Thursday, 23 August 2012

So here are the problems I have with abortion debates...

Normally, I would not touch an abortion discussion with a fifty foot pole because, as anyone who's ever accidentally stumbled into one with me could definitely attest, I get really angry.

But some things about the way people debate it really bother me, and so I'm just going to touch that, which is tangential, and therefore, it's like I'm just touching the fifty foot pole with another shorter pole.

1/ Everyone always cries rape.

Whenever an abortion debate arises--or do they even have to arise anymore? I mean, it's pretty much just an ongoing top-on-mind issue for the whole of society now, isn't it? but anyway--it seems impossible to have a logical conversation that does not include the phrase "But what about rape?"

Here's my problem with that: It's not the point. If you think women should only be allowed to have abortions when they are raped, then by all means, express that opinion. But if you don't, then why even mention rape? It dilutes the message that most people bringing it up are trying to convey, which is that a woman should be allowed to choose, regardless of the circumstances, whether or not she will carry a child to term.

2/ It's not really a women's rights and feminist issue.

As a woman, I am actually offended by the suggestion that abortion is a women's rights and feminist issue, as I am at any time when my voice is appropriated by someone presuming to speak for the whole of the female gender. Or for Canadians. Or for white people. Or whoever.

Reproductive rights do not strictly belong to women, and the only reason it's just us that abortion laws seem to affect is that we happened to get the vaginas. The immediate response to this idea is always "You can bet that if men had babies, nobody would be arguing against it!" (you were thinking it, weren't you?) and I disagree. As evidence, I offer the fact that nobody anywhere is arguing for reproductive rights for men. But then I take that back because historically, the people arguing most ardently for the reproductive rights of women also argued for them for men. But nobody does anymore--at least not enough and not very loudly.

Furthermore, to suggest that it is a basic right of women to terminate pregnancies and that every woman believes so is to completely alienate those women who don't believe so. It's not a feminist issue. It's a moral issue that absolutely transcends gender.

3/ Pro-life is a valid opinion.

People act like being opposed to abortion is absolutely abhorrent, and I find it a little sickening. There are some other things that surround the debate that I think are really unkind and ill-motivated, and I understand being disgusted by them and hating people for them. But at the very heart of the "is it okay to terminate a fetus or is that murder?" debate, there is a valid question with valid input from both sides.

There is no clear answer here, and for someone to presume to have access to the absolute truth of it all is preposterous, no matter where they think that truth is coming from.  Our entire society relies upon us all agreeing to moral laws that at some time would have been up for similar debate. Some of them were in the not-so-distant past.

4/ It smells like a maguffin.

Everyone is debating abortion and birth control, and sometimes I want to scream "I AM MORE THAN WHAT I'M ALLOWED TO DO WITH MY VAGINA AND UTERUS" because I feel like we've all just submitted ourselves to the idea that if women can take the pill and have abortions then equality has been achieved, and that's what we should be fighting for, godammit, and as long as you believe that we're allowed, then you must believe in equality for women and live your life with the utmost respect for doubled up X chromosomes.

And it's just not true. I know men who believe stringently and stridently in the right to abortion and perceive women as nothing more than sex objects. I know women who believe in it, too, and who are yet the very epitome of deference and patriarchal submission.

Plus I can think of about a dozen social injustices off the top of my head that rarely even get addressed in the news or elsewhere and are far more offensive (to my own sensibilities anyhow) than the idea that maybe women wouldn't be allowed to have abortions. It just seems like a bit of a red herring, and it's working really well.

I think that's all for my unpopular views of the day.
It's okay to hate me. Most people do.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Happy Birthday to Me

Today is my birthday. I love the crap out of my birthday. Every year, I stay up until midnight so I'm awake when it turns my birthday, and I'm usually up well past then because I'm so excited.

This year I turned thirty. I wasn't worried about turning thirty. It feels weird to say I'm thirty, but I'm sure that will wear off. I'm not where I thought I'd be at thirty, but if I were, I'd just be bored, so this is pretty okay, too.

Normally I set goals on my birthday for the year, but I didn't last year. Last year, my life was in a state of total suck. I remember sitting on the steps of the house where I lived, crying because back then I was just so sad all the time, and thinking, "Just wait. By your next birthday, everything will be so much better, you'll feel silly for ever having felt this way."

In a lot of ways, I was right. In other ways... well, some of the things that hurt then still hurt now, and I guess maybe they will for a long, long time. But my life, overall, is completely different and has deeply improved since then. I don't feel silly for feeling the way I did last year. If anything, I'm glad I felt that way, because I still remember it like it was just earlier today, and if I didn't, I'm not sure I'd realize now how strong I was this past year, or how much I have to be grateful for in other people.

I guess I had one goal: I set a ridiculously unattainable weight loss goal for today about ten days ago, and then I hit it and lost an extra three pounds, and I'm not telling you what it is because it's still an embarrassing weight to be, but when I stepped on the scale at the gym today, I immediately started doing this:

I also had some old goals that I hoped to have met by the time I was thirty. I wanted to own my own house. Did that. I wanted to get out of Listowel. Did that. I wanted to figure out what the hell to do with my hair. Did th--well, whatever, there's always next year. This year, thankfully, my life isn't so filled to the brim with suck, so I should set goals. My horoscope says I should try to change the world.
But then, I pretty much already thought that I could, so I guess I didn't need the stars to align and tell me it was time.

I told my kids I was going to change the world, and you know what they said? They said, "Oh, really? What are you going to change?" Kids are awesome like that. They think a person can change the world. They believe in fairytales and magic and Santa Claus, and underneath all that fluff, they believe in people still. I love that about them. It's brave. When I grow up, I want to be brave like children are.

I didn't have an answer to their question, by the way. I don't know how I'm going to change the world yet. But I reckon I will, because I don't really have anything else planned, so that should help pass the time.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Earworm - We Didn't Start the Fire, but Our Beds are Burning

These two songs remind me of each other. 

No, seriously, that's all this blog post is for.
Just getting my earworm out.

Billy Joel - We Didn't Start the Fire
Midnight Oil - Beds are Burning

I have a lot of these pairs of songs that aren't really related except in that they always make me think of each other, and now thanks to the powers of the internets, when I hear one, I can always go listen to the mate.

Do you have any of those? Tell me about them.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Hopefully my last whiny blog post for a while. (But I can't make any promises.)

When my ex-husband and I first separated, we were both committed strongly to making sure that our kids knew that they still had a whole family. We spent more time together--the four of us--than I would guess that most families with married parents do. It meant that the kids had both of us there just about whenever they wanted or needed us, and we both got to be a part of all the important things that were going on in their lives.

For reasons that I suppose really don't matter, that changed last year. Now my kids are gone half of the time, and I've never even seen the inside of the house they live in when they're away. When I do have them, it's always just the three of us. I used to tell people that I wasn't a single parent. I was just a parent who was single. I think I'm a single parent now. 

It's funny the things you miss.

There are the big things: making all the decisions yourself without having anyone to talk them over with, not knowing what your kids are up to and how they're doing, having no control over who they're seeing and what those people are saying to them. Those things are hard for obvious reasons.

Then there are the little things: I miss that quick exchange of amused glances over the kids' heads when one of them says something they didn't realize was funny. I miss the conversations I get to have with them when just one of the kids comes to the store with me. I miss having someone to tell about the cutest thing one of them said, even though I know it's really not that cute and you'd have to know her to get how funny it was. Those things seem silly, but they're the bits that make me the saddest.

I think my kids still feel like they have a whole family. I hope so. I don't think they feel like they're missing out on too much, although I know there are things that they wish were different. But I feel like I am. I wanted to have a whole family, too. Even though there are certainly perks to the current arrangement, I wanted to raise my kids with someone

Maybe all along, I was just being selfish, and it was never for them that I insisted we stay some kind of family even if we were separated. Maybe it was always just for me. I mean, they seem to be pretty okay with everything. And their dad is the happiest he's ever been. I'm the only one who's not all right with this.

I don't suppose I'll ever get a second chance to do this over again--obviously not with these kids, anyhow--so I better find a way to enjoy it more and accept that me not getting exactly what I wanted doesn't really matter that much. I got two great kids, and that's a lot. It ought to be enough for anyone, really, so it's probably time to suck it up now that I got it out. I'll go see about doing that.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

A fork in the road, a divergence in the wood, and other fun travelling metaphors.

I haven't blogged in a long, long time. I've been sort of insanely busy, and I had no internet service, and that always helps a lot with logging things on the web. So, let me quickly bring you up to date, gentle readers:

I moved. Yup. I finally got well and truly out of Listowel. Not just moved away for school. Real, grown up, changed-the-address-on-my-license-and-everything moved. That was basically my only goal for life, and I never really thought it would happen for reasons that clearly are no longer worth mentioning.

I achieved my only real goal for life. Did you hear that? That's pretty good. Most people don't ever get to say that. I do. You know who doesn't? Bill.

Who's Bill? Bill is Kilgore Trout's bird. Probably stop reading if you haven't finished Kurt Vonnegut's collection, or at least Breakfast of Champions.

Oh, you've read it? Then let me go on.

I think the moment that Bill doesn't leave his cage in Breakfast of Champions is one of the most poignant moments in all of literature (or at least the bits I've read so far). And yet, I left my cage. And do you know what? I suppose in the back of my mind, I always thought Bill was wrong. Right in a way, but also wrong. Because you know what's better than hope, Bill? Flying. I mean, I've never done it, but I bet it is.

Anyway, that's kind of where I'm at. I left my cage, and I don't know where to go now. I'm not a bird, though, so I'm sure I could find something else to hope for besides getting out. But I haven't yet, and while I'm kind of enjoying flying (read: having a huge library, and a gym, and 24-hour grocery stores with strange produce, and a garbage chute), I'm also not sure what to do next, particularly in terms of finding my career path.

About six thousand roads just diverged in the wood, and I--I have no idea which one to travel by. And that is making all the difference to my current level of contentment. Which is to say, I feel a little weird without a goal in mind. I don't like being stuck standing still, but I'm pretty sure most of these roads are gated and locked and I don't have the key, and the remainder are undesirable to me.

Somewhere here, surely, there's one where I'm supposed to go, like Katy Perry says:

No joke: I adore Katy Perry. Immensely.

But I haven't found it yet. And I can't decide what to do. And okay, I'm going to be honest, I'm so afraid of failure (because I know  feel that everyone is waiting for me to fail) that I'm kinda paralyzed with fear of choosing the wrong thing and dooming myself to ridicule.

The annoying thing is that I make enough money now that taking a really crappy job, even if I'd like it more (I would. I undoubtedly would.) would be irresponsible. But I don't make enough money now to stick with my job, which actually is not entirely secure over the long term.

Probably I'll just wait until I lose my current job, and they release the hounds of poverty to drag me down, and I have to tear recklessly down one of these many divergent paths, and I'm no betting gal, but if I were, I'd just go buy the McDonald's uniform now.

But until then, if you need me, I'll be here, standing at the fork in the road.

Monday, 14 May 2012

So you want (me to read the book you've decided) to self-publish, eh?

I don't know much about the book publishing biz. I've never tried to publish a book, and I don't imagine I ever will. But I sure like to read them. And I know I should say this with shame, but it's not my style, so I'll just say it: I'm prejudiced against self-published books. Occasionally someone sends me one, or is nice to me and makes me feel obligated to buy theirs in digital format, and they're usually only $1.99, so I do.

A lot of people say that they're only self-publishing because they don't want to turn their labours of love into money-makers for the man (big publishing). That's fine. I'm picking up what those people are laying down. If, in fact, you're not just self-publishing because you can't be arsed to write a book anyone knowledgeable would think worth publishing, here are some ideas to help entice me to read your book:

1/ If you want to write fanfic, write fanfic.
Some people like fanfic. I don't. What I dislike even more than fanfic is being offered something to read and realizing it's just fanfic with the names changed. Not only is this frustrating, but it also reeks of idea infringement. Before your pen even hits paper (or fingers touch keys, as the case more likely is), please be brutally honest with yourself about whether you're creating something new or making a worthy exploration of an existing world. If it's the latter, embrace it, find the right outlet, and run with it. It's a great way to practice writing, and your own story will come eventually, I'm sure.

2/ Understand that your circle of friends is composed entirely of lying assholes.
Okay, they may not be assholes, but I'm not sure what else you'd call a person who would let someone spend a lot of time and money on writing and publishing a sub-par, barely (or even un-) readable book.

I'll be fair: the job of your loved ones is to support and encourage you. They believe in you because they know you're a great person, and the odds are good that you really are the best writer they know. Let them keep being your cheering section. Turn to them when you need that. Don't ask them for real feedback. But do make sure that you get constructive criticism from people who are qualified to give it and in a position to do so. You owe it to everyone you know, to your book, and to your future readers to take this advice.

3/ Pay someone to tell you that you suck.
I don't know what self-publishing costs, but I can tell by the price of most self-published books, that you have not had to factor the expense of an editor into your cover price. Do. Please. Hire an editor. I can barely point my browser in the vicinity of an online classified site without my mouse scrolling over a few freelance editors' looking-for-authors ads. Even if you can't afford a really good one, or a very experienced one, please hire someone to be your editor.

That doesn't mean get a proofreader. Editors do so much more than that. An editor often works with an author even in the early stages of developing the story, and can help you shape the plot and characters, tell you where there are gaps and gratuitousness, and offer a critical perspective on how your book will be received. Editors understand what you're trying to do and want to help you make a success of it, and unlike your lying friends, they will tell you what you need to hear for that to happen. And they'll probably proofread it, too.

4/ Market test it.
This means get people to read it. People who enjoy whatever genre it is that you're writing. But not your friends and family. Do you know why they pay people for doing market tests? It's not because nobody would do that otherwise (people love that sort of thing)--it's because if you're being compensated for your opinion, you feel that it's important and you should be forthcoming. Yes, I'm suggesting you pay people to read your book. Send them an e-book (free for you) and offer them even a $5 or $10 bookstore gift card upon completion of your survey.

Spread this cost out over all those extra books you're going to sell now that you have honest feedback, and it's worth it. And if right now you're thinking that you'll never sell enough to recoup those costs, then go back to point number one and try again, because if you don't have a book worth buying for a reasonable price, you don't have a book worth publishing.

5/ Okay, fine. Publish your book then.
Did you do it? Did you decide it's not fanfic, and then separate your cheerleaders from your critics, and did you hire an editor, and then did you market test it, and then did you go back to your editor, and then market test it again, and then weep to your family who cheered you on, and lather, rinse, repeat until you had a book that finally is great?

Awesome. Now I believe you when you say that you wanted to write a great book, but just didn't want to publish it with a subsidiary of General Electric. And I can't wait to read it. It's gonna be great, I bet. Thanks for doing all that.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

I don't hate you because you're beautiful. I hate you because you get your water glass filled faster than I do.

Samantha Brick wrote an article about how hard it is to be beautiful. Everyone got very angry, mostly because she's so conceited or something. Less commonly, because they don't think what she's saying is true. My immediate reaction was something along the lines of "Boo-fucking-hoo." But then I read it, and realized she's saying things that I've been saying a lot lately, too. In fact, if you know me at all, you've probably heard my "Pretty girls get everything handed to them and it's not fair" monologue a few times.

Brick prefaced her article with the fact that she's not drop-dead gorgeous, but she's tall, thin, and blonde. On the flipside, let me preface mine with the fact that I'm not hide-your-children ugly, but I'm short, chubby, and brunette.

However, I've been hated by women, too. That's what women do. They hate. For example, probably the one thing I have going for me is that I'm pretty smart. Even as a university student, if ever I revealed to someone the grade I got on an assignment, I would face an onslaught of justifications for my mark. These would range from the perhaps plausible ("Well, you had so much more time to work on it than I did") to the completely unfounded ("That's because she likes you better than me").

None of that resentment was because I was a pretty girl. As stated, I'm not now and never have been a pretty girl. But I was, in that one small way, better than most other people. While my male school chums would get a peek at a good grade on a paper or test and offer me a high five, the girls would tell me why I didn't deserve it.

The fact is, most women have something they excel at. For some it's being pretty. For me, it's being book-smart. For others, it's a sport. Or writing. Or video games. Most of us have something about which we can, if we look at ourselves obectively, say "I am better at that than most other people are." And those excellencies will garner us hate. I guarantee that if you are female, someone has hated you for something.

It's what women do.

We do it to beautiful women more often because they're lucky. And we hate them for it. My IQ, or your marathon time, or someone else's stand-up comedy routine might garner us similar special treatment to that received by the pretties, but those things are awfully hard to bring up in conversation. Beautiful women walk into the room and BOOM, right away, everyone knows they're pretty.

It's also universal. My intelligence does not impress everybody. Every man (and let's be honest: at the heart of this thing called life, most of us are just competing for men) likes beautiful women. No matter where a tall, thin, blonde woman goes, invariably and immediately, someone will place a value on her as a human being that far exceeds the value they will place on me.

And that's the heart of the hatred: I don't hate you because you're beautiful. I hate you because I'm not. More specifically, I hate you for all the things you get that I don't.

I hate you because when you're struggling with grocery bags, a man rushes over to help you. I hate you because when you need someone to talk to, some guy wants to be your friend. I hate you because you get things you can't afford handed to you. Because I want those things to, and nobody is going to hand them to me.

I hate you for getting better service in restaurants; I hate you because people listen when you talk; I hate you because no matter what you do, every guy will think it's okay, and because every guy does, every girl will, too; and yes, I hate you because you, as a group, take all the good guys.

And it's not fair. I shouldn't hate you. It's not your fault, and most of you, though there are exceptions, aren't trying to make those things happen. And even so, I don't expect you to start turning any of those things down to repair the sorority that we want to imagine is all of female humanity. I wouldn't. I'd take them, too. I'd take the help, and the friendship, and at least some of the gifts, and the better service, and the attention, and the great guy. I'd take it all, too.

I shouldn't judge you for what you can't help. Or men, for that matter, because I guess they probably can't help it either. I should try to understand your side. I should look deeper into who I am, and recognize the fact that there might be other reasons why I don't get what I perceive to be special treatment.

But it's so much easier to hate you.

So, I've got to be honest: I'll probably just keep doing that. Just like you will keep accepting the special treatment, even though you know it's not fair. It makes life easier. And this is the underlying social contract of the vagina club: We all hate each other and shut up about it.

I guess that means this blog post is done.

My friend Amy (You know Amy. I've talked about Amy.) also blogged about this today because apparently we both decided today was finally the day to find out who Samantha Brick is. Amy talked about it from a different angle, and raised excellent points in a way that is far funnier than... me. Go read that, too. And give her all the special treatment you like. She's too awesome for me to hate her. It's the loophole in the vagina contract.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Who are you?

That's a question. I keep meaning to prepare an elevator pitch about me for when interviewers say, "Tell me a bit about yourself."

It's a hard question to answer. It's like saying, "What is blue?" Blue is... blue. I don't fucking know. I could explain the electromagnetic spectrum to you, but that's not really what blue is. I feel the same way about me. I'm just... me.

I could tell you a bit about my genetic make-up, if that would interest you. I have blue eyes, dimples, freckles, and bent pinkies. I can't roll my tongue, but I can taste phenylthiocarbamide. My hair is curly. I interlace my fingers left over right. I have normal vision, and I sneeze in the sun.

Or if that's not what you meant, I could tell you what I do. I raise two children, I work in a movie theatre, and I go to school. I watch a lot of CPAC, read a lot of news, and listen to a lot of music.

I could tell you what I like instead, if that's better: aforementioned children, reading, learning things, the beach, funny people, horses and dogs, terrible movies, being outside, and hugs.

But like blue, which isn't just a range on the electromagnetic scale, I'm not just the combination of all these listed traits. And like most people, I'm awash with contradictions that make me difficult to label, and I don't generally try to define myself.

Because why would I? Blue doesn't know it's blue. It's just being. Only we think it's blue.

So, if you want to know, maybe ask some other person who I am. They certainly know better than I do. Or perhaps another person is still to close to the issue. Maybe ask a section of the electromagnetic scale to define me. Turnabout, after all, is fair play.

This post is a response to the first prompt of The Scintilla Project. I start these things, because I want to blog more, and then I never finish them. Oooh, there's another fact about me for the lists!

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

SPOILER ALERT: American Horror Story

This post contains spoilers. I really can't stand having a show spoiled, and I think people who do it without warning are hot bleach douches. So please understand that if you read on, you WILL find out what happens during the first season of American Horror Story.

This is not, I repeat NOT, a review meant to titillate and encourage you to rush out and purchase the DVDs. Nobody is paying me do that. It's a discussion meant for people who've already seen it to nod along knowingly with as they politely agree with me, based on their prior knowledge of the show.

There's also a Soylent Green (the movie) spoiler in here.

Okay, cool.
Let it not be said that I'm a douche.

I'm a fan of the horror genre, and I'm generally not a fan of television. So I was pretty skeptical of American Horror Story, but I kept seeing comments like "ZOMG, American Horror Story, Y U NO warn me? Ffffuuuuu."  No, nobody said that. Exactly. What I'm saying is that it shocked and amazed them into making use of cheesy internet nemes. (It's like a meme, but specifically with wordplay or acronyms.)

So I watched and I became one of the people who posted things like, "Oh my god, this show is so fucked up. I love it!" And I did. It horrified me. The reason it did is that it plays on a few basic human fears really well. It builds them so they all creep up on you and you don't even realize what it's doing until you're watching gape-mouthed and horrified as a woman eats a goat brain.

Even the opening credits are farking scary:

There are four basic fears (in my opinion) at the heart of this, and really the last one is probably not technically a phobia, but look, it's late and I need to get this posted. Anyway, here they are:

The fear of basements essentially boils down to just one thing: do you know what's in yours? As in right now, do you know what or who is in your basement? Really? When was the last time you checked?

Remember earlier today when you went upstairs, and the front door was unlocked? Wouldn't it have been so easy for someone to slip in the front door and down to the basement? Now he'll just wait, and listen. You'll move around your house and through your day, completely unaware that he's eight feet below you the entire time. Maybe he's flipping through your old CD collection, or admiring the bra you left on top of the dryer. Using your WiFi to check your Twitter updates on his cell phone. Maybe he just replied to you. As he stands right below you with his hand pressed to the ceiling above him, just a few inches of synthetic fibre separates his hand from the toe you're tapping on the floor as you sit and read this.

See? Basements are scary. That's all I'm saying. It's a very good place to start for horror. What it lacks in originality, it more than makes up for in effectiveness. And all of the problems for the Harmon's begin with whatever it is in their basement.

My security company told me that home invasion is the single most feared event. I forget exactly how that was phrased, but basically, that's what people shit their pants over in real life.

Not only is the premise of American Horror Story essentially a permanent home invasion--these ghosts are in your house and there is not a god damned thing you can do about. Or they can do about it. And you're invading their house right back. Everyone is being invaded in the one place where you're supposed to get to feel safe.

But also there are multiple more literal home invasions during the first season. The first episode, in fact, begins with a break in. The neighbors and other former home owners are constantly coming in uninvited. Actual real psycho wacko murderer types invade their house. Ben's former girlfriend shows up at the door (while she's alive, I mean). 

The dead tenants are just as threatened by home invasions as the living ones--perhaps even more. There's just a perpetual lack of safety in one's own home being portrayed, and it's horrifying. It's awful to watch and want to scream at your TV, "Don't go in the bathroom!" or "Why would you leave your daughter in her bedroom alone?!? Are you an idiot???" That is basically the most terrifying existence imaginable this side of the Atlantic.

The beautiful thing about this is that the show begins with just a single ghost, the maid, and accompanying her, whatever that thing that killed those boys in the basement was. And you don't really know if maybe it's not just all one thing anyhow. 

I loved the way the writers built the cast of characters gradually. For many reasons, obviously, it made it easier to get immersed in the show than it would have been if we were overwhelmed by a huge ensemble cast. It also made it more--ahem--believable to begin with a small ectoplasmic infestation and watch the colony grow.

As each ghost is added to the ensemble, the horror grows exponentially, as we realize it wasn't just one little ghost in the basement. There's a freaking undead village down there and they have no idea. Toward the end of the season, they began to divide these characters more clearly into good guys and bad guys, and I think they've probably set up some cool possibilities for next season. Or maybe next season is when the shark comes and they all take turns jumping over it. I hesitate to make wagers.

When it comes down to it, what people are afraid of is people. And what the American Horror Story ghosts become is people. (Which is funny because normally people become ghosts.) They aren't caricatures. They aren't poltergeist. They're people, with twisted, dark, sometimes very malignant--but always understandable--motivations. You don't think to yourself, "Whoa! Psycho ghost!" when they decide to steal a baby, or kill an exterminator so he doesn't find a body, or rape someone. You think to yourself, my god, how could someone do that?

And the answer is never, "Oh, only a ghost would do that." Never. All of the acts perpetrated by the ghosts are things that we fear having another living human being do to us. Or maybe even things we worry we could do to someone else if we were pushed too far.

It's like they say, Hell is other people. 
But then so is Soylent Green, so sometimes you get your revenge.

I have to say one thing about American Horror Story: if it ended now, I'd be happy. It feels complete. They hung a piece of it out over the cliff at the end of Season 1, of course, but I don't even really care about that. If they called it a day, burned that in HD and shrink-wrapped it tomorrow, I'd buy it and watch it over and over until it wore out. For more on my feelings about short series, someday I'll discuss British television.

I could definitely level some criticisms at American Horror Story, but any and all of its faults included, I still think it was the single most enthralling, best-written series I've seen on American television in years. Granted, I don't watch a lot of TV. But it was way better than Whitney.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Amanda Says... Listen to This

Hey, remember Music Monday? Remember my "listen to an album a day" resolution?
Welcome to the return to both. Here I review several albums I listened to over the past week. I also listened to a couple albums that weren't really new new, so they're not listed here because nobody cares about them anymore but me.

I know NOTHING about music, really. I'm a complete moron. Consider these the musings of a layperson. I'm not discerning. I pretty much like every kind of music--as long as it's good. These are just my thoughts on what I heard last week.

The Maccabees - Given to the Wild
Released January 6, 2012

Most of the album is a parade of promising intros that melt into mildly soporific melodies and mournful vocals. "Ayla" is a notable exception, with its bright keyboard part playing the lifeline that keeps it from drowning in melancholy. Predictably, I also liked the single "Pelican" quite a bit better than the rest of the album. Given to the Wild is full of well-constructed songs, though, and I wouldn't be surprised to hear a few of them on Blockbuster soundtracks. They've got some intriguing lyrics and tonnes of mood. Just not my mood.

You might like this if you like:
Death Cab for Cutie, Christina Perri

"Pelican" and "Went Away" are worth a listen.

Enter Shakiri - A Flash Flood of Colour
Released January 16

Heavy metal protest songs featuring insightful thought-provoking lyrics speckled with metaphors that you'll wish you'd thought of first. With a voice that could sing you to sleep as easily as it riles your rage, Rou Reynolds is the ideal heavy band frontman. He also provides the pervasive electronic element, that despite my electroniphobia, doesn't prevent me from calling this real music. It actually gets categorized under, among other things, dubstep. Colour me corrected.

You Might Like This If You Like:
Taking my advice? I don't know. I don't have a huge reference bank for this type of music.

Best use:
Vehicular rocking.

Most of this album got my Grooveshark seal of approval.

Kathleen Edwards - Voyageur
Canadian; Released Jan 17, 2012

While there's nothing particularly painful about this album, there's nothing outstandingly pleasureful about it, either. Edwards is a talented singer, but not one of these tracks stood out as something to be remembered and re-listened. Most were sadness without soul, and that's just boring. The saddest part really is that there are some neat lyrics, but they needed better backup to make them worth revisiting.

You Might Like This If You Like
The Indigo Girls (but they were too interesting for you), Easy Listening

Best lyrics:
God doesn't know you like I do. - "Mint"

I gave it a wide miss.

Nada Surf - The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy
Released January 18, 2012

If you're a fan of Nada Surf, this album is sure to leave you with one thought ringing clearly in your mind: Why did they do that? The album lacks personality and passion, and offers only a vague shadow of what you think of as Nada Surf.

You Might Like This If You Like
Sleeping, Not Nada Surf

"Looking Through"

Hit up iTunes for the one or two songs you like

Foxy Shazam - Church of Rock and Roll
Released January 24, 2012

This band is one of those few that will make you believe that Rock--the way you wish you were old enough to remember it--really isn't all dead or derivative. Finely-crafted songs are borne out in performances that are solid and human, and overlain with cleverly placed whimsy. The Church of Rock and Roll is the joyful, soulful, playful man child of decades of rock, and it got all the best of all of its ancestors.

Favourite lyric:
"Your eyes are filled with fire; your mouth is filled with cuss."

You Might Like This If You Like:
Music, Life.

In the rotation. So effing in the rotation.

John K. Samson - Provincial
Canadian; Released January 24, 2012

Provincial is post-modern folk rock. Samson lays his emotive voice over an understated but interesting drums-guitar-bass bed. His smart, pithy lyrics have a distinctly Canadian flavour and a unique frame of reference that brings an endearing sense of honesty to each song. My guess is that if you like this album, you'll love it.

Favourite Lyric:
I'm just your little ampersand. - "The Last And"

You Might Like This If You Like:
The Weakerthans (duh), hipster stuff

I bought this album. I PAID MONEY for it. I also bought a ticket to go see John K. Samson live.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

I review Dubstep

When I was a kid, we had an electric keyboard. It had a huge sound bank. You could do somewhere around a hundred different instrument sounds, and there were also sound effects, such as Street Sounds and Video Game Sounds. When I was eight or nine, I thought if you played those sounds in some kind of rhythm, with a bit of a beat underneath, you could almost make music with those sounds. And you know what? You almost can. And that almost music is called Dubstep.

Until recently, I had no idea what dubstep was. So to satisfy my burning curiosity, and to begin to catch up on my resolution, I decided I'd listen to a dubstep album. After some research, I chose Benga's 2006 album, Newstep.

I ought to bare my bias: I don't like electronica of any kind. There's even a Sting album that doesn't quite give me palpitations because it's a bit too synthetic. My music taxonomy begins with two Kingdoms: Made With Instruments and Made With Computers. The latter is like the Plant world: I'm sure darn glad its constituents are here, but it's nice that I don't hear from them.

I'd been told there'd be a lot of drums and bass in dubstep, and I thought I would like that. There are a lot of crappy drum machine sounds. And not that much bass. I will say that "6306" on this album had a really great bass line. Someone should use it in a good song that wouldn't hurt to listen to. But on the whole, I would not say that dubstep is bass-heavy.

If I had to describe this Benga Newstep verison of dubstep myself, I'd say, "Have you ever been in your dentist's office, and above the muzak you can hear drills and other tools screeching, and some kid is playing Space Invaders while another kid bangs a hollow metal toy on random objects? It's like that."

It's also very dark. I felt like any one of the songs on this album could have been the soundtrack to an anime snuff film. Even the song titles are nihilistic. For example, "World War 7"? Man, will humans never learn? And "The Future" symbolically ends rather abruptly (yet somehow, not a second too soon). And "Killerstep" kind of reminded me of Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time. So, Christmas is ruined now. Thanks, Benga.

Essentially, dubstep is what you would get if an emo kid with attention deficit disorder fell down and writhed on the keyboard from Big, and it had been programmed primarily with the following sound effects:

  • Commodore 64 and Tandy CoCo game soundtrack clips
  • Charlie Brown's teacher using a talk box. Or someone whacking a hand saw with a rubber mallet. They're virtually the same sound. 
  • Robots voices and other bodily functions

I only listened to one out of (far too) many dubstep albums, and a few other random songs, including, of course, some Skrillex. And, for a while, I started working and just had the Benga album playing in the background of my life, and I DID catch myself doing a bit of head-nodding and toe-tapping. And, later, at one point, I did a couple air snare hits. I'm sorry, Better Judgement. I failed you.

"The Real McCoy" Nothing to do with Star Trek. Sorry. But I did like it the best anyway. It felt like everything was in it on purpose, and not because somebody's asshole kid was playing in the control room and flipped a switch, and nobody noticed until they'd already pressed too many CDs to turn back.

"The Visitor" It was boring, but it didn't bother me exactly.

I would like Dubstep better if it were stripped down to about half of what's going on in the songs. I just don't know what you'd do with dubstep. If I had nothing else to compare it to or choose from, I wouldn't dislike it at all. If electronica and its ilk are where your musical world stops and ends, than I see how you might like it. Or if you do a lot of acid. That would help, I bet.

My negative experience with dubstep is probably my own fault anyway for choosing Newstep from Benga's early career, and not opting for a more recent album with a more mature, developed sound, such as 2011's Smack Your Bitch Up.


Better than dubstep:

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

I'm late, I know, but I've got resolve

I'm not one for the resolutions. I just think it's silly to resolve something when instead you could just make an effort to do something without building in a 90% chance of failure.

So I make very silly resolutions. Well, one year my resolution was to not use drive throughs, and that wasn't silly at all because I'm sort of an Earth-lover (aren't we all, though?) and I kept that resolution. But only for a year. Now I use drive-thrus again. See? Resolutions are silly.

My resolutions this year are more like 365 projects. You know the ones: where people do something every day for 365 days not because they believe their life will be in any way edified by it, but because... just... 'cause.

So my three 365 Projects / Resolutions are:

I bet most of you are thinking "How on Earth would a person have time to watch a new movie EVERY day?" and I'm thinking that, too, actually, and so far, I'm sucking at it. But it's okay, because that's a ridiculous resolution that doesn't in ANY WAY improve my life or help the world, so if I don't do it... meh.

But there's a reason I want to, and this is it: for a long time, I really didn't watch movies at all. And for a couple years, I probably didn't watch a single movie or television show. Certainly not deliberately. I may have caught a glimpse while visiting someone or walking through an electronics store. So I'm way behind. I miss obvious pop culture references and allusions. This bothers me. I need to catch up.

I've also developed an intricate, but constantly evolving rating system, which currently includes the following, from worst to best:

  • Pftpft
  • Meh
  • Rural salute
  • Okay, sure, I get that
  • One thumb up
  • Two thumbs up
  • Yeah, yeah, yeah! More! More!

I expect it will be adopted by some official movie-review organisation within a matter of days.

I just like music, that's all.
It's a short story.

I have listened, in the first 31 days of this resolution, to... wait for it... ONE ALBUM.
It was the new Black Keys album.
I didn't like it. Sorry, Black Keys.

Because I talk too much. Publicly. I post everything on Twitter. I say things I shouldn't say to close friends, let alone to total strangers. So maybe if I write them in a journal instead, I'll be able to maintain some dignity. I'm not 100% sure, but it's worth seeing how things pan out.

I was doing really well with this, and then I lost my journal. I think it's probably under my bed.
Maybe I should have made a resolution to keep my room clean.
Too late, though. Maybe next year.