Nov 222016
 

Over the course of my life, I’ve taken more than one writing class. Once I took a whole program of them, even. And I’ve also read a fair amount about writers talking about the craft of writing. And something I’ve never understood is that, nearly invariably, there is this fairly painfully explicit hand-wringing on the part of authors/writers/those who put pen to paper/what have you over their assessment of their own writing. It’s like most writers think they aren’t “real” writers unless they trash their own work to a certain (ridiculous if you ask me) extent.

You hear them bemoan going back to earlier work and cringing through it. You hear them whining about how talentless they are when they hear acclaimed writer so-and-so read their writing.

To be honest, I just want to tell them to shut up.

When I go back and read my writing, the stuff that I thought was good enough to put up on my 1990s-era website for all the world to see, I’m impressed. When I re-read the short story I got published once in that magazine that shortly thereafter went out of business1 or the novella I wrote for the 3-Day Novel Contest that got me into the writing program I took, or even my “coming out” poems, I’m like, “Damn, I should really do more of this—I am not making enough use of this talent.” What on Earth are you doing writing if you don’t think you’re any good at it?!

Do I think I’m the best writer ever? No. Do I think my writing, then and now, is flawless somehow? Of course not. Have I written bad things before? Totally. Will I write bad things again? I’m sure I will. But seriously, writers—and there’s a whole other blog post’s worth of material I could get into about the taking on of identities like “writer”—shut the fuck up about how bad your writing is. Seriously, there is something super-unhealthy in this notion that to be a “real” writer, one has to self-flagellate.2 While I do buy the notion that there’s always room for improvement, if you truly are as unhappy with your work as you generally sound like you are, stop trying to be a writer. And if you aren’t, well then… false humility is pretty much the most unattractive form of humility there is. Antithetical to the notion of humility, even, one might say.

There’s suffering for one’s art and then there’s suffering by virtue of how purportedly bad an artist you are, which is just offensive since there is more than enough real suffering to go around in this world.

  1. totally not related, I swear []
  2. totally not the same thing as “self-fellate,” by the way []
Nov 212016
 

I am watching a new TV show this fall. Oh scratch that: I am watching a multitude of new TV shows this fall! This is because one of my prime forms of entertainment is TV. But not any TV, oh no. Specifically, 1-hour TV dramas. I nearly never watch sitcoms and I would rather kill myself than watch “reality” “TV.” So I watch allllllll the 1-hour dramas.1

One of the new shows I’m watching is called This Is Us, which I am so not just watching for Mandy Moore (because of this or this) or Justin Hartley (because uhm duh!!!).

The first episode or two, I wasn’t sold, if only because it was trying so. damn. hard. to tug on your heartstrings. Like… if I feel like I’m being manipulated into crying, you are in trouble, because I generally love tearjerker drama and not because I’m too stupid to know it’s designed to elicit a very specific reaction in its viewers. It was just so heavy-handed about it.

But then after a few episodes, I got into it (there’s a pretty cool twist in the show’s conceit which I won’t spoil but yeah, cool and thought-provoking). And then… oh network TV, why do you do this to me?

Yes, one of the show’s key (hetero) couples had a pregnancy scare. And since This Is Us airs not just on “network TV” but one of the “big three” (read: ABC, CBS, NBC), it had to be handled in the time-honoured US network TV tradition: so unrealistically as to make your head spin.

So thanks to NBC, the couple (who have never been revealed to be particularly religious, let alone evangelical) deals with the scare by not even bringing up the possibility of abortion. Even though they have two children already and the wife expresses how much she was looking forward to getting back to work now that their daughters are not toddlers, not even the slightest hint that terminating the pregnancy is an available option (no matter how undesirable it may or may not be for that particular couple) is made.

I could have SCREAMED.

(This is before the recent US presidential election. Which of course is frightening to think may have mattered, even though it thankfully didn’t.)

My friend Ali tells me, however, that the CW (a “netlet” or smaller network than the “big three” but still considered moderately widespread and somewhat of a big deal) just aired an episode of the quirky musical My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend that handled the issue of abortion in a pretty normalized manner. And it was also handled well, apparently, during the first season of Amazon’s Transparent. So maybe there is hope that, someday, even though no one is forced to choose it, abortion’s existence as an option might get acknowledged on shows being made and broadcast on widely disseminated media. Because women fought and died for that option to be on the table, and not even bringing up its existence is offensive.

  1. Ha! I don’t even watch close to all of them but it certainly feels like I do. []
Nov 142016
 

This could likely be an infinite series added to long after I’m dead and cremated.

But here’s one of the fundamentals:

  • Don’t have headphones? Then never, and I mean NEVER, have your electronic device on anything but mute. There’s so totally no excuse for forcing anyone to listen to your music, your game’s super-annoying sounds, both sides of your Skype conversation, etc. In fact, I would go so far as to say if you are in public and you end up in a messaging conversation with someone —and so you are receiving a stream of steady alerts about their incoming messages—you should, after the first or second alert, put your phone on mute. Basically, your phone should always be on mute except when it might cause you to miss information. And if you don’t for some reason have headphones? Then no, you can’t watch that YouTube video, Vine (ha ha #RIPvine), or super-important Instagram story with the sound on.

    Just NO.

    No.

    Still no.

    Oh you’re a douchebag? What, you’re not? Then no!

Nov 132016
 

I keep seeing people make this somewhat new mistake over and over again lately: they say that in reference to people or a person. So instead of saying, “he’s the person who wrote that grammar Nazi entry,” they’ll say, “he’s the person that wrote that grammar Nazi entry.”

“Oh those are the people that who wrote that song!”

There’s a whole special relative pronoun for when you’re referring to humans: we call it “who.” It might be the cat that shat on the carpet but it’s the person who has to clean it up.

Yeah, blah blah blah, language should be descriptive and not prescriptive yadda yadda yadda. Go too far down that road and you have words that end up meaning two completely opposite things (the millennial definition of “literally”), words that are written as opposites that mean the same thing (regardless and irregardless, flammable and inflammable), or the most horrific grammar stupidity of modern times, grocers’ apostrophes!

Yes, using “that” when you are referring to a person does seem to be a facet of modern pop songs, but do you really want to be getting your grammar advice from 1D, Katy Perry, or Shawn Mendes?

Nov 092016
 

I once was in a part-time academic program.1 At some point, I had to email one of our instructors.

Now, I do understand that people can be sensitive about their names and other people mangling them. My name is Kalev, so trust me when I say I know how names can be mangled.

“Caleb?”

“KAW-live?”2

“kah-LEHV?”3

“Kevin?”

*blank stare*

Let’s just put it this way: when I go into Starbucks, I give them my last name, not my first. Much easier for everyone involved, although to be fair, I’ve never met anyone who’s first name is Hunt. I should just say “Hunter,” which is a hot gay name anyway.4

As a child, I would get fairly upset when people got my name wrong. I would spell it out for them, and I would always have to say “K-A-L-E-V as in ‘victor’” because, of course, V and B sound very similar, and “Caleb” is by far the more common name, so people tended to expect a B at the end.

As I got older, I let go of my frustrations5 over people mangling my name because it’s completely understandable. People aren’t doing it on purpose: it’s just a weird name by common standards. So now I’m just really nice and gracious about it and I thank people for trying and let them know that I know it’s an uncommon name and it’s not immediately obvious how to pronounce. And it’s always kinda fun when someone gets it right on their first try.

The only exception to my mature approach to my name is when randos at bars and clubs (and this has happened more than once, if you can believe it) have told me my name is Jewish for dog. So first off, not Jewish here. Second, my name isn’t Jewish, it’s ESTONIAN. Finally, even if my name were Caleb and even if it did mean “dog” (which the jury is apparently still out on)—if you’re in a bar, talking to strangers, WHY ON EARTH would you bring that up with someone? In what possible universe (let alone in a club where you are likely trying to pick people up) is it appropriate, let alone complimentary, to tell someone their name means “dog?!”678

But I digress…

I had to email this instructor. Now you should know, I write emails for a living. Most of my career has been writing emails. So I have a lot of experience with what’s appropriate to say in an email, how to phrase things in emails, and how to hit just the right tone in a medium where tone is notoriously difficult to convey, let alone “get right.” I am the closest thing to an email-writing expert you could probably meet.

So this was an informal email about some volunteer activities I was coordinating for the course I was in.  And I opened it with “Hi there, I just heard back from Petunia that Geranium managed to get Daisy’s document from her.”9

And I got back this insane diatribe about how the instructor’s name was not “There.”

Yes, my great sin was that I had opened my email with the apparently very insulting greeting “Hi there.”

You have to understand, this instructor was Anglo, English was their first language, and they were a local luminary in their field. But they needed to waste my time and try to make me feel bad by falsely accusing me of referring to them by the wrong name. Because of course I’m an idiot and I didn’t know their name was “John” or “Sue” or “Kevin” or “Ethel.” It wasn’t even as bad as “I’m an over-sensitive jerk who for some unknown reason is threatened when people open an email with ‘Hi there’ because that somehow doesn’t acknowledge my precious, precious existence and you should always use my given name because my given name is the MOST. IMPORTANT. WORD. in the English language and how could you ever miss a chance to type out its sacred letters?!”

No, this jackass had the temerity to try to make it seem like I was too stupid to know their actual name, simply to be more melodramatic and pissy.

And their name was PEDESTRIAN. Banal. Common. So I guess part of my sheer rage at this person is that I had spent a lifetime having my name mangled simply because my parents actually put some thought into giving me a unique name—and I had made peace with that and even learned to appreciate that it just comes with the territory of having a cool name—and they had freaked out over the fact I chose not to use their name in the greeting of one email (and by the way, anyone who knows anything about writing knows that the reason I wrote “Hi there” instead of “Hi [name of idiot]” or “Dear [idiot]” is because variety is the spice of life and writing the same thing over and over again gets really, really boring).

And add to that this person was my instructor, so they were pulling a power play on me. If they had been a peer, I could have called them out for being a total prima donna asshole. But no, I had to grit my teeth and pretend like they weren’t being the most ridiculous form of childish there is.

*sigh* People.

  1. It was so many years ago now that I try not to think about it! []
  2. This is actually how the great interloper apparently pronounces his version of MY name, but whatever. Like honestly, out of every possible thing you could brand with my name, PERSONAL FITNESS?! *cry* []
  3. This is how all my French Immersion teachers pronounced my name and that’s completely understandable, even though my name is not spelled Kalève. LOL The Anglicized version of this pronunciation (kuh-LEHV or kə-LEHV if you know your schwas) is also how the first other actual Kalev I ever met (who was dating one of my best friends in grad school) pronounces his name. []
  4. no, I’m not implying he’s gay… not that there would be ANYTHING wrong with that LOL LOL []
  5. yes, it does happen []
  6. Have I mentioned I hate dogs?! []
  7. I don’t actually hate dogs… but I’m not in love with them the way most people are, and I’m definitely not in love with the fact that most people are in love with them. []
  8. I mean, OBVIOUSLY I’m a cat person, right? []
  9. names flower-ized to protect the innocent []
Nov 072016
 

One of the places at which I’m a regular, a café, has this problem. It’s not a problem that’s unique to the café; in fact, I’ve encountered the same problem at many cafés. It’s just that I spend a lot of time at this one spot, and it seems to be a perennial issue.

The issue is that, as I sometimes want to scream at the staff (but I don’t, because this), is that if I wanted to sit around freezing to death, I’d buy my drink or food and go sit outside.

This is Vancouver—it is not known for being very warm. It is known for not being frozen like much of Canada, yes. But it’s not known for being, say, balmy in the fall. Or the winter. Or the spring. Or, truth be told, oftentimes not very much much of the summer (at least some years). That’s to say, no reasonable people would keep the doors or windows to an establishment open past mid-September unless it was a really unseasonably hot autumn. Newsflash: Fall 2016 has not been particularly warm. It hasn’t been particularly cold, either, but the temperature is usually anywhere from 13˚C and down. Often in the single digits.

When you go somewhere and sit, you tend to feel colder as time goes by out of lack of physical activity. So when I go to a café and sit to have my drink, you would think that the normal cooling down a person does when at rest would be enough.

But oh no. Oh no. No, this café not only has their back door WIDE open pretty much every day, but they often have their patio-door style windows in the front open, or the front door propped wide open. That’s the best, when both are wide open, because you get this AMAZING wind tunnel effect that leaves you chilled to the bone.

Quite apart from any concerns over efficiency, waste of energy in the form of heat or money… I just DON’T GET IT! I get that they, as staff, might feel warmer than I do. But they, as staff, are 2 or maybe 3 people and are usually vastly outnumbered by customers. Plus they know their customers are stationary. Plus don’t they want to offer a welcoming and warm (pun intended) environment? You know, without having to make their customers rug up to sit around inside?

I cannot tell you the number of times I have gotten up and closed their rear door. And half the time, it is wide open again within 20 minutes. I’ll give them this: they are committed. But it drives me batty. Inside is supposed to be warm. Outside is cold. Any 4-year-old Canadian knows that. If it wouldn’t endanger the lives of their patrons, I would seriously try to jam their back door closed. Permanently. Like maybe get a blowtorch and weld it shut, even.

Anyway… if one day you see a headline to the effect of Local Vancouver man has café meltdown, rants about “Winter isn’t #@%$ing coming; it’s goddamned here, in this #@%$ing store, every #@%$ing day what is wrong with you animals???” well, you’ll know who it is, won’t you?

Nov 032016
 

[The title is an homage to “No more mutants.” Yes, I am still a nerd.]

It’s not that I don’t like introverts. Some of my best friends are introverts… and that’s precisely the problem. Far too many of my good friends are introverts at this point. I can think of about 5 without breaking a sweat.

Contrary to popular belief, I’m not 100% extroverted. If you have me take a Myers-Briggs or similar type of test, and “pure introversion” is all the way left, and “pure extroversion” is all the way to the right, I’m somewhere between 2/3 and 3/4 of the way to the right. So I’m decidedly more extroverted than introverted, but I’m not so extroverted that I, too, can’t be overwhelmed by too much social contact. It’s just that I figure for me, significant social contact (hanging out with someone) would ideally happen 4 or 5 days a week on average, but I can handle it 7 days a week for a bit before I need to recharge. The problem is that I have no partner, I belong to no clubs or organizations, so when I leave work (and work socializing is fine but in general not sufficient in terms of my closeness to people there or the amount of time I can squeeze into coffee or lunch to satisfy that much of my weekly requirement), all I have on my hands is time to myself.

So I’m maybe averaging 3 days a week in a good year of meaningful, sustaining social contact—and that is just not enough.

And introverted friends? They are not good at helping improve that figure. And the situation is only compounded by the fact that, in terms of The 5 Love Languages, mine is—you guessed it—quality time. That is, I feel most loved/honoured/appreciated when people are willing to spend quality time with me. So it’s hard a lot of the time to feel like my introverted friends really cherish me, because how I most easily recognize love is in the way that is hardest for them to give it… or basically, I couldn’t have picked a more draining way for them to show me appreciation.

But it’s frustrating because there’s this sense that it’s in some ways a terrible fit… yet with two exceptions, my closest, most cherished friends are at least as close to the “introversion” end of the scale as I am to the “extroversion” side. I know opposites are supposed to attract and all, but geez…

Okay, so obviously I need to work on at least some uplifting daily blog postings…