Monthly Archives: October 2012

It’s a shallow world after all

World on rippled waterWhen “the Kev” and I first conceived of the idea of writing a book about being shallow we felt as though we were an island unto ourselves. We were younger then and living among friends who were, in many cases, on a quest to find meaning and purpose in their lives. More often than not we found ourselves sitting in the midst of those who were asking the “bigger” questions as they sought to understand what life was really about.

Meaning seeking friend: So do you think there is some kind of plan that guides our lives? That we are put on this earth for a special purpose? And if we are how do we know what that is. And what can we do to make sure we live up to our potential? Meet the expectations? Make the most of our lives here on earth?
Me: Not sure.
Kev: Beats me.

Needless to say, we weren’t always invested in those conversations.

But as we formulated the chapters of our book (yes we had chapters) we sometimes struggled to find examples that we could use to guide people into the shallow realm. For example, in our chapter  titled “Shallow TV Shows: Watch This!” it was easy enough to point our readers to “Seinfeld” because afterall, this was a show that prided itself on being about nothing. And he was our hero of sorts. But beyond that we had some trouble. Could we really rely on any of the other hits of the time to stay true to the cause and not try to get some sort of message across to the viewers? I mean Karen and Jack showed lots of promise but then the writers of Will and Grace  did that “first same sex kiss on TV” thing and there was nothing shallow about that. And while I can’t say that every episode of “Ellen” was necessarily thought provoking, her character did “come out” on that show which created quite a hullabaloo at the time. Even the talk shows were not a safe haven, what with Oprah turning her back on the exploitation of the downtrodden. Let’s face it, sometimes it felt like we were up a creek with one paddle.

Fast forward 10 years and it’s a horse of a different colour. Now I don’t want to claim that we were trailblazers, pioneers of a sort, but it does seem to me that the world has caught up with us. Perhaps we were just a little ahead of our time. If you don’t believe, here’s some proof. There are authors (and yes, I have read some of them) that describe how our brains have changed to adapt to this new world that we live in. In his book “The Shallows” (honestly, it’s a coincidence) Nicholas Carr tells us that with all of our multitasking we are developing the parts of our brains responsible for “shallow” thinking at the expense of those dedicated to more contemplative and reasoned thought. We have lost our ability to pay attention. To anything. For any length of time. We have 673 friends on facebook, most of whom we wouldn’t recognize if we fell over them. And yet they share with us their every move. Because they think we care. But we don’t. We protest injustice in 140 characters imagining that we are making a difference. And our political leaders respond in like sound bytes. And people continue to kill each other. I could go on but at the risk of losing you, I rest my case. It is a shallow world after all.

Well it looks like I have finally found them. Some deeps thoughts on being and becoming shallow. Don’t blame me; sometimes this blog takes on a life of its own. But to lighten things up I have written a little ditty. And here it is. My song. I don’t have any music for these lyrics so if you can come up with a tune that works let me know. Just don’t blame me if you spend the rest of the day bopping to beat of this drum.

It’s a Shallow World After All

It’s a world full of TV reality shows
Where we vote to decide who will stay or who goes
So they lie and they cheat
If they have to they’ll mistreat
It’s a shallow world after all.

Chorus 

It’s a shallow world after all
It’s a shallow world after all
It’s a shallow world after all
It’s a shallow, shallow world.

We don’t need to see anyone face-to-face
It’s the internet now that’s our meeting place
We don’t talk we just text
Move from one to the next
It’s a shallow world after all.

Chorus

Pretty soon we won’t know what is real and what’s not
And your best friend could easily be a robot
Who will tell you they care
And that they like your hair
It’s a shallow world after all.

Chorus: Altogether now

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The Shallow Blog: A Retrospective

For obvious reasons I couldn’t resist this one.

Well it’s possible that calling this a “retrospective” is a tad presumptuous but it has been six months to the day, more or less, since I started the shallow blog and six months is a very long time for a shallow person to “stick-to-it” as they say. So I thought, what the heck, let’s take some time to review all that’s happened from day one until now. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I set goals that have to be met or anything like that, although WordPress does award me little trophies to mark various milestones and those do keep me marginally motivated. But I admit that I have become surprisingly attached to this project of mine so it seems somewhat appropriate to take this opportunity to glance back at where I have been.

If you are not a blog writer yourself, and I know that many of you are not, you probably don’t know that the folks at WordPress provide their writers (and I use that word rather loosely), with a plethora of statistics on their readership. I don’t want to scare you but I have a pretty good idea of how many people look at my blog each day and from where they hail. I know how people found my blog and which posts they read when they got there. WordPress tracks the number of comments made and who made them, information that seems to beg for a contest of some sort and yet I have resisted since it appears that I would be the winner of that game. It also provides me with a constant reminder of how often, or not, I have posted. So without further ado, I would like to share with you a summary of (to quote Marvin Gaye) what’s goin’ on.

Shallow Blog Stats

  • I am pleased to report that with this my 30th contribution, I have met my self-imposed obligation to post something at least once a week.
  • To date there have been 1604 visits to the blog. I know that doesn’t mean 1604 people have read the thing although I sometimes I like to interpret it that way.
  • Somehow the blog has attracted an international audience with visitors from not only Canada and the U.S. but also from Australia, India, the United Kingdom, France, the Philippines, the Netherlands, the Russian Republic and, as I write this, apparently Spain and Algeria. I do worry a bit that those from field’s afar may be getting a rather skewed version of life here in the Canadian North and then I think, is it really my responsibility to provide a more balanced repartee so they know there are some deep and caring people in this part of the world? Nope, I’ll leave that task to the good folks at the United Nations.
  • As of today I have 20 “followers” including the two I don’t know and who actually joined the movement of their own volition.
  • On my best day I had 102 visits to the blog. On my worst day I had 0 visits. Nothing more to be said about that.
  • My blog has been “reblogged” once which made me quite happy until I visited that blog and discovered the sole purpose of it was to reblog sites which I assume are randomly chosen as there are hundreds of them each day. The only saving grace is I believe I have actually found someone who is more shallow than me.
  • Perhaps my proudest moment was when I received a “shout out” on one of Edmonton’s most famous blogs “The Unknown Studio”. (How’s that for a reciprocal “shout out”!) Unfortunately it didn’t amount to a great deal of additional traffic but nonetheless warmed my heart as I began to feel connected to the larger blogging community. Not really. I was just hoping for the traffic.

So there you have it, my six months in a nutshell. As I review the data I am mostly pleased with the results of my efforts although there is one thing that seems to have been lost in the crowd of achievements. To date there have been no sales of t-shirts or mugs, not one person is proudly displaying a “shallow and proud” logo on their desk or chest. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not your fault. There are actually no t-shirts or mugs to be had. And here’s why.

My trusted business advisors (well advisor really) has informed me that in order to make the merch thing fly I need to have a critical mass of followers significantly larger than what my current numbers reflect. Assuming that the WordPress stats are accurate, he estimates that an increase of about 10 fold should do the trick. If my calculations are correct and historical data can be relied on to predict future outcomes, left to it’s own devices this blog should reach that target in approximately 50 years. At which point I will be dead. So I started to think about alternatives, how I might be able to speed things up a little and here’s what I came up with.

As I have mentioned I am a woman of multiple achievements in the academic world and this means that I have had the privilege of attending graduation ceremonies more than one time. At my last trip to the podium the honorary speaker was a woman whose name escapes me but whose message apparently resided somewhere in the recesses of my mind and managed to shimmy it’s way to my frontal lobe in the midst of my problem-solving exercise. From what I recall, this highly regarded academic spoke about the “power of one” illustrating through story the tremendous impact that one person can have on our world. I’m not sure she would be ok with this but I thought it could be a useful idea to apply to the blog. If each of my followers shared the blog with one person, who shared with one, who shared with one more, the growth of the blog would be exponential. And I could sell stuff. And you’ll look great. And we will all be happier. Well I know I will be happier and what more could anyone ask of something that has only been in existence for six months? So next time you meet someone you think might enjoy a gander at the site, it’s ok with me if you share it with them. I promise, six months from now I’ll bring you the results of your efforts.

My sincerest thanks to all who have stuck with me these past months and I look forward to our future together… one week at a time.

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Tag, You’re it! And a bit of a rant.

Red and blue police lightsEvery once in awhile I recall the days of my youth and all of the many hours spent in laughter and play with the neighborhood kids. My admittedly selective memory paints an idyllic picture of boys and girls riding bikes down the steep hill that undulated in front of our houses, sharing penny candies bought with our nickels and dimes at the corner store and running wildly from one backyard to the next playing games like “Red Rover”, “Hide and Seek” and “Tag, You’re it”! It was a time of fun and frivolity with nary a thought to the lessons being learned and how they would profoundly impact our lives as we grew into the mature adults we are today. But impact they did and as I reflect on those times I have have come to the realization that it is as a result of those very games that I can proudly declare myself to be an upstanding and law abiding citizen.

For those of you who know me, and that would be most but not all, thank goodness, of the people who read this blog, it will come as no surprise that I was a rather small child. For some games that proved to be an asset. As you may well imagine, hide and seek was one of my fortes as I could fit into places that were otherwise unavailable to my larger playmates. But at other times my diminutive stature rendered me at a distinct disadvantage and in games like “Tag” I found myself being “caught” over and over again. In fact, I was caught so often that I sometimes defaulted to being “it” for an entire evening. And so it was from this rather daunting experience I came to internalize two “things I know for sure”. The first is that I don’t like getting caught and the second is that, however hard I try to avoid it, I almost always will be the one that does.

Now I know you are shaking your head thinking surely having short legs is not the best rationale for becoming a law abiding citizen. And isn’t it a little strange for her to think that a silly little game is the sole reason she has lived a life free of crime? Of course I know that there are moral and ethical reasons that should inspire one to adhere to the letter of the law. But as a shallow person I’m ok with letting fear alone be the motivation behind my good behaviour and, given my life experience, feel justified in doing so. If you are still harbouring some disbelief, let me tell you a story that will erase the doubts that are swirling through your minds.

As you may recall, I have a strong preference for small foreign cars so not surprisingly, that’s what I drive. It’s a peppy little thing that in its country of origin can grace the blacktop at 160 kph without a shudder and as a result, I am always careful to keep an eye on the needle so as not to exceed any posted limits. Which is why as I was driving through Idaho, for the sole purpose of returning to my country of birth, I was somewhat astonished to look in my rearview mirror and see the sparkle of red and blue lights rather close on my behind. As I pulled over to the side (at this point I had the border in my sights but aware of the extradition laws between our friendly countries made a hasty decision not to make a run for it), and watched the State Trooper amble towards my car, I continued to wonder what on earth I had done to warrant this rather unwelcome intrusion to my journey. Here’s how it went:

Trooper: Ma’am, did you notice the 45 mph sign back there?
Me: Yes sir, I did. But you know my speedometer is in kilometres and it’s a little hard to get the conversion just right.

He looks through the window at my dash and at that moment I think I have this one licked. Until he goes on to say:

Trooper: And Ma’am, did you happen to notice the 25 mph sign?
Me: Suddenly deflated I reply, Um no sir, I did not.
Trooper: Ma’am, you know I can cite you for excessive speed. Much too long a pause. But I’ll let you off this time with just a regular speeding ticket.

Are you kidding me! I was caught for excessive speed in a 25 mph zone! Me, who let’s the guy in the Chevy Cobalt whiz by on the highway knowing all the while that with a tap of my toe I could leave him in my dust. Me, who slows down at a stale green light while everyone else accelerates through the yellow and red, even though I know, in a pinch, I can stop on a dime. Me, who wouldn’t dream of answering a call while at the wheel yet sits patiently behind the guy at the flashing green who neglects to notice the light has changed because he is so engrossed in his seemingly “more important than actually driving” conversation? Me who has made obeying the law somewhat of a compulsion if for no other reason than not to do so will ultimately result in my capture. I think it is safe to say that I have made my case.

And so it is that I have come to accept my destiny as the “person who will always get caught” and for the most part, I’m ok with it. But once, honestly just once, I would like to have the chance to be the one that calls out “Tag, you’re it!”

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What chapter is this anyway?

BookshelfI like books. They have a multitude of purposes not the least of which is making people look good. How many times have you gone to someone’s house and, while they left the room to prepare a little something to “tide you over” as my Mother would say, taken a good look at the books they have so carefully and strategically placed on their shelves? The thing is, bookshelves are a lot like Facebook profiles, constructed to reflect the image that their owner wants to project. And it’s really not that hard. Let’s say you want people to think of you as “retro hip”. Add a few Hunter S. Thompson’s to your collection of Kerouac novels, pepper with a little Tom Wolfe and you’ve got yourself a persona. Perhaps radical politics is more up your alley. Place the three volumes of Marx’s “Capital” front and centre, surround with some Saul Alinsky, Noam Chomsky and “Plato’s Republic” just to show depth, and you’re set. Fancy economics as your claim to fame? To do this right you’re going to need some balance. Milton Friedman, Naomi Klein, Adam Smith and Marx (again) should do the trick. Throw in a copy of “Freakonomics” just to let people know you have a sense of humour. I could go on but honestly, this is not rocket science although if that’s your goal try some Sagan, Hawkings and Michio Kaku who, although born and bred in the USA will at least appear to add an international flair.

Books can also make you look smart. Unlike those electronic reading machines, when you carry a book people can actually see what you are reading. Or at least what you appear to be reading because we all know that you don’t actually have to read the book to make people think you are smart. I mean when was the last time you actually walked up to someone to quiz them about the book they were holding? It’s just not going to happen. Of course if it does happen there are some stock responses you can use to maintain the illusion. If it’s non-fiction you’re holding go with “she presents a new and interesting theoretical perspective that really ought to be considered given how tired the previous iterations and approaches to [insert topic here] have become”. That should stop any further inquiry. When it’s a novel you’ve got I suggest “I’m afraid the character development is weaker than in his past work but I’m plowing my way through hopeful that some of his literary genius will become evident in the later chapters” which will not only demonstrate your ability to critically analyze the current work but will also let people know that this is not the first and only book you have read. So be as esoteric in the selection you carry as you want and make sure to keep the cover facing out.

But what I like most about books is that they have a beginning, a middle and an end. As you read them you know exactly where you have been, and where you are going. It also means that you have a pretty good idea of when you are going to be done. Which is why I look back somewhat wistfully on the advice my son (I have two of those) gave me when I first started to write this blog. He said (and I quote) “Mom, you should write a book about being shallow, not a blog.” Because unlike a book, a blog has no natural end. As I look back at my 27 posts I find myself asking “what chapter is this anyway?”. For all I know this thing could go on forever, an especially daunting conclusion to arrive at when your Grandmother lived to be over 100 and your Mother and her sisters are respectively 97, 94, 91 and 80 years of age. The thought is so overwhelming that this week I have sought refuge in my “one week at a time” mantra.

Looks like it worked. That’s another week in the bag.

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