Photoshop challenge

Photo composite via http://galleryhip.com/

The impact of retouched images

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Originally published in The Other Press. Feb 24, 2015

Can a magazine with untouched images of models sell? I don’t know. Every time I have stood in the supermarket checkout line, I’ve noticed the stunning works by digital artists on the front pages of magazines. I must admit; I’m not the demographic for those magazines. There is nothing in there for me except fashion advertisements and regurgitated articles about topics I have no interest in. That leaves me to wonder, how influential was Cindy Crawford’s photoshop-free image that leaked on the Internet? Was it simply a publicity stunt to sell magazines or a true stance against a manipulative industry?

In the April issue of Marie Claire, you will be able to find a picture of the famed supermodel dressed in a bathing suit with all her flaws fully displayed. It’s a bold move that has earned resounding applause. But will it affect the landscape of modelling or the cutthroat world of media? It won’t.

As magazine sales decline dramatically, marketing stunts need to be implemented. Yes it’s brave of Crawford to appear in her humbling form, but it was also brave when Kim Kardashian appeared in Paper Magazine oddly mutated with her giant butt exposed. And there is a certain courageousness to those Instagram girls who take to social media, posting #NoMakeup pictures of themselves. These are apparently the things people need to do to get attention and to sell magazines today. However, models and people are not pioneers, and if they were they would be destroying the very industry that entertained and created them.

It’s clear why the veil of computer modification needs to be pulled down. People are impressionable and photoshopped images corrupt the idea of what beauty—achievable beauty, realistic beauty—actually looks like. However, the public does not want to pay good money for magazines with undesirable images.

I’m sorry that I’m skeptical and that I believe one day our shallow world will realize what hideous creatures we’ve become, not just in print but also in reality. Photoshopped images are drugs and we are addicted. We are now obsessed with the fantasy of looking perfect and dressing well. No model can change the current zeitgeist alone. Sure it is empowering but how can we use that power for good and not have it be one small step forward and three giant steps back.

I hate the idea of someone behind a computer retouching scars, wrinkles, pores, and pimples from an image of me, and I’m sure you’d hate that too. But simply eliminating it won’t work either. Perhaps there is a middle ground, a balance in every publication to have both retouched images and originals. Perhaps there can be two versions printed. Maybe we can see which initiative sells better.

It is a business, after all. McDonald’s burgers always look bigger, juicer, and tastier in advertisements. And so it goes with supermodels.

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TeamSnap Assists League and Club Organizers With All-Star Communication and Management Tools

For the longest time, team sports have had reputations as being poorly organized.

It was not because the coaches were incompetent or because the players were disorganized; it was because there was a lack of easy-to-use tools. In addition, the market for communication, management, and scheduling apps is as crowded as a defensive zone in the fourth quarter.

TeamSnap, an application designated for teams and clubs management, has a simple philosophy to break away: elite customer service and great user experience.

Team communication is paramount, whether it’s on the field, on the rink, or even on the way to practice. People need to know where to be, when to get there, and what to bring before they can score goals, make saves, and win big.

“We need to let people know about what’s happening in the way they want to be informed,” said Dave DuPont, CEO of TeamSnap. “If they want to use email, fine. We send 40-million emails a month now. If they want a text message, that works too. If they prefer Push, that’s cool. If they just want to use the native mobile app—we were one of the first in the industry to introduce that—then they can use the native mobile app.”

It’s not uncommon for venue and game time to change last minute. There isn’t always time to inform every person individually, and mass messaging on certain platforms will be neglected because the player or participant is already on the road.

Most of us understand the pain and hassle of organizing an event. Most of us also know the headache when a certain aspect falls through. But with TeamSnap, all the organizer or coach has to do is change—for example—the time of the event on the TeamSnap calendar and every member will be informed in the manner they desire.

Another element of a successful team is accountability. Because of the leniency of technology, people have gotten a little flakey or unresponsive when it comes to invitations. One of TeamSnap’s popular features is the “availability.”

“We make it super easy for folks to say if they are coming,” said DuPont. “They can confirm if they are coming, they can confirm if they are bringing the orange slices and beer. And that is all tabulated and everyone can see it, if the organizer wants everyone to see it. And it can be changed automatically. That is just the sort of thing that makes everybody’s life a lot easier.”

With over seven million users and an infrastructure that informs people, TeamSnap is taking it to the next level by broadcasting in-game experiences. Chat, scores, and highlights can all be crowd sourced during the game. Everybody on the sidelines can contribute and offer an experience for those who aren’t there.

Unlike Twitter, TeamSnap is a private social network. Only those accepted by the team’s inner circle will be able to receive updates, stats, and conversations.

While the experience on TeamSnap is familiar across the board, different sports require different approaches for a fine-tuned experience. Every game and every league has little subtleties and TeamSnap accommodates by allowing organizers to modify templates.

“We are most valuable for folks that are particularly sensitive to saving time and having great communications,” said DuPont. “A hockey team in general is going to be more sensitive to that issue than a pick-up baseball or pick-up football team. If you have a certain ice time, you want to make sure everyone is there on time.”

Having hit critical mass in such markets as Vancouver (2,200 teams and the third largest in Canada), TeamSnap is aiming to add more value to the users involved by providing goods and services related to sports. The data stored in TeamSnap, such as experience level, type of sport, and start of season, can all be utilized by brands to offer products and services that fit the players and the teams’ needs. A coach can inform a brand of the team colour, and in return the brand can recommend shoes and jerseys of that colour for the players.

DuPont added: “We take an altruistic view of this. We aren’t trying to maximize pageviews or anything like that—we just want to be the indispensible tool for teams.”

All work and no love

Illustration by Ed Appleby

How to balance work and relationships

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. Feb 17, 2015

There are two key channels in life that we are all sailing through simultaneously. One is the career path we have chosen. On this route we are empowered to catch the wind and ride as far as we can undaunted. The other channel finds us embarking on a journey for love and companionship. Our attitude on this trip, however, is much different. We dock occasionally, testing the waters here and there, uncertain when we’ll reach our destination. As you can tell by my longwinded metaphor, the success of work and love are two separate achievements, both of equal importance. But how do you attain one without losing sight of the other?

While some believe that people should keep work and love separate, I don’t believe that is true. A healthy relationship is built upon support, and a thriving career requires that too. The two channels feed into each other. The time you spend working and the time you spend with your loved one should be interchangeable. It should be teamwork. You and your partner should have careers that feed into each other’s lives; both of you should be passionate about what the other does and sail the same course.

Men are often praised for not bringing work home, but in today’s world what does that really mean? It means keeping a significant portion of the day hidden away. Your partner should be there to encourage you when you have an assignment due, or if there is an opportunity for promotion. It’s a competitive market and having someone on your side is irreplaceable encouragement.

With that being said, dedicating time to your romantic partner is equally as important. While accomplishing work or showing up on time is imperative, time you have away from the office, kitchen, studio, and the like should be portioned appropriately. Here is where you can help your partner better their situation. Help clean, make dinner, or even do some repairs. Life can unravel when there is nobody looking out for you, so do your best and pick up some slack when your partner can’t.

Life is not all sunsets and paycheques. Work is work and relationship is work, but that doesn’t mean you can’t succeed. I’m not going to tell you the type of person to date or the kind of job to have, but if you want a fulfilling life, it’s better if the two channels intersect occasionally. Find a partner that cares about your job and find a career that your partner is passionate about as well. Only then will you find true balance between work and love.

Mosaic Manufacturing Innovates 3D Printing by Combining Multiple Materials

By now we have all seen a commercial 3D printer in action, spitting out filaments layer by layer until it replicates a predetermined design.

The technology is stunning, but conventional usage of 3D printers has been limiting for two specific reasons: technology and design. Sure, we can all use more trinkets, knick-knacks and miniature models, but there must be a way to add value to the printers. Perhaps one day we’ll have 3D printer sets in our home, an appliance placed beside the microwave, blender and television.

Kingston, Ontario-based, Mosaic Manufacturing is not a company that builds 3D printers but a company that is making 3D printers better, more practical and with a greater purpose. By introducing multi-material and multi-colour filaments into the printing process, Mosaic is able to create working products such as a flashlight.

“[The flashlight] is very much a proof of concept,” said Chris Labelle, co-founder and COO of Mosaic Manufacturing. “At the end of the day, it is not that usable. But what it represents is the potential in all those machines.”

For the time being, electric devices require certain parts and assembly. The capacity to add several materials into the 3D printing process will enable the industry to print goods in a cost-saving manner. Imagine a world where we can print a remote control when we lose it.

The old solution, should you want to print a multi-colour or multi-material product, is to have two printer heads performing different tasks (example: one would distribute the colour red and the other one would distribute blue). The problem with this process is that—like a hot glue gun—when you stop using it, the material will ooze and drip.

“The two main things you need for a circuit are an insulator and a conductor, and if you think about all the printers on the market, the vast majority—80-90%­–of them only have one printer head. So they can’t print an insulator and a conductor.” Labelle continues, “If you drip conductor filament and you complete the circuit, you’ll have a short circuit. Your part just doesn’t work.”

The Mosaic Manufacturing solution takes materials with different properties and combines it into a single filament so that it extrudes from a single printer. Using Mosaic’s unique software, the program is able to analyze the design model and determine what material is needed in what order.

“Multi-colour and multi-material is huge when you start thinking about how limited the range of item you can print in this world,” said Labelle. “It’s probably 0.1%. We want that to be one day 100%. Materials with different properties is the first step in a world where we can just download a file and print something, instead of ordering it from Amazon.com.”

The number of use cases for 3D printer will depend on the person using it, but as the technology and design outlets improve, we may find it to be the convenient and feasible solution. A kilogram of filament is currently priced at approximately $35. With a kilogram, you can print a lot of things (example: a phone case may cost you $20-$30, if you print it, it’ll cost you 50 cents).

“You have a hammer, you can hammer nails,” said Labelle. “You have a printer, you can make anything. People will find uses for it.”

When I was young versus kids these days: Technology for romance

Opinions_technology romance

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. Feb. 3, 2015

Technology has always played an integral role in the way people communicate their affections, lusts, and desires. From the age of innocence and the composition of handwritten letters to the modern age of Tinder, PlentyOfFish, and Snapchat, we have always found ways to showcase ourselves in the most attractive manner. But times have changed our behaviour; online relationships are not what they once were.

When I was young MSN Messenger was at its prime, ICQ was nearing extinction, and personalized HTML websites, such as Nexopia, were starting to make an impression on youths. Technology was giving us hormone-overloaded kids new opportunities to flirt and establish relationships digitally. Gone were the days of calling a girl’s home, having her father pick up, and then awkwardly inquiring after her. I was a part of the first ever generation to enter high school with a cellphone—albeit my plan was limited to emergencies. Either way, we were living in a new age. Socializing occurred in classrooms and hallways, but it also took place after school, online.

During that time, the Internet was a way to present our persona, but more often than not, our vulnerabilities. Kids were marketing themselves in all the worst possible ways. We showed off our interest and begged for approval, but more often than not our efforts went ignored. The Internet became another playing field for popularity where only few can excel. Keep in mind that this is before the time of Facebook, and although connections with friends are common, as high school students, opportunities to expand our networks were limited and the risk of talking to strangers was high.

Kids these days have more communication choices than friends to talk with and the Internet infrastructure is now incredibly advanced. Apparently, with the right algorithm, you can fill out some questions and have a computer find a mate for you. Such technology is a little eerie to me. Although we don’t understand how it works, we are no longer afraid of it. Internet dating is no longer taboo—it’s big business. But that’s an adult service and I’m talking about the children. Won’t somebody think of the children!

With the improvement of technology, high school students are rejoicing in the convenience, but are also suffering from the danger. Cyber bullying and permanent blemishes such as nude images have taken the lives of numerous young people, and will continue to cause casualties. In my day, kids were limited to the word of mouth. Now, relationships and defamation are at the tips of your fingers.

When I was young I was a part of a popularity contest; the worst thing that could happen was indifference. Now, the effects can last a lifetime. Tech companies that focus on communication for a younger demographic need to find a solution, a means to regulate without interfering. But then again, growing up is all about making mistakes. Figure it out or log off.

You can’t level up in love

Illustration by Ed Appleby

Why we shouldn’t determine end goals for relationships

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. Feb 3, 2015

When we enter a relationship, it’s easy to start fantasizing about all the possibilities. We all have our own reasons for developing a romantic bond with another person. Perhaps we want to get married, have children, and live a fated life. That has been the traditional route for romance for many generations, but the mentality for many is less about mutual growth and more about levelling up in the game of life.

More and more I’m seeing couples treat their relationship with the same undertone as someone talking about their career. If marriage is simply a promotion, to me, it’s incredibly disturbing. Sure, a wedding is a wonderful party where grandma is invited, but with all respect, it does not symbolize adulthood or ultimate satisfaction.

Relationship milestones should not be determined by a single night of partying, wedding rings, and cheesy vows; it should happen organically. First dates, first kisses, buying new furniture together, and surviving an argument are examples of milestones, but are rarely celebrated because a relationship is exclusive. Only two people would have experienced it. It’s not something to brag about. It’s not something to prove.

If you enter a relationship with the objective of getting married or having children, you’re imposing milestones for your own life and not necessarily for your partner’s. Such behaviour can rather create ultimatums or cause you to live in a dysfunctional partnership.

Sometimes a romantic relationship can feel like a blessing, sometimes it can feel like a compromise, and other times it might even feel like a sacrifice. If you love a person, but you feel as though the relationship needs to move to the next level for some reason—be it moving in, getting married, or having children—then I beg you to reconsider. Although people may look at you as if you are some sort of pariah or failure for not achieving those outcomes, don’t fret because outsiders don’t know shit about your relationship.

Don’t let other people control how you behave with your loved one, because different people have different values. And you and your partner must figure out your values together without the interference of friends, families, co-workers, and even critics like myself. I don’t know how two people behave when they’re alone together; all I know is that if you enter the first date, answer a personal ad, or kiss someone with the intention of achieving some “life goal” you’ll be gravely disappointed. Building a relationship is the goal. There is nothing more but the moments you share together. You will never be able to level up, so feel satisfied in the moment.

The millennial priority shopping lists

Photo illistration by Joel McCarthy

Five things you should purchase if you actually have money

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published by The Other Press. January 27, 2015

Youth is wasted on the young, but money shouldn’t be. I know we might be a little strapped for cash here at the moment, but that is not going to be the case forever. We have our five-year plan and all our investments are in order. No time to worry about the future. That’s why we should take advantage of our current disposable income. The question is, what should we actually spend it on? Booze? Rent? Food? Those are all legitimate options, but here are my top five purchases to make if you are lucky enough to get a sudden influx of cash.

Plane ticket to anywhere: Any extra money I have I deposit into a saving fund dedicated to plane tickets and other traveling expenses. I’m passionate about traveling and I can’t imagine my life without the anticipation of another trip. Instead of spending money on more things around the house, I choose to go somewhere, see something new, and create worthwhile memories and experiences. There will come a day when I won’t get the opportunity to travel, but before then I want to see as many different places and experience as many different cultures as possible.

Better, healthier meals: It’s easy to get into the habit of eating poorly. Fast and unhealthy food is convenient and cheap and that is why we gravitate to it. When we receive some extra cash, why are we still making excuses not to eat healthier or fancier? Buy some vegetables or go to a restaurant that requires reservations. I enjoy fine dining as much as I enjoy McDonald’s. I have to tip more at one, and that is why I’m not a regular at Tojo’s, but I like treating myself and my friends and family to an evening of extravagance when I can.

New furniture (especially bed): Nothing symbolizes growing up like purchasing your own furniture. The day you decide to throw away your parents’ hand-me-downs and go shopping with the mission to create your own space is a monumental milestone that many people fail to commemorate. Obviously you can get by with what you have. You know, the couch from Craigslist, the table from your aunt’s garage, and the cheap, squeaky IKEA chair that pretty much grew up with you. I don’t care how sentimental you are, things get old, and you deserve new furniture that represents your taste.

New “comfy” pair of shoes: Few things in the world can guarantee to ruin your day: missed opportunities, regrettable comments or actions, and painful shoes. You might have one pair of shoes, you might have a thousand pairs, but what is important is that you have at least one comfortable pair of shoes. If you have one, then buy another one. Buy one in every style that you need. If it’s not comfortable, throw it away! Live a life where every step is enjoyable.

New technology: If you are the kind of person that says, “Yep, the Motorola flip phone from 2006 is still good for me, I don’t need smartphones,” then there may be no saving you. Technology is here to make our lives better. For it to improve we must continue using it, even as consumers. We must continue learning from it. We might not be the innovators, but we should be able to identify with the latest software and certain standards of technology usage. So buy a new desktop, buy a new tablet, and subscribe to digital media. There is a whole world out there waiting to be explored.

The cause of mass retailer extinction

Photo illistration by Joel McCarthy

Why Target, Sony, and other retailers may be missing the market

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published by The Other Press. January 27, 2015

Remember Zellers? I do, and that is why Target failed. The same everyday brands presented in the same everyday fashion with prices as high as any other major retailer. Target’s failure is no surprise to me.

I wanted to shop there, I tried to shop there, and on occasion, I have spent some hard-earned money there; nevertheless, I often found myself at Wal-Mart, Superstore, and Costco instead. There is absolutely no reason to choose Target over their competitors, except perhaps that it was closer to home. In my case, it was not.

Although Target’s demise is clear, the retail closure trend is a little scary. I hate to see Sony stores go, but I can’t remember the last time I went into one. Heck, I’ve been into more Disney stores than Sony. Another retailer that has disappointed me is the flagship Chapters on Robson. I’m going to miss walking through the four-storey space, killing time before an appointment, and never actually buying anything. I’ll miss that very much.

It’s obvious why those stores are failing, and if your behaviour is anything like mine, you would not be surprised either. The thing is, people still want to shop and browse, they just might not commit to a purchase or wait in line at the checkout anymore. Unless you have a unique product or a loyal customer base, you are going to have trouble surviving in our tough economy. New and old retailers need to understand the game: if you are going to take up space, you’d better have value.

Ask yourself this, what makes you go out to stores? Why are you choosing to buy something in person, instead of ordering it online? Why are you choosing that store instead of the others? The stores that are dying out are a part of natural selection. The power goes to the consumers. We’re at a crossroad and we get to determine which companies succeed and which fail.

As for brands, they can no longer act so big and arrogant. Any giant can crumble now. In a matter of weeks, a retail giant like Target collapsed. Whatever company that is taking over that retail space had better have a plan.

Canadian economics is a whole other ballpark and companies entering from the States must recognize the different culture. The next big brand to set foot in Vancouver is Nordstrom. I can’t wait to wander around their aisles, touch their fabric, acknowledge some of their employees, and then leave quietly out a random exit. Yes, I wish them luck—they’ll need it.

National egotism and propaganda

Photo by Keith Bernstein - © 2014 - Warner Bros. Entertainment

‘American Sniper’is an encapsulating project rooted in pride

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. January 27, 2015

When Seth Rogen and Michael Moore voiced their opinion on American Sniper—the number one movie in January with over $100-million in box office over the long weekend—it was targeted at the machine that was America.

Rogen, accustomed to controversies, compared the highly acclaimed film to the third act of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. One may remember the scene in which Hitler and his posse sat in a theatre, watching a movie with a sniper on higher ground taking out Allied soldiers. He said it without saying it; Rogen was pretty much comparing Clint Eastwood to Leni Riefenstahl and the American public to animals akin to Nazis.

Moore, the director of Oscar-winning documentary Bowling for Columbine, added in a tweet: “Only a coward will shoot someone who can’t shoot back.” A Japanese sniper killed Moore’s uncle almost 70 years ago.

The story of US Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, portrayed by Bradley Cooper, was a haunting one. Were we watching a film about a national hero or an international murderer? Either way, I believe it’s an honest war movie.

Of course, movies with a patriotic undertone have been a popular genre in cinematic catalogues since the existence of filmmaking. The original purpose of motion pictures was not just to entertain but also to persuade. How is American Sniper any different from the rallying war and disaster movies that made regular civilians feel empowered?

The criticisms aren’t directed at the performance or the movie itself, but the encompassing scenarios. Why is America hell-bent on murder, enough so to transform a normal man into such a weapon? What does it say about the current system of politics and recovery? How are we helping those transitioning from normal life to a life of war and then back again?

Although I agree with Rogen that the movie comes across as enemy-murder porn, and I understand where Moore is coming from, saying that heroes don’t gun down people from a hiding spot, I don’t believe that the movie is anything more than a reflection on the way we ourselves react to war.

Honestly, I enjoy movies that focus not just on the event, but also on the repercussions. I want to see the brutality of it. I want to see the broken relationships and the torturous anguish. I don’t want to see it glamourized like in many action movies. I want to watch a war movie and feel fortunate that there are those participating in such duties. And then I want to feel disappointed that I live in a world where we require people to participate, to enrol, to risk their lives, and to end the lives of others.

American Sniper, like many other Hollywood-produced war movies, has a clear identification of the enemy, but know this: not everything in movies is real. In fact, none of it is—they’re movies.