Saturday, July 14, 2018

HOPE Volleyball: 36 Years of Helping Charities and Providing Summer Fun in Ottawa

HOPE (Helping Other People Everywhere) Volleyball SummerFest turned 36 this year and brought together over 25,000 volleyball and music enthusiasts to Mooney's Bay Beach on Saturday, July 14 to help raise money for 6 local charities including the Dementia Society of Ottawa, the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation, and the Children's Aid Foundation of Ottawa. Cassie Stringer, 26, has been playing at HOPE with her team Sets on the Beach for seven or eight years now. "I started (playing) because it's a fun way to bring friends together to have some fun and compete all for a good cause," she said. "The neat vendors and drinks especially those cool fruit ones are what made this year different," she added. She was referring to my chilled drink in a cored pineapple complete with a fancy straw and little umbrella. HOPE has grown into the World's Largest One Day Volleyball Tournament. It was the brainchild of Fred Logan and his friends (Terry Fox was their inspiration) as part of a group of events solely focused on giving back to the Ottawa community. Since its inception, it has donated more than $3.5 million to over 110 charities. This year Big Rig Brewery was HOPE's main sponsor and debuted its new cider. Radio stations Hot 89.9 FM and Live 88.5 FM were the media sponsors with Live 88.5's DJ Noah and Re-Generation X host Chelsea Miller got the crowd riled up before the headliners Cold War Kids took the stage. The concerts followed the last volleyball game (each team played 5 games over the course of the day) finishing at 3:45 p.m. with acts such as Sam Coffey and the Iron Lungs and BC's Yukon Blonde playing before California's Cold War Kids with their energetic (and sexy!) front man Nathan Willett rocked the revellers with old hits like "First" and new ones like "Love is Mystical." It was my first HOPE (as a spectator), and it won't be my last. Maybe I'll be a participant next year!

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Jenn Hayward: A "Flawed" But Proud Feminist

Everyone has flaws, but comedian and author Jenn Hayward celebrated hers in her new 60-minute one-woman Fringe Fest comedy show called "Flawed." The potty-mouthed 43-year-old wife, mother of 3 adopted children, and feminist attended the first annual Flawed awards and won in categories for flawed mother, wife, and feminist to name a few. The feisty Metis/Ukranian woman from Saskatoon strolled down memory lane when she spoke about losing weight (she used to be 400 pounds and lost 210!) and overeating, pride, her children, gambling, and being turned on by Anne Murray music among other things. Hayward told the audience that she couldn't sing, act, or dance and aimed to make hers "the worst Fringe show ever." One of her flawed moments was when she danced for 3 minutes and 51 seconds despite not having "any formal training" and invited the audience to join her. They did so at the end of her show. She was bold and raw as she talked about having had a gambling problem, cheating on her husband Josh during their 20-year marriage (they're still married), and having had borderline personality disorder in the past. She said that she was now a capitalist and wanted to be rich, so she could afford shopping at Whole Foods and buying lattes at Starbucks. A nice surpise was her 14-year-old daughter being behind the scenes and helping choose her mom's sexy outfit for her dominatrix scene. Author of Jesus Loves a Crazy Horny Feminist, Hayward has now appeared at Fringe 3 times with her "Jesus Loves a Crazy Horny Feminist, "Can't Argue With Pussy," and "Flawed" shows. A talented comedian, she also has developed motivational workshops suitable for groups and corporations where she talks about using humour in the workplace, leadership and mental health issues, and work/life balance. I have seen Jenn live twice now and was fortunate enough to speak with her after her excellent performance and told her that she was an inspiration to me in my personal weight loss journey. She acknowledged it is "a hard process" and that she couldn't have done it or had the gastric bypass surgery without weight loss counselling. "What's my end goal? Not to die," she said. Having done comedy on-and-off for 15 to 20 years, she said she keeps her comedy fresh because she has adapted. "I've lost weight and had to change my act. My kids got older... I write as things happen."

Friday, June 15, 2018

Binge on Fringe - Ottawa's Fringe Fest Is 22 and Feisty As Ever

Ottawa's 22nd annual Fringe Festival kicked off in full force on Thursday, June 14th with this year's motto being "Binge on Fringe." With 56 shows playing at 10 different venues (e.g. Arts Courts, the University of Ottawa, and Live on Elgin) and featuring both emerging and established artists, it offers a smorgasbord of performances sure to appeal to patrons of the arts of all walks of life and backgrounds. So far, I have seen two performances: The Drunk Text last night (June 14th) and Clit Wit! A Feminist Rude Awakening tonight (June 15th). Both were fantastic and performed with gusto and passion. The Drunk Text was a new work labelled a musical, comedy, drama, and romantic comedy and ran 60 minutes at Academic Hall (133 Seraphin-Marion) at the University of Ottawa. Mathieu Charlebois, Nichole Perera, and Samantha Clarke created the show with Charlebois starring as Dylan. Dylan is a creative chap who is tired of the path set before him and abruptly leaves his family, life, job, and fiancee Melissa (Sarah Cousineau) in Ottawa to pursue his passions and artistic ambitions in the Big Apple. There he meets Nicole (Emily Asmar) who is a fellow artist and left Georgia to pursue her own artistic dream. But one drunk text brings Dylan's past back to him and thwarts his newly attained freedom. Enter Dylan's ex-fiancee Melissa (Cousineau had to learn the part in 4 days!) and her feisty Lush-employed friend Chaz (Morgan Coughlan). The singing was fabulous, and the acting was superb. After applying to the Fringe Festival lottery for a couple of years, Charlebois is ecstatic to be able to share his show with audiences. He has a BA in Music from Carleton University and has appeared in Ottawa shows, which include Amos in Chicago and Harry in Company. He released his Desert Song album in the fall, which is available on iTunes and Spotify. Tonight's performance (located at La Nouvelle Scene at 333 King Edward Avenue) was also a new work: a 60-minute one-woman show called Clit Wit! A Feminist Rude Awakening by Colette Kendall who made her stand up comedy debut just a few years ago. The 54-year-old housewife and mother of 3 who hails from Hamilton is a proud and "shoddy at best feminist" who combines comedy and storytelling (mature content) to talk about middle age, love at first sight, CCM bikes, kids, novelty t-shirts, and more. The Edmonton Sun calls the 3-time Canadian Comedy Award Nominated creator of The Cockwhisper... A Love Story "a masterful storyteller." Clad in a grey t-shirt that said, "The Future is Female," Kendall shared about how she had sometimes worried that a real feminist would come knocking at her door and say that she didn't deserve her vagina. She talks about living in crazy times and the absurdity of how Donald Trump, a self-proclaimed pussy grabber, was voted into office and has hijacked women's reproductive rights and threatened women's health and jobs and comedian Bill Cosby fell from grace as well as about how there are still not enough women in leadership roles, playing with Barbies can produce body image issues, and women should reject the lie that wearing certain clothing means they want sex and are asking for it. She spoke candidly about leaving an abusive relationship, having strong female role models in her family, and how before his death, her father apologized for treating her differently than her brother and said she had to be careful because "not all men like women." She didn't have a hate on for men but rather reminded her audience that more needs to be done in attaining true equality between the sexes. You can read more about Kendall and her comedy at www.colettekendall.com. If you love the arts and want to be entertained, check out the Ottawa Fringe Festival that runs from June 14 to 24. Help support local artists and put money back into the community. Fringe is a non-profit organization and an open-access festival that gives 100% of ticket sales back to the artists. It has returned over $2 million to independent artists since 1997. For more info, go to www.ottawafringe.com. I decided to support the Fringe both financially (I've paid for 2 shows so far) and time-wise this year by volunteering at Fringe and am excited to promote the arts, meet new people, and enjoy some free shows as well. It's a win-win situation. As a published writer and poet, I wholeheartedly believe that "an artist is never poor" (Babette's Feast). st

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Protecting the Vulnerable: Lab Animals and ITR Laboratories

I'm not a vegetarian nor do I think I could ever be one (I love the taste of meat). However, I definitely see why some people would be swayed to take that route. ITR Laboratories Canada in Baie D'Urfe, Quebec has been conducting medical and cosmetic animal testing on animals such as dogs, mini pigs, monkeys, and smaller animals like mice, rats, and rabbits for years. Unethical testing that is. An undercover video shot by Stephanie* (not her real name), a former ITR Laboratories technician over a four-month period documented the horrific abuse of the lab animals and under high high levels of distress. She had been doing so for Last Chance for Animals - an animal rights group based in LA that believed Canadian labs were overdue for scrutiny. Stephanie said that derma testing on pigs was especially difficult for her because they are very sensitive creatures and respond quickly. "You learned very quickly to avoid eye contact because that's what got me," she told Kevin Newman of W5 during the "In the Name of Science" special (http://www.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=1075783). Part of Stephanie's footage showed a technician striking beagles 16 times because they weren't looking forward to ingesting chemicals. He also pulled their ears 10 times. "Dogs (were) howling, crying all day long," she said. "Up and down the halls you'd go, and that's all you would hear is the dogs crying and howling." (http://www.ctvnews.ca/w5/undercover-investigation-reveals-what-goes-on-inside-montreal-animal-research-lab-1.3320123). Truck driver Leszek is one concerned Montrealer who has attended many of the ongoing protests each Friday outside ITR. "Test it on murderers or pedophiles. You'll have the right results," the proud vegetarian told me on Friday in an off-the-cuff interview. "IF you test it on animals, 90 per cent of the tests fail. Even if 10 per cent works on animals, it is not good on humans because we are different. That is why people get cancer..." He said that ITR has been conducting cosmetic testing for one Japanese company for years. A 2013 survey by the Canadian Council of Animal Care, however, found that 60 per cent of Canadians felt it was "somewhat acceptable for animals to potentially suffer for safety testing of medicine" (http://www.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=1075783). While a diverse group of people who were shown Stephanie's footage before the general public were sickened by it, one woman said that she thought the only thing testing should be done on is something like finding a cancer cure "if the animals are treated well." Many others in the group voiced their agreement saying that cosmetic and household product testing was uncalled for. The initial reaction of one woman who loved dogs said she wanted "to kill" the technicians. Her male counterpart said, "They deserve to go through the same or worse." Michael Brunt, a research animal technician at the Central Animal Facility and a professor at the University of Guelph, told W5 that he strongly advocates for lab animals to be treated with compassion but said, "The ethical use of animals in medical testing is morally justified" (http://www.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=1075783). "I’m passionate about a lot! I am passionate about animals that I have the privilege to care for with compassion and respect. I am passionate about the science that continually makes strides towards new therapeutic advancements. I am passionate about alleviating the suffering of our fellow animals and people who agonize with debilitating and painful diseases. I (chose) this profession in research because it is my passion" (https://speakingofresearch.com/2015/05/27/a-conversation-about-beagle-testing/). The majority of work done at the facility "is basic or fundamental science in a wide variety of areas including oncology, neuroscience, animal behaviour and welfare, molecular biology, physiology, immunology, among others," he said (https://speakingofresearch.com/2015/05/27/a-conversation-about-beagle-testing/). He added: "Various non-animal research methods are used together with animal studies to reduce the number of animals needed. These methods include antibodies, stem cells, tissue cultures (all in-directly use animals) and computer models. Non-animal methods account for the majority of biomedical research. Nevertheless, there are important research questions that still require animals. For example, in drug development, a large initial group of chemical candidates may be screened using non-animal methods, and only the most promising ones are taken through animal testing and human clinical trials. Before animal studies can go forward, investigators must detail how they have considered non-animal methods, and why they are not appropriate for answering their research question" (https://speakingofresearch.com/2015/05/27/a-conversation-about-beagle-testing/). Unfortunately, laboratories like ITR operate differently as video documentation shows. Its claim that “ITR operates in compliance with industry standards and federal, and provincial guidelines for animal care in a laboratory testing environment,” the company wrote in a statement to W5. “We take our responsibility to treat the animals in our care with the utmost respect very seriously" (http://www.ctvnews.ca/w5/undercover-investigation-reveals-what-goes-on-inside-montreal-animal-research-lab-1.3320123) is utter BS! According to Kwiathowski: "The more people who know (about this), the more we can make moral progress in Canada."

Monday, May 29, 2017

Protecting Women's Privacy and Dignity Via Safe Zones Around Abortion Clinics

Thank you, Yasir Naqvi (and the Liberal government!) for giving a damn about Ontario women and their right to privacy and dignity when going to abortion clinics. In particular in Ottawa. The Ontario Attorney General and Ottawa Centre MPP plans to propose a bill this fall and cites reports of harassment by a small group of anti-abortion protesters outside a clinic in his riding (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/ottawa-province-protect-abortion-clincs-1.4135673). "These zones around abortion clinics will ensure that women across Ontario have access to healthcare services, and that their privacy and dignity are protected when doing so," Naqvi said (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/ottawa-province-protect-abortion-clincs-1.4135673). This summer he will consult on the issue, looking at similar laws already in place in Quebec, British Columbia, and Labrador and Newfoundland. B.C., for instance, passed the Access to Abortion Services Act in 1995, which prohibits protesting, intimidation, and physical interference within “access zones” around clinics, hospitals, and doctors’ offices that offer abortion services (http://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/city-has-grounds-to-regulate-protesters-outside-ottawas-abortion-clinic-legal-experts). Quebec is the leader in Canada by being home to 46 of Canada's 94 abortion facilities, with at least half in rural areas. Its health policy (it has directed funds specifically to providing abortion in underserved areas since the 1970s) has dictated that every health region have at least one abortion facility (http://news.nationalpost.com/health/quebec-home-to-46-of-canadas-94-abortion-facilities-while-p-e-i-doesnt-have-a-single-clinic-study-finds). Parti Québécois deputy Carole Poirier started working on a similar law for Quebec following the deadly mass shooting at a Colorado Planned Parenthood Clinic in 2015 (https://news.vice.com/article/quebec-wants-to-ban-pro-lifers-from-protesting-outside-abortion-clinics). The important thing, however, is to not only protect women's rights to safe abortions and to protect their dignity and privacy but to also not infringe on freedom of speech and the right to peaceful protest. However, it is hard to respect someone's right to protest when he or she is being anything but peaceful and respectful. Women seeking medical attention and procedures should not be harassed or spit on. That is simply disgusting plain and simple! Ottawa mayor Jim Watson said, "We've seen harassment over the years on Bank Street at the (Morgentaler) clinic but it was starting in many ways to get worse." (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/ottawa-province-protect-abortion-clincs-1.4135673). Naqvi's proposal makes Catherine McNab, the executive director of Planned Parenthood Ottawa, a partner of the downtown clinic excited. "In a perfect world it would happen tomorrow but realistically, the idea something so significant, something that's been happening for decades could be resolved or addressed within a matter of months, we certainly can celebrate that today," said Catherine Macnab. "That doesn't change the fact there are people that are going to need protection today, tomorrow and every day between now and then." (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/ottawa-province-protect-abortion-clincs-1.4135673). I'm so grateful to live in Canada where women's rights are respected unlike backwards countries in the Middle East or the United States of Trump where defunding to Planned Parenthood was one of the first things on the Donald's conservative agenda. I think safe zones should be created throughout Canada because all women have the right to choose and to have access to a safe abortion. Anything less is unacceptable!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Ignorance Leads to Apathy and Victim Blaming and Shaming

I work part time at a call centre and was recently offended by and put off when the man who I was interviewing said something along the lines that sexual assault is a problem when the woman wears "certain apparel." I know this man was 86 or so, but the fact that this belief still exists is disturbing and puts blame on the victim of the violent crime rather than the perpetrator. This attitude in fact exonerates the offender! No one deserves to be raped because they wore a short skirt! Just like no one deserves to be beaten up or discriminated against because they are transgendered or have their mosque blown up because they are Muslim. They weren't asking for it! Crime is crime and is NEVER a victim's fault! Attitudes like this dissuade victims from coming forward. Ignorant and incompotent Judge Robin Campbell comes to mind when he asked a victim in a rape case why she couldn't "just keep her knees together" (http://www.cnn.com/2016/09/12/world/robin-camp-rape-comments-trnd/).The fact that assholes like this work in the court system is beyond me! Mind you, there are jerks (some women included!) who still think like this in every walk of life. Continued education is important to teach people about the importance of consent, that victims are never to blame, and to encourage victims to report crime and not to fear judgement, shame, or condemnation. Being raped is one of the worst things that could ever happen to a woman! Why should she be made to feel worse than she already does?! More must be done to fight against and hopefully dissipate the rape culture that is still so prevalent in our society. It's time we worked together as a society rather than against each other to make a better place for ourselves and our children!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Why I Don't Use Social Media

I'm a writer and an extrovert and love people; however, I'm not on social media and have no desire to be. Don't get me wrong. I don't care if other people are on social media. It just doesn't interest me. About six or seven years ago, I used to be on Facebook. But then I realized how much time I was wasting by being on it. Looking at photos of people who I used to go to school with and hadn't even been friends with. Checking to see if someone had written me. I was in fact obsessed. So with the encouragement of a friend who was anti-Facebook (I'm not anti-Facebook) and my own realizations, I deleted my Facebook account. My Mom was shocked but got over it. She doesn't have an account herself but knew how obsessed I'd been with Facebook. I know who my real friends were and decided that texting, e-mailing, calling, and getting together whenever it was possible was more important than being (in my case) an obsessive Facebook user. I could choose who saw photos of my birthdays and knew when I was going on vacation. My ex-mother-in-law had all the time in the world for Facebook but forget about e-mailing or calling me. It's sad when some people let social media interfere with more important priorities. According to a New York Times article entitled "Facebook Has 50 Minutes of Your Time Each Day. It Wants More" published on May 5, 2016, there were a record monthly 1.65 billion active Facebook users and that people spent 50 minutes on Facebook, Instagram, and other Messenger platforms. The 18 to 34 demographic, millennials in particular, are the most active (https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/06/business/facebook-bends-the-rules-of-audience-engagement-to-its-advantage.html?_r=1). Do I miss Facebook? There were slight moments when I did; however, there weren't enough of those moments to make me want to create another account. Yes, I'm a writer but choose to let my thoughts be heard on my blog. LinkedIn is the only professional networking (social media-esque) site that I belong to and it's more work-related than anything. Do I feel like I'm missing out by not Facebooking or tweeting? Spending hours looking at photos of people who I'm not close to or posting my own photos on Instagram? Not at all. I'd rather be reading, writing, watching Netflix, or hanging out with my real friends or family. To tweet or not to tweet? I'll leave that to the birds.