It’s Not About Politics, And Yet It Is, And Must Be.

Over the last week or so, I have read a number of fountain pen blog entries which begin with something akin to, “I usually try and stay in my lane…” or “I try to stay apolitical…”. Well, here at Writing for Pain and Pleasure, I’ve never really had a lane as such, and I’ve never really been appropriate. Here you can find posts about me climbing into a pool with a moody killer whale when I couldn’t swim, and anti-fascist poetry, as well as fountain pen reviews. What can I say? The blog’s about writing. This post will not be about fountain pens, but I will try and take a different approach to other bloggers out there on the interwebs. Maybe that will work, maybe it won’t, you be the judge.

A Not So Secret Secret.

I’m going to let you into a secret that most reputable biologists have not really been keeping to themselves.





… there is absolutely nothing in the genetic material of any human being that may identify them as any given racial category. There is no such thing as a black gene, or white gene, or any other single gene for so-called racial traits, or combination thereof, which even lends credence to the existence of such classifications. (Godden, 2020).

But don’t just take my word for it, here are a few of the authors who have contributed to the literature from more than 20 years of research… Bamshad and Olson (2003); Bamshad, Wooding, Salisbury, Stephens (2004); Cavalli-Sforza, Menozzi, and Piazza (1994); Foster & Sharp (2002); Li, & Sadler (1991); Wagner, Joon-Ho, Ifekwunigwe, Harrell, Bamshad, and Royal (2016); Yudell, Roberts, DeSalle, and Tishkoff (2016).

Opinion and Evidence

But the undeniable fact that race is a flawed, anthropogenic construct, doesn’t mean that there isn’t racism—an ignorant prejudice based on skin color and culture. As a fat, privileged, Caucasian male, who has never known true financial hardship or prejudice, I can say that I am as much of a racist as the next individual in my socio-economic group. There, obligatory confession over with. What I don’t do however, is murder people in the streets because I think their skin color makes them somehow less of a citizen than myself. Or because I think I can get away with it. No, it mostly takes ignorance and wickedness with a badge to do that. But I am 100% guilty of not doing enough about it, even though I’ve known—we’ve all known—that it’s been going on since before I was born (The Washington Post, 2020—Online database of fatal police shootings since 2015).

And it’s worth mentioning here, that whilst The Washington Post estimates more than 5,000 people (of any skin color) have been shot to death by US police since 2015, that is only (only—typing that word in this context made my stomach churn), those that have been shot. The killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on May 25 2020 would not even be recorded in the database.

And for those of you who cry, “All lives matter!” Yes they do, and that is why Black Lives Matter, and today’s anger is because they have been ignored for so long.

cant breathe - It’s Not About Politics, And Yet It Is, And Must Be.

When a person whose skin color happens to be a dark shade of brown—or any other color you can imagine—is murdered on the streets of any country in the world, we are all lessened by that crime. The life of a member of the human race has been criminally taken by someone who has demonstrated that they are much less of a human being than the victim. One of my brothers or sisters, one of your brothers or sisters—because you can trace us all back to our common ancestors (Gibbons, 2017; Rosenberg, Pritchard, Weber, Cann, Kidd, Zhivotovsky, and Feldman, 2002; Wagner, et al., 2016)—has been killed. We should all be outraged, we should all have been being outraged for a very long time now.


Let me get this straight, this is not about politics, this should never have been about politics. How can the contempt for one human being’s life by another, simply based on skin color, ever have been about politics? And when that contempt is expressed as the murder—in front of a world full of virtual witnesses—of human beings, committed by those supposedly employed to protect and serve us, how is that politics?

[T]he activities associated with the governance of a country or area, especially the debate between parties having power. (Merriam-Webster, 2020)

And yet it is about the governance of a country, and it must be. Especially when it is embodied and empowered by political leaders. Electing racists like Trump, or voting on the basis of racist policies such as the United Kingdom’s recent exit from the European Union, empowers usually hidden racist attitudes (Booth, 2019; Dearden, 2018). And when those hidden—or not so hidden—racist tendencies are present in those with a level of power, or worse, armed with a badge and a gun, the results are beyond tragic, and human lives are lost.

Don’t talk to me about staying in my lane. If a lot of us privileged Caucasians are angry now, why weren’t we driven to action when the last innocent black life was taken? Or the one before that? Or the one before that… ad infinitum? Instead, in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States, we have all elected privileged, racist Caucasian males to positions of power:

canadian flag - It’s Not About Politics, And Yet It Is, And Must Be.

“It doesn’t have to be about race… You can be a racist against people that eat little red apples. You can be a racist against people that have a drinking problem. You can be racist against people that are too fat.” (Ontario Premier Doug Ford, in Lum, 2014).

united kingdom flag - It’s Not About Politics, And Yet It Is, And Must Be.

What a relief it must be for Blair to get out of England. It is said that the Queen has come to love the Commonwealth, partly because it supplies her with regular cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies… They say he is shortly off to the Congo. No doubt the AK47s will fall silent, and the pangas will stop their hacking of human flesh, and the tribal warriors will all break out in watermelon smiles to see the big white chief touch down in his big white British taxpayer-funded bird. (Johnson, 2002).

american flag - It’s Not About Politics, And Yet It Is, And Must Be.

A well-educated black has a tremendous advantage over a well-educated white in terms of the job market. I think sometimes a black may think they don’t have an advantage or this and that… I’ve said on one occasion, even about myself, if I were starting off today, I would love to be a well-educated black, because I believe they do have an actual advantage. (Donald J. Trump, in Porter, 1989; Trump, 1989).

When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best — they’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people. (Trump, 2015).

In the United States of America, a country which makes much of its standards of life, liberty and freedom, African Americans are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by their own police services than white people. Black women are 1.4 times more likely:

The average lifetime odds of being killed by police are about 1 in 2,000 for men [of color] and about 1 in 33,000 for women. Risk peaks between the ages of 20 y and 35 y for all groups. For young men of color, police use of force is among the leading causes of death. (Edwards, Lee, and Esposito, 2019).

For young men of color, police use of force is among the leading causes of death. For any of you reading this whose tax money has gone toward the para-militarization of police forces across the country, think of that the next time you are called upon to exercise your democratic rights.

Without doubt, a similar state exists in Canada, and my original home of the United Kingdom. I grew up in the UK with many non-white friends. In my pre-teens I became all too aware of the racism inherent in the Metropolitan Police Force of London, which—by the accounts of its own colored officers—is still a major problem (Muir, 2013). My tax money has blood on it too. The United States is not alone, and anyone of good conscience should be standing with US protestors, and saying, “No more, not in my name.”

I have covered this before in this blog…

But what else can you do in the face of such inhumanity? We can begin by recognizing that there are issues at stake that are greater than partisan politics, and greater than the dollar or the pound in our pockets. When we vote, with criminally inhumane, far-right candidates in danger of achieving positions of power—Johnson in the UK, Scheer in Canada, and the vicious misogynist in the US—we need to realize that our votes can cost lives as well as livelihoods.

end white silence - It’s Not About Politics, And Yet It Is, And Must Be.

Elections have consequences, and voting for the kind of inhumane, greedy animals, that embolden the ignorant racists on the ground to take human lives when they will, is both our current political state, and an issue far, far above politics at the same time. Our votes, no matter where we live, can cost lives.

On this blog, I have a voice—a very small one to be sure—and it will be used, despite the complaints I have had in the past:


That will be quite enough. The fountain pen community gets along quite well without involving politics and religion. I strongly recommend that you do the same.

Really? I don’t think so; take a look at some of the better blogs in this community over the last week or so, and you’ll see a lot of justifiably outraged people out there. People who are saying, “No more, not in my name.” Let’s hope it sticks, let’s hope outrage becomes something positive and lasting. Vote in November, vote in numbers too great for the current corruption of the White House to falsify. Vote because elections have consequences, and votes can save lives.

In closing, I’d like to list some names, 121 fellow human beings who have payed the ultimate price to wake the rest of us up. It’s not a full and complete list—although, sadly, it was all too easy to put together—the human tragedy is that a complete list would be so long, and clouded in so many lies and vile complicity, that it would not be possible to compile. We should say their names with respect and compassion because…

blm with reference - It’s Not About Politics, And Yet It Is, And Must Be.

Aiyana Stanley-Jones
Akai Gurley
Akiel Denkins
Alberta Spruill
Alesia Thomas
Alexia Christian
Alfred Olango
Alton Sterling
Amaud Arbery
Anthony Hill
Anthony Lamar Smith
Antwon Rose
Ariane McCree
Aura Rosser
Botham Shem Jean
Brandon Webber
Brendon Glenn
Breonna Taylor
Charleena Chavon Lyles
Charly Keunang
Christian Taylor
Christopher Whitfield
D’ettrick Griffin
Danette Daniels
Danny Ray Thomas
Dante Parker
Darius Tarver
David McAtee
De’von Bailey
DeAndre Ballard
DeJuan Guillory
Dontre Hamilton
E.J. Bradford
Eleanor Bumpurs
Eric Logan
Ezell Ford
Finan H. Berhe
Frankie Ann Perkins
Freddie Gray
Gabriella Nevarez
George Floyd
Gregory Gunn
Gregory Hill Jr.
Jamar Clark
Jamarion Robinson
Jamee Johnson
Janisha Fonville
JaQuavion Slaton
Jemel Roberson
Jerame Reid
Jimmy Atchison
John Crawford lll
Jonathan Ferrell
Jonathan Hart
Jordan Baker
Jordan Edwards
Julius Johnson
Kajieme Powell
Kathryn Johnston
Kayla Moore
Keith Lamont Scott
Kendra James
Kendrec McDade
Korryn Gaines
Kwame “KK” Jones
Kyam Livingston
Laquan McDonald
Larry Jackson Jr.
LaTanya Haggerty
Malissa Williams
Manuel Loggins Jr.
Margaret LaVerne Mitchell
Mario Woods
Maurice Granton
Meagan Hockaday
Michael Brown
Michael Dean
Michelle Cusseaux
Miles Hall
Miriam Carey
Mya Hall
Natasha McKenna
Natosha “Tony” McDade
Patrick Harmon
Pearlie Golden
Philando Castile
Quintonio LeGrier
Ramarley Graham
Rekia Boyd
Robert Lawrence White
Rumain Brisbon
Ryan Twyman
Samuel David Mallard
Samuel DuBose
Sandra Bland
Sean Reed
Shantel Davis
Sharmel Edwards
Shelly Frey
Sheneque Proctor
Shereese Francis
Sonji Taylor
Stephen Lawrence
Stephon Clark
Steven Demarco Taylor
Tamir Rice
Tanisha Anderson
Tarika Wilson
Terence Crutcher
Terrance Franklin
Terrence Sterling
Tony Robinson
Trayvon Martin
Tyisha Miller
Victor White lll
Walter Scott
Wendell Allen
William Green
Willie McCoy
Yassin Mohamed
Yvette Smith


… we are all human beings, deserving of compassion, respect, and justice.


Bamshad, M., and Olson, S. (2003). Does race exist? Scientific American, 289, 78–85. Doi: 10.1038/scientificamerican1203–78

Bamshad, M., Wooding, S., Salisbury, B., Stephens, J. (2004). Deconstructing the relationship between genetics and race. Nature Reviews Genetics, 5(8), 598–609. Doi:

Booth, R. (2019, May 20). Racism rising since Brexit vote, nationwide study reveals. The Guardian. Retrieved from:

Cavalli-Sforza, L., Menozzi, P., Piazza, A. (1994). The history and geography of human genes. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Dearden, L. (2018, May 11). Racism has become more acceptable since Brexit vote, United Nations warns. The Independent. Retrieved from:

Edwards, F., Lee, H., and Esposito, M. (2019). Risk of being killed by police use of force in the United States by age, race–ethnicity, and sex. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(34), 16793–16798. Doi:

Foster, M., and Sharp, R. (2002). Race, ethnicity, and genomics: Social classifications as proxies of biological heterogeneity. Genome Research, 12(6), 844–850. Doi:

Gibbons, A. (2017, October 12). New gene variants reveal the evolution of human skin color. Science. [Published online] Retrieved from: Doi:10.1126/science.aar2007.

Godden, P. (2019, September 5). He cried in hatred. [Web log post] Writing for Pain and Pleasure. Retrieved from:

Godden, P. (2020, Jun 7). Is there any such thing as race? The musings of a 50-something Caucasian science educator. [Web log post] Talk Curriculum. Retrieved from:

Johnson, B. (2002, January 10). If Blair’s so good at running the Congo, let him stay there. The Telegraph. Retrieved from:

Li, W., & Sadler, L. (1991). Low nucleotide diversity in man. Genetics, 129(2), 513–523. retrieved from

Lum, Z. (2014, June 10). Doug Ford still doesn’t understand racism. The Huffington Post Canada. Retrieved from:

Merriam-Webster. (2020, June 8). Politics. In dictionary. Retrieved from

Muir, H. (2013, April 21). Metropolitan police still institutionally racist, say black and Asian officers. The Guardian. Retrieved from:

Porter, D. (1989, September 13). What Must Blacks Go Through? The Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved from

Rosenberg, N., Pritchard, J., Weber, J., Cann, H., Kidd, K., Zhivotovsky, L., and Feldman, M. (2002). Genetic structure of human populations. Science, 298(5602), 2381–2385. Retrieved from

The Washington Post (2020, June 8). Fatal Force. In The Washington Post online. Retrieved from:

Trump, D. (1989, September 5). NBC News Special: The R.A.C.E., Racial Attitudes and Consciousness Exam. Bryant Gumbel (Reporter), Part I Tuesday, Sep 05, 1989 (00:55), Part II Wednesday, Sep 06, 1989 (00:58). A report on the issue of race in the US. Features the tabulating of a national survey to determine how Americans respond to race and racism.

Trump, D. (2015, June 6). Speech announcing candidacy for U.S. president. Retrieved from

Wagner, J., Joon-Ho, Y., Ifekwunigwe, J., Harrell, T., Bamshad, M., and Royal, C. (2016). Anthropologists’ views on race, ancestry, and genetics. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 162(2), 318–327. Doi: 10.1002/ajpa.23120.

Yudell, M., Roberts, D., DeSalle, R., and Tishkoff, S. (2016). Taking race out of human genetics. Science, 351(6273), 564–565. Doi: 10.1126/science.aac4951.

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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

The post The Art Of Gary Choo appeared first on Halcyon Realms – Art Book Reviews – Anime, Manga, Film, Photography.