The Trouble with Television

I'm an only child, and I grew up in the 1980s and 90s, so I have watched more than my fair share of TV (whatever you feel a "fair share" is of broadcast entertainment, I assure you I got mine plus enough for 3 or 4 other kids). Game shows with my parents; Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous with my grandparents; cartoons on my own after school and on weekends. Nobody questioned the impact of screen time on health or personality when I was a kid. Commercials weren't a problem, just the price you paid for programming, and adult content was something you'd see on the news channel, reported well after the fact, at a somber and discrete distance. 

When I had a child of my own, my mother asked why I didn't just let her fall asleep in front of the TV, held by her father, like my Dad used to do for me before bedtime. I stared at her, agog that this was ever possible, but said that things are different now. Mum shakes her head. I can see she thinks I'm delusional, but it's true.

How we watch is different. Programming is different. Screens are different.  

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Hello 2019!

We're less than 24 hours into the new year, so I had to retype that title several times to get it right. My love of diarizing has been cramped by a vicious combination of a lack of time, a lack of meaty subject matter, and a newfound aversion to making my private life public. Having a kid provides an endless font of quotable moments, but since what I record will now reflect on and eventually be read by her, it's difficult to proceed with the same reckless abandon that I managed in my twenties and thirties.

Proceeding in the face of difficulty is how you get writing done, though, yeah?
Enough lamenting; more blogging.

I won't stray from the usual formula of January 1st posts — a time to reflect, to assess, and to make fresh plans that can immediately start going off the rails. 

Reflection is easy. Simply put, I'm content. My job is steady and supportive, home situation is good, my kid is fun and loving, my partner is still a delight after 10 years of domestic bliss, my mom is wonderful. I have all that I need. There are things I strive for, places I'd still like to visit, I could always use more time to myself for exercise, reading and creative pursuits, but that's not news. 

If anything, I feel guilty about how satisfactory my life is at the moment. Every time I read someone else's blog, they're pouring their heart out, and that heart is dripping with stress and self-loathing and dissatisfaction. Perhaps this is both the tragedy and consolation of middle life: I just can't get as worked up about stuff as I used to. Sure, global politics isn't going the way I'd like. Sure, I weigh between 10 and 30 pounds more than I should. Sure, I spend more time consuming media than creating new art. But how much energy do I need to expend on feeling bad about this stuff? Can't I just grieve it and move on? 

As for fresh plans, my choice to procreate has locked me in to a certain path for the next 15 years or so, so the scope and breadth of my new year's resolutions are somewhat restricted. Also, I'm not feeling time pressure like I once did. If I don't get these right today, you know what? I can change them tomorrow. Or add to them next month. Nobody cares but me. So here we go...

— aim to not buy frivolous or unnecessary items for the first 30 days of the year

— aim to blog at least once a week

— since you commit to reading 50 books every year, try to make at least 5 of them non-fiction in 2019, just to mix it up a bit

— do at least one more painting with Darren, that was fun

— book one day every other month as a personal day, to use for physical maintenance (massage, etc) and creative pursuits; do NOT use it for housekeeping

— finish paying off all your outstanding home debt by your 42nd birthday

— please go to the gym every Sunday morning; try for one night a week as well in summer (rowing again? karate with kid? Zumba with friends?)

— clean up some of your unfinished projects; close out the Weekend Novelist overview; wrap up the knitted baby DNA any way you can and mail it to Keira; finish the Noro Jacaranda Wrap top and mail it to Lara; frog anything else you're not into and stop using crafting as an excuse to not write

— plan for 2020; set some goals, get some outlines in order, choose some friends or pay some pros to keep you on track (whatever it takes to finish a shitty first draft)

— get rid of the wooden dining room chairs, treadmill, babywearing gear, sled, bike carrier, and whatever other crap you can bring yourself to purge from the basement. Enlist the help of your mother if you must. Give to Goodwill instead of selling things, you don't really need the Kijiji money, do you?


Luke Cage vs. Jane Austen

There's no real "versus" happening between Mr. Cage and Ms. Austen, but they are battling in my brain, and it's noisy.

Every night for the past month and a half, I've been recording 'Pride and Prejudice' live on YouTube, one chapter at a time, and this usually takes place either directly after or right before watching an episode of the new Luke Cage television series on Netflix.

The adjustment is jarring, to say the least.

Leaping back and forth between reading about the genteel, tongue-in-cheek interactions of upper-crust English society during the Regency, where characters are unconcerned with work other than the business of marriage and the creation of heirs to inherit unimaginable wealth and privilege, and making sport to alleviate the boredom of their limited society, then WHAM! thrown into the audio-visual explosion of modern-day Harlem, ripe with poverty, guns, violence, ambition, and people dropping the N-word like it's salt on their sentences... it's an extreme study in contrasts.

These worlds are so far apart they hardly bear relation, but they're both rich and engaging, so it's interesting to me to find points of connection between them. The only place characters like this meet is in our minds, but to draw parallels is not impossible, despite the vast chasms of time, space, and circumstance that separate them. Both tales involve romance, secret struggle, mistaken identity, foolish youth, and society in disarray.

Consider, if you will, some of the protagonists and antagonists of these pieces. We have: Luke Cage and Fitzwilliam Darcy; Elizabeth Bennet and Misty Knight; Lydia Bennet and "Chico" Diaz; George Wickham and Rafael Scarfe.

Mr. Cage is an antihero, a common figure in modern fiction as we deconstruct traditional heroic values. He's a loner, reluctant to connect with others, whose appealing features include his quiet dignity, his pride, his respect for others and his struggle to maintain good manners in a time and place where the rules of conduct are decaying. How is this so different from Mr. Darcy? Both men are cynical, adhering to high standards. Both unintentionally inflict pain and suffering on others because they choose to keep aspects of their past a secret. Both have abiding links to the men whose private vices and disregard for society's rules wreak havoc on their lives.

Both look pretty good in a wet shirt.

Similar echoes occur between the female heroines, the foolish youths, and the villains. They are all painted on a more aggressive scale in the modern production, making more extravagantly impulsive decisions, and coming to more violent ends. And of course, a 300-page novel cannot match the scope of a multi-season, multi-arc television show in the size of its cast or need for Big Bad villains (although Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Mama Mabel might have plenty to discuss). In essentials, however, the characters stand united.

Like Darcy, Luke eschews the offered companionship of the well-suited, attractive and willing lady who first approaches him for a "coffee", instead choosing the more headstrong, saucy, athletic female who teases and challenges him, but is an unsuitable social match. Misty, in turn, rejects his suit because she considers his pride and arrogance harmful to the community she loves, and holds him responsible for Pop's death.

Chico and Lydia serve the same plot-advancing purpose - silly youths who are warned that their behavior will lead to trouble, choose a quick and easy path and suffer the consequences. They are both hidden in cities, and sought with reluctance by the hero whose actions are motivated by the desire to do right, and serve the will of a failed father figure. George Wickham and Rafael Scarfe both have the appearance of goodness, masking a core of duplicity and vice; both are beloved of the heroine until she is made to see the truth of their wrongdoing.

Reworking old stories and reinventing old characters is the bread and butter of any good writer. Always interesting to ponder the many ways classics continue to echo through time.

2010: Year of the Blog

This is it! The year that blogging returns to my agenda. Maybe. But alas, not here, my lovelies.

I have firmly set up camp over my own pipesdreams.org URL and that is where my words will live from now on. LJ, I have loved you and your sense of community for many years, but it's time to leave the nest and strike out on my own in the big, bad Internet.

Here are my first two posts of 2010 "over there":
#1 - What to do when its freezing outside (hint: it involves pecans & penguins) http://bit.ly/pecan_penguin
#2 - The Great Bikini Race http://bit.ly/bikinirace

I'll cross-post occasionally, in case anyone misses me over here, but if you're keen to keep tabs you could either sign up for my entries RSS feed http://www.pipesdreams.org/blog/feed or you could follow me on Twitter @pipesdreams

Peace and joy to all in the New Year!
xoxo Pipes

It's not Larping, it's just Cosplay

(Cross-posted from Pipesdreams.org)

Poor LARPers. Back in 2002, Brunching's Geek Hierarchy proclaimed the abysmal geekiness of individuals who choose to spend their leisure time dressing up as warlocks and dwarves, acting out campaigns "IRL". The Shuttlecocks weren't aiming to be cruel; they were just telling it like it is. LARPers languish in the deep netherhells of uncoolness - lower than tabletop role players, far below video gamers - they are mocked, often and hard. Even professional mockers like X-Play's Sessler & Webb, aren't above stooping to take cheap shots at these poor unfortunate souls (see: Wild Larping Kingdom for details). They are the whipping boys and girls of the geek world.

But what about a LARPer's kissing cousin, the Cosplayer? Strangely, the cultural phenomenon of cosplay (dressing up without intent to perform) doesn't suffer nearly the same degree of public stigma. Cosplayers are embraced as fun-loving jokers, beloved totems of the creative spirit found at conventions, in high schools and all over the urban sprawl of Tokyo. Recently, Felicia Day and the cast of The Guild made a joyful splash at SDCC by cosplaying as their online avatars.

All this fuss got me to thinking - in my many years of attending cons, I've never really dressed up. I found myself wondering who or what sort of video game icon I would choose to cosplay at PAX, if any. Laziness and my hatred of checked baggage instantly eliminated fun-but-bulky options like the King of All Cosmos or a Goomba. My firm refusal to expose my midriff ruled out nearly every female video game character except GLaDOS and Samus (again with the luggage problem). Maybe something subtle, something only recognizable by a rare few, something to weed out the hardcore from the n00bs. Then it came to me - instead of a character, why not dress as a notable girl gamer? Why not be Kate Libby from Hackers?

Please don't think that I imagine myself hot enough to evoke Angelina Jolie, age 18 (before her stick-figure-hexa-mom phase) without the aid of considerable props. I did my homework and re-watched the film, to see if there was a particularly iconic wearable item beyond the vulcan haircut, hinged gauntlet ring, silver hoops and white or blue nail polish. I was surprised by two things: one, the shocking lack of photos of Angie's various states of dress in this film (I thought the Internet had everything about celebs already?) and two, what an amazing job the costume artists did of building a self-consistent character with thoughtful wardrobe and make-up choices.

All of Kate's clothes stay on a limited colour palette of white, black, silver, sky-blue and orangey-red: bright, confident, decisive colours with clear limitations. No blending, no softness, no apologies. The materials and style are entirely geared towards showing aggression, activity, sexuality, and an alien, unattainable quality. Kate wears slinky leather motorcycle gear, tight spandex surfer shirts, oversized hockey jerseys. She has outfits with straps, buckles and zippers in inappropriate places, kimonos and a dress with an obi. She's basically flipping the bird at Trinny and Susannah.

Given the advent of Ebay and Etsy, I thought it would be easy to track down at least a few of these items. Again, I overestimated the webs. The only item that could be had on short notice is her New Jersey Devils hockey jersey. The red/white/yellow/black Suzuki Icon motorcycle jacket she wears is impossible to trace. I couldn't find a reasonable facsimile of her black & white raglan shirt with the white-on-white skull & crossbones and legend "Too fast to live / Too young to die", anywhere. The black & silver short v-necked satin kimono dress with black obi must have been custom made. And Quiksilver no longer has anything like a shiny blue low-turtleneck ladies surf shirt with their logo on the front, with or without a checkerboard flower pattern. I can only speculate as to which brand of club gear made the red and white jumpsuits (Snug? Kitchen Orange? House of Spy? FDCO? Tripp NYC?), or the wide-lapel silver pleather short jacket with long sleeves and exposed seams. Sigh. Better luck next time, Gadget.

In the end, I decided to use Ms. Libby as a muse for my new haircut, rather than as a model of fashion to imitate. Probably for the best - I doubt anyone would have caught the inside joke if I'd shown up to PAX wearing Kate's club gear: a skin-tight white turtleneck and white pants with white plastic knee-high boots. Even your above-average geek would assume I was just doing a shitty job of cosplaying as a Stormtrooper with no helmet and no armor. Possibly due to my hatred of checked luggage.

Tell me, dear reader: who would YOU cosplay as?

Happy New Year!

Happy new year, everyone! A little belated, I know, but I've been enjoying some time away from the Internet for the past few weeks, with the exception of my recent Twitter addiction.

Overview of 2008Collapse )

My "Books I Read in 2008" list is abysmal.
I was too preoccupied with affairs of the heart and school part three and real estate to pay proper attention to fiction last year. Here's what I did manage:
Salman Rushdie – Midnight’s Children
Neil Gaiman – Murder Mysteries
Marjane Satrapi – Embroideries
Dorothy L. Sayers – Murder Must Advertise
Agatha Christie - Murder of Roger Ackroyd
China Miéville - Perdido Street Station
John Gardiner - Grendel
Madeleine L'Engle - A Wrinkle in Time
Christopher Moore - Fluke
Christopher Moore - Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove
Jhumpa Lahiri - Interpreter of Maladies
Jane Urquhart - The Stone Carvers
Neil Gaiman - American Gods
Elizabeth Gilbert - Eat, Pray, Love
Daniel Quinn - Ishmael
Neil Gaiman - Neverwhere
Josephine Tey - The Franchise Affair
Jane Feather - The Silver Rose (mathom)
Michel Faber - The Crimson Petal and the White
Stephanie Meyer - Twilight

And now, looking forward... Things to do in 2009:
TRAVEL - visit Stephen & Skye in Japan; get out of Toronto to do minibreaks (maple sugaring, wine tour, hiking, visit Jana in Montreal, visit Heather in Boston, etc); go on a "relaxing" vacation; visit Mum more often / take her to Vegas to see Bette Midler
FINANCE - file taxes for 2007 and 2008; achieve zero debt; put at least $5000 in savings account by end of year
CREATIVITY - complete at least 2 current LV projects (Emma and Roughing It); finish at least one painting; make a quilt for the 2009 Quilt for the Cure charity; do Baudelaire illustrations; finish Sonnet project; write a blog at least once a month
CULTURE - read at least 12 good books; eat out at at least 10 new restaurants; go to the symphony, and do Messiah again
ACTIVITY - run at least 2 times a week; go rock climbing at least 10 times; go to yoga at least 10 times; help Mum with her garden
CAREER - make some solid, long term career plans
EDUCATION - consider alternative education (TESOL, yoga teacher training, dance, OCAD sewing course?); try to get back into archery
EMOTIONAL - be more calm and steady in personal relationships; stop feeling guilty about everything
prowling redglasses

December Insanity

Well, December rolls on apace and I am multiply overbooked, as ever.

This is my last week to submit my overdue papers to the iSchool (brace yourselves for my inevitable withdrawal from the program - I'm not usually a quitter, but I can see no purpose in proceeding, really). Last night I was going to dutifully write my final 1230 management paper at least, but was shanghaied to celebrate Dave & Lena's fabulous news (they're engaged! hooray!).

Tomorrow is the CO staff Christmas party, which I'm ducking out of early to go see a concert at the newly renovated Royal Conservatory with my friend Adam and a small crew of special lady friends (Casey's having a post-party at the Beast, but I feel I will be beyond exhausted at that point).

Friday is a celebratory, "Yay! Christie's finished her MBA!" celebration at a murder mystery dinner theater, then, if I have any juice left at the end of the day, I've been asked to join Alastair and Pastor Marty for an evening of dancing to Big John Bates and the Voodoo Dolls at the Reverb.

Not sure what the weekend holds, but Monday next is the #HoHoTO party at the MOD club. Tuesday is Amy's birthday dinner... the list goes on. Worst of all, it's my birthday party next Friday, and I haven't planned a damn thing, other than asking Casey to DJ. No idea what to serve re: food, drinks, haven't sent reminders, haven't planned anything at all. Just asked some folks if they'd like to stop by.

And of course, this evening, I'm starting to feel a bit sick. Throat sore, etc. Not good timing.

Work is also, uh, a wee bit busy at the moment. That's the understatement of the year, but I won't/can't elaborate. On top of all this, I'm trying to go home to visit my Mum as often as possible to soak up the festive spirit of having our first Christmas tree in years.

Speaking of Mum, I asked her to find me a few Christmas sweaters for me to take in to work for our Christmas party tomorrow. She is an absolute marvel at hunting things down. Look at these gaudy gems! How does she find these things?