Disclosure

2017 11 19 - 03:33

Recently, in regards to "Me too" and other recent surges in open discussions of assault and abuse, I saw someone comment something along the lines of how victims should just "suck it up", that life is hard for everyone, that talking about it is just avoidance of self-responsibility, etcetera. No offence, but... actually, yes. You offended me, so I'm potentially going to offend you also, and I really don't care. To that end: Fuck you.

Now, to business.

It is not your right to decide when or how others grieve, what they need to do in order to heal, nor what others do when they're trying to show support. What you did, is show that you don't care, that you are not sympathetic, that you are not safe, and that you trivialise some of the worst pain another person can feel. I get the fact that it comes out a lot; but, guess what? If it didn't need to keep coming out, it wouldn't. We are all guilty of bad things; but sometimes reminders can stem that tide, cause us to rethink, stop us from continuing to do shameful things, or better able us to help others to stop behaving badly.

Not everyone who talks about it is laying blame; sometimes they're just detailing fault. Not every vocalisation of blame is an attempt to escape from self-responsibility either. But, when there is a victim, there is someone who deserves to be blamed; or do you not believe that someone who is guilty of something deserves blame and/or punishment? At the very least, a lesson? When I talk about my experiences, the people who abused and hurt me, it's not a question of blame, by the way. It's far more about trying to illustrate to others the sort of behaviours that hurt people, in hopes that they are more careful of how they treat others. It's also to help illustrate a little of why some of my behaviours might seem a little less than of the norm. Don't you think people deserve to know why I perhaps don't trust them as they deserve, or have as much faith in them as they deserve? Why I don't allow too many people to get too close sometimes? Should I hurt someone else by poor behaviour stemming from other poor behaviour, just because you think I shouldn't talk about the things that have happened to me?

If you were a victim, and you managed to either bury it, shrug it off, or recover from it such that you don't feel the need to "me too"; good for you. But others aren't so readily able, and it doesn't make them weaker or less valid than whatever situation it is you might have experienced. If you have never been a victim, I hope like hell you never are. It would be terrible, wouldn't it, to experience something so wrenchingly traumatic, turn to look for some sympathy or help, and find that everyone around you is telling you to suck it up and stop bothering them with your trivial concerns.

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Reiho

2017 11 01 - 22:12

I've talked about reiho before, but going into grading for shodan I need to do a written exam, and one of the questions is: Why is it important to learn reiho in Iaido?

This is my answer:

Iaido, amongst other things, is about kihon - basics; basics in the sense of small details, fundamentals, and integral parts; not in the sense of rudimentary. If you don't know the basics, your art falls apart. You can't build a house without a foundation, and you have failed.

Reiho encompasses all the basics of respect - for the art, for the people who made the art, for those who teach and study the art, for the places where you practice the art, and for the tools used while performing the art. Everything, in fact, that you do in the dojo is a form of respect - from the moment you enter to the moment you leave; from the bows to something as seemingly minor as how you're standing when not doing a waza, your posture, the position of the sword and how you hold it, whether or not you're leaning on a wall, etcetera. Reiho encompasses gratitude for the present as much as respect for the past. You thank your fellow iaidoka for sharing space with you, and thank the sensei and senpai who teach you and give up their time for you. Reiho is giving acknowledgement of value to all of these things. Reiho also teaches you to pay attention to details, and without the attention to details, you are just waving a sword around. Reiho teaches one of the most important aspects of Iai, that of readiness. If you are aware of (and respectful of) your environment, you can be ready for whatever it throws at you.

And - through reiho - much like through the act of dressing before class, you have another opportunity to settle yourself, to switch your mind from being 'out there' to being 'in here', to facilitate readiness.

- - -

Also, and I know I've mentioned this before, though I'm not going to say it on the test - if your reiho is sloppy, you will fail your grading, no matter how good the rest of your performance is.

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My Sword

2017 10 30 - 12:51

An iaito is an unsharpened blade (sharpened katana are called 'shinken'), generally sandcast of aluminum-zinc alloy (as opposed to a forged carbon steel shinken). They are used primarily for the practice of Iaido. The length of the blade depends on the user's arm length and the style of Iaido they practice. The method of noto (re-sheathing of the blade) is a primary factor in ryu-related sword length. My style (Muso Shinden Ryu) uses the - to my knowledge - longest blades because of sayabiki - how far back we are pulling the saya during nukitsuke and the start of noto. In a lot of schools/dojos, you aren't allowed to use a shinken in class until you're of a certain rank - third or fourth dan. Because shinken are so hazardous to use, iaito were created to facilitate the study of the art without lopping off body parts.

I acquired this sword from Taylor Sensei in Guelph in July of 2016. In so many ways it is not aesthetically what would I would have chosen had I the opportunity to get a custom sword made, but the first time I held it in the dojo, I knew this sword was <I>mine</I>. It felt right. For the detail-oriented - it's 2.45 shaku (about two and a half feet), with dragonfly menuki, vines around the fuchi, and Musashi tsuba.

I read somewhere that samurai used to name their swords. I haven't yet come up with a name for this iaito yet, but I figure that someday I'll just know what's right. I need to take some better photos of it. One of these days.

You can get swords with very ornate sword fittings. Mine are fairly simple, except for the dragonfly menuki (the fittings under the handle wrapping - they facilitate grip). Vines on the fuchi, a Musashi tsuba (hand guard), and a very simple tsuka-gashira (pommel).



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Here's what I believe about the art world, and art itself

2017 10 29 - 03:20

This list is, of course, subject to alteration at any time - and it no doubt will - especially in the middle of the night when I get extra chatty.

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Pro-no-tion

2017 10 28 - 06:15

I found out that someone who was hired after me, got a "promotion" ahead of me. This in no fashion bothers me, as it's not a job change I'd have wanted; but what does get me, is that it's more work, demonic amounts more stress, and she won't be getting paid a single cent more for the 'privilege'. She also has no choice in the matter. You either take the position, or you quit your job. I'm not even certain that's legal, to have your job changed like that, without request, permission, or assent.
 
Yet more joyful aspects of working a customer service minimum wage job.
 
She'll be made what's called a "superagent" - which means she'll not only be taking calls for customer service for accounts and appointment bookings, but also e-commerce calls for online purchases; which I am told is a brutal job - customers are more demanding, and they're working with systems that are hampered in some pretty spectacular ways, which makes their job slower and harder to perform. It means less likelihood of getting out of work early ever, because there's too much demand on a superagent's time and abilities; it also means less ability to swap shifts, as a superagent and a regular agent can't swap; it means the likelihood of more required overtime, even if you don't want it.
 
And not a cent more in your pocket.
 
Not that money is the answer to all things; but if you're going to change a person's job into something more demanding and stressful than what they're currently doing, you could at least do them the courtesy of paying them more.
 
The impression I got from her is that she's not too keen on the idea, but she's got no choice but to take it, or quit.
 
Thankfully, I don't excel at my job (purposefully), or I'd be stuck in the same position. I do my job 'well enough', but not 'too well'. I found out early on about the forced superagent thing, and am making sure I never get stuck doing it. I don't feel compelled to increase the amount of meaningless stress in my life.
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Pre-grading Inspection

2017 10 25 - 09:24

I hauled myself out to Etobicoke today for a pre-grading inspection by my sensei's sensei. I have been pronounced fit for grading. Well, at least he never said I shouldn't, or couldn't; so I'm good.

Although Cruise sensei's version of "Sensei, I need to leave when kendo gets going because I absolutely cannot deal with that noise, and if I can't hear you OR see you, we have a problem", seems to be "But you need to do [enter name of waza here] one more time." Fourth try, though, I got out. I think the only thing that might beat out sharing an echoey room with kendo for noise, is standing next to a jet engine when it starts, without earplugs.

That floor in Etobicoke is going to be the death of me. I was doing ganmen-ate or sanpo-giri, and when I went to slide forward, I stuck and actually pitched forward. I did manage not to fall on my face; but it was like when I first started Iai, when everything I did was me pitching one way or another and trying not to fall on my face.

He did seem surprised when I said that I was doing morote-zuki for grading, that I found it easier than kesa-giri. I gotta tell ya, I hate kesa-giri - and ushiro. With ushiro I just can never feel anything but awkward with that turn and draw - it's never aligned properly, and I can't get enough saya-biki. Kesa-giri is just plain awkward and flappy and - quite frankly - the downward cut is impeded by certain parts of my anatomy. I know the workaround to it, to loosen the grip on the right hand when you cut down, but it's not enough to make me a kesa-giri cheerleader.

Flaws (read: things I need to work on) (at least the ones I remember):

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Transition

2017 10 21 - 12:59

I was talking with one of my aunts the other day, and mentioned testing for my black belt in December. These are not words I would ever have imagined coming out of my mouth. I was such a shy, timid creature when I was young; so much so, in fact, that very same aunt I was talking to used to call me Mousie. Lots of things that are part of my life surprise me now, nevermind what my former teenage self would have thought of them. I won't waste time on regrets of not having figured things out sooner, though.

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'Women are just better at this stuff': is emotional labor feminism's next frontier?

2017 10 19 - 14:03

From remembering birthdays to offering service with a smile, life has a layer of daily responsibility that is hardly discussed – one which falls disproportionately on women. Finally confronting it could be a revolutionary step

Well.

If, perhaps, we tried something as shocking as raising men from the cradle to be more involved and responsible, we might have a more equal balance on the emotion and responsibility front. Rather, as I've seen time and time again, and had people complain to me time and time again, boys are not made as responsible for the home, the things in the home, nor the people in the home. They aren't taught as much as females are, to nurture the home or care for it. Also, if we stopped raising men to believe that being emotional is wrong, or that it means they're gay ('cause, that's a terror, right?), we might have - again - a more balanced emotional thing going on. As I once said to a friend; if we made men as responsible as we make women, we might have to marry fewer of them through their mommy issues.

I was once told by an acquaintance that I should not make emotional statements in job interviews or meetings, particularly not with men; that I would get more leverage by being as void of attachment as possible. Being detached was the coin of the day. I never put much thought to the veracity of that comment until that very moment; and it occurred to me what a complete load of hooey it was. It speaks to a roboticism we impose on the male population, and that they impose on themselves for fear of negative judgement. There's no such thing as impartiality except as some kind of twisted Platonic ideal, so why do we keep hampering ourselves with it? We are emotional creatures, and if we spend more time actually attuning to that fact, we'd be far more capable than most seem to be, of using those emotions to our advantage. Being emotional is damned as a failing by those who believe that everything in the business world must be handled in a purely cerebral fashion.

This same acquaintance then told me, several months later near her wedding day, that the board members at her workplace had put a collection together and gifted her with a sum of money as a wedding present. For this they are labelled "good guys", despite the fact that they are endlessly rude, dismissive, and abusive of her and other female staff. For that five seconds of telling me about this money, she forgot the endless abuse, rudeness, and dismissiveness these same men heaped on her and other female staff. So, she and other staff are expected to do the emotional work as a matter of course, but the men get a doggie treat if they do something that should be 'normal', or 'usual', or that a woman would do without a second thought. On top of that, the man is never held accountable for bad behaviours.

I read something recently that I sadly can't find the link for, that discussed male loathing towards women; and I seem to recall that there was something in that article that suggested part of this loathing was rooted in female expectations of male emotion. Men are bred to believe that overt emotion is wrong, yet every woman demands it of them, and therefore they turn that hatred towards the women for trying to turn them into something society tells them is bad.

"Think of your morning Starbucks barista, who drew a smiley face on your cardboard cup of coffee this morning. Did she really want to go the extra mile today, or was it just part of the job expectation? "

Which is the pitfall of customer service. The emotional labour of the worker, which is never, ever balanced out by any concept of personal responsibility on the part of the customer; and this gets worse, and worse with every passing generation, as companies scramble to keep and increase revenues with increasing levels of competition - they think the only way through it is "improving" their customer service, which then evolves into a sort of slave-state where we must "roll out the red carpet" for people who treat the staff like trash, who swear at them, who abuse them, who insult them, and the staff is supposed to sit there and lap it up along with a minimum wage paycheque. This is grotesquely unbalanced, and creates hordes of stressed out people who have nothing left for their own lives at the end of the day. Most customers don't deserve that much out of me, but I could be fired for not being a carpet.

"The way I think of emotional labor goes as follows: there are certain jobs where it's a requirement, where there is no training provided, and where there's a positive bias towards certain people - women - doing it. It's also the kind of work that is denigrated by society at large. Research suggests that cumulatively, ongoing emotion work is exhausting but rarely acknowledged as a legitimate strain - and as such, is not reflected in wages."

I don't need research to 'suggest' that to me. I live it every day. This culture has no respect for the people who do things for it that they're too lazy to do for themselves; nor does this culture teach people to take responsibility for themselves and to acknowledge that they are complicit in the retail transaction situation. This culture has no respect for its environment, for its global good, for anything that isn't solely fixated on the immediate needs of the individual. Maybe it's time we started doing what Japanese schools do, and make our kids responsible for the tidiness and maintenance of their classrooms, for the serving of the meal at lunch and the cleaning up of it afterwards. This breeds in people the idea that they are part of a collective, and that their actions affect the environment in which they live, and that they are responsible for the environments in which they live.

In the end, if you really do think that women are "better at it", it's not because we're inherently better at it; it's because we've spent a longer time doing it.

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Words Shape Us

2017 10 19 - 05:13

Language colours you in ways you never realise. A language shapes a culture, as much as the culture shapes the language. Language shapes how you think, and the way in which you view the world. This concept got driven home to me the other day as I was waiting for the bus, and I noticed that there were some new knock-down sticks at the corner of the next street.

Knock-down sticks. What a utilitarian word. Functional. Dull. Then you look at most of the cars passing these functional sticks, and you notice that their colours are mainly utilitarian as well. And the people driving those cars are mainly wearing dull-coloured coats - brown, black, grey. There's so little variety, though that is changing. I think North American culture has too much grip on it by the Protestant pragmatists of our past. It's created a culture where we put less and less 'art' into some things, because we assume that black, or white, or grey, will appeal to a wider customer base than soda pop orange or electric yellow or pink or sage. It still makes my head turn when I see a purple car, or bright green, because those colours are so rare in the average every-day vehicle. The utilitarian nature of colour also caters to a belief that something cannot be artful, graceful, or creative, and still be as functional as something that has no 'personality' to it at all. It seems, also, that a lot of people take something's viability a lot less seriously, the more 'creative' or out of the norm it appears. It might also speak to why a lot of people still don't take art itself seriously as an activity, a profession, or a contribution. If it doesn't serve some kind of quantifiable, functional purpose, then it has no use or value.

In the UK knock-down sticks are called "bollards"; presumably because they resemble the posts that boats are tied when moored. In the UK they refer to ball-point pens as biros; which is an oddly more functional term than the word 'pen'. Well, not really; just more recent. Pen relates to a Latin word for "feather"; as in the feathers used to create quill pens. Biro is the name of the person who invented the ball-point pen. How have word-differences like that shaped their version of English, and thereby their culture, differently than our version of English has shaped us? I'm starting to wonder what knock-down sticks are called in Japan, because that's a culture that has - in so many ways throughout its history, at least to our Western eyes - turned life itself into an art; or maybe it just seems that way, in comparison with our own way of living. I remember reading something quite a few years ago that mentioned that Japan didn't have art galleries in the way that we in the west understand them; or they at least didn't at the time. And I thought that the reason they didn't, might largely be due to the fact that they don't need them, since the very act of living in some places, is the art. Some cultures put a great amount of effort into their dress, their habits, their writing systems.

Which makes me think of the importance of symbols, of names as signifiers. A number is as useful a term as any to label a thing by, but every time I get a customer from somewhere out west where this is common, I wonder how much of a pain in the posterior it must be to remember your address when it's all numbers. In B.C. and Alberta it's very common for streets not to be named, but to be numbered. It's so common in fact, that when I do get a customer that lives on a street with a name, I'm surprised. Someone's address could be something like: 1223 8186a St. NW, now throw an apartment number onto that as well. But saying 1223 Apple St. is simpler and easier to remember. People in New York have dealt with it just fine; some of the most famous street names in Western culture not being street 'names' at all even, but numbers; so I suppose folks get used to it.

In Hamilton we still use the term "West 5th", at least amongst older generations, when we're referring to the psychiatric hospital; because it's on the corner of Fennell Ave. and, you guessed it, West 5th.

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Me too

2017 10 17 - 02:59

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