26 August 2007

no, really, f**k you

one of the things that i've learned observing my cats over the years is that they have a perfect way of dealing with things that offend or annoy them. anyone who's spent any amount of time around cats will be able to tell you that there is absolutely no doubt when you've done something wrong. i consider myself very fortunate to have shared some time with a cat who was particularly expressive in that regard. her general approach was to sit close by, make sure that she had your attention and then pointedly turn her back to you.

she'd do that for even the smallest slight because, as far as she was concerned, manners counted. it wasn't important whether you'd been late feeding her or tripped over her on the way up the stairs. somehow, you had acted unacceptably and you were made aware of that in no uncertain terms.

i think of this whenever i get criticised, not infrequently, for being overly sensitive. i wish that i could conjure up the image of the cat, who doesn't particularly care how important YOU find your trespass to be, but wants you to understand how important SHE finds it to be.

what other people call sensitivity, i generally refer to as being polite. if i get concerned with the way in which people address me or others, it's because i think that, if you're going to open your mouth, you should be able to exercise some control over what comes out of it. start by thinking about how you'd react to the same thing being said to you. even better, just start by thinking.

people who do routinely grate on my nerves for being "insensitive" generally fall into one of two categories:

- people who are just socially clueless and whose linguistic skills qualify them as barely coherent. this is the group that eco would refer to as "cretins", the kind of people who blurt out pretty much anything and can't really be expected to think about the effect of what they're about to say, because they can't be expected to think at all.

- insecure people who will say just about anything in order to diminish others, in a rather sad attempt to build themselves up. these are the people who might seem friendly and intelligent most of the time, who probably are friendly and intelligent (to some degree) most of the time, but who offer criticism at every opportunity (particularly if there's an audience present) and who are generally quick to point out their own achievements in any arena. they're also distinguished by their complete inability to accept even the slightest criticism about themselves.

what puzzles me is that the fact that i don't especially want to tolerate the idiocy of those sorts of people is seen as a character flaw on my part. because it's more common to shoot your mouth off, obnoxiousness becomes the social standard to which the rest of us should conform.

perhaps i'm old fashioned. but, if you've ever seen the movie 'hannibal', where clarice is talking about how the titular killer singles out people who he finds to be impolite? i get that.

but really, i just wish that there was something i could do that was as pointed and unmistakable as a cat.

stay STILL dammit!

ok, i'm really not sure about this whole "morphing animals" thing that seems to be taking over you tube. i'm as cat-crazed as anyone, but this doesn't strike me as cute so much as like it's the detritus from the back end of someone's bad acid trip.

15 August 2007

well heeled


i've tried to explain the various differences between montreal and toronto to many people over the years, but i've never really found an appropriate metaphor, until today. the exultation of montreal's extraordinary joie de vivre ignores the difficulty many people have in finding decent work at a living wage. the dismissal of toronto as being conservative likewise dismisses the absolutely shocking variety of experiences available.

but, fresh off a weekend in montreal, i suddenly thought of a very appropriate way to judge the differences between cities. and it's one you would have thought would have occurred to me earlier: shoes.


so what do the shoes have to tell us?

well, in very literal terms, that montreal weather is harsher than toronto's, so shoes don't last as long. as aa result, montreal shoes tend to look like they've had better days, whereas toronto shoes often look as if they're just seeing the outside of the box for the first time.

shoes in toronto tend to show very little wear. in fact, worn shoes are a fashion statement (or a statement of dire economic straits) in themselves. they also tend to be pricier and from a handful of brands that enjoy an irritating ubiquity (yes, i can spot them).


this points to an economic disparity, because people in montreal tend to have less money, a lot less, than their counterparts in toronto, meaning the shoes are both cheaper and forced to last longer.

there tend to be fewer running shoes in montreal, including those odoious puma "sport lifestyle" shoes, which are everywhere in toronto. why? because montrealers are a lot more fashion conscious and have worked out that, unless you're in a gym, running shoes are a bad end point to any outfit. montrealers would rather buy a good looking pair and wear them wherever they go than stroll in shoes which are built for activity. (which, in turn, says something about the practicality of torontonians.)

the most interesting thing, for me at least, is that shoes in montreal, being more worn, show that they are lived in. they aren't simply slipped on before hopping in the car and then slipped off at the end of the day, having never touched any outdoor surface. shoes carry people in that city from one part of their life to another- often involving being outdoors, walking around the city, or taking the rather admirable public transit system. torontonians are a more predictable, sedentary lot, who move from indoor space to indoor space and tend to treat mass transit like a biohazard zone. shoes are in better condition because they simply never come out to play.

08 August 2007

emo power

there are many different types of bad art, but an easy target is that class of artist who use their creative powers to wallow in self pity and examine, ad nauseum, everything that has gone into making them the pathetic, small-minded, self-obsessed sorts we all particularly love to loathe. you probably know a couple, i'm not going to bother listing any.

that said, since i've been posting some of my writing on that other blog, i've noticed that, consistently, the stories that are the most difficult for me, the ones that deal with the greatest emotional scarring and that consequently carry the greatest risk, are consistently the ones that get the greatest (meaning both the best and the most) reaction. evidently, picking your own scabs in public is something that people can grow to appreciate.

of course, this was never something i saw myself doing, because, like most adults, i'm infected with that virus that makes me believe that expressing any emotion outside the privacy of your own home, where no one else can hear you save the individual you've chosen to burden with your hopes and woes, is an activity to be avoided. in fact, the expression of any emotion past the age of puberty, where elation and agony pass through our systems like water (often with similarly useful output), is generally frowned on as representing a lack of control and the person who is given to emotional expression is viewed as ridiculous.

paradoxically, i think that's both why people relate to any creative work that even hints at genuine emotion- because it contains a sort of expression that we deny ourselves, but which relates to the real experience of our lives- and why there is just so much embarrassing, maudlin, self-indulgent work out there.

after all, how are any of us supposed to be any good at expressing what we feel when we cease to practice doing so when still in our teens? pick any skill you have now. how good were at that skill when you were 15? are you better at it now? that increased skill came with practice. i used to take german lessons, but i haven't studied it properly since high school and i've never had the opportunity to use it (my loss). i don't pretend that i'd be able to have a conversation in that language now.

the reason that a lot of work dealing with emotion reads like bad high school poetry is most likely because that's what it is.
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