Friday, March 9, 2012

Ridin' that KONY

What's a KONY?
Well, unless you don't use the Internet ever, or don't talk to've probably heard about the KONY 2012 campaign. It has created a lot of awareness, but it has also been subject to a lot of criticism. Here is my experience with it all....

I first watched the video after seeing it shared a few times via Twitter and Facebook. It was 30 minutes long and I managed to sit through it all (maybe I don't have ADD after all!). You can view the video here. After viewing it, I felt sad and felt it was a message worth sharing. I also felt a little confused as to what they actually intended to do on April 20th, 2012 and why they chose that date in particular (4/20). I did not immediately begin researching Kony and Uganda, as I was already up past my bedtime and went to sleep right after.

To be honest, this was the first I had ever heard of Kony and the child soldiers in Uganda. I do not follow world news or politics nearly as much as I should. I think I am like a lot of people, I find it overwhelming sometimes and as much as I wish I could make a difference in this world, I get discouraged because I don't even know where to begin.

Anyways....after viewing this video, I did what most people seem to be doing. I shared it. The video states that its goal is to share the video, spread the word, make Kony a recognizable name and as a result, hopefully get the US military to intervene and seek Kony out. Now....I don't presume to know how government and military work (in any country)....there will always be things the public doesn't know and will never know about the inner workings of the higher powers in this world. However, I liked the idea that Invisible Children had a purpose, stated their purpose, stated their tactics and made it easy for people to follow. They wanted a viral video, they got one. They wanted celebrity/ policy maker endorsement, they got it. And then, the criticisms began.....

The day after the video exploded on the Internet, a lot of people began sharing links that criticized the Kony 2012 movement (good summary of criticisms here). Claims about the wrong financial doings of Invisible Children and the fact that Kony hasn't even been in Uganda for 6 years started surfacing and I have to be honest, I was confused.

Invisible Children responded to their critics with a well written reply (found here). After reading their response, I thought, ok, well that makes sense. I mean...they're doing the best they can and they're bringing light onto a subject that otherwise might not have received attention/ ever been addressed. The intent seems to be good.

Then, I read Glen Pearson's take on it all. Found here. now I was even more confused. Invisible Children has good intentions (seemingly), but their facts are outdated and the money would be better spent elsewhere. Meanwhile, so many other non-profit organizations will never get this sort of buzz and attention, but they would actually help more and serve a greater good.

And then.....I read about how there is oil in Uganda......
I'm going to stop there, because right now, I don't know what to believe about this Kony 2012 movement. Do I think Kony is a bad person? Absolutely. Should he be stopped if he is forcing children to  kill people? Yes. Can a viral video stop him? Not likely. Should people be donating money to this cause? Only if they've done their research and think it is a good idea for them to do so. Are there many more charities that donations would better serve? Yes. Is it possible that this is all a giant plan for the US government to invade Uganda and get oil? Maybe.

We live in a world where there is just too much going on. There are too many people doing bad things and too many people doing good things and then in the middle there are people doing good things, but only if its going to benefit them in the end and thus doing some bad things along the way to get to that point.
If anyone can give me an extremely good summary that is well researched and fact based and will help me get off the fence of this Kony movement, please share it with me!!

Friday, November 18, 2011

The London Jack the Rippers!

So, unless you've been living under a rock this past week, you've probably heard about London's new baseball team; The London Jack the Rippers.

At the unveiling on Tuesday night, the name London Rippers was announced and the logo was a sketchy looking cartoon man in a cape and top hat. The back story behind this mysterious man by the name of 'Diamond Jack' is that he had originally played hockey, but he was too powerful or something and then he turned to baseball and started "ripping" every ball he hit, which made people kick him off the team or something, so then he came to London to form his own baseball team?  It's a stupid back story either way....and one that seems strangely unnecessary for a logo (not mascot as I was informed by the official Twitter account for the London no, the mascot is just a fuzzy lovable dog named Fungo! naturally.) first I didn't really care about this name. Then when I started to think about it more and more, I realized that London now has a baseball team named after a serial killer. While I agree that oftentimes some people can be offended too easily and make mountains out of molehills, in this case, I think it is perfectly warranted to be offended by this name. A lot of people have brought up the analogy, well what if it was the Scarborough Bernardos or the Vancouver Picktons? Now, mind you, Jack the Ripper committed his killings in London, England (not Ontario) see the connection. He also was never actually caught, making him even more mysterious.

It seems that timing is what is supposed to make this name ok. The fact that these killings happened so long ago seem to negate the fact that they were horrible, brutal killings of young women.
What really grinded my gears throughout this entire week of "should they or shouldn't they change the name" is that the owner of the team didn't even admit to the tie to Jack the Ripper. He played it off as if it was pure coincidence that there was a serial killer in London (England) named Jack (just like that mysterious logo character) who is generally depicted wearing a top hat and cape (kind of wait...EXACTLY like the logo). I find it insulting that they didn't just own up to the name and say "yeah, we want him to be like Jack the Ripper....we think it's super bad ass and cool"

Today I even saw this promotional video that goes through the story of 'Diamond Jack'. Ummm, did anyone else notice the word "murdered" at 0:52, oh and then "disappear into the night" and "by night he would snoop around" "when all were asleep he would creep..." "baseball covers mysteriously found in the town" Anyways, anyone who says there was no intent to connect this to Jack the Ripper is completely lying and in my opinion is the scummiest of all scum.

Now, after my initial anger and disgust with how this situation has played out over the past week, today I got to thinking that these Marketing people (whoever they may be), are total geniuses. What I once saw as being an idiotic plan with no forethought, I now see as a completely well-thought out (though risky) plan. The amount of publicity this team has already been given is more than they would have received all year with any other name. While it is controversial and will certainly keep those who are offended by the name away, I have a feeling that isn't exactly the people who would be buying the tickets in the first place anyway. Baseball fans are baseball fans. I don't think they would boycott a team or game based on a controversial name. However, there is the risk that if they keep the name and logo, there will be protests and more bad publicity and London will just be a complete joke of a city. I honestly don't know how it will play out, but I certainly can't wait to see. Either the London Rippers are here to stay and they will fill the stadium with fans/fall flat on their ass, or they will change their name and logo after wasting a lot of money on initial marketing.

Either way.....I do not appreciate the bad publicity towards London. So if this was all done on purpose, I hope the Marketing team thinks that their 15 minutes of fame is worth a permanent dent on their community.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

London Ontario Drivers

....are the worst.
I really think they are. I don't know what it is, but I seem to encounter sheer stupidity on the road multiple times daily. How can people be so oblivious to what's going on around them? I know everyone makes mistakes and obviously I've cut someone off or done something stupid on the road a couple of times in my life, but the one huge difference is that I actually acknowledge that I have done something wrong. I'm well aware of when I do an asshole move or I screw up because I wasn't paying close enough attention to the road.
It seems that all bad London drivers who continuously do stupid and often dangerous things are completely unaware that they've done anything wrong. There is no hand wave or look of apology because they honestly don't have any idea that their driving is awful and could seriously harm someone one day.
I'm talking about the people who constantly change lanes, cutting people off in the process, or the people who turn left through the red light even though they were far behind the line when it turned yellow. Don't get me started on the people who never ever signal. It's a F-ing flick of the wrist that takes literally 2 seconds, how hard it is to take those 2 extra seconds to indicate where you are going?!
Anyways....I'm just curious as to how these people all ended up in London, Ontario. Any ideas?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Cirque du Soleil's: Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour at the JLC

Last night I had the pleasure of attending Cirque du Soleil's: Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour at the John Labatt Centre and it was absolutely FANTASTIC!! The music, the dancing, the costumes, and everything else had everyone on their feet at the end for a standing ovation.

My mother and I dined at La Casa Ristorante before the show and it was delicious. I had the Chicken Picatta and my mom had the Salmon Della Casa.  If you haven't been there, I highly recommend it. 

Anyways…..onto the show!

We arrived at the JLC around 7:30 and took our seats. We were very close to the stage; the first level up from the floor and to the side so we could see the entire back stage and walkway/front stage as well. These two were ready for the show!
I started off feeling a bit underwhelmed during the first few scenes. I'm not sure if it's because I had my expectations set too high, or because there was a lack of context and continuity within the first few songs/scenes. 

The opening scene had five men dressed in various Michael Jackson style outfits, who reappeared throughout the show for various scenes, including a nice mash-up of the earlier Jackson 5 songs (see picture below). They were carrying around boom boxes and the song "Working Day and Night" came on and the men danced and eventually were lifted into the air and did an interesting in-air run against a screen displaying various fast moving images, finally they began painting the screen.  It was an interesting visual display, but I had hoped for a grander opening number to one of MJ's more famous songs.
It then transitioned into the cheesiest/creepiest of the scenes. MJ's voice came over the speaker and he was speaking about the importance of having a childhood (they used clips of MJ’s voice at the beginning of a few scenes, which was hauntingly beautiful and reminded me of what an impact he had on this world). Then the song "Childhood" came on and suddenly there was a giant air balloon floating across the stage/over top of the floor audience. There was a child in the balloon and it took me a minute to realize it was a life sized doll. It creeped me right out, but I understand the significance of the scene and the song in terms of Michael’s life and thoughts on childhood. 

After that, things picked up and there was a lot of high energy scenes, including a group dance to “Shake Your Body Down To The Ground” and an interesting factory-like scene to the tune of “Dancing Machine”.

Things slowed down a bit after that with a tableau scene to the song “Ben”. Again, the slow stuff just didn’t appeal to me as much. It felt out of place and overly contrived, plus it didn't have the high energy dancing/choreography that I love!

Luckily things picked right back up again and the performers paid homage to MJ’s video for “Smooth Criminal”. Decked out in their zoot suits, they did a great dance and even ended with an awesome lean scene that incorporated fireworks into it! This transitioned nicely into “Dangerous” where a female acrobat performed a dance on a pole that made me think that she must have had her bones removed at some point. The way she could twist and stretch her body was unreal. 
"Thriller" closed the first half and was depicted as a graveyard scene, of course. They did the classic Thriller dance wonderfully, which was a nice treat so close to Halloween! Everybody cheered as the curtain closed for intermission.

The second half I enjoyed more than the first I think, perhaps because there was less of the slow scenes, or maybe the scenes that were slow were done in a less creepy way! It opened with "I Just Cant Stop Loving You", which actually made me laugh a bit because I love this song and I plan to use it in my wedding. My husband and I will have our first dance to this song and perform a cheesy duet as we enter the dance floor as well.* Anyways, the focus was on a male and female acrobat doing crazy things with their bodies in the air. I think everyone just stares in awe when acrobats perform, it’s such a unique talent.

A slow scene in the second half that was hands down my favourite of the slower ones was to the tune “Human Nature” and it had acrobats in the air wearing LED light up suits. They moved around in the dark black air with tons of little lights (stars) lit up on their bodies, looking like constellations in a night sky. There was a slight creep factor in this one too though, when I realized there was a giant fake child again sitting on the crescent of the moon behind the floating constellations. But the focus was on the beautiful star show, so the creepiness faded. 
The second half continued with great songs and dance scenes. Including one where 5 male acrobats did flips and jumps in perfect synchronization. 
They paid homage to Michael's "Jam" music video by incorporating basketballs into a group dance scene. Another great scene was set to "They Don't Care About Us", which had powerful images on the background screens and giant robots marching/dancing. 
The ending was strong with a mix of "Can you Feel It", "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough" "Billie Jean" and "Black or White". But the final song was "Man in the Mirror", which is apparently the song Michael used to like to close his shows with.

Oh and I almost forgot to mention that Bubbles was there too! In his overalls. There was also a scene that used giant versions of Michael's signature sequin glove and penny loafers as props.
It was an amazing show and while there were certain songs I might have interpreted differently, I have so much respect for everyone involved with the performance, on stage and behind the scenes. It was truly a tribute to Michael Jackson and reminded everyone of his talent and influence. 

I want to thank the JLC for giving me and my mom (she also loved it!) the opportunity to see the show. If you aren't following them on Twitter yet, you better do it RIGHT NOW! @JLC

*I am currently single, so if you're a nice young single man and the idea of doing a hilarious duet/dance to an MJ song at your wedding sounds appealing, feel free to message me ;) 

Photo source:

Saturday, October 15, 2011

How far do we extend?

Technology is an extension of oneself, so kinda says Marshall McLuhan.
He also says something about the medium being the message, but let's not go there ...yet.
Firstly let's look at technology as an extension of the human body.
When the car was invented, people began walking less and relying more on automatic transport. Cars, buses, trains, planes, who needs feet anymore? Imagine the definition you'd have in your calves if the car had never been invented.

Think of a computer and using your keyboard (or even think back to a typewriter if you are a dinosaur like me and ever had the pleasure of using one). Suddenly the need for even using your hand to write a letter was removed. Mind you, you need two hands to type-if you're doing it properly ...maybe I should pick up a pencil more often?!

Anyways, I digress.....if we look at these technological advances as extensions of the body, we can see how they relate to our physical being. But what about our mental being?
This evening I found myself, as I often do, with my iphone in my hand. God bless that little gadget. Then I realized that I had no reason to have the phone in my hand. I had just finished chatting with a friend, I didn't have any outstanding text messages, I had recently checked Twitter and Facebook, what else could I possibly need my phone for? Maybe play a round or two of my latest addictive game- Mouse Maze? Nope, I didn't even need to do that.

I realized that I didn't need to have the phone in my hand, but I wanted to. I wanted to know exactly when the next tweet would come in, or the next thing my friend would say back to the text I sent earlier. My iphone is beginning to serve as my entire persona.
I don't even need to go somewhere to engage in conversation with someone, I can just text them!

I feel like some people might be used to this, we all know about cyber culture and how social media has made it easier than ever to interact with people at the click of a mouse button. Some people even started the Internet craze long ago in chat rooms, with ICQ or other founding cyber groups. Others are more recent to hop on the band wagon, with the increase in mobile devices being used for everything imaginable and the ways to communicate being endless.

It doesn't matter when you started, but if you are reading this, then its official; you have started. Your entire online identity is an extension of yourself. It's another version of you. One that is at a distance, but still visible. One that you must remember, is still a representation of yourself and can be used for or against you. It can also mean that the other representation of yourself, the real physical being that you present to people in person might be changing. Less face to face conversation, less planning in advance for get-togethers and less socializing outside of the home makes for social awkwardness when you finally do go back to the way things used to be.

What does this mean for the future? If 10 year olds are texting and watching videos on their phones, who is climbing trees or drawing with coloured sidewalk chalk? Well....I am...but that's beside the point. What I'm trying to say is: kids are getting fat and people are becoming cyborgs.

Well..maybe not full cyborgs, but they are becoming an alternate (lazier) version of themselves. One that can do anything with the touch of a button. One that doesn't need to make a call to their friend in France, because it's easier to just write on their Facebook wall.

I have seen the future and it's just not as fun. Put down the phone, ipad, or get off your computer. Go for a walk and be amazed at what you find. A world without a filter.

This has turned into a more random and cynical post than I intended, but you get the point..maybe.
I also love the irony that I'm writing this on my computer with my iphone right beside me. I guess moderation is key. Let's continue using technology to our advantage, but lets not go full cyborg alright?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The John Labatt Centre and #JLCReviewer #MJCirque

The John Labatt Centre (JLC) is an amazing venue for concerts, shows, and sports games located in the heart of downtown London right across from the Covent Garden Market. The JLC has been doing a remarkable job of bringing some big names to London (including NKOTBSB this past August, which was THE BEST concert I've ever been to!!) and recently they have expanded their social media efforts with the new concept of the JLC Reviewer.

From my understanding, they choose a select few people for each upcoming event based on self and peer nomination, as well as proof of excellent writing skills, a blog to post reviews on, and a true desire to want to see the show. While I would have been happy to be a JLC Reviewer for any concert/show, it wasn't until they announced they were looking for a reviewer of Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour by Cirque du Soleil that I started squirming in my seat a bit and just had to nominate myself for such an honour.

First of all, let it be known that this show is touring 37 cities and London is one of the first stops (Oct. 18 and 19). When I first saw a commercial for this show (probably over one year ago), I remember immediately going to my computer to purchase tickets, but when I realized the good tickets cost about $250 each, I unfortunately had to step away from the computer and put my credit card back in my wallet. I told my mom about the show and she agreed that $250 was just a bit too pricey, so I just accepted defeat and put it out of my mind.
....Fast foward one year and suddenly the show is less than two weeks away and I can't stop thinking about it, especially now that the JLC has thrown this JLC Reviewer possibility in as a nice twist.

Let it be known that I love all theatre. I am a very into musical theatre and love any and all  combinations of song and dance/performance. I had the pleasure of seeing Alegria by Cirque du Soleil when I lived in South Korea (that's right, the Cirque even has shows in South Korea!) and I was absolutely stunned by the performance. Me and a group of friends had great seats and I was literally on the edge of my seat the entire performance in awe of what these people could do with their bodies. The music, the costumes, the movement, the lights, the set- each and every part of this performance added up together to equal perfection. I remember thinking at the time that if I had a time machine (which hopefully one day I will....just need to get that flux capacitor working), I would go back and take gymnastics classes as a child and make it my goal to be a Cirque du Soleil performer.

Now, let's digress for a moment and talk about my love for Michael Jackson. I have always loved Michael Jackson's music and I have always loved him as a person. When I heard about his death, I did indeed cry. I can honestly say there isn't one song by Michael Jackson that I don't like. From his major hit songs like "Thriller", "Beat It", "Billie Jean" and "Black or White" to some of his lesser known works of genius like "Human Nature", "They Don't Care About Us" and even "Will You Be There" (yes, from the Free Willy soundtrack). His music is timeless and  I would estimate I know the lyrics to about 98% of his songs. They are engraved in my memory because I listened to them as a kid, as a teenager, and I am still listening to them now as an adult (I also dance to them...very poorly, but with lots of enthusiasm).

So, what does this all mean? Basically, it means that I truly would love the opportunity to be a JLC Reviewer for this performance. Two of my favourite things coming together on stage for a majestic display of awesomeness would no doubt be a highlight of my life. I am curious to see how they have built a story around the music and what kinds of costumes and set design they will use. I also wonder if they will focus more on dance in this particular Cirque performance, or if there will still be a high level of gymnastics and acrobatics.

The only thing I can say for certain, based on some video previews I have watched and the high caliber of performance I know the Cirque is capable of, plus the universal greatness of MJ's music, this show will be AMAZING.

For a chance to be a #JLCReviewer and for more updates and info from the John Labatt Centre, follow them on Twitter- @JLC and find them on Facebook.

Follow me on Twitter as well!  @AndreaKBattista

Monday, October 3, 2011

New Amazing Race and Dexter!!

Has another year already gone by? The answer is: yes. yes it has.
A new season of the Amazing Race and Dexter have just begun.
My teams this year are: Andy and Tommy (professional snowboarders) and Justin and Jennifer (brother and sister)
I haven't watched the premier of Dexter yet, but I will by the end of today. With Julia Stiles gone and Colin Hanks in, it looks promising.