Tuesday, 30 August 2011

On this day in history (well, not THIS one)

I recently had a birthday, and I was bored, so I plugged my birth date into Google to see what else may have occurred on the very day that I was making my grand entrance into this world.

"August 20, 1982" on Google

Start big! The ozone layer looked like this (rollover so see what it looks like now, unless that didn't work):

ET: The Extra-Terrestrial was number one at the box office!
Without my knowledge of that, ET became one of my favourite movies of all time. I have the collector's edition DVD set. It's pretty sweet. Other notable box office hits of the week included Star Wars (it had been re-released a week earlier), Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. It was a good time to be a geek. Or Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford, or George Lucas. Take your pick.
You can check historical box office data at The Numbers.

The #1 Song:
Eye of the Tiger by Survivor.
Rock on.

Also, ABBA's "The Day Before You Came" was recorded. Woot!

A mass murderer (who I choose not to name but you can probably Google the date if you're interested) killed eight people at a welding shop in Miami, evidently because they had refused to repair an engine for him the day before. He was shot and killed, and run over, actually, by witnesses while he was riding away on his bicycle. I have to get on my gun-control soap box for a moment and point out that the killer, who had a documented psychological problem including paranoia, went to a gun store that morning and bought two guns. Just like that. Because he had said the day before that he was going to kill everyone at the shop, and I guess he meant it.

Additionally, an Indian Airlines 737 was hijacked, and the hijacker was subsequently shot down by commandos at the airport where the plane landed. I guess it was a good day for killing the bad guy. That's morbid.

Ye Olde Barber Shoppe in Crestline, California was founded. And they've been providing quality cuts and shaves these last 29 years.

The following image, as part of a video of Chessie (the Chesepeake Bay Sea Monster), was viewed and analyzed by experts at the Smithsonian. Regrettably, the quality of the video was not sufficient to make any solid determination about the serpentine creature pictured. After some initial enhancement by some fellas at Johns Hopkins University, it has been left untouched--due to a lack of funds--since 1983. Guess we'll never know whether Chessie is real or not.

MO' MONEY... MO' PROBLEMS. Or at least mo' money problems.
Mexico became the first Third World country to default on foreign debt when Treasury Secretary Jesus Silva Herzog told foreign bankers that the country could not repay its $60 billion. I'm pretty sure his exact words were "Oops! Our bad!"

The CIBC Prime Rate was set at 16.00%!!  Holy interest, Batman!!

A 1968 CIA document regarding the communist forces used in the Tet offensive was declassified! At long last! This was super important because now the masses had access to this information and could make important decisions on what they would do if they ever encountered a real life Delorian and found themselves in Northern Vietnam in 1968. They would be so prepared. Somebody write the movie. Quick.

Also, a multinational force landed in Beirut to oversee the PLO's withdrawal from Lebanon during the Lebanese Civil War. Thank goodness they got all that stuff taken care of way back then!!

Former Indian Affairs Minister John Munro was awarded seventy-five large in libel damages from the Toronto Sun newspaper. My assumption is that they used him as one of the Sunshine Girl's likes in an effort to make her seem classy and worldly. I could be wrong, but there's no way to know now without checking a credible source.

Kinda makes a person feel pretty little in a big old world to know that some sort of important things happened, and all I did was get born. I mean--who hasn't done that?

Monday, 29 August 2011

What's More Important: Love or Silliness?*

Love songs are silly. I like to sing along to most of them, but very few of them ever have me saying "Yes! That!" in reference to their lyrics. For example, I've never known my heart to beat like an 808 drum, and I would not stop a grenade for anybody. I also wouldn't stay awake just to hear somebody breathing, and I'd really rather nobody stayed awake to listen to me breathe, either. That's kind of creepy.

Likewise, I do not wish to be hosed down with holy water if I get too hot (okay, I guess I'd take the holy water, as long as it was cold, but I think regular water would be fine, too). I think the wise men are right--only fools do rush in.  And I don't even know what a kiss from a rose on the gray is supposed to mean or how anyone would compare to it. That makes no sense.

I do embrace the silly, even in its extremes. For giggles (many, many of them!), Bo Burnham's "Love Is" takes the spot of number on love song in my heart. Bo Burnham is the funniest guy ever. And I'm not just saying this because people have told me that he's a "successful, male, funnier, all-round better version" of me.

Silliness aside--and even though I don't advocate putting silliness aside very often--most love songs, however great they may be, are just kind of generic and "Oh, I love you so much, blahdiblah blah blah" rather than deep and meaningful. There are, however, two "love songs" whose lyrics resonate with me as being about something more than superficial. I'm sure there are others, but these are the ones that do it for me.

One is "Something in the Way She Moves" by James Taylor:

My love of James Taylor is probably a big factor in why this song makes the very short list, but I think the lyrics are about something grounded and realistic and simple and lovely. I think it's because he says "I feel fine" and not "I feel some ridiculously hyperbolic way."

My number one, forever, all-time favourite love song, though, is "Somebody" by Depeche Mode. I first heard this song when I was a teenager, and it's the only one that after fifteen years still makes me say "Yes! That!" every time I hear it. It's also the only song whose lyrics I know from beginning to end without the recall aid of the music, so it's my go-to shower-singing song. I'm sure the neighbours are very happy about that.

*That's a quote from Friends. For the record, I think love and silliness are both equally important. You can't really choose one or the other, because a life without either would be boring and that would be, well, just plain silly.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Jack Layton

This won't post until Sunday, but as I write this, I'm watching Jack Layton's state funeral on CBC. I've teared up a few times already, just like I did when I first read last Monday's shocking news that he had passed away. That day, I found myself having to explain to my kids, who are five and seven, why I was crying because someone I didn't know was gone.

"I had a lot of respect for him," I told them. "He was a good man."
"Was he nice to people?" my daughter asked.
"Yeah, he was. To everybody. And he just wanted to make things better."
"He wanted everybody to be able to be happy," I told her.

It was a simplified five-year-old version of what made Jack Layton great. But when I think about it, his simple view that things could be better was why I respected him. He maintained an optimism that I sometimes worry gets trodden out of too many people too soon in life. I've heard him called an idealist a lot, and I suppose he was, but that's what I admired about him. He was a smart, well-educated man--he knew about everything wrong with the world and the country--and he still believed that you could take away all the "buts" and just do your best to make the world better.

I've seen a lot of people, in the media and elsewhere, asking how the NDP is going to replace Jack Layton. I don't know how Canada is going to replace Jack Layton. I'm pretty young, but I don't remember a time when the name Jack Layton was not virtually synonymous with the ideas of inclusiveness and caring, and with the importance of always working to improve this country for everyone. And, maybe I'm naive, but I don't think that needs to be an exclusively NDP disposition.

I hope that someone will replace him as a voice of LOUD optimism with a plan, as someone who reasons the imperativeness of generosity and helpfulness and paying whatever cost it takes to make the country and the world better. I hope that Canada gets a new beacon of hope.

More importantly, though, I hope that the outpouring of support and regret over the past week will become something more than last week's news as we move forward. I hope we all keep with us the knowledge that his optimism is something we need.. We can't all be the leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, but we can all be the kind of person Jack was, in whatever we do.

Near the beginning of the state funeral, Myer Siemiatyck read from Isaiah 58:12: "You," he said, as he stopped to glance at the casket draped in a Canadian flag, "You shall lay foundations for the coming generations."

I hope so.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Boogedy Boogedy Boo

One of my favourite things to do when I have guests at my house is tell them that someone died in the house once.  Not just died, either. Some time ago, a man hung himself from the bannister in my house. You can actually still see the marks on the railing.

The reaction of my guests never fails to amuse me. This past weekend, a full-grown and kinda tough man panicked a wee bit and couldn't get out of the house fast enough.  If you've been following along at home, you probably know that my yella-bellied self should probably be scared, too. It doesn't bother me at all.

I don't even not believe in ghosts. I freaking love playing Ouija and believe in it as the result of a very convincing experience that I can't relate without divulging way too much personal information, but the ending is that now I believe.  I also used to live in an apartment that I think was haunted (which is related to the Ouija experience) and it actually made me feel safer when I was there alone. Also, because I don't really have religion, maybe believing in ghosts provides something a little closer to tangible evidence that there is an afterlife, which I find to be a comforting thought.

I think it's a bit crazy that so many people are scared of ghosts, though. It makes me laugh--sometimes just on the inside--when people discuss ghost lore as if it's scientifically proven fact. To the best of my knowledge, none of it is. I thought I'd look some of it up and attempt to determine whether I may or may not have a ghost in my house, while also mocking people. I thought I'd bring you all along for the ride, too.

I found a list of 16 Signs That Your House is Haunted on about.com. Here are the first seven, which are listed as signs that your house might be haunted. The remaining nine were signs that like, totally pretty much for sure, your house is haunted. Most def.

1. Unexplained noises - footsteps; knocks, banging, rapping; scratching sounds; sounds of something being dropped. Sometimes these noises can be subtle and other times they can be quite loud.

Okay, my sister and I have convinced ourselves, if only in a mostly mocking way, that we have a Tell-Tale Heart style tapping in our house (not that we killed anyone--we didn't). It's just an unexplained quiet knocking that sounds like it's coming from inside the wall--too regular to be a living thing hanging out in there and too irregular to be something building-technical. It moves around the house, following us--mostly in the living room or my bedroom, and sometimes in the car. 90% of the time, we're totally kidding about it. But 10% of the time, we freak the shit out of each other talking about it. I'm kinda freaked out right now.

However, in general, houses make a lot of noises. Use your imagination for something more useful, like figuring out what you're going to do if aliens and zombies attack at the same time. Or aliens attack and turn people into zombie-like pod-people. The undead are much more fearsome than the dead.

2. Doors, cabinets and cupboards opening and closing - most often, these phenomena are not seen directly. The experiencer either hears the distinct sounds of the doors opening and closing...or the experiencer will return to a room to find a door open or closed when they are certain that it was left in the opposite position. Sometimes furniture, like kitchen chairs, are perceived to have been moved. Very rarely will the experiencer actually witness the phenomenon taking place.

Of course VERY RARELY because you just forgot you left that cupboard open, moron. I know, you are ABSOLUTELY SURE you remember closing the cereal cupboard door this morning, right? Here's what you need to do: get a video camera and put it in your kitchen or whichever room you think the ghosts are amusing themselves by opening your cupboards and doors. But you have to get a nannycam-type camera, because the ghosts are dead, not stupid. Put it in a cookie jar or something. Send me video evidence of this phenomenon, and I will take back calling you a moron.

3. Lights turning off and on - likewise, these events are seldom seen actually occurring, but the lights are switched on or off when the experiencer knows they were not left that way. This can also happen with TVs, radios and other electrically powered items.

Likewise, you're a moron. Listen: electricity is a funny thing. Sometimes things like that happen. Also, I bet you live in an old house if you think it's haunted. I live in an old house. I can sit in my dining room and watch the light turn on and off of its own accord. It has never not even once occurred to me that the man who killed himself in this house might be conducting some form of light-flickering torture on me. Because that's stupid. Also, you probably forgot to turn it on or off. I mean, honestly, if you were going to hang around here after you died, is that how you'd spend your time?

4. Items disappearing and reappearing - ...the familiar experience of not being able to find a regularly used item - say, your set of car keys - which you believe you placed in a spot you routinely place them. But they're gone and you look high and low for them with no success. Some time later, the keys are found - in exactly the place you normally put them. It's as if the object was borrowed by someone or something for a short time, then returned. Sometimes they are not returned for days or even weeks, but when they are, it's in an obvious place that could not have been missed by even a casual search.

I have this purple shirt that I really like. It's a tank top, and it's got this crocheted thing at the back and the straps are all crocheted, and it's kinda flowy, but not too flowy. It's very cute. I know where I keep it. I know where I saw it one day, and then later I went to get it, and I didn't see it there. And I searched everywhere for it, and then I had to go out on a date wearing something I didn't like as much, which was probably no less flattering, but still, I'd had my heart set on wearing that purple shirt, so I just felt like the whole thing was a bad omen, and the date went remarkably poorly. And then the shirt was right back where it was supposed to be the next day. So, OBVIOUSLY, the ghost doesn't want me to date!!

OR I was in kind of a hurry because I was madly trying to get ready--as one often is when looking for a variety of everyday items--and I missed it. This seems more likely to me than my house being inhabited by an evil romance-hating ghost.

5. Unexplained shadows - the sighting of fleeting shapes and shadows, usually seen out of the corner of the eye. This phenomenon has also been discussed in some detail in "Shadow People." Many times, the shadows have vaguely human forms, while other times they are less distinguishable or smaller.

UGH. Seriously? This is something we're offering up as evidence? "I thought I saw something out of the corner of my eye"? I'm sure there's a word for when that happens, and that it's perfectly scientifically explainable. I wonder how many people have left ocular diseases untreated because they thought it was just ghosts.

6. Strange animal behavior - a dog, cat or other pet behaves strangely. Dogs may bark at something unseen, cower without apparent reason or refuse to enter a room they normally do. Cats may seem to be "watching" something cross a room. Animals have sharper senses than humans, and many researchers think their psychic abilities might be more finely tuned also. 

Okay, I'm inclined to believe in this as I've previously stated, but animals behave strangely all the time. They lick their own bums and eat their own vomit. We're going to get all weirded out about them staring off into space or not wanting to walk through a doorway? They've got bigger things to worry about.

7. Feelings of being watched - this is not an uncommon feeling and can be attributed to many things, but it could have a paranormal source if the feeling consistently occurs in a particular part of the house at a particular time.

Know when I feel like I'm being watched? Whenever I think Hey, I wonder if I feel like I'm being watched. So if there's some part of the house or time of day when you want to convince yourself that you feel like you're being watched, it's going to work.

Also, I don't mean to freak anybody out, but if you rent your place of residence, there's about a 4 in 7 chance that you ARE being watched most of the time. Sleep well.

To reiterate, I actually believe in ghosts. Well, I don't know if I believe, but I know I don't NOT believe. So I'm not trying to argue that ghosts must not be real because all these things can be explained some other way. I'm just trying to argue that if you think any of these things are definitive proof of an ectoplasmic infestation, then you're a moron.

Did I say moron enough in this blog post? I don't know. I think it needs one more. Moron.
There. All done.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Maybe I try being mayor of my own life for a while; see how that goes

Until three years ago, I had a Motorola Flip Phone that I used like it was just a phone. It had a web browser, but I didn't have a data plan. It had this snake game on it, but I didn't play it. I could text on it, but I almost never did. I left it in my car console, turned off, all the time. If I wanted to use it, I'd almost always have to plug it in and charge it for ten minutes so that I could make a call.

I didn't get the news, read emails, tweet, update my Facebook status, check into places on Foursquare, or Google anything from my phone. Ever. I didn't text people just to see what was up, and I didn't carry on all-day-long BlackBerry Messenger conversations with anyone.

I survived this. Know what I did instead? I was actively engaged with my kids, like, all the time. Or I went to work and I focused on what I had to do while I was there. When I was hanging out with  or having a conversation with someone, I paid attention to them.

Then I got a BlackBerry smartphone.
And it was an awesome toy, and I wanted to play with it. And the novelty apparently never wore off. While I used to love going out (or even staying home) and being unavailable, now I panic a little at the thought of leaving my phone behind for a walk to the park. What if I miss a call? What if I think of something I need to share on Twitter? Dear Lord, what if someone else is the mayor of the playground?!?

I'm not as good a parent as I used to be before I was always connected to everything outside of my house. I report with sincere shame that my kids beg me to leave my phone at home when we go out. They also comment on the fact that I'm always texting people while we're doing things together. And that sucks. That's some pretty awful parenting, right there.

So I'm returning to my old ways, at least when my kids are with me.
I'm still going to keep my BlackBerry, but I'm not going to be signed into Twitter and Facebook on it. I'm going to leave it at home unless we're driving. I'm going to put it in the drawer where I currently store my old Motorola flip phone, and I'm not going to check it constantly.

I'm posting about this so that I have to hold myself accountable. This is something I've been wanting to do for a long time, and I don't know what grain of sand finally tipped the scale, but I need to do it now. Starting today.

So, big deep breath, Amanda, and remember--the world is still there. You don't have to check on it all the time.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Foursquare / 4square / 4sq / WTFEver (Review)

I used to bash Foursquare a lot. I thought it was really the stupidest thing I ever heard of. Why would anybody care where you are, and why would you want them to know? But I felt bad for knocking it having never tried it, so I downloaded it and started using it.

So, basically, for anyone who doesn't know, it works like this:

  1. You go some place, as we all do from time to time. Unless you're homebound, in which case, really, I don't think Foursquare is probably for you. I suppose you could use it to check into the various rooms of your home. I myself have considered adding my bathroom to my places.
  2. You open up Foursquare on your mobile device. Did I mention you need a mobile device? I think that should have been obvious, but I suppose I ought not take these things for granted.
  3. A list of places near you (perhaps including the one you're at) comes up OR you can search for the place you're at OR if it isn't in the list, you can add it.
  4. You "check in" and the app lets all your friends know that you're there. If you want to broadcast your whereabouts beyond the limits of your approved Foursquare friends, you can also send it to Twitter, Facebook, and BlackBerry Messenger. And possibly other social media sites/apps that I don't use.
  5. If you go there enough (more than anyone else within, I think, a 7-day period), you become "mayor" of that place, which is quite the thing for your resume or list of personal bragging rights.
  6. You get badges for various activities and accomplishments, like checking in a certain number of times, or to a given variety of places, or the first time you check into a particular kind of place. These are not physical badges, but virtual badges. However, I must say that if you convert them to embroidery patterns and sew them onto blue felt, they will make fine additions to your Girl Guide sash.

It's a pretty simple process, really. But why bother, right?
There are some benefits to using it:

  • Some places have deals for the Mayor. Usually kinda lame stuff, to be honest, but some of them are decent deals, too.
  • People can also add Tips for places. For example, once I was at a restaurant and one of the tips said that the service was really slow and another one said that the eggs were really good. I wasn't in a hurry and I like eggs, so I stayed and ordered some. Later, I added a tip saying that the dish I ordered tasted like God made it. I don't know whether blasphemy is allowed on Foursquare. I never checked to see whether my Tip was still there later.
  • I've never had that experience of being somewhere and having a person say "Oh my gosh, I'm right near there! Let's totally have lunch and be best friends forever!" but apparently that happens, too. Or something like it. I'm fuzzy on the details of how it all goes down.
  • I think this goes without saying, but if you yourself are a stalker, it sure does make the whole thing easier if you can get the object of your psychopathic affections to add you as a friend. That part might be hard, especially if the person you're stalking is the subject of some imagined connection and not someone you actually know. I'm not recommending this. I'm just saying--potential benefit for some.
  • I admit it: it's kind of fun. For someone like me, who is honestly kind of an Internet exhibitionist with their personal life, why the heck not just tell everyone where you are, right? Just like with your news about jobs and dating and what you had for lunch, nobody actually cares. I mean, maybe a select few care, but mostly, no--nobody does. So there's not really a reason not to do it.
There are probably other things I should be saying. Oh, like for example, the BlackBerry app is not the most awesome. It's pretty good, except that it never seems to want to update my actual location and instead routinely positions me at the beach where I was when I downloaded it. So as I'm standing inside the theatre, it's telling me that it's a hundred kilometres away, which is kind of annoying. It doesn't always do that, but often enough, it does.

My overall ruling on Foursquare is "En, whatever."
It's not going to change your life, but as long as you make sure you don't add your stalker to your friends list, it's probably not going to ruin it either. If you feel like it, do it. If you don't--well, you're not really missing out on much.

Helpful, huh?
These are the posts, folks.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Hm. Maybe. Maybe.

Okay, this is the most vulnerable I could ever make myself, but whatever, here goes:

I would actually like to be in a relationship. I don't need to be in a relationship, but I've come to the conclusion that I find it fulfilling to be in one. You know, I've got all this love to give and nobody to give it to. Gag yet? Throw up in your mouth a little? Cool. Then you're right where I wanted you to be to understand how I feel when people try to offer me advice or words of encouragement about the fact that no matter how many people I date, I never seem to get past a third date. And three dates was a record. Usually I don't get past one.

When people offer me their platitudes, I generally give an understanding nod while I furrow my brow thoughtfully and then after a contemplative pause, I reply, "Hm. Maybe. Maybe." Then I say, "Whatevs, at least I'm getting laid!" because it's good for a laugh since everyone knows I'm not.

Here is what I would rather say to the people who offer stupid advice that doesn't make anything feel better:

They say: You just haven't met the right person yet
No fricking kidding. Which detective school did you go to?
If I have at all created the impression that I've met too many of the right people and I'm just having trouble choosing, then I apologize for the misrepresentation.

They say: You probably just intimidate people.
How? How would I intimidate people? Is it all my smashing career success and hoards of money that's putting people off? No, it can't be because I have neither of those things.

And even if I do intimidate people, what am I supposed to do to fix that? Put on a pastel dress and pink nail polish and twirl my hair and act like this head is just a hat rack? No thanks. I'm good.

They say: Maybe you're just not putting yourself out there.
Okay, you've got a point there, actually. I don't go to bars and try to pick up men, and I don't engage in other group activities where I might meet men. And I'm not just going to university to get my MRS if you know what I mean. (And I'm sure you do because that's a stupid saying that everyone's heard.) So, okay, valid point. But I'm not going to go out of my way to do things I have no real interest in just to meet men. I have 99 problematic scheduling conflicts already, and I don't need another one.

They say: Are you really ready for a relationship, though?
That's like saying, "Aren't you too fucked up for a relationship?"
The answer to the first is yes, yes I am ready for a relationship. The second is no, no I'm not I'm probably not I might not be too F'ed up for a relationship. But the fact that you assume I am is annoying. Knowing that you perceive me as being too mortally wounded to ever date again when I've been single for THREE YEARS is disheartening and discouraging.

They say: Your standards are too high.
Oh, oh, because I'm not good enough for a guy who's smart and funny and kind and who would treat me with respect? Is that what you're saying? Should I lower my bar to exclude only beating and cheating? Also, this is essentially like telling me I'm playing out of my league, which is, by extension, essentially like telling me that I'm not very desirable, which is, again by extension, also like telling me you're a giant douche.

They say: Did I ever tell you about how Fred and I met?
Of course they don't really say Fred. Nobody is actually married to anyone named Fred. Except my Uncle Fred's wife, I suppose. But the annoying thing is that they feel the need to tell me how they met the person with whom they have found ultimate lifelong happiness, and I just want to say, "Rub salt in the wound, why don't ya?"

I get it--you were just walking down the street or picking out melons or sitting in a bar and the love of your life walked up to you and introduced himself. Bully for fricking you. I feel soooo much better now knowing that other people just stumble into this shit, and I go out and meet awesome guys who I think are terrific and they just sort of vaporize. It's just so good to know that other people are happy. Enjoy your making breakfast together and raising babies with someone and having a dual income. I'll be over here with a shot of tequila. Because that's what perpetually single chicks do. They drink tequila.

I apologize for being ranty and personal and possibly offending someone who has said any of those things to me. But you know what would be a better thing to say: NOTHING. Don't ask me about my dating life (because I tend not to just offer this information readily, except on Twitter) if all you wanted to do was give yourself a feelgood by being the expert on dating.

But if you must ask because you're married and bored and these things amuse you, then a good response is "Sounds like that sucks." That's it. That's all you've gotta say. Or, honestly, NOTHING is still an option. You could just give an understanding nod while you furrow your brow thoughtfully and then after a contemplative pause, reply, "Hm. Maybe. Maybe."

Friday, 19 August 2011

Stop! Grammar Time!

If you've been following along at home, you've probably noticed that I'm not exactly a grammar stickler. Sort of. I make up a lot of words (yes, in case you were wondering, I know those words aren't real) and I use sentence fragments a lot, and my paragraphing is less than academically appropriate.

Nonetheless, there are certain grammar faux-pas that really bother me. They tend to be the things that remind me of rural grammar. I don't want to make any blanket statements, but I can sometimes pick out which small town near me someone is from by their usage of certain words or phrases. It's like my own home version of Name That London Dialect.

So here is what is sure to be the first of several posts about my grammar pet peeves, featuring the WRONG way, the CORRECT way, and where applicable, exceptions to the rule. Enjoy!

WRONG: Should of, Could of, Would of
CORRECT: Should have, Could have, Would have
Exception: Should of, could of, would of ever correctly follow the words should, could, or would? No, no, of would not.

WRONG: The reason I went there is because I needed a new hat.
CORRECT: The reason I went there is THAT I needed a new hat.
OR: I went there because I needed a new hat.

WRONG: Suppose to
CORRECT: Supposed to
Excepion: I suppose to be fair, I should drown all the cats.
(But then good God, man, what the hell is wrong with you?!?!)

WRONG: I seen a big dog. Did you seen a big dog?
CORRECT: I saw a big dog. Did you see a big dog?
OR: I've seen a big dog. Have you seen a big dog?

WRONG: He really dropped a bomb on you and I.
ALSO WRONG: You and me really dropped a bomb on him.
CORRECT: He really dropped a bomb on you and me.
ALSO CORRECT: You and I really dropped a bomb on him.
Exception: He really dropped a bomb on you and I going to that party.

But really, what the heck does that even mean? I'm tired or I probably would have come up with a better verb/noun clause combination there.

Look, it's not that hard. Forget about the other person involved. If you were just talking about you, and you would normally say "I" then it's "you and I." If you would normally say "me" then it's "you and me."
I will admit that this is one of my pet peeves primarily because I make mistakes with it a lot--not in writing, but in casual conversation for sure.

WRONG: To coin a phrase, I let the cat out of the bag.
CORRECT: To use a phrase, I let the cat out of the bag.
I see this one a lot lately, and honestly, who doesn't know what "coin a phrase" means? I'm not even explaining it. Google is your friend.

ALMOST ALWAYS WRONG: That is exponentially worse
USUALLY CORRECT: That's a whole lot worse
Exception: if you actually mean that whatever you're talking about grows worse by exponents, or at least something similar. 'Exponentially' doesn't just mean 'really a whole lot.' Stop diluting the language.

WRONG: Anyways
Exception: None. Nothing. Never. Don't say anyways.
(this one even comes up in spellcheck, folks.* No excuses.)

*Know what doesn't come up in spellcheck? Spellcheck. I don't care. I'm using it that way anyway. You're allowed to break the rules as long as you know you're doing it. Except not the rules I just talked about. Because, obviously, I'm the controller of the grammatical universe. You should curtsy or something, probably.

Because humiliation is sort of my gig, I'm sure there are ridiculously obvious grammatical or spelling errors in this post. I will give something shiny to anyone who points them out. For real, I will. I support grammar vigilantism.

I normally write my blog posts quite a bit ahead, and I had one for today and when I was giving it a final proofread, I decided I didn't like it. So, I finished this post instead, from a draft I'd started a while ago, at about 4:30 in the morning after coming home from being out last night. And the extent to which I was tired and my judgement was poor, therefore, is the only reason that I'm not going to punch myself in the face for giving it that title.  I felt like I needed to explain myself there.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

To Meat or Not to Meat

My seven-year-old daughter recently decided she's a vegetarian. It's not a huge stretch in our family since we don't eat much meat to begin with, which is a conscious decision I've made for reasons that people generally think are lame.

Bria's reason is the usual one: if she eats meat, she has nightmares about chickens attacking her and scratching her face to shreds with their talon-like claws. What? That's not the normal reason?  Well, anyway, it stems from the fact that she feels it's immoral to raise animals solely for the purpose of killing them for food.  The idea of eating a living thing, to her, is unthinkable.

And the kid has conviction. She asks whether there's meat in everything we eat:
"Is there any meat in this spinach?"
"No, it's just spinach."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah, I'm pretty sure it's not a genetically engineered spinach-cow hybrid."

When it comes up that Bria's a vegetarian (like when other people try to feed her and then I get an angry So did you know your kid's a vegetarian when you sent her to my house?!? text message) people offer advice about how to trick her into eating meat, or how to explain to her that she MUST eat meat, or how to starve her into submission.

Nobody ever says, "Wow, good for her for following through on something she believes in." Except her Dad, which is fortunate for her since he makes half of her meals. I don't understand how I'm supposed to raise a kid to have a solid moral compass, and be able to make her own ethical decisions, and to stand up for what she believes in if the very first time she ever develops a principle, I grind it into sad little pieces with my parental veto. It absolutely floored me that almost everyone disagrees with me on this.

Also, a lot of people seemed to feel the need to ask me whether I was consulting with some kind of guide about what my daughter should be eating. This annoyed me because obviously I would do that, and it made me laugh because I know that some of their kids don't exactly eat according to the Canada Food Guide. Meat is not some kind of cure-all contains-everything magic food, people! Your kid isn't for sure healthy just because he/she can pack away a steak.

I also feel I should mention the fact that I've spent the last seven years telling my daughter that her body belongs to her and her alone and she makes the decisions when it comes to her said body. Wouldn't I be undermining that message if I told her that I and I alone control what goes into her body? Telling her that she can choose what she eats (within reason and in broad strokes--I'm not saying she can just run amok with the food choices) reinforces the lesson that she's in control of herself AND, believe it or not, that she needs to make responsible decisions for herself.

When your kid makes an intelligent decision about something they feel strongly they should do or not do, don't teach them that they shouldn't bother if it's inconvenient or unprofitable. Support them. Help them get educated about how to successfully do the thing they want to do (or not to do the thing they want not to do). And praise them for the effort they're making!

They're little spirits will get crushed by a wide variety of people and events--don't be one of them. I bet there would be a lot more people in the world doing things that they think are the right thing to do if--as young idealistic children--they hadn't had surly adults crush their belief in the importance and power of standing behind their principles.  So instead, be the person who taught your kids about moral integrity and ethical strength and believing in themselves. That's much cooler.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

I'm Scared of the Dark Because

My kids are both scared of the dark. Their dad thinks this is something that we should discourage. I disagree. I'm pretty sure our custody agreement indicates I'm in charge of all decisions regarding phobias. Because of all my experience in that area. I'll have to check the fine print.

I support my kids being afraid of the dark. I'm afraid of the dark. You know why?

What kind of moron would not be afraid of a situation in which they can't see? It's our main means of, like, knowing stuff. I'm not saying I think that monsters and serial killers materialize whenever the lights go out (they're already there), but I could bang my shin or something! That's scary, too!

I know there are people that would argue human beings no longer have instincts, but I think fear of the dark is proof that we do. Because almost all kids are afraid of the dark, and all the intelligent adults are, too. Dr. Spencer Reid is afraid of the dark. So, FACT.

Back when we were cavemen or whatever, you know what I bet happened if we were too stupid to be afraid of the dark? We'd go out clubbing (get it? Because we carried clubs... yeah, I kinda stole that from Bo Burnham) and the other animals, who ALL have better night vision than us would kill and eat us. All the genetically and mentally inferior unfittest types got weeded out by evolution long ago, so why do so many people want to be like the worst of the Neanderthals?

I know what you're thinking: but most of us don't live among the leopards and lions anymore, right? That's true. I can't argue with that. But my reasoning still totally applies if you're camping (because bears) or playing dark tag (because shins) or trapped in a serial killer's basement (because Silence of the Lambs, as previously discussed).

Anyhow, what I'm saying is maybe you don't have to crap your pants every time the power goes out, but why would you not prefer to be able to see? It's just the more intelligent thing to do. Using a night light doesn't make you a wuss--it makes you smarter than some tool who thinks it would be better to not be able to see.

You know who first started the idea that fear of the dark wasn't just a clever tool for survival? Freud. I think Freud had some crazy ideas (quite the revelation there, huh?) but this is one of his craziest. Something about separation anxiety, he says, is what causes fear of the darkness. Yeah, you're right--I DO get anxious when I'm separated from my ability to SEE THINGS. Sometimes a self-preservation instinct is just a self-preservation instinct, Siggy.

I'd like to take a moment here for this incredibly hilarious movie produced in 1953 by Encyclopaedia Britannica Films (I guess before encyclopaedias became irrelevant, they used to make informative videos?) about the fear of the dark. I offer it not as evidence but as a comedic break:
(That video is public domain, but I feel like I should link to my source, so it's here at Archive.org, which is just a treasure trove of unintentional hilarity and, to be fair, some pretty unmockably awesome stuff as well.)

So to sum up, if your heart pounds when it's so dark that you can't see your sweaty palm held in front of your face, then that's the intelligent part of your brain telling you to turn a damn light on. Or to stay still so you don't bump your shin or get mauled by a bear. That's SMART.

Honestly, though, it won't help you with the serial killer thing. Those suckers are nothing if not adaptable.

BONUS for the wordies: fear of the dark is called nyctophobia. But I refuse to call it that because phobias, by definition, are irrational, and I think we've clearly established that fear of the dark is the most rational thing one could possibly feel.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

hey shirt.woot! how 'bout it?

Some time ago, I was having a conversation with Sara on Twitter, and I mentioned to her that Stupid People Ruin Everything. She suggested we should have a club called "Stupid People Ruin Everything" and that we should have t-shirts. And I am always saying "I want that on a t-shirt" so I can't believe I didn't think of it myself, but now that it's been thought, it needs to be brought to glorious wearable fruition.

I've added designing a shirt.woot! t-shirt to my bucket list because if there's one thing I look for in a bucket list item, it's total, inarguable unattainability*. Kinda like my romantic life that way. In support of my request for a Stupid People Ruin Everything t-shirt to be made, I started thinking about all the things that stupid people ruin. Because, yes, I have that much free time, apparently. And because it's true.

First of all, Playgrounds
Stupid people ruined playgrounds. I remember my local park used to have so many awesome play structures. For example, there was this giant metal circle that spun around a metal pole at its centre and like forty kids could sit on the circle part, or like three teenagers could be assholes on it--I'm not going to say which group I was in. If you weren't careful, you'd get trapped between the big metal circle and the pole, and it was probably just a decapitation waiting to happen. But stupid people used to just have to suffer the consequences of their stupidity and the rest of us got to enjoy the world.

But then stupid parents let their toddlers play on what is obviously a death trap of a piece of playground equipment. And stupid kids (yeah, I said it) who don't know well enough not to allow themselves to be dragged by the spinny thing had to be coddled and rules needed to be made to protect them from their own mental deficiencies  Stupid people. They ruined fun.

Number Two: My Ability to Not be Harassed by Scammer Types
This is actually what I was referring to when I told Sarah that stupid people ruin everything. Specifically, I said that if stupid people didn't exist to click on spambots' links on Twitter, they would go away. But the principle extends to all people who fall for all schemes.  Except old people, because they're cute and I have too much respect for my elders to accuse them of ruining anything. (But let's be honest, they're ruining it. Old people don't read inside of parentheses, right? Thought not.)

The fact is that if nobody was stupid enough to fall for the most basic of all possible scams, I wouldn't get spam emails anymore, I wouldn't get phone calls from "my bank" asking me to "verify my account information" anymore, and I wouldn't get these people at my door telling me they need to check that my hydro/gas bill is properly signed up with them. They would go away and never come back if stupid people didn't keep making their activities profitable. Shape up, stupid people.

I'm not saying packaging was super special to me before, but do we really need SO MANY warnings on everything? Like, I'm sorry to the guy it actually happened to, but when you ordered your coffee you should have assumed it would be hot, you twat.

What the hell is wrong with us as a people if we really need our cup to say "BE CAREFUL! THE BEVERAGE YOU ARE ABOUT TO ENJOY IS HOT!" How many of us are reading that and then going "Hot? Coffee? Good to know!" None. But people pretend to be EVEN STUPIDER than they really are so they can capitalize on their own false stupidity in order to litigate based on the assumption that someone else should have assumed they were stupid and warned them of things like This Meat is Frozen and Ice is Slippery and Coffee is Hot.

And finally, my personal pet peeve: SPELLING
I generally blame this on all Americans, but it's really just the stupid Americans that are to blame.  Doubled consonants in 'ed' and 'ing' words like 'travelled' and 'carolling' have been banished--outlawed, I tell you!--by the United States of America because so many people couldn't spell so many words that they just decided to change it. I completely believe that's why. There's no such thing as "conservation of letters." We're not running out of letters. We've been working with these twenty-six for quite a while, and the resources don't seem to be depleting. It was the stupid people that needed to be accommodated.

Also, they got rid of judgement with an E in the middle. They just have judgment now, which is just a completely different word actually, but again--stupid people.  As if it weren't enough that they ruined fun, freedom from harassment, and packaging, they're ruining the entire damn language now, too.

I want my "Stupid People Ruin Everything" T-shirt. Because it's true, and it's funny, and gosh darn it, people would like it.

*Okay, what the shit, English language? Unattainable - word; attainability - word; unattainability - not word?  This language is bullshit.** That's why I'm forced to make up so many words.

** If you didn't hear "This language is bullshit" as a rephrasing of "This wedding is bullshit" from Step Brothers, then you're so lucky that you don't go around using that all the time without anyone ever knowing what you're talking about. Teach me. Please?

Monday, 15 August 2011

Men Doing Women

It always seems so very cute to me when male singers or bands cover songs that are so very entirely chick songs. It brings a new perspective to the song, and the existing connotations bring a certain softness and vulnerability to the male aesthetic. It's a really interesting bit of whatever you call the music version of intertextuality. Intermusicality? Let's call it that.

I don't mean to sound like a total hypocrite (but KIR folks: I really am a total hypocrite) but I don't think the same holds true for female bands/singers covering male-centric songs. Actually, I generally hate when they do that. Like Sheryl Crow covering The First Cut is the Deepest actually made me angry, for example. I don't know why. Sometimes I think I'm a strange product of post-feminism and I harbour a latent hatred for women. But that's probably a topic for another post therapy session.

For your Music Monday listening pleasure (should you choose to hit play), I present my favourite instances of men covering women.

Cake - I Will Survive

I'm a huge fan of Cake, and not just because I also like the other kind of cake. But something about a man singing this song is just pretty dang awesome. It makes me want to hug him and shit.

Everybody and Their Brother and Assorted Other Male Relatives- Baby One More Time

A bunch of male bands/singers have done this song. I think I like every single one of their versions better than the original, but they're all basically the same. I used Travis because my research told me theirs was the first popular cover, and because they were the least jokey about the whole thing.

Phil Collins - You Can't Hurry Love

Awesomesauce. Like everything Phil does. Phil Collins is the fricking man. F'real. I don't care what you want to say about his Disney phase or whatever else, nobody out-drums Phil. Some guys may be able to get in the pocket--Phil Collins is the pocket.

Also, this song is very cool. It's only last because it's the most upbeatiest, so if anybody happened to actually scroll through these songs playing them, I hope this one is the one you leave to go take on Monday with. Because it's chippy and, well, Phil.

Happy Monday!

Friday, 12 August 2011

9 Things You Would Hate About Me

You know what annoys me? The fake self-deprecating thing everyone does. You know--where they say something as if "Oh, this is the most awful thing about me" even though they know it's endearing. That drives me crazy. So in protest, here are ten things that you would genuinely hate about me if you knew me (which I think you'll soon agree, is not highly recommendable):

1. I'm always late
Always. This drives everybody crazy. I am just known as the person who WILL be late. To everything. Usually even to my own functions. It's inconsiderate and disrespectful, but I can't for the love of all that is holy figure out how to be on time.

2. I forget things A LOT
I try not to commit to things (you would hate that about me, too) but if for some reason I do, you'd better remind me because I will forget unless it's something I'm really super looking forward to.

3. I never return things I borrow
I've stopped borrowing things now, but I still have a VHS copy of What Dreams May Come that I borrowed from a friend in the tenth grade. Every time I see it, I set it out so I remember to give it to her. I never do. She doesn't even have a VCR anymore. I suck.

4. I'm a nerd
Not in the cute "pretty girl with glasses on" or the internet-cool geek way. Just a nerd. In the "I kind of want to go out, but even more I want to stay home and read this book"  and "I'm nearly 29 years old and I still have no idea how to dress myself" way. I don't even wear glasses, which I think would make me a cute nerd. I should look into some fake ones.

5. I'm a terrible friend
I don't have a lot of friends because I don't stay in touch. I'm kind of a social transient, and have lots of acquaintances and few actual friends. Not so much because I prefer it as because it's just where I feel comfortable. I don't want to be expected to be any place any time. I like relationships in which if I show up, that's cool, and if I don't, nobody misses me or complains about it.

6. I'm kind of negative
In actuality, it's just a front--I feel like I'm one of the happier, more positive people I know--but regardless, it comes off as me being truly cynical and choleric. People just don't get that I'm kidding and/or hiding my hopeful optimism because I don't want you to crush it.

7. Apparently I'm scary when I'm angry
I honestly don't understand this, but some of the people who know me best insist that when I'm really angry, I'm scary. I don't remember ever doing anything awful to anybody most people. I can be pretty snide, and I do deliberately try to make people feel stupid when I'm angry with them, but if I'm angry at you, you deserve it, because I don't get angry very easily, so either suck it up or stop acting like a douche.... hm, yes, I guess I see how I can be kind of mean.

8. I will go on for hours about literature and why you should think what I do about it
I chose possibly the most unrelatable, impractical, boring field of study in the world BUT I LOVE IT. I will talk to you about literary criticism and never pick up on your overt boredom cues. I will explain to you why you should have liked a book you hated or shouldn't have liked a book you loved. I'm really annoying.

9. I'm judgemental
Like how I judge everyone for their fake self-deprecation. I write people off as 'someone I think I'd rather not know' over what I think are probably relatively minor things. And I have absolutely no right. I should be one of those people who's just glad someone wants to talk to me. Especially after people read this blog post. It's okay if you don't want to talk to me anymore. As per point #5, I may actually prefer it.

Yes, I originally said ten things at the top, but I could only think of nine, so nine it is. If you know me well enough to do so, please feel free to drop suggestions for #10 in the comments. I'm sure there are many. Your anonymity is appreciated so I can go on thinking  you don't hate me.

Mean Girls

This post has been about 3,456 drafts in the making, going back a couple blogs, actually. It's about something that has perplexed and infuriated me for about a year, since my younger daughter started coming home telling me about being bullied and my older daughter started coming home crying about her friends being mean to other kids.

There are lots of drafts of this post that contain the phrases "I don't get it" and "How did these kids get this way?" There are drafts that were angry, and drafts that were sad, but definitely the common thread was confusion.

One of those drafts includes this paragraph:

I don't get it. I'm a good mom--a really good mom--but I don't do anything extraordinary with my kids that should make them so different from other basically good kids. And the other kids have good parents, too, as far as I can tell. So what's the thing making those kids so mean? I don't get it.   
[hey, I never said it was a good draft] 

Then I was writing draft number 3,457 and I was really thinking about those other parents. The rest of this post is going to sound like I'm terribly arrogant and judgemental, but I don't care. It needs to be said.

My daughters aren't looking forward to going back to school very much. Bria is seven and going into second grade. Last year, she was regularly upset to the point of being in tears over things her friends did to each other and to other kids. A couple of them--both otherwise generally good kids--would plot to humiliate a shy girl in their class who doesn't have any friends. Others would exclude kids from games and clubs and friendships just for the sake of it. Some of them were mean to her younger sister just for fun, which particularly bothered Bria.

Marissa is five and going into senior kindergarten. She spent her entire year of junior kindergarten being picked on by a girl twice her age who did things like dictate where she was allowed to play, make fun of her for the viewing pleasure of her own friends, and occasionally physically bully her. (The fact that the school did nothing to stop it is a topic for another post.) Her sister's friends also liked to make her do things to embarrass herself because Marissa is the kind of kid who never suspects something is up. Her feelings got hurt a lot.

I know all kids go through things, and my point is not about what happened to my kids. It's this: all of the bullies and mean kids are girls. There are boys in both of their classes with minor violence issues--they might hit or push a kid for not giving them what they want. But when it comes to mean for the sake of mean, girls have the market cornered and they start, as I've had the misfortune of learning, at a very young age.

For most of last year, I couldn't figure out what makes these girls this way. I know most of their parents and they're good parents. I didn't know what made my kids different. They aren't perfect, but neither of them would ever hurt someone else just for the pleasure of watching them react, and about ninety percent of the girls in my daughter's first grade class were routinely doing exactly that.

At first, I thought it couldn't possibly be the parents to blame, but that was kind of stupid of me. Parents are definitely to blame for making mean girls mean. But it isn't their parenting exactly that's making their kids mean--I assume most of them tell their kids to be nice and play fair and always take turns. That's not the problem. The problem is the example they set in their regular lives. It's who they are.

Mean girls come from mean moms. None of these parents, as far as I can tell, are shoving people down in the snow and sitting on top of them, but they can all be mean in the way that it seems like all women are sometimes mean.

I grew up with five sisters. I understand women. I love my sisters, and I have a few awesome female friends who I also love. For the most part, though, I think women are mean.They're mean to each other in passive aggressive ways, they're mean about each other behind their backs, and they're absolutely awful when they talk about other people outside of their circle of friends.

And the whole time, their daughters stand somewhere between knee and chest height next to them, which isn't exactly out of ear shot. And they're learning.

Girls grow up watching their mothers gossip about everyone including their best friends, and that gossiping generally consists primarily of getting some degree of pleasure out of another person's misfortune. And they learn that someone else's pain can be amusing.

Girls hear their mothers unjustly criticize other people and even other kids without showing any understanding or empathy for them. And they learn that they needn't ever try to see something from the other person's point of view.

Girls observe how the female social world is constructed and that exclusion is a strangely necessary part of it--someone has to be left out so that those who are included feel special. And they learn that they should feel good when someone else doesn't get to be part of something and they do.

So then it made sense.
When I thought about it that way--in terms of the examples being set rather than just the more direct parenting these girls are being exposed to--it makes sense. It's sad and it's frustrating, but it makes sense. I know that a lot of the parents of my daughter's friends have no idea their kids behave the way they do, but I don't know what they'd do if they did know. In some cases, I think they'd probably discipline them, but it's not going to make a difference because they're still going to keep setting the same example.

What I'm saying is that WHO YOU ARE is probably the most important part of how you parent.  You can tell your kids whatever you want, but unless you're demonstrating compassion and empathy and kindness, your kids aren't going to learn it. They're going to learn to be like you. And maybe it's time we all evaluate who we are and whether the apparent acceptability of the way women behave really means that it's okay. Because it's not.

I know this blog post still could have been a lot better written (it could have just been the Mean Girls movie which makes essentially the same point), and maybe someday I'll rewrite it and make it better (and more different from the point of Mean Girls, even though if Tina Fey would sue me, that would be awesome, because I'd get to meet her, right?).

Anyway, I know this post kinda sucks, but I just wanted to get it out. I know it's not likely to change anything, but I wish it would.  Women are awful to each other, and sometimes to everybody, and it's such a waste of time and energy, and it's making the world a worse place for everyone, especially our kids. I wish we could start being kinder to each other, so our kids could learn to be kinder and grow up in a more pleasant world.

I'm going to go pet a unicorn while my leprechaun grants my wishes now.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

A Note On Commenting

Commenting on this blog apparently doesn't work correctly all the time.  My limited experiments suggest that it may be related to one or both of using Internet Explorer and commenting with a Wordpress ID. I don't know how to fix that.

Moderation is not turned on. I'm far too lazy  strongly in favour of open dialogue to moderate comments. So if you at any time posted a comment and it didn't show up, I'm not just being all fascist with my blog realm and not approving it. I sincerely regret not getting to read and reply to your thoughts on my inane rambling.

My apologies to anyone who took the time to comment and their time was ultimately wasted. I know how that feels. I mean--I do after all write this blog every day.

My Horribly Scarring Pet Death Experiences

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I had some traumatic experiences with pet deaths, and that I might at some point relate them. Well, I can't afford the therapy anymore, so I'm going to go ahead and tell you fine folks all about it. Please pretend to sympathize.

When I was a kid, my parents avoided telling us when our pets died. However, we were in possession of all our mental faculties and, therefore, noticed that the pets were missing. Emotional trauma ensued. Here they are, in order from least traumatic to most:

The most recent, and for the purpose of this post, least traumatic, was the death of my favourite dog.  Although we had several dogs over the years, if you asked me about my childhood pet, Marble is the one I would automatically think of as, like, my dog. We got her when I was nine, I think, and I was eighteen when Marble died.  She had been ailing for years, but when I came home from work one day and asked where she was, I was certainly not expecting my mom to tell me she had died.  Which is good, because she didn't. Tell me. She just looked at me mournfully until I clued in, and then I went to the barn to cry all by myself. When I came back, my sister-in-law offered me some words of comfort while my mom pretended to be watching the air circulate.

I guess that part's not so bad.  I was almost grown up and I could handle it. But when my little sister, who would also have considered Marble, like, her dog, came home later, my mom AVOIDED her, especially after she knew my sister had noticed the dog was missing, and she left me to tell my little sister that our dog had died.  Then she left me to comfort her. Uncool, Mommy.

When I was in the third grade, my family's house burned down while we kids were at school one day.  Once I recovered from the initial shock of that, one of the first questions I asked, because we were staying with neighbours, was "What about Shadow and Sheepy? We need to feed them!"

My parents told a deceptively detailed story about having seen the cat and the dog hanging around outside the burned-down house, eating food that had been freed by fire from its cans, and just generally having a wee of a time in the ashes of our former existence. I believed that story. It wasn't unbelievable because we lived in the country and they were indoor/outdoor animals, so it was quite possible that they'd been outside when the fire started and were fine.

It didn't dawn on me until at least fifteen years later that they might have lied, and when I asked my dad (I would never ask my mom because she just likes to pretend that death isn't, you know, a thing), he admitted that they did see the dog after the fire--he just wasn't frolicking so much as he was laying there, just being dead.  He couldn't remember whether they ever saw the cat.

For fifteen years, I had lived with guilt about the fact that my pets survived this horrifying experience but because I didn't properly take care of them afterward, they ran away anyway. That is what I thought happened. I would rather have known they were dead and not believed that my poor care had driven them away.

Socks replaced Shadow and moved into our new house with us after the fire. She hadn't been with us very long when she got hit by a car one winter afternoon while I was at a piano lesson. After getting hit, she ran to the front step of our house, seeking help I suppose. I still don't really know what happened exactly, but at any rate, she didn't survive, and at some point after the small matter of her payment to the reaper was settled, my mom came to pick me up from my piano lesson.  We made the fifteen minute drive home, and my mother acted like nothing was wrong. Let me repeat, because it's about to get really important, my mother said NOTHING by way of warning about what I would find when I got home.

So, we got home, and as I approached the house, I noticed that our front step was COVERED IN BLOOD. My mother acted as if she hadn't noticed and when I asked about it, acted as if she hadn't heard me.  She wouldn't tell me where the blood came from.  Do you really think that the dog having been hit by a car was the most horrific thing my nine-year-old brain could come up with to explain the blood all over our front step? Let me tell you, it wasn't. For one thing, every member of my family except my mother and me was out at the time (that's six people unaccounted for), and I didn't know which one of them may have just bled out on our threshold while I was plucking out Beethoven's Ode to Joy in D.

Eventually, probably out of utter pants-shitting fear for my safety, I went looking for Socks the dog, and couldn't find her, so I asked where she was. I don't remember anybody actually answering me.  I think I just finally figured it out by the way nobody would explain the blood or the dog's absence.  I mean, dear God, I hope that's what happened.

That day sucked.

In case my mom ever reads this, I just want to add that I understand that she is/was just very uncomfortable with death and didn't know how to tell us that our pets had died or how to help us get through it. I know that in her heart, at times, she thought the lie was a kindness. She meant well, and I get that! So, don't worry mom--I'm kidding about the needing therapy (for that).

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Nobody Needs a Nice Guy

Not so long ago, I found myself bemoaning the utter lack of nice guys in the world. Loudly. Which means on Twitter. Such complaints are generally met by the males in attendance with a counter-bemoanment: girls don't really want nice guys--they say they do, but they don't.

That should be true. I would hope most guys want it to be true.

Allow me to explain:
Nobody is nice all the time. Think of yourself, for example. I'm going to think of myself because I don't know you. (Or maybe I do, but let's not be semanticists about this, okay?) If I were to be nice all the time, I would have to do a lot of things that I don't think I should do too often at all, and definitely not in a relationship, including but not limited to
a) lying
b) completely disregarding my own needs/wants
c) not expressing my opinion
d) ignoring prudent prioritisation in an effort to be nice to everyone

So, this quote-unqote Nice Guy that we seem to want is doing those things, too.  Nice Guys are nice all the time because they don't know how to stand up for what they think or believe in, and they prioritise people liking them over being honest and true to themselves. In short, they're generally insecure weenies.

There are only two reasons I can think of why any woman would want to be with a Nice Guy. The first, and I see this happen all the time, is that she wants someone she can control, so she's looking for someone who's insecure and will let her dictate everything, forever, just for the privilege of being with her because he doesn't think he could find someone better.

The other reason why girls--non-psycho controlling ones--cry out for a nice guy is that they've been hurt. And they don't want to get hurt again. So a girl may want a guy who she thinks will prioritize being nice over things like breaking up with her if he's not into it, or telling her he doesn't like something she said or did, or cancelling a date because he has work to do, or whatever it was that made that girl feel wounded in the past.

In the beginning, the Nice Guy can seem pretty great to date. I know because I've been there. But eventually a couple things happen that aren't so great. One is that you start to notice that Nice Guy is sorely lacking in the categories of intestinal fortitude and moral integrity, which makes him hard to trust or respect. And unless you're in the group of women who just want someone to control, that's not a good thing. The second is that eventually Nice Guy is no longer concerned with how you perceive him because his primary goal is to be liked. Once you're a lock, you go to the bottom of the totem pole, and his behaviour completely changes. Again, I know because I've been there. Several times. Kind of a magnet for Nice Guys with no self-esteem.

But there is another breed of man who possesses many of the finer qualities of the Nice Guy, but is not an insecure weenie. He'll treat you like an equal--which means sometimes he'll tell you something because it's what he really thinks or feels even though it's difficult to say and hard to hear. Granted, he might not hold the door for you, but I bet he'll hold it for the guy on crutches who's half a block away. He might tell you that you're wrong sometimes, but he'll also have the balls to stand up for you when it's the right thing to do. And he'll stand up for other people, too--like the barista being berated by a jerk of a customer. Because he doesn't have to be nice to everyone.  He's not the Nice Guy.

He's the Good Guy.

A Good Guy is respectful, considerate, and kind like a Nice Guy. But not to a fault. Just a normal amount that still allows him to be honest. He can still look out for his interests and be aware of whether you are one of his interests. He can still talk about what he really thinks--so you can figure out whether you should even be together and if you are going to be together, he'll talk about problems that arise.

If it doesn't work out, you dated a guy who treated you like an equal and gave you respect and honesty. If it does, you get a really Good Guy who you know always tries to do the right thing even if it isn't the easy thing. And that's a pretty awesome kind of person to get to spend some indefinitely large chunk of your life with.

The best part is that I think there are a lot of Good Guys. Way more Good Guys than Nice Guys. So stop dating Nice Guys. Stop looking for them. Stop bemoaning the lack of them. In fact, next time you see one, tell him to man up and stop being an insecure weenie.

For another interesting Southwestern Ontario female perspective on nice guys (though she doesn't refer to nice guys in the sense that I refer to Nice Guys), check out Sarah's blog post. I think she's bang on and probably said it better than I.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

The Most Scariest Movies Ever - Part Two

Censorship was not really, you know, a thing, in my house as a kid. I grew up with older siblings, the oldest being ten years older than me, and often when I was in their care, the television and movie choices were probably not even appropriate for their ages, and much less for mine. In some ways this was beautiful--for example, I could recite most of Eddie Murphy's Raw and Delirious when I was five years old, and man, that shit was funny.

But I also saw a lot of scary movies. Perhaps that's how I developed a taste for them. I remember watching Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street when I was really young. They actually didn't scare me nearly as much as Disney's Mr. Boogedy did every year when CBC aired it right before Hallowe'en.  Some of the things I witnessed, though, stuck with me. And that's a key performance indicator for scary movies--if you can't help reflecting on it for pretty much the rest of your life, then it wasn't scary enough. Allow me to tell you about a few that stuck most stickingly with me.

Doppelganger, 1993
It was only through my siblings' egregious lack of good judgement that I came to see Doppelganger when it first came out and I was eleven. I don't think the sexed-up-ness of it traumatized me because I honestly didn't remember that until I watched it again many years later. So, phew for small mercies.

The shower scene in which Drew Barrymore rubs her breasts a little more than any girl ever really ought to, though, stuck with me for another reason. Blood starts coming out of the shower head while she has her eyes closed. I started showering shortly after seeing that movie (as opposed to taking baths--I wasn't just the stinky kid before that) and I have literally NEVER closed my eyes in the shower. I used to not even turn around and face away from the shower head to rinse my hair. I've never stepped into the shower without thinking about that movie. This is definitely the movie scene that has most impacted my daily life.

I'm not going to post a clip because I couldn't find one that wasn't bookended by sex scenes, but I'm sure you can youtube it yourself.

It, 1990
It wasn't the clown thing that stuck with me. I mean, yes, I think clowns are creepy and scary, but who doesn't? I'm sure I already thought that anyway by the time I saw this movie when I was eight. It was the manhole.  This manhole:

I'm really sorry the screenshot for that is his face. Anyway, I can't even watch that clip--I didn't before I posted it, so sorry if it's actually a cleverly disguised Rick Roll.  I also can't walk past a sewer grate or manhole without thinking about this scene. I'm a full grown adult now, and I am terrified every time I walk down the street. My heart is pounding right now just thinking about it. I have to move on.

The Silence of the Lambs, 1991
I actually didn't see this movie until I bought it myself when I was in high school. By that point, I had developed a theory that if ever I was under seige in my own home, I would turn off all the lights.  My logic was that I knew my way around my house better than the serial killer knew his way around my house. So I had instructed myself to fight my instincts--I'm terribly afraid of the dark on a good day--and do the sensible thing so I could survive.

And then The Silence of the Lambs came along with it's stupid night vision scene. This is definitely one of the most terrifying scenes of all time, in my humble estimation, and my fear of the dark increased roughly a hundred fold after I saw it:
This would probably affect my life more if I EVER allowed myself to be in the dark, but I don't. Whenever the power goes out or something, though, all I can think about is stupid Clarice breathing so goddamn loudly because, c'mon woman, do you not know how to be quiet when a killer is looking for you? It stuck with me, for sure, but it doesn't terrify me as much as the others because I think I'm smarter than her.  Right, guys? That would never happen to me? Good, thanks.

Okay, that's it for today. These aren't necessarily what I consider the scariest overall movies, but these particular scenes are ones that stuck with me. Silence of the Lambs is actually one of my favourite movies still for reasons other than its scariness--I don't even  find the overall movie that terrifying. I wouldn't watch Doppelganger again because it's stupid, and I would only watch It if I had lots of people with me because it's very frightening.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Music for Every Day of the Week

Monday is actually my favourite day of the week--excluding the weekend, obviously. Mondays just seem kinda peaceful and quiet and pressure-free to me. I know most of the world hates Mondays, and I think that's kind of unfair. But it's just a day of the week, so I'm pretty sure Monday's feelings aren't hurt.

One of the nice consolations about Monday is that it has some good songs written about it. I always sing Monday songs on Mondays, which is maybe part of why I like Monday. But there are great songs on other days, too, and here are my favourites:

MONDAY - I Don't Like Mondays by the Boomtown Rats
Even though I do like Mondays, I love this song. More for its aesthetic than its message because that's pretty dark.

TUESDAY - Ruby Tuesday by Rolling Stone
One of my daughter's nicknames is Ruby Tuesday, from this song (sort of), and it's got a special place in my heart now. Also, you should see her sing it*. Pretty damn cute.

*not really, no, you shouldn't in any way attempt to see my child sing this song or, for that matter, do anything. that would be weird and stalky.

WEDNESDAY - Spring, Summer and Wednesdays by Status Quo
I have NO IDEA what this song is about, but it's mostly "na na na na na", and I like that.

There are NO good Thursday songs. Tursdays suck. They're late enough in the week that you should have accomplished a lot by now, and the week is almost over so you suddenly realize you have NO TIME left to finish everything, especially if you want to be as lazy on Friday as you'd like to be. Worst day of the week.

FRIDAY - Friday I'm in Love by the Cure
This one also nicely sums up all the other days of the week.

SATURDAY - Saturday in the Park by Chicago
There were other videos available for this song, and this one may not showcase the song best, but it sure does have the most things that will make you say WTF?

SUNDAY - Sunday Bloody Sunday by U2
If I have to explain why this is the best Sunday song, we can never ever never be friends.

That's all.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Beer. Is Good.

I always forget that the August long weekend is a long weekend, so I never plan anything to do, and then it's Thursday, and someone mentions it and I realize I'll be spending my long weekend at home. That held true this year, and my kids were away and so was my sister (who I live with) so I had a house to myself. I decided I'd pick up some beer just so I could feel a little a part of the festivities while I sat at home.

On a whim (because I'm absolutely crazy and unpredictable about my staying home alone and drinking like that), I decided that instead of getting a four-pack of Guiness, which I normally would do, I'd buy some more interestingly-flavoured beers and try them out.

I'm not a beer connoisseur by any means. I usually stick to Guiness, Keith's, or something with lime in it if I have to get a different beer. I used to think I was a really picky beer drinker, and maybe I actually was, but I've realized lately that I'll pretty much drink any beer someone puts in front of me. Especially if it's free.

So what I'm saying is this: I hope you enjoy my reviews, but please consider the source.

BEER #1: Innis & Gunn Smooth Scottish Beer with Hints of Toffee, Vanilla and Oak
Ruling: 3/5 (I'd drink it again, but it wasn't very special)

This beer just tasted like beer.  It maybe had a tiny hint of toffee and vanilla. I don't actually know what oak tastes like, so I feel unqualified to comment on that. It was good for a regular old beer, but I was disappointed because I was really looking forward to those hints of vanilla and toffee. It was very smooth, as the name suggests it should be. If it was sitting around, I'd definitely drink it again, but I'd still be disappointed.

BEER #2: Nickel Brook Green Apple Pilsener
RULING: 5/5 (I would drink this regularly and love it every time)

This is a light beer, so my expectations were immediately lowered a little, but it's a blend of beer and green apple cider, so I thought that would make up for it. It was really good, and definitely had the strongest "interesting flavour" of the lot, which is why I gave it a 5/5 for being so honest about that. It tasted (I guess because it is) more like something mixed with beer than beer with some small amount of flavour added to it. Not a very strong beer taste, but also not too fruity. It would be a great summer beer--delicious and refreshing and appley. I'd like it on the golf course. The can also says it pairs well with vanilla ice cream for a fun dessert, and I'm inclined to believe it. I will be trying that next time. Unless I'm on the golf course because I don't want to get all sticky and muck up the clubs.

There is a totally a heart in this beer foam.
I did that. On purpose. Poured. I'm proud.
Ruling: 3.5 / 5 (I would probably drink it again, but not very often)

It's double chocolate because it's both a chocolate stout in the sense of being brewed to a deep chocolate colour, and also in that it has actual chocolate added to it. It's a really dark beer and fills you up like one, so don't count on pounding these babies even though it's pretty easy-drinking. It definitely has a sweetness to it and is really very smooth and creamy. It doesn't taste hugely like chocolate, but it has a bit of a chocolatey foretaste and aftertaste, for sure--in much the same way that a coffee with a shot of chocolate flavour does--and a definite chocolate smell. The chocolate smell reminded me a lot of chocolate milk syrup, though, and not so much of the rich dark chocolate taste I was expecting. It kinda made my throat and mouth feel really pasty, too, and I'm used to drinking creamy beer on a regular basis, so I think it's safe to say that it's sorta extra stick-to-your-esophagus thick. On my pull-it-out-of-my-ass scale of 1 to 5, I'd normally give it a 3, but it gets an extra half a point for being genuinely British.

Ruling: 4.5/5 (I would drink this regularly)

It actually does have, as the label will tell you, a delicious and surprisingly refreshing taste. It's pretty smooth for a very pale beer, and not beer tangy at all. I didn't really taste a lot of orangeness, either, but as I said, I'm accustomed to drinking lime beers, so maybe I'm just acclimatized to a hint of citrus in a brew. I don't know what coriander is, but I thought it might ruin it for me because I think that's a spice, right? Well, it didn't have a weird spice taste at all. It did have some sediment that I'm thinking was probably a combo of coriander and orange peel, so as long as you're cool with that, you're good.

My favourite thing about this beer was that it actually has instructions on the label for pouring it, which I like primarily because it makes me feel like I must be drinking a very fancy beverage. Which is kind of consoling when you're sitting at home, alone, drinking.