04 October 2010

Take this pink ribbon off my eyes...

While some may say it's ridiculous to hate on a colour, I happen to think it's perfectly justified.  If one can have a favourite colour, then they most certainly are entitled to have a least favourite colour.  Mine would be pink.  Not all shades of pink, but about 99.9% of them, and just when I think I've come to terms with the colour, it's October.

Pink is the quintessential female color,” says Margaret Welch, director of the Color Association of the United States. “The profile on pink is playful, life-affirming. We have studies as to its calming effect, its quieting effect, its lessening of stress. [Pastel pink] is a shade known to be health-giving; that’s why we have expressions like ‘in the pink.’ You can’t say a bad thing about it.” Pink is, in other words, everything cancer notably is not.

October is when you can walk into a store, and find entire displays of items that the colour pink threw up on.  It's when you spend three times as much for something because of the packaging and the novelty of the colour, and you don't feel as offended as you would at any other time of the year, because you really believe that you are helping to make a difference by purchasing the $5 Pink Sharpie instead of the $2 Black Sharpie.

I'm not saying they slap the colour pink on anything and expect us to purchase it in droves, but...

If a colour had curative powers, wouldn't every one who was diagnosed with breast cancer be cancer-free if they wore a pink ribbon?

If the Foundations (aka - big business) promising to donate a dollar for every (insert product here) sold really did donate that dollar, and didn't spend it all on advertising to make us think that they were doing so, wouldn't there be more than enough money to pay for the cure? (We all know the cure is out there, it's just that the world is on money, and there is more money in keeping people alive and pumping them full of cancer-fighting drugs than there is in saying, "Here you go. Take this pill and it's gone forever.")

Are we, as a society, more accepting of breast cancer as the woman's charity/disease du jour because our breasts are so strongly linked with our image of "woman" and of "beauty", that the thought of losing something that so clearly defines us as women has us all running in the nearest Relay for Life or Run for the Cure.  Sure, heart disease and strokes are the leading cause of death among Canadian women annually, but for some reason, no one wants to think of a woman just dropping dead because her heart stopped working.  Apparently, we'd rather think of them as losing their breasts and suffering as the disease ravages their entire body. 

Despite the fact than men can, and do, get breast cancer, why is it still considered a "woman's disease"?  Is it because it's easier to emotionally manipulate the general public by making them imagine a life without their mother, daughter, sister, aunt, grandmother or best friend, you know what with the entire female gender being seen as the core of the world.  I guess those who lost their fathers, brothers, sons, uncles or best friends to breast cancer just didn't feel the loss the same way, or at least, not in a way that big business could sell it to you.

Is breast cancer the easy charity to get behind because it doesn't have certain stigma attached to it?  Despite everything we know about AIDS, do you see your store shelves turning a bright shade of red one month out of the year for AIDS Awareness?

I  watched a good friend contract breast cancer. Her place in the genetic lottery sucked - of her six other siblings, half of them developed some form of cancer in their life time and ultimately died because of it.  I saw her go through her first lumpectomy convinced that it was all gone.  I saw the look on her face when they told her it was worse than they thought, and that her only options were mastectomy and radiation and chemotherapy treatments.  I watched as she went from a vibrant 40 year old woman who would kick your ass in the blink of an eye to a shadow of her former self.  The cancer spread to her bones and to her organs.  Shortly after she turned 41, she passed away.  At her funeral I saw her eight and sixteen year old daughters filled not only with unimaginable grief and sadness, but also anger.

I saw all this and I still hate the colour pink.

My boss was diagnosed with breast cancer and is having her mastectomy on Thursday.

I still won't wear a pink ribbon.

I will, however, still listen to music by the singer, P!nk.  She is my favourite and my best.

06 August 2010

Never can say good-bye..

I lost a friend this week.  One day she was there, and the next day, she was gone.  I never even got the chance to say good-bye or tell her how much I enjoyed having her around.  Every time I log into Facebook and see my friends total at one less, it hurts.

We'd never met, this friend and I, but I felt as though I knew her through our interactions on Facebook, and Twitter.  I'd read the articles that she would link to, and somehow feel that much closer to her.  Her struggles growing up were the same as my struggles growing up, and yet she overcame them and turned out to be an amazing role model for women of all ages, races, shapes and sizes... and ultimately is someone that I like to think that in another time, another place, I could see myself hanging out with.

That friend was April Flores, and her account with Facebook was deleted because it "violated Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities."  You know, that big long-winded thing that no one ever reads before they click "I agree" whenever they join something online?  You might want to start looking closer at it, because it could happen to you, too.

Did I mention that April is, by her own definition, a "Muse * Model * Erotic Performer"?  If you think that had nothing to do with it, then I would love to see the rock you live under, because given the way Facebook treats its users, I am not surprised.

 The best I can figure is that someone out there with way too much time on their hands decided that April's profile must have violated Section 3-7 of the statement, which states, "You will not post content that: is hateful, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence" and reported her to the powers that be.  Having been to her profile many times, I can honestly say there was nothing there that was hateful, or threatening or pornographic or violent.  If anything, it was threatening to people who are afraid to see women who are comfortable with their sexuality.  I mean, there's no way that women - especially plus-sized women - enjoy sex, and if they do, then they must have been abused as a child or something. 

Hey, Facebook - what the fuck?

I hear you've not only deleted April's account but a myriad of other women-run groups and accounts as well for other arbitrary "violations", with nary an explanation, including breastfeeding pages. Do you think that by doing this you're going to get back at the girl who wouldn't go to prom with you, because let me tell ya, she's probably not even using Facebook.  Ha.  Rumour has it that there have been some groups with some deep pockets that have been targeting women and female-oriented pages and pressuring you to delete them.  I'm not mentioning any names, but I think you probably know them well.

Are you pissed off at April because she refuses to hide in a corner and wear baggy clothing and be ashamed of her body because she doesn't look like the models you feature in all those annoying diet ads that are constantly showing up the side of my page every time I log in? Or, in her own words,

"I now know that confidence and being a happy, positive person plays a more important role in attraction than body size alone. My main motivation for doing erotic work is to make the statement that fat women can express their sexuality and be sexual beings. I am challenge the norms of what is considered beautiful and sexy. I want people to examine their own ideas of what they consider appealing. For many people beauty does not just come in a size 0."

Oooh....scary stuff.  An attractive, confident woman who doesn't take your shit..no wonder you had to get rid of her.  What if there were more like her out there?  What would have happened then?  You might have had to deal with women openly discussing their feelings about their bodies, their love lives, their social lives....anything, really.  That would have been horrible.  How dare people use a social network to try to be social.  What are they thinking?

I'm the first to admit that as a feminist, I have my own issues with porn, but what I don't have issues with is sexuality.  Porn is what it is, and it makes no apologies for it.  It's a bunch of beautiful people having fake sex so that we, the viewer can be turned on for whatever reason we wanted to be turned on (we're bored, we're lonely, we're trying to spice up a night with our lover..whatever), but it also creates highly unrealistic views about sex and sexuality and sex positivity so that women are sort of stuck in these roles where they're almost expected to be the whore who wants to take on five guys at the same time and like it.

It's performers like April who are doing their best to turn things around and occasionally mention their achievements on Facebook.  She won Heartthrob Of The Year at the 2010 Feminist Porn Awards and was rightfully thrilled about it.  I'm sorry - does the word "heartthrob" incite violence in you?  Perhaps that was another reason that Facebook deleted her profile.

 The sad thing is, we'll never really know why it happened.  Theories will abound.  I believe that it's because Facebook has a problem with strong women who don't look a certain way, because I've seen enough prostiteen profiles on there to make me want to call these kid's parents and say, "Have you seen what your daughter posted on the internet?".  (Sorry, but a photo of two fourteen year old girls grabbing each other's breasts and pretending to make out is a lot more offensive to me than a shot of April's ass wearing a pair of hot pants with the word, "MEATY" across the back.)  I believe that it's because there are people out there who think that sex is bad and that if you like it then you're bad too, and that everyone has a price, including Facebook.

Fortunately for me, April Flores, and her presence in my life, even though it's only through cyberland, is priceless.

18 May 2010

i can't smile without you

I've been called "bitter", "abrasive", "cold", "cynical", "a bitch", and, yeah, I own up to that.  But that's only a teeny part of my personality. What about the side of me that finds joy in the little things?  Inspired partly by The Book of Awesome (which everyone should read, even though I'm not in it.  Maybe I'll make the sequel) and partly by the fact that my blogs have been pretty buzzkilly, I've decided to make a list of random things that make me smile.  I don't have to justify them (though I probably will, because that's my way), but they are what they are and that's all I can say about that. 

 Hearing songs I loved in high school on the radio.
 Sure they usually turn up on some alternative station's "Retro Lunch Hour", but that's ok.  It's weird, because I'm not overly nostalgic for high school, but you give me the opening bars of "No Rain" by Blind Melon, and I'm grinning like an idiot.  

Photos of my friend's two girls. 
It's not some weird biological clock thing. These kids are just that awesome.   

 Inside jokes.
This is pretty explanatory.  It's why I find it hysterical that a friend sends me lobster memorabilia, or that after a visit to the East Coast, I was gifted with lobster printed socks and a lobster pen. No one really knows the true story behind Mr Pinchy, the squeaky lobster on  my desk at work, but that's ok.  All I have to do is squeeze his belly and I'm giggling.  

Getting thick envelopes full of goodness in the mail
Sure e-mail is good for the speed and convenience, but honestly, you can't beat getting something addressed to you in familar script that isn't someone looking for money.  It's something that someone you know saw and thought enough of you to not only buy it, but send it to you by pony express.  It could be letters, decos, swaps, stuff you've ordered online, it doesn't matter.  The point is that it's addressed to me for the sheer purpose of my happiness.

The Cheezburger Network
Home to LOLCats, Demotivational Posters, Engrish Funny, and so much more, I have lost track of the hours that I have lost to these sites, but all of them make me smile, and laugh like Edna Krabapple. Seriously.  It's like, the sexiest thing ever.  

Regretsy and CakeWrecks.
Just...go to these sites.  I can't say anything else.  I think they're that teeny bit more funny if you're a crafter or even slightly artistic, but if not, how can you not appreciate a website that describes itself as "Where DIY meets WTF"?, and who among us hasn't wished for a cake with sprinkles....lots and lots of sprinkles...  

Adam Lambert. 
Seriously, could he be any hotter?  

Eye candy in general.
Male, female, black, white, gay, straight...I don't care.  If you're pleasing to my eye, you make me smile

 (It's the cover art for her single "Thank God, I'm Pretty".  What.)

The musical numbers on Glee.
I was a theatre geek in high school  I don't have to say any more.

New Pyjamas
I know this makes me sound like I'm eighty, but I never realised the power of pyjamas till I bought some on a whim a couple years back.  I was always a big fan of the flannel pants-old high school play t-shirt combo, but then I saw a pair of pj's that I just had to have. So I did.  Now that's pretty much all I wear.  From their outlandish printed bottoms to their subtle matching tops (or vice versa), pyjamas are just the best.  If you're having a bad day, go out and buy yourself some new jams, have a shower, slide into them, then curl up with bad tv and comfort food and I guarantee you'll feel a zillion times better.

My friends.
What can I say?  My friends rock.  Be they old school friend, penpal, interfriend, blog buddy, or someone who sent me something cool because I ordered it from their Etsy site.  You all make me smile and I love you for it.

15 May 2010

son of a preacher man

Confession: I love comics.


I am more of a fan of the graphic novel though, since they take up less space than boxes and boxes full of bag and board, which I would invariably have, and, I dunno; I'm a book lover.  I like my magazines just fine, but if I'm going to read or follow a "story", I prefer it to be in book form.  I'm just weird that way.

Like most people my age, I grew up on a steady diet of Sunday funnies and Archie Comics and hour upon hour of Saturday morning cartoons.  To this day, I still love animated films and various comic strips and lament the loss of some of the greats (I miss you Far Side and Calvin and Hobbes).  Despite all of this, as I got older, I clung desperately to the stereotype that all people who liked comic books were socially retarded losers who spent all of their time debating things like who would win in a fight - Spider Man or Batman.  I was a snob, I admit it.  Even though some of my closest friends were hardcore into comics, I still mocked them.

And then I read "The Crow".  I won't say it changed my life, but it certainly changed the way I looked at comics.  They weren't all just cheesy superheroes with cheesy dialogue.  They were gritty and dark and had an element of realism to them that was actually really cool.  But I still wasn't convinced.

Time went on and some of my most favourite movies turned out to be based on comics, and I still wasn't convinced.  Comics were for the dorks who sat pimply-faced in a basement playing Dungeons and Dragons.  A friend did a presentation in high school about comics being legitimate forms of literature, and I thought, "Wow, some people are really passionate about this sort of thing", and he made valid points, but I wasn't going to be won over that easily.

Fast forward a couple of years, and I had become friends with a cartoonist from Australia who I totally blame for my conversion.  He sent me copies of the Death trade paperbacks, (Death: The High Cost of Living and Death: The Time of Your Life) and that was it.  I mean, how could I not love a perky goth gal who was not only the end of life, but a guardian of souls?  It had reminded me a lot of The Crow, but with a vagina. Granted, at the time, I was all about the goth aspect, but there was something about the way this story was written that had me jonesing for more.

I fell into the world of comics fast and furious.  I was soliciting advice from my comic loving friends as to what I should read/buy next.  I read exclusively "indie" lines - Lenore, Johnny The Homocidal Maniac, My Monkey's Name is Jennifer, The Adventures of Sock Monkey, and so on.  But I never read anything as amazing as Preacher.

 "Three or four years ago I was getting ready to begin writing my own take on the western.It would be called PREACHER, I'd decided, and though set in  modern-day Texas it would have all the hallmarks of the stories I grew up on. The hero would stand four-square for what was right and just, the girl would  be beautiful, the sidekick a rogue, the villains a bunch of shits, the comic relief  an annoying little bastard" (Garth Ennis, writer of the Preacher)

Preacher tells the story of Jesse Custer, a preacher (get it?) from a small town in Texas who was "accidentally" possessed by the supernatural creature named Genesis in an incident which killed his entire congregation and flattened his church. Genesis was the product of the coupling of an angel and a demon and being made up of both pure goodness and pure evil, it might have enough power to rival that of God himself. In other words, Jesse Custer, (aka "J.C.:") may have become the most powerful being in the whole of living existence.

Custer, driven by a strong sense of right and wrong, goes on a journey attempting to (literally) find God, who abandoned Heaven the moment Genesis was born. He also begins to discover the truth about his new powers, which allow him to command the obedience of those who hear his words. He is joined by his old girlfriend Tulip, as well as a hard-drinking Irish vampire named Cassidy.  (I know, right.  But wait - it gets better.)

My personal favourite character in the whole series would have to be Arseface.  Yeah, you read that right.    After a severe beating by his father, and learning of Kurt Cobain's suicide, Arseface makes a suicide pact with his best friend, who puts a shotgun in his mouth and successfully kills himself, while Arseface places the shotgun under his chin, which severely deforms his face instead of killing him. During his father’s investigation in the J.C. case, the boy stows away in his father's car. During a confrontation with Jesse and the Saint of Killers, Cassidy remarks that the boy’s face looked like an arse.  Hence, "Arseface".

I'm also a big fan of Tulip, who, unlike most literary girlfriends, does not play the victim.  Hell, after her mom died in childbirth, her father raised her like the son he never had, introducing her to firearms, hunting, fishing, and war stories, so you know she's gonna kick yer ass. She takes no shit from anyone and totally calls Jesse on his sexist bullshit whenever he tries to pull the old, "Man's gotta do what a man's gotta do" excuse for abandoning her many times throughout the series. She may be named after a flower, but she will eff you up.

I know it all seems like too much, but seriously, it's probably the best thing I've read in a long time. Don't get me wrong, there is a lot of violence in Preacher. A LOT.  Some of it funny, cartoonish violence, some of it graphic, some of it richly deserved and a lot of it senseless. Heads are blown off in gory detail, people are punched so hard that they lose half their teeth. Blood is splattered against walls and viscera is ejected across the landscape.  No punches are pulled. No cut away shots to avoid the awful gory glory of violence. It's there and it's in your face and there's nothing you can do about it.  (Ok, you could not read the books, but then you'd be missing out)
And for this reason, and many others, I think it's why people are often surprised to hear that not only do I enjoy comics, but I enjoy violent comics. Not as a rule or anything, but something about this series really got to me.  I may never know why.  All I know is Preacher = Best. Comic. Ever.

30 April 2010

black magic woman

"Many women who do not dress modestly ... lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes," Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi was quoted as saying by Iranian media. Sedighi is Tehran's acting Friday prayer leader.

No, really. I know, you thought earthquakes were caused by plate tectonics—but really, it's immodestly dressed women, leading young men astray.

Jen McCreight, a feminist and blogger decided to conduct a fun little experiment called Boobquake. The idea was to encourage women to dress "immodestly" for one day, whatever that may be for each individual woman.  It could be a cleavage baring shirt or a pair of booty shorts...whatever you choose, and then it was  wait and see if there was any significant increase in earthquakes or seismic activity.  Chances are you've heard about Boobquake. It went viral pretty fast.  It was meant to be a small, offhand joke among her blog readers and Facebook friends; instead, she wound up with coverage on CNN, the BBC, the Washington Post, and all over the place.

 (That would be Jen at her local Boobquake rally.  Loves the lab goggles!)

But many feminists responded very negatively to Boobquake, calling it exploitative, demeaning, trivializing, objectifying, and a whole host of other sexist bad things.  A Facebook group called Brainquake was created in response, saying that Boobquake "has aroused the evidently insatiable enthusiasm of the web community, male supporters in particular who can't wait to see 'regular' girls and women, many their direct friends to 'showing off their tits'," and arguing that "Violence against women and girls has a direct correlation to the sexualisation of women and girls."

So, lets see if I've got this straight - a misogynist man used his position of religious authority to imply that all of the world's problems were to be blamed on female sexuality and women responded by saying, "Fuck you. Our sexuality is not responsible for earthquakes or any other evilness that may exist.  We are amazing and we will flaunt our sexuality any way we want.  It's our body, our right to choose", and that is being seen as not feminist?

The main feminist objection to Boobquake seemed to be that the women who participated were letting ourselves be exploited. They argued that many men reacted to the event with sexist, "Show us your tits!" idiocy, which was to be expected, really. Apparently women should not display our sexuality because men can't be trusted. In the presence of a display of desirable female flesh, men will lose control of themselves. Women ought to dress modestly, and ought not to encourage other women to dress immodestly... and if we persist in our immodesty, and men respond by behaving badly, it's women's fault.

 How, exactly, is this "feminist" response to Boobquake anything but a version of the statement by the Muslim prayer leader, minus the garbage about earthquakes?

I get that this is a complicated issue. I get that the line between women expressing our sexuality and letting ourselves be exploited is often blurry, and even I find myself wavering on how I feel about it.. I get that using sexuality to draw attention to an issue can be a tricky business, and that the sex can distract from the issue at hand. And I get that, yes, a lot of men acted like idiots around Boobquake, ignoring its political and religious and scientific context, and turning it into another opportunity to scream, "Show us your tits!" However, none of this was Jen McCreight's intention.

She made it clear that this was an event initiated by women, to be participated in voluntarily by women who got the joke. She made it very clear that it was open to all women who wanted to play... and that every woman could decide for herself what "dressing immodestly" meant. She made it very clear that this was a social and political protest—albeit a humorous one—and not simply another opportunity for men to clumsily ogle women.

 Bagging on her and the thousands of women who participated in Boobquake because society's response to female sexuality is sometimes sexist and stupid? That's messed up. There needs to be a way for thoughtful, feminist women to express our sexual desirability without automatically being treated as dumb, exploited bimbos who don't understand what men really think of us.

Our bodies. Our right to decide.

If that's not what the feminist movement is about, then what the hell is the point?

27 April 2010

one pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small

As a huge Alice in Wonderland fan, and an even huger Tim Burton fan, it's safe to say that I was anxiously anticipating the awesomeness that would happen when those two forces of nature came together.  I mean, if anyone could do justice to Lewis Carroll's masterpiece, it would be Mr. Burton.  The man gave us The Nightmare Before Christmas, for crying out loud.  There was no way that his interpretation of Alice would be less than awesome.

Then I heard it was going to be in 3D and I think I may have peed in my pants a little.  Seriously.  Alice in Wonderland in 3D?  What could possibly go wrong?

How about, oh, everything?

While on holiday on the west coast this week, my friend Denise and I made plans to take in the three-dimensional goodness of this film.  We paid the ridiculous admission price, bought the overpriced, stale theatre popcorn and drank the gallon o' fountain drink that passes for a "small", and put those glasses on like our lives depended on it. 

Then the movie started...and it was all downhill from there.

Now, as much as I want to blame Tim Burton for this, it's not entirely his fault.  I mean, he could only work with the material he had been given, and it's not entirely his fault that the story was lame.  If you haven't seen it, I'll try not to spoil it for you, but basically, we meet Alice at the age of nineteen, who is betrothed to a man she does not love.  While at her surprise engagement party (and by "surprise" I mean, she had no idea he was going to ask her to marry him), she becomes obsessed with this White Rabbit that she keeps seeing.  She leaves the guy on bended knee and chases after the rabbit, only to fall down the rabbit hole and into Underland.  She meets the usual assortment of characters that we've all come to know and love - Mad Hatter, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, the Caterpillar, the Doormouse, and my personal favourite, the Cheshire Cat.

Of course, none of them believe that she is the "Real Alice", and she must go about proving that she is indeed the same one who visited Underland as a child.  In the meantime, she is revealed as the one who brings peace and harmony to their world by slaying the Jabberwock, who I'm sure was added to the script to atone for the total blasphemy that this story was to the original.  The Queen of Hearts has a freakishly huge head and surrounds herself with other such afflicted people in order to feel less alone, but, you know, she was never loved by her parents as much as her sister, the White Queen was, so she's got issues and something to prove.

In the end, Alice proves herself to be strong and independent and forward thinking, which is a big deal for the Victorian era, and it's for that reason that I didn't totally hate her.  She refused to marry a man she didn't love, and she took up her father's business.  You go, Alice!

It is a Tim Burton film, so you know it's going to be pretty, and boy, was it.  I have decided that it was a good thing that I saw it in 3D, because if I only saw it in old school 2D, I would have really been aware of how lame the story was.  Ok, I was aware of the lameness of the story in 3D, too, but I didn't care so much because, "Ooooh...pretty....", and because they did such an awesome job with Cheshie.

Yes, I love that grinning kitty.  How can I not?  He is all calm and cool with this huge grin that masks his cowardice. You know, kinda like me.  After Alice is attacked by the vicious Bandersnatch,  he offers to purify the gashes on her arm by licking them. Alice declines, although she allows him to lead her to the Hatter’s Tea Party where the Hatter blames him for deserting them on the day the Red Queen seized control of Underland. Using his skills and the Hatter’s coveted top hat, Cheshie later finds a way to redeem himself.  In other words, they didn't keep him around just because he was cute.  I would have, but that's just me.  I'm just a crazy cat lady in training.

Would I watch the film again?  Heck yeah, but I think I'll just read the book again.  It might not be as pretty, but at least it's real.

14 April 2010

paperback writer

In the summer of 2007, I took part in an online photo essay project called "Once Upon a Time on Planet Earth."  The idea behind it was that everyone involved took a photo at the exact same time on the exact same day and then wrote about it.  It just so happened that at the same time I got involved in this, an organization in my town chose to offer employment to a young man named Sean Aiken.  It doesn't seem like much, right?  So someone in town decided to give a kid a job, big deal.  Well, here's where it gets interesting.  Sean Aiken is the creative mind behind "One Week Job", a concept he came up with shortly out of university.

Not wanting to be stuck in a job where all he did was clock-watch, Sean was determined to find his passion in life, and he thought that by trying fifty two jobs in a year (that's one a week), that he would at least get an idea of what he didn't want to do.  Any potential employers who paid him a wage would have those wages donated to "Make Poverty History" and, of course, receive a tax break for doing so.  There was a blog where you could contact him to offer him employment, read his blog and basically find yourself along for the ride.

By the time he made it to my small town, he was still fairly new into the process, having only been at it for about sixteen weeks.  He worked at the Pizza Hut for a day, but his big task that week was the Race Co-Ordinator for my town's second annual pursuit style triathlon.  This is where he and I met.  Stuck for a photo subject for my essay, I approached him and asked if I could take his photo and use him as my essay topic.  He seemed distracted, but he did mumble something that sounded like agreement, so we took a couple of photos and then he went back to doing whatever it was race directors do.

A few months later, I sent him an email with my essay and photo attached to it, and it was submitted to the online photo essay.  I kept in touch with Sean through email and by following his blog, and I watched his One Week Job Project take on a life of its own.  He found himself selling real estate in Hollywood, working as a movie producer, aquarium guide, photographer at the Toronto Film Festival, and so on.  He made appearances on CNN, Good Morning America and the Rachel Ray Show.  He was even contacted by Oprah's people, but that fell through.

From humble beginnings, One Week Job because a sort of phenomena, with a documentary in the making and a book offer.  A few months ago, I got an email from Sean saying that he had written about our encounter at the Triathlon in his book, and he wasn't going to say anything, instead letting me read it for myself when the book was released, but his editors and publisher and lawyer said it would be best to get my permission, especially since they were going to be using text from my essay in the book as well.  I'm no fool, I said, "Sure."

A week ago, "The One Week Job Book" was released in Canada, and there on page 76, Sean mentions me by name and quotes my essay.

I know, right.

So, since this is my blog and it's all about me, I present to you, my essay for "Once Upon a Time on Planet Earth" entitled, "Jump!" (currently being quoted on bookshelves all over Canada)

Henry Miller once said, "Destiny is what you are supposed to do in life. Fate is what kicks you in the ass to do it." 

Enter Sean Aiken. 

After already having an impressive head start out into the "real world," through graduating top of his class in University with a degree in Business Administration, the possibilities were endless. But this was not enough for Sean. He made a promise that he would not settle for a career unless he was truly passionate about it. Of course, at 25 years old, it's not surprising that he wasn't sure where his passions were. (How many of us really knew what we wanted to do for the rest of our lives at 25 years of age?) So, he created One Week Job which he describes as "one of the crazy ideas I had running through my head keeping me up at night." 

At the same time that he had the idea for One Week Job, a friend of his had mentioned the issue of child poverty in Canada to him. His reaction to this was the same as mine. There's child poverty in Canada? We're one of the richest countries in the world, how is this possible? Eighteen years ago, our trusty government made a resolution to eliminate poverty among Canadian children by the year 2000. So, how come, seven years later, one in six children still lives in poverty? 

Something has to be done. 

Sean is not trying to champion the fight against child poverty in Canada. (It's not like he's Bono, after all.) His goals are simple - he's just trying to find his place in the world, trying to find a better understanding of what he needs to be happy. He's not entirely ignorant of the impact that his "crazy idea" can have on those who encounter him, either. He hopes that he can somehow inspire those who might find themselves in a similar situation, whether they are high school graduates striking out on their own for the first time, or someone who has worked a job they hated for twenty years just because they felt like they had to, to commit to seeking out a career they're passionate about. Since he was already spreading that message, why not use the opportunity to raise money and awareness of child poverty in Canada in the process? Sean says "I believe if we truly want to make a difference in the lives of others, we must first starts by being happy with ourselves." 

I am willing to go on record right now in admitting that the thought of meeting someone who I had sort of built up in my head as this amazing individual, was a little daunting. I'm a skeptic as well, so part of me wondered if he was really as he seemed, or if all the media attention had gone to his head, and he was going to walk around like we should all be falling at his feet because of all of the attention he was getting because what he was doing? Furthermore, how would he respond to my request to being the subject for my entry at "Once Upon a Time on Planet Earth" Would he jump at the opportunity or would he brush me off with a wave of his hand? From our first "Hello," I realized that my fears were unfounded. 

Sean is one of the most open, laid back, easy-going, and passionate people I've ever met, and when you meet him you almost feel as though you've known him forever. He has this presence that is so infectious that you can't help but feel not only at ease, but like you've known him forever. In my conversation with him, I got the sense that whether he knows it or not, this is his "passion." He created something he believed in and, as cliched as it sounds, he chose to follow his bliss and has found his comfort zone. While my visions of his future and his visions of his future are more than likely on completely different scales (I can see him following in the footsteps of so many others who believed in something, no matter how unpopular or crazy it was, and had the balls to pursue it), we both can agree that we have no idea where this will lead him today, tomorrow, or even next week. 

I realize that this may all sound a bit over-inflated, but in all honesty, it truly only takes one person to make a difference, no matter how big or how small. My heroes are those who don't sit idly by and complain about what they see; they try to change it, and either through their own actions or words, they inspire others to do the same. They inspire people to take that first leap or that first step to turn something ordinary into something extraordinary, and to make a change. When you meet someone who feels "that people and our relationships with others are the most important things we have," how can you not look at yourself and life differently? 

In trying to decide on what sort of a photo I wanted to include as my statement in "Once Upon a Time on Planet Earth," I wasn't sure which direction I wanted to go. With a subject who is everything and nothing all at the same time, how can you perfectly capture that belief that "You must be the change you want to see in the world?" Fortunately, since neither Sean nor I take anything too seriously, I feel that there is no more appropriate photo than this one. 

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In a split second, it captured what Sean and One Week Job, and what "Once Upon a Time on Planet Earth" are all about - that we're all in this together, and that what one person does can make more of an impact than they would expect. I never thought that taking part in this photo essay, and meeting Sean would change the way I look at things, and yet, both have. It's nothing I can fully articulate, but it's something that I feel deep in my core; that in these chance opportunities, something has changed...and that something was me.

10 April 2010

dancing with myself

I've been crocheting for about eight or nine years now, give or take, and I can honestly say it's probably my most favourite hobby ever.  I know that announcing this is like saying that Adam Lambert is gay or that water is wet, but sometimes, things bear repeating.

I'm not sure what I love most about it, whether it's the satisfaction of seeing a project go from balls of wool to actual object or the fact that it helps to keep me sane.  All I know is that when I walk into a craft store, I head straight for the yarn while my heart is all a-twitter, my head swimming with possibilities; colour combinations, textures, who I'm going to make what for...all that good stuff.  Oddly enough, when it comes to "Who am I going to make this for?", the most obvious answer (a.k.a. "ME") is the furthest thing from my mind.

I like to make things for other people.  Ask any of those I hold nearest and dearest to me and they can show you at least one item I've made for them or their children. (Yeah, if you have kids, you're pretty much doomed, because I will be spoiling that little moppet with handmade goodness like there's no tomorrow.)  I don't do it for money (though twice I've been paid for my efforts...and both times it was well deserved.) I do it because it makes me happy and I like to see those I love happy.

Lately I've been on a crocheted doll kick.  Specifically, I've been making dolls for friends that sort of resemble the friends I've given them to.  Sometimes the resemblance is spot on; others not so much. So, with that in mind, I thought I'd play a little blog game to test your powers of observation (which, if they're anything like mine, are somewhere in the "Captain Obvious" realm).

I am posting photos of dolls I've made with specific people in mind, and then photos of how they really look.  Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to try and figure out who is who.  You can keep that to yourself, or you can post your guesses in my comment section.  The winner gets nothing other than my admiration for being so darn smart..or maybe they'll see themselves in crochet at some point.  We'll see how I feel.

First up:  The Dolls

Doll #1

Doll #2

Doll #3
Doll # 4
Doll #5
Doll #6

And now, The People:





(Yes, I am aware that I haven't made any crocheted dudes yet.  That's not sexism, that's just me assuming that there aren't a lot of men out there who would appreciate the coolness of being immortalized in crochet.  That being said, there's a first time for everything)