Homage to an Elevator

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It was literally shitty.

At least, so goes a sign I saw in it once. I didn’t see the pile of human feces. It was gone. A good samaritan had notified the live-in building caretakers who had no excuse not to clean it up immediately, and that samaritan also made a sign reminding us of apartment building etiquette. It’s a brilliant sign. It’s a memory I hold dear.rs3454

I didn’t see that specific dump, but there’s a lot to remember about the different-context-of-the-word dump that the elevator was. The building was 100 years old when I moved in. The elevator was probably maintained or upgraded, but still its same core self. Common folklore, whether true or not, said it was the oldest original still-functioning elevator in the city. It had obviously been through a lot. The rubbery texture of the paint was a sure sign that coats had been coated over other coats ad nauseum. The carpeting must’ve been changed several times, say, every 10 cases of human waste taking place there. Nah, probably 20. Or 50. There were several instances of vomit stains in the two years I lived in this building, and when it smelled like piss it wasn’t clear whether somebody urinated there or if it was just recently occupied by someone who carried the scent themselves.

Yes, I lived in this place for two years. This should hint to you that I don’t live there anymore. I’ve grown quite above it, switching from a one bedroom apartment in a downtown character building to a…larger one bedroom apartment in a downtown character building but with a better view and no elevator. My current building doesn’t need one. It doesn’t meet the threshold of five storeys that the last one did. I lived on the fourth. I tried to promise to myself that I would walk up the stairwell circling the walls outside the elevator shaft unless I was carrying something very heavy. I failed on that promise many times. It was hard walking up that stairwell carrying anything heavier than my own fat ass, and it made me dizzy to circle so much. So I frequently saw this elevator’s various states of disrepair. Carpet was not only soiled but torn up. The metal bars on the walls were distorted. People vandalized the pus-coloured walls. I wonder not if, but how many times people fucked in that lift during my residency in that building.

It wasn’t just how it was treated. With it being as old as it was, it was how it was built. It wasn’t classic like you see in period movies that have the accordion doors, or whatever the fuck you call them, but you did have to ensure the prison cell type door was shut, manually, before the inner door would automatically close and take you to your destination. It could only stop one floor at a time, which was useful for avoiding the neighbours who would degrade the territory but not so useful for getting to know the good neighbours through this iconic place of small talk. Those are both pretty good things to have in an elevator, actually. At least there are those to offset all that was horrible.

I see elevators malfunction in my office building all the time, sometimes all three. I have seen elevator repair people standing in broken elevators that are stuck about a foot and a half above the floor they should be actually on jump up and down aggressively trying to get the damn thing to move. I never had to see that with the outhouse elevator. I guess they don’t build them like they used to. These early elevator models must’ve been hand-crafted works of art…but I think this one was more along the lines of Medieval paintings instead of Renaissance sculptures.

I live virtually across the street from this old haunt of mine, and I’m sure if I walked in behind somebody who had keys they would hold the door for me without any suspicion. Then I could see what state this elevator is in now. But I’m scared. I don’t want to go in there and see it replaced. I don’t want to see it redone in an attempt to make this building as classy as it was in its heyday. That’s not why they call old apartment blocks “character buildings” – at least not in this town. Dare I go to see her again? Elevators don’t have Facebook profiles you can stalk to see if they’ve gotten uglier since you left them.

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Adventurous Travels into Personal Branding and Hyper-Marketing

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I was never one to overstretch things on my curriculum vitae, which is perhaps why it took me years to be the least bit optimistic about my career. Things are better now, I can happily say, so there’s no far less worrying about my personal brand now than there was less than a year ago.

But Wait – There’s More!

The images we create are not just about job interviews and career advancement. It’s how we develop personal relationships, how we improve our own safety, and how we can maintain our health. In the general public sphere of ideas bouncing around, it’s also a factor in whether what we say is absorbed, or even noticed. Everyone can express opinions, so we need to make ours look more important than the rest.

But, like in the job market, the standard voice of authority works strongly in favour of the white educated well-paid man. (Several white educated men who may not be well-paid would jump at this to share their personal experiences AS SOLID DISPROOF that it’s not the exact opposite, if I were a voice they deemed worth listening to.) The idea that social problems and policy and the solutions that ensure “progress” are pieced together by measurable social data is ludicrously flawed. And, as stated above, I have training and experience in this area.

Social statistics are fundamentally biased towards people who don’t feel threatened by being honest – the people who already have privilege, whose opinions won’t rock the boat. The people who have privilege would trust the institutions propping this privilege up, including government and prestigious universities and even the science of statistics itself. This mathematical discipline thinks it’s air-tight. In what we can objectively measure through relationships to repeatedly proven markers (the sizes of atoms, scales of temperature, rings of trees, carbon dating), statistics is how we get answers. Humans, though, are not objectively measurable. We have relationships to unstable markers. Our answers are all within the biases of both the person expressing them in the subjectivity of language, and the person recording them in the subjectivity of categorization.

I could get that across better if I touted myself as being a pro. I did work for years in collecting data for large-scale studies. I do have a degree in sociology.

I also have an educational background and vested professional interest in human rights law, so I KNOW what I’m talking about in enforceable law!

I ever so selflessly volunteer in community building and social justice, so I’m at the ground level of this harsh reality, man.

I’m an early adopter of online social media (let’s hide the fact that it’s only been five years since I joined Twitter out of a possible eight) and I grew up in a three-generation household (if you define Gen X as up to 1979 and Gen Y as 1980 and beyond) so yes, I’m practically a guru on the implications of technological change across age brackets.

Hey, I’ve worked in politics, Bub – at a voting table in an election this one time, and I counted the FUCK out of those ballots.

Je suis une artiste – a professional wedding photographer (against my own wishes, long story), but I also use my photography skills to build a unique grand project that’s over 15 years in the making as a post-modern conceptual artist.

I’m not a fashionista because my wardrobe and demeanour transcend style. I paint my face every morning based on how I feel on the inside, not how a magazine tells me I should.

I’m multi-lingual (see français above) and extremely gifted in the language of mathematics beyond what a calculator can do.

I guess one of the biggest flaws of my personal brand is that I can’t keep talking about myself with a straight face. There are so many more places I can go with my skills and what makes me unique from everyone else. I’m above and beyond the rest on above and beyond the list I’ve gone above and beyond to write up for you, the reader, here.

I could never put this up on a resume or as part of an official profile for a networking site. Maybe I’d put it up on a dating site just to scare men off. And I didn’t even mention feminism in these touts.

Patronizing Patriarchy

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Yesterday I was considering on writing a post that parodied an article that is among the lowest territory written words can go. (I’m not linking. It’s that bad.) It was on a website that gives Wall Street tips, but since their audience is probably active supporters of capitalist patriarchy there was essentially a men’s-Cosmo type article that listed 50 – FIFTY – things women need to know about their man.

It was such a blanket generalization that merely stole things from the lowest brow collection of romantic comedies in Hollywood. It did a terrible disservice to men and women because it painted men with the same brush and spoke to women about how we’re expected to allow men whatever they want. It ignored same-gender relationships or transgender people; it assumed there was a uniform sexual drive and desire in everyone, and that uniform sexual drive and desire was men wanting blow jobs so women should just comply.

Moment of honesty here: I’ve never known a grown man to not be able to open a plastic cup of Mott’s apple sauce. That’s not misandry; it’s facetiousness towards the powerful and a hint that MAYBE if you can open your own cup of apple sauce you are also capable of washing dishes and grocery shopping, and that MAYBE if you take a good hard look at your workplace you’ll see just how much more the average woman does and yet gets nowhere because she doesn’t have a jib to be cut in the ol’ boys club.

My response to this becomes saturated at the neck of the bottle by the immediate response to the white middle to upper class demographic fog this article is written in. I can’t even begin to give time, space, and justice to everything that it ignores – different circumstances for different cultures, different expectations of women of colour, barriers of class and abilities, and a long, long list of more specific sources of discrimination that this ignores or spits in the face of. But clearly, on a website about tips for stock market monsters on how to get super rich with no sense of ethics, they do not care about real people. They care about themselves and possibly the women they’re willing to fuck, who have to meet standards you can only understand while on cocaine.

The existence of these thoughts, let alone being put into writing, is a disservice to every human being. No, let me correct myself – it’s FIFTY disservices to every human being. This includes the person who wrote it, because he could’ve spent the time writing this in therapy. Take care of yourself, misogynist writer dude. Seek help for yourself first, and then write to help others.

Media and Milestones

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I reached 20,000 tweets today. I was closely monitoring the number over the past week to make sure this was done with some significance. I drafted a few possibilities to choose an important sentiment about the medium itself and my use of it. Being only a few tweets away, I decided to lead up to the chosen thought.

These were all part of a conversation with myself, leading up to this:

I have to say, I’ve improved with my micro-writing over the past five years:

Hatred Meeting His Maker

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The death of Fred Phelps is only a victory if the rest of the Phelps family, who comprise most of the Westboro Baptist Church, fails or decides not to fill his shoes. They are not immune to change of hearts or being convinced of the humanity of the people they’ve been brainwashed to hate. I listened to an interview last year on CBC Radio’s “Q” of a couple of young women of the family who defected from the church. It started with arguing on the internet with a Jew who persisted in real conversation despite the temptation to troll or risk of being trolled (but the women didn’t really understand what “trolling” was in an internet-specific way). Eventually they were convinced that Jews, and other non-Christians, were…people. They couldn’t reconcile that humanization with what they were taught.

If the loud patriarch isn’t there to lead the mob of hate, will this cult’s activities and visibility peter out? Will more members be less intimidated to leave? One may be optimistic, but there isn’t any promise that a new charismatic leader won’t step up to the plate and continue or do worse.

In the summer of 2008, the Westboro Baptist Church announced they intended to drive up to my hometown to protest about whomever their god hates at the funeral of a murder victim. This was the widely covered incident of a schizophrenic man with a lapse in medication snapping and killing the Greyhound bus passenger next to him with no provocation but his mental illness. The press speculated that there would be difficulties in the group being let across the border since their organization is rightfully classified as a hate group, but coming in multiple cars at multiple border points made it difficult to ensure everyone would be turned back around (although Fred himself would’ve almost definitely been refused entry).

There was never confirmation that they were able to cross, but we could never be sure. In case they did, scores if not hundreds of people – just people, other Winnipeggers who were strongly against this abhorrent behaviour – showed up prepared to form a barricade around the church where the funeral was held. I was there, some friends were there, strangers were there, media was there, police were there, my middle school gym teacher was there, people at the high rise apartment complex next door were, well, not there to protest but at least watching and probably ready to throw rotten produce at anyone with a picket sign.

They didn’t show up. It wasn’t wasted time because a point was made. We’re against hate. We believe in respect and sympathy for the mourning. There was nothing about the victim that fit the profile of the WBC’s targets of hate, but this still showed respect for the LGBT people and soldiers of the ultimate sacrifice whose funerals were targeted previously. It was a victory of solidarity. I hope just the attention placed on Fred Phelps’s death shows how the majority of us unite to respect the dignity of others and remove any hope of the WBC’s survival. I’m not going to miss them, even as an easy target of mockery.

Theft of Message

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I have written in the past about what it feels like to have my work spread without credit – i.e. stolen. As insignificant as a poorly photoshopped pop culture pun may be, it was still something I did. It was a joke I made – and I probably wasn’t the only one – and put it into visual form. By principle, I argued, I should be tagged as the source.

Something happened to a person I’ve become a huge fan of on Twitter, @jaythenerdkid. A tweet of hers was posted by someone else on Tumblr as a screenshot and reblogged tens of thousands of times. The screenshow included her avatar and Twitter handle – valid citing of the source, not the ideal form, but still not stealing.

Yet, as she’s tweeted about so many times since, other people have posted the exact same thing under their own name on Facebook or Twitter. As her and her friends call these people out on it, they get defensive – it’s just Twitter, saw it somewhere else, lol who cares. The appropriate response would be “I saw it [wherever] and didn’t know where it came from. I’ll delete my tweet and retweet yours.” Or “Sorry, and thanks for letting me know! I’ll add to that with a link to your tweet to give you credit as the author.” Or if you are reluctant to buy into the tweets-are-intellectual-property argument (which is true: see #9), ask “Why is credit so important?” and hear the original writer’s side. Say “Hmm, that’s a perspective I didn’t consider. Thanks for enlightening me to that side of things.” Then go back and credit the original. (She has written many, many tweets about this in the past several days, so read through her timeline for succinctly written points.)

What this may take away from you is people thinking that you are so good at expressing things so well. If you are, you should have enough good written work of your own to demonstrate that. If you’re not, there would be a disconnect in style and discerning eyes will notice and hopefully expose you. If you copy/imitate others so much that it appears through the veil of the internet that you are an insightful writer, you are a fraud and will hopefully never get exposure or amount to anything based on the work that you steal. If you do get exposure, you will be brought down and fall apart.

One of the many, many reasons I hate internet memes is because they are often just the theft of other people’s creative property. They’re not necessarily a violation – they most likely fall under the parody clause of fair use that’s common in most jurisdictions’ copyright laws. But parody still requires accrediting the original source, and if it’s not a well-known creation (as Han Solo is widely known to be property of the Star Wars franchise) it is not implicit in the image itself from whence it originally came. Please do this. Do this with respect. If you’re inspired by something or someone, you will get more discussion and mutual appreciation if you credit the original. You can demonstrate your own wisdom by participating in discussion, not stealing words that aren’t yours. The idea can be shared. You could’ve thought the same thing or said something with the same message. You could’ve cited it and elaborated on it with your additional thoughts.

Everyone can contribute. Some just choose to steal.