jump to navigation

On ‘borrowing’ June 29, 2017

Posted by thejinx in life, writing.
Tags: , , , , ,
add a comment

I’ve been thinking a lot about cultural appropriation lately. It is a serious problem, I recognize that. But I also think that, unlike a number of so-called SJW crusades, arguments over it do go too far sometimes. Like a ‘get your picture taken in a period-style kimono’ exhibit at a Boston museum that was removed over too many complaints – despite members of the local Japanese-American community counter-protesting to keep it up.

I read a blog post a while back that resonated with me for a single line in it: straight people aren’t allowed to say what’s homophobic, men aren’t allowed to say what’s sexist, and white people aren’t allowed to say what’s racist. That made absolute sense to me. But would it also apply the other way? What does it say when white Americans rail against whitewashing more than the people supposedly being marginalized?

If I was married today, would I get complaints of cultural appropriation for my cheongsam-style wedding dress? (It was white. I obviously wasn’t trying to rip off a Chinese wedding.)

But again, it’s not up to me. Maybe I would’ve been in the wrong to wear that dress; maybe I was in the wrong. I wasn’t trying to disrespect or even emulate Chinese culture by wearing it. I just liked the style better than typical western wedding dresses and thought it more flattering on me.

I love learning about different cultures. I find it fascinating to see how people very different from me live their lives – their fashion, their food, their beliefs, their values, and on and on. And something I have come to learn is that it is immensely fun to both read and write about people very different from me.

That fact may come as a mild surprise to those who have read my novels, which (so far) don’t branch out very far from Tolkienesque 12th-century Britain-based fantasy or modern-day North America. But I want to. I wrote a novella last year starring a character from a nomadic society very loosely inspired by Romani, and I absolutely loved it. The part I’m currently writing for my next book features a number of different peoples all of which are very different from me. It’s been immense fun building these cultures and figuring out the characters’ roles in these societies.

However, I’m constantly wondering – will this be seen as disrespectful? Yes, these are completely fictional societies, and a lot of their development comes from natural progression based on location/climate/access to resources, but the fact is they’re not coming out of a vacuum. I find inspiration here and there from various cultures on our Earth, both because I find it interesting and because it suits these cultures and lends authenticity to them.

I’m not trying to make a medieval Mongolian or Mayan or Russian society in my novel; I start with pieces of one or several source cultures and work it into the world I’ve already developed. But all the same, I am borrowing from existing cultures, and is that problematic?

Today I was writing a scene in which a character reads the (magic) energy of the world. After some research I decided I liked the term prana for what she is sensing. But then I wondered – would people object to me using an Indian/Sanskrit term for a character whose society is more Pacific Islander influenced?

Am I splitting hairs, or is this a genuine concern I should be having? On the one hand, I absolutely agree that colonialism has resulted in appropriation that has undermined and demeaned other cultures through callous use of elements with deep sociological meaning to marginalized societies, and I should think carefully any time I “borrow” anything from another culture. On the other hand, where does it stop? Is it considered appropriation for me to cook a teriyaki stir fry dinner, or get henna on my wrist at a festival, or braid my daughter’s hair?

Earlier this year, the now-former editor of the Writers Union of Canada caused a lot of controversy when he recommended white authors incorporate more cultural appropriation into their writing, even as far as to suggest an “appropriation prize”. That comment was in extremely poor taste and emblematic of the issue… but I agree with the point he was trying to make. It’s boring and stifling to have white writers only write about white people. More to the point, writing is a way for us as humans to expand our minds and make sense of the human condition. In that regard, and especially considering white authors have such a stronger voice in current society, I would almost say it’s a duty of the white writer to step outside the box she lives in, as long as it’s done respectfully. We live in a multicultural society; is it not problematic to only write about your own race and culture? Good writing, writing that understands the world we live in, should either include or address multiculturalism.

But again, it’s not up to me. This is a highly complex issue, and one that’s unfortunately saturated with centuries of erasure and abuse.

Ultimately, I think the solution is to listen more to marginalized cultures on topics of cultural appropriation – both when it’s wrong, and when it’s not.

Let’s Talk January 25, 2017

Posted by thejinx in life, Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , , ,
add a comment

I suffer from anxiety.

That’s one of the first times I’ve said that out loud.

Why is that? I don’t think I will be ostracized or maligned for admitting it. I don’t think I’ll be treated like I’m diseased or insane. I won’t be locked up or force-fed medication that will erase my personality.

The people I know won’t tell me to suck it up, or that I’m faking it, or that I’m just trying to get attention. They won’t tell me to just get over it, or try to convince me that other people have it worse and I have no reason to complain. They won’t belittle me or try to cut me out of their lives.

I won’t be made to feel that I somehow failed as a person. I won’t be made to feel like getting over it is as easy as just thinking positive thoughts. I won’t be made to feel like this struggle is trivial or invalid. I won’t be made to feel like I’m not allowed to show it, or that showing it means I’m weak.

So why has just admitting it been so hard if I don’t have any of these struggles?

Because these things have happened, and that’s where the stigma of mental illness comes from. Even though I’ve never experienced such reactions, years—decades—of such responses have created an unconscious reflex to keep it to myself. People who cannot and will not understand what it’s like to live with mental illness have dictated how people who do will look at it, even to themselves.

So let’s put the dialogue in the command of people who actually suffer from it.

My name is Catherine Fitzsimmons and I suffer from anxiety. I can’t control it, it impacts my daily life, and I am not ashamed of it.

24 days of tea: Week four December 21, 2016

Posted by thejinx in life.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

And now, the final week of my DavidsTea advent calendar. Again, for those keeping track, it is a day late, this time due to opening night for Rogue One. Anyway, on with my reactions.

20161215_190141Day nineteen: Organic Sweet Almond Green

This one was… interesting. ‘Sweet’ certainly is apt. I’d say cloying. It wasn’t bad to start, but I can’t see myself enjoying this one long-term.

 

20161217_215108Day twenty: Cardamom French Toast

It had a wonderful French toast aroma dry, but prepared the only flavour I could really pick up was the cinnamon. Kind of a shame.

 

20161218_204102Day twenty-one: Spiced Apple

I’ll be honest, I drank this one while I was fairly distracted with a few other things, so I didn’t really take in the flavour properly. Suffice to say, while I enjoyed it, it didn’t stand out. If I want something spiced apple flavoured, there were other blends in the set that I enjoyed more.

20161219_194433Day twenty-two: English Toffee

Well, this may be a tiresome litany, but my hopes were low on this one because I don’t like toffee. Alas, this blend delivered on toffee, so I barely made it two sips in before it planted firmly in my bottom three with Genmaicha and Coconut Cream Pie. Moving on…

20161220_185518Day twenty-three: Organic Kashmiri Chai

Not bad. While I like the taste of chai tea, I tend to find the flavour a little… overbearing? But this one was milder and so I found it enjoyable. It’s possible I didn’t steep it long enough, as it still looked fairly light, but following the same instructions for all the other blends yielded quite dark tea – which I generally prefer – so I think this one just isn’t as strong. In a good way.

20161221_185336Day twenty-four: Santa’s Secret

It’s pretty hard not to immediately love a tea blend that includes tiny candy cane-shaped sprinkles before even tasting it. I think I steeped this one a bit too dark, as the peppermint and vanilla flavouring got a bit lost in the black tea. It wasn’t bad as it was, but I’m reserving final judgement on this one until I prepare it properly. It does make a very suitable conclusion to the set.

At last, I come to the end of my tea journey. It’s been fun trying out new varieties, and I’m certainly going to enjoy revisiting many of these blends as I finish what came in the set (the Irish Breakfast in particular goes very far). What I have learned is that I can’t trust the aroma of a tea blend by itself, which is usually the main selling point of a blend in a store like DavidsTea.

Would I buy a set like this again? I don’t know. It would have to be very different from this year’s for me to consider it. There were only a few blends I really loved, and they mostly seemed to be fruity/apple-flavoured blends. Perhaps my tastes are a bit narrow, but I didn’t feel like I got a wide palette of tastes out of this set.

I guess I’ll just have to keep trying more.

24 days of tea: Week three December 14, 2016

Posted by thejinx in life.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Over halfway through my DavidsTea advent calendar and on to new tastes! For those keeping track, it is a day late. Didn’t get home from my event Sunday until practically bedtime. After a nine-hour day followed by a 90-minute drive down half-plowed highway, I just wanted comfort tea rather than experimentation. But I digress.

20161208_192534Day thirteen: Creme Caramel Rooibos

As I am not a big fan of caramel and not at all a fan of creme, and the dry tea smelled strongly of both, I was not expecting to like this one. Fortunately for my taste, the prepared tea didn’t taste nearly so strongly of either and I found it drinkable. Not one I would go back to, but not my least favourite of the collection so far.

20161209_193044Day fourteen: Irish Breakfast

For all my growing enthusiasm for loose leaf tea over the past year, this is the first regular tea I have had in loose leaf form. Very nice. I steeped it a bit too dark, but it still had a very pleasant, smooth taste.

20161210_185755Day fifteen: Coconut Cream Pie

… yeah, let’s just leave it at I don’t like coconut and move on.

Also, after taking fourteen pictures of the same thing, I decided to spice this one up a bit.

20161212_194438Day sixteen: Strawberry Rhubarb Parfait

… Indeed. What can I say? It both smelled and tasted exactly as advertised. It actually tasted better than I expected, considering I’m not a big fan of parfaits. (This week is a bit more of a miss for me.) It’s hard for me to say I want something that tastes of parfait, but I did rather enjoy it. Although, I happened to look at the nutrition info and found a rather worrying statistic for this blend…

2016-12-12-22-43-16

That’s a typo, right?

20161213_184831Day seventeen: Chocolate Covered Almond

It’s nice. Has more flavour on the aftertaste than on the initial sip. I enjoyed it, though not enough that I’m likely to pick it up on my own.

 

20161214_191136Day eighteen: Sleigh Ride

I get the impression this is one of DavidsTea’s signature holiday blends (though admittedly, the first time I had really been in a DavidsTea store was when I went to buy this set). Nice and very complex flavour. At first, about all I could taste was the cinnamon, but as I continued drinking it, the fruit and nuts came out. Part of me was thinking that the blend is trying to be too many things, but after finishing the cup, I found I enjoyed the journey.

Just one week left now. To be concluded!

24 days of tea: Week two December 7, 2016

Posted by thejinx in life.
Tags: , , , , , ,
4 comments

It’s another week of tea-related adventure with my DavidsTea advent calendar!

Day seven: Nutty and Spice20161202_184157

Pretty much lives up to the name.

… yep.

It has a nice flavour, though the spice is strong enough that it’s not something I can enjoy often (I’m weird about spiced tea like that.)

Day eight: Organic Ginger Pear20161203_184227

Has a nice fruity aroma dry, but prepared I could mainly only taste the ginger. It’s a blend I would love to have around when feeling under the weather, but not something I am likely to enjoy on a regular basis.

20161204_190355Day nine: Forever Nuts

Oh, I like this one! Not as nutty as the name would have me believe, but the mixture of apple, cinnamon, and almonds gives it all the delightful flavour of an apple tart without any of the sugar. Would definitely go back to this blend.

20161205_193318Day ten: Green Passionfruit

I braced myself for something I wouldn’t like when I saw the name, but actually, I enjoyed this blend. Pretty fruity taste and mild green tea flavour. While I’m not likely to pick it up on my own, I did enjoy it in a sampler pack.

20161206_185248Day eleven: Hot Chocolate

Actually a fairly passable substitute for hot chocolate. Rather lighter on flavour, not surprisingly, but that’s probably more than a little due to the decreased amount of sugar. Not bad.

20161207_192156Day twelve: Bear Trap

So fruity. It’s the fruitiest. In other words, I’m a fan, especially since only one of the many fruits in this blend has sugar added, which makes the sugar content in the prepared drink negligible. It is aggressively fruity, for those who might not enjoy the flavour as much as I do. Probably also tastes very nice iced.

Stay tuned for more next week!

24 days of tea: Week one December 1, 2016

Posted by thejinx in life.
Tags: , , , , , ,
5 comments

wp-image-1951452935jpg.jpeg

This year, I’ve been increasingly enjoying loose leaf tea. So, in an effort to try out some new varieties, I decided to pick up a DavidsTea advent calendar.

wp-image-1113564519jpg.jpeg

It’s a cleverly packaged assortment of teas and herbal infusions that can also double as a really neat craft supply/loose part storage box. Each tin holds about enough tea to make two cups. In the interest of sharing my discoveries (but mainly just so I can remember what the heck I drank) I thought I would keep something of a log as I go.

20161126_203935Day one: Snow Day

Cute presentation. Vanilla-y scent was a bit of a turnoff, but the only distinct flavour I picked up in the drink was a pleasant minty taste. Of course, given that the ingredients are pretty much chocolate, chocolate, sprinkles, and peppermint flavouring, it’s not exactly friendly to a diet. Probably why I enjoyed it so much.

20161127_162138Day two: Jumpy Monkey

Wow. They’re not kidding when they call this a stimulant. With two types of high caffeine tea and four types of whole coffee bean in here, this thing has enough kick to replace my morning coffee. Has a pleasant coffee, nutty taste. I am concerned that a theme is forming, though, as it does also contain white chocolate. I like tea because it’s not loaded with sugar…

20161128_194431Day three: Genmaicha

This was one of my concerns with getting a set like this, as I don’t generally care for green tea. But, I try to have an open mind, and after all, at one time, I didn’t like tea at all. Alas, despite the rice mitigating the green tea flavour, I didn’t enjoy it.

20161129_185218Day four: Organic Serenity Now

Now this one I liked! Fruity teas are right up my alley, so this blend definitely struck my fancy. Lovely fruity aroma straight from the tin, but there was also a pleasant spice to it as well. This is one I would go back to.

20161130_193112Day five: Coffee Cake

This blend smells stronger than it tastes. In this case, that’s a good thing, because it has a powerful aroma. Not a bad flavour for the most part, but the sugar from the candied fruits made it a little too sweet for my taste.

20161201_190051Day six: Apple Cider

Not technically apple cider, but it is mainly made with apples. Nice aroma dry, even better prepared, and in fact tastes like a watered-down apple cider. Considering most I’ve drunk have been heavy on flavour and heavier on sugar, that makes it a win. It’s cozy, comforting, and the perfect accompaniment to falling snow and a warm blanket. Delightful.

More to come next week!

X-Wing Miniatures: Death Star trench run November 26, 2016

Posted by thejinx in life, photography.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

I took some shots this week of a custom made scenario my husband constructed for Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures and couldn’t resist sharing them. Enjoy!




The game board was constructed of wood with a printed graphic overlay. The turrets were printed on heavy stock paper from a free downloadable template, with painted balsa stick barrels. Backdrop is a star field Gripmat  and of course the ships themselves are from the game.

On self-image November 22, 2016

Posted by thejinx in life.
Tags: , , , , , ,
2 comments

A few weeks ago, I was walking through a shopping mall when I passed by a kiosk selling face cream or some such thing. A salesman tried to stop me as I walked past, but I waved him off. Then, the other salesman decided to try his luck on me with a different approach.

“Miss, there is a small problem with your pores.”

He was obviously leading into how their product could help, but I didn’t break stride. I tried to inject some lightness into the situation when he told me not to be shy and I called back, “It’s not shyness, it’s laziness.” It’s not a lie; I find a lot of personal care stuff to be a hassle and don’t bother with it.

But a number of years ago, a comment like that would have devastated me.

As a teenager, I hated getting my picture taken, even avoided looking in mirrors. I had a laundry list of aspects of my appearance that I felt looked ugly, though the worst of it was my many (cosmetic) skin problems. Coupled with teenage hormonal depression, it was all I could see when forced to look at myself and I was very self-conscious about it.

Largely, due to the aforementioned laziness, my method of dealing with it was to avoid mirrors and cameras and not think about it, but occasionally, I tried to do something about it. None of it worked. A certain multi-step acne treatment did nothing, despite my dilligently following the system for a month. I even tried putting egg yolk on my face when I read that that would help.

Eventually, I gave up. Although I wasn’t any happier with the decision, I accepted that nothing I could do would help.

I don’t care anymore. I can’t care. I was more miserable trying something that promised results and failed to make a difference than if I just accepted that I couldn’t do anything about it.

Eventually, this led to acceptance of myself, though I don’t kid myself that it was all a matter of attitude. I was very lucky. My depression gradually faded in my early 20s, letting me build my own self-confidence, some of my skin problems cleared up naturally, and I married someone who tells me I’m beautiful every day – and while I didn’t believe it at first, I ultimately realized it doesn’t matter because I knew he does.

I’m no longer afraid of mirrors and cameras. But I look back at the person I was and the person I could have been if any number of things had been different, as well as the many, many girls and women who struggle with the same self-image issues, and a tactless comment like the one from that man only trying to sell a product rankles me. That’s the kind of careless remark that can keep someone up at night in tears, thinking they’ll never be pretty.

The worst part for me is that given all those lucky factors that contributed to the self-confidence I have today, I’m not the right person to be giving advice on the topic. So to anyone who might face that type of casual belittling, I will just say that you are not alone.

And to anyone who might use such a tactic to sell something, I would like you to know that no matter how you intend it or how politely you phrase it, a comment like that can be very hurtful. Dangerously so, in the case of someone with depression or another mental illness. Wouldn’t it be better to make a sale based on a positive experience rather than a negative one?

Breaking silence July 21, 2016

Posted by thejinx in life.
Tags:
comments closed

I don’t usually post about social or political issues (as anyone who has followed this blog, or indeed, any of my online presence has probably realized). I call it cynicism, because I honestly don’t feel like anyone who fundamentally disagrees with my opinion will be swayed to think differently by anything I could say, and otherwise I’m just preaching to the choir. I do what I can to work through my feelings the only way I can, through my art, but it doesn’t seem like talking about it will accomplish much. I also don’t want to deal with the backlash anything I say might provoke, because arguing such topics is exhausting, particularly because I don’t feel like anyone’s opinions will change.

But now, as I sit here seething over yet another black man shot by police, I can’t contain myself any longer.

giphy

It doesn’t matter what the colour of one’s skin is, or what is in their record. What matters is that yet another innocent, unthreatening civilian was shot by police when complying with police instructions. It makes me physically sick that this has happened so often so recently. It tears me apart inside that anyone would blame the victim for these unwarranted assaults – even murders – against unarmed people who were doing as they were told.

And frankly, it makes me scared for my upcoming trips to the U.S. As a white woman, I am far less likely to meet with such hostilities, but this atmosphere of unprovoked violence that seems to be permeating the U.S. is terrifying me. I don’t care that the colour of my skin protects me – that makes me more disgusted, not less. And it doesn’t protect me if some situation escalates beyond the next innocent person targeted.

It is wrong. It is horrible. And it is sickening that this keeps happening.

I don’t mean to blame all policemen and -women, either. I know that not all – or most – police officers would act that way in those situations. But the frequency with which these attacks are occurring is soul-crushing.

I believe Black Lives Matter, because all lives matter – and these lives are being targeted. Something has to change. I don’t know what; all I can do is talk about it.

Bibliophiles and other locutions August 13, 2015

Posted by thejinx in life.
Tags: , , , , ,
add a comment

As a book seller, I have spoken with many people who have told me about the sizes of their book collections. Little surprises me now, and personally, I can easily understand how books can take over a closet, a room, a basement, or even a storage locker. Books are delightful and memorable and avid readers can amass them quickly, particularly those who have been collecting a lot longer than I have.

Of course, I am partial to collections. There’s something immensely satisfying about the sight of perfectly even row of books arranged on a bookshelf. Or a cabinet of DVDs and Blu-Rays. Or a shadow box of figurines. Or–I am probably dating myself here–a rack of CDs. (Although admittedly, ours is in the basement and I almost never take any out, having ripped them all years ago.)

Shortly after moving in to our current home, I took an afternoon and went through our books. I arranged the books on our two kinds of bookshelves by format, genre, and then author, got rid of all the books I no longer wanted, and managed to fit what remained almost perfectly on our bookshelves. I really only keep them all strictly for love of the collection itself; much as I might have adored the books on those shelves, I simply don’t have the time to go back and reread them all, and most have only been read once. I just like having all those books I enjoyed lined up there, and even if I wanted to get rid of more, I would never be able to decide upon which ones to part with. And perhaps there is some paranoia that maybe someday I will want to read a particular one again and will be disappointed that it’s no longer there. These are the same reasons that I don’t like to re-sell the video games I have played and enjoyed, and probably will never play again. But I digress.

For a while after rearranging the shelves, I didn’t really buy any new books. I never have bought many books, as the cost and the sheer number of books that potentially interested me, never mind not knowing where to start with many epic fantasy/scifi series, made it too difficult to decide. I have also read enough mediocre or downright bad books that I have become very selective about my books, and usually want to read at least some of a book or at least an author’s work before investing in something. I also went through a period of reading mainly free ebooks I received through promotions or utilized what turned out to be a pretty impressive library within walking distance of home. On top of all this, at the time that I re-sorted my book collection, I simply didn’t have much time or energy to read, being busy with an infant.

Eventually, I began buying books again. Very slowly, as I am still quite selective about my books, and most of the books I have bought have still not been read yet. I still frequent my library and download a lot of ebooks, and between the two, I have little need to buy books. I still generally shy away from list price, unless it is the latest instalment in a series I am actively following. Generally, those books I have bought are clearance rack finds at my local chain bookstore or books from author friends that have particularly piqued my interest. Even the number of books I have bought over the past few years has gone up and down, as I pass along books I have read and am no longer interested in keeping.

But gradually, my collection has increased. And now, after picking up a couple new books at Gen Con, I am finding myself facing the problem that so many book lovers deal with at one point or another: not enough shelf space.