Friday, July 31, 2009

I Hope You and This Blog Post "CLICK!"

There's a sign in the bathroom at school that shows a woman holding her hands up, with the areas where bacteria and poop accumulate highlighted on them. Below this, it reads:

Infection prevention is "IN YOUR HANDS."

I find it hilarious, because like, imagine someone saying this in real life. "Hey, wanna practice safe hand-washing techniques? Well, infection prevention is... look, air quotes... I'm about to make a joke... infection prevention is ... IN YOUR HANDS!!!!!! [*holds up hands*] Hahahahahahaha get it? Like, in your hands, your responsibility, but also literally in your hands because it is your hands you are washing. Isn't that clever?"

It combines the bad idea of using caps-lock for emphasis with the outright mistake of misusing quotation marks for emphasis, all in service of removing all the subtlety from a bad pun. This in a place of higher education.

It reminds me of of this:


It's a bit more subtle in its punnage, but that tends to make people respond "well actually, blood is in me to keep my internal organs functioning." So maybe you can't win either way.

Then again, I'm the only one who thinks about grammar and punctuation this much, so to most people it's probably all the same.

Edit Aug 14: I've been informed that it's actually: Infection prevention is in "YOUR HANDS". Same point though.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Effort To Keep Things Out of My Mouth, and Also Jessica Alba

You know what's the worst? Time-exclusive food availability. For example, I got this candy cane hot chocolate from Second Cup last Christmas. It is absolutely delicious, either on its own, or in coffee, or in homemade Oreos, and it's only available around Christmas time. I've been rationing it carefully, hoping it could last until next December, when I could stock up on on 10 or 20 cans of it. But despite my best efforts to keep it out of my mouth (that'swhatshesaid), now it's almost gone, and what the fuck am I supposed to drink until winter? It's going to be a cold, dark, disgusting remainder of the year.

The other excrutiating example of time-exclusive food is, of course, McDonalds.



Big Macs and greasy french fries are okay, but only because they kinda sorta remind me of McDonalds' breakfast. Hash browns, breakfast burritos, Egg McMuffins, or the mighty all-in-one food product, the McGriddle, it doesn't get much better than that. Yet the best McDonalds has to offer is only available until 11:00 at the latest. Yes yes, I'm only falling for the psychological principle of scarcity that sold Cabbage Patch Kids and the Wii; people want what's rare or hard to obtain. There's also probably a bit of cognitive dissonance going on; I went through the effort of waking up before noon for this? Well it must taste delicious then.

Even so, sometimes I'd love me some McGriddles in the afternoon.


Here is a picture. I do not know why Jessica Alba is surrounded by giant unrealistically perfect heavenly floating McGriddles, but it's the first image that comes up when you search for them in Google, and it combines four of my favourite things in the world. *fap fap fap*



Monday, July 27, 2009

Algonquin Trip 2009

"I hope something terrible happens that changes our perspective on life forever."

That's the tongue in cheek text message I sent to Geoff, the organizer of the canoe trip, the day before we set off. It quickly became apparent that the universe failed to pick up on the sarcasm.


We set out in pouring rain and it hardly stopped for hours of canoeing to a camp site on Tom Thomson Lake in Algonquin Park (about here). The rain soaked through sleeping bags, it created a lake inside our tent, and worst of all, it fucked up a medical device that one of us sorta needs to not die. That sent two of our group desperately canoeing away for help before dark fell, while the other two of us stayed to guard the camp and await rescue.

There are some perspective-changing things that go through your mind while lying awake on a cold, wet ground, unsure if your friends are okay and how you'll get out of the middle of nowhere. Stuff like "I'll never take for granted how comforting it is just to have telephones around"; "how could I have ever complained about stuff like doing laundry, when I should be happy just to have dry clothes"; "I should just tell people how much I care about them, because life is short." You know, the usual stuff everyone knows but often doesn't really feel.


All of us got home safe, a bit earlier than expected but the short time we spent there was an exciting adventure that I'll never forget. And the thing is, now that I'm back home, maybe I appreciate a bit more being able to shit without a horse-fly taking a chunk of flesh out of my ass, but that stinky damp camp laundry is still sitting there unclean. Which perhaps highlights a defining human trait: adaptability. We can think and do what we need to in order to survive even the most dire circumstances with our physical and mental health intact. But once we're back in cushy modern life, we go back to taking it for granted and striving for more abstract - and often shallow - goals than mere survival.

Still, I like to think that I'll appreciate life in civilization just a little bit more than I used to, sweat the small stuff less (i.e., be a take-it-easy), and care about what matters more.



Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Internot


This "internet" thing, it sure takes up a lot of time. So does television, and movies, and phones. And the printing press, and looms. And WTF is with running water and electricity? Screw all of it. I'm going to live in the woods until I can't stand it any more.

That will probably be next week.

See you then.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Lenzr? I Don't Even Know R.

Disclosure: I'm being paid to write this, but it's cool anyway. Disclaimer: I don't endorse any illegal activities or cheating.

I know a lot of you who read this are photographers, and a lot (perhaps most) of you are from Toronto or go there a lot. If there is any overlap between those two groups, then you'll want to know about Lenzr. It's a Toronto photo contest where you win prizes that are actually pretty sweet, for uploading the most popular photos as judged by visitors to the site. Anyone can vote without even registering (i.e., spam your Facebook, Twitter, and blog to get people to vote for you).

There are currently three contests going on:


Summer in Toronto: This one is about summer. In Toronto. If I were a photographer type I'd go for this one, not only because you can win an iPhone (courtesy of the site that apparently has the best cell phone plans), but because you can actually put some thought into what summer in Toronto means to you, then go out and photograph some artsy fartsy depiction of it.



Emergency in Toronto: Okay, this is getting a little weirder. Take a photo of emergency personnel doing their jobs, and win a watch (because every second counts in an emergency...get it?) donated by a time management consultant. This contest, well, it's not really a photo shoot you can plan ahead of time. Unless of course you are a supervillain and are the one causing the disasters you photograph, Mr. Glass style. But who really wears watches any more? Every cell phone is a pocket watch. A wrist watch is kinda redundant, then, unless you're obsessed with time. Like, for example, if you need to precisely time your involvement with a complex plan to cause disaster. Just sayin'.


Best Toronto Skyline: The last photo contest is exactly what it sounds like. You can win a Pentax camera for this one, and it looks like a good one. It records 720p high definition video, and has "Pixel Track Shake Reduction," which sounds like a Japanese dancing/cooking video game, so I'm sure it's very useful. I can't see there being much variation in the candidates here; the skyline is the skyline, so every good picture should look like every other good picture. Unless, of course, you add your own little touches. Like, say, a giant monster that someone accidentally let loose on Toronto. Again, just sayin'.

To meet other people involved in the contest and/or learn how to game the system, check out the Lenzr blog and Lenzr forum. There's also more about it over on blogfriend Dead Robot's blog.

I know many of you are fantastic photographers (e.g., those who participated in the highly successful Worldwide Photo Walk), so get snapping and make it snappy. Because the site just launched, there's a very good chance of winning while it's still relatively small. Prizes and fame will be yours if you are willing to pay the ultimate price.

Friday, July 17, 2009

F2F & IRL, APU

A while back I wrote about the crumbling line between the internet and "real life". Not only have I run into 3 different Twitter-people (I refuse to say tweeple) in the last 24 hours, but check out local blogger Brian Frank's latest post that demonstrates this perfectly.

We now live in a world where two people can inadvertently broadcast thoughts about each other to the world, and only realize it later. Luckily in this case there was no use of the words "some douchebag" (although there was a bit of insulting of laundry skills); however, I imagine as we move in the future, the sentence "there is some jerk beside me on his phone, probably blogging about me while I tweet about him blogging about me tweeting about him" will not only make perfect sense, but express an everyday occurance.

Which reminds me of my new favourite 3-letter acronym: APU (as per usual).






Joel Plaskett at Aeolian Hall, July 16th

Joel Plaskett played last night at Aeolian Hall. It was a fantastic show; the dude is ridiculously talented. For the majority of the concert, he played completely solo, just him singing and one of three different guitars.


Aeolian Hall is tiny, so everyone at the sold-out show got good seats. It felt very intimate, with Plaskett telling the stories behind his songs to the rapt audience. When people shouted out requests, he was happy to drop whatever plans he had to accommodate them. This sort of audience interaction, along with some improvisation and alternate versions of his songs, elevated the show way above a live rendition of his albums.



For me, music is all about emotion, and Plaskett really gives the impression that he is feeling what he's singing.


He was joined by Peter Elkas for several portions of the show. I gotta admit, I'd never heard of him before last night (though he seemed vaguely familiar), but he was a great compliment to Plaskett's music and humour.




The dudes even stayed around after the show to sign stuff and chat with fans. I shook Joel's hand! OMG! But anyway, I highly recommend seeing Joel Plaskett live if given the chance. Best show I've seen in a long time.

Oh and I managed to win two tickets to another show at the Hall in August, because I am very skilled at winning random draws. Who wants to be my date?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Overheard

As I write this, I'm in a psychology lab running participants for an experiment in my PhD dissertation. But you know, sometimes, it's the findings that you stumble across while doing research that are just as interesting as the results you're actively seeking out.

For example, when first setting up the study, I had to go through horror movies in slow motion, frame by frame, to find the imagery I needed. After getting over the "really? they're making me a doctor for watching movies?" feeling, I observed the following facts:

  • There are not many moments in a horror movie with nothing scary going on. Especially in modern horror, every frame is saturated with disturbing oooh-look-how-creepy-this-is imagery. I think this has the ironic effect of making the movie as a whole less effective. Scares are relative to calm; without calm there are no scares.
  • Most of what we see on film is blurry. Our brains put it together just fine to make it seem like we're watching clear, continuous motion, but if you freeze at any given moment, it's likely to be a smeared mess of colour.
  • If you pause a movie at a random point, there is a 99% chance that it will depict two people standing around talking. This is what most entertains us. Overheard conversations.
Now people are sitting beside me, gasping at the imagery I'm paying them to click and type in response to, and I'm learning something else:

  • People vary a lot in how loud they type and how loud they click. Give two people the same task on the same keyboard, and some will be completely silent, while others will sound like they gave up and threw the keyboard down a flight of stairs. Even mice, with their limited range of activities, can sound different depending on whose fingers are fondling them. Try it right now...you can make two different sounds; a simple click from applying gentle pressure, or if you pull back and unleash your full finger strength, a sort of click-thunk sound. A set of moving mice can be an infinitely varied cacophony, depending on the mousers' differing lift/drag ratios.

I think I'll drop my current project and start studying office noises instead.



Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Children of the Corn

There's a commercial for bottled water on TV right now that shows kids frolicking in a swimming pool, and a voiceover goes something like: "your children don't swim in high fructose corn syrup."

The conclusion you're supposed to draw, I guess, is that your kids shouldn't eat foods with high fructose corn syrup, and should instead drink this particular brand of bottled water.

Here are some other things your children do not swim in:
  • Vegetables
  • Toothpaste
  • Looking both ways when crossing the road
  • Politeness
Yet, in my humble opinion, these should be included in every child's life.

It's such a dumb argument that I feel stupider just writing about it. But I'm sure there are millions of people out there who will see the ad and say, "oh golly, that there ad is right huh? My kids don't swim in corn syrup! And I heard on them there news program that corn syrup is doggone toxic! Honey, can you go down to the store and get some bottl- DAMMIT BRANDON GET OFF THE FUCKING SHED!"

Of course, the truth is that high fructose corn syrup is just like any other sugar and is only being used as a villainous contrast to sell a product you get for free out of taps in every modern home. Sorta the opposite of calling something "green."

In conclusion, when I have kids, I will dunk them in high fructose corn syrup.1



1 Baptmaizem?



Edit July 16: As usual, the comments here are more interesting than the post itself. Be sure to read them. Like this gem:

"Your kids don't swim in vaginas, either, but they wouldn't be here if they hadn't." --Jack (whose blog is one of my favourites, so I recommend clickity clicking on over).


Monday, July 13, 2009

The Dead Squirrel Conundrum

The following exchange has recently been unearthed from the online archives of the University of Western Ontario's school newspaper, The Gazette. It occurred in October of 1998, when the instigator of the discussion was just a budding first-year undergraduate student.

Get that dead thing outta here

Re: Dead things on campus

To the Editor:

A few days ago, I was wandering down the main path leading up UC Hill (or down UC Hill, depending on which direction you're going), when I came across an odd sight. A dead squirrel was beside the path and it was in perfect condition.

I'm used to seeing smooshed squirrels by the side of the road, but this one looked like it was just walking along, doing whatever squirrels do, when its body ceased to work. Ok, so I suppose squirrels can have heart attacks too, but it was still a bit freaky.

Anyway, I figured that within a few hours the little guy would be taken away and given a proper burial by Western's fine janitorial staff. However, when I walked by again a few hours later, it was still there, in exactly the same position as before. Ok, so nobody had noticed it yet. Fair enough. But the real shocker came when I walked past again the next day and still, nobody had taken it away.

While I personally wasn't terribly upset by the sight of the dead squirrel, I'm sure that one person out of the thousands that walk by that path every day was. You'd think that one of those garbage sucker machines could come along and suck the thing up before some squeamish person pukes on it.

This would make an even grosser mess, causing someone else to puke on it and eventually you have a chain reaction going (ever seen Stand By Me?) that could lead to a very slippery hill. I won't even mention the smell.

This letter has two points. First, whoever is in charge of removing dead things from the campus should be a little more swift in the future. Second, if you see any dead things lying around, please suppress the urge to vomit.

Mike [LAST NAME REDACTED]

Undeclared I





Someone else

Re: Dead things on campus, Oct. 21

To the Editor:

I was meandering up UC Hill yesterday, as did Mike [REDACTED], when I noticed the dead squirrel. The only difference was that it was between two rocks, which had undoubtedly been used to pound the creature's body into the flattened state I found it in. Also, its tail had been snapped off and was found a few feet away.

Needless to say, I was disgusted. Yet, unlike Mr. [REDACTED] (and other students), I took action. I contacted The Gazette and the University Students' Council, which in turn called the police. The office I met with on the hill called someone from maintenance and, presumably, the rotting and bludgeoned corpse has been disposed of.

At the time, I had no idea the body had been there for a few days. I personally thought it had been part of a cruel prank. Mr. [REDACTED], why didn't you contact someone the moment you found the body? Why didn't you complain after seeing the pitiful squirrel for a second day? The problem with most people is that they always assume "someone else will do it."

Please remember that we are all "someone else" to someone else – it is best to get things done yourself. Next time, Mr. [REDACTED], take action – don't just complain about it.

Sarah [REDACTED]

Psychology I



Squirrel response

Re: Someone else, Oct. 22

To the Editor:

I'm writing in response to Sarah [REDACTED]'s letter in Oct. 22's Gazette.

First of all, I must say that I truly respect her for reporting the mutilated squirrel on UC Hill to the appropriate people. This shows that she is much less apathetic than myself and all of the other people who noticed the squirrel.

However, I must defend myself by saying that my letter was not so much a complaint, but more of an observation. Western's campus is one of the most beautiful in Canada and the maintenance people usually do an excellent job of keeping it clean. I just found it odd that it took them so long to dispose of this unusual piece of trash.

Secondly, to whoever ripped off the dead squirrel's tail and then flattened its body – WHY exactly did you do that? Beating dead squirrels puts you above even the "preppy gang" on the wimpiness scale.

Perhaps you've had traumatic encounters with squirrels in the past (I know I have), but what you did will just make the other squirrels mad at you. I suggest you move to a city without trees.

Mike [REDACTED]

Undeclared I






Them crazy squirrel lovers

Re: Squirrel Response, Oct. 27



To the Editor:

I'd like to apologize for my hasty and frustrated response to Mike [REDACTED]'s letter (Oct. 21, "Get that dead thing outta here").

I misinterpreted his letter as being a childish complaint, rather than the commentary it was meant to be. However, I still believe he should have taken action. I'm glad to know he's not the lazy, apathetic whiner I first took him to be. Sorry, Mike!

Further, I am just as puzzled as Mike [REDACTED] as to the condition I found the squirrel in. Who exactly beat the dead body to a pulp? Who snapped its tail off? These acts of brutality are NOT supported by our society! I never thought a fellow Western student could stoop to such a level.

To that person, I'd like to say two things. One, I have no respect for you and what you did. Two, why didn't you take the time used to massacre the corpse and do something more productive, such as study, or even contact maintenance to have it cleaned up? Or more importantly, appreciate the beauty of our campus. For, by acting the way you did, you showed us that you have no pride in this, OUR Alma Mater.

I understand and respect the fact that not everyone loves squirrels. However, that doesn't mean you have the right to act in such a fashion. The first step to becoming a human is learning co-existence. Don't forget to inform the rest of us of the day you gain an opposable thumb.

Sarah [REDACTED]

Psychology I





It should also be mentioned that the day the last letter was published, I sat down in a random free seat in my psychology class, and noticed that someone sitting beside me was showing the paper to her friends. Eavesdropping, it became clear that she was, in fact, Sarah, the author of the letters. I introduced myself and she apologized again for her letter. Hilarious. I wonder if she stayed in psychology? I hope so, because I'll probably run into her again someday and can bring up our epic squirrel discussion.




Friday, July 10, 2009

Search Terms Used to Find Phronk.com, Volume 6

Here is how you got here:




It's also funny how search terms seem to become popular in waves. At one point I suddenly got a lot of hits from people searching for the Oatmeal Crisp guy. There was also a "wave" of searches for info about breaking the seal.


See also: Other terms used to find this place.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The Doggone Song is Mine

Sometimes I get a strange feeling when I hear Michael Jackson songs on the radio or TV. I don't mean the big ones - Billie Jean or Bad or Heal the World - but the lesser-known songs that didn't get as much play - Dirty Diana, or Human Nature, or Give In To Me. I think it's because these songs seem private to me. I mostly only heard them while sitting alone in my parents' basement with a big pair of headphones plugged into a cassette player. These were some of my first, formative experiences with really listening to music. Exploring every inch of its soundscape, letting it in on the highs and lows of my emotionally tumultuous teenage life. So when I hear one of those songs on TV, it's like that song has been cheating on me; running around and getting intimate with millions of other people behind my back.

Slutty, slutty songs.

On a related note: It kinda breaks my heart that this guy will wake up this morning to find people all over the world making fun of him because of his appearance. Sure, he made a weird face as he started the song and his eyes are a bit lizard-like, but his voice was good, and it's gotta be painful to know that so many people are judging you for something you can't help. Poor dude.

On another related note: To people who are saying "can we stop hearing MJ songs on the radio now?" or "oh my gawd, enough with MJ" : shut the fuck up. Seriously. Whether you like it or not, whether it's warranted or not, Jackson's life and death are a big deal to a lot of people. If you don't like it, don't associate with people.

I'm emo today.



Tuesday, July 07, 2009

No Doubt and Paramore, Live at the JLC

Oh, hey, I almost forgot, I saw Paramore and No Doubt live last week. They were both incredible. Paramore played some songs from their upcoming album and I'm looking forward to hearing the rest of it. No Doubt had an impressively flashy, polished show. I only had my iPhone with me, so uh, the photos aren't so good.


Yeah. It was better in real life. Sarah sent me a text message during the show accusing me of having a crush on the lead singer of Paramore, and I think she's sorta right.


See?

The iPhone couldn't really handle distant concert video much better.



But you get the idea.

Here's No Doubt. At least you can kinda see the awesome set they had going on.

 



Not quite visible here: Gwen Stefanie's insanely defined abs.

Anyway, awesome concerts. I recommend seeing them if you get the chance.



Monday, July 06, 2009

Death 2.0

This is now a web comic.

While I was on the toilet I thought of a comic that was hilarious in my head. So I made it out of my head and on paper instead.



It is a deep commentary on the nature of technology and the current celebpocalypse.



Saturday, July 04, 2009

The Horrors of Internet Dating, Volume 2

OMG you guys.

Remember that post about internet dating from a while back, and all the people I cruelly made fun of? Well, "lol spare of the moment!!!!!!" girl (this one) just sent me a message out of the blue. She wants to chat.

What the hell should I do?

I dislike ignoring people, especially for shallow reasons. Rejecting someone based purely on their poor word choices and use of exclamation points is just as shallow as rejecting them because they are ugly (which she is not). But I can't give her my chat info or she'll find this blog and know what a horrible person I am. That's why you can't mix the internet and real life! Oh wait....

Plus, what kind of a future could we have? Does that matter? Why can't I just be one of those people who aspires to meaningless sex and nothing more? Life would be so much easier if societal stereotypes about masculinity had their intended effect on me.

FML.

Friday, July 03, 2009

The Crumbling Line Between IRL and The Internet

I used to keep my internet life completely isolated from my real life. I'd never reveal my real name online, and rarely reveal my internet activities in real life. I remember setting up modem games of the original Doom with Cailen by email, because I didn't want to give him my phone number (and of course this was even more complicated, because back then - we're talking 1994 here - the internet, modem, and voice calls all used up the phone line).

Back then it made sense. The ability to communicate in real time with anyone, anywhere in the world, it was still novel. It was an experience so far removed from everyday reality that it could easily be compartmentalized as a separate world visited with a separate identity. The internet made multiple personality disorder sufferers of us all.

But now the internet is, for me and for most people, an integral part of real life. Online is just another place to be, like at work or at a bar. A place that can instantly be teleported to by whipping a smart phone out of your pocket - but even that doesn't seem so weird any more. The internet is not a new world, it's just a regular part of this one.

Look at a recent post by Shine, where she is distressed because her extremely candid blog has been discovered by her mom. I know how that feels, because I know that some of my family members have somehow found this blog. Hi family. On one hand, it does somewhat limit what I can write about it. On the other, it's cool to know that I'm keeping in touch with family at the same time I'm blabbing to the anonymous masses.

Going in the opposite direction, I've had internet friendships that crossed over into real life. Attending Podcamp London, it was nice to connect in a different way with people I'd previously only chatted with in the local Twitter and blogging scene. I ran into Cailen at the bar the other day. And on Wednesday, Sarah - who I've known for years through every form of communication except reality - came to visit. It felt like meeting up with a friend I've known forever, which is of course exactly what it was. But at the same time, reality, with its analogue waves of light and sound bouncing directly from one person to another, has a richness that can't be matched by technology.

Still, the line between the internet and real life has become so blurred that I feel strange calling it "real life." This, right here as I write this and you read it, is real life too. Thanks for being part of it.




P.S. This is the second in an unintentional series of explorations into 3-letter internet acronyms. WTF, now IRL, and coming up next, FML.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Emotion of WTF

WTF should be an emotion. There isn't yet a single word for the sense of seeing something that totally boggles the mind; it's related to confusion, but not the same thing. Confusion is aversive, while WTF leads to LOLs and a state of blissful unawareness of what's going on. It's more like confusion feeding into a jolt of happy surprise.


The Dadaists and surrealists didn't quite have a name for it either, but they certainly understood WTF. While they wrapped their work up in a philosophical movement and reaction to existing art, it would never have caught on if people didn't have an inborn love for the non-sequitur.


Many artists get their inspiration from dreams, and dreams illustrate that we all have nightly encounters with WTF. When left to their own devices, our brains rejoice in the random. We're built to like it, and I suspect this serves an evolutionary purpose. Love for the outlandishly mysterious is part of the same drive that allowed early humans to figure out why the clashing rocks and the sparks and the fire always went together. It's the same stuff that fuels science today.


We must celebrate the random. Bathe ourselves in nonsense. WTF.


Some more pictures from the internet's leading source of WTF, Picture is Unrelated:

 


Edit June 3: See also Calvin's flattering post that expands upon the notion of WTF.