. And is like a superhuman — it is faster, stronger and more capable of surviving physical extremes than humans.
There is none of the lumbering giant that is portrayed in movies and TV shows.
Eventually the monster and Frankenstein reunite, after the monster has killed a few people.
Overall, the book isn’t that bad, and I can’t blame it for how the movie studios have recreated it.
And I guess I have only myself to blame for thinking it would be better than it was.
As you can tell, I’m back on the blogosphere after a very long hiatus. I shall strive to be more visible here.
I am a reporter.
I write on all manner of things, from cheque presentations to government corruption.
Sometimes this includes fairly significant court cases. In the last year I have been made aware of two murders in my neck of the woods. OK, one of them I went to the scene and even spoke to a friend of the family. But I don’t know the people involved, so for me, they are simply stories.
Now, as you are all well aware, I do have a vested interest in one specific murder case currently going through the courts. You all know to which one I am referring.
I’m not going to rehash any of the reporting already done on this trial. But I do have some thoughts and comments on the case and trial as a whole.
This is the first time I have had a vested interest in such a significant event. It’s not very often you hear of a murder-for-hire plot involving someone you know, even tangentially. When the accused is someone who knew fairly well, and someone you considered a friend, it’s especially eerie.
Think about it. When I first heard about the shooting, I was led to believe, as everyone was, that it was a botched home invasion.
Then the charges were laid.
The I started hearing things from people back home who had better connections than I did.
Now the testimony.
I’m following the trial best as I can because, and I hate using this analogy, it’s like a train wreck — you can’t look away.
Yet I feel more voyeuristic than I have felt when following other trials.
The Stephanie Rengel murder trial didn’t make me feel strange. And that was an especially tragic case.
I don’t remember the Paul Bernardo/Karla Homolka trial, but I imagine I would not have felt out of place following that one.
But this one is different. I know the parties involved and I am still disbelieving it’s all true (although that does remain to be seen; but the police would not have recommended charges if they didn’t believe they had a reasonable chance of conviction).
For many people watching this all unfold, it’s just another sordid tale.
For me and many of my friends, it’s people we know going through something that is going to alter their lives forever.
I’m going to have to keep that sentiment in mind as I continue through my career. Because I know I’ll be spending many, many more hours in courtrooms.
Not that long ago, as in the aftermath of the Rich Peverley incident, I came across the following image:
A certain Twitter user made the assertion people posting this image are doing so with racist intentions, even if they don’t intend to do so.
When I questioned if she’d be calling it racist if the basketball player portrayed was Larry Bird (white) and the hockey player was Anson Carter (black), her reply was that she had never seen the races reversed like that.
And I have to acknowledge I too have never seen such an image with a white basketball player and a black hockey player with a similar text to what is in the image in question. But the reason for that, at least in my eyes, is simply the law of averages. There are far more black basketballers and far more white hockey players than there are respective white and black players.
Since, on balance, those sports skew black and white respectively, we are more likely to see a basketball player who suffers a leg cramp being carried off the court who is black. And the same goes for a hockey player who collapses on the bench wanting to get back on the ice; on balance he will be white.
Maybe I am more enlightened and not so sensitive to these things, but when I saw the above image, my first thought about who was portrayed in each segment was that the above person was Lebron James, a basketball player. An athlete in a sport I view as a weakling’s sport. Ever watch basketball? It seems to me if you breathe on someone, you get called for a foul.
The bottom portrayed Rich Peverley, who is a hockey player. Hockey, the sport where, on the other hand, you can decapitate a player and play goes on.
I exaggerate, of course.
But. Maybe some of the people who posted that image were doing so with racist intentions. But unless someone says something overtly racist (e.g. “Look at that big nigger baby Lebron James! Wuss carried off the court because of a pussy cramp. Now that Rich Peverley. Good ol’ master race white guy, ain’t gonna let a little irregular heartbeat keep him outta a man’s sport!”) I simply view the image as someone laughing at how sensitive basketball players are when hockey players will play through broken legs (Bobby Baun), broken fingers, missing teeth and having their faces carved up like last Thanksgiving’s turkey.
Don’t get me started on baseball players. “Oooh, I chipped a nail. Put me on the 15-day DL!” They’re the real weaklings.
And yes. I did say nigger. I’m not going to get all politically correct. The use of the word fits the context, and I’m going to use it.
I wrote this column for the March 11 Westlock News. But since it also deals with Carleton’s fourth straight, and 10th in 12 years, national men’s basketball title, I thought I would throw it up here before it appears in print.
As I’m sitting here writing this column on Sunday afternoon, I can’t help thinking I’d much rather be in Ottawa right now.
Not because I don’t like it here in rural Alberta, but because I’m missing the CIS men’s basketball national championships.
As some of you are hopefully aware, although frankly I doubt it, my alma mater Carleton is the four-time reigning national champion. More impressively, with a 79-76 win over the Ottawa Gee Gees, they’ve won the title in 10 of the last 12 years.
And I’ve been a live witness to exactly none of them. This despite the championships being held in Ottawa the last two years of my time at Carleton.
I don’t understand why I never went either year. The then-Scotiabank Place was only a relatively short hop, skip and a jump away from Carleton, but I never hopped on the bus for the journey.
This year was supposed to be different.
Five years since graduation, I was planning to return to Ottawa, see what has changed since I was there last, and, yes, cheer on my Ravens as they tried for their 10th title in only 12 years.
I think my only issue with going back, at least from an aesthetic point of view, is that Ottawa is a fairly ugly city at this time of year. I mean, I thoroughly enjoyed my time there, but when I returned in June 2009 to graduate, it was a decidedly nicer looking place than it was when I left that April.
So I guess at this point someone is wondering why I am making a big deal out of forsaking a trip to Ottawa to watch basketball, basketball that isn’t even the highest calibre out there.
I think it comes down to Carleton being the only championship-calibre team I can cheer for, and the only one I can remember cheering for.
I may have been seven at the time, but I can’t really remember 1993, the last good year for Canadian professional sports. The Blue Jays were back-to-back World Series champions, and the Canadiens were Stanley Cup champions.
Heck, even the Maple Leafs were half-decent that year, if you’re into that kind of thing.
Sure, the Argonauts have won four Grey Cups since 1993, and the Rock won five titles in seven seasons starting in 1999, but those sports don’t resonate with me as much as do hockey and baseball.
To be honest, basketball is down the list as well, but when your university can field a team with 10 championships in 12 years, you at least have something to hold on to.
Fortunately, the national championships will be at Ryerson next year, with all games held at Maple Leaf Gardens.
And with the opportunity for free room and cheaper board, I know where I’ll be next March.
Slut. Skank. Harlot. Trollop. Whore. Tramp. Floozy. Or, my favourite, Neo-Rennaissance lady of the evening.
Doubtless you’ve heard all or most of those in reference to girls and women, typically those who are dressed in a provocative manner.
And if you’re a woman or girl, I would bet you dollars to donuts you’ve been referred to as one of those at least once, even if you don’t know it.
Except the last one — that one’s a bit too convoluted to be used in ‘normal’ conversation.
We all know what these words are meant to convey. They’re meant to convey the idea that those who are using those words are above those being referred to, and the recipients of the slurs are overly sexually promiscuous.
More often than not, the use of those slurs occurs solely based on physical appearance.
Dressed in a miniskirt and tube top? And you have large breasts? Congratulations! You’re a slut!
In other cases, the physical appearance isn’t so much the body and how it’s covered (or not, as the case may be). Instead, it’s that the woman/girl is dressed in a way other girls/women don’t agree with.
Wearing Lulu pants and Ugg boots? Congratulations! You’re a whore!
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I am guilty of using these phrases. And often based on nothing other than what she looks like and what she is wearing. Perhaps it’s been a reaction based on my lack of a romantic life, and jealousy that men/boys who don’t seem worthy have managed to secure partners. I see women/girls who are too good for the men/boys they are with, so I lash out at them in my mind.
But a recent experience at West Edmonton Mall really made me think.
I was walking through the mall and in front of me was this girl wearing what appeared to be a tight, midriff-baring top underneath a mesh or knitted top. Whatever you call it, you could see her physique through the top layer, along with the fabric covering her breasts. She was also wearing fairly tight jeans. She was attractive, at least as far as her body was concerned; I never saw her face.
As I’m walking, I hear a comment from behind me. Something along the lines of “She’s a slut.” I didn’t turn around to see who made that comment, but I presume by the timing of the comment and when the girl walked in front of me that it was directed at her, based only on her appearance.
And it made me think.
Hearing words like the ones that sometimes bounce around in my head be uttered out loud in (presumably) the same manner I have used them really struck me.
It struck me because it forced me to confront what I’m doing when I use those words, even if the person they’re directed at can’t hear me.
More to the point, it made me wonder what, really, those people who are addressed with those slurs did to deserve those slurs being directed at them.
Even if they have a reputation as someone who sleeps around, so what? Why must the idea of a woman enjoying sexual pleasure be something taboo?
And what does apparel have to do with anything, either?
It was a rather enlightening experience to overhear those words. They were (presumably) without provocation, and clearly uttered with malicious intent.