(Originally published in the Weal.)
The winter holidays—a time for joy, family, warmth, happiness, and crippling debt. Sounds like good ol’ fashioned Christmas cheer, right?
According to the Bank of Montreal’s annual Holiday Spending Outlook, Canadians are planning to spend an average of 15 per cent more this year ($1,610, up from 2011’s $1,397). One in five respondents didn’t plan on budgeting at all, and more than half said they make impulsive purchases. In contrast – according to Statistics Canada, the average Canadian makes $883 a week. So, that’s half a month’s salary for just one day of presents.
It might be worth it if the money was being put to good use – but it doesn’t seem like it. In America alone, a study by Stanford University found that the extra waste from wrapping and thrown out gifts during the winter holidays amounts to one million extra tons of waste per week, or an additional 25 per cent of the country’s trash.
The problem is pretty universal in the first world – 53 per cent of Australians throw away at least one Christmas gift each Christmas season, according to a survey done by eBay.
Someone, somewhere along the line made a holiday that was traditionally about people, into a corporate monster, emptying pockets and dirtying the environment.
If you suspect that your holiday is going to consist of forcing a smile to assuage the guilt when you open a sweater from your grandmother that clearly cost a fortune but only your eight-year-old self could love— there’s a better solution.
‘Alternate giving’ is a great trend on the rise. Instead of giving a gift, you give a donation to a charity or non-profit in the name of whoever is on the receiving end. They can be less expensive (a few dollars goes a long way to someone in need), reduce the pesky shopping spree when you don’t know what to buy for someone, and don’t involve any wasted products or packaging. You can even choose something personal – for an animal lover, why not make a donation to a local no-kill shelter? Plus, you can claim it on your taxes!
If you’re dreading another season of buying boxes of tacky holiday themed treats, and receiving even more that will barely pause in your hands before being tossed or re-gifted, consider asking your friends and family to make a donation on your behalf instead. Perhaps you’ll even inspire others to do the same.
(Photos by Brett Rieger.)
There was a lot of awesome going around at the Calgary Public Library’s Central Library location on Nov. 22. Calgary’s chapter of the Awesome Foundation, in conjunction with One Book One Calgary, decided to hold their monthly Pitch Night in the south main atrium of the library.
The Awesome Foundation lives up to its name pretty well – the organization wants to promote awesome, in any form it may take. On Pitch Night, which takes place on the fourth Thursday of each month, the group picks four finalists (out of those that have previously submitted their awesome ideas online) to try and prove that they deserve a $1000 prize (provided by the awesome foundation’s trustees. Each finalist has 90 seconds to pitch their idea – Dragons’ Den style – and at the end the floor is open to the trustees and audience to ask questions. At the end of the night, the winner receives $1000 in cash – no strings attached.
Small disclaimer: I’m totally a member of the awesome foundation team, but I’m receiving no compensation to brag about how great they are – free money and a fun new community of creative people? There’s everything to like!
If you’re interested in applying for a future awesome micro-grant, you can visit their website here: http://www.awesomecalgary.org/
Originally published in the Weal. Click for a larger view.
(Originally published in the Weal.)
At first glance, masculine stereotypes seem like an enormously positive thing. Men, at least in Western culture, are expected to be strong, brave, hard-working, stoic, and assertive. They promote qualities that many people aspire to. Just below the surface, however, are some less-than-fun connotations to those expectations – ‘strong’ can mean confrontational; ‘brave’ means boys often are afraid to show fear or sensitivity; ‘hard-working’ can force men to feel weak if they need to take a break; ‘stoicism’ tells men that they are expected to hide their emotions; and ‘assertiveness’ can lead to bullying or abuses of power.
The American Civil Liberties Union prepared a report in May 2012 to assess the growing trend of schools being separated by gender. The report found that not only are perceived differences in how different genders learn a total myth, but it can often be harmful to teach kids based on their gender stereotypes.
In one all-boys classroom, a teacher suggested yelling at students, giving them action books to read, and allowing them to run around and hit each other with Nerf bats to blow off steam, while for an all-girls classroom, students were suggested to quietly decorate their notes with gel pens. In response to their findings, which the report describes as “troubling,” they launched a campaign called Teach Kids, Not Gender.
Even in the media, men are often shown as stupid and brutish. If every commercial that relied on punch-lines involving men being lazy, rude, or selfish, donated a dollar to a charity for men’s rights, we’d probably be in a much better place right now in terms of male representations in television and film.
Unfortunately, male stereotypes are harmful, and men often don’t think about it. Why would they? Men never had the equivalent of a feminist movement, and let’s face it, they do occupy a privileged position in society – giving them few reasons to even worry about gender in the way many women do. However, those stereotypes about men being less nurturing and more violent become a little more serious when a single dad is trying to win a custody battle for his kids. According to the 2009 US census, only 16 per cent of divorced men are able to win custody of their children – and I’d bet many more of them are capable parents.
Outdated gender stereotypes harm everyone, and if we can start thinking in terms of gender equality rather than holding people to false dichotomies, we’ll all be better off.
(Photo by Brent Calver.)
Innovation, creativity, industriousness, innovation – Ben Reed has a lot going on. The co-founder of Maker Faire and former director at Protospace will be speaking as a part of One Book, One Calgary, about some of the amazing initiatives and projects he’s discovered happening in Calgary at the Central Library’s John Dutton Theatre, November 27, 7:00 p.m.
According to Ben, this degree of innovation and hard work is unique to Calgary. He cited that’s it’s a city with “the most engineers per capita” of any city in North America. The mixtures of technical knowledge and desire to build and create means that the city has “more people hungry for knowledge, and sharing knowledge” than anywhere else. Protospace, a community prototyping lab in north east Calgary that Ben is a member of, has “initiatives springing out” of it almost constantly.
Ben says that the key to this kind of innovation is cooperation. “When you cooperate with others with no selfish expectations, results are beneficial to more parties involved. ”
Read more at Calgary is Awesome.
(This piece was originally published in the Weal, for a segment in which all editors were asked to define their thoughts on modern masculinity. You can read the other editors’ responses on theweal.com.)
Masculinity is no longer relevant. We’re past the age of idealizing Doc Savage, James Bond, Indiana Jones, for all of their perceived ‘manly’ qualities. The word creates a dualism – everything that isn’t feminine. Those two terms can’t exist as opposites to each other.
Most of us are made up of a variety of qualities that fluctuate somewhere between the two – I would challenge anyone who says that a competitive chef in a fast-paced kitchen is somehow a more masculine (he’s powerful, works hard) or more feminine (she provides, takes care of people by feeding them) career.
Those associations that traditionally have defined masculinity and femininity are relatively recent, and definitely Western. There is no standard definition of what masculinity truly is that can apply across the board, no matter what age, culture, or time period a man lives in.
That leaves one obvious sign of masculinity – your physical sex. Unfortunately, that’s also not a foolproof test for manliness. Some people born physically male (cisgendered) identify as female, or no gender at all. And the physical characteristics of what a ‘man’ is don’t apply to everyone – according to the InterSex Society of North America, one in 100 people born have a body that differs from standard male or female.
If you are looking to use manhood or masculinity to cement your idea of who you are and what your role is in society, look elsewhere. There’s one easy way to find good traits to aspire to and set a standard for yourself – find a person that inspires you, and aim to emulate their best human qualities, not strive to a false masculine idea.
(Photos courtesy the Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library-Calgary Public Library.)
The Fish Creek Library is the library I grew up with. I developed a pretty regular routine during the summers as a kid – cycling there, grabbing as many books as I could fit and rushing off for home, returning a few weeks later to shamefully pay my egregious late fees with my allowance and grab another stack of books.
Few things have changed about my love of the library over the years – now I visit the Central Library or Louise Riley branches the most frequently, and I’m paying off those late fees on my debit card (sorry librarians, I still can’t keep track of time when my nose is in a good book).
The library is pretty magical – how a place can simultaneously be a secluded isle of calm and a bustling hub for learning is absolutely beyond me. In honour of the Library’s 100 year anniversary, and their One Book, One Calgary program celebrating Awesomeness, here are a few neat facts and reasons on why the Calgary Public Library is awesome:
Read more at Calgary is Awesome.
5 Dec 2012 / 1 note
(Photos by Brett Rieger.)
“Calgary is the centre of a new renaissance,” – and Dr. Patrick Finn certainly fits in to his idea of Calgary. One of Avenue Magazine’s 40 under 40, the professor, writer, designer, and self-described computer geek is somewhat of a renaissance man himself, not just the “strange bald man driving a smart car who works at the university” that he likes to describe himself as.
Finn seems to have struck a perfect balance between ambitious and happy, and he shared some of his tips with a thrilled crowd of around 50 that filled the John Dutton Theatre for the closing event of One Book, One Calgary.
The talk was a compilation of his previous presentations as part of the program, all centering on the theme of happiness. He started by touching on some central themes from The Book of Awesome, by Canadian author Neil Pasricha, namely the importance of attitude, awareness, and authenticity. He then moved on to give mini-versions of his four talks – covering non-work life, the science of happiness, the truth about creativity, and awesomeness.
Read more at Calgary is Awesome.
(Originally published in The Weal.)
A bit of hedonism goes a long way
Bad things are always more fun. No kid would ever choose broccoli over candy. The former is good for you, and the latter leads to not-so-fun consequences like obesity and rotten teeth – but nine times out of 10 when presented with the two options, a kid would have the candy unwrapped before you can say “diabetes.”
Of course, adults definitely have their vices as well. At its worst, a vice is an addiction, and can be a pretty dangerous thing. However, at its best (when it’s indulged in infrequently), it’s shamefully referred to as a guilty pleasure.
Some even avoid that designation – although, those yoga-clad, raw-food diet, better-than-thou health freaks are probably indulging in their guilty pleasures in secret to keep up appearances.
There shouldn’t be so much shame around indulging— whether it’s a couple beers after work, a mad weekend of Halo 4 fuelled by energy drinks, or a ‘lasagna’ dinner made with Doritos, Cheez Whiz, and bacon. As long as you’re only letting your hedonist flag fly every once in a blue moon, there’s no reason to be ashamed. Adults don’t need mom and dad to sit them at the table and force them to eat that plate of broccoli – they go through all the non-fun aspects of life every day, which is why they deserve a reward. Work hard, play hard, right?
This isn’t just justification for lazy and unhealthy behaviour – indulging can help you de-stress, and leads to a better quality of life. According to a 2010 survey by the American Psychological Association, 54 per cent of people are concerned about the level of stress in their lives and its effect on their health. The same survey said that some of the most popular ways to manage stress are eating, drinking, watching TV, and playing video games. More relaxation, less stress, more happiness.
So go ahead – indulge your vice.
(The Weal only endorses mild vices such as an extra-cheesy-cheeseburger. If you read the above and your mind immediately jumped to hard drugs, you’re definitely reading the wrong article).
Over at Calgary is Awesome, we’re giving away four tickets to the Calgary premiere of Canadian comedy-horror film Mon ami. Click here to win tickets!
8 Nov 2012 / 0 notes
Sure, Calgary’s awesome now – but it used to be too. Just ask Calgary Heritage Authority’s Historian Laureate, Harry Sanders. Harry has devoted his life to exploring Calgary’s history. He’s written six books on the subject, a series of columns for the Calgary Sun, taught listeners with his ‘Harry the Historian’ show on CBC Radio, and worked as an interpreter and an archivist at different point in his career.
Lately, Harry’s been exploring and sharing some of his favourite things about Calgary’s past on twitter. Lonnie Taylor, one of Calgary 2012′s Cultural ambassadors started a twitter thread (#CalgaryRetro) to share neat facts and photographs about retro Calgary. “Some of my favourite include the Buckshot show (I was a guest for my fourth birthday in 1970), buying comic books at Jaffe’s Book and Music Exchange (now the site of the Epcor Centre for the Performing Arts), and swinging from a rope tied to a big old tree on the Elbow riverbank at Lindsay Park,” said Harry.
Over the years, Harry has collected a ton of fun historical facts – and tonight (Tuesday, Nov. 6) he’ll be sharing them with you! Swing by Memorial Park Library at 7:00 p.m. to hear Harry reminisce about 100 Awesome Things from Calgary’s past. And, Harry would like to add, Calgary is just going to keep getting more awesome in the future.
“What’s most awesome to me is the affection many Calgarians have for the city’s history and its heritage buildings and sites. Calgary has always had a fascinating past, and now more than ever, I believe that the city’s heritage is taking its rightful place in the public’s imagination.”
Read more at Calgary is Awesome.
7 Nov 2012 / 1 note
This month I’ll be publishing a series of articles as the beat writer for the Calgary Public Library’s One Book, One Calgary program. The first article is up at Calgary is Awesome - stay tuned to our site for awesome events happening all November.
31 Oct 2012 / 0 notes
If trustees approve a new plan introduced in September by the Calgary Board of Education, kids could soon be studying for a math test in the Pepsi Library.
It seems a lot like something out of a science fiction novel. In Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, student projects and schools are sponsored by corporations that snap up the brightest pupils as employees and keep many of the others as life-long customers. It’s not a pretty picture, and one that if implemented could definitely lead down a slippery slope.
The proposed plan, which would allow corporate naming of spaces inside schools, would help individual schools to rely less on the board for funding.
The CBE says that they will have regulations in place, such as thoroughly vetting an organization or corporation that wishes to sponsor a classroom. The trustees will have the ultimate say in each case of sponsorship, and they can veto their decision at any time.
The extra funds would go towards career and technology style programs at school – for example, the latest labs with shiny new equipment could be named after a pharmaceutical company.
Read more at The Weal.
31 Oct 2012 / 0 notes
Photographer: Stacy Wong (http://www.sawphotography.ca/)
(Originally posted at Calgary is Awesome.)
At CIFF’s black carpet gala on Sept. 28, the line-ups wrapped around the block for the Globe theatre. It was no shock – Brandon Cronenberg (yes, the son of that Cronenberg) was on scene with his debut film Antiviral, a dark, satirical, thriller with plenty of twisted imagery that harkens back to The Fly.
The film follows Syd March (X-Men’s Caleb Landry Jones), an employee of a clinic that harvests celebrity sickness to infect fans. He infects himself with the virus that killed a celebrity, and suddenly finds him himself a target – and perhaps a victim of the virus.
I chatted with Brandon about the film and his first visit to Calgary. Stay tuned for part two of the discussion.
What came first, the sickness or celebrity angle when you were writing the film?
It was the sickness aspect. I started writing it in 2004, I had just started film school. I had got this fairly bad flu and I just started having this fever dream, where I was obsessing over the physical nature of my illness and the weird fact that I had a virus in my body that had come from someone else’s body.
Then I tried to think of a character that could see this disease as something intimate, and I thought of a celebrity obsessed person who could see getting Angelina Jolie’s cold as a good thing.
I’ve noticed that they often show sickness in films from a primarily psychological side. Why did you feel that body horror was the right fit for this story?
I’m not sure! I didn’t set out to specifically make a body horror film. The body stuff was partly to dramatize the illness, but also the sort of physical celebrity fetishes that I wanted to mirror in the film.
So, let’s say hypothetically you have to inject yourself with a celebrity’s disease. Who would you pick?
Anyone who’s offering.
Watching the movie, I noticed that I started to feel culpable, like I was perpetuating this celebrity fandom. Did you try to bring in that sense of voyeurism?
Yeah, definitely. I mean, there’s a very interesting play between what we were criticizing and what we were doing. For Sara Gadon, for instance, she had to be fetishized and become that sort of icon in order to discuss fetishization. And saturate it.
For instance, later in the film, there’s that slow motion shot of Hannah Geist being made up by her people, being sort of ‘prepared’. That was actually footage we got accidentally as Sara was being touched up for a photo shoot – it was kind of a meta nod to what we were doing.
That was a scene where I really noticed the parallels between losing control of your body, and the very controlled, clean shots you used as a filmmaker.
To a certain extent, the shot construction sort of mirrors that vibe between celebrity non-human media constructs and the physical human being.
27 Oct 2012 / 3 notes
Are we really alone in the universe?
Or is there life out there beyond the stars.
Maybe, according to the experts who participated in a U of C Science Cafe event Oct. 4 at TELUS Spark.
The event, which was titled The Great Space Debate, was held as part of TELUS Spark’s Astronomy Night, which runs on the first Thursday of the month.
Science Cafés are held monthly between September and May each year, on the fourth Tuesday of each month at Inglewood’s Ironwood Stage and Grill.
The forums are held as an alternative to staid lecture series. Each Café features a new topic, with experts in the field arguing their different takes on the material, moderated by someone who is also informed on the subject at hand.
Read more at The Press.
26 Oct 2012 / 0 notes