Thursday, November 29, 2007

Highlight Reel

Here's a highlight from my life. While pacing outside before an improv show began I was approached by a young stranger.

"Hey! I know you from YouTube. (that, in itself was great but then:) You taught me how to stencil a shirt. (I made a "Stencil Your Own Shirt" video tutorial a while ago. Then it got better because they pulled up their sweater and said). Here it is!"

They were wearing a shirt with the silhouette of a whale tail and an old man's head. "See? It's Jonah and the whale!"

That was satisfying. As a side note I performed with them that night as part of a show that makes improvisers who don't know each other take the stage as a team. Well, here's the video:

I was never happy how I accidentally used the wrong caption box when holding the ink but those are the kind of rough edges that seemed appropriate for YouTube.

My Great Great Grand, since I was taught how to stencil clothing I have an even greater disdain for the majority of mainstream fashion. In our time, and this may sound silly to you, people wear clothing that displays the name of the manufacturer. I'm not sure of the strength of consumerism in your world (by consumerism I mean defining yourself by the many things available for you to buy). In my day, there is a real uneasiness in the air. Everyone buys things to feel like an individual, products are advertised as heightening our individualism, but the joke of it all is: we all generally look the same.

When I was young I had this revelation from observing a company called Nike that sold shoes. They began to put their company's logo, a checkmark, on hats. And I was amused and amazed that people were paying Nike to buy a hat and walk around advertising for them. I'm not sure if it was new in history at that point but this method has risen (at least in media attention) and been labeled: branding. To my knowledge the previous use of the word brand or branding was reserved for ranchers who owned cattle. They would heat a metal label and burn it into the flesh of their herd in order to claim ownership. Sometimes it is difficult to satirize reality (I learned that when the US military labeled the mission to bomb Afghanistan as "Infinite Justice").

Part of me feels as if I'm breaking away from having the fashion sense of a billboard but I am acutely aware that no one is outside of this box. I have a very practical aesthetic but I rarely stop to think if I'm wearing the best clothes (for me, the most useful). More pockets mayhaps. A shoulder strap with pockets. I don't think we have the optimum design. I feel some stand up comedy coming on: we have a zipper near our genitals. That's the best we could do? Metal teeth near our most sensitive-

At the very least stencils allow me to represent things that I am interested in and hopefully my clothing will be a brief history of myself than of my generation's commercials.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


I cannot relate to people who hate on Wikipedia.org because it is "unreliable". It remains an amazing source for a straightforward introduction -particularly to the history of Western Civilization. I use this as an example because I teach history and philosophy to high school students and I know my sh*t. What do you want? Nietzsche? Robespierre? Thucydides? Quality articles. The maps (particularly for ancient battles) trump any book, article or Discovery Channel special I've studied.

Sure there are a lot of examples of incomplete articles and misinformation but it's a living text that is constantly improving. Track a sh*tty article and watch it improve. Or fix it yourself, asshole. For f*ck's sake. Fact is, you can't name a shortcoming of Wikipedia's information that doesn't exist in published sources. Perhaps you feel your printed text is reliable because you found it on a shelf but compare it to a book written on the same topic ten years in either direction and pretty soon your fetish, the smooth, inky pages you were getting off on becomes a sh*t sandwich. How do you feel about your books now that I've called them sh*t sandwiches? How about that you finite motherf*cker?

Perhaps I'm just reading the wrong books. Right? Well, I don't know the Book of Objective Truth that you're reading. Perhaps because it only exists up your ass where your head is. I preach 'watch out for Wiki-grafitti' too. Because you should always have cross-references if you want to understand something. Stop criticizing Wikipedia because you believe in the myth of a definitive source. One of the best features of Wikipedia is that they talk about their shortcomings. I've never read a high school textbook that criticizes its own approach.

So, smallballs, what's the f*cking issue? You've got a million stories about how Wikipedia made you cry because you tried to look smart and quoted some sh*t you read in passing? Got a bad mark because you cut and pasted? Little-baby-you just wanted to read something without engaging your critical mind? Bring your horror stories, junior -I will go to war with you on this.

Back to smiles and sunshine.

I've always wanted a feature on my blog that would display my last wikipedia searches. I am much too inexperienced a programmer to design this (furthermore, Mozilla's Firefox's history data is saved in an unfriendly file format known as Mork, or, as it is known by many programmers, bullsh*t).

Good ol' copy and paste. Here's an alphabetical list of the Wikipedia searches in my history. I've wanted to do this at least once so here's an alphabetical list. I have highlighted five articles that I remember fondly.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Davies http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Turing
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defenestration http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defenestrations_of_Prague
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demoscene.tv http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dogme_95
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragonfly http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar%27s_number
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Handy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Johnson_%28boxer%29

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


The most memorable onomatopoeia I have read is from Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel One Hundred Years of Solitude. As a child, Rebeca carries her deceased parents' bones around with her in a bag that makes the sound cloc-cloc-cloc.

Stand Up or Sit Down

I was booked to perform stand up comedy for a fundrasier next week. Now it has been revealed to me that it is, in fact, tomorrow. The best part is that the event is organized by my improv coach from way back in high school. In aeronautics, his enthusiasm is a dragonfly and his organizational skills are the Hindenburg.

But metaphors-that-involve-tragic-disasters aside, I started to panic. I was secretly hoping he would excuse me from doing the show. Then I asked myself: is this really a big deal? I have about two days to prep, what, fifteen minutes of stand up? So now I'm sitting here and joking with myself. It's too rainy to complete my material generating ritual (I usually walk around the block and mutter to myself).

Worst case scenario I can include some old material. That's a personal problem for me since I like to do new material every time. But, then again, I'll be performing in Erin, Ontario and it'll be new for them...

Topics that may make the cut:
-waiting to turn left
-how when girls "play" they imagine reconstructing boring ol' reality (lets play school! lets play office, I'm waiting for my email to download! Yay!)
-witch burning
and perchance some older material
-basketball show offs
-shark attack
topics that are working their way from the minors
-watching witch burning
-don't talk while the tv is talking to us

Look at all that crap. Took me five minutes. I'm fine. I'm golden fine.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Great Drink Tasting

This was a great Sunday idea: we bought about twenty beverages that we had never tasted. Most of them came from the Pan Asian Trading grocery store because we couldn't read the labels. The occasional English informed us we had bought things like "Nostalgia Drink", "Mangosteen", "Grass Jelly" and "Sac Sac Grape". Then we organized an event. Some friends provided the guest judges for our tasting event.

The winner: A surprising victory. The mystery bottle, the only one without a single word of English. It turned out to be an Apple Juice with a polite hint of sour. We enjoyed.

The loser: A disgrace to the liquid community. Hawton San Cha was unanimously declared the aggressor responsible for World War I. It received everyone's lowest rating, including the distinction of the only non-numerical score with a "f*ck hawton".

Memorable Quotes from the Event:
"Brio is like that commercial where they squeeze cigarettes into a glass."
"Oh shiiiiiiiiiit!" (excited smelling mangosteen) "This is almost an elixir."
"This drink (Grass Jelly) sounds like a low level RPG villain - grass jelly nears."
"Drinks should not have chunks."
"No no no." (upon drinking hawton)
"If that (Hawton) had chunks it would have been below five."
"I'd like to point out that the front says grape and 20 percent sac."
"The way it came out of the can was like watching birth happen."
"Why does it go reight up the nose like that?"
"It (tizer) tastes like old."

Our Judges and their Biases:

Average score: 65
Personal favourite: Root Beer Float (rating: 96)
Average score: 56.722
Personal favourite: Barely Sweetie Cranberry (rating: 100)
Average score: 62.5
Personal favourite: Orangeina (rating: 100)
Average score: 61
Personal favourite: Brio (rating: 100)
Average score: 64.167
Personal favourite: Beet Apple Carrot Ginger (homemade) (rating: 95)
Average score: 61
Personal favourite: Crush's Cream Soda (rating: 100)We plan to hold a Never Seen Before Fruits and Vegetables Tasting as well.

Advice if you're organizing this event:
-Eight people would be optimum. We had six people and Shauna had to leave for work. A can of mystery liquid can be split eight ways. Except Hawton. It should be thrown out.
-We took turns choosing the next drink. That was good.
-We had crackers to cleanse our palates. No one really ate the crackers except for me. I think I downed almost two sleeves of Premium Plus. I have a problem.
-I had my laptop to record each round's ratings. I would have loved to be able to project it on the wall, or do something so everyone could see. Reasonably, people wanted to know their past scores so they could rank the drinks properly.
-Leftover liquid was poured into a central glass. We did not force anyone to drink the Swill Center but it would have been a good way to make a twoonie.
-the whole thing took about two hours. We rushed the end to get out of Andrew's house. He too had to work. I forgot to share the box of chocolate bars I had brought for the ending. I recommend doing this because greed.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Next Project

When Matt told me that he's not afraid of death I told him that I would think of something, some perspective, some image, that would shake him. Now I know these thoughts will lead to another movie because I had the vision of the opening scene.

I'm about to buy some equipment to make my feature film. I'm debating between buying multiple high end consumer camcorders or a single pro (or 'prosumer') dv camera. Of course, I'll also be sinking plenty of money into audio equipment. I hope watching the Festen, the first film in the amazing Dogme95 movement, will inform my decision.

Dear Great Great Grand, as I embark upon these projects I am struck by the amount of media that my culture produces. There are so many movies made. A full layer of distributed films but also multiple layers of direct-to-video, festival, and failed projects. The sheer volume makes me want to do something different and special, it has never intimidated me to stop. Instead, watching movies, like watching other stand up comics before I write comedy, makes me feel more confident in my abilities to create something better.

As I drag my feet while writing my book I have already been working on a short film to shoot as a test run for my new equipment. And since my brother mentioned the quality of the Hak5 IPTV show I know I need to shoot my own show soon.

Somehow, I've also found time to make lolcats using icanhascheezburger.com's easy to use lolcat builder. It's a lot of fun to create one, send it to them and your friends, and hope to be voted onto the homepage. Thousands of users trying to create the ultimate cat captions. Basically, all of the captions are misspelled in a particular manner that has come to represent the cat's voice. Sgreat! Though in my case, two of my choices aren't cats...
On the same site there is a great article about leetspeak and lolcat lingo. I love that silliness can be analyzed. It is really interesting how language develops, through pictures, misspellings, and wit, in online forums.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I Get Scared of the Internet

Encyclopedia Dramatica is an online collection of memes, mostly misinformation rejected by Wikipedia. It's written in memespeak (a cebration of missperlings and 'ctach phrases' cauzed by typos) and can only be understood by familiarity with inside jokes wrapped in inside jokes. For that, it is an amazing world. What unsettles me is that the tone of the site is ruthless. Nothing is sacred. Notably recent rape cases and teenage suicides are insulted as soon as they happen, all under a weak defense of 'satire'. It's all done "for the lulz".

"For the lulz" is an expression that roughly translates to "hurting someone else for one's amusement". People will think of mean, and even clever, things to do to reach out and insult those who have a strong emotional connection to something (could be a character in Star Wars, could be a family member who died). Sometimes it's simply the use of a shocking image and insensitive subtitle.

This is what scares me about internet communication:

If only they would conform to the crowd. Most people would dare not speak aloud what they post. I'm as for individualism as any grade ten reading Orwell's 1984 but can ostracizing be a positive force? I hate when things make me desire censorship. Hate it enough to start using speeches to incite people to rage and violence. Oops.

Human Nature
Dunbar's number is a claim that humans can only really feel connected to about 150 people. Everyone else we can't get that worked up over. Won't cry if they die. Won't take a risk to defend. Does the internet show us (each time a random user makes a comment, like on YouTube) that most people are full of anger and are more than willing to take it out on strangers? Or maybe just that a minority of internet users are full of anger...

Some of the less friendly internet memes have a tendency to blow up small personal things until they're all over the web. From photos to chat histories, we're leaving a digital trail that can be replicated and ridiculed for the rest of our lives. And no one can delete them. Well until the great internet fire where we'll have to start over.

Disturbing things are the events to our routines. It's not to slow the car down to look at the accident/insult.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Does anyone where a cup to protect their genitals? I wear a cup when I play hockey and people aren't even trying to hit my with the projectile. I was very nervous to play Paintball but it was going to be at a reunion for a high school that I worked for, so I trusted the crowd.

There's no way to tell who is on what team particularly because I was one of sixty armed amateurs. It's dark, your goggles fog from your panicky breath, and the identifying armbands declaring who-is-on-what-team are as effective as wearing tiny chameleons. Everyone was wearing the provided dark coveralls and black protective mask -except for my brother who was wearing the coveralls, the mask, and a suit jacket. He looked amazing and secured his status as a legend when, in round two, he found the best hiding spot behind enemy lines and proceeded to eliminate half of their confused team single-handedly.

It hurts to get hit by a paintball but it needs to. I was so hopped up on adrenaline that I wouldn't notice anything less than a sharp whack. Only three hours after playing did I realize how fatigued I was, how my joints ached from throwing my body around, and how my wounds were bruises.

We played four rounds. The first two were basic go-shoot-the-other-team and during the last two one team was assigned to defend a "building" (basically a two-story facade. The structure was long but only about one and a half meters deep) while the other team tried to attack it.

Round 1 - The game began so suddenly. I was surprised how terrible the visibility was. Shots were being fired around me and could see nothing. I was firing at any movement. I stumbled upon someone and I was shot in the fat under my left arm as I shot them in the shoulder. It has left a nice bruise that has lasted for three days. It hurts to press but not to brush on things.

Round 2 - I wasn't shot. I was pinned down a lot of the time and watched as paintballs exploded against the wall behind me. I could feel how tense my body was becoming and had to consciously make a decision to relax. Thankfully, from my position I had an excellent view to watch my brother become a god. After this round everyone on the opposing team was talking about "needing to get the suit jacket guy".

Round 3 - I was shot in the knee as I ran for cover to advance on the building that the other team was defending. It didn't really hurt or bruise. My brother had paint all over his crotch. He was shot in the groin and had to sit down because of the pain. I was shocked how dangerously close it was to his Carl Sagans. He informed me in would have been better if he was shot in the gennies so we would know what it would be like. For science.

Round 4 - My goal for this round was to get shot in the face. I saw other people who had paint on their masks and it looked fun. But I lasted too long. I was one of the last people left trying to defend our building. It was amazing. We were trapped on the second floor as they flooded in. I had no idea what I was shooting at, I fired at any foggy blob that moved. After a long, fun, tense shootout I was hit in the wrist. It didn't bruise. Once outside, I saw my brother who showed me his mask. He had been shot in the face. Lucky guy.

Thursday, November 8, 2007


"The society that separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting by fools."

This is one of the most haunting quotes that I have read. It visits me now and again when I think about war and pacifism. For Thucydides (460 - 395 BC), it was completely transparent that the wealth and power of the Athenian Empire relied on its military supremacy to violently crush dissent. Athens dominated their smaller allies, spent the funds of the Delian League any way they chose, and considered themselves the moral and political leaders of the Peloponnese. When a city-state protested they were attacked. Thus, an educated Athenian citizen must experience combat to understand how terrible it is yet how necessary to maintain their way of life. Has anything changed? Is this true in the first place?

A pacifist is completely illogical. Wanting peace is self-destructive. Their freedom is founded on the slavery of others. That's the terrifying question: is the freedom of a democratic state tied to violence abroad? The center of an Empire feeds off of the periphery and must often send out its military to stamp out the rebellious fringes.
Democracies are only peaceful if they're economically satisfied. But as soon as a state attempts to end unequal trade relations -invasion time.

A Rare Imagination

As I'm writing my book I love how many amazing ideas I come up with. Seriously, I'm bottomless. Once I thought I was more creative in my youth then I realized my best work is yet to come. This book that I'm writing is saturated in fascinating ideas. Wow. Why do I feel so original and important? Where does this confidence come from? I hope you inherited it, my dear Great Great Grand, I couldn't imagine living any other way.

It's hilarious to me that, logically, my imagination is one of the most commonly represented. You see, back in my time, the white middle-aged male demographic owned a lot of our culture's industrial storytelling output (movies and books). Though I am aware of this somehow it doesn't make me feel less capable or special. I see my life as a typical story of white male privilege yet I consider myself outside of demographics. It's as absurd as people buying the same clothing to feel like individuals but it works. It would be more logical for me to assume that I could not think anything interesting or new and that the only people who can are rarely represented minority artists. Thankfully, reality is seldom logical.

In stark contrast, I find that I'm often trying to encourage others to embark on creative projects. Particularly my female friends who have feelings of inferiority that are beyond me. I can rarely relate to homesickness, stage fright, or the idea that I don't have the right to write.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Strong Women

I'm not entirely comfortable with the way Quentin Tarantino constructs female action heroes. Uma Thurman in a Bruce-Lee-style yellow jumpsuit always struck me as his sexual fetish than a cool character. It's obvious that female action heroes (The Bride - Kill Bill, Lara Croft - Tomb Raider) aren't presented in the same way as male action heroes (John McClane - Die Hard, ). The creativity in films is dominated by male writers, directors, and producers and female action heroes are deliberately presented as provocative sexual objects with hints of frailty whereas male bodies are presented as tough and resilient with hints of invincibility. I'm thinking of how John McClane from Die Hard always gets back up.

Recently I was watching the film Lady Vengeance directed by Chan-wook Park. At one point in the film the main character, Geum-ja Lee, is attacked by a man who is trying to kidnap her. It's a creepy scene shot on a rainy night on a lone street. He covers her mouth with a cloth (presumably covered in movie knockout liquid). She struggles quite fiercely -he tries to shove her in the car but she keeps kicking the door shut with her foot -eventually she passes out. Then she bites him, she was faking it! Now he's pissed and he throws her against the car. It's really violent. He punches and kicks the crap out of her. The thug turns to his thug friend who was busy kidnapping her daughter. Suddenly she appears behind him with her gun drawn and kills them both. No sexy posing.