Canadian Sabbatical

While I was visiting my homeland, my brother generously loaned me his Jeep to roam through Banff and Jasper National Park along the Icefields Parkway. 

Maybe you've been to other mountains or a few tropical paradises, but you might never feel quite so intimidated by a landscape or amazed at how pristine some parts of the world can still be. I'm no Jack Kerouac but if you need a road trip to level your anthropocentric (24 point Scrabble score!) illusions, visiting Alberta's national parks will make an impact. 

You don't need to take many photos to capture some of what it's like to be awed by the Rocky Mountains. Driving or walking the trails, it's as though you're surrounded by some great revered ancestors who stand quietly in judgement. You're only graciously allowed to pass through without incident, and you quickly understand you venture off a marked trail at great risk.

Peyto Lake
Even the Daintree rainforest, full of horrendous spiders, venomous snakes, paralysis ticks, cassowarys and crocodiles never bothered me as much as the thought of wandering down one of the paths with a sign reminding me to "have bear spray and know how to use it".  Two suggestions of which I had neither. Not to mention the danger of mountain lions, who are known to attack near major cities, never mind when you're waltzing through their backyard.

Herbert Lake

For all the bucket-listers out there, go on and add it. For Albertans themselves who've never explored their own province, get out there.  It's only two hours from Calgary, and four from Edmonton.

Your excuses are invalid.  

Photos ©Tezza 2014

Special note: Considering how much I had criticized the Skywalk before it's creation I nearly stopped to see it and determine if it turned out to be as awful as I'd expected.  It was.  Ugly, and smaller than it had looked in it's designs, it was also near impossible to access without using a Brewster coach bus up to the site.  At a ridiculous $25 admission for a single adult, I drove on to better things, saddened that the petition had done nothing to stop it's construction.


Yokai and Seijin and Zillas! Oh My!

Jordan Lewerissa's monsters and characters are largely influenced by his love of all things Japanese from Godzilla films to Yokai, and the Ultraman universe of Seijin, Kaiju, and Kaijin.

Seijin is a general Japanese term for alien (i.e people from the stars).  As for the other two "kai" means strange, and "jin" means people, so Kaiju are strange beasts, while Seijin and Kaijin are star/strange humanoids respectively. Those of you who have seen Pacific Rim (for a better introduction to Angel/Kaiju, and robot war, see Neon Genesis Evangelion) will already have some idea of the ferocity of a Kaiju. 

Though he enjoys working with robotics and Godzilla variations, Lewerissa admits his love for the folklore of the Yokai underpins almost all the work he does. If you'd like an introduction to these creatures his personal recommendation is to gain an appreciation via the GeGeGe no Kitaro manga series.

As an artist, he can conjure anything you like really. A master illustrator with an endless imagination he creates portraits, cute and fuzzies  and the serene and simple in the midst of his other most popular themes. He really shouldn't be sitting next to me at work, he should be working for you.

Cat Eyed Boy
After you've had a short scroll of his larger portfolio you may want to hassle him to add more to his Society6 account where you can put it on a wall clock, a pillow, a t-shirt, an iphone case or even your new baby's onesie.

*Special note for all artists who need an outleft for their work, as you will see, Society6 makes almost any kind of traditional art accessible for sale on items ideal for prints, canvases or to surprise someone with a relatively unique and unexpected gift. I know I'd like one. *ahem*.


With Palestine, For Peace

Brisbane 1/8/2014

On Saturday August 17th, thousands of Israelis came out in force in Tel Aviv to call for continued dialogue and a diplomatic solution to end the conflict in Gaza.  Wikileaks has revealed Israel's long term strategy will continue to be economically and militarily devastating to the region and it's citizens, intentionally keeping them on the edge of a humanitarian crisis. Since July 8, over 1900 Palestinian civilians have been killed as a result of Israeli strikes.

In Brisbane, Australia hundreds marched in solidarity with Palestine on July 20th and again on August 1st to join the world to call for an to Israel's occupation and current wave of attacks .

Brisbane 20/7/2014

The rally cries on both days addressed Israel's political alliance with Australia, (TONY ABBOT YOU CAN'T HIDE, YOU'RE SUPPORTING GENOCIDE), the larger occupation (FROM THE RIVER TO THE SEA, PALESTINE WILL BE FREE) and the brutality of the recent attacks on UN run schools in the region (ISRAEL-USA, HOW MANY KIDS DID YOU KILL TODAY?).

When the cry came for "DOWN, DOWN ISRAEL" myself and a few others fell silent. For my part, I refuse to call out for the downfall of any people, no matter what military action is perpetrated by their government. That may have been the most negative slogan used, but the words that rang the loudest as the march carried on were:

In our thousands, in our millions, we are all Palestinians. 

Brisbane 20/7/14

We want a life free of violence. We want to live without the weight of fear and intimidation as the territory we know as our home is occupied and shrunken, year by year.  

The majority of the general public in countries allied with Israel will not speak out against the occupation or Israel's current offensive. Mainstream Canadians and Australians have traditionally felt too ill-informed on the deep religious and political history involved to even commit to writing a letter to a representative, or signing a petition. Politicians, media figures and academics have witheld their opinion in fear of being accused of anti-semitism, or supporting terrorists. Yet over the last two months, these attitudes have begun to change.

The crowd that walked through the Brisbane's downtown held a large representation of the city's Muslim community and young activists, but there were also many that were not unlike your parents or mine. They didn't carry signs, but they lent their numbers and their voice. As images of children wounded or dead from confirmed Israeli military action  have flooded the nightly news and social media, people are seeing their own kids, nephews or nieces in the faces of Palestinian children. Like myself, they may not be attached to any political group, but they can no longer be silent while our government allies itself with perpetrators of atrocities like these.

The Arab Spring demonstrated there was great power in how social media can affect conflict in the Middle EastIn that case, ideas and otherwise suppressed information needed to keep flowing to connect people to waves of uprisings, and reinforce that they were many, and united they could create change. They acted en masse and found out where to join with others while having confidence in numbers and solidarity. So when we consider the Palestinian occupation, how can social media be best used to ignite activism around the world, and find ways to keep peace in the region?

One ray of hope was the 2012 Israel Loves Iran campaign, where a simple and brilliant initiative created by one man, helped unite Israelis in defiance against their country's political agenda. Civilians came together, sharing memes and working online to subvert nuclear threats and declare to their 'enemy' that they held no hostility towards their neighbours.  I have been heartened to find Israelis and Palestinians (Israel loves Palestine / Palestine loves Israel) are reviving the movement.

The current ceasefire was meant to end tomorrow night, Monday August 18th. I encourage you to take part in any small way you can to support peace in the region. Whatever your beliefs on this issue, the children of Palestine do not deserve to suffer for the actions of Hamas.

Related Links

A brilliant documentary following seven Palestinian and Israeli children as they talk about their lives and explain how they see each other and the conflict in the Middle-East.


Wax Wings

I had the good fortune to see performance artist, jack of several trades, a man currently incarnated as Scott Wings (AKA Scott Sneddon and Darkwing Dubs) as part of a local music festival billed as a comedy rapper. Starting directly after Kudos (see here, here and here) there was a receptive crowd, though I hate to admit the idea of comedic rap had me expecting uncomfortably awkward and likely not laugh out loud funny. Instead it was openly awkward, clever and sharp.  I found when I wasn't laughing, I was clapping.

That got me curious enough to see his one-man show Icarus Falling, where he held a full house in thrall for somewhere near an hour. I don't want to spoil any of it, I'd rather just let you go in unprepared and come out smiling.

Find out where he'll be appearing via Facebook or see more on Tumblr. Fortunate Scottish folks can see Icarus Falling at the Edinburgh Fringe running until August 28th.

UPDATE - Local Boy Makes Good Abroad:  The reviews  and interviews  have begun .  Icarus Falling is selling out shows nightly and receiving well deserved standing ovations at EdFringe. 

Additional sampling below.

Walking the path

Thoughts on his homeland.

We all want to be...superheroes @TEDxYouth Brisbane

Take advantage of small moments


Kudos and credits

After this recent update, full content credit goes to Matihiole for sidebar and profile image. I've highlighted his work before.  



And fun.



The Red-Pill Avatar vs. The Blue Pill Reality

There is a lot of insight and information to be found on Cracked.   

At my office, which allows me unlimited Facebook, Twitter and Instagram access) when I try to view  Cracked articles I receive a page block message with the explanation; "This content has been determined to be: tasteless".

Yes, the guy who would bone the Mona Lisa with  his Leo-nards is not the epitome of class, but I still would generally consider Cracked content a lot less tasteless than most status updates, and a lot more entertaining to read at lunch.   


Imps and Monsters

Justin Hillgrove's sketch-a-day self-assignment alone is an ideal way to improve the content of your newsfeed.   Follow him on Facebook and visit his website for more robots, imps and monsters, as well as storybook and Ghibli fan art.   

Good use of great work: 

Louis C.K: Raising Grown-ups and the Forever-Empty

Smartphones have amazing applications that enrich everyday life - encyclopedic information, instant news, GPS, eBooks, immediate access camera and video.  Even games have their purpose by encouraging the mind to play with complex problem solving. 

New mediums have irrevocably altered our relationships with technology and each other.  In the last fifteen years alone, we've been forced to radically re-evaluate how we handle everyday interactions.  More and more frequently we forfeit the intonation of a voice on the line that could surely transform and maintain healthier bonds than any easily put off or disposed text.

The most obvious alternatives are Skype or Apple's FaceTime app, which in a weird way can even allow you and a friend to have dinner together in your own homes.  There is also the much maligned Snapchat.  Predominantly known as the amateur porn lovers app, like twitter it's forced brevity is it's greatest strength.  Beyond the dirtier uses, the 10-second 'vine' type videos and captioned photos that disappear provide a way to send hilarious, sweet or just plain self-explanatory slices of life between friends.  If you want to be able to quickly share moments without clogging your phone with data and you love surprises, I'd highly recommend it.

Back to the point.  While I make no apologies for being a tech junkie (I have my own strange relationship with my favourite tools)  I agree with Louis that, all benefits aside - believing text is just a convenient and necessary evil may leave some of us caught unaware when this small concession starts becoming just another quick fix for validation to stave off the gaping maw of existential loneliness,  the "forever-empty".  Whether it's triggered by Bruce Springsteen or a bad day at work, painting over that feeling with the constant gratification denies the development of crucial human coping skills (even if you're at the end of your rope and need to reach out to someone, it is after all a phone not a text machine).  As Louis explains, it's more than just feeding a need for attention, it's the inability to just sit and be present without any stimulation.

  While I know I'll acquiesce to my future children playing occasionally with tablets, I'd like to hope parents who see this aren't just having a laugh and do heed his advice.  Especially his insights on children learning empathy through experimentation with meanness in real life versus via texting.  Count on  comedians to unapologetically cut to the core of the issue every time. 

Additional Articles
Texters Vs Talkers
Emoting By Numbers


It Makes Sense

Today we consider words and phrases to eliminate from office vocabulary.

"Does that make sense?"

Almost always used when it should be known very well that the previous statement being referred to does in fact "make sense".   If everyone in the room is speaking English to each other, and you're not talking to middle school children or explaining complex computational problems, I'd say whatever you're discussing is making sense to the educated adults being addressed.   Ask if they have any questions, or even simply if they understand and agree with all the points you've covered.  Anything else.  If you've used it more than three times in a given interaction it begins to feel like the worst kind of condescending corporate office meeting filler imaginable.

Other top nominations for elimination:

"Touch base with..."

"At the end of the day..."

"We're bedding this down..." 
(I tend to picture a farmer filling a stall with hay.  How this got into an office discussion I cannot imagine).

And a special mention to the particularly outrageous:

"We need to socialise this for feedback."


The Social Network

Found via FilmsforAction, this 17 minute film from the Toronto International Film Festival  takes you down the rabbit hole of the new dynamics of social interaction.



Warning: Graphic video
This is the reality of chemical warfare.  The alleged chemical agent used is sarin.

Found via the Amnesty International Australia website. 

President Obama's recent statement  has far reaching consequences for all countries in the region.

Obama has become unwavering in his determination to move forward despite U.S having inconsistent support world-wide for military intervention.  

These attacks are part of the Syrian civil war that has been under way for some time as prior to the recent surge in coverage. The media is generally doing their best to help their consumers get a handle on the Syrian crisis.  A simple google should get you what you need, but you can't get much more basic than the BBC's super fun purple-green news wrap up page that felt it was necessary to spell out why chemical weapons are so controversial.

If you've tuned out because you don't feel you have the capacity to completely understand the conflict and it's implications, there is something you can do.  If you have been reluctant to participate in not-for profit donations in the past, this is the time to change that.  Millions of civilian refugees are fleeing Syria, and your donation can directly help the UNHCR manage the crisis. 


A Moment of Conscience

(This image has been made specifically for use as a Facebook Timeline cover. Feel free to share.)   

August 6th is the 68th anniversary of one of the darkest days in our collective history.   

History too often overlooks that many of the scientists who initially worked to create the bomb appealed to the President Truman to use nuclear force solely as a threat.  Which leads us to question how our world might be different today if more of those physicists had walked away much earlier with Joseph Rotblat.  Or, if the Enola Gay's pilots had flinched in their resolve and dropped their payload off the coast, into the sea. 

The ensuing Cold War was inevitable, but had there been mercy from the US in that peak moment, it may have set a kind of 'due-care' precedent for all ethical considerations behind the development and use of nuclear weapons from that point forward.  

 Leo Szilard also deserves due credit for his work towards nuclear disarmament and peace. 

For your documentary viewing on a Tuesday night:


The Way It Really Is

And all summed up in under a minute.

For more, try his book, What do You Care What Other People Think?, which contains the love story of Feynman and his first wife whom he married knowing she would almost certainly not survive.

Learn more about the remarkable Richard Feynmann.


Easter Egg

There are some things within the internet that are like stumbling over a little known treasure among the waste and trending repetition.  For me, finding  Pixiv was very reminiscent of those game and dvd easter eggs.   It may not have required any special trick to find it, but still.

It's worth signing up for a membership simply to see the full-size versions of the best work. The language barrier is easy to fix with a translator, and if you follow the Pixiv Facebook page you can see the daily top 5 ranked images from their site.  Below, just one of many brilliant artists:


From the Archives

The former editor of Macleans Magazine recently discovered a tape of lunch conversations from 1972 between himself and McLuhan.    The quote above isn't from that interview, but it illustrates why Mr. McLuhan is the among the most influential and misunderstood philosophers in history.  His work is required reading (and to be revisited often) by anyone interested in attempting to interpret the media.


Layers of Insanity

See more from Professor Corey Anton

I've tried to address this insanity before, and I'm happy to find someone else has been feeling the same way.  We constantly participate in all kinds of repetitive surreal rituals and rites without question.  The media (specifically advertising) we produce and consume reinforces what will be valued and what will not.  Madness is even included, it's openly indulged within the systems.

The last time I went to a theme park as I watched my legs dangle in the air below before being jerked violently forward, I was struck by what a complex brilliantly engineered, costly machine I had paid to sit in.  I considered what the huge expense of time and resources were employed to design this thing for the sole purpose of throwing my body around at high speed to generate profits. Profits on our attendance to these places are so great it is worth the massive expense to build and maintain them. Amusement parks are one of the most audacious examples of the huge priority our culture places on keeping us entertained.

So should we say an amusement park is an insane mis-use of human innovation?  I hate to admit it, but I immediately imagine how a young child exposed to such G-forces, driving their curiosity and fearlessness into a future as an astronaut, a experimental aircraft engineer, or a physicist. If there weren't people driven to challenge the physical limitations of our body's capacity for stress, we would not enjoy the convenience of flight or have explored even the tiny amount of our solar system that we have.  As scientifically minded as any innovator might be, don't they experiment, explore and push limits  ultimately for enjoyment, for fun?

Today, studies show that imaginative free play has a strongly positive effect on our development. In almost all animals there is a desire to 'play, and even the most basic games require us to be part of a minor fantasy, to suspend our disbelief.  Until we developed language our games were likely one of three types; physical, musical or rhythmic and artistic. Following the development of written language and increased literacy reading became another extension of our imagination, and stories could spread wide.  Yet the way each of us constructs the content of what we read is unique.  If you consider the details you build into your mind's eye film of your favourite books, there's no question that version of the book is yours alone.  It's not so unlikely then, that the healthy use of our creative mind is easily susceptible to various other gamelike or storytelling distractions - often to the detriment of it's own life and the lives of others.

To many people, celebrities are fantastical creatures, and those fans enjoy knowing every detail, it's a living myth.  For the most part the content is fiction and most of it's readership knows this and doesn't mind one bit.  So is someone who supports tabloid news and celebrity media coverage more or less sane than one who doesn't?  Maybe it's the more rational course of action to openly embrace the culture you're going to need to navigate, and indulge in tribally accepted practices because it's taken for granted that we understand they have no salient purpose.  That nullifies objections and allows it to continue under the guise of a guilty pleasure, dismissed as an inevitable byproduct of this particular culture, and therefore never discontinued until the audience completely loses it's taste for it.  Then the cycle can begin again with a new format.  For instance, television creates it's own stars as cheaply as finding everyday people to attain status and become new fodder for television to report on.  Around and around.

As you peel back all the layers of influence, belief, culture and physical effect that comprise your experience at any given time, it's shocking how the lines between rational and irrational criss-cross hundreds of times a day.  These filters can affect our perceptions and reasoning in ways that compromise our mental well-being in an instant. Like all organisms, we seek pleasure and avoid pain, but the insanity we are capable of beyond the average animal stems from having such a complex brain being confronted with no end of soothing or exciting distractions to turn our heads from our less desirable patterns and apathies we might be loathe to face.  In addition to enjoyable distractions, there is the heightened social anxiety of social media, which can distort our self-awareness, and interpretation of who we are.  At this point in our history, humans are still not quite evolved enough to adequately address and process the world we've created for ourselves.  It's evident that all these factors inherent in our nature have also filtered through our often grossly frivolous use of the technology we've created.  

We've steadily subjected ourselves to an increasingly intense onslaught of media over the last 100 years or so.  The brain's natural plasticity  is being provided with a an unprecedented array of variables to contend with, and within only a few generations we have changed how we interact with information.  How we mediate the influence of technology on culture, and on our faculties is still reliant on an only relatively recently evolved collection of wet matter.  Of course there's going to be madness, not everyone can cope.   


Tolkien Abridged as Art

Breathing2004 's Tolkien illustrations condense all your favorite moments from The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion.  True fans won't need my help to recognize the iconic scenes, and for everyone else it's just beautiful work,  and plenty of fun for the eye to wander through each tableau.   
Also take the time to check out Breathing's blog. 

Enemies of the State

This kind of surveillance was widely suspected (and somewhat expected) before these leaks, but is now supported with evidence directly from the source.  If we choose to continue to use social media (considering Google is involved, pretty much the whole internet), whether you imagine it's not an issue because you aren't important enough to be under surveillance, or you believe you can subvert it by blatantly using these sites in the name of protest and information sharing - you must take the time to duly consider and understand how far reaching the implications of these practices can be.   

If all of this data can be collected and stored, there's got to be plenty that would be worth amazing sums of money and serious favours if used for blackmail.  There surely are NSA employees who could be lured into using their access for private enterprise. Those are just the beginning of the  unsavoury possibilities, if the NSA is doing it under the guise of security, imagine how marketing and public relations firms are certainly already using forms of the same software for their own purposes.  

Plenty of notable people and corporations are willing to do anything to protect and build their brand and what better edge than to own some leverage on your opponents or just be able understand a wave of protest against your company from the inside of the movement, and thus find ways to infiltrate and disarm it.   I don't feel very paranoid entertaining these ideas, all violations are on the table.  Just as whistleblowers will submit to their pangs of conscience and take risks to make this unlawful surveillance public, there must be a flip-side contingent of those people in the organisations involved that exploit it's collection to the fullest.  To expect otherwise is naive. 

There is a sense of synchronicity as Snowden comes forward just as Bradley Manning's trial begins and the media largely serves up "Chumpbait".