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    Tomorrow I will change, and today won’t mean a thing

    2012 - 03.14

    Yesterday on Twitter some friends and I were discussing reappropriation of offensive terms – you know, the idea that reclaiming a derogatory term will make it lose its power to offend.

    It started with a tweet from Jon Crowley:

    Jon may have been talking about the feminist attempts to reclaim “Slut.” (see: Slutwalk). He may have been referencing rap music’s casual dropping of N-bombs. That’s not really the point; he sparked an insightful discussion on the power of words.

    The only clear example I could find was “Queer,” which has been reclaimed to such an extent that it currently is the banner term for the entire LGBTQQetc. community. Actually, practically all of the words that have lost most of their negative connotations have to do with sexuality – “homo” and “dyke” have more or less become acceptable within the community.

    Now, this may not be the same everywhere. Different words carry different power depending where they’re used – a certain commonplace word used in Australia makes me flinch, and I’m sure that “queer” still has strong ties to discrimination and bigotry in many societies that haven’t yet embraced (or accepted, or legalized) non-hetero partnerships.

    There’s also the matter of intent. There are a lot of names I’ve been called in my life – some hurt, and some didn’t. A huge factor in that, personally, is whether the person intended to offend me – the difference between a woman proudly walking in the Dyke March during Pride week and a group of men shouting “Dyke!” at a lady for having a short haircut.

    It was Emma Woolley, whom I invariably can depend on to raise points I hadn’t considered, who hit the nail on its head:

    This is the crux, isn’t it? Words affect people differently based on past experiences and present state of mind. A whole culture can’t possibly reclaim a word, because its use is so innately personal. Emma even pointed out that attempts to reappropriate a word can cause damage by alienating individuals over whom the word still has power.

    The choice to take the power away from a word is intensely personal; we can’t take the harm out of a word on behalf of everyone, but if we do we must also acknowledge that it likely still affects people the way it used to affect us.

    I’ve taken the power away from a lot of words in my life. Slut, bitch, and other gendered insults don’t really hit me the way they once did. Bitches get shit done (thanks for that adage, Tina). Sluts are in control of their own sexuality – see my friend CK’s blog, To Be A Slut, for an elaboration.

    Even my online moniker, Cap’n Allegra, was an appropriation of an insult hurled at me constantly in high school. Let me take you back in time…

    I was not always the World’s Spokeswoman for Awesome Glasses that I am today.

    Shocking, I know.
    Picture thirteen year old Allegra: bad posture, dirty hair, huge teeth, a fair few pounds heavier than now, in the most awkward throes of puberty. My wonderful mother had instilled in me some (undeserved) SERIOUS self-importance and overconfidence, which meant that I had no real friends because no one wanted to hear me talk about how great I was at everything. I’d come home and hear how wonderful I am, and go to school and hear exactly the opposite.
    That’s really no one’s fault – I love my mother for believing in me, and I can’t blame my classmates for calling me on my shit, but the dichotomy screwed me up for a while.

    Anyway, after a few years of wearing (in retrospect) the worst glasses of all time, I decided that high school would be different – I was going to get contact lenses! Contact lenses would solve all my problems.*

    *Spoiler alert: they did not.

    Halfway through grade nine, this one girl decided that her mission was to make me feel worthless. She would spread rumours about me (they were pretty much entirely sexual – I think her bullying was based on a boy liking me more), fling paper wasps at me from the other side of the room (my back and shoulders were covered with fresh welts every day) and make mutual friends choose between us. She would tell the cool boys (who also had no time for her – socially we were on the same low rung) that I wouldn’t fight her because I knew I’d lose.

    I handled this well, in retrospect. I never asked our mutual friends to take my side; I never revealed secrets I’d learned during the two (?) months we were friendly; I didn’t take cheap shots at her weight, teeth, mental illness or hereditary alcoholism, even though she had no hesitations exploiting my weaknesses. I didn’t fight her, or retaliate. I asked her what I’d done to deserve such ire, once, and she spat in my face.

    In grade 10, one of contacts rolled to the back of my eye. In trying to extract it myself, I scratched my cornea. When I went to the hospital, I found that the contacts had been slowly burning my retina as well. I was ordered to wear an eyepatch for a while. Life was pretty much the worst.

    Walking down the hallways in an eyepatch did not, as you can imagine, endear me to my peers. The girl who bullied me took advantage of my lack of depth perception to knock me over as often as she could, and invented a new nickname that spread like wildfire – “Captain Assbeard,” for my “butt-shaped” chin. I don’t think a nickname ever hurt more than that one did. People I’d never spoken to would refer to me as such when I’d play a solo in band class, or write it on my locker with a grotesquely exaggerated caricature of my face. “Walking the plank” jokes were commonplace, especially in conjunction with the hypersexual image she’d created through rumours. Even after my eye had healed and I started wearing glasses again, I still heard them.

    I don’t know where I learned the idea of reclaiming words, but I decided I’d give it a try. It was 2003, so everyone had a LiveJournal. When I joined, I signed up for the username “CapnAllegra,” and it has been my online moniker ever since.

    I don’t know when this girl found out about it, but she came up to me and said, “You can’t call yourself Cap’n Allegra, you dumb bitch. Don’t you know it’s an insult?”

    I shrugged, and said “Obviously it doesn’t bug me that much.”

    The jokes petered out pretty quickly after that. The girl still made every effort to make me miserable, but she was really never able to get her power back after that. Whenever I get pirate or nautical jokes made these days, they are good-natured. I embrace them. I’m proud of my fifteen-year-old self for re-appropriating a term that once hurt me so much.

    I am a strong believer in personally reclaiming words as your own. My name IS my power, and no insult or word has really been able to touch me since then. I also know that not everyone has quite reached that stage where they are ready to hear a hurtful word tossed around casually.

    We move like caged tigers – we couldn’t get closer than this

    2011 - 11.14

    Saturday was Worn Fashion Journal‘s Black Cat Ball. I was particularly excited for about a hundred reasons. I got to dress up, see friends I hadn’t seen in FOREVER, dance with a well-dressed man… admittedly, though, I was more excited than I should have been to cover my first cool party since the blog launched.

    The party didn’t disappoint at all! The Wornettes threw a classy, unpretentious and genuinely fun ball. Everyone was pretty and dressed in theme, booze was plentiful and inexpensive (not for me, though – No Drink-November), and the music flowed really nicely. I don’t think any of the smiles I saw all night were faked.

    I talked to a few people about their fabulous glasses (just confirming that I NEED to visit Rapp Optical ASAP) but mostly Harold and I danced ourselves into a frenzy, enjoyed the people-watching and saved a few pretty blondes from one creepy old man who clearly didn’t belong.

    I got to catch up with a few friends from high school, too. I hadn’t seen Cayley or Vix in forever, and they both look like they’re happy and doing what they love. Cayley is working at Worn now, which is really appropriate. I remember wanting to do clothing swaps with her in grade 10 – if you’d seen how High School Allegra dressed, you’d understand why Cayley always found nice ways to say no.

    There was a wall of shame – we could write our fashion faux-pas on a post-it and confess our sins. Mine involved socks. Harold’s had everything to do with his unironic appreciation of dark brown corduroy. Doesn’t he know that cords are back in a big way? There was also a raffle, from which I won a prize pack courtesy of Nathalie-Roze:

    (Arm warmers, winky kitty hair pins, fishnet tights)

    I was going to wait until the official pictures were posted before writing the post (Dan Levy told me at a party once that waiting for pictures is one of the worst things about blogging), but She Does The City has some really nice ones up on Facebook already – though none of us.

    I wore my Vaudeville & Burlesque dress I bought in Scotland in September (I remember being hesitant to spend £40 on it, and I am SO GLAD that I did) and my favourite black bell hat (which was a gift from my mother).

    I really wish we’d taken more photos. This is the only one I have of the two of us from that night. It just means I’m that much more excited to see the official pictures.

    I loved the party. I would go to anything hosted by the Wornettes at this point. (Aside: PUG THEME?). The best part of any party, though, is the company. It’s so refreshing to be with someone who is up for any event, is willing to dress the part (see: Fake Prom) and will dance with me. My dudes are always down to shake a tail, but I’ve never dated anyone (guys or ladies) who was willing to hold me close and sway to the music. I always said, “SOMEDAY I’LL FIND SOMEONE WHO’LL DANCE!” to myself after each breakup, and it really is as good as I thought it would be. When Harold agreed to fill in as a last-minute Fake Prom date in August (my then-girlfriend was sick), I knew. I’m pretty happy, you guys.

    In other news:

  • Today I go to pick up a DVD copy of an infomercial I filmed when I was sixteen. I reserve the right to watch it and then burn it forever.
  • Also today I get to have dinner with my favourite Natalia.
  • Ke$ha, whom I love unironically, announced her next single. I am VERY pleased. Then again, I may be biased.
  • Also, hey, Christmas is coming soon (if you don’t know what to get the Allegra in your life)
  • All that I want is always to push forward

    2011 - 11.12

    A mixed CD is my favourite gift to give or receive for any occasion. My friends are mostly students, and therefore mostly poor, and a mix is one way of guaranteeing that they’ll expend at least half an hour’s worth of energy on my gift. Being a broke student myself, I return the favour. Any birthday to which I’m invited requires hours of playlisting, designing album art, shuffling and organizing. After all, I can’t give the wrong impression. No breakup songs to the person I’m dating, no sexy songs to the dudes in the friend zone, no cliches and no repeats.

    As I’ve been a little short on time these past few months, I’ve just been too busy to make birthday mixes. Unless you’ve saved my life more than once, I probably didn’t make you a mix this year. It takes about six hours to do everything, and the results are usually awesome (if I do say so myself). Particularly time-consuming (and rewarding) is the album art. I am really inspired by Mandelbrot sets and other rainbow fractals, and I love spending hours drawing similar designs with Sharpies onto coloured card stock.

    The evolution was quick. The earliest example I can find is this one, made for a then-boyfriend’s sister:

    My next few attempts at album art were full-out embarrassing. I wanted something colourful and abstract, but just wasn’t quite there.

    An engineer friend of mine showed me pictures of Mandelbrot’s fractals, so I decided to make one for my favourite engineer, just to try it out. The results were overwhelming.

    What followed was a whole series, culminating in a record-sized art piece for #HaroldTheHerald.

    And some non-Mandelbrot stuff that I still thought was cool:

    (Ruhee’s was probably the most complicated one so far. I don’t even know how it turned out that way)

    A few days ago, Maddie had her 22nd birthday. Known for her awesome birthday gestures, Maddie and I have been really close since we met on the coolest night of my life in 2005.

    Yesterday I mailed this to her. It’s a little different still – plainer, more emphasis on colour rather than shape. I wanted a 1970s feel… I think it will be the last Mandelbrot-inspired album art I’m going to make. It feels like the end of an era, but I can’t think of anyone more deserving of the 10th and final Mandelbrot Mix. Hope she gets it soon!
    Here’s the title track, for those of you who aren’t Maddie:

    Here are some other highlights since my last post:

  • Harold and I are going to be attending this tonight. I will be wearing a Vaudeville & Burlesque dress I bought in Scotland in September. He will be wearing his tightest black skinny jeans.
  • I busted out my winter coat for the next six months or so. (Thanks, Canadian winter!)
  • There were free cupcakes at work thanks to The Cupcake Shoppe. This is very significant. OM NOM NOM. They were very much enjoyed.
  • I finally chose which glasses I’m going to get in January when I have some money.

    They’re grey handmade plastic frames by OGI and I’ve coveted them since I started working at my store. They WILL be mine.

    Now, to get ready for the party…

  • I met my love at Pizza Corner

    2011 - 11.10

    I’ve never been much of a traveller. I took my first trip when I was 18 and had an unfortunate time. Somehow the beauty of Spain, Gibraltar and Morocco were all shadowed by family drama, poor planning and being surrounded by people who obviously didn’t like each other very much. The flights (six in all) were so rough that I vowed never to fly again. Saying that seemed a lot more doable than vowing never to talk to half of my family again…

    As soon as I got back, I met a dude and fell in love (he won’t be named, but he’s in my blogroll). Though he was living in Toronto for school, he was a born and raised Nova Scotian. He knew I always wanted to visit Halifax, so he whisked me away to meet his family for our six-month. Halifax was everything I’d ever imagined it to be. For a nineteen year old girl, in love for the first time, nothing was more magical than the salty atlantic air. I felt like I was in a Joel Plaskett song as I found all the landmarks made famous by Murderecords artists. To his credit, the boy put up with my fangirling and was an adequate tour guide. Sure, I couldn’t eat anything at the Chickenburger and the weather alternated hourly between -5 and 40 degrees, but I WAS IN HALIFAX. TRUE LOVE IN CITY FORM. THE PROMISED LAND. THE MOTHERLAND OF EVERYTHING I LOVE AND HOLD DEAR. HOME OF DOUBLE BRIDGES, FERRIES AND THE HIGHEST-GRADE TAPWATER EVAR.

    I was only there for a long weekend, but in those three days I felt like my life had been leading up to my arrival at Stanfield airport. I didn’t get to go exploring for myself, but I wanted to come back as often as I possibly could. I got to see Sloan play for free; we walked hand-in-hand through the Public Gardens; we climbed cliffs overlooking the bluest water I’d ever seen. I saw the city responsible for producing Chris Murphy and Joel Plaskett and Rob Benvie and Matt Murphy. Everything about it lived up to the hype, which was such a feat considering it was the only city I’d ever wanted to see apart from my hometown. I regret that I didn’t take ANY pictures, but I remember everything so vividly.

    Okay, that was a lie. There’s one photo worth sharing…

    It’s not easy being this cool, even while riding an orange electric bike.

    It was even better the second time I got to visit – the same boy’s family brought the two of us back for an entire week the following August. Armed with my camera this time, I documented everything. We explored more of the nightlife, we tried more food and saw more sights and were just MORE. We weren’t really on a time crunch, so we relaxed and went EVERYWHERE.

    That guy and I broke up over a year and a half after that second trip, and I still haven’t been back. At least once a month I will look at Porter flight prices and sigh wistfully. It wasn’t about him, and it had run deeper than the connection to my favourite musicians. Halifax and I have a connection, and I feel a wanderlust so powerful that it takes all the self-doubt I can find to convince myself I shouldn’t.

    A good friend of mine, Bevka, just moved to the 902 a few months ago for grad school. I’ve been dying to visit her. I just spent a week in Scotland this summer, though, so I can’t justify it to myself yet.

    Sean Ward is not helping the situation at all – he’s in NS covering HalCon and posted this on my facebook wall:

    My wanderlust has officially been reignited. I have to get back to the sea…

    Welcome, dudes and mitches.

    2011 - 11.06

    The original title of this post was “Something clever to come. Or maybe I won’t.”

    So this here is my fancy new website. It’s got a real URL and a mostly-customized theme thanks to Gabriel, who saved me countless hours of pulling out my hair and tapping keys at random hoping to find the secret “MAKE A BLOG” button. He’s a pretty okay dude, you know?

    I’ve had about a hundred blogs in my life. Music blogs, rant blogs, quotation blogs… but dammit, nothing worth maintaining. Blogs are what make people cool, right?* The only really consistent thing about my web presence is my username, Capnallegra. The origin of that (which involves Unfortunate High School Allegra getting the better of some bullies AND pre-dating the pirate trend by at least a few months) is sure to come. If I’m good for anything at all, it’s a story. These opinions are mine, and most of the vernacular is mine too.

    Sit back, relax, and enjoy.

    The macular degenerate

    *Blogs may not make you cool, but they get you into parties.**
    ** Which may or may not be the goal all along.