Oddio

2017 09 07 - 23:22

Two buildings away from me is a restaurant that, over the years, has seen a few iterations; at one time being quite the jazz and blues club. For a long time, though, there's been no live music there. As I was walking to the store tonight to acquire myself an unhealthy snack, I saw that someone was there in front of the mic singing away and playing guitar, so I stopped for a few minutes to listen. What he was singing, I couldn't now tell you, it didn't matter. All that went through my head was how much I admired, and envied a little, the fact that he had the balls to get up there and do it.

I do not have the balls.

I wish I did.

I know I can sing. I know I don't suck. I can carry a tune. I have a decent range for a non-professional. I have a good ear, a natural affinity for music. I have good relative pitch; which, amongst other things, means that I can listen to others while I sing and adjust myself to work with them. I have a good sense of where a piece of music is going, even if it's one I don't know well. I feel my mistakes and can correct myself. I can do it. But I can't do it.

I used to sing in a choir in high school, and had been on stage a couple of times. In groups, it's not so bad. All the pressure is not on you. And when I did have to sing solos with the choir, I was in a choir loft, where the only people who could see me were my choir mates. You aren't the only thing being scrutinised in a group situation; and that, right there, is the issue. Being under scrutiny. I don't like to be stared at like that. I don't like, in fact, to be the centre of attention in any kind of group.

I'm never sure if talking myself into it is ever going to work; or if I'm just going to have to rip off the band-aid and do it one day, without any kind of prep or preamble. One of my friends thinks I should try karaoke, because that's a situation where no one's going to give a crap how I sound at all, and anyone who might actually be listening is going to be too drunk to have a cogent opinion. I can see the sense behind that, behind it being the safest environment one could imagine outside of one's shower, but I hate karaoke. I have no need to do it in order to make myself sound better by comparison to the raft of drunk bar patrons up there - which I think was also a bit behind my friend's suggestion I try it. I don't want to prove I'm better than someone else, and don't need to. I need to do it to prove something to myself.

One of these days I do have to stop just talking about it, though.

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Diva of Dissatisfaction

2017 09 07 - 10:31

I used to spend an enormous amount of time as a young person, staying up late watching movies on TV. Anything, really. It's how I developed a love for old Hollywood. Then, when I'd stay over my high school bestie's place at weekends, we would - as kids are wont to do - stay up late watching movies on the telly. When we weren't doing this together, we'd often have ended up watching the same stuff separately, so it happened that one week we'd watched the 1981 French film Diva - the plot of which I won't detail overmuch. Suffice it to say, that it's a thriller surrounding the illicit recording of an opera singer, prostitutes, and corrupt police. I remember quite liking it.

Well, a couple of years afterwards, and gawd knows how these things ended up being made, that same friend gifted me with a pocket notebook that happened to have the movie's poster on the front of it (which features a knife - this is key to the story). Sometime after that, I ended up at a neighbour's for tea. She was a nice enough person as I recall, but a thoroughly nervous born again Christian. I had taken the notebook out to write something down, and accidentally left it there. When she returned it to my grandmother, she had some kind of hushed, 'concerned' conversation about how she thought I was worshipping the devil because of the content of the notebook cover - the knife, in specific. (Couple with the fact that at the time, I was going through my late visually punk heavily wearing black and a leather jacket phase).

I don't think my grandmother was really worried, but she did bring up the conversation with the neighbour when she gave the notebook back to me. I explained the plot of the film to her, and that was that.

I've been seeing a lot more - old and new - stuff lately, about what it means if your child is listening to certain kinds of music. I didn't listen to punk because I was looking to rebel - I listened to it because I liked the sound of it, the feel, the rough edges and raw energy. I would have rebelled anyhow; punk just happened to come along for the ride. It did help lift me out of a mousey personality that I should never have had, and give me a vehicle to express something that yards of Bowie albums - much as I loved him - was never going to do.

I'm still rebelling a little I think, and still about the same thing - against a person I do not want to be. In a good way.

* * *

The movie poster in question:

Diva
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Post Cladis

2017 08 30 - 02:00

As a nerd child I loved hard sci-fi, but was never much into fantasy outside of the idea of it being costume drama (when it came to film or TV). Sword and sorcery was never my deal. I could never identify with any creature that was too non-human: no orcs, no trolls, no werewolves. I was far more Dune and Doctor Who than LoTR. To be honest with you, I found trying to read Tolkien a massive chore. He wasn't a great writer; but I don't think he was trying to be. It's always been my understanding that he wrote the books because he'd invented the Elvish language Quenya - linguist that he was, and the books became his vehicle for showcasing it.

I was talking to someone today about all this, and what it is I do love these days - which is dystopian or speculative fiction. I have a fascination for how societies will try to reconstruct after a disaster - what social orders do they choose, what of the past do they eschew, what ways do they attempt to control and codify people. As a side to this, I like post-apocalyptic stuff as well. I think the reason why I enjoy the speculative fiction genre so much, is because I find it all so very plausible - even the more far-fetched situations. I can see how we could end up creating some of the cultures I've seen in YA dystopia. I've read a lot of YA dystopia, because they're the only ones really getting it directed at them. Sometimes I wonder if it's all a message to the young to prepare for a less than savoury future. I haven't seen any adult-directed dystopian/speculative fiction in the societal construct vein - outside of The Handmaid's Tale, which I love, in all its forms - and as I've mentioned before, I don't count Snowpiercer; it's a piece of shit, and it's been too long since I've seen A Boy and His Dog for me to opine on it. "Snowpiercer's" (*) only saving grace was having John Hurt in the cast.

Also, I don't identify at all with non-human creatures - not animals, nor elves. People are my favourite animals. If I had a spirit animal, it would probably be a human. (Although, according to some bullshit Native astrological thing I once read, it's a bear.)

* And it occurs to me that I'm not sure how one would do a possessive with a title that's in quotation marks. Does the 's go inside the quotation marks, or outside? This would probably also be affected by whether you're writing like a Brit or an American. Addendum: I was told that if one can't just rewrite the sentence to avoid it altogether, the possessive should go outside the quotation marks.

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The Handmaid's Tale

2017 07 26 - 19:23

There were three very interesting additions to the recent TV version of The Handmaid's Tale that were not part of the book. If you haven't seen the show, or read the book, or both, you might want to go do both and come back later.

I like purity when it comes to translating a story from one medium to another as much as the next person; but that's not always possible. Sometimes changes are interesting, sometimes good, sometimes not. We'll see in the end how they play any of these out; or even if they do at all.

The first thing I noticed was the use of clitorectomy as a punishment. Now, at first I thought it was clitorectomy, but realised later that it also could have been a version of another form of female genital mutilation know as Infibulation, whereby not only is the clitoris removed, but so are the labia. The skin is then stretched across from both sides and sewn shut such that only enough space is left for urine and menstrual blood to come out. Later, the space is opened enough such that the woman's husband could penetrate. This 'punishment' was used on a woman who had committed what they call "gender treachery". She was a lesbian.

The second thing was the implication that Gilead would use their handmaids as barter to other countries; but in trade for what, was never specified. Specifically, by the looks of things, to a country led by a woman. Which brings me to the third thing.

The third, and potentially more telling addition, is finding out that one of the architects of this 'brave new world' was a woman. So, yes, the sisters do it to themselves as much as for themselves.

I recall reading that when she wrote the book, Margaret Atwood tried not to use anything that was not actually present in our world. She did not use anything that had not already been done. Given her involvement with the show, and from what I know of human history, I know they've kept to that.

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Splinters

2017 07 23 - 19:20

People often bring up huge, life-altering situations when discussing why they'd prefer to have universal health care such as we enjoy here in Canada - cancer, sick child, what have you - these are certainly situations where not having an extra worry can really take a load off you. But there's another side to why it's good - and it's a very small thing, tiny even, so tiny that someone with poor vision such as myself can't easily see it.

Splinters.

We've most of us had a splinter at one time or another; and generally you can either get it out yourself or there's someone there to do it for you. This was not so much the case for yours truly, who had broken a lightbulb some years back, and thought she'd gotten all the shards up. Turns out, not so much. My feet found shards at least four times - and an actual wooden splinter another time.

I live alone, I have very poor vision, my doctor lives on the other side of town in an almost hour-to-get-there kind of way, and every single one of these incidents happened at times when I couldn't have someone I knew take it out for me, nor was I working; but I lived within a stone's throw of two walk-in-clinics and one major hospital. So guess where I end up? I think Dr. Ibrahim was sick of seeing me - but he is still the doctor with the best bedside manner I've ever experienced; though Dr. Donnery runs a close second.

Anyhow, the point of this little - no pun intended - story, is that had I lived in a place where I didn't have coverage during a time when I was not working, given the other circumstances listed herein, I'd have been screwed.

Universal health care is great for the scary traumas of life, sure; but it's also handy for the little things that you might not have any other way to deal with. So, take my taxes; build some roads, educate people, and make sure they're healthy. I'm good with that. As for your fright-wig wait-time attacks, detractors, wait times exist below-the-fold as well.

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Ice, Ice Baby

2017 07 18 - 01:34

I never used to care for water at all. I'd avoid drinking plain water at all costs, unless it had something in it like sliced up lemons. In fact, for a long while, I couldn't even drink certain kinds of water - tap really - because I'd get acid stomach/heartburn afterwards. (I also never liked the taste of tap water.) I thought I was off my nut,  until I found out my one uncle had the same issue. I think it had a lot to do with the chemicals in the tap water, and the shitty pipes in my building. Brita works, though I don't recall it having done so in the past.

A couple of years ago I started drinking water, I don't remember why; and now I don't really crave anything else. Spring water only though; or Brita-filtered tap. I can't drink the bottled filtered tap waters like Dasani or Aquafina. They do some weird 'sticky' thing to my throat.

A few months ago I was talking to a friend about this, and we got on the subject of whether I preferred refrigerated or room temperature; and at the time I said room temp. It was winter, so room temp in January is actually quite cool; especially in this apartment, which they far from overheat. In warmer months though, refrigerated is just fine. I put a bottle in the freezer every night, take it out in the morning, and it's nice and chilly until my workday ends - 'cause, y'know, ice.

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Bringing God into it? Don't.

2017 07 17 - 17:18

Why is it that whenever a traumatic event happens in a TV show, people run to the chapel for comfort? It's particularly prevalent in anything involving a hospital. Even non-religious people run to the chapel. It's one way in which the yoke of religion still holds sway, and it's a trope that's got to go. You even see it happening on Babylon 5.

People need comfort, that's for certain; but there are a variety of ways in which people seek that relief from stress. Some work, some play a sport, some nap - some of us even like super-loud music or walks outside when it's frigid, in order to soothe the savage. None of these things are really possible for a character that needs to be close at hand for the next dramatic plot twist; but there are ways you can avoid having to fall back on the deity crutch like a person with no imagination.

So, show-makers, a challenge for you: avoid the religion trap when- and wherever possible. Use your noodles to find ways around having to fall back on something that tired. Increasing atheism isn't the only reason to do that - not even religious people spend all their time at church. You need to allow people to grieve in some other way, and to cope with that grief in ways that are actually more normative.

Addendum:

I think the chapel thing is a lot more 'American' than I thought it was. As a friend pointed out - in one British soap opera, their habit is to go down the pub, or engage in strong drink in some other fashion.

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Why Do Poor People ‘Waste’ Money On Luxury Goods?

2017 07 17 - 13:27

"If you are poor, why do you spend money on useless status symbols like handbags and belts and clothes and shoes and televisions and cars?"

For the very same reasons that others do it - to fit in, to feel better, and also to place some kind of control on their lives. They also do it, on the note of feeling better, for the same reason someone might eat a litre of ice cream when they're depressed, as a band aid to not be depressed, even for an hour. Being poor is depressing in a pretty 'special' kind of way. When you can't do anything - maybe not even get a haircut to look good for a job interview, or go out for a coffee with your friends, or go see a show, or buy a CD, or food - then when you do have the chance to soothe, you do it.

Those are some reasons. But here's another.

Status symbols get you past the gatekeeper. They get you accepted. They get you noticed. This article does a very good job of pointing that out. I've seen it happen myself. I was at a staffing agency a few years back; almost everyone there was dressed business casual, except for the guys who were there for labour positions, and one woman wearing a sundress and sandals. I don't think she was hired for anything. You could see that all the other women in the room were taking a look at her, and assessing her. She looked out of place, inappropriate. She didn't fit in. Maybe she didn't know how to dress; or maybe she didn't know that you treat a staffing agency interview like an in-house interview, and dress the part; or maybe she didn't care; or maybe, just maybe, those things were all she owned. Maybe that's the nicest outfit she had. I get that. I've been there; when the nicest thing you have isn't really nice at all. When I had a little money, though, knowing I had nothing nice, I got myself a black suit jacket. I have a couple of skirts I can pair with it. I have a pair of low-heeled ankle boots. All of this together may not be runway chic, but it makes me look more than just presentable. It's a nice enough outfit. I don't offend the gatekeepers.

I'm going to tell you something I did that's embarrassing, arrogant; something I did so I did not "fit in".

At the same time that the poor do things so they can fit in to the acceptable baseline of the culture in which they live, there are things about the poor of every culture that are norms about that group - one of the things that's prevalent about some swatches of the poor in Hamilton, is lack of education - formal, self-continued/directed, and social. I know this. I've known it since I was a kid. It had nothing to do with how I self-directed my learning when I was a child - I was just a voracious reader who was never filtered by her caregivers. My grandparents had no real clue what I was reading, so I read everything. I had no "appropriateness" filters placed on me; no one told me what was right or wrong for children to read or watch, and I was curious. I watched it all. I read it all. As a consequence of this, I had a reading and comprehension level well beyond what was normal for kids of my age - not necessarily because I was a 'genius', but just by virtue of exposure. It affected my learning in school (in a good way), it affected my world-view, it affected the way I speak even. People still say to me "I can tell you're well-read just by the way you talk." So it all had an impact - one that was noticed.

For a couple of years not that long ago, my financial situation was quite bad. No work, no real hope for any (though I tried my damnedest). Things were so bad that I had to regularly go to the food bank. I hated that. I don't even like talking about it too much. I don't like to admit that my life was so out of my control that I couldn't even afford food sometimes. It's shame-making. Purchasing power is one of the ways in which we measure people in this culture, and I had none. I only had the one thing that was completely under my control, and I kept that. I had my mind. So this is where thee embarrassing, arrogant thing comes in - whenever I would go to the food bank, I'd take a book with me. In fact, I don't leave the house without a hard-copy book in my purse. There's two in there right now. But I wouldn't take just any book with me. I'd take Hitchens' essays, or Hofstadter's "Godel, Escher, Bach", or a 19th century British lit novel. I'd take something that was very obviously a book that only a "smart" person would read. It was my self-defence - not against the other people using the food bank so much; but more to prove - I don't know to whom - that I didn't belong here; that this was not the norm for me; that I was not part of this group. I hated being there so much; this was the only aspect of all of that that I could control at all, so it could have been as much for shielding myself from the situation I was in, as it was anything else. I think it's the only very obvious posturing I've ever done. I'm ashamed of it.

But, on the note of formal education itself - studies have shown that the better-educated a person is, the less likely it is they'll be a drain on the public coffers. They have the tools to take better care of themselves in more ways. So, while some folks have a fit over free post-secondary education, I'm all for it. I've always been all for it. Education should never have been a privilege reserved for the rich to begin with. While it might not outright get you your dream job, it will help you cope better in the long-term. It keeps the mind working; which was the initial point to begin with, from at least part of the Socratic sense; not to provide specific information, but to help provide an environment to keep the mind flexible, working. It taught a coping mechanism.

University is not the only way to keep the mind flexible. Read a book once in a while. Read the news, not watch it. Engage in cultural activities that broaden the perspective. Take up a hobby. Take up a sport. Go for a walk. Coach something. Volunteer. Whatever it is, just don't stay in your bubble. Believe me, there's lots of stuff out there you can do for free. You'll feel better. I know I did. Staying in the bubble of the home as a poor person just makes being poor more depressing; but when you get out there, take control of even that tiny bit of your life, you feel better.

Addendum:

I never believed, by the way - and still can't believe others do, that the poor should be happy to be poor, and that everything they do should be pragmatically based. Unless you're some kind of monk, you can't live like that. If you think a certain thing is normative for your culture, you have to allow the possibility of that thing for everyone; and by denying some things to a person based solely on their economic class, is gross elitism. I'm not talking about luxury items either; but about food, shelter, decent clothing, education. Basics. You can't expect any level of decent societal participation from a person, if you deny them the very means by which to do so; and worse yet, judge them for it.

Spending power, as I've said, is a way in which we measure success in this culture - we know we are surviving or doing something right, if we can buy our way through life, get what we need whenever we need it. This is, as you know, a thing that is denied to millions of people - even ones who are working. A minimum wage isn't even a subsistance wage anymore. Besides, in order for an economy to remain stable and viable, people have to spend money in it. If they have the money, they will spend it. This is why UBIs and living wages are vital. If you keep denying the means of survival to people, they will not survive. If you deny money to them, they can't spend. The less spending they do, the weaker the economy becomes. To put it more simply: If you don't feed something, it dies.

Also, if you happen to be one of those folks who thinks that everyone should suffer through school on student loans or shit jobs just because you did, that's punitive thinking. Why do you want to punish people just because of your own experience? Imagine how much easier it would have been for you to make a success at school, if you didn't have to eat up your study time with a job you had to have simply to pay for the education you're not really getting because you have to be at that job; or how much easier things would have been after university, if half your wage wasn't taken up repaying student loans. The idea that this is the norm, that this is how it should be because adversity builds character, is also punitive. Just because it was the norm - and was so only out of necessity - doesn't mean it has to stay the norm. Be a little more generous, and don't wish misery on others.

And as far as charity goes - it's a nice thing when needed; but I can tell you for sure and for certain, that what people want is not charity, not hand-outs; they want the ability to control their own lives - and one of the ways to give them that control, is by giving them an income by which they can catalyse, instate, and maintain that control.

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Naughty or nice

2017 07 16 - 09:25

I'm sure that there are enormous numbers of people who think that I'm not patient, nor kind, nor generous, nor nice. None of those things are true. I can be all those things, on a personal level, when I can choose to be them, not be forced into them. What I do not hesitate at, is sharing my frustrations openly in situations where a lot of folks seethe inwardly. I don't keep the poisons in. Some things I let go, other things I let out.

But the difference between my patience on a personal level and the lack of it I have in my job, boils down - for the most part - to the fact that I have no respect for money; not when it comes to some trappings of commercial and retail situations. I just don't care about how people react to money, behave because of money - the sense of entitlement, what people think they have a right to because of money, and the aura of signifiance they give it. Some people treat commercial and retail situations the same way they treat personal ones, and I have a hard time dealing with that with any respect.

I don't waste precious personal energy on matters involving money; not in that way.

Specifically from the customer service perspective, your money entitles you to my efficiency and accuracy, it does not entitle you to my empathy or sympathy, especially not if you're going to couple the situation with condescension, abuse, or whining. Just because you're not getting your own way like a five year-old, does not mean you're getting poor customer service. I do not have any respect for an adult who whines like an infant in a public situation. Grow up. If you want a slave population at your beck and call, become a despot on your own private island.

As far as being nice goes, I don't sit around blowing my own horn about my generosity, about the nice things I do for people. So the imbalance exists because of that also.

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The Poor Need a Guaranteed Income, Not Our Charity

2017 07 13 - 21:57

" 'Do you worry about running out of food before you will have money to buy more?' and 'Do you skip meals so someone else in your house can eat?' "

If questions like that are on a survey, then something is severely wrong, and you shouldn't need to be told that. No one should have to be asked these things. If you can see things like this, still demonise the poor, and still think that a charity band aid is all that should be done about it, then you're off your meds. And if things keep going the way they're going, it isn't just the current poor that are going to need help. Food security is not jyst a poor man's issue; but the world is full of short-sighted and greedy people.

On the note of charity, though, I keep wanting to volunteer at a food bank, but the idea of seeing people hungry guts me. I'm not sure I could witness it without being too hit by it to do it at all. I should see if there are stocking and packing positions open.

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