Last (or, rather, latest) Post

I let the 19th anniversary of this blog pass without a post. I haven't had the energy to really add to this blog in quite a while, as most of my time has been spent with my novel writing, and on social media (and, frankly, far too much social media). It's also true that blogs, these days, have become incredibly passe, and the online contacts happen far more on social media, including some platforms I barely understand, but which both my kids are fluent in.

It probably makes more sense to completely rethink this site from the ground up, possibly even launching a clean slate at a different domain (I do own the domain jamesbow.ca). I may do that, but I'm reluctant to just shut this place down, and not just because I may come back the next time I have a book to promote.

I've spent over nineteen years crafting this blog, and it has helped build my skills and confidence as a writer. And, in the early days, the community that this blog gave me access to helped build me up as a person, giving me new friends, and honing my political arguments as well as enhancing my writing skills. You wouldn't expect me to toss out my old photographs, even if most of my new ones are being uploaded directly to my computer, would you?

And as I look back on the old posts, it's remarkable how much the world has developed since those early days, both in good ways or bad. If you want to know where Trump came from, and how idiots defy reality about climate change, vaccines and the need to take precautions during a pandemic, you see some of it in the early days of blogging. I've talked about how various political elements, but particularly those on the hard right, such as with the Republican party, started to value winning over good governance. I've talked about the disturbing rise in eliminationist rhetoric, like "liberal hunting permits", "second amendment actions", and how political actors liken their opponents not as human beings with reasonable disagreements, but as enemies who can't be reasoned with. As traitors. As subhuman.

True, this playbook arguably started picking up in the mid-1990s with Newt Gingrich's "Contract With America" where political compromise was explicitly derided as "selling out", but in certain political blogging circles, this really took root following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, with people questioning the drive for war with Iraq labelled as "objectively pro-Saddam", and people calling for more cautious approaches in Afghanistan accused of supporting terrorists.

Now, the conservative-leaning friends that I know today I gained through blogging. These individuals were exceptional in that they embraced the best of what blogging promised: a democratized-forum where everybody with an opinion had an opportunity to express that opinion and express it well. And they expressed it well. The Canadian political blogosphere encouraged this, somewhat, by lumping Conservative, Liberal, New Democratic and Green supporters together. Though there were associations like the Blogging Tories, many readers and writers mixed pretty freely with the Progressive Bloggers, and my Blogging Alliance of Non-Partisan Canadians was welcomed with open arms.

These friends of mine, conservative and otherwise, now stand back and watch while the crazies dominate the noise. You don't get any sense of camaraderie between political points of view on Twitter; most people either nod or troll. The noise is discouraging, but the friends I've gained are not. They are the big reason why I'm keeping this blog up as, I hope, a testament that blogging had, and has, value.

This is where I'll leave this blog for a little while, barring story ideas that take my fancy, or new events that I need to promote. I'm pretty sure you folks know where else to find me, and I'll see you there.

I Can See Clearly Now...

niagara-falls-february-2020.jpgThere are a few reasons why I don't consider 2020 to be the worst year ever. Yes, it has been an extremely challenging time with the pandemic and its associated lockdowns, but it has also been the year where 81 million Americans stood up to Donald Trump and his deplorables. Yes, we have no shortage of anti-mask idiots everywhere, and the root problems that created Trump and his ilk remain, but we were reminded that we also have the ability within us to stand up for what is right. The state of Georgia saw that in 2021.

We've also had some personal successes this year. For Erin and myself, our writing continues. 2020 was bookended with Erin's Governor General's Award for Stand on the Sky on one end (yes, I know, that was December 2019, but the glow carried into the new year) and a TD Canadian Children's Literature Award nomination for the same novel at the other.

Yes, there remains a lot of work to be done with the pandemic, and with dealing with the deplorables in our politics and society, but as we enter 2021, I feel we have a greater possibility of getting those things done, for the better of us all. I certainly wasn't feeling this back at the end of 2016.

2020 was also the year I had my cataract surgery -- thankfully before the COVID-19 epidemic took hold. Indeed, yesterday was the first anniversary of the first of the two surgeries. Early that morning, Erin took me into Cambridge Memorial Hospital, and I took my happy juice drugs and after going under (a very small) knife for just a few minutes, I was able to get to my feet and walk out of the hospital, seeing more clearly through my right eye than I'd ever done in literally years.

I have to say, suddenly realizing that I could read signs on the wall without the need for glasses was a startling moment. Even before the cataracts became obvious, I'd always relied on high-prescription glasses, and the cataracts themselves were turning my vision progressively more blurry and sepia-coloured. The world got so much brighter that day, it seemed like I went from a musty yellow hue to something tinged with blue.

When I learned that I needed cataract surgery back in 2018, and was told that it could fix my eyesight so much I might not need glasses, I was excited, but also a little wary. Glasses had been a part of me since before grade three, and they had become a big part of my self-image. After all, they're on the face that stares out at me whenever I look into a mirror.

As it turns out, I still do need glasses, but only for reading books or looking at my computer screen, or anything that requires me to focus on items up close. I don't need glasses when I'm driving. For a few weeks after the second surgery (my photo above was taken on February 15, 2020, as I passed through Niagara Falls, New York, on the way to Boston -- I am so looking forward to being able to travel again), and while I was able to see what was around me very clearly, I did have some trouble looking at the text on my computer screen. Fortunately, reading glasses helped.

My optometrist did prescribe for me a set of multifocal lenses that corrected my vision at the bottom to look at items up close and left things uncorrected for viewing things from a distance. He called them "grocery store glasses", which saves me from having to whip out a pair while shopping, just so I can look at the labels on the cans I buy. I do appreciate them, and I suspect that Erin and the kids do as well.

While I sometimes miss not being able to see things at the microscopic level by looking at things up close (no more threading needles for me), I do appreciate having the choice to wear or not wear my glasses, as the case might be. And given how bad my eyes were before the surgery, that's a miracle of science.

So, perhaps, being able to see more clearly helps me to see a clearer way forward out of 2020.

What they Ran Out Of

Enclosed is a bit of freewriting I did, within the universe I'm setting up with The Sun Runners and The Cloud Riders. It's short. I hope it's punchy. I hope you like it.

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Image by Reimund Bertrams from Pixabay

What they Ran Out Of

Mercury knew it first. When the Earth suspended shuttle service and signed off with "please forgive us," Mercury imported two-thirds of its food. With rations, the average caloric intake dropped to 800 calories per day with no end in sight. There were culls. There were conflicts. There was cannibalism. They needed a miracle.

The Asteroid Miners knew it too, but they had ships. They called every family back to Ceres and Vesta and organized convoys, pooling what food they had, what oxygen. They set out for the nearest two planets that could take them: Mars for Ceres, Venus for Vesta.

Venus had food. They had farms. They'd maintained strict population controls to keep themselves close to self-sufficiency. They still panicked. They'd lost their connection to the homeworld, and they didn't know how to mourn. It took the quick actions of one man to stop the riots, and appeal to everyone's sanity. Venus recovered, though it still mourned.

Mars prepared itself. With food and farms, the largest population and the easiest environment to plunder, it built to become the new prosperous centre of the solar system. It had robot drones to trade with Venus. It kept the dream of a human solar system alive, but with the same doggedness that had condemned the Earth.

The Jupiter Moon outposts had less food than Mercury. They were research stations and speculative ventures, with scientists drilling through the ice looking for life funded by business people looking to cash in on humanity's leap to the outer solar system. They knew they couldn't survive or go home. Europa continued its work and radioed what findings it could. Ganymede did not. They ran out of time. Both went as silent as the Earth.

Beyond the Moons of Jupiter, there were only robots, sending back messages about what they were seeing, to a planet that could no longer hear.

Comments welcome (until they close).

The Year of Hindsight

How is it, I have to ask, that we can witness history in the making and feel almost no compunction to write about it? Is it because, sometimes, history is exhausting? We are living through moments that will be taught in history classes over the next century, but I struggle to find the emotional energy to put even this missive down. Maybe it's a muscle you have to exercise. Exercise is also exhausting.

I realize that I'm privileged and that there are billions of others worse off than me. A writer friend, after yesterday's attempted coup against the legitimate government of the United States of America, threw up her hands and said, essentially, "I teach a course on dystopic fiction. What am I going to do now?" I can see where she's coming from, but there is an answer. It's "Imagine all this is happening, and your water supply is also contaminated. Then bring in speakers from some of those First Nations communities across Canada."

We are now approaching the tenth month anniversary of the unofficial start of the COVID-19 pandemic. There are some glimmers of hope in that vaccines are rolling out, even if they are arriving and being administered far too slowly for everybody's liking. We are now in lockdown again -- something I fully support. Indeed, I have to question the idiocy of contemplating letting the kids go back to school before this month is over. The lockdown was set for four weeks, but it really should be at least six, and be more strictly enforced, so we can make some real progress in our numbers.

That said, I finally figured out how to get my groceries delivered, both from Sobeys and the local stores, so as to reduce my one remaining major point of potential exposure to this virus. And it allowed me to deliver more food than I could reasonably carry, so we're well stocked up before I have to contemplate another food store visit.

Again, that's thanks to my privilege. I know that, as sacrifices go, this is small compared to what others have to deal with. But I do feel good that I'm doing my own part, even as I keep my fingers crossed and consider the things I will do once this pandemic recedes.

It's also the fourth anniversary of my mother's passing. I miss her a lot.

The Last Four Years

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You may or may not be surprised to know that I was here when the news came across my phone that more votes had been counted, and Pennsylvania had been called for president-elect Joe Biden, finally putting paid to Donald Trump. This is the northern end of Kipling Avenue, a short stretch of road north of Steeles Avenue that the TTC uses to access a turning loop for its buses. I've been able to cope with the fact that I can't ride public transit anymore, until a COVID vaccine becomes available (fingers crossed!) by occasionally going into my old home town and photographing and videoing public transit vehicles from a socially responsible distance, while wearing a mask.

It felt good to know that Donald Trump had been defeated, and it was especially good to see the joyous reaction throughout Twitter and my Facebook feed. The sun was shining, I was doing something I loved, and nearly 75 million Americans stood up to defeat the nearly 70 million who decided they were okay with the last four years of racist cruelty and flagrant incompetence. A good day, at last.

While I was joyful, I was not overjoyed, perhaps because I had a cautious optimism throughout the week that most Americans were going to do the right thing, and that Trump, in the end a coward as well as a bully, would end with a whimper rather than a bang. Things could still happen to change that, but since the Four Seasons Total Landscaping incident, I'm more confident and optimistic that this will be the case.

This week, however, I've come to realize how much the election four years ago is tied up with more personal bad news that was delivered soon after. This Sunday will be the fourth anniversary of my mother's diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. She passed on January 7, 2017.

So many people have called 2020 a bad year, given the COVID-19 pandemic, that it seems quaint to remember when we thought 2016 was the worst year ever, with the death of celebrities like David Bowie and Leonard Cohen. But Trump's victory in the 2016 election topped all that. And the news of my mother's terminal cancer, for me, topped even that.

It's linked together because she was there when the news hit that Trump had won the presidency. It was a mental and spiritual blow, especially coupled with the news of all of the other incidents of rising nationalist politics throughout the world, from Bolisano to Brexit. The world did seem like it was catching on fire.

My mother passed before Trump actually became president, and while we could never have imagined how bad his presidency was going to be, we knew it would be bad. We knew the next four years were going to be tough.

And now they're over. There's a lot of work to do and a lot of mess to clean up, but at least we now have some hope that adults are in the room working to clean things up. I got to see this. And I'm sad that my mother did not. I wish I could tell her that I got to see this. I wish I could tell her that we made it through. There's still a lot of work to do, but now I have more hope that this work will be done.

At the end of Saturday's transit-fanning, I headed down to Harbourfront Centre, where I first heard the news about my mother four years ago. I wish she got to see this.

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