Category Archives: Culture War Report

Librarian Book Smack: A Culture War Report

The other night my roommate convinced me to join her at our regional library’s “Book Smack” event. At first I was concerned that it would be a tedious affair. After all, why would you want to talk about a book when you could just go ahead and read it? However, the event page promised that the librarians would “let their hair down, take off their glasses and speed review their favourite books” and that it would be “fast, furious and fun” night, so with the image of wild librarians in mind, I decided to go along.

When we arrived at the venue, I wasn’t overly surprised to see that the audience was primarily older women. The featured librarians were also all women, although only two of them sported silver-white hair.

Before the event started the MC set some ground rules. Each librarian would have a certain amount of time to convince the audience to read/watch/listen to a few of their favourite books/movies/audiobooks/CDs. In the first round each librarian was given five minutes, then three, then only one, to review their books. During the intermission audience members would then vote for the librarian who they thought would would win the book smack. Then, for the second round, librarians were only given three minutes, then one minute, then only thirty seconds to defend their choices.

I’m not entirely sure what made this event as fantastic as it was. Maybe it was just the fun of seeing librarians mutter words like “full frontal” and “masturbation warning”. Perhaps it was the appeal of seeing a group of much older women giddy with laugher all around me. Most likely, it was the reminder of just how amazing books are, and how they can bring us together by inviting us into new worlds or allowing us to wrestle with our own struggles. Continue reading

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Straight Outta Compton: A Film Review

It can’t be easy making a biopic.

Err to much on the side of leniency and you get a sappy, self-congratulatory, and ultimately meaningless popcorn flick. Err to much on the side of harsh truth and you’ll often get a vicious hatchet job.

Now try doing that while the main character’s still alive.

Suddenly there’s the additional burden of being honest and fair and avoiding litigation at the hands of the offended and his or her legions of lawyers.

Now try doing that with eleven characters at once.

Against all odds, Straight Outta Compton does just that.

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In Defence of the Theatre [or What the Film Version Just Can’t Give You]: A Culture War Report

theatreA few weeks ago a close friend called me up because her family had bought a bunch of tickets to see The Phantom of the Opera at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre. Lucky for us, they ended up with a few extra tickets that they needed to sell. The tickets were an incredible deal and Seattle isn’t very far from where we live, so we leapt at the opportunity.

On the day of the play we were ecstatic. In high school, several friends and I had become obsessed with the film version of The Phantom of the Opera. One of these friends made himself a Phantom-like cape for Halloween and even managed to convince the rest of our class that we should have a Phantom of the Opera theme for our grad banquet. While John wasn’t quite as familiar (or obsessed) with Phantom, he had acted in community theatre in high school and was looking forward to seeing a professional version of such a well-known play.

At this point I should probably warn you about spoilers, just in case you have never seen the film or the play. 

Since our tickets were such a great price, we were hardly surprised when we were seated in the nosebleeds. Quite frankly, we didn’t care. We were too busy looking around at the ornate theatre itself.

chandalier

This was the only photo I was allowed to take in the theatre itself. As you can see, we were pretty far back. The brown object in the centre is the chandelier, covered up, and the stage is covered with a dark screen that makes all the objects appear covered in cobwebs.

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Explaining American Politics To Non-Americans – Part I: Why We’re ****ed

It’s been my ambition for some time now to dedicate a series to explaining American politics to our substantial audience of non-Americans. While this blog is comprised 50% of Canadians (our frosty neighbors north of the wall), the simple fact of the matter is that the land-the-free has long been the front line of culture war. What happens here affects the rest of the globe.

With the already hotly contested primaries underway and prospects for the 2016 election being widely debated, what better time could there be than now to explain just why it is that we the people are fundamentally screwed.

Let me break it down here.

I. The Person Who Wins Isn’t Always The Person Who Gets Elected

In spite of our praise for democracy, the American republic does not have a one-man-one-vote policy. Every four years, there’s a decent chance that the candidate with the most votes will still lose to his opponent.

See, we have something called the “electoral college”- a staggeringly complex system that not even this succinct TED video can completely cover. At its simplest, the system boils down to states having “points” assigned to them on the basis of their populations and number of congressmen and senators.

This system means that a political candidate doesn’t necessarily have to get a massive number of people to vote for him- just a majority. So long as he or she gets that majority, no matter how slim, they still takes away as many “points” as if they had won a landslide.

What that means is that a person can get elected president in spite of his or her opponent getting more actual votes. Just look at this image below:

While the majority of votes cast in this example are blue, red still wins by virtue of this system. While supposedly protecting states with smaller populations (preventing them from being drowned out by heavily populated states), the result is that a person’s vote can very well be rendered utterly pointless. Plenty of folks simply don’t even bother voting, especially in states dominated by one party. Alternatively, states with greater electoral power (more points, that is) and a habit of swinging between parties (Ohio and Florida, most famously) get disproportionate amounts of attention.

In spite of being viciously despised by folks on both sides of the political spectrum, there’s really very little hope for any reform on this point. While part of that can be blamed on tradition, plenty of it also boils down to a little thing called- Continue reading

My First Time LARPing (Live Action Role Playing): A Culture War Report

One of the things you may not know about me is that I have some of the coolest nieces and nephews out there. Recently one of these very cool nephews invited me and John to join him and his friends for some LARPing.

According to the Urban Dictionary, LARP, or Live Action Role Play, is

“a type of game where a group of people wear costumes representing a character they create to participate in an agreed fantasy world. [They] use foam sticks as swords, foam balls as magic and other props to create the games world.”

The first time John and I visited Dagger Deep, the massive Heavy Action Roll Playing arena here on Vancouver Island, we figured we’d just take a look around. That was when we realized that LARPing was one of those all-or-nothing sort of things; we were, of course, denied entrance at the gate. Apparently, jeans just don’t cut it in the medieval world.

This photo was borrowed from the Pictures of Medieval Chaos page on facebook. Check out this photo and more by clicking here, or on the photo itself.

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Mystery Room: A Culture War Report

I’m actually being half-serious when I say that today’s post very well could have been “Re: Re: Do Western Christians Want Martyrs?”. It’s an extremely relevant topic, and I hope that you’ll take the time to read what Kat had to say, as well as Gordon’s response. No, instead what I have for all of you is another one of my rarely shared new life experiences, this time being the hour and a half I spent on Wednesday night trying to escape a series of dark locked rooms.

Now apparently this sort of thing is, and has been, all the rage according to a friend of mine, but the very concept was extremely foreign to me. Wikipedia’s entry for it is titled “Real-life Room Escape”, and describes it as being:

“a type of puzzle simulation games in which you are locked in a room with other participants and have to use elements of the room to solve a series of puzzles, find clues, and escape the room within a set time limit.”

It also mentions the fact that their existence stems directly from online video games, which is honestly the coolest thing. Whereas most video games are based on real life activities [stealing cars, shooting ethnically ambiguous terrorists,
running your own farm, etc.], this is an example of an activity that mimicks a video game. That is, and realize I don’t use this word lightly, neat. It’s super neat.

I should probably get to what my time with it was actually like, though. To help prime your expectations a little bit, the course my friends and I went through was titled “Haunted Hospital”.

Zombie nurses not included.

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A Culture War Report: Facebooking the Ukrainian Protests

Social media is rapidly becoming a common source of news. For me personally, scrolling through my Facebook news feed can feel like picking up the morning paper. I have get to read comics, funny/uplifting stories, and even, these past few weeks in particular, serious current events as they happen. Sometimes, when you’re lucky, networking through Facebook can mean you might be able to contact friends who are near where those events are occurring and get a perspective you might not hear in the news. I had that opportunity with the Ukraine Protests and will be sharing with you the experiences that were shared with me.

Around mid-February I started to see this video circulating on Facebook:

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