Category Archives: Daily Life

End of the World: Time to Get Started

Image by Michal Dziekan

I made a New Years resolution last year, and boy oh boy did I fail to follow it. So here’s the deal, I’m not going to make a New Year’s resolution. I’m making an end of the world decision. This is 2012. The last year on the Mayan Calender. Not that I actually believe in that tripe, but the end of the world is a good motivation. Some might say that an incoming meteor or earthquake or invading aliens provides incentive.

I am going to devote a minimum of two hours every weekday to creative flow. Everyday I am going to try to develop and execute  new ideas. For some people that means programming,  or playing music, or drawing. For me that means being a aware of my surroundings and writing whenever I get a spare chance. The results will inevitably revealed through five avenues of output: Read the rest of this entry

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Sounds to Occupy Toronto

On Monday October 16, I was walking towards Ryerson when I encountered a bunch of protestors sitting at Yonge and Dundas. Actually, I first noticed the buzz of a police helicopter flying above me, followed by the whistles from the policemen. What I found were Occupy Toronto members protesting the cancellation of wheel transit (buses carrying people in wheelchairs or other mobile disabilities) to 120 King Street, a church which also happens to be their headquarters. And along the way back to the church they protested anything else they could along the way.

My intention at the start was to write an article on them. But, it turned out I simply have too much sound and not enough time to write it. So instead, I’m going to give you more or less the raw footage. This work has been edited to get rid of dead air, and set it up in a chapter by chapter basis. I’ve removed parts of interviews that are too meandering to use or where I make an intrusion that doesn’t help the interview. It takes an hour and thirty minutes to listen to all of this. All of this being, protest movements, personal ramblings, interviews, and exploration. You even get to hear my horrible biases, such as when I mumble that there are less homeless people here than I expect, or my surprise that the place didn’t smell like pot.

I should note, I have no affiliation with Occupy Toronto. I do think it’s impressive, but I am doing this because I found it fascinating to witness. Furthermore, if I say anything during an interview, that is likely just to get the interviewee to talk more.

Speaking of interviews, the second one that shows up is not mine. Not mine in the sense that I didn’t conduct it. A freelance journalist (for the Star, I think) ran up to someone in charge and started talking to them. I was nearby and had a recorder. This is why you’ll here the man talking, but no one asking the questions.

As for everyone else I talk to, their names are, in order of appearance:
M. Rossi, Policeman (I read this from his jacket)
Antonin GovernmentName, Occupier and Free food organizer
Wally Williams, Homeless Worker
Celeste Bouviour (If this name sounds outrageous that’s because it’s super fake.), climate analyst
Mark Harwood-Jones, volunteer
Micheal Pinto, volunteer

If you want more information about each clip, it’ll be in the description and comments on the audio.

The Toronto Comic Arts Festival 2011

People crowded through the aisles of the Toronto Reference Library (TRL) this weekend, engulfed by the Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF). An international group of graphic novel creators and fans gathered in first two floors of the library, which showcased some of the more obscure graphic novels.

TCAF is held every year in the downtown library and, as their pamphlets assert, is not a comic book convention. What makes it different is that it is as much about the creators as it is about their fans. According to their official literature, TCAF is meant to celebrate diversity and creativity, with a leaning towards independent and atypical projects. Unlike most gatherings for graphic novels, superhero comics were in the margins while quirkier stories got the limelight.

Tom Humberstone, a comic writer and illustrator based in London, England, came to display his work from the British anthology, Solipsistic Pop. Despite the distance from home, he said it was worth the trouble of flying across the Atlantic.

“Because it’s free and in the downtown core, I get to meet a lot of people not usually into comics and more willing to opened up to an alternative style,” he said at a panel on UK comics. “Back in 2007, I was looking at the communities (for independent comics) in North America. When I saw TCAF, I felt really jealous because we don’t have this kind of infrastructure and support back in the UK.”

TCAF also gives the opportunity to show local independent creators, like Benjamin Rivers, a professor from the Ontario College of Art and Design. A Torontonian, Rivers was there to promote his graphic novel, Snow. Rivers explained that while he liked the atmosphere, TCAF was his opportunity to sell his comics.

“I’m here to make money. I just got (Snow) printed this weekend, so this is kind of a launch party for me,” he said. Snow is about a girl who lives on Queen Street West. Rivers talked to everyone who approached his booth with a smile and described his story.

Another Canadian at the festival was Stuart Immonen, an artist better known for his work for Marvel and DC Comics. He was there to release his collection of his sketches and short comics, Centifolia II. He could be found on the second floor with his wife, as they casually talked to fans about their independent and mainstream titles.

“We’re locals in Ontario and we’ve come almost every year. (TCAF) lets me meet old friends and we get to see new fans,” Immonen said. “It’s good for our lesser known works too. Last year we debuted Moving Pictures at TCAF and now I have Centifolia.”

Though it does seem to provide satisfaction to many creators, TCAF wouldn’t be much of a festival without its fans.  Visitors poured in from all over the city, and by Saturday afternoon, the reference library was so packed it was difficult to move.  Some of the fans have been waiting for this for weeks, while others simply came in to see what all the commotion was about.

Melanie Sue is a psychology student at the University of Toronto who went to TCAF on a whim.

“I was at the Beguiling (a book store), and they told this festival was going on at the TRL. It’s free, so I came by,” she said, as she was making a curious glance through the aisle of T-shirts and trinkets.  “The art here is really crazy and I was impressed by all the people. I didn’t expect to see this many artists and fans.”

TCAF has panels on comic book design and culture, a large list of exhibitors and workshops for kids. It is run by Christopher Butcher and Peter Birkemoe every year around the first weekend of May.

Steven Harper “Only Five Questions”

Stephen Harper has infuriated me before, but, I think he’s taken the cake now. Stephen Harper has announced that he will only answer five questions each day as he travels across the country for his campaign. That’s four from national reporters and one from local reporters. Not each, in total. Five questions for a man who wants to be Prime Minister per day. This is like if you went to a job interview and told the interviewer that you were only willing to answer their first five questions. You know what would happen if you did? They wouldn’t hire you, because you’re starting to show signs that you’re controlling, and maybe a little full of yourself. And if the job you’re applying for is the Prime Minister of a democratic nation, those are traits not really suited to the role.

Way Smarter Than You'd Think

However, it’s also brilliant. Five questions is only enough to gain information on a superficial level. You’ll get the whos, whats, wheres and maybe, if Harper is in a good mood, whys, but fat chance you’ll get a how.  And that’s only if the journalists understand English and French, because the questions are supposed to be split evenly between languages. Not to mention that there’s only one question from local reporters. That’s not enough for any kind of depth. This is great for Harper because journalists, if they’re not careful, can waste questions on something frivolous or be unable to ask a question that popped to mind a little later. And so he can’t be grilled as well and his ideas can’t be dissected as well because we’re lacking information. So the news we get will be limited and superficial, and say things that Harper did and wants to do, and then it’ll be done. People will read it and go ‘hey, this guy has got ideas and there doesn’t seem to be any problem.’

That’s if Harper actually anwsers your question in the first place. He’s been known to reject any question on ethics and social impact on the count that it isn’t relevant. It is, but that’s a discussion for a different place. The problem is that you can waste a question with one he doesn’t want to answer and then all of a sudden you have nothing beyond his (probably riveting) speech. This is a continuation of a problem we’ve had in Parliament. Harper was found to be in contempt of Parliament because he had issues divulging information to the public.

Seriously, is this the guy we want back in Parliament? The guy who hides information and refuses to address his own problems with ethics? It’s fine if a politician hates the media, they can loathe it, and hunt it in the night with a finely worded letter and scowls. However, it’s audacious to treat it like a threat and then cut off its legs like Harper has. It’s not like Paul Martin liked the media, and I bet Ignatiaf wants to stab them right now. (Layton on the other hand seems pretty chummy for a guy who needs a crutch to walk. If he got in he’d be like Canada’s FDR.)

When it comes down to basics, here’s the issue I’m having: it’s working. Tories are gaining in the polls and the Grits are starting to shrink. It’s not surprising, the Conservatives have the momentum and the attack ads has been ripping the liberals apart. Harper is the most competent leader around right now, which is frightening, considering what he’s doing and wants to do. But, don’t despair quite yet. The local newspapers despise Harper for this, and are more passive-agressively fighting this. Honestly, I want to give an award for the best use of the term Harper Government. In today’s news it was used solely in an article that starts “The Harper Government has eroded Canada’s reputation as a human rights champion.” It goes on to explain that the Conservatives weren’t particularly implicated but hell, you have to use the government’s ‘official’ title, right? To do otherwise would be wrong.

So here’s my homework for like the six people who read this. Look at Harper and ask questions. He can do whatever he wants with the media, that will come back to haunt him later, but if he ignores the people he’s supposed to be representing, then he’s not representing you. Also, vote. Do what the politicians don’t expect. Honestly, if you don’t vote you deserve whatever leader we get, even if it is Harper.

(The other benefit is that if more students do vote or ask questions, we’ll get to see the Harper ‘oh shit’ face again, and I’ve been dying to see it again since Stephane Dion announced the coalition back in 08)

 

He looked like a kicked puppy!

Scott Pilgrim and the Modern Man

I don’t really like Valentine Day. It’s a day where I’m supposed to buy something.  A recent tradition is that women will talk about women’s role in a relationship. Who give gifts, who gives what gifts, marriage proposals. I think it’s unfortunate men don’t get treated in the same way, that is self analysis of our position in society. People just assume that men don’t have anything to fight for because we’re already at the top of the ladder. I’ll show a shift in the image of man I think we neglect THROUGH SCOTT PILGRIM.

This is a topic I’ve wanted to do for a while. It’s been crawling in the back of my brain in class after someone said, “Isn’t Scott Pilgrim basically just an average guy.” At first I thought that was terrible. Why would anyone want to be Scott Pilgrim? His life is fun, but only because he’s delusional. He’s not faithful. He’s not reliable. He’s not even the stupid archetype of the strong male fighter, with muscles abound and able to shoot a one-liner with every flex. But, I kept thinking about it, and you know what, they’re right, this is the new image of man.

This discussion is probably better suited to a lit essay or a something ‘professional’ but I’m in rant mode, so why not. As anyone who has turned on the television knows, the ideal conception of man is the brotherly, womanizing god, who can cry manly tears when he needs to and suffers the burden of the protection of his property. But we all know that’s fake now. There is no super-man like that, and in reality, such men are usually assholes. That’s what we’re taught, and that’s what we know from reality. This does not exist.

So of course the rational response is then to demonize that form. Thus, in reality we believe that men aren’tcouragous, they’re foolhardy. They can’t commit to a relationship. They’re powerless in the long run, and they can’t do anything without a woman. Really, the ideal man can be changed from a god to a horny adolescent. Now think about that, and think about Scott Pilgrim.

Scott is the modern understanding of man, a sort of child who is stuck in his fantasies. He’s a slacker, who doesn’t want to do anything if he doesn’t have to. He dates a 17-year-old to relax, and then abandons her for a cooler, more-hipster woman. His goal in life, when they exist, are limted to getting a girlfriend. He fights to defend her, but in a world that exists in his head via video game logic. The comic actually parodies how the fights have no meaning (except the last one, but more on that later). He beats an Indian pirate with the power of friendship, but that’s secondary to his goal to get Ramona and have an awesome band. Once they are over, he goes back to real life where his victories don’t really matter. If anything, Scott makes more trouble for himself by trying to ‘protect’ Ramona. They cause conflict between them, one of evil exes even kidnapps his friend, Kim.

SPOILERS GOING FORWARD

This is clearly just as wrong an understanding of masculinity as the first one. If you create an image where this is the norm, it’s fine to just be a delusional manchild because, you know what, that’s a man. Interestingly enough, the comic series and the movie recognize this, and Scott actually manages to grow out of it by the end. In the comic, Scott repeatedly comes across negative parallels of himself, in Negascott (all of his repressed memories of failure) and Gideon, who is Scott taken up to an obsessive extent. Gideon is the master of video game duels, except he’s played the game long enough that he knows all the rules. His own image of himself is a huge god who has Ramona drooling over him in chains. It’s literally all in his head (or Ramona’s in this case – long story, read the book) like Scott. By finally discovering this parallel, Scott is able to free himself from his pattern.

Gideon doesn’t take this stance in the film, here he’s more of an ultimate douchebag of hipsterdom. What’s more important is how Scott manages to defeat him. Scott has to die once, before he realizes how stupid he’s been. He realizes the reason he failed the first time was because he was always overconfident or underconfident, and his love for Ramona means nothing without self-respect. He doesn’t need to be a jerk to get what he wants, and he doesn’t need to idealize a woman or be idealized by a woman to have worth. He needs to know when he’s fighting for himself, and not for Ramona. (The latter revelation actually comes to Ramona in the comics, but if I go into that, this thing will never end) He shows that love can only go so far here, Scott has to change who he is. (This is why I think it was more appropriate for Scott to end up with Knives in the end, but that’s another story)

There’s more I want to say, but I really don’t have the effort or cohesive power to put an essay together right now. Instead I’ll say that Scott Pilgrim in either medium does an excellent deconstruction of the feeble modern man. I think we need more of this genre. There has to be reminders that neither the ideal image of man or the reactionary image of man is the valid interpretation. Though, after we’re through, what I really hope for is for some reconstruction. I want to see fiction that shows what a great modern man could be, rather than just showing us where we’ve gone wrong.

Multiculturalism is dead?

Here’s where this stems from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12371994

British Prime Minister David Cameron recently gave a speech in Munich that said ‘state multicultural has failed’ and shockingly enough, I kind of agreed with him.

People should not get the wrong idea about this. There is a historical tendency for Conservative leaders (British especially) to say racist or exclusionary ideas, but this is not one of those times.  While I think that saying multiculturalism has failed outright is a bit extreme, (and that using that comment to talk about terrorism is even crazier) the crux of his argument is true.

We aren’t being tolerant if we allow people who are closed minded in their own culture, with values that are in fact archaic. If western nations allow individuals from other countries to be disrespectful of women, alternate sexualities, and other cultures, just based on their culture, then we as a nation are not being tolerant, we are being blind.

It makes no sense for us to accept other people if they will not act like decent human beings.

This applies to Canada as well. I think his speech is critical to Canada considering how proud we are of our multicultural tendencies.

No one believes that we should stop diversity or begin a renewal of assimilation. I like to consider myself a Canadian, and I think I know enough about Canada’s history to understand that assimilation is a crazy idea that never works without terrible repercussions – Like the complete loss of culture and language. Canada, and most of the Western world, needs diversity as a reminder that the West isn’t always right. In fact we’re often wrong. Still, there is a difference between instilling Western culture and instilling Western values.  Canadians can teach people to be tolerant and open minded without teaching them to be white.

Now, criticisms. The obvious one first, we’re racist too, no denying that. My parents are Brazilian and Iranian and somehow they both think Jews want to control the world. Personally, I’m a bit homophobic. I’ve gotten better about it, but I still get uncomfortable when I see two guys teasing each other on the bus. At least I understand that I don’t really have a rational reason to feel that.

More important than political correctness, implementation of this sort of thing is a nightmare. It’s great to say we want to teach toleration without affecting culture, however, you have to be able to do it without building resentment in the people you’re trying to teach and we also have to be able to set an example. (Crazy idea right? Being decent people before preaching.) There’s also a matter of how…do we ask immigrants to enroll in a free couple week course? Do all immigrants take it? Do we just prosecute individuals as often as it comes to the court’s attention?

It’s also very easy to take advantage of this kind of belief. It becomes an ‘excellent’ reason to then be racist against foreigners because they’re supposedly backwards or intolerant of others. (Though on the bright side I’ve always wanted to be so hypocritical that logic incarnate comes round to slap me).

Honestly, Cameron is a little crazy if he thinks multiculturalism is a cause of terrorism. If terrorists (we seriously need a better word for this, it’s becoming comical) want to hide in your country, they’re not going to take the effort to adapt to a new environment. They’d probably be rather sneaky and seclude themselves as much as possible. If you’re getting home grown terrorists, it means your education system is doing something wrong.

God that was my longest rant in a while. Yeah, I have no real conclusion to this. If anyone wants to talk to me about it/call me a crazy lunatic, I’ll probably have something to say? So, comment?

Right. 2011.

As usual, I percieve the New Year to start with a fizzle instead of a bang. Things just aren’t dramatic enough for me around New Years. Is it wrong to feel that the coming of another year should be more than yelp of  ‘Happy New Year’ and the drinking of the dire substance known as champaigne. There should be fireworks, explosions, a visit from the king, a life changing moment, something, anything to signify that the world has concluded one grand motion around the sun. I suppose I’ll have to be satisified with terrible champaigne. Cheers everyone.

Anyway. Here I am trying to make this New Year matter. I want to make a plan that will make 2011 mean something looking back. I will likely forgotton and failed this plan two weeks in to January, but for those two weeks, I will do my darnedest.

This is the plan:

  • Put something on my tumblog once every two days, and something major on this blog here
  • Get involved with a news organization. I joined one. Now it’s about time I actually do something with it
  • Actually work towards future goals. This means volunteering and finding a way to get on a debate team
  • This is frightening concept, but actually start a debate team. I have no idea how I’m going to do this, or really who would join, but Ryerson has no general debate team, so why not?
  • Start essays not the week it’s due. That was the most retarded thing I did last semester and I had weeks to get most of those assignments done.
  • Exercise in some regular amount. This comes up every year, and if anything I want to stick by this one. As they say, healthy body, healthy mind.

And that’s really it. Happy New Year to the minute audience who reads this. And the rest of the world I guess.

F$*king Christmas Cards

For some context, I did this one a couple weeks ago during the Oneofakind Christmas Show and Sale. I ended up wandering the whole show for hours looking for something to write about, and these niche holiday cards were too fantastic to ignore. Oh, and if anyone’s interested in artisan work, go there next year, it’s pretty neat. Merry Christmas everyone.

———————————

Against the far left wall of the Oneofakind Christmas Show and Sale, is a small booth that sells greeting cards.  While these cards have cute animals on the cover, they come with a warning: “This card contains language that some people with no sense of humour may find offensive.”

Ebony Palmer, an arts student at Georgian College, had his eyes on a blue card with a cute Koala and the words “Happy Holidays” on the front. Inside it read, “Well, they’d be happy if you gave me some money.” Palmer chuckled.

“I think they’re hilarious. I really think they’ve got Hallmark beat,” said Palmer, as he picked up a card that read “Santa hates you.”

“I’m not trying to insult anyone,” said Nikki Bordignon, the cards’ designer.

She sits behind the counter of her booth, painting larger versions of her cards onto canvas. She still pays attention to customers as they look over her cards. She offers them help and gives them a little sneak peak of what she’s painting. Monday afternoon she was working on a happy moose that had a blue scarf around its neck. Written in the corner was “Merry Christmas, you materialistic bastard.”

Bordignon says that she got the in Vancouver, while working at a gift shop. “I was unpacking these boxes with these beautiful handmade little Christmas cards. I just thought that if the card said ‘go fuck yourself’ I would die of laughter.”

Before she made cards, Bordignon worked as a music columnist in Vancouver. She said this didn’t suit her, and so she went back to school in 2006 to study graphic design. Her cards came soon after.

“I showed [the cards] to my parents and they loved them. It’s funny, I didn’t intend to actually sell these, but my mom told me to bring a few to a stationery store to see if they’d buy any. I did, and they did, ” Bordignon said, explaining that the cards first went on sale in May 2007.

The cards aren’t limited to Christmas. Bordignon has cards that say thank you, sorry, happy birthday, and many other greetings all with her unconventional style.

“Sometimes they’re things I want to say to people, but would never actually say,” she said about her creative process. “Others are things I hear really gutsy people say. And sometimes they come from TV. It depends on how I’m feeling.”

Christine Abelson is a programmer from the University of Waterloo who was at the Oneofakind show Monday afternoon.  She smiled as she looked through the thank you cards. Unable to pick one, she eventually grabbed a few cards to compare the remarks.

“I’m thinking of getting one for my sister-in-law. I want to say thank you in the worst way possible.”

According to Bordignon, almost everyone laughs when they see her cards, and the Oneofakind show was proving to be no different. “That being said sometimes a guy will pick one up, look at it, and then quietly put it back and walk away,” Bordignon explained.

Bordignon sells these cards in select stores in British Columbia, though most of her traffic comes from trade shows. She follows the Oneofakind show as it passes through Canada, with appearances in Edmonton, Calgary and her hometown of Vancouver.

One woman glanced at the inside of a card and burst out laughing. “Oh my God, this is what I’ve always wanted to say!”

“I said it for you,” Bordignon replies with a grin.

———–

 

The Two Parter: IB ends

This post is well overdue, however, with all the chaos going on in the last few days, I can’t blame myself. You can, I guess, but I won’t.

The last week on Monday the 24th IB exams finished. That’s right, after four years of agony, I’ve made it to the end. Technically, there’s still another month of waiting to sit through before I can get the actual results, but for now, my active role in the International Baccalaureate Program has ended. In some ways it was a disappointing end. We all gathered for our final  exam, French, sat there for three hours and went home. We yelled for a bit, did a little jig and played some IB appropriate music, but aside from that, the whole thing went out with a whimper. I suppose that’s to be expected. After a month of exams, everyone would rather sleep or go to the mall than explode with excitement. I know I sure did.

This is how I expeceted to react to the end of IB - and rabies.

After a month of hell, in which I had perhaps the worst exam schedule possible, I was ready to go to sleep for a month. Which I did, for at least a day. Then the next day, I got up, went to school, and prepared for Prom and Anime North (more on those in Part 2). Sure it was only for one hour in which i did essentially nothing, but it was still a return to the grind. The accomplishment of finishing this whole ordeal has yet to have a serious effect on my life, though I imagine it will in a month’s time. More worryingly is University in three months. University. I’m going to University, which for now will have a capital U. I still have yet to accept that. Maybe a couple more times will do it.

University.

University.

University.

Nope, it’s still not real. Despite my reluctance to accept this fact, it is still true, and I will be attending University, Ryerson University no less. Can anyone believe this? Ryerson University is the best university in Ontario, if not Canada for Journalism, which is the program I will be attending in three months. I can’t say it though, not without some hesitation. I went through four years of hell to go to Ryerson University? The place where you can get in with a 70 percent average and then graduate to become a general manager at Wal-Mart? Yeah, it’s that Ryerson too, the slacker’s University. I can’t reconcile it yet. I imagine I will, or I’ll won’t let myself stay there.

In spite of my depression at the end of all things, there is something to this conclusion that has some real fun to it. Our last exam took place exactly where our first exam began. Five years ago in February, I took the IB entrance exam in the cafetorium of my school and passed, to my surprise I might add. I joined IB not because of its prestige but on a whim, it was one of those things my parents told me to do. I even made fun of the people who were going, calling them presumptuous entrants to the ‘I’m Better’ Program, where they would be bred to believe they were superior than the rest of the regular high schoolers (I’m paraphrasing clearly. I still couldn’t spell correctly in Grade 8). I wasn’t wrong. IB did exactly that, though I officially deny I ever said such a thing to begin with.

That being said, so where did this all come to a close? The cafetorium, again. When I look back on it, I have to admit it was a perfect ending. I don’t think that last exam would have had the same amount of closure had I not returned to whence I arrived. While I deny that this end has yet to have an immediate effect, the long term effects resonate in that room. The first time I was there, I knew five people and sat awkwardly between two people I didn’t know. Last Monday, I knew everyone and I could call them all by name. Or most of them anyway.

And then we took the exam, and just like elementary school came to an end so to did IB. I never should have expected this to end with a bang. I suppose it’s about time I realize that most experience don’t have a cut off point, one day that you look up and say, you know what, tomorrow is My Life Part 2. There’s no final page to the chapter, no cliffhanger at the end, it just sort of goes on and permiates into everything else that will ever happen to you. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What You’ve All Been Waiting For…

This is probably not my best time to be writing anything, considering my self esteem has recently been punched in the face by exams. But, since I’ll receive my marks tomorrow which will eliminate any esteem I have left, I might as well say something about this.

It Cleans Windows and Doors too!

And on the Seventh Day, Jobs rested

The blogosphere, and much of the Northern Hemisphere in general, has been compulsively shaking in anticipation of whatever Apple was supposed to announce on January 27. I have friends who were  wetting themselves as they slept because of the hype for this device regardless of whether I dipped their hands in water.

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