zingerella: Capital letter "Z" decorated with twining blue and purple vegetation (Default)
2012-07-24 08:58 am

Further Patriarchy Blaming

I don't really have a coherent point to make about these two apparently unconnected incidents, but in my head they're connected, so I'm going to record them here and see what the Collected Wisdom thinks.

1) My Awkward Neighbhour

Since Ron, my next-door neighbour helped move my furniture in, I've struck up a guarded, but reasonably cordial interaction with him. He's frequently out on his front porch, so I see him when I go in and out of my place. He's chatty, and I'm polite, so we chat, some. 

A few weeks ago, I was away, and [personal profile] human_loser  came over to feed Musetta. Ron-the-neighbour was on his porch, and greeted [personal profile] human_loser  with some question like "Are you the pretty lady's boyfriend?" (I have been very clear to Ron-the-neighbour that I have a boyfriend). [personal profile] human_loser  reports that he gave a non-committal response, and went in to feed Musetta. 

This Saturday, another male friend came over, and we went out for dinner, then back to my place for tea and so that I could bake my mom's birthday cake. As we went into my house, Ron-the-neighbour was on his porch, and called out to me "That better be your brother!" I gave some rejoinder—something like "You wish you knew," and went in.

But it's bugging me. It's bugging me that this dude thinks he has any business questioning my guests or commenting on who comes and goes out of my apartment. And it's creeping me out, a bit, not because I think Ron-the-neighbour poses a threat to me, but because he's so obviously interested in my life and in my guests and he doesn't see anything wrong with this. Where are his boundaries? 

2) The King of Africa

Sunday, I took the aforementioned cake to my mom's (and from there to my grandmom's. Poor cake got a bit slumpy in the heat, but was nonetheless tasty). On my way home, I was waiting for the subway at Bloor & Yonge station, and found myself the object of the benevolent attention of the King of Africa. 

The self-styled monarch (or emperor? I'm not sure how that works), informed me that the print on my dress was based on an African pattern (this is possible, I guess. It's blue.), and that if I were to go to Africa (not any particular place in Africa, mind, just Africa), everyone would greet me with love and adoration, because of that dress. Of course, if I were to be wearing another dress, things might not go so well. Had I ever been to Africa? No, I assured him, I had not. Well, Africa was wonderful, and when I go there, he will go ahead of me, and tell them that I am wonderful and should receive the royal treatment. He was from Africa. He is a king in Africa, so they will have to obey him and give me the royal treatment. 

He took my hand and kissed it, repeatedly. He asked me if I would go to Africa with him. I informed him that I had to go home. He said "Not today! Tomorrow. But never do tomorrow what you can do today, because tomorrow never comes! It's always today!" He informed me that another time I may find him at the Friendly Thai on Yonge Street. He was going there now. I thanked him, and, gratefully, boarded the train that had finally arrived. Then I employed my hand sanitizer. 

Another woman watched this entire exchange. She moved away. A man kept an eye on it. 

3) You Can't Blame the Matriarchy

I've begun working part-time at my local bike store. I've shopped at the same store for 15 years, and I have a lot of respect for the owner and manager. It's one of the few stores that I will cheerfully send my female friends to, knowing that they won't be talked down to, they'll be treated fairly, and nobody will try to upsell them. I like the culture there, so I asked if they wanted to hire me to work the shop floor, and the owner and manager agreed that it would be a good thing for them to have a woman on staff. I am uncomfortably aware that I am the beneficiary of affirmative action—I don't know nearly as much about bike mechanics in general as even the least experienced of the guys on the floor, and I know that if I were a guy, they'd want to see previous bike-store or bike-mechanic experience. But they're all being very pleasant and patient, so that's good. The customers, on the other hand, are about evenly divided among three groups. One group (mostly women) is quite happy to talk to me, in particular. One group is entirely indifferent, as long as someone's helping them. One group mostly ignores me, and seeks out one of the guys. I can only assume that members of this group believe that only a dude can successfully explain to them how to pump up the tires on their bikes, or the difference between a road bike, a cyclo-cross bike, and a sports hybrid. *Shrug* 

So one day, a couple of 10-year-old guys breezed right past me, when I said "Hey guys, what's up?" and asked my co-worker where the pump was. My two co-workers and I exchanged wry glances. I wandered over to my co-workers and said "I blame the patriarchy." Then, of course, I had to explain what I meant. 

Later that day, I was booking a woman customer for a tune-up. She was pleasant with me, but ignored my co-worker when he bade her farewell on her way out of the store (we're a community bike store; we generally try to say "hello" and "good-bye" to people, at least when it's not so busy that we can't see straight.) He said to me "I'm trying to figure out what the opposite of 'patriarchy' would be. 'Matriarchy,' I guess?" 

"Yeah," I said, "Why?"

"Well, if you can blame the patriarchy when guys are rude to you, can I blame the matriarchy when girls are rude to me?"

"Not really, because there isn't really a society-wide matriarchy."


So then we talked about how really, you can still blame the patriarchy when women tend to respond better to women than they do to men, and how "patriarchy" isn't the same as "men," etc. Then someone came in looking for a lock-ring, and that was that. 

So how all this fits together is that I don't think the guys in the shop deal with their neighbours commenting on the people they bring home. I don't think the guys in the shop have random strangers try to kiss their hands on the subway platform. And while they may occasionally deal with a customer like the tune-up lady or the very flustered lady who came in looking for repairs and said "Thank God there's a woman here! I hate men!" quite loudly, I don't think they have to deal with gendered rudeness or condescension to nearly the same extent that I get to (and this is in a shop where any overt misogyny, be it from customer or co-worker, would be firmly squashed on the part of the management.) And the fact that they don't deal with this is, to me, part of why my co-worker cannot blame the matriarchy that we don't have when a lady is rude to him. He can feel annoyed or disgruntled. He can roll his eyes. He can even blame the patriarchy for causing such deep distrust and disregard between women and men, if he wants to. I don't think he'd be wrong. It would certainly be a better world if everyone treated other people with respect and good manners. Somehow I think that women—even privileged women like me—deal with more gendered nonsense on a daily basis than dudes do. 
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2011-12-18 12:02 pm

Zingerella and the FiveSevenFive Messiahs, part 3

 Last night's audience was less tubercular, for a mercy, but gracious me did they wander! I mean they got up and wandered around the concert hall, re-seating themselves periodically. It was like the musical chairs Messiah. Except that because Maestro Kramer is relentless, they never really had time to get seated before the music started again. 

Cut for wandering audiences (gone astraaaaaaaay), and thoughts on deportment )

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2011-12-17 01:14 pm

Zingerella and the Fiveish Messiahs, part two

Last night's Messiah was strangely uneventful. The audience produced its usual counterpoint of catarrhitic coughing during "I Know That My Redeemer Liveth," but was otherwise unafflicted with distracting bodily emanations, at least as far as I could tell from the chorus. 

I did, however, get clarification on the Wednesday night's Front-row Fracas, via the time-honoured expedient of pumping one of the ushers. Turns out there was no cell phone at all. According to my source, the tall woman was talking loudly and carrying on in the front row, and generally behaving in a manner distracting to both audience and performers. So the cellist leaned over to tell her to cease her distracting behaviour. The man who was with her was so embarrassed that he left the performance, leaving his date to fidget and fuss in the front row, until finally (midway through the first half of the performance) she decided that she'd had enough. So she made a show of putting on her coat, made a rude gesture at the cellist, declared loudly that this thing was "too fucking long," and stalked out. 

Upon leaving, she found that her date had left $20.00 with one of the ushers for her and that he was not coming back, and kicked up a ruckus in the lobby of the concert hall, and security had to be called.

So that's the skinny on that.

I do kind of want to know what series of events led up to the disastrous date. Was the man a businessman travelling in Toronto, who received the tickets from a client? Did he not know anyone else in the city who might enjoy the concert and was free that night? Was he just a terrible judge of character? What happened next? 

Incidentally, the reason I get snippy about coughing is that it's clear to me that the coughing is, in part, the result of suggestion: outbreaks of coughing come in waves in audiences, frequently during slow or quiet parts. One person will experience a terrible tickle, and be unable to refrain from coughing. Someone on the other side of the hall, hearing the cough, will subconsciously notice the tickle or dryness in their own throat, and cough. The music isn't loud enough to mask the sound, or lively enough to keep the subconscious from noticing "hey, it's very dry in here, and I have phlegm," so another person coughs. Most of the time I don't think that people do this on purpose (I still have my doubts about Wednesday night). I think they're bored and easily influenced. I just wish they were more aware and more prepared, is all. Because even if they're bored, I'm probably not, and I, or someone else, might really enjoy hearing the (admittedly very long, slow) aria without additional counterpoint. 

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2011-04-27 11:15 pm

Please Refrain from Molesting the Hat Rack, and Respond in a Timely Manner to Invitations

From research compiled by Cathy Stephens, and descriptions attributed to Professor Frank H. Norman.*

[personal profile] trouble  and [personal profile] commodorified—this is especially for you.

A certain Miss Ella Watson, on being asked many times to find out the rules for doing certain things at Rideau Hall asked an Aide. She was given the following list, and asked not to let anyone know who had written it.
  1. On entering Government House it is customary to ring the bell once then open the front door and walk right in. The habit of pushing the door ajar and creeping in on all fours cannot be recommended, as it is calculated to give the orderly on duty the impression that you have designs upon the umbrella stand, and that your intentions towards the hat rack are not strictly honourable.
  2. On registering in the visitor's book, you are expected to write your name distinctly, and, if possible, spell it correctly.
  3. It has so often been asked how much guests at Government House are expected to eat. We assure our readers that all guests at Rideau Hall will be bitterly disappointing their hosts if they do not consume more food than is good for them. It is not, however, usual to take anything away from the supper table in one's pockets, except of course an occasional bun or an orange, to assuage the pangs of hunger on the way home.
  4. When entering a private room, it is considered correct to knock first with the second joint of the first finger of the right hand, but in the case of a reception or sitting room, it is generally sufficient to cough outside the door and shuffle one's feet upon the mat before intruding, though the custom of having a little difficulty with the door handle is not to be condemned.
  5. On receiving an invitation to attend a social function at Government House, it is considered good for to send a reply within the month, and the practice of telephoning at the last moment to say that you are not coming is one that cannot be too strongly discouraged.

I expect you all to practise proper etiquette on your next visit to Government House. Remember to wear something with pockets large enough to accommodate a bun or an orange for the trip home.

* Professor Norman apparently instructed the family of the Earl and Countess of Aberdeen in dancing and etiquette while the family lived at Rideau Hall in the 1890s. Cathy's notes say that he attempted to compile lists of rules for visitors to the GG, but couldn't get the Aides-de-Camp to give him enough clear rules.
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2010-10-04 03:23 pm

Get Off My Lawn and Stop Eating My Sage

The small garden in front of my house. A patch about 2 metres long by one metre deep, growing end-of-season lilies (leaves only -- the flowers are long gone), 2 rose bushes in mediocre health, a spill or orange nasturtiums, some lavender, and two bushy sage plants. On the steps to the house are pots of herbs.

Two woman were walking ahead of me up my street as I was coming home from the library.* As they walked past my house, one of them bent down and broke a leaf off my sage plant.**

"Hey!" I called to her back, "Hey! That's my plant you just damaged! That's my garden!"

"It's only half a leaf," she said.

"It doesn't matter," I explained, "This is a very busy corner. If everyone took a leaf as they walked by, I'd have no plant left! How would you like it if I went into your garden and picked your plants without asking you?"

"I don't have a garden, but if I did, I'd give you the plants," she said, apparently thinking I was being unreasonable.

"Stuff," I said, "Listen, lady, I went to a Catholic school. If you think I can't recognize an attempt to shame me, you've never known anyone who had a nun for a principal. Just don't go picking people's plants."

"Do you want the leaf back?"

"No, enjoy what you stole, please. Just don't go damaging people's gardens."

She shrugged and walked on.

You know, on Friday, the Cremini Kid and his dad were over. The Cremini Kid was looking at my nasturtiums and asked me if he could try a petal (he likes nasturtiums on salad). I said "Of course!" Because the seven-year-old Cremini Kid knew to ask. He recognized that as the person who planted and tended that garden, I might have other plans for my flowers. Because the seven-year-old Cremini Kid has some basic socialization and because his dad is doing a good job at teaching him about getting along in a community.

My garden is not a big garden. It fronts directly on to the sidewalk on a very busy corner—there's no lawn or fence separating it from the casual passer-by. So my poor garden sees a lot of abuse. People throw their rubbish into my plants. People steal plants. People barf on my lilies.*** I think all of these actions are signs of moral turpitude and the general unsuitability of the perpetrators to community life. I mean how difficult are these basic principles:

don't take stuff that isn't yours without asking;

clean up your messes and don't leave your rubbish or bodily emissions on other people's property; and

stay the heck off my lawn?****


Bushy, lush tip of a branch of a healthy sage plant. Three or four leaves have been broken in half, and their ends removed.

* Whither I had betaken myself to escape the siren song of the arboreal armageddon (read chainsaw shrieks and woodchipper gronching noises) taking place directly across from my house.
** The very sage plant that grew from the tiny sprig of sage left when someone ripped the entire sage plant out of my garden this spring. Said sage plant is now a large and healthy specimen, with many tasty leaves.
*** Yes, this really happened. I leaned over to smell my lovely, just-bloomed rose, and noticed that my lilies had quite a different odour. Sigh.
**** Or tiny front garden. Unless I invite you to frolic there.

zingerella: Capital letter "Z" decorated with twining blue and purple vegetation (Default)
2010-09-29 02:11 pm

Dear Next Door Neighbours,

I realize that this may come as news to you, so I shall break it gently.

There are volumes other than floor-shakingly loud.


Look at the volume control on your music player. It has options for louder and for softer. You can play your awful music at a volume that I can't hear through the shared wall.

Now turn your attention to the television, and examine the volume control on it. You will notice the same options. I recommend trying the less-loud versions. You will still find yourself able to hear the dialogue, honest. But I won't.

And when you speak—when, for example, you tell your yappy dog to STFU, or when you express your anger and displeasure as you so often do at 10h00 while I am getting down to work—you can do it without raising your voice, and sharing the details of your discussions with me, through the aforementioned shared wall.

Amazingly enough, this also applies to closing doors–it is possible to go into and out of rooms without informing your neighbours that you are doing so. And to walking!

I am sharing this information with you, because it seems clear to me that nobody ever has before. It cannot possibly be that you really have failed to consider that your neighbours might not appreciate your taste in music, television, movies, and that we might prefer not to hear your discussions. I believe that you must feel deeply torn, every time you want to listen to music or watch a movie, knowing that you are inflicting your taste on your neighbours. It is entirely likely that you fervently hope that we are not home, so that you can indulge in your preferred entertainment without disturbing us.

I know that if I had not known about this marvelous ability of modern technology to replay music at less than wall-shaking volume, it would be much more difficult for me to enjoy my love of fine opera.

But now, with this new information that I am sharing with you, you no longer need to worry about us! You can simply turn the volume down, lower your voices, and close the doors instead of slamming them.

I do hope this makes it possible for you to get through your days in a more pleasant, less stressful fashion.

Best regards,
Your neighbour, who works from home.

zingerella: Capital letter "Z" decorated with twining blue and purple vegetation (Default)
2010-06-20 09:43 pm

One Aria, Four Renditions

Gluck wrote this opera, Paride ed Elena. I've been learning one of Paride's arias, O del Mio Dolce Ardor, as a mezzo piece. In learning the piece, I betook myself to Youtube to brave the unfortunate recital videos in search of a nice professional rendition.

Like, say, this one, by Renate Tebaldi. I think she sings it in the soprano key, but whatever. I can live with transposing. Her cadenzas are great.

I'd not heard of Julia Sokolov before I found her video. So all unaware, I clicked on it. Now, I feel compelled to share it, mostly because I can't adequately describe it, other than to say "Gluck. Pennywhistle. Drapery. Drum track. Fabio-lookalike. Imagery! Reverb. Just watch!"

For comparison )
zingerella: Hot pink text on black background: "One of Those Women." "O" in "those" represented by upraised fist. (those women)
2010-03-15 12:46 pm

Things I Should Never Have to Tell People, Part Squillionty-three

You know where is not a good place to try to pick people up?

Okay, I know, there are many such places, among them the office, your class (if you're a teacher), and pretty much anywhere if you're a politician. But somewhere near the top of the list should be the waiting room at your medical clinic.

And if you're a men's rights activist, do you know who is even less likely than any other random female who was minding her own business and reading a book to want to get a drink with you after her doctor's appointment?

Okay, I know there are many such women. This is, after all, the waiting room for a doctor's appointment. Also, you are, after all, a men's rights activist, which means you're probably, though not certainly, an entitled, self-important douche with no sense of history, no understanding of your own privilege, and no notion that your advances might be unwelcome. But really, once someone tells you she's a radical feminist, you really should just cut your losses and pick up an outdated magazine.

Or did I miss a memo, and is Wednesday afternoon at the medical centre kind of like Wednesday Night at the Laundromat?

The longer version. No punchline, I'm afraid. )


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2009-06-24 04:18 pm
Entry tags:

It's called compression, dammit

Dear Student Who Has Generally Been Conscientious,

When I told you last night in class that you could send your assignment in via e-mail, and I would dock only the 2 marks per day for tardiness, I did not think that you would also attempt to send me jpg files of what appear to be digital photos of the entire magazine on which you wrote your publication analysis. Yet, you surprised me.

Had I but known, I would have counselled you to use YouSendIt, or at the very least to compress your damn files.

Flooding my home e-mail inbox and putting it over its limit twice in one day does not predispose me to clemency in my marking.

Not that I would ever penalize you for dougheadedness. I shall merely send you a polite suggestion so that your next instructor does not find their inbox flooded with ginormous jpgs of an entire bloody magazine.

Your ever-merciful instructor

zingerella: Capital letter "Z" decorated with twining blue and purple vegetation (Default)
2009-06-18 10:43 am

Okay, I'm a pushover.

I spent some time yesterday thinking about why I was so irked by my student's blithe request for Tuesday night's lecture materials—why I felt compelled to argue my own position, why I feel defensive, why I feel so very annoyed, why I went on and bloody on about it.

My hard-nosed nature and my pushover nature were at war with each other, you see.

And on my right shoulder, my hard-nosed nature argued )
My pushover nature tells me that earning a living is a basic need. I've argued for a long time that schools need to recognize the diversity of student needs and acknowledge the reality of student experiences. If we accommodate only a specific group of people—say people who don't need to work, or people who can work from 9–5, then we're excluding other students who might otherwise benefit from what we're offering. So, If I were really committed to a diverse group of students, I'd be working harder to make sure that I was accommodating them—after all, they're the ones paying the fees that make it possible for the college to hire me. And it's not like my student was off frivolling. She was working. So maybe I need to put my time-is-money where my mouth has been all this time.

Not everyone is privileged enough to have a job they can leave in order to go to class. And it's not her fault that I'm not organized enough to have typed notes for this lesson, to have powerpoints,* to do what some other instructors do. I shouldn't penalize her for that.

On the other tentacle, the offhand tone still bugged me, and I do feel that she's not living up to her end of the bargain.

So I e-mailed her back:

And, of course, part of my anger came from feeling defensive about the one lesson per semester that I teach mostly off the cuff. I should be more organized than that.

* I really, really hate making powerpoint presentations. I hate teaching from slides—irrationally, perhaps. In part, I don't like being tied to my plan—some of my best teaching moments come from taking advantage of teachable moments. In part, because fumbling from presentation software to the big-ass full-spread pdfs I project is cumbersome. In part, because my classroom is annoyingly set up, and I don't like being tied to the desk with the pc. In part because slide presentations are inherently one directional, and my teaching style is more interactive than that. And in part because I am old-fashioned and curmudgeonly.
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2009-06-16 10:30 am

Kindness in the City

Cycling through the valley, this morning, I noticed the unmistakable squoodgy feeling of an incipient flat in my rear tire. So I found a long stretch of path through a meadow, where people could see me from both directions, and where there was some space to pull off the path, stopped, and checked.

Sure enough, a tack had buried itself in my rear tire, from which the air was gently, but assuredly, hissing.

Took off the pannier, and found the patch kit. Disengaged the rear brake. Flipped the bike over and took the rear wheel off. Started to pull out the inner tube.

A grizzled cyclist in spandex shorts stopped. "Everything okay?" he asked.

"Yep," said I, "just a flat. No biggie!"

"You sure?"

"Yep, thanks!"

He cycled on. I extracted the inner tube, and found the puncture. Opened the patch kit. A cyclist in a bright jersey and mirror sunglasses slowed.

"Need a hand?"

"No, thanks! I'm good!"

"Okay!" He cycled on.

I roughed up the area around the puncture. Dabbed it with glue. Waited for the glue to dry. A couple of old guys with stuff lashed all over their bikes stopped.

"You need a hand?"

"Thanks! I'm good!"

They cycled on.

Another guy stopped as I was putting the newly patched inner tube back on the wheel, to ask if I needed a pump. I had one, but thanked him. Someone else offered me a hand as I put the wheel back on the bike.

All in all, in the 20 minutes or so that I was stopped by the side of the path, calmly patching my tire, at least seven people stopped to make sure I was okay, and to offer help.

I love my town.
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2009-06-04 01:38 pm

Tell Me a Joke

I am back at work today, and it's going pretty well.

I have asked all of my co-workers to think of jokes or silly stories to tell me. I think people have a difficult time knowing what to say at a time like this, so I'm hoping this will help them. Also, I tend to start to cry when people are super-kind and concerned, and I'd prefer to spare some poor co-worker the awkwardness that comes along with my turning into a watering pot.

So far, I have received only one silly story.

Alas, it's not a great one )Here it is )

Sigh. A very sweet gesture, I say.

Here: have some muppets. We opened the Celebration-thingy with this song (but without Muppets).

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2009-06-03 09:33 am

It's done

There's not much else can be said. We celebrated my dad's life yesterday, and cried a lot about his death. I'm still crying, of course.

I am overwhelmingly grateful for my family, my Tribe, and all of the friends who have surrounded me with their love and concern, and held me up this week. This is all very, very hard, but it would be immeasurably harder without you.

My stepmother would like a copy of the eulogy I delivered. Unfortunately, the written version doesn't actually correspond very closely to what I said. I'll have to reconstruct from what I can remember.
The eulogy I think I might have delivered )
Writing a eulogy for my dad is possibly the most difficult thing I have ever done. At the very least, it's the hardest writing job I ever hope to have.
And these are the things I did not say )

It's been a dreadful, nightmarish blur, the past few days. A few things stand out. I continue to think that funeral homes are the weirdest places on Earth, with their tasteful furniture arranged around the outside of big empty rooms. Ours had a Tasteful Bookshelf, stocked with the Catholic Book of Worship, a copy of the Bible, one of Loyal She Remains, and a collection of demure-looking cloth-bound murder mysteries, tastefully arranged.

At the reception at my dad's Club, yesterday, some old guy came up to me, and to my brother separately, and informed each of us that he had known my dad longer than we had—40 years or more—and that he would therefore miss my dad more than we did. He didn't actually tell us who he was. Speculation runs rampant.

I remain convinced that open-casket visitations are just a Bad Idea. The body never looks like the person did, living, for the very good reason that the person is dead. So you have to look at the body and try to reconcile this construction with the memories of the living person. The cognitive dissonance does not help with the grieving process.

It's always macabre when you hear a knocking on the walls of your visitation suite.

I have more thoughts on blogging, community, and death, and I'll get those down later. For now, I'm going back to work tomorrow, and I'll continue with my slog through this liminal phase in which I (and my family) get to readjust our understanding of the world. The shape of my emotional landscape has changed, and I get to figure out how to readjust the furniture.