At the Tai Chi studio, bathrooms are shared with an accounting office in the same building.
Yesterday I found out that the keys aren’t labeled “Men” and “Women”, they say Yin and Yang.
At the Tai Chi studio, bathrooms are shared with an accounting office in the same building.
Yesterday I found out that the keys aren’t labeled “Men” and “Women”, they say Yin and Yang.
So I got a fish.
A Siamese fighting fish, or Betta, named Connor to be exact. I wanted something lively in my room, since I spend so much time in it. When I went to the store with Pat and Jen, they noticed that one fish was constantly flaring and swimming in circles, almost like he was pacing. The fish in the cup next to him (to keep them separate or they fight to the death) kept setting him off, so naturally, he was the one. As a clowntail variant, his fins are extended long like a comb.
I also got some live plants with which came a tiny snail, so small that he was transparent at first. After a few weeks, he grew considerably bigger, and survived a couple hours out of water while I was cleaning out the tank. Bronwen named him Humphrey, but he has since died, found dried up at the top of the tank one morning.
Bettas are funny creatures. Supposedly, they have personalities (for fish), but I can never tell with pets I can’t touch. Sure, he swims towards me every time I turns on the lights or enter the room, but for all I know he could think of me as food. I can only tell that he’s very aggressive, flaring out his body and swimming back and forth whenever something gets near enough. It’s like he’s a caged gladiator, restless about his next battle. Dolly likes to sit in my chair and watch him go.
I named him Connor, after the immortal Connor MacLeod from Highlander, because THERE CAN ONLY BE ONE (Betta in a bowl at a time).
Note: I asked John, as a guest writer, to give his opinion. It’s funny to read his writing; the style is completely different. It’s obvious that years of law school have changed him.
When Jeff asked me to write about the “Old Boy system” at UCC, the first thing I asked was, “what system”? To me, “system” implies some order or plan or organization, and the alumni of UCC have no special kinship or bond. An “Old Boy system” connotes one that is different from the ones that exist in every graduating class from every school I know of.
I had mentioned to him that one of our classmates is in my year at law school and Jeff wondered aloud whether I would have mentioned it, or noticed it perhaps, if that classmate and I had not gone to UCC. I replied that I would have noticed him notwithstanding our attendance at UCC, as long as we’d been a part of the same high school class as I’m sure most people would.
My perspective on the “system” is that there isn’t one.
I find it interesting that many people seem to think that one exists, and note that the main evidence used to prove their case is the seeming prevalence of UCC alumni in the halls of power in this country. In response, I would point out that the two things, attendance at UCC and later professional success, more likely have the same root cause — money, family connections, or dare I say it, intelligence.
The likelihood of those things being the cause of one’s professional advancement is greater than or equal to the likelihood that some system of quid pro quos or school ties. Ockham’s Razor is a principle that I would bring up in this context to dissuade those who would claim that any system is behind the rise of Old Boys in their occupations, the tenet of that principle being that the simplest explanation is more often than not the accurate one, and in this case which explanation is the simplest and most elegant.
Or is it simpler to say that chaos reigns supreme and individual old boys make their own way in the world, without the kind of help that the phrase “Old Boy system” connotes?
The people singled out in Fitzgerald’s book are just that — singled out. There are, if I’m not mistaken, 71 old boys profiled in the book who graduated from the 1920’s to the 1990’s. In that time more than 5000 boys have graduated. The idea that 1.4% of those graduates are somehow a reliable and representative sample is ludicrous. Such a sample should not be used to draw any conclusions or to make any generalizations.
“You’re the perfect woman.”
She realizes this as she writes down my chest, waist, and hip size, then asks rhetorically, “What are the typically ideal measurements?”.
Aaron and I could only look at each other, as we had no idea.
“Wow, so you’re a really hot chick!”, says Aaron.
Hi-LAR-ious. Years of confidence I’ve gained, girlfriends convincing me that I’m not too skinny, gone.
“And how much do you weigh?”
“After he’s had a buffet”, Aaron adds. My friend the comedian. To console me, he says, “It’s okay. Remember, you’ll be paired up with Jenn in the party”.
My counterpart. The tiniest girl I know.
In the last few years I’ve been to weddings for other friends, but Aaron’s the first out of my core group to get married (although Pat got engaged before him). To pay tribute to his culture, he wants the wedding to be a bit Scottish — something his Popa is especially pleased about.
As a groomsman, I’ll be wearing a kilt. As a Chinese guy, I’ll be feeling a little out-of-place.
He asked me to give him a hand in shopping for the regalia. What a culture shock. Looking through catalogues of claidheamh, sporrans, Sgian Dubhs, Ghillies Brogues. I can’t even pronounce the names. My tongue wasn’t made for these kinds of inflections.
“It’ll take you guys longer to get dressed than the bride”.
Before we leave I remember to ask, “Can we go traditional?”, with Aaron adding, “My Popa would be pretty upset if we didn’t”.
Traditional. The euphemism for commando. The euphemism for bear-ass naked.
“Don’t worry, everything is dry-cleaned”, say the woman reassuringly.
It’s only after we leave that I realize everything but the shirt is made of wool.
I’ll be scratching my balls through the whole service.
An old boy network or society can refer to social and business associations among former pupils of top male-only public schools (independent secondary schools)…and indirectly to preservation of social elites over time without regard to merit.
My high-school, Upper Canada College, is often touted as one of the best schools to attend in Canada. Someone once said that it provides Canada with a disproportionate number of leaders, of whom include a Governor General, five Lieutenant-Governors, 24 Rhodes Scholars, and nine Olympic medallists.
The faculty was exceptional. A passionate, charismatic group, some of them former professors, notable businessmen, intellectuals. The facilities were top notch; football fields, baseball diamonds, tennis courts, indoor/outdoor pools, squash courts. Even the bands and theatre groups had access to exotic instruments and props. I remember for a production of Hamlet they hired a fight choreographer to lend his expertise in orchestrating the final fight scene.
School isn’t just about the education though. It’s as much about the experience. The classmates. The connections. The Old Boy network.
When I first started at the prep at age seven, I was cycling along a bridge with another little seven year old UCC chap. He said to me, ‘My mother is so happy that we are friends because you are going to be able to do so much for me in later life.’ I remember thinking, ‘I wonder what it is that I am going to be able to do for this chap?’ Then I grew up and realized, ‘So that’s the way it is. That is what people expect.’
—Lord David Thomson (1964–1967, 1970–1975), Chairman of Thomson corporation, Canada’s wealthiest man, sixth wealthiest in the world
The influence of the elite legacy of the Old Boys is far-reaching. Compounding this is the age of the school, and perhaps a degree of nepotism. A related male at the school significantly increased the chances of getting in.
Like his grandfather, John was in McHugh’s house. If had a brother or a son, they would belong to Jackson’s.
Years later, I insisted that my sons, Hugh and Stafford, go to UCC simply because I knew from my own experience that once a boy had gone to Upper Canada, he would never again be in awe of great family names, money, power or social standing. He would know that although a good private school like UCC can produce the best, it can also produce the worst.
—Conn Smythe (1908–1910), founder, Maple Leaf Gardens
It was only when James Fitzgerald, an Old Boy himself, published his best-selling book Old Boys: The Powerful Legacy of Upper Canada College in 1994 (from where these quotes are taken) that the blemishes of UCC came to light.
Beneath the veneer of of navy blue blazers and polished shoes were issues like any other school. There were drugs (though much higher-classed because of better funding). There were sadistic headmasters who looked for an excuse to cane their pupils. There were teachers who molested — or seduced — their students.
I learned to be a sexual masochist at Upper Canada. I’m not kidding. Whenever the housemaster caught me masturbating, his way of dealing with it was to cane me. Caning is a rotten method of teaching anything. What it taught me, of course, was the erotic connections of caning. They are still with me to this day.
—John Gartshore (1935–1943), musician
A couple months ago, I received a copy of Old Times, the semi-annual publication for alumni. In a section called “Class Notes”, they bring others up to speed on their classmates. In the last issue, for example, they mention that Michael Ignatieff, class of ’65, had just joined the race for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada.
There are updates starting from the graduates of 1941, including my graduating class, the class of ’99. Out of curiosity, I looked back on my yearbook, The College Times, Canada’s oldest student publication. I had to wonder just how much the prestige of the school had helped them. To compare my idea of where I believed my fellow classmates would be, with what they’re doing now.
The memories I had didn’t always match up with their current achievements.
Much like my end-of-year photos, I had a few miscellaneous video clips that didn’t seem to fit in anywhere.
This is the typical thing that happens when I first see John in person. Since it’s usually only once a year I get to do this, we do all major updating. The minor issues are taken care of on a weekly basis over the phone.
I didn’t realize what sit rep meant until I heard it again while going through my footage.
And, of course, John gets his turn at catching me up with all his drama. The way John expresses himself often ends up making me laugh at inopportune moments, such as when I’m trying to swallow solid foods, which then tries to make its way through my nasal cavity.
PDA = public display of affection.
Trolley makes a good attempt at juggling two vials of bubble mix, then gets served by a passer-by.
OPEN BAR, DUDE.
I had John in a tender state, telling me about his mothers last moments. Even though I found out on the first day of school in grade 10 that she died, he never told me the details until that rainy summer day.
I generally don’t like blog networks. Too often they’re superficial, cheaply constructed communities used by the creators to give themselves a sense of belonging and purpose in the blogosphere. Some of the most prominent examples of this are on Livejournal, where anyone will create a clique if they’re an emo kid, a self-proclaimed “hot mom”, or even happen to hate Rachael Ray.
There was only one community that caught my eye in the four years I’ve been blogging. Several prolific sites I frequent, such as graphicPush, Snook, 456 Berea Street, and even Lorelle feature a small leaf on their site. I had to learn more about this little universal logo that was on many of the sites that inspired me, and the network called 9rules.
I discovered that they’re the only community with a philosophy and quality with which I agreed. As on their website, “9rules is a community of the best weblogs in the world on a variety of topics. We started 9rules to give passionate writers more exposure and to help readers find great blogs on their favorite subjects. It’s difficult to find sites worth returning to, so 9rules brings together the very best of the independent web all under one roof.”
Their philosophy is based on a set of nine rules to live by:
Although I can say that I agree and follow every single one of them, number eight particularly resonated with me. It’s one of my reasons for living, and partially why I started blogging in the first place.
Becoming a member, however, isn’t a simple task. Every few months, they open a 24 hour window for people to submit their blogs. 9rules doesn’t have a specific criteria for what to accept. Sites are judged on consistency and quality of material, as well the passion for the subjects being blogged.
The community leaders go through every site together, often several times, before deciding whether to let someone join. They also maintain an exclusivity clause; members aren’t allowed to be part of any other community. There was even a purge once, to clean the network of any sites whose quality had dropped.
In the past, the acceptance rates have been between 8–16%. The most recent round (the fifth) was last October, with 1190 blogs being submitted. At the end of this round, the number of accepted members stands at a tentative 134.
Two weeks ago, I found out that I’m one of them.
Christmas is for families, but New Year’s is for friends. I couldn’t decide between Pat and Jen’s or Aaron and Karen’s this year, so I went to both.
Pat and Jen had me over for dinner first. I met Sophia for the first time, which was a good way to put a face to the person who Jen talks about all the time. It was a great change to be hanging out with people who didn’t mind playing console and hand-held games at a New Year’s party. Usually I’m the geek who wants to play games, and most people are uninterested.
I headed to Aaron and Karen’s after a couple hours. They’re only a block away from each other, so it was an easy walk. It was the usual Trivial Pursuit (guys won), poker, and general rowdiness. A few people crashed so they could drink, and the party went into the next day with some early morning Wii.
Mel gave me an invitation card to their wedding in March, and Rob extended the annual Super Bowl party invitation. It was a nice gesture, because I don’t know Rob and Mel as much as I’d like. I think I’m given that respect by association with Aaron. I hope Rob knows that it goes both ways; a brother of Aaron’s is a brother of mine.
When I’m hosting a party, I can see Pat studying the other guests. It’s in his nature to be aware of his surroundings, and he always tells me that there are interesting characters. This time it was my turn to observe, and there were plenty of characters at both places.
I suggested that both couples combine parties for next year, but I’m not sure if the people would mix.
I also had a chance to try the Wii. Admittedly, the innovation impressed me. Gameplay can be fun for casual and seasoned gamers alike.
And people have the funniest faces when they’re swinging that controller around.
On Christmas day, I felt like doing something low-key, without the large gatherings usually associated with this time of year, so I decided to spend it with Joel’s family. Hanukkah had already passed for them; it was just another day. Charlotte, who learns from Nigella Lawson, cooked a tremendous meal of roast beef, beans, and secret potatoes. Even the dessert was a fancy form of chocolate pot mousse, made from 70% cocoa Lindt and allspice.
We settled down with a little Gamecube, and I taught them Dutch Blitz, which we played well into the night. By the time I left, my spirits were up again.
It was a nice mixture of young and mature. A place where I could shut off my brain and be a kid, but have a thoughtful conversation too. They really made me feel like I was one of the family.
I arrived with handshakes and hellos, but left with hugs and kisses.
This used to be my favourite season.
I don’t even know why. Christmas was always about tedious gatherings. Each parental group of friends and family — consisting only of Chinese people — would take turns hosting parties. As one of the “kids”, I was thrust in a room with the other sons and daughters. People I only saw once a year, with whom I had nothing in common. Some years, I’d go to six different houses in two weeks.
My parents would always host New Year’s. Some time ago, with the money I earned from my first job, I bought them a classy fondue set and fondue book for them to use as hosts. They never opened the box, or even cracked the spine of the book. It broke my heart.
Monetary certificates. Sweaters. Cheap stationary. Nothing personalized. Nothing from the heart. Nothing I ever needed or wanted. It was merely a display of how little people knew or cared about me. It would have meant more if they gave the money to charity.
The one reprieve during the holidays was being able to see Darren, sneaking out in the middle of a party to get stoned with him, or hanging out with John.
Then why did the holidays mean so much to me?
Maybe it was the atmosphere. The snow. The memories of Christmas in Hong Kong. The fact that people who had nothing in common would put up Christmas lights. Something that everyone believed in.
Even though I’ve received some beautiful, thoughtful gifts for once, even though I don’t really celebrate Christmas, I’m down. It’s too warm for the snow to stay. I didn’t buy presents for anyone. I’m working the short week between Christmas weekend and New Year’s weekend because I can’t afford any time off.
I suppose the holidays are what you make of them.
There have been many generous people — Louise, John, Aaron, Joel, Bronwen, Pat — who opened their houses to me today, but it’s not the same.
To feel like I was part of something, part of a family, as dysfunctional as it was. Because of the divorce, there’s no home to go to for the first time in my life.
Christmas is dead this year, but it’s only a reflection of how dead I feel inside.
I was going through my pictures and realized that there were quite a few I haven’t posted, so I decided to do an end-of-year wrap-up. Most of these are photos I like but they didn’t fit anywhere, or were made redundant by other pictures telling a story.
Since we got bought out by a public company, the purchasing procedure has changed quite a bit. Some of the top brass from the head office in Boston flew in this week, and I made it a point to thank the CFO for personally approving the purchase of a new Canon Rebel XTi, 100mm f/2.8 macro lens, and 50mm f/1.8 lens. After the president introduced me, he told me I did a fantastic job with the pictures in the company catalogue, and it really made my day.
I think I’ve really developed as a photographer in the little time I’ve owned my first SLR camera. Looking back on a year of photos has made me realize that I’ve learned a lot, not only simple photographic theory, but familiarity with my camera and post-processing as well. I still have a lot more to learn though, especially with exposure and metering, as digital cameras make it easy to get good shots without really needing to have an in-depth understanding.
The thrill is gone
The thrill is gone away
The thrill is gone baby
The thrill is gone away
You know you done me wrong baby
And you’ll be sorry someday
—BB King, The Thrill Is Gone
Our relationship was a nightmare of ups and downs.
You had the amazing ability to make me feel good about myself, by saying the right thing with intelligence and eloquence.
Yet every time I felt like I was making progress, progress that took tremendous effort and energy, progress for you, you would put me down. Every time I took a leap of faith and put myself out there, you would hurt me. It wasn’t even a case of brutal, tactless honesty; you would insult my pride for no reason.
I think it betrayed a subconscious insecurity. Something you would do to make yourself feel better. Like your constant need to prove that you’re busy and moving on. It’s as if your life is empty, void, and you’re desperate to fill it with something.
I had to end things when you went too far.
There were no regrets, because I did my absolute best to make things work. Even though I suffered, I ignored the pain, and tried working through it. I only gave up when you proved too stubborn to change or understand.
The relationship wasn’t a total loss. It was an interesting introduction to the subculture. It was passionately sexual. It also made me more confident, although I realize now that it wasn’t because of you. You barely gave me any trust, and every step forward I made, you pulled me back two. It was me who fought through all the insecurities and rose to the occasion.
When you came back in January, without a word of apology or mention of the wrong you did, I had no interest in continuing the relationship. After that, I thought of you whenever I heard the song Buried Myself Alive by The Used.
Unfortunately, it was at an unstable time in my life, so I asked you to back off and wait. Your idea of backing off and waiting is leaving me creepy comments and dating to fill the time. I just can’t understand how you keep making these mistakes. It’s almost like you purposely sabotage yourself.
I don’t want to be involved in the drama anymore. Nothing is ever simple with you. Even though you say you’ve changed, it’s not worth the risk to me. You had your chance, and it was a damn good one.
You’ve wronged me too many times. The last time you left my house, not knowing when or if you’d come back, I felt nothing.
I knew then that the thrill was gone.
A few other things:
This comes as a strange phenomenon. While my dad could never really develop a full beard, he could quickly grow an all-over scruff. Scruff like it was made of steel wool. Sometimes he’d have to shave twice a day, and he kept an extra electric shaver in the glove compartment just for this purpose.
Apparently, I didn’t inherit this gene.
I did, however, inherit some sort of mutation that turns certain hairs brown. I always thought it was Scottish heritage on Aaron’s part that gave him the orange highlights in his beard. Now I don’t know what it’s due to.
Unfortunately, I can’t show off this mutation, since I have to shave frequently.
When I don’t shave, my sparse facial hair makes me look like I’m still going through puberty and my balls have yet to drop.
Am I not your favourite gadget, no more?
How come my little baby?
Am I not your favourite gadget, no more now?
How come not anymore?
Since you bought me, I feel lonely
Since that day things are wrong
Could you not repair me, honey
Is my warranty guaranteed gone
—Ellen ten Damme, Gadget
There was always something about you.
Your voice. Your Joisey accent. Your hair style. Your always-on choker. Your piercings (I was always a sucker for brow rings and tongue studs). Your taste in music. Your off-the-wall personality.
It was all so exciting. Something I’d never experienced before.
But you were a total drama queen too. You would get upset over the most random, innocuous things. I could never tell if you truly believed the ridiculous things you said, or whether you just said them for attention. Either way, I hated it.
You could also be as immature as a teenager. I hated how you would do things like leave in the middle of a game and storm off to the other room because you thought you would lose.
I put all my feelings aside for you. I would always let you have your way, but you’d never even consider mine, and I hated it.
Even though I knew it wouldn’t last, even though I knew you were completely wrong for me, like poison in the bloodstream, I couldn’t end it. Sometimes I still wonder if you ever think of me, or whether I was just another thing you used to occupy yourself in the summer, between boyfriends.
I’ve written more entries inspired by what happened than by anything else. I don’t want to give our relationship any significance, but the truth is that I can’t deny how important it was. What we had wouldn’t even count as a relationship, if it weren’t for how much it affected me.
My previous relationships were never satisfying. It felt like I could never fall in love or appreciate my girlfriends for who they were, and I always believed it was my fault. Then I fell in love with you, and it helped me learn that the failures of the past weren’t anyone’s fault, and simply the result of incompatibility. If it wasn’t for this realization, the suffering and the heartbreak wouldn’t have been worth it.
You were the only girl to ever break up with me. It was the shortest relationship I’ve had by far, but for some reason, it was the longest for me to get over. My heart tells me you were special, but my head tells me you weren’t special at all.
You were only the one I couldn’t have.