Archive for the ‘ TheBytePost ’ Category

Sociology is Serious Business; Never Doubt That What You Do Makes A Difference

Date: November 1st, 2013

TheByteDaily

Sociology is Serious Business; Never Doubt That What You Do Makes A Difference

Hey man, I need help on a sociology paper. I have to write about four current issues in Canada and I can’t think of anything. Canada’s too perfect!”

You, sir, are in luck. Your country’s a mess and your government is in shambles; your world isn’t fairing much better, but we’re going to start small and see where we end up.

Three people you call senators are under investigation for monetary fraud while one of them is trying to systematically bring down your Prime Minister in what can only be called a revenge-fuelled blaze of glory. Your Prime Minister is denying being involved in any way, shape, or form, even though there seems to be several metric tons of paper trails that lead to him, his office, and the staff staffing his office. On top of all of this he’s got a racist foreign minister and enough people in his hand-picked senate that are unreliable, untrustworthy, or both.

Wonder about the official opposition and realize that your country has five parties to elect as its primary governing body. The party most of your fellows consider as their country’s natural governing body had – in the last federal election – its worst showing in history. For the first time, since the inception of your country, the “Natural Governing Party” has dipped below second place. What’s impressive is that the official majority’s leader is losing global battles regarding intolerance, war, hatred, prejudice, and inequality, while the Liberal Leader is busy trying to figure out whether to legalize or decriminalize pot.

I still genuinely can’t figure out what the official opposition is trying to accomplish – other than the downfall and eventual obliteration of the official majority.

Your country sits on the biggest untapped oil reserve in the world, and is involved in an oil pipeline project that your people have been actively protesting since its ideological inception. Worse yet is that your democratically elected environmental leaders are caught between increasing GDP and decreasing the mindless destruction of an entire ecosystem. Your fellows say no to the pipeline, but yes to the jobs because of an economic recession that they’ve barely overcome – and your politicians are caught in the middle trying to figure out what to do.

There’s a planned mining development in the James Bay Lowlands that will prove absolutely catastrophic to both the surrounding environment and the Aboriginal populations that have done nothing but suffer since the inception of this country’s initial foundations. People will suffer if this idea ever comes to fruition; living things, of all shapes and sizes will have their futures irrevocably altered for a scarce commodity that only guarantees short term profit at the risk of long term devastation.

Regardless of what a corporation might say, it’s in the business game; it’s nothing personal, I promise, but that’s tough to explain to the creatures who will receive no further answer than “Tough.”

You see, your country, just like every democracy, suffers due to the divisive dichotomy between profit and morality.

Sadly, when it comes to a large corporation like a country, it becomes almost impossible to produce an end result that satisfies both the consumer and the ethicist, so we settle for an end result that satisfies neither. The consumer feels the profits are too low, and the ethicist feels the complacency is too high. The environmentalist suffers as the Arctic melts while the oil baron is aghast as to why there aren’t more rigs in the Atlantic. This dichotomy divides both sides of the house, and splits the nation’s attitudes down the middle.

Every aspect of the democratic process is riddled with the bullet holes of profit and the stab wounds of morality. Since democracy is the only mode of government that seems to be equally unfair for everyone, instead of unequally fair for a few, every aspect of a democratic nation is dually torn between Righteousness and Money.

On top of all of this, there’s a heavy-set man overfilling the chair of leader of the biggest city in the country, and the press can’t help but make fun of his numerous public and political failures. The man’s only crime is having a troubled and public private life and being almost entirely ineffectual as a leader, and it seems that the newspapers are intent on asking for both his resignation and utter condemnation.

You, however, are a student getting an education and trying to do the best you possibly can. You’re trying to enjoy the numerous advantages youth provides while simultaneously taking advantage of the glories that adulthood offers in a way that doesn’t result in your dire annihilation.

So where do you fit into all of this?

You’re the future of this country, along with everyone who thinks making fun of Rob Ford is cool, and you’re almost convinced that the problems this country faces are out of your reach and well beyond your limitations.

Don’t let that pressure get to you. Never underestimate the power of a small group of thoughtful and committed citizens; never doubt that what you do makes a difference.

And read a newspaper every now and then man. It’ll do your sense of civic duty some good.

As always, this has been your Admin, the Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-SC(EK)

A Different Kind of Test-Taking Standard; The Multiple Retake-3/4 Model

Date: October 7th, 2013

TheByteDaily

A Different Kind of Test-Taking Standard; The Multiple Retake-3/4 Model

It goes without saying that Canadian schools, are in dire need of reform. The two loudest arguments blame teachers for not teaching properly and parents for not letting them teach, but I believe that one of the real problems lies in the grading and prescribing of tests. The current test-taking system, in which students are given a single chance at writing an assessment to gauge how much they remember is flawed because it leaves many students mindlessly memorizing and regurgitating facts for the sole purpose of getting a good grade.

I believe that a greater understanding of course material can be given to students by simply allowing multiple attempts at quizzes, tests, and exams.

In the new test-taking model, the concept of grading remains unchanged. When students write a test for the first time, their papers will be graded normally, but after receiving their letter or number grades, students will be given a three day grace period to consider retaking an exam on the same material. If students choose to retake a test, 3/4 of the exam will be old questions from the original test while the remaining 1/4 will be new questions to gauge whether or not students truly did take the time to review the material and prepare again. If students choose to ignore the opportunity to retake the test – because they were satisfied with their initial grade, or otherwise – their grade for that particular examination will remain the same.

For each subsequent retake, students will be given three days to weigh their options, and the 3/4 distribution will continue to take effect. Eventually, I expect the grade of the student to approach a near perfect state, while simultaneously leaving the student with a firm understanding of the material.

With this model, less emphasis is placed on achieving a good grade, and more emphasis is placed on doing well and understanding the course material.

Instead of forcing students to memorize an arbitrary number of facts and details in the hopes that their preparation pays off, students will be expected to understand their course material in order to constantly do better. For the argument that students will simply memorize answers from the initial exams to take with them to the next ones, I make the case that real learning is the result of constant repetition in addition to understanding.

Mathematics and the physical sciences prove this. Word problems in math, chemistry, physics, and biology enforce the need to understand subject concepts and the need to know how to solve the problems that are given. Purely memorizing the solution of a single kind of word problem in any of these disciplines only works for other word problems if the questions are the same but the numbers are changed. The so-called “Plug-and-Chug” method of problem solving, where a question is solved by simply plugging numbers into a formula, ceases to be a legitimate problem solving tool the instant a differently worded question is given. It’s simply not enough to know what the variables refer to, but also how to mix, match, and reconsider variables in different situations to work towards an answer.

Pure memorization is harmful because it leads to students dumping out information and knowledge at the end of each assessment in order to fill their minds with more information that will eventually be dumped out. Simply put, pure memorization is to the mind what bulimia is to the body; a rapid, morbid intake that concludes in nothing more than a harmful purge, leaving the individual wanting, unsatisfied, and worse off than before.

In this way, the “Multiple Retake-3/4” model (MR34) of test-taking takes the best lessons math and physical science can teach: The best way to learn is through constant repetition, understanding, and a wide question bank to practice from. By literally allowing every student an equal opportunity at achieving a perfect score, grades – wide ranging number values – stop serving as an indication of a student’s intelligence. The MR34 method adds an additional benefit: Instead of having certain students who excel in certain subject while struggling in others, all students are given an equal chance at excelling at all of their subjects.

Despite these benefits, there are issues to be addressed beyond the time and effort teachers would need to add to their schedules and classrooms.

Chief among these issues is the argument that schools aren’t designed to give every student an equal opportunity at success, and that having a large pool of intelligent students over-saturates the job market. However, the MR34 method allows the best and brightest to maintain their spots, much like the current test-taking standard. Students aren’t forced to retake their tests, they are simply encouraged to do so; just because the opportunity is present to every student, that doesn’t mean that every student will choose to take advantage of it. That is to say, the best and brightest will remain the best and brightest, but those who aren’t faring as well have a chance to do even better. Instead of having the “Smart kids,” the “Average kids,” and the “Not-Smart kids,” classrooms will be filled with the “Really Smart kids,” the “Smart kids,” and the “Kids who didn’t take advantage of the benefits that the MR34 offers.”

Furthermore, the students who have “One bad day,” or who suffer from test-anxiety, will have an opportunity to make up for their temporary misfortune.

Another concern lies with post-secondary acceptance, post-graduate acceptance, and job-searching: How do universities and other such institutions determine whether a student is worth accepting if every student has good grades? In these cases, extracurricular activities, teacher referrals, interviews, and a more intensive round of selection must take place in order to determine an applicant’s aptitude.

Obviously, it goes without saying that the MR34 is completely useless if post-secondary and post-graduate institutions don’t adopt similar reforms. If students accustomed to retaking tests ad infinitum are forced to adapt to a system where a single test is the difference between success and failure, I hypothesize that a noticeable drop in attendance records, class GPA, and entrance numbers will occur.

Furthermore, there are professions that are specifically designed to avoid the possibility of a redo. Medicine, engineering, law, and other such backgrounds place employees in pass or fail situations on a daily basis; a single incision is the difference between a successful bypass and death, one wrong calculation can result in an entire suspension system failing, and a single unprepared argument can be the difference between freedom and life in prison.

Understandably, a strong argument can be made against the MR34 on this basis alone.

However, I argue that the surgeon who measures 10 times to make a single cut is less likely to make a mistake than the physician who immediately prescribes ACE inhibitors without running diagnostic tests first. For medical colleges, engineering programs, and law schools that adopt the MR34 model, it’s the job of the teachers and instructors to insure that every student they pass has the necessary skills for the field they have studied.

The MR34 doesn’t make it easier to do well; I propose that teachers maintain their exams’ level of difficulty. Instead, the MR34 model forces students to review their notes, and engage in constant testing to gauge their level of understanding in a way that could potentially reduce the anxiety of passing. In fact, the MR34 doesn’t even make it easier to get into a specialized form of education. In the cases of med school or law school, the respective standardized tests will remain unaffected by the proposed model; the MCATS and LSATS already follow a similar model to the MR34 anyway, with an exception being that test-takers are not given 3/4 of their old exams on their next attempt. Neither are test-takers given three days to consider retaking the exams with the 3/4 rule in place.

I propose that a strong step towards a more efficient, and well-informed student body is by taking test-taking reforms into consideration. I believe that the Multiple Retake-3/4 model of test-taking, though merely a rough idea now, can prove to be highly beneficial to both students, society, and the future of this country. By reducing the emphasis on answering a question correctly, and increasing emphasis on understanding why an answer is correct, I believe that students will be able to gain a better understanding of their studies, in addition to acquiring a wider, farther-reaching skill-set.

I believe the MR34 can be the future of education in Canada. Education and knowledge, after all, are the two most important tools for a well-informed and confident electorate.

As always, this has been your Admin, the blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-SC(EK)

Understanding Film Critics; Yet Another Frivolous Article on the Importance of Argument

Date: September 7th, 2013

TheByteDaily

Understanding Film Critics; Yet Another Frivolous Article on the Importance of Argument

I fear becoming a movie critic.

To anyone who claims that fear isn’t real, and that it’s nothing more than a metaphysical extension of danger, I say this: Start writing movie reviews. There’s something about criticizing movies – compared to criticizing music, books, or even theatre – that somehow manages to enrage entire populations of the educated world. Truthfully, there’s something about criticizing movies that makes me fear writing too many movie reviews without producing a completely unrelated article. Even if I consider writing an opinion piece about movies instead of an actual movie review, I still manage to send nervous chills down my spine. Interestingly enough, for anyone who pays attention to my frequent absenteeism, it can be noted that most of the articles I write before a major hiatus are about movies.

There’s no need to be needlessly ambiguous with my critical fears; my worries have nothing to do with the enormous public backlash my reviews conjure within society. Quite the contrary, I absolutely love it when I start a needlessly detailed and incredibly laid out argument about the current trappings of the silver screen. Putting it delicately, I’m afraid of writing too much about movies because of the small percentage of the population that doesn’t understand the need for criticism, critique, reviews, or opinion pieces on the current state of art, media, life, the universe, and everything.

Putting it indelicately, there are people who don’t understand why it’s important to criticize everything, and these people scare me. Granted, previous articles have approached the ridiculous notion of “Questioning Everything” with the necessary quizzical-questioning glare that Socrates himself would surely embolden. Still, I find it’s far easier to tackle a single sample rather than the entire population, so I’ll continue discussing my fears nonetheless. Back to my point, I’m scared of becoming a movie critic because of the people who unironically argue the need to criticize.

I hope my point is made clear even at a perfunctory glance: I’m scared of becoming a movie critic because of the people who argue that we don’t need to argue about movies. I’m scared of writing too much – too often – about movies because of the people who attempt to dismiss, dismantle, and destroy the idea of criticism while simultaneously exercising, employing, and engaging their very rational desires to criticize and argue. Despite what a poorly educated pacifist might say, the universe runs on the intrinsic idea that there are positives and negatives, and these positives and negatives always interact even on microcosmic scales.

I admit that my explanation of quantum theory distracts from my argument regarding criticism, so I’ll be brief in my digression.

Why is it so important for me, or anyone, to criticize anything? Because that’s the whole point; without criticism, without argument, and without debate, things have a tendency to fall towards calculated tyranny and an eventual acceptance of blatant complacency.

Certainly, for all of my criticism of Transformers: Dark of the Moon not a single penny was withheld by the people who helped produce its billion dollar profit margin.

That is a very strong argument against film criticism.

For all the time invested into pointing out cinematic flaws, people still watch “Bad” movies, and for all the work done pointing out cinematic ingenuity, people will still avoid “Good” movies like I imagine medieval Europeans avoided the bubonic plague.

This is a strong argument regarding all forms of criticism.

Eventually, regardless of the work one might put into criticizing anything, one’s effort will be an exercise in futility. Presidents won’t be impeached – they’ll be re elected; governments won’t fall – they’ll simply become more intent on inconspicuously brutalizing their people; and Michael Bay won’t be driven out of Hollywood by a crowd carrying pitchforks and torches – he’ll go on to direct another Transformers sequel and Pain and Gain (which, admittedly, wasn’t absolutely terrible).

I argue that results are only one part of the overall structure, and that meaning and knowledge are equally important derivatives.

Why is it so important for me, or anyone, to criticize anything? It’s so we can learn something instead of sheltering ourselves in a cocoon of safety and self indulgence. Why is it so important for me to call a movie bad? It’s so I can start an argument and try to understand why I might be wrong, and why someone else might be right.

I’m still scared of becoming a movie critic, but thanks to this article I’ve learned that I’m only scared of being called one. I might never pursue cinema in any way after this article, but at least now I know that my fears are less physical and more entirely immaterial.

In any form, criticism is an extension of self-examination, and I argue that there are few things less frivolous in this universe than attempting to understand this universe.

This has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-SC (EK)

Tip Your Servers or: The Most Important People in Our Lives are the Ones We Pay the Least Attention to

Date: July 3rd, 2013

TheByteDaily

Tip Your Servers or: The Most Important People in Our Lives are the Ones We Pay the Least Attention to

Our universe consists of a series of indisputable rules, laws, and restrictions. This is a fact, and while many may disagree with science, religion, philosophy, and politics, the fact remains that universal laws are indisputable. Matter will never be created or destroyed, regardless of what belief system an individual adopts, and the universe will consistently move towards entropy until the inevitable heat death claims the life of the last particle in existence despite what anyone might say about anything. Universal laws serve as the building blocks of our own existences; despite attempts to prove otherwise, universal laws somehow always serve as the foundation of some philosophy, ethic, or principle. Large corporations are comprised of smaller individuals like big things are made up of little things like protons are comprised of smaller quarks.

It’s important to never confuse a universal law with a human aphorism or logical proof; while humans ideas are based off of larger cosmic philosophies, self evident paradigms that serve as pseudo intellectual aphorisms are very rarely so.

The reason why things are always in the last place we look is because one normally stops looking once one has found what one is searching for. Likewise, “Whatever can wrong will go wrong” is a simple idiom that emphasizes the importance of double-checking figures, and following up on work – making sure to not let overconfidence get in the way of a quality task. They’re idioms and anecdotes – helpful reminders to lighten up or take things more seriously, to be more careful or carefree, or to be a better more thoughtful person. It’s very rare for so-called “Self-evident” logical proofs to be either logical or self-evident, but languages cling to colloquialisms simply because they are simple and straightforward, and help teach a moral or a lesson.

That being said, I continue with no small grains of salt when I say that some of the most important people in our lives are the ones we barely notice, some of  the most important events are the ones we pay almost no attention to, some of the most important work is the one done on a daily basis, and some of the most important people are the ones who simply do their jobs. Yes, these are all so-called “Self-evident” logical fallacies that can be easily debated and disproven, but I’m going to try my hardest to prove a commonly ignored point.

I speak of the minimum wage warriors slogging through demeaning jobs on a daily basis so the rest of the world has easy access to packaged processed goods instead of having to grow it themselves, spending months harvesting crops and livestock. I refer to the workers who help serve as the foundation and backbone of large corporations simply by driving a bus that helps millions get to work. I refer to the individuals working two or three thankless dead-end jobs to satisfy their own needs who are never given enough gratitude for doing something that no one else wants to. I refer to the bus drivers, dishwashers, porters, housekeepers, trash collectors, waiters, meatpackers, amusement park workers, janitors, non-celebrity cooks, cubicle drones, and so-called office slaves who make life easier for all the people lucky enough to not have to.

Dead-end jobs are, by definition, jobs that allow for little opportunity or upward mobility for those forced to work them. They’re not jobs people generally want to do, and the people who are unlucky enough to do them most likely do it because they have no other choice.

Before I continue: Despite the loud cries of those lucky enough to be in a position to be heard, there are countless reasons why people have no other choice than to work thankless, mind-numbing minimum wage professions that barely qualify as occupations above slave labour.

I digress however: Dead-end jobs are professions at the bottom of the proverbial totem pole.

As long as people desire easy lives, someone’s going to have to work at a waste treatment plant to insure the water coming into the toilet is as clean as the water coming out of the sink, and that the water coming out of the sink is safer to drink than water coming in a prepackaged bottle. Salaries are not determined based on desirability – which would create a paradoxical and ironic problem – and these individuals understand this truth on a continuous basis. These individuals are people working some of the most thankless and undesirable jobs, all while effectively maintaining the existence of an at-least-desirable planet.

That these are also the people we rarely recognize, or even acknowledge, only adds to that difficulty; that the world is mostly run by people doing their jobs is an understatement. I argue that some of the most important people in our lives are the ones we pay the least attention to because this doesn’t seem to be a self-evident logical proof; it’s not even a logical fallacy. It’s a concept of neglect that serves as a slippery slope argument that leads into justifying aggression or misbehaviour towards people in jobs that we feel we don’t have to do, towards people in jobs we feel we should never have to do, towards people in jobs we know no one should ever have to do.

The idea that waitstaff don’t deserve tips simply because they choose employment as waitstaff is absurd and ludicrously shameful. The idea that it’s acceptable to verbally assault a porter simply because he serves as the face of a company is actually more than a little terrifying. The idea that service people deserve to be harassed simply because, by definition, they require the money of those they service is disgusting.

I recognize the importance of competency in public professions, and I realize that incompetence is often horrifically mind-boggling for some, but I argue that the incompetent make up a bleak minority of the population and that even the incompetent deserve respect for attempting to gain credibility competency. A person who’s bad at their job doesn’t give anyone a right to harass them. A person who’s bad at their job doesn’t deserve ridicule, they deserve encouragement for a speedy and efficient learning curve.

Ultimately, the issue lies with the population that fails to understand the universal law of respect: Working a low-end job is no excuse for the arrogance and presumption of power over such a person.

As always, this has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-EK

The Student’s Dilemma; A Discussion of Intellectual Understimulation, Workaholism, and Boredom

Date: May 14th, 2013

TheByteDaily

The Student’s Dilemma; A Discussion of Intellectual Understimulation, Workaholism, and Boredom

 

The average undergraduate school year in the province of Ontario lasts eight months, with the remaining four months dedicated specifically towards “Summer holidays.” Two semesters divided between eight months, produce four grueling months of education, filled to the brim with tests, assignments, projects, papers, and lectures. Understandably, the summer months come as a quiet respite, though students will find themselves either continuing their educations by taking summer courses, or finding some form of work or internship to occupy their time by beginning a career and entering the workforce. Finally, how a school determines their credit count is arbitrary and irrelevant, with schools requiring varying amounts of “Credits” to graduate a degree program.

 

The provincial government determines a single university school year as containing 10 classes; engineering, and certain other programs require more classes, but the consensus is that no degree program requires less than 5 courses between two semesters.

 

Comparatively, the average high school year in the province of Ontario last ten months, with two months specifically dedicated towards “Summer holidays.” Depending on the school, and excluding the Catholic school boards (of which I have absolutely no knowledge), ten months are divided between two semesters, with a total of five months per semester dedicated to a yearly total of eight classes. One can immediately notice that the most obvious difference between University and High School isn’t just the length, but the two extra classes that University students are expected to take.

 

From a purely academic point-of-view, high school students are afforded more time to work on fewer classes, which is normally why the hardest transitional change for first-year university students is getting used to having less time to work on more subjects. “Normally,” because the hardest transition isn’t something that is tangibly there, but something that all but disappears into a narrow void.

 

Two months of schooling and education are eradicated in the transition between university and high school.

 

For many students these extra two months provide momentary peace and respite to prepare one’s self for the inevitable onslaught that a return to university entails. For many students, the total four months allow an individual time to relax and enjoy time as something more than a frail reminder of how much work is left, how little work has been done, and how much more work it’s going to take to finish.

 

For many students however, these four months serve as a form of intellectual understimulation, and for those unlucky to not have any plans, unlucky enough to be unable to find work, and unlucky enough to not have the advantage of travelling, these four months serve as an intellectual prison-sentence where boredom is one’s jailer, and apathetic complacency is one’s cellmate. I find that therein lies a paradoxical dilemma with being a full time student and having so long a break to relax in. Working – the mere act of doing something with an end result or an ultimate goal in mind – becomes the norm, and while I’m not arrogant enough to claim that the stress of activity becomes an addiction, even minor amounts of inactivity are agonizing.

 

A four month intellectual alienation is an all-consuming, harrowing, almost torturous test of sanity.

 

For a final comparison, the average Ontario work year provides approximately three to six weeks of paid vacation, with certain civic holidays providing additional time off. Certain Christian holy days also produce time off, with Christmas and Easter being two notable dates. Though the average work day is from 9-5 for full time wages, the Ontario government requires a mandatory 48 hours of work a week, with everything else being regarded as overtime. Those who work more than the government mandated 48 hours – for whatever reason – do so to accomplish certain goals and make sacrifices to achieve them.

 

Compared to the average student, even the least productive worker is an unabashed workaholic.

 

I suppose the truth is that the experience is universal, and it transcends all individuals who take pride in work, in action, and in doing. The mere act of not doing or not working, the mere notion of not accomplishing a task – regardless of how simple it may be – is daunting and, quite simply, mind numbing. The term workaholic is a colloquial concept and refers to someone who is enamored in their work; one’s life revolves around their work, and the term hints at the numerous personal sacrifices one has to make in order to accomplish their goals.

 

Perhaps it’s merely a colloquial paradigm, or perhaps it’s a human need to do better, to create more, to accomplish greater things. Perhaps the idea is something far more simple than the human need to advance; perhaps boredom and intellectual ennui are so harrowing, that the mere thought of inactivity is terrifying enough to elicit action. I can’t be so bold as to state that I know how people can stand to throw their time away by doing nothing and remaining complacent, but I do know that the urgency produced by complacency is often enough motivation for action.

 

The issue then becomes finding something to fill one’s time. In an understandable twist of events, I’ve noticed that it’s difficult to determine whether the colloquialism is meant to be an insult or a great compliment.

 

Though I’m lucky this summer; I actually have something to do.

 

As always, this has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

 

-EK

 

Shaving; An Article About Neanderthalic Behaviour, Laser Hair Removal, and Genetic Fitness

Date: May 9th, 2013

 

TheByteDaily [Guest Article]

 

Shaving; An Article About Neanderthalic Behaviour, Laser Hair Removal, and Genetic Fitness

 

I was in the shower – and no that’s not where this is going, get your head out of the gutter. I mean, that is where I, like many other people, do some of my best thinking.

 

There I was, holding my razor and thinking, “Why am I doing this?”

 

“Why do we spend so much time primping ourselves? So much time altering our natural visages?”

 

And it is true. In today’s day and age, we view smooth, hairless skin to be desirable. Women shave their legs, they pluck out eyebrows, and they pull out stray growths. Anything to be a flawless beauty.

 

And don’t get me wrong, it isn’t just women. Men too, have even begun to preen themselves. Men shave their face, and now the practice of ‘manscaping’ – of men de-hairing their genitalia – has become commonplace.

 

So if hours are spent making sure that we are smooth as can be, and this doesn’t even account for the time spent on applying makeup or doing one’s (remaining) hair,  why do we do this?

 

We are mammals after all – we are supposed to have hair. It protects us, keeps us warm, and keeps us clean. It’s there for a reason. After millions upon millions of years of evolution, we Homo sapiens appeared as a well-designed result of good ol’ survival of the fittest. Mammals started multiplying and taking over niches after the dinosaurs went extinct, and took the giant reptilians’ place as the dominant predators on the planet. Our unique features have allowed mammals to survive in a plethora of environments: Look in the arctic, the tropics, the desert, or even the ocean and you’ll find mammals. And humans by themselves have been able to adapt to live all over the world.

 

So why, when this hair is a part of our identity, do we rid ourselves of it?

 

Well, really. That’s just it. We are mammals. We are a type of animal. And in today’s world, that is the last thing we, as a developed and dominant species, want to be viewed as. So I see our primping as a technique of distancing ourselves even further from what we truly are. So now we view hairy individuals to be undesirable.

 

Imagine if a Neanderthal saw what we have turned into. They wouldn’t see us as attractive at all. This smooth skin would make us appear genetically weak and unfit (in the evolutionary sense). No self-respecting caveman would give one of today’s modern women a second glance.

And don’t get me wrong.  I am not one of those hippies who thinks that we should just let our hair grow free. I still am just like the majority with my constant shaving and plucking and wishing for some goddamn laser hair removal to make my life a million times easier, but I just feel like it is something interesting to think about.

 

Because when we look at cavemen, with all their glorious thick fur, we are disgusted with what we evolved from! They were animals! How could we have descended from the likes of that?

 

The fact is, if some reason (for instance, an energy crisis *cough cough*) were to cause us to lose the use of our precious innovations, our shaven asses would be screwed. And yes, at the moment our hair would grow back (unless you are one of the lucky ducks who can afford the lasers, of which I am very jealous). But what if, in time, we start to evolve and lose our hair? Because if we keep selecting those with less hair, we shall probably start to have children with finer hair – maybe eventually no hair at all with the help of a few handy-dandy mutations.

 

Now I’m off to go pluck my eyebrows, I have a date tonight.

 

– Guest out –

 

Superman; If Only We Could Be so Human

Date: April 28th, 2012

TheByteDaily

Superman; If Only We Could Be so Human

 

I have always bared a heavy bias towards the Dark Knight. In what can only be described as the most pervasive form of artistic negligence, I entered the Batman v. Superman case having already decided that my allegiances lay against the Last Son of Krypton. Considering this is a mere extension of the decades old fan-debate over who is better than whom, it’s understandable that I didn’t place great penalty on the infraction; I’m a bigger fan of Batman than I am of Superman, I think that Batman is a better hero than Superman, and that really is the end of that.

 

Regardless, having read more stories that feature the big blue boyscout, I’ve come to the disastrous conclusion that I was, ultimately, wrong about Superman. My original article about the debate, for anyone who wants a fair understanding of what makes Batman a remarkable example of human fortitude and perseverance.

 

However, I was wrong about Superman, which is why I feel the need to approach the subject yet again, with a more equivocal and understanding view of the immigrant from the stars who taught us all how to be heroes.

 

It’s helpful that a superhero’s name is a how-to guide to understanding what makes them so special (The Flash being a disappointing example of the evolution of language, and his name notwithstanding), because Superman’s identity is entirely encapsulated in his nom de plume. To avoid the redundancy that I’m sure will arise from this article, Superman will hitherto be referred to by one of his numerous noms populaires. Kal-El’s entire existence can be summed up in his chosen hero name; simply put, he is a super man. Certainly, it helps that his kryptonian physiology becomes supercharged once it is in the presence of a yellow sun, which makes him a living solar battery capable of storing an unlimited amount of varying forms of solar radiation, but beyond the powers that grant him the ability to be more than human, he is simply nothing more than a super man.

 

Before writing this article, I considered what this could mean – I attempted to distinguish traits that result in an individual being more than human, and I found that I almost immediately drew a blank. Continuing my original train of thought, I decided to ignore the greater-than-human-traits, and simply focus on the great human traits. I happen to bare a strong genetic bias towards my own species, and though the human population does not possess the greatest list of genetic advantages, it’s undeniable that we seem to possess an astounding ability to propagate and survive. A further obstacle arose when I was forced to admit that the many great human qualities are only labeled because humans themselves have been in possession of the Dymo.

 

Compassion, a desire to help family, generosity, hope, and benevolence are biological necessities, and deeming certain traits “Great” simply because humans found a good word to describe various acts of charity is not only arrogant, but also immature and pedantic.

 

Perhaps it is in this way that Clark Kent encompasses the best of humanity’s many qualities. Beyond the physical feats that he can accomplish, beyond the ability to understand the cosmos on an infinitesimal level, and beyond the philosophy that he basks in, Superman allows us to question ourselves and to examine our own existences in self-reflection. An insightful TED talk compared the Superman character to the messianic one of Jesus, craftily drawing parallels between God sending Jesus to Earth as humanity’s savior, and Jor-El sending his son Kal-El in a desperate attempt to make meaning of his son’s life. Both sons not knowing of their true destinies, but both facing very human struggles to aspire beyond the greatness that their fates would have of them.

 

Superman is not a god.

 

He is merely a man – perhaps not a human, but a man nonetheless – who aspired to be more than himself. What makes the man super is not his ability to be great, but his desire to be a defender of the ideals that make humanity and the planet, more than just simple cosmic existences floating in a dark and deeply misunderstood universe. What’s interesting is that Superman’s greatest adversary has always been Lex Luthor – a very human man with abilities and skills equivalent to the highest echelons of our evolution. The alien’s greatest adversary has always been a terrestrial trying to prove to all of his peers that in the face of the divine, we are all capable of approaching divinity.

 

The skills we are born with do not necessitate the people we become.

 

A human, trying to prove to his fellow humans, that we do not need to be born special to become special. A human standing in the face of what can only be perceived as a god, trying and succeeding in proving his equality, Lex Luthor – though a glorious caricature of humanity’s greatest misgivings – proves that though all creatures are not born equal, but despite our handicaps, we are all capable of achieving greatness. The implications of this analysis being that the Man of Steel is not a super man because of his skills, but because he strives to be greater than his post.

 

I was wrong about Superman.

 

I always assumed he was an omnipotent blue boyscout. It turns out Superman is more human the any member of the species, and simply does what everyone dreams of doing: Being more than who he was born to be.

 

As always, this has been you Admin, the not so Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

 

-EK

 

Remakes, Reimaginings, Reboots, and Adaptations; A Discussion About Stuff by A Fan of Stuff

Date: April 17th, 2013

 

TheByteDaily

 

Remakes, Reimaginings, Reboots, and Adaptations; A Discussion About Stuff by A Fan of Stuff

 

When I first learned of Starkid Production’s A Very Potter Musical, well before I even had the opportunity to watch the show, I was skeptical about the direction the community-theatre-company would be taking regarding the decision they were making. I was concerned that the musical was intended to cash in on a blockbuster franchise, and I was incredibly concerned that the musical aspect of the production would be akin to a shark-jumping moment for the franchise. More importantly, I was worried that the team would attempt to take the already existing Harry Potter plot-line and simply recreate the movies with a theatrical style and musical flair.

 

In retrospect, I don’t know what elements I was concerning myself with since the aforementioned production details sound amazing and hilariously entertaining, though I do digress. Well, that and the fact that Starkid Productions used almost every piece of the Harry Potter universe – including the fan-universe – and created three productions totalling almost ten-hours for one of the best fanmade musicals I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing.

 

I digress, however.

 

What I mean to say is that, when I first heard about the musical, my inner fan exploded in spectacular fashion to warn me about a reimagining of a personal favourite franchise. I cannot stress enough how little I knew about the show, or how little I knew that Starkid would create something funny, endearing, emotional, enormously entertaining, and specifically for the fans of the Harry Potter universe.

 

Frankly, however, It’s an unsurprising reaction to the news of a remake, reboot, sequel, or reimagining, and I’ve noticed that I, and many other proclaimed critics of the human condition, become more and more critically cynical of the news regarding adaptations as more and more adaptations fail in ways that rival the Hindenburg or the Titanic – hubris notwithstanding.

 

I looked forward to the live-action adaptation of Avatar the Last Airbender, I looked past the fact that M. Night Shyamalan would be directing it, and I even let go of the disappointment I experienced at the casting choices, only to be reminded of all the film’s failings when I watched it in theatres. I was excited for the live-action adaptation of the Green Lantern character and even thought that this marked the beginning of a potential Justice League spinoff. As more details entered my field-of-view, I became excited for the casting of Ryan Reynolds and Mark Strong, I marveled at the set-pieces being shown off in marketing stills, and I even thought that the actual costume looked pretty cool, only to be marvelously crushed once I saw the shoddy, poorly written, and ultimately boring finished product.

 

Of course, for every Green Lantern there’s a trilogy of amazing Batman films directed and written by individuals who actually understand the character and the mythos. For every Transformers and Battleship there’s an enjoyable adaptation of Clue, and for every G.I. Joe: Retaliation, there’s a G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra. For every odd-numbered Star Trek failure, there’s an even numbered (and ninth) success that provide reasons to be excited at the prospect of a popular franchise adaptation.

 

My point is that for every failed adaptation, there’s another that makes it worthwhile being a fan – I’d list examples, but that would be redundant. For every ten adaptive failures, there are two or three subsequent successes that raise the spirits and give hope to fans and filmgoers alike. However, because of the high frequency of failed adaptations, marketing buzz that amounts to nothing, and amazing trailers that mask remarkably stunning failures in plot, character development, special effects, casting, and direction, my reaction to the news of a sequel, remake, reboot, reimagining, or adaptation has become cringe-inducing cynicism.

 

I once again find myself facing this same cynicism in the wake of the new Superman film that was announced around 2009, and that was first trailered in 2012 alongside the theatrical release of The Dark Knight Rises. Yesterday, April 16th 2013, marked the release of Man of Steel’s third trailer and my excitement has once again been elevated.

 

As a fan of the Superman comic books, however, I know that I shouldn’t get my hopes up.

 

Almost every film starring the eponymous man of steel since Superman III has been an unmitigated disaster, and though the animated character has barely suffered (with the comics, and DC animated universe not faltering in quality), any hope for a decent Superman movie went out the window with 2006’s Superman Returns.

 

I won’t get into what made these films bad, and I won’t discuss my personal gripe with the films because I’m forced to admit that Man of Steel’s trailer shows a marked improvement. Despite the data to suggest otherwise, I do believe that the Zac-Snyder-and-Christopher-Nolan helmed film has the potential to please both Superman’s fans, and the palates of most film-goers. This, however, is a belief firmly rooted in the trailers I have seen so far, and the information gathered from interviews, inside sources, executives, producers, and the actors themselves (not to mention the film’s Wikipedia page).

 

My ultimate point, however, has little to do with either Harry Potter or Superman, and has everything to do with my reaction as a fan of an independent property.

 

Instead of being excited by the prospect of another medium creating a story out of something I’m a fan of, I’m immediately cynical about the direction an individual is going to take with the topic. This is fascinatingly nonsensical, because most of my favourite stories – my favourite independent properties – have had life breathed into them by people in no way affiliated with the original creators.

 

It’s almost as if, when it comes to movies, my inner fan rises to the defence of the property, but when it comes to Mark Millar raising Superman in the former Soviet Union, Grant Morrison making Superman an All-Star, or even Frank Miller having Superman fight Batman because the latter has become a threat to the freedom and independence of America in The Dark Knight Returns I’m perfectly fine being at the mercy of the writers, artists, editors, and publishers at DC Comics. It’s almost as if, when it comes to anything other than their original medium, I, and a large population of the fanbase, forget that characters are just that – characters created for the not-so-simple purpose of being part of stories.

 

Stories that, if written well, are interesting and entertaining enough to warrant creation. Stories that, fortunately, are intended to insure that independent properties remain interesting. Stories that, ultimately, are meant to appeal to both fans, and newcomers.

 

Perhaps therein lies the issue; perhaps I’m not upset about a remake or a reboot, or even that my so-called “Rights as a fan” are being tread upon. Perhaps it’s simply the fact that a character or story that I find entertaining, interesting, and worth examining, can potentially end up being ruined in an exaggerated, but still personally hurtful manner. Perhaps the problem isn’t so much that characters aren’t being utilized to their full extent, as much as it’s us feeling that our heroes – the characters, and the universes they inhabit, that we recognize – no longer belong to us.

 

I don’t completely understand why I become cynical when I hear about the potential Justice League movie, or the new Star Wars trilogy, especially when I look forward to the new additions to both universes – Star Wars, DC, Harry Potter, or otherwise. Frankly, I don’t understand why anyone would raise a fuss about a single poor portrayal in a different medium when there are hundreds of bad examples within the original medium to begin with.

 

What I do know, however, is how it feels finding out that our heroes aren’t the same as everyone else’s and, most importantly, how it feels knowing that our heroes are not, were not, and never will be ours alone.

 

Perhaps, quite simply, it’s a mere reimagining of the classic schoolyard debate of whose hero is better than whose, and who cares more about whom.

 

Which breathes a new, expansive layer of irony into this entire article.

 

As always, this has been your Admin, the not-so Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

 

-EK

 

The End of the World As We Know It; A Discussion of Nihilistic Complacency, and Universal Catharsis

There’s a scene in Seeking a Friend for the End of the World where Steve Carell’s character – Dodge Peterson – reunites with his father for the first time in 25 years. It’s revealed that the father (played skillfully by Martin Sheen) abandoned his family when Dodge was young, and the vacuum created by the end of the world acts as the appropriate motivation to force Dodge to seek out his absent parent in an attempt to bring their relationship to a cathartic resolution. At first I found it difficult to suspend my disbelief; after all, the movie’s plot involves a 70-mile-wide asteroid named Matilda approaching the planet, leaving Earth’s inhabitants with nothing but three weeks until the inevitable collision, and our inevitable end.

 

Despite the film’s insistence on maintaining a semblance of realism and reality – including several scenes showing anarchy spreading throughout the world in the forms of riots, and rolling blackouts and a lack of water being the result of the government’s nihilistic apathy – the scene where Dodge attempts to resolve his longstanding issues with his father (and actually succeeding) was the sole moment that I found unrealistic, and I was unable to accept the film’s premise. The resolution was too perfect, and the reconciliation completely disregarded any possibility of the father’s negative qualities. In a more realistic situation, it would have taken months and years for Dodge to fully trust his father once again; given the characters’ circumstances, however, I’m ashamed to admit that the scene’s potency only recently struck me.

 

Today is December 21st, 2012 – the supposed End of the World as predicted by the Mayans and Nostradamus after them. Obviously, the world didn’t end today, because the Mayan equivalent of December 21st, 2012 is nothing more than a reset of the entire calendar itself to insure continuity for at least another 5 quintillion years. At the same time, no astronomical anomaly capable of ending the planet has been charted, meaning that the human species – and every other species that we share the planet with – can continue existing until Earth is consumed by our sun 5 billion years from now, when the yellow star expands and sequences into a red giant, eventually consuming the solar system’s inner planets.

 

Interestingly, though the consumption aspect of the planet’s demise is debated, there appears to be little doubt that the heat radiating from the sun will leave the Earth as nothing more than a dead planet with a surface of molten rock in a matter of a few billions years after the sun sequences.

 

Despite this theorized end, today is December 21st, 2012, and contrary to many irrational prophecies, the world has not yet ended. Certainly, the human species will continue attempting to eradicate itself through war, poverty, famine, illness, and the slow ecological destruction of the planet, but for all intents and purposes, we haven’t quite yet succeeded.

 

What I’ve only now come to realize, through the help of the widespread exposure given to the recent trends in predicting apocalypses, is that the end of the world is cathartically, complacently romantic. The apocalypse, as most prophecies tend to describe it, isn’t the end of the universe nor is it even the end of our solar system; instead, it’s the total destruction of the planet Earth, and the absolute annihilation of the human race – so far, the only discovered intelligent lifeforms in any part of the universe.

 

To the universe, it’s merely the end of all life on Earth, and is the end of humanity, but to humans it serves as an undeniable sign of the pointlessness of our existence.

 

Imagine for a moment that a 70-mile-wide asteroid was actually graphed to crash into the planet in less than three weeks time. Yes, people would run around scratching items of their bucket-list, and some might even live to their heart’s content doing everything they wished they could do but never had the courage or the time to; families would reconcile, lovers would reunite, parents would spend more time with their children, unhappy cubicle slaves would quit, people would go skydiving, some would go rocky mountain climbing, and a few brave souls might even attempt to ride bulls named Fu Manchu for 2.7 or more seconds. No human on the planet would have an excuse to not live like they were dying, for the simple fact that in three weeks time, every single human being on the planet (and the planet itself) would no longer exist from a purely ontological perspective.

 

This isn’t to say that handfuls of survivors would be capable of perhaps resuscitating the planet; once the world ends, everything is gone including 5 billion years worth of ecological, geological, social, cultural, intellectual, educational, mathematical, scientific, literary, philosophical, religious, and psychological evolution and devolution. It’s daunting to know that generations worth of change would be eliminated in an instant (and that’s assuming a quick end like an asteroid), and it’s even more daunting to be faced with the knowledge that everything the human race has done will ultimately be reduced to ruin simply because the sun will undergo an inevitable astronomical change 5 billion years from now.

 

Therein lies the dual nature of human existence.

 

Our existence is ultimately meaningless because any given astronomical anomaly can destroy our planet, and that’s assuming we don’t get there first on our own. However, human existence is simply meaningless from a universal perspective; shifting the point-of-view to that of an actual human produces difficulty in validating one’s nihilism. The cliched way of thinking is that an individual is held accountable for their actions because their motivations have the ability of resonating with the entire planet. A single shift in worldview can mean the fruition or completion of any given person, organism, nation, or idea and though the universe couldn’t care any less, the rest of the planet certainly does.

 

In essence, my ultimate point is dual in nature: The End of the World is cathartic insofar as one remains complacent through their life, choosing to remain inactive and refusing to attempt to exercise any amount of control over the events that occur around them. Certainly, the belief that the entire human race’s existence is meaningless and inevitably pointless is a universal truth, but as far as humans are concerned, we stand to lose everything once our planet ends.

 

Sadly, as many “End of the World” plots tend to highlight, including a man’s quest to find the love of life before time runs out for the rest of the planet, we only seem to recognize the importance of our existence once our existence is brought into question.

 

As always, this has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; today isn’t the end of the world, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

 

-EK

 

Peterborough; An Ode to the Hometowns

If I spent every day crafting new memories in New York City, then I spent every day reliving old ones in Peterborough. I’ve had a significant amount of difficulty deciding how to chronicle my latest trip, and I considered writing another travelogue, like with America. I considered detailing each city I spent time in, and I debated writing an article for each of these experiences, to continue my desire to compile a list of memories. Listing off the small towns I visited would have produced enough articles for six days, and my writer’s block would have undoubtedly been healed faster if I had spent any amount of time trying to write about each city I passed through in these past six days, but I won’t.

There’s no need to.

I thought that each city would help me overcome my writer’s block, and I genuinely believed that I’d find inspiration to write – in a way I did – but the truth remains that there really is only one city that compelled me to create anything. In the past six days, only a single city – though it’s more appropriate to say a single county – inspired me to produce any amount of creative work: Peterborough, a city I spent two years living in ten years ago; Peterborough, a city I hadn’t visited in over five; Peterborough, the first city that I could genuinely call home in this native land.

Peterborough is an ode to the hometowns.

It’s a city where not knowing someone is impossible, and where it’s genuinely easier to find someone than it is to avoid them. It’s a city where gossip floats around the stratosphere for everyone to gather, but where everyone is amiable, amicable, and respectful, even to those they can’t stand. It’s a testament to the small-town mentality, where the children are brought up, raised, schooled, educated, grow up, and eventually leave, only to return when they’re older, wiser, and hopefully more experienced than when they left. It’s a city where the young leave, and the old return, often to never leave again. It’s a welcome home that’s protective of it’s people, but is never controlling – it’s easy to leave, and easy to come back under almost every conceivable circumstance.

Peterborough is a city of memories.

It’s a city where everything happens for the first or last time, but never for the last or first time. It’s home, in one way or another, for everyone who’s lucky enough to move through it even if they’re only there for a few days. It’s small enough to never get lost, but big enough that there’s always something to discover, and it’s a city that grows everyday. The concept of a city is usually the last step in economic evolution of a piece of land, but though it expands on a daily basis, it’s impossible to feel out of touch there. It’s not a relic of a different time, but a window that looks at the possibility of combining both yesterday and tomorrow in a way that’s both harmonious and compelling.

Unlike some of it’s neighbours, Peterborough manages to combine the impossible notion of the “Good ole’ days” with the startling economic growth that capitalism yields. The city doesn’t join together facetious old time charm with the culinary end of a strip mall, as some cities have often tried to do, but accepts that the times are indeed changing. Choosing to build yesterday and tomorrow into a single entity – instead of idolizing the rural past and fearing the capitalistic future – Peterborough accepts that it’s possible to find balance between old and new in a way that isn’t discouragingly bleak.

Peterborough is a city of environmental and ecological splendour.

It’s a city that’s surrounded by country, and land, lakes and rivers, and an amount of sky that is startling. Situated as the hub of Peterborough county, it’s surrounded by small town after small town, village after village, farm after farm after farm, and cottage after cottage. It represents a fascinating evolution of ideals acting as the urban centre of its rural surroundings. Willing travellers can spend a single day driving through three of four small towns found in and around Peterborough county; it’s entirely possible to have breakfast in Peterborough, go to Bobcayjeon out of boredom, have lunch in Buckhurst, and finish the day watching the sunset in Lindsay, Fennelon Falls, or Bridgenorth.

I’ve attempted to avoid sounding like an overbearingly cliche travelogue, but every story has to include cliche in one way or another. It’s not difficult to see why I love Peterborough and why it inspired me as much as it did; it has to do with finality. Peterborough marked a succinct end in a reasonable chapter in my life when I first moved there. When I left it marked the end of another, and now that I’ve gone back it once again marks another end. It’s illogical of me to correlate the city with every aspect of finality in my life, though it is reasonable for me to say that Peterborough is like home; no matter when I go back, no matter how long I stay, no matter what I do, and no matter who I may see I always feel like I belong.

As always, this has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-EK