t February 2008 | sh C. K. Kelly Martin o

My favourite ten minutes from the 2008 Oscars. Congrats, Glen & Marketa! And well done to Jon Stewart for giving Marketa Irglova her much deserved moment in the spotlight. Fantastic speech, Marketa! I couldn't be happier for you both.




***Update (February 29)***

The above video has been pulled from YouTube but you can still see Glen & Marketa's acceptance speeches here or read the transcripts on the Oscar site.

And while I'm here I might as well add this live performance of Lay Me Down. Trust me, the more you listen to The Frames (Glen's band), the more you'll want to listen to The Frames.


A few days ago
I blogged about the alarming amount of sexual harassment and assault going on in Ontario high schools. The Toronto District School Board's director of education Gerry Connelly is very concerned about how this hostility towards girls is becoming the “new normal.”

Connelly says, “A young girl will see somebody being pushed against a locker and fondled inappropriately, or they are being touched inappropriately and they say: 'Well, that's just the way it is.'

“21% of the students that were surveyed said that they knew at least one student who was sexually assaulted at school. Now there's sexual harassment, which is talking inappropriately and there's sexual harassment which is being touched inappropriately. So the 21% are talking about sexual assault.

“29% of Grade 9 girls ... felt unsafe at school partly due to sexual comments and unwanted looks or touches; 27% of the girls in Grade 11 admitted to being pressured into doing something sexual that they did not want to do; 14% of the females reported being harassed over the Internet.”

Read the CityNews article Girls Accepting Sexual Assault At School As Fact Of Life: Reports or the National Post's Girls accept sexual assault as 'way it is,' educator says. You can read some of the figures from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health's report on bullying (which surveyed 1,800 students from 23 high schools) here and see what girls have to say about the sexual harassment they and their peers are experiencing here.

Obviously the fact that our girls are facing such high levels of harassment and sexual violence at school is unacceptable and means that we, as a society, have dropped the ball when it comes to instilling respect for girls. It's a problem that isn't unique to Ontario and one that isn't going to disappear unless we address it with adequate countermeasures. Read why introducing a Women & Gender Studies course into the high school curriculum would be helpful at The Miss G_ Project website. You can also contact your MPP and the Minister of Education to let them know you support the idea.

As a student one thing you can do for yourself and your fellow students is to resist messages that these kinds of behaviours are inevitable and okay. Band together with like-minded students to challenge negative actions and comments where and when you can, like these two Novia Scotia students who encouraged hundreds of their fellow students to wear pink in response to a bullying incident.

Homophobia. Racism. Sexism. Threats. Harassment. Bullying. Assault. There should be no place for these things in our schools.

If you're a Toronto student experiencing or witnessing any kind of harassment, threats, violence or unwanted touching at school you can call the newly created Student Safety Line (416) 395-7233 (SAFE) and leave an anonymous message reporting personal or school safety concerns for the Toronto District School Board to follow-up on. Messages are checked regularly throughout the day and you don't need to leave your name.

Across Canada Kids Help Phone is a place you can call for anonymous phone counselling. The number is: 1-800-668-6868. In Australia contact Kids Help Line: 1-800-551-800. Childline is a free helpline for children and young people in the United Kingdom: 0800 1111. In Ireland the Childline number is: 1800 66 66 66. In the U.S.A. call Youth America Hotline to speak with a peer to peer counselor: 1-877-968-8454.

The Miss G_ Project discusses sexual assault and harassment in Ontario schools:





I don't have much to say today that other people haven't articulated better so instead I'm just going to say kudos to the following people:

Steven Spielberg for formally withdrawing from an advisory position with the Beijing Olympics as a protest of China's policy on the crisis in Darfur.

Juno Star Ellen Page for countering the hype that feminism is now either a bad word or unnecessary. In an interview with The Washington Post she says: “I call myself a feminist when people ask me if I am, and of course I am 'cause it's about equality, so I hope everyone is. You know you're working in a patriarchal society when the word feminist has a weird connotation.”

Tad Mack from Finding Wonderland: The WritingYA Weblog for soundly criticizing HarperCollins new MacKenzie Blue series aimed at 8-12 year-old girls. The series, not penned by an actual writer but by the chief executive of their marketing group will be filled with brand references whose companies will be offered a chance to sponsor the books. HarperCollins seem undisturbed by the ethical issues here and have commented, “If you look at Web sites, general media or television, corporate sponsorship or some sort of advertising is totally embedded in the world that tweens live in. It gives us another opportunity for authenticity.” Authenticity? Damn, people are using that crazy 1984 dictionary again! Let's check out the actual definition, shall we?

au·then·tic·i·tynounThe quality or condition of being authentic, trustworthy, or genuine.
Bill Clinton for his kickass response to anti-choice hecklers at a campaign event in Ohio (you can read the transcript here):



Adaora A. for her Keep The Peace in Schools blog which highlights various schools bullying incidents, some of which have resulted in the tragic deaths of young people.

The Miss G__ Project for Equity in Education, a grassroots young feminist organization in Ontario who have their eye on the dire amount of sexual harassment going on in Ontario secondary schools. The sexual bullying aimed at girls is so widespread that it's almost become normalized. Miss G's current objective is to get a Women's & Gender Studies Course into the Ontario high school curriculum to combat these problems. They advise you how to take action here.
turntableThe Toronto Star gave Soulpepper's new production of The Odd Couple a four star review and lauded Albert Schultz and Diego Matamoros' teamwork. Having tickets myself, I'm very happy to hear this but not at all surprised. I've caught several Soulpepper productions since they relocated to the Distillery District and haven't been disappointed yet. In fact, I've found that some costly festival mounted plays don't hold up very well in comparison.

Speaking of $, the Songwriters Association of Canada has proposed placing a $5 per month fee on Canadian subscribers' Internet bills. This fee would make downloading music without additional charges legal.

Music sales in Canada were $1.3 billion in 1999 but only $704 million in 2006. Compared to 2006 CD sales are down 20% worldwide and a whopping 35% in Canada.

When we're looking at a situation where only 2% of song downloads are purchased obviously something needs to be done to help out the music industry. Of course, there are Canadian Internet users who either don't download music or are already downloading legally—and they could balk at the idea. I also wonder if the film and software industries will eventually want to add charges of their own. It's been estimated that over 90% of peer to peer traffic worldwide infringes the copyrights of movie, music and software businesses.

You can have a look at SAC's proposal here or get more info by calling 1-866-456-7664. SAC will be discussing this idea at a public forum at Ryerson University's Oakham House tonight at 7. The proposal would require federal approval and would largely negate the need for music selling sites like iTunes.

Valentine's Day was the first day of National Condom Week in the U.S. You can find out more about condoms on this Planned Parenthood page and watch the below instructional video to learn the proper way to put one on.

Hormonal birth control methods can do a great job of preventing pregnancy but they do nothing to reduce the risk of acquiring a sexually transmitted infection.

One in four sexually active teens have an STI and up to 75% of sexually active men and women will have one at some point. Women's sexual anatomy makes them 10 to 20 times more likely than men to become infected with sexually transmitted infections. Yup, that's right, ten to twenty times! In pregnant women, young girls and female teens the cervix is even more vulnerable to infection.

The correct use of condoms (the majority of condom failure is the result of inconsistent or incorrect use, not breakage) offers the best protection for people who are sexually active.

A 1993 study showed that using condoms every time prevented HIV transmission for 169 out of 171 women who had male partners with HIV. Meanwhile 8 out of 10 women whose partners didn't use condoms every time became infected. Latex condoms also help reduce the risk of picking up a slew of other sexually transmitted infections including gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, chancroid, trichomoniasis, HPV, herpes, and pelvic inflammatory disease. Other advantages of condoms are their price and availability.

Scarleteen's Condom's Basics: A User's manual is a helpful article whether you're just beginning to consider becoming sexually active or looking for a refresher and/or tips to improve your condom usage.

Let's face it, there are no good excuses to be unsafe. As Planned Parenthood point out, it's not a matter of trust. “People carry sexually transmitted infections without knowing it.”
Today Publishers Lunch noted that a company named Atiz has created a scanner called BookSnap which converts pages to a pdf file at the rate of 500 pages per hour. Atiz boasts that BookSnap's "not a scanner. It's a book ripper."

BookSnapUh-oh.

You can read Steven Levy's assessment of the product on Newsweek. So far it seems BookSnap's clunkiness (all 44 pounds) and pricetag ($1,595) prevent it from being much of a threat to publishers but that could change as future models shrink and prices drop. Portability is huge right now and so is the idea that you can get something for nothing.

Remember when people used to buy albums and shell out money to see a movie? Sure, people still do that but not in anything close to the numbers they used to. If BookSnap's descendants catch on we could eventually be looking at a publishing industry piracy problem (as people rip and trade files) similar to that which is already rampant in the film and music industries. And if it does go down that way I can only imagine YA fiction would be hit hard and fast as young people usually tend to adopt new technologies the quickest.

TerminatorHow do industries continue to turn a healthy profit when their product is so effortlessly ripped off? Will the publishing industry have to start putting out licensed lunchboxes, bobbleheads and T-shirts to make money?

If you're an author who feels like you're staring at the Terminator programmed to kill you when you stare at the above BookSnap photo, you're not alone. I just hope resistance fighters from the future show up to start training us soon. I don't have anything against bobbleheads but I'd like to think that people feel the artistic endeavor itself (whether that's a Bedouin Soundclash tune or an Ellen Wittlinger novel) is worth paying for.
The first time I heard I Keep Faith in Dublin in June, 2006 I felt like it was written just for me (as I'm sure countless BB fans did). God knows I need to be reminded to keep the faith and who better to do it than Billy Bragg? The fact is, I'd love to have an excuse to have Billy Bragg on my blog every single day.



Actually, Paddy and I got pretty damn close to jetting off to London to catch his 50th birthday event at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in December. If you missed it too you can enjoy a bit of it here courtesy of the magic of YouTube:




I often hear writers discuss the writers who have been their own biggest inspirations but nobody has been a bigger personal inspiration to me than Billy Bragg. His great humanitarianism and social consciousness is delivered with mile-deep charm, wit and genuine warmth. In fact, I probably would've listened to Billy Bragg if he'd just written love songs (because BB love songs are never just your standard love songs anyway) but they wouldn't have helped me keep the faith the way tunes like Waiting For The Great Leap Fowards, The Price of Oil and It Says Here have.

Thanks for helping us listeners keep the faith over the past twenty-five years, Billy (would it be too much to ask for another twenty-five??). I can't wait to get my hands on the new album, Mr. Love & Justice, in March.

To tide us over here's Billy performing Old Fashioned Girl on the Mama's Boy soundtrack:



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