Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy Almost New Year

Thrill as I update in a frequent and timely manner! Ha ha ha ha, the hell is wrong with me. Oh, dear.

Regardless, good afternoon, friends and countrymen! I'm safely through the first term of graduate school, and have currently squirreled myself away on vacation -- and I use 'vacation' very precariously loosely -- back home in Winnipeg. I arrived home just in time for the weather to hit minus fifty with windchill, although A) what the hell else is new here and B) this meant I had the luxury of mostly avoiding the whole 'snowmageddon' nonsense that suddenly gripped Ontario. What a painfully awkward portmanteau! I'm a man known by my contemporaries for enjoying a good Frankenword (which is, itself, a portmanteau! Yeah! Spread the love!), and even I couldn't get behind the 'snowmageddon' noise. Just as well; I'm sure if I had been there, I would have driven everyone mad with multiple pained attempts to work a Willi Williams reference into the discourse until somebody would have finally up and assaulted me.

So another year is nearly done and gone, my goodness. Where does the time go? (He asks rhetorically, having not updated his blog in a month.) But before I get all wrapped up in ruminations, humour me my backlogged administrative archivism.

I'm late in mentioning it, but better late than never:

Uptown Magazine! The tasty treat that can't be beat!

At the beginning of the month the paper ran my contribution of a piece on Black Friday, which this year was a bizarre and deadly affair across several major metropolitan areas despite nobody having any money to be buying things with in the first place.

You can imagine the madcap time I had writing this article; just as everything consumerist and awful was unfolding on that eventful Friday, the news reports of the morning also brought word that A) the Canadian political system was collapsing, B) the economy was tanking even harder than it had been tanking in recent weeks, and C) Mumbai was on fire. It was more and more difficult to limit myself to the one topic, but increasingly apparent that tacking everything that day would require far more than the five hundred words I am traditionally alloted. But I stuck with it, as best I could, and here we are. Such are the dangers of fast news days!

And as that was published at the beginning of the month, another column would soon follow to close out the year:

Uptown Magazine! Oh, what a relief it is!

My most recent article, published this past Thursday (oh, Merry Christmas, by the way), was obviously inspired by the increasingly strange tale of Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi. What an odd story! This was the biggest shoe-related incident to hit the international community since Nikita Khrushchev went to the United Nations and beat the shit out of a desk. And given more time and space, I would definitely have made a point of including the Sock and Awe game somewhere in the column -- but, alas.


Two thousand and eight, huh? Dear oh dear. Another year down the tubes! What a miserable and terrible year for just about everybody and everything. The year was a marked improvement for me, but I had figured it might be. I would like to pretend that my upward mobility was because I keep myself diversified and drive endlessly forward in pursuit of bettering myself, but the truth of the matter is that there had been really nowhere to go but up. I started off the year unemployed, pissed off, and increasingly broke -- and since that was how a lot of people ended the year, I guess I was lucky to be ahead of the curve.

It was a wild and dramatic year for me, to be sure. In no particular order, 2008 was the year that I:

-- entered graduate school;
-- pulled up almost all of my roots and moved out of the province for the sake of entering graduate school;
-- began a stint in student-group administration;
-- dabbled with video-blogging (for an intended year-long Winnipeg project, which I ultimately elected to abandon upon the news that I wasn't even going to be in Winnipeg all year);
-- bought a tube organ (!);
-- established a new annual tradition, if only for myself;
-- earned a shout-out in Winnipeg's newspaper of record (!!), from its City Hall Reporter;
-- blogged about the phone book;
-- became a voice-actor (!!!);
-- wrote a comprehensive event and concert review for the dorkiest possible thing, which remains far and away my most viewed blogging item thus far;
-- and, near the end of the year, saw my Double Honours in History and Political Studies finally pay off when the stupid Canadian government began to implode and everyone else took a sudden interest in Canadian politics. You can't imagine how stoked I get to see normies take interest in this crap!

So here's to two thousand and nine, whatever misshapen sort of beast it ends up being; I'll be hidden away in the ivory tower for the foreseeable future, but rest assured I'll keep in touch now and again. Happy New Year, one and all!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Eat Fresh: Why Student Newspapers are Always Worth a Look

Hey, guys! Know what are always a good time? Student papers! Yeah!

Some people may feel that university student newspapers can be amateurish, irrelevant, sophomoric and perpetually dissatisfied -- and they can be! I'm not going to argue with you on this one, sometimes reading student papers can be a bit of a headache. But! Wherever I go I make a point of grabbing any student press I come across, alongside the more mainstream news sources, if not for alternative viewpoints then just for the high hilarity that results when a bunch of young'uns throw a paper together without corporate supervision.

That established, let me talk to you briefly about the Gazette. Published four days a week by the University Students' Council, the Gazette has been a fixture of the University of Western Ontario since its 1906 inception as "In Cap and Gown", a handwritten literary newspaper that must have just been adorable. And, like many papers, it contains an opinions section with space devoted to Letters To The Editor and a solicitation underneath for such letters.

Now, this isn't the funny part. (omg you guys they wrote the bad word for doodie in the newspaper lol oh man) We as a culture have been sneaking curse words into print for as long as we've ever realized that we could get away with it, and admittedly I speak from personal experience on this one.

No, the funny part about this setup is that students these days occasionally treat the Letters section the same way that people used to treat it in the days of yore -- as a great place to publicly complain about minor issues and argue with or ridicule others, which honestly is what the section was all about back before this whole 'internet' thing was invented.

Behold as I beheld, from the November 13th issue of the Gazette:

The pressing issues of our times, brought to the forefront by hardhitting analytical review! This letter also works way better if you picture its author finishing it by rolling her chair away from her desk, throwing her head back to the sky and screaming "SUBWAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYY~!" like either James Kirk or Orochi Iori Yagami depending on how big a geek you want to be with the gag.

Now, I'm no big fan of Subway; I was willing to roll with them for a little while back when they had Jon Lovitz onboard, but when they dumped him from their ad campaign I went "pssh whatever" and gave up on them. Why are we picking on Subway when Tim Hortons and their stupid nonbiodegradable cups are a vastly more prominent, more frequent offender? She really likes double-doubles, I don't know, your guess is as good as mine.

(Tim Hortons cups make up twenty-two per cent of litter in Nova Scotia, and the grapevine alleges that it comprises one-fifth of Toronto's waste as well. Oh man, wait -- wasn't it in London where that one woman got fired for giving out a Timbit? Haha, holy crap, it was. Small world! Anyway, I digress.)

So was this the rallying cry that brought a coalition of likeminded ecofriendly folk together to fight the power and take a wasteful multinational conglomerate to its knees? Well, er, not exactly.

From the November 20th issue of the Gazette:

Ha ha! Ouch! Geez, dude. Psychology majors can be real dicks sometimes, I tell you what.

Student newspapers can be real quality entertainment sometimes, and I'm not just saying this as somebody who used to write for one. (I got so many CDs as a volunteer CD reviewer, my goodness. And some of them weren't awful!) Next time you're near a campus paper, no matter which campus it is, grab it and have a look at it; I would be shocked to hear that there isn't a single interesting thing in it, and sometimes you'll luck out and come across a surprise explosion of vitriolic overreaction like the above. Good times await!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What a Busy Guy (or, Long Time No See)

Hi, everybody! Good to see you again. You look good! Probably lots of interesting things going on for you lately.

Sorry I haven't posted in a while, it's been all kinds of hectic. Nobody even hears from me any more, most of the time; my little brother left a message on my Facebook account at one point just to ask what the hell happened to me.

What? Oh, nothing. No, no! Nothing that exciting, I'd hate to bore you. All I do now is schoolwork and sleep, it's sort of sad.

Oh! But actually, you know, now that you mention it. Remember that project I mentioned that I was working on with a couple buddies? Well, guess what was just released this past November Sixth:

Hecklevision presents -- Superman in: Japoteurs!

My goodness, look at that. Look at it! It has been completed, and the audio issues in the preview clip have been addressed, and now it is up and published and available. Ninety-nine cents buys a wonderfully animated, staggeringly racist Max Fleischer Superman short -- with our hilarious audio commentary already added and synched up beforehand, for your convenience and viewing pleasure.

Not to brag, but this is awesome.

Why, I'd buy that for a dollar -- and so can you! But, don't take my word for it! Have a look at the front page of the iRiffs site:

Top Short, baby! Yeah! Sales figures and peer reviews agree -- our Japoteurs iRiff is true value through and through, a dollar's worth as ever you've known it!

I'm not laying it on too thick, am I? I'm sorry, I've got a bit of a headrush going. Nothing perks a brother's attitude up quite like hitting the big time and being published in a brand new medium.

Ooh! And speaking of being published! (God, I'm good at segues.) Feast your eyes:

Uptown Magazine! Solidarity Forever!

With the conclusion of the sixteen-day sixteen-day press union strike that was holding up the papers back home, Uptown has resumed its publication schedule and includes a column of mine in its latest edition. Pretty cool, right? Pretty good times!

For consistency's sake, the column series has continued to bear the same name as my Winnipeg blog; the intention is still that I'll return there, once I've earned this Masters I'm working on, so I figured why not. Besides, no point in arbitrarily changing what works; even in my absence Slurpees and Murder has remained a very popular blog and a very popular title, certainly far more popular than I personally have ever been. (Now there's a humbling consideration.)

They don't mention me by name a lot back home, and they never did to begin with, but damned if the Slurpees and Murder tag isn't still making the rounds over there. To wit:

It was brought to my attention that the Comments Editor of the University of Manitoba campus paper, the Manitoban, went on at length a few weeks ago about the largely negative self-image of the city in a piece he titled "Enough with the Slurpees and murders".

I found this out through correspondence with a contact, and--what? Never mind how I found out. It was an... anonymous source. A tipster, placed very high up in the... political... okay, it was my mother. My mom emailed me to say that she saw a nice article in the school paper that mentioned me, and she clipped it out for when I come home. Yeah, yeah, yuk it up. That's not the point. The point is, it's nice to still be recognized.

I spent two years as a volunteer CD reviewer for the Manitoban, back in the day, although you wouldn't know it to visit the site. Their archives are down right now, probably due to the site redesign they've obviously done since I last looked. So with that said, I don't think anybody else remembers (or could now easily prove) that I wrote there, and it's neat to find out that my name popped up in the ol' campus paper completely independently of my input or my proximity to the city.

Okay, granted -- it isn't my name in there, it's the name of my blog. Such is usually the case. And the reference to my blog is indirect, though obvious and repeated several times for effect. And the article actually seems to be written in vehement opposition to my previous work, holding the combination of nouns as some defeatist self-esteem disease that threatens to permanently tank the attitude and the reputation of the city. Hmm. Whatever! I take my exposure where I can get it. The blog's been mentioned previously by musicians, activist sites and even legitimate newspapers; nothing wrong with being able to blot out "student publications" on the big metaphorical bingo card of media outlet shoutouts. I'm on my way, baby!

So, anyway, yeah. That's what's new with me.

My word, what a long post! I should get back into the habit of making shorter posts at more regular interviews, if only so people back home stop assuming the worst. In the meantime, I'll do some more schoolwork and then get out and enjoy the, uh... enjoy the weather.

The hell is even going on here. "Snowsqualls", yeah, okay. This town is screwed up, man.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Brain Food (or, The End is Nigh)

What it is, cats and kittens! I'm now into my Research Week, which means (almost) a whole week's worth of classes taken off the schedule to better grant me time to alternate between working on assignments and sleeping in until sunset. (It's really satisfying, if you've never tried it.)

Of course, I can find time in a busy schedule like this one to partake in merriment and celebrations. Did you know, for example, that Sunday was World Zombie Day? It was! And it nearly went past me unnoticed -- just as Talk Like a Pirate Day usually does when I'm distracted -- except for the notices that I saw posted up all across the downtown on Saturday.

To wit:

My goodness! What a charming poster. And anyone who knows me knows well my appreciation for zombies; my main? old? other? Winnipeg blog specifically had a 'Zombie' tag for any and all undead-related content, allowing visitors quick and easy access to posts like this one or especially this one.

So, seizing the opportunity to get out and actually do something during my week 'off', I grabbed my faithful old digital camera and headed out that fine Sunday afternoon to see what sort of hijinks a bunch of people dressed and behaving like zombies can get up to.

I got there early enough that there weren't a lot of folks gathered; the march was scheduled for a bit later, so to this point it was just some folks milling around and looking various degrees of undead.

Note the cameraman interviewing the lead zombie while the crowd congregates. Slow news day in London, Ontario! Okay, granted, it's not as though I've yet seen a fast news day in London, Ontario -- but still. Good on the local news media to turn out, at least. It's neat to see that happen.

Figuring I had plenty of time before any actual zombie-walking happened, I took some pictures of buildings for giggles and then went up a block to go find myself an early supper. I splurged and dropped the eight bucks on a Chinese food buffet, because obviously that's the sort of health food you need for a downtown jaunt. Three plates and about twenty minutes later, I hit the streets again to see how far the zombies had gotten away:

Not too far, as it turned out. The parking lot that they were starting their route from is immediately to the right of that shot, so they weren't exactly flying down the street. They're very slowly getting away!

I went a couple of blocks down and found a good spot, and in due time the procession turned the corner and went right by me for some good shots.

If the dude on the left there doesn't seem terribly convincing, that's because he's actually an OBO security guy. (Not a zombie! At least, not yet.) The walk was buffered at all times by a small handful of security, likely just to make sure that nobody would get way too into their role and start biting things. You never know! Some people act, and some people method-act.

Not sure why they needed security, though, it's not as though there are many zombies in these pictures yet or--

Oh. Well, never mind, then! Pretty good turnout after all. My word, that is an awful lot of facepaint in this picture.

Oh, and there were lots of other folks taking pictures as well, so that was kind of neat.

Why were there Japanese kamikaze zombies? Well, why not? Surely there were a great many World War II air battles fought bravely across the skies of Ontario. I've got a History degree, don't even bother questioning me on this!

Also, the knowledge that zombie parents brought their zombie kids to the zombie walk makes me smile really wide and I can't really articulate why.

Heyyyyy, zombies can't work cameras! Zombies can't work cameras!

Again with the tiny zombie kids, which I'm sure should be terrifying the longer I think about the concept but I'm still really pleased that so many kids were excited to get made up like zombies and run around outside. That's awesome! The future is in good hands, as far as I'm concerned.

Okay, cross the street, cross the street, everyone hang on to your zombie buddy, green light, cross the street--wouldn't this picture be so much better with all the zombies holding onto one of those twisty polypropylene yellow cords? You were thinking it, admit it.

A nice shot of the Honest Lawyer bar and restaurant, framed accordingly by a gaggle of zombies and one ridiculous pink metal tree. I think I could get used to living in this town, it's got a certain charm to it.

To recap, there were a lot of people gussied up like zombies and strolling through the downtown. And though they may have resembled undead hordes of moaning, shambling corpses, it is very important to note that they all still made a point of following the traffic laws as directed.

See? Very important. Alright, buddy up, time to cross again!

See the green car at the intersection? This green car really just wanted to turn right, this didn't have to be such a big production. Poor guy probably had places to be, sitting there with his right turn signal on and waiting patiently while a hundred zombies very slowly shambled across the street. Bad day to be driving downtown, dude! Don't know what else to tell you.

The zombies continued down this road for a while and went past Victoria Park, the big charming park sitting right in the heart of the downtown area. So of course, me being me, I got distracted and wandered off to see what the squirrels were doing instead.

There was a cute conversation amongst a family of three while the zombies were going past the park, with a small boy about six or seven years old explaining zombie lore to his parents.

"It's a zombie walk!" he said, matter-of-factly, as though these things happen every day. "They're zombies!"

"Why are they walking in the daytime?" his dad asked. "Don't they only come out at night?"

"That's vampires," the boy huffed indignantly, which was really funny.

But the zombies aren't what we should be worried about, let me tell you that right now. Zombies, pfft, zombies we could all handle pretty easily. But if the squirrels ever decide to rise up and overthrow us, then oh man, we are boned. Not only are the squirrels faster and harder to see in the dark, especially the crazy gigantic black squirrels that seem ubiquitous in London, but there are a lot of them -- as you can see from the above picture, where they dot the landscape repeatedly and continue long past the horizon. I even ran into a squirrel who kind of looked zombified, which was awesome and off-putting and hilarious all at the same time.

Those are terrific markings. What a great squirrel, oh man. And then I ran into a little baby squirrel who walked right up to me and strutted around like he owned the place, and that was just all kinds of adorable.

D'awwwwww. Look at the little guy! The other squirrels in this city are (I am not joking) legitimately the size of small dogs, but you could have picked up this little squirrel and fit him in your shirt pocket if he let you.

What on earth was I up to again--

Right! Okay, now I remember. Zombies afoot. This guy had taken up residence at the park entrance, and every minute or so would loudly proclaim that the end is nigh. He also helpfully posed for a photograph when he saw me lift my camera.

"So how nigh is the end, exactly?" I asked him, walking up after taking the picture.

"The apocalypse -- is UPON US!" he blurted out, and it was clear he was having a lot of fun being in-character.

"Okay, cool," I said, holding up the camera. "So, which way did the zombies go? I was following them up along the park, and I thought maybe they'd come back down this cross street."

"Oh. They're going down a bit further so they can come all the way up Richmond," he explained, breaking character briefly to point along as he explained the route.

"Awesome! Thanks," I said, walking away to pick a good spot while he went back to his waving of signs and declarations of oncoming doom.

I sat down on some steps and had plenty of time to look at the photos I had taken so far, because as it turns out there were a good five minutes or so until the zombies came around the corner and back into view.

I don't know, do you think that's them? It might be some other--

No, no, that's definitely them. Good! They're heading up the street, they're...

...they're still heading up the street, okay, here they come, they're just on their way, they're...

Hurry up, already! Friggin' zombies.

Oh! This is important, this was a real hoot. Do you see the two girls standing at the corner there, waiting to cross the street?

I didn't see so much as hear these two go past me, when I was walking backwards up Richmond, because the girl on the right with the bag did not like the idea of a Zombie Walk at all.

"Oh, god," she moaned, appreciably on her way to freaking out a little. "I can not deal with this right now."

"This is, what," her friend on the left said as they passed me, "spooks? This is a spook walk, right?"

"I don't like this," the first girl complained. "Let's cross the street, let's go."

"Do you think that guy is with them?" her friend asked, which if you were wondering is what she turned in this picture to point at.

Yep, still there.

"I don't know," the perturbed girl replied. "Oh, god. This is not cool."

But, back to Sign Guy Dudley over here. He had increased the frequency of his "The END is NIIIIGH" calls as the zombies came up the street, repeating it several times as the zombies drew closer and closer until finally they reached the entrance of the park.

Now, you may be wondering: did they eat him?

Oh, yeah. They ate him good.

Still shots don't capture this at all, of course, but they had outfitted Sign Guy with some spurty 'blood' packets or something at the outset so that when the zombies took him down and munched him there were these picturesque spurts of red liquid shooting six feet into the air above the crowd. I know there was a video camera or two on hand, so maybe it'll be on YouTube shortly; it isn't yet, as best I can tell, but hope springs eternal. (Why, Hope's my middle name!)

Is it just me, or does that crowd seem smaller than it was? Did something happen to the rest of--

God damn it, zombies. Cross the street! There's nobody coming, you can go across just this once! The light is green, just cross the--what am I even doing, zombies probably see in black and white anyway.

There we go! That's better. It wouldn't do to get split into two zombie groups, that would just be unseemly. The very idea!

Waaaaaaaait a second, hang on now--is that a headcrab I see there?

It is! Ha ha, holy crap, one dude came as a headcrab zombie. That is brazen! That doesn't even fit into standard zombie continuity, but hell with it, it gave me a good laugh. You go, headcrab guy!

"Nice death scene!"
"Thanks. Nice headcrab."
"Hey, thanks!"

Being newly undead, of course, does not remove one's instinctual ability to pose in place for a photograph. (Not pictured: my grinning and giving him a thumbs-up from behind the camera. Well played, Sign Guy!)

You can see what I was talking about earlier with the red liquids, I assume. Dude got wrecked! Such are the perils of World Zombie Day.

And off they shambled down the road, in search of sustenance, on this their day of celebration. I kept the camera rolling. They were beautiful, those zombies in the mist. Okay, yes, there's no mist in the pictures; humour me, will you? I'm being dramatic.

So, yes! Happy belated World Zombie Day, one and all. You may have noted above that the poster at the top listed a website; the Zombie Walk also had a Facebook group and a spot on A-Channel that evening, because nothing says 'fetid shambling corpse' quite like A-Channel news.

(I'm being mean, aren't I? I'm sorry. A-Channel is sort of an extended running joke where I come from.)

My Research Week continues! Check back here soon; I've got another long post on the backburner that should be ready shortly. If you're not careful, you might even learn something from it!