Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Self Censorship Fun!

Lots of writing this week, it's almost unbelieveable. So I'll just keep this short and sweet.

The subject of swearing came up recently, last weekend in fact. For most of us, we swear inadverdently, without conscious thought. As such, it can be difficult sometimes to control ourselves when we are with formal or younger company.

Myself, I've always had this bad habit. I think it originated with my father, who favours the word 'shit', and the behaviour was reinforced by the usual media: TV, movies, books, peers, video games, etc.

I first got into quote/unquote "serious" (super emphasis ftw!) trouble for swearing in high school. During the Grade 8 walk-a-thon, my shoe got stuck in the mud and I almost tripped. Without thinking, I slipped a 'shit' in front of an elementary school teacher, who promptly reprimanded me. I ended up writing an essay for her; but, in actuality, I wrote a semi-speech about how swear words are simply words without social weight on them. Not that fancy worded, mind you, but something to that effect.

However, while the argument stands true to this day, the opposite is also true. We really do not need special words to help us express ourselves better and, in fact, due to social conditioning, swear words can sometimes do us a disservice. Instead of being taken seriously, the words distract people from the message.

Nowadays, I try to avoid swearing in all instances. Instead, I have fun with my expletives. I try trading 'schnauzer' for 'shit' and I find more satisfaction in saying it. As well, dragging on the word 'fudge' and emphasizing the annuciation of the 'dg' at the end is equally entertaining. Lastly, another fun self censorship practice I enjoy is replacing 'shit' with 'ship' in cases where it confounds or even improves the connotation (for example: I have a ship load of work to do).

While jumbling up words still distract meaning from a sentence, I only do so in jest and, thus, it doesn't really matter if anyone takes me seriously. What it does do, however, is chisel away at any unconscious habit to swear and, hopefully, it will ultimately improve my day to day oration.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Kinetic Typography

I'm not an artist. I like to be creative but my artistic capacity is a bit underdeveloped. I realize that, with some practice, I may become somewhat decent but, truth be told, I'm fine with the way I am.

When I studied graphic design in university (for two semesters), typography really interested me. It presented a wonderful chance for me to be visually creative without relying on free hand graphics or even regular graphic manipulation.

I studied how to mix san serif and serif fonts together and all the little things that can make a block of text look good while still being legible. I was quite delighted when a program I made for my girlfriend's tutoring student's solo harp performance gain some minor acclaim. It is not often that people comment about spacing, font size choices, and kerning.

Typography, of course, is the arrangement of text on a page. More often than not, the graphic designer has no control over what text is meant to be on the finished work. However, the designer does have the liberty to arrange the text however he/she likes. I don't have any ads or personal sample available, but the internet has something even better: Kinetic Typography.

While normal typography can be used to make something simple and pristine, or cluttered, or hint at images, etc, kinetic typography takes the whole thing up a notch by representing the action and emotion in the words. In a way, it is trying to compensate for anything that is lost in context, connotation or denotation.

Here you can see the words fly, the disorientating shouting and the meek replies. The creator of this Kinetic Typography sample did really well to convey the pacing and gravity of the speech.

This example is a bit simpler, with the words being arranged in a way that is pleasing and artsy. It is more of an example of different layouts than an attempt at expression. Still, the overall effect is beautiful and enjoyable.

Kinetic Typography have been popping up in commercials all the time in some small way or another. However, it is prominently used here, in the F150 ads which consists of voice over, kinetic type, and some live action/CG shots of the truck.

You can see that it is not overly extravagant, but there is still a fair bit of playing around with the text. These ads succeed on several levels, the liveliness of the words on the screen keeps viewers watching and superliminally passes the advertiser's message to the consumer.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Mafia in the House Party

Although my birthday was on the 10th, I had my party about a week later, on the 16th. The main reason for this was because of Mother's Day, I simply didn't want to put my guests on a spot.

In total, we had about twenty people drop by and party for awhile. Being the geek that I am, the party revolved mainly around board games and table top games. While we did run 2-4 different games at a time, there were moments when we all came together and played a massive game.

The staple massive party game seems to be Mafia, a game originating in Russia and possessing many forms and variations. We ended up playing two rounds of Mafia, also known as Werewolves, one time with a smaller group and another game with all but three guests (who showed up half way through the game).

The game is a battle between an uninformed majority and an informed minority. A quarter or a fifth of participants are randomly and secretly Mafia members (or werewolves). Usually this is determined by dealing different kinds of cards to people. After the roles have been assigned, everyone closes their eyes and then the secretive members open their eyes and meet for the first time.

After this, there is a process of nightly murders and daytime, public lynchings. The majority, called the villagers, call suspicion on various people for different reasons. The mafia members, pretending to be villagers, do the same. The villagers aim to accurate find the mafia members and lynch them through an open voting process. If there is ever a majority, then the player, mafia or villager, is dead and eliminated from the game.

The mafia, on the other hand, seek to become the majority. They do this through the manipulation of the lynching and by their nightly murders. The villagers win once they eliminate all the mafia members while the mafia wins by having their number be equal or greater than the villagers.

Some variations include special roles, such as a Psychic Seer, who can secretly see someone's allegiance by having the moderator confirm his/her guesses. There might also be a Sheriff or Doctor hidden among the villagers who can save someone if they were targetted at night.

The variation that most people are used to involves repeated nights where everyone goes through the cycle of one daytime lynching and one nighttime murder where everyone closes their eyes. This eyes close part is how the mafia members, Seer, Sheriff, etc, remain secret, with the moderator/narrator being the only person who knows.

However, this was not the original version of the game. In the original version, the only time people close their eyes was at the very beginning. Once the mafia members knew who each other were, everyone opened their eyes and the lynching began. Instead of just one lynching, there can be multiple ones: any time a majority occurred, someone died. As well, people can do an open vote to go to sleep, which is when the mafia will start their work.

Instead of having people close their eyes and having the mafia members point at their target, night time activity is done through a paper vote. Villagers simply wrote "Honest", "Villager" or something similiar while the mafia wrote the name of their target. The only time someone is murdered at night is when the mafia unanimously wrote the name of a single person.

The moderator reads the votes so that people's handwriting is concealed. It is through this vote that the villagers know how many mafia members are left to be lynched. The paper voting and need for unanimity also means that the mafia members need to find a way to communicate their target. However, these activities may draw attention, which is good for the villagers, who normally get next to no clues to go on in other version of the game.

The original version of the game features no special roles beyond Mafia and Villager. Besides being difficult to implement, the game is actually fairly balanced in the original version whereas other versions usually have a very strong mafia who are nearly guranteed a kill every night.

I think I prefer the original version over other variations. The only hassle is the paper vote. If only there was a way to pass around an electronic device that will scramble the order of the votes and then tally it automatically. Maybe I should make one...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The speed of thinking

I'm not sure if everyone expiriences this, but I've always known that my thoughts tend to move at astronomical rates. I can recall basically every scene in an entire movie in a few seconds or go over every second of a driving route in my mind, looking at all the houses and landmarks along the way, and get there in my head faster than humanly possible.

This can really mess up word association games, especially if you like to take mental two/three-steps-at-a-time like I do. In a split second, I can go from balloon to the Stanley cup (balloon->hot air balloon->Jules Verne->Around the world in 80 days->Jackie Chan movie->Jackie is inspired by Charlie Chaplin->Charlie Chaplin's moustache->playoff beard->playoff Hockey->Stanley Cup), but it's fun to do and it's great for things like math and chess as you're able to consider multiple paths at the same time.

I was thinking about this the other day when I was driving home from work. You see, I normally go under a tunnel on my way home, so the radio would go static for about 30 seconds. If there is a song playing at the time, I would usually try singing along in my head and see if I can come out of the tunnel on beat with the music.

However, no matter how hard I try to keep with the tempo, I always seem to end up about 5 seconds faster than the song. I guess that's just the nature of things.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Overcast Weather

I went out for a run this morning. Distressed with my tightening pant waists, I had long ago decided to wake up early in the morning to run. Unfortunately, I'm not a morning person and I tended to sleep past the alarm.

For a while, I was tempted to try Steve Pavina's method of training yourself to wake up on cue by practising, in the evening, getting out of bed when the alarm rings over and over. I would have done it, except that I thought it was a bit over the top.

Instead, this Saturday I woke around when I normally do for work (7am) and went for a quick there and back run to see how much time I need to put aside for my weekday runs. Turns out that it only takes me 10 minutes to get to the gym and back, even when I'm tired.

This morning, being a statutory holiday (Victoria Day), I tried the morning routine again, but added in the stretching and half hour at the gym. I still managed to run back home from the gym in 10 minutes even after some good cardio work.

I'll be focusing mainly on cardio because I want to get my stamina in top shape again and, really, I just want to focus on fat burn rather than muscle gain.

The weather was brilliant today. I love overcast, it has to be my favourite weather condition. No rain, not too bright, but still warm. And sometimes, if you're extra lucky, just enough wind for kite flying. It's funny because I was just talking about favourite weather conditions with my girlfriend yesterday. Yes, we were talking about the weather, but we also talked about other things in case you're wondering if our relationship took a dive.

While mine is overcast, she likes sunny weather, but only just barely/mildly so. It was essentially my favourite weather but with less clouds. It's neat that we can still find things in common even after six years.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

FedEx - It'll get there

Before I graduated from university, I took a few courses in graphic design as an aid for my future in advertising (still looking!). As such, I've began noticing logos, layouts and typography all around me.

Since last year, I've been looking at the FedEx logo. It seems to be designed so that the E and X at the end formed an arrow in the white space, which I thought was extremely clever. So clever, in fact, that it should be subtlely used in ads.

Selling points like "Going places" or "Fast. Really, fast" or even "It'll get there" would work, but you combine this catch phrase with a closeup on the white space arrow before zooming out to reveal that it's FedEx that you're talking about.

For example, you can have the ad follow a parcel or letter on its journey, using a moving arrow along the way. As this visual is running, have a voiceover talk about reliability, speed, or world coverage. After the parcel is received, pan the camera back a bit to the arrow, which is now at an extreme close up and have the selling point go as the camera pulls back to reveal the FedEx logo. FedEx. Express.

Simple ads work fairly well in times when there is a lot of clutter and, usually, there is a lot of clutter. A nice, simple, three color ad with a clear voiceover and selling point would have great branding potential and the relative inexpensiveness of the ad would allow for greater distribution and impact, much like the Bell white and blue ads that popped up a few months ago.

Monday, May 11, 2009

You know you're old when...

So yesterday was my 24th birthday (yaaaay). I tend to forget about my own birthday because I usually celebrate with friends the weekend before or after. That's because my birthday tends to land on Mother's Day weekend. There's a fifty percent chance that it will be the Mother's Day weekend (with the help of leap dates) and the other half of the time it's in the middle of the week.

My forgetfulness aside, there are perhaps other indicators that I am getting older and maturing no matter how much I don't want to. One thing I noticed recently, and more and more often, is that my taste buds have seemed to mature.

I used to eat everything and loved it. I especially love chocolate and sweets in general. I recalled being addicted to sour candy and would always jump for joy when I got them. Since then, I've lost a bit of my sweet tooth. I find myself unable to finish a chocolate cake because it was "too sweet." As well, I avoid sour candy and a lot of hard candies now too because the sour shards tend to wreck havoc on your tongue.

Worst of all, I've developed a stomach for grown up food. Well, I mean I always liked broccoli, spinach, prunes and onions. But I never expected that I would like coconut chocolate! Ugh, maybe it was just a one time thing. I'm still not sure if I want to test it out to see.

In either case, with all this eating, I need to find time to do some cardio and burn off excess calories. If only I can convince myself to wake up earlier in the mornings...

Friday, May 8, 2009

I can't remember medical discourse

I wrote a blog article on games as educational tools for Kidzworld the other day and I mentioned in passing how the news media outlet loves the Swine flu because it meant that people would be tuning in more and boosting viewer ratings.

While definitely a cynical look at the matter, I realized afterwards that I had studied a bit on medical discourse in popular media, but I only remember bits and pieces of what I had studied, as is typical for most students.

In either case, check out the article and play some of the games. Just like SARS before and other things, we are not screwed. Educational and common sense plays a huge role in controlling and containing disease outbreaks. Cover your mouth when you sneeze and wash your hands frequently.

On the other hand, after watching the movie Knowing, one of the lines near the end of the movie really made me think. A gas station clerk is shown talking to a stranger during mass public panic and looting. He says something to the effect of "It's just like with Y2K, they're going to feel pretty stupid in the morning" when, obviously, he was wrong and shown to be stupid for being a doubter.

While I'm not outright dismissing the Swine Flu, or Hamthrax as some call it, I am saying that we don't need to give it *that* much attention. We just need to know what we can do to help the fight against diseases and do our role.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

On Humor Through the Ages: Simpsons and Shakspeare

Last night I was thinking about timely and timeless humour. Simpsons jumped to mind immediately, with their recent venture to mainstream/core video games with their episode on Halo.

Specifically, last night I was chuckling to myself, as I do every night in preparation for my inevitable rise as a world dominator, over the Lieutenant LT Smash joke from the Simpsons episode about sub-liminal Navy recruitment. The evil need to find things to laugh about aside, I wondered why such an old joke is still funny.

When learning about Shakespeare, one of the things that is often discussed is how the bard's tragedies are timeless while his comedies are less so. In fact, what is defined to be comedy way back when is different that the accepted definition we hold now. While this makes some lick of sense, I can't help by think that I really do enjoy Shakespeare and it's usually for the humour.

One could argue that what I'm enjoying is the modern interpretation of the literary and the layer of directoral comedy that is super imposed on top of a performance. However, when reading the plain text, I still perceive lines as humourous. Whether this is intrinsic in the writing itself or another figment of my personality appearing in my personal interpretation of the tome is left to be determined.

Perhaps we could look at another artist, such as Chaplin. If you would recall from Shakespeare in Love, the playwright has to compete with things such as extreme slapstick and cock fights, which explains partially why there are often vicious combats sequences in his plays. Signs point towards timeless comedy as we can still slapstick sticking around at least until Chaplin's era.

However, I personally don't see too too much merit in ol' Charlie's movies these days. Then again, maybe I haven't been watching the right films. Those that derived their work from Chaplin, such as Jackie Chan and Rowan Atkinson, I find funny.

I guess the big question is, how much does novelty play in humour? There are some jokes that are extremely funny because they are timely. It's the "funny because its true" genre that loses its context over time as people forget how their predecessors lived and the social influences of the time. For example, Bush jokes are a laugh a dozen, but only for the last decade. Wait until a present day newborn is of age, and she'll probably not find it funny to talk smack about a former president.

On the other hand, it is not fair to label the entirety of comedy as timely and incapable of withstanding the test of time. There are some things that ring true always. As well, comedy evolves, as slapstick did and the evolution does wonders in helping people appreciate and connect with prior work.

So, while there may be some jokes in Shakespeare's work that we will never understand, we can find relief in knowing that some of the things that we find funny now will still be funny in centuries to come.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


I dream a lot, but I don't usually remember too many details. Last night, I recall dreaming that my family members had exceptionally long fingernails and toenails. Perhaps they were trying to beat some crazy world record or something, I don't know.

Of course, there are sources for these dreams and I'm pretty sure that the fingernail thing is from the father of a kid that I tutor. The kid's parents is a close family friend to my girlfriend's family and, so, we attended his birthday lunch last weekend, which is when I noticed the father's fingernails.

Only the pinky fingernails were long and they were more like the guitar picking nails than the absurdly long ones in my dream. When I asked about it, my girlfriend commented on how lots of people in Asia grew their pinky nail out a bit, perhaps to help with everyday chores like peeling, picking, and opening containers and small battery case lids.

This morning, after waking up, I had fingernails on the mind and proceeded to cut them. When I was little, I used to bite and pick at my nails with my hands. I'm not sure why, but I hated having long nails as they seemed to get in the way and I scratched myself a lot. Maybe I just like the feeling of touching things with the tip of my fingers.

So, whenever I cut my nails, I always try to take as much of the white as I can. Force of habit I guess.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Canucks lost, but I'm giggling away like a schoolgirl

Canucks lost today in a heart breaking game where they looked like they were going to win handily before getting kicked in the nuts five times.

Anyways, one of the webcomics (among many) that I read, xkcd, did a comic the other day and it was a bit weird, since I was just talking about mash-ups.

That's one of the reasons why I'm in a chipper mood that the rest of Vancouver currently. The other is watching SNL with some good friends while playing Bohnanza. But mostly, it's friggin Rickard's White pissing-in-the-cup commercial:

Now, I've mentioned in passing that the bartender looks like he was pissing in the cup more than once in the past. However, after reiterating the fact to a bunch of sleepy, giddy friends, we saw the commercial again and, at 0:06, the dude ordering the drinking totally did a "Hey, why are you unzipping your pants?" look and the bartender simply smiles, revealing that the beverage that everyone in the bar was enjoying was one of his own concoction. It was hilarious.

And now I'm all smiles.