Heather Conn Blogs

spoutin’ about by the sea

“Faggot” no, “chicks” yes?

In the recent furor over the use of the word “faggot” in the Dire Straits song Money For Nothing, I find it ironic that no accounts have mentioned the song’s phrase  “your chicks for free.” The lyrics also include this sentence: “Look at that mama, she got it stickin’ in the camera Man we could have some.”

As a woman, I could certainly say that I find such words and concepts exploitative, sexist, demeaning, and objectifying. Yet, I wouldn’t call up a radio station and request that the song not be played because of them. Firstly, I believe in artistic licence and freedom of speech.

Secondly, Mark Knopfler and Sting, who co-wrote the song in 1985, are using the voice of a working stiff who’s watching music videos and resenting how easy it appears to be to find sex, fame, and glory as a musician, rather than doing his grunt work of moving heavy appliances all day (see the song lyrics below).  Therefore, the use of the word “faggot” is in keeping with this man’s character and perspective. That doesn’t mean that we have to agree with it.  

(For those who don’t know the story, someone recently complained to radio station CHOZ-FM in St. John’s, Nfld., Canada about its airing of an unedited version of the song. The complainant said that the song’s lyrics were “extremely offensive” to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. As a result, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, an independent body, has ruled that the song should not be played on Canadian airwaves. The council concluded that the word “faggot” . . . even if entirely or marginally acceptable in earlier days, is no longer so.”

The council also stated, according to The Vancouver Sun:  “The societal values at issue a quarter century later have shifted and the broadcast of the song in 2010 must reflect those values, rather than those of 1985.”)

I would not use the word “faggot” and agree that it is offensive, but I would not advocate the banning of this song. In contrast, it is truly sad that western society has become so inured to calling and representing women as “chicks” and portraying them as temptresses freely available for sex, that no one has even drawn attention to this aspect of the lyrics during the Dire Straits song controversy.

Here are the lyrics to Money for Nothing:

I want my MTV (X 16) Now look at them yo-yo’s that’s the way you do it You play the guitar on the MTV That ain’t workin’ that’s the way you do it Money for nothin’ and your chicks for free Now that ain’t workin’ that’s the way you do it Lemme tell ya them guys ain’t dumb Maybe get a blister on your little finger Maybe get a blister on your thumb We gotta install microwave ovens Custom kitchen deliveries We gotta move these refrigerators We gotta move these color TV’s
(See the little faggot with the earring and the makeup Yeah buddy that’s his own hair That little faggot got his own jet airplane That little faggot he’s a millionaire) Gotta install microwave ovens Custom kitchen deliveries We gotta move these refrigerators Gotta move these color TV’s I shoulda learned to play the guitar I shoulda learned to play them drums
Look at that mama, she got it stickin’ in the camera Man we could have some And he’s up there, what’s that? Hawaiian noises? Bangin’ on the bongos like a chimpanzee That ain’t workin’ that’s the way you do it Get your money for nothin’ get your chicks for free We gotta install microwave ovens Custom kitchens deliveries We gotta move these refrigerators We gotta move these color TV’s
Look a’ here That ain’t workin’ that’s the way you do it You play the guitar on your MTV That ain’t workin’ that’s the way you do it Money for nothin’ and your chicks for free Money for nothin’ and chicks for free Money for nothin’ and your chicks for free Look at that, look at that Money for nothin’ and your chicks for free I want my, I want my, I want my MTV Money for nothin’ and chicks for free (Fade) I want my, I want my, I want my MTV
*                             *                               *                           *                              *
In a similar hoopla over language, Mark Twain scholar Alan Gribben is promoting a new edition of Twain’s classic Huckleberry Finn, which will replace the book’s 215 uses of the word “nigger” with “slave.” In Gribben’s words: “Race matters in these books. It’s a matter of how you express that in the 21st century.”

Well, on this issue, I agree with director Spike Lee, who calls this whitewashing of historical language “ridiculous.” Yes, language is fluid and does change with the times,  but if that term, however despicable, was accurately used in a historical context, to alter it is to fictionalize reality.

How far will political correctness go? To relabel history based on present-day standards and ideology is unwarranted revisionism. Such repackaging of the past is among the first steps that dictators and power-mongers, from Hitler to Chairman Mao, took to reinvent themselves and their regimes. George Orwell warned about such twisting of language and words and their meaning, seeing it as an integral tool of fascism.

Let the past remain intact, true to its offensiveness. I like the comments of Daniel James on the blog Good Culture: “Naturally I deplore the “N” word and would never use it myself. However, in a piece of literature like Huckleberry Finn it stands as an important reminder of the way the world was and why we are the way we are today. Huck Finn is written within a specific time and place and we should be reminded of the way things were in the south no matter how distasteful aspects of the piece are to 21st century eyes.”

I was going to say “Amen,” but gee, some might construe that as unnecessarily biased towards a certain religion, not inclusive enough, and not non-denominational. Hell, I’ll use it anyway.

January 30, 2011 at 12:18 pm Comments (2)

A “living museum” on Mount Elphinstone could be logged


A threatened yellow cedar on Dakota Ridge

— photos by Michael Maser
It’s one thing to seek protection of old-growth forest for the purely theoretical and  practical sake of conservation and sustainability.  It’s another to stand beneath centuries-old cedars or Douglas firs and absorb their size and wonder in your heart and gut, witnessing the canopy and life they provide for so many creatures, big and small. At such times, it’s hard to imagine an ancient forest without all of its trees and flora and fauna that thrive in symbiosis, from a creek to the nurse logs to the mushrooms to the moss to the birds and so on.

I still remember, decades ago, standing amidst the vast array of stumps of old-growth trees in the Carmanah Valley on Vancouver Island, B.C., feeling sickened by the gutted, clearcut landscape. Right next to it stood a thriving forest of cedars and firs. I stared at both of these side-by-side scenes, which represented the opposite extremes of devastation and vibrant life, and wondered: How could anyone witness this loss of ancient life, so close to an abundant forest,  and not think that something was out of kilter?

A friend of mine recently went up to the forest on Mount Elphinstone near Dakota Ridge recreation area on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast, where ancient yellow cedars are slated for logging, and shared these comments:

“I was astounded with what I discovered. Just 300-400 metres from the access road (quite nearby to the D-Ridge parking lot & warming hut) is a forest unlike any I’ve seen anywhere — and I’ve explored plenty of forests. It’s a high-elevation Old-Growth remnant (i.e. an island) about 45 hectares in size, chock-a-block with veteran yellow cedar and hemlock trees, many of which are easily 400-1000 years of age. I’ve never seen such a dense old growth forest.

“But that’s only part of it — by rough estimate, at least a couple dozen of the veteran Yellow Cedar trees still living here are ‘culturally-modified’ – that is, they bear signs of having had bark removed (“modified”) several hundred years ago by ancestors of the Sechelt Indian Band. It is like a living museum.

“Clearly this site is incredibly precious — for its cultural, biological, and educational values as well as a carbon sink (old growth coastal forests store huge amounts of carbon).

“And … this small, remnant forest is all ringed with orange flagging tape as a proposed ‘elimination’ logging site for BC Timber Sales, which is the logging company owned and operated by the provincial government. Log it and in a few short weeks, it’s gone forever. At rock-bottom prices for lumber and pulp. Save it and we will have an educational site more valuable than Stanley Park or Cathedral Grove (which lack the culturally modified trees).”


I recently wrote to various B.C. government ministers, requesting that this rare parcel of forest (it’s 44 hectares or 110 acres, known as Block A84612) be spared from logging. I received a letter, dated January 12, from Tom Jensen, Assistant Deputy Minister of Forests, Mines and Lands. He explained the various regulations that pertained to this cutblock, stating that this “landscape unit . . .is considered available to timber development opportunities.” He said that this cutblock does not affect class 1, 2 or 3 marbled murrelet (species at risk) nesting habitat and that “significant old growth ecosystems on the Sunshine Coast are protected in parkland.” By that reasoning, anything that is not parkland is fair game for logging, right?

The minister added that any cutblock believed to contain Culturally Modified Trees (CMTs) that predate 1846 or are thought to predate 1846 requires a permit for logging, as per the Heritage Conservation Act. B.C. Timber Sales has commissioned a “detailed archaeological assessment” that will examine the scarred trees in this cutblock for their potential to be CMTs. Therefore, the auctioning of the timber sale for these hectares has been deferred until B.C. Timber Sales receives the recommendations of the archaeological report.

Since then, 24 CMTs have been identified and tagged in this cutblock, including “taper peels” (long strips of cedar bark removed), notched planks, and test-holes.

Meanwhile, the Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF) Group states that an estimated, less-than-two-per-cent of original, old-growth forests remains after a century of logging in the Mt. Elphinstone Forest Service map area.

“Old-growth forests provide ongoing environmental, recreational, and cultural services that need to be recognized as key economic contributors,” says ELF’s Ross Muirhead. “Short-term logging revenues pale in comparison, especially in light of the fact that BC Timber Sales has been losing money for several years. ”

Muirhead notes that new ways of assigning values to intact forests (I’m not sure what he means by that) show that forests actually generate up to $7,000 per hectare in services. That means that a 44-hectare forest provides $294,000 in yearly services to our community.

” We are not prepared to sit back and see our remaining old-growth forests that support bio-diversity be plundered,” says Muirhead.

If you would like to take action to preserve old-growth forest on Mount Elphinstone, please contact the Ministry of Forests, Mines and Lands and B.C. Timber Sales, quoting Block A84612.  Ask, or demand, that they place the cutblock and all remaining old-growth on Mt. Elphinstone under a moratorium until permanent protection is granted. Call and/or write to:

  • W. Blake Fougère, Resource Stewardship Officer, Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Sunshine Coast District, 7077 Duncan Street Powell River, B.C. V8A 1W1, Phone 604-485-0728 Fax 604-485-0799;Blake.Fougere@gov.bc.ca
Mr. Fougère is a key Ministry individual who has considerable sway in choosing the immediate stoppage of logging in  Dakota Ridge and regarding the Elphinstone Park Expansion Campaigns. He is seeking public input NOW. Please write, call or email him about the urgent need to protect our Sunshine Coast from further logging. He’ll present this feedback for the B.C. Government’s Timber Supply Review, which will start soon. With this public input, the B.C. Government will plan its future logging of the Sunshine Coast.
Please feel free to write to any of the following too, and cc: Mr. Fougère on the correspondence:
  • Dana Hayden, Deputy Minister of Forests, Mines and Lands, Victoria Ph (250) 356-5012, email: forests.deputyministersoffice@gov.bc.ca
  • Copy to: Mike Falkiner, Executive Director, Field Operations, BCTS Tel: 250-387-8309, email: Forests.ExecutiveDivisionOffice@gov.bc.ca
  • and cc to: Norm Kemp, Planning Forester, BCTS Campbell River Ph. (250) 286-9359, email: Norm.Kempe@gems7.gov.bc.ca

For more information contact: Ross Muirhead 604-740-5654, or Hans Penner 604-886-5730. See them on Facebook by searching for Elphinstone Logging Focus


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January 23, 2011 at 4:39 pm Comments (3)

Three memoirs: men in their 80s look back on life and love

In 2010, I ended up editing three memoirs written by three different men in their eighties. They were all intriguing stories:


  • On Love and War by Avivi I. Yavin, to be published in 2011 by MW Book Publishers in Garden Bay, BC. This semi-autobiographical story focuses on the moral and political dilemmas of a young soldier fighting in the elite Israeli underground forces in the late 1940s.


  •  A Labour of Love: Fond memories of family, friends, and medical feats, to be self-published by Sid Effer. This retired pediatrician recounts delightful adventures from his youth in Cuba and Brazil to his global travels in adulthood. Many decades after he helped countless women through challenging and sometimes life-threatening childbirths, he remains friends with former patients and their children around the world.


  • The Magical Playhouse: A conscious exploration of one’s dream reality, self-published by artist Bodhi Drope of Gibsons, BC. This nonfiction limited edition, accompanied by original four-colour digital art, covers the author’s spiritual journey and the powerful role that dreams and dream journalling played in his life. The book offers practical tips on how to use dreams to gain insights into your behaviour patterns and self-defeating beliefs.

I feel honoured that these men have entrusted me to shape the written accounts of their lives, fears, and private thoughts. As a university history grad and a former oral historian, I highly value the anecdotes that our elders carry, embodying the heritage of families, regions, cultures, and nations. That’s why I always encourage people to listen to the stories of the old folks in their lives, and tape them if possible, so that these tales will live on after their loved ones are gone.


This year, I continue to edit Sid Effer’s book, which reveals many parallels to the life and medical career of my father, who died in October at age eighty-five. Some of the similarities between both men are uncanny, especially considering that Sid lives in Guelph, Ont., like my dad did until he died. Editing Sid’s book is like sharing in the tale of my own father’s life, one that he never recorded.


I feel grateful for the opportunity to read Sid’s poignant words about heartache, love lost, and the joy he experienced at the birth of his children. His memoir is not just a string of medical achievements; it’s a tender account of fond times with family and friends. If my dad had written a similar memoir, I think that it would have weighed far more heavily on his medical career. A brief diary he kept in the mid-1960s, for instance, focuses primarily on his work, with only occasional references to his children and wife. Thanks, Sid, for presenting a balance between your work at the hospital and your life with your loved ones. 

(To find out more about my editing services, click here.)

January 4, 2011 at 4:06 pm Comments (0)