Saturday, December 26, 2009

A series of questions

I got a collection of articles by Lester Bangs for Christmas. He was a rock music critic in the '70s for Rolling Stone. His writing is in the same "new journalism" category as Hunter S. Thompson and Tom Wolfe - first person, stream of consciousness, lots of parties and drugs and weirdos, etc.

This has inspired a series of questions.

1) Whatever happened to this "new journalism?" Why do I get the distinct feeling I would not be nearly as successful if I tried to launch my career with a first-person dope-fueled 3,000 word article written on a cocktail napkin at a Hell's Angels party?

2) Speaking of which, I shout this question into the cyber-void for the millionth time: What's with the hysteria over kids these days posting pictures of themselves drinking on Facebook? These guys wrote about dropping acid as casually as a Gen Y might write a status update about going to gym on the way to work. And everyone thought they were cool and gave them sweet jobs with major magazines.

3) If these guys were writing today, who would they write about? Do we even have youth subcultures any more? Are hipsters the Gen Y answer to beats and punks? Wow, is that ever depressing.

4) Why is Gen Y so boring? At least Gen X was ironic and postmodern about selling out. I'm not sensing the irony.

5) Is there a fake Hunter S. Thompson Twitter account? If not, I might have to create it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Who's trying to kill the babies?

Last week I joked to Sonya that I was going to pitch a story investigating a conspiracy to kill babies through faulty consumer products. It seems like every day I hear about another baby product recall.

Am I crazy? Consider this:

- Nov. 9: Strollers that amputate fingers recalled
- Nov. 23: Drop side cribs that trap babies in the side recalled
- Dec. 8: Baby hammocks that can wedge babies into the fabric recalled
- And today's coup de grace: ALL roll up style blinds recalled because of the potential for baby strangulation. This message is brought to you by a creepy and obnoxious cartoon superbaby, a spokesperson for the Window Covering Safety Council (I'll save that for a future blog post: I Can't Believe it's an Organization).

SuperBaby #4 -- Roman Shades, Roll Up Blinds Product Recall from Window Covering Safety Council on Vimeo.

Seriously, someone call Nancy Drew or the Scooby Gang before any more babies get hurt.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Riots, not diets part II

I have been going to a new gym for the last two weeks. It's a franchise of a certain popular chain. While I was walking downtown one day, I noticed it was right next door to where I was going to be doing an internship, and thought to myself that it would be really convenient to go there after work. I looked online and discovered it had a deal - 14 days for $14. Perfect. I signed up.

I was informed that there was a free orientation for new members. Great, I thought. I figured this would be where they do a fitness assessment and give you a training session with a bunch of exercises to do.

I showed up and looked around. It was shiny and new looking. The change room had hair driers and bamboo plants. I had never seen so much Lulu Lemon in my life.

I met the woman who was assigned to give me the orientation. I filled out some forms. She walked me around the gym - "These are the cardio machines." "This is where they have the group classes." "This is our fitness machine circuit."

She asked me where I usually work out. I said the Carleton gym. "Oh, we get a lot of people here from Carleton. They say they just can't handle that gym. I hear it's horrible and crowded."

Actually, this here gym was more crowded than I had ever seen Carleton's, which is saying a lot. The Carleton gym has a brand new cardio room with big screen TVs. It has a lot less scary looking men on steroids. Also, it's free.

She kept asking me what my goals are. I wasn't sure what to answer. Keep fit and have fun? "No, but what are your GOALS?" Be fit enough to survive the zombie apocalypse? Jeez, I dunno.

Then she sat me down at the same table I filled out the forms and extolled the benefits of a one year membership. I figured this was coming. It was kind of fun, actually, trying to see her figure out a way to convince me. "I'll knock off a bunch of money for you." "I have no idea if I'll be in Ottawa past April." "You can transfer your membership to any other location." "No, you don't understand. I might be in New York. I might be in Singapore. I might be in Iqaluit." "Ummm.... so you're really not interested in a membership." "Nope. Sure aren't."

At this point, she looked significantly less interested in me. She asked if I had any questions. I said: "Well, I thought this was an orientation to, you know, the gym. Like, how to use things, not just where they are."

"Oh, we have that too." "How much is it?" "Free."

Well, sign me up, lady. I'm going to milk these $14 for everything they're worth.

I showed up the next day to discover that two other people had been slotted in to receive the same "orientation." A beefy guy showed up ten minutes late. The orientation consisted of him having each of us try an exercise on the weight machine circuit. Real helpful.

One girl who was also doing the orientation kept asking the same types of questions. How many calories does this exercise burn? Is it true that you shouldn't do ab exercises if you're trying to lose stomach fat?

Then I started looking around me and realized something. I was working out in Eating Disorders "R" Us.

The walls are covered in posters that have pictures of pudgy ginger bread men that inform me I should keep going to the gym because the average person gains seven to 11 pounds over the holiday season. My membership card has a little chart on the back where I'm encouraged to track my weight loss. Other posters inform me that I can lose 80 per cent more weight three times faster if I work out with a personal trainer (I have NO idea what that can possibly be based on, unless they mean I can lose 80% more weight in my wallet).

I also figured out why that lady kept prodding me about my "goals." She wanted me to say I want to lose 10 pounds and two inches in my waist before going on my New Year's cruise in the Caribbean, or something, so she could suggest more things that cost money to help me "reach my goals."

If I told her that, the ethical thing to do would probably be to suggest I see a doctor about my body image issues. I have a feeling she wouldn't, though.

Do you see why I have such a weird relationship with working out? I'd be lying if I said weight maintenance wasn't part of my motivation for staying in shape. But this part of gym culture sickens me, and this is the worst manifestation of it I've ever seen: Keep people paranoid about their weight so they'll keep shelling out dollars for your stupid swanky gym membership.

I recently discovered Stumptuous from Bitch magazine. It has a post about lies they tell you at the gym. You should look at it. I was told a lot of those lies over the past two weeks.

But the woman behind that website also made a great point in the interview I read that helped me set aside a lot of my feminist guilt about going to the gym. It's a good thing for women to be strong. You can be invested in being in shape without being fat-phobic. There's a big, beautiful, happy medium between being a couch potato and being an anorexic, fat-hating aerobics addict.

Anyway. I miss the Carleton gym.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Limited time offer!

I've been chase producing for a morning radio show. That means booking guests, thinking up ideas for guests to book, and writing scripts for the host, mostly. I like it a lot.

But lately I've been thinking about how the skill set necessary for journalism is very similar to the skill set required for a certain other, much less desirable occupation: Telemarketing.

Things you have to be good at for both telemarketing and journalism:

1) Calling strangers out of nowhere. All day. Over and over. I've lost all sense of telephone social boundaries.

2) Convincing people to do crazy things. I imagine the skills required to convince someone to come to the station at seven a.m. so the entire City of Ottawa can hear about their former OxyContin addiction over breakfast is similar to the skills required to convince someone to Act Now for Five Easy Payments of $20 and a Free Gift!

3) Walking the fine line between scaring people off and closing the deal. It's really hard to figure out when I'm crossing the line into pushy. Especially since I don't have social boundaries any more. But it also sucks to lose someone you could have convinced if you'd tried a little harder.

At least I'm employable in one field.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Discovered: BiblioCommons

It's internship time again. Today my producer plunked an article about this library catalogue social networking service Ottawa just started using. She asked me to see if I could get the founder on the show.

Turns out the first library system to try out this cutting edge high tech thingamabob is my home town of Oakville, Ontario.

It's sort of like Amazon, but for library catalogues, but cooler. You can review books and other stuff you've checked out and make lists of favourites, and you can follow people whose recommendations you like. You see the reviews every time you browse the catalogue, whether you use the social networking features or not. And if you follow people who have similar tastes to yours, it makes recommendations for you based on your reviews.

According to the article I read, this guy DavidB is 29 and lives just down the street from the White Oaks branch and won $1000 in book gift certificates for using BiblioCommons the most. I also grew up just down the street from the White Oaks branch. I'm wracking my brain to figure out if I known any 29-year-old David Bs.