Blank-collar workers

I’m not a class warrior.  Or maybe I am.  I don’t know.  Whether I am or not, there certainly seems to be frequent mention of the shrinking middle class.  I can’t help but wonder how much the current buzz-word, the so-called gig-economy feeds into this.  All sense of stability is on its way out the window (look at me.. talking about stability! What rot) which could only increase the likelihood of living paycheck to paycheck.

One of the best things that came out of Douglas Coupland’s Generation X was how the novel added new lexicon in the margins of the book.  It’s where he coined the phrase “McJob.”  In his recent book, he added a few more new words, which was the impetus of my writing here:

From Bit-Rot

Blank-colllar workers
The new post-class class.  They are a future global mono-class of citizenry adrift in a classless sea.  Neither middle-class nor working-class–and certainly not rich–blank collar workers are aware of their status as simply one unit among seven billion other units.  Blank-collar workers rely on a grab bag of skills to pay the rent and see themselves as having seventeen different careers before they suffer death from neglect in a government-run senior-care facility in the year 2042.

This paints a very conceivable picture of what is/could be happening.  It reminds me of the bidding sites for development work, where a person puts in a request of what they want done, and developers bid on the work.  To put this into a nerd perspective (just because you program, does not automatically place you into a nerd category! Stop profiling!), think about the pen and paper RPG Shadowrun.  Doing runs were a more black market style of gig-market, but it’s basically the same thing.  Imagine it, though.  Bidding on taking out people’s trash or cleaning houses.  A corporation needs someone to clean their wipe boards after a marathon development sessions.  Or, if you are more fortunate, a new marketing plan for the upcoming holiday season.  I am not saying this is a bad thing, but it will certainly leave people of my generation at a complete loss.

Trying something a little different.

Up until now, most of what I have put here has leaned towards the TLDR realm.. and for those unfamiliar with the acronym, it means “Too Long, Didn’t Read.”  I’ve been reading Douglas Coupland’s latest book, Bit Rot: stories + essays, and it has inspired me to try and write more frequently, but with less content.  More off the cuff thoughts that may range from being insightful to borderline nonsensical.  This might be more akin to how I used to blog back in the days of RUHome, where posts were often short, my spelling and grammar were horrible, and I would post for the simple sake of posting.


The majestic magpie!

Magpies.  I know, right?  You’ve heard the name.  At some point, in the back of your cranium, you may even recall that it is a bird.  To some, magpies are a plenty and are annoying scavenger, like a crow or seagull.  If you are like me, you just witnessed your first magpie a mere week ago and become slightly fascinated.
I was talking with my mother the other day about them, and we had difficulties coming to a conclusion why these birds haven’t found their way to southern Ontario or Vancouver Island (maybe they have, but we just haven’t seen them?).  Why is it these birds are so localized?  What keeps them from the east?  Do we just smell that badly?

Music taste and adult evolution

One of the great things about where I live, and there are many similar locations across the country, is the proximity to a local park/nature trail.  The one in my neck of woods surrounds a municipally owned golf course, which has a path covered in mulch on the outer extremities of the property.  The majority of the course rests upon a large and rocky hilltop and has a creek that runs underneath it, ultimately forming into a pond in the centre of the north side.  Of course, there are plenty of ducks happily reside there, safe in the knowledge that the people who walk through the area will leave them be, or drop breadcrumbs for them to squabble over.  I’ve witnessed the odd feeding, and it is not for the faint of heart.

Usually, my strolls through this trail are not done solo.  The pleasant atmosphere makes it ideal for nice sixty-minute walk with a partner.  I actually had my first unaccompanied journey around the golf course this week.  When walking by myself, like many, my ears are caressed with music delivered from headphones or earbuds.  Knowing a situation like would eventually arise, I previously curated my phone with a bunch of artists that I have enjoyed listening over my four decades of life.  Some are guilty pleasures, and some I believe to be true musical artists who are honest to their craft.  What I am slowly trying to say is, don’t judge me with what is about to be transcribed to the permanence of TheInterwebz™.

I was approaching the second bend of the trail when a song from Sum 41 came on.  It might have been from their release from a couple months ago, I can’t remember.  What the song was does not really matter, but what it did do was remind me of events of my past when a song of theirs might have played.  Nostalgia was triggered in the way that only music can do.  How many times have we heard songs that we loved when we were growing up being used a modern television program, commercial, a movie, only to have it inspire us to buy a product or at the very least listen to the song or entire album?  Of course listening to this throwaway song from Sum 41 did not just trigger said nostalgia, but it lead me along a different path than what was before my eyes in the park.  I began to take stock in the music that I’ve been listening to or have purchased over the past couple of years.  More importantly, I thought about my usual process of finding new music to listen to.  Sadly, it goes something like the following:  First, on Friday mornings, I log into my Apple Music account and navigate to the new music prompt.  Second, I scan for artists I recognize.  Third, if there is an artist I know, I will listen to the album and purchase where appropriate.  Fourth, I navigate to the Just for You new music section and go through a similar process.  Sometimes, just sometimes, I’ll listen to the entire new music playlist that Apple generates for me, and maybe 10% of the time I find something or someone new that I enjoy and will investigate further.  The thought of this process yielded some conclusions that disappoint me and sparked further questions.

Eight short years ago (I remember when eight years seemed like a long time), I began my twenty episode podcast journey which explored new music and celebrated music from my past.  Since then, I’ve experimented with Nerdcore Hip-hop, EDM, but my roots still remain, which lean towards the rock, ska, SoCal punk, and 90s alternative (not the god awful stuff that counts as alternative these days), with bands and performers like Incubus, The Offspring, Foo Fighters (of course), Ben Folds, Gorillaz, Mad Caddies, Tegan and Sara, and yes, the aforementioned Sum 41.  While I still find new artists I enjoy, like Halsy, CHVRCHES, Tove Lo, and Dorothy, my scope modern music that I enjoy grows increasingly narrow.  I am getting perilously close to the point that most adults eventually reach.  That point where you believe all new music is crap, with music from our generation being infinitely better than what is currently being produced.

It began to dawn on me that perhaps this musical evolution is an indicator that the listener has completed the “growing-up” process.  A sign of full adulthood.  At first, this made sense.  I felt that even through my early thirties, I still had yet to completely grow up.  I quickly called bullshit on this, as there are people who have yet to really grow up and are listening to eighties hair bands.  While I called BS, the train of thought had merit.  The ability to enjoy new music as an adult could also be an indicator of ones ability to continue evolving.  There comes the point when a person becomes a full-on zebra.  This idea, I think, has more merit.  When I reflect on how much personal change I have gone through over the past few years, I know I am still evolving.  At the same time, I still occasionally find new music that I fall in love with.  I know I have not stopped my personal evolution.  In some aspects, I think my evolution is just beginning.  When I think honestly, I remember a period back in the doughnuts when I realized how much popular music is churned out like butter.  It is my hope that it’s not my evolution that has stuttered, but that I have become more of a wine taster.  I know what is good, and what I like.  Part of the role of a taster is also to experiment and try new things—which I still do.  It is with that in mind I find myself having a positive outlook on what is yet to come.  This journey that I am on, I believe, is far from being over.

People evolve and it’s important to not stop evolving just because you’ve reached ‘adulthood.’

-J. K. Simmons

Use your money for what?

Now that I’ve officially completed my degree it’s high time that I come back to my blogging roots.

There was an article in Forbes back in August of 2016 discussing a study pitting spending money on experiences over things.  From the article:

A 20-year study conducted by Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University, reached a powerful and straightforward conclusion: Don’t spend your money on things. The trouble with things is that the happiness they provide fades quickly.

This article more-or-less preaches to the Andy choir.  I have lived at both ends of the spectrum.  My early adulting period I numbed my loneliness and overall unhappiness through retail therapy.  Once I acquired the travel bug, my possessions began to shrink to a point where I would not say I became minimalist, but at least to a point where my physical purchases are more tied to necessities than temporary appeasements.  I would have no qualms about grabbing my laptop, my phone, my camera, and simply abandoning everything else I have.  It’s just stuff.  I’ve lost emotional attachment to pretty much anything I own.  I’ve learned that I don’t need a trinket to remind me of something I did or someone I care about (people can argue this with me once dementia sets in when I’m into my 80s).

The study further explains that our purchases foster comparisons.  What isn’t mentioned in the Forbes take on the study is what often accompanies the comparisons.  How often is it that we talk to people about our purchases?  In a demonstration of some sort of buyer braggadocio, we comment on the product, how much we paid for it, how awesome it is, and how much its improved lives.  What we buy becomes some sort of weird point of pride.  Using myself as an example, when I purchased my LG G5 as a replacement for my iPhone 6, I spewed fourth details of the phone, the price point, how much I saved, and all the extras I got with it.  I know this is not something that is unique to me, as I have heard it from many, many folk as well.  This ridiculously placed pride generates talking points, which brings me to my next one.

Think about your best experiences.  These usually carry several memories, stories and anecdotes that will have likely come up again several times over your life.  I have had my new phone since December, and now that I am four months in I don’t talk about it anymore.  Part of the joys of our lives comes from discussing and sharing out experiences with others, and the things you buy certainly have a limited shelf life.

Why does experiences have to end with vacations and activities, though?  My life and career has taken me living in suburban Ontario, to Toronto and the GTA, China, and Vancouver Island.  From my standpoint, living a life of experiences has been far more influential to my character and wisdom (stop laughing) than buying things ever has.  More, I think my grandiose movements have shown to me who my true friends are, which is something I’ll treasure far more than anything else.

When focus keeps me away

“It's a great thing when you realize you still have the ability to surprise yourself.” – Lester Burnham, American Beauty

It's a bit of a rare opportunity for me to be able to spend some time clacking away at my tiny keyboard and be able to drop some text to TheInterweb™.

I'm going to try and not sound disgruntled, but I make no promises.

Summer is winding down (although it feels like it ended weeks ago, if it had even started at all), it becomes increasingly difficult to ignore the fact that I'll be turning 39 soon. Part of me wants to be bitter about it, but at the same time, I'm not entirely sure I really care. This isn't being cynical, or a denial about aging. This also isn't the mantra of only being as old as you feel. While I can pinpoint certain possibilities that it is not, its still difficult for me to pinpoint exactly what it actually is. It could be that, despite my being of middle age, and the acknowledgement that there are no certainties about life span, I know that I still have at least a couple of tricks left. I still have the capability to surprise myself (not always a good thing, but generally leans to toward the positive).

A weak example, but applicable. On Saturday I made and committed to the action of a slight change of style. Since I departed from my pervious employer, I have been wearing nothing but street clothes, day in and day out. Hoodies, jeans, runners, and pop-culture T-Shirts. While observers might consider me upping my game to remove the hoodie and runners, and add a blazer and matching kicks insignificant, I personally consider it to be a bit of a big deal. Yes, the pop-culture Ts and the jeans are still intact, but part of that is because I do not have the means to change my wardrobe overnight. Plus, abandoning my sizeable T-Shirt collection would hurt my soul a little bit. I am not changing as a person. It's still the same engine, its just a bit of a cosmetic change.

So does this matter? This was an unprompted change. No one was forcing me, nor encouraging me. However, this small change alters the perception of me by others, and more importantly, the perception I have of myself. This is likely the first time I've really made a style change that wasn't forced or strongly encouraged. It means I have the capability to change more than just my physical location every couple of years. In a way, this could act as a bit of a catalyst. While I am hardly a mirror image, this introduction to change is rather Lester Burnham.

Grumpism.

I was actually kind of floored that “grumpism” isn’t in the Urban Dictionary.  I wanted to use it as an opening quote. How is this not a word.  Someone at work roughly defined it as the mental state of someone whom has been out educational institutions and are well into their careers that hate change, appreciating only things that have now would be considered retro.  I think this mental state would also apply to things that people do on the internet of things.  Take Facebook dramas, for instance.

Let’s back this up about fifteen years first.

When the internet gave everyone a new digital voice, many of us, including myself, chose to whine, and bitch, and complain, and sometimes say things that offended other people.  These other people would naturally include family and friends; let’s face it, unless you were showing your mommy or daddy bits, chances are the only people that read your stuff were people you actually knew.  Hell, I probably called people out by name at times, or alluded to people in such a way that the culprit could have been deduced by a grade schooler.  I had offended enough people in my online experiences that I eventually would lightly allude, or define a situation with as little detail as possible.  My whining and bitching became even more passive aggressive than it already was (kind of like right now).
Why would I write about it in the first place?  Sure, it was a good place to dump my thoughts.  In my naivety, I thought there was a certain sense of anonymity in writing online.  Truth be told, there was always the hope that I might somehow get attention to the website with the things I wrote from more than just the people I knew.  The internet was still relatively new back then, and I was just out of college.  Young and full of dreams.  Lonely, and dumb.

Enter grumpism.  Lately I’ve been reconsidering my rejoining of the Facebook (which occurred on October 24, 2014.. I just checked).  Being separated from pretty much everyone I know and being left out of some stuff at the office, I felt it was time to give FB another spin.  In just over the year in which I returned, I’ve learned how many people I know who are idiots, racists, sexist, homophobes (usually a combination of the three), hypocrites, and other choice adjectives that end with -ist and -es.  And let us not forget those who have carried on the early internet tradiction of being whiny bitches who complain about shit to gather attention by being completely ambiguous.  It’s so god-damned tiring.  How the fuck did I have any friends back then.  It’s bad enough coming from some fresh-from-college social moron, but most people I see on facebook now are fully grown, fully functioning members of society with kids, or grandkids, who should at this stage in their life be over this sorry attempt at getting attention and sympathy from a bunch of people you hardly talk to in person.  If this wasn’t text, I’d probably be grasping for air by now.

Circle back to me, now.  You know what?  I don’t care about your bullshit highschool dramas that you should have outgrew 20+ years ago.  Go back to posting useless unmotivational and annoying sayings over pleasant imagery, or God willing, something that is not horribly racist/homophobic/sexist that I might find amusing.  Deal with your shit.  Write a blog or something (like I just have.. see.. not a hypocrite).  At least then I have to actively pursue your whining.

Not really sure where grumpism really comes into all this.  But hell, it certainly got me started.

 

Tragedies are Memes

As tragedy does, the news of the attacks in Paris spread like California wildfire.  It is nearly impossible to hide from any news of this magnitude, particularly in our information economy.  In my own office, the progression went from “terrorist attack in Paris” to the television being turned on with body count totals in marquee across the screen.  And although it is “cynical” but true, as my colleague pointed out, it was the duty of the 24 hour news networks to spew forth non-information and fear mongering in order to keep eyes glued to their screens.  The typical procession of initial information, local correspondents, and then theexpert commentary and questions (flashback to Die Hard).  I was half paying attention when I heard the anchor ask “what is the risk of this happening in the US?”  Thank you, CNN.

Of course one of the largest changes over the past decade has been the introduction and increased use of social media.    Facebook was introduced in 2004 and Twitter came two years afterwards.  These and similar services have only grown as a method of information dissemination.  When I did get a chance to log onto my Facebook and Twitter feeds, it came as no surprise when I the first snippets that started showing up all had something akin to ‘my thoughts and prayer for Paris.’  This reminded me of something the comedian Anthony Jeselnik said:

The people who see something horrible happen in the world and they run to the internet. They run to their social media, their Facebook, their Twitter, and they all write down the same thing: “my thoughts and prayers”. Do you know what that’s worth? Fucking nothing. You’re not giving time, money, or even your compassion. All you’re doing is saying “don’t forget about me today. Lot’s of crazy distractions in the news right now, but don’t forget how sad I am.”[1]

There is a lot to agree with here, however it is an over-simplification.  It cannot be argued that there is a lot of “me” in social media.  These online services are basically a platform for self expression.  It is used frequently used to inform followers of news, events, feelings, photos, etc.  As such, Jeselnik isn’t entirely wrong in his thesis.  The only portion I have significant misgivings about is his point about compassion.

As I pointed out, social media is a self expression platform.  People have been prone to pour their hearts out Facebook and Twitter.  While this is often a conscious or subconscious grab for attention, these people are still putting their feelings out there.  While Jeselnik is correct when he remarks that posts about tragedies are a nudge for others to not “forget how sad” the authors are, to say that these posts are compassionless could easily be a complete falsehood.  There is a caveat here.  While I’m sure there is compassion in these statements, Social Media has also been a factor in limiting our attention spans.  So called prayers will likely last a brief moment as a feed scrolls to the next funny cat .gif.  The offered compassion is short lived and impermanent in our minds, though quasi-permanent in the ethereal of the internet.

Social media is a tool for the ego.  I am in no position to tell people what they should or should not do with it.  However, I do think it is important to actually think about what they are doing and to understand their motives behind it.  This is a brief essay about my thoughts on the subject matter and I want you to read it.

[1] Anthony Jeselnik: Thoughts and Prayers. Directed by Adam Dubin. Performed by Anthony Jeselnik. United States: Netflix, 2015. Film.

 

My greymatter, then and now.

I remember a time when prepping for writing an essay meant plopping my overweight ass into my computer chair, turning on my Compaq Pressario All-In-One desktop, and start using ICQ and mIRC to waste time before actually opening up WordPerfect 6.0 for Windows.  Around 10pm or so, I’d pop a couple of caffeine pills (at least during my first year of College), turn on Q107, and the words would flow.  In six to eight hours my essay would be done, and I might catch a couple of hours sleep before heading off to class.

In 2015, my ritual is different.  The process still involves some form of procrastination under the guise of warm up exercise (welcome to my blog), and depending on the time of day either a coffee with more than a single shot of Irish creme or a choice between a beer and a couple shots of vodka.  This morning it’s the coffee plus extras.

No poems can please for long or live that are written by water-drinkers. ~Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus), Satires

And it makes me sad that it has come down to this.  Psuedo-intellectual drivel used to so much easier for me to put forth.  Then again, it’s all I ever had to worry about.  I was one of the really fortunate ones who didn’t have to worry about things like student loans when I was in school.  Working part-time didn’t come into the picture until my second year, and that was weekends only.  I don’t know whether it’s the brain noise, or age, or a healthy combination of both, but having to use a little something extra to unlock the greymatter is disappointing.  But I have to do what I have to do.  And with my first cup gone, and over 250 words deposited here, my modern ritual moves onto the next step.

Proof of heterogametic sex.

I grew up without a Dad.  Instead, I grew up with an infantile boyfriend-turned-co-habitator since the age of four or five.  I do not wish to speak too disparagingly of the dead, but to say the least, he was far from a role model.  As he did with my brother, once I reached high school age he refused to speak to me and would actually go out of his way to try and get in trouble with my mother.

Yeah.

For the most part, the only positive male role model I had was my uncle, and even then his proximity to my home was  usually hours away (save for a few years of my life).  In short, what I’m trying to say is that anything I learned in regards to being a man I more less had to learn on my own.

Fast forward to now, I am not ashamed to say that I fall at least a few paces from being a man’s man.  My wife asked me if I had ever been in a fight before, and the closest thing that came to coming to blows was when Cam started kicking me while I was at my locker in middle school.  I got tired of his insults and threw a few back at him one day.  I didn’t engage him physically.  That would have been stupid.  Zero fight experience vs. guy with martial arts training (must have trained at the Cobra Kai dojo).  So no, I have never really been in a fight.

Ima all grownd up.

Ima all grownd up.

This is all neither here nor there because for about the past fortyfive days or so, I’ve been shaving using blades!  With shaving cream!  I have never been a fan of shaving, as told by near constant scruffiness since college.  Lately, however, shaving has become a bit of a thing for me.  So much so that I just signed up for the Dollar Shave Club.  The stubble has been kept to a relative minimum, and my sense of masculinity feels so much healthier because of it.

“I missed a spot shaving. The spot looks like a mustache.”
Jarod Kintz, So many chairs, and no time to sit

Season’s don’t fear the reaper.

“The more you know who you are, and what you want, the less you let things upset you.” – Bob Harris, Lost in Translation

When my grandmother passed away I don’t even think I shed a tear.  I knew it was coming, but I’m pretty sure we all did.  And it’s not like I didn’t care about my Grandma.  She was always cool.  We played games.  I spent summer weeks there.  Maybe it was the distance?   But even when I went to her funeral, I felt unmoved (though the service come faith propaganda surely didn’t help).  While other’s cried, I remained rather emotionless.  I’m still not sure whether I should feel guilty for this or not.

This, naturally, begs the question about whether I’ve become cold or not.  I’d like to think that I haven’t.  There are still moments in storytelling that draws the occasional tear from me.  There are other times in recent history where I Niagara Falls temporarily relocated to my tear ducts.  So really, what is it?  Have I just become numb come to terms to the idea of deaths and people dying?  I’ve buried my brother-in-law, my mother-in-law, my uncle, and now my grandmother in roughly a decade and not once did I get upset about it.  I dunno.  Questioning it here hasn’t really brought any clarity to me.