1. A person given to vain, pretentious displays and empty chatter.
2. Archaic form of "popinjay" (ME-16, OED).
3. Kris Schmidt
Let the Halloween season begin!
The future is already here. I don’t need to upload my consciousness to the internet since this status bot already captured my entire essence so you can enjoy a creeping sense of dread until the end of time.
I’ve never been so terrified, and that includes spiders and my free-floating anxiety about the end of the world. I’ve accepted the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and have donated $75. You also get to see my wig knocked off by ice water. So fun. Donate and help however you can! alsa.org/donate
If you spend as much time avoiding the crushing disappointment of real life as I do, you wind up on the internet a lot. Spending that much time online means running across annoyances that run the gamut from mildly irritating to inspiring murderous rage.
From the large online publishers to small, individual sites, there are things that make me want to throw my laptop or phone out the window, and despite criticism from those who say it’s stupid to whine about online properties’ flaws—like when Facebook makes a change and you end up with people whining about people whining about those changes—the fact remains that advertiser revenue remains a huge (if not the only) part of their revenue and that’s entirely contingent on people like me going onto those sites. Good user experiences keep people coming around, and that has a direct impact on the success of whatever site, blog, or social network you run.
There’s been plenty written about hyperbolic click-bait headlines (here’s looking at you, Upworthy and Buzzfeed) so I’m not going beat a dead horse, and instead whine about some other equally frustrating things that websites absolutely need to stop doing right now:
- Make every article a god damned slideshow
I like a listicle as much as the next guy. They’re easily digestible, punchy, and make writing the post way easier. Now take all that convenience and do the exact opposite by making your list a needless slideshow by attaching some stock photos to each point on a 250-word bulleted list. Now I get the joy of clicking and waiting to read each sentence. One. At. A. Time. When I guarantee you that hasn’t been necessary since the bouncy Mickey Mouse ball guided me through Disney sing-a-longs.
But I get it. A slideshow lets sites turn one page load into 10, meaning they can show 10 times the ads. But as anyone who’s minimally literate will tell you, “25 healthy recipe ideas” absolutely does not need to be 25 god-awful clicks because the recipe from the link that took you to this hell-hole is actually buried as number 23.
- Not have a mobile site
I use my phone for absolutely everything, and say what you will about my unhealthy attachment to the device, you probably do too. In the States, mobile activity now accounts for 60% of digital media time spent (here’s a fun whitepaper from comScore—shockingly this is part of what I do for a living and not everything I say is a lie). Which is all the more ridiculous that sites do not have mobile-friendly design. With advances in responsive design you don’t even need to have a separate mobile-specific design. There is zero reason users should go to your site (especially when you’re a large, national business) and have to zoom in and out in a feeble attempt to navigate the page on their phone.
- Tell me to download your stupid app
I get that a huge part of mobile time spent is done through apps and that you get both better information and are kept top-of-mind when you’re on someone’s phone, but I have no interest in downloading an app dedicated to a single site. I have especially no interest when that app offers no additional benefit to just going to the site, and if it’s what a site thinks makes an effective compromise for not having a mobile site, they are sorely mistaken. I’m already having enough of a conniption over the recent “uncoupling” trend on apps (see: Facebook and Messenger, and Foursquare and Swarm) that want me to have two apps to do one thing.
- Hide behind a log-in
Have you ever clicked on a link advertising a cool product, good deal, or interesting article and wound up being faced with a large grey box telling you to sign up before the site’ll reveal any of its precious secrets? Yeah, those sites can definitely go to hell. Having an account is super-valuable for the company, but whether it’s logging on through your Facebook, or god-forbid make a special, just-for-this-site account where you fill out your information, there’s nothing so valuable behind that box that would make me want to do that. This isn’t one of those weird, paranoid privacy rants, it’s just a matter of both convenience and feeling welcomed. If I tried to walk into your store and before you would even open the door I had to hand over my ID and tell you all my favourite colours, celebrity style inspirations, and thong-size, I would immediately walk away. This is no different.
Admittedly these are all small irritants in the grand scheme of things, but at the end of the day it would go a long way in making my internet browsing more enjoyable and free up my time to complain about other ridiculous things. What about you? What drives you crazy online?
In the list of ways to describe me, “moist” is probably one of the least flattering yet accurate, landing somewhere between “doesn’t know when to shut up” and “makes too many uncomfortable jokes about orphans and murder—not necessarily in combination”. I’ve come to accept, and weirdly revel in, my life as a sweaty dude, though I can only claim to be the second sweatiest guy at my gym—so I’m in good company. Which is a really strange thing to build an identity around when you think about it.
For me, and others of similar glandular robustness, there’s one special kind of personal hell that pull out all the stops: hot climates. Whether visiting a hot climate or being visited upon by a hot climate, it’s really the worst thing about any trip/heat wave—you know, aside from all those heat-related deaths. I’m currently on a trip through Vietnam in the summer, and between the humidity and heat I’ve gained a persistent sheen that makes me look like the world’s worst Whitney Houston impersonator. Or a glazed ham.
But thankfully these are temporary situations that you can endure, and here are some of my coping strategies (I’d love to hear yours):
- Give up on regular clothes
There’s about a 5-10 minute window between when you leave the air conditioned heaven of indoors and when you’ve given yourself a shower from the inside out (trust me, it’s as gross as it sounds). Cotton and other absorbent fabrics are particularly unforgiving and if you want to understand how it feels try swaddling yourself in towels soaked with lukewarm water and go walking around outside. Because they hold sweat and refuse to dry quickly (especially in humid climates), regular clothes for the most part are a walking prison of damp fabric that will never, ever, ever dry no matter how closely you stand in front of the fan at a museum.
The better alternative is to wear dry-fit and moisture wicking fabrics wherever you go, in other words, workout clothes. Raiding every bit of workout gear you own is a first step to basic survival, and a side benefit is you look really into fitness—and if there’s ever some disaster to run from, you’ll be ready to go.
- Powders are your friend
No matter what you wear, there is no avoiding that every body part you could possibly imagine will be damp (yes, even the dreaded ass and under-(man)boob sweat) and it. will. chafe. I use Lush’s T is for Toes powder, which keeps my feet delightfully dry and smelling of tea tree oil. Funny enough while I was writing this, a buddy (and first sweatiest guy at my gym—yes this is something actually discussed) mentioned Gold Bond Medicated Powder and baby powder, which just shows I’m not entirely alone in trying to get through hot weather with some modicum of dryness. At the end of the day, if you don’t look like you had the most extravagant cocaine party of all time underneath your clothes, then you’re not doing it right.
- No panty lines? No panties.
I’m about to wander into uncomfortable territory that probably no one’s with me for, and anyone who knows me will likely never want to talk to me again, but it has to be said. While on tour to Ha Long Bay, laziness inspired me to skip bringing a change of clothes and simply wear my swim trunks as shorts—god only knows what I was planning to do if/when they got wet—and it was marvellous. The trunks’ mesh lining was delightfully breathable; the fabric dried in seconds when my lower back turned the waistband into looking like I sat directly on a water balloon; and the design reasonably passed as board shorts (or so I tell myself). Since then I’ve seriously considered wearing swimwear in place of my other shorts (even gym shorts) when touring about in the heat, though with my bizarre inability to feel proper shame, I wonder if I’m onto a genius life hack, or am just a total lunatic. Either way, this line of thought’s also marked the first time I need to assure the world that there will never be a chance I’m ever caught celebrity-style accidentally flashing people in my everyday life.
- Give up and give in
After all’s said and done, there’s no tip I have that isn’t a bandaid on a gaping wound, and I only manage to take the edge off the sweaty mess. The biggest help I’ve ever had was purely psychological. I discovered it when taking a school program in Montréal during an unbelievably hot summer. There is a stage when you resign yourself to walking around in a state of constant dampness. You can do all you want, but in the inescapable heat, nothing you can do will ever keep you fully dry. So it’s better to make your peace with it and get over looking like you’ve perpetually just walked out of the shower. No apologies.
Stay dry, friends.
Following a cadre of travel bloggers, their international adventures inspire in me daydreams of globetrotting escapades. Although I don’t travel enough to join their ranks in any way, I’d happily accept any offer to pay me for embarrassing myself in new and exciting places (not a joke).
I’m currently travelling in Vietnam and part of every international trip is a long, multi-part flight involving hours in a tiny metal tube interrupted by walking around airports browsing through the physical incarnation of SkyMall. I’m not totally averse to long-haul flights, which can be a nice little alternate reality bubble where I can watch movies non-stop and pretend like nothing else is going on in the world, but all the same it takes a lot out of you, and i’d like to share how I get through the experience with minimal suffering. You may also notice it flies directly in the face of all conventional travel advice, but trust me, it’s way more fun.
1. Find a way into airline lounges and abuse every part of that
There are very few places better in this world than an airline lounge, and I say that without any trace of irony. These little oases make every part of flying internationally so much better. Different airlines offer lounge access to travellers in business/first class, members of certain frequent flier programs, or for a fee. These magical places provide a place to comfortably sit and charge your electronics while scarfing down free food and alcohol that generally you serve yourself, which for the traveller without shame (i.e., me) is the perfect place to kick off your “I’m on vacation so calories aren’t real” delusions. (Pro Tip: Sodas are offered in cans at every lounge I’ve been at, which makes both a handy mix for liquor and low-key way to disguise your seriously questionable alcohol dependence.)
It’s 7am, the Taipei airport lounge has ice cream & no one can stop me! (My diet coke also has gin. I have problems.)
2. Continue indulging in your binge eating and drinking disorders while in the air
International flights generally offer free liquor, which helps continue your party for one everywhere from ground level to 300,000 feet in the air. On top of actual meals being served, packing snacks or getting whatever you can out of the flight staff really helps pass the time and settle all that booze sloshing around your belly. (Pro Tip: When most passengers are sleeping, bother the flight attendants since they have no other competing priorities, and by being either friendly—or a horrible monster of a person—you can get all the snacks and drinks you want.)
Conventional travel advice is to eat lightly and avoid alcohol while on long flights, but that crock of bullshit is only for those with no sense of fun. Do the exact opposite and have a blast before landing jet-lagged, hungover, and with indigestion. Remember, it’s future-you that has to pay for the crime, so carpe that diem.
I’ve always imagined that after working all day in porn the last thing you’d want to do is anything sexual in your off-time as though dealing with sex all day just burns you out on the whole deal. The very second the director called cut, I would be in full-on granny panties and life outside of work would become a rotating closet of shapeless, baggy clothing.
One of the serious upsides to being a porn star must be all the people giving you constant compliments. Granted, many probably run high on the creepiness scale, but a compliment is a compliment. My brain is wired in a completely dysfunctional way that places an absolute premium on attention and ego that’s probably inspired a whole new series of personality disorders:
My Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs looks a little different.
All this would culminate in my becoming a deranged lunatic who murders and man and sends his dismembered body parts to Canadian political parties and uploads the video to the internet. (Too soon?) Or at the very least in some sort of horrible crime that would finally bring me the lasting attention I always craved in the form of a Lifetime movie, or at least a segment on a true crime show TLC uses to fill late-night slots complete with terrible re-enactments.
I am a hot mess. Literally. If my body is a wonderland, then it is absolutely the water park—because Wonderland is an amusement park in Toronto, and jokes are always funnier when they require explanation. Somewhere along the way the part of my brain that regulates body temperature, and sweating in particular, has irreparably broken turning my sweat glands into spigots or quite possibly the world’s least majestic waterfalls.
My body sweats with the slightest provocation, and often with none at all. Normal people sweat when it’s hot, or when doing some sort of activity, but I’ve found myself getting pit stains in the dead of winter as if while the rest of my limbs are freezing, my torso’s convinced it’s in a tropical land. Not to say that I’m unaffected by heat and exercise—no, that just makes the problem infinitely worse. It’s not that I’m the sweatiest guy at the gym, but that for an hour or so afterwards I suffer from some bizarre sweat-inertia like my body’s saying “oh, I guess this is what we’re doing now—workout sweat levels forever!”
On the plus side you can make sweat angels—which is the grossest whimsical activity you’ve ever heard of.
The problem with being a sweaty person (besides the embarrassment of pit stains and an inability to wear white without severe anxiety) is that you often look like a paranoid potential serial killer, or someone dying from a terrible illness—either way, “are you ok?” is not the impression you want to give. But the fix isn’t always easy, and I’ve tried some of the most common methods:
- Clinical-Strength Antiperspirant
In recent years, most common antiperspirant brands have come up with “clinical-strength” varieties unnecessarily packaged in boxes and retailing for two times the price. It’s a nice feeling that I’m not the only one afflicted with over-active sweat glands, or even that there’s possibly a new endemic of moist people. These do work many times better for everyday use than your standard stick (you apply it at night), but if you’re anything like me your armpits laugh at the futility until they cry gross, salty sweat-tears. Still, it’s my go-to everyday solution, and I’ve recently been using a women’s stick mostly because I like smelling kind of like baby powder and how dare you judge me.
- Aluminum Chloride Solutions
For the real clinical-strength stuff you can turn to the serious brands like Drysol and Perspirex which are liquids you apply at night with a rollerball or cotton pads. And they definitely work. With the notable exception that they burn like the fires of hell and you start to wonder if maybe you’ve put acid on your armpits to burn off the sweat glands. Before anyone says it, Drysol does make a mild formula, which is a cruel joke that tempts you back like an abusive lover promising that this time will be different and you won’t end up awake at 2am in the shower actually crying and desperately scrubbing the hurt off your body.
I’d like to take the time and publicly admit to having had Botox, which might account for why you look at me and wonder if I’m as dead on the inside as I am on the outside if only it were shot into my face. Botox is a miracle drug not just for Chardonnay-swilling Hollywood housewives, but for the unglamorous sweaty masses. The Botox was paid for entirely by my insurance (although I admittedly asked the doctor if I could use any extras for my face—she gave me a hard no) and was 100% effective. I didn’t experience any side effects at all. If you don’t include dozens of needles in your armpits as a side effect. Yup. The price of a sweat-free existence is about 50 needles injected one after another into your underarms every 6-8 weeks, which I suppose is a lot of people’s nightmare.
At present I’m not using anything special except the standard clinical-strength sticks and pretending that I’m not ashamed when my body decides it’s time to turn the faucets on. The problem’s calmed down over time (the Botox treatments have some cumulative effect) and for the moment I’ll just deal—though you may not want to hug me in a boiling-hot night club after this. I’ll leave that up to you.
Medical Disclaimer: I have absolutely no medical training except years of practice as an unlicensed physician offering butt-lifts using silicone caulking out of the back of a rented self-storage unit. The experiences above are mine alone and are not necessarily the same for everyone. If you follow any of this as medical advice of any sort and attempt to pin any blame on me I’ll be happy to see you in court with the defence that you’re an unbelievable idiot.
Despite recent stories of cruise ships turning into poop-encrusted floating nightmares, I hopped on one without a second thought. On the downside this isn’t a Caribbean adventure luxuriating in the sun surrounded by shirtless men and baking my uncooked-Pilsbury-dough body a perfect golden-brown. This boat is Alaska-bound. An Alaskan cruise is the modern-day equivalent of putting the elderly on an ice floe, so on the upside there’s unlimited food and shuffleboard.
There are things they don’t tell you going into a cruise, so here is a list of unbelievably first-world problems masquerading as observational humour:
- Second dinners aren’t just for hobbits
As a human food-vacuum I’m no stranger to eating incomprehensibly disgusting quantities of food, but a cruise ship turns everyone into a glutton. This means collectively inhaling the annual food consumption of a small island nation on a daily basis. Something about unlimited food everywhere you turn transforms totally normal people into, well, me. In fact, I’m writing this between a cotton candy machine and a guy eating four hotdogs. It’s impossible not to sample everything including going to both the formal dinner and buffet back-to-back. The shame. But it’s not pure gluttony because…
- You become incredibly value-conscious
I am determined to eke every bit of value out of this ticket as humanly possible. Cruise tickets aren’t cheap and when they include all your food you really want to get the most for your dollar. Then there are the things that aren’t included like drinks. I got the $7 a day unlimited soda pass because I drink enough aspartame to be one of those outliers that can actually get cancer from diet Coke, but a little part of me is acutely aware that I need to drink at least 4 sodas a day to make this worth it.
- If you can dream it, there’s a charge for it
Part of a cruise’s appeal is in having someone cater to your every whim. This ship has everything you could want including someone gladly charging you every step of the way. Until you actually arrive on the boat you don’t realize how cleverly they’ve attached a cost to each activity, extra service, and item which can be—as pointed out by a friend of mine—easily charged to your SeaPass/Room Key/Lifeblood.
- Oh god, the stairs
It’s one thing to live in a floating, 15-storey hotel. It’s another to realize the elevators are so painfully slow that you take the stairs each and every time, and you will rue the day you leave something in your room only to be 10 levels and the length of the deck away. On the plus side, underneath your newly fattened outer layer, your ass will be more toned than ever.
- The gym is a death trap
If you do decide to work out and try minimizing the damage of eating everything, you’ll find working out on a moving ship is absolutely nothing like on solid ground. As waves rock the boat gently back and forth, every movement is a test to see if your stabilizer muscles are strong enough to keep that dumbbell from smashing into the face.
There is absolutely nothing to complain about on a cruise that wouldn’t make someone roll their eyes at your exasperating privilege, but the ship is like an entirely different reality. Reading over this I think I’ve developed an obsession with food bordering on some kind of eating disorder, but you’ll have to excuse me, I need to see about my second lunch.
What? Your unicorn is evolving!
It’s finally happened. Fellow kids of the 90’s, for years we’ve watched movies pay tribute to 80’s nostalgia, but it looks like we’ve hit the point where enough time has passed that pop culture can mine our fond memories of growing up into kitschy, remember-how-that-was-a-thing? moments. Goodbye Carrie Diaries, hello Girl Meets World. Prepare to feel old.
The To Do List (2013, dir. Maggie Carey) is pure, unadulterated 90’s joy. Aubrey Plaza and her famously deadpan face star as Brandi Klark, the awkwardly robotic ‘93 valedictorian virgin. After a fateful encounter with man-candy Rusty Waters (Scott Porter)—whose name is either that of a porn star or horrific sex act from Urban Dictionary—Brandi decides to run the full sexual gauntlet before heading off to college.
Brandi’s summer of sexual misadventure is supported by a pretty generic list of coming-of-age sexual comedy tropes: her best friends, the sweet guy she doesn’t see really likes her, her sexually adventurous older sister, the awkward parents (an over-sharing mother and repressed father), and the burn out boss. With the exception of a few twists, The To Do List isn’t exactly breaking the comedy mold, but is a far cry from boring. A steady pace and some true gems kept us laughing the whole way through—especially so for the confused-sounding, spectacularly drunk girl across the aisle.
But in two things the movie really does it right: raunch and the 90’s. The To Do List is raunch comedy in every sense of the term. It holds nothing back in using explicit sexual punchlines and visual gags, and there’s something innately hilarious watching the stone-faced Plaza give a movie theatre handjob or clinically examine semen between her fingers. If there’s anything that’s ground-breaking, it’s how thoroughly the movie dives into its subject matter, which is actually really in line with the whole 90’s raunch comedy genre—think American Pie or There’s Something About Mary.
And if there’s something about The To Do List, it’s that it pays homage to the 90’s in every way. It might not be to everyone’s taste, but like comedies playing to 80’s nostalgia, there’s something that resonates best with those who grew up in that time. It’s not just a laundry list of fashion and cultural icons that makes a movie capture the essence of a decade, even when poking fun, and this movie just gets it.
Will it be so endearing after an onslaught of 90’s nostalgia? Probably not, but The To Do List is one of the first of likely many so we might as well enjoy reliving our youth before it becomes as arduous as living through it was.
Think a lot of people in Calgary and Southern Alberta would agree with you, Tony Robbins, that one day can change everything. Well done.
The only thing World War Z (2013, dir. Marc Forster) successfully captures from the zombie genre is its cold, dead shuffle—which has nothing to do with its zombies.
Loosely based—emphasis on loosely—on Max Brooks’s novel of the same name, World War Z follows UN investigator Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) as he travels the world on a one-man mission to discover the origin of the zombie apocalypse he narrowly escapes in New York. Pitt’s character is the archetypical action hero reluctantly drawn back into the dangerous life he left for his family. Even with his background, gumption, and a forced obsession with protecting his family that would make Harrison Ford throw up, Pitt’s character manages to be as interesting and believable as a cardboard silhouette labelled “hero”.
Even with weak characters and rigid acting, the film’s most egregious failure is in its story. Filled with confusing plot holes as ridiculous as its zombies, the story never really comes together and remains a disjointed series of scenes designed solely to show off CG zombie hordes and surprisingly uninspiring destruction. And those zombies? They’re awful.
World War Z's zombies are a highlight of the film's many failures. Instantly transformed à la 28 Days Later, these rage monsters no longer even resemble people and are flowing rivers of limbs and confusion. They pile together to form ladders and rush through streets like an amorphous blob. The overall effect, although visually interesting, in no way brings zombies to mind and really detracts from the scenes.
Although it’s been a long time since I’ve read it, World War Z's original premise of an oral history of the zombie apocalypse is not fulfilled even in the slightest. I'm not usually a stickler for book to film adaptations being exact in details, but the only thing this film shares with the book is in name. The brilliance of Brooks's World War Z and its predecessor The Zombie Survival Guide is realism. In the first book, Brooks brings a wholly fantastical concept into reality with a practical guide to surviving the apocalypse. And this film’s source material is a collection of different voices and perspectives that captures its human element. World War Z, however, does neither.
One in a long line of movies and books capitalizing on the zombie explosion of the last couple years, World War Z brings nothing new or interesting to the table. At best derivative, and at worst a slap in the face of a popular genre, this is not a film particularly worth seeing. Just maybe it’s the final nail in the coffin while we put away the zombie trend until some new and innovative direction raises it from the dead once more. But, for now, just let it die already.
I dreamed a dream that one day our Queen Ally, Mama Michelle Visage would wave at me across the Twittersphere. And yesterday, as Anne Hathaway said, it came true.
I may be living as an evacuee while a flood wrecks havoc on my city, but getting both followed by and tweeted at by Michelle Visage is absolutely the rainbow after the storm.