Saturday, 27 August 2011

Friday Night

This video was about trying to decide what to do with Friday night, when one's teenage options were church events organized by chirpy teenaged girls, or going out drinking and trying to get into bars. The voice of "Redneck Ken" was done by Mike Dubue of The Hilotrons many years ago.  (The songs at the end contain vulgar language.)  These HD YouTube videos seem to be getting cut in half by Blogger, so best to full-screen it by double-clicking on it, or go see it at YouTube.

What The Old Testament Doesn't Say About Sex

I found a kinda out-there, zany-toned 40 page ebook called "Biblical Sex," which, disappointingly, wasn't a how to guide or manual, but was a wild and oddly successful attempt to change one's outlook on what the Old Testament actually doesn't say about sex.

First, the easy ones: it doesn't say for men not to have several wives.  It doesn't say for wives not to "get" their husbands sex-slaves, sexual surrogates or concubines ("Handmaids" as Margaret Atwood noticed they're called in the King James Version).  It doesn't say to get married before having sex. It doesn't outlaw any sexual acts between two consenting adults of opposite genders.  It doesn't in any way mention masturbation or sexual fantasy, pornography or anything of that kind in Ancient Israel.  And we know what kind of dirty pictures some of their neighbours liked, so one is curious to get some kind of "yea" or "nay" on that!  It doesn't say for women not to have sex with other women, though it does say for men not to have sex with other men.  The determining characteristic as to sex with relatives is what male figure one might be trespassing on the turf of, or disrespecting.  So, Moses and Aaron's mom was their dad's aunt.  This made their mom both their mother and their great aunt, and made them both brothers and cousins. And this wasn't warned against.  Men weren't to get sexual (including enjoying gazing upon the nakedness of) with their father's wife (whether their mother or step-mother, or one of dad's many wives or concubines), sister or daughter.  If a man had sex with a virgin girl whose dad had been expecting some money from her husband-to-be whenever she married, the man was supposed to pay that, as if he'd scratched her dad's car.  If a man wanted to take a sex slave in a war, there was a whole method for how to do that, because it was ok.  A man wasn't to have sex with another man's wife, as this was adultery.  There is no mention of a married man having sex with an unmarried woman being adultery. In fact, God-sanctioned kings of Israel routinely did that and simply added them to the stack of wives and concubines.  When David took over from Saul, the prophet Nathan says God "gave" David Saul's wives and concubines.  Good to be king.

In the New Testament, when a bunch of religious assholes are badgering Jesus, trying to make him join them in getting Old Testament on an adulterous woman's ass, it is said that she was caught "in the very act."  Note that the dude she was caught committing adultery with isn't mentioned.  No one was dragging him along trying to kill him with rocks.  Men, huh?

As you may have noticed, the Old Testament law (the Mosaic/Moses law), including the ten commandments and many other things don't really address ethics or morality or spirituality.  (a surprising portion of the bible isn't about spirituality or morality).  It's more code of conduct, operating principles and law.  Law like we have. Our laws don't address what is immoral, unspiritual or even wrong.  They address what is forbidden and how doing it gets punished in a given system.   So, being promiscuous may be something foolish, something callow, something one's mother warns against in the scripture, but it's not against the law.  Not in our culture, and not in the Old Testament.  There was a distinction between things that would get you killed or otherwise punished, and things that were probably just stupid.  It wasn't against Jewish law to be an alcoholic, to be promiscuous or to be a glutton.  It was just bad, but not illegal. 

The New Testament seems to suggest that the very function of the law wasn't to make people good human beings, but to overtly demonstrate that, all questions of being a good person aside, human beings couldn't even keep from transgressing these quite extreme boundaries laid out to outline that much lower standard (not what makes a good person, but what makes a person who isn't, in modern parlance, a criminal/lawbreaker.) 

But yeah, the bible has a lot to say about what's good and about what is a righteous or holy or excellent person.  The "law" part of it really just isn't about that, any more than the biblical book of erotic poetry is about the law.  (It's about what's romantic) The Proverbs aren't about what is lawful, but raise the standard to discuss what is workable and wise and sensible, in the same way the New Testament further raises the standard to include things like what is charitable, kind or generous.

The focus in the Old Testament law was 1) you men treated God with respect and didn't step over the boundaries of trust and honour that were supposed to be in place, for instance by leaving Him for Someone Else.  2) you treated other men with respect and didn't step over the boundaries of trust and honour that were supposed to be in place, like eyeing up his wife, his field or his ass.  Old Testament law writing is all about boundaries and jurisdictions and staying on your own side of the line.  And it isn't very fair, by our standards.  It is only remotely "fair" if you're a Jewish, adult male.  It's mostly like an operating manual for "How to Effectively Maintain A Growing, Successful Jewish Household With Lands, Livestock, Servants, Wives, Concubines and Sundry Other Assets."  If you're an Ethiopian or Philistine or Samaritan (or woman) you simply aren't being addressed by the law scriptures, and aren't really part of the patriarchy, so the law doesn't protect your rights.  In fact, they're allowed to make you a slave, and they're not supposed to take TOO many of your women as wives, lest your phony religion might rub off on them, as things tend to eventually do, when people are sexual for any length of time.  That's how they lived.

The New Testament is different.  Suddenly Jesus is living and preaching a religion in which he spends a lot of time talking to, listening to and taking quite seriously, people like women, children, Romans, Greeks, Samaritans and the like.  Oh sure, he is a bit harsh with nonJews on occasion, explaining that he is doing them a favour to be including them, but when they understand how he's putting himself out, he goes right ahead and puts himself out and talks them up to any Jews within earshot.  Suddenly, when the Jews want to know who is their neighbour (who they have to treat with respect and avoid coveting the stuff of) Jesus starts telling a story about a Samaritan who considers a Jew his neighbour and who then helps him when he's in need.  (Jesus is, clearly, a Jew, telling this story to Samaritan-disparaging Jews who are wondering how helpful they have to be to their fellow Jews.  So a story, not about them helping out even Samaritans, but "flipped" as it were).

Jesus talks about love more than you'd expect from the OT.  That's new.  You don't just serve God and praise Him and obey Him and never cheat on Him.  You know that He loves you and you reciprocate that.  And your neighbour?  You don't just keep your fences up and respect boundaries, you are to love him.  You don't follow your law-outlined rights of vengeance and retribution, you are to forgive humans, because humans screw up.  The Golden Rule comes in.  You're not just supposed to look after those of your own family and household, but are supposed to treat others (even outside it) the way you want to be treated (bad advice for masochists, C.S. Lewis said).  You're supposed to help people.  You're not just supposed to amass all the wealth you can to look after your family, including all of your wives, children and concubines anymore.  You're actually supposed to look after the poor.  And, in fact, being rich is a bad thing, according to Jesus.  Because rich people, Jesus says, centuries before Karl Marx, get and stay rich on the backs of the poor.  Jesus commands his followers to neither trust the rich, nor to respect them a whit more than they would respect a poor person (think "a homeless guy").  I'm not sure modern Christians are really willing to do this.

But as to sexual sin?  There is not a single marriage ceremony referred to in the bible.  Oh, guys took women to their tents "as wife," "knew them" and they conceived and all.  And there are certainly a few marriage suppers or feasts, but no actual marriage rituals.  No enjoinders to "wait" until marriage.  No, sex IS a marriage in the bible.  There is no dating.  There is no "playing the field" for a while, getting free samples from willing ladies.  You get a wife (or wives), usually from arranged marriage, the spoils of war, or wherever else. In the Old Testament almost every single man spoken of unreservedly with respect by every New Testament person including Jesus, had a bunch of them.  And no one says "Which wasn't ok."  King Solomon was record-breaking in terms of numbers of wives and concubines.  Was his apparently insatiable appetite for strange criticized?  Only in that they weren't nice Jewish girls.  They turned him away to their gods.  THE cardinal Jewish sin.  Having a perfectly good, committed deity around, and making your own fake ones instead, or having gods made to order, to your liking, in keeping with your own psychological explorations, by other cultures.

In the NT, Jesus mentions how Moses allowed Jewish men to divorce their wives if they didn't like them (notice Jewish women couldn't divorce their husbands, as they were the property of their husbands and not the other way around), and that this wasn't ok, but in no way addresses that Moses allowed them to have (and himself had) numerous wives, and doesn't say that THIS isn't ok with him now.  There is discussion in Paul's writings of women being adulteresses if they "be to another" while their husband is still living.  Christians always assume that this is meant to go equally for a man who leaves his wife and gets a new one, but it really doesn't read like that.  All things being equal, it isn't very equal. (We can always pretend, though, if we don't like what's actually written there.)

Friday, 26 August 2011

"Forced Loneliness"

During an online discussion (most of mine are that, lately) about being single, Jeremy (laughingly, it later turned out) referenced something I hadn't heard about: The True Forced Loneliness Movement. You just search that on YouTube and there are many, many videos decrying it and others disseminating its Conspiracy Theory doctrine.  Dude pictured above is one of the main proponents.

Like so many of these things, it starts pretty inarguably: There's a problem with eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia. We blame the media. There's a widespread problem with obesity. We blame the media and the fast food and "crap in food" industries, and all the industries making fascinating, time-gobbling activities that require one to plant ass-to-chair. So thanks to them, now people hate how they look, lack confidence, have an unattainable standard for how perfect they have to look, and how perfect their partner has to look in order to feel ok about being seen with them. Not too much to argue about there, right?

Next: People are lonely and single. Lots of people. Maybe even troublingly growing numbers of people.  Marriages don't last. People keep trying to "upgrade" to better-looking or more socially adept or wealthier people at the first sign of The Thrill is Gone getting there. They're dumping people who thought they'd both grow old together, because of having their expectations in these areas aggressively elevated by the media. We've never lived in a time in which relationships were supposed to be more perfect, more flawlessly equal, more nurturing, feminist, vegetarian, fitness and health-focussed, gluten-free, recycling, gay-tolerant, globally-conscious and anti-allergenic. So these impossible, "have to be perfect" relationships fail. And we live in a consumer culture, in which the most expensive and precious of things are bought with planned obsolescence built right in so that we're always in the middle of arranging buying new houses, cars, computers, phones, spectacles, shoes and iPods. Like we're cash cows.  Or sultans of shit from Shanghai.  And people are treating their sexual and romantic partners the same way as their shoes, and needing more current, more modelly models. That kinda sounds right too.

Then: Someone is doing that to us on purpose, and there's a Plan, and Everything's Connected. It's So Clear If You Watch The News.  It's not just people blindly scrabbling after money and importance. It's a cynically calculated plan by human beings who, as we know, excel at keeping secrets secret, and at working together effectively (and secretly) to Fool Us All, except those of us pontificating on YouTube.

That's where they lose me. People suck at keeping secrets. People suck at working together. It's like in nature: If there are enough beavers, or ants or bats or whatever, they wreck everything just by fighting to survive. Humans are doing that.  Due to sheer numbers, and the competition that comes with it.

And Then More: So, every time some crazy guy (it's normally a guy, unless it's a woman who's sawed off a guy's penis and Sharon Osbourne and other harpies are on TV laughing uproariously in a way they might well not if it were a story about a woman getting her genitals mutilated by her husband with a butcher knife) hurts some women (those random American shooting sprees) we must conclude that This Is What We Get. We make people lonely and they get desperate, unhappy and confused and lash out, so we (well, They, the secret-keeping cabal of People Who Work Well With Others) suffer from what was done to these poor loners, of whom there are ever more and more. And we've built a culture with World of Warcraft and Black Ops and so on, and the Internet, and the Food Channel, so that people are supposed to stay out of each other's houses and sit alone on their own futons, with someone awesome they've somehow met, impressed and inveigled into living there, just the two of them.  But there's no one, so they're alone and growing fatter by the day.  They're supposed to stay in their own houses where the pretty people getting slaughtered on the cover of the tabloids won't have to look at their fat asses.

But sometimes, someone invites single you into their Sanctum Sanctorum, an honour normally reserved, ironically, for other not-alone people.   You get invited over and find, if the conversation is singing and dancing, that you don't want to leave. Some nice couple has you over, shares food and drink, and you feel like "Please don't cast me out alone into the dark night to wander aimless and babbling! Let me stay just a little longer here with you! You two aren't alone all the time!"

So yeah. We want to blame society, blame the media, blame Dr. Phil, blame Oprah, Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, Paris Hilton and whoever else is famous right now. And then there are always people with videos on YouTube earnestly explaining how they Just Don't Get How Everyone Can't See that the hidden They have purposely created a culture of loneliness, one which sidelines less-than-perfect-looking-and-socializing people, and which makes even them chronically hate themselves, and how that then men shoot women or women hate men and slice off their John Thomas' because of this and it's Our Fault.

I get that the conspiracy view makes them feel like they know secret, occult things. If you know something secret about the core of the Earth or UFOs or the Gross National Product or The Rapture, you can dance around on YouTube barely able to keep from acting like you did in grade three when you sang "I know something YOU don't know! I know something YOU don't know!" all recess long and down the hall into class, then eventually telling what it is and having everyone say "That's just stupid. It doesn't make any sense at all!" to your bafflement and consternation.

My view is simpler. People are fucking up. In large numbers. In patterns. And it's not getting better. The world was meant to be better.  Western society isn't a good place for people to live, emotionally and spiritually.  And it's not getting good.  And we're not going to change it, and we're not going to leave it, nor change significantly ourselves.  We will consume what we can, and die.  Alone.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

My Latest Video

Always did like David Lynch and Twin Peaks when it came to making things that were quirky and odd and maybe a bit disturbing. This is a good example of me not having enough people to help me with stuff, so doing it all myself. I'm the only person playing any instruments or appearing in the video. Note: you can watch it here, even though it's kinda "cut off" on the right hand third.  To see it well, go to where it is on YouTube and hit full screen.  If the strobe light hadn't flaked out and started flashing like once or twice a minute, this video would have been much less weird-looking.

Sunday, 21 August 2011


I have a problem with being asked to participate in anticipating future things.  I will explain later how this kicks in when they chirpily ask "Are you excited for the movie?" (rather than "excited about the movie?") and I can't really explain that I don't get excited about things until they are actually happening, or more often, until afterward.  I sometimes get very intent upon obtaining things alright, but I don't do that thing, the thing where you pretend in your head that you're already in possession of the experience, and you go right ahead and enjoy the shit out of it.

A very nerdy and mundane everyday example: right now, on Facebook, they're asking me to "like" the Doctor Who group if I'm, right now, really looking forward to them, next week, reminiscing over that time a few years back when the Matt Smith Doctor took over the lead role from David Tennant.

Enjoying planned reminiscing in advance of doing it?  I just can't look forward to that joyful looking back.  Not really. Every time someone asks "Are you looking forward to Christmas/Summer/second semester/Hockey season?" I have this annoyed, picked-on feeling like someone had asked an autistic person if they were looking forward to making heaps of meaningful human connections that day.  Because I don't.  I do not look forward to things and get worked up fantasizing about them.  I can't.  I am burdened by the knowledge that anything imagined really, really won't turn out very much like the way it is in one's head, if it happens at all.  I know that just imagining something and planning for it is FAR from guarantee it will ever come to pass.  But also, I just can't enjoy things that haven't happened (yet).  I wait.

When I clean my apartment?  I can't do that under the fuel of imagining how nice and clean it is going to look.  I can't imagine it being even a bit cleaner.  I just have to get a head of steam, get down to it and notice if/when any improvement starts to happen.  

So am I looking forward to them reminiscing over the Matt Smith Doctor Who?  Am I imagining those cheery, informative posts and enjoying them, right now, when they haven't happened and are not at this point real in any way?  No.  I can imagine all sorts of other things, though.  I can imagine Matt Smith getting put in jail for something horrible like killing three old ladies while driving under the influence of crack, or pedophilia or something, and them not wanting to reminisce over him.  I can imagine me dying suddenly in any one of a thousand ways and not ever seeing the Facebook stuff. I can imagine Facebook re-configuring and crashing and the whole Doctor Who group getting wiped.  I can imagine the guy who updates the group being rushed to hospital and the group updates not happening.  I can imagine that there are an infinite number more ways than I can imagine that my enjoying of this happy little Facebook group might never come to pass.  So I wait.  I don't take out enjoyment loans on stuff that hasn't happened yet.

Of course, I could look into my past and note that I was seldom promised nice things as a child, and that when I was, quite often they'd not materialize or actually be taken away, and if I was upset I'd be told to smarten up and realize that life was like that.  Life wasn't a bowl of cherries, I was frequently reminded.  It was not to be enjoyed.  That's why it was like it was.  The implication was that life was a bucket of shit.

And things went away, right when you were into them.  Things like Christmas could be taken away.  People could give Christmas gifts to us, for little me to imagine opening, and my father could return the Christmas gifts to them unopened after the colourfully-wrapped boxes sitting in our house for two weeks, due to family squabbles/church politics.  To this day I STILL have no idea what the anticipated gifts were, the two gift givers being long since dead.  In my home, TV (with Bugs Bunny, Captain Kangaroo, Mr. Dressup, Tony Orlando and Dawn, Sonny and Cher, The Harlem Globetrotters, The Irish Rovers, Frosty the Snowman, It's Christmas Charlie Brown, Scooby Doo, Speed Buggy, Shazam!, Tarzan and M*A*S*H*) just, quite literally went away without warning one day.  Halloween went away in similar fashion, as did Easter.  Attending or having birthday parties outside of immediate family went away too. There may have been reports of these things happening somewhere else to other kids, but for us, they just got erased from existence, once we'd decided we REALLY liked them.  For some kids that I knew growing up, even school (with other kids, anyway) could go away, if the parents were shocked enough by what went on there (i.e. typical Western living.  The equivalents of Harry Potter being allowed to sit in the school library back then, or whatever).  And not matter what kids may say, doing homework with mom for ten years is not more fun than going to school.

But really, anticipating stuff is something that nobody I'm related to (besides my sister) seems to be able to do at all.  We can reminisce alright.  We can wax sentimental.  We can hoard stuff that made us happy, but we really can't anticipate specific good things happening in the future, and go ahead and enjoy them in advance.  We don't like to throw away anything old or worn out, until we've got a new one, and not even then is it easy.  (Parts, you know.  Some imagined monetary or sentimental value retained.)  On a good day, a feeble general expectation that things will work out alright, or that there will be social or fun things to do, probably, is the best we can muster.  Not only is there wiring missing that allows for enjoying specific things that have not happened and may never happen, there is a very strong, superstitious fear that were we able to do this, it would certainly jinx the whole thing.  Looking around at others, this looks like a very plausible superstition to keep.

I move forward with a timid, blind belief that moving forward is a good thing and it may well work out OK.  I move forward to see how far I get.  Maybe I will get far.  Maybe it will work out really well.  That happens sometimes and it would be great.  It's worth whistling in the dark.  I'm not going to count on it, though.  Because you can't.  I have an inability to imagine how nice I think all that will be, and then "enjoy on credit" and invest this positive feeling in motivating myself to move toward it.  I can't use my imagination and make up somewhere I want to be, and then simply try to go there.

I am endlessly motivated to work toward trying to stop bad things from recurring, of course.  I think "I'd better do something, or I'll be dealing with this more and more, again and again!" but I never think "It sure will be nice to live in a world in which I have vanquished this problem, oh, I can just picture it.  With new resolve, this spurs me onward with quickening gait!"  That is SO foreign to me.

I always had a strong aversion to pep rallies in high school.  We were supposed to get excited over a football game (they'd lost me right there). But the big problem was that we were also supposed to be shouting and screaming with anticipation over being part of something I did not feel part of, caring about something I did not care about, and imagining how great it would be when we inevitably won the game, even though I knew right well that "we" really never won football games. Can denial be taught in large groups?  Do we believe in the power of wishing?  Do we believe that simply imagining things changes the universe?

So I do not enjoy things in advance because I can't.  It's not part of how I'm wired.  I suspect there are more people like this out there than anyone imagines.  And they just keep telling us to be more positive, to visualize our future success.  "Imagine how much better you'll look if you jog for four months" (I'm not going to still be jogging after one month, let alone four), "Picture yourself in an expansive home, with a large circle of friends, a boat and international fame" (why?)
"Picture yourself in a boat on a river with tangerine trees and marmalade skies" I am tempted to respond.

But every time someone says "Are you looking forward to...?" (or, increasingly "Are you excited for...?") they're making small talk.  And I don't know if anyone has ever noticed, but I don't really make much small talk.  I don't get it.  (I do "How was your vacation?" "Good" and that's about it.  I resent every moment past one sentence spent discussing the possible future weather)

Maybe from now on I will just say "I don't look forward to things."  Because I don't.  Because I can't.  Not specific things one has to imagine details for, because of their unreality.  And aren't Christians supposed to?  Or is that something we're NOT supposed to do?

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Stuff and Stories

I watched a National Geographic documentary about hoarders today (it was an episode of Extreme Lives.  I watched it and made piles of "to throw out" and "to keep."  My living quarters are not as depicted in this googled image above.  Yet.)  The show was upsetting.  People who keep hundreds and hundreds of animals until some of the animals start getting sick and dying.  People who can't throw away empty packages and papers and receipts and bags and trash, so their living quarters become unlivable.  People who buy things all the time, though they're not going to open the packages, or use them, just to fill up sometimes as many as three houses with items, and have nowhere to live.  People who live in warehouses jammed with their stuff, and have no room for anything else but the very basics.

I'm a bit like that, alright.  Nothing of the order of what I've seen onscreen there, but yeah.  Trouble clearing a path?  Yeah.  Rotting garbage and piles of heavy things that tower to the ceiling and occasionally fall on people?  Not quite.  I know people with quite the opposite problem.  People who are secretly haunted by the existence of other people's stuff in a box in the basement, and sneaking down and throwing it all away with a sick mixture of guilt and triumph.  Like they stole something, but didn't keep it. I knew a woman who let her husband keep a trunk of old things in the basement.  It bugged her.  She fretted over it all the time.
"If it were in France, would that help?" I asked.
"No," she said.  "I'd still know it was there."

There is a difference between being an avid collector, and being an out-of-control hoarder.  But I thought this evening about what I hoard.  I hoard books more than anything, really.  Why have I always done that?  Because in books, there is a hero and there is resolution.  Or in non-fiction, there are ideas and answers.  There is an end, a solution.  Usually, there's a cool guy, and there's an adventure that works out satisfactorily.  The school  library would be getting rid of these adventures I'd just recently had, and I'd keep boxes of them.

Life's not enough like a book for me.  In life, I don't feel like you really get to be the wizard, the king, the hero, the cowboy, the romantic lead, The Man.  Life's disappointing like that. I think I am actually ever more bitterly disillusioned about this, the older I get.  To not get to grow up and be a hero.  After reading too much Spider-man and Batman.  But if you actually try to live your life, walking around talking about yourself as if you were the hero in a world full of other people, perhaps even using third person, and creating a whole "Of course, you know me..." mythology?  You're an asshole.  (A deluded, attention-seeking asshole.)

And I hoard TV shows and movies and toys; really anything that ever made me happy.  It's like I was raised without any ability to expect anything nice to happen in future.  A chronic inability to even imagine myself with something I want unless I'm just about to get it (and even then, it's tough).  I had trouble buying a car due to this.  Couldn't quite believe I could really do it.  So, it's like I'm determined to hold onto everything that ever made me happy at all.  I certainly don't expect anything else to come along. My bad years, my bouts of abortive romance, all commemorated and kept.  Mostly they were really horrible.  But I will keep it all and make songs and poems and drawings and stories and videos about it.  Because I really don't expect anything nice to happen next.  So I keep it all.  And turn much of it into anecdotes which make structured stories.  Or songs and poems with endings and concluding thoughts or images.

So like a hoarder typically does, when I live in an environment that's decorated with wall-to-wall reminders of little things that made me happy in the past, little Star Wars and Fight Club things and Atari and Nintendo games and consoles, various musical instruments, endless photographs and books, t-shirts with holes in them but with Alice Cooper on the front because I got them at a concert of his that I really enjoyed; it's like it all reminds me of past enjoyment and I want to keep it stored somewhere near me.  Like sadness is always waiting, and that stuff is associated with happiness and could perhaps dilute the misery a bit.

But this hoarding has gone as far as it can.  I have a Kindle, with even more books in it than are on my shelves.  I have a computer with as many pictures in it as are in my albums.  My past is commemorated in the form of songs and blog entries and books on the very Internet.  And it isn't enough. It isn't working.  With Internet piracy, I can hoard, almost for free, a truly staggering amount of stuff I will never have the time to enjoy.  And I'm tired of it.  I need something else. And can't imagine myself having anything else.

Because happiness doesn't work well unless it's shared.  And the older I get, the fewer people are around that one can share anything with, and make new memories with.  The ones who are around, increasingly weren't there back in the day when the stories were made and don't get it.  And new memories are increasingly hard to come by.  It's all been done before, and more vigorously.  So now it's just stuff and stories.  This is what getting old feels like.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Sandals and a Strobe Light

  My mission today was to buy a strobe light (for making David Lynch/Twin Peaks like creepy video) and some sandals. You see, every summer, I put on last year's sandals, and by late July or early August, from wearing them every day, they start to crack across the bottom, and eventually will break right in two if you keep walking on them. A rhythm has started up by which the sandals always need to be replaced in late July or in August.
   So, this year I put it off a bit, and went a' sandal buying after recording Mindy in the city. Everyone had assured me that, if I wanted to buy things like black lights or strobe lights, I needed a "head shop," (which is really a bong shop.) Radio Shack/The Source no longer has things like that.
   Mindy took me to a head shop right by her place. Smoke Dreams. The woman behind the counter, when asked if they had strobe lights or that kind of thing said very distinctly "no," like that was insultingly stereotypical. She just had a store-full of bongs, banana-flavoured rolling papers, vaporizers, incense, various things made of hemp, and a whole lot of lighters, belt buckles and knives.
   Mindy assured me that Rock Junction on Rideau Street would have one. I took my leave of her and walked up there. They had one entire room full of colourful bongs (and bongs everywhere else, too) and Doc Martins and t-shirts, knives and belt-buckles, but no trippy lighting equipment. 'Try Happy Daze in the Rideau Shopping Center' was their advice.
   So I did. "I can buy sandals!" I told myself, as I navigated what appeared to be some Mennonites, furtively poking at people with gospel tracts without looking any of said people in the face at all, trying to actually give them the tracts without their faces having been seen. As usual, the guys were dressed like upwardly-mobile Harvard types, and the women more like Little Cult On The Prairie.
   I went into Payless Shoes, where I'd gotten some Airwalk sandals the previous year. "Oh, we've taken them all off the shelves. It's August, you know..." the girl said with mild reproach.
   "That seems rather premature, considering the temperatures out there.  It's actually pretty friggin' hot" I said, with slightly less reproach than she had used.
   "True. Well, I don't know why, but it's how retail works. We're always kinda a couple of months ahead. I'm not sure why, exactly" she said, with furrowed brow.
   "It's called greed" I said mildly. "Reaching ahead for the next big dollar and tripping over the month they're actually in. Nortel did the same thing on a bigger scale, and they're pretty much out of business now. You gotta take care of this month before you get to move on to more money later."
   "Really" she said, somewhat amused at my silliness. "I guess that's true."
   I took my leave of her and stopped at Happy Daze, found a strobe light, asked them about it, so they got it out of the box to demonstrate it and it didn't work. The girl asked a male staff to get her another, and he wasn't moving very quickly, so I grabbed one from the shelf behind me and gave it to her. It worked. I bought it.
   At Footlocker, I interrupted the conversation the two ref-dressed young guys were having to ask about sandals. I got the dude's version of the exact same, reproachful "It's AUGust, dude!" lecture and pointed out that it was still frickin' hot out today.
   "True dat. Tell you what," said the one guy. "Go to Latellier and ask for Jess. She's the blonde one. She's really good-looking."
   I said I would and set off. When I arrived, I was dismayed. Everything in the store was brown, with occasional bursts of flamboyantly gaudy beige. Birkenstocks were in a place of honour. They actually had some sandals, but they were on a Clearance Rack and were getting pretty sparse. A beautiful black-haired girl wearing no brown or tan at all came out and asked if I wanted anything.
   "I would like a pair of sandals which are not brown" I said.
   "Umm, so that would make them black?" she asked.
   "Not exclusively" I said.
   "Well, we only have what you see here," she replied, and then gave me a little reproachful lecture about the naked folly of trying to buy summer clothing in August. She said "That's how we do things in retail. We fill the back with things ready for the next couple of months, and so things aren't really summer in here anymore right now."
   "I think that's called reach exceeding grasp" I said almost testily.
   She understood that, and giggled, so I decided she was smart as well as stunning, and that I liked her.
   I said I was too old and too messianic-looking to carry off brown sandals.
   She expressed confusion.
   I said I was middle-aged, and a high school teacher, but I saw no reason to wear powder blue golf shirts and tan pants all the time, with brown sandals and socks. She giggled.
   We found a pair that were Rockports, which were a bit more 'dress sandals' than I wanted, but my dress shoes are Rockports, so I caved. "Those are almost brown, but I'll take them" I said.
   "Those are absolutely brown" she agreed and went to get what she called "the mate" to the one we'd agreed upon.
   At this point, a brittle-looking bleach-blonde, short-haired, toothy, skinny girl asked if I needed help. (She wasn't wearing any tan or brown either.  Unless she had Birkenstocks lingerie)
   "I'm looked after" I said. "I got referred here by a guy at Footlocker who said to ask for you. Said you were The Good-Looking one. I think he likes you."
  "That would be Josh" she said, and turned away in pleased embarrassment. I thought maybe she was going to go to her locker and scream "ohmygodOhMyGod!" to her friends.
   'My' salesgirl came back, and told me that Josh was Jesse's boyfriend, and while ringing my stuff up asked me about being a high school teacher, and how much patience I must have (I said that, whenever kids try to be annoying, I have the utmost confidence, given years of experience and the authority vested in me, to effortlessly be far more annoying than they can ever hope to be. I was outlining just this strategy for classroom management when over my shoulder, dressed from head to toe in a rainbow of beiges with occasional bursts of flamboyantly gaudy brown, was my Vice Principal. "Oh, and this is my Vice Principal" I said gesturing at her and heading toward the door with my brown sandals and strobe light.
   The Vice, not accustomed to seeing me outside of my proper classroom, school and city, looked up in characteristic disoriented confusion from some brown shoes she was eying in a way many a mouse would recognize.
   "Hi!" I said. "I was just agreeing that being a high school teacher requires patience."
   "Oh, it does!" she agreed, pleased to understand something. "It certainly does..."
   "See ya!" I said and left.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Thoughts You Don't Agree With

  People react a whole lot of different ways when put in this daily, human situation: a thought is voiced that they don't agree with.
  Some people don't pay any attention to what other people think, so they don't notice.  Some people just aren't very good at seeing which thoughts would be contradictory, and which ones are complimentary or compatible, so they don't note the contradiction between what they think, and what was just said.  Some people simply don't understand any opinions that aren't what they think themselves, so they just repeat "I don't get what you're saying" because they're listening for it to make sense to them, and it never seems to do that.  Some just leave the room.  Some want others to do the same.  Some express annoyance or disapproval before leaving.  "You should be ashamed of yourself."   Some try to dismiss the person instead of the opinion. Many resort to name-calling.  "You would think that...You're a liberal/white person/Christian/African/anarchist!"
  But some of us are weird.  Some of us believe that, when someone says something that isn't right, as far as we can tell, that we should tear both of our viewpoints down to see what makes them tick, pit them against each other and try to come to some sort of agreement, even if only that we're not done figuring them out yet.
  Now, many people are very uncomfortable with social, verbal or intellectual conflict.  They have that fight or flight thing go off, because they feel like there is danger.  And there might be.  One's reputation might suffer, and with it one's career, should one look ill-equipped to keep up in a discussion.  So they want to get out of "harm's way."
  My father didn't use the word "discussion."  He used the word "fight."  As in "Now, let's not have a..."  To his mind, if people agreed, there was nothing to talk about, and if they didn't, they couldn't talk without fighting, so they "just couldn't talk."
  I've always had a blind, unfounded belief in the worth of thrashing stuff out.  A bit post-modern of me, probably.  You think something?  Why?  Have you always thought this?  Where did you first encounter this idea?  Have you looked at the alternatives?  Where is your idea taking you?  How's that working out?  What do you think of this common other view on the subject.
  And I'm one of those (also) weird people who, when I meet with adversity, controversy, resistance or trouble, it gets my blood up and makes me very wide awake, all fired up and alive and bright-eyed and ready to dig into the matter.  When a piece of technology isn't doing what I think it should be, I don't want to throw it away.  I want to figure out everything about it and a host of other things it can do, until I feel like I have mastered it thoroughly from a number of angles, rather than being left baffled.
  So I guess it isn't odd that this happens on the Internet:  Lately it's been about people saying something is all about one thing (and no other thing. End of story.  If you think differently, you're a something-ist.)  Like, in one case, a guy mentioned feminism, so of course a woman brought up rape, as the go-to theoretical example for use in understanding How Men Get Things Wrong, and why women, though very much equal, need special protection from men and so on.  Now, because rape involves (to varying degrees) nudity and sex organs, people usually assume it's because some selfish guy got horny and lacked the empathy to understand and feel what he was doing to another man or woman.  They assume it's that every time, and that it's about that, and about nothing else.  Very few things are all about one thing and nothing else.
  So in this discussion, the feminist needed to get people to broaden their minds from the "rape is about sex" to consider her view, which is "rape is about power and control."  Not "also about power and control" mind, but "only about power and control, and not about sex at all."  I simply said "Very few things are about only one thing."
  Bam.  Giant argument.  Was rape only about sex?  Or was it only about power?  And me trying to suggest that, like many things, it could be about many things, and different things depending upon the people involved.  And then I cheated, got "realer" and less theoretical than anyone else was being, and said "I know that on the few occasions that women have tried to push unwanted physical attentions upon me, that I could not and cannot begin to tell you what it was "all about" for them.  I don't have a clue."
  And then today there was a "breastfeeding in public" thing that broke out on Facebook.  A young man was sitting in a shopping mall next to a large woman who was breastfeeding and making no attempt to be somewhat modest or discreet, so he had to, without warning, get a very up-close, lasting, awkward eye-full of some breasts he found unattractive, from a complete stranger he had no interest in seeing the nipples of, in a context he found forced upon him.
  Now only a fool could not have seen that his then suggesting babies should have to "eat" in bathrooms would annoy the mums.  But no one wanted to give him his due, and empathize with his side of things. He has a girlfriend, he was in a shopping mall, and he felt that what he described as "pepperoni-sized nipples" (guaranteed to win over all the women in the debate, having thus demonstrated his respect and delicacy concerning the female form) were rather indiscreetly kinda right in face, as he sat on a bench, waiting for someone.
  And soon young mothers, for whom breastfeeding was a cause quite close to their, well, teats, began to announce how men should feel and think about breasts.  Because, apparently, breasts are not sexual, and men should not feel, think or deal with breasts as if they were sexual.  Because they aren't.  Breasts are for feeding babies.  I pointed out that I am not fond of people who tell me what they think my correct feelings and thoughts need to be.  That seems to me to infringe upon stuff that should be my own business, never mind my own rights.  And I made what I felt was a simple point: breasts do more than one thing.  Breasts are more than one thing.  This caused annoyance and umbrage.  Didn't I get it?  Breasts are not sexual!  I realize that, as a man, I am not going to get any respect from women, if trying to talk about the female body.  They just don't extend us any credit when it comes to that.  We aren't even supposed to MENTION periods or breasts or the like, for the most part.   But I made my point anyway.  Breasts are sexual (for the woman they're attached to, for her partner and various people who may see her in the course of her youthful adult life) and they are practical, if and when they are ever used to feed a baby at any point in the woman's life.
  This was not well-received.  I failed to acknowledge my inferior place (as a man) and therefore my not having a right to have an opinion, and was called an asshole for having an opinion and reminded that breasts were REALLY made to feed babies.  First.  My suggestion that they may have played a sexual role first, and then fed a baby nine months later did not go down well.  My "take an adult female's life and contrast the number of months that their breasts functioned as sexual enticements/accessories/organs, vs. the months spent feeding babies" argument was not brought out, as that may well have been pearls before swine.
  Because I've got this problem: arguments, discussions, debates; they don't scare me.  I like them.  Over the years I've gotten fairly good at them, though I'm not a professional.  And in many circles, I get the whole "Well, you could argue ANYthing, so your compelling argument serves, not to make you sound like you may have a point, but just like a tricky bastard."  How fair is that?
  Because what upsets me and makes me uncomfortable in precisely the same way some people get when the Dickens hits the fan is when there is a (dangerous) gorilla in the room that one is not allowed to stare at or mention.  I hate unspoken, assumed, tacit stuff that was not and will not be discussed, even if communication breaks down due to this "strategy" of dealing.  I feel unsafe when there is a house of cards built of tacit understandings, unspoken agreements or objections, and when it is viewed as the greatest of faux pas to address anything very real or problematic.  It makes me scared to leave problems and see how big they grow if we just pretend they're not there.
  At work, everyone is mostly terribly worried about a heated discussion breaking out.  So we avoid having them.  And then discussions often haven't really been properly had and gossip happens and backstabbing and the like.  I find that "putting the cards out on the table" when people are steadfastly not having a discussion does not make one any friends.  I have this unpopular thing I do when someone is treating me in a way that is, I think, horrible, and there is this understanding that I am not going to refer to it, that I will simply put into words what is being done, while it's being done, and leave the ball in the other person's court. Usually they need to leave the room to avoid discussing it.  And sometimes (if it's a woman) another woman will ask me to apologize for having mentioned the Thing Done To Me when We Just Don't Do That.  Why can't I just backstab and gossip like a regular middle-aged woman?  I am neither regular nor a woman, but I refuse to accept that this is normal or Okay for women or men, despite a lifetime of working with regular middle-aged women.
  I prefer having a straight up verbal sparring match to hiring someone to stab people in the back for me.  I don't think honour and courage are stressed enough in the upbringing of modern children. I think girls in particular are condescendingly raised with far less expectation that they will show honour or courage at any point.  My experience of good women is that one can expect every bit as much honour and courage and knowing their own minds, or admitting they aren't decided upon a matter, every bit as much being straightforward and candid and forthright, as one could expect from a good man.  These are things I think.  I don't think "It's all and only about that."  But I do think this is "a thing."
  But maybe you don't agree with that.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Secret Christian Stuff

I'm not supposed to tell anyone this stuff:

Q. Why are Christians all split up in an almost infinite number of separate groups, most of which make no effort to become aware of each other's existance, let alone connect on a personal human (or Christian) level, or work together?
A. They prefer it that way.

Q. In many human systems, including dysfunctional homes, churches and businesses, the most important rules are never written down or spoken.  You find this everywhere.  How do people even learn the nature of the unwritten, unspoken, stuff, if talking about it is against an unspoken rule?
A. By noting that people around them seem to get punished when they act a certain way.  This teaches a lesson, even if the unspoken rule is never mentioned (even during the punishing of the offending party. Quite often exactly what the person did is misrepresented, or becomes something "we don't talk about.")

Q. In the stricter corners of Judaism, Islam and Christianity alike, there are men (with a few women also benefiting from not practicing what they preach at ALL) whose favourite topic of conversation and concern is how to further limit the influence and participation of women in their religious endeavors.  Why?
A. Women will change things.  (Even the women who are traveling the country seeing to their entrepreneurial enterprises of promoting books they've written about how women should fight the changes of the twentieth century by staying home and looking after their families and not going out in the world and worrying overmuch about money.)

Q. People are hurt by churches every day.  Pedophiles, bigots, sexists, homophobes and haters of all kinds inevitably get shelter from churches of various stripes.  Wherever you find someone spouting hatred, whether it's burning crosses on someone's lawn, shooting doctors who perform abortions, picketing a soldier's funeral or what have you, there is always bible quoting and some church or other supporting, aiding, funding and facilitating it.  Question is: people are being hurt, and harm is being done, but who actually is benefiting from it?
A. The bible refers to them as "principalities and powers."  Never mind the red-skinned, prancing satyr of a devil figure; Christian belief involves the idea that, wherever there is the potential to do good, there is some kind of system set up to ensure potential is wasted (usually on meetings of various kinds, crafting pretty words about who we claim to be and do, and doling out official-sounding titles, with no lack of backroom backstabbing going on over the whole thing).  Human systems are extremely effective at wasting all the resources available, not the least of which being time.  Eventually, people are inevitably punished for matters of conscience, and people are rewarded for being bad people.  All human systems routinely reward misbehaviour.  We tend to like to think this is all by accident, that people screwing up while doing the best they can just kinda looks like that.  Christian belief is that it's inevitable rather than accidental, and that it's all by design.  The good is being wasted, mislabeled and punished, and the theory is that any human system which more than maybe two or three people in it gets there eventually, and is serving, not the people (clearly), but some kind of faceless, bureaucratic evil.  Now, some would argue that the system is serving the people on top, who clearly benefit from it.  It must be noted, though, that there is usually a fair bit of changing which bastard's on the top of the heap, as being top of the heap doesn't seem healthy.  And, in the words of The Who "Meet the new boss.  Same as the old boss."

Think of a bad thing that was done to someone by someone else who knew better.  Then ask if a human system or organization that was supposed to prevent this from happening (and deal if it happened anyway) "got it right" in preventing the problem, or in helping the victim and not in any way helping the person at fault.  And if a random good Samaritan wanted to help, would the system officially "in charge" of helping have helped the Samaritan, or questioned his/her credentials and intentions?  Then ask yourself "Who benefited from this harmful action?"

You can explain away anything overly dark or mysterious by simply chalking the whole thing up to people being weak and misguidedly and selfishly serving their short-term interests.  Thing is, it isn't just the one person, it isn't just random, an overall effect is achieved; the whole thing DOES serve a long term interest in ensuring good is wasted, corrupted, mislabeled or blocked.

Every time you say "they," as in "they don't deal well with this" or "they charge tax on this" or "they are trying to stop this," you aren't talking about a person, you're talking about a system.  And who is in charge, let alone in control?  Who is "they" and what are they achieving?  Well, it's been decided who is responsible for what, but the actual power, wielded daily, doesn't ever quite follow what's on paper.  There are always things happening and people doing things, which the organizational charts do not adequately represent.  Aptitudes have something to say about things, and we all know that there are incompetent bosses, and we know what happens when the boss is incompetent.  And what gets rewarded?  The competence shown in filling in for the boss?  Not usually.  We serve The System.  Them.  Stuff is achieved.  Stuff is blocked.  Stuff becomes inevitable or impossible and no one's really in charge of it.
Many people sense that there is a pattern to the power, and they construct elaborate conspiracy theories.  I have never been able to take them very seriously, because I lack the necessary faith in this mythic human ability to work together effectively in groups, or keep secrets.  But as a Christian, I believe in good and I believe in evil.  And I believe evil's achieving specific, predictable outcomes we are not ignorant of.  Look for decay, corruption, harm and exploitation (drug cartels, human trafficking, various types of fraud), and try to think of it as random.  Then look at all the unconnected individuals acting similarly, and their actions adding up to an Effect of which they are ignorant.  Then imagine a personality which intended that.

Some people don't like to think of God as having a personality, agenda or plan.  Many don't like to think of evil as having those either.  The Christian belief is that evil has a plan, and it doesn't involve "winning souls."  It involves a parasitic, toxic infestation; a gutting of life, excellence, potential, love and grace, a negating of good or value which should be inherent and inevitable.

A lot of atheists still believe in good, but try to deny there is such a thing as evil.  I think that's just adorable.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

How Long?

Have you ever wanted to hear a heavily Neil-Young-influenced song recorded in an afternoon, (with me playing everything, including a bodhran instead of a kick drum) which is about resisting the temptation to give up, with an angelic FM choir of voices in the chorus singing "Give Up!" the whole while? Well, now you can. A Twin Peaks nod is seen in the chorus lyrics and also in finger snaps during same.
I've been messing around with wanting to make video to go with this.  Some "too dark" stuff is currently here

Saturday, 6 August 2011

August Rolls On Apace

  August rolls on apace.  I am keeping busy by watching Arrested Development (which is having an unfortunate influence on my vocal cadences when telling any anecdotes.  I start talking like Ron Howard), Buffy, The X-Files and Babylon 5.
  I have been shooting bits of video with my digital SLR camera, and then editing them together to make video to go with my songs.  That's fun.  Very small-time movie making, but still... Some bits of it are on my YouTube channel.
  Almonte has a huge puppetry festival each summer, and I often play live music at it.  Dude in charge of it forgot to ask me this year, so I was pouty, then he woke me up this morning with a phone call, asking me to sing.
  I hung out talking to the sound guys and kids recently graduated from our school who were photographing and sound-mixing the event, and also went to ARG Mayhem, the Star Wars, GI Joe and wrestling toy store, comic store and video rental place.  There were people dressed as various Star Wars characters, so I hung out with them and talked about props and stuff.  Cool to be talking with people who knew more about Star Wars than I do.
  Put on my top hat and vintage 80s Adidas basketball shoes (white with black stripes) and busted out some music like I just didn't care.  It was good.  It wasn't mistake-free, but it was passionate.  A recently-graduated student from our school wanted to play drums for me, so we did that.  Just before I left the apartment, a girl on Facebook had quoted the True Blood theme song, saying "I wanna do bad things with you," so I commented "Do you dare me to sing that song in the middle of my town, wearing a top hat?"  (I was going to do that anyway).  She agreed, and I did it and was soon furnished with photographic evidence of the deed.