Me & Ryan Gosling: Putting up shelves

When I moved into my new place, my Dad and I built a shelving unit for my TV and books. Ryan wasn't able to be around to help build it because he had a shoot, but he did show up in time to set it up!

Inspiration! The GutenTag method

If you know me, but at all, you know that I LOVE to find new ways to organize my life.  Here's a cool new idea for daily task-management for those of us who still like to write things out by hand: the GutenTag Method.  A simple clock stamp where you can write your to-dos by hour.

GutenTag Stamp
I'm totally going to try this for work.

Bonus Alert: You can buy the cute stamp for $35, or you can just draw your own if you're a DIY-type.

Batman vs. Superman: Reactions and Spoilers

Last week I watched Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.  If you have read anything about it online, you already know it has terrible reviews.  Here are my reactions after watching (with lots of spoilers):

It was missing a lot of titles

If it was actually going to be Batman vs. Superman, then the movie would have spent about the first 45-60 minutes building up tension between them, slowly giving them reasons why they would be forced to fight.  Instead, there were a whole bunch of random things thrown in there throughout the entire movie.  Here are the many short films contained within this 2.5 hour long film:

Superman and Batman Fight For About Five Minutes Before Teaming Up Against a Bigger Monster (tag line: They would have probably lost if Wonder Woman hadn't shown up.)

Meet Wonder Woman and Wonder Why She's Got Such a Small Part When She's Clearly the Best One

Lex Luthor: Makes a Monster and Goes Nuts

Does America Trust Superman? (They Blame Him for Everything)

How Dark Will Batman Go While Still Fighting For Good?

How Many Times Can Lois Lane Run Into a Situation Thinking She Will Be Useful and Then Almost Die?

Speaking of Wonder Woman, she is the best one

She has a tiny part in the movie, but basically shows up and is the only one who can actually damage Lex Luthor's giant abomination-monster all on her own.  She is super confident and a smooth operator both in battle and when stealing intel at fancy parties.

It is obvious that the filmmakers also thought she was the best because they give her the coolest theme music.

It's all about mom

The thing that stops Batman from trying to kill Superman?  Their moms have the same name.  "Your mom's name is Martha?  My mom's name was Martha!  Never mind the shoddy motivation the film built for me to want to kill you, I can't do it now, bro.  Come on, let's go save your mom so I can feel like I'm saving my own mom in the process."  Awwww, cute!

Seriously though, what was this movie about?

I already said this, but it bears repeating: what the heck was this movie actually about?  It definitely was not about Batman and Superman rising up against each other, because they hardly even did that.

I mean, you get a little bit of how they both think that the other one is dangerous and needs to be exposed/contained, but then out of the blue, Batman goes from trying to catch the leader of a sex trafficking ring (legit goal) to desperately needing to kill Superman and Superman goes from wanting to write an article questioning Batman to getting all manipulated by Lex Luthor into killing him, even though Lex obviously had bigger plans, what with his Super Monster Abomination Thing that would just kill everyone regardless.

Photo by Richie S. Wikimedia Commons.

Lex Luthor was a cool villain - sort of, at first

For about the first half of the movie, Lex Luthor was a cool villain that I don't think we've seen much of before.  He was sort of like what would happen if Mark Zuckerberg or the head of Google or some other super hip tech company went legitimately evil: he wears sweet kicks and eats candy while demanding access to alien technology and comes off like a scatterbrained genius who is more concerned about doing something "cool" than something that is "right".

Then he just goes full crazy town and quickly becomes very boring.

We get it, Superman is a Christ figure, but he actually didn't need to die

He could have given the kryptonite spear to either Wonder Woman or Batman and they could have used it and then Superman would not have to dramatically die, only to have his "resurrection" hinted at right at the end of the movie.  I mean, sure, then they couldn't have reinforced his supreme goodness with Christ-like self-sacrifice that not only shook off any darkness they put on him in this movie but also motivated Batman to say that humans are basically good at the end.

Still, it was a bit much.  Sort of like in the fifth Harry Potter book when Hermione is all like, "Harry, you kind of have a thing for rushing out and saving people when you don't need to and maybe you aren't the best person for this job" and then Harry gets all mad and does it anyways and then his godfather dies and it's basically all his fault.

Is Clark Kent Amish?

Why the heck is his funeral procession on a horse and buggy?  Seriously.  They're farmers, not Amish.  Or are they Amish?  Or maybe do they travel back in time for the funeral?

Also, they missed a golden opportunity to draw in some 90's fun by not playing Superman's Dead by Our Lady Peace.

Personal Challenge: After The Hypoallergenic Diet

For the past two and half weeks, I have been on a hypoallergenic diet.  Some people also call it the anti-inflammation diet.  I liked to call it my "zero happiness" diet, because I didn't get to eat anything that made me happy.  Like, at all.

Okay, I exaggerate.  I like hummus, and I ate a LOT of hummus.  Quinoa is great.  I finally tried nutritional yeast, and it's very tasty.  Vegetables and beans mixed in with quinoa and potatoes with nutritional yeast sprinkled on top?  That's good.  

Still, no gluten, no dairy, no soy, no peanuts or cashews, no corn, no eggs, no sugar (including syrups and honey), no artificial sugar, no refined oils or margarine, no table salt, no caffeine, no alcohol.  No fun!

As per usual, I have some observations based on my latest harrowing experience.

Things got moving

If you don't like reading about people's pooping habits, just move right on, because the kind of movement I'm talking about here is bowel movement.  I pooped a LOT on this diet.  Well, at the start anyways.  The second day I pooped FOUR TIMES.  Then it 2-3 times a day for a few days before going back to normal.

According to some people it's good to poo multiple times a day, and if we were eating enough fibre we would ALL be popping squats all the time.  At least at the start, this diet got me one step closer to that.

That said, my boyfriend, who also did the diet, had kind of the opposite experience with his bowel movements.  So who knows.

Some of the technically-uneccesary pricier items I bought.

Eating like this is expensive

I spent about double my normal food budget for the time I was on this diet, which doesn't really make sense, right?.  Living off rice and vegetables should be cheaper, shouldn't it?

There are a few obvious expensive things that I didn't strictly have to buy, but did in order to up the satisfaction quotient: quinoa, nutritional yeast, nuts, seeds, and stevia.  These are nowhere near the discount bin in your average grocery store.

Plus, because I was eating a plant-based diet, I needed to eat a lot more food than I normally would.  If you don't have bread or noodles or tortillas or peanut butter or eggs to make something filling, you need more volume to do the trick.  So while fruits veg aren't expensive, I still wound up buying a lot more than usual.

Of course, it's hard to argue that eating double the fruit and veg you normally do is a bad thing, but it is, apparently, not a cheap thing.

This was my first breakfast after coming back to life.
The angelic light in the background is intentional.

Breakfasts were the worst!

Breakfast is by far my favourite meal of the day.  For years, I have made myself a veggie egg scramble on toast every single morning for breakfast.  It is so so so good.  Going from that to plain oatmeal?  Don't even talk to me about that.  It's clearly the worst.

Sure, I could put fruit in my oatmeal.  And I bought stevia and almond milk (two pricier items) specifically so that I would be able to transform it from plain, clumpy gruel into something edible.  Still.  My first morning off the diet, I scrambled my eggs with glee.  GLEE!  It was the best breakfast ever!

When in doubt, roast it

I already knew that roasting is not only mega-easy but has some kind of mystical deliciousness-concentrating effect on vegetables, and this experience really reinforced that.  You want something to be good, then roast it.

I even made some of my own trail mix for a hike (because what else do you do if you're hiking and can't eat peanuts, bread, chips, granola bars, or any of the other easy-to-hike-with food?) by roasting almonds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds, and it was basically the best thing ever.

When eating is way more work, you do it less

Basically the only "grab and go" foods available to me were baby carrots and hummus or hummus on rice cakes.  Basically, sticking hummus on stuff was the only option that didn't involve significant prep work.  The result?  I definitely ate less.

This is not a bad thing, because I think I was getting in the habit of eating too much before (a whole bag of chips as an afternoon snack? Don't mind if I do!), but the lower volume of food also lead to pretty much ongoing dissatisfaction in the stomach-area.

That said, if you have an actual goal of eating less and maybe losing some weight, this will probably work.  Not, if you ask me, because "bread makes you fat" or some hogwash like that, but because bread is convenient and easy to eat and thus it is really easy to eat more than you actually need, where it's a lot harder to eat more quinoa and veg salad than you actually need.

Hummus goes with so many things

As you may have noticed from how much I've talked about hummus already, by the end of this diet, I was putting hummus on everything.  Everything.  It was one of the few things that gave meals that sense of "oomph" and a bit more satisfying completeness.  Luckily, it mixes in very well with quinoa or rice-based meals.

So the take away lessons from this diet are: when in doubt, roast it or put hummus on it.  Or maybe both.  Also, try throwing some avocado in there.

This was actually the first thing I ate after the diet ended.

Singalong! 1234 by Feist

One of the things I love about this song is how it's one of those sneaky "sounds super light-hearted but is actually about a broken relationship" songs.  I discovered this when was doing a cabaret show where we did covers of popular love songs, put into ridiculous scenarios.  We were listening to Feist and, upon actually paying attention to the lyrics, realized that this song is about a majorly scorned lady.  So naturally, we staged it so that it was about me killing my boyfriend.  In a park.  With the giant knife from our romantic picnic.  Naturally.

by Feist

One, two, three, four
Tell me that you love me more
Sleepless long nights
That is what my youth was for

Old teenage hopes are alive at your door
Left you with nothing but they want some more

Oh, you're changing your heart
Oh, You know who you are

Sweetheart bitterheart now I can't tell you apart
Cozy and cold, put the horse before the cart

Those teenage hopes who have tears in their eyes
Too scared to own up to one little lie

Oh, you're changing your heart
Oh, you know who you are

One, two, three, four, five, six, nine, or ten
Money can't buy you back the love that you had then
One, two, three, four, five, six, nine, or ten
Money can't buy you back the love that you had then

Oh, you're changing your heart
Oh, you know who you are
Oh, you're changing your heart
Oh, you know who you are
Oh, who you are

For the teenage boys
They're breaking your heart
For the teenage boys
They're breaking your heart

Photo by amy. Wikimedia Commons.

Learning! How to make students study, or other people do other anything

Are you a teacher who needs to motivate their students to actually study?  How about a parent or a legislator or city planner or anyone else whose job involves influencing the behaviour of others?  (Side note: it's kind of creepy to think about it this way, but most of our jobs involve influencing the behaviour of others, don't they?  Weird.)

A typical tactic is to offer a reward for a job well done.  Well, one professor's little in-class experiment demonstrates that this is not necessarily the best way.  Research shows that we react more strongly to preventing losses than securing gains.

How does that work?  Here's what Vassilis Dalakas, a marketing professor at California State, did:

He was teaching two classes.  In each, he gave a series of quizzes throughout the semester.  In one class, the students were told that they had to take the final exam, but could choose to opt out if they did well enough on their quizzes.  In the other class, they were told that the final exam was optional, but that they would lose the right to opt out if they did poorly on the quizzes.

So, one class was offered a reward for doing well, another started with the "reward" and risked losing it.  Who did better?

By a landslide, the class where they risked losing the option of skipping the final exam.

It's an interesting tactic.  Sure, it seems meaner to take something away than to give a reward, but if your goal is to change behaviour (yours or someone else's), then you'll have greater success if you dangle a loss rather than a gain.

Via the Science of Us

Xena and Gabrielle are back - and they're still in love

Some fans dressed as Xena and Gabrielle.
Photo by William Tung, Wikimedia Commons.

I never watched Xena back in its heyday.  My stance of the time was that it was ludicrous to watch some woman running around in a metal push up bra and call that empowerment, although the conservative feminism was really just a cover for the fact that I was still a snob about fantasy-based storytelling and thought it was dumb.  (Oh, young Andrea, you had no idea what you were missing, but don't worry, I am making up for it now.)

Apparently Xena is getting a reboot (because nobody seems willing to think of new show ideas anymore), and - guess what?  Turns out that she's been a lesbian all along!  Okay, this isn't necessarily a surprise to her hardcore fans, especially anyone who was a non-straight teenager in the 90's looking for examples of themselves on TV.  I guess she always had a gal pal/sidekick named Gabrielle who would follow her around and fight and stuff.  In the old version of the show they were sort of understood to be a couple but not really acknowledged, but in the reboot they will fully acknowledge Xena and Gabrielle's love as a key part of the plot.

I love seeing how far TV (and, along with it, society) has come in my life!  It's cool to see, for example, the major shift from the shock and ratings-ruining effect of Ellen Degeneres coming out in real life and on her show in 1997, to her relationship being treated as the normal, human thing that it is on TV now.

I realize that we're in no way living in a post-homophobia haven where everyone is well-represented in the media, but back when Ellen came out publicly in 1997, do you think she would have imagined having her own talk show and being able to walk red carpets with her WIFE in the future?

Plus, the fact that most shows that featured LGBTQ characters back in the day had it as a quiet, only sort-of-acknowledged aspect of the storyline.  Even on Will & Grace, a show built around two gay characters, we never delved into their romantic lives.  Sure, Jack told a lot of thinly-veiled stories about his escapades, but Will didn't even always admit he was gay and we only really ever got to know Grace's boyfriends.

Now we have another primetime show that is going to openly acknowledge a non-straight relationship, and it's going to have a couple of powerful women to boot.  Go, Xena!

Source: PS Magazine.

Me & Ryan Gosling: Heading for a fancy event

Sometimes, you're about to go to a fancy event with some of your closest gal pals and Ryan comes home right when you're taking a photo.

Inspiration! The art of Helen Ahpornsiri

UK artist Helen Ahpornsiri makes these stunning works of art out of pressed fern leafs, algae, and gold leaf.  Her prints are even incredibly reasonably priced!  Oh my goodness, if anyone wants to buy me an unbirthday gift, this would be wonderful.

Not only are these stunning, intricate images, but I love the reminder that everything - literally everything - we encounter can be the raw material to make something else.  Everything has potential, everything is art.  Of course, it also takes a lot of hard work - just think about all the detailed work she has to do to make these incredible creations!

So there you go: see potential, work hard, be inspired!

Pig by Helen Ahpornsiri

Orca by Helen Ahponsiri

Hare by Helen Ahponsiri

She even Instagrams her process:

A photo posted by Helen Ahpornsiri (@helenahpornsiri) on

A photo posted by Helen Ahpornsiri (@helenahpornsiri) on

Patrick Rothfuss as a case study for the experience of being a woman

I am here with you today to suggest something that might sound odd: that we can use the experience of Patrick Rothfuss, beloved (male) fantasy writer, to understand what it's like to be a woman.

Some context for those of you who have never heard of Patrick Rothfuss: first, I feel sorry for you, but am happy that your life is about to be majorly enriched with this knowledge!  Second, he is the writer of an incredible book trilogy.  Or rather, two incredible books from a trilogy.  His series, The Kingkiller Chronicles, launched in 2007 with The Name of the Wind followed by A Wise Man's Fear in 2011.

Since then, his ardent and growing fan base have been desperately awaiting the third book (currently titled The Doors of Stone).

Obviously, for those of us who love his books, this involves an exercise in patience.  We all know that patience is the worst, so what I mean is that the experience verges on torment. (I know, I know, the fantasy novel I really want to read is delayed - I know real suffering! and also, it is clear, because everything revolves around me, that he is intentionally taking his time to hurt me and not because writing books is hard and there are many other demands on his time.)

One of the sweet playing cards designed based on his characters.
Check them out here.

Lucky for us, Patrick Rothfuss is still really active on the internet.  He has a blog.  He posts to his Facebook page regularly.  He started a kick ass charity.  He supports fan art from his books and has side projects, like playing cards based on his characters.  So basically, he has avoided leaving us entirely high and dry, and he shares his life with us in a really awesome way.

The thing is, not everyone thinks this is the best way for him to be using his time.  Some people think he should be spending every waking moment (and possibly every sleeping moment) writing the third book.  Because that's how life and creativity and doing a job works, right?  I know when I have a job to do, I work at it tirelessly, barely taking breaks to eat or pee until it's completed.

It used to be that he couldn't post a single thing on his FB page without everyone going "WHY ARE YOU WASTING OUR TIME, STOP WHATEVER YOU'RE DOING AND WRITE THE BOOK!  YOU'RE KILLING US ALL!!!!!"

Here is a sampling from a recent post on his Facebook page sharing an interview he did:

A small sampling of the "encouragement" people post on his FB page.
I didn't blur their names, because they posted on a publicly visible page,
so I figure they don't care.

In fact, I haven't been able to find a single post on his Facebook page where someone doesn't berate him for not having finished the third book yet.  Not even one.  He posted a photo of his son on Halloween and even that wasn't immune.

People even demanded book updates when he posted THIS.

Why does this matter?  Because Patrick Rothfuss is sharing himself, as a person, with us, and his "fans" are saying, "NO, Patrick.  No.  We don't care about you at all.  The only thing you are good for is this book.  You are not a human, you don't deserver rest or fun or to be a whole person with other interests.  You are a book-writing machine.  You exist solely for me to have enjoyable reading-times, and you aren't providing me with enjoyable reading-times, and so I am going to scream at you until you do, because that is the best way to encourage free creativity, right?"

Even the people who don't berate him are laying on pressure: they say things like, "I support you, Patrick, take your time because your books are perfect and I want this one to be perfect and so I don't want to rush you so that you write a perfect book."

So instead of yelling, they are being nice with their demands, saying, "I still don't really care about you, but if I'm nicer to you, you'll do the one thing you are good for: write a book.  Did I mention that I expect perfection?  No pressure."

Pretty lame, right?  Sounds like something a really entitled jerk who sees other humans as a mere means to end might say, right?  Gross!  Patrick is a human!  Let him be a human!

What does this have to do with women?

This is what happens to women all the freaking time.  On the internet and in life.  Except instead of being treated like a book-writing machine, we are treated like nice-looking-niceness machines and sometimes sexual-sexiness machines.

Source: Toothpaste For Dinner

Working on a project?  Making something?  Sharing an opinion?  It doesn't matter!  The responses will range from "I love your hair!" to "Your mouth belongs somewhere else, like on my genitals" with maybe a pinch of "Shut up, you're ugly."

Sometimes it's nice and sometimes it's not, but the result is always the same: ignoring the content of what's being offered and commenting on the package instead.

The point of my post is not to convince you that this is a problem.  If you don't already realize that treating people like this is a bad thing, then I am tired and probably won't convince you, but try reading a zillion other blog posts about the issue and see if that helps.

The point is to use this real-world, very specific, example as an illustration.  It's a way to further understand what it means to treat someone like they are only there for one thing.  For Patrick, it's his books.  For most women, it's looking nice and making other people feel nice.

The moral of the story: next time you are commenting on some lady's post or activity, ask yourself if you're being like one of Patrick Rothfuss' jerkface fans.  Are you ignoring the content of this person's offering and making it about something else?  Is that something else physical?  Is it a means to an end, and is that end all about you?

Like Patrick's "nice" fans who encourage him to "keep writing" and "take his time" with "perfection",  just because you're saying something nice doesn't mean you're actually on side.

HEY LADIES!  THIS APPLIES TO US AS WELL!  Just like meanness on Patrick Rothfuss' Facebook page, perpetuation of the objectification of women comes from all sexes.  Does commenting on someone's awesome hair really need to happen when she's shared a photo of herself graduating?  We are ALL a part of a society that focuses solely on a woman's appearance and sexuality, so that means we may sometimes participate in it.  So there's no need to solely blame men for this.

Cute! Gertie wants inside (our home and our hearts)

I have a balcony with some nice fake grass on it. Sounds tacky, but it's really great! Plus, Gertie loves it. She goes outside and rolls around like it's real grass. That is, until she decides she wants back inside.

Singalong! You Were Meant for Me by Jewel

For some reason I have been on a Jewel kick lately.  You would think I had gone back to my melodramatic teenage days, but no, that is not the case.  Probably it's just that her songs are really really easy to sing along to.  I'm pretty sure this was the first Jewel song I ever heard - her big heartbreak lament.

Watching the video again I am reminded of the distinctness of music videos from the late 90s.  I can't quite describe them, but I know them when I see them.  This, incidentally, is just how US Justice Potter Stewart said in an attempt to describe pornography.  I am in no way comparing this, or any 90s video, to pornography, but there are those totally out-of-place shots of her slither-stripping out of a white nightgown into a nude one.  I can see the planning session now: a middle-aged executive told Jewel, "no, no, it's completely necessary - it's you shedding the skin of your dependency on this man, not an excuse to sexualize you in your folk heartbreak ballad, we swear."

by Jewel

I hear the clock, it's six A.M.
I feel so far from where I've been
I got my eggs, I got my pancakes too
I got my maple syrup, everything but you.

I break the yolks and make a smiley face
I kinda like it in my brand new place
Wipe the spots up off the mirror
Don't leave the keys in the door
I never put wet towels on the floor anymore 'cause

Dreams last so long
Even after you're gone
I know that you love me
And soon you will see
You were meant for me
And I was meant for you.

I called my momma, she was out for a walk
Consoled a cup of coffee but it didn't wanna talk
So I picked up the paper, it was more bad news
More hearts being broken or people being used

Put on my coat in the pouring rain
I saw a movie it just wasn't the same
'Cause it was happy or I was sad
And it made me miss you oh so bad 'cause


I go about my business, I'm doing fine
Besides what would I say if I had you on the line?
Same old story, not much to say
Hearts are broken, everyday.

I brush my teeth, I put the cap back on
I know you hate it when I leave the light on
I pick a book up and then I turn the sheets down.
And then I take a deep breath and a good look around

Put on my pj's and hop into bed
I'm half alive but I feel mostly dead
I try and tell myself it'll all be alright
I just shouldn't think anymore tonight 'cause


Yeah, you were meant for me and I was meant for you.

Learn! Is your penchant for punning a sign of brain damage?

Know anyone who can't help but make lame jokes and puns?  Like, all the time?  Maybe they have brain damage.


Okay, sort of.  What it means is that compulsive joking (diagnosed in German as Witzelsucht) is an actual thing, where people are constantly coming up with jokes and must share them.  People with Witzelsucht find their own jokes hilarious, don't necessarily care much for the jokes of others, and are compelled to share their jokes no matter the situation (like a man waking up his wife in the middle of the night to tell her a joke he had come up with).

So your uncle's bad jokes probably don't mean he's brain damaged, but joking to this level is actually an early indicator of dementia.


On JK Rowling and cultural appropriation

JK Rowling reading Harry Potter at the Whitehouse.
Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons.

JK Rowling has been expanding the universe of Harry Potter by writing stories about the history of magic and, in her exploration of the development of magic in America, used a Navajo legend of the skin-walker as a part of her story.

In the past week, there has been a significant reaction from Native American groups calling Rowling out for using their legends in her stories, and, as expected, a lot of Potterheads are getting defensive and upset right back.

I love Harry Potter and I love equality and respect for all humans and I am a creative person who also draws inspiration from a variety of sources and I know that I am part of a privileged class, so naturally I wanted to try to wade into sorting this out.

Let's start with the side that is not okay with it:

Dr. Adrienne Keene writes a fantastic post on her blog Native Appropriations about her concern on the basis that "Native spirituality and religions are not fantasy on the same level as wizards. These beliefs are alive, practiced, and protected", and cites the historical problem of Native American spirituality being turned into fantasy/magic/pretend in general by westerners.

"We fight so hard every single day as Native peoples to be seen as contemporary, real, full, and complete human beings and to push away from the stereotypes that restrict us in stock categories of mystical-connected-to-nature-shamans or violent-savage-warriors."

She also talks about the personal pain she felt watching the trailer and seeing Native American imagery used next to references to the Salem witch executions.

I certainly can't argue with that.

What does the other side have to say?

Amidst the adults acting like children and misspelling racial slurs, there are some thoughtful responses.

One such response came from the first comment on Keene's post.  Bryan Fields, who identifies himself in the comment as a Native person (from Ottawa) and a fantasy writer:

"I see a big difference between inspiration and appropriation. Appropriation is something done without respect or regard to meaning and context. ... The difference is in how the author handles the material. Charles de Lint, for example, frequently mixes Native and Celtic traditions. Respectfully. Lovingly. What he creates is brand new, but rooted in the heart of both traditions."

He then reserves judgement, not having read the History of Magic and seems to have some trust that Rowling will treat the legends well.

As a creative person, this makes sense, too.

On one hand

Inspiration comes from all sorts of places, and limiting what can inspire people gets us into dangerous territory.  By now every belief system and culture has been used in storytelling by someone from a different background, and that's not necessarily bad.

If every aspect of culture could only be used by people from that culture, well, that doesn't feed into the growth of understanding, unity, or peace in humanity, let alone creativity and art.  When it happens with respect for the original material, in general (and let's emphasize the "in general"), I don't think that is a problem.

Of course, I'm clearly showing a "this was inspiration, not appropriation" bias by saying that.  That's because, as far as I can tell, there is no clear definition of when something is appropriation or inspiration.  A google search of "appropriation vs. inspiration" shows a whole bunch of articles that are equally confused in trying to figure it out, and the main thing I can see is that when a dominant culture that has historically been oppressive gets inspiration from the culture it oppressed, we wade into dangerous territory.

From my trip to London last year. I love Harry Potter!
Of course, love for HP doesn't mean I can't see its problems.

On the other hand

Speaking of context...

Let's go back to the "in general" two paragraphs back.  What are the exceptions to that?

First of all, there are things that are sacred.  Not globally, to every single person, but things that are sacred to specific groups.  Beliefs, practices, icons, legends, myths, and names that are revered and should not be touched or altered, according to those who follow them.

Take, for example, depictions of the image of Muhammed for a Muslim.  Now, I'm not going to say that an artist can't draw a picture of Muhammed, freedom of speech, right?  If you do, however, you have to do so with awareness that you are going to be alienating, hurting, and offending a large portion of the Muslim population.  You need to proceed with awareness and understanding.

Most importantly, there is the context of oppression.  When one culture has systematically oppressed (and in the case of Native Americans the term "oppressed" is putting it all too lightly) another, and then helps itself to aspects of that culture, especially its faith, well... This where we find real problems.

Of course, these problems only exist for people who want to avoid perpetuating oppression and/or hurting entire people groups.  If you're stoked on being a colonizer or don't really care about other people at all, then I guess you won't consider any of this a problem.

On another hand

Does the fact that a belief is real and powerful to those who follow it really mean it can't also be used for fantasy or incorporated into other stories?  Does putting something in a fantasy story really have to take away its real-ness?  Doesn't that, on some level, validate it as something that is culturally relevant enough to get included?

Ah, but the contexts of power and oppression are important in this point - plucking a piece of culture out of a group you've taken over is sort of like beating someone up and then stealing something precious of theirs and making it your own.

Here's one more hand

I would have considered it an egregious error to leave Native Americans completely out of a history of anything pre-colonization in America.  I don't think it would have been better to tell a story of magic being spread around the world by the Brits alongside their ships and guns.

To my (white, Mennonite, Canadian, middle class) ears, that smacks of ignorance and erasure.  Especially considering this is a story where people are spontaneously, naturally born to be magical.  If Rowling wrote a story where magic only spontaneously erupted in Europe, well, yikes.  Talk about self-appointed supremacy.

On a fifth hand

One of my first thoughts was that this could, at the very least, be a great opportunity for people to actually learn about Aboriginal cultures and beliefs.  I thought it a positive that people around the world might be inspired to actually learn about the Navajo.  However, in a follow-up post by Keene, she says that this particular legend is not one for non-Aboriginal people to know, and that this is not the right way for people to develop an interest in Aboriginal cultures.

Okay, I accept that I don't get to go hunt down a Navajo person and pepper them with questions about skin-walkers and expect them to joyfully fill me in just because it was used in this famous story.

What I struggle with here is the idea that there is a "right way" for a person to develop a genuine interest in any cultural group.  It might just be my privilege talking, but even if you don't like the reason a person got interested, isn't their interest that bit of good that came from the bad?  Isn't all of our ultimate goals to be understood?  Especially for people that are traditionally very misunderstood?

On yet another hand

What are the chances that some kid who reads this story will actually seek out real understanding of Navajo culture?  Probably low.

On one more hand

I would have expected someone like JK Rowling to do her research before including these cultural elements in her story.  Maybe they consulted Navajo leaders and were given the go-ahead, but if that's the case, I would have expected that by now she would have said something to that effect in response, and she has been silent.

The truth is that the story is written through a somewhat colonial lens.  Sure, that gives it the feel of a dusty old tome you'd find in a British private school's library shelves, but it's a modern piece of writing being posted on the internet, so that's not really a sufficient excuse.

If this was how your people were depicted
by your occupiers, you might be cautious, too.
Source: Wikimedia Commons

At the end of the day

I agree that Rowling fumbled this one.  I think it was right for her to include Native Americans in the history of magic in North America, but it seems she did it without consultation and she is definitely dropping the ball with her silence now.

Let this be a lesson to all of us who like to create things

If you want to be inspired by another culture, especially one that your culture has done horrible things to (yes, I know you didn't do it personally, I didn't either - "my people" showed up in Canada as refugees after WWI - we still benefit from it so we have to be aware of it), be careful.  Do real research.  Consult.

You may find out that what you want to do is not okay to the people whose culture inspired you.  Then you have a choice: will you use it anyway (your choice, at least now you're consciously stealing), or will you let the idea change or maybe let it go all together?

Not being able to act on your idea sucks, and that's okay.  Everyone has to accept limits in life, and this might be one for you.  Also, the entire creative process is basically one of finding out your original idea doesn't work and watching it morph into something that does.  You let go of that character who you loved but wasn't serving the story, and you can let this go to.

Me & Ryan Gosling: Making distraction look good

You know what's great? Even if someone snaps a photo of you while you're distracted by your phone, my guy Ry-ry will make it look great.

Inspiration! Patrick Rothfuss on voting

I am a HUGE fan of Patrick Rothfuss.  The Kingkiller Chronicles are one of the finest series of books I have ever read in my life, and I cannot WAIT for the third one to come out (although don't get me mixed up with one of those jerk-faces online who berates him every time he posts anything online that is not the finished manuscript, those people are the worst).

No surprise that his Facebook post about voting hit the nail right on the head:

Thanks, Pat, for always finding the right words!

Cute! Gertie the book stand

Yesterday was an incredibly rainy, unfortunate day.  Luckily, I got to be inside with a book (okay, an e-book, but it's still a book), and a cat on my lap.  She was even perfectly positioned to play book stand, which I'm sure was completely intentional.

PS: I'm currently reading The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, and it's great, if incredibly long. This guy needs to write some shorter books!

Singalong! With Every Heartbeat by Robyn

This is the absolute best song to put on if you ever have some feelings you need to dance out.  Singing along at full volume is encouraged.  Luckily, the lyrics are pretty straightforward.

by Robyn (with Kleerup)

Maybe we could make it all right
We could make it better sometime
Maybe we could make it happen, baby

We could keep trying but things will never change
So I don't look back
Still I'm dying with every step I take
But I don't look back

Just a little, little bit better
Good enough to waste some time
Tell me, would it make you happy, baby

We could keep trying but things will never change
So I don't look back
Still I'm dying with every step I take
But I don't look back

We could keep trying but things will never change
So I don't look back
Still I'm dying with every step I take
But I don't look back

And it hurts with every heartbeat
And it hurts with every heartbeat
And it hurts with every heartbeat
And it hurts with every heartbeat
And it hurts with every heartbeat
And it hurts with every heartbeat
And it hurts with every heartbeat
And it hurts with every heartbeat

Learn! Get in your mind-controlled wheelchair and go

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Here's another one to file under "The Future is Now": scientists have invented a mind-controlled wheelchair, AND they taught monkeys how to use it.  Monkeys!  These are the guys who could write War and Peace if enough of them were jamming away at typewriters.

Of course, it involved brain surgery and implanted electrodes, but I'm sure that those will never get taken over my evil masterminds trying to take over the world, right?

It even turns out that they've already been able to do this through external EEG devices attached to the scalp, they just don't work quite as well.

I have always been intrigued with the awesomeness and terribleness of my brain being able to control something physical in the world.  Awesomeness because, well, obviously it would be awesome to be able to move things with my mind.  Terribleness, however, because I can't help but think of how it could go awry.  I get distracted a LOT, after all.

There is a Portlandia sketch that basically explains what would happen to me if I was controlling anything with my brain:

Source: PS Mag

The Artist's Way: Another Hiatus

Here's one thing that happens when you blog about your experience doing a self-directed course: you have to publicly admit your failings.

So here's my latest confession: last week I sort of did what I was supposed to do for The Artist's Way, and this week, I haven't even looked at it yet.


I know, I know.  I've already had one fail.  But you know what?  I don't even feel that bad!  I'm not going to give up, and I'm ready to get back on it next week, catching up where I left off.

Me & Ryan Gosling: After a hike

Despite the fact that, like I said last week, Ryan's not actually all that outdoorsy, here we are on a mountain! It was an awesome mid-summer hike where I wore my favourite neon hat and he was as adorable as ever.

Personal Challenge: The Hypoallergenic Diet

This morning's "approved" breakfast.  Maybe I can do this?

I'm doing it.  I'm doing one of those stupid, pointless diets where you cut everything happy out of your meals and are left only with regret and vitamins.

No gluten, no dairy, no soy, no peanuts or cashews, no corn, no eggs, no sugar (including syrups and honey), no artificial sugar, no refined oils or margarine, no table salt, no caffeine, no alcohol.

The diet is, I believe, intended for people who are having gastro-intestinal issues and don't know why, so they eliminate everything that causes any kind of inflammation in the body and then slowly add things in and see where it hurts.

I have no tummy issues and am not worried about inventing some so that I can make ordering harder in restaurants than it already is (nobody ever puts enough cheese on things, amiright?)  So then why on EARTH am I doing this?

Short answer: thanks, mom.

Last year, my mom went on this diet to try to deal with a persistent skin irritation, and while it did nothing to help with that, it did completely eliminate her seasonal allergies for that summer.

I have pretty bad seasonal allergies (bad enough that for years I got those immunotherapy shots), and anecdotal evidence is super compelling, regardless of its scientific merit.  So I convinced myself to give it a try.

Two weeks of sadness is probably worth three to four months of freedom from itching, right?  Right?  Oh, I hope this works.

Okay, all melodrama aside, this won't be too bad.  This morning for breakfast I made oatmeal with some fruit and cinnamon.  I even ate it out of my prettiest bowl so that I could trick myself into thinking it was a special meal and not a major breakfast demotion from my usual masterful veggie-egg scramble on toast.

Other than the oatmeal, I assume I will consume a lot of smoothies, fruit, veg (roasted as much as possible - raw veggies make me want to give up), beans and rice, and nuts.  My boyfriend did just point out that I can eat some sushi (without soy sauce, of course), so plain sushi will be my special treat!

The plan is to stick with this for two and a half weeks, until Easter.  It's supposed to be a three week cleanse, but I am Mennonite, and we eat paska at Easter and I need my paska or something terrible is going to happen to everyone, so deal with it.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Observe the beauty of Paska
(through the beauty of a vintage-y Instagram filter, of course.)

Inspiration! Buy Me Once

A someone who just feels the worst about consumer culture (how often am I supposed to buy a new phone and computer and blender and couch and patio set and everything else non-consumable that I own??? Really?), I got really excited when I learned about Buy Me Once, a company that specializes in locating and selling quality goods made to last, manufactured with ethics in mind.

Then I got really sad, because it is currently only available in the US and UK (sometimes I think Canada should change its name to United Canada so that we can be in the "U" first club - because it's that simple, right?).

Since a lot of you are from both the US and the UK, you can still benefit where I can only pant in envy!

What's not to love?*  Okay, the prices. The prices, for many of us, are not to love.  For me, they range from "oh dear" to "yegads".  Sure, it's worth it for a better quality item, but "worth it" is not the same as "an amount of money I am capable of spending while staying alive."

Fear not!  If you can't afford their stuff (or aren't in the US/UK club), then you can still use their articles featuring tips on how to take better care of your things, encouraging them to last longer.  Many of the products sold on their site will even be available in your country, and maybe on sale!

Plus, with a little research of your own, how far can you take this "buy me once" philosophy?  Regardless of where we buy our stuff, let's make like the girls in Now & Then and make a pact.  No, not to be friends forever.  That's silly and impossible.  Let's promise to start paying more attention to how well-made the stuff we're buying is, and whether we even need it at all.

In defence of young love

I'm going to say something controversial: there are upsides to meeting, and committing to, your lifelong love at a young age.

I know!  What am I thinking??? This is insane!  Young people are stupid and crazy and need to go be wild before they can possibly commit to anything, right?  Besides, you don't even know yourself yet then, so how can you know/love/commit to/be with someone else?  IMPOSSIBLE!

Meeting someone later in life, on the other hand, is a recipe for happiness.  You already know who you are and what you want and aren't going to make the silly mistakes those 22 year old halflings made.  You will know how to commit while holding on to your identity and maintain the perfect balance of your priorities and your partners.

So.... just for fun, let's pretend that there are some downsides to meeting someone later in life.  What would those be?

Change is still a thing

Sure, we change a lot in our early adulthood: moving out, studying fifty things before settling on a field, finding work in a totally different field, travelling, and basically experiencing life on your own terms for the first time is sort of a formative experience.  I am not convinced, however, that I am done with the formative experiences just because I don't have a "2" at the beginning of my age anymore.

Take the most traditional post-marriage experience: parenthood.  Oh my goodness, if anything is going to challenge and reshape the very fabric of your being, I'm pretty sure that's it.  (Not that you have to have babies or anything, but still: if you did, it would be pretty life changing.)  So by the "wait until you know yourself" logic, should we try out having babies before we commit to a partner?

Start when you're still youthful and you just go through more of the life-changing experiences with someone else.

Youthful stupidity or baggage-fuelled stupidity: you pick

Sure, I have experience to tell me what I do and don't want out of life and a partner.  I also now have an established history of falling totally in love with people who are only kind of into me, which may or may not manifest in a tendency to spend a relationship looking for evidence that the other person doesn't really love me.  Super healthy, right?

Those young, blushing couples have way less opportunity to build up baggage and insecurities and weird relationship fears to subconsciously use against themselves and their partner.

Life gets rigid

I have routines and organizational systems and a busy schedule.  I have my home set up precisely the way I like it to fit said routines and systems and schedules.  What?  Now I'm supposed to change the awesome life I spent so many years fine-tuning just to make room for someone else's bed time, morning cuddles, and weird eating habits?

On the flip side, if you just so happen to meet your shining lover at a younger age, you get the benefit of building your routine and life together from the start, removing this horrible transition where you get all annoyed every time you see their stupid messy desk in your previously-perfect living room, because it's always been there.  (Okay, the desk might still annoy you.)

The clock, oh the clock

Speaking of parenthood - that stupid biological clock is a THING and if you want to have babies of your own and you are a woman (or a man who wants a partner his own age, thanks), you are on a bit of a time limit.  No, not a ridiculously oppressive time limit, but it does mean that you will have less time to enjoy just being with your partner before you start having to make critical decisions.

Oh, and when we're in our fifties with teenaged kids, I'm pretty sure our friends who had babies when they were younger will be living the high life.  They will be royalty and we will be the sleep-deprived serfs trying to balance kids, careers, our relationships, and don't forget about elder care!  Our parents aren't getting any younger, either.

At the end of the day this is all moot, because we all have zero control over when we meet a person who will be a good match for lifelong partnership (if we ever do or even want to).  I guess I'm mainly asking if we can please stop judging young people who decide to commit to each other just because they're young?  I know it's hip to be older and cynical and everything, but that's not the way things have to be.