30 September 2013

mental health mondays :: the wrong of rights

really, i should have posted this last week, since in the intervening time, the 24-hour news cycle has completely forgotten about the fact that a man went on a shooting rampage in washington. there was, for a few brief media moments, a discussion of whether or not the navy yard shooter should have been given the clearance he had to entire a u.s. military site, given that he had a history of violent outbursts and had complained of being tormented by voices. such discussions seem to have been an almost desperate attempt to avoid using yet another mass shooting as an opening to discuss gun control. that doesn't entirely surprise me, since the most recent move by the gun lobby has been to protect the rights of legally blind americans to own and carry firearms. that may seem bizarre, but on the other hand, it's just the logical [?] extension of a premise we hold true for all of our rights: that they apply equally to all people. in the case of the washington navy yard shooting, it seems like the media missed an opportunity to have an important discussion about whether or not all rights should apply equally to all people. maybe there are cases where your physical or mental defect should curtail your constitutional rights. it's a thorny issue, but as the death toll mounts from people who were known to have serious psychological problems carrying out mass shootings, the question needs to be asked:

should people with mental disorders have the same rights to gun ownership as everyone else?

there is plenty of evidence that even people with the most severe mental disorders are far less dangerous to others than they are to themselves [although that point in itself could be an argument against allowing unrestricted access]. and the vast majority of gun crimes are committed by people who do not have any kind of disorder. restricting rights to any group on the basis of their mental health establishes a flat-out dangerous precedent that sets the legal stage for the stripping of any rights on the basis that it is in the interest of public safety. you're creating a sub-class of citizenship that's defined by a health condition. scary stuff.

on the other hand, what's at issue is that people who have been diagnosed with mental disorders are not the best decision makers. and it doesn't have to come to hearing voices [normally a hallmark of advanced schizophrenia]; mental disorders often make people feel isolated and paranoid about those around them, feelings that can be amplified by the feedback loop that often marks disordered thought. others are prone to panic, their thought processes stuck in a sort of overdrive where the brain believes it is fighting for its survival. the ability to make rational, informed choices about when it is necessary or even advisable to fire a gun can be severely compromised in the disordered mind and it can be terrifyingly inconsistent.

in canada, there are restrictions to gun ownership based on a prior history of mental disorders, particularly if those disorders are linked to violent behaviour or threats of violence. but here, gun ownership is a matter of legal and not constitutional freedom. south of the border, it's a whole different ball game. 

living in canada, the question of mentally ill people having access to guns is not a daily thing for me, but that doesn't mean i don't worry about it for friends i have in the united states, or that i don't get angry that the overblown rhetoric around the subject blocks reasonable discussion from happening at all.

29 September 2013

is "breaking bad" breaking bad history?

source
if you're friends with me on facebook, you probably know that i have an ongoing thing called "sunday
quiz time", where i just ask random questions to my friends and often get very interesting answers. it's a little more intermittent than it used to be, but i still love getting the responses, so i've been trying to keep it going.

if you live in north america and, i suspect, anywhere else in the world where you're exposed to american popular culture, you'll be aware that the amc show "breaking bad" is ending tonight.

i haven't watched it, ever, because i haven't yet succumbed to the twenty-first century and gotten a netflix account and amc isn't part of my cable package. i am curious to see the show, because i've heard it's a writer's fantasy, where cautious, constrained scripting and deliberate character development is king. it's the kind of thing that never happens in popular entertainment, because the last thing that that anyone who counts is interested in is writing. [if i'm wrong and you hate it, don't correct me. i'll find out on my own time, but for the moment i'd like to cling to the idea that good writing can still count for something.]

but despite my own ignorance of the show, i couldn't help being inundated by the talk about what's going to happen in the grand finale. so i chose the following as today's "sunday quiz time" question :

"what is the greatest t.v. show finale of all time?"

25 September 2013

making faces :: but then this happened

the new pretty?
this might stretch beyond the purview of "making faces", but it does tie into my investigation of colour analysis and my attempts to identify my own best colours both in makeup and in clothing. and it starts with a question:

why should it be so much easier to see what works on other people than it is on oneself?

i suppose i should say that's a rhetorical question, because if it isn't meant rhetorically, then it's kind of a dumb question. it's easier because you can be more objective about other people and because the truth is that unless you work in a mirror factory, you're not used to seeing yourself at all times. in fact, most of us start to get a little creeped out if we're confronted with a mirror when we're trying to work, or read, or put on tights. [no woman in the world wants to remember what she looks like putting on tights, believe me.]

when i did a draping for dom, i was surprised at how easily i could zone in on his best colours and, in fact, feel comfortable naming one season as his best. several months after starting this process, i'm not a whole lot closer to a final decision. it's not that dom is necessarily easier to peg, but that dom isn't me. critically looking at how we appear means questioning the decisions we've made about how we present ourselves and those decisions can represent a pretty significant root system underneath the surface. choices about how we dress are linked in adolescence to what we identify with, at a time when we are first starting to establish our independent identity. for many [not me, obviously] the clothing or makeup we wear becomes functional, but i think it's comparatively rare that there is no thought process behind it. it's just that we've internalised the thought process so thoroughly that we don't even notice it happening anymore. questioning what really works on you can complicate things, since it can make the process of selection slower than it has been in a long time, but it can also mean admitting that you've been wrong all that time.

23 September 2013

making faces :: seasonal colour analysis for boys

what's good for the goose is good for the gander
i said i would and somehow i convinced dom to let me drape him to help determine what shades
worked best with his skin. he drew the line at a lipstick drape but i really wasn't expecting to be able to get away with that.

although most colour analysis texts and web sites are directed towards women, there is absolutely no reason why men should be excluded. after all, this is just dealing with colours that work well with the skin. it's not a question of putting on makeup [although it can help you choose makeup colours if you do wear it] or doing any sort of styling. it's just about putting on the kind of colours that you'd want to choose that are going to make you look your best. and who the hell wouldn't want to do that?

aside from the question of whether or not you want to look attractive, colour has a significant impact on the impression others have of you. the wrong ones can make you look older, unhealthier, even smaller and weaker without you ever having said a word. and the human brain will perceive those things no matter what you say to contradict the perception.

dom, like a lot of us, had found certain colours that he gravitated towards. his french background has given him what i think of as typically gallic colouring- medium skin with a noticeable olive-tan tone and very dark hair and eyes. seriously, you're not a whole lot more likely to find a natural blonde in many parts of france than you are in china. his assertion going into this exercise was that he had always found that he could wear black and earth tones.

i'm strictly a dilettante in this field, but what little i know about colour analysis told me that that wasn't possible. true black is a cold colour, at the top end of the saturation scale. earth tones are uniformly warm and usually muted. being able to wear both would require a rather significant contradiction. so i remained open-minded, but quietly convinced that only one of those choices could possibly be correct.

and as it happens, one of them kind of was.

21 September 2013

saturday slothiness [the late version of friday favourites] 21.09.13

image of the week
IT'S ALL OVER, PEOPLE.

tomorrow is officially the autumnal equinox. light and dark will be equally balanced and from there, it is the inevitable annual creep towards the darkness. although there has been some rain and a few chilly nights, september has thus far been beautiful and at times even hot, so there's very little leaf action happening right now. a few splashes of red have started to stain the trees along my street, but it's more like flesh wounds, not like someone bleeding to death. [i've been told to stop making that analogy. i've been told especially to stop starting conversations with it. even more especially to stop starting conversations with clients with it.]

in fact, fall is my favourite season, as i've mentioned, so i'm generally in a good mood around now. but that's no reason not to continue to take pleasure in the little things that brighten every week. which is my segue into...

good news :: things i can't make up from around the internet

a selection of the worst of the best of the worst: ten years of winners of the bulwer-lytton writing contest. named in honour of the man who first wrote the phrase [or at least first published it] "it was a dark and stormy night", it rewards writers for coming up with the most turgid, overblown, ludicrous and inappropriate opening line for a mercifully unwritten opus. mad props to the person who started with the words "he was a dark and stormy knight".

i'm reasonably certain that someone was planning on throwing their own severed testicles at my wedding, but i'm sorry, someone beat you to it. [h/t to jason]

gentlemen, we are visual beings living in a youth and beauty obsessed culture. and this reporter thinks it's time you get with the program.

you know what makes postal workers go postal? knowing that people are using their service to ship each other things like grenades.

but really, the only thing you really need to see from the internet this week is louis ck's devastating explanation of why he doesn't want his daughters to have smart phones yet. [h/t to dom]

goings on :: things you can and should participate in

if you're in montreal, it's time for pop montreal, the annual fall festival that counterbalances the spring and summer festivals. this one has been one of montreal's stronger and more interesting assortments for a few years, in that you can never tell who is going to be there. they also have a tendency to schedule all the acts i want to see on the same night. for once, that seems not to have happened and so here are a couple of recommendations for you:

wednesday, september 25 :: the legendary pink dots :: the ever-ephemeral dots have always had a soft spot for montreal, but their appearances here are getting fewer and farther between. they do manage to carry their quirky psychedelia well in a live environment and i've actually found that their performances have gotten stronger more recently than they were in the late 90s/ early 00s.

friday, september 27 :: pop. 1280 :: i've gushed over these snarling, seething darlings from williamsburg before and i'm happy to be able to see them for the first time as part of their tour for the new album "imps of perversion". [they played here when touring for the last album, but i wasn't able to make it.]

in addition to the music, you can also take advantage of some interesting culturally-themed events happening as part of the festival. check out the whole line-up on the [rather irksome] on line schedule.

but before all that gets underway, tomorrow night [september 22] you have the opportunity to spend the equinox enjoying a new musical performance by morelikespace friends eric boivin + fourthousandblackbirds with video accompaniment by dominic marceau [better known around these parts as dom, the person who puts up with me and makes sure i don't set any serious fires]. the performance is part of kabane77, an annual outdoor event hosted by the people behind constellation records and the hotel2tango. you can find all the details on facebook.

musical notes

speaking of dom, here's a video he did for a slice of black metal mayhem by metaconqueror. metaconqueror is actually john stillings, also known as half of steelhook prostheses.

Metaconqueror: Traveling Through Lower Spheres from F Squared Media on Vimeo.

something i learned this week

i apparently have no idea what colours look good on me. i've been discovering this for a while as i've explored the world of colour analysis, but it kind of hit home this week. i'll have more to say about that in the coming days, but suffice it to say that it involves one word: rust.

goal for the week

i failed to make the first soup of the year, but to be fair, a lot of this week was salad and spritzer weather [and i didn't make those either]. between shows and work, i don't know how much cooking i'll be up for this coming week, but i do want to make sure that i correct one lapse from the last few days: i want more fruit.

that's not really a goal, or at least not a difficult one to achieve.

but related to my "something i learned", i have been meaning to try out some seasonal colour analysis tricks on dom to see what colours flatter him. [since he's a guy who actually knows what a mirror is and how one is used, this does not involve forcing him to do anything, either.]

kitteh of the week

speaking of knowing what colours work for you, seth clearly thinks that he wears black and white better than i do.



have a great week everyone. if you do happen to stop at either of the pop montreal shows i've noted above, please feel free to say hello [assuming i don't know you/ am not going with you/ haven't been secretly stalking you]. on wednesday, i'll also be celebrating the fact that my fortieth birthday is turning one, so i'll probably be... especially jovial...

this week's image of the week is a picture of contraband alcohol being dumped in prohibition-era detroit. in case you've ever wondered how old buildings get into a state of disrepair...

you can see it and a number of other remarkable shots here.

18 September 2013

making faces :: bright [spring] ideas

thought i'd share a look that i did, one that i felt was a decent example of a bright sprain palette.

if you've been reading these posts for a while, you'll know that i have been trying to figure out my sci/art colour type. although i haven't specifically posted about this in a while, i have been categorizing some of the looks here with seasonal colour analysis tags, based on my understanding of where they would fall. now, not all looks go easily into one season or another and i am not a trained analyst, so this is far from a scientific process, but i still think that it is at least a pointer in the right direction.

as a quick recap, sci/art analysis takes the "four season" system and develops it, acknowledging that most people are neither purely warm or purely cool and that things like eye and that hair colour are actually less relevant to determining a person's most natural colour matches [or "season"] than a careful study of how their skin tone reacts to different colours. in order to do this, colours area divided by hue [warmth vs coolness], value [lightness vs darkness] and chroma [level of saturation, from soft to full].

i've approached finding my own season with as open a mind as possible. for instance, i was always pretty certain that i wasn't one of the pure warm true seasons- spring and autumn- but i tried them out anyway. interestingly, neither was among the worst on me. neither was good, in that really warm, rich colours have little to connect with in my skin, but i was a little surprised that they were more manageable for me than others.

16 September 2013

mental health mondays :: one thing leads to another

and sadly, that's probably the good news
i've posted here before about my sleep problems, but to recap for those of you who might not have read the
previous posts: i have them. i go through periodic bouts of insomnia, although fortunately they don't tend to last quite as long as they used to. in fact now, it's more like i have a sleepless night from time to time. the problem is that those times have been occurring with alarming frequency in the last few weeks, where there are more nights that i've managed less than four hours sleep than not.

to make things worse, last night, when i was finally able to sleep, i immediately started having some pretty intense nightmares, which resulted in my measly two hours of sleep getting frequently interrupted but also in dom's sleep being interrupted [and possibly the neighbours], since i woke up screaming several times.

this, of course, made me want to know if there was a link between mental health and our dream life and, perhaps unsurprisingly, there is. this study undertaken by a nigerian professor and researder shows that the correlation between mental illness [in this case depression or schizophrenia] and nightmares is kind of shocking. turns out that people who are already troubled are three to four times as likely to suffer from recurrent nightmares as those who are not. in addition, medications that are often taken to control the most acute effects of mental illness- like benzodiazepines- can cause nightmares when patients are inevitably forced to discontinue them.

what's worse, professor mume's study references another [found here, although only the abstract is available for the unregistered], which apparently found that those who suffer nightmares more frequently are actually more likely to show symptoms of psychosis than those who have more pleasant dreams, no matter how vivid or realistic those dreams might be. it's not clear whether nightmares are visited more on those who are crazier to begin with or if having frequent nightmares is a contributing factor to pushing vulnerable people over the edge, but either way, horrifying problems in your sleep are likely to indicate a greater chance of horrible problems when you're awake.

sweet dreams.

14 September 2013

"saturday selections" aka, friday favourites 13.09.13

image of the week
no, i did not miss yesterday's "friday favourites" because i was superstitious about friday the 13th. if you check, this isn't the first friday the 13th to hit this blog. i missed posting yesterday because i was exhausted after a long week at work and a long week of having lulu getting energy spurts in the middle of the night and using her time to attack my vanity and all the toys that i keep there. what's most infuriating is that she knows she's being bad, that she's being awful, but she won't stop when i ask/ tell/ beg her to. she does immediately stop and bounce lightly out of view when i start to get out of bed to stop her. but she returns minutes later to continue playing. and i just don't have enough storage space to put everything in drawers. so in other words, i missed yesterday's post because i came home, had dinner and promptly passed out.

i have no excuse for last week. that was just stupid.

but without further ado, here they come...

good news :: things i can't make up from around the internet

hey, remember that movie where the computer becomes sentient and evil and starts preying on everything that opposes it? oh wait, that wasn't a movie...

you know who makes a lot of stupid comments about rape? everybody.

fda tells americans to eat shit. and that's not even a euphemism.

human surfer brined and marinated in molasses: coming up next on the food network's "shark week".

so if you're ever pulled over because you have passengers in your trunk, the police do not accept the excuse that there was no room in the car because the back seat was filled with pot. although you might have a shot at escaping while they're rolling on the ground laughing at you.

musical notes 

forget the new my bloody valentine. the new medicine album is th'shizzle.



something i learned this week

it's been going on for a while, but as i've been dieting and trying to improve my eating habits overall, i've completely gone nuts. and not in the "mental health mondays" way either. [that happened long ago.] i was told by a naturopath i work with that i should consider keeping different types of raw, unsalted nuts at my desk to snack on, since my biggest weakness comes from cravings for fatty foods. now, you can't just shovel them into your maw by the fistful, since they're pretty high-caolrie and, yes, high in fat. but they have good fats and the fact is that it doesn't actually take that many to sate a craving or make you full.

how much they've been helping my weight loss is something that will be determined over time, but i can already report that they've helped in just about every other way. my energy level has been higher [lulu's best efforts aside] and steadier than ever. i have not been craving greasy foods [the system works!] and i've even found my mood has been better. and i owe it all to nuts.

the best part for me of course is that i really haven't ever met a nut whose taste i didn't like [i'm a little ambivalent towards peanuts and walnuts] and practically every type of nut has something awesome to offer. aside from healthy fats, most are high in fibre and contain vitamins that are easily absorbed, can help regulate your cholesterol [lowering the bad and raising the good] and are a good source of calcium. read all about it.

all hail nuts [in moderation]!

goal for the week

the weather has turned cooler and in my world, that means one thing: it's time to make soup. so this week, i want to make sure that i cook up a nice batch of something that reflects the autumn colours that i'm just starting to see outside.

follow-up and shameless self-promotion

well, seeing as my very last post was self-promotion... i don't really have anything to add here. thanks to those of you who jumped at the chance to download your very own copy of "conversion"!

kitteh of the week

although lulu is not averse to posing for photos, it can be difficult to capture them when she's at her most energetic. although sometimes, you get a shot that does give a reasonable impression of what it's like to be around her.

my god, it's full of beans

that's all folks! i think it's about time for my nap...

this week's image of the week was taken by robert seber. find the original here. and thanks to dom for coming up with the alternate title!

12 September 2013

have it your way, baby!

have we got a deal for you!!
first of all, a big thanks to those of you who have downloaded "conversion" from vimeo! we've been
thrilled to see that so many people have been interested in watching our little film that could.

recently, vimeo has made some changes to their "on demand" service and we've decided to adjust the settings for "conversion" accordingly. here's the deal:

up until this week, the video on demand service only allowed for paid streaming. so far $5usd, you could were purchasing a feed that remained active for six months. within those months, you could watch the movie as many times as you could possibly imagine, until you set some kind of bizarre world record for number of times watching "conversion". [note :: it would be a pretty significant number of times to compete with dom, who can recite the entire script, with sound effects, backward.]

but now, things be different. now, vimeo have a download option. and we've decided to take advantage of that.

you will still be able to stream if you'd prefer not to clutter up your hard drive or make a lifetime commitment to loving us. it will still cost $5, but from now on, the stream will only remain active for three months. to all those of you who have purchased a stream already, of course, it will remain active for the full six months you were guaranteed. so basically, if you were among the first to buy in, you get three bonus months. [call now and we'll also include this wonderful 100% cruelty-free cat hair sleep mask!! you just pay extra shipping and handling!] [you should probably take your meds now. -ed.]

however, if you'd rather not bother with a temporary arrangement and would like to welcome "conversion" into your home for the long haul, you can now download the film for $10. no cut off date, no having to renew. for just $10, it's yours forever.

once again, the link to make the purchase is right here. operators are standing by.

[awesome conversion shamwow imagery by dom, of course.]

09 September 2013

mental health mondays :: here for you

i didn't actually know this until a couple of hours ago, but apparently this week is suicide prevention week. a week designated to stopping people from giving in to despair. you might think that it's a waste of time, but you'd be wrong. people who are likely to commit suicide are known to telegraph signals of their intent well in advance, as a sort of subconscious scream for help.

here is an excellent summary of why this week is important from the huffington post.

here is the canadian mental health association's page on suicide. and here is their page on helping prevent it.

we've all heard the cliches of the suicidal person giving away their possessions or making arrangements for treasured possessions [or, say, pets] in the event that "something should happen to them". what we may not be as attuned to is the elation that can come from the decision to commit suicide, where a friend who has seemed depressed or desperate can suddenly become happy, without there being a change in their circumstances.

as much as we like to think that someone who talks about how they are going to kill themselves is unlikely to do so, the fact is that expression of suicidal intent is one of the biggest red flags that you can have. most times, if someone says it, it's because they've thought about it already. very seriously.

if you know someone who you think might be contemplating suicide, say something to them. the worst thing that's going to happen is that they'll know that you care and you'll have a great laugh about it.

if you are contemplating suicide, take a moment to collect your thoughts and let someone else close to you in. no one knows what you're planning and the people around you may have a very different perspective you haven't considered.

in closing, here's an anecdote from my past. during one of my lowest periods, i was thinking about ending things. i was thinking about it a lot, because i just couldn't see a positive future for myself. one day, while i was at work- i was doing a lot of volunteer work for a community radio station at the time, although i don't think that i'd actually joined the paid staff at that particular moment. i guess i had gone off on a particularly negative rant to one of the other volunteers. it was atypical of me, since i usually kept things on a light, humourous level with everyone. the person to whom i was speaking took a long pause and said "don't go doing anything stupid, ok?" we had a very fun, joking relationship to that point and i think that the person was unsure how to respond. so he had said the first thing that came into his mind.

that moment changed my life. it made me realise that others were aware of me and that people cared about me enough for it to matter if i were gone. it wasn't a big speech or someone sitting me down to have a talk. it was a sudden, serious thought interjected into our daily banter, but it made me aware that i might matter to people. and that realisation was all it took to pull me one crucial rung higher on my black hole of depression. i didn't magically get healed and feel better, but it was an important step. and it might have saved me.

so let me reiterate:

if you think that someone you know is depressed enough to be contemplating suicide, say something. say anything. you never know what's going to help.

if you are contemplating suicide:

just try letting your demons out for a moment so that others can see them. you might be surprised at how many people want to help you drive them away.

08 September 2013

making faces :: marky marc's funky bunch

nothing will get fashion and beauty fans talking, yelling and eventually punching like a designer launching their own cosmetic line. the issue is contentious because of its straddling of the worlds of creativity and branding. it's fine to have a well-known designer come out with a cosmetics line- many fashion houses have made cosmetics for years and the two seem intrinsically linked, both connected to our pining for beauty and aesthetic titillation. the problem for most fans comes up because such "collaborations" generally involve a designer selling the rights to use his name to a company that makes cosmetics and the result is, at best, someone's impression of the designer's style or personality. for months before it launched at sephora in august, the marc jacobs cosmetic line had been a subject of lively discussion, as fans tried to determine the extent to which the man was involved in the actual development process.

in this case, jacobs has outsourced development to experts: his makeup line is made by lvmh, who also own guerlain, givenchy, benefit and makeup forever in the cosmetics industry, plus a little chain of stores called sephora, which makes for a nice distribution system. the official word is that he was very involved in all aspects of the line, but what are they going to say? there are photos of his notes that have been circulated, but really, only marc and probably several hundred people at lvmh know for sure.

certainly the product names seem like they could have come from jacobs, linked as they are to some of his favourite cinematic moments and elements, but does that the products reflect his vision? [also, using movie and pop culture references to name products is not exactly original, having been done sublimely for years by francois nars who took the iconic photo of jacobs posted above.]

having seen, swatched and tried out the marc jacobs line for myself, my answer is: i honestly don't know. the collection has a sleek, modern, youthful feel to it that i associate with his designs, but if i can pick up on that myself, so could anyone else involved in the design process. the other part of my answer: i don't really care all that much. yes, it would be nice to think that designers who value their creativity wouldn't just sell their name to the highest bidder, but such things happen. i was a little more disturbed to hear that jacobs has become the creative director for diet coke.

what really matters to me is how the products work and, having tried out a few items, i'd say: pretty well.

04 September 2013

making faces :: madame refuses to wait

something tasty's here...
so despite the fact that i had a three day weekend in which i really didn't accomplish a whole heck of a
lot else, i was remiss in getting swatches of some of the new things that i've added to my collection. and one of them just didn't want to wait for me to have time this weekend or take chances that the light might be less than perfect for her.

honestly, though, i don't think "madame batifole" would need to worry. one of three new and limited rouge g's from guerlain's fall collection, i believe she'd be stunning in any light.

first of all, madame has pigment. all rouge g's are pigmented, of course, but not all have quite this much. the only other i've met that is her match is "gigolo", from guerlain's 2011 fall collection. the two shades do remind me of one another in a way i can't quite put into words [which won't stop you from trying -ed.]. both are berry shades with a lot of red in them. "gigolo" is deeper and purpler. "madame batifole" is brighter and pinker. both have a hint of pinky-red shimmer that doesn't read as frost but does somehow affect how the colour is perceived. perhaps they're day and night versions of each other? or light and dark? "madame batifole" translates roughly as "the lady frolics", whereas gigolo... well, you see where there might be a thematic link.

direct light
indirect light
of course, the two shades don't look especially similar for the reasons i've outlined above. nor does the lady really resemble mac "rebel" [seen here], although both fall into the same category of shade- bright berry tones. the madame is more pink/ red, noticeably warmer. my recently acquired urban decay "jilted"has a somewhat similar base, but they part ways from there. "jilted" has an icy sheen that pulls the colour decidedly cool, whereas la madame runs warm.

02 September 2013

mental health mondays [special labour day edition!] :: burn baby, burn


EDIT :: more like space friend martin rouge sent me a link to the service industry version of the psychology today burnout test. given that the service industry has the highest rates of burnout, that makes total sense.

so those of you in the service industry can go here.

others can proceed to the regular burnout quiz below.

my readerfriends are teh awsum.

*

a friend on facebook recently shared this article about how our thinking on the advances of the modern
labour may not be quite so substantial as we're lead to believe. in fact, when labourers first began to organize and demand that employers change their policies regarding hours worked, minimum holidays and safety standards, what they were actually endeavouring to do was reclaim rights that had been guaranteed to most workers before the industrial revolution. so when you hear talk of how far things have come, keep in mind that the starting point has been arbitrarily chosen to fit that narrative. look a little further back and you might find that labourers worked very hard, but often for only part of the year, or worked long days because they had a substantial break in the middle to consume their lunch.

the article linked above itself includes a link to this study, showing that one in three americans are chronically overworked. it's hardly unique in its findings [and increasingly applies to countries besides america as a mania for austerity and workplace martyrdom spreads through the world like a strain of virulent diarrhea]. many scientists have pointed to the costs to the health system and to productivity because of the increasing pressure to work harder, not smarter, costs that include sick days or sick leave, insurance payouts and turnover. but here's the million dollar question for labour day: if it's such a massive, well-researched, well-understood problem, why is no one doing anything about it?

the one in three figure is a significantly larger proportion than workers exposed to asbestos who became  sick and governments have stepped in to force companies to set aside funds for their victims and to ban the material in order to prevent future illnesses. is this just another case of a mental disorder being judged as inferior because it lacks physical proof?

well yes. and no. in fact, burnout does present with physical symptoms, which can include hypertension, insomnia, heart disease and more. so chronic stress actually has a leg up on other mental disorders, in that it can be easier to prove. [at the very least, someone with those problems would be counselled to reduce their stress as part of a treatment program, even if it couldn't be identified as the primary cause.] the issue is not with proving the effect, but with assigning responsibility. i say "responsibility" rather than "blame", because i fully believe that a majority of managers and workplace supervisors don't want to cause stress- it makes their lives more difficult- but that the constant pressure to perform better, to bring in more money, to save on costs and to innovate is so engrained in the western industrial mindset that it's pretty challenging to think of outside solutions. furthermore, our records of what life has been like since the industrial revolution are considerably more detailed than records of peasant life say 600 years ago, which can make it difficult to tell how things were managed before the era of longer work days and severely restricted vacations.

what complicates things further is that most moderate-to-large corporations are trapped in a perpetual panic cycle, having their managerial direction put under scrutiny every three months in the form of quarterly reports to investors and/ or directors. this mitigates against the possibility of larger, long-term planning. the benefits of reducing workplace stress may not be seen over such a short term, which makes them a difficult sell, especially for companies faced with declining or stagnant profits.

finally, most of the information on how to deal with workplace burnout focuses on actions that can be taken by the employee. which might be helpful for one individual at a time, but there's little available guidance for companies even if they've come to the decision that they do want to make changes for the better. and if you're starting a business, there's even less information on how not to cause employee burnout in the first place. so immediately, the problem is being treated as something outside the norm, a freak possibility that a company might encounter, even though statistics don't bear that out.

those who have gone through burnout or work-related periods of extreme stress can tell you that the pressure it exerts on mind and body can be like a toxin. the solution, then, i'm convinced, is to treat it as one. best if corporate leaders step forward to make changes themselves, but, in the absence of any short-term incentive to do so, i personally don't see that as likely. which leaves us with the possibility of government intervention, always problematic, but proven effective.

or public insurrection.

want to test your own burnout levels? here's a quiz from psychology today. it's long enough to be somewhat in depth and separates your results into areas where you're doing fine, areas where there are some signs of problems and areas where you need to pay serious attention. you'll need to pay for the in depth analysis, but the test and the summarised results i've described are free and do not require registration. if you're feeling stressed for time, there's a simpler, faster test [although not professionally vetted] that you can take here.

the image at the top of this article is taken from lifehacker, specifically from this piece, which does give advice on how to deal with [your own] burnout.
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