Friday, October 29, 2010

interesting title here- Creative Writing Short Story Assignment

Today I published my own writing.

As an assignment for my Creative Writing class, I’m giving a gift to all my readers: a slimmed-down version of my short story. Does writing a story on your own blog count as publishing? No. To make it a little more manageable for online reading, I’ve cut out all the beautifully worded descriptions and some important information necessary to the storyline. Kidding! Enjoy it my babies...
The Pamphleteer
Percy listened to his fish tank’s filter running, barely audible amidst the melodies. It had been months since the tank boasted any residents; it now stood forgotten and empty, save for a thick coat of algae that covered its contents. The rocks, the glass, the No Fishing sign; it was just as well there were no fish, for such an infestation would be grounds for animal cruelty.
Percy paid his rent and still had enough left over for a sandwich every day, but no one knew where that money came from. It seemed most of his days were spent only by sleeping in until late and sitting on the fire escape staring into distant fantasies until it was time to sleep again. He often played an acoustic guitar, but everyone in that neighbourhood did and no one was making any money. In fact, he was on his way home from playing guitar and singing into a microphone at a tiny bar in the back of an electronics store when he got the news.
Percy had always thought Armageddon warnings came from beards and robes, poorly drawn signs, ringing bells. But this one came from none of those, and he was completely taken aback. He had nearly dropped his guitar case as he jumped, jolted from city blindness and a world of his own, a hand and paper slapped into the middle of his chest.
“The world is ending in three days,” offered the man on the street.
“Thanks pal,” said Percy as he tried to continue.
“No really,” the man insisted as he pushed Percy back, hand and paper still sticking to his chest. He looked at Percy, his eyes hard and unyielding, without trace of doubt or madness.
And now in his bed, although the sunlight had long disappeared and his eyes were closing, he thought of the man. He rolled over and flipped on his bedside light, grabbing the pamphlet from the floor and studying it yet again. No matter how strange this warning was, Percy found himself scared more by its hopelessness. The page offered no solution or salvation, just a statement that confirmed the man’s words and Percy’s worst fear: it was official; the world was ending in three days. And now he was supposed to fall asleep?
*                             *                             *                             *                             *                             * 
Percy saw something wonderful. A pretty Asian girl was getting on to a bus as he passed the station, the sign shouting to him that she was headed to Boston. He thought of going to talk to her, but what would he do? Stop her from leaving? Don’t go, I need you! Or ever worse: get out- you’re going to Boston? I’m going to Boston! That only worked in the movies, and even then rarely, and the instigator always had some distinguishable characteristic that Percy felt he was lacking.
So he had walked on, past the bus station and the Dumpster outside that often attracted the city’s lowest, back to his apartment and a better block of town. He turned down the back alley that suddenly opened to his right. Skulking around puddle and garbage he walked back to the fire escape, which he knew to be rusty or broken or something; either way always pulled down and stuck. Up the ladder to the stairs, this was almost as quick as the normal man’s route he usually took. On the fourth floor however, he stopped, hesitated, completely innocent, when his eyes misjudged and his foot slipped off the first step. As he reached to the wall to steady himself, he gave a glance, which quickly became a look, through the window into the apartment in front of him. A woman stood by the far wall, wearing only one of those too-large shirts with buttons that you assume to be her man’s, painting the wall a fresh coat of light blue, and doing a poor job. Her long legs flicked out gracefully from under the long shirt, both already dotted with spots and specks of paint. Percy had always wondered if he could paint such a beautiful scene, but he never had the supplies.
*                             *                             *                             *                             *                             *    
The sunlight was unforgiving; this room had too many windows. Percy nearly smacked the woman standing behind him with his guitar case, ungainly, but for once not because his mind was drifting. He swiveled his head and squinted his eyes to close out some of the bright. The line in front of him moved slowly, frustrating and terrible, Percy thought he was going to get his license renewed or was waiting to ride a rollercoaster. Finally he reached the ticket counter, after having several quarter-hour intervals of queue time to doubt his decision and support his decision and choose his time and count out his money, so it was only a moment before he strode confidently away with his ticket to Boston.
Outside on the sidewalk it seemed the porter was only helping old women stow their cases beneath the bus, so Percy opted for independence and waved off the boy’s halfhearted advance to assist.
“It’s alright sir, but thank you!” his tone conveyed his glee. The bus revved and ran as it stood on the drive, while Percy’s heartbeat raced to match it. He opened his bag one last time before sliding it aboard, checking to see that his watercolours and brushes and photographs of flowers would not be crushed if the boy should happen to be careless. Satisfied; he boarded, the whooshing doors closed behind him and he found a seat near the back to nap in. He only had two days left, and there was so much to do.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I won the Civic Election.

Today I successfully predicted Winnipeg’s mayoral race results.

Now I don’t usually like to brag about my accomplishments, but I DID IT! That’s right kids, it just goes to show that you don’t need to pass any current event quizzes, run a political radio show, or even be up on Winnipeg news to masterfully call the civic election.

Weeks ago I told my classmates in Section 1 that it would turn out exactly as it appeared on the ballot: Sam Katz in first, Judy Wasylycia-Leis in second, Brad Gross in third, and Rav Gill bringing up the rear. Predicting all 4 spots? I should've put some money on this.

Oh and just to be clear, I didn’t vote. You need to be impartial if you’re going to be calling the vote so expertly… plus I already knew the results before they happened.

Got any questions about your future? I’ve got some ridiculous powers.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Hit Me Baby One More Time!

Today my blog reached 1,000 hits.

I just want to thank my readers for their support! What do you do for this milestone? Should we have cake or something? I'm actually having a good time with this blogging thing... let's keep this positivity going as you tour the blogosphere with me. I love having you. Yes... you.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sexy Sumos and Electric Six

Today I found about Electric Six.

Thanks to their soundtracking of a hilarious Subaru commercial that Mike Tanasychuk was kind enough to show in ad class, I’ve finally been exposed to Electric Six’s music. Am I the only one who hasn’t heard of this band?
Here's the ad with Electric Six's song Danger! High Voltage:

Although I can't condone the level that frontman Dick Valentine brings the lyrics to, there's just as many amazing lines and humourously simple rhymes. (Who says only Backstreet Boys can sing "Backstreet's back all right"? They probably don't own the rights to it...)

As both punk/alternative rock and electronic pop are my favourite genres, it’s incredible for me to hear this band that blends the two so well. Valentine comes across a lot of the time as a brash degenerate who makes no apologies, while the upbeat music makes his antics seem suitable for children. They’re not.

Check out one of my new favourites, Synthesizer.

As a fan of both punk/alternative rock and electronic pop genres, it’s incredible for me to hear this band that blends the two so well. The frontman, Dick Valentine, comes across a lot of the time as a brash degenerate who makes no apologies, while the upbeat music makes his antics seem suitable for children. They’re not. 
Check out one of my new favourites, Synthesizer.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

News Feed: Andrew Parker is writing about Facebook.

Today I commented on The Social Network.

The Social Network tells some of the stories about Mark Zuckerberg and his creation of Facebook. Today Facebook has over 500 million users, with people spending over 700 billion minutes per month on the site; feats that have made Zuckerberg the world’s youngest billionaire. But, as the movie tagline says, he didn’t accomplish all of this without making a few enemies.

The Social Network's poster
In an interview on The Colbert Report, Aaron Sorkin, the film’s writer, says that the film is fact, but he included 3 different versions of the story in the movie. As Facebook’s beginnings led quickly to court cases and legal action between the creators, there is debate over which version that came out of the litigation is correct. Sorkin also said in that interview,“We don’t know what the answer is. It’s also more fun because the audience gets to decide who’s right, who’s wrong, who’s good, who’s bad- we just want to start fights in the parking lot.” (watch The Colbert Report episode here)
Aaron Sorkin

But in any of these stories, it’s almost impossible not to notice that as Stephen Colbert put it, Sorkin portrays Zuckerberg as “something of a genius-jerk.” Zuckerberg’s motives and ethics in leading on his partners in a strikingly similar idea for a project are called into question during the court hearings, as evidence is presented that Zuckerberg dodged contact with them and even misled them while simultaneously developing his own take on a social networking site. Even though, as the Zuckerberg character says in the movie, he made it better than them, I still couldn’t help feeling like that original idea was stolen from his partners. But what made me think poorly of Zuckerberg the most was how he treated his former best friend and CFO, Eduardo Saverin. Zuckerberg is not portrayed as having many friends in college, yet he turns his back on the guy who believed in him and supported him from the beginning. Without the cash Saverin put up to fund the project, Facebook would never have happened. Beyond accusations of intellectual property theft, I was disgusted more by the idea that Zuckerberg, while pulling in more money than he knew what to do with, couldn’t repay his best friend for all he had done.
Although as I left the theater I felt guilty for supporting Facebook, I don’t think this movie will hurt Facebook’s popularity. Current users are too far immersed in their online social activities to delete their account based on events that happened 10 years ago, and I’m sure many people will be impressed by Zuckerberg as a young entrepreneur and check out his work. However, I think that most people who are not already on Facebook will now be even less likely to join, using this tale of questionable origins as another reason against supporting such a company and its founder.
Zuckerberg’s actions in response to the film have also been called in question. Although he has dismissed the movie in a few ways, by saying that it’s a fun, overly-dramatic look at years that were just hard work, and saying that the movie’s audience is too numerically insignificant in comparison to Facebook’s fan base to have any impact. (Taken from PR Post- Zuckerberg, Hearst and Hollywood: PR Lessons Learned From the Past, by Tiffany Gallicano.) I find this believable, but Zuckerberg also happened to donate $100 million in Facebook shares to the Newark school system on the movie’s release date, a timing he claims to be coincidental. This, as Gallicano goes on to say, is unbelievable. True or not, Zuckerberg’s “philanthropy” on the very day that this story comes out makes him look like he’s only trying to protect his reputation.
If the movie was as fun and insignificant as he said, Zuckerberg’s actions were unnecessary, and only make me think that there must be some truth to the movie’s inferences. It seems like a cover-up, and to me, only casts more shadow on Zuckerberg’s dealings. As Gallicano quotes, to say that the timing of this donation was coincidental only insults Zuckerberg’s audience, and I’m sure many will be skeptical.
Mark Zuckerberg on Oprah, where he made his donation annoucement
Give money to charity, great; support school systems. I think it’s absolutely expected of people as rich as Zuckerberg to be giving back, but don’t wait until you look bad to do it! Had Zuckerberg already setup a charity and been donating regularly, it would have been a lot easier for him to simply point to his ongoing positive actions, and they would be viewed as genuine philanthropy, not self-serving penance.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Dear Garth, You can hear the Crickets…

Today I watched a cricket match.
       In response to Garth Hilderman’s challenge  to watch an entire cricket game this week, I stepped up to the wicket and swung for greatness by becoming a cricket expert for a day. (UPDATE: check out his challenge and get the backstory here.) Apparently to Garth, if you’re going to steal the credit for one of his cricket stories in the school paper, you have to know something about the sport. … Of all the nerve.
First of all, I’m not a big sports watcher. I like sports, but for the most part I’d rather be playing than watching. Other than the odd Bomber game, the only time I sit down to watch a 3-hour sporting event is for UFC every month.
        So you can imagine my chagrin when I found out that the game I would be watching was 3 hours and 42 minutes (I didn’t even know YouTube hosted videos that big!). But thanks to my blog research on Garth’s Tuesday Tutor section (here), I found out that some games can last days. Garth, thank you for your mercy in assigning me one lasting less than 4 hours.
        Alright, now to the good stuff: my thoughts on cricket as a whole sport, based solely on Garth’s blog and watching one game, the Kings XI Punjab VS the favourites, Mumbai Indians, in the Indian Premier League. I think that’s fair.
      1. Cricket is detailed.
They don’t really have a lot going on, so they get REALLY in depth. Interviewing the captains after the opening coin toss: “You lost the coin toss, how do you feel about that?” I’m talking line charts of run and hit rates, and bringing hot actresses into the dugout to spice things up.
              2.  The uniforms are ridiculous.
Long time fans of me will know that I’m outspoken against sports that people play wearing pants. Baseball? Lame; there’s just as much standing around as there is playing. Golf? Walking around isn’t a sport. (Oh and if you’re wearing tights to hold your pads on to avoid serious injury, that’s a sport. Keep up the good work, football.) Cricket is no exception as one of these quasi-sports; there’s rarely any desperation or effort for longer than 3 seconds at a time, and it shows in their uniforms. What makes matters worse, all the batters are suited up like they're about to try getting a wild animal out of their attic. 


Wide bats, big helmets, oversized shin guards and gloves- it looks like an outfit they threw together with sports equipment they found in their grandparents’ basement. Side note: the referees wear cowboy hats, which just brings the garage sale feeling to a new high.
      3. It’s actually nothing like baseball.
This is a misconception I had that was quickly proved wrong. The bowler (like a pitcher) runs as much as the batsman (batter) does, and if you hit a ball and don’t feel like it, you don’t have to run at all. This play-it-safe option puts an even weaker spin on baseball. Also, each team only got once chance at bat… and the first team finished their turn 146 points ahead.

      All in all, let’s just say the jump from UFC to cricket was a big step down in the excitement department (no one even got knocked out, even though they’re carrying bats the whole time!). I wouldn’t watch it again, nor would I recommend watching. Oh and just so the hardcore fans know, no it wasn’t because I didn’t understand it. I knew exactly what was going on, and it wasn’t much.

PS. Spoiler Alert: The Kings XI Punjab came back to win it! Although cricket counts down exactly how many runs they need to win, so you could see the comeback coming for 20 minutes. Less exciting. But boy the actress in the dugout was happy!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Advertising: Buyer Beware Blog

     My group explored external hard drives and their dependability for our Buyer Beware project. In our personal experience we have found them to be unreliable, so we wanted to get more information about their failure rates, what brands are best, and how to take the best care of these product.
     In our primary research, we tried to get information from every side to create the most complete and exhaustive results. As much as possible, we tried to put ourselves in a consumer’s shoes. To do this, we went and purchased a hard drive ourselves. We also conducted interviews with employees at electronics stores and John Pura, a Media Technician at Red River College. We tapped into his expert opinion because it’s a viewpoint that many consumers don’t have access to, and we knew his personal experience and knowledge would provide good insight.
     Our secondary research was exploring the Internet’s articles, forums, and product reviews for information and others’ opinions.
     The brands that kept coming up in our research as best and highest rated were Western Digital, SeaGate, and LaCie.
They scored high ratings in online product reviews and came highly recommended by our expert interviewees.

     Unfortunately, most hard drive manufacturers don’t disclose their failure rates. So instead, warranties become very important. In our research we found that hard drives are susceptible to failure at any time, so it’s crucial to choose a product with a long warranty. It’s also important to shop smart; there are many issues that consumers should think about before purchasing an external hard drive. The issues that we addressed in our report were: operating system (do you need both PC and Mac?), portable vs. stationary, Firewire vs. USB interface, stability (look for a sturdy model), and of course, warranty.
Lastly, we picked up as many tips for proper care as possible. In a nutshell, make sure you keep your hard drive cool and secure, run computer programs that cleanup disk space and diagnose problems often (many of these programs come standard on your computer), and remember that any product can fail, so back up important files in more than one place.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Bombers impress in OT

Today I watched the Bombers win in overtime.
      Another nail in leaving-the-game-early-to-beat-the-traffic’s coffin, today the Blue Bombers rallied a huge comeback to beat the BC Lions in overtime. I had never been at a game that went into overtime before, and this was intense. The crowd was on their feet, cheering like crazy. After Winnipeg made a quarterback change, putting in Jyles to satisfy the crowd’s chanting, the Bombers made huge plays to come back and tie the game, with touchdown passes to both Edwards and Carr.
      An incredible game with an amazing finish; Beasley intercepted and ran back for a touchdown to seal the deal. Oh, and this game also had the best fight I’ve ever seen in a football game. The complete package!
Edwards make the catch! Photo: Canadian Press

Read the CFL's coverage of Jyles' revival here.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

"We Didn't Cross the Border, the Border Crossed Us!"

Today I watched Machete.

     Are you like me? Do you need your political commentary to be carefully hidden in a pile of gratuitous violence and hot women? Then you’ll love Machete.
     Surrounded by an A-list cast, Danny Trejo (click links for pictures) as the title character thousand-yard-stares his way around Texas, killing anyone who gets in his way. Seriously, I mean anyone. Like… you look at him wrong and he'll use your intestine like Bruce Willis used that fire-hose in Die Hard. 
     Back to that A-list cast, did you know Lindsay Lohan was still acting? Not only did they nail a perfect role for her, but also cast Steven Seagal as a villain pretending to be Mexican. Robert De Niro, Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez, Cheech Marin, they’re all here.
     Now I’ll admit, maybe the plot goes a little too far when Machete leads an army of migrant farm workers, dishwashers, and sexy nurses in lowriders that bounce up and down in a violent battle to kill border vigilantes, protest strict border laws, and try to change a Senator’s platform of anti-immigration. It becomes a thinly veiled complaint against America’s fear of illegal Mexican aliens, sure, but it makes for some sweet action.
     Also, did you know that giant sword-wielding killers get girls? Seriously guys… the ladies love it.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Political Virgin

Today I went to something political.
     Instead of Journalism and Public Relations classes, my class attended a mayoral forum here at school for the civic election coming up on October 27. It was my first time at anything political, let alone a full-out forum, so it was new experiences all over the place. The sights, the smells, ah my.
     The forum was driven by questions posed to each candidate, mostly from students. The answers led to interesting discussion, and at some points, somewhat heated debate. Many of the issues we had discussed earlier in class came up, so it was good to see topics I recognized. This also satisfied my curiosity about how the candidates would respond to the issues, and proved Vogelsang right that many times, their response was nothing concrete at all. As mentioned in class, Katz has been reluctant to share some specifics about his plan if he’s re-elected, but to me there were several instances where each candidate could have been more forthcoming and precise with their responses. There were a few times when students sat down, and I got the feeling they still didn’t have their question completely resolved.
     In spite of this, I believe both candidates were able to present themselves as wanting to advocate for the poor, strengthen communities, and reduce crime, although many times they had very different ways of going about it. For example, Katz disagreed with Wasylycia-Leis’ plan to provide work for ex-criminals as a form of rehabilitation, saying what sounded more like he’d basically like to provide jobs for everyone who needs and earns them. Both candidates want to strengthen communities, but to me it’s that Wasylycia-Leis has a much more grassroots, complete plan that centers on involvement and cooperation (between businesses, community centres, police, and families), while Katz feels the need is just for more cops and policing.
     Also, both Katz and Wasylycia-Leis differ on their plans regarding making Winnipeg more sustainable and green. Both want more public transit, but in different forms. Katz has talked for a long time about a light rail transit system, while Wasylycia-Leis thinks rapid bus transit will solve the problem.
     What really struck me were the candidates’ answers to Allison’s question regarding Winnipeg’s failure to properly recycle glass. Both had commented earlier on the fact that Winnipeg is behind other Canadian cities in sustainability, with low transit ridership and no composting cited as examples, and had said they wanted to improve this. But when faced with the glass question, only Katz was able to describe plans in motion or efforts being made to recycle glass and encourage more recycling, while all I got out of Wasylycia-Leis’ reply is that “recycling is good.” The Winnipeg Free Press’ coverage of the event agreed, saying that she ran out of time before she was able to provide any real answer to the question. Unfortunately for Wasylycia-Leis, this seemed to happen more than once. Richard Cloutier, the moderator from CJOB radio, kept things moving at a steady pace, but he seemed to need to cut her short much more often than Katz.
     Although the two-hour length of this meeting daunted me, to my surprise it didn’t feel like a lifetime. Would I go again? Only for double credit like this!