Ebb and Flow

So as many of you may (or may not) have heard, there's been a string of drug-related deaths at some rather prominent shows and festivals within the EDM scene this past summer, and these tragedies, along with the current state of EDM as a genre, have made doomsayers out of many within the scene. You'll likely hear the word "bubble"  thrown around quite a bit.

I feel that as someone who's been listening to Electronic music since grade school, I should share a few things.

I got into Electronic music thanks to an awesome technology class (basically, rudimentary electronics and engineering) teacher I had in grade 6. His name was Mr. Zelisko and he would always play music in the tech lab while we worked. One day, he brought in a tape (yes, a tape...I'm probably dating myself here) with a whole bunch of stuff on it..."Experience"-era Prodigy, Messiah, KLF, and some old Chicago House tunes...the rest of the class thought it was complete garbage, but I was so completely intrigued that at the end of class, I asked him what it was. He told me "it's Techno. You like it?" I nodded enthusiastically, and he gave me the mixtape and in that moment, I knew this was something big. I also knew that I would never love any other genre of music like I loved this stuff.

Years passed, I learned more and more about electronic music and rave culture, the music evolved and changed, and then my first year in high school, I went to my very first rave. It was in a rec. centre in a little country town, of all places, and it. was. FANTASTIC. Kids were dressed in all manner of fluorescent this and that, big beaded necklaces and baggy flare pants...it was like the club scene out of Hackers. If I loved Electronic Music before then, man oh man did I ever love it after that. Everyone was so friendly and accommodating...sharing snacks and candy with you, just chatting you up because you were there...no one judged anyone, there were no egos. It was awesome, and we thought it would last forever.

Fast-forward to 2001. By this time, it was my first year of college, and the scene had started to go south...the Mayor of Toronto had put a nice little ban on anything resembling a rave, and the scene was starting to get a real bad name. A couple of promoters got together, and held a rave right outside City Hall in protest. It was even sponsored by a couple of local politicians who opposed the bans and crackdowns. I remember MC Flipside at one point jumping on the stage and getting the crowd all whipped into a fervorous chant of "I'm a raver, not a fucking drug addict!" Again...it was awesome, the people were awesome.

The bans were lifted after that, the crackdowns stopped. We won. Or so we thought. Sure...we took the scene back...but after that, it didn't matter, the damage had been done, the black mark had been painted on our collective heads. The scene as we knew it had its days numbered. One by one, promoters started to close up shop. The final nails in the coffin here in Canada were the death of Happy Hardcore and Anabolic Frolic's Hullabaloo parties, and the death of WEMF (the World Electronic Music Festival).

I think what I'm trying to say here, is to those of you out there fretting over "the death of EDM", don't. Music is an ephemeral thing, it CAN'T die as long as there are people who want to listen to it. Hell, even DISCO made a comeback. What is happening here is simply a part of the natural ebb and flow of pop culture. It happened to Disco, it happened to Punk, and it has happened once already to electronic music and the rave scene.

So don't toss out those beaded necklaces, or wipe out all the Porter Robinson and Wolfgang Gartner tunes from your media collection just yet....because just like Frosty the Snowman, this little scene of ours, it'll be back again someday. 

"...Make the money, but make sure it don't make you."

The title of this post is a quote from Chuck D. of Public Enemy, it was a verse in a song he was featured in by a Hip-Hop supergroup called NASA. I'll post the song at the end so you can check it out. I picked this title because I read a comic by Bill Watterson today that I felt I needed to share.

I have always felt this way, but yet all too often do I feel slightly ostracized for feeling/acting in this manner. Don't get me wrong, I do love my job, but my job does NOT dictate my identity. I mean, how could it? There's a big wide world out there with so much in it to see and do! 

As anyone who knows me will tell you, I am a total geek for a lot of things. I have a pretty wide variety of hobbies and interests...and I've always got some crazy project or idea I end up tinkering with. Unfortunately, all too often those projects end up falling by the wayside because "life" (aka Work) "gets in the way" ; and it frustrates me to no end when this happens, and in a way, I let it happen and I let myself fall into the same mode of thinking this comic describes...where your job dictates your life and suddenly every way you can measure "success" in some way begins to relate back to what you do between the hours of 9am to 5pm. 

I guess at the end of the day, I've always felt there's so much more to life than whatever it is you do to put food on the table. 

Anyways, here's that video I promised before. Fantastic song, even BETTER album. 

New Life Experience....or is it experiencing new life?

This weekend has been an interesting and enlightening one for me. On Friday night, my good friend Jennifer gave birth to her second child; a baby girl named Sierra. Sabrina and I have been given the great honour of being named as Sierra’s Godparents. And while that in and of itself has given me pause for thought on more than one occasion, nothing hit home for me more than on Saturday afternoon, when Sabrina and I went to the hospital to visit Jen and her new baby. The moment I held that tiny little 5lb. 3oz. girl in my arm, I was hit with a concrete battering ram of awe and realization. Until tonight I couldn’t put into words what I felt.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I have a deep reverence for science, skepticism and logic. I am an avowed Athiest and someone who believes that the unknown is NOT the unknowable. However, when I held that little baby…nothing in my life to date has ever left me feeling so awestruck and lost for words.

So then, in a serendipitous turn of events, Sabrina and I found ourselves tonight, as we often do, watching episodes of Breaking Bad on Netflix (trying to catch up before the final season premieres). I say “serendipitous” as the episode we saw featured a poem by Walt Whitman. This poem put into words what I could not during that eye-opening moment in which I held my newborn Goddaughter in my arms.

When I heard the learn’d astronomer;
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;
When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them;
When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture room,

How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick;

Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

Eleven.

11 years ago today, at 11am, humanity got a glimpse at just how depraved, self-serving, murderous, and megalomaniacal we can be. People today will say "Never Forget" and utter other platitudes in lip service to Nationalism, Mock Solidarity and Self-Righteousness.

Don't be one of those people.

Yes, we should remember the events of that day. But what matters more is HOW we remember them. Following the events of the WTC attacks, an entire nation, in fact, many nations, began persecuting people because they happened to share the same religion (in title only) as those of the attackers. Humanity became filled with bloodlust and hatred, we cried for the lives and the heads of the people responsible and so driven and hateful were we that we debased ourselves by listening to the words of madmen and demagogues; men not unlike the ones responsible for the "worst terrorist attack ever perpetrated on American soil". We swallowed their empty promises and ate up their jingoistic, crypto-fascism like candy. We grew fat on it while they raped and desecrated our basic rights as human beings.

And though it seems as if it is all but behind us now, there are still yet a lunatic fringe who would bring back the insanity of those years for their own selfish ends. And all it would take is a single election to bring it all flooding back...the persecution, the witch hunts, the jingoism, demagoguery....all of it would snap back into place as if someone had hit a reset button.

Now I will not tell you to vote, or not to vote, or who to vote for...truth be told, most of the time I am unsure of this myself. Furthermore, I am not an American citizen, and in fact, my own beliefs surrounding things of a political nature are such that I don't think it much matters who you vote for. That may sound nihilistic, it may sound bleak. But let me temper that with a well-known quote from Mahatma Ghandi: "Be the change you want to see in the world."

Those few words sum up perfectly everything I am trying to express in this humble blog post. Today, don't remember the events of 11 years ago with hatred in your heart; think not of the truly evil things it dredged up out of the darkest depths of human nature. I spoke at the outset of all the awful things we saw as a result of that day, but moments, even microseconds, after the towers began to fall, we saw examples of the exact opposite. Selfless strangers throwing themselves into harm's way to protect others. People willingly walking into a situation they knew full well they would likely not walk back out of alive. These people are who and what we should remember from that day. 

I will leave you with another quote, the final words of a man whom I personally admire, and believe was taken from the world far too soon, the late Jack Layton, former leader of the National Democratic Party of Canada: "My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic, and together, we will change the world."

My Misadventures in Weight Loss (or, why Weight Watchers is the only diet that works, and will continue to work)

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Hi, I'm Ryan. I'm a fatass. I've been a fatass since I was a kid. I've tried a few times to divest myself of this problem, to no avail. Since I left college, I've tried several diets, including Atkins. I have attended "Overeaters Anonymous" meetings. In short, I have tried almost everything. 

Until shortly over a month ago, I was pretty much resigned to the notion that I would always be a fatass, and that "always", thanks to my weight, would probably not be a very long time. My family was beginning to worry, as were my friends and pretty much everyone who gave a damn about me. That a month ago. Almost two months have passed now since I joined Weight Watchers. Since then, I've come to understand a few things. Things that I thought I would share with whomever cares to read this blog.

I am a natural born skeptic. I don't take what is given to me at face value to be either honest or truthful. I am the type who believes that the general status quo in society is that everyone has an ulterior, self-serving motive. I am also someone who is very analytical and left-brained; I have an innate need to analyze everything.

Now I said Weight Watchers works, and I'll tell you why...but first let me start by going through my past experiences and why those endeavours did NOT work. No excuses here, just well thought-out reasoning.

First off, I like food...actually, scratch that, I love food. Yes, I. LOOOOOOOOVE. Food. I love everything about food, I love cooking it, I love eating it, I love talking about it, I. Love. Food. Not being able to eat food that I like makes me a sad penguin. I tried to explain this to the people at Overeaters Anonymous, and they browbeat me with the notion that I am wrong, I am broken, food is nothing more than fuel.

FUCK. THAT.

What a typical OA meeting feels like.

What a typical OA meeting feels like.


If food is just fuel, why do strawberries taste so damn good?? Why do women sometimes prefer chocolate to sex? If food is merely a fuel source, why do we take such great pleasure in eating it?? Lots of skinny people are foodies like me, so quite frankly OA, your reasoning is wrongheaded and entirely bass-ackwards.

Okay...I'm done...sorry about that. Anyways, moving down the line into slightly more sensible territory, fad diets (yeah, I know right?? what does that say for OA when fad diets are a more sound idea?)

Most fad diets these days suggest a focus on one or two items and/or groups of food, and discourage eating anything outside of that...the obvious problem with this to me is that it lacks the natural balance that all things in life SHOULD have (I hold very strong beliefs in certain parts of Taoist philosophy, the concept of universal balance in particular). As well, fad diets go against what I previously posited regarding past civilisations and their eating habits. Did the Pilgrims eat strictly low-carb food when they landed on Plymouth Rock? Did they even know what carbohydrates were??? Didn't think so.

In addition, the problem with pretty much every diet is that it stops short of the notion that not everyone follows the same diet you do, nor will they necessarily cater to your dieting needs. In real life, people go out, they socialize, they go to dinner parties and backyard BBQs and weddings and bars and restaurants....none of these places are going to play nice with your little fad diet of eating grapefruit and soup all day every day.

Finally, as one last point before I switch gears here, another reason fad diets and weight loss schemes

She's been a little touchy ever since Karl Lagerfeld called her "a fat cow" during Milan Fashion Week last year...

She's been a little touchy ever since Karl Lagerfeld called her "a fat cow" during Milan Fashion Week last year...

Finally, as one last point before I switch gears here, another reason fad diets and weight loss schemes
 the world over don't work, is simply that we all have a ridiculously distorted view of what a healthy person should look like. Ladies, I cannot express to you enough that there is NOTHING WRONG WITH HAVING CURVES!! CURVES ARE HEALTHY FOR FUCK'S SAKE!! These gangly, jagged, gaunt, pallid size 0 stick figures you see on fashion show runways and on the covers of magazines ARE NOT NATURAL. THIS IS NOT. HEALTHY!! Women like that always remind me of the Hallway Ghost from Poltergeist.

But I digress. Rather than letting this continue on into a treatise on body image, let's get back to the real reason I'm writing all this. Weight Watchers. It works. Why? I mean, you've just sat here reading all the reasons why I say fad diets don't work.

Simple. Weight Watchers is NOT A FAD DIET.

What Weight Watchers attempts to do, is reign in your eating habits by making you account for everything you eat. This is done via their well-known point system, now called PointsPlus. Under the PointsPlus system, you are alotted a daily amount of points. This number is determined based on your starting weight, gender, age and height.

Basically, when you start the program, you will start off with a certain number of daily points, and your daily allocation of points will slowly decrease as you lose weight (down to a potential minimum of 26 points, which is considered the absolute minimum for women). PointsPlus values for different food items are determined based on their fat, carb, fibre and protein content per serving. Notice how calories aren't mentioned anywhere in there?? There's good reason for that. A calorie is one unit of food energy, and calories can accumulate and burn off in differing amounts and at different rates depending where in a given food item the calories are coming from. Think of it like different kinds of combustible fuels; jet fuel burns faster than gasoline, which burns faster than raw crude oil. The same can be said of proteins and carbohydrates...they just work differently.

So that's the first basic mechanic within the Weight Watchers program, the PointsPlus system. It's the backbone for the whole damn thing, and how they wield it is what makes the program work so well. First there is what I just explained with the math behind the daily points allotments and how points are calculated. However Weight Watchers has even mathematically factored in "real life" as well...remember how I mentioned all those BBQs and Restaurants and Weddings we all go to and pig out at? Well, they've accounted for that too. They want you to be able to enjoy yourself and still manage to learn dicipline at outings such as these, so they give you a static 49 weekly bonus points for those times when you are REALLY jonesing for that cheesecake after dinner, or that oh-so-greasy-good burrito after a night of bar/club hopping. But that's not all the PointsPlus system is used for...

The final facet of the PointsPlus system is encouraging physical activity. Do work, get points. It's that simple. You can eat the points you earn from exercise, or just let 'em fizzle with the rest of your daily and weekly points. It's totally up to you. And that's another thing...

FREEDOM. You are free to implement their program however you choose. Weight Watchers is ALL about figuring out how to meet the needs of individuals. We all live drastically different lives, not a one of us is the exact same. This is common sense. Weight Watchers GETS this and every week, at every meeting, tries to help you work THEIR program into YOUR life. Which brings me to my final point...Weekly meetings.

When I first heard that part of the Weight Watchers program meant attending a weekly meeting, I IMMEDIATELY conjured up images of cheesy motivational speakers and heavy-handed finger-wagging. I was wonderfully surprised to find out that they are neither. This is NOT Overeaters Anonymous. No one is going to try to indocrinate you, no one is going to shoot downcast looks in your direction, as if you were some toothless, chronic meth addict fresh off the street from fellating his dealer for a fix. These people sincerely want to help you, and are probably the least judgemental and most patient people you will ever meet in your entire life.

And finally, as a little aside, I would just like to say that their snack foods are fantastic. 

But that's it. That's Weight Watchers, it works. No gimmicks, no BS, just simple lessons in accountability and moderation taught in a creative way that really sticks. I can honestly say that I trust them fully to help me lose the weight I want to lose, and that while I DO pay $50CAD a month for the program, it's worth every single penny.

Book Review: "Crooked Little Vein" by Warren Ellis

For those of you who don't know, Warren Ellis is a VERY accomplished and prolific comic book writer. Having written graphic novels such as FreakAngels, Transmetropolitan and RED (yes, the one that got turned into the Bruce Willis movie).


Having said that...this book is phenomenal, but not for the faint of heart. What starts out as your typical detective noir story quickly turns (within the first chapter) into a wild, rollercoaster-like downward spiral into the depths of human depravity that I can only describe as a sort of diseased poetry slam hosted by GG Alin that is equal parts "Naked Lunch" and "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas", mixed in with a montage of clips from old James Cagney movies.

Of course I mean this in the most endearing way possible.


At the end of the day though, if you can stomach the myriad perversities the main characters are constantly being put through, there's actually *gasp!* a charming old chestnut of a love story buried within all the muck, and aside from that, this book REALLY makes you think.


Ellis uses the backdrop of human depravity and exploring the extremes of human experience as a sort of beat up, shit-stained canvas with which he draws out in detail his vision of modern society and the sociological quantum leaps we as a race have taken as the result of the advent of mass media and the Internet, and the implications of these drastic changes that, in a sense, many of us are still just waking up to.

 

Drop The Hate

So a few days ago, I was surfing Facebook and someone posted a YouTube video of a very distraught 14-year-old kid who was being severely bullied for being gay.

Stories like this make my blood instantly boil with righteous indignation, because I WAS that kid. I'm not gay of course, I was bullied for being fat, and for being a nerd. Some kids get bullied for being skinny, some for being poor, some for being white, black, Latino, Indian, or merely just for fucking well breathing the "wrong" way.

And it has to STOP.

Kids are killing themselves over this...KIDS! C-H-I-L-D-R-E-N are committing SUICIDE in record numbers because they are being tormented by maladjusted, ignorant, insecure little hellions who think they have the right to make other peoples' lives a living hell!

But I digress. Needless to say I watched the video and it sparked something in me. I see stories like this every day, we all do...and each time I do, I get a little bit angrier, and a little more fed up. This video was the last straw. I had to do something. I had to TRY to do my part to help these kids, because I knew all too well what they went through.

Enter DropTheHate.org. This is my call to arms for every bullied kid out there. It's a simple forum site. Nothing really gimmicky or new here. But what it COULD BE, what I INTEND it to be, is an online community for bullied kids all over the world. A place for these kids to go and see that they aren't alone, that there are others, oh so many others, like them in the world; Other kids that they can talk to and get to know, and possibly get support from.

So if someone you know is suffering from the daily torment of being bullied, let them know that there's a place for them...a place where they can be themselves, a place where they can vent, where they don't have to worry about being judged for ANY REASON WHATSOEVER.

And for those of you who haven't seen Jonah's video. Here it is:

An Athiest's Goodbye

Today is the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks that brought down the World Trade Centre. At 11am, a memorial will be held. And as we all say "never forget", as we all mourn the loss of all those lost to us between then and now, between the initial attacks, and the resultant wars, I will be mourning in a different way. As I have also, this past Friday, lost someone close to me.

She was my best friend's mother, and was one of the strongest people I know. In the end, her cancer won out, but she gave it the fight of her life.

As such, I wrote a farewell poem for her.

 

An Atheist’s Goodbye

 

What are we?

Why are we here?

What is life?

What is time?

What awaits us at the end of life's great ladder, once we've climbed.

 

Is there more to all this than would seem?

Could it be, that as the song says, life is but a dream?

Are we all characters in some great cosmic show?

If the latter be true, what then happens when the curtain's brought low?

Is there more to our existence than meets the eye?

Do we go to that great gig in the sky? Where Sinatra sips martinis with St. Peter and Syd Barrett.

No, I've a much different view, and would quite like to share it.

 

Of “starstuff” we are made, Carl Sagan has said.

To my way of thinking, he's hit it right on the head.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. That saying, that one phrase, I trust.

 

For the Universe is vast, immeasurably so.

And when our time is done here, back to it we must go.

 

Now, as I sit here and write this, I have found time to reminisce.

My first thought, is how much you'll be missed.

 

However all is not lost, no need to be dour.

All I need do, is find a meteor shower.

 

For to the cosmos you did return,

To vast swirling eddies of galaxies as they churn.

 

As in thermodynamics, matter can't be created or destroyed.

You're then still with us, and also part of the great void.

 

Your essence is here, in the trees, in the oceans

And in that, I find, a quite comforting notion.

 

Goodbye Jeanette...we will all miss you.

RIP Jack

As most of my fellow Torontonians know already, Jack Layton's funeral is being held today and there has been a massive show of support and condolences, people crowding Nathan Phillips Square with flowers and messages to leave at the memorial site. For all Jack did in his career, and the massive impact he made in the last election year, let us never forget what he stood for and what we should all stand for. Below is, in full, his final message to the citizenry of a country he loved enough to be both its faithful servant and most staunch, embattled defender. I encourage you all to read this letter, and know that this is the final message of one of the greatest Canadians to ever live. Whether you agreed with his politics or not, his goals, his core values, were ones that ALL Canadians can empathize with. Sadly, we will never see the words "The Right Honourable Jack Layton, Prime Minister of Canada". But maybe, just maybe, if we spread this letter around, if we keep it viral, keep it fresh in the minds of every Canadian, Jack's message will live on, and we will eventually see the political change that so many of us seek.

 

Rest In Peace, Jack.

NDP leader Jack Layton in Winnipeg during the 2011 federal election campaign. Photo: Matt Jiggins/Flickr


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Friends,

Tens of thousands of Canadians have written to me in recent weeks to wish me well. I want to thank each and every one of you for your thoughtful, inspiring and often beautiful notes, cards and gifts. Your spirit and love have lit up my home, my spirit, and my determination.

Unfortunately my treatment has not worked out as I hoped. So I am giving this letter to my partner Olivia to share with you in the circumstance in which I cannot continue.


I recommend that Hull-Aylmer MP Nycole Turmel continue her work as our interim leader until a permanent successor is elected.


I recommend the party hold a leadership vote as early as possible in the New Year, on approximately the same timelines as in 2003, so that our new leader has ample time to reconsolidate our team, renew our party and our program, and move forward towards the next election.


 


A few additional thoughts:


To other Canadians who are on journeys to defeat cancer and to live their lives, I say this: please don't be discouraged that my own journey hasn't gone as well as I had hoped. You must not lose your own hope. Treatments and therapies have never been better in the face of this disease. You have every reason to be optimistic, determined, and focused on the future. My only other advice is to cherish every moment with those you love at every stage of your journey, as I have done this summer.


To the members of my party: we've done remarkable things together in the past eight years. It has been a privilege to lead the New Democratic Party and I am most grateful for your confidence, your support, and the endless hours of volunteer commitment you have devoted to our cause. There will be those who will try to persuade you to give up our cause. But that cause is much bigger than any one leader. Answer them by recommitting with energy and determination to our work. Remember our proud history of social justice, universal health care, public pensions and making sure no one is left behind. Let's continue to move forward. Let's demonstrate in everything we do in the four years before us that we are ready to serve our beloved Canada as its next government.


To the members of our parliamentary caucus: I have been privileged to work with each and every one of you. Our caucus meetings were always the highlight of my week. It has been my role to ask a great deal from you. And now I am going to do so again. Canadians will be closely watching you in the months to come. Colleagues, I know you will make the tens of thousands of members of our party proud of you by demonstrating the same seamless teamwork and solidarity that has earned us the confidence of millions of Canadians in the recent election.


To my fellow Quebecers: On May 2nd, you made an historic decision. You decided that the way to replace Canada's Conservative federal government with something better was by working together in partnership with progressive-minded Canadians across the country. You made the right decision then; it is still the right decision today; and it will be the right decision right through to the next election, when we will succeed, together. You have elected a superb team of New Democrats to Parliament. They are going to be doing remarkable things in the years to come to make this country better for us all.


To young Canadians: All my life I have worked to make things better. Hope and optimism have defined my political career, and I continue to be hopeful and optimistic about Canada. Young people have been a great source of inspiration for me. I have met and talked with so many of you about your dreams, your frustrations, and your ideas for change. More and more, you are engaging in politics because you want to change things for the better. Many of you have placed your trust in our party. As my time in political life draws to a close I want to share with you my belief in your power to change this country and this world. There are great challenges before you, from the overwhelming nature of climate change to the unfairness of an economy that excludes so many from our collective wealth, and the changes necessary to build a more inclusive and generous Canada. I believe in you. Your energy, your vision, your passion for justice are exactly what this country needs today. You need to be at the heart of our economy, our political life, and our plans for the present and the future.


And finally, to all Canadians: Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one -- a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer better futures for our children. We can do our part to save the world's environment. We can restore our good name in the world. We can do all of these things because we finally have a party system at the national level where there are real choices; where your vote matters; where working for change can actually bring about change. In the months and years to come, New Democrats will put a compelling new alternative to you. My colleagues in our party are an impressive, committed team. Give them a careful hearing; consider the alternatives; and consider that we can be a better, fairer, more equal country by working together. Don't let them tell you it can't be done.


My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we'll change the world.


All my very best, Jack Layton


 

 

 

 

...Of Solitude, Unemployment and Creativity

I have been unemployed now for about two months, having recently completed a three-month contract. In recent weeks I have found myself undertaking a number of personal creative projects. At first I thought I was just subconsiously trying to stave off the boredom, listlessness, frustration and general malaise that comes with being unemployed for more than a couple of weeks at a time. In a less cynical light, you could say I have just had a lot of free time on my hands and have been trying to keep busy.

 

Then I read an article on Lifehacker which suggests that solitude boosts creativity. Suddenly it all made sense.

 

In the past month or so amidst relentless job searching, I have begun writing a graphic novel, I have been blogging more, have been getting back into web design/development (and as a result of that, I've started a very promising online community project with some friends), I've started to rekindle my love of writing music (this I stopped around the end of high school or so, almost 14 years ago now.) And for what little this is worth for the sake of proving a point, I have gotten back into Minecraft.

 

Evidently, it looks like there might be something to this notion of solitude breeding creativity...

 

 

 

I'm not certainly giving up on finding work, however. Having lost my job, it of course becomes increasingly harder to get out and do things, as every last cent I have is making sure I still have food/running water, internet access and a cell phone. Oh sure, I still see my friends if one of them wants to hang out at their place and of course I still see my girlfriend on a (more or less) daily basis. However it's reached a point where time has run short and I need to find another contract gig or otherwise and fast. 

 

Until then, I guess I'll just keep writing, minecrafting and being creative. ;)

 

Canadian Potatoes in Buffalo

I always tell this story to friends and family...but I just can't get enough of it.

Back some years ago, I was in Buffalo for a family trip; my little sis used to be a competitive ballet and jazz dancer. It was the last day of the competition, we'd just gotten all packed up and ready to head back to Toronto, when we decided to stop for something to eat. 

We found this little greasy spoon place near the border called "The Muddy Duck" or "The Muddy Goose"...some kind of mud-laden waterfowl name or something...anyways, point is we found this place, decided to go in. 

The waitress sits us down, takes our orders for drinks (pausing only to question us if we were Canadian "because of our accents"), and then she goes on her merry way back to the kitchen. Now, during this time, my mom happened to notice that there wasn't enough knives and forks for all of us...so she politely waved the same waitress over to our table and asked if she could bring us some extra cutlery. The waitress gives my mom a sort of emptyheaded nod and goes back to the kitchen...

She comes back a few minutes later, looking confused, she asks my mom "I'm sorry....is 'cutlery' some kinda Canadian potato or sumthin'??"

 

Going Full Circle


For those of you that don't know or haven't read my resume, I didn't start out as an IT geek...I mean sure, I've always been a computer geek, even as a little kid when my Dad brought home a Commodore 64 when I was 5 or so (my first computer) and I started out playing Ghostbusters and Spy Hunter on it and learning how to write simple BASIC programs (10 PRINT "You're a bum-bum head" 20 GOTO 10...hey, I WAS 5). But this wasn't what I ended going to school for after I graduated from high school. In fact, I ended up going to college for Graphic Design. I know, kind of a noticable skill-gap between System Administrator and Graphic Designer huh? Well, I only ended up studying design because at the time, my teenage self and a pirated copy of Photoshop 3.0 thought I was pretty hot shit when it came to design (ahh the insolence of youth...how I don't miss it), plus I didn't have the math grades to get into a Comp. Sci. program at even a half-decent school, and my parents were adamant that I was going to start college immediately following the summer break after my final semester of grade 12...So graphic design it was (even if it was basically a "shotgun wedding" kind of decision).


Now, don't get me wrong...I did at the time, very much enjoy the notion that I would one day be a hotshot graphic designer with ads in magazines and other such things; and I loved the purely artistic side of design...I fancied myself a digital artist. In fact it was a hobby for me for a lot of years even outside school...I even still have an old DeviantArt page from back when that site was just brand new and Web 2.0/Social Media was just a glimmer in some soon-to-be Silicon Valley technocrat's eye. And while I don't mean to pat myself on the back (too much, anyway), I wasn't terribly bad at the whole design thing either.


In any case, in the years after college, I slowly started thinking I needed a change; I started to burn out, creatively speaking, and it came to a point where I had almost lost complete faith in myself as an artist in any capacity. Eventually, after I had just become completely disillusioned with the notion that I would ever amount to anything in the design field, I ended up landing my first IT job and forgot all about graphic design or anything even remotely artistic.


Fast forward a decade now, to present day...after so many years being almost completely disinterested in artistic endeavour, something, somehow, has rekindled my mojo, for lack of a better way of putting it. I don't know why or how...but I suddenly have found myself with a renewed interest in design, and where I thought was a complete void of design sense or creativity, there now seems to be this sudden wellspring of ideas...and I must say it's actually a really good feeling!


This new incarnation of my website was partially an experiment in whether or not I still had any creative chops (aside from being a necessity since I couldn't pay my Squarespace bill anymore). I had an idea of what I wanted my site to look like, so I started tinkering...testing myself to see if I would just immediately hit that creative brick wall that I once knew all too well and become insurmountably frustrated with. Lo and behold, the ideas and inspiration flowed like cheap beer at a college kegger. New ideas and concepts were springing up all over the place.


Which brings me to now...it's almost 5 am, on the morning of my grandmother's funeral, after a long, arduous, emotionally draining weekend of visitations at the funeral home...and so afflicted with creative ideas am I, that I just spent a good amount of time which should have been spent sleeping, photoshopping a painting that a friend did of Bob Marley...and just this past weekend, needing to find a way to come up with a gift for my girlfriend for Valentine's Day but not having the financial resources to simply buy something for her, I cooked up a clever little website that rattles off random reasons why she's awesome, and designed the site almost completely from scratch (borrowing only some barebones design ideas from another, quasi-similar site).


The point of all this meandering, rambling mess of a blog entry, is that you can expect there to soon be more design content on this site (perhaps even a portfolio section) in the near future, if this renewed artistic vigour keeps up. I really don't know where all these renewed design juices are flowing from...but I kinda hope they keep on flowing...


Oh and by the way, if you are curious, here are the links to the aforementioned Bob Marley pic and the website-cum-valentines-day-gift:



Media_httprdragapubli_ffpvb


http://whymygirlfriendisawesome.co.cc


Happy 2011! And now for some resolutions.

A new year has started. And hoo boy do I ever have a laundry list of New Year's Resolutions.

 

 

  1. Lose Weight: I know, every year we all say "this time I'm gonna do it"...so I'm not going to say that. Instead, I'm simply going to start small...short-term goals that will work as milestones for my long-term goal of no longer looking like an oversized Bartlett Pear.
  2. Find a steady job: This past year has been, well, tumultuous for me as my career goes. I'm at a point now where I'm starting to seriously re-evaluate my place in the IT industry. While I will never get tired of all things tech, I've started to think in the last few months that maybe in 10 years time or so I'll want to be out of the IT biz and doing something else with myself. As current plans go, I need to take a look at my resume I think, and maybe make some revisions to it.

  3. Learn another programming language: I've managed in this last year to learn BASH shell scripting well enough to call myself well-versed in it. Now...every year I make this resolution...but only this past year have I accomplished anything towards it. I've beat my head against this brick wall so many times now that it's become discouraging. However, upon reflection of how much I've learned regarding BASH, I came to realize what my problem has been all along: in the past, I would buy volume upon volume of programming books from O'Reilly and the like, spending redonkulous amounts of money on books so dull and dry that I can't get through 10 pages without becoming completely distracted and frustrated. This got me every which way but somewhere constructive. I realized though, how I have learned BASH in such short a time...and this has been a revelation to me as it pertains to how I learn and retain information and skills in general. Reading books and howtos does me no end of good unless I can immediately put into practical use the concepts that I am trying to learn.

  4. Strengthen my French Language skills: Being Canadian, I do know SOME French...in fact I've retained a good deal from my elementary/high school French classes. However I wish I knew more...not just so that I can brag that I'm bilingual, but so that I can brag that I'm bilingual to potential employers!! I've noticed in the past few months that there seem to be a growing number of IT positions here that list fluency in French as either a requirement or a "nice-to-have". Thus I have started to brush up on my French in the hopes that I might one day be able to use that knowledge to help me land a job.

  5. Take a Vacation: The last time I went on vacation, like a real vacation and not going to Niagara Falls or Buffalo or something, I was a little kid and my parents took us to Disney World. I've promised Sabrina this year that we would go somewhere as soon as I could afford it...so this resolution hinges on my other resolution of finding steady work. Possible locations however do include Montreal (who knows, by then my French skills might just be strong enough to come in handy), Amsterdam or Portugal.

I have a few more...but those resolutions are a bit too personal for me to post on a blog, so suffice it to say...I've got a busy year ahead of me, here's hoping I get everything done that I'm setting out to.

 

The World vs. Wikileaks: An open letter to the governments of the world

To the world's governments, a piece of advice:

Stop hunting Julian Assange, and stop trying to shut down Wikileaks. It is an exercise in futility.

I know that you, in your three-piece-suit and backwards conservative mindset believe that you still hold the same power and control that your kind once did decades ago; but I am here to tell you that is simply not true anymore. We live in the Age of Information. Technologies exist now that allow us to communicate at the speed of thought. Your tried and true methods of hunting down people like Julian Assange are outmoded and simply ineffective. Why? Well, it's quite simple really. There are more of us, then there are of you. There are more supporters for Wikileaks in the world than there are corrupt, colluding politicians and lawmakers.

You're on our turf now, the Internet is our playground; and here, your laws do not apply. Shut down a site, we can mirror it. Come after a hacker, there are millions more waiting in the wings. And we can mobilize much faster than you could ever hope to. 

The world is changing, and at a breakneck pace. We have already outgrown the old standards of the Corporation...brick and mortar office buildings are not the be-all-end-all of the business world now. Record labels do not control what we listen to, and Big Media no longer controls the flow of information. What happened with the RIAA will happen again...only this time, it won't be battles fought over outdated copyright laws, but the unwritten laws which entitle every citizen of the world to freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of information exchange. 

Gil Scott Heron did once say the revolution will be televised, but not being able to predict the Internet, he was only half-right. The revolution will be BROADCASTED...it will be tweeted, it will be facebooked, it will be emailed, uploaded, downloaded, and shared with every citizen with a connection to the Web. A war is coming; one not waged with guns, bombs and tanks...but instead with information. And rest assured...we, the free citizens of the world, will win. After all, there is strength in numbers.

The Following Blog Post is Rated "O" for Obsolete.

I read an article today on /Film regarding an NC-17 Rating being handed down for a couple of big-ticket movies due to be released soon...and it made me wonder, how useful are movie ratings in modern society??

The only answer I could come up with is, quite frankly, they aren't.

In all honesty, Rating systems are all but obsolete in this day and age really. And their obsolescence is due to more than one major factor. On one hand there's the fact that society is much more open-minded and much less innocent than in the past, and on the other...well...Thanks to the Internet, anyone who wants to can just download whatever movie they want, regardless of rating. So really, at the end of the day, the only group movie rating systems benefit anymore are parents. So bearing that in mind, I think we're left with two options:

1. Overhaul the ratings system to better suit the one demographic it still serves a useful purpose for.

2. Squash the whole thing entirely, and let people just use plain common sense (i.e. Don't let your kid watch movies you deem inappropriate).

Personally, I think option one is much more feasible in so much as no one seems to like using common sense; and on top of THAT particular brand of laziness, there's the notion that no one likes accepting responsibility for their actions either. After all, it's much easier to pass the buck by creating some kind of organization or pseudo-governmental group and telling them to take care of the problem for you. That way when your kid sneaks in to an R Rated movie, you can just blame them and be instantly absolved of the mistake you made in not watching over your children.

Likewise on that same train of thought, there's the concept known as "ratings creep"...where the MPAA's Ratings Board have been accused of, for myriad reasons, monkeying with how movies are classified for given ratings. While I personally am undecided as to whether or not this phenomenon exists, I certainly wouldn't rule it out. However I also wouldn't rule out the notion that it's once again just the general populace of "concerned citizens" passing the buck because they can't be arsed to deal with petty things like accountability and responsibility.

Any way you slice it, at the end of the day the whole system is a gigantic, obsolete mess and is at the point now where in my opinion, it's just wasting a lot of people's time and money and should either be overhauled or scrapped entirely.

But that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.