Sunday, January 30, 2011

How To Get What You Want

This post deals with several methods my sisters and I used (in some ways we still do use them) to get what we wanted from our parents. First I will deal with the tactics each of us used the most followed by the strategy I found to be most effective. Hopefully you will find my observations and conclusions entertaining, if not useful.

The Fight Back Method
This method was most often employed by my older sister, but we all used it at some point in our lives. It also never worked. No matter how strong your logic and reasoning, or how loud you yelled, there was no way you could win against my mom. But that didn’t stop my older sister from trying. She would yell until she was blue in the face repeating the same points over and over again while my mother would do likewise. It was an exercise in futility, but I suppose it was an exercise nonetheless. Perhaps the most memorable example of this stratagem involves my baby sister. She came home from a really, really, really bad day and really, really, really wanted whipped cream on her hot chocolate, but my mom was having none of that. The ensuing spat made everybody else in my family flee to the basement in raucous laughter and clearly illustrated just how redundant this method had become.

The Hissy Fit Method
This is something of a variation on the previous method, but doesn’t require you to say anything intelligible. Instead you just scream at the top or your lungs while writhing around on the floor. This a rather babyish approach to problem solving, and not so surprisingly it was always my baby sister who used it. At her peak, she could hit the ground faster than you could say, “No,” and she could scream like a banshee with a megaphone. Eventually though, instead of inducing headaches, this strategy would merely induce laughter. For a while she thought that screaming harder would get us to see the error in our ways, but we weren’t buying it, and so she grew out of it.

The Seclusion Method
I had exclusive rights to this method which I’m proud to say, for a time, was the most effective of all our tactics to get what we wanted. Essentially, whenever something was unfairly forbidden to me, I’d get all mopey and lock myself up in my room. I’d stay there for hours on end or until my parents felt so guilty that they came up and just gave me the candy. Often they’d even apologize to me, despite the fact that I was the one being a whiny bitch. It was great until it got the point where it was more of blessing than a curse to have me out of the way for a couple hours. It was around this time that I stopped doing this, and moved on to a far more simple and elegant solution.

The “Fuck It” Method
Sometime in high school, I discovered that rather than fighting over something I wanted, it was far easier just to take it. This was coupled with the realization that everything we were fighting over was so petty and pointless it really wasn’t worth the effort. Nowhere was the lesson more greatly learned than on the same day my sister and mom had the whipped cream fight. There was a box of chocolates that my mom had specifically told me not to open, but I said, “Fuck it,” and ate some anyway. After the aforementioned argument had died down, my mother say the open box of chocolates and asked, “Who opened these?” to which I admitted my guilt. “Oh well,” she said and ate one herself. It was then that I realized that instead of dividing ourselves over silly arguments, we should unite ourselves in chocolaty goodness.

Bonus points to whoever had (or has) their own creative method of problem solving, or has an entertaining story about a silly argument.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Elder Dragons Saga

The tale I have to tell is a rather strange one though it is true. It is a story of power, deception, creativity, and much douchebaggery. On that note, there isn’t really a hero to this story and nobody comes out looking very good in the end, and that includes myself who played a key role in these events. Unfortunately, I have an incomplete picture of everything that occurred, so I shall try only to tell what I know and limit speculation. Also certain names have been changed to minimalize potential embarrassment for certain peoples. With that disclaimer out of the way, I now present to you the story of The Elder Dragons.

Our story begins when I was about halfway through my high school career. I was sitting in class one day when an acquaintance of mine, Jason McAvoy, began showing me some conceptual drawings he’d been working on for something he called “The Elder Dragons.” This would be the first time I’d hear of his little pet project, but certainly not the last. The drawings were of your generic high fantasy stuff: castles, swords, and of course dragons. He then told me that he planned to turn his idea into a movie. And not just a private, for fun kind of home movie, but an actual big-budget, full-fledged, feature film. I didn’t take him all that seriously mostly because he was half my size and a bit of a wiener, but I by no means disliked him. I just thought he was eccentric. Anyway, he continued to work on his drawings and I continued to not pay him any heed.

A while later he began to organize people together to help him work on his dream project and turn it into a reality. He approached me to get in on this, but I refused for a number of reasons. One, the whole movie seemed like a lame ripoff of Lord of the Rings. Two, the whole idea of a bunch of high school students trying to make a fantasy film seemed utterly ridiculous. And three, I didn’t really trust Jason all that much and didn’t want to be working for him under any circumstances. I had discovered that he was something of a compulsive liar, and he seemed to have something of a Napoleonic complex. He wanted to be big, not in terms of physical size, but in terms of being powerful, popular, and respected. This whole film project just seemed to be another attempt to accomplish this goal. Of course, I didn’t say any of this too him. I just said, “No thanks,” and walked away, but several of my friends went along with it and they tried to convince me to join a couple more times, but I refused and eventually they left me alone.

For some time thereafter, I didn’t hear of or have much to with anything involving The Elder Dragons. Every now and then a story about freaks and geeks running around outside Jason’s house swinging cardboard swords about would reach my ears, but otherwise I had no idea what was going on. But then I received tantalizing information from an unlikely source: my younger sister. Through one of her close friends she had discovered The Elder Dragons forum where people working on the film discussed meeting times and ideas for the movie. It also housed most of the lore and work they had done so far. A section dedicated to nomenclature, the script that they had written so far, and the background history of the world were all there for all to see and they were all quite entertaining and silly. But by far the best part was the message board itself. It started off innocently enough, but as you scrolled through the posts, it became increasingly apparent that Jason was beginning to lose it. At this point my sister told me a rather creepy story of how Jason was having trouble with some young female members in his group (a popular joke at the time amoungst his detractors that off of his size and preference in women was “Why does Jason McAvoy like grade eight girls so much? Because he’s eye level with their breast.”), one of whom was the sister of my sister’s friend who told her about the forum. I don’t know exactly what happened, but I do know that there was a rather large falling out that ended with a bizarre phone call directed to the mother of my sister’s friend telling her how horrible her daughters were on the answering machine. At the end of the message he said, “Think about it.” We are yet to decipher exactly what he meant by that. Rather than keeping this private however, Jason took it to the forums where he said many strange things the most memorable of which was when he banned anybody involved with the film from speaking to any of the girls or else they would be kicked off the production. As the days went by, we also noticed that he’d go through and edit or remove any posts that made him look bad, including those he wrote himself. As if to cement his Big Brother-like behaviour, instead of being labeled the director or producer, he had taken to calling himself “Project Manager.”

I found this all very amusing and decided to share it with some of my friends. One day I was at the computer lab at lunch with my friend, Zach, and we decided to have a little fun and began posting our own messages on the forum. We wanted to create a fake identity to be the author of all our posts and that this identity should be a parody of Jason, his odd behaviour, and his pretentions to power. Thus, in an astounding act of refinement and maturity, we called our character The King of Poop. Our first post was a parody of his post where he banned people from speaking to the girls. It went something to the effect of, “We hereby forbid anybody from speaking to the Project Manager on account of he is a douchebag. Failure to comply will result in immediate banishment. – The King of Poop. P.S. Think about it.” We followed up this comedic gem with two pages worth of posts where we simply repeated, “I’m a raging pedophile. Think about it. – The King of Poop,” over and over again. Truly we were comic geniuses. Actually, that’s a horrible lie. We were trolls, plain and simple. Cruel, vindictive trolls. But we were getting lols out of it so we didn’t care.

Over the next couple days we began working on an epic story for The King of Poop where he set off on an adventure to find the Elder Dragons and molest children. Sadly, only two or three installments in, the forum was taken down entirely and replaced with a lengthy message from the Project Manager where he denounced our behaviour and was in general a massive hypocrite. It was also apparent in the message that he thought the minds behind the King of Poop were the girls he had ostracized, which I suppose is natural assumption for why should he suspect me, but I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed. The whole piece was incredibly hilarious and it is one of greatest regrets in life that I did not print off a hard copy. A few days later he took down the message, and the next day at school I was to discover why. That day, Jason McAvoy followed me around pretty much wherever I went. Whenever I got out of class, there he was. He’d stand close to me, glowering, and say “Hello, Tristan,” in what I believe was an attempt to appear intimidating, but as I’ve said earlier, he’s rather small so it didn’t really work. It was obvious he had found out the truth behind The King of Poop, but I didn’t say anything to acknowledge that fact until the end of the day when I essentially told him it was all a joke, no hard feelings. He left me alone after that, though I doubt he shared my sense of humour. A brief investigation revealed that my friend, Damian, had told him the truth for which I was mildly disappointed in him before realizing that I didn’t care at all.

A few months later I asked my friend Kevin, who was involved with the project, what had happened on the inside. He didn’t have anything to say involving the girls, but he did say that Jason had behaved more and more peculiar as the project went on to the point where he was effectively not working on it at all. He made such bizarre contributions as suggesting that they put the climax at the start of the film and have the rest be denouement because, “It had never been done before.” My trolling and his response did not improve matters and eventually he lost the faith and respect of everybody. They gave up on actually filming their movie and decided just to write the script with the intention of maybe sending it off to an actual producer or something. Eventually, even that died out. Nowadays, the only thing I regret more than not printing off that diatribe, was not just being contemptuous of their creative efforts, but actively trying to shut it down. Sure, Jason was an egomaniac who needed to be taken down a peg, but everybody else working on the project was just trying to have fun. I may not have been the cause of the downfall of The Elder Dragons, but I was certainly a catalyst. But that being said, it was pretty funny.

Bonus points to whoever can come up with a good joke about short people.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Rock Swings by Paul Anka

Paul Anka is an influential singer/songwriter of the 20th century most closely associated with swing who just happens to be Canadian (point us). He’s written such memorable songs as “My Way”, “Put Your Head on my Shoulder”, and “She’s a Lady.” But once the 21st century rolled along, I guess he started to feel behind the times so in 2006 he released an album entitled Rock Swings composed entirely of hit rock songs from the 80’s and 90’s performed swing style. How he thought this would make him seem relevant is unknown, but one thing’s for certain: the results are hilarious. I present to you a selection of songs from that album that I find particularly enjoyable.

Eye of the Tiger (original by Survivor)
Whenever I listen to this cover, I picture Rocky going through his famous training montage. But instead of practicing to be a better boxer, he’s training for a segue race. I get more pumped up from listening to Sourdough Slim the yodeling cowboy. Paul Anka took the song that practically everybody associates with exercise and perseverance, and turns it into something so tame that even your grandparents would get bored of it after thirty seconds. In an effort to combine the music of two generations, Anka fails to appeal to either. This is the first of many times where he completely misses the point to a song and fails to realize what the song is about or what made it popular in the first place.

Eyes without a Face (original by Billy Idol)
“Eyes without a Face” is a song about barely repressed anger so of course, Paul Anka gives it the mellow treatment. It’s so relaxed that the in the video I linked to you, somebody synched it up with their European vacation photos. He replaces the bitchin’ guitar solo with what appears to be a ukulele and he skips over several of the verses that follow it. Clearly, Anka desperately wanted this tune to be a love song and he wasn’t going to let things like reality stand in the way of his vision. I don’t know what’s worse: how bad his misinterpretation of the song is, or the fact that he thought it was a good idea. My favourite little touch: after one of the refrains he whispers, “I miss you.” Seriously?

Jump (original by Van Halen)
Right off the bat this song is a complete joke. It begins with a couple pitiful little toots on the horn in what can only be described as the most laughably depressing attempt to imitate a popular tune. Somehow, Paul Anka manages to take this all time low and dig a crawlspace beneath it. In what is supposed to be a high-energy song, Anka decides to see how it would sound if you sang it lethargically. Unsurprisingly, the result is a terrible song that goes against everything the original stood for. This may actually give Johnny Cash’s “Little Drummer Boy” a run for its money as the most apathetic rendition of a classic song. The best (or worst) part is when he says (he doesn’t really sing) the “Jump” part of the song. Each time it is accentuated by a male chorus repeating the line as if to emphasize just how pathetic this song is.

Black Hole Sun (original by Soundgarden)
Okay, so it opens with some sad violin music. I don’t see how that has anything to do with the original song which as far as I can tell is about tripping balls and maybe consumerism, but I’ll roll with it for now. And then the piano plays and he starts to sing, at which point it becomes apparent that Paul Anka decided to make this into the “intimate” song on the album. Why “Black Hole Sun”? Well, why the fuck not, I guess. It makes just about as much sense as anything else on this album. Wait, what’s the piano doing now? Oh, shit. For no apparent reason, things just got jazzy. Well at least it’s not over-the-top, because that would just be ridiculous given what this song is about. Ah, hell. I spoke too soon. I wonder how it will end. OMFG!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Smells like Teen Spirit (original by Nirvana)
Listening to the instrumental opening of this song, never in a million years would I have guessed that it would somehow lead into “Smells like Teen Spirit,” the definitive grunge anthem. And even once it gets going it takes me a minute to figure out what it is I’m listening to. If this cover proves anything, it’s that grunge and swing are fundamentally at odds with one another and share no overlap. On no level does this make any sense. Its existence staggers my mind. Can somebody please tell me what this is? Why would Paul Anka do this? The fact that he made this song clearly demonstrates that he doesn’t understand grunge. And why would the remainder of Nirvana let this happen? For the lols?

Paul, I think you should have quit while you were ahead. Much in the same way that Christmas in the Heart made Bob Dylan look like a complete joke after a long, distinguished career, Rock Swings has made you into a laughing stock, and shall forever be emblematic of your failure.

Bonus points to whoever can think of something they’d rather do than listen to Rock Swings.