Nov 282016
 

Yes, it’s getting to that point in NaBloPoMo where trying to squeeze out more blog posts seems harder and harder. The ever-longer titles don’t seem to require too much, but actual content that someone might want to read? Oi.

So how about a feel-good story?

This past summer, I attended (as I usually do) the Vancouver Queer Film Festival.1 I saw a lot of shows, but one that really stayed with me was the documentary Southwest of Salem.

It’s the story of 4 lesbians from Texas who, in the mid-90s, were accused, tried, and convicted of the Satanic sexual abuse of the two young nieces of one of the women. So yes, just some light, frothy viewing for the summer.

I highly recommend the film because it looks into a phenomenon that I lived through as a kid but had kinda forgotten about (because it’s so ridiculous): the period in the 80s and into the 90s where Satanic ritual abuse was on all the afternoon talk shows and nightly news broadcasts and it seemed like it was just popping up everywhere. I’m sure it was more muted in Canada and that’s why it didn’t stick out in my mind more, but yeah, that was a thing; at times it felt like roving bands of Satanists were waiting around every corner and, if you were a kid and you weren’t careful, they were going to scoop you up.

The film basically positions the trial of the 4 women as the last gasp of that particular, ultimately discarded as wildly exaggerated, phenomenon and further ties it to the kind of hysteria Arthur Miller so vividly wrote about in The Crucible, the witch-hunts in Salem. The fact that 3 of the 4 women were Latina and all seemed to be solid working-class gets explored too.

Anyway, spoiler alert, the documentary focuses on what a total farce the charges, trial, and insane sentences were—the woman identified as the “ring-leader,” the aunt of the two girls, received a THIRTY-SEVEN year sentence while her 3 “co-conspirators” got 15 years each—and more recent efforts to have the women exonerated. There’s even a pretty cool Canadian connection.

The film ends on the biggest documentary cliffhanger I’ve ever seen: the four women get released and are allowed to plead their case, asking for full exoneration. The initial judge (who for some reason was the same judge who tried them??) could have exonerated them then and there… but (shockingly! *rolls eyes*), he doesn’t… he does agree the matter requires more consideration and passes it on to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (the highest court on criminal matters in Texas, and essentially their last resort).

AND THAT’S HOW IT ENDS!!! ??????

It ends with no resolution because by the time the documentary was finished, that’s where things were.

Well last week? The verdict came down, and I’ll let you check it out yourselves.

Even in victory, these women lost over 15 years of their lives (each) and several of them didn’t get to see their children grow up. But it’s such a relief, because exoneration was no guarantee. This is TEXAS we’re talking about and there were three possible outcomes, and only 1 was good: they could have just been sent back to prison, they could have had to endure new trials, or what did happen: full exoneration. And full exoneration means they can go after the state for compensation, and while money won’t give them back the time they lost, hopefully it will help make their new lives a lot better.

  1. can I just say I have to admit I really love that they don’t namby-pamby around the word “queer” and actually just call themselves the VQFF? []
Nov 242016
 

So there are a lot of things about myself I don’t like to admit. I’m assuming this is the case for most people.

I don’t like to admit how much I like stupid dance movies like Step Up 3DCenter Stage, and Save The Last Dance where at least 90% of the time, the story is the boy/girl from the wrong side of the tracks who dances “street” teams up with the classically trained/ballet/true artist girl/boy dancer to shatter the snotty, uptight expectations of the “art world”/establishment and win the dance scholarship/competition/world prize (see also Pitch Perfect and Bring It On for variations on this theme). I don’t like to admit how powerless I am in the face of my serious bubble tea addiction. I don’t like to admit how happy such bubblegum pop neoclassics as Shake It OffCall Me Maybe, and Kiss You make me when I listen to them. I don’t like to admit how much I hate things many people adore, like Star WarsBook of Mormon, Firefly, and Lord of the Rings. Oh no wait—I do love telling people how much I hate that last group of things.

But you get the idea… I mean, obviously there are far more serious things I don’t like to admit about myself that (shocker) I will not be writing down here and putting out into the public sphere. But one thing I will cop to is that I do not like to admit where I’m from. I do admit it (because I don’t believe in being evasive/coy about stuff you might not like but didn’t choose and can’t change) but I don’t like it. Not one bit.

Hi, my name is Kalev and yes, I grew up in Surrey, BC.1

I can’t tell you that I always knew how awful Surrey was. Growing up in Surrey, I just didn’t really understand there were (vastly) other ways to live. Given I was in deep denial about my sexuality until I was nearly 20, I didn’t experience the place as particularly anti-gay (even though Surrey is, to a remarkably disturbing degree). And I’m not ashamed to be from Surrey because it’s the default butt of every redneck/dumb or slutty blond joke in the region. I’m not ashamed because of the stereotypes about Surrey, because every region has a municipality like that.2 No, I’m ashamed to be from Surrey because of how it has been and acted, historically, and how it still is. And it’s a lot more than uncomplicated stereotypes about the types of people who live there—which could, to be fair, be made about nearly any community far enough out from any urban centre—that underpin my ire.

My deep and abiding contempt for my hometown in based in a variety of reasons, many of which relate to it embodying values that are completely antithetical to my core beliefs. But perhaps the one aspect of Surrey that most upsets me, that makes my blood boil, is that the city and its residents are constantly whining about how they pay SO. MUCH. for transit (not directly, but via things like property taxes and gas taxes)3 and yet they are so desperately shortchanged in return for their selfless sacrifice.

(Let me tell you, just as an aside: on a variety of fronts in my life, I am getting damn sick of people complaining about problems that are their own damn fault and which they could damn well fix if they damn well shut the fuck up and worked on the problem instead of bitching about how it was someone else’s fault and out of their control.)

And this unpleasant caterwauling was out in full force yesterday in the comment section of the livestream of the joint Mayors’ Council–TransLink board meeting where the 10-Year Plan was approved.

To wit:

screen-shot-2016-11-23-at-2-40-13-pm

So to give you a bit more context on why that comment should have come with a Kalev trigger warning™,4 I’ll share the response I wrote to it, which summarizes why I hate Surrey on this particular front:

Surrey can have SkyTrain when it starts acting like a real city and implements this crazy thing called “urban planning” instead of its continued and appalling suburban sprawl. It doesn’t have anywhere near the density to justify SkyTrain and it has certainly never demonstrated the political will to develop communities where transit can be effectively delivered. When SkyTrain arrived in central Surrey, a few towers got built… and then NOTHING for the next 15 years. Meanwhile, the sprawl continued unabated.

Further, LRT5 is not some cheap-out alternative to SkyTrain. It’s an appropriate mode of rapid transportation for the city given its current state and it’s widely used across the world.

Surrey should count itself lucky it’s getting ANY kind of rapid transit beyond what it already has. The notion that it’s needed more in Surrey (which is completely laid out around car use) and not along Broadway (all the way to UBC) which is the single busiest transit corridor ON THE CONTINENT is ludicrous in the extreme.

Let’s put it this way: you guys are lucky you’re considered fertile ground for BC Liberal and federal Conservative politicians because otherwise this wouldn’t even be a conversation.

*mic drop*

  1. Happily I at least wasn’t born there. ? []
  2. I’m looking at you, Scarborough! ? []
  3. which is also a lie since, as I’ve mentioned before, property taxes in the Lower Mainland are shockingly low for a region of our size, population, and complexity—and Surrey is not the exception to that rule (in a relative sense, White Rock is) []
  4. as should any articles about the housing market in Vancouver *sigh* []
  5. light rail transit []
Nov 192016
 

Sometime in the last 10 to 15 years, a horrible plague started reaching critical mass. What plague is that? The plague of people who for some reason have lost the ability to understand one of the very simplest rules of grammar ever, which is that you form the plural of a word by—in general—just adding an S to the end of said word.

For example, one cat, two or more cats.  I ate some apples.

So what are grocers’ apostrophes, you ask? Well, grocers’ apostrophes would be when you want to talk about more than one apostrophe and you, in a fit of stupendous idiocy, write about the apostrophe’s you are interested in talking about.

Yes, there are actually people out there who think you form the plural by adding –‘s to the end of the word you want to make plural. But as anyone with a Grade 4 education should know, using apostrophe-S at the end of a word is how you form the possessive, not the plural.

As in, what is Kalev‘s biggest grammar pet peeve? That is, the pet peeve that belongs to Kalev.1

Apparently this started with grocers, hence the name, who would handwrite signs such as Apple’s 1/-2 a pound or Orange’s 1/63 a pound. I’m not sure it’s really fair to blame grocers for this but at least it’s a distinctive name.

It’s slightly forgivable when people do it for decades in numeral form or to make abbreviations plural. You have definitely seen, and have probably written yourself, the following:

  • the 1970’s, with few exceptions, were just horrible in terms of fashion
  • I used to love living in Vancouver because we had the cheapest CD’s in Canada or the US
  • It’s crazy how quickly DVD’s are becoming obsolete

In the case of acronyms, people want to indicate that the terminal S that forms the plural isn’t actually part of the acronym itself. In the case of decades, I guess the apostrophe is there because people feel weird about having letters and numbers in the same string of characters?

Of course, in all but a few cases, acronyms are generally written all uppercase, and in 2016, when things like “the iPhone 4S, 5S, 6S, and 7S” are commonplace, I don’t think we have to feel self-conscious about having numbers and letters “touching.” So really, all that should be written:

  • the 1970s, with few exceptions, were just horrible in terms of fashion
  • I used to love living in Vancouver because we had the cheapest CDs in Canada or the US
  • It’s crazy how quickly DVDs are becoming obsolete

Just as readable, and no worries that someone might think you are talking about the DVD’s cover (the cover belonging to the DVD), or the DVDs’ covers (the covers belonging to the DVDs), etc.

But honestly, it is SHOCKING how frequently you will see this now. I have to beat the habit out of my co-op students, who are (arguably) fairly highly-educated people. And it’s not just “the young’uns:” I see it from people my age and up, too. When people don’t know weird grammar things —like if they mess up the possessive form of “it” and write it as “it’s”4 or they don’t use the subjunctive—I can be forgiving because at least they are messing up things that are increasingly rare (proper use of the subjunctive) or a fairly huge exception to how things are usually done (the possessive form of “it”). But forming the plural in English is DEAD SIMPLE: you add an S. That’s it. So if people are trying to form the plural by adding apostrophe-S, they are actually making things more complicated/longer to write. Also, I’d love to see how they write about the kittens’ mother or the kids’ parents if they’re using this mistaken method.

You see this error EVERY. DAY.

Case in point:

(There are many other problems with this ad but it’s a great example of the case in point.)

And then there’s this one, which nearly caused me actual pain when I saw it:

img_2156

So the moral of this story is: forming the plural in English is easy and has nothing to do with apostrophes. Don’t make something that is simple into something more complicated.

  1. That is a meta-rhetorical question, in case you were wondering. ? []
  2. that’s one shilling []
  3. one shilling sixpence []
  4. which is the contraction “it is”—what they should have written is “its” and that’s the most common exception to the standard way of forming the possessive so it’s understandable people screw that one up []