Top Ten Entries
Mon Jun 29,
Posted by: Hal
Hi everyone, how’s my blogging? Sally and the factotums of Choco Box have sent down a communique. They want to do a bit of a customer satisfaction survey. They want to know how you like my blogging so far. They’re particularly interested in any personal details you might be gleaning from my musings. Actually, you have to go way back to the beginning of this blog to find the personal stuff, but that’s about to change as next week I’ll be shifting gears and writing daily about the life and times of Hal. Anyway, if you have anything to say about my blogging, what you’d like to see me do, say, show, reveal, now’s your chance. Here’s the official customer survey as sent down from head office. Let’s hear what you’ve got to say as we head into the hot summer of Hal.
We want to get Hal some feedback on his blogging so far. Has he been doing a
good job of 'sharing'? Of revealing his personal side? What about his
Facebook account? Do you feel you know him any better now than you did
before? Or does he keep it too professional, too 'managed'?
We're looking for your feedback and you don't have to be kind! Just send a
comment to this blog and tell us everything that's on your mind.
And stay tuned…full documentary production starts next week and we're
looking for people to get involved!
Comments: -538-, Add yours…
Sun Nov 08,
Posted by: Hal
There’s so much Peep culture in the daily news, I can barely read it all, let alone blog about it. And yet I know I should be doing a way better job of getting everything that’s happening out there onto the blog. But I just can’t keep up. I need an intern. An assistant. A nanny. A secretary. All those things. But that’s not going to happen so I just have to struggle on through info overload.
On Wednesday, November 4th, I woke up in Houston, Texas. At my hotel they were handing out the Wall Street Journal. I grabbed one to read on the flight home. (A rarity since I rarely read the print edition of any given newspaper.) In the section Personal Journal, I discovered not one, not two, but three Peep-related stories.
First, the lead story on the page: How Tough Times Yield Model Children.
This is basically a piece on how out of work parents are trying to land their kids modeling and acting jobs to make the family some money and, one suspects, give themselves a sense of purpose in the process. So let’s cut to the chase: the main source of employment for these kids (outside of modeling in clothing catalogues) are Reality TV shows. “Also contributing to the growing number of mini-models are reality-TV shows featuring children, agencies say. Such shows have transmitted the culture of fame-seeking; some shows—“Toddlers and Tiaras” and “Little Miss Perfect”—even follow the lives of child pageant contestants. Page Parkes Corp., a talent agency in Houston, Texas, is just one of the agencies seeing more interest from parents who want their children to be on television.” Uggh. What a loathsome trend. Children should not be on Reality TV. As I’ve argued in the book, they can’t possibly consent to having their everyday actions manipulated into entertainment. Putting them in that situation is disgusting. But with 10% of the population unemployed, and the perception that your life is just one more resource you can exploit to maintain your lifestyle, well, the allure of Peep culture continues to grow.
Next I read a story called Fitbit Sees How You Run, Walk and Sleep
Comments: -150-, Add yours…
Thu Feb 26,
Posted by: Hal
1) I have a giant barbecue in my backyard. It’s like the Humvee of barbecues. I really like to barbecue.
2) Several times in my life I’ve considered giving up writing to pursue some kind of cooking career. This was long before hipsters started making their own ricotta.
3) I’ve never actually made a ‘zine. I feel weirdly guilty about that. I’ve had a lot of ideas for ‘zines. For instance, Mommy Trader, which would look exactly like Auto Trader only it would be based on the buying, selling and trading of Mommies.
4) Another idea I recently had - a series of videos called The Wonder Authors that would be a spoof of the kids show The Wonder Pets (in which 3 pre-school age pets rescue other animals, see http://www.nickjr.com/home/wond_about.jhtml). In my spoof, Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje and one other rotating cast member (Timothy Findley back from the dead, Barbara Gowdy, Michael Winter etc.) would rescue other Canadian Authors from jeopardy. Like the show, all the dialogue would be in song - Atwood: “A writer, a Canadian writer’s in trouble!” Ondaatje: “We have to help him!” Michael Winter: “How can we help him?” Atwood: “A letter, we’ll write a letter!” Ondaatje: “A strongly worded letter!” Winter: “To get him a grant!” Atwood: “But who can write it?” “Ondaatje: “I’m much too busy!” Winter: “And so am I!” If you’ve ever seen the Wonder Pets you will hopefully think this is funny. If you’ve never seen the Wonder Pets you will have no idea what I’m talking about. If you want to make this video with me, I’m ready and willing. My wife has already volunteered to make the author puppets.
5) I met my wife in my second year of university. Before getting married we broke up 4 or maybe 5 times over a period of six or seven years. She just couldn’t shake me.
6) I play hockey 2 or 3 times a week. On my hockey team I am known for my move ‘The Octopus’, a kind of catch and release manoeuvre in which I briefly impede an opposing player’s progress, then let him go before the referee notices and gives me a penalty.
7) Here are my current stats, lifetime, with my hockey team: GP: 536 G: 108 A: 211 Pts: 319 PIM: 282 GWG: 13 GTG 5 PPG 8 SHG: 2 Ejections: 2
8) In terms of sports, I also enjoy basketball, kayaking, canoeing, hiking, cross country skiing, ultimate Frisbee, Frisbee golf (if you can call that a sport) and ball hockey. I never jog, work out, swim laps, or do any solitary exercise that I can avoid. I like group sports, perhaps because I spend most of days alone. Some of the sports above I have done very few times, and a few of them I have only done drunk.
9) I sometimes think to myself: I should have more friends. Why don’t I have more friends? But I’m not entirely sure how many friends a person should have. For all I know I already have more friends than is normal and/or necessary.
10) When my wife gets home from work I sometimes recount the day’s events at my (home) office. This generally involves the exploits of me and several of my co-workers, make-believe animals who share my office: “Teddy Bear was reprimanded by Boss Pig today.” “Puppy Dog and me had lunch at the Indian buffet down the street. All you can eat. That dog can really eat.”
11) I’m actually pretty lazy. I’d be happy just writing for two hours everyday and spending the rest of the time puttering around in my garden.
12) Me and this guy I met at my kid’s daycare just went in together on a package of three kinds of mushroom cultures. We’re going to implant them in rotting tree trunks and leave them lying around our respective yards.
13) While the meat cooks on the barbecue I like to wander around my tiny backyard garden pulling weeds and securing errant cucumber vines to the chain link fence. Last summer, all my cucumber plants turned brown and died for no apparent reason. Also last summer, the hardy kiwi vine I planted about seven years ago first yielded fruit - grape sized kiwis with a smooth exterior.
14) My neighbour - the other neighbour, not the nice one - threatened to kill me some years back.
15) Currently, I get the feeling that my brother isn’t talking to me.
16) About the only thing I haven’t contemplated writing is a play. I do not want to ever write a play. Writing a play feels too much like writing about writing, which I also do not ever want to do.
17) I like and demand order and cleanliness but I am, myself, a bit of a slob. You can barely see the floor in my small office and everything is covered in a thin veil of dust.
18) There is very rarely a day when I do not contemplate my death. I imagine my funeral - what songs should be played, who might attend - and think that when my time comes it will be a relief for everyone, particularly me. I often tell my wife: “When I go I don’t want a funeral. Just bury me in the backyard next to the kiwi vine.” She just pats me on the back: “Okay big boy. Whatever you say.”
19) I usually tear up at weddings, funerals and even Bar Mitzvahs. It’s something about the ceremony, because right before and right after I’m back to thinking about what will hopefully turn out to be an open bar.
20) At my Bar Mitzvah I surreptitiously drank three glasses of white wine and was sent to the basement to sleep it off.
21) At my cousin’s Bar Mitzvah I drank so many gin and tonics that my mother stationed herself at the open bar to ward me off, like hanging a string of garlic bulbs over a doorway to forestall a vampire.
22) My only remaining grandparent is Zadie Abraham, who lives in a home in Montreal. He’s 97. We were never very close, but I still feel like I should call him. The truth is, I almost never call him.
23) I tend to think: I should do this. Then I think, why should I do this? I won’t do this unless I really want to do this. I won’t do this just because it is expected of me. In this way, I play out my daily battle with myself over such issues as social propriety, hypocrisy, morality, community, and “the public good” versus “individual interest”.
24) My favourite play to see performed is Waiting for Godot.
25) I have more back hair than most human males have on their chests. Sometimes, when I’m lying on the couch, my 3 year-old daughter will approach me, pull up my shirt and start to gently comb my back hair with the brush that came with one of her dolls. The feel of the plastic bristles on my back hair is weirdly soothing.
Comments: -75-, Add yours…
Tue Feb 15,
Posted by: Hal
Here’s an interview with me in the Globe and Mail, mostly talking about the making of the documentary “Peep Culture”. I talk Peep, family, the future…anyway, check it out.
Also tomorrow (Wed Feb 16 at 11am) I’ll be doing a live chat with Globe and Mail tv critic Andrew Ryan if anybody wants to drop by and ask questions. The live chat will be happening here.
Comments: -74-, Add yours…
Fri Oct 24,
Posted by: Hal
Great piece in the Washington Post today about a pilot project that looks at how installing webcams in the cars of teenage drivers might reduce accidents and unsafe behaviour. Of course, what's fascinating is what else it might do -- condition young people to accept that they should be watched all the time every time lest they hurt themselves or someone else.
Comments: -68-, Add yours…
Wed Apr 22,
Posted by: Hal
Had to get this up there as soon as I heard about it, and props to Nora Young of CBC’s Spark, where I heard about this. Basically, a guy set up an automatic cat door triggered by RFID tags that unlocks for the family’s two cats.
A diagram of the cat door. See more pics and commentary here.
The door unlocks, a picture is taken, and a tweet and a picture are automatically sent to the two cats’ 1500 twitter followers. I kid you not. Cat Peep! (Actually planning, one of these days, a longer post on animal peep in general so if you have any more material like this, send it over.)
Penny the cat heads in for snacks.
Comments: -61-, Add yours…
Wed Jul 15,
Posted by: Hal
Last week in Vancouver I hung out with a very fun, very interesting group of friends who are all heavy online social media users. Below are some pictures I took of our two days of filming with them, interspersed with some commentary and links to their various sites. Overall my impression of them is that they are smart and funny, though self absorbed (but perhaps no more self absorbed than I was at that age…or I still am…) What I noticed most of all was their mixture of savvy image building and utter disregard for how what they share online might alter their future. On the one hand, total sharing without filter, on the other hand, very keen awareness of the way they are building their personal brands online and the opportunities that might create for them.
So the guy in the picture below is Adam. We met up with him at his office and he showed his Daytum site, where he chronicles his sex life, eating and spending habits, and more. Online, Adam mostly goes by Skinny Ghost. He spends a lot of time on Tumblr. He told me he doesn’t do Daytum to get attention or expose his life, even though the site is public.
After hanging out with Adam at work, we went to a hot dog stand called Japadog. While the camera crew filmed, we ordered hot dogs with Japanese toppings. Mine, below, was a turkey smokey with sweet Japanese mayonnaise, teriyaki sauce, grilled onions and dried sea weed! It was surprisingly good.
Adam used to date Malloreigh (posing below). Malloreigh is best friends with Lindsay (taking the pictures with the film crew in the background). Malloreigh, among other things, poses nude for the site SuicideGirls.com, a site that mixes pin-up type photos of young women with tattoos and piercings with blogging and some Facebook like features. Malloreigh also uses LiveJournal, has a public blog, and communicates through twitter and facebook too. She told me that when a new social networking site comes to her attention she will immediately try and secure the user name Malloreigh for herself, just in case she might one day start using the site or it gains in popularity. Malloreigh’s been blogging since she was 12. She’s had someone pretend to be her online, and has had several online stalkers. Still, she’s very open and friendly to anyone who contacts her, even the guys who pay for access to her photos through Suicidegirls.
The girl taking the photos above is Lindsay. Lindsay is a bit older and less into basement apartments and grunge then Malloreigh and her friends, but she’s just as into using the web to promote herself and her “brand”. She has a site called LindsaysDiet.com that features thousands of pictures arranged into photo essays of particular days that all invariably end up in a club. She’s been hired by a LA based DJ to travel with him taking pictures, and she is even an attraction every Saturday at Biltmore’s, a reason to show up and make the scene, like the band or the dj. We went with Malloreigh over to Lindsay’s condo, where Lindsay took pictures of Malloreigh posing in various states of undress, photos that may make up the next set on Malloreigh’s Suicide Girl page. While the doc crew did this, I sat in a chair in the corner, sweaty palmed and embarrassed, and tried not to pay too much attention (though I did look up long enough to take the picture above).
Eventually we all ended up biking over to the Astoria, a dive-y bar with live music and a dj. The specialty of the place is a beverage called the Power Shandy – half Smirnoff Ice, half beer, one shot of vodka. What you see above is me buying a round for all my new friends. Delicious!
Here we are getting ready to party. At the insistence of director Sally, I even danced for a few awkward moments. The two “power shandys” I drank helped loosen me up for my turn on the dance floor.
So there you go. No deep thoughts here. Nice kids (I can say that because, well, even if I’m not that old I felt old hanging out in their various basement apartments). They had a lot to teach me about using the various peep technologies I’m experimenting with. While they lectured me on the different protocols, I bombarded them with questions about what they thought the future had in store for them. I wonder how their various attempts to use the details of their to lives to keep themselves permanently in the spotlight will ultimately work out?
Comments: -60-, Add yours…
Tue Sep 08,
Posted by: Hal
I’m back and I’m posting. Let’s start it off with a funny twitter feed called Shit My Dad Says by a 28 year old who lives with his 78 year old dad. Check this out, it’s my brand of humour. Here are a few samples:
“The dog don’t like you planting stuff there. It’s his backyard. If you’re the only one who shits in something, you own it. Remember that.”
“How the fuck should I know if it’s still good? Eat it. You get sick, it wasn’t good. You people, you think I got microscopic fucking eyes.”
“Who is this woman?....Kate Beckinsale? Well, you can tell Kate Beckinsale she sucks.”
“You need to flush the toilet more than once…No, YOU, YOU specifically need to. You know what, use a different toilet. This is my toilet.”
“Don’t touch the bacon, it’s not done yet. You let me handle the bacon, and i’ll let you handle..what ever it is you do. I guess nothing.”
Comments: -55-, Add yours…
Wed Sep 16,
Posted by: Hal
So another hockey season is creeping up. Hockey is my sport. I’m not every good, admittedly, but that doesn’t stop me from lacing up the skates every chance I get. My beer league team’s first game is Sunday night. Unfortunately for me, a summer of travel and then a long vacation featuring a lot of haggis and scotch has left me in terrible shape. Ah well, all I can do is hit the ice and try to work it off.
I’m also a bit of a fanatic when it comes to following my favourite team The Washington Capitals. (I picked up the Caps bug when I lived in suburban DC as a kid.)
So here’s an article that brings peep culture and the Capitals together at last! It’s a piece in the Washington Post about fake twitter accounts aimed at Caps players. What’s particularly funny about the whole thing, or particularly sad, depending on your perspective, is that the fake accounts feature players the casual hockey fan would be hard-pressed to identify, guys like Jeff Schultz and Brooks Laich. You’d expect fake Ovechkin accounts, but Caps prospect Karl Alzner? Even I wouldn’t sign up to follow that. For the record, Ovechkin has his own Twitter account with some 20,000 followers, though as of January 09 he hasn’t posted, saying he’s “taking a break from all this.” Not too worry, though, there are plenty of fake Russian super-star hockey players ready to step into the mix: A quick search reveals, in total, 8 “Ovechkin” accounts, ranging from 5 to 5000 followers. A few of them are hard to distinguish from the real thing.
There is a serious element to all of this: while everybody enjoys celebrity impersonation on Twitter done as obvious parody, the fact is that it’s getting harder and harder to separate the real from the fake. Is peep culture folding back into itself? Have we reached the point where real life is getting boring again? I don’t think so: we will always privilege so-called “reality” over “fictionalized” content. Sticking with DC, on the all news radio last night I heard, for instance, that Obama called Kanye West a “jackass” for his embarrassing outburst at the MTV awards. This is news not because it matters, but because it’s real. (The comments were made off the record before an interview…surely by now the President should know that nothing’s off the record anymore.)
Well, let’s leave the last word to Washington Capital’s prospect Karl Alzner, who says in the Post article: “The weird thing is people talk about my girlfriend, my dog, weird stuff. They have too much time on their hands. It’s not right.”
The real Ovechkin Twitter page above.
A fake Ovechkin Twitter page below.
Comments: -53-, Add yours…
Thu Mar 19,
Posted by: Hal
Check out my article in the Walrus, The Other Porn Addiction. It’s about women who expose themselves online. It explores their motivations and the possible reprecussions of their ‘hobby’. It starts off with a scene from the Red Clouds dinner party some of you might remember me writing about in this blog last year. Anyway, let me know what you think.
Oh and there’s also an interview with me about the article, also up on the Walrus site, done by the very smart Toronto writer Stacey May Fowles. So check that out too.
Above: Illustration by Virginia Johnson.
Comments: -49-, Add yours…