Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Old MacDonald had a house

Last weekend was the second weekend of the 33rd Annual Thornhill Village Festival. The Thornhill Festival theoretically celebrates Thornhill's historic beginnings, but it in fact becomes more of a local showcase for artists and craftspeople to pawn off their goods to we the people. When I was younger, my siblings and I used to frequent the festival every year. As the years went by, however, my family realized that the festival was largely unremarkable and served as little more than a nuisance (since major roads near our home would be cordoned off).

This year, I took a special interest in the Thornhill Festival because I was apprised that the historic home of J.E.H. MacDonald, one of the Group of Seven's eminent members, would be open to the public as part of Doors Open Vaughan. Now, this "Doors Open" concept is something that is rather new to me. I first heard of it a few weeks ago when Sandlot informed me that UWO's library had been overrun by tourists as part of Doors Open London. Sensing my perplexity, she went on to explain "Doors Open" whereby interesting city sites are opened to the public. She added that Doors Open Toronto was in fact, quite interesting... and free (clearly, a key consideration).

J.E.H. MacDonald's house lies buried in a small park in my neighbourhood. I've always carried a vague sense of pride to reside near the homestead of such a historic figure. The house itself remains closed and locked at almost all times, however. I was curious to take a peek inside.

The house is actually quite small, with low ceilings and petite rooms. My sister said that houses back in those days generally were smaller and so were the people. I'm sure, however, that J.E.H. MacDonald could have done much better. After all, when my family moved into our current house, the immediate neighbourhood consisted mostly of farmland. Back when MacDonald moved in, his house must have been literally in the middle of nowhere.

I suppose, that's just where an artist who spent his life portraying Canada as is would want to be. I asked my sister just what made the Group of Seven so special - aside from Lawren Harris, I have difficulty distinguishing one from another. My sister explained that the Group of Seven were important not just for their artistic ability but also for their portrayal of Canada. Prior to them, many artists had tried to paint Canada, but they had come from Europe - they had painted Canada in the European style and made Canada look like Europe. The Group of Seven pained Canada as they saw it to actually be, in their own unique way driven by the Canadian experience. And the Europeans? They didn't get it.

The J.E.H. MacDonald house itself, though, was highly disappointing. I was expecting an authentic historic experience with period furniture, much like the Mackenzie King estate in Ottawa. Instead, I was treated to a highly renovated interior with newfangled lighting and a fully modernized kitchen. The inside had been gutted and turned into more of an art exhibit for local artists to sell their works (which were not inexpensive). My sister said those responsible for the MacDonald house probably felt that MacDonald would be happy that his house was still being used in the spirit of art. I suppose that's true, but it would have been a lot cooler if they at least had a real MacDonald art piece to look at somewhere. I guess Vaughan is just too poor.

There's always the McMichael gallery...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

We interrupt your regularly scheduled studying

If you're not sure why your toes are curling, inexplicably bracing for a week of unusually half-assed blogging, it's because I have a killer exam coming up on Monday. Hence, blogging is taking a backseat when it comes to precious commodities like... time.

This morning, I caved to peer pressure and skipped my bollocks community health lecture to go study in the library. I rather dislike studying in libraries. On the one hand, there's virtually nothing to do but stare at your books, which makes me very agitated. Meanwhile, you need to be quiet and hungry, and every once in awhile someone will come along and try to boot you from your study room. On the other hand, you're with other people, and they still make noise. When I close my eyes to think, head pounding from all the knowledge I'm trying to absorb by osmosis, I occasionally become unpleasantly aware of all the fidgeting, page flipping, whispering, and heavy breathing that other stressed out students are doing. Shucks.

Seven hours in the library were modestly productive and left me with a splitting headache. I was trapped downtown rather than procrastinating at home in my pyjamas because of an inconvenient club meeting for the University of Toronto Medical Journal (UTMJ) that was scheduled for the evening.

I had signed up as a Graphics Editor, which had sounded immediately exciting to me. After all, I had done a lot of layout work and photomanipulation in my time. However, as the meeting got started, I slowly began to realize that I had made a mistake. The Graphics editorial team was not a layout team, but rather an artistic design team. Now, under normal conditions, where the club was composed entirely of medical students, this would be fine. I could probably hit par in artistic talent with most of my classmates. However, the Graphics team, with the exception of myself, was composed entirely of Biomedical Communications students. The role of the team was not to play around with photos and create pretty layouts... it was to generate high quality original art, and these people were students who were being trained so that they could go out into the world and be paid to do just that - for textbooks, for websites, for scholarly journals. I did not belong here. As the heavy talking about what would be required continued, I sank back ever farther into my chair. What had I gotten myself into? I assumed my typical attentive position, one hand tucked neatly under my chin. I reached my thumb backwards to palpate my carotid pulse. Thump. Thump. Thump. It was bounding.

At the end of the meeting, I scampered up to the Editors-in-Chief, red in the face from embarrassment, and confessed that I had misunderstood the role and was probably not a good match for the team. Luckily, they were understanding enough to shuffle me to a more suitable role (so I hadn't spent my day in the library for nothing). In passing, one of the editors added, "Yeah, when I saw you applied for Graphics Editor, I was like, Wow, Andy's really taking a leap here, he must be some intense graphics guy." Well, he had the first part right, anyways.

Monday, September 28, 2009

No king in absentia

My friend Kushima was one of the earliest dedicated readers of my blog, and over time he's continually tracked his own blog presence by the number of entries in which I've tagged him. While he was once neck-in-neck with Mello, his position is beginning to waver, these days even being threatened by YouTube.

Understandably, because my blog is the ultimate litmus test for popularity, Kushima has been mildly distraught by this turn of events. He has, on a number of occasions, expressed that I ought to try harder to scrimp and scrounge for blogworthy events in which he is included.

Kushima: Well if you don't start helping here, I'll have to stop caring abt the ranking.

That said, it's hard to blog about someone you hardly ever see. Kushima, having taken to skipping out on our daily lectures, is often simply absent.

Kushima: I think that deserves a blog entry.

So, just this once I've decided to scrimp and scrounge and tell the story of Kushima's fall from blog ubiquity. But you can't forever be king in absentia.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Making light of making out

On Wednesday, my high school friend Sydney and I hit up a pre-screening for Bruce Willis' marvellously mediocre new thriller, Surrogates. Heading back to our suburban neighbourhood around 11 PM, we drove past the charming little pond which serves as a salient landmark for our area. The pond includes a little boardwalk with some benches and an extra wide shoulder for parking cars. Parked at the pondside was a single black minivan.

Sydney: Isn't it weird how no matter what time of day it is, there's always somebody at the pond?

Andy: Maybe there's a couple making out there.

Sydney: In the dark?

Andy: [/sarcasm] No, in the light.

Last time I checked, making out was not a spectator sport... except for those kids in high school who thought it was classy to suck face beside their lockers. Get a room - or a pond.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Bet you'd vote for Palin!

Peeps were hatin' on it 'fore I left my comment...

So, after discovering the wonder of Web Site Story, I realized that College Humour puts together some pretty original and thoroughly entertaining stuff (although, as some have come to realize, it takes work to sift through all the crap). Buried amongst the refuse is this absolutely golden and catchy tune which makes a play on all the dung-heads that leave comments on the Internet. Of course, what makes the video epic is its disturbing level of authenticity - i.e. it's funny because it's true.

From the pervy mansluts who come out of the woodwork every time someone posts a picture of a pretty girl to the racist bigot from I've-never-seen-an-Asian, TX; village idiots from all walks of life converge on empowering anonymity of the Internet to voice their opinions.

My brother's hugely politically incorrect colleague posed it this way: "Winning an argument in an online forum is like winning the Special Olympics - even if you win, you're still retarded."

homophobe193: Gay-ay-ay
whitepower21: You guys know who I hate?
people who are mixed race.
also mexicans, redheads, and asians.

xandinator: why r u guys so racist.
xandinator: why r u guys so racist.
xandinator: double post, my bad.
strongman34: this kid’s a noob fag.

dFendr93: what’s your problem douchebag?
xandinator: ur the ass, fucking fag!
strongman34: your a fag!
xandinator: You’re a BITCH!
huntergavin: All of you can suck my dick! 8==0

Well, Kushima, I guess this post finally puts the YouTube label ahead of you (33/32)... Except, it doesn't, because I just tagged you (33/33). Safe for another day - who says I'm not a team player?

Seriously, though - this vid is epic.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Palin takes her act to Hong Kong

Sarah Palin, the world's most laughable vice presidential candidate has resurfaced... possibly gunning to be the future leader of the free world. Scary? I think so.

Palin has decided to start her new publicity campaign in none other than my-favourite-city-in-the-world, Hong Kong. I guess she figured she'd take less flak in a country where most people don't speak English very well. [begin satire] Palin, sporting an arctic wolf skin bikini, had these words at her address. "I've learned a lot since hitting the campaign trail with John McCain. I've worked hard to improve my foreign policy pedigree, and I'd like to assure you that this time around I know that I cannot see Hong Kong from my house." [end satire] Sweet. Now get the hell out of my [parents'] city.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Statement of Intent

With the graduate students writing out statements of intent or research interest, medical students writing up their summer project reports, and not-quite-medical students composing their apps, seems like everyone's got something to write that they'd rather not. But why be productive when you could write on a blog? Here's what I picture my "statement of intent" looking like if the world revolved around me as it should:

As a current candidate for three concurrent PhD degrees and AndyLand U, I am passionate about the sciences and research. The ultimate goal of science is to better our understanding of the world around us and, more importantly, to improve life for our fellow man. Too often, science has been perverted into a means of driving exploitation, destruction, and suffering. The aim of my graduate work is simple: to increase the amount of happiness in the world.

Research question: How does eating cookies affect Andy's happiness, as evaluated by a ten-point Likert scale?

The premise of this experiment is that the happiness of the world is cumulative (please refer to Appendix A, research abstract by Mr. Christie). Therefore, by improving the happiness of a single individual, the world's overall happiness is increased. By measuring the impact of cookies on happiness, we can then generalize this finding the the population as a whole. This can lead to novel health interventions, such as providing workers with free cookies.

The study will be conducted in a semi-quantitative manner using an N-of-1 approach. Essentially, I will participate in blocks of time where I am and am not eating cookies. Happiness, as rated on a ten-point Likert scale, will be evaluated at the beginning of, mid-way through, and at the end of each block. We will also be conducting the tests with a variety of different cookie types and brands to see which cookie can best maximize happiness. Statistical measures of internal consistency will be performed, and on-cookie and off-cookie blocks will be compared.

In conclusion, I intend to study happiness through cookies. Thank you for this tremendous opportunity and bon appetit!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Holy fantastic fanmail, Batman!

When I rewrote Keri Hilson's "Knock You Down" to include a genetic tilt, there was some clamouring for me to sing my latest lyrical creation. The answer is no. It was unsettling enough the first time.

However, my friend Kate, flatteringly enamoured with the new rhyme, took "Knock Genes Down" as her own project of procrastination. Freaking win.

This is for all you auditory learners out there. Thanks, Kate! I hope Universal Music Group is watching (to sign her up... not for copyright violation).

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Voyage to Netherland

Several damning computer crashes lie between me and my youthful years as a high school student. Countless Word documents, and yes, WordPerfect documents, have been lost to the annals of time - including my most infamous writing composition ever.

It was December of 2002. I was studying Grade 12 English, licking at the heels of Grade 11 English via summer school. As one of our major assignments on poetry analysis, we were asked to compose a poem modelled after another. The model poem was entitled, A Hemisphere in Your Hair.

A Hemisphere in Your Hair
Charles Baudelaire, Paris Spleen

Long, long let me breathe the fragrance of your hair. Let me plunge my face into it like a thirsty man into the water of a spring, and let me wave it like a scented handkerchief to stir memories in the air.

If you only knew all that I see! all that I feel! all that I hear in your hair! My soul voyages on its perfume as other men’s souls on music.

Your hair holds a whole dream of masts and sails; it holds seas whose monsoons waft me toward lovely climes where space is bluer and more profound, where fruits and leaves and human skin perfume the air.

In the ocean of your hair I see a harbour teeming with melancholic songs, with lusty men of every nation, and ships of every shape, whose elegant and intricate structures stand out against the enormous sky, home of eternal heat.

In the caresses of your hair I know again the languors of long hours lying on a couch in a fair ship’s cabin, cradled by the harbor’s imperceptible swell, between pots of flowers and cooling water jars.

On the burning hearth of your hair I breathe in the fragrance of tobacco tinged with opium and sugar; in the night of your hair I see the sheen of the tropic’s blue infinity; on the shores of your hair I get drunk with the smell of musk and tar and the oil of cocoanuts.

Long, long, let me bite your black and heavy tresses. When I gnaw your elastic and rebellious hair I seem to be eating memories.

And so it began. Frankly, I had no idea how to model a poem like this. It was not like rewriting a song, where merely the rhyme and syllable structure needed to match. This had the feel of a complex piece of literature.

So I thought. I thought a lot. I took notes on the themes and the structure - how the poem began wide in scope and then closed in on a single cozy cabin. Then I began.

I began with a word. A single but generous word, with plenty of attributes to play with. Galaxy. Galaxy was my solution to Baudelaire's hemisphere. I needed something that had an equally expansive set of substructures as half the planet (a hemisphere) from which I could draw, and a galaxy certain met that criterion. Furthermore, galaxies involve space, which tickled the fancy of the science fiction geek in me.

Then my second conundrum began. A Hemisphere in Your Hair was an illustration in alliteration. To accurately model it, I too should alliterate. So I furrowed my brow and began brainstorming bodily parts that began with "G." Gee gee gee gee, baby baby. Gonads? No, too explicit. Gubernaculum? I hadn't even learned that word yet. Groin? Mayhaps...

At the time, I was participating in a two-day business competition with DECA, my all-time favourite high school club. I still remember sitting there at the Sheraton Centre in downtown Toronto, wrestling with the idea that I had just concocted. In the end, I took the plunge, and A Galaxy in Your Groin came to life.

Days later, back in class, I approached my teacher for advice. I should preface this with a bit of context. My English teacher was a terrific educator, and I learned so much about English from him. He was also the first openly gay man I had ever met, and it was apparent. From his feminine tone, to the hissy fits he would throw at students he disliked, he set off the gaydar in spades.

Now, I was still not particularly comfortable with my poem. Sure, I felt like I had done a good job modelling the original, and yes, I had an amusing time doing so. But still, I felt like the racy content of A Galaxy in Your Groin would bite me in the ass come marking time.

I paused before my teacher's desk. "Mr. Z, I wanted to ask you a question about our poetry assignment. What if our poem isn't exactly... appropriate?"

Mr. Z's head jerked up. His eyes narrowed, and his eyebrows twitched with suspicion. "What do you mean appropriate?"

"Well, here let me show you," I stammered, shoving a lined piece of paper onto Mr. Z's desk.

Mr. Z read through the poem with great attention, and as he did so, the scowl faded from his face. The taut stress lines eased, and he looked back up at me with a smile. "Andy, your poem is very sensual," he replied, "You shouldn't be ashamed of that." Then he added, "Your poem makes me blush."

I almost choked and died.

I got a perfect score on that assignment.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Keri Hilson ft. Andy

In our lecture about genetic pathologies, the professor introduced us to the word "sibship" (brothers and sisters). Genetics? Sibship? From that point on, my mind was gone...

I used to be commander and chief of my sibship flying high
Till this X-linked mutation made me colour blind

Hate to know I'm lacking don't know why it happened
But I know it feels so damn grey
Said if I could go back and be other half sperm
Don't you know I would baby if I may
Photoreceptors, to the fullest, the load never too much
They detect the colour, they can see things redder than ever did spy
I swear to you the artist me just died tonight
Girl sometimes red...

Sometimes red comes around (red comes around, red comes around)
And genes get knocked down
Can't get back up
When they get knocked down (get knocked down)
Sometimes red comes around
And genes get knocked down
Can't get back up
When they get knocked down

The best part is that because I've rewritten Ne-Yo's part of the song, I've also cast myself as Kanye's love rival. That's great, because Kanye is a douche.

For bonus "Knock You Down" goodness, check out Sandlot's charming cover.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The case of the mortified squirrel

The date is August 16th, 2003. Two days after the great Northeast Blackout of 2003, I awoke early in the morning and stumbled into the bathroom. Having left my corrective lenses back in the bedroom, my tragically myopic eyes struggled to adjust.

As my sluggish feet inched closer to the toilet, my eyes focused in on a dark object.

Ew, disgusting! Someone forgot to flush, was my gut reaction.

I took a step closer. The dark object began to look a bit uneven, as though bristling with fur.

Did someone drop a scarf into the toilet? I pondered.

A few more steps brought the object into focus, and clarity revealed the dark hairy object to be nothing short of an animal's tail... and attached to the tail was an actual animal - a squirrel, to be precise. Waterlogged and motionless it lay there.

"Mom! Why is there a squirrel in the toilet?!" I exclaimed groggily.

My family came running, dumbfounded by my query. On subsequent tellings of this story, my mother would express exasperation about this apparent blame that I had laid on her shoulders. But to my semi-lucid brain, if there was a squirrel in the toilet, it only made sense that someone had put it there.

My brother retrieved the corpse with barbecue tongs and gingerly disposed of it in a plastic bag. The tongs were also discarded, never to be used again. He described the said animal as being in a complete state of rigor mortis - solid as a rock.

The question that would dog us for the years to come is, How did that squirrel end up in the toilet? Many theories have been proposed. Perhaps it fell over a pipe outside and washed up. Maybe it was washed up the pipe in a storm. Yet, there the corpse lay... alone and immaculate. It did not draw with it a high water level or any other debris that might indicate it came from the outside world. One might be led to believe that it had simply appeared, as though by magic or teleportation. Thus, the case of the mortified squirrel remains one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of my not unspectacular life...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

True love on the Internet? Hah!

"I’m on Twitter, I’m on Twitter, and I’m tweeting and singing a song! About tweeting, but it’s 7 characters too long!"

College Humour has composed this West Side Story spoof about online life that is both an uncanny depiction of the world we live in and pleasantly musical. I will definitely be checking out the legit 1961 film as a result.

eVite, eVite, did you get the details?
I had you down as not yet replied.
I hate eVite! There’s nothing in emails
And you have to click through to the site.
I was worried while I waited, your picture was outdated,
And you looked liked a dog.
Now I can’t wait to read about me later on your blog.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The old boys and their games

Election averted. In the square dance of Canadian politics, party leaders spin round and round, then switch partners. The Liberals propped up the Harper government until now. Now, with the Liberals finally ready to ride into an election on Michael Ignatieff's newfound popularity, the NDP and Bloc have switched sides to save the Conservatives. Politically, it all makes sense. the NDP and the Bloc have much to lose from the resurgent Liberal support and are hardly election ready. The Liberals too, have much to gain from appearing to be taking the tough stance while biding more time to prepare a platform. It's all a game of convenience and poll numbers.

But when did the Liberals find the balls to call for a general election in the first place? In the popularity of their tough guy leader, Michael Ignatieff - a manufactured product of backroom politics. By the atmosphere on Parliament Hill these days, it's clear that Stephen Harper is just a little bit afraid of Mr. Ignatieff, a respect that his predecessor Stephane Dion lacked.

Trying to undo their problem before it began, the Conservative party launched a bevy of attack ads and a website aimed at undermining Mr. Ignatieff in the early spring. The mildly disgruntling aspect of these ads is that they were more truthful than the usual Conservative drivel. They took advantage of genuine weaknesses in Michael Ignatieff's international past.

To his credit, Ignatieff did not take this slander lying down. Eager to prove that he would not be a Dion-esque pushover, Ignatieff had these fighting words: "If you mess with me, I will mess with you until I'm done." His strong words won accolades from those who resented Dion's meek demeanour.

The Liberals then tabled a bill to stop the Conservatives from running attack ads off election season, a loophole that Conservatives have frequently used to evade election advertisement spending limits. However, as the threat of election came dangerously close this month, the Liberals launched their own set of election-style television ads.

A legitimate question to ask is, "Why have an election?" On the one hand, one year into a minority Conservative government, people are loathe to hit the polls again. My parents quite openly cursed Ignatieff's Liberals for proposing an unnecessary election. However, it's the opposition's prerogative to vote down the government on matters of confidence. The real fault lies with Harper's opportunistic election call last year as he attempted to capitalize on favourable polls to strengthen his mandate, despite recently having introduced legislation barring the government from doing just that (the legality of our last election is currently being investigated). That said, the Liberals are being equally opportunistic by trying to force an election as their poll numbers are up and the NDP and Bloc are being equally politically minded by dodging it.

The sad fact of the matter, however, is that none of the current contenders for government are particularly inspiring. The Conservatives are powermongers who lie, cheat, and destabilize our democracy. At the same time, they spend plenty of money buying votes and accomplishing little. The Liberals, on the other hand, have done little to distinguish themselves since Michael Ignatieff took the helm many months ago. Their resurgent popularity is based on little more than the fact that he is not Dion. The Liberals have worked hard to attack the Conservative government, but have yet to provide any kind of alternative vision for the country (although I am a big fan of Ignatieff's proposed high speed rail line from Quebec City to Windsor).

In the end, all we really have are the same old boys playing the same old politics, running circles around each other. They are a disconnected and visionless brood of leaders, leading an apathetic and unambitious country. And Ignatieff? He's just popular because some people think he's sexy.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Imma let you finish

By this point, we've all seen Kanye's douchebag moment at the MTV Video Music Awards whereby he stole away the mic from a dumbfounded Taylor Swift and redirected the limelight to Beyonce. The act has spawned all manner of Internet mockery, including the above video. Interrupting the Emperor of the Galactic Empire? Now that's ballsy.

The Dark Lord, however, isn't the only one who's had something to say about Kanye's outburst. Thanks to Sandlot's Internet vigilance, I haven't missed a single moment. Check out Obama's off-the-record two cents as he amicably labels Kanye a "jackass", or mosey on over to I'mma Let You to catch the latest Internet trend in the making.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

With great power comes great attitude

Believe it or not, I'm actually quite easily perturbed. It only takes one confrontational event to ruin my day and send me into spiralling into a dark, unhappy place. The other day, we got out of class and J-Rock and I were horsing around in the halls. Being the jovial bundle of sarcasm and wit that I am, I let fly a particularly salient insult and then made a break for it. I only made it a few steps down the hall when a cantankerous, middle-aged professor stepped out of the door...

"I'm trying to teach a class here, and I can't hear ANYTHING!"

She glared at us with contemptuous eyes, brows furrowed in disdain, teeth barred, and arms poised to pounce. I turned away. "Sorry," J-Rock offered sincerely - I could virtually feel his head bobbing up and down in remorse. "Sorry," I echoed quietly, my back already facing my accuser. I was not sorry. I was vehement.

As I mentally took her down a notch, countering her verbal attack in a play-by-play rewind, I paused. Why was I so upset? After all, if some kids were making a ruckus outside my classroom when I was trying to teach a class... wouldn't I also be annoyed? Wouldn't I also snap and tell them off? Probably so.

Yet, something about this was still unpalatable: the attitude. The contempt. The condescension. After all, we hadn't known there was a class going on in that hallway. We hadn't intentionally disrupted their learning. We hadn't planned malice or disrespect. We just happened to be there and so did they. Had the professor treated us with more respect, I probably would have been more remorseful but less upset.

A friend of mine returned from Asia and expressed to me that he felt "Canadians were too honest." I countered that the problem I perceived was not that Canadians were too honest (I am a big fan of frank honesty), but rather they were simply not polite. Where are our manners, friend?

Manners are something that have gradually left our collective psyche as society's brains become shrunken from posting faceless spam on Internet forums... but manners are also something that are lost with feelings of entitlement. Feeling of entitlement are often associated with seniority and power. Professorship. Medical degrees. You name it. It's easy, then, to begin to feel as though our time is more precious than those of our fellow citizens. The result?

Snap. Crackle. Pop. Jackass, bad manners!

Beware the trap.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

100% means Certainty

Some people like to abuse the expression "100% sure." You see, being sure of something means that you are confident that it is true. 100% is perfection. If you're 100% sure, your confidence is perfect. There is no doubt. Black is black. White is white. This-thing-is-true-or-I'll-eat-my-shorts confident.

My Mom is part of the 100%-abusers Club. She often tells me that she's "100% sure" about things... until they're proven false. Sometimes they're true, but that's not the point. Personally, I tend to abstain from using superlatives like "100%" in arguments, and if I do... ooh boy, you're going down.

Today, I received a Facebook message from a Random Guy (name withheld). I was a bit confused because he had the same name as someone on my actual friend's list, but the hidden display picture tipped me off that things were not as they appeared. The message read as follows:

Are you also known as Vanky who went to OCI in Toronto?? I'm 100% sure you are. I can be reached at

First of all, my name is not Vanky. Second of all, we have no friends in common (in fact, Random Guy only has 1 friend in total). I pondered this conundrum for a minute, then sent back the following reply:

I'm afraid you've overestimated your 100%. I think one should be cautious throwing around such certainties when you're looking for someone named "Vanky" and stumble upon someone named "Andy."

Could the real Vanky please stand up?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Your incestuous mind

So it's come to my attention that almost all of the men Mello is attracted to look to be bordering on thirty (even though most of them are only in their mid-late twenties). The following discussion of age in relationships ensued:

Mello: Don't you think it's weird for a guy to date an older woman?

Andy: Well, my brother's wife is my sister's age; and my sister's husband is my brother's age.

Mello: Oh, is your brother older than your sister?

Andy: No.

Mello: Oh, so it's like... your brother is married to your sister!

Okay, no. Mello went on to explain her train of thought. It went something like this: "If my sister was five years younger than me and was dating someone my age, and if I was dating someone five years younger than me (my sister's age), then it would make more sense for us to swap! So that's what I was thinking of for your siblings, except then I realized it doesn't work because they're opposite gender, so it would be like your brother was married to your sister!"

First of all, how does it make sense to swap? And secondly, if you actually performed the analogous swap with my siblings, they'd end up being queer, not incestuous.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The five types of cosplay

The last weekend of August brought Fan Expo, one of the more entertaining events of the summer. For the uninitiated, Fan Expo is the unabashed coming out party of Canada's geeks, freaks, and morbidly obese - an all-in-one science fiction, comics, gaming, horror, and anime convention. Sydney and I hit up this year's convention with high expectations, but the celebrity pickings were disappointingly slim (of course, lacking Brent Spiner). They ranged from understated Q&A sessions with Leonard Nimoy (who sang) and James Kyson Lee to the positively pretentious and excruciatingly boring mannerisms of Avery "Captain Sisko" Brooks.

Still, the one thing that never fails to disappoint at Fan Expo are the fans themselves. Shocked as you may be to learn this, Fan Expo attendees are not normal. Out of the woodwork they come, with their geek speak, sweaty odour, and pot bellies, emboldened in the knowledge that at Fan Expo, the geek is king. For instance, while sitting in line waiting for a super secret sneak preview of the new Tron movie, Sydney and I found ourselves beside a friendly, rotund, but socially awkward mister who struck up a conversation with us. He was in on a "Press" pass, apparently working for a "small, local culture magazine." Being the geeky one, he confessed, he was sent out to all the geek culture events around Toronto. After talking loudly on his cell phone about how he'd managed to garner a number of exciting interviews, he took a moment to try impress Syd with his journalism cred:

Mister: Do you know who Edgar Wright is?

Syd: No...?

Mister: Director of Shawn of the Dead? Hot Fuzz?

[dramatic pause to give us time to be impressed]

Mister: I have an interview with him.

Syd: Oh... that's nice.

Like an early Halloween, Fan Expo attendees spend hours stitching together costumes so that they can prance around as their favourite Sailor Scout, space marine, or comic book villain. If nothing else, they're certainly fun to watch. And after three years of Fan Expo, I've distilled these dress-up types down into five distinct categories:

1. The Awesome Ones

There are some costumes so well executed, it would just feel wrong to make fun of them. Instead, we gawk in admiration at the obsessive fanboy/fangirl that spawned this creation... knowing full well that we ourselves would feel pretty self-conscious dressed up as a guitar wielding Red Ranger.

A "steampunk" inspired take on the X-Men

On your knees, Batman

[Click here] for the absolute greatest costume from Fan Expo - Yuffie Kisaragi from Final Fantasy 7.

2. The "I tried"s

I'm not going to dwell on this category very long. These are the people who put in an effort, dress up, and come out looking... recognizable. You can tell what they're dressed up as, and you still might want to take a photo with them, but you'd never be tempted to mistake them for the real thing. Most cosplayers fall squarely into this category.

3. The Ones Who Take Off Their Clothes

For some girls, Fan Expo is just an excuse to wear skimpy outfits. They radiate the sentiment of, "I'm a nerd and I'm hot... Don't you wish your girlfriend was hot like me? Don't you wish your girlfriend was an elf like me? Don'tcha?" These ladies come in one of three varieties: 1) Warcraft elves, 2) Spandex superheroines, and 3) Golden bikini Princess Leia clones. Given the geek factor and the skin factor, you can virtually feel Fan Expo's nerd laden population drooling. I guess these attention-seekers live by the motto of, "If you've got it (or think you've got it), flaunt it."

4. The Questionably Chubby

Many of the questionably chubby are attempts at the "Ones Who Take Their Clothes Off" category gone awry. Look, I understand we all have our own body types, lifestyles, and metabolism... but when you soil my memory of Princess Leia's golden bikini with your rolls, we've got a bit of a problem.

The result of years of turbolift usage...

Supergirl, what large thighs you have

As an aside, Syd was fairly upset that everytime Supergirl got up or sat down, there was apparent underwear flashing going on.

Master Chief really let himself go since Halo 3

5. The Oddball Ones

Some costumes just defy description. Some make us laugh, some garner raised eyebrows, and some are just cringeworthy.

Clear my schedule for today, I think this boy needs some counselling...

So there you have it, the best and the worst of Fan Expo 2009. The next time you pass by a geek event, you too will be able to identify the five types of cosplay... and if you never intend to do so, at least you got to see it all right here.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

My alma mater

Stuart Street, Kingston, ON

Though it's only been one year, undergrad already feels so long ago. On the occasions to which I returned to Kingston, an eerie sensation followed. The streets felt familiar, but no longer like home. Words like JDUC stumbled clumsily out of my mouth. This was no longer my campus.

Still, today I was a little off my Toronto game. When researching my problem-based learning (PBL) exercise for tomorrow, I typed in instead of the UofT equivalent. Then, when trying to recall the name of our first year Respirology prof, I conjured Dr. Steve Iscoe instead of Dr. Sheldon Mintz.

On days like this, I miss brunch at Megalos, Sunday service at St. James, and all the ammenities of my comfy residence room.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

300 Posts of Writin' on a Blog

Feels like just yesterday we hit the big 2-0-0, and here we are 100 posts later. Blogs grow up so fast these days. In commemoration of this momentous occasion, it was originally my intention to compose a Sing Along Blog à la Dr. Horrible. However, this proved to be a little bit too ambitious for yours truly. Instead, I've retooled Bon Jovi's Livin' On a Prayer (the song which previously propelled J-Rock and I into the realm of rock legends) into a meaningful ballad. So cover your ears and enjoy the ride...

Edit 30/04/12: Sorry, but the sound file hosting site has gone down... so you can no longer be subjected to my singing.

A long time ago
In a galaxy far far away...

Andy writes on Blogger all day
Writing for his friends
There's no time for school
Don't fail... don't fail
Mello got new braces to wear
Yubin got hers off
Straight teeth don't come cheap
It's pain... such pain

He says we've got to write on
'Bout what we've got
It doesn't make a difference
If it's funny or not
We've got six readers, and that's a lot
Of love - we'll give it a shot!

Whoa, come rain or fog
Whoa, writin' on a blog
Read my page, or I'll be kickin' your dog
Whoa, writin' on a blog

J-Rock likes to duel on the Wii
Now he's falling off
'Cause he can't guard for beans
It's weak... so weak
Sandlot used to write a great page
But her pen's running dry
So I whisper, "Maybe it's old age?" ...old age

I've got to write on
Good times record
Cause if I don't keep it going
Kushima gets real bored
Kon and Stewie's comments reward
My blog - it won't be ignored!


We've got to write on, sleepy or sore
We'll wear Ruru's tee as we stay up till four!

[Chorus x 3]


I'd also like to take a moment to recognize all the lovely people who didn't make it into the song: Brutus, Pomme, Sydney, Yee, Sam... and the ones who don't read my blog. Rest assured, you are no less important to me - the song just didn't have enough words.

Story time!

I knew from the onset that I wanted to do something special for my 300th entry - something creative in the spirit of my 100th (but perhaps less misunderstood). As you might be able to deduce, however, from my lack of entries for almost a week... it proved to be a more intensive endeavour than I had originally envisioned. This left my blog in limbo hovering at entry 299.

It did not help that 300 came amidst the transition from my unmanageable final week at work to my exhausting first week of school. Seven hours of lectures a day left little energy for blogging. Still, I spent all of Wednesday evening composing the lyrics. Do you have any idea how few words rhyme with "blog"?

Today, I finally got down to recording. The original idea was to record sound directly from Rock Band 2 to my PC. The game would provide the background music and the timing cues, and I would provide the vocals by singing into the Rock Band USB microphone. First, I attempted to output sound directly from the TV to my PC using a Y-cable. Usually, I use these to send sound from my PC to the TV and not vice versa, so I didn't know whether this would be effective.

After several unsuccessful tries, I went the JFGI route and came up with the suggestion of sending the sound through a VCR rather than directly from the TV. Luckily, there was a VCR handy. I sent the video from the Wii to the VCR, then from the VCR to the TV. The sound was a bit more complicated. I sent it from the Wii to the VCR, then from the VCR to the computer. However, since I didn't want the sound coming out of my computer speakers, I used another Y-cable to send the sound back from the PC to the TV. Even after all this work, I still struggled for awhile fiddling with my PC settings before the setup functioned appropriately.

However, as it turns out, the Rock Band mic is not designed to amplify your voice (à la karaoke). For the most part, it generates very little volume and is mostly there for the game to score you. Even when I turned the vocal track all the way down, I could still hear Bon Jovi singing; and even when I turned the mic volume all the way up, I couldn't hear my own voice over the background. I fiddled with the Options and took three or four goes at singing before I gave up.

As it turns out, there actually is a way to get rid of the vocal track in Rock Band altogether. I found the fully instrumental version on YouTube, ripped off the same game that I had been using. I asked the author how he had done this... he replied within a minute with a crypic answer telling me to fiddle with more settings. Taking this instrumental track, I recorded the vocals one last time using a PC microphone. It was then a surprisingly challenging task to sync the timing of the vocal and instrumental tracks. Lastly, I applied a little post-processing reverberation (the echo effect) to try make the vocals a little less damaging to your ears.

Altogether, I'm sure this entry easily took 10+ hours... All that work to assemble an embarrassing audio file of myself? That's correct. This is the extent to which I care about you, dear friends and readers. Happy 300th.