lovehate: how we hide

When Aaron Sorkin's oft-imitated Colonel Jessop storms "You can't handle the truth!", most of us sit in eager anticipation for Tom Cruise to work his manipulative magic and rip the truth from the smug colonel's countenance.

Some of the most common themes in literature arise around the tug of war topic between appearance and reality. Fiction, however, does not hold eminent domain over such a struggle. Most people spend their waking hours delving into all aspects of trying to hide reality from others and themselves while, at the same time, demanding transparency from everyone around them.

Whether it's the "flattering" clothes we choose, or the cosmetic alterations, or the airs of grandeur we adopt, we do our very best to conceal and hide what we consider a flawed reality from everyone else. We work to fulfill expectations that aren't our own by wearing certain styles. While most people admit a fondness for being able to lounge around in a t-shirt and sweats on a weekend, we are quite willing to adorn ourselves according to expectations. We will don the business suit and tie and carry the cow hide portfolio. We will gather around the water cooler or surreptitiously open chat windows to compare notes on the previous night's reality television escapades or try to derive gossip from who's spending too long in each other's office. We would be horrified to find ourselves on the speculative end of rumor, but are quite willing to exercise, with reckless abandon, character dissections of others based on the most miniscule tidbits of information. It's a small wonder we take such pains to hide in public.

We decorate our houses in the acceptable fashions, buying furniture endorsed by television homemakers if over 35 and Swedish box store consortia if under. We hang posters and prints and pictures and paintings to microcast the inner-workings of our sensitive minds to those that walk by and ponder. We allow clutter to happily gather around us for a week and will relish basking in its fort-like structures until an hour before company comes and it all must vanish in an effort to convince friends and acquaintances that we foster pristine, perfect living spaces. We have collections of place settings that remain in cloistered velvet-lined boxes or on display in glass-doored cabinets that we only use with a special brand of event or assembly. We spend hours, days and sometimes weeks on crafting our yards into elaborate Home and Garden pictorials in an effort to send a message. If the medium is the message, and our front lawns are the medium, we need to learn new languages.

We create online personas that seek to enhance our best qualities and obliterate our worst. We try to impart wisdom in 140 characters or less. We post links to oddly-interesting websites that we think other people will also like, but, more importantly, will create a perception of cutting-edge cool in whichever milieu we choose to categorize ourselves. We social network with people we met one night at a bar and will never see again. We've seen pictures of their family and friends in our feeds and, for the time being, seem to know more about them than some of our own family members. We reduce our 3D reality down to 2D profiles. We use Facebook as a verb. We twitter, plurk, friendfeed, ping, and google each other to derive snippets of information that will further feed our eternal quest to think we "know" about someone better that they think we do.

We speak less than honestly, but rarely completely dishonest. We know how to spin a message yet get infuriated upon discovering the media has. We want to divulge enough to stay relevant but not enough to make us obsolete. We obfuscate better than any press secretary. We politic better than any politician. We can manipulate as well as any cult leader, though sometimes our guilt gets in the way. We find ways to avoid conversations when the topic seems too tedious. We find ways to push conversations when our comfort zones allow for insight. We can cut to the quick to make a statement, to make a point, to make an enemy, to make an ally. We throw up shields. We duck and cover. We block emails, unlist our numbers, disassociate and move to new streets, cities and countries all in the effort to avoid truth.

Colonel Jessop was right. We can't handle the truth. Because while it sits out there like the Grail, the Fountain of Youth, or the Pot of Gold, the quest is always more important than the prize itself. What do you do when you find the Holy Grail? Have a pint?

thinglets: Tales From the Beanworld

Quite some time back I was fascinated by a series of comics that presented a surrealistic allegory of society called Tales from the Beanworld. Now enjoying a cult status revival through Dark Horse Comics which currently has a web comic online and through the re-issuing of all previous material in 2009.

If you are familiar with Larry Marder's bizarre creation, you, like me, are probably glad it's back. If not, check out the web comic. You may be a bit lost in the mythology, but there's something refreshing about a comic that's not superhero-based. I encourage people to check it out, with a healthy suspension of reality, and get ready for a CHOW RAID!

The Chow Raid from fashionbuddha on Vimeo.

thinglets: Canada and Copyright

Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa and Canada's foremost critic of the federal Conservatives Bill C-61, has released an independent documentary on some of the concerns with proposed copyright and DRM legislation in Canada. You can watch the entire film at his website, or download the flv file from Linked below is an embed of an abridged version from Youtube.

If you are Canadian and concerned about the tightening restrictions of copyright and DRM legislation, please check this out to get informed. If you are not Canadian, but want to see what Draconian measures could be coming to federal legislation in your country, feel free to get the heads up. 

lovehate: 4.2 billion to 16.7 million to 65000 to 256 to 2

Is it just me or does the world sometimes look better in shades of gray?

I'm speaking on literal and metaphorical levels here, because while I often crave bright, vibrant colors or stark black and white, often all I end up with is the 256 fountain steps of gray.

From a purely illusory perspective, many people look WAY better in a grayscale (read: "black and white") picture as opposed to being exposed in the full color spectrum. For some reason the little flaws that we can see at 4.2 billion colors start to fade away, or become insignificant, at 256. The photographers will say that this so-called "black and white" image allows for sharper definitions of contrast and allows us to see things more clearly. I suppose, in some ways, I can by that, but completely? Back to this in a minute.

In a world of politics and debate, with arguments thrown about like so many flailing matches from a pre-pubescent pyromaniac, games are often played with color, black and white, and shades of gray. Many is the time a politician will try to sell the black and white, while floundering around in the gray, with every consequence of every decision affecting the realities of those in full color. Politicians are afraid color - and I'm not talking ethnicity here, I'm simply talking reality - because their game-playing occurs on boards, on maps, on committees, and on public display, but little of it has to do with touching reality as a prime motivator. Politicians push money around for ideological purposes, claiming that the left is right or that the right has left the building, when really their 2D glasses only permit them to see the gray of the newspapers or pundit websites or the straining pixels of primetime news.

If politicians were to look at the world in color, they would start to see the flaws, not just in the system - which is a statistic - but in faces of everyone who they claim to represent; each of which is a tragedy. It is far easier to look at reports on poverty from your home constituency than to walk the neighborhoods on a day when social assistance is still a week away and the cupboards are empty. It is far easier to look at low area test scores in schools and blame the curriculum, the textbooks or the teachers for mis-educating children who walk through embittered streets without breakfast every winter morning in worn out no-name running shoes. It is far easier to shut down public hospital emergency rooms in the name of efficiency than to face the one family who lost a father, mother, sister or brother because the reported distance "new" closest ER, which was spun in the newspapers as only six minutes further, didn't take into account rush hour traffic and construction. If politicians were to look at the world in color, they would, no doubt, be stunned into a silence at the ineffectiveness of their game, and proceed to hurl the box, dice, fake money, hotels, houses, race car, iron, boot, thimble, top hat and all into the nearest open flame. It's not that a politician, on average, can't see color; it's simply too painful to look.

And so we defend our beliefs in black and white. We spout statistics and spin numbers and count and add and multiply and generate long, intricate reports with copious circling in red ink and meaningfully-highlighted grand totals. We take the black and white and, with all the best intentions, set out to resolve the issues. But the issues are not black and white anymore. The issues are grey and mottled. They are borne on the backs of centuries of value and belief systems. They are entrenched in histories of languages, totems, borders, rituals, and power struggles. All of the sudden, our black and white numbers and words don't seem so black and white anymore. All of the sudden our best intentions become lost in the give and take. All of the sudden the solution for 4.2 billion individuals has been reduced to two sides that, instead of being flexible enough to accommodate the most possible, has been pared down to accommodate 2: the remaining person at either side of the table.

Though I have been hammering politicians as an optimal example, the simple truth is that politician in all of us, who concedes, consorts, collaborates, convinces, controls, and conquers, is just as guilty. Isn't it easier for us to avoid the real? As bright and vibrant as 4.2 billion shades are, and as beautiful, inspiring and rich as this diversity bestows, for most of us, the world sometimes looks better in shades of gray. Because while the clarity of color that sometimes pierces the veil can make life worth living, it can also make life worth questioning. And so I watch, without guilt or shame, because neither would prompt such change as is necessary to make me lift the blinders 24/7. And maybe that's the greatest flaw in all of us.

thinglets: 10 Canadian Indie Bands You Should Try Out

It was hard to keep it down to ten, but here it goes... sometime soon - solo artists.

Bend Sinister - Vancouver BC

Plants and Animals - Montreal PQ

Cuff the Duke - Toronto ON

Notes to Self - Toronto ON

The Weakerthans - Winnipeg MB

The Acorn - Ottawa, ON

The Russian Futurists - Toronto ON

Said the Whale - Vancouver BC

The Stills - Montreal PQ

Two Hours Traffic - Charlottetown PEI

lovehate: Cable News Technology

It's now been about a week since I had to suffer through Wolf Blitzer talking to a fuzzy hologram during CNN's election coverage. During the very short snippets I caught, several things became very clear:

1) The next gen. hologram techonology employed by CNN looked like someone didn't how how to set up proper anti-aliasing when creating a mask in Photoshop.

2) That CNN thought ANY member of a pop group, much less the Black-Eyed Peas, deserved any airtime during the so-called "most intriguing election of our time" was yet another example of media gone mental.

3) The "team" of tech wizards at CNN that actually thought it ground-breaking and appealing showing a fuzzy 3D hologram of a person that we were watching on a 2D medium need their heads examined by a doctor around the world using the same fuzzy holographic technology.

How different is this from the days we used to make fun of television ads that asked "does your TV look this good?" outlined the laundry list of technology that was necessary to have this groundbreaking effort brought to my screen.

• 35 HD cameras pointed at the subject in a ring
• Different cameras shoot at different angles (like the matrix), to transmit the entire body image
• The cameras are hooked up to the cameras in home base in NY, synchronizing the angles so perspective is right
• The system is set up in trailers outside Obama and McCain HQ
• Not only is it mechanical tracking via camera communication, there's infrared as well
• Correspondents see a 37-inch plasma where the return feed of the combined images are fed back to them. Useful for a misplaced hair or an unseemly boogar
• Twenty "computers" are crunching this data in order to make it usable.

The sad reality of the end result of this endeavor is that the subjects would have looked far better using just ONE HD camera and putting up a split screen. These people have never looked so bad on television. Until they can figure out a way to get the hologram into my rec room, the technology as used on TV is useless.

Yet, all this said, I admire that the network is at least thinking of pushing the envelope. This idea was truly noble in conception if not in execution. After all how many ways can a screen be broken up to accommodate a dozen or more pundits? How many more touchscreens or crazy new-fangled telestrator technologies must we be subjected to so that the sidekick, young "hip" analyst can drag and drop so many objects and statistics around like a green screen weather man with a god complex?

I have, on many occasions, wished for advancements in holographic technology like the kind we were poorly exposed to on CNN. The advancements, however, need to happen at the end-user level before there is any purpose in integrating such technology into broadcasting. Give me a home unit that can do simple stuff like show 3D maps, animation, or simple content that will prove the medium as a useful home entertainment device.

To sum up the pros and cons of cable news and its continuing efforts with next gen technology:
Pro - Wanting to push the envelope is never bad.
Con - 3DTV is the next frontier and after that holographics is really NEXT next gen, let's at least get the order right.
Con - Selling any program, much less election coverage, on a half-assed, poorly-executed concept is beyond lame.

It's not just a CNN problem. Instead, networks need to stop hiding their ineptitude behind fancy graphics and "cutting edge" wishlist technology and providing real reporting, inciteful commentary and content that transcends personality, graphics and glitz. Don't get me wrong, I love the idea of home holographic technology on the horizon, but I hate that persistent weak attempts at such advancements may do more to discourage development instead of enhance it.

cnn hologram