Archive for March, 2013

Blogging is one good way of ticking away the moments that make up a dull day.

The front of my Dark Side of the Moon "1973 Tour" hoodie.

The front of my Dark Side of the Moon “1973 Tour” hoodie.

Photographing clothes wastes the hours in an off-hand way.

Why the Pink Floyd puns? Today marks the 40th anniversary of the U.K. release of the band’s (debatable) 1973 magnum opus, The Dark Side of Moon. Fans are celebrating the album’s second 40th birthday worldwide (it was released in the U.S. on March 1.) The official Twitter hashtag is #darkside40.

I’ve marked the anniversary by updating my Facebook Timeline cover photo with the iconic prism and re-tweeting music tweeps’ own bits of trivia on the album that they’ve dug up. Of course, I re-listened to the whole album non-stop on March 1.

Now, it’s no secret to those who know me well that I’m a fan. Hell, I want “Us and Them” played at my funeral. I’m seen wearing Dark Side swag every so often, but this one hoodie I got for Christmas some years ago has its own unique charm.

Look very closely at the track listing on the back side. It’s a gas.

dsotmhoodieback

Amy Colour You Like.” Whoops. Probably explains why Mom got it for only 20 bucks.

I seem to have a real-life equivalent of the “Tad Nugent” T-shirts that Fes printed in one episode of That ’70s Show.

Sometimes I wonder if some very obsessed fan would pay a profitable sum of cash I can grab with both hands and make a stash.

Thought I’d something more to say, but the picture speaks to me enough.

My old first-year journalism professor, R.M., just cracked up when I pointed “Amy” out to him.

Breathe. Typos happen in the wild world of writing, whether they’re spotted in blog posts, newspaper pages or rock ‘n’ roll swag.

Happy 40th anniversary, The Dark Side of the Moon!

I have been debating within my own head for a while if this picture you’ll see below deserves to be put up on the Internet.

But in light of this time of month when we recognize the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and brace ourselves for annual anti-racism rallies (sometimes white supremacists show up, sometimes they don’t – anti-racists in Calgary anticipate they won’t this year), maybe we can help achieve the goal of eliminating discrimination by seeing and understanding how and where forms of hate are expressed, as ugly as it may be to see.

I snapped this picture in a job-site porta-potty somewhere in either northern Calgary or Airdrie (I can’t remember where) during the early-January cold snap.

hatefulscribble

Now, nine years in drywall finishing on-and-off has made me bear witness to a lot of stupid racist jokes and swastika scribbles and all that crap, but this is just plain hateful vile, not to mention the Amanda Todd reference is an incredibly low blow.

The fellow who (presumably) penciled “F**” in response used a homophobic word, so that seems more like countering hate with hate more than anything.

It’s nice to see “[P-word]” calling this jerk out though, in his own way.

Jerks who write this sort of racist drivel also perpetuate another stereotype that personally concerns me: That we construction workers are just a sad bunch of uneducated, high-school drop-out losers in life.

We’re not all like that. Thinking that we all are is unfair. Maybe the young man building your house is maybe a well-informed and respectable citizen who just enjoys a blue-collar career? Or a college student needing some cash?

There are other “isms” out there as well, such as sexism and classism.

To the ignoramus who scribbled the single, lowest and most offensive piece of hateful garbage that I’ve seen in my years working in Calgary residential construction: Your actions don’t help to fight the stereotype that we’re all just a bunch of stupid hicks.

To [P-word]: The fellow servicing these porta-potties was probably miffed all the same he had to clean up or scrape off your scribble too, but it’s a glimmer of hope.

This food item in my fridge never has been or ever will be a threat to my masculinity.

This food item in my fridge never has been and never will be a threat to my masculinity.

I’ve always liked to think of the everyday pastime of eating as a gender-neutral activity.

Both sexes need food in order in live so maybe it’s best that our culture keeps it that way.

Being a dude who’s always loved yogurt as a snack or “a part of this complete breakfast,” I couldn’t help but shake my head when “Brogurt” made headlines a few weeks back.

In the U.S., Powerful Yogurt, a.k.a. “Brogurt,” is the answer to re-branding a common dairy snack for dudes who don’t want to touch so-called “chick food.”

It comes in a variety of manly flavours such as blueberry acai, mango and strawberry. I’d bet the strawberry flavour is still pink in colour like many other brands. Gasp… we can’t eat that!

Hopefully, in the future, we’ll even see more manly flavours like “BBQ Beef Rib,” “Suicide Wing” and “Raw Flesh Off the Bone of the Deer You Shot Dead Five Minutes Ago.” That last flavour would probably give us the most primal of self-satisfied erections while consuming.

MensFitness.com concludes that the nutritional value is generally the same as all of those other masculinity-threatening “chick brands,” only the portion sizes are larger and has a pointlessly masculine label slapped on it.

I can’t help but imagine that the only guys who would buy into this moronic marketing are likely the types who’d start an argument with his girlfriend when he says he doesn’t want to hold her handbag for a moment in public so she can fix her shoelace.

Relax, guys. It’s just a handbag. I’m sure people won’t judge if you hold it for her. If they do, forget it, they’re just strangers walking down the street. You’ll never see them again. If you’re seen in line at a Yogen Fruz in the mall, I doubt you’ll be judged either.

I know a mullet-sporting mechanic who’s much taller and stockier than me. The fact he wears fanny packs doesn’t make me re-think the likelihood he could rough me up if I got on his bad side.

I think the lesson in all this is that seeking self-assurance of our masculinity and sexuality through advertising and stereotypes may not be the best path to follow. Maybe we’re better off looking from within.

Screw the yogurt commercials that mainly cater to women. Screw the feminine, Serif-y logo fonts on the container. Screw the fact strawberry yogurt is pink. Yogurt is a tasty, delicious and protein-rich snack for both sexes to equally enjoy. You can do other things with it too, like using plain yogurt as a base for a healthier meat marinade (credit to local foodie Julie van Rosendaal for teaching me that one in a quick interview she gave me for a healthy-grilling feature I did in J-school).

So, gents, just crack open some “Strawberry Kiss” Danone Silhouette Greek yogurt with the purple-coloured container and devour it with pride. You’ll still be the same man you were before when you’re done eating it.

Still sceptical? Well, a fine T-bone steak is a manly meal, right?

What colour is the middle when you take it medium-rare?

LINK: Want to keep laughing? This National Post column about Brogurt is hilarious.

Courtesy: STOCK.XCHNG

Courtesy: STOCK.XCHNG

Looking back, after working for three years between finishing high school and starting post-secondary, I’m glad I took the year and a half that I did being both an upgrading and open-studies student before committing to a degree program. I probably needed the time to adjust to campus life.

Sometimes, I would wonder things that I feared would make me look stupid if I asked them out loud, like, “Rubric? What the hell is that?” On a quick side note, journalism school was fortunately quick to plant the bug in my mind that it’s OK to ask stupid questions.

Like all first-gens, I’ve never been given the wisdom of parents’ advice on making it through post-secondary life to fall back on. I only knew what I knew about campus life from Hollywood comedy flicks (not good), so I had to depend entirely on first-hand experience of what was expected of me as a student.

Bumps along the way happened, of course. Working too much and putting studies on the backburner; and too many loonies spent playing pool at the campus pub (plus all the beer) were two of the big ones.

Being “creative” with a paper and going off of the rubric (oh, so that’s what it is) landed me one C+.

There was also a little bit of culture shock, but mainly in a good way. Unlike high school, university students seem to have, for most part, grown up and let go of the idea of cliques. I didn’t really like high school—I hung out with the misfits who’d smoke on the parking lot. On my first day at post-secondary, I was a bit apprehensive that it would be more of the same.

I was also taken aback that Canadian campus culture doesn’t really have as strong of an Animal House or Van Wilder sort of sense of brother- and sisterhood that you see in U.S. fraternities and sororities. Hell, I’ll confess that I first got involved with my student alumni chapter, way back in 2007 when it was first born, because I stumbled upon a Facebook event for an on-campus summer retreat hosted by it. I thought that it would be more like a fraternity-recruitment shindig where we would eventually go out in the bush somewhere at a leader’s (or his parents’) cabin. Ultimately, the retreat had the goal of forming the group and planning its year ahead. Happy accident that I came; I went with the flow of the retreat’s theme, contributed my own ideas and ended up volunteering for the chapter for more than three years.

On May 31st, 2012, I officially received this piece of paper proving that I had joined the ranks of “them edumacated smart peoples.”

On May 31st, 2012, I officially received this piece of paper proving that I had joined the ranks of “them edumacated smart peoples.”

Although they’ve either never went or finished, my family still knew that post-secondary education was important, and they wanted to see me succeed. It was a (sadly, not granted) last wish of my late grandmother for her to live long enough to see me walk the stage in my gown and that ridiculous cap—convocation can be an even huger deal when that rite of passage is a brand-new type of leaf to grow on an immediate family tree’s branch.

I’m not sure how much on-campus support there is out there for first-gens vs. other student minorities, but first-generation learners do seem to be considered a disadvantaged population. Based on a quick Google search of work done by U.S. scholars, it seems to reveal that retention rates aren’t as rosy when compared to students whose parents are post-secondary-educated. This one 2009 paper cites one dramatic finding from the University of Oklahoma, indicating that first-generation students are a little more than twice as likely not to finish, with financial problems being one contributing factor. To add to that, the paper also cites another scholar’s work that lack of preparation and self-confidence issues can also potentially accumulate.

Closer to home, I did find one summary of research done by the Université du Québec à Montréal on the persistence of first-gens, acknowledging from the get-go that they face some of the said disadvantages mentioned in American research.

The odds of success, statistically speaking, seem to have not been in my favour. So how did this blue-collar bum see it to the end? I can’t really explain that to you other than sheer will, backed by good emotional family support.

The scholarships that I earned, as well as government low-income grants, were a relief and in one instance, a lifesaver. They’ve kept me from deciding to take a year off and kept my student loan debt from becoming an intimidating number.

I was eager. I was ambitious. I was engaged. I was an excited 20-something little kid. But throughout, I was sometimes a nervous wreck.

Was it a matter of wanting to be one of the best? For me, at the time, sometimes it was. But perhaps the healthier outlook is not to see it as a matter of strictly winning or losing, but rather to be open to the journey of becoming more and more self-aware of just how far you can go.

I’m still a bit surprised I made it all the way to being an editor-in-chief of my J-school program’s newspaper website. Maybe it was my gratitude to be back in school every day that drove my (damn near single-minded) commitment to learning and applying the knowledge to be entrusted with such leadership.

Going back to my quick Google search, it looks like there are some support and mentorship programs in Ontario universities tailored specifically to first-gens but I truthfully can’t say with certainty if there are any programs like that here in Calgary’s institutions (leave a comment with a link if there are any). If not, then maybe it’s worth discussing the idea of starting some here? Do we first-gens need the extra attention in the eyes of peer-support services? It’s good to ensure that special needs of ethnic and sexual minority students, as well as those with disabilities, are met. However, even here in “Gas Town,” socio-economic status shouldn’t be forgotten.

I’m sure there are many other blue-collar bums out there who can make their own self-discoveries that, yes, they can succeed in higher education.

LINK: Watch a short documentary following the lives of first-gen students in Nevada here.

falldownfunny

“WARNING: Falling construction workers may shout very naughty words.”

I can only imagine the designer of this home builder’s fall-hazard warning sheet was smiling to him/herself in sweet satisfaction that the speech bubble full of symbols made it all the way to being taped onto the doors of every job site. It’s probably a similar feeling to what a reporter feels when an exclamation mark s/he slipped inside a story made it through copy desk.

kockdrywall

Yes, this is apparently a real business card for a real crew.

Have to admire the clever, self-deprecating and somewhat-racy slogan. Never met them, but according to a few regulars at my blue-collar sports pub, they’re seen knocking back cold ones there once in a while and it really is the owner’s actual last name. I just hope Mr. Kock took the teasing in school (he just had to have dealt with some) with humourous stride in the same way he carries his brand.

gascaptail

Every so often, I work in a reno, or a job site that’s next door to a finished and lived-in home. Whether it’s their parking lot or their living room, I see snapshots of total strangers’ personalities that one can only see when you’re at their homes.

This was taken in High River. Either this driver’s not shy to share his/her quirky humour with fellow motorists, or Garfield’s developed a tragic addiction to huffing. Likely the former.

Click here for Part 1: Adventures in copy writing

A communicator just has to love a client who actually encourages wit and humour in copy writing projects. The president of a reputable renovations and home-building company in town is one such client of mine.

I’m grateful for the autonomy he entrusts me when it comes to digging up interesting info and feature ideas for his company’s quarterly external newsletter on anything reno-related, be it market data or even the issues that can taint industry’s reputation (ie. horror stories of contractors ripping people off).

Remember the Mayan “Apocalypse” last holiday season that came and went? Tinfoil sales skyrocketed for hat-making (kidding); reporters wouldn’t leave astronomers and the superstitious alone; and we made confessions on social networking (mine? I’ve never inhaled helium from a balloon to hear how funny my voice sounds). The Earth’s still here.

I couldn’t help but conclude the December newsletter’s “Did You Know?” section with something a little more fun after bombarding readers with Calgary Real Estate Board and StatsCan numbers.

Actual published copy below…

Did You Know?

Completely unrelated to our industry, but the Mayan calendar never factored in leap year days. Technically, this means that December 21st, 2012 on the Mayan calendar has already come and gone. Safe for us to say that this world will still be here for you to enjoy your finished [company] renovation in your home for many fruitful years to come. We can report that we did not renovate any doomsday shelters this year.

Source: International Business Times [citing NASA sources]

To this day, even though he wants that I be a bit funny, I still can’t believe my client was in on it.

Feel free to differ but I think that, as a company, a tastefully-written potshot at current water-cooler conversations give customers more to read about than just your bottom line and what you’re up to.

In the era of human (social) media, it’s good to show a little more of your human side.

Coming up in Part 2 later this morning: A few funny cell phone snapshots I’ve made while going about my work days in drywall finishing.

Courtesy: WordPress.org

Courtesy: WordPress.org

With this blog being brand new, it feels appropriate that my first question would revolve around… well… blogging.

It’s a bit flashy, maybe even busy, but what drew me to Greyzed was the appeal of the grungy, concrete-like background and the liner-note appearance: The background takes me back to days growing up playing on either concrete, rocks or asphalt a lot; hackey sack on streets or convenience store parking lots, basketball and ball hockey outside, rollerblading on sidewalks, rocky beaches skipping stones, and a time during the ’90s when school playgrounds still had those puny weeping tile pebbles that could occasionally pierce your skin when you fell off from the equipment high enough.

The liner notes represent, well, all those memo books I’ve used up during J-school.

My personal favourite colours are actually blue and black, but this still felt like the right fit for a personal blog.

My category list will be fairly minimal, and this being a personal blog, I feel no need for extra bells and whistles of sliders, extra columns, and so forth that themes such as Oxygen offer (two alt music magazines’ websites I manage use Oxygen). I feel this theme should do its job enough.

So what do you like about your theme? The look of it? How does it help fulfill your blog’s purpose? It can be your own personal/hobby one or a professional one that someone pays you money to manage.

I’m sure you know how the comment box below works. Also, I’ll nudge and encourage you to peek at “Bloggers I Know” to your left. There’s a sample of old J-school classmates’ own little slices of the blogosphere, as well as the two said websites that I manage.