Monday, November 11, 2013

A Letter From a Grandchild

Dear Grandparents,

Today is Remembrance Day, so I wanted to write this letter to join all Canadians in thanking you for your contributions.  In World War II you fought to create freedom and opportunity for Canada and the rest of the world. In your families you created the freedom and opportunities that have granted so many possibilities to your children and grandchildren. This day is a celebration of your contributions to the war effort, but I also want to thank you for all that you have done in enriching our lives.

Flight Officer Wilfrid Laurier McCallum, aka "Mac", aka Grandpa. You were a decorated war hero and Spitfire pilot, but to me you will always be the guy with a creampuff on his head. Mom talks about you often, how you were an amazing father and grandfather. How you used to parade my brother and I around and brag about us to everyone you could when we were little.

Granny, a strong woman who worked in administration through the war. I didn't get a chance to know you well, but I know my life wouldn't have been the same without you. You were largely responsible for promoting Highland Dancing in our family and in Ottawa, which became one of the most important parts of my life.  It helped keep me off the couch, but more importantly it built a confidence in me that I wouldn't have otherwise had.

Grandpa McNaule, without your support I never would have achieved what I did.  Your contributions to my dancing earned me countless awards, but I don't think that is what you cared most about.  So thank you for enabling me to understand and appreciate my heritage through dance, and for supporting my trips to compete at the World Championships.  I'm very lucky to have been your "princess".

Grandma, watching the end of Boogie Nights with you was one of the best experiences of my entire life :)  But more importantly, thanks for your encouragement with my writing and for being my first and biggest fan.  I wouldn't let you read that much of it because of all the swearing and stuff, but I know just the fact that I did it meant a lot to you.

Thank-you to all four of you for being proud of all your amazing grandchildren no matter what.  I can only hope that we continue to make you proud.

As a final note, this Remembrance Day I want to thank all the people who put themselves second to promoting freedom and liberty for everyone. To the development workers who help uphold human security throughout the world, and to relief workers who help people through disasters in their greatest times of need.  To the journalists who put themselves on the front lines to keep people accountable for their actions, and enable people who would otherwise be silenced to have a voice. To police and firefighters for their dedication to keeping cities safe. To teachers who enable a society of learning and progress. To doctors and community leaders and anyone else I'm missing whose efforts go toward upholding peace.

Thanks.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Sombrero Wearing Waiter Who Stabbed My Brother With A Fork

Recap of discussion with our waiter at Feleena's:

Me: "Umm, we have a strange request.  See, my family has this thing where we pretend to stab each other with forks and then take pictures of it. Can we convince you to stab my brother with a fork for his birthday?"

Waiter: "Would you like me to wear a sombrero?"


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Another Lena Dunham Article

In the pilot episode of the award winning HBO series Girls, Lena Dunham's lead character "Hannah" makes a bold and memorable declaration.  After getting cut off financially by her parents she tries to win back their money with the statement "I think I might be the voice of my generation".  Although she was whacked out on opium tea when she said it, critics have put a lot of stake in these words.  Here are a few reasons I think she may be right.

1. The Do It For Free Generation
Hannah is a struggling writer with a great internship that she's had for a really long time, and one day it's going to lead to something really big.  For real!  Until she gets fired for requesting payment for her efforts.   The fact is probably 99% of people working in arts and entertainment have heard the phrase "It's not a paid job, but it's really good experience".

One of the best ways to make money today is to find a method of giving away other people's stuff for free.  Seriously.  Since at least the days of Napster, society has held a sense of entitlement where people get angry if they have to pay for things.  Particularly creative content.  Whether it be music, movies, television, photos, or writing, the internet has pretty much removed all value from it and skewed public perception of what is actually required to produce it.

Don't get me wrong, I'm broke so I like getting free stuff as much as the next cultural leech.  And it's true that many of these positions genuinely are "really good experience".  However, one of the reasons why so many people of the Lena Dunham generation are broke is because "experience" isn't an actual currency.  At some point people need to eat, and possibly sleep under a roof.  However, today's consumers would rather spend five hours looking for the right link and waiting for it to load in crappy quality.

The result is that Hannah belongs to a generation that has no way of knowing if they should give up or keep going because maybe those five years of volunteer experience really will pay off in the end???  Maybe she really does have a gift that just takes time to be realized.  Maybe she really is the voice of her generation.  But with the juggling of all the for-free work and education and skills upgrading and the necessary underemployment required to keep from starving to death, young people are spending the most creative years of their lives too overextended and malnourished to actually create anything.

2. The Post-Sex And The City Generation
Fact: Carrie Bradshaw is the devil.
Like so many women of her generation, Hannah and her friends got wrapped up in the idealistically glamorous life of cosmopolitans and Manolo Blahniks and a successful freelance writing career.  It all seemed so real!  Carrie Bradshaw had boy problems like the rest of us, people gave her dirty looks sometimes, her computer crashed with no backup, and even though she didn't always have her shit together she could still afford $12 brownies.  Carrie Bradshaw somehow tricked millions of women into believing in this glossy Vogue fantasy.

But then it all turned out not to be real!!! :(

The Lena Dunham experience is like a nightmarish Sex and the City hangover where you realize that daily fancy lunches followed by a quickie with Chris Noth isn't actual life for most people, and for some reason that's really sad.  Sex and the City was like Santa Claus for big girls, and Girls is that precise moment when the magic is gone and all that is left under the tree is socks and deodorant and torn up wrapping paper.  The culture of entitlement strikes again.

3. The Voice of My Generation Generation
Social definition is a crucial part of identity, so a sense of belonging to a generation is necessary for people.  At least in North America.  (I need to specify because a friend of mine from India recently explained to me that in India children of all ages grow up playing together, and there is such a huge sense of community that the idea of specific time-coded generations seems like a ridiculous concept.  A small part of me agrees, but most of me really misses Bonkers candy and original Nintendo.  Gooooooo X/Y Hybrid Generation!)

Anyway, based on "western" definitions, Generations X and Y and the In-between Generation are all apparently super horny for nostalgia.  In articulating whether Care Bears, Ninja Turtles or Power Rangers are the most representative cultural artifact of our time, we decidedly become authorities on defining not only ourselves, but our entire "generation".   See, I'm doing it right now!

The idea that a single person believes they speak for an entire generation is not unique to Lena Dunham, it's an actual generation thing.  Our opinions are so much bigger than ourselves.  That is probably why there are a billion social media sites to enable all the aspiring voices of generations to have a platform on which to be the voice of their generation.  I could just as easily call this section "The OMG I HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS PLEASE PAY ATTENTION TO ME Generation".  Which is why when Hannah says "I think I might be the voice of my generation" she's actually identifying one of the specific reasons why that's completely true.

4. The Woman-Hating Feminist Generation
Feminism confuses me.  A lot of times it seems like it's mostly about hating other women for being the wrong kind of feminist.  Instead of being a way to support other women, feminism seems to have become this arena where women are pitted against one another to fight to the death.  It is messy and ugly, and totally not what I signed up for.

In my mind feminism is this happy world where women can vote and be paid equally and have potential for career advancement.  They definitely do not get raped or assaulted and then blamed for it.  And politicians definitely don't believe that women are equipped with special rape-recognizing uteruses that prevent pregnancy by just "shutting that whole thing down".  Women are free to be who they choose to be, free of judgement and contempt.  There are also unicorns.  In fact, Lena Dunham is a unicorn.

In a sense feminism is kind of getting at the whole equal opportunity and freedom of expression business, but there is so much debate that everyone comes out looking stupid and evil.  Feminism is an intellectual UFC, but instead of providing entertainment it carries the ability to make or break social progress for an entire gender.  Feminism is actually kind of terrifying.

Lena Dunham has become like the personification of the feminism war.  She is somehow conveyed as both the exact symbol of feminism and the woman who is destroying the feminist plight at the same time.

Lena Dunham is a terrible person because:
First, and most obviously, she gets naked and has a lot of sex on her show which perpetuates the oversexualization of women.
Second, she misrepresents herself as someone who understands the plight of the struggling 20-something woman even though she grew up with a silver spoon of caviar.  She knows nothing.
Third, she thinks she's so great.

Lena Dunham is the best feminist ever because:
1. She owns her body and her sexuality and stands up to all the critics who think less than perfect women don't have a right to disrobe.
2. Regardless of how much caviar she ate as a child, the fact is many people like her show because they can identify with it.  As much as everyone thinks they're the voice of a generation, the fact is every generation has billions of voices and experiences that no single person can define.  But there is no rule against trying, nor should there be.  She may not have everyone's story, but she has a story, and it's enjoyable to watch for some people.  And luckily for anyone who doesn't enjoy it there is no rule against shutting it off.
3. She has more or less full creative control on one of the most acclaimed shows on television today.  She is clearly a smart and hard-working woman whose talent and ambition have led her to success.  Maybe we can be happy for her.

Personally I think feminism expects and demands too much of her.  Society definitely does.  Maybe she provoked it with the statement "I think I might be the voice of my generation", or maybe  it was just a line in a television show that was funny and a little opium inspired and true of her generation.  Either way I'm pretty okay with having Lena Dunham as my cultural representative.

*99.9% of feminists hate me for at least one thing I've said in this note.  I am now going to Taylor Swift's Feminist Hell for bad Feminists.