Archives for the month of: November, 2012

Irregardless is not a word.  Irrespective is a word.  Irrigardless will not become a word, it will not appear in the dictionary irrespective of now many times you say it.  Putting an “i” at the beginning of a word is what’s called a negative prefix.  It turns a word into its negative form.  Irresponsible, for example, is the opposite of responsible.  Irrespective means not respective, or to not take something into account.  I’ll use it in a sentence:

“I am going to keep writing mean thing about language irrespective of your feelings.”

Putting less on the end of a word is a negative suffix.  You take a word like gut, brain, thought, wit, and ad less to get gutless, brainless, thoughtless, or witless.  Oddly enough, all these words describe people who say irregardless.  It already means without regard.  Therefore to put an “i” at the beginning gives you a double negative.  Irregardless means “not without regard”.  I’ll use it in a sentence as if it were a real word:

“Irregardless of your plans for this friday, are you free for dinner?”

You see?  It’s stupid!  And that’s using it correctly, which no one ever has because we already have a word for “not without regard” and it works pretty well.  So stop saying it.  It means exactly the opposite of what you think it does and it’s hard to be more wrong than totally and completely wrong.

Just to put things in perspective: if you meant to go to the grocery store and you ended up at the cleaners, you were pretty wrong.  If you meant to go to the grocery store and you ended up at the bottom of the India Ocean you were really very wrong.  Saying irregardless is like being as wrong as it is possible to be wrong, like ending up in the farthest corner of the universe on your way to the grocery store.  So stop.

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In an attempt to improve my fellow humans, I have decided to start cataloguing all the little things that are wrong with the way people speak English.

Today we feature the word: UNDOUBTEDLY

This is not a problem with written english but with pronunciation.  Most people say UN-DOUBT-AB-LY as though whatever you are referring to could not be doubted, it is not able to be doubted.  But really, everything is doubtable so there is no such thing as undoubtable and thus no such thing as undoubtably.

The proper pronunciation is UN-DOUBT-ED-LY  (UN-DOW-TED-LEE) which refers to something that is not doubted.  This makes a lot more sense.  There are loads of things that are not doubted, or at least not usually.

So there you have it.  It’s become rather posh to be a language snob and correct others.  It gives people something to feel superior about.  But no matter how many mistakes you find in other people’s language, I’ll try my best to find faults in yours (and revel in my own superiority).  I do realize that this makes me a target for all kinds of scrutiny and corrective eyes, but I seek to improve my own knowledge of written and spoken English so bring it on.

So did I catch you?  Are you an erudite wordsmith who can’t pronounce undoubtedly?  Feel free to keep score.  There’s more to come.

Warning fellow Torontonians!  The city is under attack.  Cowboys are invading our bastion of bohemian hedonism and spineless liberalism.  In my three months here I’ve never seen a cowboy hat or boots or anything else cowboy until two days ago.  Western Canada has been saving up their oil money to fund a cowboy coup in Ontario.  Run for your life Dalton McGuinty!  RUN!

Oh…

As I write this , one of my advisors has informed me that the Grey Cup is on right now.  They have also informed me that the Grey Cup is an important invent in a sport known in the United States as foot ball.  Oh yes it’s all coming back to me.  I remember hearing some young urbanites just the other day pretending to like foot ball, though they were utterly confused by how little the players used their feet

I guess we can lower red alert.  It’s just a bunch of football fans from Calgary who have made the trip to the big smoke to watch the game.  Here’s s proud western man dressed like a buffalo hunter strutting his stuff down Bay St.  Showing Toronto a glimpse of western history and culture.And here’s two fat cowboys stuffing their faces with Big Macs.

Now I understand why Justin Trudeau chose this moment to go to Calgary and insult Albertans: all of the loud obnoxious lynch-mob types are in Toronto busy watching football!

All jokes aside though, thousands of people from Calgary have come to Toronto dressed in what I assume are stereotypical western costumes, at least I hope they don’t dress that way normally.  What does that say about our national unity?  It was realized a long time ago that sports rivalries are a 20th century replacement for violent 19th century nationalism.  Why do my fellow Canadians peacock around like they want everyone to know that they’re different, that they’re not us?  It’s not healthy!  I know there is a real cultural divide between the conservative provinces in the middle of the country and more liberal ones on either side.  I think it’s because western Canada watches SUN news and  we listen to, well real news stations.  (That’s not fair now is it?  As Stephen Colbert said, “Reality has a well known liberal bias!”) But identifying as a small group within a country is bad for the country as a whole.  There ought to be a plurality of opinion between Canadians, not two factions fighting each other.  Football is just symbolic of deeper problems.

It’s also very possible that I’m making a big deal out of a football game!  But who’s to say?

But what do you think?  Does it hurt Canadian unity if you identify strongly with a geographical and political identity rather than a National one?

Toronto is beginning to light up with non-denominational holiday decorations to keep us upbeat through the bitter cold of winter.  One decoration in particular caught my eye.

Like the white tree of Gondor, this amazing sculpture stands on a tiny citadel at the corner of Bay and Bloor.  You can see just how much brighter it is than everything else around.  I love this thing.  It just goes to show that you don’t have to celebrate christmas to celebrate the beauty of life in the deepest darkest part of winter.  Evergreen boughs, holly, feasting with your friends and family at the winter solstice (or close anyways), all symbols of growth and virility saying a big “bite me” to the deathly cold outside.  It may sound masochistic but that’s what the holidays are about for me: sticking it to the cold, thriving and celebrating in spite of the death and emptiness all around you.

And that’s what this tree says to me.  Winter may be dark, the beautiful leaves may have fallen and turned to muck, every living thing may whither and die but that doesn’t mean we have to lose hope or cheer.  We’ll get through it like we always have because we’re tough and because our hearts are warmer than the winter is cold.

So tell me, what keeps you cheerful as the days get shorter and colder?

My favourite kind of shopping is shopping for other people.  For the past few weeks my brother Duncan has been looking for a watch.  He asked me for help in choosing the right one.  He gave me his price range and the following requirements:

  • It must have a good warranty.
  • It must be versatile enough to wear with jeans or a tuxedo.
  • It must not look cheap or cheesy.
  • I have to be able to play drums with it on.
  • It must be classic enough that it will look stylish for years to come.

Well I love a challenge!  After many hours of discussion (metal or leather, black or brown, electronic or mechanical, gold vs silver) and trips to dozens of stores, we finally found a watch that seems to fit every criteria.  Of course when you want one watch for every occasion, you make compromises for all of them.  However, I think we did an awesome job of fulfilling all of Duncan’s requirements.  Here’s what we found:The Nautica NCS 600 is a digitally controlled date watch with a chronograph measuring seconds and minutes.  It has a stainless steel case and band with a mineral crystal.  The most distinctive feature is the orange pusher on the bottom left which corresponds to the orange details on each chronograph sub-dial.  Most importantly, Duncan and I both agreed that this watch has the “I have a yacht” look, that is to say, it looks like an instrument, not an accessory.

Scale was also a consideration.  Giant watches and tiny watches are both common on the wrists of Toronto’s fashion-forward guys, but to keep it timeless, it’s best to stick right in the middle.  This piece is big enough to see clearly and small enough to fit inside your shirt cuff.  And to top it all off, it was on sale, has a five year warranty and came with a free satchel!

So it seems we’ve done it!  A great looking, versatile, timeless watch at a great price with a great warranty.  You can have it all!  Though I’m still waiting to hear from Duncan regarding its percussive compatibility.

What do you think?  Does this watch hit all the right notes?  Duncan sure seems to think so!

It was quite a change of pace when I gave up my old travel blog, como un pulpo en un garaje, to start this blog.  The old blog was all about Laura and I on mountaineering and hiking adventures in Spain; quite a contrast to arts, culture, and design in urban Canada.  But the alternate universe that is mountaineering has been rearing it’s ugly head in pop culture lately.  Sharp Magazine’s November 2012 issue featured a piece called “Above the Clouds” and the byline read:

     The latest generation of technical outerwear is functional enough for scaling the Swiss Alps, but stylish enough for everyday life.

Now I think that it’s awesome that everyday fashion is taking cues from mountaineering, particularly vintage mountaineering equipment.  Lots of the things that everyone is familiar with today, like the puffy down jacket, were invented for mountaineers.  It’s cool to see that the history of mountaineering has become a part of popular culture. (here it comes)

Here’s my only problem.  People who don’t climb mountains cannot be making proclamations about what you should wear to scale the Swiss Alps.  If I saw a climber dressed like one of these clowns, I would strongly urge them to go back to the chalet where these hip duds belong!

When you climb mountains, you’re often pushing the limits of your courage, your strength, and your determination.  Pragmatism is your only consideration in dressing yourself.  This isn’t just my opinion, it’s how it is in the mountains.  Besides, there’s barely anyone else there to see you so why do you need to like stylish anyway?

This is what I might wear if fashion were a consideration while mountain climbing.

This is the sort of ridiculous getup I might actually wear while climbing.  Note the horrible colours, unflattering fits, and nerdy backpack clips.

Because the beautiful thing about mountaineering and all adventure sports is that you get to escape the watchful eyes of peers and strangers; the eyes that urge you to be stylish and current.  While you’re adventuring, the only thing that matters is the adventure.  The image you’ve created for yourself disappears and what’s left is just you: ugly, exhausted, but honest.  If you look good while climbing a mountain, you’re doing it wrong.

So this is my message to the fashion world:

Continue to use mountaineering as an inspiration for new and innovative designs but don’t you dare pretend that your hiking-style boots are worthy of the wild.  They’re not.  True adventure is anti-fashion.

Now here’s a collection of pictures of mountaineers doing what they do best: looking ridiculous.

 

As you can see, I needed a haircut rather badly.  I had left my clippers back home in London so I had to go and buy a new hair cutting kit.  I thought that after many years of cutting my hair, I would share a few important tips.  If you do it right, it’s better than going to a salon.  If you do it wrong, well, you’ll end up bald.  Here’s what you need to know to be prepared:

1.  Be ready to mess it up.  It’s very easy to forget that you have the short trimmer attachment on and take a big chunk out accidentally.  If you’re like me, it’s not a big concern because the worst case scenario is a close buzz cut which looks pretty good.  Just make sure you’re prepared to go buzzed before you power up the clippers.

2.  Get two with mirrors.  You might think your new cut looks great, but without two mirrors, you’ll never know.  The back is just as important as the front.  The easiest thing to do is look into a hand mirror with your back to a big bathroom mirror.  It can be tricky, but with practice you’ll be a pro.

3.  Go slowly.  Start with the big attachment, like 1″, and work your way down to the little ones.  You might spend an hour cutting it, but it’s better than ending up with a do you don’t like.

4. Clean up.  Cutting hair is really messy.  Hair gets on everything.  Make sure you remove anything sitting out in the bathroom, like toothbrushes, take off most or all of your clothes, and have the broom and vacuum on hand.  When you’re done, clean the bathroom, then take a shower or the hair will go everywhere.  It’s just common courtesy.

5. Don’t worry about it.  It’s just hair.  It’ll grow back.  If you don’t like it you can cut it again tomorrow.  It doesn’t matter.  Just remember: if everyone else spends as much time thinking about themselves as you spend thinking about yourself, the no one else has any time to think about you.  So do what you want.

For some reason there is a stigma about cutting one’s own hair, as if only the poor and style-less would stoop so low.  I may be poor, but the reason I have cut my own hair so many times is because hair stylists never got it right.  I’ve gotten pretty good at cutting mine, so good that other people even let me cut theirs.  With some courage and some practice you’ll get exactly the cut you could never describe to your barber.

 

Not bad eh?  My apologies for not smiling.  I’ve learned that I’m unable to take my own picture without complete concentration, hence the mug shots.

A conversation between Sam Mendes and Christopher Nolan.

Mendes: Hey Chris, I’ve got some great ideas for the new Bond film, Skyfall, which I’m directing.

Nolan: Sounds great Sam.  Lets hear ’em.

Mendes: Well first, I was thinking we could have a villian who’s sort of crazy and walks with a swaggar.

Nolan:  I love it! Sounds just like the Dark Night!

Mendes: Then, after staging a perfectly planned attack on a government agency forcing them into an underground safe-house, the mad villain will be captured.

Nolan: Okay…

Mendes: But here’s the clincher.  He meant to be captured all along!  He has a brilliant but mad plan to escape, which he does!

Nolan: Sam, this sounds just like the dark night.

Mendes: Wait, wait, wait!  We’re getting to the best part!  All the while, the government is suspicious about MI6’s secretive ways and they’re trying get inside information.

Nolan: This really is just The Dark Knight.

Mendes: Oh!  Well…that could be a problem.  Wait, how much money did The Dark Knight make?

Nolan: A little over a billion dollars.

Mendes: Yah, I’m gunna stick with it.

So you may have guessed that I have a few complaints about the new Bond film, Skyfall. My first is that, as I indicated above, the plot is the same as Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, the first half of the movie anyways.  The second half we’ll get to later.  The Dark Knight was a great movie.  The problem is that Gotham City and the world that James Bond inhabits are not the same place.  In every previous bond, the villain has some mad scheme to take over the world and Bond shuts it down pretty casually.  This time I couldn’t figure out what the villain’s master plan was other than simply to watch the world burn and then I had to sit through one of Bond’s therapy sessions (gag).

My other big problem was that they just seemed to be trying so hard to be Bondy.  There were no beautiful cars at all except for a shameless scene featuring the Bond car, a ’65 Aston Martin DB5.  They even played the plinky guitar theme from the old movies, though it didn’t fit into the doom-and-gloom score at all.  Then the ride a beautiful yacht across a sparkling sea  only to arrive at a post-apocalyptic, dead city that looked like the end of conception.  They even chose a bond girl who looks like a 60s pinup, dressed her up in retro style, and then shot her in the face!  Then we had to glimpse into bond’s family history, watch M die, and see James Bond in ridiculous Scottish Hunting attire when he should have been in a tuxedo all along.

Overall, it was a total let down.  It was like a superhero movie with a thin veneer of Bondyness.  But to my surprise, it’s getting favourable reviews.  If that’s what the people want, then I suspect it’ll only get more hollywood in the future.  But everything comes full circle.  Eventually people will tire of angry music, crazy genius hackers, and earth shattering surprises and plot twists and return to enjoying the suits, the guns, the girls, and the silly, convoluted spy plots that I so love

I long for that day.

Like in architecture, scope is a crucial consideration in personal style.  I always strive to blend in from a distance and perfect the details.  From twenty feet off, I think I’m pretty plain.  I like people to notice my style when they get up close.

With this in mind, I was out looking for a new set of earphones, nothing fancy, just a pair to replace the broken set that came with my phone.  Here’s what I came up with:

When I saw these I had to have them.  They remind me of being a kid, when anything to do with guns was exciting.  I also love the idea of firing the music directly into my head.  They’re real metal too.  I am a little concerned that’ll be a problem when the weather gets really cold.  But as I said before, the best part is that they look normal from a distance but when you get close they have a little surprise.

Unfortunately they don’t sound very good.  But earphones aren’t meant to sound good, they’re meant to look cool…right?

I’ve been thinking about food lately.  Perhaps because I get hungry around dinner time and that’s often when I write posts.  Anyways, I’ve been thinking about organic, sugar-free, fat-free, no-trans-fats, free-range, low-in-sodium, and everything else they write on food labels to convince you that it’s better for you.  There’s one big one that seems to be ignored and that I thought ought to be the most important of them all: locally grown.  So I decided to pose a questions.  Which one is actually better if you had to choose: organic or local?

First lets talk about organic.  Many people believe that organic food is more nutritious.  It’s not.  Stanford did a study compiling the results of 237 studies which showed that besides slight increases in phosphorus and omega 3 fatty acids, organic food is no more nutritious than it’s non-organic counterparts.  You can read about that study here.  It’s a common misconception that organic food is more nourishing but it seems to be completely untrue.

The primary benefit of eating organic food seems to be a reduced intake of hormones and pesticides which scientists suspect may cause long term health problems.  Similarly, the overuse of antibiotics in farming has the potential to create antibiotic-resistant bacteria and cause illness in humans.  The one group that is effected immediately is pregnant women whose exposure to pesticides, antibiotics, and growth hormones can cause premature birth and lowered IQs in their offspring.  This is a very serious concern.

Now lets talk about buying local.  Local food, because it can be picked when it’s ripe, tastes better and is more nutritious than food that traveled a long way.  Thus it is both healthier and more delicious to eat locally grown produce.

More important is the environmental impact.  There is a metric called “food miles” which measures the distance a product travelled to get to your kitchen table.  According to the people at Sustainable Table, the average grocery store item in the USA travels nearly 1500 miles to reach the grocery store.  That apple probably isn’t going to be nearly as delicious or nutritious as a local apple.  But the real crime is that someone had to hire a big diesel truck to drive my apple 1500 miles.  Admittedly, transport makes up only a small part of the total carbon emissions from food production, (something like 12% in Britain) but it still must be taken seriously.  We should all pay the extra few cents to get food from as close to home as possible.  We also need to stop buying things out of season just because we like them.  Canadians want oranges in November? Suck it up and have pumpkin.  As Bill Gates pointed out to me in a harsh but clear TED talk, carbon emissions have to reach zero or we all die, probably in my lifetime.

In conclusion: when you’re at the supermarket, look for organic and local foods to buy. If you have to choose, choose local.  If you choose organic over local, you’re trading a decreased risk of health problems later in life for the death of us all and that is rather selfish wouldn’t you say?