Don’t use the brand’s name in vain

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Passionate brand loyalists condemn popular child curse words

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. January 6, 2016

Cheez Whiz, the delightful brand of cheese spread, is getting a lot of press recently as a group of brand loyalists have gathered together—from coast to coast like butter toast—to rise against the blasphemous use of the brand’s name.

A survey conducted by the Consumer Packaging Press found that the most common brand name used to cuss is, in fact, Cheez Whiz: 75 per cent of children under the age of 13 had used the name in a way of expressing anger 2 or more times. The second most common is, of course, Fudgee-O, with 40 per cent. In third is Gray Poupon, as in: “Aww! Gray Poupon! We are out of normal mustard!”

Delicatessen and linguistic expert Susan Rumchata said: “It’s not the brands’ fault that they have such hilarious names that blend so well with traditional swear words. The responsibility falls on the parents. They need to understand that at an early age, their children are learning more colourful language—let them—if they need to call out Jesus, let them! It’s more Jesus’ fault than it is the Cheez Whiz people’s.”

It has been well documented that some time ago there lived a guy named Jesus Christ. He was an entrepreneur who made a lot of good bread, wine, and woodwork. But due to his poor business acumen, supply couldn’t meet the demand. Consumers would say, “Jesus Christ!” in vain—a lot of vain—when their orders failed to ship. Not long after the company launched, Jesus Christ Inc. went bankrupt and the founder was crucified.

Cheez Whiz brand loyalists—they call themselves Cheez Wizards—see a clear parallel between what happened to Jesus Christ Inc. and what is happening with Cheez Whiz today.

Cheez Wizards spokesperson and single mother of four Brie Pumpernickel said: “You know what it is? It’s bad PR. You know what kills? It’s not global warming or terrorists or processed-cheese. It’s bad PR. And all that starts with our children. We must teach our children to respect brand names. This will ensure that the brands that serve us continue offering the same high quality products we want. Do we really want to live in a world without Cheez Whiz? I ask myself that every morning after making breakfast for my four Cheez Wizards.”

Safeway jam aisles were literally jammed with Cheez Wizards last Tuesday as a public protest took place. The sole purpose of the rally was to erase the phrase “Cheez Whiz” from the English vernacular as anything other than the name of the product. Anyone of any age that uses the brand’s name in vain will be sentenced to an eternity of dry, whole wheat bread. It’s some kind of hell, for sure.

Rumchata reminds us that there are plenty of lame-ass swear words out there for those moments when you have to curse in front of children: “‘Fiddlesticks’ is always a good one. ‘For Pete’s sake’ is great too. I’ve never encountered a Pete or Peter who was bothered by it. Anything that rhymes with ‘duck’ also works. You know, you stub your toe and you just shout, ‘Duck!’ It’s as satisfying, I’ll tell you that much. People will crouch over though, it’s weird.” She added: “Words are weird.”

What happened when George R. R. Martin finished his first book

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How to be successful and create your own ‘Misery’

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published for the 1976-themed issue of the Other Press. January 13, 2016

Young author George R. R. Martin’s first collection of novellas and short stories, A Song for Lya, is being published this year. There is probably not going to be a big launch party. There is probably not going to be coverage from multiple media sources. And there are probably not going to be lineups outside the bookstore. It is probably going to be a modest event with reserved excitement.

For a writer, there doesn’t need to be a big event, because there is nothing more exhilarating than seeing one’s works there, visible on shelves at a local bookstore. It must be the same sensation musicians feel when they hear their song on the radio, or how actors feel when they see their face on the screens.

Yet, at what point does that thrill fade? As artists, your profession is also your passion, right? That’s why when I see an artist with an insipid attitude towards their craft, I wonder: Why pursue this daunting, critical, often thankless, often highly demanding, sometimes soul-crushing, most often a poor return of investment brand of work? Why climb Mount Everest if you dislike heights?

Hopefully, this young Martin fellow can recall that initial sensation of accomplishment for having been published if he continues to write, and will never feel resentful towards any fame or success he gains.

My advice to Martin and to other young writers is to always be carefully aware of the scope of one’s craft—what it will mean to you, and what it will mean to the greater public. If you create something people love, what responsibility do you have to continue delivering? How much do you owe to those who have raised you to such prowess?

I was speaking with Stephen King, another young writer, and we were bouncing ideas around. He had this outline for a novel called Misery. It’s about an author who is captured by an obsessed fan and held hostage in an attempt to get him to write another book. That’s the risk of being beloved; you are not actually loved. I hope King gets around to writing that book soon. I think it’ll be good.

Let’s hope we never do the same thing to Martin. We love his work, but we don’t care about him as a human being. He won’t win us over with his delightful personality or his literary, sci-fi, or fantasy expertise. We’ll respect him for the awesome work he will surely produce. But if we want more, he’ll have to supply it or find someone to help.

Artists need to think of their work like starting a franchise. Books are the business. Understandably, when it comes to artworks, the artists get personally attached, because writing is, in essence, a birthing process. But if they’re not able to maintain their franchise, the artists should sell their rights to their work or hand the reigns to trustworthy partners. Although it would be tough to give their art up for adoption, if the author does not have the capability to raise it properly, would the right thing to do not be giving it up for the fan’s sake?

Watching the Audience: Why I Did Standup Comedy and Why I Stopped

Published November 22, 2015 on Medium.

Public speaking. What an irrational fear. Yet, we are all in one way or another are terrified of it. Some harness that fear and turn it into a skill set. Others retreat into the crevasses of society, taking on jobs and lifestyles that do not demand any formal public speaking. In a digital world, we as humans no longer rely on our voices; we rely on posts and tweets, images, and upvotes. We share our opinions not on soapboxes but in textboxes. We no longer stand up on stage and watch the audience.

I wanted to be an entertainer ever since I was in elementary school, and for many years, I considered it less of a yearning and more of a destiny. The class was my audience and my teachers were my toughest critics. I got as many laughs as I did detentions and it was becoming clear that I had a knack for timing — just not in terms of professionalism.

If you don’t hit the audience with a punch line at the appropriate time, you’ve lost the opportunity, the soul of the joke. A poorly timed joke is just a corny statement. There is no time to wait for a silent break in any conversation. As a thirteen-year-old kid, I knew if I didn’t shout out the funny thought in my head when I thought it was funny, it would be gone, and the world will continue spinning one laugh less.

At the end of my seventh-grade experience, I was awarded the T.A.P. award. Never heard of it? Well, that is because it’s a bullshit award my teacher made in an effort to find something genuine to offer me in life. T.A.P. stood for “Time and Place” as in “There is a time and place for everything, and right now you should be quiet, Elliot.”

I accepted the award with pride, because it was something I earned. I remember looking around the class and seeing other students receive worthless, thoughtless certificates with horrendous compliments written by the teacher. Notable awards I’m making up but might as well have been given: “Most Lovely Shoes,” “The Best Teammate,” and “Genuine Friend.” Ugh! I wanted to vomit. I’ll keep my T.A.P. award, thanks.

My greatest achievement.

Perhaps it was kismet that I got into comedy: first as a fan, then as a hobbyist, and finally as a professional (the term “professional” is used loosely). But the thing about comedy is that it is not something that happens alone; performing comedy is a social act. You cannot tell jokes to yourself.

I really enjoyed making people laugh, but it came with a cost. The label. I sacrificed numerous things to be the funny guy, and one of them is credibility. After a while, people just assumed I was being sarcastic. In strenuous situations like a group project, my ideas would be shunned or taken as an unprompted attempt at humour. Later, once I started taking comedy seriously and told people about it, the intensity of other people’s preconceptions rose. “Tell me something funny!” is a line a comedian will hear often at social gatherings. Because 95% of people in the world think they themselves are funny, they’ll usually require proof that you are in fact what you claim to be. They are the best judges of humour after all. It’s the same way we all look at an attractive person and collectively go, “Yep! That person is attractive. Approved. Carry on.”

If it takes 10,000 hours to become proficient in anything, then I was 1.8% of the way to mastering comedy. An average of five minutes of stage time a week for one and a half years was hardly tenure. I was a Starbucks barista as long as I was a stand-up comedian, and Starbucks is very similar to comedy; after all, you acknowledge your audience and you behave accordingly. No need to think of entertaining, just be yourself. And like amateur stand-up comedy, the customers are not really there for your sake; they just want a drink, and you just so happen to be there.

When I told my friends and family that I have stopped doing stand up, many uttered grievances, sometimes in disappointment that they didn’t get to see me perform — in which they would tempt me to tell a joke — and others times with apprehension. “Oh… why did you stop? (Were you that bad?)”

My mother, who had once found my aspiration insufferable, had now become my number one fan. Passing up an opportunity to be a lawyer was one thing, but giving up on comedy now when so many doors were now closed, left a grave uncertainty in her life. After all, who would take care of her when she’s old if my stupid son is unemployed and not funny? Not Dane Cook that’s for sure. There wasn’t a final show where I bowed out. I just stopped asking for stage time. I told those booking shows that I was taking a break, trying to regroup.

I wonder what I would be if I didn’t stop. Would I be booking my own shows, headlining after performing at local bars and clubs for seven years, or would I just be another comedian like so many other comedians, spending my day in the back of the bar, waiting for my five minutes — still working at Starbucks during the day. I look back and I can’t image my success, which as someone who thought that entertainment was his destiny was a little heartbreaking. I was a carpenter in a world without lumber. I couldn’t help but ask: What happened to me?

My first paycheck as a comedian. 50 big ones! (Photo taken in the Matrix where I’m famous)

There was a moment on stage, I remember; I had my audio recorder on a stool with a notebook full of notes, usually one random word followed by another, tracking the order of my set. I remember looking down at the list and reading the next word on it “Living room.”

I loved wordplay and comedy allowed me to explore it in the weirdest ways. “Living room” was one of those words that had so many meanings, but is so dramatic in a literal sense. It’s like how a scarecrow is actually there to scarecrows. The punch line of the joke comes after a ramble about how ridiculous the notion of a living room is, because “every room you’ve ever been in is a living room.” Bam! Comedy in my books. However, when I told that joke that day a part of my inside was dying. I guess I wasn’t in a living room anymore. Har har!

I stopped performing standup because I didn’t have any conviction to what I was saying. I stopped performing stand-up because what I was saying was irrelevant. I stopped doing standup because I didn’t want to waste people’s precious time with mindless wordplay and frictionless jokes. I wasn’t a good comedian because I wasn’t tackling any important issues. I was twenty years old and I had nothing to fight for except my own pride. Pride came in the form of laughter and applause. That is not what a comedian should do, that is not what any public speaker should do.

Public speaking, including comedy, is an act of influence. When an entertainer steps on stage they should bring more than their good looks and charms, they need to have something worth saying, something they are passionate about, something worth sharing. Jokes are delicious. Jokes are tasty. But jokes are cheap. It’s not hard to get a good laugh, but to be able to connect the laughter with something tangible, something genuine, well that is priceless.

I stopped doing standup because I didn’t have a reason to talk. It was elementary school all over again, but now I understood what my teacher was talking about. Time and Place.

Nevertheless, the time has changed and the place where I choose to communicate is not on stage in front of an audience, but instead in the written world, where I can pretend to have some proficiency in articulation.

There is little fear when we communicate online, the same way I had little fear when I spoke up in class. The consequence is light and so we continue to speak into the void. Sometimes people get annoyed, i.e. my teachers. Other times it’s so ephemeral that it goes unnoticed, i.e. my ramblings at the bar. Nevertheless, when we have something to say, we should make sure we are doing it at the right time and place. We should watch our audience and make certain that what we have to offer is more than reminding everyone that they are currently sitting in a living room. Although it’s hard to argue that it is an important reminder, sometimes.

Totally Real Food Review: Happy Lucky Dragon Smiling Restaurant

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Chinese food that you eat with your mouth

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

The 7-Eleven of Chinese restaurants, Happy Lucky Dragon Smiling Restaurant never closes—not even for New Year’s Day or Christmas—making it a perfect last option for desperado foodies.

Located in the same complex as Money Mart, Lust Factory Adult Store, and Subway, Happy Lucky Dragon Smiling Restaurant’s parking lot is usually empty due to the swiftness of its neighbours’ clientele. This means you can stay as along as you want at Happy Lucky Dragon Smiling Restaurant without worrying about your car being towed. However, crime rate is up 12 per cent in the area, so be cautious—nevertheless, most of the crimes are just hate crimes and crimes of passion.

Inside Happy Lucky Dragon Smiling Restaurant, you’ll find chairs to sit on and tables to eat food on. The chairs have four legs and some have rips in them. This gives you an exclusive look at the browning inners of the cushion. The wallpaper is different from my home, because I decided at the last minute not to decorate it with water-stained flower patterns. But I think it’s pretty cool seeing the deterioration of the wallpaper; it reminds me that even though life is short, you can live long enough to see wallpaper get ugly. I think that’s beautiful. It’s like watching your grandmother do stuff, and you’re just like: “Oh grandma, just get out of the way. I’ll do it for you.”

Once I was done admiring the décor, I chose to sit by the window, offering a perfect view of the parking lot, which with my imagination kind of looked like a tennis court, but instead of tennis players there was just a lunatic.

The service was nice. The server was also the cook, which I believe should be how every restaurant should work. Imagine how nice it would be just to tell the cook what you want to eat and then he or she would just run back into the kitchen, which is pretty much right beside the table, and cook it for you. It’s like eating at your mom’s house, but without the resentment or guilt for not cooking the food yourself.

When the food arrived, I ate it with my mouth. It tasted hot. After a while it tasted cold, but some say there is no such thing as cold, and that cold is really just an absence of heat, so I guess it just tasted normal after awhile, which was okay.

Overall, Happy Lucky Dragon Smiling Restaurant is not the worst. If you end up there after an argument with your spouse about where the two of you should go for dinner on your anniversary, you should be happy that you are still alive. Happy Lucky Dragon Smiling Restaurant lives up to its name and reminds us of what it’s like to be a happy, lucky, dragon smiling at a restaurant. Few other restaurants are that honest. Maybe White Spot.

Post-apocalyptic fantasy picks

Graphic by Joel McCarthy

Who would you choose to survive with you when it’s all over?

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. Sept 23, 2014

It’s moments before the end of the world and you have a shelter large enough to fit five people. That means now is the time to draft your top picks. These elite individuals will help you survive on a planet that is no longer safe for humans or celebrities. Zombies, earthquakes, and rival survivors are coming for you, so you better make the right choice. Here are mine:

Brad Pitt: If you don’t take Brad Pitt right away, lord knows your competitors will. Don’t wait! Draft Pitt as early as possible. Not only is he the perfect specimen of a Caucasian male, he also proves to be a game changer in post-apocalyptic scenarios (source: World War Z). There are two rules when the world ends. Number one: you don’t talk about Fight Club. Number two: you draft Brad Pitt first!

Jennifer Lawrence: Why is Jennifer Lawrence my second pick? She’s not only a radiant superstar, but she’s also a super survivor. We saw her survive the Hunger Games. We saw her survive a leaked-photo controversy. We saw her survive her climb up the Dolby Theatre stage to retrieve her Academy award. Moreover, Lawrence is totally a perfect candidate for any post-apocalyptic reproduction initiatives.

Arnold Schwarzenegger: In modern times, Arnold is arguably the most successful human being in the world. He’s a bodybuilder; he’s a politician. He has several memorable catchphrases; he has an illegitimate family. There isn’t anything the Terminator hasn’t done and there isn’t anything he can’t do—except for enunciating words properly. I’ll grab Arnold as early as possible, because if you don’t, you can say: “hasta la vista, baby” to your chances of surviving.

Les Stroud (Survivorman): I know you might go camping occasionally and think of yourself as a Wildman, but let’s be honest, sooner or later you’ll need some help. Picking Les Stroud will not only guarantee a good honest living off of natural resources, you’ll also have terrific home video of your post-apocalyptic experience, which you can then share with your grandchildren and in-laws during family dinners and holidays.

Seth Rogen: Think of the most ideal person to be with during the end of the world, and Seth Rogen will naturally come to mind. Not only will he give you are reason to live with his mirth-filled, bellowing laughter, he’ll also transcend composure with his stoner demeanour. Just ask Jay Baruchel who he wants to listen to Backstreet Boys in heaven with, and you’ll know that everybody—including Baruchel—wants it to be Seth Rogen. So don’t hesitate, he might not seem to be a priority pick, but believe me, he is.

And for the Wild Card, I choose Will Smith. Although he was disappointing in the ominously titled M. Night Shyamalan movie After Earth, he is still a formidable choice because of two things: his resiliency in I Am Legend and his drive in The Pursuit of Happyness. Plus it’s totally a race, equality thing. You don’t want to live in a weird secular world, right?

Well those were my top five picks and one wild card to survive with me in the post-apocalyptic world. Sorry if you’re not included. Remember, it’s every man for himself, and every man needs a Seth Rogen, so good luck! Meet you at Terminus.

The ‘Emma Watson Talk’

Humour Emma WatsonHermione Granger and the young couple’s dilemma

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. Sept. 4, 2014

Recent studies done by Statistics of Canada, BuzzzFeed, and teen-fiction fanatic Wilson McMichael’s Survey Monkey page have shown that four out of five young couples between the ages of 18–30 have engaged in the “Emma Watson Talk.”

“Sexy Watson,” best-known for her role as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series, has been the centre of conversation for millions of millennials, ever since she got so crazy attractive and legal in the last few Harry Potter movies. Boyfriends and girlfriends across the globe are eager to know what their partner would do if the beloved Emma Watson were to consent to a threesome with the pair. Along with questions such as “Do you want children,” “Are you prepared for the future financially,” and “Why do you keep texting your ex,” couples want to be certain at the early stages that their committed relationship is not hindering their chances with Watson, should the opportunity arise.

“If we’ve learned anything from the Prisoner of Azkaban, nothing is impossible,” said Paddy Schwartz, age 23 and in a serious relationship. “My boyfriend, James, and I need to keep our options open. We don’t want to be slapping ourselves for imposing a promise that neither of us can keep. I mean, a relationship is all about trust and honesty. We would honestly let Emma have her way with us. Serious!”

According to the study, the desirability for Watson is 85 per cent higher than Orlando Bloom, 72 per cent higher than Justin Bieber, and 26 per cent higher than Peter Dinklage when it comes to being the third member of a threesome. Such clear facts are causing some people to worry that Watson might be the reason some relationships end.

“I would not let my boyfriend near Emma Watson,” said Heather Gatton. “She’s smart, beautiful, and an all-round great person—my boyfriend does not deserve her, and neither do I. We are doomed for each other, and that’s final.”

Meanwhile, others believe that the Emma Watson Talk serves as a great relationship test for many couples.

Psychologist Dr. Joan Ramón, a leader in couples’ therapy said: “If a couple disagrees on the Emma Watson Talk, then it’s a clear sign that the relationship will not work out in the long run. And if the man declares that he does not want to engage in a threesome with his girlfriend and Emma Watson, then another red flag is raised. Of course there are many variables in the studies and further research is needed. Perhaps the boyfriend is simply more of an Emilia Clarke kind of guy. That’s okay. But be cautious, ladies, you can’t really trust anyone who has a negative answer in regards to the Emma Watson Talk. It’s science—not magic.”

Many experts agree that should Emma Watson apparate in front of you and your significant other with the use of Floo Powder, engaging in coitus is a must. However, those experts also encourage couples to come to that conclusion for themselves.

“There are many perks to being a wallflower,” said Dr. Ramón, “but you don’t want to stand idly by while Emma Watson disappears again. I mean, let’s be serious, you’re not a Rupert Grint, are you?”

When asked about this phenomenon, Ms. Watson claimed she was flattered, but wouldn’t offer a quote. Damn, she’s classy!

Adopt-A-Pylon

Pylon and traffic cone overpopulation yields new campaign

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor

Formerly published in The Other Press. June 3, 2014

Since the 2010 Winter Olympics, Vancouver’s pylon and traffic cone population has quadrupled. This sudden boom has caused concerns for many, as these “safety” markers have literally overcrowded our urban streets, highways, and pedestrian walkways.

Such escalation in pylon population has urged many to act. The crisis paved the way specifically for Adopt-A-Pylon, a company with the philosophy that pylons deserve a home, they deserve care, and, most importantly, they deserve to be treated like giant megaphones for children and drunken passersby—that is what they are really meant for. Fun!

Homeless pylons and traffic cones have caught the attention of Devon Détourer, founder of Adopt-A-Pylon. “Seeing all those innocent cones treated in such a way is disgusting,” he said in an exclusive interview with the Other Press. “We should feel ashamed. We drive by and we look at them with distain and pretend like there aren’t a thousand of them just living in the streets, cold and wet… and most of all forgotten. Pylons are a reflection of our society. And Russia is laughing at us right now.”

Détourer is urging British Columbians to band together and open their homes and wallets to traffic cones. “Each night—on your drive home—just grab a pylon from the street and take it back. Give it some love; after all, we all deserve love. If each person does this, there won’t be anything stopping us from getting to where we want to go, and we all want to go towards a happy future.”

Recent Adopt-A-Pylon supporter, Beatrice Oliver said, “We ignore it, plain and simple. We think that pylons and traffic cones are there to make our lives terrible, like garbage cans or fire hydrants. We get angry because the government spends taxpayer dollars buying more and replacing the old ones. Is that how we treat stuff? As soon as they break we buy a new one? Ask your grandma how she feels about that logic, ask your pet goldfish, or ask your stepson. Adopt-A-Pylon’s initiative is easy to grasp, just like pylons. You take one home, you change its life forever, you give it a reason to be. Pylons are not obstructions, they are life changers.”

The trend has made its way through Commercial Drive and all the way to Kitsilano, but has yet to gain traction in less pylon-liberal areas such as Burnaby and the Tri-Cities, where heavy highway construction and urban growth has bred more pylons.

Port Moody resident Fitso Chung spends many hours working as a labourer alongside pylons, traffic cones, and even some wet floor signs. He understands that there is a problem.

“They’re the hardest workers on the team and the lowest paid,” said Chung. “While I’m on break, they’re there. While I’m in the porta-potty, they’re there. I don’t know if Adopt-A-Pylon will change the social stigma. I think what they need is a union. Pylons are not second-class citizens. I believe adopting them is a step forward, but the road is long and we have a long way to go.”

The pylon population is projected to increase by another 28 per cent by the end of 2016, but the support for Vancouver’s forth-largest majority (behind hipsters, yuppies, deadbeats, and tech entrepreneurs) will undoubtedly increase as well. Which offers hope to people like Détourer and those participating in Adopt-A-Pylon.

“We’ll find a way,” said Détourier, “and pylons will help us. I understand that not everyone is a born pylon-lover, but give it a chance. Sign up today or do it anonymously and see where it takes you—maybe to Maple Ridge, maybe to North Delta.”