Saturday, April 30, 2016

Singalong! Homeward Bound by Simon and Garfunkel

I first learned this song in my grade eleven guitar class. I loved it, but never really enjoyed playing it because it has a bar chord in it and I was never able to master the bar chord. Guys, those are hard! I don't know how everyone else does them so easily. Sometimes I would still play it for fun, just skipping the one chord every time it came around. It was a total musical statement, and definitely not just me being lazy.


HOMEWARD BOUND
by Simon and Garfunkel

I'm sitting in the railway station.
Got a ticket for my destination.
On a tour of one-night stands my suitcase and guitar in hand.
And every stop is neatly planned for a poet and a one-man band.

[Chorus]
Homeward bound,
I wish I was,
Homeward bound,
Home where my thought's escaping,
Home where my music's playing,
Home where my love lies waiting
Silently for me.

Every day's an endless stream
Of cigarettes and magazines.
And each town looks the same to me,
The movies and the factories
And every stranger's face I see reminds me that I long to be,

[Chorus]

Tonight I'll sing my songs again,
I'll play the game and pretend.
But all my words come back to me in shades of mediocrity
Like emptiness in harmony I need someone to comfort me.

[Chorus]

Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Learning! Infographic on cognitive biases

I love cognitive biases!  Okay, they're not actually great, because they lead us to often do the wrong (or less ideal) thing, but they are fascinating.  Talking about cognitive biases is probably one of the number one things that makes me come across as a total know-it-all, but I can't help it!  They explain why we so often do such ridiculous things and think we are right to do them.  There is actually no way to counteract cognitive biases except (maybe) for being aware of them and noticing when they are happening.

In the day of curated internet content, I think our most frequently encountered biases are the bandwagon effect (thinking something is right or doing it because everyone else is), the availability heuristic (thinking something happens a lot because we can easily think of examples), and confirmation bias (thinking information that confirms our beliefs is "more correct" than information that contradicts them).



Learning! Skull buzz tones

Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Forget fingerprint and retina scanning!  There's a new biometric measure in town to confirm identity: the buzz of your skull.

Turns out, the way a sound wave changes when it passes through the bones in your head is unique to you, and researchers have found a way to identify people based on this by using a bone conduction speaker and microphone.

We won't have skull-scanners at the check out anytime soon - so far they can identify people with 97% accuracy, but only if there's no background noise - but once we enter the post-apocalyptic world where we all experience life through VR headsets, this might be our main method of identification.

Source: New Scientist.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A new computer that's powered by AIR

University of Washington Researchers Invented WISP: a battery-free computer
Source: WISP Wiki

I love the future!  Scientists at the University of Washington have created a tiny computer that doesn't require a battery because it pulls power directly from the AIR.  Specifically, it uses radio waves emitted by an RFID reader (that's what your fancy door fobs use), and converts those into electricity.

So far it can be used to track sensor data (similar to what a FitBit might do) and could easily be used for things like wireless headphones.  It's also already been applied to cryptography and security-related processes.

If there's one thing that drives me nuts about our incessantly wireless society is that it means EVERYTHING needs to either have it's batteries replaced or charged.  (Oh, you've upgraded me to a bluetooth mouse at work?  Great, let's stock up on 5,000 AA batteries.)  This could actually be a huge game-changer if it ever gets applied to consumer goods.

It's also totally open source, so if you're a tech-smart person, check it out on their Wiki!

Source: PFSK, Washington University, Co.Design

Quantifying women in film

You know how women be all like "there aren't enough women represented in movies!" and then someone says "but what about Frozen or Sex and the City?" and then everyone else is like, "those are two examples, so we can no longer argue the point."

Well, if you're tuned into gender issues you've probably already seen this make the rounds online, but I like to share things well after they've been popular just in case someone else is as behind the curve as I am.  Over at Polygraph, an amazing website where they find data to do with various pop culture phenomenon (data and pop culture!  Fun!), they did a study of 2,000 films to actually quantify the amount of dialogue women get, as well as the ages of the characters represented.

What did they find?  Well, let's let the graphs do the talking:


First, they analyzed Disney films. I don't know why they picked Disney specifically, perhaps it was just easy to find those screenplays. Whatever their reasons, I think it's important to look at what stories we are telling our children, as that will shape the way they see the world from the start.

I also find it FASCINATING that the story that got us all excited about a feminist movie for kids (Frozen) actually had less female dialogue than male.


This one is all 2,000 movies that they could find scripts for that matched well with IMDB pages.  Each dot represents a film.  If you go to their page, you can hover over the dots to find out what they are, as well as sort by genre and search for specific movies to find out where they lie.  Fun fact: Now and Then, which I super-loved, is one of the two films with all-female dialogue.



Finally, you can look at the top-grossing movies and pick specific ones to delve into further. There are the movies you expect to be bereft of women (Ocean's 11, Rocky), and then ones where you don't know where they'll fall. I love Wes Anderson movies, so I checked out The Royal Tenenbaums.  Turns out that 79% of the dialogue in this ensemble-cast movie is spoken by men.  The vast majority of that comes from Royal himself, followed by the male narrator.  Two out of the five characters with the most words spoken are women.

Now, once we start looking at individual movies, it's easy to justify the imbalance: so that particular movie had a male narrator, isn't that okay?  The story is about a dad who calls his children back together because he is dying, so it makes sense that he would talk a lot, doesn't it?  Isn't that okay?  Can't we tell stories about dying dads and have male narrators sometimes?  Of course we can.  Dying dads will always be an important part of filmic storytelling.  As long as Morgan Freeman is alive, we will have male narration of cinema.

What this shows us, in pretty stark, quantifiable terms, however, is that it's not just one movie about a dying dad with a male narrator.  The Royal Tenenbaums isn't the problem.  Neither, really, is Ocean's 11 or Rocky or Glengarry Glen Ross or Reservoir Dogs.  It's the pattern.  It's a really really big, really significant pattern.  And now, we have some numbers to show for it.

Could we use more numbers?  Yes.  It would be awesome to have stats on things like screen time, what perspective the story is told through, amount of clothes worn, as well as which characters are active or passive.  But heck, it's a start!

Source.

Me & Ryan Gosling meeting up with an old friend in London

In September I had the awesome fortune to be able to go on a short trip to Europe!  I have a few friends living over there, including this lovely lady, and we had joyful reunions.  It is a little known fact that Ryan is incredibly shy, so he just sort of stood there awkwardly while my friend and I bounced around.  It's okay though, once we got a chance to sit down and chat, he was perfectly comfortable and now they're pretty much besties.


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Inspiration! Be an eternal beginner

the receptionist be a beginner at something

Here's another one from the folks at Lifehacker (via NPR): for a fulfilling life, try always being a beginner.

No, that doesn't mean to avoid ever becoming good at anything, but to always have something new you're learning.  It can be as simple as taking up pottery or starting a new sport, or learning skills that might actually lead to a bigger career/life objective.  

I know every time I delve into learning something new, not only do I get a thrill from the expansion of my world, knowledge, and skill set, but also a handy reminder of what it's like to be a beginner and that it's okay to be kind of sucky at something.

Inspiration! Like the Four Tops said, reach out and I'll be there

I just came across this beautiful piece of installation art from Burning Man.  What a perfect reminder of how we pull away from each other when we really want to draw closer.



Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Book Club: The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

My most recent book-world to explore has been The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson.  This one I read for my actual, real-life book club.  As per usual, SPOILERS ABOUND.


The World

The world resembles in some way how I imagine the times of the Old Testament, in the sense that it is a time of deeply divided kingdoms and dusty battle in rocky/desert-like conditions.  Of course, this is fantasy, so it's actually very different.

First of all, the land is basically all rock.  They live in caves that they cut out of the rock using Soulcasters - people who use a special instrument to transform anything into anything else (literally - they also soulcast food).  They have storms called High Storms that bring some kind of power to everything (called stormlight).

There are humans (living in the kingdom of Alethkar) as well as other races: the Shin, Parshendi, and Parshmen.  The Parshmen are servants to the humans.  They are quiet and docile and seem to be happy to be commanded, which we all know is always a bad sign because no race is just super happy to serve all the time.

The gender roles among the humans are pretty interesting.  Men are basically only in charge of war and combat.  Maybe physical labour.  Women are scholars, engineers, artists, and writers.  Men don't even know how to read or write in this world.  Of course, while it's interesting to explore a world where fields that, in the real world, are generally run by men (scholarship, engineering, etc.) are seen as feminine, it's also nothing too special, because the old gender divides are still strong: there is "men's work" and "women's work" and a man is really looked down upon if he does "women's work."

Oh, and people are divided by being lighteyes and darkeyes in terms of social standing and power, so the button is tied pretty tight on the whole race-relations metaphor.

The Story

First we meet a very tired soldier who is trapped in some kind of repeating life where he battles (with others like him) to save humans in a giant war, and then when they die or complete the battle, they loop back around and have to do it again.  They abandon their posts, leaving humanity to fight for themselves.  Later it becomes clear that they were probably what people call a legendary Radiants - god-like figures who used to fight for humans against thevoidbringers  and then suddenly disappeared.

Next thing we know, we're at a feast where the human king of Alethkar is celebrating a new treaty with the Parshendi people, but the Parshendi have commanded an assassin (a Shin man named Szeth) to kill him, and make sure he is seen doing it.

The story then jumps ahead, six years into the war of vengeance between the people of Alethkar and the Parshendi.  We mainly follow a few characters: Dalinar, brother to the slain king and protector of the new king; Kaladin, apprentice surgeon turned soldier turned slave; Szeth, the Shin man who was forced to assassinate the king and now is traded from master to master with no choice but to kill a bunch more people; and Shallan, a young budding scholar who makes herself ward to Dalinar's niece and discovers dangerous secrets about soulcasting and the Parshmen.

We also meet a bunch of random characters along the way who have no bearing on the story at all, but I'll complain about that later.

Overall Impressions

I honestly don't really get why people love Brandon Sanderson so much.  His books are so long and I don't generally get truly interested in what's happening until at least halfway through - and when the book is over 1,000 pages long, that's kind of a problem.  That said, once I got interested I was really interested.

Here's the problem, though: clearly, what Brandon Sanderson really wants to do is write one, giant, 5,000 page book.  He just wants to put all the characters in and share everything to do with their journeys and show off all the different aspects of his world, but he can't do that all in one book because not everyone has e-readers and carrying around a 5,000 page book would make our weak little backs go out, so he separates it into a few separate books that are still really long but not quite so bad.

Great idea, except that most book series still separate the greater story into littler story-chunks that are satisfying on their own.  The end of The Way of Kings didn't actually wrap up ANY of the storylines in the book.  He also introduces BRAND NEW CHARACTERS throughout the entire thing (including one around page 700!  700!  Yes!  That's right!  At 700 pages!  A new character!)   This would be okay if they advanced the plot somehow, but they DON'T!  They all just get little one-off chapters.  They are like the standalone episodes in a season of Buffy when they realize that things are getting way too serious and they need to put something light-hearted in there to keep fans from giving up on life.  They are like flavour text on a character card for a role playing game.  Except that this is a 1,000 page book and that is too long of a book to have flavour text and/or standalone chapters.  Besides, I can only invest in the journeys of so many people.  Eventually, I just don't care.

I will give the benefit of the doubt that they probably reappear later in the series, so that's something, I guess.  Except that at best he's using that as a tool to push people to get the next books, sort of like how Dan Brown ended each chapter in The Da Vinci Code with someone who looked up and was astonished by what they saw (keep reading to find out what that was!)  It's the book version of click baiting.

Of course, if I was completely lost in the story and devouring the book I wouldn't care.  I would read this one and then the next one with vigour and say "oh well, it had some structural faults but I love it and everyone should, too!"  That's basically what I thought about The Bone Clocks - lots of structural flaws, but I loved reading it so it didn't bother me.

So now I'm stuck: I am finally interested enough that I want to know what happens to these characters, but I don't want to actually read the rest of the series and go through thousands more pages to get there.

PS: I looked up Brandon Sanderson and now I feel bad for not liking his books very much, because he just looks like such a nice person.  Sorry, Brandon.  Don't feel bad.  So many people love your books.  Maybe I just don't get you.

Photo by Nihonjoe, Wikipedia Commons.


Monday, April 25, 2016

Cute! Puppy love

This puppy is just the CUTEST!  He (she? I can't remember, sorry pups, but you know what?  You're welcome for not sticking you in a gender binary) visited my office and just LOOK AT THAT FACE!  It was dangerous because you basically wanted to forgive every single thing the puppy did because it's so cute, but it's probably not good to reinforce the attack-like behaviour.


Sunday, April 24, 2016

Animals on Tinder

New project!  I am taking real-life lines from Tinder profiles and putting them in the mouths of sweet little animals.  Isn't that fun?





Saturday, April 23, 2016

Singalong! Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles

I LOVE THIS SONG!!! Sorry, am I yelling? I'm yelling. I can't help it! I love this song so much! It's just beautiful and calming and hopeful and wonderful. It's got the same message as "Tomorrow" from Annie, but it's a nice song to listen to. Also, sorry that the video is this weird garage band thing - it is surprisingly hard to find Beatles songs on Youtube that aren't sung by other people.  (Or George Harrison - sorry George, you're great and all, but I just need Paul McCartney's voice on this one.)


HERE COMES THE SUN
by The Beatles

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
And I say it's all right

Little darling, it's been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it's been here

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
And I say it's all right

Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces
Little darling, it seems like years since it's been here

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
And I say it's all right

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes

Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting
Little darling, it seems like years since it's been clear

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
And I say it's all right
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
It's all right, it's all right

Photo by Scanpix. Creative Commons.

Friday, April 22, 2016

From Ask Dr. NerdLove: Why being a "wild youth" is unnecessary


Have you ever wondered if you're squandering your youth?  Or, if you're like me, have you ever tried to articulate why you think the notion of youth being a time for "wildness", lest it be squandered, is wrong but had trouble doing so?  Lucky Ask Dr. NerdLove has taken care off t!

I have been trying to sort this out ever since I was eighteen and working for one month at Danier Leather.  I would spend the day awkwardly hanging out while my coworkers talked about the drugs they were taking and random sex they were having and how everyone "has to try these things" while they are young otherwise they'll go crazy later.  I felt really uncomfortable because a) those things weren't my jam and so I couldn't participate in any conversations and b) I completely disagreed that the experience of being "wild" was a necessary part of youth, but could never articulate why.

Here is why.  In response to a question from a young man who is in a relationship with a woman he loves and is completely happy with, but is worried that they met and fell in love too young and that they'll regret not having more experience and wind up cheating or something, Dr. NerdLove says:
Why, exactly, are you afraid of “wasting” your 20s? What, exactly, is it that you can do in your 20s that you can’t do in your 30s? In your 40s? In your 50s? To quote a wise man: 30 is the new 20. In fact, as many people will tell you: your 30s are frequently better than your 20s. You have more money and more experience, and a better idea of who you are. Our society worships youth. So much of our pop-culture is about people in their teens and 20s doing amazing things, so we get these ideas that we can only be amazing in our teens and 20s. It becomes part of this cultural narrative that there’s only one way to adult: that your 20s are for being flighty and experimental and your 30s onward are for being boring, settled-in adults.

You can have adventures in your 30s. You can have crazy sex with strangers in your 40s. You don’t have a ticking clock telling you that you have only so many years before you’re required to settle down and give up on excitement and adventure. Spending time worrying about what might happen in your future means that you’re not enjoying the time you have now.
THANK YOU!  Also:
You don’t actually have a problem—in fact, you’re both pretty happy—but you wonder. What if you’re making a mistake? What if you’re squandering your youth? What if, what if, what if?

Fun thing about what-ifs: you can basically what-if any situation. What if you wake up in your 50s and wish you’d done more fucking around? What if you take a break from your girlfriend, date around and realize that no, she really was the person you should be with, but now she won’t get back together with you? What if you break up with your girlfriend and then a meteor smashes into your apartment, killing you instantly? Sure, it’s implausible… but what if??

What If is the language of paralysis. It’s the language of your jerkbrain poking you in your anxieties, hitting you with that little nagging voice that asks: “what if you’re missing out?”
This is, obviously, about relationships, but if you ask me, it applies to everything.  It's George Costansa telling us that we can't actually just enjoy our lives, that it's always going to get ruined.

Well, sure.  At some point we will probably regret a choice that we made.  At some point, the awesome thing we have might go away or we will feel a bit stir crazy and need to make a change in our life.  So that means we don't enjoy it while we have it?  That we throw something away just in case later we get a little bit of cabin fever?  You can tire yourself out by running around like crazy so that spending a day in the cabin feels like a well-earned rest, but you can't pack all your cabin-time into one half of your life and assume that if you spend all your time in the lake now you'll never want to go down there again.  Amiright?  Did I overuse that metaphor enough?

Anyways, I could keep going, but instead I'll just say "that's what he said" and refer back to Dr. NerdLove's post.

Okay, one more thing: I do think there are some people who have a greater "go and adventure" pull than others.  These are the people that need a higher level of freedom in their lives.  They don't do well with 9 to 5s and see mortgages as a tether (whereas I see it as a freedom - if I travel I can rent out my home and keep making money?  Sweet!).  These people will probably be war correspondents or bump around the world as bohemians, picking apples in groves when they need to before jaunting off to Burning Man: Australian Outback.  This is wonderful for them, and is in no way confined to youth!  It's not something to "get out of their system", it's just who they are.

So as Amy Poehler says, "good for you, not for me", and let's not generalize this to something everyone should be doing before they turn 30.  You can still go pick apples and go to Burning Man when you're 35.  It's okay.

Learning! The psychological value of confessing


It's no surprise that people feel a drive to confess: from churches to the popularity of Post Secret, it's clear that we like to get things off our chests.

A recent article in Scientific American shares about the overall benefits of confessing and how you can get them whether or not you are religious.  In fact, they focus mostly on expressive writing as a form of confession, which has the added benefit of being totally private.

What are the benefits of confessing (whether out loud or to your diary)?  Well, according Dr. James W. Pennebaker, one of the key benefits is putting our emotional experiences into words, which makes them more concrete and less menacing, helping us understand them better.  Another theory is that by writing things down we no longer feel the need to go over and over them in our minds, reliving the bad feelings time and time again.

Whatever it is, people who practice expressive writing tend to have lower stress and sleep better, on top of feeling much better about their worries.

Get out the notebook-confessional!

Source.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

A new way to split the bill


Here's an interesting idea: instead of splitting your next group-dining bill based on what everyone ordered (or ruining everything by splitting it equally between everyone regardless of what anyone ordered), an app called EquiTable will let you split the bill based on everyone's privilege.  

Just log in, enter your race and age, then indicate your gender on the sliding scale between male and female, and bam!  An equitable, not equal, division of the bill.

If you're given a higher amount than you want to pay, you can protest and indicate and excuse from their list, including "this isn't an issue anymore" or "just spent $400 on improv classes."  The app won't give you any sympathy though.

Of course there are issues with this in general - I feel fairly certain I am under-earning for my demographic, for example.  Consider it more of an educational tool: if everyone was paying based on what they got the opportunity to earn, how would things be split?

Me & Ryan Gosling getting out to vote!

We had an election here in Canada last November (October? No, I think it was November.) Ryan is super excited about Canadian politics (who isn't, amiright?) and we went to vote together. Then when we took our "I voted" selfie in front of the polling station, he was so excited he went all Oprah on everyone walking by, "You get to vote! You get to vote! Everybody gets to voooooooote!"

Adorbs, right?

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Inspiration! What if you can't get no (artistic) satisfaction?


"No artist is pleased."
"But then there is no satisfaction?"
"No satisfaction whatever at any time," she cried out passionately, "There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive."
I love this!  Not because I think artists should never feel good about their work, but because it describes what really drives us - or me, at any rate.  Sure, I feel a push to create something or another in part because I have a vision for a final product, but more than anything there is, as Martha Graham puts it, a "divine dissatisfaction" when I am not making things.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Sleep with the SHARKS!

I know this is old news now, and the giveaway is long over, but do you realize that Airbnb did a giveaway for people to sleep with SHARKS?  LOOK AT THIS!  Some lucky couple of people have already slept in this shark tank, so the rest of our lives are now 50% worse by comparison, but maybe it will get opened up for sale at some point.  How much would you pay to sleep here?

Airbnb Paris shark tank contest.  See more here.

Oh, and it's in Paris, guys.  PARIS.  Maybe our lives are 75% worse now.

Source.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Cute! Dino drawings

Beware, if you ever draw a doodle and leave it at my house, I will probably photograph it and keep it forever.  Years ago, I had a friend cat sitting for me while I was away, and came home to this musical dinosaur.  Isn't he cute?


Saturday, April 16, 2016

Singalong! I Could Never Be Your Woman by White Town

This song came out in 1997, a year my boss and I generally consider to be one of the greatest years for music. Hearing this song was the first time in my life I heard a singer perform a song that didn't fit in with their gender. Hearing Mishra, the male singer of White Town, sing "I could never be your woman" confirmed for me what I already suspected to be true: a person can create a piece of art from any perspective in life, not just the one they were born with. Plus, it's a fun song to sing and if you chose to do it at karaoke there are lots of hilarious robotic actions you could do to illustrate the words, so we all win!


I COULD NEVER BE YOUR WOMAN
by White Town

Just tell me what you've got to say to me,
I've been waiting for so long to hear the truth,
It comes as no surprise at all you see,
So cut the crap and tell me that we're through.

Now I know your heart, I know your mind,
You don't even know you're being unkind,
So much for all your high brow Marxist ways,
Just use me up and then you walk away.
Boy, you can't play me that way.

Well I guess what you say is true,
I could never be the right kind of girl for you,
I could never be your woman.

I could never be your woman,
I could never be your woman,
I could never be your woman.

When I saw my best friend yesterday,
She said she never liked you from the start,
Well me, I wish that I could claim the same,
But you always knew you held my heart.

And you're such a charming, handsome man,
Now I think I finally understand,
Is it in your genes, I don't know,
But I'll soon find out, that's for sure,
Why did you play me this way?

Well I guess what you say is true,
I could never be the right kind of girl for you,
I could never be your woman.

I could never be your woman,
I could never be your woman,
I could never be your woman.

Well I guess what they say is true,
I could never spend my life with a man like you.
I could never be your woman.

I could never be your woman,
I could never be your woman,
I could never be your woman.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Learning! Just say grow to GMO


When it comes to food, I used to be a stalwart member of Team Say No To GMO.  I bought into the frankenfood rhetoric and hated on everything from Monsanto as well as the repercussions for people with allergies.

Turns out, like with microwaves, I was totally wrong.  GMO food may have controversy attached to it, but it is pure political controversy.  There has actually been a ton of research on GMO food to determine its level of safety, and it's been found to be so unexciting that there is no scientific controversy over it.

I have wanted for a while to post something about the relative safety of GMO food, but was honestly a bit too lazy to piece together the different aspects of the research on it into one post.  Luckily, since the US recently passed a law approving labelling of GMO food, Lifehacker did it for me!

Read their article for all the info, but suffice it to say that if you are concerned about pesticides, GMO isn't the place to blame.  Same if you are concerned about superweeds, unpredictable DNA shifts, or allergens.

The only real concern, if you ask me, is Monsanto.  Yes, Monsanto is the worst, but fighting GMO and fighting Monsanto are not the same thing.  Monsanto got to where they are today because of legislation that allows them to claim proprietary ownership over food, not because GMO food is inherently bad.

Source.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

How to disagree with a feminist

This is the only way arguments between men and women can go, right?
SIGH.

I can't tell you how many conversations I've had with men who don't think they can disagree with a women in discussions about feminism or sexism.

I get where they are coming from.  After all, the one thing we don't need in the world is more men telling women that sexism isn't happening.  However, most situations aren't black and white, and if we want to make real change then men and women have to be able to engage in these conversations together.

So how do you talk about it, then, without being a mansplaining, sexist jerk and dismissing their viewpoint, while still voicing your own?

Lucky for us, some hoopla has cropped up in the Vancouver theatre community, providing us with the perfect case study!

THE CONTEXT

There is a play happening in Vancouver right now called Dead Metaphor by George F. Walker.  It's a very, very dark comedy.  I haven't seen it (and probably won't get to), but from what I understand there is a ton of bad language in it, including rape jokes.

It is worth noting that George F. Walker tends to write plays that are very crass with very strong female characters.  He's not known for writing that is safe, nor misogynistic.

The reviews for the play have overall been positive, except for one: a critic named Erika Thorkelson, who writes for the Vancouver Sun, felt the play was sexist and called that out in her review.

Then George F. Walker replied, apparently by email, so I don't know where it's been posted except on a blog post by another local reviewer, Colin Thomas.

In Thomas' blog post, he comments on Thorkelson's review and he largely disagrees with her.  Herein lies our case study: we will compare and contrast Thomas' response to Walker's and see what we can learn from two men who take very different approaches when disagreeing with a woman about a gender-related issue.

THE COMPARISON

You should read Thomas' post, where he includes the full text of Walker's response, as well as his own.  I will provide some excerpts.

Let's start by recognizing that defensiveness is a very normal (if un-helpful) human reaction, and where Walker had something personal to react to, Thomas would not have felt the need to defend himself, so he would have had an easier time being even-handed about the whole thing.  So there is that.

From George F. Walker:

“A guy with frontal lobe dementia calls someone a cunt and you call it ‘gender based profanity’? I guess you know nothing about my work. How women are treated in my work. How they are usually at the centre of my work. The only other critics to bring it up was an on line woman writer roughly your age I think."

"There are many deserving targets for that kind of response. I’m not one of them. My three daughters (one of whom has a degree in Sexual Diversity) and all of whom are feminists are truly saddened and a bit disgusted by your review. Put some of that presumption out of your head before you come anywhere near my work in the future. It’s just idiotic.”

From Colin Thomas:

Thomas analyzes a few aspects of Thorkelson's argument, but I'll focus on the part where he disagrees with her: the issue of the character named Hank calling one of the women in the play a cunt and saying that he'd like to rape her dead body.

"I acknowledge that Hank can be offensive. As a gay man, I go into high alert when I hear cocksucker getting tossed around. (Don’t try to tell me that cocksucker isn’t almost always a homophobic slur.) But, obviously, it would be a mistake to conflate the character’s position with that of the playwright. For all of his left-wing heroics, Hank is also a reactionary old fart on some levels. And I’m okay with that. He’s a character. He gets to be flawed."

"We’ve got to be careful with one another. Analyzing the underlying values of a work is part of that care. For me, Dead Metaphor provides adequate context for the line, “I’d like to fuck your corpse, you sinister whore!”

OBSERVATIONS

What is the difference here?

Where Walker ignores the content of Thorkelson's arguments and calls her names, Thomas addresses what Thorkelson was actually saying and offers his own perspective.

Where Walker holds up his feminist daughters as human shields (without actually giving them the opportunity to say why they agree with their dad), Thomas uses logic, evidence from the play, and his own personal philosophies to engage directly with the issue.

Where Walker hides behind his historical treatment of women in his work as evidence for this current situation, Thomas considers past writing for context but addresses this play on its own merits.

Where Walker writes off Thorkelson because the only other person who agrees with her is a woman of about the same age (he guesses from their pictures?), Thomas listens to her arguments and even engages in further conversation with her to understand them better before drawing his own conclusions.

THE LESSON

In this case study, we see one man who reacted in sheer defence (again, understandable, but that doesn't make it right), and one who followed Conversation 101 where you listen, understand, and then respond.  We also see one response that is hurtful and one that is helpful.

So how do you emulate the helpful response?

Listen: Actually listen to the content of what the woman in question is saying.

Understand: Make sure you understand her point and where it is coming from.  Ask questions if you need to flesh anything out.  If she has expertise, take that into account.  (HINT: If you are not a woman, she knows more about what it's like to be a woman and experience sexism than you.)

It doesn't mean she is automatically right; book publishers are sometimes wrong about what books will sell, and women sometimes see sexism where it doesn't exist, but in general, both parties have experience and knowledge behind them that you probably are missing.

(Warning: if you truly seek to learn and understand their point of view, you risk changing your own.  If you are unwilling to do this, it's best to avoid conversing with others.)

Respond: Now that you know what the person is saying and where they are coming from, you can share your view on the issue at hand.  Ideally you will use experience, evidence, or your own personal philosophy to back up your ideas.  Hopefully your goal here is to share your experience to increase understanding on both peoples' parts, not to change her mind.

Warnings: This does not guarantee you will change anyone's mind, and if that is your goal then you probably are missing the first two steps; it is quite possible that if you truly seek to learn and understand, your view of the world will change - if you are unwilling to do this, avoid all conversation with others; resort to name calling and/or telling the other person they are wrong only if your goal is to shut down conversation completely or humiliate them.

NOTE: This is not some newfangled, heavy-handed rule for politically correct conversation.  This is just how respectful conversation works in human life.

Me & Ryan Gosling doing a night photoshoot

Years back, Ryan, my cousin/roommate, and I went on a night beach walk that transformed into a spontaneous photoshoot.  This was during the heyday of America's Next Top Model, so here I am getting my "sexy hunch" on.  My poor Ry Ry's socks were bunching up all weird, so he sat down to fix them (celebrities, they're just like us!  Their socks need fixing sometimes too!)  He didn't think he was in the shot, but of course we never missed an opportunity to include Ryan in a photo!  Even in this distracted state he looks so adorable, doesn't he?


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Inspiration! Just keep writing


One of the biggest challenges most writers face these days is the destructive tendency to keep going back and tinkering with a piece before it's even done.  Word processors are great and all, but I understand why some writers insist on sticking with the old fashioned typewriter -- unless you want to completely rewrite a page, the only way to go is forward.

If this is your struggle, and you don't want to lug a typewriter to your local coffee shop for your writing time, then The Most Dangerous Writing App is here to help you.  It's a simple text-based app that deletes everything you've written if you stop for five seconds.

I tested it out, and it really works!  If you stop typing, a looming sea of red starts to lower down from the top of the screen until - BLAMMO! - it's all gone.

On the other hand, if you succeed, it then allows you to save your text.  All it does there is take you to a plain text screen that only has your writing on it, that you can then copy and paste into any document.

I can see this as the perfect way to force a book out of you, chapter by chapter, do your morning pages, or otherwise just get something written.  It is, of course, incredibly dangerous, but all you need to do is keep on typing (so maybe map out what you want to say beforehand, if that's an issue for you.)

Monday, April 11, 2016

Cute! Gertie thinks of the yesteryears

Is it just me, or when Gertie lies like this does it look like she's an old woman, thinking of days gone by, wondering where it all went?


Saturday, April 9, 2016

Singalong! Everlasting Love by Gloria Estefan

If you need an apology song for your beloved, but don't want things to get too somber in mood, try Gloria Estefan's Everlasting Love. It's just such an optimistic way to say "I'm sorry."


EVERLASTING LOVE
by Gloria Estefan

Hearts go astray
Leaving hurt when they go.
I went away
Just when you needed me so
Filled with regret
I come back beggin' you.
Forgive, forget
Where's the love we once knew?

Open up your eyes
Then you'll realize
Here I stand with my
Everlasting love
Need you by my side
Girl to be my bride
You'll never be denied
Everlasting love
From the very start
Open up your heart
Be a lasting part of
Everlasting love

Where life's river flows
No one really knows
Till someone's there to show
The way to lasting love
Like the sun that shines
Endlessly it shines
You always will be mine
It's eternal love
When other loves are gone
Ours will be strong
We have our very own
Everlasting love

Open up your eyes
Then you'll realize
Here I stand with my
Everlasting love
Need you by my side
Girl to be my bride
You'll never be denied
Everlasting love
From the very start
Open up your heart
Be a lasting part of
Everlasting love


Friday, April 8, 2016

Learning! Friends keep you young


There is so much research on the benefits of having a good social network.  To exaggerate slightly, it will basically save your life.  Turns out, it will also keep you young.

New research shows that having an active social life staves off that steep decline in mental and physical acuity that many elderly people face.  In fact, friendships might be more helpful in this regard than relationships with your own family.

So hang on to your friends, kids!

Source: Pacific Standard

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Artist's Way: Weeks Seven & Eight


Catching up, you guys!  Don't worry, I haven't given up on The Artist's Way (because I know you're all super invested in my artistic development).  Here is my rundown from weeks seven and eight.

WEEK SEVEN

The theme of week seven is recovering a sense of connection.  It's about getting back in touch with your personal creative dreams and drive.  There are some great bits in this one: one is the notion that creating art isn't about thinking something up but "getting something down."  This really connects with me as I often feel I am finding something that already exists when I make something.  Not to even come close to comparing myself with Michelangelo, but he said the same thing about carving the Statue of David - that he found the shape inside the stone.


There is also significant emphasis here on letting go of perfectionism.  I already blogged about it a bit, because it really struck me as one of the most important ideas I can embrace right now.  What would you do if you didn't have to do it perfectly?  List as many things as you can think of.

Jealousy also gets some special attention here.  This is another one that hit right where I was already thinking and knocked that nail in all the way: jealous, while being an unpleasant feeling we may want to ignore, is also useful information.  It is a mask for our fears and feelings of inadequacy.


Next time you feel jealous, ask yourself why.  What do you need to be doing that you're not?  There is a great exercise here called a jealousy map.  It's simply a list with three columns: Who, Why, and Action Antidote.  Who are you jealous of, why are you jealous of them, and how can you meet that with action?  What steps can you take in your own life to deal with that root cause of your jealousy?  It usually boils down to actually starting to work on something you've been wanting to work on.

WEEK EIGHT

The theme of week eight is recovering a sense of strength.  At first the title seems a bit erroneous to me, because it's mostly about dealing with the creative block of time.  So, pretty much, the exact practical thing that I need to deal with in my life.


However, making time for the things you really want to do and taking the risk to do it takes a fair amount of strength.  Creating means exposing yourself and taking a lot of losses (or at the very least risking them).  In this chapter Julia Cameron deals with how to create some resilience to those losses (recognizing your artistic wounds and metabolizing that pain into artistic energy, for example).

The antidote is to keep doing.  To take steps.  To remember that it's not just about having written a book but to enjoy the process of writing the book.  That taking steps towards a goal is an enjoyable thing to do.  So make a goal and figure out what steps you can take towards it every single day.  She calls this process of taking small steps instead of focusing on the big picture "filling the form".  Instead of fantasizing about being a real artist or panicking over the sacrifices you'll have to make when you are successful, find little steps you can take here or there to put that art into your life.


I appreciate this chapter so very very much.  It's so easy to get caught up in the hugeness of something you want to do instead of just taking some steps towards doing it and enjoying those steps.  I have done a good job in the past year of carving out time to work on things, but have let myself flounder in the direction I'm going with that work.  I write every day, but rarely work on the larger projects that I truly want to complete.  This reminds me to just create a plan and work on it bit by bit. Of course, now creating the plan has become the "bigger thing" that I think about and then don't do, but I will work on that plan as SOON as I finish writing this post!  I promise!

Me & Ryan Gosling taking dance classes

People sometimes ask how far back my relationship with Ryan Gosling goes.  Well, let's just say we have a history!  My mom and I were going through my old dance photos and look what we found!  Recognize anyone?


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Inspiration! Clear your head with Mind Capture


"Mind Capturing": it sounds like some kind of post-apocalyptic sci fi threat where people can just poach your mind out of your brain while you walk down the street.  Really, it's a practice you can do to clear your head, pretty much anytime and anywhere.

It's a variation of the GTD Brain Dump or The Artist's Way's Morning Pages, but of course, each of these have slight variations.  With Mind Capture, you just grab some paper, remove yourself from electronic devices, and set a timer for 15 minutes.  Spend that time jotting down everything that comes to your mind: things you need to do, things you're worried about, ideas you haven't yet fleshed out.  It's all fair game.  You don't have to write complete paragraphs, or even sentences, if you'd rather point-form or doodle your idea out.

That's it.  Then when you're done, you might see that an idea has taken shape or a stressor is a bit less stressful when it's out of your brain and on some paper.  You might even have a to do list.

Source: Lifehacker

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Check Your Netflix: An easy first step to being an ally

Let's all try making new choices in the books we read and the shows we watch.

Calling all people!

Looking for an introductory way you can begin understand people who are different from you?  Want to start the process of checking your privilege (whatever it is) and trying to be an ally to a group of people who could use an ally?

Here is a very very easy beginner step: the next time you go to read a book, watch a movie, or binge a show on Netflix, try picking something that was written/directed/produced by or is featuring someone from another background than your own.

See, executive producers and publisher-types generally think that stories about people who are not white, not male, not straight, not gender-normative, or not able-bodied are only of interest to other people from that group, and that stories about white, able-bodied, straight, cisgendered dudes are interesting to everyone, which is both silly and kind of insulting to us all, right?  The whole point of sharing stories is to share a different experience of life, and through that find everything from entertainment to soul-changing realizations.

So here's a simple guide to get you started on seeing the world through someone else's eyes:

Are you a dude?  Read a book written by a woman with a female protagonist.

Are you white?  Watch a show written by and about people of colour.

Are you cisgendered?  Check out a documentary about a transperson's experience.

Able-bodied?  Read a comic from the perspective of someone in a wheelchair.

This will involve a bit of effort because you'll have to look beyond the "Recommended for You" options, but that doesn't mean there's nothing out there.  Just ask yourself, next time you are looking for a new book to read or sit down to binge on Netflix: am I just absorbing more of the same?

FOUR THINGS TO REMEMBER:

It doesn't make you an expert.  Watching Master of None doesn't mean you completely understand life for Indian people in America.  Listening to #GoodMuslimBadMuslim doesn't mean you are a pro on what it's like to be a Muslim in America.  Reading A Complicated Kindness doesn't make you an expert on the experience of women (or Mennonites, for that matter).  Just like Walter White may not represent your reality, Mindy Kaling does not represent all women of colour, so keep going!  Explore more!

It's okay to not like it.  Something isn't automatically awesome if it was made by a member of a "minority" group, and you aren't a racist/sexist/homophobe/anti-disabled-person (is there a word for that?) if you don't like it.  Don't forget, though: just because you didn't like one thing doesn't mean everything from that demographic is lame.  We don't blame all white men for Michael Bay movies.

It doesn't excuse stereotypes.  We have all been raised and educated by this glorious system we call society.  What does this mean?  That means that every single one of us have absorbed a lot of stereotypical thinking and so, for example, a show written by a woman might still perpetuate some sexism.  It's tempting to think a stereotype is "okay" or true if it's been shared by a person from that group, but that is not necessarily the case.  It really just means that either the person has a sense of humour about the prejudice people hold against them, or that we have that much more work to do on this whole thing we call equality.  Probably both.

You are still "allowed" to go with the default.  Whenever these conversations come up, people get really caught up in words like "always" and "never" and "allowed."  Life isn't about constants.  Consider this encouragement to make a greater effort to expand your horizons, not some rule that you can't take in a single piece of entertainment made by a white dude.  I mean, there are more superhero blockbusters coming out all the time and they must be watched!  Just pay attention to your choices, and see what else is out there once and a while.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Cute! Coming home to Gertie

This weekend I went on a little getaway with some friends, and let me tell you, getaways are nice, but it's always a treat to come home to this gal.


Saturday, April 2, 2016

Singalong! Work It by Missy Elliott

I confess: I don't really know Missy Elliott's music. I didn't listen to it in high school (too busy trying to get my punk "rawk" on), but now I have come to realize she is awesome. So this is an aspirational singalong for me - I want to learn it!  Side note: after looking up the lyrics I now see that this song is rather... hmmm... sexual in nature?  I legitimately had no idea.


WORK IT
by Missy Elliott

DJ, please pick up your phone
I'm on the request line

This is a Missy Elliott one-time exclusive (Come on)

[Chorus:]
Is it worth it, let me work it
I put my thing down, flip it and reverse it
I put my thing down, flip it and reverse it [backwards 2X]
If you got a big ***, let me search you
And find out how hard I gotta work you
I put my thing down, flip it and reverse it [backwards 2X]

I'd like to get to know you so I could show you
Put the p**** on you like I told you
Gimme all your numbers so I could phone you
Your girl actin' stank then call me over
Not on the bed, lay me on your sofa
Phone before you come, I need to shave my chocha
You do or you don't or you will or won't you
Go downtown and eat it like a vulture
See my hips and my tips, don't you
See my ass and my lips, don't you
Lost a few pounds and my waist for you
This the kinda beat that go ra-ta-ta
Ra-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta
Sex me so good I say blah-blah-blah
Work it, I need a glass of water
Boy, oh, boy, it's good to know you

[Chorus]

(Come on)

If you a fly gal get your nails done
Get a pedicure, get your hair did
Boy, lift it up, let's make a toast-a
Let's get drunk, that's gonna' bring us closer
Don't I look like a Halle Berry poster
See the Belvedere playin' tricks on you
Girlfriend wanna be like me, never
You won't find a bitch that's even better
I make you hot as Las Vegas weather
Listen up close while I take it backwards
I'm not a prostitute, but I could give you what you want
I love your braids and your mouth full of floss
Love the way my ass go bum-bum-bum-bum
Keep your eyes on my bum-bum-bum-bum-bum
And think you can handle this gadong-a-dong-dong
Take my thong off and my ass go vroom
Cut the lights on so you see what I could do

[Chorus]

(Come on)

Boys, boys, all type of boys
Black, white, Puerto Rican, Chinese boys
Why-thai,-thai-o-toy-o-thai-thai
Rock-thai,-thai-o-toy-o-thai-thai
Girl, girl, get that cash
If it's 9 to 5 or shakin' your ass
Ain't no shame, ladies do your thing
Just make sure you ahead of the game
Just 'cause I got a lot of fame super
Prince couldn't get me change my name papa
Kunta Kinte a slave again, no sir
Picture black sayin', "Oh, yes a master"

Got a Lamborghini so I drive faster
Just makin' hating people freakin' matter
Admit I'm the fucking name won the battle
When I drop this record here you won't even matter

Why you act dumb like "Uh, duh"
So you act dumb like "Uh, duh"
As the drummer boy go ba-rom-pop-pom-pom
Give you some-some-some of this Cinnabun

[Chorus]

(Come on)

To my fellas
I like the way you work that
To my ladies
You sure know how to work that

Friday, April 1, 2016

Learning! East Meets West by Yang Liu

Here's a cool, quick guide for the next time you need a super-swift reference to a cultural difference between the East and West.  Graphic designer Yang Liu has created pictograms summing up some basic differences and put them in a book.

Obviously this all is absorbed with a HUGE caveat that these are generalizations that are super-simplified and are not to be supplanted onto individual people.  Cultural differences are best understood when referring to patterns of behaviour in large groups, not smaller-scale understanding of actual people.





Published by Taschen.  Available on Amazon.  Discovered via Hyperallergic.