A Vanity Plea.

In recent times, I have developed an affection for well fitting things with high thread counts and flamboyant patterns. That is to say, I partake in fashion. Years ago I considered it irrational, and perhaps quite wasteful, to invest in clothing--this feeling overcame me to such an extent that the only sort of shopping I didn’t avoid involved only food. Then later, as if to stage some ironic cultural rebellion, I deliberately began to wear ugly clothes. Through doing this, I would let the word know that I cared not for the judgments passed by others. My rebellion was a success.

People would flock to me and say things like, “you look like a schizophrenic” or “are your parents dead?” Of course neither of these things were true but there was good reason to assume otherwise: I had very unsightly faded jeans, a plethora of rug-like sweater vests, and hair that I spent well over a year growing (but not grooming). In hindsight, I’m sure most adults concluded that puberty had raddled my brain too hard. However, I would contend that putting all efforts into looking like an idiot is a perfectly reasonable response to the horrible trappings of high school. So then what changed?

I suppose the most conspicuous answer would be: I grew up. To be more elaborate though: over a long period of time I gradually came to realize that there are profound social implications involved in dressing like a mad man. The first impression is more important to us humans than we would like to admit. Indeed, there are potential employers, friends, colleagues, and, most crucial, members of the opposite sex, that will dismiss you on the grounds that you look homeless.

So, although there are benefits to not dressing badly, it is more difficult to weigh the uses of dressing well. Certainly if people judge you for underdressing, they will just as well judge you for overdressing. It is not hard to assume that the young man who wears a tie to public school is a narcissist--and in turn probably exhibits the same sort of madness as the young man who deliberately dresses like a hobo. Perhaps it is best to endeavor towards normality then.

For all intensive purposes--and to avoid that tedious conversation of what “normal” actually means--we shall say the norm refers to the behavior of the majority in a given context. Then by this definition, it is reasonable to dress like a vagabond well in the company of vagabonds, to dress like a gentlemen when with gentlemen, and to dress bland to avoid thinking about such silly and trivial things.

(Of course, we overgeneralize a bit. Obviously every minute sub-culture has its own dress code that different individuals will react to differently. However, I would argue that most of these groups would react in a similar fashion (pun very much intended) to the dress of the vagabond and the gentlemen. And so, these things are worth exploring.)

W ell then, you ask, why would any reasonable person go out of their way to present themselves as a gentlemen when it seems far easier to “blend in.” For starters, no one ever said the life of the gentlemen is an easy one. It is a physically and mentally strenuous existence. The gentlemen must be capable of simultaneously flying hot air balloons through treacherous conditions whilst calmly sipping tea, to articulate witty and ironic remarks upon defeating an arch-nemesis (ideally near a volcano crater), to carry an intelligent conversation in the midst of a duel, and, of course, to dress finely.

I shouldn't have to explain why you should have interest in dueling insane fascists over boiling magma as Princess Yoko screams for your safety. The benefits of such behavior are self-evident.

Let us summarize the ups and downs of dressing to the extremes then. The attire of a homeless man, or some other totally socially unacceptable fellow, leads to mostly negative assumptions about a person. The attire of the gentlemen is more likely to do the opposite... save the instances when people assume you are an over materialistic bigot.

If nothing else, let us assume that your choice in dress is akin to the way you choose to be perceived. Ideally, we would like to live in a world where the judgments of others are non-existent but, sadly, this is not the case. Therefore, it becomes important for us to make decisions about what we wear.



Sometime between the late 1930's and now, the term hallucinogen became bastardized. There was a point in time when the word provoked scientific curiosity as opposed to images of baggy shirt, tattooed hooligans. There are two reasons for this shift.

The first, probably most recognizable, is the increased use of hallucinogenic substances for recreational purposes.
Sometime in the 1930s, one Albert Hoffman discovered the substance (or rather, isolated) that would come to be recognized as LSD. Around the same time, the great ethnobotanist Richard Schultz published considerable amounts of research regarding a few curious plants used used throughout the Amazon and southern Mexico by indigenous people for religious purpose. Peyotee, Turbina Corymbosa (better know as morning glory), and the Psilocybin Mushroom were amongst them. It has been argued by many that the work of these two men gave birth to modern hallucinogenic culture.

To put it simply, widespread use leads to widespread misuse. Bad press on the substances became common place and most research seized by the 1980s.

The second reason is rooted in, as many contemporary problems are, colonialism. Generally speaking, upon seeing the "unchristian" rituals of many indigenous Mexican and South American tribes, colonizers published literature which demonized use of hallucinogenic "devil plants." I use the word "generally" as I cannot account for every instance of colonial extortion. Rather, I generalize. It is probable though that these early colonial responses to the uses of such plant still leak into society.

Now, as a result of such scrutiny, the public has been fed a wealth of misinformation regarding the nature of hallucinogens. Some of the more scandalous claims I have heard include eroding of the spinal cord, bleeding of the brain, and blinding of the eyes--all as a result of ingestion. This sort of misinformation is both untrue and dangerous.

Education and public access to information regarding safe use of hallucinogens has reached the same stand still that sexual education was once overcome with. Users will not stop existing by hand of simple propaganda. And so, it is more wise to offer transparency of knowledge thereby minimizing misuse.


The Beast.

I came across a great many interesting things this morning well reorganizing and cleaning the basement. Unfortunately, this is not about those things at all. This is about something else I found--something uninteresting.

CHRISTMAS at the FIRESIDE: The Longines Symphonette's complete treasury of nostalgic holiday music--this is the complete name for this unslighly little treasure. It turned up around noon and I have since been pondering its fate. That is to say, I do not want this thing in my basement any longer and I am unsure of the best way remove it.

The first thought in my head, upon discovering the beast, was, "I had best ask mother if it carries any significance." The conversation was as follows:

"Do you want this?" I ask.
"No," she says.
"What should I do with it?" I respond.
"Destroy it," she says.

And so, I take the beast back downstairs and begin considering the implications of my situation. Is this record really so useless that it must be removed? Surely there is some human being out there who appreciates the good melodies of the Longline Symphonette? And what about its more practical other uses?

See, flipped to its back side, CHRISTMAS at the FIRESIDE, becomes an easy replacement for a floor or ceiling tile! Think of the shock and awe upon the faces of your friends and family as you unveil to them the true nature of the the kitchen tile they are standing on!

"Hey, Grandpa, guess what? That thing you're standing on is actually an old record!"

He'll probably give you an apple for being so creative!

A closer study of the cover reveals an astonishing discovery: Recorded in The Longine Symphonette's exclusive "Living Sounds." Some quick research revels that the word "living" refers to the experience of being alive and the word "sound" refers to a specific auditory affect produced by a given cause. Could it be that the sounds on these four discs are, in fact, conscious?

Yes, it has to be true. Sealed on these four vinyls are entities we could never hope to comprehend. My mother was right in asserting its destruction. There is an old colonial axiom that goes, "When you do not understand something, you would do well to eradicate it." This saying has served mankind well so far and I suspect it will do the same to me. Thus, it is on these grounds that I place the beast in a garbage can.


Answering the question.

I tell people a number of things when I'm asked what I study in school. As a result, I get a number of responses--most of which I am now able to horribly anticipate. You see, trying to explain to people that you are getting a bachelor of arts, and are actually a quite sane person, can be trying. I've seriously considered beginning to lie to avoid the whole painful experience:

"Biology. I am studying biology. I am so very passionate about living organism that I decided to make a career out of learning about them. Which living organisms you ask? Well, which ever I want of course. Now leave me alone, I have to go do some god damn biology experiments."

The official degree title is bachelors of Rhetoric and Communications. However, I often sway and simply say "Rhetoric" or "Communications" or "Prerequisites for media work" or--and this one probably lifts the most eyebrows--"Journalism."

But lets start from the top, shall we?

Rhetoric is an interesting one because most people don't know that it's a field of study at all. The ones that pretend they do will jump right into criticizing you for having interest in composing propaganda, deceiving political speeches, and advertisements. Sometimes I take the effort and explain rhetoric is an ancient tradition born in antiquity that deals with the ideal way to communicate in specific situations. This is not restricted to words. We learn about pictures, type face, and architecture.

Of course, there are always the instances where one finds it far easier to simply comply to criticism and state, "You are right. I am an evil bastard. Now leave me alone, I have to go do evil things--rhetorical things..."

Then we have Communications. Apparently this stereotype that all communications students are all ex-football players, who intend to barley trot through university, has become part of mainstream thinking. For this reason, I carry a football around with me at all times in case I am prompted with the opportunity to show people that I am far from being capable of even holding the skewed oval properly.

Prerequisites for media work is the safe one. Its not specific and people usually don't question you any further. When they do, they ask what focus you want to take. It is in this situation that I am forced to spit out the last resort answer...

I am taking journalism. I am going to talk to people and write down what they say to me. I will use lots of words to do this. Yes, I realize I will probably not have a lot of money for the first five or more years of my career. I would be a daft fool to think I would. We don't do this for the money, we do this for the chance of having a career that doubles as a creative outlet--anything else, I am quite sure, would drive me to suicide.

Now leave me alone, I have some god damn journalism to do.


Winnipeg Education: A thought worth noting?

Education is a vital part of human growth and an even more integral part of our society. Because of this, we put momentous efforts into trying to optimize our education systems. We've been trying to learn the best way to learn. Or at very least, create the best possible system for teachers and students to flourish in.

The school divisions here in Winnipeg make use of three such systems.

The first, the one I am most acquainted with, is the provincial curriculum. This is the basis for all education in Manitoba and is offered at all schools. I can't comment on the process involved in building the curriculum but I can say that it's less comprehensive and distinguished than the other two systems we will discuss. This is not to say it's a bad system. It just offers less.

Surely there is something to be said for offering less though? Having the option to work in a lax environment, not being forced to do strenuous amounts of work--this seems like a good thing. There is nothing wrong with investing your time outside of school in other activities. Perhaps this is the strength of the provincial curriculum?

Then we have international baccalaureate, or IB for short. IB is a rigorous curriculum that is geared towards developing global citizens and bringing students up to international education standards. It is generally regarded as the most comprehensive system used in Winnipeg high schools.

Students, in some cases, are taught the equivalent of second year university courses. Once graduated, they are able to transfer these course credits for equivalent university credits. This is all payed for through public education taxes.

High schools in Winnipeg that offer IB

Balmoral High School (note that Balmoral offers both IB and AP programs)

College Louis-Riel

College Sturgeon Heights Collegiate

Kelvin High School

Miles MacDonald Collegiate

Neelin High School

Westwood collegiate

That's seven schools (in all of our fair city) that give their students the opportunity at more comprehensive learning and essentially free university classes.

Last we have the Advanced Placement or AP curriculum. Like IB, AP offers students the opportunity to study college level material and turn their high school credits into university ones. Policies regarding transfer credits differ at each university. U of W, for example, looks more favorably on IB credits than U of M.

High schools in Winnipeg that offer advanced placement (AP)

Balmoral Hall School for Girls

College Jean Sauve

Dakota Collegiate

Daniel McIntyre Collegiate

Elmwood High School

Fort Richmond Collegiate

Gordan Bell High School

Grant Park High School

Gray Academy of Jewish Education

John Taylor Collegiate

Kildonan Collegiate

Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Institute

Murdoch Mackay Collegiate Institute

Oak Park High School

River East Collegiate

Saint Johns High School

Shaftesbury High School

Sisler High School

St-Johns-Ravenscourt School

St-Marry's Academy

St Maurice School Inc

St Paul's High School

Technical Vocational High School (better known as Tec Voc)

Vincent Massey Collegiate

West Gate Mennonite College

So what about all the other schools that aren't on either of these lists? Are they simply inferior? Well, in a way, yes.

Students that don't attend the institutions I listed are not given the option to take more advanced curriculums. Essentially, they are being deprived of opportunities. They don't have the option to study at a higher academic level and they don't have the option to receive university credits.

My point is that although things like funding, administration, and teachers all influence the quality of education a student receives, the main determiner is the curriculum--the material that they study.

There is something profoundly wrong when our public education system does not supply all students in the same city with the same opportunities.

List of AP schools: http://www.ap.ca/cgi-bin/schools.cgi?state=MB
IB schools: http://www.ibo.org/school/search/index.cfm?programmes=&country=CA&region=MB&find_schools=Find
Mallard: http://animal.discovery.com/guides/wild-birds/gallery/mallard_duck.jpg


Dear humankind.

Today I slept in. That's right, instead of waking up early like the working man should, endeavoring to bring about some kind of positive life progress, I needlessly, and perhaps hedonistically, lay in utter silence and mindlessness. I didn't even dream.

On the contrary, I might argue that there is benefit to sleeping in. Am I now more sympathetic towards those that are bed-ridden for life, living in perpetual comatose states? Yes, I would like to think so.

So to that avail, I would say to you all that over-sleeping is a righteous and moral thing. Furthermore, like recycling, treating others equally, and washing your hands, it is the duty of all humans to do so. It is only through such means that we are able to truly understand the less fortunate. Through sleeping, we become better people.


Why the book is always better then the movie... or something...

Lets face it, film adaptations of books, comics and games are more then often slandered by audiences and critiques alike. To be honest, I am not sure a good game movie has ever been made. Comic books also have a long history of meager film adaptations. Book adaptations, being the oldest of these three genres, seem to have a higher success rate. Perhaps we can attribute this success to the fact that directors have been adapting novels a lot longer then these other mediums. Has Hollywood finally figured out how to properly transpose a book? No, I think what Hollywood has finally figured out is that books, films and comics are all very different things.

What a great discovery.

We're getting ahead of ourselves here. Lets look at the two main reasons why trying to carry a story over to a different medium, then one in which it was composed, is so difficult:

Main reason #1: It is difficult to tell a story that you have not written.

Your job as a "re-story teller" is to convey the same ideas and emotions that were conveyed in the original story. The problem here is that art is so subjective that it often becomes frustrating to discern the same meanings that the original author was trying to convey. Thus, the "re-story teller" must take what he/she can out of the film and present it to the best of his/her ability. Even if you manage to convey the same thoughts as the original author it is almost impossible to get them perfect. In truth, you will never have the same frame of mind that the original author had to work with.

Main Reason #2: It is difficult to tell a story using a medium in which it was not conceived.

Each of these three mediums mentioned carries specific traits that lend it specific strengths and weaknesses. For example, and I think I may have mentioned this before, I would argue that one advantage to the graphic novel genre is that the composer can present multiple ideas, character thoughts and images in a single panel--in a single time frame. You can know what a character is thinking well he is talking. Now at first glance this might seem like a trivial feature but to a master of the medium it becomes an important tool for utilizing the uniqueness of comic book style story telling. One obvious advantage to film, amongst many, is the way the medium employs sound and tone. Tonality is an important aspect of communication and it is far easier to convey in film then any other medium.

What I am trying to get at is that the medium in which a story is composed has influence over the overall structure of the story. It is thus impossible to convey the same ideas in a different medium in the same way. No matter what you do, the copied product will have some differences.

Is this picture relevant to our discussion? Only a little bit.

Some form of conclusion:

Story's written in a specific medium are written to take advantage of the strengths and weaknesses of that medium. When a story is transposed from one medium to another it looses all the prestige associated with the traits of the original medium that make it function so well. In short, books have innate qualities that films do not.