Monthly Archives: February 2011

She Dressed That Way, She Must Have Wanted It

Creative Commons: catatonickid.wordpress.com

The title of this piece is one of the most common excuses given by a rapist who’s been caught. We hear variations on the theme such as “She was dressed provocatively; what did she expect?” “Why didn’t you fight him off?”  “I knew she wanted it.” “Saying no is just a game; she was playing hard to get.”

Over three years of writing this blog I have seen trends as to what becomes a popular post. Sometimes it’s a few months after the original date. Some of my more popular posts were on Polygamy: I Do, I Do, I Do, and Polyamory: I Love You and You and You, as well as Starbucks and the Censored Mermaid, Travels in India: Betel Nut Adventures (who knew betel nut was such a popular search item) Incest, Betrayal and Genetic Sexual Attraction and Rape: It’s Just a Social Media Trend. Except for the Starbucks and the betel nut you could say that my top posts are about sex in one form or another. It’s not that I’ve written exclusively on this topic but when I look at the daily search topics that bring readers to my site the top one, since I wrote “Rape: It’s Just a Social Media Trend,” is “rape.”

In a way this disturbs me because I’m wondering what people are looking for when they  are searching out rape. I would hope that it is a concern for women (and men) the world over who have been victims of rape, a violent physical crime that can leave a lifetime of emotional (as well as physical) scars. I would really hope people are trying to find solutions and ways to protect themselves and others from such crimes, as a way of education to stop the perpetration of such violence. But I worry because I know the internet, when it first started, was a big pit for people to look for sex, talk about sex, seek out all things sexual.

Sex is never a bad thing when between consenting adults and I’m certainly not against sex. However, rape is never a good thing and never consensual. It is the forcing of oneself on another. It may be less or more violent (resulting in death at its extreme) but it is never nonviolent. Holding a gun or a knife to someone’s head is still a violent assault when coupled with rape.

Rape is used by men to denigrate women in countries under unrest, being overthrown, destabilized by guerrilla warfare. It is far more horrible than being shot dead in a war. It is a crime against the defenseless, because of strength and/or weapons. A culture does not have to be so different from ours (in fact it can be and is the same as ours,) for it to perpetuate the stigma of rape. Some Middle Eastern countries put all the onus on a woman. If she is raped, she must bring witnesses. In other cases she’s charged with adultery, no matter that she couldn’t resist in one way or another. It’s always the woman’s fault.

But even here, we see the onus put onto the victim for the crime. As my first paragraph indicates, it doesn’t matter if you’re wearing a burka or a mini skirt, somebody will decide that you are a) nothing but the possession of a man, b) dressing to bring about a violent act upon your person and/or c) having to cover up because men cannot control themselves. If these atatements were true, then in fact it would show that men are more like animals than women and really, if that’s the case it’s obvious who should be running the world. But I want to point out that not all men are rapists and should never be considered so.

Yet, any man who is a rapist, is responsible for his acts. Not his mother, not his teacher, not his father, not the woman he rapes. Especially not the woman (or man) that he rapes. They are victims. It doesn’t matter if they’re naked or in a parka. If they say no, it’s no. In our western culture our ads and our lifestyle pumps up sexuality all the time. It’s pretty much the norm but it shouldn’t condone rape. And ads, like the Dolce & Gabbana piece that I mentioned in the earlier blog, are more than offensive. They’re criminal because they try to say that rape is sexy. And there are computer games where one can rape animated characters over and over again. Sure, a real person isn’t being hurt but there is no justification (as there is in shooter games where you might be shooting aliens or the enemy) that justifies such reprehensible acts.

This following site is by someone studying trends of crime against women and has some good information. How to Justify Rape No one should ever make rape acceptable or feel responsible if they’re raped. If you were specifically searching about rape, please take a moment to fill out the anonymous poll.

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Filed under crime, Culture, history, internet, security, sex

Fire: Seducer, Destroyer

Creative Commns: CC-SA, share, 365. lemasney, postaday2011

Like many children I was fascinated with fire. We didn’t have many opportunities to see it in all its chaotic glory: our house had no fireplace and my mother rarely lit candles. The exception was at Thanksgiving and Christmas. There was the central candelabra and four candles that spelled out NOEL, shaped like either snowmen or reindeer (I actually can’t remember). Each kid had one that also was a letter in their name. We all had N and E in our names. My sister and I only had L and I was the only O so it was m letter. These were reverently lit every Christmas but preserved for many years.

The only other time we would see a live fire was when camping in the summer, which we did pretty much every year as that’s an affordable vacation for lower middle class families with not a lot of spare cash. Marshmallow roasts and s’mores and of course, staring into the flames, watching all those fire sprites dance and caper about.

Perhaps it was these tantalizingly slim glimpses that tempted my brother and me to more dangerous games. My parents hadn’t separated yet, which meant that matches were readily available because my father smoked.

It might have started with finding a stub of a candle. I was probably eight or nine and my brother six or seven. We would come home from school for lunch and sneak downstairs to play before going back. Obviously my mother was otherwise occupied or we would have received a good whooping just for lighting the candle. But hiding out in the cement playground, the rumpus room, we would light up the candle, then take the papers straws absconded from the kitchen and light the ends. Ah, the role models of smokers. That’s what we did. We pretended we were smoking those paper straws, always putting out the fire when we were done. This was the more guilty of the two activities that involved fire, but one we were never caught at.

On the weekends we would get up early, as kids are wont to do, and go down to the rumpus room to play with dolls and trucks. There was a spare bed in there that we would sit on and dress the dolls. One morning we dropped a piece of doll’s clothing below the bed. Of course we had the candle lit because we could. My brother took that stub of a candle and looked under the bed for the clothing. The flame licked at the under structure of the bed and before we knew it, things were beginning to smolder. We could see the smoke rising and kept running to the bathroom filling cups of water and pouring them on the mattress. But the smoke grew thicker…and thicker.

Finally, realizing this was getting out of control, my brother and I did the walk of doom, up the stairs to my mother’s bedroom. We had a right to fear because her punishments were often harsh and heavy with wooden spoons and leather straps. I awoke my mother and said, “We were just playing… and all of a sudden the bed caught on fire.”

She was up in moments, and had awakened my older brother downstairs (he would have been about 16/17) He got to haul the mattress outside and house it down. Surprisingly, my mother soundly scolded us but didn’t beat us, laying the blame at my feet, saying, “You should have known better. You’re older.”

I was so ashamed for years about this incident that I didn’t tell anyone until I was in my later twenties. That scold was way more effective than a spanking would have been. My brother and I never repeated our firebug ways and got off light, in terms of punishment and destruction. I have candles now, have had other dangerous dances with fire but I’m very careful about candles.

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The Middle East: Liberation or Fundamentalism?

Daniel Wilson: How to Survive a Robot Army, Doubleday 2011

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” This is an appropriate quote for what is happening in the Middle East right now. With many years of being ruled by dictators, whether benevolent or not (Singapore is described as a benevolent dictatorship) the people of these countries have had the same leader for decades.

First Tunisia, then Egypt, now Libya. We didn’t hear much about Tunisia because the media doesn’t consider them important on the world stage, but Egypt, land of the pyramids, sheiks and oil is important and we heard about that. But more importantly, social media and the internet means everyone is hearing about the protests and uprisings, including those people living under such regimes. Egypt tried to shut them up, seizing cell phone companies and shutting them down and to no avail. Al-Gadaffi has tried to shut up the media by banning them from the country but pictures taken on cell phones and other devices have been uploaded to the internet. Whereas we live in an age when Big Brother seems to watch our every move and keep us under constant surveillance (not that far a step from a dictatorship) we also have the freedom of getting information out no matter how hard tyrants and dictators try to tamp it down.

It’s interesting that even the poorest people, living in cardboard or corrugated metal shacks, will have a TV or a cellphone. Suppression of the news is getting harder and harder to do for your local despot. However, suppression of the masses still continues, often with a heavy hand, cased in metal and wielding a big metal stick, which holds ammo. It is one reason the Egyptian revolt was successful, Mubarak refrained from plowing down his citizens. That and the army didn’t stick behind him. I can’t say how Tunisia played out because we didn’t hear much about that. Al-Gaddafi on the other hand, is clearly mad and willing to go down, taking as many people with him as possible. Hooray for maniacs.

But perhaps these dynastic rulers (such as Gaddafi’s over-forty years and the possible succession by a son) have striven in some way to keep their countries from falling into religious fervor and fundamentalism as bad and as crazed as other dictators. There are many who would argue for al-Gaddafi, as those against him but the problem with one permanent ruler is that people never get to voice their opinions or see their votes really matter. And yeah, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Gaddafi may suppress his people until they are nothing but corpses and that will not liberate Libya. It all depends on who controls the army in the end. I sometimes wonder what would happen here if we had a similar dictator, and Harper has been accused of a heavy hand here, and what our forces would do. Just as the Tienanmen Square uprising in China did not succeed because the government rolled tanks over the protesters and shot them dead. Perhaps these protests will only bring about change if the governments don’t massacre their people. Perhaps those who revolt will have to gain their own weapons.

So which will it be, as rebellions, their like not seen in centuries, sweeps through the Middle East? Will the people be liberated, have safer lives and see democracy (not by any means a perfect system) in their governments? Or will the despots of decades be replaced by religious fundamentalism that will have people cower in their homes and subjugate some groups? You can bet the first group to be subjugated will be women, if that happens. And if Gaddafi stays in power, well, he hates the West, Berbers and who knows what else. But he certainly loves virginal women as that is what his bodyguards are purported to be. Supposedly martyrs to the faith in Islam will be greeted by a host of virgins in heaven (What do the women get and who wants a virgin anyways?). It looks like Gaddafi’s getting his now.

We are living through a crux of change, but then there is usually change. How the protests in the Middle East play out remains to be seen, but I’m not yet sure we’ll see a society more balanced in some of the countries. And in others the bloodshed will be high and the dictatorships will continue.

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Cthulhu Who?

Last Friday I went to Cthulhupalooza, thinking, why not? Let’s try something new. Although I know of Cthulhu I can’t say I’m on intimate terms with it…him. But what, you’re asking, what the heck is a Cthulhu? Pronunciations differ but “kathooloo” is the most common. “He” is an Elder God or perhaps a Great Old One and is the creation of H.P. Lovecraft who was writing at the advent of the fantasy/horror genres.

Lovecraft doesn’t seem to have been a particularly healthy person and his parents were both committed for different forms of madness, brought on by a syphilitic disease in at least his father. Lovecraft wrote in the same style as his predecessors of the gothic age, Mary Shelley, and especially Edgar Allan Poe who was a strong influence on his writing. Cthulhu was created in the 1920s and though one of many “unspeakable horrors” has gained much fame and cult following after the fact. Cthulhu is often portrayed as greenish, with tentacles dangling from its mouth, great batlike wings at its back and talons gracing its hands. He is a god so alien that humans barely matter and Lovecraft’s writing is rife with the insignificance of the mere human mortal in the great scheme of things.

I don’t know if I’ve ever managed to read a complete Lovecraft story. Even for his time he wrote in an archaic style and I’ve found it very hard to drag myself through the prose. But…being a writer of science fiction and fantasy I know of the mythos and I know of the beast. Many of the stories describe the indescribable horrors in long melodramatic, as only gothic can be, prose. Often the writer has read an ancient book, maybe in Sumerian and the horrid tales work an insidious change and captivation on the mind.

So, when I was invited to Cthulhupalooza II on Facebook I decided what the heck. There were to be short films, a couple of bands, a few tables of geek paraphernalia and a burlesque act, Little Miss Risk being sacrificed to Cthulhu. I went with two friends and we dressed up in semi Victorian clothing. Only a few people were dressed likewise with the majority in jeans and heavy metal hoodies. The venue was the Rickshaw, an old theater in Vancouver’s E. Hastings St. Not the best area of town and I had a vague recollection that the Rickshaw hosts heavy metal bands. It was the scariest part for me because I’m not a heavy metal person.

The venue had a stage and theater seats. We missed the short films so I don’t know if they were snippets of Lovecraft inspired stories or not. Scythia, the self-titled folk metal band was funny, at least with the head banging, hair tossing antics and the lead singer changing his accent from German to English between songs. If there were discernible words I couldn’t tell but that might have been issues with the acoustics or the way of heavy metal bands because when Darkest of the Hillside Thickets came on stage they were just as incomprehensible. In between these two bands they showed films of…bands including Hillside Thickets. So we saw them in film and live and probably could have avoided both. I never thought I’d see head banging, heavy metal fans just sitting in seats, or doing that thing that I call the zombie adoration of standing  on the dance floor (not dancing or head banging) in front of the band. I also never thought that heavy metal would be…well, boring. But it was. I’m no connoisseur but I didn’t find the tunes that catching. Not like Cthulhu would be. Who knew that Lovecraft attracted heavy metal? Maybe it’s all that doom.

An example of the kitschy cult of Cthulhu

The “bar” consisted of a motley mix of canned beers, rum, vodka, Jack Daniels and one or two other elixirs. They only had white wine to which I said, “Cthulhu wouldn’t drink white wine! No red?” When I asked if the rum was dark I was told it was white, to which I replied, “Cthulhu wouldn’t drink white rum!” Oh well. We did see the burlesque act and I regret that we missed the first dance. Little Miss Risk came out dressed in 1930s style reading a great tome, the ones that lure the reader into a Stygian nightmare they cannot escape. She did something so one eye looked closed and one was open but nearly white. Creeeepy. As she crawled onto the Cthulhu altar, wearing the ubiquitous pasties, furry tentacles appeared and writhed; then she stood and spit green blood.

The burlesque was well done and the best part and I’m sorry I missed the earlier one which might have made the $15 price almost worthwhile. Still, we did have fun and found it an amusing, if limited in events, mini-con. As it was, we escaped the creeping horror…or boredom… and went back to my place to drink wine as Cthulhu would.

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Uttering Threats Can Get You Arrested

In one of my recent posts someone sent a comment that is both disgusting and offensive and shows the problem with the attitudes of some people towards women. I have set my filters to approve comments before they are posted, so I will not give the person the satisfaction of seeing their horrid comment. But be forewarned, anyone who threatens me in any way will be reported.

This did bring up an interesting issue about internet and abusing people online. If you do a search you will find sites for cyber bullying (a form of harassment) and for cyber luring. In fact there is a lot of information on protecting children who maybe be lured, raped or otherwise abused through internet stalkers. There is cyber stalking and information on internet fraud, Nigerian scam letters and viruses. But there isn’t much on being threatened by someone on the internet.

In fact, I checked both my local police and the RCMP websites and it was very unclear. I did find that the comments the person made fall under section 264.1 of the criminal code, that of “uttering threats.” Threats are indeed considered a criminal offence and I will report all such threats to the police and did so with this comment. The police said that should this happen to any of you, you should call the police in the jurisdiction in which you reside, unless you know there is a specific task force set up for such reasons.

These attitudes, whether as a sick joke or someone who is intent on harm, should not even be tolerated. I will never condone jokes about rape because to do so makes the attitude more acceptable. I will never accept that women are chattel, lesser creatures or deserving of abuses because they are women. I will never agree that one race, religion or gender is superior over another. There are fine lines on jokes but those of a violent nature are not only in poor taste but set up precedents for increasingly violent behavior.

If you feel threatened by someone making suggestions to you on the internet, contact your local police on their non-emergency number (unless the person says they’re going to attack you on a set date or time). Keep all information so that you can give them as much evidence as possible. And don’t ever think you should just take it. I will not be intimidated by a jerk in any way.

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Fun With Thunderstorms

Creative Commons: El Garza, Flickr

When I was a kid nothing was more exciting than a thunderstorm. The frenetic energy that charged the air electrified us as well. My mother, who grew up in a small coal mining town, insisted we unplug everything and go into the basement, turning off the lights. Sometimes the power went out so it was flashlights and candles. As we sat in the dark, not standing too near the window, which would just entice the lightning to find you, we watched Nature’s amazing show.

Grey and bilious green roiling clouds, sometimes tinged with yellow, pregnant with dark anger. Eye searing forks of lightning stabbing the earth, sometimes reaching out to grab a bit more. Angry voices cracking through the sky. It was amazing. It rattled windows, it shorted out power and sometimes it caused fires.

We never experienced fire but lightning and thunder were both thrilling and terrifying. I imagine this is why people go to slasher/horror/thriller movies; the on the edge-of-your-seat tension and terror, the relief that it’s not real, the huge adrenalin surge that tells you you’re alive.

Adrenalin is an intrinsic part of our physiological reactions and is called the flight or fight reflex. In intense or dangerous situations, as well as sports, it gives us that extra burst of energy to move faster, lift heavier weights, just survive a bit longer. We can’t control it.

When I was still living in Calgary, there was a massive thunderstorm one night. My boyfriend and I lived near the river and several streets back the terrain became a small cliff with houses upon it. We watched from our balcony window as the lightning streaked out of the sky. It was close, extremely bright, the thunder loud and booming all about us. The closer the sound of thunder to the lightning the closer in proximity to the eye of the storm. As kids we would count from the time we saw lightning (one thousand and one, one thousand and two…) and that would tell us about how many miles away the storm actually was. This site says count the seconds and divide by five to get a mile so maybe that lightning was always closer than I imagined. http://weathereye.kgan.com/cadet/lightning/thunder.html

Well, that night as we watched the dance about us we were suddenly washed in blinding light as a loud boom instantaneously raced through us. My boyfriend and I, devoid of thought, pure instinctual animals jumped and ran, and found ourselves across our apartment in seconds. The lightning storm had been pretty much on top of us and had hit a tree on that cliff behind. That adrenalin reaction was so mindless it made me realize that we are animals after all. That was the closest I ever got to lightning and that was close enough.

But along with thunderstorms, we would often get hail, and this post today is inspired by the fact that we had little pea sized hail falling this morning in Vancouver, which is very rare. We might get a thunderstorm this afternoon.

Hail in Calgary was often an event in and of itself. I remember that it hailed so hard one July that we were playing in two-foot hailbanks afterward. The hail could flood areas and would be fast and furious, biting holes through plant leaves and cold enough to turn your hands blue. Being pelted with little chunks of ice was never fun.

One hailstorm that happened shortly after I left Alberta dropped golfball sized hailstones. Everyone’s car was badly pocked by the hail and people ended up with good goose eggs and bruises if they’d been out in the storm. Hailstorms are even rarer in Vancouver than snow, and that’s uncommon enough. I don’t miss hail as much, though it’s fascinating to watch but I do miss thunderstorms. And I still thrill at the charged air of a good storm.

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Happy Hallmark Moment!

Creative Commons: http://unmind.net/page/2/

Yes, Valentine’s Day really is one of those Hallmark moments, a time when every chocolate factory pumps out confections and sticks them in heart-shaped boxes, upping the price on sentimentality. When florists rub their hands in heartfelt glee and card manufacturers weep in joy at the sales. That’s what Valentine’s Day is. That, and a chance for people to show how much they love each other so they can ignore the feeling for the rest of the year.

You might gather I’m a cynic about these merchant manufactured occasions. We can thank the Victorians for a lot of this, from Valentine’s Day to birth stones to all those events where it’s the thing to do, you know; to give jewelery or flowers or chocolate. Like so many other things, emotions have been manipulated by the need to sell sell sell.

And really, the original St. Valentine was a martyr. We don’t know which Valentine this heartwarming occasion is based on because there were two or three and none of them had anything to do with sentimental love. Chaucer wrote about and fictionalized the day, though it’s possible it was tied to the earlier Roman celebration of Lupercalia for health and fertility. Chaucer lived in the era of troubadours and courtly love, when the idea of a pure and chaste love, of flirting endlessly without consummating the sentiment was the height of courtly deportment. If you think about it, a Christian martyr might be more likely to have died of spiking or crucifixion than of a  broken heart.


Creative Commons

But true to the gooey feelings of Valentine’s Day, it seems that the tales were fabricated. We know the heart shape is old and has been used for centuries but there is debate of how the shape came about since the human heart has only a vague similarity to the heart symbol. It could have been the silphium seed, a heart-shaped contraceptive plant, or the representation of a woman’s buttocks, vulva or pubic mound. If indeed the representation is one of the latter, then imagine a young man giving his love a card with a valentine, or a woman doing the same. It seems it wouldn’t have been so much the gesture of sentimental love as it would have been of lust.  “Here you are, I’m giving myself to you. Here’s my vulva. Let’s have sex.” Hmm, kind of ruins that dewy-eyed view of Valentine’s Day. But then, have people really ever needed a reason to have sex? Excuses yes, but the reason was already there.

I prefer to think people can demonstrate affection, love and lust whenever they choose to. So however you celebrate your Valentine’s Day, whether it be with giving a rose or gorging on the love-replacing chocolate, may it be stress free. 😀

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Writing and the Use of Trademark Words

The use of trademarks is a very litigious business for those who commit infractions. You better not title your strawberry drink Coca-Cola, or call your car design the Toyota Prius or Toyota Pumpernickel. Most of this seems obvious. The maker and manufacturer own the right to that brand and no one will ride on their fame and steal their sales. It can get as contentious as the famed Disney lawyers who have actually trotted into a little flea market and told a woman to cease and desist in selling clothes made with Disney trademarked designs. The fabric was bought legally; it was the fact that she was trying to sew the cloth into clothing and sell that, that Disney objected to. Lawyers for Marvel contacted Vancouver media at one point and told them to stop calling a particular cat burglar (who climbed the side of buildings ) Spider-Man. They didn’t want the comic book hero associated with the dark side.

These areas can become very contentious, and there are copy cats who will take a name and change one letter while keeping the font and style the same. Companies also trademark their brand colors but when it comes to the world of writing there are many different areas.  If I’m putting a brand name into my magazine or website, say as an ad that they paid for, then I have to use it properly, with either a registered® symbol or a trademark ™. These are different forms of branding. But what happens when we’re talking about fiction?

This came up in the writers’ group I belong to and it caused some upset as one author felt picked upon, although we were discussing the vagaries of the situation. Someone said her manuscripts had been rejected from a publisher because she mentioned name brands in her story, such as the character putting on his Armani suit and driving his Rolls Royce. In fact, a writer can using any brand name in their fiction and they do not have to put trademark or register marks into the text. As an editor I’ve sometimes had to pull these symbols out. The discussion continued that it would be okay to have a character drink, say, an Absolut vodka but to drink piss-warm Absolut would possibly be seen as defamatory.

The truth is, it would be an extremely rare case of any publisher ever being sued (or the writer) because a brand name was used in a negative light. It happens all the time. But this is very different for fiction than for advertising and marketing materials. Even nonfiction, as in a review, a critical piece or a journalistic article on a company or a product does not curtail the writer from writing negatively about that product and naming it. There have been science fiction novels that had various corporations taking over or running the future and these did not depict the shiny side of the corporation.

A publisher who asks a writer to remove every name brand from a piece of fiction could be doing it for several reasons, but should explain why they want it removed:

  • they think the usage actually detracts from the writing
  • they fear libel for the defamatory use of the name
  • they have a personal feud with a company
  • other?

The first reason is the only valid one, while the third is more a case of personal issues that should not interfere. And the second reason is really ridiculous. I commented and still maintain that a publisher who fears being sued is not knowledgeable in the ways of publishing, fiction and trademark issues. You don’t have to be an expert to know this and there are numerous examples out there. Not all publishers are educated on copyright and publishing, as was seen with the Food Source editor who thought everything on the internet was up for grabs and public domain. Not so.

If you opened a book store and called it Kodak, or a shoe store and named it Xerox, you would run into branding issues. But if you opened a bookstore called Blackberry Books, you wouldn’t and in fact there used to be a bookstore by that name. If you write about a drug smuggler who drives a Humvee and loves her Converse runners because they help her escape faster you’re not going to have a problem. If you write a book saying that Lulu Lemon yoga pants cause cancer, you better be able to prove it or you’ll be slammed with a defamation suit.

Product placement in a movie or TV show is a big thing worth big bucks. You, the writer, naming any brand in your story is not what your story is about, yet it could be a major part of the plot and it would still make no difference to those corporations. So write away and don’t worry. This blog has not been brought to you by Pepsi, Disney nor Exxon.

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The Evolution of the Suit

I noticed that there was a celebration or commiseration of the 150th anniversary of the suit recently. Well the suit did not spring full-formed from a designer’s brow a century and a half ago but was a slow evolution throughout time. In the very earliest ages of humankind people wore animal skins but learned how to weave fabric from plants and animal fur or hair.


Creative Commons--rectangular construction (Knol)

Patterning and stitching developed along the way. As you can imagine the stitch would have been pretty basic and every piece of fabric taken off the loom would have been stitched together to form a body piece and sleeves.

There were no factories and every piece had to be made from the ground up so nothing was wasted. The earliest form of sewing and patterning was called rectangular construction because it was taking all of the rectangle from the loom and using it. Men and women wore tunics. You might call them dresses today or giant T-shirts, as the T-shirt is an evolved form of rectangular construction because the sleeves are formed where they join (in some cases). Since humanity began in Africa and spread out from there the Middle East and Africa held the first developed civilizations.

By the time rectangular construction was perfected humans had been dressing themselves for thousands of years. It’s hard to say exactly when this actually started because fabric tends to rot away. Only the earliest images on stone give us an idea of what the Egyptians, Babylonians and Sumerians were wearing.


Thorsberg Tunic

For outer wear in the colder climes people wore mantles, a rectangle of wool or fur or other heavy warm fabric. This eventually evolved into the cape, a shaped half circle or full circle cloak. However, at the same time the cultures that spent a lot of time in snow or on the steppes did develop coats. The Norse had coats and pants such as the 4th  century Thorsberg coat depicted to the right. The button, as a fastening came along around the 13th century. Before that, lacing, and pins of elaborate construction were used for closings.

But these were all coats, whether Norse, Persian or Mongolian. Cutting and patterning techniques became very elaborate; weaves as well continued to become refined. There is debate that we’ve lost some of the techniques shown in paintings of the Middle Ages, such as veils so thin that they were nearly invisible. Out of the Elizabethan era of the 1600s men were wearing doublets. On colder days, capes were thrown over these. By the Baroque and Rococo periods (which refers to art more than fashion) of the late 1600s to early 1700s elaborate doublets and coats of brocade were common. Overcoats became common as the swords slimmed down to the rapier blade, and muskets came to the fore. This is probably the true beginning of the suit, a doublet with a matching coat that is longer over top.

Van Dyck--example of doublet and coat.

Slowly over the next hundred years this turned into the coat and tails with a vest beneath the coat. Although the era of Louis XIV brought the froofroo lace and brocade to a height, and ostentation was part of the game, warmth also played a part. The ostentation carried over so that class was always shown by the cut of the cloth, the expense of the material and the dyes, and the ornamentation. As the more staid Regency and Victorian eras came around men (who once had been brighter peacocks than women in fashion) still needed to show their status. The more layers to your suit, the more high up you were.

Thus was modern the suit born. So, in the essence of the modern suit consisting of jacket and matching pants, and perhaps a vest, this did begin in the 1800s but as you can see it was a long evolution from a garment worn for warmth to one of nearly pure status. Status to depict class or responsibility or competence. Lawyers rarely wear T-shirts and cowboy boots in the courtroom or to meet clients. This description here is a gloss of the history of the suit but it gives you an idea of how fashion changes. Other influences can be political, economic or geographic. But in the end, it is what humans consider fashionable that makes the trend.

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How Zellers Sucks

Zellers is in the realm of K-Marts, Targets and Walmarts and other low-cost stores of cheap stuff. They carry some clothing, some shoes, some pharmacy, some every day living stuff, some food. They’re okay but not high on my list of places to shop. If I need a pair of cheap socks or stockings or a few cans of cat food I’ll stop in and buy them on my way home. But the biggest thing that deters me from Zellers is the service. I’ll go to the comparable London Drugs over Zellers even though I’ve noticed their prices are not that cheap anymore.

Kevin Yarr/CBC

I have never yet found a Zellers that has a fast checkout. I don’t know if this is the way the cashiers have to scan things (with a scangun as opposed to a scanning plate like grocery stores have) or the way the cash register seems to need five steps to get to a receipt, and heaven help you if the cashier’s been told to get people to fill out a credit form. But I do know the combination of these things with the stupidest cashiers in existence makes the checkout a tedious  and frustrating experience that would never have me shop there even if the quality was great and the prices low. Swimming through quicksand would be faster.

Here are some examples of the idiocy I’ve encountered. If I bought 10 tins of Yummy Salmon cat food, the cashier cannot run one through the scanner and then hit the “X10” buttons but must scan each one individually. Imagine if you have many multiple items. Sometimes they have trouble scanning an item because it’s not reading. If you have a multiple item, they never think of scanning another of the same to see if it goes through but will punch the number in and usually incorrectly at least once.

I tend to bring my own bag, to save all those plastic trees, but if you tell the cashier you have your own bag, she will not bother to put the items in the bag but just leave them on the counter. WTF? Having your own bag dictates less service? Or perhaps their little brains cannot fathom that a bag comes in other than Zellers logos.

Yesterday, this was my latest experience. I was buying two items total but wanted to pay for them separately because one was for work. I tell the woman this. She says, which one? I say, both but I’m paying separately for them. But which one, she asks. And I say, it doesn’t matter because I’m buying both. Choose one. And of course she cannot place these two items into my bag, slowing everything down because as I’m getting my money the items are still sitting out and then I must take more time to put them in the bag before having my hand free to take the cash, causing everything to slooooooow down. I give her exact change for one item: four quarters, a nickel and a penny. She gives me back a quarter and says, it’s American. I say, you can take this. It’s the same amount. Oh. Arrgghh! This exchange for buying two simple items took about five minutes. Of course there’s a line-up.

None of the cashiers I’ve ever seen at Zellers can do a multiple scan, grab items quickly, bag immediately, figure out simple math, let alone complicated math, or use a full brain. Zellers must pay so badly that only rotting zombie brains turning to sludge in the gene pool will apply. Or there is some ephemeral honey that attracts dumb bees. I don’t know but I tend to think people are more intelligent than maybe they are. But even if they’re not, what ever happened to common sense? Maybe Zellers should sell it on the shelves.

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