Monthly Archives: March 2008

Adventuras De Un Organizador (Part IV)

As some of you may already know, I run two social groups in Toronto with a combined membership of 1230+ members and hosted a total 133 events, not too shabby for a hobby. However I have been thinking of going back to the original reason why I joined To learn Spanish.

You see, I first joined meetup a few years ago due to my slowly disappearing Spanish skills. I had moved to Canada 15 years before and was loosing it. Loosing sucha beautiful language is like loosing a part of your past, a part of your being. As I had no one to practice with, I decided to google a way to do so in Toronto.

To make a long story short, I found myself at the front door of The Toronto Spanish Language Meetup Group–or something named like that– about three years ago. Soon, I was helping run it although in the end I simply did not have the time, so I relinquished control to someone named John and that was that.

Fast forward two years. The group still existed however now in a moribund shadow of its former self. Even though it was one of the larger groups (850+ members) in Toronto, the number of events had crawled to about one every seven months. Can you imagine that? Yeah… I know, party time!

The organizer at the time, the one who is supposed to post and host events was MIA for months. Apparently, saving the whales or whatever may entail a seven month sabbatical. So after finding his email address, I offered to take it over. He refused. Sadly the reason was not very clear to me, something to to with the previous organizer not wanting for him to give up his organizer responsibilities. Okay. So two weeks later, he gave up the position on his own. Go figure.

I immediately jumped at the chance. Annexed, revamped it and decided to make it not only a tool for me to learn but to anyone and everyone else. It’s all about the good Karma, right? I was a bit worried the group was beyond repair, but there is nothing that can be achieved without some elbow grease. Thus so far, it seems to be working, my first event had 27 members show up! Second? 38! Third? 44!

What is it that we do, you ask? Primarily we chat. Somewhat anticlimactic since there is only one rule in the group: You can and must only communicate in Spanish. But our repertoire of types of events is growing, watching some Spanish movies and some dancing. Indeed it may seem daunting to those who are learning the language and are on their way in. However I have found one the best ways to learn any language is to simply immerse in such environment where you are forced to use it as often as possible. Whether you like it or not! Call it conversational sink or swim or the Spanish mother of invention or my personal favourite: Linguistic Darwinism. I baptize thy and copyright thy too.

If you would like to learn and more importantly practice your Spanish then come out. Not only you practice another language, meet new friends. Events are held at least on a bi-weekly basis if not weekly. You cannot loose! To start, click here: Toronto’s Spanish Group.

A hablar Español se a dicho!

Holy Book Inc. (Part II)

One of my favourite guilty pleasures as far as documentaries go –yes, they too can be guilty pleasures– is Supersize Me. Many of you may remember the 2004 Oscar nominated film about Morgan Spurlock, a man who decides to throw health and common sense to the wind and eats only McDonald’s for thirty days straight. Did anyone really think the guy would not get any fatter? Please. If anything, it squarely highlights humanity’s inbred voyeuristic and sadistic tendencies. Same can be said by the explosion of reality shows clogging the airwaves for the last decade. Yes, TV’s Suvivor is that old.

Having said that, this is what A. J. Jacobs has accomplished, a reality TV show created in book format or intellectual fluff, if you will. Yes, you are curious. Yes, you want to see what happens. Then he writes about his life and when I mean his life, I mean, everything. Going for Chinese with his father-in-law, taking his son to a jungle gym at a park, doing his wife. Fantasizing about doing his wife’s friend! Uh, okay… Anyway, the book is more about the man’s neurosis and mysophobia: A peep whole into a not-so-really interesting life. Sure, he mentions some interesting factoids which will undoubtedly be used to amuse your less thansecular friends. For example, the Bible is actually cool with slavery and it is okay to beat the living bejesus out of them –granted they must live at least a day or two post-beating, ’cause otherwise, if they die, you know, it ain’t so cool (Exodus 21:21). Or the term ‘Scapegoat’ is ironically of Jewish etymology. For real, the head Aaron confessed all the sins of the children of Israel on the Day of Atonement into a goat. Then the goat, symbolically bearing their sins, was run off a cliff. Splat! I can imagine my friends sighing already! I will give A.J. points for creatively using the Bible the same way Spurlock milked McDonald’s. Are they the first ones to ever do so? Heck no. But self-experimentation under the cloak of a higher cause is the new, hot marketing tool on the scene.

As I mentioned in the first part of my review, A.J. does not shy from pointing out he is doing this enterprise as a book project and there is nothing wrong with that. However, later in the book when he attempts to highlight a sort of religious awakening within, is where it stops being cute intellectual fluff and becomes a manufactured chain of events which are meant to pluck on the emotional strings of the reader –like the death near the end of the book. I am not denying it happened, however you can sense that actions have been filtered through a literary prism before being neatly set on the page.

Perhaps I was asking too much. Perhaps knowing someone is doing something for a paycheck drains its respectability. As you can’t shake the feeling you are being shepherded into a product, not sharing a journey. This rule especially applies when the material in question is of spiritual and ethereal context. Like the Law of Attraction ‘coaches’ **cough**The Secret**cough** who teach students to free and release themselves from their worldly chains and miseries for $250 per seminar. Of course they forget to mention Zen Buddhists have been doing that for 1445 years. For free. These examples are all a reminder that enlightenment, whichever way you wish you find it, can be found with curiosity and most importantly, within each of us. But it cannot be reached by neither a prescribed capsuled period of time or in Oprah’s choice for book of the month. Even if it is for the low MSRP of $23.95. However four million people have already done so, I call that a ‘crash diet for the soul.’

In the end, The Year of Living Biblically is enjoyable as any fluff. As you are left feeling that A.J. learns nothing deeper than Biblical trivia which will last him for a lifetime of parties, family gatherings and maybe some talk shows. No, A.J. your PR and marketing handlers were only half right. Yes, it was a one man’s quest to follow the Bible literally, that you did for the most part. But was it a humble one? Not by a long shot. No my friend, you made some good coin. Was that the point?

Adventures Of An Organizer (Part III)

Last Friday, February 29th a milestone was crossed: My group’s 100th event came to pass! As some of you know I run two social groups, one for people between 23 and 35, while the other focuses in people between 25 and 40. Yes, they do overlap, and they are both social and quite the pleasure to organize, and no, they are not dating groups. Both are quite interesting however, as the dynamic can be rather different at times. The “younger” group as I call it, the To23-35 Social Club tends to be more party and dancing oriented, while the “older” one has a more dinner & lounge vibe to it.

So which group was it that turn 100 events old? Why the TO23-35 Social Club! I had been thinking about this event and it importance of it for a while. Few groups in have reached this far and can proudly say our group is one of the largest (11th in Toronto out of hundreds) and one of the the best rated by its members. So at first, I thought of doing some Biblical, End-of-Days-carnival-of-the-senses affair but… in the end I opted to do something a little more low-key.

You see, I have never been the clubber type. Sure, I love to dance, but I dislike the whole line-up, cover, coat check, meat-market vibe and at times ridiculous prices for a bottle of beer. I am looking at you, sub-posh-wannabe Club V in Yorkille, charging a blasphemous $8 for a miserable 341ml bottle of Stella! Let’s see how long you last with such ridiculousness!

Although quite often we end up at a club as the girls in the group just love to dance, so we usually start off at a lounge only to end up at a club dancing the night away –or until they kick us out, whichever comes first. So, if we do end up going to a club the rare, odd time, I don’t mind it.

Anyway, back to the 100th event, I decide on The Rivoli, a quaint hot spot on Queen Street West. Known for its concerts in its back stage, its eclectic restaurant and pool hall on the second floor. Oh, and they have a small spartan lounge bar area which they try to sell as the ‘Sky Bar.’ Pressumably because aside a few chairs the place has nothing in it but air. Silly marketing.

The event itself was great! The vibe was great! The weather was downright miserable and as such only about 66 people showed up. However, as you know, it is the company that makes all the difference. And it did. So many new faces that it got hard to remember everyone’s name.

It was great to see so many people having socializing and having fun. Playing some serious pool and I am sure, some flirting. What can you do? Can’t stop it, right? In fact, quite a few people over the years have hooked up thanks to the group. That has to be worth a sizable chunk of good karma, I am sure of it. No reincarnating as an earthworm for me!

At the end of the night, when everyone was gone and there were only a few of us left. Yes, we practically closed the place –again– I have to say that it has all been quite worth it. Have met some interesting people and even got a few great friends out of the enterprise. You know, you aught to come out too, see what all the fuzz is about. You never know!