"Any woman who chooses to behave like a full human being should be warned that the armies of the status quo will treat her as something of a dirty joke. That's their natural and first weapon." ~ Gloria Steinem

Sunday, February 28, 2010

A long-overdue response to the Washington Post's "Pearls Before Breakfast"

So I stumbled across this the other day. Yes, I know, I am behind the times. I could have just read the thing, allotted a few moments of head-shaking over the plight of humanity today, and moved on.

But, of course, I did NOT.

This is because the article annoyed me. Not in terms of subject matter; neither am I saying that it was badly written (let's face it, I often hate things solely because they are badly written). The tone and subtext of the article annoyed me. I read the damn thing two weeks ago and it's still preying on my mind, so that tells you how annoyed I am.

The basic premise: a professional, highly and critically-acclaimed violinist plays in the subway with his case out for tips. They expect a mob to gather, because he's this famous violinist, and even though there's no indication of this in the subway, people will recognize greatness when the see it. The idea is, let's take this great violinist out of context to demonstrate that true greatness needs no context.

Needless to say, the whole thing goes completely not as planned. Only one person recognizes him, only one person who doesn't recognize him stays to listen for longer than a few minutes, he ends up making like $30-$40.

Whoever wrote the article decides this is a commentary on the plight of humanity:
  • We're too caught up in our own lives to stop and look around once in a while.
  • Kids recognize greatness better than adults because they're still pure of heart.
  • iPods are bad.

I say, greatness DOES exist in context. There is no such thing as greatness without context.

If you disagree with me, try taking any piece of modern art and telling someone an elephant drew it. Or for that matter, that my 5-year-old nephew painted this Picasso. You will see right then how much context matters.

Because we're human. For us, context is everything. Great music is not universal. Music, by itself, is universal, but great music? If everyone has the same opinion on what is great, why are there so many goddamn bands, labels, and genres today? Maybe I don't enjoy violin music; of course I'm not going to stop and subject myself to what amounts to nails on a chalkboard -- for me.

The organizers of this event -- and indeed, the violinist himself -- fell prey to the logical fallacy of assuming that since they are violin people, the things that violin people know and understand and do are universal to all people, everywhere. The fact that someone is famous among violin people does not mean that all people, everywhere, will recognize the things that made him famous.

Let's say I'm in a zoo, and Frans de Waal is undercover as an ordinary zookeeper giving a talk about chimpanzees. You can bet your ass that I'm going to stop and listen, because I love chimpanzees. Since he's Frans de Waal, the talk will be awesome, and I will recognize that awesomeness because I'm into that sort of thing. I don't actually know what Frans de Waal looks like, so I wouldn't know that I was listening to him in particular, but because I am a person who knows things about chimpanzees and would like to know more, I will recognize the greatness--because I have the proper context already in place in my brain.

Let's say you're in that zoo with me. You, most likely, do not enjoy hearing about chimpanzees as much as I do (few people do), and will, most likely, get bored in short order. This is not because you are a Bad Person or because you are too busy thinking about French fries to care about chimpanzees -- rather, this is because you don't care about chimpanzees. You don't have the proper context. You probably don't even know who Frans de Waal is. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Let's take that one guy who didn't recognize the violinist but still stopped to listen for around 20-25 minutes. Is he more aware of his environment than the other people? Does he recognize greatness better? Is he a Better Person? No; he used to be a violinist.

Yes, that's correct: he was once a violinist, and cherished hopes of being so professionally. He did not end up doing that, but he still remembers it, obviously. Hence, he has the proper context in place to care about a violinist playing in the subway.

Frans de Waal is highly respected in the primatology world; he's conducted a lot of studies, written a lot of books, knows a lot of and about bonobos, and is pretty much my hero. If I suggested that his esteem in primatological circles is triggered by characteristics that would be immediately apparent to anyone who saw him just talking in a zoo, you would not believe me -- and you would be right. The thing is, it's easy for people to assume that a characteristic that brings you millions of dollars is more obvious to the common person than one that does not bring you millions of dollars.

And so, my point is this: the judgement the author of that article held on the plight of humanity is not only false, but something said author is easily guilty of -- in the right context.

I bet he doesn't know who Frans de Waal is, either.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Do the words "I'm in the desert" mean nothing to you?

So, I don't sleep well. After 25 years of this shit, I went to my doctor and said, "I haven't been able to sleep for 25 years. In college, they told me I was depressed. I was depressed, but now I'm not, and I still can't fucking sleep. Fix me."

Well, that was the gist of it.

The delightful doctor he is, he gave me two different kinds of pharmaceutical sleep aids (to try out each one and keep track of how they worked and/or made me feel), prescribed me a phototherapy lamp (for SAD, so my insurance would pay for it), scheduled me for a sleep apnea test (that would require little to no effort on my part), and told me to come back in two weeks.

[side note: my roommate and two of his friends just walked out the door, and they may or may not have said "see ya", which was probably directed at me rather than Rylee (a labrador retriever), but since i am out of it, i did not respond. they probably think i'm an ass. which is ok. i am an ass.]

That was, like, January 7th, I think. I surprised myself by going to Yuma, AZ, for fieldwork, which meant I had to reschedule my two-weeks-out appointment, but it also resulted in the totally assery that is the sleep apnea test.

They told me all I had to do was tell them my address and they'd deliver a machine to my house, then I'd take the test, then they'd pick it up the next day, then it would be done, BAM. They said it would be at my home on a specific Thursday. It was not, but I didn't give a shit because I was going to fucking Yuma and pretty much everything else kind of fell by the wayside.

The next Thursday, I got a call while I was in the fucking desert asking me to let them know when they could pick up the machine because they needed it.

I called them back to explain that I'd never gotten the fucking machine, so I hoped they weren't expecting me to return it any time soon, because, obviously, I didn't fucking have it. She explained that they'd sent it by UPS on Monday, so I should have gotten it on Tuesday. I explained that I'd left for the desert on Sunday, so I didn't get it at all, but I would check with my roommate to see if it had been delivered. She explained that they really did need it, so I should take the test sometime this weekend and have them pick it back up. I explained that, in case she'd missed it when I'd mentioned it 30 seconds prior, I was in the MOTHERFUCKING DESERT and unfortunately couldn't take the test this motherfucking weekend, so they should just come get it and I'd let them know when I got back.

The next day, I got two voicemails from some dumbass delivery guy asking how to get to my house. I later explained to my mom that I'd assumed they already knew how to get to my house since they'd dropped it off previously, and since it was a motherfucking weekday they'd perhaps assume I HAVE A JOB and unfortunately cannot just answer the phone when I'm walking miles and miles in the motherfucking desert.

I mean, I know the economy is bad, but when I said "I'm in Arizona for work" I assumed they'd know I meant actual work, and it wasn't just a euphemism for "I'm whoring myself out in Mexican border towns because I can't find anything better to do with my time".

As it stands now, they got their stupid unit back, but now I'm waiting for it to come around to me again, because apparently sleep apnea tests are in such high demand that you better fucking snap it up when you get the chance; it might not come around again.

My self-love is entirely my doing--which makes it all the more precious.

I'm thinking about self-love lately.

No, not that kind. Get your mind out of the gutter.

I used to be really into Gala Darling; I spent a LOT of time reading random stuff on her site, just clicking around, perusing. I liked it, but what's more, it was oddly compelling--I couldn't look away. I don't mean that in a "train wreck" kind of way; I just mean that it was fascinating, I guess.

I'm kind of over it. Again, I want to stress that there's nothing inherently bad about the site. Gala does indeed inspire a lot of girls/women, and if you can help even one person realize a bit of happiness increase, more power to you. I'm not sure I've ever inspired anyone I know--much less anyone I don't know.

I'm just not sure what qualifies her to offer so much advice, especially in the form of $12 podcasts.

Sounds like I'm jealous, right? Maybe I am. I am indeed a bit jealous that she's somehow managed to make a living out of telling other people how to be happy, out of offering self-love advice in the form of "take a bubble bath while wearing a tiara!" No, really, I'm envious that she's making a living out of a blog and various freelance writing gigs. Seriously. I'd love to get paid to write.

I guess I'm just already full to the brim of self-love, and none of it involves pink, sequins, or bunnies. I don't need anyone to tell me how to get over my insecurities; I've been working on it for literally decades, and doing a fine job of it, thank you very much.

Is that a character flaw--truly believing that I have everything I need inside of me? That I can make it on my own without outside help? Or is it just that I bristle at the suggestion that a girl who claims wearing sequined underwear improves your outlook on life could possibly have anything to offer me?

It's a damn good thing I've never become part of the Galaverse, or I'd have a swarm of Gala fans calling me out for "hating on" their idol. I don't think I'm a hater; sure, I'm mocking Gala a little, but how is that hating? Mocking is what I do, people. The Galaverse takes her so goddamn seriously--and she takes herself seriously, too. Call me crazy, but I think there's something missing from a life that only considers itself as a serious, important entity.

I just can't accept the image of ANYONE as a serious, important entity. Nobody is so important that they can't possibly find anything to make fun of--and occasional whimsy is not a break from taking yourself seriously. Self-deprecating humor does not always signal a drop in self-esteem; I love myself just as much when I'm mocking her as I do when I'm praising her.

I make fun of myself, I make fun of you, I make fun of everyone--so fuck off if you don't like it.

Which is exactly what I'm doing with Gala Darling. I don't like it, so I'm fucking off. I'm not going to go run around her site pointing out what I consider to be her flaws; I'm just going to fuck off. After I vent about it--in MY blog.

So if you don't like it...you know the rest.

P.S. I kind of want to talk about my version of self-love (which does NOT involve tiaras, sequined skulls, or Mickey Mouse ears), but I'm really enjoying actually loving myself today, and would rather not continue to explain it right now. Perhaps later.