Sunday, September 25, 2016

An old sadness

Today I took Elli to see Casa Loma, a castle here in Toronto.  It was built in 1914 to look like a really old school castle but used construction techniques current to that time.  Basically an outrageously wealthy couple built the place to establish themselves as having more money than all the other upper class folks, lived there for ten years until they lost their fortune, and eventually died penniless.

It was depressing.

There were all kinds of interesting facts there, and artwork that was neat, and all the other things you would expect in a weird historic site like that.  I just couldn't get past the way the tour took the inequality made evident in the castle in stride.  The ruling couple had every single wall covered in carvings, $20 million worth of art (in 2016 dollars), and imported a marble staircase from Europe to be just the thing for the main hall.

The servants, on the other hand, worked 16 hours a day, six days a week, for a pittance.  The audio tour made it clear that this place was an amazing place to be a servant though, because the servants were allowed to use the bathrooms indoors and weren't made to use the outhouse.

Of course they should tell the truth about the way things were, but I do wish there was a bit more recognition of how much of a disaster this inequality was.  It isn't good that servants were usually expected to sleep in drafty attics and just freeze all winter while the upper class people had comfy beds pre warmed for them.

I think a lot of people will dismiss this as ridiculous.  Am I really so worried about the way that we portray the treatment of servants over one hundred years ago?  That it ignores the inequalities of the time?

I guess so.  Learning more about the world, seeing the mess that it is, makes it harder for me to just ignore these things and enjoy the suits of armour and crenellated towers.  I can't help but look about at the human cost of these things and the way that such effort was expended just to make a very few people look important.

Things haven't changed that much.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Tipping point

When I got my tattoos done a week ago I had a choice to make about money.  After swiping my card the credit machine popped up with a prompt to leave a tip for the tattoo artist.  I was surprised by this, not because I thought that you specifically don't tip tattoo artists, but simply because I hadn't thought about it at all.  The hour was late, I was tired, and the people clearly wanted to close up and go home, so I didn't have time to google 'tipping tattoo artist' and figure it out.  I ended up just tipping $40 even and hitting go.

Being me though I couldn't just leave it there.  I had to find out what the correct tip was so I would not make the same mistake twice at the very least.  It turns out that tipping tattoo artists is not so simple as tipping wait staff at restaurants - there doesn't seem to be any 15% standard agreement.  Instead I was told to tip somewhere between 5% and 35%, which is not useful.  Also the tip amount varies on whether the artist works for themselves, how much additional time they put in, and even the size of the bill.  Tipping on a % is not a useful way to express your tip if the % varies based on how long you were in the chair!

At any rate my tip only worked out to about 5% of the cost.  It seems like my artist probably gets to keep about half the take and the other half goes to the business, so she took home $450 for 4.5 hours of work.  Pretty good!

But the setup and takedown and such for my tattoos filled up the remainder of her shift, so her billing hours were really only half the hours she spent.  Plus they offer free touchups so she is definitely going to have to put in another bunch of time to fix me up perfectly after the healing is done.

Also there is the complication that tattoo artists have to pay for some of their own materials and tools, but how much is completely beyond me.

So there doesn't seem to be any real authority from which to determine a tip amount.

There also isn't any useful way for me to figure out what a 'proper' wage might be since there are so many variables and guesses.

However, my % is on the lowest end, and even though people mostly recommended tipping low % for relatively expensive work, I don't want to be the lowest.

As such I wandered back into the tattoo place a couple days ago and asked them to give the artist another $40 to double my tip.  It still isn't a lot of money, but it seems like enough to be reasonable.  They seemed pretty surprised by this.  I guess most people coming in a few days after are asking questions, panicking about healing, or complaining.  They probably don't often just show up to hand over more money voluntarily.

Anyhow I feel like my mission is accomplished.  That is, I no longer feel self conscious about my tip and it seems defensible so I will just move on and think about other things.  That is how people mostly make these sorts of decisions I imagine, though perhaps my research and consideration of the choices was an outlier.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Does this hurt?

My arms hurt.

I got tattoos yesterday on both shoulders, and while I love the tattoos themselves, the damage my body sustained is kind of annoying.  It turns out that poking one thousand tiny holes in my skin is painful.  Who knew?

People talk about how much pain is involved in getting tattoos but I wasn't at all sure what to expect for myself.  I know that getting them right on the meat of my shoulder as I am should minimize the suffering but I couldn't really translate that to what it would actually feel like.

Before I really got started somebody in the tattoo parlour fainted, which apparently is a fairly common occurrence.  That didn't fuss me any though as fainting really isn't a thing that affects me.  I don't like being poked with needles but it isn't going to knock me out.

Initially the pain was quite trivial.  No worse than the pain from running really hard or other strenuous exercise.  I didn't have the runner's high to compensate of course, but it just wasn't much of a thing.

Later it got pretty unpleasant.  I grunted and winced a lot, and by the end I really had to dissociate a fair bit to be able to ignore the pain.  I was able to read my book all right but I wouldn't have been able to think clearly or have a decent conversation.  I couldn't really tell if the increase in pain over time was due to fatigue, hunger, or a shift in the way the artist was working.  The last parts were filling in big areas which apparently hurts more but putting together the parts of the changes in pain is challenging.

At any rate it wasn't that bad.  It was a long time though - five hours actually in the chair being stabbed wears you down, even if the pain isn't really much of a problem in the beginning.  Perhaps when I get tattoos in more delicate places things will be different.  However, I can say that all those people that told me that I wouldn't be able to sit in the chair being tattooed for more than a couple hours were wrong!  Hah!

Things are kind of unpleasant today though.  My shoulders are really sore, especially when I move my arms up and bend the damaged skin.  Showering was actually quite easy but hoo boy did it sting a lot after I had gotten out and carefully dried myself off.  Sleeping was also challenging as I couldn't sleep on either side so I ended up on the couch on my back propped up with lots of cushions.  It wasn't the best.

Final conclusions about the pain:  It is annoying, for sure.  But the pain of getting a tattoo is definitely not the thing that will delay me from getting more of them.  The price holds that honour, as I certainly found it hard to swallow the cost.  Once I convince myself to spend the money, the physical suffering is a small thing in comparison.  If somebody gave me ten grand to spend getting myself tatted up I would be in the parlour an awful lot over the next few months, you can be sure of that.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

I would like to axe you a question

I got my tattoos today!  It took a long time, longer than I had thought, but they are on my body and I have no regrets and they are beautiful.  I was in the tattoo parlour for almost eight hours, though not all of that was spent in the chair being poked and prodded, as the artist spent some time modifying my designs a bit to suit.

Pictures!




I got an axe on my right arm, because that is my weapon arm.  A shield on my left.  And it is a wyvern, dammit, not a dragon.  See the stinger on the tail.

I was actually pretty surprised at how good the detail managed to be on my pictures.  I wasn't really expecting to get the pictures to look so good under a close inspection but I am so pleased.  The shop was closing and my skin was starting to be very angry about the abuse so we didn't end up filling in the entirety of the shield with a grey background.  I can get it finished up later if I do end up wanting that - I can't quite decide yet what I think.  It looks good, but maybe with a steel grey it would be even better?  Hard to say.

The artist just next to the one that did these tattoos is apparently an armour specialist, and was listening to a DnD podcast while working, and loves all things fantasy.  He was talking about playing a gnome in an upcoming DnD game, and while I can't say I am behind the whole gnome thing, he sounds perfect for my next tattoo.  I want a paladin (heavily armoured warrior) on my lower back.  So I might be going back for more pain and suffering, and also more looking awesome!

I had some fantastic conversations with the artist about all kinds of things, and faced a bit of a conundrum.  She and I had a lot of things in common - we discussed science fiction novels, authors, roleplaying games, video games we loved, politics, and polyamory, which both of us are involved in.  If I had a multiple hour conversation with someone with so much in common in most contexts I would ask them out in a heartbeat, but I hesitate in doing such things when someone is at work.  For one, there are often restrictions surrounding flirting and/or dating customers at work, especially when giving out contact information could be a professional issue because of worries about poaching customers.  For two, women get hit on at work all the time and have to grin and bear it or face the consequences, and I hate that.  I don't want to be that guy.  I assume that goes double for female tattoo artists since they end up spending so much time in close proximity to clients.

(Aside:  I have never spent half a day with my hand dangling in someone's lap without somebody's clothes coming off before!)

So I ended up concluding that I had no reason to think I should actually ask her out, and good reasons not to.  It is tricky, because I dislike not doing things that could be fun for everyone because of propriety, but I really don't want to assume that a professional relationship can be more than that without some kind of unmistakable signal, and I didn't have that.

And hell, I can't complain because it was a fun few hours no matter how you slice it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A sign

Sleep has been difficult lately.  For nearly all my life I have had a consistent sleep pattern - I sleep on one side for an hour or so, wake up, roll over to my other side, then fall back asleep immediately.  Actually getting to sleep for the first time has been occasionally difficult, but once I go to sleep I am extremely predictable.

Or I *was* predictable, at any rate.

Now my shoulders hurt and my arms don't fit properly and everything is weird.  I don't quite know what happened or how, exactly.  I can't even say if it was all in one day or if it slowly crept up on me.  I just know that I used to be one way and now I am another and I don't like it one bit.

When I lie on my side my elbow feels strange, as though everything is bent in a not quite right way.  My shoulder gets sore much more quickly than it used to, and I have to turn and flip about a lot more than before.  I move my arms about from position to position, looking for that effortless comfort I once enjoyed, but it is elusive.

I don't know for sure what caused this.  I have been working out, but having more muscle mass on my shoulders and arms should make things easier rather than harder.  I can't see why padding myself would make me hurt, and these changes seem to continue regardless of how frequently or recently I have lifted.  The obvious answer then is that I am simply getting older and feeling the effects.  Mostly I feel great about my body, since I don't get fussed about greying hair or receding hairline and those are the only really notable concessions to age so far.  But this arm sleep thing seems like the first real sign of ageing that I can't just ignore.

It is all very irritating.  Naked Man and I have an ongoing debate where I claim I will feel wonderful forever and he claims I will suddenly be full of pain, weakness, and frailty as my fortieth birthday looms.  I was really hoping to make it to at least 42 or so before having to admit that my age was getting to me... I could have used that extra four years of victorious taunting.

As it is though I think I need to ramp up my pillow usage.  I have used a knee pillow for years, but I think I might need to graduate to a body pillow that I can snuggle with while I sleep.  One arm on top, one on the bottom, and it can provide the knee pillow effect as well.

Extra pillows so I can convince my aching body to just go to sleep.  One more step into the cold clammy blackness of the grave, I guess.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Free as the wind

My last post touched a nerve, it seems.  I got a lot of comments on my critique of Guardians of the Galaxy, some inquisitive, some supportive, some critical.  One in particular was interesting because it contained the phrase:

Comedies _must_ be free to offensive, or they may become less funny, which is antithetical.

Now it is true that comedies must be free to be offensive.  I would call that a pillar of free speech, not to mention comedy!

But it is important to note that I never suggested that comedies shouldn't be free to be offensive.  They should.  I should also be free to call them out on their shit.

There is a marked difference between something being free to violate the boundaries of good taste, and something being immune to criticism.  The government is not going to start policing comedies using language I don't like, notably randomly referring to women as whores.  I wouldn't want the government to do that; in fact I would fight against any such thing.  But the government also isn't going to stop me yelling on the internet about how much I dislike randomly slinging around the word whore at women in movies for no reason.  (There are reasons to use words like that in art.  There are times and places for it, no question.  But this place in this movie was not one of them.)

This smacks of someone wanting something they like to be immune to criticism.  Both by my post and by my writing history you can see that I do not support government stepping in to censor comedies' use of language like this, so it strikes me as likely that what the commenter is really getting at is that they don't like their thing being criticized.

I get that reaction.  I have felt that way before and I conflated my desire to support a thing I liked with a violation of freedom of speech.  However, it is extremely important to differentiate these things.  It is also important to remember that just because someone's criticism of a thing makes you uncomfortable does not mean that their criticism is wrong, nor that the thing must be protected from that criticism.

There are no end of things I enjoyed in the past that have real problems upon further reflection.  That doesn't mean those things have no value, nor that I can't enjoy the good bits.  It does mean though that it is worth examining the problems that are there so we can take lessons from them, and maybe improve in future.

This situation comes up all the time, enough so that it is worth repeating.  If someone criticizes a thing, and you want to respond by saying that people have to have freedom of speech, make damn sure that the criticism actually suggested curtailing free speech.  If the criticism was just saying that the thing in question is shitty though, then you are engaging in a strawman attack and completely missing the point.  Rather than making an inappropriate free speech argument, it is probably a good idea to examine why you feel so defensive about it; usually it is because deep down you realize that the criticism has some merit.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Villains of the Galaxy

I just finished watching Guardians of the Galaxy.  It isn't new by this point, so I am going to spoil it for you.  Since it took in $635 million worldwide, it is safe to say that audiences in general really loved it.  I have a much less rosy response.


The movie has some normal superhero movie flaws.  The plot is absurd.  The villains are ludicrous and hard to take seriously.  There are plenty of points that are meant to be emotional, heartwrenching, or full of tension but instead become a joke because the writing is weak.  (Seriously, dying in space from being in hard vacuum and you save yourself by phoning someone, who picks you up in five seconds?  From across the galaxy?  Why even pretend to have a plot?)

I often enjoy interesting tech ideas in science fiction books and movies, but this one is a mess.  Some people use knives to fight, some people use laser cannons, and some people use pencils that can fly through the air and kill hundreds of enemies (and ships) in a single second.  It is ridiculous.

However, it is a superhero movie about a talking tree with magic powers, a cybernetic raccoon with super intelligence, and two random guys who don't seem to be much good at anything really, but they are in the movie anyway.

Oh yeah, also there is a woman on the team.  Which is where all the trouble starts.

See, I get that when you have an intellectual property that has a five person hero team with one female on it, you don't have gender balance.  That is the breaks, when using specific source material.  But when you are making up a universe around those heroes you could at least try a little not to have everyone be male, right?

Evidently not.

And okay, fine, the movie portrays nearly all men, but at least the female lead gets to be treated reasonably, right?  Because while I don't like the male dominated universe, surely the writers and editors wouldn't just have the sole female protagonist be the target of gendered slurs for no reason, right?

Wrong again.

For some reason the raccoon, when being introduced to the female lead, refers to her as a broad.  He could have just used the word she, he could have asked about the green skinned lady, or found some other way to refer to her.  But no, lets just slip in a gendered slur for no reason.  To establish the raccoon as a tough guy, or something.  Because it is totally worth torpedoing the female character to establish a male one, right?

Even more egregious though is a scene near the movie's end where one of the male team calls her a whore.  Not because he is angry, or because she has done something that might suggest promiscuity or sex work, but just because why not.  It is just casually tossed in there without any justification or sense.  Seriously people?  Use her fucking name!

This stuff really bothers me.  I get irritable at movies that have preposterous science sometimes.  I grump at plots that are ridiculous.  But otherwise I had a reasonably good time and suspended disbelief long enough to enjoy the ridiculous scenes and pretty visuals.

But when writers toss in garbage like that it just breaks the movie for me and makes me sad.  That shit had to go past editors and public relations people and nobody did anything about it.  Nobody even realized how unnecessary and shitty this kind of writing is.  Is there really a demographic who wants silly space romps and insists that women in them need to be randomly degraded for absolutely no reason?  Are we pandering to those assholes still?

We can do so much better than this.