Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Best Most Listened-To Albums of 2011

I use Last.fm to keep track of all the music I listen to, and every year I like to look back and see which music I listened to most, then post the top 10 here for all to see and judge.

I've bolded ten albums throughout these lists. Call these my consciously chosen top 10, if I was going by something other than the number of times I've played them.

Before getting to the top 10, here are some honourable mentions that didn't crack the top ten. I'd totally recommend giving these a listen if you were into music.

  • The Black Keys - El Camino
  • Born Gold - Bodysongs
  • Cake - Showroom of Compassion
  • Cut Copy - Zonoscope
  • David Guetta - Nothing But the Beat
  • The Dears - Degeneration Street
  • The Decemberists - The King is Dead, and Long Live the King
  • Dum Dum Girls - Only in Dreams
  • Florence and the Machine - Ceremonials
  • Justice - Audio, Video, Disco
  • Kanye West and Jay Z - Watch the Throne
  • Ladytron - Gravity the Seducer
  • Man Man - Life Fantastic
  • Neon Indian - Era Extrana
  • Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds (self-titled)
  • Radiohead - The King of Limbs
  • The Rapture - In the Grace of Your Love
  • Rihanna - Talk That Talk
  • Tycho - Dive
  • Washed Out - Within and Without
  • Zola Jesus - Conatus

And now, the top ten:


10. Lights - Siberia

It may be hard to see past the Biebs when it comes to Canadian pop music, but Lights manages to shine through. Her second album avoids being more of the same, with a sound that borrows some of the griminess of dubstep without sounding like she's trying too hard (see #3 on this list), but avoiding the grime of cheap sleazy lyrics (again, see #3 on this list).

See also: my review of Lights' concert at London Music Hall. Oh and another lovely pop album this year was Ellie Goulding's "Lights."


9. MUTEMATH - Odd Soul

I hadn't paid much attention to MUTEMATH before 2011, despite their insistence on ALWAYS SHOUTING THEIR NAME. Their new bluesy, perhaps soulful sound managed to hook me. I couldn't stop listening to Odd Soul.


8. The Antlers - Burst Apart

It's not exactly a feel-good album, but Burst Apart pokes the same "happy to be sad" buttons as bands like Portishead. If you couldn't tell by the title, "Putting the Dog to Sleep" ends it in a place so depressing it almost circles back to funny.


7. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Belong

I tried turning The Pains of Being Pure at Heart into an acronym - TPBPH - then saying it out loud. Try it out, it's hilarious. TPBPH. Teepeebeepee. LOL. Anyway, good album.


6. Mister Heavenly - Out of Love

I've expressed doubt about supergroups before, but the unholy union of Islands' Nicholas Thorburn, Man Man's Honus Honus, and Modest Mouse's Joe Plummer is a possible exception. It starts with Bronx Sniper, which could almost be mistaken for an Islands song. But then Honus's gravelly vocals kick in, complementing and transforming the sound into something unique. Is this "doom-wop" any better than the members' individual projects? Probably not, but it's still worth sticking in your ear holes.



5. M83 - Hurry Up, We're Dreaming

M83 made #1 on my 2008 list, and this long-awaited follow-up is just as worthy. Its impact still relies heavily on being soaked in nostalgia, but it's now taken to a more epic scale, bringing in every genre, instrument, and cliche you can think of. It could've been a mess, but there is a certain feeling that holds on through all 22 tracks. This album is a dream come true and you should hurry up and listen to it.


4. Mother Mother - Eureka

Meh. I probably wouldn't have chosen to put this in my top ten, but there it is. Mother Mother has their own sound, and Eureka is a more Mother-Mother-ish album than any before. It almost borders on self-parody, with the cheesy little-girl voices and forced quirkiness. Like, in The Stand, "everyone's f---ed an they don't even know" is censored throughout, until the end, when he finally blurts out "fucked," then laughs as if it's the most edgy, uproarious trick to hit music since Get the Funk Out. Oh you. If the music itself wasn't so damn catchy, I could maybe hit the stop button.

See also: my close encounter with Mother Mother.


3. Britney Spears - Femme Fatale

Errr. Whatever. Like I said last year, I'm no longer reluctant to admit that I listen to a lot of painfully mainstream music. And as far as mainstream goes, Britney does it well. The first half of Femme Fatale is some of the best dance-pop I heard this year. Its thrills come cheap—the breakdown in Hold It Against Me is a blatant grab at dubstep's exploding popularity, and the album's lyrics scream "omg sex! Look how much sex is here!"—but still, it works. There are even moments that could be considered clever, like in the weirdly moving ode to breakup sex, Inside Out, when Britney moans "hit me one more time," then "you're the only one who ever drove me crazy," jamming her past hits into a new context. The last few songs lose steam, but there are a few that I can't help but listen to over and over, so Britney's handlers done good.


2. The Sounds - Something to Die For

I was only vaguely familiar with this Swedish band before this year, but then my girlfriend sent Something to Die For over, thinking I would like it. She knows me well. I'm a sucker for music inspired by the 80s, and on this album The Sounds embrace the synth-pop aspect of that decade. The lyrics aren't exactly deep, or entirely comprehensible English ("something is worth to die for"???), but that hardly matters when you're bobbing your head and longing to bounce on a pogo ball.


1. Lady GaGa - Born This Way

Oh how things have changed. Lady GaGa won the only "worst album of the year" award I've ever given out, back in 2008, for The Fame. Yet things haven't really changed much, because she still makes catchy but vapid songs that get stuck in your head and your iPod. I was hoping for more from Born This Way. With GaGa pushing the boundaries in her videos and fashion choices, and Fame Monster going in some new directions musically, Born This Way could have taken it to the next level. Yet we're left with more of the same: some irresistible but by-the-numbers pop songs, with lyrics that are too literal and obvious to drum up any meaningful controversy (you're in love with Judas?! Oooh, scandalous!). But it's 17+ tracks, few of which are boring, so I guess I listened to more songs from this album than any other.

Criticism aside, YoĆ¼ and I is one of the best pop songs of the year, and comes with one of the best videos of the year:



There's the list. Oooh, and here's a pretty visualization from LastGraph:


Did I miss any music that you jammed in your ears this year? Let me know.



See also:


Thursday, December 01, 2011

Book Review: The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

[Very minor spoilers lie ahead]

The Hunger Games tells the story of a teen girl living in a future, post-post-apocalyptic world, where an obviously-evil government keeps the people in line by throwing a handful of them into a televised fight to the death in an outdoor arena once a year. Although it doesn't happen right away (more on that later), it's pretty easy to guess that she gets involved in the titular Hunger Games.

The concept may sound like a sci-fi trope, but Collins does a good job of painting a world that feels unique despite borrowing pieces from other stories in its genres. The first third or so of the book is mostly setup for the inevitable beginning of the Games. It could've been boring, knowing the story is taking its time to begin, but it's interesting enough due to the colourful character development, world-building, and writing style.

Then the action kicks into gear, and something odd happens. The writing quality drops immediately the moment the Hunger Games actually begin. It's as if the latter two-thirds were written by another author (or an author who wrote the first chapters years after the latter ones). What begins as straightforward YA-level prose begins sounding like a teenager's blog. Rambling tangents come back with "anyway", ellipses replace proper punctuation, and there are outright typos. I half-expected sentences to start ending in "lol."

It's not too distracting, and makes some sense given the first-person narrator's age, but the fluctuation in style was a bit jarring.

Anyway, the story itself is about what you'd expect given the premise. There is some mild satire of reality television and some mild violence (but this ain't no Battle Royale). Some unexpected twists have impact, but some expected showdowns are a letdown. Maybe it's a further subtle bit of satire to have some of the major plot points happen "off camera," but it's anticlimactic storytelling. Despite my pickiness, it's a good story that's often hard to put down, and anyone who's up with the premise would enjoy it. I'm looking forward to the movie.



This was also the first book I read on a Kindle. I have mixed feelings about that. On one hand, it was a joy being able to sit under a tree in the sunshine (yeah, took me a while to get around to this review) with the tiny Kindle in one hand, flipping pages with the push of a button. On the other, when I wanted to skim the book while writing this review, I couldn't. And what if I wanted to come back to it in 10 years? If technology changes too much, or Amazon bites the bullet, or I get another company's incompatible device, my DRM-infected e-book is lost.

I'll probably only use the Kindle for cheap books I'll never want to read again (Hunger Games fits that bill). In other words, my feelings haven't changed since I wrote this: Vote for Books: Screens vs. Real Paper. Go print that out and read it.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

On Complaining About Technology

I don't complain much, but when I do, it's usually about technology. I have an unfortunate combination of bad luck and high standards when it comes to gadgets. Literally, whenever I buy anything with greater complexity than lettuce, it has some flaw, either minor and only noticeable to my hyper-critical eye1 or a major defect2. At least nothing has outright exploded, though not everyone is so lucky (see: iPhone spontaneously combusts aboard flight). It's tempting to become a cynical old ass, shaking my wooden stick (not a microchip in it!) and grumbling about how quality control has gone down the stinker and nothing works like it should. I've certainly given into that temptation a few times.

But think of it this way:

We are a bunch of animals. We were crafted by nature to root around in the dirt, find food, then go home and fuck. Yet we've taken some of that dirt and, with nothing more than our grubby hands and abnormally large brains, we've made tubes of steel that can fly us through the air. We've burned sand until we have a slab of glass that allows us to have nudity and food delivered to us by poking at it. "Technology" isn't some mysterious black toaster that pops out perfect gleaming gadgets. We're literally grabbing whatever imperfect raw materials we find lying around the planet, and sticking them into arrangements that accomplish things no other animal can fathom.

Arthur C. Clarke said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. But the people crafting our gadgets (and crafting the machines that craft our gadgets) are not magicians. They are humans, animals, maybe a bit smarter than you or I, but only by a little bit. They're working with limited time and limited resources. They get tired. Sometimes the best they can do is try pretty hard, and hope it's good enough.

Thinking of it this way, it's odd to complain.

Maybe a dead pixel on my phone's screen "shouldn't" be there, but a bunch of strangers managed to get me 614,399 working pixels that beam all of humanity's accomplishments directly into my eyes. I can probably live with it. I can probably manage to enjoy everything that works despite the small parts that don't.

There are exceptions; technologies that are defective by design (e.g., DRM, planned obsolescence) are inexcusable. The average gadget works pretty well though, and although it's not terrible to strive for perfection, I also need a moment to shut up and revel in the the awesomeness of the imperfect magic people have managed to weave.




1 E.g., backlight bleed on my iPad 2, suboptimal battery life on my Kindle, phosphor trails on my TV.

2 E.g., cutting out audio on my iPhone 4S, a computer with a display that occasionally turns to grey fuzz, six dead Xbox 360s.



P.S. Watch:



Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Both Halves of the Occu-pie Taste Like Crap

I have mixed feelings about the occupy movement.

On one hand:

London's leadership is now officially the the douchiest in Canada. Last night, after a warning Tuesday morning, police descended on Victoria Park to steal the tents of the people who had been living there for the last two weeks. They were within their rights to do this, since there is a bylaw asking people not to put up tents in city parks. However, let's look at the actual warning that cited this bylaw:


Notice all those "unless authorized" exceptions. Hey, here's an idea to prevent people from breaking the law: authorize them to be there so it's no longer illegal. Apparently "we demand people giving us money for sunglasses, gangsta blankets, and overpriced meat" is good enough to skirt the bylaw (see: Sunfest, Ribfest, every other fest there in the summer). But "we demand a better future for our children"? GTFO!

The bottom line is that there were a bunch of tents sitting in one corner of a park, occupied by people who didn't hurt anyone (I walk through there every day, and it was more fun and felt more safe than it did before). Someone—maybe the mayor, maybe the police, maybe a combo—made the conscious decision to evict them from the park based on an optional bylaw. That decision was probably motivated by personal beliefs more than following any guidelines. That's not being a firm decision maker, being tough on crime, or being a good leader. No, failing to tolerate people you personally disagree with, that's simply being a giant asshole.

On the other hand:

The occupy movement is failing. It's clear from the general public's reaction to London's assholery that most people don't know, nor care, what the protestors are protesting. When the point is to raise awareness, to have not done so after months of occupying, that's a failure.

Signs, well-meaning people, and infographics attempt to explain the purpose of the protests. But they either contradict each other (or reality), are too vague to be meaningful, or complain about a problem without offering a solution.

Be mad.
The main focus has been the disparity between the wealthiest 1% of the population, who control a lot of the country's wealth, and the other 99% of the population, who don't. Ok. That's bad I guess. But how should things be different? The financial crisis in the United States is another focus. Banks fucked up and ruined the economy. That's bad. Yep. But it already happened, in another country with crappier laws, so how should things be different here, now?

It'd be nice to see a list of problems, with potential solutions offered by experts in the field.

E.g., to me it seems the problem isn't the 1% / 99% disparity itself, but how it got there. There are some giant assholes who make conscious decisions to scam or screw over other people to gain massive amounts of money. Many of the 1% have gotten their wealth through immoral or illegal means. The banking crisis is one result of this.

The solution, then, isn't some vague call to "close the gap". Rather, the solution is to stop people from gaining money at the expense of others. Find the people—not a vague type of person, but the exact, specific people—who are rich because they are assholes. Arrest them if possible. If not, bring in an expert to study them. Find out what laws and loopholes allow them to thrive, then change them.

Or something. The key is that the rich/poor disparity is a symptom of a problem, not the problem itself. "We are the 99%" isn't even pointing out a problem, let alone offering a solution. "Raise minimum sentences on white-collar crimes so that we 99% stop getting screwed by the criminals among the 1% and rewarding the worst side of human nature" is a less catchy slogan, but now you've got me listening, and a direction for taking action.

To sum up: I don't necessarily agree with the occupiers' muddled messages, but as long as they're expressing them peacefully, I fully support them being free to do so.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

#Shorterfilms and Being Trendy on Twitter

For the past two years, I've been on the board of the London Short Film Showcase. One thing I've been doing is running contests on Facebook and Twitter to promote the event (next Saturday at 7pm! Come!). On Friday, I posted this pair of tweets:



I figured a few local people would enter, which would get people talking about the event and raising awareness, but also having fun with a creative hash tag game. It became much bigger than that.

For an hour or so, I was afraid that I'd get zero entries. A few people directly involved with the Showcase participated, but that was about it. Then some local people entered. A few of them didn't get it at first, because my < 140 description wasn't great; they described an existing movie in one short sentence, instead of saying how a movie could be shorter (which is a good idea too, and a contest we ran last year).

But then more and more people from London got what I was going for, and began to participate. They followed the formula from my dumb examples, by tweeting descriptions of movies with a shortening alteration to the plot.

E.g.,
  • "Boat misses iceberg." (@twitch)
  • "Space police find the droids they were looking for." (@eplatero)
  • "Guy drinks too much. Takes Advil and drinks water. Gets married. No hangover." (@chadder87)
Eventually, people from outside of London began participating. It became harder and harder to keep track of "entries" in our contest. 

I posted an entry of my own, twisting the formula to spice it up a bit: "I think I've heard enough, Sam."

Either following suite, or because it was a natural evolution of the idea, more and more people began expressing the same #shorterfilms idea in this new way.

E.g.,
  • "It *is* a tumor." (@nachofiesta)
  • "Hey, these ARE the droids we're looking for!" (@FatherShaggy)
  • "Dude, there's my car." (@memachine)
#shorterfilms spread, and it evolved. Shorter film titles were another variation ("Schindler's Post-It Note"; @daveeech). Then, a few hours after it started, it was the second-most tweeted about thing in Canada, if trending topics are to be trusted. 

(It went up one after this)

Later in the day, The Globe and Mail even posted an article about the trend, citing it as a reason for "great Twitter moments". 

So that's how a trending topic can start. I always wondered. Did #youcanthaveswag originate in a similar way? 

As with most trending topics, by the end of the day, most of the entries were repeats or really bad, and some of the tweets were "wtf I dont understand teh #shorterfilms".

It was so cool to be involved with a "viral" trend right from the beginning to see how it evolved from a confusing contest to a country-wide sensation, with several mutations, then devolved right back to where it started before abruptly cutting off altogether. I've always been fascinated by how ideas spread, and Twitter gives a visibility into this process that was previously impossible.

Oh, and as an illustration of the difference between Twitter and Facebook: the same contest run on Facebook had five entries. Putting stuff on Facebook is like putting cold butter on toast; it doesn't spread.

So, that's how to be trendy. I now consider myself a social media expert. If you want to hire me for millions of dollars to promote your own crap, you should do that.



P.S. Come to the London Short Film Showcase next Saturday (Nov 5). It's gonna be awesome.

Monday, October 24, 2011

London Ontario Zombie Walk 2011

Yesterday was a beautiful day for London's fifth annual zombie walk. I know I promised last year that I'd dress up this year, but, like, stuff is busy. I did at least get a chance to go snap some pictures, as per usual. Here they are...click for bigger.


It's always a highlight when the zombies hit up Victoria Park. As one dude said to me there, if someone were on hallucinogenics, it would be hard to differentiate from an actual zombie attack. Aside from the occasional texting zombie, the sights and sounds and chaos are like the real thing.








People reacting to zombies can be as entertaining as the zombies:





...wait what?

Even just being covered in fake blood can be enough of a costume.





But some people go all out, and they are some of my favourite people on the planet.


Kate

Andrea







Not all the zombies in attendance were human. There were also dogs and children.



Pregnant zombies rule. Especially because hey, look what pregnancy leads to eventually:

These kids did their best scary faces when they saw Pat Dryburgh's camera.


As I've said before, shit like this is what makes me proud to live in London. Next year I'm gonna do my part by going as a zombie rather than a boring alive person.

See also:



Thursday, October 13, 2011

iOS 5 = Win, iCloud = Fail


Yesterday, Apple released an update to its iPhone/iPad operating system, iOS 5, alongside its new backup/syncing/interweb thing, iCloud.

iOS 5

iOS 5 is beautiful. You can read a complete list of new stuff elsewhere, but some of the new features really improve the devices that iOS powers. Notifications were a useless mess before, but now they're unobtrusive and easily accessible. Syncing without wires is similarly long overdue; now we just need wireless power and rat's nests of cables will be a thing of the past.

The split keyboard on the iPad is a nice option, but will take getting used to. Another iPad feature that nobody is talking about, for some reason, is multitasking gestures. Having to double-click the home button just to switch apps was getting pretty ridiculous. Now clawing at it with four fingers will do the trick. The iPad and iPhone are much better devices with iOS 5.


iCloud

Unfortunately, I'm less impressed by Apple's attempts to extend these devices to the cloud.

The promise of iCloud is amazing. You can update something on one device—add a contact, or work on an iWork document, or take a picture, or start a conversation, or buy a song—and it will automagically appear on all your devices.

For some things, this works beautifully. I cleaned up my contacts on my MacBook today, and without doing anything else, or even plugging anything in, they're cleaned up on my iPad, iPhone, and on iCloud.com.

Photo Stream

For other things, there are seemingly small issues that end up being dealbreakers. One new feature is that all photos are automatically published everywhere, viewable on any device with Photo Stream. While mildly creepy, I'm fine with that after I opt in for it. What's not fine is being unable to delete any photos after you take them. Seriously. If you accidentally take a shitty photo, or purposefully take a photo of your shit, it will be on every device forever. You can turn off Photo Stream and delete every photo, but you can't delete just that one photo of your dong that was only meant to be texted then discarded.

This is so ridiculous that it's almost as if they released iCloud without it by accident. I'm guessing it'll be fixed pretty soon, but it's dumb to have left it out initially. Maybe they're just waiting for a scandal to drum up free advertising.

iMessage fails at carrying across devices
iMessage

iMessage isn't technically part of iCloud, but it's sending messages over the internet, so maybe it should be. iMessage mysteriously detects whether the person you're texting has an iOS device, and if so, sends them a message via data rather than text messaging. It's very cool if you don't have an unlimited texting plan, or drop out of cell phone coverage a lot. Even cooler is that it works on the iPad and iPod touch as well, so you can finally text from them. Since they don't have phone numbers, you set up an email address to iMessage with. There is also the promise of being able to start a conversation on one device, but continue it on whatever other device you switch to.

Where it fails is that, from what I've seen so far, it doesn't deliver on that promise. iMessage doesn't associate your phone number with your email address(es), so if you're texting between phone numbers on an iPhone, then switch to an iPad, now you need to start a new conversation using the email address you set up on the iPad. You could use the email address the whole time, but that defeats the purpose of making it a texting alternative (coordinating this with people will be almost as bad as having to exchange PINs on BlackBerrys). This messy confusion sinks what was supposed to be a simplification of messaging.

Update Oct 15: I've managed to unify all my messages, at least with one person. It took some combination of the following: both of us added all of each other's iMessage phone numbers and email addresses to the same contact. We also made sure our "caller ID" (which has nothing to do with calling) in the message settings was the same on all of our devices (i.e., on an iPhone, it has to be changed to an email address instead of a phone number). Now, all communications show up in the same conversation, which syncs across all devices, just as promised. It's even smart enough to know that if you see the conversation on your unlocked iPad, it doesn't need to bother alerting you on your iPhone too. Cool. So it's possible to achieve the promise of iMessage, but it takes a lot of fiddling and coordination between the two people, and it's still not really clear how to do it.

iWork in the Cloud

I'm wondering why more people aren't complaining about this next problem. I haven't even seen it mentioned in reviews, somehow.

The aspect of iCloud I was most excited about is the ability to work on a document from any device, and have it always be synced up between devices, automatically. Currently, this works wonderfully for syncing a document between iOS devices. So, you can type up something on your iPad, and it will automatically show up on your...uh...iPhone I guess? But why the fuck would you want to do word processing on an iPhone?

Yeah. There is no way to have iCloud sync documents with an actual computer. It syncs photos and contacts just fine with OSX, but nooo, creating documents, the one thing that's still done best with a large screen and a keyboard, you can't do that on a computer.

I'm sure this feature is coming, but I'm baffled as to why this, what I think is the most useful application of iCloud, wasn't a priority to get out right away. As it is, iCloud is nothing more than an automatic backup for iWork documents.

But Still...

I don't wanna get into #firstworldproblem territory by complaining about nitpicky details in the OS of a supercomputer that I can carry around in my pocket. But still, these are some odd omissions among software that is so improved in every other way. I didn't see these problems addressed elsewhere, so I thought I'd get this up on the internet for other complainers to find. It'll probably all be fixed tomorrow, and then I'll be back to visions of happily skipping through a field of rainbow-coloured iPhones while Jesus fellates Steve Jobs' corpse .

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Steve Jobs


There is a famous story about Steve Jobs luring Pepsi president John Sculley to work for Apple. In Sculley's words:
"And then he looked up at me and just stared at me with the stare that only Steve Jobs has and he said do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life or do you want to come with me and change the world and I just gulped because I knew I would wonder for the rest of my life what I would have missed."
Apple did change the world, and couldn't have done it without Jobs. That's the inspiration I'll draw from Steve Jobs, highlighted now that he has died. That one person can change the world, by stubbornly sticking to a his own vision.

I probably won't change the world. Most people don't; not on the same scale. But I can at least avoid selling sugar water for the rest of my life.

If everyone worked to change the world for the better a fraction as much as Jobs did, imagine how much better the world could be.

Screw sugar water, oh and hey, screw cancer. RIP Steve Jobs.



Monday, October 03, 2011

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Banana Incident: Perpetuating Racism by Suppressing Satire


A few nights ago, a hockey fan threw a banana at a Wayne Simmonds, a black hockey player, during a game at the John Labatt Centre here in London Ontario. The symbolism of it was probably intentional, and it's a disgusting act of racism. I hope the perpetrator is caught and brought to justice (even if justice is just a mischief charge and humiliation).

But let's put this in perspective: nobody died. No bystanders saw the banana and thought "hey, I never thought of the connection between black people and monkeys! I think I'll become a racist now!" The hockey player himself blew it off as silly. Also: we are having serious discussions about something referred to as the banana incident.

That is hilarious.

Many people see the humour in it. I joked about it with some people on Twitter. In one reply, @famousandfave and I made racist comments about black and white iPhones; I referred to black as the "lesser colour," because my phone is white.

A few hours later, someone saw a snippet of this conversation and retweeted it with the comment "lesser colour? #UNFOLLOW". For good measure, she included London's hash tag, so that the whole city could be informed of my racism. Against black iPhones.

Of course, she failed to even read the context of the conversation, and when people pointed out that I was talking about Apple products and not people, she refused to acknowledge the mistake or apologize for publicly accusing someone of racism due to her failure in reading comprehension. She just called it #notfunny.

Some people share similar sentiments. That nobody should joke about racism, since it's such a serious issue. "Discrimination is not for jest," said one tweeter.



Respecting an issue and being able to joke about it are not mutually exclusive. They are, in fact, often complementary.

I can't believe I'm sucking all humour out of this by explaining it, but here is an example. By sarcastically applying racist stereotypes to iPhone colours, it is humourous, because it is taking a serious human issue and unexpectedly applying it to mundane inanimate objects. But it also serves the purpose of respecting the issue, by demonstrating that discrimination based on phone colours is just as arbitrary as discrimination based on skin colour.

Pointing out the absurdity of racism is both funny and in service of the greater good. This isn't a new idea; satire has been around since we were writing on papyrus (thanks Wikipedia).

Plus, ignoring all that, bananas are funny. They look a bit like weirdly bent dongs, and the word is fun to say ("banananannanaaa" lolz). As Freud would have said, sometimes a banana is just a banana.

If we discourage joking about racism or awkward racist incidents, either by blatantly saying "you shouldn't joke about that" or by failing to appreciate that a joke is a joke, the racists have won. Why? Because intolerance thrives best in the shadows.

Today, that's where racism lives. All decent people (and most people are decent) realize how irrational intolerance is. The remaining bigots, then, must remain hidden to thrive. They weasel around behind the scenes  doing damage when nobody is looking.

We can't let them get away with that.

If we refuse to allow decent people to express themselves about racism—and that expression includes humour, sarcasm and satire—then we're only empowering the racists. We're allowing the dirtbags to keep dinking around in the dark, instead of draggin them into the light, sometimes dressed in a clown costume.


If you don't find something funny, the appropriate response is to not laugh. Telling people what they can or cannot joke about, or trying to publicly shame them, is its own form of intolerance. Meanwhile, the rest of us will continue fighting bigotry while somehow managing to enjoy life along the way.