Over nine hundred and ninety-nine farewells.

This week, we have been asked by our professors to blog about a book we were assigned to read in Journalism. Here we go:

A Thousand Farewells” is a work of non-fiction written by Palestinian-Canadian journalist Nahlah Ayed. Ayed chronicles her life, from her family’s humble beginnings travelling between the Middle East and Canada when Nahlah was a young girl, through to her career as a journalist with the CBC. The second half of the book is when things really start to pick up, as Ayed shares her experiences covering breaking news in the Middle East, including the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the Arab Spring protests that began in 2011.

Ayed offers her unique perspective on these major international events as a journalist who was on the ground talking with people directly affected by these conflicts, including some harrowing moments she endured herself.

Question time:

What works in this book? What does not work? Why?

What I thought worked best in this book was the second half of the book when she begins to describe her experiences covering the 2003 Iraq invasion and the Arab Spring.
She also talks about the difficulties and intolerance she has encountered as a female journalist working in the Middle East, which must make the prospect of heading into these volatile situations all the more risky.

I feel like the book could have included a bit more context, or back stories to describe the causes behind some of these conflicts. At times, it seems as if Ayed takes for granted how knowledgeable her audience is to politics and history from the Middle East region. However, there were only a few moments when reading it that I was forced to do some research to learn the background of whats going on.

Also, some maps that outline the different places she’s been to throughout her life might have added some perspective to just how unrooted her life was at times.

What can journalists learn from this book?

As an aspiring journalist, this book has reinforced the idea of hitting the pavement, talking to people and doing your own persistent digging for the story. Often times, in my experience as a student journalist, it’s just too convenient to take the easy route and go by whatever the press release says or to stick with the safe interviews or leads, instead of digging to find the truth or the story hidden within the story.

How does it compare to another non-fiction work of your choice in any medium?

anchorboy

Okay, so this might seem like an odd connection to make, but the last book I’ve read written by a journalist was Anchorboy by Jay Onrait. Granted, from afar these two  books appear to have very little in common from except that they were both written by Canadians working in the field of journalism, and that they were both available in paperback versions, but I appreciate how both Anchorboy and A Thousand Farewells pull the curtain back and show the reader how the news gets collected and reported. Both of them have raised my interest in reading more memoir-style books written by influential journalists.

How did reading this book affect you? 

I think the point in this book that affected me the most was her early descriptions of where she lived in Winnipeg, which was very, very close to the area that I live in. Also, Nahlah talks about working at the Manitoban. I work at the Manitoban, so I decided to go through our archives to find old pieces written by her from the early-nineties.

Here are a few choice pieces that I thought I’d share by uploading them to imgur. Note, some of these are from the editorial page, and are not straight news stories.

It’s really encouraging to be on a similar path as someone who has ‘made it’ as a journalist. Ayed is one of six ‘notable contributors’ mentioned on the Manitoban’s Wikipedia page, and boy wouldn’t it be cool to see my name mentioned there too one day.

(Technically, that day could be right now, since Wikipedia is entirely editable…)

A story so funny, you’ll split your pants…

I’m going to take a break from my typical routine of posting about comedians and television shows to share with you a story that happened to me on January 30. This story is, sadly, 100% true.

Thursday mornings are a little bit hectic for me. I record the morning sports update for Red River Radio (shameless plug, tune in if you can!), so I’m typically in a bit of a zone as I mentally prepare myself and look over the stories and scores I plan to talk about.

On this particular day, I had slept in a bit. I got up, showered and got dressed before heading out to catch the 16 bus downtown to school. I walked up my street, and as I got close to Osbourne, I could see the 16 coming up the street. I began to run. As I got to Osbourne, I slipped on the icy sidewalk and fell, but immediately sprung back up to my feet, brushed snow off my pant legs and made my way across the street to the bus stop just in time to hop on to the crowded Winnipeg Transit bus.

I wasn’t able to see an open seat on the bus, so I stood near the front with my earphones in and ESPN on my iPhone screen. I began to block out the worldlooked over last nights sports scores and headlines like I would on any typical Thursday morning.

As the bus reached the Legislature, I looked up from my phone and made eye contact with this rather beautiful woman standing right next to me. I was surprised to find already looking right at me, as we made eye contact immediately. It was an interesting moment. It really seemed like she was trying to tell me something with her eyes.

“Clearly, I’m looking pretty good today,” I thought, as I took her prolonged stare as a silent, early morning flirting attempt. I smiled back at her, and she promptly left the bus at the next stop.

By this point, the crowded bus had started to thin out, so I walked down the aisle towards the back of the bus. A few people gave me a good look up and down, which only bolstered my confidence. Today was going to be a good day. As I slumped into my seat, I again pulled out my phone and hunched over to continue reading stuff for my radio spot.

As I looked down, I noticed something was really wrong. Apparently, when I had tripped running for the bus, I had unknowingly ripped my jeans WIDE OPEN, from the top of the zipper down to my inner thigh, effectively exposing my bits to the world.

I suddenly realized so many things:

I realized what the woman was trying to tell me with her eyes, and why me smiling back at her with a gaping hole in the crotch of my pants.

I realized that there was no time to turn back and get a new pair of pants. It was already 8:20, and I needed to both record my sports update AND get to class on time.

I realized that apparently it wasn’t cold enough outside for me to feel the winter wind’s gentle caress of my exposed upper thigh. Was this a dream? Wasn’t it -26 outside? Oh God, how long had I been standing at the front of the bus with my underwear peaking out the front of my pants?

I ultimately realized the gravity of my situation; I was officially downtown with a rip in my pants the size of the Grand Canyon and a full day of classes to go. What was I going to do? Think, Marc. Think.

I quickly called Chelsee, my roommate and fellow CreCommer (check out her blog HERE). Maybe if she was still at home, she could grab me a new pair of pants and I could sneak onto campus, get to my recording booth and have her drop off replacement pants for me.

“CHELSEE ARE YOU STILL HOME?” I said when she answered, trying not to sound too panicked.

“No, I’m already at school… why?” She replied.

I held the phone away from my ear for a moment and quietly swore to myself. That was my best and only idea. In this moment, I actually considered just rocking my ripped jeans and playing it off like It was some new fashion trend I was following.

“No guys, I totally saw Drake rocking the ripped crotch look on Kimmel last week. Don’t be rude just because you’re not as fashion-forward as me.”

That would never work.

“God…” I said putting the phone back up to my ear. “Okay, well I’m having a bit of a nightmare morning.”

Chelsee seemed genuinely concerned that something horrible had happened (something had).

“I had… a wardrobe malfunction… my jeans are… I need pants….”

Things you never imagine having to say over the phone.

Despite already being at school, calling Chelsee actually did end up saving me from a day of embarrassment wearing ripped pants. She reminded me that the book store on campus sold sweatpants that I could wear.

SWEATPANTS. That could work! I’d look like a total scrub, but its only one day. I will survive.

I thanked her profusely for her help and began to game plan how I was going to infiltrate the campus without people noticing my issue.

Its at this point I should mention the other fashion issue I was dealing with on this morning. A pocket on my peacoat had ripped, and so I had pulled out my back up winter jacket to wear that day. What I didn’t know was that the zipper was busted on it, so I could only keep it closed with the velcro bits.

So here’s my situation. I was going to run across Main Street holding my jacket together with two hands like a flasher on the prowl, in an effort to both hide my shame and to keep from getting frostbite. I would get to the bookstore, buy whatever they had, and just deal with the weird looks all day.

As I stepped off the bus, I mused that if God existed, he really must have had it out for me today. Thanks, bud.

So apparently, knowing that there’s a huge hole in your jeans is the only way you notice how freaking cold it is to walk around with a huge hole in your jeans. Coldest walk of my life.

I get to the bookstore, and start looking at the sweatpants. Price tag, $50.

FIFTY DOLLARS? FIFTY DOLLARS! FIFTY DOLLARS!?! How the hell is that justified. FIFTY DOLLARS for sweatpants.

I shuffled towards the register with my purchase in hand. The person at the counter commented on my odd timing to buy sweatpants. It was then that I just decided to own the absurdity of the situation and explained how I desperately needed to replace my jeans due to an ill-timed and ill-placed rip. We all had a brief laugh, I paid FIFTY DOLLARS for my new pants, and stealthily made my way to the men’s bathroom.

It was there that I realized how awful these sweatpants truly were. No pockets. NO POCKETS? FIFTY DOLLARS for a pair of pant with NO POCKETS. Luckily, there was nothing screen printed on the back. Not that I don’t like or support college athletics, but the idea of wearing sweatpants with “REBEL” emblazoned on my ass. (EDITORS NOTE: If the College decides to use this idea, I would appreciate creative credit).

So the difficult part was over. I went up to my radio editing suite and put together a pretty stellar (in my mind) sports update and got to class on time. Immediately, I started getting comments from my classmates on my… interesting fashion choices that day. I had assumed that Chelsee had understood and told people what had happened.

I WOULD LATER FIND OUT, Chelsee actually had no idea what had happened.  I set the record straight by posting the following photo on Facebook:

Image

 

The moral of this story:

Always bring a spare pair of pants wherever you go, because you never know what might happen.

Also, know that the Red River College book store has a fantastic return policy on sweatpants.

Why did you have to make me cry?

On Friday, a big group of CreCommers went down to the King’s Head Pub. On my end of the table, somehow the topic of conversation shifted to movies or shows that have made us cry unexpectedly.

Now, this is a topic that I am all too familiar with. Apparently, I’m an emotional dude who can be easily affected by good writing and amazing song selections. But it’s typically not drama’s or highly emotional shows or movies that get me. Instead, it has been comedies that have suckered me in with light-hearted entertainment and laughs, only to jab me right in the feels when I’m least expecting it…

FUNNY THINGS SHOULDN’T ALSO MAKE YOU CRY. It’s not fair.

So here we go… Here are four ways you can make me cry by simply pointing me towards a computer screen:

There are TWO TV episodes and TWO movies that will have tears streaming down the sides of my face guarenteed, 100% of the time. Hell, on Friday when I was explaining why they made me cry I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes.

I’ll start with the movies, since they’re the most popularly known tearjerker endings that I know of…

1. Monsters Inc.

So most of you reading this should have seen this Pixar classic. If you haven’t, go to your local Blockbust….errrrr or check on Netflix to see if its there. Just watch it. Without spoiling it too much, basically the whole movie is cute and funny children’s stuff with this cute little girl running around with these big (not so) scary monsters names Scully and Mike. The monsters slowly start to bond with her until yadda yadda yadda, plot points and things happen. In the final scene, Scully gets an opportunity to reunite with the little girl one last time and cue the wave of emotions.

I remember I was watching this movie in a U of Manitoba Film Studies course on animation, and tried my damnedest to keep it together amongst my class of 30 or so people. Luckily, my choice to sit at the back of the class afforded me a quick escape so that people couldn’t see my emotions seeping from my eyes.

2. Toy Story 3

So I tried to avoid spoilers with the last post (which now realize is impossible given that I described the last scene in the movie which… would spoil a lot if you’ve never seen Monsters Inc. before…), but if you’re not caught up with the Toy Story trilogy, clearly you have no interest in doing so.

OK. SO WHAT’S UP, PIXAR?

Let’s get this straight. First, you set up the whole narrative with Andy not being interested in his toys, which results in the toys thinking they’re about to be thrown out or whatever. So the plot progresses, and I’m laughing and enjoying the movie. Woody and the gang escape from the prison-like day care centre, only to be nearly BURNT ALIVE at the dump in what was the first emotional punch in the gut in store for your audience. Thanks to the plucky alien squeak toy pals using a claw to save everyone (brilliant call back to the original Toy Story), everyone gets saved and manage to make it back to Andy’s house.

Then, as Andy is leaving for college, he goes to donate the toys to a little girl around the block, and WHAM. You hit us with the most heart-wrenching music as Andy gives each toy a passionate description of how he played with them back in the first film. He gets through what he thinks is all of them, but Woody had crawled into the box with the other toys. Andy had not intended to give away his most favourite toy of all time, but… Okay I’m doing an awful job of describing this, so here:

And with that video, someone replaced Pixar’s music with EVEN MORE EMOTIONALLY-CHARGED MUSIC. Thanks, Roger Arreola, I’d only cried three times today thinking about writing this blog post. Now I know that apparently my body has an unlimited supply of tears to draw from.

Anyways, Pixar apparently has my number when it comes to creating these emotional moments in their animated movies. Hell, I haven’t even seen Up yet because I’ve watched the opening 6 minutes on YouTube and don’t think I could finish the whole movie.

Moving on, the television episodes both come from the same series…

Futurama.

Now, if you’re a fan of Futurama, you already know which episodes I must be talking about here. If you aren’t a huge fan of Futurama, and are wondering to yourself “isn’t that the show made by the Simpsons guy about a robot and a talking lobster?” — you’re correct. But it’s also the show responsible for arguably the two best episodes of television I’ve seen, in terms of being both hilarious, entertaining and utterly heartbreaking at the same time.

3. The Luck of the Fryrish (Season 3, Episode 4)

I’ll touch on this episode first because I want to save the absolute best for last. In this episode, we follow Fry and the gang as they try to track down the lucky seven-leaf clover that Fry had before he came to the future. Through a series of flashbacks inspired by the group’s journey through Old New York, we get to see Fry’s testy relationship with his older brother Yancy. As the episode goes on, Fry realizes that apparently his brother not only stole his lucky clover, but also his identity and dream to become an astronaut. Filled with rage, Fry, Bender and Leela go up to the orbiting graveyard where Earth’s greatest heroes are buried, to dig up his brothers grave and get his clover back.

But when they get to the gravesite, we get another flashback as Fry makes an important realization…

(Sorry that this just includes the audio, but thats all you need really)

Damn you, Futurama. It amazes me how a show can take you from one extreme to another. Go from making you tear up, to having Bender jump in with a funny line a moment later. Ugh, I shouldn’t have watched that clip again. Moving on.

4. Jurassic Bark (Season 4, Episode 7)

This. I don’t understand how human beings created this without depleting the world’s supply of tissues, because if I just think about this episode for too long, I turn into a crying mess.

This episode is all the more powerful if you had a dog growing up as a kid. The episode revolves around Fry finding his old dog, Seymour, as a fossilized specimen at a museum. Again, like in the Luck of the Fryrish, we get a bunch of flashbacks that show Seymour and Fry hanging out back in the 1990s. Bender is jealous that Fry will be getting his old friend back, and tries to sabotage the attempt to bring Seymour back to live by cloning his DNA.

Again, its the ending of this episode that gets me. Luckily, there’s no clip of this particular show on YouTube, but there is many versions of the song that they play. The song. Just haunting. Have a listen.

And check out the comments. So many people referencing Seymour and Futurama.

For the longest time, I thought I was weird for being so emotionally effected by a cartoon, but finding things like those comments on the internet have proven to me that I’m not strange. Futurama just hit it out of the park with these episodes. I seriously have to stop and consider whether not I’m ready to cry whenever Jurassic Bark or the Luck of the Fryrish comes on TV. Is it worth feeling like garbage for a half hour after the episode is over? Most of the time it is. They’re just too good.

Another Futurama episode that I had heard completes the trifecta of tearjerkers is Game of Tones from Season 10, where Fry has to revisit his last night in the 90s through his memories, and desperately wants a chance to talk to his mother just one more time. I actually watched it just before writing this blog and yup, it definitely deserves an honourable mention on this list.

So here’s a challenge for you, if you think you can handle it: watch The Luck of the Fryrish, Jurassic Bark and Game of Tones back-to-back-to-back without shedding a single tear.

If you make it through, then you’re some sort of monster. Oh wait no, we know from Monsters Inc. that monsters have feelings too.

So I guess that makes you something worse than a monster.

I guess that would make you a Republican   PR major   robot or something….

Oh, and I guess in closing I should mention that I decided to become a Journalism major next year, if you couldn’t tell already.

Five years of Five Second Films

Do you have five seconds to spare? In our crazy-paced modern world, fragmented conversations and media occursall day long via Twitter, Facebook and whatever other social media outlets people are into (Instagram, Vine, Snap Chat ect.).

Following the same guiding principle is the YouTube channel “5secondfilms”, which recently concluded a staggering five-year run of releasing a new five-second video every day monday through friday. By my very rough calculations, that means that the talented folks behind the channel have collectively churned out well over 1000 videos.

Here is a 3-minute video put together by Cracked.com that showcases their picks for the top-25 5secondfilms:

Whats even more impressive about each video is that each film establishes the scene, characters and relationships all within the parameters of being only five seconds long. The humour is often dark and shocking (no point in being subtle when you’ve only got five seconds to get a reaction), but what I always enjoyed the most about each five second film was both the entirely random nature of clicking on the latest video not knowing what you were going to get, and the waffling production quality.

Now, it could be said that, in the same way that video killed the radio star, perhaps Vine killed 5secondfilms. Suddenly, what was once an entirely novel idea (telling a story or joke in 5 seconds) is accessible to anyone with a smartphone. I don’t know if I believe that as much as I believe that it’s hard to come up with five unique stories or jokes to write, film and edit every week… Even if they’re all going to last only five seconds long.

Breaking from their format for their finale farewell, the team produced a two-part epic (for a production team known for 5-second-films, at least…) which you can watch below:

(might be worth a quick binge-watch of EVERY FIVE SECOND FILM so you get all the references…)

 

BONUS: If you’re really digging the style of their videos and are now bummed that you only found out about them now that they’ve stopped making new ones, I should inform you that the crew has moved over to Uproxx, where they are producing weekly content that is longer than five seconds.

Like this sweet music video:

And we’re BACK! And so is Bo Burnham with a new comedy special!

Happy New Years, people who follow this blog. First, some housekeeping… Sorry for the lack of updates at the end of 2013. The worst part was that there was a WHOLE BUNCH of really hilarious stuff I should have been blogging about, but my emphasis on quality over quantity evidentally led to neither… I will do my very best to keep it updated weekly with whatever had me LOLing or ROFLing or whatever the kids these days are using in texts.

I will also be attempting to hit one (or more) open mic stages around the city to flex my comedic muscle, so I’ll definitely keep you in the loop on that so everyone can come on down and watch me squirm for 3-5 minutes.

Anyways, for this post, I wanted to talk about Bo Burnham. Bo is a very young comedian who was one of the early YouTube contributors. He created the ‘boburnham’ channel in 2006 at the tender age of 16-years-old, and has made a name for himself by playing piano and singing cleverly written (but generally politically incorrect) songs via a webcam in his room.

Here’s the video that started it all:

That was from 2006, which is basically 50 internet years ago!  Since that initial video (Which has almost 8 million views!), he’s released four comedy albums, a book, and two comedy specials.

His latest special, “what.”, was released on YouTube and Netflix on December 17, and is perhaps the best comedy special of 2013.  He pushes boundaries by occasionally wading into crude or politically incorrect territory. His comedy stylings are certainly not for everyone, but to see the growth over the past 7 years as a writer, comedian and performer is quite remarkable. “what.” is like nothing you’ve ever seen before, and Burnham will surprise you at every turn.

I’ve imbedded the YouTube video below. As might be expected, Burnham doesn’t shy away from offensive language or subject matter, but it never comes across as malicious or vulgar simply for the sake of being vulgar. The special, nearly from start to finish, maintains frantic pacing that sets it apart from anything you’ve ever seen on a comedy stage.

(BONUS EDIT: Bo wins at the internet. Probably my favourite Vine.)