Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
I’m about to take on an ambitious task.
I’m going to try and convince everyone who reads this article to start watching Battlestar Galactica, and to keep watching it until they’ve caught up to the last episode that aired mid fourth season. The show is starting up again on January 16, and you’re going to need the full Christmas break to prepare.
This being MONDO, bastion of pop culture nerdery (whatever, embrace it), many readers will not need convincing. However, I believe that a subtle approach is necessary to convert the skeptics, the people who respond to the argument “it’s the best show on television” with “yeah, but I’m not into spaceships and all that crap.” I want to be able to bring up the show at a bar and be met with a lively round of conversation, goddammit, instead of the usual chorus of “Shut up, geek!” followed by napkins and straws being thrown at me. So even if, especially if, you’re an ardent science fiction hater and the mere mention of the title makes you want to beat me up and steal my lunch money, hear me out.
I’m going to ease you into this. You may claim that all forms of science fiction give you seizures, but I bet you’ve enjoyed it in the past without even realizing it. OK, fine, you hate Star Trek. Acceptable. You may even hate Star Wars. A shame, but to each his own. But I bet you’ve watched Futurama through to a commercial break at least once while flipping channels. That show involves a spaceship, robots and the future: it counts. I bet you liked The Matrix and Independence Day. That counts too. I bet you’ve read Slaughterhouse Five, A Clockwork Orange, or 1984, and I bet you wrote a stellar book report on it. You’re busted.
Sneaky? Perhaps. Unfair? Maybe. But hey, I just proved that just because a book, movie or TV show has elements of science fiction in it doesn’t mean you won’t like it. A whole new world is now open to you. Thank me later. I’ll see you at the “Environmental Sustainability in Frank Herbert’s Dune Series” book club next Tuesday.
Now that your knee-jerk genre prejudice has been dealt with, let’s move on to Battlestar. I may be forced to give away some minor plot details in order to make the most convincing case possible, so if you’re already hooked but not completely caught up, proceed with caution.
The cast is hot and often half naked. OK, so this may be a cheap way to get people interested. But it’s true: BSG has a little something for everyone. Straight male? One of the main characters is a blonde model who often struts around in a very skimpy red dress. Straight female? Locker room scenes of buff, manly army guys wearing only towels abound. Gay male? Locker room scenes of buff, manly army guys wearing only towels abound, plus there’s Felix “Gaydar” Gaeta’s adorable man-crush on Dr. Gaius Baltar. Gay female? Katee Sackhoff plays short haired, cigar chomping, ass-kicking tomboy Lieutenant Kara Thrace, and... get ready for this... Lucy Lawless plays a bisexual robot (unfortunately minus the Xena breastplates). I challenge you to watch two episodes of this show and not incorporate at least one of the characters into your sexual fantasy roster.
The writing is riveting and the acting is fantastic. I don’t get hooked on long story arc type shows very often, because I find that most of the time they quickly disintegrate into the realm of the soap opera. But Battlestar sets itself up with a story line interesting enough to sustain an entire series without jumping the shark. I’m tempted to describe the premise, but every time I try I end up saying “I know that sounds really lame, but...” Just trust me that it’s not, and remember that this isn’t the first plot involving a futuristic robot war you’ve enjoyed (remember my point about The Matrix and Independence Day?). The creators of the show consciously try to make the daily lives of the characters believable, showing you where and how they live instead of having them just wander on and off the set like on Star Trek. This distracts you from the fact it’s set on a spaceship, I promise. Again, there’s something for everyone: intrigue, action, sex and drama. There’s just enough action to keep the romantic plot lines from getting sappy, and just enough romance and personal drama to keep viewers engaged who yawn watching fight and shoot-out scenes. The problem is that the very plot elements that make the show great are also what make it difficult and confusing to watch the episodes out of order. Why does the same actor seem to be three places at once? Why is Baltar the only one lucky enough to be able to see the model in the red dress? All will be revealed, my friend. Take the time and watch from the beginning. It’s worth it.
The plot features intelligent, complex social and political commentary. I would go so far as to say it’s the best I’ve see on television, ever. The show makes parallels with terrorism and the Iraq war, with the humans and robots (called cylons) holding competing religious belief. In season three, the cylons occupy a human settlement, so the humans develop an underground insurgency using suicide bombing as a tactic. Sound familiar? The fictional premise allows the writers leeway to explore controversial topics that would probably get them pulled off the air if the setting were more realistic. It also means the themes can be incorporated seamlessly into the plot without appearing preachy or out of place. Other topics brought up include abortion, freedom of speech, class politics, torture, and labour rights.
Christmas break is the perfect time to rent a season, hole up in your basement wrapped up in a blanket, and not leave the house. It’s snowing; you don’t want to go outside anyway. You’ll have an excuse not to talk to your family. You’ll save money by not going out. And when the series comes back on in January, you’ll be babbling about it excitedly to anyone who will listen instead of telling geeks like me to shut up.
Just let it happen.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Friday, December 5, 2008
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Sunday, November 23, 2008
I slept from 6:30 to 11:00 in a living room with six other people, I smell like an ashtray’s ashtray, I had to take a bus home from Montreal half blind because I lost my contacts, and someone spilled a bottle of Orangina in my purse.
A typical Volvo weekend.
A few of my friends and I used to drive up to London a few weekends a year to visit our friend Mike, aka DJ Busdriver. We started calling ourselves “team Volvo” because of the car we drove up in. Basically we would listen to Bus spin records in his basement, or occasionally at a gig at a bar, spend the night spooning on the floor, have a pizza and coffee party when we woke up, and go back to our ordinary studying and working lives.
Favourite Bus quote: one New Years we were all crashing in his room when the phone rang. Bus: “Who needs the phone? Everyone I know is in my bed.”
Last night was a Volvo reunion. I saw people I haven’t seen in years. Friendships were reaffirmed, grudges forgiven, smiles were on everyone’s face. It didn’t hurt that we were there to see Joe Nice, North America’s biggest dubstep DJ, and the crowd was going absolutely nuts. There were a few wrinkles, like when some drunk girl accidentally on purpose almost walked off with Megababe’s purse and hoodie, but in general good times were had by all.
Sometimes I forget how awesome my friends are. They’re graffiti artists, vagabonds, t-shirt designers, DJs and party promoters. They’re the people who just do things instead of talking about it. Despite layers and layers of baggage and friendcest, we manage to stick together out of our love for this crazy music no one’s ever heard of and each other.
So far I’ve totally failed at describing dubstep. Here’s what Joe Nice has to say about it, which I think is beautiful:
Deep in the heart of South London's underground lies a sound that percolates in the streets and vibrates the speakers...dubstep is the soundtrack. A vibe that rests on the edge of relaxation and explosion, that flourishes in the middle ground of the comfortable sounds of soulful house and the unbridled energy of drum & bass.....
Music made in London -- forged from multicultural influences, syncopated rhythms and loads of bass.
Not too fast....Not too slow....Just right.
Dubstep = Bass + pace + space.
Dubstep = Beats + bass + boom.
Dubstep = A force of nature.
Dubstep = Infection + reflection.
Dubstep = release + restraint.
Dubstep = The irresistible force meeting the immovable object.
Dubstep = The art of the invisible.
Dubstep = Mood music that's strictly for the headstrong.
Dubstep = What is now and what is next.
Dubstep = Musical soul food.
If anyone’s interested in seeing it for themselves, a girl we’ve gotten to know is putting on a fundraiser for the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre at the Elgin St. Freehouse on December 6. You have to see how packed this teeny tiny bar gets for these nights.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Nov. 20, 2008
It was a battle of David and Goliath proportions. A bittersweet tale of the triumph of the human spirit. A sporting event to write home about.
It was Athletics 1 versus CUSERT in the intramural dodgeball semifinal.
“If Hollywood has taught me anything, it’s that we can’t possibly lose,” said Craig Elder, Athletics 1 team member.
CUSERT, made up of members of Carleton’s student emergency response team, was in a three-way tie for first place and Athletics 1 was in third going into the match. Athletics 1 was in an underdog position since they had less spares and two of their key players were injured. Elder had one arm in a tensor bandage from a previous dodgeball incident. The burly and bearded Carlos Funes was limping on one crutch after aggravating his bum knee playing soccer.
The last time Athletics 1 played CUSERT was immediately after members of the emergency response team administered first aid to Funes when he injured his knee. Two Athletics 1 members were taken out of commission in that soccer game, Elder said.
“They were taking Carlos away and we asked ‘Hey, are you guys playing a dodgeball game later? Because you’re playing us,’” Elder said. “If we start losing tonight, could you maybe run to a payphone and call the ERT? Some of them are sure to be on duty.”
On the walk to the game, Elder, Funes and Brian O’Shea debated the wisdom of burning a CUSERT magnet in voodoo effigy for good luck. They decided it would interfere with their status as “the good guys” and potentially move them into the “villains who deserve a comeuppance” category in the balance of the universe.
Instead, they decided to hang their strategy on a number of new plays. These included the Berserker, in which one team member yells gibberish and runs to the line kamikaze-style to distract the other team; the Goliath, in which the tallest team member is attacked; and the Medusa, in which players aim for the ugliest member of the opposing team.
But these strategies were quickly abandoned for the struggle to survive against the disciplined and well-conditioned CUSERT. They were calm and collected as they stared down Athletics 1 with fire in their eyes at the start of the first five-minute match.
“Don’t get hit, don’t go for the catch, just stay alive!” yelled Funes, leaning on his crutch as he played coach from the sidelines, hoping the situation wouldn’t get so dire that he would feel obligated to play.
Athletics 1 won the first match, but things started to go downhill as Stephanie Harding had to take herself out when she was hit on the ear. Both teams held steady with four players each in the game until CUSERT made a catch thrown by Karina Auclair with two seconds left. The third match was another quick loss for Athletics 1 as CUSERT sniped off players one by one, eliminating them all within three minutes.
Match four had to be an Athletics 1 win for them to stay in the game. They held strong for the majority of the match, but were unable to hold their own after a few lost players, eventually leaving the injured Elder alone in a three-on-one. He held strong for 30 to 40 seconds, dodging throws until all the balls were on his side. Once he threw them back and the firepower was against him, he was quickly eliminated.
“We played hard. The other team came out fighting, we expected that. I don’t want to make excuses, but the injuries really held us back. Ultimately, they were just better conditioned, and a couple missed catches really turned the game against our favour,” Elder said.
Their faith in Hollywood endings shattered, Athletics 1 walked, hobbled, and limped towards Mike’s Place for a post-game pint. The pink-clad Renfrew House team who was playing in the next round of the semifinal jogged past them, yelling cheers in unison.
The quest for dodgeball glory continued.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Friday, November 14, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Monday, November 3, 2008
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Last night was my first foray into the wonderful world of slave *cough* erm, “paid in tax-free experience” labour for a professional media organization, which is apparently going to be a regular feature in my life for quite a while. I was covering the Ottawa Centre Green Party on election night, calling in 50 word descriptions of the scene as new developments happened and eventually filing 150 words for the print edition.
I definitely got the sweetest assignment. It was (a) at a bar, which was (b) a 15 minute walk from my apartment, and involved (c) hanging out with Jen Hunter (the Green candidate), her campaign workers, and some random BJ students who were doing a class assignment. I tried really hard not to rub it in the faces of my friends who had to drive an hour and a half to Brockville.
I love the Green Party. Only they would decorate their election night headquarters with disco lights and schoolchildren’s construction paper cut-outs. I was greeted by Jen with a “Welcome! Have a seat! Um, who are you?” The answer that I was covering the event for the Citizen, and my subsequent refusal of a free drink ticket, led to me being treated politely but reservedly (well, reserved for the Green party) for the rest of the night. Jen has some issues with the way she’s been covered by the Citizen in the past, apparently. As for turning down the free drink, yes, I felt like a total loser, but I mean, isn’t that pretty much a textbook example of what not to do for journalists? Anyway, I kind of felt like a narc all night. Or someone’s mom. The fact I was dressed as “reporter Barbie” (Michelle’s description) probably didn’t help. The BJ students partook enthusiastically in the free beer.
Even if they thought I was a dork, infiltrating scenes I’m not a part of is my new favourite thing about journalism. And the Green Party is just adorable. Everyone cheered every Green result, no matter how dismal, including the news that Elizabeth May and Jen Hunter lost.
One paragraph of one article published under someone else’s name is all that actually got into the Citizen. But something I wrote still got into a real newspaper. Right?