Friday, June 1, 2007

The Late Shift

I don't know whose idea it was to put a comic book store in a restaurant, but it doesn't work. Especially since the racks of comics, some of them looking pretty exciting, were set up where the servers picked up the food from the kitchen. In fact, the entire layout of the restaurant was a little odd. It descended like a cliff becoming a beach, like something you might see out of American Gladiators. The dining room was on level ground, then the kitchen rose gradually, and on plateaus of varying degrees were food stations from which you would get either a salad, or a inexplicably a bowl of peanut butter. It's amazing that anybody got any of their food to their tables with this set up. Especially since whenever you turned your back on a food item you were trying to get to your table, an old, curmudgeonly European lady would steal and throw away whatever it was you were needing.
Yes, i worked at this restaurant. All night. Sleeping is supposed to be a relaxing time. And sometimes it is. But other times you close your eyes after a long, caffeine-riddled shift at earl's and suddenly you are back at earl's, only everything is going wrong and the restaurant looks more like the set of Hollywood Squares than anything you've worked at. But of course that doesn't phase you in your dream. that's completely normal.
What is slightly less normal is how your table, really friendly older people obviously a variation of a some regulars you served a few hours ago in reality, got their entrees before they got their appetizers, when you, their server didn't ring any of their order in at all.
Which is when i apologize and go to the mountain that is the kitchen, looking to complete their order, which for some reason involves a tiny bowl of peanut butter, before they get too annoyed and decide not to tip me.
This earls-mare was so powerful i went back to it twice after forcing myself awake. My brain really wasn't ready to let my shift go.
Maybe it's because my internship at opulence is already a nightmare of disappointed possibilities, or maybe it's because not even my subconscious can figure out how to derive surreal stress from sitting at a computer all day writing about poor television shows, but i still haven't had a nightmare about my internship.
Which is too bad, I'm getting tired of the extra shifts at earl's. I'd rather be reading those comics of my dreams.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

A Danger to Your Children

This isn’t news. In fact, this article should have been written a long time ago. I’m sure ones like it have, which is good. The issue I’m addressing needs as many voices as possible. This might be late, but it needs to be said. My rage may be new, but it is fervent, glowing, and righteous. I loath Everybody Loves Raymond.

As far as I can tell there are three interrelated reasons why Everybody Loves Raymond is the worst television program in history, despite its longevity, popularity, and seeming omnipresence.
First, and most blatant, is simply that it isn’t funny. It’s supposed to be, but it isn’t. It fails. Now, I’m by no means a Raymond connoisseur, thank heaven, I haven’t seen every episode. I don’t think I’ve seen five. But really, how many chances are you supposed to give a program? Be wary of any television show with a laugh track. If you need a prompting to know what’s funny, chances are it isn’t.
(Seinfeld may be the only surefire exception.)
Secondly, and this is correlated to the above, it is repetitive. It has a formula and it sticks to it like a Pharisee. Every episode is a tradition that can’t be disturbed. This makes for horribly insulting television.
In the office where I sit, they were just waxing nostalgic about other TV programs from their childhood. Three’s Company came up. I never liked it. The golden colours, the faded sets, the unrecognizable hairdos, the palpable sexual innuendos that I wasn’t quite able to grasp, all combined to make me feel embarrassed and slightly guilty whenever I tried to watch it while waiting for Batman: the Animated Series to come start on RDTV. But John Ridder’s break out television vehicle was still important to me. I remember it distinctly as the first show I saw where I was able to recognize a clear formula. Without a doubt, the shows that I had been watching previous to, and around the same time as Three’s Company equally relied on formulas- I don’t think Growing Pains, The Facts of Life, or Visionaries were bastions of television creativity, but some reason I didn’t notice any formulas until Three’s Company. Always there was a misunderstanding with zany repercussions, always somebody misheard somebody else, always there was a crisp resolution in the 22 minutes allotted. In a way, Three’s Company helped awaken my media consciousness and me as a critic and writer.
Maybe Everybody Loves Raymond will have that kind of back handed benefit for some other child, because heaven knows it is ten times worse than any Three’s Company farce.
Finally, I’m not usually one for using this argument against entertainment of any kind. I usually feel that if a film, or a television show, or even a magazine is offensive to any group than that group should just ignore it, because one should never seek to impose their values on others. My conception of family doesn’t necessarily comprise of a whacking people and infidelity, but who am I to judge. I simply won’t watch. But sometimes a program airs that is so detrimental to any and all definitions of family values that to ignore it is tantamount to destroying the very structure of the family- any family. Everybody Loves Raymond is such an offender.
Ironically, because of the inclusion of Caucasian, heterosexual extended family, and the exclusion of naughty words, Everybody Loves Raymond has always been seen as a family friendly show. It’s on all day, on any channel. The kids never have to leave the room.
But they should. The should.
Despite the sheer lack of any minority, ethnic or otherwise, which can only lead to small mindedness and dangerous cultural naivety, Raymond displays a constant assaults to the happy home. The very formula, the one that makes the show not funny, is fighting. The marriage we see isn’t happy. Raymond can’t communicate, his wife only gets offended. Extended family is intrusive and inappropriately involved in their affairs. Both husband and wife are compulsively selfish, mean, competitive. They are either ruining the other’s big plans or punishing the other for doing so. There is no respect for mothers, father, or each other. Theirs, fictional though it may be, is a home full of judgment, sarcasm, and impatience. Everything a home, of any conception, shouldn’t be.
I’d rather my child of the future watch a show about the crazy hijinks of a transsexual, single father raising his prostitute, crack addict daughter, so long as there is genuine respect and love on display, than them catching a glimpse of the passive aggressive undermining comedy of Everybody Loves Raymond. Because despite what some might contend you are affected by what you watch. And I’ve seen a home influenced by Everybody Loves Raymond, and it’s the saddest place in the world.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Every Five Minutes

Back in high school, our acting classes were in a long orange room beside the theatre. On one end of the room the wall was lined with mirrors. Presumably, performers need mirrors to check their posture, their breathing, or to follow a teacher in warm up. I needed it to check myself out. I could not walk past that mirror without looking at myself. It’s like I was worried I was becoming a vampire, and I needed constant reassurance of my mirror manifesting mortality. I think mostly I was actually just intrigued, like an infant, by myself. I wondered what everyone else saw when they saw me, so I would check. And check often.
One friend secretly counted one day. Seventeen times. I checked on my reflection seventeen times in an hour. If my math doesn't fail me, that's about once every four minutes. That's right; I couldn't go five minutes without a glance in the mirror. I still maintain that, although checking oneself out 17 times is pretty pathetic, it isn't as lame as stalking someone for an entire class, counting how many times they've checked themselves out.
I ask, who was more obsessed?
I would like to think my seemingly self obsessed habit was more about validation than infatuation. It wasn't that I loved myself or the way I looked, what teenager does. It was more out of insecurity than vanity. Surrounded by people, most of them girls, and mostly girls that at any given time I had a crush on, I needed to check if I was still presentable. If I was still okay. The reflection would tell me where I was and whether I was worthy of attention. All I needed to know.
There are no mirrors at my office. But there is Facebook. If I were to only check my profile seventeen times in an hour that would be a miracle of restraint. I need to. I need to look at my picture and read what anybody wrote to me. I need to see if I’m still worthy of attention.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Who Am I?

The tales of of my boring internship continue.

Not usually one to try silly gimmicks advertised on random Facebook accounts, I'm feeling a little ashamed that i even tried this. I had a negative experience with the now completely overdone celebrity look-a-like page, made so famous by my niece's apparent uncanny resemblance to the late Martin Luther King Jr.- i was skeptical of the clearly lame "what superhero are you" quiz. Frankly, I doubted that the revelation that i was clearly Nightwing would have any effect on how well i knew myself. Plus, all the other people who had it on there site used the results as a substitute for their own wit. But, on the other hand it offered me the prospect of thinking more about superheroes while i was sitting doing nothing but waiting at this silly desk.
So, I took the test.
It asked questions with predictable meanings- like what power would you like most to have, then it listed abilities like strength, speed, flight. One choice said something like "No powers, just cool gadgets." please. clearly that's a big flashing arrow pointing to Batman. I fought off the urge to answer the quiz teleologically, that is with the end in site. I was honest. What Superhero would this quiz, clearly diffinitive at diagnosing the metahuman proclivities of mere mortals, bestow like a totem on me?

That's right. Wonder Woman. That's what i get for being honest. I get to be told by some computer program that i am most like an amazonian princess whose native garb serendipitously is also emblematic of the United States of America.
I should of taken the test like Mary and I used to take the tests in Seventeen magazine. We were also Perfect Pals, or Even Headed Hotties or something.

So I tried it again. and i made sure that i came out Batman.

How upset should i be that i'm spending my time thinking about batmen and wonder women when i should be learning about the inner workings of magazine journalism? And i am upset. but then i think wwwwd? what would wonder woman do. and i feel a whole lot better.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

On Sacrifice

To dream is to be a Hudson. If I could somehow show you what my internship was going to like according to the many day dreams I had about it before coming home to Calgary, you would weep. Not because they were so beautiful, although they were, but because they differ to poignantly from reality.
I envisioned a high rise downtown. Our office is in an almost decrepit business park, in the shadow of Chinook Mall, surrounded by auto parts stores and gravel.
I saw offices bathed in sunlight from the many windows, some shaded by contemporary frosting. I work in a corner of a room under door frames that aren't done being painted.

And when I say i work, what I mean is I sit at my desk, beaten to death and depression by boredom.

And that's the biggest discrepancy of all. It's not my surroundings that discourage me. It's not the setting, it's the plot. I knew I wouldn't be paid, but at least, I thought, I would work. Instead, I wake up early, get to work, and sit. I read web pages, I look for story ideas, I check my email, and I sit. And sitting next to me is the realization that I am sacrificing the potential to earn summer money for nothing.

I'm slitting my bank account at the throat in the prescribed manner, but the god of "experience and resume" isn't listening.

Today, I was almost jealous of the construction worker who boarded the train with me.


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

my high school sweetheart: magazines

i had to write a letter explaining why I want to be in Magazine at Ryerson. there are a limited number of spaces in the magazine stream. If i don't get in, i won't be heartbroken. Lately, i've loved broadcast. Rachel, wonderful girl that she is, pointed out that if it's right my career would end up in broadcast anyway. So i might as well study what i think is the most fun. i hope that comes across.This is what i wrote:

In 2005, a 22-year-old kid from Alberta came to Ryerson with small hands and big dreams. After spending the last two years pounding the pavement, meeting rejection upon rejection as a zealous Mormon missionary, Greg was ready for a change. He was ready to be trained in a job that would bring him unquestioned respect and relaxation. Wisely, he chose Journalism. He would be an anchor somewhere. Actually, he would be a fake anchor, dealing in fake news a la Jon Stewart. This was his dream. It would bring fame, fortune, and constant accolades from the fawning liberal media. He couldn’t wait.
Almost everything about that has changed in the past year, except sadly the size of my hands. Originally, I had thought that I would, as implied, venture into the broadcast stream, and whether ironically or not, inform Canadians via television. I don’t know if my dreams are less lofty now, but they are hopefully more realistic. I want to write for magazines. The great thing is this excites me just the same.
Thinking back, it’s odd that I would have been so eager for broadcast coming in to Ryerson. Sure, I watched the news, but I took my greatest pleasure from reading magazines. I loved GQ, Esquire, Details, Mclean’s, and Toro. I would watch television news because it was on, almost passively. But I would seek out magazines. And not just because of the possibility of seeing a pretty girl amidst the articles. I liked that feature length articles seemed to have personality, depth, and answers. Magazines somehow achieved the oft sought after balance between fun and informative. And they did it subtly. So subtly that I didn’t realize how much I wanted to be a part of magazine creation until I got to practice it.
This year, assignment after assignment in my feature class would come and I wouldn’t stress in the least. I would worry. I actually enjoyed it. I think there are a couple of reasons for that. Firstly, it was liberating. I could write longer sentences, be flashier, more literary. I could have the style that I struggled, joyfully, to suppress in print. And second, I was good at it. I could tell not just by the marks I would get, but by how my pieces were received by my peers, and most especially by how I felt about them. I enjoyed every aspect of their creation, and reveled in their consumption.
I think the best example of this was with my profile. I didn’t write about anyone famous. A fellow I knew, who was a street performer and motivational speaker. He also happened to be going through a major crisis of faith and tragic divorce (most divorces are). I wrote the first paragraph and I knew it was powerful. It was something that couldn’t have been written in print, and would have been cheapened on camera. I loved it.
I still think broadcast is a possibility for me. Recently I’ve discovered talents in that area that have almost persuaded me to go in that direction- ask Jagg, I’m not just bragging. But, in the end, I think magazine will be filled with more constant enjoyment than broadcast- except for maybe radio, which to me is like the broadcast’s old-school version of magazine. Because I want my schooling to be fun, both marks wise and activity wise, I am sticking with magazine. It’s the type of journalism I’ve loved the longest, even if I didn’t realize it. Like a high school sweetheart.
I secured an internship with Opulence magazine in Calgary this summer. It used to be called Calgary Living, but apparently it got a raise. I’m excited. I hope that it won’t be disillusioning; that I’ll come back in the fall eager to begin my studies in the magazine stream, with experience, insight and bid dreams. And of course, small hands.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Remembering Captain America

By no means do I want to minimize the tragedy of Steve Roger's death. Captain America was an American icon. Although I never cared for his comic personally, or his character until recently, I have lately realized that I should have. Somehow Captain America blended the attributes of Batman and Superman in one person. He was the perfect boy scout, unfailingly hopeful, and of course patriotic, like Superman (who is actually an immigrant to the states. Although he is a legal alien), and yet he was just a man, he performed his heroics without the aid of invulnerability, flight, or adamantium claws or spidey senses. He was just a man who could out-think and out-manoeuvre his enemies. Like Batman.
But now he is dead.
Luckily, north America still has some patriotic guardian: the lesser known, clearly ripped-off, Captain Canuck. (Don't get me started about what that hero says about our Canadian culture. I would prefer to remember that Superman was half created by a Canadian, or remember that Wolverine is from my home province.)
Until Steve Rogers returns, which is bound to happen, no hero ever truly dies- look at Superman (died in 1993), or Jesus (died 33 A.d.). Captain America will come back. It's inevitable. Because he represents America and America can't be conquered. And what better hero to die in a pitch to sell more comics than the embodiment of American Capitalism itself.
May you rest in Peace Captain America. Hopefully you won't be gone for long. But until your return, remember that Captain Canuck has got things covered.
But it won't be as flashy.