Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Radical Vulnerability is Scary as Fuck

Being vulnerable means being honest. Painfully honest. How do you do that without making people feel uncomfortable? Why are people so uncomfortable with honesty? True honesty. My heart is in my hands honesty. Not "I'm just having a bad day" honesty; "I'm feeling really lonely and afraid" honesty.

This is my vulnerability:

I don't know what I'm doing. When is it appropriate to say "I'm scared that I'll never not be poor." And to whom? When is it okay to say, "I don't want to live like this anymore, but I don't know how to escape it."

How do you say "I'm afraid that my economic status will turn people away from me." How do you say, "I don't know how to be poor in a radical way." How do you say, "I want a clean house and my own space. I want nice things."

How do you say "I don't think I will ever fit into any community." How do you say, "I am not queer enough. Not heteronormative enough. Not radical enough. Not mainstream enough."

How do you tell people that you don't think you are good enough without them turning away in discomfort and unease?

How do you reach out for comfort without causing everyone to pull away?

How do you make yourself vulnerable when you know you will be hurt?

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Reasons why you're being an asshole if you pick on people's spelling and grammar on the internet (coming from someone who cringes when they see spelling and grammar mistakes)

I'm a writer and an editor. Correcting spelling and grammar is part of what I do... in certain contexts.

The only time I try to make a habit of correcting spelling and grammar is: when I'm writing essays or fiction. When someone has asked me explicitly to correct their spelling and grammar. When I'm getting paid.

But on the internet at large? I generally try to avoid it, because it would make me look like an insufferable jerk.

But why would that be? Well...
  1. A lot of people on the internet don't speak English as their first language (or most? There are fewer English speaking countries than non-English speaking countries). You can't tell from a picture of someone where they come from, and it's entirely likely that they learned English as a second language. How many languages do you know? Are you perfect in your second/third/fourth language's spelling and grammar?

  2. Lots of people have learning disabilities which translate to difficulty with things like spelling or more obscure conjugating conventions. Again, you can't tell by looking at someone if they have a learning disability that affects their writing skills. And it doesn't mean they are stupid or slow.

  3. Not everyone - even in North America - has the privilege of an education that taught them the difference between to and too, or there/their/they're. Access to good schools is not universal. Many public schools don't have the resources to meet their students' needs, and many children and young adults are in situations that make it difficult for them to attend school - usually poverty related. And for the record, not having access to an education does not make a person stupid.

  4. Do you know how often my phone autocorrects to the wrong their/there/they're? Or "of" to "if" and vice versa? If I'm writing a long post while on the go, I don't always catch it. Typos happen. It's not the end of the world.

  5. Places like Facebook or reddit or whatever are conversational places. I don't know about you, but when I talk to my roommate or my boyfriend I don't sound like I'm dictating a thesis paper. There are conversational conventions in English that don't follow strict grammar rules but are understood to be just how people talk. It's informal. It's comfortable. As our interpersonal relationships move more and more to online spaces, you should not be surprised or annoyed to see these same conventions transfer over to non-academic, non-professional online spaces.

  6. Dialects exist. English has many regional and social differences in spelling, pronunciation, and grammar. British English is different from Canadian English is different from American English is different from African American Vernacular English is different from Scottish English is different from Newfoundland English is different from academic English is different from... you get the idea. None of these dialects are better or worse, more or less proper, more or less intelligent sounding than any of the others. They are just different.

  7. If you're involved in an argument/discussion about whatever it is you care enough to get into an internet argument about, and your only rebuttal is "*they're", you're literally (not figuratively) telling everyone who can see your comment that you couldn't come up with a valid argument to support your side and have basically resorted to implying the other person is an idiot for using the wrong version of their/they're/there (or whatever) - which is likely attributable to any of the reasons I've already listed above. Oh, irony.
And finally, here's a bonus tip:

If you use the phrase "grammar Nazi," you're being an anti-Semitic dipshit and minimising the deaths/ethnic cleansing of millions of people by comparing a penchant for correcting grammar to being a Nazi. Don't do it.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

How Can You Be an Atheist and a Pagan?

I don't believe in God.

But I believe in the Earth.

I believe in the solemn weight in my heart when I stand by a lake and listen to the quiet but omnipotent sounds of morning.

I believe in the inspiration that burns in my being when the fog settles around the edge of the cliff and I find myself in a sea of mist, kilometres above ground level.

I believe in the complete peace I feel when I float aimlessly with the sun in my face and the muffled sounds of my own heart beating make their way through the water.

I believe in the unspeakable joy I feel when I collapse, sun-worn and drunk on the mulchy smell of the ground beneath me, truly ready to give my body over to slumber.

I believe in the awe that everything that exists works the way it does - explicably! That we can understand it, and that in the understanding is the delightfully bizarre and outrageous.

I do not believe in God.

But I believe in the Earth, and the universe, and the wonderful absurdity of our existence.

And that is enough for me.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Review: A Season in the Life of Emmanuel

A Season in the Life of Emmanuel
A Season in the Life of Emmanuel by Marie-Claire Blais

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have mixed feelings about this novel.

Firstly, I can certainly see why it's considered an important book in Canadian literature. I'm glad I read it.

However, I cannot say that I particularly enjoyed it.

It is not that it is dark, which it truly is - the lives these children are living is abysmal. I enjoy the dark and the macabre very much.

I think, in part, I do not have the historical knowledge of Quebec in this time frame to contextualize the book properly. I was grateful for the Afterword by Nicole Brossard to help situate the book a little more clearly for me.

I also firmly believe that any time you read a translation, you're bound to lose something in it. Obviously, many English readers love this book and I can see why they might. However, something about it just sits strangely with me, and I find myself at a loss regarding what to think about it.

Perhaps it was the reality of it that leaves me with these feelings towards it. I am sure that this book is not far from the truth regarding life in that time and in those circumstances, and that strikes me with a level of discomfort and grief for so many childhoods that were lost to such cruelty and poverty.

If you're Canadian, I do think it is worth your time to read this, as it is a glimpse of French-Canadian history that I don't believe we get to see in many other places. It is just a slim book, and shouldn't take much time out of your life.

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Monday, 29 December 2014

Review: Fort Starlight

Fort Starlight
Fort Starlight by Claudia Zuluaga

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a beautifully crafted novel. Full of swampy imagery, you can almost taste the mud and feel the sticky heat on the nape of your neck.

I really connected to this book: themes of families lost and gained, and chasing dreams that you don't feel you truly deserve struck a chord that really resonated with me.

The story is dark but hopeful, extraordinary but believable.

Be prepared to set aside a good chunk of reading time when you start this book, as you will unlikely be able to set it down.

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