Who, what, when, where. But why?

“Where are you from?”

It’s one of the first questions they ask you when you enter University residences. And from that point on, everyone around you has expectations. If you’re from a big city they expect a certain attitude or knowledge, if you’re from a small-town they expect a certain personality and set of habits.

Your regional identity gives people around you a sense of what to expect from you, a sort of standard, and also gives yourself a sense of who you are. We are the result of our environments, and so to be raised in one city versus another creates unique patterns, likes, dislikes and personality traits that make up who we are.

It also gives us a sense of history. You can’t really know who you are until you know where you’ve come from. It doesn’t mean you’ll act a certain way, but it gives you a sense of where you came from, which can change your attitudes towards a number of things. Coming from the suburbs versus the city can make a huge difference, even if it is only a number of minutes away.

Today I had a chance to speak with Norman Simpson, a 72 year old, self identified ‘Ulster Man’, and a retired private from the UDA (Ulster Defence Regiment) who has lived in Armagh Co., Northern Ireland his whole life. As he told me, he’s an Ulster Man, his father was an Ulster Man, and I’m sure his grandfather and his grandfather’s grandfather were Ulster Men as well. It gives him a sense of belonging, in a country that seems to be so stuck on the idea of belonging, rights and the privileges that come with that belonging. In such a confusing world, how do you know where you fit in if not by following the patters of those who came before you?

Regardless of whether or not an individual stays in the same place they grew up or came from, one’s regional identity holds a certain permanence. One day I hope to live and work in the U.K. but that won’t ever stop me from saying I’m Canadian, even if my passport says otherwise some day. If anything, it might stand to explain why I talk funny.

Really, regional identity all comes down to identifying yourself and knowing where you fit in -essentially the ultimate question for the human condition.

If you know where you are, you know more about who you are, and you know where to call home.

An Almost Irish Man-Hunt

A potential story idea that kept crossing my path is the story of Martin Corey, an IRA-volunteer in 1973 who was arrested, then released in 1992, and arrested again in recent years. Unfortunately for many reasons, this was not to be. (I do recommend a quick google though, you won’t be disappointed).

And so I find myself circling around an original idea that seems like more of an existential quest:

What does it mean to be Irish today?

It should be noted that I’m asking this question at an interesting point in history, given the looming Scottish vote for Independence. Due to come in September, there are a number of articles arguing the potential effects of the Independence vote on Northern Ireland. Most of these articles are coming from large cities and political centres- Belfast, London, the BBC etc. I’m interested to see what the people of Armagh think of such an issue. Will the Scottish Independence vote change the feelings of the inhabitants of Armagh? Does it make them feel any more or less tied to the United Kingdom? And what does it really mean to be an inhabitant of Northern Ireland today? 

There are specialists and scholars crying for a “crisis in unionism“, saying that an independent Scotland would kickstart the transition “from Great Britain to little Britain“. But I’m curious, does small-town Northern Ireland truly feel those close ties to the U.K? Or would Scotland’s independence just mean a smaller United Kingdom?

10 Things I’ve Learned about (Northern) Ireland So Far:

1. Airports are confusing.
Despite my best efforts, my plane still landed in Terminal 1. Dublin Airport isn’t that confusing, but hauling gigantic bags up escalators on 2 hours of airplane sleep isn’t easy. Granted, with only 2 terminals I was bound to land in the wrong one. I live my life according to Murphy’s law.

2. The Irish are friendly.
The Irish are some of the friendliest people I have had the pleasure of meeting overseas. It probably helps that in a smaller town like Armagh my own accent makes me stick out like a sore thumb and I can’t help but notice. But more than a couple of people stop and say hi, asking me where I’m from, what I’m doing, ask if I’d like any help and are just in general lovely. 

3. Irish Netflix is a thing.
Somewhat unfortunately, my Canadian Netflix did not travel with me, but Princess Diaries 2 is still online so every is A-okay here.

4. The constant association of Ireland with green makes a lot of sense.
Everything here is green, and in the most beautiful way. It is so lush, with beautiful gardens, trees, and parks. There are plants and flowers sprouting out of every brick wall and sidewalk, much to my nature loving delight.

5. Converters may set off intruder alarms in the hostel you are staying in. Be warned.
(This one is pretty self-explanatory).

6. History is everywhere.
Everywhere you step, and almost every person you see has experienced some incredible history. There are so many stories I’ve heard and already my mind is bursting. Some of these buildings are older than my own country, and everywhere I turn I am confronted with another mind-blowing fact. Did you know that Armagh is the ecclesiastical capital of Ireland? And that it was an ancient pagan ritual site? Mind. Blown. And that’s just the beginning.

7. Dairy tastes better.
Before my departure from the Great White North, I looked up a number of facts about Ireland, and this is a legitimate thing. The dairy here is brilliant because of the way the cows are fed. Based on Ireland’s climate and soil (wet and rainy, and not so fertile respectively) the crop that is most easily grown in abundance as feed is grass. North American feed (usually corn or soy) doesn’t really grow well here. Cows, being ‘ruminant‘ organisms have a unique four-chambered stomach and are happiest when fed grass. Thus, in Ireland, all the grass means happy cows, delicious cheese, and a very happy Clare.

8. My accent (and yours, probably) is funny.
After an incident ordering Fish’n’Chips on my first evening in Ireland, I can confirm that yes, I sound funny. And “we’re not Irish” is not the proper response to any question, especially not “Salt and Vinegar on your chips?” so don’t be surprised when the gentleman behind the counter laughs too hard to repeat himself.

9. Crossing streets is complicated.
There are very few street lights or cross walks. I may be brave when it comes to crossing streets back home, but Armagh is a whole different ball game. Everything is reverse road-wise. Let’s hope I figure it out or I may become Irish road-kill.

10. I belong here.
Maybe it’s the cheese, or the fact that I’m not the only one drinking tea constantly, or eating Scotch eggs, or maybe it’s even the abundance of green, but I have a huge crush on Northern Ireland, and I’m hoping they feel the same. 

Monica Lewinsky’d all over the news.

Here’s the problem with Monica Lewinsky.


 Yes, I’ve said it. I have no problem with her. Granted, I was not of a ‘mature’ age when the scandal in question occurred -being only 4 years old- nor was I particularly involved in feminism or women’s rights until I finally took a class in it in the second semester of my second year of university.

So I’m not an expert. Let’s just rip that label off right now.

I AM –on the other hand- a woman. A woman in the business workplace. Really I’m a young lady, but we’ll just call me a woman in this context. And as a modern woman, in a corporate workplace, I have one thing to say… 

It is not okay that Bill Clinton is left alone while Monica Lewinsky is the butt of all jokes, especially today.



The girl made a mistake. So did the President of the United States. And who do you think was more apt to making poor decisions, an intern or the commander-in-chief of the world’s most powerful nation?

Let’s put it this way, which one is more likely to be caught doing too many tequila shots in public, the 21 year-old intern or the 42nd president of the United States of America?

My votes on Monica (sorry girl).

Feminism has come a long way since 1998. This was, as aptly put by Emily Shire of The Daily Beast, “well over a decade before the first SlutWalks began”.

We are now against the act of ‘slut-shaming’, so much so that the term has become commonplace. Third-wave feminism has given women the right to empowerment, in physical, mental, spiritual, and –most significantly- sexual situations. Women have a right to express themselves in ways they so desire, and make choices based on their desires, dreams, wants and needs. Women now have earned the right to respect concerning their decisions, and this is great. It’s one more step towards substantive equality.

And yet in the case of Monica Lewinsky society and mass media still go to protect the man, leaving no room for the woman to defend her actions, even years later?

Shire points out, that of course, “the whole mess happened because Lewinsky dressed and flirted a certain way. The most powerful man in the free world, who was nearly three decades her senior, played no active role.”

I trust you catch the sarcasm.

In an article by Jezebel, entitled “Vanity Fair Gives Monica Lewinsky 15 More Minutes”, Kate Dries admonishes Lewinsky for trying to take back her narrative. Although Dries –despite Jezebel’s feminist position and reputation- even refused to acknowledge Bill Clinton’s rolw in a way. She writes, “Lewinsky is still sorry about having sexual relations with that man”.

Okay, so we can introduce Lewinsky right away, but the household name that has a 50/50 role in the story gets spared? Not exactly equality.

Yes, she goes on to mention Clinton’s actual name, but it’s the reference to him as ‘that man’ that strikes me as so regressive.

My position is simple; Lewinsky has a right to reclaim her name. Or at least try to. But denying a 40-year old woman the right to “stick [her] head above the parapet so that [she] can take back [her] narrative and give a purpose to [her] past,” as Lewinsky declares in her Vanity Fair essay, isn’t cool. Especially not when it’s based off of a mistake she made more than a decade ago. And it’s also not cool to ignore the man, her senior, who had his chance to reclaim his name even after impeachment.

Sure, it might be a ploy for money; but it HAS been 10 years of relative silence for Lewinsky. Maybe she just legitimately wants a second chance?

While we’re judging, I wore some pretty heinous outfits a decade ago, and had a bowl cut (before you think too much, I was 9).

Is it fair to say I still look like a boy? No. I’m very much a classic, feminine cis-sexual female now thank you very much.

And that’s the point, people change over the course of 10 years. In fact, they can change a lot. So before we go wagging our fingers, perhaps we should listen to what Lewinsky has to say. After all, doesn’t she deserve the chance to re-brand herself in the new millennia? A chance to re-introduce herself to the next generation?

 Retro fashions may be coming back, but as far as slut-shaming, I think that’s something we can leave in the past. New millennium, new Monica.

And I for one want to hear what she has to say.


Frats are friends, not (just) fools.

I just finished reading a recent article by Julia Ryan in The Atlantic.

“How Colleges Could Get Rid of Fraternities” looks at the various ways academic institutions can and can’t get rid of male Greek life on campuses across North America, and as Ryan says, “It’s not that easy to banish the Greeks.”

Ryan brings up concern about fraternity’s seemingly innate ability to “create environments that seem to breed hazing, binge drinking, and sexual assault.”

While this may be very true, this also sounds like almost any group of college age guys. As a girl who had the (un)fortunate experience to live on a self-titled ‘Party Floor’ in my first year of University, I have to say that the more minor of these activities -and I do include light hazing in that, as anyone who has been involved in a prank war will understand- can be applied to the guys (and girls) from my floor.

College is the primary opportunity for young guys -and girls- to get together and find themselves without the guidance and parental discretion that many of us feel at home. Despite drinking ages that are certainly higher than the age of many freshmen, namely 21 in the U.S. and 19 in Canada, alcohol is commonplace. Almost everyone has at least one night of their university or college career that they can barely recall. Or, if they can, they can barely recall it without grimacing at the though of too much tequila/whiskey/pick your poison.

This environment breeds foolish mistakes and indulgent behaviour, and the lack of parents and family ties means that students look for a natural way to connect with each other. In many cases this results in connections as ‘floor families’ or finding friendship in clubs, but for some it lies in the Greek community.

This connection is essential to anyone moving away from home, or to anyone entering the post-secondary community. It can seem big and strange, but to find oneself in a group you feel comfortable can make or break the experience.

The issue with the activities of fraternities lies not in the evil-nature of the guys who join these exclusive groups, but the sheer number of guys in a single ‘frat’. By bringing together that many guys who are all doing what everyone else is at that age -drinking way too much and looking for a good time- mob mentality takes over and incidents occur. The chance of incidents in a group is increased every time you bring someone else into it, and having that many guys in one house with alcohol is a breeding ground for poor decisions.

I am not in any way saying that this makes sexual assault, bullying, hazing or any other negative activity associated with fraternities okay. Stupidity in groups is not justification for stupidity as an act. There is no excuse for carrying out these activities in any form.

That being said, these events do happen and are especially prevalent on campuses. They occur more often in groups, and fraternities seem to be the major culprit. The problem is that people find it easier to point fingers to people that are officially grouped and designated as such, when such crimes and acts are done by many groups outside that aren’t recognized by an academic institution.

Fraternities, being subject to rules and provisions that govern all university-associated clubs and bodies, are a group that can be singled out and used as examples. Pointing instead at a group of guys that wander around campus and do the same doesn’t have the same effect. We can thank movies and TV shows for the gravity that comes with saying a fraternity broke the rules, they have a negative connotation. Other random groups of male students aren’t as widely recognized, and don’t have ‘rules’ to break.

Take for example the recent charges laid against members of the University of Ottawa’s varsity men’s hockey team. The entire team was suspended and a group of players were believed to be involved in a sexual assault. Ashley Bowen, staff at the Draft Pub at Lakehead University said the young men were “like a family.”

Like… brothers?

The team is a body governed by the university, and it is much easier to say the university’s hockey team, than ‘a group of Ottawa students’. The shock that comes with attributing a crime to a school-associated group is hard to beat, but in reality these are just groups of guys doing stupid things together.

Greek life is not the problem. I know many people that are involved in the Pan-Hellenic community here at Carleton University, and they are all fantastic people. Fraternities and sororities offer opportunities for individuals to establish a family away from home, and to get involved with charities and activities in school and out.

Any group of people is capable of committing harm against one another, and the diffusion of responsibility only makes it easier in larger numbers.

The argument should not be how colleges should get rid of fraternities, but how they should be regulated and how the activities that are deemed problematic should be stopped. All it takes is one bad egg to spoil the dozen, and in the case of a fraternity, all too often is the exceptionable individual taken to be the rule. Ryan looks at this too in the article, and brings up some ideas of how fraternities can be ‘taken care of’.

Some are a bit extreme, but many of which would be great ways to ensure that the power of fraternities and the so-called ‘brotherhood’ is used for good and not bad.

I’m not saying I have an answer or that there is a definitive answer, I’m just saying that there’s much more to brotherhood that booze and boobs.

Maybe we should instead try to combat the problems of binge-drinking and sexual assault on campuses as a whole. Manage the environment, not the groups produced by the environment, could actually make campuses safer and better places for students and faculty alike. Who knows, the Greeks may even help.

You gotta love books.

John Wyatt spends his days surrounded by thousands of books in the organized chaos of his second-hand bookshop, Book Bazaar.

The Book Bazaar is an Ottawa landmark. Started in 1974 by Beryl McLeod, the shop on the corner of Bank and Frank streets is filled with wall-to-wall bookshelves carrying everything from used best sellers to rare books.

“It’s changed a lot over time,” said Wyatt, “we get readers, and we get collectors. You get a real cross-section. You can sell a six dollar book or a $600 book in the same day. The $600 book is obviously a collectible and a six dollar book is just a reading, hobby book.”

Born in Montreal, Wyatt attended Queen’s University in Kingston. He worked as a lawyer for almost 30 years, settling in Ottawa in 1971. Wyatt made the switch from law to second-hand books in 1994, taking over the then 20 year old Book Bazaar.

“I’ve been involved with books since I was eight,” said Wyatt, “reading them, collecting them. I’ve been involved in the business for a long time.”

His interest in different kinds of books is reflected in the eclectic mix found on the Bazaar’s shelves, including an extensive sheet music collection.

“You’re either a reader or a writer generally, because if you’re a writer you’ve got to spend all your time writing, and as a reader I’ve spent most of my time reading and collecting,” said Wyatt.

Wyatt picks up his books from a range of places.

“University sales, church sales, all over the place. I do what’s called book calls, where I go to people’s houses to buy their books. Often it’s because they’re moving, or downsizing or it’s an estate. People come into the store also, quite often. On a typical Saturday I’ll get eight to 10 people coming in and trying to sell me books.”

With so many sources for his books, Wyatt has a refined selection process.

“I know what I can use. They’ll come in with three boxes and I might only take six books, cause I know which six I need. It’s 50 years of experience,” said Wyatt, “and knowing what people are asking for. I know what’s in demand and what’s not, so I know what we can sell and what we can’t sell.”

Wyatt has used the Internet since 1998 to sell his books to an international audience. He now has an online database with over 50,000 books.

As an early adopter of the Internet the Book Bazaar has seen changes in competition over the years, says Wyatt. “When we first went on the Internet in 1998 there weren’t many other sellers on, so we were averaging about 2,000 orders a year.” The number of online orders has gone down since then, but the value of books sold online has increased.

The Book Bazaar’s clientele is international, Wyatt says. “There’s not a country I haven’t probably shipped a book to. It’s absolutely international. There are 200 million people on the Internet. If you’re sitting in Turkey and you want a book, and you go online and there’s the book in Ottawa you go ahead and order it.”

A current client in Japan has ordered a 1965 edition of Songs of the Newfoundland Outports, a three-volume edition by Kenneth Peacock.

Many international clients are not just collectors, said Wyatt, “Libraries buy from us quite a lot too.” Many Libraries turn to the Book Bazaar to complete collections and diversify their inventory.

In a business driven by collectors, prices for rare books or first editions can be steep.

“I don’t sell them, but some of the most expensive books range from a $50,000 to $250,000,” said Wyatt. “It’s an interesting business, and there’s serious collectors.”

Looking at some of the thick, older volumes in the store, it’s not all that hard to believe.

As for the highest price Wyatt’s ever sold a book for, he simply laughs, “It’s a lot.”

Twitter and Politics.

Am I the only one that finds twitter an inappropriate platform to announce all things politics? Today’s cabinet shuffle in the Harper government came complete with it’s own hash tag and instagram video, with Harper looking awkward and uncomfortable; the exact same way I was feeling.

Maybe I’m the only person who feels this way, but even as an 18 year old who’s reliant on twitter and everything social media, I believe there are better ways to announce such things. Perhaps with more pomp and circumstance. I should not be able to picture PM Harper in one of my favored tweeting positions, curled up on my bed in sweats with a box of Ritz crackers between my knees or sitting in front of my laptop with tabs open for tumblr, Facebook, twitter and 9gag

Don’t get me wrong; I fully understand the allure of twitter and tweeting for politics and news. In fact, as a journalism student that how I get most of my news. But for making announcements such as this, I find it to be a little less fitting. Yes, it offers certain accessibility and offers the younger crowd a front-row seat for government actions. But unless that younger crowd has already demonstrated its desire for involvement by following @pmharper –and just to see his infamous picture with his pet chinchilla doesn’t count- they don’t benefit.

There is something very informal about christening this cabinet shuffle with its own distinct hash tag “#shuffle13”. Personally, I feel that a press conference would be more fitting. Something that isn’t interjected with tweets concerning the heat or last nights season two of Aaron Sorkin’s ‘The Newsroom’. For the number of individuals being shuffled, including 8 new faces and four “new strong, capable women”, it lacks a formality that I can only imagine is meaningful to those being mentioned.

Perhaps there is some justification for this social media use. Maybe it’s working better than I think it is. But it still feels wrong. In a world where camps are being developed for adults struggling to go even 3 days without technology, and the futuristic views of Pixar’s Wall-E are looking more probable than out of the question, should we not be encouraging a divide between politics and social media? Would this have occurred had we still been in the ages of MySpace, or on Facebook where duck-faces and games like ‘Mob Wars’ reign supreme? No. To that end, I do not believe it belongs on twitter and instagram. Not only because its informal, or because it falls upon the deaf ears of social-media literate Canadian youth. It just looks bad. It’s no surprise that those of the older generations are not as literate in social media as youth. The tech-savvy generation that grows up with the technology is automatically more effective at using it than the older generations. It makes the PM look poor, because –for no fault of his own, but by sheer adaptation- 13 year olds are showing him up. The Internet is dominated by youth, and twitter is not different. Top twitter feeds include celebrities like Justin Bieber and the boys of One Direction, the comedy group Funny or Die, Starbucks Coffee and a feed called ‘What the F*** Facts’, is there really room for significant political announcements? Even Barack Obama, with over 34 million followers, doesn’t attempt to make the same announcements via his twitter feed. And in a medium where Grumpy cats and fake Michael Bay’s reign supreme, I don’t think he should even try to.

Using twitter for such political announcements crossed the fine line between utilization and misuse: particularly when we can hear some technologically literate helper counting down in the instagram video before Harper invites Canadians to follow his twitter feed for the 2013 cabinet shuffle. I know pre-teens who wouldn’t make that rookie mistake.

Exaggerated enthusiasm? Agreed.

This post, written by Deqa Ahmed as a critique of the article Romney Deflates the President, by Peggy Noonan for the Wall Street Journal, is one I agree with. The original article, regarding the first 2012 presidential debate, dove too far into the Romney –or, Republican- point of view, revealing the author’s intention and political opinion.

That said, I agree with my classmate concerning Noonan’s writing style. I too found it easily read, thought provoking, clear and concise. I also appreciated the natural feel of her writing style; not truly formal, and with enough personal comments that indicated that it was not necessarily a subjective piece concerning the presidential election. I found it refreshing. The article made sense of topics that the audience may not be familiar with; the audience is not guaranteed to be fluent in politics.

I also agree that the way the argument was presented was effective. Noonan gave plenty of evidence to support Mitt Romney’s victory over President Obama, as was mentioned in the critique, and gave a very convincing argument. That being said, I disagree that there “seemed to be a slight bias”. In fact, I found the bias of the piece almost painfully blatant the entire way through. Noonan seemed to abandon all objectivity throughout the piece and instead use the piece as an opportunity to share her conservative views. Regarding the critique, I agree with most of Deqa’s argument, as her opinion is well represented and explained.  However, I would disagree with the opinion that the use of picture and videos was a positive addition; based on the prominence of both politicians discussed –Obama and Romney- I felt it was an unnecessary addition to the article. Everyone knows what Obama and Romney look like, and this only allows Noonan to provide photos that support her argument against Obama. It adds another level of subjectivity to an article that should be striving to be more objective, and only adds to the bias. That said Deqa provided a clear, thorough critique of the article, and I agree with her opinions of Noonan’s original article, particularly concerning the issue of bias.

Pepperoni Pizza and Equality.

As a young person –and also a major fan of pizza- this piece by Matt Gurney for the National Post certainly jumped out at me. I can easily remember days when greasy pizza was delivered hot to the school, and a dollar or two would buy you a slice of cheesy goodness. A welcome change from the ham-and-cheese sandwiches in a brown paper bag, pizza days were a memorable part of elementary school. So for me, the idea of ending “Pizza days” at school because of gluten allergies seemed ridiculous. Had these allergies not been present before? Where would lunch come from? I had a lot of questions before I even began to read.

The article itself provides a light-hearted view at what is obviously not a pressing issue. It’s clear that the piece speaks more to the human interest or emotional side of news value measures. Who doesn’t remember pizza days as a kid? Moreover, who would be sad if these days were to end? It must also be noted that the paper – The National Post– is based in Toronto, and therefore the proximity holds news value as well as it is regarding schools in the GTA.  Overall, the piece is well written, clear, concise and thorough. It’s easy to understand the issue as well as how Gurney is writing about it. Again, lighthearted, and almost wholly said tongue-in-cheek; as the title states, “Ban bureaucratic stupidity. Save pizza day.” This tone makes it more effective than a traditional news story, considering that no one would believe a serious, hard-hitting news story about pizza. The tone used is effective for the subject matter, and adds to the piece. It also includes many references to other events and articles, backing up the facts of these fundraisers being ‘cash cows’ for the schools. I might include more interviews or quotes from people involved or official documents. Some more sources would add to the story and increase its value, giving more perspectives and rounding out the coverage of the issue. Perhaps even some kids explaining their ties to pizza day, playing more into the emotional attraction of the piece. Either way, it would be nice to get someone else’s voice into the piece to make it seem less individual to the writer, and more relatable to the general public. It’s just a shame that pepperoni doesn’t have a voice. That would certainly make for some ‘flavorful’ journalism.

A Brief Introduction.

Welcome to my blog. My name’s Clare, and I am into just a little bit of everything. I’m passionate about writing, literature, art, fashion, old TV shows and movies, radio, music and travel; I’m passionately curious, and maybe a bit obsessive about learning. I’ve spent half my life in the woods of Northern Ontario, and the other half in the concrete jungle that is the GTA. I’ve worked for years to enter Carleton’s journalism program, and now that I’ve reached that dream I’m searching for the next one.

I’ve wanted to be a journalist, since I was a little girl and my mother braided my hair while we listened to The Current, with Anna Maria Tremonti. It was there, sitting in her lap, that I’d listen to Anna on the radio interviewing interesting people, asking the questions that I wanted to ask and getting the answers I needed. It was then that I learned that journalists are the people who get to expose the answers. Journalists get to dig deeper. Journalists get to explore subjects, people and stories. And it was then that I decided I wanted to be a journalist.

And I haven’t looked back since.