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Seagull vs Raven

Living in Kitsilano sometimes makes me think of that CCR song “Looking out my back door,” especially the part that goes, “look at all the crazy people dancing on my lawn.” But lately it’s been the wildlife that has really been acting crazy. From my balcony, I saw a seagull and a raven circling each other in the air like World War I flying aces. Another time, alerted by high-pitched screaming and cawing, I looked out to see a raven zooming down on a seagull, who stood its ground, or rather its power pole. The pole didn’t look large enough to have a nest on top of it, so it’s not like the seagull was defending its home. Maybe they were just fighting for the hell of it? Or playfighting? Apparently ravens have been known to play with other animals, so maybe it was just having fun while the seagull didn’t know what the heck was going on?

Anyways. I’ve been seeing a lot of birds fighting each other lately. I couldn’t help but think it’s symbolic of something or other, so I tried to find some mythology relating to seagulls and ravens or crows, and this is what I discovered on Wikipedia:

[A] legend from the native peoples of the Pacific Northwest tells of how at the beginning of the world, Raven was the one who brought light to the darkness. When the Great Spirit created all things he kept them separate and stored in cedar boxes. The Great Spirit gifted these boxes to the animals who existed before humans. When the animals opened the boxes all the things that comprise the world came into being. The boxes held such things as mountains, fire, water, wind and seeds for all the plants. One such box, which was given to Seagull, contained all the light of the world.

Seagull coveted his box and refused to open it, clutching it under his wing. All the people asked Raven to persuade Seagull to open it and release the light. Despite begging, demanding, flattering and trying to trick him into opening the box, Seagull still refused. Finally Raven became angry and frustrated, and stuck a thorn in Seagull’s foot. Raven pushed the thorn in deeper until the pain caused Seagull to drop the box. Then out of the box came the sun, moon and stars that brought light to the world and allowed the first day to begin.

Those covetous seagulls! I always knew they were up to no good, especially when one of them had tried to snatch a churro right from my hand in San Francisco. They want the good things all to themselves: the sun, the moon, the stars… and even churros! Obviously, the ravens were engaging in some preventative measures to keep these interlopers under control. By the way, the seagull in the photo is not the one I saw fighting, just a random seagull I met in San Francisco. It looked very much like it, though…

Well, that’s all for today. I’m going to write my fantasy novel. Have a good day, and if you see a raven and seagull fighting, cheer for the raven!

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Thou shalt censor for the sake of manliness!

Unmanly Achilles?…

I’ve taught one of the funniest classes ever, and I can’t really take credit for it being funny. All the laughs came from  that well known stand up comedian Socrates, brought to you by Plato’s chef d’oevre The Republic. Now, you wouldn’t think that one of the cornerstones of Western philosophy is also outrageously funny, but my student and I were consumed with fits of giggling after discussing this masterful work of political thought.

Of course, it was not intentionally funny… At first, Socrates talks about his plan for designing the perfect city, to be ruled over by a Philosopher King, who would basically be a tyrant. Such tyranny, however, is justified because the philosopher obviously knows what’s best for the people. Among other things, he would ensure their moral soundness by censoring Homer’s poetry and other works that portray gods and heroes in a “negative” light. He is expecially concerned that heroes should not be depicted as weak and unmanly:

Then we shall be right in getting rid of the lamentations of famous men, and making them over to women (and not even to women who are good for anything), or to men of a baser sort, that those who are being educated by us to be the defenders of their country may scorn to do the like.

More specifically, he points out Achilles’ mourning of Patroclus as an outrageous example of unmanly behaviour:

Then we will once more entreat Homer and the other poets not to depict Achilles, who is the son of a goddess, first lying on his side, then on his back, and then on his face… now taking the sooty ashes in both his hands and pouring them over his head, or weeping and wailing in the various modes which Homer has delineated. Nor should he describe Priam the kinsman of the gods as praying and beseeching, rolling in the dirt, calling each man loudly by his name.

Very strange indeed… In our times, we censor things that are either too violent or too sexual, whereas in Plato’s times people were more interested in censoring out strong expressions of emotion because they were considered unmanly! One can only conclude that Socrates’ ideal man would somewhat resemble a screen persona portrayed by Clint Eastwood. Whether he has just seen his best friend killed or his favorite ice cream flavour sold out, the only hint we would get of inner turmoil would be a powerful glare of those piercing blue eyes.

Yes, it was funny to think of censorship being used in that way, but on second thought, maybe Socrates was on to something. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we had a Philosopher King who would censor out huge chunks of Jersey Shore? I had to suffer through a few episodes of this travesty because my former roommate was a fan, and it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to say that show is unmanly. Whether you use Socrates’ definition or a more contemporary one, of a man being someone strong, dependable, and not petty, it is clear that the men of Jersey Shore fall short of the mark. As far as I could tell, they are usually busy gossiping, cowering away from their problems, and when they’re not busy with drink and debauchery, judging others who engage in drink and debauchery. All of this should be censored out, leaving only the parts when the characters are either asleep or interacting respectfully with their Italian elders. And then the show would probably lose some of its appeal and people would stop watching it. So maybe censorship can be a force for good! What do you think, readers? Have you ever wanted to censor a movie, TV show, book, or anything else?

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Cannibalism and Hair Colour

Two interesting things happened this week:

1. I coloured my hair. I mean to touch up my blonde colour as usual, but I went to a different hair stylist this time, and this is the result after something like three hours of colouring. First they made it a mousy brown-blonde, to which I objected. This was the best they could do to fix it.  At first I was shocked to see my hair suddenly turn out to be orange, but I’m kind of starting to like it. What do you think?

2. I signed up as an extra for a movie called Evil Feed, described as “an over the top, laugh out loud, action gore flick that’s guaranteed to make you cringe.” The scene I was in took place in a restaurant called the Long Pig (all the staff wear creepy pig masks), which serves fine cannibalistic cuisine, and I was portraying one of the “high-faluting, decadent business people” who frequent the restaurant. Unfortunately, we didn’t actually get to eat any people in our scene. All we had to do was sit around in the cocktail lounge looking decadent and drunk. It was a lot of fun! All the other extras and the film crew were very nice, and the time spent talking to them while waiting around to be filmed was just as interesting as shooting the film itself. There was also a professional pole dancer in our scene, and we all got an amazing acrobatic show while they were filming her. Coincidentally, the last story I’ve written was about a pole dancer, but I’d only seen them on YouTube as part of my “research,” so to see one live was very exciting!

So all of these experiences have little to do with writing, but maybe that’s the point. It was good to take a break from the novel and be someone else for a day. Now I’m back to writing with fresh ideas… maybe another exotic dancer story?