Monthly Archives: September 2007
Just in case you are wondering, I can almost feel the strangle-hold of irony chocking me as I write this. You see, about two years ago I had an interesting conversation about the ‘Year of the Blog.’ My friend and I spoke about ease of accessibility and amazing technology penetration in North America. After a sad and ill-timed prostitution joke or two later, we continued. Just two years ago, blogs although abundant in number resembled an endless field of useless weeds. With only a few leaving the rest behind as they sprouted high, both in content quality and lucrative aspirations. But since then the playing field has changed drastically. The weed field is now millions of times larger. Yup, that’s about it, really.
Now everyone and their illegal gardener Ortiz has one. So what do they write about? Pretty much anything. But when I mean anything, I mean anything. Is this a good thing? With over 50 millions bloggers as of last year and hundreds of thousands of posts a day of people dispersing and rehashing the same stories over and over, one would think the times of a draconian, government controlled media outlet to be a thing of the past –Uh, China anyone?– okay, fine. Aside China that is… –how about North Korea?– okay, fine! In North America, at least… but then I think about the war in Iraq and the ever missing WMD’s… Argh! Forget it. I give up.
So the real question is what is a blog? As the name implies it began as an online log, people would write their thoughts, maybe use it as a portafolio piece *hint-hint*. Whether the writing was childish, deeply insightful or just plain dumb, the point was that they were people’s thoughts, ideas and dreams.
Now it is more about posting something and off the press. Anything people think cool and more importantly, before anyone else does. Take this example: A British guy named Bill gets his laptop stolen. He understandably gets pissed. Then next day logs on to his Flickr account and finds a picture of the thief’s face mistakenly uploaded because the thief forgot to log off bill’s account and sign on to his OWN Flickr account. Don’t believe me, click, here. Before I go on, this is a perfect moment for me to add, there is no such thing that will ever be ‘idiot proof.’ Idiocy, like life will always find a way.
Anyway, keep reading at the bottom, there is post upon post of people saying, “Oh my God, I must blog this RIGHT NOW! They post the picture on their blog and rehash the same tag-line, over and over and over again. What is the point of that? So they can look at themselves through a mirror and say, ‘I blogged. Therefore my job is done!’ In the comment section there are at least fifteen people who have posted that they blogged the pic onto their blogs and the link to their own blogs and asking everyone to take a look. Like, ‘hello!‘ we are at the source why go to a blog? Aside to answer the blogger’s cry for attention? Never mind that Bill just lost over a $1000 dollars in computer equipment.
On that note, an interesting point was raised on last week’s Stephen Colbert Report’s The Word segment a few days ago about Andrew Meyer and blogging. Mayer was the student who not only got jumped by six security guards but also taser-ed for asking one too many questions at a John Kerry event in front of an assembly full of students. Every one stood silent and motionless as Andrew screamed ‘Don’t taser me!’ Thank God for all the people who blogged about it the very next day while Andrew sat in jail. Great way for the blogger generation to lead the charge of civil protest and.
So where are we going to go from here? Aside living our writer and exhibitionist’s wet dreams, are we becoming a society of people whose social discontent, whether larger or small is displayed not through civil outcry but in really mean posts on blogs? Go, go society!
Man, I have an urgent to go for walk.
Many years ago I ran into a High School friend at a comedy show after party with his ‘new’ girlfriend in hand. Seven years had gone by since we last chatted and I felt the need to say hello. After a cordial if brief re-acquaintance and a polite introduction to his lovely girlfriend, I asked how they had met. They looked at each other, smiled, as if sharing some dark secret before admitting, ‘We met online.’ Then they smiled to each other some more. As if somehow by dating they have breached a rare social contract where it is stated people must meet by having one partner pick up the other while participating in some sort of mysterious community-based liturgy.
During this time sites like Lava Life and Plenty of Fish had just begun to flourish and meeting over the web was still not quite in vogue. It is amazing what a difference a few years make. These days, it is not only socially acceptable but if you dare denounce online-dating, you risk the chance of on-lookers to well, look at you as an archaic individual more at home at a cave with only dial-up than a citizen of the new millennium.
Indeed, the search for the perfect partner is now hotter and easier than ever! As online dating is now not only considered normal but is in fact one of the fastest growing ways to chat, meet and bed members of the opposite sex since the invention of the mini-skit and the sport convertible. So… now that it has gotten this far, where do we from here?
Sure if you are hot, you can post a picture, toss some lines on your profile and sit back, sip on a glass of wine and let the matches pile up. Although just like in a club, you are bound to get a plethora of ‘undesirables.’ Both men and women vying for your attention, with their funny quips and insights and claims of how they are different than those who just posted funny quips and insights on how they are different then the first people who posted something about just how different they are. It is like the bar scene just set to fast forward. You can do three weekends of bar-hoping without leaving the comfort of your living room. No dancing, drinking, friends or fresh air required. Anyone can see the advantages in that.
But now what? How can they this fun be taken to the next level? Well, some enterprising people have. At first I thought it was a joke but I recently found out about this site called Darwin Dating. A dating site which only accepts ‘HOT’ people. People with genetics south of Homo Sapiens need not apply! So now you can reject hot jerks as well!
Enjoy the snobbery of clubs in the comfort of your own home! But there is more! Have you ever wondered if you are a chimp? Now you can find out using their questionnaire!
Not sure if you are hot? They are more than willing to let you know through their easy to follow 41 point check list. Obviously not only they think you are ugly but not very smart as well. ‘Lack of visible skin between eyebrows? Pocket protectors? Crooked or webbed toes?’ Damn! So close!
Since the service is free, they surely make some of their expenses through distinctive and well placed ads. Which by the way point to other more idiotic dating services such as ‘mate1.com’ and the more ludicrous sounding sugardaddie.com where their tag line is ‘Where the classy, attractive and affluent can meet.’ Followed by the ever affluent statement ‘As seen on Dr. Phil, Richard and Judy and WB11 WPIX News TV!’ Since when do we take dating advise from news shows? Or a pseudo-crackpot, pop-psychology who found fame at the fancy of Oprah? And who abused the practice and ended up pay $10 million in a class action suit because he told people if they bought his weight loss supplements they would ‘help you change your behavior to take control of your weight.’
Food does that? How come McDonald’s have not put some of that magic pixie ingredient on their burgers. Oh, yeah, the $10 million class action suit. But Dr. Phil can’t be wrong!
My God, and I have been meeting women through face to face encounters all these years? How retro am I? Don’t get me wrong, online dating has its advantages. They do help to plow through the profiles of jerks, assholes and psychotic-rabbit-loving women who litter the path to the perfect partner. In the end I can’t help wondering if we are transcending and complicating what started off as a good idea to the point of lunacy. What is next? Marry an Ugly Millionaire Online service?
Ah, Paris, the City of Light and the capital of Amour… this is exactly what the French have been propagating for decades. Is it true? Would you find true love? Face the epiphany of your existence by strolling through its streets while writing on your silly journal and sipping an overpriced (€4.70?!) cup of coffee? In one word? ‘No.’ In three words? ‘Yes and no.’
The city is by any world standard a true cosmopolitan metropolis. Trees and parks abound. Beautiful neo-classical edifices along architecture from different centuries can be found literally on every corner. The city hosts some of the world’s most famous art galleries and museums. A Latin-based language which sounds more like a poem than it has a right to when spoken does add to the charm of the region. It would be almost impossible to find fault. However I am confident in my talents, so let’s begin.
An ancient settlement with archaeological signs going back as far 4200BC reveals the inhabitants of the area had some serious head start in which to perfect their now famous baguettes and croissants. But hey, this is why the world is not a fair place.
Paris, which original Roman name was Lutetia, began to be known by its Gaulish name of Parisii after six centuries of Roman occupation. So around 5AD the name got into vogue and has stayed on like a cheap suit for the next sixteen centuries.
Now, Paris is renown for the snobbery and rudeness of its people, which can easily be found at numerous locations and in copious quantities the moment you open your mouth. However in their defense, with over 30 million tourists a year and therefore 9 times the entire population of the Région Parisienne asking the same stupid “I am lost. Where is the Eiffel Tower?” question in languages other than French year in and year out; its commendable they haven’t stopped being rude, snapped, taken an AK-47 and legislated open season on tourists. Since even a blind man shooting randomly could take out more than his share per capita of tourists. Really, it would be like firing a cannon into a school of fish. It’s that easy.
Let’s not all play saints here. Since the beginning of time and this includes the Bible, there has been an inherited local disdain for tourists and interlopers of any nation or kingdom (Let my people go!). Thus Parisians can hardly be found at fault when realizing the quagmire they are in: A positive cash flow from tourism which also doubles as a dilutant of local culture.
Simply read what Le Lido and the Moulin Rouge where originally all about and how they have devolved throughout the years in order to satisfy tourists’ cliched expectations. This a social danger which few modern cities have to deal with. However Paris as the most touristic destination in the world will have to face this threat soon or later.
Back to the city today: Its huge. It’s over-priced and it takes some time to get over the ever-present musky smell of dry urine around the Seine. Especially in the hotter months. Now I am not saying the city is filthy, just that it has a huge nightlife and not enough public washrooms. Trust me, you can find almost anything along the Seine. From book-stands near Notre Dame encompassing the renown second-hand book market on one side to thong-only wearing retirees catching sun along really shocked stares from tourists on the other.
Their subway (Metro) is massive yet needed since the metropolitan area of Paris is over one hundred square kilometers. Interesting to know that due to the historical nature of the city core, no legislation allows for the low-density buildings to be torn down and create the infrastructure of say New York or Toronto with their sky-reaching high rises. Therefore France as a whole is a very flat city. As such, most inhabitants along with the financial district, in their quest for space have moved into the suburbs. Thus having the rare situation where the center of the city has an old town vibe –but with lots, and lots of cars.
Oh Paris, you are a true Metropolis, in both size and style that is is truly your own. France too lives up to its reputation as a country where ANYTHING you order to drink at a restaurant will cost you more than a glass of wine. Including water. Yet like in Spain, I hardly saw drunken people, especially taking into consideration just how accessible alcohol is. Toronto should learn a lesson here. Importing a few better cheeses would not hurt. Are you listening Toronto? However, it is the lifestyle which is the biggest difference. Even as a financial, fashion and artistic European powerhouse you cannot shake the feeling that somehow they are doing a little more living than North Americans. Whether it comes down to the food, their outlook, their jazz or the musk of urine during hot summer nights, I have to admit that a part of me fell in love with Paris. Just not with their $#%$@!@#% overpriced coffee. Avoid it.
The one thing to remember if you ever travel to the south of Spain, specifically to Andalusia, the second most populous province, the birthplace of Flamenco, Bullfighting and pretty much every single Spaniard cliche us Westerners hold dear, is that people there smoke. A LOT. Sure, there are beaches, Roman ruins, a historic castle on every hill –or every other block– and more churches per capita, that by now every Spaniard can easily afford to coldly kill three priests and still get into heaven by proxy. Yet nothing will hit or leave a longer, lasting effect than their tobacco.
Spain is truly a smoker’s nirvana. I felt guilty for not smoking enough and looked at ways to integrate myself into this culturally rich, gray-lunged society. A task in which I excelled! And as a plus, I have now been back for over two weeks and there is hardly a trace of my smoker’s cough! Well worth it. However if you don’t smoke at all, are a tourist and do not speak Spanish, just skip the country altogether. Go to a wimp smokers’ country, like France. Aside from delicious nicotine, which you will learn to love or become a master at holding off your gag reflex as your body struggles for survival, Spain is quite a breathtaking country. The weather is hot and dry, covered in yellow clay and almost arid inland, yet oh so breezy near the sea.
Fish, pork and beef are in abundance. Always, ready to be served at one of the many Tapas restaurants which litter the region. If you hate falling into tourist traps you will be pleased to know that non-tourist friendly and therefore easier on the wallet areas abound. All that is needed is an adventurous spirit and a fifteen minute walk in any direction away from gift shops selling badly punned T-shirts, over priced photographic books and to no surprise: engraved ashtrays. Knowing Spanish helps, as most Spaniards can’t be bothered to learn English but if you are adventurous, then you would not be above using some pointing and sign language to get what you want. The staff will be understanding, helpful and only mock you once you are gone.
About the most annoying and yet refreshing thing in Spain, especially for Westerners is the Siesta. Entire towns screech to a halt from about noon to about 4:00pm, as if the whole city goes into a deep slumber. During the August’s month-long celebrations, they can go for even longer. Restaurants will re-open at 8:00pm, so expect to have dinner at around 10:00pm. Every night. That’s just the Spanish way. So pack a snack if you are planning to meander through the older cobbled-street cities.
If you are a night-owl you will be utterly comfortable with this lifestyle, while others will wonder how exactly can Spaniards earn a living. I did. Same goes for the food, supermarkets simply do not exist, groceries stores which are smaller do. However they are few and far between. Alcohol is an entirely different story, you will find booze every where digestible matter is sold and likely it will be cheap. Especially in the capital of Sevilla where with its two million inhabitants is the largest city in Andalusia.
It is interesting to note in the week I traversed the land, I never saw one local drunk, the only ones were tourists, who were both loud and obnoxious. It made me feel how my ex-girlfriend probably felt when I used to get boozed up on red wine many years ago. I felt embarrassed for them. As if we all had been invited to the same party, and they were my annoying cousins I never talked to or liked, who got stinking drunk and everybody looked at me for an explanation. Strange since while in an unknown country, being foreigners can, and does unite complete strangers. An odd and brief comradery which luckily and quickly subsided well before we reached the next street.
People drink, with the goal to hang out and socialize not get inebriated. You will find tapas restaurants bursting with people drinking beer and ‘Tinto de Verano,’ a refreshing red wine and lime flavoured soda drink. Sangria is left for the tourists as no local in their right mind would prefer so sweet a drink in such dry heat.
Ah, the South of Spain, a land where passionate and energetic dancing, lisps, Moor and Roman architecture, castles and Mosques are poetically inter-winded. The land Muslims conquered in 711AD and the rest of Spain spent the next 587 years extirpating. But on the upside they taught the whole of Europe how to bathe! But that is another story which I will probably cover in another blog entry.
Ah, Andalucia, where you can sustain a family of four with wine for a week for less than it costs to feed them for a day. You will forever have a special place in my heart and now, after visiting you, a dark spot on the x-rays of my lungs.