Creepy Internet Men, Celebrity Nudes, & Privacy

Over the last two years that I've been frequenting Reddit, I've really grown to love and appreciate the site. It's just a total wealth of knowledge, and there's a subreddit for literally anything you can think of. It allowed me to move away from Tumblr, just before it turned into a network of pseudo open-minded individuals, but amplified everything I loved about it. It let me get a glimpse of the best content on the internet, without the awfulness of 4chan, or the delay of having "viral" posts posted to Facebook three weeks after they've worn out their welcome. 

The best part though is that it taught me what all of these newfangled acronyms, like FWIW, IIRC, & FTFY, mean.

The best part though is that it taught me what all of these newfangled acronyms, like FWIW, IIRC, & FTFY, mean.

However, yesterday I began to lose faith in the network. After I got home from a long day at work, I was browsing Twitter to catch up on things that I had missed, and saw several tweets regarding a supposed iCloud hack, and a massive album of celebrity nudes. Being naturally intrigued by this whole thing, I went and check it out, and I could not have been any less stoked by the whole affair. I felt weird, and pervy scrolling through, and before I hit even the 10th of a seemingly endless page, I had to quit.

I sat down, and decided I was going to talk to two of my friends about this, and I realized that I wasn't alone in feeling mixed emotions. On one hand, it's not great seeing people being dumb, taking nude selfies, and it's even worse seeing their privacy being completely and totally violated. But, on the other hand, boobs are great, and these are people displaying that they're completely comfortable with their bodies by taking these selfies, so who are we to judge? There's nothing wrong with wanting to display your body, or wanting to be comfortable with your sexuality. There is something wrong in having that done for you without your consent, however.

The thing is that we should judge - not the celebrities, but rather the men and communities on Reddit that perpetuate and allow these sorts of creepy, horrible acts to continue. The biggest issue that I, along with many others, have with Reddit, is the laissez-faire attitude that Reddit managers seem to have taken. There is a culture of free-speech on the site, and while that has fostered countless great conversations on countless topics, it has also allowed people like Michael Brutsch, a.k.a u/violentacrez, to create horrible subreddits such as r/jailbait, and r/creepshot.

It goes back the topic I wrote about a few days ago, on how misogynistic internet trolls are ruining this whole experience we share on the internet, something so ubiquitous, by being total scumbags, and it all starts at 4chan, the head of the great Internet human-centipede.

The problem lies at the heart of Reddit; total anonymity. One of the two golden rules on the site is no posting of any personal information (the other being no child porn, but seeing as how far u/violentacrez was allowed to get, it's easy to see that Reddit is, again, super laissez-faire in making sure that they're own rules are followed), except for when it involves naked female celebrities. There are countless subreddits that thrive on this kind of traffic, from r/celebs, r/WatchitForThePlot, and r/nakedcelebs. The sidebar information of the latter actually reads as follows:

"To clarify, I mean full out porn, nude shots, bikini shots, leaked sex tapes. Any dirt you have on those hot Hollywood stars post it here!"

Reddit allows for users to remain totally anonymous, and I'm sure that they're grateful for that, but doesn't allow the for the same level of privacy when a massive celebrity nude leak takes place. And this double-standard doesn't just apply to Reddit.

Commenters all over the web are comparing this to the reaction the public had when Anthony Weiner, former U.S. Congressman, was caught sending pictures of his penis. The issue there is that these women likely weren't sending them to other men and women, but were rather keeping them for private purposes, where as Weiner was actively sending these explicit images to three different women. In this case, it was directly Weiner's fault, as he wasn't hacked, and didn't have these pictures displayed without his permission. He willingly, and knowingly, sent them out himself. These women did not, and that right there is the difference that needs to be made clear.

The Verge's T.C. Sottek posted an article today calling these creeps out, rightly so, and chillingly compared those who supported the leak to those who disliked the NSA. 

It's easy to say, "don't take nude photos!" or, "don't back up anything private to the cloud!" Living in the modern world necessitates the use of the Internet, and yes, while there are ways to minimize the risk of being hacked, are these women not entitled to just as much privacy we as non-celebrities are? It's basically like saying, "don't bank online, use your credit cards to purchase anything on Amazon, or use e-mail. You have to this all in person and offline, all because SOMETHING embarrassing may come back to bite you in the ass." These photos were private, and short of using an analog camera, getting them printed (and possibly duplicated and swiped during the printing process), placing them in a scrapbook inside your house with steel-reinforced shell covering your house to prevent buglers to get in, what do you want these celebrities to do? They're human, just like us, and as humans, are allowed some modicum of respect and privacy.

While these photos will eventually disappear from the public mind, it doesn't matter. The privacy of these women was violated horribly, and  this whole affair will bring into question the safety of cloud storage, automated photo backup, and more horribly, lend a sense of legitimacy to the god-awful movie, Sex Tape.

This clip, however, does articulate the point that it is the woman that has to live with the consequences forever.

But this isn't entirely about what's on our phones these days. It's about women being objectified, shamed, and treated like objects. The Twitter hashtag, #IfMyPhoneGotHacked, is a prime example of this shaming, with terrifying shades of Elliot Rodger thrown in for good measure. It's one thing to view these images, even if in particularly scummy way, but it's another thing entirely to go after these women only to harass and mock them for being victims of something they could not control.

People want their own privacy, but do not care for that of others, and that's what happens when we as a society value anonymity more than pure, simple, unbridled decency

What The F*** is Going on with Video Games?

I haven't been someone who would consider himself a gamer by any stretch of the imagination for many years now. The last two consoles I owned were the Nintendo Gamecube and the Sony PSP, so that should give you an indication as to how out of touch with the industry I am. That being said, I do have regular conversations on the topic of video games with my friends who do play far more regularly than me and are far more invested in the genre than I am.

Which leads me to the burning question, what the f*** is going on with video games? Over the last 24 hours, all I could see on my Twitter timeline was tweets regarding Anita Sarkeesian's YouTube videos on women in video games, and the whole thing is rather insane. 

This multi-part video series by Sarkeesian, a prominent media critic, gathered particular attention on Monday when she posted a video about women being used as background decoration, usually in violent or overly-sexualized ways. The response from many writers in the industry, and many developers as well, was largely positive, while the response from a portion of the male gaming population was horrifyingly negative. The level of cognitive dissonance displayed by the critics of Sarkeesian is ridiculous. They hate feminists and attack people for being 'fake feminists,' which they are oddly offended by. They threaten people on the internet, and then say the people are attention seeking when they complain about being threatened.

To me, this seems to largely be about a lack of wanting any change in the video game industry, and following this, two groups seem to have emerged. One side has staunchly folded its arms and harrumphed in the most child like manner, as they view themselves to be the old guard to this hallowed institution, while the other has openly and lovingly embraced this change, as they realize that they are no longer alone.

What Sarkeesian is attempting to do, I think, is deconstruct what so many people use as a form of escapism and rebuild it into a bigger and better version of itself. And for whatever reason, so many are taking this incredibly personally, understandably so, as I can see them feeling like they're being attacked for what they like. The thing is that this isn't something to be taken so personally. Look at it this way; when a sports fan has a conversation and it turns to how players are payed more than they really deserve for tossing a puck or ball around, you don't see that fan then bypass the argument altogether and issue a death-threat, just because they don't like what they're hearing. It's not so much an issue about the money in the case of sports, but rather, an issue of how to move forward together and improve together as well.

Sarkeesian is not saying that you as a person should feel bad for playing games that are violent or use women as particular storytelling tropes. That's not the case. She's making the case that not all video games are like this. Take Monument Valley, or Journey for instance. They're beautiful, emotional, and evokative games that did incredibly well because they told a compelling story in a new and different manner. They didn't rely on the same old tired story telling found in most major blockbusters.

The particular trope of women being used as background textures, as Sarkeesian points out, is one that is fetishized in the weirdest possible way. 

 It is the collusion of violence done to women’s bodies and the fact that it is often sexualized. The idea being that a dead woman is still inherently beautiful, even if her body has been maimed, her life stolen from her, something arousing still remains available for male consumption...Developers regularly utilize the brutalization of women’s bodies, and especially the bodies of female prostitutes, as an indicator of just how harsh, cruel and unforgiving their game worlds are. In some of the most pernicious examples, dead or mutilated female bodies are used to decorate virtual game environments as a way to invoke a sexually charged creepy mood or edgy atmosphere.

When a film wants to get a rise out of the viewer, or to illicit anger in the character, they might kill or seriously injure the family, or adopted, pet, such as a dog. But in a fully immersive world, that sometimes might not cut it, so developers often turn to women to get that similar sense of anger to justify the sense of righteousness later down the road. All Sarkeesian is asking, in her videos, is why does it have to be a man saving a woman? Why not allow for a role reversal? For instance, look at Tomb Raider. It's a series with a strong female lead loved by both men and women. Why do we have to limit ourselves in a world where there are no limits?

It goes even deeper than though. Often an argument is made that, "but men are also idealized and made to seem more than what we actually are!" It's not necssarily a bad thing or wrong to sexualize and idolize the human body, but the issue here is that it's the men doing the idealizing of both men and women in gaming, and that's a serious problem.  

I think the answer to all of this comes down to demographics, and subsequently, money. As my best friend said,

It's also a for-profit world. Even if we could imagine ourselves being 22 in 1989, how many black female gamers could we have counted compared to white male gamers? It may have shifted in the years since, but for big companies more about money than games they will create the digital world that will net the biggest profit. Game devs don't take risks like they used to. The midtier games have completely fallen out, there is only Indie with a cutesy making-of backstory or AAA don't-fix-what-ain't-broke sequel, everything else is doomed to fail. Couple that with a previous console generation that lasted 7 years, and is still going, and companies going out of business after one bad game, despite a prior fantastic track record you have to appeal to the largest common denominator. That is, the white male gamer. They'll incorporate other demographics, but only if resources/motivation permits.

While I tend to agree with his point of view in regards to the video game industry, I saw a few flaws in his argument. No one is saying make a game that would outright exclude men, or outright exclude women. That wouldn't work, and like he said, would spell certain financial disaster for said company. But it's not 1989 anymore, and there are huge pockets in the community are seriously underrepresented, or not even represented at all. No one is saying that a change has to be made overnight, but a change does have to be made eventually.

Perhaps it also has to do with the most people who play video games, or table-top games, or games in general, feeling like they HAVE to be defined by this one particular hobby of theirs. It's understandable, given the particular history behind video games. In the past, it was gamers versus jocks, in which gamers had to band together to feel united by what they loved. This entrenchment mentality has only grown, so now it's gamers versus women. So much of the nonsense revolving around Sarkeesian in particular has to do with gamers needing to feel like a put-up minority in the grand world of entertainment to justify their identity. They feel like their identity cannot exist unless they are in some form of perpetual crisis, being threatened by an external force.

The problem with this approach, and with the culture of gaming in general, is that again, like most other forms of media, it's entire basis is built upon crass consumerism. Sure, there are pockets that go to conventions and dress up as their favourite characters, and contribute fan art to various forums, and feel a distinct sense of community "culture", but it's a system meant for consuming. When a "culture" is built around this premise, there are no walls for entry. Anyone can join and participate, but the "true believers," or the hardcore, most dedicated of fans, often feel the need to gin up reasons to feel attacked. "I was here first!" or, "You only like Iron Man because Robert Downey Jr. is handsome," or, "You can't be a true fan because you don't know this piece of obscure trivia that really has no relevance to the overall plot or universe, nor has any relevance to being a fan or not!" Those are often the most common attacks on new entrants into any particular fandom, and more notably, gaming.

This all stems from gamers still thinking that gaming is still largely a subculture, when in fact it's no more a subculture than movies are today. What was once a subculture has turned into a multi-billion dollar corporate industry. Everything, from the games and consoles themselves, to the ancillary products like DLC and merchandise - it's hyper-consumerism at it's finest.

Being a hardcore, or casual gamer, has nothing to do with the overall genre of game you play, but rather how you approach games as a whole. There are hardcore players of Candy Crush Saga, who pour hours into the game and spend hundreds of real world dollars through microtransactions, and there are casual players of games like Demon Souls or Call of Duty, who play it to kill of some steam, and not because they're invested in the game. And the problem with consumer culture is that it makes people feel a sense of ownership, or even a sense of dominance, over something to ubiquitous. In the case of Sarkeesian, it's as if an army of tiny Archie Bunkers is fighting back against the non-existent threat of women in gaming. It also doesn't help when you have sites made by gamers that focus on how gamers are attacked and victimized, yet completely skip over the fact that gaming is still an overtly sexist, often racist, sect of the entertainment spectrum. However, after reading Devin Faraci's excellent blog post, I can see how it's so easy to be drawn into the dark side of Gamer Gate, especially if you're an ignorant fifteen year old (and almost all of them are).

"A lot of these kids - and they are, without a doubt, largely kids - are simply ignorant. They don’t understand the world, and that includes everything from how gaming websites work to how people interact as adult, sexual humans. Their confusion about this stuff leaves them susceptible to conspiracy theories trotted out by the truly evil members of the #GamerGate posse..." - Devin Faraci

Video games by their very nature are a form of escapism. They may hold some truths, but are inherently acts of fiction. By not allowing video games to grow and mature beyond graphics and racier content, anti-Sarkeesians are doing more damage to an industry that they claim to love than what Anita could ever even hope to do herself.

The biggest question that comes to my mind is, why? Why are we so stuck and dead set on playing the same games over and over again, in slightly varying settings? Who would want that? It would be so damn boring. Change is hard, yes, but it does bring forth amazing new things. For example, look at Octodad. It's a completely random game that came out of the far left field, and it looks phenomenal.

It's new, fresh ideas that bring people together (and drive them apart apparently as seen by the conversation on Twitter this week). It's new ideas that allow you explore brand new, previously untouched worlds, and that is what gets people so excited. Case in point, the Moto 360. It's so simple. We already wear round watches, and square smart watches look ugly, so let's make a round smart watch. And it's all anyone can talk about, BECAUSE it's so different in such a familiar way.

Think about how excited you got buying a new game because you got to explore something brand new to you. How often can you say you've had that experience in the last five years? Personally, I can't, (because again, I don't play all that much), but it's an experience I remember quite fondly.

Look at how much fun this seems. Sure, it's an ad for a console that mainly sold first person shooters like Call of Duty and Halo, but it still managed to instil that child-like sense of wonder and happiness inside of me. It made me want to do something similar in real life. And that's the whole point about this - games are meant to be fun. They're meant to bring people together to launch shells, nukes, and punches at each other and rage quit when we lose. They're meant to cause meaningful discussion, but not divide people. They're not meant to anger people to level of actually issuing death threats. The video game industry, something in its relative teenage years, still has a lot of growing and maturing to do. It may not happen in sync with how we as people grow and develop, but given enough time, hopefully it will.

Perhaps in order to achieve the level of nuance we need in this discussion, we should look elsewhere, to books and to movies, and see how they overcame this very same issue of using women as background textures and items for men to use to propel themselves throughout the story. What I do know, and fully understand, however, is that most games follow a typical line, use lazy writing and misogynist stereotypes in order to appeal to the base line of supporters.

If I've learned anything in my 22 years of life, it's that if we want to move forward with anything, we need open discussions & open minds. However, I do think that another big crash similar to that of 1983 is imminent, and hopefully that allow both video games and developers alike to hit the reset button and start fresh. 

It's okay to disagree with Anita Sarkeesian, and it's even okay not to agree with her points and arguments (particuarly when she makes an argument comparing games from the 1980s to games of today, as both are a product of their respective generations). However, it's not okay to threaten anyone, online or not, with rape, mental or emotional assault, or even death. All of this has taught me that we need more people like her questioning why things are the way they are, and challenging us to be better versions of ourselves.


Since I can remember, I’ve been wearing glasses. Wait, no. That’s a lie. I got my first pair of glasses when I was 8 or 9, in my fourth grade back in elementary school. Up until that point, I had never touched a pair, even though my entire family wears them. I remember talking to my mom about how everything seemed blurry; out of focus and that sometimes, I’d see two of everything and that’s when the headaches would begin. It was after this that my parents finally took me to an optometrist to get my eyes checked and it turned out, I too, much like the rest of my family, needed a pair of my very own glasses.

My first pair were these simple grey oval shaped ones. I still have them lying around in a drawer somewhere. But they were the coolest things ever to me when I was a kid because it had the type of frame that you could bend and twist and it wouldn’t break. That pair lasted me maybe 3 or so years, before I needed to get a new pair. My second pair were classier. A nice dark brown shade with a more rectangular frame, but still the type that you could bend.

The thing about glasses is that I don’t mind them. I know people who’ve said that they’ve been wearing glasses for longer or shorter than I have, and they hate it. They hate the way it leaves those marks on the bridge of your nose, or how sometimes it can make the back or your ears hurt. They hate the weight and everything about them, and how they would much rather have contacts. Truth be told, I hate glasses as well, but for a different reason. But in comparison to contacts, I don’t mind them.

I’ve always had a slight thing against contacts, seeing as how the idea of sticking something into or just in front of your eye has always freaked me out. It just seems weird and no matter how hard I try, I just can’t seem to psych myself into wearing them. So for me, it had become glasses or bust. I also hate the idea of laser eye surgery; however minimal, there is still the chance of going blind, and that scares me way more than contacts do.

But the reason as to why I detest glasses. It’s simple, and it’s something that’s been with me since I got my first pair all those years ago. It boils down to the fact that you’re aware that your eyes aren’t what they should be. With contacts, you wear them and you can forget that your eyes aren’t as strong as they should be, because you don’t have to view the world through a frame that sits just outside of your vision. You’re aware of it being there. You can see it. You can feel it, but you can’t do anything about it. It’s there, and it won’t go away. I hate glasses because I feel like what I’m seeing is different from what other people are seeing.  It’s like for a specific part of my spectrum, my vision is crystal clear. But dart your eyes to the side and everything becomes fuzzy. It’s an unsettling feeling to have.

I guess I do have one thing to be grateful for though. I was born with my eyesight intact. I can see, even if it is out of focus all the time when I am not wearing my glasses, but at least I’m not blind.

Another thing; your mother lied. Carrots do not improve your eyesight. They help maintain it.

Why Google's "Real Name" Policy is a Good Thing

Yesterday Google announced a piece of information that frankly, I disagree with. When the company first launched Google+ three years ago, they required all users to use their real names on the platform. They slowly extended this rule outward into their other services like YouTube as they marched forward on their campaign to make Google+ the centre of all things Google.

When I began to think about it more, as the real name policy was something I never really gave much thought to until the announcement, I realized that I actually really liked it, and that's for a number of reasons. Reading through the comments on the official announcement, I could tell that I wasn't alone in that feeling as many other users expressed similar sentiments. The first thought I had was that if I wanted to look up someone, or some information on someone, I could just enter their real name into the search field and find exactly what I was looking for. Before this, and now, I would have to search for their online handle, which often differs across different platforms, making it yet another bit of data I would have to track (much like e-mail addresses). You can change your online handle as much as you want, but not your real name.

The real name policy also helped to create a better web in my mind. When Google first introduced the new comments system on YouTube, largely everyone was pissed, but I was excited. If it meant that forcing a change potentially for the better could help foster actual conversation between people rather than the nonsense we had, I was all for it. And the new comment system actually kind of worked. In the end, it kind of made YouTube comments  a little more tolerable, given that people couldn't necessarily hide behind a false username.

"Before Twitter, texting, and Instagram, Flickr and Tumblr, the weapon of war was a slam book—a spiral notebook with some miserable kid's name written on the cover, passed among frenemies who filled page after page with nasty remarks and devastating criticism. Eventually the book was tossed or lost, and the kid could recover. But with social media, there's no respite, no half-life for rumors and innuendo. On a whim, you can take your target out with the press of a button and sleep soundly. "There is 100 percent a lack of empathy on the Internet. You don't have to deal with the natural consequences of your behavior," says Jamie Howard, PhD, a clinical psychologist at New York's Child Mind Institute. "You say things you wouldn't say, and your conduct is harsher." Empathy develops when we receive cues from in-person interaction—you say something mean to someone, you see her cry, you feel bad. Technology can obstruct empathy's development and foster detachment." Holly Millea, Elle 2014

And that's the problem, the big double edged sword of the online world - anonymity. Personally, whenever and wherever I can, I try and use my real name as my online handle for a number of reasons I find particularly compelling. It lets people know exactly who I am, and it's a uniform, universal handle for myself across Reddit, Twitter Instagram, Google+ etc, making it super easy to keep track of and maintain, (and is one less thing I have to remember myself). The biggest reason, however, is that it helps me control myself online. There have been far too many occasions where I have been ready to reply with something incendiary purely because I was frustrated in the heat of the moment, but then realizing that the Internet is forever, and that it would be forever tied to my name, therefore my offline self, I stopped short. And when I do choose to comment, I remain directly accountable for both my words and actions online, and that is something I have always advocated for - being the same person you are online as you are offline.

However, that's not to say that I don't see the value in remaining anonymous online. There are communities across sites like Reddit and Tumblr, in which people get together because they feel a distinct sense of freedom and safety which they otherwise might not get by using their real names, and in those cases, anonymity is a great tool. However, like everything, it will, and has been, wildly abused. Rather than allowing for the best, most positive interaction, people are rewarded for the most interaction, and that's a distinct problem that the real name policy directly addressed. That's not to say using your real name prevents you from being a total moron - there are plenty of examples everywhere you look.

Personally, I feel like this is largely several huge steps backwards, and is something I wish Google hadn't bent on. However, I wouldn't be surprised if this, at least at some level, had something to do with the ridiculous "Right to be Forgotten" nonsense going on in Europe.


Blood. It's In You To Give (My first time, and why I’ll be a donor for life)

Today was the first time I ever donated blood, and I have to admit, I was slightly scared. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had this irrational fear of needles, which has prevented me (probably for the best really) from getting any piercings or tattoos (of which I really want the latter). When I was in highschool, we had a blood donor clinic every year. They’d stay around for one week to make sure that everyone had a chance to donate, and learn about the process. I was unable to donate then, because I was just so small and perpetually underweight (I was 100 lbs at the age of 14 in grade 9).

This fear of needles mixed with the fear of being turned away from being able to donate was very much present today. Luckily enough, I’ve grown significantly since I was in the ninth grade, and was able to donate without any problems. That took care of one of my fears. The other was the needle. See, in my mind, I was worried that they’d miss my vein and have to keep poking my arm until they got it in, leaving me with multiple holes that bled freely, or that I’d sneeze, the force of which would send out too much blood and I’d pass out and die. As you can tell, I tend to over think things way too much.


But then I met the lady who would be taking my blood, and if it wasn’t for her, this irrational fear wouldn’t have gone away. Her name was Monique, and she was just so kind and calm. She talked me through the entire process of blood donation, from how they would take my blood, and at the hospital, would then decide to use it as a whole, or separate the blood from the platelets and plasma to use independently from one another. She even told me somthing that I never knew before, which was that most people who donate blood are also registed bone marrow donors, as it’s the marrow that helps in the production of the blood and the anti-bodies in the blood that helps to fight off infections and diseases.

She then told me a story of how she was working as an nurse in an emergency room, and this one kid who was only 20 years old at the time, came in with nearly total blood loss. He had been at a party, and another person swung a knife backwards, which had pierced through the skin and severed the femoral artery, one of the major arteries in your entire body. They were unable to place a tourniquet on it, so they had one nurse place her entire body pressure on the kid to prevent further blood loss. When he arrived, they gave him 40 units of blood immediately (O negative, the universal giver) before they could find out what his type was and give him more of that, and as they were about to operate on him, they lost him. They did this three times, and three times he flatlined. Finally, they were able to stablize him, and two weeks later, he walked out of the hospital with his father after thanking the staff that had saved his life profusely.

If it hadn’t been for the people who had donated, he would not have survived even the ride in the ambulance. It’s because we are able to give blood ever two months, with next to no adverse affects to us, that we can indirectly save lives of those who need it. It’s such a simple process, and the benefits completely outweigh the nearly non-existant cons.

They weren’t kidding when they created the slogan, “Blood. It’s in you to give,” because it really is. So, if you are able to, find out when the donor clinic will be in your town next, and please, donate. Who knows, maybe your blood will help save someone else.


Crazy Town II: Electric Boogaloo (the dumbing down of Canadian politics)

Just under one month ago, I wrote about how Toronto, the city that I call home (even though I live just north of it in the suburbs of Newmarket) has completely lost it’s mind. I talked about how Rob Ford halted his mayoral re-election campaign, and how I had no idea who to vote for in the upcoming provincial election. However, over the last 22 days, I’ve had some time to reflect on something that has been particularly troubling to me.

When I lived in Etobicoke for 16 years, I knew who the candidates were, and more or less what they stood for in their platforms. They would hold rallies, do door-to-door canvassing with their constituent volunteers, and were annoying enough to call my house when I was trying to have a peaceful dinner with my family. Sure, they only really showed their faces whenever their jobs were on the line, but at least they put in the bare minimum requirement for me to say, “Okay, sure, yeah you can have my vote.”

However, that all changed when I moved up to Newmarket. Most people think that it’s incredibly far away, and if you use Toronto as a starting point, it’s no farther away than Pickering. Frankly, it actually feels closer, but that’s besides the point. In Newmarket, all the candidates have done are put up signs telling people to vote for them, so that they can either keep their job, or be hired for the first time. The problem here is that all I can see is a see of red and blue, with some orange and keep here and there, but the names don’t stand out to me. The candidates have yet to even do the bare minimum to get my vote. They haven’t held rallies, haven’t canvassed door-to-door with their constituent volunteers, and I thought I’d never say this, but I miss their annoying dinnertime phone calls to tell me about their platform and why I should vote for them. It’s a problem so much so that I had to search for the names. Yes, when it comes to politics, I should be involved and do my own research supplementary to what the people who want to be elected are telling me, but when the candidates aren’t even doing that much, I take issue with that.

If the candidates aren’t willing to put in any effort now, then chances are they won’t put in any effort when in office.

Gone are the days of inspiring, if polarizing, leaders like Tommy Douglas, Pierre Trudeau, and Jean Chrétien, and now are the days of hapless fecks like Tim Hudak, Justin Trudeau, and Andrea Horwath.

But that’s not even the biggest problem. The biggest problem that we face as a province, and country as whole, is that we have lackluster, non-charismatic politicians that pander to every possible audience just to get votes, saying one thing to one group and something contradictory to another. It’s become our culture to sigh, and say, “well at least my candidate isn’t nearly as bad as your candidate is,” or that, “s/he’s the lesser of the evils we have to pick from.” Why, and how, has that become the state of Canadian politics? How is it that the only time a politician places ads on TV it’s to attack their opponant in the race to re-election? How is it that we can even consider electing someone who’s math is so horrible, he thinks that cutting 100,000 jobs will create one million.


I’ll tell you how. It’s because we’ve dumbed down politics to historic lows. Think about this for a second. John Tory, the former Conservative heavyweight, is running against Olivia Chow (who’s only claim to fame, much like Justin Trudeau’s, is that she’s a family member, in her case a widow, or a famous federal level politician). The man running his campaign is the person that helped Toronto Mayor, Rob Ford, get elected using the simple slogan of wanting to “Stop The Gravy Train.” It’s simple, but in actuality, it meant nothing, except for playing into the hearts of those who were tired of David Miller’s antics as Mayor. The same thing happened when the Conservatives beat out the Liberals in the 2006 federal election, by using the sponsorship scandal to sow the seeds of doubt into even the most ardent of liberals.

Politics has become a game of who can seem like they’re the most relatable to the “common folk.” Look at Rob Ford’s campaign. It was all about getting the vote of those who have always voted for conservative values, for the “simple minded, non-elitist” group of people out there. The issue with that is that yes, politicians should be relatable, and we should be able to take comfort in the fact that they too are humans and not heartless killbots, but we should also hold them to a higher standard. Gone are the days of inspiring, if polarizing, leaders like Tommy DouglasPierre Trudeau, and Jean Chrétien, and now are the days of hapless fecks like Tim HudakJustin Trudeau, and Andrea Horwath. Gone are the days when you actually votefor someone, rather than against someone else.

We should hold these politicians, and the leaders of our cities, provinces, and country, to a higher standard, and they should too as well. They should inspire us to reach ever higher, rather than being brought down to the lowest denominator. They should make us want to vote for them, by having platforms based on real issues, not attack ads and the ever present issue of cutting taxes. We should have politicians who aren’t afraid of doing things that will end their political careers, as long as it means helping the public at large for generations to come.

But we don’t, instead we have a system of having to choose the lesser of the evils with incredibly weak platforms. We have a system we pander to every possible audience, watering down any and all effective change for a few votes, and to me, that’s an incredibly sad state to be in.

I don’t know. I’m probably being overly hopeful, overly optimistic, but what I do know is that we need a change of politicians who talk less and act more.


Crazy Town (how Ontario has completely lost its mind)

My home province of Ontario, has completely lost its mind over the last 48 hours. Let’s break it down, shall we?

The mayor of Toronto, Canada’s largest city, Rob Ford, in the midst of his re-election campaign was once again filmed smoking what looks to either be marijuana or crack cocaine. Finally, he admitted to having a substance abuse problem and put a stop to both his re-election campaign and what little was left of his mayoral duties. While I am glad that he is seeking help, all I am left with is praying to all that is holy that Giorgio Mammoliti does not decide to run for Mayor, as he is basically Rob Ford Lite. And this is a direct comparison to a man who has been publicly intoxicatedmade lewd remarks about several womenthreatened his staff, and has driven drunk, and still has yet to be charged with anything by the police.

Crazier still is that Robyn Doolittle, the person who arguably has controlled the entire story behind Rob Ford since first breaking the news of him smoking crack cocaine in May 2013, left the Toronto Star and joined the Globe & Mail, taking with her, the Rob Ford story. This led to the her new home purchasing stills from that new video of Ford clearly smoking something for around $10,000…from known drug dealers. What makes this even more hilarious? The Toronto Star having to print a screenshot of the Gawker website to avoid the Globe & Mail watermarks.

And that brings us to today, where the NDP government, headed by Andrea Horwath, rejected the proposed Liberal budget. What baffles me about this is that Kathleen Wynne’s proposed budget for 2014 was designed in such a way that Horwath would have nothing negative to say against it, as it was very much an NDP budget. Yet, Horwath, decided to vote it down, propelling Ontario towards a June election, did not have much to say against the budget, but rather pointed towards the scandals that Wynne inherited from her predecessor, Dalton McGuinty, as the main talking points against Wynne.

So now we have a scandal plagued minority Liberal Premier, an NDP leader with no clear plan who’s blasting the Liberals for having a plan, and a PC leader, Hudak, who barely has support from within his own party and says absolutely crazy things on a regular basis (while wanting to cut 100,000 civil worker jobs including firefighters, EMS, meat inspectors, and sustainable energy initiatives, to create one million jobs over eight years. The math speaks for itself). While Wynne may not be perfect, she’s by far the lesser of the three evils. She assumed power a little over a year ago, and to claim that her provincial government is the worst in Ontario’s history is egregious at best. Let’s not forget Mike Harris and his PCs who killed off the Eglington West Subway in 1995, spending $40 million to fill in the already dug out tunnels, and killing close to 35,000 jobs.

What’s scares me the most is that for the first time since I became eligible to vote, I don’t know who the best choice is. I know the lesser of the evils, but is that really the best that we as a nation can produce; a collection of politicians with no human connection — who simply pander to accumulate votes? With both provincial and municipal level elections in 2014, what happens next in Ontario is going to be extremely interesting to watch.


Searching for Jobs (and the problem with the current education system)

Ever since I graduated from university a year ago, with my degree in Environmental Studies, or more specifically, Environmental Politics, I’ve been stuck in a routine of wake-up, go to my part-time retail job, come home, apply for jobs (if I have the energy), and sleep. What scares me the most, however, isn’t the fact that it’s been a year and I really have nothing to show for it, but rather the toll that it’s starting to take on my psyche. While normally I’m a fairly happy and mellow person, I’ve been finding that the more I talk to my friends the more I say things along the lines of, “searching for decent paying, non-retail jobs has to be the single most demoralizing activity in the world.”

When we were growing up, we were an extremely privileged generation riding along the coattails of the greatest economic boom in recorded history, and to an extent, we still are. We were told that specialization was no longer the key, that we needed to be more rounded out, so we took up soccer and tennis and swimming and volunteered, because without that cultural grounding, we’d be laughed out of the job we wanted and would have to apply elsewhere — somewhere second rate. The problem with this is two-fold. First, we’ve burnt ourselves out doing everything we can to create a mile-long resume that says nothing of who we are as people, and secondly, the first rate positions are no longer hiring and the second rate companies have gone bankrupt.

It’s easy to point fingers, blame others for being accepted because the fit the role of being ethnically diverse, but that’s not it at all. The problem lies within our education system. The cost of getting a formal education in Canada is about $27,500 for a four year program (and is slowly rising), which pales in comparison to America, which ranges anywhere from $27,000 to $60,000 per year. It makes obtaining a formal education a seemingly unreachable goal financially. f every student could, I’m sure that they’d declare bankruptcy if it would allow them to wipe their debt away and start fresh.

“A bachelor’s degree is the new high school diploma.” — NY Times

We’re an incredibly capable generation of students, eager to learn and studying everything from English to Psychology, partly because we can, and partly because we wanted to be well-rounded heirs to the economic throne. Maybe it’s the over-abundance of choice that prevents us from being able to settle into any one field, for the fear of feeling stuck in something you don’t like, or maybe it’s the fact that while we live in the 21st century, our educational system is stuck, preparing us for the century past. Rather than giving us the tools to be successful in the age of the internet, universities are more concerned with their profit and rankings amongst each other, making it ever harder to find even the most basic of entry-level positions in 2014.

I’ve spent much of the last year searching for jobs, applying for just about any position that’s open, and I’ve had a few callbacks, but nothing successful. They all require a one year commitment with no guaranteed hours or pay, nor a guarantee that they’ll keep you on past the one-year contract, all as an entry level casual worker/intern. Perhaps it’s my approach and mindset to this that’s preventing me from finding that a semi-decent paying, non-retail position job I so badly want, or perhaps it’s not know where exactly my heart lies. Whatever it is, I’m beginning to feel demoralized, and I’m not exactly sure when that will change for the better, but I hope it’s soon.


Samsung Has a Design Team? Who Knew!

Is anyone else bothered with Samsung launching a website based around "meaningful design?" I mean, they're the last company that should be talking about anything design related. 

As a company, Samsung continues to use multiple design aesthetics in its flagship devices, poor quality hardware, yet struts around as if it knows anything about meaningful design. The worst part is that this is in relation to their current lawsuit against Apple, in a feeble attempt to prove they did not copy core aesthetics from the iPhone.

If Samsung put half as much effort into their designs as they do their marketing, then I would be okay with the site. If the site was launched at any other point than now, I'd be okay with it. The thing is though that Samsung has always been a reactionary company, aping many aesthetics from other OEMs, creating their own Frankenstein's Monster of design choices.

This is the settings menu on the Samsung Galaxy S5. It's a six-screen, vertical scrolling clusterfuck of a nightmare with 60-something options to choose from.

This is the settings menu on the Samsung Galaxy S5. It's a six-screen, vertical scrolling clusterfuck of a nightmare with 60-something options to choose from.

What I personally find funny is that the site is a textbook example of Samsung's design philosophy: messy and incoherent. If the company was truly honest, then should return a 404.


The Problems of Social Media

A few days ago, a 14 year old Dutch girl identified only as “Sarah” sent out a tweet to American Airlines.

“hello my name’s Ibrahim and I’m from Afghanistan. I’m part of Al Qaida and on June 1st I’m gonna do something really big bye,” — @bizzledemetriax

The internet caught wind of this latest round of online idiocy, and it spread like wild-fire. Within a matter of time, that tweet garnered over 2000 retweets, even a response from American Airlines, saying that they had reported her tweet and IP address to the authorities. This spurned a serious of replies from “Sarah” back at American Airlines, saying she was joking, sorry, and that she was so scared.

Yesterday, she was arrested by Rotterdam authorities, with an investigation pending.

This leads us to today, where now dozens upon dozens of teenagers are following in “Sarah’s” footsteps by tweeting more bomb-threats at American Airlines (likely in retaliation for arresting the Dutch teen), and bizarrely, Southwest Airlines — a completely unrelated airline.

While Sarah may have just been spouting off the idiotic thoughts that came to her head, like many teenagers before her, the fact of the matter is that she did so on a public, nay, international, platform. She many have genuinely not known that she would cause trouble, and that an airline as big as American, would take it seriously, because y’know, bomb threats. When the lives of their passengers are at stake, the airline has to do everything in their power to prevent anything from happening, even if the threat turns out to be fake. Her copycats, however, know exactly what they are doing, and I hope that they too realize soon how unfunny it all really is.

Social media is amazing. It lets me connect and contact some of my favourite people I otherwise would have absolutely no access to, and have conversations with them. It allows disgruntled people to voice their opinions about companies, letting their public voice enact some sort of positive change. It lets me, sitting at home, get real-time updates about the situations going on all over the world. It lets important people reach out to the masses to talk about things that matter to them; to spur conversation in an effort to help better the world. The downside is that it lets everyone think that what they have to say is important, even if 99% of the time it’s just verbal diarrhoea turned into digital text.

The problem, however, lies in the fact that it creates a sort of disconnect, in that people do not associate their online persona’s with their real-life selves. They think that just because they hide behind an online handle, they can get away with anything, because the online world is different from that of the real world, and that doing something online cannot have consequences offline. That is entirely untrue, as seen in the case with “Sarah”, and something that more people need to realize.

And that’s the issue with having everything instant — there’s no longer any time to sit and think about what you want to say. You see something, react, and post said reaction, and then move onto the next thing. We’ve become addicted to this, and go crazy inside until we get it out of our system in a way that the whole world can know.

Don’t get me wrong, I love social media and think that it’s a great tool when used properly, but when idiots get a hold of it and use it to spew their idiocies across the web for the rest of us, it ruins it for the rest of us.

Perhaps arresting “Sarah” was the right thing to do. She’s no longer a child, but is not quite yet an adult either, but she also needs to learn a lesson, and be used as an example of what not to do.

People like to say that this newest generation is going downhill, and there are many instances where I’d normally like to disagree, but in this case, I simply cannot. I’m frankly quite scared for when these maladjusted teens grow up and have to face the real world with real consequences.


Mobile Photography & Why I Love It

I love taking pictures.

Ever since I was a kid, my entire family has been all about capturing moments in time through photography. It didn’t matter if we were making a stupid face or if there was too much flash. What mattered was that the moment was captured for us to relive at a future date.

When Instagram first came out, I was skeptical. I didn’t see the need for yet another social site that only shared photos, when I had Twitter, and its image hosting site, Twitpic. Yet, when it was finally released for Android, I immediately downloaded it, and then never used it.

I used to have a bad habit of doing that. Signing up or downloading the latest app or social platform, and then never using it because I am so comfortable with what I currently have. I finally decided to give Instagram a try close to two years ago, and my life immediately changed.

I was hooked.

At first, the site was populated by overly processed images of food, celebrities, and yourself, and to a certain degree, it’s still very much like that (if you go to the Explore page). There weren’t high-quality images like the ones you’d see on Flickr or 500px anywhere, but that wasn’t the point. Initially, it wasn’t about the pictures, it was simply about the sharing.

When I first started to use Instagram though, the platform was going through a bit of a shift. I started to follow people I didn’t know, and saw that they were posting insanely high-quality images. I instantly thought that they were using a DSLR, which is cheating and circumventing the instant-sharing aspect of the platform, but I was okay with it because the images were phenomenal. What blew me away was the fact that there were people out there using nothing more than the tiny digital cameras on the backs of their phones to take beautiful photographs.

I snapped this photo in a Tim Hortons Drive-Thru in December 2013.

I snapped this photo in a Tim Hortons Drive-Thru in December 2013.

And I suppose that’s why I like the idea of mobile photography so much. It’s instant. You take what you see, and you share it. The best part about it is that you can post whenever, from wherever. While Twitter is relegated mostly to text and links, and Facebook and Google+ are meandering, trying to find their way back home, Instagram is pure. There isn't the social obligation to follow all of your friends, but rather, you get to follow all sorts of interesting people from all over the world.

As film-maker Casey Neistat said in his 2012 YouTube film,

“The magic of Instagram is that you get to peer into the lives of really interesting people.”

However, given the chance to help change and improve the platform and ideas behind mobile photography, these are the two things I’d love to change:

We know what your face looks like. There no reason to have a wall of JUST your face. Instagram, and mobile photography in general, is all about sharing the world around you. Leave the selfies to other sites like Facebook.
Go easy with the hashtags, or at the very least, make the relevant to the image. If your posting a picture of a sunset, there’s no need to have the hashtag #ootd just to get views and likes. That dilutes what makes Instagram so good.
Instagram has become all about sharing stories through high-quality photographs. It’s given me the chance to explore the world through the eyes of people I both know and do not know, and has pushed me to take more creative and inspiring photographs. What I find most interesting, however, is how you can tell how much a person has changed just by looking at their photographs, and what they choose to share.

If you’re even remotely interested in taking pictures, now is as good a time as ever to start. I highly recommend Instagram and VSCO as both platforms and excellent post-processing tools. If you’re looking for amazing photography peripherals, check out Photojojo. And if you’re already on Instagram, feel free to give my page a look @tapaseaswar.