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Archive for the ‘Weirdness’ Category

I don’t have a lot of energy to write today, since I’ve taken on not only the proportions but apparently the personality of a manatee, but I just had to say – you know those people who get really angry on the internet and post very long frequently all-caps rants on blog posts?

I saw someone do that last night. In REAL LIFE.

It was at another Association for Science and Reason event (the home of the famous Mennonite Conspiracy Theorist. Though he wasn’t there) featuring Franke James, an artist who got royally screwed by Stephen Harper et al for a) being a climate change activist and b) talking shit about the tar sands. Franke gave what I can call a charming and, considering the subject matter, very positive talk, which I really enjoyed and was challenged by. The rest of the audience seemed to like it too.

The Q&A, however, was rapidly taken over by a scrawny guy called Wayne who started ranting about Hugo Chavez and how crappy solar panels are.

And didn’t stop.

I mean, if the person you’re hypothetically talking to you has to ask you three times “Do you have a question?” and then you continue to talk over her as she attempts to respond to you, dude. I know you’re angry, but step back.

And if you interrupt someone ELSE’S question by accusing the speaker of not caring about starving people (because we can ALL EAT OIL, GUYS), and THEN don’t stop talking until the organizers pre-emptively end the event, you really, really need to step back.

Anyway. I found it – well, I found it awkward and annoying at the time, but in retrospect very interesting. It was so, so clearly a transposition of internet behaviour into real life. Not that people didn’t yell at each other before we had Manboobz, but the repetition of talking points (Hugo Chavez! What is it with conservatives and Hugo Chavez?), the generally aggressive tone, the hyperbole, and the refusal to listen to THE PERSON ANSWERING YOU was so internetty. It’s like – do your dreams have camera angles? Mine do, probably due to the fact that I’ve been watching TV since I was born or so. An art form has literally changed the way we dream.

Now technology has literally changed the way we’re rude to each other.

What a time to be alive.

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Anyone else out there following either the #ows or the #occupytoronto streams on Twitter? Yes? No? What do you mean, you’re not on Twitter? It’s like Facebook, only you don’t have to be friends with boring people you don’t like! (Just kidding, Facebook friends. I love all of you.)

Well, I have been following them, especially since I’ve come down with a bad cold and am on Day 2 of Staying In Bed and Doing Nothing (with the help of two masters of that art, Madeline and Gus). About 25% of the streams are news about the occupations, relevant articles, calls to action, etc; about another 40% are retweets of the same; about 10% some kind of legitimate criticism; and the rest pure trollery.

I’m not going to post screenshots, because I’m writing this on my Android tablet and I’m not going to run the risk of rooting it just so I can take a screenshot (seriously, Google, PUT SCREENSHOT CAPABILITY INTO THE NEXT ANDROID RELEASE), but just go look for yourself.

Anyway, the troll comments seem to break down thus:
– Occupiers should just get jobs!
– Occupiers are hippies!
– Occupiers smell bad!
– Occupiers are smelly hippies!
– The whole thing is a union astroturf operation! People aren’t really sleeping there!
– The police should just go in and beat them all up!

And since Twitter is the natural home of the Gish Gallop, I will respond to each of these in turn. Here, where nobody will read it. Oh well.

Get a job! – Um, putting aside the whole “massive unemployment thing”, lots of occupiers do have jobs, and go to the occupations when they’re not working. There is this thing called “free time”, you know. Some people use it to watch Dancing with the Stars. Some people try to effect social change. Vive la difference!

Hippies! – What is this, 1965? How is this even an insult?

You stink! – This may be true for individual occupiers, but as a whole I have not noticed an unusual odour coming from Occupy Toronto. And I have the super nose of a pregnant lady.

Stinky hippies! – WTF? Are you four? First of all, you are making assumptions about the personal hygiene of the occupiers, then judging them based on that assumption without verifying it against reality. Not only is it not really true, it is completely irrelevant – because even smelly hippies HAVE CHARTER RIGHTS. Christ.

Ooga booga UNION ASTROTURF – this is the oddest one. Apparently dear old Ezra Levant went to Occupy Toronto with a thermal camera and concluded that most of the tents were empty, ergo this is all a nefarious plot on the part of CUPE to do….something or other.

I don’t know what percentage of tents are occupied every night, but it is true that not everyone spends every night at the park. That’s because of my first point: A lot of the occupiers have jobs, families, and other stuff to do. Ben has been sleeping there about 50% of the time, because as much as he believes in this he has to work, see me occasionally, and continue fixing up our house so it’s not a disaster area when the baby gets here. Plus it’s hardly some ringing denouncement of the occupation that some of its members sometimes have other stuff to do.

But if this is a union astroturf operation and I didn’t know about it, Ben’s cheque is way overdue, CUPE! Hop to it! We need a new washing machine!

I hope the police beat you up – Well, that’s nice. Haters gotta hate, I guess. I really hope the police *don’t* sweep in and beat everyone up, and I think I would feel the same way if this were the Occupation In Favour of Kicking Puppies and Stealing Candy from Babies. Because I’m one of those weirdos who doesn’t want to see their political opponents assaulted. Call me crazy.

The gist of the trolls’ remarks (except for the out-of-left-field union conspiracy thing, which is I think a response to the very real astroturfing in the Tea Party movement) appears to be: I hate the occupiers because they are worthless and disgusting people. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they keep talking about smells, even if they’ve never been in whiffing distance of St. James Park – for these people, the concepts of physical disgust and social value seem to be intertwined. (There is actual legit psychological research showing that exposing people to a foul odour makes them more conservative, btw.) It’s logically backwards – instead of looking at this movement, thinking it over, and coming to a conclusion about its merits, these trolls deciding the movement is valueless because the participants are valueless. And the participants are valueless because of their participation, which though nonsensically circular explains the baffling nature of some of the insults. Because if you were a good sort of person, you wouldn’t be occupying, so you must be a stinky unemployed hippie pariah who deserves nothing more than a good beating. And I know this even though I haven’t seen you, talked to you, or even smelled you.

There are legitimate criticisms of the Occupy movement. These are not them. These are a mishmash of weird essentialism, nonsense carried over from the 60s (seriously, can we stop it with the hippie thing? I wasn’t even a sperm in 1967 and I do not care about Woodstock), and straight-up authoritarian bootlicking. But like I said, haters gotta hate, so I don’t forsee them going away any time soon.

The Internet. It’s great, but jerks can use it too.

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So the trucker who hit Jenna Morrison didn’t see her, and will face no charges.

I’m not a cop and I don’t have all the details, but fuck. Was this man visually-impaired? Was a bright light suddenly flashed in his eyes? Was he possessed by the Black Oil Alien from the X-Files and it was swimming in his eyes at the moment of impact?

I very much doubt it. In fact, I think I can tell you why he didn’t see her: he wasn’t looking.

But Kristin, I hear you say, your privileged hipster ass can’t even drive a car!* How would you know what drivers experience?

Well, I don’t exactly. But I can make an educated guess, based on…

The Time I Got Hit By A Car

This is a funny story, actually.

Let me set the scene: It was March 2004. I had just graduated from music school and was looking for some kind of job other than working part-time at Starbucks or playing the piano at ballet schools. One of the jobs I heard about was a half-time job with the Ontario Arts Council. It seemed perfect for me (though whether I would have been perfect for it was highly unlikely – at any rate *SPOILER ALERT* I didn’t get the job), so I put together the bullshittiest resume you can imagine and went to drop it off.

March is an iffy time of year in Ontario. Sometimes it is mild and spring-like. Sometimes it is dreary and rainy. More often it is basically still winter. 2004 was one of those long winters, so I was wearing my lighter overcoat and hat, both of which were fuschia.

I wish I had a picture of myself in that outfit, because it was AWESOME. I was a tiny pink dynamo with a fake fur collar.

Anyway, I was wearing this bright pink coat and bright pink hat as I walked to the OAC office to drop off my doomed application. It was in the Bay/Bloor area (still is as far as I know), a part of the city not known for its colourful streetscape. In fact, I’d say every single building between Queens Park Circle and Yonge is one shade of grey or another (except for the Prada store, which is beige).

So picture the scene: Grey buildings. Grey road. Grey sidewalks. Dirty snow drifts on the sidewalks.

Me in my bright pink hat and coat walking along the street.

So as I was crossing a side street (I can’t remember which one), a woman in an SUV was attempting to make a right turn onto Bloor. She was studying traffic very intently, probably looking for a gap. I was already halfway across the road.

“Surely she’ll stop,” I thought. “I have the right of way after all.”

But no. She continued to inch forward into the turn, still looking at oncoming traffic…

…until she made contact with my right hip.

I yelled and banged on the hood of the car. She reacted, fortunately, with shock and apology. I shook my head and moved on.

But think about it: It was broad daylight. I was wearing bright colours – in fact, I couldn’t have been more in contrast with my environment. I was obeying the rules of the road and watching where I was going.

And this driver still didn’t see me. Because she wasn’t looking.

Because she didn’t have to.

And it turned out fine, because it was very low-speed and the driver didn’t accidentally hit the accelerator or decide to run me down in a fit of pique. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a problem.

The solution is not to be more visible, because even if you’re visible they won’t see you. The only thing I could have done to be more visible would be to wear bear bells, which are hardly standard issue for urban pedestrians.

The solution is for drivers to watch where the fuck they’re going. And no, it is not too much to ask.

*I did learn how to drive a car, BTW. I just never passed the test. I’m planning on finally getting my licence next year so I can take trips out of the city by myself.

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Note: This post is not about cycling.

Once upon a time, when I was a sincerely religious child attending Catholic school in London, Ontario, I was confronted with a strange document.

It was in Religion class. Religion had gone from learning arcane rituals for First Communion (which I loved – it was like joining a secret society) and drawing pictures of candles to symbolize our souls to covering the more fraught topics of Sex Ed (I KNOW), Comparative Religions (“Don’t be an asshole about it or anything, but all other religions are wrong and this is why”), and Moral Decision-Making.

I actually think it’s a great idea to teach children to reason morally. Once they are able to question the social norms and the rules they’ve been taught they need tools to form their own senses of ethics. Of course it would be difficult and highly controversial – do you teach virtue ethics or utilitarianism? How do you deal with different religious perspectives on morality? What if all the kids become vegetarians and their parents are livid about it? – but what that is worthwhile isn’t?

But sadly the moral education we got was not exactly ideal. I have a very clear memory from Grade 6 of being given a strange document called:

The STO(M)P Sign

This was our guide to moral decision-making, that when faced with a dilemma we should:

S – Stop
T – Think – how does this affect
O – Others
(M – Myself), then
P – Pray, and make your decision.

Why is the M in brackets, you might ask?

Why, because it wasn’t part of the official worksheet. Our teacher added it in herself.

That’s right, whatever powers that be that control Catholic education in Ontario decided that the needs of 11-year-olds were not important factors in their own moral lives. And if that isn’t fucked up I don’t know what is.

BTW, the next horribly tasteless and damaging document I was handed in Religion class was in Grade 9, when the rage-filled chainsmoking teacher whose name I’ve forgotten gave us the now-infamous Sperm Vs. HIV handout. It implied that, since HIV virii are a lot smaller than sperm, and you can still get pregnant using condoms, then condoms won’t protect you from HIV. (This was in the early 90s, people, just when HIV/AIDS was cutting a swathe through the world. Stay classy, abstinence-only!). In that same class we were shown anti-abortion videos and forced to listen to Jars of Clay. I came out of that class thinking that birth control was unsafe and ineffective and if you had an abortion you’d die. The girl who sat next to me didn’t finish the class, because she got pregnant and dropped out of school.

So why am I writing about this? I suppose it’s because, as I get closer to parenthood, I have been trying to be a more moral person, and as I try to make moral decisions (“Should I tell X about Y? Should I follow the rules in X situation even though I know everyone else is cheating? Should I share that bit of gossip or be classy and not?”) I find myself thinking of the STO(M)P sign and finding it utterly useless, and not just because I’m an atheist now and prayer isn’t helpful anymore.

So for my own use and that of my future child, I present my own moral decision-making acronym:

S – Stop
T – Think: what are my
O – Options, what are my
N – Needs; what are the short-term and long-term consequences for
M – Myself,
P – People I love,
C – my Community,
W – the World in general;
L – Listen to my instincts;
T – Talk to someone I trust;
D – Decide and take
R – Responsibility for the consequences.

STONMPCWLTDR. Not as catchy, of course, but much less likely to fuck with your self-esteem.  If you are a Catholic educator and you are asked to use the STO(M)P sign in your class, please feel free to substitute this one instead.

You’re welcome!

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So even though I missed a few days, my self-imposed challenge to blog every day for two weeks has been a success – between Sept. 16 and Sept. 30 I posted 14 times.

Best day for traffic was Sept. 21, when I published The View From the Council Chamber. New readers, however, soon realized that they could expect little in the way of political commentary and a lot in the way of knitting, dogs, self-centred musings about pregnancy, and other things of interest mainly to me and me alone, and so did not stick around.

Anyway, I fully intended to post yesterday and the day before, but Friday I was engaged on Important Adult Business and forgot, and yesterday I came rather dramatically down with a cold. Seriously, I was feverish, dizzy, seeing starbursts, and generally feeling very ill. If I had posted yesterday I imagine it would have been very Lovecraft-y and incoherent. Fortunately I followed my midwife’s advice – “If you feel unwell, see if it goes away after food, water, and rest; if not, call me” – and am much better. I still feel very scattered, though, as some siding for the refinished back room arrived and is currently taking up half the living room, and that plus two days of neglect have caused a sort of clutter explosion that I’m not up to dealing with yet. I find myself making detailed plans out loud about very basic things – “OK, I’ll put the sheets in the wash now and take them to the laundry to dry when the stock pot is on for dinner” – confusing Madeline a good deal.

But on the positive, my replacement DealExtreme tablet arrived on Friday, so at least I’ve been able to make snide blog comments while lying in bed with a fever.

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Last year it was the Bearded Lady Pub Crawl – I discovered that a plausible-looking mustache made me immune to catcalls and unwanted advances. Also that a mustache is not a hot look for me, but that’s OK.

This year it’s pregnancy. For whatever reason I haven’t had a strange man yell at me from a car/comment on my ass/ask me to give him a blow job since I started showing, and it has been *awesome*. I started to feel invisible, but in a good way – like I could just walk around doing whatever and no one would bother me other than the usual friendly weirdos you meet in my neighbourhood.

Then tonight I had the following exchange with a guy on the streetcar:

Guy (who was oldish, scruffy, and had taken off one of his shoes), tapping me on the shoulder: Is this the 506?

Me: Yes.

A couple of minutes later…

Guy, tapping me on the shoulder again: Is this the 506? Is it going to Gerrard Street?

Me: Yeah, they diverted to Queen for some reason, but it’s going to Gerrard now.

Guy: [pats me on shoulder]

When we get to Gerrard…

Guy, tapping me on the shoulder for the 4th time: This is Gerrard Street?

Me: Yes.

Guy: You want to go out with me, go for dinner?

Me: No thank you.

So there you have it, girls, even an obvious pregnancy won’t stand in your way of hooking up with a guy who doesn’t know what streetcar he’s on or that shoes conventionally remain on one’s feet on public transit, but totally thinks he has the right to touch total strangers and proposition them on streetcars.

There’s hope for us all!

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I was in Old Navy the other day in the extremely tiny Maternity and Baby section (because who doesn’t have enough maternity pants? I didn’t buy anything though) when I noticed the what was possibly the cutest and the saddest thing ever.

The cutest: A tiny Superman onesie.

The cutest thing ever, also the tiniest image ever - sorry

The saddest: An identical pink version of the same onesie, only for girls.

PINK

(BTW, I know these are not identical. Also that the first is a onesie and the second is a shirt. It was surprisingly difficult to find pictures of the ones I saw in the store online and this was the closest I could get. Trust me, they were identical in every respect, only one was pink. And sparkly.)

You know, it is pretty much impossible to tell if a baby is a boy or a girl without checking what’s in its diaper. And babies themselves could not care less about gender, since they have trouble with understanding such basic concepts as “hungry”, “tired”, and “the difference between self and not-self”. The only reason that baby clothes are so absurdly gendered – and they are, they really are – is that a lot of adults have a hard time relating to anyone whose gender is unclear. (If you don’t believe me, talk to the transgender people discriminated against by a farmer’s market in London, Ontario. Hometown pride!) So boy babies have to wear blue and girl babies have to wear pink and little useless headbands (they don’t have hair, people) and get their ears pierced, just so your casual passerby will know that you’re carrying around a little Supergirl and not a Superboy.

And for the record I like cute things, and I don’t mind pink or anything, though I don’t wear it often as it doesn’t go with my colouring, and if I have a girl she will certainly have little pink outfits. There’s nothing wrong with cuteness or girliness or pinkness. But I don’t see why an already unbelievably adorable object needs to be girlified and sparklified, if not to pander to adult gender anxieties. And I think it’s kind of sad that we as a culture have a hard time just dressing up our little girls like superheros, instead of sparkly pink superheros, or that we can’t dream of putting our boys in sparkly pink. Because I can’t think of a single good reason why this should be, but enough people must have thought of at least one for Old Navy to have come up with gendered superhero onesies for newborns.

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