Brief comments on Jean Vanier

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Jean Vanier

Jean Vanier (1928-2019) was founder of L’Arche, an international organization to help people with disabilities. He was also a philosopher and theologian, who is influential in helping me develop my thoughts on such concepts as forgiveness, which was a last main topic of a series of five Massey Lectures given in 1998 on the program Ideas, on CBC Radio One. I just did a search, and free online audio is available on his series Becoming Human, which has those five lectures. But he keeps coming back to his discussion of L’Arche, and how it is used to teach him about how we overcome our loneliness, fear and anxiety to become more fully integrated into our communities.

While I understand from a CBC report in 2020 revealed allegations of sexual abuse, I feel that this should not be allowed to overshadow his contributions to the humanities and theology.

Kayla Lemieux

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Today, I was watching a recording of Bill Maher (September 23 episode) on YouTube, and just before he went to New Rules, he had a short summary of news on a transgender shop teacher named Kayla Lemieux. This would be a boring story with a hint of spectacle if it were not for the fact that Maher, who is based in Los Angeles, was relating this story about this teacher who works in Oakville, here in Canada. Because the news travelled so far, I thought I would give this another look.

He teaches at Oakville Trafalgar High School (OTHS), a school in a tony neighbourhood located in southeast Oakville, and part of the Halton District Public School Board.

Lemieux has been transitioning over the past year, and since this school year has started, pictures of her sporting large triple-Z prosthetic breasts under a tight shirt along with bike shorts have gone viral on Twitter. Having a tight shirt over large breasts with nipples poking through would normally violate school board dress codes, but in the case of Lemieux, the Director of the Halton District School Board is defending her.

Lemieux has become the poster T-Girl of every right-wing news outlet that appears to exist, right up to Fox News where it surfaced on Tucker Carlson on September 19, where Carlson hyperbolically called the situation “an attack on your children”. It even crossed the Atlantic to Britain’s Daily Mail. About the only thing to come out of the situation is to provide a “red meat” issue for consumers of right wing media. Other media appear to be ignoring it. While Lemieux appears prominently on Know Your Meme, information is lacking as to how much this is trending, exactly. Overall, it doesn’t appear to be a big deal on the internet generally.

The protest had more police and jounralists than the actual protestor, of which there was one. (Toronto Sun)

I was able to finally find a Canadian article from The Toronto Sun, (still a right-wing publication, I know — and an opinion piece besides) where they report that the anticipated protest which was to happen at OTHS this Monday past was attended by exactly one person who would not give his name to the reporters, but eventually identified himself as a former OTHS student. The Sun columnist admits that the situation really didn’t cause much of a stir other than questions being asked of the board and administators, and that most of what could be called outrage was online. The online people may well be from out of the province and most likely from the States, where the right wing press was foaming at the mouth over it. It still didn’t stop the Sun columnist, Anthony Furey, from trying to hyperbolize it into something outrageous, even though not many people from the actual school experienced any emotion that you could say rose to the level of outrage. There were discussions, there were questions, there were concerns for sure. But it appears that is as far as it’s getting.

Overall, apart from right-wing noise coming mostly from media outlets desparate for spectacle, our culure seems pretty accepting of such people on the whole. It appears to be a lot of noise, signifying nothing. In the final analysis, Lemieux has a right to express herself as she likes, and that right is protected. About all one can accuse her of is poor taste and making a few people feel uncomfortable. The school board — and all school boards that face this situation — have to come to terms with writing a dress code that acknowledges the right for kids to learn without feeling distracted and cringey, while respecting those who lead alternative lifestyles. Where they conflict, the right of kids to learn in a conducive environment should take precedence.

Updates

  1. I take it back. The Toronto Star has been all over this story, but never naming the teacher that was implicated. There seemed to be a later, somewhat louder protest on 23 September in front of the school, but pictures I’ve seen maybe have the number of protestors at no bigger than 12 or so.
  2. A dozen protestors might be significant for a school, but of course the Star reporter would hopefully like to know who they are, and if they are actually from the region. A voice speaking into a megaphone sounded “right-wing” to the reporter; and some adults that showed up were affiliated with the People’s Party of Canada (PPC), a tiny far right Ottawa-based party whose platform advocates the restricting of immigration, and putting an end to multiculturalism. They also want to loosen the gun laws to legalize 1500 kinds of recently-banned weapons such as the AR-15, and M16, generally the kinds of weapons used at the Sandy Hook, New Zealand, Las Vegas, Orlando, Ecole Poytechnique, and Quebec City Mosque mass shootings. Only a few people at the protest were actual parents of kids at the school. The Star is not clear as to how many of them were there.
  3. More to the point, the PPC wishes to repeal Bill C-16 which was passed by the Liberals in 2018. This introduces legislation under the Canadian Human Rights Act to prevent discrimination based on a person’s preferred gender. It also adds provisions to the Crimial Code making those who target others based on transgendered identity or expression a hate crime. This also covers hate speech targeting transgenders. This bill also received the support of the opposition Conservative Party.
  4. Trustee Tracey Ehl said she has received emails from outside of Canada that apparently come from hate groups, regarding Lemieux. Any coming from her own constituents? The Toronto Star doesn’t say.
  5. But Halton region did in fact have meetings involving school trustees over persuading the director to make changes to the dress code; and even Stephen Lecce, the education minister, has sent a request to the standards body, the Ontario College of Teachers, to see if they could tighten the rules around a dress code for teachers.

Getting your ass handed to you

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I have become a fan of author Jon Ronson, a Welsh writer of nonfiction, or more like a journalist who writes books, I suppose. His chosen topics center mostly around the messier, disordered parts of human nature. He deals with the aspects of our experience where we often fear to tread: from online shaming and bullying, to the mentality of psychopaths, to our very own ability to categorize people as our power over them.

The latest I have heard from him was a series of audio podcasts which I had downloaded from Audible called The Last Days of August, a biography of events surrounding the suicide of porn actress August Ames in 2017. Ames was known as an A-List porn star, married to producer Kevin Moore, a man more than 20 years her senior. It is notable that there were 5 suicides of porn actors in the month after Ames’s suicide.

Generally the podcast Last Days spread out over 7 half-hour episodes what could have easily been condensed to half that, at least in my opinion. It isn’t that there was “fluff” in the piece necessarily, it is just that there was too much detail, and by episode 4, even Ronson is questioning whether his digging around the porn industry was too obsessive.

Well, if Ronson was looking for the messier side of humanity to root around in for stories, he certainly found it. We see the messiest possible intersection between messed-up porn actors and actresses, messed-up producers and directors, the vindictiveness of the business generally, manipulation, fear of STDs, fear of each other, and fear-mongering both real and imagined, in all possible directions. What truth could possibly be dredged up from such an unholy mess of people and situations?

But around the 17:20 minute mark of Episode 4, he interviews a porn actress named Lisa Ann, another actress considered to be an “A-Lister”. Her real name appears to be Lisa Ann Corpora, a dark-haired actress known for her porn parody of Alaska politician Sarah Palin. Lisa Ann was one of the rare actresses who lasted in the industry well beyond the 3-4 years that most women last. She owned her own porn production company. Lisa Ann was in her mid-40s at the time of the interview and had just come out of her second retirement (or was it her third?) to sign up with the production company Evil Angel, the same company August and husband Kevin worked for before August’s suicide.

But what comes out of the interview with Lisa Ann was a lightning bolt of clarity in all of the messiness and confusion of the story.

“99.9% of what you are going to hear from interviews is fucking bullshit. Everybody fucking lies. They are the most uneducated, shady fucking criminal people I’ve ever engaged with,” Lisa Ann says. You can say that she is trying to protect her employer, Evil Angel, and in turn her job with these words, but discrediting porn actors in this way amounts to remarks that are uncontroversial, and it is an easy sell. Elsewhere in the series, the porn industry was self-described by those in it as adult actors who have never resolved their childhood issues, being managed by other adults who suffer from the same lack of resolve of childhood issues. Essentially describing the industry as grown-up children managing other grown-up children.

After a few remarks giving her angle on all of those things causing Ronson suspicions about the possibility of Kevin controlling August in several ways, and the pressure of the AVN Tradeshow on August, she continues with “It’s a good thing to have a protective man like Kevin involved because there are many things that are involved in the business that should not be involved but are involved. Again, none of this is going to bring her back to life. None of this is going to make Kevin’s life easier, and none of us are perfect. We have lost a valuable person in the industry, we have an example poorly set for losing 5 girls in a month; they’re all gone now, and we can’t bring any of them back.

“Prodding at the animals in the cage and trying to find out what you can learn from a bunch of people who can’t even know the fucking truth — these are people who don’t even know their own truth — you’re talking about people who do drugs on the regular — People who do drugs and the gray matter in their minds and the things that it affects and the clarity that they don’t have are not respectable people to give their opinion on the death of another human being that they probably weren’t good to, weren’t close with, didn’t care about, and now they’re willing to talk about her.

“Let me put it to you this way: 75% of the industry is on the edge enough to commit suicide at any time. That’s the way you have to look at it. I’ve interacted sexually with more people that are no longer here than probably anybody in this world. It’s not that much of a story with one girl.”

It was chilling and sobering. The death of August and the cyberbullying story angle that Ronson was pursuing now seemed like small potatoes compared with the much larger and starker picture Lisa Ann was painting. It wasn’t just that a bunch of B and C-list porn actors were piling onto August in a short-lived cyberbullying frenzy; the real story is that the porn industry is dark, evil, sick, remorseless, and unempathetic at worst — confused and rudderless at best; and that the Twitter storm is just a small part of this story. Not only is it not much of a story with one girl; but it is likely not much of a story about August either. Ronson will never get the truth from interviewing people in the industry, because when people are willing to speak, it is mostly out of self-interest or self-promotion. Even allegations of August’s mental illness appeared in Ronson’s story to be just that, allegations based on circumstantial evidence and hearsay. This is not to deny that it is entirely possible that August along with a good chunk of the porn industry is mentally unstable; it is just that he didn’t seem to establish this for August all that well.

But Lisa Ann, not wanting to discuss that dark side more than she absolutely wants to, makes an effort to be more positive by breaking with the discussion by saying in the next breath:

“The story is the forward thinking future of not gossiping, not bringing up darkness, trying to look towards the light, and trying to instil a positive mindset, and trying to create groups. You can’t say that this piece of yours is working toward the future; you’re not going to save anybody. They’re already dead. You’re only going to make more people get closer to the edge, and we’ll have more deaths after this comes out. Because everyone is going to feel so guilty for the lies that they told.

“The end result for you is you want to blame Kevin for August’s suicide, right?”

“No”, Ronson insists. While it was Kevin’s idea to get Ronson to pursue the story, Ronson had to pursue the “Kevin is controlling” angle for his own journalistic integrity.

“Your using our industry and the weakness of our industry and the fear involved to create a story for yourself. I’ve seen this too many times before, that’s exactly what you’re doing. You’re using the dummies.”

The accusation of Ronson “using the dummies” was an unfair jab. Lisa Ann had otherwise said a lot that any viewer ought to digest, and did it in a way that would make a pretty sound conclusion for anyone seeking a story on the porn industry. And there were 3 more episodes to go after this. There wasn’t much more to say. Suddenly August’s story didn’t seem that interesting anymore. 3 more episodes of Ronson prodding and probing around the many angles to the the death of August, not adding much that was memorable. He definitely needs an editor.

But I can say that overall, Lisa Ann definitely handed his ass to him. It should have been a wake-up call to not focus so narrowly on one person’s psychological state, shaming, cyberbullying, and controlling spouses. There was an infinitely bigger story and he was missing it.

There was a lack of authoritativeness throughout this series that reduced the entire series into mostly he-said, she-said dialogues. There was no foundation, and even Lisa Ann’s dialog, while having the feeling of truth, still boiled down to “Lisa Ann’s opinion”, which I found deflating. It is possible that Ronson, a person who has given talks at Oxford University, Ted talks, and has been a guest on numerous podcasts and TV talk shows, is out of his depth here, and it should be taken as a life lesson, learn from it, and move on. And he has seemed to since. Apart from his public appearances on radio and TV, he has continued to make podcasts for the BBC. He is married with one son.

Recognizable OOC Recipients 05: News anchors

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Lloyd Robertson

Lloyd Robertson (OOC 1998) — He was six years an anchor for CBC news in the early to mid-seventies. He later moved to CTV, and had been anchor there until 2011 when he retired. He has been news anchor longer than Walter Cronkite, and is in fact the record holder for the longest-serving anchorman in television history.

mansbridge
Peter Mansbridge

Peter Mansbridge (OOC 2008) — A youngster by Lloyd Roberson standards, Peter Mansbridge has been news anchor at CBC since 1988, and is still working at CBC. It will be another six years until he beats Robertson’s record. He does hold the record for the longest serving anchor still active.

In Memoriam – Part 2

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Lauren Bacall.

Here is a link to the start of this series if you haven’t read it yet.

  • Lauren Bacall (12 Aug). She appeared in several movies alongside Humphrey Bogart. She was 89.
  • Oscar de la Renta (20 Oct). Fashion designer, dead at 82.
  • Dr. Ronald Colapinto (3 Jan). Toronto surgeon best known for developing an intervention which spared many patients from major surgery. He was 79.
  • Pat Quinn (23 Nov). Former Toronto Maple Leafs player, hockey coach, and manager, died at age 71.
  • Merle Bourwis (22 Nov). The oldest living Canadian as of Nov 22. Sum Ying Fung thereafter became the oldest living Canadian (see part 1). Bourwis died at 113.
  • Arturo Licata (24 Apr). It is surprising how rare it is for a supercentenarian to be male. But males living to age 111 such as Arturo Licata are rare in comparison. This would be the world’s oldest male whose age can be verified. He lived in Enna, Italy for all of his life. Sakari Momoi of Japan is 111, and is now the oldest male still living.
  • Jack Bruce (25 Oct). Former Cream lead singer and bassist, dead at 71.
  • Charles Keating (9 Aug). Actor in movies, the TV soap opera Another World and audiobook narrator, passed away at 72 of lung cancer.
  • Bobby Womack (27 Jun). The Soul/R&B singer passed away at age 70.
  • Bob Suter (9 Sep). Former 1980 Winter olympic hockey player (Miracle on Ice), passed away at age 57 suffering from a heart attack.
  • Theodore “Dutch” van Kirk (28 Jul). The pilot who flew The Enola Gay in World War II died at age 93.
  • Sid Caesar
    Sid Caesar

    Sid Caesar (12 Feb). 1950s comedian and television personality. Dead at 91.

  • Richard Attenborough (24 Aug). Famous actor and director, who directed films such as Gandhi, which won eight Academy Awards. He was 90.
  • Keith Davey (17 Jan). The Canadian politician, Senator, and campaign organizer and member of The Order of Canada died at age 84 after a battle with Alzheimers.
  • Jim Flaherty (10 Apr). Canada’s Conservative finanace minister until this year, died suddenly of a heart attack at age 63.
  • James Garner (19 Jul). The TV and movie actor known for playing Jim Rockford in the show The Rockford  Files, passed away in Los Angeles after a period of having heart problems. He was 86.
  • Johnny Winter (16 Jul). The albino blues guitarist for The Edgar Winter Group died after a concert in Zurich, Switzerland at age 70.
  • Ann B. Davis (1 June). Known for her role as housekeeper Alice Nelson on The Brady Bunch. She was 88.
  • Harold Ramis (Feb 24). Former Second City troupe member, contemporary of Dan Akroyd, John Belushi and Bill Murray, he directed blockbuster comedies such as Animal House, Meatballs, Caddyshack, Analyze This, and Ghostbusters. He was 69, after succumbing to a rare disease.
  • Tommy Ramone (11 Jul). Former drummer of the 70s punk rock band The Ramones, and the last surviving original member of the band, died at age 62 after a battle with cancer.
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    Gabriel Garcia Marquez

    Gabriel Garcia Marquez (17 Apr). Columbian author and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, died at age 87 in Mexico City after a battle with complications leading to pneumonia.

  • Casey Kasem (15 Jun). Radio personality best known for his hosting the radio program American Top 40 for over 20 years. He was 82.
  • Mickey Rooney (16 Apr). Actor in several films stemming from his childhood years, dead at 93.
  • Simone Battle (9 Sep). X-Factor performer and member of rock group GRL, committed suicide at age 25.
  • Jimi Jamison (31 Aug). Lending his heavy metal guitar stylings to the rock band Survivor after their success seemed to be on the wane, he helped generate at least two top-selling albums and several more singles. He died at age 63 of a stroke.
  • Ralph Waite (13 Feb). Played father John Walton in the TV serial The Waltons, died peacefully at age 85 in Palm Desert, California.
  • willardboyle
    A digital photograph of Dr. Willard Boyle. You knew this was coming.

    Willard Boyle (7 May). Canadian physicist, Order of Canada companion and Nobel Prize winner, did research which paved the way for digital photography for which all web designers and bloggers remain in debt. He was 86.

  • Knowlton Nash (24 May). Longtime anchor of CBC’s The National died at age 86.
  • And last but not least, British singer and guitarist Joe Cocker, dead after rumors of them were not shown to be exaggerated, died of lung cancer in Crawford, Colorado on 22 December.

In Memoriam 2014 – Part 1

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Miss_Beazely_and_her_human
Miss Beazely (2004-2014) once spent quality time with her owner.

Well, this post may well need to be broken up into a few parts due to the number of people I had heard about who had passed away this year. This year also marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

  • Phil Everly (Jan 3), one half of the influential vocal duo The Everly Brothers. He was 74.
  • George Hamilton IV (Sep 17), one of many country singers. He was 77.
  • Jesse Winchester (Apr 11). Another country music singer who produced 12 studio albums passed away at age 69.
  • Peter Seeger (Jan 27), politically active folk singer, involved in music almost to the end of his 94 years of life.
  • Edward Greenspan (Dec 24). Canadian defense lawyer and author of legal books. Died in Arizona of cancer at age 70.
  • Shirley Temple (Feb 10). The first child actor on film who later became politically active died at age 75.
  • Miss Beazely (17 May). The presidential Scottish Terrier of George W. Bush died at age 10 after a battle with cancer. It was named after a character in Oliver Butterworth’s 1956 Children’s story The Enourmous Egg.
  • Wallace McCain (13 May). Founder of the McCain food empire, this Nova Scotia native was 81.
  • Maria von Trapp (18 Feb). The real-life Maria Franziska von Trapp, the last of the Trapp family singers to survive, has died at age 99. The Trapp Family had inspired movies such as The Sound of Music. She is not to be confused with stepmother Maria Augusta von Trapp who was also part of the same family and was studying to be a nun.
  • Clifford Olson (30 Sep). Serial killer from B. C. who died in jail of cancer at age 71.
  • Alicia Rhett (3 Jan). Former actress best known for her role as Wilkes in the 1939 film Gone With The Wind, died at age 98.
  • lwren
    The 6′ 3″ fashion designer L’Wren Scott, next to her love interest Mick Jagger.

    L’Wren Scott (17 March) aka Laura “Luann” Bamborough, a haute couture fashion designer to many Hollywood actors and actresses and long-time girlfriend of Mick Jagger, committed suicide at age 49. She was found dead in their Manhattan apartment by an assistant.

  • Jean Beliveau (2 Dec). The former star player for the Montreal Canadiens died at age 82.
  • Wayne Robson (4 Apr). The actor who played Mike Hamar on The Red Green Show, died at age 64.
  • Alan Blakeney (16 Apr). Saskatchewan NDP premier for over two decades Alan Blakeney had died at age 85.
  • Sum Ying Fung (6 Dec). Up until this month the oldest living Canadian, she died peacefully at age 113 in her home in Burnaby, B. C.
  • Paul Revere (15 Sep). Former front man for the 60s rock group Paul Revere and the Raiders, died at age 75.
  • H. R. Giger (12 May). Swiss surrealist whose work became the centre of controversy when one of his paintings was used on the inner sleeve for a record album called Frankenchrist by the punk rock band The Dead Kennedys. He was 74.
  • Robin Williams (11 Aug). Famous comedian, committed suicide at age 63 after battling with addiction. Article.
  • Joan Rivers (4 Sep). American comedienne, born Joan Alexandra Molinsky and known for her controversial humor and wit. Died at age 81.
  • Maximillian Schell (1 Feb). Oscar -winning actor of Swiss-Austrian heritage, died at age 83.
  • Seymour Hoffman (Feb 2). Former actor, director and producer found dead in his Manhattan apartment from a drug overdose. Suicide appeared to be ruled out. He was 46.
  • marionbarry
    Fomer DC mayor Marion Barry

    Marion Barry (23 Nov). Former mayor of Washington DC known for his civil rights activism and for his fight for racial equality. He was 78.

  • Bob Casale (17 Feb). Former member of the early New Wave band Devo died at age 61.
  • Rehtaeh Parsons (7 Apr). This 17 year-old Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia girl committed suicide. This act was notable due to its association with cyber-bullying following a sexual assault. She is also notable for being by far the youngest person on this list.
  • Ariel Sharon (11 Jan). Former Israeli president died at age 85.
  • Maya Angelou (28 May). American author and civil rights activist died at home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina at age 86.
  • Anna Henderson (1 July). The world’s oldest living person, and the world’s 6th oldest living person whose age at death is beyond dispute has died at age 114 in Philadelphia.
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