Thursday, November 16, 2017

The end of a career

With the sexual misconduct stories surrounding people like Louis CK, Kevin Spacey, and Harvey Weinstein in high gear I am seeing all kinds of takes on what to do about it.  Most people seem in agreement that this is horrible but some of them think we should destroy these men's ability to work in their chosen field forevermore and some think that is too much and that they should be let off with a scolding.

I don't know if it comes from simply admiring the work of these moguls of entertainment or if it is more about misogyny (at least in the cases of Weinstein and Lous CK) but there is something that causes people to speak out about how we ought not to ruin the careers of people revealed to be serial abusers.  There are so many people out there saying that oh yes, the things that Weinstein and Louis CK and Kevin Spacey did were bad, but should we really ruin a person's career over them sexually abusing people?

Yes.  Burn it to the fucking ground.

Make no mistake.  This isn't me saying "It is acceptable to ruin their career to send a message."  It isn't me saying "I can live with their careers being ruined in order to protect people."  It is much more than that.  It is me saying "We MUST destroy their careers completely and utterly."

Imagine a person who over the course of decades repeatedly hit people with their car.  Over and over and over they ran people over inflicting horrible pain and suffering.  We would naturally insist that this criminal lose their licence forever because they clearly cannot be trusted in a car.

The same applies here.  All three of these men used their career success as a weapon to hurt others.  They used their influence and fame and connections to assault people on a regular basis.  They leveraged their fortunes and friends to cover up their misconduct.  Their careers were not separable from the evil they inflicted; they were the vehicle by which these men caused harm.

All three of these men, and many others, used their careers as weapons to injure people.  They clearly cannot be trusted with power, influence, or recognition.  We know that when they are put in positions of authority and respect they immediately and repeatedly leverage those things to harm others.

So yes, we should ruin the careers of people who are guilty of repeated and continuous sexual misconduct.  Not by accident, and not because we can't find any other way, but because this is exactly what these people deserve and because they have proved themselves unworthy of respect, influence, and adoration.

None of these men are going to starve.  They have lots of money as it is, and they will be able to find more.  They absolutely deserve ignominy, and they deserve to find out what it is like to have people refuse to let them be part of show business, just the way they threatened to do to others who might have outed them for their reprehensible behaviour.

That strikes me as the thing that is as close to justice as we are likely to get, barring prosecution, and while if they are prosecuted that would be a fine thing as far as I am concerned I am not holding my breath.

You don't have to hate The Usual Suspects or throw out your DVDs of Louis CK comedy specials.  But you should do your damndest to make sure they can't get work making anything more.  They are plenty of other people in the world who will step up to fill those roles, and perhaps these consequences will prevent others from trying the same thing.  We can only hope it is so.

Monday, November 13, 2017


1 week ago I was in a club in Boston watching a Dresden Dolls concert.  This was mostly because I was following Wendy and The Flautist around; they are huge fans of the Dresden Dolls and since they were going to Boston to watch the concert I went too.  There were other things to see and do in Boston of course, but this was the big thing that set our schedule.

For most of the people in the club the concert seemed to go well.  The band was talented and put on a good show but it managed to miss with me in a lot of ways, some of which I can articulate, some of which I find myself at a loss to describe.

I certainly loved the drummer's costume.  I want a tuxedo covered in red sequins now, though I don't suppose that it would look that good on me since I am not drumming in a club with lights flashing all over me.

The music wasn't quite my thing.  I am not really sure why though.  There are some songs that I love because I love the lyrics, and some songs that I love even though there aren't any lyrics, but I found that the Dresden Dolls managed to thread between those two points and have lyrics that I couldn't follow.  I bet all the people in the audience who knew the songs and could anticipate the words followed along just fine, but I was mostly lost.

After the concert people asked me what I thought of it.  I was stuck because I don't want to be the downer that tells everyone who is clearly flying high with excitement that I didn't like the show, but I also don't want to pretend or lie either.

I told them that I had felt intense loneliness and alienation at the show.  The music wasn't really my thing, (though the performance was really well executed), but the thing that made me feel lonely and alienated was mostly the speeches the singer Amanda Palmer made.  They were impassioned speeches directed at her people, the people who are her ardent fans.  I am sure they resonated with those people but they made me feel like I was in the wrong place.

When someone gives a speech you can take the words they say and expect wildly different responses based on the listeners state of mind.  I knew the people that loved her already would love the speeches, but when I looked at the literal words they made it clear that Amanda Palmer does not think much of people like me.  I don't know that my interpretation of her words accurately reflects her values, but it certainly worked to make me feel unwelcome.  It is easy to give a speech knowing that the people who will hear it will interpret your words in a favourable light, always keeping in mind that they know and trust you.  When someone outside your circle hears that speech though it can be a disaster as they don't have that trust and have their own biases in place and your speech can be heard an entirely different way.

It is odd to me that I am still thinking about this.  After all, I went to a concert, the music was okay but not really my thing, and one of the people in the band said some stuff I didn't like.  Hardly seems like the sort of thing that should matter, really.

And yet it has stuck with me.

Take it all off

A little while ago I watched a youtube video by a guy called Omar Isuf.  He does bodybuilding / weightlifting videos and he wanted to talk about a thing he had noticed - his views and revenue from videos are strongly influenced by what he wore in the video.

When he wears a baggy tshirt his views are way down, but when he wears a tiny tank top his views go way up.  Extrapolating a little we can safely guess that he could increase his views even more by losing the shirt entirely and stripping down as much as youtube guidelines will let him get away with.

Omar is grumpy about this.  He wants his show to be successful because of the information he provides and his talent for entertainment, not just how good he looks while stripped down.  I get that.

But let's be realistic for a minute.  Omar isn't just choosing a shirt but otherwise appearing on the show completely naturally.  He shaves his chest, arms, back, and probably other parts of him to increase his aesthetic appeal.  He does his absolute best to look as cut as possible to try to maximize views.  There are a lot more things you could do to look better for a show like this, and although I don't know what Omar does I am sure lots of fitness folks making videos dehydrate themselves, chug laxatives to shrink their stomachs, starve themselves before shows, and use any number of other tactics to look as close to the ideal as possible.  Omar didn't talk about any of those things, largely because he wouldn't want to admit that level of manipulation, but he did talk about his shirt which he clearly he can't deny choosing.

Omar is right though that we shouldn't be choosing our fitness trainers based on their clothes or looks.  Looking hot mostly says you are young, have fortunate genetics, and that you have the money to pour into food and training to get that way.  None of that tells you anything about the quality of the information the viewer is getting.  Looking hot does say something about experience and dedication, but those are pretty weakly correlated to knowing what you are talking about too.

But we choose everything based on the attractiveness of the person we are dealing with.  Want to sell a lot of mattresses?  Look hot.  Want to get a promotion for an accounting position?  Look hot.  Want to get elected to Canada's top office?  Look hot. 

This focus on the appearance of the person giving fitness advice is silly but it isn't any more silly that the focus on appearance in any other part of life.

I am super sympathetic to the point of view that which shirt I wear, or my choice to refuse to wear one at all, should not influence my job prospects.  But let's face it:  If I go to an interview in a tank top or shirtless I will be laughed at at best, or have an interview with the cops at worst.  The fitness industry is just like everywhere else - appearance matters more than pretty much anything else.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Leftovers for me

Tonight was the first of Pinkie Pie's birthday celebrations.  Last year through a series of strange events she managed to have four birthday celebrations, and that was TOO MUCH BIRTHDAY.  Mostly for me, I think Pinkie Pie was fine with it all.  This year we have kept it down to two birthdays which is much more manageable.  We and the family went out for dinner and as usual I ended up vacuuming up extra food.

Wendy gave me a quarter of her tuna salad and Pinkie Pie gave me the dregs of her tomato meat sauce.  I had an entree and an extra side soup and was still hungry - this is the power of squats.  At the end of the meal after I had a whole stack of plates in front of me there was still a plate with half a fish dinner on it.

I started at the plate.

I wanted that fish.  Veggies too, but mostly the fish.

The person who ordered the fish dinner was going to leave and it wasn't clear what was being done with the fish.

I would be perfectly happy if they packed up the fish and took it home.  I would also be happy with me eating the fish.  What would make me sad is the fish being dumped in the garbage.

But it is really awkward asking about this.  I don't want to take people's food away from them, especially if they were looking forward to taking their leftovers home.  But if I ask them if they are packing it up there is a really awkward moment where they feel pressured to give me the food and I hate applying that kind of pressure.

Other people really don't seem to care about tossing out food.  Certainly not the way I do.  Oftentimes it seems like it is an afterthought, like it hardly matters if the food gets eaten or not.  It matters to me!  Partly because I want to eat the food, partly because I can't stand the thought of perfectly good food being thrown out for no reason.

I often seem to end up in the position of springing into action when the server is whisking the food away saying "wait, wait! I want that!" and grabbing food off of the plate that is currently being transported away from the table.

People look at me so strangely when this happens.  Normally everyone seems to think I am being gross because who wants food that someone else has touched?

Me!  I want it.  Pick me, pick me!

Hell, I have a hard time watching people I don't know at other tables send food back.  I want to flag down the server and get them to deliver a stranger's food to my table so I can fill up.

I ended up asking if the fish was going to be packed up or thrown out.  The person who ordered the fish didn't seem to figure out what I was asking at first, but eventually it came out that they were going to toss it so I ate all the fish and veggies and was well pleased.

I get why other people don't want to share food and would rather throw it out than have someone else eat it.  We have strong taboos about doing things that might share germs and there is some value in that.  I think though that most people go far beyond that and end up associating someone else's stuff with grossness in a way that has nothing to do with health and safety.  Moreover I think that this feeling that people have causes a terrible amount of waste, both in food and otherwise.  People want new, they don't want something someone else has had, and this combined with our worries about contamination causes us to waste so much food.

As we were about to leave the table I noticed that someone had left one third of a beer undrunk.  I couldn't stop myself, and I grabbed the beer and downed it.  It wasn't bad.  For beer.

You can't take me anywhere.

Monday, October 30, 2017

I have a large posterior and I am incapable of telling a falsehood

My butt is getting bigger.  This is not exactly a new complaint for a 39 year old but what is slightly new is that I don't mind at all because it seems to be growing because of my workout routine.

This fall I decided to add on a bunch of leg exercises to my routine:  Leg curls, leg extensions, leg raises, and squats.  Mostly this was just because it seemed like the right thing to do - the upper body workout definitely was motivated in large part by vanity but I am perfectly happy with my butt and leg aesthetics.  However, it seemed like it would be better for my health and fitness if I diversified a bit, so I added in 2 leg days a week.

Initially I tried doing 20 squat sets and I ended up the way a lot of overzealous beginners do.  I spent a few days limping around, barely able to walk because I overdid it.  I found that I could do 10 squat sets consistently and I have been ramping it up from there so that now I am using the same weight but doing 3 sets of 20 comfortably.  The improvement is real and I can feel it both in my exercises and in my daily routine.  My legs are a *lot* stronger.

But when I looked at my butt one day recently it was a bit of a surprise.  I was expecting my arms to get bigger from working out and so when that happened it was a not a surprise and in fact my reaction was "Good, good, now I need MORE."  My butt getting bigger was just weird though.  Rationally I knew this was an expected consequence, but emotionally it was bizarre.

This illustrated the huge difference between my perception of upper body and lower body strength.  No matter how big my arms and chest get I still see myself as a skinny teenager and it isn't enough.  I doubt that any achievable amount of size will change this feeling.  It intrigues me to look at myself because I can simultaneously note the changes in size in my arms and still react to myself as if I am as thin as I ever was.  Somehow I can perceive myself as both big and tiny at the same time.  Brains are so cool!

For some people, mostly men, this sense of being too small is a serious problem and is called muscle dysmorphia.  It leads to people throwing their lives away to spend more time in the gym to fend off guilt and feelings of inadequacy.  They also often abuse all kinds of muscle building drugs in pursuit of the unattainable goal of being the absolute biggest.  There are enough parallels between muscle dysmorphia and eating disorders such as anorexia that many people call it bigorexia instead.  Even the way society reacts to it can be an issue because many people with either a problem trying to get small or trying to get big will get compliments on their bodies and feel guilty as though they have to do even more to earn that praise.  In watching a bunch of fitness and weightlifting videos over the past while I have seen far too many enormous men with astounding bodies who feel despair over not being big enough; it is clear that this desire is completely uncoupled from reality.

I am not facing real problems in this regard though because even though I have that basic perception of myself of not being big enough my response to it has been to be in the gym for 40 minutes a day and eat a lot of protein and other food in general.  I am stronger and healthier than ever before and it hasn't been hurting the rest of my life in any appreciable way so it isn't a mental health problem, just a thing I do.

Getting bigger legs and a bigger butt have actually been an annoyance in one way.  It is hurting my numbers on exercises that use my body weight.  My overall weight is going up faster than my arm strength so I am stagnating or even regressing on exercises like pushups, dips, and pullups.  Hauling all that extra ass up into the air is tough work!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The big man

Over the past couple of years I have watched Narcos and El Chapo on Netflix.  Both are dramatized stories of true events focusing on drug dealers of a few decades past - Pablo Escobar in Colombia and El Chapo in Mexico.

It turns out I really like stories about drug dealers, at least in part because I get to watch stories about people who live in worlds I have never touched.  The thing that really blows my mind is the henchmen.  I watch stories where the military attacks a place where a drug lord is hiding and the drug lord's bodyguards stand there and fight the military to the death.  The henchmen are facing an enemy that has more people, bigger guns, armour, communication, and even helicopters and tanks for backup.  The henchmen are just dudes with guns. 

And yet they stand there and fight, dying like flies.

It isn't just the dying.  There is an attitude there that I find totally baffling - like somehow it is an honour to fight and die for the boss.  The bosses clearly expect people to place themselves and their families on a pedestal and be eager to die to protect them.  It is a class thing, I think, like the bosses are one class, their henchmen are the next one down, and below them is everybody else.  Like royalty before them these bosses think that they somehow deserve people's undying loyalty and gratitude.

That loyalty boggles my mind.  I mean, they can see that the boss doesn't have loyalty to them.  They know that the boss regularly murders anyone he wants to, including any of his henchmen who annoys him.  I guess I can understand loyalty a little bit when it goes both ways, but when one person clearly thinks of the other as disposable, expendable, interchangeable, it is hard for me to understand that willingness on the part of the henchman to die.

Certainly some among the henchmen are just evil, violent people who thrive on being part of a power structure that lets them hurt other people with impunity.  But some of them spend their days just standing around protecting the boss, doing nothing, knowing that the only thing they are there to do is to die to protect someone who will be running away. 

It doesn't make any sense to me.

I know that there are tremendous differences between these men and me.  They are mostly drawn from desperately poor group of people and had little in the way of options.  The choices available to them were likely manual labour, unemployment, or crime and in that situation crime starts to look pretty good.

So there is an element of economic sense for many of the henchmen because they had so few options.  They just hope that they are one of the ones who makes a good living working for the boss and doesn't end up catching a bullet. 

But there is something in them that isn't just necessity or desperation.  There is some love for the boss that transcends mere employment.  Stockholm syndrome, almost, where once you work for a violent, selfish, evil man for long enough you eventually come to love him despite the fact that he would kill you for any reason at all and not think twice about it.

My parents always told me that while I might make a good general I would never make it through the military because I don't have it in me to obey.  I think being the henchman of a drug lord is pretty much the same thing.

Though clearly it works for an awful lot of people, following orders just isn't my thing.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Youtoo, 2

In reading posts on social media with the #metoo tag I saw some sad and disturbing things.  Some of those things were in the primary posts themselves of course, but some of the sadness was men charging into threads that were started so women could relate stories of abuse and saying awful things.  Some of these men decided to start a debate about the exact difference between sexual assault and sexual harassment.  One decided to talk about how he was groped a couple times and he liked it.

It doesn't fucking matter if you liked it when you got groped.  It matters if the women in question liked it, and if people should stop groping people without being sure that they want it.  (Hint:  Yes, you really should make sure people want to be groped before groping them.)

This past Saturday I was dancing in a club downtown.  A bunch of friends were with me and one of them, a man of similar size to me, danced all sexy with me and at groped at my crotch a couple of times.  I was dancing sexy right back at him, so the groping wasn't out of the blue but it was unexpected.

I didn't mind.  In fact, I was amused.

But even though a person randomly groping me (who I am not sexually interested in) didn't bother me that doesn't mean it shouldn't bother other people!  I am a large man.  I am stronger than him, and could make him get off me if it came to that.  I don't think there is any chance it would come to that because the guy in question is a reasonable sort of person but just knowing that I *could*, if I had to, completely changes how the interaction feels.

It is also different when I don't think the person in question actually has any intention of pursuing more sexual interaction.  Knowing what he wanted and the limits of what he was interested in changes the situation drastically.  It also matters that we were in a public space around lots of other people, as that can add a layer of safety.

Afterwards The Flautist asked me if I had ever had a sexual interaction that was scary or felt like assault.  I honestly answered no - I have only ever turned down sex a couple times and it was never of the type where I was shoving someone off of me.  I just used my words and they were respected.  (Being big generally means your words get respected, so this isn't such a surprise.)  Then she asked if anything I had experienced would probably be taken as sexual assault if I were a different person.  That is an important question because there are plenty of things that could happen to me that I would just brush off where other people might be traumatized for any number of reasons.

I guess the groping in the bar would qualify.  There are a lot of people who would be quite upset or at least unimpressed with such a thing.  I suspect that the guy that groped me wouldn't have done so to a woman or to many other people but he figured I would be fine with it, and he figured rightly in this case.

So yeah, I bet there are a lot of men out there who have been groped but it didn't really do much to them.  That doesn't matter.  Their privilege, size, strength, and other factors can easily change something they don't mind into someone else's horror story.  They should not assume that their feelings are universal because who they are and how they fit into society drastically changes the situation, even if it seems superficially similar.

I got groped.  It made me laugh and I was not bothered.  But that doesn't mean that other people aren't justified in being upset by being groped, and I sure as hell shouldn't use my experience as a weapon to try to trivialize the hurt they feel.

When someone talks about how they have cancer, for example, everyone knows that you shouldn't step in and say "hah, cancer, what a joke.  I lived through cancer!"  Even if you did, and even if it wasn't that bad, shut the hell up.  You also shouldn't say "Well, *your* kind of cancer isn't that bad.  Other people have it much worse, you know."  Even if that is true, shut the hell up.

The same goes for sexual assault.  Don't minimize other people's suffering, and don't try to shut down their conversation because it makes you feel uncomfortable.