Faith Can Move Mountains... But Dynamite Works Better

Monday, August 21, 2017

Vengeance Has A Really Weird Name

I have something different today. It's a bit of a writing exercise in the first person. I don't know if she'll end up being an antagonist or perhaps a protagonist. Her voice came across strongly as I wrote though.

You wonder what they were thinking, naming me that.

For years on end when I was a child, whenever I would complain about it, my parents would just sigh, roll their eyes, and then tell me that they had no choice. They would say that they were bound by the terms of the bet and had to go through with it.

A bet? Seriously? You expect me to just accept you couldn’t tell the bastard who won the bet to go to hell?

No court would make you go through with the bet to name your daughter that. It’s not enforceable.

Oh, but no... my parents were too buddy-buddy with the bastard to go back on a bet. Dad was fishing buddies with Charlie, after all, and in Dad’s mind, you stay buddies with the guy you go fishing with. Uncle Charlie, as he liked to be called. Uncle Asshole Charlie, as I tended to mutter under my breath when I was in my teens. I mean, if he’d actually given a damn, he would have never insisted on the terms of that bet. Instead, he happened to win a Super Bowl wager when Mom was pregnant with me, one that resulted in Mom and Dad naming me whatever Charlie wanted when the time came.

Between us, I was glad when, at I was fifteen, Charlie met a bad end when a great white shark decided to take a bite of him off the Carolina coast when he was on a fishing trip. I like to think he died screaming in agony.

Dad and Mom went to the funeral, said their condolences to Charlie’s wife and kids. Obviously it was a closed casket sort of funeral. Kind of hard to have an open casket when you haven’t recovered the deceased’s leg, and there’s only so much a mortician can do to hide the visible scars of a shark attack. I was too busy in school to attend, but I remember thinking that day- Shark: 1, Charlie 0.

A morbid thought. Maybe it makes sense with the path I ended up following.

So yes, I resented my parents growing up. Saddling me with that name. You’d resent it too.

Who the hell names their kid Misery?

Oh, Mom and Dad would say, “well, dear, think of it this way, Stephen King gave that name for the character who was a book within a book. Isn’t Stephen King cool?” Well, maybe he is, but naming me for a fictional romance novel character created by the writer protagonist in a fictional novel by a horror writer isn’t why you named me that. You named me that because you lost a bet you made over a stupid football game with an idiot.

Do you have any idea how much I was hassled as a kid? Other kids teasing me over my name. They were merciless. You try going through elementary and high school with the name Misery and see how you like it.  Little wonder that I tended to be a loner, isolated, anti social. I had my goth stage, my emo stage, the whole nine yards. Black clothing, death metal, sullen stares. I got into my fair share of fights. Won them too. It got to the point where other students were starting to get the hint: don’t piss off Misery Frost. They stopped hassling me, but started calling me the Ice Queen. Totally cold, totally hostile, can’t be defrosted... I’ve heard them all. Hell, maybe that was right.

So yes. I did resent the hell out of my parents. Naming me that. Subjecting me to years of teasing over a bloody name. Which probably explains why I wasn’t exactly choked up first year of college when I got word that they’d been killed in a car accident. Drunk driver. He died too, otherwise he might still be in prison today.

Sure, I attended the funeral. Looked all suitably sombre. Didn’t feel much of anything. Oh, people say, “I’m so sorry, please let me know if there’s anything I can do.” But it’s not as if any of them really cared less. At that point I was so socially isolated that I could have dropped off the face of the earth and none of my parents’ circle of friends would have ever noticed.

So I moved on. Inherited a pile of money. One side benefit of coming from wealth. I consider it a severance payment for years of putting up with a bad name. Returned to college, kept at that, ended up finishing my degree, more for the sake of just getting it than anything else. With all the money to my name, it wasn’t as if I needed to work.

Then one day I decided to go through legal proceedings to change my name. Simple, right?

Not so.

I went in front of a judge in a courtroom, and said my piece. Told him why I wanted to change my name, said that years and years of heckling over a lousy name had taken its toll, and I wanted to change it.

What did he do?

Laughed in my face.

He was practically falling off his chair laughing. He went red faced, laughed so much that he was practically teary eyed. Then he composed himself, smiled, and refused. He told me I should just learn to live with it.

That’s the first time I ever killed anyone.

Didn't see that one coming, did you?

Oh, I didn’t do it right there. I mean, come on, there were witnesses, after all.

I was smart about it. Acquired a gun. And a silencer. Taught myself how to shoot. I stalked him for a few days, learned his routine, scoped out his neighbourhood. Who’s likely to be out and about? What are the sightlines? What are the fastest ways out?

Then one night, when he was coming home, I watched from the shadows as he stepped up to his front door... and shot him from behind. Two bullets in the head.

Down he went like a brick. The silencer worked nicely- barely a hint, sounded like a cough. Nobody heard a thing. No barking dogs, no neighbours putting out their trash for recycling. Nothing. I just walked away into the night, pleased with myself. That was the last time he’d ever laugh at anyone. And no one saw me do it.

Or so I thought.

A day later, with the news still covering the investigation into his death, I got a visitor at my door. He was a few years older. The sort of face you’d look at and forget. Short hair, pale eyes, dressed casually. He introduced himself just by his surname. Lawson. He told me that he saw what I did.

And then he offered his services to teach me.

It turns out I wasn’t the only one out to kill the judge that night. Someone had contracted Lawson to do the same.

Lawson, it turned out, was a professional assassin.

He’d been hired to take out the judge by a contract employer over a tax case. He’d been doing the same thing as me, stalking the judge, choosing a time. He was better than stalking than me- I never saw him. He noticed me though during those nights of stalking the judge. Wondered what my game was. He said he learned that very day that the judge had laughed me out of his court room. That night, he was prevented from moving in on the judge simply because I did it first.

He told me my instincts were good. I was careful about it, methodical. Covered my tracks nicely, did everything I could to confound the forensics and the cops, and that the old bastard had it coming. He said watching me kill the judge left him impressed. Asked if I regretted it or felt ashamed. Truth is I felt nothing more than satisfaction at a job well done.

Lawson took me under his wing. Showed me the ropes of professional assassination. Methods of taking a life, methods of covering your tracks. Weapons techniques, police response, laundering your money when you get paid. How to get contracts- I mean, hiring yourself out as a killer is not the sort of thing you list on Kijiji. How much to charge- or those cases where you did it pro bono. Lawson pointed out that there are certain people in life who are just so awful that taking on a case for free is a good thing. He taught me well. Even suggested that I can take a certain pride in my name. Misery can bring misery into the lives of others, after all. He could relate to disliking his name- his parents saddled him with the name Hugo, after all, so that’s why he preferred being called by a surname.

Lawson was a good teacher. He’s still out there, still taking contracts like I am, still holding to high standards in the assassin game. I’ve developed a rep in my shadowy world in the years since Lawson taught me the tools of the trade. I’m good at what I do. A professional with a strict eye on being methodical and getting it done right. And it’s paid off- my wealth has grown and grown time and time again. Assassination pays in dividends. You can be offing a wealthy stock investor in London one day, and sipping a margarita on a beach in the Caribbean the next day.

The Ice Queen, I’m called by my colleagues in the world of professional hitmen. A dark and murky kind of world where you keep your secrets close to the vest. But they call me that with respect. I can live with that.

Call me Frost. Just don’t call me Misery. Trust me, sweetheart... you don’t want to irritate me.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Looking At Macedonia On Canadian Soil

I have another photo post today here in the embassy series, Ottawa Welcomes The World, happening here through the year at the Horticulture Building in Lansdowne Park. I will have one more in the series, and then shift others into the photoblog in September (it's been an exceptionally busy summer). 

One recent occasion celebrated the Republic of Macedonia, a place with a rich history going back thousands of years. This of course is the former part of Yugoslavia, and for part of my life, a place hidden away behind the Iron Curtain. There was a lot going on here, including art, music, crafts, food, and traditional clothing.

When I came in later in the day, there was a bagpiper on stage. The Macedonian bagpipe is bigger and sounds different from the Scottish bagpipe we're so used to.

There was also a line of dancers making their way through the crowd, many of them in traditional Macedonian clothing.

The flag of the country being profiled hangs outside the building during the event. Macedonia's flag hung along several lights at the front of the building. Visiting this event was enjoyable- I certainly learned a good deal about the country while attending, and it left me wanting to pay a visit myself. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Breaking Out Of Facebook Prison Again

A rant is in order today. Before we go any further, another word of warning- avast ye maties, there be swearing ahead! So in case your morals run to the Victorian code where colourful language is concerned, you may as well consider yourself warned in advance.

So it turns out I was back in Facebook jail again.

Again- emphasis on the again.

This has happened before.

And as before, it was a wrongful suspension.

Not that Facebook ever admits it was wrong.

It started back in July with logging in one morning to find out that I was blocked, under suspension for thirty days. The reason? One remark. One that didn’t come anywhere near to violating their community standards, but hey... as has happened before, their community standards are two faced and hypocritical.

All I did was heckle a misogynistic woman hater. A guy who frankly deserved to get heckled. One of those drooling half-wits with a mad-on for the entire world in general and the female half of the species in particular.

And for that, I was turfed. 

When this happens (and it’s becoming old hat for me now), there is absolutely no appeal. You can’t like a thing, you can’t post a thing, you can’t even post a complaint in the Help Community. The Help Community is pretty much worthless- nobody who actually works for Facebook goes there. Facebook refuses to get back to you. You can complain all you want to those automatic boxes- the ones that tell you you’re still under suspension and if you think this is wrong, click here and tell us why, thank you very much- but there’s never a reply back. Facebook is stone silent, no contact information, no customer service, nothing. Zilch. Nada. Bupkis. Niente. 

So I was stuck for a month. There’s only so much you can do- such as trotting out your shadowy secondary name to at least post links at your page. That gets tedious, what with Facebook making you write out  captchas each time (on a side note, I hate captchas). I was told I’d be able to post a message in the Help Community as of August. Never happened. I tried it once, and was promptly told I was not allowed to do so as I was under suspension. Let’s just say wasting twenty minutes writing out a formal complaint and then not having it take is, well... kind of fucking irritating. So instead I marked the time by adding a prison movie picture with snarky commentary most days during that lost month. As it turns out, even now when the suspension is over, I am now blocked from initiating any question in the Help Community. It seems Facebook doesn’t like being held to account, or criticized, or taking formal complaints in any form.

I’ve noted in previous post-suspension rants about how hypocritical those community standards are. Any time I’ve been suspended, those comments never did cross that line. And yet 99% of the time when I report a comment.... it comes back as “this does not violate our community standards.”

Bull fucking shit.

I report a comment when it does cross that line.

I report remarks that are from hate mongering bigots. Anti-Semitic scum. Homophobic zealots. White supremacists. Things that stomp all over the line of civility, decency, and reason.

Ninety nine times out of a hundred, comments that would by all rights classify as hate speech just get a free pass. That’s Facebook, saying that hate speech is perfectly acceptable to them.

Some weeks back, I reported a comment on a news story about a sexual assault case. Of anything in this world, surely that comment would justify being deleted, and the user expelled permanently from the site. The “man” in question wrote the following: “well who wouldn’t rape her?”

Read that again. We’ll wait.

How does that comment not cross the line?

Not according to Facebook, which found it perfectly acceptable. “This does not violate our community standards.”

So your “community standards” sees nothing wrong with rape. Wow.

Another recent story brought out a pretty malevolent sort of guy, who made threatening remarks to several people over the course of the thread. I reported comments he was making to one of the other individuals: “I think I’ll take a vacation up to Ontario..... and stab your whole family.”

That’s a threat. That’s intent. Granted, the fucking asshole doesn’t have the knowledge to find said person, and deep down he's a gutless coward anyway, but this is the sort of person who’s going to end up on the news someday after butchering seven strangers, and whose neighbours will say, “but he always seemed like a nice normal guy to us.”

Facebook’s response? The same old “this does not violate our community standards.”

Come on. Really?

Wake up.

Your fucking community standards are a damned disgrace. A joke. A pile of hypocrisy. You throw someone out for not violating them, with no bloody appeal, and then you turn right around and give a free pass to hate mongering garbage to spew their toxic waste.

Which leads to one conclusion- your community standards slap us around while giving bigots free rein because deep down, you agree with the goddamned bigots. You see nothing wrong with hate mongering and death threats and rape.

If you refuse to deal with people who have legitimate concerns, if you continue to treat people in such a blatantly two faced way, if you refuse to develop a real network of service to the public for your site like every other form of social media has... you’re going to end up destroying yourselves in the long run.

Mark Zuckerberg will never read this, granted. If I had a chance to speak to him, what would I say?

“Why is it acceptable to you to suspend people wrongfully while letting bigots routinely get away with everything? No pauses, Mark, no awkward ums, sideway glances, and equivocations. Just answer the fucking question.”

But there’s never going to be an answer. Because no one’s ever made him or his circle of co-founders answer the question.

Bloody fucking hypocrite.

Monday, August 14, 2017

A Hidden Treasure Of South America

I have another photoblog post today in the Ottawa Welcomes The World series. This event is ongoing through to the beginning of December here as part of Ottawa's celebrations of Canada 150. The city has been hosting embassies in showcasing their countries in the Horticulture Building at Lansdowne Park. On one such occasion, it was the nation of Uruguay's turn. To be honest, I had very little knowledge about the country beforehand- looking around online though indicated the country has a very good reputation for political stability and freedom, a high standard of education, and a welcome economic status. Nestled between Argentina and Brazil, the nation has a moderate climate, and much of the country is close to the Atlantic Ocean. One of the people here made note of the fact that the country has over three million people (a good part of them in the capital)... and 19 million cows. Obviously cattle are big business in Uruguay.

There was a lot going on that day, as I came back several times. Photographs of Uruguayan landscapes mounted on the wall caught my eye. Particularly a rather unusual bridge.

Items such as those used in the cattle business or crafts were on display. Travel information was readily available too.

So too were food items. Uruguay's climate, moderated by proximity to the ocean, makes for good conditions for vineyards and olive groves particularly, and there were samples for tasting of each, as well as cheeses. 

There were also a couple of cakes for the occasion. I thought it best to photograph them before there was any cutting of the cake- a very sensible precaution, because by the time I got back, they were being sliced into. 

And outside, meat was being grilled for lunch. Later in the evening they had plates of Uruguayan food for dinner, which isn't spicy in the way you expect of Latin America, but mild and delicious.

At one point tango lessons were being offered. Dancers from a local tango group, Siempre Tango, were on hand. Two of them were instructors for a session I photographed here during Doors Open, an event I'll be showing in detail in the photoblog for a theme day in the fall.

There was something else here in the evening. Carnival is big throughout Uruguay, and particularly the tradition of candombe, which is centered in Uruguay and has been recognized by UNESCO as part of humanity's culture. It is a combination of drums and dance. It started with a documentary about a woman who had been involved in the tradition as a dancer for many years (she's in the third shot below), and brought in the dancers and drummers into the building from outdoors. The sound and energy of the candombe just electrified the atmosphere of the evening.

Afterwards, there were musicians on stage. It was a thoroughly enjoyable occasion, one that made me definitely want to visit the country.