No Tinder for old men (and women)

Image via Thinkstock

Call it a bad tiered-pricing strategy, friendo

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published by The Other Press. March 16, 2015

For Tinder users who are over 30 years old, the premium version of the hook-up app will soon cost double the price for those under 30. It’s a tiered-pricing strategy that movie theatres, airlines, and restaurants have used for decades, but why are people upset about it?

Perhaps we think that Tinder is trying to eliminate the older demographic completely. After all, the majority of Tinder’s user-base is below 30, generally between the ages of 18 and 24. But why would that benefit the company? Would having a dominant younger user-base really help? I don’t think so. I believe Tinder has made a big mistake, and if not for being a subsidiary of InterActiveCorp, which owns Match.com, OkCupid, etc., the app is committing usability suicide.

Tinder’s appeal is the large 30-million-registered-user gallery and the quick-on-boarding capability. Upping the price changes all that. The strategy will not only hurt the older demographic, but it’ll also hinder the younger people too. Sorry if you are paying $9.99 for the service, but I’m really sorry if you are paying $19.99 per month to swipe left and right.

It’s true that paying a premium for the service may help users achieve their goal on the app, doing whatever they are doing, but with so many free social-connection services out there, including Hinge and Coffee Meets Bagel, Tinder appears to be merely poking holes in its monopoly.

Returning to the idea of age discrimination, a company has every right to present this form of pricing. It doesn’t have anything to do with discrimination; it’s more of just how the brand wants to represent itself. Think of all the fashion companies that only sell products to young, good-looking people. But then think of all the fashion dedicated to older folks or people of all ages. Tinder is clearly placing itself on the far side of any Venn diagram drawn. There are hundreds of dating/hookup services out in the market that will accommodate those forlorn users. Tinder is not openly stating it, but it’s clear that it does not want to focus on them.

It’s hard to say that Tinder, so widely successful doing whatever it is it does, has made a grave mistake. They claim to have done the research and all signs point to the strategy being successful. But I believe Tinder did not have to take this route to be successful. We live in a time where age has nothing to do with love, passion, or intimate connections. We live in a time where we claim 30 is the new 20. We live in a progressive time. The fact that one of the pioneering companies leading this progression decided to implement this type of fee to keep certain users on the fringe is a big step backward and a rather surprising discouragement.

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The ‘Blurred Lines’ of artistic plagiarism

Marvin Gaye and Robin Thicke. Image via zenfs.com

We are reaching the end of artistic originality

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. March 16, 2015

There is an old saying by Pablo Picasso that I take to heart every time I work on a creative project: “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” While it might sound like Picasso is supporting the notion of plagiarism, I actually believe he is condoning something different; he is saying that great artists are able to take ownership of their creation, which is inspired by a pre-existing work. But isn’t that what Robin Thicke did with the hit single “Blurred Lines”?

After listening to Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give it Up” from 1977, I am disappointed that the quote I have lived by—that Picasso probably stole from someone he overheard at a bar—had no support in the court of law. It might have seemed like millionaires arguing for a slice of a pie baked from a familiar recipe, but the event that took place will now open the door for many more lawsuits to come.

It’s clear “Got to Give it Up” and “Blurred Lines” share similar beats, but the two songs are not the same. The two songs do not have the same lyrics, the same theme, or the same audience. How many dance clubs are playing Gaye? With each passing generation, artists draw inspiration from works from the past. That is how creativity functions. Creativity does not exist in a vacuum. Artists take pieces from here and there and combine them. Can a cinematographer copyright a camera move? Can a painter copyright the scenery they painted? Can a musician copyright a series of musical notes?

More recently, Sam Smith was on the radar for his song “Stay With Me,” which to many sounding suspiciously similar to a slower version of Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.” In this case, Smith accepted a settlement and credited Petty as a co-writer. The not-so-petty Petty will now receive a portion of the money for “Stay With Me” and this may be a common trend for the future. Artists will be credited for works which merely influenced, or that coincidence caused the two to clash.

There is more music than there is time to enjoy it. Because of this, notes, rhythm, and melody will be replicated in some form. We call it plagiarism and perhaps it is. But the same way we don’t copy and paste words from Wikipedia, musicians don’t crop and paste music from iTunes. You take the content and you make it your own.

I still believe in the idea that great artists steal, because the artists today will always be standing on the shoulders of giants that preceded them. What’s different now is the system protecting those giants. We as artists need to craft our creative work better so that it doesn’t resemble that from the past. More than ever, we need to make our work our own. If that means adding a banjo, so be it. If that means a sitar, well damn it, play that sitar. If that means more cowbells, well, it’s about time we cure that insatiable thirst for cowbells already. Then we wait for someone else to copy us.

Diversify your reading life

Read more books and be a better person

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By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published by The Other Press. March 10, 2015

Work and school life don’t present a lot of opportunities to explore new literature. But in order to achieve imaginative growth and find new perspectives, we need to read more than instructional documents and textbooks. How though? How can we incorporate stories into our lives after an exhausting day of reading boring material?

Reading while commuting is a fantastic way to make use of potentially wasted time. Carry a book with you wherever you go. That’s an order. Sure it might take up space in your backpack, but when the opportunity arises, you’ll be glad you have it. And if you invest in an e-reader you can have a thousand books with you without breaking your shoulders.

When Kindle and other e-readers first appeared on the market I was a bit skeptical because I loved the feel of pages between my fingers. However, I’ve learned to appreciate having a library in the palm of my hands.

I’m an advocate of reading more than one book at a time. Many people aren’t, but to them I say, life is too short, I’m going to be a polygamous reader. If you can enjoy two or more television series, you can read two or more books. I don’t follow any rules; I read what I want for however long I want. The key is to always have at least one book you are passionate about. If not, keep searching.

Having different books on the go allows you to read different genres, formats, and authors at the same time. Our attention span has shrunk because of mass media, but that doesn’t mean we can’t counter it. It’s an all-you-can-eat buffet; don’t fill up on the salad.

Audio books have also found a place into my life. Sometimes music exhausts me and all I want is something to keep my mind off the monotony. While driving my car or going for a run, audio books are a fantastic companion. Hours fly by even if I’m cleaning the house or preparing food, having an audio book playing in the background makes me feel twice as productive, which is an awesome feeling.

Make a timeline for the books you read. Create goals and set milestones. Track the novels you’ve finished and even keep a record of the ones you’ve abandoned. Make a game out of it. Forty per cent of Americans admitted to not having read a book last year. Perhaps they didn’t have the time or perhaps they didn’t feel like there was a reason. But it’s about personal growth. Like fitness, books train your brain and give you strength where dumbbells and squats don’t.

Attention to apathy

Image by Joel McCarthy

Why bystander blaming is far from the solution

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published by The Other Press. March 10, 2015

Mind your own business and stand up for what is right. Those two contradicting sentiments have led to many problems over the years as they’ve supplied fuel for revolutions and weakness towards authorities. We blame children for letting their peers get bullied; yet we punish them for confronting their demons. It’s a messy world and while awareness may be a method to clean things up, calling out people for not lending a hand is just poison to ourselves.

When it comes to the bystander effect and how we are moulded by it, I often bring up the example of a car accident. You are in a car and the vehicle ahead of you in the next lane merges, striking another car, and careens to the edge of the road. Do you a) stop and assist or b) continue driving? Most of us would like to think that we would choose the first option. It seems like the most reasonable choice, however, less than half of all people in that position would actually stop and help. With every passing moment the likelihood of help from bystanders decreases, and the more public the incident, the less likely anyone will assist at all.

But what does help really mean? We are not professionally trained; we are not a part of an emergency response unit. Should we make a situation worse, we can ultimately be hit with a lawsuit. There is a clear reason why being a bystander often makes sense. We don’t actually know what is happening or the level of severity.

Physical altercations and bullying are two scenarios people love to blame on bystanders for playing the part of spectators. I don’t know if you have ever jumped into a middle of a fistfight before, but it isn’t as easy as removing a magnet from the fridge. In a moment of intensity, people can be unpredictable. You never know if someone is hiding a weapon or is capable of doing physical harm. Social injustice is worth sticking up for, but two drunken people arguing on Granville is none of your business. Get the hell out of there.

Yes, if I was in a dire situation, I would want someone to save me, but would I ever blame a stranger for not stepping in to protect me? I sure hope not. We are all bystanders in someone else’s life. Everybody has problems and some rise to the surface like sweat. You cannot expect people to wipe it off for you.

When your budget won’t budge

Image by Thinkstock

There is a time to budget for a better life

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. March 10, 2015

There is nothing more sobering than dealing with finance. Now that we have accepted the fact that it sucks, let’s figure out how we can make it better, or at least bearable.

When we are budgeting it’s important to consider the reasons why we are saving money. What are our objectives? Without a clear goal, a budget is only a low fence that we can easily jump over with no dire consequences. Consider what you want to do after the budget is established: pay off debt, save up for a vacation, or buy something expensive.

It’s never preferable working paycheque to paycheque. If you find yourself stuck in this vicious circle it’s time to budget your cash flow. We are all dealing with different circumstances so there isn’t one easy solution, but like all goals, it’s better to work in smaller sprints than longer marathons.

Start by preparing a 90-day plan. Calculate your income and expenses and see what the difference is. If the number is wildly under your expectations it’s time to prioritize your needs. Here is where it hurts: for 90 days, you’ll have to be frugal. Spend only on necessities.

Social life can derail your financial plans pretty quickly, so you need to be careful of that too. Schedule your nights out ahead of time. If something comes up without at least a two-week notice (approximately the same time as your paycheque is issued), respectfully decline the invitation. Being spontaneous can be addictive and often it’ll take you two steps back in your plan. If you want to hang out with people, invite them over to your place. Creating a BYOB event and having friends over is much cheaper than a night at the bar.

Don’t think of a budget as a life-long barrier. That attitude can bury your self-worth and confidence pretty quickly. Instead consider a budget as a way to establish some running room for the future. In order to get a better job or pay off some debts you’ll need some help. Like studying for an exam, the result will not be instantaneous. You’ll really need to commit to it, and 90 days is not that long.

After the first quarter of saving, what do you do after? Go back to your opulent lifestyle? No. It’s time to reevaluate your situation. Three months may lead to a lot of changes or none at all and it never hurts to revisit your goals. Are you still burdened with debt or are you further along in the green? Are you closer to affording your vacation? How many semesters of school do you still have?

Once again, everyone’s life is different. The key is to keep in mind that there is a goal to reach. There is a deadline to meet. There will be obstacles and other people will try to tempt and influence you, but you must stay the course. Budgeting is the price you pay for a better life.

The cost of convenience

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How will we cope with all our wasteful products?

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. March 10, 2015

John Sylvan is the inventor of Keurig K-Cups coffee pods. Like Doctor Frankenstein bringing life to his monster, Sylvan caused unintended havoc with coffee pods.

In an interview with the Atlantic, Sylvan openly admitted that although his creation had earned Keurig Green Mountain billions, he regretted it and does not personally consume it himself. It was a rare confession, but one based around a real-world dilemma. Since the inception of coffee pods into the morning routine, people have found it ever more challenging to be waste-conscious.

Environmentalists have condemned coffee pods from day one, but the product is thriving. In 2013, one in three Americans enjoyed a single-serving cup of coffee at work or at home and over 11.6 million coffee pod machines were sold. If there is a problem, we are not dealing it. But should we?

The premium price we place on convenience is hard to ignore. Coffee can be as cheap and as expensive as you want it to be. Instant coffee only requires a few tablespoons from a canister of Nescafé and a little bit of stirring in hot water. It’s not fancy, but it’ll give you the same jolt as a coffee pod. The price of that is approximately $10 for 50 cups. Not bad. For K-Cups, the cost is about a dollar per cup, which is a third cheaper than Starbucks. The price at the moment is in a grey area: reasonable and worth trying.

So what are we actually doing? Is there any logic to using coffee pods or are we all committed to it now that we’ve purchased the ultra-expensive kitchen appliance? We have become dependent on Keurig and other coffee pod machines. Like a home printer, we’ll buy ink just to keep it relevant. Caught in a wave of trendiness, coffee drinkers are now shackled to the machine. And sooner or later, remorse will seep in.

This is not the first product designed for coffee that people deemed wasteful: disposable cups, coffee sleeves, lids, stir sticks, and the like. It seems like everything associated with coffee is somehow wasteful. Should we stop drinking coffee? No. Caffeine is the fuel for our society and that isn’t going to change. What we need to reconfigure is our reason for convenience.

When do we need something convenient? When we are in a rush. When we are too tired to put in the effort. Those are reasonable excuses to use K-Cups. Sure. But when those two scenarios aren’t a factor, make a cup of coffee the old-fashioned way. If it’s not too much trouble, carry a reusable cup with you into a coffee shop.

There is nothing wrong with using products that are convenient. Technology is built to make our lives easier. And if it’ll make you a cup of coffee and help you catch the bus on time, then the bit of waste is worth it. However, if you are just lollygagging and hanging around waiting for the Keurig machine to brew your drink, shame on you. Make a cup of coffee in a less wasteful way. It might actually taste better too.

Let taxes equal charities

Photo via Thinkstock

Is it really better to give?

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

It’s hard to get excited about taxes. Like having someone reach into your pocket and take whatever they want, tax season often leaves us all feeling a little violated. But for as long as civilized living has existed, taxes have been constant and increasing. It’s clear today that if we want to continue living the Canadian life, we’ll need to pay taxes, and a lot of them.

After you wash away the tears, let’s take a look at all the benefits, because it is all about the benefits. Public safety and services are two popular reasons to pay taxes, and they’re good ones. I’ll be glad to pay taxes if the firefighters put out my burning house or if a policeman arrests the dude who just robbed me. I frequent the library, so I’m happy about the books my tax dollars bought. I drive, so I’m glad there is money left to fill potholes and extend the highway. Let’s call taxes a security for our future, insurance for our way of living, and a charity for the people in our society.

As I progress through life, I have noticed that I’m paying more taxes. I remember there was a time when I received money from the government for simply being alive. Now, I’m required to pay it back—it’s bullshit. But I’m not going to stop working; I’m not going to stop making money. My attitude toward taxes is different. I want to make more money so I can pay more taxes. Rich people get praised all the time for donating to charity, but they get pitied for having to pay significant taxes. No! Don’t pity them. They are rich. If needing to pay taxes is a deterrent for wealth, there is something wrong with your mentality, and that needs to change.

Money creates power and power begets money. Taxes break this pattern. They put responsibility on the wealthy to help provide for their less fortunate peers as they cope with the hardships of life.

We are all in this together, although we might not all agree on where the money should go. Some say the money should be dedicated to slums, others say it should go into renovating a public art gallery. Some want it to build a new transit infrastructure; others want to upgrade the healthcare system. We might never agree, but the thing is, we should be optimistic that wherever our money goes it’s going to good efforts. The same way we have little control once we donate to a charity, is the same way we should approach taxes.

Friendly fire

Thinkstock

When do friendly insults become hurtful?

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

While some dub it as a masculine trait, others label it as immaturity. I’m speaking of the act of friendly insults: when we call our friends “losers,” “bitches,” or “idiots” for fun. Even though this type of interaction varies from friend circle to friend circle, and each cultural group reacts differently to name-callings and put-downs, we all have experienced friendly fire at one point or another. The question isn’t if it exists, but when too much is too much.

How fine is the line between bullying and simply being vulgar for the sake of fun? No friendship begins by signing a term of agreement, saying that X amount of name-calling can be accepted. Usually, this type of behaviour evolves over time as comfort levels go up and social barriers go down.

I’ve worked in a restaurant with an all-male back-of-house staff, and that shaped the dynamic of the working environment greatly. I saw how men behaved with each other both as team members, friends, and leaders. At some point in the whole interaction, an individual is highlighted as both easy-going and resilient. That is the one who will become the butt of the joke, the one member of the team everyone is okay calling out without any repercussion.

You want to feel sorry for that lonely individual as others gang up on him. You want to help him or do what the anti-bullying ads advise and step in. But not when it’s friendly fire, not when the dude actually enjoys the attention.

If you find yourself as the guy who everyone is making fun of, know this: nobody will help you, because you’re laughing along with them. You are not in distress. You are not harassed. The interaction between you and your friends from the outside appears to be perfectly normal. If it bugs you, you’ll need to step up and say something.

Or you can stop the insults yourself. This type of interaction is not one-sided. More often than not, people only continue this trend because you are knocking it back into their court. Stop. Recognize that you are dishing as much as you are receiving and stop. Otherwise, it continues to be one vicious cycle.

I enjoy busting balls now and then. It’s a perfectly normal masculine expression of appreciation and tough love. But at some point, we do need to grow up. We need to treat our friends and peers with respect. We cannot go out in public and continue calling out our friends for their shortcomings when we are 40, 50, or 60 years old. At some point, too much is, in fact, too much.

Canucks: The enigma heading into the trade deadline

Vancouver Canucks right wing Zack Kassian photo by Elise Amendola/Associated Press

As usual, there is not much the Canucks can do

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

Not even Alan Turing can solve the Vancouver Canucks this year, as the team nobody expected much from is currently hanging on in a tight race towards the playoffs. It’s hard to tell how the Canucks will play heading down the stretch. Winning games against teams like Pittsburgh and Chicago, and losing games against Calgary, New Jersey, and of course, Buffalo, leaves a lot to question. Such inconsistency is nothing new for the Canucks, but one wonders what good exchanging players would actually do for the team.

The team has been plagued with injuries since October, and, as trends continue, will remain so deep into the playoffs. If I were in Jim Benning’s shoes, I would wear some slippers because it’s going to be an uncomfortable few months. The Canucks need depth on defence and another top-six forward to play the role of goal scorer if the third or fourth round is where they want to end up. But gone are the days of blockbuster trades. Acquiring a game-changing player is almost impossible, especially for the Canucks. And yes, I am ignoring the whole Mats Sundin thing.

While the focus on whether to deal or keep Zack Kassian is the storyline heading into March, many are forgetting about Shawn Matthias, who has also been contributing with stellar plays the last couple of weeks. As an unrestricted free agent in the summer, it might be an opportunity to see what the market has to offer while their stock is still high. Derek Dorsett and Brad Richardson are two other players who may be shipped off early for prospects, but that is unlikely to happen. Yes, in terms of baiting teams to offer us their superstars or future superstars, we are pretty much doomed.

And assuming Ryan Miller can return to form in time without rust, we can least feel confident that the net will be secure. But that is only if Eddie Lack can carry the team for a month. He had his chance before when Roberto Luongo was injured last year, and the result was far from impressive. Well, here’s his chance to earn his position again. If only J. K. Simmons were behind the bench yelling at (motivating) him, right? The community has shown nothing but love for Lack, but believe me, if he chokes and causes the Canucks to miss the playoffs this year, we’d better pass the Sedins a couple of shovels to dig him a grave between Alex Auld and Dany Sabourin.

I’d be thrilled if the Canucks are able to make a trade before the deadline. I believe they need one. But for what? There’s nothing out there, and if there is, the prices are too high. It’s time for us Canucks fans to do what we do best and just sit on our laurels and wait until it’s all over—yet again.