Tuesday, 25 November 2008

The Season of Coercion

It's Christmastime once again! All the decorations are up, lots of pretty things are out and about, everyone is jolly, and a feeling of well being is saturating the populous of wherever. Yeah, I could have been more poetic than that, except I'm a little pissed off. Big surprise right? Well let me explain why.

Not only is Christmas the season of giving, but its also the season of ...


image courtesy of:http://hem.passagen.se/

I don't mean pushing as in the shoving variety, I mean the projection of your beliefs on the unsuspecting. Now don't get me wrong, this does not concern political correctness around the generic terming of holidays so catholics, christians, jews, muslims, buddhists, paganists and whatever else there is don't break out and riot. I hate all this nonsense of "Happy Holidays" and other politically correct buzzwords manufactured so as not to offend anyone who might otherwise raise a ruckus.

If I go to your house (or country) and you say nothing but Happy Hanukah or Hail The Fangorious Maw of Cthulhu I'm not going to get offended. In fact, I think it's pretty hard to offend the average person with religious stuff. It's your house, I'm a guest, I'll play your games and eat your food, human flesh or no. 

What I don't understand is why people seem to get so offended in the first place. Is this just the media blowing this stuff out of proportion Like really, did the fact that someone put up a Christmas tree and manger diorama on their lawn really ruin your "Holiday" experience? I highly doubt it.
 If someone raises a christmas tree that offends your faith, raise a giant golden cow idol bigger than tree and see who has the bigger balls, then go give each other presents to say "No hard feelings." I think if we all had a little more empathy for each other's differences and quit acting like faith is all that big of a deal we'd all get along a lot better.

But anyway, political holiday correctness isn't what I wanted to discuss. The topic of this post deals with giving children of third world countries presents that include shirts, lego, pens and paper, and christianity among other things.

Yup, you can't do a good deed without that shyster shyster Jesus trying to get his mitts into your pie. I recently did a news story on a program called "Operation Christmas Child" organized by Samaritan's Purse. Basically, you pack a shoebox full of presents for a needy child aged 4 to 14 from a third world country.
 I fully support the idea behind the program, because for $20 to $30 (that includes your $7 shipping fee) you can really pack that shoebox full of great stuff for kids. Some people have probably even spent upwards of $100 or more. With older kids you can even pack in tools like hammers and screwdrivers.
It's a great program, and you only need to look at the photos on Samaritanspurse.ca to see the joy these boxes bring kids. The only thing I don't like is this:

"Do you put christian literature in the shoeboxes?
No. Separately from the shoe box, “The Greatest Gift of All” storybook is offered to the children when possible and when culturally appropriate. This booklet tells the story of God’s greatest gift to the world – His son Jesus Christ. Each shoe box gift is given unconditionally, regardless of whether the child or parent chooses to receive the booklet."

Okay okay, I know I'm overreacting, it's nice that these Jesus-folk are doing something good for the needy, and not (apparently) pushing their religion too hard. I'm just always so disappointed when great programs like this have to be associated with the church. Why aren't human beings good enough to do something for each other, rather than in the name of an alleged "Spirit in the Sky?

I have my beliefs, and you have yours, let's hold hands and be friends whether they conflict or not. It's the season of giving right? I know Christmas has strayed far from where it originated (actually, I'm not even sure where it comes from. All these bible debunker things I keep reading and watching have kind left me muddy on the issue) but I think where things are at right now aren't that bad. The Christmas season is like a pre-booked holiday, and if it isn't it's no big deal if you take time off. Unless you're one of the unlucky Christmas slaves, much akin to those owned by Santa Klaus. 

image courtesy of: http://www.nuekol.org.uk

video of the week: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qyyEeEh6Tt8

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Burning Desire

Can you smell it? Yes, its the stench of geek, and yes, it's coming from me.
I'm about to get a little bit dorky here, but the topic has to be covered. Basically, for the past month or so I've been wanting to do that which nobody but a select few people can openly admit; I want to play Dungeons & Dragons.

image courtesty of: http://www.sumoexperience.co.uk

I know what you're thinking "Jake? Play D&D? Humbug!" I'm just as surprised as you, but every now and then, like a person who has quit smoking cigarettes or stopped shooting a little heroine, you get a burning desire. Usually the craving passes, you can forget about that one little smoke for a while, and if you're lucky, the feeling passes. But for the unlucky few, they start to think about it more and more and then they begin to obsess.

I thought I had beaten off my addiction. I tried to ween myself off rolling dice and talking statistics by playing computer games like Baldur's Gate and Shadowrun. But it's like nicotine gum, you get by on it, but you know the real deal is so much better and you're always left wanting more. About two months ago, September 23rd to be exact, I happened to stumble across a gaming circle and was invited in to play. I got a little taste, and I wanted more. But it's like being an addict in rehab, and not the rehab where you can get drugs smuggled in, I'm talking lockdown rehab. I can't get my fix!

Lately my addiction has been manifesting itself in my Etch-A-Sketches. I can't seem to think of anything to draw but dragons and knights and little monsters. Try as I might I can't kick this habit. So I think I need to indulge myself. Hopefully I don't get back on the train and start tabletop gaming all the time, but I have to admit to myself, the odds against me are bad. I'm a long time user, big time abuser.

But seriously, I'd really like to play some D&D. I have a creative itch that needs to be scratched. I don't know why more people don't play. It's good wholesome fun and you get to be as silly or serious as you like. Not only that, but it's a great social activity to meet new people at and make friends.

The great thing about the geek and nerd community is that it's very accepting. You wanna come play some D&D? Sure buddy, come on in! With a little help to start off, you'll be up and running and playing Dungeons and Dragons like a pro in no time! Plus the game is fun with certain stimulants. I think you all know what I mean...cheetos. Nothing like having Cheeto dust encrusted dice!

So anyway, hopefully writing about this will help me stave off the burning desire for some D&D, at least for a little while until I can get 3 or 4 people to play with me. Okay, so I geek brain-farted all over this post and it shouldn't happen this bad again for a while. Thanks for putting up with this, next post will be about a book or something.

Unless you wanna talk about D&D! Do you want to talk about Dungeons and Dragons?


Image Courtesy of: www.superstock.com

november 17th video of the week
Gogol Bordello - Start Wearin' Purple

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Joel Plaskett and You

This week's video features Canadian Indie rocker Joel Plaskett. I've been listening to him and his band (The Joel Plaskett Emergency) pretty intensely for the last year. I still remember the night I first listened to him.

It was quite early in the morning (around 2 or 3 AM) and I happened to come across one of those rare occasions when you actually catch music videos on Much Music. The whole occasion was one serendipitous moment because I quite clearly recall thinking earlier that day that I hadn't seen any decent new music videos in a while. So as I was watching away, Fashionable People by Joel Plaskett came on and I was hooked! What a fantastic music
video and catchy tune! The clever lyrics, the infectious beats, the simplistic yet ingenious video all combined to make one unforgettable song. I immediately went out to pick up the song's album Ashtray Rock which turned out to be full of real gems.

image courtesy of Maple Music
Being that it's a concept album it has something of a story arc, and I personally prefer the front half of album to the latter, but make no mistake, the whole album rocks from start to finish.

I really should have hotlinked Fashionable People on the weekly video rather than Come On Teacher, but that would have made too much sense for me to even consider doing. Come on Teacher is from his 2006 album 'Make a Little Noise.'
Plaskett definitely has a style all his own and for the most part is completely unlike anyone else I've heard. Billboard.com lists Wilco and Anders Barker as similar artists; Wilco is somewhat understandable, especially when compared to an Album like La De Da, but Wilco and I aren't good friends, I don't care much for their music either. Anders Barker is completely unknown to me, so some research on the topic will have to be done.
As I was browsing around comments on Youtube about him I noticed that somebody mentioned he reminded them of Franz Ferdinand. Well, as far as tall skinny guitarists go, I can see where that comes from, but last time I checked being tall and skinny does not a good musician make.

Anyway, be sure to check him out, albums Ashtray Rock and La De Da are a great place to start; particularily La De Da, it gives a good spread of what Joel Plaskett can do, and comes with a bonus disc with 3 of his other popular tunes.

PS. I'd give my left nut to see him play live.

Video of the Week:
Joel Plaskett Emergency 
Come On

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

The Beast Lives

After an extended hiatus, which is to say more than a year, I've become active again on the internet. Much has happened, and much of it will be covered in later posts.

Ideally what's going to happen is that I'm going to turn this into an arts culture forum. By that I mean I'm going to bitch and complain about the things that bother me, politics, arts, and culture. Truth be told, I'm an angry guy. I'll likely die from a stress induced stroke.

Some things I plan on putting on here are decent Youtube music videos (How original) as well as Etch-a-Sketch drawings made by myself and various house guests.
 Why do I want to scan in some etch-a-sketch drawings you ask? 
Because Etch-a-Sketch is true testament to the fact that the more you practice at something the better you get at it and I think that's a great lesson for everyone and one that I'd like to share with the world. Plus sometimes myself and my friends draw some really cool/funny things and I'd like to save them for later.

Also as time progresses and I maybe get some readers I'd like to move to my own site with more interactive things like polls and a place for people to post their own etch-a-sketch drawings. Something that I think would be really neat would be to have guest sketchers. Like if I could get some local celebrities, musicians, people from TV, and etcetera to do a drawing and an interview. The only problem though is that you need to be in person to get these guys in person to get the sketch.

Anyway, there's the big idea, the 5 year plan as it stands right now. So we'll see how this pans out!