Friday, March 27, 2009

"The Point": inane, dull, pointless

Among the many casualties of the recently announced funding cuts at the CBC is CBC Radio's "The Point", a debate program hosted by Aamer Haleem, broadcasted on weekday afternoons.

One of the strengths of radio is the quick turnaround time and within hours of learning of their program's projected demise, "The Point" panelists du jour, Heather Mallick and Fazil Mihlar, were discussing the show's fate, under the pretense of discussing "public broadcasting in a recessionary era".

In the awkward conversation that followed, Mallick played the role of a jilted lover. One could imagine Mallick on a post-breakup bender as she spoke of burning bridges now that she would no longer be employed by the CBC. It was a overstated claim since the last debacle Mallick involved the CBC in resulted in an apology by CBC on her behalf (see 2008 Controversy) but no apparent severing of ties.

Later, while on the inane topic of whether Canada is boring, Mallick asked why Canadians find people who try to be provocative (read: interesting), such as herself, annoying. The answer was so ripe with possibilities and yet, one answer covers both the panelist and the show: an outrageous statement without substance is not provocative; it is annoying. Unfortunately, Haleem let a good opportunity go to waste, which is exactly why "The Point" is such milquetoast programming, in spite of labelling itself "provocative".

I do not object to CBC cutting drivel like "The Point" and its defunct predecessor "Freestyle", both featuring light weight banter with hipster musical accompaniment. Even under the shadow of an axe, Haleem and his cohorts continue to chatter about tangential topics that they know nothing about in the most flippant manner possible. With all the ignorance of shock radio but without the bite, "The Point" is pointless.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

I'll miss Dave Devall

Having reported the weather for the last 48 years on CTV, Dave Devall has become the consummate weatherman for many Torontonians. I was just reminiscing about how I've grown up watching Dave when it was announced at the beginning of February that he would be retiring. The 60 day tribute is almost at an end and soon, Tom Brown will step in as the weather anchor.

Since I am familiar with Tom Brown, I can already see that it won't be the same. Dave has always had a gentleman's bearing, probably a product of his coming of age in the 1950s, in spite of the requisite weatherman wackiness. Tom Brown is wacky but with a hint of mania; watching him will be like watching Jim Carrey. I don't like Jim Carrey.

People can become emotionally attached to their weatherman. In a blog entry that probably makes Michael Kuss cry into his pillow, Flocons railed against the replacement of Harold Hosein. The heated debate about Michael Kuss continues even after nearly two years since the changeover. CTV is probably trying to circumvent this public outrage with their '60 Days of Dave' celebration.

If Tom Brown also fails to do it for you, Joe would probably suggest his favourite meterologist, who he refers to as 'The Cheerful Brit', Claire Martin. There is never a crack or strain in Claire's chipper disposition when she gives the national weather forecast on CBC. My only complaint would be that Torontonians do not see enough of her, since she is based in British Columbia.

The only CTV (formerly CFTO) talking head left from my childhood is Jim Junkin. As the crime reporter, Junkin has probably conveyed a less lovable image to the public than Dave, but his stalwart demeanor and 1950s styling are remnants of a dying breed on television.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The One of a Kind Spring Show is coming!

The second most anticipated shopping event on my calendar is almost here! The One of a Kind Spring Show runs April 1-5, 2009 at the Direct Energy Centre.

As usual, I'll be checking out Eve Gravel for her latest Spring/Summer collection. I am eyeing the Coocoo's Nest dress (seen on the left), but everything must be seen and worn to be believed.

Otherwise, I'm not sure what will prompt me to spend money. The Spring Show is smaller than the Christmas one and there is less of an altruistic angle to the consumerism due to the absence of gift giving in the Easter tradition. Plus, I am constantly reminded by Joe of my promise to save Iceland's economy with my wallet in late April.

The OOAK also has some stiff competition for the buying power of lazy but technologically savy craft buyer with Etsy: Your place to buy and sell all things homemade. I discovered this website while peering over the shoulder of a fellow student during a computer workshop. As everyone else practiced changing font colours, the craft enthusiast browsed cute craft items. It certainly looked more relaxing than fighting baby strollers in the aisles of the OOAK. However, come Saturday, May 16, Etsy will enter the real world with the Etsy Handmade Market, to be held at hipster hangout, the Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen St. W.)

OOAK organizers will probably attribute any drop in numbers to the economic downturn , but, as usual, the Internet and Iceland are partially to blame.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Better art this weekend

The Toronto Art Expo will take place at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre this weekend (March 20-22) claiming to offer Contemporary Fine Art but really emphasizing affordability and kitsch. Check out some real contemporary art in the GTA this weekend:

Presently Absent
Johanna Householder, Darren O'Donnell, Swintak and jenna d. maclellan
Toronto Free Gallery
March 19 - April 18, 2009
Two of my favourite artists from Nuit Blanche 2007, O'Donnell and Swintak, are featured in this exhibition so it shows promise of being clever and entertaining.
"Presently Absent explores two interpretations of the states of presence and absence, the physical presence/absence of a person and the idea of presence/absence in terms of consciousness or awareness concerning the world around them. Johanna Householder delivers a message from a kidnapped rebel princess via Skype. Darren O'Donnell allows viewers to be present in the place of Omar Kadhr's absence. Swintak alludes to the fulitilty of artistic technique by transforming the contents of a dining room from something useful, to something else. jenna d. maclellan’s work gives Canadian immigrant women a voice in the needed discussion about their efforts to participate and integrate into the patchwork of Canada. Without fear, each confronts our perceptions about what is required to be present."
Interfaces and Operating Systems
Michelle Gay
Oakville Galleries at Gairloch Gardens
March 7 - June 5, 2009
Oakville is a Stepford community to be sure but the Oakville Galleries belie their conservative settings; the exhibited works are unapologetically contemporary and tend to be interactive. That the work is featured at Gairloch Gardens, a beautiful park property with an unobstructed view of Lake Ontario, makes the trip to Oakville worthwhile. Michelle Gay's work, a computer based reflection on time and technology, will challenge desk jockeys everywhere.

She Will Always Be Younger Than Us
The Textile Museum of Canada
November 19, 2008 to July 7, 2009
The underated Textile Museum of Canada has featured some provocative exhibits in recent years, such as A Terrible Beauty and Battleground: War Rugs from Afghanistan. She Will Always Be Younger Than Us featuring work influenced by feminist artist, Judy Chicago, is sure to follow this trend. Feminism is mixed with textiles and one result is a Nike logo blanket by Cat Mazza, which brings a smile to my face.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Two kinds of pain

Before the weather took a turn for the milder, I got in a final session of snowboarding at Earl Bales Park. In the 5C weather, the man made snow had the consistency of a Slushee. Joe and I reached speeds that we never wanted and, hence, the inevitable falls were all the more painful.

After one particularly violent skid across the bottom of the hill that bestowed a minor case of whiplash, it occurred to me that I now have an inkling of what MMA fighters go through. Fighters can become exhausted even after little exertion because getting beaten is, apparently, exhausting. Never having been in a physical fight, it took the heavy hand of mother nature on my backside, my shins, my shoulder, and my neck to make me a believer.

Speaking of painful and exhausting, the last episode of "Battlestar Galactica" is slated to air this Friday. As much as I love "Battlestar Galactica", I feel some relief at a foreseeable end to the stress and crying fits I experience every time I watch the show - a testament to the ruthless brilliance of the cast and crew. In the absence of "Battlestar Galactica", when mediocrity and escapism start getting tired, I'll have to get my fix of harrowing reality elsewhere. Those who would suggest the nightly news underestimate the dulling effect that crying wolf about the recession can have.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Latest obsession: America's Best Dance Crew

I watched the entire Season 3 of "America's Best Dance Crew" over the weekend and I just can't get enough!

Two of my favourite dancers from "So You Think You Can Dance?", Dominic and Hok reappeared as members of the group, Quest Crew. After receiving some minor criticism from the judges, Quest Crew regrouped and came back in Week 6 with a performance that combined their trademark humour with amazing tricks. Words fail to do it justice so just see the embedded video below.

To see all of the Quest Crew performances on "ABDC", check out their YouTube channel.

Giving Quest Crew serious competition were Beat Freaks, the most technically adept group of b-girls that I have seen on TV, showcasing their skills with intelligent choreography. If ever there was a strong reason for women to lift weights, Beat Freaks would be it.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Don't drink and work

Years ago, I realized that drinking and working don't mix when I attempted to write an article for the school newspaper while drunk. 'Ernest Hemingway could do it so why can't I?'so the thinking went. I stared at my computer monitor for 15 minutes without ever getting bored because I was enthralled with my own heart beat and the alcohol coursing through my veins.

I have never again attempted to drink and work at the same time but when socializing with co-workers outside of work, most adults will enjoy an alcoholic beverage because it helps them to relax, or at least, look relaxed. For someone like me, who drinks nothing but water and milk, this can be a dangerous situation.

At the recent Christmas dinner with co-workers, my hearty meal gave me a false sense of security and I indulged in two shots of delicious Russian vodka in quick succession. It wasn't until we were preparing to leave that I noticed my vision fading to black. It became a race against my metabolism as I attempted to take my leave as gracefully as possible, while warding off unconsciousness. Only when some neighbouring bushes blocked my boss's direct sight line of me did I feel safe to crumple against Joe and allow him to drag me home on public transit.

Tonight, I found myself again in the awkward situation of "having drinks with the co-workers". I clawed at the waitress for a menu, desperate to construct a soft bed for the beer before it went straight to my head. My boss regarded me with concern as I wolfed down the communal platter of nachos. I tried to look sober by resting my hand thoughtfully under my chin as my co-workers laughed raucously about work.

Maybe it is time to claim health or religious reasons for abstaining from alcohol during work functions. Afterall, the alcohol is doing nothing to put me at ease; rather, it has made me unusually prim, and I fear that I send my boss the wrong message when I frown while staring intently at him in an ill conceived attempt to appear coherent.

And yes, I am buzzing right now. Say 'no' to mixing alcohol with productivity.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Virtual retail therapy = virtual rock star

Joe and I have taken to redeeming gift cards recently in order to get our retail therapy without actually spending money. In one fun packed transaction, a Best Buy gift card was traded in for Xbox Points so that we might purchase songs to rock out to in Rock Band 2.

While perusing the Rock Band songs for sale, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Neko Case's "People Got a Lotta Nerve" off her new album, Middle Cyclone, was being offered. For a stubbornly independent alternative country artist, being featured on such a popular platform is quite the coup. And how can gamers resist an attractive girl wielding a sword while riding the hood of a car? The song is fun, too.

We have not committed to Neko Case's song yet but we have purchased:
  • "Lounge Act" and "Breed" by Nirvana
  • "Little Sister" and "3's and 7's" by Queens of the Stone Age
  • "Interstate Love Song" by Stone Temple Pilots
  • "Don't Look Back in Anger", "Live Forever", and "Wonderwall" by Oasis
  • "Roam" by B-52s
  • "Love Spreads" by Stone Roses
  • "Die Alright" by The Hives

Two gems that were free:

  • Stephen Colbert and the Colberts - "Charlene (I'm Right Behind You)"
  • "Still Alive" by the evil but cute computer from Portal

A few artists have not granted Rock Band the rights to use their original songs. Hence, as much fun as it would be to sing David Bowie's "Heroes" and the Black Crowes' "Hard to Handle", we're not spending money on a Rock Band least, not full price.

I am still working on Joe to agree to purchase Jimmy Buffet's "Cheeseburger In Paradise". Since Buffet is one of the top selling tour acts ever, there are many out there who would agree with me. Further peer pressure can be inflicted in the Comments section below.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Memory in the digital age

As the public inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekanski continues, I can't help but think back to my university Psychology class during which it was repeatedly demonstrated how faulty human memory can be.

Much of my education is now a haze but I do recall one entertaining demonstration; the professor had a collaborator enter the lecture hall, grab another assistant's bag, then escape. The students were then asked to come up with their best description of the robber. Many could hardly even come up with the most basic of details (the colour the robber's clothing) due to shock over the situation. Of course, there were a few exceptional students who were able to recall accurate details about the robber but their memories were soon clouded over by conflicting testimony (the robber's jacket was blue). When the 'robber' returned to the lecture hall, students were disturbed by how wrong their recollections had been (the robber was not even wearing a jacket).

With the Robert Dziekanski altercation captured on amateur video and in 911 recordings, the perpetrators and witnesses are now faced with a horrible equivalent to the return of the robber. The RCMP officers are making claims based on memory that are then swiftly refuted by the video footage. Witnesses who claim sympathy for the dead man are forced to account for the derogatory remarks they had made earlier about Dziekanski to the 911 dispatcher.

Even if we were to give the witnesses and perpetrators the benefit of the doubt and assume that they are not knowingly giving false testimony, adrenaline and shock undermine the dependability of their testimony in the Robert Dziekanski case. Add a media firestorm to heightened emotions, and the result is an exercise in futility.

The Dziekanski public inquiry is necessary because changes will need to be made to RCMP regulations over taser use. I, for one, would prefer to see police tasers abolished because the weapons are commonly perceived as a non-lethal use of force, and therefore, wielded more liberally than a gun. However, unless the point of the public inquiry is to cause those giving testimony to squirm uncomfortably over their faulty memory, the parade of witnesses is pointless when the stark truth is readily available in video and audio form.

Monday, March 09, 2009

In progress

  • I started reading Barack Obama's Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance yesterday and I am about 1/3 through; this is a testament to Obama's compelling prose as opposed to my reading prowess. The book was published in 1995 but already, the characteristics that make Obama such a force to be reckoned are revealed: his thoughtful yet unflinching reflections on racial identity, and the unswerving confidence in the face of ignorance or even outright hostility demonstrated by his father and assumed by Obama in turn.
  • I traded in my Air Tracks snowboard, which seemed too flexible and unresponsive, for the 2008 Flow Venus. I have not had a chance to test my new board as Mother Nature has not been on my side, choosing to please just about everyone else with milder weather. Never before have I prayed so fervently for cold weather and heavy snowfall.
  • The downturn in the economy has apparently produced a bumper crop of eager police recruits thus pushing any chance of me taking the York Regional Police written and physical test to 2010! I also failed to submit an exhibition proposal for Luminato due to a lack of motivation. Presently, all my hopes rest on my Nuit Blanche 2009 application - decisions are promised for the end of March. In the meantime, I am open to suggestions on what to tackle next.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Lots to talk about

Thanks to the unseasonably cold winter that Toronto has been experiencing, talking about the weather has become a solid conversation starter.

While waiting for the elevator recently with a delivery man, I decided to fill the dead air with a "Is it still freezing outside?" What would have been a non-starter during the mild winters of previous years now prompted the delivery man to not only give a weather forecast but to also elaborate on the effects of global warming. The time we spent walking to our destination was amicably filled up.

This leads me to admit that, other than the weather, I don't have much to write about. However, I would like to point to a new foodie blog listed under my 'Links' called This is why you're fat: where dreams become heart attacks. My current favourite entry is "Sandwich Cake": A layer of deviled ham, chicken salad and olive-nut spread between a whole loaf white bread surrounded by four packages of strawberry cream cheese. It's dainty and monstrous at the same time.

All those who would invite me to a potluck in the future, be warned: I intend to take advantage of the opportunity to recreate one of the magical dishes found on that site.