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Back to bloggery (also ramblings)

January 8, 2012

So after a hiatus of a year (and what a year it has been), I’ve decided to start blogging again. Because I realized I needed somewhere to put the tale of my latest journey (Boston and Maine in late september/early october), to talk about writing, and generally to share my thoughts on a variety of topics.

First observation:  a year ago, as of my last blog posted here, I was a visitor in Ottawa. I loved the place, but it was a detached, visitor sort of love. That’s no longer true. My life’s here now, something that becomes more obvious each time I go back to my parents’ in Beloeil for a visit. This is where my friends are, where my home is (I’m now renting an apartment with two friends instead of renting a room in a stranger’s house), where my haunts are. While life still has a way to go with me before I can settle down, I’d strongly consider remaining here for good if I can find a job.

Second observation: I’m good at Law. Without going into details, as of the last two sets of grades I got in (the two terms of my first year), I’m every inch as good a student as my sister ever was. Given how much of an inferiority complex I used to have toward my sister results-wise, that’s huge for me.

Third observation: I can write.I mean, I’ve won NaNoWriMo a few times before, true, but hitting 50 000 words within the first week, finishing the novel before the end of the second, and despite the insane speed ending up with (of all my NaNo works to date) the one I’m most comfortable sharing with others (though it still needs work)…that’s a new one.

Fourth observation: I lost track of letting go of frustrations (that is, forgiving and putting them behind rather than letting them pile up until they come off as snide bitching) a few times in the last several years, mostly involving American politics. It cost me my dearest friend (although said friend added me back on Google+ several months after the incident, so go figure. I am mildly perplexed). It’s something I should be good at (God knows I wouldn’t have gotten through high school without being good at it), and I need to remember to do it.

Fifth observation: there was, about last month, a huge outcry about bullying in Quebec following a suicide. Lots of people came out with videos and what not denouncing bullying, and many of them stating they had themselves been bullying victims. A lot of (other) people, including some quite close to me, dismissed many of those videos as stars trying to get some sympathy capital by joining the “cause”, and people who really had no clue what bullying is. I was a bullying victim (big time – not in a “jocks picking on nerd” sense, in a “the guy the nerds thought was godawful) and frankly, I don’t give a damn why they are doing it. They could be taking up the cause for money for all I care. So long as they speak about it. It’s too easy a topic to forget about.

(Fifth and a half observation. I went to my high school reunion, as discussed in a post way down the archive.At times during the evening there was virtually a line-up to apologize to me, including both bullies themselves and the people who stood aside and did nothing)

Sixth observation: a lot of teens and young adults of Quebec reacted to the above suicide by hounding the bullies on facebook and bullying them in turn.

As I phrased it on facebook then: An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and it won’t be long before all that’s left is assholes.

Nobody, ever, deserves bullied.

Last, and not least observation: my soon to be eight months old niece is awesome :D.

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Ramblings on Loughner and political climates

January 10, 2011

And here I am, taking positions on American politics that don’t REALLY concern me again.

A lot of people have been blaming “the political climate” for the tragedy down in Arizona, making it clear that by political climate they mean “Sarah and pal using gun imagery in their politics”. A lot of other people have been denouncing that, pointing out that there is no evidence Lougher, the shooter, was in any way influenced by Palin. (Correctly, one might add).

But Palin & Pals’ use of violent imagery to illustrate their positions isn’t “the political climate” – it’s (rather) use of a long-standing imagery. Sarah may be the first politician to use rifle scopes in her imagery, but she’s hardly the first to use THAT image to mean “this is our target”, without any implication (and any understanding by anyone) that they meant “Shoot at ’em!”. Granted, not all of Sarah’s friends have this defense (Angle’s “Repeal via second ammendment” moment is…kinda hard to interpret any other way), but still.

The political climate was illustrated to me, I think, about two years ago in a lengthy and at times a little bitter debate between one of my closest friends and I, concerning Obama’s inauguration, and the participation of a baptist pastor known for his support of anti-gay positions, whose name escape me right now. My friend argued that, due to his opposition to gay marriage et al, the said pastor – and all who thought like him – should be rejected, ignored. That because their opinion differed from his, they were not worthy of consideration from Obama. Coming hot on the heels of years of the Bush administration (and we all remember how terms like “Unamerican” were abused in those eight years), it struck me as wrong-headed: just because you disagree with someone’s opinion on one point, doesn’t mean you should reject them on everything.

There is such a thing as “Agreeing to disagree”, and it doesn’t prevent people from working together.

Except, it seems, in America, where people who disagree with you on politics aren’t simply people who disagree with you, but enemies. Traitors. To be rejected, to be shoved aside, to be ignored (and, if possible, mocked at, or gloated at, or otherwise reminded of how badly they’re losing – “Never have so many been so wrong about everything” being a Cheney that’s still stuck in my throat several years down). In other words, to be treated as less because of their opinions.

This is what I’d call the political climate in America. Not the more out there imagery, but this trend, pervasive to the point where many, even people on both side of the spectrum who are in no way likely to call for violence, and whom I would describe as very intelligent, consider it the normal course of things.

And, unlike Palin’s gun imagery, which remain just that (imagery), and unlikely in and of itself to have much political impact, this mentality strikes me as a breeding ground for “lone nuts” (Lone being an exceedingly relative term in the internet age). The jump from “She put gunsight on a map targeting this congresswoman, I must shoot her!” require a pretty unbalanced mind (they do exist, but it’s likely something else would have triggered them – maybe Jodie Foster, and if we start removing everything from public consciousness that may trigger a lone nut…well, okay, we’d have to wipe out humanity to do that).

The jump from “These people are the enemy, whose opinion should not be considered” to “These people are the enemy, who should be shoved aside”, to “These people are the enemy, whose influence should be removed” to “Remove your enemies” to killing people…how easy a jump is that? It’s a tragically natural progression (regression, perhaps) of thoughts, where each step naturally follow from the last. It’s happened before, countless times. It will happen again, so long as humanity remain human.

Not everyone will do it, of course. “Killing is wrong” is also deeply ingrained in a lot of us, so even if the above steps feel natural, most people will stop short of the precipice even if they otherwise subscribe to the general philosophy. Nor will every killing be blamable on the political climate and the hate & loathe rhetoric both sides have been gleefully engaging in.  It is, in fact, quite possible that this tragedy belong in the later group, and would have happened even in the most quiet of climates.

But what I am saying is…the rhetoric both sides have engaged in is the sort that should make a good breeding ground for lone nuts. Lone nuts who, thanks to the magic of the internet, will only be “lone” in a relative sort of way (although that may not always be a bad thing – see last point – it will be the moment a lone nut gets encouraged into acting by other lone nuts online, but plot out their move on their own). Lone nuts who, thanks to the magic of modern armament, will have the power to do single-handedly a great deal of damage. And lone nuts who, thanks to generally acting alone, and often being very dead-set on accomplishing their goals, will be exceedingly difficult to stop.

Book collecting still :)

December 23, 2010

So I’m still up to my no-good collecting of all books I can get my hands on.Ottawa has been a godsend for that (but not for my wallet), adding quite a few gems to my collection:

-Tolkien, JRR;  the Silmarilion, 1977 Allen & Unwin printing (Already had the US first ed, this one is the original-er UK first ed).
-Swift, Jonathan; Gulliver’s Travel, 1912 hardcover edition by Rand McNally (with color illustrations by Milo Winter. And “Happy eighth birthday” note on the front page by the loving grandparents of one Barbara, dated to 1923)
-Milton, John; Poetical Works, 1925 Oxford University Press edition (including, of course, Paradise Lost)
-Goldsmith, Olliver; The Deserted Village, the Traveller and Other Poems, 1894 Hougton Miffin Edition. A former owner was apparently afraid of book theft: a note in the book read “This book is one thing, my toe is another, touch not this one for fear of the other. – JR Stevenson”.
-Stevenson, RL; Merry Men/Dr. Jekyll, 1905 Charles Scribner Edition (with frontispice photo of Stevenson)
-Benham, Canon (rev.) and St. John (alleged); The Johannine Books (Gospel, Epistle I-II-III, Revelation), 1906 Lippincot Third Edition
-Stevenson, RL; The Works of Robert Louis Stevenson Vol I: Treasure Island, The Black Arrow, The Story of a Lie, 1912 Nelson and Sons Edition.
-Kipling, Rudyard, Plain Tales from the Hills * Soldier Three and other stories, 1927 Doubleday edition (complete with pre-Hitlerian use of Swastikas as Indian-themed decoration)
-Andersens, Hans; Fairy Tales, 1914 Blue Ribbon Edition (Color Illustrated), given (according to the note inside the book) to one Norma Reynold in December 1933 as thanks for modeling dresses at Freiman’s – one of the major stores in Ottawa back then – it has a wiki article.

And, my latest and favorite find, soon to be mine (or already mine, depending on what gifts we end up locating for me tomorrow):
Cooper, James Fennimore; Les Pionniers ou Les Sources de la Susquehanna, 1830 French Second Edition.
(It’s not the first edition I was hoping for, but still, a second edition of Fennimore Cooper…and a 1830 printing of just about any book…is by any definition an awesome find)

Mea Culpa, and so are you

November 17, 2010

Background: this rant was born from a group of American posters on a message board trying to shift the blame for Iraq on their military as part of justifying “Hating the military”.

The military is not responsible for the invasion of Iraq. The invasion of Iraq was a political decision, taken by your democratically elected chief of state (can the crap about Florida. Evidence since then has shown that Bush would have won that recount), with the backing of your democratically elected representatives. You (the American people in general) elected them.

You, the american people, not the military, not even the government, are to blame for their actions (Of course, I’m aware that many of you specifically were too young to vote, perhaps not even in school back then). The blame belongs to your parents, to your relatives, to your teachers, to anyone you know who was old enough to vote in 2000 and 2002, and either didn’t vote, or voted for those who supported the war (which includes a lot of Dem representatives), or even those who voted against them, but didn’t try hard enough to get other people to do the same.

You are a democracy. The fate of your country is in your hands, no one else’s. Trying to hide behind claims of corrupt government and beltway separation is just a pathetic smokescreen. They are you, and you are they.

Of course, while the above was written addressing Americans, the general sentiment is hardly America-specific. People think democracy just means popular vote, and if you lose then it’s “the other side”‘s fault if anything bad happens (and if you win, and bad stuff still happens? Why, that’s politicians having lied to you! Not your fault!) but it does not.

Democracy means that ultimately, responsibility for your government lies with you. It means that the healthcare bill is not “Democrat Healthcare” or “Obamacare”, it’s “Americanpeoplecare”. The invasion of Iraq was not Bush’s decision, it was the American people’s decision (it’s not like Bush had trouble getting congress support on it). It means that ultimately, it is not Harper, but the Canadian people who violated their constitutional obligations to Omar Khadr; who prolonged the Afghanistan mission beyond 2011. Ultimately, the Canadian people suspended the country’s democracy for the duration of the Olympic games and more to avoid questions about how the Canadian people handed detainees over to the Afghans knowing full well how they’d be treated.

Because, ultimately, how many of us can say they absolutely could not have done more against Harper? I could have done more, for one. I voted against him every time, but I wasn’t out there trying to convince people to vote against him – because I felt there were more important or more interesting things I could be doing, each and every time. It was a legitimate choice. For many of us, there are more important things in our life than politics. Just because we could have made sacrifices to try and stop Harper (or Bush, or Obama, or Chrétien, or Sarkozy, or Blair, or Brown, or Whoever…) doesn’t mean we were in the wrong to not make them.

But at the end of the day, even if it was a perfection rational, reasonable and logical choice not to make those sacrifices, the fact is, we still chose not to make them, and for that, we cannot pretend we’re not responsible for the actions of our governments, because ultimately, we chose to allow them to have power, even if we didn’t vote for them.

Perhaps – perhaps – there are a handful of people out there, a tiny handful, who really did give their everything, sacrificing anything that could be sacrificed, to winning their side the election and still lost. If such people exist, hell, if you can stand and honestly, truthfully say “I never once chose to stand aside, to do something else, when I could have been winning more votes against this”, then perhaps you do not deserve the blame.

But even then, it’s still your country, and your democracy. Losing your elections doesn’t change that.

Religious Evolutions

October 11, 2010

Two years ago, somebody posted one of those online quiz – fills your answer, we’ll tell you what you are sort – on a message board I frequent. I answered it (it was a rather imperfect quiz, but the results made some sense), posted my results in the discussion thread, and left it at that. The thread vanished from sight as threads usually do. Until someone went tonight and brought it back.

So, out of curiosity, I took the quiz again, to see how different my results would be, two years later. The results were…interesting.
1. Unitarian Universalism (100%) (Exact same as in 2008)
2. Liberal Quakers (97%) (3rd, picked up 10%)
3. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (91%) (7th, picked up 14%)
4. Secular Humanism (86%) (5th)
5. Neo-Pagan (80%) (6th)
6. Mahayana Buddhism (79%) (4th)
7. New Age (77%) (8th)
8. Theravada Buddhism (77%) (2nd, lost 14%)
9. Reform Judaism (75%) (10th, picked up 13%)
10. Taoism (70%) (11th)
11. New Thought (61%) (16th, picked up 12%)
12. Orthodox Quaker (59%) (14th)
13. Jainism (59%) (9th)
14. Baha’i Faith (57%) (18th, picked up 15%)
15. Scientology (56%) (17th, picked up 11%)
16. Nontheist (55%) (13th)
17. Sikhism (51%) (12th)
18. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (45%) (19th, picked up 10%)
19. Hinduism (39%) (15th, lost 11%)
20. Orthodox Judaism (38%) (20th)
21. Islam (35%) (21st)
22. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (32%) (22nd)
23. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (28%) (23rd)
24. Seventh Day Adventist (26%) (24th)
25. Eastern Orthodox (21%) (26th)
26. Roman Catholic (21%) (27th)
27. Jehovah’s Witness (15%) (25th)

Interesting results. Of course, several religions are missing, and some religions definitely need flavoring (a Quebec – or New England – Catholic would be…unlikely…to place anywhere near “Catholic” in that quiz…). But they fall in line with my own observations on the topic: my Asian religious leanings have dimmed a lot more, while on the other hand, I’ve come to identify more and more firmly as an independent/non-denominational Christian. And to become quite sympathetic to any number of Quaker views, though as with any other organized religion, I don’t necessarily agree with all their views.

One month in

October 4, 2010

So, I’ve been in Ottawa for a month, and have managed not to write a blog yet…

In short, I love it here. In slightly longer form, I really love it here.It’s just a great all-around town. It has the great scenery and landscapes of Québec City without the archetypal Parisian wannabe Better-than-thouness. It has the multiculturalism of Montreal without being grossly oversized. And it’s quite the bilingual town (unlike Montreal, which is two unlingual cities who refuse to talk to one another and usually throw cutlery at each other). And people here actually realize pedestrians and cyclists exist. Which is like…well, nowhere in Quebec.

(Seriously. Quebecers with cars are on the same level of psychopathy as Ahmadinejad or Kim Jong Il, except in every last way more likely to actually maim or kill me).

My room is even better than I could possibly have imagined: it’s right where everything is : A walk twenty minute, get anywhere important sort of place. Ottawa’s downtown public market is just five hundred meters (if even that) from my place (and they have the best grapes I’ve ever tasted…among other things. Other things including fish, pastries, bread, and also cheese. And more cheese.). Just on the other side fo the market is the Rideau Center, (the main downtown mall), and the local Chapters, which dwarfs the one in Montreal (n.b.: a bookstore). There are at least two used bookstores within a five minutes walk, including a four-floor one. And I’m not even getting into the number of cafés and restaurants (which I’ve been largely avoiding anyway).

The classes have been a little boring (that’s what I get for having already done most of them), but the teachers in general are great, and I like the people I’m in class with, even if they’re quite a big younger than I am in general. Haven’t made too many friends yet, but that’s slowly changing (I had a massive cold the first two-three weeks, which made it rather hard to socialize).

All in all, Ottawa has been immense fun so far.

End of an era

September 2, 2010

So, after a summer of fretting about it (in an excited sort of way), I’m finally heading out tomorrow to start the “Ottawa” chapter of my life story.

I’m looking forward to it, to be honest. This is something I fought hard to make happen against the odds (against the odds because my early life grade just weren’t very good at all, so getting into law was a very far shot), and a much needed change of scenery – after all those years in the Montreal suburbs, being pretty much in the middle of Ottawa will be a very significant change.

I’m also looking forward to it because the room I’m renting, in the middle of Ottawa, is perfectly placed – in the middle of everything, closer to the National Gallery than my house in Beloeil is to the local grocery (for those not aware: the local grocery is on the same bloc as my house) , just north of the main market, and within maybe a 15 minutes walk of just about everything in Ottawa and most of Gatineau (the town on the Quebec side of the Ottawa river) as well. It should be perfect for discovering a new city…which is one thing I love to do.

Plus there’s the whole “A new life with new people” angle. The last twenty-nine years have been largely defined by the one group of people, with very few changes; it’s time to find new people (while still keeping in touch with the old, of course), and university should be a great place for it (it would have been, last time around, perhaps, if there had been any stability to my classes group, or programs lasting more than a year).

Still a few things to fret over – I’m leaving a few people behind that I’d rather be there for if it could be helped at all (I’m not giving names as I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t want to be identified as such), and I’m not sure how well I’ll be able to communicate with the owner of the house I’ll be living in (he’s still living in it too) – my spoken english has limits, and his apparently carries a heavy spanish accent according to my father who has met him (I’ve only met his wife). Then again, maybe that will be an occasion to learn some Spanish. We’ll see.