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.
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