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Refuge for the rational.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Get Back Jojo 

I spent the evening going through old pictures at my parent’s house. You may not believe this, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a cuter kid. I had Smurf jammies once. There was a hat and a one-piece with little booties. I miss that. I miss a lot of things from my childhood. I miss Lego. I miss the illusion of a drug and sex-free Cory Feldman. The soundtrack from Gremlins. And the Care Bears. I also miss pen pals. I had a lot of them once.

I’m really disappointed that people forget about this kind of stuff. Something happens to most people around my age, and they suddenly begin acting differently and sanctioning you if you refuse to do so as well. I’m not really sure what the point is. People can’t stand to just do nothing anymore, and yet they spend their lives doing nothing—at their jobs, in their marriages. I pay my bills on time and I don’t need to eat dinner at the same time every day to do it. I like to lie around on the floor and sing along to whatever I’m in the mood for. That’s not constructive and I don’t care. I eke out a living and go to school and when I don’t, I shouldn’t have to feel guilty about just doing nothing. I don’t understand.

Once, one of my pen pals tried to send me a tiny plastic reindeer through the mail. I guess when they tried to put the envelope through a machine it mangled the letter, but they delivered it anyway. It came in a plastic bag and had black ink all over it from whatever chaos it had created in the letter-sorting machine. I was glad to get it. I moved to the city my friend lived in a few years later. Unfortunately for me, she had turned into a real bitch. We were fourteen, so I suppose it makes sense. She had something to prove, and I guess the distance between us had distracted from the fact that we were completely different people. Not just different, our differences were irreconcilable—for her, anyway. Pen palling in bad spirit, that’s what she was doing.

I want to have pen pals again, but people are so committed to their adult lives. I’m sure no one wants to exchange Cracker Jack prizes through the mail, but I’ll accept applications anyway. Anyone who is as disenchanted with propriety as I am can feel free to email me their address. I might send you cool stuff.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Sunday morning 

I was reading a book today and one of the characters reminded me of you. And it got me thinking about you, even though I’ve been disinclined to do so for a very long time, even moderately fearful of the idea that you should need to be anywhere in my conscious working brain if it is at all within my control.

But I know you want to be there. I know that you got off on mistaking my affection for love, but I didn’t say that and so you had no rational, reasonable justification for it. It’s ok. I’ve decided I forgive you.

That’s the Christian thing to do. Not that I’m among the saved or anything. I was a Catholic as a kid, but I guess our activities sort of throw that possibility out the window, now don’t they?

I remember thinking you looked so much taller when you were naked. I was probably smiling as I traced the line down the slight swell of your belly and past your hip-bone; clothes do a good job of giving people waistlines. You were giving me a ridiculously serious look and urging me to leave the comfort of your bed. I just didn’t want to, so I told you how much I hated the sound of your voice. Looking back, for whatever reason, that’s the only physical thing that ruined it for me—the way your voice sounds. Your nose is for breathing and blowing.

Your living room was so strangely inviting. Strange because the ceilings were high and the walls were white, and that kind of space can often feel dominating. But those old wooden floors and windowsills, and the old tattered hound’s-tooth couch—god only knows from where. And to top it all off, you put on a god-damn Velvet Underground record and made me sing along to Sunday Morning with you, giggling at the pathetic limits of your own sense of humour. You made coffee, and I sat on that couch looking out those windows wearing one of your oversized button-down shirt like some kind of sickening romantic drama cliché. If it were the eighties, I woulda had that disgusting mass of long curly hair that was somehow sexy back in the day. That would have been a bitch to get a hold of that morning.

It was warm out and the windows were open and I remember thinking that the breeze was being unusually tender for that time of year. The spring. A clean earthy smell came in with the wind, and even though the air was warm, the smell had the coolness of the rain that had fallen the night before—it tickled the inside of your nose if you took a deep breath. All of those manic sensory outbursts can make one lose their head and attribute a lot to experiences, and invent personalities for people that aren’t really there. You, for instance, were a deeply conflicted individual, well within the romantic and superficial limits of my categorizing capacities. But your kind and adorable eyes were only familiar in the context of carnal engagement, and I put my hands on your face and kissed you to make that unfamiliarity go away, to make you more like I knew you to be.

It was comfortable; the silences abounded without fidgeting or gulping or racking our brains for something to say, but it doesn’t mean I knew you. Or loved you. And your wanting to think that was the reason I hated you for a long time. Now that it’s ok, and I’ve decided I forgive you, I can admit that you were one of my favourites. It must be some innate quality, because I can’t really say why.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Jenn 

I recently had an ethical dilemma. I’m in a senior-level primatology class where we compare nonhuman primate behaviour with human behaviour and try to account for the similarities and differences using evolutionary assumptions. There are three group projects, the first of which I finished on Thursday.

But let’s go back to Monday. As I had discussed with my partner, we did the appropriate readings, took point-form notes and exchanged our notes and ideas for the direction of the paper by email. When I received her email, I panicked. It was a complete mess; not only was she completely illiterate, she didn’t understand any of the concepts.

Since the course required a pre-requisite, and since she had made it to her senior year by some miracle, I summoned the courage to give her the benefit of the doubt, assuming that, for her, point-form translated into something requiring far less effort. But I wasn’t taking too many chances. I immediately sat down and wrote four pages that would serve as the body of the essay.

At least, it was supposed to be the body of the essay. We decided on Tuesday that she would add ideas to my essay and that I would finish it off with a quick edit. I even had to lie and tell her that I used to edit for a living, just so the stupid idiot would let me have it last. I was supposed to receive the ‘final’ copy on Wednesday morning, but of course, it didn’t come until Wednesday night.

When I opened the file I almost started to cry. What greeted me was a fucking disaster. The email that accompanied the file contained the words “I’ve changed the format a bit, I think it flows better…”

Flows better. The only thing worse than a stupid person is one who thinks they’re smarter than you.

The idea behind a body of writing is that the paragraphs follow each other in a logical sequence. There must be something about the name Jenn that makes people in that unfortunate predicament rather dense. That could be the only reason she played fucking Jenga with my essay, and then decided to rape and delete entire sections, replacing them with sentences such as:

“The sexual selection hypothesis is proved in the primate record” Ok. First of all, the word is proven, and second, no it isn't.

She referred to all nonhuman primates as a single species. She used the term natural selection incorrectly. My favourite part of all though, was this little diddy:

“The concept of sexual intercourse no longer shares a causal relationship
with reproduction in the human database”

I stopped crying, briefly, to laugh. The concept of sex?!

So what could I do? I handed in a paper that I had written completely on my own. And as of yet, she has no idea. I have to work with her again, but at the same time, I have to be honest with her, and I’m paying for course credit and an A, not to worry about hurting someone’s self-esteem.

I am so angry that people like Jenn are allowed to advance as far as they do. Not out of some kind of elitism, but because it’s insulting to those of us with enough integrity to value our educational experience. If our standards have slipped this low, it’s not at all surprising that no one takes pride in being from my school. They shouldn’t.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Psychokiller, Qu’est-ce que c’est? 

A list of rules for one of my co-workers to live by :

The mouth is always open. That’s the first thing.

I think I almost had an aneurysm when you put your schmutzy hands on my scone and broke a piece off while asking me if you could have some. I would have said no, you know. No one likes someone who chews with their mouth open. There’s the smacking sound and the bolus. That’s disgusting. I understand it’s difficult to speak while chewing, but you should consider silence a viable option.

The second thing is this:

“…you’re talking a lot, but you’re not saying anything…”

And this results in personal moments of weakness when I picture your head under the wheel of a truck. It’s easy to sort of fade out like that while you talk. I’m trying so hard not to be an angry person anymore. But you make me crazy.

And despite what must be atrocious table manners and conversation, you invite people to dinner parties every weekend. Invite is probably not a strong enough word; aggressive attempts at coercion may be closer.

“Sorry, can’t come, I’ve got a midterm on Monday”
“Well, you can just stop by for one drink”
“No, I really can’t, I have a lot to do and my brother’s birthday is the next day and…”
“It’s ok, we don’t mind if you just pop in”
“Ok, I’m really sorry. I can’t be there.”
“Just stop by, no big deal”

Exasperated is a weak word. Social assault. Watch out.

The third thing is “…when I have nothing to say, my lips are sealed…”

I’m what people like you consider shy. In turn, I always thought that people like you, who know people everywhere you go, and who are (overly) friendly and talkative, are socially successful. Now I realise I have the upper hand in that game.

First of all, communication involves two people. Interrupting other people’s input with “Yah…Yah…Yah” and rapid eye movements that indicate impatience and inattentiveness is not the way to acknowledge what they are saying. You chose to talk to me, so I assume I’m supposed to reciprocate with actual speech.

This also means that you can’t just talk about yourself. You may want to briefly entertain the idea that you actually aren’t very interesting—it’s not like you’ve ever climbed a mountain or done anything meaningful, and no one gives a shit about your having to ride your bike to school in the snow because of some lame commuter challenge. And it’s Australopithecus you dumb fuck, not Australiopithecus. I am an anthropology major, dammit.

And this brings me to my fourth point, “…say something once, why say it again?!

If I hear that hilarious story about the toilet paper one more time (which would make it four), I may have to throw something at you (shitty TP, I hope, only because it would be a close match to your pathetically literal sense of humour).

The least you could do is have the courtesy to notice when I patronise and respond to you with mere tolerance. When you overheard me talking to E about going out the other night, you made some wry remark about not being invited. What did I say? Nothing. Precisely. I blinked. Subtlety clearly is not your forte.

You would have to be a philosophy major, it's just too perfect. All that pontificating can certainly get in the way of actually understanding the material though, can't it? Remember that conversation we had about dog shit? I believe we had somehow stumbled upon the subject of the folly of humans and their constant need to over-analyse. And I mentioned a story I'd read in an ethnography about an anthropologist (Narayan) who worked in India. A Holy man told her that when common people stepped in shit, they would exclaim "oh, shit!", kick it off of their shoes and continue on their way. Academics were the kind of people who would step in shit and have to pick it up and sniff it before concluding what it was. You made a priceless reply that requires no real commentary or analysis: "I've done that. Sometimes you have to do that, especially in Toronto, because of the way it snows there, and when you're riding your bike..."

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