Melissa Martin

  • Spinning truth in true-crime drama

    Clairvoyance is not a common talent of writers, but as I sit awaiting the end of a cultural sensation, I'm ready to stake this column on a single prediction. By the time you read these words, Serial will be over. The case was not closed, and fans had no closure.
  • Hope, horror and human rights

    In reflection, the defining psychological state of 2014 could be the vertigo that comes from perpetually spinning between news hopeful, and obscene. It was like that this week. If you're informationally inclined, it's like that on most days of this social-media age. Cultural awakenings are revealed right next to the nightmares, and consumed much the same: you read, you nod, you scroll down the page. You're reading about a brutal crime; a catastrophe; a social movement that is set out to save lives.
  • The uncontroversial 'controversy'

    In Wednesday's paper, I wrote a piece about Evander Kane's most recent Instagram adventure. A little reluctantly, I might add, but in the end it couldn't be avoided; it was the buzz of the day. I thought the whole topic was silly, and loaded the story with sarcasm to poke gentle fun at the fact that it was being talked about at all. Judging from the response I received, clearly I wasn't sarcastic enough. So mea culpa, then. Let me try and rectify that by being far more blunt: the "controversy" over Evander Kane's Instagram photo was a mirage, a manufactured outrage conjured from nothing at all. It began because Twitter was buzzing about the photo, an image of himself doing a pushup with cash on his back. Most of the initial chatter was lighthearted; of the first few hundred comments on Kane's post, the majority ranged from playful to supportive.
  • Fanning flames of injustice

    Cameras love things that burn. They especially love the way things burn at night, when the gorging flames of some unhappy structure cast an ominous light. They flock to those burning things, not as moths, but more like worshippers to some amoral God: The existence of the fire is proof of purpose enough. We all saw Ferguson, Mo., burning on Monday night, because that is what the cameras loved. Of the people and their pain, we saw comparatively little to give context to the flames, and this is how Burning Things are made out to matter more than hurting people. It is also how we satisfy our urge to look, while absolving ourselves from the weight of what is being said.
  • Global warming's cold reception

    Here's a funny joke, don't stop me if you've heard this one already. Presented to you, in all its glory: "Cold out there, eh? So much for global warming." Oh yeah, it's a knee-slapper, especially after the thousandth time you've heard it uttered. Overused, sure, though often harmless -- save for when it is weaponized by a certain type of person, folks with Twitter names such as Patriots Flame who repeat the joke ad nauseam in the wake of every frigid Arctic blast.
  • The power in knowing her name

    There is a power in names, in how they are given and taken away. This power is written in history, calcified in superstition. It plays out in the media every day. It is the handmaids of Margaret Atwood's dystopia, their names erased and replaced by those of the men who control them. It is Jean Valjean, shouting his name before the police inspector who has been hunting him down, knowing that claiming his name means forfeiting his freedom.
  • Our silence has not been worth the cost

    We watched the whales in darkness, feet stretched towards the spray, our conversation sounding a muted minuet against the overture of Pacific waves. The night spread over Depoe Bay like a bruise. Scattered street-lamp yellows mingled with midnight purples and blues, throwing off just enough light to make out the shape of the place: a closing Mexican restaurant, a silent highway. A sleepy Oregon tourist joint crowded around a three-hectare waterway. "Smallest navigable harbour in the world," a road sign states, but this is only the little city's second-proudest claim.
  • Innocence long lost, but let's keep hardness at bay

    Before the lockdown had been lifted, while cloistered civilians nursed sandwiches in Hill hideouts, the punditry declared Canada had "lost its innocence." The quip was floated first, it seemed, by National Post columnist John Ivison on Twitter, and though he walked it back in a column later -- "Maybe it was naive," he wrote, "we probably lost our innocence a long time ago" -- his words had already branded the news. American media grabbed at the phrase greedily, polishing it only lightly to fit the narrative they were busy pushing on their own.
  • A city built for people

    Dispatch From a Road Trip Oct. 15, 2014
  • Wanted: A few good women

    If the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are still hunting some help to stop the run, they may want to call Jennifer Rands -- she knows a few good athletes for the job. They're right there on her team, the North Winnipeg Nomads Wolfpack women's tackle football squad.
  • Same planet, but worlds apart

    Long after the bison had almost vanished, slaughtered by the millions to fill American pockets and clear the plains, the Tsuu T'ina almost held a bison hunt again. The summer of 1921 was growing long when the Calgary Herald reported that the Tsuu T'ina -- called the Sarcee, then -- were inviting all the residents of Calgary to a celebration, the centrepiece of which would be a traditional bison hunt. Though they would hunt steers instead of bison, for that day they would raise up the old ways, the ones that had sustained their nation for generations.
  • A salve for a hurting world

    While my fingers beat a sloppy rhythm on the keyboard, my partner keeps time with the tapping of his cleaver, beating out a song of dinner. White onions, diced into satiny squares. Mushrooms slipped from woody stems and sliced to tender ribbons. Leeks sliced lengthwise, then chopped into crisp and new-green slivers. All of these, he tosses into the frying pan, the deep one I bought when I lived alone and never used too much. The one I found when I was moving all my things out of my old Osborne Village condo, caked with dust. We use it now, often.
  • Listen for their voices

    August 20, 2014. 7:22 p.m. On the docks.
  • Fears should be faced, not embraced

    When Gord Steeves finally spoke about the things -- Those Things -- his wife once wrote, the mayoral candidate wanted us to know Lorrie was afraid. No, the candidate clarified, that wasn't an excuse for writing a 2010 Facebook screed about "drunken native guys in skywalks," it was just "context." In the weeks before she fired off that missive, she had been approached by men she perceived as aggressive. She had her children with her. She was frightened. She lashed out.
  • Sunday bloody Sunday

    It's hard to know what exactly it was about that hot Sunday afternoon game in Kansas City, the one where Reggie Abercrombie just caught fire swinging. Yeah, the Goldeyes outfielder nodded on Thursday, he remembers that day in Missouri. It was July 20, and the Fish were about to put the final nail in the coffin of the three-game series, 2-1. Nick Hernandez was on the mound for the Fish, and the hitters were hot to support him. As a team, they went 18-for-41 that day and scored nine runs.
  • When buzzwords serve as conversation

    Already, the headlines are moving on from this dust-up over abstinence-only education, smothered by other tiny tempests that battle daily for our attention. Still, this episode will be instructive -- not as much for what was said, as for what wasn't.
  • Urban 'disgust', northern reality

    Let's set up this story, the way all such stories are now told: hey, did you see that thing about that woman on the Montreal Metro who plucked a bird? This is a story about a quiet failure. Not hers. It is a story about how urban Canada has failed to understand food, and each other.
  • An uncomfortable silence

    As the violence surged in Gaza, information flew fast and furious, little of it unmoderated by bias -- and almost none of it unscarred by accusations of the same.  
  • Fringe festival has revolutionary roots

    The first Winnipeg Fringe show I ever saw was called Hell, simply Hell, and with regrets to the actors, that's the memory of it that best lingered. The name was what grabbed our attention. The name sold that show.
  • Human nature's inoperable malignancy

    Somewhere on the drive home from the vet, my jaw clenching in time with the bitter howlings of my car-sick cat, I realized: It's not the cancer that upsets me most. No, it's the shots. The cancer is nature. The cancer grew inside her, outside of our control. She has been living in her soft, white body for 15 years maybe; this makes her very old. The years grew long on us both. ("Almost 10 years, Pete, can you believe it? She licks a paw and watches my lips move in pleased and lazy silence.) The years grew long enough I had time to build a mental observatory, a window into the vast night she will walk alone. So I can stand to watch her go.
  • Not this, not again, not here

    Oh, for we barkers in the exhausting carnival of public debate, few things are as liable to loosen the rollercoaster brakes so much as one term: “rape culture.” On its face, the phrase is utilitarian, blunt. It was raised into existence to describe a troubling pattern of ways that our culture shakes off sexual assault. It is useful in this way, though not without its faults — for instance, I balk at the hardness of it, having a natural affinity for painting issues in unfocused greys. What is worse is the way others would rather debate the term, then actually talk about sexual assault and rape.
  • Bringing dishonour to the name

    This one night in Montana, we sprawled along the railroad siding, shaking out our legs under a starry canopy of blue-black velveteen. "You're from Canada?" he said, smoke curling from his cigarette. "I've been up there. But I'm from here."
  • When fatherhood comes first

    Once upon a time, in a house with a great big spreading elm out front, a little girl was assembling her mental puzzle of the world. She had troops to assist in this great sorting, a marching battalion of research assistants frozen in plastic skins. She had dolls, old G.I. Joes worn paint-less on their moulded hips, pastel ponies scribbled black with ballpoint pen. For hours, the little girl would arrange them in ways that tested her misty hypotheses of life: boys and girls, heroes and villains, leaders and workers all acted out alike.
  • Along the river's edge

    THE RIVERMUCKS... Being a verbal photograph of these Treaty One prairielands in summer, the first of an intermittent series. Taken with a long exposure along the banks of the Assiniboine River, near where it makes heedless pilgrimage past the Manitoba legislature. There, the river makes no visits, and pays no deference. It is bigger than that building and, in its long a muddy view, older than it by forever.
  • The crime scene is all around us

    In the space that tumbles out below, I wanted to write about Pride, about the joy the rainbow march annually carries into my life. Then I woke up on Saturday morning. Yawned, stretched, took a photo of my cat. Fired up Twitter. Saw a link about a shooting at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and clicked on that. Then there was only this: a video of a man in a car. An image of his rigid face, lit by ribbons of coastal sun that could not warm eyes glistening with hate. "I don't know why you girls aren't attracted to me," the young man hissed. "But I will punish you all for it."

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