Saturday, 12 March 2016

The Wild West and the Feminine Role

So Western106 is winding down. The sun is setting as we ride out to the range one last time. I sat on my front porch and watched the cattle be driven by my door but didn't help in the round up of the herd.

The West should have been a great topic to have fun with. It has great visual images, readily identifiable characters and has had great staying power as a genre, plus all that lovely language! Yeller belly, the Code of the West, hog tied, a lick and a promise, stop yer bellyaching, fit as a fiddle and reach for the sky to name a few. There are tons of websites out there to help you get the language right.

But as many have noted, it really is a man's genre. This is not to say there haven't been some strong women interspersed here and there throughout the genre, but we're like vanilla extract added to a chocolate cake. It enhances the flavour, but it is so subtle that you don't notice it.

If you're a woman, you've noticed it I am sure. It's like women in history generally. If you're not a queen, filthy rich, a poisoner or great beauty, well you're just part of the great unwashed. (Unless you're a witch. Men fear witches. Burned a lot for 400 years+. But that is another story.) Women are like wallpaper in history. Just part of the background. In the Western, it is the man, his battle with the elements or other men that is the focus. It's a war movie, but instead of fighting for king and country, it is more individual because you are fighting over your cattle, your land and your gold. And your women. We're just another type of reward for the conquering male hero in the Western.

So I feel limited as a creator in this genre, more than any other I have participated in in DS106. Horror, fantasy, film noir, gothic, mysteries would allow me to be a strong female protagonist but I feel that in this genre it means that my role could only be a violent one (or a wilting flower). And I just didn't feel like strapping on the gun. Or analysing the genre. Perhaps because I just didn't want to see that society and the gender roles within North American society haven't changed that much since the Western started rolling out 200 years ago.

I appreciate, as always, the DS106 communities support of my level of participation and the opportunity to express my views.

Riding off into the sunset....

Sunday, 7 February 2016

The Caribou Trail and the Western Genre

So I should probably confess right up front that the Western Genre is not a personal favourite of mine. Or should I say certain aspects of it aren't. What are those aspects, you ask? Well The Caribou Trail was probably the worst possible movie for me to watch to get myself into the mindset for #western106. This is not to say I haven't watched a few westerns in my time. Two Mules for Sister Sara, True Grit, The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, Little Big Man, Blazing Saddles. And some Westerns were very, very good. But unlike film noir, which are often small, focus, character driven movies set in the time period of the viewer when first produced, westerns are based on historical "facts." And history as we know is written by the "winners". And there was a lot of stretching of the "facts" in these movies and others.

Let me list the reasons why Westerns don't do it for me:

a) Lack of Historical / Geographical  Accuracy: Westerns take great big historical liberties. The Caribou Trail is a prime example. This movie takes place in the northern interior of British Columbia. A beautiful province that had a gold rush in the late 1850's. The hero is a cattleman from Montana hoping to settle his cattle in the area. Well Montana wasn't really settled yet in the late 1850's and there weren't herds of cattle there yet as the Americans hadn't finished off killing the buffalo by then. The cattle could and did come from California up to the Caribou but maybe California isn't "Western" enough? (Though we all know geographically speaking it is a lot further west than Montana.) The Caribou Trail really got started in the early 1860's and while a few Americans moved up the Caribou Trail from the Fraser Valley gold rush it was mostly Canadian and British who participated in the Caribou Gold Rush.  Last but not least, the movie was filmed in Colorado.

b) Racial Stereotypes: Every Indian is a "bad" Indian in a Western. And every "Indian" is usually a Blackfoot. They wear "war paint" and live in "teepees". There is a "Chinaman" who cooks and cleans and takes care of everyone. Now I know this isn't a big deal for some people, but for me this is huge. This type of stereotype is harmful and continues to be perpetuated. Canada has just finished going through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission where it was found that the Canadian Government deliberately committed cultural genocide starting in 1880. It was part land grab, part "You need to be English or French but not Indian." Residential schools have been operated during my lifetime. It was part of government policy. And it has harmed thousands of people.

For many years the Chinese were also discriminated against in this country. We needed them to help build the railway that united Canada, but wanted them to go home when we were done with them. We had multiple Immigration Acts that controlled the number of Chinese that could come to this country. Even into the late 1930's white women were jailed for having relationships with Chinese men.So yeah, the stereotypes make me cringe.

c) Guns and Violence: They are everywhere in the Western and in this movie. Is the Western really a romance in disguise about people and their guns? Is the reason Westerns resonate is because of the American love affair with their weapons? If you look at the opening of the west, from the time Daniel Boone crossed over the Appalachians into Kentucky in 1767, the opening of the west was just a giant land grab from the natives. Everyone wants to pretend that the Americans fought for their freedom from "British Tyranny" for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but in truth the real reason that the American Revolution was fought was for land and taxes. After the French Indian War was resolved through treaty settlements, the British wanted financial contributions from the states to help pay for the war (through taxes) and also to appease their native allies by restricting American access to their lands west of the Alleghenies. But land was wealth and natives were in the way. The idea that might (and the gun) was always right seeped into the American conscious and has been firmly lodged there ever since, regardless of the fact that it was not ideals that propelled a nation into being but greed for land.

d) Women and Violence: I am not sure I even have to write anything here about this. A woman in the Western genre falls into the same stereotypical slots she always does: A mother, a wife, a hooker. And if she is able to look after herself she has a gun.

e) The only person who looks good in a Western are the white men.They always win.

From an educational perspective, I feel uncomfortable promulgating these myths and stereotypes. So I am going to have figure out a way to participate in #western106 that doesn't make me feel like I am helping promote these ideas. Ideas on how to do that without spoiling everyone else's fun is very much appreciated! Maybe I'll just do an updated version of Blazing Saddles!

Thursday, 31 December 2015

2015 in Review

So 2015 is on its last legs. What have I got done educationally this year? I didn't participate in any moocs, but I did stay connected with DS106, Postetmooc and TVSZ. So nothing new, just the maintenance of existing relationships. What did I do instead? I turned inward. I explored where I was with my own education. Was I happy with my level of education? Should I go back to school and do my PhD? Did moocs have a place in my life still? What aspects of my skills as an instructional designer should I develop? Should I branch out? Should I remain an instructional designer, when I am chained to a desk all day and feel it is not physically healthy?

So what are the answers to these questions? I would like to say that I have them, but I do not. I am not leaning towards doing a PhD, feeling the way I do about higher education, but I do so love exploring new ideas with people. So moocs may still be part of the picture. I recognize that this was not a year that I stretched myself intellectually but it was a year that I stretched myself artistically. I am still exploring whether that is more important to me than continuing to put letters behind my name so I can have the opportunity to teach. 

I am still enjoying exploring my options! As always, I am more than willing to participate in learning new things. Bring on the new year. 

Wishing all the very best for 2016 to you all!

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Etmooc Third Anniversary Challenge Part 2

Okay, I love Etmooc and how it continues to morph and change. Just read a post from Alan Levine (two posts actually) and as usual they were a hoot! The CMOOC that wouldn't die! and the accompanying poster looking at the long life of Etmooc. Well, there is a reason for that and today's nominee is one of those reasons.

Rhonda Jessen has influenced my thinking, kept me engaged (even when I want to curl up under a blanket and read rather than post) and is one of the founders of Post Etmooc, a fellow zombie and a DS106 cooking partner.

Little did I know when I started Etmooc, that I would find a great educator to share the experience of immersing myself in multiple online communities. Sometimes I think that is the secret to collaborative learning; that of finding not necessarily like minded people, but people who are willing and giving of themselves, to share an exploratory journey fearlessly. Three years later I know I can send an email and ask, "Do you have time to do a radio show?" "Feel like being a zombie this weekend?" or a "I am swamped and can't make it!" and know that I will get an encouraging response. This has been especially important this year as I have not been engaged online as much as in the past. Knowing that I can still reach out, even after a few months of no contact, allows me to be present fully in both the physical and digital space without it impacting negatively on each other, without stressing about performance and participation. Once again, it comes down to remaining engaged positively and keeping a good life balance.

Thank you Rhonda for that positive engagement!

Rhonda Jessen in Sydney, Australia

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Etmooc Third Anniversary Challenge Part 1

So Susan has sent us all a challenge.

My first selection is Alan Levine and his post All A-mazing.

Why this post and this Etmoocer?

First because this post speaks to me about the importance, not just of elementary teachers and the first years at school, but the power of setting goals for students and demonstrating that you, as a teacher, believe that every student can succeed and meet goals with support, encouragement and love. I truly believe that this magic formula works. I saw it happen in the schools I taught in. I also saw when it didn't happen, when teachers didn't embrace the joy of learning, or as the blog mentions, when teachers have discouraging, self-defeating outlooks about their students.

Students all know when you don't think much of them.

Second, Alan Levine was a presenter in Etmooc and introduced us all to DS106. I'd like to say that I DS106 everyday (I don't, wish I did!) but I value the time I do spend on any project with fellow DS106ers, particularly radio projects! He has been generous with his time to his students and fellow DS106ers and is a living, breathing embodiment of all of the great qualities a teacher should have. Thank you Alan.

Finally, this post struck a chord with me because I didn't have a Miss Apple Daisy of a teacher for Grade 1, in fact I had one of the discouraging types of teachers. I never have forgotten her name. And maybe it is time I say "thank you" to Mrs. Lynch because I have made sure throughout my teaching career (and all of its twists and turns) that I teach in a positive, uplifting manner and respect my students and their learning.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

#Noir106 and #NoirDS106Players present "Fatal Femmes"

Now from the look of my blog since the beginning of 2015 you would think that I have been cocooned during the coldest winter in years (at least here in Ontario, Canada) far away from the keyboard but in fact, I have been busy writing, writing, writing. And what makes it so fun is the collaborative nature of the project. In January, I started hearing about #noir106, a new version of #headless106, just with a different theme. Now I am not fond of Gimp and this laptop doesn't have Fireworks on it, so I actually don't make a lot of gifs anymore, but I do so love radio. And I like using Audacity even though I know Garageband is far superior (but not free). And I love to write. So I emailed quite a few people who I have worked with in the past and said "How about a #noir106 radio show?" And everyone signed up. I created a working document in Google Docs with a timeline for when things had to be done. We knew we had to have it done for the week of March 9th to coincide with the students who were enrolled in #noir106. No time limit on the length of the show and no rules about what we were going to put up. That's it.

The amazing benefits of working this way was that we used a single document, that could be edited over and over again. We had a brainstorming section, where new ideas could be added and subtracted. Ben Rimes suggested a noir radio play and did a huge amount of voicework, Rochelle Lockridge ended up being the overall executive producer, Christina Hendricks wanted to do some writing and soundwork but ended up doing so much more, Mariana Funes wanted to work on voiceovers, commercials and more (and did), Rhonda Jessen was committed to the cooking show and of course we had the blessings of IamTalkyTina. This is the benefit of synergy. We all brought energy, ideas and knowledge to the project. And more people. Before I knew it the project had grown to include Jim Groom, Kevin Hodgson, Ronald L, Rhonda's husband Tom, John Johnston, Nigel Robertson with original music provided by the Headless Inkspots, Viv Rolfe and David Kernohan. And it is all original content.

For me, watching Blond Ice was the key to moving the project along. Until I saw the movie, I really was unsure about how I was going to approach the whole topic of noir. I ended up writing a song that evening to send to Nanalou Burgeron to record, then researching and doing more reading on the whole noir phenomena after WWII, particularly the role of women in noir. I ended up writing the radio play "Three Fingers of Gin"with help from my sister Angela Ludbrook and my son Peter Young, while Mariana and I collaborated on the DS106 on the Couch piece. Then it was on to writing the commercials and the cooking show. Luckily, Rochelle Lockridge produced the radio play and Christina Hendricks was in charge of the foley so you will notice how wonderfully high end the radio show sounds. Ben Rimes as Jack and Talky Tina as Daphne de Beauvior were amazing.

Here is the poster for the

radio show according to Talky Tina.

Mariana also made a great poster showing her mastery of the gif.

But Rochelle had a slightly different cover of the play which I think has the actual title displayed correctly.
The great thing about how the show worked was how well we worked as a team, even though we live in different places in the world, in different time zones and all of us are very busy. And it was done on time and I hope without anyone feeling pressured. There was of course a minor contract dispute but when one of the players is the star, egos start to get in the way. It was quickly resolved.

On a side note, I find it interesting that roles espoused to women during the late 40's and into the early 60's in cinema have had such a long term impact on how North American culture still perceives women, their work and their level of participation in society. The echo of the "domestic goddess is a good girl and women of ambition are bad" is still reverberating through our society and I fear will continue to echo for many years yet. It certainly was a factor in my own life, one I fought against for many years and still fight against. When I was young it was more overt, but while it may not be as explicit, it is still there. It demonstrates the power of the spoken word, visual images and media to bring about change for both good or ill.

As for the complete show it will be on DS106Radio "Fatal Femmes" scheduled for 3/23/15 at 9PM EDT. Hope you tune in for a listen!

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

2014 in review

Well today is the last day of 2014 and, as always, a time of reflection. This year, I have limited my time online, more because of life circumstances than through inclination.

So what have I learned in 2014? I have experienced the loss of loved ones. I have continued to deal with the impact of illness on one's family. My parents have moved from the family home. I have started a new job far from my family. I have tried to maintain my connections online. And I cannot do it all well, so the first thing to go was my online presence. And yet, when I needed a break, when I needed to be creative, when life seemed a little overwhelming, I turned to my online world first.

There were many projects I would have liked to have created this past year- radio shows being first and foremost (I love DS106radio), some movies, gifs and posts as well. Writing I didn't do, stories I didn't finish. I didn't engage in #ccourses at all! I was barely present in #oclmooc even though I was a co-conspirator (though I did finish all my work for my presentation for the last week I still haven't sent in my info for the online bio!) and I didn't even publish a reflection about any of my experiences. That doesn't mean I didn't learn anything, I just didn't share my learning. Does that means it didn't happen? In a world of testing and reflecting and sharing, maybe. (So have I regressed to be a lurker again?) But the solace and pleasure I took from interacting infrequently online was enough. The fun of playing #TVSZ 6.0 brightened my spirits for weeks. My educational community can do that for me.

I'd like to thank everyone I interacted with over 2014. We may never met except virtually but I have treasured the experience. May the next year be one of learning, loving and creating. May your troubles be small and your blessings many.