Give me give me

Illustration by Ed Appleby

What to do when you reek of desperation

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. November 4, 2015

We all want something. We all have objectives and goals. That’s good. That’s the fuel that propels us forward in life. However, there are times when we’ve been sitting idle or maybe even fallen behind. We end up thinking that good things will never happen, and that we’ll never get back to where we were or achieve what we want. It could be money, romance, competition, or personal pursuit—when we put all our chips down on the table, we can’t help feeling desperation creep up.

Our desperation is a response to our stress. It’s useful in a life-or-death situation. When we are desperate for food, for example, we would go to incredible length to feast. There’s nothing stronger than the will to live. But when it comes to being desperate in a social interaction, such as a job interview or a first date, our undeniable hunger may be incredibly off-putting.

Nobody likes being around people who are desperate. Nobody wants to work with someone who is on edge about every task, or go out to dinner with someone who has an agenda. Most of us want to relax and not feel our heart beating out of our chest. Now, I understand that simply saying “Don’t be desperate” is not the solution. It’s not a switch you can turn off and on. It goes deeper than that.

Desperation is rooted in fear. You fear that you’ll be in debt forever. You fear that you’ll be alone forever. You fear that all your hard work will be for nothing. To lose the smell of desperation on you, you need to wash the fear off yourself, and be reminded that what progress you are going to make will be gradual. Do people win lotteries? Sure. But you cannot bank on that. What you need to do is accept that you’ll have to take baby steps towards your goals. You’ll feel less desperate if your tasks seem achievable to begin with.

Alternatively, you can just forget about it. So you are single, and worried that you’ll be alone forever. You’ve gone on dates, but there’s no magic and it just didn’t click. Stop dating for a bit. Take a class. Go on a trip. Meet new people. Pivot away from the problem and work on something else for a bit. Build your confidence back up in something else and then dive back into dating after.

Nowadays, we are not faced with deadly situations. Our own fears are constructed inside our own brain, and that’s where they fester. When you wonder why you are striking out, it could be because the people around you can smell your desperation. Get clean, relax, and know that you’ll get many chances. But before you take another one, maybe take a break first.

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Lesson learned

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What we should do with our social media accounts in the face of professionalism

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. November 4, 2015

When bodybuilder and middle school teacher Mindi Jensen received an ultimatum from her academic employers to either delete her workout/bikini pictures from her Instagram account or lose her job, it seemed like the whole world collectively rolled their eyes. Here we go again.

There was a time when I thought my teachers lived in the school after the bell rung and plotted our next quiz and homework assignments. While they might have been preparing the following day’s lecture, teaching was far from the only thing on their mind. Turns out, they do have a life outside of school and they barely thought of me after work—just like all people who make money during the day and go home to pursue their personal hobbies and projects in the evening.

Parents of all people should know that. So the fact that some parents approached North Sanpete Middle School’s administrators, the people in charge of Jensen’s career, and complained about the pictures on her personal account is a little appalling. The parents go on to claim that the images of Jensen were “inappropriate” and “pornographic.” Do those parents even know what porn is? Because I scroll through Instagram once a day and I never find “porn,” no matter how hard I scroll.

While it’s true that a professional working closely with children should remain decent on all platforms, it’s unclear where the line is drawn. Here’s how I see it: let’s say the teacher was a man and he had pictures of himself working out and in swim trunks—no!—Speedos. Would he get in trouble? Would the school board threaten to fire him if he didn’t take down those pictures? If that does happen, it doesn’t make the news. What is happening is oppression. What the parents are actually saying is: “You can’t show those pictures, because you are too pretty and you are arousing our kids. I don’t know how to discuss sexuality with them or explain that teachers are people too, with personal lives and aspirations, so I’ll just blame it on you, fit lady.”

At the end of the day, the school came to their senses, realized the legless claim the parents were standing on, and apologized to Jensen. But the question remains: how can we know if something is appropriate for the Internet or not? With nude and embarrassing pictures soaring this way and that through the air, we can’t be certain who would take offence. Therefore, we must go back to the rule of thumb: would we be okay if our mothers saw that picture of us? If the answer is yes, then share it. If no, then maybe it’s best to keep it in our private archives.

When it’s all said and done, Jensen will have a great lesson to teach to her students, one that stems from confidence and defending personal convictions. I think that’s a good lesson to learn in the social media age.

In-app purchase games are out of line

Photo via Thinkstock

What’s to blame: tech-company trickery or poor parenting?

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. October 21, 2015

On October 9, Kanye West took to Twitter to give mobile game developers a little piece of his mind: “That makes no sense!!! We give the iPad to our child and every five minutes there’s a new purchase!!!” He added: “If a game is made for a two-year-old, just allow them to have fun and give the parents a break for Christ sake.” Empathic and on point as West was, he also neglected to mention that the mother of his child has one of the most lucrative mobile games on the market. I’m speaking of Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, a game where you get to prepare the reality TV star for the red carpet.

It’s hard to sympathize with West, because… well, who gives a shit what he does financially. However, many parents out there are facing the same problem as the multi-millionaire rapper. They give their kids an iPad, as a replacement for a doll, a toy car, or a deck of Yu-gi-oh! cards, and expect them to have fun and be responsible. Now, I don’t know too many two-year-olds that are able to conceptualize virtual money, because many adults still aren’t able to. Check around to see how many of your grown-up friends have credit card debt. It’s unfair to put the onus on children to be responsible while playing, so who should take the blame?

We blame cigarette companies for giving us cancer, we blame fast food companies for making us fat, and of course we should blame mobile game companies for leaking money out of our virtual wallets. Some consider the freemium-style of business brilliant, while others consider it trickery. In terms of games, it begins as a sample, usually free, to get the user hooked, and then they up the price once the player is addicted. While I believe the game companies have done a brilliant job in harnessing this, I don’t believe their intentions were malicious. And, as a businessman, West should know that it’s just supply and demand. If the player wants to skip a level, earn more stock, or gain leverage over an opponent—but they don’t want to put in the time—they can upgrade with a monetary solution.

Surprise, your kids are going to cost you money! Freemium games aren’t the culprit, they are just another avenue for your money to be lost. The same way you don’t give your children your credit card and PIN at the toy store, you shouldn’t give them an iPad with full access until they understand that the reality of their purchases. Educate your children about frivolousness and how each $0.99 click adds up.

You cannot stop businesses from creating products for profit, even if they do target children. Don’t believe me? Look at McDonald’s. You can’t win that way. What you can do is pull the iPad away from your child if he or she abuses it. Be a good parent and teach your children from an early age the value of money, and how it relates to the technology they are using. Organizations aren’t going to educate your children for you… or maybe there is an app for that.

Rest easy

Photo via Thinkstock

Why we shouldn’t be ashamed for getting more than enough sleep

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. October 21, 2015

We all know the importance of sleep. The benefits are countless, yet still we often place shame upon ourselves for getting enough or more than enough sleep. We should feel blessed and prosperous for having an ample amount of rest each and every day. No person should feel ashamed for having too much, just like how nobody should feel ashamed for having wealth.

Now, as you can tell, I enjoy sleeping. I don’t believe there is anything better than a good night’s rest. I even dare to say that we are born to sleep, although it is challenging for some. I’m proud of my ability to sleep easily, because I know of those who are insomniacs. But just because I sleep well, many chalk it up to me being lazy. Although I can be lazy often, I believe sleep has been the secret sauce to my survival as a well-adapted human being.

All my life I have lived by the philosophy that no matter what I have to do tomorrow morning, such as an exam, long drive, or championship game, I’ll perform best after a good sleep. A UCLA research study showed that staying up all night and cramming is a waste of time and energy compared to habitual studying. While you may trick yourself into believing otherwise, staying up all night reading textbooks is undoubtedly detrimental. Sacrificing sleep means you aren’t letting your body and mind rest and heal. This can cause illnesses, forgetfulness, depression, and many, many more not-so-surprising effects. There is no pride in staying up all night, just like there shouldn’t be pride for drinking recklessly or driving quickly.

On weekends, some people like to go on long road trips or whatever. Me, I prefer to sleep in, and if I can’t do that, I’d like to take a nap. This is often frowned upon, because we live in a seize-the-day society. Any moment not spent being productive is wasted time, time that you’ll never get back. That, to me, is bullshit, and such an awful way of living. The thing about resting is that, when I am awake, I am twice as effective as I would be if I were burning oil all day, into midnight and beyond.

The ability to get sleep and sleep well should be admired and cherished. Many of us are so stressed all the time with commitments and deadlines, and the first thing we chop from our schedule is sleep. If you want to go out after work, you’ll have to lose some sleep. If you want to finish your project, have a drink with friends, and beat the next level in your video game, you’ll have to sacrifice some sleep. But what’s the point of all of that if you feel shitty all the time?

One of the seven deadly sins is sloth, the crime of indolence, apathy, and refusal to work. Somehow we’ve paired it up with the idea of having ample rest, as if rest itself is a sin. It’s not. It’s a right. It doesn’t matter if you are a single mother of three or a medical student who also works part time, you can sleep. You should.

It’s how you say it

Image via Thinkstock

Talking down to friends, family, and teammates can only weaken the links

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. October 21, 2015

The act of belittling another verbally, whether it’s in a work environment or in a social setting, is so offensive that often I regret not responding physically. True, we might have messed up, dropped a ball here or there, but regardless of the situation, neither you nor I should be talked down to. However, we must also be cautious to not ridicule and belittle others.

We’ve all had to work with someone who didn’t have the same level of skill in a particular task as we did. When I say work, I also include other team activities such as sports. Life is all about teamwork, and the old adage rings true: “You’re only as strong as your weakest link.” While you may think that calling out another’s shortcomings or ridiculing them publically in front of their peers is an effective way of motivating them to improve, it is not!

What you must understand is that not everyone shares the same level of interest or passion as you in any given project. Believe me, if you shame someone enough times, especially in a team environment where trust and loyalty is paramount, you’ve lost them. They’ll find new friends, get another job, and avoid you completely. Nothing you do is special enough to mistreat others over. People will get fed up, angry, and often retaliate. This can be incredibly destructive.

If you think that others should pick up the slack, you should really look in the mirror and ask yourself: Are you the top performer? Are you the best on your team? Are you literally better than everyone else you work with? If you are, what the hell are you doing with these losers? Go pick on someone your own size. If not, then shut up! This looking down on people is the same vain and arrogant way of thinking that makes you ugly, regardless of how you look.

There is only so far you can push other people before they push back. If you don’t establish camaraderie first, then there is no balance between the team. There is a reason why in every creative writing class students are encouraged to note something good before mentioning something bad. It’s not because we are sensitive and we need things sugarcoated. It’s because we are human and we have feelings. We are all equals in the grand scheme of things.

We all know how it feels to be talked down to. You may have been on the receiving end of a situation I described above, with a team member or friend telling you you weren’t good enough. As a younger adult, like many college students are, I often feel that the older generation—those with full-time jobs, children, and a retirement plan—cannot help but lecture me. I’m not talking about helpful advice; I’m talking about critical, judgmental assessment of my values, pursuits, and character. Some of them speak as if I’m entitled, inconsiderate, disrespectful, ungrateful, or unmotivated. Ultimately, a conversation with these older people becomes a vicious assault of guilt and shame.

Life is too short to spend your time being put down by an employer, spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend, or teammate. Life is too short to be spent with people who don’t appreciate you for your efforts. If you find yourself in defence mode all the time, get out of the situation now. The best way to retaliate to those talking down to you is to leave, completely.

We don’t elect governments; we elect scapegoats

Image via Thinkstock

How we love to blame one entity for everything

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. October 28, 2015

Isn’t it great when we can point a finger at someone and say it’s all his or her fault? It’s his fault our economy is in the sink. It’s her fault the ecosystem is dying. It’s his fault I can’t find love, a job, or a place to live. Yes, it’s always easier to blame someone rather than a group of people.

For the past few months, I’ve watched everyone on my predominantly left-wing Facebook news feed blame Stephen Harper for everything wrong with our country. What’s wrong with our country, or what’s wrong with them? So often, the government becomes the scapegoat for all our problems: our failing business, our disobedient child, and our inability to find work, romance, and better health. Instead of taking onus for our problems, we blame the government.

Guess what? The government is not looking out for you, regardless of what you think. The politician doesn’t give a hoot about all the crap you have going on in your life. If you think Justin Trudeau is going to solve all your problems—or even one of your problems—you need to face reality. If you are not taxed for this, you’ll be taxed for that. Nobody can fix what’s wrong with your life but you.

Blaming one sole entity, whether it’s your employer for holding you back, or your instructor for giving you poor grades is a self-destructive way of thinking. Pretty much what you are saying is: “I’m perfect, I don’t need to change, it’s the world around me needs to change. It’s that one person over there who needs to change.” You’ll grow old a bitter, resentful person if this is your way of thinking.

Pointing fingers and placing blame is a defensive mechanism designed to make someone else look worse than you. This is especially effective if the person is of higher rank or prestige. Remember how much Canucks fans enjoyed blaming Roberto Luongo for every hockey game lost? Whoever is at the top, we expect perfection from them, or else give them the noose. But ask yourself: can you stop more shots and win more games? Nope, but you’d like to think you can though.

Don’t think. Do. Stop identifying problems as something manifested by other people. Stop investing your emotional energy on things you cannot control. Can you be a better worker? Yes. Can you force your boss to increase your wage? No. Can you vote for the candidate you like? Yes. Are you able to force others to do the same? No. People will vote or not vote for whomever they want. They’ll cheer for whatever they want. They’ll fail, succeed, and live their life without a care for you. You can blame them, but why do they care? They don’t even know you.

I’m talking ’bout your generation

Image via Thinkstock

How baby boomers failed us and then blamed us

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. October 28, 2015

It’s wrong of me to criticize a whole generation of people just because I’ve been noticing some abysmal trends from a few. But if a group of self-righteous baby boomers want to pick a fight, I’ll drop the gloves. Let’s open with this, any problems millennials, or Generation Y, (people born between the 1980s–2000s) have, it’s because of their parents, the baby boomers.

Baby boomers grew up with every advantage in the Western world. A blooming economy, an emerging middle class, jobs with stable income, and enough financial security to buy a house, raise a family, own a couple of vehicles, and set their sights on retirement. How did they get all these things? Were they the most talented generation? Were they the smartest? Or were they simply just the benefactors of their time?

Flip to their children, those like me, the millennials. We were brought up in a pampered sort of way. We were given luxury and opportunities. All of us were raised to believe that we could do anything we dreamed of. If we wanted to be actors, we could pursue that. If we wanted to be doctors, we could do that as well. Then we grew older and reality struck us. Now, we turn to our parents for help and what do they do? They call us lazy. They call us entitled. They call us narcissistic, apathetic, and disrespectful.

It’s harder than ever for a graduate to enter the workforce and even when they do get work, it’s harder than ever to make the type of money our parents made when they were in their 20s. They tell us to pursue school, and then leave us hanging with the debt. It’s our problem, right? Then there is this line that baby boomers often use: “When I was your age, I was already married and a homeowner.” Well, suck it! It’s almost impossible to put down a down payment for a house in Vancouver, let alone consider buying one. Why? Because the baby boomers have closed the door on us, locking us out of what they believed belongs to them. Baby boomers are the most selfish generation currently alive.

I don’t want baby boomers to empathize with us, because that won’t solve anything. What I do want the baby boomers to know is that they are wasting the final ounce of their lives being bitter to people who are striving for their dreams and pursuing what they love in life. Baby boomers are always going to shame millennials for not having this or that, but we have one thing they don’t have: the time to reach our goals. They should resent us. They should fear that we are going to take what is theirs, because we are.

Baby boomers have created a barrier of wealth, hoarding it for themselves. Then, while keeping us at arm’s length they say: “Oh, you should work harder. You shouldn’t have wasted all your time with games and dreams. Oh well, maybe it’s time to go back to college… again.” Our parents set us up for success, but when we failed on our first swing, they wrote us off as weak. Bouncing back gets harder every time without support. But they don’t know that.

It’s the baby boomer’s world, but we don’t have to obey them anymore. The lay of the land is different. We don’t need to listen to their smug comments. We don’t need to make baby boomers proud of us by matching their accomplishments.

Best to worst communities on social media

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Where to post, comment, and get the response you want

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in the Other Press. October 16, 2015

Online communities bring people together, and they also tear them apart. So, often we delete accounts, block “friends,” and end up arguing with a troll over something that doesn’t even matter. Social media has become the Wild West, a lawless avenue for people to act horribly, and then defend themselves with crude language and bad grammar. In this article, I’ll look at my experience with the most popular social networks and examine how we behave when things are at their best and worst.

Reddit: There is an organized chaos to Reddit that is beautiful. People who are active on the network govern each other quite effectively. While identity does not ever need to be revealed, the “karma” system gives everyone power. It’s democracy at its finest. Every person has the right to vote up or down a post, link, or comment. This means bullshit sinks to the bottom and only the best is left on top. It’s a great place to get an honest opinion—brutally honest—without much hostility.

LinkedIn: Things never really get bad on LinkedIn, but it never really gets that great either. Now and then someone will write a very thoughtful recommendation for you or endorse one of your skills, but it’s never the place to get into any serious debate. It’s a professional community, and it demands respect. It does that effectively by making every commenter, poster, and even viewer accountable for his or her actions. You can’t creep your ex-girlfriend’s LinkedIn page without her knowing. Overall, you are always safe on LinkedIn, as safe as you would be at a networking event.

Facebook: If LinkedIn is a networking event, Facebook is a full-blown party. I don’t need to go into detail about what Facebook is, but literally anything can happen when such a wide variety of emotions collide. Some people are trying to impress everyone. Some are trying to get sympathy. Some are trying to get others to do something or “like” something. Yep, it’s a party all right. You’ll be okay on Facebook if you are genuine. Beware, though. Since Facebook encompass people within your circle, their honesty might hurt you in real life. A bit of censorship is advised.

Twitter: Twitter allows you to target the rich and famous, as well as your own lowly followers, and reach out to all of them. Twitter is effective, but it has to be earned. You have to climb the Twitter ladder. Once you have power (i.e., a top-notch Klout score), you need to wield it responsibly. Failure to do so, or tweeting 140 characters that don’t fit others’ points-of-view will be met with a barrage of responses. The good stuff is highlighted, but the bad stuff will not be ignored on Twitter.

YouTube: I don’t know what it is about videos that causes people to be such unsophisticated, racist, sexist, and offensive assholes. But they do. If you post a video on YouTube, it might just end up being forgotten deep in the rabbit hole of user-generated content, or it’ll go viral and you’ll have to answer for it. Haters are going to hate, and, believe me, like how a stagnant pond in July breeds mosquitoes, YouTube breeds classless idiots with little good to say.

Taste the rainbow

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Why gimmicky-coloured food should stay out of your mouth

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in the Other Press. October 16, 2015

In honour of Halloween, Burger King grilled up the spooky Black Whopper. Brilliant. Horrifying. Like green beer during St. Patrick’s Day or wacky-coloured eggs on Easter, changing the hue of food is nothing unusual. Putting aside what the Black Whopper does to our excrement, I cannot ignore this lame marketing attempt.

Colour is not innovation, and rarely does it enhance flavour. Remember in 2013, when Apple released the iPhone 5C? Colour was the newest design update, and they made a big deal out of it—even though the majority of people who have a smartphone have a case for it. Same goes with food—especially fast food. You cannot give something another coat of paint and expect people to be impressed.

My first encounter with food of another colour was late in my childhood. I was young and still impressionable, and Heinz EZ Squirt Ketchup caught my attention the way a bug would when it flies into my face. This was in 2000, so I assume you might not remember, but Heinz EZ Squirt Ketchup was the famed condiment company’s attempt to appeal to a younger demographic. Yes, imagine it now: green, purple, orange, and blue ketchup. It sounds too interesting not to try. So, my parents bought me a bottle of the purple kind. I had two hot dogs with it—and that was it.

Immediately, at such a young age, I realized what an impact colour had on the overall preconception of food. If it looks wrong, it’ll taste wrong. My brain just couldn’t make purple ketchup good.

Don’t believe that colour affects flavour? Try this: grab a bag of Skittles, have a friend with you, and eat each one with your eyes closed and try to distinguish its colour. Red is supposed to taste like cherry, right? Purple is supposed to be grape, right? You’ll be surprised how inaccurate your taste buds are without the help of your eyes.

Colour is great for decoration, but it should not be the main selling point for anything, be it cars, appliances, or even food. Ask yourself, when was the last time you ate something just because of the colour? Maybe it was greens, because your parents forced you to—but otherwise, very seldom.

When was the last time you were out with friends, and someone asked: “What do you want to eat?” and you said, “Something yellow.” “Fried chicken it is!” Never. That’s not how we make decisions. Food marketers need to be a little more creative, a little more inventive, and a little more tasteful when offering limited-time food. It should not be gimmicky. It should be tasty.

You have the privilege

Image via http://everydayfeminism.com

Is your costume racist, offensive… or just sexy?

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. October 28, 2015

I want to talk about cultural appropriation involving Halloween costumes. I know, I know, it’s a long-discussed topic between party-poopers and ignorant eye rollers.

Let me come at this subject from where I stand as a Halloween party participant. Each year I attend a party wearing a costume where I feel like it’s not me. Not because I’m uncomfortable or the fact that it’s supposed to be a costume, it’s just because I have a hard time convincing people that I’m a white guy. My previous costumes included: Donnie Darko (I looked like a hoodlum), Richie Tenenbaum (I looked like Kim Jong-il), and Steve Jobs (I looked like my uncle Stephen). One year, I said, “Fuck it,” and went as Glenn from The Walking Dead. I wore a baseball hat; that was my whole costume. Even I knew that was a lame costume. I looked like a tourist.

Yes, you might say, white is the default race and therefore white people cannot be offended if I should dress up as a cowboy. Then how come when a white guy dresses up as a Chinaman it’s a big deal?

Oh, he’s perpetuating a stereotype, you say.

He should check his privilege.

I hate that phrase, “check your privilege,” this line for governing white people. Thanks, I don’t need the protection, other white people. I have thick skin. Your little costume doesn’t offend me.

I’ll never know what it’s like to be a white person, but I do know what racism is. Racism is when you tell me I can’t drive because I’m Chinese. Racism is when a black guy gets arrested, only because the white police officer is scared. Racism is trying to get your foot in the door for a job and having less-experienced white people leapfrog you. A Halloween costume is not a big, oppressive statement. It’s a costume. It’s not the problem, and those that believe it is are those same people who try to be healthy by avoiding sugar in coffee, and then eating a cake as a reward. It’s a molehill problem, not a mountain.

Here’s a popular response: Would you dress up like a black guy around a group of black guys? I’m not saying that if Robert Downey Jr. did it, it’s okay. I’m saying no, I would not dress up like a black guy in Ferguson, St. Louis during the riot. But if I had a Bob Marley costume, I’d wear it on Halloween around friends who understand “One Love.”

There’s a time and place to learn about other people’s culture, and Halloween can be one of them. You can wear a straw-farming hat the same way I can wear overalls and call myself a farmer. The headwear is actually used for farming! It’s real. Wear it because you are interested and you want to learn more about the culture. And do. Mock it because it’s goofy. It is.

Is blackface offensive? Are buckteeth and squinty eyes offensive? Is dressing up as Caitlyn Jenner offensive? Is cross-dressing offensive? Are you able to even out the offence? You know, dress up as Hitler one year and Anne Frank the next? We are so god damn politically correct these days we don’t even know who we are or aren’t offending. We don’t need to walk on eggshells every Halloween. There are more heinous acts of hate in the world. Don’t make hate out of nothing.