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Welcome to my new online home.  Feel free to kick off your shoes, hang up your coats, and have a good look around.  And by all means invite your friends over.

Disclaimer: All opinions expressed in this blog are my own, and do not represent any groups/employers I may represent.  All original material is copyright Laura Steiner, and may not be reproduced other than via sharing through social media without the author’s permission.

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Dear America

Dear America,

Our two countries have been allies in one form or another since 1867.  We’ve supported each other through thick, and thin, and everything in between.  90% of our population live within a couple of hours of our border.

There’s no easy way to say, so I’ll be blunt: America, you have a problem with your President.  He’s so erratic, it gives whiplash. What’s up is down, and good is bad  Trudeau criticized,  Un good.  Theresa May doing a bad job with Brexit, Putin good.  Bilateral trade deals yes,  no to trilateral trade deals.

His attitudes towards immigrants are something else.  Putting kids into camps along the Mexican border, banning people from Muslim majority countries.  Apparent sympathies towards what kindly would be termed the “alt right,” but is also known as neo Nazis.

There’s also the media.  Journalists make mistakes, and the good ones admit it.  But by no means do they deserve the term ‘fake news’ to be used simply to excuse stories Trump doesn’t like.  He underestimates the power of the Presidency; when he says something, people automatically believe it.  It undermines the spirit of the free press.

America, you’ve got to do something about this guy.  It’s starting to affect your relationships.  You don’t realize how powerful you are America.  The western world turns on your axis.  Look at NAFTA.  $2 billion/ year cross between our countries working out to millions/ day.  29 of your states import products from Canada.  The agreement collapses, and that’s a sizable chunk of our collective economy is gone.  It’ll take years to recover, if we can.

That display with Putin was the last straw.  Your President sided with your country’s enemy, and NATO’s enemy.  The last I checked America, that might be counted as treason.  Didn’t that used to be punished by death? I know he’s trying to walk things back, but there are some comments that can’t be erased.  And his actions in Helsinki aren’t so easily forgiven.

I don’t take delight in saying any of this America.  Someone has to say it though, and why not a friend eh?

Signed

A Concerned Canadian

Truth Can Be Stranger Than Fiction

That’s been the theme this year with the news.   Looking at the headlines it’s almost as if it’s a fictional world.  This morning alone three different stories could be a potential beginning to a novel.

Fire at Old City Hall: According to Toronto Fire Department a $100,000 fire at Old City hall was deliberately set.  It sounds like the start of a mystery novel- all you need is the murder.  Who set it? Why?

Woman arrested as an alleged Russian Spy: The start of an international thriller.  Refers to the case of Maria Butina, an activist with t he NRA, arrested yesterday for connections with Russian banks.

A President betraying his country: Probably a series of novels as a saga of intrigue,  hookers, political loyalties, patriotism, blackmail, and a country tying itself in ‘nots’ as they stare in horror at the choice they made.

The Patrick Brown saga: Man steps aside ahead of allegations of seedy allegations, then plots return to public life after nothing comes of them.  A comeback story, or a tale of a palace coup? Perhaps a bit of both.

Doug Ford: A rise, fall, then rise story.  An angst-filled story finds a man serves as faithful adviser to brother whose death leaves him as an heir to the family’s political legacy.  Rises to the highest office in the province, and proceeds to keep his word.  The people gasp, horrified at every little thing he does.

You can’t make this stuff up.  But boy I wish we did.

Canada’s Asylum Issue: Resources vs. Heartstrings

There is one little secret Canadian Liberals and Conservatives don’t want people to know.  They agree on the basic concept that more people for Canada is a good thing. It adds to the culture, and economy of the place.

The disagreement is about pragmatic concerns.  Conservatives are known to focus on the question of how to get things done. What programs are needed? Language? Retraining? Housing? How do we make sure these people find the prosperity and happiness they have come to our country in search of? All reasonable questions to be asking. That’s all Ontario’s Minister in charge of immigration Lisa McLeod is asking.  That’s all Toronto Mayor John Tory is asking.  And Saskatchewan has now added their voice to the requests

The Liberals meanwhile go for the heart.  They appeal to Canadians’ self-image of a generous, giving society.  It works because it speaks to another of Canada’s universal truths, that the majority of us can trace our backgrounds back to another country.  We know we have a fantastic country, why wouldn’t we want to share? To offer others fleeing persecution a safe place? To give others a chance at prosperity? It makes sense.

A tweet from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in January, 2017 reads: To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians welcome you regardless of your faith.  Diversity is our strength.  #WelcomeToCanada”.  It’s been liked 762justintrudeautweet,000 times, re-tweeted more than 400,000 times, and gotten 430,000 replies.  The tweet was in response to a Trump administration decision to ban immigrants from a number of Muslim majority countries.  The ban has been held up the US Supreme Court.

There isn’t any evidence yet it impacted the current issue of asylum seekers from the United States.  But there are reports that it initially caused issues for Canadian bureaucrats fielding a high amount of enquiries on seeking refugee status.

There’s also  the “Safe Third Countries” agreement.  Translated:  The first country you land in, is the one you must seek asylum in.  So immigrants landing in the US must seek status there,  those landing here in Canada must seek status here. It’s enforceable in all official border crossings.

Canada is a large country, and there are holes in the border literally in the middle of nowhere.  That’s where people are walking across the border.  They are arrested, and processed at an official crossing, then released.  They are allowed to stay pending a hearing.  This has been noted by Citizenship and Immigration on its twitter feed.  “Crossing the US border into Canada between ports of entry is against the law and you will be arrested.”

The safe third countries agreement could become another point of contention between Canada and the USA.  Because of the attitudes displayed by the Trump administration, does Canada officially still consider the US a safe place? It’s a question that might need to be answered sooner than the Liberals might like.

Netflix Summer Picks

Ah summer.  Warm, and at times so unbearably humid you can’t stand to head outside.  With the lack of new shows, and episodes on tv, the thought t urns to Netflix, and the endless parade of Netflix Original series, and new entries from the television world.  I’ve been watching a few good ones.

  1. Jessica Jones: Season 2– An entry into Marvel’s Netflix universe Jessica Jones follows the adventures of a powered Private Investigator through New York.  Season 1 was about the establishment of the character.  Season 2 iJessicaJoness about characters finding themselves.  The main delves into Jessica’s backstory of how she got her powers, and features a turbulent reunion.  But as always with these shows, the secondary characters have compelling storylines as well from Jeri Hogarth’s struggles with a fatal diagnosis, and Malcom, and Trish’s struggle to find out where they fit in.  It is a little unclear as to how it fits with season 1 of the Defenders.’  I’d like to think the sense of “what now?” these characters are going through was caused by the Defenders.

2.  Homeland: I’m almost through the second season of Homeland.  A series following Sergant Nick Brodie as he returns from eight years of captivity.  He returns a man changed by his circumHomelandstances, and challenges in adapting to life post-captivity.  Damian Lewis is fantastic the way he manages to somehow  play three different sides of the same character sometimes within minutes of each other.  He is, and probably will remain my favourite part of this show.

 

 

3. Midsomer Murders: A British village mystery series starring John Nettles as local DCI Tom Barnaby.  It started in 1997 and is still airing new episodes over 20 years, and two lead characters later.  The true test of a good mystery for me is that it keeps you guessing right until the reveal.  And this series meets it while combining an endless stream of quirky characters.

4. Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee: The premise is exactly what it says.  Jerry Seinfield picks up some of his favourite comedians’ in an amazing car, and takes them out for coffee.  They talk about the guest’s career, and what makes a good comic sometimes with some interesting results.  My highlight episode17-comedians-in-cars-feature.w512.h600.2xs so far have featured President Barack Obama, Carl Reiner/ Mel Brooks, and Bob Einstein.

The “Re-Read”

I find the true test of a good book is if you want to reread it.  Last summer I reread the novel: The Book Thief by Markus Zuask.  It’s a story of an orphaned German girl adopted by an older couple at the beginning of W.W. II. and the family’s adventures as they decide to hide a Jewish man with a personal connection to the husband.  The girl steals books.

The story is told from “Death’s” perspective, and includes a dark sense of humour running through it, which matches my own.  The second time I picked up on themes of hope, compassion, love, and the power of words, and the human imagination.

This summer I re-started the Game of Thrones series by George R.R. Martin.  These books are 5-700 pages long, and I’ve always marvelled at his power to keep a reader’s attention.  Reading the prologue a second time it’s easy to see how.  His prose, use of verbs, and description keeps the story moving and creates an entire world the reader can enter simply by turning the page.  It also helps to have different chapters  own the full series to-date, and am hoping that if I take my time with them, maybe by the time I’m finished Martin will have the final one out.

Capsule Book Reviews: The Showrunner, Chasing The Wind

Canada Day was July 1, so it’s oddly fitting the two books I’m reviewing are both by Canadian authors:  C.C. Humphreys, and Kim Moritsugu.

The Showrunner: By Kim Moritsugu

Takes place in America’s showbusiness capital: Hollywood.  It follows the rivalry between two women. Stacey McCreedy, and Ann Dalloni at their  production company.  Ann begins to feel her age, and hires a young actress as an assistant which upsets the dynamic between her and Stacey turning a fraying relationship into an outright feud.

Showrunner manages to insert a subtle, sarcastic sense of humour into the exploration of the cutthroat,  murderous world of Hollywood.

Rating: 4/5

Chasing the Wind: 
ChasingTheWind

C.C. Humphreys latest follows the adventures of  plucky, resourceful Roxy Loewen.  The story starts in New York in the 1920’s when a tragedy forces her to leave America.  It moves through Africa, Spain, and onto Berlin and a pre W.W. II Germany where a daring heist gives way to a nearly disastrous escape.

Humphreys writing propels the story forward, and provides historical detail in such a way that a meeting between his characters and Herman Goering is believable.  The ending is left open, an indicator this might be the first in a series, as I hope it is.

4.5/5

 

The World Today

I look at what’s happening in the world today and I’m left with only questions.  What happened to make us so angry? How did we lose compassion for one another? The common sense, and reason that most of us were raised with?

How did we lose respect for each other’s points of view? Is it social media? I wonder if it is.  I wonder if we’ve all been emboldened by the lack of human contact.  If we feel like we can’t see the effect of our words, it becomes easier to dehumanize people.  To ignore them.

Or is it just that people are unhappy with their lives, and don’t know what to do? Maybe they’re afraid of what happens if they quit a job they hate, divorce a partner? Is it that fear of the unknown causing people to lash out? There’s an element as well of blame.  People are quick to complain, and slow to do anything to fix it.

How did we lose the idea of understanding each other? I hang out on Twitter a lot, and follow politics. It becomes increasingly impossible to have a civil disagreement with someone about something.  I have friends I disagree with.  Conversations between us usually include laughter, listening, and nodding. One of us might even realize the other might have a small point about something.  It’s all in good fun.  There’s a sense that it’s lost, and it’s not coming back.

I wish I had answers for all of these questions.   I don’t, I only have personal experience.  At the start of 2018 one of my quiet resolutions was to do more of what makes me happy.  Reach out to more friends, try the odd new thing. So far six months in, I find myself more fulfilled by doing these things than by almost anything else.