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Gord Downie, 53 → 

October 18 2017 |

“Fireworks exploding the distance

Temporary towers soar

Fireworks emulating heaven

Til there are no stars anymore.”

Damn.

The Best of the Tragically Hip Mixtape.




Precision in language (and identity)

October 5 2017 |

You’re writing a story about people living in Toronto. Do you refer to them as

a. Torontonians

b. Ontarians

c. Canadians

d. North Americans

Every answer is technically right. However, there are different levels of accuracy within each term.

If people in Toronto are voting for a new mayor you’d probably say “Torontonians are going to the polls” rather than “North Americans are going to the polls”, because it more precisely communicates the identity of the people you’re talking about.

I bring this up in the context of a column written by Melanie Lefebvre and Alicia Elliott for the Walrus titled ‘We Didn’t Choose to Be Called Indigenous.’1 It’s a meditation on the way in which Indigenous/Aboriginal/Native/Indian people have been given generic monikers over the years, rather than being referred to by their specific nation.

“The continual refusal of Canada to acknowledge our names for ourselves, insisting instead on “Indian,” or later “Aboriginal,” or now “Indigenous,” has ideological roots in the same idea. We name you. We grant you your identity—or not. You are ours to name as we choose. “

By the end, they suggest some steps Canadians can take to take part in reconciliation, including, “Learn the treaty history of the lands that you live on. Learn how to say the names of the Indigenous nations who traditionally cared for those lands—in their language.”

In my read, it’s an ask to learn and think about Indigenous people not as a generic, catch-all category but in more specific ways: Dakelh are not Haida are not Annishnawbe any more than Albertans are Manitobans are Newfoundlanders or Canadians and Mexicans are Americans despite being part of North America. There is a certain amount of shared experience, but there are also unique historic and cultural characteristics that make more precise terms helpful.

However, in a somewhat less charitable reading, former Walrus editor Jon Kay summarized the piece this way:

In his subsequent replies, Kay makes clear it’s his belief Elliott and Lefebvre are arguing the word “Indigenous” is no longer an OK to use and are embarking in language policing:

“Ive read a LOT of pieces like this over last year. Lots of focus on labels. This one seems like a rhetorical ante-raise over the others.”

“In six months, there will be another preferred label. I’ll wait for that one.”

“the smallness is the problem. college students & social-justice activists think they’re saving the world by policing language on FB threads”

The thing is, I don’t understand where Kay’s reading of this piece comes from (I’ve asked him, he’s yet to reply).

One reason I don’t think Lefebvre and Elliott are attempting to prevent anyone from using the term “Indigenous” is because they use it themselves, multiple times in the piece.

They also specifically acknowledge the impracticality of referring to specific nations at all times, writing, “We could not be “The Hopitu-Oceti-Sakowin-Kanien’kehá:ka-Powhatan-Chahta-Annishnawbe-Beothuk,” and acknowledge there is some use in catch-all terms such as “Indigenous” to acknowledge shared/similar experience across groups as a result of the last 200 years or so.

The suggestion, as I read it, is simply to strive for the most accurate terminology possible when referring to Indigenous people: “Indigenous” works when referring to people from different nations, but if you’re speaking about an individual, find out which nation they belong to– how they self-identify– and use that.

It’s precision in language and it’s something I personally think is worth striving for.

 


  1. Elliott has said she doesn’t feel the title accurately reflects the purpose of the piece

Filed under: writing





250News shutting down → 

September 15 2017 |

This is shame. 250News.com has been an important force in the world of media and politics in Prince George and beyond.
 
I remember when I had a short internship working in a government office there were some key websites political operatives monitored — the Vancouver Sun, The Victoria Times-Colonist, and 250News as a sole representative from the north. Over the past decade it’s probably the news site I’ve visited the most, and I’ve learned a lot as both a citizen and a journalist from reading it.
 
The dedication the Meisners showed to covering city hall is especially commendable, and the legacy is the number of of other organizations that now dedicate resources to council meetings and others– and one I hope carries on, because without 250 there everyone else is going to have to step up their game.
 
As Tyler Sabourin points out, they also were pioneers in digital news, from publishing news as it happens to fostering an online community of people engaged in local goings-ons.
 
Elaine Macdonald-Meisner apologizes to those who will miss the organization, but no apology is needed– she’s making the decision that’s best for her, and I’m glad of it.
 
Hats off to her, and to the late Ben Meisner, and to everyone who made a go of independent local news in the north.




I really like having a second Facebook profile for just work…

September 10 2017 |

…and I recommend it but also I’ve realized Facebook is kind of terrible.

Backstory:

Just over four months ago I decided to make a second Facebook profile to use on a professional level. You can read more about why here, but a quick summary is:

I also promised that I would follow-up with some thoughts and my first one is I cannot believe it took me this long to do it.

 

It is really nice to have work separated from home

The first thing I did after creating the professional profile was go to my personal profile and leave every group, unfollow every page and unfriend everyone that I was only connected with for work-related reasons.

And, oh man, is it great. There are a lot of ways you could solve the issues I was having like uninstalling Facebook from your phone or adjusting notifications or whatever but this worked for me. Also I feel WAAAAAAY better when I join a community group and start asking questions with the intention of using that information for reporting purposes — I still clarify it, but it just feels way more explicit now that my name is “Andrew Kurjata – Journalist” everywhere I post.

Also, the weekend comes and it is just like my work email — out of sight, out of mind. No more work related messages popping up while I’m supposed to be not working (for the most part, I am still working on work/life balance but this has definitely helped).

 

It also made it clear to me how awful some aspects of Facebook really are

The other thing that doing this has clarified for me is seeing just how bad Facebook is in some ways. For literally years I thought the reason I was constantly getting brand-related posts and missing updates from my sister was because the way I was using Facebook was wrong– all the pages and groups and stuff I liked was the reason my notifications and newsfeed felt so… stressful.

Turns out this isn’t true– Facebook is actually just kind of terrible.

After carefully culling my friends list and then making an even smaller group of family and close friends who I wanted to see turn up in my newsfeed, I *still* get a bunch of advertising and posts far disconnected from what I want, which is updates from friends and family.

Instead of notifications about random groups I now get them about so-and-so liking such-and-such a page and constant pestering to add new people to my friends list– people I’ve never met but they are a friend of a friend or whatever.

I had a vision that once I made my personal Facebook more ~personal~ that it would also feel more personal because it would just be nice notes and not a bunch of ads. If anything, the advertising is even *more* apparent now.

The result is I’m using Facebook on a personal level much less, because it has become very clear that the problems I have with it are not because I’m doing something wrong, but because Facebook is designed in a way that does not appeal to me.1

 

The downside

I should mention a couple of things that aren’t great. One is you can’t really be logged into messenger from two accounts at once except on separate devices. I often will get messages to my personal account during the day that are somewhat pertinent while I’m logged into my professional one. The solution, I guess, is to try and get people to chat with me elsewhere, but I’d also like it if less people were on Facebook, so.

Also some things I’m not super sure about where to post– like this write-up, for example. I’ll probably wind up putting it on both my accounts which sucks for people who are friends with both but idk whatcha gonna do ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Also I fear that one day Facebook will find my account and tell me it is a *brand* and I will have to convert it to a page and I will feel stupid about it, but until then here we are.

Conclusion

I mean I dunno it’s just me but I love it and I suspect if you’ve *considered* making a separate Facebook account for reasons at all similar to why I have you will probably love it, too.


  1. The thing that’s especially frustrating about this is some things Facebook does are actually really great. Events, for one. Messaging is pretty good, although I would like a better way to search. And their ‘memories’ feature is beautiful and surfaces stuff I do like to see- human connections. Unfortunately the day-to-day just feels broken. 




Saskatoon Berry Appreciation Thread

September 10 2017 |

Note: I keep reminding myself that although Twitter and Facebook are great I should remember to put stuff on here. It’s a heck of a lot easier to go back through a blog and find some old post or idea you were playing with. Anyways, here’s one from Twitter, July 23.




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