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The ShanMonster

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It's been a slice [Apr. 11th, 2017|12:19 pm]
The ShanMonster
The new LJ terms of service are unacceptable, and after 18 years of blogging here, I'm abandoning ship. You can find all my stuff over here: https://shanmonster.dreamwidth.org/
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Why Ancient Greece Was Awful [Apr. 4th, 2017|04:02 pm]
The ShanMonster
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"Why Ancient Greece Was Awful": This was the title of a lecture I recently attended, hosted by a historical association. As a classics civilization major in university, the topic intrigued me. The lecturer introduced himself and announced that the topics he'd be covering included coarse language and sexual themes. A mother and child excused themselves. Another woman followed shortly afterward. The lecturer looked crestfallen. I attempted to assuage him. "I'm not afraid of a few swears," I said, "and I'm a classics graduate." He didn't look soothed.

He had a nervous tic where he slapped the sides of his legs simultaneously. This he did so regularly that he looked like he was trying to fly away. He put me to mind of Bubo from the original Clash of the Titans movie. It was distracting and annoying, but I wanted to hear what he had to say.

He opened by asking us to name some of the things that were great about ancient Greece.

"Olive oil," I said. Other people chimed in. "Democracy." "The Olympics." "Theatre." "Acoustics." "Art." "Marble."

He looked startled. "Yes," he said. "All of those things are great. You are doing much better than I would."

This perplexed me. How could someone lecturing on the ancient Greeks not be able to list a few positive traits about ancient Greece? Then he told us his area of expertise wasn't ancient Greece at all, but early modern English theatre (ie. Shakespeare and his contemporaries). He said he didn't actually know much about the time period aside from what he'd learned in a seminar on Athens. Now I was thoroughly boggled. Why would he be talking about something he admitted to knowing little about? This was especially bizarre considering there was a decent chance that at least half of the people in his audience had a solid education in ancient Greek history. We were at a historical conference, after all.

He told us he'd read some plays by Euripedes, who had written extensively on the disenfranchised people of ancient Greece. Now, if he'd stuck to the points of views of these characters from the plays of Euripedes, he may have had a thesis. But instead, we were subjected to what would essentially be an unplotted, unthought-out rant like you might expect to read in YouTube comments.

He said that the ancient Greeks didn't refer to their country as Greece at all, but he didn't bother telling his audience what they did refer to themselves as: Hellenes. He posited that it was acceptable to judge this culture by our current culture's standards. He then made many objectionable, if not outright incorrect, points:
  • People who study ancient Greece are unusual in that they all consider ancient Greece to be the pinnacle of human existence, and they all believe the ancient Greeks could do no wrong. As a classics graduate, I honestly have never come across anyone who believes everything in ancient Greece was sunshine and roses. I mean, c'mon! They poisoned poor Socrates!

  • The ancient Greeks had no sense of morality. I think it's pretty safe to presume the speaker has never heard of arete. And there are all sorts of moral virtues which crop up again and again in Greek writings: hospitality, loyalty, honour, glory, justice, wisdom, revenge on the battlefield, the importance of family, and temperance are some classic (heh) examples.

  • The only ideal for men was to be a hyperaggressive, violent, rapist (such as Herakles or Zeus). This notwithstanding the high esteem with which the Greek philosophers, orators, and Homer were held. To be able to recite The Iliad and The Odyssey by heart was proof of great standing.

  • The ancient Greeks were into slavery more than other cultures. Uhh....

  • Slavery no longer exists in western culture. Several indignant people called him on this. He backed down somewhat, amending his statement by saying, "Ok, there are no legal forms of slavery in Western culture now." I immediately said, "Prison labour." He flapped his hands on his legs a few times, then pretended I'd said nothing at all.

  • The ancient Greeks were all child molesters. While pederasty was widely accepted, in Athens, consent was more important than age. That being said, the Athenians did believe there was such a thing as too young, and too young to give consent. (More here).

  • The advent of Christianity stopped pedophilia. There was a widespread "Uhhhhh...." emitted by the audience at this point. His arms flapped and flapped and he flew away to his next point without elucidation.

  • The way women were treated in ancient Greece had no counterpart. Although the ancient Greeks were pretty darned misogynistic, they were certainly not alone in this regard.

  • No Greek women were allowed to have jobs. At least in Rome, women could be prostitutes Roman women could do a lot more than that, but that's beside the point. But if we use that as a baseline, well, there were plenty of female sex workers in ancient Greece, including pornai and hetairai. It has been posited that the hetairai, along with being independent workers who could potentially save up enough to own property, were also intellectual elites. Highly-educated, they held their own in symposia alongside foremost Greek philosophers.

  • Women were never portrayed as dominant or equal to men. Medea kicked Jason's ass, and the Amazons were a force to contend with.

    14th-century depiction of riding Aristotle

  • Aside from in Sparta, no women had property. The hetaira Phryne was said to be so rich that she offered to fund the rebuilding of the walls of Thebes.

  • Women were completely uneducated, and there were no women writers. I immediately burst out with "Lesbos. Sappho." He flapped his hands on his pants a couple of times and just soldiered on.

  • No Greek women had positions of authority. The words of the Delphic Oracle could make or break a powerful man. And despite ruling in Egypt, Cleopatra was Greek.

    Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra



  • Greek women held no power in the home. "What about Penelope in The Odyssey?" I asked. She wouldn't have been able to hold off her suitors if she'd had absolutely no power. He slapped his legs again. "I've never read The Odyssey," he said.

  • The ancient Greeks were more racist than any other culture. They definitely didn't hold a monopoly on xenophobia.

  • That the ancient Greeks had no real religion. The Hellenes had religions out their wazoos. I don't even know where to begin, so here's an encyclopaedia entry on the topic: Ancient History Encylopedia: Greek Religion.

  • The world became a much better place thanks to Christianity. This is a whole kettle of fish I didn't bother jumping into. There was a religious history graduate in the audience who tore him a new one in this regard, plus another audience member who called him on his obvious biases.

  • That if Christianity hadn't replaced the beliefs of the ancient Greeks, Norse religions would have certainly become the religion of western civilization. Considering the inroads made by Mongols throughout Europe, I think they stood a decent chance of disseminating their religious beliefs. Not to mention there were plenty of other religions amongst indigenous peoples which could have become more influential.

  • The culture of the ancient Greeks has absolutely no bearing on current religion/culture/etc. in the western world. Even Jesus Christ's name is Greek. Aside from that, we still have the Olympics, the Hippocratic oath, feta cheese and souvlaki, a rather lot of words, tragedy, comedy, iambic pentameter, and the concept of history. And on the negative side of influences, well, misogyny is a Greek word, and it sure does still exist.


I graduated with my classics degree way back in 1994. I could have given a better talk on the downsides of Greek history without even brushing up. Heck, I'll betcha almost everyone in that classroom could have. So why on earth didn't he talk about early English theatre instead? Then again, English drama was my other major. I just might have caught him talking another steaming pile of shit there, too.
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Recipe: Chai Protein Balls [Mar. 30th, 2017|02:46 pm]
The ShanMonster
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I've made these a couple of times. They're delicious and quite filling. The recipe is based off Chai-Spiced Almond Butter Bites. The recipe yields approximately 15 ~1.25" balls.

I like these as a quick snack before/after a workout. I've had them as part of my breakfast, too.

The recipe is vegan and paleo-friendly, if this matters for you.

1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup almonds
1 cup pit-free dates
1/4 cup nut butter (I've used peanut butter and almond butter. Both are good.)
2 Tbsp hemp seeds
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 Tbsp coconut oil

  1. Pulse coconut and almonds in food processor until there are no large chunks.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and pulse until everything is combined to a dough-like consistency.
  3. Press dough with hands and then roll balls up about 1.25" in diameter.
  4. Place in an air-tight container and store in the fridge. The cooled coconut oil will firm them up.
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Eeeee! [Mar. 19th, 2017|06:04 pm]
The ShanMonster
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I sent a short story out for possible publication in a science fiction anthology last week. I haven't had a story published in ages, so it's high time I get my arse back in gear. I hope it gets published.

I sent out my application for the Canadian ocean expedition on Thursday as soon as I got confirmation from my china painting instructor that she would be a reference. Eeeee!

On Friday, I purchased airfare for my trip to Africa this summer. I'll be travelling through Namibia, Botswana, and Zambia (~1300 km), seeing the Namib Desert (where Fury Road was filmed), the Kalahari Desert, meeting Bushmen, hopefully seeing elephants, lions, zebras, and more, and then ending my tour at Victoria Falls. Eeeee!

Later on Friday, I went to the gym and during my squat set, something freaked out and tried to lock/spasm on my lower back. Different kind of eeeeee. Eeeeeeeouch. I have no idea what happened, there. As far as I know, I wasn't using bad form, and was only lifting five pounds more than I usually do. I tried to find a massage therapy clinic that was open, but none are ever open on the Friday evening of Saint Patrick's Day. I managed to find someone yesterday, but that someone was a tiny sadist who was the roughest massage therapist I've ever experienced. She started with elbows in my back. There was no warmup. I feel just like I was in a fight. I'm pretty sure I'm bruised from head to arse, but I do have mobility now: enough that I was able to go to the gym today and do a full training session. I skipped burpees in favour of jump rope (I didn't want to do fast movements which could have negative impact on my lower back), and all my squats were with an empty bar.

I leave for Toronto tomorrow morning for a week of butoh training. I plan on hitting the gym a couple of times while I'm there. I'm determined to get back in shape. I'm registered to compete in two races this spring/summer: a 5km obstacle course race, and a 14km trail race.

Over the past year, due to health issues and the disruption incurred by buying and renovating a house, my training has been spotty at best. This month was going very well until my back freakout on Friday. I feel strong again, and my endurance is slowly returning. I've been paying much closer attention to what I eat (not calorie-wise, but content-wise), and I'm gradually losing the extra padding I put on. So far, I have lost about ten pounds of fluff and my clothes are fitting much better again. I'm still about twenty pounds heavier than I was when I was competing regularly five years ago, but I have faith that my body will continue to get healthier as I work hard to take care of it.

I had every intention of writing up applications for a travel writing scholarship yesterday, but life and massage therapy got in the way. I hope to be able to get the applications done tomorrow while I'm on the train and killing time in coffee shops in Toronto. If I get the scholarship, I'll be travelling through southeastern Europe (eg. Kosovo, Croatia, Montenegro, etc.).

What if I get accepted for the ocean expedition AND the scholarship? I'll be travelling all over the freaking world this year! Eeeee....
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Out of My Comfort Zone: Quito to Pimpilala, Ecuador [Mar. 17th, 2017|03:45 pm]
The ShanMonster
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I goofed up. I'm applying for a travel writing scholarship, and I misread the write-up. I thought I was supposed to write 2500 words about being out of my comfort zone, but it's actually only 2500 characters. Oops. Well, lest it was all in vain, here's what I came up with. I reworked my travelogue about travelling from Quito to Pimpilala, Ecuador. Enjoy!Collapse )
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Canada C3 Expedition video application [Mar. 13th, 2017|02:23 pm]
The ShanMonster
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Possible video application for the Canadian ocean expedition. They want to know my name, interests, passions, and why participating is important to me. They are looking for enthusiastic people. Think I qualify? I hope I qualify.



If the video didn't embed properly, here's a link.
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Future Canada: Second Iteration [Mar. 13th, 2017|01:12 pm]
The ShanMonster
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I've reworked my write-up on my view of future Canada. I tried to make it more positive and less denunciative, and I tried to take into account the advice you folks gave me. How does this one look?

Canada can be a land in which people live together in harmony with the environment. Picture a future in which our natural resources are no longer squandered and mistreated: old growth forests of Quebec no longer become toilet paper, drinking water no longer sells at a pittance and returns to us at exorbitant prices, waterways no longer poisoned with acids which kill waterfowl upon contact, rich farmland no longer parcelled into subdivisions with shoddily-constructed houses, and oil pipeline and tanker mishaps no longer cause irreparable harm to soil, water, wildlife, and us.

Imagine custodians of our land and water who do not prize profitability above access. There would be sufficient food and potable water for all. Indigenous people will no longer be deprived of both, and the genocidal crimes of the first Prime Minister will be well on their way to being rectified.

We must work toward sustainability, decreasing our reliance on non-renewable resources while at the same time safeguarding and replenishing renewable ones. When the coal-powered generating stations were closed in favour of alternative power sources, we removed the smog which blanketed the most populous parts of the country. We’ve shown more environmentally-friendly methods can be implemented. Now let’s apply them to even more aspects of our culture.
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I Can See the Future From Up Here [Mar. 10th, 2017|12:51 pm]
The ShanMonster
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Part two of my application for the Canada 150 ocean expedition. The topic is my vision for Canada's future. How the heck do I do this in less than 250 words without sounding like a beauty pageant contestant? Feedback is appreciated.

My vision of Canada’s future is one in which people live together in harmony with the environment. Although Canada is rich with natural resources, they are being squandered and mistreated. The old growth forests of Quebec are turned into toilet paper. Our drinking water supplies are given to bottled water companies at a pittance and sold back to us with exorbitant markups. Our waterways are being poisoned with acids so powerful that waterfowl die upon contact. Rich farmland is parcelled up into subdivisions with shoddily-constructed houses. Oil pipelines and tankers have disastrous leaks, causing irreparable harm to the soil, to the water, to the wildlife, and to us.

It is irrational that a country as rich as this one has people living with insufficient food and without potable water. It is inexcusable that indigenous people were deliberately deprived of both by the first Prime Minister and that this has still not been rectified.

We must work toward sustainability, decreasing our reliance on non-renewable resources while at the same time safeguarding and replenishing the renewable ones. We’ve shown it can be done. When the coal-powered electrical generating stations were closed in favour of alternative power sources, we removed the smog which blanketed the most populous parts of the country. We must act as custodians to the earth, and not rely upon other people to fix things we are capable of fixing. We are other people.
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Reconciliation: A Rough Draft [Mar. 8th, 2017|01:42 pm]
The ShanMonster
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I have worked on writing the following over the past couple of days when I've had spare time. It's part of my application to be part of an ocean expedition. The theme is reconciliation, and how it affects me personally.

Critiques and comments are encouraged. I still have another short write-up to create before the deadline, but what do you think of this bit?


I am part of a lost generation, the child of an indigenous parent who did not know he was indigenous himself. I grew up in a gatherer/hunter family, living off the land using a lot of traditional ways. I gathered mushrooms, berries, and fruit. I picked Labrador Tea for medicinal use, and smeared black alder mud on bee stings and scrapes to bring down swelling. I helped harness the dog team to haul in the winter’s firewood. I ate bannock by the campfire, smacked my lips over moose meat, and I helped with butchering and with cleaning and gutting fish. I delighted in tales of Glooscap, and although I turned my nose up at seal meat, I enjoyed throat singing and playing in little igloos. I experienced so many trappings of a culture I had no name for, yet spoke none of the languages of my ancestors. I was raised to think of “Indians” as other people

My ancestors were people of sea and snow, tundra and forest. I am Innu; I am Mi’kmaq; I am Lnu. And yet, through no fault of my own, I was far removed from this.

I am working at reclaiming my lost heritage. I wrote a play about Inuit folklore. I attend powwows. I consider getting an Inuit women’s tattoo. I share what I learn with other people through my blog and through conversation. I need to know more, learn more, share more, and experience more. I want to embrace a tradition which has been all but lost due to generations of cultural genocide.

Last year, I downloaded the Truth and Reconciliation report. Reading it helped me understand why my grandmother never spoke to me about her history and upbringing. So many of my family were taught to be ashamed of their traditions. So many hid who they were. The only thing I know of my grandmother’s younger days is this: she was so light and swift of foot that she appeared to fly when leaping from ice floe to ice floe across the sea’s frozen skin. My grandmother walked on water.

I yearn to visit the sea again. I will see it through her eyes as well as mine, and then I will share what I have seen. I will reclaim what was taken from us and be a part of setting things right.
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Breathe In. Breathe Out. [Mar. 8th, 2017|11:12 am]
The ShanMonster
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I learned recently that I've created my own personal Pavlovian response. I've been using asthma inhalers for over twenty years, now. In case you've never used one, it goes kinda like this:

1. Shake inhaler.
2. Exhale fully.
3. Raise it to your mouth.
4. Spray it in your mouth as you simultaneously inhale.

I also have been using a steroidal spray to help counter post-nasal drip, which is a big trigger for asthma. It goes like this:

1. Shake bottle.
2. Exhale fully.
3. Raise it to your nose.
4. Spray it in your nose as you simultaneously inhale.

I've recently started taking Vitamin B12 supplements in the form of an oral spray. Whenever I go to use it, I do the first two steps every time. There's no need to exhale. I drink the stuff; I don't breathe the stuff. Yet it takes a major conscious effort to avoid exhaling. Not that exhaling makes a difference, one way or the other. It's just fascinating to me how I've formed this habit.

Conditioning is "a behavioral process whereby a response becomes more frequent or more predictable in a given environment as a result of reinforcement, with reinforcement typically being a stimulus or reward for a desired response" (Encyclopedia Britannica). I'm not even getting a reward for my reinforcement. Well, not an immediate, perceivable reward, at least. So I guess it isn't conditioning, after all, but ritual, instead: "A ritual is...any act done regularly, usually without thinking about it" (Cambridge English Dictionary).

What are your rituals and conditioning?

(Elder Squirrel Demon Ritual Summoning Circle)

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