Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Mark that book

This is my favourite bookmark. The winner of last year's Toronto Public Library competition in the 10 - 13 year old category. Varvara's bears are amazing, the touch of red, and the frog saying "kwaa" is a great touch.

Her use of space seals the deal for me.

I'm an amateur bookmark designer myself, having done pixel portraits of the members of my book club last year. Actually, I was thinking of starting a deviant-art account for my pixel work.

I rediscovered that site recently and was very impressed by the variety of artists and overall organization. I hope to see Varvara's work on there one day.

In other book news, Novemeber produced a great book reading streak. Haruki Murakami's Wind Up Bird Chronicle, Antjie Krog's Country of My Skull, Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried, and yesterday I finished Greg Costikya's First Contract -a unique mix of light science fiction and economics.

I found Costikya at this incredible independant games blog.

I've only known Any Rand's Atlas Shrugged to make economic philosophy the grounds for a novel. In Costikya's book Earth's economy is ruined by the introduction of aliens and their superior technology. The protagonist seeks to put himself and Earth back on the economic map. It didn't change my life (the bar for all fiction) but it was unique enough to leave an impression.

I liked the author's political agenda. He seemed to appreciate the right-wing's emphasis on individual power for change over the conditions of their life and a left-winger's cultural sensitivity. It was the only science fiction I can think of where the lead was not a white male or hot female robot.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Friday, November 27, 2009


Caught a mouse with a wonderfully simple Tip Trap.

I find mice to be beautiful, inventive, creatures living tragic, frantic lives. It's a pity they're such a health hazard or I would leave food out for them.

I would like to go on record saying.

If I find out that you kill mice I may:

Calmly ask why you would destroy life.
Punch you in your f*cking face.

*If you are a cat then I understand. But you may want to see someone about that sadistic "toy with them" instinct.

Friday, November 20, 2009

My Dating Advice

If I were to add a chapter to the Great Book of Dating I would write about the cold shoulder.

Many people are amazed that they are attracted to people who spurn them. Are we drawn to rejection? Common macho dating philosophy encourages one to resist the urge to call back and never appear available. In this clip, Jon Favreau fails to do that and that makes it a comedy (Swingers. 1996)

But there is another way to give the "cold shoulder". Genuinely have a life of one's own. Remember that the project of this life is yourself. You should be busy, doing things that interest you and when others ask for your time it should be difficult to fit them in because you are busy doing the things that you are passionate about. If your time is precious then you are attractive. If you are doting on someone, waiting for their next command then you have become uninteresting.

In summary, there are two ways to be alluringly unavailable. One is to play the game and pretend you're disinterested and busy, the other is to live a genuinely busy, interesting life.

Bonus Advice:
Additionally, if you want someone to find you interesting simply ask them questions.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Kind of Surveillance I Can Get Behind

This site (DineSafe Toronto) allows you to look up any restaurant in Toronto's public health record.

Also, the police put Toronto Crime Statistics on a map. Wow! Two cars have been stolen near me. I'm not sure if this information makes me feel safer or simply acknowledge that crime is everywhere.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Problem - Video Game Skin Tone

I'm making a video game for fun using Construct. I've run into a problem -what gender and skin tone do I choose for the main character?

I decided to:

A. Leave the gender of the main character ambiguous. Use an androgynous figure and never mention 'he' or 'she' in the game.

B. Make the game randomly generate the skin tone of the main character.

Then I ran into more problems:
-How many skin tones should I include? Four? Three? Five?
-Are these hairstyle androgynous? (personally, I only think one of them captures that look)
-Should the user be able to choose their skin tone? (including a "doesn't matter, randomly assign my skin tone" option?)

These are problems that mainstream games do not deal with. They simply use white male, white female large breasts, or Italian plumber.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Let Them Eat Shit for Breakfast

Here's a fun way to find out your personal politics.

Imagine a new breakfast cereal on the market: Shit! It's not a clever name, it's actually human shit. Some consumers are convinced to buy Shit from their impressive ad campaign Actually, to your horror, Shit becomes the number one selling breakfast food.

What's your reaction:

A) They wanna eat shit? Let them eat shit.
B) Somebody has to intervene.

Your answer to this question defines your political perspective. What the fuck does that mean? Simply put, who you think should have the power to make decisions. A) Every person should decide for oneself or B) Someone who knows best should decide.

You can see this divide in the past and present. In 1 AD The Romans had optimates and populares politicians and in 2009 the Americans have the Republican and Democratic party. For instance, why is there such anger toward public healthcare in America? The general ethos in the United States is that people should decide for themselves -fuck government intervention. It's often hard for Canadians to relate since we're used to a higher level of the government regulating our lives (healthcare, liquor stores, television, etc.)

So, you chose A:
Congratulations, you believe in people! We are all able to make rational choices. Life! What an adventure!
Unfortunately, you recognize the right for stupid people to have an equal say in the laws that govern your life.

So, you chose B
Congratulations, you can help people who are being manipulated by powerful corporations that care more about profit than their consumer's health.
Unfortunately, you're stomping on our freedoms you fascist son of a bitch. You don't trust people to know what's good for them. Why don't we just let you and your panel of experts build your perfect world and shoot anyone who disagrees?

Level 2
Does your opinion change if we make it more personal? Instead of thinking about the dull masses, what if it was your friend or family member eating Shit? Still think the same thing?

Comments steal:

-Hey! Replace Shit with Froot Loops and you have a real world example.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Reader

Usually, I criticize oversimplifications. For instance: the Nazis were evil. In fact, in historical context the Nazi party was appealing. Hitler did not trick Germany, he was the manifestation of a frustrated nation. Blah, blah, blah. Secretly, I've always appreciated the ignorant condemnation of the Nazi party. It has mass appeal and maybe our stupid outrage would strengthen each generation against fascism and genocide.

Then I read The Reader. It's clear that resolve is weakening.

It's the story of an unlikely intimate relationship between a young man and older woman. Years later he becomes a lawyer and discovers she's on trial as a Nazi war criminal. The book is intelligent, thoughtful but it lacks the crass condemnation of Nazis. In The Reader, we're meant to see the Nazi war criminal as a human being. This requires a careful dance to ensure the reader doesn't drum up instant hate. I was unnerved by this approach. Specifically, I felt the vague term 'prisoners' was often used to avoid 'Jews' sidestepping our emotional reactions to the Holocaust.

Again, we're meant to see the Nazi war criminal as a human being. While I have always argued for this on an intellectual level, I felt safer in a world where we simply chanted Nazis are bad. I guess I believe that most adults should be treated as children.

Literature is an insult to history. It's like turning 9/11 into a rom-com. Historical fiction is a distasteful reduction of facts into recognizable story arcs and emotion. I watched Tarentino's revenge fantasy Inglorious Basterds. I realized that a generation will grow up thinking that the Americans killed Hitler (or at the very least threatened him -we still deny the Soviets their victory).

Inspired by this new 'Holocaust lite' resurgence of WWII in fiction I am going to write a one hour lecture teaching the Nazi party the way I wish I learned about it in high school.

I believe outrage and storytelling miss the point.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Sunday (villain)

Meeting the villains was my favourite part of GK Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday.

I found Sunday to be quite memorable and I kept picturing this statue: the head of an Emperor that was part of an exhibit in the Roman Forum. I would design him with sausage like fingers and focus on the size of his shadow. I'd adapt the book to screenplay if Tim Burton and Jim Henson would bring it to life.

Then, as Syme continued to stare at them, he saw something that he had
not seen before. He had not seen it literally because it was too large to see. At the nearest end of the balcony, blocking up a great part of the perspective, was the back of a great mountain of a man. When Syme had seen him, his first thought was that the weight of him must break down the balcony of stone. His vastness did not lie only in the fact that he was abnormally tall and quite incredibly fat. This man was planned enormously in his original proportions, like a statue carved deliberately as colossal. His head, crowned with white hair, as seen from behind looked bigger than a head ought to be. The ears that stood out from it looked larger than human ears. He was enlarged terribly to scale; and this sense of size was so staggering, that when Syme saw him all the other figures seemed quite suddenly to dwindle and become dwarfish. They were still sitting there as before with their flowers and frock-coats, but now it looked as if the big man was entertaining five children to tea.

I'm sure his existence inspired the design of Marvel's Kingpin.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Public Deletion

Facebook is an introductory course in public relations. Members constantly think about their online image, experimenting with branding and spin.

Facebook, my great great grand, is a website that encourages members to put pictures, videos and text online. They share your media with members that you have selected, granting them the power to view and make comments ("friends" in the jargon of the site). In return for this space, Facebook shares a rudimentary level of your information with advertising firms who hope to target you with more relevant and persuasive advertising.

I have added many young friends on facebook. They are part of a generation that had been more woven into expressing themselves online. I have noticed some long term relationships come and go. A few times, I have noticed that when they break up they systemically delete all of the profile pics with their former partner. Many of the photos of cute kissing and mutual silliness disappear. What must it feel like to remove someone from your digital identity? Like burning a shoebox of love letters and gifts only in a more public forum. I think this is why I like tattoos. More permanent reminders of the past.

I feel they are specially suited to understand modern propaganda and that history is an active, daily process of selecting the past.

Photos. Stalin and Yezhov no longer in love.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What I Learned from Eichmann in Jerusalem

Book Review

I finally found Eichmann in Jerusalem in Washinton DC in a used book store. It proved to be one of my favourite nonfiction books for its topic (the trial of a Nazi in Israel) and for the author's (Hannah Arendt's) insight.

After World War II, most of the defeated Nazi leadership had committed suicide. The remains were hung at the Nuremberg Trials (1945). Some of the Nazi leadership had escaped abroad. In 1960, Adolf Eichmann was abducted from Argentina by Israeli agents and put on trial in Israel for 'crimes against humanity'. His role in the Nazi party was in transportation -first deporting Jews abroad and then to extermination camps.

1. The banality of Eichmann
Yes, Eichmann was guilty and it was obvious that he would hang. But the trial was tied up in Israel announcing its power to the world and seeking a dramatic catharsis. The proceedings became a stage for Holocaust survivors to tell their stories (and who would deny them that right?). It was a long attempt to paint Eichmann as a murderous monster. The truth was more sinister. Arendt paints Eichmann as a cliche bureaucrat still irked from being passed over for promotion. He seemed equally satisfied deporting Jews (and wasn't this saving them?) from Germany before he was ordered to send them to death camps when the Final Solution began. He's frustrating because he fails at being a villain.

2. Judenrat. Jewish collaboration with Nazis.
Eichmann, who began his job by helping to deport Jews, often sought leaders in the Jewish community. Arendt insists that the Holocaust would not have been as successful without the help of local Jewish leadership collecting information for Nazis, maintaining a semblance of normality, and policing the ghettos. "The whole truth was that if the Jewish people had really been unorganized and leaderless, there would have been chaos and plenty of misery but the total number of victims would hardly have been between four and a half and six million people."

3. Stateless people.
The people that the Nazi party had the most success deporting and murdering where stateless. There was more resistance if they had citizenship. I feel that this provides real preventative information for future state extermination projects. If your state is denying citizenship to refugees they are enabling genocide. Romania and Hungry had particularly murderous governments. Eichmann was more active in these areas than in Poland where most of atocities from the testimonies took place.

4. Denmark was the exception
In Denmark there was more assistance for Jews to escape (to Sweden) than any other country. I have seen this mentioned several times. In Glover's book about 20th Century morality called Humanity and in this book. Both times there are were no specific cases only general mentions of money and lodging provided for escaping Jews.

5. Justice
Justice cannot be separated from history. Even the judges striving for objective sentencing end up performers in a revenge play.

The top photo is notorious. A man looks at the camera about to be executed in a ditch. It is a memento for the murderers who wrote "Last Jew of Vinnitsa" on the back.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I Knew That?

Tales from Room cleaning II.

Found an old History of Japan exam. Let's see how I'd do if tested today!

5. Discuss the causes and results of the Meiji Restoration. First, define it either narrowly, as the change in government in 1868, or broadly, as the change of government plus the sweeping social, economic, and political changes of the following twenty years. Then proceed.

Uh... the thing about the Meiji Restoration (of 1868 of course) is that it or she or he restored all or most or some of the Meiji back to where it had been removed and needed restoration, socially, economically, and most importantly, politically. By 1888 (twenty years of changes after 1868 of course) things were socially, economically, and politically different, sweepingly. PleaseIneedthiscredittograduate. This is clear when one looks at the quantity of Meiji because many had been restored.

Uh-oh. Meiji Restoration guy looks pretty disappointed.

Looking back at Looking Back

Cleaning out my room.
I have about 100 half filled journals. Considering scanning and freeing up some volume...

This is an excerpt from late high school. It's about looking back at my early high school writing about a crush and knowing it ends unreciprocated.

I am not that person. We are different. Nonetheless the optimistic light in which most of the entries find themselves in turns my stomach. The loss of one is the gaining of the other. Innocence Experience.

I see an innocent boy wanting the best. I read his hopes and, although no tears come, my stomach aches. Like watching a bad stand-up comic waiting for laughs that won't come. I read words coming from the pen of the truly naive. I know there is an unhappy ending, I've already seen that movie (hell, I'm in it!).
I wish we had Cornflakes for tomorrow morning's breakfast.

I love how naive they both seem to me. How these words seem silly to you, future me.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Washington DC

DC is the America that I did not expect.

The announcer for the Metro had a lot of character. Cracking jokes, relaying travel advice and naming the next stop as if he hadn't been doing it forever. There is no fashionable shopping, only free museums and used bookstores. People read in public (saw two Vonnegut-ers). People jog, lots of fit bodies. It's a friendly collection of enthusiastic tourists. I traveled to the NE of town to visit a Salvation Army store. I found myself the only white person on the streets watching female police officers with their notepads out, interviewing tired looking people.

The sounds of sirens are frequent throughout the city. There is a multitude of security agencies, FBI, local DC Police, private guards. A man in a suit stands on top of the White House, using binoculars to watch the gate where the tourists gather. A child waves and he waves back. Between the Washington Monument and the Capitol Building a row of free museums and galleries displaying stuffed orangutans, Nigerian art, the capsule that the crew of Apollo 11 returned in, Watson and the Shark, brutal images of the Holocaust on the Eastern Front, paintings of plump nineteenth century children, a V2 rocket, dimetrodon bones, and I didn't go into them all.

Museum fatigue is a challenge and it's nice to head a half hour west where you can stay outside and enjoy the memorial architecture. WWII fountain, the Vietnam Wall, giant Abraham Lincoln, and the hidden gem the Korean War Memorial which I hope to make famous one day by filming at night in the rain.

DC restaurants are on a familiar 'healthy, organic, fresh'. Eating out is pleasant and quite expensive -grocery stores do not exist.

The city prides itself on their global botany. Plants bear tiny plaques explaining their Japanese or Maryland or wherever heritage. Actually, the beautiful old trees run the city. It is very common to see the red brick sidewalks rippling up in waves as the root systems destroy them. Washington DC seems okay with nature bubbling up. I've never stumbled so much in a city. I overestimated American lawsuit culture.

Meanwhile, Liz was working at the Library of Congress which, like the Smithsonian, is actually a grouping of separate buildings. The days were sweltering (still, a break from Egypt). Lots of nice dates. A great Korean brunch (Mandu), Ethiopian lunch, and we caught a few movies. A clean, air-conditioned room to retreat to and prepare breakfast with the microwave, two mugs, and a bowl Liz borrowed from the hotel restaurant.

The one glitch, I didn't bring my laptop and found my writing process to be ineffective. I produced many illegible lists, abandon upon return because they involve too much retyping. I did manage to work myself into an excited frenzy for the writing that I'm doing now. This trip was a break for me after the exhausting Trip of Plagues and I spent my days wandering, listening to psychology lectures, and reading about Ned Kelly. The driving reason I went was to share the beginning and end of each day with Liz. There were many surreal moments of satisfaction when I realized that she was actually beside me.

Took sixteen hours of buses there and about nineteen to get home. I am a professional at sleeping on planes but I'd get cut from the National bus napping squad. I can't get the lights out.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Where did I go?

I was never bitten by the 'travel bug', considering myself more of a people person than a place person. We're in the golden age of consumption and I don't know if air travel can possibly exist in the same way in your world. Travel has dominated your great great grand's life for the past five months.

It was fun to cross the Atlantic Ocean four times in ten days (in order to MC at my cousin's terrific wedding). I got to imagine my carbon footprint crushing polar bear cubs. The worst travel was the eighteen hour bus home from DC. The most memorable time was South Korea -thanks to Liz, Tom, Simon, and Foster. The worst was working this summer on the 'Trip of the Great Plague'. Stories to follow (including the full itinerary and daily ratings of the legendary trip to South Korea).

Now begins the long and enjoyable process of reflection and writing. I had planned to blog all along my journey but here we are. The only thing I wrote was that last post when the constant uprooting finally started putting cracks in my spirit. I will be creating a nice collection of stories to streamline the catching up process with my friends.

That's me in the War Memorial of Korea (a war museum with a touch of target-shooting interactivity).

Work - School Semester Program.
Paris, France. 9 days.
Strasbourg, France. 4 days.
Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland. 4 days.
Munich, Germany. 5 days.
Venice, Italy. 6 days.
Tuscany (region), Italy. 9 days.
Rocca Mare, Italy. 4 days.
Rome, Italy. 7 days.
Olympia, Greece. 1 day.
Tolo, Greece. 5 days.
Athens, Greece. 5 days.
Santorini, Greece. 7 days.
Mykonos, Greece. 6 days.
Athens, Greece. 2 days.

Back home.
Brampton, Canada. 1 day
Toronto, Canada. 1 day.

Travel with Liz.
Seoul, South Korea. 4 days.
Gapyeoung, South Korea. 1 day.
Seoul, South Korea. 5 days.
Busan, South Korea. 1 day
Seoul, South Korea. 3 days.

Back Home
Brampton, Canada. 2 days.

Work - Summer Program
Rome, Italy. 3 days.
Toronto, Canada. 1 day.
Rome Italy. 3 days.
Ravello, Italy. 4 days.
Olympia, Greece. 2 days.
Tolo, Greece. 6 days.
Athens, Greece. 5 days.
Nile Cruise (Luxor to Aswan), Egypt. 5 Days.
Cairo, Egypt. 5 days.

Back Home
Brampton, Canada. 1 day.

Visiting Liz (sent to work at Library of Congress)
Washington DC, USA. 8 days.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Look Past the Collapse

I'm burning out. Egypt to go. Knowledge is meaningless. Everything I anticipate and understand I cannot prevent from happening. I became my job. The line blurred and now its success if my success. When you try to avoid clear choices you make them in sinister ways. I've always known that and here I am again. I miss Liz and reading Joan Dideon's Year of Magical Thinking has convinced me that every plane I board will crash. Five times I die before I'm home and rational people will read this and claim that everything happens for a reason. It doesn't you dumb beautiful sons of bitches.

I know that, after the performance, all the stress of the show is shed and I look to what is next. This dark spell forgotten. I like Sara's blog. Keep a sense of humour about everything. The Spartans did. There will be so many arrows falling upon you they will blot out the sun, Sparta lol, then we'll fight in the shade.

I need to work as hard for myself as I do for other people. I can make a long list of things that I know. But unless they're habit, irrational-formed-in-childhood habit then I can't see doing them. Catharsis. Purge it all and be reborn. The people on TV don't age.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

They Went to Seoul

They Went to Seoul from Nemo Dally on Vimeo.

Fourteen summer days.

From batting cages to baduk
From televised math to deep market shrimp
From the '76 axe murder to a Buddhist lunch
Beaches and mountains and subways to Samgakji
From kimchee to bagged chickens
And to all the strangefruits, tandoori saunas, love hotels, rockstars, dog cafes, and kids baking cookies preserved in the deteriorating vault of our minds.

Special thanks to our Superhosts.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


I need to buy new glasses. Mine are blurred with scratches and some type of expiring coating. So I look on LensCrafters' website. Out of habit, they're the only place Ive ever been to buy glasses. I'm looking for durability. That's my only criteria. They don't sort their glasses by materials. They sort them by designer.

I click on something called "Frame Personality", hoping to find the picture of a pair of glasses wearing construction gear with "I'm tough" in a word balloon. At least that absurdity would be useful to me. Instead I find this quiz.

The documentary Century of the Self comes to mind. Are people really irrational beings, caring more for their "Frame Personality" than actual information?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Mass Movement

A rising mass movement attracts and holds a following not by its doctrine and promises but by the refuge it offers from the anxieties, barrenness, and meaninglessness of an individual existence. It cures the poignantly frustrated not by conferring on them an absolute truth or by remedying the difficulties and abuses which made their lives miserable, but by freeing them from their ineffectual selves -and it does this by enfolding and absorbing them into a closely knit and exultant corporate whole.

Hoffer, Eric

(p. 41) The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements

I began to keep a list of things that I heard about but didn't understand. Manchuria was the first thing on that list back in 2003. The list is the reason that I know a lot of things. There's nothing rigorous about this project, I've been meaning to look up Gottfried Leibniz for years but something always seems to come up. If you keep a list, I would add Eric Hoffer to it. I'm reading The True Believer and I'm impressed. He's also interesting because he's not your typical academic.

Monday, March 16, 2009


Here's a list of Christian-second-coming-end-of-the-world predictions listed in Wikipedia's Rapture article. I was perusing the list and I burst out laughing when I saw poor Harold Camping's name there. Twice. I hope the other radio evangelists don't say things behind his back.

Some notable rapture predictions include the following:

  • 1792 - Shakers calculated this date.[citation needed]
  • 1844 - William Miller predicted Christ would return between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844, then revised his prediction, claiming to have miscalculated Scripture, to October 22, 1844. Miller's theology gave rise to the Advent movement.
  • 1977 - William M. Branham predicted that the Rapture would take place in 1977.[22]
  • 1981 - Chuck Smith undogmatically predicted that Jesus would likely return by 1981.[citation needed]
  • 1988 - Publication of 88 Reasons why the Rapture is in 1988, by Edgar C. Whisenant.
  • 1989 - Publication of The final shout: Rapture report 1989, by Edgar Whisenant. More predictions by this author appeared for 1992, 1995, and other years.
  • 1992 - Korean group "Mission for the Coming Days" predicted October 28, 1992 as the date for the rapture.[23]
  • 1993 - Seven years before the year 2000. The rapture would have to start to allow for seven years of the Tribulation before the Return in 2000. Multiple predictions.
  • 1994 - Pastor John Hinkle of Christ Church in Los Angeles predicted June 9, 1994. Radio evangelist Harold Camping predicted September 27, 1994.[24]
  • 2011 - Harold Camping's revised prediction has May 21, 2011 as the date of the rapture.[25]
  • 2060 - Sir Isaac Newton undogmatically proposed, based upon his calculations using figures from the book of Daniel, that the rapture could happen no earlier than 2060.[26][27]
** Since writing this I have learned that he originally predicted 1994 or 2011. Might seem like a cop out to pick two years but I look up to anyone who goes on the Armageddon record. Unfortunately, this site's scrutiny of his number crunching reveals a shoddy methodology rivaling the Bible Code.

Old and New

My new comedy moniker, Elephant Empire, is up with Vimeo's slick service. I was able to check off "create a sketch comedy pilot" from my list of things to do. I envisioned the shows format as a short film told in three acts with silly sketches filling the intermissions.

Director's Commentary:
It's fun to watch and remember where each cockpit was shot. From my bedroom, to the stage at Unit 102, to the floor of Swindle's kitchen.

Yes, that is an old travel battleship on the right.

Those glasses on Whizzticket and the helmet are so key to this scene. Both were provided out of nowhere by Laroo.

Watching on a high quality TV hurt the production. You could see the texture and tones of various bedsheets providing outer space.

I'm always impressed by Triggs' performance as the Commander. There are countless outtakes of him yelling in error. I also love what he does with his cheek at 1:43.

The scene is missing a sound engineer. It needs the wonderful sounds of spacefighters and some orchestrated battle music to drop out and highlight the punchlines.

I'm a big fan of elaborate set ups for quick shots. I look forward to Mar-mar ya-natawan every time.

I really like my video game ship design. I love pixel art. It added a nice final layer to the scene.

Also, I stumbled upon some of my gifs from the old Ghost Robot website's menu. I quite like my only foray into animation. On the old site they would show the ghost and activate into the word upon mouseover but I don't have the time to find and test the javascript. For a superior look you're better off downloading them. It's worth it. They're adorable.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Press 'B' to Use Diplomacy

In most video games you can punch or shoot. These are your options when you approach a new thing. How shall I destroy it?

Perhaps they are making a point that to live is to destroy. To eat is to squeeze the life from plants and animals, using their juice as fuel. To decide is to assert your desires on the world, crushing the dreams of your competitors.

Perhaps violence is the simplest story device, providing attachment and excitement in an immediately recognizable conflict. Video games suffer from terrible storytellers.

Perhaps violent fantasies lie behind all of our eyes.

We are a culture that condemns violence, promoting it everywhere. I am not a pacifist calling for better behaviour. I think these contradictions mark our age and are worth thinking about.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Where's the Future?

2Q Video is doing what I expect of every store. Their inventory is online. You can look up things from home or if you go to the store they have a simple desktop offering their website. More importantly, it's small and simple. I despise the websites of major chains with their broken links, poor search engines, and results informing me that the product is available in a store on the other side of the country.

The only thing that 2Q is missing, as a video store, is a system that recommends titles to you based on what you've looked up. The addictiveness of clicking on recommendations, like the endless digging of wikinauts, will replace browsing shelves.

I'm constantly disappointed by stores that don't offer inventory access. Perhaps I don't understand the complex world of inventory but I thought everything is scanned into "the system". Employees have access to this information and they're irritated when they have to hunt for something. I would enjoy doing it myself and would buy a lot more.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Today, Be a French Intellectual

Imitate a French scholar. Today, have a carefree personae, take your boldest observation about the world and say it in the most controversial way. Speak in creative riddles and allow your opponents to see what they want in your work.
I like this style of scholarship. Baudrillard claims that 'the Gulf War (1991) did not happen'. Foucault peeks at sinister shadows behind "progress", and Sartre declares that he and his fellow citizens of Paris were free when they were under Nazi rule.

I love being engaged by bold statements. Especially when there's a clever point behind it. Here's the excerpt from Sartre where he points out that freedom, a feeling of deliberate choice, is created in oppressive circumstances.

"WE HAVE NEVER BEEN SO FREE AS UNDER GERMAN OCCUPATION. We had lost every right, and above all the right of speech: we were insulted every day and we had to remain silent; we were deported as laborers, as jews, as political prisoners; everywhere, on the walls, in the newspapers, and on the screen, we saw the foul and listless face which our oppressors wanted to give us. Because of all of this we were free. Since the Nazi venom penetrated our very thoughts, every true thought was a victory. Since an all powerful police tried to force us to be silent, each word became as precious as a declaration of principle. Since we were hounded, every one of our movements had the importance of commitment. The often atrocious circumstances of our struggle had at last put us in a position to live our life without pretences--to live in this torn, unbearable condition which we call the human condition. Exile, captivity, and above all death, which is ably disguised in periods of happiness, became the perpetual object of our concern; we discovered that they were not inevitable accidents or even constant but external threats: they had become our lot, our destiny, the source of our reality as men. Each second we fully realized the meaning of that trite little phrase "All men are mortal."

I don't know who did the translation.
From the essay: La République du Silence (1944)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

What was it like to have my Wisdom Teeth removed?

It's the next morning and I feel fine. I guess I'm one of the lucky ones. I was given antibodies to prevent infection and painkillers (light and serious) which I haven't needed.

They put a needle in me and knocked me out intravenously. I asked the dentist what they were using and he got quite defensive. He was adamant that they were chemicals that I wouldn't remember and seemed suspicious of me for asking. I suspect his authority is challenged a great deal on this subject -Western medicine, anesthesia included, struggles to be authoritative and objective when the reality is full of side effects and uncertainty.

He lightened up after I made it cleat how fun I thought the whole thing was. "Wouldn't you be curious about what was being pumped inside of you?" I asked.

He said they use a variety of chemicals, one makes me sleep, one freezes for pain, one prevents inflammation, and one makes me forget. Despite the high sci-fi value of the last one I changed my questioning to ask if I could keep my x-ray. They treated me as if it were normal for them to send it to my dentist and I stopped pursuing the topic. Now that I'm out of their chair I want it and I think I'm going to get it. Don't I own it?

In fact, I'll call after I write this. Writing my thoughts certainly spurs me to action.
My phone call led to an interesting run around. They are insisting on sending the x-ray to my dentist -although "my dentist" was simply someone who squeezed me in and isn't taking regular patients. The surgeon's receptionist who is currently holding the x-ray said she would talk to my surgeon tomorrow.

What I remember.
I can recall about five minutes of action. I could feel tools clattering around on my wisdom teeth and pulling them. But there was no pain. I could hear my dentist say that I teach history, this may have been a dream, based on a brief conversation before we began. He was on to the next patient before I could ask.

They were worried about me. I was in good spirits but they said I looked quite faint. My heart rate dropped to a surprising low. They sad this happened to athletes. I asked if it was tru for Buddhists too. They missed my vein with the needle the first time and when they started to sedate me it hurt. I love how well the staff ca understand me with my mouth full. The dentist scolded his aid and fixed the needle. I don't remember getting sleepy. Afterward, they dripped two bags of clear juice into me to rehydrate me. After the second bag, I was barely dizzy, walking on my own.

I was walking up and down the stairs when I came home o find a movie. I was worried that it would make me feel faint but it didn't. My brothers bought my drugs and popped the movie in for me. Later that evening, I felt very faint. Apparently I was supposed to start drinking something to get my energy back but I hadn't touched food or water all day. A banana-berry smoothie with a helping of mom's protein powder and some maple sugar in water and I was back. I worked until midnight and slept until 6:30am.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Based on a True Story

This would be a neat project. Historical figures and the actors who played them.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


I've spent some time in Wasaga Beach writing a book. A teen detective story. An excerpt:

“You're being a baby. I don't believe you.”

“It's not practical.” Noa looks at herself in the mirror. She feels as if she's wearing a costume. It's the first time she's put on a two-piece bathing suit. Rachel insists that she needs to wear one if she's going to look older. Jack's friends are all eighteen and nineteen. Noa looks at herself, noticing her body, a pencil-marked moment, a memory of brushing her teeth, noticing her head was well above the faucet.

“I don't get you. You never wanted to? It was a big deal when my parents caved in.”

“I still think it's going to come off on the slide.” Noa turns sideways and notices a three-year old watching her. The child is wearing massive water wings and her hair is tied in a haphazard bundle near the top of her head. Noa strikes a pose to ask for an opinion. The child looks at her blankly.

“That yellow one would have, it's not really for swimming. But this was has this.” Rachel says, snapping the strap on her cousin's bathing suit. “You still might want to hold it when you go.”

Noa nods instead of drawing attention to the absurdity of a swimsuit not made for swimming. “I'll take them,” she concludes, shaking her head, “this one and the blue one.” Rachel raises her hands in victory, picking it off the rack, filled with the satisfaction of taking her older cousin shopping for bathing suits. “On one condition. If I ever make that face while wearing it,” Noa points to an advertisement where a bikini model curls her lips back in a mock growl, “you have to shoot me.”


Noa tries not to think about how she paid so much money for so little fabric. She tries not to think how often young girls looked in the same mirror and sucked in their stomachs, feeling inadequate. She tries to focus on Rachel's excitement, the sense of ritual, wondering if a passing thought might have been an important lesson. It wasn't a test that she could write, or an answer that she could figure out. It had nothing to do with responsibility, capability, or awareness. In the end, it is simply the size and shape of her body that makes her an adult.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Malcolm X vs. Ratatat

I'm back from hibernation.

Malcolm X vs. Ratatat (download mp3)

At one point during my visit to Wasaga I was designing assignments for high school students. I hope they're tech savvy -I plan on forcing them to make mash ups of famous speeches.

The perfect soundtrack if you feel like his Wikipedia biography.

I tested my assignment and found it fun and educational. I'm pleased with this Malcolm X 'Ballet or the Bullet' speech mashed over Ratatat's Seventeen Years. I'm happy to capture his intense rhetoric but, if I were to recut the speech, I would include:

a) his statement that America could have the first non-violent revolution by the ballot.
b) that he admired Asian nationalism for defeating the white man -while referring to the Korean war as whites getting beat by rice eaters.

This assignment is also a good introduction to talking about copyright and fair use. Have I violated your terms of use?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Great Fruit Tasting

A while ago we bought twenty obscure beverages and held the Great Drink Tasting. Well, we bought about nineteen fruits to try (most of them from the wonderful markets of Chinatown) for our first Fruit Tasting party.


-freaking out as we cracked granadilla's disgusting skull but liking the taste of the oozing brains
-jack fruit's sudden seeds
-when the innocuous "poison potato" paralyzed tongues and lips
-beautiful dragon fruit's letdown
-after looking up the expected flavour of soursop we concluded it wasn't ripe.

Pictures of the fruits will follow but here's how they fared:

And, since we believe in transparency, the official judge's scores:

Personally, I think papaya is overrated and the tidy, tasty honey pomelo deserves a greater recommendation. Sugar apple and rambutan have flair but I think they lack the stamina to make the playoffs.

Friday, January 23, 2009

I Watch Too Many Movies

I Watch Too Many Movies

I don't remember the sound of the explosion. The firefighters laughed when they heard that one. There were reports from Main and Elm that a gun had been fired. I remember a tremendous wumf. Like an enormous barbecue burner being turned out. I had to have heard the explosion they laughed, I was right beside it and the doctors said my hearing was damaged.

The old woman had been thrown up the stairs or I never would have found her. You're not supposed to move an injured body but the fire was spreading so I did.

I brought her outside and laid her on my jacket to keep her off the snow. It seemed like the right thing to do but I regretted it later. I wish I had grabbed the curtains because my jacket got all bloody and I had to throw it out. Plus it was freezing. I looked at those curtains for a long time but I thought it would be irresponsible to leave the old lady on the front lawn. Even if I got the curtains she probably had already got blood on my jacket so it's not like I could roll her onto the curtains and put my jacket on. Eventually, I saw the curtains catch fire so that was that. That's the thing in those situations. You can't overthink, you have to act.

A neighbour ran to phone 911. Later, he thanked me for taking control of the situation because he was in shock. He said I told him to call 911, report an explosion and an unconcious, breathing senior female. I don't remember doing that. I guess I was in shock too. That was the frustrating thing about being called a hero. I didn't remember the good parts. I felt like I was getting someone else's award. I remember this old lady. She looked like a bandit who had been caught by a posse and dragged by a horse. Her clothes were ripped up and dusty. I stared at her fragile body. I thought a Western that takes place in the snow would be a neat, new idea. I held her in my arms.

I watch a lot of movies and this felt like the scene where the person is dying in someone else's arms. I knew it would be a good scene if it were shot from above. Then I thought she was dead. I really started to get into my role. I tried to think about everything the old lady meant to me.

“Don't give up on me.” I said.

I don't know. Maybe I watch too many movies. The hero always has to keep the dying person awake. If they fall asleep it means that they're dead. “Fight it.” I yelled. “You can't fall asleep.” She didn't respond. “Not on my watch.” I shouted. I gave her a quick shake, a test shake, and it worried me. You ever shake a frail old lady? It's scary. It's like a bunch of toothpicks in a ziploc bag.

And that's when I did what I did. Like I said maybe I watch too many movies. Maybe she was better off sleeping. But my mind was fixated on waking her up. I wanted her to show signs of life. And maybe I was upset about being cold and using my jacket instead of the curtains. So I started yelling every obscenity I know. It sounds odd now but all I was thinking was, if she sleeps, she's gone, right? So I'm whispering to her that she's a dirty slut who fucked a pig for a dollar. And that's a light one. That's beginner's.

She wasn't responding so I tried everything I knew. And when you work in international shipping, you hear them all. Tu madre es una puta, darashinai onna, tu es un putain, du hast null hoden, pezze di merda, bouffe ma queue calisse de fag. It was hard to place her ethnicity so I called this old lady a whore in every language. I'm trying Polish, Mandarin, Spanish, Italian, French, German, and all the Swahilii I know. Her eyes start to open. I'm really getting to her. Then I think, she's an old woman, maybe she's racist. So I start saying, oh look who's awake for a big white cock, big black cock, brown cock. It's a long process but I find out that she hates Catholics and the Swedish and she speaks Italian and some Polish. So I'm telling her that she wants a Swedish Catholic to take his greasy balls and put them-

Suddenly she's hitting me, she's awake, she's full of life. And then I'm being tackled to the ground. At first the copsy were arresting me but then they found out I was saving her life.

The old lady's family was cool and I got to hug them a lot at the hospital. We really didn't know if she was going to make it. I mentioned my jacket and they were really impressed with my sacrifice but they didn't get the hint. Eventually, the old lady came around and they brought me into the room to celebrate. I couldn't really understand what she said to me and I asked someone to translate. Finally, someone did.

"What is she saying?" I asked.
“I don't like this man.”

But there's no way that's everything because she talked for about three minutes until I was told I had to leave the room for her health.

(2009 snow walk to a movie store in Wasaga.)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Gender of Oz

A quick introduction to studying gender roles in our culture. These are the top hits when using Google images to search for Wizard of Oz costumes. Click this report to view a better size.What theories of gender would you draw as a total outsider to our culture?
-Females are not allowed to completely cover their legs?
-Only males are allowed to wear face paint?
-Males can't dress as female characters but females can dress as male characters?
-Females must stand awkwardly. Males must stand straight?
-Males should wear bulkier hats?

Anything else?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Why "be yourself" is Sh*tty Advice

High school students can detect the emptiness behind the phrase "be yourself". Our personalities and passions seem so arbitrary. Who am I? Am I someone who is passionate about being a cop? A pianist? A veterinarian? You don't need Jean-Paul Sartre to see the daunting existential problem of making choices without guidance (God). Yet there is a kernel of important advice in this poorly worded catch phrase.

The phrase "be yourself" is articulated better as:

Every human being is faced with the same struggle: being an individual and living in a group. You strike me as someone who is too accommodating and you should pursue some of your selfish desires for happiness. Consider that a degree of selfishness is good. Being completely selfish will lead to misery -but the same is true of total selflessness. You, like all human beings, must find a balance. Some people have to learn to surrender themselves to the groups so that they can play well with others. You have to learn to find the happiness which lies in asserting yourself against the group and satisfying your desires.

My friends are Pharaohs

This particular time and place that I have been born into is marked by an abundance of manufactured goods. I am surrounded by different textures produced in foreign places by unknown processes. There is a stack of books beside me and an alarm clock. There isn't one thing in this room that I know how to produce. The effect is intellectual not emotional. I don't feel overwhelmed or upset. There is a vague sense that this situation is proper or "natural". Each of my friends is more powerful than the ancient Pharaohs who blogged by collecting crafts and burying them in tombs. We have flying machines.

In 2009 I wish everyone inspiration. A feeling of restlessness while looking at a statue of Alexander the Great.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Best of 2008

The best books that I read in 2008

The Remains of the Day 80%
Never Let Me Go 74%
The Reason Why 72%
Humanity 71%
Wittgenstein's Poker 70%
The Painted Bird 68%

The best movies that I saw in 2008

Sympathy for Mr Vengeance 86%
Adaptation 80%
Heart of the Game 78%
The Dark Knight 72%
Rec 64%

Friday, January 2, 2009

A New Sickness

My Great Great Grand,

How's your health? I'm sick today. I have been for the last four weeks. I have a variation on "the common cold". We don't fully understand how to combat a virus that we refer to as "the common cold". It causes a mucous build up that we cough up and blow out of our nose into a soft paper we call tissue.

Weeks ago I was coughing all day and through the night, frequently waking Liz up. For the first time in my experience, the coughing and runny nose stages are over but the mucous has dug in somewhere above my nose. Occasionally it causes my ears to be plugged. I've never had that before. I went to a walk-in-clinic. That's where I can show my card to prove I'm a citizen of Canada and have a doctor diagnose me for free. Unfortunately the clinic was closing so I couldn't see a doctor. In a real emergency, in my country, I could go to a hospital or phone a number and people would bring me to a hospital to help me right away. (That happened to me when a piece of ice slashed my ten-year old face open and they stitched it shut).

For my current illness, I consulted the internet which suggested Sudafed to relieve congestion. I've taken about fifteen pills over a three-day period and the mucous seems to be giving up. I imagine the future as a paradise with no disease OR an apocalypse with no medicine. I hope you're healthy.