15.12.14

The Aum Lands

In the wake of dark days, there are times we'd like to escape this world to planes more vast and magical than the one we know.  Why not visit the Aum Lands? 

The locals are...friendly.

Transport is available.

With nothing but the best accommodations. 

Plenty of group activities to suit anyone, or anything.

Enjoy your stay, and remember to be mindful of the wildlife.


The wizard who stewards this place is ArdenRey.

See more of what The Aum Lands has to offer, and book today for direct flights and special rates. 

11.12.14

How's the Water?



I am very glad to see this has resurfaced (pun sort of intended) after having been removed for copyright infringement since the creators of the video didn't get explicit permission to use David Foster Wallace's speech. It's an excellent exposition on a quote I first heard via Marshall McLuhan.
Though the observation that those so immersed in something cease to be capable of percieving it,(if they were ever able to) - has been around for awhile.

Unfortunately DFW didn't make it, he lost the battle with depression, and I expect the cynical among us might say he didn't do so well taking his own advice. Some of his peers have had the gall to hurl insults at his ghost, calling him pretentious, and a fraud for his vulnerable style - that he was trying to appeal to the soft, self-help generation.

Wallace also provided his take on the American Psycho author's writing choices.

Look, if the contemporary condition is hopelessly shitty, insipid, materialistic, emotionally retarded, sadomasochistic, and stupid, then I (or any writer) can get away with slapping together stories with characters who are stupid, vapid, emotionally retarded, which is easy, because these sorts of characters require no development. With descriptions that are simply lists of brand-name consumer products. Where stupid people say insipid stuff to each other. If what’s always distinguished bad writing—flat characters, a narrative world that’s cliched and not recognizably human, etc.—is also a description of today’s world, then bad writing becomes an ingenious mimesis of a bad world.
 
If readers simply believe the world is stupid and shallow and mean, then Ellis can write a mean shallow stupid novel that becomes a mordant deadpan commentary on the badness of everything. Look man, we’d probably most of us agree that these are dark times, and stupid ones, but do we need fiction that does nothing but dramatize how dark and stupid everything is? In dark times, the definition of good art would seem to be art that locates and applies CPR to those elements of what’s human and magical that still live and glow despite the times’ darkness. Really good fiction could have as dark a worldview as it wished, but it’d find a way both to depict this world and to illuminate the possibilities for being alive and human in it. You can defend “[American] Psycho” as being a sort of performative digest of late-eighties social problems, but it’s no more than that.
 
If anything - This is Water, is another example of Wallace's lack of pollyanna attitude or pretension towards the brutal realities or dullness of everyday existence and nihilistic worldviews around him. I don't believe his suicide invalidates any of his insights, it only demonstrates the destructive force of depression.
 
We frequently find people who have the most brilliant mind, the sharpest intellect, bursting with creativity cannot overcome the counterintuitive emotional states that crush their lucid thought patterns. To quote another excellent writer in a different genre: I don't agree with suicide, but I understand it. There comes a time when you want to leave this planet.  People who do it don't fail to appreciate the horrible impact it will have on their friends and families. For the most part they are not selfish, they simply cannot endure any more and often fear they will cause more suffering to their families or serve no purpose by staying. They are tired of being the depressed person that everyone worries about, the pressure to 'cure' themselves, live up to their own high standards, and simply conceal and paint over how they are truly feeling.
 
Not unlike Eyedea (whose death was accidental), we can mourn that a tremendously talented voice was lost, but embrace everything he left behind.  This is Water is an engaging and well done interpretation of his speech. There's an appetite for it because he fundamentally empathized, understood and articulated the grinding feelings we all cope with. They may seem like distinctly first world problems, but patience and consideration translate across all cultures. Whether you're in line at a supermarket or waiting for someone to get their goat herd off of your mountain path. Not unlike Kurt Vonnegut, he gets the message out while reminding us that we always have a choice.
 
Many people need desperately to receive this message: 'I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.'
 

8.12.14

Tolerance vs Terrorism

There are a lot of reasons not to endorse Russel Brand's views and presentations, but he does a decent job of exposing the most disturbing aspects of how the Prime Minister and the media handled the Ottawa shooting (part of his online series The Trews).



As Brand mentions, there was another serious shooting incident in New Brunswick where three mounties were murdered, the result of a premeditated crime by someone who:

"...reportedly held anti-government and anti-authority views, a fascination with conspiracy theories, and talked about killing other people and himself.[34][35][36] Two days before the shooting, Bourque made rants against all figures of authority to his father, during which he was described as becoming "paranoid".[37] "

"Bourque admitted responsibility to the shootings and claimed that he committed them in an attempt to spark a rebellion against the Canadian government, which he believed was oppressive, corrupt, and serving only the wealthy at the expense of other citizens. He also claimed that he originally planned to harm the oil industry by setting fire to several Moncton gas stations and then shoot random people, but abandoned the plan due to issues with his bicycle."

Not unlike Bourque, the Ottawa shooter, Michael Zihaf-Bibeau had a history with police.  Zihaf-Bibeau also had a history of addiction and homelessness prior to acting on any extremist views.  So far the only person who seems to have taken the correct perspective towards the shooting is Cpl. Nathan Cirillo's girlfriend.  She has called for a moratorium on mental illness in Canada, citing out our often dismal mental health support systems.

Arguably, Zihaf-Bibeau's life may still have led him to commit a similar act if he refused treatment. Yet it's crucial to differentiate between the motivation of a troubled individual who latched onto extremism and acted alone, and a highly organised attack directly planned by and excuted by a recognized group. Harper cannot be allowed to cite this incident to justify pursuing further militarisation or new legislation that contains vast erosions of personal privacy similar to the US Patriot Act. 

Not surprisingly, Harper is currently attempting to do just that.  In the past, the best argument he had to support increases to police surveilance powers was to try to make Canadians feel like the supported child porn or cyber bullying by opposing additional the release of their metadata, and thankfully that failed.  Now Bill-C44 is on the table and being endorsed by the Public Safety Minister (whose title sounds like it holds as much credibility in this discussion as a national hall-monitor, he's certainly not the Minister of Military Intelligence or Terrorism Investigations).



Like any false trigger to escalate the 'War on Terror', the smoking gun here is not ISIS, at best it sounds like they claimed a victory because the incident serendipidously fell in their wheelhouse. This shooting absolutely has no place being used by the Harper Government (as they like to be called) to empose any additional surveillance or security measures except at the steps of Parliament Hill.  Likewise Canadians need to be wise to this common political tactic used by an incumbent party to save their skin heading into the next election via fear-mongering and painting the opposing party's leader as too soft on terrorism.

Even beyond any political motivation as the Prime Minister, Harper has a duty to all Canadian citizens and Canada has a growing Muslim population who were already insulted when their faith was equated with terrorism by their country's leader in a public interview on a major network.  It's not surprising after seeing the inflammatory nature of his speech in the wake of the shooting,  Muslim groups have publicly denounced Zihaf-Bibeau's acts as incompatible with Islam to help prepare for the backlash in the press and in their communities  It's a sad shame that they feel it is necessary to be so pre-emptive and clear.


Canadians by and large, embrace multiculturalism, but the regular emphasis on fear and condemnation of a particular faith from the country's highest office is welcomed fuel to the minority of bigots among us.  And maybe some of the mentally ill among that bigoted group towards even more heinous crimes - even potential terrorist acts.  From that perspective, the Stephen Harper's statements are equivalent to ISIS itself in his ability to provoke violence within Canadian borders by inciting individuals otherwise unassociated with the Conservative Party towards such acts on the inspiration of his ideological rhetoric.

For his part, Justin Trudeau did a commendable job (albeit having spoken a. bit. too. slowly.) of remaining firm in the resolve against terrorist acts, but likewise urging investigation and tolerance going forward.




20.10.14

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.

18.8.14

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*.

17.8.14

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.

24.7.14

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


22.6.14

Kudos and credits

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

Simple.



Beautiful.



And fun.




26.3.14

17.11.13

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.   

21.9.13

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

17.9.13

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."

14.9.13

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.


2.9.13

Syria


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. 


6.8.13

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:



30.7.13

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?.  The book's title comes from Feynman's wife's tendency to tell him ask him that queston whenever he complained about being a bit embarassed the audaciously sweet things she did.  For a book by a physicist, it contains a very beautiful love story.

Learn more about the remarkable Richard Feynmann.

24.7.13

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:






22.7.13

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.