Monday, November 30, 2009

In the News: Western Producer

Look, ma! I'm in a national publication!

Ok, so I ghost-wrote it for the president of our board, but it's my words under his name. That counts, right?

Allow me my moment. It's wee, but special.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Ms. Fitz's Monkey of the Week: Aba Daba Honeymoon

If you weren't born a hundred years ago, you may not be familiar with this song, which was written in 1914 and is best known for a 1950 Debbie Reynolds movie I have never seen.

Which begs the question: how in the hell do I know this song?
From my childhood, of course. It's one of those ridiculously catchy nonsensical tunes my mom used to sing to me, as her mom used to sing it to her when she was a child growing up in the '50s.

It's a cute ditty about two monkeys in love. What's not to like?

"And the big baboon one night in June, he married them and very soon they went upon their aba dabba honeymoon!"


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Birthday, On the Origin of Species

This is for all the monkeys, and their uncles.

Yep, ol' Darwin sure knew how to write 'em, and keep them in the public consciousness long after his own trip on that Beagle in the sky. Or something.

The funny thing, of course, is that it's STILL as controversial as ever, with fundamentalist sorts taking offence to being related to apes (I'm sure, in all fairness, that the gorilla isn't altogether thrilled to be related to you either, bub) and decrying OOS as atheist blather or--worse--the work of the devil.

Since I don't believe in a personal god, myself, I'm free to believe in this evolution stuff without wrestling over what it says about my faith. That said, I don't think that understanding evolution and having faith in god(s) are incongruent. You can believe that since God made monkeys and you, that it's just a big happy family situation that the Bible left out in favour of golden calves and other fun stuff.
Or, you know, you could get all bent out of sorts about it and rail on about it to Fox news. Although I find that a mite silly...

Here's what P.Z. Meyers has to say.
Article on the Scopes Monkey Trial in the Edmonton Journal.
Feature article on the book.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Everybody's working for the weekend

Yep, ode to Loverboy on a Saturday afternoon. It don't get much radder, now do it?

Nothing makes the long work week seem more unpleasant than having to come in on a Saturday afternoon. For three and a half hours. To work on 160 pages of speaking notes for a convention. Blecch.

On a positive note, coming in on a Saturday is a good way to focus on the task at hand, since the place is empty, you can crank bad music on your computer if you want to and can wear clothes only a step above pajamas. 

My poor preggers coworker, Mrs. Van B., joined me in the task of proofing and printing 16 copies of the blasted speaking notes for individual podium binders. I pegged her chocolate mood exactly and showed up with a Starbucks brownie waiting on her desk when she arrived an hour later. I figure that buys me at least another ten Karmic points. I'm probably at dung beetle, now. I'm working up to dirty pigeon, but I'll settle for naked mole rat.

Now it's time for home and squeezing in a few hours of real weekend before homework inevitably begins. 

"you wanna piece of my heart? You gotta start from the start. WHOOOOAAA!" *air guitar*


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Secret self online? Not so much.

I've been oft-criticized for my online dating habits. While I tend to think of myself as fairly open-minded in terms of giving slack on looks, height, hair colour, etc, there are certain traits--of course--that I tend to gravitate to. As I said in a previous post, my dear, lovely friend, Mrs. P, who wants only the best for me, has stated that I should not base my first impression by a mere handful of photos , since they're not an accurate reflection of who the person is.

According to this Newsweek article I just found, however...they are.

"The findings from this study and other research on personality suggest that the photos you post online provide a wealth of information about who you are—whether you like it or not."

Studies were conducted with Facebook and online dating sites, where people of both genders were asked to evaluate strangers based on a list of personality criteria, such as extroversion, likability and even religiosity (!) The results were that most strangers pegged those they'd never met nine times out of ten. Apparently, the only trait that was difficult to predict was neuroticism. Hehehe, lucky me. Poor, unlucky bastard who decides to take a chance on my silly neurotic self.

So good luck trying to pass yourself off as the coolest dude ever on or making yourself the centre of the party on Facebook. The truth will out, even online.

Sweet. My pickiness seems less bitchy now and more the product of good, old-fashioned unconscious sociological detective work. hehehe.

Writing hero of the moment: Matt Taibbi

Matt Taibbi is an award-winning writer and blogger whom I first discovered while reading his scathingly excellent political articles in Rolling Stone. His words are the precision cutting tools of an expert surgeon and his rage against the machine is palpable.

Here's a great example of his style, which is one part Hunter S. Gonzo and one part "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore". This excerpt's from a blog piece about former governor and Tina Fey-impersonator Sarah Palin:

"...Just as she had during the campaign last fall, Palin defied rational analysis by making a primal connection with the subterranean resentments of white middle America, which is apparently so pissed off now at the rest of the planet for not coddling its hurt feelings in the multicultural age that it is willing to embrace any politician who validates its insane sense of fucked-overness."

Now those are words that grab your throat and screech what's what while flecking your terrified mug with spittle, no?

Rolling Stone is the one magazine I still have a subscription to, and while I'd like to say it's because I'm such a music connoisseur, the truth is I find their political writing incisive and engrossing. Particularly Taibbi, my new writing hero. Check him out:

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Ms. Fitz's Monkey of the Week: Australopithecus

My first year of university--back when I was a young naif intent on becoming the next Indiana Jones--I took several anthropology courses. While the introductory course was intended to be a survey of all anthropology subjects, the largest focus was on physical anthroplogy and evolutionary genera of homonids, from monkeys to apes to humans.

I took this class with two of my favourite people, Stephanie and Leah, who spent most of the class giggling with me at our Polish professor's butchering of the English name pronunciations. (example: Leah became "Lee-a-MURR", because he always referred to the adorable Malagasy as such.)

The class became "an-throw-PAUL-o-GEEEEAYYY" and we spent a good month studying the evolution of "the MAUN-KEEAYYS". My favourite was Australopithecus bosei, which became a 40-syllable word in his delightful struggle with my native tongue.

Anyway, back to Australopithecus. The genus Australopithecus is closely related to our Homo ancestors, and may in fact be our predecessors (sorry, no Garden of Eden here). They're therefore not technically "monkeys" in the true sense, but as we all share common ancestors and swing from the same evolutionary branch, I'm not going to split ape hairs on this.

Although they were likely no more sophisticated than modern apes, they were bipeds (translation: they walked upright).

The most famous Australopithecis is "Lucy", the A. afarensis speciment discovered in Ethiopia who recently celebrated her 3.2 millionth birthday (the cake was visible from space). Her skeleton shows evidence that bipedalism preceded increase in brain size in human evolution.

So, while you may not be a monkey's uncle, a monkey was certainly yours.

I am so fucked.

Vanity Fair just came out with this article, which analyzes the grotesque lengths to which "cute culture" has taken our otherwise sane, serious society. It's therapeutic, in a way, since I myself am drawn to many of the websites referenced in the article. As the article explains:

"To some degree, we can’t help ourselves. In the 1940s, ethologist Konrad Lorenz proposed—correctly, as it turns out—that we instinctively want to nurture any creature that has a cute appearance...[E]vidence that human beings undergo a chemical reaction deep in their brains when they look at babies....[T]he act of looking at baby pictures stirs up an ancient part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens."

Well, shit. I'd capitalize on this finding, but I think has already cornered the market. There's something to be said, though, about relieving the stress of a bad day by taking a five minute "cute break" at work. Maybe our society's become so rabid about it in correlation to our overworked, undersocialized, lonely modern existences? It's a recipe to cure the sads. 

Hey, look! A puppy!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Creepy hobby: Graving.

I've always been drawn to cemeteries. Not in a "digging up the undead to create a monster the likes of which the world has never seen" way, nor in a "can't wait to pick my plot next to aunt Janie" way. I just find them beautiful and fascinating.

There's a calmness to a place where people go to their final repose. The landscaped gardens and old granite slabs make for a picturesque scene. There's a sense of shared history when you look at the tombstones and monuments--finding the oldest gravesite or comparing naming trends over the past few decades or centuries. It's like an archaeological study in the most fundamental of human experiences. Wherever I travel, I always try to see a local cemetery. Some are breathtakingly beautiful, others eerie. I've been to a few over a thousand years old, with stones so weathered you can't read anything, and must only imagine the words once engraved.

More than anything, though, I appreciate what cemeteries say about humanity. The fact that we honour our dead and make space for them amongst the living is a comfort. It makes me feel privileged to be among the race of bipedal hairless apes. It's hard to be sad in a cemetery, when you know that the people in them were loved or at the very least thought of enough to have testaments to their existence and memory erected. And even when the last person who knew them passes on, they live in the collective unconscious and in the deliberate efforts of funky folk like gravers, who make a hobby out of amateur cemetery sleuthing. Fascinating. If there's a local chapter, I may have to join. If not, perhaps I'll need to start one?