ciroccoj: (books)
Don't ask me why, but I'm (rather morbidly) re-reading Passage, a book about Near Death Experiences by Connie Willis. Brilliant book, loved it, decided upon finishing it that I would treasure the reading experience but never, never read it again.

And yet here I am, re-reading it. ::sigh::

Anyway, one of the cool things about this books is that each Part and each chapter opens with a Last Words quote. It's not always somebody's final words; it can be a postcard written right before someone set off on their final cruise, or a quote about someone laughing off a warning they should have listened to, or whatever, but it always has to do with death.

So of course I decided to collect the quotes. For light-hearted re-reading or... something.

  • I will remember it forever, the darkness and the cold.
    - Edith Haisman, a Titanic survivor

  • "What is it like down there, Charides?"
    "Very dark."
    "And what of return?"
    "All lies."
    - Callimachus


  1. "More light!"
    - Goethe's last words

  2. "Over Forked River. Course Lakehurst."
    - Last wireless message of the Hindenburg

  3. "Oh, shit."
    - Last words on majority of flight recorders recovered after a plane crashes

  4. "I beg your pardon, monsieur. I did not mean to do it."
    - Marie Antoinette, after she had accidentally stepped on the executioner's foot while mounting to the guillotine

  5. "CQD CQD SOS SOS CQD SOS. Come at once. We have struck a berg. CQD OM. Position 41° 40'N, 50° 14' W. CQD SOS."
    - Wireless message sent by the Titanic to the Carpathia

  6. "Hey, where the hell are the parachutes?"
    - Question asked by Glenn Miller as he boarded the plane to Paris, to which Colonel Baesell replied, "What's the matter, Miller, do you want to live forever?"

  7. "On board the Pacific from Liverpool to N.Y. - Confusion on board - Icebergs around us on every side. I know I cannot escape. I write the cause of our loss that friends may not live in suspense. The finder will please get it published. Wm. Graham."
    - Message found in a bottle, 1856

  8. "To die would be an awfully big adventure."
    - Last words of Broadway producer Charles Frohman, quoting from his close friend James Barrie's Peter Pan just before he went down on the Lusitania

  9. "Mildred, why aren't my clothes laid out? I've got a seven o'clock call."
    - Last words of Bert Lahr

  10. "Water! Water!"
    - Last words of Captain Lehmann, Captain of the Hindenburg, dying of burns

  11. "Jesus... Jesus... Jesus..."
    - Joan of Arc's last words, in the flames

  12. "Why, man, they couldn't hit an elephant at this dist-"
    - American Civil War general John Sedgwick's last words, at the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse

  13. "This is funny."
    - Doc Holliday's last words

  14. "Mother never reached me. If... anything happens... you must be prepared. Remember the message: Rosabelle, believe. When you hear those words... know it is Houdini speaking..."
    - Harry Houdini's words to his wife on his deathbed, promising to communicate with her from the afterlife

  15. "Adieu, my friends! I go to glory!"
    - Isadora Duncan's last words, spoken as she got into a roadster and flung her long scarf around her neck in a dramatic gesture. When the car pulled away, the scarf caught in the spokes of the wheel and strangled her.

  16. "Even in the valley of the shadow of death, two and two do not make six."
    - Word of Leo Tolstoy on his deathbed, upon being asked to return to the fold of the Russian Orthodox Church

  17. "And in my dream an angel with white wings came to me, smiling."
    - From Paul Gaugin's last notes, published after his death

  18. "I dread the journey greatly."
    - Mary Todd Lincoln, in a letter written shortly before her death
ciroccoj: (blessed is the norm)
Here's the thing: I don't like Arabs and Muslims. And I don't think that makes me a bad person.

Bear with me, because this is not an anti-Arab/Muslim post. At all.

I don't like them because when I was a little kid (ages 6-8), we lived in Morocco for a couple of years, and it was not a good place to be. We were very much foreigners, because of how we were treated and because of how we acted. Foreigners kept to themselves, mostly, and had few positive things to say about the natives. General consensus was that Moroccans were lazy, dirty, stupid, ignorant, dishonest, and rude. And they did not welcome us to their country; as far as I could tell, most of them resented us and were looking for any chance to cheat us. So even though I lived there for two years, the only Arabic words I learned were La' (no), Inch'Allah (if God wills it), Shukran (thank you), and Makeinsh Fulus (I have no money). Oh, and Sidi Harazem, which was the brand of bottled water we drank. I made no Moroccan friends. I felt no sense of belonging to Morocco.1

And I came away from the experience with a visceral negative reaction to people who looked or sounded Arab. The reaction has lessened over the years, especially as Ottawa has become increasingly Arabicized2, but it's still there if I pay attention: the sight or sound of an Arab person or Arabic-sounding language still makes me a bit uneasy to this day. I feel just a little less comfortable when speaking to a Muslim.

And this is my problem.

Not the problem of Arabs and Muslims. It is not their job to educate me, make me see that really, they're just regular folks, show me examples of good Arabs and Muslims, make sure they don't do anything to confirm my instinctive dislike - any of it. It's my problem. The onus is on me to educate myself, to be aware of my own irrational feelings, to make damn sure my problem doesn't become their problem. The onus is on me to make sure that when I have a conflict with a rude Somalian taxi driver, when I don't like my kid's Muslim friend, when I get pissed off at the obnoxious headscarfed lady in line ahead of me at the grocery store, that it's because they are being rude or bratty or obnoxious, and not because they're being Arabs.

It's on me.

It's also on me to not get defensive when it's pointed out to me that I've been racist. Or classist, or sexist, or homophobic. It's my responsibility to listen to the charge, and try to be objective and search my subconsious for motivations and prejudices. Sometimes I really think the charge is unfounded, but I have been shown up several times and I don't think it makes me a bad person - any more than I'm a bad person for not always being kind to my children, for being careless and losing important things, for having an often messy house. I'm human, and humans make mistakes, and I developed my self-esteem before leaving childhood and it can take a few hits. Finding out that I've unfairly prejudged someone, because of race, creed, gender, etc is just another example that I'm human and fallible. It's unpleasant as hell, and I hate it, but I try to see the positive in it.

Obviously I try hard not to be racist, but when I screw up, I'd really like to know. It's an opportunity for learning. More importantly, it's an opportunity to try to make things right, if I can.

Eg, that Muslim witness in court last year (not one of our clients), who said something I assumed was a lie because part of my subconscious equated Muslim with dishonest, and then it turned out he was telling the truth all along? I can't really apologize to him; I never even caught his name, and it wasn't my case so I had no influence on his life and did him no harm with my assumption. But I can make sure the next time a Muslim witness speaks, I remember my previous failure and this time decide trustworthiness based on something more than, "He feels dishonest to me." Because really what happened that time was that the guy felt Muslim to me. Because next time, my bias may matter. Because bias and prejudice, voluntary or not, matters.


And yeah, this rambling post is partly about Trayvon Martin.

It doesn't matter to me what was going on in Zimmerman's gated community, it doesn't matter if a lot of "unsavory" characters really had moved in recently because of real estate upsets, it doesn't matter if some of Zimmerman's 40 calls to 911 in the last year actually had resulted in thwarted crimes. It doesn't matter if Trayvon Martin was a perfect kid wearing a hoodie or a kid who'd been suspended a few times wearing a hoodie. It doesn't matter if Zimmerman thought he wasn't actually racist, and was friendly to blacks he knew to be neighbours, it doesn't even matter if he felt that he was out there protecting them too. It only matters that he felt justified in running down a kid who was on the phone with his girlfriend, wearing a hoodie and carrying snacks. Because the kid was black.

Oh and no, it doesn't matter that Zimmerman is half Hispanic. That does not mean he can't be racist.

I mean, ffs. Of course he can be racist. Jesse Jackson has said in the past that when he's out walking at night, if he sees a black man, he also tenses up a bit. Barack Obama's grandmother was sometimes uncomfortable with strange black men, despite being devoted to her black grandson. And I bet Obama himself reacts differently to an unknown young black man than an unknown white, because he also grew up in a culture where black means danger and violence and crime. It's out there. We're all steeped in it. Show me a single North American, black, white, rainbow-coloured, whatever, who hasn't internalized at least some kind of anti-black prejudice, and I'll show you a five-leaf clover, 'cause it's just as rare.

Seriously, show me one3. I'd love to pick their brains and discover their secret. Ditto for anti-Arab, anti-Asian, anti-any random marginalized group.


Anyway, I know a lot of people who don't normally care about racism are all up in arms about what happened to Trayvon Martin. I think that's good. But some of the reactions to this have been pissing me off, because it's all been said and done to death before now, and the highest office in America is held by a black man and yet black kids still get harrassed and arrested and gunned down for the crime of being black, and I'm tired of hearing the same things said over and over about all of this crap, from other whites. It comes up every single time there's an issue of racism, and it's bloody annoying.

"But I'm not racist!" "So help me understand racism!" "If I didn't mean to be racist, I didn't do anything wrong!" "How can blacks assume all whites are racist? Isn't that reverse racism, and just as bad a regular racism?"

You know what?

Yes, you are racist.

No, it is not a black person's job to be your personal Black 101 tutor. Learn on your own time, or with black people who have volunteered for the job.

If you acted on your racist thoughts and feelings, you probably did do something wrong. What you meant to do doesn't matter. Eg that black woman you just condescended to doesn't have the privilege of seeing into your motivations; she just got dumped on by your behaviour.

Blacks can prejudge whites because they're human too.

Reverse racism as bad as regular racism? In a perfect world, anti-white racism would be as bad as anti-black. Because it would leave white people just as vulnerable to not being hired, not being promoted, being arbitrarily detained by the authorities, being gunned down by a random racist black guy, as black people are.

Until whites are just as vulnerable to damage from anti-white racism as blacks are to anti-black, I'm going to assume reverse racism isn't as bad. Theoretically, yes it is. In the real world, no it's not. If this black guy doesn't hire you because you're white, you almost certainly have far more job options available to you than the black guy who isn't hired because he's black.

And yes, I've been on the other side of reverse-ism. I've been condemned for my whiteness, I've been condescended to by gays, I have felt excluded and unfairly judged by other minorities. It's not pleasant, but the fact is that I can almost always leave the unpleasant situation and be right back within a culture where I am the norm and the people who treated me like crap are the outsiders. They usually don't have that privilege.

For example, I spent a lot of time among gays and bis in university, and I can think of a few situations in which I felt uncomfortable because I was the only straight person there. Because I didn't feel I could openly talk about my boyfriend among all these women who dated women, and because it was unfairly assumed that I was clueless about issues of homophobia. But I could leave, and be right back in Staightland, where the tables were turned.

It's just not the same. I'm not justifying the snide little put-downs I suffered through, or defending the snotty gay guy who got his jollies out of trying to embarrass me, but it's not the same as knowing that if you hold your boyfriend's hand in public someone might decide to punish your brazen perversion with a baseball bat.


Normally I'm more diplomatic than this. Normally I try to Feel the Pain of whatever white/staight/male person is currently feeling unfairly prejudged, or defensive, or whatever. But the gunning down of this kid has me feeling nauseated and angry, and I can't seem to take the blunt off what I want to tell some of my fellow whites. Namely:

  • Yes, you are racist. We all are. Get over yourself and work on your own racism.

  • Educate yourself. Stop asking blacks to do it for you.

  • Yes, blacks can be racist and whites can get hurt by that racism. Stop trying to make our pain equivalent to theirs. It's not.

  • That's not the same as saying anti-white prejudice is harmless, or acceptable. It's no more acceptable than being punched in the gut is acceptable. I'm just saying it's not as harmful as getting the crap kicked out of you.

  • Trayvon Martin's death is horrifying. The only way to make it less horrifying is to take a good hard look at ourselves and try to do something about the society in which his death happened. If that means demanding the police do something about his death, if it means taking a look at Stand Your Ground laws, if it means looking into ourselves and trying to be aware of our own frailties so we don't victimize more kids like Martin, that's what we have to do.

  • And by "we", I mean whites. Blacks shouldn't have to do a damn thing about it. IMHO.

::re-reading what I've written::

OK. Anger down to manageable levels again. Time to stop writing.

1: Which didn't bother me at all at the time, but which today I see as a horrible waste. An entire country and its people, entirely dismissed as too primitive to bother getting to know.

2: Realized once, upon landing in Ottawa after being away, that much to my surprise the sight of women wearing hijabs was coming to mean home to me, because where we'd been (Florida, I think) they were a very rare sight, and in Ottawa they're everywhere.

3: Non-racist North American, that is. Not five-leaf clover. Though seeing a five-leaf clover would be pretty cool.
ciroccoj: (yuck)
The Hunger Games. Actually, the movie - what I saw of it - was awesome. Unfortunately the handheld cam on Imax at the front of the theatre nauseated me to the point that I had to close my eyes for about a third of it, and ended up puking halfway through :(
ciroccoj: (amused)
Chris, reading our grocery list: We don't need beef stock. Nor do we need menopause. ::pause:: ::squint:: Mayonnaise.
ciroccoj: (but baby)
Sadly, the dumbest thing I did this week was not lock myself into a room by mistake because I was doing home repairs and changing all our door handles and I took the doorknob off without taking the bolt out, and required twenty minutes and Justin's help to take the door off its hinges, and we were darn close to giving up and just kicking the damn thing open before it finally opened on its own.

No, the dumbest thing I did this week... was accidentally lock myself into a room in this same manner twice.
ciroccoj: (limitations)
Daylight Savings Time caught us off-guard, can't get Skype up to call my cousin, can't call her either, one-year anniversary of the Japan tsunami on the news, cat pooped on couch again, Justin's Chinese Cooking For Kids class for Monday has been cancelled, and my mom would've been sixty-eight today.

Oh well. Think I'll take on our bathroom closet to make the day get better. Nothing lifts the spirit like a well-organized storage space.

Scratch that. Many things lift the spirit much higher. But few are within easy reach right now.
ciroccoj: (but baby)
(From the Comments section on a story about the anniversary of the Japan earthquake and tsunami)

Joey: There is nothing scary or wrong with earthquakes. It is all beautiful as well as the destruction just like creation is beautiful. Opening up to every aspect of life is the key to happiness.

Robert: your stupid

Joey: Please explain why I am stupid. Fear of the unknown is not my weakness nor should it be anyone elses. I have lived in Japan for a long time and have experienced earthquakes on a weekly basis and have learned to love them in their awesome and natural power. It is part of nature and how the earth is making mountains and new terrain. Mother nature is just amazing.

Robert: You said there is nothing scary about earthquakes explains it right there- i live in the san francisco bay area where earthquakes happen all the time, when a mild one hits and the tv news is on callers call in and they are allways afraid= where are you located and i will ask for a earthquake to be sent to you

Joey: I lived in the Bay Area a lot too and was there when they had the big one in 1986. I was actually in Santa Cruz and just loved it. Everyone slept outside and developed good friendship. I am in Thailand now so if you can manage to send one to me that would be cool but I do not wish this on anyone else. You folks in the Bay Area do not get earthquakes all the time. Those people are afraid because they are afraid of death. I am eagerly waiting for that to happen since it is the best thing in the world.

Joey: Oh and btw, most Japanese are not afraid of earthquakes. It is like second nature. California earthquakes are not on the same scale at all to Japan. When they do happen then they can be pretty big there. I have actually developed a second sense for feeling when earthquakes will hit but it does not work all the time. I then send out a message to my friends to be careful.

Robert: Asking for an earthquake in thailand- what's that old saying about going to war in old time china- those afraid to die will die and those not afraid to die will live- or maybe it was from the old KUNG FU tv show, or LAO TZU, or bruce lee- same thinking as martial artists
ciroccoj: (STFU)
Overheard from a fellow home schooling mom: "So I signed Johnny up for the class, but partway through the second session he said, 'Mom, can we leave? This is really boring.' So I took him home. I mean, I felt kinda bad for the teacher, because he was really loud, but what could I do? He was bored."

What could you do?

What could you do?

OK, how's this. You could understand that he's a child, and that it's perfectly natural for him to get easily bored, and to express his boredom loudly. He's seven and by that age I expect kids to have a bit more of an internal sensor, but every child is different and your child is not defective just because he doesn't get, yet, the fact that loudly proclaiming your boredom can hurt the feelings of the person who is speaking. You can be understanding, respect his feelings and his right to have his time wasted, and take him home.

Or you can respectfully but firmly insist that he stay in the class, because you are the parent and he is the child and presumably you know better than he what level of boredom he should be able to stand, and what knowledge he needs to learn. And because even the most charmed life contains necessary parts of boredom, and learning to put up and shut up and make the best of it is an important life skill to learn.

But whether you keep him in the class or take him home, you can bloody well insist that he apologize to the teacher for being rude. Most probably he had no intention of being rude, and if the teacher knows children (and this one does), she will understand and not hold it against him. You don't even have to be angry at him, any more than you need to be angry at him if he's still not perfect at tying his shoes. Politeness is a skill to be learned.

But he won't learn it if you're so bloody respectful of his feelings that you teach him that his are the only feelings that matter. There is a right way and a wrong way to deal with boredom. Your kid got it wrong. Don't abdicate your responsibility to help him get it right next time.
ciroccoj: (Hufflepuff work work work)
With one phone, one laptop, and two hands, I have reordered my entire world today. Power to the Internets!

  • e-mail KH, SH, IN, NR, WW, KM, MD
  • confirm flights with Trinh
  • call Annie at LSUC finances, 1-800-668-7380 x 2250
  • make payment
  • LSUC portal: 416-947-3456
  • finish end of year report
  • call LAWPRO
  • Legal Aid
  • Re-call mentors: Criminal, Family
ciroccoj: (100 words)
... and then one day someone discovered the collected works of Eminem.
- Daniel, describing the Carmina Burana (Cantiones Profanae)

Other bits from yesterday's choir rehearsal:

  • Soprano 1: (reading translation of the lyrics) Huh. Yielding gratifies me; refusing makes me grieve.
    Soprano 2: Yup. My maidenhood excites me.

  • Director: Sopranos, that was beautiful. The Brahms choir will be bringing in some German speakers, though. So it's going to be important that there be words. Your vowels were wonderful. But you'll want consonants.

  • Soprano: Ouch. Page 41, third system: Soprano Roadkill. (AKA we hit a high C)

  • Director: (summing up the lovely, gentle second song) So this is the 'chanting monks' song--
    (Two of the men immediately bonk their foreheads with their scores, a la Monty Python and the Holy Grail)

(Carl Orff's Carmina Burana, btw, is a cantata based on twenty-four of the poems found in the medieval collection of Carmina Burana. They are in Latin, German, and French, and deal with "the fickleness of fortune and wealth, the ephemeral nature of life, the joy of the return of Spring, and the pleasures and perils of drinking, gluttony, gambling and lust," says Wikipedia. More info here)
ciroccoj: (darkest before pitch black)
The cat pooed on my uniform's shirt, Justin's uniform pants, and the couch.

- First words to hit my eyes this morning, in a note left for me by Daniel.


Mar. 3rd, 2012 10:18 pm
ciroccoj: (black belt tae kwon dos)
Me: ::packing for TKD:: So I've got my uniform, belt, sparring equipment - this is not my jock strap and cup, though.
Chris: Hey, don't laugh, there are jock straps and cups for women too.
Me: ::laughing:: What?
Chris: Apparently women only find that funny if they've never been canned. It's not as painful as a guy getting canned, but it's still pretty bad.
Me: ::eyeing him suspiciously::
Chris: I'm serious. I've seen them. Female jock straps.
Me: ::still suspicious:: You've... seen them?
Chris: OK, fine, what I saw were actually G-strings. Female jock straps really do exist, though.

Oh dear.

Mar. 3rd, 2012 06:38 pm
ciroccoj: (prettiest)
Uncomfortable thought to cross your head _after_ your guests have arrived: "Wait! Am I wearing pants?!"
ciroccoj: (limitations)
Chris: (explaining the relationship between our cats, Jehovah the elderly female, and Apollo the male kitten) Unfortunately, it's a sort of love-hate relationship. He loves her, and she hates him.
ciroccoj: (Default)
Justin: Ugh, I hate when I get "microbiology" and "Necronomicon" mixed up.
ciroccoj: (wonder)
All I can say is I'm already looking forward to next year's Mosaik. And hoping the recording matches what I heard last night. And marvelling at anyone being able to coordinate six choirs, 200 singers aged 5-70+, one guest conductor, and choreography rather more complex than regular European-style "walk on to the stage and stand there." And being able to keep everyone high-energy during and after a long day of rehearsals.

::happy sigh::

Seriously, I can't wait for next year :)
ciroccoj: (assimilated/assimilee)
  • It's a four-day weekend. PA day for both boys, then Family Day on Monday. For some reason, we're doing TKD for three of those days, with a step-sparring workshop Saturday, Chris's black belt training Sunday, and a Family Day practice and movie on Monday.

  • I want to live in all of these places: Six Abandoned Places That Will Make Awesome Supervillain Lairs.

  • Report cards came in this week. Justin's is nearly straight-A, and Daniel's is ABBA-like. Daniel's not that pleased, because he's worked really hard and apparently a lot of his fellow IB students are embarrassed when they get below 90%. We discussed various topics:

    1. I'm fairly sure that if he works really, really hard, he too can get straight As. I just don't think it's worth missing out on everything else in life.

    2. If he wants straight A without missing out on the rest of life, he could probably drop IB and get them without breaking a sweat. But then he might be bored.

    3. If he wants to stay where school is challenging and keep having a life, maybe he can talk himself into realizing that ABBAs are not so shabby in IB.

    4. It might also be worth thinking about how many of his classmates are getting the same marks as he is and just not mentioning them, or outright lying about all those over-90s ;)

  • Speaking of ABBA: Waterlöö?

  • The kid in Billy Elliot was going through puberty during the filming of the movie. They had to go back and re-dub some of his scenes because his voice broke, and shave his legs because some of the jumping up and down scenes were filmed before he grew leg hair, and some after.

  • My choir is doing Toto's Africa for our Mosaik (formerly Black History Month) concert next Saturday. Yesterday was the first day the guys really got their part - which is important, as they are the lead in this song and the diva soprano section is reduced to making a shooka-shooka background noise. Totally worth it, though. The guys sound awesome.

  • Our next concert is Carmina Burana! I'm tickled pink. Finally I'm getting over the bitterness over the fact that when I first tried to join the Kingston Choral Society in 1995, they told me I was too late to join in time for the Carmina Burana concert but "Don't worry, the next concert after that is a tribute to Cole Porter! Won't that be great?! Even better than Carmina!"

    (The answer, by the way, was no. Definitely not. Ugh.)

  • Can't wait to see The Hunger Games movie. ::crossing fingers that it won't suck::

  • This is somehow simultaneously one of the most infuriating and funniest damn things I've read in a long time: A Round of Applause for the 'Million Moms' and Their Anti-Gay Campaign... Seriously

ciroccoj: (kids chewed through)

My favourite part is where the audience screams, and the camera does a close-up on the kids grinning ear-to-ear. "Yeah, you heard right. Rammstein, choral version. Represent."

We also like the original version, but the a capella rocks. Plus, no disturbing imagery.

ciroccoj: (fireworks)
5 hours, 3 girls, 6 boys, ages 7-15, vegetarian and kosher pizzas, 2 cakes, 2 board games, lots and lots of sledding, hot chocolate (milk and soy), and the Birthday Party of Doom is done for another year :D :D :D
ciroccoj: (cluelessness)
Daniel: What is the Super Bowl, anyway?
Me: It's like the Stanley Cup, for football.
Daniel: Oh cool, OK.

November 2012

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