I went to the The Bug Jar (219 Monroe Ave.) with high hopes. First, I'm a big fan of Auld Lang Syne with their fantastic, heavy, electric, lounge-folk. Tonight they didn't disappoint with a set that built from catchy, straightforward acoustic rock to a wall of sound in that same style. A friend of mine had mentioned that his friend would be playing as My Brightest Diamond. Playing a variety of instruments in turn, she's an excellent soloist with a melodic voice. In all I was thrilled to have been there.
I decided I, like many other people in the world, would take a crack at making gender-neutral pronouns in English. I contemplate it every time I seek an alternative and end up unsatisfied. I commonly fall back on substituting plurals with an implication toward a singular actor because it sounds okay phonetically. Yet it's grammatically incorrect and it fails terribly when you're also referring to a group (for example, "They came toward me. One stepped forward and they shook my hand.") Likewise, using "one" and "it" is frustrated by either grammatical clumsiness ("A child stepped forward and one gave me a flower.") or emotional and social distance ("A child stepped forward and it gave me a flower.")
Starting from how the "th" sound of "they" and "them" is phonetically similar to the "zh" sound, I considered substituting "zh" for "th". But I had adopted "Zhust" as my "Playa-name" for Burning Man in 2010, and although it should be pronounced like "just" with a more z-like "j" sound, most people pronounced it "zu'hust" instead (even if I spoke it first). As such, I'll simplify things and go straight to substituting "j" in the various "they" forms. I made a table to summarize, and in doing a bit more research, I found the work of Micheal Spivak which looked promising, as summarized in this Wikipedia article. (And while there, I decided to steal from the Wikipedia article "Gender-neutral pronoun" for my descriptions.)
Description, Masculine Example
Nominative (subject), "he ran"
Objective (object), "go to him"
Possessive determiner, "this is his ball"
Possessive pronoun, "the ball is his"
its (or ones)
Reflexive, "talked to himself"
So to take a sentence like, "He went to the store and bought himself a coffee with his own money.", my gender-neutral technique yields "Jee went to the store and bought jemself a coffee with jeir own money." I realize that "jem" is a homophone for "gem" and "jeir", a shortening of "Gerry", but that doesn't lead to the kind of pronoun confusion of the common substitutions — even "I gave jem a gem" (which sounds clumsy because of newness) is really no worse than, "he took on the airs of his heirs."
I think Spivak and I are on the same page regarding rationale (familiarity, pronunciation, starting from the plural forms), but I really don't like that "them" is often abbreviated "'em", and that logically the reflexive should be "emself" but it sounds like "himself" leading to "eirself". You can read a lot more about it in this lengthy and informative case.
So from now on, I'll start using these terms whenever necessary, probably to the consternation of all my friends.
[Edit 2017-Jul-10: fix possessive determiner from "hers" to "her".]
The gist is that Ehrenreich is an essayist who, in 1998 and 1999, left her comfortable upper middle-class lifestyle to try and make it as an unskilled worker in America. She did three experiments in different parts of the country; each time she attempted to find work under the best circumstances. What she found was that she was not able to hack it. The short of it is that minimum wage is not a living wage for a single person, so she was doomed to failure by attempting to both find shelter and food on those wages, succeeding only when she worked two jobs 7 days a week.
I was not particularly surprised by any anecdotal facts presented. Perhaps it was people like Ehrenreich who opened this world to me so I can say that now, or perhaps it was my own observations. Nonetheless, I wasn't "shocked" to hear that cleaning people don't know how safe the cleaning products were, or that some people innovate by living in their car at a hotel parking lot to save on housing costs, or that single mothers can'tt afford the luxury of competent child care. Through the narrative, I found myself empathizing with … er, no: pitying them.
Because I wasn't shocked, I did have a hard time understanding the perspective of Barbara (Ehrenreich's narrator character). It seemed she was constantly appalled that people didn't have luxuries that she did, or that some people had to do jobs that she found distasteful. I wondered, looking around at my fellow attendees whose demographics were dominated by 50 to 70-year-olds, if there really was others who believed like Barbara? But, as it was revealed later, only a few people among the several hundred in attendance had ever even hired cleaning staff. Apparently Barbara was not as similar to this theater's audience as expected.
Afterward, I was disappointed to realize that nothing has particularly changed in 10 years and I wondered, as always, how can I help fix this? As I mentioned in the discussion that followed, I think it's an absolute myth that people will seek the cheapest prices on everything. As it stands, I look for local goods made and sold by independently-owned small businesses using quality, responsible parts or ingredients. And, if I had a way of knowing, I'd add "with workers who all earn at least a living wage." I have weaned myself from the allure of dollar-store garbage, and now look for quality and reliability: and I'm willing to pay many times more than the cheapest version of whatever I seek. But maybe I'm as myopic as Ehrenreich — that I'm the only one out there.
And finally, despite my best efforts, I found I gravitated toward Barbara's point-of-view more than I thought. When I left, I stopped by Lux Lounge (666 South Ave.) and I couldn't help but look at my friends in a different light. With such a diverse crowd, I know some earn enough, but others might just be scraping by on whatever work they can get. Eventually I realized what I think Ehrenreich missed: money isn't the most important thing for everyone else. Although they have their share of frustration and challenge without enough, they don't wallow in the misery Barbara expected in the play's other characters.
[P.S. Yes, this was posted on Friday after the main page was updated. If you noticed, I can't speak to whether that makes you not crazy.]
OK, so here's the deal. I had this idea to make another satirical thing for Valentine's Day. This time it's the about "having a heart on for Valentine's Day" and other convoluted permutations to get the auditory pun to work. I'll start off the bat and let everyone know you can buy things at Cafepress already. And, although I did think of this without seeing it elsewhere, a quick search on Google reveals that there's quite a few others with the same idea.
But the perfect meme storm had to do with the relatively new site Xtranormal. It's probably the fastest way to get from a script to animation as it does it with 3D rendering and computer-generated voices. In all, it actually works pretty good, but among its many quirks is that the computer voices intone virtually no emotion and there's really no way to annotate it so they do. What I've seen is this deadpan delivery used to humorous effect such as the Are you going to Burning Man video. I was thinking, "what better way to play off an auditory pun than with a perfect deadpan delivery?"
I got a later start than I wanted but it turned out to be timed perfectly. Just minutes after I arrived at The Bug Jar (219 Monroe Ave.), Stereophone started their set. The trio played fast, hard-pop-rock with a notably deceptive effortlessness. Although they jokingly implied they were new to live performance, they were proficient with their songs.
Next up was Red This Ever who played great punk synth-pop. Listening to their album after the fact, I reinforced the notion that they were influenced by bands like Ministry and Depeche Mode, bringing in the hard instrumental aspects of the former with the a singing style closer to the latter. I chatted with them after the show — apparently they decided to make the road their home for the next 2 years, leaving Baltimore, Maryland in the rear-view mirror. I wish them well and hope that lead singer Roy stays serious-injury-free (despite my best efforts, advising improvements on how to attach plastic milk crates to one's feet.)