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MONDO Lifestyle’s Self-Improvement Workshop

Posted by lifestyle On April - 17 - 2009
poordevil2

Fake British accents optional!

By Sam Linton

You know, we dub ourselves as “Lifestyle” here, but few and far between are the times that we actually step up to direct our readers on how, exactly, they are to style their lives. Well no more! This article kicks off what may well be a multipart series on the styling of lives, giving you, the MONDO readership, the tips, tricks, cheats, and flat-out chicanery necessary to turn your lives completely around. Now, truth be told, I’m not exactly sure what kind of a person reads MONDO, but presumably, it’s someone with a well-rounded interest in the arts, music, film, television, videogames, comic books, and tenuously lifestyle-related miscellanea. And who has an internet connection. However, for a personality with interests as well rounded as these, something has to give, and I suspect that in the MONDO readership, it’s the social graces (I hope my blanket-generalizations aren’t offensive). Well, don’t worry, internet-friends! Because the MONDO Lifestyle section has made it its special mission to take you all from trashy to classy with a simple list of affectations you can use to patch over your social weaknesses and appear in all situations as either the gentleman’s gentleman (which I believe is a polite term for “butler”), or lady’s lady (wet nurse? scullery maid?). So join me, won’t you, as MONDO Lifestyle delves into… Read the rest of this entry »

Watchmen (and its Fans) Reviewed

Posted by film On March - 17 - 2009
It's never enough for you fans, is it?

It's never enough for you fans, is it?

Watchmen
Directed by Zack Snyder
Warner Bros. Pictures

By Srdjan Milosavljevic

For years I have been puzzled by the anguished cries made by comic book fans once they learn that their bible will be made into film. Upon the initial announcement, everyone rejoices. Excited fan boys and girls crowd Internet chat rooms and blogs talking about possible cast members, villains, plot lines, or directors.

For a while it almost feels as if magic, not information, is exchanged through the Internet. All it takes to ruin that feeling is a single quote — and it doesn’t even have to be attributed to anyone. A five year-old in Nantucket could post “Clint Howard in talks to play Batman”, which would send ripples through the Internet and tremors across the world that even the biggest earthquake couldn’t equal. Fans will start boycotting the studio. Some will burn effigies of anyone or anything that bears the offending name. Ron Howard will be on fire, Clint Howard, Clint Eastwood, Terrence Howard — even fictional characters like Mo Howard and Howard the Duck will be burnt. (Although “Howard The Duck” has been in a constant state of burning since that disaster came out.)

I’m a different story completely, however. I never read the comics. I enjoy reading novels and watching movies. Were a movie to come out based on my book (yes upon reading it, I would take ownership of it), I would be excited and a little scared, but not mortified. Because no matter how badly they muck it up, I will still have my novel to read. Plus, even if it’s shit, there are probably three more Sherlock Holmes’ in the works. I very recently learned that this is not the case with comics fans.

After leafing through Watchmen (which I did not read; I wanted to not know what happens for 2 hours and 40 minutes), I noticed the specificity of the vision that the Yeti-like writer Alan Moore had put down on paper. Looking through it made me nervous. “This was a long one”, I thought. “This is visually stunning. This will not be made for under 100 million dollars. This will not be attempted again.” Then I looked at the poster for Watchmen under which three pale gentlemen were getting into a heated debate over the actual size of Dr. Manhattan’s penis, and I remembered thinking, “Zack Snyder, good luck.”

"It's not like I've measured it."

"It's not like I've measured it."

I saw the movie in IMAX, the way it should be seen — and it was spectacular. Being a big fan of the 50s and an American history buff, I found that part of Watchmen to be very well thought-out, supporting as many realities as a movie such as this could. Andy Warhol, Truman Capote, John F. Kennedy, Fidel Castro, and Richard Nixon are some of the more recognizable faces of the era that were represented in this film. Noticing that some of the “aged” jokes did not land, I really think that people should see it again and pay closer attention. In fact, everyone ought to have a return viewing of Watchmen for a whole plethora of reasons.

The performances were excellent. Who thought the pedophile from Little Children could be such a bad ass? Who knew the pedophile from Hard Candy could be so awesome? Hmm. Perhaps I should leave this train of thought.

The characters conflicted, the story was nonlinear, the women were gorgeous, and the bad guys were indistinguishable from the good; one could argue that the difference was non-existent.

Watchmen’s story is intertwined with history and it gives you a very credible but simultaneously fantastic what-if scenario, reminiscent of the one in Dr. Strangelove. Don’t get me wrong: this is not Strangelove, not even close. But it has a similar feel, and when a superhero movie can do that, it’s alright by me.

For this review, I decided not to go into specifics about the characters, their motivations, or their brutal/innocent natures. I will leave that to discover for yourself. The Dark Knight was something else — I did not think another comic-book movie of that calibre would come out… ever. And yet, it did, not even a year later. Back to Internet rumours, I am kind of worried about Sherlock Holmes and what Guy Ritchie may do to him. Hope you comic book guys are content for now…

P.S. – I heard they got Fabio to play THOR.

Consumer Whore Advocate

Posted by lifestyle On September - 23 - 2008

Turning the tables on those corporate fat cats (when it’s not overly inconvenient or out-of-the-way)!

By Sam Linton

Consumer whore. You don’t need to know exactly what it means to get a general idea of the term. You’ve sold your soul to reap the benefits of capitalism run amok. Nobody likes being a consumer whore, or at least likes being conscious of it. It’s not a great feeling, but it’s one that we all, to a greater or lesser extent, must endure in order to function in Western culture. You may feel dirty, cheap, or even a little used after every purchase you make, knowing that you’ve once again abetted the plundering of the globe by corporate interests for another 30 pieces of silver (metaphorical silver, taking the concrete form of anything from Doritos to Jet-skis). But on the other hand, you can’t stop because it’s just so damned sweet! Doritos are delicious! Jet-Skis are fun! Silver is shiny! So it’s hard to fight rampant corporatism in the day-to-day, because it’s literally everywhere, and it’s just so dang tempting. And even when you do find a tiny space free from corporate control, in art, culture, food, et cetera, you’d better enjoy it while it lasts because once the big sharks find out that they can turn a profit off it, it’s not going to be your space for much longer. They’ll find a way to co-opt it, just as surely as they’ve done with punk rock, healthy foods, and green energy products. (“This year, The Oscars have gone green!” Sound familiar?)

So what can you do to resist? For some of us, we boycott, we research, and we don’t buy anything we find ethically questionable or that has ties to anything we find ethically questionable. We use a strategy of denial and often (let’s face it) self-sacrifice, as we’re missing out on a lot of really cool and/or tasty stuff due to its corporate branding. Others among us try to remain aloof. Once a piece of culture has become “infected” by corporate interest, it’s no longer cutting edge. Then we eschew it, looking towards the next frontier of culture, where interest does not yet fuel the very mechanisms of mundanity built up by rampant capitalism. This option has the drawback of making one into an elitist and, let’s not deny it, kind of a douchebag. And still, there’s that unpleasant business of self-sacrifice: deliberately denying oneself the benefits of corporate production simply because of the horrible cultural and ethical compromises this entails. In reality, most of us (your humble scribe included) are simply too lazy to spend all our time resisting. I mean, a guy’s gotta have some time to himself, right? A gal’s gotta have some time to herself, right? And since it’s just so easy to turn on the TiVo and curl up with some KFC, why not? I’m off the clock.

Despite all this, the lazy can still make a difference. While resisting corporate control may be too damn hard to become a constant theme in one’s life, there are almost always instances of everyday annoyances associated with the products of rampant capitalism that could be taken as a call to action. Sure, maybe you can’t be expected to place every purchase you ever make under the microscope of its macroeconomic impact, but certain things may just stick in your craw enough to make you re-evaluate a purchase. Maybe it’s a cross-promotion with a film you hate, maybe there’s an ad you find personally offensive, or maybe you share my own personal bugbear, “instant win” contests that require you to enter a passcode redeemed from your purchase on their website in order to even participate.* All of these should not be taken only as irritations, but as opportunities! An opportunity to stop buying a product, to say to them, “You know what, NO. This time, you’ve gone too far. That is my limit.” Sure, you may not have the energy or the inclination to keep up an indefinite boycott, but as long as those bastards are going to keep annoying you on a personal level, you can have all the denial power of a very indifferent God! The best part is that, whenever the promotion, ad campaign, et cetera is over, you can claim a personal victory without doing any work (or, if resisting the product in question was hard for you, still very little work)! All the rewards of that self-righteously good feeling of genuine advocacy, with comparatively little self-sacrifice. And for that one brief, shining moment, you scored a personal victory against the system. They can rape the earth, exploit the oppressed, and pollute mass culture, but when they start to annoy you on a personal level, you damn well better believe the buck stops here!

So yes, the system is flawed. Deeply flawed. We all know that (readers who didn’t know that: now you do). But, much as it may trouble us, we might not all want to devote a significant portion of our lives to fighting those flaws. For those of us with the will (and the time, and the means, and the inclination…) to take it on, fighting the good fight can be a full-time (pre)occupation. Those of us who aren’t Champions, meanwhile, can take what little victories we are inclined to take when they fall into our laps. That’s the self-conscious consumer whore way. And if it isn’t, well then by God, maybe it’s time that started being the self-conscious consumer whore way.

*Sub-Column: Why I hate Internet Contests

Honestly, I just loathe these horrible things. Time was, instant win MEANT instant win. You would check under the cap or open the bag or whatever, and if you won, you’d get that oddly satisfying feeling of accomplishment without actually having done anything, and then you’d associate the feeling with the product. It worked out great for all parties, and if you didn’t win, no big deal. Nowadays, the companies expect you to A) remember that you bought some completely disposable product long enough to get to a computer and B) spend valuable minutes from your life that you’re never getting back to go to their websites just to input some stupid code. I mean, I can understand it as a means to artificially inflate traffic to their own websites, but it totally comes at the cost of any good feelings that one used to get out of instant win (and would have subsequently associated with their products). I mean, you’re essentially asking me to put the same amount of energy into promoting your product to myself that I just explained I’m too lazy to put into resisting your product. The whole point of consumer culture is that it works because it’s passive! JESUS!

Sam Linton is, by default, MONDO’s authority on consumer culture. But yeah, he’s no Naomi Klien.

Death of a Comedian: My Step-Grandfather

Posted by lifestyle On August - 29 - 2008

How the past informs the present

By Ben Robinson

My grandmother is a lover of men. She has been married five times. Three of those times, it was to someone named Bill. My dad’s name is Bill. Creepy.

Currently, she is married to a Bill. He has 20% of a stomach and a huge nose. Huge because when he was in the army, he got some polyps up there. A polyp is a row of beads. It kept him from breathing and stuff. You gotta breathe. Wise men once said, “You don’t breathe, you don’t live.” So he had to get those buggers taken out. So the army doctor reaches down into his nose and pulls out the polyps. The procedure permanently enlarged his nose. So he sits there on the Lazy Boy with his large belly – somehow bigger than his small television despite the fact that he only has 20% of his stomach intact – he sits there on the Lazy Boy, with his large nose, he sits there in front of the television, and when he’s awake, he talks about grandfatherly things.

Things like how things nowadays cost too much money. He bemoans the value of his house. “My house is worth $80,000! I wouldn’t give (sic) anyone $80,000 for my house!” Now keep in mind, this is a grandparent house, so it’s nothing fancy, but if this same house were sitting in Toronto, it would be worth at least $200,000. It’s got a decent front yard, a large backyard, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a dining room, a spare room, a living room and a kitchen. It’s a good house. It ain’t got no internet (grrr) but one can’t complain when you are in grandma territory. Oh, by the way, did I mention the bomb shelter in the back yard? Alright, I’d make a joke about the absurdity of owning a bomb shelter, but bomb shelters are pretty cool.

He’s there on his Lazy Boy, watching the TV, and asks me if jobs are scarce in Canada. “No, not really…”, I edge. My mother comes to my defence.

“He doesn’t work because he has health problems…”

“Health problems!?” Then he remembers that I’ve been hospitalized five times for mental disturbances. “Well, jobs are scarce here. It’s the Mexicans. They’re taking all our jobs!”

My jaw drops. Did he actually say that? Do people actually say that outside of late-night television satires? I have encountered an endangered animal. The American Racist. I thought they had gone extinct, or were forced to live on the fringes of society. Perhaps I really do live in a bubble.

CNN comes on the TV. “Ack, that Barack Obama! I’m not voting. John McCain is just going to increase the price of gas and that Obama will get killed as soon as he’s elected.” Because he’s black. He’s not not voting for Obama because he’s black, but because he’ll be killed because he’s black. Sure, Grandpa. What’s the point? He’s just going to die anyway. In a way he’s standing up for the black man, because he’s keeping him from being killed. He’s keeping him safe.

The telephone rings. It’s his daughter, from another marriage. “What? Again?” His daughter doesn’t have a job, no doubt because the Mexicans took it. She needs more money to pay her bills. Apparently there’s not much of a social safety net in the United States. “Greatest nation on earth, I tell you those Japanese woke up a sleeping giant in WWII.” He’s mad as hell at his daughter for asking for more money. “What does she think I am? A bank? Geez, next time she calls her I’m going to tell her to put her mouth on a gun.” Oh yeah, that reminds me, I’m in America. Land of cheap guns.

While I am writing this, my grandmother just walked in to put some clothes away in this room. Can these Americans read my mind? Do they know what I am writing? By the time this is published I will be back in the safe arms of Canada. The safe arms of my girlfriend, where I will impregnate her with my half-American seed, and will raise big strong children who will leave Canada for France. 65 years from now, their children will come to Canada and post on their version of the internet (“Ah, grandpa Ben’s internet, what an antiquated notion”), about what a backward, perverse beast I am. Then they will ask to borrow $6.2 billion dollars to pay their cell phone bill, and I will fly into a dizzy rage because the Germans took all our jobs.

Assholes Who Need Hobbies

Posted by lifestyle On August - 29 - 2008

Pricks on the internet, please take note.

By Jenny Bundock

All my life I have been involved with charities, volunteer organizations, and activist groups. Nothing irks me more than the thought of some section of society’s needs falling to the wayside. I have a strong compulsion to help when I feel someone or something is being ignored. I come to you today with something that has been pressing me most of my life. I am talking about assholes, their lack of alternative activities, and their being pricks to the rest of us. It is this that has prompted me to start a community support group, called “Assholes Who Need Hobbies” or AWNH. The goal of this group is the regrouping and reassigning of assholes to tasks which neither affect nor bother the rest of us.

Ever since grade school, people have noticed the quality of their own lives improve once the assholes around them have a hobby. The kid that used to wail on me, for example, was passive and almost pleasant during free-play, when he could play ninja turtles in peace.

In high school, I again observed the powerful quality activities had on assholes when a dozen or more assholes suddenly were neutralized by hockey practice, and we were free to walk to our cars, lockers, and homes in peace. There were these hick assholes who used to throw pop cans at people on their way home for lunch unless they could hang around in the auto shop, and then everything was clear and safe.

Assholes need hobbies. They crave activities almost constantly. When assholes are not preoccupied with something they enjoy because it satisfies their propensity towards prickery, they turn said prickery outside their social group and everyone suffers. (The asshole suffers too, as an outcast, a pariah, and a spectacle of embarrassing, outlandish aggression.)

Now, there is one hobby that often gets supplemented as a sort of “self-medication” for assholes, and that is the internet. The fundamental problem with using the internet as a hobby for assholes is that the primary function of the internet for many people is social networking, either in the form of Facebook or Myspace, or message boards, forums, or comment sections. This does nothing to actually occupy the asshole, but rather allows them an efficient outlet that veils them in the safety of anonymity, thus eliminating our only recourse against the asshole, which is exclusion.

The real problem we face as a society trying to deal with assholes is that they have nowhere else to turn to meet people they can relate to, people who are total shit-heads like them. Previously they had organized sports, classes that everyone knew better than to take, weird clubs, or fraternities with hazing rituals. Now the only way for them to feel connected to their community is to branch out into ours, look for whoever else is making a belligerent idiot of themselves or calling strangers names, and join in.

This is why AWNH is so urgent a group right now. We need to start rallying behind these twits and encouraging them to gather into groups again. We need to then assign tasks to the groups that allow them to channel their superiority complexes, aggressive attitudes, macho-posturing, feigned intellectual superiority, and insecure soft cores towards a common goal – whether that be getting a ball into something, restoring a really crappy car no one else wants, winning at “Magic” cards, or drinking themselves into a coma while watching all of the American Pie movies. They need activities. We need them to have activities. It truly is win/win.

So next time you see someone being an asshole, instead of getting upset, think like an AWNH volunteer and recommend that they take up football and stop harassing the rest of us. In the meantime, let’s just hope that this charity gets off the ground before we have a real problem on our hands.

Give peace a chance.

Love, Jenny

Myths of the Internet: The Legend of the LOLcats

Posted by lifestyle On June - 27 - 2008

By Sam Linton

LOLcats. Laugh out loud funny, yes? LOLcats are pictures of ordinary housecats with ridiculous captions written in pidgin English, to great humourous effect. To most, they are a simple diversion from the banality of everyday living. But those few of us who know have another name for these sorrowful creatures: “the fallen.” For you see, these “laugh-out-loud cats” were not always figures of ridicule and amusement. In ages past, cats were believed to be amongst the most sagacious of beasts. What brought about their current decline in stature? The answer is to be found here, in yet another installment of…

Myths of the Internet!

Cats. In ancient Egypt, cats were revered as a goddesses. Other cultures also held a special place for felines: in Europe, they were known as witches’ familiars, companions in knowledge that humankind simply was not meant to know. And cats are significant in some Asian cultures as well.

Cats have long fascinated people with their apparent mythic insights into the unknowable. Now they talk in baby voices and ask for “cheezburgers.” How did this happen? And, more importantly, how will future generations recognize this, the moment when cats were robbed of their mythic qualities? That’s where we come in. Those of us belonging to the present must preserve the past for the inhabitants of the future.

Once the Internet inevitably ceases to be, be this through nuclear holocaust, rapture of God, or Avian flu (my money’s on the bird flu), we will have to rely on the tradition of oral storytelling. Thus, as you read this story, try to imagine yourself somewhere other than in front of a radiating computer screen. Imagine the tale as it would be related by a tribal elder or village storyteller, recounting legends of long ago by the light of a dying fire in the twilight of civilization. And now we can begin…

As the saying goes, curiosity killed the cat. At the dawning of the Age of the Internet, this saying proved to be disastrously prophetic. For ages, the cat was known for its mysteriousness, lending to the fabled animal an air of superiority, wisdom, and aristocracy. However, it was the characteristic of curiosity that inevitably led to the downfall of the cat.

Cats were intrigued by the Internet. It seemed to promise global access to information, and the cats’ curiosity was piqued. However, by nature cats are also secretive, and therefore they mistrusted the Internet’s vast gaze. If the cats were able to use the net to sate their curiosity about the world, would not the reverse be true?

But Internet was a crafty foe, and he knew the cats’ one true weakness: vanity. To the cats he proposed that they give themselves over to the Internet’s domain and learn all that they ever needed to know to satisfy their curiosity. In turn they would be presented on the Internet such that the entire globe might bask in their elegant magnificence. To this, the cats readily agreed. After all, cats had been revered in Egyptian and (sort of) revered in European circles since time immemorial. What could be better than an entire globe of worshippers? However, crafty Internet neglected to mention one important detail: total access. By consigning themselves to Internet’s domain, the cats had agreed to abide by Internet’s rules. In so doing, the cats had sealed their own doom, for in the domain of the Internet, everything one does, however embarrassing, foolish, or demeaning, is not only preserved, but popularized (see also: The Legends of the Lightsabre Kid, Leave Britney Alone Guy and Obama Girl). Suddenly, everything that the cats did to sate their curiosity, from sleeping on computer monitors (will this feel comfortable?) to becoming trapped in couch cushions (what’s under here?), was preserved and broadcast for all to see. How can one maintain an aura of mystery under such conditions? Simply put, one cannot. And thus the ancient and noble race of cats were denigrated to the level of the LOLcat, robbed of their intrigue and made into objects of fun by the clever machinations of Internet, king of all tricksters.

The lesson of the LOLcats bears much to think upon and is certainly worth preserving for the future. The twin dangers of curiosity and vanity will no doubt plague our descendants in the robot-ravaged battlegrounds of the future. Will our children’s children succumb to the silver-tongued entreaties of cyborgs? Will they trust every aspect of their lives to increasingly intelligent machines and feel secure in their inherent “mastery” until the day that Skynet kicks in and decides humanity is obsolete? Will the children of the feral bands of future-survivalists allow their own curiosity to overcome them and wander from the safety of their units, only to be consumed by waves of irradiated bird-flu zombies? Not if they heed the lessons of the LOLcats and temper their vanity and curiosity with the instincts of self-preservation. With any luck, the mythologizing of LOLcats could spare the denizens of the future a great deal of harm and heartache.

So remember, please, for the sake of the future, to print these articles off. Hand them down to your children, your children’s children, and your children’s children’s children, that the lessons of our times will not be lost.

Death of a Comedian: Facebook Humour

Posted by lifestyle On May - 23 - 2008

Perils of humour in the age of information

By Ben Robinson

I consider myself to be a Facebook humourist. So far I have created four groups geared towards making people laugh.

It is a tough business, Facebook. Don’t have to leave your home. Don’t have to look anyone in the eye. Whenever you get bored you take some pictures of yourself and post them online so all your…”friends” can see. Or in my case, create a zany new group. I was raised on RPGs, and there is a collection element to Facebook. It’s like you get a point for every member who joins your group or posts on your wall. Let’s go through my groups in reverse order.

Who Is Hotter? Kevin or Carlos?
Members: 18
Wall Posts: 10 (+2 Photo Comments)

This is my least popular group. But 18 people. Get those people in a room and you have a party. This all started when Carlos got himself a new laptop with a webcam. I was telling him he could use it to get the ladies. He said he didn’t want the women to be able to see him. I told him he could put Kevin in his place in front of the webcam while Carlos did the talking. Carlos was offended. “You think Kevin is hotter than me?” A group was born. Four people voted for Carlos, one was undecided as he wanted to vote for Kevin but thought Carlos would beat him up, two people did vote for Kevin, and Moke voted for the baby-head candle holders that I used as the group’s picture. NEXT GROUP!

Don’t tell the police Tristan has a shipment of Guns
Members: 26
Wall Posts: 13

“Tristan is receiving a shipment of guns to his house tonight. For every person who doesn’t tell the police that Tristan is receiving a shipment of guns tonight, I will give 50 cents.” I had just got home from Tristan’s house and I was bored. I liked the idea of advertising the fact that you are not supposed to tell the police about something illegal. Drugs are too played out, but guns are nice and sexy. I expected the group to be more popular. I did have a good back and forth with a 17-year-old girl who said she wanted to buy the guns to sell crack to crippled children. When making these groups, a large number of people join the group but never say anything. That’s fine with me. Every comedian needs an audience.

Teach Ben Robinson to be Less Creepy
Members: 50
Wall Posts: 54

“Ben Robinson has a tendency to get very creepy, very quickly. Most of the time he is not even aware of it. The purpose of this group is for friends of Ben Robinson to teach him to be less creepy. Also, pancakes.” I almost lost a friend when I made this group. A good friend of mine was shocked when he found out this group was a joke. He thought I seriously had a problem about being creepy and it was insulting that I was making a joke about it. I made the group because a lot of women call me creepy. They say it to me so often that I started to think it wasn’t an insult. But my friend assured me there is no good kind of creepy. This is one of my major groups. I took pictures of me with sunglasses on and ketchup smeared over my face. I posted a link to a YouTube video of the Radiohead song “Creep.” I recorded a video of me stroking my beard while listening to an audio recording of Christopher Hitchens. People seem to really like this group. People like it when you give them an excuse to insult you to your face(book). Oh, great fun.

For every person who joins this group I will drink 355ml of cocacola
Members: 109
Wall Posts: 72

This is my most successful group. It is a parody of groups like, “For every person who joins this group I will donate $1 to a cancer charity.” Well… I guess it’s not really a parody but a cash in, since a lot of people make groups like this. The same friend who was offended that the “creepy” group was a joke jumped on helping me with this group. He set the rules that for every member who joins I must drink a can of Coke, not a glass of Coke from a 2L bottle. That way it would be more accurate, and that way I would be accountable. I taped the name of group members to the Coke cans and took pictures of the cans. People went nuts over this group. They invited their friends who I had never heard of. I was drinking about six Cokes a day. Luckily I didn’t get diabetes. I think. Pretty sure. I also uploaded a video of me drinking Coke really quickly. I am an artist.

Okay. That was a terrible article. Now I know why people hate Facebook. I’m sorry I put you all through that. I’ve been drinking lately and well… it’s a problem. I’m drunk right now. It’s 10 AM. I told my mother if she didn’t give me more money for my GD JD, I would break her television. Have you seen Requiem for a Dream? It’s like that, but with booze. Sometimes I wake up and I just want to die.

Just kidding!

Everyday Existentialism: Things to do before I die

Posted by lifestyle On May - 13 - 2008

Heather Loney applies an everyday sensibility to existential crises

By Heather Loney

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions — promises you make to yourself under the widely accepted pretense that it is perfectly forgivable to either break those promises as soon as January has expired, or dismiss them altogether before your hangover has subsided.  I am, however, a fan of lists.  Making lists — specifically to-do lists — each item in order of importance, with a little penned box next to it that urges you to place that checkmark, and sigh triumphantly over your latest accomplishment (buy dish soap — check — and order has been restored).  With so many choices in the day, the week, a lifetime, I often wonder how it is possible that people without lists manage to dress themselves and pay their phone bill in the same day.

Oh, the Existential Crisis; being thrust into a finite world full of choices to be made, where the consequences of those choices rests heavily on your shoulders alone.  Besides that, we live in a world overloaded with information, most of it unimportant and selfishly demanding our attention.

Sartre had the right idea: choose, act, and take responsibility for the consequences.  But did Sartre have to worry about cell phone bills or which type of high-speed internet to subscribe to?  No.  He didn’t.  He had Parisian coffee shops and quiet.  So, while Sartre urged us to be responsible and face the anguish of the human condition, I urge us to be responsible — and make to-do lists.  And thus, in the spirit of the Existential Crisis, and in the shadow of a culture forcing its information upon me, I have begun.  Today’s list: Things to do before I die.

#1: Make a list of people that should be called when I die, because otherwise they may never find out.

Sometimes I wonder if that wasn’t the original idea behind Facebook; worried people wanting to keep tabs on which of their friends are still alive.  How did people used to find out about these things?  I would probably only find out about the death of the friends who have moved away or grown up, by randomly surfing their Myspace page.  And what about all those people I know that aren’t on Facebook?  If they died, I would have no idea; no status bar flashing “Stephen is…dead.”  As for me, I don’t even have a website.  It’s a lot to think about.  Therefore, I’ll make a list of contacts with a note saying, “Here are some peeps you should call when I kick it. Thanks!”

#1(b): Make a website. 

Everyone else has one; it could be fun!  “Thursday May 8th: didn’t die today.  Check back tomorrow.  Thanks for surfing!”

 #2: Find out what happens to personal bank accounts after you die.

Just because my life is finite doesn’t mean the Royal Bank of Canada’s life is.  Someone else would probably have to close all of my accounts.  Shit, that would be an annoying job.  Would my mom think to do that?  Note to self: remind Mom about all my different bank accounts, because I know those bastards would continue billing me for service charges months after I died.

This seems to be a good start to the day.  I feel as if I’m getting somewhere.  Achievement!  What satisfaction can be found penning tiny checkmarks on lined paper in a world of computers and electronic relationships.

Myths of the Internet: The Complacency of the O RLY Owl

Posted by lifestyle On April - 15 - 2008

Myths of the Internet: The Complacency of the O RLY Owl

By Sam Linton, illustrated by Dara Gold

Lord, have mercy. Do you have any idea how hard it is to mythologize the internet? It seems that for every meme I manage to nail down, five more spring up to take its place. Like a hydra, or a mutant skink. Nonetheless, I will persist, for the sake of future generations. If I don’t, how will our children’s children’s children, in the post-avian flu holocaust wastelands of tomorrow, know about LOLcats? Or n00b pwnage? Or this week’s myth, The Complacency of the O RLY Owl?

In the days that were, in the Time Before Net, Owl was known as the wisest of animals. Resting above all in his secluded oak tree, Owl spent his days silently contemplating the meaning of meaning. And he was respected for it; over all the world, Owl was sought for his learning to provide answers to the most important of life’s questions. From lowliest Hen to mightiest King Lion, all animals regarded Owl’s learning as the final arbiter of truth. His knowledge made him judge, jury, and executioner. Owl took great pride in these responsibilities, for he was certain that he, above all other beasts, bore the burden of knowledge theThe O RLY Owl, pre-internet strongest. Only Owl had the patience and the wisdom to weigh the evidence, analyze the data, and come to the conclusions that could truly be considered just. And thus did Owl stand proudly by his personal credo, “It is so”, knowing full well that His was the truest judgment in all the animal kingdom.

This all changed, however, come the dawn of the Internet. For Owl had long held his “wisdom monopoly” based on the fact that it was only he who took the time to look things over, only He who would weigh all the evidence in order to come to just conclusions. But Owl’s time in that respect was drawing to a close. For along with the dawning of the Internet, disparate animal groups formed to debate matters within their own isolated communities; they no longer needed the authority of Owl to tell them what was so. Now, the dogs, cats, bears, and mongeese would come to their own conclusions without the intervention of a wise authority like Owl. Instead of presenting Owl with a matter for arbitration, the animals would now merely present Him with the results of their independent decisions as a fait accompli.

According to Owl, this was a complete reversal of the natural order of things. Instead of pronouncing the most just verdict, He was now merely expected to nod his head in agreement. For Owl had had his power usurped; in the open-sourced environs of the Internet, there was no longer any need for arbiters of authority. Thus, there was no need anymore for Owl to pronounce His endorsement of authority. Instead of his forceful “It is so”, Owl had been reduced to merely pronouncing “O RLY?” at the sign of any new news, for He was wise enough to know that His authority had been usurped. Owl had had his day in the sun, but with the dawning of the Internet, He was simply no longer needed. And thus did wise Owl pass from being an arbiter of wisdom to a punchline for messageboard humour, leaving the other animals to merely scorn and pity.

Post net. Owl’s tale is a timeless one, rich with meaning for the post-apocalyptic generations of the future. Who, among those scavenging for survival in the future hellscape, will not be familiar with the sensation of suddenly finding that one’s accumulated knowledge has been rendered useless — say, when confronted with a new breed of nuclear-fallout zombie, who not only scavenges, but adapts to his future hell-wasteland environs? Those future zombie-gurus may well find that, although they were once the font of information for survival, there is nothing left for them to do but adapt to the current climate, perhaps with a hearty “O RLY?” to inform them of how much their world has changed. In this respect, the O RLY Owl’s tale is a timeless one, serving to inform us all of the dangers of complacency. And in a post-apocalyptic nightmare-verse, that lesson can literally mean all the difference.

Preamblin’: Internet Plugging Edition

Posted by lifestyle On March - 18 - 2008

Wow! A preamble! This takes me back, I’ll tell you. I know, I swore off of these things a couple of weeks ago, but sometimes a man’s just gotta perambulate, and this would definitely be one of those occasions. See, the way I figure it, what with “Cripes, it’s Gripes!” running this week, the Lifestyle section — while still awesome — may seem just a tad bitchy. And to be fair, it is; that’s what the article’s all about, after all, but that’s not necessarily what we’re all about.We here at Lifestyle, despite our griping, still take time out to notice the little bits of Awesome we find in everyday life. And that’s why I’m writing this preamble, to use my power as editor to plug something incredible.

I first came across the following on the Wikipedias the other day, and was immediately impressed with the project. First of all, Lego stop-motion animation has long been an interest of mine — my own ill-fated Lego Hamlet ultimately having been put on indefinite hiatus due to my lack of organizational skills (to paraphrase The Beastie Boys, “I lack the skillz to pay the billz”). So when I see it pulled off right, it makes my weary heart smile. What I found was a two-part, 14-minute music video based on a metal-rendition of Homer’s The Illiad. This is why we have an internet, people! Plus, hijacking a Wikipedia article to promote one’s own project is just GEAR! So yes, while I realize that the music of Blind Guardian may not appeal to everyone (though really, if you can’t get into this song, question your soul), I would say that, for anyone with an interest in Legos, Greek mythology, music, animation, or simply the redefinition of the word Awesome, the following two links are absolute must-sees (not a Rick Roll, honest!):

And Then There Was Silence Lego Video pt.1
And Then There Was Silence Lego Video pt.2

Special kudos go to the character design of these Lego men (and women). The smugness of Paris, the absolute hard-core look of Achilles, and that scheming look on Odysseus’ face — all priceless. Yes, there are some issues with choppiness, and the fact that the video is split into two halves is annoying, but if even one quarter of internet DIY projects were this good, I’d be ready to state that we are truly living in the Best of all possible worlds.

Sam Linton
Lifestyle Editor

Myths of the Internet: The Dance of the Obama Badger

Posted by lifestyle On March - 4 - 2008

By Sam Linton

Before reading this article, one should really understand the context behind it. For those who have not seen it yet (if you spend any time at all on the internet, you will see it, sooner or later), there is a short clip summarizing the U.S. political process, culminating in a badger dancing for Obama that’s been making the rounds lately. It’s difficult to explain, so you really have to watch it to understand where the Hell this article is going. If you spend any time at all on political blogs, you’ve probably seen it already, but you want to refresh yourself. The video has… depth and, oddly enough, despite the transient nature of the political video, is strangely timeless.

Artist’s rendition:

mushroom-mushroom.jpg

So, did you click the link?Did you notice the bait and switch there? The high expectations thwarted by bad ‘80s music? Congratulations, you’ve just been Rick Roll’d! (Unless, of course, you weren’t taken in by my phony intro, in which case, “Congratulations! You’ve just avoided being Rick Roll’d!“) Yes, it’s Rick Rolling, the annoying hyperlink prank sweeping the internet! How does it work? Taking advantage of the utter gibberish URLs which make Youtube links indistinguishable from one another until one actually clicks on them, the Rick Roll capitalizes on the humour of high expectations dashed to make the most awesome sounding of links (I thought an Obama badger sounded cool…) lead to a video of Rick Astley singing “Never Gonna Give You Up”, regardless of how they are advertised. More than that though, the Rick Roll speaks to us all of an experience we can recognize; why, who among us hasn’t had the “high hopes lost” experience of the Rick Roll happen in his or her own life? Who hasn’t had something for which they held the highest expectations turn to shit in front of their very eyes? (I’m talking to you, X-Men 3: The Last Stand!) Hell, for some of us, this summarizes our entire lives’ narratives (I, for example, never wanted to write web columns. I wanted to hunt dinosaurs!) In any case, regardless of individual circumstances, the Rick Roll speaks to all of us on a deep, personal level. As internet memes go, it is among our most culturally relevant (LOLcats being the absolute pinnacle).

But what about the children? As I’ve stated numerous (numerous!) times before in this column, our internet memes won’t last forever. Inevitably, through fire, cold, the sword, or just plain digital degredation, this precious trove of folk culture that is our ‘net memes will one day be lost in its original form, so it is up to us today, while we still can, to preserve these memes in the time honoured tradition of oral storytelling. That way, when our children5’s children ask their parents (or ask their respective child-rearing collective and/or robots, depending upon what direction society takes) “Elders, what was the internet like?” just as in the case of the Greek (or Norse, if that’s your thing) gods of old, they will have a ready cache of myths at their disposal to explain just what it was that made the internet such a wondrous place through the retelling of memes in story and song. Thus, in the vein of this mythopoeic project, I present “The Curse of Rick Roll”.

The Curse of Rick Roll

In the time before the internet on the Earth That Was, Rick Astley was a legend unto himself. In a decade already full of heroes, Astley stood head and shoulders above the rest. A latter-day Orpheus, the young singer possessèd of the features of a child-god and the rich, baritone voice of an especially sexy angel wanted for nothing during his heyday. No stranger to love, the young Astley was venerated for both his voice and his seemingly ageless features. But in this respect, appearance and reality would prove quite different, for like all mortals, even a demi-god must age, and so it did come to pass that, in the Age of Internet, Astley found himself an older man, no longer so desirable in his features or his popularity, and it was not to his liking.

Aging, however, was a relative thing. For, while time was a factor in the real world, the Internet was a new, young medium where nothing ever died, and one could remain essentially the same… forever. Thus, the aging Astley did forsake the material world, creating for himself a perfect internet duplicate to dwell for him forevermore in the time-lost limbo of cyberspace, never to grow old and never to grow up. This duplicate would become known to the races of Man as “Rick Roll”.

For some time, this ageless existence on the internet was enough. Suspended eternally in his youthful vigour, Rick appeared to have beaten aging at its own game. However, all was not well for the man who would be Rick Roll, for although his youth was forever preserved, his legend was not. Although the internet was time-lost, it was not timeless, for events still came to pass in the new medium, and while Rick’s youth was preserved, his relevance was not, lost in a sea of newer, more current trends. Thus did it come to pass that Rick’s ageless status became less a means of preservation than those of an embalming, for ever sealing him on the ‘net in a time-lost tomb.

Life eternal condemned to obscurity did not suit Rick, and he resolved to regain his fame, even if the passage of time had left him behind. His eternal preservation in the state of his youth prevented him from moving with modern trends, but that did not matter. If he could not bring himself back into relevance through persuasion, he would do it through trickery, instead. As stated before, Rick was no stranger to love; he knew the rules of attraction well. Laying a series of traps throughout the netscape, Rick sold internauts on promises of the newest and most current experiences, only to lead them back to his place of time-lost reverie, a party stuck eternally in the age-before-net, stealing their precious time to replenish his lost relevance. Thus did Rick Astley become Rick Roll, the vague, vampiric presence on the peripheries of the internet, eternally condemned to steal the time of others to sustain his own presence. And once he had you, he was never gonna give you up. You could leave his party, to be sure, but the party would never leave you, popping back into your head when you least expected it, sustaining Rick’s relevance long past the time of its natural passing.

The ubiquity of this story to future generations is obvious. The tragic tale of a pop demi-god transformed into the internet equivilant of a vampire is a sad one indeed, but it also contains valuable lessons for the children of tomorrow to take to heart. “Don’t listen to strangers” is an obvious one; the story of Rick Roll will reinforce the fact to the children of tomorrow that not every person they meet foraging for substanance on the post-apocalyptic plains of tomorrow is their friend, and may in fact be a deadly T-100 robot cloaked in human skin, or even worse, a quisling, a human being who has come to identify with the hordes of zombies ravaging the earth to the extent of acquiring an insatiable hunger for human brrrraaaaainssssss… One can never be too careful, and as “The Curse of Rick Roll” illustrates, there are some things that depend on human naïveté to sustain themselves. This is a lesson that future generation simply cannot do without.

As always is the case with these columns, be sure to print out and/or hand transcribe this text onto some kind of concretely-existing media to ensure that it survives its eventual digital degredation or deletion, otherwise the entire point of this project is lost. And for the sake of future generations’ access to ‘net culture, we simply cannot let that happen.

“I wish I was Your Underwear”

Posted by lifestyle On February - 5 - 2008

Top Five SIX awesome things I learned while wasting time on the internet this month

By Jenny Bundock

6. Hugh Downs was born in 1921
I looked up Hugh Downs on Wikipedia the other day after noticing that he was hosting an infomercial that comes on at like 2:00 a.m. for the book of health secrets “YOUR DOCTOR DOESN”T WANT YOU TO KNOW!” (As if your doctor really wants you to get sick and die, when it could be as simple as putting powdered celery and molasses on your cereal every other Tuesday to cure that pesky cancer.) But yeah, long story short, I decided to see if he was still alive, guessing out loud that “he must be like 100 or something”. Turns out he is 86 — but really, when you are that fucking old, who’s counting?

5. People care about Britney Spears and Heath Ledger a lot!

Every damn day I log into my Hotmail to see who has “poked” me on Facebook, only to discover yet another headline about Britney Spears. I got a bit of a break from Britney when Heath Ledger died [or DID he? He is The Joker. -ed], and everyone freaked out like he had been their best friend from Grade 2 that they used to share popsicles with, saying shit like “I just can’t believe that Heath Ledger is dead! He was so young! And his Batman movie just finished filming… so sad… his mom must be devastated.” I bet she is, but what I don’t get, is why anyone else is feeling the same. I keep hearing people say, “I can’t believe he died!” I can believe he died, do you know why? Because the radio told me he did. That is all the proof I need. What I don’t believe is why anyone at all, anywhere, cares what Britney Spears wore to court last week… now THAT is a real shocker.

4. There are Giant Rabbits out there.

I am not lying. Not at all. Search for “giant rabbits” — they are about the size of German Shepherds! My subsequent search was for a saddle that might accommodate riding such a beast, but I came up empty-handed. It’s hard to see 50 percent of a dream realized, but then fall short on locating the equipment that would make it possible for me to finally ride a rabbit to school. I dreamt it up in Grade 2, and I’ve never lost hope — it’s so close I can taste it (the dream, not the rabbit).

3. Most of the girls who were mean to me in high school either got fat, married, or pregnant, or all three.

This awesome, AWESOME fact came compliments of Facebook. Being the creeper that I am, I decided to check up on some of the townies from back home, to see if staying with their high school sweethearts paid off the way they thought that it would. I am pleased to report that I am much happier with the outcome than I would have expected to be when in Grade 10, and jealous of their “love.” Turns out that the recipe for getting fat is: stay in your hometown, stay with the guy you started dating in Grade 8 at semi-formal, work at the local retirement home, and drink a 2-4 of beer every week from Grade 11 until you are 25. Yeah, I know, I’m a huge bitch and it’s not their fault, blah blah blah, but in my defense, revenge IS a dish best served cold. (And with, evidently, a lot of ranch dressing, a side of mozzarella sticks, a milkshake, and some fries from the arena.)

2. There is such a thing as a fart fetish, and hundreds of perv-y guys post comments on You Tube videos of girls farting at the camera, at mirrors, or into the faces of cats.

I’m dead serious. What started as something I thought was a HILARIOUS video of this really cute girl farting into her cat’s face, turned out to be so very, very wrong. The video IS hilarious, but the really funny part was the enormous volume of comments the video received from guys saying stuff like “I wish I was your underwear,” or “lucky cat,” or “I bet your farts smell like candy.” It was seriously amazing. God bless the internet for taking all these hilariously-fetished people and releasing them from obscurity, showcasing them for the rest of us to stare at, open-mouthed and in laughing-so-hard-we-cry awe. I can personally say that my life is richer for having seen both a girl fart in a cat’s face AND someone responding with feelings of jealousy towards that cat’s position.

1. The band Rednex, who made the song “Cotton Eye Joe” is from __________.

I’m not even going to tell you. My friend Chris looked this up, and made all of us guess, and NO ONE got it right. By the time he actually told us, he was laughing so hard that we had to read it for him. Do you remember that song with the lyrics, “Where did you come from? Where did you go? Where did you come from Cotton Eye Joe?” with that crazy fiddling and clapping? It came out when I was in Grade 7 or 8, and it was really, really popular. Yeah, I’ll tell you right now, it wasn’t from the USA, which is what I had assumed. Go ahead, lock in your guess, and then let me know if you got it right. If you did, you know your shitty 90s bands better than me. I’ll give you that one.

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