Monday, December 06, 2010

To me, goalie fighting is the very height of athletic comedy, almost witty in an absurd sort of way. Two guys -- usually skinny, nimble types -- whose frames have been doubled in size with the padding they wear, whose roles are the least aggressive on the ice, whose talent lies not in power but agility ... the ones all their teammates on the ice are charged to protect, trying to fight each other. The fact they chose to fight one another other, even though they are the two players separated by the greatest distance at all times, shows that they themselves recognize this absurdity. Pure silliness.

posted at 4:21:39 pm
3 commentations.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I am loath to admit it, but my initiation as a Trekkie began with Voyager, arguably the most insipid and crappiest of the Trek series.

(Pausing to note the irony of feeling shame over the specifics of Trekkism rather than the Trekkism itself. Pause complete.)

SF Debris, a really rather good video review series the boyfriend turned me onto, did a perceptive review of "Body and Soul," in which the holographic Doctor, for reasons of life and death, is transferred into the cybernetic implants of Seven of Nine, and as a side effect, ends up controlling her body. The Doctor has always been an excellent foil for Seven; he, as a holographic projection, has always yearned for physical experiences, while she has no interest in the same. The episode ends up being a trite lesson in humanity for Seven -- life is pleasure, blah, blah, blah.

The reviewer astutely points out that while this circumstance is uniformly played for broad comedy, it is, at its core, a disturbing idea, primarily because Seven's traumatic past, as a bionic drone in a collective, involved complete loss of both bodily and mental autonomy. That there's absolutely no hint at Seven's mental state -- that she might plausibly be at risk of some kind of emotional relapse or PTSD -- is amazing.

The term "mental rape" was bandied about in our discussion, recalling instances where the Doctor violated Seven's express wishes about her body and social interactions. While I could see where two very close friends might, at first, see the humour in such a situation, I couldn't see where the one being controlled wouldn't eventually start feeling unsettled, or even terrified by her circumstances once it was clear her protests weren't being heard.

On a broader note, half the episode's comedy is drawn from Seven's aforementioned stoicism. A model of efficiency, by nature she has no interests in sensual experiences like food, drink, or human intimacy. So her protests start with light-hearted indulgences -- cheesecake -- and continue with pleasures whose darker undertones at the hands of an external force are completely ignored, like drunkenness and sexual arousal. Throughout the episode, the Doctor lectures Seven on learning to enjoy little things, and comes off completely paternalistic and patronizing.

While I love the Doctor, he's a hologram. That's not to say he isn't sentient, because he clearly is, and his capacities for empathy and learning are nothing short of astounding. But his knowledge and expertise, while vast, are programmed. As much experience as he can siphon from the computer's databases, he works and exists in a relatively stable, comfortable environment. 

Seven, meanwhile, has seen trauma from a very young age, and has lived much of her adult life seeing much of the universe, engaged in constant growth and destruction, absorbing and erasing races and civilizations in a blink.

To be fair, that isn't anywhere near normal or healthy as we consider human life. Seven has lived her existence on a vaster, more epic scale than anyone she will ever know; she is more than human, and of course, at the same time, much less. But to constantly act as though her former existence was a mere blip, that she hasn't lived the life and nightmare of gods, that it was something she can get over with a little cheesecake, is gross and unseemly.

On top of all this is the creepy undercurrent of characterizing Seven's issues as a simple matter of humourlessness, as though the Doctor's transgressions and condescension would be much more acceptable if she only had a more developed sense of humour. The episode plays this as a symptom of her former life, which is fair, but it also smacks of the "uptight bitch" stereotype that slanders so many women. If only she could take a joke better!  

posted at 3:04:57 pm
1 commentation.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

What so fascinates me about the suit is that it is so close to perfect that it ever only changes very little, very gradually. Over years and years, it is the narrowing of a lapel here, a tightening of a trouser cuff there, the refinement of a silhouette here. Every minute adjustment becomes a rarified signal; every element -- the shirt, the tie, the cuff, all -- gains a paramount importance. It is less a hodgepodge mess that results from the guesswork in ordinary fashion -- but a language, with structure and a vocabulary, worked to express dignity, elegance, wit, and masculine perfection.

That is why a man in a good suit thrills me so; he is not merely well-dressed, but articulate, and eloquent.

posted at 12:05:07 pm

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

I don't like air shows. It's a problematic view to hold, for really no reason other than it's socially unpopular. Say you don't find special enjoyment in roaring planes and supersonic booms and you'll be accused of being a fun-hating, soldier-loathing, unpatriotic, soulless bore.

I don't see the point of air shows. They don't do a better job of honouring our servicemen and women than the memorial ceremonies we already have, and frankly, that clearly isn't the point anyway. People enjoy air shows for the gee-whiz-bangness of technology (a "sense of wonder" not found in everyday life, as one person publicly put it). There is no effort to communicate the inevitable sacrifice made by many soldiers -- a great majority of which do or did not fly planes  -- nor to characterize war as the necessary evil.

Like how modern aerial warfare has allowed a greater and greater sense of removal from physical combat, we seem to suffer from the same artificial distance. A jet -- though technically, yes, a conveyance, a means of transport -- is still an instrument of war, much like a tank or a bomb or a gun (though we see no "fun" displays of those). They exist for that singular purpose. A contemporary fighter jet has no civilian counterpart; there are no amateur historical enthusiasts who just want to show off their flying skills. When a jet is displayed, it doesn't possess the same heritage or traditional impetus as a biplane; it's about war, today. I fully trust veterans and servicepeople to view these shows with a particular internal reserve, understanding them as real machines of war, but when I see urban civilians whooping it up because the CF-18 looks like something out of a movie, it feels ... dangerous. 

So, air shows -- don't like 'em, don't go, won't miss them the day they're finally retired for good.

posted at 1:51:08 pm

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

To the sick bastards at the World's Biggest Bookstore who decided that the feminine hygiene product disposal bin (say that five times fast) in the handicapped stall should be operated via foot pedal: I salute you.

posted at 1:58:23 pm

Sunday, April 25, 2010

I have a problem with spoonerisms.

A spoonerism is an error in speech where bits of words are transposed, most commonly the first syllable of each word in a pair. It can also be a deliberate play on words (a personal favourite of mine is "fustercluck") but my indulgence is usually by accident.

Diction has always been a weakness of mine and in the last few years, the difficulty has only become more evident. it's partly due to a lack of practise in speaking, which exacerbates the prime problem -- I tend to already be considering my next thought or sentence while I am still expressing the first.

Mostly, the mistakes embarrass me; I have the strident belief that I am the epitome of erudition and eloquence, but the evidence for that rests only inside my head. Sometimes I forget that there's a distinct disconnection between what I think in my mind and what I present to others. My trips of the tongue remind me of it.

Sometimes, they end up in another linguistic oddity -- portmonteaux. The other day, I was talking about the pleasure of elegantly shedding one's coat -- setting back the shoulders and then sliding the coat off the arms in one fluid motion. (I noted, satin-lined coats do this with the greatest satisfaction.)

Sadly, there are times when this doesn't happen so smoothly, and one is condemned, probably in more impressive company than one wants, to wriggle. In other words, to "shruggle" -- describing the action that is both a "shrug" and a "struggle."

posted at 9:50:09 pm
1 commentation.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Last week, my parents had me speak to my grandmother on the phone. It was awkward in several ways -- I only knew her from one visit my entire life, which was a decade ago; I'm already socially awkward by nature; and I don't speak Cantonese very well. Still, though I fumbled through a few phrases, even I could admit my patchwork attempt was not too bad by any standard.

As my parents drove me home, I told them this story:

Once, I answered the door to find a young man who turned out to be a Christian missionary. I had no interest, but having always been terrible at turning away solicitors, for some reason I wanted to reinvent the wheel instead of simply saying "no thank you" and spent a moment trying to think up some nicety. He took my blank stare to mean something else.

"Do you speak Cantonese?" he asked.

Instinctively, I nodded. Because, well, technically, yes, I did. 

Then he began talking.

I'm not sure if he noticed, but another instinct, I hope, helped me hide my dismayed expression. His Cantonese, even to me, was completely unrecognizable, garbled; I could not understand a word he was saying. After taking a second to note that I actually felt a bit impressed, I quickly clarified that I indeed spoke perfect English and that I had thought Cantonese would make him feel more uncomfortable, and finally bid him a swift farewell. My parents were laughing.

I admitted to them that ever since that incident, I had been very self-conscious about my own Cantonese, thinking that I must sound incomprehensible to others. They laughed again and said that even if my "jook-sing" status was readily apparent, I was perfectly understandable.

I thought of this because it was this fear, above others, that always made me demur from speaking to people -- including my grandparents. I confessed to my parents that I was ashamed that I had to pause and think so much, that I didn't want my silences to come off as unhappiness to find myself speaking to my elderly grandmother. They assured me she did not think that.

I'm just remembering now how that same evening, my mother had asked me a question about English vocabulary, and how frustrated I became when she refused to give me any context. My father made an unfortunate attempt to smooth things over by saying that her question was too difficult for me to answer. We ended up arguing and she accused me of having a short temper while I accused both of them of always treating me like I'm stupid when I'm really trying to give them the best of my knowledge.

I've always seen our differences in language as a barrier that separates, rather than something we share ... but clearly we have the same difficulties, even if not in the same language. I guess we do have more in common than I've believed.

posted at 3:08:29 pm

Monday, March 01, 2010

The persistent rhetoric is that it's surprise all around that Canadians had this pride in them, that this country is normally so humble, that aw, shucks, it's usually the Americans who are the chest-thumpers, not shy ol' us (pun intended). 

Everyone is so deeply sold on this idea that we're modest, we're humble, but the truth is that we're really neither. I certainly haven't seen it; isn't there a rule that when you call yourself humble, you're automatically not?

The reason we've broken out and shouted so loud is because we have finally achieved something solidly and decisively worthy of celebration. Never before have we won so clearly: For the Winter Games, we won the most golds at a single Games in Canadian history, most overall medals at a single Games in Canadian history, and the first gold on Canadian soil at any Games, Winter or Summer, ever, and most golds ever by any Winter host, full stop.

(And we won hockey.)

We accomplished a lot not only by our own standards, but by others, shared by all. We haven't had to redraw or downscale any boundaries to find our wins and victories. We just did it.

So I, for one, am not surprised. We've always had the pride, the noise, this collective shout. We were just waiting for a legitimate excuse to let it out.

posted at 2:07:17 pm

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Glo'ri'a'na, noun:
1. An alternative form of "Gloria."
2. As "Americana" defines itself as artefacts of American culture, "Gloriana" consists of the artefacts of my culture.


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