No money for elaborate Carnival

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Image via abcnews.com

Why there is little for Brazil to celebrate

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. March 9, 2016

There were no flowery floats, high-tempo samba music, or scantily clad performers this year. For Brazilians, the cancelation of the world-famous, multi-day, nationwide street festival known as Carnival must have felt as though someone pulled the plug on Christmas.

The announcement that many Brazilian cities would be putting a hold on the celebration, which traditionally ends on Ash Wednesday, must have been disappointing, but not completely surprising. It seemed like an easy decision; after all, when you are sick and broke, the last thing you would want to do is invite everybody over for a party, right?

Brazil is currently caught in one of the worst recessions in decades. With declining tax revenues and the Zika outbreak, over 40 towns and cities have decided to spend the money annually spent on the parade on resources such as new ambulances. Nobody can deny the value of medical services, but with approximately eight per cent of all employment in the country based around tourism and travel—nearly the same amount as unemployment—the absence of Carnival will undoubtedly take another big bite out of Brazil’s fast-shrinking gross domestic product.

Around the world, Brazil has a particular image: party host. In the past few years, Brazil had won bids to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics. This led to liberal spending from the government, with the World Cup alone costing an estimated $14 billion. That’s a lot of ambulances. See, what ended up happening was that the country priced itself so high that only wealthy tourists can afford the luxury—and Brazil makes sure tourist are wealthy with their travel visa qualification process.

Now, it’s not the World Cup or Olympics that are causing Brazil’s economic downfall. There are a number of reasons, including corrupted political parties and energy companies, inflation in commodities, and the fact that the economy of China, one of their leading exporters, is also slowing down.

What’s happening with Brazil is something every country can learn from—heck, it’s something every person can learn from.

It seemed like yesterday Brazil was touted as one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Not only did its continent ride on its back, but the world as well. The spotlight was on Brazil, and at a time when any wise government would have taken a step back and assessed the whole situation, the Brazilian government did not. It turned to greed rather than insurance. Instead of solving problems close to home—poverty, crime, employment—it, like a drunken frat boy, took one drink after another until he needed a friend to call his parents to drive him home.

The Brazilian power rose too high, they partied too hard, and they got too greedy. Now, they have to forgo a traditional event that their own citizens cherish. It’s sad to see such a rapid fall from grace, but I guess that’s often how a hangover feels. One moment you are on top of the world, booming. The next, you are waking up with the realization that your economy is now a bust.

There is a time to celebrate, and there is a time to pay it forward and invest within. There needs to be a balance. To keep partying, you’ll need to stay healthy—and wealthy. I love Brazil, and I hope I get to celebrate there again soon.

Sparking interest

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Talking less and asking more will make you more interesting

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. Dec. 9, 2015

Every person in the world is filled with his or her own experiences, problems, and knowledge; therefore, everyone in the world is interesting. However, in a social environment we are often put on the spot and are required to present ourselves in the most “interesting” way possible. That’s a lot of pressure. After all, we are all so interesting, and life is but a competition.

It’s natural to list off the most unique things about yourself—things other people wouldn’t have done—in an effort to appear interesting. You’ll talk about the places you’ve traveled, all the cool hobbies you have, and even the accomplishments you’ve made. While it’s important to be entertaining, you must also remember that your interests are one-dimensional. In a conversation, it’s not something you can truly share.

It’s reflex to talk about yourself when you are in a crowd, because that is what you know best. You may feel like the celebrity of the party, but in reality, you are probably dominating the conversation. You’re keeping everybody hostage, and that may taint their engagement with you.

The best way to appear interesting is not to stand centre stage, but rather to sit in the audience. Yes, your backpacking trip to South America is interesting. But learning about your friend’s new computer program may be as interesting, at least to him.

An interesting person is not one that goes off on a tangent, but rather connects interesting topics together, so search for ways to segue into your topics from theirs. While there may not seem to be a link between your vacation and your friend’s computer program, there is, because we are all part of this planet, we all follow human customs, and we all kill boredom with interests. “How does he work on his computer program when he is on vacation?” you may wonder, and therefore, you should ask.

A great way to be interesting is by being around people who are different from you. It may feel like you are on the verge of an argument sometimes, but that is perhaps just a passionate discussion. So you are not religious, but you want to learn. Find someone willing to share his or her faith with you and don’t just talk about how you don’t believe it.

Life is full of little mysteries and each person is a clue. The more people you meet, the more you learn, and the more interesting you become. Being interesting is not the experience that you have alone, but rather what you can learn from other people. Appear open minded, with the capacity to acknowledge other people’s interests. That is more interesting than dressing funny, buying expensive items, and surrounding yourself with people who agree that you are awesome.

The art of ghosting

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How to disappear from a long night of partying

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in the Other Press. November 11, 2015

Sometimes known as the Irish goodbye or the French exit, ghosting is the act of leaving a party without announcing it or saying farewell to the host or the rest of the guests. It can be humourous for some and insulting to others. Some will be happy that you’ve been able to make it there at all, while others would demand some sort of appreciation for their efforts. As we approach the festive season, where our free time begins to fill up with parties and get-togethers, I figure it’s a good idea to touch on the idea of ghosting.

Before we go any further, I want to say that I am a proud supporter of ghosting. After a long night of drinking or whatever the party entails, you are tired. Just get yourself home and rest. Friends don’t need friends to go through all the bullshit formalities required to leave. Simply leave and forget about it.

We are so connected these days through our phones and social media that if a goodbye was not exchanged, a simple text can fix everything. There is no shame to ghosting and there shouldn’t be any guilt either.

Making it out to a party is hard enough without having to feel rather shitty for leaving early. You might have been having fun; you might not have. Either way, it is not work. You are not being paid to be there. Therefore, you don’t need to punch in and out—in addition to punishing yourself.

You don’t need to ghost completely. Say goodbye to those in your vicinity when you leave. Let them relay any parting messages you may have for other people in the venue that you have missed. Note: they probably won’t relay any messages for you, but they will act as witnesses to your departure. On your way out, you’ll likely say goodbye to a handful of people smoking.

There are many social gatherings that hold attendees to a higher standard than other engagements. Weddings, for example, are a big pain in the ass if you want to leave early. Sometimes people even expect you to help clean up—say what? A dinner party, one where there is a place reserved for you specifically, is different from a night of binge drinking with friends. However, you don’t need to make your exit a big scene. Say goodbye to the host, if nobody else. Thank them quickly. Excuses aren’t really necessary, unless they force it out of you. Pay for your portion (if that is expected), and just leave. It’s ghosting, but that doesn’t make you a monster.

The Report Card: Public Displays of Affection

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 Formerly published in The Other Press. Feb. 4, 2014

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor

Public displays of affection, or PDA as the kids like to call it, is scornful, repulsive, and shameless; at least that’s the current cultural attitude. Yes, PDA is as tactless as bragging about your good grades or wage. But why should showing your affection toward someone be condemned? Publicly displaying your affection for someone can be as inoffensive as a handshake or a hug—that is, if it’s done with class.

Pass: In social settings

Why should affection be confined to the bedroom? Romance should be breathable wherever a couple goes, especially in social settings. Every couple, like every individual, is different, and generally people behave differently in public than they would alone. Obviously not every couple will be the mushy-gushy kind, but if your significant other is too embarrassed to direct any emotional or physical affection in your direction when you’re with a group of friends, I would be wary.

I’m not saying that there needs to be a passionate embrace during all your social excursions, but a community that embraces the love of two people is one that will foster affection, instead of repression. If your relationship is strong, but your friend circle constantly criticizes the loving way you behave with your partner, barriers will be created and unwritten rules will be established.

Many foreign cultures embrace PDA as if it’s their birthright. European and Latin American countries are renowned for their romantic customs. It’s not uncommon to walk down a promenade and see a pair locking lips and holding each other passionately. There is nothing wrong with that, and the fact that North American culture sees a problem with two people in love outdoors is a real knock on our zeitgeist. And as meaningless as it may sound, we should reevaluate our “Get a room” mindset for the sake of love.

Fail: On social media

However, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are not the places for you to express your love towards another user. There are other platforms out there for you to communicate intimate thoughts, but social networking sites should not be one of them. Sure, there are the dating sites like, PlentyOfFish, OKCupid, and eHarmony, but those are designated dating sites with specific purposes. Still I would imagine those who’ve used dating sites would also eventually move to a more private means of corresponding.

Here are the reasons why I think posting lovesick statuses, tweets, and Instagram photos are a bad idea. First off, there is something artificial about social media. It’s a place where you show off the brightest side of you or a place where you vent. Facebook can often feel like one big circle-jerk, and by putting your affection online, many will see that as an attempt to seek approval. After all, it’s all about getting those “likes.” Your relationship is more than just others’ “likes.”

Secondly, love comes and goes, lust comes and goes, and blind infatuation comes and goes—but regrettable status updates and pictures last forever. You can delete them off the Internet, but you cannot erase your persona from people’s minds. You don’t want to develop a reputation as a psycho who is emotionally unstable and throws all their love successes and problems online. Facebook friends and Twitter followers aren’t your real friends—they can’t really help you, but they can sure troll you.

Lastly, you’ll put your partner in a strange and awkward position when you post about them. There is nothing worse than seeing an enthusiastic girlfriend’s status and the boyfriend with a lackluster response (oh, that’ll end well). Internet personas are different and they should not be confused with real emotions. Spoiler alert: real emotions are the ones you should focus on.