PARIS — “So, uh, what have people over there been saying about the Games?”
My dad, who lives on Vancouver Island and spent the first couple days of the Olympics in Vancouver proper, asked me the other day for the French take on the games-to-date. Even over a shitty ADSL connection some nine time zones away, I could tell that he wasn’t just curious. He was a little worried. He needed to be reassured.
This was after the first week of the Olympics, when a few macro things weren’t going as well as people had hoped they would, so to speak. Like the weather. And safety on the luge track. And the torch lighting.
Based on what I was hearing from friends and family, folks in Vancouver were having a ball. Actually, I sort of got the impression that Canadians were almost overdoing their we’re-here-for-the-party! bit, to compensate for what they perceived as a lukewarm early reception of the Games abroad (driven pretty largely, let’s be honest, by the bitter, snarky reports of an inexplicably and indefensibly hateful segment of the British media that nobody should ever take seriously, especially since they started trashing these Olympics two weeks before they even began).
I assured my dad that the French media was taking a largely positive view on the games. It might be because French people are generally rooting for Canada to do well at these Olympics, since many of our athletes give interviews en français to their reporters, or that they won a bunch of medals in the first week (because if the French care about anything, it’s winning medals – they’re a lot like my brother that way). (more…)
By the end of the opening credits of the first episode of MTV’s The Buried Life, the concept seems so attractive, so engaging, so right now, that it’s easy to imagine the studio meeting where it was pitched:
Okay, here’s the setup: four twenty-something guys make a list of 100 things they’d like to do before they die, and we send a film crew to capture their exploits. Maybe they’re in a van — no, a bus — cruising, listening to hip hop. They’re kind of rascally, a little outdoorsy, a little West Coast. They’re smart, not self-indulgent. Maybe they’re even Canadian. Here’s the kicker: every time they accomplish something on the list, they help a stranger they’ve met along the way. Boom! — everybody’s happy.
Apparently, everybody was. MTV ordered a pilot, then a full eight-episode season, with premises ranging from standard-issue fluff (“ask out the girl of your dreams”) to the startlingly sincere (“help deliver a baby”). Since its January 18 premiere, The Buried Life has received killer promotion and, relative to cable standards, record-breaking audiences. In a front-page article, the New York Times cast the show as “MTV for the era of Obama.” (No kidding: tonight’s episode is about an attempt to play basketball with the U.S. president.) There’s nothing else like it on television.
The Buried Life is created, produced, edited and even promoted by its four stars from British Columbia: Ben Nemtin, Dave Lingwood, and brothers Duncan and Jonnie Penn. The bucket list? They started it in 2006, and crossed off twenty-four items in the making of an independent documentary that caught MTV’s attention. The show’s name? Inspired by an 1852 Matthew Arnold poem. The foursome’s bus, christened Penelope? They bought her from a nudist in Vancouver. (more…)
Design is everywhere. As I sit at my desk and look around, everything I see is the result of design: my coffee mug, my business cards, my computer monitor, the format of these words on my screen…everything. All of these products required designers of one form or another, people whose lives are devoted to making things in the best way possible. All too often, though, the considerable talents of designers are devoted to Western consumer fluff. I am virtually certain that a very talented and creative person spent countless hours designing, fretting over, and redesigning the slightly irregular handle of my mug. While this detail does slightly improve my drinking experience, imagine what could be done if that same designer focused instead on ideas that could accomplish real good for the world.
Of course, many designers are already doing exactly that. Their work is celebrated by Emily Pilloton, a San Francisco–based product designer and founder of Project H Design, a non-profit group that “supports, inspires, and delivers life-improving product design.” The following are five products featured in her recent book, Design Revolution: 100 Products That Empower People.
The Hippo Water Roller
Fetching water is one of the most important and difficult tasks for people in the developing world. Simply put, water is a fundamental part of life; the problem is it’s rather heavy. Compounding the issue is the fact that the job is often assigned to women and children who can typically carry between ten and twenty litres per trip. Buckets and jerricans are inefficient and can lead to physical ailments: imagine how your neck would feel after carrying a twenty-litre bucket of water on your head for up to eight kilometres. Now imagine doing this several times a day, for your entire life. (more…)
Twenty years ago today, in the single most important moment in 360 years of South Africa’s blood-drenched history, Nelson Mandela walked away from Victor Verster Prison a free man. February 11* is a hallowed day in the local calendar. It may therefore seem inappropriate to profile a noisy, profane rap act named Die Antwoord (Afrikaans for “the answer”) by way of celebration. But, as Mandela marched out of jail into the future, he knew that his release posed a difficult question: Can South Africa transform into a nation united and governed by principles other than race? Die Antwoord, who appear to occupy an entirely different universe from Mandela, are the most articulate answer he could have hoped for.
Over the course of the past ten days or so, the band have been propelled by the likes of Boing Boing, Twitter, Pitchfork, Reuters, et al into the very maw of Fame 3.0. As lead rapper Waddy, a.k.a. Ninja, puts it: “Look at me now! All over the interweb.” Indeed, only two weeks ago, Ninja and his sidekicks Yo-landi “Rich Bitch” Vi$$er and the flabby DJ Hi-Tek were paying dues; now they’re rolling in nunchaku. For their international fans, Die Antwoord are exotic, furious, and, most importantly, new. But what their lyrics mean — or what they stand for precisely — no one in Brooklyn or Paris or São Paulo can say.
Ninja is, at first glance, your typical white trash rapper. He wears his hoodie low; his rangy body is marked with crude tattoos. It takes a second or two to realize that Run-D.M.C. were playing Applebee’s buffets by the time they were of Ninja’s vintage: he is closer to middle age than middle school. He raps in a scattershot mixture of English and Afrikaans; his accent is unfathomable. His lyrics reference the minutely specific to the hip-hop generic: “If you don’t like funerals, Ninja says don’t kick sand in his face,” recalls a South African peanut-butter commercial from the ’80s; “too hot to handle, to cold to hold,” fist-bumps vintage MC Hammer. The clue to Die Antwoord’s raison d’être hides in the intro of their astonishing debut album $O$, where Ninja informs us that, “I represent South African culture. In this place, you get a lot of different things…Blacks. Whites. Coloureds. English. Afrikans. Xhosa. Zulu. Watookal. I’m like all these different people, fucked into one person.” Then Ms. Vi$$er pipes in, dismissing him with a high-pitched “Whateva, man.” (more…)
PARIS—So, uh … can I please get some more fake money?
This is the portentous question that I had to ask, recently and quite sheepishly, of the King of the Walruses. See, I don’t ever like having to ask His Tuskiness for more fake money. I ask him for fake money all the time (hey, I’m a writer, we’ve got expensive fake-whiskey habits to bankroll). But typically, after a little demonstration of heaving and moaning to remind me who the boss is, he comes through.
It’s perfectly analogous to me being a television teenager from the 1950s hoping to take my “main squeeze” on a big date, only in this case the keys to the family car are actually a wad of fake money, my stern-but-lovable father is actually a 2,000-kilogram mass of tusks and blubber, and my best girl is the Super Bowl.
Also, I don’t actually want to play patty-cakes with her in the backseat of my pa’s Ford Galaxie, I want to bet money on a bunch of different little esoteric things that I think she might do. The Super Bowl, I mean.
Yes, it’s that time of year again, the Sportstrotter’s third annual “Top of the Props” column, a foray into the exciting, perilous world of Super Bowl prop betting. Prop betting is when, instead of gambling on the total outcome of a sporting event, you bet on very specific micro-games within the game. If that doesn’t make sense to you, click here for a more thorough explanation.
In 2008 I did pretty well with my bets, turning 100 fake “Trotterbucks” into 131.46, the cherry on the sundae of watching the New York Giants upset the previously undefeated New England Patriots, 17-14. In 2009, the game was another winner, with Mlle Trotter’s beloved Pittsburgh Steelers winning a wild one over the Arizona Cardinals, 27-23.
You know who wasn’t a winner last year? I mean, other than the Cardinals, and 30 other football teams and what the heck let’s throw the Leafs in there for good measure? Yup, that’s right: me. I managed to turn the previous year’s fattened bankroll into, like, 2 Trotterbucks. It wasn’t pretty. Not nearly enough holdover fake money to have any fun with this year. Plus, I think I lost the change (the coins have King Kaufman‘s face on them) in my couch.
Hence, I found myself grovelling to the Blubber-Ball with the Beastly Bicuspids: King Walrus himself.
“Blaargh you? Sportstrotter? What are you doing here?” he belched at me, when I finally tracked him down on a rocky islet off the southeast corner of Baffin Island. His breath reeked of fish, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to be the one to tell him.
“Please, sir. I was wondering if I could have a little bit more fake money? You know, to wager on the Super Bowl?”
“Blaargh don’t you mean the Grey Cup?”
“No, sir,” I said, a little bashful. “Nobody wants to read about me betting on the Grey Cup. They already played the game several months ago. Plus, how can you take a football game seriously when the contest’s defining play is a ‘13 men on the field’ penalty?”
“Blaargh good point, Sportstrotter,” he said. “So how much do you need?”
At this point, I knew I had to play it cool. I had King Walrus right where I wanted him, but if I overshot, I would surely end up looking like an overcooked order of Sportstrotter Spaetzle strewn all across the King’s rocky ledge. “Uh, how much fake money did you give to the Bironist last year when he was handicapping last year’s Giller Prize favourites?”
“Blaargh two-hundred Bironbucks. And I can’t believe he bet it all on the Peter Pocklington biography ‘I’d Trade Him Again!””
Neither could I, to be honest, but I saw my opening. “I’ll take half what he got. One hundred Trotterbucks. Er, if you please, sir.”
He thought about it for a minute, and then – I swear I saw this, with my own two eyes – the Walrus King reached up with his flippers, grabbed his left tusk, and spun it around till half the tusk came loose, like an old-school fountain pen. He tipped the hollow half-tusk upside down and out fluttered a perfect, crisp one-hundred-Trotterbuck bill.
“Blaargh one last thing before you go, Sportstrotter,” I heard him say as I scooped up the money and ran for my life. “You’re not going to piss away all that money on hopeless long-shot wagers again this year, are you?”
So with the words of the venerable King Walrus still ringing in my ears, coupled with the grim prospect of returning next February (not the ideal time to travel to Baffin Island) to ask for more money should my bets go sour, I’ve decided to forego the laundry-list of wacky proposition bets this year, and just bet on the outcome of the game itself. Not the games within the game – just the game, people.
Plus, after all the work I put in getting the money, and all the work my buddies Odom and Matty put in trying (and failing) to get the Las Vegas Hilton to release an electronic copy of its seminal list of 400-strong prop to me (apparently, as of Friday afternoon the only way you can get a copy of the prop list is to march into the Hilton sports book and grab a paper copy yourself – update: Matty located a copy late Friday afternoon!), I just can’t motivate myself to care whether Saints backup tight end David Thomas will gain more or less than 9.5 yards on his first reception of the game (take the under, though).
So here’s my analysis of Super Bowl XLIV – Indianapolis Colts versus New Orleans Saints:
Both of these teams were 13-0 this year, and then each floundered a bit down the stretch after taking their foot off the gas pedal (I guess we can be pretty certain that they weren’t driving a Toyota HEY-OHHHH!!!).
In the playoffs, the Saints and the Colts each destroyed a one-dimensional team in the divisional round. Then the Colts came from behind to beat a team starting a rookie quarterback who had a very average season, a team that lost its starting running back during the game, a team that lost games this season to the Bills, the Jags and the Dolphins (twice), a team whose own coach thought they were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs with two weeks to go in the season. In short, the Colts squeaked one out against one of the weakest teams to appear in an AFC title game in recent memory, albeit one that played hard and gave the Colts a run for their money.
The Saints won the NFC title against a team that most sportswriters considered the best team in football when the season began. So why does everybody with an opinion on this game automatically think that the Colts are unbeatable and the Saints are flawed and that Manning is the best so therefore the Colts will definitely win?
So I’ll take the Saints to win, like I did (get ready, I’m about to blow your mind!) … back in SEPTEMBER, in my NFL Preview column.
And not just to cover the spread, which is currently at Colts by 5. To win the game outright. I mean, why wouldn’t I pick the team I pegged at the start of the season to win the Super Bowl when they’re playing a team I didn’t even think was good enough to make the playoffs in the Colts (uh … this is embarrassing … hey, look, what’s that over THERE!)
Wager: New Orleans Saints to win (money line bet), 100 TB at +180, for a potential win of 180 TB.
And if I’m wrong, well, I guess I’ll have plenty of time to work on my grovelling skills before next year’s visit to Baffin Island.
(Image courtesy Boston.com)
This June’s FIFA World Cup Final South Africa represents a risky bet that, like many wagers, poses itself as a question: Can an African nation successfully host a massive sports tournament without descending into chaos? FIFA, soccer’s international organizing body, has smartly hedged. In choosing South Africa, they can ostensibly tap into the best of both worlds — an industrialized democratic African nation not currently undergoing a civil war, and a first class African country brimming with the continent’s possibilities.
The previous Olympics were, of course, also held in a developing nation, but that event was a breeze by comparison. In Beijing, the regime used an iron hand to tamp down potential flare-ups, especially regarding the key issues of infrastructure and security. The Chinese, however, had one city to deal with, while the 2010 World Cup organizers must manage nine. What’s more, there is no iron hand in South Africa, which is in part what made the country so appealing in the first place. But with horrendous violent crime statistics, Stygian transportation problems and an angry underclass that cannot be controlled by the state, the FIFA showcase could explode like a French striker facing an Italian midfielder.
How shall it all pan out? FIFA — a powerful extra-governmental organization sometimes compared to the pre-Renaissance Vatican — is holding thumbs, to say nothing of the South African authorities. Regardless, World Cup preparations are altering the country — arguably Africa’s most important — and it seems appropriate to document these changes. In this, the first of a series of posts leading up to the 2010 tournament, we shall kick off at centre field, as it were — in the newly refurbished FNB Stadium, now called Soccer City. (more…)
To celebrate Canada’s Olympic city and our March 2010 Vancouver cover story, we’re asking readers to create their very own Vancouver cover image and submit it to walrusmagazine.com. All eligible covers will be posted in an online gallery for public viewing. The winning image will receive a Vancouver prize pack featuring six books from our generous sponsor, Douglas & McIntyre, along with lots of Walrus goodies.
To enter, just send your Vancouver cover image (photograph, illustration, painting, etc.) to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please make sure you own the rights to the artwork submitted. We require a minimum size of 435 pixels wide by 600 pixels high, and request that you use uniform or low-contrast colours for the top third of the image — we’ll add The Walrus wordmark for you before displaying the covers online.
The contest closes at 5 p.m. PST on March 15; winners will be announced in this space on March 31.