Raccoons. Or racoons. However you spell it (one ‘c’ is British, two is American), you’ve probably gone to war with one. They’re clever animals, able to get into the most ‘secure’ garbage bins (just ask Torontonians!).
Growing up on a farm, where raccoons were associated with disease they might give to farm animals and considered pests that defecated in corn bins and hay mows, I learned to see them as annoyances at best and perhaps even dangerous. My father trapped them and either sent them to an acquaintance’s swamp, where they could fatten before being shot, or had them shot.
When I went to the city for university, I didn’t understand city folks’ fascination with raccoons. My most memorable city raccoon run in was when I was walking back to dorm in the dark, alone, and heard loud rustling the other side of the trees I was walking through. I had a moment of panic before I saw a big, fat, raccoon waddle by with the remains of somebody’s lunch from the trash can. (You can see why they get called trash pandas!)
Now, however, I see raccoons and other ‘pest’ wildlife differently. I see how we have encroached on their natural spaces; we are the pests in their neighborhoods. I think about the ways animals, from rats and raccoons to foxes and deer, have adapted to city living. Sometimes we don’t like it, sometimes we don’t see them, but they are there with us.
I see raccoons as one of the many fascinating species we share our world with, who have learned to hold their place in the ecosystem as we have altered it. It doesn’t mean that they’re not pests and frustrating at times, but that there is reason and inherent value in their existence. Our co-existence is far more complicated than just “adorable friend” or “dangerous pest,” “food provider” or “menace.”
Transcript of video I originally posted to my Instagram on June 1, 2020.
Hey white people. This is for you. We need to have a little chat.
There is so much going on in the news right now in terms of the protests we are seeing. Not just in the US but also here in Canada.
As Canadians, I know that we like to think that racism is an American problem. It’s not. It’s our problem, too. We like to think that we are nice people and that we’re polite and you probably don’t think of yourself as a racist and you would probably be absolutely…. embarrassed beyond belief to be thought of as having behaved in a racist manner. We’re respectable white people, right?
Ok, so, now that we have established that, fellow white people, we need to talk about race. We really, really need to talk about race.
Because all of this stuff that we see happening, all of these protests about police brutality, we have a job to do.
If you think of society like a hockey game—and I don’t watch hockey but, you know, as a Canadian I have to pretend I like it—if you think of society like a hockey game, it’s like we’re playing a game where white people have one set of rules and black people have another set of rules. A set of rules that disadvantages them and advantages us.
Black folks have been trying to tell us, they have been fighting, for generations to tell us that this is not fair. That the game is not fair. That the rules are not fair.
Sometimes we slap a patch on things and we like to pat ourselves on the back and say that we’ve done something, but we haven’t changed to rules. We haven’t fixed the problem. Because we don’t see the problem.
We like to think that (I think, anyway), we like to think as white people that our experience is universal! It’s the default! Our experience going to the grocery store, or dealing with the government, or in school, or wherever, just living our lives, that that’s how everybody experiences it.
And it’s not. We need to quit kidding ourselves that our experience is the default Canadian experience.
As white people, we can call the police, and the police are our helpers and they’re coming to help us. Black people can’t do that. They call the police and they’re taking their lives in their hands. I mean, heck, they’re taking their neighbours lives in their hands, because goodness knows we’ve seen shootings of completely uninvolved folks situations.
We as white people need to take a long hard look at the rules. We need to start recognizing how white privilege works and how structural racism works.
Because it’s not just whether or not we’re nice to Black folks. It’s how our entire society is set up, how we as white people from the very beginning have set up a society that advantages us and disadvantages anybody who doesn’t look like us.
I think we can probably agree that’s not a good society. That’s probably not the society that we want to pass on, to keep passing on to our children. I know it’s note the society I want for anybody.
We sometimes like to think that, well, I didn’t create this problem, this isn’t my problem, it was dead white guys like a century, a couple of centuries ago that started this problem. And sure, we’ve inherited the problem. But if we’re not doing anything to actively fix the problems, if we’re not actively changing and improving our society for everybody, then we are perpetuating the problem and we are part of the problem.
Black people have been telling us for generations that there’s a problem. And we don’t want to hear it. And we want to focus instead on whether or not kneeling is right, or whether or not a burning building is the right way to do things. As Trevor Noah said in his Daily Show clip, which you need to watch, there is no right way, because protesting is about saying that things aren’t right and speaking up against the dominate white system.
We as white people cannot and should not expect people of colour to identify the problem and fix the system while they’re still having to play the game with a crappy set of rules.
It’s on us to figure out white privilege. Which basically means that yes, our life can be hard, but our life is not hard because we are white. That’s basically white privilege in a nutshell.
We need to look at structural racism. We need to look at the way our education systems, our medical systems, our businesses, our institutions, our day-to-day interactions perpetuate racism. How they continue to benefit us and nobody else.
It is not easy work. And I am by no means done the work, I’ve only just started on my own journey in the past couple of years of trying to become more aware of these things. A really influential book for me was So you want to talk about race. And I really, really recommend that book to absolutely every white person I know. It’s really really hard to read. I mean, the language is easy and the chapters are relatively short, but it’s really difficult because it calls us out on all of our crappy behaviour. On all of the ways we make assumptions and we set rules that benefit us and we don’t even notice it.
That’s the scary thing. We don’t even notice it. So we need to start noticing and we need to start calling these things out and we need to start supporting each other in this conversation and quite waiting for somebody else to fix the problem.
We created a mess and we need to take responsibility for that mess. Even if it’s a mess that we inherited. Even if it’s a mess that we don’t personally see— I mean, I don’t work for the police, so why is it my problem? Well, it is my problem because it’s a society I live in, it’s the a society I conform to and that you conform to. It’s a society that we live in and that socializes us that Black people are thugs and criminals simply because they’re black. And that’s not right. That is wrong. We need to start calling out the language, the “jokes” that friends make and that we laugh at, maybe uncomfortably maybe not.
We need to call those out and we need to start having hard conversations amongst ourselves. And like I said, this is really hard work, and it’s really really uncomfortable. I’m right there with you, I’m trying to do it, too. And it’s not easy. It’s really really hard sometimes but we need to do it.
Because if we don’t do it, nobody can do it for us and nothing is going to change. Life is not going to get better for other people if we don’t start listening to other people.
And that’s really they key thing that I think we as white people need to be doing right now, is listening.
Listening to Black experiences. Listening to Indigenous experiences, and experiences of people of colour and quit assuming that everybody experiences the world the same way we do.
Because they don’t.
We need to take advantage of the resources that are already out there—and there are tons of resources. I’ve been retweeting lots in my own Twitter feed, same user name as this Instagram, but you hardly have to scratch the surface and you’ll find lots of great books, websites, podcasts that deal with these really difficult issues.
So we need to take that step and actively seek out and start listening. We need to quit waiting for somebody to come around and knock on our door and ask us to participate. We need to take ownership of our part of the mess.
And we need to support each other in this conversation because it is scary and hard to do. It’s hard to call out your friends. It’s hard to make a video on Instagram about race! It’s hard. It’s really really uncomfortable.
It’s uncomfortable to know that I, simply because I was born white, I am benefitting from centuries of structures. I didn’t ask for it, but I have it. What do I do with it? Right? And we need to not expect ally cookies, as folks on Twitter call it, we need to take responsibility and not expect accolades and pats on the back when we do the right thing. Because that’s the other thing, the other trap we fall into. And I get it, because it’s hard, and you want recognition,.
I guess what I’m saying is that this has a lot more to do with us than you might think it does. It’s on us to make the world better and to quit kicking this problem down the road for somebody else to deal with and to see more lives lost, to see more people imprisoned and punished unfairly because of the colour of their skin.
That’s not the world that I want to leave behind me. I don’t think it’s the world that you want to leave behind, either.
So we need to do work, we need to support each other, and we need to lift up Black voices and Black experiences. We have to centre them and their experiences.
They’ve been telling us this for generations and they’re tired.
We need to help figure out our crap and do the right thing.
Do you find yourself suddenly needing to record audio or do a PowerPoint voice over? It’s not as difficult as it may seem! I am in no way a tech person— I started a podcast with zero knowledge about audio recording and editing— so I hope my tips and information will ease some of your fears!
Simple Audio Set Up
First off, the built-in microphone on your laptop or computer is going to be pretty crappy. If possible, you want to use a USB microphone. Blue Snowball and Blue Yeti (pictured above) are both good choices and popular with podcasters. If you don’t have the budget to buy one, ask around and see if you can borrow one, but if you think you’ll use it a lot it is well worth the investment.
Read through the how-to and experiment a bit before using the mic. There are different pick-up patterns—you’ll want the cardioid setting, which picks up sound from the front of the microphone.
You’ll need a device to record your file. I use Voice Record 7 on my iPhone. It’s simple to use, but there are lots of settings you can change up if you want to get technical. You can save your file to Google, OneDrive, or DropBox, or email it to yourself as an attachment or link to download. I usually record as an MP3 file and email it myself via my phone’s email app.
Another reason I like Voice Record 7 is that the app also includes tools to do some basic editing. You can easily trim your audio or add bookmarks.
If you’re recording on your computer, you can plug the microphone right in, but for a smart phone you need an adapter. The USB mic will draw power from your phone, so it’s good to get an adapter that lets you plug in the phone while you record. For iPhone, this is Apple’s USB camera adapter (about $50). In my experience, I can get about 45 minutes of recording time for about 10% of my phone battery unplugged, but this is going to vary based on your phone and battery life.
Another option is to use what’s called a lav (lavalier) mic, which are available as both corded and wireless versions. These are the clip-on mics that you use when lecturing. They have a regular mic jack, so if you’re using an iPhone you will need the Lightning-to-Headphone adapter. You don’t need to spend a fortune, but be sure to check out the reviews and do a little Googling before you buy.
Check your sound quality and do a test recording before you start. The needle on the VU meter should be approaching the red zone, but not in it while you record. If you’re not picking up the sound well enough, experiment with placement of the mic. You can also adjust the gain (essentially the microphone’s sensitivity) on the microphone, if you have a Yeti, or in the recording app.
Finally, listen to your test recording for ambient sound. You may pick up more (or less) ambient sound than you would think. Make sure that the ambient noise isn’t overpowering or distracting. If you’re in a quiet office you should be fine.
If you’re more comfortable with recording tech, you can check out the open source software Audacity. This seems to be the go-to for indy podcasters. The interface isn’t as fancy as you might get with other programs, but there is a huge help community and it’s free.
Before I learned Audacity, I started with GarageBand, which came with my Mac. I found the interface friendly and easy to use, so it was a good way for me to start getting familiar with audio editing (yes, I was starting with zero knowledge!). It’s not the greatest for podcasting, but if you’re looking to record a lecture or conference paper and want a bit of editing ability (but not too much) it very much does the job.
If you have a webcam, you can include your face in the recording. Be sure to check the placement of the webcam in relation to your face, especially if you are using one build into your laptop. You probably don’t want to be looking down your nose at your audience the entire time! This can be simply fixed by stacking some books under your laptop until you are more “face on” to the camera.
Record your lecture over top of the slides. You can delete your recording for a particular slide and redo it at any point without having to redo the entire thing. When you’re finished, save it then export your recorded PowerPoint as a movie file. (Your saved PowerPoint file will be quite large!)
For screencasts, I use Screencastify. (You can see an example of one I did here.) It’s a free plug in for Chrome and you sign in with your Google account. When you being recording you have the option of recording your entire computer screen or only an app window. You can have up to four movies saved at any one time; just download and delete to create space for more. Screencastify also offers some basic editing as well.
The challenge with recording a screencast where you type is keyboard noise. I did a bit of research into how to reduce the sound and learned that gamers who live stream buy very expensive keyboards to minimize key clicks. That wasn’t in my budget.
Instead, I put padding under my keyboard to reduce vibrations against the desk and suspended the microphone from my ceiling so it was a bit further away from the keyboard and didn’t pick up vibrations through the stand. It wasn’t perfect, but you do what you can with the tools you have!
I hope this information has been helpful. Feel free to reach out with any questions you have. There are lots of ways to approach recording and a lot of different apps and programs available—this is just what I’ve done.
Once a fringe medium, podcasting has slowly and steadily grown to become mainstream. While big network names like I Heart Radio and Radiotopia are increasingly familiar to podcast listeners, there’s still room for the indie podcaster. Podcasts are in vogue and the listenership is growing; Apple has over half a million active podcasts in their listings as of 2020 and according to Nielson, over 16 million people in the US alone are podcast fans.
Podcasting offers a personal connection to your audience in a way that traditional radio or print doesn’t. The format is adaptable. They’re easy to create with a little know-how and topics can be as niche or broad as you wish. But with an overwhelming 30 million podcast episodes floating in the ether, how do you make your voice heard?
Join Alison Innes, Social Media Coordinator for the Faculty of Humanities and independent podcaster for a “Podcasting 101” workshop. Alison will share her experience co-creating MythTake and talk about the challenges and opportunities of independent podcasting. Learn more about the podcasting landscape and get a sneak peek behind the scenes of her latest podcasting project for the Faculty of Humanities.
I’ve been hard at work the past few weeks finishing off some of my works-in-progress and adding more to the list. I’ve updated my online portfolio–take a look, and if you see something you want, drop me a line!
Muggs, in her sixteenth year, passed away unexpectedly but peacefully with assistance of the vet on Tuesday, Nov. 26.
Born May 25, 2004 to a distinguished line of barn cats, Muggs is predeceased by her mother, Little Chubs, and two litter mates. Very early in her life, Muggs left rural farm life with her human to preside over a series of city apartments.
Muggs took the provision for and protection of her human very seriously, spending countless hours of the day and night watching for potential threats from errant birds and squirrels. She was highly trained in culinary arts, examining nearly every molecule of food consumed by her human for fifteen years. Her own refined palate was partial to delicacies including butter, Cheese Whiz, cereal milk, and tuna fish water.
True to her distinguished breeding, Muggs was a consummate hunter known for spending countless hours outside on her rope stalking bugs and microscopic prey. Despite her best efforts, which included bringing three live mice to her human in the course of one night (c. 2006), Muggs was unable to train her human in the finer points of hunting and this family trait dies with her.
In her free time, Muggs enjoyed gardening and communing with nature. She was particularly skilled in pruning grasses and houseplants, birdwatching, and hiding under bushes.
Among her lesser known talents was her skill as a visual artist, creating innovative masterpieces in acrylic, oil and digital media using her paws and fur on a variety of surfaces. She also experimented with textile arts and left her own mark on homemade baking from time to time.
Often misunderstood as aloof, high strung and anxious, Muggs was very affectionate with her human on her own terms. She was particularly concerned with her human’s rest and relaxation and dedicated endless hours to sitting on top of her human and human’s work. She was learned in both Greek and Latin, having spent hours with those texts. In her downtime, she relaxed with TV shows such as Bondi Vet and Great British Baking Show.
Muggs is very sadly missed and fondly remembered by her human, who extends a special thank you to the team at Garden City Cat Hospital for their excellent care and kindness during a very difficult process. Private internment at the farm. In lieu of flowers, she has requested that all humans give their kitties extra snuggles and treats in her memory.
Panelists: Amy Pistone, Darrin Sunstrum, Jeff Wright, Victoria Austen-Perry Chair: Katherine Blouin Organizers: Aven McMaster, Katherine Blouin, Alison Innes
When we talk about public outreach or public engagement with Classics, we tend to think of scholars communicating their research and ideas beyond the confines of the classroom or scholarly community. But there has always been a thriving community of non-traditional scholars who are interested in the Classical world and whose engagement with ancient history, literature, and culture can often reach a much wider audience than many scholars’ public outreach efforts. This panel will follow up on the 2018 CAC panel “Public Facing Scholarship in Canada” to continue the conversation about the place of public scholarship and the ways that members of the CAC can support it. The panel will highlight some of the people doing Classics outreach from positions other than tenure-track faculty, in particular how they take advantage of the possibilities offered by digital media, and will draw attention to ways that we can involve non-academics as contributors as well as audience and address the problem of gate-keeping within our discipline.
For many academics, ‘public scholarship’ brings to mind things like Op-Eds in major newspapers, lectures for non-specialists, podcasts, or maybe even participation in a documentary. These forms of public engagement can often seem daunting or, at the very least, time consuming. Many academics are interested in engaging with a broader audience outside the academy, but do not feel like they have the ability to engage in a large-scale project.
This paper will look at a range of different ‘low stakes’ forms of public engagement that scholars at any stage of their career can use to connect with the broad classics community online. Digital tools offer simple ways to share our passion and expertise with a vibrant community ranging from high school students to non-traditional scholars to general enthusiasts of the ancient world. I will speak to my own personal use of blogging and social media (Twitter in particular) to make my scholarship more public-facing.
Finally, as a junior faculty member who does not have a permanent position, I will speak in particular to how the changing job market and the precarity of many young scholars has actually increased our public engagement, as we are rethinking what an academic career will look like and finding new models for how to be a classicist. I will also talk about how — paradoxically — decreased job prospects have actually empowered many young scholars to do more daring and controversial work in the public sphere, and highlight some of the most exciting examples of this work being done in the US, Canada, and the UK.
Podcasting provides a creative space to engage with the field of Classics from outside traditional academic spaces. The open access nature of podcasting extends teaching beyond the classroom and provides a friendly, accessible introduction to the Classics for the public. At the same time, podcasting allows us to expand the discussion of ideas beyond what is given in a course syllabus.
My own podcast provides a space to engage the public in a transdisciplinary conversation about Greek Mythology, connecting it to larger themes in culture and society. By blending scholarly literary analysis with discussion of contemporary issues, our conversational podcast invites listeners to engage with Classics. Equally it provides an important space for us to practice scholarship outside the traditional university framework and to contribute to the development of our field. By mediating the space between traditional academics and the public, podcasting is a fertile creative space for academics, independent scholars, and the public to come together.
I spent the first 20 years of my professional life as a high school Humanities teacher. I loved serving as my students’ “point of first contact” with the amazing worlds of philosophy, literature, and history. Ten year ago, I decided to narrow my focus, to Greek Mythology and Homeric epic. I left the traditional classroom, and set out as a travelling Demodocus. For the next 7 years I performed Greek Epic – in bars, clubs and cruise ships; at the National Arts Centre and at Oxford University – but mostly in high school auditoriums. During those “live performance years” I developed an understanding of how contemporary audiences respond (or, frequently, fail to respond) to Homeric epic. I discovered the recurring “stumbling blocks” to contemporary audience’s understanding; and I learned the places where Homer continues to provoke delight, laughter, and tears.
In 2016 I launched Trojan War: The Podcast: an experiment in translating my live show to the medium of podcasting. The podcast consists of 20 hour-long episodes, each offering 45 minutes of serialized story, and 15 minutes of informal “teaching” on all things epic. My experiment succeeded. To date, the podcast has been downloaded 500K times, by listeners in 156 nations. A lot of diverse listeners, it turns out, are eager to dive into Greek Epic, if you package the content in a way they can access. Odyssey: The Podcast is due for release in 2019.
I suspect that in the years to come, podcasts will more and more become the “point of first contact” for students encountering the world of Greek Mythology and Homeric Epic. This paper will describe my experiences transmitting Classical content and scholarship to audiences outside of the university classroom, and share what I have learned about the value of such work for spreading a love of the ancient world and an understanding of its myth and literature. Our disciplines should talk; we share a common goal.
#WCCWiki – Using Wikipedia for Public Engagement and Mobilising Change
As the fifth most visited website in the world, with more than 5 million articles in English and 30 million registered users, the online encyclopedia Wikipedia is arguably one of the most, if not themost, influential source of information available to us all. However, as with any community-based and collaborative project, Wikipedia is not devoid of prejudice – it is, as Victoria Leonard (2018) states, a ‘mirror that reflects society’s biases and prejudices back at us’. The facts and figures provided in articles do not just reflect what people know, but also reveal how they think about it, and what they think is important, and this is all too evident in the gender bias on display across the platform. Out of the 1.5m biographies on Wikipedia, only c.17% focus on women; and only 20% of those female profiles feature images. When it comes to classics specifically, an estimate in 2016 found that only 7% of biographies of classicists featured women – even when prominent women (such as Mirriam Griffin) were mentioned, it was merely in relation to their husbands. This disparity speaks to a general marginalisation and omission of women in academia, but it can also be linked to the fact that at least 85% of Wikipedia editors are men.
What can we do, then, to rectify such stark gender imbalances? The online activism of the Women’s Classical Committee UK (#WCCWiki), begun in 2017, has already made huge strides in combating these issues, not only by training new female editors, but also by hosting monthly online ‘editathons’ to create new or improve already-existing female classicist biographies. Since its inception, the project has already doubled the representation of female classical scholars on Wikipedia. In this paper, I will explore the role of Wikipedia in mobilising change through the lens of the #WCCWiki project; and provide a short lesson in how to become a Wikipedia editor yourself.
The Classical Association of Canada/Société Canadienne des Études Classiques
7 May 2019
Lianne Fisher, Centre for Pedagogical Innovation, Brock University
Alison Innes, Brock University
The relationship between learning, note taking and class preparation is not always articulated, or explicitly taught to students. These skills can be challenging to teach along with course content in introductory classes. Our recent redesign of a first-year mythology course sought to introduce students to a variety of note taking skills, while practicing close reading and textual analysis.
By incorporating the idea of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), we encouraged students to engage with various methods of organizing information including Cornell notes, annotating text, and sketchnoting. Over the course of the semester, students practiced visual note taking skills alongside traditional written responses in weekly assignments. Such assignments challenged students to translate their knowledge of a text into a non-textual format, challenging and deepening their learning experience. Visual note taking is a natural fit for the teaching of mythology, as myths were experienced in audio and visual formats in the ancient world, through storytelling, art, and theatre.
A key part of UDL is allowing students the opportunity to demonstrate their learning beyond the traditional essay format. Students were given the option to submit their final essay as a visual essay. We developed clear assessment guidelines to ensure such assignments were equally rigorous to written essays. A selection of these were digitized and displayed in the university library, allowing students to participate in the production and mobilization of scholarship. With the students’ permission we will share some of these educational artefacts in this session.
Key to the success of the course was supporting the Teaching Assistant team. Through a series of workshops, TAs had the opportunity to learn ways in which they could model information organization strategies in the classroom. This provided first-year graduate student TAs the opportunity to engage critically with pedagogy.
Dr. Anton Jansen, Instructor, Brock University Department of Classics
Darrin Sunstrum, Course Coordinator, Brock University Department of Classics
Giulia Forsythe, Associate Director, Brock University Centre for Pedagogical Innovation
Teaching Assistants and students of CLAS 1P95, Fall 2017
I like to be organized. I like my stuff to be organized, my desk to be organized (when I’m not actively in the midst of a project!) and my schedule to feel organized.
In fact, this Christmas I got a beautiful Ikea pegboard and accoutrements to organize my art supplies and I couldn’t be happier:
However, I’m always on the quest for a better planner system. If you follow me on Twitter, you’re probably familiar with my Leuchtturm1917 notebook system– a sort of cross between bullet journalling (but not as pretty) and Raul Pacheco-Vega’s Everything Notebook. It’s worked really well for me for the past two years, but with four major jobs/projects on the go, it’s feeling a little too messy and higgledy these days.
This year, thanks to Instagram, I learned about the Pretty Pretty Planner (PPP), designed by @faustine2012 and available as a free PDF download on her blog. It’s beautiful! I like the colour scheme and the monthly calendars and the week at a glance.
Faustine uses the Levenger Circa system, which features a disc system with a special punch. You can rearrange the pages of your notebook to your heart’s content, adding and removing as you wish.
So I’m taking my favourite aspects of all these different ideas and trying to mash something together: grid layouts, page-a-day (with flexibility for more), customizable on-the-go, and different sections for different projects.
While the Circa system offers a plethora of beautiful covers and coloured discs, Staples offers a slightly cheaper option with their Arc system, which is available in stores in Canada. Faustine tells me the two systems are interchangable. So I’m going to go with the Arc for now and if I decide to stick with it, I’ll invest in a beautiful cover and rings from Levenger.
My new pages are designed to work in combination with the lovely calendar spreads from Faustine. I’ve used the Pretty Pretty Planner (PPP) colour scheme for my pages, so it should all work together.
Fingers crossed the system works– I’ll report back at the end of the semester.
Now, if I could just find the perfect handbag, I really would be organized!
In my usual spirit of sharing, I’m making my pages available for download as PDF files under CC-BY. They are intended for individual and/or educational use, with source attribution. They are not to be sold commercially. Follow the link above to download the original Pretty Pretty Planner.
Download Page-a-Day addition to PPP. The file is designed to be printed double sided. There are eight colour options included. Pages are undated. Letter size, portrait orientation.
Download To-Do addition to PPP. A single-sided to-do list. Letter size, portrait orientation.
Download grid paper addition to PPP. Print double-sided or as two single sided. Letter size, portrait orientation.