Monday, November 26, 2007

Professional Gossips

"Alright, here's what we're going to do," Shannon instructed us. Her eyes rested on her target, a shimmer of excitement in them. Alexis sat against the wall, alone, her stringy dirty blonde hair forming a curtain around her face, hiding her mismatched canine eyes. "We're going to take turns walking past Alexis, and each of us is going to say something mean to her."

(Well, that's what she said in those words more of less. We were in fifth grade at the time, and had a perverse attraction to the word 'like' because in our 11-year-old minds, we thought it made us sound like teenagers. Sort of like profanity. So in reality, Shannon probably said something along the lines of, "Let's like each walk past Alexis and then like we'll like say something mean to her. Bitch." But that's the beauty of reconstructed scenes--dialogue doesn't have to be verbatim if it's for clarity's sake.)

It was a test. The fifth grade minions who did Shannon's biding would ensure their place amongst the elementary school elite--a popularity that would prove to last well into junior high and beyond. And I had somehow beat all odds--massive round glasses, love of books, lack of name brand jeans, no fear t-shirt and general inherent coolness--by being allowed to pledge.

We formed a line. I didn't protest. I watched the other girls fall in line, Shannon leading the troupes. But when my time came, I walked away. It wasn't worth it.

Alexis hadn't done anything wrong. Everyone knew that she even used to be best friends with Shannon until Shannon deemed her uncool, and the entire fifth grade class followed suit. (It wasn't until my later years that I realized Shannon's dispute with Alexis was probably largely due to the fact that she wore a dirty torn winter jacket.)

It was only the start. In tenth grade (or was it eleventh?) one of the cool druggie kids attacked a friend of a friend for wearing black nail polish. He didn't stand up for himself, so I did it for him, snidly replying back to all the bully's insults until he finally backed down and walked away swearing at me, clearly frustrated by my superior intelligence. (Let's keep that dream alive, okay?) In turn, the friend of a friend told me he could defend himself, and also walked away swearing. (I had become such a "freak" that even the other freaks didn't want to be associated with me.)

But this is all beyond the point. The point was that somewhere along the line, I became the voice for the underdog. Defender of human rights! Voice for the freaks! Pushes bullies back in the schoolyard!*

But not anymore. The RRJ lab is sometimes a toxic place, and there's been more than one night that I go home with a sour taste in my mouth. Except in this case, the underdogs are the lazy, the selfish, and definitely not the intellectually elite the rest of us herald ourselves to be. It's the exact role reversal of elementary school.

It would be too easy to account this to our classroom composition-only two males in a sea of women. But I don't think gender is to blame. We are, by profession, gossips. It's the one inherent trait we all have in common. (After all, why else would someone want to become a journalist? So they can keep news to themselves? Not exactly the most effective way of earning a salary, or getting a job, for that matter.) Cattiness and feminity have nothing to do with the news we spread. But they may have to do with how we spread that news.

Are our attacks and badmouthing bonding sessions unwarranted, like with Alexis? No, not necessarily. Most of the time it's a bitching session about how someone isn't doing their work and how they're increasing the work load for everyone else. (You think you hate "group projects"? Try an eight-month one based on a magazine read by 10,000 people. And then get back to me.) But these gossip sessions are plagued by the same group mentality that made each of my would-be friends walk past Alexis that day. We want to fit in, we want to belong and no one wants to be the underdog.

We all want to be liked.


*This also happened in fifth grade, when this big kid named Todd, who in retrospect probably had some sort of learning disability, picked a fight with me. Or I picked a fight with him. If I remember correctly, I butted in to an argument at the bus stop to defend a younger kid that he was picking on. He was fat and scary, to put it bluntly. At recess I was told that he was going to beat me up. I wasn't assured that my snowsuit would provide sufficient padding, so when we met in the schoolyard that day, a crowd of kids gathered around us, and I either kicked him the leg really hard, or pushed him. (I was a fifth grade girl. These were my main two line of defenses.) I can't remember which. Regardless, I was pretty popular that day, for one day only, for bullying the bully. And he never picked on little kids at the bus stop around me after that.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

No Commentary Necessary

In an last minute act of desperation, Canice and I posted on Craigslist looking for a photographer in Victoria to shoot a profile picture for an upcoming issue of McClung's. I'll admit, the ad I posted was somewhat ambiguous. But it didn't, by any means, warrant this hilarious response:

Hello. I am a 4th year Political Science student. I'm also a photographer. . . I checked out your site. I think you really do need some better quality profile shots. Also, Lauren Mckeon and Jenifer Fong* should not be grouped together in one photo. When trying to guess who is who, racist people will automatically assume the woman with asian facial features is Jennifer Fong. Even if this is correct, it perpetuates stereotypes of what people with the last name "Fong" look like. Anyway, I think you should hire me to do your profile shots. I won't cost you much more than the mall photo booth and unlike an automated photo booth I'm not owned by an evil corporation...yet.

*Lauren and Jen were last year's editors. This is in response to the photobooth pictures of last year's masthead on the McClung's website (which, for those of you who are curious, is under construction in a major kind of way).

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Misanthropic Melody

It was my second nap of the day. I woke up on the couch, stomach in disagreement, hair oily, mood falling into much the same category.

It had been a misanthropic kind of day. After toiling away at work for a mere two hours, followed by another two in the lab, I called it quits and left under the pretense of needing to buy socks. At H&M, I picked up a colourful five-pack of ugly socks. Everywhere around me people pushed their obtuse way through shoddily made metallic clubwear. I dropped the socks back into the bin with their ugly friends. There was no way I was standing in line. Holy socks be damned.

By the time I got home, I sounded like Canice. Profanity was my friend. Turning on my space heater in our chilly apartment, I crawled under my duvet. I had a two hour nap in bed, and woke up when the day was gone. Dinner was made. I ate too much. I told Natty I wasn't leaving the house, and I settled down to read the 100-Mile Diet, but fell asleep instead.

Nightmares. Dreams of old high school friends. I woke up, feeling anything but refreshed. "You should come out," Natty offered. It was an invitation of politeness. She knew I wouldn't accept it. I knew I wouldn't accept it. "Maybe," I told her, going into my room, shutting the door behind me.

This was pathetic. I hadn't been out in weeks. I had spent five hours of my day sleeping and I was planning on staying in so that I could do what, sleep some more? What good is sitting around and nursing this eye virus anyway?

Shower. Shave. I was ready to go in under an hour.

We went to a martini bar in Yorkville that's owned by one of Natty's friends that she used to work with.

Julia was down visiting from London and Gill came out to join.

The drinks were amazing. I had a martini infused with rose essence. Not too sweet, but not too strong. Perfect.

And then he bought us roses.

Okay, and he may have bought us a couple rounds of shots, too.

Social skills still intact, surprisingly. Love of alliteration? Never quite died.

My stomach was still protruding from the too much dinner and too much sleep.

Anyone else thinking that I need to invest in clothes of another colour?

I left Julia and Natty to fend for themselves.

And joined up with Sasha and Court on College Street. We went to say hi to Nando, then ended up at the College Street Bar. "College Street is dead, man," I heard one bouncer say to the bartender. And it was. We made the best of it. After all, I had finally managed to leave the house.

It was well worth it.

(Although the raging red leaky eyes I woke up to on Saturday morning may beg to differ.)

And then. More sleep.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Productive Procrastination at Its Best

My RRJ feature was due in a little under six days, and I was on the phone with Carla discussing some last-minute fundraiser details, when Carla passed the phone to Jesse. "You know that story you wrote two years ago about Scrabble players? My feature writer for this week fell through. . ."

I cut Jesse off. "It's unpublishable. I wrote it in second year. And it's only 600 words. How many words do you need?"

"About 1200-1500. Or 1000, and I'll just do something with graphics."

"By when?" Feature writers usually get two weeks to write a story. I knew I was only going to get a week.


My humming and hawing lasted for about 30 seconds while Jesse kept insisting that I shouldn't feel pressure to write him a feature. But the decision was easy.

"My RRJ feature is due on Monday. I'll do it."

I love nothing more than a good excuse to procrastinate.

Click on the photo above to read PDF version of the story.

Or for those of your who don't like interesting visuals, you can also read it here.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

in case you were wondering

This is a blog about what it's like to have an eye infection for two months:

Your new roomate potentially thinks you are boring because instead of having a social life or ever leaving the house. . .

. . .you sit around every Friday and Saturday night counting the amount of medication you are taking. (Which just for the record is up to three different kinds of eyedrops and three kinds of cream for eczema around my eyes. Fun.)

You're ignored on the streetcar and suddenly have an idea of what it's like when a woman enters her "invisible years." You know you should be learning a valuable life-changing lesson about inner beauty from not wearing makeup for over a month, but instead your self-esteem takes a punch to the stomach. Your glasses get more use than they have in years, but all you can remember is being the first kid in your elementary school class to wear glasses, the first one to be called four eyes, and how everyone laughed whenever a basketball would hit you square in the face and knock you blind. You get more homework done, spend less money and lose weight from not drinking, but wonder if there's a larger cost.

You rent a lot of shitty indie movies and television shows on DVD. You start to think that all your non-journalism friends may have forgotten you exist.

You burn incense, bake a lot of muffins, take pleasure in washing the dishes, talk to the dead mouse in your wall, whine to your boyfriend incessently to the point where he joins your new roomate in thinking you're boring, and you cry a little too often.

And that's what it's like having an eye infection for two months.

Any questions?

Friday, November 09, 2007

Lies for the Liars: RRJ Fundraiser

Okay, so whomever decided that I should get drunk and be handed a microphone should be given a gold star.

I think that gold star goes to Carla, in fact, who looked directly at me and Rebecca during the fundraising meeting when she asked, "Okay, who is loud and wants to emcee the event?" She agreed to be my co-emcee.

We took full advantage of our power.
"Jess, you look really pretty tonight."

"Well, Carla, you're looking pretty damn fine yourself. You make me wanna. . .triple word score!"*

"Hey Jess, here's my phone number. I was wondering if you could. . .fact check it for me."

"Carla, you make my word count go up."

"Damn, your daddy must have been an editor, because your body is tight. . .and polished!"

We announced the raffle prizes, responded to the increasingly drunk crowd, and tried not to topple in our high heels. (Or maybe that was just me.)

After not exiting my house in a month, two glasses of wine were enough.

It seemed to be the case for everyone else, too. Minus Jasmyn, who walked into the bar, whispered conspiratorially to me that she had no money and was going to try and mooch drinks off of people, and then half an hour later came up to try to mooch a drink off of me. (Which I bought her. I just thought it was too funny that she told me about her "plan" and then forgot about it.)

Okay. I'm bored of writing captions.

My face may be a mess, but I still have nice legs. Good work me.

Definitely the end of the night.

At the end of the night, we closed up shop, and Jesse carefully guarded the cash box. Oh, so carefully.

The End.

*Note: All the pick-up lines were courtesy of RRJ alum Jen Fong, who happened to stop into the mag lab when Carla and I were scanning the Internet for lame journalism jokes. Except for the first one. I made up the Scrabble joke all myself.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Monday Mournings

With only one week left until the first draft of our features is due, we're hard at work, frantically setting up last minute interviews, poring over backissues of magazines in the library, and swearing off all social obligations until our 2,500 words have been polished to perfection. Uh, or something like that.

Not too clear on what this is? (It's kind of like those macro images they used to have on the back of Owl and Chickadee magazines. What are we looking at exactly?) Well, that my friends, is the tail our new friend Hubert, the dead mouse. He is going to hang out with us for a while, rotting in our wall, assuring that we'll never forget him by plaguing us with the ghost of his lingering smell. We're too chicken shit to push his tail further underneath the floorboard, so in the meantime, we've positioned our garbage can so that his tail is (mostly) obscured from view. Natty likes to talk to Hubert while she's cooking.

(Damn you Canadian Tire! The only reason I bought the wrong mouse killing stuff is because your store directory is incorrect! When I went to the aisle that promised to provide me with pest control products, all I found was pet food. I didn't want to keep an animal alive--I wanted to kill one! So by the time I actually found the pest control aisle by wandering around your new mega-store, I just wanted to get out of there and grabbed the first thing I saw. I'm beginning to wish I bought the super expensive contraption that plugs into the wall and emits high-frequency sounds that allegedly keep mice and rats away. Sigh. Hubert had to die. After all, his full name is Hubert Hanta. As in, Hantavirus. I live in fear.)

You can understand why I live in fear of viruses. The mystery eye virus is still alive and well.

But, if I'm looking on the bright side of things, my eyelashes finally grew back in. (Only days before I got this ridiculous virus, I had been complaining to Natty that I had a bad habit of picking mascara clumps off my eyelashes during class, which results in me tearing eyelashes out on a daily basis. The eyelashes on my right eye were beginning to look so sparse that I was wishing for an excuse not to wear makeup so that they would grow back in. Be careful what you wish for.)

And now, it's time to go to school, to join my classmates who are surely hard at work.
(By the way, if you go to Ryerson, you can play Guitar Hero in the RCC lobby for $1. It's a fundraiser for the RRJ and will make your workday pass a little quicker.)