Safety dance

I was listening to CBC’s “As it Happens” last night and they replayed an interview that focused on white nose syndrome, a commonly misunderstood disease that has affected over one million bats living in eastern Canada and the United States.  I have read articles on this malady and the photos that inevitably accompany the piece are heartbreaking.   I couldn’t listen to more than a couple minutes of the show because I felt as though my heart had been placed in a vice.  In between deep breaths I kept repeating to myself, “those poor batties…those poor little batties.”

Sheesh – anyone who might have overheard me would probably have immediately written me off as “poor” and “batty” too.

But the crux of the matter is, I am very easily overwhelmed by things I read or hear about.  It’s almost as if a temporary paralysis sets in, and I am unable to concentrate on anything else.   Whatever “it” happens to be, completely derails me from my everyday mental and physical normalcy.

So, just as I cannot stand to listen about the untreatable ravaging of our little nocturnal flying friends, I also cannot get the image of my mother, sitting at her kitchen table, eating two massive pieces of toast, dancing to Maroon 5’s “Moves like Jagger” out of my head.

The difference being, of course, is that this image does not make my heart ache, but swell.

I should clarify however, she was not full on dancing – just shoulder-heavy, top half dancing, with quite a bit of arm movement thrown in for good measure.  The kind of dancing you do when you’re sitting on transit and the BSE (best song EVER) comes onto your ipod and it’s taking everything in your being not to jump up and start breaking it down, because even though no one is sitting next to you and you have a good amount of room, and really, no one is looking, and certainly no one cares, and you think you might as well go for it, you really don’t want people to stare.

In trust, it was one of the most simple, beautiful and hilarious things I have ever seen.  She had never heard the song before, and when it began to play on the radio she didn’t immediately react; my mother isn’t one to immediately burst into the shoulder swing.  (Coincidentally, we were also listening to CBC – we don’t do much else in this family.  Side note: I was having tea with a friend and I asked her if she ever listened to the station and she was like, “No, but my Dad does!” which only reinforced my belief that I may be aging prematurely.)

Anyways, there was mom, sitting, eating her toast, reading the Globe and Mail’s editorial cartoon, and as I’m watching her, I begin to see the song start to work its magic.  The song itself isn’t revolutionary, but it’s darn catchy.  It’s pretty hard to listen to it and not get a good foot tap going.   So first, I notice a finger wag, then, a head nod.  In no time, slowly but surely, and then WHAM!  Shoulders shimmying for all of Canada.

Living so far away from my family members is hard.  As much as I enjoy phone calls, skype chats and e-mails, nothing really can take the place of a face-to-face, in the flesh chin wag.  If anything, as electronic means of communication get better and better, it seems to get harder and harder to maintain individual, in person relationships.  (Also, is it just me, or to cross-Canada flight prices increase with each introduction of an iphone upgrade?)

This conceit is certainly not new, nor is it groundbreaking.   That electronic media has usurped traditional forms of communication is a horse with a “flogged” tattoo on its hide.

The one thing I can, and do take to heart in knowing this, is that the things that make it okay for me to live so far away from my loved ones is not a machine with an operating system that will be obsolete in six months, but the images of a dancing mom, or a poker playing dad, or one sister that eats hot sauce on everything and another who always asks “do you love me?” before she crushes me in a hug.

I will choose a locket with two tiny photos sitting inside it, over an electronic picture frame any day.

Pragmatic addendum: these images that live inside of me are also excellent blinders for the times when I think that 5000km aren’t enough of a buffer between myself and these individuals (but this doesn’t happen all that often.)

In the mean time, I’m going to do a little dance.  And since I’m not on transit, I’m going to give it.  Because hot damn, can I move like Mick Jagger.

Taking up arms

Okay.  I haven’t had cable for a while, so I’m not sure exactly when the Food Network went the way of MTV.  Does anyone know when it stopped showing people actually cooking?  There isn’t one program that features a chef in a kitchen, for as far as the eye can see!  It’s all reality shows.  Granted some of them are awesome – two that I particularly like are Ace of Cakes and Top Chef – but most of them are ridiculous, relying on schlocky, orchestrated drama and the casting of stupid/bland/catty/[insert stock “personality” here to fulfill common but expected stereotype] to make them marginally watchable.

This whole scenario disappoints me for two reasons.  The first being that this television station used to be a solid promotional tool – it made healthy eating, even healthy living, stylish, sexy, easy and fun.  It was a way to ease into culinary adventures.  Intimidated by the sophistication of Martha?  Take up with the Inn Chef (Michael Smith).  Interested is checking out the East Hamptons?  Take a trip to visit with the Barefoot Contessa herself – Ms. Ina Garten (how good is that?)  If you were feeling frisky, you could easily get naked with one Jamie Oliver, or if it was heat you craved all you needed do was turn it up a notch with Emeril.  BAM!  Most importantly, it promoted the self-affirming mantra that, if Yan could cook, so could you!

So it’s dang unfortunate that the overall strategic vision of the network has moved away from the building and sustaining of a strong relationship between the watching public and the food they eat.  Especially in this day and age when there are so many factors adversely affecting this partnership.

Yet as much as I lament this dearth of programming focused on the acquisition and preparation of food, it is the new shows that have taken the place of the golden oldies that drive me batty.  The biggest crimes these shows commit?  Found, perhaps not where you would first look for them – in their names.  Every single one of these programs is some kind of “war.”  DINNER PARTY WARS!!! CUPCAKE WARS!!! Tonight I was cooking dinner with the TV on in the background and an advertisement came on for a Halloween special airing this Sunday afternoon entitled HALLOWEEN WARS (!!!)  Halloween wars?  For serious?  What the fricken heck is a Halloween war?  All I could summon up what the image of Arthur Fonzarelli soaring over a giant shark head.

Really, it just reminds me again how destructive, while at the same time, diluted our language has become.  Only individuals who have never experienced armed conflict could possibly think to name a television program about a baked goods competition a war.  I just want to scream through the television to the producers who came up with this name: YOUR PRIVILEDGE IS SHOWING MADAMSANDORSIRS.

Although, what can you really expect from someone (or multiple someones) who operate and thrive in a society whose own government is constantly waging wars on intangible entities.  Because remember folks, we are currently at war with TERROR!!! DRUGS!!!  HOMELESSNESS!!!  FOOT ODOR!!!  MALE PATTERN BALDNESS!!!

I suppose I should look forward to whatever else we arbitrarily pick to be in conflict with next (as long as my blood pressure can handle it.)  The feeling I`m getting in my bones tells me that this is going to go the way of women`s Halloween costumes – the more inane and mind-boggling, the better.  TROPICAL FRUIT PLATTER WARS!!! NON-FAT LOW-FOAM HALF-CAF LATTE WARS!!! IT SAYS THIS MILK WENT BAD YESTERDAY BUT I`M WILLING TO RISK IT WARS!!!

Yep folks, just wait and see.  Yo Ina – How good is that?

These little white lines

Dear Women:

Remember when we hated you because you were fat?  Boy did we ever dislike you then!  There aren’t too many worse things a woman can be!  Am I right, or am I right?  Oh, what’s that?  You’ve lost weight?  You joined a gym and started running and lifting weights and trying out new exercises and are the fittest you’ve ever been in your life?  Well good for you!  Too bad we still don’t like you.  I mean, even though you’re not fat anymore, you’re just less fat.  Don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re skinny enough.  Plus, you now have stretch marks and seriously, EW.  I mean, can’t you at least try to take care of yourself?  Good grief women.  Just get your head in gear okay?  You can start off by buying this bullshit product which will do nothing to actually minimize the look of those disgusting lines, but instead, further reinforce a feeling of perpetual failure.  Because goodness knows you have failed.  However, if by chance this product does work for you and reverses this natural process, and then maybe, just maybe, we’ll allow you to take pride in your body.  However, by “your body”, we don’t mean anything more than what you look like.  Lest you begin to think that you can feel good about yourself due to the amazing things you can accomplish with your body, just remember – you’ll never be good enough and you will never be more than the sum of your physical parts.

Sincerely,

The World

I work out at a small gym.  It’s a pretty simple organization – exposed pipes, leaky air conditioners, and minimal equipment.  For relatively low price, I use its facilities between three to four times a week with little complaint.  However, two copies of this ad have been hanging in the ladies change room for over the past four months.  I didn’t pay much attention to it at first, but as I passed by it day after day, it really began to grate my gears.

It drives me crazy that a place committed to promoting healthy choices would chose to hang this ad in the women’s washroom.  While I understand that because the gym is so limited, it probably requires the extra revenue from the ad space, but couldn’t they have chosen something that promoted body acceptance (especially within the medium of healthy living, or healthier living?) over HEY EX-FATTIES!  GET RID OF THOSE STRETCH MARKS BECAUSE THEY, LIKE YOU, ARE SO GROSS!

I am so sick of constantly being told how fat, ugly, pimpled, yellow-teethed, glasses-ed, wrinkled and cellulited I am.  Because ninety-nine percent of the time all this is nothing but water of my rubber ducky back.  I am okay with my “flaws” – but mostly because I am capable of standing back and taking pride in the things my body is capable of doing.  However, this used to never be the case, and as I said, the one percent of the time that this does bother me, it really hits me hard.

And the reason that this is sticking so deeply in my craw right now, is because it is at the gym – the place I go to feel fantastic about myself.  The place where I push my body to its limits and marvel at how strong, fast, agile, flexible – WHATEVER – I can become through commitment and hard work, and not the purchasing (under social pressure) of some crap cream.

I think I may go in tomorrow with a notepad and scotch tape and stick the following onto the glass:

Hey Ladies!  I hope you had a great workout today.  Take a moment to reflect on how much faster or longer you can run, how much more you can lift.  Take a moment to relish how good that feels and keep trying new things!

And then I’m going to watch this and feel bloody brilliant:

Please Sir – May I have an “other”?

Every year, around November, there is a Big Lebowski beer garden held at UBC. It’s great fun – people show up in costume, drink white Russians and watch the film at the school’s movie theatre, often shouting out dialogue along with the characters. At the beginning of my third year of undergrad, my husband (then boyfriend), a couple of friends and I decided we would go. The Big Lebowski is one of my favorite films and the chance to sit around in my bathrobe, with the people I love, watching a movie I know by heart, was too good an opportunity to pass up. What made it even more spectacular was the fact that one girl who came along with us had never seen the film and didn’t realize that my boyfriend was dressed up as Walter. She told me the next day, “yeah, I thought he was cute but had really weird taste in clothes.”

The night was a gas and we had a great time – right up until the end. As we were leaving the theatre, we noticed that there was a young man passed out on the floor. He had obviously drank way too much and was lying unconscious, with his top half in the middle of the aisle and his lower half hidden behind a row of seats. People were literally stepping over his head if their effort to exit the building. One girl, in her highly inebriated state, tripped and stepped on his arm.

Horrified by this collective lack of interest in this young man’s state of duress, my boyfriend rushed over to help clear him from the aisle and I ran out to the concession stand to get some water. I quickly relayed the information to the attendant that there was a man passed out inside and asked her for her help. She looked at me and scowled.

“Bottled water costs two dollars.”

Dumbstruck, I repeated that this water wasn’t in fact for me, but for the man-of-dubious-medical-condition lying in the auditorium.

“Could I please just have a glass of water?” I asked.

“I don’t have any cups,”was the response I received. As I didn’t have any cash on me, I ran back into the theatre and procured the money from one of my friends.

“They wouldn’t just give it to you?” He asked, incredulously. I just rolled my eyes in response.

Luckily, after getting some water into his system the fellow began to come around. I wanted to take him to urgent care, but one of his friends showed up (I guess one of them had finally realized that he hadn’t left with the group) and he promised that he would take good care of him from then on out. He thanked us for our help.

I gave him the water bottle, told him to make sure his friend took small sips and asked one more time if either of them wanted a ride to the hospital.

They declined.

I don’t understand how over one hundred people could leave a movie theatre and walk over the body of someone unconscious on the ground without so much as a second glance.

I don’t understand how you could slow down and swerve in order to avoid someone lying prone in the middle of the road.

I don’t understand how anyone could hit someone with a vehicle and flee the scene.

I cannot fathom how anyone could walk by a little girl, dying in a puddle of her own blood, and not, at the least, phone for medical help.

It is beyond understanding.

I do however understand that as as society we like binaries. Good-Evil. Young-Old. Black-White. Us-Them. We like to program our rules, our relationships, our identities through a process of “othering.”

We are, what others are not. And events like the one in Guangdong China feed into this system.

It works wonders for building self-esteem and ego. We can feel good about ourselves through the failings of our “other.” On a micro scale, this could be anything as banal as a sense of satisfaction when you find out that someone didn’t get the job they wanted, or they gained weight, or their girlfriend dumped them. On a macro scale, other factors of huge significance, come into play. Political, economic and ideological systems are the backbone to what is essentially a global version of “I know you are, but what am I?”

This system of “othering” also exists within the confines of our society. The political, economic and social stratification of individuals is imperative not only to global Geo-politics, but the functioning and continuing of domestically operated, social, political and economic institutions.

In simplest terms: it keeps the status quo.

It is only when we lose our sense of self, built out of this “othering”, that we as a society, or as individuals, must confront and question our failings. This is difficult because it is not often that a public event of such magnitude forces us to pause, reflect, asses or deconstruct enduring systems (social, political, economic, etc.) because we have created the myth that because we are not our “other”, we don’t need to.

I chose not to watch the video of this incident. But to those who did, I ask you these questions: Why? Did it make you feel better doing so? Did it reinforce how you felt about how you would act in that kind of scenario? And how did it affect, if at all, your view of the people involved, and the country they live in?

I am not saying we should move the microscope away from others, nor am I saying that the systems operating in Canada are equal to the systems operating in China.  Just the opposite in fact.  We must continue to draw attention to perceived and enduring injustice everywhere and question the validity of existing, long-held systems and institutions, so we don’t have to wait for an event of such tragic proportions to force us to do so.

We should all sit firmly under the looking glass, lest we start to drown in our own reflections.


Little women

“We’ll all grow up one day, Meg.  We might as well know what we want.” – Amy March

I am currently on vacation back east. My sister recently moved back to Halifax and is in the process of starting her first business: a catering – culinary school + general store (she will be a purveyor of all things local and organic in the Metro area). It’s really extraordinary to witness first had what running a company encompasses. While our house at the slowest of times is always powered by an interesting and eclectic electric current – somewhat calmed by its poesy and pastel painted walls – at present we are operating at full speed ahead. We are living in ye olde “house of small business 101” and the kitchen is fully stocked to the gills with gourds, grains and game. Hands down she is doing a remarkable job. Booking jobs, making connections, marketing, networking – she has it all under control, cool as a cuke.

And as the always awesome Aretha and Annie are ones to say: