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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.

    If you still can’t see the positives, then you’re not looking my way

    2011 - 12.30

    As 2011 wraps up, I see more and more YEAR IN REVIEW posts. People make lists of best albums, best movies, most annoying events… I am not current enough in movies to make a top 10, though I’m sure my inclusion of Sucker Punch would be prime comment fodder.
    (Yes, I enjoyed Sucker Punch a lot and I think most people are missing a key interpretation)

    I could make a list of my favourite albums of the year, but the top spots are going to go to Sloan, Brigitte Boisjoli and Timber Timbre and I will absolutely not try to justify them.

    I actually hate reading art reviews online – songs, albums, films, books, cafés. Either I want to see something/eat somewhere/go see a show or I don’t. So someone whose tastes are probably way different from mine writing as if they’re an expert is not going to sway me. I never understood the point at all, even when I wrote concert reviews semi-professionally! I always found it difficult to separate my experience from the sum of all concertgoers, so I’d have to write as if I’m a complete outsider. The only one I was ever particularly proud of can be found here.

    Concert reviews are especially bizarre to me – I just don’t see the point. As I see it, there are only 2.5 types of people who read them.
    1) The reader was there and has their own memories and opinions formed about the sound, the set and the audience. Why does she need someone else’s? To justify her own opinions? My favourite concerts of the year are not going to be everyone else’s, because I enjoyed them for my own reasons. How many other people would include Sloan’s June 22 show at the Mod Club as the best? It won’t be because Chris Murphy bought them nachos afterwards. That’s my experience and it powers my view of the gig. Someone who has a bad concert experience because of the audience is going to have a different opinion from someone who was in another section of the crowd.

    2) People who weren’t at the show. Sure, there’s some masochism in wanting to know what you’ve missed, but what good would it really do? Performances vary wildly night by night. It’s FOMO at its worst. It’s publicity, but after the fact. Do I want to read about how I missed every single night of Jason Collett’s Basement Revue? No, because it’s too late and it’s only going to make my weep that I missed Matt Murphy singing more Guy Terrifico.

    3) The artist himself. But really, what are the odds that someone like Jeff Tweedy is going to read 150 tumblr reviews of Wilco’s Massey Hall show?

    Document your experiences for yourself, but know that they are YOURS. “Best of” lists are misnomers and I would actually think less of someone who could make a difinitive BEST OF list as if they were the world’s expert. Recaps are another thing entirely – listing your favourite movies of the year is fine, but it is according to your taste only.

    That said, these are my favourite concert experiences of 2011:

    10) Steven Wilson @ Opera House
    9 ) Cheap Speakers @ Various venues everywhere.
    8 ) Sloan @ Mod Club (night #2)
    7 ) Ellie Goulding @ the Phoenix
    6 ) Joel Plaskett @ Luminato
    5 ) Matthew Barber @ Great Hall
    4 ) Sloan @ Great Hall
    3 ) Dwayne Gretzky’s Dakota residency
    2 ) Heart @ Massey Hall
    1 ) Elvis Costello in NYC

    Mostly what I’ll remember about 2011, though, is how many people came into (and came back into) my life: New friends with whom I’ve become really close; friends-of-friends whom I’ve stolen as my own; casual acquaintances who make me smile every time I see them; most importantly, though, are the people from my past with whom I’ve reconnected in such a meaningful way. 2011 was the year of forging lifelong bonds with some truly wonderful people and severing ties with a few who were making me miserable.

    2011 brought me to new parts of the world, including Scotland, where my family came from. I met my Scottish relatives and feel great knowing that I’m related to such smart, kind-hearted people who made the Canadian clan feel welcome in light of the occasion. This year also brought my immediate family closer than ever.

    I don’t know if 2012 can improve on 2011 as much as 2011 did on 2010, but I am all about facing it head on with more confidence, wisdom, and experience.

    Just for fun, here are some resolutions:

  • Blog more
  • Travel more (leave the province at least three times)
  • Read 100 graphic novels
  • Get my girl abs back to 2010 standard (*Sigh*)
  • Sing 100 karaoke songs in a row without a repeat
  • Listen to one 2012-released album per week; actually keep up with current music.
  • Institute a one-in-one-out rule for possessions and stick to it.
  • Earn at least one A in a class and be well on track to graduate in 2013.
  • Wear my friggin’ night guard. Ugh.
  • Find a creative way to organize my 4703623067387 pairs of earrings.
  • Cross an artist or song off of my musical bucketlist (preferably Marie-Mai, Springsteen, “Dreaming of You,” or “I Want You”)
  • Finish my awesome needlepoint fractal, which will look like this upon completion:

  • Be happy and healthy and stay positive. Life is much better that way.

    Here’s to a happy 2012! I know who my first, second and third kisses will be.

  • She’s aware it’s all been done before…

    2011 - 12.28

    The past week has been absolutely incredible. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say I’ve had the best week of my life – which is saying something, because my life is pretty okay.

    Tuesday was the first day of Hanukkah, which was very exciting. My half-Jewish boo had never celebrated before, so I decided to surprise him. Thanks to Aidan and Dan for helping a shiksa out. The variations on the classic dreidle games were particularly fun!

    We’d given each other a bunch of hints about each other’s presents, but he was still super pleased. Day one was cookies and a mixed CD (because no one had ever given him one before?!) He was pretty ecstatic…

    Wednesday was the second night, and my gift was a little self-serving – I took him to the Sloan charity show with Ohbijou and the RAA. I had to work until 8:00, so I missed Bonjay’s set and most of Ohbijou by the time I got down there, but it was really nice to have a reunion with all the ghosts of Sloanies Past. So many people from the message boards were there – Martina, Maddie, Cameron, Sideburns Dave, Adam, Nick, Alicia, Ruhee, Nat… plus people like Rochelle and Jess who were there purely for nostalgia. It was Harold’s first Sloan show and his first time meeting a lot of my Sloan people, and I was really anxious. Sharing a life-defining music experience with someone is a lot of pressure, and I was hoping so much that I hadn’t hyped them too much.

    As if seeing everyone who made high school bearable for me wasn’t enough, Sloan – my favourite band for most of my life – played their album One Chord To Another all the way through. I’ve seen Sloan 39 times now (you could say it’s borderline fanatic) and Wednesday was still my first time hearing some of my favourite tunes – G Turns To D and Take The Bench caused particular fangirling with Maddie. Much to my delight, they had a horn section (!!!) playing on Everything You’ve Done Wrong and Take The Bench. It was unreal. They also brought Leslie Feist up to play on She Says What She Means. I’m kinda glad they emphasized that it’s 1996 and not anytime after that, because Feist playing on any of the breakup songs Chris wrote about her might have been awkward.

    Harold had a good time – he said that the trumpet parts would actually be somewhat challenging to play, and that Sloan were an ideal mix of tight musicianship and relaxed attitudes. It’s his first real rock show in four years (jazz kids, amirite?) and I am pretty thrilled he enjoyed himself. Not understanding my Sloan love has been a dealbreaker in the past.

    Thursday was our weekly #loserkaraoke (Jess’s first! AWWW!) and it was Y week – the regulars do this thing called #ABCKaraoke, which means that each week means a new letter. I sang “Your Song,” (the Ellie Goulding version) and that actually seemed to go well – better, at least, than my attempt at “Guns and Horses” last year. Harold finally sang “Best I Ever Had” by Drake after his Y song. Pretty okay? Pretty okay! Gabriel was a complete sweetheart and gave me a vegan baking cookbook for Christmas, which means that he will get to sample everything. I want to learn to cook and bake more in the new year, so that’s perfect.

    Post-karaoke, we did our third night and proper gift exchange. We’d given little hints, and I guessed mine properly – he’s taking me to Halifax for reading week! I have waxed poetic on my Halilove before, and this will be my first time returning to the promised land since 2008. I’ve also never been during the winter – at least we miss hurricane season! I want to find a place to rent skates and visit Java Blend and spend a whole paycheque at Strange Adventures. We’re also fulfilling a longtime fantasy of mine: we’re taking VIA rail to get there. I’ve always had a not-so-secret fascination with eastbound trains (in part thanks to Suzanne Vega) and to finally take one is a dream. We’re flying back four days later via Porter. I am not a good flyer, so a friggin’ prop plane isn’t the ideal, but it’s hard to resist their boxing day sale!

    Oh, and we made it facebook official. Such a thing, you guise.

    Friday was Zaira’s birthday party in the deepest, darkest Etobicoke, wherein Paul (whose blog is one of my favourites and makes me green with envy at his workstation), Zaira, Harold, Sean Ward and I watched Home Alones 1 and 4. Sean went off on a rampage at YTV for cutting off the emotional climax of the first movie to play a Justin Bieber song in its entirety for no reason, and Zaira’s sister was kind enough to give us a lift back to the subway. Harold opened his fourth gift (underwear – heh heh heh) and we discussed our impending trip out east in more detail.

    Saturday was Christmas eve, and I got to spend it with my mother, brother, Harold, his mom and a puppy. Gift #5 was two ties, both skinny. As much as I love a good fondue, it’s obvious from my smile that the puppy was my favourite part.

    After dinner, my mother and I took part in my favourite holiday tradition: the Late Christmas Eve Shoppers Drug Mart Run. On Christmas Eve every year, we visit the 24-hour drug store and watch as all the drunk losers remember last minute to buy a gift for their ladytypes. There is nothing as SMH-worthy as seeing a thirty year old Jesse Pinkman type grabbing a bottle of Shania perfume and an extra-large box of condoms with the smuggest grin in the world. Ugh.

    This year, though, was disappointing – most of the customers were women who looked like they were there because they didn’t have anything better to do. That was a little sobering, because Mom and I definitely fell into that category… yet another tradition potentially ruined? C’mon!

    Christmas itself was better – we slept in, opened our stockings and gifts (we toned down the consumerism this year, which is great. I really don’t have room for actual stuff). Mom and Brian-Sean made breakfast (which included an Epic Meal Time-inspired dish called Jack Daniels candied Fake-on that all but glued my insides together).

    Brian-Sean’s girlfriend came over and we gave her the gifts we’d gotten for her, and she helped clear out my Goodwill/junk jewelry box. Yay! I really am trying to clear out everything I don’t need. I’ve got a move out deadline and ~2 years is going to come faster than I think. (Yay for being grownass?) Harold joined us for dinner at the Delta Chelsea, where the food was okay. Buffets in general aren’t inclined to deal with my fleshless diet. Still, it was nice being able to spend Christmas dinner with so many of my favourite people. I got back to Harold’s place, where we celebrated the sixth night. I gave him a frame for the fractal print I made him for his birthday, as well as the offer to put it up for him (so handy, you guys).

    On Monday, I went and saw The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo with my lady Samantha. I read the novel two years ago and only remembered the most basic of details, but I didn’t hate the adaptation. At this point, Fincher is the only one I’d trust to adapt any novel, especially if it’s dark and not particularly deep. Daniel Craig was yet again an intelligent, well-dressed man who fights evil while drinking expensive alcohol and seducing every woman on-screen. I guess there are worse reasons to be typecast. I do like Salander as a character and it did make me want to give the trilogy another go.

    And yesterday? Well, everything is back to normal. I have a few things coming up for which I’m pretty psyched, but the holidays are coming to an end. School resumes in less than a week and I’m only kind of looking forward to all my new classes. Still, with Halifax on the horizon and both jobs picking up? Everything is coming up Allegra.

    She Says What She Means

    2011 - 11.07

    Goodness, people on the internet sure are being nice to me today!

    When I woke up, I remembered that it’s the birthday of one of my favourite people of all time. Chris Murphy of Sloan (the bassist of my all-time favourite band, for those few who don’t know) turns [redacted] years old today, and historically November 7th is a day of small celebration for me. In the past few years I’ve gotten promotions, good grades and met some life-changing people. November 7th treats me well.

    In addition to hundreds (!!) of blog hits since the launch yesterday, a lot of people have been linking to me through twitter, facebook, and their own websites. I really do know the best people. If I don’t have you in my blogroll, leave a comment and I’ll fix that immediately.

    today has been so productive already. I earned another top mark in my favourite course (a practical, upper-level Institutional writing seminar), owned a quiz, and sorted out some academic and financial issues (Thanks, York Professional Writing Department!). Getting shit done (GSD for short) is one of the best feelings in the world.

    In other awesome famous-on-the-internet news, TheGridTO did a profile on my karaoke crew, and guess who was singled out as a highlight?

    I’m especially excited when a girl—who might as well have been Parker Posey in Spring Breakdown—turns the place into a gay nightclub as she jams out Ke$ha’s “We R Who We R” while the crowd throws their arms up and encloses her in looks like a throwback to MuchMusic’s Electric Circus.

    Dudes. DUDES. I WAS JUST COMPARED TO PARKER POSEY. Let’s ignore that her character in that movie was a thirtysomething uptight office manager who eventually lets loose. Well, I guess I WAS in business attire…

    There are 7.5 hours left in the day. Let’s see what else I can do. Maybe I get to see James this evening after a million months. Maybe I’ll go play with some puppies. Maybe I’ll just watch Sloan videos…

    You’ve unlocked the Restraining Order badge!

    2011 - 11.07

    FourSquare is a handy stalking tool. I can’t imagine it having any other purpose. Ostensibly, it’s a fun mobile app that a person can use to keep track of where they go and where their friends are going. I suppose it can also be used as an advertising for businesses. I, as a recovering High School Stalker as well as a collector of neckbeards, see it only as a way to know exactly where someone is at any given moment. That, frankly, is terrifying.

    I have an account. I held out for so long for exactly that reason, but gave in when I upgraded to iOS 5. I have 26 friends who more or less could follow me wherever I go, if they so chose. I could return the gesture. I know where my friends live (“Moxie Crimefighter just checked in to The Moxie Mansion! She’s the mayor!”), when they’re home, and when they’re not home.

    This is one freakin’ step away from a seriously messed up episode of Criminal Minds. A serial killer checks into his victim’s house and posts “A stupid dead girl lives here!” as a comment before bludgeoning the victim to death with her own Blackberry. For bonus points, he returns to the scene of the crime every day in order to steal the mayorship. At best, knowing when people are or aren’t home makes burglary easier.

    I know people with 2,500 “friends.” People I don’t know try to add me every day. Why would someone invite that kind of invasion? People you don’t want to see can show up anywhere you are, and it might not be coincidental.

    Obviously, my house isn’t a searchable location. My boo’s building, however, is. I spend a lot of time checked in there, and even then I’m uneasy. I could take issue with 26 people (whom he may not know) having access to information that he didn’t reveal. He says it’s no big deal, but I’m not so sure. I am also the mayor of my place of work. Anyone who wanted to follow me there, though, would be sold a pair of high-quality glasses.

    I had a friend of a friend send me a request a few weeks ago. I said yes, despite only having met him once. Within a day, he showed up to two different spots that I’d checked into. When he followed me to a third, I engaged him in conversation and he left, awkwardly. I deleted him as a contact and all is okay. It could have been much worse. That dude was probably just socially awkward. Not every person on the internet is.

    I’m just glad that 4sq wasn’t around when I was in high school. I’d be in big trouble. Natalia joked that my high school self would have had the worst intentions and very unsubtle check-ins.

    The Allegra who uses FourSquare is not someone who ought to have the privilege. Therefore, for the sake of my safety, sanity, and battery life, I’m deleting my account. Farewell, fountain of too much information. I knew ye well.