Rant # 24: This Parrot is Dead

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You know what is the single most annoying thing about being British living in North America?

The other day I was in a bar, chatting to a colleague over a glass of wine, when we noticed a young server was trying to surreptitiously sidle up to us. She wasn’t our server, and we had drinks and menus, so I raised my eyebrow at her.
She took this as invitation to bounce right over, and in hallowed tone she asked, “Ohmygod, are you English? I just loooove your accent, cheerio, pip pip!”
I nodded in affirmation and withdrew eye contact to subtly shoo her, but now she was on a roll…

I should point out that at this point of the conversation, there are three, and only three, options as to what will happen next:

1. They will start talking loudly at you in a Dick Van Dyke -Mary Poppins era accent, convinced that you will thoroughly enjoy this remarkable impersonation of NO BRITISH PERSON EVER! And then helpfully trace their lineage back to the rise of the Druids to prove that they had a modicum of affinity with you.

2. They will start quoting entire episodes of Monty Python at you, whilst telling you that Monty Python was the funniest thing to come out of England ever, (with the possible exception of Benny Hill(!) ).

3. They will combine 1. & 2.

My non-server chose option 1, and informed me in her Disney Cock-eyed Cockney that she was British too. (I believe she said she was Scottish, but her Pakistani sounding Scottish accent threw me off a tad).

So here is the deal: no! You are not British.

In order to save future ex-pats my pain, I have come up with a helpful flow chart to help you figure this out:

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Someone I know has a Welsh-sounding name, so for his wedding he wanted to make a big deal out of celebrating his Welsh heritage. Because he’s Welsh. Very Welsh.
He has never been to Wales. Has no family or even friends in Wales. Doesn’t speak Welsh. His Welsh father? Never been to Wales. Has no friends or family that he knows of in Wales. But he too is Welsh. Very Welsh. Has a copy of the Coat of Arms for his (very common) Welsh surname. So he is Welsh.

Me personally, I am British Canadian. I can say this because I hold Citizenship in both countries. My culture and personality is shaped by my experience of both nationalities. My patriotism is split with love for both countries.
If your parents’ parents’ parents came from Britain, or Germany, or France, and started a new life in Canada or the States, then you, my friend are Canadian or U. S. Of Aian. You don’t need to specify your entire genealogy with a silly title: “I’m a fourth generation German/French Canadian with a touch of Cree six generations back”. No you aren’t. If the word ‘generation’ needs to be used, do me a favour and don’t.

Back to the accent issue: I was going to make the entire rant about how very, very annoying it is to have strangers randomly interrupt me to rave about my accent, but the other week I was at a friend’s wedding, and I met a lovely Scottish lady with the most amazing accent, and I found myself asking her, the way that we accented ex-pats do, whether she too was mad about the amount of strangers who try to impersonate her accent. Sadly, I heard myself asking this in my sad sounding Shrek-sounding Scottish brogue.

What a donkey!

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Rant #23: When Gods Fall

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I have touched on this before – the hero worship of professional athletes. The idea that they are given the world, made to believe in their omnipotence, lifted to hallowed heights by our worship… and then, left to fall like Achilles on the battleground, or become a mythological warning like the human Icarus, who believed he could elevate to godly status with his melted wings of hubris that we built and strapped to his arms.

Today, three news reports are relevant to this rant:

1. The FBI is getting involved in the Ray Rice investigation to probe into when exactly the League was made aware of the video showing the football player punch his then fiance in the head hard enough to knock her unconscious, to prove that the lack of action by the league was part of an immense cover up of JFK conspiracy proportions.

2. The “Bladerunner’ Oscar Praetorius was found Not Guilty of murder in the shooting death of his girlfriend (although, at this time it looks like he will eventually be found guilty of Manslaughter)

3. Mike Tyson, in a live interview on Canadian television, was asked if, as a convicted rapist whether his support of Rob Ford’s candidacy for Mayorship of Toronto would be damaging rather than helpful, to which he responded “Bleep you, you piece of bleeping bleep” several times. Tyson’s outburst is not the surprise. The amount of bloggers and internet commenters blaming the interviewer for setting Tyson off by meanly bringing up his past in an irrelevant and irreverant effort to get attention. Yes, how dare a reporter bring up facts.

So, here is my rant:

Athletes, as is proven time and time and time again, are not above us mere mortals in morality or strength of character. They are more the representations of the Greek or Roman deities who rage, and are angered, and, filled with jealousy or distrust make mistakes. The difference between them and us? They have a lot further to fall from the heights of Mount Olympus.

The Greek and Roman gods were not worshipped for their benevolence towards humans, they were feared for their powers. They were used to teach man lessons that if even a god could be brought to his knees, then a human is so much more vunerable. That we should learn from their mistakes rather than having to suffer their consequences. A fallen god holding the weight of the world on his shoulders, pushing a rock up a hill, having his liver pecked away from his living body all day for eternity, drowning himself trying to kiss his own reflection… being a god is not enviable when they fall.

Leading us back to today: Ray Rice did a bad thing. A very, very bad thing. And, if, as appears to be the case, the team and the league knew about this and covered it up to try to keep Rice elevated for their own needs and greed, then the team and the League too needs to be punished, and, this must be a story that is told, retold and learned from.

Oscar Praetorius, Icarus himself, flew too high. Who knows what happened that day but him, but that isn’t the relevant part of his story. He was a legend of our making, he was infallable. Now he is a shell of a man who will be ridiculed and wasted for the rest of his life. Anywhere he ends up, everywhere he goes there will be a constant reminder of who he was, of how high he climbed, and how far he has fallen. There will be no end to his punishment, regardless of his level of guilt.

Mike Tyson, Tiger Woods, Michael Vick, Jerry Sandusky, Roger Clemens, Ben Johnson, some convicted of crimes, some just guilty of cheating, but all mortals elevated to god status by the masses from an early age.

We shape them by our blind worship, we accept that they have a different moral compass because we do not hold them accountable for their actions, we are blinded by their shiny accolades, by their prowess on the field, by their abilities to do something that we can only dream about, and we want them to be great, and larger than life. We, as a society, make them that way.

We don’t make them rape, or hit, or cheat, or kill. That is all on them. But we don’t stop them. We don’t whisper our discomfort, we pretend quite nicely that what happpens off the field is irrelevant to who they are on the field, that they can still be our gods part-time. Until, it is forced upon us to actually *see* their flaws (through multiple angled video evidence and eye witness accounts from other gods), at which point, we shrug, turn our backs and let them tumble to a cold, hard reality, whilst hurrridly focussing our attention on the next Zeus or Apollo.

Tonight, on the anniversary of a devastating day in human history, millions of people will tune in to watch a football game. We will watch in awe as our gods scrap and fight and show us impossible feats that would make Hercules weep. And we will politely forget to remember the multiple alleged assaults of the one quarterback, or the massive cover-up of the other organisation. We will try to pretend that those are obviously isolated incidents of such rarity that they can never happen again… if they even happened in the first place. Smoke and mirrors, right? And we will easily sleep in our beds tonight knowing that even if one of these gods falls again, we will have nothing to do with it, and the world will keep on resting comfortably on the rest of their shoulders.

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Rant #22 – #Notafeminist #Sorrynotsorry

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I feel like I have been here before. Surely I have ranted about feminism, and I know deep within my core that I need to ignore the #Notafeminist and #sorrynotsorry hashtags, but here is the thing: I was at a stagette this weekend, and I was talking to a girl who told me that she was hoping to move into Human Resources at her work, but “don’t worry, I’m not a feminist”.

Huh?

As a Human Resources Professional, and as a Feminist, I kind of feel confused, offended, and mostly sorry for her education in the realms of both feminism and Human Resources.

Equal pay for equal work? Apparently that is an irrational feminist demand that Human Resources Professionals need to accept as a crappy part of their daily job. Allowing women the chance to be promoted at the same rate as a male of equal ability, skill set and experience? Well, call me a silly butch, but I think that that is a nifty idea. Protecting the job of a woman who was silly enough want to have a career AND start a family? To allow not only her, but her male partner as well, the right to take a leave of absence to raise a child and *still* have a job to return to? Naughty feminist allowing women to dictate the rights of workers.

Point is, whilst there are young girls out there posting the following anti-feminist thoughts, there is a need to rant about it.

 

Keeping this one short as the words of others speak for themselves:

 

I don’t want men to treat me like equals. Have you seen how men treat each other? Lol

*headdesk*

 

Defended the entire male race in my women’s and gender studies class today.

On behalf of the male race, I am sure that they are grateful. Especially the white boys!

i wish i was born in the fifties, being a housewife and all that sounds kinda cute.

Be grateful that you are born into a world where you have every right to choose to be a housewife. And special points for lack of capitalisation.

I completely recognize that my breasts are hanging out and that’s why my drinks are free. As a woman I’m ok with this.

Yeah, I’d agree with that. You are probably not a feminist.

Oh, and a bonus entry for a certain friend of mine:

Women should not be announcers for any sports they haven’t played. Your opinion doesn’t count. Get off SportsCenter!

Thanks, Meghan for that well thought out opinion…

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Rant # 21 – Social Media Shaming

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The day after Robin Williams died, a friend of mine posted a Facebook Status that basically scolded everyone for posting about the suicide of a man who “wanted to die”, whilst ignoring the “thousands of little kids, grandparents, mothers, and fathers who WANT to live being slaughtered”.

Obviously, there are issues with the idea that a severely depressed person has a choice in the matter of suicide, (and I direct you to a great piece by a friend of mine regarding this issue: http://themelissaverse.wordpress.com/2014/08/22/an-open-letter-to-henry-rollins/ ), but what shook me at the time was that fact that I felt momentarily ashamed for not spending all of my emotional efforts grieving the victims of ISIS. But that moment passed quite quickly as I realised that we humans are complex creatures. We are capable of feeling many emotions at the same time. We don’t have a finite amount of feelings so that every little thought about a celebrity death will take away from the thoughts of innocent children dying, and those thoughts will take away from thinking about ALS sufferers, and those thoughts will take away from the people of Ferguson…

Yesterday, I shared an opinion piece on my Facebook wall that was a blog piece entitled “Dear White mom” ( http://www.bonbonbreak.com/dear-white-moms/). It was, to me, a beautifully expressed piece of writing that explained on a simple level not only why the events in Ferguson were important to her, a woman of colour, but simply reasoned that as friends of people of colour, Ferguson should be talked about, and raged about by the rest of us. She made it personal to us and it hit home. That is what I took from the piece. There was, however, one part that caused a visceral reaction from other friends. The blogger begged her ‘friend’ to talk about this, share on Social Media her feelings, show support, and she goes on to say, “It kills me when I see posts about kittens and new shoes and not one share about boys left to die in the street. Sure life goes on, but I saw how you reacted to the mass shootings. This is merely the other side of the coin.”

One friend posted this on her Facebook wall stating that she hated feeling ‘shamed’ by other friends sharing this piece, that by us sharing these words, we are echoing the sentiment that if you aren’t writing about, talking about, raging about Ferguson, then obviously you are a bigot (my words, not hers). And it reminded me of how I felt about my other friend upset that Robin Williams’ death was over-shadowing the violence of ISIS.

Our responsibilities when sharing articles or opinions on Social media are unclear. There are no rules, and unlike a natural in-person conversation, we don’t have instant communication questioning our intent or feelings about what we share. A misunderstanding isn’t always aired. I applaud my friend for stating why she felt that my sharing of the ‘Dear White Mom’ post was inappropriate, or at least unsettling to her. I had ‘shared’ without comment, somehow expecting that everyone else would take from the article what I did. They didn’t. And that is okay.

I don’t expect Facebook to be a representation of Politics and Religion and Violence 100% of the time. Heck, you look at my timeline, and you’ll understand that for the most part I am the over-sharer of comics, photos, humble-bragging, family in-jokes, weather updates and relentless friend teasing, and, once in a while, I will post something because it stopped me in my tracks and made me think, and I want to show it to my friends and say, “Huh. Look at this. I hadn’t thought of it this way”. I don’t need to post about world events just because they happened: you all have a tv set or three, you have news apps on Smart phones, radio stations,newspapers and office water coolers. You know that ISIS is fucked up, that people are dying, that ALS is one of the most terrifying diagnoses a family can receive, that bombs go off, that planes go down… So, if anyone chooses to post a picture of grumpy cat singing ‘Let it Go’ whilst dumping ice water over his head on the same day that a journalist is beheaded in the Middle East, I truly hope that nobody feels the need to shame them for that. And I hope that if I post an opinion piece commenting on the beheading of a journalist, that any of my friends will then feel shamed into *not* posting that cat video, because I really want to see that!

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Rant # 20 – Nothing to Fear But Fear Itself

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“There’s nothing to fear but fear itself!”

People always say this. Like you’ll suddenly realize what an hysterical fool you are being, worrying about things that are out of your control. “Oh, thank you, wise friend. You are so right. If fear is the only thing to fear, I should simply not be fearful. I am suddenly freed from the shackles of anxiety! Thank you”

What a load of old codswallop. You know why Haunted Houses, Horror Movies and roller coasters work? Because they scare the shit out of us. We know that the plastic ghosts and rubber axes and cotton spider webs aren’t dangerous. We know that the actors all survived the knife wielding cannibal on screen, who is probably being played by a really nice guy. We know that the roller coaster is (for the most part) safely attached to the rail. We know all these things, and yet, the thrills that we get from the adrenaline pouring through our blood stream are all caused by fear. Fear is not only very real, it is what we hate. What eats away at us. What excites our imagination. If fear itself is the only thing to fear, well, isn’t that enough?

I have a phobia. It is an embarrassment and major inconvenience, but I am terrified of flying. Or, let’s be clear here, I am not so much terrified of flying so much as to suddenly find myself *not* flying in a big metal tube at 30,000 feet. I am scared that I will know that the plane is ripping itself apart all around me, that I will see the flight attendant being sucked through the rapidly increasing hole in the depressurized cabin’s thin aluminum wall, that I will feel the bolts under my seat tear themselves away from the anchored flooring, and I will slowly be dragged towards the thin cold atmosphere as the plane burns around me, and we are pulling mighty G’s as we spin out of control and hurtle towards the Atlantic ocean. And my biggest fear is that I will not lose consciousness. That I will endure every mind-achingly terrifying moment of my demise. I am terrified of the paralyzing fear that I know will be my fate.

And so, when people scoff at my phobia and tell me that my chances of dying on the ride to the airport are statistically *waaaaay* higher than my chances of dying in the plane, they are not helping. If anything, they are now making me more anxious about the trip to and from the airport, which is just one more reason not to ever leave my couch.

Fear is often way harder to endure that the actual thing we are fearing. A medical test: we wait for the results that are agonisingly slow to arrive, and we imagine the worst case scenario happening in a million different ways. Chances are that it isn’t the worst case scenario, at which point we are flooded by relief that we wouldn’t be able to experience if it weren’t for the crippling fear that we just suffered through. But even if it *is* the worst case scenario, once the diagnosis is in, we can plan, forge a path of action, be proactive. Doing something can temper the fear. Hope destroys fear.

Yes, death is the unknown, but it comes with a promise of peace and finality. Few of us fear the actual ‘being dead’ part, but the actual act of dying is a scary thing. It is THE scary thing. Most of us are not ready. We worry about the pain, the reaction and emotional pain for our loved ones, the financial implications of our death on family. We are scared of not knowing how to prepare ourselves, of not being strong, of embarrassing ourselves as we leave this world. We are scared of our theological or philosophical choices. Of our Faith. We are scared of hurtling through the sky, towards the Earth, waiting for our light to be extinguished, of knowing that we are done.

So, yes, it is true: there is nothing to fear except fear itself. But fear is what paralyses the physically able,  what causes rational people to behave irrationally, what creates monsters and demons, what feeds bigotry and paranoia, starts wars, overthrows governments,  unsettles populations, and rips apart societies. Fear is anticipation of disaster and annihilation.

Fear? It is damned scary, y’all. Scary as a 737!

Fuel lightfar-side wingsfalloff

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Rant #19 – Continued musings on those damned runners

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I still hate runners. Update:

Four times this week I have caught myself saying out loud, “I need to go for a run”.

Dammit.

I blame myself. Watching Iron Men competitions on tv whilst drinking a glass of wine and chomping on pasta and garlic bread makes one feel nothing but a blob of cellulose and saggy skin being held together by a cheese formed skeleton, and it certainly reduces one’s elation at completing a first 5K to a mere feeling of embarrassment in the face of any real athletic acheivement. It’s like boasting to a mother of 10 special needs children that you once babysat a friend’s goldfish for a weekend and it didn’t die. She doesn’t need to make eye contact, you just know that you should shut up now.
(For clarity’s sake, this never happened).

(It was a cactus).

(Shut up!)

I mention the running again because Halloween is coming up. At work, a bunch of us are getting together after hours to do a whole Halloween party thing, and I am a geek for cool costumes, so I decided, after very little logical reasoning, to go as Natalia Romanova, aka Marvel’s ‘The Black Widow’. From ‘The Avengers’. As played by Scarlet Johanson. An actress of, well, let’s just say, of a different physique to me. And so, back to the running. How much running and how little eating and wine drinking needs to happen for me to be able to pull off this look? And, I’m 41 years old. *Why* did I want to pull this off?

So. Here is the plan: forget my hatred of *all* runners – I can easily switch that old distrust and disgust to Iron Men participants and possibly mere Marathoners now – I will embrace my need to exercise (gently and slowly) and thoroughly destroy my knees and left hip through running. I will pretend to enjoy the burn. I will casually nod confidently and fake cheerfully at fellow runners who I now know are fake enjoying their own run right back at me. I will keep my cardio-vascular system at a healthier-than-dead level, and I will try to maintain the frumpy physique that I can now boast.

Back to Halloween. My back up plan for Natalia Romanova? Throw on a cape and a Darth Vadar helmet and be ‘Sexy yet unrecognisable female Anakin’. I may not be an athlete but I am a mental Olympian.

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Rant #18 – Human Soup for the Soul

I am sure there are things that can’t be cured by a good bath but I can’t think of one.

Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

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I love me a hot bath in the evening before bed. I’ll pour a glass of Shiraz, throw some lavender scented oils in the tub, grab my iPhone, uh, I mean intellectual book of some kind, draw the hot water, and just soak. Nothing can beat it: me, warm, sensually hugged by the scented water. Peace in my head. Mind empty. Body cleansed. Muscles relaxed. Alcohol caressing my tongue, warming my throat, soothing my stomach. Yup. Nothing can beat a good bath.

And yet, the evening bath has it’s haters. I can’t count the times that people look at me, shiver through their barely hidden revulsion, fighting back a gag reflex to haltingly announce, “But, you’re sitting and soaking in your own filth!”
“True”, I respond, happily.
“Ugh, I could *never* do that!”, they respond.
And the conversation ends. I always politely bite my tongue, but, people, let’s be honest here, and explore the truth about the humble bath:

1. Soaking in a soup of our own filth? Possibly true. But at least the broth of our soup has been watered down by 50-60 liters of water and essential oils. You bath haters? Are going to sleep in your bed sheets rolling around in concentrated human stock, spreading your filth all over your pillows and mattress and duvet and blankets, and not even succumbing to a bath or shower tomorrow night will change the amount of bacteria and shed dead skin that are now coating your sleeping covers.

2. They can help your circulation. “A warm bath dilates your blood vessels and helps circulation,” says Janice Hein, supervisor of the Oasis Spa at Banner Desert Medical Center in Mesa, Arizona, in an Arizona Republic article. “It relieves your aches and pains and can be very therapeutic.”

3. I’m female. At certain points of the month, I have back aches and stomach cramps like a man can never imagine. A hot water bottle can not do justice to the power of a hot bath.

4. I want to clean myself/ cure period pain/ soothe muscle ache/ get warm/ drink wine, but it is my friend’s birthday and we haven’t chatted in a few months. What to do? What to do? No need to choose anymore, gentle reader! Use the hour bathing to make your monthly phone calls.

The bathtub is brilliant too, because once you are in it, you are excused from all household duties that would normally default to you:
Dog was sick on the living room rug? “Honey! Can you sort the dog out? I’m in the tub!”
Kids woke up in a right tizzy? “Sweetie! Can you see what the children want? I’m in the tub!”
Your wine glass is mysteriously empty? “Babe? Can you get me more wine? I’m in the tub!”

‘The tub’ is a magical, mystical, safe place that gives us time, healing, peace, relaxes us, eases our minds, prepares us for bed, and cleans us.

So. Maybe I am soaking in human soup. Maybe sharing my husband’s bath water is five kinds of gross, but I love it. Those 70 liters of water embracing my body, gurgling soft calm in my ears, warming my blood and soothing my senses basically kicks your shower’s arse! Eat it, shower!

 

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