For ages, inside and outside fan circles, the stereotype was that Africans and Indigenous people don’t like science fiction. That’s a bizarre myth. After all, because both science fiction and fantasy offer the spirit and the intellect the chance to remake the world. For peoples who remember the historical destruction of their own worlds and live under oppression, escape stories offer indispensable hope—the dream that deliverance is possible. And when they offer the intellect the means to plan utopia, or at least a new-topia, they’re even more powerful.
That yearning helps explain the extraordinary success of Black Panther, and the promise offered by award-winning science fiction filmmakers such as my guest today, Danis Goulet. She’s a Cree-Metis filmmaker from LaRonge, Saskatchewan. She’s an alumna of the National Screen Institute's Drama Prize Program in Canada and the TIFF Talent lab. Her social realist and science fiction films and virtual reality work have gone to the Toronto International Film Festival, Sundance, and imagineNATIVE. Her VR includes The Hunt, and her films include the dramas Barefoot and Wapawekka, and the post-apocalyptic Wakening. That stunning 2013 short film imagines a future Toronto crushed under an unknown hypertechnological occupation. And engaging their ancient conflict at doomsday are two titans of Cree mythology: Weesagichak, the genderless shapeshifter from the stars, and Weetigo, the ruthless cannibal spirit of insatiable hunger.
On March 15, 2018, Danis Goulet spoke with me by Skype from her home in Toronto. We discussed:
I am a pernsnicketty cat—some would say difficult—and I have been known to argue at length that no one should ever use the expression “laughed out loud” because all laughter is out loud, by definition. So that means if I can overcome my boundless rage enough to invite the host of a national radio programme called Laugh Out Loud, I must really be impressed. And I am.
But Ali Hassan actually grabbed my attention not by MCing that showcase for Canadian comedians, but rather for his excellent work as an interviewer and guest host on CBC Radio’s q. I liked his voice, I liked his rapport with guests, and I liked his questions—but what totally floored me was that he easily and accurately dropped a reference to KRS-One during an interview without explaining it. I thought, I have got to contact this dude. So I did, and that’s what led to today’s conversation about the art, craft, and business of stand-up comedy and interviewing.
Hassan is a Pakistani-Canadian comedian, actor, and chef from Montreal. He’s toured Canada and performed at Just for Laughs and the Winnipeg Comedy Festival; he’s performed across the US and the Middle East, and took his one-man show Muslim, Interrupted to Scotland for the planet’s biggest comedy festival, the Edinburgh Fringe. He’s been in the movies Breakaway, French Immersion, and Goon!, and on TV he’s on Odd Squad, Man Seeking Woman, Game On, Cardinal, Designated Survivor, and FUBAR: Age of Computer.
Hassan spoke with me by Skype on February 2, 2018. We discussed:
It’s been well over two thousand, three hundred years since an actual Egyptian sat on the throne of the Nile Valley’s greatest civilisation. Since then, only foreigners have controlled Kemet, the true name for Egypt. And yet control over Kemet remains a fierce battle to this day.
On the one side are Eurocentrists who, to build their racial self-esteem, and to justify the massive crime of imperialism against Africa, have spent the last three hundred years Whitewashing the civilisation into something that their own Greek and Roman ancestors never claimed.
On the other side is everyone who embraces the historical record, physical anthropology, comparative linguistics and culture, and, of course, DNA. They recognise what most of Hollywood, Arabs in Egypt, and the Western academic establishment refuse to: that Kemet was an African civilisation from its farmers to its pharaohs.
Previously on MF Galaxy I’ve had a range of guests discussing African Egypt, including Molefi Kete Asante, Martin Bernal, Richard Poe, and Runoko Rashidi. Today I’m delighted to add a new authority to the roster: Deidra Ramsey McIntyre. She’s a programmer, tech-writer, journalist, entrepreneur, and teacher. She’s been a cross-disciplinary writer on Kemet for years, bridging genetics, culture, and ancient documents to demonstrate the Africanity of the Nile Valley civilisation.
McIntyre is also the administrator of the Facebook group Africa: Ancient Kemet & Nubia connection group. She creates succinct infographics about Kemet’s Africanity, and writes at length about Kemet on Quora.
McIntyre spoke with me by Skype from her home on February 22, 2018. We discussed:
Along the way, we discussed a range of topics, some of which don’t get explained in our conversation. So, a few notes:
Many Canadians, Indigenous and settler alike, were furious to learn the back-to-back verdicts in two murder cases. Juries declared Gerald Stanley not guilty of killing 22-year-old Colten Boushie, and Raymond Courmier not guilty of killing 14-year-old Tina Fontaine. The cases exposed how our colonial justice system makes it easy to exclude Indigenous citizens from juries and how rarely families can expect those who kill their loved ones to go to prison.
Some people protested in the streets. Some people protested with their art. Some people wept for the dead and for the future of their children. And some people did all three.
One such man is Rex Smallboy, the former leader of War Party, one of the country’s most successful hip hop bands ever. The motivational speaker and award-winning artist from Alberta’s Maskwacis Cree reserve released the song “Hey They Killing Us” immediately after the jury freed Tina Fontaine’s killer. You’ll hear it later in this show in which Smallboy discusses:
Rex Smallboy spoke with me by Skype on March 6, 2018. During our discussion he referred to Hobbema, the former settler name for the Maskwacis Cree reserve 70 km south of Edmonton.
Marvel’s Black Panther is a global sensation. As of Saturday, March 3, 2018, only two weeks and two days into its release, the Ryan Coogler/Joe Robert Cole film has grossed $US898 million worldwide. Within its first week it had outgrossed what DC’s Justice League took three months to earn, and the entire US runs of Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, The Incredible Hulk, the first Captain America, and the first two Thor films. It had the fifth-highest opening of all time and the third-highest four-day opening ever.
Of course, money isn’t everything, but the astonishing success of a film that is 100% obviously Africentric, starring African characters played by African actors, written by two African writers and directed by an African director, is game-changing. It negates in sky-writing every Hollywood executive who ever claimed that US-made movies about and by Africans could not make money outside the US.
And this is within the same 12-month period in which the African-made, Africentric film Get Out, shot on a budget of a paltry $4.5 million, earned a quarter of a billion dollars globally.
We’ve all seen the photos of African-Americans and African-Canadians wearing gorgeous African clothing to watch the premiere of the movie, and it’s clear that the film is inspiring generations of young and older global Africans the way that Star Wars inspired filmmakers and fans worldwide.
There are countless articles and podcasts and interviews about Black Panther, and some people have posted Wakanda curricula online—in fact, mine will be online at ministerfaust.com next week. And obviously the film has its detractors, too.
To discuss the film I asked a wide range of global African writers, filmmakers, academics, and political organisers to tell me their own experience of the film, its characters, its social significance, and its likely impact on Africentric filmmaking. On today’s episode of MF GALAXY, you’ll hear:
And for today’s episode, like last week’s show, I’m offering the bonus content for free. Find part 2 of today’s episode right now at patreon.com/mfgalaxy.
A reminder that this show is 100% spoilers.
Maybe you’ve been chained at the centre of the earth and the mole-people have been jamming your wifi since you got there, and that’s why you don’t know about the breathtaking Marvel blockbuster Black Panther. If so, I don’t know how you’re hearing this podcast, but my sympathies to you and I’ll try to lower a pitcher of lemonade on a long rope.
But for everyone else, as of February 21, not even a week after opening day, the $200M-budget movie has earned $441 million worldwide. The idea that a completely Africentric science fiction film with a pan-African cast, set in a fictional African country, with no major European stars, and written and directed by Africans, could achieve one of the biggest opening weeks ever was, even a few years ago, unthinkable. You could even say the idea of that success itself was Africentric science fiction. And now, it’s reality.
Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole wrote it, Coogler directed it, and Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, and Letitia Wright among many others starred in it, and it’s outstanding. Story-wise, in many ways it’s an Africentric Star Wars but set on Earth. The film inspired massive anticipation, far more than I ever would have guessed, and many African movie goers attended wearing gorgeous continental clothing to celebrate and posted their photographs to prove it.
But with so many people expecting so much, including some people who know very little about superheroes and science fiction, it’s inevitable that many people expected this action movie to do things that action movies can’t and shouldn’t do: that is, provide a saintly portrait of perfect people behaving nicely and checking off every box on their personal, political, cultural, and artistic agenda. Lemme tell you: no movie ever will do that, unless it’s two hours of rock-hard dullness.
This is an action movie with a mind, Marvel’s most intellectual, most feminist, and clearly most African. So I sat down at the African Safari Somali restaurant in the neighbourhood of Kush, Edmonton on February 18, 2018, with a group of brilliant and accomplished friends of mine: YA author Natasha Deen, arts organiser Darren Jordan, HIV activist Morenike Olaosebikan, Black Women United co-founder Junetta Jamerson, and Member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta David Shepherd, to discuss the movie and its social significance. And let me be clear, our discussion is 100% spoilers.
Today and next week, as a special gift in honour of African History Month, I’m releasing the extended versions of this show absolutely free. Just go to Patreon.com/mfgalaxy to download more than 40 minutes of extended content, no charge. Of course, if you want to support MF GALAXY, please become a sponsor and access all the other bonus content.
A correction—I refer to the Great Djenne Mosque of Mali as being in Timbuktu, but that was silly of me, because of course the Great Djenne Mosque is in, where else, Djenne. Timbuktu is a separate city.
Continuing our programming for Black Panther Month ahead of the local and international review panels for the Marvel blockbuster, we’re delving deeper into historical African martial arts, or HAMA. If you loved the exciting, aspirational vision of a fictional African technostate with its own fighting arts, MF Galaxy is your show to learn about actual combat systems from the continent.
Yes, you know about East Asian martial arts such as Chinese kung fu, Korean tae kwon do, and Japanese judo, but what about Sudanese Nuba wrestling? Or stickfighting from Ancient Egypt called Tahtib or from Zululand called Nguni? Or Madagascari boxing called moraingy?
To discuss those forms and more, I spoke with Mansa Myrie. Originally from Red Deer, Alberta, Myrie is the Chief Operations Officer of the Historical African Martial Arts Association, a new and international organisation whose aim is to promote verifiable information about and practice of historical African fighting arts and warfare.
Myrie spoke with me from his home in Hamilton, Ontario by Skype on January 17, 2018. We discussed:
Along the way, he mentions “the Hamitic hypothesis” and the Hyksos. The Hamitic hypothesis was a 19th century European myth that survives to this day—a European racial esteem fantasy to claim that a range of African civilisations including Ancient Egypt were actually European. The Hyksos, or more properly known by their Ancient Egyptian name Heka Khasut, were non-African invaders from the west and east who at times dominated the country.
Dr. Adel Boulad video
This is Black Panther Month on MF GALAXY and with all the excitement surging about the Marvel movie about the Wakanda super-genius, superhero, super-fighter, the time is right to go beyond fictional African martials arts and discover authentic, deadly African martial arts from across the continent and across history.
Most people in the West think of the phrase “martial arts” as referring to East Asian fighting systems such as kung fu, karate, and tae kwon do, without realising that “martial arts” means any combat system. And certainly every culture in the world produced its own combat systems or its people would have been assimilated or annihilated.
So it really should not be a surprise that the African continent, home to humanity and birthplace of civilisation, should have scores of martials arts, ranging from the wrestling, sword systems, and stick fighting of Ancient Egypt, to the range of West African fighting arts, and that’s where we begin today.
Balogun Ojetade is a fascinating man with a remarkable history. The African-American playwright, filmmaker, and Steamfunk novelist is also a master of martials arts from Yoruba civilisation, an area covering Togo, Benin, and part of Nigeria. He runs the international African Martial Arts Institute whose headquarters are in Atlanta.
The school features a trio of West African systems he groups under the name Egbe Ogun, and seeks to promote African histories and cultures though demonstrations, lectures, workshops, classes, films, plays, and music. Egbe Ogun is a formidable system, and its experts are more than capable of meeting fighters from any other art head-on.
On January 18, 2018 Balogun Ojetade spoke with me by Skype from his home in Atlanta. We discussed:
To hear nearly half-an-hour of patrons-only bonus content from our conversation, visit mfgalaxy.org to click on the Patreon link to become a sponsor for a dollar or more per week.
By funding MF GALAXY, you get access to all extended editions of the show including this one with West African martial arts master Balogun Ojetade discussing:
What were the weapons in the arsenal of a man who survived a vicious racial dictatorship to emerge as an international ambassador for his people and his craft?
In the case of Hugh Masekela, who returned to the ancestors on January 23, 2018, the answer is two-part: a gramophone, and a Louis Armstrong trumpet.
Born outside Johannesburg in 1939, Masekela began playing music at age three--by way of winding his grandmother's gramophone and singing along. In his career, his own music would fuse South African mbaqanga, bebop, funk, and Nigerian Afrobeat. His prolific six decades of making music took him around the world and granted him the personal victories of playing with such titans Abdullah Ibrahim, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Zensi Miriam Makeba, and Fela Anikulapo Kuti. His single “Grazing in the Grass” in the early 1970s topped the Rolling Stones’ “Jumping Jack Flash” on the US charts.
Humble and down-to-earth, yet deeply intelligent with a sweeping international perspective on art, politics, economics, and justice, Masekela was difficult to put in a single category. He didn’t even call himself a jazz musician.
After the Neo-Nazi apartheid regime banned his music, Masekela was forced to live in exile. He compared the effects of Apartheid to the effects of the European Holocaust against West and Central Africa, in that each operated by “making people lose their identity—that’s why families were broken up, so people lose their roots and self-esteem…. But it’s very difficult to take away in-grown culture from a person. It has failed throughout the ages.”
As if living in exile and the domestic banning of his music weren’t enough repression, his 1969 album Masekela was returned by a North American distributor “because they felt it was too radical.” But that didn’t make him hesitate to work with and befriend other radical artists and activists, including the late, brilliant Nigerian co-founder of Afrobeat, Fela Anikulapo Kuti. He eventually toured internationally with Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Zensi Miriam Makeba, and Ray Phiri, was featured in the 2003 documentary Amandla!, released the autobiography Still Grazing, and remained active in humanitarian causes such as the Lunchbox Fund which serves meals to students at Soweto schools.
I was privileged to interview Hugh Masekela by telephone in September, 2000 before he performed in Edmonton, and meet him when he arrived. If you go to MFGalaxy.org and click today’s show notes, you’ll find a playlist of Hugh Masekela songs and videos that speak for themselves or accompany parts of our conversation.
Ron Pederson. I never worked with him but we crossed paths a bunch of times in Edmonton’s sketch comedy, improv, and theatre community, and then one day I up and turn on my TV and boom! There he is on MadTV, which for me was the funniest US sketch show ever made.
I shouldn’t’ve been so surprised he’d hit the big time. Other Edmontonians had made it big, including Michael J. Fox, Jill Hennessy from Law & Order, Bruce McCulloch from Kids in the Hall, and Nathan Fillion from Firefly. And Edmonton was and is English-speaking Canada’s leading theatre and sketch-improv city.
Still, to see a kid I knew on MadTV was exciting, and Ron was great. Plus I’d seen him kill in the gonzo science fiction musical comedy Road to Uranus by Dana Anderson and Cathleen Rootsaert. And he’d been a mainstay in the longform improv community with shows such as Die-Nasty!, and worked all across Canada with major outfits such as the Citadel in Edmonton, the Stratford Festival, the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, Tarragon, and more. So why not MadTV, huh?
But after three seasons, Ron left MadTV, and for plenty of people, by which I mean me, that raised the question, “What the hell? After you get on a show like freaking MadTV, why would you ever leave?”
Well, I decided to ask him.
In today’s MF GALAXY, Ron Pederson discusses:
We spoke by Skype on November 11, 2014.
To hear the nearly half an hour of patrons-only bonus content from my conversation with Ron Pederson, visit mfgalaxy.org to click on the Patreon link to become a sponsor for a dollar or more per week.
By funding MF GALAXY, you get access to all extended editions of the show including this one with Ron Pederson discussing:
Hey, MF GALAXY crew! Minister Faust here. Why not add your voice to the MF GALAXY podcast and the MF GALAXY blog?
That’s what listener and patron Jeff Quest did when I asked for opinions on the women of Star Wars, the Last Jedi. Jeff Quest is the blogger at SpyWrite.com and spybrary.com. In the following, he talks about how Rey is not only the new Luke Skywalker—she’s actually the better one.
Star Wars, The Last Jedi has got people talking about its exciting characters and battles and how iconic characters achieve their glory or meet their end. And for the first time there are plenty of female speaking roles in a Star Wars film: Rey, Rose and Paige Tico, Vice Admiral Holdo, Maz Kanata, Captain Phasma, and of course Princess Leia.
Some people claim, though, that reactions to the film are split along gender lines—that men hate it and women love it, because it’s the first Star Wars film to ask and answer the question, “What happens when men don’t listen to women?”
Well, obviously there are women who hate the film and men who love it (me included), but rather than argue about love-hate gender percentages that no one has actually measured, why not just ask some remarkable women what they thought about the female characters, their personalities and deeds, and whether the film does them justice?
So I did. On today’s MF GALAXY you’ll hear from Lisa Yaszek, science fiction scholar at Georgia Tech; Sylvia Douglas, a lead organiser of Lady Geeks Unite in Edmonton, and SG Wong, speculative crime novelist and community organiser, also from Edmonton.
Together, they’ll cover:
Sylvia Douglas + Lady Geeks Unite
pwp.gatech.edu/lyaszek (copy and paste this link into your browser)
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.