lovehate: My Shopping Evolution

The world wide web has many positive and negative attributes not the least of which, both positive and negative, is eliminating my need and desire to ever visit brick and mortar stores again.
I remember growing up in a time when the Mall was the touchstone of all social and pop cultural advancement. As an early teen I could easily wander from checking out the freaky animals at the pet store to meeting a friend who worked at the record store (they were still called record stores then) to checking out the t-shirt shack, food court, music sections of department stores, book stores and basically wander around aimlessly for hours. This was all, of course, before driving was an option and before I was permitted to hop the bus downtown.
Upon gaining the bus permission, my browsing became refined. The downtown core held five record shops worth checking out on a weekly basis with at least two bookstores and two comic book shops. There were also a couple of television stores that carried the latest video game cartridges for Atari, Intellivision, Colecovision, and, a couple of years later, Commodore 64 software. This was the first time in my life I could feel ahead of the curve on things. This was the time I was reading magazines on video games, musical instruments, and collectibles. I knew when things were coming out a month in advance and could save up money for something I really wanted because I'd read the advance reviews.
The ability to drive and a growing experience at the specialized shops allowed me to winnow down my browsing even further. I knew the best stores to maintain my comic book collection, my sports card collection, my video game addiction and even had "frequent buyer" discounts on all the LPs and cassettes I bought. Each Friday night would be a comic and record run. Each Saturday would be sports cards and video games. I had it down to a system, and the only thing that killed the system was my burgeoning knowledge.
You see, I am, by nature, a collector. I have to get parts three and four if I've got parts one and two. I purchased comic book series far after they ever remained good just for the completist in me. I would buy every album a band put out if I liked the first one I bought. I would sometimes avoid a comic book series or novel series altogether if I'd missed the first one or two installments. I liked to get in on the ground floor... it was for this reason I eschewed coming in late to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics and instead turned to the radical underground stylings of the Adolescent Radioactive Blackbelt Hamsters.


But knowledge is a costly thing. I soon found I could not keep up with everything I wanted to maintain this completist lifestyle and, as such, started to give up things altogether. I stopped buying comic books. I gave up hockey cards. I radically slowed down book buying. I focused on music and, while trying to keep up with growing PC options, the costs really put them out of my league. Besides, I had already learned how to tape over a notch in a 5.25" floppy in order to copy and recopy to my heart's content.
I moved into a time period where the only interest in any mall was books (more as a passing interest than a purchase) and music. And even then, the mp3 scene was bursting out with Napster and Gnutella clients. I had moved my browsing from windows and aisles onto web and ftp sites. I, essentially, forsook the mall.
I have the city's only worthwhile mall, by all accounts, a five minute walk from my house and I haven't been there in two years except to meet a friend at a restaurant inside. I remember renewing my license plate stickers two years ago at a kiosk just inside the doorway. I don't know or care to know any of the stores contained therein except for the ones with their illuminated signs emblazoned on the outside. I have been shopping online for over a decade. I remember pooling friends together to buy 500 blank CD-Rs and 1000 CD-R sleeves to get a discount rate. I research, discover, and comparison shop without leaving the comforts of home.

When I walk into the Brick & Mortar store these days, I feel out of place. I see people wandering around aimlessly looking at things and often feel that I should be doing so as well. I'll walk up and down the aisles looking at things I know about, don't want, and wonder why anyone would ever that price for it. When a sales clerk asks if I need help, I'll play the game and say, "No, I'm just looking." I don't want to make the clerks feel bad by letting them in on the fact that their jobs have become meaningless to me unless they have to unlock a display case. I try to make my Brick & Mortar experiences as long as possible to soak in the ritual that accompanies so many of the hoards that still shuffle aimlessly between the shelves.

In reality, but for checkout lines and slow debit machines, I should be out of any store in three minutes or less. I don't want the extended warranty. I don't want to upgrade to the "next" level. I don't want any advice from a clerk who's extent of technological knowledge is capped at chat clients and X-Box Live. CompUSA and Circuit City are victims of me and those like me who now have the tool to do the research, the comparison and often the purchase itself. Gone are the days of trusting a sales clerk to tell you if something is good. I've got a world of reviewers at my disposal and an endless supply of merchants willing to ship worldwide to my door.

Yesterday was Boxing Day in Canada, kind of like Black Friday in the US, and I haven't been there for years to take part. Even the online specials are almost meaningless. Unless I feel like a visceral cattle call in my near future, don't ever expect to see me rubbernecking the Brick & Mortars again. I've evolved.

the madding crowd

lovehate: The Week of Lists

For many years, growing up, the week between Xmas and New Year's was simply a week to exhaust every minute of playing time with every new toy I'd received and do my best to avoid wearing any of the new clothes until they were incorporated into my wardrobe when school restarted.

As I got older, the week became an opportunity to hang out with friends, maybe indulge in a few beverages, and count down the days until the real world would descend upon us once again. This also became the time that I developed an affectation for college bowl games where I had no history, no idea, or no stake in the teams, but I simply appreciated the fact there was a game that seemed to mean something on every night. I have since learned that games like the "San Diego County Credit Union Bowl" probably don't mean anything at all except to the teams, their fans, and the execs of the San Diego County Credit Union. This is also the time I learned to appreciate a uniquely Canadian pastime of watching the early round games World Junior Hockey Championships in what was usually some remote Finnish city spelled with six Ks, 14 Ms, and the occasional I or E thrown in for good measure.

As I moved into the phase of my life where pop culture and media became omnipresent in all non-working moments, I came to a new understanding of what this week meant for media outlets: "The Top Ten Best of Worst of Most Interesting Fill in the Blanks of the Year"

So as we move into the Week of Lists, I turn to my new favorite medium, the web, to provide me with further validation for dubbing this week with such a moniker.

The venerable Time magazine has deemed GasBuddy as a best "Advice and Facts" website of the year. While some may think the address leads to a fetish site for flatulence, the page actually allows you to track where the cheapest gasoline prices are across the United States. I can already tell, by using the site, that the next time I fill up, I should drive to Texas. What I really want to know is how "groundbreaking" are they considering themselves with their 10 Essential Websites: Wikipedia, Yahoo Finance, Craigslist, ESPN, Yelp, Facebook, Digg, Google, TMZ and Flickr? Do we really need a list like this? The only site on this list that may even remotely be a stretch of knowledge to people living outside a large urban area is Yelp, and, in many cases, even if they went there, they might not find much local information anyway.

Time's Top Gadget is the Peek Email Browser that's only $99, but has a $20/month fee to do nothing but email. Here's an idea. Take the $240 you'll spend on the Peek subscription next year and buy an iPod Touch that'll let you do email anywhere there's Wi-Fi.

Amazon's Book of the Year is The Northern Clemency by Philip Hensher. Other than sounding like a Robert Ludlum title gone wrong, I can't say I know anything about this book, and, as it possibly may be the next American classic, maybe I should find out... hmmm... "The Northern Clemency begins at the perimeter of a late-summer party, amidst a din of neighbors gossiping one moment and navigating awkward silences the next. But once you encounter the Glover family--in particular, their languidly handsome teenage son Daniel--there's no turning back." Hell, if there's no turning back, I'd better not begin. I'm not too keen on reading about the "languidly handsome". Apparently neither is the Library Journal who's list contained a couple of dozen books with Hensher's nowhere to be found.

Lifehacker has taken the "Best of" list to its deconstructionist next step with The Most Popular Top Ten Lists of 2008 that have to do with all things Life2.0. Of course, for some reason, they chose 20 Top Ten Lists... and that just doesn't jive with my Top Ten sensibilities. I do, however, heartily recommend the Top Ten Conversation Hacks from August. It is rich with ways to feign interest and blow people off. has declared MGMT as their artist of the year based on user "scrobbles" and their number one album is Coldplay's Viva La Vida. NME names MGMT's Oracular Spectacular as the best CD. Amazon's 2008 album is Only by the Night from Kings of Leon. Blender and New York Magazine pimp L'il Wayne's Tha Carter Ill. The LA Times, the NY Times, The Onion and Rolling Stone pump Dear Science by TV On The Radio. And Fleet Foxes self-titled release takes number one from Mojo, Pitchfork and Under the Rader.

But my 2008 number one for useless lists goes to People magazine. And so, put on your helmets for some of the most useless, subjective choices of irrelevant celebrity topics (because celebrities really are people too):

  • Most Talked About Star: Britney Spears
  • Most Intriguing Hookup: John Mayer and Jennifer Aniston
  • Couple Most Likely to make it to 2018: Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner
  • Best Baby Style: Kingston Rossdale (for those who care, Gavin Rossdale and Gwen Stefani's kid ((for those who really care, Gavin Rossdale used to be popular as an emo singer in the band Bush)))
  • Best Body After Baby: Halle Barry
  • Best Boyfriend: Jake Gyllenhaal
  • Best Chest: Mario Lopez
  • Best Bikini Body: Jessica Alba
  • Best Celeb Smackdown: Charlie (Sheen) v. Denise (Richards)
  • Best Baby Name: Harlow Winter Kate Madden (Nicole Ritchie's kid)
  • Funniest Celeb on the Web: Sarah Silverman and Matt Damon

I feel dirty.

But shouldn't one feel at least a bit wrong in summing up people's lives, work, artistic endeavors, and business into incomprehensible selections that often defy logic and scream for validation. Shouldn't there be a nagging, twitching fear that in reading these lists I'm giving credence to an exercise that can serve no purpose but to perplex and infuriate? Can there possibly be a reason to sustain the media-frenzy madness that is "Best of" week? I suppose I could go back to watching bowl games or playing with toys. Instead, I will chum the shark-infested waters of list making with some choices of my own.
  • Best Movie: WALL-E
  • Best CD: Bend Sinister - Stories of Brothers, Tales of Lovers
  • Best Concert I Attended: Martin Tielli (Casbah, Hamilton ON)
  • Best Internet Radio - CBC Radio 3
  • Best Sci-fi TV: Doctor Who (BBC)
  • Best Variety TV: The Daily Show
  • Best Drama TV: Dexter
  • Best Comedy TV: Big Bang Theory
  • Best BitTorrent Search Engine: isoHunt
  • Best Twitter App: Tweetdeck
  • Best New Blogging Site:
  • Best New Microblogging Tool:
  • Best Free App Download: Chrome
  • Best Daily Podcast (Tech):
  • Best Weekly Podcast (Tech): This Week in Tech
  • Best Weekly Video Podcast (Pop Culture): Totally Rad Show
  • Best Decision I Made: Starting to Blog and Podcast at
Happy Week of Lists all! Hopefully we can all share in each other's pain as we endure the memories and suppositions of pop culture pundits for the next week until life begins anew in 2009. Until then, go rent WALL-E and catch up on Dexter and Doctor Who. You won't be sorry.


thinglets: The Bowling Lobby to Topple Obama

Okay, so we've all heard about the White House's bowling alley and, if not, now you know. Suffice to say that there's been talk of removing the bowling alley altogether under an Obama presidency. To this news, Jim Sturm, President of the Bowling Proprietor's Association of America claims:

"It would be a sad, sad day" if Mr. Obama scrapped the bowling lane... I think his political analysts ought to take a long look at removing [it]. It could have a long-term impact on his political prospects."

Really!?! Can you believe the size of the three-holed balls on the Sturm to think that he can strike at Obama's presidency and topple his political future? People are losing their houses all over the country and there's talk of retrofitting a bowling alley? Here's an idea Sturm, take the retrofit money and make someone's mortgage payments. That alley looks better than 90% of the recrooms in America anyway... well in Austin Powers' vision of America.

Then again, I'm Canadian... if they tried to take the hockey rink from under 24 Sussex Drive, I might be pissed off too.

white house bowling alley remodel - the fight for cheaper texting


After finally reaching the breaking point over cell providers overcharging ridiculous amounts for SMS text messaging, DyscultureD has decided to fight back. We propose to make the 15th of every month "text message" free. That means NO text messaging or SMS at all on this date. Most providers in the US pocket 20 cents EACH for the send AND receipt of a message that's 160 bytes or less. Many of these charges are to users who are already paying a rate for data (as if SMS wasn't data).

If you support the idea of raising awareness of this price-gouging activity, please visit the website or join the smsless Facebook page.

We look forward to a small group going text message and SMS free on December 15th, with a larger group every month after that.
If you like the idea, please forward the information to friends, relatives, and anyone who has been burned by an extra 20, 50, or 100 dollars on their monthly bill due to text message charges alone.