Great Places to Bring Your Kid!

The Police: The Public's Babysitter

Kids are awesome. It doesn’t matter if they’re laughing or yelling or fighting or running or screaming or crying or whatever. I feel enriched just being around them, which why I’m grateful for whenever their parents bring them into public places. Here are some great places to bring your kids:

Shakespeare Performances

Leanne Scorah and David Ingram, along with their adorable kid Kir, were kicked out of a performance of Shakespeare back in the summer of 2011. The show, put on by Bard on the Beach, recently put in a rule saying no kids under 6 were permitted because they might start crying or yelling or in some other way disturb the actors or audience on stage.

Scorah rightly noted that her child would instantly die if not immediately breastfed so she can’t leave the kid at home, and also noted that one of her rights as a human being is attending Shakespeare plays.

I think it’s unfathomable that anyone would ban kids from attending Shakespeare, especially breastfeeding infants. As we all know, Shakespeare is the ultimate height of culture and if that kid is to have any chance of getting ahead in life, it needs a great name (like Kir) and as much Shakespeare as possible.

Personally, I like it when kids scream at Shakespeare plays. I typically don’t know how to react except by nodding at opportune times or clapping when everyone else does, so having their screaming gives me something else to focus on. I don’t speak Shakespearean English (which, in all fairness, should be translated into modern English as modern English is better) and never will anyway, so whatever.

The Bank

I was at the bank today discussing my sensitive financial information with the staff there. You see, my account was recently skimmed for several hundred dollars and I was notably distressed. I then thought to myself, you know, it would be great if some kids ran in here, started yelling and crying, maybe ran behind some counters, grabbed some flyers, that kind of thing. That would be awesome.

Fortunately, that’s what happened. One lady came in with two kids in tow. One of them ran behind the bank teller counters and started grabbing at things. The other started pulling flyers out of the display they had. The lady, not at all interested in preventing this (and why, the kids are having fun and aren’t hurting anyone), went about her business. Just as I was signing an affadavit regarding the theft from my account, some kid started screaming. The man with her — presumably her dad — did nothing and proceeded about his business. Thankfully.

The Theatre

Like with dramatic performances, I always feel slightly cheated when I don’t have to listen to a screaming kid while trying to watch a movie like The Artist. Kids and (especially) infants are people too, and therefore they have every right to sit in a theatre and yell or cry or complain about how boring the movie is same as everyone else. Bringing kids to the movie theatre, especially for non-kid movies (because kid movies suck, by the way), should be encouraged.

Classy Restaurants 

Like with most places on the planet, it’s great to bring your kids to a nice restaurant. I mean, odds if you have kids you’re taking your wife or husband right? Which means that both parents are occupied and unable to care for the kid. Now, if you’re paying a ton of money for a meal, why the hell should you also have to pay for a babysitter?

I don’t know if I’ve emphasized this enough, but legally it is your right to bring your kid anywhere you want, and this includes upscale restaurants.

The Car

I don’t have kids, but I have a bunch of nieces and a nephew. I tend to do a lot of driving, and I can tell you there is nothing I love more than driving screaming kids around. Sometimes they sit there and fall asleep or talk to eachother or are generally in a good mood, which is boring. But when they start screaming? There is something about the pitch and volume of a child’s scream that doesn’t give me a terrible headache or make me want to swerve into oncoming traffic.

The Bar

Kids at the Bar, Oklahoma City's newest and hottest all-male electronica-pop duo.

Babysitters are expensive, but food at a bar typically isn’t. There’s nothing better than unwinding after a long day of work to watch the game with a bunch of screaming children who don’t like sports and don’t want to be there. I can kind of sympathize: after all, parents are doing the world a favour by raising kids, so we should do them a favour by tolerating their whiny children. Quid pro quo, as Anthony Hopkins said in The Silence of the Lambs (an excellent kids film, by the way).

So, parents, if you’re ever in doubt as to whether or not bringing your kid somewhere is appropriate, remember: it probably is. Don’t hire a babysitter, don’t trick a relative into caring for the brat; just bring them along.


Richmond, Revisited

Vito Corleone, an early advocate of non-English signage in North America.

About a week or so ago, I wrote about Kerry Starchuk and her courageous campaign to end the assault on whiteness in Richmond. Luckily for me, I have intelligent, well-written and attractive friends willing to challenge my opinions, providing an excuse to follow up the previous article with this one.

Ziggystarduzt, of Tumblr fame, writes:

I don’t necessarily disagree with anything you’ve said in the article, but tbh the whole signage thing bothers me to some degree, racist or not.

Like, I’m not about to get all up in arms about things and write letters to the Sun (and can I just say- let’s be honest.. if you’re going to write an editorial letter complaining about this particular subject matter, The readers of the Sun would indeed be the ideal right-wing audience to appeal to…) and I hate that it does sound racist- and it does- but it bugs me that Richmond has become so completely and exclusively accessible to the Asian community.

I completely appreciate the fact that it’s important to maintain your cultural connection, even moreso when you’ve moved to a new country with a new culture, and I can respect that. My issue is not at all with the Asian community maintaining their culture within Canada, it’s more with the level of exclusivity and alientation that it often accompanies.

What I mean is, when I go into a store or restaurant in Richmond, I should be able to receive service. I speak both of this country’s official languages fluently. it is, in fact, a requirement of citizenship, to be fluent in at least one of those languages. The reality is, you have chosen to move to a country that requires that fluency. By all means, hold on to your own culture and language… in fact, I think it’s really important that immigrants do so, as multiculturalism is an important and fantastic aspect of this country. However, by moving here, you are accepting the fact that it is your responsibility to learn our language and co-exist with Canadian citizens rather than simply recreating your own culture in a pocket.

In specific reference to controversy regarding signs and language… I’m French-Canadian. You know this… I speak fluent, flawless French. However the signage laws in Quebec drive me NUTS. I’m sure you’re aware, it’s legal in Quebec to have signage solely in French with no English translation- while in the rest of the country, the laws are very strictly bilingual. As far as I’m concerned, Canada has two official languages: French and English. BOTH should be printed on all public signs and products, in ALL areas of the country.

This is getting way too scattered and pointless…(I do not have your mad writing skillz with the staying on topic and formulating arguments in a concise and linear way :P) but tl;dr, don’t actively exclude people, kthx. This may be bordering on racist, but that is not my intent by any means. 🙂

To be terribly honest, I’m not sure whether the signs bother me or not. In North America, there’s a degree to which we really have embraced the Chinese culture as a big part of our “cultural tapestry,” as it were. And we should, because the Chinese population takes up one big-ass piece of the pie. Does this mean that our immigration laws should no longer apply? No, but here’s the thing: our immigration laws do apply to these communities and these communities are operating legally within them.

It is a requirement that the person applying for citizenship be fluent in either English or French. But this does not apply to the subsequent “Family Visas” which allow a newly-minted citizen to bring over a vast number of family members (Mom, Dad, Grandpa, Grandma, siblings, aunts and uncles) without these family members being required to apply for citizenship. And as residents, or legal Visa-holders, they are not required to learn English or French. Then, if these families move into communities that essentially operate like pockets of lil’China (or lil’ anything else), there isn’t much incentive to learn the two official languages if you can get by within your own cultural borough.

As for the signage, displaying Mandarin-only signs is legal (or, perhaps more accurately, not illegal) within the city of Richmond, for better or for worse. But as I said in the earlier article, “legal” and “moral” are often disparate concepts. What I took issue with, and this may not have been clear enough, was Kerry the Social Butterfly’s transparent attack on immigration being poorly disguised as an attack on signage. This is a woman who is being used as the figurehead for the Nazi-esque “Immigration Watch Canada,” which can be found on its own website and through Facebook.

IWC describes itself as “an organization of Canadians who believe that immigration has to serve the interests of its own citizens. It cannot be turned into a social assistance program for other countries. It should never be a social engineering experiment that is conducted on Canadians without the consent of Canadians.” I bet you all of their meetings look like the first 20 minutes of Gran Torino. As you can see, Kerry is quite the social butterfly, indeed.

"I'm here for the Immigration Watch Canada Meeting. I hope there's spinach dip."

Then there’s Kerry herself. The original newspaper article made it sound like Starchuk was a regular feature in her local newspaper’s letters to the editor section, but I was only able to find this one, and it is a gem:

Editor:

Richmond, a place I’ve called home for my entire life. It has been a wonderful place to live. I used to love it.

Unfortunately, devastating changes have made me feel like a tourist in my own city.

There’s a song  that resonates with me, “You are a Tourist,” by Death Cab for Cutie.

In all my 53 years here I’ve always been able to read the signs but not anymore. There seems to be a growing trend to advertise in Simple Chinese. This is on a storefronts, bulletin boards and vehicles quite often in 100 per cent Simple Chinese. I find this to be discriminating and offending.

As a community, I know we have people from all over the world who have called Richmond their home. These people have respected the Canadian culture and the local people.

I contacted city hall and they told me they have many inquiries about this subject. We desperately need some house rules. It’s time our municipal, provincial, federal elected officials legislate protection for our official English language.

Kerry Starchuk

Richmond

I honestly have no follow-up to that. It is beautiful, crystalized in its own insanity and lack of self-awareness.

Even worse was her January 16th on-air interview with CKNW at about 7:45 AM in which Starchuk said she said her biggest concern was that things were changing in Richmond and she felt excluded. She stuttered, sputtered and stalled her way through about 2 minutes of softballs like (paraphrasing): “What if you were a private business owner and chose to put up a sign in Greek? Would that be objectionable?” Kerry said she didn’t know how to answer the question. Because, of course, we know the answer is that Starchuk doesn’t have a problem with non-French and English signs, she has a problem with Chinese signs. And explaining, in real time, why you’re a racist can be difficult.

But again, by attacking signage, you are attacking the absolute last stage of this debate and issue. If we were having a serious, mature and responsible discussion about immigration law – a discussion I fear is next to impossible with people like KtSB – then issues like signage wouldn’t need to be addressed at all, as they would be covered by regulations on the need to learn a language or the suspension of Family Visas.

I don’t think these signs are necessarily Mandarin-only because the proprietors wish to keep English-speaking people out. I think that they are Mandarin-only because the proprietors themselves are incapable of communicating effectively enough in English to serve an Anglophone customer. And frankly, when was the last time that you or I stepped foot in the Crystal Mall or International Village or any Mandarin-only or at least Mandarin-leaning establishment in the Lower Mainland in general or Richmond in particular? I can understand a frustration with feeling that, as a bilingual speaker of both of the country’s official languages, there would be parts of your own province not accessible to you, but that’s been the story of North America since its very inception. Commercial Drive may be a Mecca for douchey hipsters now, but it was once (and to some extent still is) the Italian borough of Vancouver. The United States, and particularly New York, has been famous for its neighborhoods subdivided by nationality and, to a lesser extent, language and culture.

A promotional image for The Godfather 4: Generations

Here’s the problem with any immigration debate in North America: with the exception of full-blood First Nations people, we’re all immigrants. But people don’t really like to think of themselves that way – especially if they’re white. In the United States there’s this fantastic narrative about throwing off the chains of religious oppression and building a beautiful chapel on the hill which will act as a beacon of holiness for the rest of the world. To a less zealous extent, North Americans take pride in the advancements in ocean travel, trapping, fishing and other reaping of North America’s natural resources for the gain of England, the Netherlands, France and Spain. I think there were some people already in North America, but from what I can tell, the transition went smoothly.

That's exactly how it happened.

Of course, this proud image of the colonizer only applied if your ancestors were English, French, Spanish or Dutch. If they were Scottish, Irish, Italian, Polish, German, East Indian, Chinese, Japanese or basically anything else not English, French, Spanish or Dutch, your ancestors were filthy scum come to infect our beautiful new nation with their cultural exclusivity, confounding customs, incomprehensible language and/or inability to assimilate.

The beautiful tradition of North American immigration is the same today as it was in the 19th century.

So I have a hard time taking this debate seriously when I feel like it’s being spearheaded by people like Starchuk who are completely ignorant of their own immigration history.

Sarah Arboleda contributed this article to The Daily Pletteau. Read about her here.


Coming Soon

I like Matthew Broderick. I think he’s funny and a… reliable actor. And of course, he starred in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, which is a movie any self-respecting human being has seen.

Though, if this ad is suggesting anything, it’s that Matthew Broderick is going to head into work so that Ferris can take another day off.

The description reads:

We hate to be such a tease, but on a day like today, we just have to. Stick it out until the Super Bowl, or take a “day off” on Monday and catch the big reveal.

The video was posted by “chuckachucka2012” (who has, since uploading the video, liked/favourited several Ferris Bueller clips) and the tags are “Ferris Bueller”, “Day off”, “Ferris”, “Bueller”, “February 5”, “teaser”, “sb46”, “big game”, “2012 superbowl”, “super bowl”, “advertising”, “ads”, “Super Bowl Commercial”, “Super Bowl Ad”, “XLVI”.

The internet is of course ablaze with rumours and opinion seems slightly divided. The best guess so far, I think, is that they’re set to announce Ferris Bueller’s Day Off 2 during the Superbowl. Such an ad would of course be terribly expensive, so they likely have a ton of money to spend, anyway.

The big question is: do we need another Ferris Bueller movie? The first one seemed self-contained enough. Ferris was endearing and we probably assumed that he’d graduate and grow up a little. From the clip, it looks like he has gotten older, but not grown up. If the idea is that Ferris blows off work in order to have a good time, well, it’s just kinda sad, really. Broderick is 49 years old, and in the ad he looks possibly older. While I’m sure it would somehow be possible to make a good Ferris Bueller sequel, it seems like it’d be way too easy to fuck it up. Obviously, come game day, we’re looking at an ad with Matthew Broderick. The only question is, for what?


Video Game Roundup

As I’m currently awaiting knee surgery, I have a lot of time to play video games. Here’s a sampling of the ones I’ve been playing over the last little bit, complete with a brief review.

Minecraft

Latest project.

I have put hundreds of hours into this game over the last year or so. The first time I played it was at the insistence of a friend; we had been drinking and I bought and downloaded it after we split at like 3:00AM. I could not for the life of me figure it out so I gave up and went to bed.

The next day I tried again. I punched down a tree. I built a house. And then it spiraled out of control. Right now I’m working on a super-fortress and adjoining city. Not only do I have lots of free time, but Minecraft has evidently made me insane.

If, somehow, you have not heard of Minecraft, check out the website. I don’t know if one can even review a game like Minecraft, but suffice it to say it is amazing. Basically, you mine things — like trees, or dirt, or rocks, or iron, or whatever. Some of these things you can turn into other things — you could make an iron pickaxe out of your iron, for example, and mine faster. Other blocks you can just straight up place — you can mine cobblestone and place it to make a tower, for example. There are incredibly few limits to what you can do — using things like redstone and pistons, you could even make simple machines (people having even created in-game calculators and the like). Notch recently endorsed pirating the game if you can’t afford it, so if money is an issue, do that.

Dungeons of Dredmor: Realm of the Diggle Gods

Werediggles of London!

Dungeons of Dredmor is probably my game of the year for 2011. It is incredible. Gaslamp Games, this tiny company, managed to create an amazing game that, while simplistic, manages to remain endearing.  I wrote a bit more of a comprehensive review awhile back and stand by what I said there. It is an excellent game, but it is ruthless. Honestly, the deepest I’ve made it without dying is level 4. The expansion pack adds fifteen levels and, to be honest, I don’t know how many levels there are in the core game. All I know is that even though I keep on dying, I need to keep on re-rolling and keep on playing.

Realm of the Diggle Gods, the expansion pack, adds several floors and some great skills, including the hilarious Emomancy, the awesome Big Game Hunter, and the seemingly overpowered Werediggle. The first grants you magic abilities or whatever and stuff, the second makes you a lethal killing machine (particularly against the “Animal” subclass), and the last lets you turn into a diggle, which is hilarious and fairly powerful. The guys seem to have redone a lot of the monsters and taunts, added features like portals that teleport you to alternate dimensions and levers that port you around the dungeon, added a ton of extra skills to the core-game skill trees, added a ton of new weapons, fixed a bunch of bugs, and made the game a lot, lot more fun — and that’s a feat, because, it is still one of the most entertaining games I’ve ever played. If you haven’t bought it yet, you can pick it and the expansion pack up at Steam for the low low price of $7.49 USD. It’s definitely worth it.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

...someday you'll feed on a tree frog...

I cleared through MGS2 a few times and have turned my full attention to MGS3. I beat MGS3:SE several times on PS2, beat MGS3: Subsistence a few more times, and am working on it again, especially now that trophies are up for grabs. If for some reason you haven’t bought the HD collection and have never played either MGS2, MGS3, or MGS: Peace Walker, you should probably stop wasting your time and pick it up.

The HD edition of MGS3 looks quite a bit better than the SD version, and runs better, too. The addition of trophies is something I like: something that bugged me about MGS2 and 3 was that there were “challenges” that the game never really issued but that online communities were partaking in. And unless you belonged to these groups, you may have not known about them. You’d have to read strategy guides and message boards to even figure it out. Trophies/achievements are great because they do help give you a focus, something to strive for, and a way to prove you achieved what you did. As it stands, I’m working on the Peace Walker trophy (no-kills), the Markhor trophy (capturing every food item), and the Kerotan trophy, which requires a certain level of OCD that I am quickly approaching.

Final Fantasy VIII

I can't trust anybody, people will just abandon me, blah blah blah wah wah wah

There’s something about the Final Fantasy games VI-IX that makes them stand out. They each have their flaws, I think, but they’re all very entertaining. I’m working on playing through VIII — while I can’t stand the Squall/Rinoa romance because I’m not 16, it is nonetheless an excellent game. That’s all I’ll say, there.

Serious Sam

Why yes, I am firing several guns at once.

Transylvanilla alerted me to Indie Royale’s Serious Sam package yesterday. It’s still on. For several dollars ($4,46 USD as I write) you get Serious Sam: The Random Encounter, Serious Sam: Double D, Serious Sam: Kamikaze Attack, and Serious Sam: The First and Second Encounter. Serious Sam is an old staple of the shooter world, almost, but not quite, as legendary as Duke Nukem. SS features the same over-the-top, self-aware, corniness. They’re games meant to be fun more than anything else. There isn’t a real story at stake, and there is no characters trying for emotional attachment or growth or anything like that. They’re games about killing baddies — old school kinda stuff, in the vein of Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard, which itself was a spoof of action video games… but Serious Sam does it much better (though Matt Hazard has one of the best trailers ever). It’s self-referential and self-aware, and well, just a cool video game — all of them. I’d recommend picking up the Indie Royal deal while it’s still up.

And rewatching the Matt Hazard trailers, I’d recommend getting that too. It’s fun.

Metal Gear Solid 4

This image says 1,027 words. More if you count contractions as two words. And count the bottom caption.

This is embarrassing. I only got a PS3 last September so maybe I deserve a bye on this, but I’ve only just beat MGS4. I hit a bit of a wall where I didn’t really want to play and took months off, but got back on and beat it. It starts off slow but right after the wall I hit, it absolutely picks up and becomes one of the greatest games ever and includes at least two of my favourite boss fights of all time.

Well played, Hideo. Well played.


Meet the Place Where Prohibition Never Ended: British Columbia, Canada

The local brewhouse being raided by the heat, the 5-0, coppers, feds, barnies, flatfoots and gumshoes alike.

British Columbia is a very weird place, something known by all other Canadians.  Our politics are flat-out bizarre, our city erupts into flames when our hockey team comes in second-place for hockey’s most coveted prize, our citizenry forgets how to drive when a snowflake hits the ground (and also forgets that there’s a reason Canada is called “The Great White North”), and our liquor laws are horribly antiquated.

We pay substantial taxes on our liquor, even stuff produced here. Exporting it is a hassle, and if you decide to visit any of our excellent, globally-recognized, award-winning wineries, taking stuff out of the province is a huge hassle. We have strict drinking-and-driving laws, which is fair (well, except for the whole making police judge, jury, and executioner bit, but that’s another article, I guess), but we also have horrible transit which shuts down across the Lower Mainland at like 1:30 AM, and even earlier in other parts of town.

I was driving to the States awhile ago, and on the way down popped into the Duty Free Store. There, I picked up a 24-pack of Kokanee Beer — a BC beer — for about $24. That same pack of beer would run closer to $44 in Canada ($42.49, according to the BC Liquor Distribution branch’s website, which has a near-monopoly on liquor bought and sold in BC). It’s all taxes, and it’s all going to the government. It’s actually pretty insane. Add in prohibition-era rules, and what you have is an incredibly backwards province in the first-world. I mean, we’ve set up a place for heroin addicts to inject drugs into their body in a government-funded establishment, but can’t bring ourselves to charge reasonable rates for booze. I used to be a huge politico in the BC politics circuit, and there’s an expression I once heard that’s stuck with me: government never met a tax it didn’t like. And it’s true; you can take the most fiscally-conservative, most libertarian political party in the world that promises to cut and slash everywhere. They’ll cut expenditures, definitely, but they’ll be a lot less likely to cut profits. Of course, an easy argument against slashing liquor taxes is that it’ll encourage alcoholism, but that’s as lazy an argument as it is a disingenuous one.

Enter the Rio Theatre in Vancouver. The Rio is a single-screen theatre that tends towards the artsier-side. It’s got a huge fan-base, likely due to the fact that it’s a refreshing break from the twenty-screen cinemas that pander to the mainstream. The owner, Corrine Lea, applied for a liquor license. Recently, she was granted one, but informed that she could no longer show movies and was now restricted to just live shows. And that’s bullshit. The Rio is an awesome theatre, and a reminder of what the cinema used to be about: it’s quaint as hell. And, well, we should be allowed to drink in theatres.

Corrine Lea in her sassiest pose.

I mean, it’s seems clear that some employee of what is essentially a taxpayer-funded organization handed Lea a liquor license without clearly stipulating what the terms are. And while maybe Lea can be criticised for not reading the terms more clearly or having a better consultant, it isn’t hard to see she’s been screwed by BC’s antiquated drinking laws. We’re talking about laws and organizations that were set up in the 1910s and 1920s and have barely been changed since — we are literally talking about prohibition-era stuff here. You can drink at a bowling alley, you can drink at Boston Pizza (which closes later than most BC bars, actually), and you can drink at Rogers Arena. Proponents of BC’s outdated liquor control laws would probably argue that the Stanley Cup riots — both of which were partially fuelled by booze — is proof that we can’t handle our liquor, but then permitting drinking at the arena but not outside of it is hardly a compelling argument.

There are cinemas across the world that permit drinking in theatres, not to mention all the jurisdictions across the world where drinking in public is permitted. The time-old argument is that public drinking encourages public intoxication; that somehow, legalising drinking in public would unleash a Dionysian armageddon, despite all the evidence to the contrary. It’s absurd, and, if you ask me, pretty insulting. It is nanny-state stuff, and it is the government basically saying, “you can’t handle your drinking.”

BC is having talks about legalising prostitution and even a place for alcoholics to drink fine vodka and sherry on the public dime. While I disagree with a place like Insite, where heroin addicts can inject themselves in a clean and safe environment, I have to admit that I think it’s better to the alternative — I’m not so jaded as to think that we should just let drug addicts kill themselves. I think BC is a somewhat enlightened place — but when it comes to certain things, we’re definitely backward.

There’s a petition going around to get the laws changed. I encourage you to sign it and write your City Councillor and your MLA. At the very least, we can probably save the Rio. At the most, we can probably get these laws changed.


You Probably Aren’t Special

You aren't special.

Since childhood, my generation has been told how special we are. How we all have unique talents and that we’re all perfect in our own way. Sarah calls it the “special little snowflake” methodology, or something like that. This, we’ve both concluded, is part of why so many of my generation — and a few of the preceding ones — feel so entitled.  Kids — and adults — these days are under the impression that there are things in life they deserve, like brand new iPhones or eating out every night or the newest video game or whatever. They rack up tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt, and shrug. They pay the interest and by the next shiny gadget, sinking further in debt. I know too many of my friends who have terrible credit card problems. And it’s awfully sickening that one of the worst things to plague North American society is spending too much money.

The fact is, though, that very few people are special. An insignificant proportion of the population is genuinely good at something. Most people, I think, are competent enough at their jobs, whether it’s in middle management or at the drive-thru window. Some people are slightly talented and go further; they might be management (again), or they might be musicians, comedians, performers, whatever. The problem is that, from a young age, we’re told we can achieve anything. And sure, you can, if you have enough money, inclination, time, interest, and talent, but very few people have it. The fact is that the majority of people on this planet will achieve next-to-nothing in their lifetimes: they’ll live, they’ll have some snot-nosed brats, and they’ll die. That’s that.

All this, I guess, is what pisses me off the most about the Lana Del Rey / Whitney Cummings saga that’s been playing out. For those of you who don’t watch SNL (let’s face it: most people), Lana Del Rey bombed. If you haven’t heard of her, she is a hipster from New York who put a few songs on Youtube that tons of people liked — I’ll admit that, while I don’t like the songs myself, she clearly has some talent (even if that talent is warbling mournfully into a microphone, out-of-rhythm about hipsterystuff).

When I say she bombed, I mean she bombed hard. The interwebs were aflame with hatred about her and her performance. Many people then felt she was being let off too easy. The consensus was that certain media sites were giving her a bit of a pass because, let’s face it, she’s new and young. Well, this continued for awhile; Brian Williams of NBC went as far as to send an e-mail to his buddies at Gawker, who then promptly published the thing (which resulted in a hilarious, mini-scandal which basically involved Williams swinging his dick around). He called it — as many others have — “one of the worst outings in SNL history”. Here’s the clip: be warned, it really is bad.

Shortly thereafter though, out of nowhere, like a superhero, in swung noted comedian superstar Whitney Cummings. Cummings, for those of you who don’t know, is the extremely talented star of the NBC show Whitney (Whitney you may remember became the whipping-boy after the non-cancellation of Community). She, like the hero that she is, wrote a blog post about how the internet community was ruining this young woman, how we were taking out our anger and aggression on someone who didn’t deserve it, and essentially how ladies can’t get ahead with men criticizing them.

LOL!!!!!! THEY REALLY DID!!!!!!!!!!!!11111111111

Now, I’ll be honest: half of what I just wrote is a complete lie. Whitney Cummings is single-handedly one of the least funny human beings current alive to have lived. She is Godawful. Her jokes consist of either banal observations, her claiming what a nerd she is, or gross-out humour. It’s just not that funny. Maybe she’s funny, I guess, if you’re ten or your favourite show is The Big Bang Theory, but I’m not. Anyway, Cummings big thing seems to be, performing is hard work ok guys!?

I have many random thoughts. First, everybody calm down. It’s a little troubling that when a young girl fails at something that we keep kicking her why she is down. I get very protective of girls, especially young performers, because they live a hard, emotionally challenging, often physically challenging life where you are constantly given reasons to be insecure and have panic attacks. I totally get the stuff about her not deserving to be there and I don’t mean to insult musicians in any way if that’s how they feel obviously, but this is an opportunity to show us how hard being a performer is so maybe they can all be cut some slack. Flack?  I think we take our performers for granted. It’s super fucking hard to entertain people and it takes a lot of work.

I can’t really judge her performance. I am not qualified to do that since I’m very forgiving of performers because performing is FUCKING HARD. It takes a long time to get good, and even when you are good, you can be challenged by new venues and being televised, and cameras, and the uh…fear and terror of being slammed by critics and bloggers, plus if you are a woman you also get fashion criticism and if you’re a pretty woman you’re accused of having plastic surgery and if you’re not you’re “busted” and people blog about how they don’t want to fuck you…it’s not ideal. On top of that you have to deal with the self-hate and self-criticism that most performers and artists have.  So even when things go great for artists and performers, it’s still hard. So when it goes bad, it’s just the worst vortex of misery. If she fell on her face, she was there, she felt it, and her having lived it is punishment enough. We don’t need to keep bashing her unless it makes us feel better about ourselves which….isn’t an ideal reason to hate someone.

I don’t think it’s entirely necessary to point out the irony in Cummings talks about being “good” at performing when she is clearly not, so I really won’t. What I will do, though, is point out this: when you perform, whether it’s in front of five people or five million, you are setting yourself up to be judged. Being judged is one of the only reasons to perform. If you enjoy performing but aren’t good at it, you shouldn’t be performing. It’s like the opening episodes of American Idol: those shitty performers are on there purely for our amusement. They just aren’t good. They like performing, but that’s not enough. But I’ve yet to see someone, earnestly, come to the defense of those clowns with a good reason beyond Cummings’s claim of “performing is hard”. There are lots of things that are hard, and when you fuck up, you fuck up. That’s it. Trying isn’t always is never good enough. It’s like when Luke is bitching during The Empire Strikes Back to Yoda about how tough life is: do or do not, there is no try.

But what aggravates me the most about her entire post begins in the first paragraph: Cummings’s defense of her because she’s a young woman. First of all, she’s like what, twenty-five? That’s hardly young. In fact, it isn’t. Secondly, Cummings’s patronizing defense of Del Rey because of her gender (and their shared gender, obviously), makes me choke. Is Cummings saying we should give Del Rey a break because she is a lady? Really? I get that the performing industry still remains a bit of an old boy’s club (hell, most of the world is), but come on — let’s be real and drop the bullshit sexism.

I am intrigued by Lana Del Rey. She seems very odd and self-made and scrappy which I like. Her style is bonkers. She always looks so fresh and original. I think she’s from either Brooklyn or the future. Her stylist must be Baz Luhrmann. Her nails are fresh for life. Zoe Lister Jones showed me the video games video a long time ago and we were very smitten with her face and mystery and the cool video for it and legitimately good lyrics and song.  We were for sure annoyed by how pretty she was but we checked that nasty competitive shit right away because the song was cool. She earned for us to not objectify her and get petty. Because something about this girl brings out the petty in us. Her quick rise? Her pretty face? Something is pissing people off about this girl and I just think it’s an opportunity for us to learn from ourselves and grow. (LOOK AT HOW MUCH OF AN ADULT I AM NOW!)

I just watched the SNL performance and I think her rhythms are weird an odd and bizarre. She seemed nervous obviously. She moves in a very drunk-at-a-wedding-and-gonna-regret-it-in-the-morning-type way which is all I really need to be entertained. I’m not saying support bad music or that she deserved to be there or anything-not my call-I’m just saying lets make the punishment at least fit the crime. Let’s not blame her, let’s blame her managers for not making her wait until they knew she would not get nervous or kick it out of the park or not do whatever happened.

I’ll just offer a cursory glance at this crap above me here: I don’t find Del Rey particularly attractive or interesting, so whatever. I don’t think I am — or that most other people are, for that matter — hating on Del Rey because she’s pretty. I think it’s slightly ridiculous to claim that pretty girls have trouble getting ahead, and that’s what Cummings is suggesting.

The second paragraph is hilarious, because Cummings is saying we should take it easy on Del Rey because she’s a pretty young girl, but we should grill the shit out of her manager for booking the performance. First of all, if you’re a rising young star and SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE phones your manager and says, “hey, we have an open spot, does Lana want to perform?”, what is the manager going to say? “No, call back in like a few years when she’s a bit better, ok?”. No, of course not, don’t be a moron.

But it’s this attitude — Cummings’s attitude — of passing the buck and blaming other people for our own fuck-ups which is bugging me. My generation is an entitled bunch of sissies who don’t like working hard and love passing the blame, and Cummings’s post typifies that. Everyone acts like they deserve something, like the world itself owes them something.

Here’s the rub: no one deserves anything. No one pops out of the womb deserving this or that. You need to earn your way in the world: when someone hands you the gig of a lifetime and you fuck it up, you fuck it up, that’s it. Accept it and move on, that’s all you can do. Maybe things will work out, maybe they won’t, whatever. The fact is that very few people on this planet are special, very few are unique, very few are special little snowflakes.

Coddling kids (and performers, by the looks of it) by telling them they can achieve anything is a bold(/bald)-faced lie and, in the long run, doesn’t do much.


One Woman’s Brave Battle to Fight Richmond’s Assault on Whiteness

Chinese-only signs dominate the Richmond Night Market, an example of the cultural cesspool threatening to drown to Richmond’s noble white heritage.

January 14th’s Vancouver Sun raised an important question: When will it finally be okay to openly hate the Lower Mainland’s rapidly expanding Chinese population?

To be fair, the question was couched and carefully sugar-coated as a debate on whether there should be a restriction on the number of “Chinese”-only signs in Richmond, but let’s face it: white British Columbians love being able to complain about the Chinese whenever they can smoke-screen it behind a debate on common decency or civic responsibility.

We all long for those dreamy, care-free days when “those damn UBC condo owners” were blocking the progress of a hospice because of their culture’s phobias and superstitions regarding the dead and dying taking up residence in their backyard. But we weren’t attacking them because of their race or culture, we were attacking them for being bad, selfish, nasty, rude and insensitive human beings who just so happened to be Chinese.

But when the Sun’s Douglas Todd brought us the story of a Richmond woman who was getting the “bureaucratic brush-off in her efforts to restrict the predominance of Chinese-language signs in her hometown,” I knew that the glory days of uninhibited Chinese-bashing might just have returned to us again.

First, allow me to pick apart that opening sentence: a “Richmond woman,” who we can only assume is not of Asian descent is getting the “bureaucratic brush-off” for trying to restrict Chinese-language signs in her hometown. Unlike those immigrants who aren’t really “from here.”

The Richmond woman in question is Kerry Starchuk, whose linkedin profile states that she works as a Personal Home Manager at Kerry, the Social Butterfly which does not appear to be a business, but rather a personal statement about her winning personality. If it is a business, however, you can bet your ass its sign is in English — as God intended. But not French, that would be a little gay.

Kerry, the Social Butterfly.

Todd argues that there are many reasons to support Starchuk’s campaign, which has since been “stonewalled” despite her many letters to the editor and “buttonholing” of politicians. Todd argues that Starchuk is not alone in her feeling that the many Chinese-only restaurant and retail signs around the city need to be reduced, or at least offer an English translation, but fails to mention anyone that has taken up under Starchuk’s banner (other than himself, of course). He goes on in the article to outline how British Columbians need a common language to flourish, taking his talking points from studies released in the Fall by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney:

1) Learning English may be good for immigrants’ health.

2) Everything that encourages new-comers to learn English, including having to understand signs, contributes to their financial well-being.

3) An emphasis on English-language signs will help reduce the segregating effects caused by the rise of Canadian ethnic enclaves, which have expanded from just six in 1976 to more than 260.

Then there’s this doozy: “Although these dominant foreign-language signs are permitted under provincial legislation, presumably in the name of freedom of expression, they constitute a misguided approach to multiculturalism.”

Kerry Starchuk and Douglass Todd think Canada’s mosaic could use fewer Asian tiles.

I’m the first person to say that “legal” and “moral” aren’t exactly synonyms, but come on. First, it is currently legal. They are not breaking any laws. But second – and this is probably the most important element of all – if a store does not have any English signage, what are the chances that its owners speak a great deal of English? What are the chances that the menus are in English or that anyone will be able to assist you? In short: for many of these retail or restaurant locations, wouldn’t English signage effectively amount to false advertising?

Then there’s the second issue, which is that no one thinks that calling an Italian restaurant “Luigi’s Ristorante” is terribly exclusionary and a misguided approach to multiculturalism. It’s expected because even someone with no exposure to Italian can probably figure out that Luigi’s Ristorante isn’t a sporting goods store. But that’s because English and Italian and French and Spanish and a whole pile of other languages share the same basic alphabet. Chinese – or, more accurately Mandarin and/or Cantonese – do not.

Another example of a culture trying to destroy Canada’s values by refusing to offer an English translation.

You can absolutely make the argument that if someone is going to immigrate to a new country they ought to learn the language first. And it’s a fine argument, but the trouble is that current Canadian immigration laws might require one person in a family to learn English, but then once that family member becomes a citizen, they are able to bring over their mothers, fathers, siblings and grandparents without the same language requirements being applied to them. If you have a problem with the predominance of Chinese-only signs (but really Chinese-only people, let’s be real), then your issue should be with immigration, not a provincial law on signage.

Ultimately, signs are a reflection of the behavior and attitudes of a society, not its cause. A town with a population of great drivers doesn’t need to have a thousand traffic lights, stop signs and crossing guards. And a city – or a province, or a country – with a firm immigration policy on English or French language requirements for its residents and citizens wouldn’t need to restrict its number of Chinese-only signs.

I’m not saying that Todd and Starchuk are wrong, but I am saying that they’ve aimed their fight at the very tail end of the actual issue.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece previously referred to Douglas Todd and Kerry Starchuk as “racists.” Todd, although he did not directly request we remove the reference to him as a racist, tacitly threatened legal action were we to not remove it. While as editor I take a different stance, Arboleda has requested this line be removed.

So The Pletteau is no longer directly alleging that Douglas Todd is a racist, although About does refer to Todd as an “anti-atheist bigot,” so take it with a grain of salt. We have been wrong before.

 

Sarah Arboleda contributed this article to The Daily Pletteau. Read about her here.