Monday, November 29, 2004

fear is a weapon of mass destruction

Every place I have lived for the last eighteen years or so, I have assessed for defensibility--against the zombies. I think about the exits, which windows will need to be boarded up, what I will use for that purpose. I have considered whether or not the staircase can be destroyed, and the fire escapes; I think about which routes to take through the city if we have to leave. I am not allowed to watch zombie movies since spook woke up one morning to find me staring at him and asked "What are you thinking?" to which I replied "I'm thinking, what in the apartment could I use to bash your head in if I needed to do that on short notice?" I used to, however, critique them ruthlessly. Why would you entomb yourself in the basement? Why would you shoot eight or nine rounds into the torso when this is obviously not effective? Why is everyone in these movies so impractically dressed--especially in the sequels? I don't know about you, but if I was the only survivor of a mass attack by the undead, I would never again sleep with my boots off. Aim for the head, people! Destroy the brain! Don't go into the subway tunnel after your puppy! I have a plan for what to do when the zombies come.

I know this is ridiculous, and I expect people to laugh when I tell them. What can I say? My brother described the plot of Night of the Living Dead to me at an impressionable age. spook bought me a copy of the Zombie Survival Guide for our anniversary this year, and even I thought it was funny, although I did find myself agreeing smugly with the author's instructions, and I did have nightmares after reading through it.

It's less funny that I found myself lying awake this week trying to plan what I would do in the event of a nuclear detonation in the U.S. I think things like we'll need a car, we'll need to head north, everyone will be trying to do that, I wonder if we need a gun. I wonder what use a gun would be since neither of us really knows how to use it. I wonder what will remain of civil order under those circumstances, I wonder if I could really bring myself to abandon my cats, I know I could not.
I am so, so, so pissed off that after three years of resisting all the right-wing fear-mongering that's been going on in this country and the one next door, they finally came up with something that scared me. Realistically, I don't think we're at any more risk of nuclear attack than we were five years ago, or fifteen. We invented the technology, and ever since, everyone has been at risk. But oh, god, lying there in bed I thought this is crazy, how is it that I'm afraid of the same thing I was afraid of as a little girl? How is it that things like blast radius are part of my consciousness, that I know the most important thing for the first little while will be which way the wind is blowing? How is it that we as people create these tools of despair for ourselves, why are we not creative enough to find a way out? I wish I believed in the kind of god who could show up and say "That's quite enough, all of you go to your rooms. I'm taking your toys away."

I saw an interview with one of my favourite monster creators, Joss Whedon, where he said "Villains never see themselves as the bad guy. In their own minds, their behaviour is entirely justified." Fear can make monsters out of all of us. Fear can make us elect monsters to lead and represent us. Fear literally does change the way we think, shutting down some responses and plugging into others, but we can find ways to calm ourselves in even dire circumstances and make a choice other than the ones that fear dictates.

I have a theory, not an especially original one I'm afraid, that our collective obsession with monsters is not because we are desensitized to violence, but the exact opposite. I think some of the people who are most interested in scary entertainment are people who live scary lives. Imaginary monsters--zombies, for example--can be made small, manipulated, put on fast forward, destroyed in satisfying explosions. We need some arenas in which we can win out over our fears, because our remote controls don't work on government policy. When I think carefully about where we are headed here, I experience a kind of terror that is like the terror of a physical threat, except that there's nothing to hit or run away from; what I'm trying to learn to ask myself is, what am I going to do each day that nothing catastrophic happens?

"We've got to find the courage to overcome
inaction is a weapon of mass destruction
inaction is a weapon of mass destruction
inaction is a weapon of mass destruction"

(Faithless, "Mass Destruction")

Friday, November 26, 2004

whose bed have your boots been under?

I never stop being surprised by people. Work is a great place for this, because you know them in such a specific context that when you see new facets, it's always kind of surprising. Heck, it's surprising to see my co-workers in their actual non-dress-code clothes. I loved finding out that a bunch of the boys on staff really dig Le Tigre and Ani Difranco (not necessarily the same boys). I loved getting invited to go see the art show of someone I didn't even know was an artist. These are the cool kinds of surprises.
Last night, after we closed the store, I bounded over to the music section and picked up Shania Twain's greatest hits album. "Kanishka," I said, and before I could finish he began protesting "It's not my fault. I didn't pick it." Maybe he was worried, I dunno, I think he'd heard a few of the other guys get the sharp side of my tongue earlier in the day. It took me a few tries to get him to understand that I was not objecting--I was asking to hear one of the songs.

He stared at me.

"Just when I thought I had you figured out, it turns out you're mean and you like Shania Twain." I threw my arms up in a victory sign at his look of confusion. "You enjoy this!" he accused. "Anarchist!"

Wait till he finds out I watch football, used to go to a fundamentalist private school, and self-define as an angry queer. Whee!

Sunday, November 21, 2004

I would like some beef jerky, and your hand in marriage.

Yesterday someone at work proposed in the Starbucks. Not an off-the-cuff kind of proposal, a down-on-one-knee-with-a-ring proposal, the kind of spectacle that everyone in the store hears about.
"That's it," Chris said "I have to find someone to marry just so that I can take her to McDonalds to ask her." I shook my head.
"7-11. That's your venue."
"Was he being creative?" Claire asked "Like, did he sink the ring in her latte?" A small pointer for anyone considering this suggestion: choking. Need I say more?


A personal note to friends, family, and creditors of Hamish Buchanan: he changed his phone number two and a half years ago. If he didn't tell you about it then, I'm guessing he doesn't like you very much. Stop calling, for the love of god.
Hamish, if you happen to be reading this, it's about the porn thing--very sketchy, dude. Extra sketchy that you didn't bother to inform your porn associates that you'd moved. I don't want to hear about your distribution plans. Did you enter witness protection? Were you abducted by aliens? Why, oh, why do we still get your phone calls?

Monday, November 15, 2004

map of the world

spook just bought a new shirt with maps all over it. It's so cool that when he tried it on my first response was "You must have that shirt." For the record, I'm still against having a longhorn skull in my living room.

Tomorrow is my thirtieth birthday, which is giving me a chance to sit back and consider where I've been so far. Of course, I will use any excuse to make up a story about my life and What It Means, but this one is socially acceptable--even socially expected. When I said I didn't feel freaked out about it, Shanghai made a kind of *pssht* gesture and explained "Forty is the new thirty." How am I ever supposed to grow up if they keep pushing the age of adulthood back? Why would I want to grow up anyway? That sort of thing leads to fussy dining room furniture. I want to stay in my "Christmas lights are legitimate interior decor" years a little longer.

Where I am right now wasn't on the map ten years ago--not my personal map, the one I carry around in my head to explain to myself where I'm going. I ignored a few important topographical details... It's rare that you go where you think you're going, but I like to check the map every once in a while anyway, to get some sense of where I might be. Here's good.

Friday, November 12, 2004

another twelve months with no poppy-related moral conundrum

I'm practically falling over with relief that another Remembrance Day is over. Its usefulness as a buffer between Hallowe'en and Christmas is totally overshadowed by my ambivalence about it. I think it's important to honour war veterans--for real. I think it would be extra great if we could honour them by taking care of them a little better, that that would mean more than those goddamn poppies, but if all we have to offer them for risking their lives for us is a stupid lapel flower, then maybe we should wear it and mean it. On the other hand, so many wars are fought for reasons that have nothing to do with the liberty we talk about on November eleventh. See Iraq, if anyone has any questions about what I mean. And part of me is horrified about the way we talk about war on this day, as if it imparts some sort of glory. We have not figured out how to respect the people who went where we asked them to go, did what we asked them to do, without talking about war as some sort of glory. War is the dirty work of nations. It is the shittiest job I can imagine. There's nothing glorious about sending a bunch of scared kids to go and kill other people for you, no matter what freedoms it protects or wins. We are willing to ask the people who have the least among us to go and give everything, including their lives, and they often do because it's the clearest way to more education, a steady paycheque. It gave me a sick sense of satisfaction to watch Michael Moore in Fahrenheit 9/11 trying to convince U.S. government members to get their kids to enlist. If the people who make the decision to go to war were required to go themselves, or to send their children, it would be a much more careful world.

On the other hand (or is it the same hand? it's so hard to tell) I memorized "In Flanders Fields" as a kid, and it still makes me cry.

Monday, November 08, 2004

i lied about being the outdoor type (part two)

I think it was some time during spook trying on hiking boots that I started to have a panic attack. Have you ever been in Mountain Equipment Co-op on a Saturday? Not an experience I recommend.

There I was, surrounded by Gore-tex, and robust-looking moms talking to their equally hearty-looking children, saying things like "No, honey, the climbing wall isn't for us to use today." Climbing wall? Kid, you look like you only learned to walk yesterday. Slow down! You're making the rest of us look bad! In the presence of all that pink-cheeked vigour, I started to wonder what the hell I thought I was doing looking at tents.

Most of my MEC visits have been a bit like that. I went a few times with What's His Name, you know, Not Rick, the Other Guy--he was really into things in improbable colour combinations, but I gamely looked at boats with him. He even took me to practice kayaking in the pool once. It was fun. If nothing else, he was an insanely patient instructor, and I found it relatively easy to maneuver around in perfectly still, chlorinated water. See, and there's the thing--I'll do anything, if someone I love is into it. Sometimes I think this makes me versatile, and much more adventurous than I give myself credit for. Other times I think this makes me a fraud.
My one major MEC purchase in life was a backpack. Not just any backpack, mind you, a 67-litre backpack that I crammed full of all of my worldly belongings to take the damn Greyhound across the country. Because I knew (and, to my chagrin, still know) nothing about packing something that big, it was incredibly top-heavy, and I was in danger of tipping over each time I had to carry it which fortunately was not very often. Flash forward to me hefting the 3.5 kilogram tent and thinking "No way could I carry this, not all day, not with a backpack full of other things. What am I doing? I'm going to get eaten by bears."

The antidote to outdoor panic, I have discovered, is the Bruce Trail--at least, the part of it we were on at Samhain. Although the trail itself is impressively long, it meanders strangely, due to being created quite a bit after other land uses were already operating. Therefore, spook and I scooted across a two-lane highway at one point (just following the blaze, ma'am), over a weird, tentlike ladder which was the safe way to get over the barbed-wire fence, and walked alongside someone's field for ten minutes or so. When we got to the end of the field, there was another field, with more blaze indicating that yes, we were still on the trail. That was when we decided to turn around. There was a little bit of getting lost excitement, but we figured out where we were before it got completely dark. Phew. Wouldn't want to have to walk up to someone's front door and ask!

I guess like everything, it takes a little practice to get good at being outdoorsy. In the meantime, I can get myself a flannel shirt, and maybe some blush. You know, for that pink-cheeked look.

like Ma Bell, I got the ill communication

You thought you'd been abandoned, didn't you? O ye of little faith. It's not that I didn't want to write. It's that someone cut our phone line last week--yep, cut our phone line. What kind of sad-ass, Friday-the-thirteenth, are-you-in-the-house-alone crap is that? So we were a little floating island for five days, unable to answer the door or the phone or use the internet, cut off from civilization, you know, except for teevee. And then it was Samhain. And then we both got sick in sequence, so I've been a little diverted. But I didn't forget you, gentle readers. And so with that in mind, I bring you another post: