Like over 27,000 other Canadians across the country yesterday I was out protesting Prime Minister Harper's proroguing of Parliament. Stephen Harper would love for us not to care about the torture of Afghan detainees, about the dangers in refusing to battle climate change, about responsible limits to a Prime Minister's power. To care, he says repeatedly, marks you as a member of the elite or a leftwing fringe group. Indeed this is his chief retort to any criticism levelled against him. Say a word against him and/or his cronies and you are a bizarro dissident. But what does it mean if, as a leader, you can't handle any kind of dissent?

Ironically, Stephen Harper himelf answered this question back in April, 2005 when he proclaimed, “When a government starts trying to cancel dissent or avoid dissent is frankly when it’s rapidly losing its moral authority to govern.”

I suppose this means Prime Minister Harper would characterize his past self as a member of the elite or a leftwing fringe group! And the Harper of five years ago would probably be content to label his current self a fascist. If life were more like science fiction TV inevitably the paths of those two opposing Harpers would cross in an incident set during a rip in the time-space continuum and both be destroyed but real life is less convenient and means putting your mittens and boots on and marching through the streets in protest to try to set things right.

So kudos to all the concerned citizens throughout the nation (and those in London, England and various locations in the U.S. who showed up for local protests there too) for getting their message out to the Prime Minister yesterday! We do care, Stephen. Your recent prorogation of Parliament is undemocratic and we're not going to stand for it!

This was the scene at the protest in Toronto, beginning with me arriving at Dundas Square about twenty minutes before the rally:
Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament:

The rally in Dundas Square in full swing:

Polar bears protesting on the march route up Bay Street.

Protesters passing Nathan Phillips Square:

Parliament in an open casket to the tune of bagpipes.

And here's a tiny bit of the march action from my Flip Video:

Meanwhile in Ottawa, Trevor Strong of the Arrogant Worms sang "The Wild Proroguer" at the protest on Parliament Hill (hilarious song and I love the King Steve-o puppet in the background!):

This time he's got some answering for indeed!
* “When a government starts trying to cancel dissent or avoid dissent is frankly when it’s rapidly losing its moral authority to govern.”
— Stephen Harper, Canadian Press, April 18, 2005
* “The Liberals, apparently, want to prorogue the House. They want to run out of town, get out of town just one step ahead of the sheriff. Is the Liberal government committed to staying here as planned throughout the month of November so that it can be held accountable in the House for its actions?”
— Stephen Harper, Hansard, October 20, 2003

So obviously our Prime Minister thinks Canadians are stupid or apathetic or both! My guess is both. Anyway, if you're Canadian you're already aware that Prime Minister Harper has temporarily suspended Parliament for the second time in a year. If you disapprove hopefully you have already contacted your MP to let them know that.

And if you care about Canadian democracy and believe this is an assault on that democracy I hope you'll also make a point of attending one of the Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament rallies being held in cities across the country this Saturday.

You can find your nearest rally at the sidebar on the No Prorogue! website or check out this Google map with times & locations, including protests in Dallas, California and New York. See you out there!

And now a message from one of our founding fathers:

John A. Macdonald: Deserve Democracy
I carefully avoided Some Girls Are reviews before reading it. I didn't want potential spoilers to dull its impact. But since the first three chapters are available to read online at author Courtney Summers's website I think it's safe to say that main character Regina Afton is not in a good place in Some Girls Are. Her best friend Anna is the meanest of all the mean girls at Hallowell High. Seriously mean. Together Anna and her clique (including Regina) have taken psychological torture to a whole new level. With these kind of toxic dynamics at play it's no surprise that when Anna's boyfriend Donnie tries to rape Regina at a party the warped clique is all to ready to discount the truth and label Regina a slut and backstabber.

Some Girls Are (Courtney Summers)You definitely don't want to be on the outs with these girls. And you don't really want to be in with them either. They're complete sharks, constantly on the lookout for weaknesses to be exploited. They seem to reserve the worst cruelties for those who were once members of their clique which is bad news for Regina. Very bad news.

If I had to sum up Some Girls Are in one word it would be relentless. The bad things don't stop. Mean girls seemingly do not rest and Regina, who has lived the mean girl life for most of her high school career, knows how to fight fire with fire. You have to admire her, nasty as she's been in the past herself, For not crumbling (even as she pops antacid after antacid) and instead plotting retaliation for the many wrongs committed against her.

But the character I admired most was Michael, a true to himself loner long ago labelled a freak by Anna's clique and who has since been relegated to “the garbage table,” the only possible place left for Regina to sit after being rejected and humiliated by her former friends. But will Michael give Regina a chance? And just how far are Regina's enemies willing to take their thirst to wound?

Some Girls Are is one hell of a hard-hitting book. Author Courtney Summers doesn't go easy on anyone—she ruthlessly peels back layer after layer of cruelty—while you wince and read on, transfixed. A brilliantly raw revelation from the author of Cracked Up to Be.

It was FIVE degrees and sunny here this afternoon (that's 41 for those of you who haven't embraced metric). Yes, it felt almost like a spring holiday from January and if the local weather forecast is right this spring interlude will last through Monday!

What else has been happening? For about twenty-four hours we thought about possibly getting a bird. I have a feather allergy but it's not one of my worst allergies and, you know, how much could one small bird make me sneeze? But then I started doing the research, stuff like wing-clipping vs. not clipping and I learned that birds crap every twenty minutes. So, when you let the bird out of the cage, there is almost instantly poop everywhere apparently. That could be okay if we had an extra room to dedicate to the bird's exercise, I suppose, but that's not the case. Farewell bird idea.

Like alot of other Canadians I feel very strongly that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's recent suspending of parliament was undemocratic, a strategic move to gain a majority on Senate committees while avoiding criticism over the Afghan detainee abuse issue. This is something that's definitely had me preoccupied lately. I know that many people have become politically disengaged (for various reasons) over the last ten years and it's easy to become cynical and think that we believe—and what we hope for—doesn't matter. In fact, I think this is what Stephen Harper counts on, that people are too tired and cynical to take a stand. We can't let him get away with it. Otherwise we end up with more Copenhagen type failures and more human rights abuses being shoved under the carpet. As a country, do we want to be better than this? Or, as Stephen hopes, are we happy to plop down on the couch and watch the Olympics while he does whatever the f@#% he wants?

Didn't you hear me say that the Afghan detainee issue is not on the top of the radar of most Canadians? Now scram before I call you a member of the elite or a left-wing fringe group!

Let me see, five degrees, pet birds and wannabe dictators...okay, that brings me to the new manuscript! I finished a new YA novel in the fall and in time hopefully I'll be able to say more about that. This past summer I actually started out writing a zombie novel and got the first four to five pages typed in but I just didn't feel any momentum happening. I think it probably would've turned out okay, maybe it would've been good even, but I just didn't feel as excited about it as I should've. So I stopped. And the same night I stopped another idea struck and held. I got about halfway into it before I realized I was actually writing a book that feels like this:

Which is kind of scary because I love the Airborne Toxic Event song Innocence with a passion. In fact, that song has hit me harder than anything else I've heard in the past five years. It kills me every time. Every time. So that's a hell of lot to live up to.

Anyway, it wasn't a fun book to write and at times it really emptied me out but now I kind of miss it. And isn't that just the way things go?
Mare's War by the ever-fantastic Tanita S. David has been nominated for an NAACP Image Award. That's so damn cool that I have to type it again: NAACP Image Award!! Let us stare at Tanita's magnificent book for a moment:
Mare's War by  Tanita S. Davis

Congratulations, Tanita! I love that this will expand the group of people who will come to know and admire Mare!

In non-book news, the Emperor Harper prorogued T-shirt Paddy and I designed showed up late in the week, well in time for the coming protest, and it looks just awesome. You see:

Emperor Harper: prorogued!

And here's the back:

Democracy suspended by Emperor Harper's decree

I ordered this before I knew there was going to be a formal protest, just to wear around in a more or less constant state of personal protest. But now I really want to wear it at the Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament demonstration on January 23rd so I've had to order a second, bigger T-shirt that I'll be able to fit over my coat. See, the cold weather here in Canada hasn't been prorogued, so most likely the temperature will be somewhere between markedly chilly and downright freezing on January 23rd, depending on what part of the country you're in and other factors. Don't let that stop you from attending a protest near you though. Fighting for democracy is definitely worth a few goosebumps. We just need to wrap up. Layers are our friend. Stephen Harper is not.

Finally, I want to mention that Some Girls Are (by fellow Canadian author Courtney Summers) arrived at my apartment late in the week too. I'll be diving into it within the next few days but here's the chronology of events so far:

First, I invited SGA in and showed it into the living room where it made itself comfy on my couch.

Some Girls Are

And then my copy of Cracked Up to Be came over to say hi. As you can imagine, they became fast friends.

Some Girls Are and Cracled Up To Be

Soon One Lonely Degree and I Know It's Over joined them and they were all getting along like a house on fire. At first it was nice to see but then they got a bit cliquey.

When my ARC of The Lighter Side of Life and Death bounded along they said it couldn't hang out with them because it wasn't a proper book yet. I thought that was snobby and mean and was angry on its behalf but The Lighter Side of Life and Death is pretty happy-go-lucky and easy-going and didn't really care too much.

Since that's the case I've decided to let them all work things out between themselves in their own time. These minor troubles aside, I'm very happy to see Some Girls Are.

Congrats, Courtney, on the release of your new book!
I sent off the below email to our Governor General this morning. If you're not happy about the proroguing of parliament I suggest you do the same. You can email her at
Dear Michaëlle Jean,

For the second time in a year I'm enormously disappointed to see how lightly you take your position as Governor General. It seems the position, while bearing a huge amount of responsibility (including allowing prorogation), sadly requires no guts.

With Stephen Harper on the run from the Afghan detainee torture issue you allowed him to prorogue parliament without even discussing it with the other parties. Without even meeting with the Prime Minister in person.

I didn't have an issue with the monarchy before but if having Queen Elizabeth as our head of state also means having a Governor General with the potential to wield such power (while clearly lacking wisdom, conviction and courage) I believe we should eliminate the position immediately.

{my name & details}

A Canadian citizen who wants democracy restored.
Don't forget to email/contact your local MP too. If you're not sure who that is just type in your postal code here. Tell them you're pissed. Ask them if they believe in democracy. Ask them if they believe in accountability. Ask them to ignore Stephen Harper's request to prorogue parliament and attend anyway.

And here we go again with We're Not Gonna Take It, which I think makes an extremely apt protest song for this year's prorogation:

Don't forget to attend your local protest on January 23rd! I will be there, sporting one of these (which Paddy & I designed):

Prorogued T-shirt

If you happen to want one I'm selling them at zero profit to myself on CafePress.
On February fourth I'm going to be guest blogging and doing a Q & A on the Teens Read Too Book Club blog. I'll be checking in there throughout the day so if you have a question drop by and post it for me. Anyone who comments will be entered into a draw to win an advance reader copy of The Lighter Side of Life and Death. This is the very first Lighter Side contest which is pretty exciting stuff. It feels like it's on its way to becoming a real live book!

The Lighter Side of Life and Death
There's a groundswell of anger rolling across this country. Canadians aren't taking Prime Minister Harper's prorogation of parliament lying down. They're contacting our Governor General (who approved the temporary suspension over the telephone this time!) and their local MPs to voice their disapproval and they're planning protests—nation wide. When I joined the Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament Facebook group last night at around nine o'clock it had already soared to 48,000 members and now stands at 67,000 strong and growing fast.

It's been one short year since our last proroguement (Stephen has a nasty habit of running scared when times get tough for his Conservative government) but Canucks have run out of patience with the tactic. In an interview Harper told CBC-TV correspondent Peter Mansbridge that Canadians aren't concerned “about allegations that the government engaged in a cover-up over the abuse of Afghan detainees.” Nope, he's confident that we're fixating solely on the recession. The same recession he tried to deny was in progress for as long as humanly possible. It's pretty clear that Stephen Harper would prefer if the citizens of this country didn't concern themselves with much of anything and just let him throw his weight around. Democracy! Such an inconvenient thorn in Stephen's side!

Read comedian Rick Mercer's incisive thoughts on the matter:

Proroguing is for children (and Stephen Harper)

and then, if you want to show our Prime Minister he's wrong, and that we are indeed concerned about the torture of Aghan detainees and Harper's obvious contempt for democracy, join the Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament Facebook group and prepare to protest in a city near you on January 23rd. In the meanime, if you want to tell the Governor General you're pissed with her decision email her at:


* and then fire an email off to your local MP. If you're not sure who your representative is you can find the info here.

Last week, to work out some of my prorogation frustration, I did my habitual anti-Harper blogging and took the Billy Bragg message “The revolution is just a T-shirt away” to heart and designed, along with Paddy, a suitable Emperor Harper T-shirt for myself and a few other folks. If you happen to want one I've made the profit margin on these a big fat zero so the only folks making any $ on this will be the ones at CafePress. Here's the front image:
And the back:


I've made it available in a few different styles and will leave the design up on CafePress for the duration of the proroguement, which, if the people reclaim power in this country, hopefully won't be long!

A little ditty for our power-hungry PM, from the citizens he purports to represent:

I know it's a wee bit early to start talking about favourite 2010 books and hell, I actually finished reading This World We Live In during the final days of 2009 but I'm confident that come the end of this freshly started year I'll still be raving about this no holds barred YA novel about the continuing struggle for life in a world forever changed.
This World We Live In by Susan Beth Pfeffer
If you've read Susan Beth Pfeffer's previous two meteor books, Life As We Knew It and The Dead and the Gone, like me you're probably already hooked on Pfeffer's vision of the earth ravaged by a sudden and permanent change in the moon's orbit after its struck by a meteor.

In This World We Live In we learn what became of Miranda, the main character from Life As We Knew It, and The Dead and the Gone's Alex. During the course of the novel both teenagers struggle with responsbilities and haunting choices they could scarcely have imagined before the planetary tragedy.

Death and destruction are all around. The sun no longer shines. Food is scarce and may stop showing up in Miranda's hometown any week now. Scavenged soap is a luxury. Safe cities (where vestiges of civilization like hospitals still exist) are few and space in them is reserved for those with connections. Can family ties survive in a world like this? Can genuine new love take root?

Susan Beth Pfeffer is fearless in what she reveals about characters we've already come to care about and the nightmare realities of a broken and bloody world. This isn't a story for the faint of heart but I highly recommend it to everyone else. If you can handle it, This World We Live In will be one of the best things you read all year.

Out February 17th!
If you read this blog with any regularity and have heard the news that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen (Darth) Harper has once again prorogued parliament you'll probably already know how pissed I am.

As writer Colin Horgan wrote in the, “It will take a special kind of apathetic populace to collectively shrug off back-to-back cut-and-run attempts like this.”

If you don't know what I'm talking about the short version of the back story is that “former second-in-command at the Canadian embassy in Kabul, Richard Colvin, told a parliamentary committee in Ottawa that all detainees handed over to the Afghanistan government by Canadian soldiers were abused.” Colvin says he wrote 16 reports on the matter which were ignored and/or silenced. Opposition parties have called for a public inquiry but the Conservative government would rather we all forget the abused Afghans and go back to shovelling our driveways and watching Corner Gas and to that end have temporarily suspended parliament. Prime Minister Harper figures that by March third (when parliament resumes) he'll have accomplished this mind wipe, even if he has to regale us with his own personal cover versions of Beatles tunes to do it.

Remember when people thought Canadians were polite but boring? Ah, the good old days before we gave up on democracy and embraced apathy! Canucks, we need to earn back that reputation of yore, starting today. In fact, forget the polite thing and make as much noise as you can about our skeevy federal government trying to shove the abuse of Afghan prisoners underthe carpet.

fascism definition Merriam-Webster

Do we want to stand for something in this country or what?

Anyway, clearly the new decade isn't off to a brilliant start in this part of the globe! We can turn things around if enough of us want to. We can. We can. We can. Will we, that's the question?

On a more personal level I want to stress that we—all of us—can always start over too. We don't have to wait for a new year. You can start over any time you want and when things seem really sucky and like they'll never change it can be hard to believe that, I know, but like someone wiser than me once said, “Never, never, never, never give up.” —Winston Churchill

And equally important: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
—Mahatma Gandhi

Welcome to 2010! Be bold. Be true. Never give up.
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