Categories
Diversions Podcasts

Ologies – Quarantinology

One of the things I usually say when people ask (on FB or wherever) what I like best about myself is my curiosity. I love learning new things. Or about new people. Or a new way of doing something.

This doesn’t mean I need to have the latest new-fangled gadget; in fact, I’m usually a bit behind the times that way. But gosh I am such a geek.

Venn diagram showing three overlapping circles: Intelligence, Social Ineptitude, Obsession (I + S = dweeb; S + O = dork; O + I = geek; I + S + O = nerd)
https://laughingsquid.com/nerd-venn-diagram-geek-dork-or-dweeb/

Or maybe that should be nerd…but I’m not really socially inept, I just don’t like most people.

http://officialshoebox.tumblr.com/post/120445102666/geek-vs-nerd-know-the-difference

Anyway, I love learning new things. Especially from really smart people. So just try and imagine my joy a few months ago when I started listening to the podcast called Ologies. With a tagline like “Ask Smart People Stupid Questions” it was right up my alley!

I recently listened to the Quarantinology episode, where she had on several guests as California (where Alie Ward, the host is based) was poised to let COVID-19 protective measures expire. It’s a great episode and really helped me feel a bit less anxious.

BUT that’s not why I’m writing about it – sometimes it takes me a while to get to the point 🙂

I’m writing because TIL about Cole Imperi and thanatology. Thanatology – all about death and dying.

Aside: There’s another side story in me somewhere about how I was going to go to college and become a mortician but there’s already been enough digressions in here…

So part of what Imperi spoke about was “shadowloss” – a loss in life as opposed to a loss of life. Certain experiences affect people the same way that a death of a human or beloved pet might – there is grief and despair. An example she gives is divorce or the loss of a job. Just like the death of a loved one, divorce doesn’t effect everyone the same way, but for some the losses can be very similar. It’s a neat idea I think that conveys the depth of feeling.

moving from why to what

Another topic was on moving from why questions to what questions and I really love this. The idea is that why questions don’t really help. Even if there is an answer, the answer doesn’t change anything. “Why me?” doesn’t really get anyone anywhere.

But “what can I do now?” or “what can I do to honour the past?” or “what would feel good for me right now?” or “what can I learn from this?” are examples of shifting your perspective from mourning the past to embracing the future.

And now, please excuse me while I go down a thanatology rabbit-hole. Ciao!

Categories
Book Diversions Indigenous Politics Reading Review

Bookish – 2 July 21 – Memmi

Okay so a thing I am doing more than I used to is read. Sometimes I read light and fluffy things; other times grim and dark police procedurals, sometimes newly released stuff; sometimes it’s older. Fiction, non-fiction, heck I’ve even read some plays recently.

I am going to share what I’m reading and what I thought about it – while reading and when finished and then maybe in some cases (like this first one I am sure) I’ll have an update later when I’ve digested it more and maybe done a bunch of reading about what it is that I have read. I already have a tag for “reading” so I’m just going to stick with that for now.

The reason I am starting this now is that my current library book is making my brain hurt so I wanted to get my thoughts down etc.

The Colonizer and the Colonized – Albert Memmi

Cover of The Colonizer and The Colonized by Albert Memmi.

Memmi was born in “French Tunsia” in 1920 (he only just died in 2020 at 99 years old (link is to a NYT obituary – you may need an account). His mother was a “Tunisian Jewish Berber” and his father was “Tunisian-Italian Jewish.” Lots of divisions there. He was actually in a forced labour camp during the Nazi occupation of Tunisia.

In the preface of The Colonizer and the Colonized he writes:

…oppression is the greatest calamity of humanity. It diverts and pollutes the best energies of man – of oppressed and oppressor alike. For if colonization destroys the colonized, it also rots the colonizer.

I wonder how Memmi would have responded to a suggestion that he say “the best energies of people” or “of all” instead?

Memmi is very cognizant that in some areas he is more akin to an oppressor than the oppressed: Yes, he was Tunisian and thus “treated as a second-class citizen, deprived of political rights…” BUT he was not a Moslem [that time I learned there were different ways to spell Muslim]. “The Jewish population identified as much with the colonizers as with the colonized.” The Jewish population were just as badly off as the Moslem population but they turned to the west as saviours really so that “the Jew found himself one small notch above the Moslem on the pyramid which is the basis of all colonial societies.”

So he acknowledges that, as Jewish, he has some perch to hang his colonizer writing on; the Tunisian heritage is the perch for the colonized writing. But what about male? Are women of no concern? Well, in brief, nope: “A woman is less concerned about humanity in an abstract sense, the colonize mean nothing to her.” Oh FFS. Sigh. And on I go.

picture of three generic pyramids

There is that fundamental idea of a pyramid – Memmi returns to that: “such is the history of the pyramid of petty tyrants: each one, being socially oppressed by one more powerful than he, always finds a less powerful one on whom to lean, and becomes a tyrant in his turn.”

This is seen so much in the US south – there are lots of books / research on the idea of driving a wedge between impoverished white and Black people in the south so as to keep the Black people oppressed and the whites constantly striving for acceptance by the rich whites – never recognizing (a) that acceptance will never come and (b) they have far more in common with the poor Blacks than they ever will with rich white Americans.

Some points truly hit home – “

…the few material traces of [the colonized’s] past are slowly erased, and the future remnants will no longer carry the stamp of the colonized group. The few statues which decorate the city represent (with incredible scorn for the colonized who pass by them every day) the great deeds of colonization.

A reminder – this book was first published in the 1950s. But people still argue today – in 2021 – that removing these statues would be “erasing history.” *insert eye roll here*

A knocked over statue of Queen Victoria, a field of orange flags in the background representing murdered Indigenous children.
From cbc.ca: The statue of Queen Victoria lies on the ground with its head removed in front of the Manitoba Legislature. The head was thrown in the Assiniboine River. (Justin Fraser/CBC)

Memmi goes on later:

if only the mother tongue was allowed some influence on current social life, or used across the counters of government offices…but this is not the case. The entire bureaucracy, the entire court system, all industry hears and uses the colonizer’s language.”

I have never been good with languages – my brain doesn’t seem to like studying them and I always found other things more fun – but what joy it would have been to hear Indigenous languages as often as I heard French and (because I grew up in the west end of Toronto/Tkaronto) Ukrainian and Russian and Polish and Maltese (though I probably should have tried harder with that last one).

Most Canadians came here from somewhere else: my dad immigrated in 1968. My mom didn’t have to – she was born in August in northern Ontario only a couple of months after her mother and my oldest uncle arrived in Canada on a Polish ship. Lots of people fled war and famine and disease, seeking a better life. But a better life for us shouldn’t be at the expense of other people – there has got to be a way we can make it a better life for all of us.

We have no way of knowing what this land would have looked like had colonization never happened; but we can certainly see what has happened because of colonization. And it’s up to us now to work to make it better.

Why can’t we give back? Schools, streets, parks. Why do they all have to be named after colonizers? Why can’t we invest more time and energy into learning about Indigenous peoples and their histories and names and customs?  Why are 57 versions of desperate housewives an option instead of more like First Contact or just opening up to more Indigenous creators?

Why can’t we tax churches and the wealth of the top 1% and actually collect those taxes and use that money to give clean water to Indigenous communities? Why can’t we impose term limits on elected positions so that people stop looking at that as a career that they can coast through and not actually accomplish any meaningful change for the people of this place? Why can’t we stop throwing money at police and carceral options and start throwing it towards education and health care?

This is one of those books I will definitely have to go back to in the future – I probably really should take a poly-sci or philosophy course to truly understand what Memmi is getting at. He explains the book wasn’t intended to be a work of protest or even a search for a solution – instead “it was born out of reflection on an accepted failure.” He says right at the start that it wasn’t true that he knew how impactful the book would be.

Online resources

I’m including a list of online resources I found when googling the book. Like I said, I’m setting aside the book for now – returning it to the library even; but in a bit I’ll read some of these writings (and any others that come up) and maybe even re-read Memmi.

Document with reflection questions

Course outline from AcadiaU with questions

London Review of Books (may need an account)

Categories
Diversions Health

Reflecting on a Daily Trip

I was listening to today’s Daily Trip (I love the name) on the calm app. The title is “To love the unlovable.” Jeff Warren is the “tour guide” of the trip I guess.

…“Daily Trip” meditations – short practices that attempt to communicate the exploratory joy and pleasure and richness of meditation, but also, in an honest way, some of the challenges…

Jeff Warren’s description of Daily Trip from his website

I’m quite fond of the Daily Trips – Jeff Warren is engaging and seems to care about the listener. All really reassuring actually.

So, back to today’s daily trip: about loving the unlovable. He clearly sets out that this is gonna be hard for some people; some people will feel pull back etc and just to feel it all and note it and see what happens.

Me, on the other hand, have no difficulty it seems in seeing the humanity in others, of being able to send out love to all. Then the trip moves to thinking about who you consider unlovable. All I get is those who don’t recognize the humanity in others – that whole I see the humanity in everyone so my mind goes to people who fail to recognize that trans women are women; or who seek to impose laws restricting a women’s ability to control her own body; or people running corporations single-mindedly focusing on increasing profits and caring nothing about the environment or their employees or customers etc

I can still love those people.

When I turned my mind to actual people who are in groups like those I described above, or who support those groups, I still felt love but even more so I felt a deep, almost devastating, disappointment. It took me a while to move past that feeling; in fact it’s already after 5:10 p.m. and I’m still a bit heart-broken in writing all this.

I tried to pick a calming picture – so here are the lilacs from our garden
Categories
Diversions

Thank you to the Met Opera

My folks love opera – I am clearly the black sheep in this family. I can’t stand it. It’s always in another language and I know enough to know that I’m missing the nuances and double entendres (I mean, it’s opera, there’s ALWAYS double entendres. And lots of deaths.)

Okay, it’s not that I can’t stand it, I actually quite like the music sometimes. But I feel like I only really “get” the English ones, and sometimes the French.

But the Met is amazing – they’ve opened up their archives and are posting an opera each evening for free. My folks used to go to the Cineplex showing of the Met Operas and now they are enjoying watching them in the living room. I have to say it’s kinda nice to have as background noise to my reading Divisional Court decisions or drafting adjudicator education materials.

But I still think of Bugs Bunny when I hear the opening strains of Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia (Barber of Seville).

Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10604329

I searched for it on YouTube and found the LA Philharmonic playing it – complete with Bugs on screen! – at the Hollywood Bowl!

So two vaguely-related-to-opera stories from me:

My dad went to the eye doctor. He was having a hard time seeing things far away. The eye doc put him through the usual tests and said nothing really seemed wrong (at the time; turns out that doc was wrong but I digress).

My dad: “But I am having a hard time seeing the surtitles at the opera!

Eye Doc: “Buy better seats

The other vaguely opera related memory involves my parents and Easter. They always hosted family and close friends at Easter time. My dad and I would label 100s of pieces of chocolate – you had to find not only 14 (kids) or 7 (adults) pieces of chocolate but YOUR 14 or 7 pieces. Mom would be busy making food for a hundred and twenty people; but hey, we complained about labelling the chocolate 😉

So anyway, when a very young Maltese tenor arrived in Toronto one year to perform, it turns out his flight home was late in the evening on Easter Sunday. And his hotel made him leave early Sunday morning. No one else was around and he happened to call my father. And my folks did what they always did – they invited him over.

So this darling, charming young man (I say young, he’s only 4 years younger than me but I’ve always been old) arrived at our house, looked for chocolate labelled at the last minute with dozens of other people who had no idea that 15 or 20 years later Joseph Calleja would be singing at the Met. And we got to watch him this week AND he played one of my favourites from Shakespeare – Macduff!

The Metopera website wrote:

The great René Pape is Banquo and Joseph Calleja gives a moving performance as Macduff. Adrian Noble’s powerful production provides an ideal setting for this dark drama, which is masterfully presided over by Met Principal Conductor Fabio Luisi.

https://www.metopera.org/season/on-demand/opera/?upc=811357017623

So thank you Met Opera. One day I may move beyond Bugs but honesty I hope not!

Categories
Around the house Diversions

A week of mugs

I was trying to think of how to separate the days – if you don’t know we’re not only not going into the office but we’re also not at home. The bathrooms in our house are being renovated and it’s basically impossible to live there so we’re all (two adults, one 9-year-old and two cats) living with my parents in a 2-bedroom condo. Toby, Q and I moved out of our house on January 5. We were in a rental for 9 or 10 weeks, then we moved in here.

Then Covid-19 hit.

So I wanted a fun way to separate the days. So I started sharing my mom’s ginormous collection of mugs on FB and instagram 🙂 So here’s the first week of photos:

Do you remember Dominions? Now they’re all called Metro. They started in Toronto in 1919 and were bought and sold a bunch of times it seems. Anyway, this mug was made for Dominions.

Sweet bunny!

The mug on the left reminds me so much of my dad – it’s silly and actually looks a little like him. And comes with a mustache protector. The one on the right is creepy I think. My folks got it in PEI – I think it was meant to look like my dad too but I don’t think so lol

My mom and dad used to give out “loot bags” after their big parties – this would have been filled with chocolate and candy canes and I am sure I tied metres and metres of ribbon around them at the time. (my mom’s name is kinda blacked out – it’s a long-standing joke between her and I; she’s fine, still my mom, still married to my dad, since 1968!)

Just a lovely music mug

A souvenir mug from the PanAm games – when 10s of 1,000s of visitors came to Toronto. Sigh.