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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The cards

2017 10 14 - 09:24

I allowed an old gypsy lady (really, just an old friend, but she has been somewhat nomadic in her life) to do a tarot reading for me while I was out at art crawl this evening. I haven't bothered with a tarot reading in over twenty years. I never was a believer; but it was more enjoyable an activity than bingo, or other things one could throw one's money to. She brought up something during the reading though, that I already know but never think about - about having got to a stage of contentment in my life, about becoming comfortable in my own skin, about - for lack of a better way to put it - having reached a phase where I rarely give many fucks about what people think about me, my opinions, or what I do.

It's true, to a great degree. I am not completely comfortable in my own skin, but I am more so than I ever was as a young person. My life is finally becoming my own. I do what I like, think what I like, live - mainly - how I like, and those who find fault with it can sod off. Well, I'd never actually tell anyone to sod off - but I might really want to.

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Universal basic services could work better than basic income to combat 'rise of the robots', say experts

2017 10 13 - 16:00

UK citizens should receive free housing, food, transport and internet access to counter a “rise of the robots” that threatens to eradicate millions of jobs, new research has suggested. Experts working for University College London’s Institute for Global Prosperity (IGP) say the universal ethos of the NHS should be expanded to cover other areas of life to mitigate the disruption caused by technological change.

It's an interesting proposal, and one that is ultimately going to have to happen anyhow, or we'll have bodies in the streets piled up like cord wood. Increases in innovation and use of automation will eventually eliminate entire industries - as it is already doing - so there really will be no jobs to get.

In theory, you could offer things to people cheaper by buying/offering them in bulk in a way a government is adept, than it would be for the government to give people money and have that money spent paying commercial rates for things that would necessitate a raise in payouts yearly - hiked payouts that could be lessened by offering at bulk rates. The government can buy in bulk in ways that not even your local CostCo can.

High school never used to be subsidised. It was considered an extra, a luxury. But when it became obvious that secondary education was absolutely necessary in order for poeple to function in that changing society, it was subsidised. The same is happening for post-secondary levels of education now; and should have happened long since. Post-secondary education is absolutely necessary in order to function in the world we are currently living. Internet access is becoming that as well, with so many industries working entirely through that medium; and so many others who aren't, still doing all their job advertising and hiring through online ads and email only. Many employers are very specific in their ads these days, that they want contact through email only.

I'm not going to get into the moral arguments, because you should not need to be told why people are going to need this sort of assistance, and why it's a good idea to give it to them.

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Kilimanjaro Climb List

2017 10 13 - 10:23

Several years ago I became completely fascinated by a young man named George Atkinson who, at the age of 17, completed the Seven Summits Challenge by getting to the top of Everest. I figured that if he could do it, there was no reason why I couldn't do something similar.

Now, I have no desire to ever attempt Everest (for many, many reasons; not the least of them being that I don't like camping), but I did do some research and found out that Kilimanjaro - being one of those aforementioned Seven Summits - was not a climb so much as a walk. You do not need any mountaineering or climbing experience to complete it, unlike with all the others. There's really only one spot on the climb that requires a bit of scrambling up some rocks; but if that legless dude from Oakville could manage it, then the visually impaired woman in Hamilton could manage it. It takes just over a week to do it if you pace it properly enough to become accustomed to the change in altitude.

The idea of eight to ten days without a shower though...

It's never going to happen; though it would be nice, on my deathbed, to be able to say I'd done it. It's too expensive an undertaking. It's twelve to twenty thousand dollars - for travel, for gear, for guide fees, for medications and shots not covered by OHIP (*), etcetera. It's why a lot of people who do these climbs, get sponsorships and do it for charity. Who knows, if that lottery win ever happens...

You spend relatively little time walking each day - maybe six to seven hours - at a pace that someone once described as "imagine a 90 year-old arthritic walking backwards". That's how slow they want you to go. So, ultimately you spend a lot of time sitting around each day, not doing terribly much, so you need to find other ways to fill your time. That said, everyone's seen that desert island playlist question at some point in their lives. I started making up a Kilimanjaro climb list - a different album to listen to each day for every day up and down the mountain. I didn't complete it, but I did get so far as:

Still need to choose two or three more. I couldn't decide on which Bowie album - still can't.

(*) It cost - at the time I did the investigating - about $1800 alone, to get the rabies pre-vax; nevermind the half a dozen or so other things you need to get shots or meds for - and the six months of implanted birth control to ensure you don't get your period during the climb.

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Misuse of the word "rant"

2017 10 12 - 15:43

Rant is losing its meaning, and it is doing so because of clickbait.

Due to clickbait and clickbait-like use of overly-emotional and grandiose terminology and other forms of exaggeration used solely to get someone's attention, the word "rant" is going to shift in meaning from "speak or shout at length in a wild, impassioned manner" to something that denotes or indications either only "speak at length", "speak in any manner that refutes or negates a listener or the topic at hand", or "speak openly about a potentially contentious subject". I've seen this term misused in this way more times than I care to count. I know that language shifts, but this seems a more noxious shift than others have become. It is not a shift of accident or necessity, but merely one based on advertising, ignorance, or desire to dupe the audience. It cheapens the language for no good reason.

If they aren't yelling, gesturing emphatically, or being somewhat uncontrolled, they aren't ranting. If they are merely speaking at length, speaking on a contentious subject, or simply refuting or negating a listener or subject, they aren't ranting. If they aren't acting crazily, actually being crazy, getting in your face, or pontificating from a soapbox, they aren't ranting.

Rant is a far more emotional reaction to a subject, than merely discussing that same subject; regardless of how contentious the subject is. You either rant or not rant about breakfast cereal, as much as you can rant or not rant about raising the minimum wage to something survivable, or the efficacy of religion.

It is not a word tied to a subject matter; but is tied to how one discusses that subject matter.

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It's Iaido's fault

2017 10 09 - 09:47

I've noticed the oddest thing creeping into my physical behaviour over the past couple of years - I'm using my left hand to gesture a lot more than I ever would have before, given how severely right-side dominant I am. I never used my left hand for very much at all in my life. The only thing, really, was pushing my glasses back up my nose, or carrying books in school or bags of groceries (to keep my right hand free) - otherwise, it was all right hand. Every time I use my left hand for something now, like waving or pointing, I think, "Why the hell am I doing this?"

My 'good' (for generous definitions of good) eye is the right one, so I've always heavily favoured that side of the body; especially given that I'm also right-handed.

The only reason I can think of that this might be happening, is Iai. Iai is paying a lot of attention to the left hand, and more of it. So, I think I'm finally remembering that I have a left hand at all.

I blame you, saya-biki.

iaido



Face

2017 09 28 - 09:45

Sometimes when I bump into someone I know in an environment where I'm not used to seeing them, I don't recognise them right away. It happened yesterday when I was taking the bus to the dojo and found one of my budo buddies taking the same bus I was. There was another time I was going to my (then) tattooist, and wanted to avoid someone who worked there, so I went on a day I knew they usually didn't work. I walked in, and he came towards me, and I didn't realise it was him right off, because I wasn't expecting him to be there.

I know that prosopagnosia (face blindness) exists - that's a cognitive condition which can have either congenital or acquired roots, but is not an of-the-moment condition. I wonder if this momentary inability to recognise people is some sort of mild form of that, or something else entirely. One of my friends refers to it as an "out of context error"; which is as good a way as any to describe it.

Whatever the root cause of it is, it's compounded by having poor vision. Or, perhaps in my case, it's entirely about that.

Addendum:

I have had people accuse me of all sorts of bad behaviour because I couldn't see them.

In fact, this has come up a couple of times in specific relation to the getting and noticing of male attention. It never occurred to me until one of my friends pointed out many years ago, about the eye contact game people play between each other when they're interested. I can't play it. I wouldn't know if anyone was trying to catch my eye, and who knows how many people thought I was trying to give them the eye, when really I had no idea I appeared to be staring at them. On that note specifically, my oldest bestie wanted to beat me up in high school because she thought I was staring at her all the time - this was before we met - but one of her friends pointed out that I couldn't actually see her.

If you aren't within an arm's swing distance of me, I won't see you. You really have to get in my face if we're passing on the street, for example.

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Passing the Test

2017 09 28 - 00:54

It's a bizarre mix of desire, trepidation, and impending vomit, when sensei tells you he wants you to test for shodan.

When we are preparing for grading, we do endless run-throughs of the waza we've chosen for our gradings - those of us who are allowed to choose, that is. Past a certain point, the committee chooses the waza for you - for the seitei portion, that is; for the koryu, it's a choose-your-own-samurai-adventure.

Doing things standing, means my choices are limited, as the first four waza are from kneeling positions; and you are no longer allowed to do standing versions of kneeling waza for a grading. So, I get to choose from Kesa-giri, Morote-zuki, Sanpo-giri, Ganmen-ate, Soete-zuki, Shiho-giri, So-giri, and Nukiuchi. I don't like Kesa-giri, and anyone who tried So-giri at my level would get thrown off the island for being arrogant - it's a very finessed and particular waza, and not one for a semi-beginner. So, that leaves me six to choose from. We have to do five. So, I'm going to be dull and do the same ones I did for my ikkyu grading: Morote-zuki, Ganmen-ate, Soete-zuki, Shiho-giri, and Nukiuchi.

Apparently, my reiho's in good order, so that's a good chunk of the battle right there. Reiho is the most important part of the entire process. You can fail just for crappy reiho, no matter how perfect the rest of your performance is.

So, we've now progressed beyond the whole do your waza in order, don't drop your sword, and don't make a face thing. Now we need to work on the inner self-judgement conga line, and not shaking like a spastic monkey during the test - given how much I adore public performance (that's my sarcastic voice).

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Aiming For A Target You Cannot See

2017 09 21 - 14:34

I've never understood golf. What point is there in aiming for a target so far away that you can't even see it? (*)

I was mentioning this to a friend yesterday, and he put it in a context that makes sense - though I don't think golf itself ever will - that golf was like Iai; that it's about self-improvement. The self-improvement I get - in regards to Iaido, very much so - and the invisible target certainly. Sure, there's grading, and that's a goal or target, but the real improvement isn't about the grading; nor can you grade what effects the budo arts have on you personally. Iaido itself is an art of striking opponents that must be imagined, envisioned, pretended, as if they were actually there in front of you. You fight yourself in this way, on so many levels.

When I first started Iaido, I didn't even know it had grading. Now, I do them, but it's not why I'm there. If I wanted to get a certificate on my wall for doing something, I'd go after something that's easier than Iaido is, and takes less time.

Really, more than anything else, I go because I like my budo buddies. I like getting out of the house. I like doing something that's a bit off the beaten path. I like my sword. I like the activity. It's all good.

(*) Although I'm told that people with good vision actually can see it. That's a context I can't share.

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