Happening in Calgary: Cracks in the Pavement

Poster: City Repair Calgary presents: Cracks in the Pavement: Placemaking and the Remaking of the Modern City with Mark Lakeman“Cracks in the Pavement” is a talk on Thursday, July 17 about reclaiming public spaces, by architect and urban designer Mark Lakeman. Doors open at 6:30, and tickets cost $15-25 (pre-register and save!)

I’ve always found the idea of designing urban spaces so that a diverse group of people are living together and interacting with one another an intriguing one. The talk itself focuses on reclaiming spaces within existing communities, from turning an intersection into a community gathering space to creating a community garden, getting neighbours and children and pets out into the same space so that they can all get to know one another.

Reading some of Lakeman’s work, he uses an interesting phrase: he’s all about creating “place” out of “space.” A place is somewhere you hang out, meet friends and play D&D, but a space is just an empty area that nothing is drawn to.

This week is a busy one for me, so I won’t be able to make it. I’m counting on you all to tweet about it!

A whimsical photoshoot with Calgary model Sara Woolverton

Instagram of one of the fountains at Central Memorial Park, via my @giesencreative account

Instagram: “Scouting out the area for a photoshoot. Totally forgot to bring bug spray.”

This Tuesday, I went down to Central Memorial Park in downtown Calgary for a photoshoot. The park is a brilliant spot for photography and includes fountains, park benches, trees of all kinds, and a wonderful old library building. But mostly, it’s one of the only places in Calgary that has a full-sized fountain (or two), which is exactly what I needed in my photos.

I’ve been planning and sketching an urban fantasy-style series of paintings for some time now, At this point, I’m collecting some photos that will act as references for specific pieces—including some photos I took on Tuesday that will help me paint the piece I’m planning to submit for the LoveCraft Gallery’s show in August, Fluid Click here to see the photos.

Open dialogue and diversity in SFF

If you haven’t guessed from any of my previous posts, a big part of my worldview centres on feminism, and I also try to make my feminism intersectional as much as I can.

Intersectionality is a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw to help describe the experiences black women and women of colour, and it basically means that any given person is affected by all of their identities. Unlike other feminist theory of the time (and even today), intersectionality recognizes the impact of not just gender, but race, sexual orientation, gender identity, class and education.

What this means for me is that I need to recognize that I have certain privileges that helped me get to where I am. An example I often use: as a teenager, I had the ambition and the drive as to pull together my own education in the arts (and get into art school) despite living in a small town with no access to art classes. But while not everyone in my situation would have been able to pull that off, my family also had the resources to both send me to different cities to learn and give me the leisure time I needed to study/create art.

School bus at Vancouver Pride 2009

Vancouver Pride 2009

Also, the level of safety and security that most Canadians enjoy (a low 1.6 in 100,000 chance of being murdered) contributes to our ability to participate in conversations around culture, as well as create art and literature ourselves. But not everyone has access to the same level of security: while this doesn’t stop LGBT participation in activism and culture, hate crimes against gay people still happen in Canada, and transgender youth face an enraging amount of verbal abuse and physical violence. Aboriginal and First Nations women, meanwhile, make up 16% of all female homicide victims in Canada, even though they represent only 4.3% of the population. The difficulties that members of any particular group face add to the hurdles that they have to overcome to contribute to culture—and that’s without looking at whether they have a harder time finding someone to listen to them.

So for me, part of feminism is about awareness, and part of it is about saying “Dude, not cool” when someone makes a joke that punches down . Read More for how we can use this starting point to have better conversations in SFF.

Happening in Calgary: LoveCraft’s Abstract Art Reception

The page image is Looking to the Future by Jennifer Park, one of the pieces exhibited in the LoveCraft Gallery’s Abstract show.

This week, I’m heading back to the LoveCraft Gallery for Tracy and Daria’s newest show, Abstract (RSVP here). On Friday, July 11 at 5 p.m., the doors open for a chance to mix and mingle with some of Calgary’s most creative individuals, and to take in some beautiful artworks that you might not have a chance to see otherwise.

I’m not talking about beauty as defined by historians and New York City gallery directors. I’m talking about the kind of beauty in an artwork that can stop you in your tracks.

But what if you don’t have any interest in abstract works? A lot of people like to look at and collect specific works of art: we have a lot of ravens and wolves in our house, for instance. But whether you prefer concept art or fan art, landscapes or portraits, digital art or oil paintings, I think you should give Abstract a chance. Read More…

Recap: LoveCraft Gallery Grand Opening

LoveCraft Gallery Entrance on 60th Street SE, Calgary, Alberta.The page photo should give you an indication that LoveCraft Gallery co-directors Daria Fox (left) and Tracy Sutherland (right) are the perfect partners in crime. The two of them are incredibly creative and talented women: Daria is a jeweller and artisan that focuses on the tactile in her jewellery and craft; and Tracy is an ACAD graduate in fibre whose works are often smooth and flowing, created through a cathartic process of spinning, dyeing and weaving. Daria is “a well-spoken confident ball of energy;” Tracy is the kind of person who spots a Groupon and puts out a call on Facebook to ask “Who wants to try out whitewater rafting?” Between the two of them, they’ve got some business savvy. Daria is a serial entrepreneur and Tracy is well-versed in the rules of the game: for several months before the grand opening, I’ve seen how busy she’s been getting permits, sorting out business structure, securing funding and applying for grants.

The opportunity to open LoveCraft Gallery came when a space opened up in the 1800 block of the International Avenue business revitalization zone. It’s a great spot for the arts; while Forest Lawn has a bad reputation dating back to the mid-1900s, it’s actually a pretty happening place these days, home to a plethora of multicultural events as well as the well-known, week-long GlobalFest in August. And as Daria herself has pointed out, artists are being pushed out of the downtown with Art Central closing—there’s a need to create more sustainable hubs for the Calgary arts scene. Read More…

Happening in Calgary: Treaty 7 Tribe Days

Water Blue Heron House RRU

Down by the lagoon/bird sanctuary near the Blue Heron House at Royal Roads University.

One of the things that I’ve realized as a student of Royal Roads is that I don’t know a lot about the different First Nations cultures of Canada, or much about the First Nations cultures that are practiced and celebrated where I live. Part of the reason I realized this is because Royal Roads does give some visibility to Victoria’s Aboriginal communities. The school itself acknowledges that its lands are part of Coast Salish territory, and it has specific goals to support its Indigenous and Metis students and alumni (although I can’t personally speak to how well it does this). Indiginist and postcolonial research paradigms are taught as part of the classwork, and I’ve had the opportunity to hear a little bit about the lives of my fellow students who are First Nations and who work in First Nations communities. More recently, our intercultural communications class brought us to the Blue Heron House to learn about how the school interacts with local First Nations communities (and granted, it does sound like there can be tension there).

In that session at the Blue Heron House, where all the chairs were placed in a circle and we had the opportunity to speak about our own experiences and ask questions, I asked how people who aren’t members of First Nations communities can get to know more about those communities and their cultures. This is especially important to me because I’m a writer and a content creator, and I think it would be boring to only tell stories that are about people like me. The thing is, nobody exists for the purpose of “serving” my need for education, and I don’t want to approach anyone with that assumption. Read about the Calgary Stampede Indian Village… and the Stampede’s history in preserving First Nations culture.

Happening in Calgary: Intro to Ruby

introrubyWant to challenge your comfort zone and learn something new? The Chic Geek is providing a chance for women to get their geek on and learn a brand new programming language. It’s a great opportunity because even if you don’t know anything about programming, you can use this workshop to tackle concepts that are used in every programming language. It’s a great first step into the world of computer programming, and you’ll have the chance to start with hands-on projects like creating math and word games.

I wrote about the Chic Geek’s Ruby workshop last year, and a lot of the information there is still going to be valid. It’s also a good idea to check out “What to Expect from Your First LLC Workshop” if you’re looking for more information before you dive in (and I also wrote a recap on their WordPress class last summer.)

Ladies Learning Code: Intro to Ruby is $54.49 including tax, and runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 28. This includes lunch and a chance to meet some absolutely awesome individuals. Sales end tonight, so hurry!

Happening in Calgary: Better Photos Crash Course

my camera

My own setup. Decent for video as long as you separately record the sound.

I’ll admit it: I shoot in full auto mode a lot more than I should. If you’ve got a DSLR—which at this point, might as well be any camera that’s bigger than your phone—there’s a lot that you might be missing out on.

Note: A DSLR is usually a digital camera with interchangeable lenses. Email imagesquare@canada.canon.com to ask if you can use your own camera in this course.

Image Square—the local “Canon Experience Centre”—is offering a course called Better Photos with Simple Steps – Crash Course Part 1. The course covers the fundamental problems all photographers deal with: getting sharp images, shooting in low light conditions, dealing with moving subjects… getting sharp images while shooting moving subjects in low light conditions. The usual.

You might be a good candidate for this course if you consider yourself a beginner, but want to learn more about how to get the most out of your powerful little DSLR. You can use any brand of camera for the course, not just Canon, and all you need is your camera, a charged battery and a memory card.

The class is $84 and runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 21.

More than a single story in Science Fiction & Fantasy

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: The Danger of a Single Story

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on “The Danger of a Single Story

When Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie talked about the stories she wrote as a child, she said that “All my characters were white and blue-eyed, they played in the snow… Now, this despite the fact that I lived in Nigeria. I had never been outside Nigeria.”

As human beings, we see the world through the lens of the stories we read, learn and tell. We need old stories to build new stories, because the old stories are already in place in the minds of our audience. A guest speaker in one of my classes gave this example: in film, the audience learns to take for granted what it’s seeing. In a movie from the 1950s, you’ll see a teenager in a car drive down the street, stop the car, get out, ring the doorbell, wait, and then we’ll see the door open to reveal his date. In a movie today, you’ll see a car drive down the street, you’ll see the teenager ringing the doorbell, and you’ll see the door open. (1) Our brains are built for taking shortcuts, and as a filmmaker, you can use that tendency to cut down on the time you spend “explaining” something through visuals.

As the “audience,” though, we need to be exposed to those old stories before you can show us new ones. And as Adichie found out as a child, we need to be exposed to those old stories before we can tell new ones. Adichie credits authors like Chinua Achebe (Things Fall Apart) and Camara Laye (L’Enfant noir) with her realization that people like her, “girls with skin the color of chocolate, whose kinky hair could not form ponytails, could also exist in literature.” And it was that exposure to books with protagonists like her that let her begin to write about her own experiences.  Read More…

Avoiding conflict (and making the situation worse)

Conflict is inevitable. It happens every day, even in our most mundane interactions with other people, from merging in traffic to dealing with the person at the office who took the last cup of coffee without brewing a new pot. To quote Moussa Magassa, human rights educator at the University of Victoria, “It’s just friction, and it will always be there.” (1) The only question lies in how we manage it, and how well.

When conflict arises, there are two constructive ways to handle it (2):

  1. Removing the problem. This could mean removing myself from the situation: taking a few minutes to cool off, or even changing jobs. Other times, this means forgiving myself for that thing that’s just not a priority right now (like maybe learning a second language) and giving myself permission to strike it from my to-do list.
  2. Changing how you react to the situation. If my first inclination is to yell at the person who took the last cup of coffee (unlikely, since I don’t drink it), I might want to re-think my approach. How can I get what I want out of a conversation? By tailoring my actions to the person I’m speaking with.

To make a massive understatement, we don’t always deal with conflict in constructive ways. In my experiences through school, work and personal relationships in Canada, I’ve found that one of the most common ways of dealing with the rising friction between two or more people is to avoid it. And specifically, to avoid acknowledging it. Read More…

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