commodorified: cartoon moose wearing a Mountie uniform. Text; "eh." (canadian moose)
Where I boated, hiked, scrambled, swam a bit, cried a little, laughed a lot, ate amazing food, spent time with fantastic people I love fiercely and met some new awesome people as well, and even played a game.

A song for Canada Day:

A song for Memorial Day (Newfoundland):

A song for Pride (Toronto):

And a song for Moving Day (Montreal):

ETA: and one for Independence Day (USA):
commodorified: the words Anglican Socialist Weirdo on a Green and Yellow abstract background (Anglican Socialist Weirdo)
I am sending you love and endless cups of virtual tea and platters of Peak Freans.

This is all.
commodorified: A cartoon of a worried looking woman in a chef's hat (cooking for people who don't)
As we, in company with most of Ottawa, are as yet in no danger of growing tired of the "pick up beer, cider, and crusty buns, make a salad as big as your head, and sit around drinking while you bbq some protein" approach to life the weather has suddenly and triumphantly made possible this week.

And really, I assume you all know how to grill a sausage.

Patio Season Convinces Ottawa Woman She Doesn't Live In Desolate Arctic Hellscape Ninety Percent Of The Year.
commodorified: the words Anglican Socialist Weirdo on a Green and Yellow abstract background (Anglican Socialist Weirdo)
"... The times are inexpressibly evil. Christians pay conscious, indeed religious tribute, to Caesar and Mars; by the approval of overkill tactics, by brinkmanship, by nuclear liturgies, by racism, by support of genocide. They embrace their society with all their heart, and abandon the cross. They pay lip service to Christ and military service to the powers of death. And yet, and yet, the times are inexhaustibly good, solaced by the courage and hope of many. The truth rules, Christ is not forsaken.

In a time of death, some men—the resisters, those who work hardily for social change, those who preach and embrace the unpalatable truth—such men overcome death, their lives are bathed in the light of the resurrection, the truth has set them free. In the jaws of death, of contumely, of good and ill report, they proclaim their love of the brethren. We think of such men, in the world, in our nation, in the churches; and the stone in our breast is dissolved; we take heart once more."
commodorified: A woman's leg, in shorts. Her partially visible hand points to the joint of her hip, which is circled in red. (badonkaklonk)
[personal profile] commodorified: You know, if it weren't for the piercings issue I feel like you'd quite enjoy getting an MRI. I mean it's basically an isolation chamber with an experimental industrial soundtrack.

[ profile] benet: Oh, I have had an MRI, actually. That was my impression although, you know, I was on a looooot of Ativan

And I had already had [unpleasant medically required thing done] so anything shy of that basically seemed like a garden party

[personal profile] commodorified: legit!

well, I'm ripped on codeine to prevent coughing.

I really want to do a track called Pelvic MRI now

[ profile] benet: Might need to be an installation...

[personal profile] commodorified: I like it. Can I do the voice?

[ profile] benet: the voice?

[personal profile] commodorified: You know: "the next segment will be four minutes of noise"

[ profile] benet: oh yeah!

[personal profile] commodorified: You can do the "hold still" parts, your voice is more menacing

[ profile] benet: You know, we kid, but a convincing MRI simulator that doesn't cost a packet a go might actually be useful for anxiety

[personal profile] commodorified: Hmm with the heavy blanket of soothing and the nice breeze. I do like the breeze.

[ profile] benet: Actually I was thinking for anxiety about having an MRI

[personal profile] commodorified: Oh. I find them, um, pleasingly womblike.

I'm a hopeless freak, aren't I?

[ profile] benet: No, I think it makes sense.

[personal profile] commodorified: Add a lightshow on the ceiling and I'd do them for fun.

[ profile] benet: I mean, my ideal bed is basically a cave.

[personal profile] commodorified: Last time I didn't get the heavy blanket or the airflow so that was more twitchy.

This time they put a weighted blanket over my pelvis so my breathing wouldn't move it. Much nicer.

[ profile] benet: I cannot remember those things but I prob had the blanket.
commodorified: On a plain pink background the words "Canadian Problem number 61: being a very bored gay rights activist" (canadian queer)
One of my very favourite cousins is starting his PhD in education. One of his long-term goals is to help improve how LGBT issues are handled in the Ontario and Canadian school systems.

We talk about this stuff, some, and we talk a lot about the broader education of a queer activist. About racism, and poverty/classism, and feminism, and sex education, and reproductive justice, and disability, and what I came up calling 'linked oppressions' and is now referred to as intersectionality ...

And then again about vulnerability and shame and addiction and trauma and how they can echo down the generations of a marginalised subculture as they do down the generations of a family, and about building community and sometimes about psychology and sociology and anthropology and history and art ...

At one point I was tossing a bunch of books and names at him and suggested that I ought to make him a bibliography, and then, on further pondering, that maybe I should crowdsource it a bit, because while in some ways he and I are different enough for me to be useful to him - I'm a woman, I'm twice his age, my activist and academic experiences and preoccupations are different - at heart we're just a couple of white semirural Protestant SW Ontario kids not that far off the farm or the railroad.

Plus, it might be useful to people other than him.

So, here's my invitation/request: if you identify as an academic—formally or otherwise—and/or as an activist, tell me (him, us) about the books and essays and writers/artists and works that changed you, informed you, showed you aspects of yourself and the world that changed you and changed how you went to work. Your touchstones, as it were.

Everything is welcome: Movies. Music. Poetry, prose, fiction, academic works, famous or obscure, any field, any era. I'm particularly interested in works outside your own usual interests that turned out to be extremely important to you.


1) You don't need to explain why you're recommending something, but you are very welcome to. You also don't need to provide links, but they will be appreciated.

2) All works will be assumed to be both luminous and flawed, which is to say, do not challenge other commenters on their choices, or post dispargements/anti-recs. Those can be very valuable, but not here and now.

If you're reccing something that you consider problematic but still really valuable—or even valuable because it illuminates a really problematic mindset—you're welcome to say so, absolutely. Footnoting other people's recs is not so helpful here. If you know a better work on a topic, just rec it, okay? The goal here is the broadest possible net, and we won't get that if this turns into "your fave is problematic."

3) You can make as many recs as you like, or only one. Pick things that have lasted for you, things that have held up over the years, things that you're profoundly grateful not to have missed.

4) Feel free to link this, but I'd much rather it be linked to individuals or small groups who will be very interested than to larger groups who will be largely indifferent.

ETA: also, please don't reply to comments, as I'd like people to be able to come back and edit their comments (or add to them themselves if they can't edit for whatever reason), plus it makes everything easier to read.
commodorified: Come, we've still a lot of backsliding ahead of us (backsliding)
So, coming out of a conversation about remixes and this and that, [personal profile] muccamukk is organizing an MCU ROLLING REMIX.

"What is a rolling remix?", you ask, possibly in Maggie Smith's best Duchess voice.


I quote Mucca:

One person writes a fic and posts it (without tags) to a locked collection on AO3.

The mod sends that fic to someone else, who remixes it in the tradition of remixes everywhere.

They post their (tagless) remix to the same locked comm.

The mod sends the remix (but NOT the previous story) to someone else, who would remix the remix.

Repeat steps three and four until we've run out of people.

Intrigued? Full rules and info at the above link, signups here.
commodorified: Come, we've still a lot of backsliding ahead of us (incitement)
I like Elementary, I do. I don't claim that it's flawless but I enjoy it a lot and we watch it nigh-religiously around here.

This week's episode did, however, make me yearn for an Elementary/Rivers of London crossover.

Or, at least it caused me to ... forcefully ... quote Whispers Underground at the screen, to wit:

"and woe betide any officer who breaks the chain of evidence, for they will be sat down and have what went wrong with the O. J. Simpson murder trial explained to them at great length. With PowerPoint slides.”

I can think of things Sherlock would hate more, but not of things he would hate more which could lawfully be done to him within the confines of a police station and which would leave him no grounds for a complaint against the officers involved.

And oh, man. If the show has a big honking proceedural flaw, that's kind of it.

*looks hopefully at Tiny Fandom*

ETA: the actual PowerPoint prestentation, of course, was created by the long-suffering bastards actually responsible for custody of evidence, which is why it is 200 slides long and the audio includes, in the DNA section, the entirety of Every Sperm Is Sacred, as a low-quality .midi file, accompanied by images of cartoon sperm dancing around a crime scene.

ETA2: Joan would get dragged into sitting through it too. Her revenge would be epic.
commodorified: where in this small-talking world can I find a longitude with no platitude? (a little MORE conversation)
Remember those memes where you took a list of questions and answered them by putting your iTunes collection on random?

I always wanted to do one that did the reverse, so here it is: fifteen questions my music collection asks me regularly, to be answered by you in any way you please.

Note: This is not a lyrics quiz.
Note2: Responses are public.
Note3: Yes, please, steal this idea.

Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 26

Who knows where the time goes?

Where is this love?

What about everything?

See how I miss you?

Where are you tonight?

Who by fire?

Which side are you on?

Is it wrong to wish on space hardware?

Is there anybody out there?

How many times do you have to fall?

How shall I your true love know?

How long?

Why does the sun shine?

Where are we now?

Are you experienced?

commodorified: cartoon mouse, stomping its foot, whose body and ears are made up of pills (fuckingmeds)
So this is why at the tender age of 40-odd I started taking amphetamines.

Oddly, I WAS diagnosed as a child. I was also overmedicated, in retrospect—you know what, it was the 70s and from all I can find out everyone on Ritalin was getting too much of the stuff; I don't even know my exact dosage but it was 4-6 Ritalin/day—which led to a 30-year refusal to try again, and also, probably to my benefit, a life-long wariness of recreational drugs, on the grounds that if my experience of speed was so very very different from what other people described, I was not interested in finding out what happened if I took, say, psychedelics.

an actually very nice ukranian pysanka, with a technicolour bighorn sheep
This is my brain on drugs, probably. If this were a spinning .gif with the saturation hiked up and the goat sheep invoking ancient gods.

"...[G]irls’ symptoms include:

a tendency toward daydreaming
trouble following instructions
making careless mistakes on homework and tests."

Oh man, so you know how I turned into such a good proofreader? ABJECT TERROR. Which is NOT the way to develop a life skill, really.

Most of the things I'm really good at I acquired through a combination of a) hyperfocus and b) fear of being screamed at.
commodorified: I refuse to be the toy of irresponsible events (irresponsible events)
As you may recall:

Senior Cat: Sovay. Calico. Rescue. Mildly psycho.

Junior Cat: Dreadful. Tuxedo. Diabetic, after a nasty bout of pancreatitis a few years ago. On a carefully restricted and timed diet.

Inevitably, they have a tumblr.


We're currently feeding Sovay in my room, on top of my dressing table. This allows us to free-feed her, which is good as she's a nibbler, and Dreadful can't get to the dressing table so he can't steal her kibble.

EXCEPT Miss Sovay has taken to expressing her distaste for kibble which is insufficiently recent or otherwise does not meet her exacting standards by pushing her food plate off of the dressing table. (or, possibly, Dreads is paying her.)

And that is why I woke up in the middle of the night last night to the sight of the back half of Dreadful, protruding from the drawer where I keep my hair product, yowling pitiably and need of rescue.
commodorified: perhaps rumpus isn't the word. A minor kind of bloody revolution (rumpus)
I shall


2) Mend it.

3) Keep cabbages in it.

4) Cackle like the dork I am.
commodorified: A cartoon of a worried looking woman in a chef's hat (cooking for people who don't)
Our basement freezes solid, so.

One kitchen door, one over-the-door hanger, some cloth tote bags, and the root vegetables are now living in style.

Took about ten minutes to do, and an embarassingly long time to think of.

Walrus bag to rainbow bag, there's: potatoes, squash, cabbage, onions, carrots.
commodorified: a capital m, in fancy type, on a coloured background (Default)
You are still falling down badly in women's sizes, especially in pants and shorts. I can rarely buy bottoms of any kind at MEC and the exceptions are usually stretchy skirts or bike shorts or, as with this order, long underwear.

I also cannot buy a buttoned shirt which fits over my chest. I am a size 16-18 in most clothing: in yours, because you size small, I am probably a 20.

My female friends, including those smaller than me, have similar problems. Your women's clothing simply does not accommodate a wide range of body shapes and sizes. You don't even bring in Prana's larger sizes in the clothes of theirs that you carry.

It is especially noticeable that you do not even accommodate muscular women's bodies - the wide-shouldered or strong-legged are as out-of-luck as the large-busted or wide-hipped.

One would expect that to be your core demographic.

Meanwhile, a vast range of men can find comfortable, functional, stylish clothng at your store. My partner is 6'6 and strongly built and buys clothes from you easily.

I know you have experimented with a (slightly) broader range of women's sizes in the past. I also know you didn't really promote it - I found a pair of size 18 shorts, in _one_ style, on your racks by pure chance.

I suspect that the comparative failure of the experiment was used to justify not repeating it, when had we known the clothing was there we would have wanted and bought it.

As a co-operative which is not reliant on shareholder demands for a profit in every quarter MEC is in a position to take some chances, to do what's right instead of what's immediately expedient, to really promote heath and fitness and outdoor enjoyment as something that everybody can enjoy.

You are in a position to counteract the endless messages young women, and all women, get about the narrow range of 'acceptable' body types.

You are in a position to make members like me feel truly welcomed instead of grudgingly tolerated - so long as we don't expect too many nice things. You'll take my money for gear, if I'm okay with being sent elsewhere for clothing to wear while I use it. You could change that. You could get more of my business, easily, simply by treating me as if I genuinely mattered.

And you could do it - you could expand your sizes and rethink your fits - honestly, fairly easily, for the price of - for example - a moderate reduction in available colours of the clothing you sell. The warehouse and rack space can be made. The money can be found. The expertise can be located.

I have been making these suggestions to MEC for roughly a decade, and the response is always that you're "working on it." Please don't reply to this the same way.

Because you're not. You're not working on it at all. You don't value, or possibly don't even SEE, your female members unless we're slim and fall into a very narrow range of body types.

You're not Lululemon, or Patagonia, with their blatant aim at the young and slim and pretty client who they think will make a good "brand ambassador."

You're MEC. You're supposed to be better than that. You're supposed to belong to all of us. Are you ever going to act like that's true?
commodorified: a cartoon of a woman holding a duster and saying in a sad and tired way "clean *all* the things?" (clean all the things?)
One of the relatively few exceptions we make to Operation Ethical Meat is large hams after major holidays, when they're massively discounted.

We bring them home, dice them, and put them in freezer bags of roughly 1lb each - the next one will go in 1/2 lb bags, as we're trying to reduce our meat consumption - for use as wanted. They mostly end up in pots of beans, or else cooked with greens, though they're also good for omlettes and hashes and savoury bread puddings and macaroni and cheese.

When we can dice no more, we freeze the bone with a good coating of meat on it, for soup.

Last night I put the bone in a pot along with:
1C diced celery
1C diced carrot
2 diced onions
1 box of chicken broth
1 box of water
3 T herbs du provence
2T chopped garlic
Quite a lot of black pepper
3 C dried white beans - half navy beans and half canellini in this case, as we were low on both.

It's been in the oven on 200F ever since, and will make a good supper. I will probably tweak the flavour a bit at the end - I think it could use a bit of salt, which is not always the case with ham so I leave it until the end, and maybe some dried dill to brighten things up.

ETA: added salt, dill, marjoram and half a cabbage two hours before supper and had it over boiled potatoes. It was really good.

We would have had it last night but the schedule was disrupted by the co-op run to Arnprior (if you're between Arnprior and Ottawa and want to get amazingly tasty ethical meat and fancy veggies and other stuff from the co-op, ping me for details. There is no minimum order, and if you know me well enough to read my journal you're welcome to have us hold your order in our freezer until you can come by, since we do the Ottawa delivery.

And also by Dreadful having an ... adverse reaction ... to the antibiotic he was on. All over one of the heirloom (1940s?) Hudson's Bay blankets we got for Christmas from [personal profile] random's parents.

He's been to the vet and he's fine, eating like a horse (or trying to, poor beast is on a diet) and with excellent blood sugar numbers and all. But my afternoon and early evening were hijacked by the need to deal with the devastation wreaked on the central, cream-coloured(!), section of said blanket.

"And the only reason I'm singin' you this song today is because you may know someone in a similar situation. Or you may be in a similar situation, and if you're in a situation like that ..." then here is how to clean a wool blanket that has picked up some odd stains over the years and is presently covered in, oh, let's call it mud, shall we?

You will need:

A bathtub or laundry tub
Laundry detergent
Oxygen bleach - we use oxiclean for babes, as it's unscented.
A toothbrush you can discard or a nailbrush you can clean thoroughly, after.
A spin-dryer, or access to a washing machine.
A small plastic bowl or similar.
A fairly strong light you can shine on your work.

Optional but beneficial:

Step one:

Have a restorative cup of tea and refer to the cat as "mittens" in an ominous tone, repeatedly. Consider whether there's enough of him for a hat.

Step two:

Relent because he's
so cute
and doesn't feel well. Establish him on an old, comfy towel and give him enough catnip to keep him mostly there while his guts settle.

Step three:

Lay the blanket in the tub and cover it with cold, soapy water. Let it soak for 15 minutes, and then go over it, gently dislodging with your brush anything solid that hasn't floated off already.

Drain the tub, making sure to hold the blanket up as much as possible (wet wool blankets are heavy!) so the solids go down the drain.

Step four:

Lay the blanket back in the tub, folded like ribbon candy.

Pour some oxygen bleach into the bowl. Go over each section of the blanket with the brush, treating everything that looks stained or discoloured, dipping your brush frequently into the oxygen bleach, refolding the blanket as you finish each section so you expose the next strip. (This sounds more complicated than it is: all you really need is enough of a system that you don't miss a chunk). Do both sides. I did all of the cream sections plus anywhere on the stripes I saw staining. Don't scrub hard - rub just enough to get a foam going.

Step five:

Let the blanket sit while you have a cup of tea and a stretch. You deserve it, and it gives the oxygen bleach time to work.

Step six:

Cover the blanket with as much cold water as the tub will hold and swish the blanket around as much as your hands will stand. If you're working in a laundry tub, change the water once.

Step seven:

Drain the tub and put the blanket in the spin dryer/in the washer set to "spin only". Spinning removes terrifying amounts of soap and dirt along with the water, it's amazing.

Step seven-a:

(Optional step is optional:
In a small cup, combine:
2-3 T lanolin
6 drops of bluing (if your blanket is mostly cream/white)
About 1t of detergent or your nice scented bodywash or shampoo - something to act as a binding agent for the lanolin so it won't just solidify and float when you add it to the rinsewater.
You can add a few drops of rosemary oil or clary sage or pine oil, if you like your blankets to smell woodsy.
Fill the cup with boiling water to melt the lanolin and stir vigorously.
Add this to your rinsewater.

My theory was that I had the lanolin and bluing handy, and I only wash wool blankets once every few years, so I might as well give this one the full spa treatment while I was at it.)

Step eight: Cover the blanket with, again, as much cold water as the tub will hold, add the lanolin mix from seven-a when the tub is full and you can insure it gets mixed throughout the tub - avoid pouring it directly onto the blanket. The bluing is actually super-handy this way, as I could see the mixture spread out - and swish the blanket around for as long as your hands will tolerate the cold water. If you did the lanolin thing, let it soak for fifteen minutes or so once it's been well swished, to let more lanolin settle into the fabric.

Step nine: Drain the tub, spin the blanket again, and hang it over the shower rail (spinning gets out so much water it's even safe to hang wool without worrying about it getting dragged out of shape, it's amazing) or lay it flat to dry.

Step ten: assuming you can still lift your arms, give yourself a serious pat on the back, and then wash your tools.

It was seriously hard on my hands and shoulders, but I swear, this blanket hasn't looked this good since Diefenbaker was in office.
commodorified: A cartoon of a worried looking woman in a chef's hat (cooking for people who don't)
I have cramps, ugh.

So around noon, I hauled myself to the kitchen and loaded one of the enamelled iron pots with:

Two frozen lambshanks
A box of chicken stock
A generous slosh (1/8 C?) dried onion
1 C chopped frozen celery (We've taken to chopping all the celery when we buy it and freezing what we don't immediately use. I love raw veggies in warm weather, but can't get excited about them in January, so right now celery=cooking celery.
I would have added 1C chopped frozen carrots, but we're out.

Then I added
1T Penzeys's Lamb Seasoning and
1/2 T Maharajah curry powder,

(I could have gone with 1/2 T lamb seasoning and 2-3 T Maharajah, but I wanted richness rather than spice, this time.)

Put the lid on, turned the oven to 300F, and wandered back to my book.

At 5 I started rice with a bit of lemongrass and cilantro, and added two large handsful of wax beans to the broth around the lamb shanks. I may add a big bunch of baby spinach right at the end; it's basically cooked as soon as it hits the hot liquid, so. And I've been trying to get our vegetable consumption up.

Meanwhile, supper smells promising.
commodorified: perhaps rumpus isn't the word. A minor kind of bloody revolution (getting my activist on)
"If you trust yourself and believe in your dreams and follow your star … you’ll still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things..." Terry Pratchett, Wee Free Men.

I've been thinking about a thing that happened recently. Which I am going to disguise the details of, because it's a very common thing that people do and I have zero desire to put it on anyone specific because, well, "because" will become clear, I hope.

So someone asked for advice on writing a story in which one of the romantic leads has a marginalised identity, which the writer does not share.

And a lot of people responded helpfully, and a lot of people responded helpfully and encouragingly, and a number of people responded reassuringly: you're a good person and a good writer, you'll be fine, just go ahead.

It's that last response that I want to talk about, because it didn't sit well with me, and it hasn't sat well with me when I've seen it before — and I've seen it a lot. But I couldn't pin it down, what was bothering me, beyond the basic fact that it nearly always seems to be offered from, and to, the side with the privilege. I had observed repeatedly that asking for or taking that particular reassurance tended to lead to bad outcomes, and I had a rough notion of what was going on, but I couldn't have told you what was specifically wrong with the reassurance, or the context of it, or what. So I chewed on it a bunch.

This is a common problem for me — I don't know if it's a common problem in general — when it comes to thinking about oppression and marginalization and privilege. It's a difficulty, not of believing people, but of believing people and then not knowing what to do next: learning that a thing is wrong doesn't necessarily gift me with an understanding of why and how it's wrong, and not knowing what is wrong with a thing makes it hard to address effectively.

In other words, a desire not to hurt people is not, in and of itself, a toolkit for not hurting people. You have to do the work of understanding what hurts, and why.

I mean, "don't do that, it hurts people" is an incredibly valuable thing to be told. I'm not saying it's not. It just doesn't give you a lot of help in avoiding the many, many related ways of hurting people that you will, probably, move on to next if you leave it at that.

I have spent quite a lot of time fighting the despair that comes with the notion that the only way to address my privilege, in areas where I have it, is by systematically harming the people I come into contact with and then apologizing and making amends until I run out of problematic behaviours or, much more probably, friends. Eventually - much more slowly than seems reasonable, looking back, but I am a slow thinker - I realized that I didn't necessarily need to be a better person: I needed to be a better-informed person. Then I moved myself out of a lot of then-ongoing conversations and did a lot of reading, and then I asked some more questions and then I did more reading, and this has been working much better. For everyone, I think.

Again, this might just be me, in which case this isn't going to be as generally helpful as I might have hoped, but one can only try.

So. The "you're a decent person" problem.

Well, the first thing is that in that context it's invalidating, while looking and sounding like validation: "Can somebody tell me how to fix my front brakes? I never learned." "Oh, sweetie, you're a good person. You'll be fine."

You won't though. Try to teach yourself how to fix brakes without doing the reading or getting the right tools or getting someone to teach you, and you'll probably crash, actually, and you may well hit and injure or kill someone. And the thing is, you know that, or you wouldn't be asking. So while responses like that sound much more supportive than "that's too complicated for you, you can't fix your own brakes", they're functionally the same: they ignore the question and in doing so they invalidate the asker's reality, while making it harder for them to learn to do the thing well.

Telling someone who is asking for pointers to acquire the tools they need to do the work they've set themselves that they can just go out there and fake it because they're a good person is obscuring the point, and profoundly unhelpful at best, dangerous at worst.

(You don't ask someone who makes their living as a mechanic to drop everything and teach you for free, mind you, unless you're really good friends who regularly do each other large favours. But you ask someone, in person or via a manual or both, paying as appropriate for that instruction.)

(Related: the "you're a good writer" problem, the shaming flipside of which is often expressed after a failure of representation as "that's just bad writing." (Allowing the person who says it the self-reassuring corollary: "I am a Good Writer, so I am safe from that and related errors.) Which isn't wrong, exactly, except for the word "just". There are a lot of kinds of good writing and a lot of kinds of bad writing and even if we all agreed on which were which, which we do not, that's a bit like telling someone that their spelling is terrible and not mentioning that there are such things as dictionaries: you're not obligated as a casual critic to mention the dictionary thing, or go find them a suitable one, but I do think you shouldn't tell them they just need to Try Harder at Being A Better Writer. You do need to Try Harder to be a better speller, or writer - or a better anything - but you also need to know what, specifically, to try harder at.

Fail Again and Fail Better is real, and true, but it's not everything. And now I am tempted to derail myself with a whole discussion of how we overvalue "originality" and the individual and the iconoclast and the autodiadactic in writing and elsewhere and how that hooks into a number of deeply messed-up paradigms and if someone else wants to write about that please do because it is outside my current scope but oh wow I want to read that. Anyway. Where was I?)

So again, what happens when someone says, oh, I don't know, "I'm thinking of hiking the West Coast Trail, with a group of friends, they want me to organize the trip, I've done these kinds of hikes in these places, got any advice?"

What doesn't happen is this: people aren't overwhelmingly inspired to respond with "well, you're strong and brave and your heart's in the right place, just head out, you'll be fine." I mean, there are people who do say and believe things like that — right up until they try it, generally, at which point the Search and Rescue people usually get involved.

Mostly, though, what happens is this: people who have done the trail will — assuming they don't take one look at your current skill and experience and fitness levels and suggest you pick a different route — post links to their entire packing lists, which will feature discussion of the number of milligrammes to be saved by removing the handle of your toothbrush (no, seriously) and in-depth comparisons of blister treatments and merino vs synthetic baselayers and extensive discussion of bears and they will show you their extensively annotated maps, and they will look at your estimated km/day and tell you where you're being unrealistic, and in general people will school the heck out of you, partly because anyone who has hiked the West Coast Trail can and will discuss the topic for hours at the drop of a (waterproof, deet-stained) hat but mostly because when someone expresses an intent to hike the West Coast you probably, even if you do not hike yourself, understand that this is an incredibly difficult undertaking which is going to require not just courage and determination but a large amount of data, a number of slightly unusual skills, some fairly specific equipment, and a lot of physical conditioning, because if you try to do this thing without knowing what you're doing and how to do it, you or your companions will get seriously hurt or quite possibly die.

So when that person asks for help and information and advice and the benefit of your experience, you give it to them. You don't try to tell them that they can do the trail in their gardening sandals, armed with good intentions and a single bottle of water.

(Originally I was using the Appalachian Trail as my example, but [personal profile] random pointed out that you can do quite a lot of the Appalachian on guts, brute force and ignorance without doing yourself or anyone else a serious injury. Most people who nope out of that trail make it out on their own feet - however bloody and bruised. Which is a different, if related, metaphorical thingy, also somewhat relevant here.)

Now, look, you say.

And it's true that if one more piece of fiction makes it into the world with some regrettable assumptions left intact it is unlikely on its own to directly cause serious, long-lasting harm to someone. Nevertheless, somebody might - very likely will - get hurt.

And the regrettable assumptions themselves? Yep. You caught me. I'm not only using car repair and hiking as a way to talk about writing, I'm using writing as a way to talk about anti-oppression work in general. The regrettable assumptions, and their perpetuations, absolutely can and do injure and kill real people.

Being a decent person in an indecent system is not enough. It's necessary, but it's not sufficient. A decent person who is easily fooled by indecent arguments is functionally indistinguishable from a bad person, alas.

That approach also leads to the assumption that all failures are failures of decency, which just isn't so. Some are, for sure. We've all encountered that situation. But many, maybe even most, are not.

Trying to introspect, or abuse, yourself - or someone else - into becoming "more decent" is missing the point, badly: that is not what "educate yourself" means. It really isn't.

I suspect that the two things - the shame-driven endless quest to root out every scrap of evil from your own heart and the reflexive reassurance of our own basic goodness that misses the point - are not only related, they're the same thing at heart: heart-searching and self-criticism, if that's all you do or if you do it without finding some kind of support for yourself, eventually bottoms out and then - because it is a basically very healthy response to realize at some point in that cycle that you're not that horrible person, you're really not - feeds directly into the mutual reassurance cycle: it feels good to tell your friends that they're good people, decent people, people who want to do the right thing. It feels good to be the sort of person who has friends like that, and says things like that to them. It really does.

And there's a time and a place for doing that, for reminding each other of our basic decency. One of the things about unlearning privilege — any kind of privilege — is that it's extremely easy to take a wrong turn and end up stuck fast in the Pit of Shame. There are excellent reasons why this is often treated with, hrmm, brisk unhelpfullness by the unprivileged, mainly that it doesn't actually help them, you, or anyone and when a privileged person has a meltdown it usually takes up a lot of space which the people they have harmed were possibly intending to use, and makes a lot of noise, which often drowns out the conversation that was going on before the meltdown started - but it's still a shame-based meltdown and shame-based meltdowns are painful and awful and destructive and just because it's not the job of the people you've harmed to walk you through it and look after you and remind you that you're valuable doesn't mean you don't deserve those things at all.

Besides, it's not like people never do valuable work from a place of deep self-loathing, but it's sporadic, unreliable, inefficient, usually ends in a spectacular flameout and is basically the least effective way of creating real positive change ever.

Shame is not a sustainable power source. Sort of like alcohol, it acts as a stimulant in the short term, but is ultimately a depressant. Also, it impairs your judgement and reflexes.

In order to make useful change, you have to a) genuinely desire it ("be a decent person") b) believe that you are capable of learning how to make that change, and that your basic motives are reliably good, which is to say, you can't be, or can't continue to be, swamped in shame and self-loathing, because it doesn't matter how much you want something if you believe yourself to be incapable of it, and then you can c) learn the information and practice the skills required.

You can't skip b), any more than you can skip a) or c). If you skip b) you end up ping-ponging uncontrollably between "I am an awful person and must fix everything about myself" and "I am a good and caring person and need fix nothing about myself." Both are bad for you without being good for much else.

If you skip c) you can end up stuck at performing decency and anti-oppressiveness to your own personal choir, at the expense of practicing them and of getting better at them, or as a way of avoiding admitting that they require work, because you've made a basic error about the correct use of decency, that is, to give you a desire for the work, not to replace it.

And that's what's wrong with responding with reassurance when somone's asked for help.

Don't be the anti-oppression version of the hiker who ends up in a Medevac helicopter, and don't encourage other people to be that person.

And carry extra water. It never gets heavier.
commodorified: very worried stuffed crocodile clutching a pillow (not coping)
Poll #17162 The Worst
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 75

What is Ther Worst Viral Thing? (Based on personal loathing, not actual/potential severity)

View Answers

Head cold, the runny kind
5 (6.7%)

Sinus cold, the stuffy kind
9 (12.0%)

6 (8.0%)

Chest cold
6 (8.0%)

Stomach bug
27 (36.0%)

Influenza (get your flu shot, everyone!)
22 (29.3%)

ETA: "stomach bug" includes viruses causing *both* kinds of digestive distress. Possibly I ought to have said "digestive system" rather than "stomach", but I am the sort of person who would rather clean up after Norovirus for a week than discuss the topic for ten minutes, sorry.


commodorified: a capital m, in fancy type, on a coloured background (Default)

July 2017



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