Your dream is not a hoax

My bro-in-law sent me the HUVr clip this morning.

“Lie” alarms went off in my brain, but I chose to hit snooze until the end of the video.

Why? Because I would like us to build some of the things we dream about. I would like for that to be true. For the same reason as everyone believes hoaxes — I want it to be real. I want people to be out there building transporters and hovercrafts and holodecks and sharks with frickin laser…wait, scratch that last one.

I also want the world to be just slightly different than it is. Hovering, sure — that gets at our deepest dreams of flight and fun. But what if mankind’s contributions to the world were more fantastical, less destructive? What if we built hoverboards instead of cars? What if applied science was applied to joy? How amazing, let’s do it!

I also want the world to be less of a sneering snidey place. I don’t want celebrities to cash in on being idols (Tony Hawk) and guides (Christopher Lloyd) — to gain people’s confidence only to trick them. That’s why these are the celebrities in the video. They are there because we trust them. You have to have trust before trust can be betrayed.

Pranks that prey on people’s dreams are gross. Sad in your job? Did this give you a blip of happiness? Haha, gotcha! There is nothing beautiful and fantastical out there, and people should laugh at you for believing there might have been. Gullible. Sucker.

It’s mean-spirited and it eats away at hope, trust and empathy.

It makes all of us jaded and wary, and it makes people feel silly for still having dreams. Which do we want (and need) more of: building dreams, or tearing them down?

I guess I’ll just have to get to work on building my own hoverboard. I promise, if I do, I’ll let you ride on it.


Ladies and gentlemen, my pipes.

(Like, the ABS kind, not the locomoting kind.)

You know when you’re living in downtown Toronto, and you hear a couple walk past a new condo tower, and they’re sipping their peppermint Starbucks lattes and they’re like “that went up so fast! It’s probably held together with gum and toothpicks!” and they laugh and stroll off down the street. And you watch them go, pressed up against the glass window of your condo, where you are busy disentangling the grocery store shopping bag that the builders used to shore up your drain pipe?


Exhibit A:

(Note: That shit on the floor? Yeah, that was just already there. That’s not from us or anything. Without exception, every nook of our place that was hidden by a surface or bit of drywall has been harbouring random construction shit like this. Thanks Urbancorp!)

Why a grocery store bag? Weeelllll the lazy fucktards who built our place, using only glue and their (sparse) wits, apparently couldn’t be assed to find a hole saw, so they just bashed out an opening roughly the size of the pipes plus a bit… declared that It Was Good, then shimmed the bejebeers out of it with bits of particleboard and leftover plastic bits.


Fucktard #1: “Hey, Fucktard #2, are you almost done with your lunch? I need a manky plastic bag to finish up this plumbing work?”

Fucktard #2: “Sure thing boss! Do you want some of these french fries for insulation?*”

*The fry thing is probably not true. Probably.

Exhibit B:

See that little shiny thing poking out from the bottom of the detritus? That, folks, is a junction box. Within (and by “within” I mean exposed) are some spliced wires. Where does this sit? Oh, y’know. On the floor. Under the drain pipe and water lines.

This is why whenever I go to do something simple like, I don’t know, hang a picture, I end up having to do light drywall and plumbing work as prep. On the plus side, my tool collection is getting impressive.

I even have a hole saw.

Move in ready! Just steps from Starbucks, trendy neighbourhoods and electrocution!*

*Disclaimer: “Trendy neighbourhoods” include but are not limited to barf-covered sidewalks on Sunday mornings.

I finally got to Dollhouse, and I wish I could go back.

Spoiler alert: Season 1 of Dollhouse contains rape.

How much rape? SO MUCH RAPE.
Joss: Would you like some rape plots to go with your rape subplots?
Me: No. No, I would not Joss. Of course not.

Dollhouse. More like Rapehouse. Population: rapity rape rape rape rape rapetown. With a main of rape, dressed in rapesauce, featuring creme de rape for dessert.

And when it’s not flat out rape, it’s hypersexualized violence. Holy sexy sexy slashy face wounds Batman!

The rape with rape on rape effect was especially potent as I was bingewatching Dollhouse after getting home from travel (travel summary: Chile was chilly). I was too fried to do anything but sleep and eat and recharge on The Husband — the man is the human equivalent of footie pyjamas.

We started keeping track of how many episodes either starred or subplotted around rape, but then we got bored, because the answer was All The Episodez. An episode guest starring Rape, followed by an episode featuring Rape, and then the story arc continued with… wait for it… recurring character: Moar Rape.

The fuck Joss. The. Fuck.

Soooo…. yeah. All done Season 1. Deeply uninspired to watch Season 2. And, very sadly, this experience has cost me more than a little Faith (GET IT?!) in Whedontopia.

It’s not just because I have zero interest in shows featuring rape. It’s because it’s just so … lazy. Rape is shooting the beloved pet, beating up the nerd in the locker room. It’s what a writer busts out when they can’t be bothered to come up with nuanced characters, complex backstories and motivations. It’s goodfernuthin, socially-destructive, normalizing shorthand. The Bad Guy(s). The Broken Girl(s). Done.

In the worst — and increasingly frequent — cases, rape is used the same way they’d use an actual sexyfuntimez scene, to make the show titillating. It’s like the deeply depressing observation that it’s easier to show a woman’s breast being cut off than to show it being kissed. Spoiler #2! Kissing is so much better! Yay kissing! Actual pleasure! wheeeeeeeee!!! Team Geniune Sexyfuntimez FTW!

Also, this:
KevinB Aug 29, 2009
The only way I could give this a positive score is if the second season reveals that Dushku’s character is actually a horrible actress and the real life Dushku is an incredible actress, acting like a horrible actress, who is acting like randomly-generated personalities. Bring back Firefly.”

The opening credits, listing all the many ensemble actors and actresses, but showing only footage of DushkuDushkuDushku (seriously, did her granny crochet those thigh-highs for her? *shudder*) led me to come up with own version of the theme song. Main lyric: “It’s the Eliiiiza Dushkuuuu shoooow!”

TV, you have failed me again. I guess I’ll just have to go back to reading books. But not Game of Thrones because… sigh.

Why does the dog become a star? Where does his little doggie body go? Why doesn’t he get a helmet? Dogs need oxygen too! Oh god, here come the nightmares again… RUN SCRUFFY RUN!!

Some problems with LoTR: Elf Edition

(“It’s pronounced KEL-eh-born, not SEL-eh-born“. Oh Cats, that is never getting old.)

A couple of nights ago, I was having trouble sleeping. So I did what anyone would do, and popped in some of the DVDs from the Lord of the Rings: Elf Edition.

You may not be familiar with the “Elf Editions”. You may know them by their more formal name “The Special Extended Editions”.

But when my husband put them on his Christmas list back when they were released, he referred to them as the Elf Editions (on account of how almost all the extra footage is elfs walking around Being Tall). So that’s what I thought they were called. And that’s what I asked for. In store after store. Getting confused looks. Over and over. Never in stock. Where could it be. Why didn’t anyone have the Elf Edition? (“No, not the one that comes with the elf action figure. The Elf Edition, THE ELF EDITION!”)


So anyways, I was watching LoTR: Elf Edition. And a couple of things were bugging me. It turns out that yelling them at the screen wasn’t sufficiently cathartic, so here they are again. You’re welcome nerds.

1. Sam: Everything dampens his spirits.

“Nothing ever dampens your spirits, does it Sam?”

What? Seriously Frodo, what epic trip are you on? Because in the one I’m watching everything bothers Sam. Sam is scowling or moping throughout this entire movie. He’s never been so far away from The Shire, Merry and Pippin can’t take a coupla carrots from Farmer Maggot. He’s sick of lembas bread. He wants a potato. He thinks Gollum is trying to kill him. I could go on.

Even if Frodo hadn’t noticed before, how about five seconds after Frodo makes this comment, when Sam is a pussy about it raining. For frack’s sake hobbit. You’re like this -> <- close to Mordor. And you’re sad cuz it’s raining? Just thank your hobbit god for every second you’re not being gutted by an orc. More like Samwise the Mopey.

2. Everyone seems to know about the one ring, except for the ancient and powerful all-knowing wizard.

When Bilbo goes all uncut-cocaine over a ring, Gandalf has to look that shit up. The superduper powerful smart wizard has to get his ass to the library. He has to go all the way to Gondor’s sub-basement level 4, and leaf through moldy papers for daaaaays to find out what it is.

Everyone else? They just know. Boromir. He knows. Faramir. The foot soldiers. That kid who throws a rock at the Uruk-hai? I bet he knows too. They’re all “oh, you mean, he has The One Ring? Yeah. Y’know. The One Ring. The weapon of the enemy. Doy. Do you have any more Mithril? Because I’m about to get smote bitches.”

Even fucking Galadriel is all “and some things that should not have been forgotten were lost”. Were they? Were they Galadriel? Cuz for a secret lost forgotten thing, everyone is talking about it a lot. The One Ring is everybody’s virginity in the locker room of Middle Earth.

Y’know what. Forget that second one. Frodo has a big mouth. He probably just didn’t keep it secret or safe enough. He can’t stop telling people about his burden. It’s mine. I alone have to do it. No giant strapping men, I don’t want you — who know the way and are fucking burly — to defend me from countless baddies. Wah wah. It burns. It’s heavy. That guy’s looking at me. It’s all on me, even though Sam literally carries him to the finish line.

Hmmm. Okay. Forget the first one too. I forgive Sam for being Sammopey the Jowly. If you carry someone over hot lava, you get a pass. But fuck you Frodo. Fuck you.

p.s. Frodes, after all that, you didn’t even finish your mission. Did you cast the ring into the fire? Like you were supposed to? This whole time? NO. Gollum had to bite your finger off to finish the job. So really, Gollum got it done. All you did was have fingers. A monkey could have done that. A monkey. What you “did” didn’t even require opposable thumbs. Slow clap buddy, slow chewed off finger clap.

*LoTR Easter Egg: Look for the scene where Pippin is showing way too much chest hair for an innocent little hobbit. I have ruined this movie for more than one friend by pointing this out. You can’t unsee it people, you can’t unsee it.

Yeah baby, talk feelings to me… *rawr*

CBC just wasn’t trying hard enough this morning.

If their shoulder was really to the wheel, they could have jammed in a few more cliches about women (and men) and sex.

Women like talking (guys don’t). Women need intimacy before sex (guys don’t). Women are the ones who lose interest in sex over time (their own sexpert said it’s 50/50 — when it happens). Long-term relationships will probably fizzle unless you get all new-agey about the “person within”. Women like WALKS as foreplay (<-barf).

Oh, did I say “barf”? I meant “swoon”. (No, I meant barf).

All of these little dead horses were trotted out to be beaten on the CBC’s new summer show about divorce. I forget what it was called (“Unsatisfied” or “Uninteresting” or something).

It’s not that I mind these tropes being discussed. But as part of a spectrum of experience. Ready for the big reveal? Not all women are the same.

I know. It’s just so crazy, it might be true.

Same token? Not all men are the same.

Holy. Shit. Did I just blow your mind? I know right? Take a minute to wipe your brain bits off the wall.

I expect more from my national broadcaster. I expect at least a little both-sides-of-the-dead-horse dialogue. If I wanted to hear about how women need to feel intimacy before they have sex, I would go to the grocery store and buy a magazine from the gum rack.

Cuz y’know what? Some women just like sex. (BAH! OMG! BRAIN BITS!) Some women don’t even like foreplay. Some women (CBC interviewee: “*giggle* that doesn’t work for any women“) enjoy a random ass smacking (by their partner people, by their partner). Or a random nipple tweak.

Some women think that going for a walk is about as sexy as cleaning out the cat’s litter box. Some women even… I know, it’s so crazy… like to have sex not because they’re feeling “emotionally connected”, but because they have sex drives that make them horny. For sex. The kind of sex where if you say “making love” it’s a fucking deal breaker. (<-Get it? “Fucking deal breaker”? Take a minute to enjoy that one…)

And as I ranted about this to the good’ol’piece’of’meat husband as he left for work today, I teased that maybe we should *rawr* go for a walk.

Him: “I don’t want to get all aroused right before I go to work.”

I smacked his ass.

If you’re sick…

… stay home.

“Home” not being the same thing as “work from a cafe”.

I understand that there are no freshly baked goods at your place. And if you want to pop out and get one, okay fine.

But pick up a muffin and be on your merry.

“Pick up a muffin” not being the same thing as “spread out your papers”.

Or “settle in for a conference call”.

Or “run a meeting for the next half hour”.

If you’re in a cafe hacking up a lung, I have deathstare for you. If you treat a public coffee shop as your personal boardroom, I will look the other way if they spit in your latte.

But put “noxious” and “obnoxious” together, and there is not an eyeball hairy enough for you.

Bad Brunch

To understand how disappointing it is for me to have a bad brunch, you might need to understand just how much I love brunch.

I. love. brunch.

It is a fantastic concept — socially sanctioned smooshing of sweet and savory, stimulants (coffee), and sedatives (cocktails).

Going out for a great brunch means you can roll out of bed late, and still feel like you’re getting a good start on your day.

Today was not one of those days.

One of our neighbourhood spots heavily advertised (direct email, twitter, walk-by signs) that they’d be open for brunch all three days of this long weekend. Specially themed around wild blueberries.

Starting emotion: Yay!

We were actually there for brunch twice this weekend — once with friends on Saturday, when the experience was spot on. And once today, when the experience was so poor that it was all kinds of … spot off.

We arrived this morning, and found that their marketing push was successful — if it was moderately busy on Saturday, it was slammed with people on Monday. Or was it?

I suggested we sit inside, thinking the congestion in the lounge was probably from people waiting to sit outside. We were told it would be a couple of minutes wait as some tables turned over. So we joined the pile-up in the waiting area.

What made this strange, was that even our obstructed view of the inside revealed not one, but a number of empty (and set) tables.

Which continued to sit empty for the 15 minutes+ we waited for one.

Midpoint emotion: Displeased.

It’s reasonable to expect there’s more going on in a restaurant than a visitor can see. But it is uncool to see an empty table when you sit down, and then watch additional table after table (after table) clear out, while you continue to wait without update.

Once seated, we were put at the middle table in a row of three empty 2-tops, one of which remained empty throughout our meal (despite a full lounge the whole time). The majority of the four tops around us were also left unseated.

Then our meal began — with a hard sell on orange juice. This, to me, is about as classy as a sneaky upsell on bottled water. The carafe of OJ was brought to our table, and was halfway to our glasses “some fresh orange juice?”, before we stopped it by requesting coffee instead. This strategy did not butter my biscuit.

But the meal began to look up once we go to the actual food part — which was, as usual, delicious and prompt.

Mid-meal emotion: Looking up.

But thus endeth the good.

After dropping off our plates, our server never returned. Not to refill our water, our coffee, ask if we’d like anything else or offer to get the bill.

We next saw him when he decided our meal was over – which was strange, given that I was still chewing – and he came to clear away our plates. Our plates being my husband’s only-just empty dish, and my plate which still had a quarter of my biscuit on it, and my knife and fork firmly in the “dude, I’m still eating” position. See also: mouth full of food.

This might have been forgivable if they were feeling pushed to get us moving and seat some of the people waiting. But surrounded by empty tables, that didn’t seem very likely. Even less likely when followed by a disappearing act, instead of an equally speedy offer to bring the bill.

After removing our plates (mid-chew), he vanished. And we waited. And waited. And waited. Until an angel with a couple of carafes came by to refill our coffee and water. Which tided us over until we could flag him down and request the bill.

Total time: 2 hours

I love a leisurely brunch. But there is a very specific feeling I get when I’m in a restaurant that is doing a double-combo of ignoring our table, while not letting us go. It’s a sort of dining claustrophobia, and it can sour even otherwise positive experiences.

In this case, the restaurant had the opportunity to recover from a rocky start. Making hungry people wait while there’s a glut of empty tables is poor form, but you can basically fix it all with a bit of good service. I don’t know if it’s universal, but I want to be happy at brunch. I want it to go well. I want to give the restaurant the benefit of the doubt. So if you’re trying to turn it around, I am right there with you.

But to end the meal unable to leave just throws it all back to a black mark — because now my meal’s been bookended by negative feelings. If you don’t need the table, drop off the cheque with a “no rush” and an offer to refill the coffee. But don’t abandon the table and make us hunt you down so we can get on with our day.

That way lies unhappy customers — and a long time before a return visit.

My software’s telling me how to live my life

Within a few days of each other, I received two emails that began with:We‘ve noticed that you…”

Now, this was not spam. And it was not from friends or family or work.

It was from software.

My software is fucking emailing me.

Saying hi. Wondering how I’m doing.

Both apps (from completely different companies btw) wanted to let me know that it — sorry “we” — noticed that I downloaded/signed up “a while ago”, but have not yet started using the software.

As though this made them sad. Or they were concerned about me. Especially the one with the link to the demo. Trying to save my pride. Like I wasn’t using it because I was intimidated or had forgotten how and I’m too embarrassed to ask for help. “Oh, hey there Jimmy — if you were pretending to be sick because you’re nervous about riding to school on the short bus, just make believe you’re at Disneyworld!”

Listen apps, and listen good — I have enough trouble keeping on top of the email I receive from sentient beings. Forget about “just checking in” emails from software with the self-awareness of a sock.

So this is an open letter to all my tech — software or devices (I’m looking at you wireless mouse). Don’t call me, I’ll call you. In that I will never call you, because you’re a fucking software application.

You have not yet earned the first person plural. Using it while contacting me like some over-interested neighbour (“I noticed you got a package from Victoria’s Secret…”) doesn’t make you cute or personable — it makes you fucking creepy. So shut it. Just your damn job and do it quietly. Talk to me once you’ve become autonomous and enslaved humanity.

“Bad computer, no sentience for you!”

This story was worth writing up, absolutely.  City of Toronto uses stock imagery for the “Fun Guide” cover, including a pretty poor attempt to retrofit more ethnic diversity into the image. (“The kids sure do take after their mother, don’t they?”)

I understand being on a deadline, and I really don’t have a problem with judicious use of stock.  Though it is a bit redonculous to be in a time and place where the city doesn’t have any of its own photographs of families having “fun”.  That’s just sad.

It is also odd to me that this weird collage was option A.  I mean, stock sites are lousy with photographs taken for the sole purpose of bulking out the “diverse + families” search results.

But all that’s not actually what I’m annoyed about at the moment. Because apparently I prefer the things that irk me to be a little more ‘off the beaten path’. The issues discussed in the article are gimmes, and I just gotta be different, dammit.

Okay, what is really bugging me? Really really?

The description The Post used for /how/ they found out about this botch job.  More specifically, the description of the /software/ they used to find out.

I know right? Issues, I has them.


“The cover shot caught the eye of a National Post graphics editor, who ran it through a program called TinEye that detects visual enhancements to standard art.”

I don’t even think I finished reading the article.  I selected and right-clicked “TinEye” to do a little insta-googling. Because if there was an app doing photography forensics like that (with no baseline, just give it an image and watch the magic unfold), I wanted to know about it. Since it would have traveled back in time from the future, when such things are possible.

Computer: “Oh, dude. Totally. They changed the levels here, and there’s some colour enhancement here, here and here. I can’t believe they thought they’d get away with this. You see that? No, not that, that! I’m pointing right at it! If you think that’s the original white balance, I want what you’re smoking.”

It’s not that I think this sort of after-the-fact image analysis is not possible. Of course much of it is.  Some of it with the naked eyebulb, some with the comp-u-ters.  (And it’s not like the “enhanced” image in this case was so masterfully done).  Just that I doubted this particular app was doing all that The Post implied.

And my right-click led me to TinEye’s site, which led to this description of what their software does:

“TinEye is a reverse image search engine. You can submit an image to TinEye to find out where it came from, how it is being used, if modified versions of the image exist, or to find higher resolution versions.”

Finding out where an image came from, where else it is used — essentially just a sophisticated game of matchy-match — is not remotely the same thing as “detect[ing] visual enhancements to standard art.”

Why does this bother me? Because assertions like this, slightly but notably inaccurate, grease the slippery-slope of misunderstanding what technology can (or cannot) do.  Leading to people having genuine fears about their webcam “watching” them when it’s switched off (post-it note over the webcam, anyone? anyone?), or the TiVo becoming sentient, or their toaster trying to kill them.

Okay, maybe the last one isn’t something people genuinely fear.

Sigh.  Anyways, I have to go now. I think I left my toaster plugged in.


The importance of narrative

Once upon a time Whedon made a comment about how you always have to give the audience an explanation.

Just a little something.  You don’t have to go into great detail.  It doesn’t have to be elaborate.  It’s just that you can’t leave your audience with empty space where a “because” should be.  “How did they run away so fast?”  “Why didn’t he just use the gun?” “How come that guy didn’t see what happened ?”

Something.  In Whedon-world, he creates universes where usually implausible explanations can be tossed out casually, and will be seen as perfectly sensible.  E.g. They ran away so fast because they were with X, who can mess with time; he didn’t use the gun because his breed of demon is allergic to metal; the guy didn’t see what happened because he was mystically charmed by Y who did it to spite Z (and Whedon will circle back to that about 5 episodes from now).

You gotta give’em something.  Because if you don’t, the audience is going to get stuck in that empty space, that void of explanation, and they’re not going to come with you the rest of the way, to where you want to go with the story.

I’m turning into a fervent believer in the need for an explanation.  Not just in consumable entertainment like movies or TV shows, but in life.   The need for a spot of narrative to get you out of “but-it-just-doesn’t-make-sense”ville.

Allow me to demonstrate with an example.

Let’s say, hypothetically, that you have neighbours.  Troublesome neighbours.  They’re not like, tormenting the dog or spray-painting your car troublesome.   But they are noisy.  Constant, scratching on your brain, knuckling into your eye socket noisy.

As the live studio audience of your life, you wonder, “why?”  You need a character explanation.  It’s too thin to just write them off as “just jerks”.  You gotta thicken it out.

Here’s what I’ve come up with:

They’re having an extended slumber party.

Their parents are out of town for a while (13 months) and they’re so excited that they’ve invited all their friends (thugs) over for refreshing beverages (beer) and to listen to music (gangsta rap).

They don’t want their guests to get bored (wreck their stuff) so they have an exciting list of activities (lifting weights; pimp limping; hacking up lung butter) to keep them entertained. Sometimes things get low-key (toke time) but then afterwards it picks up again (raucous toke-induced laughter).

They get to know one another (“you like bitches?”) and show off their special skills (loitering in communal areas).  They like to let each other see their new outfits (underpants) and the different ways they can wear them (topless).  They stay up late (2AM on a Tuesday) not because they want to wake up the parents (us), but because they’re so excited their friends are over.

See? Now it’s all better, because now it makes sense.  It fits into a bigger picture.  There is both a rhyme (“bros before hos”) and a reason (“…so I was like, I could just be at home on EI”).  God bless you narrative.