Atheist Scruples: how to get ahead in business

September 15, 2014

The question may be a bit out of date:

You are an illustrator struggling for recognition. You can’t get past a secretary to see an editor. Do you lie and say a prominent critic sent you?

These days it’s less about office secretaries and more about online presence and knowing how to network in a virtual environment. It goes for any creative endeavour. The Man’s noticed this with his music work and efforts to build connections and team up on projects. He’s not a schmoozer by nature so pimping his stuff everywhere every five minutes is not the approach he’d feel comfortable taking and he’s already told me about at least one guy he’s unfollowed on his Facebook feed due to to similar behaviour.

He’s starting an illustration course next week as part of his USCAD art certificate. He was hoping to do a printmaking course this semester as well but it didn’t work out, sadly. That would have been cool. He’s looking forward to the class, though. On both cabin trips this summer he worked on a couple pieces with pen and chalk pastels. I can’t show the art, but I’ll include the pictures I took of the inspirations.

Wine and Glasses

Wine and Glasses

The piece he did of this he’s planning to give to his folks as it’s their cabin we were using. We already drank the wine ourselves. Whatever it was, it was nice.

The trees have eyes...

The trees have eyes…

He began to regret his choice to do trees as they’re really bumpy and difficult. He opted for a simpler storybook look to it that still evoked the sense of forest surroundings and it turned out well, I think.

The Guardian had a piece a few years ago written by an illustrator detailing how she got into the business. It’s a good read. Emma Block credits starting a blog for her artwork but admits there’s more to it than that.

I got my first job as an illustrator for card printer Moo’s pre-designed packs in 2008 just before I started university. Moo contacted me after they saw my artwork on a pack of their cards I ordered for myself. My next job came when the greeting cards company Woodmansterne (a client I am still working with today) saw my work on Moo’s website.

As well as my university work, I was busy producing work for myself and for online publications such as Amelia’s Magazine and Cellar Door. Free work has some value when you are establishing your career, but be picky about what you do.

The Man had a bit of luck lately with a fellow he knows who wanted music to rap over and even I liked it. And I seem to recall the fellow who put out his cassette at I Had an Accident Records noted a while back that his album had been in a shop somewhere in Europe. That was pretty cool news.

He’d love to make solid money with his music so he wouldn’t have to work cruddy jobs with cruddy hours. I feel for him. I hate seeing him unhappy.


The reason I failed Elementary Education…

September 13, 2014

Well, not failed, exactly, but I did wind up in a meeting with an adviser near the end of my second year in university who suggested I apply for a different program or be put on probation my third year.

So I went back and looked at my Arts and Science courses from year one and literally said to myself, which class had the best grade? Sociology it is…

I enjoyed university quite a bit after that. I complained about the essays but I’m still glad I didn’t have to fight against my total lack of aptitude and passion. Kids deserve teachers that love the work and know how to make it exciting.

The Man and I were working with the Little Man a bit this morning. He’s already had some “homework” from his grade 1 teacher related to shoe-tying — he knows how, he’s just really slow and deliberate with it due to lack of practice. Parent/guardian fail there, to not have him better prepared. “I can’t!” He’d say and start crying. “No, you know how. You can and you will get better at this. That’s what the practice is for.” We kept telling him the same thing in various ways. He’ll be doing more of that before we sit down for lunch, and before we make cookies and before he plays any more games or watches a movie. And before his mother picks him up later today.

It was a similar but slightly more frustrating experience when he decided to write a to-do list with one thing on it: “PLAY NINTENDO DS”. He figured out “play” easily enough but he does way too much guessing rather than thinking things through. His guesses get really wild like he doesn’t see the difference between what’s likely to be the next letter based on the sound of the word and what’s absolutely ridiculously wrong.

Also, his personality seems to lean toward quitting when things get hard and gets stubborn when we try to show him how to figure things out. It was a minor war just getting him to write the colour RED. He was guessing every vowel except the one he needed, even after I told him it’s the same one in the word TEN that he’d just written down moments earlier. I don’t know if this is lack of confidence or lack of care or if he’s running on mad hope that if he stalls long enough someone will do the work for him. A mix of all three, probably.

Bringing me back to the education side of things. I don’t know the tricks that make kids eager to learn. How much of that can be taught though and how much of if is inherent in the kid himself?

All he really seems to care about knowing right now is all the ins and outs of Skylanders so what I probably should do is get a book of Skylanders crap and he can practice writing all their names and start writing everything he knows about them – which is already far more than I could possibly give a damn about. But, play to his interests, that’s probably a big key to future success here.

All of a sudden I’m reminded of a girl I knew through 4-H back in the days when it was more about horses and cows than computer programming. We had a series of public speaking assignments for this particular English class one year at school and every one of her talks was about horses. She was mad for horses. The teacher got tired of hearing about horses for some reason, however, and asked her to plan her next talk – the major 10-15 minute show and tell – on another topic. So, she came dressed head to toe in jockey gear and talked about jockey gear.

Well played.


Atheist Scruples: it’s back to school time again

August 13, 2014

This question is apropos:

Your child is doing poorly in one subject which is bringing down his average. You’ve tried coaching but his learning is slow. Do you do the homework until he improves?

How would that help him learn? I’m not going to conjugate his French verbs for him. Been there, fuck that. It’s bad enough I had to do my own in school. My mother’s French but I don’t recall getting a lot of help out of her to get through it. I also don’t think I asked for any, really. By the time I was in high school French, Mom had been speaking non-stop English for twenty-some years and only spoke French if she phoned home or we went to New Brunswick.

She did get me a copy of 501 French Verbs at some point, but I think that was for university. Grade 12 is when I really could have used it. Man.. I swear. Fifteen verb tenses over five weeks or some damned thing. We’re getting quizzes often and after weeks of low scores on them my teacher pulls me aside and says in English, “It looks like you’re having trouble with French verbs.” Wow. Chapeau. Hat’s off to Larry, lady. Thanks for finally noticing… I scraped by in the final, but I don’t remember by how much.

Neither of my parents got far into school. I think Dad finished Grade 9 but didn’t go much further and Mom might have quit before that on account of needing to care for her siblings or work or whatever. (I really ought to get both of them to dictate their life stories. I don’t know enough.) I have a sociology degree with a minor in philosophy and a year of elementary education thrown into the mix.

The Man skipped the university route, opting to work those years instead, but is now putting his RESPs into an art program. He’s a few classes away from completion. He’s no slouch in the brain department either. His parents are teachers by trade. There was no getting away from getting good marks in that house.

His ex and mother of the Little Man got a youth care certificate of some sort. I don’t know if she tried any university courses prior to that. I’m thinking no.

Collectively we should be able to instill in the Little Man a sense of how important it is to work hard in school and do his best to understand and use what he’s learning. He’s in French immersion. The Man and I are very rusty with French and Ex has none to speak of so we’ll all learn with him as he starts Grade 1. Especially once we have to decipher his school assignments and make sure he’s doing them correctly. “Ah non, ce n’est pas correct, mon petit garçon… Ah oui! Très bien!”

I think a related Scruples 2014 question would probably run along the lines of this:

You’re struggling to keep up with the class assignments and a friend suggests you buy relevant essays online or copy text from a website to paraphrase and make your own. Your friend admits to doing both regularly. Do you follow her lead?

I got a kick (wallop, stimulation, refreshment) out of a recent Guardian piece (section, specimen) on the funnier side of plagiarism recently, namely the habit some students have of replacing original text with whatever a thesaurus may suggest as an alternative. It’s called Rogeting, after the famous thesaurus compiler.

To “stay ahead of the competition” became the quaint “to tarry fore of the conflict”, while “new market leaders” was turned into “modern store guides”.

Sadler’s favourite Rogetism, however, is a rendering of the phrase “left behind”, which was marvellously converted into “sinister buttocks”.

“This was a sad business for me and especially [for] my student, but I do think ‘sinister buttocks’ deserves a prize,” said Mr Sadler, who entered the student mistake for this year’s Times Higher Education exam howlers.

I can find articles about this year’s short list for the competition, but nothing about who won it yet. Sorry.


Prom season is open season on gay relationships

May 14, 2012

A Catholic school in Kentucky banned a lesbian couple from attending theirs. The trouble is, Hope Decker and Tiffany Wright found out they couldn’t go as a couple when they arrived at the gym on Saturday night and were immediately turned away. No warnings ahead of time. Just found out on the day.

“I would understand and respect the school’s decision if they truly upheld church teachings,” Wright said Sunday night. “They didn’t forbid the entrance of all the couples who’ve had premarital sex and all the kids who planned to get drunk after the prom.”

Sounds like hypocrisy in action. I’d say they truly are upholding church teachings… The kids opted to party in the parking lot after that.

Wright said the couple’s parking-lot prom was great.

“We had a wonderful night, and we were surrounded by true friends,” Wright said. “I’ll remember it for the rest of my life.”

Among the other students outside with them were Lexington Catholic senior Suzie Napier, who said she wrote a letter to school administrators expressing displeasure at their decision. Napier said 107 fellow students signed it.

Puts me in mind of anther school a couple years ago in Mississippi that actually cancelled their prom to stop lesbians from dancing together. The school got a hell of a lot of bad press and the girls got a hell of a lot of support from many circles.

Napier said the students played music from their parked cars at the outside prom and set up a table for refreshments.

“I definitely think this prom will be much more memorable than any prom the school hosted,” Napier said.

Megan Carter-Stone, a senior, also attended the outside prom.

“It was a wonderful time, and I think we got our point across,” Carter-Stone said. “At least I hope we did.”

It’s good that these girls and their friends made the best of a stupid situation and hosted their own party instead of let the school officials ruin a night that’s supposed to be memorable for better reasons.

If the school had always planned on keeping them out of the gym, they should have been told sooner. It was mean spirited to let them think they could come to prom and then leave them out of it entirely. Would Jesus treat people like that? If he really was the caring equalizer Christians want to claim he was, then the only obvious answer is no. Decker graduates this year but Wright still has a couple years left at this school. How’s she going to be treated after this? Catholics praise their martyrs for standing up for what they believed in in the face of adversity. Will they praise her, too, or make the rest of her time there a living hell?


Student willing to ruin school career over Jesus T-shirt

May 5, 2012

From CBC:

A Christian student suspended from a high school in Nova Scotia for sporting a T-shirt with the slogan “Life is wasted without Jesus” vows to wear it when he returns to class next week.

William Swinimer, who’s in Grade 12, was suspended from Forest Heights Community School in Chester Basin in Lunenburg County for five days. He’s due to return to class on Monday.

The devout Christian says the T-shirt is an expression of his beliefs, and he won’t stop wearing it.

“I believe there are things that are bigger than me. And I think that I need to stand up for the rights of people in this country, and religious rights and freedom of speech,” he told CBC.

Swinimer wore the same shirt to class for weeks on end, the article goes on, but teachers and students were starting to feel like it was less a message about personal beliefs and more like a passive attempt to convert the entire student body. As Nancy Pynch-Worthylake, board superintendent, put it –

“When one is able or others are able to interpret it as, ‘If you don’t share my belief then your life is wasted,’ that can be interpreted by some as being inappropriate,” she said.

Swinimer was too wrapped up in his own feelings of persecution to see it that way, though, and was willing to risk losing the rest of his school year over his shirt. I was curious about what other coverage this story had and found CBC’s update. The school board has reconsidered.

Swinimer called the board’s decision “awesome” and said he will be wearing his T-shirt to school on Monday.

“Some people say you’re not supposed to have religion in school. Well, every other religion is in that school and they constantly put Christianity down,” he said.

I don’t know what he means by that. Is he saying his school looks the other way while kids from other religious backgrounds blatantly insult the Christian kids, or did the school make the decision to be less Christian-centric and open things up to more secular events like winter festivals instead of Christmas parties?

Pinch-Worthylake said the board will use this incident as a learning moment for everyone, adding that it is time to move on.

“We’re going to be working with students around how they can express their religious views and other views appropriately, and how we work together when those views may be interpreted or misinterupted by others,” she said.

“So, the focus is off the T-shirt. Whatever T-shirts come to school on Monday with personal beliefs will not be an issue for us.”

And that might help with whatever perceived slurs Swinimer claims are hurting li’l Christian feelings, too. Personally, I think he still needs to be taken aside and reminded that school hours are for class work, not proselytizing. He’s going to waste his life if he doesn’t care more about getting a good education and it won’t matter how much love for Jesus he has if he can’t get a good job as well. I expect this story will follow him for years and there will be places that will not hire him – not because he’s Christian, but because he comes across as arrogant, self-centered and willfully ignorant of the fact it’s perfectly acceptable to not be Christian.


In terms of comparative religion, why not include paganism?

April 15, 2012

I watched The Wicker Man recently; the 1973 release, not the Nicholas Cage remake that’s only good to watch for a laugh. Mind you, as an atheist I found humour in the original where I’m sure none was intended at the time it was made. I caught myself sniggering as the righteous Christian Sergeant Howie (played by Edward Woodward) gets more and more distressed at the education, habits and traditions of the people living on Summerisle. A very young Christopher Lee plays Lord Summerisle who explains to him how the paganist roots of the community got started. His grandfather had to engineer and modify the crops he brought to the island because they wouldn’t grow well in the soil otherwise. In order to make sure the locals had faith in his new apple trees etc., he had them pray to the Goddess of the Harvest and follow other ancient rites (a lot of which required naked women and outdoor orgies) and when they were rewarded with an excellent harvest, they were led to believe their new religion was the reason, thus encouraging them to keep it up year after year. But now it looks like the crops are starting to fail and Howie is easily led to believe that a young girl is going to be sacrificed on May Day to ensure a good crop next year. He realizes, a bit belatedly, that he’s a bit wrong about that…

But anyway, a friend of mine added a link to her Facebook page that I simply had to click on. It’s from the Daily Mail’s coverage of the news that Cornwall schools must add paganism into their religion courses, even down to the early childhood levels. Cornwall Council is clearly catering to a fringe movement in the area (the upper estimate puts 750 pagans in a population of 537,400 so .001 percent) but its inclusion gives it the practice a legitimacy that was otherwise lacking. This alarms the Christian campaigners who are against the move, of course. They’re claiming it’s a time issue, that the course can’t devote enough time to the majors let alone a fringe religion, thus it’s a waste of time including it.

‘Introducing paganism is just faddish and has more to do with the political correctness of teachers than the educational needs of children.’

Is it a fad to include Buddhism, Judaism and Islam, as well? Did anyone ever try to claim that those are only included because of political correctness instead of educational value? It’s too much of a straw man argument to extend this toward them wanting all Christianity all the time in that class and nothing else, but deep down it wouldn’t surprise me if that was the way a few of them think. It tops the list of commandments, doesn’t it? No other gods but me? (Commandments aimed very specifically at the Israelites and their YHWH, but neveryoumind…)

This, too, is something of a stretch, but I wonder if their attitude might have a bit to do with concerns over what might get taught in terms of how early Christians behaved toward pagans. They moved into the area and usurped a belief system that had flourished for hundreds of years and what beliefs they didn’t ban they stole and repurposed toward their own ends. Glory glory hallelujah.

Paganism is historically relevant in Cornwall so the fact that a minority of people have chosen to retain the traditions is a fact kids should be allowed to learn in school.

Neil Burden, the council’s cabinet member for children’s services, said that the move would give children ‘access to the broad spectrum of religious beliefs’.

The council said the teaching of Christianity still accounted for nearly two-thirds of religious education in its schools.

Clearly they don’t like things to be fair, with equal time devoted to all the religions included in the syllabus but maybe they’d make the argument that .001 percent worth of pagans suggests a mere .001 percent of class time should be given over to them. And I don’t think I’d disagree with using a rationing approach of some kind. If the intent is to expose students to all available religious lifestyles in their geographical area then it’s probably logical to spend more time on the ones they’re most likely to run into in their day to day lives and just touch on the others out there that aren’t so in-the-face all the time.

I wonder what their approach is in terms of validity of religions overall; if the teachers promote Christianity above all other faiths as if it’s the right and only one worth having, or if they teach this so kids will come away from the course understanding that every religion is essentially the same in terms of purpose; they all exist to impose some kind of order on an otherwise chaotic world.

Bottom line, I don’t see the harm in including paganism in this course. I don’t remember much about my school days but I know I learned nothing about whatever beliefs would have been held by the aboriginal population of my province before the Christians ran ripshod over their culture and decimated it. It would have been interesting but my religion class was aimed only at getting the kids ready to be proper Catholics, whatever the hell that might mean. I never had a religion class like this Cornwall one until I hit university and it was quite the eye opener, to say the least. It’s good that these kids don’t have to wait until university to get the same experience.


Quoteable book reader

March 13, 2010

Inside Higher Ed has a link to an L.A. Times article about a recently released list of professor-chosen 40 bad books via 10 pages worth of PDF for those who want eye strain. Twilight does not get a mention, but the Da Vinci Code does earn a mention.

The titles have been picked for a number of reasons: bad plot choices, badly written, deliberate pulp designed to tug heart strings or manages to tug heart strings even though the set up was completely see-through and retarded. From the Times article:

There is one good lesson in the enterprise. Sophia A. McClennen, from Pennsylvania State University, doesn’t name a bad book; she writes, “In almost every class, I teach a bad book, an awful, poorly written, sometimes sexist, racist, reactionary book.” She doesn’t tell her students, though — they read it on the syllabus and come into her class, disturbed, upset and engaged. That’s a bad book — put to good use.

I never majored in English in university and I’m hard pressed to recall what we did study in year one. King Lear for sure, short stories (“I would prefer not to” — Bartleby the Scrivener. Oh, I admired him even then…) and poems. I don’t recall any work with long fiction. In high school and earlier though, man! It was a huh! kind of moment when I realized most of my teachers’ book choices came right off lists of challenged books. Sadly, I don’t recall any kids getting interested enough in any of them to create debate.

I was interested enough in The Pigman to rewrite the entire tale in rhyming couplets for one of my free assignments that year. I wish I still had that. I also wrote far more than a chapter to affix to the end of The Crysalids for a project the next year. I wish I still had that, too. On the flip side, I think I deliberately lost my class copy of The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz after I read the whole damn thing and then our class never got around to discussing it anyway. Reading Wikipedia’s entry about it, I have no recollection of that plot whatsoever. Maybe I’d like the book now. Or I can just try and find the movie…


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