Thursday, 31 May 2012

All for the sake of pleasure

So I haven't been nearly as prolific on here as I was hoping.  However my words have been put to very good use lately - 37, 000 of them are marching toward a population of penguins, and another few thousand are dealing with childhood nightmares.

So at least I've been working (and playing) with them.

But there's one little phrase that keeps cropping up lately that's really beginning to bother me.

"Please yourself."

It's incredibly passive aggressive.  I find it immediately makes me want to break out into pure aggression.  It's so condescending, patronizing - "Well, that's ok, you please yourself, you obviously know what you're doing..."

This not only implies that you're an idiot, but a selfish, unthinking idiot.

Why?  Why should simple pleasures be denied? Like, say, carrying a bag a different way from the other person who wants to tell you how to do it.  Simple.  Very, very simple.  

And trivial.

There is nothing more likely to make you start acting like a child than being treated like one.  And when you feel like you're being shoved back into that tiny chair, that tiny corner, you want to break that barrier and dip that person's pigtails in ink or hit them over the head with a text book.

Other people's standards.  Where do you draw the line?  How do you calmly stand in their way and say, "Yes, actually, I'm going to do what I want," without descending into a temper tantrum or the silent treatment?  Or just repressing it altogether.  And why is pleasing yourself, on such a basic, fundamental level, seen to be such a bad thing?

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

A word, if you please

I haven't been on here in a while - unfortunately.  I mean to try to make up for that in the next few months, while I go back to school again, when writing and analyzing will be a daily occurance, rather than every other day. 

Last time I talked about words - and their definition, and how our assumptions can lead us down the wrong path when we try to communicate with one another...I am going to try to do a series of slightly shorter posts on specific words, now. 

 This one will be about the word soon.  It is a word that comes up quite a lot, in life, in writing fiction, and I've been increasingly frustrated with it for the last year or so.

It's a word with almost no meaning.  And we use it all the time.  As soon as (ha - see?) you get to whatever point you were talking about, the word soon is completely devalued.  It takes no further part in the conversation.  Soon is promising, but not good enough.  Soon is the highly ephemeral, theoretical future which could change at any moment, any given point in time between now and….whenever that is.  It gives hope without any guarantee. 
 It’s nearly as bad as ‘someday’ – which always sounds very unlikely, usually used in the highly suspicious, melodramatic and romantic context of ‘we’ll see each other again someday’ (which more often than not never happens or, if it does, several decades later…) and is basically  a lie or a way of making something seem a little less bleak.  Soon is a weasel-word – a disguised someday, a shifty, somewhat dishonest someday. 
 Now, I know that's not always the case, but it’s such an irritating, weak, pathetic word. A terribly overused, intrinsically horrible word that doesn’t really mean what it says…
Soon is a promise without promising – a word given with the potential to take it away again, just as easily.  Soon is a dodge – you’ll do your chores, soon.  You’ll get up, soon.  You’ll email that person, soon.  It’s only useful when you don’t want to pin down what you mean.  Or if you just don’t know.
When we’re ignorant of the future, because of either our own feelings or just the general uncertainty of a given situation, fine.  Let’s use soon.  But otherwise – it’s such a cowardly thing; it smacks of serious avoidance.  We need a better word than soon.  We should get on that.  Figure it out.  And I'm sure we will.  Soon.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Words: Love-Hate Every-Day Relationship

Words are wondrous things – it’s amazing we managed, and are continuing to manage, to create such a variety of ways to express ourselves.  Miraculous, even. 

However…with this power comes the grey area of interpretation and that’s where it all begins to break down.

We encounter this simultaneous power and weakness every day – though often it isn’t particularly obvious; but when we meet the extremes, or try to truly communicate with someone…we see the extravagantly impressive and pitiful nature of these small marks on paper, or virtual space, and the effect they have upon us in our every day lives.

I’m not going to talk about big, sweeping speeches, and words that changed the world – most of those are there for everyone to see, to criticize, to love.  I’m going to talk about our personal, every day experiences.

The experiences that can lead to so much confusion.

The power is in what words can do to us – our emotional, not to mention physical, reactions to what someone says to us.

And immediately I come to the first problem, hiding in that previous sentence – physical vs. emotional.  A lot of people often do not see the connection between emotions and physical reactions; which, considering how we act in physical, sexual relations with others, is strange, since there at least the link between our emotions and physical reactions is blindingly obvious.

Your partner says something that you feel insults you – and you physically turn away from them, curl up, ignore them, push their hands away.

Your partner says something that makes you feel loved – so happy that you nearly tear up; and then you jump them.

Words are the medium for our emotions – through them we learn how to describe what we are feeling, and also how to feel what we have been taught to describe. 

Words can bring you to the brink – can cause all kinds of terrible physical pain from headaches to vomiting to actual serious illnesses, the psychosomatic end result of the stress that the words of others can cause. (there are also, of course, violent extremes that can be reached because of this – but those are not so much, I hope, mundane, every day experiences…)  Or they can bring you extreme pleasure, sexual or otherwise, and enrich the quality of your life.

The inherent flaw of language, however, is present in the two reactions I described above: feeling insulted requires interpretation, as does something that makes you feel happy.  It is very possible that, if the same things were said in both instances, two different people could have completely opposite reactions.

And so we reach the second problem, which is made of two parts – the weakness of words, the hidden Achilles heel that is often realized too late: Definition.

Contrary to what we are taught to believe, not everyone gets their definitions from the dictionary; and this is Part Two: Assumption.

Because we are, generally speaking, selfish and self-centered creatures, we assume that most others think the way that we do – especially if we want to establish a connection with someone.  And we think in words, and these words can be vastly dissimilar, have nearly contradicting definitions, depending on who is using them.  It can differ because of gender, age, translation, upbringing, neighbourhood – the variations are endless.

Words are flexible, wonderful, glorious things – the impact these tiny scratches on stones, pieces of paper, even on bathroom walls, can have is…immense and awesome (in the original sense of the word; see?).

So the next time someone says “I assumed” – stop them there.  Get them to explain to you exactly what their definition is of whatever words they’re using; and only then can we return to the more positive power of words, and what we would truly like them to be used for: Communication.

“Language is a strange thing, but she’s my mistress.” – Stephen Fry

And though she frustrates the hell out of me, and sometimes I can barely understand her, I will love my mistress till my dying day.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Aggression Part II

It’s been a while since I wrote on here.  I plan to make this a more regular thing once my school work is finished. 

But I saw something on Tuesday that made me feel like I…needed to at least briefly come here again. 

Especially considering the topic of my last entry.

While I was sitting with my best friend around College Park, I saw a punk with his shirt off, covered in tattoos and piercings, yelling about how someone had stolen his picnic bench – I gathered from the shouts that he and his friends come there at lot.  There were people sitting there, on ‘his’ bench, eating their lunch.

Ok – some irritating, noisy people trying to get ‘their’ bench back by sitting next to a couple senior citizens and talking very loudly.  Nothing all that unusual, or particularly bad, about that. 

Just annoying. There were many, many other places to sit.  A public area, after all – but apparently that wasn’t good enough.  So they kept talking, but the other people wouldn’t budge, continuing to eat their lunch.

Then Mr. Shirtless got bored.  And started aiming, and shooting, elastic bands at the pigeons that were waddling around. 

Once – fine. 

But he kept going.

I know a lot of people don’t like pigeons – rats with wings.  However, that really doesn’t excuse you hurting something because you’re bored, or annoyed at someone else took ‘your’ damn picnic bench.

He thought he looked so cool, you could tell – strutting around, carefully aiming the plastic bands at the pigeons; and at one point, yelling, “That’s right, you fucking run!” at the frantically scattering birds.

And it didn’t look cool.  It looked pathetic.

But these overly frustrated people take out their anger on something small, readily to hand, that can’t fight back.  Feeling in control while hurting a bird.  There is really nothing cool, or impressive about that.

I would have preferred to see him fight another person – at least then it would have been closer to a fair fight.

The whole situation was utterly pointless, asinine, and childish.


I will be back again soon, possibly with more thoughts on various kinds of violence – ritual sacrifice has been looming large in my school work, and it absolutely fascinates me.

Violence of one kind or another seems does to be permeating my existence – in both my sleeping and waking hours, now.

Sunday, 12 June 2011


Something's been nagging at me lately. 

Certain kinds of people. Specifically, people who express their problems physically on either animals or people that are smaller, weaker, in any sense, than they are.

Why? To feel in control?  To feel strong because they've hurt something or someone?

But to take that out, to gain satisfaction from that feeling, on something that's tiny?  Comparatively helpless?  There's absolutely no honour in that.  I realize few people think in terms of that kind of honour these days - but I spend half my life buried in Greek myths.

Or, to reference another culture, if you want the honour, you kill the giant, not the gerbil who happened to be near you at the time.

How can you feel good about your win when your opponent could be taken on by anyone? It didn't need to be you - they're small and weak, most people could beat them.

Bravo.  You have overcome a pheasant.  Or a 90 pound woman.  Or a small boy. You brave, brave thing.
You want satisfaction? You want to feel truly strong?  You take on the person that's fucking bigger than you.  The guy who looks like he could crush anyone, the one who's a foot taller than you.  And if you lose, well, at least you won't be conscious to feel humiliated.  And at least you tried.
And, of course, if you win, it'll feel so much better.

Don't pick on someone your own size - pick a size or two larger.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Champagne Crash

My first blogging post - throw the champagne bottle at my screen, my keyboard, and hope it hits this website before the computer dies.

So what, besides announcing my presence, is this post going to be about?
Well, first off, hello to anyone who might be out there and interested in reading this.

I've been reading a book on the Celts lately, and on the front it says that it should become the "standard text book" for anyone who's interested in Celtic history.  Now, I realize what the reviewer meant - it is much more well written than most of the Celtic history books I've read (for some reason they're mostly quite dismal - just a list of what was found at what site in Co. Donegal etc etc).  Unfortunately, it suffers from trying to place itself in an...argumentative position.

I realize that most academia is just one giant argument with an awful lot of ego stroking/destroying - but it's not so often that it's made so damn explicit for a reader in an actual book (ie, not an academic journal).

And as a history student I've been told, over and over again that you must must must pay attention to your sources - look at them critically, see, if you can, what the bias is, compare it to other possible evidence.  And this is exactly why this book becomes vulnerable through its need to prove something.  Specifically, it's taking Julius Caesar's words as fact - and his observations about the (allegedly) Celtic peoples.  There is no reason to totally disbelieve all of what he wrote, but J.C. must be treated with extreme caution.  I find often that Celtic students and professors spend far too much time focused on what the words of the source might mean for their studies alone rather than examining the author of said source.  And let's face it, a lot of the sources for Celtic peoples are Roman (or Greek), aristocratic authors.

Julius Caesar.  One of the biggest self-promoters ever.  Wrote in third person. ("He's great."  "Who?"  "You."  "Oh, him.")  Had an extreme need to present himself in a good light, as someone doing truly extraordinary things, and, most significantly, against extraordinary odds.

So why should we believe everything he said about the Celts? Starting with the number of people migrating around the time of the Gallic War, for instance (and one of the reasons he started the whole thing in the first place - which makes it doubly suspect).   The author of this book uses Caesar's numbers to contradict previous academic statements about the population numbers.  As if to throw it back in their faces and say, "Aha! So there!" 
And then sticks out his tongue, probably.

What I find the most disturbing about this is that J.C.'s writing is treated as plain fact.  Fine, use it as a source - it is a valuable source, though, if I may say so, more for how Romans saw themselves, or needed to see themselves, what was going on politically at the time in Italy etc etc, than anything over in Gaul.  But don't tell me that because J.C. said it, it must be true. 
I'd like to see just some, even a tiny one, hint that there could be some bias, some possible doubt - even saying that J.C. stated this, not 100% sure it's true, but the information could be somewhere between what these people think, and what J.C. said...because of these various possible biases.

Room for doubt.  Because we can't know everything that went on then - we only have half, and realistically not even half of half, the picture of most things that happened around that time, and after that has been drummed into my brain every year since I was 18, I cannot sit still and read this book and nod my head.  Every time the author started a sentence off with, "And after all, Caesar mentioned in his Gallic War..." I twitched.

Location, location, location?  Try source, source, source!

Examine your sources, people - and don't be afraid to admit possible doubt; to be honest, at least to me, that just indicates a closer examination of the information at hand, rather than some weakness on the part of the argument. Also, a good degree of humility rather than overbearing ego (which, when it disturbs the pages of history books - and it's not the ancient ego under examination - is frankly rather boring, not to mention irritating). 

In which case, students, examine that book/source carefully for signs of modern bias and revisionism.

I must now get back to my other writing - I may write more on this again later, if I can bring myself to look at that book again, possibly backed up with quotes! Essay habits die hard.

Be prepared for academic ranting, dream analysis, and emotions and motives being raked over the coals.  I'll try to mix it up and not stay in the land of academia too many posts at a time.

Now back to the Tree and a new name for our villain.  More to come...