Friday, January 30, 2009

Dan Mangan makes me want to be an alcoholic

In the best possible way. 

Just thought you should know. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Remember This Day

For it is the only time I will ever, repeat EVER, defend anyone in the clan Simpson (as in Jessica, Ashlee, old fucked up Joe, and entourage).

In my daily time squandering, I happened upon a weirdly large number of articles and blog posts about a particular photo of Jessica Simpson. My shock was two-fold:

1. I was almost certain that Jessica Simpson had finally just given up on trying to be talented, leading me to speculate on why exactly it was that she was still performing.

2. The nature of the criticisms being thrown at this particular photo were fucking mind-blowing to me. Here is the photo:

Now, here are a few of the comments I read about this particular photo:
  • "Jess's Fashion Faux Pas: The curvy singer took the stage in a seriously unflattering outfit." -AOL Music
  • "Simpson Debuts Fuller Figure" - Also AOL Music
  • "Simpson Proves Not Everyone Should Wear Mom Jeans"- PopEater
  • "Honest to god her appearance couldn’t have been any more shocking unless she had grown glow in the dark tentacles." - What Would Tyler Durden Do?
Hey, Internet. Shut the fuck up. Granted, Jessica Simpson is one of the most profoundly untalented people in the whole of the music industry (and the definition of untalented in the music industry is pretty wide). She does NOT, however, appear grotesque, offensive, abnormal, disgusting, fat, shocking, or whatever other sorts of stupid things you care to level against her. Call me crazy, but she looks good. Maybe that's just my taste, though. Maybe it's just some crazy, outlandish turn-on of mine that I don't like women who could die from starvation at any moment. 

She looks good. She looks better than good. She looks like a person, not a pile of bone and remorse with a crack pipe buried somewhere inside. 

This is why normal people of my generation are fundamentally and eternally fucked up. It's because that photo is seen as unacceptable. It's because someone, simply by virtue of being healthy and comfortable, can be rejected in an instant with brutality and without regret. 

I'm too angry to be long-winded while remaining coherent, so I'll leave it there for the night. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Something in the Water?

What is it with Britain and its ability to churn out absurdly talented folk musicians? I should have been born on the other side of the pond, methinks.

Laura Marling, "Rambling Man"

Johnny Flynn, "Tickle Me Pink"

Emmy the Great, "Two Steps Forward"

Hey, Britain! Share some song writing talent with the rest of the world. Kthx. 

Monday, January 19, 2009

Long Story Short

Sir Thomas More's Utopia:

"Slaves for all!"

The End. 

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Next Stop: Granola Town!

I write to you today, dear readers, in defense of one of my own beliefs that I feel deserves defense. 

Sustainability is a loaded, confusing and convoluted term that has all but lost significance as the green movement and ethical consumption has been picked up by mainstream marketers and retailers. Nonetheless, I feel that it is an idea worth exploring, and one worth considering drawing into your own practices and routines. The most classic definition of sustainability comes from The Brundtland Report, a paper published in 1987 by the Brundtland Commission, detailing possible solutions and remedies to the increasingly serious environmental conundra we presently find ourselves locked in. In this report, sustainability is defined as the use of resources in such a way that does not diminish the ability of future generations to use those same resources. Basically, it aims for resource consumption to be a zero-sum game. Use stock resources slowly, and frugally, with an eye always on the future, use flow/renewable resources only to the extent that they can recharge themselves, and always be investigating and testing technologies and alternative materials and processes that can reduce the strain placed on both of the preceding categories. Sustainability is based on three fundamental concepts: 1) Equity (both inter- and intra-generational), 2) Futurity, and 3) Valuing the environment. It is the goal of sustainability to allow for continued human life on the planet by instilling in each new generation a respect for the needs of future generations, a sense of environmental stewardship, and a respect for ecological stability, health and futurity for its own sake. 

Unfortunately, as with many contemporary social movements (Globalization being a prime example), sustainability has lost many of its teeth, largely as a result of shoddy definitions and countless permutations and modifications of the terms outlined above. The Brundtland definition, while helpful and broad, is by no means universal. Nations, cities, corporations, communities can create and enforce their own version of sustainability- no standard definition exists across all regions, municipalities, and nations. Unlike globalization, however, which tends to favour economic interests first (a big plus in most societies around the world), sustainability has the added disadvantage of being less about making money, and more about spending it. Sustainable farming, for example, often entails more expensive seeding, tillage and irrigation techniques, translating into high prices for organic and sustainable products in the markets and grocery stores. The farmer pays more, the consumer pays more, all in the interest of making the land pay less. It doesn't take a genius to see why sustainability doesn't fit very comfortably within North American society. It preaches the exact opposite of some very fundamental beliefs that form the basis of our economic systems. 

This has placed sustainability and efforts toward it squarely in the hands of two much-mocked social niches: Upper-class urban professionals with the cash and time to burn on things like organic produce and slow food lifestyles, and un-classed "hippie" types who, by-and-large, reject mass production of food and favour deep ecology, ecocentrism, and other radical environmental doctrines. In both cases, sustainable lifestyles seem well outside the interest range of what we may call the majority. The two groups described above (for sake of ease, we'll call them Yuppies and Hippies), are the target of much derision and scorn, largely because of their belief in the doctrine of sustainability. Yuppies get turned into self-righteous liberals who don't know what it's like to have to work hard for a living, who don't know what it's like to be pressed for time to find something to eat, who don't know what its like going to the grocery store on a budget. Hippies get turned into...almost the same thing actually, but with more dreadlocks, pot, baggy clothing and Phish records. As a result, sustainability tends to get bound up with other environmental issues taken up by these two niches- things like climate change, deforestation, animal rights- all things that people in the majority tend to look upon with a sympathetic, but distracted eye. 

Sustainability thus becomes one of many throw-away issues associated with other things that people tend to not care about, or be skeptical of, like global warming and climate change. This is terribly unfortunate. The reality is that, while sustainability and more "controversial" issues like global warming are indeed related and have significant overlaps, I think It's important to recognize and appreciate sustainability as its own entity, worthy of pursuit in-and-of itself. 

Actions supporting a sustainable lifestyle- cutting back meat consumption, buying things with less packaging, buying local produce, driving your car less and relying more on transit and walking, etc. - are commendable causes for reasons well outside of the global warming "debate" (if it can so be called anymore). Let's look at each of the preceding examples in turn. Cutting back meat consumption is considered a more sustainable lifestyle choice than eating meat several times a week, for example. This is because the industrial production of livestock is incredibly chemical-intensive. Feed lots tend to be drastically over-crowded, concentrating the formidable amounts of waste produced by, among other animals, cows. This can overwhelm the natural assimilative capacity of a piece of land, and cause dangerous chemicals and bacteria to leach into soils and acidify/contaminate them, rendering future agricultural use effectively impossible. Further, these same chemicals and bacteria can very easily wash into nearby rivers or leach into groundwater systems and be carried to populated areas causing residential water contamination, posing on the one hand, a public health risk, and on the other, the possibility of an enormous clean-up and purification effort in the future. Additionally, it's no big secret that cows are capable of producing a mighty stink when they feel so inclined. This unfortunate habit releases huge amounts of methane into the atmosphere. Fears of climate change aside, I don't think anyone would be opposed to cutting the amount of noxious gases floating around in the air we breathe. As a final note, industrial livestock farms are often located well outside of urban limits, and meat is often imported from overseas. This produce has to travel enormous distances just to reach our supermarkets, consuming, per unit, a huge amount of fuels and energy. Again, climate change aside, if we can save on fuel usage, cut back emissions of any sort, shouldn't we? 

Purchasing things package more efficiently and purchasing local goods is also seen as a wise sustainable choice. Perhaps the most obvious reason this is a good idea is because there's no hiding the fact anymore that we just don't know what to do with all the trash we produce. Landfills are filled, there's an enormous plastic dump in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, hazardous chemicals leach into soils and groundwater as organic and non-organic materials decompose (a process often accompanied by the production of methane. See the previous paragraph for why this sucks).  It seems pretty apparent to me that none of these things are great. Reducing waste has nothing to do with climatic cycles or temperature variation on a global scale, but stands alone as a worthy cause. Associated with this attempt to reduce waste is the attempt to buy as many goods locally as possible. Doing this can help to reduce the amount of packaging needed to transport goods. If you're buying an apple from an orchard 40 minutes by truck form the market, odds are, that apple isn't going to be jostled about as violently as it would if it were being imported from, say, Japan. Thus, we end up using far less packing per unit of consumption because it simply isn't necessary any more. Also, by buying local, you eliminate the need for insane import patterns, and thus reduce the amount of fuel and energy (and in turn, emissions) consumed per unit. As a fun bonus, buying local gives smaller farmers the help many desperately need. Many local-scale farmers run smaller operations than the industrial systems used by the world's largest producers, reducing their overall impact on the land they utilize. These small-scale operations tend to be higher-cost, so buying your produce from them bolsters a local agricultural industry that struggles to compete with globalized production. Get better food, with less packaging, from better producers, with less energy and fuel consumed in transport, and with a smaller impact on the soils being used. QUINTUPLE WIN! Of course, a lot of this depends on larger issues of the decentralization of industry from global hubs and the rethinking of urban and ex-urban spaces, but nonetheless, the ideas hold up. 

Driving less and relying more on public transit and walking is probably the action most people could take tomorrow, if they chose to. In most major metropolitan centers throughout North America, Europe, and Asia, public transit systems are extensive and can be easily accessed from around the city. Places like Vancouver, Montreal and....all of Europe are blanketed with frequent and relatively reliable mass-transit systems. Of course, there are obvious exceptions to this rule. Cities like Atlanta, Mesa/Phoenix and Calgary are absolute urban-planning abominations and, in may areas population densities are too low to make transit lines profitable, forcing many to spend hours in their car per day, frequently only one person to a vehicle. the advantages to using transit are apparent, immediate and personal. Above all, you don't have to pay for gas! I know prices have fallen over the last little while. Nonetheless, I drive a little car that sips rather politely on fuel and every time I fill up, it still costs me 50 some odd dollars- money that I'd much rather spend on something rent...those details. Predictably, cutting down on individual driving also vastly reduces emissions created by the combustion of fossil fuels, reduces the amount of crap thrown into land fills (cars, for the record are the stupidest investment ever. Even stupider than computers. You buy it, and as soon you sign the papers, it's next-to-worthless, and as time goes by, it gets less and less efficient, more and more costly, up until a point where it just gets turfed. The whole damn car. That's like throwing out the down payment on a banging new condo). 

That was a lot of blathering on, but I just can't help but pick up on this not-so-subtle resentment of ideas like sustainability because it's basically become so amorphous and nebulous as to be rendered nearly meaningless for the majority. I think it needs to be pursued, regardless of ethical, moral, political or personal scientific persuasions for no reason other than its a good idea that's totally attainable. Small choices made on a grand scale can change the world. I'm not sure if the fact that I actually believe that is stupid or wise, but I believe it nonetheless. 

All the best,

Friday, January 9, 2009

Treatise on Apartment Living

Apologies for very shoddy posting for the last little while, folks. I've been busy with getting settled back into school life and detoxing myself out of the turkey and stuffing hangover that I've been fighting since the day Christmas holidays began. Also, I've been tied up with a non-blog, creative writing project that's been taking up much of my free time to frustratingly few results. In any event, I've returned to regular routine and am looking forward to settling into better postings once again. 

At the beginning of this academic year, I decided to make the step out of residence and move into my first apartment. I live in a small (pushing micro) bachelor suite in a self-consciously self-righteous community oriented toward fostering long-term sustainability and a vibrant resident community. At least that's what the brochures say. In recent weeks, I've been pushed to my wits end with the type of people who inhabit these types of places. I am not referring to those who believe in sustainability or smart urbanism because heaven knows that I do my damndest to adhere to these principles myself. I'm speaking more to the type of people who believe that paying a higher rent, living in an exclusive community, buying all-terrain baby carriages, wearing Gore-Tex and Chanel in the same swoop, shopping at small independent whole foods markets, etc. some how changes the nature of those around them. Some time ago now, I received an anonymous note under my door in the dead of night, citing strata bylaws, and asking me to please "be more courteous" to my neighbours and respect noise restrictions. This little treat claimed that I had been running appliances like vacuum cleaners after 11pm, moving furniture all night (for the record, this is impossible. I have the upper body strength of an 8-year-old girl), blasting music after midnight, and so on. Regardless of the fact that none of these noises had come from my apartment, whoever had sent this note had felt that it was within their rights to remind me of bylaws and make accusations regarding my behaviour, without ever having spoken to me or confirming their suspicions. Imagine my surprise, then, when I received a letter some time later notifying me of a formal noise complaint against my apartment that had been brought before the city-wide condominium service! All this without a single knock on the door! Without even an attempt to speak with me. Without so much as a passing effort to determine if these accusations were indeed true! 

It is not that I was falsely accused of violations that bothers me, but the fact that whoever had perceived the problem was obviously bent not on solving their noise issues, but on bringing swift and, aboveall, anonymous revenge down upon my ruckus, noisy, disrespectful little head. Call me crazy, but when you encounter an issue, do you not speak to the person with whom you take exception? Isn't that your first instinct? It would certainly be my reaction. In turn, I struggled valiantly against my own worrisome mind, trying to figure out what exactly would have made the anonymous victim so averse to simply knocking on my door. What was it that made them so absolutely furious that they would leave the note in the dead of night, (presumably in the hopes I wouldn't notice when it had been left) and without even seeing my face, take the complaint to the highest authority of condominium regulations in the city? As a side note, the highest authority on condo regulations in the city is accurately comparable to the hamster in the pet store- cute, vaguely respected, and self-empowered, but always bypassed in favour of animals of consequence, puppies, kittens, and in some more exotic pet shops, ferrets. 

It occurred to me, only after hearing a similar story from a friend in my building, that the reason for this aggressively hamster-like behaviour is purely economic. My friend received a similar noise complaint citing, of all things, walking too loudly. Her walking had disturbed someone to the point that a 50 dollar fine seemed in order. It became abundantly clear that the people making these complaints, rattling the hamster cage, so to speak, have absolutely no desire to live around other humans. It isn't that they want respectful neighbours, or to live in a courteous community. They want to live away from neighbours entirely. To complain about and attempt to fine someone for walking too loudly isn't a matter of making sure people respect noise bylaws, it's a matter of telling other people what they can and cannot do on a very broad level. Somehow, paying a higher rent has become tantamount to the demand for common bedtimes, common routines, common tastes and behaviours. These people want to live next to robots, not other people. 

The problem with this kind of apartment living is the mentality that takes root among the more ornery tenants: that if they are paying for a home, they are also paying for the privilege to live within that space in a way that they choose. This is a fair claim. However, what they seem to forget is that every other tenant has the same expectation- everyone pays, everyone uses their space as a home. The problem arises, though, when the odd person believes that their rent payments entitle them to live their lives in the way the desire, free of interference from others. This is an impossible expectation to meet. Neighbours, tenants, renters, owners, are all people, and people make noise. Going to the kitchen and getting food makes noise. Walking to the door to leave for class makes noise. Emptying the dishwasher makes noise. These are not malicious actions. They are simply the things we do in our days, as we live our lives in our little stacked homes. But should those noises spill from one life into another, they suddenly become attacks on the sovereignty of the next unit over. All at once, me vacuuming my apartment after 7pm becomes an act of war, an attempt to annex your kitchenette and sofa.

Should you wish to avoid interaction with others, I suggest you throw yourself in front of a train right now, because you will constantly be let down by your total inability to meet this goal. People make noise, people do the same things you do, people exist outwardly, people move in amongst other people's lives, sounds, wishes, contracts and rent payments. Should someone genuinely offend you, fair enough. But rather than leaving an anonymous note by cover of darkness, try knocking on a door and speaking to the person with whom you have a problem. I can almost guarantee that this will yield a more positive outcome than the bureaucratic hamster aggravation that comes along with alternate mediation mechanisms. 

No amount of rent you pay, no number of gates on a community, no slab of concrete and steel will ever change the fact that people are people. Realize this, then reconsider your anger, and commence feeling like a jackass. Many thanks. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


If there's anyone better at explaining complex world events than John Green, I haven't found them:

Monday, January 5, 2009


This is not a post about the band confusingly named !!!, but rather, a celebration.

Today was to be the first day of classes of the spring semester. My campus, however, is buried beneath what appears to be a mile of snow. Thus, I have no classes.