Tag Archives: opinion

The Pauper of Comedy

Late night TV seems to be the only TV worth watching these days. After being without cable for a few years coming back to it I was surprised at how far it had degraded. Half the channels are shopping networks or reality shows, which have managed to hit new lows; remember when TLC was wholesome fodder for mom. I have therefore reserved my watching time until after midnight, and after Jon Stewart and Colbert, while I lazily lay in bed, my brain too sleepy to read but still in the TV zone, I rediscovered Craig Ferguson.

Part of the charm to Ferguson is that he just doesn’t seem to care, his self-degrading approach, gives him the liberty to goof off, although not everyone appreciates silliness as a comic form. He and his sidekick Geoff, the skeleton robot, banter, inside jokes and ridiculous catch phrases. His interview approach is relaxed and quirky, he doesn’t follow the standard late night interview protocol, which mainly consists of singing praises and asking about the kids.

He’s what Letterman used to be, before got old and stopped trying. He’s wittier than Leno. He’s on before Conan, which has been shafted to an especially late time slot (for my time zone at least), He’s sharper than Kimmel, who’s alright, in a cute chuckly grandpa kinda way and I’d choose him over Fallon any day, who’s all glitz no substance, pandering to his guests, he rarely is able to blurt out a joke or come-back without giggling into incoherence.

So, although I wouldn’t make any special effort to watch Ferguson, I will stay up the extra hour, even if this means I have to wake up in five, and I’ll suffer through the brain numbing commercials, even just to see the last 5 second bit, “What have we learned in the show today Craig?” It’s always worth it for the chuckles, and I harbour a secret affection for his goofy antics, and the Scottish accent doesn’t hurt either.

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Please proceed to gate ____ bound for _________ (fill destination here)

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You’ve been planning your trip for months, packed carefully, gone through the checklist several times, you arrive at the airport and scan the departure flight screen, your eyes pass over Reykjavik, Cape Town, New York, Osaka, what if you could change your destination on a whim, look at the board and choose at random where to go? You’ve been planning your trip for so long it seems like you’ve already experienced it, you’ve read the guide book, met people who’ve been or are from there, learned a few handy phrases. What if you just hopped on a plane completely unprepared, to a country you had little to no knowledge about. To some this is a horrifying prospect, what about getting vaccinations,how go I know which areas to avoid or if I accidently eat a mysterious meat dish that’s a local specialty, but for the spontaneous, adventurous traveler I’m sure the thought has crossed your mind. How would my experience be different? What would I do when I
got there? Who would I meet? Maybe it’s a last minute doubt, did I make the right going to Norway, should I have gone to Turkey instead. Like going to a movie and wishing you had gone to one of the previewed movies instead. You find your gate, and make your way for the several hours wait before your flight, you start to settle back into the idea of your originally chosen destination, you’re going to be there soon, just a flight or two to go, and no matter how much (or little) you’ve planned it can never fully prepare for the actual experience of being in a foreign city, and you can always go to Turkey next year.

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Bù Fàngqì: Music in China

If you ask most foreigners who have visited China what they think of the music, I’m sure their impression would be based on the sugary pop songs that flood the KTV’s and locals ringtones and the traditional twangy instrumented, high-pitched songstress music emitted from rock shaped speakers at the temples or parks, and that the only Western music that appears to have filtered through is I’m Your Venus and Lemontree, and of course Justin Beiber and Lady Gaga for the young folks, you know you’re in a secular country when ‘Oh, my God’ becomes, ‘Oh, my Lady Gaga.’  Chinese music is hard to define, they are stuck between traditional sound and emulating western acts and it is difficult to detect a unique Chinese sound. Since the country was cut off from the rest of the world when definitive music changes were happening, even staples for us in the West, such as The Beatles and Dylan, are absent from common knowledge, they have had a period of stagnation, unable to develop musically. Another prohibiting factor being the government censorship there are cases of Chinese bands being arrested for their ‘controversial’ lyrics. Now, as they are starting to open up to the West, the influence is apparent in their music, but perhaps too much so.

While I was in China I was able to attend a few concerts at the recommendation of my music savvy Chinese friend. These included Hedgehog, Pet Conspiracy, and Queen Sea Big Shark, these bands would probably be considered of the alternative/indie genre. It is interesting how all ‘types of people’ appear everywhere in the world, it is possible to see Chinese hippies, punks, goths, and so on, and music to cater to each crowd. Without understanding the language it was still possible to enjoy the music and they even had a few English songs in the mix. These bands would probably be considered underground in China, yet they managed to draw a good size crowd. It was easy to detect the shoegazer influence in Hedgehog, the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s in Queen Sea Big Shark, the lead singer even slightly resembled Karen O and Pet Conspiracy bore some resemblance to Crystal Castles.

There were also numerous foreigner acts. China is full of opportunities for foreigners, we are an attraction in ourselves, if you are averagely good looking back home, you can be a model or TV host in China, if you wrote for the school newspaper you can write glossy magazine articles, if your garage band played in at the local bar back home, you can be the opening act for a major Chinese act. I became familiar with some of the resident foreign acts, DJ’s that did the club circuits and several bands that were trying to make a name for themselves. But I had a feeling they were catering more to the expat community rather than the local one, aside from the artsy crowd, it’s hard to say how interested Chinese are to non-pop Western music, other than seeing it as a curiosity.

Unfortunately, I doubt I would listen to Chinese music on a regular basis, maybe the cultural divide is just too great, and even though the bands I saw preform weren’t at all bad, they didn’t seem to offer anything new or exciting to the music world. Sometimes I feel it is unfair that the West has this big influence on the East, whereas the only things that seem to trickle through East to West is cuisine, while on the larger scale we are generally naive about their culture. So I would want to rule out Chinese music completely, I’m sure there are a  lot of bands that I didn’t get a chance to discover and as the country slowly opens up and Chinese music gets a chance to develop there will be a lot more out there to discover. If you have any Chinese bands to recommend please do!

(Photos taken at a show in Hangzhou, bands are Party Horse, 10 and Pairs)

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Feminism 2.0

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When I was younger Feminist was to me a dirty word,  I didn’t want anything to do with those hairy armpit, bra burning activists, I thought being a feminist separated me more from males then making me equal, we were being given separate categories for everything, literary awards, ect, as if we weren’t able to hold our own against men.  I was a tomboy and didn’t want to be associated with anything remotely feminine, I would put up a fuse every time my mom made me wear a dress to church, I’d rather learn how to ride a skateboard then sit in the grass making daisy chains, and Batman was by far superior to My Little Pony, I wouldn’t even listen to female musicians or read female authors, but I eventually discovered Patti Smith and Joni Mitchell, Sylvia Plath and Toni Morrison and realized that being a girl didn’t mean having to wear baby doll dresses, spending 2 hours doing your hair and make-up and talking about how to ‘catch’ men.

I still like to think of myself as non-gender specific, I try to avoid being categorized because of my sex, perhaps because of experiences I’ve had where I’ve felt I had to play a certain role. Being told in Eastern Europe by a male friend I was meeting, that “I may be a little late, but you’re a girl, so just do some shopping,” or being ordered to make the tea when hanging out with my male friends, or going to a church where women had to wear head coverings and weren’t allowed to speak in the service. Although, I will admit that I do sometimes take advantage of my gender. I tell myself, if they’re going to be chauvinistic anyways, I may as well benefit from it, (actually I’m just a cheap bastard) as I put on my push-up bra and giggle at lame jokes in hopes of a free drink, ‘it doesn’t mean I have to sleep with the guy, not unless I want to.’

I have been seeing many articles lately addressing women in the work force and how there are certain factors hindering our progress. The great wage divide is no longer shrinking, there are still a disproportionate amount of men in top positions. Whenever we see a women that has made it to the top, we feel a great sense of pride, it still isn’t the norm, but an achievement. According to an article in the Globe and Mail, women are less likely to strive for those top positions, until they feel they’ve perfected all the necessary skills, where as men are more likely to strive for positions even if they are only partially qualified. Is this a female trait, or is this something drilled into us at a young age? Men are often considered brave and brash, while women are rational and calculating. Also, women are often left behind because of bearing children, which takes women out of the workforce for a considerable amount of time, and when they return, they have trouble catching up with men who are able to devote their lives to their work. Women have to do some incredible juggling in order to remain competitive or may  even sacrifice having a family. Although there are some countries where there is paternity as well as maternity leave, dividing the responsibility of raising the child, and then there’s Germany who are wanting to provide women financial assistance in order to encourage them to be stay at home housewife.

Growing up in the 90’s and noughties, I have taken for granted all the progress Feminists have achieved, and although I have no intention of working my way up the corporate ladder, it is apparent that the women’s lib movement isn’t over.  Blatantly obvious if you look at the middle east or many other countries that are still backwardly sexist, but even here in the West it is evident that we are still not at the idealized level of equality. I feel this is partially residue chauvinistic thought, but also a position women put themselves in, that it will ultimately be up to us to prove that we are a force to be reckoned with.

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