Current Events

Celebrating Creativity: Dads in Briefs, Zombie Grandmas, and Re-enacting Scenes from Platoon With Charlie Sheen

“…because nerds like us are allowed to be unironically enthusiastic about stuff. Nerds are allowed to love stuff, like jump-up-and-down-in-‎the-chair-can’t-control-yourself love it. When people call people nerds, mostly what they’re saying is ‘you like stuff.’ Which is just not a good insult at all. Like, ‘you are too enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness’.” – John Green

Last year’s Cannes Lions award winners were nothing short of brilliant, and 2012 didn’t disappoint. Here are my favourite examples of human brilliance from this year’s International Festival of Creativity:

This hilarious ad for New Zealand, the “most creative country in the world”, made me want to move there:

Dads in Briefs: A campaign for why you should buy an air conditioner

Gandhi Bookstores: A fun invitation to keep reading

Courageousness calls for a Carlsberg:

DirecTV: SO many LOLs, especially the last one. Don’t wake up in a roadside ditch. Stop taking in stray animals. Don’t have a grandson with a dog collar. Don’t have your house explode. And don’t re-enact scenes from Platoon with Charlie Sheen. Get rid of cable – get DirecTV:

Coca Cola Security Cams – had seen this floating around earlier in the year, but a nice reminder that humans can be pretty decent sometimes:

And my absolute favourite ad of this year’s bunch: Zonajobs – Grandmother

The local run is almost over, but Winnipeggers can catch the festival again at the WAG in March 2013 🙂

Imagination: The Catalyst for Change

I’m not the biggest fan of spring in Winnipeg. It comes after about five months of sub-zero temperatures, and suddenly half the snow melts, then freezes, then melts again, leaving the streets covered with a mixture of ice and giant brown puddles (which make getting around gracefully rather difficult indeed). But then, toward the end of March, I’m reminded of the one thing that makes the season bearable: a trip to the art gallery to watch the screening of the previous years’ Cannes Lions Awards. If you’ve never been, make a note on your calendar to absolutely catch it next year. It’s shown internationally, and is comprised of the bronze, silver, and gold-awarded advertisements from across the globe. Thousands of ads from all around the world are entered (24,000 in 2010 alone), and culminate in a festival and prestigious award ceremony celebrating the best of creativity in idea and execution of brand communication. I’ve been going to the annual showing for at least half a decade, and it remains one of my favourite events of the year, purely for the fact that it’s such a testament to imagination. It might seem a little odd to mute and fast-forward ads all year and then pay for a ticket to sit through two hours of them, but it really is more than worthwhile. This year I laughed so hard I cried, was moved to tears and applause, got goosebumps, and was, in one case, eager to find the culprit behind one of the most outrageous ads I think has ever hit television screens! The screening began, surprisingly, with a Canadian winner – an ad for the Vancouver Film Festival, which left everyone laughing and set the tone for what was to be a great evening:

This ad, barely a minute long, entitled “Embrace Life“, was for seatbelt awareness – and the combination of creative ingenuity, effects, music and execution was enough to move me nearly to tears. I could feel my eyes prickling in the same way they do when watching a real feat of imagination – things like this generally just make me proud to be a member of the human race:

The following ad was one of three winners from the same campaign from Volkswagen, revolving around the idea of “The Fun Theory“.  The idea is that something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better, being for themselves, the environment, or whatever – the only thing that matters is that it’s change for the better. The first ad posed the question: if we could make taking the stairs fun, would people be more likely to do it?  It then showed sped-up footage of construction in a stairwell next to an escalator, resulting in a set of stairs that looked like a giant piano, which actually made music as people climbed. The results? A huge percentage of commuters began taking the stairs. The second ad asked a similar question: if recycling was fun, would more people do it? It showed a bottle bank transformed into an arcade-style game on the street, where people could get points for putting their items into the appropriate receptacles. Again, a huge number of people began recycling – over a hundred used the arcade-style bin one evening, with only two using the traditional bin down the street. The third, entitled “World’s Deepest Bin“, definitely made me laugh – and left me with food for thought – we try to make people change their behaviours all the time, so why aren’t our methods more fun?

If you liked those three, check out the Speed Camera Lottery here.

The following ad made me laugh out LOUD. With a title like “Axe Cleans Balls“, you knew it was going to be a good one:

I thought this anti-smoking ad, entitled “Chance” was excellent. I think it’s from France, but narrated in English – it basically has a cinematic voiceover talking about the one in a thousand/million/billion chance that the solar system came to be, that humans evolved the way they did, that dinosaurs became extinct etc., and ends with a statistic on smoking that really makes you think. Great stuff:

The following ad was incredibly clever: The Ministry of Justice in the Netherlands put together an interactive billboard in Amsterdam to challenge public apathy towards aggressive behaviour on the streets. Public service employees in the Netherlands, such as ambulance drivers, face aggression and violence on the streets more and more often. Onlookers unfortunately do not intervene often enough when they encounter a situation like this. The billboard uses technology to pick up the images of passersby and place them in a pre-recorded violent situation, so they literally look at themselves standing by and doing nothing at the scene of the crime. Very clever stuff:

There was another great series of ads challenging aggression from India with the national “Ring the Bell” campaign, depicted as neighbours in several situations within apartment buildings ringing their neighbour’s bell when hearing sounds of domestic violence. A brilliant campaign to encourage people to take action when they become aware of domestic violence in their neighbourhood.

The following ad was a fantastic idea – targeted to football fans, offering an ingenius solution to the problem of what happens when match day falls on Valentine’s day:

Now, I realise I mentioned an ad earlier that I found one of the most outrageous things I’ve ever seen sandwiched between two halves of a television programme – and I wasn’t going to just leave you hanging! If you’re curious, check out this French advertisement for AIDS awareness – just beware, VERY adult content – and it’s one of the most NSFW things you’ll have ever seen. 🙂

I also realise that multimedia posts are often a turn-off, but I encourage anyone who loves a bit of creativity to check some of these out. Here’s to the imagination of the human race!

Chock full of pride and inspiration. With strong possibility of popping and locking.

A couple of months ago, I posted something I’d been holding back for a little while: how I honestly feel about living away from England.  Though I still don’t quite feel at home here, I am thankful for everything my time in Canada has taught and brought me… but every once in a while I can’t help but feel terribly homesick.

Like the whole of last week, when a small phenomenon known as Britain’s Got Talent took over the UK and the whole of the Internet. Now, stay with me here, I know America’s Got Talent has a bit of a bad reputation – but BGT brought us Susan Boyle, Paul Potts, and Diversity – the street dance crew that set the bar for the future of modern dance, combining innovative DJing, INSANE synchronization, unpredictable moves, comedy, surprises and stories throughout, pretty much rendering every former style obsolete.  I remember watching last year’s final, eating my tea with my mouth open and my fork stuck mid-air, not being able to take my eyes off them for a second.

This year, I was a little nervous the acts wouldn’t live up to last year’s standard. But with the strange, the compelling yet vomit-worthy (yes, a regurgitator made it to the semi finals – and tore at the country’s heartstrings!), and the downright bizarre have also come moments of sheer genius that have given me goosebumps, and had me giving standing ovations in my living room, applauding like a madwoman. (This is why we have curtains.)

What I love about this competition is that it gives the opportunity to showcase not only variety, but imagination, something different, and gives ordinary people a platform upon which to surprise the world. This year’s final was nothing short of STUNNING, and I honestly had no idea who’d take the title for 2010 and go on to perform for the Queen. Here are some of the acts that made my SPINE tingle with awesomeness:

Spelbound – a young gymnastics troupe who auditioned to Carmina Burana, with routines including human cannonballs, bodies as skipping ropes, launching bodies over the judging panel and SUPER HUMAN STRENGTH, balancing upside down, on their heads, sideways on a single hand, building stories, drama, and will literally make your jaw drop to the floor. I’ve never seen anything quite so exhilarating and awe-inspiring (and so proud they’ll be representing the country – amazing winners!!)

Tobias Mead, a 22-year old “body popper” whose limbs and joints appear to be held on by jelly, or string… who absolutely defies physics and throws in totally creepy and downright GENIUS imagination. Probably the most mind blowing two minutes you’ll ever see.  Plus, he’s gorgeous. LOVE him:

Tina & Chandi. The first human-canine dance team I’ve ever seen – this dog does whole routines, ballet, Sinatra, and the can-can all in perfect timing. Their bond reeks of absolute devotion to one another and it’s one of the most simultaneously adorable and impressive acts ever:

And I couldn’t leave out everyone’s favourite 80-something diva, Janey Cutler. A great grandmother from Scotland who’s delightfully oblivious, endearingly full of absolute joy, and belts it out just as well as Shirley Bassey and Whitney Houston. I ADORE her spirit, her strength, her absolute DARLING personality, and the fact the her massive voice blew the entire nation away. NAN’S GOT TALENT!!

The finale was made up of all these acts, as well as a street dance comedy double act, the man of a thousand voices (<3), another Susan Boyle moment with the petrified but incredible opera-singing ACCOUNTANT, the smallest boy band in the world, a UFO flying drummer and more… I’ve always been a little bit patriotic, but after being thoroughly blown away last week, I HAD to share with you one of the things that really make me love Great Britain.  I had no idea who’d possibly win this year…but it’s confirmed that one of the things on my 26-before-26 list is going to be learning to sing and DANCE.

Not ballroom dancing or hopping about my kitchen (although Ashalah may argue the latter)… but actually moving. Like Tobias!! I want to dance (and sing), even if I start from nothing. Even if it’s not for me – I want to try!! This year’s competition has filled me with pride and inspiration, so they’re both going on the list.

I hope you loved this lot as much as I did. 🙂

80s Time Traps, McCartney & Gaga, and Weapon-Wielding Monarchs: April = AWESOME

Sweet and I aren’t big TV watchers. For the longest time, we didn’t even have cable (only signing up for the “3 months free” promotions, and promptly cancelling at the end of each trial, resulting in a strangely large collection of remote controls, and much to the chagrin of the installation guy). We watch our favourites online, mostly, or on DVD box set – sometimes there’s nothing better on a dreary Saturday than curling up with back to back episodes of Star Trek and a cup of tea! But this month, we had no choice but to succumb. Three of the best programmes on TV are all starting new seasons, and I’m BEYOND excited.

#1: Doctor Who

It’s no secret I’m a huge Whovian and, after a 2-year hiatus and much anticipation for the latest incarnation of the Doctor, it FINALLY returned to our screens last week.  For those of you who’ve never seen it, Doctor Who started back in the 1960s in black and white, and rather low budget, and has continued to this day, remaining the longest running science fiction show in the WORLD. It follows the story of the Doctor, the last of his race, travelling through space and time with various companions, battling evil and saving the Earth. He has the ability to regenerate into a new body near death – and the current series marks the eleventh actor to play the role. I hope it goes on forever!! Generations have grown up “hiding behind the sofa“, and this series’ new writer definitely has a taste for the darker stories – last season had episodes which literally made me afraid to turn off the lights, and this week showed one of the most chilling, and best episodes I’ve ever seen. Humanity fleeing to space after a major catastrophe on the Starship UK, led by a gun-wielding, cape-donning Queen Elizabeth X, going undercover to find out what her government is up to while voters are given the option to “protest” or “forget” – and the Doctor left with a choice between killing the last of a race or saving humanity – this episode was to DIE for.  And next week? Winston Churchill building an army of “English Daleks” to win the war? COUNT ME IN.

#2: Ashes to Ashes

This may VERY well be the new highlight of my week. It’s in its final season and was a spinoff of the amazing Life on Mars (the UK version – please, America, never try and remake anything again…), which, if you didn’t catch, was a sci-fi police drama (I know, brilliant), telling the story of a present-day police officer who is hit by a car, and wakes from consciousness in 1973.  We don’t know if he’s gone back in time, in a coma in the present, or if anything is real – the story is full of wonderfully creepy “signs” he might be in a coma, like hearing present-day voices on the radio, or ’70s television characters stepping out of the TV into his apartment and talking to him about his “real” life…

Ashes to Ashes followed the incredible finale, telling the story of a female police officer (played by Keeley Hawes, of MI-5 and Death at a Funeral fame) who is shot, and inexplicably regains consciousness in 1981.  When she wakes up, she is shocked to meet the head of the same police department she’s read about (in researching what happened in Life on Mars).  Throughout the series, we don’t know whether she is dead or alive in the present day. Gene Hunt, the DCI, is one of the most brilliantly written characters I’ve ever seen. He’s hilariously politically incorrect (“This case is going as fast as a bunch of spastics in a magnet factory“), unnecessarily brutal, and has lines that’ll have you splitting your sides one minute (“I”m not a religious man, Mr Warren – but isn’t there something in the Bible that says, thou shalt not suck off rent boys?”), and full of hope and absolute fear the next. The season 2 finale remains hands-down the best finale of any TV show I have ever seen in my life, and this series is proving to be simultaneously full of wit and spine-tingling chills, leaving me HANGING off the edge of my seat with a blanket half over my eyes.

#3: Glee

I’ll admit I was a bit of a new kid on the Glee block, but since starting the season in February (and subsequently buying both soundtracks, converting officemates on lunch breaks, and watching the whole thing through about three times since), I’m officially hooked. Another hilariously politically incorrect antagonist (“I empower my cheerleaders to be champions. Do they go to college? I don’t know. I don’t care. Should they learn Spanish? Sure, if they wanna become dishwashers and gardeners”), an ongoing theme of  losers and nerds coming out on top, half the cast of Heroes, and amazing numbers – this one has it all.

Do watch the videos! What’s keeping you glued to your seats these days??

Time Capsule: A Decade in Review

It’s the end of the first decade of a new millennium.  At the end of the year, bloggers usually write some sort of reflection on the year that was.  But I feel like I’ve kind of been doing that continually all year long, so instead of rehashing 2009, I couldn’t think of a better way to end the year (and indeed, the decade) by reflecting on my world of the last decade.  I’ll try and be brief – but here’s my take on the noughties.

2000: This was a big year for me.  Looking back at old picture-stuffed, handwritten diaries, I see my departure from the country I call home.  I see paperbound notebooks, scrawled with messages between friends wishing me luck with boys, with Canada, and with an entirely new life.  I see wonky teeth gone forever and braces finally removed.  I see nervousness, and excitement as I left my life behind and started fresh on an entirely new continent, initial feelings of anxiety quickly surpassed by those of enthusiasm, as I was thrown into high school, and everybody wanted to know the new kid in town.  It seems a million years ago, but we were all still using Napster, Britney Spears was the freshest thing since sliced bread, and Madonna was getting ready to take over the world all over again.

2001: My first proper year in high school.  I started a rigorous advanced program and made two friends I stuck around with for the rest of my high school years, one of which I’m still good friends with today.  I discovered my love of literature and the English language, and decided I wanted to be a teacher.  My first long-term relationship began, with a dark haired Rodrigo Santoro look-alike recently landed from the Ukraine.  Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman were still together, the world was taken by a storm of fantasy as Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings hit the screens, and elsewhere in the world, three thousand people lost their lives as planes crashed into the twin towers. The world was in mourning.

2002: I discovered I could sing, met some guys in a punk band and got up in front of the school and sang Offspring and No Use for a Name covers. I had my first proper breakup after a year and a half, and started learning about my relationship behaviour, an unfortunate pattern I’d soon become very hurt by, and wouldn’t truly realise for another six years.  I got my first job as a “Language Services Facilitator”, very scared of the working world and grown-up responsibility, but very grateful to not be working at McDonald’s or Wal-Mart like most of my fellow classmates.  The music world mourned the deaths of TLC’s Lisa Lopes, The Who’s John Entwistle, and the legendary Joe Strummer.  My new city of Winnipeg is put on the map as My Big Fat Greek Wedding becomes the most successful independent film ever.

2003: I finished high school and headed to university with every intention of becoming an English teacher.  I took English literature, medieval history, psychology and the history of art, and it was through friends I met here that I met Sweet for the first time. We dated for a month (before he unceremoniously dumped me right before Christmas!), and I also first met my best friend. Myspace and Facebook were launched, and changed the face of communication forever.

2004: At nineteen years old, I decided I was ready to move out.  I left home against all common sense, moved in with my then-boyfriend, an internationally travelling showman, juggler and contortionist, and realised how rubbish I was at being left behind.  I worked part time at the post office, and went to university part time, ultimately dropping out due to lack of money, lack of time, and our eventual breakup.  This year, I worked as a postal clerk!  X Factor mania began its reign of television supremacy, and a tsunami took the lives of hundreds of thousands.  This was the year I discovered the magic of the Winnipeg Fringe Festival , found my love of theatre, and have been back religiously every summer since.

2005: The BBC relaunched Doctor Who, my favourite and, according to the Guinness Book of Records, “longest-running science fiction television show in the world, and as the most successful science fiction series of all time.”  I was hooked for life.  I temporarily moved back into my parents’ house, living out of boxes on a sofa in the basement for a few weeks until I found my first apartment, into which I moved with my very first flatmate.  I discovered the horrors of joint cohabitation, but couldn’t afford to live alone, and so began my string of exasperating roomies.  2005 was also the year I got fired for the first and only time in my life, and I decided to go off to another province to work in a holiday resort for the entire summer.  I soon realised what a relentless homebody I was, and came back after about three weeks.  I took the first job I could find, and began my brief stint in the world of retail.  Elsewhere in the world, the first video is uploaded to YouTube, and within six months, the site was hitting 100 million views per day.

2006: I quit working in retail, and got my  soul back! I landed a job as a graphic designer (and soon after, office manager) at a print shop and though I stopped feeling bad about never finishing my English degree, I still longed to be learning again.  I pursued graphic design, learning on my own and getting better and better, and stayed there for three years.    This was the year I got my beautiful little cat, too, but it was also the year my parents split up.  An extremely close relationship with my dad began, but my relationship with my mother went in the opposite direction.  In 2006 I really got into British music in a big way, and discovered my love of bands like Muse, Kasabian, Keane and the Arctic Monkeys.  Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy takes the world by storm and becomes quite possibly the biggest song of the decade.  Twitter is launched – and it takes another three years before I eventually hop on the bandwagon.

2007: was the beginning of the worst year ever.  I (stupidly) got engaged to someone who started off great, but ultimately wound up lying, stealing money, doing drugs, and becoming abusive.  I lost a lot of my self-confidence  and started questioning the person I was.  I learned a lot of valuable lessons, and I wish I could go back to my 2007 self and give her a slap in the face and tell her to stop being so naive.  But 2007 had lots of good moments too – I visited England, France,  went to the best concert of my life and saw my favourite band of all time.  I had my tonsils out over Christmas of this year – THE most painful experience of my life, and found myself alone, in pain, and completely detached from the real world.  Luckily I reconnected with Kyla, resurrecting a wonderful friendship after years of absence.

2008: I had my first year of really being single and living without a flatmate.  I learned that I didn’t have to take every offer that came my way and just say no and be by myself for a while, and let my heart heal.  I went out dancing every week and threw myself into the indie music scene, staying up until 2:00 on weeknights.  In late spring, Sweet came back into my life after about 5 years not being in it, shortly before another trip back to the UK.  I visited old friends, fell in love with Ireland, and discovered I missed Sweet more than anything, and came back into his arms, where we officially decided to give it another go.  My best friend got married in a beautifully intimate ceremony, and I experienced my first moments of real, true love.  I had to give up my second cat, Chloe, and wept for days.  Heath Ledger passed away and the world was in shock.  I was encouraged to leave my comfy job at the print shop and go for something more, so I took a chance, quit, and spent the end of the year in California.

And now I’m wrapping up the decade with what’s been, so far, the best year of my life.  I started with a goal of escaping the shell of a person I was, taking risks and ending up exactly where I want to be.  I moved in to my first house, had an amazing year with good friends, growing closer with my dad, got a job I absolutely love, got engaged, developed my faith, and met my all-time favourite author in the flesh, a moment I will cherish for the rest of my life.  I enjoyed a bunch of amazing music, programmes and movies.  I’m in the final of a national blogging contest and I’ve just started writing for an online music magazine – I’m doing what I love, and being given more and more opportunities to do it.  2009 has been an incredible, life-changing year, and I’m starting the new decade with a spirit of excitement, determination, and gratitude.  Next year already holds a lot of anticipation.  My first trip to the Caribbean, to the biggest city in Canada, to England and to wrap it all up in December, our winter wedding.  I can’t even imagine what I’ll be writing over the next ten years, but I know I can’t wait to share it all with you. 🙂

Happy New Year!!

Nothing says “Christmas” like Civil War…

Today marks the start of the last weekend before Christmas.  It brings shops filled with exhausted workers and frantic last-minute shoppers.  It brings TV specials, Advent services, holiday parties and, somewhere, in a little country elsewhere in a world filled with countdowns, festivities and frenzy, it brings a race to the annual Christmas Number One

Growing up in England, every weekend was an exciting time for music.  Friday nights were spent glued to the television for half an hour watching Top of the Pops, and Sunday afternoons to the radio, listening eagerly to the weekly Top 40.  I remember walking home from school, through the town centre, cutting through Woolworths just so I could check out the new singles chart, and often pick up a few on cassette tape with my £2 pocket money.  The music charts were a definitive part of Britain’s weekend, taking over the television, radio shows and shop displays, and in the leadup to Christmas, the chart battle for the number one spot took over the nation.

Bookies released the odds, bets were placed, and the nation held its breath during the week leading up to the Saturday before Christmas to see who’d hold the coveted number one position on Christmas Day.  Today, the UK finds out who their nation’s 2009 Christmas Number One will be.  But this year, it’s a little bit different.

This year, it’s become a full-out war.  Christmas charts of the last few years have undoubtedly been dominated by the winning single released from that year’s X Factor winner.  I have nothing against this – I love the X Factor, and this year have followed the journey of an absolutely lovely young lad who’s worked hard, won the heart of the nation, come from a humble background, and I’m excited to see him get the opportunity of a lifetime.  Previous years’ winners have gone on to break all-time records, or shoot to international superstardom, selling out faster than anyone in UK chart history, selling multi-platinum level albums and becoming three-time Grammy award nominees.  I love the show, and am thoroughly behind backing these kids who come from all walks of life, and giving them a shot at making it.  This year’s winner was incredible, brought tears to my eyes, a skip to my heart, and what’s happening to him this weekend makes me very upset.

The nation’s been split by a husband and wife team, who decided they were sick of X Factor taking the fun out of the race to the Christmas Number One, and set up a Facebook campaign to get an old Rage Against the Machine song to the top for 2009.   The band’s Killing In The Name track was chosen by the anti-X Factor campaigners because of its message of taking a stand against authority.  And the success has been staggering. The group’s membership has hit half a million, and alternative radio DJs across the country have spread the people’s discontent at the state of the music industry today.   “Fed up with Simon Cowell’s latest karaoke act being Christmas No.1?” the group asks Facebookers. “Me too… So who’s up for a mass-purchase of the track ‘KILLING IN THE NAME’ from December 13th as a protest to the X-Factor monotony?”

Unfortunately, the rebellion has divided the nation, with odds fluctuating drastically all week long, and what initially appeared to be a small internet campaign has taken over the country, with the story being broadcast across the planet.  This kid’s worked hard for months, spending time living in a house of strangers, having to learn musical arrangements and dance routines within barely a week, and living away from friends and family throughout the holidays.  And his shot at a number one single is being taken away by people backing a foul-mouthed, rap-metal US band with a single from years ago that has no place in contemporary British music charts!

With less than 24 hours to go, I’m reading all sorts of articles.  The odds are too close to call. Public opinion is divided.  But the X Factor winner has spent his first week of fame meeting soldiers home from Afghanistan, and sick children in a London hospital.  He says these visits have helped him put his chart battle into perspective.

“This week I have been faced with soldiers who have had their limbs blown off and children who are dying or seriously ill in hospital.  That to me is so much more important than getting to No 1. You just don’t know how lucky you are.”

At the end of the day, I guess it doesn’t really matter who’s at the top when the charts are announced this time tomorrow.  But I can’t help but root for this guy, who’s worked hard, and ultimately, with a journey of hard work behind him, his compassion and sincerity will go on, and I wish him every success in the world – but I’ll still be sitting here, halfway around the world, with my fingers crossed very tightly indeed.

Advocation for Self-Education

Not normally one to write about politics or current events, I couldn’t help but hop on the H1N1 discussion. At work, I’ve somehow landed myself the position of Co-Chair of the Workplace Safety and Health Committee (yes, me, I know) and naturally, the topic of H1N1 and subsequent vaccination has been a bit of a hot potato in recent meetings. I’ve found myself very much in the minority when I decided to sit in at lunchtimes and continue to watch Torchwood, while everybody else bundled into their vehicles to hit the nearest vaccination “clinic”.

Shopping centres around the city have been transformed into mass vaccination hotspots; on Friday afternoon I had to make my way past a full news crew and endless winding queues just to be able to buy a book. We were told inititially that everybody should be vaccinated, that Canada had bought more than an ample supply of the vaccine, and there was most definitely enough for everyone. My coworkers started coming in with sore arms, proud of their premature innoculations, and satisfied that their families were now safe from the flu. But then the news started to turn. People not in one of the “at risk” categories were encouraged to hold off and allow those more needy to go ahead first. Doctors’ offices were packed with floods of people. And strange reports started coming in from around the world.

Having been raised on Star Trek and the X Files, any time the government decided to encourage mass injections of something into the entire world’s deltoids was always going to peak my curiosity. And being on the Health and Safety Committee, it was only right that I did my part to educate myself on the possible risks, right? I started seeing Facebook groups popping up on “Protesting the H1N1 Vaccination”, news articles from around the world on how the vaccine was never properly clinically tested – “so far, according to the Health Canada website, there have been no tests on children or those over 60 – for either vaccine. Instead, the federal government is relying largely on results from what Health Canada calls a “mock” vaccine based on an entirely different strain of flu.” The ingredients of the vaccine seem further cause for concern – the biological index of that vaccine includes chicken embryos, formaldehyde, squalene adjuvant, thiomersal (mercury derivative), polysorbate 80 (preservative) and aluminum adjuvant among others listed on the Biotechnology Information Institute website.

And then came the post-vaccination effects: the recently married cheerleader who can now only walk backwards following a freak reaction to the swine flu vaccine (I couldn’t bring myself to watch the video). The jab being linked to 25 deaths in the USA after a letter from the Health Protection Agency, the official body that oversees public health, telling neurologists to be on the alert for a brain disorder that could be triggered by the vaccine. And in a recent study published in the journal Neurotoxicology just last month, the researchers found that primates injected with a single vaccine containing thimerosal suffered significant neurological impairment when compared with those who received a saline solution injection, or no injection at all. Thanks to Marie for the link to that one.

It’s hard, when there’s so much conflicting information flooding the internet, to really know what to do, and it really comes down to a personal choice involving weighing out the pros and cons, and deciding which makes you more comfortable. Or uncomfortable. Of course, statistically you’re more likely to get swine flu than you are to get some horrible mutation/disease/die from the vaccine. And fear plays an enormous part in the decision. Which are you more afraid of? For me, it’s an easy decision. If I’m going to get ill, I’d rather it be from a natural strain of the flu than from a one in however many chance a man-made, untested “solution” going wrong. When I was a kid, people didn’t care about hand sanitisers or breathing masks or worrying what they might catch from being on an bus for 20 minutes on the way home from work. There wasn’t such thing as “correct coughing” into the crook of your arm. You put your hand in front of your mouth and nobody would bat an eyelid. Today, we live in such a state of fear that we’ll blindly inject things into our body if the newspapers and TV make us all afraid enough of H1N1.

Fire me from the Health and Safety Committee, but I’m not getting the H1N1 vaccine. I’ve spent too many hours watching shows that question the government, and recently, doing my research on the flipside of the H1N1 vaccination coin. If you’re debating getting the shot, I’d strongly encourage anyone to make sure you’re fully informed before succumbing and falling prey to the mass hysteria taking over today’s world. I’m going to close with one of my favourite songs right now, which just so happens to touch on the topic of not being controlled or forced into anything – and also just happens to sound kind of like the Doctor Who theme.

Remember, remember… the fourth of November?

Today is going to go down in history.

I don’t think I’ve ever written about politics before, likely as a result of my inability to vote: living in England I was too young, and I suppose living in Canada as a British citizen doesn’t really make my opinion on the country’s government count, I suppose, but somehow, today, I find myself ridiculously wrapped up in the state of the US presidential election. The recent Canadian election came and went, and I think it’s safe to say that a lot of people couldn’t have given a monkey’s about the result. As I was informed today, it was the “lowest turnout in Canadian voting history”. So what is it that the Americans are doing that instigates such strong opinions in Canadians, who can’t even vote in their election?

Over the last few weeks, much of my exposure to the campaigns has been through the UK’s BBC radio. At times I’ve been downright appalled hearing racist McCain & Palin supporters voice their opinions of Obama, voting Republican because he “must be a terrorist”. The number of ill-educated, chauvinistic racists in America recently reflected is atrocious. Unfortunately they make up a significant chunk of voters.

A recent AP-Yahoo News poll that found one-third of white Democrats harbour negative views toward people of colour — many calling them “lazy” or “violent”. The poll, conducted with Stanford University, suggests that the percentage of voters who may turn away from Obama because of his race could easily be larger than the final difference between the candidates in 2004 — about two and one-half percentage points. More than a third of all white Democrats and independents — voters Obama can’t win the White House without — agreed with at least one negative adjective about blacks, according to the survey, and they are significantly less likely to vote for Obama than those who don’t have such views.

How can people be so closed minded? And how can there be so many of these people out there? It disgusts me to see people fearing the end of the world as they know it if an African-American becomes president of the United States. I’m glad it seems that in spite of such widespread bigotry, it seems hopeful that Obama will win the election. But I can’t help but be deeply disturbed by the fact that some of the people advocating his campaign are encountering a raw racism and hostility that have gone “largely unnoticed — and unreported. They’ve had doors slammed in their faces. They’ve been called racially derogatory names (including the white volunteers). And they’ve endured malicious rants and ugly stereotyping from people who can’t fathom that the senator from Illinois could become the first African American president.”

I just went to the Fox News forum and the first comment I see?

A true Christian would not vote for BO unless they have been greatly deceived. That is what I think has happened to the Christians who voted for BO. They have been deceived and are not in their right minds. He does not stand for any of my Christian values and his ideas do not line up with the Word of God. The antichrist will greatly deceive many…I think BO is the antichrist. BO would be the first step into communism…socialism/marxism. If our liberal public schools were actually teaching the true history of this nation and other nations, the children that are now young adults would not be voting for BO. I will continue to pray for the souls of those deceived by BO and for our country.

Sadly this was the tone of the vast majority of pro-McCain comments I read. I hate to be controversial but I wonder why it seems that the words “Christian” so often go hand in hand with “racist” in this election. I don’t particularly want to bring religion into it because recently I’ve been exploring my own spirituality, and for the first time, Christianity. From this I take several ways of life and try and follow through with my own life. Forgive others, be a good person, don’t gossip, be thankful for what you have – all very positive ways of thinking and living. But it’s so hard to want to be associated with so many Christians who are outright racists. I can’t vote in this election. But I can hope that the appointment of Barack Obama, a fine leader for the most influential nation in the world, will help expedite the eradication of closed-minded racism.