I don’t need much of an intro to today’s topic. We’re talking Star Wars: Episode Eight – The Last Jedi. JJ Abrams and his writer-flunkies are out for this one, but they’ll be back for number nine. This time the writer-director is Rian Johnson. Or is it Reean? Or Ree-Anne? Who knows. He’s done acclaimed work including Brick, The Brothers Bloom, Looper, and three episodes of Breaking Bad including its third last episode “Ozymandias.” In other words, buddy knows a thing or two about storytelling.
But how well can he do Star Wars? To help answer that question I’m joined today by two old friends: Stephen Notley, video game designer and the creator of Bob the Angry Flower, and Fish Griwkowsky, arts journalist and filmmaker. We’re all lifelong fans of Star Wars and we met three days after the opening of the film, December 17, 2017 at Edmonton’s Route 99 Diner to hash out The Last Jedi. And yes, today’s discussion is 100% SPOILERS. Listen at your own risk.
In today’s episode of MF GALAXY, we discuss:
You can hear the full-length discussion, a bonus 40 minutes, for free! Just go to patreon.com/mfgalaxy. You’ll get to hear us yammer endlessly about:
THE WOMEN OF THE LAST JEDI – BE PART OF THE DISCUSSION ON MF GALAXY!
Coming up next episode, join science fiction scholar Lisa Yaszek, Lady Geek Nite convener Sylvia Douglass, and science fiction novelists Jennifer Marie Brissett and Natasha Deen! We’re looking exclusively at the women of The Last Jedi: Rey, Rose, Vice Admiral Holdo, Maz Kanata, Captain Phasma, Paige Tico, and of course Princess Leia! Want to include your voice in MF GALAXY? Entries must be in by Friday, January 5, 2018!
WHAT TO DO:
Give me your opinion about any of the female characters from The Last Jedi: who they are, what they do, and how well the script and direction treat them. You can comment on any aspect you like, just one character, any combination or comparison, or all of them.
HOW TO DO IT:
If you choose to contribute, please record your answers into your phone or other audio device as a decent mp3 (preferably 192 kbps or higher, but if you don't know what that means, don't worry about it) and send it to me by Dropbox using mfgalaxypodcast at gmail dot com.
PLEASE REMEMBER to introduce yourself by saying, "I'm (your name). I (describe yourself). I want to talk about women characters in The Last Jedi because...." (and then answer whatever questions above you want, or your own ideas).
DON’T READ A SCRIPT, but feel free to use notes. Sounding unrehearsed is key. Rambling is just fine. Go as "inside baseball" as you like. Anything under 4 minutes.
I can’t guarantee your entry will make it onto the podcast, but I’ll listen to everything and include the most original answers that have broadcast quality sound.
WHEN TO SEND IT:
Entries must arrive by Friday night, January 5, 2017.
If you watch movies or TV shows such as Rambo or The Punisher and everything in between, you’ve probably seen how Hollywood explores PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder. According to US entertainment, PTSD is the horror that former soldiers experience because of war: flashbacks and rage attacks triggered by cars backfiring and footfalls at night.
But what if I told you that most of what you’ve been told about PTSD is wrong? That the causes are far more common and complex, and they’re in homes and on streets across the world? That “classic” symptoms such as flashbacks are extremely rare? That the US military is spending a gigantic fortune to cure PTSD, but not for humanitarian reasons? And that the only real cure to PTSD is probably prevention?
To discuss these questions today, let’s hear from Cultural and American Studies scholar Kali Tal, who spoke with me by Skype from her home in Bern, Switzerland on December 8, 2017. With combined interests including historiography, cultural anthropology, and African American studies, Tal has spent decades researching the complex causes of PTSD and our dire need to stop traumatising people in the first place. She’s a qualitative researcher and scientific editor at the University of Bern, and the author of Worlds of Hurt: Reading the Literatures of Trauma. And if you’d like to read it for free, keep listening.
In today’s episode of MF GALAXY, we discuss:
Okay, so you’re a writer and you write a book and if you’re lucky it sells more than ten thousand copies, but you probably sold far less than that and then you’re looking through a bookstore and you find books written by Betty White, Robe Lowe, Patton Oswald, Miley Cyrus, Mindy Kaling #$%#@&!! Justin Bieber, who probably can’t even read? And you get furious and think how the deck is totally stacked against you, because how can you compete against someone whose book publicity machine is the entire music industry or Hollywood?
And then you get smart and say, “How can I get a cut of that action?”
And the good news is, you don’t have to be famous to do it.
Enter author and now agent Nick Chiles. He’s been in the writing game for more than three decades—not only as the editor-in-chief of Atlanta Blackstar, but as a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and multiple award-winning education reporter, and now as a best-selling author and celebrity co-writer. Chiles has co-created books with singer Bobby Brown, with political organiser Al Sharpton, with former Governor of Massachusetts Deval Patrick, and with NBA star Etan Thomas, among others.
So the lesson to all struggling writers is clear: you’re not famous, but you could write with someone who is, get paid, and get to attach the title “best-selling author” to your name for the rest of your career.
Nick Chiles spoke with me on November 6, 2017 by Skype from his office in Atlanta. We discussed:
I don’t know if there’s anything like Jordan Peele’s blockbuster horror film Get Out. Oh, there have been low-budget Africentric horror movies before, and this one was definitely low-budget: it cost only $4.5 million when the average Hollywood film is around $80 million.
But Get Out has earned a quarter of a billion dollars around the world, which further puts the lie to the Hollywood claim that audiences in Europe won’t watch films starring African casts or featuring Africentric stories. Plus, Get Out is an extremely political film.
I don’t mean it’s partisan, though: the villains in the film would seem at home at any US Democratic Party fundraiser or power-play. I mean it’s political, in that it’s an unforgettable and horrific satire on US Whitesupremacy. The film and its ideas are so powerful that its central metaphor “The Sunken Place” has entered our culture and vocabulary.
And for all those reasons and more, horror writer and UCLA film studies instructor Tananarive Due knew she had to teach a course built around Peele’s film. She called it “The Sunken Place: Racism, Survival, and Black Horror Aesthetic.”
Due worked as a journalist for many years, and is also the author of many celebrated novels, including The Living Blood, Devil’s Wake, and Joplin’s Ghost, and the short story collection Ghost Summer. She also co-wrote Freedom in the Family, a memoir of the 1960s US human rights struggle from the perspective of her mother, Patricia Stephens Due, who’d been an activist in it.
With her novelist husband Steven Barnes, Due writes the Tennyson Hardwick mystery series in partnership with actor Blair Underwood. She holds a journalism degree and an M.A. in English literature from Leeds, where she specialized in Nigerian literature as a Rotary Foundation Scholar.
Due has won the American Book Award, an NAACP Image Award, and the Kindred Award. In 2004, along with Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, Due received the “New Voice in Literature Award” at the Yari Yari Pamberi conference co-sponsored by New York University's Institute of African-American Affairs and African Studies Program and the Organization of Women Writers of Africa.
Tananarive Due spoke with me by Skype on November 20, 2017 from her home in California. We discussed:
Of course today’s discussion is 100% spoilerific, so if you haven’t watched Get Out yet, pause the podcast, watch the film, and come back to listen.
By the end of Malcolm X’s second trip to Africa and the Middle East in 1964, he said at a press conference, “In every country you go to, usually the degree of progress can never be separated from the woman. If you’re in a country that’s progressive, the woman is progressive. If you’re in a country that reflects the consciousness toward the importance of education, it’s because the woman is aware of the importance of education.
“But in every backward country you’ll find the women are backward, and in every country where education is not stressed it’s because the women don’t have education.
“So one of the things I became thoroughly convinced of in my recent travels is the importance of giving freedom to the women, giving her education, and giving her the incentive to get out there and put the same spirit and understanding in her children. And I am frankly proud of the contributions that our women have made in the struggle for freedom and I’m one person who’s for giving them all the leeway possible because they’ve made a greater contribution than many of us men.”
Malcolm X made that statement in 1964 following diplomatic missions to African and Arab countries, including to Tanzania. How is Tanzania doing today?
On June 22, 2017 Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli declared that all public schools must expel any girls who are pregnant. He offered this hopeful advice for post-delivery education, though: “they can learn sewing but they cannot go back to school.”
This is the same country in which men can legally marry girls as young as 14 and yet there is no sex education in schools. To have your own government steal your educational future, of course, is not just a tragic loss for any individual and her own children to build a life of their own making. But multiply that theft times thousands of people, and you fundamentally degrade your country’s path towards technological, economic, political, and social innovation and growth.
So who’s fighting this man-made disaster in Tanzania?
Enter Petrider Paul, who describes herself as “a Proud Feminist advocating to end of gender-based violence.” She’s a co-founder of Youth for Change Tanzania, a global partnership to end early forced marriage and female genital mutilation.
She’s worked with numerous organisations including Youth for Change, UNICEF, the United Nations Population Fund, and the Centre for Foreign Relations Tanzania. She’s launched an international petition campaign calling on the Tanzanian government to stop blocking sex education and stop expelling pregnant girls.
On November 22, 2017, Petrider Paul spoke with me by Skype from her home in Tanzania. We discussed:
Unless you’re absolutely clueless, you know that self-declared Nazis, fascists, Whitesupremacists, and other extremists using a huge range of names, are on the march. Their goal is a race war. They have weapons. They have training. They’re in police forces and militaries. They have media services in Canada, the US, Russia, and elsewhere. They’ve elected their confederates across the world. And their number one ally occupies the White House. Underestimate them at the peril of the planet.
So how do you fight them? And who’s had success doing it?
Today’s guest is a fascinating figure. He’s a former US Air Force man who's spent a lifetime fighting American neo-nazis and was a pioneer of the early internet with innovative online tactics to fight Whitesupremacists. Today, in service of his cause he speaks across the United States. Liberal and conservative journalists try to smear him; Nazis try to fight him in the courts and lose.
Why do they fear him? Because he doxxes them. That is, he exposes the Nazis who are hiding in plain sight by investigating them and revealing their nazi identity to the world. But he also helps those people who want to leave the nazi movement. He fearlessly steps up to fascists such as Richard Spencer and Matthew Heimbach and simply mocks them, and even got Spencer thrown out of CPAC, the Conservative Political Affairs Conference which was teeming with Spencer's own fanatics.
That is, he exposes the Nazis who are hiding in plain sight by investigating them and revealing their nazi identity to the world. But he also helps those people who want to leave the nazi movement. He fearlessly steps up to fascists such as Richard Spencer and Matthew Heimbach and simply mocks them, and even got Spencer thrown out of CPAC, the Conservative Political Affairs Conference which was teeming with Spencer's own fanatics.
And all this is a 6'4" brother who loves punk music. He's Daryle Lamont Jenkins, one of the founders of the antifascist organisation One People’s Project. And man, does he have great stories to tell.
We spoke by Skype on November 1 and November 8, 2017 while he was on a speaking tour. We discussed:
Stranger Things, Season One, is the Netflix hit series that revels in 80s nostalgia and pays homage to everything from ET and The Goonies to Firestarter and Dungeons & Dragons.
It’s the story of four small-town American boys, Will, Mike, Dustin, and Lucas, who encounter a mysterious girl named Eleven who possesses enormous power that threatens to destroy anyone who crosses her—even agents of the United States government. And all of them and the people they love are threatened by Lovecraftian annihilation from a force emanating from a place beyond reckoning: the Upside Down.
I love Stranger Things, and not just because I’m a child of 80s. I love it because it does what I tried to do with my debut novel The Coyote Kings: celebrate friendship and young love and science fiction and fantasy fandom and the heroism of young people. The series is enamoured with its non-glamourous setting and the innocence of its characters, chief of which are teenagers played by actual teenagers, harkening to the glory days of DeGrassi Junior High, rather than having gangly 13-year-olds played by 25 year-old athletes and underwear models.
The series loves the American science fiction and fantasy movies, TV shows, and games of my youth, and does them one better—tying them into a coherent package that rises above 99% of its inspiration. The show makes me feel like a kid again in the best possible ways.
And now season 2 is out, and tonight’s SPOILER-INTENSE CONVERSATION features my guest and friend, the acclaimed science fiction novelist who’s also a scientist, Ekaterina Sedia. She’s the author of five novels including the celebrated Heart of Iron. She’s been on MF GALAXY before to talk food, fiction, and feminism, and she’s also maybe just as much a fan of Stranger Things as I am, if that’s actually possible.
Today, we discuss:
Back in the late 80s and early 90s, even though there were artists across the country, the Canadian hip hop recording and video industry was centered on Toronto, and the three giants were Maestro Fresh Wes, Michie Mee, and this episode’s guests, The Dream Warriors.
The Dream Warriors included Toronto’s King Lou and Capital Q, and for the second album Subliminal Simulations added DJ Luv and also the rapper Spek from Montreal. Their top hits included “Wash Your Face in My Sink” and “Ludi,” and along the way members collaborated with Michie Mee, MC Lyte, Maestro, Lillian Allen, Messanjah, Butterfly from Digable Planets, and Gang Starr. They also recorded “Man Smart, Woman Smarter” for the soundtrack to the movie Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Even though Buffy the movie was far from the pop culture icon that the TV series became, the crossed paths of Buffy and the Dream Warriors makes sense today. The Dream Warriors weren’t interested in rapping about many of the fixations of the early 1990s—no degradation of African women; no celebration of the murder of African men.
Instead, the albums contained enigmatic wordplay, references to fan culture including role playing games, Warlock comics, and Star Wars, and Canadian pop references such as their unforgettable hit, using a sample from the theme song to the long-running Canadian game show Definition, a song written by the great composer Quincy Jones. It’s called “My Definition of a Boombastic Jazz Style.”
While the band released a third album called The Master Plan, that 1996 recording wasn’t published in the US. Spek and DJ Luv both left the group in 1997; the 2002 album The Legacy Continues saw distribution in Canada only. But for fans of the Canadian hip hop scene, the band will live forever.
In the fall of 1994 the group was touring Canada to promote their second album, Subliminal Simulations. The group spoke with me by telephone from Toronto and I recorded our conversation at CJSR FM-88 Edmonton for The Terrordome and The United Nation of Hip Hop, my radio shows of the time. We discussed:
What is the Zimbabwean musical instrument called the mbira? It’s a wooden resonator box with metal keys, called kalimba in Cameroon and thumb piano in the West, although “chime-box” offers a better description of the instrument’s sound. Its pristine voice is perfectly suited to cathedrals, ancient caves, and modern concert halls. But the origins of the mbira are lost in the mists of time.
Westerners who know mbira most likely do so from the work of Zimbabwe’s Thomas Mapfumo, a fusion musician who helped resurrect the mbira which the British colonial dictatorship had banned because of its religious and cultural gravity. Mapfumo’s chimurenga (struggle) style was a cultural-nationalist concoction that changed modern Zimbabwean music, seizing it back from its own Euro-American aesthetic occupation.
But today’s guest has a different path to and with the mbira. It’s not often a musician tells you an origin story that sounds like a quest straight out of the pages of an Africentric epic fantasy novel. But that’s the scenario that Edmonton’s Chaka Zinyemba unfurled about how he discovered and later learned to play the mbira, the leading instrument of Zimbabwe’s classical music. I’ll let him tell you that story, and about his royal lineage, in just a moment.
In 2012, Chaka Zinyemba released his debut album Tariro with his cousin Freemantle Nhembo playing bass mbira and hosho (or maracas). Both provided vocals. Zinyemba played traditional songs using mbirahuru (great mbira), also called mbirahurudzavadzimu (the great mbira of the ancestors). That instrument was once used particularly during Shona religious ceremonies (or mapira) which often lasted through the night, the mbira music lifting people into a hypnotic, ecstatic state.
Zinyemba’s album Tariro is a beautiful, sensitive, soulful album. Hearing it, one feels the caress of the clouds and tastes the shimmer of moonlight. You can find the album on BandCamp and iTunes and probably elsewhere.
When I spoke with Zinyemba in February 2012, he told me had no plans to become a full-time musician; back then he was studying Human Geography at the University of Alberta in Edmonton with a minor in Music and a focus on disaster management, health planning, and urban planning. He also volunteered with the Kenyan Red Cross. But he did hope to collaborate with other musicians and develop spoken word albums featuring his musicianship.
Let’s hear all about his music, his plans, and his history of the mbira and its music in my conversation with Chaka Zinyemba on MF GALAXY.
Natasha Deen is pretty awesome. She’s a YA and children’s writer who’s written more than a dozen books, including The Not So Secret Case Files of Billy Vale, P.I., the Guardian series, and the Retribution series. She criss-crosses Canada teaching new writers and visiting classrooms, and she’s won a string of accolades including nominations for the Sunburst and the Alberta Readers’ Choice Award and wins for the Moonbeam, CCBC Best Pick for Kids and Teens.
Readers keep coming back for her mix of mystery, action, horror, and humour, some of which arise from her own real-life experiences, and teachers keep booking her because her workshops and teaching guides offer genuine value.
Deen met with me at the food court of Westmount Mall in Edmonton on September 26, 2017. She discussed:
Wes Borg is a legend. In the 1980s he cofounded the influential sketch comedy troupe Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie. He’s written widely for the screen, beginning with the Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie television series, and moving to the 2003 TV movie The Western Alienation Comedy Hour, serving as head writer on the 2004 series The Geek Show, and creating the short film Café Utopia.
He’s also appeared on CBC Radio’s The Debaters and The Irrelevant Show. He wrote the comedy songs “The War of 1812” and “Toronto Sucks” even though people often attribute them to The Arrogant Worms. He co-wrote Piledriver! with Darrin Haggin and Ha! with Chris Craddock, and The War of 1812 with Paul Mather, and he’s acted in various BioWare games including the Mass Effect trilogy and Jade Empire.
He’s received two Elizabeth Sterling Haynes Awards for his participation in the Trolls shows Kevin Costner's Naked Butt and Skippy Gets a Boner, and a Bronze Medal in the Calgary Winter Olympics Theatre Sports Tournament in 1988. In 2014 he was nominated as "Best Variety Act" in the Canadian Comedy Awards, and won "Top Improv/Sketch or Variety Performer" from Victoria's "Monday Magazine,” and was named Victoria’s Favourite Comedy Performer two years in a row.
On November 25, 2014 Borg spoke with me by Skype from his home in Victoria, and explained:
Along the way, Borg cites the Fringe, meaning the Edmonton International Fringe Festival, which is the second-largest small theatre festival on the planet, and Cathleen, meaning Cathleen Rootsaert, one of the co-founders of Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie. He also refers to GST, which for US listeners is the federal sales tax which was a new experience for Albertans who to this day do not pay provincial sales taxes.
You can find him on Twitter @deadtroll.
Full disclosure: I grew up watching the original Star Trek in re-runs. Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted the first year I went to university, and it was a major disappointment in many ways, but especially for how it handled Klingons: how they behaved and whom they represented.
Mostly they behaved as obnoxious, single-minded, bloodthirsty brawlers, to be avoided and feared, mostly artless and without sophistication, and to be laughed at for their pompous seriousness and quaint and disgusting customs. Despite growing up among humans, Worf is such an idiot that with august earnestness he calls prune juice a “warrior’s drink.” He’s so violent and stupid that in the Next Generation pilot episode “Encounter at Farpoint” he aims a phaser pistol at the bridge viewscreen when the bad guy Q appears on it because he apparently doesn’t know what TV is.
Another Klingon is so egotistical and stupid that he attempts to headbutt Data, an nearly indestructible android, and knocks himself unconscious. Klingons are so gross that they eat worms and drink blood wine. They are obsessed with killing and dying. In other words, on a show whose fans like to claim it as universalist and anti-racist, the writers spent a great deal of time depicting Klingons in a way that, had they been Chinese, Nigerians, or Mexicans, would have been instantly dismissed as racist.
And that’s the other thing. Whereas the Klingons in the original series were a completely obvious analogue for the Soviet Union, and were all played by European actors, in the Next Generation era, Klingons were partially post-glory-days Russians, but also Muslims… and also African-Americans, especially Worf, who was not only not raised by Klingons, but raised by White Earth people, kind of like Arnold Jackson from Diff’rent Strokes or Webster from Webster.
Now I’m not saying that every member of the audience saw Worf that way, but clearly plenty did, and actor Michael Dorn is an African-American, and so were a disproportionate number of the other actors who played Klingons, that parallel seemed all the more available. So while the show was a bonanza for African-American actors seeking work, depicting the Klingons as violent, subhuman morons became an ever bigger problem.
So I might have chucked the whole enterprise, so to speak, except for a first season episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called “Heart of Glory.” In that episode, written by Maurice Hurley, Herbert Wright, and D.C. Fontana, Worf breaks out as the single most provocative character on the series. While confronting renegade Klingons, he must confront his own place as the most alienated crew member on the USS Enterprise. Worf must decide whose kinship matters to him most, and why—and while the deck is stacked against the Klingon renegades, they are treated as characters with dignity, and so is Worf.
While The Next Generation thrived during its peak seasons three and four, again and again the shows featuring Worf stood out as, for me and many others, its most fascinating. After TNG wrapped production, Michael Dorn and his character joined the production of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, where again many of my favourite episodes focused on the galaxy’s loneliest Klingon. The always-excellent Dorn also brought subtle and dry humour to The Next Generation which sorely lacked it.
Around 1992 in Edmonton, I met Michael Dorn at a science fiction convention, and my friend Fish Griwkowsky was there to photograph the chance-encounter and the interview that followed. I say “chance encounter” because I was making a call to my friend Steve Notley from a payphone near the parkade just as Dorn was walking in. I said, “Michael?” He looked up and boomed “Yes?” and I hung up on Steve and asked for an interview. So in today’s episode you’ll hear that interview, and also the reflections of several writer friends on what Worf means to them, including:
Along the way you’ll hear excerpts from a supercut by YouTuber tarnationsauce2 called “Worf gets DENIED again and again on Star Trek TNG” which will help demonstrate how often the writers and producers failed to use Worf properly, casting him as the security chief who constantly gets beaten up and whom pretty much everyone overrules about everything, every time.
In the world of journalism, Robert Fisk is a rock star not just for the “songs” he’s written but for the people he’s shared the stage with, including Saddam Hussein, Ayatollah Khomeini, and Osama Bin Laden, whom he interviewed three times. Based in Beirut since 1976, Fisk currently writes for London’s Independent, and over four decades he’s covered the Iranian Revolution, the Lebanese civil war, the USSR’s occupation of Afghanistan, and virtually every war or conflict in West and Central Asia.
Having authored five books including his classic Pity the Nation: Lebanon at War, and having received more British and international awards than any other English-language journalist, Fisk frequently defines his role not to “write the first draft of history,” but, by quoting Israeli journalist Amira Hass, “to monitor the centres of power.”
A few years ago Robert Fisk was touring Canada on behalf of Canadians for Peace and Justice in the Middle East. On January 31, 2013, I spoke with Fisk at the Union Bank Hotel in Edmonton before he addressed the University of Alberta’s International Week, delivering a talk called “Arab Awakening, But Are We Hearing the Truth?” The day before he arrived, Russia and Iran claimed that Israel had bombed Syria, with CBC claiming the target was an arms convoy headed to Lebanon.
In today’s episode of MF GALAXY, Robert Fisk discusses:
Along the way, Fisk mentions Timbuktu, one of the most famous and ancient cities in the world, an historic seat of learning and wisdom in Mali. Note that Fisk spoke with me just a few months before DAESH, known in the West as ISIL or the IS, declared itself to be a state or Caliphate. Fisk also uses the Arabic word “mahdi” which means, essentially, the prophesied final redeemer before the end of the world.
Finally, while discussing Bin Laden’s claim that the United States was heading towards civil war, Fisk recounts that he told the fanatic to his face that his idea was “rubbish.” Chillingly, the chief jihadi’s prediction no longer seems so unbelievable.
As shocking as it is in 2017, HIV-AIDS disproportionately afflicts African-Canadians in Alberta. The reasons are varied and complex, which means fighting the pandemic here is all the more difficult. But the reality is that in this province, African-Canadians are six times more likely to be living with HIV-AIDS than the general population, and comprise 26 percent of all new HIV infections despite being only 2.5 percent of the population.
While some people might want to avoid the subject due to stigma or mortal fear, my guest today isn’t one of them, and she’s dedicated her life to stopping new infections and helping those already afflicted.
Morenike Olaosebikan is a health scientist and the founder of Ribbon Rouge, which uses fashion and the arts to raise money to fund relief and treatment for those affected, and to educate and empower those most vulnerable so they can avoid being infected, or share their human experience through the arts if they have already been affected. The Ribbon Rouge project is more than a decade old and has raised tens of thousands of dollars to help those living with the human immunodeficiency virus.
In today’s episode of MF GALAXY, Morenike Olaosebikan discusses:
We spoke on August 25, 2017 at downtown Edmonton’s Camel Boyz Somali restaurant.
Profiles on Morenike Olaosebikan
Mark Meer is possibly the most affable fellow in showbiz. He’s a terrific stage actor, voice artist, and improviser, and I’ve known him since we were both cartoonists at university and worked together in the sketch comedy troupe The 11:02 Show. He’s best known as the voice of Commander Shepard from BioWare’s Mass Effect trilogy and has done other video games including Gods of Rome and Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced.
And he’s not just someone whom fans love—he’s a fanboy himself, and attended numerous conventions in costume. He’s literally a pro at cons. He’s also appeared in short films such as Tar Zombies Barbecued and Flight of the Polar Bear; and he’s been a stalwart of the Edmonton theatre community for decades in ongoing longform improv such as Die-Nasty! and Gordon’s Big Bald Head. And if that weren’t enough, many radio listeners in Canada and the US know him as one of the actors in The Irrelevant Show.
In today’s episode of MF GALAXY, Mark Meer and I discuss:
We spoke at Meer’s home in Edmonton’s theatre-arts district on July 4, 2017.
When the New Democratic Party of Alberta formed a majority government in 2015, I quipped that night that Alberta had just become a Western democracy. After all, it was the first time in forty years that the governing Progressive Conservative Party had been voted out.
But my joke depressed me. After all, it’s just not normal or healthy for any jurisdiction, let alone one of two economic engines of a G-7 liberal democracy, to be shackled to any one party for almost half a century. My joke depressed me because it meant we were just a petro-state. But hey, even Alaska under Sarah Palin paid higher oil royalties to its citizens than Conservative Alberta did. What is up with that?
But two years into the NDP’s first provincial government, the devastated PC party and the official opposition Wild Rose party have merged under the slogan “Unite the Right.” Yep, that slogan. Just a coincidence? Sure… and yet as it turns out, if you drew a Venn diagram of the US “Unite the Right” constituency and that of the Wild Rosers, you’d find at the centre many of the same type of toxically racist, sexist, anti-queer, anti-Muslim, anti-Jewish media personalities, shadowy funders, and gun fanatics. In some cases, you’d find the exact same people on both sides of the border.
In Alberta, the Unite the Right merger produced the United Conservative Party, which turns into the great acronym UCP, or as some apparently want it to be “u-kip,” to sound like the United Kingdom Independence Party that created Brexit and emboldened racists across Britain.
There are two front-runners for the leadership of the UCP: former Wild Rose leader Brian Jean, and former PC leader Jason Kenney. Both have enjoyed the attention that ultra-right-wing Canadian media has given them. Days after the racist torchlight rally and terrorist attack in Charlottesville, Brian Jean and Jason Kenney each stated they would no longer appear on one far-right site in particular, but neither explained why they’d appeared on it for years throughout its constant Islamophobic publication.
Another firebrand of the UCP and beneficiary of right wing media, legislator Derek Fildebrandt, is now formerly of the UCP. Just recently he resigned from the brand-new caucus as the result of three scandals: double-dipping on meal reimbursements, profiting from his taxpayer-financed housing by offering it on Air B-n-B, and doing a hit-and-run on a neighbour’s car.
Fildebrandt has always been a fiery figure—if not a lake of fiery figure—in that movement, and his work in the Canadian Taxpayers Federation combined with his recent spending and profiting has rubbed many folks raw. What does his future hold? Will the UCP welcome him back in time for the next election?
Joining me to analyse all the above is David Climenhaga, who is “an award-winning journalist, author, post-secondary teacher, poet, and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions at the Toronto Globe and Mail and Calgary Herald. He holds a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the Carleton University School of Journalism in Ottawa. His 1995 book, A Poke in the Public Eye, explores the relationships among Canadian journalists, public relations people and politicians.” Climenhaga blogs at AlbertaPolitics.ca.
We spoke last week on August 16, 2017 at Climenhaga’s office in downtown Edmonton. Full disclosure: I have volunteered for the provincial and federal New Democratic Party, and have also provided paid public speaking training for some of its members.
Today’s show lets me reach back into the archive for a conversation with a remarkable man who died far, far too young. That man was the Sudanese-Canadian musician, singer, lyricist, music producer, and band leader Tarig Abubakar.
Abubakar came to Canada in 1988 to build his fame and fortune in North America, and despite a rocky start he’ll tell you about in this episode, he formed his pan-African band the Afro-Nubians, toured the country four times, and delighted hundreds of audiences across Canada. He also released three superb albums: 1994’s Tour to Africa, 1995’s The Great Africans, and 1997’s Hobey Laik. His bandmates included guitarist Adam Solomon, Joe Slant, and Mohammed Hagelamin. Together they were named band of the year at the Toronto African Music Awards.
Tragically in 1998 while visiting his home country, Abubakar died in a car accident. He was only 34. In 2005, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation released a CD of two Afro-Nubians’ concerts. Thanks to streaming services, you can access some of the albums any time you want.
In the summer of 1995, I met Abubakar at Edmonton’s Mayfair Hotel the afternoon before his gig at the now-long-gone Sidetrack Café. We discussed:
On a personal note, twenty-two years ago when I recorded this interview, I was a young man who’d lost little in my life. I had no idea that Abubakar had only a few more years on this planet. In the decades since I’ve lost far more than I ever expected, including some of the most important people in my life. I’ve been producing today’s show over the last two days and hearing Abubakar’s voice and his stunning music from back before I lost all those people. And as it’s August 14, 2017, I’ve also been reacting to all the horrible news about the terrorist attack in Charlottesville and wondering about how we’re all going to defend ourselves, because it’s going to get worse, I’m sorry to say.
So hearing Abubakar and his ideas and his songs has been especially powerful. We lost him when he was too young and he had so much more to give, especially with his message of unity and his undying love of African peoples. I hope wherever he is, he knows we still remember his music and we still remember him.
This show is mostly about creators in various fields showing and proving what they know about how to make what they make and how to make money from what they make.
Today we get to combine two fields: making movies and making novels. Jeff Carroll is an amazing creator. He's worked as a booker at comedy clubs and also managed comedians, which gave him access to plenty of working comics whom he could cast the movies he wrote and produced, including his Blaxploitation/ B-Movie/ Grindhouse films such as Holla If I Kill You and the award-winning Gold Digger Killer.
When his distributor went belly-up and took his money beyond the grave, Carroll leveraged his existing intellectual property by turning one of his features into a novel. He's also a speaker and known online as Yo Jeff the Hip Hop Dating Coach. So the man definitely knows how to hustle to keep on reaching audiences through multiple venues.
In today's episode of MF GALAXY, Jeff Carroll discusses:
We spoke by Skype on June 23, 2017.
Hip hop at its finest is a poetical, political voice for those whose voices have been silenced; it speaks to the anger, the dignity, and the triumphant joy of the oppressed. If hip hop is the music of the dispossessed, then no one in North America should have a greater claim on it than the First Nations. Combine that revolutionary rage and cultural crucible with artistic passion and power, and you have what was Canada’s finest hip hop band—WAR PARTY.
Formed in 1995 under the leadership of Maskwacis Cree artist, lead vocalist, and executive producer Rex Smallboy, and co-vocalists Cynthia Smallboy, and Thane Saddleback, War Party won the Canadian Aboriginal Music Award for Best Rap Album in 2001, and were the first Indigenous crew featured on Canada’s Much Music channel. The video for “Feeling Reserved” exploded across Canadian television in 2001 with a powerful set of voices and images that was thankfully bling-bling- and booty-shaking-free. Instead, the video showed everyday people with extraordinary voices and lyrical intelligence, denouncing settler-colonial genocide.
War Party performed with Ice-T, Wu-Tang Clan, Guru, Maestro Fresh Wes and K-OS among many others, and recently Chuck D. recorded an introduction for the new album “The Resistance.” The band got global attention by representing Canada at the World Expo in Nagoya, Japan and for performing for the First Americans Festival at the Smithsonian Museum.
Fiercely proud of their Cree heritage specifically and their First Nations heritage generally, the band refused to fall into the trap of not wanting to be known as “Native rappers.” Their embrace of their heritage made them universal, in the same way that Miriam Makeba, Public Enemy, or Nusrat Khan are emblems of their people, and emblems of human culture, struggle, and aspiration generally.
While the group has since splintered into factions, one of which is named RezOfficial, their original ground-breaking work lives on. Rex Smallboy continues to make albums and also works as a motivational speaker.
In the summer of 2004, I spoke with band members Rex Smallboy and his then-wife Cynthia at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. You can hear Cynthia Smallboy in the bonus content for today’s show. Rex and I discussed:
Note that our conversation includes reference to the Cree Nation’s reserve that was once called Hobbema, about 90 minutes south of Edmonton. The reserve finally discarded that German name and is now called Maskwacis.
Super Sikh! That's right. He's a Sikh. And he's a secret agent. He's a Punjabi 007 who fights for girls' education and loves the music of Elvis Presley, while holding down a fake I.T. job to convince his parents that he's not risking his life for truth, justice, and the five Ks of the Sikh religion.
Super Sikh is the co-creation of Supreet Singh Manchanda, artist Amit Tayal, and writer Eileen Kaur Alden. While Alden was working on a career in screenwriting, her friend Manchanda approached her about creating a family-friendly Sikh action hero for comic books. They went to Kickstarter looking for $5000 to create their first issue. They got more than $22,000 in pledges, and in 2015 began publishing. Now they're up to issue number four and their fans love the comic enough that several issues have gone into reprints.
The comic has done more than thrill readers with great stories and inspire Sikh kids. Background research for the comic and its title character led its writer, Eileen Kaur Alden, to change her life in one of the most profound ways possible.
On June 17, 2017, I spoke with Alden by Skype. You'll be able to hear her dog yipping in the background of her Oakland home. We discussed:
A few months back I shared with you a panel convened by comix creator, TV writer, documentarian, and filmmaker Brandon Easton from the 2016 San Diego Comic Con Writers' Journey panel full of the specific how-to advice become a professional writer in comics, TV, and film.
In today's episode of MF GALAXY, Brandon Easton is back from the 2015 WonderCon Anaheim Writers' Journey Panel, and this time with actor, television writer, and comix writer Erika Alexander, with screenwriter and comix creator Tony Puryear, with comix critic and writer Hannibal Tabu, and with author, television writer, and indie filmmaker Marc Scott Zicree.
In today's episode of MF GALAXY, they discuss:
Many thanks to DeWayne Copeland who recorded the video for this conversation. You can find the complete video online at MFGALAXY.org and a link to Copeland's work, which includes my MF GALAXY conversation with him about his superhero web TV series CV Nation.
Thanks also to Brandon Easton for permission to use the audio; check my many conversations with him in the show archive, and watch for his upcoming film DDX: Department of Disclosure debuting August 18, 2017, starring Anthony Montgomery from Star Trek: Enterprise and Rene Rosado from Major Crimes.
How many times have you seen pictures of so-called development workers, who heroically and selflessly leave their privileged homes in the West to travel to any one of 54 countries on the African continent—although they’ll usually just say “Africa” as if it were a country?
They go to build houses or schools or work in a clinic, sometimes saying that they’re there to “save” people or even “save Africa,” all one billion of us, despite what is usually zero knowledge of any of the continent’s 3000 or more languages, more than 5000 years of civilisations and ancient literatures, its countless cultures, religions, and philosophies, or its contemporary arts, industry, and politics.
They also usually do not question why, in the case of the often barely-qualified “voluntourists” who build houses or schools, it is better for them to give airlines and hotels hundreds or even thousands of dollars than it is to pay local citizens of those countries to do the work their countries need. Nor do they ask the effects of spending tens of thousands of dollars to pay the salaries of foreign doctors, while also transporting, housing, and feeding them, instead of paying doctors from those countries so they can serve the communities that produced them.
But, so long as they pose for photos holding one of our babies and surrounding themselves with our children so they look like saints in shining skin, everything’s great, right?
Those are some of the concerns that Dr. Geoffrey Anguyo shared with me. He wasn’t interested in being sucked down the brain drain to grab the riches of practicing medicine abroad. He wanted to build his community, and so he created and headed the Kigezi Healthcare Foundation, KIHEFO, in Uganda.
Years ago he was touring Canada to raise awareness about and funds for his organisation which holistically assists people in Uganda’s Kigezi highlands to address hunger, HIV-AIDS, and entrepreneurship. I met him during that tour in Edmonton on June 1, 2011, and we spoke at the office of Change for Children which sponsors KIHEFO’s work. We discussed a range of topics, including:
He began by explaining how he rose from deprivation to become a doctor for his nation.
If you’re an expert on parenting, chances are you’re not a parent. And if you are a parent and you think you’re an expert, you’re probably not an expert either. Being a parent means constant worrying about getting it wrong and wondering if you’ll ever get it right. But at least that’s better than being totally sure you’re right because that’s a really bad sign.
That being said, a few things are starting to become clearer in the 21st century, and one is that trying too hard to be the perfect parent is counter-productive. And another is that if your goal is trophy children instead of happy children with the every-expanding wisdom to chart their own course, your kids probably won’t be happy or able to chart their own course.
Canadian author Carl Honore hit the big time with his 2004 book In Praise of Slow, arguing that people need to, well, chill out. In 2008 he released Under Pressure: Rescuing Our Children from the Culture of Hyper-Parenting. While he was born in Scotland he spent much of his childhood in Edmonton, and that’s where I met him way back in 2008 when Under Pressure was a brand-new book, Facebook was only four years old, YouTube was only three, and my first daughter was not yet two. He discussed his views on:
I met John Gallagher so long ago I don’t even remember it, but we were both members of the same fannish club called ESFCAS, the Edmonton Science Fiction and Comic Arts Society at the University of Alberta. A bunch of us there wanted to be professional artists—including Adrian Kleinbergen and Nigel Tully who found work in comics, Jaemi Hardy who became a fine artist, and Marc Taro Holmes who worked in video games and Hollywood and has published instructional books on art—and you can hear my conversation with him on MF GALAXY.
But John Gallagher is a particularly amazing success story. After training at the Alberta College of Art and Design, he went to work at Edmonton’s BioWare studio as a production illustrator. Later he broke into Hollywood, and has worked on Riverdale, the 2017 Power Rangers film, Supergirl, The Flash, The Man in the High Castle, Once Upon a Time, Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome, and X-Men: The Last Stand, among many other productions.
On April 27, 2017 Gallagher spoke with me by Skype from his home in Vancouver. He discussed:
Along the way several names bubbled up, including Ray and Greg, who are Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk, two of the founders of BioWare, and Trent Oster, another founder and now the owner of BeamDog. Gallagher also cited SUB which is the Student Union Building, and HUB Mall, both at the University of Alberta campus in Edmonton. And we talked about “crunch,” the video game industry term for the predictable, long stretches of overtime at the end of any project. And now on MF GALAXY, my conversation with John Gallagher.
Saladin Ahmed is a fascinating cat. He’s best known as the Arab and Muslim American fantasy novelist who crafted Throne of the Crescent Moon which was nominated for the Hugo and won the Locus Award for best first novel. But his ethnicity also includes Polish and Irish, and his writing also includes short stories, articles, a stunning number of Tweets, and the new Marvel Comics series Black Bolt about the king of the Inhumans.
We met at the Science Fiction Research Association conference in Detroit in 2012, and he was as fun and down to earth in person as he is online. When I learned that he was writing for Marvel I just knew I had to find out what it was like for him as a novelist to leap into the world of comics, and was delighted to learn that like me, he was a lifelong comics fan who’d always wanted to create comics, too.
In today’s episode of MF GALAXY, Saladin Ahmed discusses:
Ahmed spoke with me by Skype from his home near Detroit on June 02, 2017.