28 Oct 2014, 1:46pm
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Charity Begins at Home’s Upbringing

Ask for what you want. And other golden fleeces.

Reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book of Outliers he relates that pattern of class where kids who achieve get taught to stand up and receive, to act entitled to not expect to be reproached, to meet eyes, ask questions, question authority and for that be taken as appropriate rather than lip. (So much cowering is internalized still.)

How do people collect money? I was never good at it. Oh, that word “never” and its garbage can hat and matching scarf of “always”. Life is not pre-destined but so much runs unexamined.

In poverty class, no one would ask for something unless there’s no one who needs it more. If someone shames themselves enough to ask for something, they must need it really bad because you don’t ask for something lightly. It’s losing face to ask for help. You risk being dismissed or called on it and shut out and hammered for it for decades if you don’t really need it. You must be self-relient not community minded in dialogue and cooperation. The model is scarcity not prospering together.

Over in the story of George Whitman’s communist/community philosophy of “give what you can, take what you need” it opens the idea that the system is self-correcting. George remarked that people who are takers may not need what they take but that doesn’t means they don’t need. They are soothing a deeper need or trying to. We must be gentle with those people too because they have such a deep well and need for getting. There’s room for that. (Wish I could find the quote again. He said it much much succinctly.)

Where does this meet raising funds?

Kids are often put on the streets asking to develop a social conscience to raise money for the poor by selling cookies or pizza dough orders or by jumping rope. The lesson is: Work for free and give the money to someone far away because you’re told to. To learn the value of migrating other people’s money into your pocket to give it away and keep nothing for yourself. Funny lesson for kids, isn’t it?

They are asked to raise money for a class trip by getting some mostly symbolic job to learn the connection between work and reward, how work and reward aren’t proportional but one may lead to the other. It amounts to charity not training in something useful.

I vividly remember MS Read-a-Thons in primary school. Did your area do those? You’d get a pledge form and collect per how many books read and get prizes. Oh my, they’re still running. Since 1977.

Even with the overhanging idea that you were collecting money for charity, it was partly to promote reading. That was what the payoff for the school was to be. Better motivation for reading, thus better scores for kids, better proof of good teaching, by the kids doing things outside the classroom but still it should reflect on the funding model that the schools are doing their job because kids are doing better.

I was eager to read. I could read before I entered kindergarden. It took until grade 2 to convince teacher I could because I was so painfully shy that I didn’t make a sound or visibly move my lips when I was asked to read so I was put in the turtle group and stayed there until I got a teacher who didn’t seem to hate me. Then oddly enough I bloomed to most improved student.

By grade 3 I was reading on the senior end of the library school of all the non-fiction, working my way through the dewey decimal system. The librarian kept chastising me to stay in age-appropriate picture books. That cursed worm in the top hat and its nonsense when I could be reading books on minerals?

As the end of the readathon drew near I still feel a tickle of burn to see Pam’s list of read books and how she counted ones that were thin and below her reading level. Ones she read to her little brother.

I read more books than anyone, but got few pledges for small amounts. I read 128 books in 4 weeks one time. Some were easier, hardy boy quick reads but fairly-enough time consuming.

At the front of the cold gymnasium, the tall echoing ceiling, squeaky floor and strangers in suits, a dark room of full audience, a display table of prizes. I remember the line of my cousins and I feeling awkward and singled out. She read half the number I did but she with her hydro-worker-rich family won the top prize. And we with our thanks for coming consolation prizes, tiny cheap pins like you won when you failed at the carnival, the rip-off sort of keychain things.

Me, grouped with the ones who didn’t even try to read. The poor kids mostly. The 10th place ribbon crew who teachers never asked any questions of. The ones with messed up homes who teachers harassed and picked on while the rich kids got chatty about families they knew in common and called the teachers by first names after work even in grade 4 and 5.

128 books, for which I got a plastic lapel pin with a goofy-dog cartoon with a magnifying glass. I can’t even remember what Pam got but it was big and the handshake most praiseworthy. We shrugged and skulked back to our seats where parents glowed at us for being in the lineup.

I didn’t feel anything much at the time except fear of being under spotlight, fear and excitement that I might have to speak. A vague bump up in the always present shame and let down when it was over.

Finally I’m sharply jealous. Finally I can see the sloped playing field and cash, that great unacknowledged class evil. That which bonded the kids of each economic level into an unwilling alliance. Like the class trips for bonding where the poor kids would watch the rich kids board busses with their ski tags already bragging their count of ski hills. While the poor kids who couldn’t afford the “option” were herded into the auditorium to watch a movie, or taken on a later-running bus like a crew of inmates to go roller skating where you could buy lunch for fun. Or sit on the bench of shame because you couldn’t afford the hotdog and pop option and packed your usual sandwich while the others sat in the café. It widened the world a little. There were pinball machines in the lobby which I’d never seen and the poorest kids fed all their lunch money into.

Every person is said to move up and down a class a time or two over their lifetime which muddles the connection between attitudes and cash flow, between people you know and money made. Classes aren’t so rigid and there is no change of class bell to tell you when to move. But still, it’s there.

Economic reach is still palpable as an adult. Maybe in 20 years I will feel keenly the burn of now after a delay. Not that I am poor now. It takes years to find articulacy sometimes. Maybe I’m getting faster, more aware in real time. The lesson seems to be whatever happens, you feel something. It may not permitted to feel at the time, but the reaction still exists. When it’s safe, you can feel it. It may route thru other systems, be blunted or misdirected. You may not be able to speak but the body reacts as a dreamer at least. When you’re permitted to wake, you can process and shake clear of it. If you are kept sedate or sedated something is blocked that will block other things. What is reasonable to ask? To listen? To not torchlight every small microfacial expression into silence? To not belittle? The body if belittled of its natural dignity doesn’t crumple. It keeps insisting on its equal dignity as a root in the ground waits for growth and sun. It may twist but it doesn’t perish.

What is reasonable to ask anyone for? “The worst that could happen is that someone says no,” I’m told but I know that that isn’t always true. If someone asks, they are saying my need is so great, it trumps your need.

Each cash expenditure displaces some other purchase. That’s the problem with charities and their every 6 weeks a higher request strategy. Give $20 and they send a form, would you like to give $20, $40 or $60 or $10 a month. Give $40 and they send a form asking would you like to give $40, $60 or $100, or only $20 a month.

The constant up-selling makes them look like they are abusers of both the system and not thankful for what they were given. They always want more. That strategy among my aunts and uncles causes a bitterness of not being appreciated so they cut off charities that play those head games.

The charities think they are only looking out for those that are in their charge. “The worst that can happen is that someone will say no” but under pressure, a person doesn’t say no. They say “yes” and then hate the one who asks who doesn’t respect the same social contract.

It’s based on a model of economic upward spiral, that progress is based on making more money than before. To thrive is to improve your state and build bigger dreams and is perhaps necessitated on some losing.

Poverty is based on a model that is stable, perhaps without ursary. If you’re lucky, you don’t spend more than you take in. The rich out there will keep getting richer by benefitting from lending money to those who don’t plan for a rainy day and borrow instead, getting charged interest, or who run into a longer string of bad luck than usual. It all evens out if you survive.

22 Oct 2014, 2:18pm

Back when we were Jung

Page taken from a post at Matilda Magtree. Did the categories, being careful not to scroll to see the legend until I was done.


My Ideal Dwelling:
22-29 degrees. Dry air. Clear dark night skies. Mix of exposed rock, scrub grass, pockets of wetland and good open soil. Mixed forest. Some pine, large, cedar, ironwood, sumac, pin oak and various deciduous. Mushrooms and slime mould. Birdsong. Visiting reptiles and amphibians. A few rooms without windows as a little cave with walls for many bookshelves. An open area with big windows for sun. Iridescent green curtains that can pull. Thick walls. Exposed wood. Beams would be nice. Sauna. Shower and tub. Wifi. Near enough to friends. One room painted green, one blue, one yellow. Big kitchen with long counters.

A Walk:
From urban streets, gadding at window displays, picking up some apples to take with me, walking with company until we hit the river and walk along its spray-edge where we see birds and turtles.

A Bear:
Out along the edge of the long grass, there’s movement. It’s hard to tell scale. Did the grass move or the dark part inside it? Could be a Newfoundland dog. Or a boulder. A funny shadow. Sense of another presence, life energy. Standing motionless, almost breathless with the gift of being granted the gift of another life nearby. Feeling the sun and wind more keenly.

A River:
At the edge where the stone caught in the groove it makes a kettlestone deeper for itself, the flood not enough to lift it out of its years. The stone darker where my wet foot stepped. The kayak lifted to shore but I pause to relaunch and go back for more poking around the shoreline, seeing what more I can see.

A Cup:
The glass smooth to palm, jewel colours thrown across my hand faster than the heat. I can’t tell you with the words covered what they read but if I saw the same cup elsewhere, and I did, I’d know it was the twin. I won it by random spin of the wheel at a fair. When I went to pick it up, I perhaps had heat stroke. I fainted between one step and the next at the nurse’s desk as she went to pass me my prize. I came to even as I was crushing through the empty cardboard boxes in front of her desk, leapt back to my feet. It still somehow feels lucky, the blue glass, larger than any drink I need. Half full is enough.

A Key:
I used to collect keys, rings of them like other useless bits like cans of pencils too short to be of any use, or erasers too pretty to use. A skeleton key tarnished silver, black in its creases seemed cut out of the Hardy Boys. I never found a lock the universal key would fit. All the old holes have changed shape.

A Door:
Perennially open. Even it forgets it has hinges. It’s the symbolism of the thing. Like a no that is never exercised. I may as well hang the door beside its opening and paint it with acrylics and googly eyes.


Carin did hers “in Susan Musgrave’s workshop at the Kingston Lit Festival last month.” What?! We were at the same conference and saw the same person and didn’t know we passed the same harbour.

House = how we see ourselves

The Walk = direction in life

The Bear = how you react to trouble

The River = sex

The Cup = love

The Key = knowledge

The Door = death

Now that’s easily the most amusing thing today.

17 Oct 2014, 9:05pm


fall nasturtium
Go nasturtiums grow. Like the tomato plants, keep blossoming until the last possibility.

elderberry changing
Elderberry turning.

honey locust rain
Honey locust rain.

red puddles
Leaves in puddliciousness.

Sumac glory on earth.

your bed. don't know what you mean.
Rain is made for sleep. What do you mean “your bed”?

rainy transitway
The closed course of transitway.

having my doubts about fabric fusion
Digging into my to-repair pile, going to sew the edges since having my doubts about this “fabric fusion” adhesive. But 100% post-consumer recycled plastic made into embossed felt? Undoubtable cool.

16 Oct 2014, 12:10pm
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Kingston Writers’ Festival

Kim Thúy (with festival organizer Kate?)
Kim Thúy gave a few talks in Kingston. Some takeaway thoughts:

“In in order to cook, you have to know how to eat, know what you’re looking for.”
“There’s always a moment of beauty, even in the moment of worst atrocity.”

She lived thru war, refugee camp, going from a house/family compound of servants and a chef for each cuisine to living starting again from nothing as part of an immigrant family in Quebec.

Less verbatim she said, we can choose. There’s enough beauty in life to occupy us. An abyss can happen at any time. You can die looking down the abyss or die with the last image being the beauty of the sky. Why would you want to see the abyss all the way down?

7 Oct 2014, 4:16pm
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Pop, pop, pop

after the yard sale
An After-the-Yard-Sale sort of feeling.

Kind of elated, kind of tired. Kind of incomplete because there’s so much left.

Still, headway is headway.

Our renovation is coming. We have a floor most of the way across a room. Camping out in the downstairs is actually kind of fun. There’s a nice morning light there. There’s a heating vent shooting right at my elbow all night.

I have slept well for feel-like-unprecedented 4 days in a row. Good sleep = optimism.

I’m knee deep in 3 different manuscripts of mine and in the layout of 2 others for others. Knee deep isn’t nearly deep enough to swim but it’s a start.

I have sent out the second newsletter. (If you want to sign up, here.)

Return to the gardening’s slow lane. We’ve only have the slightest lightest touch of frost. Kale, cucumbers and tomatoes are still producing. The beans would have been too had we got to them first.

The slugs are having a party on the tomatoes that are so many and so ripe that they split open for the licking. Beautiful creatures of pure muscle and mucilage, like slow gracious blue-tick hounds.

Dangling like a strange cherry tomato, a striped snail.

Not your type of thing? This for type geeks may be fun to explore: Typewriter Database.

There’s also this rather delightful article on punctuation. Beth Hill writes, “the semicolon brings a rhythm to sentences that other punctuation can’t offer[...] sometimes you want the feel that only a semicolon produces.”

Yay Words has flash fiction hybridized with haibun. Interesting dense effect.

It’s hard to remember to not keep busy-busy momentum going until depletion. Full stops have their uses too.

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