So, after a brief foray into WordPress, I’ve returned to Blogger like the prodigal son. You can visit me there so come on over and check it out!
So, after a brief foray into WordPress, I’ve returned to Blogger like the prodigal son. You can visit me there so come on over and check it out!
When I was a young child, I used to devour books like manna. I’d visit the local library several times a week, arms laden with stacks of Goosebumps and the Sweet Valley series, and go through them within the day. And at night, instead of going to sleep, I’d sit on a pillow in the hall immediately outside my door because the light was on a dimmer switch.
But for years, that was all I read. I grew into my teen years and rejected literature, content to stagnate at a level years behind. For ten years, I read junk magazines and neglected Austen, Pasternak, and Dickens; the worst part was I didn’t want to challenge myself. I was content to lollygag along without prodding myself higher.
I felt like a fraud every time I called myself a reader. Was I really, if the only words I looked at were thin paperbacks? Perhaps I was just doing what everyone else was, attaching to myself an attractive label that didn’t fit anymore. I clung to an identity that I was once proud of, but it was like wearing a shirt that fit ten pounds ago. Sometimes we have to look in the mirror and acknowledge that we’re not who we used to be, and wear clothes that fit.
But should we resign ourselves to that truth? Or is it easier to change than shedding excess weight?
I’m trying to become more like the child I used to be but finding it difficult; it’s easier to move with momentum than create a habit, but beginnings have to start somewhere.
And I’m starting with The Island of Doctor Moreau and Irving’s Last Night in Twisted River.
I’m only in my twenties, but I measure my progress in decades. I have to; that’s how long it takes for me to grasp certain concepts.
When I was in kindergarten, all that was required to make friends was sharing your Crayons but I couldn’t do that. My Crayons were just that- mine. And when I finally learned how to take those steps, the currency changed from crayons to something intangible.
During recesses, the new way to make friends was to talk about boys and makeup. That one, too, took me awhile to learn and when I finally did, I was yet again left behind.
I’m finally learning the give-and-take that’s necessary to make friends. Sometimes you talk, sometimes you listen, and sometimes there’s nothing said at all. It’s in those moments in particular where the deepest bonds develop, ironically, for how do two people connect without saying a word? But they do. A certain level of comfort is required between two people to just pause and enjoy each other’s company. Say nothing and revel in the sounds around you. Feel the rain falling, or the sun shining. And above all, stay in the moment.
It takes too long to learn this and too short to enjoy it.
Being summer and all, I thought a fun way to get into shape would be swimming. When I lived downtown, I had a membership at the Y and went swimming so many times I wore out bathing suits every couple of months. Then the years melted into each other, I got busy with school, and swimming got pushed to the side. But there’s no excuse, really. My building has a pool with decent hours and I have two swimming suits. So, this past week I- pun intended- dove in.
One side effect I hadn’t expected was not being able to get water out of my ear. It’s been stuck in my left ear for several days now. Doesn’t hurt or anything, just irritating, really. I can’t hear out of that ear. When I yawn, I can hear the water almost going out but it still stays. Oh yeah, I have problems with my sinuses, too, because I’m allergic to just about everything outside and this summer’s non-stop haziness has brought out the worst in me. So, I walk around with a tight chest, sniffling, and always wanting to sneeze but never quite being able to.
Last year, my sinuses were up to so much trouble that for two months, I was almost half-deaf in both ears. Putting it mildly, it was really annoying but probably not as annoying as my family found me. Most days, I’d try to watch TV and would crank it to a volume I could hear. “Whatcha gotta have that TV so loud for?” my mom’d ask me. “What!” I’d holler back. I could see her lips moving but it was like watching a movie on mute. “TV-loud-WHY?” she’d ask, enunciating every word like I didn’t know English. “Oh,” I’d say, “I didn’t think it was that loud. Sorry.” And then I’d turn it down, miserable because I couldn’t hear what the TV characters were saying. Closed captioning became my best friend but I still missed being able to hear their voices.
What quickly superseded the annoyance in not being able to watch TV was the unexpected isolation I felt. Hearing is one of those senses that really connect us, that allows us to quickly and easily converse so we can strengthen bonds. When that’s gone, we either have to get creative (learn ASL) or remove ourselves from the situation. I chose the latter. I hid from talking to people because I didn’t want to explain why I couldn’t hear them, and because I’ve seen how people treat those who can’t hear (or hear well.) Most of them try to make themselves understood a few times and then give up when they can’t. You realize how little patience people have for those on a different plane and you learn that it’s not fun experiencing it. That’s what I felt, and I crawled into my own little hole.
Now I’m experiencing it again and it just plain sucks. When I’m having a “good day,” my ear is only a little muffled and sometimes I don’t even notice it when I’m engrossed in whatever I’m doing. But now, when I’m trying to do my essay, I can’t hear at all in my left ear. I’m very sensitive when I’m talking to other people, watching their lips in case I miss something. Mostly, it’s just easier to avoid them and stay home. I also discovered how much the world is geared towards people who can hear fine in both ears when I was listening to my iPod through headphones and learned I couldn’t adjust the volume settings separately like you can on car radios.
And to get even deeper, as I withdraw more deeply into myself, I’m forced to confront who I am and I don’t like all parts of me. Y’know, it’s nice to have to the choice of when and where you avoid certain aspects of yourself. All I want to do right now is pull a shawl over my legs and grouse about life.
1. Americans with felony convictions can’t vote in the upcoming presidential election this November. You can read all the facts and figures in this report; the numbers are really disturbing and reflect a gap between outdated and innovative thinking.
2. The world seems more rife with hypocrisy than ever. People are happy to tear a strip off Daniel Tosh for making an inappropriate comment towards a woman but having been turning a blind eye to misogyny in hip hop culture for decades. Either call a spade a spade all the time or continue to tacitly endorse it.
3. Using a blanket term like ‘sexual assault’ to describe anything and everything that falls underneath that umbrella term doesn’t do justice to what happens. Rape is rape, groping is groping, voyeurism is voyeurism- you get the idea. We have words to describe these crimes, powerful words, and we need to start using them if any change is ever going to take place.
4. Speaking of the above point, something needed to be done about the rapes, murders, muggings, and gropings that have occurred at York University. When a person waiting for a bus on campus is assaulted (there’s that word again!) and the university not only takes four days to email its students but also baldly reassures the public action is being taken when it’s clearly not, it emboldens the perpetrators, diminishes what happened to the victim(s), and insults the intelligence of the rest of the students.
5. As fun as chuckwagon racing may be to its spectators, perhaps it is time to get rid of the event when ‘about 50 horses have died during chuckwagon racing at the [Calgary] Stampede’ since 1986. The number alone might not seem like a lot but at an average of two horses a year during one event, that’s akin to two football players dying in the NFL’s Super Bowl each year.
6. When we’re children, we look up to adults as arbiters of wisdom with the capability to ensure a good future for the next generations. As we age, we realize that’s not always the case but still hold out some hope that there are enough adults in positions of change and power who’ll do that. If you’re currently ageing in Toronto, you realize that’s not the case at all when almost all of the 44 city councillors bicker like spoiled brats and newspaper reporters resort to childish insults.
7. Blithely ignoring scientific data and then trumpeting your ignorance just lends more credence to P.T. Barnum’s saying, ‘There’s a fool born every minute.’ This article by the New York Times is a powerful one, showing the currently sad state of affairs in the States where someone like Mitt Romney is able to reach such lofty heights.
But the most disturbing nugget?
8. A vigilante group called Golden Dawn is conducting xenophobic violence with shades alarmingly similar to that of the SS during Nazi Germany; they aren’t the only group trying to keep ‘order’ in Greece. The global economic meltdown is eerily reminiscent of the violence during the Great Depression and really serves to show that when the chips are down, the veneer of civility is razor thin.
This world is- pardon my language- a fucked up place and it shows no sign of getting any time soon. The problems seem like they’ll take at least a generation to be solved and in the meantime, [insert your favourite deity here] help us all.
My apartment building is a nice, bland neighbourhood filled with golfers and senior citizens. It is surrounded by trees, houses, pools and churches….and now, pigeons. Yes, these vermin-birds have come to occupy certain balconies of my building and they are starting to drive me nuts. There’s a pair that love to perch on the balcony above mine (they must be fed) and it’s forced me to take assertive action.
At first, all I’d have to do is open the balcony door and the sound would scare them off. Then they grew accustomed to that and I’d have to clap my hands at them. Every time I did that, I always wondered if I had blind neighbours who wondered why on earth someone in their building would go out periodically and clap her hands. I’m dense enough that if that was me, I’d wonder for the entire summer why someone kept clapping (not tying it to scaring away pigeons.)
The next solution was to get a water gun from Walmart and squirt those damn birds, more fun than I’m able to convey. There’s something so primal about taking aim at a bird and unleashing a stream of water at them, but this, too, didn’t last long. The darn birds learned to go inside the balconies after being hit, or to fly away and come back a minute later.
Time for more drastic action.
My mom made an owl; got a little lantern and glued eyes and feathers onto it. It kinda looks like an owl, too, if owls were plastic and green. It seems to have worked- at least, for now. I’ve only had to squirt the buggers once today whereas I would have done so about ten times by now.
But as I look out my window now, I can see them huddled on the roof, kissing each other as they lie in wait. They’re probably biding their time until they can swoop in and rest on a balcony. I can even picture a conversation between them, if pigeons could talk, and it’d probably go something like this:
Pigeon 1: ‘It’s a hot day, innit?’
Pigeon 2: ‘Sure is. Whaddya say we grab some shade? There’re some balconies over there that are out of the sun’s way.’
Pigeon 1. ‘Let’s go.’
Pigeon 2: ‘To infinity and beyond!’
Of course, I’m making heavy assumptions, like the pigeons are fans of Toy Story. It’s possible, though!
I watched Tom Ford’s A Single Man last night which I admired as much for the acting as I did the beautiful artifice. I’d like to say it was like being a voyeur to the evolution of a painting, but that implies that there was a starting sketch with colours added as the movie progressed and it wasn’t. It was more like starting with a finished painting and watching it change into another whilst still retaining the original’s core elements.
Anyway, I digress. One of the lines early on, something about is partner loving mornings and greeting the day with a smile, stuck with me. I’m a morning person (although not always necessarily with a smile) and really look forward to that part of the day when the world seems alone to me for just a brief moment. One of my favourite moments was when I was in Moncton last year when I woke up at 7am and had a coffee outside, watching the golfers across the street from the B&B. No cars drove by, nobody noticed me and for a good half hour, part of the world was quiet and mine. I usually race through my days so fast that having those quiet moments mark the starting points is really welcome. It’s when I can truly be alone with myself and my thoughts and forget, just for a second, that millions of people surround me.
But this morning, I had that movie’s line in my head along with Locke’s idea of personal identity. What does it actually mean to have thoughts, and can we ascribe our identities to them? Locke basically argued that we are identified by our consciousness (there’s more detailed stuff in the link above) but how can we if we’re always changing? Or are we always changing? I suppose there’re enough people who remain in a rut that they’re easily identifiable for years, but how about the people who become ‘new’?
Intuitively, I know that I’ll always be me no matter how old or where I am in life. There’s a temptation to dismiss regrets and mistakes by saying ‘that wasn’t me’ but if that wasn’t us, who was it? An alter ego of sorts we keep in stock so that when we deviate from who we think we should be we can replace that person and rationalise the behaviour away?
There are many times I’d like to do that: when I trumpet views solidly and confidently only to do a 180 later on, getting to the stage of having to say ‘I’m sorry’ to another…anything where, in hindsight, I had wished I’d taken a different tack.
Can we use Locke’s theory of personal identity? Or is there another way of defining who we are across our lives? And who are you?
In the last week, I’ve been inundated with news of marriages, houses, and babies and it made me think- in 2012, is this still the ideal that we’re taught to strive for?
Growing up, I read all the magazines marketed towards girls and women- Tiger Beat, Seventeen, Cosmopolitan- but they never really shaped my world paradigm the way they have for so many others. I never thought to aspire to an ideal body shape or sought the relationship that these magazines shouted from their pages. Maybe it’s because I preferred playing soccer and handball with the boys during recess instead of standing around and talking with the girls, or maybe it’s because things like dolls and fashion were the furthest ideas of fun from my mind. Either way, I skipped over all the fashion pages of these magazines and, to paraphrase men caught with Playboy in their hands, I really read them for the articles.
So, all these aspirations I was supposed to have never stuck with me. I never planned out a wedding, never played wedding with dolls, hated going on shopping trips, and couldn’t understand why I barely had any female friends. I don’t think I even knew how to try and hide myself to fit in, but I didn’t.
Now, I see a poisson clumping of friends and acquaintances around me getting married, buying houses, and having babies and I don’t understand what all the fuss is about. When did we all change from going out into the world and seeking our own identities to conforming to someone else’s ideal? What’s so special about a ring, four walls, and something that cries all the time? Isn’t there something more to aim for, like really discovering ourselves and maxing out our own potentials?
Marriages fail at the alarming rate of 40% (in Canada, as of 2010) and with such high odds of failure as that on the horizon, it can get very expensive and messy very quickly. As an aside, I really don’t understand how or why people spend tens of thousands on just one day when there’re so many other things the money can be be towards (and don’t even get me started on how brides spend thousands on a dress they’ll wear for mere hours…) Why not spend a fraction of that money on premarital counselling and asking the tough questions so that both parties really understand the contract they’re signing? Other than tax purposes, I don’t even see the point of marriage.
Houses. I can see the value in getting a house. It’s single-handedly the biggest investment most people would make, it provides a stable beacon of familiarity to return to each night, and it’ll only go up in value. Personally, I prefer houses over condos because you don’t have to take an elevator to check your mail, you can hang your clothes outside, and you don’t need coins to operate the washer and dryer. If you can afford it and want to stay in one place for a good chunk of time, go for it. But suburbs? All the houses look the same! None of them have their own personality, you need a car to get everywhere, and there’s just not the learning opportunities as there are in the city. I’m a woman of the extremes- when I stop getting the itch to move from place to place, I’m going to live in either a downtown area or a town of a few thousands. There’s so many more things to learn that you just can’t in suburbs, like the multi-faceted complexities of nature, or the vibrant life of the urban core. What’s there in a suburb- a lesson in how to be just like everyone else?
And babies. I’ll try to keep off my personal dislike for humans under the age of 18, but I think too many women are having babies without being vetted carefully enough while the rest of us who choose to go without are close to criticized for remaining childless. Why is it that any woman can theoretically go out and increase the population of the world without undergoing a careful screening of how she’d be as a parent? Her reasons for wanting a child? A thorough review of her finances to ensure the well-being of the child? Her mental health? Why should I, as a woman who absolutely does not want children, be looked upon with something of a mixture of pity and a figurative patronizing pat on the head, and told that I just don’t feel the urge yet but I will someday? No. I don’t want children, I’ve thought enough of my decision, I don’t want the burden (or this ‘incomparable experience’ everyone keeps talking about), and I don’t think the world is a good place to bring more people into it. And I’m criticized for my decision? How many babies do you hear that are abused by their parents, thrown against the wall because of the adult’s frustration or shaken until they die?
I think the best question is- why is the trifecta of marriage, house, and baby the ideal that we are being told we should want? And why are we accepting someone else’s idea of what we want? Shouldn’t we learn who each of us are thoroughly before blithely accepting this one-of-many option? I have a pretty good idea of who I am and what I want- I want to see as much of the world as I can, learn about different cultures firsthand, become well-read, and be in a job that I enjoy. I don’t need a spouse, house, or child to do that. I’m perfectly happy and secure with my own company and I intend to develop that as much as possible.
Shouldn’t we all?
I’ve been reading a lot of troubling stuff in the newspapers lately with some that seems to be beyond the reach of ordinary citizens.
Canada’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, is absolutely soused on his own power. Now that he’s achieved a majority government he’s passing all sorts of bills that’ll directly affect where this country is going. A year ago, when his was still a minority government, he tried to eliminate per vote subsidy (a certain amount of money, about $2 I think, is given to each political party for each vote they get.) The other parties banded together and revolted, and that was squashed. Now, he’s not only managed to reduce the monetary amount given per vote but he’s going full steam ahead to reduce it to zero. This effectively means the end of the Green Party (and eventually the NDP) because they just won’t be getting enough private donations to sustain themselves. And if they don’t get enough private donations, they’ll turn into a tinpot party, won’t be able to advertise themselves as well, and the cycle will spiral further and further until they die. Harper’s Conservatives, and the Liberals, will be fine, of course, but their fineness means that we’ll become a two-party system like our much-maligned neighbours to the south. The Bloc Québécois won’t die, but they’ll also never get past being nothing more than a fringe party. Do you really want that? Or is our four-party system something worth preserving? (Again, I’m not counting the Greens because they’re effectively dead in the water. They had a brief splash in the spotlight but it’ll never be anything more than that.) Personally, I think it’s only a matter of time before we become the 51st state, officially or unofficially. You could even make a valid argument that we’re already there but I don’t think we’ve crossed the precipice quite yet.
This isn’t because I dislike what Harper is doing; my preferred party will never be in power for my entire life. There’ll always be politicians I don’t agree with but what worries me about Harper is that he’s enacting irreversible changes. To sidestep a bit, look at McGuinty’s introduction of the HST. That’s a tax that’ll never go away. Taxes, if you remember, were supposed to have been a temporary measure brought in during wartime to boost our depleted economy. Well, politicos liked it so much they kept it around and the HST is no different. Same with per vote subsidy. Once that goes away, no politician will be able to resurrect it. How do you think he or she’d be able to explain to the House of Commons that they’d want to increase spending in a ‘frivolous’ area? Not gonna happen.
I was also reading with great sadness what’s going on in Tennessee. Lawmakers want to pass the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill which, as much as they deny it, would make anything to do with homosexuality verboten. They argue that it impedes with their right to ‘indoctrinate their children’ and that attaching ‘phobia’ to anything demonises anyone who has an opposing view. I’m NOT sorry, but if your opposing view means treating gay people like second-class citizens and not allowing them the same rights as everyone else because an invisible man in the sky decreed it as such, your ‘opposing views’ are wrong, they’re backwards, and they need enlightening. It took, man, how many decades for too many people to realise that black people are no different (some people still unfortunately don’t see that) and that women ARE persons? Way too long. Let’s learn from history and do things right this time. I have no idea what the magic words are to help the Mitt Romneys and the Bill Dunns of the world see that everyone is a lot more alike than they’ll allow, gay, straight, black, white, whatever. People like them would have you believe that each person is unique and different and the truth is we’re not. If you close your eyes so that you can’t see someone’s skin colour or feather boa, you’ll quickly learn that we all feel love, we all hunger for dreams and wishes- we’re really not that different from each other. A gay person doesn’t sleep in and miss work any different from a straight person, and a black person doesn’t drink water from a glass any different from a white person. We all get the same medical ailments that are fixed in pretty much the same ways, we all push an elevator button pretty much the same way, and we all use our legs for walking in pretty much the same way.
Let’s just try and treat each other in pretty much the same way, too.
This summer, I’m taking a class on HBO shows. Yup, half the class is spent watching regular network TV shows and comparing it to how HBO does it better. Of course, there being a mark that’s assigned to each of us at the end, we have to do the ‘a’ word- assignments. Our first one is analysing the open credits of any HBO show we choose so naturally I chose the one show that espouses subversive feminism values: Sex and the City. I watched every single episode of this show- sometimes two or three times- but I never paid much attention to the credits. After a couple of times of watching it, the novelty wore off and I timed my movements exactly until I had skipped over. Now, I’m noticing all sorts of things the producers put in there and, well, here’s what I’ll be handing in tomorrow:
The first shot is that of the protagonist, Carrie Bradshaw, in the lower right hand corner. She is shown to us in an intimate close-up of her head with the angle dissecting her from the top lip down suggesting fractured, emergent, and distorted feminism. Lines of worry break through the makeup on her face, framed by fluffily coiffed hair. The theme of feminism is further illustrated in this first shot as the only other clear figure is another woman situated on the left side of the screen. She is old, well-dressed, and shot from the waist up- a clear sign that while the grandmother figure will play a part in the show, it will serve as an omen of what the future holds for Carrie and all women. This is a show that will focus on the young, single woman lifestyle in New York while dealing with the spectre of ageing. Interesting to note, however, is the placement of both women. They are shown to be at a distance from the rest of the crowd in the scene and this offers another hint of the show’s premise.
The next scenes are of the show’s logo against a backdrop of the Empire State building, an iconic landmark of power with phallic overtones, anchoring us firmly in New York while clouds race by to indicate the passage of time. Carrie’s is the first face to appear after the skyline shots and this time she wears a knowing smile of accomplishment. Wearing brightly painted red lips, we finally see her attire- a pink tutu- and immediately grasp that she will wrestle with the child-woman and fashionista-woman images. This is HBO telling us that Carrie does not fit into one box of feminism but many.
The screen returns to the backdrop of New York but at night, a time of subterfuge, daring, and risky business. During the day she appears self-assured; as the clock ticks into the later hours she becomes uncertain, but about what? Navigating New York’s nightlife as a single woman? Losing her identity in the darkness and crowds? As the credits roll on, her expression vacillates between calm and worry and we are only introduced to the rest of her body slowly. This is going to be a woman who will take time to open up and face many emotions doing so: ease, happiness, contentment, worry, fear, uncertainty, and anxiety. There will also be many times when she will want to cover up what she is feeling as evidenced by her artfully applied makeup. Her eyes, harbingers of secrets, are concealed strategically and it is up to Carrie how and when she will reveal herself.
The camera shows us other New York icons when not focused on Carrie: yellow taxi cabs, both of the World Trade Centre towers (also dating the season to before 11 September 2001), the Brooklyn Bridge, scores of people in a chaotic rush, and an extreme close-up of the Empire State building. Throughout the sequence, Carrie is sauntering down an unnamed New York street and we accompany her closely, implying that we will be voyeurs on her journey of self-discovery. Although the names of the other actors appear onscreen, their faces are omitted: the show IS Carrie and whoever else appears will merely serve as a supplementary piece to her storyline.
The theme song played during the opening credits is a jazzy Latin 4/4 number featuring saxophone, vibraphone, marimba, claves, and drums to create music long linked with fun urban life. That it is wordless further underscores that Carrie will be at the forefront of the show.
Finally, the sequence ends with her being sprayed by a passing bus, the side of which contains her picture, captioned, “Carrie Bradshaw knows good sex.” She is HBO’s model of modern feminism- a woman who deals with sex openly, provocatively, and on her own terms.